Whenever I read this letter from Frida Kahlo to her Diego Rivera I hold my breath without even realizing. Every word touches a place in my heart and brings me into her world of emotion. Writing is an exquisite form of artistic expression that allows you to build other worlds, capture moments in time, and simply communicate without interruption. I always say writing is truth. The ultimate truth. When we write we tend to flow in a way the spoken word just cannot compare with. In a day where texting, email, and video calls fill our days, it is incredible to remember the art of writing. The way it moves people. When I receive a handwritten letter I keep it forever. I have a box dedicated to cards and notes from people I love across the world. The love notes from my husband have been held to my chest when he is away, have slept under my pillow, been put in frames. When I read a letter I hear the person’s voice, I see their smile or their sorrow, the curve of their letters reminds me of the movement of their hand. It is an intimate experience to read another beings innermost thoughts and feelings.
Michelle Favin of WhysLA is a dynamic, intelligent, and beautiful artist. She is filled with a passion for life and a never ending desire to question the world around her and learn more. An eternal student of life. A complete inspiration she walked away from the 9-5 workforce in order to pursue and share her artistic creations. She designs every card to be elegant in their simplicity while remaining incredibly emotive. It is in the little things that we can find the most heart. The moon shining brightly upon lovers, the sunshine hitting bright eyes at just the right angle. She provides the perfect canvas for writing notes of gratitude, love, excitement, and congratulations. These beautiful cards also give back to the Los Angeles community. 15% of the profits go to the Inner City Arts which is a non-profit arts organization with state-of-the-art facilities, professional teaching artists, and a determined mission to provide the highest quality arts education to at-risk youth in Los Angeles. The cards are created on FSC Certified paper, and printed by a sustainable printing press based in LA! The thought and care that goes into every single card is exceptional. I am thrilled to give you an inside look at this one of a kind woman and her thriving creative venture. She is made of moonlight and sunshine! Enjoy! Xo
Michelle, It is wonderful to have you with us! To jump right in can you tell us how WhysLA came to fruition?
Since I was a little lady, I’ve always made cards for the people I love. It is my favorite art-form. It is meaningful and always, without fail, comes from my heart. I am continually inspired by the people I love, so making art for them always felt easy. My art is always a celebration of people I cherish. When you are making art from a place of love, inspiration is limitless.
Last November, I went to Boulder with my best girlfriends. Since leaving college, we’ve all spread across the country. Since none of us in live in the same city, we promised to make time for mini-reunions. On this trip, I wanted to honor each one of them in some way. I wanted to celebrate all the ways they’ve grown into themselves even more since graduating. On the plane ride there, I made simple cards for each lovely lady. On the front, I just decorated their name. Inside the card, I designed a quote from a strong and influential women.
At this time in my life, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled at my job. I was searching for something. Seeing their faces light up when I gave each one them their card felt so incredible. It was a lightbulb moment. In that moment, with their encouragement and with the support from my prismatic fiancé, Josh, I made a promise to honor this part of me, this part of me that feels fulfilled when making art for those I love. Two months later, I quit my day job, painted with abandon for four months, decided to dedicate my life to art and education, and somewhere along the way, Whys LA was born.
What does writing mean to you?
I believe we have the answers to our big and scary questions. Writing is a way of uncovering what we already know.
What three words describe you best?
Curious, Spirited, Reflective
How do you incorporate sustainability into your life, and into WhysLA?
This question is incredibly important to me, since I am working directly with materials that can be wasteful. On a logistical level, my cards and envelopes are made from recycled paper and I print at a Los Angeles-based FSC certified printing facility. My sleeves are also compostable!
On a more symbolical level, I designed my cards with the hope that they would not be thrown away, perhaps displayed or framed instead. I wanted to bring art into the act of giving and writing. In this digital era, hand-written notes are often saved for special occasions, to be filled with our more momentous thoughts and wishes for our loved ones. Most of my cards do not have an obvious holiday displayed on them and instead only hint at feelings of compassion, appreciation, and love. My hope is that someone who receives a card would feel comfortable displaying it as a piece of art.
In my personal life, my house uses solar power and though a seemingly small step, we decided two years ago to forego paper towels in our kitchen. We use rags and all of our appliances have extremely low energy uses. I always wish I could do more, though I know that I easily can! This is something that I am continually trying to improve.
The moon, sun and stars seem to be a main theme in your cards. What do these symbols mean to you?
When I quit my job last year, I did not fall immediately into a whirlwind of romantic, perfect painting and inspiration. On the contrary. I actually felt quite lost. Most of my early paintings from this time were pretty dark and mostly abstract. During this time, I was also uncovering and rediscovering my sense of spirituality. The sky, at night particularly, has always humbled me. A reminder of our interconnectedness, capacity for greatness, and ability to light and see beauty in all things. The moon, sun, and stars are my compass. They are my daily reminders that life is far more expansive than my inner bubble. They are daily reminders that we may all be expansive, luminous, and true.
What is your favorite season?
Fall. More so than New Years, fall for me means new beginnings, crisp air, family, and cozy evenings when Josh and I think up new projects and plans. Even though LA’s fall looks different than the Fall I am used to from growing up on the East Coast, come September, I still feel and cherish that shift.
Scent and color to me brings back memories. Are there any scents or colors that bring you back to your childhood? Or any other special memory? Do you utilize the color or the image of the scents that evoke these memories in your work?
Certain scents and colors evoke comfort for me. Sandalwood, cypress, palo santo, amber, warm barley tea. They all remind me of Fall and the woods by my home in Maryland. When I make art, I always drink tea and have incense burning. My mind is likely swirling, so these scents help ground me.
If you could go back to any time in history and wield your brushes and pens of today to capture a moment in time, when and where would you go back to and why?
The Mid-60s to early 70s, definitely. I’d want to capture the love, the music, the spirit, the progress, the flowers and all the flower children.
Touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste, out of the five senses which would you say you adore most?
Touch. Few things make me happier than a heartfelt hug.
Top Five places you would like to visit in the world and why?
1. Daejeon, South Korea. My mother was born there. I’ve actually been there before, but I was far too young to truly appreciate the culture and my family there!
2. Mt. Kailash, Tibet. Josh had a transformative experience as a high schooler there. I’d love to go back with him to build on his experience.
3. Iceland. The Northern Lights are an inspiration for many of my watercolors. The terrain, the colors, the stillness would all be nourishment to my eyes.
4. Bali, Indonesia. For the jungle, the food, the spirituality, the beauty!
5. The train from Amsterdam and Berlin. Both European cities are top on my list, so I know that I would be sandwiched between two fabulous experiences. I also love long train rides. The time to reflect and the passing scenery have provided me with some of my most peaceful memories.
What is painting and drawing for you? What emotions does it evoke?
I don’t typically set out to make something specific, unless I am working on a commission. Even then, I just channel a feeling and see what unfolds.
For me, painting is an extension of however I am feeling in that moment and often, the act provides me whatever I need in that moment. Sometimes, I feel frustrated or emotional and I make complex and often ugly paintings. In that moment, it is a release. Other times, I am feeling full of love and I paint something lovely, airy, and light. In that moment, it is a gift of gratitude to give to myself or someone dear to me. Other times, it is a practice of discipline to paint as much as I can, and even if I am not feeling strongly one way or another, my painting will mirror back that mood.
What do you want others to take from your artistic creations?
Joy and connection. My hope is that someone sees the card and instantly thinks of someone in his or her life. I receive great joy from imagining the recipients of a Whys LA card…I hope they are all smiling!
What do you see WhysLA becoming as it grows? Any future projects you can share with us?
I am very open right now, seeing what comes my way. In the short-term, I want to start offering both hand-painted and digital prints, moving from cards as art to…well…art as art! In the long-term, I see Whys as a home for all of my interests. Thinking big, I would love to fuse together my passions of education, wellness, and art. I imagine a company where I could offer both products and services to allow people to learn more, feel nourished, and invite art and creativity into daily life.
One more thing about WHYS LA - I chose to donate 15% of my proceeds to Inner-City Arts, an oasis of learning and creativity in Downtown LA. I am so inspired by Los Angeles in all its variety, vibrancy, chaos, and constant change. I want to make sure that my art, in some way, is helping others make art. Inner-City Arts provides free, professional arts programming for youth in Downtown LA. Its facilities are excellent, the teachers are simply the best, and the students who walk into that space are consistently encouraged, supported, and empowered. Also, when I’m not making art, I am an educator and I strongly believe in supporting arts education. Making art has given me such confidence in my own unique voice. For the future of Whys LA, I want to increase the ways in which I can give back to the greater LA community.