We all strive to turn our aspirations and creative goals into what we can sustainably do every day. The dream is to have full intention, working on what most inspires us. Charlotte North Carolina -based Michel Van Devender, blogger, stylist, design junkie, home renovator, and artist, shares how she has grasped the reins on her creativity. On her blog, Michel Van Devender she has developed a brand full of creative inspiration, thick with sophistication and free spirit.
In our interview Michel explains that, "there’s a lot of discipline and showing up that plays into creativity. Believing inspiration and motivation will always hit before you can start may be a bit of myth." She also shares her advice for starting down the path of creativity, "We are ALL creative in some way. I have people tell me all the time they aren’t creative. That’s a bullshit narrative! I think creativity is a mindset and a practice… a lifestyle." Onto the interview!
Welcome to the blog Michel, I'm so happy to spend this time with you. Tell us about yourself.
Thank you so much for having me here Lisa. I love what you’re doing and your platform! I’m honored and grateful to have the opportunity to share a little about myself and my story here with your community.
I’m an artist, designer, creator, and occasional blogger. I’m the wife of an eternal optimist and mom of three beautiful boys - ages 23, 16 and 11 and a sweet, little French Bulldog girl. I love to create and am happiest when I’m creating. My interests run the gamut - art, interior design, building, and renovating houses, fashion, writing, food, travel, etc. My hope is always to inspire others!
Where Do You Live? Where would you love to live?
I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m not sure there’s just one place I’d love to live. In my dream of all dreams, I’d move around… living in lots of different places, perhaps moving every couple of years. I’m a Sagitarius and have a bit of a gypsy, nomad soul.
My husband and kids keep me pretty grounded, literally and figuratively. I do love to travel and explore though. I’m also a homebody and love creating and curating a home. I’m going to play out my dream though… I may live in Paris (for all things Parisian of course!), then maybe Big Sur (the nature - mountains with the sea, the beauty and magic of this place), then I may try out a Scandinavian country (for the hygge lifestyle and quality of living), then I’m off to somewhere else - Italty (Florence for the architecture, history, food and community). I also love Montana (for it’s natural beauty and wide open spaces. Can I please build an A-Frame, black of course, in Glacier?), Spain, Quebec… I could keep going.
I’m going to play out my dream though… I may live in Paris (for all things Parisian of course!), then maybe Big Sur (the nature - mountains with the sea, the beauty and magic of this place), then I may try out a Scandinavian country...
Do you know your human design type and/or astrological sign?
Yes, I’m a Human Design Generator. My strong intuition is definitely my special sauce! And when I listen and trust my inner knowing and guide, it’s the super power that keeps me aligned with my authentic self.
Is this career part of your first or second life? What was your journey up to this point?
Ha! I’m well beyond my first and second lives, but not quite yet matching a cat’s nine! Interestingly, I feel like I’m just getting started! My path has always been more organic and non-linear. I’ve made a life out of reinventing myself, moving from one career to another, one version of myself to the next. There have been many chapters, many beginnings and endings.
When I look back, I have a lot of gratitude for my journey. What a gift to have the opportunity to express so many different parts of myself and impact other people along the way. I believe I’ve been exactly where I’m supposed to be when I’ve been there. Now, I’m not saying I always trust when I’m there in the moment (I’m still working on that!). The beauty of hindsight is I can connect the dots and see how the puzzle fits together. I can also recognize and value the wisdom I’ve gained from each and every experience. Collectively, they have made me who I am.
When I look back, I have a lot of gratitude for my journey. What a gift to have the opportunity to express so many different parts of myself and impact other people along the way. I believe I’ve been exactly where I’m supposed to be when I’ve been there.
Here are some of the job’s I’ve had over the past 25 years -
Forfeiture Analyst, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Forfeiture Legal Team, US Attorney’s Office
Child Custody and Visitation Mediator, District Court
Mental Health Therapist/Counselor, Private Practice
Health and Wellness Advocate, Small Business
Were your parents creative? Were you encouraged to follow your passions and dreams growing up or did you have to discover this path for yourself?
I do come from a creative family full of artists, craftsmen and makers. My grandfather was a builder and my grandmother was always making something. I wouldn’t say I was encouraged to follow my passions and dreams though. But in all honesty, I’ve always been more of a rebel, forge your own path kind of gal so who really knows if that would’ve changed anything for me.
You’ve have such a curated and consistent look to your art, homes, and brand. Tell us about your style. It is still evolving?
Thank you Lisa! I also love your aesthetic, style and eye so appreciate your feedback. I think style is forever evolving. I often find it difficult to describe my style though. So if you have a couple of key works I could use, please send them my way!
I think my spaces and art tend to be more modern, minimal and eclectic. I love texture and layers. I really like black and white and neutrals. As I’ve gotten older and life has been chaotic with a larger family, I’ve come to appreciate the peace, calm and ease that comes with a more neutral color palette. White walls make me happy. The way the light bounces off and brightens a space. Light affects my mood so the more natural light the better.
I prefer spaces that are interesting, with a soul. I would take interesting over beautiful any day, in interiors, artwork, and people. A little edge and a little quirk too.
There’s something about contrast and tension I’m really drawn to as well. I love juxtaposition in design. I prefer spaces that are interesting, with a soul. I would take interesting over beautiful any day, in interiors, artwork, and people. A little edge and a little quirk too.
My spaces tend to be more collected from years of antique shopping and sourcing things I absolutely love. I’m not a big fan of what I call overly decorated spaces. Those spaces where everything looks too new, too precious, too coordinated and too pulled together…basically, too perfect. I like for things to be a little undone, imperfect, worn, lived in, askew. I also like for my spaces tell a story and evoke a feeling or mood.
Let’s talk about taking creative risks. Adam Grant said in his book Originals, “To become original, you have to try something new, which means accepting some measure of risk.” Do you agree? How do you feel about taking creative risks?
Interesting that this is one of your questions as I’ve been pushing myself to take more risks and expand in this area. I may need to add this book to my reading list! I would agree with Adam Grant. I do believe trying something new and allowing creative discovery leads to originalinality.
Although I’ve taken my share of risks, I’ve also allowed fear to paralyze me in many ways. It has a way of muffling or silencing our creative genius. I’m really working to move outside of my comfort zone, untethering from criticism and praise. I believe this is where originality, full expression and the real magic happens.
Speaking of taking risks, you’ve produced several gorgeous photos in the Self Portrait Studio, all with your strong point of view and signature Michel Van Devender style. How has that experience been for you?
Being a part of the Self Portrait Studio has been such an inspiring, positive experience for me. I knew when my friend, Catherine, told me about the course and shared what she was learning I was interested. Her gorgeous images spoke to the value and magic of the Studio.
I really get into thinking through a concept, developing an idea and creating a mood through setting and props. I also enjoy the editing. I actually love every part of the process, and of course, seeing where I can get with the image.
Since I’m more of a creative director, honing my eye and skills for better visual story telling is always on my radar. For the challenge prompts, I really get into thinking through a concept, developing an idea and creating a mood through setting and props. I also enjoy the editing. I actually love every part of the process, and of course, seeing where I can get with the image.
Then, coming together in the safe and supportive community of women to share the images is the best! The encouragement and feedback have given me more confidence and have taken my skills to the next level. And to see other beautiful, talented, badass women who have varied backgrounds, coming from different places with different goals and aspirations expanding and growing too… it’s so inspiring!
Did any part of it surprise you? How did you surprise yourself?
I think what has surprised me most is how quickly I became confident and comfortable being both behind and in front of the camera. Before I started the course, I wasn’t looking at the camera as much. I was more of a look to the side or look away person. Now, I say, “BRING IT”! Of course, I still look at myself and have certain angles I like best, but I’m far more focused on the creative process, and what I’m trying to capture and convey with the image.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to explore their creative side. Where should they start?
First of all, I encourage everyone to connect with their creative side. We are ALL creative in some way. I have people tell me all the time they aren’t creative. That’s a bullshit narrative! I think creativity is a mindset and a practice… a lifestyle. And, if you tell yourself you’re not creative, guess what? You’re prabably not going to be creative!
In terms of where to start, consider trying something creative you’re drawn to… get moving. Begin with an idea, a visual, some text, a photograph, a color, a shape, a mood, a song, a garment, a feeling, a texture, etc. … some sort of inspiration. I’m a visual artist so I keep both physical and digital mood boards for my ideas. If you like to write, this may look different. It can be anything you love, some bit of something that sparks an idea.
A word on the inner critic, do not allow that voice and fear of judgment (from yourself and others) to get in the way of developing, exploring and expressing your creative side. It will not help you create. Overanalyzing what your doing also isn’t beneficial.
I’d be remiss not to also mention two barriers I’ve experienced in exploring my own creativity: the inner critiic and overanalyzing. A word on the inner critic, do not allow that voice and fear of judgment (from yourself and others) to get in the way of developing, exploring and expressing your creative side. It will not help you create. Overanalyzing what your doing also isn’t beneficial. I constantly remind myself to just do and don’t overthink. If you keep going and moving through a process, I find the brain will eventually release its grip. You’ll get into a flow.
Michel, what are you most proud of? (personal, professional or other)
I’m definitely most proud of my family. I love creating and doing, but my family is always first and foremost. My children are my most epic creation! And being a mom is by far my most important and cherished role. They are my heart and soul and have given my life such purpose and meaning, adding such a richness and depth to who I am and who I aspire to be.
Where do you find inspiration and motivation on the days you are not feeling it?
Well, I definitely have many of those days when I’m just not feeling it. Moving my body through exercise sometimes helps me release any stuck energy. Often times, just committing to sitting down to create something even when I’m not feeling inspired and motivated will help me moved past that place.
There’s a lot of discipline and showing up that plays into creativity. Believing inspiration and motivation will always hit before you can start may be a bit of myth. I also use reading and visuals (my mood boards) to feel inspired and get me motivated. Other times, I may need a change of scenery. I may meet a friend for coffee or lunch at I spot where I love the food and interiors. I may also go shopping, vintage and antique stores are my favorite. When nothing works, I know it’s my mind and body telling me I need to take some time off to recharge. Knowing it’s okay to not feel inspired and motivated 100% of the time is important. We’re not machines! I know I have to have a lot of sleep and quiet time for ideas and inspiration to brew and steep and for me to be at my best. Having grace for ourselves also goes a long way to a healthy, balanced and happy life.
Favorite book, podcast, or playllist recommendations?
I read a lot, but can’t say I have a favorite book. I’m definitely more of a non-fiction person. My favorite podcasts include Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead as well as Elise Loehnen’s Pulling the Thread.
I live in a house full of musicians (vocals, piano, guitars and drums) so most often when I’m alone, I listen to nothing. I bathe in the silence!
Some of my favroite music includes the Avett Brothers, my French Spotify playlist and pop music (insert eyerolls from my kids). I live in a house full of musicians (vocals, piano, guitars and drums) so most often when I’m alone, I listen to nothing. I bathe in the silence!
Michel Van Devender is an artist, designer, creator and occasional blogger. Her website and blog are dedicated to her love of modern black homes, design, travel, style, art, and food — a rich layered mix of everything Michel loves and finds inspiring.