Sitting down with Tintype Artist Vanessa Maestri of Armadillo Tintype felt like a long time coming. Vanessa and I have many shared acquaintances and friends. Without all the 6 degrees of separation, it was instant connection upon entering her Asbury Park studio on Bangs Ave.
Vanessa and I got right down to business, the conversation flowed effortlessly. The kind that goes off on so many tangents and swings off in a multitude of detours and directions your head could spin off and you could short circuit. BUT, you don’t because you’re connected to it deep within your soul. We covered everything from; past lives, to previous lives in these lives, to obstaining from meat, but finding it impossible to give up cheese because well — a place called Rosie’s Pizza. We intimately shared our similar views on motherhood, which might I add was impossibly refreshing. It is few and far between to come across a woman who feels the things I do, even in our modern world. Needless to say, I am a woman who craves depth and loves digging deep deep down into the crevices far below the surface. Spending time with Vanessa was truly soul serving in a way every woman needs every so often. I was honored to sit for Vanessa for four portraits during our interview. Vanessa is intelligent, informed, talented, gorgeous, incredibly honest, and has my favorite trait of all — a fantastic sense of humor. It is my humble opinion that Vanessa doesn’t quite realize how gorgeous and absolutely wonderful she is. A characteristic that makes her even more impossibly endearing. Also, her hair is just the best thing ever. I have a strong affinity for natural wild hair. Did you not know?
So, here goes. The first look into our very first Working Woman — Vanessa Maestri of Armadillo Tintype.
What makes you feel the most liberated?
The realization that I’m in control of my own destiny.
What makes you feel the most vulnerable?
Putting my work into the world is probably the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt- especially in portraiture since it’s so personal for the sitter. I’ve been a relatively guarded and introspective person in my life. I never thought I would be brave enough to put myself in the way of scrutiny or subject of opinion. Every time I invite someone into my space I feel that same vulnerability.
What is the most important ingredient in your craft?
Without question, patience! There’s an element of unpredictability in this process that often requires tests and trial and error to work through. Working with other people’s personalities and expectations requires the same care.
How many times have you wanted to quit?
A handful of times. There are some days when I run into chemistry problems with no apparent cause or I’m struggling to pay the rent. When this happens I visualize someone’s work that’s moved me. That always inspires me to keep going.
What brings you back to center? When are you most connected?
It’s silly but, a bath! It’s like a ritual of washing away everything that didn’t serve you in the day and starting fresh. Being alone in nature is the ultimate connector for me.
What does being a woman and the divine feminine mean to you?
Consciousness. Actually, our meeting to me is a perfect example of what being a woman means. Inviting other women we respect and admire enriches our lives and invokes creation- it keeps the divine feminine flowing!
What do you love most about being a woman?
The ability to be sensitive, intuitive, and strong at the same time. All of these help us cultivate really special relationships with one another.
When you do feel the most beautiful?
Strangely enough I feel most beautiful in my work uniform. I think it’s because I’m completely unaware of how I look. I feel like I’m channeling all of the female photographers who’s work I admire.
What does it mean for you to be an artist?
I’m still searching for what I have to say as an artist. I’m not sure that searching will ever end. But being awake to what drives art forward and letting go to the element of surprise this process includes is what it means for me to be an artist now.
How did you begin your work with tintype? What do you love most about tintype?
I went to school for photography and dropped out after one semester. I felt intimidated by my peers work, I was obviously falling behind but still loved it. I stumbled upon a woman named Joni Sternbach’s work and became possessed by it. I took a workshop a year or so later from one of her students and that was it.
I love wet plate collodion process because you can’t fake it. There’s no editing, it’s a single direct positive, and everything is done completely by hand. I also feel more connected to the process and the subjects- less like I’m stealing beauty with a quick shot and more that I’m basking in it since it takes so long to make the single image.
Is this your greatest passion or are there other things you’d like explore?
I find in my adult life my thirst for knowledge is pretty insatiable. There is so much I want to learn. My mother taught me to quilt a few years ago, I’d like to work on again soon. I want to keep bees and learn Equine and pet massage. Of course life always happens and you have to pay the bills but I’m sure I’ll get around to them soon!
Name one word that embodies your spirit. Tenacious
Name one word that defines sirena + the sea to you? SPIRITED