Ep. 81: Zoë Pawlak

Artist and designer Zoë Pawlak knew in childhood that life in suburbia wasn’t the whole picture, so she saved her babysitting money to spend some time in Chile with relatives. The experience opened the door to fine art and after studying painting in high school and college, a pregnancy dictated she must put her skills to work professionally. Successful in her painting, she is now making a name as a rug designer also. With 2 ½ years of sobriety going for her she is joyful and fully present. What a gift!

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What is your earliest memory?

I can never tell what I really remember remember or what I remember from photos. 

How do you feel about democratic design?

I don’t know what that is, but I’m Canadian, so I presume it has to do with everyone getting along and compromising. 

13-year-old Zoë playing for the Renegades in B.C. Fastpitch as pitcher

13-year-old Zoë playing for the Renegades in B.C. Fastpitch as pitcher

Image by Pat Young Photography for lululemon athletica

Image by Pat Young Photography for lululemon athletica

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Get a good accountant and everything passes. Oh, and for marriage: stay on the bus, the scenery changes. 

How do you record your ideas?

I record drawings, plans and journal in my sketchbook everyday and I sing and talk notes for songs, public speaking or writing into my phone. 

Imagined Vessel I , 24”x 30”, Oil on Canvas

Imagined Vessel I, 24”x 30”, Oil on Canvas

Things I’d Like to Show You , 36”x 36 “, Oil on Canvas

Things I’d Like to Show You, 36”x 36 “, Oil on Canvas

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

I love drawing forever. I have been designing more and more and lines and shading are just perfection. 

What are a few of the best books you’ve read this year?

Just Kids (for the 6th time)

The Unteathered Soul

And Educated (holy crap that book!)

Warm Hearts, Cold Hands , 22”x 30”, Chalk on Paper

Warm Hearts, Cold Hands, 22”x 30”, Chalk on Paper

More Left to Say , 48”x 48”, Oil on Canvas

More Left to Say, 48”x 48”, Oil on Canvas

Why is authenticity in design important?

Because authenticity is the only starting point that interesting people will tolerate. It’s their baseline, so if you want to sell to and hang out with the most interesting people, you have to bring your realest self to the work.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

Bao Bei

Zoë and her family

Zoë and her family

What might we find on your desk right now?

Chalks, watercolors, hummus and change for the parking meter.

Who do you look up to and why?

Artists: MIA, Banksy and Prince because they were not only fascinating and true to themselves and their work, but they push the edges of the career itself. The w/are pioneers in their industries. This really inspires me. 

Listen to the episode to learn more about Zoë’s journey to sobriety

Listen to the episode to learn more about Zoë’s journey to sobriety

Ladies basketball team in Montreal

Ladies basketball team in Montreal

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

I think that project is coming up next month. It’s my favorite because it’s huge. 

What are the last five songs you listened to?

Maggie Waters
The War on Drugs 
Kllo
Sylvan Esso 
and Maggie Waters (yeah, again) 

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Image by Pat Young Photography for lululemon athletica

Image by Pat Young Photography for lululemon athletica


Follow Zoë’s work at zoepawlak.com and on Instagram and Facebook.


Clever is produced by 2VDE Media. Thanks to Rich Stroffolino for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of
El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to
Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.