about brassy

Women routinely have their lives described to them, their identities handed to them in a package topped with a bow that is strangling their sense of self. brassy is a project that seeks to unpack what womanhood means for female identifying folks and empower women to claim their agency and care for their true selves.

Built on the foundation of my original book, Brassy: an exhibition, this new expansion brings the ideas of self-discovery and womanhood into a public sphere. Where my original printed work was a personal exploration that reflected my own experiences, this digital iteration invites women from all over to ask questions, see through new lenses, and reflect on their own experiences together as part of a greater community.

Through this project, women are able to interact with the brassy platform as well as the ideas and conversations it brings up around womanhood, agency, modern society, self-discovery, and feminism. brassy is now more than a single book, it is a state of mind and a movement.

brassy was created to be a platform for women to hear each other’s stories, explore their identity as a woman, to reflect on the role of women in society, and celebrate our strength and collective power. brassy is dedicated to the care and keeping of all women, regardless of race, anatomy, sexuality, class, geography, or any factors used to divide us. The issues one woman faces is an issue for all women to tackle together. brassy is a community to allow for that kind of collaboration, support, and celebration.

brassy quote

visit brassy

Explore the website, buy the workbook, and read up on resources.



According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, brassy is defined as "shamelessly bold" or "obstreperous," which itself means "difficult to control." I adopted this term sometime after the 7th grade, when my mother in a moment of frustration and exasperation declared that I would grow up to be a brassy old woman. Something about that stuck in the best corners of my mind so that when it came time to name womanhood for myself, "brassy" was the only word that made sense. "Brassy" has come to be a beautiful way to describe not only my own definition of womanhood but also what womanhood can look like in our world today.


Womanhood has a much more loaded history. Co-opted by various ideologies and movements, "womanhood" has very rarely ever felt empowering. In fact, it often feels isolating—you have to be the right kind of woman, a real woman, a respectable woman, a sexy woman, a career woman, a motherly woman, a pure woman, a responsible woman, a white woman, a nice woman. Very rarely are women invited to be their whole selves and hardly ever are we given a space to explore what that means together. For the purposes of brassy, womanhood is defined as the lived experience of all female-identifying individuals regardless of gender expression, sexuality, or societal expectations. Together we choose to reject a standardization and instead reclaim womanhood, molding it in our own image and defining it individually for ourselves. There are no qualifications, no checklists, no opportunities to get kicked out of the club. brassy is dedicated to the care and keeping of all women.

brassy women

Brassy women are women who work to live unapologetically. They try to live boldly in their choices, styles, thoughts, friendships, sexualities, love, and everything inbetween. Brassy women acknowledge the whole self, always allowing for growth and change, embracing womanhood but also lean into the complexity of our human condition. Finally and most importantly, brassy women embrace other women, embrace self-love and compassion, and work to change the world every day.

brassy website shots

trifecta of empowerment

inside brassy

Like my original book, brassy is laid out in three categories: ingredients (the origins of our definitions of womanhood), digestion (navigating the reality of living as a woman today), and complexity (recognizing that we are more and moving beyond definitions). The project is meant to allow for flexibility of expression including various mediums, topics, and voices. For this reason, there are three main platforms used to reach women and help them explore their own identities: a website, a printed workbook, and Instagram.


The website brassy.co., acts as home base for all the content created for and by “brassy women.” I initiated this by showcasing some of my content from the original project as well as creating and curating additional work from women across the country. The site includes essays and visual assets, a database of resources, a monthly book club of recommended reading, Spotify playlists, accounts to follow, a brassy shop, and more.

The Care and Keeping of a Brassy Woman: an exploration of womanhood

If women are looking for a more personal way to explore their own sense of womanhood, brassy encourages them to engage offline by purchasing a workbook and doing more intensive self-discovery. The spiral-bound workbook is divided into three chapters modeled after the website: ingredients, digestion and complexity. Through various questions, activities, and points of reflection, the brassy workbook walks women through reflecting on everything from their own past and the role of media in their lives, to building a home and safety measures they take each day. Both challenging and encouraging, the workbook was born of my own questions and self-exploration while working on Brassy: an exhibition. With the input of trusted friends who have done self-discovery work already, as well as women who have written workbooks, I was able to put together a book that is both comprehensive yet allows for individualized reflection.


Instagram is an obvious choice for building an audience, but it is also a great way to share daily doses of brassy badassery. Each day, posts remind women to pratice gratitude and self-care, reflect on privilege and encourage intersectional work, as well as share random thoughts, song lyrics, and other fun things to break up the day. Additionally, content from brassy.co. is shared through posts, crediting each contributor and working to drive traffic to the main site.

brassy instagram posts

finding a voice

My own journey unpacking womanhood in my life started in 2015 with my post-baccalaureate certificate final project. I filled an “exhibit catalogue” with illustrations, essays, poems, photography, and mixed media pieces as if they were part of a real exhibition of my life on display. For two years I asked hard questions, recognized truths that were not always kind, and learned self-compassion beyond anything an inspirational quote could provide. Perhaps most importantly, I gave myself a language for talking about my experiences as a woman and as a human being. It is this original project that became the framework for my capstone. I wanted to empower other women to explore themselves and to create a community ready to support each other through that journey and beyond.


In expanding my original project from a personal exploration to something much larger and public, I realized I needed additional perspectives in order to create the accessible and welcoming community I envisioned. My research led me to surveying women, asking what they considered to be important contributing factors to their identity as women; I read several books and articles about womanhood, feminism, and intersectional work; and I researched workbooks and sourced information from my network about what would be impactful and what could make a difference when women started their own journey through brassy.

bringing together brassy babes

My goal for brassy has always been to empower women. Knowing that my own perspectives cannot and should not speak for others. No matter how welcoming of a space I created, I was never going to be able to provide an authentic experience if I did not start including other voices immediately. As a result, I contacted women in my network to be contributors to this first quarter of brassy. Illustrators, writers, organizers, and other women all with meaningful stores, submitted pieces that spoke to their own experiences in womanhood. Not all of these submissions seem outwardly about life as a woman, but if I learned anything from unpacking my own identity, it is that women are far more than any definitions presented to us by society.

Thanks to the generous support and inspiration of numerous women, brassy now includes essays, illustrations, and other narratives from women living out their truths. Alongside my own ideas, these voices help create an online space that allows women to explore their own thoughts, find commonalities, and support one another.

contributor spotlight

the making of brassy

developing a brand

Beyond the ideation process, my research, and my conversations with women, I worked to form a graphic identity that allowed for flexibility and that created a space where all kinds of women would feel welcome. Using Brassy: an exhibition as a launching point, I worked to create a simple yet engaging design that would work online as well as in print. Womanhood looks different for every female identifying person and it is important that brassy allows for intersectional, broad-reaching accessibility.

Warm tones, only loosely defined, embrace the traditional sense of femininity but also break away into a firery spectrum of color that feels alive with energy. Gradients breathe life into almost every asset, visually representing the full spectrum of women. Additionally, while the official title for brassy will be in Benguiat Pro, I wanted to make sure that every woman was able to see themselves in the project. With that in mind, 11 additional typefaces (including the original in Helvetica Neue) have been selected to be alternate word marks as well as to diversify digital graphics on Instagram. Knowing that this brand needs to flex with trends and societal culture, and as women grow and explore identity, change has been built into the brand. At any given time, there remains the opportunity to add or amend new typefaces as needed.

Finally, art direction for brassy focused on traditionally feminine mediums, embracing still lifes, illustration, embroidery, and textures like fabrics, florals, and softer imagery.

digital platforms

brassy required a significant amount of data and digitial asset management, as well as multiple accounts and platforms. To aid in my organization of all my information, project plans, timelines, and more, I utilized AirTable, an online tool for project management. This allowed me to brainstorm and organize simultaniously, as well as manage all the moving pieces.

For social media, I had to obtain my Instagram handle as well as the associated Facebook page in order to make it a business account. With that status, I have been able to run promotions, see analytics, and also use the online platform Later, to schedule and auto-post my posts to Instagram.

Finally, I chose to host brassy.co. on Squarespace as it is a beautiful platform that is easy to use, built to showcase visual work, and comes with all the plugins I need to make my site run well.

creating assets

From 2015–2017, I worked to create a book-full of images and essays that spoke to my own identity. For this project, I did not want to ignore all those pieces, but I also did not want to hold a monopoly on the narrative. For this reason I choose only a few very personal pieces and then chose others that spoke about womanhood and gender more broadly to be incorporated into brassy. What I found to be the most time-consuming yet fun was actually creating all the individual Instagram posts. Not only did it feel like I was able to share more, I was also able to create a larger number of graphics with less pressure to create something "perfect."

As part of brassy, I also wanted to try new skills and hone others that I felt had been neglected. This included embroidery, illustration, and photography. While time-consuming and challenging at times, I feel like although I did not create as many as I would have liked, the few pieces I did make added to the visual narrative of the project. I look forward to creating more of these pieces as the project evolves.

working with collaborators

By including other perspectives by way of contributors to brassy, I was able to bring in new artwork, new essays, and additional perspectives. In my invitation, I made it very clear that I wanted each women to submit something that felt real and authentic to their experiences as a woman and told them I would not provide a topic unless they asked for an assignment. While this ensured the authenticity of brassy, it also created project management tasks and complicated my timeline. Now I was managing other individuals, waiting to create my own assets until I knew what they would create, and then working to collect all the materials I needed. At the end of the project, I was so honored to have the submissions that came in and am excited to see what this project will become in the future!

writing a workbook

When I decided to expand brassy from a personal project to a public platform, I found that my workbook plan also expanded exponentially. In order to ensure that I was creating something that was both meaningful as well as accessible to a majority of women, I realized I needed to both broaden the scope of the content as well as work to ensure that it framed all reflections in a positive, non-triggering light. Each life is incredibly varied, so while writing, I found I had to keep questions more open-ended than anticipated, design for more space than perhaps I would need, and acknowledge perspectives I had not needed to explore in my own self-work. This was both challenging and exciting—increasing the time needed as well as the production costs, but allowing me to invest more deeply into something that ultimately is a far more effective tool for women.

learn more

  • Visit brassy to check out essays, art, and so much more!
  • Interested in exploring identity? Check out the resource tab on brassy.co.
  • For more information on my own personal exploration and research, visit my research archive or visit Brassy: an exhibition.
  • Do you identify as a woman? Want to participate in making brassy a more inclusive space? Take our survey and tell us what womanhood means for you!
  • If your interested in the process of creating brassy, take a trip down memory lane and explore my progress tumblr.
  • Bibliography and citations available here.

maren nelson

My goal is make work that solves problems and brings beauty and joy into everyday life.

A former art history major turned communications and marketing maven, I've been known to get weak in the knees in front of old masters, good branding, and the occasional Instagram post. Made of equal parts pragmatism and sass, I take pride in being a mission-based designer and strive to tell meaningful stories through beautiful design. I truly want to create things that make a positive impact on others and the greater community, all while injecting the world with a bit of fun.