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With her retro-meets-urban style (cat-eye framed specs, plentiful tattoos, and girlie-cool wardrobe), it's kind of hard to believe beloved illustrator Tuesday Bassen isn't a native Angeleno—especially considering the fact that her best selling pins and patches (which are currently stocked at shops like East West, Myrtle, and Shout and About) have become one of our city's most sought after accessories over the last year. And she agrees.
"I had visited LA on a whim," the Lincoln, Nebraska born talent tells us, "and it was like, Oh! This is where I was trying to live all along." After studying art at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, then doing a stint in New York, Bassen realized quickly that the lifestyle (ie: driving) she desired was actually out here. "I was just in the wrong place," she explains, "I like the freedom and I felt so claustrophobic there because New York is like a tiny island. It costs money to leave and it costs money to get into when you're driving! When I first lived there I was super broke and I was like, I can't even leave without it costing money? It's crazy how much lingering anxiety I had from knowing that I was kind of stuck there."
Although she's only been here just shy of two years, Tuesday confesses that she already considers it home. The illustrator, whose work has been featured in Adidas, Playboy, and The New Yorker, is starting to shift more energy intro developing her own products—including her own clothing line!—and opening her own shop, Friend Mart, next month. But that also doesn't mean you'll stop seeing her collaborate with other rad brands (and bands) anytime soon; she's also working on projects with Paramore's Hayley Williams and LA's Mowgli Surf.
Somehow, the busiest woman in town managed to make time to meet up and chat with us about the upcoming Chinatown shop, why living in LA suits her brand better, and what badass local ladies she'd want to start a girl gang with.
Was there a moment you really felt that you could make a career out of this?
I've been a freelance illustrator for about six years. It's funny because it was basically just a transition from working for art directors all the time and doing a lot of editorial work into putting more stock into my online shop. It seemed like that's where I was headed. So it's just been a shift from appealing more to other people. I was doing products before pins like stickers, t-shirts and ceramics and in 2014 I really started transitioning a lot more. Then in 2015 pins really took over my whole career and by April of last year it was all I was really doing. By June or August I was seeking out help from other people. It's grown beyond just me.
Your brand feels very natural in LA, even though you're from Nebraska.
It's so funny because I didn't think of that at all and I felt like when I lived in New York I was misplaced or I didn't really fit in because the style there artistically is more expressive, more naive, and a lot more about mark-making than my work is. I have such a clean style. In hindsight I really should have known LA would be a good place because I was really into the Pop Surrealist movement which is all LA basically. There are less pre-existing institutions here. In New York there's the Society of Illustrators and people feel like they have to impress them. But in LA art is a lot more like music is presented. It's like, "we'll put on our own show!" and people have their own interesting presentation. Instead of it being an event for other artists or art directors or something, it's directly for people who are interested in art and it's a lot more accessible. I think that's a lot more interesting.
Growing up in a conservative state, did you feel your style was always different?
I think it was, but I wasn't aware of it until later. I was blissfully unaware of people making fun of me when I was growing up, just because I was an optimistic kid and I thought the best of people. Then middle school I was like, "Wait a second, I don't have any friends!" But my parents are very young and were punks when they were teenagers and so I think they always instilled in me a sense of individuality. I went to a public arts high school and ended up finding a place that was right for me.
Explain your your reoccurring illustration and phrase "Ugly Girl Gang."
When I made it, it was a proclamation of "I'm here to make this awesome stuff, I don't care how I look while I am making it." A few of my friends were going to this conference that was partially poolside and they were putting so much stock in how they needed to look or how other women looked before they went there. I just thought that was gross because it was ignoring the whole reason they were going in the first place, which is that they're amazing designers and going to be with other amazing designers and potentially have an awesome experience, but instead they were focusing on how they looked. I didn't want to be a part of that. I just want to get stuff done and I don't want to care if I have a "bikini body" to go to a conference. So Ugly Girl Gang was like, I don't give a shit. That's not what I'm trying to get at.
Do you think that mentality has started to shift?
2015 was a really great year for young women. There was a huge shift in commercial media in how they were being represented. Teen Vogue is putting out cool, feminist articles. Young women are less afraid to identify themselves as anything other than beautiful and put more stock in their talents or interests, which I think is really awesome.
What local makers or artists would be in your dream girl gang?
I love Sara Lyons, who's in Anaheim. She's really funny and awesome so I'll just go down there to see her and draw with her and stuff. Carly Jean Andrews just moved here, and she's another really amazing illustrator and has been doing just incredible work.
You've done illustrations for a lot of cool brands. Despite the fact that you've made a shift into doing more with your products and upcoming shop, do you still plan to collaborate on illustrations for others?
Yeah! I just did some for Hayely Williams from Paramore for her new hair dye line, Good Dye Young. It's super cool. I met her on a whim last year in a shop. I'm also doing illustrations for Bark Box now. I think I'm doing a little zine for them.
Have you eve fanned-out about someone you admire wearing one of your products?
Lorde posted a picture of my strawberry pin, which was really cool. One of my main employees, Ali Koehler—who was previously in Vivan Girls and Best Coast—she's in a band called Upset now with Patty [Schemel] from Hole. She wears a lot of my stuff, which is awesome because I really respect her as a musician and person.
Will you be introducing new products anytime soon?
Totally! For the Fall I'm doing a sweater, skirt, backpack, two jackets, some shorts, and some socks. So it will be my first full line.
What can you tell us about Friend Mart?
It's opening June 17th. It's in Mandarin Plaza and we're going to have a lot of artists that were included in our pop-up shop, so this is kind of a permanent home to some events we'd been doing around the city. We have World Famous Original, Susan Nguyen, the ladies from Got a Girl Crush magazine, we're getting prints and zines from Tan & Loose Press in Chicago, stuffed goods by Steff Bomb, so there will be a lot of different things.