"I am a commission artist inspired by all things handmade, earthen, patterned, exquisitely slow, ridiculously meticulous, and curiously beautiful."Hi, I’m Erika Givens, a contemporary mixed media artist and photographer living and working in San Diego, California. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with a fascination for drawing and building Hot Wheel and Lego cities. Focused on becoming an urban planner, I graduated from UC Santa Barbara (Environmental Studies/Political Science) but the pull toward art eventually lead me to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. After graduating, I landed at the Nokia Design Center in Los Angeles to work as a Senior Graphic Designer for the Asia Pacific region. I later moved on to other creative pursuits at various design firms in the Bay Area. My corporate experience at the time spanned from art direction, graphic design, and copywriting, to branding, identity, exhibit and multimedia design. Several of my projects found recognition in various publications worldwide, like I.D. Magazine and one earned a spot in the New York Film Festival. In 2004, I got an itch to venture out of the corporate world and whip up a little fun on my own. I launched GLEAUX (pronounced *glow*), an uber-custom San Francisco-based stationery and invitation design studio. Here I spent years of grueling but excitingly satisfying late nights masterminding and meticulously hand-assembling elaborate, out-of-the-box paper creations. Before I knew it, without ever spending a dime on advertising, a 6 page feature story in the SF Chronicle Magazine and mentions in the Oakland Tribune, InStyle, SF Magazine, 7×7, and NBC’s Today Show carried me the rest of the way. After relocating to San Diego in 2012 along with my husband Chad, and three young children, Luke, Reid, and Brooklyn, I found myself in a situation many moms often relate to. In a blink, I had gone from being a young motivated graduate and thriving ambitious professional, to a homebound forty-something mom with 3 amazing young children but a whole lot of pent up energy and yearning to once again be an earner, a contributor, a something, and a someone. So one day I decided it was time to break the cycle, to throw a wrench into the domestic familial routine I’d followed diligently for years that dictated I turn my creativity (Instagram/Pinterest) on and off like a switch between the hours of x and y. As this cycle can be death to the creative process, my heart told me it was time for a new flow and to be true to myself, even though I knew I would have extreme “mom guilt” and likely be the subject of a few raised brows. Nonetheless, I packed a weekend bag, hugged my curious but abiding husband and kids, and warily ventured out of my suburban bubble to the outskirts of greater San Diego and far beyond, however unpolished, gritty, forgotten, uncultivated, and unfamiliar my destination. I practiced the difficult but, as it turns out, extremely rewarding discipline of being QUIETLY ALONE for long periods of time. I focused on just being, seeing, blending, absorbing, recording. In disconnecting like this, I realized that I was actually reconnecting… I was more easily and earnestly noticing true color, pure light, subtle smells and sounds, uninterrupted energy, and organic form. I would scribble, photograph, wander, jot, touch, sketch, collect, ask, listen, taste, feel, get lost, and ultimately, after returning home to create, get found. With determination to once again reclaim my creativity, I committed to doing this again and again as often as a balanced family life permitted over recent years. I expanded my office into a robust studio-makery of sorts, where I have been designing, sanding, sketching, building, sculpting, dipping, drafting, and gluing ever since! And in time, I managed to build a uniquely personal portfolio of artwork that has found it’s way into contemporary homes, and soon hotels, around the globe : ) Whatever experience my work leaves viewers with visually and emotionally, it also serves as a hard-won reminder that RUTS ARE NOT FOREVER… a simple but purposeful shift in routine and perspective can lead to a fruitful and gratifying new journey.