In his 2012 commencement address at the University of the Arts, this is the advice that Neil Gaiman gave to the graduating students:
"Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art."
Sara and Vanessa describe It's Not Personal as an inclusive, femme-centric dating collective and growing anthology. Together they curate a collection of art and writing that focuses on dating experiences. In this interview they note that the themes explored in this project—love and heartbreak—are truly universal.
I think Gaiman gave good advice, for two reasons. In times of struggle we need a way to turn that into something actionable, into work. And in times of struggle we need to find a way to connect with other people. Art is both. It is the individual process of creating work and it is a vehicle for connection, which is what Two Create is all about.
Sara and Vanessa have created this brilliant community where people can come together, sharing their work and also the hilarious, painful, and universal feelings and experiences that are part of dating and loving and learning. I'm inspired by the collective vulnerability of this project, and thrilled to share a little piece of their story here.
How would you describe your relationship?
Sara: Supportive, compassionate, fulfilling, and fun (we laugh a LOT!).
Vanessa: All of the above! I would also add honest and extremely communicative. We talk a lot, through nearly every possible channel. Sometimes it's about the project, but sometimes we're just checking in on each other. We can really lean on one another.
What's the origin story? How did you meet and begin working on It's Not Personal together?
Sara: We met through a mutual friend several years ago. At the time, I was curating a lot of art events, and Vanessa was one of my most loyal attendees. After I wrote the first few poems that ultimately became It’s Not Personal, I reached out to Vanessa to see if she’d be interested in working on the project together. She’s a poet, and had written a beautiful poem about being enough that really resonated with me. Plus, I always enjoyed seeing her at social gatherings, and I had a feeling she’d make for a great collaborative partner. Together we decided to launch a platform that would allow other artists and writers, and even non-creatives, to make things inspired by their love lives as a way to heal, learn and grow forward.
Both of us contribute ideas, and we share them in a way that's fluid, open, and supportive.
Vanessa: After Sara shared her poetry and idea with me, I was all in and haven't looked back since. I've always admired Sara's drive and creativity, and I was so happy and honored when she asked if I wanted to be a part of the project. We started out by asking our friends and network to submit their art and writing on love and relationships. After a few months, we launched our online platforms on Instagram and Facebook to further broaden our reach. In the Fall of 2016, we started hosting art and writing workshops at this amazing new community space in Brooklyn, NY (New Women Space), and we've only grown from there.
How does your collaboration impact the work you do together? How about the work you create independently?
Sara: We complement each other in so many ways: Vanessa is really great at managing the more operational, organizational aspects of the project, whereas I’m always thinking more big picture. We run this project just like it’s a real company, we have check-ins every other week and each have our own titles and responsibilities (I’m the Creative Director and Vanessa is the Editorial Director). Both of us contribute ideas, and we share them in a way that’s fluid, open, and supportive. I always feel inspired when we talk, hang out and make future plans. Plus, if one of us ever feels overwhelmed, we’re both happy to step in and take on a little more work so the other person has a break. We got really lucky that this partnership works so well. Maybe it’s because both of us are Aquarius? :)
Independently, we help each other with outside work too. We support each other in our own journeys (from dating, to friendships, to our professional lives and more), and love editing one another’s writing. We’ve become great friends over the years, and both have grown so much since we started this project. I’ve watched Vanessa blossom and really come into her own in the last year. I’m so proud of her for knowing what she stands for and for learning how to speak her mind!
This project wouldn't be what it is today without the two of us constantly encouraging each other to be brave.
Vanessa: I think that we draw so much strength from each other and from what we discuss at our workshops and with our contributors. While the heart and soul of our project remains, it's also evolving. I think that as we've become more secure with ourselves over the past 18 months, we've become braver and bolder in what we do with It's Not Personal. I'm constantly looking at Sara's determination and resilience for inspiration, and I think those feelings naturally spill over into the work I do with It's Not Personal. As Sara mentions, we've both grown so much over the past year, and I've loved seeing Sara really grow into into her fierce, bold self. This project wouldn't be what it is today without the two of us constantly encouraging each other to be brave and believe in ourselves first.
Has It's Not Personal inspired any other collaborations, your own or other people’s?
Sara: Collaboration is a core pillar of this project. We love meeting people whose work aligns with ours, and making magic happen together. We’ve worked with so many amazing artists, writers and more on our events, and even made some really neat products (our branded condoms were featured by What’s In Your Box? in July and we also worked with fashion designer Sticky Baby on a small collection in February that benefited RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence non-profit). There's a lot more in the works, so stay tuned!
It just goes to show how love and heartbreak are truly universal themes.
Vanessa: We've also been happy to help others launch their own It's Not Personal events. We recently worked with an amazing group of women who hosted a workshop on our behalf in Warsaw, Poland. Participants created self-portraits and discussed their own self-images. It was incredible to see this event take shape so many miles away from NYC—it just goes to show how love and heartbreak are truly universal themes. We've been contacted by others in various other locations, so we're hoping for more international events in the future!
In a sentence or two, what's the most important thing you've learned from working together?
Sara: I think our partnership and friendship both work so well because we allow each other to be our true selves. We don’t have expectations or pass judgment on one another’s life choices. Instead, we support each other with our full hearts and care deeply about one another’s growth. Plus, we’re always honest with each other in a way that’s kind and compassionate. I feel like we both have a deeper understanding of one another, and Vanessa has since become one of my closest friends. I truly love working with her and bringing this project to life together.
Vanessa: As usual, Sara says it perfectly! I've learned a lot about trust. I can 100% trust Sara to give honest feedback, to do what she thinks is right for It's Not Personal, to tell me how she's feeling, and to be there for me as a friend if I need it. Because of the trust we have in each other, I feel more secure in my role, and we're able to continue to dream up and execute unique and sometimes unusual ideas. It's really nice to know there is someone out there who will always have your back, professionally and personally.
Founded by Sara Radin and Vanessa Gattinella, It's Not Personal is an inclusive, femme-centric dating collective and growing anthology. Using the tools of art and writing, INP creates opportunities for women/womxn to share their dating experiences in safe, judgement free spaces and help them find comfort in their relationship status whatever that may be. The collective aims to inspire its global community to embrace self-love and pursue fulfilling, respectful relationships through a range of workshops, events, and a monthly column with Bust Magazine Online. It's Not Personal also works to raise money for RAINN.
Sara Radin is a writer, curator and trend forecaster based in Brooklyn, New York. Full time, she is the Youth Culture Editor for WGSN. Outside of that, she's the co-founder and creative director of It's Not Personal. She's organized all kinds of events including pop-ups, disco parties, panels and coffee meet-ups in New York, Montreal, Los Angeles, London and more. Her personal writing has been published by publications such as BUST Magazine Online, Huffington Post Women, Thought Catalog. She's also a mentor for Girls Write Now. Check out her work via sararradin.com, and follow her on Instagram.
Based in Brooklyn, Vanessa Gattinella works in online media by day and writes poetry during the other hours. She is the co-founder and editorial director of It's Not Personal, and her personal work has appeared in BUST Magazine Online as well as other publications. In her spare time, she can typically be found volunteering in her neighborhood or getting into some unexpected adventure while sporting mismatched socks. Follow her on Instagram.