Harlene Ellin [harlene]
What is your specialty?
I am journalist/interior designer and I publish Fine (www.finedesigndine.com), a website devoted to fine restaurant design and dining.
Where can we view your portfolio online?
@ Fine (www.finedesigndine.com)
What made you interested in design?
I am a very visual person and since I was a kid, I've loved making spaces look cool/interesting/beautiful. You should have seen my college dorm room! I became a trained designer after my husband and I renovated our 100+-year-old arts and crafts home.
What has been your professional career path?
I have had the most zig-zaggy career path ever. I've worked in public relations, journalism and interior design. (I'm also a professional mom.) My website showcases many of my interests and skills.
Have you received any awards for your work in the field of design?
I've never received an official award. But I have been praised by my clients and friends. These compliments mean a lot to me.
What is your motivation? What makes you get up in the mornings?
I have to get up in the morning to drive my kids to school. Otherwise I just might sleep until noon!
How would you define your design style?
My style is very client driven. So whatever my clients want, I can provide.
Shapes, color, concept: where do you usually begin when conceiving a design?
I start by interviewing my clients about their needs and wants. But my favorite part is working with colors and fabrics.
What is your favourite type of customer?
I like people who are open minded and down to earth. I love working with people who "get" how design works and appreciate all that goes into it.
To a certain point, is copying justifiable?
Of course we all draw inspiration from the world around us. But why would anybody ever want to flat out copy somebody else's work? The most fun aspect of designing is to see what your own creative mind comes up with when given a set of parameters.
List some things you dislike seeing in design.
Bad reproduction art!! There is so much affordable original art out there. I would never, ever turn to a catalog for mass-produced art.
Do you believe the newer generations are better at designing?
This is a silly question. An older designer can be cutting edge and a younger designer can be staid and boring.
Which professionals in your field -contemporary or past- do you most admire?
Mies van der rohe, who showed me how to appreciate and embrace minimalism.
Up to what point do your designs reflect your personality?
I'm neither staid nor stuffy. So my designs - when I am not limited by a client's parameters - tend to be sophisticated, yet energetic. I guess this is how I perceive myself.
If you weren't a designer, what would you be doing?
I'd be doing what I'm doing now - writing about design!
At this moment, what would be your dream job or project?
I'm currently working at my dream job. My goal, however, would be to get more people to see the work I'm doing. I would love for my site to have scores of like-minded followers!
Can you see yourself in this field twenty years from now?
In 20 years, I hope to be off traveling the world. But I will always see things through a designer's lens.
What is your specialty? What subjects do you deal with?
I write about three different aspects of restaurant dining: design; food/menu; and wine and other "adult beverages."
In which media do you presently work or have you worked?
Currently I publish a website - Fine (www.finedesigndine.com). But I have worked in traditional print journalism for most of my career.
Please list a web address where where one can view an example of your work.
What headline would you like to see printed one day in the newspaper?
"World peace is no longer a dream"
With a camera on every mobile phone, is every citizen becoming a correspondent?
In a way, yes. But I have come to embrace the everybody-is-a-correspondent mentality, rather than be threatened by it.
How would you explain the boom of the tabloid press?
I think the majority of us are just wired to have a morbid curiosity about others.
What is your position regarding the right to privacy of famous people?
Granted, when you put yourself in the public eye, you are asking for the attention. But I do believe that there is an invisible line that does not always need to be crossed. For example, I don't think reporters/photographers should hound the children of celebrities.
What can you teach us about the art of the interview?
Never, ever be embarrassed to ask for clarification from your subject. I always want to make sure I understand everything that is being said, so that when it comes time for me to turn around and tell my readers about it, my information is accurate.
Please list well-known people you have interviewed.
My focus is currently on food journalism, so I've recently had the chance to interview some pretty amazing chefs - Rick Bayless, Homaro Cantu and Stephanie Izard to name a few.
Would you say the journalism blog is revolutionizing the profession?
Yes! It's given people like me the chance to be publishers. I would never, ever have been able to get Fine off the ground if I had to produce it in a print version. Now my writing can reach a lot of people without any cost or expense to me.
Will the paper press disappear?
Very possibly. I realize this is upsetting to many and I hate to see it go. But then again, it is a form of change and progress. And change is not inherently bad.
What are your thoughts of the free papers distributed in cities?
I have enjoyed many a free newspaper in my day. Where would we be without "The Onion," for example?
What is the book you would like to write?
I would one day like to write a book called "The Finest of Fine." It would feature some of my favorite posts from my website.
Is there a motto or ethical principle that clarifies your decisions in moments of confusion?
Don't allow yourself to be confused. If you are confused, ask the questions needed to arrive at a point of understanding.
What advice would you give to someone who has just left university and wishes to start in the profession?
Don't just have a journalism degree under your belt. Study another subject that you enjoy as well. Not only will you be able to write about that subject, but you might be able to turn to a career in that field if you decide the world of journalism is not for you.
What is your blog address? What subjects do you deal with?
What was it that made you create your blog? On what date did you start it?
I launched Fine in January 2011. I started it as a way to create the perfect job for myself. I have degrees in journalism and interior design and have always loved dining in restaurants. My site allows me to put my skills to use, while exploring the things I love.
How many visits a day do you get? What type of comments do you receive?
The number of visits varies depending on the restaurant I feature. I post three times a week in the flowing order: Monday (design), Wednesday (dine) and Friday (wine). Mondays are always my biggest day and my hits taper off as the week progresses.
In terms of comments, people have either been to the restaurant and talk about their experiences there or they say the places I'm featuring sound interesting and they would like to try them. I appreciate any and all comments, because it lets you know people are out there reading what you are working so hard to produce.
How has 'having a blog' contributed to your life?
It has become very intertwined with who and what I am. When I talk to people now, they want to talk about Fine. I've chosen a topic that many people find fun and enjoyable. And it has led to many an interesting conversation.
Have you created relationships with other bloggers or readers of your blog?
I've started to get some great feedback from people who have become regular followers of Fine. And it's so fun and rewarding to hear them say they like my writing and content. It's especially great when people go out and try the places I'm recommending on Fine.
How often do you post? Does regular posting of your blog require a lot of effort on your part?
I post three times per week and each piece is about 700 words of original content. It is much more work than I ever imagined, as I'm not just talking off the top of my head. I actually go out to the places I report on and interview people for my posts. But "the legwork" is the coolest part of what I'm doing. And I think my approach sets me apart from other bloggers.
Does blogging bring in income for you? Can one make a living from posting?
No money so far! But I'm keeping my fingers - and toes and other crossable body parts -crossed!
How do you promote your blog?
I promote it through a Facebook page and Twitter. But I've also reached out to publications in my area in an attempt to get press. I'm looking to draw in readers any way I can. I always ask people who like Fine to tell at least one other person about it. Word of mouth can be incredibly powerful in today's world.
How would you define your readers? Have you got a faithful audience?
My readers tend to be people who love food, wine and restaurants. Yes, I've got a very strong following, but it is a niche audience.
Are there any blogs you follow daily or regularly?
I follow several food/dining blogs religiously. I've done some traveling for Fine and they are an excellent source for ideas when I am away from my home turf.
Have you ever received gifts for blogging about your opinion of products or services? What do you think of bloggers who do that?
Nope, I've never done that. If somebody is going to accept freebies, they must be upfront about it in their postings. I've been given the complimentary appetizer or glass of wine from time to time and I accept them to be gracious. But I am ALWAYS sure to write that I received that particular food item for free. I've worked hard to gain my readers' trust and I would never do anything that would compromise my credibility.
How do you see your blog evolving in the future?
I'd love to have Fine in lots of cities around the U.S. and have a team of reporters writing for me. But for now, I'm trying to establish a distinct tone and voice for the site and I'm not ready to relinquish control of the writing at this point.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to begin a blog?
Give it a shot! Unlike a physical business, there are few upfront or overhead costs. If you have the time and energy - and you will need both of those - then go for it!