Today we explore the creative process with Alisha Laflamme-Szakonyi, a guitarist and singer-songwriter who also creates custom pieces of jewelry made from used guitar strings through her business, Cameo Strings. I met Alisha recently at the Phoenix Pride Festival, where she operated a booth for Cameo Strings and performed for an appreciative audience.
Alisha is the daughter of rock violin legend David Laflamme, which has deeply influenced her path as a musician. On her MySpace profile, she says she is described as playing in a style and genre similar to artists such as Dido, KT Tunstall, and Natalie Merchant.
Enjoy soaking up some creative wisdom from a woman who has succeeded in making her life a work of art on many different levels.
Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.
I am currently working on new music project that incorporates my original songs. Originally my intention was a full-length album, but as I have worked through the arrangements and style with my producer, Rob Chaney, we have arrived at a more mature, raw sound. Surprisingly this takes more focus to produce, so the process has been slower. This has led us to settle on an extended play album.
I also own a jewelry business, Cameo Strings, I have chosen the current designs to market and have been experiencing success at local art festivals. The next step is to get the line into boutiques locally and then nationally. I believe I have a very marketable and desirable line that has great potential. The business is currently in its first year, so we are off to a great start.
Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)? Do you feel training is important in creative development? Why/why not?
I have formal training in music but not related to the creation of Cameo Strings. I do believe that after feeling and touching guitar strings for about 20 years, I do have a special love for them. I am able to create something old into something new.
I did not take actual jewelry lessons because no one in the area was working in the medium. I took it into my own hands and did a lot of trial and error for about 6 months to discover just how to handle my recycled strings to create the designs. Since each one has been played on they all work a little differently.
I do not feel formal training is a necessity; however if it is available, I do believe there is much to learn from those wise folks that have gone before us. As for discipline, I have not found it to be hard when you work in the area of your life that you find peace and harmony within.
What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?
I have a bit of an advantage I feel because my music goes hand in hand with my inspiration for creating a new Cameo Strings piece. It is very rewarding when someone wants to “wear the music” from an original piece I have created from someone else’s strings that have captured every note played on them and stored their creative energy. Since I have three kids and a supportive and encouraging husband who also love music and arts, they, too, are keeping me motivated to create something that anyone of any age would enjoy wearing.
With regards to my music, I enjoy writing songs more than anything. They tend to come to me as I experience the day to day of life. I simply try to listen to what my circumstances are saying and then write a song that has the potential to resonate with someone else and their journey in life. Above all, I want my music to connect and inspire others with hope that they are not alone in the world. That they do matter, and their lives are meaningful.
What advice would you give to a “blocked” artist in your discipline to free up their creative energies?
The advice I would give any artist is that you always need to stop, drop and listen. Listen to that inner creative soul that is telling you it needs to come out. You should stop what you are doing and take some notes. Put down that remote or pull over in the car and write it down. I used to have a hand recorder on me to talk it out so I wouldn’t forget the idea or song. Often it will be at 2:30 in the morning, that is when the discipline kicks in to get up and get it down! Never think you will remember later because it was “so good” you won’t! Life is busy and you have to be willing to prioritize your goals, dreams, and desires. And that may mean a few sleepless nights!
Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?
At this time I am very excited about growing the “Celebrity Pieces” collection for Cameo Strings. These are pieces that are specifically made from known artist’s strings. People have fans and it is very cool when I can create a piece that they wear because they know it has captured the creative energy of their favorite artist. It just may give them some inspiration. I have actually experienced this. That is why I believe “redeemed strings” bring something new to our souls.
How do you select your creative projects? What elements of a potential project tend to intrigue you the most?
Selecting creative projects are twofold. I go with my instinct, and I wait and listen. The universe is about creation – if I listen, I can hear, feel, touch and know that creative energy. When the inspiration hits, all I can do is write the song or in the case of Cameo, design the piece. In either situation my husband knows I have gone to that special plane, and he gives me room and encourages the process. I believe that to be creative is to be fully alive. Life is without purpose unless we are co-creating with the muse that draws us.
Any other advice to artists to help them make their creative activity more satisfying?
If you are stepping into what you are called to do, people are drawn to you and your project. They see and sense honest passion, desire, and discipline. Don’t be shy to share it with everyone!
I have been fortunate to have many people help me because of my dream: my husband, who has believed in me from the very first time I met him; Roger Hancock, my photographer, who has done all the product shots for Cameo Strings and all Laflamme show shots; and my music producer, Rob Chaney, who has recorded a very successful EP, and is now producing my newest CD. Rob has an amazing ability to find the true music an artist wishes to produce and then call that music out of them. His expertise surpasses most because of his commitment to develop artists to their potential, and bring their vision to life.
It is refreshing and inspiring, especially in these times, to have many friends who believe in your dream, even when you have those times that you may not! Never give up on yourself or your dream. It is vital to your life and well-being.