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With Bre Graziano

I met Bre in 2014. I happened to spot a copy of Fellow Magazine inside a men’s boutique I happened to walk into, and simply had to get a copy for myself. It was beautiful and the stories pulled me in just like that!

At home, I found out all I could about Fellow and sent an email to publisher Bre Graziano right away requesting a portrait session. And here are the results.

It’s too sad that Fellow has been discontinued ever since, but I keep hearing that they may just do a come-back one of these days. I really hope they do! Fellow focuses on Colorado and everything local, so all the photographers and writes and businesses featured are also local. It was after reading Fellow that first time that I realized Colorado had so much to offer! Often in the midst of all the big names, we forget all the gems that are in abundance practically right next door, or a block over, or in the next neighborhood… you get the picture.

Well, for now, let me present: Bre Graziano! The photoshoot with Bre was a blast. She is the one of the most down-to-earth, warm and welcoming person I have met in my life, and I am a better person for having met her.

With Sean VanderVliet

My second print publication appeared on the same magazine as the first: my favorite UPPERCASE Magazine. On issue 33. This was a piece I did on Sean VanderVliet, a ceramic artist and potter right here in Denver. It was a blast doing the shoots with Sean. And his pieces… they are absolutely GORGEOUS! Here’s the excerpt I wrote for my piece, as an intro to the interview with Sean:

I’ve wanted to photograph a ceramic artist for some time before I found Sean VanderVliet. I checked out quite a few potters, and while many of them create beautiful pieces, I always got the feeling of putting their work on display, as opposed to using them for any practical purpose. The thing which made Sean stand out was that when I saw Sean’s pots and dishes, the first thing I thought was that I wanted to put food on these pots, bring them out on the dining table and share the food with friends and family.

It was a pleasure to be able to chat with Sean and watch him create one pot after another during our photo-shoot.

Check out more of Sean’s work.

And here’s the rest of the interview:

Maliha

What made you want to go into ceramics?

Sean

I started making pots in 2000 and I haven’t stopped since. I had an appreciation for handmade ceramics before I ever sat at a wheel. Growing up in rural New Hampshire, my family always had handmade work around the house that was used on a daily basis. I knew there was something special about this and my future in ceramics was never really a question of if, but rather, when? 

 

Maliha

Which part of the process do you like that goes into making a complete piece, and why?

Sean

Typically potters will simplify their making process into 3 parts; throwing, trimming, and glazing. I would argue that you could add sketching/brainstorming before throwing, and add presentation after glazing (I had a teacher a long time ago that said a vase isn’t done until there are flowers in it, and I’m a firm believer that this is true). All that said, my favorite part of the process is actually trimming – it’s satisfying for a number of reasons, but for me it’s the step in the process that can really polish off a piece, so I give it a lot of attention.

Maliha

What drives you to continue to create?

Sean

There’s simply always something else. There’s always another shape, or glaze combination, or installation project that I have in the back of my head. I can honestly say that if I worked with clay from now until the day I died, I would never run out of new things I wanted to try. I can say that confidently because I’m actually worried I might have enough already to get me there. Like any artist that works regularly at their craft, I feel like I get better every time I touch clay. Recognizing and appreciating this growth makes it impossible to let up or stop creating.

 

Maliha

Is there someone in the same industry who you look up to? Why?

Sean

As far as ceramicists go, I’m very out of touch with the big names in the industry, and that’s partly intentional. I keep track of a handful of potters at a time whose work I feel connected to in some way. Recently, I went to Vancouver and stumbled across a potter named Haejin Lee. Her simple, colorful, and modern tableware really struck me and I’ve been thinking about her shapes and glazing techniques often. I also look up to Simon Pearce, a potter and glassblower from Vermont in the area close to where I grew up. His glassblowing and pottery are fantastic, but he’s also the model that I look to for building an honest, purposeful, and successful business centered around clay.

Maliha

What would be your ideal project/future vision/goal?

Sean

Pottery is under-appreciated in the United States. We’re becoming much more intrigued about where our food comes from and how it’s prepared, but very few ever consider what that same food is being served on or in. My goal is to bring a consciousness to that, and to encourage people to care about and appreciate the vessels they use. I want to work directly with chefs and restauranteurs to help curate how food is served in these places while simultaneously offer a line from which people can purchase things like plates, bowls, and vases for their home.

Lore, a Tea & Gift Shop

Lore
2952 Welton St, Denver, Colorado

The Five Points neighborhood in Denver is something else. Let’s just say it’s up and coming. A mix of trendy and old reside side by side and makes your head spin a little… in a good way of course. I quite like hanging in this part of the town.

As for Lore, I discovered it on Instagram, as I do most of the times. Instagram is my new Google, guys! Anyhow, it’s a unique shop in the sense that it sells exotic tea and home goods and little gift-shop like items. And then on the side it has women’s clothing… the very shop itself defines the Five Points neighborhood, if you know what I mean. A little bits and pieces of everything bundled up in one place.

The store itself is quite pretty and tastefully decorated. There is a back room where the owners (Alex and Kiley) hold workshops every now and then. The goal is to do something community-centric,  an idea big in the general Denver area these days. Everywhere I go, people talk about community. I, however, feel like this community that the community is so proud of can be very selective at times… but that’s a different story for a different time and place.

The shop? It’s beautiful! Go have a look!

Sonder Coffee & Tea

Sonder Coffee & Tea
9731 E Iliff Ave, Denver, Colorado

Sonder Coffee & Tea is in a relatively quiet neighborhood of Denver. It’s not too big, but the interior is cozy and they serve damn good chai tea! Also, food to munch on! Croissants and macaroons, heck YEAH!

It’s perfect for staying long hours, minding one’s own business, working or doing assignments. I haven’t seen people socializing a lot which can be good or bad depending on what you are looking for. If a quiet morning or afternoon is what you are after when you can just focus and get your stuff done, then this place is definitely worth checking out.

New York City Streets

The year was 2011. It was a hot and sticky late May evening and I was sitting on my desk in the living room, working on one of the last project reports before I wrapped up college for good (or so I figured at that time), when a thought suddenly hit me out of nowhere. I was finishing up school in a little over 2 weeks, I had no job, no particular prospect, so what the heck was I still doing in Colorado Springs? I could go wherever the heck I wanted and do whatever I wished (within a couple of thousand bucks, that’s all the savings I had, and about 1K monthly that my parents promised me until I had a proper job, God bless them). Now two grands ins’t a lot for up and moving to NYC. But once I got that idea in my head, it simply won’t go away. That night I put up a post on Craigslist about needing a room in NYC for a couple of months, rent will be paid in advance as long as it was within 1K. I figured if I spent one grand on rent, then surely another grand should last me for 2 months in the city… and may be by that time I’d have a proper job, surely!

If you know anything about rent in NYC, you know how ambitious I was being. But as luck would have it, a girl reached out to me, and I decided to purchase a one way ticket. Some 2+ weeks later, I was on a plane headed to JFK.

The apartment turned out to be better than I could have hoped for, thank God. Now that I think back, I realize how lucky it was for me to have landed such a sweet deal right next to Prospect Park, in a fairly safe neighborhood in Brooklyn, about a block away from the Q-train, and eccentric musicians as roommates. I mean, it’s not every day you get to be roomies with a white guy playing tabla, or a Chinese-American who spends his summers performing with Celine Dion as a cellist in Vegas, and the rest of the year touring the country playing gigs with his own band!

Anyhow, point is, I had an amazing time in NYC since day One. As it turned out, I didn’t have my dream job by the end of the first two months, and I had to postpone my departure indefinitely, which turned out to be a 1.5 year long magical stay in this beautiful city. I found a job as a front-end web developer (not that dream job, but it was still a lot of fun!) at a small software company and moved to a different apartment in Bushwick, off of Morgan L stop.

These photos I am sharing today were taken that first summer in NYC. I went out every single day with a Polaroid Spectra loaded with The Impossible Project black-and-white film, and asked completely random strangers if I could photograph them. It was a blast!

From Project to Published

The year was 2015. January 2 or 3. I had a project idea regarding my newfound love for all things print. Print magazines to be precise. I called up Marc, my good friend here in Denver, and we headed out to this hip coffee shop – Black Eye Coffee – for a photoshoot.

It was just that. No expectations off of this project whatsoever. I simply wanted to take some photos with one of the print magazines I had just purchased (UPPERCASE), and post them on Instagram. Not unlike practically thousands of other people, I simply wanted to show off my new-found love for print magazines.

We did the photoshoot, I came home, edited the photos, and posted the one right below on Instagram, tagged UPPERCASE, then forgot all about it.

That night though, something completely unanticipated happened. Janine Vangool, publisher of UPPERCASE Magazine, liked the photo, left a comment on the photo with some pretty rewarding praises, and a few days later, my photos were on her newsletter and website. Even better? A few more days later, she offered me some real estate on the next issue of the magazine for a photo essay!

And that is how, my dear friends, I got published in a real print magazine for the first time. And not just any magazine! A time tested, established, QUALITY magazine, and I was commissioned, meaning, I was PAID for my work!

Moral of the story? Do not underestimate personal projects. And do not think only people with thousands of followers get to be published (I have less than 150 followers on my personal Instagram). Do what you do, enjoy what you do, share your work, share with the right people, mix in good karma and luck, and God willing, if you believe in a God (I DO!) that is, good things will happen when you’re least expecting them!