Saturday, September 13, 2014

Share with Me Saturdays - Larissa Uredi Part 2

"I joke now that was either going to be a lawyer or a doctor or an artist."

Happy Saturday, everyone! This week we are spending time in the studio of Larissa Uredi of Unravelled, LLC as she prepares for her first year at ArtPrize. If you haven't yet, read her survey so we're all in the same place!

We decided to meet in her studio because she's working on anodizing 3'x4' sheets of titanium for her ArtPrize entry, and, well, you don't just pick up and move that around on a whim. We carefully maneuvered around the piece occupying the middle of her studio floor, and once we were settled with our beers, we started talking about her artistic journey that got her to this point.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Classy McG: Was there a defining moment that made you decide that art school had to happen? Was that the only college plan you ever had?

Larissa: Yes. I only applied to Kansas City Art Institute and that was it. I didn't apply anywhere else, I didn't want to go anywhere else, I didn't even know how to comprehend that they wouldn't let me in. It started when I was 8--I said I was going to be an illustrator for Disney, and I would draw movie covers over and over again. It was always very clear in my mind, "Yep. I'm gonna go to art school."

Classy: Besides all the art-making skills you learned while you were in art school, what was the most important thing that you learned at KCAI that helped you move on professionally?

Larissa: It wasn't until my last semester that I finally got the message that if you put time into something, if you sit down and WORK, you will come up with something that is representative of what you wanted to say. It wasn't about talent; It just takes effort. You just have to dedicate yourself to it. I think the other thing I learned was an appreciation for other work. They taught me how to look at it and analyze it and how to parse through and critically think about what I was feeling or not feeling in reaction to the work. But the reality is that you just have to knock on a lot of doors, you just have to keep trying. There isn't really a secret to being a successful artist. 
The drawing teacher that I had taught me the most valuable thing ever about drawing -- Everything has a surface. Everything has an angle, and because of that, you have to draw the light and the way it hits. You can't be lazy or casual with it.
Classy: I remember you told me that when I was working on that painting!

Classy: So, Unravelled, LLC. At what point did you decide it was time to break into a separate entity with the work your were doing?

Larissa: It was 2007 and a friend had gotten me into making jewelry. I decided that I wanted to run a business and this could be a good opportunity to try it out, and it wasn't such a high-risk investment. I thought that I had a chance, that I could do something with this! I picked jewelry because it was very commercial and at the time, there weren't as many jewelry artists. I started getting my stuff into shops and I started approaching galleries. My first gallery experience was the coolest thing, but it was terrifying -- I was convinced that nothing would sell and that everyone would hate my work. But I sold about $100 worth of stuff!
Classy: So how do you feel that you are exactly like that still?
Larissa: [Laughs] Right? It never gets easier. And I look back on that stuff and I think, "How did that stuff ever sell? It was crap!" I'm sure in 10 more years I'll look back at the stuff I'm making now and say, "How did THAT ever sell?" 

Classy: So how did you find out about ArtPrize?
Larissa: There's a lady, Alyson Stanfield, who runs ArtBiz blog...I think I was googling how to get your work in an gallery...she had a post about how to share your work in another state for free, and she talked about ArtPrize, that it's in Michigan and totally accessible and all these things. Then I googled "ArtPrize" and my brain exploded. I called my boyfriend, "I just found out about this thing that's going to ruin my life." It'll be my first time showing out of Kansas City.

After brainstorming all the possible artistic media she could use for her entry (she works with textiles, jewelry, painting, all kinds of stuff), Larissa landed on anodizing titanium pieces. This was brand new to her, and she spent about 6 months learning the process. She knew she wanted to make 3 large pieces, which began as sketches. Lots and lots of sketches and drafts of sketches and re-sketches.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

In the meantime, the titanium sheets had to be ordered, shipped, and prepped for the anodizing process. Larissa explained that a series of chemical reactions have to happen in order for the titanium to respond to the electricity with the colors she wants. First, you use MEK (methyl ethyl ketone, substitute in this case) to break down oils and grime, then wipe down with rubbing alcohol.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson
 We're experimenting with steel wool brushing to prepare the metal.

Then you etch the sheet in acid and rinse it all in distilled water. You have to then let it dry very carefully--if you aren't careful, you can actually smear the metal; it's easy to accidentally imprint a pattern of a paper towel or whatever, she explains. Then you anodize a base layer of oxide to seal the metal.
Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

The anodizing process is done by hooking up the leads (those wires coming out of the anodizer) to the side of the metal and hooking up your brush/applicator. The brush is dipped in TSP (trisodium phosphate) substitute. Then you set your voltage and start painting (send a current through the titanium)! Painting with electricity!

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

When you start adding color to the titanium, you start with the low voltages (which creates your browns, etc) so you don't short out the machine. Once the lower colors are there, you can add voltages to build up to the brighter colors on top of the existing layers, or just leave the brown if that's what you needed.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson
Major note: Remove all the metal from your hands.

Her big sheets are ready; she can start the process of transferring her sketches. She is using a Sharpie to draw in the outline shapes. "When you anodize over the top of it, it'll eat the Sharpie up," she tells me.

Classy: You're freehanding it?
Larissa: [laughs] I am! It's probably a bad idea, but I don't have a projector right now, and I've already spent so much money on this project that I can't justify spending more.
Classy: Will the miscellaneous Sharpee marks just come off, then?

Larissa: Yes, it will come off with the MEK. Just dip a Q-tip in and wipe it off. Oh, and you can't touch the titanium with your fingers now because oil gets in the way.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Classy: When you finally decided on titanium pieces, what was the next decision you made?

Larissa: What on Earth do I draw? What kind of impact do I want to have? How commercial do I want it to be? What sells? How much money do I want to make? How much money do I want to spend?

Larissa continued to talk me through her sketch transfer plans, which all sounded scary, but I know she'll pull it off. Finally, we took a break to sit and just talk and sketch, like I make all my artists do. I asked her to draw out anxieties/craziness, which she did, and then decided she maybe didn't need to show it on my blog this time. Which is OK.

Photo Credit: Sandy Woodson

Good luck at ArtPrize, Larissa. If absolutely nothing else, you've learned so much shit this year, but you'll totally win, so no worries there. If you are in Grand Rapids, MI later this month, check out the festivities! There's audience voting involved via smartphone app, but you have to be physically present to participate.

-C McG

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