Local Talk: Interview with featured artist Ben Olson

I'm happy to say that you were one of our first clients at Local and we immediately connected. There was this candid openness while speaking with each other and learning how each of us spend our  time. How has this openness to life in general contributed to the genesis of your work?

My work often relies on a certain tension. The tension between public and private…

I have not always been so open. I am naturally shy, and have to work to put myself out there and be open. Maybe the openness is inspired by my peers and my kids. I don’t want to be known as that closed-off dude hermitting out in the corner!!!


Your work is articulated as a peek through a door cracked open which is wonderful honesty but could also be a bit scary because of the associated vulnerability. How do your subjects deal with this transparency?

Peeking through a door cracked has been a theme for me for a long time. I love finding that awkward and completely honest moment. The one where no one is posing or making a cute face.  Beautiful imperfect moments.. There is a delicious honesty when you glimpse someone when their guard is totally down and they think they are alone!!


It is amazingly intimate to paint someone.

I paint in layers, many many layers. It is the nature off the acrylic paint, but also it is a metaphor for a person. We all have so many layers.  Each one is a little transparent. I like to build those layers with paint. Each one building on another, masking it just a little. Within a painting, I will add one layer right after another. More blue. Just a little more red. More white until it is just right, then flood it with spraypaint. Drip drip drip!

For many years I only painted exquisitely personal subjects…very personal portraits and self portraits. It was an extreme way to show vulnerability.

I made a deal with myself a long time ago: No matter what I portray, I never hold back and always paint what I see…every wrinkle, crease and fold.  That may be abstracted by the process, but in my head it is super real.

Honestly, I think that the people that I have painted have been so so absolutely open to anything that I am the one somehow trying to hold back. I find I am maybe the vulnerable one, even though the subject is being exposed and examined.

I am maybe the one looking through the door…


As an artist, how do you see your work evolving as you grow in experience and knowledge?

When I first started painting my work was about one single, honest, situational moment. I was interested in what it was like to view that moment from the outside, when the door cracks. I would make up a situation and narrative that was usually really dark.  Lots of blood and tears, Now,  I am more accumulative in my process. I watch, listen , Observe and collect and remember. I am more interested in the all the things that add up to blow that door open, so everyone can see.

Currently, I feel like my work is less tragic and more of a diary and journal.  Maybe a tiny bit less dark. Somehow it is more fantastical and dreamy, but a lot more true to me. In the past I made things up, and in that journey I was trying to be honest, but maybe it was just a front I put up.

Seems like I am now projecting outward, instead of working inward!


Do you have a work that you have created for sale but then ultimately couldn't part with it?

Yes, absolutely…

I do believe artists should hold onto a piece of work here and there..  To document major bodies of work or personal journeys. Art and artists live and evolve and it is important to document that. I am not the same artist I was 10 years ago. I have been interested in different things, and even my painting technique has evolved. It is great to have that documented. I have always thought so.

One example of a piece that I have held onto is the first portrait I ever did of my wife. I have done many works with her since, but that first one is special. It is an important reminder of a very intense part of my life too. I truly cherish it!


I'm fascinated with the scale of your work; did you always work at these extreme ends of the art spectrum?

Scale as in size? I have always felt that a piece will tell you what size it wants to be if you give it a voice. I have always been more into actually painting larger work. I think it works for me to paint with my body. When you paint smaller work, say something that can sit on a table, you paint with your wrist and you often hunch over the work and stay close. But if you paint larger work, you tend to paint with your body, wrist to elbow then to shoulder and so on. You also tend to need to back away to see it all…that works for me. I need a painting I can dance in front of.

Scale as in scope? I currently have three major themes in my work. I have always loved portrait and figurative work. The body and face are the ultimate way to express for me. I have been drawing or painting people since fourth grade, you can do the math as to how many years that is.

I also paint a lot of balloons. This body of work is really the opposite if portraiture for me. It can be easier for an Audience to digest and also easier for me to just get into the painting process.

I also have painted flowers for quite a while. They started as very realistic still-livesbased on the “language of flowers” from Victorian days when people would communicate with bouquets of flowers, each flower has a meaning. Now the workshave moved to a very fantastical, wild and juicy spot. They are very personal to me, my own visual diary and journal. Each flower representing a moment in my life.


What has living in Montclair meant for you and your work?

Montclair has been wonderful for me and my work. The work has somehow gotten much larger since I have been working in my barn (studio). II have found a community that I didn’t expect to find.  There are so many wonderful people!! I fell like I can do anything with my art right now and am so excited about that feeling. I project out since I have lived here, instead of caving inward. It was an amazing moment for me when someone asked if I can call it homeand I said (without hesitation) YES!

I always have music on…it is very influential in my work. When my studio was in Brooklyn I listened to Hip hop almost all the time. Now, in my barn, I find that I still play a lot of hip hop, but a little miles davis can comfortably creep into the mix and live there. Dylan lives with Biggie in my studio now! Living in Montclair has somehow put a beautiful balance to my life…


Conceptually, what does being local mean to you and how does it play a part in your process?

Being local is a support system. Feeling comfortable and supported with where you are in life and also where you actually are. Not feeling transient. Feeling rooted and growing instead of blowing in the wind.

Being local makes me smile!


Tell us something about art that only you or very few people know.

I have always been fascinated with light and how it bounces through your eyes and brain. The Raft of the Medusa by Gericault is my favorite painting of all time. He painted all of the water drops with three strokes of paint-red, yellow and green-in certain shades so that they vibrate when next to one another. The water droplets seem to sparkle because of this! Brilliant!


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

I like ‘em all!! But really, just a good cup of coffee with cream is the most delicious thing in the world.




Local Talk: Interview with Photographer Devon Warren

Tell us how you started in photography. We're you always on this path or was there a serendipitous moment that established the opportunity.

I actually worked in education after college. I left education and opened a recording studio in 2007. Out of necessity, I turned one of the rooms a my studio facility into a photo studio. This is when I began my journey in photography. In 2012, I sold my recording studio business and started my photography business.


Where did you grow up? How did you come to live in NJ?

My parents immigrated from Jamaica in the 60's to New York. I was born in East Orange, NJ in 1974. I moved to Irvington, NJ in the late 70's, and there is where I grew up. 


Did you work with 35MM film at one point in your life? What do you miss (or not miss) about that process?

I started out on a digital camera. I recently started shooting film. I shoot both 35mm and medium format film. There is something very rewarding about the process. It has also made me a better photographer.  With digital photography, you can take thousands of pictures of a subject and pick the best one. With film photography, you only get 8 to 36 shots.  Plus, you can't instantly review what you have shot. You really need to have you skills sharp and have a good understanding of all photography principles. I enjoy working with and restoring cameras that are much older than I am. 


Your work has a particular sense energy. I feel like there is a incredible source of energy laying underneath each image. How do you approach each capture to allow a static image to resonate in such a powerful way?

Photography, for me, is knowing when to press the shutter and capture "that moment".  When I make a portrait of someone, there is a split second when they are being totally honest and stop "posing".  I can see it in their eyes. My images are a way for me to express myself and speak to a wide audience even when I'm not physically present.  


In this age of Instagram and Facebook, there are more images captured and shared than ever before. Also, with digital processing - images no longer have an organic age to them for space and time (without a filter). How do you feel this has affected photography as a discipline? 

I have separated the two. There are people who take pictures and there are photographers. Photography by definition means "drawing/painting with light".  There are many people that can take a picture, but there are far fewer that understand light and how to paint with it.  So, I feel like there are a lot of people that call themselves photographers, that are not. Being able to make Ramen and TV Dinners doesn't make you a chef even if you call yourself one. 


Your photography ranges from athletes to fashion to families - quite a range for anyone in the field. How are you able to balance the various approaches? Is there a particular favorite category?

I didn't want to put myself in a box. We live in a world that loved to label things.  I didn't want to specialize in one type of photography, because that would be putting a limit on myself. Headshots and beauty shots are my favorite because there is a single focus. There are no clothes or scenery to hide behind.


Can you share a particular project that you have struggled through but at the end of it, you learned a valuable lesson from it?

I got hired to do a portfolio shoot for a makeup artist. At this time, I thought my skill level was a 10 and I really was more like a 6. I totally butchered the job and from that point on I began to work on my craft everyday. 365 days a year I am either shooting, editing, learning, or studying photography. 


For the novice photographer, what is one solid piece of advice to take more meaningful photos?

Try to take photographer that speak to you.  Find a subject that moves you inside and shoot that. Your photographs don't have to be technically perfect, but they should alway have some feeling.  I feel like a lot of photographer get too caught up in the technical aspect and lose the art in the process.


What does local (as a concept/ philosophy) mean to you?

Local is "dope".  Local is a place where everyone is welcome and is treaded like a family friend. It is cool how people from all different backgrounds can come to one spot and feel at home. This is definitely a spot where I try to have my order to stay whenever possible. 


Tell us something about photography that only you (or just a few people) know.

The camera doesn't take the photograph, the photographer does.  When I shoot in the studio, I shoot connect to my computer so that everyone can see the pictures as I'm taking them. People say , "These pictures are awesome, you have a really good camera. That must be expensive." The camera is just the tool. It is your paint brush. Some tools makes getting the  job done easier, but they won't make you better at the job. 


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

The Saba tea is my favorite.  


Local Talk: Interview with Susanna Emmet, founder of Zana's Bars

We're very excited to be partnering to offer Zana's bars at Local! Can you tell us about the genesis for creating this awesome brand?

I am thrilled to be partnering with Local, too! The genesis of Zana’s Bars is the commitment to feeding my children real food from Mother Nature, period. No additives, no preservatives, and above all, no added sugar. The body of research supporting the negative health effects of these things is large and growing. Processed sugar, in particular, is everywhere! I understand it’s yummy in treats, but on a day to day basis, in foods we eat to nourish us -- to give us energy, satisfy hunger, help us grow and thrive -- is hardly necessary. Fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains can have explosive flavor on their own, and our bodies are designed to run on them. When I couldn’t find snacks to pack on the go that fit this bill and were affordable, I began making muesli bars. Feedback was terrific, and over the years I refined my recipes that I now bring to grateful customers. This makes me very happy.


As a parent, I'm regularly concerned about the types of food decisions my children are making. How has your food journey led you to this particular direction for kids and adults alike?

I think I mostly answered this question discussing the origins of Zana’s Bars, but I’ll take this opportunity to talk more about the importance of portability and snacks. Life moves quickly. People are busy and on the go. As parents, if we are lucky, we can plan good meals, but it’s much harder to control snacking habits for our children and ourselves. The majority of the stuff on the market to meet this need is full of ingredients that don’t give us what we need. Snacks are big pitfalls even for the best intentioned eaters, so I started making snack bars for this specific purpose.


Ok, let’s start with your base ingredient - Muesli. Once and for all - what is it and why did you decide on using it as a core element of the bars?

Muesli is traditionally a raw oat-based cereal that also includes fruits, nuts and seeds. It is excellent, pure stuff....that’s not very travel friendly. Granola bars, also based on a cereal, are ubiquitous and widely considered healthy. However, granola is baked and almost always contains lots of sugar. Most of the right ingredients are there, but the process detracts from its benefits. My decision to call my bars muesli bars is simply because I take the ingredients of muesli (with a twist of using popped amaranth in some instead of oats), and form it into a bar so it can be easily transported, stored and eaten.



Tell us about the other ingredients you use in your bars.

All my bars are date-based. Dates are incredibly sweet. Yes, it’s sugar, but kept in it’s original state with fiber, the body can process it healthily. Once dried, they can be mashed into a dough or paste-like substance into which I incorporate a variety of other natural ingredients for different flavors and nutritional balances. Most bars have sesame seeds and flaxseed meal kneaded into the dough. This adds little flavor but lots of nutritional benefits (iron, calcium, omega-3). They also either have oats or popped amaranth to bulk up the texture, substance and nutrition, and then their hallmark flavors: peanut & apple, coconut & apricot, cashew & fig, which, along with the dates, is really what you taste. And that’s all!


What are the different bars that you offer and if you can, please tell us a thing you love about each one.

Currently I offer the three I just mentioned: peanut & apple, coconut & apricot, cashew & fig. The first is a classic combo that I just find so satisfying. The coconut & apricot bar has the extra sweetness of the apricot coupled with the robust flavor of toasted coconut. This bar is probably the most popular. It feels like a lot happening in the mouth at the same time, and has the added benefit of the bright orange of the apricot and the white of the coconut that makes it visually appealing. The cashew & fig bar is rich and creamy, but has a nice crunch from the fig seeds that I enjoy.


You are officially an entrepreneur in this era of entrepreneurship. What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned thus far?

Just do it! I don’t mean that it’s not a lot of work and totally consuming, but I’ve learned that the best way to embark on the path of creating something out of nothing is not to do endless market research, hem and haw on branding, wait until the ‘perfect’ moment when the many, many pieces are aligned and ‘right’, etc., but rather to put on the market something that you know is pretty good and go from there. It’s an iterative process and always evolving. I like being open to feedback and change, learning from mistakes, and growing as I go.


What does local (as a concept/ philosophy) mean to you?

Local is where the day to day, the bread and butter, of our lives happens. It’s where we can effect change, express gratitude and appreciation, have meaningful connections and impact. It’s where we can literally create the world we want to live in. Our community. I’ve spent many years working in international affairs on issues that move me deeply and always will -- these are important -- but the local sphere is one that’s more personal and gratifying.


Can you tell us something about breakfast bars that only you or very few people know.

They’re very simple! What our bodies and brains need is delicious and accessible, don’t be fooled!


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

Latte, hands down. Iced or hot, good coffee plus good milk always hits the spot. Thanks for bringing Montclair these things!

Local Talk: Q+A with Montclair Entrepreneur Janine Ruella (aka Montclair Pet Girl)

Tell us about your earliest connection to pets. Did you have dogs, cats, birds...growing up?

Our first family pet ever was a canary. We had a place “down the shore " and every Friday my Mom would pack up the kids, the car and the canary and head out of town for the weekend.

As children tend to do, my sister and I begged relentlessly for a dog. We campaigned on the promises that we would walk, feed, and otherwise provide stellar care for said dog. We got our wish and were surprised one afternoon with a tiny Bichon puppy we named Benny. Despite our promises, the dog quickly became a third child for my Mom, and Benny remained after we left home for college. It’s safe to say my pet care skills have grown exponentially since the Benny days.


Do you have pet(s) now? Tell us about them.

Currently I have two rescue pups, Remy, an affectionate lemon beagle ruled largely by her nose and her next meal and Desi, a cantankerous Chihuahua who is not a fan of most humans and requires a temperature of 60 degrees or more to even entertain the possibility of going outside. Suffice it to say, it's been a long winter. They shed like crazy and bark at everything, but they are fiercely loyal and always forgive me quickly for coming home smelling like 9,000 other dogs. In our free time, we can most likely be found on the couch snuggled up watching Netflix. I also have two rescue cats, Kuma and Keiko, who spend most of their time sleeping and avoiding the dogs.


Entrepreneurism is not for the faint of heart. What was the tipping point for you to decide to start the business in 2011? Was there a certain moment or event that triggered you to take the leap?

I was working as a school teacher and was quite frankly pretty miserable. I hated the commute and being in the same room all day long. I had worked as a nanny when I was in college at Montclair State, and was fortunate enough to able to be out and about all over town all day, taking kids to the park and other activities. As the kids got older, the family I worked for began leaving me in charge of the dog when they traveled. As my discontent in education grew, I wracked my brain for alternate means of supporting myself. I knew there was a need for quality pet care in a town where so many people have pets and full lives and busy schedules. I decided to draw on my natural inclination to nurture coupled with my passion and experience with pets and Montclair Pet Girl was born. I quit teaching and took a part time nanny job and also taught (and still teach) yoga to support myself as my fledging business grew. We have retained some of our very first customers, and those relationships and dogs mean more to me than I can ever express.


Starting and growing a business is tough but carries many valuable lessons, what is the most important element that you have learned thus far?

I am only as strong as my team and the people I surround myself with. I have a great team of pet lovers who seldom complain despite ever changing weather and physically demanding work. I trust each one of my teammates implicitly, and they are an integral part of my business and my life. I value them, and it’s important to me that they feel appreciated and supported. If they’re happy, the pets are happy!

 I have also found that when you are doing what you love and are passionate about, even the “hard stuff” is easy.


What is it about the Montclair area that served as the perfect community to launch your business?

Beyond the fact that town is full of so many awesome people and pets and is home to so many parks and green spaces, people here are BUSY! Living along the train line means so many folks are traveling to the city and working long hours leaving their pets at home for long stretches of time. If they’re not in the city, they’re busy with kids and juggling activities and schedules and don’t always have time to give their pet the attention and exercise they crave. Also, as awesome as town is, Montclairian’s seem to love to travel, creating a need for our overnight “pawjama party” service.

Montclair is also a “love your local” small business supporting type of place. There is not a cookie cutter, one sized fits all approach to anything here. Your neighbors want to know you and want you to succeed and to do well. The town literally lends itself to a hyperlocal small business like mine.


What advice can you give for any prospective or current pet owner?

Be prepared for a big commitment that will reward you for years to come. The time you invest in your dog when he/she first joins your family is invaluable and sets the precedent for life! Establish a routine and be as consistent as possible. Dogs thrive on routine and generally want to please you, but they need to know what you want from them. Every dog/cat has their own unique personality traits and disposition, it can be helpful to pay attention to patterns of behavior, so that you can anticipate a reaction and not miss an opportunity to correct/reward.


Tell us something about animals that very few people or no one knows.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear, which allows each ear to move independently of the other. All the better to eavesdrop on your conversation and plot your demise. As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.


What does local mean to you?

Close, familiar, community. I think “local” is more a feeling than geography. It’s what feels like home, an energy, a sense of belonging. A feeling that you’re in the company of others with the same affection for a place that you have.


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

I have long been a latte girl, but lately I have been a fan of the cappuccino at Local!



Local Talk: Q+A with Montclair Astrologer and Entrepreneur Heidi Macalle

Heidi, you have created a product for dogs whom are near and dear to me. What is it about dogs that had them serve as the final customer and how did you come to dream-up this concept?  

I have always loved dogs.  I grew up with them and when I got my own dog my love grew exponentially.  After I dove deeply into training my own dog to be the best dog ever, I learned more about dog behavior from a professional.  That served as the launch pad for this idea.  As much as dogs are similar in some of their natural behaviors, they still have a personality all their own.  It was this that sparked the idea of marrying my practice of astrology which celebrates the traits of people born at different times of the year with the premise that dogs might have the same characteristics, although maybe on a lesser scale.


Tell us about your initial interest in Astrology and how your work has evolved over the years. 

I started being interested in astrology in my high school years and my interest only grew year after year.  After reading all that I could get my hands on, I finally found a group of astrologers in North Jersey when I was in my 20's (pre-internet) which was hard to do.  I worked with a mentor, I got certified in my early 30's and my practice has slowly grown since then.  I always knew that as I got older my practice would get better and better.  As an astrologer, you'll always be able to provide your client with a perspective they cannot get on their own but with your own life experiences what you provide becomes much more rich and pointed. 


I find that people are either believers or not in our celestial connections, what do you say to the detractors as to not sway their POV but to create more of an understanding and appreciation?  

I would say to look at their life in cycles or turning points.   For starters, pay attention to age 29-30, age 42-45 depending on what generation you were born in, age 49-50 and age 59-60.  If you find that you have major events or revelations during these times you'll know that astrology is working in your life, with or without your knowledge of it.


You're a true dog lover as am I. For me, I couldn't imagine not having a dog in my life as they are our truest, most pure partners. What is it about dogs for you that creates that special bond? 

 It's their unshakeable trust in you, no matter what.


Tell us about your dog? Breed, traits, and personality? Also, how has she reacted to you dedicating your time to building this brand?  

My dog is a rare breed - a Dogue de Bordeaux or French Mastiff.  They are guardians and equally stubborn and smart.  They will run the show if you don't.  This breed is a beautiful red color and I've always had a thing for redheads (shh!)  We call Eva "Eva The Diva".  She's a Leo and if you know anything about Leos, they act like royalty.  She couldn't care less what I'm doing with my free time as long as she gets her gourmet meals and her daily promenades through the park.


Now that you're an entrepreneur, what have you found most difficult as well as rewarding about the process so far? 

Having faith in yourself and your product is a difficult hurdle.  Getting great feedback and support from people you respect is the most rewarding part for me.


How did you go about creating the design? What was important in the final execution?  

A dear friend who is a jewelry designer in NYC inspired me to create a charm after I mentioned that I would like to create a product line after I wrote a little e-book based on astrology and dogs.  I provided the initial sketches and she helped me fine tune the design.  It was a pretty big learning curve for me.  I had to understand the lingo jeweler's use and what to look for as far as quality control.  In the final execution, you must be demanding but also understand your limitations.  Hard for a perfectionist like me. 


How has living in the Montclair area contributed to launching the brand? 

I've lived in Montclair for pretty much my whole life.  From my experience, it's a town that has valued diversity and creativity which has only grown over the course of many years.  Being surrounded by creative people begets creativity.


You have a time machine and can leap into the future, what does your brand look like in several years? 

It is appreciated enough for its distinctive celebration of our dog's specialness to be mass marketed and provide a source of funding for Rescue which is near and dear to my heart.


Tell us one thing about Astrology that hardly anyone or no one knows?  

Only a seasoned astrologer knows that your birth chart belongs to you alone and it unfolds through you; it doesn't happen *to* you.


What's your favorite coffee or tea beverage?  

I’m easy.  I just love a simple cup of well brewed coffee with milk or cream depending on how rich the roast is.



Local Talk: Q+A with featured Local Artist: Sinéad Day MacLeod

Sinead, so happy to partner and show your beautiful and powerful work at Local. Take us back to the beginning. When did you know you wanted to express yourself through Art?

Thanks! I'm so happy to have my work here! I guess I have always known I wanted to do something arts related but it was hard to narrow down. I studied Critical Theory as an undergraduate and that allowed me to look at all sorts of media as art. After undergraduate, I got into an MFA program at William Paterson with a strong digital sculpture program so I've been able to learn a lot about new technologies like robotic production, 3D printing, as well as virtual and augmented reality. The work here is more representative of the part of my practice that is really focused on the tactile enjoyment of making. I love collage because think of each piece as a series of formal problems to be solved. Content for my other work often emerges first in my collages. 


I'm fascinated with your path to multimedia art forms. How do you know when and where to pick up a new medium? 

When it is right in front of me! I often work with found material so I will develop a new skill set when presented with a problem to solve. I began these photo-transfer collage pieces because I had old magazines and pieces or wood. I found that I really enjoyed the process of putting down an image and then revealing it through transfer, as well as the process of flipping through old texts for interesting images. 


Of all your art forms, do you have a favorite for it's ability to tell a richer, more impactful story?

I think video is probably my favorite medium because it has the broadest capacity for experiments. With video, you can create and manipulate an image but you also have time, sound and presentation to play with. It can be really immersive or really alienating. I also find the vocabulary of film and TV very useful for investigating the contemporary concerns that I look at in my work. Video has a different formal history than painting, and I like that freedom from art history. 



You have trained in Italy, how did the gravity of training in a country with such rich heritage in the arts shape your approach?

I had a residency in a very small town at a marble carving company that was working with digital technology; carving marble with robots. It was really interesting to work with a master craftsman on the hand carved parts of my sculpture after I had worked with the mill programmer on the robot's tool path programming. Both aspects of the process required an extremely specific technical knowledge. Marble is an incredible material that is both very delicate and durable. It is a soft stone, but it is stone. It is a physically challenging and labor intensive medium. I enjoyed being able to use my whole body and to have a very immediate relationship to my sculpture. I'd only worked with stone a little bit before Italy so it was an incredible experience to work with men who carved stone every day for most of their lives. 


Have you worked on a project with a specific goal that went terribly wrong but taught you a valuable lesson?

Every one has gone terribly wrong! I think each piece turns out very far from what I imagined and each one is a lesson. Of course, some failures are happy accidents and others are just failures but if 10% of my work ends up doing something interesting, I'm very pleased. 



Tell us a bit about the project you have so graciously shared with us at Local.

These works are part of two complimentary projects created with the same method. They are almost all photo transfers on wood. The images come from old art history textbooks and magazines. I'm interested in representations of women's bodies in art throughout history. The recurring figure is the Venus of Willendorf, a paleolithic carving and one of the oldest figurative works discovered.  


How does living in Montclair help drive your passion for the Arts?

I grew up in Montclair so it is really helpful to have so many connections with interesting and talented people. There are a lot of very supportive institutions and creative people working in the area. It is exciting to be a part of a vibrant community. Also, we are so close to New York and Newark so there is a real sense of connection with the larger art community. 


What does local mean to you?

I always think of the phrase, "think globally, act locally."  It can be really overwhelming to face the entirety of the world and try to consider change. It can also feel like everything important is happening elsewhere. Both of those feelings are really paralyzing. Great things happen on small scales and within communities, locally!



What is your favorite Coffee or Tea beverage?

I'm a purist so definitely an Iced Americano or a Cappuccino. I love freshly ground espresso and perfectly steamed milk!




Local Talk: Q+A with Josh Miller from Montclair State University

I'm inspired at the entrepreneurship and innovation coming out of Montclair State University. Tell me a bit about about MixLab and the genesis of the department.

The MIX Lab is an innovation center at MSU where students utilize technological tools to think and create in an innovative manner. We all work on projects both personal and with outside clients to help push the boundaries of innovation and entrepreneurship. Altarik and I work extensively in the lab to create innovate on everything from packs to other ceramics. The classes taught in the lab allow students the opportunity to think in the world from a different perspective. To us, Innovation is not just about using the newest technology, but to continue moving forward in progress and problem solving. 


What are the types of projects that draws your team's interest?

All our work in the lab has led us to form our own startup Urban Nomadic (urbanomadic.com). We are drawn to projects that have a strong ecologically and design focus. Plus collaboration is really important to us. Being able to work with other designers and innovators is critical to us. 


What are some of the team dynamics that create a healthy and effective approach to innovation?

I’d be lying if I said we (Altarik and myself) didn’t argue a lot. Yet, I find that it’s the respect through arguing that keeps us working together so well. We aren’t just colleagues and co-workers. We are friends and brothers. having that kind of dynamic among us allows us to be able to work through differences and come to great innovations. The other key part for us working others — we are always looking for people who want to design something transformative.


In our current environment, what brands or people do you consider to be driving true innovation?

I don’t search for innovation among well-known large corporations. I’m surrounded by innovation both here in the lab and in the local design ecosystem of Montclair. Through the lab we have met people who have some brilliant ideas and have seen some products that are surprisingly non-mainstream. MADLab, the architects behind the design of the Local coffee shop are a great example — they taught us a lot. When it comes to people, I’d like to point towards the two people that have taught me how to be an innovative individual: Iain Kerr and Jason Frasca — the co-directors of the lab


What are some of the short term as well as long term goals for the department?

The MIX Lab as well as Altarik and I strive to continue the development of innovations. In the short term, there are a few projects we are working on, some of which could become viable businesses in the future. As Urban Nomadic we are working on a long-term project to eliminate fashion waste through the use of revolutionary biodegradable materials. Altarik and I would love to continue to develop our innovative custom ceramics with restaurants or individuals who are in search of some really unique designs. In regards to the MIX Lab’s long term goals, we are continuing to expand our capabilities as well as who we contact and how to continue to foster innovation. 


What were your major product design inspirations for developing and ultimately building the bowls?

When creating this design, I was given the guideline of coffee culture while incorporating local celebration. I believed that if I dug deep into the roots of coffee culture I would find ideas that were no longer “the norm”. This is where the bowl concept came into play. Originally, this bowl was designed as a coffee bowl, but the design had a few uncomfortable niches to it. I discovered along the way the idea of a known face on a cup or bowl and decided to try to create angles that were not usual in bowls. From this, I found a designer who had a work of art like the bowl and felt that I was on a good path. The rest of the design process comes from working closely with Rob and Adele to create a product that they would be proud to use and present. As for the local part, we found a river bank in Glen Ridge (with great help from an MSU professor) with an abundance of rich clay and believed that it was only fitting to use a little part of the world right here in creating these bowls.


What were some of the challenges that your encountered along the way?

Earlier, I spoke about learning new things as being a key goal. When I asked Altarik to join this project, I found very quickly that time was against us. When learning new skills, and trying to meet a deadline all at once becomes stressful, one tends to look at their partner for stability. That was something we did with each other constantly as we did our best to meet (and sometimes fail at meeting) deadlines and tasks. All in all, I would say this was a challenging project by nature, but well worth the time and effort.


What were the most important takeaways for this project?

The most important takeaways are that it is possible for local designers to do things that no one else can do. It was humbling to see Local so ready to put the bowls out for display and use. We learnt that we could do some much more than we realized at first: we could dig up local clays, we could design custom products, we could work with great clients like Local and that the design and architecture community is generous and supportive. Basically, we can away excited to continue this work of collaborating with others in the local community to develop new products and innovative concepts.


Tell us something about design that very few or no one knows.

This design is an accidental design. I was still learning to use the software in the beginning and was going for a different structure to represent known faces and used a feature wrong that presented me this shape. Sometimes accidents bring out the best products. Design is all about processes and truly anyone can be innovative. I think that we need to move away from the notion of a “creative genius” but instead look at things from a set out processes to get towards a place. Really, it is all about doing things and if you fail, the worst outcome is that you will learn from it. 


What is it about being in Montclair that supports and drives the program forward?

It has a lot to do with the aspect of “Local”. In Montclair, there is a large culture of innovation and generosity from MSU to MadLab, to Local — everyone was more than willing to help us far beyond what we could ever have imagined. There is a community with a lot to teach and share. I find that Altarik and I connected well with Rob and Adele and that helped us to want to bring them a great product. For other students, here at MSU, it’s the passion of not only solving problems but creating new problems for worlds worth making and innovating that continues to progress the program.


What does local mean to you?

Local to us means the belief in what the community can provide to us and what we can give back in return. It is a symbol of support and love from people that we may know or soon meet that continue to help push in a positive direction. Local is the embodiment of positive goals with belief in each other.  It is really about making and emerging with the things you have around you. We also believe that local is about sustainability and collaboration. Through our newest project, Urban Nomadic, we are not only looking to work for people who are trying to make a difference, but we are trying to make a difference ourselves through the use of renewable resources. Local is not just about the people, but also about the environment we share with everything in the world and our aim is to protect as much of that as possible.



Local Talk: Q+A with featured Artist: Szilvia Revesz

First and foremost - your work is incredibly powerful in that there's this serendipity for how it comes together but the takeaway is or seems planned. How do you balance the two?

Thank you Robert. Yes, there is some planning in the process. First I have to decide which colors I am going to use and prepare the inks and dyes accordingly. Decisions have to be made, whether or not I want to add any additives to alter the pattern I want to achieve, but sometimes I do this while I am in the process. Once I face the tub filled with water, it is mostly intuitive how the design will evolve. That is when I need to focus and be still. A little clumsy movement or a blow of my breath can destroy the design. And of course there are other factors that needs be considered such as temperature and humidity. After all it is an alchemy.


I'm very drawn to a work you created in 2012 'Sumi Experiment, untitled 2012'. I feel energy at the core with a more perilous spirit throughout. Am I tapping into anything here? 

Yes, that was the time when I started experimenting with the process. I had no Idea where it will take me and I only used sumi ink at that time. I was just playing and I didn’t even record any of findings. I now have notes and color recipes in order to achieve certain patterns. Even then sometimes I am up for surprises. I try not to expect and I just go with the process and see where it takes me. 

What does growing up in Hungary contribute to this creative exploration that you have endeavored upon?

Growing up in Hungary, I had limited resources for any kind of creative exploration. I studied jewelry making and upon completion of my studies I worked as a bench jeweler. I worked for small jewelry manufacturing company. Although I studied design, there was very little demand for artistic exploration of the medium. I started my creative exploration when I moved to State site.


I'm also someone who has studied meditation and found it to be a game changer. How do different states of mind work themselves into your design approach and process?

It is the process that gets me fully centered. If I am too excited, rushed or agitated it just simply won’t work. But usually it is not the case, since the whole process is a sort of ritual. From the preparation of the ink to the creation of the design to printing and pressing of the print and finally the viewing to the final print. It is interesting to note that in the 15th century suminagashi marbled papers -the ancestor of Suimonga-were used as artworks to be contemplated during the Tea Ceremony. It is very Zen.


Based on the complexity of your final designs, what's the best way (i.e. conditions, state of mind,)  to experience them?

To experience Suimonga is also a meditation. Just like in the Tea Ceremony, the work needs to be contemplated on. It will evoke certain moods and feelings depending on the viewer. It is a visual journey. 

I usually like stand in front of a piece quietly and stare into it for minutes in the morning and sip my coffee or tea while I am “gazing". Each time is a different experience.


Was it your studies at MSU that brought you to West Orange and Montclair?

I lived in Rockland County upstate New York while I was attending MSU. It was the place I came to when I arrived to America. I admit it was a bit of a commute. I used to work in several New Jersey locations and well as in New York City. When my husband and I decided to relocate to New Jersey we looked for a place where it was closer to the locations I worked in. We also considered that the area has an interesting artist community and a lively location with full of recreational activities. We have two dogs Karma and Hiro. We like to take long hikes and walks in local parks. The area is perfect for that. We moved to the area four years ago.


What is it about this area that supports you in your work?

 It is the quiet surrounding in the Garden State and the like minded people I connect with. The house that we live in has a back yard where I maintain a small garden. Having a garden is very important to me, because it keeps me connected to nature. I am also very fortunate to have my studio in my house which is quite convenient. 

I am part of a group of local artists that comes together each month to view and talk about our artworks, exchange ideas and share our resources. My formal art teacher and mentor Cathy LeCleire also lives in the area and we keep in touch. It was Cathy who introduced the process of marbling during her Book Arts class I was attending at MSU. 


Your work is an evolution. Tell us about a current project and how you arrived at it.  

Yes I believe my work is constantly evolving. Right now I have several different projects in progress. I started working in large scale which is a bit of a challenge given the sensitivity of the process, but I am always curious how far I can take my medium. I started to introduce sewing as a another element to my artwork.

I also experiment with design and print clothing. Some of my designs can be viewed at MarvelousMarbledART@etsy.com 

What does local mean to you?

 Local means the people I see and interact with on the daily bases. The markets I go to buy my groceries, stores and shops I support on a regular bases within 1-10 mile radius of my house.

It is also the restaurants I like to eat in the area. I am vegan and Montclair has quite a few selections of places that satisfy my dietary needs and please my taste buds.

Tell us something that only you know, or very few people. 

 Suimonga aka ”picture of water patterns", the Japanese ink floating that I practice was developed by a Japanese space scientist Mr.Takaji Kuroda. I had an honor and a privilege to meet him in Japan two years ago.

Suimonga was recognized as a new Traditional Japanese Art Form by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996. 

The name Suimonga was given by a famous Chinese calligrapher. 


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage? 

My favorite coffee is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser organic full-city roast.

My favorite tea is Thai Jasmine tea.

Local Talk: Q+A with local Montclair artist Carrie Emma Pradieu

I've known you for several years but never knew you were an artist. That said, your work is bold, beautiful and inspiring. Did I miss something OR do you keep your work under wraps?

Thank you! I've been juggling family and career (as we all do) primarily working around my children's schedules and exploring various creative projects.

My background is in fashion and print which I studied at Central Saint Martins art school in London.  Though I have been creating all my life I hadn't done much painting until recently.  As my children grow more independent I am gradually finding more time to focus on my work.

To answer your question, I do not keep my work under wraps! I have had three solo exhibitions in the last year or so, two at Anthropologie and one in NYC at Verdigreen as well as various pop-up events.


You work with a variety of found and recycled material which is outstanding as both a message and a medium. How did you begin to work with discarded objects in this way and what emotional elements does it add to your work?

I have a tendency to hoard!  My studio is bursting at the seams with things that I collect with the intention of using in my work at a later date - for example, my children know to always save the gift wrap which I turn into papier mache lanterns or bowls and I can be found sloshing through my friend's stretch of river upstate, searching for unusual shaped rocks to paint!

I've collected beautiful found objects since I can remember.  I was brought up to respect nature and the environment and to recycle and minimize waste, plus it made sense to use what I have around me since the cost of supplies is exorbitant!

I am constantly inspired by and connected to nature, to use a rock or some leaves in my work or to up-cycle some inanimate object and give it new life is highly rewarding and freeing as it forces you to work sympathetically with the nature of the object rather than be restricted by the confines of a two-dimensional canvas.


Your work has great names like Purple Rain, Pisces and All is Calm. Do you start out with a name and then create or start with a concept and name the piece after?

I never start out with a name!  I begin with a concept and sometimes that changes throughout the process but the name comes to me (or not) after I have initialed the painting and put the brush down.  

Alongside nature, music is a huge influence and Purple Rain was actually a personal tribute after Prince passed.


Artists can be hard on themselves. Is there a past moment that you can identify as the tipping point to when you believe your work reached a point where you were satisfied with the outcome?

It's a continual process!  I'm never satisfied.  I can finish a canvas and  be like "Wow, love that!" and then immediately want to move on to another and re-explore color, scale, layers, space, energy etc.  I'm having crazy conversations in my head, it's exhausting, sometimes agonizing, other times exciting and exhilarating.


You've been in Montclair for many years now. What initially brought you here from the UK and what do you love most about it?

I initially came to New York City whilst studying at art school to gain work experience and worked at various print studios in the garment district.

I guess I like the melting pot that Montclair and the city are and the sun and blue skies even on crisp winter days.


Can you tell us something that you have discovered about Montclair that no one else (or few others) know?

I don't know how many others know of it, it's always very quiet but if you can find the entrance to the Wildlife Preserve which borders Montclair and Clifton, it's quite lovely with streams and wooded areas.


What does being local mean to you?

In England we refer to a convenient pub (usually within walking distance) as the 'local' and it will usually be frequented by 'locals' (inhabitants of the surrounding village or area).   I guess for me then local is familiar, it's relating, it's belonging.

(Leave it to the Brits to connect alcohol to a coffee shop!)


What is your favorite tea or coffee beverage?

Lapsang Souchong tea and probably Local's own cappuccino.