Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now and what do you do for a living?
I was born in NYC and grew up in London. I moved to Boston for college where I studied Studio Art and Entrepreneurship. Having spent time in both the UK and the US I don’t consider myself exclusive to either one which I’ve found useful in situations where I’m in need of perspective.
The day after I graduated from college I moved to LA, half because it’s sunny and a half because it’s a great place to be an artist. Here I primarily paint custom denim jackets but I also love water coloring and drawing when I can fit them in. The majority of my pieces on denim are made to order and I work closely with the customer to come up with a design that is special to them and showcases either something they love or their personality. I stand in a no-man's land between art and statement fashion, I am currently working on discovering where exactly I’ll land. Ideally, I don’t land anywhere because I love adapting to new projects - whatever medium they might be.
When you are creating, what does your typical day entail? What are some of the biggest challenges you might face?
I work on my business in some respect every single day. I could be sketching up proposals, updating the backend, prospecting, meeting other designers, painting or walking around and taking photos for inspiration. Sometimes I don’t even mean to work every day, it just happens.
When I am painting, I like to get up, make a nice tea and get rolling. I like to get into the flow before the stresses of the day can hit me. When I work depends a lot on natural light, and I work best during the morning light. It’s easy for me to get lost in painting so I try and break it up by making lunch, FaceTiming friends, etc. I like to frontload my days so I can relax in the evenings.
My biggest challenge right now is daylight savings! With the light stopping so early it shortens the amount of time I have to paint. So if I have another responsibility other than painting in the morning it’s hard for me to fit in as many hours of it as I would like.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
Exceptions stand but I typically enjoy the actual painting part most. It’s very meditative and as mentioned I can get incredibly lost in the process. I love every part from mixing colors until I find the perfect tone, to using a brush to filling in the shapes I’ve drawn out.
I also really enjoy when my ideas connect. I have a sketchbook full of not-quite-fully-formed ideas that are waiting for the right opportunity to be used. It’s so exciting to me when I have an aha moment and realize exactly how to flesh out one of those ideas, be it for a client or for something more personal.
What do you like to listen to while working? list some of your favorite musicians or podcasts.
I always listen to something when I am working. I start the day by listening to Up First from NPR and The Daily from The New York Times. My favorite podcasts today are Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, Wine and Weed, Earl Hustle, Oprah’s Master Class and Historical Figures. I also love to make playlists for myself - I have at least 60. Every time I have a notable new mood I will make one solidify that mood forever.
What was the last piece of art you created? How long do your pieces typically take to make?
The last piece of art I created was a jacket that someone bought as a Christmas present for her boyfriend. The couple recently went traveling together and the design is a collage of some of their favorite disposable photos from the trip. I love it because it’s so personal and was a great opportunity for me to paint in a new format. She and I worked back and forth together until the design was perfect. The jacket is a way to immortalize those memories in a tangible way forever.
The most common pieces I make right now are the portrait style designs on jackets. Depending on how complicated they are and how many colors I will need they take between 25 and 40 hours, aka 2-3 weeks.
How do you stay motivated? What are some tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way?
When I am actually painting I don’t have an issue staying on track. The issue for me is often starting. Whether it’s an email that would take only 10 minutes to write or the starting of a whole new jacket, I find I have a hard time when an entire task is in front of me. So to get past this I’ll divide anything menacing into chunks so it’s more approachable. For example, if I’m starting a jacket: I’ll draw the design onto a jacket on Monday, and do the first layer of paint on Tuesday. I have multiple projects going on at the same time so it won’t only be the one drawing I have to do on that day, but for some reason, this method works best for me. Getting started on those pesky 10-minute emails though… Still working on that.
What advice do you have for someone thinking of launching a creative business?
Focus on what you’re good at and what sets you apart. Instead of spending time fixing what you could do better, put your energy into maximizing your strengths. You can always hire someone to pick up anything you need help with. On the same note stay true to what makes you uniquely you. Don’t be swayed by the people who don’t support you - that’s just focusing on what you could do better, rather than making amazing products for the people who love you - aka maximizing your strengths.
Like Fashion brands, how do you promote yourself? Is social media part of your creative expression?
As you know I wear my jackets all the time. I get a lot of traction that way because people will stop and ask where I got it - enter the non-shameless self-promotion. I’m lucky to have a bunch of wild best friends who act as a personal hype-squad and help spread the word in a similar way. I also use social media - mainly Instagram - to promote myself. I love Instagram (I have 7 accounts - one of which is for the clouds) and I absolutely use it as part of my creative expression. Of course, I post to boost sales but I truly have a great time taking and choosing the photos too.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years, on a personal and professional level?
In 5 years I aim to be working on my business full time from a home with a built-in studio space. I would like to be able to spend more time in London and traveling in general, and have a better cap on handling my anxieties!
How would you describe your personal style?
My friends always say they would never in their life wear what I’m wearing - but that it looks great on me... To which I say ‘thank you very much!’. I definitely follow trends, but I’ll wear something because I like it, not because it’s what everyone is wearing. I don’t want to look like everybody else, I’m me! I typically find a piece that I am obsessed with and wear it as much as I can in every possible way because I love it so much. Lizi Phoenix is an outfit repeater. Right now that piece is a fluffy baby blue cardigan that feels like a hug. I also typically have a ‘go-to look’ which right now is just a XL t-shirt and sneakers. I have a bunch of options for each and I’ll just mix and match them depending on my mood. Also, I always go for comfort. If it looks good in pictures but isn’t practical then it’s not for me.
What do you look for in the perfect pair of jeans, a denim jacket, etc.?
I’m not a fast-fashion type of girl so I am always keen to find a perfect pair of jeans that will last me a long time. To me perfect jeans are comfortable and something I don’t need to adjust all the time. Shape and shade vary - I like to have a variety. I wear denim jackets all the time - obviously. Again I like to have a range of types. Right now my go-to is anything oversize and I’ll wear it like a cloak. You can usually find me wearing my most recent painting.
With your work— are you pushing some kind of agenda or message or is it art for art’s sake?
It does depend on what I’m making. When I am creating custom pieces for a client, for example, the trip collage jacket, the agenda is to make said client feel special and provide them with art that they can use and keep forever. When I’m making work that isn’t commissioned I am usually pulling from my notebook of non-fully-formed ideas and each one has a different message which is usually funny, low-key political or both.
The overall mission of my brand is to make people comfortable with and proud of being themselves. I also want to make caring about things that have nothing to do with money cool. I’m still trying to work out how exactly to make that happen.
Name some of your inspirations (people/places/music genre/anything!)Much of my inspiration comes to me when I am in a new place and seeing new things. Be it when I am traveling or simply taking a different route home. More specifically, a lot of my inspiration comes from the fact that I am recharged by nature - particularly plants. My Dad is a landscape architect and designer so I have been exposed to and familiar with crazy cool plants for as long as I can remember. I also love looking at clouds - I actually have an Instagram account for all my favorite cloud photos. I take a lot of photos of everything everywhere I go and I’m constantly going through my photos and using pieces of them in my work.
If you had the ability to give back, to whom would you give back to?
I can’t wait until I have the ability to give back. I care very much about the present moment so I am keen to support people or causes in my current environment. For example, while living in LA it’s impossible to ignore the homeless. My heart goes out to them and I believe working to support them, in particular, the women and children is something I am truly looking forward to doing.
I am also very impressed and determined to support Operation Prefrontal Cortex. It’s a new initiative in Toronto that aims to harness the powers of mindfulness and meditation to reduce gun and mass violence. It’s being implemented in schools, correctional facilities, and community groups and projects. The benefits of meditation are scientifically proven to reduce stress levels by regulating fear and lead to a decrease in violent behavior. I love their mission and would like to support their pilot program by spreading awareness and eventually bringing them to other cities. You can find them at op-pfc.com and @op.pfc on Instagram.
Where can we find and follow your work?
My denim jacket and wall work are available to see at liziphoenix.com There you’ll find my catalog of all past works, new collections, and any items for sale. You can follow my work at @liziphoenix on Instagram and see behind the scenes action there. I am @lizi_phoenix on Twitter and @liziphoenix on Facebook.