To introduce our new series, FIGURES, which some of you may have already become aware of on our Instagram story yesterday, Cynthia sat down with Lizzie Oh of Bedroom Design Club to chat with her about being in the creative business and what led her to it.
FIGURES will highlight the career of one individual in the creative business each month whom we are inspired by and whose work we want to highlight.
Interviewer’s note - Cynthia, co-founder of MOVIDA
" I knew Lizzie from the times we worked together at Rotman Commerce Students’ Association. At the time, she was a second-year workaholic who had to balance her life between a full-time university schedule, her role as a full-time president of Rotman Commerce Students' Association and a full-time co-owner of a bakery. You get the picture...you won’t always see her in class. As her ex-coworker, I have seen her in a vast range of emotion from being energetic, dependable, empathetic, grumpy, introverted, to talkative… the list may go on for a while, and that’s why the name “Lizzie” triggers a distinct image in my head every time I think of it. The list of adjectives in front of her name is, just like her, constantly growing. Despite the extensive serious time, we have spent together as co-workers, I have never gotten the chance to see a full picture of her creative side.
During our last years of school, she almost disappeared from the business school scene and went on an exchange and travelled Italy. Instead of applying to jobs in her field of study after graduation, she embarked on a self-taught designer path and launched Bedroom Design Club (BDC), a virtual place to gather her learning process and products of paper design. Now thinking back to our co-working times, the experimental and creative elements in her had been traceable, all along. "
Q AND As
Where are you from?
I’m from Korea. I was born there and I lived there until age 9 before I moved to Canada. I have been here since.
What are your favourites in the place you are from?
I was born in the Southside called Mokpo. It’s a seaside city. I didn’t grow up there as I grew up in Seoul. It’s nice there because people are friendly, and there’s a lot of seafood and it feels like a countryside. I love it! But Seoul, I don’t know, I guess it’s a lot of childhood memories. I just remember seeing the city turning more commercial and, I guess, more developed. Walking around the city, and see the neon signs everywhere. For me, it was such a crazy magical place.
How long have you been in Toronto?
What are the things you would do on a perfect Saturday in Toronto?
It really depends on the season. In summer, I usually just go to anywhere with a lot of greens and a lot of coffee. Kensington Market...I love going there and Ossington is also a nice area. In the winter, I would just go to the Art Gallery, or somewhere indoors. For food, I always go out for ethnic food. That’s a thing for me.
Was Lite Bakery a means of unleashing your creativity? Or what was the thought right before you made the decision?
I have always wanted to be a doer. You know we always grow up thinking “oh, it would be cool if I do this.” That was the moment when I decided that I am going to make this happen. I really wanted to learn to bake at the time because that was when social media was picking up the bakery trends. I wanted to be part of that. So I gave my parents and myself a justified reason to bake daily, which is to own my own bakery.
When you think more about the "why"
and let go of the "how",
you will figure it out on the way.
Were you not a baker before that?
No, and I just wanted to learn. When you think more about the "why" and let go of the "how", you will figure it out on the way.
The most unforgettable moment for as a bakery owner and a full-time student and a full-time president?
The night before an assignment due. I also had an event the next day. And I was there baking cupcakes. While the cupcakes are in the oven, I would be doing my assignment. It was such an intense moment. Of course, when I was all tired, I was thinking whether I should give up and if everything was worth it. Should I find a reason to not hand in my assignment? But the constraint at that difficult moment really made me think more creatively outside the box to make things faster and more efficient. The happiest moment was seeing all the baked goods all at once thinking that was worth it. Now that I look back at it, it really has built me to tolerate risks, ambiguity and be okay with not knowing how to do things but learning on the go. I am just very happy that I did that.
When and how did you fall in love with the paper visuals you are doing now?
I started designing with a lot of digital designs. I wanted to learn how to photograph and make videos. For one of the videos, I decided to make props out of paper, because one it’s very cheap, two it’s super versatile. Eventually, it just became a very interesting medium to work with. There’s so many colours, textures and you can form it in any way you want but you can’t really form it in any way you want. I think that’s a really good balance of constraints and versatilities. Growing up in Korea, paper crafts are so ubiquitous and I am so used to making little things with paper like trash bins, envelopes, folders.
You are never gonna be happy as long
as you are trying to make another person happy.
How did the transition happen from business school to what you do now? What caused to pursue a creative career?
There were a few critical moments that proved a creative career was viable for me. One is this course called business design that I took in my third year of university, and that showed me that I can design a business and the word “design” came to me with such impact. So I was asking what is design, what is art, what is the difference? I also had a trip to San Francisco for a creative conference and there I met so many people who are making a living as a designer. I understood that this is a career where you don’t starve and gets a balance between art and business. Also, I went on an exchange trip to Italy and during my stay, I saw how creative people are there and I stopped hearing people talking about jobs and corporate. I was like wow why are we so obsessed with jobs and careers? On top of those 3 factors, business always gives a lot of pressure and I was never enjoying doing the jobs in business.
So I took a year off and built a syllabus off of the ones from the top 10 design schools I would have gone to, and started my self-taught design master class.
You are never gonna be happy as long as you are trying to make another person happy.
What inspired you to do the #23thingsat23?
I work full time in CIBC as a designer, and I always try to have a project for a month as a way to pick up new skills and tools. In January and Feb, I was counting down to my birthday. Knowing that I wanted to learn animation. Of course, I am going to use paper, but in animation. I am not even done yet. I think I am stuck at 15 and I don’t have enough time to finish.
What was the best and the worst moment since you started the venture?
Worst is not knowing if I will have a job. It’s every day waking up and thinking “am I doing the right thing?” The best moment was when I got the job at CIBC. It literally just fell into place at such right moment. It’s all the affirmation I needed.
It’s important for creatives to constantly have clients
in the conversation but lead the conversation
because they are never gonna say what they want until they see it.
What does a typical project look like from start to finish? What are the steps?
First, a client will come to me and tell me what they’d like to have as their installation. Then we go through the pricing part based on the budget. I always tell the creatives that they need to get paid. Based on that, I adjust my creative freedom. If they pay me a lot, they will tell me specific things to do and I will just execute. On the contrary, if they don’t pay me a lot, the project is more for myself. After that, I put together a spec document. If it’s something physical, I need to know the dimensions of the window, how deep it is and what’s the capability. I need to know what space I am working with. If it’s digital, I will need to find out what my playground is. If it’s an application, for what operating system, what kind of devices, what do you have so far etc. Later on, I put together a Pinterest board including the colour palettes, composition and elements such as typography and involve my clients in the choosing process. However, it’s important for creatives to constantly have clients in the conversation but lead the conversation, because they are never gonna say what they want until they see it. From there, I create a mockup of the space, essentially a photo of what the window is going to look like. Then I make the prototypes, which is what I am doing now and 10x smaller than the actual installation.
Out of all the jobs, paid, unpaid, volunteer, freelance etc...What job makes you the happiest?
Lately, I have worked with a fin-tech (financial technology) startup and it felt good because there’s a lot of mutual respect and the team is composed of well-intentioned students. Also, I got to create and build design systems. Say I am leaving the team, the next designer will know exactly what to do.
Eventually, people in third world countries
who don’t have access to design schools
can think of design as a viable path and an impactful thing to do.
What’s your vision for BDC?
I initially created BDC because it was literally my situation. I started learning design in my bedroom. The was a lot of learning happening every day and I want to document these learnings using a platform. The vision is to build a platform where people can learn and share their learning. Eventually, people in third world countries who don’t have access to design schools can think of design as a viable path and an impactful thing to do.
I love fashion as a form of art that lives and breathes.
That’s why I have this love-hate relationship with art galleries
because I think art galleries are where art goes to die.
What's your thought on the intersection of art and fashion?
I love fashion as a form of art that lives and breathes. That’s why I have this love-hate relationship with art galleries because I think art galleries are where art goes to die. I think art should be interacted with and consumed in all sensory ways. To me, fashion is such an interactive way to have art in our lives.
Who is your favourite artist? In any field...
Salvador Dali. I love Wes Anderson in cinema.
To you, what are the most important components of good style?
Cohesiveness with a hint of an accent.
What are your jewelry staples? And what does accessory mean to you?
I work with hands a lot so most of the accessories I wear are on my ears. I am quite low maintenance when it comes to accessorizing. Minimal and dainty pieces will do.
What are your favourite MOVIDA pieces? Why?
What are you doing today after our talk?
This! (pointing at her works on the coffee table) Bringing the prototypes to my clients and talk about them.
See more Lizzie's amazing works at @bedroomdesignclub
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