Interview w/ K. Papusza
by PRETTY IN BLACK
by PRETTY IN BLACK
-When did your aesthetic develop? Your perspective on the language of clothing is very interesting.
I guess I would say I have more or less spent this lifetime developing my aesthetic, and it continues to grow. My philosophy on living is that it's all about exploration, and finding the things that may not always appear on the surface. I think the base of my aesthetic spawned when I was a child, from a combination of an innate belief in spirits (and my intricate, strange childhood friendships with ghosts), and growing up in an environment where I was around both a lot of nature and liberal intellect. I always expressed myself through clothes, and having an overly active imagination always bred unconventional ideas about adornment. In my teenage years and early adulthood I experienced both a lot of struggle and adventure (on the premise of exploration). I think all of this played a huge part in my creating as vehemently as I do now.... my philosophy has always been that struggling breeds creativity and I have lived by this for as long as I can remember being happy. Creating is more or less my therapy... I would even go so far as to say it's saved my life at times. A fascination with things such as eastern Europe, cultural anthropology, the circus, the sea and alternative/pop culture has also played an intrinsic role in how my current aesthetic has developed. I think it's always evolving based on the world around me.
Sure... when I was younger I focused more on 2-D arts, like painting and drawing, but never fully pursued them. I've always loved poetry... and not just poetry, but the idea of poetry... it's one of the few things we have left that is purely romantic in this day and age. I love language and I love playing with it to express myself. I've always taken pride in my sharp tongue and ability to articulate. I like to cook a lot... that could be considered an art by some but I think of it more as creative nurturing. I like to make collages and dreamcatchers... pretty, multi-media things. I have shrines all over my room. I love composing scenes by putting lot's of tiny little things together.
-If so, how did each inform the other, and have they informed your clothing designs?
Oh yes, all the forms of art are definitely interwoven. They all come from this very special place that's about feeding and understanding what's inside of me, and how I interact with the world around me... sometimes that comes out so I can show it to other people, but sometimes it is more about using the creativity as a tool to understand myself. Designing clothes is like language to me... I think of it as being an extension of the spirit, in being so close to the skin. After having spent time working in the hyper-cosnumer driven fashion industry of NYC, and realizing how homogenized the industry as a whole is, I have made it one of my personal goals in life to preserve the artisan element of adornment.
Papusza means "doll" in Romani (the language of the gypsies aka Roma). It is also the name of a famous Roma poet, who wrote beautifully, and was always portrayed as beautiful, wise, strong and free-spirit in the accounts I have read about her. It is also a nickname I acquired when I was much younger and has always sort of sat well with me, because all the things I admire in Papusza are traits I wish to develop in myself. Birdland is my dream land. It is the ethereal land of ghosts, fairy tales, dead roses, skeleton keys, pirates with tears tattooed besides their eyes-all things beautiful and morbid... the dark-side serene and beautiful, at peace. It's a safe place I have always gone to, ever since I was a child, when I feel strange, scared or alone. It's the world I've created in my head for my art to live in. I'm always glad to know it's there and no one will ever be able to take it away from me.
-Where are you from originally, and where are you now?
I've always been a bit of a gypsy. I lived in Oregon when I was a child and young adult. Spent some time in Utah and Washington-as well as Oregon-when I was a teen. I moved to Arizona at 18, stayed a couple years, and then came to Seattle; where I went to school for a couple years and acquired my influences in anthropology. Following my time in Seattle I moved to New York for about 5 years. I loved it, but got burnt out by the time I hit my late 20's. I just turned 30 last month, and have been residing in the bay area for about a year now. Currently I am in an amazing warehouse in West Oakland. I love it... it's really beautiful and inspiring in an urban decomposition kind of way.
It inspires me, though sometimes it wares me out. I have been learning a lot lately about the balance between creating and exploring... and how to keep that balance in sync. I like traveling, moving, meeting people and seeing as much as I can. Life is all about experiences, it's what we make of it. I believe that the more experiences we are able to encounter the greater our character becomes. I have always been a free spirit-a nomad of sorts-and I have always had a streak of restlessness in my personality. I think it's just the way I'm wired. I can't ever imagine growing up... and when I do finally "grow up" my goal is to be a mermaid. So yes, moving around/traveling a lot can be exhausting, but there is also a passion that goes hand in hand with it, and I don't ever see that passion as not being a part of who I am. I guess the important part, and what I have been waging for the past 9 months or so of my life, is how to keep the stability balanced with the fluidity. The older I am getting the more and more I am becoming aware that some sort of grounding is needed to keep my head on straight.
-Moving around a lot would be hard on me and my closet! How do you decide which pieces are precious enough to keep in your personal wardrobe? Or do you just pack light?
It is really hard... I had to go through it a lot when I was living in New York-constantly moving-and for the years following that while I was floating. I lost, sold and gave away a lot of beautiful things... including vintage clothes I had been collecting since I was a teen, as well as favorite pieces people given to me-wears I had been given from designers I knew when I was working for them, things I wouldn't be able to afford now as an artist. This purge was all happening at the end of my 20's, during my gypsy spell, my Saturn Return, as you might say. It was a compelling reminded of what I am made of, where I come from, the things I have done in my life. It strengthened my spirit. I try not to get to attached to material things... even clothes.
With that in mind, I do hang onto things that hold nostalgic value and things that I've made. I have a very strong sense of style. Practicality is always the base, but beyond that I think there can always be new things to replace the old, and then a few special charms that I hope I never have to let go. On the basis of practicality I wear lot's of leggings, thigh highs, vintage dresses, sweaters, boots (I'm a total boot girl... as long as I have a good pair of boots I am golden), torn vintage t-shirts, shorts, ripped stockings... all compact types of pieces. The charms are usually my jewelry, vintage lingerie... usually beautiful things made by friends of mine. When I fall in love with charms I never let them go. Most of them are easy to travel with...
That said I have been living in the same spot in Oakland for a year now... it's a warehouse I share with a few other artists. My closet here is as big as the last room I lived in when I left Manhattan. I have plenty of space for clothes. It's been fun acquiring them again, building them up in my closet. Making myself stuff... just made myself an exquisite mermaid jacket with three types of sequence. I love playing dress-up.
I listen to all kinds of music... I guess it depends on what kind of mood I am in and what I am making. Right now I am making traditional Russian inspired ballet costumes with pancake tutu's-they are part of a music box piece for the Vau de Vire Society (a circus company in SF I am the costumer for). I have been listening to Viking metal while I have been working on this. Sometimes I listen to pretty, ethereal, dream pop. Sometimes I listen to witch house and dark wave. Sometimes I listen to my favorite Icelandic music, and sometimes I listen to indie stuff. I've been really obsessed with Beach House lately.
-What music did you like when you were younger? I have a quite a genre legacy from age 11 onward, so I'm very interested in what music people were into at an age when your starting to get passionate about something.
I was always a rocker girl. I grew up in the 90's grunge scene of the Pacific Northwest. From my pre-teens my older brother and I would stay up all night to watch indie music videos on the public access channel. I loved it all; Nirvana, Veruca Salt, Helium, The Red Aunts, Skinny Puppy, Tripping Daisy, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains... but I especially loved the girl bands. Courtney Love, Shirley Manson and Kathleen Hannah where icons by the time I was 12. I fancied myself a little riot grrl meets grunger (and still do, I might add). I wore a bleeding black heart on my sleeve, and seethed teenage angst. As I got older I got more into brit pop, punk, glam rock and eventually found my way into liking gangster rap and spots of gothy dance music in the mix. I had quite diverse music taste as a kid. I guess I always have and still do... I am always trying to broaden my horizons, yet still have a sentiment for the things I listened to in the past. Definitely always been a rocker girl at heart.
-What do you do when you aren't designing?
Ride my bicycle, which makes me feel like I am a bird, flying. Read books about the circus, or of lyrical poetry and daydream about the ocean. I like to explore abandoned buildings and places, I like to fall in love with all the fleeting moments that catch my heart, and I like to drink champagne and dance all night... as if it's someone's wedding. I like to sleep, a lot. And I like to have rich vibrant dreams, colorful with inspiration, and vibrant with feelings that stick with me into my creations.
This is what I love to do, and I can't imagine ever NOT doing it. It's my passion, it's what feeds me every day, why I wake up in the morning. That's not to say that I won't do other things, and that's also not to say I won't get better at the things I already am doing. I think one important factor to keep in mind as an artist is that there is always time and space to get better... that is what propels us forwards. Ultimately, the things that are important in my future in semi chronological order include: continue making lot's of great art in California, world travel, international artist in residencies, making a beautiful home in a beautiful place beside the sea one day with people I love, continuing to experience happiness into old age, always having the ability to see beauty around me and be a hopeless romantic. In the words of the great Audrey Hepburn; "If I'm honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all." Words to live by... forever. I will never give up on believing in magic, and that is the most important thing I know about my future.
Check out Papusza here.