May 2017

Stitched Up

The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail Text: Tristan Ceddia Images: Amber B Dianda

Amber B Dianda seems to do exactly what she wants. After growing up in country Queensland, she now takes refuge in LA with her husband, taking photos, working on various design projects and sewing weird and wonderful stuffed creatures. She had a show at colette a few years back and works closely with Element skateboards on their Advocates program… sounds like the dream right? Tristan Ceddia chats with Amber B Dianda about her life and ideas.

Tristan Ceddia: What inspired you as a child?

Amber B Dianda: I grew up on a farm, it was miles from anywhere, so nature and I became best mates. My brother and I would spend our days swimming in the river, making camp fires, climbing trees, and being adventurers. It’s still the one thing that grounds and inspires me today; being out in the bush.

TC: What provided the elixir for your career as a designer?

ABD: I think being shitty at something helps you better understand failure and success… Knowing how it feels to fail, gives you the motivation to try and succeed at the things that you are passionate about.

TC: Amongst other subjects, you take beautiful landscape photos. How would you describe your process as a photographer?

ABD: I’m a self-taught photographer, so I try to learn from everyone I meet. My passion for landscapes comes from growing up in the country. There was a vast expanse of nothingness but trees and earth, and that’s when I felt the most empowered.

I love to capture things with minimal influence from me when taking portraits. I am shy and quiet, so I find it exhausting to direct people to do something unnatural. I like to people watch, and therefore catch someone’s natural personality.

TC: As well as photography and design, you make a lot of unique stuffed creatures. Are these creatures a product of design or do things happen the other way around?

ABD: Usually I will think of an idea, sketch it, and then see if I can make it out of a material. The thought process is completely different than photography or design; you have to think and sew inside-out and backwards. There is something rewarding from making something out of nothing… I like having sore fingers after sewing something rad. It’s like getting blisters from chopping wood with an axe.

TC: Do you develop some sort of parental attachment to your creatures during the creative process?

ABD: Sometimes, especially if the creature is infused with how I felt when I made it, or it represents something I learned at the time. For example; when I made “Raowah!”, my creativity took over. I found this fabric at the op-shop, which was a one-and-a-half metre thin cord. Someone had cut the panels of a pair of pants out of it, so I just simply stitched the remaining fabric without shaping it, then added a mouth, eyes and arms, and there he was… Ra! I still keep him around to remind me of how not to overdo things.

TC: From reading your zines, your creatures all seem to have different personalities. Is this premeditated, or does their story come through in their realisation?

ABD: It can be one or the other depending on if it’s an idea I have been thinking about or a piece of fabric that invokes a creature. I dabble in commercial creativity, but my creatures are 100% me. They are purely for my entertainment and creative exploration, and are the one place that I don’t compromise for anyone else but myself.

TC: What is your favourite part of the day?

ADB: Late at night, in my studio with my husband editing at the desk next to me, while everyone else is sleeping. No interference, just us and our creative cloud.

TC: You had a show at Colette in 2008. I can imagine this being, amongst others, a high point in your career. How was your work received in Paris?

ADB: Colette is a phenomenon that the Parisians are proud of, and exhibiting there is an experience beyond explanation! But to completely appreciate it you have to view it on a world stage, because that is what you’re doing when you show there. Paris will always have a spacial place in my heart. But my favourite experience at Colette was while I was setting up…

For one day, they close the entire store to clean, restock, and to allow the artist time to prepare for the exhibition. Every shelf was emptied; every book, sneaker and designer toy was gone, and each new product was brought out, and meticulously placed in it’s new display.

At this point I had been setting up my front window display (six hours plus), when the gang of Jamaicans, who cleaned the place, came in. Tall and lanky, rasta clad, and dancing to music on there headphones that was so loud i could hear it. But most memorable was one guy balancing the vacuum in one hand, while smoking a joint, and perusing the hard-bound Damien Hirst, mirrored finish book before it was locked back into it’s protective lucite box. He winked at me when he noticed I was watching him.

TC: You grew up in sunny Queensland… what made you decide to move to LA?

ABD: My husband! He and I met while I was in LA for an art show. It was love at first sight! I tried to go home and return to normal, but everything had changed, and I knew I couldn’t live without him… So, here I am.

TC: I’m sure life there is very different to back home. What is the strangest thing that has happened to you since you arrived in the US?

ABD: Earthquakes! They are fun, but strange, as I love how it makes you feel so small and vulnerable. The last one we had made the solid earth feel like you were walking on waves of water.

On a daily basis, the strangest thing is my accent. Even though I’m speaking English, my Australian accent has made life more strange and confusing than ever before. When I say “doona”, “boob tube”, “chunkier” or “pash rash”; it invokes utter confusion and strange looks. My jokes are completely useless without translations and extensive explanations.

TC: How is the creative community there? Has moving to LA impacted your work much?

ABD: The creative community here is fierce. Australians root for the underdog, but in America the victor wins the spoils! Americans are often judged for their ruthless competitiveness and consumerism, but that same energy defines the fierce competitors in everything else; from sports, movie making, technology, and to kicking the English out in 1776…

It is a pretty amazing kinetics to be a part of creatively and socially. I am also lucky to be a part of the Element family, and as an advocate to the brand… I get to work with and learn from some of my favourite creatives.

TC: What is coming up in your world? Any last words?

ADB: I just launched a line of lambswool scarves with Otto & Spike: Mr Phoebus.

Art shows. Art shows. Art shows!

I Used to Skate Once exhibition in Brisbane on July 24.
The Keg show in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne through June.
One Way or Another fundraiser for Contributor in Canada through June.
A Solo art show in LA!
Happy Tree Element Advocate art show at Monster Children Gallery later in the year.
A Photo Tee series for Element Skateboards.
Lots and lots of new creatures!
Teaching the kids how to make zines at Elements YMCA Skate camp in the Sequoia National Park next month.
And a little personal project by the name of Le Morte (secret squirrels).

Amber B Dianda

Next story: Songs For Sorrow – Ben Ali Ong