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Maker Profiles

Vyana Novus & Daren Magee

Posted on 03.05.2020

By Anna Nozaki

What are you currently into making?
Ever since I had a child in March of '18, I've moved from analog illustration to a much more streamlined, efficient method of digital creation. I can crank out work at a rate that is much more in line with the speed that my brain works at when I can accomplish it via a the processing power of a computer.
I've set myself a ten minute daily illustration challenge each day for all of 2019 (@vyanaeveryday on Instagram if you want to see) but what I'm really excited about is getting a paintbrush in my hand again. I'm daydreaming about mixing earth pigments into paint and pulling out fresh sheets of handmade paper in our new studio. Finding the balance between parenting, work, and creative time is a delicate dance, but I see some opportunities on the horizon to dive back in soon. Showing up for 10 minutes of drawing each day has been a great way to start walking in the direction of my daydreams, and I'm definitely into that!

What was the first project or craft you remember making by hand?
I use to draw these side view scenes of people inside tunnels and passages. I would sit and creates these complex systems that I would imagine little scenarios being played out within them. I love playing with drawing. I suppose I still do, only now I get paid for it.
Vyana: The first one that comes to mind is a wood/painting project I did in 4th or 5th grade. I was part of a small woodshop club in my (public!) grammar school and we all decided to make ourselves longboards - an extremely impractical project in Buffalo, NY. After making and painting my board, my teacher commissioned me to paint a board for one of his personal clients. What stands out the most to me about that project wasn't what I created, but rather what it felt like to have someone believe in my work and creativity. That teacher encouraged me to pursue a career using my creativity and his wife (a professional photographer) gave me my first design magazines in middle school. That project, and the influence of my teacher and his wife, set me on the path I'm on today.

If you could spend a day with any artist/designer/maker… who would it be and what would you do?
I have a huge amount of respect and appreciation for the visionary work of Alex Grey. I would be interested in just spending the day listening to the stories of his psychedelic journeys. I am truly astounded that anyone can pull such immense detail and richness from such a source.
The first person that comes to mind is interior designer Ilse Crawford. Her design aesthetic is elevated and luxurious while still feeling humble and approachable. I'm endlessly inspired by the way we exist in and with our spaces, and I'm moved by the instant familiarity of Ilse's design. I'd love to be her shadow for a day, listening to and watching her process. At the end of the day, I'd enjoy serving a meal with her at Refettorio Felix, the community kitchen founded by Massimo Bottura that Crawford designed in London. Massimo is another creator I'm inspired by and the fact that the two of them collaborated on this project to create an inclusive space through food lands deeply for me.

Do you listen to music when you’re making? If so, what are some favorite albums?
I do listen to music. But more often NPR now because I am a dad.

  • William Onyeabor/Who is William Onyeabor?
  • Phosphorescent/ C'est Vie
  • Mos Def/ Black on Both Sides
  • J Dilla/ Welcome to Detroit
  • The Rushmore Soundtrack

Vyana: I generally prefer silence when working, and in life in general. I feel closer to my work when I can hear the subtleties of my inner world. If I do have music on, it's usually to tap into a specific emotion or moment in time. The albums that stir me the deepest are the ones that have clear chapters of my life carved into them. It's not just the music, but also who I was when I was when that album was my soundtrack that inspires me. Some prominent ones are:

  • The Alabama Shakes: Sound + Color
  • Anderson .Paak: Malibu
  • The Cave Singers: Banshee, Naomi
  • J.Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive
  • Tinariwen: Aman Iman
  • CocoRose: Grey Oceans
  • And while it's not an album, I also adore listening to Natalia Lafourcade's Tiny Desk Concert

What’s your favorite material to work with?
Coming from an analog background I never thought I'd say this, but the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil has really won me over. Such a convenient means of creation.
I find the deepest sense of pleasure and inspiration from transforming elements of the earth around me into art. Lately, I've been really inspired by painting with earth pigments, though as I mentioned already, parenting limits the time I have to execute these days. I work in, and love, many different mediums. The most consistent thing about my work is that the colors I use come from natural sources. Whether I'm dying fabric, cooking food, painting, etc., where I source color from is the same. That's phenomenally inspiring to me.

Where do you go to connect with nature?
Deep in the recesses of my imagination....or pinterest.
In Ojai, I have a particularly special relationship to the Ventura River Preserve. When I was pregnant we hiked 2-5 miles there every day. I even realized I was in labor on those trails. We had such an intimate relationship with the trails before and after the fire. When I was pregnant, we watched the first shoots of green appear through the burnt ground and slowly grow each day. When I went into labor everything was still just a small baby sprout. I nearly died during postpartum and wasn't able to return for a few months. When we finally made it back, the fields were full of waist-high greens and bright flowers. I'll never forget the feeling that day. It was like taking my first breath after fighting for my life.

Tell us about an object in your home that brings you joy.
We just bought a new couch recently that I am very fond of. It was an investment for us and it felt like one step further into adulthood and a celebration of our growth as humans and professionals.
When I was pregnant, I made a ceramic coil pot in a clay class my friend hosted. I sat next to another dear friend who was also pregnant, reaching over our bellies on a sweet summer night, molding clay. I picked a matte white glaze that's speckled brown from iron in the clay body to finish it, and it brings me so much joy every day. It sits on our counter now with flowers next to a curated selection of my favorite handmade dishes and cups.