Q&A: Dara Smith


I’m an avid reader of design and art blogs and one thing I like about them is the insight they provide into other creative people, their process, their inspiration, where and how they got their start and how they make a living doing what they love. Inspired by these features on other sites, I’m starting what I hope is a long series of Q&As with creative people in various fields with various backgrounds.

First up is my friend Dara Smith, who I met when we were living in the same dorm at New York University oh so many years ago. She impressed me immediately with her love and knowledge of art and her appetite for learning more. After 11 years working as a television production coordinator in Los Angeles, Dara recently moved back to her hometown of Portland, OR, where she is pursuing a career in digital marketing and social media strategies.

  1. When did you realize you were a creative person? What were your first creative projects?

 When I was about 10 years old, I lived in a cul de sac and during the summer I put on arts & crafts classes for the kids in my neighborhood. But I didn’t really fall in love with art until the summer after my junior year in high school when I went to Paris for the first time. I don’t think I believed in love at first sight until I saw Picasso’s “Madames a leurs toilettes” which just stunned me into submission. However, it wasn’t until I started creating wedding albums for my friends when I was about 23, 24 that I realized that you can be creative without necessarily being an artist. My first projects were those albums along with my own personal journals which I use more as scrap books and consider works of art.

  1. What have you created, sold, worked on, etc.?

 I don’t really make a living selling my creative works. I choose to give those to the people I’m closest to. I’ve considered selling my albums, but they’re such labors of love that I wouldn’t know where to begin to charge for them. However, I am currently working as a social media strategist and content creator which requires me to use my creative writing and brainstorming skills. I certainly spend an awful lot of time trying to think outside the box.

  1. What inspires you to create? Where do you get inspiration?

 I’m usually inspired by big events – weddings, bat mitzvah’s, Galentine’s Day – and use those events as a way to show my love for my friends and family. I’ll be honest, I steal a lot from the internet for inspiration. I use a lot of quotes, a lot of pre-printed papers, anything with color. I try to take what I see online and give it a little bit of a personal touch to make it work for the project. 

  1. What have been some of your most favorite, fun, or exciting projects?

 My absolute favorite project was the photo album I made for my younger cousin’s bat mitzvah. It’s such a big transition for kids at that age, and I used the album to not only help her save the memories from that day and that party, but to also encourage her in her future. I included lists of books to read, music to listen to, movies and TV to watch along with LOADS of quotes about what it means to grow up and be a person in the world.

  1. Everyone has a terrible day or moment that makes them reconsider what they are doing. Have you ever had one of those moments and what were your lessons learned?

 Every time I sit down with a blank book, a bunch of photos and some quotes I panic that I’m not going to be able to get it done and I want to quit before I’ve even started. But then I’ll find a quote that I really want to share and I’ll just write it out and I usually push through. I think the fact that I am working on something so personal helps me get through the tough moments of doubt.

  1. Are you working on any projects right now?

 I am preparing to create a guided journal for another young cousin’s bat mitzvah. I wanted to do something a little different for her since her sister got the photo album and I didn’t want them to be comparing their gifts. But I also chose this project because my cousin is a bit of an artist/creative person herself and I really want to encourage that as well as encourage journal writing (I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 15 and they are my salvation).

Thanks, Dara, for participating! Continue the conversation on Twitter: @DaraSmith and @LaBoss.

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