Ada Sokol & Alice Isaac Talk Design Approaches, Creative Advice, & Excitement for Us By Night
WORKING NOT WORKING
We’re excited to be partnering with Us By Night for the second consecutive year. The Antwerp-based design festival recently announced some of the lineup for this September’s festival, which has already created a significant amount of hype five months out. We caught up with two of the announced speakers, Paris-based WNW Member Ada Sokol and London-based WNW Member Alice Isaac, to discuss their design approaches, favorite projects, advice for creatives, and why they’re excited to take part in Us By Night this year.
How would you describe your creative approach? Are there certain ideas, ideals, influences, or goals that bridge your projects together?
Ada: “Sensual, photorealistic, and delicate.” This statement anchors my creative approach. Typically, these three approaches combine to speak a unique visual language that’s both eccentric and beautiful.
The natural and mechanical realms are both valuable to me. I constantly need to be around both, but cannot have far more of one over the other. In that sense, I conceptually love narratives connected to both nature and new technologies. That is my way to find a balance between the natural and mechanical realm, even if that sounds cliche.
Tell us your creative secrets. What's your advice on finding your style and craft?
Ada: Style is an amalgamation of what attracts you, what excites you, and what you have experienced. The acknowledgement of this mixture forms your style. Mastering your craft is hard work. It’s a daily grind for improvement, combined with immense motivation. Only you can push yourself to become better and better.
Alice: For me, finding my “style” actually came from being totally ill-equipped skill wise! I was so late to the game I didn’t have the luxury of time to hone a craft so using collage was kind of born out of necessity - I needed a way of working that I could pick up quickly and manipulate using my rather minimal skillset.
A couple of years ago I started assisting the artist Quentin Jones, and working with her has been a huge influence on my style and process. While assisting her I taught myself After Effects by watching endless tutorials and developed what I create now by just messing around, trying to make very simple animation look cool. I’m learning new things and techniques all the time so I feel like my current style is something that will inevitably adapt and improve as I get better. My style is essentially a work in progress.
I think finding your style and craft comes through a lot of experimentation, teaching yourself new processes, and trial and error. I know that not everything I try is going to work but I’ve had so many happy accidents approaching it that way and gotten to places I never would have thought to go without making a huge mess first. Just try everything and don’t be afraid to fuck up! It’s part of the process.
What's been your favourite projects to date and why?
Ada: It’s always extra special when you have full autonomy over the project’s artistic direction, with nothing but your own gusto and imagination existing as a boundary. In a unique personal project, Etienne Garachon and I developed “SHIMO,” a jewelry collection and brand. We developed absolutely every detail from start to finish - from the story behind the brand, its name and logo, the emotions each piece of jewelry should evoke, and the ultimate jewelry designs that would physically represent the brand’s narrative and values. It was the brainchild of many abstract thoughts in our mind, just waiting to be visualised. The pursuit of this vision was a remarkable experience.
Eyewear designs are tricky and every detail has to be thorough to demonstrate the craftsmanship of the accessory. Yet, in my campaign with brands Gentle Monster and Moooi, they have trusted in me and given me freedom in terms of the visual results. This made the work even more enjoyable.
As well, a definite milestone was the international Nike Air Max Dia campaign launch earlier this year. The day before my 25th birthday, I actually happened to walk by Nike’s flagship store in Paris and there it was, by the window - my works fully blown to my height and ready for the world to see (and yes, I cried). Of course, I took to Instagram to share my positive and grateful sentiments with all who’ve supported me along the way only to see that it’s been featured in countries I haven’t even stepped foot in. Needless to say, it was the best birthday present I’d received.
Alice: Working with the incredible photographer Carlos Serrao on an editorial film and stills for Flaunt magazine in partnership with Prada. He’s someone I’ve fan-girl’d for a long time: he’s shot some of my favourite Nike campaigns and is a pretty big deal! Carlos took a bit of a leap of faith when he approached me to work on this and having that vote of confidence from someone like him was massive for me. He also let me run riot with the footage and images and while it was a pretty tight turnaround it’s rare to get that kind of freedom.
What’s something you’ve learned on your journey that other creatives should hear?
Ada: Work smarter, not harder - I can’t stress this enough. One can be ever so passionate about their craft, but working 24/7 is never a good idea and will undoubtedly lead to burnout. Balance is important. In an effort to be more productive, I sharpen my mind by ensuring I learn something new about 3D daily, and I treat my body with well-deserved care through sleep, exercise, and healthy food after a day of hard work.
Gather a support system that will help you unconditionally, whether you’re gaining momentum or reaching a stage of lethargy. My friends have been my rock throughout the years, reminding me to keep going. Lastly, if you don’t trust your instinct already, make the mindset shift you need now! Remember that you are meant to be doing what you’re doing — there’s no one else you can relate to but you, so follow your intuition.
Alice: Primarily to take risks and take chances. You just don’t know where it will lead…. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I hadn’t taken a HUGE chance on changing the direction of my career. I’d still be a miserable, creatively frustrated producer!
I’ve spent the past couple of years saying “yes” to every project that has come my way, and almost every single one has put me out of my comfort zone and forced me to figure out how to make it a success. I've learned so much about myself and my abilities and just how much I need an anger management course….
Secondarily, crippling self-doubt and imposter syndrome are not exclusive to relative newbies like me - and people aren’t talking about it enough. When I have admitted my own insecurities to other creatives, SO many of them (a lot of them senior / director level) have the same anxieties... It’s something that never completely disappears no matter how much experience you have but it’s got me thinking that it should be something we embrace - questioning our abilities and having that kind of self-reflection probably makes you a better designer / animator / artist because of it.
What sealed the deal and made you say yes to speaking at Us By Night?
Ada: What drew me in was the challenge of speaking to a crowd. Every day, I endeavour to take strides personally and professionally; a platform like Us By Night is the largest crowd I’ll have the honour to entertain to date. I‘m making some witty one-liners for this audience to provide a memorable approach to important issues in the art world in front of people who will understand it the most.
Alice: That was an incredibly easy decision! I honestly couldn’t believe it when I was asked if I would like to be part of the line-up. I had to read the email a few times just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating! It’s such an incredible event; the spectrum of talent Rizon pulls in to speak in is pretty insane. Year after year, they seem to round up everyone who I’ve ever admired and been inspired by and they get them under one roof... The whole vibe and atmosphere of the place is so good too.
It’s genuinely a very surreal situation for me; the last time I went to Us by Night, I was working as a producer. I never would have dared to imagine that a couple of years later I would see my name on that lineup.
Which UBN2019 speakers are you looking forward to seeing and why?
Alice: Out of everyone that has been announced so far I’d say: Suckuk and Bratwurst - they are killing it at the moment, doing some really bonkers 3D stuff. Likewise, Ada Sokol’s work is stunning. Ezra Miller is beyond inspiring and doing unique shit I’ve never seen before. Fisk and Bonsoir Paris I’ve been a fan of for years and I’m super excited to hear them talk about their work. I’m going to try and see as many people as possible, there are so many good ones!
Header image by Ada Sokol