Apart from many contributions to publications such as Pepper and Young Star, Reese’s works have equally been featured, most prominently in Preview and Vogue Italia, which showcased her fashion collection Space and the Human Race. As a solo artist she’s performed in many events, most recently in I Know Write Manila's "Inspired By". And this December 6, Reese & Vica, a duo she's in, will also be releasing their second EP, Those Who Wander. FYI, we're just scratching the surface here--listing all her major accomplishments will take waaay too long. (WHAT A CV THIS ONE MUST HAVE AMIRITE?).
As you are reading this, Reese is probably doing a gig somewhere (check out her packed schedule for November and December here), or piecing together a new collection, or traveling bright new cities, or writing new poems, or giving an inspiring talk to a crowd of hopefuls. Or who knows, maybe, like you and me, she’s just loafing around, eating junk food and figuring things out! Because despite being out-of-this-world-amazing, Reese is ultimately a human being. (An amazing human being we all understandably aspire to be, but flesh and bones still).
Reese's no-shit and sometimes confessional blog entries strips her of glossy, unrealistic perfection and unmasks a vulnerable but amazingly honest artist. Her kooky aesthetic and fashion sensibilites, though far from looking like the girl next door's, is relatable and admirable because her passion shines through (as opposed to, say, expensive brands or another Tumblr rave). Her humanity seeps through the artist exterior, as evidenced by her warm reception of fans and people in general, and ultimately it seeps through her works. In the Gathering Season, Reese explores why collectors love to collect, and in DIY or DIE she figures out the why of creative processes. Her infinite love for the complex human race has got us infinitely loving her all the more!
It's definitely an honor to speak with this inspiringly all-around artist. Read our interview with Reese, November's Girl of the Month, wherein we talk about peer jealousy, art, "building your own thrown", and of course, space (among many other things) and get to know more about this Renaissance Space Woman.
Reinvent: So why don’t we start with how you describe yourself. In online bios you say you are many things you can’t compromise. Artist, musician, graphic and fashion designer. First of all, congratulations on that! But also, what are the best and worst things about being an all around artist? Also, great artists like Beyoncé and Tavi Gevinson have this idea of "building your own throne", creating and following your own career and line of success. Do you agree with this? Are you, in your own way, building your own throne?
Reese: Thank you for mentioning Tavi Gevinson, as she is a (very loose) life peg of mine and I've been reading her since she was 12 and had blurry photos <3
Best things: I get to do the things I love without being restricted by anyone. I get to choose which things I could devote time to. I don't compromise, I don't have to give anything up completely. I get recognised for the work that I do, not for my profession or who I am.
Worst things: People get confused and often lump me to whatever word or title they can conveniently use. People question the validity of what I do sometimes, because they look at it as me not having focus. Instead of zeroing in on one thing and getting better at it faster, my eyes are on three things (music, design, fashion) and I get better at the three of them at a slower pace.
I definitely abide to the idea that I am building my own throne, and it is a multi-stacked one that incorporates art, design, and music in a seat. I look at myself as an advocate of pursuing ALL the things you (really, really) love. Once you've narrowed it down to the non-negotiables, there is a way to be able to do them all without sacrificing quality. I want to keep pushing for doing the things that I love and not give anything up just because society tells me to, sometimes. I have a lot of people come up to me and ask me how I get to balance everything that I do, because they have always felt pressure to stick to one thing. I want to show people that they should not think of life as a search for "who" to become, but instead a constant questioning of "What should I do next?". That way, there is no pressure to stay the same all the days of your life. Change if you have to. Shift gears if you must. You're free to do whatever your heart wants.
As for the seaweed wrapper (haha) : I guess the approach is roughly the same for every creative work that I do - research, ideation process, experiment, execution. I also always go back to my core influences - pop culture, science, nostalgia, childhood, world culture, Asian kitsch, and other silly things.
Last November 1 you tweeted “Can’t sleep—working on a master plan for my life”, and I can’t help but feel so excited for you! Could you give us a tiny peek as to what this master plan is?
Well, sad to say I'm really not one to think far, far ahead, so there is no master plan yet as of the moment. But projects for next year: I am planning to take a very short internship abroad, planning another collage exhibit, planning to release my solo EP, planning to sell more stuff that relates to my art and design.
Typical day: Wake up super early (thanks to my little sister who has morning classes in UP), go to my day job (family business), be on my email constantly, Instagram random stuff, finish work, and either A) go home, have dinner with my family, go do freelance illustration / design / fashion work, SLEEP when I can or B) go play a gig (solo, or with my band, Reese & Vica), enjoy, go home, do freelance illustration / design / fashion work, SLEEP. Then find time to tweet a haiku somewhere in the schedule.
My ideas are free-flowing and I often encounter it during car rides or at lunch break - mostly in moments I have for myself. The ideas are always there, it's just the execution and technique that's trickier for me to get at and narrow down.
A lot of our readers are in the transitioning stage—specifically, high school and college. When did you first realize that art is what you’ll be doing, and were you ever sure about making that decision?
There was no definite groundbreaking moment that I can remember, because falling in love with art and music and design all happened gradually. All I know is that doing creative work was automatic for me. There wasn't any other option. I couldn't fathom how living any other life would make me happy.
I’ve been exposed in the arts at a very young age, so much so that pursuing anything else seemed absurd and unthinkable to me. I knew nothing else. We own an art gallery so my parents are quite the enthusiasts who bought me all the art materials I could have access to as a young girl. It was automatic for me to draw and doodle, to emulate characters I was watching on TV (Sailormoon forevz) and draw them onto the flyleaves of my encyclopedia. I was always making handmade cards for every occasion, watching grown up craft shows on Lifestyle network, (making craft diva Carol Duvall my childhood hero) and doing everything on my own.
As for music, I didn't know it then, but I already fell in love with it as a very young kid. I could already belt out a full song by the age of two. The song was Bawal na Gamot. Nursery rhymes and biblical songs for children would be on repeat the entire day - and I knew every word to every song by heart. I was bought countless of cassette tapes, from Disney soundtracks to contemporary bands I didn't even know about until my Dad introduced me to them. He gave me my very first cassette tape - Spice World by Spice Girls and No Strings Attached by N'sync. My father's side was the musical one - everybody sang and had an instrument. My late dad used to play the guitar and the trumpet, and for family reunions, we would always have a father-daughter acoustic number which I would be so painfully shy about.
I love your collages. You currently opened your first solo exhibit "The Gathering Season" at Heima Brixton, and they feature some of your best works of that medium. What edge do you think collages have against other, more traditional mediums like oil painting or sculpture?
Collages tend to have an old, lived in quality to them that I'm really drawn into. Unlike other forms of art, collage is the only medium wherein you get to "borrow" certain things from different, pre-existing parts, put them together in your own way, to tell an entirely different story. Although there are a lot of similarities in themes, images, and techniques among collage artists, the ways in which you can arrange the broken elements are infinite. It's non-exclusive so you don't have to be skilled in illustrating or painting to be a collage artist. You just have to develop a keen sense of knowing when the elements are in their rightful places. My collages are partly planned, partly instinctive, which I think is the magic of collage. If you break down an existing collage piece of mine and I decide to work with the same cut-out elements on a different day, I'm pretty sure I'll be telling an entirely different story.
I think it's great that the art scene in Manila is coming out stronger with the advent of Instagram & blogging. Appreciation for art and design blogs have been at an all time high these days, breeding more artists and encouraging them to share their work online. What I think has to be developed is our willingness to take our appreciation to the next level. We should try to go farther than appreciating art for what we see on screen, and go beyond saving things we like in folders so we could hoard them for ourselves. Support can also be shown by buying art if you have the means. A lot of people who appreciate art tend to scoff at it when an artist puts a price tag, leaving artists to remain struggling & starving. I hope there would be a willingness for people to sustain artists by buying their art, their prints, their products granted they have the resources.
I studied fashion to appease my younger, idealistic self that fell in love with it. I wanted to make my own clothes because I saw fashion as wearable art. It's basically being able to channel my artistic pursuits into something that could be worn on my body. My getting into fashion is admittedly more self-serving than anything. My only goal was to actually make fun clothes that embodies a big idea. I've always created for myself, and just find it as a rest bonus if other people seem to appreciate the work that I do. To sum that all up, I studied fashion not because I want to become a fashion designer. I just want to make art and express them through clothes.
My personal favorite of work of yours is the Virgin Suicides DVD package — it’s so comprehensive and achingly beautiful! What work or collection are you most proud of?
Thank you! I am quite proud of that project as well! It was a school assignment, and we were tasked to "repackage" any movie that we liked. I really like having tangible things accompany my work, because it's something I appreciate a lot myself. I like things to appear well thought-of, and well connected with the subject. I thought the "ephemera box" would be perfect for The Virgin Suicides packaging, because so much of the movie revolved around loneliness and holding on to the life that they once knew through mementos and keepsakes littered in the Lisbon bedroom.
To date, I am still most proud of my Space and the Human Race collection - probably because in making that, I've encountered failure so many times. I had a vision for SPHR and I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I was working with difficult materials and the prototypes were just so far from the ideal. I was running out of time, and the grad collection frustrated me to no end. With all my failed experimentation, I was left to trust in the techniques that I knew best. I used digital printing and told stories through my collages, then added depth and detail with beading and embroidery. I consider it my big success because I honestly thought I wouldn't be able to achieve the kind of work that only existed in my head. I was discouraged by my failures and it took me some time to let go of the initial ideas I fell in love with, in order to come up with a collection that I love yet actually works. Working on my grad collection taught me so much, most especially the importance of being humble enough to admit defeat and start all over.
From your music to your fashion, you’ve made no secret about your deep love for outer space. What makes it so interesting to you?
I can't even begin to explain why I find space fascinating. It's the unquantifiable size, the sheer UNKNOWN that envelopes us. And it's just OUT THERE, every time we look up the sky, that's space!! The stars that we see as twinkling dots are lightyears away, yet they shine in our night sky and we see them from where we are, and that's just magical to me. The fact that we have so many books written about space and yet we don't really know anything for certain. How 9 planets can suddenly become reduced to 8, then 9 again? How there is more space beyond the observable universe? Or even just the moon, how just one spherical rock has decided to stick with us and orbit around us, when other planets have 4, 16, more. And how people, actual humans, have reached this moon and stuck in their flags to its soil, and made it back here alive to tell about it? How in the vastness of the black, there could be other beings longing to connect like we are? So many things. Just so many things, really.
For art & design:
Stefan Sagmeister and his brain, basically. He is a mad genius who constantly pushes the boundaries of design conveying information through effective visual communication.
Tom Sachs and his methods of organisation, systems applied within the workplace, and his OCD.
Eduardo Recife: the first collage artist I've ever discovered, who propelled me to get into mixed media in the first place. His work is so polished and seamless - until now I still think he remains to be the one of the best at the medium.
Meadham Kirchhoff: their devotion to create FUN STUFF despite the cost + their commitment to their core aesthetics are just inspiring to me
Hussein Chalayan: his brain is of another level, and he is the only designer I know who incorporates a SOLID IDEA and marries technology with fashion that actually looks like fashion. His being able to execute and deliver his SUPER BIG IDEAS inspire me to keep thinking longer and harder, keep searching for more answers every time.
Imogen Heap: she is basically a genius. A mad scientist that walks among us. More than her songwriting, it's her creativity and her desire to REALLY CONNECT her music to her listeners that's so powerful and awe-inspiring. It's how she fully embraces technology and marries that to tradition that makes her music uniquely her own.
Regina Spektor: her body of work stretches far and wide and her lyrics are pure, accessible poetry.
Can you describe the process of creating something? What are the most challenging parts? The fun and rewarding parts?
I find that the research, sketching, and ideation process are the things I look forward to the most when starting a project. I love gathering information and learning as much as I can before I start working. The research satisfies me because it makes me understand further why I'm doing the work I'm about to do.
Prototyping is the most harrowing part. It's fun, yes, but it's hard to see yourself fail many times over. I'm not very great at taking failure. Most times, I'm too stubborn to admit defeat, so it takes me awhile to move past that. But once everything has been ironed out and I've gotten the groove, the execution of details becomes fun again!
In a blog post earlier this year, you’ve mentioned insecurities regarding talent and fame, and how they can be bolstered by the Internet. It’s so relatable and I can particularly relate to Insecurity # 2, “Peers Doing Well”. Have you come to terms with your own public person v.s. unabashed enthusiasm? Also, there’s this quote I’ve come across on the Internet many times, “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20”, commonly attributed to the entrepreneur Evan Carmichael. Do you think this applies to art, or heck, life as well?
There's another quote by Theodore Roosevelt I try to live by, and it says "Comparison is the thief of joy". And it's true. One minute you're celebrating because of a job well done, then the next you're moping because you see a friend who did something awesome and you just feel, somehow, robbed. Why though? When we actually examine why we feel jealousy and envy, you realize that it's rooted in lack of contentment and endless comparison. It's not a healthy way to live. Whenever I find myself feeling particularly bad about a friend doing well, I always remind myself that their success does not subtract from my own success. It does not subtract from my own worth. And my jealousy won't make them less great - in fact they will still remain to be great despite how I feel. Jealousy and envy only affects me directly, and in a negative way at that. So I try to channel those feelings into positive things. I try to learn from my peers and be appreciative and kind and sincere. Because I wouldn't have gotten the support that I got from friends and family if they let themselves become a slave to their jealousy.
At this point it's so cliche to say I love traveling because everybody does (I mean really, who doesn't?) But traveling is a way for me to recharge and shift gears. In Manila, I'm always being driven around from place to place, doing my routine. But when traveling, I'm armed with a list of things to do and places to go, I buy tickets to trains, and allow myself to get lost in that day's loose itinerary. I eat where my hunger catches me. I buy things from places that have caught my eye. It totally reverses the way I live. It gives me a feeling of independence and control that I often lose when I'm in a place I'm accustomed to. Of course, traveling also means experiencing an entirely different environment - weather, culture, surroundings, people. It's a shock for the senses, and you come back, somehow a different person every time. I really love it.
Tell us about your studio, Soon the Moon. What is the general theme of the place, and what was the decoration process like?
The theme is just to have a clean, bright workspace to put all my weird stuff in. All I ever ask from a workplace is for it to be well-lit and have all the stuff I'd ever need to create to be at hand. I took to magazines and Pinterest to build the details of my side of the room, while my sister did the same on her side. I filled my shelves with my art and design books, careful about the arrangement of the spines on the shelves. It was really a DIY endeavour - a huge project I worked on with my Mom and my sister, who both are passionate in interior design.
I always say this - never stop creating, and never stop at bad work.
Finally, since I’ve just finished reading your zine, Today's Haiku (which is super fun and light hearted), can you write us an impromptu haiku to sum this whole interview up?
I spent quite some time
Digesting these questions that
Demand good answers
- Favorite hair color that you’ve done? My current one - purple / violet
- Most recent song you immediately fell in love with? The Bell by First Aid Kit
- Three artists you’d like to be compared to? Tavi Gevinson (sige na please lol), Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor.
- Publish a bad poem or piyok during a live gig? Publish a bad poem. I will live.
- A book you’ve read that you’ve extensively highlighted in your mind? Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. And I've literally highlighted it.
- A film director to create the movie of your life? CHRISTOPHER NOLAN. Tempted to also say Wes Anderson for the hipster visuals and the symmetry. Maybe they can collaborate. HAHA.
- A city outside the Philippines you can return to 100 times and still not be sick of? Tokyo is a given. Bangkok as well.
- And finally, why do you still think of Pluto as a planet? Because that's what my childhood books have taught me. For as long as they're still on my shelves, I will never stop believing.