We had the good fortune of connecting with Gili Wolf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gili, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
I have a couple favorites quotes or affirmations, the first is “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.” – Al-Shafi’i This reminds me of another quote with a similar concept: “What you are seeking is seeking you.” These quotes give me a little peace, particularly when something doesn’t work out they way I had wanted or hoped it would. This idea helps me to surrender and to have confidence that there is something else I’m meant for, that is also meant for me, I just might not see it yet or it may appear in a way I’m not expecting. Another idea that I refer to a lot is “What’s the problem you want to have?” This is from the book “Essentialism” which has become a bit of a personal bible for me. It’s asks what is it you want to spend your life energy upon, and then suggests “Focus on that.”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve worked as a graphic designer for over 20 years, but I also have a background in art. I did my MFA in fine art, at the time, emphasizing installation work with a very conceptual bent to it. I did stuff with Jell-o and spray-painted cereal, and made paper airplanes detailed like cars. I built a 4′ x 6′ Lite Brite. Children of the 80’s will know what I’m talking about when I say it is filled with 56,000 pegs and mounted to a wall. To this day it is roaming the Earth still looking for a permanent home (anyone in the market for a giant Lite Brite?!) That was a long time ago, and since then most of the work I’ve done has been in design. It’s almost impossible for me to separate my design thinking from the type of artwork I do now, which is generally two-dimensional, flat and graphic, and more traditional in the mediums I use — colored pencil, ink, montage, paint, and tape. I’m a glutton for color and most of my work is really about that. I work abstractly, utilizing color and form to create an emotional response; most of the time I think I’m trying to stir up a “POW!” feeling in the person looking at it. This past year I’ve been able to mix it up a bit: I painted a couple murals to get my feet wet working at larger scales, I designed a couple beer labels, and currently I’m working on a children’s book. Ultimately, I REALLY want to get to work on some of the ideas that are piling up in my own head. I’m kind of reserved, and skew toward introverted (although I scored nearly down the middle of “I” and “E” on the Myers-Briggs), so as a shy teenager who often didn’t know what to say, I discovered I could be loud through art. I’ve gravitated toward vibrant color and a sharp, graphic quality, starting back then, because it was a way to show how I really feel on the inside — an exuberant loudmouth in low-key packaging. I’ve also always loved 60’s concert posters, so there’s definitely a psychedelic influence as well. I had a friend in my high school art class who used to ask if I was on drugs. I wasn’t, but I was sort of flattered he asked, to me it meant my more free-spirited insides were showing up on paper. I’m proud that after 20 years in this field, I’m finally owning who I am. After years of battling all the “shoulds” and self-inflicted pressure about doing things I don’t particularly love, I’ve finally embraced that it’s OK for me to focus on what I do well and to hand off the rest to people who do those things well. As a designer, I’ve formed connections with other people in the marketing world. I collaborate with brand strategists, web designers, copywriters, social media strategists, and I’ve found really great and talented people to partner on projects. I’ve gotten here through a lot of trial and error trying to figure things out on my own, a lot of networking, multiple coaching programs, hitting my head against a wall (not gonna’ lie, there has been a fair amount of that), and even burning everything down and starting over. These days I’m focusing my business on a non-profit niche, because I spent my early design career in that world and it feels most meaningful to me to work with organizations that are doing good. I have a vision of busting out of the digital realm and being able to bring murals or other work to non-profit spaces IRL as well. I’ve learned a lot of lessons, many of them the hard way. The most recent and maybe most profound so far is self-acceptance. I’m finally getting it that I don’t have to twist myself into a pretzel to be something or someone that I’m not, and that I can lean into what I’m actually built for. Looking forward, I think that means reclaiming my artist self and moving in that direction. I want to generate more of the work that is being “channeled” through me. I know that might sound woo-woo, but I imagine most creatives know what I mean, that the ideas and images that come through us aren’t really us, we’re a conduit for something bigger, and it feels important to put them out there. I feel that my next evolution is to tip the scales toward working more like an artist rather than a designer, or maybe a hybrid of those identities. I think the world we live in today is wide open with opportunities for us to be hybrids and remixes, so I’m looking forward to morphing into mine.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ve got my Boulder visitor guide (because I live right on the edge of the bubble) and my Denver visitor guide. BOULDER To Do: – Walking tour of the Street Wise Boulder murals, many of which run through downtown, so we get that requisite experience as well. If it’s spring, then the tulip display on Pearl St. is worth the walk. – Hike up Settler’s Park to see the red rock formations and city view. It’s a short, easy hike, good for out-of-town guests to feel like they’re doing the Colorado thing, but without getting totally winded from the altitude. – A morning stop at Lucky Bakehouse (best bakery gluten free section EVER. The buckwheat blondies are a MUST.) to fatten ourselves up on the way to Wonderland Lake for a walk around what I consider to be one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in Boulder no matter the time of year. – Eat: • Dushanbe Tea House: it’s a beautiful local treasure and as my husband says, “Women love the Tea House.” • Amu: the restaurant describes its dishes as those “your Japanese grandmother would make.” This is not a sushi restaurant, but rather Japanese home-cooking that I would eat everyday if I could. It makes me wish I had a Japanese grandmother. • Gelato Boy: their dairy free flavors have made me a spoiled brat about my ice cream and a Gelato Boy evangelist, so we’re definitely stopping there. DENVER To Do: – Mural walk (seeing a theme here?) through RiNO because it is a Denver special and a must-see spot when visiting. – Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s just beautiful, and if it’s winter, we’re going to Blossoms of Light for a cold weather walk through a magically-lit garden. – Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum or MCA, depending on what’s showing Food: – I think a visit to at least one of Denver’s many market halls is in order because it feels like a very Denver phenomenon to me. I’m not sure which one though, maybe Broadway Market. – If we’re springing for a fancy-ish dinner, Fruition. Is is a favorite, and my husband and I go there for special occasions. It never disappoints, the food and the service are always top-notch, but still homey and low-key . We’re not leaving without having the lemon meringue pie.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people and groups and books that deserve a shout-out for their support and influence, this could easily be my rambling Oscar acceptance speech. I’ll highlight the obvious one — my husband Eric. He has never been anything but supportive of my professional, creative and personal aspirations. He has stood by patiently as I’ve wrestled and struggled with my work and place in the world, he is never without something funny (or punny) to say, and he is my trusty test audience when I need to run my work by someone. He had several graphic designers in his life prior to meeting me, so he knew what he got himself into when he married me and my brand of crazy, along with my 3 solidly-packed bookshelves of art and design books, and went for it anyway. He’s also a professional editor, so I can count on him to find all of spelling and grammar errors — if you find any here it’s because he didn’t check it.
Photo of me in striped pants photo credit: Beth Sanders Blowing bubbles photo credit: Beth Sanders