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Conversations with the Inspiring Zaret Proa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zaret Proa.

Zaret, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m working as a textile designer now, but I owe a lot to the support I received from my family.

I am the first in my family born in the United States and, as many people in Los Angeles know, that comes with the heavy burden of learning how to do things on your own. I never considered my family to be poor or wealthy… we were just us. We were there for each other and I believe that unity helped me get through a lot of the obstacles we had to face. My parents and sisters were born in Mexico and I grew up watching them take their steps towards citizenship. I was proud of their accomplishments and in turn, wanted to make them proud by attending college.

My father had always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, no matter how unrealistic they seemed at the time. I loved art and I loved to paint, so I attended UCSC for my Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art and subsequently studied Textile Design at FIDM. Everyone (apart from my family) would tell me that I could not make a living with an art degree, but I continued anyway.

I took the bus to my first job out of school as a Digital Colorist intern. I was proud that I had gotten that far and I knew I could keep going. That was around seven years ago, now that I think about it! I worked my way up to designing wallpaper and window shades in those seven years and I still have a long way to go! Although I love designing for the hospitality industry now, I dream of one day going back to textile design for fashion! I’m inspired by the way prints/patterns keep evolving and definitely want to be part of it someday even if it means starting from the bottom again!

I don’t think I could have gotten this far without the support of my family. We’re still strong and I know we will be going a lot further! I look forward to the day when I can afford to buy a home for myself and for parents so they can finally retire and not have to worry about making ends meet.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of my biggest struggles was that I didn’t have many role models in the arts. I didn’t know of any textile artists and knew nothing about the fashion and interior design industries. I didn’t even know what a textile designer was until I was 23. I feel that my education was geared towards getting me to any college, but I never really got to think about what I wanted from my career. Furthermore, my family lost their home after the 2008 recession while I was attending college and we were left desperate to find any place to live. Around that time, my father was diagnosed with cancer and needed surgery. We had no money, we lost our home, and our health was declining. My family and I powered through it all together and I was able to focus on finishing school. My father is better now, although he’s currently on dialysis.

My advice to young women is that if you are interested in art and design, you should attend an art school. If I had taken the chance to go straight to art school after high school, I would have saved myself four years of student loan debt. Art school can be expensive and may require loans and it will feel impossible to pay them off while living in Los Angeles – especially being a first generation US citizen and having to take care of your family! It’s best to take each obstacle as it comes because you will never be able to solve every problem at once. Focus on your needs and dreams.

Don’t let money determine what you think will make you happy. You will be spending most of your time at work or commuting in Los Angeles, so you might as well make it worth it!

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
My work includes lithographic prints, relief prints, and encaustic art. I’m mostly known for my drawing style, watercolor techniques, and novelty prints. I use all of these techniques to create pattern repeats which are mainly influenced by animals and nature. I’m currently practicing my botanical drawing skills because I love the new moody florals that have been trending in fashion and wallpaper. I love learning new techniques that will enhance my painting skills!

I create pattern repeats for different industries. Designing pattern repeats is a lot like working on a puzzle. You have several different elements that make up a pattern that you have to piece together to form the whole picture. It takes training, practice, and a lot of patience to build a successful repeat. It takes talent to build a repeat that sells. My current focus as a textile designer is in interiors and hospitality, so I create a lot of patterns for wallpaper, bedding, window shades, etc. I’ve also done pattern design for fashion which is my true passion!

Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
My college professors were the best networking resource and mentors. They keep in touch with a lot of their students and can help you meet great people who have similar interests as you. They also help guide you if you have specific interests and give you the best constructive criticism. My professors were always honest with me and gave me great advice on how to improve my skills and develop my own style.

Friends and colleagues are good support as well. The good ones will be honest about your work whether they like it or not. It’s nice hearing everyone’s different perspectives because it helps you grow as an artist/designer. The more diverse your audience, the more you will grow and improve.

I’m a very private and introverted individual and I find it difficult to reach out or connect with people sometimes. For anyone who feels similarly, you just have to remember that you are good enough and worth being acknowledged! Confidence is hard to come by, but if you believe in your worth and abilities, confidence will follow.


  • Custom pattern $500-$1,000 each (depending on the work involved)

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Image Credit:
Zaret Proa

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