So Zen Story

Artist turned Artisan

The creative works of Alise Marks, founder of So Zen Designs, are guided by the Japanese principles of Wabi Sabi, the presence of beauty in imperfection and impermance, and rooted in classical training.

Following her talent and artistic instinct from a young age, Alise earned both an undergraduate degree in Metalsmithing and a graduate degree in Fine Arts. Committed to the art of marrying beautiful form with useful purpose, Alise states, “I’ve never been anything but an artist but I like creating functional art.”

Artist turned artisan, Alise’s metalsmithing roots gave way to her love of leather. Entirely self-taught in textiles, Alise found herself drawn to the material… natural, textural, and flexible yet strong. She embraces the imperfections found in the material, often incorporating things like brand marks, bug bites, and the natural contours of the hide into her designs, turning them into exquisite detail. Each handcrafted piece is entirely unique and she states, “I don’t use a pattern, I lay it on my table and it tells me what to make.”

The words Peace, Love, Compassion, Balance adorn the door of Alise’s retail store and studio. A Janis Joplin sticker graces her workstation. Alise embodies the free spirit of decades past and marries it with on-trend style and design. Each piece carries her signature mark, an X, communicating that it was created with love. Humble and honest, Alise relishes the time in her studio and states, “I love the smell of the glue… I think I’m always a little high from the glue.”