Meet Your Maker Monday: Marisa Avelar
Graphic designer Marisa Avelar has a few other skills she hones in order to create in different media. She's shown handmade realms contained in shadow boxes or glass at spaces such as Cactus Music, Hello-Lucky, Fresh Arts and My Flaming Heart. In this week's maker profile, Marisa shares what it takes to maintain creativity at work and at the studio, and the next medium that she plans to tackle.
What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?
What do you make?
I am a graphic designer, painter and mixed media artist. I love making collages, large mixed media paintings, and smaller 3D objects like shadowboxes. I have also really gotten into embroidery in the past year; I recently made a Posada calavera tribute with embroidery and tin for the annual Lawndale Dia De Los Muertos show. By day I am a graphic designer for The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and have also volunteered my design work for local organizations like The Aurora Picture Show and Mid Main Houston.
What does a typical day look like for you?
By day, I work at a place that inspires me every day, at the MFAH. I work on various print projects and exhibitions. In my free nights and weekends, I work on my own projects, and I really enjoy getting lost in my studio. Since I love to do collage and mixed media work, I am always rummaging through places like Texas Art Asylum, antique shops or thrift stores. Being a full time designer and trying to be an artist can be hard, but it's great to always be doing something creative and inspiring. I get a real joy from making a mess and working with my hands, so studio time is a great time to escape and get lost in the work.
Why did you decide to start your own business and why Houston?
Houston is where I grew up, more specifically in the great suburbia of Friendswood, but I wasn't aware of all of the great parts of the city. When I was younger my father took me to this magical part of town called Montrose/the Museum District. I fell in love. I then moved away for four years of college in Savannah, GA, and decided after graduating that the best place for me to get my start as a designer and artist would be back home in Houston. I missed my family and knew that Houston had a lot to offer. Houston has been very good to me and we have an outstanding art scene and design community that support each other.
Houston is also a place where there is plenty of opportunity, and you feel a lot of freedom and endless possibilities. People make it what they want it to be and I admire that renegade spirit. To me, the Orange Show embodies that creative spirit in Houston: the ambition and vision of a postal worker turned folk artist living in a regular neighborhood of a sprawling cement city to make something beautiful and a little out there unapologetically. Another example would be my friend/mentor Andrea Grover, founder of the Aurora Picture Show. She was a Core Fellow who bought an old church and turned it into a micro-cinema called the Aurora Picture Show, which became one of the most respected nonprofit arts organizations in the U.S., specializing in short film and new media. You make of it what you want and in turn you make the city better for it.
What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?
I am a design sponge and everything around me inspires me. I love to soak up design blogs, read books, see art and am a huge cinephile. Everyday life, politics and this crazy world inspire me as well. Some of the biggest influences on my work are the artwork and vision of Dada and the surrealists, my culture, magic realism like the writing of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Frida Kahlo.
What's next for Marisa Avelar?
I will be participating in the Portfolio Review for AIGA Houston in April. It's always fun to meet with young graphic designers and see their work. (Come by and say hi!) I love giving advice and encouraging people with such talent who were just as shy and nervous as I was. I plan to get back in the studio and map out some future shows, and would like to feature larger works. For now my smaller sculptures and crafty pieces can be seen at Hello-Lucky throughout the year. Around Christmastime I'm at craft markets selling yarn wreaths and fun holiday decor. In the not so distant future I plan to break in my Chandler & Price Pilot press. I want to start making stationery/cards and do some fun graphic design work utilizing the beauty of letterpress.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I love to see how people respond to it so I prefer to hear what they get out of it. I think for the most part people get the heart, soul and whimsy I put into my work. It's very much about attempting to capture moments and memories and evoke the sense of wonder and magic in life that we often forget. I also notice I make little worlds (some people have commented on that). Maybe this was from playing with dollhouses as a child, but all of my pieces sometimes look like they could be in a storybook or dioramas. I also respond to work that has a sense of wonder and is dreamlike because reality can be boring sometimes. :) I also love to play with color, texture, pattern, and vintage typography. One friend gave me the best compliment – she said that she wanted to live in my pieces. She said she could curl up and go to sleep in one, so there is a therapeutic and comforting nature to my work that I really wasn't aware of.