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Travel Inspiration for the Creative Entrepreneur: Asheville, North Carolina

Love Asheville, NC

Every destination has a story. Exploring new places, discovering their stories, and bringing the inspiration back to breathe new life into my design and painting is key to my work — especially so I can help other destinations uncover their brand. Welcome to Travel Inspiration!

In this Travel Inspiration edition, I explore Asheville, North Carolina. I had the privilege of heading south to Asheville in March for a business retreat with Christine Kane.

There’s no other way to say it: from the time you grab a taxi driven by an aspiring poet to the musicians serenading walkers on the street, the authentic spirit and artistic essence of Asheville is simply palpable. With the addition of the Blue Ridge Mountains setting a beautiful backdrop, Asheville has easily become one of my favorite places to visit as a graphic designer and painter.

What’s more: Asheville has owned its inspiring culture through its bold but warm brand and the experiences to be had there.

Experiences + brands that impress

In a place surrounded by so much beauty and truly fantastic people, it’s tough not to find inspiration at every turn. Here are four experiences — and brands — that truly left a mark on me:

Asheville’s Salt Cave

After two days of adrenaline-rushing, mind-racing, idea-flowing business coaching, my body and mind were craving a place of relaxation.

My fellow retreat attendee recommended the Asheville Salt Caves. For her, just one hour in the cave felt like four days of vacation at the ocean. For me, my short time spent there allowed me a relaxing experience and renewal in a deep meditative state. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a solo business owner, it’s that full-immersion work on your business is critical to moving forward, but self-care through release and renewal are just as important. It’s all about balance.

The Salt Cave experience has stuck with me even as we conquer the lion that spring came in as in the Finger Lakes. The people behind the Salt Cave know its benefits — the environment’s healing, restorative properties — and have communicated that through its whole brand, from design to packaging and through its services.

Herbiary

An herbal apothecary and natural remedy store (doesn’t that just sound amazing?), Herbiary simply does it right. Owned by a strong and powerful friend, Maia Toll, the store carries hundreds of medicinal herbs, essential oils, teas, tinctures, flower essences, and body care products.

Maia is honest and transparent when it comes to her practice. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers — but she is dedicated to learning and sharing as much as possible. Her humility and passion shine through her brand loud and clear, from her website to the packages she offers.

In case you’re wondering, I left with an essential oil called “Mental Clarity.” I keep it by my computer to turn to on days when I simply need a burst of energy.

The Black Bird restaurant

Art and music are unmistakably a huge part of Asheville culture, but its food deserves the same pedestal. Just one of the many memorable restaurants we ate at was The Black Bird.

The menu focuses on local: seasonal bests from local farmers and fresh catches from the coasts of the Carolinas. But not only was the food amazing, the ambiance — the environment created — was truly inspiring. Particularly notable for me was the wall sculpture of blackbirds soaring. Extending your brand to your interior design as a brick-and-mortar place of business is a dimension and opportunity not to be forgotten. It truly brings the experience full circle.

French Broad Chocolates

Guilty: I cannot go to Asheville without stopping at French Broad Chocolates. (Let’s just say chocolate is essential to release, renewal, and mental clarity, as well!)

You’ll notice something quick about French Broad Chocolates: there’s always a line out the door for its hot chocolate, cakes, brownies, and chocolate boxes to go. That’s for a good reason. Not only does the shop do chocolate and baking right, but it creates a true experience around its brand with its chocolate “lounge” and “bean-to-bar” factory. Its story emanates through the ambiance, packaging, and service.

Let travel inspire you

A destination encompasses so much. Its brand is determined by its people, its natural environment, its created experiences, and so much more. Every place has a story. Asheville owns its story as a place for creatives looking for inspiration, restoration, and a nurturing culture. For me, the inspiration found in Asheville will fuel my creativity as long as I can recall the memories made.

Where have you been lately that’s inspired you, in life or business? Share with me below!

Next up in Travel Inspiration: I’m headed to Santa Monica, California! It’s been nearly a year since my last trip to Santa Monica, but the inspiration has remained. I look forward to it being renewed, and sharing that story with you.

Designing an Environment for Creativity: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of My Studio

Home Studio Tour

“One of the greatest necessities… is to discover creative solitude.” – Carl Sandburg

When it comes to creativity, or really anything productive, environment is everything. The sounds, smells, and space you surround yourself with are incredibly important to fostering the mindset needed to accomplish.

As a business owner, I’ve also found that the environment you create is a direct reflection of your brand.

That’s why, when I moved from an external design studio to one within my own home, I took special care to make it exactly what I needed to reflect Harris Studios and to perform at my best.

Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of what that looks like:

2015_03_12 Tour 01

1. A clean, tidy desk

I work on design projects for a variety of clients, meaning I need space both mentally and physically to dream up different concepts and visions for each project. My desk serves as the place where the design happens, and keeping my desk clean save a few necessary, deliberate items – my Wacom tablet, fresh fruit, and beautiful flowers – gives me that space. If creativity thrived on clutter, life might be easier — but then, it wouldn’t be as fun, right?

2. Ambiance

2015_03_12 Tour 02

I am so incredibly fortunate to work out of my 1800’s post and beam-style home, where accents like this fireplace adorn several rooms. There’s nothing like the crackle of a wood fire during the cold winter months, or the sound of the breeze coming through the front door during the warm summer. Setting the tone in the room is so important to my mood, and being comfortable allows me to create freely. My office mascot, Banks — also my walking buddy — is a frequent visitor, and enjoys the ambiance, as well.

3. Space for what you love

2015_03_12 Tour 03

All work and no play makes for a tough day. For me, painting is my passion. It fuels my inner artist and largely influences my design work. That’s why it was absolutely imperative that I create a space for painting within my home office. For you, this space may look like a reading nook; a set of workout equipment; a ping-pong table. Making space for what you love will inspire your work in ways you can’t even imagine — I promise you that.

4. The little details

I firmly believe in making your space your own, as you can tell. This goes down even to the small details. Whether you’re in a tiny office cubicle or sprawled out on a spacious deck overlooking the ocean, it’s the little details — the photos you hang up, the quotes you write down, the special tokens that remind you of places and people you choose to display — that make the space yours. For me, I also include many fun art supplies, books, and interesting pieces I have picked up on my journey that may serve as inspiration or subject matter at some point. They remind me that an integration of creativity, focus, work and play are imperative to a successful business and balanced life.

2015_03_12 Tour 04

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Just as Virginia Woolf believed all women should have a room of one’s own to create and succeed, I truly believe that each and every entrepreneur and individual should put careful thought into designing the space they occupy to make it a place that fosters creativity, inspiration, and comfort.

Our best work comes when we’re in a space that allows for it. What does that space look like for you?

Creative Inspiration: Just Be.

creative inspiration in morning walks

I took the leap to become my own boss in my graphic design business 16 years ago, yet it was only in the past year that I became even more daring, listened to my heart, and moved out of the office space I rented and into the coziness of my own home workspace.

With this came a lot of change: I no longer had the parameters of “going to the office” to set my pace in the morning. I no longer had the presence of other building tenants keeping me alert throughout the day. I no longer had the routine I had followed for those 15 years.

Like with any great change though, I knew this was an opportunity to grow. To appreciate my commute from upstairs to down. And to bask in the bliss that is being an entrepreneur who lives in an absolutely spectacular place.

Bloomfield bliss

I am fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth – a small town called Bloomfield in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It’s the perfect place to draw inspiration for both graphic design and painting, where beauty is always in abundance throughout the four distinct, changing seasons.

So naturally, it didn’t take long before I found my absolute favorite routine to get my day going: a morning walk most often accompanied by my officemate and mascot, Banks. Together, we take in the fresh air — some days in shorts and sandals; others in ear muffs and boots. (Okay, that’s just me. He usually goes out in the same way each day.)

On these 2.5 mile jaunts around the wooded “block” that surrounds my home (which is pleasantly located on a secluded dirt road), we are blessed to see, smell, feel, and enjoy so much. It’s during these walks that I have the freedom to just be. To enter the perfect state of flow. To set my intentions for the day and focus on being present.

To say my morning walks inspire me would be an understatement. They do so much more: they take me to a quiet place of presence where I am able to observe. I see details, colors, and textures that would sadly be easy to overlook otherwise. More than once, a great idea or creative design solution will present itself to me as I allow myself to be in this state.

Meanwhile, Banks takes pleasure in his own way, stopping to smell at any given point. In fact, his stops are what often allow me to notice the bittersweet changing of the leaves, an interesting bird, or an intriguing texture in a tree.

Magical. It’s the perfect word to describe seeing the Earth change: the streams full in the spring; iced in the winter; dry in the fall.

Allow yourself to be.

Most of my working life, I didn’t allow myself this time to just be; to walk and really absorb the amazing beauty I’ve always been surrounded by. I rushed off to work. I was “busy.” I was always doing. Now, I can honestly say I’m being.

Taking in our surroundings and appreciating the small things is truly a gift. My creative work is better for it; I am better for it.

What do you work into your routine to allow yourself to just be? Let’s inspire each other in the comments below!

PS – It just wouldn’t be fair to keep these moments of pure nature and inspiration to myself. That’s why I started Instagramming them to share the beauty that surrounds me with friends and followers near and far.

Banks        winter berries in Bloomfield        leaves in the Finger Lakes