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Marli Arizona featured in her Los Angeles studio.

Introducing Marli Arizona, our newest partner artisan based in Los Angeles who specializes in large-scale murals, églomisé mirrors, and sculpted plaster bas relief wall creations. We chat about her inspirations and creative process when experimenting with different materials and techniques to achieve unique designs for luxury interiors.

Desert flora sculpted bas relief wall design by Marli.

Will you tell us a bit about the moments in your life that led you to the world of decorative arts for luxury interiors?

It's been a bit of a journey. It's not something that I really knew was an industry until I came out to Los Angeles. Even when I was studying art in college I didn’t know there was an option to be an artisan, versus a fine artist. Then when I got into this world here in LA I just fell in love with it and how you can play with all these materials—there are so many options and applications. I think it’s great when you connect with a designer who has a vision and then you can bring your skills to the table to help them realize it. They may not know all the different materials available and how they're going to work together, so then I’m able to share these skills and apply them to their concepts to bring a full vision to life. 

So, the moments in my life that led to that would be coming out to LA—well, studying art beforehand and having the background of skills—and then not finding a job in my previous industry right away was actually such a blessing. If I had, I probably wouldn't have continued to look for other options and I would not have ended up at the decorative art studio where I worked as a production painter. It was like this whole world just opened up and I immediately felt like “I have to get my hands on everything.” Then when my time there ended, I was pretty lost on how I was going to figure this out for myself without many connections. It took me a couple years to find my voice and what I was most attracted to before I found SuperStrata, which was such a score. 

Hand-painted palm tree wall mural in shades of lilac by Marli.

Your sculpted plaster creations appear to be a hybrid of painting and bas reliefs, as you use a brush to almost "paint" the plaster designs directly onto walls. How does your chosen technique give such a particular look?

While I have since studied plaster casting bas reliefs in more of a traditional sense, I initially learned with more of a painting technique. I feel that it has sort of a lighter quality to it when you look at it, even though plaster is a solid material. I think that using the brush to build the forms gives that lighter, more whimsical effect, like you can almost feel the wind in the air and the forms breathing because they have that kind of wispy stroke. Since painting is my background, it was like second nature to apply those skills to this material for creating three dimensional forms. I don't think it's that common in the mural space, so it’s great to be one of the people bringing that.

How does your experience as an art advisor inform your creative process with your decorative finishes now?

My experience as an art advisor has been incredible and inspiring. It's great to see all the possibilities that there are, and you get to see projects that are happening at such a huge scale. Not only do they have one mural going on, but they might have multiple murals in a house or various decorative arts projects, plaster projects, or gilding projects. I think for me seeing is believing, and I hadn't seen it before, so I didn't know that this level of project was an option to be involved in. Now that I've been in the industry and have had some experience seeing the flow of projects going from concept to completion, which can take anywhere from several weeks to sometimes even years, it's just been great to know what's out there.

1. Fig tree sculpted bas relief wall design by Marli.

2. Eucalyptus sculpted bas relief wall design by Marli.

You have said before that you believe spaces have the ability to influence and inspire us in many ways. When it comes to painting large-scale murals by hand, what do you envision or wish to convey to the people who will view them?

I feel very sensitive to space. If I walk into a space and it's dark and cold—emotionally cold—I don't want to feel open with who I'm with, you know? I think something that's really powerful with finding my way into decorative arts is that it is a privilege to be a part of cultivating and creating a space—one that hopefully makes people want to relax and therefore be open with whoever they're with, be inspired, and feel at home.

I love bringing the outdoors inside, and with painting murals there are a million different ways you can go in, whether it’s incorporating different patterns, textures, or more geometric shapes, and I tend to gravitate towards scenic and natural forms. I don't think that murals or art is a replacement for nature itself, but I do think it's a good way to remind us where we come from and what we're connected to.

Being in Los Angeles, what inspiration do you take in from the area that is reflected in your designs?

I love all the forms out here and they're so different from what I grew up with back on the East Coast, which also has beautiful landscape and nature, but everything is more architectural out here—cacti, yucca plants, agave—they have so much character to them. It's a bit more sparse and you can really see the silhouettes when the sun is coming through, versus a dense forest in the Northeast.

Faux polished jade banana leaf sculpted plaster bas relief wall design by Marli.

It is apparent that you have a great eye for mixing materials and techniques to create finishes where the layers build upon each other in an interesting way. Will you tell us more about your process?

The more techniques that you learn, the more opportunity there is to combine them. One of the things I love about decorative arts as a practice is that it comes from such a traditional place. These techniques have been passed down through tradespeople for generations, and while I want to honor these methods in practice, aesthetically I like to take some risks and juxtapose different processes together to create something new, fresh, and exciting. 

For example, the faux polished jade bas relief mural of tropical flora is my current favorite. At the time I had done many sculptural murals and I was looking for a way to create an effect that would look and feel like actual jade stone. I was watching a lot of videos on Venetian plasters that use a marbleizing technique and I couldn’t fall asleep for many weeks thinking about how to get that look with a scenic bas relief mural. It took some trial and error, but it finally clicked and I’m really happy about the results. Can’t wait to see this one realized in full scale! I think you just have to pay attention and look at what is capturing you—the fun part about being an artist is that you get to show that to other people in different ways.


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