about me   


you have reached julie kesti's tumblr. i'm from minnesota and live in shanghai, near a furniture repair place covered in astroturf and a french lavender shop. blog + art: juliekesti.com

this is a record of my latest projects, things-in-progress, and fun and interesting finds.

see my full website and blog at: juliekesti.com

nice to see you,


i saw cheryl strayed speak last night :-)

Though I can’t deny making liberal use of the :-) in some venues, I usually resist putting a :-) in a post title. Today I will make an exception because I got to see Cheryl Strayed speak within a two mile radius of where I am staying last night. I headed out on foot as the sun went down and crunched through the fallen leaves under the blazing colors of the leaves that remain on the trees. She was great. The talk was in a huge field-house style auditorium filled with 2,000 people.  (Mostly blonde women. The number of blondes here still catches me by surprise sometimes.) I have written about Cheryl Strayed here many times, so you can guess that getting a (free!) ticket to see her speak while I am here was awesome.

There were some funny aspects to the night. The man who introduced her kept pronouncing her name wrong, saying “Stray-Ed”—as if it couldn’t be “strayed.” If you’ve read the book you know that she chose this name herself, and intentionally. Later in the Q+A a woman who was inspired by Wild to hike the PCT herself said that she met people on the trail who’d read the book and also pronounced it this way. Whether this speaks to people blanking out during that section of the book, not having actually read the book, or people being subconsciously afraid of women who stray—hard to say for certain.

The Q+A was random, from lost toenail questions to how-do-I-keep-writing questions. People started sneaking across to get in the book signing line before the talk was even over, in a way that made me laugh to myself.  It is Fall so everyone was wearing tall boots and trying to sneak quietly but really stomping noisily across. It seemed especially Minnesotan somehow. “I’ll just…I’m just gonna sneak in that line there..oh…don’t mind me….yes, I am getting there before you…” At the end of the Q+A, as people were filing out of the auditorium or getting into the signing line, the organizers snuck in a quick announcement by the school (Concordia University St. Paul) in which they announced that they will be giving three $5,000 scholarships in January to students, in memory of Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi, who went to college for the first time at the same time as Cheryl. You know all about her if you have read Wild.  (And if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?) (Or start with Tiny, Beautiful Things—which I have told you to read a hundred times already.)

I jotted down some notes from the talk. They may not make sense out of context, but then again, they might say just the right thing to you. They are just my scribbled notes so may not be exact quotes, but should be pretty close. As usual I was impressed with her directness and her open-heartedness.

Minnesota is sacred ground to me.

Love is the nutrient we need, if we have that, we have everything.

I was worried people would read the book and say this is too much. This woman is too much. But it turned out it was just enough.

[on moving to the woods as teen:] Gave me the chance to see what it’s like to be a human in a plance that is not about humans but about the natural world…  Parents give you the tools to save yoruself when they are not there to help you. [And that was the feeling she got back in hiking the PCT]

How is it that I can bear the unbearable. I was alone with something I couldn’t lift and had to lift it…. I was telling not just my story, but everyone’s story.  [Once she realized that it helped her to be able to write a book that revealed so much of her own life.]

What it means to be human.

This really hurts and…away we go.

Who is going to be your ruler? [She decided not to let fear be her ruler.]

Going into the wild connects you also to humans who have come before you in the wild.

The movie version of Wild, which she was part of, comes out in December—and you can preview it this Friday at the Twin Cities Film Fest

love, julie

— 12 hours ago

#books  #cheryl strayed  #cheryl strayed at concordia university  #st. paul 
#autumn #minnesota

#autumn #minnesota

— 1 day ago

#autumn  #minnesota 
My favourite part of book editing


Is this bit at the end, when most of the parts are in their place, and all that’s left to do is look at the parts that don’t quite fit to ask yourself, "Is this really what I want to say?"

— 1 week ago with 15 notes


remember this image the next time you fix your mouth to slander the awesomeness of Black women and girls. TUH #BlackGirlFly

(Source: avoidgettingread, via sorayachemaly)

— 1 week ago with 2672 notes


Yayoi Kusama

I’m here but nothing

Yayoi Kusama began hallucinating spots atop the surfaces of her world at a young age. In these polka dots, at once simple and boundless, Kusama found a way to break from the self and look into infinity.

(via kawaii-factory)

— 1 week ago with 71262 notes

preparations underway

preparations underway

— 1 week ago

so soft. so gold. so bold. get one: juliekesti.com/shop ;-) #goforit

so soft. so gold. so bold. get one: juliekesti.com/shop ;-) #goforit

— 1 week ago

friday love note! (#109): ft. annie dillard “…witness the creation and abet it…”

Stopping for a few minutes at a sweet coffee shop in Taylors Falls on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, to ensure this wonderful Annie Dillard love note gets to you on this crisp Fall evening.  I remember coming to this cafe with my backpacking club at the U of MN when I was 19. We hiked in the rain all morning and then spent an hour or two in the turret upstairs playing cards. That was fun.

Read more about Annie Dillard here—brainpickings.org shares a lot of her wisdom. Or just read the note above a few more times.

Grad school application #1 was turned in at about 1am.  (phew. i really tortured myself with that one.) A brief pause before the process picks up again.

Wishing you a lovely weekend.

love, julie

— 1 week ago

#love note  #friday love note  #annie dillard  #nature  #observation 
i’m going to mexico for a month (!!!)

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to Internet Julie, you know that in about a month I’m heading to Mexico! It still feels surreal to me, and I am feeling very grateful for the challenge, adventure and learning ahead.

To tell you more about it, I’m enlisting the help of the 5 Ws.

WHO?  Well, me. The people of an organization called Arquetopia, and the other visiting artists who have a residency at the same time as I do.

WHAT? A four-week artist residency and traditional embroidery workshop. The average person usually doesn’t know what an artist residency is.  An artist residency is typically an intensive period of time for an artist to focus on their research and work, without the demands of regular everyday life, a chance to live with and learn from other artists, and, in this case, a chance to immerse oneself in another culture and be jarred into new observations by being in a new environment. It’s not a vacation, but it is a time for allowing the type of discovery and exploration that long periods of creative time can bring—time that is often hard to find in the hurry of “regular” life.

WHEN? I leave November 8th and will be gone for about 4 weeks.

WHERE? Oaxaca, Mexico, which is in the SW part of Mexico.  How to pronounce it is sometimes confusing, basically “Wa-ha-ca” gets you pretty close the the right pronunciation (as I understand it.) Oaxaca is the most biologically diverse part of Mexico, and is also an area that was never ruled by the Maya or the Aztecs, and so the local culture has been around a long time.  There are many artisans and artists in the region, including muralists, wood carvers, weavers, dyers, embroiderers, and potters, keeping alive traditions special to the area.

WHY? Why not???  That may be answer enough, but I’ll share a little bit about how this came to be. A friend in Shanghai jokingly said, “What art adventure will you go on this time while you are home?”  At the time I was busy working a couple jobs, trying to figure out what we were going to do about Skye and his health issues, and hadn’t had a chance to think about it, which is what I told her. Eventually I did have some time to think about it, and on a whim thought to myself, “Maybe this is my chance to go to Oaxaca. I’ll finally be on the right continent for awhile!”  Oaxaca has been on my list for years, but as we are stationed in Asia for the time being, I thought it was a distant dream.  My interest in Oaxaca developed out of what I’d learned of its Day of the Dead traditions, as well as the use of color and many forms of artistry in the area. I am so curious about a place where death is (or at least images of it are) integrated into everyday life. I did some googling and found this residency.  I applied a little bit on a whim.  What were the chances this would all come together? 

Fast forward to Palm Springs, and they wrote and asked if I could do a Skype interview.  Woah!  This might happen, wow.  Though I feel completely awkward in Skype interviews and can never decide whether to point my eyes at the camera or the screen, in the end I was offered a spot.  The catch was that I would have to agree to staying one week longer than I’d planned for—I hemmed and hawed for awhile about whether I could make this work, but deep down I knew that this was an amazing opportunity.  I have the chance to do some work this Fall at my old workplace, I was able to pay for my flight almost completely with miles, I have the month of November basically free of anything location dependent, and…oh man I just have to do it! I of course tortured myself with deliberation for awhile, but finally decided what I wanted to do. I’m going to go for it. I will invest this time and adventure into my art and being-human practice, and make it work somehow.

So. In a handful of weeks I’m off into the unknown. I’m currently reading about the area and watching videos about Oaxaca and the Day of the Dead from the library.  Though I won’t be there for the actual day, they tell me that festivities go on throughout the month. I’m reading a great Olivers Sacks travel diary from his trip to the area with the American Fern Society (who knew?) I’m starting to listen to Spanish to try and find all the Spanish I studied in my brain somewhere.
I also am adding a few things to the shop that will support my travel and art work, but will also just generally celebrate the spirit of adventure. This includes the limited edition “go for it!” commemorative t-shirt, sets of postcards of some of the favorite palms and cactuses I saw in the American Southwest this summer, and other items that will be revealed over time.  Hopefully I will come back from Mexico with some treasures to share as well.

I think that gives you a general idea, right?  Ask me any questions below.  Share your Oaxaca tips and stories. Buy a t-shirt if you are so moved—it will cheer you on to your own unlikely adventures!

Thanks, as always, for your support.

love, julie

— 1 week ago

#artist residencies  #artist residency  #art  #arquetopia  #oaxaca  #mexico 
i have an adventure coming up in November—a month at an artist residency in Oaxaca, Mexico! (!!)  i have a few projects brewing to generate good energy (and some funds) for the trip. one of them is this limited edition “go for it” tee, that will totally cheer you on to something great! (and I will totally cut the collar out for you if you also don’t want to let go of the 80s) ;-) shop on my site: juliekesti.com/shop (link in profile) ~gracias!~ #art #artofasking   #tshirt #oaxaca #adventure #goforit

i have an adventure coming up in November—a month at an artist residency in Oaxaca, Mexico! (!!) i have a few projects brewing to generate good energy (and some funds) for the trip. one of them is this limited edition “go for it” tee, that will totally cheer you on to something great! (and I will totally cut the collar out for you if you also don’t want to let go of the 80s) ;-) shop on my site: juliekesti.com/shop (link in profile) ~gracias!~ #art #artofasking #tshirt #oaxaca #adventure #goforit

— 2 weeks ago with 1 note

#art  #artofasking  #tshirt  #oaxaca  #adventure  #goforit 

#collage #play

— 2 weeks ago

#collage  #play