When artist Amelia Giller first moved to Los Angeles to pursue her MFA at USC's prestigious Digital Arts and Animation division, the life-long animation lover (she went to "animation camp" as a kid) probably didn't expect to be working with some of the hippest fashion retailers just a few years later. And yet, that's exactly where she's found herself.
The Texas native, who's just wrapping up her thesis—an animated short called "Tigress"—started selling pins and prints via an Etsy account a year ago and it was her body-pos "nudie" pin the first got her on LA's fashion radar. Botanica Workshop's designer Misa Miyagawa spotted a friend sporting one of the full-figured ladies accessorizing a friend's ensemble, which eventually led to her collaborating with Giller on a recent lookbook.
Since then, Amelia's pins have been picked up by beloved boutique Tenoversix—whose current lineup includes coveted local indie labels like Building Block, Jesse Kamm, and Bzippy—and even more recently by cool girl fave e-tailer Need Supply. She's also just been tapped by Teen Vogue to create a series of illustrations as part of the mag's "Not Your Fault" campaign, which educates young readers about sexual assault.
We visited Giller's at home studio where the artist talked more about her "dream job" status with via the aforementioned gigs, her personal connection to fashion, and why she loves drawing naked ladies so much.
It seems like you probably never intended to be as directly connected to the fashion world as you are at the moment. What has your personal relationship with fashion been like?
I've always been into fashion. As a child, I was a big tomboy, and I now see that as an expression of my interest in alternative fashion trends (think mid-nineties Olsen Twins). In fifth grade I came home from school and declared to my mom that I was in desperate need of a Kate Spade purse. Since attending graduate school I have shied away from the fashion industry, although I still follow it and try to stay on top of a very intentional lifestyle and aesthetic. I am most passionate about good design and brands with ethical production practices. And the characters in my illustrations, films and pins are always dressed to the nines.
Did you always doodle?
Yes! My grandmother, Benita Giller, is also an artist and she saved up some of my earliest drawings and recently had them framed for me. Growing up with a family member who is an artist, and having that mind and skill-set myself, there was never a moment when I didn't consider myself an artist. As soon as I could speak I was like "I'm an artist!" And not only that, but I have always drawn cartoons. I have been animating since I was nine. I'm one of those psychos who has known what they have wanted to do since they were little.
What was the first sell-able product you created and how did that come to fruition?
My first products were digital prints. I saw other artists on the internet selling their work and thought it was a good idea. I always think of it as grassroots merchandising for my animated films. Like big animation studios who sell toys, t-shirts, mugs, etc., I sell prints, pins and bags with the idea that my work will get out there more and more people will see my films.
How did the Tenoversix connection happen?
I once asked illustrator Jay Howell how he got where he is, and his response was that he had to "be shameless." I felt like this was such good advice especially since I'm relatively shy. I was buying a pair of shoes at Tenoversix and had a Nude Lady pin on me. I worked up the courage to give it to the woman who was ringing me up and she happened to be a buyer who also loved the pin. It was very lucky.
And Need Supply?
Yes, my pins are coming soon to Need Supply! I'm not positive how they found me but they reached out to me online. I think they'd seen my Etsy.
You're also doing a series of illustrations for Teen Vogue. How have you been enjoying having a forum to sort of speak to young women?
I was obsessed with Teen Vogue when I was younger. I remember in high school, it was the biggest compliment when someone said "you look like you could be in Teen Vogue." So when they reached out to me I was so delighted! The current series that I'm working on is part of the "Not Your Fault" campaign and I am illustrating questions that readers write in about sexual assault. Although I am not writing the answers, it feels good to be involved with a column that educates young people about rape and violence.
There are a few reoccurring images in your pins, films, and gifs. What draws you to the tiger/nudes?
I love that our generation of women illustrators are taking back the nude from hundreds of years of male artists objectifying the female body. In my first week of classes of my MFA at USC, professor Kathy Smith asked us to draw inspiration from slides of images from art history. She put up an image of Olympia by Manet and I drew her as a pig woman. This led to me making my film "Pig" about a naked pig woman who is upset about her weight. After I put it online and it played a few festivals, so many women of all ages, shapes and sizes let me know how much they identified with the pig woman. That was the beginning of drawing more body positive, nude characters.
The tiger came about a little later. My aunt, Janet Gelphman, among many other creative things, is an art collector and has a painting by Joy Laville above her couch of a nude woman reclining above a sleeping panther. I love the danger that quietly exists between the nude and the panther. It is powerful and blatantly erotic. I started experimenting with tigers in my drawings and when it came time to pitch my animated thesis film, I knew that I wanted to further explore the relationship that exists between woman and feline. My film, entitled "Tigress," is about finding your voice, or as I like to say "finding your inner tiger."
Who are a few other LA makers you love?
I adore the plant magic of Tigers to Lilies's Lili Cuzor. Besides for being an amazing woman, mom and dear friend, the art she is able to make out of all things green is awe inspiring. My most favorite piece she's done in the last year was a flashback to her childhood in the French countryside installed as a living meadow at Silver Lake's En Soie.
My mentor and friend, Georgia Tribuiani is a constant inspiration. She is one half of the creators behind the net bag line, And So It Goes, and her most recent films for Anaak Collection have played at fashion film festivals around the world and are the definition of dreamy California. It seems as though Georgia is always making something new and it is so fun to watch her create.
The high-waisted underwear by Botanica Workshop is by far my favorite cotton underwear I've ever tried on. I'm not one for lace, fringe or lingerie, so these simple briefs are just perfect - and oddly enough - quite sexy.
What's been the most inspirational thing since moving to LA, and what do you miss most about Texas?
Ah. I love LA. I don't think there is anywhere else I'd want to be right now. I am most inspired by the people I meet here. Everyone is doing something creative and no one is ever sitting still. Around every corner is someone making something beautiful and it is so fun to be a part of that community. Also the plants! So many luscious plants in this city. And of course, I miss my family and the Tex Mex.