Annapurna Woman Emily Christensen

Portrait of the Annapurna Woman is an ongoing series featuring divine women who embody the nurturing spirit of Annapurna Living. Meet Emily Christensen: artist, designer, and owner of Filly Designs.
Emily Christensen

Emily Christensen

How do you start your day?

Morning ritual is very important to me because where my morning takes place changes month to month. Sometimes I am in my big old house in Portland, waking up to the sounds of other people waking up. We are a shared house and so I know I have slept in when I hear someone else grinding coffee before me.

Sometimes I wake in the quiet, private home of my lover. White walls, white curtains and white bedding make the room seem brighter than usual when I open my eyes. He is stretched out beside me, already awake, his caterpillar eyebrows smiling at me.

Sometimes my day begins in Santa Cruz in what most would consider the smallest house in the world. My bedroom barely contains my bed and the sound of rain, when it comes, is intensified by the lack of insulation on the ceiling. This morning it sounded like the great flood.

But no matter where I am, I am there with Levy, my little heeler pup. We spend at least twenty minutes rejoicing in each other’s presence after a long night spent in our own dreams. There are lots of licks and kisses and oh my god you’re so cute until the urge for coffee becomes more important than his small little wolfy face, which says a lot about my feelings for coffee.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?

When I am overwhelmed or stressed it is not a pretty sight. Am I unique in that once I get into that mode, it’s almost impossible to get out?

I tend to be awesome under fire. I’m quick to make decisions and take charge. But after the situation has been dealt with, I keep going… with my yang energy and racing heart and take no prisoners panic. I over shoot and have to spend the rest of the day coaxing myself back down to earth. For me this is done with calming exercise, talking to my sister, journaling and crying. Often I simply take the rest of the day off and feel sad but also feel ok about feeling sad. I have no problem feeling sad. There’s a lot of beauty there.

What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?

I totally know the feeling you’re talking about. And its not predictable is it? It usually comes about suddenly and probably has more to do with my hormones than anything in particular. I try and remember this when I find myself blaming the conditions around me for the way I feel. The best and the worst of what our lives have to offer us in present in every moment. When I’m feeling awesome inside, I find bliss in a bag of popcorn. When I feel terrible, I can’t find it even in the best of circumstances.

However, I will say that the more water I drink, the more blissful I feel.

What are you currently reading?

What I’m currently reading is labels! It’s tough to try and eat well, eat balanced, practice proper food combining, avoid sugar, wheat and dairy and still feel excited about food.

When I’m not reading labels I’m reading the New York Times. I’m happy to report that last Sunday I could not find a Sunday Times anywhere in Santa Cruz. They were all sold out! I called 11 stores! I had no idea Santa Cruz had such a voracious appetite for news. I felt very proud of my little town.

What are you listening to right now?

I am listening to John Wizards, a South African band. His music inspired my first collection for beeek; bendy color clothes for children and adults launching Spring 2016. Whenever I felt confused about the direction of the line, I would put John Wizards on and be reminded. Oh yeah, it’s about Joy!

What is your go-to simple recipe?

I tend to get really into one thing at a time. My family makes fun of me because when I say really into, I mean like every meal for four days in a row. Currently that’s dried persimmon but I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for (even though they’re really good and can totally stand for a meal!) So my back-up answer is baked polenta, also a current interest. It’s so easy and versatile! Preheat the oven to 375 while you bring 4 ½ cups of liquid to boil in a sauce pan- 1/3 broth, 1/3 milk, 1/3 water. Plus 2 teaspoons of salt, lots of garlic and an herb like rosemary. After it boils, gently add 1½ cups of polenta. Reduce heat to low and stir for the next 12 minutes while it thickens. During the last two minutes I like to stir in a rich flavor—like pesto or chimichurri or hummus or roasted peppers in oil or tapenade—you get the picture. When the 12 minutes is up, transfer to a greased casserole dish and bake in oven for 30 minutes. The trickiest part is letting it cool and set before eating.

What are some simple things you do for self-care?

Self-care for me is prioritizing a balanced day. I break up work sections into manageable chunks, say three hours and I pad those three hours with restorative activities like hiking and yoga. And I try to have 10% left at the end of the day; 10% of my energy and 10% of my tasks so that I wake up with fuel and motivation to get started right away.

What does nourishment look like to you?

Nourishment to me relates back to childhood. I have wonderful parents and my childhood was all that I could have asked for. When I seek nourishment, either self or from others, I recreate meals, rituals or gatherings that we had as a family. This can be a homey meal like eggs and toast or taking a bath and getting into bed with the towel still wrapped around me.

How do you make space for play?

For better or worse, my work as a home space designer is my play. To really indulge and let go and frolic means to carve out a chunk of time and sit down with my colored pencils and workbook and design small house structures. To each her own I guess!

What are some favorite mantras you cling to?

I have been self-employed since … well, since forever. My sister, Natalie Christensen, and I are both entrepreneurs based in part on a plethora of ideas but also because we don’t want to answer to anyone else. Our parents modeled this for us so it comes as no surprise. In order to be successfully self-employed I have had to learn how to self-rule. I don’t want to answer to anyone else but I do have to answer to myself. I use a stick and carrot technique. “Don’t delay what can be done today” motivates and scares me into action. While “You have plenty of time” allows me to relax and channel the creative spirit.

Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living. 

All I’ve learned, in my quest for a more soulful and embodied way of living, is to do what you love and screw the rest. These are the simplest words and the hardest to live by. For one it is extremely difficult for some to find what they love. Not what they should love, not what their parents or their peers and society loves, but what they truly love to do. Additionally then choosing to do that thing and in the process disappointing, alienating or scaring those same parents, peers and society is yet another challenge. And lastly, finding a way to make a living off of that thing while continuing to love it is the biggest challenge of all.

About Emily

The simplest version of complicated.

I dropped out of law school without a plan, only a promise: no more shoulds. I would follow my heart wherever it wanted to go. I worked as a bicycle messenger, learned to farm, fell in love, sold my car and for the first time felt truly at home in my own skin. I began to notice and be taken by my own physicality: the crook of my arm holding the shovel, my thighs tightening as I pedaled, my hands strong and stained by the day. These were common moments when function was unexpectedly beautiful. This was, I determined, a form of beauty I wanted to capture and express. 

I began to make things, with metal, with wood, and eventually with fabric. And here, where the practical and the precious came together, was where I landed. I enrolled at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco for clothing design. In 2007 I started Filly.

Filly is a women’s clothing company based in Portland, Oregon and the California Bay Area. I design with the body in mind, hoping to compliment a range of shapes and sizes while simultaneously providing comfort and ease. My fabrics; cloth linen, leathered twill, raw silk and screen cotton, are chosen for their durability, tactility, and sophisticated yet grounded appeal. Filly pieces are meant to be worn, worked, washed and loved. My designs are in service to you and your sometimes mundane, sometimes glorious, always important life and each moment in between.  

These days I find myself lifting bolts of fabric rather than shovels of dirt but I still notice and admire how I move through the day. Filly expresses my love for the unexpected, when life is happening and you are in it. And you are amazing. Simply living and simply beautiful. 

xoxo, Emily