get inspired: interview with kate of gentle wren

graphic by kate
I have a series of posts about my two favorite things:  creativity and inspiration.  As a "creative" person, I am constantly searching for inspiration to fuel my creativity, and I thought it would be interesting to ask others about what they are passionate about.  This is the fifth interview in the series.  See the previous ones here.

Kate and I became friends back in fifth grade and I feel so lucky to have such a talented lady as one of my best friends.  We've had many crafty times together as friends and yearbook editors. Despite what she may say, she'll always be cooler than me. 

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been taking pictures. You have such a good eye that you can even make me look cool! What originally drew you to this passion? 
Whatever!  You’ve taught me so much about being and feeling cool. My mother, father, and godfather are all experienced and retired photojournalists. My godfather let me take pictures of seagulls in San Diego with his SLR, and I’d often skip school to go on shoots with my mom for the newspaper. I picked out this rad red-tinted clear film camera when I was seven or eight, and I started processing film around twelve or thirteen. I quickly discovered digital, and I loved using DSLRs. They were handy and a little safer for my sanity because sometimes calculating F-Stops stressed me out, and it was nice to take some test pictures beforehand. I still love film, but I’m yet to enter a darkroom here in Tucson, so I have them processed for me, which isn’t as fun, but it makes film a little more accessible.  I really enjoy the structure of a camera and how photography works.  It’s nice to feel like I can successfully combine art, science, light, time, and an air of nostalgia with what I see.  I think it makes this dream a little more real, a little more grounded. 
What are your favorite things to photograph and why? 
Nature! I pack my camera on every hike and most outings.  It’s easy to forget about the gifts we have all around us, and sunlight is my favorite light source.  Plus, botanicals make for the best models. They are effortlessly beautiful, they sit still, and they are always growing. Oh my goodness, I am so cheesy!  Our natural environment is my most inspiring and much better than a chilly studio.
Photographing people that I love is a close second.  Taking a family portrait is a special thing because I know that’s an Aunt Annette face.  I know she looks and feels beautiful.  I may even think I know a tiny sliver of what she was thinking when I took this photo.  I don’t know if random downtown boy looks especially dapper or stoked or bummed when I ask to snap his picture for my fashion blog portfolio Tumblr.  I also enjoy shooting portraits for other families.  Taking pictures of people creates an appreciated and cherished piece of nostalgia.  It feels like an act of love to put something like that into the world.

Was graphic design an obvious extension to your love of photography? What do you enjoy most about it?
I don’t think it was too obvious of an extension or me.  I came across each art separately.  I grew up on Microsoft Paint, Create-a-Card, and MySpace.  Out of all of our floppies and CD-ROMs of games, I think I frequented MS Paint the most.  I loved making my own pages, illustrations, bodies of text, cards, and magazine layouts.  It was like “Baby’s First InDesign” for me.  I’ve always liked to pretend, so when I would Paint, it let me imagine I was someone else making an important file for work, or a girl that I was drawing, who could change her outfit from cyan to magenta.  Being a kid was lonely.  Even when we got Internet, making things on computers was my favorite lazy day activity.  MySpace came into my life in junior high at a friend’s birthday party sleepover.  The girls there encouraged me to make one.  After that, I was teaching myself HTML, and that was where I started to get the hang of design and coding.  It was just Kate sitting up at the office chair crafting layouts on MS Paint all over again, but this time, people could see it.  This continued later in high school when I joined Yearbook.  We looked at beautifully, creatively, sharply designed magazines for inspiration, made our own layouts, and created them with InDesign.  My Yearbook teacher, Mrs. Wrather, gave me a lot of physical and mental boosts.  She was frequently providing opportunities for me to practice, asking me for advice, and letting me take some pretty important photos for the school and for the yearbooks.  She has been a really solid mentor in way too many aspects of my life, but particularly photography and design.

I really enjoyed graphic design for obvious reasons.  Adobe’s products are like “Microsoft Paint Program: All Grown up + Am I Dreaming? Version 7.0.” I remember when I started tinting photos and cross processing them digitally instead of with film.  It was like Instagram before Apps happened.  You did that too though.  See, you’re way cooler.  I also enjoyed photo-editing software because it let me freeze time and fix errors.  Taking photos of an important event or of a stranger could get nerve-racking, so it was easy to make an error.  Being able to go in and edit a photo’s exposure was certainly a sigh of relief.  It offered itself as a solid set of training wheels as I began my digital career. I am always learning how to make different things with the software, but right now, my favorites are mixing mediums with scanned pieces, photos, and text.  I always get excited about finding new brushes and textures on line.  (Freebies pages are one of my favorite design-related things.)  I also am glad I can make logos, pages, and drawings for friends that need them for their businesses, bands, and projects. 
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Old pictures, design websites, design magazines, old magazines, music, brainstorming with people, friends’ projects, comic books, and humor.  I like to put humor and quirk into what I make.
What goals do you have for these creative outlets? 
I’d like to always be the friend to call to photograph a wedding, and it will be a nice solid side job to design and code, which is why I am teaching myself the new HTML5, Javascript, and PHP this summer.  Interning in a studio or turning my design experience into something more physical like creative direction sounds rad as well.
I know you make so many other awesome things. Tell me about your favorite crafty ventures. 
I just got my first saw, so I’m very excited about woodworking at the cabin this summer.  My friend just made a huge modular bookshelf in one day with three pieces of wood, nails, and a nail gun, so that was really inspiring.  Making things is the best!  I also love cooking vegan meals, making flower crowns and friendship bracelets with my sweet friends, sewing, embroidering, and painting with watercolors. 

How would you describe your personal style or aesthetic?As far as design, I like simple, clean, handmade, and funny. I enjoy the charm of old photos and mixed mediums, textiles, bows, florals, and vintage clipart, and I also like cutting-edge Slickster McSlick design.  White space is a favorite, stellar photography, basic fonts with a serif accompanied by bold, curvy, conversationals, and bright pops of color.  Pugley Pixel has a design blog that I’m really into lately because it’s just very cool.  Cathe Holden at Just Something I Made makes rosettes in real life, but hosts pages full of scanned in ephemera and design work.  It’s way kitschy and old-fashioned, and it’s not pretentious. It’s cute and wholesome and very appealing.  I’d like to say that I am somewhere between the two.

When I'm getting dressed, I like simple shifts, a-line dresses, skirts with blouses tucked in, flats, boots, oxfords.  It is a little old fashioned, a little feminine, practical, preppy, maybe rustic, but bold.  I like black and navy, but I usually have my brights in there. I don’t stray from my favorite pieces.  I theme my outfits, and they are always inspired by some idea I’ve made up in my head or the character from a book that I am reading.  I am really into Rory Gilmore pre-Harvard right now.  I do get a lot of inspiration from old punk, and the music I listen to.  I like seeing well-dressed people, but more importantly, I love seeing people wearing whatever they like and getting creative in their own way.  I used to work at a record store that sold anime, comic books, action figures, movies, and video games as well, and there were a ton of rad kids that came in.  Their outfits were so creative and inspired.  I just really love nerds, even Hot Topic nerds.  I like outdoor wear as well. The New Balance Minimus collection is my favorite shoe line ever, and I like clothes that I can work outside in.  Most importantly, I appreciate thrifted, practical, and ethical clothes. To me, wearing clothes is about not getting skin cancer, not getting arrested for being naked, and feeling lovely.  I never want getting dressed to stress me out.
PS I love you.
I love you too!

Check out Kate at Gentle Wren for awesomeness!

learning patience

I don't think of myself as a particularly patient human being.  When I can't find something, I panic and go into full anxiety mode.  When I get hungry I get grumpy (my family and Ted can attest to this whole-heartedly).  When I know I am going to receive new information from someone, I think about it constantly.  I obsess, stress, and become anxious at the drop of a hat.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself repeating to my sewing students, "Sewing takes patience," as if  I was some kind of Dumbledore of sewing.  What did I know about patience, anyway?

But then it got me thinking.  As anxious and impatient I can be, sewing has always brought me to a calm sense of being.  It can be stressful and frustrating for sure.  It can make me want to shrivel up into a ball of self-doubt when something goes amuck.  It can make me wish I wanted to excel at something more conventional, like math.  

But then I remember I hate math. And I remember that if I keep trying I will be able to have something tangible, creative, and even practical to show for my efforts.  So I am patient, and try to be kind with myself even when I have to take out the seam ripper and start over.

I'm thankful to have found something that at the same time calms and challenges me.  I think the focus that sewing takes brings about a balance in me that is lost when confronted with life's more trivial things.

I think that's the benefit of going into a creative job.  It is such a rewarding experience to create something useful with your hands, but it's even more rewarding when the act of it brings out a side of you that you wish to cultivate more--like patience, resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, independence.  I've realized that although I love collaboration in the artistic sense, I love doing stuff on my own.  I think that's why I chose costume design to study--it allows me to help out a larger cause by doing my own part by myself.  Of course there is collaboration and meetings, but the bulk of the work is done on your own, and as intimidating as that seems, that's what I prefer.

And although costume design seems like a good path for me right now, a very (very) large part of me wants to someday be in the position to open up a craft shop one day.  It might seem weird that someone who loves doing stuff on their own would want to have a job "in the public eye" but I really can't imagine a more perfect life than this one I have dreamt up over the years, but never put into words:

Kaylie opens craft shop.  Kaylie's talented and crafty friends all happen to live in the same place as Kaylie.  They contribute their numerous talents to said craft shop to make it as awesome as possible.  Craft shop becomes a lovely place for the community to gather for classes, laughs, and baked goods.  The window displays are always crowd pleasers--especially the holiday ones.  Every evening Kaylie closes shop and goes home to her beautifully renovated old house and cuddles up with her hairy significant other (whether it's a human or dog is insignificant to the outcome of this story) as they watch Netflix and drink tea.  Everyone lives craftily ever after.

Okay, so there is a reason I've never put it fully into words.  It sounds like somewhere between savvy 50's housewife and hopeful commune founder.  It sounds like a craftopian lifestyle that is so simple in its nature, that it almost seems impossible to accomplish.  It sounds perfect to me.

I understand it's a very attainable dream (right?  I'm not asking to be the next Martha Stewart), but it's hard to figure out what it would take to get there.  Where would I even start?  All I know is that if over the years I decide that it's what I really want to do with my life, I know I'll need some patience.

thursday thrills

An inspiring look at the art of goal-getting, part one and two.

Dahlya is back in blogging business!  Check out her hilariousness.

A lovely video about why DIY rules.

Beautifully tie-dyed dinner party table.

Lovely little peek at the design process from one of my favorite illustrators.

Have a lovely weekend, folks.

pbj & ice cream date

Ted and I definitely love our fancy dates, going to theatre and nice restaurants, but sometimes a couple of PBJ's from the PBJ Grilled foodcart and a waffle cone from Salt & Straw is more than we could ever want.  We split the Smoking Goat (olive bread, almond butter, apple wood bacon, goat cheese, apricot jam--aka my favorite PBJ of all time) and the Betty (peanut butter, gruyere cheese, pickles, white pepper, sea salt).  We also tasted all of the seasonal ice cream flavors at S&S until deciding on sharing the Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout (my favorite we tried), Hopped Farmhouse Ale, and just a small dollop of IPA Upside Down Cake.





Unfortunately we won't be having another date for a few weeks, but that's okay.  I'm home now, and really enjoying time with family and friends.  Hey, my family even made our own homemade strawberry ice cream last night!  So life is pretty great.

baby steps

It's starting to sink in that I've stepped into this phase of my life called "my twenties."  I can now flip through a magazine and relate to a section of a spread devoted to "if you're in your 20's...."  It's always scary stepping into new stages in life.  When you're younger, you simply glide through each stage. From ornery "toddler years" to curious "elementary years."  You don't think twice about it.  I never was aware of the what phases I was going through then, other than the remarks I'd get from adults.  "You were THIS tall last time I saw you!"  "Look how big you've gotten." These comments stopped when I stopped growing in 6th grade.

The first transition I became aware of was moving from elementary school to middle school (which I will lovingly dub the "awkward years").  I remember very clearly the day I tearfully left the sixth grade. I had a golden year of elementary school--president of Student Council, member of the hilariously-named Yacht Club (we made a giant cardboard boat for a boat race at Tempe Town Lake) and ELP student that got to go on a trip to California.  It seemed like a shame leaving behind all that fun and accomplishment.  It seemed like even more of a shame when I got to middle school and endured three years of awkwardness--friends coming and going, my first three "boyfriends" that were more trouble than they were worth, and discovering my strengths and weaknesses as a student (first B, I still hate you--here's looking at you, Geometry).  But in true Kaylie fashion (I at the same time yearn and avoid change), I tearfully left middle school as well.  And like anything I experience, I never stop experiencing it--I'm a sucker for nostalgia.

The easiest transition, weirdly enough, was middle school to high school.  The night before high school started, I watched one of my favorite movies, Mean Girls, on TV.  My high school experience turned out to be the farthest removed from the one Mean Girls presented as possible.  I found a club I adored--Yearbook, and this made the transition into high school a dream.  I was still the slightly awkward quiet girl in loud colors and patterns, but I found an outlet for my creativity.  I was immediately involved in everything on campus through Yearbook--interviewing random people from clubs and sports, taking pictures at basketball and football games.  It was my way of experiencing high school in an involved but observant way.

As silly as it sounds, leaving high school was really hard.  Sure, I was ready to start a new adventure--I wasn't as ready to leave behind my happy senior year of busy fun.  I still visit Yearbook, two years later.  Yearbook is something I will always look fondly back on and miss.

Now that my friends and I are in college, we aren't all going through the same phases.  I know people (and some are close friends) who are married, engaged, living in their own lovely house, in college, working multiple jobs, creating brand new lives for themselves in new cities...  It's awesome, exciting, great, fun, scary, and... kind of sad.

Everyone has their own thing going on now, and the threads that held us together in the past are getting stretched farther and farther.  Some are wearing thin, and others I am happy to say have proved wonderfully sturdy.  As someone who values a few close friends as opposed to a large group of friends, it's hard to see friendships fade, but I guess that's just part of growing up.

Of all the phases I could be going through right now, I am very happy with where I'm at.   I'm taking tentative steps toward so-called adulthood by living off campus this fall and in London this spring.  Ted and I will be celebrating our two year anniversary this October.  I'm assisting with the fall mainstage at school, getting closer to a costume design thesis project.  These steps may seem small in comparison to some of my peers (especially here in Mesa, where everyone is getting married and starting families), but they are definitely the right-sized steps for me.

thursday thrills

A pretty lookbook of handmade vintage-inspired clothes.

PB & Pretzel Brownies.  Enough said.

I am kind of obsessed with these vintage clothing analysis posts.  I guessed right every time!

An adorably colorful summer outfit.

Sound of Music-inspired collection?!?

on my own

For the first time ever, I lived on my own in Portland.  It was a very short amount of time (two weeks) but a good sampler of semi-real life.  I say semi- because although I had to pay rent, feed myself, and go to my internship, very little was demanded of me.  However, when you have that much freedom, you have to sort out your priorities in a way that doesn't keep you under the covers watching Netflix all day in your pj's.  I made a point to get ready every day even if I didn't plan on leaving the house, and created "to do" lists for each day, even if the tasks were laughably small or insignificant.  

I spent a ton of quality Kaylie time, reading outside and catching up on online TV.  I really, really enjoyed this.  I've come to realize that as much as I love being around family and friends, I am built to "do my own thing."  I hung out with my housemates a fair amount (Can you say Game of Thrones and Friends marathons?), but for the most part kept to myself.  In the past, I would have felt a little pang of guilt for not wanting to be around people all the time, but I am learning how to accept my introverted nature and find a middle ground that works for me.  

I now see how valuable a love of solitude is while living "on your own."  Life isn't always a crazy adventure--sometimes the craziest thing that happens in a day is you miss the left turn to the grocery store and end up lost in the winding forest-y neighborhoods of Portland.  And that's okay, because although I can't wait for my multiple trips this summer and to live in London for a semester, I need the not-so-crazy days to balance out the more adventurous ones.