Interview with Leta Sobierajski
The work of New York City based independent designer and art director, Leta Sobierajski, does not go unnoticed. By combining various elements within her designs, Leta creates unique and diverse visuals. Since 2013 she has worked for clients such as AIGA, Bloomberg Businessweek, Digg, Google, IBM, Kiehl’s, The New York Times, Refinery 29, Renault, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Target, Tate Modern, and UNIQLO among many others. Her work has been published in many renowned blogs and magazines and she has been invited as a speaker on events worldwide. Leta is also an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts.
Can you tell us a bit about how you became a designer?
I went to Purchase College in New York State to major in Graphic Design. My first year was strictly foundation courses, encompassing sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and design. Each of these courses was incredibly hands-on, without any computer application. My first year design course was strictly painting color swatches with gauche—like Matisse did—and training our eye to distinguish hue, saturation, lightness and darkness with intuition. We used paper cutouts to create abstract compositions to emulate nouns and adjectives. Having a focus on working with my hands instead of a machine was a compelling feeling, especially when in a classroom full of people who were from all sorts of creative backgrounds. I loved the encouragement to take courses outside of my focus and continued to do so throughout my studies, spanning painting, bookmaking, and a color class based on the studies of Josef Albers. As I advanced in my studies, I continued to explore new mediums—I exercised the woodshop, the printshop, and the plaster studio, and took any opportunity to stay physical with my projects. Design became a way for me to combine all of those things.
What or who inspires you?
I love visiting galleries in New York City. You have the best art from the most prominent artists at your fingertips and it’s all accessible—there isn’t even an entry fee! I’ve seen some of the best shows of my life there, many of which end up in museums or other galleries around the world. Getting out of the studio is one of the most important ways to change my outlook on my work.
How influenced are you by surrealist art?
I love surrealist art, but my heaviest influence is Josef Albers’s Theories on Color Studies. Creating experiences through the sensory relationships of color is what helps me tie everything together. I try to adhere to a 3 or 4 color rule which I can spread throughout the project; I also like creating friction and vibration with my color choices, so I try to have contrasting color palettes as often as possible. Color is an incredible way to express emotion and should never be overlooked. Sometimes for me, choosing the palette is the most difficult part of the process.
In no specific order, I love Maurizio Cattelan, Erwin Wurm, Yayoi Kusama, David Shrigley, Urs Fischer, Isamu Noguchi, Ettore Sottsass, Justin Aidan, Lawrence Weiner, Salvador Dali, Walter De Maria, Lee Ufan, James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, Doug Wheeler, Dan Flavin, On Kawara.
Where do you draw the line between design and art?
Is there a line? I think it’s more of a squiggle!
Your work has appeared in a lot of very cool places, what has been the most exciting or interesting project you've worked on?
Each project is a unique opportunity that allows me to flex different muscles, and it’s too difficult to choose a favorite! I have painted site-specific murals, art directed fashion shoots, and designed costumes for branded projects. I love the challenge of doing something I have never done before.
Plans/ambitions for the future...
My husband (Wade Jeffree) and I got a studio space together in January 2016, so I’m excited to pursue bigger, better work! We have plenty of space to spread out and i’m looking forward to more shoots, installations, and paintings. We are combining forces and taking on more client based work together, too.
What advice would you give to up–and–coming artists?
Work hard, don’t be an asshole, and be patient. I always want immediate results but it takes time, energy, and patience to progress and improve my craft.
What’s your idea of happiness?
Having work and play at an equal balance. And, a full glass of wine with my husband, Wade.
What’s the meaning of life?
Feeling challenged and never stagnant.