Minnesota Original

S10 E6 | FULL EPISODE

Bodega Ltd, Mary Jo Hoffman and Kate Arends

Liz Gardner and Josef Harris aim to be a one stop creative shop for their clients. Aerospace Engineer turned artist Mary Jo Hoffman finds beauty in nature. Architect-turned-artist Daphne Lee creates intricate sculptures with paper. Writer and designer Kate Arends focuses on designing a life well lived. Wing Ho's minimalist photographs capture beautiful works by local designers and makers.

AIRED: June 23, 2019 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

(upbeat funk music)

(light drum and bass music)

- [Josef] Minneapolis and the Twin Cities in general

are incredibly accessible.

There's this really amazing balance between

a practical lifestyle with a certain level of refinement.

And you can't get that experience in any other city

where people actually want to talk to you

and invite you over, but at the same time

be able to have a similar type of aesthetic experience

as you do like in LA or New York or in London.

- Think a lot of times the Midwest is seen

as a flyover state especially creatively.

I think that we really work hard to change that mindset.

- For us it's like, how do identify the values of here

while helping them become aesthetically, strategically

part of the world conversation?

(upbeat guitar music)

(thoughtful piano music)

- Bodega is a multidisciplinary creative firm.

So we do everything from interior design, branding,

photography, and styling.

- The name Bodega really came

from the idea of a corner store

and a place where you can get all of the things

you need for your day and you have human interactions

and sort of just like your anchor.

- We found that a lot of creative agencies

like silo every discipline,

but then it's hard to scale creativity in that way.

That's kind of what we specialize in,

to have all of those parts come together as a whole.

When we first met, we talked about how both of our dreams

was to make things with our significant other,

how that's the ultimate trust.

It allows for certain depth of work.

(bright harp music)

- [Liz Voiceover] In the day to day,

a lot of our time working

is spent sitting next to each other,

working on our respective kind of parts of the Venn diagram

communicating especially when those parts overlap,

so there's a lot of room for autonomy

in terms of each person's expertise.

- [Josef] What she does affects what I do and my ideas

can make her ideas better.

- A lot of inspiration that we get comes from sort of our

opposite aesthetics.

(pensive harp music)

- Things that Josef responds to are

slightly antagonistic; they're edgier.

A lot of the things I respond to

are a little bit more classical.

I like beauty.

This camera was my grandparents' when they lived in France.

Now I use it photo shoots because it's beautiful.

(pensive harp music)

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places.

It's really just curation, collecting intentionally.

This is our mood board for Borderland

which is an ongoing furniture

and product development project.

I love old stationery, so I found these

in like a second-hand shop.

This is a piece of inspiration that I found

that I really love.

So got all these old fabric swatches that are from

a trimmings company in Minneapolis

because they're definitely a inspiration.

Our clients are really open to me

and all of my interesting bits and pieces I collect.

That kind of collecting, I think is at the core

of how we find inspiration.

(upbeat smooth jazz music)

- We're very fortunate to have the clients that we have.

We work with people versus for them

and they understand that.

- How've you guys been?

- Good. - Good.

- [Josef] How are you guys?

- Today we're meeting with our clients,

Ryan and Sabrina of Otabo.

We're going to work through

some of our plans for Borderland.

- We want to treat the furniture like they're unique,

individual fine pieces of art.

(upbeat smooth jazz)

- In the early days of Bodega,

we had all of our capabilities listed on our website.

Then we started getting all these inquiries

that were really boring.

I need this one thing and that one thing only

and I'm not willing to talk about anything else.

So we took all that down

and we let our work be the main drive for the website.

So then that allowed us to kind of field anything

and then be whatever we needed to be for that client.

I think it'd be worth looking at the pieces behind us

to kind of get a feel for the textures.

- Yeah, I like the idea of making a lot of these things

a part of our normal lives.

- Right, yeah.

Clients say, "I'm not really sure what it is I want from you

"but I just know I need to have it."

You know, here's the goal, but how do we get there?

And we actually got to be a part of creating

what the solution was versus just being handed

like the finish line, I guess.

Maison Bodega is a hundred year old building

that we are renovating and turning

into our live, work space.

(bright violin music)

- It's a really good reflection of our process

and how we look at projects.

Understanding where something's come from

and where it's going at the same time.

(bright violin music)

We've done a lot of work on this house.

- Yeah, we've taken full wallpaper, one layer

or six layers.

We've taken out really old paneling. (chuckles)

We've refurbished windows.

We've ...

- Jackhammered out four or five inches of concrete

downstairs to prep for the terrazzo mix that you designed.

Building being from 1920 was a creative hub.

It was also a women's club and magazine

ran through here as well.

So we're trying to do is understand where it came from

and take that energy and take it forward into the future.

And make sure everything is done right.

(bright acoustic guitar music)

- With this project specifically, with every detail

that we're being really thoughtful and intentional of how

we're able to tie all of those up

to kind of the bigger overarching concept

and idea that's really rooted in stewardship

and preservation and that intentionality means a lot.

- We try and sell big ideas to clients.

So then to really sell them through,

you have to live that lifestyle as well.

So for us, it's like how big can we go?

And let's just go for it, kind of the way

we started Bodega.

Let's take that risk 'cause we can only take this risk once

and we're kind of doing that again.

Let's go for it, you know?

(upbeat indie music)

(slow folk music)

(birds chirping)

- I was a tomboy.

I was outside all day.

I built dozens and dozens dozens of forts.

We were just outside all the time.

One of those kids, I got on a bike at nine in the morning

on a summer day and came home just in time for dinner.

It feels like a cliche to say no,

my source of inspiration is nature.

I have reverence for nature.

I would say that's the word is reverence.

I really feel like Mother Nature has solved most problems

and so I just think it's infinitely inspiring.

(slow banjo music)

(birds chirping)

(upbeat folk music)

Oh that's really, really pretty.

Hey, these ferns are curling on the ends.

Oh my gosh, I've never seen that.

I bet it's only gonna last one day.

Oh my gosh.

I'm gonna try and photograph this, but there's a possibility

if I snip a frond that they'll like, go limp

as soon as I do.

That's crazy pretty.

I really got into photography when in college

when I was given an SLR camera.

And then I started doing visual journaling,

sort of like sketching, collaging.

Sugar wrappers in France, French cafes. (chuckles)

So we've just slowly added as the kids got older

and I got more free time, I could add more and more

creative outlets to my life.

I don't know if I want to do that.

Oh, that's good.

Steve and I, my husband, Steve, we've always thought

that we would retire into a creative career.

He's always had ambitions to be a writer.

I always had ambitions to be a photographer,

visual artist, collager, artist, or painter.

We would sort of set ourselves up, we'd prepare

to be creative in our retirement.

A lot of people were doing these project-a-days

and they're very popular and they've launched

tons of artists.

And I thought, I want to do something like that.

It didn't take long to look around my house and see

you know, the bowl full of rocks from Lake Superior

and the bowl full of sea glass from the Mediterranean,

without even realizing it, that I was a nature collector,

what I collect is nature.

Color family.

That's some nice shadows, I think actually,

give it some depth.

I just feel like there's too much stimulus today.

There's too much stuff coming.

There's too much advertising and too much color

and it's too loud and it's too bright.

So for me still was this quiet place, you know.

It's white on white.

It's very quiet.

You look at one thing.

It's usually floating on the white background

because I just wanted it to be calm.

And people responded to that.

It's a quirky nature blog from Shorview, Minnesota.

But it hit a nerve, it hit a zeitgeist

that people like the calm of the images.

(gentle guitar music)

Seed pods and bugs.

and this is what I call delicate bits.

Yeah, eucalyptus seed pods.

These are from wild grapevines here.

Beetle-eaten leaves, sometimes called skeleton leaves.

My process can be repeated, but my portfolio can't now.

Those ferns that we just photographed today

with their little droopy tips, I've never seen that before,

I may not see it again, you know.

Jack-Jack, good boy, good boy.

The blog has been an absolute life enhancer.

Like I can take my walk in the morning.

I can photograph my subject in the afternoon

and I can edit it at night.

And I think that's part of the reason

the daily blog challenge became a life enhancer

'cause it never became a life detractor.

It never got in the way.

I did it as a creative challenge,

it was to have a creative exercise

so I could grow as an artist.

But what happened, what I did not expect is that

it became part of our family lifestyle.

The whole family, we're all naturalists now.

(birds chirping)

when I'm creating, I can get into deep play,

where I can lift up my head and two hours have gone by

and they felt like a minute.

I can imagine doing this forever because nature is

infinitely varied and I won't ever exhaust it.

It won't get boring.

I could study it.

I could photograph it.

I could document it for the rest of my life.

What'd you find?

What'd you find?

(light guitar music)

- Quilling's actually described

as the art of paper filigree.

Traditionally artists use paper strips,

and they would coil it up and make shapes out of it.

But instead of doing that, my way of quilling

is to just use the paper strip and to almost like

sketch with paper.

I like paper because it's something that I'm familiar with

and it's something that everyone can relate to.

(bright folk music)

I've always been artistic since I was a kid.

I loved working with my hands.

And I think that being in architecture school

and the studio environment, that really helped.

I was born in Singapore, but then I decided to

go to college for architecture at Cornell University.

I initially thought architecture was a good balance of

like being creative as well as a little bit of engineering.

I kind of like that idea of being artistic

and practical at the same time.

When we moved to the Twin Cities,

I knew I didn't want to do architecture anymore

just because I never was really passionate about it.

So I started doing paper art two years ago

and I guess now I'm a paper artist.

(up beat indie music)

I work under the name Judith and Rolfe

which is a combination of my middle name

and my husband's middle name.

- [Jamie] Oh, that's cool.

- I do like to say when referring to my artwork

because I feel like Jamie has had a say in it.

So even though he's not the one physically putting

the paper down, gluing the paper down,

you know his ideas are in it.

His criticisms are in it and I like to give him credit.

(upbeat indie music)

I like to call myself a self-taught artist

because I didn't go to art school.

When I first started, I made it a point to not

look at videos online of how other artists

were doing quilling or paper art.

'Cause I think the process of making something

it's unique and it's personal.

Since I already had that foundation in architecture school.

I felt like it was important to find my own way

of doing things.

And so how I work may not necessarily be how

some other artists work, but it works for me.

And I think that's important.

(upbeat indie music)

(soft guitar music)

My aesthetic is clean and modern,

I don't like anything too fussy.

It's difficult to do simple.

Something that looks easy

could take hours and days, weeks.

The first paper art pieces that I made

were names with these coils of paper

and they were actually gifts for our friends and family,

for their babies.

Yeah, started out being way more personal

and now I'm trying to grow as an artist.

We were just in a group exhibition in California.

It was a group of paper artists

and I actually was the only quilling artist.

It was the first time that our work has been shown

in the US in a gallery setting.

So we actually had a chance to go visit

and my parents actually came to visit

and got to see the show,

which I think must have been interesting for them

because in their mind they still think I'm an architect.

You know, I sent my daughter to architecture school.

What is she doing?

So it's nice to see that I possibly have a career in art.

It's like gratifying to see your work on the wall.

(upbeat indie music)

(thoughtful instrumental music)

(low key indie music)

- My creative process is much like this meandering circle

of excitement and sort of the fear

and feelings of inadequacy and then total excitement again.

I know that I'm in good territory

if I feel lost and I know now

that I have to work through those feelings

of I don't know what I'm doing or this thing is terrible,

to get to the other side.

I'm a graphic designer by trade

and design has always been something I really enjoyed,

making something has been something I really enjoy.

And the business piece sort of followed along.

So I let my love for making things stay along side me

as new opportunities in social media and product development

had come along.

I would say my aesthetic is a mixture

between classic and modern.

I love that tension where two different styles meet

and there's kind of energy in mixing and matching.

It's a lot of high and low.

It's a lot of mixed materials.

It's a a little bit of patina on things

and that everything looks really good

against a white wall.

It's an inspiration wall.

So it's where we just put up stuff we are liking,

things that we've made, things that we feel

we could come back to.

And so these are things that just inspire the product line

and art direction and sometimes we put up products

we've designed and say, "Oh no, that doesn't really

"feel like it fit in our world."

Sometimes we like it anyway and keep it.

The impetus for Wit & Delight,

I started it in late 2008 when the stock market

was going crazy and I was worried about losing my job

and I thought, might as well deal with the anxiety

by betting on myself.

(smooth jazz music)

When I started the website, I was trying to figure out

you know, really basic things

like how do I create an apartment that I'm proud of

and love living in, on a shoestring budget?

And I found that all the things

that I was gravitating towards were beautiful,

but they also were smart.

And that's where the name of the company really came from.

(low key jazz music)

it was a blog.

I designed it myself.

I coded it myself.

It crashed all the time.

At the time there was lots of pink and sparkles

and a lot of the feminine sites were really wonderful

and fun to read, but they didn't necessarily

speak to my aesthetic.

So I though maybe I have something unique to say

that isn't as girly, that may be

a little bit more understated.

And maybe there are other women who feel that way too.

And it turns out that was true.

(upbeat guitar music)

We wrote about design and decor from 2009

until probably about 2013

when I decided to bring sort of a lifestyle aspect

that didn't have to do with material things,

that had a lot more to do with how you view the things

in your world and how you're treating yourself.

And mental health became a huge platform

and topic for us to champion

and things really changed when we began to talk about

being good to yourself so you can live a better life.

(laughing)

Yeah, I love that.

So these are affirmation cards, which essentially

they come with a little stand so you can like

put them on your desk or like in your bathroom or whatever

and they're essentially like little reminders.

Let your mind run free is one.

For my wild brain and it's okay to let that happen.

Checking your negativity at the door.

When you're feeling shame, remembering that you're

totally enough right now.

Keep doing you.

Less ego, more empathy.

It's perfect for the stan age.

No one is as perfect as they appear.

Oh, this is my favorite.

(laughter)

Put your phone down.

(soft guitar music)

The journals that I keep and the sketchbooks that I keep

have been a long-standing way for me to deal with ADD.

I was kind of riffing off an idea on ways I'm feeling.

This is probably anxiety.

This is probably when ADD is feeling really, really good.

And this is probably my ADD on steroids.

Becoming more open about my anxiety and depression

is roughly a parallel path to me understanding

exactly the role it played in my life.

I felt that all of these things that were really

weighing me down, holding me back, suddenly became assets.

My ADD became this wonderful way of having

incredible speed and creativity.

My anxiety kept me from running my business amok.

My depression was essentially a way of saying

that you've gone too far, you need to take a break.

(soft guitar music)

and that's really when I realized, okay, if I've taken

like the most this diagnosis that I've been so shameful of

and realize all the benefits of it,

and I've realized how to live with it.

I had a responsibility to share that with people.

Especially for writing about designing a life well lived.

Like you can't design your life around

having material things, save you from who you really are.

And so, figuring out how to use your flaws

to live a better life.

You can't sort of deny those things.

And everyone, I think, has a reckoning at some point

to say this is who I am flaws and all.

And how do I learn to embrace them more

to live in a way that really fulfills me?

(low key guitar music)

(low key drumming)

(slow guitar music)

- Growing up, art was always a big part of my life.

I grew up sketching, drawing, painting.

I did theater throughout high school and in college

and eventually found my way to photography.

(low key guitar music)

I started my Instagram account when it first launched.

And it was just a tool and an app for me

to just kind of put out personal photographs.

And over time I started getting inquiries

about shooting for other people

or for shooting other projects

and wanting me to either work on their visual content

for their social media feeds.

Or actually work on different campaigns.

And so in 2010, I decided take a leap of faith

and started Canary Grey.

(upbeat drum music)

I work with different brands on visual content.

I work with different lifestyle brands,

work with publications with shooting editorial content.

And I work with architectural firms,

shooting interior and exterior spaces.

Yeah, perfect.

My aesthetic is more minimal, I would say.

I'm attracted to the simple lines and shapes

and the composition of an image.

You know, when I'm shooting landscapes,

I really like looking at it more

from an abstract point of view.

I love using negative space.

There's something about that

that highlights the point of view.

Yeah, and I like that it's more neutral then

just having the floor there.

I really enjoy working with clients

in more than just a photographer capacity.

I really want to be hands on and work with my clients

on their overall art direction and even help style

if I need to.

I love your face right now.

Stay right there, I like you looking down.

Awesome, okay, got it.

I think with finding photography later in my life,

helped me become a stronger photographer

and a stronger artist because

I had other foundations in art.

By then, I had honed in on some more technical skills too.

(upbeat music)

Got it.

(low key electronica)

In the past couple of years,

I've been working on more personal projects.

And I've wanted to pursue

putting out more fine art photography.

It's an evolution that is something

that I always wanted to do as an artist.

A couple of the projects that I've been working on

are from some of our personal travels.

One common thread is nature, in particular

when we're in Norway we hiked to Trolltunga

which was the most incredible

and crazy thing I've done ever. (laughs)

But I was so inspired by the landscape over there

and like not the obvious beauty of the view

that you got from the top, but I was really inspired by

the geological formations.

What excites me the most,

I'll be able to tell my own stories.

A lot of my work that I've done for other people,

I'm really proud of, but there's always

a little piece of me that's missing in that.

And I've really wanted to put out more personal work.

And so it's a big leap of faith, like starting Canary Grey

That I'm excited to pursue

and finally put out my own photography

and my own art.

C is for cat and D is for dinosaur.

Since having Odin, it's been easier to say no to things.

It's really made me realize what matters.

I want to take on work that excites me

and makes me happy and there's work that does do that.

And so saying yes to those is easy,

but then saying no to things

that just don't make sense or matter

or that take time away from him.

It's easier to say no to those things.

That's impacted me the most, I would say.

- [Announcer] This program was made possible by

The state's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

and the citizens of Minnesota.

(melodic electronic chimes)

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