Obvious State


In 2014, my husband Evan and I cofounded Obvious State–a creative studio and literary brand. I am the Creative Director and I also run our Instagram account.

We’re inspired by provocative language that has stood the test of time, poetry that captures the beauty of the human experience, and philosophy that drives us to examine and re-examine.

We aim to create art and thoughtfully designed gifts that prompt conversations and bring aesthetic joy to everyday objects.

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 And now, some Grade A Monday motivation from a master: “I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.” - Joan Didion, Commencement address at The University of California, Riverside, 1976. Thanks for the kick in the ass, Joan.  “Become a voice.” - Sappho. We’re so glad these six women did. ||  of our Women Writers bookmarks by @theboxwalla  “But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling…” - Edgar Allan Poe || Throughout the course of “The Raven” the border between Lenore and the raven blurs, which inspired this illustration for book 2 from our Illustrated Classics Collection, “Nevermore.” || We can’t wait to share more about the expansion of this collection in a few weeks!  “In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michaelangelo.” - T.S. Eliot. || This line appears twice in “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. The reference illustrates the vacuous conversations and shallow name dropping Prufrock overhears. Were they really moved by “The Creation of Adam” or was it a means to demonstrate social clout? Eliot’s parody indicates he leans toward the latter, and it’s easy to see how that scene may play out today. We may have replaced the cigarettes with cell phones, but has much changed? || Illustration from our book “Let Us Go Then: The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, Illustrated by Evan Robertson (Obvious State Cofounder). We’re sharing some images from the first five books from our Illustrated Classics Collection ahead of our upcoming new releases! Stay tuned for three more books.  "Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ... I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” - T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock Art from our Illustrated Classic “Let Us Go Then” - Stay tuned for three new books!  “One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind.” - Charles Dickens.
 “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” - John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” || Our illustration depicts a leaf in multiple stages of decomposition. Nature is beautiful and transient.  All of our prints are currently 3 for the price of 2 (including the 16x20s).  “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free” - Goethe || Goethe’s aphorism rings true this morning in the wake of reading about the USA’s burgeoning, tech-driven social credit system—a terrifying and Black Mirror-esque parallel to China’s social credit system. I liked to the @fastcompany article in stories if you’d like to read it. Illustration from our 2015 Bibliophilia collection (a collaboration with @Penguinrandomhouse ).  "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” || Project 52 Week 32: Tennyson. This excerpt is from his extraordinary poem “Ulysses,” which can be read in many ways. Thematically it's about the aging King Odysseus having a late-life crisis and embarking on one last adventure, which will incidentally lead to his death (and, if we read the poem as a prequel to Dante's Inferno, will also lead to his damnation). As poet laureate of Great Britain, it can be read as an ode to an aging empire. But Tennyson conveyed that the real impetus for the poem was the sudden and untimely death of his friend Arthur Hallam. And therefore the poem reads most powerfully as a response to mortality. How do we confront that ultimate tragedy? Tennyson says with character, companionship and courage. It's no wonder he drew inspiration from Greek myth. In a way, the poetic urge, the act of creation, the verse it generates, and the joy it brings the reader is itself a palliative. In the illustration, a lighthouse rises above a raging sea, its light forming the hub of a ship wheel. || On the personal front, we hung this print in our 11yo son’s room after he responded to the initial sketch. Perhaps he’ll take interest in exploring more of his work (a parent can dream, right?).  "I exist. It is soft, so soft, so slow. And light: it seems as though it suspends in the air. It moves.” - Jean Paul Sartre, “Nausea” || I’ve been revisiting sections of “Nausea” this week (particularly this line and Sartre’s hopeful antidote to existential angst posited at the end: Jazz music). There are multiple translations of this line and I like them both. Here is the other by Hayden Carruth : “I exist. I exist. It's sweet, so sweet, so slow. And light: you'd think it floated all by itself. It stirs.” Which translation do you like most?  "And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man; A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.” - William Wordsworth, “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”  “Go on,” she urged. “Lie to me by the moonlight. Do a fabulous story.” - F Scott Fitzgerald
 Introducing: "Yeah they said that." And yeah we took these snippets out of context. And yeah, it’s still kind of awesome. We're (obviously) huge fans of brilliant, pithy, and wise quotes from brilliant, pithy, and wise writers. This is SO not that. For fun, we combed through the works of some of our favorite writers in search of funny, irreverent, banal quotes and stumbled on some useful gems. Useful? Yep. When you need a little me time or tea time or want to justify scarfing ten muffins, you can simply invoke "the authorities.” We hope you enjoy the four new mugs: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Austen, and Nietzsche. Which is your favorite?  "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” - Edgar Allan Poe. So... more daydreaming. || Thank you for this wonderful photo of our Poe mug @theblitheringbookster - Confession: We’re a bit envious of your book collection!  “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” - Goethe || How many of these have you checked off your list?  "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." || Project 52 Week 31: Soren Kierkegaard. This simple observation from Kierkegaard’s journals sets the stage for his philosophy on the nature of experience, time, regret, and the existential necessity of faith. Kierkegaard was considered the father of existentialism, and later existentialist thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus built on the ideas he put forth in his work, Fear and Trembling. In our illustration, a ship ventures into unknown waters—a sea of illegible futures. Only in the wake it leaves behind can one make sense of its course and its meaning.  “Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude” - Marcel Proust. And we can’t help ourselves, but we’re looking forward to solitary fall reading sessions complete with a roaring fire, crisp air, and something decadent fresh from the oven. We’re also inviting Proust and Frost to host the hot beverages. Scroll to see our latest fall goodies and leave a comment letting us know which is your favorite. We’ll select someone at random this Friday to receive a complimentary mug.  “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” - Robert Frost. A fresh crop of totes just arrived from our partner in Brooklyn, and we’re excited to share the first of many new things for fall. The inspiration for our illustration comes from Frost’s most anthologized and beloved poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The poem is deceptively simple thanks to the monosyllabic introduction and elemental nature of the prose. Throughout the poem Frost develops tension between society (the village) and nature (the woods), one representing social commitments and public expectations, the other tranquility and private will. For the narrator of the poem, there’s a mystical allure to the woods that interrupts his journey and seduces him into a state of contemplation. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” is that final indulgence in the lucid dreamlike state before he capitulates to his promises and social obligations.