We had the good fortune of connecting with Alisa Damaso and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alisa, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I used to be a total workaholic, probably because my parents functioned in this way. I have trouble feeling like myself without being “productive” or in motion somehow. But when the pandemic happened, I was almost at the point of burnout. I was working full time at my day job, doing freelance work, and running my online shop VLY GRL on top of mourning my dad’s death and other general life stuff. It forced me to reevaluate what my life would look like when having to work from home. I realized my worth is not based on my productivity, whether it’s for others or for myself. There’s a much-needed tenderness and compassion that we need to treat ourselves and others with during this time. I now have hard boundaries between my work day and my chill time. I move slower these days. I’ve learned to be at rest and do nothing. I’m exercising more. My weekends are actually weekends. It’s been a positive shift in my mental and physical health, and I’m grateful for the privilege to be able to find some solace amidst the horrors happening in the world right now.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Thank you! I’m a designer and illustrator in San Francisco, originally from the San Fernando Valley. I’m founder of the brand VLY GRL, which strives to smash the bimbo Valley girl stereotype, one rad accessory at a time. I actually studied Creative Writing at CSUN, but life happened and here I am over a decade later, designing and making art for a living!
I wouldn’t want to repeat myself, so if you’re interested in learning about my story, you can read my VoyageLA article here: http://voyagela.com/interview/meet-alisa-damaso-vly-grl/
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc. In your view what are some of the most fun, interesting, exciting people, places or things to check out?
Well, I moved out of LA nine years ago, so my references may be a little outdated! Most of my favorite haunts are in the Valley where I grew up, but I do have some city faves. If COVID wasn’t a factor, other than the usual LA tourist spots like the Getty, Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign, Dodgers Stadium, Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier, I’d take them to:
Catch an improv show at UCB Theater (RIP Sunset)
Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Dover Street Market
BCD Tofu House
Real Food Daily
Grand Central Market
The Normandie Club
Alright, so let’s jump right in! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
I have so many shoutouts! First, there’s my oldest brother Erick, who helped cultivate my artistic endeavors by giving me art supplies and art books since I was a kid. One of my eldest cousins, Mariah, encouraged me in all my pursuits, and taught me to think outside the box and reach far beyond what I thought I was capable of. I have to shoutout my high school English teachers Mrs. Summerlin and Ken Medina, my golf coach, Gail Lapaz, and my life skills teacher, Andre Hayes, for being such influential, thoughtful mentors. Credit is due to my best friend and former boss, the late screenwriter Scott Lew, for making me an awesomer person by employing me as his writing assistant and mentoring me in my work and life when I was in my early 20s. Shoutout to my first boss when I became a designer, Calvin Jung, for taking a chance on me even though I didn’t go to a traditional art school, and for helping me become a better designer. I also want to shoutout my partner Ryan, who made me see that I was already a designer, and that I just needed the hard skills to turn it into a career. And, of course, my parents for their moral support — they didn’t always understand me, but they stood behind me in all my artsy-fartsy pursuits.
In terms of VLY GRL, I’d like to give a huge shoutout to the San Fernando Valley Zine Fest and 11:11 A Creative Collective for being my first and biggest supporters when I started out. Both are amazing organizations run by passionate, awesome folx that are putting SFV arts and culture on the map.
Books that have helped me figure out my life and career throughout the years:
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- Build Your Dreams by Alexis Irvin & Chip Hiden
- Persist by Peter Clothier
- In Progress by Jessica Hische
- Your Art Will Save Your Life by Beth Pickens
- Find Your Voice by Lisa Congdon
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi