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.
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):
"Honestly, we usually do not get into the studio until noon."
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.
Do you have methods or ways to get inspired or get the creative juices flowing?
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.
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.
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!
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).