“English Tables” By Kathryn Walton-Elliott

“English Tables” By Kathryn Walton-Elliott

Walton-Elliott Headshot

[Today is the 4th installment of our new essay column, curated by Ashley C. Ford. You can read previous installments here.]

In 2006, I flew to England to study for a year. By the following September, I had moved in with the woman I would marry. As Kate and I started building a life together, she introduced me to friends and family, individuals who would become touchstones during my time in the UK. Though I initially met them in parking lots, at front doors and over the phone, I didn’t really get to know any of them until we gathered around tables of all shapes and sizes. There was the refinished 1940s table where we hosted dinner parties, the patched-together Thanksgiving surface made from doors and camping furniture, my mother-in-law’s beautiful oval piece, and even a cheap patio table that saw us through months of renovation. It was around all these and more that I connected with the new people in my life and built sturdy relationships with them.

My first memory of a meal with my wife is in a London curry house where we each silently tried to guess if this was a date. It didn’t take long, maybe a couple of weeks, for us to figure out how we felt about each other. After that, I spent many meals perched at a tiny, dusty table in the cheap 1930s terrace Kate was remodeling at the time. Flexible eating surfaces have featured heavily in our relationship, since we can’t resist the challenge of making a home our own. After that first house sold, we took on another in Bristol that lacked heating and a proper kitchen. Unable to live anywhere else during the renovations, we moved from room to room, cooking on a camping stove and dining at that basic wooden patio table that took up more than its fair share of our limited living space.

VIEW MORE

Hand-Lettered Quotations from Chandan Mahimkar

Hand-Lettered Quotations from Chandan Mahimkar

Quote 1 - Paula Scher
This week, I thought it would be fun to share some inspiration in the form of hand-lettered quotations. After meeting artist Chandan Mahimkar on Instagram (he submitted some beautiful lettering projects to our #dslettering challenge!), I reached out to see if he’d be interested in working together to select design-inspired quotations to letter and share here. Thankfully, he was game and he’ll be sharing one with us every morning this week, starting with this excellent thought from graphic designer, educator and painter, Paula Scher.

Chandan Mahimkar
About Chandan: Based in Mumbai, Chandan works as a multi-disciplinary designer and is a passionate lettering artist. He graduated from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai, where he now heads “Design L&K Saatchi & Saatchi,” the specialist Design division of L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, India. Prior to that, he has worked for top Indian advertising agencies like FCB Ulka, Grey Worldwide & DDB Mudra. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Artwork by Xochi Solis + Best of the Web

Artwork by Xochi Solis + Best of the Web

Solis_X_Vision_is_a_lonely_word_2016_1024x1024
As we head out into the weekend, I wanted to wrap up the week with this beautiful mixed-media artwork by Austin-based artist, Xochi Solis. Xochi uses layers of gouache, colored paper, found images and acetate to create these amazing pieces that are full of texture and layered pattern. It makes me want to break out my craft supplies and start experimenting with torn paper. But in the meantime, I’ll be admiring these pieces over at Leif. Click here to check out more of Xochi’s work online. Best wishes for a safe and happy weekend! xo, grace

Solis_X_Though_I_spend_my_days_in_conversation_2016_1024x1024
Solis_X_Lighting_the_spark_of_Love_2016_1024x1024

bestofweb45

BESTOFds_24

In the Kitchen With: Jeff Shields’ Chicken Pot Pie

In the Kitchen With: Jeff Shields’ Chicken Pot Pie

potpie0

I’m a sucker for puff pastry and, generally, things cooked in crust. I love the way the crust soaks up the juices of the filling on one side, yet stays crispy on the other. Cobblers, double-crusted pies, empanadas, sausage rolls… I love them all. I also love this week’s recipe, Chicken Pot Pie, shared with us by Jeff Shields, the head chef at Eugene & Co., in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. Jeff’s pot pie is adapted for the home to make it easy to pull together quickly, so please do use store-bought puff pastry without guilt! —Kristina

Why Jeff loves this recipe: I love this recipe because it’s my wife’s longtime favorite dish. The dish is hearty and great for entertaining — you can put it in the oven before entertaining, so the smell of it cooking wafts through your home as guests arrive. There’s also something very nostalgic about seeing a hot pie pulled out of the oven. It’s a great all-season dish paired with a leafy salad in the summer, or roasted vegetables in the winter.

VIEW MORE

What’s In Your Toolbox: Traci Page Morris

What’s In Your Toolbox: Traci Page Morris

What's In Your Toolbox: Traci Morris, on Design*Sponge
Watercolor painter Traci Page Morris works at her Brooklyn table illustrating natural plants, gems, and foods gathered from her worldly explorations. Over many journeys and slowly-forming collections through the years, Traci discovered her preference for archiving ephemeral details in paintings rather than photographs. “I often chronicle my travels in my watercolor sketchbook to capture the moment,” she reveals.

Most of Traci’s art supplies can be taken on the road, or at least easily relocated to the pantry from her multipurpose dining room studio — where perhaps an appetizing texture might catch her eye. The tiniest, most delicate features are the ones that beg further examination, and she sketches intricately interacting lines before filling them with dusty washes of color. Inspired by the bold, bright greens in succulents and Monstera leaves, the painter has learned to follow her passions, having recently left a corporate design career in pursuit of her illustration practice. “Take risks,” she advises, but “do it to make yourself happy first.” —Annie

Photography by Cory Smith

VIEW MORE

Life & Business: Katie Sturino

Life & Business: Katie Sturino

KatieSturino1

If you’re active on Instagram, chances are you’ve liked lots of photos by entrepreneur, publicist, and social media enthusiast Katie Sturino. The brains and bod behind The 12ish Style, her site exploring “style for size 12ish – 18ish girls living in a size 2 world” — as well as human mom of TOAST MEETS WORLD™, the famous floppy-tongued puppy mill rescue — Katie knows a thing or two about how to blow up brands online. Her fashion accessory PR firm “was Tinder before it was Tinder, but now everyone thinks I’m that Tinder.” Sharing the same trade name as a popular dating app notwithstanding, Katie makes her own connections promoting her clients’ small businesses, finding that she feels successful only when they are.

Wanting to offer that same boost to everyone, Katie is passionate about creating a safe space for body positive messaging. “For me, it’s less about selling clothes than it is about selling confidence to women,” she explains, “And making sure they know they are good just the way they are.” With the help of her two other canine kids Muppet and Pants, and alongside The Shelter Pet Project, Katie uses her expertise to encourage the adoption of lovable shelter animals awaiting forever homes around the country. “You have to pay it forward!” —Annie

Photography courtesy of Katie Sturino

VIEW MORE

Life & Business: Stephanie Thomas

Life & Business: Stephanie Thomas

STEPHANIE_THOMAS_2
As a stylist who focuses on fashion for people with disabilities, Stephanie Thomas has had to carve her own path. When she first began exploring the topic in the early 1990s, she found not only a lack of clothing options, but also a lack of awareness about the necessity of fashion aimed at those with disabilities. Since then, it’s been her mission to “challenge people’s negative perceptions of dressing with disabilities.”

Founder and editor-in-chief of Cur8able (a site dedicated to curating the best in disability fashion), and a fashion instructor at the Art Institute of California, Stephanie has become a “disability fashion thought-leader.” In addition to her teaching and editing, she is a stylist for paralympians, actors, and public figures with disabilities. She’ll be branching out even further soon, offering seminars to the general public. “Just as people without disabilities benefit from understanding basic styling,” so do those with disabilities, and Stephanie intends to use her decades of knowledge to provide specialized styling tips to that underserved audience.

IMG_9997
Being a trailblazer comes with its own unique challenges — “everything is unforseen, because [the road] doesn’t exist”— but Stephanie’s passion and trust in herself are her greatest weapons. Of course, one can’t always rise to the challenge, but when that happens, “it’s not so much a failure as a tool to refocus.” That perspective allows her to take risks, to follow her vision, and to work toward a more inclusive fashion industry — and world. —Kayla

Photographs by Cur8able

VIEW MORE

Comfort Zone: Ness Lee

Comfort Zone: Ness Lee

ness_ComfortZone_2

Although self-expression is the hallmark of Illustrator/Artist Ness Lee‘s artistic work, it’s also at the heart of her greatest fear. No matter the medium, be it ceramic or pencil on paper, Ness views her process as a way to preserve and commemorate her emotions, but despite her ability to translate feelings into art, getting them across in her relationships and daily life is a worry that follows Ness. Being misunderstood is an unpleasant theme of her life, but also what makes her art so powerful.

As someone who constantly feels burdened with heavy thoughts, home is her greatest relief and energy source. Directly above a burger joint and a Souvlaki restaurant in Toronto’s downtown core, her apartment is a haven of freedom. Located in a hub of constant and overwhelming stimulation from the city below, coming home is often therapeutic for Ness. Her living room becomes more than just a cozy corner — it’s the only space she can think and feel freely in, unwinding and clearing her head. Sharing her thoughts is something Ness comes by naturally, and today, she’s joining us to do just that: chatting more about her artistic process, the perils of modern adulthood, and how she’s combatting her fears with the power of positive thinking. –Sabrina

Photography by Nancy Zhang

VIEW MORE

A Global Art Exhibition at Home in Brooklyn

A Global Art Exhibition at Home in Brooklyn, on Design*Sponge

A Global Art Exhibition at Home in Brooklyn

Peering out across the street from Nasozi Kakembo and seven-year-old son Rafayonda Kalungi’s top-floor apartment just so happens to offer a view of the high school attended by entertainer Lena Horne. Though it’s not yet of much significance to her young child, Nasozi cherishes the daily reminder of her Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn neighborhood’s historical significance. With a background in architecture, art history, and urban planning, Nasozi is the creative director of her own home textile company xnasozi. “My work is influenced in equal parts by my Ugandan heritage and my American upbringing and education,” she shares. Nasozi has called the borough home for a decade, and this apartment hers for seven-and-a-half of those years. Having traveled widely throughout the world, she relishes learning about the many cultures around her, proud to live in “Brooklyn, home to one of the highest concentrations of ethnic diversity in the world.” However luckily within that vast local population, Nasozi quickly discovered a cousin just blocks away, and with that revelation came many new friends. “It felt so good living in a community that was so culturally vibrant and proud,” she adds. “This has always been home in New York and I know most of my neighbors, young and old.”

Having lived in her place for a relatively long time (by city standards), Nasozi has had ample opportunity to tease out how best the space works for her. The current living room had been, until more recently, functioning well enough as her bedroom. Many of the home’s nooks and crannies need to serve new purposes for a growing kid, and most areas do double duty. Upon closer inspection, almost all of the decorative elements in the home are functional in practical ways, too. “It’s also really important to me to have images and reminders of our family and heritage around the home, mainly for the benefit of my son,” Nasozi says.”Living in one of the most global cities in the world doesn’t inherently dictate a global and empathetic worldview, but that is what I am trying to foster in him every step of the way… My home is basically a rotating art exhibition.” Over time, Nasozi has collected many heirloom and otherwise special pieces from family, amassed a collection of photographs of her travels, and thoughtfully displayed these treasures around the home. “That is one thing I love the most about living in a small space. It forces you to live simpler and more deliberately.” —Annie

Photography by Nasozi Kakembo

VIEW MORE

Reading Spaces: Writer Rahawa Haile

Reading Spaces: Writer Rahawa Haile

Rahawa Haile Reading Spaces
Last year, I stumbled upon on a Twitter project called Short Story of the Day. The creator, Rahawa Haile, shared hundreds of exceptional short stories by underrepresented writers. Her daily tweets introduced me to an endless list of literary journals and talented authors. I bookmarked Sofia Samatar’s “Honey Bear” and told friends to read Joanna Ruocco’s stream of consciousness in 3AM Magazine. Rahawa’s recommendations were equally noteworthy and reliable. Names like Jorge Ortega, Kendra Fortmeyer and Jessica Forciers were suddenly familiar. But who was Rahawa Haile?

Short Story Shelley Jackson
Naturally, I began scouring the Internet for her writing. I quickly discovered that her stories ranged from gripping first-person narratives about her Eritrea homeland to all-consuming thoughts over a slice of cake. Rahawa’s sentences made you pay attention, and immediately you began to see how she viewed the world — genuinely idyllic and constantly aware. As a writer, she has the gift of accurately assessing her environment. Overlooked desserts, racial inequalities and jarring juxtapositions all find their place in her work. She is constantly urging readers to pay attention.

At the time of our interview in DUMBO, Rahawa was preparing to uproot her life in Brooklyn and begin an adventurous journey through the Appalachian Trail. This struck me as wonderfully appropriate. Here, the writer and self-described wanderer tells Design*Sponge what books hold her attention and why short stories will always be her favorite genre. —Glory Edim

Photography by Opiyo Okeyo

VIEW MORE

DIY Rose-Tinted Glassware

DIY Rose-Tinted Glassware

passtherose.done1
Have you noticed all the colored glassware online lately? There are some beautiful vintage treasures out there. I already have a pretty big glassware collection, but I can’t help but add to it on a regular basis.

passtherose.done3
This Valentine’s Day, why not make your own rose-tinted glassware? These modern glasses are such an easy project and they make great gifts to give your friends. Galentine’s Day, anyone? —Kathleen

VIEW MORE

What’s In Your Toolbox: DABSMYLA

What’s In Your Toolbox: DABSMYLA

What's In Your Toolbox: DABSMYLA, on Design*Sponge

The eponymous portmanteau DABSMYLA accurately describes a fully collaborative Los Angeles-based design practice founded by married couple and business partners, Dabs and Myla. The duo conspires on all facets of their many mural, gallery installation, and graphic identity projects from ideation to technical execution, often swapping tasks between one another halfway through for well-rounded execution. Their latest large-scale project Before & Further — an outfitted exhibition for the classic mid-centry furniture brand Modernica — had the designers reimagining 4,000 square feet of gallery space with their unique take on era-appropriate showroom interiors for now, inspired by then. Sparking ideas from “the comic and animation art — as well as the graphic design and advertising” of the 1950s and 60s, Dabs and Myla created environmental artwork with brushes and acrylic paints in primary colors.

Their lo-tech, hands-on style suits an exhibit inspired by that most iconic period of design preceding the computer age. Feeding off one another in moments of inspiration blockage, the pair always strives to reach the height of their combined creative forces. The dedicated couple has been fortunate to find each other and the many unique opportunities that continue to come their way, but nonetheless feel certain that “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” —Annie

Photography by DABSMYLA

VIEW MORE

An 1890s Two-flat Building in Chicago with a Mid-Century Spin

An 1890s Two-flat Building in Chicago with a Mid-Century Spin | Design*Sponge

An 1890s Two-flat Building in Chicago with a Mid-Century Spin

When Brandon Blunden and Katie Mckiernan met, they had no idea that their new friendship would eventually turn into a seven-year romantic partnership, the start of a business, homes together, and a future wedding. Brandon and Katie’s shared love for mid-century pieces is seen in every room of their Humboldt Park, Chicago two-flat apartment — and it fuels their custom and vintage furniture company, Department Chicago.

Brandon and Katie started looking for a new apartment three years ago. The first apartment they lived in together was in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of the city. The couple knew they wanted to stay in that neighborhood, but they needed to ensure that a new place would have more light than the first-floor apartment they were leaving. “We found our apartment now on Craigslist listed with no pictures,” Katie says. “We took a chance and it payed off. It is the brightest apartment we have ever lived in. It was perfect. South-facing windows unblocked by the house next door let in light all day long. It also has a huge deck, fenced-in yard and parking space. Can’t beat that in the city.” The result of this abundant natural light makes the couple’s flat the ideal setting for their retro styling and mid-century furniture.

Their business, Department Chicago, started with pieces Brandon and Katie found at estate sales, and has since turned into a handmade and curated collection for them to sell and enjoy in their own home. “Our apartment is an eclectic, ever-rotating showcase of art and furniture we’ve acquired over the past six years living together,” Katie shares. “Almost everything in our apartment is either vintage, up-cylced, or handmade. We tried to create a homey, warm, and functional space. We are big mid-century fans, but definitely wanted to keep a somewhat bohemian and retro vibe as well.” The large rooms, white walls, and historic charm of the 1890s apartment bring each piece of theirs to its full potential. Brandon and Katie’s unexpected life together has turned into a partnership, a beautiful business, and a thoughtfully styled home. –Lauren

Photography by Brandon Blunden

VIEW MORE

Life & Business: Serge & Ann of Slowstitch Studio

Life & Business: Serge & Ann of Slowstitch Studio

slowstitch

My textile design class in college was one of the more difficult studios for me. In my furniture or drawing classes, if I messed up, I’d just tweak it until it looked right. Textiles took that control away from me. If the technique isn’t done properly before it goes into the bath, there’s no faking it when it comes out of the dye. That’s especially true when working with traditional dyeing techniques that have the perfect end result in mind. Serge and Ann founded Slowstitch Studio, a textile company focused on Japanese indigo dyeing, to foster their love and passion for creating textile accessories, clothing and interior soft goods with hand-dyed fabric.

Serge was introduced to Japanese handcrafted textiles when he met a man who raised silkworms and grew indigo on a rural mountain in Japan. The man became Serge’s mentor and taught him how to create indigo textiles. Ann, originally from Thailand, went to college in London. One of her first courses at school introduced her to textile design, and she received her bachelor’s degree in textile design with a specialization in weaving. Ann did computer-aided design work for an interior decoration company in Bangkok after graduation, but she missed the connection to the fabric. She quit her job and moved to Japan to study natural indigo dyeing and traditional stitch-resist Shibori techniques. Serge and Ann met in Japan while studying under the same craftsman. They have since moved to Thailand to start Slowstitch Studio and its accompanying textile garden to make their work sustainable.

The name Slowstitch comes from the painstaking technique in traditional Japanese textile design, where the fabric is marked with a pattern all over and then stitched with needle and thread where marked. Stitching, rather than tying or knotting, takes a significant amount of time — but the result is perfect. The carefully calculated stitches come out of the dye stunningly executed. The work of Slowstitch Studio is undoubtedly a labor of love. It’s clear that this business has been founded on passion and the desire to enrich our world with beauty and true craftsmanship — and today, Serge and Ann are sharing that perspective after the jump. –Lauren

VIEW MORE

Life & Business: Lindsay Stead

Life & Business: Lindsay Stead

Life & Business: Lindsay Stead, on Design*Sponge

Reporting from the heart, quiltmaker Lindsay Stead set out to “make my own mark on this long tradition, while at the same time staying true to its roots.” Originally crafting the graphic, one-of-a-kind handmade quilts herself, Lindsay quickly found herself in a position where the growth of her business also meant the inclusion of other people in production. “Moving forward, I know that I need to have an open mind as to how my business can grow and change,” Lindsay adds, “While always maintaining the values that are important to me.”

She looks to those fruitful makers who came before her as inspiration, but cautions against comparing “your beginnings to someone else’s middle… I only try to compare where I am today to where I was before.” Creating her own opportunities and working hard every day are what she credits most to her progress. “I think the feeling of success is very personal,” she admits. But when talent and energy come together, the risk is worth taking. “There isn’t much to consider. If you’re passionate about something, then go for it!” —Annie

Photography by Andrea Winkler and Ingrid Punwani

VIEW MORE