Happy 2015 Bellpeppers! We’re starting off the year right by connecting to California makers and celebrating their awesome work. Last week we featured Stephanie Bernstein from To Go Ware and today I have a special treat for you with an interview and giveaway with Maria Schoettler.
You may have seen Maria’s beautiful watercolor paintings and seasonal calendars around stores in San Francisco such as the General Store, Bi Rite or The Gardener. I got to talk to Maria one gray morning in the San Francisco Ferry Building about how she started her art career, the beauty of connecting to local food and some exciting plans for the new year. Read on for a chance to win one of her stunning 2015 eat local produce calendars!
Tell us about your art background:
I studied art in college, (oil painting) and I was interested in portraits. My work started getting abstract, but I relied heavily on using models. When I moved to Oakland I stumbled across a studio that happened to have live models, and I did that for a while. But I realized I was creating work only for myself, and that’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want to be in the gallery world, and be a fine artist that only the wealthy had access to. I wanted something more democratic. I stopped doing art for a time and just worked at a preschool and was getting my footing in being a young adult. I wanted to be working in food somehow, I had a trial day at one of Alice Water’s cafes and it was terrible (laughs). I just failed miserably, I didn’t enjoy it.
How did you get interested in local food?
At the time I was very inspired by Alice Waters and I equated being a self-sufficient adult with being able to cook really good food for myself. I wanted to eat the food that I grew up with, which was Italian but was also focused on eating good food together with family. I always associated food with a sense of home and comfort, and being in the Bay Area really inspired me to be a part of the local food movement.The Temescal farmers market is really close to my house, and I became a diehard farmers market goer. I would go every Sunday and just got excited about it.
How did the idea for your calendars come about?
I made a calendar of what was in season for myself and it was just one-page- a representation of what it means to eat locally in the Bay. I got a lot of good feedback from friends and family and realized that people might be interested in them and that I could potentially sell them.
A friend and I set up a table at the farmers market one day with a local calendars sign. The programs director of 18 Reasons came to the table and was like, “I don’t know what this is but I want to help you.” She to this day is kind of the person who made it happen, she introduced me to Sam from Bi-Rite, who was my first real account.
From there I just hit the floor and started trying to sell to more stores, some people completely blew me off and others were totally receptive. Each year its just grown and grown and its been a great way to meet new people and collaborate with people who have been passionate about the same things.
Tell us about some of your recent collaborations
The one thing I don’t like about being an artist is that its super solitary, so collaboration has been my saving grace. And the kind of art that I make really lends itself to collaboration. A good friend of mine Molly, has a company called Ambatalia, and she’s all about textiles for a non-disposable life, which ties into my interests. She connected me to a lot of awesome people as well.
Any big plans for 2015?
I’m looking to do less products and more illustrations, and just branching out. I have a show at The Mill in February and doing mostly northern California landscape paintings which I’ve never done before. I thought I’d just try it out and I’m having a lot of fun with it!
How do you explain the importance of eating locally to someone new to the concept?
There’s something really beautiful about the specimens, which is an undeniable quality of what I’m doing. Even if you cant appreciate eating locally, then you can at least recognize the beauty in an apple, which ties back to the whole process. Its beautiful because its heirloom and fresh and grown 15 miles from here.
Food can also be fun: you can turn the practice of going to the grocery store more pleasurable if you go to a famers market and build community around it. And you can make meals more fun- it’s such an amazing source of connection. No ones going to say no if you invite them over for dinner, you know? Eating is such a pleasurable activity that we all need to do.
What’s something you wish people knew about your work?
I wish people knew that I’m not doing this out of some sort of trend, but rather out of a labor of love and commitment to eating well and shopping at farmer’s markets. That’s how it started. As a lifestyle.
What’s your favorite meal to cook?
I love making pizza, either in my oven or on the barbecue. It’s such a social and collaborative food to cook and eat, I love how playful it is and how many endless possibilities there are for topping innovation!
What are 5 things you can’t live without?
I could not live without coffee. A community of like-minded friends. Access to good food is crucial to my well being. Weather warm enough to be outside. Colorful things.
Thank you Maria for sharing your story with us! And now for all you lovely bellpeppers, I’m giving away one of Maria’s 2015 local food calendars- enter below!