We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Gerrard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, how do you think about risk?
mmm I love this question so much. Humans in general forget so often that the very act of being alive is a risk. We are so often obsessed with planning everything to “perfection”. scheduling every moment of every day. And yet, how often do the best-laid plans fall flat? How often does a scheduled day turn into chaos due to unforeseen circumstances? You can play it safe your whole life and never truly feel fulfilled and still hurt from what life throws at you. I try every day to take a risk in some way or another and doing so has essentially built my career. If it’s trying something new like rock climbing, saying yes to an adventure with a new friend, trying something a little odd and not conventional for marketing, I choose to dive in. Writing is a huge part of my business, from what I create for brands to my own poetry, risk is what keeps me on my toes and allows for the creative flow to continue moving forward.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Expression is such a magical experience. I have been the luckiest human in the ways I have been able to drop into the creative worlds. From cooking to floral artistry to the love of my life, the written word. I honestly love anything I can bring to life. I owe so much to my beautiful friend Katrina DeSimone. She passed away too young from Gastric Cancer, but before she left she asked me to share my words. To stop being afraid, and push them into the world. Everything I do has her spirit woven into it as if she was right here beside me. My life has been a constant teetering between life and death. I have a chronic illness that deeply affected my creativity in the kitchen for quite some time. I’m a cook that cannot taste the majority of the food she makes. My Mast Cell Activation syndrome makes it impossible for me to do so, as most foods send me into anaphylactic shock. And although my list of safe foods has grown so much since I was first diagnosed, I am still limited compared to the average human and thus when I cook, I cook with my other senses. This strange roadblock lead to so much creativity, new ways of cooking, new ways of experiencing food, which affected my writing. So much of what I wrote as a poet before was dictated by taste. How cherries tasted in the summer, the sickly sweetness of overripe figs, the bitterness of arugula, the floral and earthen taste of juniper berries. Everything began to expand… what do cherries smell like, feel like, sound like. I thank every single challenge that has come into my life because it has made me dig deeper and find ways to be reborn time and time again. It’s an honor to do the work I do, and the work I do with other brands is some of my favorite. I get to tell the stories of AMAZING humans and the brands they have built. It is such a gift to tell their story through words and images. I have no idea where the future will lead, but I will follow where creativity brings me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
oooo I love this so much! Due to COVID, this will be a little different than usual, but still so special. With a focus on nature 🙂
First and foremost I would make them a meal in my home. Outside underneath the trees in the garden. I would light an organic flower dust candle from Ojai Wild, and create an organic, vegan meal with produce from Farm Cart Organics and Farmer and the Cook. Is there anything like a homecooked meal with local produce?
I would then take them on a sunset hike around the Ventura River Preserve. I would introduce them to some of my wild little creatures who have become friends and dance on the rocks. I would then take them to the Meadow at dusk to listen to the Great Horned owls’ chatter.
A morning trip to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens, followed by a quick lunch at Mesa Verde Restaurant. Then a walk along the beaches in Carpenteria. I would then pack a picnic with Lark Ellen Farm Pate + other charcuterie yums, on a gorgeous Ojai Oaks board. We would have the picnic up in rose valley overlooking all the mountains.
I would book us a day trip with Island Packers to go explore the Santa Cruz Islands, in my opinion, one of the coolest things to do when you are in Ventura County! A super easy day trip if you live in Los Angeles too!
I would hope they could be here in Ojai on a Sunday so we could go to the local Farmers Market together and stock up on all our favorite goodies. Followed by another fun picnic at Ojai Olive Oil, where they could also do an amazing taste testing of all the olive oils and balsamic vinegars!
We would sneak in a ton of other hikes I adore and mingle with some animals that belong to friends! And harvest some oranges from one of my favorite local farms! 🙂
The perfect Ojai, Ventura and Santa Barbara adventure! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people close to me and strangers that have allowed me to grow into the human I am. My mama, my sister, and every single person that has been a friend to me. Eduardo Garcia for sharing his story and inspiring me to continue through illness. Ruthie Lindsey, for literally being the reason I got out of bed when I thought the only thing left was leaving this world. Mike Pinette for being my creative partner in crime. He brings my written word to life and makes it more beautiful than I ever could. To the animals, to nature, to everything in life that inspires me to be better.
Albany Katz for Portraits of me, all others are my photos taken by me.