In the Press – Reviews and Interviews

Messages to the Heart and Elise and Phil Okrend have been featured in many local and national publications:


In the Spirit Of Business Radio Interview, April 24, 2015. We were pleased to share our perspectives on building a business as a couple and our journey using creative expression to effect positive change for others. Sheyenne Kreamer, our host, was wonderful in how she led us to talk about what has moved us to do what we do. Take a listen to the ineterview, and let us know how it speaks to you, and what ideas it might bring.

SOPHIE MAGAZINE, October 2014 Review in Asheville’s Premier Women’s Magazine

LIVING WELL Radio Show, November 17, 2014. Elise and Phil Okrend were interviewed by Dr. Bob Hanna about the inspiration behind the creation of Messages to the Heart. 


RAPID RIVER MAGAZINE, August 2014 Review by Kathleen Colburn in Asheville’s oldest and most read Arts and Culture Magazine.

“In a world of distraction, this book calls you home.”

Elise and Phil Okrend were interviewed about their book, Messages to the Heart on ABC TV News. August 3, 2014.

JOY OF UNION, REMEMBERING OUR CONNECTION Radio Interview, 6/14 Interviewed by Joy Regina Melchizedek and TJ on creativity, spirituality and the making of Messages to the Heart. 

“Isn’t it amazing that following  your heart takes you in totally different directions. I call it going into the void and creating something from nothing.”


The book immediately conveys the love these two creators have for their reader as well as their commitment to growth and healing. The symbiosis between the visual image and the written word creates more than each alone. Together there is grace, softness and a sacred invitation to pause, reflect and open to a new perspective or shift your internal state.

BOOK REVIEW – MESSAGES TO THE HEART, The Laurel of Asheville, 4/14

Contains spectacular images and words that will touch you, move you, and maybe even encourage you.


The Asheville couple’s new coffee table book – “Messages to the Heart: Reflections of Beauty and Truth” – is designed to be a tool “that readers can use again and again to pull themselves through life’s challenges,

IN THE SPIRIT – MESSAGES TO THE HEART, Interview with Elise and Phil Okrend, Mountain Xpress, Asheville, 2/4/14

We consciously tried to match the passages to the paintings by sensing what feeling or emotion the art was calling forth.

EVERYDAY CONNECTION, Radio interview with Hosts Rick O’Shields and Jean Victoria Norloch




A Meaningful Match – Asheville Couple Produces Inspirational Book of Words and Pastels

Asheville, NC March 2014 – Asheville couple, Elise Okrend and her husband Phil have a passion to help others find their own personal truths. Elise, a pastel painter and Phil, a writer and professional coach have come together to produce their latest creative offering, an inspiring new coffee table book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth.

The hard cover book features 37 of Elise’s healing pastel paintings each paired with Phil’s mindful passages derived from years of coaching clients to achieve successful change in their lives. The book captures the spirit of Asheville and its surrounding natural beauty with paintings of light, clouds, mountains and lakes of areas such as the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Fontana and the Great Smokies.

“Not just a beautiful art book, Messages to the Heart is also a tool that readers can use again and again to pull themselves through life’s challenges,” said Phil Okrend.

“Listen to the calm, inner voice inside. It has all the wisdom you will ever need,” reads the chapter titled Reflections on Empowerment. The words are paired with a pastel of an early morning scene titled “Purple Haze” over the mountains.

The book is divided into specific chapters to inspire the reader to connect with their own fulfilling life vision. Chapters include Reflections on Following Your Heart, Unity, Love, Optimism, Transformation, Awareness and Empowerment. 

The idea for the book actually sprang from social media. Phil began sharing short, inspiring messages on his Facebook wall at the same time Elise posted her pastel landscapes.  While scrolling through the facebook feed, they noticed how much their pieces fit and enhanced meaning.

“I think the book is just a culmination of our creative and spiritual paths”, says Phil Okrend. “We are really excited…we think the book is going to touch a lot of people.”

This is not the couples’ first creative business collaboration. The Okrends founded a successful greeting card company, MixedBlessing in 1990 based on messages of peace, tolerance and diversity. The story behind their company was featured in national media such as “The Wall Street Journal”, “USA Today” and “Good Morning America.”

The new Asheville transplants are originally from New York and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1994 to grow their greeting card business and raise their children. When the Okrends youngest son graduated high school last June, the next natural move for the couple was Asheville. They had been traveling back and forth for a few years to Elise’s fine art gallery space at the Kress Emporium, downtown, and loved the creative vibe of the area.

Elise is now focusing on her fine art business. Along with her gallery space in the Kress Emporium, starting March 1st, Elise will be exhibiting and working in a new location in the River Arts District, at the White Space Gallery in the Wedge Building. Phil continues to help clients as a certified life and business coach, incorporating writing, public speaking and original reflective music into his practice. 

The Okrends’ were recently part of an author reading and book signing at Malaprops Bookstore in February.  They are looking forward to a spring book release celebration for Messages to the Heart at The Hotel Indigo on Wednesday, April 9th. The event to be held from 5:00-7:00pm will take place in the main lobby and includes a reception, book signing and art display. 

Messages to the Heart is available for $29.95, at the following Asheville locations,  Whitespace Gallery in the River Arts District, The Kress Emporium, Malaprop’s Bookstore, The Asheville Museum of Art Store, The Asheville Visitors Center Gift Shop and online at and Barnes &

Contact: Elise and Phil Okrend