A rolling wave of blonde hair, a vast landscape ahead that looks as if it could engulf her at any moment — suck her back into its center. It doesn’t though, there’s always a strength to her, rooting her feet on the rock she stands atop. Woodworker Aleksandra Zee may be known to you from her dreamy, golden hued virtual postcards, and entrancing works of art that will make you stop in your tracks mid-Instagram scroll. She’s not just her online representation though, as any woman she is thick with dynamics, journeys, insights. Fearlessly, she shares snippets of these with us through her captions — using the social media platform to as a way of saying “Hey! I’m in this with you.” — however today we get very real with the talented woman on her art, heartbreak, & how to deeply love yourself!
V: What was your first experience with woodworking? Was it love at first bandsaw?
AZ: My frist experience with woodworking was just a bit in college, making frames and things but nothing much. My first job out of college was at Anthropologie as a Display Artist and so much of it was learn as you go. When I fully started building things I fell in love! Working with wood, being in a shop, I knew it was what I wanted to do and instantly started planning how to make it on my own.
V: What were you doing before you were able to go full time with your creative passions?
AZ: I decided to leave Anthropologie after about three years and knew that for me, having a boss and working/making for someone else was not for me. I needed to make art for myself and put it out there. So I stated small, working as a waitress for just about three years as I built my business. Working days in my humble little shops and nights at a restaurant. I remember the day I quit waiting tables like it was yesterday. I was serving a few girlfriends some margaritas and they asked me why I was still working there, that I was so busy in the shop and didn’t need to keep the side hustle. So I set down their drinks and went up to my manager and told her I would rather be in my studio, and she said yes please go and come back if you ever need to. It felt amazing and scary and crazy and so freeing. It has been a little over three years since that moment and each day has gotten better and more amazing working for myself. It’s hard ass work, and it never stops, but there is nothing else I would rather do.
V: You are so wonderfully transparent about the journey a woman takes to come into her own via your social media. Did it ever scare you to be so open?
AZ: At first it was scary, the opinions of others would deeply effect me. When the negative came it would hurt and hold me back. It took a while to grow my thick skin and learn to meditated on the fact that others options of me don’t matter, and they never will. I am responsible for my own energy and my own confidence and happiness. None of that belongs to anyone else. Being committed to openness and vulnerability is something that is so important to me and loving myself though it is so important.
V: Let’s talk about self-love — what life experiences have forced you to come face-to-face with who you are as a woman, and who you want to be?
AZ: This is for sure a loaded question. There are so many experiences that have made me face myself with exactly who I am and who I want to continue to grow into. I grew up with a troubled mother, substance abuse consumed her life and outside of the care my father gave I helped raise my younger sister. That forced me to tap into my nurturing and fierce side at a super young age. Later in life I chose a career that is predominantly male and finding my strong and also feminine (which is powerful and not weak) voice. I felt like I was re-writing what it meant to be feminine for myself. That being a woman didn’t make me weaker but stronger, and promoting that strength in a non competitive and graceful way. About two years ago I lost my mother, and that was a huge face-to-face moment with myself. I needed to strip myself of everything I held onto, the thick skin that I let grow a little too thick and re-open myself to a life of pure vulnerability, not holding myself back because of fears, accepting every bit of who I am and the strength there is in being open.
V: What is the most painful part of your journey in self-study?
AZ: Growing pains happen because you are making new room for the growth that is happening within. A big part of dealing whit what hurts is self acceptance. That you control your happiness, your confidence, your state of mind. Rising above what breaks your heart and accepting that it takes time. Life is full of heartbreak and how you move though the muck is what gives you the information and wisdom to hurdle the next. It hurts to lose a love, lose a family member, have your business take an unexpected turn, but all of those things happen to show the path before you and the choice you have to hit the ground running. So for me, my heartbreaks and pain that I have lived though are maps and footprints in the path I have chosen, I wouldn’t change it, I love where I have been and where it is shaping me to move forward into.
V: I think every woman learns to be gentle with themselves in different ways — I do this thing where I literally talk to my body in times of stress or trauma. Is there a way you’ve learned to be gentle with yourself that helps you deal with trials of the everyday?
AZ: I do he same, I speak positivity to my body, acknowledge the air filling my lungs in each deep breath, wiggle my toes and feel my feet planted on the earth holding up my body. Finding completely presence within my mind and physical body, reminds me that I am alive, I need to check in, and care for myself. It is the easiest way to get my mind bad n track, those sick couple minutes of acknowledging yourself.
V: I’m so glad I’m not the only one that does that! How do you see yourself through your own eyes?
AZ: When I look in the mirror I see strength, I see grace and I see growth. I am always changing, and allowing for that growth is acceptance. I meet myself with an open heart.
V: If you could send one message to young women everywhere what would it be?
AZ: Be fearlessly yourself. No one is you, YOU are you. There is strength in being a woman that should never hold you back from doing exactly what you want to.
It’s 2017 and the bar for how internet-breaking your album release is, is pretty high in these times. In an attempt to out-do the rest Katy Perry launches her new album ‘Witness’ (which hit outlets last Thursday) with a live stream three day weekend in a house that was built especially for this event. This means if one tapped in to her Youtube stream, they could watch her “everyday life” uninterrupted — even the hours she took to sleep. Only it wasn’t truly Katy’s everyday life. There were celeb visitors, on-air therapy sessions, and manufactured moments. In this day in age with social media, and the watchful eyes of the world always on you, celebrity figures must have a public persona, and a private one, and with this plaguing her it seemed in a marketing-fueled concept KP wanted to finally bridge that gap.Vérité and photographer Allister Ann joined this livestream mania on it’s last hours during a casted show at which Katy Perry took the secret location stage in a spectacular head-to-toe silver sequined outfit. She had soon kicked off her heeled boots to dance the stage unbridled. She is charismatic, charming, and relatable — the type of girl you could totally have a good immature giggle with. No wonder her fans are so attached. She’s a friend to them, only just out of reach. Standing in a sea of super fans you get a front row seat to view the symbiotic obsessive relationship between glimmering star and her public — no wonder she feels pressure, these kids hold expectations.
Social media has created celebrity to another level, and followers come to their screens wanting to be let in more and more by their idols. While it may not make sense to all of us, some actually want to watch KP sleep. Many times during her live-weekend, Katy Perry logs on to Instagram Live to real-time chat with her fans, while simultaneously surrounded with voyeuristic-style cameras in the home. Where are the boundaries? How transparent is too transparent?
In a streamed therapy session with Siri Sat Nam Singh, Ph.D., Katy breaks down in tears stating just this, that as a public figure she has had to create Katy Perry a larger than life quirky girl, when at her core she is truly Katheryn Hudson. We have to ask though, did she not create this character herself, out of the depths of her creative mind? She did, however it’s an armor of sorts. A protection from the prying eyes, and sometimes hands, of those who want to snag a little piece of this mega-star. We’ve seen it time and time again,
so many artists struggle with the question of if their fans will evolve with them — if the creative is allowed to grow. Sardined between crazed KP fans with stars in their eyes (maybe even a few tears), we are assured that they will follow her anywhere.
The vaster issue though is the public’s understanding of what is real, and what is marketing smoke and mirrors. Katy Perry’s live streamed weekend was the perfect example of this. In an attempt to keep part of themselves private, yet appear to give it all to the fans so many influencers must construct a fictional version of themselves only to balance their sanity, and satisfy the voyeur.
THE WANDERESS | DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO MOVE THROUGH
THE WORLD WITH LIGHT FEET, OPEN HEARTS
& PURPOSEFUL ACTIONS.
There’s no secret formula of success for why Tulum has become the must-hit destination for the chicest travelers the world over — the allure is simply this: Tulum has mastered the art of slow living and good design. Cue flocks of Gypsetters. The Wanderess checks in at Casa Gaia to learn the ways of this world.
As one walks the main drag of (a dirt path shadowed in by overgrown palms) on their way to dinner it’s as if you’ve stepped into a guerrilla style fashion show at resort week. Tassels, and billowing sleeves meet lightweight fabrics that mirror the beauty of the landscape under the pink hue of the setting sun. One must be dressed appropriately, as the dining selection is just as curated. Fairy-lands of twinkling lights, and randomized tables nest deep into the Yucatan forest. While the outside world is more than happy to come in, it has yet to feel like it has overly impacted Tulum — instead you sense that you are joining in on a movement of lifestyle and design that is on the verge of exploding.
Each hotel has been crafted so carefully that its little slice of beach front becomes exotic Mayan folklore come to life. All different takes on the same terrain. That’s what brings us to the unassuming little blue gate of Casa Gaia — one in a collection of beach front homes that make up Mahayana Tulum. Its purpose being to reconnect you to the flow of the ocean. Sitting just at the edge of the white sand playa as if watching over the azure-hued ocean, this location empowers you to connect with the tides instead of the time. Everywhere you look here a hammock hangs in your peripherals, like visual reminders to take the day with ease.
The space itself is the perfect depiction of the organic aesthetic that’s been pouring out of Tulum in the last few years — it’s found an enchanting balance between eclectic and calmingly minimal, leaving the most busying view to be that of the pristine beach just beyond the balcony. In a space as such one’s imagination can run wild along the curving white walls, while the world beyond the Yucatan seems to wash away with one quick outdoor shower.
This is how the locals of Tulum have built up their slice of heaven — without over-affecting the natural elements, but working with them. One is surrounded by everything needed to indulge in this concept of slow living — morning yoga just next door at Sanara, neighboring eateries of nothing but clean, fresh dishes from land and sea, and of course spotty wifi connection as soon as you leave Mahayana. This is what it’s all about, meandering through your day with the intention to detach, and re-focus.
How many times have you been sitting across from your BFF, glass of wine in hand, exclaiming “we could totally start a business”? Countless. Those are give or take the plot-lines of how Cole Morrall and Natalie Mauro found themselves knee deep in refined eclectic jewels — a line called Bones + Feathers Collective. One collaborative idea was to spark a career of crafting beautifully delicate designs inspired by natural elements.
Vérité visited the co-founders up in the winding hills of Highland Park, Los Angeles, to dig through said jewels, and a little bit of background of the balance between a successful friend/work relationship. More so, we were dying to peel back the layers of who these two are as a duo, and apart.
VÉRITÉ: Tell us what Bones and Feathers Collective is…
NATALIE & COLE: An LA based jewelry line drawing inspiration and materials from nature. We design for the girl that wants something unique and feels one of a kind at a more affordable price.
V: How did you two meet, what was the catalyst to join forces in business?
NATALIE: We actually went to the same college and graduated the same year, but didn’t meet until a mutual friend introduced us out in LA. This girl that I’d met kept telling me that I should meet her roommate. I was reading a book on serial killers at the time and Cole was reading a book on decomposing bodies, and she thought that we’d get along. When we met, it was kind of creepy love at first sight and we’ve been friends ever since.
We started B+FC while I was assisting a clothing designer. He told me I could sell accessories at his booth during market week. I asked Cole if she wanted to start a line and she responded, “Yes, we can make things out of bones and feathers.” We never ended up making anything out of feathers or selling accessories at market week for him, but we liked the sound of it, so we kept the name and started a business
V: Where do you both gain inspiration for what you create?
V: Getting into business with a friend can be tough, how do you two keep things smooth? What would you suggest to others who want to do the same?
NATALIE: We are both really good at balancing each other out and get along really well. Like all relationships, it’s about communication, we definitely have our moments, but if someone feels strongly about something we are both open to hearing each other’s thoughts and ideas out. We also have defined roles and make sure we are clear about who has what responsibilities. V: Can you give us a little insight into the process of creating a new collection?
COLE: It varies. We have started new collections by making shapes with clay, finding textures and shapes in nature, or being inspired by furniture and home architecture. We then start sketching and water coloring, choo se a color pa lette of stones and shapes we want to work with and then go into CAD and sourcing the proper stones. It can be a long process but its so worth it when it all comes together. The end product sometimes turns out differently then expected but its usually something we love.
V: If you both could identify a work uniform what would you say is yours?
NATALIE: black jeans, black boots, black shirt and a really good coat (preferably leather or vintage wool) .
COLE: Same… except silk shirt. I’m also a sucker for white dresses.V: If you could both pick any destination that describes your personal style and overall aesthetic what would it be?
NATALIE: Madrid or Paris.
COLE: Oh thats a tough one, probably a blend of NYC, Kauai, and Atrani.
V: In a world where we are inundated with so many brands via social media, what would you say is your key to standing out from the crowd?
NATALIE: I’m not really sure that we have one to be honest. We just try to be ourselves and post things that we are inspired by, its really the only way for us to stay true to the brand.V: What is your favorite thing about one another?
NATALIE: Cole’s generosity and diplomacy/understanding in all life situations.
COLE: Nat’s willingness to try new things and learn from them. She’s always pushing herself to be a better version of herself, it’s inspiring and a good reminder to do the same.
COLE: That’s like naming a favorite child! I love anything F. Scott Fitzgerald. Born to Run — it really changed the way I understood running as a part of my life. The Presence Process — the writing isn’t the best but the message is amazing and really helped get in to meditation.
In a world where Instagram can change your life overnight, Carly Kuhn (virtually known as @TheCartorialist) is a living example of someone who has leveraged her creative endeavors and set out on a new path to embody and empower the lifestyle of The Creative. Through her charmed illustrations she recounts pop-culture as it unfolds. We sit poolside with her at her LA home and art studio to get the details on her latest projects, Cartorialist.com, and how she’s moving beyond just her illustrations, and employing technology to spread the word. VÉRITÉ: Let’s start at the beginning. Carly, you came from a background in comedy, you’re a pretty funny girl. How did you get into doing your illustrations?
CARLY KUHN: I was with a bunch of friends in Malibu and I started doodling, and they were well received so I decided to start just as a fun side creative outlet. I was working at CAA at the time and I would start drawing people on their birthday’s or just fun little sketches. I just started drawing without any thought in mind other than drawing for fun. From there I had moved over and worked for Chelsea Lately, and while I was there I continued to draw on the side. At a certain point someone said you should start an Instagram account, just as a way to get out my work. So I created an Instagram account, and started drawing once every day. At the time I really didn’t use Instagram beyond friends, weddings, whatever it was. I started kind of going down a rabbit hole of finding different accounts and following them, and getting inspired by different types of things whether it was bloggers or fashion photographers — I think fashion was what I first started to be inspired by to draw because that’s what Instagram sort of became popular for. Then I realized you could tag, and hashtag, and people began to comment and repost but again I just didn’t really know what it would be. Just how Instagram has launched bloggers, photographers, and other types of creatives that have burst from the internet — I didn’t really have any end goal in mind. Slowly, just on the side by doing this everyday, I was getting recognition. The turning point was when I had drawn Sarah Jessica Parker and she reposted and then started following me. That was a point when I started getting emails for things people wanted to commission, or random companies were reaching out and I realized it could be a thing. I had always wanted to work in TV comedy, and I was really happy with what I was doing but I was sort of searching for a more creative outlet.
V: When you were growing up did you ever think of being an artist as an option?
CK: I don’t think I ever thought that, no. For me, I grew up either wanting to work in comedy — I mean the ultimate dream growing up in New York is that I wanted to be on Broadway or SNL. But I don’t think I ever felt like I wanted to be an artist growing up. V: And are your parents creative?
CK: Yeah, they are both creative and my dad is very into music — he’s in a band on the side. And my mom she had such amazing calligraphy. My whole family is very creative.
V: How long have you been full time pursuing your illustrations?
CK: For a year!
V: You were definitely well received by the fashion industry but I know you don’t want to be fashion specific. So what do you want to explore more now that you do have the eyes of your following on you?
CK: I think I realized — I’m very in love with Pinterest — and kind of being more drawn to interior design. And just design in general. And I’m at that point in transitioning to actually selling my work and what I’m most excited about is having it be part of people’s homes and work space. I think being in my late 20s’ you’re at this point where people start to really care about their home, your home is your sanctuary and you get to this part of your life where you’re starting to get excited about making your home another kind of creative expression. For me I found I’m excited about my work being a part of people’s homes and that being a part they get excited about and it’s going to add to the space. So I think design, interior design, and home is where I’m going to explore.
V: What does that mean for your illustrations?
CK: I think the thing is the illustration itself, I think I’m growing that it’s not just illustration. I think because I kind of fell into this world of art, and fashion illustration I still have so much to grow and learn. I want to learn more and see what I’m capable of and I really fell in love with working with water color, and I’ve recently done acrylics. I think the content for what my art pieces actually are will continue to be inspired by fashion but not just fashion. And the thing is it never was only fashion, it’s more people in general that inspire me. But at the same time I’ve drawn cacti, or a guitar — so not having any rules and just going with the flow of what I’m feeling and not feeling like.
But what I will say is fashion does continue to inspire me. I think I look at fashion through the lens of art. There’s always been art inspired by fashion, and fashion inspired by art. There are numerous designers that have been inspired by a Klimt painting. I feel like in a way, for me I love to see certain editorial spreads that I find interesting for one reason or another, and then want to interpret it in another form of art.
V: Do you think that because they are line drawings, you are more influenced by form or proportion rather than actual content?
CK: Yea, for me, I’m not seeking out wanting to draw this fashion person. I have a combination though, I think half of what I do is whatever I’m drawn to (no pun intended), so I think my Instagram account does hold on to that insta-aspect, and by that I mean fashion week is happening, I’ll draw things that are inspired by the front row of shows, but also if Beyoncé comes out with a new huge visual album like Lemonade, I end up being inspired by that. So in a lot of ways I’m very inspired by, and like to keep up with what’s going on.
V: Well, you’re kind of documenting pop culture in a very simple way.
CK: Yes, I think sometimes it’s another way for people to connect to something. Once I got past my insecurity that came with drawing — when I realized not everything was perfect, that’s what drew people to my work that it has this kind of perfectly imperfect aspect. I also think because everything is digital now, and with everything you see on a screen, sometimes things feel forced.
V: I love when you do your illustrations via Snapchat — tech has brought your work to another level. There’s a lot of artists that can’t really get that message across as concise as you can. Your viewers get to almost be apart of it, which is really cool. Can we talk about the website? You’ve launched Cartorialist.com!
CK: It hasn’t been active for years, we tried to get it. V: But, it’s more based on interviews, featuring other creatives, and building a community so where did that stem from? Where did that idea come from?
CK: I think because I have worked in entertainment for the past five years, and I was a communications major, and just constantly being around people, I love to connect with new individuals, and I’m someone that loves to constantly be learning. I always felt like a lot of people say you find your true self in college, and I feel that I’m just now fully finding myself for who I truly am. I think part of that is meeting new people, learning new things, and I also have always kind of been interested in a lot of different areas. When I was working in comedy I was also doing Groundlings, I also did a food blog at one point. With this unexpected path that I ended up on I’ve really taken my time, I haven’t sold my prints, I haven’t sold originals because I really wanted to make sure when I did it it was going to be the right space. I kind of knew I wanted to do something more. Over the past few months I’ve realized I love design, I love home decor, I love just kind of meeting interesting people doing interesting things. Originally I was going to launch the site to sell my prints but then I realized I don’t want to just launch the site and sit back and wait! As I got excited about my work being in people’s homes and so two worlds colliding made me there’s kind of three aspects to the site. We are photographing people in their home or work space. Then we photograph a piece of my art on one of their walls so you get to see my work in other people’s spaces, and then I also have The Cartorialist Questionnaire which will be a bunch of questions the same for each person that are things I would want to know about other creative people. I also have a really awesome photographer, her name is Monroe, she has an Instagram @DontBeAFool. So that’s obviously a big part of the site. Weekly, it’s going to kind of be a design site for creatives. So it’s sharing my drawings mixed in with images that inspire me whether it is design, editorial, or fashion. Also kind of having it be a focus on the West Coast, because I feel like there’s been a lot of stuff with New york city but I feel especially as a New Yorker that moved here that I’ve fallen in love with the West Coast and this kind of natural, earthy vibe. I want to celebrate that.
V: You live and work in your creative space, do you find that makes it easier for you to be creative or harder for you to turn off your work brain?
CK: I think because I live in the space that I work, and it is a really inspiring place sometimes it can get hard because I am my own boss, I need to motivate myself. Or there’s the flip side of not separating your work from your home so at any point in time you could be working but at the same time as an artist you can’t predict when you’re going to feel inspired to draw or paint. I feel that it’s actually more beneficial because if I had to drive a few miles to then set up and do the work it might feel forced. And if I don’t want to work for a few hours but by 9 PM at night want to do something or want to draw or paint it’s there. But when I have to do a little more busy work I’m a member of NeueHouse so I go there.
V: For me I’ve always written — it’s always been my thing, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I actually started saying that I was a writer. I would say ‘oh, I’m in media’ because I didn’t feel like I had made it to that point. Now it’s freeing. Did you have that with the word artist? Do you feel like you have a little bit of impostor syndrome?
CK: I still have that. One hundred percent. I think I still struggle with saying ‘I’m an artist’, and some people say illustrator, fashion illustrator, but I do want to own the word artist because I don’t think those other titles really embody everything I’m doing. But I think because I’m not going about it in the traditional sense, and I’ve used Instagram which kind of launched my career, it is a hard thing to say artist. I think as any creative, as you said, impostor syndrome. I do think it’s a mark of any true creative.
V: What are three books that have changed your life?
CK: I don’t know if I’ve had a book change my life. I think that because I’m in my stage of self discovery more than ever, I haven’t yet read a book that’s really affected my life yet. I feel like my experiences in life have been the most altering, not necessarily a book.