Amanda Petrusich’s Tools of the Trade

We stopped by fall Artist in Residence Amanda Petrusich’s studio and got nosy about the materials on her writing desk. Objects tell stories, after all, and sometimes they can help us tell our own.


Books about Beck. While at Headlands, I’ve been working on a profile of Beck for The New Yorker, so I’ve got a little pile of Beck-related literature, including a book by his grandfather, Al Hansen (who was a founding member of interdisciplinary arts movement Fluxus), an old catalog from a gallery show Beck did at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 1998, and a copy of Song Reader, a boxed set of original sheet music he released in 2012. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art stickers are left over from a trip he and I took there last month, to see an exhibit by the sound artist Christian Marclay.

The little white cards are from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, which they first released in 1975. Each card has a “worthwhile dilemma” printed on it, and they’re designed to help ease or advance the creative process. I like to pull one in the morning when I first get to my studio. My favorite is “Courage!” although the most useful has probably been “Accept advice.”

Hotel stationary from The Standard in Hollywood. I did a story for The New Yorker a few years ago on Prince and Paisley Park, and one thing Prince did compulsively was to hoard hotel stationary—he’d write lyrics, notes, ideas, etc. on it. I figured that if it worked for Prince, it might work for me. Fingers crossed!

Peanut M&Ms. A perfect writing snack. You’ll notice this bag says “Share Size,” but I am definitely not sharing.

A field guide to western birds. One of the things I’ve loved the most about my time in residence here at Headlands is getting to live alongside so many glorious critters. Almost every night at dusk I see a great horned owl cross the parade grounds, and each time it feels like a holy visitation.