Many of us keep and catalogue our lives through the things we’ve acquired to bear witness along the way, but it takes a unique vision to use those items as the genesis for new ideas — and not just as remembrances of days past. Veronica Corzo-Duchardt is a Cuban-American artist, designer, and printmaker living in Chicago. She focuses on making abstract, limited-edition
Veronica is perhaps best known for a project called the Neche Collection, which is an online visual archive and print series that documents the story of her grandfather’s life though the objects he kept. As a Cuban exile of Lebanese descent with a knack for precise chronicling as a result of his accounting career, Veronica took inspiration from his treasured items to make her own prints. Today, Veronica shares her own beloved items with D*S so that we may take a peek inside her unique creative process. —Annie
Above portrait by Anjali Pinto
All other photography by Veronica Corzo-Duchardt
What’s in your toolbox?
I always have to have a notebook on me. I tend to prefer spiral bound, so my favorite right now are these Muji [notebooks]. Pens, pencils, tons of paper. One of the tools I use most often is my scanner. I often experiment with physical material — coffee grounds, sugar, cut paper, wood — I then scan them to use in my work. And I also have all my screen printing tools — screens, squeegees, water-based inks — oh yeah, and more paper.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
When I’m in my studio, I feel energized.
What is on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
I’m teaching a class right now at SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) based on my own methodology for creating work from objects, so most of the things I’m reading [at the moment] are related to the class. A lot of my inspiration comes from readings. I tend to have different kinds of books I’m engaging with at one time — scholarly, art, fiction, non-fiction, professional practice — I switch back and forth depending on where I’m at. I also keep paper ephemera and materials that I find interesting around me. I’m working on a new series based on walls from different cities, so right now those photos of wall surfaces I’ve taken pictures of [are inspiring me].
How do you keep yourself organized?
I go through ups and downs of being really organized and then having things all over the place. But in general, I keep a calendar both digitally and on my wall. I’m a very out-of-sight, out-of-mind with those things — so if I don’t see it, I’ll forget to do it. All my ideas, to-do lists, sketches etc. go into my notebook. And I’ve learned I need to keep ONE notebook at a time. I’ve tried keeping different notebooks for different things, but that just doesn’t work for me.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
Speed-reading and retention! I wish I could read something quickly and just have that knowledge in my head forever. I could learn new languages, art techniques, other cultures — the possibilities are endless! Sometimes, I get books thinking I already have this superpower.
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
Some of the best advice I received from a mentor of mine was to “just start making.” It’s really simple but I tend to get in my head and overthink things. It’s a good reminder that sometimes the only way to work through the ideas in your head is to actually work through them.
Advice I’d give to young artists / makers / designers is to start making the type of work you want to be making NOW. No one is going to knock on your door and ask you to do this, you need create the world you want to live in.
How do you combat creative blocks?
When I’m stuck I try to switch mediums. So if I’m trying to design on the computer, I step away and start playing with materials — get my hands dirty. Sometimes, it will be something completely different, like cooking. I love to cook (and eat!) so it’s a really great way for me to be creative, but still feel like I’m accomplishing something. It’s important for me to have different creative outlets so when I’m stuck somewhere I can switch it up; that usually helps me free my mind a bit to push past the block.
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
I find a lot of my inspiration from surroundings, from the people I surround myself with, to surface textures. I also love looking at online archives, artists’ sites that are outside of my medium, work from other countries. I’m also following Present & Correct blog and Instagram feed — they always post great things.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
I’d love to take a peek at Miranda July’s brain. She is such an insanely creative person, I’d love hear about her process for constructing her stories and projects.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
I’ve been playing [the band] Hurry Up on a loop for a while now. The record has so much great energy, makes me want to work…and play music.