shapers series


In an interview with Stephen Colbert last year, writer George Saunders was discussing his book "Lincoln in the Bardo" (which is exceptional, by the way) and in that conversation, he happened to so succinctly and beautifully state, "Empathy is a superpower." Those words have since been jotted down on a post-it and stuck on our desk since - a reminder that we all can be super heroes if we remember and attune ourselves to compassion and kindness. 

On this EXTREMELY salient topic of empathy and tenderness, we're thrilled to share the latest installment of SHAPERS with U.K. illustrator "Drawings of Dogs" (aka Henry James Garrett). We first spotted Henry's incredibly witty, clever, super smart, "politically punchy while somehow managing to remain playful" illustrations on Instagram and are beyond happy he took some time out of his work to answer our Q's with his A's. (By the way, Henry, major gratitude from us to you and your U.K. compatriots for your recent 250.000-strong march of resistance!)


LILY SPINDLE: The writer Sue Monk Kidd once said "Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it's accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity..." Do you feel this is true? Is empathy accessible to all of us? And, if not, is its inaccessibility, denial, or nonexistence what's plaguing and poisoning the world at the moment?

So, I’m actually writing a book about empathy and kindness at the moment (there will, of course, be lots of drawings to accompany the text). This is a great question.

Empathy is accessible to all of us. In fact, because empathy evolved quite a while back, it’s not just humans that can empathise; some of our cousins in the animal kingdom can too. Rats feel other rats’ fear for example. We all have the capacity for empathy – the capacity to share in one another’s pains – but the problem is that we can accidentally turn our empathy off. 

The big problem right now (if I can grossly oversimplify for a moment) is that people are switching off their empathy toward certain groups because they have false beliefs about those groups, or they don’t know enough about those groups.

I’m not saying it’s an accident. It’s not. Lying about some group – like migrants – and stoking or redirecting hate toward them is a good distraction technique. And that’s what’s going on at the moment. But every time in human history we’ve turned our empathy off towards a specific group, atrocities have inevitably followed.

But there’s a really easy solution. You’ve got to listen to people and listen to them directly. Let people tell their own stories (don’t get Scarlett Johansen to play them in a movie). When we hear peoples’ stories directly, we will always empathise with their suffering.


LILY SPINDLE: While you draw all sorts of animals, lending personalities and voices to them (all of which seem completely apt, by the way!), you began your illustration venture by drawing dogs (hence your moniker and ongoing project). And your pup, Billie, is your constant companion, yes? What is it about dogs that you so distinctly and intimately connect with? As dog lovers ourselves, we can think of a zillion reasons, but of course always love hearing everyone's own perspectives as to why dogs are SO AMAZING. 

I met Billie when I was 15. I was unwell and off school for a year and so my parents finally let me get a dog. They hoped she’d keep me company and keep me engaged in the world and she did. I love Billie so much and loving someone unconditionally and feeling completely at peace in their company is one of the best, most healthy, feelings in the world I think.

Dogs are fascinating to me from an artistic perspective because they reflect our humanity in really interesting ways. Here’s an animal that we bred, more than any other, specifically to function as an extra companion. So, dogs show what we want in a friend. And guess what: they’re super needy but super loyal.

                              Billie, Henry's constant companion and little heartbeat at his feet. 

                              Billie, Henry's constant companion and little heartbeat at his feet. 

LILY SPINDLE: If you could have lunch with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? What would you order?

Hmmm, well I’ve made a super close friend through Instagram who I’ve yet to meet, so I’d use the dream lunch to do that. She’s my first proper internet friend and she also happens to be famous. So, I’d pick Alexandra Billings. I can’t remember how we first internet-met but she’s an incredible activist and actress, and Kitty (my partner) and I would be soooooooo happy if we could have lunch with her and her wife (we’re currently separated by the Atlantic ocean).

I would order so much vegan pizza, and burgers, and chips, and it would be delicious and wonderful.

Henry + Kitty. Photograph credit to Tania Gardner Photography (

Henry + Kitty. Photograph credit to Tania Gardner Photography (

LILY SPINDLE: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I’m a morning person. I go to bed at 11 every night and get cross/anxious if I can’t for some reason. Sleep is super important for my health – but then it’s also something that it’s easy to turn into a worry.

I wake up sleepy but if I’m going to get anything good done workwise it will be in the morning.

I also love coffee, and love breakfast. If Kitty and I can have avocado toast outside on a sunny but cold morning, I will be incredibly happy all day.


LILY SPINDLE: What's currently on your bedside table?

We sleep on a mattress on the floor haha.

I always have a Harry Potter book to hand. I read it to Kitty if she can’t sleep.I also keep a book nearby so that if I have an idea in the night, I can write it down and go back to sleep.


LILY SPINDLE: As a thoughtful, evolved, kind-hearted, caring artist, what's your key piece of advice to the nurturers, empaths, and do-gooders of the world?

Haha, if I answer this it sounds like I accept that beautiful compliment as true. I’m ok, but I’ve got a lot of room to be better.

But if I could give one piece advice to a group of people who are trying to be better, it would be this: there is no such thing as too much empathy, there is no one who can feel pain whose pain you shouldn’t empathise with. If you want to make sure that you do empathise with everyone, you need to be humble, reflective and willing to learn by listening. Your empathy can be exercised, and strengthened, like a muscle; you just have to find people who have lives very different from your own and listen to their stories (but don’t angrily demand that they tell their stories, or listen to someone else who claims to be able to speak for them).

PS - You can find and purchase Henry James Garrett's work by going to THIS LINK


Over on swanky Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, there's a darling and intimate, sexy and wonderful eyeglass shop that's been in existence for just shy of a quarter of a century, holding strong throughout the street's many retail vicissitudes since 1994. That darling, sexy shop is none other than Montana Eyes, owned by Marla Cohn and managed full-time by her daughter, Rebecca Cohn. The vibe is generous and sweet and they have seriously INCREDIBLE frames for sunglasses or spectacles, crafted by designers all over the goddamn world. I can think of at least a handful of devoted clients (me and my husband included) who will go to no one else to find beautiful frames that actually complement your face and are a refreshing and resplendent departure from uninspired, fairly ubiquitous eyewear. Also, Montana Eyes is mega dog-friendly - they have an enormous terrier named Mia, who rules the Montana Eyes roost. 

We're obviously stoked they were willing to tackle our SHAPERS Q+A! Thank you, Rebecca + Marla! We adore you! xx - Rebecca

Rebecca + Marla - a dynamic duo like no other! 

Rebecca + Marla - a dynamic duo like no other! 

1 - How long have you been in the designer eyewear industry

I suppose you could say I was born into the industry. I’ve never remembered a time in my life there weren’t glasses all over the house. My mother Marla, the owner of Montana Eyes, has been in the optical industry since she was 18 years old. She opened the store twenty-three years ago, and though it’s gone through several changes; remodeling, new brands, and new neighbors, it has always been my second home.

You guys are one of the most dog-friendly spots in town, with glass jars of dog treats on the main table and oftentimes terrier Mia is in attendance. How did your rescue terrier find her way to you?

Well I think dogs and glasses have simply always made sense to us. My mom grew up with dogs, and we always had dogs. Mia finding her way into our family is sort of kismet. We had a dachshund for eighteen years named Elroy. Losing him was really tough, and it took my Mom several years to be ready for a new dog. My Mom had been in contact with a boutique/rescue up the street on Montana Avenue called Two Wag For, and they called us and said they had a puppy we should come meet. I went up the street and there I saw Mia - a small, awkwardly adorable black and white scruffy puppy. I called my mother and said something like, “You have to come see this angel”. The next day my Mom and I came to see Mia, and I kid you not when my mother picked Mia up, they hugged each other. I could cry talking about it, because it was kind of one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I wholeheartedly believe they are soul mates.

Oh, Mia. 

Oh, Mia. 

As one of the absolute BEST spots to get bitchin' glasses and shades, you have a fair amount of celebrities who frequent your shop and are wholly devoted to Montana Eyes. Can you share a few names or a fun anecdote about one of your fave famous clients?

I think one of the best parts about Montana Eyes is that we’ve created a safe environment for everyone to feel at home. My mother and I have never been name droppers and very often we have to hide how star struck we are. We treat all customers the same way, even when they are some of the most famous celebrities worldwide.

Party down at Montana Eyes! 

Party down at Montana Eyes! 

What is your favorite room in the house and what surprises would we find there?

My living room is very much my happy place. The space is eclectic with colorful desert tones. I have a very healthy cactus in a rust colored pot named Montana (clearly after the Avenue the store is located on), a record player and cabinet with an assortment of vinyl I’ve been collecting for years, vintage speakers and throw pillows I’ve picked up in Joshua Tree over several visits.


What is your go-to album (or albums) to listen to while road tripping?

Lately I have fallen in love with a newer indie-rock band called Whitney. Their album "Light Upon the Lake" is sweet, peppy, and extremely easy to drive to. Perfect "drive-up-the-coast" music. 

Tortoise, plaid, or ombre?

Tortoise, always. Tortoise reminds me of my childhood and the retro styles I grew up seeing.

Name three of your favorite eyewear designers and use a single word to describe each.

Jacques Marie Mage- Strong
Theo- Architectural
Cutler and Gross- Nostalgic

Soft focus glamour and gorgeousness. 

Soft focus glamour and gorgeousness. 

What’s your favorite spot in California to daydream and reset your soul?

I love the newer Getty. I could spend an entire afternoon out there in the garden with my journal and Polaroid camera. It’s a quiet bubble above what feels like the world.


If you've never witnessed the glory and gorgeousness that is a well-coiffed, slow-mo Los Angeles pooch on the grooming table of Jess Rona, your life needs a dose of this magic right now. Justin Bieber, Kurt Vile, Britney Spears, Billy Joel, Beyonce, Simon and Garfunkel, Bowie, and a boatload of obscure LA-based indie pop bands, provide the soundtrack to 20-second videos of Rona's canine clients being blown out, lathered up, or just throwing some serious shade to the camera. As an actress, writer, singer, and super funny woman, Jess is on Funny or Die on the regular, currently is putting together a photography book, writing a pilot somewhat based on her life in LA as a dog groomer, and has, along the way, amassed a staggering 106,000 followers on her @jessronagrooming Instagram

Needless to say, we were stoked to have her on board for a SHAPERS Q+A interview! Thanks so much, Jess! You're pretty awesome. 

xx - Rebecca

Your personality and humor definitely shine through in your videos and you brilliantly capture the quirkiness of each dog’s personality with your chosen musical accompaniment. As an actor and comedian who now has a thriving dog grooming business and over 100,000 followers on Instagram, do you find your creative pursuits overlap and if so, how?

Wow what a great question! Yes! It's happening more now than it ever has. I recently got to teach Eric Stonestreet how to groom a dog, I made a video for The Standard Hotel, directed a music video for Tegan and Sara (which was the coolest thing I've ever done), I did a segment for Groomer to Groomer TV making a grooming demo, and I'm working on an original pilot with my creative partner Sammi Cohen about a groomer (if you're a fancy person reading this, buy my pilot and throw money at me so I can make it thanks!)

I watched your hilarious “Love Song” video featuring you and Jason Ritter and laughed out loud at your psuedo homage to the film “Misery.” Tell us a little bit about making this video.

I asked Sammi Cohen if she'd want to direct another music video with me (she also co-directed my first video "Oh Shit We Forgot About Jess Rona" with Milana Vayntrub). She story-boarded it out, came up with the concept and made it happen. We took over my friend's house for the day, and secretly filmed a few scenes in Griffith Park. I was in full make up with a basket of apples among the hikers who were staring at me. It was a lot of fun. We had a look-out in case the ranger came. But it went smoothly! I asked Jason Ritter on a whim thinking he'd be too busy (he's good buddies with my husband Eric Edelstein) and he actually said yes. It was amazing to work with him. His expressions in the video are priceless. He definitely makes the video.

What kind of surprises has this business brought you, personally and professionally?

The whole instagram success is a surprise. People's reaction to me when they meet me is a surprise and I don't quite know how to handle it. I had a girl grab my arm and cry when she found out I was the one who made these videos. 

I only started making the videos cause I was going stir crazy in my garage. I needed to create, I needed an outlet. My friends were out auditioning all the time, booking jobs and traveling and I was antsy. I kept my grooming a secret for a long time because I only wanted to be known as an actress. Now I'm known as a bunch of different things (actress, comedian, groomer, director, musician, hottest girl on the planet) and I'm embracing it. 


If you could have breakfast with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And what would you order? 

This question is TOO HARD. I have so many that come to mind. (Larry David, Allison Jones, Katherine Hahn,Tony Robbins, Lena Dunham, Oprah, Jill Soloway, Obama, Bette Midler, Pema Chodron! - you ask the best questions by the way.) 

I'm gonna say Julia Louis-Dreyfus because I recently had a vivid dream about her where she was on a huge [cruise line size] boat and I was in the ocean and she saved me. I feel like we're going to work together one day.  

I would order my go-to breakky: Eggs over easy on a bed of breakfast potatoes with avocado, sautéed greens and carmelized onions, and coffee with homemade almond milk. 

Describe in one word each of these dog breeds:

Pug: Snorty
Bichon: Poofy
Jack Russell Terrier: Spazzy
German Shepherd: Sniffy
Standard Poodle: Elegant
English Bulldog: Stinky
If you put all those words together, 
you'll have the name of my next book. (jk!)

Are you a morning person or a night owl? 
I'm a night owl, but my schedule makes me a morning person.

What's currently on your bedside table?
A lamp, ear plugs, phone charger, candle.

Favorite song to get down to? "Helpless" by Poindexter off the Kitsuné America album. 
Favorite song to cry with? "In my Life" The Beatles
Favorite song to relax with? "Oh Honey" by Delegation
(These are just ones I picked because I have 100 favorites per question)

*Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.