I'm passionate about finding and sharing ideas that feed creativity and inspiration in this weary world. Because we're so surrounded with illusion and lies, I hope this blog will help others in their quest to get a bit closer to the truth. I'd also like to say that opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily mine or those featured here. Oh, and if you choose to use any images/words from this site, kindly obtain permission from all relevant parties and add the necessary links and references.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interview: Vive la French General!

Today's interview is with Kaari Meng the owner of French General who was gracious enough to take some time out for an interview. If you've never been France, visiting this website is an armchair traveler's dream. (Graphic courtesy of French General)
What were your dreams as a child and how did they influence your life today?
I was always interested in the arts and crafts. As a student, I didn't fully understand how I could turn my creativity into something that would pay the bills and satisfy me. I prayed a lot - asking for some sort of creative guidance. As I got older - I learned that everything I had been interested in as a child could translate into my life's work if I created for myself instead of creating for others. Once I learned this, my creativity flowed easier and I was able to build a business that was built on my own passion for old materials, colors and textures.

What inspired you to create French General and what were the challenges you faced when you were first starting out?
I created French General because I was inspired by my travels in France. I had a jewelry business in New York that was doing well - but I was looking for a creative outlet - something that would allow me to travel and bring back the lifestyle that I was experiencing. French General began as a small collection of textiles, notions and antiques that took me back to the 1800's and allowed me to feel like I was living a simpler life. I don't remember the challenges when we began French General. I remember a wonderful feeling of starting something new and feeling totally inspired by the excitement - going to bed every night and thinking of all the new ideas swirling around in my head. To me the journey is usually as exciting as the final destination.

How did you come to be published?
My friend, Marcia Ceppos of Tinsel Trading, had written a book and thought I should try writing one - she introduced me to the people connected with Sterling who eventually published our first two books, French-Inspired Home and French-Inspired Jewelry. Our third book, Home Sewn, published by Chronicle was a lucky break - we wanted to work with a creative team and I think they felt the same way. Book writing is a great project - it takes a couple of people to get the idea rolling and then it takes a group of people to actually get the book designed and into production - I love the process - and working with people who are so talented is a huge benefit!

I was sad to read that you were receiving chemotherapy a few years back. Is this accurate information, how are you today and is there anything positive that you took away from this experience?
My cancer diagnosis and treatment happened almost ten years ago and it seems almost a lifetime away. While I was going through chemotherapy, we were opening French General on Crosby Street in New York. My whole family pulled together and helped my sister, Molly, and I open our retail shop. When you are in the middle of such an intense experience, you set your mind on a goal and stay incredibly focused - this was the silver lining of my cancer experience. Had it not been for this experience I don't think I would appreciate what we accomplished. We created a unique atmosphere in downtown New York that was a mix between a curated collection and a small general shop. I am thankful for having family and friends that have always
encouraged me to be myself.

What values or ideas have you come to rely on when facing difficulty (at work or your personal life) that you would like to share?
I think I draw great inner strength from my creative self. Knowing that deep inside we are each unique and can produce something beautiful makes me feel like I can survive the elements outside each day. My parents raised five kids who are each fiercely independent and creative, we rely on each other on a daily basis and inspire one another through our art. I am lucky to come from a strong family.

What brings you comfort and joy?
My daughter Sofia's humor, the south of France on a warm July day, Johnny Cash, the color of old cranberry glass, a loft on Greene Street, walking in Silver Lake, my mom's cooking, and an old hemp sheet.

0 musings:

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