Originally from Malaysia, Mary Chan was raised in Hong Kong and Singapore, studied English Literature and Queer Theory in Scotland and New York, and then Interior Design at Parsons in New York City. Always restless to work independently, she established her interior/furniture design practice, Studio Bartleby early in her career after a brief stint in an architecture office. In 2015, her cumulative training in dance, weaving, leatherworking and design came together in Bartleby Objects, a leather goods and home accessories collection that explores the relationship between the body, our environment and our personal treasure.
We caught up with the busy designer to ask her to share the seven things that are most inspiring her life at the moment. This is what she said:
1 | Scotland — I miss it every day.
2 | Dance — Performance dance reveals a full range of physical gestures that we’d never otherwise see. It’s particularly good to see how things can be done differently when we think of movement as “natural” or “unnatural” when it’s probably more about habit. I used to take classes regularly (something I’ll return to one day) and it was great not only as exercise or body work, but as a way to experience movement as something more than utilitarian.
3 | Meals — I try to have proper meals every day. It doesn’t have to be fancy — it can be a standard tuna sandwich or rice with an egg — but it has to be tasty. It makes me very cranky to eat a crappy meal; it’s like a lost opportunity for something lovely in my day that I totally could have made happen. I’ve owned my own business for over 10 years now and there can be days or weeks that just feel like pushing mud uphill. Having a nice meal ensures that there is at least one bright spot in the day.
4 | A daily skincare routine — Rosewater, witch hazel, argan oil, supplemented by a serum or mask… depending on the season. I love having a straightforward system that works and requires virtually no thought or variation for travel.
5 | Summer air conditioning — It’s not very fashionable to enjoy air-conditioning, but being one of those rare people who really hates the summer heat, I will say that I love being inside with a reasonable level of air-conditioning. I’ve always been very “heaty” from a Chinese medicine standpoint. When I was young, my mom would make us drink these awful tonics to combat heat imbalance, and in adulthood I had an acupuncturist who suggested I would be less achy in the summer if I used the A/C because the extreme heat and humidity were putting pressure on my joints. Plus, the sound of rain on an air-conditioner is so lovely to me. It’s the sound of childhoods in Malaysia, during monsoon season — a tropical version of hygge.
6 | Public radio (thank you WNYC!) — We pretty much have the radio on all day, every day, at the studio. It’s a little ridiculous but I just think it’s a very special institution. Coming from Asia, where all media is semi-controlled by semi-democratically elected governments, I have these moments when I can’t believe that public radio is allowed to do what it does every day, commercial-free. It’s a great public service.
7 | Animals on Instagram — Beagles, foxes, elephants, raccoons, goats, rabbits, rabbits on goats… I want them all.