Ladies First: Grace Bonney Is In Great Company
Author photo by Christopher Sturman
By Amy Krzanik
Writer Grace Bonney, founder of the immensely popular long-running website Design*Sponge, gets right to the point in her new book, In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs. In the very first sentence of the book’s introduction she offers us activist Marian Wright Edelman’s famous quote “You can’t be what you can’t see.” The statement has possibly never rung more true than in this election year. No matter what their politics are, women of all ages can’t help but feel a tiny thrill when they hear a female voice say “I hope to be your next president.”
Bonney, along with five other New York-based businesswomen, will discuss this idea of visibility, along with other topics raised in the book, on Saturday, Oct. 22 at Morton Memorial Library in Rhinecliff. Joining her will be Sheila Bridges, who was named “America’s Best Interior Designer” by CNN and Time Magazine; ceramicist Paula Grief who has had a successful career in graphic design, fashion art direction and music videos, and now has a shop on Hudson’s Warren Street; Elise Kornack and Anna Hieronimus, the co-owners of Take Root, a contemporary American restaurant in Brooklyn; and Tracy Kennard, the founder of Kennard & Daughters consultancy firm, and the co-owner and operator of Brunette wine bar in Kingston, NY.
Ceramic artist Paula Greif
The impetus for her second book (Bonney’s first was 2011’s Design*Sponge at Home) was the disconnect between the successful female entrepreneurs Bonney knew in real life and the predominantly young, white, thin and straight women she (and therefore everyone else) was seeing represented in the mainstream media. “I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see,” she says. “There are so many woman that I look up to, and I wanted to give visibility to a wider range of ages, races and abilities.”
Bonney, who lives in Accord, NY with her wife, the prolific cookbook author Julia Turshen who is featured in the book, had two months to put the project together. Because of time constraints and other factors, there were some people who couldn’t be included, like Rachel Maddow, who Bonney says is a personal hero of hers. But she is incredibly happy with how many people she did get to interview, like musician Kathleen Hanna who she calls a personal idol and poet Nikki Giovanni who, like Bonney, grew up in Virginia. “I love how opinionated she is,” says Bonney. “She’s not afraid to speak up and be loud, to take up space.”
Another real standout is Laura Jane Grace, the transgender lead singer and songwriter of the band Against Me! “I was very excited to get to interview her about her life,” says Bonney. Other names you may recognize in the pages of the book are Tavi Gevinson, who founded what became Rookie Magazine at the age of 12; author and activist Janet Mock; writer Roxane Gay; model and activist Christy Turlington Burns; comedian Cameron Esposito; potter Rebecca Wood; Carla Hall, chef and co-host of The Chew; fashion designer Eileen Fisher; illustrator Maira Kalman; journalist Melissa Harris-Perry; Carrie Brownstein of the band Sleater-Kinney and the TV show Portlandia; and actor-comedian Abbi Jacobson of the Comedy Central show Broad City.
Along with a full-page photo of them in their creative spaces, all of the book’s participants have answered meaty questions such as “What does success mean to you?”, “What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in your career?”, and “In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?”
This is all material Bonney hopes to cover candidly with her participants during the book tour events. “We’ll have a panel discussion on transparency, vulnerability and what happens when things don’t work out, and not just about running a business,” Bonney says. “The guests are coming from very different perspectives, and I’m planning to delve into the nitty-gritty stuff.”
In The Company of Women Panel Discussion
Saturday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.
Morton Memorial Library
82 Kelly Street, Rhinecliff, NY
Tickets: $35 - includes a copy of the book and an exclusive tote bag made for the tour