I first discovered the captivating illustrations of Chuva Featherstone on the female-positive, inclusive blog Man Repeller. An artist and graphic designer from Los Angeles living in Sweden, Chuva celebrates feminine form and expression through her artwork. In our interview, Chuva talks about women in art, art as self-care, body positivity, healing from trauma, morning routines, work-life balance as an entrepreneur.
Your art is brilliant! Could you talk about your “why” as a creative?
Wow, thank you! I’ve been drawing since as far back as I can remember. I’ve tried to fight it. I went to art school for photography and then switched to printmaking and somehow it always comes back to drawing. As an adult, I’ve realized it’s something I can’t NOT do. When I try to keep it in, I am not as happy.
Your work features women of many shapes, sizes and colours. Could you talk about women in your work?
As a child, I never really enjoyed drawing women. I also didn’t feel as comfortable in my body as a woman growing up. I was very much a tomboy and cut my hair off and wore boys clothes. I was constantly drawing men or very thin white women. I had a lot of trouble drawing self-portraits or resonating personally with any of my work then.
My late 20’s really helped me realize how powerful and beautiful it is to be a woman and more specifically, ME! Once I turned 30 I felt like all the chains fell off as far as feeling like I needed to conform to any social norms in this world. And I think that has really been reflected in the evolution of my work as well. I used to create a lot of art that I thought people wanted to see and now I let it just come out.
Sometimes I wake up from a dream and I draw that, or a thought I’ve been mulling over. It is all very personal and internal from imagery to colour. I resonate so much with being a woman now and the true gift that is, and I can only paint what I experience and what I see and feel around me.
Do you see a role for art in supporting acceptance of self…and others?
Absolutely! I really think we as artists reflect what is being expressed through the world during our time. For so long, imagery has tried to dictate what people should look and be like. We as artists especially right now have the opportunity to change that image. To reflect the truth.
I definitely use my work to heal my old traumas and work through things. When a particular piece I’ve made resonates with someone, it’s usually because they see something of themselves or their thoughts in it as well.
How about a role for art in self-care?
I also think any form of self-care is a form of art. I consider my morning routine a practice that I do to make sure I am always my highest, best self. That is a form of art. Doing my art is also self-care, because I am not happy when I’m not doing it…so it is all intertwined.
You’re also the founder and creative director of NYA TEA! What led you in that direction?
When we created NYA TEA, we felt that tea deserved the same recognition as coffee but wasn’t being marketed as an equally relevant and necessary part of people’s everyday lives. It also felt like tea wasn’t something for “young people.” We wanted to change that and start creating tea that WE wanted to drink and buy both from a health and aesthetic perspective.
Personally, NYA is a place where I feel I get to give something to the world that is accessible and beneficial to all. Not everyone is interested in art or wants a painting hanging in their house or needs a new brand identity designed. My work with NYA TEA is both beautiful and tangible in a way that can affect people in other ways and I love that!
You’re from LA, live in Sweden, and commute all over! How do you stay healthy and grounded?
Oh man…that’s a long one but I can say this: moving to Sweden was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life. Learning a new culture and language feels like learning how to talk and walk again. It will push you to the limits of your comfort zones for sure.
But, I definitely have a pattern of running head-on into challenging and “scary” experiences. For me, it is the only way to dispel my fears and keep growing.
As for the travel and constant motion, I try to maintain my routine wherever I am. I drink warm lemon water every single morning, wherever I am in the world. I then read for 15 minutes, meditate for 10, and do Pilates. I try to stay away from my phone after that whole routine. This little practice makes a huge difference in my clarity every day.
I am also a big believer in naps and crying when you feel you need to. Both are highly underrated!
Do any other routines support your body, mind and spirit?
Definitely my morning routine. I try also to make time to really take weekends. When you work for yourself I think it’s incredibly easy to have zero boundaries around work and personal life.
When I was younger I could work all day everyday, party, eat and drink everything, and it was all seamless. Now I really see the value in keeping my body and mind in a healthy state. I see such a difference in myself depending on what I eat, how much sleep I get, and time away from work.
I try to finish work around 4pm and then stay away from computers, tablets and anything work-related. Sometimes I have phone meetings with other time zones but I try to keep it at a minimum and schedule them before 8pm so I can have a designated “end time” to my day.
My partner also runs his own company, and we try to really support each other in not bringing work home and spending quality time together in the evenings and weekends. It’s made a massive difference in both our lives.
What advice would you offer women artists, women in business, and others wanting to pursue their passions?
GO FOR IT! Run, jump, skip, leap into it! I cannot express that more strongly. Of course, there will always be “roadblocks”: money, judgment from yourself or others, not knowing the way forward, instability, etc. I’m telling you, none of that is real.
If you fear something, that is even more of a reason to go towards it. And if something is your heartfelt passion, then you were meant to do it. My mom used to always tell me “take the leap and the net will appear,” and I believe that wholeheartedly.
Put yourself out there, find others who share your interests, TRY before saying it’s impossible, and never be afraid to ask for help and support.
How can people find you and learn more?
Hmmm, good question…for now Instagram is probably the most updated for my personal account and my art. NYA TEA for all tea related news. There are lots of new projects in the works which will also be reflected on my website in January.
Thanks so much, Chuva! If you haven’t checked out Chuva’s site and Instagram feed, definitely do. They’re fantastic!