Us By Night: A Conversation with Emily Forgot, Leta & Wade, and Mirko Borsche
WORKING NOT WORKING
We caught up with some of the all-star speakers at this year’s Us By Night Festival, including Emily Forgot, Leta Sobierajski & Wade Jeffree, and Mirko Borsche. They share what they love about Us By Night, how they distill their creativity into words, and what they do to overcome the fear of stepping into the spotlight.
If you’re attending the Antwerp-based festival later this month, be sure to find WNW HQ’s Megan Campbell and Manda Wilks and say hello. And stick around after the event on Friday, November 23rd for drinks from late to even later. Festival tickets gain you entry.
How would you describe your creative approach? Are there certain ideas, ideals, influences, or goals that bridge your projects together?
Emily Forgot: I think I have a continuous aesthetic throughout my work. I like things to be playful and my output is often graphic and bold. With commercial works the look and feel can vary greatly as I like the brief to guide the visual direction. With my personal pieces I almost always find my inspiration in interior spaces & architecture. I think my goal would always be to bring some sort of joy or smile to the viewer; it’s quite simple really but i’ve made my peace with that.
Mirko Borsche: We always try to find the right narrative, to challenge the concept and to find the right tone to tell the story we want to express.
What sealed the deal and made you say yes to speaking at Us By Night?
Mirko Borsche: For me, it is an honor being asked to speak at such a big and important conference, so nobody needed to convince me.
In what ways is your creative career well-aligned with the personality and mission of Us By Night?
Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree: If you can't enjoy what you do, then why do it? UBN is one of the most engaging conferences we have ever been to. This is the only conference we have been where we were afraid to give up our seats, whether for a quick bathroom break or a snack, in fear of missing a morsel of knowledge or a new point of inspiration; we’re certain this year will be no different. The relaxed environment breeds approachability. Its lineup is also filled with contemporaries that often make us say "I wish I could do that." At our first UBN, we met many new faces that have become long withstanding relationships and friends we admire. Honest, kind-hearted people run the conference and that's why the environment feels the same; we can't speak highly enough about it.
Had you attended Us By Night in previous years? If so, what do you remember most from your experience there? What were some of the biggest takeaways?
Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree: UBN has some of the best talent from around the globe. We spoke on the main stage last year and stayed at the venue all three days with our butts in seats because the calibre of speakers was so great and diverse. So, sore butts, but lots of natural wine to keep our minds off of it.
Emily Forgot: I’m afraid I haven’t but I absolutely can’t wait. I love that it takes place in the evening so I am able to explore the city in the day.
In three words, what are you going to be sharing with us on the day of your talk/workshop?
Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree: Scrappy photographic choreography
Mirko Borsche: Me, myself, and the bureau
How do you distill why you do what you do in a talk? How do you put your creativity into words?
Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree: We believe our work and lives to be intertwined and we make sure to push each other to grow at all times. When we talk and distill our thinking it is on the back of our two core beliefs: "design As Performance" and things needing to be "purposefully Eclectic." If we can embody those in a project we see it as successful. So, in a way it isn't just about creativity for us—it's about our lives together and making sure everything surrounding us is connected and feels alive. We don't want to remain stagnant and just wait on others, but in a nutshell it's all about honesty. We speak honestly and candidly and as it is our lives we know that it's coming from the most compassionate place it can.
We think it’s important to have a very back-and-forth conversation. We give each other the chance to speak, but we give each other pre-determined roles in order to make sure we don’t screw up on stage. For example, Wade’s always better at delivering jokes and Leta talks about the serious stuff because she’s really bad at free-styling. We think it’s important to develop our own working tactics and so we highlight principles that help define our methods of thinking.
Mirko Borsche: Graphic designers normally aren’t people who like to talk that much. I am one of these, so I try to let our work talk for us.
Who or what inspires you and your work?
Mirko Borsche: It’s always the people surrounding you which influence your life.
Emily Forgot: My personal work is often inspired by architecture, interiors and by furniture designers. I like to travel and incorporate trips to see modernist buildings that are open to the public. My memory of these places and my photographs and sketches often result in a personal piece to record it, like a souvenir of sorts. The last few years I have been working on relief assemblage pieces constructed from wood. This new area of my practice has allowed me to play with colour and perspective; the work has the same surreal quality that has always been present in my work but perhaps in a more subtle way than in the past. It is also an opportunity to spend time away from the computer and use my hands.
How did you first get over the fear of stepping into the spotlight? Any tricks of the trade?
Mirko Borsche: I am always super nervous to talk in front of a big audience and I think I’ll never get really used to it.
Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree: If you can connect with even one person, your talk has been successful. Obviously, you want everyone to have the best time but the reality is that we as humans attach to different ideas, mentalities, processes, and also people. Although we have given talks to varying sizes in our career ranging from 10 to 5,000, it’s never the same. While we do have a lot of anxiety and a reasonable amount of self-consciousness, we think that the anticipation before giving a presentation isn’t worth the amount of time it’s given; we’d rather spend it more productively by, say, having a great conversation with another conference-goer or a quick alcoholic beverage to shake some last-minute nerves.
What’s something you’ve learned on your creative journey that other creatives should hear?
Emily Forgot: I think its becoming increasingly difficult to find your own visual language in the internet/social media age. I love finding inspiration, and the curation of these influences to me feels like a creative act itself. But I think we all need to dig deeper and understand the context and reason things take a certain shape. Just because something looks cool or feels on trend doesn't mean it suits the brief, and it shouldn’t be what guides your creative decision-making. I always try and look for an angle or an approach that will anchor the final visual outcome. Personal art pieces feel a little different as it is driven more from within, but I love a good design brief where you have to really think about why you are choosing to visually communicate the way you are.
What’s next for you after Us By Night?
Mirko Borsche: We want to do an exhibition for our latest project. If you have a museum which might be interested, call me!
Emily Forgot: I feel like I have a nice balance at the moment and hope to continue doing personal work and commissioned work for clients in tandem. Personally I would love to work on more spacial installation and interior projects. I love sharing the curatorial and research aspect of what I do through my journal so I would like to continue growing the audience for that, and hopefully I have some ideas for a podcast in the future too.