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.

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+ 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.

Word-Free Pomodoro Playlist


Playlist time again! This is for you folk who can’t listen to anything with words when you work. This list is part contemporary classical, part electro, with a little bit of French flair. But not too chill because otherwise, it’s sleepy times. Okay, there is one song with words, but hopefully less you speak French it’s pas de problème. 

/ What’s Pomodoro? Get the backstory here /

Black Creatives Giving Me Life

Because Chicago is generally crazy segregated (still) (it’s complicated), it’s a priority for me to seek out and support the work of marginalized groups and people of  color to help offset the ingrained politics of our city. And because there is so much pain and heartbreak in the world right now (France again too, omg, I’m so sorry for you) let’s get some beauty and joy in our brains and eyeballs right now.

Janice Bond
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Janice is an artist, curator, and lecturer. These are some images from her Beyond the Binary series which celebrates the all the gray areas of gender, sexuality, race, and body type. You can see her latest newsletter & subscribe here. Janice invited me to her quarterly meet up of lady artists, designers, and women-run businesses last week at Soho House. This event fell on the same day as the murder of Philando Castile, and while the difficult events of the week went unspoken, this experience was clearly a balm for all of us. Thank you Janice, for providing community and solidarity on this tough day.

Tkumah Sadeek

Singer Tkumah is booking shows in Chicago and everywhere. Her voice is sweet and smooth, it’s impossible to be blue when listening to her. Don’t sleep on this one!

Kenesha Sneed

Designer, Illustrator, and Ceramics! Multi-talents in this one, there’s no end to what Kenesha can do. Check this blurb on her in the New York Times.


James & Cher got to be on Chicago’s independent radio station, Vocalo, this week talking about this project and it made me real happy. Postloudness is a podcast collective showcasing queer, female, and voices of color. Covering tech, pop culture, personal finance, and self-care, there’s something for everyone here.

Deun Ivory Photography

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New transplant to Chicago from Houston, Deun is looking for portrait, fashion, and wedding gigs. Hire her! Her instagram is so good I have no words.

Lauren Ash

It’s because of Lauren that I met Deun, but Lauren’s work is equally important. Yoga, meditation, wellness, and lifestyle goals right here. Listen to her podcast, Black Girl in Om, or book her for a workshop or private consulting sesh to get your mind and body on track.

Tomorrow Looks Bright

Showcasing black female creatives the world over, get some super talents in your inbox on the weekly. Like this recent edition all about black lady DJs. Edited by black graphic designer Kristy Tillman, you’re missing out if you don’t sign up!

Clearly, this is only a handful. There amount of amazing people to know and share is endless. If you know or follow anyone key, put ’em in the comments and I’ll update the post or do another one! Do it for this moment in our history right now, if nothing else.

Take care out there everyone. I’m sending you along with my best vibes today. <3

6 Days of Paris Art & Culture

In one of those rare opportunities, after much adance planning, last week I went to Paris with my mom. We went to celebrate her retirement from teaching, and because my mom is an Emily Dickinson fan, she wanted to attend the International Emily Dickinson Society’s annual conference. Which just so happened to be at Paris’ Cite Universitaire this year. Other than going as a support and guide for my mom, I took it as a chance for business and cultural research, continuing education for myself and work. Here are some of the best visual bits from the trip.

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Le Papier Tigre
A shop run by graphic designers, this place is must-visit for any designer or stationery nut, and it exceeded all my expectations. Not just fun notebooks and writing utensils, but many items incorporated origami and interesting folds, quite literally pushing the envelope on correspondence.

Beyond the paper products, there were soaps, candles, perfumes (so many fragrance options in Paris!) and other self-care products all designed with the same style so everything went well together. I found the prices of everything very reasonable too. Not sure if it was on account of Brexit, which occurred while we were there, but the Euro and the dollar were nearly the same. Lucky in the short-term!!

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Au Petit Bonheur La Chance
Vintage French school and office supplies! My love for office supplies is pretty well documented, so this was a no-brainer. Interesting postage and rubber stamps, notebooks, vintage rolling papers, stickers, notions, and plenty of other oddities to build out my collection and inspire typography layouts. It’s a tiny shop, but worth the visit as the street it’s on is full of other great boutiques and interesting alleyways for further daydreaming.

Paul Klee at le Centre Pompidou. I’d already visited most of the major Paris museums years ago, but this was my first visit here. It didn’t disappoint and wasn’t even terribly busy (maybe everyone was elsewhere watching the France vs the Netherlands Eurocup match). We came for the Paul Klee show and enjoyed the huge Beat Generation show as a bonus.

Familiar, but not super in-depth on Klee’s work, the biggest take away I got was the stylistic overlap in his works to cubism, surrealism, abstract expressionism. Interestingly, his body of work feels cohesive despite covering these disparate movements that don’t always jive visually. My personal favorites are his colorful geometric pieces like these.


If you follow me on Instagram, you can tell exactly why I like this kind of work from the painting and personal work I share there.

The Beat Generation show was about exploring this cultural movement in the USA post-WWII MacCarthy era, and less about a particular medium or type of work. It was funny to experience my own country through the lens of French curators, about a time before I was born. How familiar it felt, with works referencing Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, Allen Ginsburg, names I’ve heard most of my life but removed by time and geography. I liked drawing parallels between this movement and later anti-establishment ones like sexual revolution of the 60s, or punk in the 80s, and grunge in the 90s.

Paris is very much a museum city, it takes a bit more digging or a local insider to recommend small galleries or non-traditional spaces for art. Worth the effort, though many places were closed on account of Paris Fashion Week, and we experienced many places being closed on either Mondays or Tuesdays but this was not reliably or clearly marked. Many of the guidebooks and even some of the websites had wrong information here, the best answer is simply to call them on the phone to check their hours.


I did find 104 Centquartre, which was walkable from the Airbnb. A MASSIVE space that used to house the city’s undertaking services, it’s now full of open space and art. There was a contemporary photography exhibition up, as well as a farmer’s market. To my delight, there was also a collection of hipster swing dancers grooving throughout the space, very much dressed the part. Small children were as enthralled as I was, dancing along happy to be part of the action. Super cute!

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Beyond the obvious museums and less accessible galleries, Paris is full of graffiti and street art, way more than Chicago has. Plenty to see without even trying. Space Invader pieces were everywhere, and I was moved to see the Black Lives Matter movement has found traction in Paris too. Many of the other artists I can’t name,  if you know, please share in the comments!

Thank you to Pret-a-Voyager, Ludmilla Barrand from the Paris School of Arts & Culture, Zack Gilbert, our Airbnb host Aurélie, one of my besties Rachel, and South Social and Home for recommendations, French help, and making us feel welcomed!

Freelancing + The Wage Gap in New York Magazine

Here’s something fun! I’m quoted in this enlightening article on how the wage gap actually widens with self-employment. For sure a must-read for anyone considering starting a business. Big huge thank yous to my boo, journalist Ann Friedman, for the interview! Here is the extended version of our interview:

Ann Friedman: how long have you been self-employed?
Eight years. EIGHT! My business is a third grader.

AF: Before you went freelance, did you aspire to work for yourself?
Only in a fantastical pipe-dreamy kind of way. It seemed so fun! Like an episode of that show about a freelance NYC cartoonist, Caroline in the City. (Oh, soooo 90s!)

AF: What made you take the leap into self-employment?
It was not my choice initially. I was laid off, a by-product of the 2008 housing crash. The economy troubles trickled down to the mid-size design studio I was working and during this time they tried to grow too quickly and had to let a sizable portion of the staff go one day. There were no hints the company was in trouble. This was going on city-wide so I knew it would be hard to find another FT position right away, so that’s how I decided to go for the pipe-dream. At this point, I had about 1.5 month’s rent and a severance package of one month’s pay to my name, plus a pile of student loans, some pressing dental needs, and had made no other preparations in starting a business.

AF: What were your biggest complaints or issues with working a staff job? Have those problems gone away now that you’re self-employed?
The first place I worked in Chicago was run under an iron-fist level of management. They read our email and heavily monitored internet use as well as our time. The pay was miserly and there were some stunningly bad relationship dynamics that they tried to patch up by making everyone do personality tests and then leaked the answers people gave, yielding much gossip. That, and the issues related to my autonomy are much improved now, though I still work all the dang time.

The only other issues I’ve run into have stemmed from being the only female in a space, or on a team/project. Like the time, one of my guy workmates photoshopped my face onto the body of a swimsuit model and emailed it to the whole company. You know, cause, jokes are funny. </sarcasm> Gender issues still come up from time to time, because we live in a world where sexism still exists.

At this point, I don’t think I would “fit” in very many offices anymore. I’ve seen and heard too much bullshit through friends or experienced it personally to have much faith in that system. It would have to be someplace with an unusually flexible, non-traditional, non-hierarchical set-up with lots of women and gender non-conforming humans, people of color, queer folks, parents, and all ages of people who are empowered to make decisions about all aspects of the place. Such places do exist, but they are few and far between. I hope for more change here, for everyone’s benefit.

AF: Are there any struggles related to being self-employed that you feel have to do with your gender?
Anyone who isn’t a white cis guy tends to be more interested in my work, but generally, there is a struggle to be taken seriously. People won’t ask me about work and yet they will routinely ask my partner about his business. Cool, but it would be even cooler if people switched that habit up a bit. I’ve heard lots of women convey this. I’ve been also brushed off by lawyers or other business-adjacent professionals I’ve tried to hire. They’re all, “aren’t you cute with your little business”. Excuse moi, you don’t know what kind of money I might have for you. Same goes for negotiating fees. My women clients very rarely push back about my fees, but it happens with more frequency if I’m contacted by a male-driven business.

AF: Do you identify as an entrepreneur?
I don’t typically apply the term to myself, but I don’t reject it outright. It is technically true by dictionary standards. But it’s hard not to hear it without a heaping dose of over-confidence and snootiness (insert monocle and yacht). It’s also one of those words I can never spell correctly on the first try.  Not my style. I use “self-employed” the most often because freelance doesn’t convey the grit and hustle it takes to start, grow, and maintain a business.

AF: I’m sure people seek advice from you about self-employment. Do you advise other women to go freelance? Why or why not?
Work is hard regardless if it’s for someone else or for yourself. It’s a tough haul to cobble together a growing freelance income just like it is to land a FT gig that isn’t soul-sucking.

I do advise women to go freelance, but with caveats, because it’s not for everyone. The financial risks are super real, but also it requires much alone time and constant self-governance. Some do better with the firm structure a 9-5 gig affords or do their best work among teams. Zero shame in that! However, there are lots more excellent business resources available now than when I started so it is possible to learn as you go. Other women-run businesses are critical to befriend, having a crew has been major through the hardest parts. And finally, no one talks about this, but so many small businesses are in debt and it’s not the end of the world nor is it something to be ashamed of. It is possible to have a successful business and be able to manage debt at the same time. ’Tis the American way, it seems. I recommend this book to everyone who has non-variable income. It fundamentally changed my entire relationship to money which in turn majorly impacted my income.

More on all of this in my Skillshare classes here and here!