An Interview with Flanzella | Handmade Collage Artist

An Interview with Flanzella | Handmade Collage Artist

August 2020


Q: Tell me about your art pre-pandemic, and how it evolved in the thick of Covid-19? 

I made art as more of a hobby, but as we had more time at home, it opened a doorway for me to have less plans, less things in place to kind of get in the way of that full potential to make art. I felt very motivated to use the time positively, and I think boredom sometimes helps you do the best things.  

Although I love my normal life as well—I think the ‘isolation’ was a great opportunity not many people get in their mid-20s. It’s almost like an early retirement to really invest in yourself, and the first thing I did was want to create. I wouldn’t have been able to really commit to my Etsy store like I did without all the extra time quarantine gave me.

Q: What motivates you, or makes you want to create in general?  

It’s funny, my friend said this, but I don’t think we have a choice sometimes; it’s just kind of a way of expressing yourself and getting true with yourself. It’s a lot about emotions, and each piece you can how I felt that day.

And it’s almost like a form of mediation—of breathing—your body needs different types of breathing, not just air—and this one’s the inspiration-creativity kind. As a creative, it’s something I need to do or I go a little bit crazy, or I don’t really feel like myself, so I don’t know if it’s a choice (laughs). 

Q: So it’s like a form of self-care that gives back to others.  


Q: I feel a lot of people making art are focused on the outcome, but you are very process-oriented – any advice to artists from that lens?  

Every piece was fueled by passion you know, and me just being like “I want to collage” (laughs) and figuring it out from there. So I wasn’t sure if other people would like my artworks; there’s some that I don’t really like that other people will say, “this is the best thing ever!”  

So if anything, I’ve learned to not judge the art—let it speak for itself—see what people like (and don’t like), take notes from that, and move on with the practice to see how it forms later on. My art colleague is the same, she paints whatever her internal self says to her. She’ll say, “I’m doing this super pink one and it’s not very me but…I love it!” And then it becomes the show stopper. People will see it, they’d be gasping “I love it! I want this piece in my house!” But if she hadn’t just gone with the flow and actually worked with it, and been like “Oh, I need to tone this down, I gotta put some yellows or oranges in it,” then it wouldn’t have that impact for people who were like “It’s so pink and I love it!”  

Q: It’s interesting because I feel like a lot of artists get trapped in wanting to be a certain way, emulate a certain reputation, and that trips them up. But it seems you just gotta operate from the inside, get what you get, and that's okay because you’ll evolve as you keep going—be, do, see what happens, and continue with your learnings.  

Yes—that’s an important takeaway for all artists no matter the medium.  

Q: Speaking of putting boundaries up, I remember you saying “I’m more the entrepreneurial kind of artist than an academic one.” Can you elaborate?  

(Laughs). A lot of people ask me where I went to school for collage and I’m like, “Why would I ever have to go to school for that. And it’s interesting because my friends with more entrepreneurial roots say the same things as me, like, “It’s unique because you weren’t told how to do something, so you’re kind of figuring out your own way, doing what works for you. And there may be a “professional way” of doing things, but then maybe you’d have those boundaries because people have told you what you can and cannot do, versus I just went at it.  

I did go to university, but I don’t think it’s a tell-tale sign of what you need and what you can do. I think applicable knowledge and motivation are king – do whatever you can. If you stop yourself because you don’t have ‘the skills’ then practice every day, eventually you’ll be able to do it yourself. With painting, I went to some high school classes but mostly watched a bunch of Youtube videos. Idid that for collage too. I’ve never paid for any online class. I’m very much ‘the cheapest way possible’ when it comes to education. I’ll go through online resources then figure it out myself – it’s the same for my DIY projects, picking up those weird little skills. You’re a human, you can learn, so don’t limit yourself by things like “Oh I can’t write a book I’ve never done it!” Start small and work your way up. 

Q: Why do you think people have those boundaries and reservations? 

I think it stems from a fear of failure. Not that I do think failure is good. If you don’t have your failures and learn lessons from it, what’s the point? Putting up walls immediately from failure never helped anyone. People are fearful from, “What if I don’t get good results” or ‘What if I do get good results and then my life has to change.”  

It’s a crazy world and you have to go with the flow; you don’t really have control over those things. But if you put good things into the world then good things will happen, even if it takes 10 years it’ll still happen.  

I was always criticized when I was younger for being in the arts and being ‘dumber’ than those who were in the academic fields of math, sciences, business, etc. I built up the skills that were necessary but I didn’t need to be ‘academic’ to succeed in life. 

If what’s true to you is there, but you’re fighting against it, you won’t get there. If you follow your dreams, then you’ll get there (I’m sounding like a Disney princess). If you follow what your heart tells you to do and you don’t limit yourself, you’ll get everything you want in life…with hard work.  
Q: Great points. Anything else you want to add?  

I’m definitely a tough lover (we laugh). But it’s also how you get places. You can’t just tell yourself you can’t do something. You are your own biggest fan and internalizing negativity will not help you or your community. Validate yourself first and others will follow.

Interview by Elle He, @elle.he

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