Teresa Grasseschi draws, paints, prints and even has her own paper goods and gifts company! She's one of our favorite local artists and we are so honored she teamed up with us to create a fun, unique mural outside our Wallingford shop!
We sat down with Teresa to learn more about her life, inspiration and how the design for our Wallingford wall came to be!
Where are you from?
I actually grew up in Seattle, Ballard to be exact -- at the time Ballard was not a hip place to live. It was pretty quiet place to grow up. Ballard was once its own city and until I reached high school it really held fast to the idea it should remain an island-like neighborhood of Seattle. There was something a little magical about the quietness back then - the salty morning air, the low ceiling of grey and the strong Norwegian undercurrent. I grew up a few blocks from the Norwegian Heritage Museum and Larsen's Bakery. My next door neighbor was this fabulous old Norwegian lady. I would peep out my bedroom window when she had parties with her Norwegian lady friends in her backyard. They would all relax in her fancy hot tub, drink wine and chat to each other in Swedish. I was pretty sure at the time that that was the height of adulthood. Looking at my work today I can definitely see how my childhood sense of layered cultural history shaped my individual artistic outlook.
How long have your lived in Seattle?
I moved to Bellingham for college where I received my BFA in printmaking and mixed media at Western Washington University. After I graduated I spent a year or so being everywhere at once - popping around the country working as an artist's assistant and visiting friends in various cities while still somehow maintaining a home base in Seattle. I am one of those rare birds who has always sort of known what I wanted to do when I "grew up". I think its around age five when people start sticking you with the "hey kid what are you gonna be" line. I remember the first time I was asked I instinctively answered "an artist!" and then paused, wondering if that was a real job, and threw in, "or a zookeeper" in case it wasn't. But, knowing that you want to be an artist doesn't really define much of a life path for you. The creative field is vast, varied and dependent, in a small way, on an individual's sense of self. Bouncing around for a year after college was one of the best things I have done for myself, without knowing it of course - at the time I felt pretty lost and alone. But in retrospect it was walking from Brooklyn into New York City by myself and getting lost in New Orleans that really helped me figure myself out.
When did you start really pursuing illustration?
Around the time that I was finding myself literally and figuratively lost in various cities around the country; I also shared a studio in Seattle's Inscape Arts building with two of my friends from college. The three of us would collaborate on projects on a regular basis. One of the projects we worked on together was a large-scale indoor fort made out of recycled housing materials. We spent a couple months creating this enormously elaborate installation in our studio. We held it open to the public and people really had at it. Watching people interact with that work made my insides flop about with joy. It was the first time I felt like I created work that truly transcended my own ideas and became something personal for someone else. I was so hooked. The idea of art as function and narrative officially became my jam. After that show I worked on a new portfolio, changed direction and began seeking out illustration work. I have been illustrating ever since.
What was your inspiration for the mural?
For this piece location played a big part in my initial decision making. When you paint a small portion of a large wall you really have to consider how the space in which you are working interacts with the rest of its connected surface. So I decided before sketching anything out that the design needed to have two edges: a flat color bounding box and the self contained design - that way your eye has an active design layer, a flat neutral layer and the surrounding naked brick for balance. For the design I was hoping to walk the line between graphic pattern and narrative storytelling. I spent a few days sketching out different scenes and scenarios. What if ice cream rode a bike? What if ice cream sailed a ship? Some scenarios were so ridiculous I couldn't sketch them all the way through. But when I got to, 'what if ice cream was an insect?' I knew I'd found it and the rest just clicked. I have always been pretty fascinated by different cultural representations of story and identity. There is such tradition and history in different shapes and colors palettes. I love to explore and expand on that visual language in my work. The mural piece is one of my recent favorites in that department. In the mural you can find a little nod to Mexican Otomi fabric with the mirrored symmetry, hints of Danish design in the graphic flowers and mural color palette, and references to European tapestries in the visual storytelling. The final design is such a marriage of apposing forces: bold and soft, simple and layered. - I am such a fan of this piece. I hope others are too.
How do you approach a mural vs working with different mediums?
I don't necessarily approach them much differently. Each medium comes with its own set of guidelines, the surface is a big factor. If you are painting on wood for display inside when you should use a different paint that if you are painting a brick wall outside, or a watercolor at your desk. The noticeable difference between mural work and other mediums is the stage factor - your job is in the public realm. Most of my work I do in my studio at my desk. When I work at my desk I think less about my painting schedule. I can leave my work out until it is finished and I paint whenever I want. Mural work requires more prep work. If you are painting an outdoor mural you have to consider the weather, the time of day, and the location - your work space is not just your own. Mural work is really physical. There is a lot of hauling things around, standing for hours and crouching in silly positions to get just the right spot. Each location and mural comes with its own set of quirks. It is usually the part of that job I end up missing the most when I'm finished. For the Wallingford piece that quirk is probably the crazy platform we built to stand on while painting. The mural is on a very uneven slope so I had to problem solve a way to level it out for the ladder. Renting a boom seemed a little bit nuts for the small space and size of the mural so we constructed platform on location. I would write myself little notes for what to do the next day on the platform in paint at the end of the night. By the end of the mural that platform was covered in silly gibberish only I understood.
What's your dream project?
I think the three that constantly top my list are to illustrate more book covers, illustrate a children's book or two (or five) and collaborate with a wallpaper company to create a series of wallpaper patterns.
Tell us a little about your new venture, Pilgrim Paper Co?
When I am not freelancing I am head honcho of my small business - Pilgrim Paper Co.
Pilgrim Paper Co. a small paper goods and gifts company that I own and operate with my business partner, Kelly Bjork. Pilgrim's focus is small-batch, illustrated collections that function in daily life. I started Pilgrim about a year and a half ago by myself in my little apartment. About half a year later my good friend and talented illustrator Kelly Bjork joined the team. Together we then spent the next year creating a seriously powerhouse card line. We really believe in creating work that was worthy of collecting and sending to the ones you love - and I feel so sublimely happy to say every card in the line really hits that mark.
Pilgrim is officially launching its wholesale line to stores in October and November and launching to the public in December (with events galore!). For more information on our wholesale or public launches you can visit our website: www.pilgrimpaperco.com or watch it in real time on our instagram: pilgrimpaperco
Your glasses are a big part of your personality. How many different styles did you go through before finding your current fit?
I have had glasses since the ripe ol' age of seven. Being that I am 28, I have gone through 11 (thank you math) years of eye glass fashion statements and I would say that it wasn't until my current pair - which I recently picked up from EYE EYE - that I ever truly felt like I had glasses that encompassed my personality. So, by that logic I only went through 8 pairs and 11 years before I found ones I truly loved. (If your reading this: no pressure EYE EYE)
Thank you so much Teresa! We love our mural!