Posts tagged women
Studio Sunday: María Guzmán of Austère & Crudo Atelier
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I recently had the chance to speak with Costa Rican fashion & textile designer María Guzmán in her studio, which is housed in a beautifully quaint Victorian-style residence in San Jose that she inherited from her grandmother. She is the brains behind Austère, a women-run and eco-conscious brand of swimwear and elevated basics. Built from her background working in the fashion industry in both Argentina and Europe, María’s company will be celebrating its fifth year in business come October. Having lived abroad for a number of years, she returned to Costa Rica around nine years ago. Not exactly sure of what she would do next, but certain that she was tired of working for companies that didn’t meet her standards for sustainability, she first lived at the beach and dove into painting. María’s creativity eventually led her to design dresses. Then, after a friend helped her connect the idea of incorporating her paintings into her work, she started making colorfully printed swimsuits as well.

It is clear early on in our conversation that art is an integral part of her business. The prints used in María’s bikinis and one-piece bathing suits come from her own sketches and gouache paintings that she then finalizes on the computer. Looking closely at the fabrics, you notice the deliberate choices of her various color palettes. Bright and fun without being too flashy, she explains the inspiration behind each pattern, calling one ‘feminist camouflage’ and saying that others were inspired by contemporary art or the environment. Like mini abstract paintings, each piece that María makes is unique as much as it is comfortable, functional, and sustainable.


Apart from her fashion design work, however, María also runs a second business called Crudo Atelier. From her same spacious studio, she holds weekend workshops in Costa Rica where small groups take classes such as hand lettering, embroidery, or how to make natural dyes. Now three years old, Crudo Atelier was initially a way for María to share her creative skills with others. It has grown since then, with her moving away from teaching and instead inviting new specialists to diversify the offering of classes. One of the aspects of these workshops that she loves most is the idea of creating community. Like-minded creatives meet each other through her platform and have gone on to continue working together afterwards. She also mentions that students have started projects based on the work they first produced at Crudo Atelier.

As focused as she is on her own businesses, she has an equal interest in paving the way for the next generation. Besides Crudo Atelier, María also serves on a council with the local chamber of commerce and the contemporary art and design museum along with ten other representatives. With this group, she seeks to build out more resources for designers of all types in Costa Rica and additional opportunities to show and sell their work. With stores in the area taking high commissions on locally produced items, especially those created by women, she hopes that this task force can put together more fairs or similar events and spaces that allow makers to have direct access to new customers.

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With so many things going on already, it’s hard to imagine María having time to do much else! However, she’s also currently working on an an ecommerce website to make her collections available beyond the few local and international stores where her items are currently sold. In addition, she’s begun the process of designing low-impact handbags made from wood and wool fibers alongside her other pieces. If all goes well, her portfolios will be shown at Satisfactory, a local design popup in San Jose. While she loves her studio space, she’s also in the middle of renovating it to make it more practical for her businesses. Once that is complete, one of her other goals is to eventually utilize it as a gallery for women artists. The space will then be even more of a hub for all of the things that she believes in: building community, creating quality and sustainable designs, and empowering other female artists.

Learn more about Austère by following the brand on Instagram at @austere_atelier or check out Crudo Atelier’s profile at @crudoatelier!

Women Working in the Arts: Alana Voldman
Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

For our first-ever women’s issue (available for purchase here) I profiled four young and entrepreneurial women working in the arts to highlight those not only creating work, but also those who are supporting artists as curators, gallerists, educators, writers, and more! I’m keeping this series going on our blog with this mini-interview with art consultant Alana Voldman.

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Alana Voldman is an independent art consultant currently based in Antwerp, Belgium. Originally from southern California, she first relocated to Chicago to study art history at DePaul University, after which she began working with several Asian art galleries in the city. She eventually relocated to London to pursue a Master's Degree in Art Business at Sotheby's Institute of Art, with an emphasis on 20th-century art and modern design. In 2017, she relocated to Antwerp, first working as a curatorial assistant at the MoMu Fashion Museum, and now as a freelance advisory consultant and art writer for several companies and institutions. 

Choose one woman artist from history or who is working today and tell us about why she inspires you or has had an impact on you.

I have always been drawn to German-born artist Anni Albers, both for her amazing textile works and her personal story. Forced into weaving, the only workshop available to women during the early years of her art education at the Bauhaus school, she was able to transcend the medium from craft to a recognized and functional art form. In line with the Bauhaus approach to form meeting function, Albers at first explored the limitations of her materials, making objects that not only looked nice but also served a purpose.  Eventually, she became known for her distinct use of color, and 'pictorial weavings', which were essentially modernist artworks made through the process of weaving. What I really admire is her sense of persistence - she mastered something despite it not being her first choice - during a war and in a male-dominated industry no less. It is very easy to be discouraged in the art industry, especially because it can feel quite oversaturated and as if (money-making) opportunities are rare. I often remind myself of people like Albers who had to persevere under even harsher limitations.

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London . Photo is by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London . Photo is by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Kari-Lise Alexander

Kari-Lise Alexander paints photo-realistic, stunning women engulfed in wet, textural scenes of dripping flowers, butterflies and cloth. These women are often submerged into water, which forms an interesting glow of reflections surrounded with floating hair and pedals like an aura around these individuals. Not an easy subject to paint, water fills Alexander’s compositions creating hyperreal, fractured colour and light. In her most recent body of work, water appears to be dripping from the canvas, magnifying and manipulating the organic elements found in her paintings. Deep hues of magentas and violets once held within the confines of the flowers pedals now dissolve and run together as they drip down the composition. The women in her paintings then become saturated in these vivid, organic colours found in nature. The immersive quality that the element of water exemplifies in Alexander's work pulls the viewer within the frame, into and under these worlds of water.

Her website explains, “Kari-Lise Alexander’s work is rooted in the old folklore of her Scandinavian heritage as well as inspired by her home in the Pacific Northwest. Her style captures the unique qualities of both her heritage and her home.” 

Living in the rainy city of Seattle, Washington no doubt inspires her dripping, rain-filled paintings. Kari-Lise Alexander’s highly detailed paintings can be found in galleries around the world, as she is represented internationally. Prints of her beautifully drenched paintings are also available online.