A portrait of local artist Brieana Lemon

Brieana Lemon

Brieana Lemon

Cory Bilicko
Managing Editor

Long Beach native Brieana Lemon is one of those rare folks with whom you can discuss topics that seem to fall on opposite ends of a spectrum.
Car trouble? Lift up your hood, and she can take a look and very likely identify what your problem is. A minute later, you very well may hear her describing her costume for a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening/performance on Saturday night.
However, lately, the 30-year-old artist is probably more interested in talking about her line of handmade leather products.

How would you describe the work you do?
I would describe my work as “functional works of art in leather.” I pride myself on lasting quality and beautiful designs. Leather is such a wonderful medium to work with because the end result can be virtually anything, and it combines 3-D elements with engineering design, and often the skills of painting as well.

“Green Zombie, Splat!” purse, made of tooling leather, waxed thread, nickel rings and leather paint, with cotton fabric for the lining

“Green Zombie, Splat!” purse, made of tooling leather, waxed thread, nickel rings and leather paint, with cotton fabric for the lining

What would you say is your “point of view” as an artist?
I guess my point of view would best be described as “buy local.” I am a huge supporter of buying things from local artists and/or vendors rather than buying anything from another country. Oftentimes things purchased from China, India, etc. are a cheaper price for a reason– you’re getting a product of inferior quality. Local artists pour their heart and soul (and oftentimes their literal blood, sweat and tears) into every piece, even when they are functional pieces, as opposed to strictly visual ones.

Have you had any training as an artist?
I went to a special art high school called Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA), and I graduated from CSULB with a bachelor’s degree in studio art. I learned various things, including jewelry-making, blacksmithing, drawing, painting, printmaking and woodworking. I used a lot of those things, along with Internet resources and other leather workers, to teach myself how to work with leather and create things with it.

What are your biggest obstacles to getting your work accomplished, and how do you combat them?

My biggest obstacles have to be my inability to refuse a project, procrastination and balancing my art, my day job, my business, my friends and my social obligations. I generally try to make schedules for myself to make sure I stay on track and don’t get distracted by Netflix, Facebook, TV or friends/roommates who talk too much. It is a constant uphill battle for me, and I haven’t quite figured out how to keep all the plates spinning, as it were.

What inspires you the most as an artist?

I would have to say my biggest inspirations come from the various aspects of my life: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Goth/Industrial scene and other artists. I will often see something that another artist has done and ask myself if I could improve on that idea or how that item could be made out of leather, if at all.

“Nouveau Wood Nymph” mask, made of  tooling leather, leather paint and satin ribbon

“Nouveau Wood Nymph” mask, made of tooling leather, leather paint and satin ribbon

What’s the story behind the My Little Pony creations?
Two years ago I shattered my ankle, and so I was bedridden for many months. There wasn’t anything I could do for several months besides watch TV and surf the Web. One day I stumbled across other artists who made custom My Little Ponies, and their creations were so gorgeous that I wanted to try my hand at making them. It was all something I could do while I was bedridden as well: small-scale sculptures, re-hairing the manes and tails, and small-scale painting with acrylics. I found out they were quite time-consuming, but the end result is just gorgeous. I decided to create some to resemble characters from a small movie I had recently worked on called The Devil’s Carnival. They turned out quite lovely, and many people loved how well they turned out. I even gave two to two of the stars of the film.

How about the synthetic dreadlocks?
My friend wanted some synthetic dreadlocks, but she didn’t want to pay the $150 to $200 to order them from someone, so she figured out how to make them and made a set for herself. She got so many compliments on them that she decided to start making them and selling them herself. I knew I could make them better and faster than she could because I am more detail-oriented than she is. When she ended up being the cause of my 10-year relationship ending, I decided that it didn’t matter if I was in competition with her business or not anymore, so I started doing custom orders for friends. I even ended up redoing and adding to some of the orders that she didn’t make well.

You’re a huge fan of audience-participation movies like Rocky Horror and Repo! The Genetic Opera. Do these movies influence your art at all? Likewise, does your art play a role in your participation of these interactive experiences?
I am definitely a huge fan of audience-participation movies as well as the culture that comes with them. These movies do influence my artwork, somewhat. Primarily The Rocky Horror Picture Show simply because it is a larger audience and is more widely known and loved than Repo! The Genetic Opera. I am also on a cast for RHPS here in Long Beach called Long Beach Rocky Horror. We perform every Saturday night, and it has been my testing grounds for Rocky-themed merchandise. I will usually make a small batch of things and see how well people like them, what they like best, and ask them what they would want to see more of. I guess that is the best example of how my art plays a role in these experiences. I also have received custom-order requests for props and costume pieces used in the movie(s) such as purses, belts, buckles, jackets, etc. Soon my art will actually be a part of the show!

To view more of Lemon’s work, visit etsy.com/shop/briecreative .

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