Elysian Exchange: Work-Life Balance with Han Starnes

Written by Jessica Comingore Photography by Ryan Bernal

The topic of work-life balance tends to be a favorite among creatives (myself included), and I think a large part of it has to do with it feeling so elusive. The nature of creative work is that it ebbs and flows, leaving it tricky to keep strict rules around a schedule, the way one might be able to working a nine to five. Yet despite this elusiveness, I refuse to give up on my quest to find it, and have found that tapping other creatives to see how they balance it all is always the most eye-opening for me. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that no one has it down to a science, but with each interaction, I walk away with new insight around the topic, and usually a few new practices to implement.

Today’s subject, Han Starnes, is no exception, and invites us into her airy Nashville studio to share her thoughts around working from home, and her process behind building an environment that fuels her creativity. Han’s womenswear label gracefully explores the space between raw beauty and a clean silhouette, and got its start after a stint studying textiles in New Zealand, where Han first developed her love for knitwear. Han’s intentionality behind her work is what makes it so unique, embodying a deep care for the materials her garments are made of, and how they’re produced. Needless to say, Han is a perfect accompaniment to the site, and we’re delighted to share a bit of her story with you today.

View More: http://ryanbernalphoto.pass.us/han-starnes-2017TheElysianEdit-ElysianExchange-HanStarnes-15

1. Operating a business from home can easily blur personal and work boundaries. Can you tell us about your studio space and what type of environment you wanted to create within it? What aesthetic aspects were important for you to incorporate?

Yes, boundaries are so necessary and helpful. We designed the space two years ago in our backyard, as I knew I wanted a separate space from the house, but close enough so that when we had kids, I could be close. Natural light was really important, so we searched for big windows. Also, I wanted to make sure a few windows opened, so the sliding glass door has a screen and windows on the backside open for a nice breeze. Something I learned in New Zealand was a respect for indoor/outdoor living — creating a nice flow between the two — letting the sunlight and the breeze in when appropriate. I can hear the birds in the morning, and it creates a nice platform for creativity. I wanted the walls, ceiling and floors to be white in order to open up the space and help clear the mind. Then I worked with my brother-in-law to make most of the furniture inside; just a few special items on a clean slate.

2. Daily rituals can help instill a sense of structure in a work-from-home schedule. What are some of your daily rituals that help inspire you and promote productivity?

You know, I am just now getting back into a schedule. It’s been four months since Olive was born, and I’m just starting to feel like I can really get back into work. I love having coffee when I start work; there’s just something about it that marks the start of something for me. I also make lists at the start of each day. I’ve learned that with limited time, I really have to focus my energy on doing the things that matter most, and creating lists helps me get organized.

3. Every designer has a varied and personal way of working. Can you tell us about your design process and if you have favorite step, from conceptualizing to producing your pieces?

I’m continually learning, so this process is a bit different each season. Collections take some time to put together for us — I really try to dig deep into what I’ve been learning and reflecting on for a season, then somehow translate that into a collection. The work is very personal in that way. Ideas for pieces sometimes come at weird times. Sometimes the idea for a piece comes to mind spontaneously, but other times a certain theme inspires the piece. In some mysterious way, the collections come together through intense editing. I really love exploring new textures, so getting swatches in from our partners who weave or knit for us is pretty special. This Fall/Winter 17 collection releasing in August is largely inspired by a trip we took to Japan last October. I was just amazed to see the colors and rhythms of daily commuters on the trains in Tokyo, walking in Kyoto, and sitting in the park.

TheElysianEdit-ElysianExchange-HanStarnes-12View More: http://ryanbernalphoto.pass.us/han-starnes-2017TheElysianEdit-ElysianExchange-HanStarnes-104. Your line embodies a sense of ease, timelessness, and has a wonderful tactile quality. How did your time in New Zealand influence your brand and its’ values?

It was so influential to the brand! I learned a lot from my kiwi friends — their sense of ingenuity, a wire-8 mentality (as I learned to call it), their respect and connection to the land, and such a strong sense of idenity. Certain areas of New Zealand were twenty years behind on things like an internet connection, but held such good values, like a certain work-life balance that seems so healthy. Also, living close to the ocean and an abundance of fresh foods was a nice change from being landlocked in Tennessee. It was such a healing and cultivating time for me. I took the necessary time to explore a long-standing interest in textiles. All these things have greatly influenced me and my work, and really created the right circumstances to cultivate my practice. I felt like I was exposed to a certain beauty there that I needed to do something with.

5. Now that your Spring / Summer 2017 collection is available for purchase, what are you currently working on and what do you envision for the future of your brand?

We’re currently working on production for our FW17 collection, and I’m starting to gathering ideas for our SS18 collection. We’re making some good and necessary changes to the brand in the next season, which I’m really excited to share more about soon. One thing I’ve learned recently is that having a child has really helped me narrow and focus my vision for work. We are in the midst of distilling this down and am excited to see what comes of it. 

TheElysianEdit-ElysianExchange-HanStarnes-8View More: http://ryanbernalphoto.pass.us/han-starnes-2017

You can find more of Han Starnes by visiting their website, or following along on Instagram. A big thank you to Han for joining us today!

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