mahabis ambassador // lisa congdon, artist
Having recently moved from California to Oregon, artist Lisa Congdon purchased some mahabis to help with the move to the slightly cooler environment of Portland. Now working from home in her new apartment, we spoke to Lisa in between her recent book deadlines to ask her a little more about how she spends her downtime.
You’ve said before that whilst you’ve always been a creative person, you only transitioned into making art when you were in your 30s. How has your life changed since you made that decision?
For one thing, I am much happier! Not only do I love making art every day, but I also love being my own boss. It's hard work, but I love the challenge so much. I am 47 now, but I didn't actually become a full time working artist until I was 39 years old, so I have a lot of gratitude for how I get to spend my life now compared to when I was younger and worked in an office all day. I remember sometimes I felt like an automaton going to work everyday and doing the same things. I definitely don't feel that way anymore.
photos: our favourite congdon picks, featuring the 'birch forest' journal cover, charcoal and gold triangle wallpaper for hyge and west, and commission piece 'from the light'
What does a typical day involve for you now?
First things first, I drink coffee and eat a little something, and then I go swimming (I swim on a team) or I go for a bike ride or a run. After I'm back home, I get to work around 8:30 a.m. I keep a blog, and so there is usually some writing and posting of images in the morning, checking email, following up with clients, checking in on my workflow and what I need to accomplish that day. Then I get to work on whatever jobs I have on my plate. I usually work on 5-8 projects at a time, so every day is a little different. Right now I am working on four books and a couple of illustration jobs. I'm also writing two book proposals and a 2016 calendar. Throughout the day, I do other things too, like posting on social media, taking breaks to eat, walking my dog, running errands, the usual kind of stuff! My wife Clay works with me as my operations and marketing manager, so every day we are constantly checking in on what's come in over email and what's due to clients. I am so busy, and I have no idea what I'd do without her. At 6 pm we usually break and cook a nice dinner then relax for the rest of the evening.
Talk to us about your latest book, and explain the inspiration behind it:
I have one book that comes out in August, and it's called Fortune Favors the Brave. It's a book of hand lettered quotations around the theme of bravery. It's a sequel to my first book of hand lettered quotes called Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, which came out in 2014. I love quotations and I love hand lettering, so these books are a perfect marriage for me! I am working on another book that comes out in 2016 called On Swimming: A Tribute to Life in the Water, which is all about one of my greatest passions -- swimming! It's a bit of swimming history, a bit of swimming culture, facts, science, quotations, profiles of swimmers, all illustrated by me. I'm also working on three more coloring books as well (I have three on the market already). Suffice it to say, I am into making books!
photo: lisa, and her book of hand lettered quotations, 'fortune favors the brave'
Name one city you’d never tire of returning to, and tell us why:
Oh gosh, I love so many cities! But my absolute favorite is Paris. I have been there more than any other European city, and I guess that's no accident. I also went there on my honeymoon, which was a really magical experience, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I love that no matter where you wander in the city of Paris, you will always stumble on something beautiful or interesting or unexpected. You can walk and walk and walk and always see beautiful shops and restaurants and architecture and diverse peoples. There is never a dull moment in Paris for me, ever! The only stressful part of being in Paris for me is that I don't speak French, and so sometimes I struggle with communication. But other than that, I do think I could even live there happily!
Are you ever stuck for ideas? If so, how do you renew your creativity?
I sometimes get stuck, of course. All artists do, sometimes, in their own ways. I think it's important to take breaks and not try to force ideas or force the creative process. So mostly I just walk away and do something else for awhile. I love to look at books, take walks through my city, go to lovely shops, watch an old movie. These are some of the ways I renew.
Tell us a bit about your mahabis, and how you wear them:
I have the dark grey mahabis with the "red" sole, which is actually sort of pink! I love pink, so that's why I ordered them. I live in a new house which I just bought with my wife and we have decided to keep our shoes off upstairs, where everything, including the floor, is some shade of white (this is to prevent tracking in dirt). So mostly I wear my mahabis with the soles off as my upstairs house shoe. And if I go outside in them, I put the soles on. I think at some point I want to order a different color sole so I have some fun color options!
photos: lisa's mahabis illustration (pencil and gouache on paper), and her #mahabisselfie
How important is downtime to you?
Really important! Though I still don't get quite enough of it. I work very hard, and very long hours. But for me down time is essential, even if I can only have 30 minutes or an hour every couple of days. I also like to take long stretches of time where I go on a residency for a few weeks and just make art at a relaxed pace or go on a long vacation. In October Clay and I are traveling for three weeks to Spain and Portugal. This will be a kind of down time for me, and also inspiration gathering.
How would you describe your ideal downtime? The ultimate way you’d choose to unwind after a busy day..
My ideal downtime is by a swimming pool with a book on a warm (but not overly hot) day or evening. Hands down, this is my happy place.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
Reading and writing.
photo: lisa in the studio
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