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May 18, 2020

Studio of Cheryl Humphreys, Los Angeles. 2020.


We first connected with Cheryl. Fans of her art, we asked for her help with a flyer for an event we did with our friends La Morra last year. Later, we met up with her and Mike over coffee at Neighborhood, talking future projects and just getting to know each other better. Since then, we've been lucky to feature some of Cheryl's artwork on several post cards we send out with our online orders.
In their work (the duo run Arms Studio together), their outlook and their lifestyles, Mike and Cheryl inspiring as individuals and as a couple. They're true believers in the transformative power of creativity, and have made it a part of their practice to create space and encourage creativity in their community (more on that below). Both experienced creative professionals, they posses an intimate awareness of what they require to create and produce to their best ability, and are resolute in taking the time and space needed to get there—whether it's a month-long creative retreat in Oaxaca, or taking that extra time in the morning to get into the right mindset. 
We asked Mike and Cheryl to share a bit about their daily routines, how they got to where they are now, and how they balance work and life as a couple. They provided all the photos for this feature. We hope you enjoy their responses and the photos as much as we did!


Los Angeles home of Cheryl Humphreys and Mike McMullen. 2020.


Ally & Casey: How do you two start each day? Do you have a morning ritual? 

Mike McMullen (MM): I wake up pretty early most days. I feel like being awake early is like being part of a secret club, you get to be outside before the world around you really comes to life. There is something nice about how quiet LA is in the morning...especially right now.

I take the puppy out first, then make coffee, light incense or sage, open all the windows, roll a joint, put on a record and then proceed to enjoy all those things simultaneously. After years of working for other studios or being in-house at big companies and having to be in sharply at 9 (or earlier) I have come to the conclusion that my mornings are best spent as a slow burn.


Photo of De la Soul records with Peter Shire coffee mug on left, photo of artist and designer Mike McMullen with his dog on the right


Cheryl Humphreys (CH): I enjoy my first sips of coffee, every day, from bed. I have always been slow to rise. Luckily, Mike gets up first and makes it. (He’s a real dreamboat!) He has taught me so much about the preciousness of the am. My morning ritual includes (in no specific order):

• HOROSCOPES - I read our horoscopes out loud (I am a Pisces, Mike is a Scorpio) We ride waves in this house.
• HIKE - We take our pup, Junior, for a hike up Nichols Canyon. There is something to be said for starting the day with a wide view!
• JUICE - We are all about gut health and vitamin C. We juice celery and some kind of citrus with ginger and apple every day. Lately we have been picking oranges from the bountiful orange tree that grows outside our windows.
• YOGA - This used to involve physically going to a class. Now it involves rolling out my mat in the living room and opening my laptop. I LOVE Kyle’s class from Love Yoga. Either way, space in the body, means space in the mind!
• MEDITATION - I meditate after my shower. Insight timer’s Boost Your Immunity by Giovanni Dienstmann has been helping me feel centered, strong and healthy through quarantine. I highly recommend it.
• BREAKFAST - Mike is a great egg chef. We tend to make breakfast together. He does the eggs and I sous chef with chopping herbs, toasting the bagel or making the tortillas!


Photo of artist Cheryl Humphreys with hand-picked oranges on left, photo of textile samples on right

"Honestly, we usually do not get into the studio until noon."


Out-of-focus green mug with artwork in foreground at the home of Cheryl Humphries and Mike McMullen


You both embody creativity in your lives and work. What were your respective paths into the world of art and design?
MM: I am a child of the 80’s (81 to be exact). I grew up on a healthy diet of saturday morning cartoons, comic books, hip hop and punk rock records. In the 90’s I got heavily into rollerblading (yes, rollerblading) and graffiti. The art and ideas that accompanied all of these things seeped deeply into my pores and made me want to be an artist and a designer. I have never really even considered being or doing anything else, now that I think of it. I started designing my own t-shirts and got into printmaking at around 15, always trying to emulate and learn from the aesthetics of the countercultures I was involved in.
I went on to study experimental video and printmaking at The Atlanta College of Art where I received my BFA. After a few years of floundering between freelance gigs and bartending, I made the move across the country to Los Angeles to focus on my career. 
I met Cher at my first design studio job in West Hollywood. I was one of the 4 people at her interview. From the first time I saw her and her work, I knew she was important. We have been creating together since 2009. 


Cheryl Humphreys and Mike McMullen


CH: Born to a creative, single mom put me on the path of art and design early! Creating has been a part of my life since I can remember. Raised in Baltimore, I came to Los Angeles for art school. I got my BFA from Otis College of Art and Design which established my roots here. Mike and I met at my first real job after college - a small design studio in West Hollywood. There were literally 5 of us that worked in the same room and Mike and I fell in love after a year. We thought we were keeping it a secret. It turns out, we absolutely were not! 

We continued to work together at another design studio in LA before we ventured off on our own.  We both have art practices outside of our trade work that we hold each other accountable for. Our relationship nourishes our inner artists. We challenge each other, impress each other, encourage each other - always! This is the foundation for Arms Studio.


Studio of artist and designer Mike McMullen in Los Angeles, CA


Do you have methods or ways to get inspired or get the creative juices flowing?

CH: Mike is absolutely going to say a joint and music. I can speak for the both of us when I say: inspiration can come from ANYwhere. It’s about understanding when the creative juices are flowing to allow space for them and understanding when they are not, to acknowledge and adjust.  
Also... a deadline works every time ;)
Much of the inspiration for the colors and textures in my current work are from the artist residency I did at the start of this year in Oaxaca, Mexico (at Pocoapoco). Travel is essential to my creative process.

MM: I listen to music like 18 hours a day. Always searching for something new or old to spark an idea. The lyrics to a song are as important to me as the visuals of a record. I feel like music is the best companion to making art. It leaves so much room for your imagination to run wild. 


A photo of a record collection, with Metz record propped against the stack, and a photo below of a white lab.


As a fellow couple who live and work together, do you have a some kind of daily schedule that enables you to balance your own art and work while progressing on your joint projects? 

MM: I’ll be honest here. It is complete chaos. We are such emotional people that a schedule just feels counterintuitive. I just ride the wave of each day and hope for the best. 

CH: When we first read this question out loud to each other, we both cracked up laughing and said a simultaneous “NOPE” — it’s truly the wild west over here. Every day is different and we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Bowl of oranges with Immaculate College Art Department Rules


How do you take advantage of being a couple who works together?

MM: I think the simple answer is: when you are a couple who works together you always have an audience. Someone there to be your biggest fan and your harshest critic. I find this comforting and it keeps me on my toes. I usually have a miniature version of Cher on my shoulder when I am making things and I try to see through her lens when I get stuck. 

CH: I take full advantage. I ask Mike about absolutely everything and really rely on him to be the pragmatic one when my dreamy, Piscean self has taken something too far. Because we are always together, our communication can be almost unspoken which allows space for the wheels to keep turning!


Mike McMullen by record player. Art by Mike McMullen.


We love how you’ve fostered community around creating—both through opening your studio and hosting drawing classes. Do you feel that creating can be transformative?

MM: Creating by yourself is great but the feeling of collaborating with others or making in a large group is far more infectious. Something changes. I love to see people come out of their shells or be visibly bubbling over at the end of a figure drawing night or a group project. I think creating transforms us all into the things we really wish to be...even if just for the moment. 

CH: Creating is absolutely transformative. For me, it has always been a source of healing. We started the drawing classes at the start of last year. We wanted to create a space where “grown ups” could come together and create freely - without a creative brief, without a deadline, without the pressure of having to show anyone anything! I have learned that to be an artist means much more than making art. It means being a leader in your community and a connector so that your community can grow and strengthen. It means inspiring others to create so that they too can feel the healing powers that come with making (and reminding them that this can be as simple as making a meal).


Cheryl Humphreys sketching


Art by Cheryl Humphreys.

1 Response

September 27, 2023

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