It was everything I could ever want: bare-white walls, anime figurines lined across a bookcase, a simplistic-yet-electic bedroom made for two. Leta Sobierajski’s apartment caught me by surprise — in a very good way. Between the Japanese-centric accents and greenery that rimmed the edges of each room, you could sense Sobierajski’s ethos the minute you stepped into her Brooklyn apartment. As for Sobieraski herself, her kind-natured personality filled up her home and we instantly felt welcomed.
Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably already familiar with Sobieraski’s amusing, unconventional work. Her unique perspective has attracted top-notched brands such as Google, IBM, Refinery29, and The New York Times, and her and her husbands’ infamous project “Complements” gained notoriety from the press. But even though this visual artist’s work could speak volumes on its own, her impulsive creativity and no-half assed approach made us want to connect with this Boss Babe and share her story. Plus, anyone who loves photographing foods just as much as we do is A-OK in our books. Meet Leta Sobierajski, the visionary artist of tomorrow.
Jefferson, New York
Brooklyn, New York
Dream project to work on:
Quote that inspires you:
“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali
Clothing brand you can wear 24/7:
Comme Des Garcons & Acne
Neighborhood spot you’ve been meaning to try:
Medium of choice:
Tell us a little about yourself and how you knew graphic design was going to be the career for you?
I’m a graphic designer and art director based in Brooklyn, New York. I share a studio with my husband, Wade Jeffree — it’s essentially a white open space filled with fun props like wigs, balloons, basketballs, and photography equipment where we play and experiment and do our client work.
When I was young, I watched a lot of anime and would draw my favorite characters. For my 12th birthday, I asked my parents for a copy of Adobe Photoshop so I could digitally color my drawings rather than filling them in by hand. That program became my introduction to typography, color, and shape. I began sharing my illustrations on the internet — one thing led to another, and I began designing posters, logos, and eventually books. I knew graphic design would be the career for me because I couldn’t fathom doing anything else. Consequentially, I went to Purchase College in New York State to major in graphic design. My first year was strictly foundation courses, encompassing sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and design. Each of these courses was incredibly hands-on, without any computer application. My first year design course was strictly painting color swatches with guache — like Matisse did — and training our eye to distinguish hue, saturation, lightness and darkness with intuition. We used paper cutouts to create abstract compositions to emulate nouns and adjectives. Having a focus on working with my hands instead of a machine was a compelling feeling, especially when in a classroom full of people who were from all sorts of creative backgrounds. I loved the encouragement to take courses outside of my focus and continued to do so throughout my studies, spanning painting, bookmaking, and a color class based on the studies of Josef Albers. As I advanced in my studies, I continued to explore new mediums—I exercised the woodshop, the printshop, and the plaster studio, and took any opportunity to stay physical with my projects. Design became a way for me to combine all of those things.
If you could compare your aesthetic to a film, what would it be?
A little bit of The Fifth Element, The Fall, and The Holy Mountain.
Some artists might believe that to fully produce good work, you have to know who you are and what you want to express. Do you believe that way of thinking and do you feel like your work is an extension of your personally or do you try to explore another narrative for your work?
I started making personal work when I couldn’t identify my creative personality. I had not given myself the opportunity to explore it because I was focused solely on client work and responding to a brief I was required to complete. But, regardless of whether you know who you are or not, it’s possible to create good work and it’s also possible to create bad work. We don’t always get it right, and that’s just a symptom of being human and having emotions which influence our process! As I progress, it’s a constant experiment. I whole-heartedly think that my work is an extension of my personality and I find it difficult to adhere to someone else’s way of thinking, and fortunately I don’t have to!
How do you decide the type of projects you want to work on?
The most exciting project is one that I have never done before. If it’s a new challenge, I’m all the more excited to do it! I love taking on branding work, art direction, photography, and I feel like I’m never doing the same thing sequentially. If the client is interesting and the problem to solve is intriguing, I’m in!
How do you overcome those moments of feeling creatively drained? Do you have a method or belief when it comes to having a work-life balance, too?
I don’t have much of a work-life balance, honestly. I live and work with my husband and we do most everything together. Some people do a great job of separating the two, but I’m guilty of combining it all and never taking a break. We feel that work and life are intertwined, so we will generally talk about work-related things all day. Whether it’s to talk through a client issue, brainstorm concepts, or double-check budgets, we love what we do and since we are now working together it only helps us strengthen our working relationship by being open and honest at all points about all topics—it’s one of the benefits of being a working couple, because at this point we just say what we think. We are always upfront and honest. That said, we do try to devote our Saturdays to getting out of the studio and visiting galleries and museums. It’s a refreshing perspective and gives us a chance to recharge our creative juices.
You previously were employed at MPC doing motion graphics, but knew it wasn’t the right job for you. How did you fight through that down period and figure out the career you actually wanted, especially when it meant starting new again?
It’s difficult to keep your head up when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy. For me, I began doing side projects in the evenings and devoting my personal time to experimenting with mediums and making small projects like posters, stop motion films, and photographs. I wiped my portfolio of all of the studio work I had previously done and started anew with a portfolio of self-made projects. That became the catalyst for me to work independently.
We absolutely loved your “Complements” project you did with your partner Wade. How did you guys come up with that personal project and did you learn anything while working on it?
When I met Wade, I had just begun working independently. He was at a full-time job, and it was impossible for us to collaborate on any professional work together. We began the series rather early on in our relationship—about three months after meeting. We complement each other through our personalities, interests, and mannerisms. It’s as simple as that really. On a particular summer morning several years ago, we were preparing for the day and going about our separate yet synonymous routines, and were ultimately inspired by our compatibility even in the most mundane of situations. Our series explored that complementary relationship through portrait photography in which we share our penchant for humorous and often oddball imagery. Soon after meeting, we began living together. It was easy to acknowledge how easy it was to work with one another, and how seamless our work could fit into our lives and our relationship.
If you could control time for 24 hours, where and what would you do?
Can I teleport too? I’d take the opportunity to transplant myself to an onsen in rural Japan and eat multiple omakase sushi meals!
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
Most likely still in our studio in Greenpoint, making bigger, better work!
Any advice for future Boss Babes, especially those looking to enter into the graphic design world?
Work hard, don’t be an asshole, and be patient.
Written by Raven Ishak
Photography via Vanessa Granda