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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 “One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind.” - Charles Dickens.  Heaven’s gate || Happy Book Lovers Day bibliophiles!  "August rain: the best of summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd, uneven time.” - Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals, August 8 1952  Kant’s insights into ethics, morality, and reason? YEP. This 174-word monster sentence from Critique of Pure Reason? NOPE. We love Kant, and are willing to do the work, but some of his sentences (and subclauses, and subclasses, and subclauses) are the holy grail of hell-no sentence structure. || We’ve been patiently waiting for someone to successfully diagram this sentence. We’ll share it in stories for those brave enough to tackle it.  “Treat ideas like cats: make them follow you.” - Ray Bradbury || I shot this cool cat graffiti almost ten years ago (!) in Montmartre while working on “Paris in Color.” - @nicholerobertson  Imagine Jane Austen sitting at her writing desk mulling over the scene in which Mr. Darcy has just popped THE question. Lizzy takes it in, Jane Austen cracks her knuckles, and boom!… out comes one of the most memorable disses in the English canon. #HELLNO || Just a little fun throwback to 2015 and our Subtext collection—a collaboration we did with @penguinrandomhouse
 “Go on,” she urged. “Lie to me by the moonlight. Do a fabulous story.” - F Scott Fitzgerald  100 Postcards. 50 Visionary Women Writers. 1 Ambitious Project ✔️ || We are thrilled to reveal the 50 women included in our SHE boxed collection and to announce that the set is now in stock! To say this project was a labor of love is an understatement, and Evan shared his thoughts on it as well as all of the illustrations in our latest blog post linked above and in stories. We truly hope you enjoy each one and want to thank everyone who helped make it happen.  We live in an old chaos of the sun" || Project 52 Week 30: Wallace Stevens. This line is from his meditative and philosophical poem, "Sunday Morning," which was first published in 1915. The poem opens with a domestic scene in which an unnamed woman somewhat guiltily enjoys her morning after skipping Sunday services. It hints at a cultural shift, and implies that Sunday morning is not only for church. The poem expands outward from this initial domestic scene, and this particular line turns sharply in a metaphysical direction. Like the woman's fading religion, quaint conceptions of the sun as a symbol of order and benevolence are abandoned. The reality of the universe is more grand, more ancient, and more chaotic than that. The poet argues that the beauty of nature is not only very much present, but outlasts the paradise predicted by any religion. || Drawing inspiration from the orbits of moons, planets, suns and galaxies, the illustration traces the paths of interlocked objects across time. It hints at a hidden interdependence between things that can't be explained and may ultimately be unknowable.  "As he looked round, he saw the top floor of the building next to the quarry. He saw how a light flickered on and the two halves of a window opened out, somebody, made weak and thin by the height and the distance, leaned suddenly far out from it and stretched his arms out even further. Who was that? A friend? A good person? Somebody who was taking part? Somebody who wanted to help? Was he alone? Was it everyone? Would anyone help?” - Franz Kafka, The Trial. || Illustration from our archive. A series of doors. An exit? The light reveals a shadow cast by a surveillance camera. Or perhaps the doors are surveillance cameras.  Chairladder: n. A stepped structure that culminates in a seat in order to facilitate reaching top shelf books and immediately reading them. “Despite disapproving side glances from the people below, Rachel read the first chapter of 'Wuthering Heights' on the Chairladder.” || What's your “chairladder” read?
 “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.  “If you surrendered to the air you could ride it.” - Toni Morrison, “Song of Solomon” || We lost one of the greats. I loved this book so hard its cover deteriorated years ago. RIP Ms. Morrison, you will be missed.  “Is it night? Are we here alone? It is I you hold, and who holds you; I spring from the pages into your arms.” - Walt Whitman, “So Long." || Never tire of something beautiful, beautifully hand lettered. Photo of Shakespeare & Company from my Literary Paris shoot. - @nicholerobertson  “Solitude is sometimes best society, and short retirement urges sweet return.” - John Milton, “Paradise Lost.”  "He tried not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking." - “Anna Karenina” || Project 52 Week 28: Leo Tolstoy. We’re excited to share this week’s illustration for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is you. This line from Anna Karenina has been THE most requested illustration, so this one is for you!  || We, like many, are captivated by Tolstoy's elegant description, and are intrigued by the idea of love (infatuation?) having a luminous quality that overwhelms our senses and penetrates us against our will. This passage is from the scene in which Levin sees Kitty ice skating, and our illustration draws inspiration from that. In it, a skater and a winter tree are all that remain of a man's silhouette, as it becomes impossible for him to keep his desires under his hat. || Note: There are a variety of translations for this line. We’ve chosen to truncate this translation a bit by removing “he stepped down” as it made a long quote even longer.