Velvit Welcomes Cassie Meder of CASSTRONAUT
Artist, filmmaker, model, Cassie Meder of moniker Casstronaut, sits down with Velvit to discuss her relationship with her art, her love for film, and finding her dark side.
For our newest curation, we had the opportunity to collaborate with fellow admirer of the darker side Cassie Meder on the release of her newest venture, Treasures of the Earth. Proceeding the launch of the film, We had the chance to sit down with Cassie and learn about her artistic process, her most memorable influences, and her take on fashion in the world of fine art.
Velvit: How far can you trace your love for the darker aesthetic preference?
Cassie Meder: I think from a fairly early age I felt quite a disconnect between my own interests, the interests of others my age, and what a little girl was expected to be interested in. I had my own little play time secrets like capturing different species of bugs and trying to make them live together in a colony. Or exploring the underground ruins of old buildings in my home town with boys that had fire colored skateboards. Movies like The Dark Crystal greatly influenced me -- speaking of which, that was the first indication I was kind of alone with my aesthetic influences. I took a VHS copy to my school to watch one recess and the teacher had to turn it off because it frightened the rest of the kids. It was pretty embarrassing but I still felt safe sneaking horror movies and pretending I could talk to animals. I think the isolation in that, my interest in old things and monsters, along with living in the gloomy pacific northwest in a 100 year old house shaped what I chose to consume and be influenced by. Every little experience I come across tends to collect and subconsciously grow in my constantly growing aesthetic.
V: Did you have another career path or focus before becoming an artist?
CM: I can't remember exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up because it changed so much. I only remember knowing what I didn't want to be and that was a lot. I think at one point I wanted to be a zoologist and then later Julie Andrews (that didn't work out). I was nudged to aspire to find a job that would support a family, but I saw how awful that made my dad feel at times so when he opened his own graphic design company it was simultaneously inspiring and discouraging. I was also taught that time is incredibly more valuable than money, so I imagined that the sacrifice and pain in doing something unconventional would be profoundly more rewarding than spending three quarters of my life at a job I thought was just okay. I started to focus more on music, making small models, and drawing at that point. My focus was everywhere, but it was never on sports or boys or school. Which was also somewhat isolating. I had a hard time relating to people where I grew up.
V: Where did you learn your many talents?
CM: I went to college briefly, but it felt wrong before I even started, so I quit right before I got a degree. Some people gasp at that, but I don't regret it at all. If I ever want to go back, I can. I've always felt a freedom in the possibilities in doing anything you want and building yourself up if you dedicate yourself to it completely. I don't have any student loans and very little debt, so I can do anything at this point and if I can't, I can teach myself or go back if it feels right. I have nothing against school, I just don't believe all 7 billion of us learn in the exact same way. I've taught myself through much trial and error. Giving up, taking over projects alone, working with small teams, working with large teams, befriending those that are much cooler than me, traveling, failing, succeeding, reading, experimenting, crying, and eventually just throwing everything aside and riding that roller coaster full time.
V: How is your relationship with drawing today in contrast to a few years ago?
CM: I've been drawing as long as my memories go back. I was no prodigy, but it was a favorite of mine and I exhibited a sense of personal style early on. For example, I hated putting my name on my work because I felt it ruined the composition. I would always paint over it. I also had an eye for symmetry, which I still think I have today. It's difficult to talk about my older works, even as early as last year, because I see my work in such a narrow way and usually dislike it after a few months (or weeks, or days). One major difference is that I used to work with a lot of color, but it all felt very contrived and nothing of my own. Just a lot of imitation and trying to be "artsy". One day, I can't remember which or concerning what piece, but I was very happy with my line work and then I ruined it by trying to add color. Since then I usually avoid color. It feels more natural that way. Or I'm just a coward.
V: What is your process like when creating a new series of illustrations?
CM: A series usually starts as a very spur of the moment thing. It's when inspiration strikes hardest. Or when I have a very specific idea to express. That's always the fastest part of the process. The rest is weeks, or sometimes months gathering information, studying, and collecting reference. A series is tough though, they take a lot of time for me because my work is usually pretty detailed and tedious, not to mention I'm incredibly anal, so keeping things consistent can be a bit of a challenge.
V: How do you think your illustrations and your film work have crossed into the same realm?
CM: Aesthetically, I would hope that all my work would come off as cohesive, but I think the reason I dabble in too many mediums is because I'm far from perfect at any of them, so when I feel limited by one, I move on to the next. I don't think they exactly cross over because at any given moment one is more liberating than the rest and helps me to communicate that specific idea.
V: When did you first start showing interest in filmmaking?
CM: When I was a teenager I got a video camera for Christmas, and it was at the dawn of internet video, so I had a blast creating silly shorts with my sisters for many years. I was introduced to a small network of real filmmakers through the internet at that time, so it was a huge help to my understanding of the possibilities coming of age for everyone. It was about 2010 that something in me decided I could make video work as a form of art that could hold a little more substance than a burping Christmas carol video would.
V: Whats your pre-production process like when starting to work on a film? How do you garner inspiration?
CM: Movies inspire me immensely. Same goes for music videos. I haven't seen a new music video in a long time, but I have a mental library of films, art projects, and music videos that have sparked something in me over the years. For awhile, all the preparation work I would do was... "turn on camera... check." That's still the case sometimes for my smaller projects, but now I have somewhat of a meditation process that's working out so far. I spend time alone with whatever piece of music I'm obsessed with at the moment and think about what it makes me feel without limiting myself (time, equipment, etc). Once I have a rhythm of shots mentally visible, I write them down and scale them back to my budget and allotted time. This varies on the project, but usually a simple interior and exterior shot list, along with a call sheet and schedule works just fine. If I'm stuck on a certain shot I may practice the camera movements or the lighting beforehand. I've tried story boarding a few times, but it doesn't do much for me. A lot of my work could be considered guerrilla to some degree, as most of my projects are loosely planned and highly experimental, just going with the moment.
V: Who are some of your influences in film/direction that you draw from in your own work?
CM: That's a hard question. I'm influenced by so many films, I appreciate every person that helped to make them. It's also difficult to clump an influence on a few people because I take small things even from films and filmmakers I generally don't like. There are little gems of good in even the bad! I've always been drawn to the dreamlike work of Baz Lurhmann, so perhaps that comes out in my work at times. All of the art direction in Guillermo Del Toro's films are fantastic as well. And I think Darren Aronofsky is a fantastic story teller. Ridley Scott is another guy up there. My friends inspire me greatly as well, so they're always keeping that fire alive in me.
V: What are some of your most memorable collaborations with past few years?
CM: I have a friend who designs couture and bridal fashion in Portland, Holly Stalder. She collaborated with me on the design for my wedding dress and it was a blast. I wanted something that could be worn again and didn't look too "bridally", so I've already been able to churn out a couple of small projects with it. I also finished my first vaguely narrative short with my best friend, Kindra Timmerwilke, in 2013 and it was a real challenge. Her work is in many ways opposite of mine, but she offered a lot to the writing and art direction to the film. As well as unprecedented moral support and cooperation. It was a great learning experience.
V: Can you tell us about some of your artistic accomplishments?
CM: My first and only art exhibit was in Malaysia along with several artists I greatly respect. I also took this year off from commissioned work to hone in on developing my style further, and while I haven't had the time to do that as much as I would have liked, I was able to complete a piece I'm very proud of in collaboration with my favorite clothing company. Some of the proceeds of the prints are going to the suffering in Syria and Europe as well, so it's feeling rewarding to be able to give to those who don't have the freedoms that I do.
V: What can you tell us about your latest piece, Treasures of Earth?
CM: Treasures of Earth is one of those accidentally expressionist projects. It started as a very last minute collaboration (my actress was about to move to LA - the very next day!) and turned into a personal profession. It is of course about the curse of being owned by possessions and surrounding yourself with material goods rather than filling yourself with company of genuine people and spiritual treasures. This is mostly inspired by people I've know personally, who are trapped by outer appearance and forgetting that their brain isn't their brand. Although I'm guilty of it too. Having a social media presence can feel empty if you use it incorrectly, and since moving to Nashville I've been extremely isolated, almost locking myself up in my apartment. So there's a lot of me in that too, being bound to one place by my own choices. This film was also a result of having ants in my pants - Crimson Peak was on my mind in every way, so I think I had a lot of inspiration to get out of my system. I think the concept of the film does allude somewhat to Guillermo's motif in his film - of the Sharpe's being possessed by a home, a name, and the past and all. Crimson Peak was depressingly good. Like, so good there's no point to get out of bed and think of anything else.
V: How have you been able to blend your work in the finer arts with your interest in fashion?
CM: Working in fashion was a great tool to get started in all aspects of my work. It helped me to meet incredibly skilled and talented people in and out of the fashion industry all over the world. When I took one step out of fashion, I still had the tools to incorporate that art form into my own works. Knowing models that eventually turned into actresses, designers that are willing to lend clothing, makeup artists, photographers, etc. All have been a huge help in completing my vision. Being exposed to that part of the world also had a profound effect on my sense of art direction.
V: Do you feel that fashion and fine art have a deeper connection than just visual?
CM: Although I don't feel that fashion in the sense the world thinks of it is very important, I do think that self expression is. All the micro seasons and rules of the fashion industry are restrictive and definitely not art. That is just societal pressure. Creating textiles as a form of self expression and giving the opportunity for someone else to express themselves through their appearance is very important. The incorruptible and non-commercialized side of fashion. There's something special about hanging art in your home - it gives yourself and your guests a sense of who you are and how you live. A small piece of you they can see and understand straight away. The same goes for fashion. I think nothing is solely visual. If something does claim to be nothing other than visual, if it is truly meaningless, well, I have a hard time with that. Everything comes from somewhere within us. Our appearance included.
V: What is it about the macabre and darker aesthetic that you enjoy working with?
CM: Working with darker visuals is something I battle for and against daily. I do believe that the world is good, but I also believe that goodness is something horribly skewed within our society. I constantly feel like I'm drowning in shallow water. If I'm going to drown, I'd rather at least have the experience of seeing the depths of the ocean and feeling weightless before I go. Essentially, I enjoy challenging classic ideas of beauty with the juxtaposition of dark images, pain, and all that, in an attempt to question the world's infatuation with candies and roses and romance (I like all those things just fine). I embrace adversity and hardship, the ugly and unfavorable, as a tool for improving the good life I've been given. It's probably just the rebellious part of me that's so angry at Abercrombie & Fitch and the suburbs, but I really do have a good attitude, I swear! Working in the way of the macabre is my way of saying thanks for putting me through that hard shit, that was cool, now I'm better for it. I won't hide from it.
V: Black is....
CM: Black is the ocean, which I miss so much.
For more information on Cassie Meder, take a peak at her artist profile and check out her work in our upcoming curation ANIMYSTIC.