1. You’ve spent an extended period of time in New York, Baltimore and San Diego. Why were you in these places? Tell us one good story from your favorite among them.
As part of my design program at UC, I spent every spring and fall quarter working full time for various design firms in co-op jobs. Since I lived in Cincinnati my whole life AND went to college there (oh, the pain…), I wanted to try out some new cities, especially the two coasts.
2. Why did you want to be a lawyer when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a lawyer to spite my parents, actually (I know, doesn’t every parent want their kid to be a lawyer? Nope. Not mine.) My parents are both artists—my dad is a photographer and my mom was a jeweler and now an art teacher. Even some of my extended family is in the design and art field! So I grew up with a lot of art in my life. Being the independent, stubborn kid that I was, I decided to do the opposite of what my parents wanted—I was determined to be as different from them as I could. But as it turns out, I wasn’t great at studying or research, so clearly, law was out by the time I got to senior year of high school. Eventually I “caved” and went to art school. It was the best decision I’ve ever made (and, yes, you do eventually turn into your parents.)
3. Tell us about your uncle’s artistic background.
Keeping the story going about my crazy artistic family…my uncle Dave is a luthier, which means he builds guitars, and he does it all by hand. He used to live in Cincinnati, but moved up to Woodstock a few years ago to join the aging hippie musicians. That move worked out really well—he became friends with a band manager and ended up selling Keith Richards (yes, THE Keith Richards!) a custom-made guitar! I’m still waiting for the day that they become best friends, and I can call him “Uncle Keith” and hang out with him and all his famous musician friends. One day, one day…
4. What area of design were you going to pursue when you first got to DAAP? Why? What changed your mind?
I wanted to go into industrial design, specifically designing cars. When I took a tour of DAAP in high school, they showed us the rapid prototyping room, and the guys in there were using a design program to make a 3D model of a car—and then the car was cut out of foam by this prototyping machine! I was fascinated, plus I think the guys were playing really cool music in the room and it didn’t seem like a traditional classroom, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do. It all changed my freshman year of college when I struggled through drawing class, and my advisor sat me down and told me I wouldn’t make it if I couldn’t draw. She said she thought I’d be a better graphic designer, so I listened, went into the graphics program on a whim, and the rest is history!
5. You’re getting married in October. Where will the ceremony be? Why?
We’re getting married at Alms Park in Columbia Tusculum on the hill overlooking the river. My fiance and I love nature and had talked about getting married at a park. One Friday night in April, Stephan and I took our dog, Luna, up to the park after work, and he proposed to me there, overlooking the river! Our wedding ceremony will be at the exact spot where he proposed (just minus the dog … she’s not obedient enough to be part of the bridal party!)
6. Which of the following places would you spend an extended vacation?
I’d love to spend time in the countryside of Tuscany, immersing myself in the food and culture there. I’m imagining this vacation would be learning about Italian cooking, picking olives from trees, eating ALL the bread and pasta, talking to local Italian farmers, meeting families from the area and having dinners with them and drinking lots of good wine! Along with the food, I also love the idea of escaping technology for a bit—I think it’s amazing what we do with it everyday, but for me personally, unplugged time helps to recharge creativity and bring new ideas to the table.
7. What is your favorite meal to cook for someone?
I love to make tacos al pastor for my fiancé—it’s my favorite because the meat cooks all day unattended and is very low-maintenance, but impresses the hell out of him. I’ll get a big pork shoulder, rub it with some spices, brown it on all sides, then throw it in the crock pot with a marinade made of onions, fresh pineapple juice, garlic, chiles and beer. Then the fun is getting creative with the toppings. Depending on the season or what I have on hand in my garden, it could be fresh tomato salsa, pickled red onion, pineapple, kale, queso fresco … and always hot sauce and cilantro, those are a must!
8. What is something you get unreasonably excited about?
I get insanely giddy when I can go outside and pick vegetables from my garden that I’ll cook for dinner. Cooking with fresh, in-season veggies is a passion of mine, and when I realized I could GROW my own veggies in my backyard… *POOF* Mind. Blown. I started a spring garden this year, and planted kale, broccoli, purple cauliflower, garlic, spinach, lettuces, arugula, peas and carrots. There was already a whole bed dedicated to strawberries, too, and right now I’m getting about 1 pound of fresh strawberries each day! If you want to see the level of excitement for yourself, come chat gardening with me anytime, or follow me on Instagram and check out my #farmerleigha posts. Yeah, I’m THAT nerdy.