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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 "When I see birches bend to left and right Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy's been swinging them. But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust— Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.” - “Birches” by Robert Frost A sneak peek of book six from our Illustrated Classics collection, which releases next week!  My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh my friends - It gives a lovely light!" - Edna St. Vincent Millay This illustration is an ode to those who live out loud. The twin flames of a candle merge into the billowing dress of an intrepid dreamer.  "The birds that came to it through the air At broken windows flew out and in, Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh From too much dwelling on what has been. Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf, And the aged elm, though touched with fire; And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm; And the fence post carried a strand of wire. For them there was really nothing sad. But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept, One had to be versed in country things Not to believe the phoebes wept.” - Robert Frost, “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” || Just a quick sneak peek at our upcoming book, “Miles to Go” - An illustrated collection of 10 Robert Frost poems. Check the podcast link on our site for a reading of this poem and stay tuned for more.  "One who has a why can bear almost any how" - Nietzsche || We love how @bookedbytim incorporated our Nietzsche and Virginia Woolf prints into this cozy, beautifully lit nook.  “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present” - Albert Camus || So lap cat and a second cup of coffee, please.  “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” - William Shakespeare, “As You Like It” || Here’s to Feste, Touchstone, Lear's fool and the whole lot. The smartest guys in the room. This is a throwback to our first collection in 2011!   “Now the white prairie was sky, and the stars lay under my feet.” Zitkala-Ša was a Native American writer, lecturer, and activist. She is best known for her 1921 collection “American Indian Stories,” which illuminates the challenges and complexities of her personal history. She spent her early life on the Yankton Indian Reservation and went on to be educated at Earlham College. She advocated for greater understanding of Native American society, and her work provides a unique bridge between two cultures. || Illustration from SHE—our women writers collection.
 "I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” - Langston Hughes  A very special happy hour tonight to celebrate 90K! Thanks to all of you for following along, supporting and sharing our work. It truly means a lot. As a special thanks, we've put together a big bundle (with a big savings!). The bundle includes: Emerson "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience" tote, Kate Chopin "The Story of an Hour" short story Chapbook, Literary Puns Bookmark, set of six, Literary Paris Postcards, set of two, Agatha Christie 5x7 art print, Herman Melville greeting card, F Scott Fitzgerald greeting card, PLUS two secret bonus items. Check our bio and stories for the link and have a great weekend!  To kick off the season of giving, please enjoy two complimentary wallpapers for your desktop and phone. The first is a nod to November (do you see the cat?) and the second is a lovely poem by T. S. Eliot. Tap the link or check story highlights for links. Enjoy!  "For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not — and very surely do I not dream.” - Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat” || A little seasonal short story (in stories) by the horror master. Illustration from our Black Cat chapbook. A noose, a coil of rope, and an axe form the face of a cat and foreshadow madness.  "After all I have no nationality and am not anxious to claim any. Individuality is more than nationality. 'You are you and I am I,' says Confucius.” - Sui Sin Far. || Project 52, Week 34. Sui Sin Far was the daughter of a British merchant and a Chinese mui tsai (slave girl) who met while her father was on a business trip to Shanghai. She grew up in Montreal, and by age 18 was writing poetry and anonymous articles about the local Chinese experience for the Montreal Star and other English language newspapers. Her work focused on the daily life and struggles related to being Chinese in North America and shed light on prejudices in her time. The illustration depicts a map in the form of a masquerade mask, a reminder that identity is more complex than one's superficial characteristics or circumstances. Print from our SHE collection.  “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” -Oscar Wilde, “Critic As Artist." Happy birthday to one of our favorite wordsmiths.  “Though dewy grass, nor small birds hushed in bowers, nor unto silent leaves and drowsy flowers,—that voice of unpretending harmony” - William Wordsworth ||  of our Wordsworth tote by @mylittlebooktique
 “Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate--with the best teachers--the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses. Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.” - Carl Sagan. Does this make anyone else want to stand up and clap? Drop everything and visit a bookstore? Fondle your classics? Yeah, we get it. || Photo from our Literary Paris archives.  “You see, Monsieur, it’s worth everything, isn’t it, to keep one’s intellectual liberty, not to enslave one’s powers of appreciation, one’s critical independence? It was because of that that I abandoned journalism, and took to so much duller work: tutoring and private secretaryship. There is a good deal of drudgery, of course; but one preserves one’s moral freedom, what we call in French one’s quant à soi. And when one hears good talk one can join in it without compromising any opinions but one’s own; or one can listen, and answer it inwardly. Ah, good conversation—there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing. And so I have never regretted giving up either diplomacy or journalism—two different forms of the same self-abdication.” He fixed his vivid eyes on Archer as he lit another cigarette. “Voyez-vous, Monsieur, to be able to look life in the face: that’s worth living in a garret for, isn’t it? But, after all, one must earn enough to pay for the garret; and I confess that to grow old as a private tutor—or a ‘private’ anything—is almost as chilling to the imagination as a second secretaryship at Bucharest. Sometimes I feel I must make a plunge: an immense plunge. Do you suppose, for instance, there would be any opening for me in America—in New York?” - Edith Wharton, “The Age of Innocence.” Illustration from our SHE collection.  "We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.” -T. S. Eliot Here’s a little glimpse of some client work. We collaborated with the fine folks at the Broadway production of FROZEN to create an opening night gift for the cast and crew, and were delighted that they requested we use an excerpt from LITTLE GIDDING by T. S. Eliot. To capture the coming-full-circle theme in the quote and to provide a nod to the themes in Frozen, I created a six-pointed snowflake shape representing six distinct seasons rather than four. As a former actor, I can relate to this quote. Not only is the rehearsal process a circular exploration (returning to the same narrative each day), but the acting process itself is one of acquiring knowledge and insight about the character and story, and then in a sense letting go of that knowledge in order to fully live in the moment. In other words, to “know the place for the first time.” It was a pleasure to develop this illustration, and we were thrilled to share our work with such a talented cast and production. - Evan  "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. I have not to search for them and conjecture them as though they were veiled in darkness or were in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence." - The Critique of Practical Reason by Immanuel Kant. Translated by by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott. || Throwback to one of the illustrations from our 2015 Bibliophilia collection (a collaboration with @penguinrandomhouse ). Fun fact: This is the quotation on Kant’s tombstone.  Autumn weekends are for... ||  of our Austen travel mug by @catebutler  One of them has to go. Forever. Which is it?