In partnership with Converse
Paulina Zamorano insists that her creative streak does not begin with her. Rather, that streak you see is actually a ribbon and it runs through the hands of her Chilean grandmother, mother, father and brother, binding them all together. Creativity is something that flows freely in the Zamorano family. It's nurtured and encouraged, and doesn't always look how you'd expect. Paulina, a member of the Converse All Star community, is a graphic designer and crafts wearable art through her label ZAMSTUDIO. Her mother is a enthusiastic gardener and taught her how to plant seeds. Meanwhile, her grandmother, a seamstress, has demonstrated the importance of seeing those seeds bloom – carrying out a project until the very end. As for her father? Well he's in charge of all the home DIY, of course.
From the early days when creating meant whipping out her mini plastic sewing machine to the years since Paulina Zamorano launched her own design studio, she's absorbed many lessons from those who have come before. Converse is celebrating this handing down of intergenerational knowledge and creativity with its latest collection, a selection of Chucks inspired by the often-overlooked art of the handmade. Swathed in floral motifs and ornamental embroidery, this collection is a homage to needlework and quilting – the kind of artistry we associate with our grandmothers, although it's not exclusive to them.
To celebrate the launch, RUSSH caught up with Converse All Star Paulina Zamorano, who discussed the best creative advice her mother has ever given her and the way artmaking is a way for her to connect with family and culture. Read our conversation, below.
What is your first memory of creating?
My dad constantly reminds me that I used to carry around this yellow square table and a yellow stool, bring all my crayons and paper just to scribble and draw up yet another of the 20+ scribbles that had been made that day.
However, when I think deeper, my first memory of creating with textiles would have been when I got my first plastic “mini” sewing machine that made more noise than it needed to. But it was perfect because I knew I could make something that would stay together and be used to decorate – it had a greater purpose.
Did you grow up in a creative household?
Yes I really did. Whether I was aware of it growing up I’m not sure, but I can say for a fact that I was blessed with a mum that absolutely loves gardening and everything to do with creating an “edible garden”. While my dad has always drafted technical drawings for full blown DIY projects at home. He loves a good challenge, especially when he can stand back and admire his work after the fact (he loves to do that still to this day).
My brother and I flourished in our creative careers by pursuing the unknown and challenging the predisposed ideas of “the starving artist” by showing our parents that careers in the arts are and can be a reality.
Did you always know you would end up in the arts?
Growing up, the process of making was always endorsed and supported so I never felt that it was something I had to avidly choose and seek out. I feel this choice was an innate part of my purpose, I was always having fun and made sure to find ways to maintain that in my everyday schooling which translated to my everyday life.
When school makes you choose a direct pathway into university, I decided to hold my passions even tighter, not letting go of the graphics/business side of my creativity nor my artistic practise that was slowly forming in the background. Choosing one was never an option for me, so the innate need to pursue a new path of variation at every turn is exactly what sparked my journey into the arts.
Just for some context, I freelance as a graphic designer, volunteer for Connection Arts Space (CAS) a local non-for-profit art gallery in the heart of Dandenong, and exhibit wearable artworks in local gallery spaces. This keeps me in both head spaces that allows my spirit to have fun and enjoy the thrill of the “busy” but also the adrenaline of creating from scratch.
Tell me about ZAMSTUDIO. How did it come about?
I started ZAMSTUDIO back in 2018 and it was really a venture that I had no preempted plan for. It flourished from my really shy and secluded artistic vault that I had kept to myself and my family, to then sharing with new friends that inspired me to open myself and my art practice up to the world – make and post on a business Instagram account and launch a Big Cartel website to sell my first ever product, which were some questionable polymer clay earrings. Looking back at that first step into what my art practice has evolved into today, I always give thanks to those that supported me and gave me the tools to refine my practise and develop a deeper sense and strength of self in order to flourish the creative studio space that it is today.
ZAM: Zamorano – carrying my family wherever I go.
STUDIO: Space, abode, home of ideas.
What does creativity look like to you?
Creativity feels like goosebumps and a skipped heart beat. A moment of excitement followed by a mind racing with ideas and possibilities that you have to write down in a sketchbook before the moment passes. Creativity looks like pointing fingers and verbal explanations of another's perspective that gives you something to think about for a moment.
Creativity looks like the first step that it takes to action an idea, to pick and choose without rhyme or reason and solely rely on intuition to lead the dance.
Converse’s latest collection was inspired by the creative practices passed down by generations before. What are the skills you’ve inherited or learned from your mother and grandmother?
My mother taught me how to plant seeds, physically and mentally, that the skill of nurturing and maintaining the relationships rely upon care and time. No matter how long it takes, patience and care are required when developing the growth of a new plant. She’s constantly researching and attaining new information to feed back into her garden – in turn, I attain and research deeper into the considered practice of garment design and its lifecycle.
My grandmother – mi nanita, she taught me to make fearlessly, to enjoy the unknown process of using new materials but doing it well. Following the instructions and developing my own edge from that foundation. When she’d paint ceramic vases or wall decor, she’d envision the colours that would develop after the firing and speak about the placement of colour. How a vibrant yellow contrasting with the deep greens would “POP!” or when she’d be halfway through her cross stitch design and show me how the threads could be used to create a gradient from light to dark and get so excited to see how beautiful the outcome was.
She taught me that the excitement, the rush of making is all about commitment, following through and doing each project to the best of my ability.
How is art a place for you to connect to family and culture?
Art making, like music, painting and knitting all have outcomes right? One can write a song, paint a beautiful scene or knit a warm fuzzy scarf; once it’s complete and the work is complete, one tends to share and welcome the experience of listening to a work of sound or view a beautiful scene.
This act of sharing has become layered with value and meaning within my family. Where my mum tends to her fruits and veggies, my dad draws up plans for his at-home building project. Meanwhile my brother creates yet another soundscape that demands to be heard and I, well, I take each and every ounce of their passions and put it into a garment that communicates that back to me and back to them. A narrative that is embedded in clothing, that is only understood by those that share that same point of reference.
Art, more specifically, wearable art, connects my family in a way that channels values and narrative into garments that signify more than aesthetics, but shared experiences and familiarity with the mundane.
Creativity is not always overt. Can you tell me about the small ways you’ve learned to be creative?
- Give it the energy it deserves, not everything is as important as it seems. Mum always says, "take a minute, walk away, come sit, eat, talk – do anything else but work in that moment, you’re pushing and you won’t get a result unless you take a minute to separate yourself from the space and from the thoughts that you’re trying to produce".
- Dad always says to not be afraid to speak, but when I do, to make sure that I speak with conviction. Don’t say “I don’t know” but rather try to explain why I feel or act the way I do, because the truth is that I do know.
These points may seem distant from the act of creating or creativity as a whole, however they’re pivotal lessons that are small in comparison to the big wide world of “creativity”. Meaning that they’ve been significant moments for me and my making process and gaining confidence in the work that I make and how I speak about my practice.
When do you feel most creative?
My most creative is the belief that I have a level that shifts or changes in my making process. I’d say, I allow myself to release my ideas and creativity daily, whether it is spreading avocado on to toast or putting my outfit together for the day. It’s the happy dance that I feel internally when I’m content with the actions I’ve displayed.
It may just be the rush of adrenaline that new ideas or new outfit compilations may cause. I really love when I look at a sketch and look at the final outcome and realise that each light bulb moment lead me to the final.
Do you have any muses?
Well... for a fact, my family can attest to my love and appreciation of Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso’s use of narrative and intention through their respective practices.
However, as a muse and point of reference, I’ll always admire my family and their strength to migrate to another country and set a whole foundation for the reality I can claim today. So I’d say that my muses are my family.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be yourself. Mum would always tell me when I was younger and even now when I get in my head too much, “Paulina, tienes que ser tú, siempre” which translates to “Paulina, you need to be yourself, always”. She’d say whether I'm at home or out, I always gotta be me.
There’s no use in being or trying to be something you’re not, I feel that it can be difficult to overcome those internal thoughts and battles when understanding where the artist side of my presence begins and where Paulina exists among it, so I always carry that with me. Tengo que ser, yo – I have to be me.
Explore the Converse Gran Craft Collection for yourself at its website.