Ep 15: Curiosity in Life and Design with Marielena André

Ep 15: Curiosity in Life and Design with Marielena André


Curiosity in Life and Design with Marielena André

Lorilee is joined by Marielena André — a multimedia designer and educator living in New Jersey. She is an accomplished artist with expertise in textile, fashion, graphic and sustainable design, as well as product development. Marielena and Lorilee discuss the fundamental curiosity that has fueled their respective journeys in creativity and education, as well as the importance of experimenting, failing, reinventing, and reapplying ourselves as we grow and develop our lives. 


  • On Marielena’s playlist: Instrumental piano, Afrobeat, Brazilian music, Yo-Yo Ma, and SILENCE!
  • Working with her hands and playing with materials from a young age
  • The beauty and importance of reinvention
  • The power of curiosity and discovery
  • How pivotal failure can be in the process of honing our education and craft
  • Boundaries of skin, both physical and virtual
  • Recognizing and synthesizing the different versions of ourselves
  • How Marielena decided to move in a new direction with her career
  • Our intuition’s role in telling us it’s time for change
  • Crystalizing our priorities when our lives are busy
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

Sponsored by Her-Bank.com

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Episode 15 – Marielena André Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey. I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows, but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced, female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender,

My guest today is Marielena André. Marielena is a multimedia designer, an educator and artist living in New Jersey. She is multifaceted and accomplished with expertise in textile, fashion, graphic design, and product development. She has many talents, let me tell you. She is a thoughtful leader and collaborator, and I am so thankful that I met her in my cohort at grad school at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Welcome, Marielena. Thank you so much for being on the Ground and Gratitude podcast with me today. I really appreciate it. 

[00:01:53] Marielena André: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to talk with you today. I miss you. 

[00:01:58] Lorilee Rager: I know, I miss you too. Absolutely. Thank goodness, hopefully, we’ll be able to start getting out and about and traveling again, and I will love to come see you. And you’re welcome to come to Tennessee, also, anytime. It’s more fun in my world to come to you. 

[00:02:16] Marielena André: Probably more fun in my world for me to go to you. 

[00:02:20] Lorilee Rager: That’s true. Okay. Let’s have planned two trips. Yeah. Well, good. All right. Well then we’ll just dive right in with the really hard hitting question, and it’s really important: what song is on repeat on your playlist today?

[00:02:38] Marielena André: Okay, so your guests are going to hate me. And I panicked about this question because I love music and I do listen to it, but 99.9% of the time, I work in silence. 

[00:02:54] Lorilee Rager: Really? That’s so interesting. 

[00:02:56] Marielena André: It winds up happening by default, um, mainly because I get interrupted so much that it’s like headphone in, headphone out, headphone in, headphone out. So even, even sometimes listening to podcasts, it just, I don’t know. I just wind up being interrupted so, so many times that I’m just like, forget it, but, in general, when I do listen to music, um, I love a lot of instrumental. Anything piano based is really soothing to me. Um, I do love, um, like Brazilian-type radio where it’s beats, or like Afrobeat. I’m really into that. But in general, I really like, I enjoy my silence. I’m always like writing something in my head or, like, thinking about what I need to purchase while I’m doing other things. So, for me. I, I, I, I very much enjoy the silence. 

[00:03:57] Lorilee Rager: That’s absolutely acceptable. Absolutely. You know, when, um, when we had Natalia on, she was like, you know I don’t have a playlist. 

[00:04:05] Marielena André: I do like those general, like, sound compilations. Yeah. 

[00:04:15] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Me too. I do for some reason, I always want it on. Always. I should probably investigate that versus the fact that you can work in silence, which I think is great. Um, because I, I want it on, but it can’t be anything distracting. It’s gotta be the lo-fi study beats. It can’t even really be an instrumental of a song I know, because it, it distracts me. 

[00:04:38] Marielena André: That’s, that, that breaks my concentration. And then I’m like humming it in my head the rest of the day. I’m like, aw dammit. 

[00:04:47] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Okay. So we will go with silence, but otherwise, if you want some chill, you know, piano instrumental.

[00:04:57] Marielena André: Okay. Yeah. Like Yo-Yo Ma, I love. 

[00:05:00] Lorilee Rager: Ooh, Yeah, me too. Okay. That’s great. That’s really very good to know. It’s super interesting to me. Um, I like to know how everybody thinks and works, and even whether you’re, you know, driving down the interstate with the windows rolled down or what you may be hearing in your head, or mine’s usually working on a laptop. So it’s gotta be pretty chill. 

[00:05:23] Marielena André: Yeah. Yeah. I think I grew up with a lot of noise in the house. You know that, I’m one of four, so for me it was like, there was always music, there was always yelling, there was always the TV on. It was like, so for me, I’m like any chance I get to be in silence, it’s like, even now with my kids, I will work late at night when the world has gone to sleep because it’s so quiet and peaceful.

[00:05:49] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Yes. That like, that makes me want to just take a deep breath, like, that sounds so peaceful. Yeah. I get that and annoying, and it’s like you said, constant interruptions and taking your headphones in and out. Yeah, that’d be another reason. So, yeah. Very interesting. Very interesting. Um, okay, well, let’s dive right into topic number one that I’d love to talk to you about, and that is origin story. And if you could just think a little bit about like, how does where you come from affect how you create, you think?

[00:06:26] Marielena André: I think it’s been a huge influence. Um, I grew up, so my parents still own my childhood home, and it was a ranch. It’s a ranch that had, um, a basement, an unfinished basement, that was the, the floor plan of the house. And my father had a woodworking shop. So I come from either artists or scientists. That’s like, that’s it, across the board, in pretty much all of my family on both sides, they’re either in the arts or in the sciences. 

My dad, I think, um, you know, growing up was always, like, fixing things or building things. And maybe it was out of necessity, um, but he always was, like, making stuff with his hands. And my mom did, um, set, saw, set props and scenery for off-Broadway plays. So, my basement growing up, there was like one side that was like all hands on, like wood and this machinery and, like, heavy tools. And then the other side, which was like tulle and, like, um, fake food and, you know, props from, like, Little Shop of Horrors. Like I had the Audrey puppets, like all the sizes. So it was kind of like this fantasyland down there. And my mom, you know, would, I would, like, one time I helped gold leaf chairs for Phantom of the Opera. So like we got put, I got put to work, I mean. 

[00:08:03] Lorilee Rager: It was a workshop, it was a basement workshop. 

[00:08:05] Marielena André: It was a basement workshop. So I think my interest in working with my hands or really discovering materials or just playing with different stuff, I think that really came from them. And I was always, um, I was always a very, um, insular child. I didn’t, I had a few, you know, I had friends and stuff. But because I was the youngest of four, I really made my own adventures. So I was always into just, like, playing with these materials. And I think, um, early on in my career, which I’m sure we’ll talk about, I really left that aside and it wasn’t really until I started to come back to grad school that, um, I started to play a lot more with materials and really look at things, um, in a, in a salvaged kind of way. Um, but that influence was really strong there, and, to this day, I mean, I, I fix things in the house and I think that’s just the type of person that I became, where I, if I was approached with a problem, whether it’s fixing something or making something, I just took all the resources I had on hand and figured it out.

[00:09:25] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that, I remember when we met in grad school, that’s so funny you said that because it’s one of the first things I admired about you. Because you did, you just, you just dove in. Like, hands in and just going to work, and you were going to work on the medium and you were going to, no matter what, um, figure it out with this level of kind of fierce confidence that, that I had really never seen before that I was, oh, it was really, really impressive, um. 

[00:09:53] Marielena André: It’s nice that you think it’s confidence because… [laughter]. I think, I think I am not afraid to fail. And I think that comes off as like, oh yeah, I know what I’m doing. But no. I have no freaking clue. I have no freaking clue. I just know that if I fail at it, I can try it again and figure it out. And I’ve kind of always been a little risky that way. It’s served me well. 

[00:10:25] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Not afraid. Yes, it has. Yes. I will testify that, yes, it absolutely does because, um, I think it’s interesting knowing that how, how you grew up and what your basement was, was like. And do you think that that is why you chose to pursue a creative career? Like… 

[00:10:49] Marielena André: Really what, so, again, I mentioned arts or sciences. Um, I really wasn’t into the arts a whole lot as a child. Um, it wasn’t anything that I really got into until I was maybe 11. I really want — I started working really young. I babysat, I had my own business, like, I was making money by the time I was, like, 10 years old. My family, my siblings were coming to me for money. Um, but I, so I really wanted to be early, early, early on, I either wanted to do architectural engineering in the army, which my parents were like, absolutely not, you’re not going into the army. And then the other profession I wanted to do, cause I was working in a chiropractor’s office, I wanted to go to chiropractic school. And then I had an American history teacher in high school and he was like, “what the fuck are you doing, Marielena? You are not going to chiropractic school. You need to go to art school. Like, you are creative.” I used to, like, be on all these committees to do, like, decorate the, you know, decorate the high school or, like, I did murals, you know, so I didn’t really get into the arts in high school. And he was like, “nope, you need to go to art school, like, that’s it. I’m deciding for you.”

[00:12:12] Lorilee Rager: Oh, that’s awesome. 

[00:12:14] Marielena André: And when I looked at the prospect of, like, the schooling involved with, you know, going to med school and going that route, I was like, hmm, yeah. Let me go to art school.

[00:12:28] Lorilee Rager: That’s a good direction. 

[00:12:30] Marielena André: You can thank Mr. Bruetti from Ramapo Senior High School, who is now deceased, but yes. He is attributed to my career choice. 

[00:12:40] Lorilee Rager: I love that he saw that in you when you didn’t even see it, like, you know, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. 

[00:12:46] Marielena André: Definitely not. And it was a no turning back. I mean, once I, once I got in there, you know, it made sense. 

[00:12:54] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. That’s how I felt when I first got into school and I was like, oh, this might be my people, like, this kind of feels comfortable. This, this feels good. 

[00:13:03] Marielena André: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I type-based my high school portfolio based on a major at FIT. And I didn’t even, honestly, when I applied to go into textile design, I didn’t even know what textile design really was. I was, like, yeah, this sounds good. I like working with materials. Yep. Okay. I’m in.

[00:13:26] Lorilee Rager: Checks the box. That’s right. Oh, I love it. I mean, none of us, especially at that age, the fact that, like, right now, I’ve got a 17 year old about to be 18. And I’m like, “what do you want to do for the rest of your life? I need to know right now.” 

[00:13:40] Marielena André: No pressure. 

[00:13:42] Lorilee Rager: No pressure. Yeah. That’s exactly right. 

[00:13:46] Marielena André: I think the beauty of it is that, you know, we do put this pressure on ourselves to, like, have it all figured out, or at least declare something and have an, an objective in mind for our career path. But, the truth is, is that, you know, now it’s so easy to — easy — okay. Accessible to many, um, to reinvent yourself a couple of times over. 

[00:14:13] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yeah.

[00:14:15] Marielena André:  And that’s not only normal, but I think important.

[00:14:20] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. Yes. Very, very important. That’s, well I mean, that’s how we met, I feel like. We were both on this trajectory to reinvent ourselves. 

[00:14:30] Marielena André: I don’t know which one of my nine lives I’m using, but…

[00:14:33] Lorilee Rager: Yes, exactly. And, when we met, I also had this deer-in-the-headlights of, what, what am I doing here? Why are we here, again? Like, wait a minute, this might be a mistake. But trying to reinvent ourselves, I think it is really, really important.

Um, it makes me think of a quote. I saw that you put on your LinkedIn profile that says, “I believe life is an ongoing education and should be met with curiosity.” Um, tell me a little bit about you, what you meant with that. Because I think it, I think it’s a perfect segue into that because being curious and reinventing yourself to me all kind of merges together.

[00:15:15] Marielena André: Yeah, it definitely does. Um, so I am, I don’t sit idle very easily. Like, I’m not one of those people who comes home and, like, watches TV and hangs out. Like, I’m always researching, I’m always, I have too many jobs. I mean, that’s one thing. But I think, um, I was always curious about different stuff. Like, I wanted to learn how to animate, I wanted to learn how to, um, design jacket covers, I wanted to learn how to, um, re-concrete my pool, which is falling apart. Like, I just have always been very curious about how things work and how to fix them, um, and how to… I just am like a sponge. I love learning. I love reading. Um, I like being that person that people come to and, like, where I was just had this conversation with some of my coworkers. I have two coworkers who are pregnant and we were talking about like different fertility stuff, cause I went through fertility issues with my children, and, um, it just like snowballed into this whole conversation about different levels of hormones. And they’re like, “how do you know all this stuff?” And I was like, well, because I read a lot. Like, when I need to know something I dive in and I try and know all of it. And I think that just comes from a genuine curiosity of, how, you know, how do things work? How can I figure this out for myself? I’m very, self-sufficient, I’ve always been, um, um, what’s, what’s the word? Um, independent, in that way where like, I, I really, you know, would not need to rely on, per se, anyone, although, you really do, people do. Yeah, people need other people. But, um, you know, I’ve always been very self-sufficient that way. And I think it comes out of this curiosity towards learning, towards figuring it out, towards knowing. Um, and not in this, I want to know it all kind of way, or that even that I can know it all, um, but really just, like, “Hmm, how does that work? And is that a new career I could do?”

[00:17:42] Lorilee Rager: Oh, yes. That’s how my brain works too. That’s so funny that you said that. And I didn’t really realize it until maybe I got into grad school and began just, like, I call them rabbit trails. You know, I would, I would think of, or read or discover one thing and be like, “what is that?” And I would dive deeper into that. And then I would find something else and go, oh my gosh, “what is that?” And I want to know everything I can about that. Or, um, I remember the fun and the play and the messy of thinking of my childhood and how much I loved, um, what is the Eric Carlisle book with the bear and the horse? I can’t remember the name of it. Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Yes. And because of the curiosity in that being like, how in the hell did he make this? Like, I want to know this process. And then going down this rabbit trail into, and buying paint and buying all these, you know, chemicals to make the process. And I think that curiosity is what makes us, I think it’s what makes us really good designers. I think it’s what makes us good teachers. Um, and, and healthier — mentally healthier humans. Something about that curiosity.

[00:19:00] Marielena André: Yeah. I had a, I had a student recently who came to me. She was very upset. She had a project due. She was very upset. “This is terrible. This is terrible.” She didn’t want to show me. And I said, please, you know, come on, show me. And I was like, I can’t help you, I can’t help you figure this out or figure out what you think you’re doing wrong. And it wound up that she just got so curious on, this is a like illustrator baseline one class, freshmen college. And she was so like, she was upset. It broke my heart. And I was looking at her stuff. I’m like a) this is beautiful, b) you entirely learned like seven new tools than what I was teaching you because you were curious. You, you really wanted to do something and you, in those efforts, albeit, you got overwhelmed, but, in those efforts, you, like, really forced yourself to learn something in a new way. And I think that’s what I, um, that’s my highest expectation with my, well, not my highest expectation, but, but that is a central expectation for my students. That they, you know, are trying and playing in the software. And I’m completely self-taught in all of the softwares that I’ve ever taken. I have never taken a Photoshop class or, now, I mean, I’ve been using the software for decades. I should know it by now, if I don’t we’ve got problems. But, I mean that curiosity to just kind of like, “oh, what does this do?” And “oh, what does that tool do?” And “if I layer this with that, and then I combine this with that, what’s the outcome?” And I think my thesis is a testament to that too. 

[00:20:49] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Tell me, tell me, yes, tell the listeners about your thesis. If you — give us your elevator pitch. 

[00:20:57] Marielena André: Yeah, in a very short way, because it’s a very weird thesis. My thesis really was, um, I was dealing with a lot of, um, skin boundary, um, issues through my thesis, um, through the process of grad school, really. Um, and looking at, um, how trauma layers through that. And I decided, I decided to grow, or, I’m into sustainable design. So I’m a material artist. I do textile design for a living. But kind of, um, parallel to that, I’m really interested in sustainable design. So I read somewhere, of course, that I can create my own leathers, which grows like a skin, like layer by layer, via kombucha. And I mean, this, this process, I grew it for several months before I was even thinking that this could be my thesis. And I, I wound up growing batches of leathers. But in the process of that, because it’s, you know, environmentally reactive, these leathers failed on me. And initially I was like, oh, “I’m going to make this body suit of like kombucha leather, and it’s going to be awesome.” And then, when I really thought about how long it would have taken to grow all of that, to make that possible, you know, you kind of tailor things back. But again, that was that willingness to fail, a), and to figure it out and learn and see what I can make and then play with what I can make and see what could become of it. Um, it’s a very bad synopsis of what my thesis is about. Um, but it was really looking at, um, boundaries from a, from a natural to a technological world and how those, those aspects come into play through design. 

[00:23:02] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, the connection. There were a lot of odd things when, when I was reading it, but one of the biggest is when you made the connection of how we now from a virtual reality world are so obsessed with skins and having a faux version of ourself, um, online.

All from your research of, of boundaries in skin and in your own, in the real world and making that connection to me, it was just like, whoa, that is what we’re doing. The same issues that maybe we struggle with, you know, in the eighties when there wasn’t virtual reality, look at what we’re doing online with it.

And I was just bringing that there. 

[00:23:48] Marielena André: Yeah. And I think, I think my, um, my career really explores, like, how layered that can be. The trajectory of my career really explores how, how that, how you can stack skill to skill or how you can, um, just have different versions of yourself. I think we all have like a work version, a mom version, a wife, spouse version. And you know, how do those people or those personas come together and not to say that one is real or one is fake. They’re just different. 

[00:24:29] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you, you said you, you have a lot of jobs. Tell me about all your jobs.

[00:24:37] Marielena André: Currently —

[00:24:40] Lorilee Rager: Get out your list. 

[00:24:43] Marielena André: Um, so I, I work full-time for a sleepwear designer, um, as a textile artist.

I, um, I’ve been there — so I started freelancing there, pre-pandemic. I had been there for years as a freelancer, and, after the pandemic kind of slowed down, I, I got pulled on full-time, so I’m now full-time there. Um, it’s the first full-time job that I’ve had in nine years. 

[00:25:09] Lorilee Rager: Oh, wow, yeah.

[00:25:10] Marielena André: So it had been awhile. Um, I run a, uh, graphic design, website building, whatever you graphic needs, textile arts, graphic needs you need me to be, um, I run a business on the side, Taktile Design Studio. Right now, um, we’re working on a little bit more website-based and marketing-based stuff. So I have that on the side with my husband — we’re co-partners.

Um, I illustrate for Atmosphere Press. So I do jacket covers for Atmosphere Press. Um, I also am on my local democratic committee, which is a really big time commitment actually, mainly because, um, so I was elected. It’s a four year — it’s a three-year term, and I was elected via my community, and, um, it’s all serving democratic initiatives.

Get out the vote kind of thing, local candidates, but I run the website. I built the website, I run the website and all of the social media for it.

[00:26:21] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. That’s another job. 

[00:26:23] Marielena André: Oh yeah. It’s an entirely other job. Um, and then on top of that, I, um, I started a women’s — I co-started a women’s soccer league. So we’re, we’re full force. We’re still playing outside. I played a game last night. 

[00:26:38] Lorilee Rager: Oh my gosh – wow! What was the weather like? 

[00:26:42] Marielena André: Oh, we ha– we were supposed to have like 53 degrees yesterday.

Um, so it was about that. It got a little windy towards the end, but we’re now, like, on a full field playing soccer for an hour and, you know, 15 minutes. Um, so yeah, a lot going on. Oh. And then I teach.

[00:27:00] Lorilee Rager: I was like, you didn’t even mention that you teach. 

[00:27:03] Marielena André: I just started teaching this semester at LIM. I previously was at FIT and then pandemic and grad school was all happening, so I kind of stopped adjuncting there. And I just, um, started with LIM where I’m teaching graphic design for the first time with, like, a graphic design pedagogy. Prior to that, I’d been doing textile design. 

[00:27:27] Lorilee Rager: Gotcha. Gotcha. Wow, uh, what else? That’s, I mean, sheesh! 

[00:27:33] Marielena André: Mom. 

[00:27:34] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, mom, wife, a daughter. 

[00:27:38] Marielena André: Yeah, wife, daughter. 

[00:27:40] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, lots of, lots of jobs, lots of hats.

[00:27:43] Marielena André: Lots of balls in the air. 

[00:27:44] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:27:45] Marielena André: You know, if I can find just, like, one job that allowed me to use my artistic skills, that allowed me to teach and train others, that allowed me to deal with social justice. And maybe kick a soccer ball around [laughter]… Like, “Hello! Come find me!” 

[00:28:06] Lorilee Rager: And make some children some food. There’s your perfect one job. 

[00:28:11] Marielena André: Yeah, well actually, my husband does most of the cooking. 

[00:28:14] Lorilee Rager: Oh, okay. Okay. 

[00:28:16] Marielena André: I should, I should not say most anymore. He does all of the cooking. Yeah, pretty much all of the cooking. Pre, pre-grad school, I did, like, Sunday cooking cook days and he would help me and we would have meals for the week.

We, we don’t eat out. Like, we do take-out one night a week. Um, and then once I got to grad school, it was just, it was just way too much. I was working full time, school full time, you know, still trying to do all of those other things on the side. Um, so he took over the cooking. 

[00:28:47] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:28:47] Marielena André: It’s stuck and it’s lovely. He’s a much better cook than I am.

[00:28:53] Lorilee Rager: I do not like cooking. 

[00:28:55] Marielena André: I think the family’s very happy. 

[00:28:57] Lorilee Rager: It’s a win-win for everybody. 

[00:28:59] Marielena André: It is, it is. 

[00:29:01] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Well, that’s funny because that’s what I was going to ask about is. Lord knows, we were all trying to figure out how to juggle all the things. And there’s something about, uh, all the graphic designers I know, and the creatives that have that entrepreneurial spirit and, and want to research all the time and make, um, and support causes that we’re passionate about and use our creativity and our voice or ways to help other people that don’t know how. People that aren’t makers. You, you seem to do all that. And then, in the midst of it, you go back to school. Um, tell me in the midst of all of that, your thoughts on, and I really want for our listeners to know, um, how do you decide to try something new that you haven’t done before?

Like going to grad school when you’re kind of in this, um, the chaos of everyday life, you know? Um, but I was just wondering, like, as you said, you’re being a mom and entrepreneur, you work full-time, you know, all the things that you do. Um, how, how do you decide to try something new and fit it in?

[00:30:17] Marielena André: Well, I function really well on very little sleep, so there was that. And I don’t mean that with, like, a badge of honor. I know that’s so cliche to, like, oh yeah, pat myself on the back. I don’t, you know, I don’t need much sleep, but that’s true. I don’t, I, I always have energy to spare. I don’t know where it comes from.

[00:30:38] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, that’s good. 

[00:30:39] Marielena André: Um, I guess that’s just my jam, but trying something new, never really was a point of fear. I think fear really leads people not to go for the things that they want to try. I knew that if I wanted to become a teacher full time, which at the time when I started grad school, the education system was very different. I mean, this pandemic really threw everything up in the air and turned it upside down. But, I was really enjoying teaching. I had been in a career as an art director in textiles for X amount, 15 years or whatever. And that was becoming very rinse, repeat. It was static. It was doing the same things and dealing with the same personalities over and over again, and I just knew that I couldn’t continue on that path. And I think that’s when I made the decision that something has to change here. Either I need to change my direction, or I need to be catapulted into something completely different. And I really loved teaching, and I knew that in order to attempt to do this full time, um, I had to go back and, and get another degree.

In the process of trying to figure out what that looked like or what program that would be — I’m not a graphic designer by trade at all. I threw myself into graphic design from that curiosity. I started to get clients who were like, “oh, can you make this flier for me?” “Can you make this brochure?” “Or can you, you know, fix my website?”

And it was all like, oh, sure. Alright, can you give me an extra week? Like, I’ll figure it out. Um, so for me it was really, you know, the advice I would say is don’t be, don’t be afraid to try something new. I understand that there’s a certain amount of risk that comes with that, you know, when, um, for example, when I quit being an art director and textile designer, I basically turned to my husband.

I was, I was unemployed. We had just moved into this house with twins. I was like, we need to support this lifestyle. Like, what am I going — what are we going to do? And that’s pretty much how my freelance business started because I was interviewing at these fashion houses. I’m like, I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.

I don’t want to do this anymore. And he’s like, so don’t. Just don’t, and he gave me that window to say, I trust that we will be able to figure this out and it’s not that he was making, like, bajillions of money or I was making bajillions of money. We just knew that, together, with my skill set, like, I’d make it work.

And we did. So I think anytime you’re trying something new, it’s just, just go for it because it’s going to feed your soul in a way that nothing else can, when you’re doing things for yourself or when you’re advancing your skills or your knowledge for yourself, um, because it’s, it’s so important to our growth as humans. 

[00:34:04] Lorilee Rager: Mhm — yeah. I completely agree. 

[00:34:07] Marielena André: I think I — did I answer that question?

[00:34:09] Lorilee Rager: You did. You did beautifully. it really all comes full circle. As you know, we would say that what, what we do as humans, and especially as creatives, is, is we, we have something in us that needs to be fed, that needs to nourish us.

And, and if we don’t listen to that, we are, you know, dare I say, miserable or stuck. And if we don’t listen to that gut feeling or that little voice in us saying, you know, for whatever reason, I can’t do this anymore, this is just not, this is no longer filling my cup or whatever it may be. Um, and taking that risk.

Is– it is, it’s scary, but it’s so necessary. And living in that fear based, um, scarcity mindset is– it’s just, it’s just not a way that, that I’m built to live, like, to live miserable or unhappy. I want to make, and I want to work with like-minded people, um, and I love researching and sharing my knowledge and I didn’t even know myself that that equaled being a teacher.

I kind of stumbled into that accidentally myself. Um, and I think, I think that’s what we did. I think we took, I think we took a leap of faith doing something like going to VCFA. 

[00:35:41] Marielena André: Yeah, I think, um, you know, we, we can surprise ourselves with the amount of bandwidth we have. I would say when I was working in corporate, um, my, my, my pre-kids versus my after-kids, I was working in corporate, um, you know, I had no time for family. I was frustrated always. Um, I. And I did this one thing. I did this one thing from, you know, nine to…eight.

[00:36:14] Lorilee Rager: No, Dolly Parton sings 9 to 5. That’s not right. 

[00:36:17] Marielena André: Yeah, no, that didn’t work like that. I didn’t have that experience. But, um, you know, even with just working that one thing or just doing that one thing, I had the bandwidth for nothing other. I had no bandwidth for myself. And I don’t know if that came from making space for myself or making space for others, but I, my time is, now, with all of the things that I do now, you know, I’m not designing a jacket cover every day, so you know that there are things that kind of happen in feast or famine, as it goes. Um, But the time and bandwidth that I have for others is very different now. And I think that’s because I took on this other thing, which allowed me to expand and figure out different ways, um, to put myself out there. Yeah, and I think, as a result being, um, and, and I think I can attribute this to the program too.

I think, had I chosen a different program for grad school that, um, holistic sense of, um, making space for yourself, making space for your art, making space for the things that are important to you. I think that’s one major takeaway from the program that we did. Um, you know, even with all that, when I speak to the women that I am friendly with, they’re like, “when do you have time for all of this? Like, when does all of this happen” And “how are you there for your kids?” And how, you know, how, how are you present?” And I think, you know, when you have a lot on your plate, you just, you make the time. You make– you prioritize for what’s important. 

[00:37:59] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. You really–

[00:38:01] Marielena André: I think it takes a little bit of throwing yourself out into the wilderness to really figure out what is important.

[00:38:09] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Oh yes. Throwing yourself into the wilderness. That’s exactly what grad school felt like. And it’s, it’s amazing how that program, exactly like you were saying, how we had these really, really busy lives before, and then we added doing grad school, and it, but it made us get more clear on what was important to us.

And yeah, I’m doing more now than I ever did, but I’m doing what I really care about and I’m doing it in, in my version as well as I possibly can. And, um, it’s, it’s just, I don’t– like you, earlier, you said easy, and then you changed it. It oddly feels easy. The corporate world, um, that I was in also, in sitting in that cubicle, I had no bandwidth to do anything else once I got home and I was doing the same thing for the same company every day. And now the fact that I have all these plates spinning and irons in the fire, but they’re all ones that I picked, that I put there and can, can manage somehow based on the program. 

[00:39:25] Marielena André: Yeah. 

[00:39:26] Lorilee Rager: It’s hard to wrap your head around. 

[00:39:29] Marielena André: It can be, you know, I think, um, I would like to do less. I’d like to have something that does a little more all-encompassing of the things that I, you know, love to do. I’m still, I’m still finding myself. I don’t have it figured out. I think, I think I’ll wind up landing in a space, um, that, you know, makes sense, um, for my family and my family structure. I struggle with, um, not time management, but really being able to have the time to do all the things that I want to do. And I’ve made like, like I’ve made negotiations with my employer. So, like, currently I said, I leave, I leave school. I leave. Sorry. I leave work. Um, half a day on Mondays, for example.

So I do half a day in the office on Monday, and then I dart into the city. I work in Jersey City, New Jersey, um, and I dart into the city and I teach till five and then I’m back, then I, you know, travel back home. But, as part of that negotiation, I said, well, I’ll work nights. You know, I’ll come, I’ll login because of the pandemic, it’s made us have the ability to work from home now. Um, so I only go into the office two or three times a week, and, when I’m home, I can log hours differently than if I had to physically sit in an office. And I think, um, a lot of, for all the bad that the pandemic brought, um, it, it also brought a lot of flexibility with work and I think there was, and there still are, um, trust issues with employees and employers, um, in terms of, “oh, are they really working from home?” I mean, I’ve heard horror stories of, you know, companies checking IP addresses to make sure when you’re logged in and like all that silly stuff. 

[00:41:36] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:41:36] Marielena André: Um, fortunately I have an employer that trusts me. I’ve built that trust over, over a long period of time, but it’s definitely changed the way we work and the way we’re able to work in a good way. In a really good way that allows us to kind of put ourselves out there in different ways, that allows us to, if you, if you choose to, um, take on something else or something creative on the side. Um, I think that would be my, my– I’m trying, I’m always trying to get my kids to, like, try new things. It’s a hard thing. Um, but I want them to, like, well, for example, my daughter, she loves anime. And I was like, well, why don’t we take an anime drawing class together? She was like, “well, I don’t really, you know, what, if I’m not good or whatever,” I’m like, “you’re not going to be good. You’re not going to be good out of the gate.”

Like, just like–

[00:42:35] Lorilee Rager: None of us are. 

[00:42:36] Marielena André: You’re not going to be perfect. It’s a learning process. Like, just, it’s okay. We’ll be terrible together. But yeah, I’ve never drawn anime before, so I’m probably not going to be that good. 

[00:42:48] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:42:48] Marielena André: You know, so it’s like putting those things into perspective of just trying and being okay to fail.

[00:42:55] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. That’s a really, really beautiful way to put it, um, because the way the pandemic has changed, where we can work remote, it’s it’s strange again, it’s created this space that, um, I guess, I didn’t know I had to also learn something new or try something new, or it also made me want to do something off of a screen work more than.

You know, because we’re on them so much with work and at home and all the things. So yeah, doing a drawing class or, I’m, badly, right now, trying to teach myself guitar. But I love it because it doesn’t have to be plugged in. Doesn’t have to be charged. Don’t have to download an app and you’re just, you know, and you’re out of your head, you’re using your hands and I don’t, it makes me laugh that I’m like, here I am, similar to you, with a lot of hats to wear and teaching. And I’m like, and I’m adding 15 minutes a day to play guitar, but it’s fun, and it’s joy, and it’s a risk, and I’m bad at it, but it’s so much fun. And I just forget that we’re supposed to also have fun in this busy life too. 

[00:44:05] Marielena André: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s not always easy to feel like we’re– well, I’m now feeling like work is fun.

It didn’t always feel as fun. And I don’t think that’s pandemic related. I think that was just my shift that happened with grad school. And I’m definitely having more fun now because I don’t think I’m taking myself as seriously. 

[00:44:28] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:44:29] Marielena André: Um, and I am– for as much as I want to, like, put my art– I don’t put my art out there enough.

Um, and it’s not because I’m being precious about it. It’s really just, I don’t have the time to really put myself out there, but, um, I work on like these little stupid, like writing things and like, and maybe eventually they’ll culminate to something. Or maybe they won’t, maybe they’re just for me and that’s okay.

Um, I think grad school had really helped me, um, not feel like everything had to be perfect and everything had to be precious and everything, you know, I’m much more willing to take a piece of paper, write something down and then, or draw something and throw it out. Yeah, just rip it up and be like, yep. Okay. Got that off my chest and now I can move on. 

[00:45:30] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:45:32] Marielena André: And that’s, what’s really changed the, the ability to just let go of it. Let go of things. 

[00:45:42] Lorilee Rager: That’s a really good lesson to learn and to hold on to, for sure. 

[00:45:47] Marielena André: Follow us, we have a lot of lessons 

[00:45:50] Lorilee Rager: That’s right! Follow us for more great tips!

When you — we’re figuring it out, you know, we’re, we’re, uh, living the questions, um, as Rilke says, Yeah. Well, all right, well, let’s wrap up since we’re almost at an hour of your wonderful time, which is very precious. Um, and the last question, cause, man, we’ve, we’ve actually covered so much goodness. We can pull back from what we’ve already said or let me know what would you leave in the Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:46:32] Marielena André: I mean, we’ve been talking a lot about curiosity. I, I, I definitely, I, I say, be curious about what you’re learning. Um, but more so, I think the– embrace the imperfection. Embrace the thought that you’re not going to be perfect the first time you pick something up. You’re not going to remember that story you read necessarily if you’re new to diving into a new topic, um, and allow yourself the ability to grow in that. Allow yourself the ability to make mistakes in that. Um, I left grad school thinking constantly, I mean, daily reminding myself, um, to just give myself a little bit of grace.

[00:47:26] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:47:27] Marielena André: You know, for, for all the times that, and this, this was like yesterday afternoon where I was like, I need to figure out what I’m doing in my life. This is too much. I can’t take it. I gotta get off this hamster wheel. Like, why can’t I just find one job that allows me to do all these things? And for all the times that I do that, I always have to– I– not always. I have, since grad school stopped and said, you know what? You’re doing things you love, the rest will fall into place. It’s okay. Like, just breathe. Like, I’m constantly telling myself to breathe. You know, I– don’t layer things on top of yourself that don’t need to be there. You know, I can beat myself up about not working out every day, but, if I’m able to work out on Tuesday and on Saturday and maybe this week, I, I can’t do Wednesday or Thursday, I’m not going to beat myself up about it because I know that I’m doing so many other things to support my wellbeing and my mental clarity. So don’t beat yourself up. 

[00:48:37] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. Well, be, be curiously imperfect. Imperfect. 

[00:48:44] Marielena André: Be curiously imperfect. 

[00:48:46] Lorilee Rager: And embrace that. I love that. And Miss uh soccer league playing or a game, um, you know, last night, there’s your exercise for the week. Check that box off. 

[00:48:56] Marielena André: Oh, I did like 75 minutes of like, high, high-test active. I play midfield. So…woo! My buttcheeks hurt today. 

[00:49:05] Lorilee Rager: I was going to say, you’re going to be sore. You need a soak.

I love it. Well, this was perfect. Uh, this was imperfect. This was perfectly imperfect. 

[00:49:16] Marielena André: Perfectly imperfect.

[00:49:18] Lorilee Rager: Thank you so much for the time today. I really appreciate it, M, and it’s so good to see you. 

[00:49:23] Marielena André: Thanks for having me. Yeah, really good to see you too.

[00:49:32] Lorilee Rager: Thank you again, Marielena, for keeping it real and sharing about how you look at life and design. And thank you for tuning in to Ground and Gratitude. You can find previous episodes and more info about the show at groundandgratitude.com. Join me next time for more honest conversations, exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. Ground and Gratitude is produced by Kelly Drake and Anna McClain.

[00:50:24] Marielena André: Ciao! 

[00:50:25] Lorilee Rager: Ciao!