By Tyler Calder

The first time I saw In the Company of Women, it was sitting proudly on my boss’s desk. I remember thumbing through the pages – in awe – because seeing a book full to the brim with diverse, creative women felt so striking and rare. I remember seeing a few familiar faces, but more exciting was the rush when I realized this was a whole book of female and nonbinary artists and entrepreneurs whose work and stories I hadn’t yet discovered.

My story is not unheard of – when “In the Company of Women” came out in 2016, readers gobbled it up – and almost immediately, people started asking Grace Bonney (you probably also know her from her blog, Design*Sponge when her next book was coming out. But she had something else in mind. We recently sat down with her to talk about her latest project – a biannual magazine called Good Company, and to see what she’s been cooking up.

WORK + LIFE

Congrats on the big magazine announcement! For those who might not know, want to share the big news?

Yeah! Good Company grew out of In the Company of Women, which was the culmination of where my personal interests have been going the last six or seven years. Design*Sponge, was always about stuff – furniture, pillows, textiles; and the older I got, the more interested I became in the people and the stories behind those things.

The book was an opportunity to contribute something to a landscape of entrepreneurial books, in a way that represented a wider array of women and a wider range of stories about how people build businesses. When it came time to write book number two, I wanted to fit even more stories in, so I raised the idea of the magazine. I’m calling it a bookazine because it’s very dense, and I think when people think of a magazine they think of the thin flimsy thing you get at the grocery store. I wanted to make a book-quality source in a different format with Good Company, and I’m hopeful it will work.

What sets Good Company apart from other business magazines or even your book? Good Company is the intersection between creative stories and business, whereas so many business magazines are dry. I feel like I relate to things when they feel a little scrappier, so we’re trying to push the magazine in that direction and make it feel more zine-like and tactile because real people made it. Our first theme is all about community – and that was really important to me. I think any worthwhile venture usually has some connection to supporting the community around it.

What can people expect to see in the first issue?

I’m excited about all of it but particularly excited about a few stories. There’s a story about the importance of representation for people living with disabilities, especially in the creative community. That’s a topic that’s so underrepreseneted and underdiscussed, on DesignSponge too.

We also have a huge piece, which is my personal favorite, about going into the studios of female and nonbinary-led tattoo studios. This was a particularly exciting piece because I think women, and especially nonbinary people, in tattooing get second status because men dominate that community and there’s this macho-pain vibe to everything. But it was so beautiful to have these vulnerable stories from people running their own studios to talk about their past experiences and me-too moments within the field and it was just nice to have a space to just talk about that.

Another favorite feature of every issue is that we’re going to have three miniature zines within each issue that discuss the theme.

“In the Company of Women” centers on visibility. What was the inspiration behind that and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

The inspiration was wanting to see a broader representation of women of all ages, races, different abilities, different religions, and in different stages of their career. I wanted to see that range depicted, and I wanted to create a space to talk about vulnerable things – that’s why we asked people about failure and fear. Business stories you often see are like a highlight reel, and that’s not entirely accurate, so I wanted to show the highs and the lows of being a business owner.

The biggest takeaway I got from that is that work-life balance does not exist. It’s a complete and total myth. I think so many women are made to think they can do it all as long as they have the right system.

Another takeaway was that everybody still makes mistakes. Eileen Fisher, who has been in business forever, was just like, “Yeah, we still make mistakes all the time – the key is just how you handle them.” Poet Nikki Giovanni, who is a personal hero of mine, said something to the effect of, “I don’t even believe in that word. I don’t think of them as mistakes. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves about these bad things that happen. They’re important learning moments – if you don’t have them, you never really grow.”

It’s so interesting you mentioned work-life balance. We get asked about that a lot at GNI.

I think sometimes routines get sold as a solution, but the problem is there’s no solution - there is no equation. There’s no perfect place at the end of that equation.

Who do you look up to? Do any conversations stand out among them all?

It’s been interesting to hold all these pieces of wisdom in one hand and then hold in the other hand that they don’t work for everybody. We live in this Instagram world where everyone’s looking for that one Instagram quote, but those aren’t always true and accessible for everyone. So I want to put that caveat out there.

One piece of advice that stands out is from Liz Lambert, a hotelier who lives in Texas. In the book, she says life is a complete journey, so buy the ticket and take the ride. And it’s so true. I feel like social media makes it seem like everybody’s new project came about so seamlessly and that’s just not how it is – ups and downs and difficult stages are all parts of a creative process, and you have to sign up for all the parts that come with it.

Design*Sponge has had such incredible staying power. What’s inspiring you right now?

Fourteen years in on a blog is a weird place to be! I take inspiration wherever I can because when your whole business is just kind of above water, you just have to take those moments – minute to minute to enjoy.

Right now, I’m mostly inspired by the work we have to do to better represent large portions of our community. We have so much learning to do and so much listening to do and that’s really inspiring because my own ignorance is a huge thing to make up for.

After 14 years, a house is a house is a house. But now we’re getting to the stories behind them, and we’re getting to talk about immigration, cultural appropriation, and gentrification of neighborhoods. We’re talking about who has access to bank loans, who can afford to buy their houses, and stickier subjects. I think we have a responsibility to use this platform as long as we have it to tackle these issues together, so that’s what’s driving me at Design*Sponge.

And then personally, my life is 10,000% about drag right now and that informs half of what I do in all of my projects. And I think being a part of the queer community, I always look for ways to bring that and my art world together, and drag has been this really cool interesting intersection point between fine art and fashion and performance and interiors as well. Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have brought it into the mainstream, so I’m able to talk to my readers who may be just discovering fluidity of gender and discovering what it means to play with that and to figure it all out and to understand people who identify differently.

What do you want your personal legacy to be?

I hope people who have come into contact with me and my wife or our family, feel heard and feel respected. I know that hasn’t been the case always – I’m a human being and I’ve made errors – but by the time that I’m no longer here in this form, I hope the overall tally ends up that people felt seen, heard, and respected.

SELF-CARE

What does self-care mean to you at this juncture?

The three constants in my life are 1) therapy – which I know is a huge privilege that I’m able to afford, but is the biggest investment I make in myself; 2) good medical care, which is another huge investment, especially as a person with Type 1 Diabetes and Hashimoto’s; and 3) the place that I workout near my house.

It’s called 30 Minutes of Everything and it has women of all ages and different generations. It feels very rural – some people work out in jean shorts – but it’s the sweetest, most loving and special place I’ve ever found. I don’t feel comfortable in my own body a lot of the time and it’s a place where I can feel comfortable in my own skin. Going to a gym that’s intergenerational has kept me somewhat balanced over the past year.

Do you think self-care is different for creative and entrepreneurs specifically?

I think it’s changing because so many people in the workforce are becoming the slashy generation of writer/photographer/etc. The lines between life and work are becoming more and more blurred. I think [people of] our generation are working in jobs where they do take it home with them or their work is their identity. So I don’t think we can detach as much as a traditional job. It presents a whole new level of learning to manage the reality that someone’s going to call you on a Saturday – or maybe Saturday is always a workday for you. That’s a shift I think we haven’t quite figured out yet.

What does an ideal night in look like for you?

I’m such a couch potato, even when I’m working. I don’t have a desk or an office where I do all of my work. The end of the day just involves no work devices – no laptop or phone. My phone isn’t entirely a work thing for me – it doesn’t trigger me as much as some people; but if my laptop is near me, I’ll just reach for it like a Pavlovian dog, so I started to put it under the couch. Then we’ll enjoy some sort of walk with our dog, and then dinner, and a movie or a really cheesy TV show like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

QUICK PICKS

What are you reading?

I wish I was reading – I’m editing a magazine, so I’m reading various manuscript pages and listening to a lot of podcasts.

What are you listening to?

I start every day with NPR News Now, to feel like I’m getting my life in perspective. Then I listen to Lore and Queer podcasts – I love Cameron Esposito’s podcast and I love LGBTQ&A. I also love On Being but I have to be really present to listen to that, so it’s usually my wind-down.

Favorite night-in activity?

I have a very elaborate skincare routine that’s so self-indulgent. Every night, I have a long routine of multiple face washes and various potions – as my wife calls them – and that routine calms me down immediately and I’ll put on a podcast and it’s just me-time.

What’s your favorite thing to eat on a night in? Julia [Editor’s note: Grace is married to cookbook author Julia Turshen of Feed the Resistance – check it out!] makes 99% of what we eat. It’s a giant privilege to be married to her for a number of reasons but one small one is that she happens to be a wonderful cook who absolutely cooks with her whole heart.

Follow Grace on Instagram and check out her blog, Design*Sponge. Order Good Company here and In the Company of Women. For more interviews with women we admire, go here.