Shop Update: Art Holiday Party!

Hello friends! I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was restful and delicious. I've recently made some updates to my Etsy shop and this week everything is 20% off with the coupon code HOLIDAYPARTY20. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from all sales in December will be donated to charity.

So go ahead and treat yourself! Head on over to the shop.

Twenty Eight

Bright Pink Birthday Peonies

Recently, I celebrated 28 journeys around the sun.

Even though our society doesn't seem to value getting older, I find myself enjoying the process more and more. I feel excited to be another year older. With each passing year of my twenties I have found more peace and ownership of my imperfections, more clarity with what I want in life, fuller intention in my everyday actions, more protection of my time. I even feel more prepared to take on the uncertainty of the future, and the in betweenness of getting where i want to be. It is widely believed in the practice of yoga that we never arrive, but we are always moving through something; I've been trying to remember this in particularly impatient times. 

Life is certainly not getting any easier, but I'm finding more and more ways to find joy in each day.

I've been trying to distill my life down to only the things that are in service of my goals and values, and eliminating anything that takes energy away from that. I think it' s in our nature to feel the impulse to hang on to things out of habit, so it can be a challenge to work against this, but I've been treating it as an ongoing practice. 

My hope is that the next year will be filled with good friends, meaningful connections, fulfilling projects, more volunteer work and bike rides and yoga, good books and lots of travels. It's exciting to start 28 living in a new city; it has been such a joy to explore this place and to make it home. 

How do you feel about getting older? Are you enjoying the process?

Kitchen Island DIY

Kitchen island gets a cheerful facelift

Since I made the long distance move to Portland, I've been working hard to make my new apartment feel like home. This is something I've always enjoyed about moving into a new space, but I think it's particularly important when making a big transition in life. A friend found this kitchen island, which was free (yay!) but needed a little love. 

I've never delved into the world of DIY or furniture rehabbing in the past, but I have a newfound passion for it since moving here. I've got a handful of DIY projects on the horizon now (even including reupholstering my dining chairs!). This piece was the perfect starter piece because the risk of ruining it was relatively low. I'm really happy with the result! See the before below.

Kitchen island before

What DIY projects are you working on right now?

Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli Quote

Today marks one year since the passing of design icon Massimo Vignelli. I was in Europe when he died last year and didn’t get a chance to write about his impact on my design career. So I thought today was a good opportunity to pay my respects to a designer who truly influenced the path I currently walk.

While I was studying design, Mr. Vignelli came to speak at my school. It was my first semester taking design classes, and I wasn’t even that serious about it at the time. I had no idea how big of a deal it was to have him speaking at our school. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had no idea who he was, and went to the lecture because I had to.

That talk changed the course of my studies, and ultimately, my life.

Hearing Vignelli share his passion for Helvetica, the range of projects he worked on and his strong beliefs about design was infectious. It was the first time I saw design as a lifestyle, not just a career. It was the first time I saw all the ways design touches our lives. He showed me that design thinking can be applied to any situation in life, and that there are endless ways to explore creativity. He showed how collaboration can produce stunning results as he discussed designing jewelry with his wife. He showed me that the life of a designer takes many forms; the roles can change through the years but the brains behind it is what’s most important.

He taught a lifetime of lessons in the span of just two hours.

As I’ve worked to shape and re-shape my life as a designer, his voice occasionally pops into my head. Even though I am technically an illustrator now, I still feel like a designer at heart. It’s all fluid anyway. The thought is still present, it just takes a different form now.

I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to even sit in the same room as this man, let alone hear him impart his wisdom to us young designers. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to make a fraction of the impact that Mr. Vignelli was able to achieve. Still, I show up every day to my art practice striving for greatness, considering the world around me, examining how we all experience the world, and how design could make it better. Design is born from a place of hope, innovation, and optimism, that we might be able to create something that changes our experience of the world, and this is the greatest lesson I could ever carry with me.

Thank you, Mr. Vignelli.

5 Things I've Learned from The 100 Day Project

100 Days of Paper Cut Patterns by Bryna Shields

At the beginning of April, the Great Discontent proposed the 100 Day Project, where artists around the world decide on one action to repeat for 100 days, and share it on Instagram. I've seen many artists sing praises about projects like this. Lisa Congdon and Jennifer Orkin-Lewis discussed the benefits of it, and I was finally ready to try it myself. For my project, I've dedicated 100 days to creating patterns from hand painted paper cuts. Today is the halfway mark of the project, so I thought I'd share my discoveries so far.

1. Repeating the same action every day brings your creative tendencies to light. 

Through making patterns every day, I learned all of my compositions were pretty tight, and that I often work in similar color palettes.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, but the discovery encourages new exploration and experimentation. For instance, I've tried working with more loose compositions, and experimented with new color combinations. It's refreshing to step away from your defaults, you never know what magic lies behind it.

2. I stopped fearing the idea of 'imperfect' work.

When you look at the long run of making 100 of anything, I realized it wasn't realistic to expect that every pattern will be amazing. Instead I embraced process more than result, which is something I've always struggled with in the past. It ultimately has made my art practice more enjoyable, and I'm able to stay present in the process.

3. I've stopped over thinking the process.

The urgency of creating one piece every day, amidst an often busy schedule, forces you to trust your own intuition rather than thinking too much about what you're doing. Now, I certainly think there is a place for pieces that are well thought out, but this project has shown me the difference between a complete body of work and the process it takes to get there. This 100 day project is the path to the refined, thought-out body of work.

4. Involving others in the process is energizing.

Sharing this project on Instagram has added an exciting element to the whole process. Some days, I've asked others where they envision my patterns, or shared random insights and lessons. It's empowering to share this, as well as exciting to hear the feedback of others. People have envisioned products for my patterns that I would have never considered; this extra element of surprise makes this project even more fulfilling. It has also shown me how I can connect with an audience in the future, as I consider how to invite others into the process of what I do.

5. I'm learning how to manage my time.

Well, mostly. This project has forced me to look at my days and carve out whatever I can to this act of creation. Certainly time management is something we all grapple with, particularly in an age where more and more tasks are expected of us (art creation! marketing! social media! emails! maybe eating!). The thing is, the more days in a row you complete the action, the less you want to break the streak. It's extremely motivating, and has forced me to look at how I structure my time and consider how I could utilize it more effectively.

Are you participating in the 100 Day Project? If so, leave a comment with your discoveries so far!

Creative Mornings PDX: Gary Hirsch

Gary Hirsch Creative Mornings Notes by Bryna Shields

Creative Mornings is one of my favorite parts of the design community. There is so much to gain from the insights of others, and I always walk away from these talks feeling energized and renewed. Gary Hirsch's talk last week was the first one I've been to since moving to Portland, and it was so lovely. 

Gary shared the way he combines the philosophy behind improv into work environments as a way to brainstorm creative new ideas. For instance, before the lecture he had us write down our 3 favorite things, and later on we had to combine one of our favorite things with another person's to create a business idea that doesn't already exist. Admittedly, I was initially nervous about this, but it was so freeing to give in to the process and just have fun with it. You'd be surprised how quickly an exercise like this brings out new ideas. Honestly, it's brilliant.

The last part of his talk was about creating experiences through art that invite others to participate. He has created over 30,000 (!!!) bots that he hand painted onto dominos, and places them in different locations around the world, to see what people do with them. Often people will bring them to a new location and photograph them, or write about the outrageous compliment the bot was programmed to give them. Whatever the case may be, I loved this idea of letting others step in and decide how they will experience and interact with your work. It embraces this idea of not being too precious with your ideas, which is something I've been considering a lot these days. It's about seeing your art as a starting point for co-creation, and I truly think this is the key to creating something larger than yourself. These are the things that can grow and change, and create a long lasting impact in our world.

If you'd like to learn more about Hirsch's bots and how you can get involved, please check out his website!

Struck + Nick Animation Studio

Design Talk: Struck Portland

A couple of weeks ago, AIGA Portland hosted a talk with the brilliant creative agency Struck. The talk centered around their work with Nick Animation Studio. I was enamored with their process, and their ability to produce engaging content that harkened back to the quirky and wild visuals I enjoyed as a kid of the 90s.

They emphasized the importance of showing what you're doing, rather than telling people. In our world where nearly everything is conveyed digitally, this resonated so much with me as I consider the kinds of experiences I want to create through my own brand, online and in person. How can I make that experience more personal? More compelling? What kinds of stories inspire and excite others? How might I grow and nurture a community with my art and photography?

During their talk, I was fascinated with their thought process, how they approached different problems they encountered along the way, how they worked with budget constraints. These are the things that excite and inspire me, and encourage me to go forth and create my own content from a place of enthusiasm and authenticity. So much of the content they created for NAS was centered around creating an experience, lifting a veil by showing process sketches of what Spongebob could have been, for instance. Creating walls in their office that looked like a giant yellow sponge added playfulness and demonstrated an abstract way to incorporate the characters they create into their work environment, so that walking through their offices becomes a unique experience unto itself. I was especially struck by the brilliance of this idea.

My biggest takeaway from this talk was that there are endless ways to approach a branding problem, that goals can drastically change in the discovery process, and that unforeseen obstacles are opportunities to create something even more brilliant. What started out as a website redesign blossomed into the creation of engaging video content, environmental design, and even a custom puppet resembling a camera-shy employee who was being interviewed. All in all, I came away from the talk feeling empowered by Struck's willingness to face challenges head-on and create beautiful solutions on the fly when it was necessary.