Design Evolution. Meet Hannah Betts of Lives Styled

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Photography by Katie Finnerty of Katie Finnerty Photography

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Hannah Betts. I am the owner of Lives Styled, a multidisciplinary studio that specializes in interior styling and photography. Some of the local projects I have contributed interior styling to include Radio Social, Just Juice, Scratch Bakeshop, Rochester Brainery and Living Roots. My studio is located in the South Wedge, where I work and occasionally host pop up shops and dinners. I share the space with my husband, local artist (St. Monci). If I am not in my studio with my dog, Birdie, then I can be found with my husband and son, Francis eating at Fiorella.

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I also serve on the board of Yoga 4 a Good Hood which was founded by Imani Olear, another Roc Girl. Yoga has always been an important staple in my life for my mental and physical health and it isn't always accessible to everyone. Y4AGH strives to create a space where people, specifically people of color, can find peace and healing in yoga and meditation. 

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What did you want to be when you were a child?
I have always had a passion for design and when I was younger I wanted to be in fashion. I intitally thought fashion design would be my focus but quickly realized that I couldn't draw very well. So my high school art teacher (who I am still contact with) introduced me to photography. I ended up falling in love with it and went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. I loved NYC but realized the fashion industry was too cutthroat for me. 

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How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced?
My business has really changed since I began. When I first started out it was primarily photography. It evolved through the act of styling what I was shooting. I designed my sister's salon 5 years ago (Mint Salon) and it got some attention, which resulted in people reaching out to me to work on other commercial spaces. It happen so organically. I never questioned the flow back and forth between shooting and designing. It is all a creative outlet for me. 

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Because I am not formally trained in design, I had to learn a lot on the job (I am still learning). I am so appreciative to the project managers, designers and others who have trusted my vision through projects. It is all about intuition and trusting my eye and I think that can be hard for some people to understand who maybe think more technically. 

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In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up? 
Failure and self-doubt is an inevitable part of the journey, especially in a creative field. Confidence in my own abilities and vision can go a long way, but in times when my confidence is rocked, I really lean on my faith. Faith, that I am in this moment for a reason and that though it is hard sometimes, believing I am on the right path. I mentioned before how important yoga and meditation are to me for my mental health. As someone who struggles daily with anxiety, something as simple as finding my breath can truly save my day. I am grateful to have these tools that I have learned through my practice of yoga. This is why it is so important to have accessibility in wellness programs such as yoga. Everybody should be able to have the opportunity to see how it can help you grow.
 

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Lettering by Maureen Higgins of Stone Fruit

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Be uncomfortable, that’s the way you learn. This is true, I think, in all life situations. Conversation and lessons are not always comfortable but we need to experience these feelings in order to grow and learn outside of our own norms. Also, trust your instincts. There is never just one path to get where you are going and nobody has the exact formula for following your dreams. We are still on our own paths and forging our own way. So trust your gut and stay true to your vison-whatever that may be. Keeping your mind open to the path changing is also important, I have learned this as photographer who now also designs spaces. 

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What inspires you? 
Anything that gives me the feels. These feels though, need to challenge and excite me. I find it it mostly in reading, architecture and people. I am resistant to looking at what others are doing in my field because I don't think this will help me grow. I grow through reading stories that are different than my own. My son inspires me constantly. He gives me so much hope of a better world. I am so excited to watch him grow with his eyes wide open, knowing more and seeing more then I ever did at his age. 

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How do you find balance?
I will always be striving for balance but I don't believe I am there (yet). Some days I can almost taste it but most days it seems impossible to achieve. I keep going everyday because I recognize that through the days that feel impossible, I am privileged to get to have those days that make it worth it. 

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What is your favorite part of what you do? 
I absolutely love meeting and connecting people. We could be such a stronger city if we all stepped outside of our own bubbles. It is the most rewarding thing in the world to meet people who have had different experiences then your own. I believe we can affect social and political change by something as simple as listening to others. Some of the deepest connections happen in physical spaces so bringing space and people together just goes hand in hand.

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What do you find most challenging?
Honestly, all the business side of things. Whether its navigating taxes or something as simple as scheduling meetings, I feel like I have to work twice as hard and still come up short. 

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Who are some creatives that you admire?
Rachel McKibbens
Rachel has the voice and the words I wish I had. She is an incredible poet, one that will rip your heart out, make you feel uncomfortable, and by the end you are thanking her for her words. She truly has a heart for people that have been marginalized all their lives and gives them a platform at her cocktail and poetry bar, The Spirit Room and her writing retreat, Pink Door. 
Martissa Williams
Martissa is a yoga instructor, designer, and writer. I love her earnest and raw point of view on the real struggles of self love. She has such an incredible eye for style and anyone who plays a Lauren Hill song during Shavasana in yoga, has me as a friend for life. 
Cave of NY
Charmaine is a local ceramic artist. I carried her work at my pop up shops that I did in my studio last year. She is really doing something fresh and new for this area. I always tend to gravitate towards minimalism in art, and she does this beautifully. 
Reenah Golden
Reenah is writer and poet. I first heard her at a Danielle Ponder (!!) concert and her words have never left me. Also her personal style is perfection. 
Rory and Cris Van Grol
I see Rory at least a few times a week at his spot Ugly Duck coffee. This is one of my favorite places, a spot that feels truly welcoming to all. Rory and Cris, know the seemingly never ending quest for balance. I love their honesty when it comes to this. Having children, a business and a heart to serve and change our community...they inspire me endlessly. 

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