Creative Conversations: Lotta Nieminen
In 2014 illustrator and graphic designer Lotta Nieminen was nominated for Forbes magazine’s annual 30 Under 30 list in the Art & Style category. Her client list includes companies such as Hermès, Google, New York Times, Volkswagen, IBM, and United Airlines. How did she make it in New York?
How did you end up in New York?
Living in New York was a dream I had for a good while but that I didn’t really take seriously – it seemed like an exciting place to live and work but nothing I considered an attainable life change. In 2008, I had been an exchange student at the Rhode Island School of Design, during which I made several trips down to New York and fell in love with the city. But in 2010 I was attending Print Magazine’s New Visual Artists exhibition in New York, an annual listing and exhibition of young designers and illustrators, and in the spur of the moment felt like it was the right time to give the city a go. A few weeks before the trip, I reached out to some design studios whose work I really looked up to, and after doing interviews while on the trip, ended up getting an internship at the design studio Pentagram, in Paula Scher’s team. Three months later I had resigned my job, emptied my apartment, gotten my visa and arrived here. The internship was a perfect gateway to get to try out the city with minimal strings attached.
What made you fall in love with the city?
New York is a visually stimulating, chaotic city, but I think the real beauty of it is its energy – everything feels possible. Moving here, every color, building, taste and smell seemed so magical. In 7 years, things have obviously become more mundane: the city now feels more of a home than an endless adventure. Some things still bring that feeling back, though, like crossing the Manhattan Bridge over to Brooklyn at night! I still get the same kick from seeing that big cityscape glowing in the dark. In New York being a part of the creative community has become increasingly important to me: the people I work with and alongside of are by far my biggest inspiration.
How has living and working here changed you?
Confidence in my work is something I’ve definitely gained since moving here. When I was first applying for a job in New York, I was belittling my work in a pretty Finnish way at the interviews: we’re typically quite modest, and boasting your talents is somewhat looked down upon. Being confident about my work is something I’ve had to learn, and I’ve actually enjoyed embracing a bit of the American attitude where it’s ok to acknowledge what you’re good at. To me, this confidence means seeing the strengths in my work, not becoming uncritical or overruling your sense of self-awareness – it’s enabled me to speak up and take advantage of opportunity.
"I’m most motivated when I get to work on media that are new to me – those are the projects that force me to take my illustration style and process to a new level."
What are your biggest achievements while working in NYC?
Working in New York has created work opportunities I don’t think I could have gotten elsewhere. One of first ones was when I got the chance to work on window displays for Hermès, showcased in seven of their stores on the U.S. East Coast. At my last full-time job before going on my own, I had collaborated on a few art direction projects with Aux Armes Etc, an amazing New York based set design studio. They knew I did illustrations on the side of my full-time job, and reached out shortly after I had gone freelance. I recently wrapped up a new window display campaign for Italian jewelry brand Bvlgari, currently on display at all their stores globally. A few years ago, I designed an illustrated pattern for a Liberty Of London fabric. I’m most motivated when I get to work on media that are new to me – those are the projects that force me to take my illustration style and process to a new level. I like that the illustrations I do can be implemented into silk scarves, packaging, ceramics, animations, stamps – or window displays! These different mediums all require a different approach, which also help my style to develop by posing new challenges.
And the biggest challenges?
It can take a lot of stamina to move here. Dealing with visas was a long process: the amount of time, money and work that goes into it makes you evaluate how badly you want to be here. In New York everything feels possible, but for this very reason, New York is also a very intense city. There’s so many possibilities coming your way on a constant basis – this can open up amazing opportunities, but can also easily lead to an overload. It can be an extreme of emotions living here: when things suck, they really suck, but the next day an amazing thing can happen. It takes energy adapting to the highs and lows.
Why is New York the perfect place for a person like you? Or is it?
Yes and no. I think cities can be very much like people: they can help you grow and get you to understand another side of yourself. When I moved here, it was important for me to redefine who I was at that point of my life. I liked the person New York changed me into by just being here. But for me life is also about constant change, and the fact that it is the right place for me now doesn’t necessarily mean it'll be so forever. Moving around has changed the concept of home to me; it’s less of a physical place and more of a place that you build around people you love and feel comfortable with. Coming and going is all part of it!
Interview by Liisa Jokinen
http://fciny.org/residency/samu-jussi-koski http://fciny.org/projects/fashion-curating-now http://fciny.org/news/fashion-after-fashion-reachedanaudience-of-25-000