Friday Favorites: Artist Lisa Solomon

I am inspired by so many things, I decided that every Friday, I will highlight a favorite person, thing, or idea. Maybe you will be inspired too! See all past Friday Favorites here.


Lisa Solomon


“Lewisite”, 2011

colored pencil, acrylic, graphite, embroidery on duralar.

Lisa Solomon

h1n1 virus, 2011

colored pencil, acrylic, graphite, crochet doilies, glasshead pins on duralar.

Lisa Solomon

we are family: blue and brown beds, 2010

colored pencil, acrylic and thread on embroidery on duralar

Lisa Solomon is a true inspiration to me for so many reasons. I mean, she juggles being a professor and an online teacher, an artist, with being a mom and wife, and creative force behind MODify. Lisa does indeed wear many hats. (And I have a feeling they are all beautifully crocheted from colorful pearle cotton). Lisa’s artwork grabbed me the minute I saw it, many years ago. Her delicate crochet and thread work of viruses and toxins, her beautiful visual interpretation of the radiation migration of the Fukushima Diachi plant caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster, and her felt tank installation (a hard steel machine built for combat rendered in beautiful colors of felt), her work makes me think about the concept of art in a way I never did before. Its hard to explain, as art can be sometimes. The feelings that art can evoke can’t always be described perfectly.

I am lucky enough to own an original piece of Lisa’s , from her domestic scenes series, “Two Lime Chairs”.

Lisa Solomon

I knew I wanted to include her as soon as I started my Friday Favorites series and she has graciously allowed me to pick her brain so that we may all read more about her world. Mixed in between, I have included images of some of her work (I selfishly tried to pick my favorites, but narrowing it down was hard). Here goes!

Lisa Solomon
Doily No. 83 (Orange) 2010, acrylic, graphite, embroidery on duralar

Lisa, I am so excited to have you in my Friday Favorites series! We have known each other for sooooo long online, yet we’ve never met face to face. That’s never stopped me from calling you a dear friend and creative inspiration.
Lisa Solomon
Fukushima Diachi, April 11, 2011, 2012, Embroidery and graphite on Duralar
Here are a few questions-
Lisa Solomon
Syncronized Tanks: Radial Formation [Charcoal, Orange, and Yellow], edition of 3,
felt tanks, glasshead pins
1. I love that your art combines the components of art and craft, and elevates to fine art. And how you straddle the line of strong/severe with soft/delicate (I’m thinking of your beautiful felt tanks as an example of this, pictured above). How do you describe your work to someone not familiar with it?
Wow. What a nice thing to read and for you to say. I’m definitely interested in both art and craft and how the two work with and against [in some cases] one another. I’ve also always been interested in why there is such a hierarchy [sometimes] between the two pursuits. 
It’s interesting that you point out the dichotomy in my work because it’s definitely something that has become an integral part of how I work and think. It sort of all came together for me one day when a friend was sitting with me in my studio. I’m half Japanese and half Caucasian [my dad’s side of the family is Jewish]. My friend is also 1/2 and 1/2 – same combo. She was noticing that she felt that my work had a very Japanese sensibility to it, but that it was also distinctly NOT Japanese. As a joke I said that since I was a happa the work was happa – she exclaimed that was IT.  As I thought about that more and more it became clear to me that in essence I was a “hybrid” and that I was making a “hybrid” type of art work too. I tend to mix materials in strange or different ways [crochet on top of glass, embroider fragile paper], or push ideas against one another. I do things that seem slightly wrong, or off, or mixed up: I leave long threads as evidence of my work, I make frightening things really cute and pretty – like the tanks, or war chemicals molecularly represented by doilies, I take “craft” and force it into the “art” realm, I make big things small and small things big… 
I’m not sure if that answers how I describe my work… so let’s see…If I’m giving the stuck in an elevator speech I usually say that I’m a mixed media artist that makes things rooted in the act of drawing. That my work utilizes a lot of traditional crafts – like embroidery and crochet – to talk about things that are both personally and culturally of interest to me. I work on both an intimate small scale and a grand installational scale depending on the project. My “drawings” have seemingly found a place between 2-D and 3-D, shown on the wall, and yet concurrently existing and yearning to be off of it. In this tenuous position my work is, in many senses of the phrase, “between states.”


2. I know that you, like me, are always rolling around the idea of how we define what we do in our minds. (I loved your post about this very subject here.)I know it’s important to have that 30 second speech, but why is it so hard? What are your thoughts?


Yes yes yes. The definition of who we are and what we do. I think a lot of this comes as an external pressure. People want to put you in a box so they understand you – but I think it’s also important for you to define who you are – OR – who you want to be too. I mean, you can manifest things if you name them right? If you want to BE an artist/florist/baker then start saying that you are – and acting like one [and if you don’t know how to do that – do what you feel that person would do] and then in a way you just become that…. The act of doing/making/naming is powerful.
I think it’s hard because the declaration of whatever it is that you do takes confidence, right? And I think many times artists/crafters/makers live in a world of self doubt to some degree [at least I do, and most of my creative friends do as well]. I think, too, we don’t want to appear cocky or too self-assured. That can come across very icky [we’ve all met that person right? And gone eeewwwww?] 
I can really tell, though, that things are shifting for me. Maybe it’s as I’m getting older. Maybe it’s just the time spent. Maybe it’s because I’m just that much more invested. Maybe it’s cause I can’t turn back, but more and more I’m realizing that even though it’s HARD to make that declaration – that I should. We don’t make it any easier on ourselves…. And that in many ways society doesn’t make it easy on us either. But in the end – I have earned whatever label I want to put on myself. I am passionate about and honored and privileged to do what I do. It is not an easy way out, or a joke, or something to just pass the time. So I want to own it, you know?  I keep asking what is it that I’m so fearful of defining? Any label I pin on myself [artist/crafter/designer] is easily removed or exchanged for another. 
3. What are your favorite sources of inspiration? How do you record your ideas?
Inspiration. Oh it’s everywhere I think. It’s in the car as your mind wanders, it’s in the radio/tv/magazine story that catches your fancy. It’s in the objects that you surround yourself with, or pass by on the street. It’s in the way the light changes from season to season. It’s online [although it can be overwhelming there too]. My friends. My friends are endless sources of inspiration [like you]. My kid too. It’s so cliché, but she sees the world with such fresh eyes. Everything is still new and fun and waiting to be discovered. That is so so so inspiring. I find just work itself inspiring. The act of doing, making, thinking. Rest is also inspiring – possibly because it seems in short supply – heh heh. 
I record ideas the old fashioned way in a sketchbook. I’m totally addicted to instagram. That is both an inspiration and recording device. I still record ideas and thoughts on my blog [although blogging has definitely changed A LOT since we all started ages ago, I still like that it’s a place to collect and share]. I write myself dumb notes in my datebook [yes I still keep a paper datebook]. I still pin things to the wall, and collect imagery that is meaningful to me. I have folders and folders, stacks and stacks of research and inspirational things that live in my studio. 
3. Give us a glimpse into what a day (or part of a day) of doing artwork looks like for Lisa Solomon.
Hmmmm. Let’s see. It all starts with coffee. Then I saunter into my backyard studio to get to work. If I have any emails or things that have to get done I do them first thing so they aren’t hanging over my head. Then the day will depend on where I am in a project. If it’s the beginning of a project there’s a lot of research. So I’m online, or reading books, or making sketches, or trying dumb ideas out to see if anything is going to work. Sometimes if I’m in a research phase I’ll try and take breaks to do something fun like draw in my garden – so that I’m actually MAKING something. Sometimes I get a bug up my butt to make something [could be anything – a tote bag, screenprint] and then I have to get that out of my system. If I’m on a deadline – like a certain amount of work has to get done for a show or the like I might be in head down just get work done mode. In which case I kind of have a plan and am just trying to check things off lists. Although even if I’m in this phase I’ll try and take a moment or two to snap a photo, or make a small drawing, or do something “just for fun” outside of what I’m working on. I have found that I need to keep a little window open for experimentation – for the happy accident – and it generally happens when I least expect it. 
But the day? The day itself? Wake up – hang out with kid. Get her to school. Switch to tea. Do any “work” emails. Check out what friends are doing online [while eating some kind of snacky breakfast]. Enter studio. Get to work [usually while listening to NPR]. Lunch around 1pm. Look at work while lunching – figure out what needs to get done or changed or started. Check out what friends are doing again. Back to work. Pick up kid. Repeat. If I’m lucky I get almost 2 full days a week in the studio when I’m teaching. A lot of times I do handiwork [crochet or simple embroidery stitches on pieces]  at night while watching TV after the kid has gone to bed. 
Lisa Solomon
Wallet Size Me, 1978, 2004 Embroidery on satin (back side showing), vintage embroidery hoop
5. In your book, Knot, Thread, Stitch: Exploring Creativity Through Embroidery and Mixed Media, you pulled together so many creative ideas for using thread to draw, embroider, and create. It caused me to look at so many new ways to create with your simple techniques (embroidering a portrait is on my list to do very soon). What’s your favorite type of embroidery?
(Wait, is that like asking you to pick a favorite child??)
Ha ! It is kind of like asking me to pick a favorite child. I actually tend to keep my stitching fairly simple in my artwork. I use thread/embroidery like drawing. It’s a line. It just has a bit more depth and texture than other types of line. It can become an accent. An area that immediately represents the hand even more… 
In terms of “crafting” I’m a huge admirer of hardanger embroidery – mostly because my grandmother used to do it – but I’ve never ventured to try it. At least not yet. I keep meaning to incorporate it into something I’m working on, but haven’t figured out how yet. 
6. I know there are many of us all over the world who are contributing to the 1000 doily installation you are creating for later this year. Can you give us details about it, and where and when it will be?
Oh the 1000 doily project. The first time I have really asked for help with a big project [from people other than my mom and immediate friends who usually offer to help me before I ask them]. I have been completely overwhelmed with the response to this. I am going to do a show later this year – November 2013 at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco. The working title is Sen which is 1000 in Japanese. 1000 is a big deal in Japan – think 1000 cranes for good luck, or 1000 buddhas [there’s a temple in Kyoto which houses 1000 buddhas.]… I wanted to use this idea of 1000 – but within my own lexicon. So I had this vision of 1000 doilies. And I wanted to tie it to other things that really interest me namely color and color theory. 
I use a very particular kind of crochet thread in my work – I love it because it comes in crazy colors. So I figured – what if I used 100 colors of thread and made 10 doilies in each color.voila 1000. I’m going to pin them to the wall in some sort of arrangement – I haven’t quite figured out how exactly yet, but I’m thinking about it [constantly]. In rainbow order? Or from light to dark? Or a combo? Or in a pattern – like a radiating circle [like the Japanese flag]? 
There’s actually a little bit more to the story, but I’m kind of superstitious – I tend to not reveal plans for work until it’s complete – but I had to talk about this project a bit to get it going 😉 so I’m OK with saying this much. When I get all the doilies back from everywhere and I’m ready to put them up I’ll talk about the other components that are in play. 
I have been completely and utterly overwhelmed by the generosity and interest of these amazing women all of the world who are helping me do this. It has become larger and more meaningful than I could have ever imagined. I always talk about how women are connected by these domestic acts of making and this project feels like a perfect manifestation of that. It’s SO fun to see people post their progress on instagram or their blogs; to get emails and notes and gifts from women saying what the experience has meant to them – or that it’s ignited a spark in them to continue making something else … that is so humbling, and really really makes my heart happy. 
Thank you Lisa! xo
  • lisa s

    April 26, 2013 at 9:31 am

    hey blair ! i’m so honored to call you a friend and really hope that 2013 is the year i get to give you a hug in person.
    thank you for saying i’m a favorite. you are definitely a favorite of mine and i am forever grateful for your amazing contribution to my book [as well as a bunch of other things]. XOXO

  • Daniela D

    April 26, 2013 at 10:53 am

    oh, what a great interview! i discovered lisa’s work when i signed up for her interwoven class. such a talent and an incredible inspiration!

  • Éireann

    April 26, 2013 at 11:08 am

    It’s a wonderful coincidence that Lisa’s monographs ( arrived at my house the same day as this interview was posted! Lovely. Thanks for it, Blair.

  • mrspilkington

    April 27, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Wonderful interview, thank you! Lisa’s work is always inspiring. The stitched viruses and toxins also make me think of Laura Splan’s doilies and embroidery:

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