Raw Conversations with Amy de Vries
We’ve recently launched our Raw Conversations on Instagram Live. The purpose is to have real and raw short interview style chats with people who we admire and who inspire us. To kick it off we sat down with South African artist (and friend), Amy de Vries, from a.my_makes to chat about art, creativity and inspiration.
Em and Olly: Hi Amy, it so exciting to be chatting with you about art and all things creative. You’ve designed our Desert Spots print and we thought it would be awesome to have you as our first guest.
Amy: Hi ladies, I'm by no means a professional pattern designer, but it was awesome to have the opportunity to create something for you. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out but it was great to have the creative freedom. I believe in what you're doing and I believe in your brand. You are proactive about helping the environment and taking something that is devastating and looking at it in a positive light of what can be done about it. Helping the environment and our oceans and the connection between swimwear and our conscious decisions of us choosing what to wear. My area of expertise is more traditional illustration painting but I was willing to try something new.
Em and Olly: We’re so glad you did. Desert Spots is very popular. Could you give us the insight into what the creative process was like?
Amy: I started at the place of just hand to paper. Instead of diving straight into the computer, I started with traditional paint and mark making. I just played for about a week straight. I was just playing and exploring what kind of marks I could make and it was such a great process because I was making marks with my fingers and it felt like I was back in elementary school. The house was a complete mess and there was paper all over the floor. I think that when you start any project it’s beautiful to start at the bottom and then from this space to unfold by itself without too much influence or trying to direct it too much towards what you want the end result to be. Just trusting in the process and going with the flow.
Then I put my critical hat on and digitized & vectorized all the images and started to play on the computer. So the whole process was very much like a playful experiment. Then when I made a repeat pattern, I just started with a square and arranged elements within the square, and I was playing, playing and playing, but only when I clicked the button, and it all started to repeat, I could see the pattern as a whole. That's the first time I could see Desert Spots. So only towards the end of this long process of just trusting that It’s going to work, only right at the end is when it's basically almost done, I click the button and it becomes a pattern.
Sometimes you just need somebody else to believe in you. And it was so amazing to see it printed and to see it on the models and just to see how it comes alive. It was awesome.
Em and Olly: This is beautiful, thank you for giving us the glimpse into the process. How do you get inspired?
Amy: There are so many different factors, sometimes it's the atmosphere, it could be light or sound if nature, or even of a city. Then it always comes out and manifests itself as in natural botanical forms. Sometimes it’s quite abstract or doesn't have anything to do with nature itself. At the moment I'm interested in colour, so I look at the underlying colours of things. We were recently in Italy and I was looking at the skin colour on old Baroque and Renaissance paintings. These artists were just masters and there's so much colour that isn't obvious. Understanding the underlying colours that shine through the skin or through flower petals, whatever it is. For example, there are unexpected pops of colour when you're looking at a green leaf, and you see a lot of red and pink. I'm exploring this at the moment.
Creativity is worth exploring. I always try to convince people that creativity is not necessarily linked to a final product or an outcome. We need to learn to see creativity in and of itself and not only as a means to an end result. When we don’t see creativity just as a tool, our understanding of it starts to broaden.
I was teaching art in Dubai and noticed that a lot of the time we limit ourselves through our own perceptions of what we should be able to achieve because we've seen it done by somebody else. We should start to break down this perception and be our own limit. For instance, creativity is not so much thinking of good ideas, but just deciding to do something in your day that maybe is a little bit disruptive. Choosing to do something that is unnecessary and being conscious of it. And I think that this makes us come alive. To wander off could take on many different forms. And I think that when you do that, you stimulate your brain and your mind gets refreshed. It’s a lot about creating new connections in your mind. Start to become comfortable with the unknown, with not knowing the end result. It makes you more comfortable and adaptable to situations you don't know or have no control over. It's like an exercise to prepare you for change and being comfortable with not knowing. People should tap into getting their minds into spaces that are not necessarily comfortable or familiar. I mean this could be as simple as writing down a list of words when you travelling.
Em and Olly: What do you write down when you travel?
Amy: When we travel I take a few minutes to write down about 20 words about colour, sound, motion that described a place, an experience or an atmosphere of a place. Just by doing that we become so aware of your environment. I felt that it helped me to actually remember those places a lot better. So when you think back it helped my memories to become a lot more vivid.
Notice the beauty and chaos around you. Our brain wants to make sense of things that are happening around. When we disrupt our brain and give our minds something to think about to make sense of, it's like a little jolt of energy to our brain. When we sit in routine and when things are just happening without us being too conscious about it, our brain becomes lazy and can just drift while you become less conscious of the day. Stimulating our brain builds our confidence as well. We need to train ourselves to become more aware of being more creative.
When we were in Florence we went to Maria Abramovich exhibition and we literally just sat down at a table and we counted rice and lentils. Black lentils mixed in with white rice. You were asked to leave your phone or anything that could distract you in a locker, put noise cancelling headphones and sit and tally up the rice from the lentils. That process was amazing. I mean we must have sat there for at least an hour and a counted like 700 pieces of rice. We got so hungry from doing something as simple as that because it was keeping my mind busy. Such activities force your mind to reorder and reprioritize. There’s a great book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. It’s very very encouraging. It speaks about creativity, arts and redefining the understanding of it.
Em and Olly: Is there anything you would like to add?
Amy: There is a beautiful quote by an Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi. He says: ’Exceptional journeys happen when we give life a chance. Have the courage to see things differently, to think creatively. When there's a crisis, it's an opportunity to celebrate life. We never play games. We do business. We do transactions. We work for purpose. When we do what we enjoy, in that moment, we find our forgotten time, purpose, who we are, and we get lost. Then the heart begins to work and we become creative. There is restlessness and enjoyment in creating something. We need patience to allow our inner mind to run.’
We need more people to be as courageous as you have been. It's amazing what you've been able to create from the ground up and how you've been so conscious of every little step and every decision. You remained sensitive through the whole process and I think that's really amazing. Well done, something beautiful is born.
Em and Olly: Thank you, Amy for all the kind and inspiring words. We love you and we’re looking forward to working together in creating new prints in the future. See Amy’s Desert Spots prints here.