How to Find the Hidden Beauty in Everyday Things

Artist Maira Kalman reveals how she stumbles on hidden beauty in stuff you probably wouldn’t give a second glance.

Photograph by Rick Meyerowitz

Renowned illustrator and writer Maira Kalman has created many New Yorker covers and almost 30 books, including an illustrated version of The Elements of Style. She’s designed clocks, coats, coasters, and hats. Her latest book, My Favorite Things, is a catalog of what delights her. After a conversation about art in everyday life, she shares with us glimpses of ordinary things she finds extraordinary.

Mindful: What is it about your love of objects? Don’t objects clog up our lives?

Maira Kalman: Yes, there are too many things. I say that to myself 50 times a day: too many things, too many things to do, I have too many things. And yet, we can’t live without things, so why not look at them and see what you can see. I like doing that for a dozen different reasons: for design, for history, for memory, for narrative, for beauty, for humor. The process of choosing what is beloved is an interesting one. What you love keeps changing.

MF: You talk about a gasp of delight, and falling in love all the time. Falling in love, that’s a lot of emotion. It could get exhausting. 

MK: I can fall in love with a chair, or a vase, or a hat. I’m going down the street or walking into a museum, and I fall. What’s happening is that I’m falling in love with connecting to something, appreciating something that exists in the world and being thankful for it. I’m immensely grateful all the time for the unbelievable amounts of beautiful things. It would be sad not to fall in love all the time with all of these amazing things that have been created by people and by nature. How could you not fall in love?

Images from My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman; illustration by Maira Kalman. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; © 2014 by Maira Kalman.

Read the full story in the August issue of Mindful magazine.