Aficionada

Spanish noun (ah-fee-thyaw-nah-th ah)

a woman who is very knowledgeable about an activity, subject, or pastime. a connoisseur, expert, specialist, cognoscente, an enthusiast.


Miye McCullough Operations/Producer


 

 

Where are you from?
I have a funny moving history. Born in New Jersey, moved to Pennsylvania, then NYC then New Jersey again, then back to Pennsylvania. Tri-State!

Where do you live now?
New York City. My second home is Ojai, California, where I worked and lived during my years with the Turtle Conservancy. I have family and friends there and visit as often as I can get to the West Coast. I’ve spent so many hours hiking in the Los Padres Mountains or finding king snakes and Southern Pacific Pond Turtles in the Sespe Creek. Nature and animals are my direct line to the spiritual.

What do you do?
I am the Director of Operations for Hesperios, my friend Autumn Hruby's company, It's a really beautiful ready-to-wear collection based in NYC. We also publish an art, literature & culture journal and have a shop/café in SoHo. I’m also a Creative Producer for various indie projects. I love what I do, and everyone I work with.

Lifegoals?
This sounds a bit non-specific, but my desire is to constantly change. I don’t want to be the same person in 2029 as I am in 2019. I want to identify my goals by my experiences rather than my personality. I once read that "mistakes can serve a purpose where they once served shame." It’s all a part of the journey of awakening. But if I left the earth today, I’d be happy knowing that I was a person and friend who held a safe space that provided love, acceptance and emotional openness for others, and that I generated the least amount of suffering in doing so.

 

 

 

Favorite hobbies/pastimes?
I am most at home when I’m cooking in the kitchen, whether if it’s just for me or for 25 people. Cooking is the most joyful and meditative thing I can do. It’s a way I express love. I like to read a few books of different genres at a time, so I can switch between them depending on my mood. I’m generally content and love doing just about anything that’s productive or inspiring. I am never bored! also have a mild obsession with Forensic Files.

What inspires you?
Courage. There are some people I have known who bravely walk through the dark corridors of life when it would be much easier to turn and run from them. These are the conscious ones who use fear, adversity, and uncertainty, as a way to transform grief or discomfort into gifts for growth. It’s easier to escape and seek out only what feels good, and not many people are willing to embrace the paradoxes of life. But those who do, amaze and inspire me more than anyone. I am in awe of people who continue to open their hearts despite being confronted with the unbearable circumstances of life that challenge them too closely. I yearn to be around others who choose courage over comfort.

When are you the happiest?
When I am laughing so hard I end up on the floor. 
When I’m cooking Osechi for Japanese New Year.
When I’m dancing with friends to a great playlist.
When I feel safe.
Sometimes, I am happiest when I am sitting in nature in still, silent gratitude; knowing and accepting that I am worthy of goodness; no matter who or what else in my life has tried to demonstrate otherwise.
When I’m waiting for my dim sum order to arrive.


“My rules to live by are these three things: 1. You are being presented with two choices in life: Evolve or Repeat. This is one of my daily mantras. 2. Choose to spend your time with others who cultivate your most honorable characteristics, not just people who make you feel good at any given moment. Feeling good is not feeling goodness. Understanding that valuable difference has changed the quality of my company, and in turn, my life, in profound ways. 3. Don’t waste calories on bad food."

 

 


What is your favorite music and latest bands?
I mostly listen to classical, jazz, soul and folk, and have a special spot for classic gospel. I’m really not into mainstream music and couldn’t tell you who is up for a Grammy.
Here’s a list from my "Walkabout the City" playlist right now.
1. "Sligo River Blues" – John Fahey
2. "Ferus Gallery" – Allah-Las
3. "Diga Diga Doo" – Oscar Peterson
4. "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" – Fela Kuti
5. "The Oogum Boogum Song" – Brenton Wood
6. "Bam Bam" – Sister Nancy
7. "Where I’m From" – Digable Planets
8." Like a Ship" - Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir
9. "Once Upon a Time in the West" – Dire Straits
10. "These Days"– Nico
11. "The Humming Chorus" (Madame Butterfly) - Puccini

 

Who is your favorite artist? Seen any great exhibits lately?
This is a long list I’d never be able to limit to just one as a favorite, so I’ll narrow it down: Egon Schiele, Henry Darger, Untei Sekine, Roni Horn, Larry Sultan, Patrick Procktor, Joseph Cornell, Cy Twombly, Leandro Erlich…I am very interested in mysticism so I fell in love with the soulful, Hilma af Klint exhibit at the Guggenheim. There is a power of contradiction with any written, spoken, and in this case, visual work of a mystic. Observing the tension of life’s mystery without feeling the need to change or control it, is a potent context for me. Hilma very well might have become my favorite artist after seeing this show.

 

 

Detail Hilma af Klint, Courtesy of Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk


“There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am, and it is enough.”


What’s up next for you? Projects/life?
We are getting ready to launch our third Hesperios journal this summer. We’ve also been researching and outlining a more sustainable and ecologically sound way to produce our garments, despite the long supply chains and ambiguous methods of accountability. This means investing a lot of research, patience, and time visiting organic fiber farms and changing some elements of our business practices. Baby steps. I have the opportunity to work with some wonderful women, and we’re a great team. I’m also working with my friend, Loan Chabanol on a children’s book, and I’ve begun a series of personal essays. Just the process of writing and re-writing is cathartically fulfilling for me.

 

A teenage Galapagos Tortoise with Miye at the Turtle Conservancy 

 

What are your favorite places that you have travelled to and where do you want to go next?
I am answering this question from my hotel bed while on a work trip in Lima, Peru.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some beautiful and biodiverse regions while I was doing conservation field work with the Turtle Conservancy. I have wonderful memories of Argentina’s Monte Desert, off-the-grid jungles of Northern Thailand, Okinawa, the Mapimi Zona di Silencio in Mexico, and the hot springs of the misty mountains in Taiwan. I love international adventures and am looking forward to many more of them. I can’t believe I haven’t been to India yet, but it’s at the top of my list. I am most excited to go to Maui to attend a Ram Dass retreat. This trip is all about the Dharma, rather than the destination.

 

 

 

 

What is your favorite hotel/resort to stay in?
The Post Ranch Inn. It’s beautiful, romantic and otherworldly, you can sit in mineral baths overlooking breathtaking views of the Big Sur Coastline, and take walks through rows of lichen-covered redwood. The perfect hotel in a setting; so pure, beautiful, and serene. Be sure to go with an exceptional someone you can create magic and life-long memories with.

Biggest luxury?
Really good, long facials and Jenoa Harlow’s neuromuscular massages.

What are some of your favorite books/audiobooks, and films/shows?
Books:
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, and Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass.
Movies:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) by Elia Kazan, A New Leaf by Elaine May, The Color of Pomegranates by Sergei Parajanov, Hiroshimo Mon Amour by Alain Resnais, and any Marx Brothers film.

What would surprise people to know about you?
I have a knack at identifying problems to help solve. But people are usually surprised that I am a classically trained singer and was a vocal performance major. Eventually I switched to choral conducting because I really disliked performing. Singing is very personal to me, and I’m sure there is some weird psycho-social pathology that I have lurking behind my shyness about that. You literally have to push me in front of people and just start the music. But I’ll be your back up singer any day, though!

 

 

 


How do you unwind or de-stress?
When stressful moments arise, I really try to pause and practice some heathy detachment by not getting too absorbed where my judgement is compromised. I also try to be around people who make me laugh when I am starting to take myself too seriously. Which is every day. I have several spiritual programs, but my Nichiren Buddhist practice has really given me a lot of focus and stability when things become stressful or a little overwhelming. I also make space for some self-care when I feel overwhelmed, even if it’s just taking an hour to get a cheap massage. But I really recharge by securing a day alone to read, write, and ignore my phone. I transform into a shameless parody of indulgent self-care. A full bubble bath with a facemask and candles while eating coconut cake and Oolong milk tea and watching old films that make me cry.

Do you unplug from devices? Night time or weekends?
I won’t read email or anything until I’ve done my morning meditation and chanting practice. I like to respond to communication right away. So, the initial expectation, disappointment or mild paranoia from a text or email first thing in the morning only fractures my mental well-being. I live in one of the most stressful cities on earth, so I am consciously starting to unplug more, and I’ve watched my social media screen time decline enormously in just a few months. Wow. I mean, I love baby sloths and all, but I admittedly can video binge if I’m not careful, and then wonder what happened with the last hour of my time.

 

 

Socorro Diamond Rings, Abanico I RIng, Rock Pendant III, Cresta RIng II and Flat Hoop Ring

 

How do you take good care of yourself? 
I wish I had some fascinating, esoteric influencer/Instagram-worthy ritual of special potions and magical mantras, but it’s pretty simple and boring. SLEEP! I make sure to get 6-8 hours, and the quality of my sleep is essential to my well-being. My sleeping temperature is directly related to that, and anywhere between 67-70 degrees is ideal to help me sleep soundly straight through to morning. I’d rather get 4 hours of sleep in a good temperature than 8 hours when it’s too hot. Walking as much as I can. I love living in a city where I can pop into favorite spots, discover new places, and run into various friends just by doing my errands. I write a gratitude list every morning. Yoga, meditation, chanting, and graciously saying no when I feel like I’m becoming overwhelmed. I have a hard time saying no, and that’s a work in progress. I can’t be useful to anyone else if I don’t feel like a whole person.

Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
Dashi Broth is the foundation for almost every Japanese dish, and traditional Japanese cuisine is my favorite to cook. The recipe is super simple - and from it, you can use it as a base for everything from miso soup to simmered Kombu Maki rolls and braised lotus root.

DASHI BROTH

• 1/3 oz Kombu Seaweed
• 2/3 oz Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
• 4 cups of water
1. Dust the kombu with a damp cloth without removing the white powder from the seaweed sheet.
2. Soak the Kombu in the saucepan and water for a few hours to release its natural flavor.
3. Slowly bring to a boil over medium low heat, skimming the surface occasionally.
4. Just before boiling, remove the Kombu. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
5. Add the katsuobushi and return to a boil. Skim off any foam. Once it starts to boil, reduce to simmer for a minute and turn off the heat.
6. Strain the dashi through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl.

 

 

 

Rounded Ring Chain Bracelet, Disco Box Chain, Gold Hoops and Islero Bangle 

 

When do you feel your best?
In the morning after I’ve meditated, chanted, done some yoga, and after my morning coffee. I am ready to face the day after things have been prioritized from a place of contemplation and calmness. I love the feeling after a good day of work! There’s a wonderful fulfillment in honoring our human desire for meaningful activity. I feel good when I’ve accomplished tasks, or when I have been able to be service to someone else. I feel my best when I accept myself, and don’t let my past, my useless ideals of perfection, or my self-judgements get in the way of who I want to become. And at night, when I get into a clean cozy bed after a bath, good film or book.

Beauty routine/skincare regime?
I use a plain, cold washcloth & green tea under eye patches in the morning, and Verso foaming cleanser at night. There’s a skincare line I discovered when I lived in Ojai called Narayan, and her Crystal Clarity is the best exfoliating masque I’ve ever used. I also love this organic skincare line called La Crème de Beauté. It’s really luxurious and deeply hydrating. I use SPF 30 and try to get a facial once every 4-6 weeks to keep the wheels from falling off the wagon.

What is your style credo?
Quality over quantity! I’d rather spend a more on one pair of really good shoes I’ll have for decades, than buy 5 cheap pairs that will fall apart or lose their shape in a year.

Female hero and why?
My mom. She is incredibly spiritually grounded and wise. She has discernment, and a deep love and patience for humanity. She dreams big yet she lives simply, and she retains a childlike wonder and thirst for adventure in everything she does. She never complains and she will always find beauty and gratitude in every situation that arises. She has been through difficult times and has used every one of her experiences as an opportunity to grow into the strong woman of courage & dignity she is today. She’s my mother, but she has also become a trusted friend and confidant.

Who is your style icon, and why?
Glenn O’Brien. My father was an artist with a great eye for color and composition. He always gave me an honest opinion about style with an artist’s sensibility, and after he passed away, Glenn became that person for me. He didn’t kowtow to all of the fashion rules, but he respected them for what role they traditionally held. His style was classic yet punctuated with vibrant humor and confidence; much like his writing. When he complimented me on an outfit, I’d coolly say, “Oh gee, thanks Glenn”, but inside, I was more like, “Yesss!” He lived an elegant life and always had wonderful stories. He was a true romantic who adored his wife Gina and his son Oscar and their crazy little dog Arrow. He was a gentleman and friend who I miss dearly.

 

 

 Abanico Rings II, Thin Bar Bracelet on Suede String, and Thin Cuff

 


Bold or delicate jewelry?
Both! I have little hands, fingers and wrists so I like to wear something more delicate for the daytime. But occasionally like something with more of a statement for evening.

What was your first KC piece?
A beautiful, braided brown leather, Valenciana V Cuff that I got back around 2010.

What is your favorite KC piece and how do you like to style it?
The Bandolera in soft, supple, black Napa. It’s deceptively sized, so it looks small and compact, but it fits a lot, with extra room to spare. It goes with everything, and is the most perfect crossbody, ever.

What do you like in a bag?
I like anything that can easily convert from day to night but is still easily manageable. I love clutches, but I don’t like carrying them around, if they have a strap option, it makes a huge difference.

Which piece/pieces from the new collection do you want the most?
The Cadiz II in Cognac. Slouchy, supple, and goes well with a summer tan!

What do you like best about KC bags or jewelry?
Timeless, classic, and elegant… unencumbered by logos, signs, patterns or symbols. They withstand the trends and fads. I love that I can have a KC bag a decade from now and it will be just as chic as it was the day that I got it.

 

 

Photos By Kendall Conrad Using and iPhone X
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