We had the good fortune of connecting with Christin Ciaccio Briggs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christin, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I’ve really come to view my work in seasons, rather days or weeks. There may be a 3 month stretch where I cannot spend quality time in my art studio because it may be an especially busy time for my family. For example, it may be baseball season for my kids, we may have household projects I have to manage, or in recent years, I’ve had to travel frequently to help with caregiving for my aging parents. It used to drive me crazy that I could not find find a rhythm for all of these aspects of my life. But I learned that when I try to juggle all the balls at once it does not work, and I become very stressed and agitated, and that is not the kind of person I want to be for my family. Rather than feeling guilty or frustrated about these pauses in my studio work, I’ve learned to shift my focus. If I cannot physically be in my studio producing new paintings, I may take those few months to update my website, and work digitally on my fabric collections. I will say to myself, “This is my season for promoting my business, and showcasing the work I’ve already created.” These are the types of things that I can work on in smaller snippets of time, on my laptop, still staying connected to my art life while being available for my family. For me, the balance is more about the balance of self, and embracing the fact that I will never be able to accomplish everything all at the same time. If my momentum is great in my studio, my kids are popping in telling me they’re hungry, we’ve run out of snacks, the dog is barking, the dishes are piled up in the sink, and the laundry simply does not get done. When things are humming along in the household, and I’m cooking dinners for my family every night, my studio sits empty waiting for my return. I’ve just learned to roll with it. I am happier when I embrace the ebb and flow rather than fighting against it.
How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
When I was 25 I took a production job with a major film studio, which eventually landed me in Los Angeles. For over a decade I worked in the film industry, and I felt like I lived a double life. All the while, I was painting on the side and showing my work in galleries here and there, but I constantly had to shift gears back and forth depending on the demands of my production career. Being an artist is never easy. I always tell my husband (also an artist) that I feel like artists are the most conflicted people on the planet. There is the constant pull where you ask yourself, “Should I take the job that will actually pay my bills? Or should I do what makes me feel fulfilled creatively?” During those years I felt very conflicted, but I honestly learned so much working in film production. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned a lot about myself. Surprisingly, the fact that I am more of an introvert helped me to be successful in my job. My sense of reserve and calm became key to my role in a stressful working environment. Personality traits of mine that I had previously viewed as hindrances revealed themselves to be superpowers. I now see how effective these characteristics are when I connect with new clients for my own business. I’m able to put people at ease and gain their trust. Whereas, if I had the flashy, salesperson type of personality, I feel like people might not see me as genuine. These types of discoveries were, for me, critical to my path as an artist. To give myself space to evolve, I had to let go of the competitive pressure one tends to put on themselves when they’re young. I think when you’re in your early career stages, you feel like you need to constantly crank out new work. And there’s a naive perception that people are looking over your shoulder keeping a log of your career highs and lows. I think as you grow older, you begin to trust your instincts and the panic falls away. For me, once we started a family, I began to give myself the grace of time to let things happen organically.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Definitely my mom has always been my biggest fan, and constantly nurtured my path to being an artist. I sadly just lost her on July 1, 2020, she passed away after fighting an almost 5 year battle with cancer. Every nook and cranny of my childhood home was always filled with art supplies. She filled tupperware containers with felt, sequins and glitter. Giant stacks of paper lived under our living room sofa, and for my entire childhood we never ran out. I guess she always restocked it! We had an industrial sized roll of butcher paper in our kitchen, and when my friends would come over, she’d rip off a huge piece and lay it on the floor with a bunch of markers for us to draw on. We also had a “beautiful trash” drawer, where we always saved our paper towel dowels, bottle caps, soup cans and bits of tin foil. On a rainy day she’d say, “Go make something from the beautiful trash drawer.” She’d cover the dining table with newspapers and pour Elmer’s glue into a Dixie cup with a popsicle stick in it. I’d sit for hours collaging things and making little people out of the paper towel dowels, using beans for eyes and pipe cleaners for arms. My mom encouraged me to go to an Art Magnet High School where I fell in love with painting, and that paved my way to Art School for college. She also encouraged me to apply for a study abroad program my junior year, where I studied painting and printmaking at the University of Brighton in England. Living in Brighton was a pivotal experience for me. I visited the coast every day, walked all over the town, and soaked up the salty, grey sea air. I loved living there and then traveled afterwards, backpacking all over Europe with other students. I honestly don’t know if I would have ever done any of that had my mom not instilled in me her own sense of adventure and wanderlust.
Please tell us more about your art. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? I have always loved wallpaper and vintage textiles, and for years they have inspired my paintings. So in 2013, I launched my business, Chachi Loves Design, so I could pursue my love of textile and surface pattern design. My goal was to transform my paintings into repeat patterns for fabric for home interiors. I spent about 9 months teaching myself how to make the transition digitally. I would manipulate my watercolor paintings in Photoshop to create the repeat patterns. At first I was awful at it! The process was so counterintuitive to how I was trained as a fine artist. Compositionally, when making a painting, your goal is NOT to be constricted by the edge of the canvas, and to make the subjects literally flow off the edge. But with repeat patterns you have to keep the initial design within the boundaries in order to make the repeat seamless. I felt like I was unlearning things I had been practicing for my entire career as a painter. It was mind-bending for me. Eventually I got it, but it took months of practice. Now, I feel like my patterns are unique in their design because they’re very free-flowing and painterly. I enjoy the challenge of pushing against the traditional confines of what a repeat pattern is. My Design Studio creates special edition fabric collections for artistic apparel, accessories and home decor. Chachi Loves Design has been a wonderful way for me to physically venture outside of my studio space, by doing regular pop-up shows in the Los Angeles area. I enjoy interacting with people and escaping the isolation artists so often feel when grinding away alone in their workspace day after day. This summer, I’ve started a new body of work, as I process the grief I am experiencing with the recent loss of my mom. They are small paintings on wood panels. My goal with the color palette has been to make “colorless color” because that is how my world feels without her. All of my paintings have elements of my childhood in them, symbols that represent moments in time. “Spaghettio hoops” are from a textile print on my mom’s favorite dress she wore in the 70s. Moon shapes are a reminder of my mom reciting the poem, “I see the moon and the moon sees me…” to me when I was a child. Cookie clouds and confetti gumdrops flash me back to childhood birthdays filled with sugary treats. This imagery is emblematic of my life, a virtual memory-scape. Only now, the memory-scapes are pale, washed out, their color drained away. There is a dialogue that exists between the paintings and the patterns. They often share a color story, with symbols and shapes literally plucked from my paintings and placed into the patterns for my fabric designs. The fabric collections coexist with my ongoing series of watercolors and paintings on wood. I enjoy going between the two practices, with painting being where my color magic happens. The physicality of the paint is something I could never replace in the digital realm. For me, everything begins as a painting.
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.
Oh gosh, I really have to think back to my pre-quarantine days! If LA was completely open again, and my best friend came to visit, I’d definitely want to welcome her by taking her to dinner at our favorite little quaint spot, Cafe Stella in Silverlake, starting off with a glass of wine at their cozy restaurant bar. We’d get tickets to see a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, because she’s never been, and it’s such a gorgeous, memorable experience, especially when the weather is cool and transitioning to fall. I’d love to take her to an Expressing Motherhood Show, which is Produced and Directed by a close friend of mine, Lindsay Kavet. It’s such a cathartic evening of women sharing their stories about motherhood, a wonderful show filled with laughter and tears. For shopping we’d head to Dean Accessories, Rolling Greens and Heath Ceramics, my top 3 favorite stores. For more shopping, we’d spend time strolling along Abbot Kinney in Venice, with lunch at Gjelina. For a spa day, the Raven in Silverlake, so we can pretend we’re in Southeast Asia. And then coffee and browsing all of the goodies at Broome St. General. For a change of scenery we’d walk around Little Tokyo, and check out the Chinatown Gallery Walk. Breakfast at our Eastside fave Lemon Poppy Kitchen in Glassell Park, and Pizza one night at Triple Beam in Highland Park. We’d visit the Getty for the jaw dropping views. Then we’d end the week at Pacific Cove for Mojitos and beachside brunch. It’s a lot to pack into one visit, but it can be done!
Christin Ciaccio, Paul Briggs