Aneesa Shami Zizzo joins us to share her journey as an artist and more about her inspiration. Aneesa is a local Los Angeles artist and arts-based researcher with a focus on upcycling materials to create fiber art.
How did you get into art, specifically fiber and weaving?
I’ve wanted to be an artist my entire life - I can’t remember wanting to do anything else! So many things have contributed to my journey in fiber and weaving. Both my grandma and teta are talented crafters, so I think I picked up a lot of my love for fiber art and making with my hands from them. When I was around 12 years old, my mom signed me up for after school art classes at a local art center. The person leading the center was a fiber artist, and taught us different fiber techniques, including how to sew on a machine, silk painting, and paper making, alongside traditional drawing and painting projects. This really influenced how I began to think about art, which carried into my high school art classes and prepared me for future studies in college. Once I was in college, I shopped around the different departments and finally settled on joining the Fiber department - which was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself and my art practice. My professors really helped me to shape my perspective of art, in addition to sharing fiber techniques and ways of working. I never planned to be a “fiber artist,” but I’m really enjoying myself and hope for many more years of making fiber work!
Where did you study?
I went to the Kansas City Art Institute, a four-year college dedicated to visual arts in Kansas City, MO, and double majored in Fiber and Art History.
What is fiber art?
Fiber art typically encompasses work that uses fiber materials (fabric, yarn and thread to name a few), or fiber techniques (sewing, weaving, quilting, etc.) to create an object.
I like to consider my collage and drawing projects as fiber works as well, largely because I think my knowledge of fiber techniques influences my works on paper, so there is a sense of tactility similar to my textile or fiber pieces.
What is craftivism?
Craftivism is a form of art activism centered on practices of craft. The term “craftivism” was popularized by Betsy Greer, the self-proclaimed godmother of craftivism. She explains craftivism is a way to take steps toward change, expressing feelings outwardly in “a visual manner without yelling or placard waving.” Some well-known craftivist projects include the Pussyhat Project and AIDS Quilt Memorial. I think there are a number of ways to participate in craftivism outside of groups or large social practices. Some things include: making your own clothing or mending an exisiting wardrobe instead of buying fast fashion, sourcing your craft material from secondhand stores (like Remainders in Pasadena!), or even teaching a friend how to knit or crochet. Craftivism encourages creativity and sharing our personal truths, and I think pushing the boundaries of what that looks like will help us find more ways to connect with one another in community.
What is a favorite project you’ve worked on?
There are so many great projects I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in, it is hard to choose my favorite! The most recent one was a collaboration with The Elder Statesman for their Pre-Fall 2023 Lookbook. I transformed a pair of UGG shoes with upcycled fiber material, making my own rope from fabric scraps and knotting various yarn together to create fluffy wearable sculptures.
Who is your favorite artist?
What a difficult question!! This changes so often. Lately, I’ve been very inspired by indie yarn dyer, Sewrella Yarn. Her eye for color is impeccable, and the way she runs her small business is incredibly smart and creative. Looking at her IG account always gives me a little boost.
How do you maintain your creativity?
This is such an important question. I think a lot of my techniques for maintaining creativity stems from self-care; if I’m not feeling my best, I’m less likely to be creative. This also applies to my environment. I am very inspired by my stash of material in studio, so I’ll try to have yummy fabric or yarn out on my desk in studio or at home. When I walk by, I’ll get excited about making all over again! I also like to have at least one sketchbook going, which I work in before I dive into bigger projects. Collaging in my sketchbook allows me to loosen up and connect with myself, which helps me problem solve and work through my more “serious” projects.
What advice can you give to aspiring artists and craftspeople?
Follow your passion! This looks different for everyone, but I think the core tenets are: working with a medium you love, connecting with yourself and knowing your inner truth, and being surrounded by a creative community. For me, being part of a supportive community is key for the longevity of my art practice.
Join Aneesa virtually April 27th at 6pm PDT and learn how to participate in Craftivism through the art of Mending. Follow Aneesa on Instagram and check out her website to stay up to date on her art.
Aneesa Shami Zizzo is an artist and arts-based researcher in Los Angeles upcycling materials to create fiber art. Her work references the sublime and world mythologies to evoke a sense of the collective unconscious within her imagery. Zizzo holds Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in both Fiber and Art History from the Kansas City Art Institute. She was the Textile Arts | Los Angeles AIR at Helms Design Center in 2018, and was a Fellow for the Mildred’s Lane Attention Labs: Order of the Third Bird in 2015. Zizzo’s work has been exhibited nationally in galleries and museums, including the Torrance Art Museum, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum, among others. She is also the co-owner and director of Studio 203, an artist-run space in Los Angeles promoting fiber art, craft-based work and social practices.