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meet pierre lamielle

photos & illustrations courtesy Pierre Lamielle

Talk about a Renaissance man. Pierre Lamielle is a Calgary-based author, illustrator, cooking instructor, graphic designer, blogger, and chef. His fabulously quirky illustrated cookbook, Kitchen Scraps, was published in October and will represent Canada in the Best Cookbook Illustration category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards on Feb. 11th.

Pierre graduated from the Capilano University graphic design and illustration program and worked for three years as a graphic designer at the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers before accepting a design and illustration position at the Calgary Herald. When the Herald’s critically acclaimed SWERVE magazine was born, Pierre and editor Shelley Youngblut dreamed up a column that combined Pierre’s lively illustrations with original recipes for gems such as the “stud muffin,” “Adam’s apple ribs” and “hot under the collard greens.”

A couple years later, Pierre left the Herald nest to attend the famed French Culinary Institute in New York City, while continuing to write and illustrate his popular SWERVE column. When he returned to Calgary, he successfully pitched Kitchen Scraps to Vancouver’s Whitecap Books (after several rejections that claimed the book was “too wacky and weird”) and launched his new, multi-faceted, freelance food-and-art career.

I chatted with Pierre just before he jetted off to Paris for the Gourmand Awards ceremony – and an envy-inducing itinerary of exploring, tasting, shopping and “getting jazzed up” for his next book. While he’s certainly hoping to bring home top honours in Paris, Pierre says he’s “totally fine” losing to Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner. “The other two… I don’t know.”

Good luck!

1. What fuels your work?

Organized chaos is pretty helpful – especially when you’re trying to be creative. But everything around you needs to be organized in a way that doesn’t make you crazy. That means going to the library, looking in different sections that you’re not used to and exploring things that you’re not familiar with. Researching – that’s the chaos side of things. The organized side means that you need to have a system that you can feel comfortable in and make slightly repetitive. It’s important to create habits, but also when you’re in the creative process, it’s good to go elsewhere to find new ideas.

2. What are some of your habits?

I find that dangling carrots is effective. For example, I’ll tell myself that I can’t have a cup of tea until something is finished. And when I’m doing illustrations, I use a specific pencil, I use a specific pen, and I have a set way of doing things. Writing is a little bit more free form, but I try to keep a consistent format.

3. How do you organize your life so you still have time, energy and focus to practice your craft?

I don’t keep it all that well organized. My mom’s in Vancouver, and she has an accountant that helps me with my taxes. I give her a shoebox, she takes a look at it, then gives it to her accountant. I’m sure it’s riddled with mistakes, and I miss lots of things and I don’t write off everything I should.

Day-to-day life can get bogged down, but luckily I’m not very important, so I don’t get very many emails. I keep a low profile. I don’t have anyone I need to talk to on a regular basis. But it does get interesting, because I juggle a few small jobs. I do the column, I teach cooking classes and I try to work on my new book. I also live with my girlfriend and we have her two small kids with us every other week, so it’s hard to keep things consistent. It’s a day-to-day juggle.

4. How many revenue streams do you have?

I teach cooking classes and write the column for SWERVE. And then to supplement, I do illustrations for clients. I don’t solicit, because I find that you just don’t get anywhere. It’s a real struggle to approach art directors. So, I wait for them to come to me, and basically, I’ll say yes to anything that’s about food. Then I do some small catering jobs on the side. Oh, and there’s also the book. It’s an income stream, but I would say it’s the most work I’ve ever done for the least financial payoff.

5. What is your bread-and-butter income source?

It’s a combination of the cooking classes and the column. I teach at The Cookbook Co. Cooks in Calgary, which has two demo kitchens, a wine shop, and a book and food emporium. I teach both public and private classes. So, it’s either group of accountants from an oil and gas company who come down and cook themselves a five-course meal – and I just make sure it tastes good. Or it’s the public class, where couples or singles or little groups of people come in and mingle and make a five-course meal.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

No. I wasn’t organized enough to think of anything that I really wanted to merchandise for the last book, Kitchen Scraps. I didn’t want to do illustrated prints, and I didn’t want to do mugs or anything like that. For the next one I’ll probably be more organized and now that I’ve got the process of a book down, I might be able to figure something out.

7. What has brought the most opportunities and attention to your work?

The book and maintaining a blog along with it. I think those two, hand-in-hand, have helped each other out. But that being said, I’m kind of sick and tired of doing a blog, because there’s no revenue stream, and it’s an awful lot of work. You either have to have some really good bread and butter work and be passionate about the blog, or be marketing a product and use the blog as a small marketing tool.

8. What is the best investment you’ve made in your career?

Education. That’s pretty safe to say. Going to graphic design and illustration school was huge and got me on that career path. But then going to cooking school was phenomenal, too, because as much as I loved cooking and I’d always cooked, there’s something about the structure of a learning environment that catapults you way beyond anything that you can self-teach. There are aspects of being self-taught that are phenomenal and invaluable, but it’s also invaluable to get the foundation for learning.

What has had the least financial or professional payoff?

It’s hard to say. I’ve done this blog for about a year and I don’t really know the cash value of it. I suppose I’ve expanded the book’s reach, but I also don’t think it has really catapulted the cookbook anywhere.

9. Where do you stand on the “selling out?” debate?

I think you could quite easily sell out. I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything for fast food. Basically, wherever your personal ethics lie, if you feel strongly about something and you go against that grain, that’s selling out.

10. Is there anything else you’ve learned and want to share?

When you work at home, it’s really easy to wear pajamas. Your other pants will quickly become outdated. In fact, I just bought five pairs of pants the other day, because I realized that I had no pants – just one pair of jeans.

Thanks, Pierre!

posted 9 Feb 10 in: art, business, design, food, interviews, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

stores that survive

photos by Deidre Schoo for the New York Times

photos by Deidre Schoo for the New York Times

In Wednesday’s New York Times, Cathy Horyn wrore a story called “Yes, We’re Open” about five new fashion retailers that are swimming upstream against the recession. It’s an appropriate topic after Black Friday in the U.S. and the newly-minted Cyber Monday, which offers online retailers the chance to cash in on the holiday binge.

It seems the bruised North American economy has created a predictable pattern where stores close or lay off workers and strip down their inventories. “But nothing quite conveys the confusion and sense of retail sclerosis as the high-end ladies boutique, lights on and empty, its owner selling the same six fabulous designers as everyone else, the same droopy China-made knit that shouldn’t cost $600 but somehow does, and not a chance, barely a glimmer of hope, that enough customers will care to buy something,” writes Horyn.

At the same time, lower rents and longer leases can also help newcomers to open the doors and turn their visions into reality. In New York and its burroughs, stores like Against Nature, JF & Son, Metal and Thread, Self Edge and Victor Osborne are attracting loyal new customers — often with a carefully curated mix of handcrafted, bespoke, vintage and forward-thinking items. It’s small-scale shopping without escalators or loyalty cards.

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Certainly that’s nothing new, and the shift toward actually meeting the man or woman who stitches up your skirt has been gaining momentum for at least half a decade. But it’s still encouraging to read these retail profiles. According to Horyn, “beyond favorable rents, beyond an interest in traditional things, the new stores say a lot about the fashion world. That there is a disconnect between the customer and the people making clothes. That men have replaced women as informed, upward-moving shoppers. That designers will have to take control of how their clothes are produced.”

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Here in Vancouver, those words also ring true. Every day, I walk past a pair of gorgeous-but-empty boutiques that opened in the last calendar year. I’m waiting to see which one shuts down first — even though they’re a beautiful addition to the neighborhood. At the same time, some retailers struggle with crowd control on a busy Saturday afternoon. Stores like Gravity Pope and Plenty come to mind. They can’t keep people out if they try. So what’s the difference? In my opinion, the survivors have these attributes on their side:

scale — small is beautiful. We’re sick of big box, big budgets and overblown, anonymous corporate retailers. Stores like H&M and Topshop are still getting a pass on this rule, but even they’re capitalizing on collaborations with designers such as Sonia Rykiel, Comme des Garçons, Matthew Williamson and Viktor & Rolf.

relative value — buyers will shell out more cash for the cashmere scarf if it’s a lovingly hand-knit, one-of-a-kind piece of fashionable art. Then the extra cost makes sense.

service — the owner who remembers your size and calls when something perfect arrives? That’s always been good business, but somehow it feels more meaningful today. Connections matter. Supporting small business is a social and political statement.

craftsmanship — who isn’t sick of hems that wait for the most inconvenient possible moment to unravel? Well-made products make sense. We’re seeing a long-overdue return to repairing things that were made right in the first place, and spending money on something that won’t be tossed in a month.

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posted 30 Nov 09 in: business, fashion, media, retail. This post currently has no responses.

crushing creativity

2009-11

I just read an interesting article by Carlin Flora, called “Everyday Creativity,” in the December issue of Psychology Today.

It was rich with ideas I want to explore in future posts. But even before I flipped to the story,  Kaja Perina used her front-of-book editor’s note to explain “how to crush your last shard of creativity.” According to Perina, these are five “surefire tips to extinguish the creative spark:”

– Know exactly what you’re doing before you get started

– Be careful not to offend

– Get permission

– Run it by everyone first

– Criticize yourself at every step

All those saccharine motivational sayings (“leap and the net will appear!”) just make me snicker. But I’m ready to post this list right on my desk. There’s nothing like a set of rigid rules to awaken my inner rebel, and this is such a cheeky reminder of how to actually be creative.

Then there’s the deceptively simple concept of everyday creativity. Yes, the Sistine Chapel can steal your breath. Mozart’s Requiem routinely makes happy people weep. And I once lost a full half-hour in front of a de Kooning painting. But when people take everyday ideas, objects, sounds, spaces, events and ingredients and transform them into something better — something inspired and surprising — that’s the foundation of a creative life.

As Flora’s story argues, engaging in creative behavior makes people more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative, and brave. People who spend their days immersed in innovation know that creativity is less about divine intervention and more like working in a coal mine; you just have to show up and keep digging.

Would I post that on my desk? I’m not sure. But I do know it’s better than “shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

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posted 17 Nov 09 in: art, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

mixing it up

Last Thursday, I attended Vancouver’s CREATIVEMIX conference. In addition to some excellent catering (a true rarity at these kind of events), standouts included speakers Terry McBride of Nettwerk Music Group, Cowie & Fox ad agency director Noel Fox, and Steven Cox of design and consulting studio Cause+Affect.

I wanted to focus on Steven Cox for a moment, because I was struck by one key point from his talk. As a former architect, Cox launched his career in the UK with Alison Brooks Architects and SOFTROOM. He’s worked on housing developments, retail interiors and brand campaigns for clients like Virgin Atlantic Airways, Volkswagen, Selfridges and Volkswagen. He had a rising career in a wildly vibrant international city.

But when Cox and his equally accomplished partner (in life and work), Jane Cox, returned to Vancouver and launched Cause+Affect in 2004, they were struck by how many people complained about life in Lotusland. From the tired “no-fun city” tag to an apparent obsession with polar fleece and strumming Jack Johnson riffs by the sea, Vancouver had a bad rap as a no-go destination for edgy fun. As Steven told the crowd of creatives last Thursday, the pair decided to “make Vancouver their project.”

I love this attitude. Unhappy with the cultural and artistic climate in your city? Change it. Stretch your creativity to enrich your community and develop new ways to talk, think, share and celebrate.

Cause+Affect certainly has. In just five years, their cultural resume now includes Pecha Kucha nights, the hugely popular Fuse events at the Vancouver Art Gallery (just try to snag a spot to watch zombies dance the Thriller), the Movers & Shapers exhibit, the Cheaper Show (cheap! art!), and the EPIC sustainable living exhibition. If it’s fun and buzzy in Vancouver, Jane and Steven Cox have probably had their hands in it. They’re making this city a more interesting place to live, while building a stronger brand for their own business.

The lesson for entrepreneurs of every stripe: Tackle something close to your heart. Figure out how to excite people and cause a stir. Do it because you see a need and you’ll naturally attract the clients, customers and artistic collaborators who speak your language.

photo by kimli

photo by kimli

posted 28 Oct 09 in: art, business, media. This post currently has no responses.

in good company

neri

I’m a longtime reader of Fast Company magazine. I love its engaging, entrepreneurial take on business — and how it breaks down those old boys’ club notions of success.

Part of my inspiration to launch this blog came from the June 2009 issue, featuring “The 100 Most Creative People in Business.” It’s a diverse list, from fashion designers Stella McCartney, Hussein Chalayan and Marc Jacobs, to artist Damien Hirst and music mogul Pharrell Williams, through to execs from Twitter, Red Bull, Target, Apple, Elephant Design and beyond. The gorgeous cover girl, Neri Oxman of MIT’s Media Lab, is #43.  You can see the full list here.

The  profiles provide some serious creative motivation, but I couldn’t help thinking about what lies beyond the mainstream radar. There are thousands and thousands of people who are doing amazing work, while still making their lives work. I want to learn from all the artists and innovators who don’t have the backing of big corporations or major studios.

But then again, even the Fast Company editors admit that selecting their top 100 was a risky task:

“We looked for dazzling new thinkers, rising stars, and boldface names who couldn’t be ignored. We avoided people we’ve profiled in the recent past. We emphasized those whose creativity addresses a larger issue — from the future of our energy infrastructure to the evolution of philanthropy to next-generation media.”

Inspired Outsiders is on a similar mission  — minus the boldface-only names.

Who’s on your top 100?

posted 21 Oct 09 in: business, media. This post currently has no responses.

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