interview

Interview: Caitlin Metz on Design, Making Zines, and Explorations of Gender

12:00 pm


Today's interview is with the lovely Caitlin Metz, an artist, designer, printer, book and zine creator, and a teacher. In their own words, they believes in 'community, collaboration and a generous exchange of knowledge' and that 'art should be accessible, touchable, and should exist outside of galleries whenever possible'. Like the sound of that? Read on to find out more about Caitlin's wonderful projects and feelings towards being creative.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Caitlin! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, do you want to tell me a little about yourself and where you are today?

Caitlin Metz:
I am a tender queer, feisty introvert, early art making kind of human that wants to fuck shit up with empathy. I’m a designer, letterpress printer, maker of books and zines, and newly a teacher(!!!). (That’s the shiny part, I also work part-time as a household manager, and babysit to pay my bills, and I cry a lot about feeling like a fraud). My work tends to revolve around gender/sexuality, mental health, the female form, and seeing/being seen. All I want to do is hold space for people to not feel alone. I want to make work that is healing, that holds space, that questions established ways of being, that is full of tenderness and spunk. Most my work revolves around my personal experience and self portraiture. I explore ideas of multiplicity and identity. Being in your body and seeing yourself.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your overall art style in three words, what would they be?

Caitlin Metz:
moody | empathetic | ephemeral

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art and design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Caitlin Metz:
I’ve always been drawing and making things since I can remember, but my first real art class was my freshman year in college. I have my BFA in graphic design, and MFA in visual art. It was exactly what I needed. But I’ll be paying it off for the rest of forever, and I don’t think this path is for everyone. The internet and the world offer as much or more education than school often does. I think formal training works best when you are able to understand the flaws of the system and when you can advocate for yourself; take what serves you and leave the rest. School gave me the structure and confidence I needed to trust myself. I flourish in the classroom, I’m now teaching in the same rooms where I first learned and it’s pure magic. I get such a rush from it. I also believe in holding space for other ways of being. When I was in college I had an instructor tell me that I’d never be able to get a job. Thankfully I had another instructor championing for me, and I believed her instead. I want to show up for my students and work to dismantle the idea that there is only one way to learn and grow and be. That success is not linear.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Caitlin Metz:
Kate Bingaman Burt, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois. I’m constantly obsessing over these three.

I idolize everything about Kate’s work, her studio practice and academic practice, her energy and light. Marina always makes me want to stand a little taller, work a little harder, be a little better. And Louise. I cry. I feel seen. I believe in art, life, and the struggle when I look at her work.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?

Caitlin Metz:
I love my ongoing series of blind contour portraits, I love how simple the are, how it requires me to check in with myself, and the way it has allowed me to connect with others. The concept is a single line, drawn without looking at the paper. You are completely present with your subject, whether it’s your reflection in the mirror, a photograph or another person sitting in front of you. It’s a vulnerable act as you never know what the outcome will be. It requires stillness and presence. It’s often quite absurd. And I love it. I do them as commissioned portraits, as a form of self care, and as a performance piece where anyone can sit in front of me and together we hold space, looking into each others eyes while I draw trace the lines of their face. (you can see some of my self portraits on Instagram under the hashtag #caitlindrawsblindlines)


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Caitlin Metz:
I’ve just started a practice of dancing at the start of my studio day. I put on loud music and move and shake and bounce until I get out of my critical mind and into this soft body of knowledge and power. I’m so inspired by the dance practices of Marlee GraceEv'yan Whitney and Ani Lee, as methods of self care, ways of being, and an awakening of the erotic self.

I either listen to techno or rain sounds when I’m working, depending on my mood. And I need hot tea and snacks. My studio table is always covered in dirty tea mugs and crumbs. I’m usually pretty tidy except in my work space. It’s always a mess.

Magic & Musings:
Your dancing at the start of the day sounds fantastic and reminds me of the practice of Qoya.

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Caitlin Metz:
Honestly? Lay on the couch, cry, eat twizzlers, drink whiskey and watch Grey's Anatomy. My creativity IS my identity in so many ways, so when I’m struggling to make work I feel like a complete failure. When that happens I need to go outside and breathe. Look at the clouds. Remember that my worth is intrinsic. Get grounded with the earth. Almost every time I get stuck it’s because I’m procrastinating or have over-committed, probably both. In either case time spent in nature is the cure. And leaving it the fuck alone for a few days. Fresh eyes are crucial to climbing out of a creative rut.


Magic & Musings:
Is there another medium you would like to explore working in next?

Caitlin Metz:
Papermaking and sculpture! I spent a summer learning the very beginning techniques of papermaking and I’m hooked. I cannot wait to make more. I really like the intersection of paper and sculpture, integrating objects into the paper, and the paper around objects.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Caitlin Metz:
Make more work. Give less fucks.


Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Caitlin Metz:
I’m in the middle of rereading the Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, it’s a simple but profound read about choosing your path and being present with yourself and your desires, and shutting down the voices of society/religion/culture telling you that you must be a certain way.

Listening to Sufjan Stevens’ latest album on repeat.

I haven’t seen a film in a forever, but I can recommend my favorite podcast, Have Company with Marlee Grace; it’s pure gold.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Caitlin Metz:
Stay tender. Stay nasty. xo!

You can find me over sharing my feelings on Instagram and sporadically posting work in progress on Tumblr. I also have a website that is somehow always outdated, and an Etsy shop.


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Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

interiors

Ooh, heaven is a place on earth

12:00 pm


Welcome to my little heavenly corner, minus the collection of mugs I now have there. That little red dotty one just wasn't big enough, and I treated my boyfriend to a NY Giants one so he can share in the tea drinking bliss. 

Getting a travel kettle for my 24th (took a long time to remember how old I am) birthday was honestly more exciting than it should have been, and thus the tea corner was born. The box of soy milk portions is a real highlight, as is the tin of the best decaf around. The majority of my tea is loose leaf (thank you, teatourist) so I brew it in my tiny red teapot that normally gives me around two mugs worth. There's brown sugar in the jam jar, normal teabags in the gold foil, and more brews than you can shake a stick at.

interview

Interview: Anna Lambert on Freelance Stage Management, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Tonnes of Stationery

12:00 pm


It's always a wonderful, fuzzy feeling inside when one of your oldest friends ends up in the career they always dreamed of in school. Anna is that friend for me and I have nothing but pride for her and her work. She always managed to stay cool, calm, and collected when we worked together backstage at our upper school's annual musicals, and I just knew it was the job for her. She was one of the first people to pop into my head when I was toying with the idea of this interview series as stage management seems like a career you don't hear a lot about, but has so many facets to it that people would find interesting. In our interview we chat about Lin-Manuel Miranda (our number one topic of any conversation we have), her journey to becoming a freelance stage manager, and how crying is pretty much always the best solution to a stress problem. Enjoy!

Magic & Musings:

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Anna! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do. What does your job actually entail?

Anna Lambert:

I work as a freelance stage manager, usually as an assistant stage manager. The stage management team is the team that works backstage on theatre productions, and the assistant stage manager (A.K.A ASM) is usually running the stage during the performance with a stage manager, and during rehearsals we source props, research, and do whatever needs to be done really! Deputy stage managers (DSM) are in rehearsals the whole time and work closer with the actors and director, and then calls the lighting and sound cues during the show. The whole team works closely together and have to be able to communicate well. A lot of the time I work on a comedy show as a technical stage manager – and it's just me! I run the sound and lighting for the performances and generally organise etc. - but that is a whole different kettle of fish. It's all quite complicated! Different companies work differently too – so it can be quite difficult to explain... Basically, stage managers are part of the creative team and you usually don't know about them in a performance until sh*t hits the fan...

Magic & Musings:

When did you first get stage management and why? Did you study it formally or come across it in another way? 

Anna Lambert:

I got into stage management when I was in school. I was supposed to be helping for the wardrobe and make-up for our annual school musical when the director needed extra people to swap to the stage crew team. My friend and I were happy to move across and I've never looked back. I studied Stage Management at the Birmingham School of Acting after finishing my A-Levels and now have a BA (Hons) Stage Management degree.

Magic & Musings:

Of all of the productions you’ve worked on, which are you the happiest with and why?

Anna Lambert:

Probably all of the productions I've done with The Thinking Drinkers. I worked with them at the Edinburgh Fringe festival after I graduated university, which was one of my first professional jobs. Fast forward almost 3 years and we're preparing for our 4th Fringe together and our third completely new show. It's been really interesting to watch how the new shows develop, especially because The Thinking Drinkers are drinks journalists! Part of the show involves giving out free drinks during the performance – which the audience obviously love – and I get to enjoy a bit now and then too! It's a great comedy show and I'm proud of how well the show does, getting more and more popular every year. I'm the technical stage manager so I have to deal with all of the technical side of things as well as liaising with venues and helping with props and set. It's difficult doing it alone but also I fun challenge!


Magic & Musings:
What is your favourite aspect about working in stage management? What is your least favourite or do you find the most difficult?

Anna Lambert:
I love being a part of a well-received production; making the audience happy is our main goal as a theatre company. Being a part of a great team always makes you feel good and I've made some great friends working on productions. My least favourite thing is having to talk to lots of different people all the time. I'm a massive introvert which is probably not the best attribute for someone in the theatre industry... I'm social and open with people once I've known them for a while but having to introduce myself and remember lots of people's names and faces is quite the challenge. Looking for work every few weeks is difficult too; it gets a bit soul-destroying when you have so many jobs fall through too...

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Anna Lambert:
Cry to start with, I'm an emotional wreck 95% of the time. Then maybe try and clear my head - listen to a podcast, play a video game or watch some of my favourite YouTubers. I'll try and do something different and creative – that I usually fail miserably at – and then I'll focus on the things I can do. I'll sort my spreadsheets out for my taxes, go through my stationery, or bake a cake. Just do something productive and try and get myself back on track! I'm not very good at getting myself out of a creative rut but I have a great support system around me that usually helps me. I love my friends and family!


Magic & Musings:
I can imagine that stage management can get quite high-pressure at times. How do you keep yourself cool, calm, and collected in these situations? How do you stay organised?

Anna Lambert:
The best way to keep cool, calm and collected is to just bottle it up and rant about it later when you're away from the situation! I'm usually bottom of the chain of command. I'm fairly early in my career so I generally am the Assistant Stage Manager, with a Deputy Stage Manager, Stage Manager and a Company/Production Stage Manager at the top. It's only stressful and high-pressure at the end of rehearsals, during the technical rehearsal sessions and previews. This is because the hours are long for everyone which puts the entire company on edge a bit. Opening night and then 'press night' are two big reliefs for us as it means the most stressful bits are over! Being organised is the most important trait of being a stage manager. It involves a lot of lists, spreadsheets, and various bits of stationery. We love stationery and notebooks in stage management world, mainly because we have to write EVERYTHING down, because directors usually forget what they've said or asked for. Someone has to keep all the conversations together.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Anna Lambert:
How hard it is to get work! I'm always applying for jobs and having interviews. At the moment I'm in a bit of a lull and have no planned work until July which sucks. I just have to keep applying for jobs and hoping. I'm not great in interviews either which is bad as I'm having them almost every month... 

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Anna Lambert:
I've been really rubbish at keeping up with my reading recently but I got Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge for Christmas and it's really moving. Horrible and terrifying, but a really interesting read. It's about Saturday 23rd November 2013 in America, and 10 gun-related deaths of children which didn't make national news. Not a very happy read though... A film – that would have to be Moana. I've always loved Disney films and Lin-Manuel Miranda is a modern day musical Shakespeare. I just love it so much! Which would lead me to music – anything by Lin-Manuel Miranda! Specific non-Lin songs would be Paramore's new song 'Hard Times' and 'Open Your Eyes' by Austin Hargrave (A.K.A PeanutButterGamer) and Yungtown from YouTube. It's an amazing song written about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I would recommend it for anyone who loves the Zelda series and the new game!


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for being a part of my interview series, Anna! Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Anna Lambert:
Thanks for all the questions, Megan! It's nice when people are interested in what I do because most of the time we're a bit invisible in the stage management world, until something goes wrong! If people want to find out more about me you can check out my StageJobsPro profile which is basically an online CV. Also, check out the Stage Management Association and Equity Stage Management if you're interested in our world! Both have very responsive Twitter accounts @SMAssoc and @EquitySM. Don't forget to celebrate International Stage Management Day every year on 10th October!

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Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

tea

teatourist April Subscription Box*

3:00 pm


* teatourist are such a lovely bunch and sent me another of their subscription boxes with no obligation to review, but you know me, I LOVE HOT DRINKS *

Hot diggidy damn, teatourist are at it again with the wonderful flavours and fantastic companies! Take a look at what they offered in their April subscription box...

Hibiscus Flowers by Tugboat Brews - Ding ding ding, we have a winner. This is by far and away the best tea I've had from a teatourist box, and can be had both hot and cold! Absolutely perfect for the summer, this brew of 100% hibiscus flowers is a gorgeous pink colour with a tingly berry flavour.

Peppermint Tea by Mais Ervas - We all know at this point that peppermint tea is my all-time favourite, so it's always a joy discovering a new one. This one from Maiservas is made from 100% peppermint leaves and really packs a punch. You can tell this is only made with the best-quality leaves as you can actually taste peppermint rather than just a minty flavour. Wonderful!

Chocolate & Ginger by Shibui Tea - How can you turn down anything that tastes like chocolate? This brew is made of ginger, cocoa husks, and liquorice root, producing a warming sensation and offering a sweet treat that doesn't contain sugar! I can imagine this going down well at a tea party or as a replacement for your evening hot chocolate.

Shades of Grey by MDTea - A flavoured black tea containing Sri Lankan tea leaves, orange peel, rose petals, and bergamot. This is a fun, floral take on the classic cuppa from a lovely curated tea company in Brighton. Also, look at how gorgeous their packaging is on  their website!

Thieves' Brew by Bev's Tea Company - This is a simple black tea from a plantation in Sri Lanka (the last making this kind of tea!) with 'notes of toffee and citrus'. This is certainly one to be enjoyed simply; not all tea needs to be fancy!

Pumpkins Go Bananas by Leaves of the World - I've passed this one on to my mum, so a review will follow!

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Teatourist is a fantastic way to discover new teas from specialist companies all across the country that you may not have otherwise heard of. In each monthly box, teatourist select one of their bestselling teas and pops it in the box for us lucky folk to try. Every month will treat you to different teas from different companies. As you can see in March I received a few redbush teas, which I didn't have the previous month, so it's a wonderful way to discover new tastes. Each sample gives you about four cups, so that's a whole lotta tea-love to share. 

You can choose between a rolling subscription (£15), fixed 3 or 6 month ones (£40/72), or purchase a one-off if you just want to give it a try (£15). Easy squeezy. Free delivery and usually ship around the 20th of each month, but if you're ordering a one-off you'll get it within three working days.

Each tea comes with a mini profile telling you where it's from, what it tastes like, how much you need, and how to brew it. You can really tell these people care about their tea being made properly!

You can find teatourist on their websiteFacebookTwitter, or Instagram, or follow along with their official hashtag #beateatourist

Don't forget to use the code MAGIC30 at checkout to get 30% off your order!

interview

Interview: Victoria & Sarah on Plain Pins, Colour Combinations, and Printing Studios

12:00 pm


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Victoria and Sarah! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourselves and what you do.

Plain Pins:
We are sisters living in London. We have many different interests and passions, one of them being colour combinations. Together we dreamed up the idea of enamel pins that were different shapes and colours like the parts of a composition or brushstrokes in a painting. When we couldn’t find these pins, Plain Pins was born. We have backgrounds in both selling and display and have a keen interest in branding. We believe Plain Pins is the beginning of combining these interests.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your designs in three words, what would they be?

Plain Pins:
Fun, colour-curated and inclusive.

Magic & Musings:
When did you both first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Plain Pins:
We both studied arts and communication-based subjects formally and would say this has given us an understanding of how creativity can flourish. However, we also strongly believe that you can push outside of that formality and that it is sometimes in the unknown and seemingly unapparent practices that creativity can be further explored. Genres and mediums are all crossing over nowadays and with that we are all wearing many different hats. I am more analogue in the way that I work, using sketchbooks, collage and objects, whereas Sarah is much more digital and likes working with computer programs and photography.

We both love creating mood boards and brainstorming. Pinterest has been really helpful with organizing all of our thoughts and ideas and is a great tool that’s accessible to everyone. We have a lot of ideas but sometimes it’s in knowing which ideas to pursue that’s the hard part! We are still learning how to hone that skill.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start selling your designs and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

Plain Pins:
We launched Plain Pins in November 2016, so we are 6 months old. We have learnt a lot so far and some of those lessons have been enlightening and others, let’s say they have been amusing and frustrating at times! You are always overcoming those type of barriers; when it comes to self-confidence, there is a lot of yourself in a business and that can feel very exposing at times. We have each other which is good, because we can reassure and entrust we are making decisions that resonate with our brand. With starting a business, we have met some great people as a result of it and that’s been a really exciting discovery. Talking to like-minded people, and becoming part of a community is in part what we have been looking for. The reason we kept pursuing this particular idea though is because we have some great pin appreciators out there, friends, family and followers. We tend to try and focus on that achievement and feel very fortunate to have that. We also come from a big family, so they will always tell you exactly what they think, even when you don’t ask them! That helps with breaking down some of those self-confidence barriers!


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Plain Pins:
We have a lot of favourite artists, makers, designers and communicators. We love going to exhibitions and seeing different types of work and how different makers/artists are either communicating ideas or trying to make sense of the world.

Although we have not seen it up close, recently we have been introduced to the work of Kristin Texeira, who is a painter and some of the work she creates she calls ‘Memory Maps’. Her compositions, colour palettes and use of nostalgia appeals to us and our personal understanding of place. We love her work!

We also recently went to see the work of ceramicist Kinska at her show called ‘United Kinska’, where she had created her own world and displayed her work in very imaginative and fun ways. We liked that it was an insight into the way she sees things. There are so many people out there doing incredible work and we are probably more influenced by that in a general sense. Putting yourself out there, it can be a hard thing to find the confidence to do but it’s also very rewarding to have something you can call the shots on.

If we are looking for a spark and just some reassurance that sometimes things don’t always make sense straight away and that your work can embody many different mediums, Ray Eames is always an inspiration. We love her collections and the way she worked. Everything she did in life was in some way informing what she created and we love that about her. The Eames’ and the Girards are probably are most go-to sources for colour, content and concept. There is so much going on and so much to discover and we especially admire the inclusive nature of their designs.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why? Is there a colour and shape combination that really sticks out to you as your favourite?

Plain Pins:
Our favourite pin and pin combination changes all the time! We wish we could say there is just one, but sometimes it is dependent on what you wear them on, who you give them to, what pair you put together. They are quite versatile. We did have a surprise favorite design come out of this - our backing cards! We wanted to keep the packaging simple but be part of the product as much as the pins themselves. We had wanted to create a blank canvas for our pins with a range of enticing colours and combinations. We worked with Hato Press, a riso printing studio in London, to make our cards. When we received them we were really happy. The stacks of backing cards and the shimmer of the gold iridescent ink was so satisfyingly simple, they did exactly what we had hoped. Piles sat on our desk for days because we just liked looking at them. So we were really happy with the design of them.

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do either of you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Plain Pins:
We have a studio that we work out of. It is pretty small, but we get all we need to get done in there. We like to be organised and don’t like working in chaos. We really don’t like rushing so we try and keep on top of things as best we can, so this doesn’t happen. Obviously, it’s life, chaos happens! We both have our own ways of coping with that and balancing productivity with fulfillment. If it gets too much, we sometimes just walk away. We like to go to galleries and museums so we go and see something, we just get ourselves away from the task or question at hand, When you come back you usually always have the answers. We love Jonathan Fields’ book How to Live a Good Life. He explains that you can’t always just focus on the work and not focus on the other ‘stuff’ in life, so you need to make sure you are always checking and balancing it all. So we would say, to get things done we try and stay organized and if we don’t have the answers we don’t stay in, we go out!


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Plain Pins:
This follows on from what we were saying, we try and go out and think about other things. We try and explore something new. We also try and remember that it’s a phase and it’ll pass, not to get too worried about it as that doesn’t help you come up with ideas or answers. We are really lucky to be getting an opportunity to explore some of our ideas and we don’t take that for granted. Trying to keep gratitude for what we do and what we want to do at the heart of it all is really important to us.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Plain Pins:
We have explored working in other mediums and are trying to develop our photography skills as it is something we both enjoy doing. We are also working on getting an online journal/sketchbook up and running as we would like to share more of our process, how we get to the decisions we do and to share more of our story.

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Plain Pins:
For us this has been the biggest lesson. Without social media and the internet, we wouldn’t have reached as wide an audience as we have. We really love that we have sent pins all over the world; from London to Los Angeles, Manchester to Mexico. That is our favourite part about it! In terms of our relationship with it, we also appreciate you need to step away from it and make sure you are staying true to your brand outside of social media. Not just looking at the likes, but whether you like what you are creating yourself. We call it learning on the job! We just want to keep engaging and building a community that appreciates colour and conversation, and try and stay as true to that as possible.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Plain Pins:
We have read quite a lot of business, branding, start-up, marketing type books which has been very helpful in preparing us for the uncertainties and challenges in these early stages. We do have a business plan that we are sticking to but we are also trying to be flexible and adaptable where we feel we need to be. What we might not have been prepared for is how much people would ask us about what we are doing down to the very last detail. With leaving full time employment to set up Plain Pins, ‘How are you doing this? How much money are you making?’ have been popular questions! But we put it down to excitement and intrigue and even though people are out there building businesses every day, for all types of services and work, you always have this allure of curiosity following you. When we have figured it out, we will share it!

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Plain Pins:
Sarah has been reading Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa and would definitely suggest it to anyone who is exploring their own creativity. It’s funny, light-hearted and pretty accurate as to how most creatives feel a lot of the time.

We saw La La Land at the beginning of the year and we loved it, which might be controversial for some people! It was about dreamers and dreaming, and following your dreams (with Ryan Gosling), so we were probably a good audience. Then we fell in love with the soundtrack and have playing it ever since, maybe too much now that we might need to ask other people for some music recommendations.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Plain Pins:
We are really excited to hear from you and what you think of the pins. You can sign up to our mailing list through our shop, plainpins.com and you can find us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest @plainpins . We have lots of projects and collaborations coming up in the next few months which we are excited to share! Thanks!

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Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

interview

Interview: Sami Main on Writing, Detective Work, and Creative Prompts

12:00 pm

Image Credit: Rafi Letzer

My interview today is with the lovely Sami Main, a writer and digital media reporter over at Adweek. In the past she's written for Buzzfeed, Hello Giggles, The Gloss, and other awesome online publications, and right now she has two amazing newsletters that I think you really need to sign up to. The first is 'Pep Talk', a daily quotation and adorable gif, and the second is 'Bouncy Castle' which she writes with a number of other wonderful folk, commenting on bright and happy things that they've found on the internet recently. We had a little chat about her introduction to writing, a love of Nancy Drew, and why falling asleep whilst scrolling through social media probably isn't a good thing. I hope you find Sami's insights as exciting as I did, and you really should follow her on Twitter for funny anecdotes and intelligent commentary on current affairs and the mad world we live in.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Sami! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Sami Main:
I graduated from the University of Florida in 2013 and immediately U-Haul'd myself up to New York to work for BuzzFeed. While there, I was an Animals intern, an edit assistant, and a creative coordinator (which meant I helped people keep up with brainstorms and experiment with content creation formats). I'm currently a digital media reporter for Adweek, where I get to write about all the things I'm talking about anyway, like podcasts, original entertainment programming from places like Netflix and Hulu, and new media publishers like Vice, BuzzFeed, etc.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into writing generally? Was there something that drove you to write? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?

Sami Main:
I almost went to an arts-focused high school for creative writing, actually. I think I loved writing so much because I love books so much. Books were my friends growing up, since I wasn't really an outdoors kid. (I still had friends, of course! But I liked my books and my daytime TV.) I didn't end up going to that high school, though; in college, my major was journalism which felt like a cool combo of writing and detective work. Nancy Drew was, clearly, one of my role models.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start writing for publications (online and otherwise) and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your words?

Sami Main:
In college, I started writing for our newspaper, The Alligator; I was mostly the Opinions editor, as opposed to our reporting staff. Also in college, I started contributing to online news blogs before joining BuzzFeed's Community, where anyone can create an account and start posting. There were PLENTY of self-confidence issues, for sure, but a lot of my opportunities came from simply emailing people just to see what would happen. There's no harm in asking! And a lot of the time, it helps people see that you're interested. No need to hound them and flood their inbox, of course, but sending an email or two never hurts at all.


Image Credit: Rafi Letzer
Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which writers and bloggers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Sami Main:
As far as influences go, I mentioned Nancy Drew earlier, and that totally counts. I think her positive attitude in any situation really rubbed off on me. This sounds like a joke, but I promise! As far as real people writers/bloggers, I've found inspiration from Anne Lamott, whose book Bird by Bird is all about writing and dealing with that process. I definitely look back at it if I need a little spark. Growing up, I read books by Meg Cabot and other YA authors, even Agatha Christie!, because the stories were so good and somewhat relatable or just downright entertaining. (But outside of real people: Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon are fantastic female role models for the most part, even though they are comedic characters.)

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Sami Main:
I wish I had a better process! If I'm writing articles at work, I'm pretty much tied to my desk, as we don't have any fun couches to run off to. I try to play one album of music at a time if I need to hunker down and really focus; sometimes that's something by St. Vincent, but it can totally range. Something with a beat is usually helpful. When I'm working on side projects at home, I like to have something playing on TV that I can usually tune out of – sometimes it's Chef's Table on Netflix, but lately I started rewatching VEEP. (Not helpful at all, I get so distracted by how funny it is.)

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Sami Main:
Definitely turn to Bird by Bird if you need to get out of a rut. Sometimes, if I'm working on creative writing rather than non-fiction, it helps to find writing prompts or exercises to just get you going. Remembering that what you write doesn't have to be shown to the whole world is key. Drafts are just drafts, even if you hate them!


Image Credit: Rafi Letzer
Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than writing? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Sami Main:
I definitely have a fondness for podcasts, even though that's a whole other artform. I love the stories people get to tell with it (S-Town!) or the conversations we get to overhear (Uhh Yeah Dude! Or My Brother My Brother And Me!). I've also studied and performed improv for the last eight years, and that's such a fun creative outlet. You get to play pretend with friends for a couple hours, and nothing is better than that. Period.

Magic & Musings:
How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Sami Main:
My relationship with social media is terrible and lovely. I try to maintain a positive energy on my Twitter, but I am also constantly checking it to stay up to date with news/friends, etc. I literally check Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter AS I FALL ASLEEP which is a horrible habit. It's kind of like how people fall asleep to TV, though. (Or at least that's what I tell myself.) Social media can be so fun, but it's important to keep some boundaries for yourself so you don't get sucked in or too anxious.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out writing?

Sami Main:
I wish someone had told me there was no one way to be a writer. I always thought I'd be some kind of novelist, I guess? That I'd write a series of awesome fiction novels that were probably about witches or something. And it's okay that I'm not doing that right now, it doesn't mean it can't happen later. Mostly, careers have phases, and it's fine to be in one, it's fine to be out of one.

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Sami Main:
I just finished Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology this week and it's SO fun. It's hearing myths through his voice, and it's a great match.

I just saw the new Beauty and the Beast remake – AND LOVED IT. It was my favorite movie as a kid (we had to make a "no singing at the dinner table" rule because of it), so anyone who had a problem with this one should've had the same problems with the original version. My only note is that the last line of dialogue is so bad, but if I ignore that, it's a lovely movie.

As I'm writing this, the new Kendrick Lamar album dropped and I've been jamming to it all dang day. It's funky, it's important, and he's one of the best musicians of this time. Ugh, so good.

If Kendrick isn't really your style, I've also been re-listening to The XX which is also dark and wonderful.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Sami Main:
People can find me on Twitter @samimain or visit my website: thathipchick.com to see some of my previous writings and other things I'm working on. I'll have a really cool announcement some time in June about a secret project I've been working on for almost a year, so stay tuned!

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interview

Interview: Laura Redburn on Cardboard Cities, Collages, and 'Selling Yourself'

12:00 pm


When I first got into reading blogs around 2013-4, there were a small handful that I was completely dedicated to and would check up for new posts every day. Laura's lifestyle blog for Cardboard Cities was one of them, and I'm still in love with her work today! I would really urge you to look at the wonderful collages and illustrations she creates if you're on the lookout for custom designs for any reason. In our interview we chatted about working in different mediums, 'selling yourself' online, and formally studying art, so take a look below for some creative inspiration!


Magic & Musings:

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Laura! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself. 


Laura Redburn:

I’m a collage illustrator living in Cardiff and go by the name ‘cardboardcities’. I love colour, nature, photography, charity shops, vintage things, good design and chocolate. I also have a creative lifestyle blog where I share my work, photography, creative book reviews and a bit of home decor.


Magic & Musings:

If you could describe your designs in three words, what would they be?


Laura Redburn:

Colourful, feminine and …hmm. Unique(?!) ..perhaps reaching with that last one. Any ideas?


Magic & Musings:

When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?


Laura Redburn:

Bit of a cliche answer here, but art and creative things have been a part of my life since I was a child. My dad is/was an artist (and painter/decorator) and a lot of the people on his side of the family were too. Apparently, I’m distantly related to John Everett Millais, who painted the wonderful ‘Ophelia’ amongst other things. I loved art in school, and when I went to college I studied Graphic Design, and then later Illustration in Uni. 

I loved college, but I think that was largely down to my tutor. We had very similar tastes and got on well, so having someone I identified with on some level helped me want to be the best I could be. To be perfectly honest I wouldn’t say I actually learned much from college or universtiy. Either I knew various things already, or just got on with it and figured things out for myself. College is where I discovered my love of collage though, so I will always be thankful for that.

I’ve always been that kind of person that prefers to learn by doing and teaching myself, so I don’t really think education (in the academical manner) was or is necessarily right for me, but for some people it’s perfect and really pushes them. If you can, try and figure out how you learn best, and see if that aligns with university etc, or if you feel you’d be better off going straight into some work experience or working for yourself.


Magic & Musings:

When did you first start selling your design services and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?


Laura Redburn:

I honestly can’t remember! I suppose more on a ‘proper’ scale, in 2009 or so? Back then I was mostly selling paintings and doing the odd commission. It’s not really been until the past 5 or so years that things have ‘taken off’ a bit more. I would say I’m far from being in demand though. With self confidence, I think it’s an ever-evolving thing. It’s hard to ‘sell yourself’ at the best of times, and I think the internet and social media has helped a lot on that front, but talk to me in person about my work and I’m a gibbering mess.


Magic & Musings:

On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?


Laura Redburn:

Caitlin Shearer has been a favourite of mine for many, many years. I’ve followed her since ‘the Livejournal days’ and we even used to write to each other and send each other art from time to time. In terms of more well known artists, I love ladies such as Gunta Stolzl, Maija Isola, Wangechi Mutu, Mary Blair...too many to think of to name, and so many wonderful and important women in various artistic fields. For more contemporary, I follow some amazing creatives on Instagram!



Magic & Musings:

Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?


Laura Redburn:

I really enjoyed working on the Toni & Guy collages. I actually got to go to London when they were doing the photoshoot, and it was great to actually see it coming together. It really helped me get into the feel and vibe of the project. Hope I get to do that sort of thing again in the future!


Magic & Musings:

This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 


Laura Redburn:

I don’t have a proper office space...I don’t even have a desk. But in the front room of our flat I find I work best. It’s the only room with lots of natural light, the noise from the traffic on the road distracts me from my tinnitus, and my cat loves being in there too, so she’s a lovely calming presence.

I actually prefer to work in silence, or to listen to instrumental music (of different genres) if I really need to get ‘in the zone’. I find anything too familiar, or things like talk radio, podcasts and TV too distracting.



Magic & Musings:

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?


Laura Redburn:

Go for a walk. Take photos. Watch a film. Make something different to what I’d usually make. Give myself a time limit to make something. Look at Instagram and Pinterest. Engage with people.


Magic & Musings:

What are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?


Laura Redburn:

My trusty sharp embroidery scissors. Vintage magazines. Handmade textures.

When it comes to books, nothing in particular. Very fond of Creative Block from Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator though. I don’t really read or look at books ‘about’ creativity that much, and prefer to tell people to find what inspires them and go with that.


Magic & Musings:

Have you ever explored working in another medium?


Laura Redburn:

I used to screenprint and paint a lot, but not so much anymore. Definitely things I want to bring back into my work, as I love them. Also, I only combine this with my collages a little, but photography is a big love of mine.


Magic & Musings:

What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?


Laura Redburn:

I wouldn’t say greatly, ha! But social media and the internet in general has really helped me. I’ve found some fantastic like minded people over the years, have been featured on a few well known sites and love networking and engaging with fellow creatives. 

I feel like I should ‘sell’ myself more, but I (still) need to find the right flow for doing this. I see some people do it amazingly though!



Magic & Musings:

What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?


Laura Redburn:

That as much as you think you’re ready and able to persevere, persevere harder (or, more?). You can work hard and do everything you’re ‘meant’ to do, be innovative or not...but never expect work to just come to you. 


Magic & Musings:

Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 


Laura Redburn:

Going to be completely honest here, haven’t read a ‘proper’ book in a while! A recent book I’ve gotten and loved though was ABC by Alice Patullo. I love ABC books, and her illustrations are absolutely fantastic.

Film-wise I often rewatch two of my favourite films, both by the same director actually. Local Hero and Housekeeping.



Magic & Musings:

Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 


Laura Redburn:

Here’s where you can find my work:

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interview

Interview: Anya Elvidge on Game Art, Environment Artists, and Robin Hobb

12:00 pm


Time for something a little bit different. Game art is something I'm always amazed by; I feel like it's getting more and more gorgeous as the years pass and a lot more art-heavy games are released. Just look at that new Zelda game and tell me it's not pure art! I reached out to Anya knowing I wanted to interview someone in the field, and her work just blew me away. It's been wonderful to find out more about her background and her studies at De Montfort University (my old home!), and I hope you find it just as enjoyable.


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Anya! First of all, for any readers who don't know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Anya Elvidge:
I'm a trainee environment artist at The Creative Assembly and before that I studied a degree in Game Art in Leicester, UK. I have a pet bird called Bertie who is the love of my life, and I love for painting, drawing, and making pretty things. My favourite colours are blue and green. I have blue hair which is so long now I should probably go get a hair cut... catching your hair on door handles is only funny the first couple of times.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your art style in three words, what would they be?

Anya Elvidge:
I tend to dabble in a lot of different art styles, I suppose in an attempt to 'find myself', but mostly I find myself working back to the same kind of style; colourful, whimsical, and surreal. Though it very much depends on what I'm doing at the time!


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into game art? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? if you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Anya Elvidge:
I studied Game Art at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester, but before that I had no artistic teaching apart from at A Level in school. I was looking to study fine art at first, as my background is traditional art, but I stumbled across DMU on my internet searches and I instantly fell in love with the idea of creating art in any form for games.

I think for me it was the right decision; I had no background in 3D modelling or digital painting, and university taught me the basics for everything from which I could then develop my own specialised skills. After the first two years of quite rigid university projects, 3rd year was a time where I could do whatever I wanted, however I wanted, and it was a great spring-board for me to develop my own artistic style in a safe environment. For people who already know what they're doing, or what they want, other schools or learning methods may be more suitable.

Magic & Musings:
Are there any games in particular that you would state as huge influences on your art style, or that made you want to work in game art design?

Anya Elvidge:
Honestly, I'm not much of a gamer. My go-to games were Halo, Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty, Skyrim, and Red Dead Redemption as a kid. Very different to what I do now! Red Dead was the biggest influence for me in terms of making me want to work in games. I loved the changing skyscapes and the magic of being let loose in a foreign world (and the glitches, I lived for those!). For my art style, that came about from many influences... art I see online from other digital artists, and classical artists, snapshots of games or 3D work I could never name, and things in the real world too - particularly colours.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Anya Elvidge:
These are so many artist I draw from and often I can't remember their names or even what they do but I can come up with a few. Many of the female artists I follow are character artists, which is odd being an environment artist, but those guys are awesome; Blair Armitage and Yekaterina Nadezda, Beth Hobbs, Karla Ortiz, Jana Schirmer, Jennifer Velasco, and Wylie Beckert. They all do very different things, from oil painting, to mixed media to 3D digital art, concept art, and illustration.


Magic & Musings:
Of all of your creations, which are you the happiest with and why?

Anya Elvidge:
I'm always creating new things and I'm happy or unhappy with each of them for a different reason. Because all my work is so different, using different techniques and medias, I couldn't really choose one! The piece I've been keeping as my cover photo/front page for most of my social medias etc. online has been this university piece based Robin Hobb's writing, which was done using UE4 and has sound effects, animations, and music to create a full experience like a game. (Look at it here!)

I am happy with it because of the amount of love and time that went into it more than anything. It was the result of four months of constant hard work bringing together three years of university teaching, and it felt like a very proud end to my university career.


Magic & Musings:

This is a question I like to ask purely because of their variety of answers I get! I'm really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Anya Elvidge:

I'm very lucky to have recently moved into a new flat in Surrey with beautiful exposed brick walls, tall ceilings, massive windows, and lovely surroundings. I need lots of natural light and a generally pleasant environment to work or I feel sad. My desk setup is something I always work on - I like fiddling about with where everything goes on my desk- and now I have a setup with my PC for digital work, and a lightbox and easel to my left for oil painting. Cup of mango and lychee green tea in my favourite bird mug, music on, and bam, we're rolling.


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? 

Anya Elvidge:
I'm very bad at dealing with that so usually I just avoid art for a while, maybe go out sketching some woodlands or do some photostudies which is a nice easy and relaxing thing that can't go too wrong for me. I also like to work on a blanket I'm crocheting because it feels like I'm achieving something without much stress or effort. 

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your art? 

Anya Elvidge:
Photoshop, and if I'm feeling energetic then working in Unreal Engine 4 to create 3D worlds is super satisfying. It's a free piece of software, I'd highly recommend it! I also love to work in biro and oil paints from still life or plein air setups. 

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium? 

Anya Elvidge:
I've had phases of exploring other mediums and I think I always will, but mostly I feel very happy with my digital mediums, biro, and oil painting. I'm settling into a happy place with those. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field? 

Anya Elvidge:
You don't have to settle for one art style, type or medium, but you'll always feel a little guilty when you're working on one of your art skills and 'neglecting' the others! And no matter how much you know it, or how much you're improving your other skills, you'll still feel bad.


Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Anya Elvidge:
I am a die hard Robin Hobb fan, so start with Assassin's Apprentice and fall forever into her amazing world. It's been 8 years since I first picked up her book and as mad as it sounds I've practically been unable to read anything else. 

I love Batman: The Dark Knight, and I don't really listen to full albums but a song I've been digging lately is Darkest Place (feat. Aloma Steel) by Rameses B. Anything electronic! 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s next on the horizon for you? 

Anya Elvidge:
Nothing much to say from me! Art is hard. I like birds. 

You can find my art on my site, Facebook, Artstation, Twitter, and Instagram.

Next on the horizon, who knows, but I love my job right now so all there really is for me is to keep practising my art in my spare time and getting better, and I'm happy with that. :)


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Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.