Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Art of Being You: Interview with Mithra Ballesteros of Finder Not Keeper



Why did you first start Finder Not Keeper?
In my online shop, Finder Not Keeper, I sell instant collections of interesting objects and art. On my blog, The Bubble Joy, I write entertaining stories about the collections. Each collection is one-of-a-kind, curated over months and miles, and is the antithesis of mass-production.
I opened the shop in March 2014 in an effort to help people create meaningful living spaces. We all love the look of a gallery wall, a layered mantel, a cabinet of curiosities – but it is difficult to create. Everyone is pinning ideas but no one is selling them. I thought I would try.
In a Pottery Barn / Ikea world, these collections are a design solution for those seeking something that is more authentic, more heartfelt, more reflective of their own story.

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?
I was born in Iran. We moved to the U.S. when I was a toddler. I grew up in the Chicago area. Coming from a culturally mixed family influenced me greatly. Perhaps because my father left so much behind when we emigrated, I have a fixation on possessions, especially sentimental ones.

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?
I have always been a skilled collector and an amusing storyteller. To combine the two abilities is definitely a delicious career sandwich and brings me great joy. But the idea didn’t just pop into my head. It took a year of intense reflection to flush out the details of the concept.

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?
A very very long path! I blogged on behalf of a company and knew I needed to blog for myself. I put on killer Halloween spookhouses and knew I had visual talents. worked ages ago as a stylist helped others decorate and knew I needed to get paid for my abilities. Both of these truths  sold for others and needed to sell for myself. Bottom line is don’t fret about a zigzagging career path. If you enjoy what you do, let that be enough. No one, not even your mother, can predict what opportunities will arise or what skills will be gained from any endeavor.

How would you describe your process?
I believe that objects have souls. They have an essence that can be communicated to us if we are open to it. When I lock eyes with something wonderful, I get goose bumps. I want to know what kind of life the object led before I came along. That is what I write about.
Last week, I purchased a large quantity of African art and fabric from an eighty-year-old woman who lived half of her life in Botswana and Nigeria before finally coming back home to Wisconsin with crates and crates of things. Her stories! Writing about her provides me a chance to honor her history. Hopefully my writing will connect her possessions to someone who appreciates the path traveled by these objects. 

What is your favorite medium? 
As a buyer of art and antiques, I love anything made by hand. Needlework, especially, calls to me, as I think society undervalues it. As a writer, my favorite medium is limericks. They’re like haikus for the common man.

Where do you find your inspiration?
You! I am inspired by all of the young creatives who are out there making our world a better place, stitch by stitch, brushstroke by brushstroke, shutter click by shutter click.

What do you do for fun?
Cook for teenagers. Is there anyone more endearing than a hungry teenager? They love everything and while their mouths are full, I can lecture them. They always come back for more.

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?
What an impossible question! Maybe it was the first time I made a sale to a complete stranger who had a legitimate credit card and wasn’t trying to defraud me from Russia? Or making a gif in Photoshop? Bottom line – I haven’t come close to ‘making it’ yet. 

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?
This is a constant struggle, as it is for so many. I am obsessive and work around the clock. I justify this behavior as necessary to grow a new business. But it is not healthy or sustainable.  The laundry and the personal relationships are suffering.

What is the most rewarding part of your day?
Hitting ‘publish’ on the blog.

What do you have in the works?
I have been working on a new video for the shop. It is a stop motion video that follows the life of a boy told through collections of objects.

Who do you admire?
My husband. (Also, Madeline Albright.)

Thank you Mithra for sharing your story with us! You can follow Finder Not Keeper and all of Mithra's incredible collections and styling at...

  





Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Art of Being You: Interview with Hilary Walker of Style Stories



I met Hilary at Alt Summer she is a photo stylist and blogger based in Dallas, TX. She is "endlessly curious about the type of persons who knows themselves so well that it shows up - in fantastic stylish fashion - in every expression in their life. In their home, through their wardrobe, by way of their career choices and art interests, in the way they speak and the thoughts they carry." She uses her blog as a beautiful platform to gather and share such people and their stories with others.

Why did you first start Our Style Stories?
I started Our Style Stories, my current blog, as a continuation of my first blog called Hilary Inspired. Hilary Inspired came about out of a need for a creative outlet. Three years into it, I had created a series called "Style Stories" where I would visit stylish people, photograph their home spaces, and talk to them about their creative work. I completely fell in love with the subject and, after a lot of thought, I decided to relaunch my blog with a new name and focus centered around the "Style Story" concept. This past July I celebrated the one year anniversary of the relaunch.

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?
I grew up in Nashville, TN in a household that put a lot of emphasis on individual creativity. My two younger brothers and I all had completely different educational experiences and pursued different facets of the performing and creative arts. I was homeschooled and studied ballet until graduating from high school. My parents also owned a cafe and bookstore while we were growing up and we all worked together to make the business successful. I learned a lot about hard work, operating a small business, and bringing an idea from concept to fruition through that experience. My grandmother lived five minutes down the road from us and she has incredibly sophisticated and elegant taste. I probably learned the most about design and decorating a beautiful home from her.   


Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?
Maybe for the time being. ;-) As a photo stylist  I definitely feel like I’ve found a line of work that suites my personality - creative, visual, collaborative, different every day, always on the move. And the blog is something I’m very passionate about. I feel really strongly about it's message of individual style that’s authentic, self-reflective, and integrated into all parts of life. Not to mention I love learning things by way of example and insights from others. But I’m realizing more and more that my journey is just beginning and it will definitely go through more iterations. Who knows where these things will lead me in the years to come!


What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?
My professional path started when I selected interior design as my college major. From there, I moved to Dallas/Fort Worth, TX and began the long road to finding work in the design industry. I started with a sales position at Haverty’s, the closest thing to an interior design job that I could find at the time. After lots of networking and cold-emailing, coffee dates and industry cocktail parties, I found a part time position as an assistant to a textile designer, which I worked on my days off from Haverty’s. It was a lot of work! During that time I started my first blog, which helped me put myself out there even more. Eventually, I found full time work as the social media manager for a major luxury lighting and home decor manufacturer. Not long after that, I worked my way into the position of a junior designer for a number of residential interior designers. A little over a year ago, I came to the realization that after all was said and done, interior design just might not be the right fit for me. It was a lot of computer work and sitting at desks. So, I emailed a few friends in various other creative fields and asked them for suggestions of new directions I should pursue given my knowledge and skills. Styling was suggested to me and from there I contacted an agency and booked my first jobs. One year down the road and I’m still going strong!  

How would you describe your process?
My process varies depending on the work I’m doing. When I’m styling, there’s usually a lot of information gathering at first - What is being shot; Who is the client; What is purpose of the photography. Next, I visualize the shot and all of it’s components. Finally, I implement what I’ve created in my head. Unlike interior design, the process is truncated quite a bit and comes together relatively quickly. When it comes to the blog, my process goes something like this - Scout Style Story guests, photograph and interview guests, edit photography and audio, compose the post, publish the post, promote the post throughout my social media channels, brainstorm follow-up stories related to the post, and start all over again!


What is your favorite medium?
Photography!

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in lots of different places! But mostly in print magazines, nature, other people’s homes, and vintage items.

What do you do for fun?
A lot of my free time (nights and weekends) is spent working on the blog, so that’s a big one! But other than that, I love to walk my neighborhood with my dogs, watch cooking shows with my hubby, and occasionally get out and dance.

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?
I don’t think I’ve felt that yet… it’s all such a work in progress!
How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?
I try to disconnect from computer work and the internet as often as possible, which realistically isn’t that much. But even a little helps. When I combine that with time outdoors and with good friends, I get lots of perspective and energy.


What is the most difficult part of Being You?
I have ambitious goals and want to very much to achieve them but I also realize the importance of slowing down and enjoying the small, simple things in life. Many times, those two things conflict with one another. I’m constantly struggling to find a healthy balance between the two.
What is the most rewarding part of your day?
When I come home to my hubby and pups or when I make a genuine connection with a new friend.

What do you have in the works?
Always new Style Stories, of course! But I’ve started developing some in-person workshops for styling as well.

Who do you admire?

I admire many people. My parents and grandmother, my husband, my mentors and friends Joslyn Taylor and Christine Visneau (to name a few), Garance Dore and many of the other women online that pursue meaningful, creative careers alongside cultivating their families and personal lives.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Art of Being You: Interview with Kate of Quarter Mile Quilts


I met Kate at Sewing Summit 2013. What a better place to meet others who love fabric and color than at a sewing conference? Ironically we came to find out later she knows my sister in law Nicole from her college days, small, small world! I can relate to her love of blue and the clean way she approaches her quilt design.




About Kate

Hello!  I'm Kate and love to quilt, run, and drink Dr. Pepper.  That's not always the best combination ;)  I am also addicted to the color blue and even wrote a post dedicated to The Color Addiction 12 Step ProgramWhy Quarter Mile Quilts?   I grew up running and quilting.  My event was the 400 meter dash, a middle distance event in track and field.  In the running world, specifically track and field, a person who specializes in the 400 meter dash is called a "quarter-miler."  My coach used to call me his "little quarter-miler." I have a few passions in life outside of faith and family; one of those is quilting and another is running.
Also, in my wildest dreams, I would be Batman.

Why did you first start quilting? 
I first started quilting because of my mother.  Growing up I would hang out underneath her quilt frame while her quilting group would chat and sew.  I loved looking up from the underside of the quilt to see all of their beautiful stitches.
I’ve been quilting since I was a Junior in High School.  My church group had an activity where I learned how to piece a log cabin block. I loved it instantly!  I was so excited that I proceeded to make enough blocks to piece quilts for three of my graduating friends and then six more the following year.  The rest is history!



Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?
I grew up in the beautiful desert of Arizona, in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ.  The desert, and being able to see all of its beauty, has influenced my appreciation for color.  From the glorious sunsets, eye-popping wildflowers, the Painted Desert, to the Grand Canyon Arizona provides some glorious color combinations.

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?
I wouldn't say that I've found myself creatively.  I tend to think of my creativity as something that continues to grow and expand as I try new techniques and combinations.  With that being said, I think I’ve found my home in fabric and sewing.

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?
I grew up loving art and art museums.  I was obsessed with Monet and dreamed of visiting Giverny, France (And I still do, it’s on my bucket list!).  My love of museums lead to my college internship with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.  The whole experience was amazing!  My love for art and color, plus my familial roots in sewing lead me to quilting. 
I’m still finding my creative style.  I like to think that I started on the path most traveled (cue the awesome Robert Frost poem) with simple patterns and quilt kits.  Then somewhere along the way I’ve started to venture onto the path less traveled by combining different fabric collections and techniques.


How would you describe your process?
One word: simmering.  I tend to take my time picking out fabric and letting it “simmer” for a while (unless of course there is a deadline).  I put a lot of thought into my material choices before I cut into it.  Then once it’s partially pieced, it spends time on the design board as I play with the placement of different pieces.   I feel like my best projects are the ones that I treat like a fine marinara sauce that only gets better the longer it simmers.

What is your favorite medium?
My favorite medium (at the moment!) is fabric.  I love the different textures and patterns that you can find and how they impact the overall influence of a project.  I tend to be a fan of the "blenders" or geometric patterns. Also, as I alluded to before, the color blue!  Lately I’ve stolen a phrase from my seven year-old niece: “make me a blue one.”  Occasionally I’ll use that hashtag on some of my social media posts.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find most of my inspiration from the fabric itself.  I enjoy falling in love with a piece of fabric and then pulling pieces from my stash to play against each other.
My second most used source of inspiration are quilting blogs.  I find myself saving quilting tutorials for later use.  When I need ideas for a new quilt, I’ll typically jump over to my Pinterest page and see what I haven’t tried yet!  There are so many talented and inspirational people out there in the sewing / quilting community.



What do you do for fun?
Play games with my family.  It’s been fun to have married into a family who loves to play games almost as much as mine does.  Recently my husband found a family favorite, Boobytrap and we’ve enjoyed adding it to our game night. 
I’m also an avid reader (I devour books) and enjoy wakeboarding when I get the chance!

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?
I had the opportunity to attend Sewing Summit last year and was surrounded by fellow sewists, quilters, seamstresses who knew and understood my love for fabric and all things sewing.  Despite there being an overwhelming amount of talent around me, I felt comfortable and felt like I belonged there.  Sometimes when all you can do to connect with the quilting world is to interact through blogs and social media, it can be hard to remember who you are.  It’s even harder to not compare yourself to others.  It’s great to be able to take the time to connect with fellow enthusiasts in person.

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?
I find that quilting is my therapy. 
For work, I am assigned various projects that can last anywhere from two months to two years.  I spend most of my working hours preventing work fires, putting out unpreventable fires, and managing several contractors.  There is a method to the chaos, but it’s full of things I can and cannot control.  I usually come home at night and spend at least thirty minutes working on one of my quilting projects.  The ability to have nearly 100% control of a project allows me to see a project succeed from beginning to end; even if I need to unpick a few or thousands of stitches during the process. 
I’m also a very lucky woman, blessed with a husband who understands that sewing is therapy. 



What is the most difficult part of Being You?
I am a perfectionist and realist.  It’s an interesting combination of needing things to be perfect, but understanding that sometimes that’s not possible.

What is the most rewarding part of your day?
Spending time chatting with my husband.  I’m one of those (and yes, I realize that I’m bragging), who is lucky to be married to a man who listens and wants to talk with me for hours.

What do you have in the works?
I have several quilts in progress, whether the fabric is slowly growing in a pile (my Farmers Wife sampler pile) or it’s a quilt ready to be bound.  Here’s a brief list:
1.     Green Hourglass quilt
2.     Tula Pink Hexagon Flower quilt
3.     Navy and Quotes Quilt for a family member
4.     A Crafty Fox’s Starflower Quilt
5.     Herringbone Scrap Quilt
A majority of these quilts feature a new-to-me technique that I am trying, whether it is English Paper Piecing, Foundation Paper piecing, or y-seams.  I love learning new skills and I love how quilting provides me with the opportunity to keep learning.

Who do you admire?
I admire many individuals and today I would like to name Atticus Finch.

I know it’s a bit strange to name a fictional character from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  There’s a line from the book that is often misquoted that I dearly love.  While Atticus is talking to his children about bravery he notes (paraphrasing) that bravery is not someone with a gun in their hands, it’s when a person knows that they’re going to get beat, but does their best anyways.  I love this concept.  Sometimes we’re faced with challenges or opportunities where we know we will likely not succeed.  Is that a reason to keep us from trying?


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Thank You Kate for sharing how you are Mastering the Art of Being You.

UPNEXT: Art of Being You Interview with Hilary Walker of Style Stories