Christine Mason Miller is an explorer. Whether traveling the globe or sitting in her cozy home, she sets out to find beauty, joy and wonder. But she doesn't keep those discoveries to herself. She shares them through her gorgeous art and soulful writing. Christine is one of those women who seems to accomplish whatever she sets out to do. She is bold, courageous, funny and kind to the core.
Christine's travels take her to the far corners of the world and her creative pursuits include starting a successful stationery line to self-publishing an inspirational book to teaching workshops to other truth and beauty seekers. These days, you can find her making beautiful messes in her studio space and spending quiet evenings with her husband, Larry, and new puppy, Tilda. Lucky for us, Christine was able to carve a little time to talk to me about her adventures.
Thank you for making time for this little chat. I know you are busy with the new addition to your family, adorable puppy Tilda. How are you three doing?
It is certainly a big adjustment, but for the most part we are having fun. She is incredibly sweet and has quite the fan club. Her social calendar for this first week with us has been quite busy.
One of the things I admire about you is your sense of adventure. Some people have never traveled out of the state, yet here you are, traveling to places like Japan and Italy, Cuba and Jordan. How did you become the world traveler that you are?
It all started in the eighth grade, when my best friend in middle school came back from our summer vacation with photos of her family's holiday to Europe. I was fascinated. Flipping through her photos is still an incredibly vivid memory; the one thought going through my mind that day was I WANT TO DO THIS...I WANT TO DO THIS. That was it ~ I was hooked.
What was the first trip you ever took? Who did you go with, how long did you stay, and what was your favorite memory from the trip?
My first trip was backpacking through Europe for six weeks right after college (and then I did it again six months later for another four weeks.) The first trip was with my best friend from college, Melissa, who is still my best friend. We went to Paris, Munich, Wurzburg, Frankfurt, Florence and Rome.
My favorite memory from that trip is a very, very small one. During part of the trip, Melissa wanted to stay in Wurzburg but I wanted to go to Rome, so I went on my own. By that time we were at least a month into our trip, during which time our diet consisted mainly of bread, simple sandwiches, pizza, water and beer. I was in Rome wandering around and decided to get a can of Coke, which was an insane splurge considering the budget I was on. But I did it anyway and that will likely be the best can of Coke I have ever enjoyed.
I remember feeling strong and independent, sitting in the sun in Rome watching all the people walk by as I drank my soda, sinking into the realization that I was living a long-held dream come true.
What are some favorite places you've traveled? Why?
Such a hard question! I love them all, all for different reasons. I love Tokyo because it's so huge and neon-crazy, yet delicate and reserved at the same time. I love Havana because of all of its juxtapositions ~ beautiful music everywhere in the midst of crumbling buildings, incredible kindness from people who "purchase" their food with government ration cards. I love Jordan because it felt most intensely out of my comfort zone, and it was fascinating to visit a peaceful country that sits smack in the middle of much of the world's worst conflicts.
I see your sense of adventure carry into your creative life, whether it's starting your own stationery line, Swirly, or self-publishing your book, Ordinary Sparkling Moments. How do you prepare yourself for these new and often scary adventures? Do you have any advice for others who want to take similar leaps?
I would say three things:
1. Trust your intuition ~ ALWAYS
2. Most things will not go the way you think they will, but it is in those twists and turns that some of the most interesting opportunities exist. Approach your dream as a relationship between yourself and the dream, and as you keep your eye on your "big picture" vision, let your dream lead you there.
3. Don't expect to go through the entire journey without moments of fear, uncertainty, etc. There will be plenty of those moments, and when you reach them, just keep on doing your work and let those demons run around the house until they tire themselves out.
You wear many hats these days. You are a fine artist, you are a writer, and you are a teacher. When and how did you start wearing each hat? (How) do you think the three work together?
I would say the art and writing have always gone hand in hand to a certain extent. For my greeting card line Swirly, many people were surprised to learn that I created the illustrations as well as all of the sentiments. I would also say my sentiments were just as ~ if not more ~ compelling as the artwork.
As far as teaching is concerned, the foundation for my teaching and event organizing skills was really set in college, when I was President of the student programming board. Our organization brought all the films, concerts, plays, etc. to campus and I was President my senior year. I had to run weekly staff meetings, plan training retreats, workshops, etc. and act as a representative of our organization on campus. Then I earned a Master's Degree in Adult Education, so teaching has always been what I do in some form or another.
I think the three work together beneath a bigger umbrella of my greater mission, which is to inspire people to create a meaningful life they love. I try to inspire with my art, my writing, with teaching and with everything in between. They all serve the same purpose.
Where do you find inspiration?
EVERYWHERE ~ friends, a long walk, Big Sur, travel, books, the newspaper, my family.
Anyone who knows you (or reads your blog) knows that your creative community is very important to you, but I also feel that you value solitude. Is that right? How do you strike a balance between the two?
I have become more of an introvert over the years. I am totally fine in big groups and can talk with pretty much anyone, but I need to be alone in order to refill my energy reserves. The ideal social situation for me is a small group, where more meaningful discussions can take place versus small talk.
I'm not sure I've learned how to balance it all perfectly; more than trying to do that I try to be mindful of what my body is telling me (i.e. feeling a bad headache coming on) and if it is possible, to step away when I need to in order to take care of myself.
Another thing I admire about you is how you revere the little things that go into caring for your husband and home. You don't look down on these tasks. Instead, you seem to see them as an extension of your love. it gives me permission to embrace these tasks, too, as a wife and now as a mother. What are your favorite things about being a domestic goddess? What are your least favorite?
First, I really appreciate that you notice this. Second, my early 20s, National Organization for Women Membership-card-carrying self would be MORTIFIED at this!
Here's the deal ~ my husband gets up everyday, five days a week, and heads to an office where he has to deal with more stress, office politics and other executive woes than I can fathom. This is his choice, yes, but still, it is what he does. That means it is my job to hold the fort down ~ to do the laundry, take care of dinner, wash the dishes, keep our files in order...the list goes on and on. I do feel resentful and cranky about this from time to time~ because my work will be in a constant state of compromise while he has the job he has ~ but most of the time I choose to embrace this, and value this role I need to play right now in our partnership, however 1950s June Cleaver it might look from the outside.
And although my work is, indeed, compromised on a daily basis, I still manage to accomplish quite a lot, and my husband is always supportive of me following my dreams, whether it is writing a book or traveling to Jordan.
My favorite thing: Laundry
Least favorite: Being in charge of dinner ~ by the end of the day I'm too tired!
[Note: Despite that, Christine shared this recipe with us. She says: "Anytime I make this salad everyone goes bananas."]
I have seen firsthand what a wonderful hostess you are. Every detail at the dinner table or in your guestroom is just right. How do you make, and keep, such a warm and lovely home?
Part of it is by being rather OCD about keeping things tidy. Dishes are done each morning; I don't let piles accumulate around the house. We do have a lot of guests, and part of creating an inviting, cozy home is simply keeping it pretty neat. It invites everyone to sit down, relax, spread out.
It is also about little things like lighting, colors, artwork and seating arrangements. My husband and I always always try to choose all of these details with the same intention ~ to make it cozy. I also love adding little touches here and there that catch people positively off guard, such as my little diorama of a grasshopper playing hopscotch with a ladybug. I like to put little objects in unexpected places.
When all the work is done and all your guests have gone, what's your favorite way to wind down and relax?
Usually flat on the couch watching a movie!
What adventures are on the horizon for you?
Right now the biggest adventure is our new puppy Tilda ~ that has been quite a journey already, and we've had her less than a week! Thank you so much, Christine ~ I'm honored to be on BRUNCH.
All photos from Christine Mason Miller
Recipe from Olives, Anchovies, and Capers by Georgeanne Brenna