Meet Designing Mom: Erika G

by Cat on November 24, 2009

When I first interviewed my trusted design assistant for her position I asked who her favorite designers were. Her eyes lit up and without hesitation she said “Erika Givens at Gleaux!” She proceeded to tell me how her love of paper was inspired by Erika’s print work and gorgeous invitations. Inspired is right… Erika’s work is downright amazing. It has a soulful quality to it…layers upon layers, narrative, resonance. If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing her work, click here to visit her site. I am so excited to have Erika (Erika G here since we have two!) join us as our newest Designing Mom. Please help me give her a big welcome and read about her work and daily inspirations!

above: wall art Atelier LZC

Hi! My name is Erika Rhein Givens and I am delighted to be joining the Designing Moms blog! Thank you so much for having me! I am a graphic designer running a small design studio called Gleaux (pronounced “glow”) specializing in cards, invitations, maps and anything else deliciously creative. I also run a small zoo. I have three year old twin boys. No need for further explanation!

I was born, raised and currently live in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area and still find this place to be alight with inspiration at every turn. I love the City by the Bay. But then again, I love most cities, as long as they are noisy, congested, filled with nooks and crannies, over-ridden with signage of every language, simmering with sauces from every region, colorful, layered in flavors and textures, bordered with grubby industrial spaces, checkered with hot spots and neon reminders of every known vice, hi-tech handheld device and travel destination, dimly lit alleyways laced with birdcages, clothes lines, lingering music, wet newsprint, and the sound of distant honking cabbies, common spaces that house bizarre and gritty public art, hushed chess tables, vendors pedaling their eclectic wares…. … basically very messy, elaborate, grown-up versions of the Sesame Street set!

Cities give me chills. So does the rain. Everything takes on a beautiful, melancholy meaning to me in the rain. Everything begs to be photographed. If I could, I’d wander around whenever it rained, listening to war-era jazz on my iPod and taking pictures. Then rush home when I got waterlogged and cold, to build a fire, get cozy with my fellas and cook something cockle-warming. Architecture inspires me. Especially the new Cathedral of Christ the
near Lake Merritt in Oakland. It is the most magnificent structure of wood, glass and metal imaginable. It is all about lighting, macro-imagery, scale, harmony and peace. It not only totally commands your attention visually, but it touches you spiritually as well, whether you are religious or not. A visit is a truly remarkable and humbling experience.

Walking in the redwood forests of the Oakland Hills with my boys inspires me. Luke and Reid have a raw curiosity and energy, turning over leaves, collecting bugs, seeds, pine cones… they (for an all too short period of time!) become these small gentle extensions of nature, speaking softly, treading lightly, like baby deer. I become inspired watching and listening to them. History inspires me. I could just kick myself that I didn’t pay more attention to history in college. I get this overwhelming feeling of nostalgia when seeing or holding something from decades or centuries gone by… like imagining the crumbled fragments of history just under the sidewalks as you walk thru the Barbary Coast in San Francisco… or exploring the forgotten, overgrown military structures still barely marking the Bay’s forts and bases from WWII, or flipping thru an old accounting ledger and wondering how handwritten script could be so delicately beautiful and the leather bound covers so plush and soft, or sifting thru old stamps and paper currency in amazement at the micrographics and pen-drawn, feather-fine linear etchings, the worn but still somehow vibrant colors. I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era… but then again, I probably wouldn’t experience half the awe in these details if living amidst it all.

My boys are quite lucky to have their 97 year old great grandma Evelina in their lives. I often send her questionnaires to fill out about her memories living almost a century in San Francisco. Her alert mind and vivid recollections are priceless gifts that inspire me. My life, work and home incorporate bits and pieces of the things I love. Below are a few snapshots… come on in!

above: wall art by Anne Wilson

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Our Designing Moms November 24, 2009 at 4:48 pm

welcome Erika!


Tori Higa November 24, 2009 at 5:53 pm

welcome, erika! your work is beautiful and you are a great writer. i am also so inspired by history and have at times wondered if i was born in the wrong era :) – but i don't think i ever could have written it as eloquently as you have! thanks for the inspiration today!


anne p. November 24, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Thank you for describing San Francisco so perfectly. Your work is just beautiful!


Erika November 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Thank you Tori and Anne, so nice to be a part of this – thank you for your sweet posts!!


pam / february 13 creative November 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Welcome Erika! I loved reading your post! I too am a fan of walking around in the rain and taking it all in from a wet perspective! I'm also a fan of Oakland's new Cathedral and was happy to see you mention it. And your work… just gorgeous!


cadenza November 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Wow, where do I begin…I was so excited when Catherine told me you've joined Designing Moms! :) From the time I discovered upon your amazing work while researching favorite designers in school to having the honor of speaking with your for a class project, I'm continually inspired. I've also truly enjoyed reading your lovely post, and look forward to more to come along with all the other inspiring Designing Moms!


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