what's in your toolbox

What’s In Your Toolbox: Traci Page Morris

by Annie Werbler

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

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What’s in your toolbox?

Almost everything in the studio is fairly portable because I do enjoy painting on the run.

That includes Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks in every size, and travel watercolor pans. You’ll also find Arches watercolor blocks, paintbrushes with super thin bristles, tubes of paints from Winsor & Newton, Sennelier, and Daniel Smith. Lots of Micron pens because they are waterproof. The 005 width is my favorite because I do a lot of fine line work in my paintings and I’m a sucker for those small, delicate details. And most importantly, lots of green for inspiration… I love succulents and Monstera leaves.

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

Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

energetic + light, calm + inspired.

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

What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

It’s all pictures from my travels near and far; botanical gardens, the desert, landscapes of Joshua Tree, patterns in buildings, food. Really anything and everything I’ve photographed along the way.

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

How do you keep yourself organized?

My studio doubles as our dining room table (hello, NYC living!), so it’s a must. When I’m done painting, everything is stacked up, stored, and put away, mainly in our pantry. My schedule is maintained on my phone calendar, but I still love to go analog and write random notes to myself on loose paper. Sometimes I’ll find them months later. So yes, my phone is best.

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

If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

The answer is so obvious for me. Time travel! Anywhere, any place, any time.

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

What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?

Best advice I’ve ever received: Take risks. It’s what I’m learning to do now, having just left a stable job at a company I loved. Also, do it to make yourself happy first.

To the young artist, maker, or designer: Be gracious and humble. Surround yourself with a good tribe of people, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have a group of friends who are my biggest cheerleaders.

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

How do you combat creative blocks?

Step away from the table. Take a walk. Shake it off. Maybe have a solo dance party.

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

Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?

I love travel more than anything. I can find something inspiring wherever I go. Tile patterns on the facades of old buildings, random flora on the side of the road, the patterns of moss and lichen on rocks. Museums and galleries are always a treat, too. I love to study the art and try to dissect the process. When the Matisse exhibit was in NY last year, I was blown away by the scale of one piece in particular: Oceania, the sky. He would position and re-position his pieces until he thought they were perfect. You can see the tiny, tiny pinholes in his cut-outs. There is something so beautiful in the simplicity of his process.

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If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

This was a tough one. And I couldn’t narrow it down to one! I’m obsessed with process and craftsmanship, so I’d love to watch them as they work. This list is constantly evolving, but currently, here’s who I admire:

Antoni Gaudí — His work is woven into the very fabric of Barcelona. I love visiting Park Güell and sitting on the benches made of random patterns of cut tiles. I have so many photos of those tiles.

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Olafur Eliasson — I just want to peek inside of his brain. An artist working in a variety of mediums, many of his pieces are interactive. For Riverbed, the entire South Wing of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark was transformed into a rocky terrain for visitors to explore, complete with a trickling stream running throughout. Beautiful.

Magnus Nilsson – Master chef of Fäviken in Sweden. It’s safe to say I have a mild obsession with Scandinavia. And foraging. Nilsson’s passion for his craft is fascinating to watch.

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

What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?

I’ve found that I really enjoy ambient music early in the morning. It’s great background when I’m working. I have Pantha du Prince, Isan, The Field, Chihei Hatakeyama, and Blondes in heavy rotation. When I need something a bit more upbeat, I’ll throw on Liars, Panda Bear, Run The Jewels, Caribou, Tame Impala, and you can never go wrong with a little Beastie Boys.

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

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