Grace Choma: Grace House
How did you first get into art?
GC: I first got into art in art therapy, when I was really young and trying to cope with anxiety. I found it soothing, and why not stick with what works. I’m blessed to have let it grow into the creations I’ve been able to make today.
What made you want to go to OXBOW? What was your experience there like, would you recommend that? How did that change your view of being an artist?
GC: Oxbow was the birth of the person I am today. A close friend of mine attended a semester school years before, which introduced me to the realm of “semester schools”, where I found Oxbow, the art intensive high school program in Napa, CA. The initial adjustment was terrifying, and it left me missing the east coast quiet deeply. Once I was able to get over my own preconceptions and anxieties, it blossomed into a transformative, safe, and thriving environment. It’s hard to describe a situation where your professors become your mentors, coaches, artists, and parents. They taught me immense drive to care for the things we believe is someone else’s responsibility; the planet per day. I found a love for painting, photography, and writing. We experienced english classes deep in the Napa Valley, and I would reminisce as we read Walden. Oxbow transformed my view of artisans from hobbies to professionals, to business women and men attempting a brave, unique, and vulnerable path of making a livelihood out of the passions they share.
Why did you choose not to go to art school?
GC: A characteristic of mine that I hold strong to is knowing my strengths, and knowing my weaknesses. To accept that I was not at the level of talent as my fellow competitors wasn’t as hard as I envisioned, leaving Oxbow. In addition, I was in CA while I was applying to colleges, and prior to Oxbow, I was a varsity athlete considering nothing of an art school.
What are you studying now?
GC: I am currently studying Psychology and Philosophy at Eugene Lang, The New School.
Does one have to go to art school in order to still identify as an artist?
GC: Reading this question I believe most people would immediately say no. And the answer is no, but for many folks professional training in fine arts is verifying to them concerning the legitimacy of their work. I would say one of the main reasons I attend an art school is because I find such love and humility among those who attend art school- high school or college level.
When did you start Grace House? What was the process like?
GC: The Grace House started my freshman year of college, which was actually at Simmons University in Boston, MA. Coming home from CA, I gravitated towards being close to home, which led me 30 minutes south to Boston.
A friend of mine (more of an acquaintance at the time) worked at a high end store in Boston; needless to say I found myself there a lot. Samantha was a wonderful salesman, so we talked often and one day she mentioned how she was starting a Flea Market, a space where local artists and designers could be in the same space and promote their brands once a month. I hopped on that before I even had a plan. I hadn’t made any shoes, done anything clothing, didn’t even have a brand name. I am not a sewer, to say the least, which is when I quickly found my talent in designing shoes.
Is it more of a brand or custom?
GC: I like to consider the Grace House a masterpiece but continuously a work in progress. I want to appeal to what people are searching for, and currently it’s taking on a very relaxed fit. I don’t do much outsourcing, and I’m mainly on Instagram as my source for sales at the moment.
When did you first get into shoe design? Why shoe design?
GC: Redesigning Nike’s was not the original, or second idea I had when it came to the need for creation. Similar to what I said earlier however, I found myself constantly dissatisfied with the quality of stitch work or garnet materials. Having a controlled surface in many ways brought me back to the canvas, rather than the manikin.
How do you feel about Hypebeast culture?
GC: I’m slightly obsessed with it and I’m not embarrassed to say it. I would consider myself somewhat of a conservative hype east though, because I don’t enter raffles, or wait in line for sneaker releases. I am a SALE shopper. Being familiar with garment pricing also aids me in knowing when I’m seriously overpaying compared to standard economic mark-up. It’s important to me to know the brand and what they represent as a company, and if I don’t agree with their views that’s a simple no for me.
Any designers you take inspiration from?
GC: One of my favorite clothing designers is Alexander Wang. He perfected the jean. He also attended TNS. Kanye West is a huge inspiration to me through his music and the recent culture he’s created out of his lifestyle. As far as more traditional artists, Gregory Siff has shown me a lot about letting the paint talk for the piece. he works on a wide variety of surfaces and always maintains pristine-which I aspire to translate from my page to show.
Favorite pair of shoes so far?
GC: So far my favorite pair would have to be the Graduation album by Kanye West I did for a friend as a graduation gift. it featured the bear from the cover, one flying in space and one being chased by a ghost. They’re absolutely captivating in my opinion.
Where do you want to take Grace House? Is it going to evolve or expand?
GC: I love that The Grace House is ever evolving. It expands each day, with each shoe and picture. It is not my main focus, as a rising junior with intent to attend graduate school, but it is the passion. When you love something, it always grows.
How is art now more than ever influenced by culture? Or is it the other way around?
GC: Art has always and will always be an expression of the current culture. We do not make art purely for the money but money allows us to continue, therefore supplying the consumer with a relatable reflection is much more appealing usually than pure self expression. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, but being an artist forces you to become very strong minded, as a mere constant reflection of yourself is projected for subjection at any moment. It can be challenging to hear that your kid is ugly. ;)
Check out Grace's work!