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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 Walking into the weekend like … || How are you spending this last weekend in May? Evan returns from Costa Rica today (he accompanied his brother on a business trip) and we’re spending time with friends and family for some low key events. Anyone hitting the beach? Mountains? Bottle?  Regardless! Have a good one. - @nicholerobertson || Vintage photo of our Shelley tote by @mybookbath  "Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds, and until we know what has been or will be the peculiar combination of outward with inward facts, which constitutes a man's critical actions, it will be better not to think ourselves wise…” - George Eliot, Adam Bede  Big move, big sale! As many of you know, we completed our warehouse move yesterday. It was an epic months-long task, but well worth it. We have some overstock, loose prints, and older items that we didn't send to the new warehouse, and we bundled them into some CRAZY deals for you. Now through Sunday, our private warehouse sale includes: a giant paper goods bundle, a collection of mugs (shown above), and an overstock art print BOGO offer (code: WAREHOUSESALE - price will adjust at checkout). All of the direct links are available in stories and via our newsletter. Tag your Obvious State loving friends so they don’t miss it.  "Strive to know yourself, for it is the most difficult lesson in the world.” - Don Quixote || Project 52 Week 19: Cervantes. The maxim "know thyself" dates back to ancient Greece, inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In its simplest form, the thought has been ascribed to Aeschylus, Socrates, Plato, Hobbes, Benjamin Franklin, Emerson, and more recently, it was inscribed over the Oracle's door in The Matrix movies. What we love about Cervantes' version is his focus on knowing yourself as a practical, lifelong task rather than some vaguely blissed-out spiritual state. We wanted to capture the challenge of a mind reflecting on itself in order to improve itself. In our illustration, a pair of hands piece together a puzzle of which they are a part. All project 52 prints are $20 on release day. Use code: CERVANTES20 at checkout.  Fifty shades of cream. That delicious, distinct, inimitable Gallimard edition cream.  Walt Whitman’s exuberant, seminal work, “Leaves of Grass” is a sweeping celebration of the interconnectedness of all living things. Last year, we visually reimagined Whitman’s most popular work for our pocket edition, “Somewhere Waiting,” and today we’re joining fellow fans to kick off Whitman’s bicentennial festivities. We're excited to share “Live Oak, With Moss,” a stunning @abramsbooks edition of Walt Whitman’s most private (and until now unpublished) work illustrated by New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Award–winning illustrator Brian Selznick. From Abrams: "As he was turning forty, Walt Whitman wrote twelve poems in a small handmade book he entitled 'Live Oak, With Moss.' The poems were intensely private reflections on his attraction to and affection for other men. They were also Whitman’s most adventurous explorations of the theme of same-sex love, composed decades before the word “homosexual” came into use. This revolutionary, extraordinarily beautiful and passionate cluster of poems was never published by Whitman and has remained unknown to the general public—until now.” The book is gorgeous and Abrams was kind enough to provide a copy for us to gift to one of you! We’re including our “All Truths Wait in All Things” print as well as our illustrated pocket edition of “Song of Myself” in the giveaway. For a chance to receive all three, simply like this post and leave a comment, we’ll select a winner next Friday, May 10. Update: Congrats to the winner @picturesqueflaw !  "Imagination! who can sing thy force? / Or who describe the swiftness of thy course? / Soaring through air to find the bright abode…” - “On Imagination" || Project 52 Week 17: Phyllis Wheatley. Phyllis Wheatley’s story is exceptional. As a young slave in colonial America, she defied every expectation by becoming a celebrated, published poet—the first African American!—and public intellectual. Despite countless impediments, she mastered English, Greek, and Latin, and penned elegant, classical style poems. Her poem “On Imagination” which demonstrates her knowledge of Greek mythology and the invocation of muses, is in some ways an ode to the very faculties and sheer intellectual force that led to her emancipation. Her extraordinary achievements defied all expectations and provided a refutation of slavery era prejudices. In our illustration, the shadow of the book gives wings to the young woman depicted, allowing her to soar. All Project 52 prints are $20 on release day. Use code: WHEATLY20
 True or false: “Some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” - Willa Cather  Weekend plans   “If one’s destiny is strange, it is also sublime” - Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea || In this classic science fiction tale, Captain Nemo captures Arronax and his companions and takes them on an underwater adventure. His submarine, The Nautilus, serves as both their protection and their prison, and I wanted to capture that duality with a circle (like a bubble in the water). The circle also forms the eye of the giant squid that attacks them, and its tentacles can be seen in the reflection at its center. As we cleaned out our warehouse today (we’re moving!) I found a few old prints of this illustration and wanted to share it here before filing it away for posterity - ha! - @evanrobertson  Fragrant lilacs are like books: you can never have too many. Our office currently smells like paradise.  Cover appreciation. “The Essential Goethe” by @princetonupress and Mathew Bell is a beautiful, wrap around edition with exquisite details and smooth, high quality paper. It’s one of those books that begs to be fondled, especially if you are prone to book fondling (the person who bought this for me is a fetish enabler). I read one of the poems this morning, and it reminded me of a New Yorker piece that discussed how difficult it is to translate Goethe’s poems because he "cloaks his sophistication in deceptively simple language” making them tough to translate.  “Another May new birds and flowers bring; Ah! Why has happiness no second spring?” - Charlotte Smith || In Smith’s “Sonnet Written at the Close of Spring” she laments that unlike spring flowers, humanity lacks the ability to renew itself, both physical and emotionally. It’s such a wonderful poem, and she elegantly conveys envy of spring flowers and what she sees as their yearly, triumphant, colorful return in the face of the grimmer facts of humanity’s inevitable withering. Charlotte Smith is an often overlooked Romantic era poet, which is unfortunate because we think she can hold a candle to Keats. If you are familiar with Keats’ “On Autumn” you’ll recognize similar themes. Postcard from our Bloom collection.  Happy World Book Day! It’s a day to tip our hat to all who bring books to life, and to Shakespeare and Cervantes, both of whom died on this day. Both Shakespeare and Cervantes had an enormous influence on language, but Shakespeare gets all the glory. If you haven’t already, do a search for Cervantes quotes and you’ll feel like he’s responsible for so many things we say today like: “the pot calls the kettle black,” “the sky’s the limit,” “you cannot eat your cake and have your cake,” and “Rome was not built in a day.” Did he just sit around churning out idioms all day?
 "But when from a long distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection." — Marcel Proust || What seem ordinary, almost unnoticeable fixtures in time — enjoying a madeleine cookie with a cup of tea, a person’s random tripping over uneven paving stones, a scent — to Marcel Proust were “fragments of existence withdrawn from Time.” Proust relentlessly explored involuntary memory, where an ordinary encounter from one’s everyday life triggers a remembrance of things past. It’s fleeting. It’s reflective. Above all, it’s serendipitous. That moment you walk through the L train crowd and your nose meets just once more the fragrance of someone you once knew. Never mind the rat scurrying between rail lines or the train coming to a screeching halt. The fragrant notes of vanilla and tobacco dance beside you and playfully invite you back in to what was once a lovelier time. Once ordinary, now charming. That moment you can just once more recklessly laugh with abandon as you did when you were ten and the sight of Rollie-pollies and pillow fights and parachuting dandelion seeds amused you. Those moments we all have — magnified by the passage of time — that reassure us of beauty in detail, magic in the little things, love in the tiny gestures. Nothing grand or pompous. Just a string momentarily linking the heart of yesteryear you to the heart of where you stand today. Are we to believe there’s no such thing as time travel? - @ani_elizaveta  “All things that pass are wisdom's looking glass.” || Project 52 Week 20: Christina Rossetti. It is often the most difficult lessons in life that shape us into the best version of ourselves. Rossetti's insightful poem "Passing and Glassing" muses on the nature of aging. Unlike a physical looking glass which reflects our appearance, wisdom's looking glass reflects memory and growth. In this illustration, the intersection of circles form an eye and crescent moons. The central circle forms the mirror, the handle of which suggests a tear and the hard-won lessons of time, but the reflection directs upward toward the stars. - @evanrobertson  Monday.  Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art— / Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night / And watching, with eternal lids apart, / Like nature's patient- sleepless Eremite” - John Keats || A little coffee and a little Keats. Photo of @owlslittlelibray with our Keats tote by @mylittlebooktique - thank you!  “Nothing is worth more than this day.” - Maxims and Reflections || Project 52 Week 18: Goethe. This is it, isn't it? When presented with the uncertainty of life and the inevitability of time, what can one do but embrace this moment? The 17th century poet Robert Herrick reminded us to "gather ye rosebuds while ye may." In our own century, we have Drake to thank for popularizing the acronym YOLO. The advice is the same, but the ubiquitous nature of it makes it easy to ignore. Here, we've illustrated a thin timeline across a pair of dark doors, the past and future, leaving a sliver of light to illuminate these words of wisdom and remind us to value the only thing we truly have: now.  What’s your stance on dunking things in hot beverages? We’re divided. Yes to biscotti, because it’s designed to be sog resistant and retain its crunch. No to donuts, because you end up with sad, soggy floaters. What say you? || Thanks to @marlosbakeshop for this fun photo of our “I love this mostly because it’s in French” mug.