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Sophia Sena

Sophia Sena

Meet Brooklyn-based designer and illustrator, Sophia Sena.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a designer and illustrator currently based in Brooklyn, NY! I was born in Malaysia but spent most of my life growing up in Singapore, and then decided to pursue art school in the US. When I was younger I also spent a lot of school holidays in Hong Kong too – my parents met there, and my late grandmother lived there – so you could say I’ve had my fair share of moving around!  I also just graduated from college last year and moved to NYC, so life has really been a rollercoaster since then.

 

As for my work, I love pattern and colour! I draw a lot of inspiration from the decorative arts and ornamentation, and I love to implement those elements in more narrative aspects. I would like to think the multicultural identity of Singapore has definitely lent its influence in my work.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I currently live in New York City – and it’s very different from living in Singapore! Life is much more fast-paced, everyone has a destination and goal in mind, and the city has that grimy charm and impression of being the center of the world. Singapore, on the other hand, is much cleaner (with actual efficient public transportation), it always seems like everyone knows at least one person you know, and despite being small, really is the poster child of globalisation. When I’m away I always miss the delicious food, but when I come back I’m reminded that I absolutely despise the year-round heat and humidity.

 

I would like to think the multicultural identity of Singapore has definitely lent its influence in my work.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing about NYC: The sheer amount of museums and creative places to go to. The amount of interesting people you meet. Every other day something new seems to open in the city and it’s really inspiring.

The worst thing about NYC: Everything is expensive. I miss cheap movie tickets. And you can never rely on the trains to be on time.

 

The best thing about Singapore: The food. The efficiency. The transport system and cleanliness.

The worst thing about Singapore: It’s still incredibly conservative, but with younger generations growing up it’s getting better. The weather is an absolute killer. I walk outside and I’m already sweaty and my makeup is melting. Why else do you think everybody in this country takes so many showers?

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

I’ve developed most of my creative career in the US, so I’ll describe what it’s like in NYC: Driven, Resourceful, Authentic.

 

Driven, Resourceful, Authentic.

How did you start your career in art?

I feel like it’s cliche to say that I’ve always liked it since young but I did. Back then I wanted to concentrate in fine arts, so I did a lot of traditional oil paintings and applied to RISD with the intent of majoring in painting. Then I realised that I didn’t like being overtly conceptual and pursued illustration instead because I wanted to create pieces for an intended purpose and audience. It was only in Junior year that I started exploring more of surface design and pattern – and implementing that into my illustrations. I really enjoyed how my style transformed and continued to make work in the same vein in Senior year. After graduation, I got an internship at a design studio that I now part-time at, and my first client was from an opportunity my friend introduced me to. I’m still surprised at how things have worked out so far!

 

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

I am incredibly blessed to have supportive family and friends who have encouraged me to pursue a creative career ever since I was young (and back then I wanted to be a fine artist, so they’re probably happier that I didn’t go that route). Talking to some older generations in Singapore, when you tell them you’re a designer and they end up thinking you’re a painter, they’re always like, ‘Why do you want to do that? Art doesn’t make money.’ But I’m used to that kind of thing by now and just shrug it off.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I definitely want to incorporate more typography in my work and see how it plays off of the patterns I make, and I do eventually want to pursue more Asian folklore related pieces and projects.

 

I definitely want to incorporate more typography in my work and see how it plays off of the patterns I make, and I do eventually want to pursue more Asian folklore related pieces and projects.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Can I name a company? I would absolutely love to design decorative scarves for Hermes – that’s the dream.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Kind. Helpful. Supportive. We always have each other’s backs when we’re going through tough times. 

I’m also very thankful to part-time at a design studio run by two Asian female creative directors who are incredible at their work, extremely efficient and have an amazing eye for design. I am absolutely inspired by them and have the utmost respect for what they have achieved.

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

My mother doesn’t necessarily count as a creative, but growing up and watching her and her business partner run and expand their maternity business was incredibly empowering, and really showed me that you have to be incredibly hardworking and tough to achieve what you want. My high school drama teacher as well, she had incredible energy and always encouraged the students to pursue their passions.

 

Singapore’s creative industry wasn’t as developed as it is now, which is why being a creative back then, and let alone female, would have been a rarity.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I find that people take you less seriously in general at times. You always see the industry being very male-dominated – just go to the about pages of most design agencies – so it is undoubtedly a struggle to be heard and to be visible.

 

Failure only makes you stronger and if you work hard opportunities will come.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Build a network of other creative professionals – join Facebook groups, attend meet-ups, events, etc. Be ready to defend yourself and your work if someone doubts what you do. Failure only makes you stronger and if you work hard opportunities will come. This field is definitely not easy but it is unbelievably rewarding.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Sophia Sena.

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