Category Archives: Inspiration

10 Still Life and Flat Lay Tips

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Life and Flat Lay Tips

What’s one area you want to improve on this year? Mine is really simple and I talked about it last week: I want to get better at taking photos, especially still lifes and flat lays.

The premise behind it is simple: these compositions are a chance to tell a visual story. They’re an accessible way of sharing things I’m into while producing content for my blog and social accounts. Also, like many of you, I sit behind a computer all day so any chance I have to step away and get the creative juices flowing is an added bonus.

The thing is, my life is already packed with a lot of commitments and I am short on time for personal projects. But, instead of using that as an excuse, I started a project last year called Still Life Friday. Every Friday, I would set aside 15 minutes to share a new still life composition on Instagram, hashtagging it with #stilllifefriday.

Looking back, not every composition was amazing and I missed a week here and there. But overall, it accomplished the goal I had hoped for: to get better at working with what I already had around me, just for fun, without the pressure of client expectations.

What I’ve learned along the way is that when you keep goals bite-sized and focused, it’s more likely that you’ll follow through with them. There’s a reason why I set up Still Life Friday and not Still Life Daily: I wanted to give myself the highest possible chance for success.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Life and Flat Lay Tips

Today, we’re going to focus on 10 tips you can use to step up your still life compositions:

1. Pinpoint Your Style

It’s always easier to create an amazing composition if you can focus in on what you’re naturally drawn to. What gets you excited? If you need some ideas, follow some new accounts. I personally like MaeMae & Co., ban.do, Charli Burrowes, flatlays and flatlayforever. I’ve been collecting screenshots of ideas and keep them in a folder for when I’m feeling uninspired.

2. Get Consistent with Lighting and Surfaces

I take most of my photos during the morning to afternoon in my office, when the light is the brightest and least shadowy. I never use a flash, instead choosing a natural light source next to a window. For surfaces, I use my white glossy desktop or black or white tagboard when I need a larger area. You can pick this up at art supply and dollar stores.

3. Tell a Story

It’s always better if your still life has a focal point to build off of. What do you really want to share? Are you reading a book or magazine that’s inspiring you? Maybe you can add in glasses, a journal and your favorite pen. Did you just buy a new shade of lipstick? Add in a mirror, your compact and a fashion editorial with a makeup look you love. Did you just buy a rad pair of shoes? Lay them out alongside your ideal outfit.

4. Include a Natural Element

Still lifes feel more alive when you follow this tip. I tend to add plants like succulents or fresh cut flowers to most of my compositions. Crystals, sand, stones and leaves also work.

5. Add Some Shine

A little bling catches the eye. I am really big on brass accents right now for a subtle shine. I often use a brass pen, vases, scissors or clips to add warmth to my cool toned compositions. Mirrors, glitter paper, shiny gemstones and jewelry also work.

6. Focus on Color and Texture

One of the easiest ways to give your compositions a consistent appearance is to use objects in the same colors and textures. I focus on mostly black and white with plenty of dashes of green on my personal account. For texture, I stick with marble and brass. These create an on-brand look.

7. Keep It Simple

Less objects can actually be more compelling. Always place your favorite object first and build around it. White space allows the objects to breathe. I think of this step like a gallery wall. If you walk into a gallery and the walls are painted a dark color and crammed with artwork placed too close together, it’s visually overwhelming. If you instead walk into a space with artwork placed with plenty of distance between each piece on clean, white walls, there’s a better chance of you being able to focus on the details.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Life and Flat Lay Tips

8. Include Items You Love

I buy very little for my office space but what I do invest in has to be really special and work double duty. I have a wire inspiration board with copper clips I use to pin up new ideas that also doubles as a backdrop. I have a Moroccan pompom covered basket I use in a lot of Branch photos that also holds my extra chargers and cords. I have a collection of Chad Wys prints that cover my walls and often make their way into compositions. Surrounding yourself with items that you enjoy means that you’ll have more to pull from when putting together a photo.

9. Shoot In Bulk

If I create a composition I really like, I’ll shoot it, switch out a few key items, shoot again and get a few variations. These batched images are great to roll out when I’m having a slow content day or need something to stand in with a quote or story I want to share. They save time and since they were shot in the same lighting and style, they’ll be more consistent.

10. Set it Up

Have tools on-hand that can step in and give you the best results. Sometimes I use colorful washi tape to secure photos while also adding a pop of color. Sticky tack is great for holding round objects in place like pens and lipstick. Antibacterial wipes are perfect for quickly wiping down a surface so you can avoid bits of dirt and dust. Also, decide whether you’re going to use your phone or a camera — I personally use the Samsung NX500 for every photo I take because it’s higher quality. After I’ve taken a photo, I use the built-in wifi to email the photo to myself and edit with a combination of Color Story and VSCO.


I hope these tips help you take better still lifes and flat lays. Let me know if you have any questions or tips to add in the comments!

P.S. I try to post at least one new still life per week — if you’d like to follow along, my account is here.

10 Things I’m Loving Right Now

2016_NUBBYTWIGLET_10_THINGS

Over the last few months, I’ve made so many little discoveries that aren’t meaty enough to warrant a post on their own but are still worth sharing. And feel free to share any new discoveries of your own in the comments below!

Here we go:

1. Slim Aarons Women Book

The photographer who shot the who’s who of the rich and famous in the 50s, 60s and 70s has a new book of work out, simply called WOMEN. It’s bound in lemon yellow and features rare outtakes of one of my favorite images of all time, Poolside Gossip. I display my current book rotation on wall shelves.

2. Contact Paper

Okay, so I don’t mean that cruddy 70s floral contact paper stuck to the insides of your kitchen cabinets! There’s a whole new breed out there. Contact paper now comes in marble, granite and other great, super realistic patterns and is perfect for photo backdrops. I know fashion bloggers use contact paper all the time for flat lays and I can see why — it’s much cheaper than buying a slab of the real thing and easier to transport! I just bought this marble roll and it’s perfect.

3. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

I went a few years without wearing foundation and for the most part, loathed the idea of wearing a mask of beige on my face. After a brief flirtation with Makeup Forever HD foundation, I kept seeing glowing reviews of the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation in magazines from top makeup artists and finally gave it a try. Six months in, I can honestly say that it lives up to the hype. The formula is lightweight enough to not feel mask-like and has a dewy, natural finish that makes you look naturally refreshed. Score!

4. Conde Nast Travel Magazine

With more of my time going towards big projects at the studio, I haven’t had the chance to travel as much as I’d like this year. I’m still daydreaming of far-flung locales and thinking of where I want to go next, though. Part of the fun is in the planning, right? I love, love, love the beautiful design of this magazine and it’s always on-trend with its suggestions. I think of it like an in-the-know best friend who always has the best restaurant and hotel recommendations.

5. Pantone Studio App

This free app allows you to pull color palettes straight from images and gives you the coordinating PMS swatch numbers! Once you’re done, you can save out the Pantone palette swatches as iPhone wallpapers. There are other similar apps out there but this one has a clean, simple interface that is much more user-friendly.

6. Black Mirror Playlist

I recently discovered this dramatic playlist. It’s sad, beautiful, haunting and definitely worth a listen.

7. This American Life

I know I’m like 10 years late to this amazing podcast but by mentioning it, if even one of you discovers it, my job is done. Each episode follows the same premise: it focuses on one particular theme and has a handful of acts (stories) that tie into it. Some of the stories are inspiring, some are heartbreaking and some are downright weird but they are all fascinating and remind us of the strength of the human spirit. I’m so obsessed that I’ve already made it through 4 seasons of archives!

8. Samsung NX500 Camera

I’ve had this camera for over a month now and after taking a few hundred photos, I’m smitten. I had an older model in the same style for a few years and was really happy with it — Samsung knows what they’re doing. It’s packed with 28 megapixels and works fantastically well in low light. There are too many features to list here but it’s a great camera if you want high quality photos in a compact body that’s light enough to carry daily in your bag (like I do).

9. Countable App

With all the changes happening in the United States government, it can be hard to keep up. Countable helps you stay involved by giving you summaries of upcoming bills, allows you to contact your lawmakers and let them know what you think and reminds you how they ended up voting. Pretty amazing.

10. Zara Ankle Boots

I’m always on the hunt for the perfect black boots and just picked these up. I like the chunky, stacked silhouette and the height works with everything from jeans to dresses to leggings. I got the black but the grey would look amazing for Spring.


Okay, so that’s what I’m excited about right now! What about you?

Creative Chronicles: Magic Lessons Podcast

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Magic Lessons Podcast

I just learned about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast and I’m IN LOVE.

Normally, I’m not into listening to podcasts while I work. I like peace and quiet so I can really focus on what I’m doing. I feel like podcasts just distract me from tuning in fully to my creative process…and that needs my full attention.

Well, this weekend Gala texted me about this specific podcast. She even peppered it with, “I know you don’t usually listen to podcasts while you work, but….” and with that nudge, I clicked the link.

One episode led to 5 and 5 led to 10 which led to binge-listening to both seasons.

The thing that makes Magic Lessons really special (and why I think you’ll enjoy it) is that it focuses specifically on the creative process and how we overcome obstacles along the way.

Liz takes essays from real life creatives (writers, dancers, photographers, you name it) and partners up with a well-known person in their field that can give them very specific insights. It’s interesting hearing some of the creative greats (including Neil Gaiman) share their personal struggles with creating and a great reality check that nobody is immune from criticism or other roadblocks.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read any of Liz’s books but I LOVE her on this podcast. She’s kind, thoughtful and makes sure these creative folks pouring their hearts out to her leave in a better place than when they started.

If you’re looking for a new podcast to get inspired by, I think you’ll love Magic Lessons.

Inspiration Can Start With A Pair Of Metallic Gold Sneakers

Inspiration Can Start With A Pair Of Metallic Gold Sneakers

What’s inspiring you lately?

This year, I’m trying to be more mindful about setting aside time to explore my personal visual style. Instead of aimlessly grabbing images online and dragging them to my desktop, I’m paying more attention to visual cues.

What are the things I naturally gravitate towards?

How can those same things I love most play a part in my personal brand?

As you’ve probably noticed in the posts here this year, the visual style of Nubby Twiglet is continuing to evolve and it’s a purposeful move. 2016 marks my 15th year of blogging (that sounds so weird to say!) and for that milestone, I wanted to add a dash of gold to the branding and graphics.

Metallic gold has been a huge obsession of mine ever since I found a pair of Marc Jacobs sneaker wedges six months ago. Every time I laced them up, whether it was for a day in the office, a conference talk or exploring Florence, Italy (above), I noticed an extra pep in my step. That simple addition of metallic gold to my wardrobe started popping up in the design elements I was drawn to. Whether it was a gold sink in a kitchen or a metallic gold texture, I couldn’t get enough.

Inspiration Can Start With A Pair Of Metallic Gold Sneakers

Of course, all gold can feel a bit over-the-top and very Liberace. To balance it out, I started pulling in more organic, black and white patterns. Sometimes it was a marbleized pattern here on the blog, other times it was a hand-painted windowpane pattern on a jumpsuit. I started adding more hand-done fonts and illustrations to projects. Overall, that rough-hewn, looser look added a nice contrast to the gold.

Sometimes, it can feel like small shifts and changes aren’t worth talking about. Maybe they don’t feel grand enough to mention…but I want to change that here. Even the smallest elements you find yourself drawn to start to pile up. Pretty soon, the visual evolution you’ve been seeking, whether it’s in your brand, wardrobe or the way your room is decorated doesn’t feel so out of reach — it’s right there in front of you because you’ve taken notice along the way.

As I begin the redesign of this blog soon, I’m taking these organic black and white patterns and plenty of gold with me to explore.

Evolution feels great. Never be afraid of change — it’s what keeps things fresh, exciting, and makes life worth living.

Your turn: What are you noticing yourself being drawn to these days? Are there colors, styles, patterns, eras or something else that’s making you super excited?



Italy photo: Lisa Jane Photography.

Image sources: Radical Self Love Coven Almanac. Jonathan Adler brass ring holder. Marni shoes. Gold sink. Hand painted stripes. Lost My Mind graphic.

Domino Magazine Special Edition: Small Spaces!

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

Since Domino Magazine shuttered in 2009, there’s been a gaping hole in stylish, accessible decor magazines. I subscribed from the very first issue and though the overall aesthetic didn’t exactly mesh with that of my own, I appreciated the consistently seamless mix of high and low — it was so much more relatable than the other interior magazines I came across that only featured spreads of massive glass houses alongside modern furniture with minimum price tags of a few thousand dollars.

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

During the years it was around, I read every issue from cover to cover but admittedly, the relevance didn’t quite sink in at the time. Since I hadn’t yet bought a house (and didn’t have a decorating budget for that matter!) it was a fun read but I sadly recycled all of my issues after I read them.

Thankfully, there’s now occasional special editions of Domino centered around specific themes. I shared outtakes from the Quick Fixes issue here and just picked up the newest release, Small Spaces which I find to be even better curated than the last.

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

I like the overall premise behind the Small Spaces issue — making best of the limited space you currently have instead of seeking out a bigger place. After all, any space, no matter how small can be spruced up with fresh paint, a dash of patterns and a little organization.

Loaded with tons of applicable tips and tricks and organized by room, the photos are gorgeous and yes, the sources of the items are clearly listed. My favorite section in the issue by far is Organize Absolutely Everything (because I am obsessive about everything having its place) and the suggestions are super basic and applicable.

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

I know there are those Domino diehards out there that lament that these limited issues “just aren’t the same” but I have a different mentality. Times change, I love the overall design aesthetic these issues have and I’m just glad to have a home decor “magazine” to pore over that’s not full of only outrageously expensive, unattainable things. Because while aspirational, what’s the point?

Domino Magazine Small Spaces


Besides Domino, two of my other go-to home decor / lifestyle magazines have long been shuttered as well. Remember NEST and Blueprint? Sigh. Do you have any other suggestions for other home decor and lifestyle mags out there that are hip yet relatable?

P.S. I picked up my issue at Barnes & Noble but you can also grab digital editions here.

Back To Basics

Back To Basics


I find that the more immersed I become in creating visual identities for clients, the more I navigate towards the familiar for myself. I used to be one of those people that wondered why fashion designers sent fantastical creations down the runway every season but would then step out for the finale and take a bow in a simple jeans and t-shirt ensemble. Surely they could wear their otherworldly creations as well?

But now, I think I get it. When you dive into a sea of other people’s worlds and try to bring them to life, it’s nice to strip things down to the familiar when it comes to yourself. When you have a clean slate, you can create anything. Inspiration awaits around every corner.

When I’m focused on multiple projects, I find myself feeling the most comfortable being surrounded by things that are black and white. I love color but when all I can think about are other people’s colors day and night, I like to keep it simple for myself. My love affair with all things black and white continues.

Sources: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.


Creatives, do you have a go-to “uniform” when work takes over?

Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

Being a self-professed Paul Arden super fan, Whatever You Think Think the Opposite is a book that I’d been meaning to crack open but instead, it sat in my office untouched for a good six months. Truth be told, I was a little afraid of what his advice would be — sometimes I play it too safe in life and this book is all about breaking the rules. I value stability but at times, I overcompensate to hold onto that sense of familiarity instead of taking big chances that scare me to death. So I finally picked up this book and read it cover to cover in a day, all in the hopes that it would inspire us rule followers to loosen up a little and face those things that scare us head-on, for better or worse. It delivered.

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

Arden’s trademark humor peppers the opener with “Let us start off on the right foot by making some wrong decisions.” In this day and age, we’re often afraid of being wrong, and this is especially so on the internet. At times, it feels like observers are standing by idly, waiting to jump on our mistakes but on the flip side, are slow to congratulate our triumphs. But we all make mistakes (and will continue to) because we’re human. And that’s how we learn. What mistakes have you made lately? In the end, did they actually benefit you in some way you hadn’t expected?

At The Blogcademy, I talked at length about the power of differentiation when it comes to branding. I love what Arden had to say of the subject. “Original ideas are created by original people, people who either through instinct or insight know the value of being different and recognize the commonplace as being a dangerous place to be.” Trying to look and act like everyone else will do little but leave you in the pile with everyone else. It’s clear that playing by the rules often leaves us feeling more trapped. Arden relays that if you’re feeling this way, “it’s not because you are making the wrong decisions, it’s because you are making the right ones…the problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everyone else.”

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

For me, the most important point of the book was defining the difference between wishing and wanting. Whereas “I wish” equates to “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” and leaves us wishing our lives were different, “I want” demonstrates leadership. It boils down to the assertion of “If I want it enough, I will get it.” Successful people don’t take no for an answer. They work towards finding a way to make the life they want a reality.

But how do you get there? Arden says that “Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.” What a mouthful! He goes on to say that “The unsafe decision causes you to think and respond in a way you hadn’t thought of.” Think about all those times were you were caught in a bind because the safe plans you’d made fell through. When you lost a client or a job or a living situation fell through, how did you react? How did you survive those times? Did you come up with some far-fetched, downright crazy idea that panned out even better in the end?

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

The more time we spend online observing versus going out into the world and doing, the more our imaginations take over. I’m guilty of getting caught up in a never-ending whirl of blogs, inspiration sites and social media time sucks. And what I’ve realized is that I never walk away feeling better about myself. All that time spent searching, observing and living vicariously through others’ lives keeps us from being truly productive. Arden made me think hard about this when he says, “Everyone wants an exciting life, but people are afraid to take the bull by the horns. So they take an easy option for an exciting life. They live their excitement through other people.

I’ve always been a big believer in putting plans into action and then fixing them as I go and Arden endorses this mindset as well. Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. The pursuit of perfection will have you waiting around forever. Instead, set deadlines and just launch already! This has always been my mindset with blogging. When I started, I was still in school for design. I was still figuring out the ins and outs of blogging. I was young, enthusiastic and made changes as I learned. In a way, being a bit naive and not over-thinking your plan will get you further faster because you’re less afraid of being wrong or taking those big chances.

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

Arden says, “There is only one person who can determine the shape of your life. You. What are you going to be?” It’s up to you to simply change your life. And if your plan doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. I got a good dose of perspective when I was reminded that “No one is going to cut off your right arm, take away your motorbike or put you in jail if you don’t succeed.” So just go for it. Follow the path less traveled; you might be pleasantly surprised where it takes you.