"Cradle to Cradle"

What you people call your natural resources our people call our relatives.
— Oren Lyons, faith keeper of the Onondaga

I have considered myself a life-long environmentalist. Yet calling oneself an environmentalist in this capitalist American society is a tricky thing. Hasty judgements are made that may or may not apply. For some people the label conjures the image of a tree-hugging trouble-maker. For others, it's someone who recycles and composts. For me, it just means I care deeply about the other living things that surround our world and the impact we humans have on them.

I've definitely hugged a tree or two; and years ago, before it was acceptable to ask these things, I questioned the recyclable content of a particular paper during a manufacturer's presentation. (I was shushed quickly and, as someone who doesn't like unnecessary confrontation, rarely spoke out again in professional settings about such things for years after.) Before it was commonplace, I recycled and carried reusable shopping bags and bottles when it embarrassed friends for me to do so. Those little actions didn't made a huge impact but they somehow made me feel good. I persisted.

But let's face it: few of us can really embrace the environmentalist movement fully no matter how badly we'd like to except through the small steps we continue to make each day, year after year.

Fortunately, there are people and stories out in the world who encourage us all to keep trying.

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Many years ago, I attended the lecture of architect and author William McDonough at Vanderbilt University. He co-wrote a book with chemist Michael Braungart called Cradle to Cradle. Their premise was that the three "Rs" (Reduce. Reuse. Recycle."), while important, are still a "cradle to grave" approach that over time, still generates large amounts of waste. After visiting one of my local recycle facilities, I've learned why.

Much of what people are putting in their recyclable bins may never get recycled. There is still a capitalist element at play with recyclables so if, say the plastic recycleables' market is saturated or the country that our waste is being exported to is not currently accepting those materials, the "recyclables" become landfill. Or if someone throws contaminated materials into the mix (wax-lined cardboard like pizza boxes or coffee cups or even just a plastic bag), the whole sample of materials it is mixed in with may suddenly become landfill instead of recyclable.

The aforementioned visionaries McDonough and Braungart promoted the "cradle to cradle" approach in their book and their work: using nature itself "as a model for making things...a tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we consider its abundance not wasteful but safe, beautiful and highly effective." It was the first time I'd heard this concept and it blew my mind.

 The fantastic design group that I've belonged to for several years frequently dons hard hats and safety glasses in order to learn more about our local industries' practices. Here we learned about the recycling process here in Nashville.

The fantastic design group that I've belonged to for several years frequently dons hard hats and safety glasses in order to learn more about our local industries' practices. Here we learned about the recycling process here in Nashville.

 Recently, I joined this design group on a tour of a printing facility that recycles so much of their waste, train tracks lead into and out of their warehouse to cart it all away. This is just one of the many practices they implement in order to reduce their environmental impact.

Recently, I joined this design group on a tour of a printing facility that recycles so much of their waste, train tracks lead into and out of their warehouse to cart it all away. This is just one of the many practices they implement in order to reduce their environmental impact.

How to implement this approach is another puzzle to work out. But I knew if an architect could do it, certainly there must be a way for a graphic designer to begin do so as well.

As a print designer, it is rarely lost on me that many of the projects I work on have an impact on our world. The chemicals, the paper, the waste that comes from printing is hard to ignore. However, there are a few ways that I try to keep these things in mind and to a minimum. Some projects are more inclined to have success in this effort than others.

Much of the client work I've been fortunate enough to have been involved with has aspired to be longer-lasting (books; signage that is designed to be used year after year; bookmarked and hyperlinked PDFs of marketing materials posted to web sites rather than being printed because the audience is easier to reach online; removing what isn't necessary in marketing and design that needs to be printed; on-demand printing; working with printers that implement more refined environmental practices whenever possible, etc.). Admittedly not all of these are options available for every project but the hopes and intentions are there whenever possible. More can certainly be done and with other methods implemented.

 With the directive to maintain the arrow as part of the brand, the new TGCR brand needed to convey the idea of reuse and up-cycling. The logo design did this by incorporating several lettering styles into one mark, reflecting the large selection of materials the TGCR has in stock for reuse. Green of course was the preferred color.

With the directive to maintain the arrow as part of the brand, the new TGCR brand needed to convey the idea of reuse and up-cycling. The logo design did this by incorporating several lettering styles into one mark, reflecting the large selection of materials the TGCR has in stock for reuse. Green of course was the preferred color.

Enter another modern-day hero: Turnip Green Creative Reuse was started by a friend (Kelly Tipler) years ago. This non-profit is quickly becoming a model for other reuse organizations across the country. When I was asked to help TGCR rebrand, I didn't hesitate to take the project on. It was just one more tiny step for me to take personally and professionally on this path lightening the load we humans place on our planet. Through their efforts, they have diverted over 165 tons of reusable materials from the landfill by accepting donations of materials that might otherwise be tossed without a second thought—everything from paper to office furniture.

TGCR's mission is to foster creativity and sustainability through reuse.  TGCR has 4 areas of service: a retail donate what you wish ($) store, education/outreach, artist support, and a green gallery. It provides a welcoming and neutral place for artists, educators, and any creative person to connect. They hold a high priority to serve the art community as well as work with children in our community, bringing them ways to create from what they see going in the trash everyday.

Yes, I'm fully aware there's more to be done and that there are many contradictions in my practices but I will keep adding to my small steps taken. And I'm grateful that I'm no longer shushed when the three Rs are brought into conversation professionally. We can make an impact in our corner of the world with every small action we take but we have to love what we do in order for it to make real impact. I'm lucky in that regard.

 Studio Haus also redesigned the logo for Turnip Green Creative Reuse's fundraising event: Reduce. Reuse. Repeat. The arrows were again incorporated into the mark while giving a fresh approach the notorious recycle symbol that every already knows so well.

Studio Haus also redesigned the logo for Turnip Green Creative Reuse's fundraising event: Reduce. Reuse. Repeat. The arrows were again incorporated into the mark while giving a fresh approach the notorious recycle symbol that every already knows so well.

 I don't know that I've ever had a logo reproduced in icing but it sure was delicious!

I don't know that I've ever had a logo reproduced in icing but it sure was delicious!

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The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.
— Albert Einstein

Challenged with Class and Style

There's a practice in Buddhism called "beginner's mind" that has had profound impact on my life and my creative approach over the years. It's basically an attitude of being open to ideas, thoughts, and experiences free from preconceived ideas of what you want, expect, or have experienced and/or seen others experience in the past.

To me, the approach of beginner's mind is really what creativity is all about. It allows for more possibilities and happy accidents to enter your life that some might call fate, listening to God or being open to the universe's call. I've even heard someone call it "living in the question."

Beginner's mind is not always knowing. Sometimes not knowing the outcome of an endeavor can feel like a bit of a roller coaster ride: the more we resist what "is," the harder it may be to accept the outcome and the more uneasy it can feel. Humans like to think they are in control but relinquishing some of that thought pattern can reap some seemingly magical rewards. The more open we are to the experience, the more likely we are able to enjoy the free fall into some uncharted territory.

It's been a gift to practice this openness and one of the reasons I've spent much of my life taking classes and trying on different styles in my work (and in my wardrobe, diet, fitness, relationships, etc. for that matter). Just a mere shift in perspective helps one to go into those unknown and sometimes scary places. It allows for greater possibilities and the occasional rocking of my world and often a joyful giggle.

A poem by Olav H. Hauge that I discovered a few years ago nicely expresses this idea much more succinctly that I have:

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It’s the Dream

It’s the dream we carry
that something wondrous will happen,
that it must happen—
time will open
hearts will open
doors will open
mountains will open
spring will gush forth from the ground—
that the dream itself will open
that one morning we’ll quietly drift
into a harbor we didn’t know was there.

 

Right now I'm rocking my world once again with a two-week stay at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts as I learn new techniques in design and art. I'm sure to be sharing some of the gifts I receive from this experience once I return. You can find more details on my social media channels so please check them out by clicking the icons below. And I always appreciate those who follow my work on these, connect over the phone or drop me a line. I especially welcome a visit over tea whenever possible. It's such a great way to stay in touch. I'd love to hear what's rocking your world and bringing you joy.

It's important to love what we do and I'm grateful that is the case for me. I hope the same is true for you. If not, you might consider a dose of beginner's mind.

Clichés, Truths, & Paving our paths

Looking back over the years, it's been an interesting process learning how to be a better business person while also remaining true to personal ideals. It's an ever-evolving process too. I've been fortunate enough to have developed many long-term professional relationships with clients throughout the history of Studio Haus that have transformed into friendships.

When my business was still new and I was green behind the ears professionally, I hesitated at the thought of becoming friends with clients. But over the years, I've come to realize it's impossible to stop those kinds of deepening connections. When you work side-by-side—sometimes all year long and sometimes for a few select days of the year—the personal side of life has a tendency to somehow seep into the picture whether we want it to or not.

My clients and I have seen each other through good times and bad while maintaining a work ethic that gets the job done. I no longer shy away from the closer connections as I once did. In fact, many of my clients are friends; and several of my friends have become clients; and in one particularly special case, a client has become a friend and then I have become her client.

 Staci (right) was a client of mine for several years when we worked on marketing conferences together, which could be a rather intense process leading up to the event. We quickly became friends. When Staci left that line of work, we regularly remained in touch. She has since started her own thriving business as a virtual assistant. Now I am  her  client. It's definitely not been the traditional professional relationship. In fact, if we ever need to meet face-to-face, her daughter (who is incredibly smart) attends. We are both glad to not only still be working together but also to be showing a new generation that women can carve their own path professionally in a caring way, hopefully building a more inclusive community.

Staci (right) was a client of mine for several years when we worked on marketing conferences together, which could be a rather intense process leading up to the event. We quickly became friends. When Staci left that line of work, we regularly remained in touch. She has since started her own thriving business as a virtual assistant. Now I am her client. It's definitely not been the traditional professional relationship. In fact, if we ever need to meet face-to-face, her daughter (who is incredibly smart) attends. We are both glad to not only still be working together but also to be showing a new generation that women can carve their own path professionally in a caring way, hopefully building a more inclusive community.

There's no doubt that working relationships can be a dance with our personal lives at times but I find that makes the depth of the work we do together—whether personal, professional, or both— richer and more successful. There's an honest and courageous undertone to the process that develops allowing for greater integrity.

While it may be a cliché, the saying really is true: it really is all about relationships. I'm grateful for all of them and I really do love what I do.

An Eventful Day

Today is another spectacularly beautiful spring day in Nashville. It also happens to be May Day, Election Day, and the day before the Big Payback, a statewide event in Tennessee that encourages philanthropy to your favorite causes and non-profits.

 Here's a cheerful offering of little bouquet from my spring garden.

Here's a cheerful offering of little bouquet from my spring garden.

May Day is a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities. It's earliest celebrations (according to Wikipedia) appeared with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. Here's to all that wonderfulness!

And we all know the power of the vote during Election Day. It's a privilege to do so!

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And then there's the Big Payback. It's a really big deal for TN non-profits. A community-wide, 24-hour online giving challenge hosted by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, this charitable event will help area nonprofits raise much-needed dollars and bring awareness to pressing needs in our community. During 2017's 24-hour campaign, $2,598,701 was raised! Wow!

In light of The Big Payback's endeavors, I'm also celebrating one of my favorite local non-profits, Turnip Green Creative Reuse. Founded by my dear and humble friend Kelly Tipler, TGCR has diverted over 165 tons of reusable materials from the landfill! They have done this while providing 4 areas of service: a retail donate what you wish ($) store, education/outreach, artist support, and a green gallery. It provides a welcoming and neutral place for artists, educators, and any creative person to connect.

If you donate during the Big Payback to TGCR which begins at midnight tonight, you are helping to support all the good work that TGCR will continue to do. You will also be on the list of the first to see the brand spanking new logo we are creating for TGCR. Stay tuned for more details and other special events!

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In other news

In case you haven't caught it on my social media channels: I'm super honored, hopeful and excited to have work in the Pattern Observer's collection that's going to SURTEX this May 20-22! If you've been watching my journey the past three plus years, you've possibly noticed some of the pattern exploration among other things that have been developed. If you're a buyer or know someone who is going to SURTEX, send them to booth #2846 and tell them I sent you!

Lastly, you may notice that I've again changed my web site in an effort to find a cleaner way to present the multi-faceted offerings from Studio Haus. I hope you'll spend some time here and share any feedback you'd like to offer. I will also be working on mailing lists so please drop me a line and let me know if you'd like to hear more about projects and happenings. And please share what's going on with you as well! Thanks for staying in touch and letting me share what I love to do!