Becoming Tracy Reese

Becoming Tracy Reese

Hi, I’m Tracy Reese! I’ve been designing clothes for more than three decades. My previous brands were Tracy Reese and Plenty by Tracy Reese. In 2019, I launched Hope for Flowers. Hope for Flowers is designed for women who are inspired by beauty and desire to use their power as consumers to be agents for positive change in the world. We believe that by incorporating positive social and ecological practices into our sourcing and operating structures, we can imbue our products with greater substance and offer our customers an opportunity to be a part of doing good while looking good.

I launched Hope for Flowers in Detroit, because I saw an opportunity to learn more about my home town and add value to my community.

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?

I consider myself a designer, but I’ve always thought more like a business person. I love illustrating, making art and crafting, but I don’t always prioritize making time to just…play! I need to. It’s where some of the best ideas start!

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I grew up in Detroit and had a wonderful childhood here. My parents were very involved in my and my sisters’ development, especially my Mom who was a modern dance teacher and later had a small business of her own. She was also an avid home sewer and taught me to sew. My sisters and I all had to take piano and dance lessons and we got to choose other activities we wanted to participate in. I always had art classes on Saturdays and I had to take swimming and tennis lessons because I was chubby and my Mom wanted to make sure I exercised. I was a girl scout from Brownies through Cadets and loved summer camp!

I went to a great city-wide high school here in Detroit called Cass Tech and that’s where I was first exposed to the fashion industry and was encouraged to attend Parsons School of Design in New York for College.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

I imagined becoming an architect or interior designer. I wanted a profession that allowed to express my creativity.

Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path?

A head of the Fashion department at my high school actually encouraged me to consider fashion design as a profession.

What sparked your interest in design/making?

It was what I considered the best of two worlds: drawing and sewing! When I learned that fashion was also a huge industry, my decision to pursue fashion design as a career was made!

What is your design process like?

I’ve always loved color, pattern and beautiful textiles. I often begin a season looking at the latest developments at industry textile fairs. I also check out museum exhibitions and art galleries for inspiration. I start building a mood board with images I find inspiring and develop a color story. I love developing prints because we can express almost any thought, or color inspiration. Nature is the ultimate inspiration. I LOVE flowers! Once I have established a direction, I start sketching, trying out new ideas and updating ideas that have already been successful. Editing is the hardest part of the process.

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?

I’ve always been inspired by the work of other female designers and artists. I think women clothing designers approach design in a much more tangible and respectful way. We want to problem solve for real world situations while still creating beautiful pieces. I love the work of Callot Soeurs, Madame Gres, Claire McCardell and so many others.

We would love to hear about Hope For Flowers. Can you tell us more?

As a world-class, Black-owned and female-run business, Hope for Flowers is demonstrating that Detroit can be the perfect hub for innovative, socially focused, sustainable enterprises.

Hope for Flowers is committed to creating beautiful clothing for socially conscious luxury consumers through an ecosystem of responsible design, production and distribution in Detroit. We support the livelihood and sustainability of Detroit’s children and families by being a local hub for arts enrichment, apprenticeships and community workshops focused on sustainable life tools.

The collection itself is quite feminine and joyful. I tend to stick to classic silhouettes reimagined familiar shapes to be modern and relevant for today.fashion designer Tracy Reese

You can find Tracy Reese

Hope for Flowers website
@HopeForFlowers
@Tracy_Reese
Read more about her in this New York Times article (I relate so much to her switch up in her business model!)

Pantone color of the year

Pantone color of the year: Viva Magenta!

The Pantone Color Institute announced their color of the year at Art Basel in Miami in December. I had the privilege to attend the reveal at Artechouse and it was a beautiful homage to the vibrant color of the year. In fact, if you’d like to see the reveal for yourself, you can view it here.

Everyone awaited the big reveal as we listened to the Leatrice Eisman’s, head of Pantone, thoughts about the importance of color–something you know I’m fully in support of. Once the color was announced we explored the Artechouse galleries, which celebrated the color. viva magenta

Now, how do I factor into all of this?

Spoonflower x Pantone Color of the Year

A couple of weeks prior to the event we were invited to collaborate with Spoonflower, one of our favorite, long-time partners, to create a pattern inspired by Pantone’s Color of the Year. Even though it was our busiest time of the year and the turnaround was CRAZY tight, I had to say yes. I mean, what choice did I have?! When it comes to color, I say YES!

Here’s the thing, they didn’t tell us what the color was!

Pantone Color of the Year

Keeping Pantone’s Color of the Year on the down low

They gave us color codes to work with, I’m guessing so that it wasn’t easy to track down and figure out if it came into the wrong hands. It was all so covert.

We translated all of the codes into colors and here’s what we had to work with:

In fact, our turnaround was so tight that I was trying to deduce all the colors at stoplights on my way home and it was VERY tricky to do it on a phone let me tell you.

Our assignment was to interpret Pantone’s ethos that speaks to the following:

  • Bravery to break boundaries
  • Fearless optimism
  • An endless new ecosystem emerging in the world
  • Pantone’s pillars this year are Art + Design and Science + Tech

So, of course, we created a pattern inspired by beautiful bold blooms and went to town incorporating their colors.

Here’s a screenshot of some of the combos we were playing around with, again, not knowing which was the actual color.

Viva Magenta

We gave Spoonflower a ton of options to work with and didn’t know exactly what they were going to use them for but they requested on that was large in repeat and one that was smaller and more suitable to dinnerware.

When I arrived at the event in Miami, I couldn’t wait to see how they had used the selected patterns. I had somewhat of a hunch of what it might be, just because Magenta was such a knockout out of bunch, but, of course, I didn’t know for sure.

After Viva Magenta was in fact announced (yay!), they led me up to gallery where they had installed our wallpaper in the color, which you can see behind me here. I hadn’t yet seen it so I was getting the big reveal at this precise moment.

And voila! There she is! Ha!

And, of course, we had to have some fun in front of it!

Spoonflower artists

I was one of 6 artists invited to participate and everyone did such an amazing job! Some had very specific themes to work with, like

Jeanetta Gonzalez, who I met years ago at Alt Summit. Hi Jeanetta!
Elishka Jepson of Robyrider who is a legit rocket scientist by day and pattern designer at night. She created a design inspired by STEM. So amazing.
Cecilia Mok, who is based in Sydney, Australia and wasn’t able to come. We missed you!
Virginia Odeon
Judy Quintero of Shop Cabin

You can read more about the artists here on the Spoonflower blog.

Pantone Color of the Year

And here’s the artists with the Spoonflower team, who I love. They’re all just the best. Truly.

Pantone Color of the Year

Here are everyone’s designs in Viva Magenta through Spoonflower.

Viva magenta wallpaper and more

Here’s our pattern into wallpaper, throw pillows, and more! You can find the full collection here.

pantone color of the year

Thank you to Spoonflower and Pantone for the wonderful opportunity! Consider me your biggest fan!

You can shop our Pantone Color of the Year collection on Spoonflower here.

Photo credits: For the pillow stack image: Alex Craig  |  All event images: Katherine Jones  |  iphone photos by Brittany Jepsen

Interns: Where Are They Now? with Lindsey Deschamps

Who is Lindsey Deschamps?

Lindsey Deschamps is an artist & illustrator based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She creates cheeky art, stationery, and accessories for people who like an artful aesthetic, but with a little bit of offbeat humor thrown in there. Inspired by food, flowers, weird vintage tchotchkes, and all the other little things that bring her joy, she loves to create products & illustrations that make people smile.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

When asked as a young kid, I always told people I wanted to work at an ice cream shop so that when people asked me, “Lindsey, how’d you get so buff?” I could say (with a proud, smug face) “Scoopin’ ice cream 😏”(Just my right arm though I guess…? haha) And for the unlimited access to ice cream samples, of course.

When I got a little older, I considered journalism, but once I started taking art classes in high school, I knew I wanted to do something visually creative. It was around that time too that I realized my ultimate goal was running my own business. Now, I sell ice cream art & products in my shop, so I guess you could say I’ve come full circle? 🙂

Lindsey Deschamps flowers

How did you originally hear about The House that Lars Built and the internship you did with us?

While I was studying graphic design at BYU, I kept seeing more and more of my classmates’ cool projects on Instagram that they were doing at their Lars internships. So as soon as I had some free time in my schedule, I knew I wanted to apply!

What was your internship focus/how long did you intern with us?

I did a graphic design internship August – December 2017.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

I loved being around a bunch of creative people all the time who loved color, art, and craft as much as I did! It was also really fun to see how Brittany’s ideas went from idea to execution and everything behind the scenes.

Lindsey Deschamps strawberry

How was the internship influential in your creative journey to where you are now?

At my Lars internship, I got a crash course in creating high quality designs on a tight schedule and receiving real-world feedback, which helped me learn how to design more quickly & efficiently. This has helped me soo much in jobs & gigs I’ve had since, I can’t even tell you! Most importantly, being around Brittany’s artful influence was really foundational for me as a young designer. Watching her & the Lars team style photos, edit things down, curate art, etc. helped me learn how to discern my own tastes and what I like & don’t like for my own art style.

What is one accomplishment in your creative life that you are proud of and why?

Opening my online shop, designing my own products, and selling at my first in-person art market. These three are lumped together for me as a huge milestone that I’ve been working on for years, and finally reached this summer! I’ve known for about ten years now that I want to run my own creative business doing something that makes people happy, and after trying 3-4 different businesses over the years, it feels amazing to have finally found the one that I LOVE doing and feels like the right step moving forward.

What are some goals you have moving forward?

My biggest goal right now is to grow my online shop and product line to a point where I can leave my day job as a motion graphic designer and focus on my business full-time. (Fingers crossed. Don’t tell my boss. Jk he probably already knows cause this is pretty much all I can think about 24/7.) It’ll probably take a few years, but I’m slowly getting there step by step which feels great. Also I’d love to sell at more local in-person markets soon! Talkin’ to all the people is so fun. 

Lindsey Deschamps I have no idea what I'm doing

Any fun things coming up in the near future? 

Yes! Right now, I’m working on a fun new collection of stickers, tees, and Christmas ornaments called Foodie Friends – and everyone’s invited to vote on their favorite designs! Starting on September 19th, I’ll be posting a different ‘foodie friend’ illustration (person wearing a food costume haha) every day for 30 days. Then each week, everyone gets to vote on their favorite ‘contestants,’ and the winners will be available as shirts and Christmas ornaments in my shop in early November. Follow along on Instagram or Tiktok @lindseydaystudio to join in and vote!

What advice would you give to someone trying to decide if a creative internship is for them? 

If you want to get real-world experience in a fun, art-focused, colorful business, you’ll love interning at Lars! Whether you want to work as a creative professional or not, but especially if a creative career is your goal, interning at Lars is a great way to meet people and be inspired.

Where can we find your work?

You can find Lindsey Deschamps’ work at @lindseydaystudio on Instagram and Tiktok, and her website, www.lindseydaystudio.com

More Inspiration

Loved this former intern interview with Lindsey Deschamps? You might also be interested in our Becoming Series, where we interview female creatives about their process of becoming who they are.

Heirloom Ornament Craft Along!

Crafting with a Cause

If you’re new to all of this, let me clue you in. One of the things that makes the holidays so special to me, aside from seeing family and enjoying good food, is that it’s the season of giving. It seems like it’s the one time all year where the world shares the same sentiment of generosity and helping each other. So while we are crafting for the holidays, it seems fitting that we should include that charitable aspect as well.

I recently partnered with Nest (see this blog post, and this one) and I’m now part of their advisory board. Nest supports artisans throughout the global economy — most of which are women. The purpose of our craft alongs, starting with last year’s, was to raise money for Nest and support their cause to build a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion.

Last Year’s Craft Along

I have to say, last year’s craft along was one of the highlights of the year. There was so much creative energy and excitement surrounding it, it was amazing to see and be a part of. If you missed it, here’s a quick recap:

We made two sets of our popular mid-century heirloom nativity; one we painted here in the studio at Lars. Then we sent once piece of the other set to each of our guests for them to paint. Each week we held live videos where we got to chat with our amazing guests as we painted our respective nativity pieces. Here’s the post where you can read all about last year’s guests. Oh, and here’s a transcript from our interview with Amanda Seyfried! While all the crafting with our guests was happening, we also opened up this link for donations.

At the end of the craft along, we auctioned off both sets and donated the proceeds to Nest, an organization whose mission is to support female makers in the global economy. Thank you thank you to all who donated or contributed in any way! It was a huge success and we are thrilled to be back at it again this year!

Nativity

This Year’s Heirloom Ornament Craft Along

Let’s get to it. Below is everything you need to know about this year’s heirloom ornament craft along!

Heirloom Ornament Craft Along FAQ

What is a “craft along”?

Think of it like a crafty version of a book club. We all get to work on the same project, have a weekly get together to craft, chat, and join a fun community.

Why a craft along?

Our heirloom ornament craft along is a perfect opportunity to get ready for Christmas (because we all know that it sneaks up on us every year) and get to know your Lars community a bit better. Even though summer’s still on its way out, we wanted to jump into our handmade holiday plans early. Get a head start on your handmade holidays and join in the fun with this heirloom ornament craft along!

How does the craft along work?

As mentioned above, we are working with Nest to raise money for makers all over the world. For this year’s craft along, we’ve set the goal to raise $5,000 for Nest. 

Our goal is to raise that money through the following:

  1. Ebook sales (with and without a kit included)
  2. Donations using this link
  3. Auctioning off a custom set of Heirloom Ornaments made by our team here at Lars
  4. Auctioning off a set of Heirloom Ornaments made by our guests

The money earned from the auction will be donated to Nest, and we’ll ship the ornaments to the winners of the auctions!

Family Photo Heirloom Ornament

Who are your guest hosts?

We are really excited to chat more about our guest lineup soon!

Stay tuned for more details about our guest hosts. We can hardly believe that so many incredible crafters have joined us for this project! You can click here to see the guests that joined us last year. We were lucky enough to have Amanda Seyfried, Mary Engelbreit and so many other wonderful guests! 

How long will the craft along be happening?

Our first guest will join us on Monday, October 3rd, and we’ll wrap up with our last guest on Monday, November 21st. Our auction will be announced following the last guest.

What if I miss a week?

If you miss a week or two, that’s completely fine! The good thing about this heirloom ornament craft along is that it’s virtual. We will save the Instagram Lives where we craft with our guests hosts, and you can watch them on your own time. We’ll also compile the videos into one blog post after they’re over so you can see them all in one place (see the guest videos from last year here). With the ebook and video, you will have all the information you need to complete a set of ornaments. 

How much does it cost?

There are a few different options:

  1. You can purchase our Ebook & kit – the kit will come with everything you need for 8 ornaments along with the Ebook (which includes step by step video) to guide you.
  2. You can purchase our Ebook only and purchase the supply list on your own. We spent a lot of time beefing it up and it now includes step by step videos!

We have gone through our Heirloom Ornament Ebook with a fine toothed comb to make sure that it is clear, concise, and easy to follow. We’ve also added in a step by step video to ensure that any questions you have are answered!

There you have it! Everything you need to get crafty!

Family Photo Heirloom Ornament

Will you hold an auction at the end?

Yes! Last year the auction turned out to be a wonderful way to raise money for Nest, so we want to do it again! As mentioned before, we’ll auction off two separate sets of ornaments. One of those sets will be the set made by our special guest crafters. For the other set, we’ll be auctioning off a “made to order” set. In other words, the winner of that set will send in their photos, we’ll make the set for them, and send it back! If you love these heirloom ornaments but aren’t keen on the idea of making them yourself, this might be the perfect solution. 

How do I start?!

While you wait for our heirloom ornament craft along to officially begin, the first thing you should do is order your supplies! You can get the full Heirloom Ornaments Ebook & Kit here, and the Heirloom Ornaments Ebook without the kit here. Then, mark your calendars for our first guest on October 3rd!

family heirloom ornaments photo transfer

Can’t wait to craft with you! Feel free to spread the word! 

Becoming Emily Henderson

What do you consider yourself ? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business  person, educator, etc.? 

These days I identify most with being a design content creator and writer. 

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what  you do now? 

I was born into a Mormon family in rural Oregon. A big family with a lot of crafting and DIY.  I learned from a very young age the fun of thrift and how much can be done from so little. Hence my deep and intense love for all things vintage. But, what my childhood really taught me was how to work VERY hard, of which I am extremely grateful for because it’s one of the big reasons I’ve been successful. 

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger? 

Growing up in the 80s in rural Oregon, no one really knew Interior Designer was a career choice you could do. It was Teacher, Doctor, or Lawyer so I grew up thinking I would be a teacher like my parents and studied history and english in college. It wasn’t until I worked at Jonathan Adler and met stylists that I became interested in a creative career. Now I can see that most of my interests merged (writing, history, and design), which isn’t as rare as it sounds in the creative world. You collect knowledge throughout your various interests and sometimes the culmination of it all directly affects your career.

What inspired you to become a designer? 

When I was in my 20s living in New York I was a shop girl at Jonathan Adler and that’s where I met stylists and learned what a stylist even was. I couldn’t believe people got to shop and borrow and make things to style out sets for their job and I thought that sounded really fun. So that experience plus my love for vintage is what got me interested in styling and interior design. 

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

The Mountain House I designed and renovated is my favorite place to be. I designed it for my family (and friends) to enjoy and we love spending months up there during the summer. It’s open, airy, warm and inviting. It has this very special positive, calming energy that I can’t get enough of. 

We’re so excited about your new book! Can you tell us more about it?

My book, The New Design Rules, is all about empowering and educating through the renovation and decoration process. It has all the construction vocabulary, distilled renovation process (and my preferences) with the intent to communicate effectively with your contractors so you don’t get man-splained, make as many mistakes, fight with your partner, and feel like a total failure. And yet it’s full of beautifully styled inspirational shots of homes – kitchens, bathrooms, living, mud and bedrooms, office, basements, and more 🙂 It’s all about knowing the rules so you can creatively break them. 

What is your design process like? Where do you find inspiration for new creations?

I use Pinterest to get some initial ‘look and feel’. When I first start designing a room I will pin a bunch of rooms until I can get a sense of what style/feeling I am going for. 

I always design a room by asking myself  “how do I want this room to feel?” Every room is different, truly, and the process is driven more by the needs and wants of the room than a step by step process. But I always try to design the space with UTILITY in mind – not in a boring functional way, but more ‘how do I want to USE the room’, which easily separates the family room from the formal living room. I lean into comfort on most things these days, knowing that we gravitate towards rooms that are the most comfortable (so why not make every room extremely comfortable?). 

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present? 

I’m all over the place. I find that the people I admire the most have such different style than what I want in my own home, so I try to analyze WHY I love them so much and be inspired by their work, then create my own version. I love Beata Heuman, Heidi Caillier, Jessica Helgerson – all their work is so inspiring. But more livable spaces I also love Amber Lewis and Sara Sherman Samuel. I think what they all have in common (despite being so different) is confidence, clarity and comfort. And they attack that in such different ways, aesthetically. 

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a  personal motto? 

​​”I don’t know the key to success, but I do know the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” As someone with a large following of readers who watch my every move pretty closely, I know that I have to act from my inner moral compass, listen to my close team, friends and family and make decisions based on experience. Trying to please everyone is simply as impossible as trying to be perfect and once you realize that, your life gets so much easier. 

How do your surroundings influence your work?

I’m a huge nature lover and need to be outside to calm down this dumb ruminating brain of mine. So while I don’t think I design specifically around nature themes or anything (although I have done many a tree mural now that I think about it) I think after being in nature is when I do my most grounded work. 

What is a typical day like for you? 

I am currently mid-renovation and right now there are a lot of things happening FAST so I usually start my day going to the farmhouse to make decisions. Then I write for a few hours and check in with my team. I have two kids that have reached the wonderful ages of 6 and 8 which makes them pretty independent and extremely fun to hang with. As a design content creator in the wild west of digital media I have to really monitor my time to ensure I don’t work 80 hours a week. Right now I feel relatively balanced with a great team and a decent work life balance but it took YEARS to get to this point and it wasn’t easy (lots of nervous breakdowns and Eckhart Tolle if you know what I mean). 

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

When your life is on social media there really aren’t any secrets, but I have a strangely good sense of direction 🙂 In the fall I’m going to start teaching myself photography – I have the camera, I know angles and lighting, I just don’t know how those buttons work so I’m extremely excited to take some time to learn that next year. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

The best advice I can give is to simply START. You can’t let fear or perfectionism get in the way. 

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your  business? 

There are a billion ways to run a healthy business and frankly we all have to figure out what works for us which can often be a messy process. But I kept my overhead pretty low for years and it wasn’t until I had a large team and a big overhead that I struggled financially. It’s a process that I needed to go through to learn what is best for me, but just know that bigger isn’t always better for creatives running a business. I spent the first 5-7 years of my career building my portfolio, proving the value of our work and working my ass off with the help from my team, so at this point we charge a lot for our time and services because we know the value of our work. But it takes years of figuring that out (and maybe you’ll do it a lot faster). 

Is there anything more you would like to “become?”

I’m shifting more into the teaching and mentoring phase of my career. I don’t have the same lust for new marketing ideas that I did 8 years ago, but I do feel passionate about synthesizing what I’ve learned and passing it on – both in design and career. While I still blog about swimsuits and tanning lotion because it’s good for the business, my passion is still creating good design content. As soon as we are done with the farm I want to start working with my brother (an aspiring contractor) and do projects together and document them, with a more hands on approach. 

Five Influential Women to Know About

Five Influential Women

These five women have certainly left their mark on the world in a myriad of ways. We decided to go with women who are creative, strong, bold and brave. Here’s our list of five influential women to know about, in no particular order:

First: Iris Apfel

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know all about our love for Iris Apfel. I mean what. an. icon. Earlier this month, we dedicated this post to Iris Apfel in all her bold, colorful glory. If you’re unfamiliar with Iris, she’s a fashion icon famous for defying stereotypes of age and proving that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and do what you love. Did I mention she’s almost 101 and still going strong?! Oh, and don’t forget about that H&M collection, launched TODAY. You heard me right. An H&M + Iris Apfel collab, lauched today!!

Need some Iris Apfel merch? Here’s an ornament, print, and bookmark from our shop!

Iris Apfel June Book Club Artwork

Here’s a whole host of other things inspired by Iris Apfel:

Second: Alma Thomas

You’ve also probably heard a decent amount about Alma Thomas from us. To kick off Black History Month this year, we did a spotlight on Alma Thomas. You can also check out this In the Mood For: Alma Thomas post where you can get inspired by her amazing, colorful artwork. If you’ve never heard of Alma Thomas, she’s a color genius and amazingly talented artist. To learn more, check out our Great Artists course! For a complete list and the link to the Alma Thomas class itself, click here. If you’d like, you can also purchase the full course here, which gives you access to courses featuring six different historical artists, including Alma Thomas, Rembrandt, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and Michelangelo.

Here are some things to get the Alma Thomas inspiration flowing:

Third: Michelle Obama

It’s no secret that we love Michelle Obama. That may have something to do with her book, Becoming, which we read a few years ago for our book club. Her words have since inspired us to start our Becoming blog series, where we interview creative women about how they became who they are. Here’s an inspirational print for your wall featuring one of my favorite Michelle Obama quotes.

Fourth: Ruth Bader Ginsberg

RBG is a must-have on every list of influential women to know about! What a strong, determined woman. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of those women I think most of us want to be like. She has a remarkable, triumphant story of overcoming gender discrimination in the workplace and showing that it’s always worth it to make a stand. If you’re interested, check out her book, My Own Words.

Collecting ornaments? Add this Ruth Bader Ginsberg one to your collection! Interested in dressing up for Halloween later this year? Try this Ruth Bader Ginsberg collar.

A white paper lace collar on a black background.

Fifth: Frida Kahlo

Last but definitely not least on our list of influential women to know about is Frida Kahlo. I’ve been obsessed with Frida Kahlo for as long as I can remember! What an important female artist in history. Here’s a post where we talk about her life and how influential she is. We also give you some Frida-inspired fashion help! Here’s another post where we complied DIY projects inspired by Frida. If you’re still looking to learn more about Frida, remember our Great Artists course! Here’s the link to Frida Kahlo’s class, and here’s the link to the full course.

Our shop is full of Frida Kahlo. Try this print, bookmark, and ornament, to start!

Here are some more things inspired by Frida Kahlo:

More Inspiration

Loved this post and want to learn about other influential women? Try our Becoming series! Also see this post about what Iris Apfel can teach usshop prints featuring women we love, and our female author booklist.

Female Author Booklist

Female Author Booklist

We’re excited to share this female author booklist with you! There are some amazing classics in here. While I haven’t read all the books on this list, I have read a few. The ones I haven’t read are highly recommended from multiple sources, which tells me they deserve to be named. We tried to pick a variety of books, ranging from older classics to more contemporary reads, and from a variety of genres. Hopefully there’s something for everyone here!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This book is the ultimate classic that every woman (and man!) should read. We need more books with strong, female protagonists. This is definitely a frontrunner in that category. Jane Austen is such a legend, we couldn’t leave her off this booklist.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Speaking of strong, female protagonists, Jo March is a role model for every young girl (and woman!). I grew up reading this, so maybe I’m biased, but I had to add it to our female author booklist. This is a beautiful book if you want to read a civil war era book about the struggles women faced written by a women. Louisa May Alcott’s perspective just can’t be paralleled by the male authors of her time.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This isn’t the first time this book has made it onto our blog. We LOVE Michelle Obama, and we LOVE her book. In fact, when we read her book for our book club, it inspired our entire becoming series. You can read the interviews in our becoming series here.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Another one of my all time favorite books, Jane Eyre is a moving story about a fiercely independent orphan and her journey to find freedom. I love the strength of women this book shows. And did I mention Charlotte Brontë? I mean, all three of the Brontë sisters are essentials to the category of strong, independent women. The fact that three female authors all came from one family at the time they did, historically, is a feat to be reckoned with.

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg

We couldn’t make this female author booklist without including RBG. I mean what. an. icon. I think she speaks for herself. The legacy she left behind is remarkable and we would all do well to take a leaf out of her book. Or at least read it.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Looking for greek mythology with a strong, female heroine? This is the picture of female empowerment. A 2018 New York Times bestseller, this book has proven itself. And dipping your toes into greek mythology is always a pleasure.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Joan Didion died in 2021, and what an iconic writer she was. This is a beautiful memoir that I haven’t read yet but is 100% on my list! It delves into the year following her husband’s death and how she had to deal with her daughter’s health issues in addition to her own. Just reading the summary feels powerful, so imagine getting to read every word from the source itself.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Another book I haven’t read yet but that definitely piqued my interest! This one delves into the sexual abuse facing fertile women in near-future New England.

The XX Brain by Lisa Mosconi

This is the perfect book to help you understand your brain and body as you age. It contains groundbreaking research on women’s health and how our hormones affect brain and body well-being as we age. More importantly, what we can do about it.

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

Nigerian writer Adiche explores women in relationships in a series of powerful short stories. It doesn’t take very many pages to write something impactful when you write like Adiche.

Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson

This is a must read (really, any of hers can’t go wrong). They’re definitely on my list! Arguably America’s greatest living literary author, Robinson has won nearly every major literary prize, including the Pulitzer. Her novels explore the human condition, faith, and the origins of our modern discontents.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer

New York Times bestselling historical novel about a group of people on the Isle of Guernsey under German occupation and how books connected them and gave them hope during a time of darkness. And that movie?! I mean, come on.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

This is a classic sci-fi novel set on a planet where every person is gender-neutral and the implications of how that plays out in society.

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

We had to include Melinda Gates on our booklist. This book is an eye-opening memoir that explores, among other things, the horrors and hardships experienced by women worldwide, and the ripple effects when efforts to eliminate poverty focus on lifting women.

A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Ever seen Call the Midwife? I’m the first to admit I’ve watched every episode. Well A Midwife’s Tale is also a diary, this time of a female medical practitioner and ancestor of Clara Barton. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is thoughtful and intentional in her research and explorations of the diary. The information she exposes throw open a window into the life of an 18th century woman and the society she lived and worked in. 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

National Book Award Finalist, the story centers on a Korean woman in Japan. It’s also soon to be made a film!

More Inspiration

Looking for more books to read? Here’s a list of books and media by black creatives. Here’s a list of a few more book recommendations we made a few years ago, too! Interested in what we’ve read for book club? Here are the posts.

 

Becky Edwards Inspired Art

Becky Edwards

If you missed it, here’s the post where we made pomanders with Becky Edwards! For a full summary of our other classic Christmas guests, see this post. Before we get into all this amazing Becky Edwards inspired art, let me tell you a little about Becky. She’s a Utahn at heart, not to mention an avid crafter! She practically does it all, and with flair. She’s confident, spunky, and talented. What a refreshing change it would be to have her in office!

Without further ado, here’s a list of these amazing artists and their Becky Edwards inspired art:

Becky Edwards Inspired Art

Amanda Jane Jones

We love Amanda Jane Jones! And of course we love her design work. The proof is that we sell it in our very own shop! Here’s her Becky Edwards inspired art:

Oh, and here’s a video of her process, which we loved seeing!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Amanda Jane Jones (@amandajanejones)

Natalee Cooper Chilton

You all know we love our florals, and Natalee out did herself on this one! We love how it turned out.

Ann Chen

Ann Chen‘s work is bold, bright and fun! We love what she did for her Becky Edwards inspired art.

Becca Clason

Becca Clason is to thank for getting everyone together to make all this art. And we love how her stop motion video turned out!

 

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A post shared by Becca Clason (@beccaclason)

Justin Wheatley

Here’s Justin Wheatley’s rendition of Becky Edwards inspired art:

Jill De Haan

And what about Jill De Haan? We love how hers turned out!

Paige Crosland Anderson

Paige Crosland Anderson made a lovely Becky Edwards inspired art piece. Here it is:

John Connors

Here’s John Connors’ art! Isn’t it nice?

 

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A post shared by John Connors (@owenjohn)

Matisse Hales

Here’s Matisse Hales‘ artwork. We love the floral theme, yet again!

Danelle Cheney

Danelle Cheney‘s stop motion video was impeccable. We loved it!

 

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A post shared by Danelle Cheney (@danellecheney)

Michelle Christensen

Michelle Christensen‘s Becky Edwards inspired art piece was also a stunner.

Jesse Draper

Jesse Draper also made a lovely art piece. Here it is:

Sylvia Bunker

Here’s Sylvia Bunker’s Becky Edwards inspired art. Punch needle was a clever idea!

Olivia Knudsen (@okolivia)

Olivia Knudsen also made a lovely ink drawing.

 

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A post shared by Olivia Knudsen (@okolivia)

Ashley Collett (@ashleycollettdesign)

Ashley Collett’s designs were jaw dropping. Plus she overachieved and made four instead of just one. Amazing!

 

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A post shared by Ashley Collett (@ashleycollettdesign)

Lori Van Wagoner (@icanmakeit_lorivw)

Here’s a lovely stained glass piece by Lori Van Wagoner.

Genevieve Bryan (@genevievebryan)

We love the bold graphic feel of Genevieve Bryan’s design! Here it is:

Loni Harris

Loni Harris‘ Becky Edwards inspired art piece feels reminiscent of a chalk board, doesn’t it? Love the way it turned out.

Rebecca Knudsen (@rcknudsen)

Rebecca Knudsen for the win with yet another beautiful stained glass piece!

 

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A post shared by Rebecca Knudsen (@rcknudsen)

David Habben

David Habben wowed us with this trippy and very fun rendition inspired by Becky.

Brooke Smart

We loved this whimsical edition of Becky Edwards inspired art by Brooke Smart. Definitely feels on brand!

Sara Harding

Sara Harding‘s floral rendition was magical to say the least.

Megan Trueblood (@megantruebloodart)

Another floral take, we love this simple design by Megan Trueblood.

That’s a wrap. We loved getting to see how creative people got with their art. Now spread the word: let’s unseat Mike Lee, people!

Becoming Nina Cosford

Please write a short, 3rd-person bio about yourself

Nina Cosford is a freelance illustrator based in the seaside town of Hastings, UK. Her work centres around storytelling and capturing the woes and wonders, ups and downs of everyday life – particularly themes experienced by women. She loves to travel whenever possible and never goes anywhere without her sketchbook!
Nina Cosford illustating

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?

Overall, I’d refer to myself as a creative. Professionally, I’m an illustrator.

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I grew up in a small Surrey town, about an hour away from London. My bedroom window looked out onto the North Downs – chalky cliffs and wooded hills – which I would draw countless times in all seasons. I was lucky to live in a place with lots of history, pretty architecture and stunning natural landscapes. It really got me looking at places and people from a young age and encouraged me to document my surroundings through observational drawing and imaginative writing. I think that urge to document and respond has stayed with me ever since, both as a person and as a creative professional.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

Ha! A lot of things over the years…an Egyptologist, a detective constable, an astronaut. Funnily enough, I don’t recall ever setting out to be an artist or work in the creative industry – it just gradually happened as my life went on.
Nina Cosford illustration

Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path?

Lots of people! But I guess a lot of things can start from home. My dad is a freelance commercial artist so I grew up observing how he worked and how seriously he took his craft. I think that inspired me to see the arts in a more legitimate light unlike many other young people who can – sadly – often be discouraged from pursuing a creative career. I just thought “of course you can draw for a living” because that’s what I could see and thought it could be as normal as any other job. Whilst I wasn’t actively guided into being a commercial artist, I wasn’t discouraged. I felt a sense of unconditional trust and support from my family which I was fortunate to have. This gave me the space and confidence to make my own choices.

What sparked your interest in illustration?

I’ve drawn for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen. I have an inherent need to observe, record and respond to the world around me. I find that illustration is such an effective and powerful way to capture a moment, idea, message or feeling.
Nina Cosford illustration
Nina Cosford illustration

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

Back in 2019, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to create and self-publish a book about the Trans-Siberian Railway. I was amazed and touched at how much support and encouragement I got. It really was the trip of a lifetime travelling from Moscow to Beijing by train, through the stunning landscapes of Siberia and Mongolia. I felt so happy and lucky to be able to do something so epic and turn it into work as well.

Nina Cosford book

Another “pinch me” moment was last year when I first saw and held the sketchbook I’d designed! After years of using sketchbooks (my favourite stage of the creative process) and endlessly searching for one that ticked all the boxes for me, I decided to take a leap of faith and design my own. It’s feels pretty surreal to be making work in a product I’ve 100% designed myself and to see lots of other people using it too! It’s something I’m super proud of.

Nina Cosford sketchbook

Nina Cosford sketchbook

What is your illustrative process like?

Generally, I start a project by studying the brief, researching the client I’m working with, and considering the audience and context the work is going to be made for. Once I have all this information, I think up different ways of approaching the brief. That means trying out different elements, compositions, angles, colour schemes etc. Once the client is happy with an approach, I crack on with mocking up finals or jumping straight into the final execution. Sometimes I do a piece early on which I end up preferring to overworked pieces later made, and try to retain or revert back to the energy and feeling of the earlier works, if that’s working better.

Nina Cosford illustrating

With self-initiated work, I generate work far more spontaneously and particularly like to work when I’m on the move or between jobs. When I start working on something, I often begin by making lots of scribbles and notes which turn into tiny roughs. I play around with different composition options until I develop the one I think is best, which I then scale up to a bigger rough. Next, I either trace this to make the final piece from, using a mix of brush pen markers and coloured pencil (if I am working physically) or I make the final artwork on my iPad (using ProCreate and the Apple Pencil).

Sometimes I just photograph the finished (physical) drawing on my phone and share it straight away, other times I scan it in and tweak it on the computer; it depends on what the piece is for and how refined it needs to be. I do enjoy the immediacy of uploading a piece I’ve just drawn – straight from my sketchbook – as it still feels fresh and raw and not too overworked. I also quite like having more than one project on the go (whether another commission or a self-initiated project) as it breaks up my schedule and bit and keeps it all feeling a little fresher.

Where do you find inspiration for new creations?

It’s always hard to pinpoint an answer to this question. It sounds cheesy, but I try to be inspired by (almost) everything or at least have an interest in most things. The best inspiration can be found in the most unusual or unexpected places. As much as I admire the work of other illustrators / artists, I find it’s best not to look too closely or too often as this doesn’t always give me confidence – comparison is not a good habit!

Instead, I love going to museums, browsing Pinterest where I have dozens of specifically themed boards, listening to film scores, going for walks outside, looking at buildings, rearranging my shelves and making displays, sitting in coffee shops, people-watching, journalling and travelling as much as I can. These habits help to refresh my head and eyeballs and allow me to step outside of myself.

Nina Cosford sketchbook

Nina Cosford illustrations

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?

It’s easy to get into a funk, especially when your job relies on being inspired, motivated, creative and productive like ALL the time (and there’s only one of you!). I think it’s really important to identify when it’s time to take a break and when it’s time to “just get on with it” (that motto helps me get through a lot!).

Nina Cosford quote

How do your surroundings influence your work?

Over the pandemic, particularly during the lockdowns, I was mainly working from home and, whilst I was fortunate to be able to do that, it wasn’t my ideal working environment. I found myself getting so easily distracted and that line between home mode and work mode became blurrier and blurrier. Instead, I love going into my studio to work (which is in a shared building in town, a 10 minute walk from my home).

I really appreciate having my own space, playing whatever music I’m in the mood for and cracking on with tasks at my big desk with my ergonomic chair (cannot stress how important a decent chair is!). My room is full of all my art materials, inspirational books, my drawing archives, a comfy armchair to read in and all sorts of weird and wonderful trinkets I’ve collected over the years. It totally feels like my own space.

Nina Cosford materials

What is a typical day like for you?

Being freelance, each day is often different which keeps things varied and interesting. But I also like patterns and routine, so I try to implement these where I can, however unpredictable work can be. The day usually starts a little on the slow side; sitting still with a cup of coffee or tea and making a to do list in my sketchbook. I often doodle the date or a title which helps to warm up my hands / creativity (and can be a useful form of procrastination too ha!).

It totally depends on my schedule and what projects I have on, but I try to tackle the more administrative (or boring) tasks first, and then spend the afternoon drawing or putting stuff together (the more creative aspects of my job). There’s so much more backend stuff that goes into being a self-employed illustrator! Research, time and project management, admin, negotiating contracts, managing my accounts, self-promotion etc etc etc! Drawing is just the fun bit on top

I’m a keen walker and love being outdoors so appreciate the walk to work (I have a studio away from home). I find fresh air and visual stimulation really important for my eyes and head and like to be able to ease in and out of work mode. Walking always helps!

Nina Cosford illustration

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

Over lockdown, I taught myself to needle punch. It was challenging and frustrating at times but eventually I got the hang of it and ended up really enjoying it! I think it’s super important to channel one’s creativity in more than one way. Our jobs don’t have to define us and I believe everyone is creative – they just need to find their outlet. To self-teach, I used YouTube tutorials (it’s amazing how many resources there are on the internet), books, blogs and some advice from people and friends who had also tried it before. Don’t be afraid to ask others. Just give it a go!

Nina Cosford illustration

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

I make video game music! I’ve played piano since childhood and studied music technology at college. I regularly compose and practice on my Nord keyboard as I don’t want to forget how to play. A few years ago, when my partner Ali asked me to make a 16-bit style, retro-inspired soundtrack for the video game he was making, I jumped at the chance!

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, see what your peers are charging and how they generally manage things, keep all your receipts, have a separate business account to keep everything tidy, try your best to live and spend within your means and learn to recognise when you can / should invest back into your business.

What is your long-term goal?

I’ve never been great at setting goals (long term or short term). I barely know what I’m doing next week! Saying that, I think it’s super important to keep stepping back from your work / life / self to acknowledge where you’re at, what you’ve achieved and where you’re headed. I like to do this through journalling and book in little “catch-up dates” with myself every couple of months. When it comes to looking toward the future, for me it can just be a vague outline or a feeling of what I think I want. And I guess that is to always pursue a creative life – not just through my illustration work but in how I live, my relationships with others, with nature and with the world.

What Iris Apfel Can Teach Us

Iris Apfel June Book Club Artwork

Who Is Iris Apfel?

Iris Apfel is one of the most iconic women in the history of fashion. This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned her! Here’s another post where we share some of our musings about Iris. Self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet,” Iris Apfel started as an interior designer with an innate interest in fashion. She really became known when her noteworthy wardrobe made its way into an exhibition at the Met. From there, her career as a fashion icon blossomed.

She didn’t stop there! At age 98, she signed a modeling contract with IMG, blowing all former female model stereotypes out of the water. She even came out with her own sunglasses line a few days before her 100th birthday! From interior design, to transforming the definition of modeling, to her eclectic and show-stopping style, to simply living a full life, Iris Apfel can teach us so much.

Embracing Maximalism in an Age of Minimalism

We are living in an age of minimalism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not always against minimalism. When done correctly it can be lovely. The problem is that it’s become an overwhelming default that squashes so many opportunities for creative expression. If you’re interested more of my thoughts on neutrals and default colors, read this post. Anyway, I’m not here today to focus on minimalism. I’m here to talk about Iris Apfel, who is an example of totally owning gorgeous maximalism. Iris Apfel can teach us so. much. Here’s how she can help us embrace maximalism when minimalism is so overwhelmingly present.

What Iris Apfel Can Teach Us

Don’t Fear Patterns and Colors!

I remember buying clothes with my mom as a kid. She’d always offer up the same advice: “pick something that will go with everything!” There’s a myth that’s been circulating for many years that neutral solids match better than colors and patterns. My mom’s not alone. Many people stick almost solely to neutrals, not because they don’t like color or pattern, but because they feel intimidated. Which is totally understandable! Neutrals are, admittedly, easy.

But are they satisfying? Iris Apfel sure shows us that there are many, many examples of bold color and pattern combinations that look exquisite together. They’re less common because it’s intimidating to jump into so much color and pattern, but maybe that’s what makes them so wonderful. So to those wanting to incorporate more patterns and colors into their lives but feeling intimidated, remember that Iris would tell you to go for it! You can do it, just be confident in those bold choices and don’t let others dissuade you. As Iris would say, “When you don’t dress like everyone else then you don’t have to think like everyone else.”

The Bolder the Better

Speaking of bold choices, is anything every really too much for Iris Apfel? Probably not. She teaches us that, rather than airing on the side of caution when it comes to your wardrobe, go big or go home! She would probably put it just that candidly, too.

She’s the perfect example of really diving into colors and patterns and showing us that bolder really is better, in her case. After all, she did say, “color can raise the dead.” When you own bold patterns and colors like Iris Apfel, they are striking, completely show-stopping, and do much more than any combination of neutrals could to. So be all in! The key is to be decisive and intentional. A half-hearted effort just doesn’t produce the Iris Apfel effect.

Mix and Match!

Another one of my mom’s common statements was something along the lines of “don’t wear multiple patterns together, they don’t go.” Well Iris Apfel would most likely say the exact opposite: Why opt for a neutral that goes with everything when you can go for a wild, wacky combo? And who says multiple patterns can’t compliment each other exquisitely?

Rather than always going for black because it will match everything in your wardrobe, try branching out. Unlikely combinations can sometimes be best.

Speaking of unlikely combinations, don’t fear mixing high and low fashions. Iris Apfel was famous for shamelessly mixing designer brands with flea market finds, and patterns, colors and textures of all different eras. The eclectic mix became her signature, and she knowingly broke all rules and conventions. Isn’t the saying something like “learn the rules so you can break them?”

Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize

Don’t let me finish out this list of what Iris Apfel can teach us without including accessories. Iris’s iconic glasses, boas, and bold bangles with forever be remembered. Nothing is too thick, chunky, or big for her. Accessories can do wonders for an outfit that feels like it needs a little something to be complete.

And again, Iris Apfel audaciously merged antiquity with modernity with striking success.

Dress for Yourself, Not to be Stared At

Above all, fashion is and should be very personal. It’s all about you, or it should be. As Iris says, “I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.” Iris has us convinced that fashion should be fun, and it’s the most fun when it feels true to YOU. Ultimately, “The important thing is to be comfortable so you can get on with your life.”

In the Shop

If you’re looking for something to remind you of Iris Apfel, check out our shop! Nothing helps with inspiration like seeing Iris Apfel’s face every time you open your book and see this bookmark. Or looking up at the wall by your desk and seeing this print! If you’re wanting to prep for the holiday season early this year, we’d recommend this Iris Apfel ornament.

More Inspiration

Loved this post on what Iris Apfel can teach us and want to be inspired by other amazing women? Check out our Becoming series, where we highlight female creatives and how they became who they are! You can also be inspired by these in the mood for posts, where we draw style and design inspiration from artists, creatives, and things we love throughout history.

One last note before you go: Iris Apfel has collaborated with H&M to release a new collection this spring 2022–STAY TUNED! I’m positive we’ll have more to say where that came from.

 

 

 

 

Alma Thomas: Black History Month Kickoff

Who Is Alma Thomas?

Alma Thomas

Back in 2020, we dedicated a blog post to Alma Thomas, which you can read here. Long story short, she was an amazingly talented black artist, famous for her mosaic-like technique for painting. Her story is amazing, and we’d recommend reading the unabridged version in our blog post here.

What Does the Course Include?

For a complete list and the link to the Alma Thomas class itself, click here. If you’d like, you can also purchase the full course here, which gives you access to courses featuring six different historical artists, including Alma Thomas, Rembrandt, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and Michelangelo. Don’t forget to use the code ALMA50 for a 50% discount on the Alma Thomas course! It’s available for the entire month of February.

Inspired By Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas was a genius when it came to color. Want to be inspired by her in what you wear, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some clothing items to get you started, as well as some accessories, if you’re not quite bold enough to wear all the colors of the rainbow in one statement piece. Adding a small pop of color can really transform an outfit.

Here are a few crafts you can make in honor of black history month and Alma Thomas:

Heirloom Plush Dolls

These Heirloom Plush Dolls are a fun way to decorate and remember that it’s black history month. They’re a jazzy, creative twist on our Family Heirloom Ornaments.

Alma Thomas Paper Dolls

Alma Thomas Paper Dolls are another interactive way to celebrate black history month. They’re a great way to teach your kids about black history while crafting at the same time!

Other Black Creatives

We hope you’ll treat this month as a learning opportunity and be inspired by the black creatives all around you. Alma Thomas is a great icon, but there are other ways to get involved during black history month as well.

Books, Movies and Shows

In this post, we compiled a list of black-authored books to read that are both eye-opening and engaging. It’s a great place to start if you have a goal to be more informed about black history this month. Bonus: if you’re more of a screens person, that same post also includes some really great movies and shows by black creatives.

If you’re not familiar with many black creatives, here‘s a list we complied a while back with some of our favorites. You can also check out this post, where you can learn how to make your own heirloom ornaments featuring your favorite black creatives.

Interviews

If you’re interested in getting to know some different artists of color, this post is for you. We compiled a list of interviews with some of our favorite artists of color. We loved getting to know them and what they do!

Black-Owned Businesses

Here are some amazing products we love from black designers. This is a great way to support black makers.

Happy Black History Month! We’d love to know: what are you doing in honor of Black History Month?

 

Becoming Jennifer Tran

Meet Jennifer Tran

Jennifer Tran is an artist and the founder of Papetal. She is best known for her
work with paper flowers, which is encapsulated in her book Flowersmith, A guide to
handcrafting and arranging enchanting paper flowers. After years of collaborating
with fashion clients, (e.g. Hermes, Gucci, Daniel Wellington, Anthropologie etc.), she
took a break from the flower world to explore new mediums. In 2021 and completely
by chance, she stumbled across pasta making and discovered the limitless
possibilities of flour, water and salt. Jennifer Tran’s pasta is the expression of her
love for colours, textures and forms; and is the culmination of her experiences in
flower making, botanical illustration and painting. Her pasta designs are like her
flowers; enchanting, whimsical, playful and most of all, imaginative.

pink and green checkerboard

 

 

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator,
maker, business person, educator, etc.?

I’m a maker of all things practical and accessible. I enjoy designing and making
pretty things that everyone can appreciate, make and enjoy. With pasta, the
materials that I use can be found anywhere. And I pass on the techniques on
Instagram, so that everyone can have a go as well.

purple, green and orange pasta

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have
influenced what you do now?

I grew up in Hanoi, in an artistic family. My father was an actor, who loved taking me
to all his events. If he was shooting a movie, I would be sitting behind the cameras
pretending to direct. If he was performing on stage, I would be sitting backstage
chatting up with his crew. I grew up in a world filled with colours, lights, cameras and
actions. I performed quite a bit as a kid and had always wanted to be performer with
an audience as big as my father’s.

When I came to Australia at age 19, the dream of being a performer did not
eventuate as English was a struggle. So I turned to visual arts as another form of
expression. I was trained as a sculptor & installation artist at The University of New
South Wales, with an Honours first class. I used light as a sculptural medium and
produced mainly light installations, which worked out very well for me, academically.
But I had very limited audience because what I used to make could only be
appreciated in a gallery context. After graduating, I had a change in artistic direction;
I wanted to create for everyone and not just the selected few. With this goal in mind,
I turned to other mediums that were more accessible such as paper, and now flour,
water & salt. And I sought a bigger audience through social media.

patterned pasta

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

My book, Flowersmith, which I had put a lot of work and a lot of love in. I wrote the
manuscript, made the flowers and took all the photos myself, within 3 months. During
that time, I slept for about 3-5 hours a day, struggled to eat due to stress but did not
miss a single deadline. I went at it with the strength and the spirit that I had never
seen in myself before. I am proud of the commitment and the determination that I
had displayed during the production of my book.

pink and black pasta

Your recent work with pasta is blowing us away! Can you tell us more about
it, and how you transitioned from working with paper to pasta?

It was unplanned. During Sydney’s 16 week lockdown in 2021, I wanted to make a
care package to send to my family as I couldn’t see them. While I was looking for
ideas, I saw my friend’s beetroot ravioli on Instagram. I was so surprised as I had
never seen red pasta before. I wondered what other colours of pasta there were, so I
started searching. One thing led to another, I began to experiment with my own
recipes, and was so surprised by the similarities between paper and pasta. In my
book Flowersmith, I showed readers how to use turmeric and paprika to make
pollen. In pasta making, I am able to use these spices, along with a number of
superfoods to colour my dough. Besides materials, I have been using the same
design principles in both my flower making and pasta making. When you scroll
through my Instagram, you’ll see the common threads in colours and compositions.

 

flower pastapurple striped pasta with flowers

Where do you find inspiration for new creations?

I find inspiration in textiles and fashion design. I actually got the idea of making plaid
pasta from a friend who teaches fashion design. He commented on the similarities
between one of my earlier experiments with patterns from the 70s. So I started
looking into textiles and have been able to apply some of what I’ve learnt into pasta
making.

red, yellow, green and pink pasta

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?

I look up to Benja Harney of Paperform, for his inventiveness, skills and style. I also
admire the designs of Beci Orpin and Alice Oehr.

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?

Definitely live music, or what to expect of it in 2022. I love heavy metal but missed
out on both Iron Maiden and Metallica’s concerts during the pandemic, so I look
forward to their return to touring, hopefully in the near future. I will also be going to as
many live concerts as I possibly can.

circle pasta

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it
from? Do you have a personal motto?

“Making art makes art” is a piece of advice from my mentor at University, which I
have carried with me throughout my professional career. It’s a reminder that while it’s
important to dream up new ideas in my head, I need to physically interact with my
materials, cutting, moulding, mixing, joining and shaping them. For instance, with
pasta, it’s through various experimentations with superfoods that I discovered new
colour mixtures; colours that I wouldn’t be able to see just by thinking about them.

How do your surroundings influence your work?

My partner is a valuator and my closest friends are scientists. They’ve taught me
how to approach both art making and problem solving methodically. For instance,
when I was writing my book, I had a bit of struggles with Dahlia. So I dissected a real
flower to examine the layers and how each petals were joint. It was this scientific
approach that allowed me to create my perfect dahlia at the time.

purple pastapurple pasta circles

What is a typical day like for you?

I have a day job in research infrastructure, so I have my 9-5 like most people. Before
I start work each day, I would spend about an hour sketching up new pasta making
ideas in my diary. I only get to make stuff on Sundays. On those days, I wake up at
5:30am, jump into my water rower, shower then breakfast with a piece of cake and
Vietnamese coffee. After loading myself up with sugar, I would go right into preparing
pasta dough, which usually takes me through to lunch. Then the rest of the day is
just playing with colours and patterns. I try to finish cleaning up by 6pm, so I can
spend the rest of Sunday with my partner.

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

I haven’t discovered my secret talent yet. The one skill that I’m working on is speed.
As my pasta designs are consisted of multiple layers, which dry out very quickly
when exposed to the air. If I don’t work fast enough, the whole design would dry out

and all the time and materials would be wasted. I’m okay with wasting time but feel
quite guilty when I have to dispose of pasta dough. So my goal is to practice and
practice until I work faster than the speed of my pasta drying.

patterned pasta

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing
your business?

Be on top of your expenses. When I was running my flower making business, I kept
an Excel spreadsheet for everything, so I knew how much I had spent, how much I
needed to put aside for tax, how much to reinvest in the business and how much I
could put away for that dream holiday etc. Knowing my expenses kept me out of
debt, and allowed me to price my work correctly.

pink and black stripe

Is there anything more you would like to “become?”

I just want to learn to take it easy and stop being stressed out about the little things.

What is your long-term goal? or What do you hope to accomplish within the
next 10 years?

I don’t have a 10 year plan for my creative life, I only take things as they come.