Archive for the ‘my story’ Category
Right around this time of year, I get one part sentimental, and another part thoughtful. 6 years ago next month, I launched my little ETSY shop in hopes of “finding” my career in design. It’s a journey I talk about here. Like in this post, this post or this post. But before you go post surfing (sounds like a sport?) stick with me. I am often asked in interviews about what led to what, and how I began designing fabric, or how I broke into book illustration without an agent, etc. etc. etc. And there is, yes, a journey.
But I saw this quote yesterday on the www and it sums up pretty much what I believe in in terms of going where you need to go, and landing what it is you are meant to land. I really can’t say it any better, unless God and divinity was mentioned somewhere in there.
I look back to the timid, shy but naively excited Sarah Jane 6 years ago, who needed to find a way to pay the bills, and I look today at her and see that she still sometimes wonders how it’s all going to work out. With 4 kids now, and with even more of a desire to keep the train going, I often sit there and think “Should I be working harder in this area? Or this area?” or thoughts like “Maybe I should be trying harder to reach out to this contact person, or that contact person.” And often, like anyone who runs a business, it can be at the expense of just making beautiful art!
But I am reminded, like I was at the very beginning, that when you have a calling to make beautiful things, keep making them. Don’t stop so that you can chase up the wrong ladder. Instead, build the ladder, and those opportunities will climb up to you.
Doors will open naturally when you are truly doing your thing.
And that’s what’s happened to me. I’ve had my fair share of blood sweat and tears (literally) and I truly believe that when you keep moving in the direction that you were born to move in, those things in your life that you need to support you, will come.
Have you experienced that?
It’s pretty awesome.
And right now in my life, with that sweet baby taking up most of everything I’ve got, I sometimes feel like time is standing still….or rushing past me fast…I can’t tell. I’ve said no to opportunities that have come that just didn’t work out because I wasn’t ready, and I’ve felt ready for opportunities that just don’t seem to be coming. The answer really lies in naming your priorities and staying true to them. And the right things just work out.
It’s all rather wonderful. Everyone has their own unique story of becoming. I’m glad I get to share mine with you in a little small way.
I’ll be sharing more posts about my journey, and my business this week and next, as I enter into 6 years of being Sarah Jane Studios! Wow. What a trip.
If you have any questions, or topics you’ve always wanted to talk about or find out, comment below and I’ll do my best to integrate it into the conversation. With so many people, especially women, crafting out a career from their art and their motherhood, it’s such an important conversation to be a part of.
I can honestly say I’ve been wanting to make this update for well over a year.
You know that feeling when you’ve gone through that closet in your house that never seems to be organized? and then you clean it out so well you feel like you could call Martha and tell her about it?
That’s how I feel right now.
So, there are lots of changes in every corner of this blog. But here are the biggies:
DIY, FREEBIES & COMMUNITY:
Now you can access all your favorite tutorials, Free Downloads, and whatever project or printable you need! This blog is growing into a place to access resources and I’m so excited to have a gallery of projects and free stuff! Horray!
I also created the blog so you’d have easy access to participating in the communities around your favorite products! Click around, and you’ll be able to get involved and inspired.
I’m bringing on only my favorite Sponsors to give you direct access to fabric stores carrying my fabric, amazing designers and other businesses that are sisters to this site. Please click over, and get to know them. They are all amazing. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, contact me here.
I’ve upgraded my comments section, so that you can actually reply to eachother, to me, and really have a conversation going. It’s all in real time as well, and it’s mighty cool!
And see that cute heart at the bottom of each post? This is a new little thing that makes it easy to LIKE a post, if you don’t have time to comment! Just another way to spread the love:)
EASY TO FIND EVERYTHING
My biggest frustration with my last space was that it was basically hard to find anything. And I want to keep giving you great stuff! So now, more than ever, I’m super motivated to offer more tutorials, printables, and lots of great stuff! And, it’s super easy to find.
So, I’m going to sign off and let you click around. Get to know the site. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section! And holler if there are any trainwrecks.
I’m really looking forward to a NEW SARAH JANE: More focus on daily activity here, more illustration, Projects and more inspiration!!!
Have fun surfing around, and thanks for all your support of this space. It’s getting better every day!
If you’ve been with me the past couple months, you are starting so notice some changes that I’ve been making to the shop and heard me talk about making more room in my life for creative living. It’s been an amazing few weeks, and after reading all your 700 comments from the survey that you took a while back, I’ve really been so much more confident to move forward with some changes that I’ve been afraid to make!
One of the biggest reasons, according to the survey, that you come here to visit me on the blog, is to see new art and to get free downloads and tutorials. Which, really, is why I take the time out of my day to read blogs as well! I want to not just get inspired, but I want to DO something with what I see. Download it, craft it, make it, print it. You get what I mean right? We all have such limited time, and I want to be more involved with creating more illustration and design that you can use! That’s where the fun is, right?
So, I came to 3 conclusions:
1) I need to redesign my blog so that you can find and access projects and downloads easier. And then I need to take the time to offer more projects and printables! Yay!
2) I need to open my blog to sponsors so that I can justify taking the time to offer more inspiration here!
3) I want to help you get to know the people that either carry my products or offer things that you know I’d want to share.
I’ve grappled with the idea of having sponsors for a long time, but the truth is, I want to offer more resources of my own and of other creative businesses that support what I do! So really, it’s a win win.
I’m nearly done redesigning my blog with the talented Melanie of Fifth & Hazel, and I hope it will make getting around this blog and the resources here so much more easy and fun!
Do you have a business that supports what we are doing here at Sarah Jane? Do you have a fabric store that carries my fabric? Or do you offer sewing patterns that you know readers here would love to see? What about parenting or educational services? Are you a creative business that would like to get some notice?
With the holidays right around the corner, this is a great time to hop on board!
Email Ann at ann (at) sarahjanestudios (dot) com for information and rates. We’d love to hear from you!
And PS: Thank you also for entering the giveaway!!! What a turn out. You can see the 5 winners at the bottom of the giveaway post here.
Today is a long post. But stick with me.
I’ve been considering a really big decision for the past year or so, and have finally come to a grand conclusion. And wow, has it been a journey of faith, patience, trust, sweat and tears. It’s hard to make decisions about your business, especially when they are founded upon deep and lifelong dreams, your personal family income and your creative needs as a person. But these past few months, as I’ve battled anxiety, stress, indecision and fear, I’ve learned to listen to God, my heart and my instincts, and I’m moving onward, ready to enter into a new phase for Sarah Jane.
Gosh. Writing that down so simply doesn’t really seem to be a big deal. Maybe it does. But to me, it’s a conclusion I’ve considered for a long time, but wasn’t ready to try until now.
Let me back up.
5 years ago this month, I sat on my bed, wondering where I was going to get work with 2 babies under 2, no family in town, 1 car and a husband who was working full time and going to graduate school at night. In tears, I finally got my answer: Start selling my art work on ETSY. I had a very strong goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator and a textile designer, but without any art schooling I had no resume, networks or resources. So starting an online shop made sense for 2 reasons: it would bring in a little cash to offset the demands of my husbands graduate schooling, and it would build a portfolio that I desperately needed to start putting myself “out there” as an artist.
In the back of my mind, I also dreamed of branding an online shop with all my creations…a high quality children’s brand with decor and soft goods for children’s spaces. And so as my shop grew, I made that the natural direction of Sarah Jane. I wanted to have a place where people could come and find products for their home that would inspire simple childhood.
But, as my shop grew, it became too much for me to handle. So I got help. And more help, and the business finally grew to the point where we couldn’t handle the orders in my own home, and we decided to fulfill our orders outside of my studio. It was a big move, but I knew what I needed to stay happy and balanced, and running a business this size at home wasn’t one of them.
But something else happened that I didn’t expect. There is a gap between LITTLE creative business and BIG creative business that I got stuck in. By taking the leap into bigger business, I was forced to be making huge decisions that weighed on my mind far more than I wanted them to. This business isn’t a hobby…it is a necessary part of our family’s income, but going from small to big took decisions and planning that were far more than I wanted to handle, and I found myself more stressed than I had ever been. I had turned into a business guru and a marketing expert….and I wasn’t spending my time getting lost in creative pleasures and projects like I needed to. I wasn’t able to tap into that place all artists go to when they need to get inspired. The best part of me…the part of me that is an artist…was getting squashed by the demands of growing a business. I knew I was losing the joy and the charm, and I didn’t know how to get it back.
But I’m a hard worker. I’m a “figure it out-er.” A dreamer, believer, and I don’t quit. I had some really great things going, and opportunities with promise, and I knew that I could figure this out. After all, it was what I always wanted, right?
But I started to see that maybe the dream I had of the charming children’s boutique filled to the brim wasn’t creating the lifestyle that I craved. I was building something that I had dreamed of, but as I got closer to that dream, I realized I didn’t want it after all. Which is a hard fact to face. Because you believe that with JUST a little more hard work, you’ll figure it out. Someday it will balance out, ease up, get easier, sail more smoothly. But I wasn’t seeing the horizon. And I was thinking that running a printer out of my bedroom was actually when I was happiest and most creative. Ouch. That was a harsh reality. Was all this growth for nothing?
How do you climb down a ladder you thought was getting you to where you wanted to go?
I realized that by answering the question: How do I wan to feel every day? How do I want to feel in 10 years? And what daily choices will achieve that? stopped the train and made me take a serious look at what I wanted out of all this. Logic was telling me I needed to keep trying harder, find clarity through experience, learning and research, get more business experience, etc. etc. But after all that, I still felt like I was missing something really important and I came to realize the answer was inside me all a long: I need to provide an income for my family, but I’m going to do it in a way that brings me the greatest sense of purpose and power. And accept that in my head, a full shop with pretty things was what I thought would get me there. But it wasn’t.
So this change is ultimately putting myself in a position to make fewer business decisions, and more artistic ones. And as much as I fear what will be in store, I actually have faith that because I’ve made the right decision (as hard as it was!) I will be far better off in every aspect of my life. Since coming to this decision last week, I’ve been more inspired, more creative, more free and much much lighter. I can’t wait to see what comes of all this. And hey…I’ve earned an honorary business degree, learned how to balance and manage a lot of things at once, figured out the difference between when to push and when to let go…and most importantly…I’ve come to realize what I really want out of it all.
Looking back, I started my shop to open up freelance jobs in publishing and fabric. I guess I figured I could run a growing business, mother 3 children, keep house, serve in the community AND illustrate books and fabric too. I felt compelled to try it, and for me the answer was to stick to what I do best & am most passionate about.
And so that brings me to now.
I’ve made the choice to let go of everything in the shop except for art prints and downloads.
No more paper embroidery patterns, cards, holiday calendars, gifts tags, bookplates, or journals.
We are going to sell out, and when they are gone, they are gone! I will sell through the holidays what is currently in stock, and after Jan. 1 the shop will only be shipping prints, and emailing PDF’s.
What that does mean however, is more books, fabric, downloads, art prints, tutorials and creative sharing.
I’m really excited for this new change. It’s a little scary, but I love the idea that I’ll be able to illustrate more books and design more fabric, and take more artistic liberties.
For all of you who have been with me since the beginning…I love you! Thank you for being on this journey with me! I share it, in hopes that if there are others out there who are in that battle ground of figuring out how and what they want out of their creative business, that you will find the support and encouragement you need. Cause changing course can be hard to do, especially when it requires looking deep into your heart and examining closely.
But for now, this is where I am. This is where I’ve arrived in order to shape this next phase for me.
Love to you all, and excited for this new chapter!
PS: the above quote is for you too.
and PPS: I have a brand new collection of prints launching tomorrow. Nautical prints and new sizes to play with. I can’t wait to show you!
Thanks so much you guys! Over 700 of you filled out the survey from last week and it really did give me such a glimpse into what you guys value and love about coming here!
I’ve really learned a lot about what your favorite products are, what you would like to see more of, and what you love seeing here on the blog. I’m just so energized by hearing your input!
It might sound silly, because I have a public space where I can communicate often with you, but designing and creating a business can be a very lonely road. Mostly because my creations are my own….and even though I’ve been doing this for almost 5 years now, there is that nagging feeling of “Will anyone even like this?” Creating from your heart while trying to make sure that people are still connecting to you and your work is a balance that I find very enjoyable….but it can be lonely at times! So, hearing your feedback and input was just what I needed. Thank you!
Here’s a print I did this weekend and I’ll be making more to release in about a week-ish. More Out to Sea inspired artwork and stuff to go with the fabric that you are starting to find store!
Have a lovely Monday, everyone! And thanks again!
PS: The coupon code at the end of the survey is valid only through Monday, so don’t forget!
I know I know….
It’s not even Christmas, but I need to take your time this morning and say…..
MY DEBUT PICTURE BOOK IS RELEASED TODAY!
There I said it. I’m done now.
Well, maybe not. I really do want to say a little bit more, but honestly, I get a little shy. Isn’t that silly? It’s like stage fright. My fabric line was such a whirlwind release, and the art I create in the shop is usually the same. There was no time to be nervous.
But books are slow. Created fast and with crazy deadlines, but then you wait. And wait. And wait.
And the waiting has made me a little timid. Like, I want to say, “Are you still there? Do you still care? I made this book for you over a year ago….do you still want to read it?”
(Insert pigeon toes and flushed cheeks here)
Regardless, today it’s happening. All pre-ordered books are being delivered by white and brown trucks all over the country today. They will be (oh so gently laid) onto little doorsteps where a man in uniform will place brown cardboard boxes filled with art that I made in my basement studio, while listening to Christmas Choir music in July. A book with magic in the text that had gave me goosebumps the moment my editor read it to me over the phone for the first time. A book about Jesus and the light He brings to all the world. A book that still has my children begging to read it, even though it’s not even Halloween. A book that I’ve placed little secrets into that no one but myself and my children really know.
A book that was illustrated while moving twice, pregnant, going on partial bed rest, having a baby, buying a house, wading through financial difficulties and struggling through post partum, all while trusting in God to pull us through. It was quite literally a miracle in and of itself to be patiently wading through the “stuff” life brings, and then to illustrate the Christmas Story at night. I don’t think there could have been a better release for those emotions…I needed God, and I got to draw my emotions on paper. This was my place to put in my feelings of my Savior, the miracle of His birth, and all the relationships that were formed around that miracle.
And now you get to be a part of that.
I actually didn’t pre-order any. Looking back maybe I should have! But I will have the honor of hand delivering copies to some very special people. And that will make for quite the perfect day.
I won’t post about this any more until the air is a little crisper and colder…but I just had to share a special moment. A life goal. A day that won’t ever come again.
I think I’ll go kiss a little lamb:)
“On a quiet but wondrous Christmas Eve, the nativity story comes to life,
and families everywhere celebrate the miracle of Christmas.
Nola Buck’s simple poetic text and tender illustrations by Sarah Jane Wright
make this gentle holiday goodnight book a joy to read and share with those you love!”
So, this is quite early in the game. But I had to share! My first picture book, A Christmas Goodnight, won’t be coming out until the fall, but this is the first time that I can actually start releasing some images! It’s so intersting: I’ve been working on this since August of 2009, and it’s only just now that I can show you what I’ve spent the past year of my life doing:)
I won’t tell you too much right now…there’s still quite a while until any of you will be thinking about Christmas again. But, since you are all friends…and friends just want to share….I thought you’d love to catch a glimpse of what A CHRISTMAS GOODNIGHT is about.
Really, this post should be about my husband, friends and family who supported me all along the way. This has been my dream illustrate children’s books…and I never realized that illustrating a children’s book while mothering young children would be so challenging. But I’ve learned so much a long the way, which I plan on sharing a little later.
But for now: it’s official.
A Christmas Goodnight
By Nola Buck Illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
Oct. 1, 2011
Not available for Pre-order just yet…hold your horses.
Or rather, Happy Ground Hog Day!
(pencil drawing, age 10)
The past few months I have actually been rather pensive as I’ve looked back on the journey I’ve been on the past 3 years. I had this idea in my head of what I wanted to do (open a shop selling artwork and stationery for children) but in looking back, I realize how unconventional my path was, as well as how unexpectedly I found my artistic voice. I’ve written and rewritten this post over and over…it’s a rather hard thing to write about since I am still in the thick of it! But I wanted to share some of my thoughts as well as some of my path to how I ended up learning how to find my voice as an artist.
I mentioned in the Part I portion of the story, that Sarah Jane Studios began with the intention of getting my husband through a Masters program as well as my need to open up my artistic side. I’ve always been an artist, and though I am mostly untrained, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life being a mother and living creatively with my art. Ever since I can remember, I’d planned on being an artist and a mother..a children’s illustrator even. And when I found myself at that age, my decision remained unchanged.
See, I had put my art on hold, while I spent 5 years studying Musical Theater at BYU, and then a few more years after that while I taught voice lessons to support my husband while he finished his Bachelor’s Degree. I craved getting into my art again, but it just wasn’t the right time. I had other areas I wanted to develop in myself, and other arts to explore. And looking back, I am really glad I didn’t study art. As hard as it was to not take an academic art class in college, I learned more about expressing myself by studying theater.
But when it came time to get back into art again, I was ready to make a living off it. Well, I wasn’t ready. That was the problem. But I was in a position where I had to. I knew I could do it, but I also knew that it was going to take time to find my “voice” that was real and truly was my own. That was going to take time. And I will say right now, that I am still finding my voice…and that my voice is changing…but I needed to find, at the least, an authentic place to start. And I didn’t know where.
Pencil Study, 2003
The kind of art that I was familiar with would be considered Fine Art. The classes I had taken and the studying that I had done on my own, was classical in nature: Figure Drawing, Oil Painting, etc. And I loved it. Here are a few sketches that would be considered the work that I studied at home. I’d read books and sketch and paint, teaching myself the best I could.
Profile of Kenneth, 2005
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’d spend in Fine Art galleries with goosebumps all over me from a pencil sketch of the movement of the human figure and the mood that it created from just the gesture. Or the way that an oil painting, when painted with layer upon layer of a certain glazing technique would motivate me to start a new painting.
Portrait of a friends house, 2004
Not only did I love this style of art, but that is also what I had studied. Most, if not all of my art created up to that point, was hours and hours and hours of work.
Portrait of Kenneth, 2005
This portrait for instance, created when Addie was just starting to walk, was the last oil painting I did to date. I started painting in oils when I was 10 years old, so it’s very natural for me because it’s where I started painting. But in trying to decide a medium of art to make money off of, I knew that oil painting wasn’t for me because 1) it took too long, and 2) I didn’t have the academic training to keep up with gallery artists. Academic painting takes years and years of studying and time. Something that young mother of 2 babies and a husband who was teaching and going to school didn’t have time for. And to be honest, I didn’t really want to. I wanted to do something in the children’s industry. But what?
I started exploring with what I knew was popular. This was an interesting road. If you ever want to know what do NOT do, do what you think is popular! But I had to start somewhere. And just as I studying and copied artists as a teenager, I learned that when you are starting out, it’s important to see what has already been done, so that you can venture off and do your own thing.
At the time, hand painted personalized wall art was the rage, so I tried to take my own spin on that. Ugh. It was painful. I knew I wanted to stay in the children’s art world, but how? This was an interesting time in my life. I had a deadline for opening a shop by October 2007, and it July. I realized after a good 2 months of this that it just wasn’t me, It wasn’t challenging enough, and that I wasn’t born to do what everyone else seemed to be doing at the time.
That realization left me with an entire summer of doing nothing. I had spent a good 6 months creating art that I thought would be marketable, but never enjoying a second of it. I had to find MY voice. And it just wasn’t coming. This was a really hard time for me, because if you know me, you’ll know that I get really excited about things, and I tend to go all the way with it. I don’t like giving up on dreams. It’s very depressing. But I wasn’t finding what seemed to fit me, and what I could market. Taking time off was the only thing I could do.
But by early September, the inspiration started to come. I decided to start drawing again…in the way that I enjoyed most. I wasn’t worried about what it looked like, or what was going to be “good.” Here’s a portrait of Ian during that time, when I was just illustrating from my heart.
Portrait of Ian at age 18 months
I realized, by stepping back, my true voice was in illustration. As much as I enjoyed fine art and painting, what I enjoyed the most was line work. Most of what I studied and was attracted to as a child was illustration and print. And though I had spent a lot of time learning about the fine art side, the way my brain saw the world was in a much simpler form….line drawing and more simple illustration. And as a mother, I noticed that so much of art decor at the time was painted canvas type art, but where was the illustrative art? (This was over 3 years ago, remember). Old School, retro and vintage was trending again, and my favorite illustrative art was vintage picture books. So, it seemed to make sense that I needed to focus my art in that direction. After all, it was what I enjoyed most, and there seemed to be a need in the market.
(E.H. Shepherd study, age 14)
I was going through my art files, and I pulled this illustration out. I had done this ink and pastel drawing when I was 14. This isn’t traced, but an enlarged study from the Winnie the Pooh stories we had in our house growning up. At around 14, when I stopped taking art lessons, was when I began to spend hours in my room at home studying the line work of illustrators: not fine artists, but illustrators. I went through a short phase as a teenager of trying to build a portfolio in illustration (I wanted to be a Disney animator!) and I had forgotten about that. And I’ve always been inspired by Maurice Sendak, Rie Cramer, A. A. Milne, and the work of other brilliant illustrators with a gift for line work as well as story telling. That, I remembered, was what I wanted to do.
I felt a door had opened up…as though all those years of fine art, studying theater, having babies, collecting vintage children’s books taking time out to just live my life authentically was coming together. I realized I had something to say in a voice that I knew how to say something. I wanted to illustrate childhood: the simple, timeless aspects of childhood that are appreciated so much in books we collect and consider vintage now…but to add my own voice to it. Fresh color, simple line, etc.
Here are some of my first illustrations I created for the shop: These paved the way for me to start with what I already knew…but allowed me to ask myself an important question:
How can I apply what I already know so I can market myself in the world of design, decor and print?
Asking myself this question was the best thing I could have done, because it opened up my creativity to applying myself in marketable ways.
“April Showers” 2008
“Winter Cheer” 2009
“Take me for a walk” 2010
I feel a bit awkward talking about my “voice”…I mean, if your voice is a natural extension of the person you are and the things you believe in, then isn’t is always changing? It should…because you change. I have changed. And my art continues to change.
But for me in 2007, I needed a place to start. A place to feel that I could put myself out there without feeling like I was riding on the coat tails of someone else. I needed to start with something I already knew, something that would be marketable but an adventure in learning at the same time!
So, that’s how I got started!
While I was in theater, I learned something very important: I learned that the best performance is when you aren’t stepping in the shoes of someone else, but rather letting the person you are portraying influence the person that you already are. And I look back at my 30 years, and see that the art that I was surrounded by, and the art that I studied had it’s place in giving me the tools to ultimately find my own voice. That lesson alone was better than any art degree.