Life / The Refined Collective

Molly Hartman // Rye Workshop // NYC Profile


Molly Hartman // Founder, Rye Workshop // Photos c/o Kat Harris, The Refined Woman  //  Written by:  Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman

Four stories above the Industry City streets of Brooklyn sits a small studio. One wall, from floor to ceiling, has shelves packed with boxes, vases, and jars of every imaginable size and style, and everything decorative. The summer evening light streams through the large windows to give life to the many flowers and plants that call this room home.

Lounging on a couch, a glass of Rosé in hand, Molly Hartman speaks fondly of the magic of New York City. “I never get over that moment of being in a cab with all of our flower boxes and going down 7th Avenue and zooming past tall buildings and small buildings and West Village and cobblestones,” she says. “You go through seven worlds in one 45-minute drive.”

Hartman is the founder and creative director of Brooklyn-based event design company Rye Workshop. Along with her team, she works on brand events, weddings, and other collaborations, bringing ideas to life in beautiful ways.

Living in a cramped New York City apartment has its downsides, and being an event designer who carts boxes of décor and flowers around a bustling city just adds to that. But it’s worth it to Hartman. “There’s a reason we make our lives so hard,” says Hartman. “It’s because we love this New York City life so much.”

For many, there is an epiphany in which they realize they have found what they love to do.  For Hartman it hasn’t been a single moment, but rather a constant feeling and reminder that she is doing what she loves.

Now seven years into this adventure, Hartman says they have achieved what she refers to as flow: “this great balance of where you’re feeling super challenged but also actively and productively learning and meeting your new needs.”

However, where success lives, challenges grow. This past year she focused on personal growth. Working in a creative field, she finds it is impossible to escape certain self-reflections.

Feeling insecure and placing blame on herself, Hartman realized she needed to make a change. “I needed to be brave and honest in ways that I didn’t necessarily want to be yet,” she says with a laugh, now that she has come through the other side.

Luckily she has a wonderful support system to help her through challenging times. “You need someone who, when you reveal those demons, will hold your hand and be like ‘you’re still a good human being,’” says Hartman, gesturing toward Wedding Design Director Julie Guinta across the room.

She expresses great appreciation for Guinta and everyone on her team. “It is never a one person thing,” says Hartman.

The most important thing for Hartman during this time was “letting go of the reins a bit more.”

As a creative director, Hartman finds her work can be constant if she allows it to be. “I can only achieve rest when I ask for help,” she says. Handing a project off to someone else is not always the preferred option, but she is beginning to recognize when it needs to be done.

She also credits her husband for being a great support system. He works in a completely different field as an engineer, but they manage to give each other “space to grow.” They’ve been together since she was just sixteen years old, and their marriage has been built on kindness and celebration.   

After college, she began working in television and production in D.C. She was always drawn to projects that gave her the opportunity to work with her hands.

Even as a child, she showed signs of becoming someone who would one day work in a creative field. “I was a kid who ran away all the time,” she recalls. “I would run away from home and make homes somewhere else.” From the age of three, she could be found designing spaces for herself, using anything from a picnic bench to a rhododendron bush as her house structure. “My poor mother,” she laughs. “My poor, poor mother.”

Looking forward, Hartman sees the Rye Workshop continuing to operate as a small team as they begin to make their way into the interior design scene. She also hopes to set aside the time and space to have art shows and showcases celebrating their passion projects.

Though she’d enjoy having a chicken coop upstate, Hartman remains in the gentle grip of New York City. So here she stays in her fourth floor studio: a place of beauty that can sometimes get messy in the service of making beautiful things happen.

Life / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Creating Space


Photos c/o Sara Kerens // Wardrobe:  Anthropologie

Breaking into the finance world in New York City can mean working 80 plus hours a week for a huge portion of your career. Some of the big corporations tell their new hire they shouldn’t plan on dating for the next 8-10 years of their lives. On top of working an obscene amount of hours, they often have to entertain out-of-town clients during the evening.

I could handle that type of schedule for approximately three hours before wanting to curl up in a ball and cry.

A friend of mine graduated, came to the city and started climbing the financial corporate ladder. He longed for a meaningful relationship and wanted to eventually get married. But the demands of his job kept him at the office until all hours of the night and he was single for many years. There was no way he could invest into another person when he barely had enough time to take care of himself.

After years of this, he finally hit a breaking point. He realized if something didn’t change he would end up rich — and alone. So he made a decision that changed everything: he created space.

He started leaving work by 6:00 p.m. He wasn’t dating anyone, but he wanted his life to have margin for the things he really wanted, so when the time came he would be ready for it.

It wasn’t easy, and it was counter cultural in his industry. But he understood that we need to create space in our lives for the things we value. How we spend our time reflects our priorities.

Our culture loves stories of overnight success. Or the magical, often unrealistic, instantly-head-over-heels-in-love plot lines of romantic comedies. However, those stories are the exception, not the rule.

A few years ago I got a huge break in my photography career and booked one of my dream editorial clients. The opportunity seemed to fall into my lap. I was at the right place at the right time.

Perhaps I was. But the reality is, when that dream job came knocking I was ready for it. I had been working hard for years honing my craft, building my team, and developing a respected reputation in the fashion and photography world.

An opportunity can happen suddenly, but if we haven’t put in the time, or created the space and margin for it, the opportunity can blow away as quickly as it came.

My aunt often says, “nothing happens suddenly.” Our all of a suddens don’t happen in a vacuum, but when we faithfully and intentionally show up in our lives over a long period of time. Then when the “suddenly” moments happen we are ready for them.

This is true for relationships, but also our careers, finances, and personal growth.

A few years ago I spoke at a women’s conference, and it was a turning point. I realized one of my life callings is to speak truth and hope to women. After the conference I was on fire to start speaking more often, but I was busy running two businesses. I blinked and six months flew by. Speaking at the conference seemed like a dim memory.

My excuse was I didn’t have enough time. I felt like if I couldn’t put all my energy into it, I couldn’t do it at all. It was my business coach who finally shook me awake to the idea that it didn’t have to be all or nothing. I realized that if speaking is important to me — and it is — my life needs to reflect that.

And like my friend who longed for a relationship and created space for the thing he desired, I had a decision to make. He didn’t sell all of his belongings, leave New York City and hire a matchmaker. He simply made a strategic decision to leave work at a reasonable hour so that when he met someone he’d already have space in his life for her.

(By the way within a few years he was married with a baby on the way.)

So I chose to start creating space for speaking. It was only an hour or two a week. But I knew that time was dedicated to investing into my speaking — whether that was writing a keynote, practicing out loud, or reaching out to conferences and women’s groups about speaking at their events. And slowly opportunities started coming my way. When they came I was ready for them, because I had created space in my day-to-day life for this dream.

What are the things you long for but don’t have yet? Is it a relationship, financial freedom, a travel adventure, a promotion? It could be as simple as getting up 15 minutes earlier and doing a jog around the block if the goal is to be in better shape.

Think about your day-to-day life. Does the way you spend your time reflect your priorities? How can you shift something in a small way to make room for the relationship, the dream, the goal?

This series is apart of The Refined Collective.  Be sure to check out the other ladies apart of this collective on Instagram today–as well as the articles on their blogs:  Jackie V., Joanne Encarnacion, Lauren Scruggs, Sarah Shreves.
Boss Ladies

Boss Ladies | Sara Combs


Photos c/o Rich Combs

Sara Combs is an artist and a designer who focuses on creating intuitive and meaningful experiences. She uses a variety of mediums; everything from design for both web and apps, to pattern design and illustration and interior design. Since moving to California after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art, she’s been in love with the state’s landscape and laid back way of life.

Growing up I really wanted to be
An artist or a ballerina (one of my first paintings was of me as a ballerina — with no arms, of course).

My most-used emojis are
The cactus, what I call the magic emoji (glitter emoji), and the heart.

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
Either a chai or latte with almond milk.

I don’t know how I ever lived without
The desert.

One thing people don’t know about me is
My husband and I were high school sweethearts.

My real life hero is
Bob, who runs the Sky Village Swap meet in Yucca Valley.  His main focus in life is what he calls unshakeable happiness. He asked himself what he wanted in life, and the answer was happiness. His next questions were, “how do I get it and how do I keep it?” His answer is to find it in the simplest of moments, something that can’t be taken away.

What I love about my work is
I do it because I love it, and it often doesn’t even feel like work.

The hardest thing about my work is
I can work around the clock or through weekends before I notice I haven’t taken time to rest and reset.

How I got started with my current career
My current career is a mix of many things I love: interior design, web design, and illustration. Each area feeds the others. For example, I was able to start doing more Interior design by buying a house and renovating it with money earned from my web design career. Renting that space via Airbnb gives me the freedom to only to do web or illustration projects that I’m truly excited about. It all comes full circle.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
Undervalue my work.

My typical day looks like
It’s taken me a while to learn, but with busy days I need a calm start to keep me grounded. Lately that’s been a morning yoga session. Next, I dive right into emails and messages while eating breakfast. Since we’re currently renovating our kitchen, breakfasts have been simple: a granola bar and a glass of orange juice or coffee. Otherwise, I love a good green smoothie!

Messaging is a large part of my day. Usually emails are the source of new web design projects, illustration projects, photo shoots etc. Though an important part of my day, emails are also a source of major distraction . If I see a new email pop up as I’m working on a separate project, it’s difficult not to take a look. Same goes for Instagram!

Besides working on design projects or home renovations, we also check in on our Airbnb rentals at least once a week to make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Somehow the day turns into sunset. Whenever possible, I love to take a sunset hike before dinner to process the day.


I used to think success meant
Being busy.

My current definition of success is
Having free time to explore and stay curious.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
My husband and I quit our full-time jobs at the same time to start our own design studio. We both had many moments of “what did we just do?!”

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
When my husband and I start arguing, we know we’re working too much. We usually rectify that with a hike or simply spending more time outside.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
I’m incredibly proud of the house we are currently renovating. There’s nothing more satisfying than designing the experience surrounding us.

I wish I could tell my younger self
Don’t spend time worrying about what others think you “should” be doing. If you feel passion in your gut, pursue it. Time does not wait.

The legacy I hope to leave is
An appreciation for nature, and motivation to live a life of passion and love.




Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobe // 5 Tips to Sustainable Shopping


Photos c/o Tutti del Monte // Top:  Vetta // Bottoms:  AYR

I used to pride myself on buying really inexpensive clothing. I’d feel very clever when someone complimented a dress that I bought for $10 at Target or Forever21, and thought that I was somehow beating the system. But in the end I realized the system was beating me. It was also beating down everything in its path, including the workers who made the clothes and the environment.

My cheap clothes would quickly fall apart or go out of style, and I’d have to be constantly be buying new things to keep up. I was on the fast fashion treadmill and I didn’t even know it. When I learned about poor working conditions in sweatshops during college (over 10 years ago), I knew something had to change. It took me 5 years to work up the courage, but in 2012 I decided that for a year I would only buy clothing if I knew where it came from. I’ve been buying second hand or fair fashion clothing exclusively ever since.

It was really hard at first, I’m not going to lie. Most of the sustainable brands back then were really expensive, and second hand shopping was a chore. Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks that have made shopping ethically easier – and more fun! Here are five tips to shop sustainably without breaking the bank:

  1. Shop Consignment

The easiest and cheapest way to shop sustainably is to go to your local consignment store. By shopping second hand, you’re making use of clothing that already exists rather than using resources to create something new. Consignment store chains like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads have locations across the US, and are stocked with good quality and low priced clothes that are well organized. These stores hand-select the merchandise, so you have a lot of great in-season and often on-trend items to choose from. You can also shop local or online consignment stores (my favorites are Poshmark and Tradesy). After you make it a regular habit, you will wonder how you ever paid full price for anything, and you’ll feel good about rescuing clothes from the landfill.

2.  Shop Thrift Stores

If you’re up for it, thrift shopping can be even more rewarding. Some people can’t stomach digging through a bunch of old stuff, but If you can there are gems to be found (usually for $7 or less at places like Goodwill). I recommend doing some research and identifying your favorite thrift store in your neighborhood, and finding out what days/times they restock the floor. Then, keep a running list of things you’re looking for, so you don’t walk out the door with a bunch of things you don’t need. For example, if you’re looking for a basket purse and vintage levi’s jeans, you can just check those sections and be on your way if they don’t have what you’re looking for. This will help keep your search time to a minimum.

3.  Shop Online Vintage

Another favorite sustainable option is vintage shopping online. You can find some really amazing clothing from the 50s, 60s, and 70s that is still in great condition – and no one will have that piece but you. One of the best places for this is the vintage section of Etsy, especially if you’re looking for something specific. You can look up something like “gingham dress” and then filter by category, price, and color. They have almost everything, and the prices can be really reasonable. If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, and would rather have a selection curated for you, check out online vintage shops like Fenix Vintage, Shop Exile, and American Archive. You can even shop via Instagram! My favorite is Na Nin vintage, which is super stylish and cheap!

4.  Buy less, but better

If you’re not interested in shopping second hand, there are a growing number of ethical brands with high quality products that you can buy without going into debt. My favorites right now are Amour Vert, Everlane, Grana, Reformation, Urban Renewal, and VETTA. *VETTA is my brand, so I’m biased on that one. 😉 These brands are all fairly priced, but they’re not as cheap as fast fashion brands if that’s what you’re used to. Shopping from ethical brands requires a change in mindset, because you are paying someone a fair wage so it’s not going to cost $10 for a dress. Instead of buying things on a whim, you’ll need to think carefully about what your wardrobe needs. Make a list of what’s missing in your closet, and keep it with you on your phone. If you can forgo a few cheap impulse purchases, you will be able to pay more for something you really want (that’s higher quality and will last longer). In the end, your wardrobe (and the earth, and the people who make your clothes) will thank you.

5.  Be Sale Savvy

Lastly, some sustainable brands offer discounts for their products, so you can take advantage of those special offers. Many ethical brands offer loyalty or insider discounts when you join their mailing list. For example, you can get 15% off at Amour Vert or 10% off at VETTA by joining the email list. Or you can tell a friend about a cool new brand, and get store credit that way – for example, you can get $25 at Everlane or $20 at Grana right now by referring a friend. You can also follow brands on Facebook or Instagram to be notified of special sales and offers. While most sustainable brands are moving away from the constant discounts of traditional brands, you can still find deals out there.

I hope these tips can help you build a wardrobe you love, and can feel good about! It’s a process, and it can take time to create new shopping habits. But I can tell you that the satisfaction of making a difference with every purchase beats the satisfaction of that $10 dress every time!



Founder, Vetta Capsule

Capsule Wardrobe / Motherhood

Ch ch changes

So this is the second time I’ve had a baby, and I’m noticing a pattern to what happens immediately afterward:
– My passion for personal style is revitalized
– I feel excited by new designers
– I start planning my summer wardrobe and shopping on my phone as I while away the hours nursing a baby
Perhaps it’s a result of finally not having to dress a bump, which is challenging since I usually feel physically terrible and just want to wear sweatpants and lay in bed.
After I have a baby I’m always impatient to wear real clothes. While a reasonable person would be patient and simply wait for their pre-pregnancy clothes to fit again, I find myself shopping and thrifting for new items.
Most days when I’m momming it up I find myself in an oversized men’s button up and vintage Levi’s. I want my style to feel natural, unfussy. I’ve always loved linen and now more than ever I’m mixing in flowy linen tops. I’m invigorated by vintage and secondhand shopping because it feels like a low pressure way to test out styles like ruffles or super bohemian dresses.
Fashion helps me not lose myself in the often all-encompassing role of being a mom. Sure, i have every excuse to wear yoga pants and nursing tank tops every day, and if i’m feeling tired I can default to those staples.
But I love having a way to express myself and finding clothes that are comfortable, nursing-friendly and exciting. It makes a big difference in my days.
What we’re wearing (a few new favorite designers + vintage) :
smocks (mine + charlie) by innika choo / vintage levis thrifted and cut by me – selling now at emjaynescott / sandals by beatrice valenzuela / baby jumpsuit by arq
Pssssst ….. Other posts where I’ve worn dresses as shirts here and here
Capsule Wardrobe / Style

Be Curious // How to Dress Intentionally

Photos c/o Sara Kerens // See full article today on Darling Magazine

How do we begin to process what it means to have integrity as we approach our closets and get dressed each day?  Like most things: little by little.  

The fact that we get to express ourselves creatively through fashion is a gift.  It’s another area of our lives where we’re constantly making tiny decisions.  Yet, how we show up in the small things will reflect how we show up in the bigger moments of our lives.

We can  mindfully develop our integrity through the clothes we choose to wear as well as noticing our relationship to ourselves and the pieces:

  1. Be Curious: 

Notice the thoughts that come to your mind as you’re getting dressed.  Don’t judge yourself or them, simply notice.  Are they thoughts like if only I could squeeze into that smaller size, or I hate my thighs, or if I only had that blazer that so-and-so had.  If you’re comparing or struggling with loving and accepting yourself physically, chances are these same negative thoughts are showing up in your career, relationships, home life, etc.  What if as you zipped that zipper and a painful thought came up instead of accepting it you shifted the perspective into one of gratitude and love towards yourself?.  Instead of ugh I’ll never have a thigh gap, to I’m so grateful for my strong legs that allow me to walk, run, and adventure through my life?. Every moment is an opportunity for growth if we choose it to be.

  1. Be a Storyteller:  

We all are storytellers.  Everyone of us.  And we are constantly inviting others into a journey when they are with us.  Our physical appearance is the first thing people notice about us.  What message are you intending to give off versues the reaction you are getting from people?  Is there a disconnect?  Ask a few trusted friends how you come across.  In college, I was insecure about my body, so I hid myself in baggy sweats.  One day, a mentor told me I needed to put on some mascara and clothes that fit me.  How did she know I was hiding?  I thought I was being so sly and covering up my flaws and insecurities by being ‘sporty’.  But my hiding was no secret—all anyone had to do was look at me.  If I didn’t take myself seriously, how was I to expect others to?

  1. Be Creative:  

Over 60 percent% of millennials are in debt, and living above theirre means.  It’s so easy to be this way especially in our just one-click-away culture.  Perhaps it’s time to pay off the credit card debt, create a budget —and work with the closet you have and not the closet you can’t afford.  How you spend your time and money is a reflection of what you care about most.  While I want to look put together, I don’t want my legacy to be, ‘man that girl sure knew how to dress’.  I want to leave the world a better place and be defined by a generous and kind heart with a commitment to invest into the lives of others.

One of the most profound ways I’ve been challenged to integrate integrity into my wardrobe is buy pairing down my closest to a capsule wardrobe.  I don’t want to fuss about my clothes, but I do want to be comfortably chic.  A few ways I do this is:

  1. Make a List: 

At the beginning of each season, I make a list of things I need i.e. my black pants are on their last thread, and I’d really like to save up for a nice trench coat.  Once you determine your budget for that quarter you may have to save a few things to buy for next year.  This has completely extinguished random shopping trips for me where I would spend $50 here and there, and end up frustrated with a closet full of clothes I didn’t really like or were out the next season.

  1. Check for Versatility

When I go shopping, I make sure I can envision myself wearing the item in three completely different outfits.  If I can’t, then the piece is a no-go for me.  Even better is if I can find multiple seasons of the year that I can to wear the piece.  Functionality and versatility is key.

  1. If you Don’t Love It, Get Rid of It: 

Go through your closet, and take out anything that fits into the category of:  if I lose 10 pounds, I’m not crazy about the color, the straps always fall off, those pants cut off my circulation, etc.  The reality is if you don’t love, you won’t wear it.  And when/if you do, you usually regret it.  This was a painful process for me as I began to pair down my wardrobe.  My closet was full of items that I didn’t really like, but felt obligated to keep because of what I paid for them, or worse I kept them because maybe they’d fit me one day.  when.  My wardrobe is much smaller now.  But it’s made up of only pieces I love, feel confident in, and know I’ll be happy in throughout my day. 

  1. Capsule Brands I love: 

The lean wardrobe is becoming a movement, and there are incredible brands on the forefront of this capsule mentality.  A few brands I love are:  Vetta, AYR, Podolls, and Cuyana.

Chanel was really onto something when she said ‘less is more.’  And like building any characteristic, it takes time, discipline and patience.  Focus on one or two of the minor changes above and practice incorporating them into your life and wardrobe this summer!





Life / Refined by Fire

Refined by Fire: When your dreams die | Grace Thornton


Photo c/o Alex Wolf

Grace Thornton is a freelance journalist and author of the book “I Don’t Wait Anymore: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You.” She grew up in Mississippi but lived in England and the Middle East before landing in Alabama for now. She blogs about travel, life and faith at Grace for the Road.

As a kid, I was quiet. Peaceable. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t aggressive. And I definitely wouldn’t say I was confident. But inside me there was a deep-set determination of just punch me — you won’t break me. I think I got that from my mom.

When I broke my arm badly at 12 and they had to set the bone, I wrapped my toes around the foot of the bed to keep from screaming — and didn’t. I broke a thumbnail once in a high school sports team tryout because I’d used bad form, but I covered the blood and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want the coach to know.

It won’t break me. I can push through it.

Then just before I turned 24, my college boyfriend and I broke up. He’d been one of my best friends before we had started dating. I thought we’d get married. I was wrong.

And I shattered.

On the outside, I was getting a new haircut, blaring Kelly Clarkson songs and booking trips to Mexico while the broken pieces of my heart just lay there for the world to see. I was coping. Pushing through.

But I knew this one was different.

This one was someone I loved, sure … and that hurt. But it was also my life plan, every expectation I’d had since I was a kid. My dreams broke. And no cast, no willpower was going to fix that.

Whether I stopped long enough to admit it or not, this was a game changer. It wasn’t that I just needed to push through it until it got better … this was my new season. And slowly I began to see … I’d never seen the dreams I had (like marriage and a family after college) as a good thing that might happen one day, God willing.

They weren’t negotiable. I’d expected them. Just as we expect a bone will heal or a nail will grow back, I had expectations that my dreams would happen one day.

And when they didn’t … suddenly I had a lot of questions.

I started out with, “how can I make the best of this until it all works out?” and slowly moved to “how can I help make this work out faster?” I went on some blind dates. I threw myself into my career. I made good friends who liked to go places and do things, and along the way I tried to meet people.

None of those were bad.

But it took a while for the questions to boil down to the one that really mattered, the one that got to the heart of where I was, of who I was.

“If what I want never happens — am I okay with that?” Did it make me less? Would it mean I’d have a life that’s just okay, not the best? Does it mean that the God I had always believed in showed up for other people, not for me?

One day, with all the shattered pieces of my heart in my hands, I asked God those questions. I’d heard when I was a teenager that God would bring the right one would come along if I’d just wait. Those words were loud in my head.

But as I let them fade, I remembered other words, words that hadn’t been said nearly as much as I wish they had — or maybe they were, and I just didn’t hear them. They sounded cliché.

God is enough. He’s all you need.

It sounds like the kind of thing you say to somebody when you don’t have anything else to say. Seriously — He’s enough even if I’m single for life? Enough if I don’t have kids? Enough to make life feel like it’s not a consolation prize? If the God of the Bible is true, then those things are true too — He says them all. That other thing — the one about waiting for the right one — He didn’t say that.

He said I’m love. I’m peace. And I’ll be everything you could ever need.

And as time went by, as I got to know Him, it was true — so true that a day came that I said aloud … I’m glad I broke. I’m glad my dreams broke. I finally had a space where I could give God everything and let Him write a narrative for my life without boundaries, without being boxed in by the dreams I’d drawn in permanent ink.

He needed a blank page. And if there had never been one, if I had never let go of my iron-fisted grip on what I thought was best, I never would’ve seen what life was supposed to be.

Good. It’s supposed to be good. And it doesn’t always look like what we have in mind.





Boss Ladies / Life

Boss Ladies | Mattie Tiegreen


Mattie Tiegreen

Photos c/o Kaitie Bryant Photography

Mattie Tiegreen of Green Tie Studio is a graphic designer specializing in minimal and meaningful branding and art direction. She and her husband live in Raleigh, NC but are counting the days until the west coast is home. She’s a forever mess maker and a super fan of sushi, sour beer and slow living.

Growing up I really wanted to be
An artist, then a country singer, then a teacher.

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
A vanilla latte at a local joint (or blonde roast with toffee nut flavor at safe-bet Starbucks)

I don’t know how I ever lived without
Washing my face! I’ve always been so lazy about it but I’m turning thirty this year and it’s time. I’m three months in and I don’t know how I ever went to sleep with makeup on.

One thing people don’t know about me is
I struggle with depression if I stay at home for more than a few days at a time. I’ve learned that I have to work from coffee shops at least once a week and get to the gym every day to feel like the best version of myself.

My real life hero is
Amy Poehler — because she is unapologetically herself and she uses her platform to advocate for a cause larger than herself.

What I love about my work is
The opportunity to make beautiful things with a purpose.

The hardest thing about my work is
Saying “no” to certain projects to leave margin for personal growth, travel, and rest.

How I got started with my current career:
I graduated with a degree in special education and a teaching position lined up. I had always been creative, but didn’t explore art in college because I believed there weren’t enough viable career options after school. I continued practicing art “on the side” – making greeting cards and wedding stationery for anyone who would let me. I had no intention of it becoming a career and went back to school for a Master’s degree in education and continued teaching. The next year, I decided to create a complete line of wedding stationery on Etsy. This changed the trajectory of my business.

Before I knew it, I had enough saved to quit my job and debut my paper line at The National Stationery Show in New York. I worked full-time in wedding paper for two years before deciding to offer strictly digital design services. As much as I loved the paper industry, it felt very transactional, which was not inline with my personality. I craved genuine connection and a longer relationship with clients. In 2015, I re-launched Green Tie Studio with branding and web design packages (and hoped and prayed I’d be sustainable)! Thankfully, the most incredible business owners continue to trust me with building or re-vamping their brand – the importance of which is never lost on me.

Mattie Tiegreen

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out was
Copy a wedding invitation I saw on Minted and add it to my Etsy page. I was so embarrassed when they emailed asking me to take it down. That’s how I honed my skills: imitating art I admired. What I realized though, was how wrong it was to offer it as my own work. I felt guilty about it for months. But I never made that mistake again and it pushed me to create and appreciate original work.

My typical day looks like
– I wake up around 7:30
– I let my pups outside, make coffee (french press for life) and breakfast (usually avocado toast or oatmeal)
– I enjoy a few quiet moments to be close to Jesus and get my thoughts together before I begin work
– I am at my desk by 9:00 typically answering emails or working through admin to-do’s
– I try to work on aversive tasks earlier in the day. Once I start it’s never so bad, but if I leave an aversive task for the end of the day, I’ll always find an excuse to push it to the next day.
– I break for lunch at noon every day
– I plan my week 3 days at a time down to the hour so I know exactly what I can accomplish. At 5:00 I start winding down and planning for the next day, which includes whatever I didn’t accomplish. I’ve found when I put large tasks on my to-do list for a day, it’s difficult to gauge how long something will take. It will inevitably take twice as long as I thought, meaning I end the day with a list of unfinished tasks. By breaking my day into hours and assigning smaller tasks to each hour (Project Brief, Inspiration Board, Send March Invoices, Round 1 Concept Edits, etc.) I’m less overwhelmed.
– I close shop around 5:30 every day and get ready for the gym at 6:00. There are so many days when I don’t feel like going but I tell myself if I run 2 miles and am still not feeling it, I can leave without a full workout. I always get into it once I’m there and have never left early!
– I come home by 7:30 to cook dinner and crash on the sofa with my husband and pups by 9 pm. I try to read before bed (but sometimes I blog or answer emails – a huge no-no but I still do it) and am loving Chasing Slow, Present Over Perfect and Art Inc.

I used to think success meant
More clients, more money, more press, more followers, more work.

My current definition of success is
Fewer clients, closer relationships, sustainability, margin, joy.

What does integrity in the work place look like for you?
I think integrity in the design world is strongly centered around inspiration. We live in such a visual world – it can be difficult to know exactly where our inspiration as artists comes from. Something we think is beautiful on Instagram can quickly turn into plagiarism if we’re not careful. No one intends for this to happen but it does. Of course in the grand scheme of life, there is nothing new under the sun. But, because we’re so inundated with visual content, another’s original ideas can sneak their way into our own work. To me, integrity is being aware of this potential and being intentional and innovative with new ideas.

Mattie Tiegreen

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities…
Last year I partnered with a friend as co-owner of a retail store. Though I loved the experience, I realized 8 months in that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I knew it wasn’t sustainable for our family but I was terrified to leave that and re-enter freelance design after almost a year out of the industry.

After talking with several mentors and praying for provision, I walked away from the store with a backup plan for what I’d do if I couldn’t book any clients. Thankfully, my design business is thriving again. I’m thankful for that experience, though – I’m infinitely more grateful for my job when I remember that nothing is certain.

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
I don’t accomplish everything I planned for the day and resort to finishing it at night. Sometimes I answer emails or work on a “fun” blog project from the sofa, but if I head back to my office after dinner, I’m not in a good place. I really value my evenings. It’s the only time I see my husband, so when I compromise that time for work, I start to feel like a worker bee. To remedy this, I’ll start with saying “no” to extra projects or offering to begin them in a few weeks/months. I’ll also give myself 2-3 hours to work on a Saturday so I can keep my nights work-free. That way, I can still have a weekend (and will normally treat myself to a date night after Saturday work!) but can also knock out some deadlines. I’ll also set my alarm for 6am and get an early start (even though it’s so painful) and then reward myself with a sweet treat or fun outing if I can finish the to-dos after a few early mornings.

Mattie Tiegreen

The last time I created something I was proud of was
Yesterday! I finished a project strategy brief for a new client and felt like I encompassed the heart of her business. I got a text from her this morning saying  that the mission statement made her cry and that I had perfectly described why she does her job. That meant the world to me.

I wish I could tell my younger self that
Your job is not who you are.

The legacy I hope to leave is
Loving people well — right where they are.



Life / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Love


I am a romantic.  When I was 3, my mom caught me kissing Prince Charming on the tv.  Movies like The Notebook make me cry and pull at my heart strings every time.  To add fuel to my romantic fire, I’ve been a wedding photographer for almost a decade, and have been a bridesmaid 17 times.

Throughout my early 20s almost anyone I knew who was married was ‘fine’ and seemed to be living an ongoing, blissful, honeymoon.  I believed with my whole heart if you just had love you truly could conquer anything.

But then real life started to unfold.  After experiencing my own heartache and walking through painful relationships with close friends, the rose-colored glasses through which I viewed love and marriage were shattered.  I found myself looking at the world and the relationships around me feeling disoriented and oftentimes despair.

Some friends seemed to have done everything right.  They dated well, asked hard questions, opened their relationships up to their community, and were madly in love with one another.  But after a few months of marriage they seemed to be hanging on by a thread.   Other close friends woke up to devastating secrets or suffered emotional abuse.  Some were left in the dust when their spouses left them for another.  And much to my surprise, some of my friends chose to be unfaithful.  It all was so layered and complicated.

As I walked through these painful stories with my friends, my own personal experiences further challenged my beliefs.

Photos c/o Sara Kerens

A few years ago I fell head over heels for a guy, but we realized that as much as we cared about each other, we wanted different things.  The breakup was confusing and messy because no one did anything wrong – we were simply heading in opposite directions.  Love wasn’t enough for us.

In my 20s I dated a man I would’ve married if given the opportunity.  But there was a lot of drama.  When he was connected to God, himself, and others he was unstoppable.  But he didn’t live in that space.

I knew if we moved forward it was going to be a long road.  In the end it didn’t work out and he broke up with me.  Looking back it was such a mercy because I wouldn’t have had the courage to walk away.  With 20/20 hindsight I can see that I didn’t accept all of him.

That relationship woke me up to the reality that love chooses the whole person.  Not just their good side, and not just their potential.  A person isn’t their potential.  They are who they are the majority of the time.  You can’t marry someone with the hope that they might morph into another person.  That’s not love; it’s self-deception.  You choose who that person is today and say I’m going to love you.  Period.

For months I’ve been sitting with this question:  is it true that love conquers all?  Were the Beatles right when they sang, ‘all you need is love’?  Or is it more complex than that?

What do you need, in addition to love, to make a marriage and partnership last?  I don’t know the exact answer to this question.  But I believe it’s things like this:

• Do you accept this person?  Not some past, or future version of themselves.  But who they are today.  Can you choose to love all of who they are?

• Do you respect them? 

• Do they have integrity?

• Do you share similar values and worldview?  I’ve gotten slack over the years from family and friends over this.  They claim I’m being too picky, or looking for perfection.  But the lens through which we view the world impacts how we interact with everything.  Our core values and what we believe about God and humanity colors everything from how we respond to stress, to how we raise our children, to what we think about money and social justice.  Alignment on these things matters.

Sometimes our requirements of a prospective partner do need to be dismantled. Things like does he have a six-pack, does he have a trust fund, and is he at least 3 inches taller than me may need to be released.

While sometimes out of insecurity and feeling unworthy we don’t hold ourselves high enough to wait for the type of relationships we really long for.

But perhaps I’ve misunderstood what love truly is.  With the hundreds of weddings I’ve photographed over the years I’ve heard the familiar poem on love from 1 Corinthians 13 so many times I’ve become numb to them.  But as I thought of how I wanted to end this article, all I could think about were these ancient verses on love.

One translation says…love is patient and kind; love doesn’t envy or boast; it isn’t arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it isn’t irritable or resentful; it doesn’t rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. (1Corinthians 13:4-6)

What if we loved like this—fiercely, with patience, kindness, and selflessness, extending grace and keeping no records of when we’ve been wronged?  It makes me wonder if there were times I thought I loved a person, but really I was only in love with parts of him.

Are you like me and have had love and relationships on a pedestal for far too long?  Perhaps it’s time to look inward and examine what you believe about love?  Spend a few minutes and take inventory—maybe there’s some things you’re holding onto too tightly while there are some other things that need a more firm grasp.

Fairy tales and romantic comedies might give us butterflies, but feelings fade and can be misleading.  The type of lovethat I want to fight for in my marriage, family and friendships is one that…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…that kind of love never fails. (1Corinthians 13:7).



This Post is curated in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective.  Be sure and read the other articles on love today by: Go Fit Jo,  Jackie V., Tonyha Kae, and Tutti del Monte.  Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say about love.

Boss Ladies / Life

Boss Ladies | Kayla Seah


Kayla Seah
Photos c/o Corissa Bagan

Kayla Seah grew up in Canada and started Not Your Standard in 2012, right before moving to Berlin, Germany. After living in Berlin for 3 years, she relocated to Toronto to work with North American brands. She has a degree in Fashion Design and Communications and has been working within the industry since her early twenties.

Growing up I really wanted to be
An editor or stylist at Vogue

My go-to order at a coffee shop is
Black Americano

I don’t know how I ever lived without
Quality skin care products

One thing people don’t know about me is
I love Hip Hop!

My real life hero is
My Mom – she is the most selfless human being I know. She is my biggest supporter and I go to her first for advice in almost every aspect of my life. She is the best!

What I love about my work is
I love what I do so much, nothing I do feels like work. I never wake up NOT wanting to work – I’m very fortunate and grateful!

The hardest thing about my work is
People not understanding this business. They think I wake up, doll myself up, and then take pictures of myself. That’s about 10% of my job. I guess it comes with the industry, but I work so hard that when I hear people’s negative opinion of what I do, it’s frustrating.

How I got started with my current career
I completed 2 internships while in University about 8 years ago – one was online based, and the other was like a magazine. After working in both fields, I saw that the online world was the way of the future. When I finished school, I decided to create a creative space online, and that is how Not Your Standard was born.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
Using a self timer instead of hiring a photographer – but you do what you have to do.

My typical day looks like
No two days are ever the same. A typical office day would be: wake up, wash face, brush teeth, make a smoothie, and then sit down at my computer tackling whatever needs to be done that day. This can be answering emails, scheduling for the week. I usually then meet with my photographer, have a meeting with my team, go to the gym, and work on the next day’s blog post.
Kayla Seah lace top
I used to think success meant
Making lots of money

My current definition of success is
Loving what you do and being excited for opportunities that may come your way in the future.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
The geographical moves in my life have been scary. It’s hard to be in a city for so long, then leave it behind and start fresh again
Kayla Seah

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
I always make time to work out — it gets me away from desk, gives me a new scene on top of all health benefits. When I am travelling or really busy with work, I don’t always stick to my work out schedule and I feel it immediately. That’s when I know I have to slow down and regroup.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
I am branching out and wanting to create more video content. When I was in New York in the fall, I created, edited, and finalized my first travel video and was very happy with the final project. I have also worked with Chanel recently, and got to create my own look and feel for a photo shoot. It turned out well and the company loved it – which is the best compliment of all.

I wish I could tell my younger self
Relax…have fun….don’t get caught up in boyfriend drama….be confident in your decisions

The legacy I hope to leave is
To be an inspiration to someone – both career and style wise.