If you read this blog often, you’ll remember that I promised a few months ago to try be regular at it, and as is fairly obvious, I’ve umm, failed. But let’s just agree that that makes me totally human and relatable in a cool, casual, Jennifer Lawrence kind of way. I mean, if you’re blogging about your life a little too regularly, it must mean that you’re not spending enough time living it. Right? No? Ok, far-fetched guilty rationalization over.
Let’s start again. If you read this blog often, you’ll know that I’m always somehow thinking about where ideas come from. When I’m not actively seeking inspiration, or putting it to paper…I am, almost always, trying to understand and explain it, to somehow capture its essence and own it, so that I’ll never again have to go without. Sort of like when you’re a kid at an amusement park, and you’re looking at the Candy Floss machine dreaming of having one, in your bedroom. So yeah, probably not going to happen. But a kid can dream!
The other thing I’m always trying to do is seek out other avenues, or alternative modes of inspiration. I’m totally over Pinterest, and I simply can’t look at wedding invitations if I’m about to start designing one. I prefer instead to put on Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suites and listen to them on repeat as I sketch. I find trying to capture the absolute effortlessness of his playing a far more intriguing premise than trying to impersonate someone else’s calligraphy. Or I might look up fashion week invitations for Menswear shows. Or I might just crack open a bottle of rose. (Ok that last one is not a great example because what I’m trying to say is that the inspiration has to be a little less than obvious.).
And because no Letterist blog is every truly complete without a musical interlude, here he is for you, the incredible, the inimitable Yo-Yo Ma.
When its not music, its film and when its not that, it's interiors. I realized the other day as I was scrolling through Instagram that most of the people I follow, and most of the posts that catch my eye are interior design and styling. Call me simple-minded or predictable, but I’m a total sucker for a room full of natural light and palm leaves in minimal vases casting all the right shadows. I double-tap shit like that all day long. Though, double-tapping things in your feed is still fairly passive, there are a few such ‘grammers that I’ve actually turned on notifications for. As in, even when I’m in the middle of a meeting, gallery opening, or delicious dinner…I want to know they just posted something, and I’m going to put my pen or fork down and knowingly be rude just to see what it is. (If for similar reasons you’ve turned on notifications for @theletterist…you rock.) So what I really want to write about today is one of those people. An incredibly talented and insanely inspiring interior designer, who also happens to be a dear old friend of mine…Christine Alice.
Christine and I went to college together and it was a very liberal, hippy, anti-everything kind of place…so I’m pretty sure our first interaction was sort of a love-at-first-sight on the basis that we both washed and ironed our clothes. In a place where no one wore shoes, combed their hair, ate meat or consumed anything even remotely mass produced...meeting someone in pressed linen holding a Starbucks coffee cup definitely felt like it was meant to be. Needless to say, I didn't make a lot of friends...but the ones I did, I very much kept.
Many, many years later, I was working a tireless and uninspiring corporate job and would spend my evenings looking at motivational quotes on Pinterest – do more of what makes you happy! – and scrolling through my Facebook feed jealous of what basically everyone else was doing and where. And then one of her posts popped up. She had just quit her job at a think tank and decided to become a freelance Interior Designer. There was a link to her blog, which featured gorgeous photos of her and her husband’s home in DC, completely decorated by her. (He went to college with us too, ironed his clothes too, and is awesome too...but we'll have to talk about him another time.) Here are a just a few:
I was blown away. I knew we both had very liberal arts degrees from an institution that pretended vocational skills like design don't exist, so she didn't get any of this from college...and she had been working at a think tank so couldn't really have picked it up there. It was pure, raw, natural, inimitable talent. She obviously had not only a keen eye for design and a very distinctive style, but a passion that had even in her spare time turned her into an avid collector. The items in these photographs clearly weren't just off the shelf from Crate and Barrel or Restoration Hardware...some might have been, but others were inherited or found...in antique shops, estate sales, markets, bookstores, dark basements or hot attics...far and wide, and she knew exactly how to put them together. I've always loved her effortless ability to combine different eras, colors, textures and patterns into an uncluttered whole that makes it look like all those things asked to be brought together. In the same way, she blogged about her process, inspirations and finds in a natural, light, humble and funny way. And...she had the gumption to make that massive career jump. To think, so what if I didn't study this, so what if no one's taught me, so what if no one would hire me because its not on my CV. I want to...I can, and I will. I remember it clear as daylight, that night, that moment, seeing all that, thinking...hey, maybe I can do that.
I continued following Christine's projects, travels and blog with great interest and about a year later I did it. I made the jump. Following a couple of intensive graphic design courses at Parsons, I was hanging out in New York drawing, painting, lettering and dreaming up what you now know of as The Letterist, and starting to share a few things on Instagram. I didn't quite know what I was doing yet...but I had a big stack of aquarelle postcards and each day I'd paint a swash of watercolor and overlay it with a quote. One afternoon, Christine wrote that she was in New York and we decided to meet at Eataly for a glass of wine. Before she even sat down, I said tell me more about what you're doing! You're my hero! I love your work! And she turned around and said, what I'm doing?! Forget what I'm doing...I want to hear about what you're doing! I saw it on Instagram and I love it! In the time that has passed since, I've had many an encounter or project that has given me the praise, reward or encouragement to believe in what I'm doing and to continue doing it...but I still remember that one fondly. One of my favourite interior designers, and the person who inspired me to even consider this, loves my work. Forget Pinterest, Instagram, classical music and the rest. This. Is. Inspiration. (And its not just inspiration...because when I posted my first collection of Christmas cards on my online shop, the first sale came through in less than a day, and of course, it was from Christine.)
[For some silly reason, I at the time was going through an obsessive hot yoga phase, so when one glass turned into two and was about to turn into three, I said my goodbyes and ran towards the subway. And Christine – I gotta tell you, I still regret it! Trust that I have since then grown up and matured into a rational, sensible adult who picks cold wine, over hot yoga, any day.]
I still follow what she's up to...and hope that if you've read this far, you might too. She's moving to New York in the next couple of weeks so I'm also secretly praying that her magical inspiration might strike again and it wont be long before I end up there too. Ha. In the meantime...a couple of working photos from her latest and I believe most beloved project...their new weekend home in Maine. I've already said I'm coming to visit, and that I want to stay, in that bathroom. To see more of this project (together with some shocking before photos) and her other work, follow Christine on Instagram or visit her website here.
And...in whatever way you can...stay inspired.