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Written by Marisa Howard


Posted on March 07 2018

¿Qué cuernos está pasando?  What the hell is going on?

Being a designer and a business owner are two realities that feel in perpetual conflict with each other. In order to design something truly unique, I have to tap into a part of myself that isn't necessarily "good for business".  A side that is messy and emotional and completely unconcerned with the bottom line. The more turmoil in my personal life, the more impractical the design process becomes. That lack of practicality, is where I think the best work is created.

It has served my design process well that the last two years of my life have been a series of world-changing-heartbreaks.  My personal life has had the rug pulled out from under it so many times, I'm surprised I have remained upright at all.  I have not completely unpacked each thing that has happened, nor have I figured out how to give each loss the attention it deserves. But, I do know how to sit down at my work bench, with my tools and my sketchbook, and carve out designs. I've worked out a lot of things at my bench over the last two years and it has yielded some of the work that I am most proud of as a designer.  

But, the inspiration that thrives in adversity isn't easy to describe.  I can't point to a painting or a book or a building to show you how I arrived at this collection. There isn't an inspiration that I can package up neatly and market to our customers.  The truth is, I scraped the bottom this time around. After saying final goodbyes to three very important beings over the last twelve months, I found myself crippled by an unending wave of emotions. So, I started sketching.

¿Qué cuernos está pasando?  What the hell is going on?  

A week spent designing in Joshua Tree

It isn't a comfortable inspiration to share. This is how the Cuernos Collection was created though. Anything other than honesty about that, wouldn't do justice to the work I've done to bring this collection together. I spent months designing these pieces, in small bursts at my bench in Portland. On a folding table at a house in Joshua Tree. On my living room floor during recovery from my surgery. Attempting to capture the feelings that I had, about loss and about our struggle with our bodies.  How they fail us and how we fail them. And, trying to answer the question, "What the hell is going on?" 


Capturing the complexity of our bodies has been heavy on my mind, because of my own bodies fight and because of the fights I've witnessed recently. There are the physical failures that we have no control over, the ones that strike us unexpectedly. Then there are the ones we do to ourselves over time, choices that slowly chip away at our health and abilities. These things, coupled with how we belittle our bodies for the ways they fall short of perfection, create a relationship to our physical form that is in constant a state of flux. Perhaps we only slow down to appreciate these forms, when we are looking back to remember a time when things were "better"... smoother, stronger, tighter. 

¿Qué cuernos está pasando?  What the hell is going on?  

Oh, these bodies. They are everything and they are nothing. 


They are bones and ridges, corners and edges. They are soft, round, rolling hills. They are wrinkled and coarse and bent. They are fluid and water, rushing and pooling. They are dents and divots, bends and tunnels. They are pulsing, warm and pimpled, cold. They are twisting and folding and firing.  They are strong and they are tender. These bodies, they are so many things, but they are not everything.  

It is a humbling thing to have an audience for this type of work. To create something from my mind, with my own two hands and to have people wear it on their bodies, pressed up against their skin. 

I hope the pieces become tied to a time in your life that has meaning for you. I hope you feel beautiful and unique when you wear them. I hope the design feels like it belongs to you and that your personal story brings it to life. It should be personal. It is personal. I hope you cherish it.  

Cuernos Collection, launches on March 15th.

¿Qué cuernos está pasando?  What the hell is going on?  

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Photo credits: 

1. Design trip to Joshua Tree

2. Body sketch collage, clockwise from upper left corner: J. Kroll Nude Sketches, Jylian Gustlin sketches, John Garcia sketchbook, Saatchi art image artist unknown 

3. Photo: Alexander Yakovlev

4. Black & White photo collage (L to R): Hands via tumblr artist unknown, dancer Martha Graham via Alix Kirsty, woman via tumblr artist unknown