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Archive for the ‘Life Rants’ Category

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Vintage Playbill for Oklahoma

As 2016 draws to a close (thank God!), instead of dwelling on all the awful events of the past 365 days, I’m searching for new ways to ignite my creative passion, find joy in side projects, and create abundance through my abilities. Sounds lofty right? Well, it really all goes back to my Pratt MFA thesis I recently blogged about after the election.

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Martha Graham (above).

So what does this have to do with Oklahoma!? Over the weekend, I stumbled across on Instagram post from the Ace Hotel of a page from Agnes de Mille’s biography of Martha Graham. For those who don’t know, Martha Graham was a LEGENDARY dancer and choreographer who’s artistry is compared to that of Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso for her contribution to the arts. In the passage, Agnes de Mille had recently found wild success  for her work for Oklahoma!, a new musical that became an overnight success. But de Mille wasn’t satisfied as she felt like she’d done better work before that never reached the same success or acclaim.

de Mille states to Graham,


“I had a burning desire to be excellent,

but no faith that I could be” 

In response, Graham gives the most amazing advice, which certainly speaks to me as a designer, but is applicable to artists in all mediums. Graham says,

“There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.”

Martha Graham
( – a letter to Agnes De Mille-)


Amazing right?? The Instagram post (below) literally stopped me in my tracks. I struggle constantly with a feeling of not being “good enough,” or not having an idea that’s original enough. So much so that I typically don’t start anything at all. I’m the one blocking my “channel” .. the only thing (or person) standing in my way is me!

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So that’s the plan for 2017, to keep my channel open. Create abundance with my abilities, and return to a state of joy through exploration, making and sharing my work. I hope you’ll join me on my journey!

 

 

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What a week it has been…

I, like the a majority of Americans in this country were stunned, heartbroken and deeply disturbed by the US election results this week. I’ve been lazy in 2016. Admittedly, I’ve only blogged twice this year. Not only have I been lazy in blogging and forcing myself to create the new work I’ve been talking about (for years), but lazy politically. I voted in both the primary and the general elections. But that’s all I did. I didn’t give my time, money or contribute my skills to electing our next president. And looked what happened. Hillary lost for many reasons. But I refuse to forget and not fight for the optimistic version of American she and Bernie Sanders talked about. I will no longer be lazy.

So in the mean time, it’s important to mourn, vent, and act. I feel a DEEP sense of dread and despair, but I feel compelled to channel those feelings into action. You may wonder, this is a design blog, what does the election have to do with art and design?

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In 2015, Toni Morrison wrote this beautiful article for ‘The Nation’ that perfectly illustrates our role as artists and designers in times like these. Morrison writes,

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art. –link

So in 2016, and beyond. I’d like to personally challenge myself to do just that. Not only give my time, money and services to causes I care about, but to finally create the work that speaks to me and brings me joy. It’s so important in times of darkness to find light and joy.

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Poster from my thesis project, above.

Years ago, I blogged countless times about my Pratt MFA thesis centered around the search for “Joy” in the creative process and in a creative life. It consumed me for a solid year. While the process of creating and writing my thesis at Pratt gave me little joy (ironic right), time and distance have inspired me to explore this topic again. And in light of current events, finding, creating and sharing joy has ever been more important. So that’s my challenge to myself. I’m putting this out there in the universe, in words. So keep me accountable.

And take joy.

 

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I’m alive world! After not blogging in almost 9 months (gasp!), I’m ready to come back. A lot has happened since June 2015: I escaped the oppressive rent, freelance design culture, stress and poor quality of life in NYC and headed south for greener pastures. By day I’m an Interactive Art Director based in Atlanta, GA. Outside of work, I’m still passionate about all things relating to fashion, advertising, patterns, and textiles. I have a few creative projects in works, so I’m excited to get those off the ground and share on here (and other places – stay tuned).

To get back in the swing of things, I’m going to devote this entire week to the charming and whimsical world of Fornasetti. I’m obsessed with their trademark plates (pictured above and below) but the world is Fornasetti is filled with many more curiosities I’m sharing this week. So get into it!

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While I don’t like to get super “political” these days, the the events in Ferguson (and across the country) have been on my mind. In some ways it’s amazing how far we’ve come as a country, but these events are a clear reminder of how far we still have to go. I’m reminded of images from a 1968 Civil Rights protest in Memphis. The images are so strong and powerful, and from a design/type sense, quite beautiful and well-designed. We’re all men (and women), all the same.

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i_am_a_man-poster4“All men are created equal …” Equality is a beautiful thing! Get into it.

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4 by Leo Reynolds. See more on Flickr here

This fall, my humble little design blog turned 4! This August also marks my 4-year anniversary of moving to New York City. How time flies. I started this blog while attending Pratt Institute and earning my Design MFA. In a Motion Design studio we were to document process and inspiration for the semester and speak about design. Now, almost 200 posts and 61,000 views later my blog is still chugging along. Today there’s a tighter focus design, be it Scandinavian design, textiles, prints and patterns, photography, advertising, fashion or my rants about life. While this blog is no “Design Sponge,” or the myriad of other blogs out there, it servers as an opportunity for me to share what I’m into, curate content and write about design. This has been particularly useful for getting jobs and getting my name out there, something I never expected. So I just wanted to say thanks for browsing and following me these 4 years. So here’s to the next 4! 

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See more photos by Leo on his Flickr page. Get into it! 

(more…)

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New, from one of my favorite tumblrs, Modern Hepburn.

So it truly has been forever (over a month!) since my last post but I’ve experienced some big changes that have commanded my attention: Left one job, freelanced for two others, and started a new full-time permanent gig. Whew. The last six months in general have been a big period of transition, but I can finally say I found somewhere I’m excited to stay and grow some roots. Two weeks ago, I joined Gap Inc. on their global creative team that oversees windows and in-store experience. Gap is a brand that I was obsessed with in middle school and followed ever since. To be here today is a bit unreal, but also very exciting. Go Gap!

Making it through this period affirmed a few things for me professionally. As a designer, it’s important to search for opportunities that make you happy. Work fills up so much of my time, so to spend my days and nights unfulfilled, is a waste … to me at least. YOLO. While no job is perfect, look for ways to get closer to finding it. It won’t happen overnight, it didn’t for me. Five years after graduation, I’m still on my grind making things happen. This experience affirmed to me that you truly have to put yourself and your goals first. The notion of having one job for the next 20 years is a bit outdated, at least in design (especially in nyc). If something doesn’t feel right, keep looking and don’t feel bad about it. Always keep an eye out for new opportunities and follow your heart to the opportunity that’s best for you. As corny as the sounds …

i did, and it was the most motivating moment in my life. 
— Georgia Whots, “Doing.” cir. 1933.

Anyways, enough of that rant! Now that I’m working at ONE place for the next who knows how long, I want to return to blogging and focusing on my side passions: textile + pattern design, photography, and cool design projects to curate and share. I’ve been spending lots of time on PinterestTumblr, and Instagram lately – so if you’re not following me there, do so and get into it!

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ps.  I’m majorly into Gap’s new campaign “Back to Blue,” for many reasons. I love the subtle design – so new and fresh no? You can’t go wrong in anything blue or denim!

Follow Gap on tumblr  to see more!

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pss.  Follow me on all the things: PinterestTumblr, and Instagram 🙂

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“Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often , we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It is really about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities for their Life. In short, unlike me, they didn’t determine what was impossible before it was even possible.”

from Fail Safe by Debbie Millman

Love her.

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Alec Soth, New Orleans, from Sleeping by the Mississippi

“If you want to be a creative person, then you’re gonna have to be creative in how you put your career together. There isn’t a path. Part of the creativity is making your path.” — Alec Soth

On American Photomag‘s blog there’s a cool series of posts called “How You Living” that interview established photographers about how they’ve supported themselves during their career. I love hearing about how artists and designers transition from school to work and “fame” in the art world. There’s truly no established path to “make it” in the art/design world, but learning from others is a great way to find your own path. I know I still haven’t found mine but I’m working on it.
Check out the full series here.

And if you’d like to see more of Alec Soth‘s photography – check out his site.


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This Christmas I was beyond excited to learn that Grace Coddington’s memoir, Grace was finally hitting the shelves. I quickly ordered the book and over the next few weeks began digesting the bright orange volume. After falling in love with Grace from The September Issue, I couldn’t wait to read a more in-depth account of her life. Of course Grace would have all these profound thoughts on living a creative life and being an artist of sorts, right? Well sadly, I’m left a bit underwhelmed. Her memoir is overwhelmingly surface and gives little insight into her feelings of loss and triumph in her career. She had several highs and lows, but quickly glosses over each subject, one after another. One example that particularly stuck out in my mind,

“.. driving home one afternoon on a visit to London from Paris, I ran into an especially nasty bunch milling about outside my door …  No matter how gently I tried inching my car through the mob, they grew more and more incensed until all of a sudden my little Mini, with me inside, was lifted off the ground and thrown heavily on it’s side. Although I wasn’t injured, I was seven months pregnant .. and the next day I suffered a miscarriage. This turned out to be the only time in my life that I was able to conceive. The incident was one of the most traumatic of my life.”

HEARTBREAKING right? Then literally the next paragraph she switches subjects and talks about how her and Albert (Grace’s boyfriend at the time) had purchased a new apartment in London, despite her frequent travels to Paris, and begins talking about one of their cats. How can his be one of the most traumatic events in your life, and you not talk about it? Isn’t that the point of a memoir – to talk about how you get through these events? I can’t imagine dealing an event like that, but it baffles me how Grace can touch on something so deep without any depth. There’s also a few stories about artists and designers she knew through the years, and Grace talks about how talented they were, and then they died of AIDS. Then onto next subject. I just don’t get it.

I wanted more. I’m sure she got paid a lot to write her memoir, but I was hoping for more Grace! It’s interesting that someone so highly regarded for being a talented storyteller in their professional life would chose to tell the story of their own life in this way. So many of my friends bought the book and just about every person working in fashion, and I wonder if they felt the same? For anyone else interested in the book – I’d suggest to settling with the September Issue, watching the HBO Documentary In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (which was great!), and enjoying her work in the glossy pages of Vogue.

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Several weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the United Nations Youth Assembly about my 2010 trip to Australia for the 63rd UN DPI/NGO Conference. I blogged about my experiences in Australia (here), and blogged a lot about this trip inspiring my Pratt MFA thesis. So when I was asked to speak to youth about my experiences at the UN, I gladly accepted! I was nervous speaking to experts in the field about my outside experience in Australia several years earlier but also thought my outsider perspective might resonate with other youth people at the conference. I remember attending a conference like that three years ago (read here) and wanting to connect with the speakers but never really got there. With this in mind, I focused my presentation on the importance of youth and why design matters.

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My ID tag, officially welcoming me into the United Nations!

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One of the biggest points I made is the amazing potential designers and nonprofits have when they collaborate together. Collaborations between unexpected partners often lead to unexpected and surprising results. One prime example is my experience as a graphic designer at a UN Conference centered on Public Health. Attending this conference sparked my interest in the subject of joy and using one’s skills and abilities to create change in the world. Many of the projects we created in the class at Pratt strove to do just that.

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Kelsey Welsch redesigned the MDGs icons and created an amazing project linking Material Health to all the other MDGs. youth_presentation_2.1.2012_p2.indd youth_presentation_2.1.2012_p2.inddThe MDG Youth village created by myself and students at Fordham University.

In closing, I wanted to bring focus from design back to YOUth, and end on an aspirational note. On the last day of the Australia conference, Patrick Ip (my roommate for the week) spoke about “What and Why” in regards to youth. He said, “Often youth are defined by WHAT we are; teacher, student, doctor, etc … not WHY we do it. Many of us, no matter WHAT we do, want to help, and it’s important to focus on WHY. For when we define ourselves by WHAT we do, we limit what we are capable of doing. But when we define the WHY, the possibilities are endless.” This really spoke to me on the last day of the conference and is still something I think about today. If there was one thing people took from away my speech, I hoped it would be Patrick’s great words.

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A packed house of students from all over the world.

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If you want to learn more about designers and nonprofits/NGOs partnering together, check out Pratt’s Project Public initiative. And remember, if you focus on the WHY in life, and not come from a place of WHAT, any door can be open to you no matter what you do in life. Cheers!

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