This week, as people worldwide took to the streets in protest of the tragedies in Paris, a banner appeared at a march 9,000-strong in Hamburg, Germany that proudly declared: GIRL GANGZ AGAINST FASCISM. The image of three women standing in solidarity accompanying the text came from the other side of the world, and no one was more startled to see it than its creator, LA-based feminist illustrator Tuesday Bassen.
Bassen reposted the photo, captioning it: “Incredibly surreal to see my artwork painted on protest banners, received in the way I intended: Strong women for solidarity and love. Peace for Paris, peace for refugees, peace for the world.”
The lookbook for Bassen’s most recent collection, themed around the strength and protection found in female friendship and solidarity, was recently photographed in Los Angeles by Brooklyn photographer and stylist Emily Rose Theobald. It premieres here today, along with a few words from Bassen herself on the nature of creativity, collaboration, and protest.
JEZEBEL: How did you get started as an illustrator, and what brought about the shift from illustration to making physical goods?
Tuesday Bassen: I went to an arts-focused public high school in Nebraska, which pointed me toward pursuing a higher level arts education. I went to MCAD in Minneapolis, MN and from there moved to New York City, now Los Angeles.
I’ve always been of the mindset that you shouldn’t wait for anyone to give you the opportunities you want, you should just make the opportunities yourself. It’s the ultimate DIY ethos! Making products is a big part of that for me for a few reasons: I don’t have to wait for a larger company to decide I’m worthwhile, I get to share my work with a wider spectrum of people, and I get to make artful goods that people can use. I’m totally into art for art’s sake, but I’m also from a blue-collar background and recognize the importance of useful objects, especially when you don’t have a huge income.
What were your inspirations for your newest collection—both for the objects themselves and the lookbook?
I hail from an incredibly matriarchal family of entrepreneurs and ass kickers—from a potter, to a therapist, to an agricultural journalist, to a Goodyear factory worker. I benefited from exposure to wide variety of “women’s careers,” and constantly draw inspiration from my childhood. I honed in a little closer on an Easy Rider/Slumber Party vibe, which is directly inspired by my Grandmother Judith, who is a righteous badass that carries a pearl handle pistol, drives a giant truck, and doesn’t wear underpants (who needs it!). Throw in my love of Los Angeles, plus my desire for accessible, wearable goods and here we are.
What drove you to design jackets this season?
When I started making physical objects, I made ceramics because all I could afford was clay and paint. I worked beyond that to make stickers, then patches, then pins, then teeshirts—moving into more full on clothing just makes sense! I want to outfit women in the kind of swag my characters wear.
How did your artistic partnership with your boyfriend come about?
My boyfriend, Ben Goetting, is an amazing chain stitch embroiderer! When he asked me out, he sheepishly asked if I was interested in collaborating if I wasn’t interested in dating him. On our second date, he attempted to teach me how to use his vintage machine—it’s hard!
Fast forward a few months, I became obsessed with 1940s sweetheart memorabilia, namely sweetheart patches, where you could roll up to a beachside stand and get your love’s name custom stitched on the spot. That service doesn’t really exist anymore, save for hats at Disneyland, and so I made my own take on the hearts, with stitching by Ben. Turns out we got to date and collaborate. Soon, the hearts are going to be in the Whitney store, which is super exciting.
Who’s the dream Tuesday Bassen fan? Like, if you were to run and catch the subway and see someone wearing one of your patches, what would they look like, who would they be?
It’s rad, because I get to see girls and women wearing my my stuff all the time, especially around Los Angeles. I became friends with one of my waitresses at Swingers Diner because she was sporting an Ugly Girl Gang patch. We were both pretty psyched and hang out because of it.
Mostly I’m geeked that my work speaks to badass, smart, funny ladies. I try to make goods that come from an honest place, not one that is focused on following trends, so any woman that wears my goods makes me happy.
Oh, wait! Jessica Williams. She’s fucking rad and I’m happy to know her. Get it, girl.
How did it feel to see your work printed on a feminist protest banner in Hamburg after the Paris attacks?
Seeing my work used on a banner supporting refugees was the highest compliment I could have been given. I’m touched to see that it speaks to people in the way I intended and represents strong women for solidarity and peace.
Meredith Graves runs a small record label called Honor Press, writes about feminism and culture for many places (but mostly Rookie), and is the frontperson of Perfect Pussy.
Images via Tuesday Bassen