Marleigh Culver is an artist and designer based in Richmond, VA.
You may not know it, but you've probably seen some of her work on Need Supply Co., where she is on the creative team as well as curating their Instagram feed. On the flip side of that aesthetic, her for-fun side project, named Routine Club, has a rapidly growing, enthusiastic fan base that converged via various social media channels.
Our conversation on social media authenticity vs. influence, designing for a brand vs. herself, and whether they're mutually exclusive or complementary follows below.
KNOBBLY: I've been thinking lately about how social media is changing the rules, for small businesses and designers in general and in the fashion industry specifically. I think it's really exciting, because we're at a stage where social media is so saturated with promotional content that we're maxing out the potential of last year's cutting edge marketing strategies, like product placement with massive influencers. People are super savvy to that right now, and it turns them off.
MC: I absolutely agree with you on the feeling of brand expression is being over-done by the way influencers post. Although, at any time in any creative fields, there will always be yin & yang: you can look at people with high followings who stick to their monochromatic grids openly pushing product, but there undoubtedly is an undercurrent of an artful and honest movement of influencing.
You can look at my friend Lucia, and many other women I follow who shoot such interesting and beautiful, candid things. It’s not necessarily a new style and it’s something I’ve been aware of for a while, but it’s pretty cool to see how cropping, lo-fi quality and strangeness is really something intriguing to be doing. It’s so free. It’s the opposite of bright shot, perfect life, cutesy things you see around.
So it's actually becoming more difficult to stand out if you're NOT telling a story that is uniquely your own and making real, human connections.
It’s easy to tell if something isn’t totally genuine. I was taking this Pinterest survey asking something like “Why do you post?” the answers were like “I pin for myself with no regard to my follower’s interests”, “I pin for myself but also like to appeal to my followers” and also “I pin things I know people will like and repin.” It’s so funny. I couldn’t imagine becoming a shell to post what I don’t actually believe in. For me that does not work. I like to be real, if people don’t like my style, that’s more than fine. Why would you waste your time on something that doesn’t make you feel, think or grow?
There are a lot of people who are themselves, and influence. And it’s really cool to see. People who are nice, have amazing taste and who are so curious.
The good thing with all of this, is that the more you are yourself, it seems to be rewarded by giving you the life you like.
Being yourself, doing what makes you happy and feels the most "you" - these are strong themes in everything you do. Can you tell me a little bit about how that works when you're working with a client, or on the day job? It feels like your connection with Need's aesthetic is solid, very you, but also very different from the style you express over on Routine Club and your latest work that I've seen.
I really respect and connect with the strictness, cleanliness and communication that Need pushes. It's a great aesthetic and I feel like there's something unique and hidden about it that even working here I understand, but when I leave work and look at us from the outside, it just feels so special to me. So there's that upfront solid feel.
The other part of me is so expressive and emotive. I need to be free. I need to be alone and focus my energy on myself and put that out in these sketches on Routine Club. I love it. If I could paint all day I would. I paint more in the summer here because I can open the windows and come home from work when it's still light out. What you see outside of Need is me 100%.
Balance is something I always keep in mind because I'm an emotional person. I used to be a lot more, but figuring myself out has brought me to my center. So when I find myself sometimes upset and overwhelmed by things happening at work, I reverse that by going on a run or making something totally meaningless when I get home.
I feel like there's a story/thought process behind the title "Routine Club". Can you tell me more about it?
Routine Club! This started with my boyfriend and myself sitting in bed after messing around in Photoshop talking about how we should force ourselves to do a side project for fun. We started it in December, which was a great time during the winter to keep ourselves busy and calm. It lets us exercise some styles or thoughts we can’t express at work during the day. It’s something we don’t take too seriously; it’s all loose and fun with no pressure. Sometimes we are not feeling any ideas and make something lame, sometimes we feel really into it and make something that leads to another. We are very surprised by the positive attention we’ve received so far! I’m looking into making prints this year.
Routine Club was one of those cases where doing something that was 100% for yourself, very playful and experimental, ended up creating a lot of positive attention and opportunities. Which is really how I wish the world worked all the time :) I'd love to hear your take on how this all rolled out.
I think I have a combination of luck and perseverance. I put myself out there. I am always doing something so something else comes. I don't like waiting. I know in order to get what I want, I ask for it and work for it. Sometimes I do things because I have to, or it's assigned to me; sometimes that brings me something unexpected.
I think people connect with Routine Club and feel they understand me a little better because of it. I'm really really grateful for everything and vow to never stop being focused on making art and design. I feel so easily yet deeply connected to visual expression. It's so weird I even get to do these things.
About the Collaboration
Marleigh and I "met" on Instagram when I came across the world's cutest picture of her wearing my Minimalist ear cuff that she'd picked up at Need Supply. She started posting her Routine Club art at just about the time I was wrapping my head around abstract "blob" shapes, and in general she seemed so vibrant and positive, it was the most natural thing to reach out to her about doing something together.
For our collaboration we chose one of Marleigh's Routine Club originals that fit well with my own aesthetic, a large bold shape with typographic qualities over a faint grid background. I silkscreened the posters myself, a three-layer printing process. Since the image was created in a digital medium, I thought it would be interesting to bring out some analog qualities by allowing ink to clog the screen a little bit.
The pink/black combo was planned; the ecru/blue just happened, as I simply ran out of pink during printing.
Shop Knobbly x Marleigh Culver: