Pop Quiz: Vita O’Brien

Fellow book-loving ladies like myself may know Vita O’Brien better as @exlibrivita on Instagram, where she provides gentle, thoughtful, book-focused vignettes. I’ve joyfully followed her there for a good long time, so I’m super excited to introduce Vita here, and to announce she’ll be contributing regular content to Undone from here on in!

How do you make a living?
I study english literature at Victoria University and to pay the rent I work part time at Nikau Cafe.

What do you love about it?
I love being able to read so many interesting books for my degree that I might have never read otherwise. I’ve been working at Nikau for about three years now and the people I work with are definitely why I’ve stuck around for that long. Plus, the staff lunches are always so yum!

Who/what inspires you?
My friends inspire me so much but I’m also inspired by movies, books, art and fashion. I recently started Twin Peaks and the costumes and overall aesthetic have inspired me a lot. I need a plaid skirt ASAP!

What are your hobbies/what do you do/enjoy outside of work?
I love baking and cooking in my free time. There’s something very calming about it and you get to eat something good at the end if it all goes to plan! I also used to sew a lot and I’ve been thinking about buying a sewing machine again so I can get back into it. Making your own clothing is such a satisfying process and getting a compliment on something you’ve made is always such a buzz.

Where do you live and what’s great about it?
Wellington, New Zealand! I used to hate how small Welly is but over the last few years I’ve completely fallen back in love with it. There are so many great things about this city and I think it really is the coolest little capital. Going for coffee on Cuba Street, driving around the coast on a sunny afternoon and walking around the Botanical Gardens are my favourite things to do here.

Favourite piece of clothing and why?
I have this black t-shirt dress from Kowtow that I’ve had for ages and I feel great every time I wear it. Clothing that lasts and makes you feel good about yourself is always a win in my eyes.

What were you like as a teenager?
Emotional and dorky. I worried about EVERYTHING as a teen.

Favourite colour?
I’ve always loved orange – best colour, smell and taste!

The last good book you read?
I just finished a reread of The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Gold. It was my favourite book in year 11 and I still have a big soft spot for it. If you like whimsical novels then I’d recommend giving it a try.

This is my favourite bit:
‘What is it that stops you?’ she asked after a moment. The young man smiled ruefully.
‘Fear of being misunderstood,’ he said. ‘Fear of ridicule. Fear that the most precious things I have will be destroyed.’ He stared solemnly into the distance, then added, ‘And fear of bad reviews. What is it that stops you?’
Persimmon opened her mouth. Then shut it. Then opened it again and said, with an air of wonder,
‘It’s not stopping me any more.’
The young man gazed at her. ‘I didn’t think so,’ he said.

Beauty/skincare products you couldn’t live without?
Jouer matte moisture tint has been my go-to base for ages now. I love how it gives coverage without hiding your skin. I’ve also just gotten back into Lush and the Big shampoo is so good!

What’s hanging on your walls?
Photos taken by my boyfriend Ollie and a botanical flower poster that I got for my birthday. I used to want to be a florist (heavily influenced by The Three Loves of Persimmon) and I’m obsessed with botanical drawings.

Who is your muse/hero/best friend and why?
My friend Kaiya who is the most driven and creative person I have ever met. When we were in high school she rented out a studio space in town and hanging out with her there – drawing, writing and taking photos – was always so much fun. Wish she still lived on this side of the planet!

What’s something you’re super proud of?
Getting my first story published by Headland Journal last year was an amazing feeling. Especially after dreaming of getting published for so long. It really proved the point that you have to put yourself out there for good things to happen – even if it’s super scary!

What was the last thing you purchased?
I just treated myself to two things from Lonely because of their sale. A beautiful jumper and pair of trousers that arrived today and fit so well. My bank account isn’t quite as happy about it as I am…

Three (or more) favourite instagram accounts you follow?
@kaiyawaerea, @oosterbook, @oliverstent and of course @undonejournal.

What’s something you’re planning/dreaming of/hoping for in the year ahead?
I want to write/read more, finish my degree and go on road trip. Last year we went up to Havelock North for a few days and it was so stunning. I’d love to see and explore more of New Zealand over the next few years and I’m thinking a South Island trip could be on the cards for this summer.

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