The Pursuit of a Well-Examined Life: goodeverydaythings.com
A mouth-watering recipe for Gazpacho Andaluz. A how-to for handcrafted terrariums made from locally gathered native mosses. An introspective photo essay chronicling a late-summer trip to Assateague Island, VA. What do these items have in common? They're all good everyday things … or, rather, Good Everyday Things (GET), a collection of photographs, recipes and online journal entries created by Mark Gisi, co-owner and Principal Marketer of Tabula Creative. While the topics covered in this site vary widely, they all fall loosely within the realm of musings about "good, everyday food and essential objects from the home and garden." Mark recently sat down for a chat about his desire for beauty in the course of daily life, his strategy for sharing it with others, and the surprising place we may find him next.
What inspired the launch of Good Everyday Things?
MG: It started with a few plates of food and a few logins to Facebook. I realized that the posts and images of the food I cook or seek out at great restaurants, in particular, really seemed to engage people. People feel comfortable and gather around food in social situations, including social media. I started having conversations with people I was not otherwise actively communicating with, including some long-lost family members. In fact, I realized I had similar interests to my cousin, Anne Zimmerman, who recently released a critically acclaimed biography of M.F.K. Fisher called An Extravagent Hunger that documents the authors' shared pursuit of the transformational experiences of gastronomy. I ended up meeting with her and the rest of her family at a book reading at the James Beard House in New York City after not having seen them in more than 15 years. We realized that an appreciation for good food, beautiful things and creativity, in general, runs deep in our family and has inspired us to pursue these interests.
Tell us about the brand you've created here.
MG: It's really a personal brand that is an expression of my passions. It allows a glimpse into the things that inspire and drive me, and some insight into a life that is not necessarily apparent to those who only see me through the lens of our company, which is typically defined by our clients' brands. I always tell people that we're only as good as our clients, so this was a chance for me to create something from tabula rasa, a clean slate. As you can see, it's not just about food or photography … it's about things of interest and beauty, as seen through a curated lens.
We know you as the Principal Marketer at Tabula, but GET has given us a glimpse of your talents in styling and photography. How did you get involved in these pursuits?
MG: When I choose to do anything, I want to know everything there is to know about it. I taught myself by trial and error and lots of research. I also learned quite a bit by being around creative and collaborative people. David, my partner and our Principal Designer — who originally founded the business more than 10 years ago — says I am his "best student." He is very talented, particularly when it comes to large-scale print work and typography. I began working with him professionally during my previous career as the Marketing Director of a manufacturing company, where I also worked with many retail clients (Barney's New York, Calvin Klien and Kiehl's, to name a few), architects and industrial designers. I even engineered or designed pieces from the ground up that went into their own settings or projects. I was often required to document the installations once complete, especially during times when we didn't have the ability to do an extensive photo shoot. You can't close down a Madison Avenue store to take photos, even for just a few hours. Pieces of furniture or fixtures that I designed and the images that I styled and photographed were published in industry magazines including Interior Design, Architectural Record, Metropolis and Metropolitan Home.
I also work with a lot of photographers at Tabula, but have really enjoyed working with Jason Varney, whose primary focus is on food, restaurant and travel photography. I now realize that a photographer who can capture something as dynamic and fussy as food can accomplish almost anything.
How does this type of personal photojournalistic blogging complement your work at Tabula?
MG: It shows what 100% control over content creation and distribution can do, and it also reveals a less serious side of our creativity.
You've garnered an impressive following in a relatively short period of time. What can you divulge about your strategies?
MG: Many of our clients want to handle all of their own social media and communications because it's something they know how to do. But they don't necessarily know how to do it in a way that maximizes the benefits. Every time I create content, I watch the response and results. I look at the keywords that drive traffic to the site. We also set up an extensive syndication network that allows posts to be automatically distributed to Twitter, Facebook and industry sites in the appropriate formats. A series of promotions, including an offer to win a Staub French oven (a classic enamel cooking pot), helped spread the word and bring in more than 750 fans in just two weeks. These are the retail channels for the site and, ultimately, drive a large amount of browsing traffic. Organic traffic comes naturally from some very careful search engine optimization and rich content.
Tell us about the blog's foray into e-commerce via etsy. Can we expect to see Good Everyday Things diversifying elsewhere in the future?
MG: The images that are presented on GET sometimes take on a different life of their own, depending on their context. I have had many requests for images for a variety of different uses, including clients who require relevant styling, commissioned photography, product photography and artwork. Having the images printed on archival paper using our existing vendors seemed like a natural extension and an approachable purchase for many. I do also have some ideas about how we can distribute hard-to-find items that I consider to be good everyday staples, and that may be the next foray.