Friday, August 10, 2007

Suspect Shoppe by Mati Rose ... California, USA

Artist: Mati Rose McDonough
Business: “Suspect Shoppe” by Mati Rose
Web sites: and
Location: San Francisco, California, USA

What do you create?
I create paintings, primarily with acrylic paint that incorporate collage and silk-screen. I like to re-invent things: cut up lace doilies and make them elephants, birds made out of silver leaf, found fabrics and vintage photos reclaimed. I hope to make art that is beautiful, colorful and has an unsuspected narrative.

Where and when do you do your creative work?
I do my creative work in my studio behind my home called Compound 21 that I share with eight other artists. I create any time of day, depending on what else I have going on – always with music loud, making a mess, and with many tea/coffee breaks so I get built-in perspective.

Do you have another "day job"?
I currently do not have a day job and am at a point of transition with where my art and work are going to lead me. My art collective called Beehive is looking for a space where we can teach art classes to create a more steady income. While I was in school I worked at several incredible San Francisco restaurants and ate like a millionaire on an art school budget, but I left two months ago and vow to never work in food service again if I can help it!

Where and what did you study?
I majored in Latin American Studies at a small liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota called Macalester. I minored in Art, but didn’t see that as realistic to pursue being an artist, plus I had so many other interests like Spanish. I ended up merging the two in ways by studying abroad in Bogotá, Colombia and teaching art classes to women in prison.

My favorite semester was one January term, where it’s 20 below in Minnesota, and I signed up for an intensive painting class where I lived and breathed oil paint all day every day for a month and was so happy. That should have been a clue! I got a second degree at California College of Arts (CCA) in painting and illustration and just finished six months ago.

Where do you find inspiration?
My neighborhood the Mission is very colorful — the street signs, dollar stores, taquerias with papel picado (cut paper) hanging like streamers and open markets full of fruit and flowers. San Francisco in general has so many pockets of inspiration – Chinatown, Japantown, the ocean, urban gardens, hidden stair cases, art museums like MOMA, Yerba Buena, De Young and tons of galleries and murals and street art. I love the Bay Area, and I’m getting inspired just thinking about how much there is to be inspired by!

What motivates you?
Other artists I admire in books, galleries and museums: Beatriz Milhazes, Amy Cutler, Margaret Killgallan and Kiki Smith to name a few. My studio-mates, my fiancé Hugh D’Andrade, my three-person art collective Beehive, my artist friends and of course art and craft bloggers! I also have to mention my mom, she is forever crafting and motivating.

When did you start doing this?
I had my first show in a local gallery in 2002 that was sort of my coming out as an artist and it surprisingly sold out (mostly to friends, but still, it gave me hope!). Shortly after that my fiancé and I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico for a few months. Oaxaca is a very artistic and inspiring city and we made our own artist retreat by renting a little place and painted, mostly watercolor because it was lightweight. I applied to art school the following year with a portfolio made mostly from that time, and just recently finished in January, so I’m finding my way again.

Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
Yes. I cut up socks and stuffed animals and put them together again Frankenstein style, swapping different heads with different bodies. In grade school we made books out of cereal boxes and wallpaper and volunteers typed them up and this seems formative for me in my desire to illustrate and write books. And later on I tried to replicate “Teen Beat” and “Seventeen” by making my own magazines with actual perforated tear out ads for “Baby Soft” perfume and '80s hilariousness.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I got laid off in 2001 when the San Francisco economic bubble burst from an administrative role at an Art Law firm, where I was supporting all these amazing artists and living vicariously through them, but felt really sad about my own career path.

When I got laid off I started making messy explosive art on my kitchen table, much to my roommate’s annoyance, and decided to take some art classes, and specifically loved a children’s book illustration class (and repeated it three times!) and decided that I wanted to be an illustrator. I then took a very practical class called “Starting Your Own Business” and saw how much further I wanted to go and went back to school for illustration. I also (gosh I’m realizing how much research I did and forgot about) found a creative coach who was amazing, to work with me towards my goals.

How did you choose the name for your business?

Suspect Shoppe was a name I put on my first creations — I made magnets and silk-screened underwear with little images of suspicious looking girls and a cat with a patch over its eye. Suspect things. Other words that come to mind are curious, surprise, twist and unexpected.

What do you love most about creating your work?
Freedom and being my own boss. I love being able to roam the streets at any time of day and bring big packages to the post with turquoise sharpie script, doodles and stickers on them to send to my people. The whole thing makes me very happy and like I’m regressing to my childhood, but I think there’s the bliss.

What's the most fascinating place you've been?
My friend Jessie and I drove cross-country from Boston to San Francisco and there were some places in the deep south of New Orleans near swamp lands and gator tours that I found fascinating.

A book you love:
So many! I like to read about five books at a time, and literally fall asleep with a few lying on top of me and Hugh has to pick them off of me. Lately these have been wedding centered. Recently I read Chronicles by Bob Dylan and surprised myself by loving it. I especially liked reading about how hungry he was for knowledge of folk music and that time period of the old ballads. He would study old headlines of newspapers in the library and soak up the information and said he could “send a train back later” for the information. I love that idea of learning and letting it seep in for later use, instead of worrying it’s going to pass you by. I am also a big fan of writing in your books, highlighting, dog-earing the pages so that you really feel like you own them. I learned this by example after borrowing books from my artist friend Sabrina Ward Harrison, who is another inspiration to me.

What is the most interesting thing about you?
Hmm. I am simultaneously cautious and a risk-taker. I am shy and yet very outgoing. Fearful but bold. I use a lot of self-trickery.

What achievement are you most proud of?
Going back to art school even though it was incredibly risky financially and felt a bit like an old lady turning 30 with kids who were just having their first legal beer, but I really am happy I gave myself that time and luxury to grow.

What advice would you give women starting their own business?
Interview people like crazy. And then interview again when you’re at another perhaps smaller crossroads. That is something I have to remind myself is that you can always jump off your particular trajectory, and start anew. Also, find your support systems. Whether it be bloggers, studio mates, or friends who will listen to your trials and triumphs.

What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Focus. I like to dabble. I grew a lot in art school and have a bigger skill set than I once did, and sometimes I feel it is helpful to have limitations and to push those limitations. Right now I’m feeling like I have too many brushes! Obviously I can see the advantage of this... another challenge I have is that I always see both sides to every coin, and because of that it takes me a long time to make decisions. Fortunately when I do make those difficult decisions they are authentic.

What do you love to do in your free time?
If I could have my perfect day I would go with one of my friends to our neighborhood French bakery Tartine and talk art and life over a bowl of a latte and a morning bun and then thrift or go to a fabric store (specifically Britex) or SCRAP (recycled goods) or even Anthropologie for inspiration and then go home and create, later on in my perfect day I would have a date with my man Hugh and go to a movie and dinner. I also love to kick-box, cook, read and ride my bike.

What are you working on right now?
In all honesty, planning our wedding in a couple weeks! Since my fiancé and I are both artists it is definitely a creative party from the invites to the table cloths to the tissue paper flowers we are amping up color!

What do you hope to achieve next?
First, I am dying to build a new portfolio website come fall. I dream to publish a children’s book — write and illustrate one. I would also like to have a solo show someplace exciting, like Italy! Mainly, I would like to figure out a balance of creating art and living off it in a steady fashion, so we’re not sweating to pay the basics.


  1. Wonderful interveiw and tremendously talented artist!

  2. Wonderful insight. Fabulous interview, Mati!!

  3. yay! lovely interview. fun to see so much of mati's art interspersed.

  4. loved reading this too mati! great interview :)