Illustration by Fabio Vermelho
We first came into contact with artist, craftswoman and all-round awesome person Vanessa Jean Speckman a few years ago when our friend Frank was suggesting zinesters in California we could get in touch with. We’ve kept in touch through facebook and email ever since but are still yet to meet her. Although, you don’t need to meet Vanessa to know that she is a one of a kind, magical and special human being. She keeps us inspired to do good things and for that she is very necessary . Check out her wares here and enjoy her brain map interview below.
Stay soft, stay brave – Vanessa Jean Speckman
1. Do you actively do anything to keep your brain healthy, and if so what? Make things. Read. Write. Yoga. Check in with myself – both mentally and physically.
2. What or who mentally stimulates your growth the most? What: Making myself uncomfortable, consuming art, making new art. Who: My partner
3. If you could add or take away anything from your brain what would it be? Less anxiety and not to get so entangled with overthinking.
4. Are you more emotion or reason based when making decisions? Emotion based.
5. In what situations have you learned the most about yourself? The shittiest of situations and the most beautiful of situations.
6. Do you think you have to learn good judgement? (Are people inherently self destructive?) I think you are composed up of personal life experiences and however you filter and navigate it all. Good judgement is relative and self destruction is personal.
7. Do you have any daily or annual rituals? Are they personal to you or your family or are they related to your culture or religion? Espresso in the morning, yoga, a lavender bath in my clawfoot before bed – but these are rituals when I am home and not on tour. It’s pretty difficult for me to have rituals on tour and if I get one of the previously mentioned things throughout my day on tour, that’s A+ in my book. I also always have a few pocket stones and crystals on me.
8. Can you speak any other languages, and if so why that language? I so wish. I tried taking Italian in college but had to drop it partially because of my flunking and it being an 8am class. My grand folks spoke Italian and I could always understand them emotionally. In my daydreams I’ve always been a linguist.
9. If you could live inside of a book, which one would it be? I’m still writing and illustrating it.
10. Are there particular books you find yourself buying for or lending to people close to you? Patti Smith, Rupi Kaur, Dr. Suess, Buddy Wakefield, Caitlin Moran, Willy Vlautin and Jim Dodge.
11. Is it more important for you to speak or to be heard? Heard.
12. Do you think a time exists that is easiest to create? For instance, do you strike the muse or does the muse strike you? It hits when it hits. You can’t curate that. Always keep a pen and paper on you and always take the time to write it down. I’m still learning to do that though.
13. Do you have an emotional state that you find it easier to create in? When it comes, it comes. You can’t curate or control emotions for creativity.
14. Are there certain elements that you employ to set up the perfect mental space for creating? For example: Music/Food/Smells/Locations I don’t have a checklist or a rider for my creative space but I do dig a bunch of low lights and lamps throughout my studio and the natural window light, some candles, an espresso and some herbal tea. A blank studio desk with my tools handy is a pretty accurate situation for me.
15. Do you think you have to have an elevated ego to be an artist? Ofcourse. We are chasing this thing inside of us out. There has to be an element of ego in that, especially to base your life around that relationship.
16. What smells do you most associate with your childhood? This sounds so fucked up but old wooden bars that re super alcohol soaked. My grandparents would take us to mass said in Italian when we were little and then they would take us post-church bar hopping in North Beach, San Francisco. My brother and I would rate the bartenders on how many cherries we got in our Shirley Temples. Not only was that time special with them but spending that time in the city and not just being a kid in the suburbs was something that I’m really thankful for having. Old wooden bars just smell like after church childhood hangs with Dino and Anna.
17. If you could only live on five ingredients for the rest of the life, what would they be? Espresso beans, apricot jam, good baguette, cheese and croissants.
18. Do you have spiritual needs and if so how do you nourish them? I’ve recently fond that yoga and being and breathing mindfully are very important and helpful things for me.
19. Do you have a place you go to, either physically or mentally, where you feel the most at peace? Where the Santa Cruz mountains and the Pacific meet. That’s always been a place of retreat and centering for me as long as I can remember. If that is not an option, a bath is close second.
20. Do you think that people need some form of discomfort to make art? No. Art is for everyone at any time. It’s easily accessible. You just have to view it as such. You are the maker, the connector, the instrument.
21. Are you more motivated by the promise of reward or the threat of punishment? I’m motivated by my own mortality.
22. How much does your conscience/morals come into play when making decisions? All the time because my conscience composes me.
23. Do you ever experience your emotions in physical ways? If so, how? I usually cry everyday – from happiness and sadness. I also have to create every day or I start to feel stifled and I am an emotional creator.
24. Do you think a person has to understand art in order to be able to appreciate it? Not at all. That’s why art is one of the purest forms of freedom. It’s different for everybody.
25. Do you connect more to the lyrics or music in songs (assuming a song has both!)? It really depends. It use to be lyrics but in the past few years I have got into jazz and French pop and I don’t speak French and I know nothing about jazz, so I suppose both.
26.What is your earliest memory? Hiding with my brother beneath this massive and intricately wooden carved chair my Italian grandparents kept in the corner of the dining room and looking out at everyone through the detail of the wooden carved flowers on the bottom of the seat and how the old green carpet smelled like decades of cigarette smoke and linseed oil.
27. If you got alzheimers or dementia what memory or memories would you be saddest to lose – or – which ones would cause the biggest loss of your personal identity? I get really overcome with the thought of hurting people that I love the most with my memory loss. I would be heartbroken knowing that I was crushing them by not recognizing them. It’s crazy how much you really take for granted the simplest of things like being connected to yourself physically and mentally and how powerful and basic of a function that is.
28. Do you expect happiness in your life? I expect nothing in life. There are things I want but I expect nothing.
29. Do you feel like falling in love is a spiritual or chemical process? I struggle with the word spiritual. I think there are both elements of chemical and personal connection when connecting with a partner.
30.What flaws do you think you have when it comes to communicating with other people? Imposing my own expectations instead of allowing myself to be fully open.
31.How do you deal with situations or individuals that fail to stimulate you creatively or emotionally? Do you avoid this situations/have a set of tools in which to navigate them? I spent too much time when I was younger thinking that everyone else knew more than me. I feel like now I place a lot of value on my time because for me, time is currency. It allows me space to create new work. I’ve got a lot to say and I want that time and opportunity to do so – so I really try to surround myself and my life with the people and things that are most positive and add to that fire.
32. What are your biggest fears? Death of my loved ones, not living as the most authentic version of myself.
33. Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares? If so, what do you think they mean? I rarely remember my dreams, unfortunately. I sometimes have recurring dreams of the people I love most being in danger and me not being able to help keep them safe. It fucking sucks that those are the only dreams I remember.
34. If you have ever taken psychedelic drugs, did you have any interesting hallucinations on them? Do you feel changed from having taken them? I have. I don’t think I got anything more than some good laughs with friends and horrible hangovers. I wish I had the foresight at that time to try and curate more of an experience for myself but we were just young and partying then. I’m too old and tired now for drugs.
35. Do you find your mood affected by different colour palettes? For sure. I catch myself intentionally and unintentionally affected by those types of things. I am extremely intrigued and in tune with small and soft details and color is a big part of it. I have a running list of color palettes listed for each state as seen from a moving vehicle.
36. If you could live in a world where the aesthetic was controlled by a particular visual artist or film director, who would you choose? A love child of Frida Kahlo, Jean-Luc Godard, Patti Smith and Wes Anderson would be pretty much the ultimate for me.
37. Would you rather lose your sight or your hearing? I hate this question. I think hearing.
38. Do you feel like you surround yourself with the people who see you for who you really are? I really try to. I can’t really control how people perceive me but I’d like to think that those that I do spend time with are authentic people. I usually avoid people who don’t get me – but I think that’s a pretty natural human tendency.