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Meet Olivia Sawai of Her Name is O in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Sawai.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I never thought I would start my story with the statement, “I thought I had my life planned out, but I didn’t,” yet here I am stating those exact words. My mission as a child was to become an elementary school teacher. I loved attending school, learning from others and helping others in need. Those specific qualities reflected my personality and it fit the “teacher mold.” However, as a young child, I was always interested in pursuing something new because I absolutely disliked the feeling of being bored or stagnant; it really bothered me to feel constrained. And…that feeling never disappeared.

In 2011, I began my career in education and attended Cal State Fullerton. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies in 2017. During my college years, I took two classes that would change my perspective on my life and the arts forever; Art History and Art for Future Elementary School Teachers. I’m definitely a huge nerd about history, but learning about the different art movements and the historical perspectives behind each movement took this nerdiness to a whole new level. The second class taught me how to teach art to students. I learned all kinds of art techniques, the different kinds of mediums to use, etc., which unlocked the creative side of me. This all started in 2015. I remember impulsively going to Michaels and buying acrylic paint (I didn’t know what kind of paint that was at the time) and watercolor paper, and some cheap brushes to get me by. The first painting I ever painted was of a sun and a moon embracing each other (total Pinterest vibes). After, I fell in love with painting as it became a hobby of mine when I had some downtime or when I wanted to relieve stress.

I continued to paint very impressionistic paintings of objects such as flowers, palm trees and the ocean. I also never revealed that I painted to anyone because it was something just for me. I didn’t want anyone to critique my paintings because that terrified me. So, I kept it a secret. I mean a couple of friends knew, but that was all.

So 2018 comes and I’m getting ready to begin the process for grad school for my teaching credential. In between this time, I kept going back and forth about sharing my art on Instagram. I began painting abstract and was starting to find my own style. Therefore, it became more than a hobby at that point because I painted on a vintage sweatshirt and I posted it on Facebook and my friends showed me mad love! It sold and went to a new home after. That was a sign for me to start showing my art and I created an art page on Instagram in the early summer of 2018. It was so funny because I actually did not have an Instagram for about four years prior to this so I had to relearn how to work the app and such. I definitely felt out of the loop for sure. But, it also motivated me to continue to post my art. The first few months were challenging because I wasn’t used to creating and painting every day, and I felt pressured to post content consistently. I learned that hard way…but that’s okay. I posted when I could. 2 months later, I was approached by a very cool shop called Amiga Wild to participate in their art show in Venice Beach. I was shocked at the opportunity and completely filled with excitement. I couldn’t believe it. I kept thinking to myself, “this was just a hobby,” but that was the milestone to remind me that it will be more than hobby.

2019 was a crazy yet accomplished year for me. I finished grad school! During that time though, I began creating digital artwork, had my very own art show in Long Beach, hopped on the entrepreneur train and created a variety of artwork that I could sell to the public. I stepped into being my own boss and learning how to operate my own business has been one crazy yet exciting journey. I ended up doing collaborations with many artists and art companies that I admired from the first day I hopped on Instagram and I can’t believe that I accomplished those goals because they seemed so far away… Today, I am so proud to call myself a self-taught painter and illustrator. Interested if I ever became a teacher?….. I’m definitely at a crossroads.

Has it been a smooth road?
My art journey has been a bumpy and smooth road. For me, it always comes down to perspective. How do I want to approach each obstacle….and the lens on it depends as well. But, of course I’ve had many struggles along the way. For example, I will admit that because I am a new artist in the game, social media has affected me negatively at times. (Millennial problems) As an artist, I sometimes forget that my art is for me and my art is for others that love my art. I have to remind myself that it isn’t about the followers, it’s about how me sharing my art with the world and sharing my message with it. I continue to create artwork so that my artistic process doesn’t diminish. Another struggle was that I didn’t have anyone to give me advice on becoming an artist. Therefore, I had to figure it out on my own and I still do. Simple things such as how to price artwork, how expensive paint could be, etc.. Also, I still struggle with feeling like an adequate artist on social media at times because of the lack of art background and experiences that I have. I tend to compare myself to others and we all know that is evil thinking. But, as stated before it all depends on perspective. Although I still face these obstacles, I view it as a blessing. Without struggle, there is no progress.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My business is connected with my artwork. My decision to make my art accessible to the public involves making art prints, merchandise and accessories such as tote bags. Many times, original paintings can be very expensive and some may not have the means to spend $100 and up on artwork. Therefore, I want to offer a variety of art pieces that are affordable to my customers. Many know me as Her Name is O, or just O (short for Olivia). My work is known for its bright color palettes and pattern on all prints and merchandise which resembles a camouflage pattern. Applying my work on tangible items such as t-shirts and tote bags has made my art business grow because many customers are able to choose how to represent and support my work. They can wear or it they can hang it up on their wall.

As a company and artist, I’m proud to share my work with everyone. It is always so exciting and mind-blowing when someone purchases my work. It’s gratifying. I hope to expand and grow to turn my art into furniture as well. I think where I’m getting is that I’m proud to not only have one item to produce and sell which would be an art print or a painting, I’m proud to have the motivation and determination to turn my art into objects that people can use in their homes as well. One avenue can be boring!

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Los Angeles is a prime location for art business and muralists. The city has been popping up with more art and people are here for it. Many times when I do pop-ups in this city, I receive such amazing feedback about my work and my art prints. I’m very glad that I decided to share my art with the public because it is the perfect timing to do so. I also feel that many individuals in LA county want unique artwork for their collections or homes. They may look for underground artists as well.

I would definitely recommend them starting out in Los Angeles because of how diverse, eclectic and inclusive the city is. And sure, not everyone will be into your business right away or 100%, but that’s okay because there will always be specific customers for you and your business. With that, it comes with time and how often you put yourself out there. That’s what I love about LA because there are specific customers who are waiting to support you, you just have to step out into the world.

Contact Info:

  • Email:
  • Instagram: Hernameiso

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