For our next installment of WORK Folks, we focus on Kristen Runberg of Sophia’s Lament. I have had the privilege of knowing Kristen for, well, long enough to make me feel really old right now. Kristen is the kind of loving and generous person who has never met a stranger. She’s equal parts cute and bubbly, and bad ass. With, what I think is fair to say, an “obsession” with motorcycles, vintage scooters and VW buses, and midcentury furniture, she’s truly one of the coolest girls I know.
I’ve known her to be a photographer, shop owner, and craft artist. I’ve seen her show up at parties and events wearing outfits and costumes she created herself.
And she makes some mean homemade cocktails!
She was kind enough to take a moment from her busy schedule to give a little insight into her WORK.
When I went to VCU for photography and design, the emphasis was still on thought process and handcraft to make a finished piece. The papers and chemicals that came to life in the darkroom, fine brushes, and grey ink to cover imperfections, a cork-backed ruler used with sharp Xactos and Rapidographs. There was also a huge push on process and creative thought. Taking strong expression and distilling it down to a clean, concise form. Soon after graduating, the quick progression of digital media meant other than building sets and props, I found myself in front of a computer screen for hours at a time. The faster pace of the working world I found myself in also didn't lend itself to the careful thought I was accustomed to. While in love with the power of Photoshop and the clean images I could get out of Illustrator, I'm a hands-on, blue-collar soul, get my hands dirty kind of girl. I needed to have my hands as well as my mind working. It just wasn't enough for me to make a design on a screen anymore. I started to take my on-screen designs and drawings and use them as patterns for sewn pillows and other goods since I can count sewing as one of the skills that I feel confident.
Doing the same thing over and over, though, was not so much my thing. I had a bunch of old test prints and outdated portfolio images sitting around. Instead of tossing them, I started to play around with layering them in some resin I had sitting around from an old project. That progressed into adding in wood veneers, bits of beer cans that were headed into the recycling bin…wings off the cicadas my cat was killing on the front porch…pretty much any flat piece of something that would be otherwise trashed that I could get my hands on, as well as other art supplies sitting around the studio.
It's a complete departure from the way my brain wanted to work in the past. Every design happens on the fly and is subject to the whims of a slightly unpredictable medium. It's also a process that can take up to a month to end up with finished art, so where I think I'm going at the beginning often ends up in a totally different direction due to my moods. I can then "crop" the final piece by cutting and sanding.
Work ethic: I'm completely subject to mental shifts. I started tracking the way my mind works and organize my work hours around what I will be most productive with. The days I feel completely uncreative, I don't force it. Those are the days I clean and organize the studio, handle the bookkeeping, or do some self-care if I really need to be making. Sometimes, after a trip around the block on the motorbikes, a yoga class, or a swim in the ocean, my mental state has returned to being able to fully focus. I also have to step away from the studio on the regular. I helped start a retail shop(Kitsch in Norfolk, VA) a few years ago, and while I'm no longer a full partner in it, I still work there once a week. Having the social interaction with customers and other artists, plus the ever-changing inspiration of being in a vibrant neighborhood can knock the mental blocks away.
Advice: What I used to say is "grow a skin" because everyone's got an opinion and when you put yourself out there, they're gonna share it, solicited or no. What I try to say now is, "be objective, be honest, edit, and keep working" You've poured your blood sweat and tears into something, but know that it's "just an object" to the other party. By putting yourself in their position, you can take a step back from your work and decide if their opinion should be taken and applied to the next piece or just filed away with the other things that don't work for you. Because there WILL be a next piece, since you're going to keep working no matter what. Learn how to take rejection, because it's going to happen and it's always going to feel bad. Being in the retail world, I've seen too many talented makers and artists just give up doing what they do because they didn't sell anything at our shop or get rejected from a couple shows. We've had other artists that sell poorly at our shop and sell like gangbusters at a shop down the street that has a different customer base and vice versa. The truth is, if you've made a quality item and you like it, chances are, there's someone else out there that will like it too. You don't have to change what you do. You just have to be honest with yourself about who the things you make will appeal to and go to those people. Just keep working.
Check out more of Kristen's work on Instagram at kitschva and sophiaslament as well as sophiaslament.com