Nike Design Exploration Presents
Artist Spotlight: Lea Colombo
Vibrant is the word that immediately comes to mind when viewing Lea Colombo’s photography. The striking hues, unusual poses and special processing techniques Lea uses give her work a distinct look that stands out in a crowded field. The London by way of Cape Town artist put her unique vision to work for Every Stitch Considered, the newest collection from Nike Design Exploration. Her prowess with both digital and physical media combines the classic with the modern, though for Lea the approach is completely organic.
Lea was eager to talk about her process, and found many parallels between the way she works and the way the Every Stitch Considered line came together. Her intimate images and video, seen here, reveal Lea in front of the camera as well as behind. This dedication to craft is at the heart of her work, and comes through vividly in all she captures.
Can you tell us about how you created this body of work for Every Stitch Considered? You made everything in and around your home, right?
Lea: Yes. I was confined to the house and was just able to creatively step into a place where I needed to make a body of work within this space and with the tools and elements that I had there. Even if one had to be very literal with Every Stitch Considered, it was just a very free flowing way of working and trying lots of different textures and adding layers to the images and just going with it in a very intuitive manner.
Are you able to tap into any special creative space when you're creating like that, or is there different energy to it compared to when you're working in a more traditional way?
Lea: It allows you to really just go with your intuition. You don't have anyone else around watching you, seeing what you're doing. Or maybe lending another opinion to what one is doing. That's why it was a very fun and freeing experience, because normally the way I work is quite intuitive already. I embarked on this little journey over these few days where I was trying out all the pieces and just exploring the possibilities of what I could do and also how else to bring in a bit of color and energy.
I embarked on this journey where I was trying out all the pieces and just exploring the possibilities of what I could do.
I wondered if all your experience shooting other people blended into your own process of shooting yourself?
Lea: Yes and no. I feel like with myself there's also a different barrier that I had to overcome, my own personal obstacles with photographing myself. Not being self-conscious. We're always the hardest on ourselves. So it was an interesting experience and it allowed me to just accept myself in a lot of ways, which was a beautiful process, and let go of perfection and see beauty in different ways and forms.
Looking in the mirror, experimenting with poses, taking photos, running over to review them… is it fun for you to engage in the physical aspect of making art?
Lea: Definitely. I think if you were a fly on the wall, you'd be having a good time just watching me. Upside down in the living room, doing god knows what. Yeah, it's super fun. I have to say, definitely was a bit of a workout too. Mama mia. Some of the times I was like, "Whoa, this is really exhausting."
That's so funny.
Lea: Getting a bit of a workout while producing all the work.
It sounds like ESC was a good uniform for your process then.
Lea: It really was. I was able to move so freely and it was great.
You've talked before about how color has different healing properties and how it affects people differently. How do you think emotion and color work together for you?
Lea: For me, color is so important and essential. It's so interesting because color is always changing and emotions are always changing. I don't normally see in black and white, but this body of work was all photographed in black and white, more or less. So for the first time I started seeing in black and white and doing the opposite and then thinking, how do I apply this energy and color onto the images?
For me, color is so important and essential… color is always changing and emotions are always changing.
I wondered if you could take me through what the process is like for creating one of your photographs.
Lea: The first step would be to choose an item, put it on. Really, I don't think about things too much beforehand, so it's more where am I? What am I doing? And then just grabbing the camera. It's either working with available light or adding light and just really creating things in the moment. That was also me turning upside down and really moving my body in ways and just getting interesting angles and shooting a few images. From that, it would be working on the images, changing a few things on the computer. Printing them, and then adding. The contrast between light and dark.
Then, taking that print and reworking it with other layers of paint or pastels or drawings. Anything that really came to me as I held this print. It wasn’t really thinking, just doing. Letting that intuition take over, in a way. Rescanning the print and then just reworking some of them on the computer again. It's all these different layers and sometimes it would end earlier, sometimes it would be more layers. It really depends.
Every Stitch Considered is all about exploring the future of craft. One of the things that is fascinating to me about your work is how effortlessly you combine classic photography techniques with new technology and aesthetics.
Lea: I started printing four years ago, which opened up a whole new world of color and energy. It was another way of exploring elements and working very freely with color and light and exposure. That definitely made me see and think in other ways. For me, what I love is also being able to explore and not limit oneself to just one way of working. So that's why this project was also so great. Because I had the freedom to really explore this craft, or different craft and put it all together. Which lends itself well to what I was working with and also the collection and all those elements.
How can I do something new or something that I haven't done and further that craft?
What's your relationship to craft when you're working and how does it differ when you're working on a computer versus with your hands?
Lea: One thing I've also always enjoyed is trying out new craft. Not limiting myself to one specific craft, but then also connecting that, or putting that craft and taking it and translating it into something digital is also super fun. It's a personal exercise in myself, how can I evolve in that way? How can I do something new or something that I haven't done and further that craft?
Do you think consciously about mixing history with the future?
Lea: I think perhaps subconsciously I do. But, consciously, no. I think I just like to explore.
Nike Design Exploration presents the first collection from Every Stitch Considered. ESC will continue to explore the future of craft in seasons to come. For more of Lea’s work, visit here.
Every Stitch Considered does not pretend to be anything but what it is: intensely thoughtful craftsmanship for the modern era of athleticism. Effortlessly unassuming and openly ambitious, ESC propels timeless fashion into the future, leveraging old-world artistry and classic style to create something uniquely of-the-moment.