Q&A: Chelsea Leifken
Inspired by messages of love, Chelsea Leiken has created an art career for herself while encouraging others to find the brilliance within themselves.
We met Chelsea at JIG + SAW’s grand opening night where she unveiled one of her murals. For those who don’t know about JIG + SAW, it is a creative community for female entrepreneurs and creatives based in Los Angeles. Within their walls, they have a empowered statement which Chelsea created. We found Chelsea to be very humble, with a big, welcoming smile. We soon discovered that we had to share a little of herself with all of you.
Briefly introduce yourself.
Hi! Chelsea Leifken here. I grew up in New Jersey, moved to Los Angeles for college and immediately knew California was home. Single life—no pets, no kids—just an artist with her brushes on a mission to create and inspire.
After graduating from business school at FIDM I decided to go back to my art roots and dug my watercolors out of my closet. I stopped trying to identify with others brands and started to create my own.
Since then, I have created a line of leather accessories, which includes leather jackets, clutches, backpacks and accessories, which merges my minimalist aesthetic and unique writing style to share my message of love with the masses.
Basically, I write on everything from prints to jackets to walls.
Tell us about the journey to becoming the artist you are now.
Growing up I was ALWAYS creating. Both my mom and my nana [grandma] encouraged me to take art classes and express myself creatively. Throughout my schooling—art studio was my safe place. I could get lost for hours with my headphones and my art journal.
I decided to go to college for business since my mom always knew I’d try to monetize my creativity. (Thank you mom.) Shortly after graduating college I quit my job and moved back home to quiet my mind and put brush to paper.
I started to monetize with linen pillows—which turned into leather clutches, then leather jackets—and now anything I can get my hands on!
What are you most inspired by? Tell us more about Awaken Arts.
I’m inspired by life. I’m inspired by people. I’m inspired by feelings. Art was always my safe escape to express myself and my emotions. After building a business, I made a promise that I would do anything in my power to help girls heal themselves through art. About a year ago I partnered up with Awaken Arts, which has been such an amazing experience. We believe that when you create together—you heal together. It’s been so rewarding to watch girls use art to channel their feelings.
You are not only an artist that does everything from large murals to canvas paintings you are also into fashion, creating a fashion line of keychains, backpacks, and leather jackets that align with your art. How did you come about that?
I wanted to make things that I wanted to wear. I wasn’t seeing inspirational words on jackets—I wasn’t seeing the juxtaposition of loving words on leather. I wanted to mix the two. Hard and soft. I am always creating for myself. Making things for others never really worked out for me. There’s an authenticity that shines through when you do what makes you happy. People feel it. I feel like I’ve connected with people and come as far as I have because of that. You can’t fake a feeling. You can’t fake how art can make someone feel.
What is it like to be a female artist? Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?
I can’t believe I make a living doing what I love. Most days I have friends pinch me. It’s hard and beautiful and easy and amazing. I’m constantly straddling the line of crippling anxiety and not giving a fuck about anything. It’s—the artist line. But it keeps me on my feet—and keeps me creating.
My tips? Make things you wish existed. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Just do—just make—just create. Airplane mode is the best thing ever. Shut the world off. Put music on and get lost in it. Stop caring what everyone else thinks. You are doing the world a disservice if you hide your magic. Imma go full Nike on you. Just do it.
Photography by Chelsea Leifken