To be a friend and participate in a Friendship is a gift that evolves throughout one's life. It is deeply personal and unique to each person. Some friendships last a lifetime while others come and go. Friendships came in multiple shapes and forms; friendship with the planet, friendships with animals, imaginary friends, and even friendships with foes. We found out about Erin Fong's Friendship Project on Instagram during Shelter in Place due to Covid Pandemic. As we dealt with our isolation and lack of contact with friends, we began to reflect on the nature of friendship and how the Withitgirl's platform could become a space for new friendships to evolve along with providing support during a very challenging time.
The Friendship Project was born out of Erin's personal struggle with friendship. She courageously began to examine what friendship is, how to be a friend, and break her own friendship barriers, and create more open, comfortable relationships. It's part research (looking at past friendships and patterns), part inspirational (seeking advice). It also serves as a personal letterpress project that explores color. It creates a series of inspirational posters to surround herself with -- and share with others because maybe you're feeling the same way.
When did the project start? How long did it last? How did it evolve? Mostly women who participated? Do you still do popups?
I had been thinking of The Friendship Project for a while but it really began to take an actual shape in 2018 when I wrote a little blog post and put it out on Instagram to see who might want to talk with me about friendship.
Within the first 24 hours, 100+ people had emailed or DMed me saying that they would be interested. It became apparent that many people were looking for deeper connections.
Early on I was meeting up with people IRL to ask a set list of questions that were both about gathering info and as a way to force me outside my comfort zone and to meet new people. However, with so many people interested it became a bit of a logistical undertaking and I eventually transitioned to an online form on my site that anyone can fill out at any time. The project feels in its most true form when I am able to connect in person and I was lucky enough to be invited by some larger vendor fairs like West Coast Craft and Head West Marketplace to pop up to collect responses on-site and share/sell the letterpress posters that had been created based on past responses.
Where did all the “sayings’ come from each of the sets and how did you decide that color set each one fell into?
Each letterpress poster is derived from a participant’s response paired with their favorite color. Asking someone their favorite color is such a juvenile schoolyard-type question but I am intrigued by color and how we have preferences that feel more innate than a choice that we make. I took artistic liberty on responses that were basic color categories like “red” or “blue” and really loved the challenge of responses like “the dusty pink of a Joshua Tree sunset”.
What did you discover (looking at past friendships and patterns)?
I was initially shocked at the large response that I received and discovered that many people struggle with friendship and are looking for deeper connections. I am in the process of breaking down my findings and distilling them into core pillars of friendship. Some recurring themes are vulnerability, shared interests and activities, making an effort, and knowing and valuing yourself first.
What did friendship mean before the project and what did you discover afterward?
From such a young age we are presented with the trope of BFF -- this idea that friends are forever and it’s always easy and there is no strife. However, I found it really reassuring to have so many people say that it’s hard work and there will be conflict.
A robust friendship will have highs and lows and it’s the mutual trust and understanding that will get you through the lows.
I’ve also come to acknowledge that all friendships have seasons and not all will be in the “forever” category and that’s ok.
Breaking through the barrier of really knowing them? Shyness?
I was a painfully shy child growing up and realize now the social anxiety that was present in such formative years. Making friends is still hard for me. I still really have to push myself to reach out and make plans because I think that time spent together is how we break through the barrier of really getting to know someone. It’s shared time that creates the experiences that form inside jokes and being available when someone is having a hard day.
What does girlhood mean to you as applies to friendship? How do you see this in your life?
I was really surprised by the amount of moms and teachers that would comment “this is such good advice for my kids” and I would always point out that it’s really good advice for anyone at any age. Responses like that really illuminated the fact that we tend to think of friendships as things that we value early on in life and place less emphasis on as we grow up. This thinking is exactly why so many individuals are seeking deeper adult friendships. Juggling time with partners and children and careers can be challenging and friendships may get pushed to the back burner but they are just as important for our relational well-being.
What continues to inspire you?
I have been diving deeper into my love of color and began writing a (not that frequent) newsletter called The More Hue Know that explores fun facts and the history of one color each edition. It features what I have dubbed a Chromascope that touches on color psychology and how to use that certain color to benefit our lives. It also features my favorite finds of color clothes and products. Get on the list here!
Erin's Book Recommendations:
Friendship Phone Line - 951-FRNDSHP
All Photos from Erin Fong @ Erin Loves Fun
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