Gift Wrap + the Holidays

Seems like there are two types of people during the holidays: those who absolutely LIVE for this time of year. They have a billion traditions, endless cheer, all YAY CELEBRATE every day until The! Big! Day! Then, there are the rest, stressed out, sick, spread too thin, pressured maintain a base level of joy to avoid being labeled a grinch and a fun-sucker. Because how could anyone not love the holidays?! When lots of people can and do for all sorts of rational reasons. Not to mention the mass consumerism which can be overpowering.

Normally, I find myself in the latter camp, but I decided way back in the heat of summer that I would make this year different. Because I knew this holiday season would be hard, this is the first holiday without my dad. What I didn’t factor in was the election and its resulting effects also definitely not helping. For me as much as for the world, I need to contribute something meaningful and in service of others. And to acknowledge the strain the holidays can be, without raining on anyone’s parade.

This led me to one of the things I often find irritating about the holidays and that is the wrapping of gifts, both in the making of, and the materials themselves. Gift wrapping is so often a rushed obligation, fodder for the garbage can, and the literal last thing on the to-do list. Ugh. Who has the time and energy at that point?

And the most exasperating is that most commercial gift wrap isn’t recyclable!!! True story! The coating that’s usually on the paper is made from a type of plastic or has glitter or holographic inclusions, or other treatments which look fancy but also are a drain on resources. Compound that on a national scale and…yikes.

So, I designed a line of FSC Certified and fully recyclable gift wrap and will be using it to package items purchased from other local businesses at two holiday events in Chicago. Sitting with people, having a chat and simply being present (puns always intended) with them while we do something nice for their loved ones. Because the very best holiday offering I can think of is a calm and kind moment of pause, one that helps both the shopper and gives to a charitable cause.


And! Here’s the next best part! 25% of sales will be given to Chicago’s Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. I picked this non-profit because they are small and hyper-local, and have been fighting pollution and increased environmental protections for over 20 years. Seems fitting because they’re exactly the type of institution that will be fighting for government assistance in the coming years and supporting them helps offset the other aspects of this project that I can’t give back such as the carbon footprint created in sourcing and shipping the various materials.

If you ARE in Chicago, it would be an honor and a pleasure to see you at either (or both?) events below, say hello, and wrap gifts for you. If you AREN’T in Chicago sign up for my newsletter to be alerted when it goes up for sale online next week.

Winterfest Handmade Pop-Up Market

Saturday, December 10th / 12 – 6 PM
The Shapiro Ballroom
1612 W Chicago Ave

Dose Market

Sunday December 11th / 10-5pm
Morgan MFG
401 N. Morgan St.
Tickets ($10) available here.

Wishing you all the best of everything this season, friends. Whatever that means to you, or whatever you need for yourself, here’s to finding it. Take care of yourselves out there. <3

Shape/Shift at Lost Arts 11/4


This is the first art show I’ve been in since 2014 and the first show I’ve co-curated (along with Rusty Cook, Chad Kouri, and Elisabeth Hass) for multi-disciplinary space, Lost Arts. Elisabeth approached me and Chad to come up with some programming to help spread the word about their new space and this is what we came up with.

We wanted a concept that that addressed Lost Arts as a raw industrial space that’s equal parts community center, classroom, art studio, gallery, and party zone.  And we also wanted to this event to bring together various groups of artists and designers who might not otherwise interact and charge them with using Lost Arts various tools like  the wood working machines, 3D printers, laser cutters, screen printing facilities, sewing machines, jewelry making equipment, and more.

From there we arrived at Shape/Shift as the theme behind the show. It’s about being in flux either creatively or through one’s identity, and the murky middle areas between all of society’s labels. Male or female? Black or White? Gay or straight? Rich or poor? Designer or developer? Artist or businessperson? Introvert or extrovert? I’m exhausted by watching so many people, myself included, contort ourselves to fit these polarizing terms especially because they have different and varying definitions. So this night is about tossing all that aside, and reframing what might have been a boundary in the past as a bridge or portal to a future that’s clearer and more flexible for us all. That’s why I chose the windows as the basis for this piece.


A window is normally a thing we are either inside or outside of. Traditionally they are viewed as a dividing line between worlds. Instead, I want to make them an opportunity, a vision for the future. The piece is also a metaphor for Lost Arts as a whole, as a place people come to cross-pollinate beyond their creative confines.


[Interior/exterior installation shots]

Using cut sheet acrylic, reminiscent of the reverential feel of stained glass, the piece is inspired by the lenses and emotional “barriers” that one experiences in the process of coming out or accepting one’s identity. Invoking shapes used on nautical flags for navigation and communication as a reminder to mind the signs, marvel at the journey, and to brave the waters with good friends.


One visual reference for this came from one of my favorite artists, Barbara Kasten (above). She builds these incredible intensely colored scenes full of MC Escher-like perspectives, angles, and reflections and then photographs them so they become a two-dimensional representation of sculpture. Talk about layers! Dang.


Also, from Le Mary Celeste, a tapas restaurant in Paris that I found with my mom back in June. They had this transparent vinyl on the windows (above) and the way it tinted the light as the sun set over our shoulder was so lovely. There’s something very cat-like about basking in a batch of colored light that I wanted to capture here.

Quite proud of this, because for so long I wasn’t confident in my non-client work or didn’t feel like the art I was producing had much direction, or was competing with my design practice. It took the better part of a year of independent sketching, painting, journaling, and simmering off and on for this to shift (heh, pun intended). And to be off the computer and build something that will live in a three-dimensional space is super gratifying because it’s the opposite of writing email or code. So! That’s what I’ve been working on. You’ll have to either come to the opening or stay tuned for the end result. 😀

–––> Event info & RSVP here <–––

Thanks for stopping by today!! (Go CUBS!)

[Photos by Rusty Cook, moi, and Debbie Labedz]

Stuff That’s Around

margot-harrington-whatsaround-aqua margot-harrington-whatsaround-royalblue margot-harrington-whatsaround-rust margot-harrington-whatsaround-yellow

These photos are from a series I started on my Instagram I’m calling Stuff That’s Around. At first it was about integrating a bunch of disparate things, united by color as a common ground. But what I didn’t expect was that it’s having the effect of bridging disparate parts of myself too. How trying to find parallels in items and art that don’t naturally co-exist means doing the same in life. I mean, pawing around the forgotten narrows of one’s space is bound to unearth some rather dusty skeletons if you know what I mean (oh and I think you do).

Like how the aqua dipped knot by artist Tanya Aguiñiga has dutifully kept watch in my apartment home office + studio (or the Offio as I like to call it) for some years now. Or how the circles I paint are a physical meditation, a mesmerizing soothing experience that brings me a specific sort of quiet I relish. The blue bowl in the collection of rejected items below is similarly powerful. Beautiful and rather pointy-edged, I made it in the weeks preceding my dad’s death earlier this year. It’s was a collaboration, actually, with a team of potters who were among my dad’s closest friends. Kind, creative, generous people who have been close and important to my whole family since I was a kid. The bowl was due for the recycling bin, having gone wonky and misshapen on the wheel. Even the process of collecting the items brings memories like these to the surface regardless of whether or not they make the final composition.


Partially a way to help me process and channel the grief over losing my dad, sure, but I also didn’t want that to be the whole influence. So there’s plenty of play packed in there too. The silliness of a deflated floppy balloon, paint piped on paper with cake decorating tips, the meandering curves of string adding texture and motion, quite literally tying it together. Origami inspired folds and zingy little doodles. It’s been so gratifying making it all go.

And the color combos are endless, I can’t wait to see what else rises to the surface or who’s work I stumble upon or how this evolves. Or what ripple effect this creates for my design work. The creative process can often be so fraught with murkiness or anxiety that to be able to find a system for myself through that is freeing and gives me a confidence in my work that I didn’t have before. I feel so much gratitude for that, and that I have colors, textures, objects, and other artists’ work along for the ride.

I’ll be posting these once a week or so on my feed here if you’d like to follow along.


On Business + Ethics, part 1


Pretty much every business resource I’ve come across pretty much always mentions the famed Seth Godin at some point or another. For good reason, he knows what’s up and delivers the message clearly, simply, and without guise. I saw his post Enough Ethics? on twitter last week, and clicked on it because the title confused me. I interpreted it as suggesting that there are TOO many ethics in business. Wait what?! Turns out, it was the opposite, phew. It’s really about the importance of being ethical rather than acting exclusively in service of what makes most financial sense. That’s definitely something I can get behind. Seth doesn’t really get into how, though, or even that “ethics” are a term rife with interpretation. Everyone’s personal code is going to vary so it’s a real slippery topic. Further complicating is how few businesses disclose their ethical practices, or display different ones behind closed doors and non-disclosure agreements. That is something I do not want to be associated with, so I’m writing this in the interest of fostering more transparency. This’ll be a series. Consider this part one. 😀

  1. 1 / Compensation
  2. Work will be accepted in exchange only for the most competitive wages possible, in equal trade of goods or services, or for class credit. No unpaid labor, internships or apprenticeships, and no nickel-and-diming people to drive down their rates, both of which contribute to the wage gap. Pay people what they ask for, by the due date requested. Some salary negotiation is acceptable at large businesses or places employing more than 10 or 15 people, but aggressive negotiation, or doing so with small businesses is a useless power play. No one needs that.

2 / Kaizen
Japanese concept that strives to make constant small improvements in the workplace and the self. As a work process, it is lean and geared for timely delivery without undue steps or stress on workers. In other words no busy work, overcomplicating, or 5-alarm deadlines.

3 / Privilege
Being aware of cultural appropriation. Work inspired by other cultures is possible if done in one’s own unique manner, in a respectful, educated way, with credit due to the original style or concept (see illustration above). Educating myself every day about how to be a better human. Working with a mix of non-profits and cultural organizations to actively engage with the world’s causes even in a behind-the-scenes way. Not crediting imagery or ripping off other’s work. Making sure there is a fair representation of people in the work product too, because representation matters. Treating my clients and staff with the same level of esteem, because our roles may be reversed some day. Being accessible to feedback so no one is afraid to give me the real talk. And then quick with a meaningful apology if I’m in the wrong and rapidly correcting course. There’s endless ways to check one’s privilege, so being on the look out constantly for new ways to do what I can to make sure people are being heard, seen, and respected in any context.


4 / Wabi Sabi
Because we’re human, having some flexibility and considering all accidental developments. It’s the pursuit of honest work while celebrating anti-perfectionism. Sometimes these chance occurrences can really breathe life into a piece, or alter the direction entirely. It can be hard to accept at times, so it requires open expectations. It also creates a culture where no one is shamed for their mistakes.


I’ve got a handful more of these ideals, many of which come from Japanese culture, but I’m dying to hear what you have to say on this subject too. Comment on your ethical requirements below, or send @pitchdesign on twitter. Better experiences await us all with more discussion on these things, so don’t hesitate to share. You can also email me directly if you prefer to share in a less public environment.

{Image credits: my own. Photo of Seth from here.}

Week of 8/1/16

Bits and bobs for you this week.

+ Even though Massachusetts has just made it illegal to ask about your previous salary, I still think employers will try to find creative ways to bring up the topic. Here are some excellent answers when someone asks for your salary requirements.

Margot Harrington - Pitch Design Union

+ This is the first ever paid editorial illustration I’ve had published! It was so fun and I hope to do more. Thank you, Intercom! Check the post and see it large and in charge. Intercom is hiring in Chicago if anyone is looking for a new jorb.

endiveicecream peamandms

+ Low Commitment Projects are my kind of projects. They make me laugh every time. I’ve posted about them before but this year sees them sharing new projects every week. Like this series of mispackaged foods, too clever.


+ I love this #stylechallenge on Instagram where illustrators are remaking themselves in popular cartoon styles, but showing way more types of people. Shows how deeply representation matters and how little there is in pop culture. Started by 17-year-old artist Autumn Massaquoi because she “loves that with cartoons there are no limits to what you can create.” Wise words indeed. Click the images above to view each artist, and see more artists here and here.