Art & Design

Pens Out, Kyashi Orasato On Lockdown And Creativity In New York

By Rick Stephens
31st Mar 2020

Cathy Sison, better known as Kyashi Orasato, is a calligrapher, graphic designer and design teacher from Melbourne who's living and working in New York. Recently, we checked in with her to find out what life in lockdown is like in The Big Apple, and how to stay creative in a foreign world with new rules, restrictions and limitations.

What does a typical day for you look like at the moment?

My routine hasn't changed as much as I thought it would. Since I’ve started teaching and working from home, I’ve trained my body to wake up at 5:30am without an alarm, it’s kind of scary.

I use that time to write any thoughts I have straight onto paper, I’ve been doing the Artist Way on and off last year and it’s just become a habit of mine to write three pages every morning. Then after that I log onto my @kyashi_writes Instagram and post a daily quote, I like to post early so people getting ready will see it and it'll hopefully kick start their day.

During the day I’m a design teacher at Shillington College, New York. We start at 8am and then we usually finish the day around 5:30pm. It’s an amazing course where I get to mentor enthusiastic creatives and be constantly inspired by design.

After work I like to switch off anything digital, I do some much work on screen and being active on Instagram gets a little exhausting. So, I indulge in books or go straight into my calligraphy work, which is also my side-business, where I create custom quotes, collaborate with brands or host workshops. 

Have you had more time to flex your creativity while being on lockdown?

The lockdown has definitely given me the time to reflect on projects I’ve shelved for the past
few years. I have so many ideas running through my head but I would always blame that
time was never on my side. So it’s been nice to plan out projects, but at the same time my
creativity stems from exploring the outside world, watching people, and allowing myself to
be free to do whatever I want, so I’m definitely feeling the lockdown effects of yearning to be

While there’s been more time to create, finding inspiration in today’s world would be a different process to usual. Where do you find yours at the moment?

I guess I'm someone that likes to explore and be inspired by purely ‘roaming the streets’, so it has been a bit of a challenge. But, I'm also a naturally curious person so my inspiration just adapts to my surroundings. I’m constantly talking to friends, and even strangers about daily things so inspiration isn’t always that hard to find.

Is There any inadvertent pressure for creatives to be making, producing or outputting work in some form during the current situation?

Yes definitely, I think the moment it happened here in New York my social media blew up
with so many creatives writing and sharing their lockdown-to-do list, skillshares, home yoga
and top 10 how to make better use of your time indoors and endless banana bread recipes.

I thought well damn I need to do something productive. But like so many people I was still
digesting everything and trying to wrap my head around what was happening in the world. I’m
also an Aussie living away from my home country so the feelings were very mixed and I’m
still dealing with it day to day, but ultimately I’m just practising being grateful that I’m alive.

I ended up switching off all my social media accounts, which was really hard for me since
my work is based around my Instagram. I felt that I couldn’t creatively produce anything if
my mental state wasn’t right, I think that’s the tricky part of this situation is telling yourself
you’re okay and showing people that you can do anything during this isolation phase,
when really all you want to do is cry.

But, I’ve taken the slow route and I’ve chosen to post when I feel the need and not let my
quotes be forced (which is what I was doing initially). Being honest and vulnerable is what my
account is about so I want to stay true to that ethos.

I don’t think creatives should feel the pressure to create and produce amazing work, we
have enough of that kind of pressure in our day to day jobs. I would use the time if you feel
motivated to create then do so but also maybe catch-up on that much-needed sleep!

And you live with others, right? Has sharing a space impacted creativity?

I live with one other housemate who is a make-up artist, she is super kind and considerate.
We don’t have a share-space as it’s a tiny apartment and I’m usually cooped up in my room working, but it’s nice to talk in the kitchen about non-designer stuff, it’s a good mental break. 

And what does your home ‘studio’ look like at the moment?

It’s clean, simple with a lot of plants! I’m trying to add more as I go, I joke with my friends that instead of being a cat lady I’m a plant lady. Having a space that reflects personality is really important to me, it allows me to be comfortable and free to design, play and create, it plays a huge part of how I approach my work, whether it be at home or outside.

And aside from having a happy, healthy space to work from, are there any tips for staying motivated and staying inspired?

I think being creative and inspired every day can be a lot to ask especially in this current situation. Learn to be okay that some days you will have lows and some days will feel semi-normal, but own it and if you feel that creative urge then go with it. Creativity and inspiration should feel natural so I would just keep reading, writing, drawing, talking and allow the creativity to come to you.

From a creative’s perspective, what are you most looking forward to once we come out on the other side of this?

I’m looking forward to going outside and exploring New York again, taking photos with my film camera and shooting without feeling a sense of guilt of being outside. It’s been weird not seeing New York the way I normally do, the energy and vibrancy is what drew me to move so I really can’t wait until that feeling is reunited.

Can you bring some sunshine into the situation with one of your quotes?

See Kyashi's work as a calligrapher at @kyashi_writes, and as an ex-pat on @kyashi_orasato.

Or, keep your creativity flowing over at our Style & Design section.

Image credit: Gaby Zaldivar


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