above: wall art Atelier LZCHi! My name is Erika Rhein Givens and I am delighted to be joining the Designing Moms blog! Thank you so much for having me! I am a graphic designer running a small design studio called Gleaux (pronounced “glow”) specializing in cards, invitations, maps and anything else deliciously creative. I also run a small zoo. I have three year old twin boys. No need for further explanation!
I was born, raised and currently live in the beautiful and still find this place to be alight with inspiration at every turn. I love the City by the Bay. But then again, I love most cities, as long as they are noisy, congested, filled with nooks and crannies, over-ridden with signage of every language, simmering with sauces from every region, colorful, layered in flavors and textures, bordered with grubby industrial spaces, checkered with hot spots and neon reminders of every known vice, hi-tech handheld device and travel destination, dimly lit alleyways laced with birdcages, clothes lines, lingering music, wet newsprint, and the sound of distant honking cabbies, common spaces that house bizarre and gritty public art, hushed chess tables, vendors pedaling their eclectic wares.... ... basically very messy, elaborate, grown-up versions of the Sesame Street set!
Cities give me chills. So does the rain. Everything takes on a beautiful, melancholy meaning to me in the rain. Everything begs to be photographed. If I could, I’d wander around whenever it rained, listening to war-era jazz on my iPod and taking pictures. Then rush home when I got waterlogged and cold, to build a fire, get cozy with my fellas and cook something cockle-warming. Architecture inspires me. Especially the new near in Oakland. It is the most magnificent structure of wood, glass and metal imaginable. It is all about lighting, macro-imagery, scale, harmony and peace. It not only totally commands your attention visually, but it touches you spiritually as well, whether you are religious or not. A visit is a truly remarkable and humbling experience.
Walking in the of the Oakland Hills with my boys inspires me. Luke and Reid have a raw curiosity and energy, turning over leaves, collecting bugs, seeds, pine cones... they (for an all too short period of time!) become these small gentle extensions of nature, speaking softly, treading lightly, like baby deer. I become inspired watching and listening to them. History inspires me. I could just kick myself that I didn’t pay more attention to history in college. I get this overwhelming feeling of nostalgia when seeing or holding something from decades or centuries gone by... like imagining the crumbled fragments of history just under the sidewalks as you walk thru the in ... or exploring the forgotten, overgrown military structures still barely marking the Bay's forts and bases from , or flipping thru an old accounting ledger and wondering how handwritten script could be so delicately beautiful and the leather bound covers so plush and soft, or sifting thru old stamps and paper currency in amazement at the micrographics and pen-drawn, feather-fine linear etchings, the worn but still somehow vibrant colors. I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era... but then again, I probably wouldn’t experience half the awe in these details if living amidst it all.
My boys are quite lucky to have their 97 year old great grandma Evelina in their lives. I often send her questionnaires to fill out about her memories living almost a century in San Francisco. Her alert mind and vivid recollections are priceless gifts that inspire me. My life, work and home incorporate bits and pieces of the things I love. Below are a few snapshots... come on in!
above: wall art by Anne Wilson