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Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Seeing: Virgil Abloh -"Figures of Speech" at the Brooklyn Museum

The exhibition of work by Virgil Abloh is overwhelming, prolific, and inspiring. From a curatorial perspective, I thought the show struck the perfect balance to tell a story in its size and the relationship between sketches and design outcomes. Virgil's vision across media and concepts transcended art, language, and fashion, leaving viewers with a lot to think about in terms of deconstructing aesthetics, industrial processes, and words themselves. While I loved seeing his fashion work for Louis Vuitton, Nike, or his brand, Off White, one piece that stood out to me was a ladder carved out of blue foam called "AS IMPOSSIBLE" (2019). The piece represents Abloh's venture into the world of sculpture and makes a statement about his fragile and unlikely rise to success in the fashion industry. The piece had a ghostly presence and worked in conversation with the prototype-stage shoes and other fashion items on display, showing his voice in everything he created.

Seeing: Sparking Joy – Marie Kondo

I realize I am years late to the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo craze, but I found myself immersed in the Netflix series this week and was moved by Marie's approach and process. I don’t have too much trouble getting rid of things (admittedly, books and paperwork might be the most challenging phases for me in the KonMari method), so my interest wasn't so much about needing help tidying up myself. I loved her ability to connect with the home, focus on beauty, love, and joy, and demonstrate respect for people and objects alike. Asking yourself, "does this spark joy?" when interacting with your belongings, is an intuitive approach that speaks the truth and provides instant clarity. Her method has provided a mental and emotional framework I will take with me to trust my instincts and feelings about the objects in my physical environment and even the items I consider purchasing or adding to my life. Her thought process has also inspired me to focus on feeling the joy in each interaction, whether pouring coffee into my favorite mug or folding a set of soft sheets. For me, this is a foundation to infuse mindfulness practice into everyday life.

Reading: A Psychologically Rich Life

This article begins by contributing to the literature on how to measure a "good life." Oishi and Westgate propose that in addition to measuring happiness and meaningfulness, "psychological richness" should be added to the roster of qualities to consider when assessing if a life was "well-lived." I heard this article mentioned in Steven Dubner and Angela Duckworth's podcast No Stupid Questions, where they discussed happiness levels in different cities and the inconclusive relationship between place and life satisfaction (essentially, it's the age-old question of correlation or causation). While this article doesn't address the relationship between where you live and your happiness level, it makes an argument about how we measure those happiness levels in the first place. Beyond serving as a fascinating intellectual topic, a study of this kind helps reflect on one's own life satisfaction and direction.

In the past, most research on "living a good life" has measured hedonic wellbeing—or feelings of life satisfaction and positive affect like comfort, joy, security, and relationships. Or, it has measured eudaimonic wellbeing—the sense of realizing one's full potential through purpose, societal contributions, and principles. Oishi and Westgate propose a third crucial tenant to measuring a good life through a category they call "psychological richness," which they characterize as experiences of variety, interest, and perspective change. This richness is connected to the idea of gaining wisdom and comes with experiences that change one's point of view, expand one's horizons, or alter one's understanding of themselves or the world. They give an example of the benefits of studying abroad, or experiencing challenges and adversity, only to come out the other side stronger.

"Thus, on their deathbed, a person who has led a happy life might say, 'I had fun!' A person who has led a meaningful life might say, 'I made a difference!' And a person who has led a psychologically rich life might say, 'What a journey!'" (Oishi & Westgate 2021, p. 5).

Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Reading: Finance for the People by Paco De Leon

I first learned about this author and her company, The Hell Yeah Group, in a virtual freelancing seminar I took through The Financial Diet. Paco’s panel talk about approaching finances as a freelancer and self-employed individual was so grounded, wise, and relatable—and her book Finance for the People is the same. Paco’s advice is based in thorough industry knowledge as a finance professional. But her balanced perspective is uniquely infused with a commitment to ethics and awareness of social forces like inequality. Through this book, she offers a practical guide to establishing a well-functioning and healthy financial life for regular people.

Finance for the People
Finance for the People, photo by Jenn Pavlick

The book is almost like therapy, prodding you to answer questions about what you make, what you spend, what you feel like you’re worth, why you are too scared to ask for a raise, and why you may or may not have a good relationship with saving, earning, or spending. With a series of questions and journaling assignments at the end of each chapter, Paco guides readers to unpack their hang-ups about money and develop a seamless and solid plan for living the financial life they want while providing an education in navigating credit, investing, and retirement. I found it especially useful as someone who is self-employed and unable to follow a traditional blueprint for personal finance management. Unlike most books in the finance world, this is written in a relatable, socially aware style that features hand-drawn diagrams, striking metaphors, and intensely creative infographics.

“The first observation I invite you to make is the one universal assumption that we are all weird about money and we must first address how and why we are weird. Addressing this weirdness can give us clarity that prescriptive advice cannot because we’re weird in our own unique ways.” (Finance for the People, p. xiv).

Listening: Huberman Lab Sleep Toolkit

There have been phases in my life when I was under a lot of stress, and my ability to stay asleep has always been the first thing to go. Lately, this hasn’t been as much of an issue for me; nonetheless, this episode of Huberman Lab provided valuable insight because we all have those nights where it just doesn’t go as planned. I always love his way of taking insights from neuroscience and translating them into accessible information that an educated layperson can understand.

Huberman Lab
Huberman Lab, photo by Jenn Pavlick

He outlines meticulously detailed steps each of us can take to optimize our sleep—to an extent that surpasses what I know I will be able (or want) to integrate into my daily life. Although I imagine if sleep is a significant issue for you, it will be worth it to try every behavior change he proposes. However, there are certainly some recommended practices I intend to start to make my days more alert and nights more restful. Namely, getting natural daylight into my eyes first thing in the morning by spending a few minutes sitting outside. Not only does this help your eyes and brain adjust to a proper cycle, but it also sounds like a great way to begin the day peacefully.

Reading: MacGuffin The Life of Things No. 8

This issue of MacGuffin Magazine was gifted to me by a friend from London and is so incredible. It’s a magazine all about desks and the lives of objects from the perspective of history, design, and culture. The articles bring alive a rich combination of work, architectural, and industrial design theories, emphasizing how our tools and material lives impact our actions, mindset, and output. The articles cover a variety of perspectives, including a history of different desk types, an analysis of the desk in the US President’s Oval Office, diagrams of seating arrangements in talk shows across the world, and an analysis of famous desks seen in movies and cinema. For me, this was a total nerd-out piece—I loved seeing pictures of the inside of editors’ desk drawers, analyses of utopian visions for desks and workspaces like Enzo Mari’s Proposal for Auto Design, the Eirmann Desk, or Superstuido’s Quaderna desk.

In the analysis of desks in films, they articulate the lives of our everyday objects:

“A clear lesson is taught by Antonioni’s L’Eclisse: only when humans have left the film do film objects complete their revolution. Only then are they freed from their practical or metaphorical tasks and able to simply be themselves.” (MacGuffin Issue 8, p. 43)

MacGuffin Magazine
MacGuffin Magazine, photo by Jenn Pavlick

I love to think of my objects as beings around me, influencing me as much as I do them and imagining that as night falls, they live out their most authentic existence in my absence.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the magazine is available here in the US, but for more materials about the lives of objects, I would recommend reading Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennett or Object Oriented Ontology by Graham Harman, or listening to a different but playful podcast series, Everything is Alive.

Smelling: P.F. Candle Co.

I’m not a big candle person. I don’t understand when you’re supposed to light them or why, and the risk of triggering my allergies never seems worth it. But I made an exception this week for P.F. Candle Co. as I was drawn to the amber bottle and craft paper packaging.

Granted, it took the items being on sale at a local shop to convince me to make a purchase, but I decided to try two versions of the room and linen spray in both Amber & Moss and Sweet Grapefruit and one candle in the Amber & Moss scent, as well. I have been seeing people on social media with absurdly intricate cleaning practices when it comes to making their beds and cleaning their rooms (including ironing or steaming their sheets, is anyone else seeing this?). Although I know I will never take it that far, I figured I could try using a room spray.

P.F. Candle Co.
P.F. Candle Co., photo by Jenn Pavlick

As someone who isn’t a connoisseur in perfumes or scents, it’s hard for me to put words to this, but I’ll try. The Sweet Grapefruit spray is a breath of spring, teen pop air that reminds me of the first body mist I ever bought from The Gap called So Pink,” which was also a grapefruit-based scent. I love it, and I can’t stop spraying it everywhere.

The Amber & Moss scent is more subtle, less feminine, and hints of cologne and fresh air. It smells more sophisticated and less sweet, giving a clean maturity to everything it touches. Playing with scent has given the rooms in my house a new personality and brought pleasure to my tidying routine.

Welcome to my new Studio Diaries series! Each week, I will be sharing a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc. that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Reading: Boom Town

In 2018, I heard an episode of 99% Invisible that discussed the history and story of Oklahoma City. Author Sam Anderson had just released his book Boom Town which chronicled the development of the city and its history, basketball team, weather, and political ideology.

As someone who always has a reading list that is out of control, four years after hearing that podcast, I finally got around to reading this inspiring narrative non-fiction piece. I love any book that tells a sociological or historical story through unexpected topics, and Anderson effortlessly weaves those elements together through interviews, cultural trends, economics, urban studies, and more. The story of Oklahoma City feels like an allegory for many parts of American society today and all its chaotic, dysfunctional, and ineffective governance.

Anderson depicts the forceful nature of the city’s establishment, the assertive intent behind each urban design decision, and the unpredictable and destructive forces of the region’s climate that features repeated and devastating tornados. The history he tells brings together materiality, a need for belonging, and a struggle for power that is at once disturbing and illuminating as it reveals truths we can certainly learn from.

“…years of aggressive tax cuts, even during boom years, had bankrupted the state. Social services, mental health programs, public transportation, and infrastructure were all in various stages of collapse. The public education budget was stripped so bare that teachers started flooding out to neighboring states in search of living wages, forcing Oklahoma to patch the gaps by issuing hundreds of emergency teaching licenses and even cutting some schools back to four days a week. It was a radical experiment in anti-government governance, and it was failing miserably.” (Boom Town, p. 396)

Listening: Ali Abdaal

I’m a huge fan of Ali Abdaal —I listen to every episode of his Deep Dive podcast and often turn to his YouTube channel to find advise about running a business, making life choices, or picking a book that will change my way of thinking. In this case, the title of last week’s podcast episode with Sahil Bloom, “How I grew from 0 to 500k Followers in 2 Years” didn’t sound like it was going to be full of insights relevant to my life or goals, but I was proven wrong.

Ali and Sahil had an inspiring conversation about what is ‘enough’ in life, how to focus your goals, and how to prioritize what is most important to you in every decision you make. I always admire Ali’s ability to speak candidly and share his introspective journey. His episodes are filled with his questions and thoughts around building a meaningful life, rethinking work and productivity, and understanding how to set up a day-to-day that brings him happiness and joy. Despite his immense career success, I always find that Ali brings up relatable questions that span from the existential concerns to day-to-day task-related decision making. Every time I listen to Ali’s content, I find his thought process and recommendations to be thorough and functional.

Seeing: Kelly Wearstler’s Masterclass

Because daily life is full of the pressures, stresses, and fears that are synonymous with contemporary society, sometimes I feel like I need permission to focus on beauty and enjoyment. Kelly Wearstler’s Masterclass on Interior Design granted me that permission. Her eloquent and commanding presence remind viewers to take pleasure in the beauty of a pattern, plant, piece of stone, or swatch of wood.

Now that I work from home, I have been increasingly interested in making my space fit my needs in terms of productivity, comfort, aesthetics, and practicality. Listening to Kelly describe her creative process matching materials, collecting artifacts that bring her joy, and transforming these small moments into architectural experiences was inspiring. Not to mention, I admire the beauty of the multi-sensory compositions and arrangements she puts together to create magical spaces for people to experience. I found the course to be a healthy reminder the space we create for ourselves is the world we live in.

Seeing: Agathe Marty Illustration

I am in love with these illustrations by French artist Agathe Marty who I stumbled across this week. Her prints set the perfect tone for my ideal August—a dreamy sense of a calm life in slow-motion akin to set and filming of Call Me by Your Name. Agathe’s graphic style mixed with her sensitive digital brushwork and restrained color palette are stunning.

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