I first become aware of Juli Steemson in early 2014, when she was drumming in one of my favourite bands, Black Valley Gospel. It wasn’t long before I started seeing her name pop up everywhere. Not only is she an amazing drummer in BVG, she also plays in Himalayan Bear, Clay George Deluxe and Bluesy Moods.
You may also be familiar with her shop that is located in beautiful Fan Tan Alley, Rad Juli Custom Designs, where she specializes in making custom, unique, handmade leather bags and accessories.
I was excited to sit down and talk some grit with Juli. Dylan Moore and I met with her at her shop and got to hear her tell stories of how she demonstrates “true grit” in her life!
What is a song you listen to when you are working?
I like to listen to upbeat music while i’m working, it gives me a spring in my step; right now i am totally loving Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and the Menahan Street Band; i recently found some really cool old R&B that is perfect for either getting going or just hanging out
How do you relax?
In the winter i relax by binge watching British tv shows, or drinking bottles of wine & cooking with my best people… in the summer my favourite thing is to have a picnic in a park or at the beach, and just lay around reading/chillin out
What is one of your favourite books and why?
My favourite book….oooh that is tough one. i’d say i have favourite authors…and favourite genres…i love Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and a good friend has got me recently hooked on William Gibson…Neil Stephenson, China Mieville, Clive Barker, Ursula LeGuin……i like to REALLY escape when i read, but i also like to have my ideas challenged, but ultimately i want all the stories to have if not a happy ending, at least a positive outcome.
To collaborate with others is awesome. i love it when two (or more) people can look at a piece of material or an image and come up with totally different end products. and having someone else to see your process is super helpful, even for small details..”what do you think works better, this, or this?”
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
i would advise my younger self to not get a credit card *laugh* everything else has been character building, and i wouldn’t change hardly any of it.
What is one of your greatest achievements?
So far i think my greatest acheivement has been to surround myself with the most incredible, inspiring, and supportive groups of friends and peers. it boggles my mind daily that i have such amazing friends! SECOND is the fact i have been working for myself for almost 4 years. crazy.
How do you find inspiration?
Inspiration can come from walking, talking, window shopping, art, music, movies, books, media, history, and sometimes just a simple thing, like a hook or pin, a piece of fabric, a garment, a photograph.
Who inspires you?
My friends inspire me. to keep going, to keep trying new things, to play music, and to not be afraid.
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid of failing at this…i think it would be a real disappointment to a lot of people. i’m also afraid of being trapped…philisophically, you know? trapped in a place or a process or a situation or a bad relationship. that is my greatest fear.
What is one of the most challenging things you are faced with?
so far the biggest challenges are all related to time……how to best use it, to balance being a person with being a business, to make time for people i care about.
What is an important lesson you have learned about your creative process?
Probably the biggest lesson is not to take on too much, you know? just the other day i was sorting through a bin of scraps, and there are SO many things i COULD make with them, it was super hard to pick one & stick to it, because, what if i get a better idea for that leather in like 2 days & it’s already all cut up?! terrible! but ultimately, you just have to make something with it, otherwise you’re just a pack rat with bins & bins of leather and no product to sell.
How has creativity helped you overcome adversity?
Creativity has pushed me from being a wage slave to being my own boss. it has helped me to solve personal problems, to help get into great situations…and creativity to me means trouble shooting, problem solving, as well as being artistically & musically creative…you can be creative with a bowl of rice & some spices, or you can be creative with coming up with a solution to a really bad life situation…i am very, very grateful to be a creative person.
What is an affirmation or mantra you live by?
There are a few affirmations i use to keep me positive, but so far my favourite, and the most useful & versatile is, “it’s going to be GREAT!” because, really, it is. it’s going to be great.