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Tracy Bulla: 
What inspired you to create the protea note cards?
Dorian Webb:  My dad died in December, and I still remember how comforting it was to read (and reread) memories of him.  Words do matter, and in the frenetic world we live in, taking the time to compose a handwritten note speaks volumes about the character of the sender. During this time when the pandemic is unsettling us all, I think that it is particularly meaningful to stay in touch, to offer a message of hope, and to remind of the resiliency we each possess.

TB:  Why did you choose the protea?
DW:  Protea has always been one of my favorite flowers. I think visually, it is such a simple, yet commanding flower. Its inability to be overlooked is its gift. Beyond its bold silhouette and luscious colors, I love the idea of focusing attention on the protea, one of the world’s original flowering plants.  Over 300 million years old, its resilience is stunning; its dormant buds have the ability to survive wildfires. How inspiring is that?

TB:  What is the significance of protea?
DW:  Protea was named after Proteus, Poseidon’s son who was known for his shapeshifting abilities, to recognize the great diversity among the proteaceae family. In Greek mythology, Proteus was a sea god who had the ability to see the past and the future. For this reason, he was often sought out by those with questions and used his transformational skills to evade them.

TB:  What is your background in fine arts?
DW:  In elementary school through college I took classes in drawing, painting, ceramics, glassblowing, and metalsmithing at local colleges and international universities. I studied architecture at Yale University where renderings of buildings interested me more than the construction of them.

TB:  What is the link between your recent art exhibition and the protea?
DW:  I had a solo exhibition at Thelma Harris Art Gallery of a group of works entitled, “The Marriage Project”. The intention was to explore the idea of union in two- and three-dimensional works. Protea were the subject of large-scale watercolors. I chose the protea because flowers are often associated with the idea of domestic bliss, and the protea has an elemental quality that I find really compelling.  I returned to the protea as a subject for the notecards because I think their message of fierce resiliency is the essence of hope. Some of the names of the works, like “Alone Together” take on additional shades of meaning during the time of shelter in place. 

TB:  Why did you choose to donate PPE? 
DW:  I think it is awful that people who are risking their lives to take care of others are not being protected to the extent they should. An ample supply of masks and gowns is among the very least that should be provided to these heroes.

TB:  Why do you feel called to charitable causes?
DW:  Collective responsibility is important. We all can do something, using the talents we are each gifted with, to help one another. And should.

TB:  What is your personal philosophy on how to navigate the current crisis?
DW:  I am trying to remain flexible, optimistic, and grateful. Grateful that the situation isn’t worse, optimistic that we will all come out of this crisis with a new, better, and more thoughtful “normal”. Flexibility is important to maintain as we are all trying to navigate this new terrain in addition to life’s usual challenges.

TB:  What gives you hope every day?
DW:  The resilience of the human spirit. And the knowledge that we as a people, have survived and flourished despite much worse.

TB:  How have you been spending your time during lockdown?
DW:  Well, I thought I would be super-productive and luxuriating in the creative process.  Instead, I, like many others, have been using the time as a much-needed pause. It’s a time to think, plan, and craft a vision of the future that has widened, and also narrowed, in the wake of this current crisis. I’m treating this time like the gift it is. I’m preparing myself for the wonderful things that will arise from this experience.  The creative phase will come from that.

A former design editor, Tracy Bulla is a freelance writer specializing in interiors, lifestyle, fashion, and all things style-related. 


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