Obvious State

IN PURSUIT OF WISDOM AND BEAUTY

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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 We gave the future to the winds and slumbered tranquilly in the present - Edgar Allan Poe. || While Poe is widely recognized for his darker, more macabre work, he also penned some “lighter" poetry. He aimed to evoke a sense of beauty, and believed it was chief among human instincts: "An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, plainly, a sense of the beautiful - and just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes of amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or written repetition of these forms, and sounds, and colors, and odors, and sentiments, a duplicate source of delight.” Last summer while we were working on “Nevermore” for our Classics Collection and our Blind Date ancillary goods, I became smitten with Poe’s beautiful poetry (the postcard in the photo is from our POEtry collection). The more I read, the more it shifted my perspective of his work, which until that point I had unfairly and broadly relegated to the horror genre. Happy birthday, Poe!  We don’t often share client work here, but I thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse of one of our recent projects—an illustration that was gifted to cast members of The Vaudeville Theatre’s “True West” production in London. I discovered the hysterical, volatile, Americana-rock-n-roll-fueled genius of Sam Shepard at 19 when I first read True West. It hooked me like few playwrights did, and I consumed a book of seven plays in a single delirious weekend. His style is instantly recognizable and his characters at once contemporary and timeless. My affinity for Sam’s work made it a pleasure to work on this illustration for @truewestlondon , which stars Kit Harrington and Johnny Flynn as the rival siblings engaged in a protracted, ferocious fight. Minus the use of a phone with a cord, there’s very little in it that we can’t relate to. Londoners: Have you seen it? And if you have, is this what you think all Americans are like?  - Evan  “Yours is the music for no instrument … yours the preposterous colour unbeheld… yours are the poems I do not write.” - e e cummings, “Tulips and Chimneys || Print #2 from Project 52.  Some people are into fantasy football. I’m into fantasy bookshelves, and I just drafted this beauty to my roster.  How to make a perfectionist twitchy in one easy step: A torn book cover facing out.  Introducing Project 52: 52 Weeks, 52 Prints. We’re excited to kick off with Proust, and this poignant excerpt: “Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.” || Some observations are so astute that once you read them, you can’t imagine not having had the thought yourself. So it is with this observation, courtesy of Proust, who believed reading was spiritual and more than a means to an education or knowledge. How often do we take for granted the magical communion with another human being that reading affords us? The contradiction of human connection in seclusion is a unique pleasure and gift. || All Project 52 prints will be $20 on release day (for 24 hours!). Use code: PROUST52 at checkout.  Coming soon! Proust, Yeats, Williams, Cummings, Frost, Thoreau, Gibran. Stay tuned for the first of 52 new literary art prints on January 1.
 “When flowers are none, to winter-ground thy corse.” - William Shakespeare, “Cymbeline” || We woke up to a fresh blanket of snow this morning and there’s a storm on the way. Hibernation is in effect (books! coffee! cats!). Have a great weekend, everyone. || Lovely photo of our Shakespeare tote by the lovely @mylittlebooktique  “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” || Project 52 Week 3: Robert Frost. Frost’s most anthologized and beloved poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” 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.  And then there were four. Before we release Book 5 in a few weeks, we wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the support of our Classics Collection and Blind Date with Obvious State. It’s been such a delight to illustrate these beloved works and we’ve been bolstered by your positive reception and photos. As a token of our appreciation, we’d like to send two of you a complete set—T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Sara Teasdale and Walt Whitman. To enter, simply leave a comment and tag a friend. We’ll select the recipients next Friday. You can order Blind Date Book 5 as well as the first four books on our site.  “Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude” - Marcel Proust || Thank you so much for all of your positive feedback so far about Project 52. We’re excited to share #2 on Tuesday! In the meantime, here’s #1 propped up on our shelf adjacent to one of our favorite prints from @janethillstudio || A few days ago, I shared some tips about using the foam core that ships with every print. Here’s an example of a print affixed to the foam core using acid free double sided tape. It creates some depth and is an inexpensive (and immediate!) way to display the art.  "I would always rather be happy than dignified.” - Charlotte Bronte. How about you? Feeling  or ‍‍||  of our Bronte tote by @mylittlebooktique  "These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.” - William Shakespeare, “The Tempest” - If to a certain extent we’re all creating a mutual delirium, what’s stopping us from dreaming up something wonderful together in 2019? Happy New Year everyone! As a token of our thanks for your support this year, we have five of our Shakespeare totes up for grabs. Just leave a comment and we’ll select the recipients tomorrow!  “Have you practiced so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems? Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems. You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,) you shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books...” - Walt Whitman || Whitman encourages us to look beyond books, and by extension the thoughts and opinions of others, and gain our own, unmediated experience by listening to all sides and listening to nature.
 "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Thank you Mary Oliver. Your words live on.  Happy Monday! The temperature is hovering around 20 degrees and there’s a dusting of snow on the ground, so we are deep into sweater weather. What’s it like in your corner of the world? || I miss the pre-algorithm, chronological feed days when real time photos captured the spirit of starting Monday together or raising a virtual toast on Friday afternoon. There was also something equally wonderful about having breakfast in the states and seeing our friends in Paris enjoying afternoon coffee - that natural ebb and flow of international time zones. I miss the INSTA in instagram. || Photo of our Shakespeare notebook by @mylittlebooktique  “ yours is the music for no instrument, yours the preposterous colour unbeheld” || Project 52 Week 2: ee cummings. This week’s illustration is inspired by one of our favorite modernist poets, and one of his most sensual, candid collections, "Tulips and Chimneys." The poem has a spirit of adulation that's reminiscent of She Walks in Beauty by Byron, but without the constraints of meter or rhyme. Cummings has a gift for transforming and fragmenting language, and we nodded to that here. The illustration hints at a new kind of music, sensual and surprising, that belongs to no instrument or musician, only to itself. || Reminder: All Project 52 prints are $20 on release day (for 24 hours!). Use code: CUMMINGS 52.  "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” - Sir Toby Belch, “Twelfth Night,” William Shakespeare. A little Twelfth Night (and galette des rois!) for Twelfth Night.  Speaking of Proust… take a look at this gem. This was a gift to me from Evan, and it underscored how well he knows me. It was meant to elicit a laugh when I opened it, and on that front it delivered. But upon closer inspection—James Beard forward! Belle Epoque recipes! Proust excerpts!—it was clear that he had ferreted out a true find (1979, @thamesandhudson ). After lamenting the fact that a monster had put a sticker over the gorgeous illustration, I flipped through the book to see if they included the requisite madeleine recipe (they did). If you are at all familiar with Proust, you’ll likely recall his sumptuous descriptions that reveal a deep, sensorial appreciation of food and its ability to incite memories. In Beard’s forward he takes pleasure in the recapturing of turn-of-the-centruy French cuisine which he considered unpretentious and hadn’t yet fallen prey to the more theatrical approach that would later dominate: “ The most important thing is to produce food that gratifies the palate while it seduces the eye and mind, an objective that has become rarer and rarer in our kitchens.” The same can be said of Proust’s sentences. Though the long, meandering sentences are often approached with trepidation (especially to those new to Proust), the best approach is to let them wash over you like a wave and allow yourself to be caught up and carried away. You don’t overthink a complex, elegant wine or morsel of fine chocolate, and if the same approach is taken with Proust, the experience of reading him is a true pleasure of the senses. Dining with Proust—a title that initially instigated a howl—is actually a unique marriage of literature and food and I am looking forward to exploring some of the recipes.  One chair. Hundreds of books. A thousand times yes!