Principal & Creative Director
The Library of Cultural Reference made in collaboration with Sara Leimbach of Index.la , Alice Grandoit of Deem Journal, and Joal Stein of Rad Agenda of FORM at Arcosanti.
April 28, 2020
W: Historically have you found yourself feeling the most creatively fulfilled by the work you do professionally or outside of that?
C: The lines are really blurred for me. I think I’m a “professional” cultural worker — which to me means that when I go to a community meeting and am inspired by social issues, that is my “work” or if I host an after hours karaoke party for a conference with my art collective Homeboat, that is my “work”. I say in the manifesto for my studio Office of Virtue,“This office practices vulnerable professionalism.” It is important to me to keep defining, redefining, and opening what it means to be a professional. The systems of professionalism that we were raised in are sexist, classist and racist; continuing to exclude any number of people who are valuable, intellectual, and vital resources. In the future I want professionalism to mean the level of care you bring to a scenario — I try to bring this to everything that I do. I think a lot about systems of care and care maintenance. What does it mean to really hold space and be open to the kind of labor you are doing. That labor can look a lot of different ways. It doesn't need to be branding or a mural, but those are things that I also do. I am creatively fulfilled by redefining the definitions of professionalism.
W: What types of design or art do you partake in to fuel your need for creative outlet?
C: My collective of radial architects and designers, Homeboat — really gives me the support I need to push through the boundaries of “graphic designer” or “artist”. I respect and admire everyone on the team and in that way it is very different than any other team I have been on in a traditional creative setting. I've worked with a lot of really talented people, but there seems to be a weak link on the team and there are always people who don't share mutual respect. People are not always opting to work together and are often placed together so the trust and respect that are gained over time do not always manifest. With Homeboat I have found that level of respect and trust that those collaboratives give me to be super juicy and energizing to get outside of what I would normally make. Whether that getting to work on interiors with them or painting bigger visual pieces. It's nice to be able to have permission to work in an entirely new and different way. For a lot of years before I found this collaborative team I felt really lonely in my creative practice because I felt people did not have the same values and views as me. Now I feel super empowered and dedicated to what I am interested in.
I also find the domestic spaces of myself and others are really inspiring, I love to be able to change spaces and energy with what is there (opposed to buying, cleaning out and repurposing) I spent so much of the last few years staying with others and helping them reimagine what they had. Helping them to invite more care, ease, and creativity in their life through their spaces — this kind of design is very energizing to me. Making with what is!
W: How do you find your creative drive impacted by times of high stress? Including right now as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?
C: When I am stressed I can often binge and purge work. I will work for 14 hours and then be so drained the next day, I can’t do anything! That is my initial response. My drive isn't necessarily impacted because I, like many other creatives, feel like I have this endless well of creativity. Stress, anxiety, and depression affects the way I interact with my creativity because I will go on these huge pendulum swings.
It's been really amazing to have my own space and home because I can begin to self regulate in a way that was not always possible for me. I am still recovering from doing a lot of burn out work over the past few years. I am learning how to tackle my to-do list differently. To work with pace differently. My instincts under stress to work until I can’t anymore, but this just leaves me feeling worse than I did before my “binge”.
I am also using this time to work on a trans-disciplinary piece with a friend. I am trying to expand the walls of what I think my creative force is — like how much wilder can I get? Bringing in different mediums right now feels really expensive and helps my creative spirit cope.
With this pandemic we have an indefinite time to work on this piece. The end of this is a performance of some kind, even if it does happen virtually. We can now go infinitely inward. I’m trying to use this time where it does feel really unknown to explore the unknown in myself. I have been thinking about how we are all our own universes. Shall we allow ourselves to be what we are? I think you can go infinitely inward into what you want to creatively explore. We often have the parameters of time holding us back. We're now in this place where time has gotten super weird. I want to be able to come out of this having found new expansion with what I think I can make.
"It is important to me to keep defining, redefining, and opening what it means to be a professional."
W: What are 3 tips you have for finding creative inspiration/outlet when in isolation or a high stress environment?
Know you need nothing: Call-in whatever teachers or support you truly need. Our society can make us crave a lot and isolate us by ideas of difference. We are whole, return, return, return back to this. Whatever you want to learn or whatever you need help with, I bet there’s someone in your community, or someone in your community that can introduce you to a person to help you with this.
Take pause, no really: Take yourself for a walk without your phone, laydown on the couch and close your eyes. We are not modeled resting, and I find my best ideas come on a walk or in the shower or during meditation — we must give ourselves time to feel at ease. It’s easy to forget we are in control of that.
Follow your desire, allow yourself to not know what you are doing: My best work comes from when I get outside of what I have been working on or the ways I think I make work. Allow yourself to be a beginner, or to not know how to name something yet. Just keep working, keep following your desire, it is the best teacher I know. Be dedicated to what interests you and it can move you, shape you, grow you.
W: If you could create any project right now with unlimited time, energy, and resources, what would it be?
C: Mutual Aid Fund If I had unlimited energy and resources I would be working on how do we get services and goods to people who need them most. “Together we have everything / Juntos tenemos todo” — is a phrase that came out of researching The Changing Times Issue 2: Mexico City during the beginning of the Me Too movement. I believe there is enough on the planet for everyone if we were dedicated to redistribution. If I have unlimited time and resources I want to figure out how to get everyone unlimited time and resources. I think that is especially clear right now in this epidemic.