Lithium's First Birthday: A Round Up of New York's Most Creative and Inspiring Women

As many of you know, Lithium celebrated its first birthday last weekend in New York City. Blue Jean Studio hosted two hours of boba tea drinking, temporary tattooing, and connecting. I invited some of the coolest, most forward-thinking, creative women I could find in and around the city. Each individual had a different perspective to offer and I truly found myself in awe. I sat down with six incredible women and talked about everything from inspiration to revolution! Interviews by Olivia Ferrucci.

Kaira Widodo

Known for her work in film photography and modeling, Kaira is making her mark in New York City at just seventeen years old.

Lithium: How does being an artist impact the way you are perceived on a daily basis?
Kaira: Everyone wants to be an artist. It's important to stand out, though, if you want to be viewed as a professional.
Lithium: I’ve written about the male gaze in media, particularly through the lens- is that something you’ve noticed in your education and experience?
Kaira: Yeah, absolutely. My ex is a photographer, and he used to say "but you're a girl" when I would take pictures. Photography makes me happy, though, and me being a girl has nothing to do with it!
Lithium: How has modeling impacted your own photography and creativity?
Kaira: Photography lets you express yourself through your eyes while modeling is a way to express yourself using your body. My photos are directly affected by my modeling, and they're almost interchangeable.
Lithium: How did you get into shooting film?
Kaira: I actually just started this summer! I found my use dad's old camera and just started using it. I love it because shooting film only lets you use limited exposures, and processing really shows the results.

Olivia Aylmer

As co-editor of Constellation Mag and Communications Assistant at Vanity Fair, there's no doubt that Olivia Aylmer is refusing to limit her dreams by any means. With a background in dance and publishing, it's clear Aylmer is both multi-talented and pragmatic.

Lithium: How does your background in dance intertwine with your writing?
Olivia: Just to provide some background, I started training at maybe 4 or 5 years old. I was very serious about it! I was in the Junior Richman program and actually minored in dance. It really gave me tools of discipline and attention to detail, and it also taught me that your work is never really done until your career ultimately ends. You learn new information about your body, too. It carries over and fuses with language in self-expression.
Lithium: What was the inspiration behind Constellation? Where do you see it going in 2017?
Olivia: I'm a co-editor of Constellation, and I actually met my other co-editor by being her assistant. Our editors all connected through dance and art, and we've grown to a hundred members so far. All of our members are female-identified. We founded Constellation as an online platform to really celebrate women. The name plays off of the interconnectivity between all women as a whole, which is really what got me here today. In the next year, our space will grow and we will definitely celebrate the work these women have been doing for years. We are launching at the end of February and will have our website up soon! Also, we are having launch events in Los Angeles, London, and New York City. Eventually, we want to publish in print, too.
Lithium: Can you tell us anything exciting happening with Constellation at the moment?
Olivia: We have gathered all of our content and are starting to design the site! Our Instagram launched a month ago, and it already has 200 followers. It's out there in the world now, and people are starting to learn about it.
Lithium: I saw you worked with Little, Brown and Company as a publicity assistant! How did that impact your career aspirations?
Olivia: So, I worked there for a year and a half just after college. It really taught me the successful skills needed to be a publicist, like making sure that what you say matters. It was the first job where I built relationships with media outlets, and I worked with people who deeply care about what they're doing. I also learned the steps a book takes from a draft to the real world. The big question is where the book fits into the conversation of modern literature.
Lithium: What attracts you to zine culture? Why do you think female representation in publication is so important?
Olivia: I looked at Barnard College's collection of zines (it's one of the biggest) and realized [how incredibly] it captures what a person is, especially women-identified individuals. It brings people together. What does it take more than an idea? I don't think permission is needed to make zines. Since Riot Grrl, it has allowed girls to create their culture and control their image making.
Lithium: What would your advice be to young girls looking to break into the writing industry?
Olivia: High school is a very important time, and it can often be taken for granted. Maybe you're consuming media, but not creating it. That period of time in someone's life really informs what you will end up making. It's a fertile breeding ground for creativity. Understanding what inspires the people you admire is important, too. Every writer starts as a reader! You have to join the conversation at some point. With publications like "Rookie" and "Lithium", girls aren't waiting. They're creating. Don't take for granted the first time you experience an art form. As for other advice, I stand by the idea of mentorship. Reach out! Maybe at a job, a teacher, an internship- whoever's in the world you want to be in. When you're trying to find your voice, having role models is an important step to becoming your own role model. So many women that inspired me to enter publishing came from magazines. I'd scan the masthead and realize how important it is to create platforms that amplify voices. It is rewarding.

Anastasia Alphina

As a Parsons student, Anastasia looks to combine a multitude of art forms through graphic design, styling, writing and more. The gifted teen has already been published on Rookie and is clear in her desire to create her own opportunities.

Lithium: How has attending Parsons been so far?
Anastasia: It's been an experience! I didn't know what to expect- it's a city school, and I'm living off campus. I've been so inspired, surrounded by incredibly talented New Yorkers.
Lithium: Being a multi-talented creative, how do you fuse different mediums of art?
Anastasia: It comes natural to me. I've been dabbling in multiple forms of media since I was little!
Lithium: Why do you think social media is so important for establishing creative opportunities?
Anastasia: It's so easy to put your work out there and connect. Without social media, I wouldn't even be here!
Lithium: How does being an artist affect the ways in which you view the world?
Anastasia: As artists, we tend to be more aware of social issues and injustices, because we've been impacted. Through making art, I've become more aware and inspired. For my Parsons challenge, I talked about finding inspiration in mundane places in three parts. I pushed myself to find inspiration in unlikely places and see things in a different way.
Lithium: What would your advice be to young girls looking to delve into more creative pursuits?
Anastasia: Definitely go for it. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but social media creates more opportunities. It's so easy to say 'stay true to yourself and work hard', but it's true.

Nicole Retalis

An up and coming cartoonist and photographer, Nicole does not hesitate to speak her mind through social media and artwork.

Lithium: How has social media helped you in your filmmaking aspirations?
Nicole: It's helped me find a lot of other filmmakers. When I go to film class, I don't always find people on my wavelength, especially women or femme-identified people.
Lithium: I’ve written about the male gaze in media, particularly through the lens- is that something you’ve noticed in your education and experience?
Nicole: It's hard to explain! I focus the most on it, and I make sure not to exploit the female body. I do lots of close-up shots of faces, not bodies. It characterizes women. I shoot eyes before anything else. I do character designs, so I account for body positivity but I don't want that to be the only aspect of their character.
Lithium: On Instagram, you primarily post artwork and cartoons. How do you fuse art and film in your own work?
Nicole: I storyboard very heavily, which really helps me! I think of everything as though I'm painting. I consider different conventional aspects before the storyline: What is it going to look like?
Lithium: What do you strive to achieve in your career? Do you want to go into filmmaking?
Nicole: I want filmmaking to be a facet of my career, and also animation. I want to live somewhere remote and support myself through art and connect with people. I want to reach out to similar people. I'm queer, I'm a black girl, I've struggled with femininity. I want to create stories that connect with femmes and educate people like, this is what we go through. I want to add to the narrative, not be it.
Lithium: How does being an artist impact the way you see the world on a daily basis?
Nicole: There has never been a part of my life when I wasn't an artist. It makes me look around and think. Little things like her shoes (points to heels) just show creativity; there is not a single thing in existence that isn't art.

Megan Schaller and Chaia 

Brilliant creatives Megan (@megxxn, @megandoods) and Chaia (@chmscll) serve as editors of the new, collaborative space designed for female thoughts to thrive known as Modern Girls. More than that, though, Megan's art and Chaia's writing do not cater to perceived standards; both individuals create to create.
Lithium: How did you guys become involved with Modern Girls?
Megan: We started this summer. We all had actually met through a mutual love of The Strokes!
Chaia: We're all like-minded women who want to create discussions on what we aren't hearing. We're all from diverse communities, but we share a commonality in music.
Lithium: What do you think the impact of zine culture is in today’s world?
Megan: It starts the discussion of the zine resurgence. Feminism as a trend definitely sparked that, for better or worse; at least it gets a conversation started.
Chaia: Teen Vogue is being real about election coverage, which really fights the idea of young girls not being politically involved. Zine culture creates a dialogue of speaking as a teen girl.
Megan: Riot grrl was very exclusive, white feminist. The resurgence of zine culture gives us a chance to make sure every community takes part.
Lithium: Megan- How has working with publications like Crybaby Zine and Sonic Blume impacted your artistry and outlook? I saw that you’ve started drawing famous pieces centered on white, able-bodied women and making them more diverse. What was the inspiration behind this? Do you plan on making this the focus of your work?
Megan: They were the first publications that showed me that I could realize this cultural phenomenon. It's because of them that I use social media to document my beliefs. There's no power behind the music portraits [I do]. I wanted to make something that mattered. The Art History AP curriculum really isn't diverse as it tries to be. My friend wanted to do a Cuban Mona Lisa, and it progressed from there.
Lithium: What are you both inspired by in writing and art, respectively?
Megan: Music and celebrating passion.
Chaia: Movies! Even though they aren't necessarily diverse, I love the creativity behind them.