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Meet the Badass Brooklyn Art Collective You've Never Heard Of

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Oct 04 2017

Cassandra and I first met when we were young, poor, and living in Bed Stuy. As I floundered, she settled into what would become her long-term home. Her art connected her to the people around her, first as a student, then as a freelancer painting murals and business logos for neighbors, and, most recently, as a founder of a local women's art collective called Fem Foundry. Cassandra's work is unflinchingly bright, peculiar, and accessible, even when life and Brooklyn are not. I'll let her take it from here:

In one sentence, who are you?

A queer, shapeshifting, creative cat mama with a big heart.

What do you do? How did you learn it?

I am currently an illustrator and a textile designer. When I was a kid, I used to draw little doodles on dinner napkins and give one to everyone at the table. I loved sharing my art with everyone.

When I was around six, my mom enrolled me in a summer program at The Baum School of Art in Pennsylvania. There, I learned all the technical aspects of drawing and painting. I went to Baum every summer for 10 years. Then I got an academic scholarship to Pratt Institute.

The next thing I knew, I was living in Brooklyn and working my ass off. During my senior year, I focused my thesis on textile design. I always liked the idea of bringing my designs off the page and applying them to T-shirts, pillows, hats, chairs, bedding, etc.

I graduated in 2015, and a few of my friends from college and I started Fem Foundry. One of the best things about art school is getting your work critiqued by your peers, and the Foundry lets us continue that. Plus, we do a lot of other fun things, like organizing drink and draws, having gallery shows, and tabling at art fairs.

Like many other twenty-somethings, I had to start paying rent after school. I worked a few odd jobs—did branding for local restaurants, taught painting classes, designed event posters, and helped out at an animation studio. There were many times when I had no idea what I was doing, but I’m a big believer in fake it 'til you make it.

About a year after graduation, I landed a job as a textile designer at Deborah Connolly Designs, a small company in Midtown Manhattan. I went into the interview clueless about the industry, and now, two years later, I can tell you everything you could possibly want to know about designing bath towels, beach towels, kitchen towels—really any kind of towel.

Image by Cassandra Joy Fountaine

3 favorite possessions?

  1. The first and only quilt I ever made
  2. A white gold locket my mother gave me with our pictures in it
  3. My black denim Fem Foundry jacket that I decked out with pins and patches and my eyeglass collection

What does a typical work session look like?

Right now, I’m designing beach towels for next summer. There’s usually some sort of inspiration or color story for the designs, and then it begins! I work primarily on a Wacom drawing tablet with either Photoshop, Illustrator, or Nedgraphics. Most designs go through a few revisions before I send them out for production.

When I’m illustrating at home, I like using traditional mediums like gouache paint and charcoal pencil. I also enjoy playing around on my iPad in Procreate. It’s exciting what technology is bringing to the table for creative people.

I’m a total podcast junkie while working. Some of my favorites are Reply All, Freakonomics Radio, On Being, Revisionist History, Lovett It or Leave It, Nancy, Death, Sex & Money. If I sit in silence, I tend to overthink things; listening to something keeps my momentum going, and it’s a great way to track how long I’ve been working on a project.

Image by Cassandra Joy Fountaine

How do you get over creative block?

At work, I’ll just start a new design in order to keep the juices flowing, and then when I’m in my groove, the trickier designs come more easily. With painting and illustrating, I try to step away and come back to it later, or sometimes I flip a drawing backwards or upside-down so I can see it from a new perspective.

What was the last item on your to do list?

Buy cat food at the bodega.

Image by Cassandra Joy Fountaine

How do you see the world in 2078?

Technology is going to change everything. Hopefully, by 2078, old, white, male Republicans won't be calling all the shots in politics, and there will be peace and happiness among all races and religions.

What’s your number one bucket list item?

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

Oooh… Lauren Callaghan is amazing. She’s such a talented illustrator, I’m very into her use of patterns and bright colors. The designer Ramey Masri is mind blowing, he runs the Instagram @space.ram. Everything is rainbows— everything. I bought some silkscreen prints from Natalie Andrewson at MoCCA Fest a few weeks ago and hung them by my desk. It makes me happy to look at them. I also love Oliver Hibert. His graphic, funkadelic paintings are amazing. But honestly, I’m constantly creative crushin’ on all the talented members of Fem Foundry. I’m so thankful to have them as my friends; they are such an inspiration.

Check out their work at femfoundry.com; on Instagram; or on Facebook.

  • Paloma Nikolic

    Business Development Associate, The Teachers Guild, IDEO San Francisco
    Paloma is a queer feminist only child who is happiest when she is cooking for friends or dancing in the daytime. She's currently transitioning from being a buyer of books to a devoted user of the library.
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