Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Stephanie Leilani. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Stephanie, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Can you talk to us about how you learned to do what you do?
I’ve always had a calling for creative outlets. Whether it’s cooking a meal, writing in a journal, photography, or painting, my soul finds joy in it’s ability to express itself. One day I happened across a video of someone pouring a cup of paint, and I thought, “Oh, I want to try that!” So I went to my local craft store and picked up paint. As I tend to do (or not do), I didn’t do any research – I thought to myself, “Thin paint out, combine colors in cup, flip cup, Voila!”
While that method has its pros and cons, it has carried me through this life pretty well. My first piece was abstract as they come. I chose blues, white, black, and gold. The streaks glided over the canvas as I tilted it back and forth, up and down until my canvas was completely covered. I snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook. Surprisingly, friends and family reacted with gracious compliments.
What I realized with my first pour is just how subjective art is… but also… humans love to find beauty in their every day life. And, as the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I think the most essential skill anyone can have who has a burning desire to create – is to realize any underlying fear is a false narrative. Being able to hear that internal voice tell you, “No, you’re not good enough.” or “Nobody is going to like this.” and then pursuing your expression anyway, is a skill few learn, and even less master.
When I compare my first piece to my latest work, I am a completely different artist. Any eye can see the growth, evolution, and mastery I have obtained over the years. If I were to share what would have gotten me to where I am now, faster… I don’t know that I could. This expression takes time. But more than that, it takes patience and understanding. Patience to learn yourself, and understanding to recognize that creativity is not perfect – in fact, it’s imperfect – and it’s the imperfection that turns each vision into it’s own unique piece of artistry.
Stephanie, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My name is Stephanie, but I also go by Leilani, or Lani. I grew up on the North Shore of Oahu, and moved to San Diego in my early 20’s (gosh I can’t believe I can say that already!). I’ve been living in north county for the last 16 years. As an island girl I was taught to malama ‘aina and malama kai, which means take care of the land and the sea respectively. My dad taught me how to surf when I was 6, and I grew up in the waves at Sunset beach with some of my best friends. When we weren’t surfing, we were chasing waterfalls, while snacking on juicy mountain apples or sweet strawberry guavas.
Fast forward, to college. I originally set out to become an elementary school teacher. My last year at school however, got me very present to the fact that I did not want to teach – at all. So, when I graduated, I chose to move to San Diego to see what other opportunities the world might have to offer me. I ended up in the tile industry for 12 years where I went from an entry level position to the Director of Marketing. During my tenure there I had some significant self discovery:
1. Nobody can define your value, only you can. (Even in a recession)
2. A job is just like any other relationship. As soon as you realize you are no longer happy you have two choices – you can change the way you feel about it, or change your situation. (I chose latter)
3. Your job should never take precedent over your family, friends, and self-care. (Especially during your free time)
As you can probably gather I moved on from that position, to my current job at SportRx, where I recently have been promoted to Director of Marketing. During my transition from job to job – I discovered that I had dreams that were completely untapped. My transition provided me a freedom I hadn’t felt in a really long time which ultimately cleared my mind and heart giving me room to discover inspiration.
Initially I hadn’t really set out to pursue a new hobby – just a quick release of creative juice. I had fallen in love with resin art, and wanted to play with that medium, but quickly learned how much plastic consumption it required. I had started a new journey to reduce my own plastic footprint, so once I realized that I decided to pursue acrylic paint. While it’s still a very difficult medium to get without plastic packaging, the plastic I do have to buy I am able to recycle for mixing new colors.
After I poured my first piece, I was immediately hooked. I had found a craft that required just the right amount of vision and finesse to execute creative expressions that I absolutely loved – and so I became “Seamaid Soulsister.”
Seamaid Soulsister was born of three passions. A passion for life by the sea, preserving that sea, and creating beautiful seascapes. My acrylic pours reflect different aspects of the sea, from Birdseye views of the ocean and the sand, to cresting waves, to epic barrels, and I’ve chosen to dedicated 5% of all my sales towards ocean conservation. I believe the biggest thing that sets me apart from other artists in this medium is my focus on reducing my plastic footprint. In my home, you’ll find not only am I committed to reducing plastic in my kitchen, bathroom and laundry room, but I’m also looking at ways to reduce plastic in my art studio.
If I had to choose one thing I’m most proud, it would be the conversation that I’ve helped generate in my social circle. Not only are my family and friends recognizing how damaging single-use plastics are (and how easy it is to start cutting them out of their daily lives) but my office has also found ways over the last three years to eliminate plastic from our work environment. I firmly believe that if everyone made just one change in their life related to single-use plastic, this planet would quickly start to see transformation – and that really excites me!
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
First, I think we can all admit that we have experienced significant upheaval in the last two and half years. From global pandemic, to war, to inflation and impending recession – it’s clear we humans have a lot on our minds, hearts, and souls. One of the things I got most present to during the pandemic, as it became a necessity, was the use of Amazon. Now, before you shut down, hear me out…
Convenience, it’s a thing that saves us time and time is money… but some can also argue that Amazon can also just simply save you money. While I do my own personal best to maintain a healthy budget, I couldn’t help but notice the local businesses around me. I started realizing how important our direct eco-systems are. While some of us are freely sending our money to some random stranger behind an Amazon profile, our neighbors are losing their restaurants, storefronts, and grocery stores. These locations are also the places that some of us go for work.
As much as I’d love to preach, “boycott Amazon,” I know that’s not realistic… but imagine if we all reduced the amount of products we buy online by a mere 25% – dare I say 50%. Imagine what your own local community and neighborhood might look like. Would the kids on your street have place to go find work part time during the summer? Would your neighbors be able to stay in the community to work reducing the need for big commutes? Could the community grow itself providing new opportunities for flourishing businesses?
In my opinion, I really do think it would. So, if the question posed here is, “What can society do to best support a thriving creative ecosystem?” My answer would be, close up the laptop. Set down your phone. Walk out your front door and go see what your neighborhood has to offer. You might be surprised to find that it’s not only more cost effective, but that you’ve also helped someone else pay their bills, put food on their table, and keep a roof over their head.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
The most rewarding aspect is the connection that people make through art. No matter what, your creative expression is going to connect with someone. I made this realization at my very first art show. I had pieces that I loved, and I had pieces thatI felt I had messed up, but I brought it all. The show started pretty slow, but as it gained momentum pieces started walking away faster than I could replenish them. It was amazing to see a piece that my own internal voice told me was not good enough, would resonate with someone so much that they were actually willing to give me money for it.
As my pieces have gained clearer purpose, vision, and story, my audience has become more engaged and more deeply connected to my work. Now 5 years later my art has grown beyond anything I could have imagined. It lives in other peoples homes and businesses. It has become the centerpiece of conversations and has created beautiful conversations.