We recently sat down to interview local San Francisco artist, Isis Tatiana Hockenos. Find out what we talked about and why we think she is living the San Francisco Dream in this House of Borel interview.
1 word to describe your style
How would you define your personal style?
I think it is exciting to pair different textures, styles and purposes. For instance, I’d rather wear a silk dress on a hike (a little mud never hurt anyone!) than some kind of sport gear. In fact, in 2010 I hiked Machu Picchu in a lace trimmed calico dress! Not only did I feel comfortable and at ease, I felt like the materials, being cotton and demure, were an homage to the rural environment. I rarely purchase anything new, the art and challenge of the Goodwill is practically worship for me. If I ever feel listless or blue, I’ll march right over to Mission St. at VanNess and nothing feels bad anymore.
What sets you apart from the crowd?
Consistency is very important to me. My fashion style is not separate from my lifestyle. I love to do things by hand. I grind my coffee by hand every morning. I drive an old, tiny, Toyota pickup truck, which is perfect for hauling paintings. I’ve draped the front bench seat in sheepskins. My parents are the same way. I feel like I’ve been able to create a world that others want to join. I love to feed people; it is one of my greatest pleasures.
Do you think your style changes how people perceive you?
I do- I am not an extremely outgoing person right off the bat and I have found that I am able to use my style as a way to introduce myself to people while giving the rest of me a little more time to observe a situation and to identify my place in it. I am then able to approach a situation with more clarity, candor and generosity.
How do you choose a handbag?
I first look for quality- there is almost nothing, that if made well, is not beautiful (or delicious, or good to listen to). Quality to me means a thoughtful approach to material sourcing and design. Is it useful? How will it look in 10 years? I can go to the thrift store and run my hand along a rack of cloths and know just when to stop. High quality silk, natural linen, fine leather… there is nothing like it, my fingers know at once. The next thing that I look for is strap length. Every woman is different and where her bag falls on her hip is very important. I want easy access and not too much bumping around. I also always want to be able to carry my bag over my shoulder. I am often loaded down with art supplies and various totes, cups of coffee and books so I need my arms and hands free. My handbag is the thing that becomes an extension of my body.
What do you look for in your accessories?
Jewelry is my primary accessory. I love hand made metal work (especially by the African nomadic tribe the Tuareg). I also love family heirlooms such as this ring (which was my mother’s – it is a sapphire, her birthstone). Family jewelry is a wonderful way to be reminded of your personal context. I always wear a few basic pieces that I sleep and shower in and that go with almost any outfit. Scarves, I love scarves, but I think that the word accessory trivializes the importance of a perfect scarf or your grandmother’s wedding ring. One other accessory that I always have one me is a French tortoise-shell hair clip from Gravel & Gold in the Mission. It was the impulse buy that has turned out to be one of my most useful possessions! (Goes to show, don’t diss the impulse buy).
I actually looked up the definition of accessory because I’ve never really understood the concept. This is what the dictionary said: “a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive.
3 words you think a friend would use to describe you.
“intergenerational” truly- I asked. bohemian. layered. “She fixed the roof wearing velvet and was wed in coveralls.”
3 words you think a coworker would use to describe you.
meticulous. earnest. vivid.
What is your title?
What makes a great wardrobe?
I love texture. Texture can recreate an entire outfit or concept, both in painting and in fashion. It is also important to have several go-to pieces that you can count on. You know they go with anything and that you look great, no matter what kind of day you had or how bad your cramps are. They are also an excellent base for risk-taking in other parts of your outfit. If you have that special black wool skirt on, that always makes your ass look amazing, you’ll have no problem rocking your (new to you) vintage beaded African bustier.
What inspires you?
For most of my childhood I voluntarily wore aprons and bonnets every single day. That was here in the Bay Area, out in West Marin. Since few people out there had television and our community straddled the worlds of traditional agriculture the artists who moved away from the cities in the late ’70s, my personal prairie style fit right in. A part of my heart will forever sleep in a covered wagon. However, I’ve added to the calico and muslin- I love to combine traditional work wear with elegance. I’ve added newer designer pieces to my wardrobe as well. Canvas work pants paired with a stretchy valor top perhaps, or a long victorian cotton nightgown with chelsea boots, gold chains and a chic a-line top coat.
Homestead / Japanese prints and cottons / work wear / cultural appropriation / pockets
Do you have a muse?
Certain friends and childhood whimsy.
Do you have a mentor?
I pull from all parts of my life and it is important for me to give as much as I can in exchange. I have multi-generational community that is always eager to give advice or aid when I need it. No one person can fill any role. A woman needs lovers, friends, elders, and children. I have friends with whom I cook, food is where we connect. (I managed a butcher shop here in SF for five years) I have friends who edit my short stories, and I theirs. I have a friend who has been by my side since our mothers were pregnant with us together- she fills another need. I think too that since I am an only child, I have always had to look to my community for an extended family.
Are you born creative or is it developed?
I believe that everyone is born creative; some people have the environment, the will or the desire to nurture that creativity. However, it takes a certain amount of creativity to make any decision, weather its eggs vs. oatmeal in the morning, a high concept piece of art or choosing the perfect bag- I don’t think we should undermine the innate creativity that goes into moving through the world, that goes into choices.
Are you living the dream?
Whose dream? You know, I had a really scary dream last night about orcas… hopefully I’m not living that dream.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Who ever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?” Charles Eames
What keeps you motivated?
A base level fear of failure. Luckily, that fear is so deeply rooted that I have plenty of room for other motivations! I feel like some people have ways of being that are magnetic and draw people toward them. If I am this sort of person, it is my duty to make that world and full and lush and verdant as possible. If I can bring new growth to one person’s parched internal landscape, I’m on the right track.