Students who do cool things: Olivia Pecini RISD ’16 and Maddie Dennis RISD ’17, co-founders of Muse’s Milk

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Meet Olivia Pecini RISD ’16 and Maddie Dennis RISD ’17, co-founders of Muse’s Milk, a website that highlights “women working in various creative fields—to share their origin stories, promote their work, and offer readers advice from the women making the art world spin.” The talented RISD Animation-majors themselves have interviewed a range of professional women from production designers and art directors to writers and fashion photographers. I sat down, BlogDH-interviewer-to-Muse’s-Milk-interviewers (sooo meta), to learn more about the development and growth of the site. Check out the interview below if only to be reminded that our neighbors down the Hill are pretty f*cking cool.

BlogDH: In your own words, what is Muse’s Milk and how did the idea develop?

Olivia: It started back in January when Maddie and I realized that a lot of people at RISD don’t really have female artists as inspiration. Even we realized that in naming our favorite artists, most of them weren’t women.

Maddie: We’re both animation majors and the field is very male-dominated. Essentially, we wanted the site to be a place to celebrate women working in creative fields, whether it’s visual arts or music. It was an opportunity to poke around for interesting women in fields we want to be in.

BlogDH: Is there a story behind the name?

Olivia: Essentially we had no idea what to call it and we were coming up with names for a month, and constant streams of lousy titles. So then I asked my friend who’s an art history major for literally any reference that might be fitting. It was true desperation. She sent me a list, and there was this one that was really bizarre— “the muse’s milk.” Supposedly the breast milk of a muse will give you endless creativity.

Maddie: As soon as you told me about it you said, “this is pretty weird, but what do you think?” And I was like “oh yeah.” (laughs). I think we wanted something that made people question, and having a name like that will at least make people look at our site a little longer. We kind of went from there. It’s not a dramatic story, it just happened!

BlogDH: Do draw inspiration from other blogs or websites?

Olivia: The Great Discontent was a big inspiration. We don’t look so much at it now because we want to be different. But initially I would read The Great Discontent and was kind of more interested in hearing the women’s stories. There are also just certain artists that have a pretty consistent Tumblr, and I was very inspired by their work.

Maddie: There actually aren’t a ton of sites that only do art-specific interviews.

Olivia: Right, even The Great Discontent covers a broad range of fields. We wanted to hyper-focus on art and women.

BlogDH: How do you see the website developing?

Maddie: We’re really hoping to figure out an appealing design. Tumblr is a really great starting place because there are a ton of artists on the platform and young people who are interested in becoming artists. We’ve been trying to figure out an interview format that goes beyond your average interview, which is tough because we want to be able to tell artists’ stories accurately, but also engage people who are in it for the visuals. People who are interested in art do want to see interesting pictures and visual examples, so we’re hoping to improve the visual aspect of the website.

Olivia: We’re also really interested in its audience and its growth. The audience is primarily students; probably high school through college is our window. Not to be redundant, but our goal is to make it an actual website that tells stories in a way that you don’t normally see. Of course, it’s going to be words on a page but we want to find a way to make that more interesting and engaging. Something involving animation even.

Maddie: Short answer is that we’re learning!

BlogDH: If you could interview anyone, who would it be?

Olivia: We have a “next goal” and that’s Rebecca Sugar. When we were at Cartoon Network we would occasionally see her around. Recently, we interviewed Brenda Chapman, which was a really big deal. She is a huge inspiration for me, so that was really exciting. Honestly though, I think we’re on the hunt for the next person.

Maddie: When we started the blog we thought why not just contact artists that we’re really inspired by, and a surprising number said yes. Now we have to look for new people who inspire us because we’ve already got to talk with these incredible people! (laughs).

Olivia: It’s really amazing how excited people are to talk and to share their stories. Also, how much they believe in our mission statement.

Maddie: Right, and how valuable the artists see our site.

Olivia: Almost no one has said no. We’re lucky! Also, a lot of running the site is doing research on what’s popular or who isn’t getting enough attention. It’s also helpful when we get suggestions.

BlogDH: Do you mostly utilize the RISD alumnae network?

Maddie: We’ve actually tried to keep it balanced while making use of RISD as a resource.

Olivia: Right, we want to make sure that we don’t limit ourselves because, of course, RISD is great but so are other schools.

Maddie: We’ve also been making a point to interview students along with bigger names.

If you have interviewee suggestions for Muse’s Milk, write opecini@risd.edu or mdennis@risd.edu

Image via Muse’s Milk.

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