Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stephanie Levy - creativity and courage

Stephanie in her studio

When you have a passion for learning and creativity, you tend to meet wonderfully creative people.

Last year I had the honor - and pleasure - to meet American artist and illustrator Stephanie Levy.  Stephanie had traveled from her home in Munich to Vienna, Austria to kick off her ambitious interview project, 12 Countries in 12 Months.  I was lucky to participate in one of Stephane's first interviews.

Since then, Stephanie has developed and launched an online course - Creative Courage - and she has traveled to many of the great cities of Europe: Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, Venice, Prague, Lisbon, Barcelona, Budapest, London, Paris, Athens, and Stockholm.

"Vienna" by Stephanie Levy

I am happy to introduce you to this generous and creative soul...

Stephanie, you recently completed groundwork on a fascinating interview project called 12 Countries in 12 Months.  You interviewed artists from all over Europe. What new insights can you share about this project and your journey?

Starting the 12 Countries in 12 Months art + travel + interview project was a truly life changing experience. In 2011, I turned 40 and I wanted to do something special to celebrate that year. Since I was living in Munich, Germany at the time - and living right in the middle of Europe - I decided that I could take a series of short trips and visit a new country each month.

As you look back on those 12 months, what surprises you most about the experience?  

Of course I loved trying out the regional specialties in terms of food, and seeing the beautiful architecture and art of each country. But my travel experience was given the most extraordinary flavor by the people I met. In each place I visited, I interviewed 3-5 creative women about their artwork, and I asked them why they chose to live in the place they were living.

I'm now slowly posting highlights from those meetings on my blogs, and I would love to create a book based on my travels and those interviews in the near future.

On the road to Stockholm

Many women would shy away from traveling solo, even through Europe.  What was it like to travel alone as a woman?

Actually traveling alone was no problem at all. Lots of people mentioned this, but I found it to be easier than expected. Of course, I was especially careful at night, and I stayed in a centrally located hotels or bed and breakfasts. Occasionally, it was a bit of a drag to go out to eat alone - again - but I got used to that too. Often, I had my main meal of the day at lunch or in the late afternoon, rather than in the evening, and that worked quite well.

Most of the time I enjoyed wandering around by myself, going to museums, taking photographs, and being completely in charge of my own schedule for a few days. The scheduled meetings I had with the women I interviewed also kept me from getting too lonely!

How long did you stay in each city?

Normally, I stayed in each city 5-6 days.

As an artist, is there a city that you visited where contemporary art was flourishing?  What about traditional artisan work?

I would say that I felt a special creative vibe in London and Berlin that was very memorable. In certain areas of those cities, it feels like the air is crackling with excitement (which is one reason I moved back to Berlin during the past year!)

"London" by Stephanie Levy

Budapest was a delicious, artsy surprise that I think we will be hearing much more about in the next years. Athens was also wonderful, and I place I'd love to visit again.


At the same time that you started your interview project, you introduced your Creative Courage e-course.  Can you talk a bit about the course and what inspired you to create it?

I love offering the Creative Courage e-course, and I have learned so much from my participants too! It is all about inspiring one another, celebrating our encouraging community together, and getting the motivation and tools we need to begin our creative projects.

Tools for creative projects

So far, women from over 30 countries from around the world have participated in this 6 week online adventure. Each week, we work on different themes which range from practical business tips to finding and following your individual creative path.

The course is packed full of guest interviews, exercises to get your mind and hands moving, and there is a wonderful supportive atmosphere that fills the class.

You can read more about the next session - beginning January 28th - here... Creative Courage.

Ahhh, the possibilities...

You recently moved to Berlin.  What are a few of your favorite things to do in the city?  What treasures have you discovered there?

I love walking around Berlin, soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, meeting my friends, visiting cozy cafes and fun ethnic restaurants. Berlin is my "soul city" and I'm happy to be living here again! It's hard to really explain why, it is like being in love, it's not completely rational... I have a true love affair with Berlin.


You have spent many years living in Europe.  How do you think your environment impacts your work?

Yes, I've been living in Europe for over 16 years now (now that makes me sound old!) I still enjoy it, and I don't know if it impacts my work, but it has certainly changed my life.

I moved to Germany when I was 24, fresh out of college, so I've lived here for most of my adult life. It is hard for me to imagine my life without Europe. I'm certainly still American, but Europe has shaped my views about the world I'm sure. I think at this point I'm somewhat of a hybrid. Or a mutant :)

What three things do you miss most about the States?

Cranberry juice (although we have that here too now), going out for giant American breakfasts at diners with pancakes and the works (actually in Berlin you can supposedly find that now as well, I must check it out...), and good, authentic Mexican food.

Ok, so these were all food related answers, so I will add a fourth: many Americans have a certain relaxed, "easy-goingness" in everyday situations - like standing in line, or driving on the highway - that I sometimes miss here. Germany is very organized and efficient, but sometimes people can get very tense when things don't run as perfectly as they should. Americans also tend to be very optimistic. I like that!

Do you have a favorite artist or author?  Could you share some links?

I recently created a fun "heroes" board on Pinterest full of people I admire, mostly women. This list certainly doesn't include everyone, but it is hopefully fun to look at.

Who inspires you most?

Everyone I meet and have the pleasure of knowing in this crazy, wonderful life.

To learn more about Stephanie Levy and her creative projects, visit:

Creative Courage e-course
12 Countries in 12 Months
a studio with a view
artists who blog
Stephanie on Etsy
Stephanie on Facebook
Stephanie's boards on Pinterest

Friday, January 18, 2013

Finding Home

View from Kerry Park

Moving is tiresome… boxes, movers, memories long packed away. They all want answers. Where does this go? What should be discarded? It is easy to get lost in the minutia of moving, and miss the bigger picture.

So I went out into my new city this morning, away from the boxes and piles, and scattered bits that may make up a home (should I find creativity in the chaos). I walked down my street, passed old craftsman homes, and headed west a few blocks.

Along Galer

The world opened up before me.

View from Queen Anne Hill

Across the sound

The Mountain

This is why I am here.