Michelle Schwartzbauer, designer from Rochester, New York, now living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in 2011, and has pursued a career in freelance illustration, graphic design, and art direction. Currently, Michelle is the art director and illustrator for A Woman’s Paris®, and a key member on its board of advisors. Her clients also include Best Buy and Nodin Press.
Michelle’s illustrations have been recognized by Creative Quarterly, a national publication that hosts competitions and publishes articles on industry-related topics. Michelle’s work has been exhibited in The Art Director’s Club Portfolio Review, an annual review of work by students from the top design colleges in the United States.
In addition to design and illustration, Michelle spends her time designing and sewing apparel, home décor and accessories, exploring cuisines from around the world, cultivating orchids, reading books and publications about design, and enjoying time with her kitten and close friends. Portfolio. Twitter.
AWP: Name the books and movies, works of art and music, fashion or cuisine that have inspired you.
MS: Couture fashion collections may be what have inspired me the most; the apparel and accessories trigger ideas that influence all of my interests. I love to browse ELLE.COM to reference color themes for illustrations and for creating my own patterns to sew.
I love the whimsical, graceful films by American director Wes Anderson, as well as the intricately animated films by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. More than the movies themselves, I enjoy attending with friends and in-depth conversations that follow about the techniques and motifs used in the film. If it was an exceptional film, we can talk and debate for hours!
I have always been inspired by the work of American illustrators Mary Blair, Joe Sorren, Katherine Streeter, and David Plunkert. I like art and design that is clear, fun, and innovative, which are all important elements to my philosophy on design.
Music has a great presence in any artist’s studio as a means of inspiration and motivation. For me, I enjoy artists my parents listened to when I was a kid; American and English folk-rock classics like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Fleetwood Mac, and Cat Stevens, as well as American Blues artists such as John Lee Hooker.
I love food — everything from discovering new cuisines, to the challenge I’ve given myself of cooking Vegan. Discovering new and exciting recipes not only gives me fuel to work, but it is creativity in itself!
AWP: Do you have any role models?
MS: My mother. She has a strong personality and is always full of new ideas. She is full of energy and never lets anything get her down. Her motto: when in doubt, go to the garden.
AWP: What is the last book you read?
MS: Parisian Chic: A Style Guide, by Ines de la Fressange. A smart, whimsical and useful guide with clues about what to buy and where to shop in Paris. In addition, I try to visit the library several times each month to borrow books on design, interior décor, DIY (Do It Yourself), and cookbooks that feature healthy recipes.
WORDS OF WISDOM:
AWP: What is the best (or worst) advice you’ve ever given or received?
MS: That’s tricky! My mother always gives the best advice; it’s very tough-love, which I respond to the best. I’ve definitely taken bad advice, but I don’t remember a specific event. I’ve gotten good at trusting my gut!
AWP: What handed-down wisdom did you receive from your mother or father?
MS: My parents are great, supportive people full of wisdom and have never let me down. Their style has always been “work hard, don’t complain, and think positively.”
AWP: What childhood experience has served you many times?
MS: Drawing. I try to take a lighthearted, playful attitude in all of my illustrations. Once an illustration becomes “too precious,” it looses its freshness. When an illustration is overworked, I think about what it was like to draw sitting next to my friends in kindergarten, and once I begin remembering and laughing about those times I’m ready to make something great!
AWP: In your youth, what did you imagine your adult life would hold? What influenced this vision?
MS: As a child, I remember being very attached to my surroundings. I never wanted to leave the botanical garden in Rochester, NY we visited monthly. I was perfectly happy sleeping under the large leaves of the tropical plants. I wanted to live in a bungalow in the jungle or a picturesque country house.
Even now, I still prefer to be outdoors — in a sunny garden, sitting in a cute café, or lounging on a beach (preferably the beaches of the North Atlantic Coast from my childhood). I can easily recall the sights and scents of these places, and often find myself buying lilac- and sea-salt scented cleaners and perfumes.
AWP: In your early teens, what formed your romantic fantasies of adventure and love?
MS: My first trip to Paris with my French class when I was 16. I remember how much more at home I felt there. Everything seemed comfortable and anything was possible! I was in love with the city, as so many people have been before me. It was the feeling of romantically eloping that was new to me.
AWP: What were your favorite childhood things to do?
MS: I loved visiting the zoo in Rochester, NY, and camping trips with my family in the lush green hills of New England. Site-seeing was my favorite past time.
AWP: What nourishes your passions?
MS: Working in collaboration with others. I am inspired by their passions, and it makes me eager to create alongside them. In collaboration and teamwork, learning comes in bounty. This is my reward, and my driving force. Discovering new passions and ideas in my creative endeavors is essential.
AWP: How did you get your foot in the door at the beginning of your career?
MS: I am grateful for the love and support from professors, colleagues and friends who have helped me in the early stage of my career, and who continue to be there for me.
AWP: Was being stylish important to you growing up in your teens? Is it now?
MS: Being stylish was not at all important to me. In my late teen years, I started to relate being stylish with being organized, then it became a great passion, challenge, and goal.
AWP: How do you define style or fashion?
MS: Style is about being unique and subtle. I feel trends can become too much like a costume, and therefore not stylish. Being able to add a popping element to a style, such as contrasting textures, a bright color, or sense of humor, while maintaining subtlety, for me, is a sign of pure personality and sophistication.
AWP: Tell me about your cooking and eating habits and traditions.
MS: I grew up in a family with Bavarian heritage, so lots and lots of salty meats, dark beers, heavy potato salad, and sauerkraut on a regular basis. These foods never appealed to me, so at a young age I started to seek out and discover new, lighter foods such as Vietnamese and vegetarian diets. After I left home, however, I found myself craving the occasional serving of sauerkraut on top of a mixed greens salad, sprinkled with dried cranberries. When cooking, preparing, or ordering food, I am mindful of balancing textures, flavors, and food groups. Just like my philosophy for fashion and design, entrées are a balance of unique flavors and subtleties. I try to balance a small bold element with a larger, lighter compliment, finishing the composition with a tasteful garnish.
AWP: What was your most memorable meal to date?
MS: I tell this story a lot. My father and I were in Pittsburg, PA to visit a college. We drove from our home in Rochester, NY and arrived very late. We were starved. Now, you need to know that my father chooses to live his life on a tight budget, only buying the necessities. Attached to our hotel was a five-star restaurant. To my surprise, he chose to go there, and not drive around the city looking for something cheaper. I would have been excited about this rare treat, but I was too exhausted and hungry. I ordered the least expensive entrée on the menu, Chicken Dijon with potatoes, for 38 dollars. Everything about the dish was perfect, with so many complex and subtle flavors, and the potatoes were cooked and garnished just right. I only wish I remembered the name of the restaurant! I want so badly to eat there again. We even got complementary cotton candy for dessert.
AWP: What is in your refrigerator right now?
MS: Flax milk, grapes, Parrano cheese, leftover lemon ricotta linguini.
ART OF LIVING:
AWP: What do you live for? What do you love above all?
MS: It may sound cliché, but a happy home. Being a young professional, just out of college, I am far too familiar with moving frequently to a new space. One of my greatest personal goals is to have my perfect home: a clean, organized sanctuary that smells of earl grey tea and lilacs. Where I can keep a studio, collect houseplants, take care of my cat, and maybe have a canary. I live for the love of my home and with whom I will share it.
AWP: What natural gift would you most like to possess? What talent are you most thankful for?
MS: I wish I was better at fixing things: electronics, cars, furniture, anything. There is something about knowing that I could make an object work again that is very comforting.
The talent I am most thankful for is my creativity. I often forget, because it is my every moment, that creativity is truly a blessing, both personally and professionally. Being able to improve not only the success of a project, but the quality of my life through creative thinking is an invaluable tool. Thanks, right brain!
AWP: What question are you tired of being asked?
MS: People who do not know me, and who are unfamiliar with the influence of art and design in business often ask, “So, do you make any money doing art?”
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Diving into Paris Fashion: From famous to fresh, by Paris-based Abby Rodgers, who asks the question, “…with veterans such as Lagerfeld making the move to the street-wear market, where is fashion headed in Paris and what influence does the newest generation have?” Included are fashion brands and stores that are favorites of Abby and her friends.
In search of the perfect Moroccan slipper, by American writer Lisa Rounds who tells of her adventures in the North African neighborhood of Barbès in Paris searching for the perfect slipper in red, of course, for a Cosmo photo shoot. Her story of “living the dream,” working for a publishing company in Paris.
Paris Décor: Interiors from spartan to sensational, by Barbara Redmond who explores the world of Parisian Décor from mysterious to minimalist and asks, “Is there a whimsical clash of 19th century formality with 21st century comfort of the ‘Style Castaing’ known by every Parisienne?” She shares the poetic interiors of Parisian interior decorator Madeleine Castaing, and modernist Eugénia Errázuriz known for the unusual austerity and elegance of her sparse interiors.
French Décor: Mirrors and Versailles, by Canadian writer Philippa Campsie who takes us on a journey of mirrors, made on the island of Murano, part of the city of Venice, to the Versailles mirrors which were among the first mirrors to be manufactured in France. A story of secrets high-stakes and intrigue.
A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre
We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)
Text copyright ©2012 Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.