ARTIST INTERVIEW: Anna Wallack of Misha & Puff
Company: Misha & Puff
Artist: Anna Wallack
Anna Wallack is the founder and creative director of Misha & Puff. Founded in 2012 while on maternity leave from a career as a stylist, Wallack made samples for the first season all by hand, and carried them around door to door to see if shops would buy. After growing demand, she moved production to Peru where she found a group of 10 knitters at a knitting center on the outskirts of Lima that also served as after school enrichment program and hot meals for kids. Fast forward to today, Wallack now employs over 800 knitters to serve over 80 boutiques globally in addition to customers through her own shop. The Misha & Puff ethos remains the same, though: make it the best way possible, in the nicest way possible. As they grow and expand their operations, their mission is still to consider all they put in the world and to respectfully use precious resources. Their clothes are built to last, and meant to be passed down.
What would you say is the driving force behind your creative work?
I am a very unsettled designer. I am always striving to be better, and I like perfection.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
Most of the garments of for babies and children, and that really is the first place I start in designing; they must be useful, for just pretty objects won’t be used, and that really is wasteful.
How do you define success in your art or craft, or alternately, what does failure mean to you?
As a small business owner my relationship to failure has changed greatly over the past 6 years. What I feared so much before I started is now absolutely necessary to growth. Removing fear from failure was the best thing I have done, maybe.
What criteria do you use to evaluate your own work?
I need to LOVE it. After everything if I don’t love it, I don’t make it. And that “love it” feeling is hard to describe, but it does mean everything has aligned and the timing is right, and the execution is perfection. I should mentioned, I have totally loved pieces that then were not well received in the market. That’s a whole other thing!
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
I love to be surrounded by my children’s art. At home and the studio. When the cone visit the studio they make drawings and sculptures and hang them all around. I also keep my Dad’s on Nikon camera on my desk. My Dad passed away before my business really got going, but I know he is around with me still. This is a nice reminder when things get tough. As well, it’s simply a beautiful object, and a relic from another time.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
I try to be open at any time, but I find I am the most free and observant when traveling and everything is fresh and new. I always come back from trips with loads of images and sketches.
Do you see your work as part of an artistic tradition?
Knitting surely is, and working Peru, absolutely! For this craft and any handwork the act of doing it makes you feel connected back in time to it’s history.
Where does your work depart from artistic tradition and move into new territory?
I think that is the work of a designer. To draw inspiration, honor the craft and history and add in new inspiring ways to the dialogue. Not to be negative here, but in truth I think the most egregious part of copying another artist’s work is that you had an opportunity to move the conversation forward but you didn’t.
Who are some current artists, creators, or people working in other fields whose work you admire?
I so admire artisans. People devoted to a craft. The first time I went to peru I was completely blown away by the level of talent. I have never been so close to that before. Ladies who had been knitting as long as they can remember, and with such proficiency and ease.
Other designers that are inspiring are ones that work in non traditional ways. I am interested in those folks that are working outside set systems, and not adhering to a traditional fashion calender / model or even means of production. I like those who are quietly innovating.
A detacher, Bode, Milena Silvano.
I also consider shop owners, editors, and artists. At a time when you can literally have anything at your door in a day, The edit is so much more interesting. The women’s collection is sold at some of my favorite shops where the owners have such an artfully curated mix of product I am so honored to be included: oroboro, rennes and bon tucson. I love shops that have their own unique recognizable perspective.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
Creativity feels more solitary to me, but I have developed a network for business that includes other small designers and brands that i regularly check in with. We talk less about the creative process and ideas, and rather help each other with problem solving and provide emotional support. I find solace in the solitary act of creating, but I find it lovely to be a business owner.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
I think my dad was an artist at heart who would have thought the pursuit to be too impractical for himself. He had an amazing eye and so his life became his artwork – his house, his food, his clothing, his gardens, and he nurtured in me the confidence to explore my own artistic endeavors and for that I am grateful. My sister is an architect and I love hearing about her process and work. Out of everyone I know, her sensibility and taste is the most similar and so she is my go to for bouncing stuff around.