Making of Issue 3, HOME.

adventures, favorites, messy thoughts

Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

April 9, 2017, Emma’s Diary

It’s kind of ironic that I’m putting together the Home Issue at a time where I don’t have a home at all. I’m staying in somebody else’s apartment in the city that I won’t be in for much longer. In a personal sense I’m not at home with myself, I’m feeling apart from my body and self-conscious for the first time in a long time. I’m also not at home with many people right now. I think that’s the part that’s possibly the strongest, but I’m also just got out of an abusive relationship, which left me feeling isolated from people I loved the most. 

I’m coming to a realization that home is a place where you just completely belong. That place can be within you, within a person, with a physical space, and if you’re lucky you can get all three.

Right now I have maybe 1/3, let’s see where I’m at when this Issue is done. 




Sammy + I in bed, Sam with a morning cup of Joe

The event that kicked off this Issue was going back to my childhood home in Somerville, MA. I was living in New York at the time, and I texted my friend Sammy and asked if she wanted to go, promising I would take her to Salem afterwards. (she has a thing for witches and Victorian houses). We took the train down to meet up with Michelle (the graphic designer for the mag) and she picked us up in her big, red, jeep.

We drove for maybe three hours, listening exclusively to the Lumineers. I can’t hear that album now without feeling the East Coast air and feeling the burn of black coffee on my tongue.

After seeing my childhood home, we sat in a diner, splitting a sad plate of soggy, salty fries and I filled up pages and pages of my notebook. These moments, musings, and memories resurfacing are now the first pages of the Issue.

The photos above are from the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at in Salem, Oregon. Sammy, Chelle, and I split bottles of wine and discussed how our childhood and where we come from shape who we are. In the morning we went to walk down to the water and look at all of the massive, put together Victorian houses filled with more than their worth of furniture.

My lease ended in January, I didn’t re-sign, and with nowhere to go, and nowhere to be, I went to Cuba.


Portland was not part of the plan.

After I went to Cuba, my grandma went to Portugal for two months, leaving an open apartment on the tenth floor of a building downtown. At this point I had no idea where I wanted to live, and wasn’t ready to sign another lease.

It became a temporary, six-week home. Maybe the fourth week I started falling into place, going boxing, running, to my favorite coffee shop and bookstore a few blocks away. While life was falling into a natural rhythm, there was a date it was going to be over, always looming over my head.

In this limbo, with beautifully large windows might I add, is where the mag came together. Cut-outs, ideas, outlines, and emails were all sorted out on the fluffy white carpet in my striped pajamas. I watched the content build and a snapshot of what home means to different people unfold. With each article I was editing, I couldn’t help but cry, at loss, for nostalgia, or from happiness. Each piece hit me in such a different way, even the ones that I wrote. Emotional nights of editing had me running to the Safeway around the corner for Vegan Ben & Jerry’s to sink my fork into (does anyone else eat ice cream with a fork, or is that just me?)

I got a lot of comfort and inspiration from Portland. It was the closest feeling to home I had in a while. My aunt and cousins live there, so I went over to play cards or help with prom, and do normal, family things that I had never gotten to do with them since I had always lived a plane ride away.


On our last day of being in Portland, I took my Aunt’s car out and picked up Cybelle. We went for a long drive through the back roads, with strawberry lemonade and fries in the center console from Burgerville. We listened to Channel Orange twice, feeling the end of this chapter, this version of home, and knowing everything would change again.



San Francisco is where my parents met, (my dad went to Berkley, my mom went to Golden Gate) and where my mom lived when she was a child.

My aunt tells me stories about “Orthodontist Day” as she calls it. My mom & auntie were the among the first test subjects for braces, having to go to the Orthodontists every month from the time my aunt was 6 and my mom was 10. They would go in the morning, take the whole day off from school, ride cable cars, get ice cream, watch ladies fold fortune cookies, go to Baker’s Beach. It was always an adventure.

I think about them growing up there, being so young and having the city at your finger tips because of public transportation. San Francisco is magical as it is, but through the eyes of a child it must be a dream.

When Cybelle and I landed in San Francisco, our priority was iced coffee and wandering around the rainbow-adorned streets of the Castro. Around 4 pm we decided that yeah, maybe we should find a place for the night.

That’s where Sheila comes in.

My go-to for place is to stay is always at a Bed and Breakfast. You get local insight, free breakfast, and a homey feeling. Hotels always feel a bit too rigid for me— the sheets are crisp and white and the windows almost never open.

We found Noi’s Nest online, and called and she had a room available, and would give it to us for a discount that night. (and the next and the next, as it would turn out). Paige arrived late, around 3 in the morning after two delayed flights. She scooched in next to us, and we all three slept in the same king bed.

None of us brought toothpaste, we each wore the same jeans every day of the trip, and walked around 8 miles a day.


Sheila in the living room, in a headdress she designed, By Paige

Sheila made us feel inadequate every morning, asking what we had done the previous night. Before we could muster up the pathetic excuse of we spent all night editing and then fell asleep, she would interrupt, “Well, I went to three parties!”


Paige getting ready, photo by me
Our room, photos by Paige
First day, walking around San Francisco, photo by Paige
Art gallery my godparents took us to, by me


Getting ourselves together over $3 chinese food before an interview in Oakland, by me

We had a long day in Oakland. Took the Bart in the morning, got giant cups of iced coffee and started the day. On the schedule was two interviews with two artists, and two hours of downtime in-between.

I fell in love with Oakland pretty quickly. It’s affectionately referred to as the Brooklyn of San Francisco, but it has a sunnier charm than that. Tall, warehouse style buildings, bright blue skies, and a lake with unexplained rainbow letters that say “Fairyland” jutting out from a grassy hill. We sat by the water for a bit, all of us with headphones in our ears.

Downtime in Oakland, by me
Transportaion: Will’s car, and the Bart, by Paige
Behind the scenes: Interviewing Olivia, by me

San Francisco was where we did the main feature spread for the Issue, and shot almost every photo that you see throughout. I also put together a photo series with some of my favorite photos that Paige took on this trip.

These photos, feelings, set the vibe for the layout of this Issue. I pulled colors from the images, paid attention to the text, layout, and feel, and heavily based the direction around the images we gathered in San Francisco. This Issue is heavy with beautiful photos, and I wanted to emphasize that. We added 25 more pages than the previous Issues, because there was nothing I wanted to cut.

I gave a lot of room on pages for photos to breathe, thinking about how someone would flip through and see colors, or spot something they would want to rip out.

San Francisco is a place of possibilities, of freedom. Where being a very eccentric character feels very real, where you can live any way, as big as your imagination can go. It became the heartbeat of this Issue, a spark of potential, a malleability of Home.



I thought this Issue would be done by the time we were in London, but I’m not one to rush something. All of the articles, photos, thoughts have been gathered, but the layout needed work. The question of how to make this the next step in the series, but also make it its own entity.

The first couple days in London were a blur of jet lag and a cold that had been festering in my chest for a while.

I slept fourteen hours straight the first day.

And the second.

After recovering, we quickly got the hang of the tube, and relocated to North London (not wanting to overstay our welcome anywhere). I started to settle in more. Days of running in the morning around the Heath, getting coffee at a local bakery, and working in the back room of the flat. Light always helps me work, and big windows were such a blessing. I put my computer up by the window and worked all day, besides taking a break to walk down to the cemetery.

The colors, texts, photos all started to come together and tell the story.


Our temporary room, North London
Photos by Cybelle, in West London


From my Journal

This Issue took me all over, and took me through a journey of questioning myself, my own definition of home. But even beyond that, everyone who was part of this project dug deep and told their most vulnerable stories of home.

Of divorce, being adopted, being in love, feeling alone, feeling like they don’t belong in their own home, growing up surrounded by racist rhetoric, and what this all means to them now, and how they, and you the reader, grow from it. There are over 30 cities represented in this Issue and dozens of countries, including Thailand, Dominican Republic, France, El Salvador, Australia.. not to mention one girl who has lived in 10 different countries.

I wanted to make this Issue reveal people to themselves, whether they had travelled their entire life, or never left their hometown.

We all want to belong somewhere, so this Issue asks: where?

Or maybe more importantly: What does home feel like to me?





  1. WOW. Just wow. Can’t describe how this story (and your unique way of telling one) made me feel. You’re so special Emma. Can’t wait to dive in in this issue, I have a feeling that it will be the best one so far.
    Much love to you from Italy,

  2. Caroline says

    Always love this type of post… makes me feel so close to you

  3. This made me cry a bit, I too often tell lies about my life, yes I’ve got lots of savings! Yes I’m completely sure that the path I’m on is right! Yes I’m happy to have signed a year lease! The concept of home has been lost to me for a long time, I flit from city to city, constantly relocating and always feeling like a misshapen puzzle piece someone’s tried to jam in haphazardly. I’m trying to build a fortress of home within myself, but it’s a slow going process. I can’t wait to get my hands on this issue, I have a feeling it’s going to be so alive with the pulse of so many beautiful souls that I’ll never want to put it down. ♥️ Take care of yourself, and give yourself a pat on the back- you deserve it 😊

  4. Anonymous says

    You’re killing it Emma, there’s no need to lie about your life. We all have struggles of our own. You are finding your purpose and where you are happy and that is a task in itself. Be well

  5. Nikki says

    Hello, my name is Nikki. I doubt anyone will see this but, this was amazing!! Wow!!! I would really like to talk to someone about some advice. It’s definitely okay if no one answers. I’m kind of expecting it, haha.
    But anyways, this was fantastic !!
    Great job!!!!

    • Anonymous says

      Hi, my name’s Jenn. I know I’m probably not the person you specifically wanted to talk to, but if you need a nice stranger to talk to I’m here 🙂 My email is or you can DM me on ig (jennrobertss).

  6. Alicia Kars says

    Reading this feels like I’ve known you for years as a close friend. I loved and believed every word. This was so beautifully written and the pictures made the story even more complete. Can’t wait for the issue. <3

  7. With No Disrespect says

    Hi Emma + team, I like reading your blog but I really feel the need to articulate something. I am guessing that you are someone who (I’m guessing since in one video you said you’re still living off your parents’ health coverage) grew up as an upper middle class white woman. You are able to travel around the world yet complain about it as if it’s a burden on you. Oakland is a city with a history of the black panthers’ movement and continued tense racial relations, yet calling it a West Coast “Brooklyn” shows the privilege that as a white woman you’re able to see the city just as a hip vacation and don’t recognize the history of the city. Did you reach out to any BLM activists in Oakland? Interview an African American person about the experience of having a historical birthplace of black activism as their home? Or were the Oakland/SF interviews solely white people?

  8. Anonymous says

    You’re a blessings! Everything you do is art. I love it all, can’t wait for issue 3.

    Much love from So. California,

    xx Teresita

  9. This is beautifully written. Emotions are put into this writing, it makes me feel some sort of feeling. The messy heads have given me inspirations to journal, write so I decided to make one just a year ago. I hope my content inspire people also. 🙂

  10. Ohhh man this got me daydreaming for hoURS. I love love love these articles, reading this made me feel so fuzzy and motivated for the future! I can’t wait until I can grab a copy of the “HOME” issue (first time I’ll ever buy something online)
    Much love, G

  11. Phoenix Coleman says

    This is so beautiful, every post I read is phenomenal and it inspires me to write and photograph and everyone’s writing makes me feel!! I love that about this magazine and I can’t wait to read this next issue. Someday I hope a piece of mine can be featured!

  12. Anonymous says

    Hi, can you make a post about abusive relationships and getting out of them? I 100% understand if you’re uncomfortable doing that but it would be really helpful…

  13. an issue that i want, need, and is getting shipped here tomorrow
    many transitions, and more questions.
    incessant departures, yet paused emotions.
    it’s relieving to find a community that feels oddly similar about this topic, ‘home’.

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