Exploring the space between mediums with Liv Ryan

by TexasDigitalMagazine.com

Liv Ryan’s studio is a space where creativity is abundant — the walls are peppered with paintings and doodles, a rack of upcycled clothing overflows, and bits and pieces of her ceramic projects fill the room.

For Ryan, art has always been around. Growing up in Brooklyn with two artist parents, she recalls spending her childhood in galleries and funky music venues in lieu of playgrounds and toy stores. After discovering a passion for clothing design, she focused on costuming at LaGuardia High School before attending the Pratt Institute for its fashion design undergraduate program.

Working within the confines of the industry proved dissatisfying after a few years, though, so Ryan opted to create her own path and lean into various mediums — from food to fashion to visual art. Since launching her namesake brand in 2018, she’s been searching for new ways to bring all of those interests together. At just 27, she’s not yet sure what the next Liv Ryan chapter looks like, but she opens up here about the possibilities.

Brooklyn Magazine sat down with the multifaceted artist in her Red Hook studio, being immersed in her vision and discussing what is to come.

(Photo by Noah Berghammer)

How did you get a start in fashion?
My mom taught me how to sew as a kid — I would make bags out of old t-shirts and belts, some of which I still have today. I focused on costuming at LaGuardia High School and from there decided to apply to Pratt for fashion design. I worked in the fashion world for a couple of years but soon realized I’d rather work on my own projects than for another designer. Since graduating in 2018, I’ve been slowly growing my brand within multiple mediums.

Which mediums? We’re talking about visual art, architecture?
My parents are both artists and have worked in the art world for as long as I can remember. Visual arts, design and architecture have been instilled in me since childhood. I could never really draw or paint traditionally, but I knew I wanted to use my hands in some capacity, which is how I ended up making clothes. As I grew older, I realized that creativity does not need to be boxed in or made in a traditional sense. Whichever medium you choose to work in, the essence and aesthetic carries over. I love to learn and challenge myself, so it felt natural for me to explore other mediums.

Tell me about your earliest creative inspirations.
As a kid, I was always going to galleries and openings with my parents or my best friends’ parents. My childhood friends were a pretty creative crew — we pretty much dabbled in everything from making videos to the Numa Numa song to sculpting abstract faces with giant googly eyes. My parents’ friend opened an avant-garde music venue called Issue Project Room in Gowanus and I spent a lot of time there. I made a portrait of Fry from Futurama that hung in the bathroom there, among many other artists’ work. I try to continue to have an open creative mind like I did then. Just freely creating without taking myself too seriously. Currently, I’m working on a new project for the Spring and my main source of inspiration for that came from an episode of Spongebob — something I had watched many times as a child.

Your work aims to explore the “space between mediums” and you don’t confine yourself to one technique or practice. What have you discovered about yourself in that liminal space?
Something I’ve realized the most is that individuals struggle with not being able to pin you or your work down. People love to know what to associate you with or what box to put you in. I love to keep people on their toes, but mostly I love to keep myself on my toes. Some days, I want to draw, some days I want to cook, and others I want to design clothing. In a way, it’s freeing and gives so much room for exploration, but it is a challenge to bring it all together in a digestible way. I’m understanding it’s all just a lifestyle that is specific to me. I’m figuring it all out as I go, pretty much!

Tell me about how upcycling and reworking are implemented into your design process. Why is sustainability an important consideration for you when creating?
Sustainability has always been at the forefront of my practice. I have a love/hate relationship with the fashion industry because of how toxic and polluting it can be. I decided that if I was to be making clothes, I needed to implement as many sustainable practices as possible. Within all my productions, I’ve worked with deadstock materials, reworked vintage pieces, or organic fabrics. I’m constantly sourcing old material to work with instead of buying from new mills. I save all of my scraps and use them for one-of-a-kind pieces such as patchwork bags, clothes, and tapestry wall hangings. Sustainability is slowly becoming more present in the fashion world and hopefully, it will continue to be even more so.

How does your studio setting in Brooklyn inform your creative vision?
For years, I had been working out of my home and finally found a studio in Red Hook almost three years ago. Having a space to purely create with no distractions allows me to take it all a little more seriously. Being in Red Hook has been very meditative for me. I try to give myself an hour a day by the water to re-center and get in tune. The community down here, although it’s changed, feels untouched in a way I remember from my childhood. It’s refreshing, and just real — something I need in my day to day.

What is your favorite creative project or design you have worked on?
My favorite clothing piece would probably be my staple Arc Chore Jacket. At the time, I was studying biomorphism and the work of architect Frederick Kiesler. I wanted to create soft, smooth shapes with a combination of structured fabrics like denim. My favorite project came together during the pandemic. Cooking has been a huge part of my life and instilled by my Italian heritage. I began making fresh semolina pasta, but creating patterns and shapes with multicolored dough. This became the inspiration for a few fabrics I printed and turned into dresses. It was a small project but something I want to revisit in the future — the combination of food and design.

Last time we spoke you mentioned wanting to venture into new ways to bring all of these interests together, like hosting dinner parties. What is your favorite meal to cook for others and why?
Community is important to me and one of the best ways to bring people together is through a meal. I love to cook, it’s creative and it’s instant gratification — plus it tastes good. I want to bring creatives together and host a big Liv Ryan NYC dinner, with everything down to the plates you’re eating off of made by my hands. It’s something I’m slowly, slowly working towards but hope to achieve soon! My favorite thing to make would be fresh pasta — I love the physical element of kneading and shaping the dough. It’s so simple but takes patience, like most good things.

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A post shared by Liv Ryan (@livryannyc)

You also have a passion for music and curate vinyl selections for a local radio station. Can you tell me more about your interest in physical media and what it means to you?
Music has always been my favorite medium. I don’t make music but I am an avid listener of pretty much all genres. Growing up, my parents and their friends would do a music of the month club and each person would make a mixtape for all 12 months. During the pandemic, I began my own monthly music club, creating and sharing playlists via Spotify. I love to hear how everyone’s vibe or tone changes from month to month when discovering new things! I’ve worked part-time at BDDW in Soho for the last five years. Recently we put a radio booth in the showroom where we live broadcast all vinyl. While vinyl can be limiting, it’s really satisfying to curate a set and forces you to go crate dig to find the real gems.

Playing upon the interdisciplinary approach you take to your creative projects, if you had a Liv Ryan concept space, what would that look like?
I think a Liv Ryan concept space would be ever-changing, as am I. I’d love for it to be a representation of my lifestyle; you can experience everything from music to food, as well as specialty clothing and homewares. I notice a lot in the city these days that people move here and take a lot from the city but don’t necessarily give back. The city is a growing organism and you get what you give. I would love to give back to the community and create spaces for education, art, and design, especially for young ages. This could be in the forms of classes or exhibitions of other local artists. In an ideal space, I’d have a backyard or community garden where we grow seasonal food, educate individuals on the food industry, and hold monthly community dinners! Brooklyn is my home and my heart, it continues to shape me and my work on the daily.

The post Exploring the space between mediums with Liv Ryan appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.

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