We had the good fortune of connecting with Ada Rose Mancusi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ada Rose, why did you pursue a creative career?
My passion and abilities have always been in art and design, so it was an obvious choice for me as a career path. If you are dedicated and develop your skills and abilities with passion, you will create a career where you will ultimately be satisfied. Some of the earliest memories I have is of drawing everything – I enjoyed it immensely. This passion is what lead me to develop my artistic skills and choose the path I am on today. I was also very fortunate to have a family that nurtured this creative ability allowing me to explore and develop these skills which helped me gain the confidence to pursue design as a career. I chose to study architecture in college because I was fascinated with home design and felt architecture was the perfect combination of my artistic and technical abilities. I also viewed it as a well-respected profession. At that time in my life I felt it was important to choose a more technical profession rather than just be an “artist”. I now feel I was naive in that assumption and wish I had realized that being an artist is as much of a worthwhile pursuit as architecture. Even though I do not currently practice architecture, my architectural education gave me the opportunity to develop a very useful set of design skills that I used to explore other creative endeavors and eventually find myself where I am now as a graphic designer, jewelry maker, and creative professional.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I graduated with my architecture degree in 2010 it was right in the middle of the recession and there were very few, if any, jobs in architecture. This forced me to think outside the box and explore the additional creative skills that I developed through my architectural training. During this time I worked for a tech company, temped for an ad agency, was a receptionist, and eventually a marketing specialist for a large development company. Through these experiences I realized that almost every office needs someone with a creative skillset and that is where I found my niche! Looking back, I feel very grateful that I did not find a job right away in architecture and get stuck in the traditional “drafting” path like many young architects. Instead I got to explore other opportunities and put together a creative alternative career that I truly enjoy and feel utilizes my unique talents and skills. Getting here was certainly not easy or straight forward. There were many times I doubted what I was doing and wondered if I was wasting my degree by not working in an architecture firm. I eventually realized that my ability to pursue my creative talents is not limited to one medium, but I could pursue design and the arts in many forms, such as building furniture, designing graphics, logos, and websites, and even making jewelry. My overall path has been immensely rewarding and I’ve learned that creative jobs are limitless. There are so many opportunities for people who want to be creative as a career, you just have to be open to finding them! As a designer I am still very much inspired by the architecture world and love the midcentury modern designs of the 1940’s-1960’s. Even though I am drawn to certain “styles” of design and architecture I wouldn’t say my own personal designs have a style. I always strive to design in the moment and for a specific opportunity and set of circumstances, though I am sure my own tastes influence my work. One thing I do try to do in all my designs is simplify – something I learned very early on in architecture school. There I spent hours upon hours making elaborate scaled models of buildings I designed and one of my professors would occasionally walk around the studio and break off parts from student’s models. At first when this happened to me I became very upset. The hours designing and physically putting the model together were in one moment just tossed aside. However after I took a step back and looked at the overall product, I quickly realize that the extra piece was not necessary to produce the final result that I was looking for. Because of this experience I always try to edit and simplify anything I am designing to try to tell the story with as few extraneous elements as possible. Be it with my jewelry or with my graphic designs, learning to express a lot with less can be very profound.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have actually been thinking about this a lot lately and I hope after reading this some of my friends will come visit! Here is my itinerary of my favorite things in the Phoenix area: Day 1: Horseback Riding, Hiking & Dining in Cave Creek. The very first place I would take my friend to is Cave Creek and to MTM Ranch. We would go on a long morning horseback ride through the desert so they could see the beauty of the natural landscape and get the feel for the Arizona desert. After that we would go for brunch and coffee at either The Grotto or Local Jonny’s. Then we would walk that off along the Spur Cross Loop, encountering some native wildlife along the way. We would finish the day sipping sangria and enjoying live music and a spectacular sunset up at the Ravens View. Day 2: Mid Century Phoenix & Shopping. As I mentioned earlier, I love all things Mid-Century Modern and Phoenix has some true architectural gems, so one day I would want to spend driving by some of my favorite Al Beadle, Ralph Haver, Charles Schreiber designed houses and buildings. After that we’d check out the Melrose District and hit all the retro shops for mid-century modern fun. Some of my favorites are C-Mod, Modern Manor, Modern on Melrose, Retro Ranch and others. I would make sure to stop into MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain for an old fashioned Root Beer Float, then Rice Paper for some amazing Banh Mi sandwiches. If we weren’t too full from all that, we’d have to also go to Nami for Vegan Soft serve Ice cream (my favorite is the “Soy Capitan”). Then I would continue north along Central Ave to shop at two of my favorite spots for fun local and designer items, For the People and Local Nomad. We’d finish the day right around the corner with a Margaritas and Tacos on the patio at Joyride Taco. Day 3: Old Town Scottsdale & Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. On the third day we’d start the morning early in Old Town Scottsdale at Fourtillfour Cafe and check out some of the cool cars during their weekend Motor Club an then have breakfast at Alo Café. Then I’d take them up to North Scottsdale to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, to show where I lived for three years while obtaining my Master’s Degree in Architecture, and also show off some of the amazing student shelters that my colleagues and I built and experienced during our time there. Then we’d head back down to Old Town for an early dinner on the patio at Virtu. After dinner I would take them to visit the SMOCA for some contemporary art, especially James Turell’s Skyspace. Then finish the evening with cocktails at the always vibrant AZ 88. Day 4: Downtown Phoenix & The Gardens. A trip to Phoenix is not complete without a trip downtown. We’d first hit my favorite spot in the Gold District, Lola Coffee for the best cappuccino in town. Then ride the light rail around to the Phoenix Art Museum and The Herd Museum. Fun fact, the very first time I rode the Phoenix Light Rail happened to be on “No Pants Day”. I had no idea this was a yearly event and was so confused seeing different groups of people boarding the train in bright colored underwear. Fortunately, I hopped on social media and quickly discovered what was going on, but it is a day I will never forget without a good laugh! After the museums we’d have dinner, drinks and fresh donuts at Hanny’s before a late afternoon stroll of the Botanical Gardens wrapping up an immersive yet diverse experience of the Valley.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have been given a lot of opportunities in life to explore and develop my passions, especially as a young girl, that I am truly grateful for. Because of this I feel it is important to give back whenever I can. An organization that I am thankful to be a part of and have volunteered with the past six years is the Giggling Gwen Foundation. The Giggling Gwen Foundation is a local Arizona nonprofit that began because of a young girl who loved the arts, who sadly passed away much too young. As I’ve grown I’ve learned that art program funding in schools are constantly threatened and it is important to support programs that allow children to explore and develop skills in the arts. I have benefited from art programs in school and know firsthand the positive impact the arts can have on a child. This is why I feel the Giggling Gwen Foundation deserves a shout out. Through our annual fundraiser “Cupcakes & Cabernet” the Giggling Gwen Foundation is able to help provide art opportunities and programs for Arizona children who may not have access on their own. I’d love for anyone reading this to check out The Giggling Gwen Foundation: www.gigglingwen.com and Cupcakes and Cabernet: www.cupcakesandcabernet.com. Also, if you are able and ever have an opportunity to give to any organization or help fund the arts for children in anyway, I highly recommend doing so. It can make all the difference in a child’s life.