A Bird in the Hand / Lisa Congdon Blog

After scouring the web for what felt like hours, I decided to locate a crafty blogger for the blog of the week because I wanted to find someone that actually creates beautiful things for the home, especially since decor8 is a design blog focused on interiors. When I discovered A Bird in the Hand, I was instantly drawn in because I liked her work and really enjoyed her informal blog and how tied into other blogs she seems to be, which I'm a big fan of because to me, building a strong blogging community is a beautiful thing. Lisa Congdon is the blogger behind A Bird in the Hand. She holds down a full-time career by day and creates beautiful art, pillows, birds and even manages her own online shop on nights and weekends. Somehow she even fits in a swim each day. Yup. A modern day wonder woman. Would you like to meet her?

decor8: Hi Lisa, so happy you agreed to do an interview here on decor8. I'm sure many readers will comment (hint hint) to cheer you on because we all love our indie craftsters. Can you tell us about you and your blog?

lisa: Of course! My name is Lisa Congdon, 38 years old, and I'm a self-taught artist and craftsperson. I moved to San Francisco when I was 22, and I have lived here ever since. I work full time at a progressive non-profit education consulting organization, but I spend most evenings and many weekends in my studio (which is a small room in my four-room flat) making stuff. I also try to make time for friends and competitive swimming, two other aspects of my life that are intensely important to me. decor8: Wow, that's great. You're a busy lady! How did you get started as a blogger?

lisa: About a year and a half ago, I was so inspired by my sister, who has the amazing blog, Little Birds, that I ventured out into cyberspace and began my own blog, A Bird in the Hand. I started sharing my creative process and thoughts about everyday life. And what started slowly and tentatively has become one of the greatest joys of my life. Through my blog, I have had the opportunity to connect with many other creative women (and a few men) from around the world. In this community of crafters and artists, we share our work, critique, affirm, and befriend. It's awesome.

decor8: I agree! You mentioned that you've been in San Francisco since you were 22, where did your life take you prior to that?

lisa: I was born in upstate New York, but my family moved to California when I was 8 years old. Except for a short stint as a congressional intern at 21, I have lived in California ever since. I went to college here and moved to San Francisco when I was 22 and I have never left. I love San Francisco, and sometimes think if I ever left it would be like losing a limb. But sometimes I am tempted to move closer to my parents and my sister and her family. They all live in Portland, which is also a great city. So who knows. Maybe someday I will end up there. decor8: You've mentioned this already, but can you tell us more about what you do for a living (your day job)?

lisa: I work as the Director of Program Development at a San Francisco-based non-profit organization. We work in struggling public schools in big, urban districts to help them improve teaching and learning. I love my job. It's hard work and sometimes it feels completely daunting. But after almost 16 years of working in public education (for the first 7 years I taught 1st grade in an inner city school) I have learned to leave my work at the door without guilt.

decor8: Can you describe a typical work day? lisa: Let's see... I get up at about 7:30 every morning and do my usual morning business, which starts with reading the comments that have been posted on my blog. I eat, get ready for work and head out the door. I spend 9 or 10 hours a day at the office or in the field at schools or district offices, mostly writing, in meetings, developing workshops or facilitating teacher trainings. I try to sneak in some blog reading at work when I can!! When I get off work, I usually go straight to the gym, which includes a long swim and some dry land training as well. Then I head home at about 7:45 p.m. for some dinner, a glass of wine and some work in my studio. Somewhere in there I post to my blog and talk to friends on the phone. Then I go to bed and start all over the next day! I have a good life.

decor8: Wow, that's quite a schedule. Good for you. What is the best thing about being an indie artist in addition to your career?

lisa: The sweet things people say about my work. That people love what I make.

decor8: What is the hardest part about it, what do you struggle with?

lisa: Wanting to make art and craft more than in the evenings and on the weekends...wanting to work part time and craft part time, but knowing it would be hard financially to do that and live so comfortably in San Francisco. I love it here, but it's expensive to live here on an artist's income. decor8: Sadly, that's the case in most cities these days, which is driving many artist's out to the burbs and beyond. Okay, so let's pretend there's this neat class coming up at the local university that you're dying to take. What is it and why are you so eager?

lisa: Right now I am really into the idea of learning letterpress. Letterpress artist, Maria Vettese, from port2port press has become a close friend (through our blogs) and I went to visit her in Maine this past Spring and we collaborated on a card while I was there. It was such a wonderful experience to make these cards that had an image I designed on them plus beautiful color and texture. I am so happy that letterpress is so popular now. I love to go card and poster shopping!

decor8: Where can your items be purchased?

lisa: Right now I have about 80 pieces of artwork on exhibit at a place called Edo here in San Francisco. That show is up until July 31. I think over half of the pieces have sold, but there are lots still available. I also have an online shop on my blog, which right now only has two things in it! That will close at the end of July when I open an "official" online shop on my new website (www.lisacongdon.com) which launches August 1st. I also have several pieces at the awesome Reform School in Echo Park in LA, and The Candy Store, a super cool, hip shop here in San Francisco.

decor8: Do you participate in craft shows? If so, which ones?

lisa: If I didn't have that full time job I would!! Last year I was asked to participate in the ReadyMade Magazine Craft show here in San Francisco and that was super fun. I think I will do it again this year. I love the idea of craft shows and if I had more time I would even travel around the country and do lots of 'em.

decor8: Do you think where you grew up influenced your design style, and if so, how?

lisa: I am a child of the 70's and 80's. I grew up in suburbia, right at the dawn of the Hello Kitty/Sanrio craze, the preppy craze and the surfing craze. All of those things, including cool mod 70's style, have influenced me. My mom is a textile artist, so I grew up with fabric everywhere and a big loom in the house. We were always going out of suburbia to the city to museums and craft fairs. Making stuff was a big part of my life growing up.

decor8: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

lisa: My mind is always filled with ideas. I have a number of small notebooks in my purse on which I make sketches and lists of ideas. I seem to collect purses, so I can't keep track of all of the notebooks, but I am never at a loss for what to make. I just don?t have the time or money for supplies or the technical skill to execute all of my ideas. I get inspired by a lot of things, all the time. I am a very visual person who notices every minute detail in very ordinary things. So it might be a crack in the wall or the way colors are painted on the side of a building. It's not unusual for me to take my camera around with me as I run errands in my neighborhood to capture colors and shapes and contrasts that inspire me. But the usual things also inspire me: nature (I love bird and tree and wood imagery); poetry; and certainly other people?s art. I also love fashion and bold graphic design. Living in an urban area rich with different cultures and an abundance of art?both in the street and in galleries?makes for never-ending inspiration.

decor8: Does blogging help you in the creative process at all?

lisa: Absolutely!! Because of my blog I am motivated everyday to make something new: take a new photograph; try a new pillow design; share a new collage; create a new drawing and then to share it with 1,000 other people. And that has kept me more alive than I have ever been.

decor8: What is your dream job?

lisa: Uggh, that is a hard question because I'd rather be able to stay awake all the time and work constantly at different things than choose one thing to do (not that I don't love sleep). I think it is the diversity of things I manage to pack into a day that makes me happy--working toward change and social justice in my day job, swimming, making stuff in my studio, hanging out with my friends. I love it all. And I want to keep doing it all. Maybe just less time at the office and more time in my studio. That would be a dream. And I am thinking about how to make it happen.

decor8: You must have some favorite designers that you look to for inspiration. Tell us, who inspires you and why?

lisa: I am so inspired by many artist/craftspeople--Camilla Engman. Lisa Solomon and my sister, Stephanie Barnes, are three of my favorites. I love Japanese and Scandinavian design. I love the work of so many visual artists (there are more than I can name), but Jim Houser and Margaret Kilgallen are two of my favorites. I also find great inspiration from vintage children's book illustrators Evaline Ness and Alice and Martin Provensen. All of the people and movements I have mentioned have an amazing sense of color and line and balance and emotion in their work.

decor8: When you're in a bookstore, what is the first section you head for and why?

lisa: The magazines! I am addicted to design and fashion magazines.

decor8: What are you listening to these days?

lisa: The Ditty Bops. Andrew Bird. I will always listen to Radiohead.

decor8: What is the best way to spend a Saturday where you live?

lisa: When I am not in my studio, I love to just walk around my neighborhood and go to thrift stores with my friend Nathalie. We are both thrifting addicts. And fortunately she is skinnier than I am so we don't fight over clothes. And have some coffee and some of the good food that abounds here. There is never a shortage of weekend activities here in San Francisco. You could sit on the street corner and be entertained.

decor8: What are your top ten indulgences?

lisa: Dark chocolate, wine, fabric, designer shoes, bags/purses, clothes in general, Bumble and Bumble hair products, cameras, little useless things from art and office supply stores and mid-century vintage stuff for my apartment.

Thank you Lisa for telling all of us about your blog and letting us into your life for a quick tour of what you do and what you love. We're very grateful that we had this chance to 'meet' you, so thanks again.

Look for the opening of www.lisacongdon.com in August!

My goal is to update the Blog of the Week on Thursdays going forward, so if you have a blog or know of one that you'd love to nominate, please email me at decor8blog {at} yahoo {dot} com.

(images from bird in the hand)