With the end of the semester having rolled on by, the stress of finals poses many questions correlating with the whys. Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I studying what I’m studying, and what benefit will I gain from this experience? And then I think of paths in life, reminding myself that not everyone has the cookie cutter way of going about what we do to make us who we are. The theme of these posts this past semester have been based on what around me inspires me to thrive. The people and the places that I have come across in my time here in Richmond are perfect examples of aspiration and I cannot think of a better person to end this theme on than that of Lauren Healy.
Lauren is someone that prior to actual physical contact I had read about on blogs, drooled over her online vintage store via Need Supply and followed in her trend setting excerpt in Richmond’s Style Weekly portion dubbed Belle Magazine. As if by pure chance, I was granted the privilege of working with her at Six Burner Restaurant, where she was a manager, and I her colleague. With the closeness of the work environment, I learned so much of what she has accomplished and that a passion for fashion, something we both share, is something she still incorporates into her daily life. Within myself, I was at a constant stress of what to do with my scholastic training, what was I going to be “when I grow up”. Lauren, has taught me that I am fully capable of doing both. I can be this person, this student, but I can also pursue different aspects of what make me happy as a career. Lauren, with a cool head, now manages at Stella’s Restaurant as well as Fashion Editing for Belle. She has her cake and eats it too.
Having been a graduate of VCU’s Fashion Merchandising Program, Lauren took that degree and moved it on up to New York where she worked under Anna Sui. Having thrived in jungle of the fashion world that is New York, Lauren still yearned for the pace that Richmond provides. After having made the decision to move back down, she managed to govern the trends of Richmond’s thrift wear (which is her greatest fascination) and gracefully combine it with more recent apparel. Bringing the old with the new classically and presenting it to the viewers of the magazine in a wearable way. Recently, Lauren has asked that I participate in the hunting and gathering of these goods in preparation for the photo shoots as her assistant and I feel so privileged to sponge up any knowledge I can. Lauren’s work sets a precedent for what is current, in both new and old apparel providing a guide, so to speak, for the women of Richmond.
Lauren also sells children’s vintage clothing on her Etsy site. Keeping even the little ones stylish! Check out her site here to keep those kiddies looking fresh!
On a hot summer day in August of 2011, I had somehow convinced a friend of mine to help me haul all of my belongings into a borrowed car and lug them across town to my newest residence. It is of strange coincidence that I happened to have a car this day, as this was the day his friend, Isabela, was to be arriving from Brazil to attend a VCU graduate program for costume design and to assist in teaching the undergraduate theatre department. I was ease dropping when I heard that we were in the middle of something and that her best bet to get to the area was to take a taxi. I insisted on scooping her up to save her the balance and little to my knowledge was to spawn the beginning of a wonderful friendship as well as an individual I have come to adore and admire. Since I have met Bela, I am constantly amazed with her motivation, adoration and passion for her appetite for fashion, the arts and her culture.
Bela’s love for fashion is not simply fashion; it is the culture, the history and the design for what we wear to express ourselves on a daily basis. How things breathe and move, the drama of clothing. It’s funny to interview friends for these sorts of things, because as a friend, especially new ones, these are the sorts of details that go unknown. But now that I know, it makes perfect sense. I asked the basics, the hows who’s and what’s that caused this drive in her. It began with drawing as a child, that to create something on paper was almost instinctual for her as it was to read and write. With the start of high school, she found herself immersed in the appeal of fashion in her drawing, taking into account other cultures fashion sense. She then took these drawings to her seamstress, making them into wearable art. Hence, a light bulb!
Before attending VCU, Bela was attending the University of Sao Paulo studying the logistics of fashion and textiles, a sort of fashion engineering so to speak. She expressed that during this time, she had had an ache to leave the scene, as she was unable to see what was to be ahead of her in all of this. There was a lack of her initial interests, as most of what she was learning were the gen-eds of the program, but even so, did not seem to give leeway for a career in something that wasn’t simply fashion. In 2009, she came here as an exchange student to be a part of the fashion merchandising program. During this time, she was also a volunteer at the historic Valentine Museum in downtown Richmond, where she was responsible for the preservation and overall cleanliness of the museum’s vintage clothing archive. This opportunity was the spawn of another one of Bela’s loves for fashion; the history and knowledge of what we wear and how we wear it. She fell hard for the archiving world, as it was a link to all her passions: drawing, fashion and historiography of what we wear. Upon the completion of her year here at VCU, it was already decided that she would be attending as a graduate student for the costume and theatre department come the end of her undergraduate studies.
Since Bela’s return to the states, she has been the one of the curators of development for costumes for several VCU plays, including The Elephant Man, which was a huge success. She is currently working on several school projects as well as costume design for the Richmond Symphony. She is one of the hardest workers I have ever met, and is so in love with what she does that she makes it look like a swift breeze. What inspires me about Isabela Tavares is that she has the ability to turn her dreams, in all aspects, into realities. She sees that anything is within your reach if you want it badly enough, if you’re willing to work hard enough for it. Part of life these days and getting work seems in part to be about who you know, but for Bela, she has worked to the top and let her passion do the steering. She has a natural ease to her that is very calming; her certainty expresses a sort of confidence that I deeply admire. Sadly, she is returning to Sao Paulo for the summer, but I look forward to picking her up from the airport once again upon her return to her second home.
Yesterday, April 1st, on a gorgeous breezy night in Richmond, VA, myself along with two close friends attended the third Feast RVA event at Studio Two Three. We inquired amongst ourselves as to what to expect, and myself being the one to present the event as something we should become involved with, had no answers myself other than that there would be food and lots of wine along with ideas of community advancement. This was good enough to get us out there for now. The studio space entrance has garage like doors that had people fluttering in and out (very well dressed might I add) and a welcoming atmosphere provided by those who were running the event. Everything surface level was very well coordinated, beautifully decorated and well orchestrated with recycled brown bag ballot slips and an ornate green theme decorative scheme.
Being that Richmond is a little small, there were most certainly some familiar faces that I have come across during my time in this city. With that said, it was refreshing to see these people outside of work/school/party/bar related scenes and partaking in an event that was to benefit the community and beautifying the area that we now call home.
The event started with greetings from the curators of the project, Josh and John, along with thanks and praise to those who had contributed the food (provided by Nile Ethiopian Restaurant), space and decoration, all which had been donated. There was no common theme amongst the presenters as to what they were aiming for, but all the ideas revolved around a beautification of some sort be it through people, food or architecture. Ultimately, the idea of a community garden in an area that is known as a “food desert” in the South Side of Richmond attuned to the interest of the crowd and was awarded a generous sum collected from those who had purchased tickets to the event.
The theme of the next event’s ideas (which will happen within the next two months) were clarified as having a “green idea”, hoping to generate more ideas revolved around gardening and safe food awareness. I highly encourage anyone who calls this city home to bookmark this event in your calendar as it is more than just good food and drinks, but good company, wonderful ideas and a much needed progression for the city of Richmond.
Mattie Hinkley was the winner of the last event with her project entitled Richmond Defensive Cycling Movement! Yay Mattie!
A couple of days ago, I was sitting outside of the library minding my own business when an old friend of mine plopped down next to me on the brick wall. Josh Epperson pulls out this folder as he’s talking ( I haven’t even begun to pay attention to him yet) when with all these wonderful pie charts and colors, basically a sort of “how people work” based on their emotions. He had my attention when I saw the colors. Where I’m going with this is to express that Josh is a motivated, bright individual who has recently, with a friend, developed a wonderful movement in our community that brings people together for food, networking and creative advancements that benefit the Richmond people.
When Josh and I happened upon each other on the wall, we had the basic hello’s, how are you, what’s going on, what’s that colorful packet you have in your hand, etc. I had began to discuss with him the blog that I’m working on for a class that addresses what motivates and inspires me, and mentioned my post on TED talks and Slow foods, and how it really hit me. How it really wanted to make me start to change the way I eat and move myself around the city. He, in tune to my recent interest, tells me about what he’s been up to which could not make me feel more certain that the stars had aligned. He expresses his angst to move, or make moves rather, how near and dear this city is to him and how to make it better. I had heard through the grapevine of this new pop up meeting called Feast, but had had no idea that this was his baby.
Feast RVA is a satellite idea that spawned in Brooklyn, NY as a way for individuals who wanted to make improvements in the community to come together to discuss how to actually make things happen. No more just talking, rather doing. In a nut shell, a meal is catered by a local restaurant and during the meal ideas with a common theme are introduced to the group that adhere to a creative advancement to the communities well being. After all ideas are introduced, members of the dinner are then asked for vote for the one the feel is best and all proceeds of the dinner go to benefit the cause. HOW COOL!!
I have decided to make this a two part piece because I have just purchased my ticket for a dinner for tomorrow night and would like to contribute more of a view of what was said/produced/accomplished. I believe that this what is now a small seed will grow into something substantial and really get more involved in how we view where we live and to give everyone an opportunity to speak for themselves as to what they feel they can improve upon in a place that we call home. It’s everyone’s big backyard.
There are those who you come upon through this process of growth and development that truly have an impact on the way you are you, how you think and move through life. These are the people who when you ask for a response, answer with the purest of genuine thought in a way that makes you only want to do better. These people continue to make your jaw drop as you find out more and more about them, the kinds of people who live their own movies not just watch them. Lauren Bliss DeSimone does nothing but continue to wow me with all that she has done and will continue to do. Lauren is one of the busiest, creative and motivating bodies I have yet to come upon and can’t wait to see what she will come up with next. This is my roommate, my friend and I am so happy to have met her.
When I introduced this idea to the class of posting weekly on motivational people, both in real life and those that I can more easily accessible via google search and magazine articles I had general ideas for both categories. I had started with those I can look at from a distance and admire, stalking articles and images that I had previously found to attract my attention. Today, I sat down with Lauren (rather I sat while she painted our terracotta pots bright red), her knowing that I was going to “interview” her, which made us both feel a little silly as as roommates, in general you should know some of the details of their lives already. I am left in more awe than before and I don’t think I have the space to put everything down in one post.
Lauren graduated from VCU’s Sculpture department in in 2008 with a repertoire that exceeds the expectation of the major due to her own creative itch for enhancing community enrichment. When talking to her, I was trying to get a better grip on how to put her drive into a sort of memo. There was a discussion of the idea that she sees art has having no language and that it can transcend through people and communities. Something she feels very strongly about is that people and places can be sculpted into something beautiful for the benefit of themselves.
In her final year at VCU she and another student created a project they titled the Cross Pollination in which they organized a series of dinner lectures for the community at the William Byrd House. This led to an interconnection with the GRIP program which provides services to the Greater Richmond community as well as the Boys and Girls club to collaborate on a wonderful idea: a bus tour for the children in the South Wood community which allowed them to see parts of the city where they had been born and raised they had never seen. The children were picked up by Lauren and co. and driven around various Richmond staples including a tour of the downtown area, a Byrd Theatre ghost story session and some time to get down and boogie on the Jefferson dance floor. Thinking that this part of the project was part of a final grade I stated “so you got an A, right?”, to which she replied she had already completed her degree and said “in my mind, I got an A”. Lauren had finished school and took it upon herself to continue her involvement in community organization.
I could go on. Lauren has participated in two cross country road trips. One which was for an association called Bike and Build which was a non-profit organization that raised money and awareness for affordable housing as well as building those houses along the way. She has worked her way up from an aquatics director of the downtown YMCA to being the membership director and with this position she got a local bike association called Books on Wheels to donate books for the children at YMCA. While still active in her studies, she and a partner brought back the idea of seed-bombing, which was popular in the 70’s; the process of throwing packs of seeds into peoples yards and around the community for visual aesthetic, a sort of peaceful graffiti. She was part of a training group that assisted those who wanted to train to run this years Richmond half marathon in which she was responsible for every runs route. Lauren DeSimone loves to pack her own lunches and I am more than happy to wash her tupperware for her.
Lauren (far left) with her half marathon training group.
About a month ago, a friend of mine, Isabel Eljiaek, who is active in the local and pure organic food market industry asked if I wanted to accompany her to a TEDtalk viewing party at Gallery 5 , the theme being the idea of Slow Foods. I am the type of consumer that does not read labels, buys bulk meats to stock in my freezer and basically eat whatever I can get my hands on when I’m in dire need, so i felt it in my best interest to enhance my knowledge. I have been to these sorts of viewings before and listened to peoples testimonies about family farming and the overall impact of keeping it local and how it effects the rest of the community, but it usually goes in one ear and out the other. This particular rainy saturday afternoon stuck with me, and if you can watch all the videos I think it change your perspective as well.
The “talks” consisted of everything from the importance of certain types of soils and organic seedlings, the science of food and how it effects us, food ignorance and of course the actually process of how we get most of our meat based products. The latter topic is usually the one that inspires most (animals in tiny cages tends to make those with a beating heart upset) but sadly does not seem to carry on until the next trip to the grocery store. Usually, when one goes to these sorts of things, you can’t help but think how unrealistic these ideas are. Buying organic is expensive, most of us or on a pretty low food budget and accessibility of what we want when we want it is an idea that has become very popular in our American culture. However, having a knowledgable source sitting right next to me to answer these questions flipped my view around. In a nut shell, the key to getting down and dirty with your food is to know what is safe and what isn’t and who’s hands your food is being passed through.
Isabel has been working hard down in Church Hill (Richmond) at Tricycle Gardens as an intern for the past year, and her knowledge of food justice is outstanding. She showed me a short list of basic foods and which ones are actually safe to buy non-organic and which ones are not, and this was just to get started with the “how to” process. She is also in the works of organizing a workshop on cheaply done organic, healthy and easy meals and how these first steps are important for everyone to contribute so as to get it going with local farming. If everyone pitched in, slowly but surely, the changes would more apparent and real organic eating would not be an issue.
I know I stated my theme as being inspirational people not food, but food is vital and as consumers, we are all just trying to get by. The people that contributed to the TEDtalk are inspiring, but to specify the ones that actually made an impact on the topic of Slow Foods would be a list miles long. So I credit this inspirational post to my friend, Isabel, for my enlightenment and her overall passion for food justice, one of her many inspiring attributes (as well as just being all around wonderful).
(A must have at the G-Store, also… there’s an app for it!)
Check out this site for most of the videos premiered during the Gallery 5 viewing party
The vibrant work accomplished by Frida Kahlo and the inspiration for her subject is what I find inspiring. A majority of her paintings were of her own visage and reflection of personal trauma. Her work is considered of a “folk” style or Naive, as it is doesn’t so much focus on the perfections of the human form, but rather an attention to style and symbolism. Throughout her life, Frida was diagnosed with several debilitating diseases that cause her a bed ridden lifestyle for many months along with a bus accident that left her with chronic pain. Much of her work reflects this lifestyle, as well as a tumultuous marriage with Diego Rivera and the pain that it caused both physically and mentally, as the accident left her unable to bear children. Despite all barriers, Frida prevailed as a female icon in the art world as well as a prominent leader of the Communist party.
The thing I find the most intriguing about the life, likes and works of Friday Kahlo was her movement. Not just the movement towards her specific style of painting, but even though she was thought to be debilitated for a majority of her life, she still managed to accomplish a great deal of emotionally political work, making disturbing images of pain and suffering into something beautiful, in a way in which you could associate with how she was feeling. As a child, I came upon an address book that my mother had with a collection of Frida’s work, and I can remember not being able to take my eyes off of the detail. The colors and delicate piercing of thorns into the skin was so eery. It, for me at least, represented an introduction to emotionally abstract works of art as well as an understanding for human suffer and conquer.