Interview with Sara Blake – ZSO

by Tuesday, July 28, 2015

sara-blake-zso-RE-EG0A25412Hello Sara, first of all tell us something about your upcoming work, what are you into at the moment?
Hey thanks for inviting me. I’ve always been into patterns and textures, but I feel like it’s getting more exaggerated recently. I’m really into textiles and tiling from Eastern and African cultures, and I’m getting more interested in sacred geometries and natural symmetry in biology. My studio is controlled chaos of art, books, and oddities I’ve been collecting from all over the world the past few years. My work right now feels like a result of a few inspiring trips (Bali, Tokyo, Manila) and looking around at their artifacts in my studio. Patterned rigs, insect taxidermy, local masks, etc.


20141102-SP6A7078Tell us a little bit about yourself: ZsoMinetta DesignSGHRC.. it looks like you’re damn busy..

Yea, it’s a little confusing I guess! I don’t mean it to be, I just do a lot of different things to make a living and stay motivated, so I have separate companies to house the different work. ZSO is my alter-ego, slash illustration studio, and my true love. This is mostly personal work and some client work and product design. It’s usually all self initiated and is the culmination of about a decade of work. I’ve done that while also working as a more traditional designer for advertising, branding, product design, etc. That’s sort of been my “day job” if you will. Five years ago I quit my full time job doing that and went freelance, and 3 years ago I unofficially started Minetta Design Co. to manage that work, but really all that actually happened was I just moved my studio to Minetta Lane and needed a domain name, ha! So I still work do both types of work there. Right now design work is taking up most of my time and I’ve had less time for illustration, but I think it’s temporary. I’m working with an awesome team to launch a number of new brands and that’s been full gas. Solid Gold House and A Rocket Car on the other hand is a special project I work on with my partner Roger. It’s a mix of work: creative directing photo stories, designing spaces or product design. Solid Gold House and A Rocket Car is a Simpsons reference that kind of fits who we are. He’s the Rocket Car and I’m the Solid Gold House. He’s function, I’m form. He’s technical and engineering oriented, while I’m an idealist and get swept away with aesthetics. We’ve discovered that we balance each other out creatively and in temperament. We keep each other in check. What we can make as a team is much better than what we can each accomplish solo.
FITC_poster_ZSO_v4_Face2_web2I first came across your work through your design for FITC Amsterdam 2014. How did it come the idea of the Rorschach test?

The original idea was way more involved but I didn’t have the time to pull it off. For each of the speakers I wanted to do an inkblot and then create an drawing based on its form, basically bringing a Rorschach to life. It was just all about the subconscious and imagination but I want it to also have some sort of old, sinister, or dark overtures. Amsterdam is a really old city, even before having visited, it was and is always in my mind’s eye at night. I guess that’s why the inkblots turned into white ink on black backgrounds. In any case, I didn’t have time to pull off a unique design for every speaker and it just turned into this one gargoyle looking face who I imaged was keeping watch over everyone. My friend Jason White did the opening titles using this concept as well, but with a very different and beautiful look. He’s very inspiring.


ALFRED_9x12I love your most recent violet palette and most general I think there’s something changing in your drawing style, from obsessive engraved lines to a more fluid balanced symmetry, is it just me?
Yea! Thanks for noticing and I think so too, although it’s not intentional. I think my tastes over the past few years have just been changing. I’m more into big, messy, aggressive lines and (imperfect) symmetry. When you pull farther back or look at the piece at a smaller, you can still sort of tell what’s going on, where earlier I think it was a lot about the minutia. I think part of this may have been a result of working more in product design with other design products and seeing the impact of art of products in spaces. When I fall in love with art for my own space, it tends to be simpler and bolder. That and maybe just getting more laid back, haha.


Jellyfish_ZSOHairs, fauna and leaves are very frequent in your production, especially in your earlier works. How did you decide upon some of the re-occurring themes in your work?

That sort of stuff is really meditative to draw. It’s all pattern and repetition. Since I started out illustration as a side thing to my design jobs, drawing was really an escape… a place to turn my brain off and get into a flow. Those were just the forms I gravitated toward when I wasn’t thinking too hard. I also love folk art and implying stories or feelings with these characters. They are sort of like characters in folk tales that have never been written I suppose.


Who’s the first illustrator or painter that comes to your mind in a second?

Egon Schiele


IMG_9389_SaraBlakeI’m always curious about what artists follow, tell me three illustrators are doing remarkably well in these years.

A few of my favs are Linsey Levendall, Pat Perry, and Yuko Shimizu. Also Joshua Davis, João Ruas, Elle Luna, and Sougwen Chung.


Do you remember the very first piece of art that you worked up? 

The first things I can remember drawing when I was little was copying animals from my dad’s National Geographic magazines. I was like yeaaaaaa, I’m so good at this. They were shit.
IMG_9379_SaraBlakeWhen you were 13, what did you want to be?

An artist or a fiction writer.


Now what’s the hardest and the easiest part of your artistic passion?

Same answer to both—Feeling like you love what you do so you never really turn off.


bestiaryThese days in the office turns a trick, tell me what will you do, or what would you like to do, in 5 months, 5 years, 10 years.

In five months to a year I want to turn the brands I’m working with through my design work (with the help of the whole amazing team) into successes with great design direction, superstar teams behind them, and ethical, positive, responsible missions. Then I’d like to focus on just one lifestyle brand that encompasses things that I’m really passionate about: nature, travel, art, and health. I want to turn that into a brand that can eventually give back and support education and local arts around the world. And the more time doing illustration and factoring it in to that plan, the better. But at the end of the day, I just want to make cool shit with cool people.


Short answer. Something you’ve always wanted to do, but have yet to.

Go to Italy, Turkey, Africa, Iceland. Ride a camel. Touch an elephant.


3Something you want the world to know about you.

I don’t like karaoke.


Something that annoys or frustrates you about people.

Everyone looking at their stupid phones every second.


What’s overrated and what’s underrated today?

Underrated: the joys of having 5 of the same shirt and wearing nearly the same thing every day. Overrated: Brooklyn (sorry)


What’s next for you? What shows or projects do you have planned?

Time has not been on my side but I’m slowly but surely trying to work on an animation project… which will require… learning to animate. That and a few other ongoing personal series. Type projects, girl portraits, a dream series. I had this crazy dream about whales saving mankind from a huge flood. It was pretty whacky. I’d also love to work more with musicians.

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