Tell us about yourself.
Hi, my name is Debbie Carlos. I was born in California, moved to Manila for 8 years, and then came back to the US to study psychology in college. During the last semester of my senior year, I took a photography class and have been hooked ever since.
I moved to Chicago with my then-boyfriend to concentrate on studying photography at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I have been living here ever since. My then-boyfriend is now my husband, and we room with a cat and a big lop-eared bunny, who are not bad roommates, but could be better!
Apart from creating, what do you do?
In terms of work, I am a part-time studio manager for another photographer. It is a pretty fun job that has me doing all sorts of things — one day I am producing a photoshoot, another day we are hauling snow into the studio to make a tiny snowman army for another photo project, and sometimes I do light bookkeeping.
In terms of fun, I like reading about food, making food, taking pictures of food and traveling to places that serve delicious food. I also do a bit of container gardening with the little space that I have. Other fun things I like to dabble in include looking at art, traveling, taking nature walks, thrifting, going for bike rides, pointing at cute animals, trying to wrap my head around quantum physics, throwing together mega-awesome terrariums and acquiring leafy house plants.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
I would choose the title Wandering Cloud, which was also the title of my first solo show. This is taken from the Wordsworth poem “I Wander Lonely As a Cloud,” which I think has a lovely, quiet meandering quality. It is about the beautiful things in life, a beauty that comes from nature and the small moments of discovery that you chance upon, and how these quiet discoveries are not only pretty but sublime. This is what I feel like most of my work is about.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I love to look at art, especially self-taught art. Inspiration can spring up anywhere and anytime, so I try to be open to that and have a camera handy.
What does handmade mean to you?
Buying handmade is important to me because it means so much more than just buying something cool. A handmade object connects you to that someone, somewhere, who is hopefully doing what they love. Buying handmade means supporting an artist, supporting a small business, and in doing so, fostering community. It means a unique, quality product made with thought and care.
Buying handmade also means that you choose what you want more carefully. You live with less but you have more of the things you really love and will have for years.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
I have to give mad props to my husband! He is the one who encouraged me to pick up my camera after many years. He pushed me to take that photography class the last semester of my senior year (after three-and-a-half years of majoring in psychology), which helped me rediscover my love for photography.
He introduces me to new artists that become favorites, he is there for me to bounce ideas off, helps out when I have too much on my plate, holds up the prints and posters for the pictures in my Etsy listings, and is awesome at helping me edit my words for interview questions! I would not be where I am now without him.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I have loved art since I was a child and have always pursued it, but I never thought I could actually make a living as an artist until last year. I had always imagined working under someone else and used that idea as a security blanket. I knew I was a good photographer, but never really thought I had the work, experience, or the personality to make it out there on my own.
Once my full-time job became a part-time one, I decided to open an Etsy shop to supplement my income. I didn’t know that my posters and my work were going to be so well-received — I feel very honored! Eventually my photography and my online shop became what I do pretty much full-time now. It is amazing to know that, yeah, I could totally do this!
How would you describe your creative process?
Having a camera on me at all times is the most helpful part of the creative process. Sometimes there is nothing to take a picture of, but sometimes there is. I make sure to take a lot of photos, even if I don’t feel very strongly about the shot, because I like to leave room to be surprised.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Some of the Dadaists, because I bet they were pretty messy.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
This is a really hard question. I love each and every single handmade item that I have. If I had to choose something that looks cool, and is really relevant to what I do every day, it has to be the custom bag that Lilian of Boyfren/Girlfren made for me to carry my posters to the post office. I don’t know what I would do without it. I don’t have a car, so I either walk, take the bus, or bike to get where I want to go, and it’s pretty tough to get around (with any sort of grace) when I have to carry 4 to 15, 36”-tall mailing tubes along with me. The bag makes it possible!
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Go out and see something new.
Take a break for a day or two and come back.
Play pranks on my pets.
Look at my favorite artists’ work or go find an artist I’ve never heard of before.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’d like to be living in a light-filled house in the country with a garden with some chickens and some sheep. It would be cool if there were a view of the mountains, or a forest nearby with the sounds of babbling brooks! But most of all, I’d love to just live simply and quietly, and have a nice space to work in.