Dawn Marie West

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I had the pleasure of working with Dawn Marie West in the Summer of 2015. She beautifully photographed the Melissa McGill, Morphologically feature that I wrote for Bohemian Collective. She is the kind of woman that surprises you with how truly driven and entrepreneurial she is, only because she emanates such a serene and unruffled nature that you find yourself wondering how she keeps calm with all of the coals she has simultaneously roasting in the fire.

Dawn has a sharp eye, a peaceful spirit and she moonlights as a hula-hooper—seriously check out her Instagram for reference—and she is a fierce champion of her fellow creatives. In addition to her photography, she is the founder of Maison Made NYC a budding art house and platform for the emerging artist.

Read all about her work and her vision here for this week’s installment of Wisdom Wednesday!

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1. Tell us a bit about your brand, Maison Made NYC, how you conceived of the idea and how you see the brand growing.

Maison Made NYC is an art house and platform for artists to have their work collectively represented to an alternative art audience while serving as inspiration for the emerging artist. As of right now, Maison Made is based online where I feature studio visits and interviews with emerging artists throughout the city.

Maison Made originated as a collective of the artists in my circle of friends. As an emerging photographer myself, we collectively decided to put on group shows together, representing every medium. It came out of the idea to have our work represented independently, as it has become increasingly more difficult and less realistic for many emerging artists to show their work in more prominent galleries of New York City. I interned as a Curatorial Assistant at a high-end contemporary photography gallery in Chelsea. It was that experience where I saw the disconnect for emerging artists, as only those with well-known connections and national or international recognition actually made it into the gallery. I realized how underrepresented many artists are, and saw that there was a need to be fulfilled. From there I decided to launch Maison Made as an alternative platform for emerging artists to gain recognition in their local market.

Currently, I am working on a range of journals for artists and creatives that focus on setting goals and intentions. The journals will be available through Maison Made. As for growth, I envision Maison Made to eventually become a co-working cooperative and rotating gallery space for our roster of artists. I have already seen so much momentum with Maison Made since launching in September of 2015 that I can see the expansion to a physical space in the near future.

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2. What are the biggest challenges you face day to day as a creative entrepreneur building your business?

I think the challenges I’ve encountered the most in building this business – and in my art work as well – is letting go of perfectionism. I won’t release a work until I feel it exceeds my own expectations. In my experience, it is our own perception of perfection that holds us back, and so the remedy for me is just getting the work out there. Placing a deadline on myself helps with that. It is scary at first, but once I let go of the idea of it being perfect and get it in front of my audience, I am always amazed with how it is received.

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3. What are the skills that you’ve cultivated throughout your life that help you in your work?

I think having to critique work in school is one of the skills that really made me a stronger artist. It also has made receiving critiques of my work a little less of a blow because I’m so used to it now.

I also put a lot of emphasis on aesthetics and I find that having a solid, cohesive brand is the strongest ambassador of the work you put out. A lot about branding and knowing what you want to convey through your brand is about looking inward at who you are, what your voice is and how to translate that in your business.

Finally, I’ve cultivated skills that have absolutely nothing to do with my work, and somehow I’ve been able to incorporate those skills into my work in some way. An example that comes to mind is, I worked as a retail merchandiser, and before becoming a merchandiser I didn’t know the first thing about using a drill. It kept me from landing an internship at a gallery actually. After I started working at this retailer, I became really good at cutting signage and using an impact driver (not to mention, I felt really cool to be that chick with a drill.) After learning how to wield one decently, a year later I had the opportunity to let the curator know what I had learned as a merchandiser, and ultimately she allowed me to come work for the gallery I had initially been turned down for. So, I think learning as many skills as possible, even the most far out will eventually give you leverage in your work.

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4. When you’re not working, what are you up to? Projects, Fun Stuff, etc.

When I am not working, I am more than likely at a music festival hula hooping, or at a coffeehouse trying out the most exotic blend I can find (I stumbled upon lavender lattes last year, changed my life.) I recently also got into aromatherapy, and have been learning everything I can about it from my friend and owner of Morphologically, Melissa McGill. She makes these rad candles, (but you knew that already.) I also am working on a solo pop-up show of my body of work; Botanical Luminary. The work is based on botanicals and abstractions. I hope to have this show confirmed by mid-summer.

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5. What are your words of wisdom for other people (or perhaps your 5 years younger self) on how to chase your dreams and work hard to get to a fulfilling place in work and in life?

Take every opportunity you possibly can to either learn something really intriquing or to get your work in front of someone. You have no idea who you may meet, that may very well change your life, or how learning something unusual may lead you into new experiences. Our time is so limited, and so I say pursue what makes you the absolute happiest. If you have to take a 9 to 5 – which most of us do – make sure you have a side project. Your side project often times becomes your main project over time as it can bring more joy and fulfillment than what we are doing currently. Maison Made started out as a side project for me, It’s now a huge part of my existence and I love every moment of it.

6. What are the 5 items you can’t live without?

Coffee, or more specifically, espresso.

My Canon 5D Mark II Camera.

An amazing candle. Shout out to Morphologically.

A great mixtape. I’m all about Kaytranada.

Flowers. I’m not ashamed to say I buy them for myself.

 

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For more on Dawn Marie West and Maison Made NYC visit www.MaisonMadeNYC.com.

All Photos by Dawn Marie West.

 

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