Archive for the ‘on being an artist’ Category

A mother’s heart and some changes:

Oh gosh. Today is a big day. I’m standing by the front door having just sent 2 of my 3 children to full day school today, and I just can’t get a grip on how I feel about this.There is one (really adorable) one left. But just one. Not as noisy and crazy, and I’m finding it rather like being naked in a way.

Part of me is so ready. Last year, I spent  most of the day back and forth in the car between full day school, and part day kindergarten, and between that and regular mommy stuff, I couldn’t get 2 seconds to myself during the day. Forced to start my work at 8pm, I was exhausted. Plain beat. I don’t do well on little sleep, and that’s all I could get last year. And the year before that! And…well, you get the idea. We’re full speed at this house:)

This year, with both children in school all day, I just have Ella at home which will free me up considerably (and she’s even starting preschool…so this is a huge change!). It will be good to spend time with just the baby. Although, she’s not so baby anymore!

So, I don’t plan on working nights like I have the past 4 years. It will also mean I can get the gym, lose the weight I’ve gained from the past couple years of no sleep, and get a working day rhythm. I’m really looking forward to that! Illustrating and working in the daylight hours? That’s gonna be weird.

But not working when the kids are home has been my goal. That doesn’t always happen, especially in the summer, but I really try and just be “home” when they are. With work becoming more and more important for us to sustain, this change really does come at the perfect time! But, oh it really has always been a conflict for me. I love doing what I do, but deadlines drive this industry and it can often make for a stressed out Mommy. So a quieter house will be a welcomed guest.


….at the same time, I’m feeling so lonely. We’ve been together, the 5 of us, ALL SUMMER and man we have had so much fun. They are my muses. We spent 6 weeks on the East Coast at my parents house, with no other playmates but each other. It was amazing. And now it’s going to be really quiet. Do I really have kids old enough to leave home for 7 hours a day? I’m starting to see the wrinkles in my face already:) Gosh, a Mother’s heart is so complex, isn’t it!

Bottom line, I’m going to miss having everyone home all the time, but I do love creative projects. And it will be VERY good for me to really work without the guilt of squeezing in time when they don’t notice, or staying up super late. I really want to build this little space that I’ve created in Sarah Jane, and I’m ready to hit the drawing board. I’ve got a lot of really great opportunities and ideas, but with this new start, I also want to hear from YOU!

What would YOU like to see this year at Sarah Jane? I’ve got more time carved out, and while it’s never big enough for the dreams in my head, I really would love to hear your wishes and ideas too.

So are you ready? Ready for a great new year here in the studio? I’m going to be posting a survey where you can share your ideas with me. I’ll probably have it up sometime in the next 24 hours, but I wanted to give you a heads up so you can be thinking. I really want to consider the wishes that you have!

So stay tuned, and know that if there are any other mothers out there with that first week of school mother heart syndrome, I’m with you. All the way. Now to get busy making fun and pretty things for them to ease my Mother Heart.



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It’s good to get out: ALT recap.

Hello! I feel like I’ve been away for so long!

Alt Design Summit was wonderful as always. I can’t tell you how much I love speaking at conferences. It’s the kick in the pants I need to get in front of people and articulate what I’ve learned, and  it shapes my own growth so much! We had a really great panel, and I’m so lucky to have gained 3 new sisters!Kathryn Storke Grady (Snippet & Ink) Brooke Reynolds (Inchmark) and Chrysula Winegar are not only so incredibly talented, but they are just so so lovely in the way they see and use their lives. Such dear ladies. We’d never met, but we’re like sisters now! What a treat to speak with them!

I only ended up staying for one full day as it’s really hard to be away from my darling monkeys at home. But this year at ALT I was able to visit with my fellow textile and fabric peeps! I am never good at taking pics at these kinds of events cause I’m always so busy gabbing! Most of us are all probably working in our PJ’s most of the time (ahem….that’s me!) so dressing up and hanging out together was extra fun. Dinner with Arianne of Aeolidia (the master mind behind my new websiteJenean Morrison and Amy Butler (fabric buddies) and Brooke Reynolds (Book & brand designer) was just a blast. Love these ladies!

There was so much to talk about and hear: discussions about publishing, old and new media, community building, design chat….so much to all take in. I just loved being in a room full of 500+ people who are all outside the box thinkers, making things happen and putting their own beautiful stamp on the world. So inspiring.  I absolutely loved hearing from Maxwell (founder of Apartment Therapy), Deborah Needleman (Editor in Chief of the Wall Street Journal), and Pilar Guzmán (Editor in Chief of  Martha Stewart Living). As well as Julia Rotham, Grace Bonney (Design Sponge), Amy Butler and Kate Woodrow (Chronicle Books) and So many others!

I’ll be recapping the panel I was a part of next time on Work/Life Balance. It was a real boost to be a part of. And I ended up learning a lot myself!


I”ll be back with more words of wisdom shared at ALT. But to end: Another whimsy from the inside pages of my sketch book. Take care!

xoxo, sarah

PS: Visiting so many virtual friends in person after only knowing them from behind a screen is just so awesome. Makes me want to have like some kind of little tea party picnic thing with all of you. Game? I just honestly love keeping in touch with so many of you via Flickr Groups, Facebooktwitter, your comments here, email….anyways….just feeling particularly grateful today for how women really do reach out and support each other. Isn’t is awesome? I’m just in love with you all!


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dancing upon 2012

I came across a poem in October that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

~ W.B. Yeats

Do you know that one? I found it while watching videos of this brilliant man, and he referred to it in regards to eductation and what we are offering our children.

It makes me think about what children offer to the world, and how we, in the name of responsibility, sense, reason or just plan ignorance, often sweep it underfoot. Or, worse, step on it.  Sometimes twice. It makes me pause to think.

I am still a dreamer. And yet I am responsible for 3 little dreamers. I take that very seriously. Very.

I watched the Muppet Movie over Christmas holiday. I cried. Twice. And not just because I am a Muppet Fan. But because I believe in dreams. The basic good in people. The power of seeing something that doesn’t yet exist, but could. That’s what life is about really. Chasing the things that really matter, but might seem silly in the eyes of an ever changing world.

So this year, I’m resolving to do more than just lose weight, get our little home more organized,  journal our family’s life better, and be healthier (which was last year’s list. And the year before…oh dear.)

This year, I’m resolving to lose the stress and let the harsh world stay away a little bit more.

Laugh more

Dream more

Pay attention to silly ideas

Color my world brighter

Listen to those tiny whispers of an idea

Get on the floor and play more

You’d think that because I’m an artist for children that I spend my days in la-la land with pencils and crayons, creating mermaids and rockets with my kids all day. Ha! I wish.  On the contrary, I’m constantly in a battle between the stresses of motherhood and my own creativity.  It’s a balancing act that I fight for every day. Truly.

Like today, when I had a fantastic idea I wanted to illustrate on even just scrap paper or a napkin even…but we ended up doing dental work on one child, a spontaneous new school visit for another child, a no nap day for the other child….and pretty soon my mind is in a “can we afford this?…My kitchen is a mess!…how can we rearrange our schedule to make this work?…Ack! the library books are due….Ooops…I forgot to call so-and-so….Don’t forget to go sign the kid’s school papers….Turn around…you missed the exit….” and so on and so on.  Not to mention the hours and hours of work I do daily.

The Mommy Brain I call it. And while that is all part of being a parent, it challenges the space I have in my heart for the things that make life beautiful, or are too whimsical to make it to the top of the list. And oooooooh that list gets long. The stress of a parent is my biggest enemy.  I confess that I’ve become a worrier. Something a parent can only really understand.  You know what I mean?

Silly, really.

So this year….2012

I’m waking up more lighthearted. I’m believing in what’s in my gut. I’m listening to my children’s unfinished and messy ideas. I’m offering my heart and not my head. I’m letting go of the worry.

What about you? Are you re-evaluating the way you are seeing this year?

Me too.




Oh! PS:


I almost forgot to tell you! I don’t think that I mentioned that the 2012 Calendar is 50% off now! There’s a limit on these ones…just so you are aware. And I while I made these last year, it sure seems to fit my feelings as of late:)

Available here and here.

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Thoughts on creativitiy and innovation.

Warning: Deep thoughts by Sarah Jane…nothing too funny or catchy today. Just thinking outloud:

So, if you know me well, you’ll know I’m a thinker. I’d like to consider myself a thinker and a doer, but I come from a family of great minds. I think about my place in this universe, and why I do what I do.  From mothering to house hold chores, I am the kind of person who thinks about the purpose behind most of what I do! To me, everything fits together in a perfect eternal dance. Boring? Maybe. But it’s how I tick.

Which is why I’m sharing this Picture Book Proclamation that has been circling the WWW. It’s been food for thought. This idea of originality, creativity and innovation on the platform of business: i.e. the platform that shares your art with the world.

While I’m not stirring up the same argument they are, which I think is a good one, I’ve been reading this over, and thinking a lot of innovation and creation in business in general. Originally,  I created a business from the need to earn a pay check. But after a while (a very SHORT while) that motive didn’t last. It’s too hard. It’s too stressful. You have to do it because you are fulfilled by creating something original and beautiful. At least for me.

I’ve been asking the question “Why does  the world need more art? Why do we need more stories? Isn’t there enough already? I mean, we could have capped it at Monet and Victor Hugo, right?”

I haven’t been asking this in regards to me personally, cause I know I have art I HAVE to share. And I know creatives will always need to express their own story. But why do we share it? Is it for the artist’s need to express? Or do we create for a better world? And why does the world need your piece of it?

It’s an interesting thought. And while I’m talking about the WHO we create for and WHY, it leads me to the topic of BUSINESS and the space that is available for work. This economy is hard. It’s tough. And while we need to create in order to express ourselves, ultimately someone needs to buy it.  And sometimes, that can conflict with the values for the WHY we create. If it’s for making a better world, how do we do that with limited space available to us?

I personally believe there is space for everyone, and I have often said in conferences I’ve spoken at that “There are enough walls in the world for everyone’s art.” But while that is true, it’s an interesting concept to consider: Why DO you create? Really? Why are you motivated to share your art and creativity with the world? When you know that answer, and REALLY know it, possibilities are endless.

And in regards to that inner answer you come to, this proclamation, while geared at children’s books, reaffirms the idea that while jobs are limited, and often tell us what we need to create to get the job done, it’s ultimately the job of the creator to know what it is they were meant to create. When those two things go hand in hand, it’s a very powerful and beautiful thing.  The job of the artist is a tricky one. Often we are compelled to create based on how we see the world, and not everyone sees things that same way. And when you are trying to earn a living, producing something that just a few people resonate with can make it hard to put food on the table. Yet, to create something that doesn’t resonate with you, often leads to mediocrity.

I’m not producing answers today…I only post the questions. It’s good to ask those questions, and revisit them from time to time. I have a lot of answers…my own personal answers…and I am sure you have your own as well.  In a world of overstimulated outward awareness every where you go (you can’t get on the internet without seeing someone else’s creative idea at every turn) it’s so important to know why YOU create. And while the topic of staying original and innovative is with the picture book industry, I think we could safely say it’s a topic that could be had with any creative industry today: Making what you think people want to see and what ultimately “sells” vs. making what you are motivated to share, all in the midst of a challenging economy.

I personally believe that when you know the reason why you are motivated to create in the first place, there is no paradox.

Sorry for the long post today. The truth is, I’m supposed to be packing for a long trip, and quite frankly, I hate packing. And so I guess you could now safely say I’m a thinker and procrastinator!

The end.

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Mousse and makings.

There is a lot going on in this corner of the world, and I may or may not get around to the blog much more this week.

First of all, our chickens laid their eggs!! And oh boy….let’s talk about fresh. Tonight we made an amazing Mouse au Chocolate from a french book I’m illustrating (more on that later) and with fresh eggs and chocolate I about died. I’m digging this set up.

But really, I’m dashing off to an amazing conference in lovely St. Paul at The Creative Connection. Will you be there? Will you come say hi? I’ll be signing early copies of my book (Ah!!!! this is going to be real!!) and I’m speaking on Friday, and would love to visit! There is also a book deadline, an interview and videography in my studio (dusting…dusting…) and some art that I’m finishing up for the shop! Whew. I need to sit down and have some more of that mousse.

Chocolate really is a wonderful invention.

Back to the studio!

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Support for the creative business girl

I know a lot of you are creative people with businesses. Or if you don’t have a business out of your hobby, you’re interested in making it happen. Or if you are crazy enough to have a business out of your hobby, you are lonely and looking for crazy friends who do the same thing!

Here’s some places you need to visit:

1) Touchpoint: Startup Princess is hosting this fantastic annual event next week, and is offering a$50 off code (the code is “women”) at registration for this awesome power packed conference in Salt Lake City that you don’t want to miss.  And Kelly, my friend and host, just mentioned that scholarships are still available for 50% off registration. This is a steal you guys! All you need to do is contact Kelly, or email her (kelly at startupprincess dot com) and tell her why you deserve to be at the event and why you need this jumpstart in your life. Normally $275, this event is SO worth the money. Touchpoint is what got me started. There is so much support to be had, and info to glean from experienced women who are in this like you! Having a creative hobby really takes some business knowledge, and this is the place to get it!   Click here for more info.

2) Creative Collaborative: did you know that once a month super awesome people in Utah get together to eat treats and talk shop? Thursday we are picking up the schedule again from a slow summer schedule. This month: Creativity and Ethics: super bloggers C.Jane and Melissa Esplin talk about the ins and outs to having a community around your brand! And did I mention it’s FREE? Click here for details.

3) The Creative Connection: It’s a little late, but registration is still open! I’ll be speaking in St. Paul on Friday at 4:00 pm on the “Creating Community through E-commerce.” I’ll be joined by some super awesome gals (Andrea, Amy, and Sandi who also do what they love and have made a business out of it! I’m super excited to be speaking…and….I’ll also be doing a book signing of Christmas Goodnight which won’t even be on the shelves yet. Yay!

See you there!

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Taking the leap.

What a week. What a day, really. Well, what a year! Ok, make that nearly 4 years.

Let me back up.

It all started in my little apartment. Kenneth and I were trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Things were looking pretty tight, and I had 2 babies in diapers. I had to do something, and to put a really long story in a nutshell, I got on my knees and prayed, then got to work. In 3 months time I had taught myself how to use photoshop, scan art into a printer and create digital prints. I even overnighted myself a fine art printer, and 2 days later I opened an ETSY shop. That was 1417 days ago. Last night, I sold my 10,000th sale on ETSY (to this lovely lady no less) and I find myself so incredibly sentimental. I’m just speechless. Really? I remember being so overwhelmed with the thought of leaving my babies to go work, when instead I was able to create this at home business where I have been able to stay at home. It’s such an incredible blessing. Thank you!

But with that blessing, has come many curses. Curse is a strong word. Let’s call them set backs. There are set backs to having work in your home, especially the management of orders, shipments, supplies, boxes (Oh! The boxes!) deadlines, no vacation time and just a lot of work to manage. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I’ve had the most loyal help and most wonderful team through the years, all of which have turned out to be some of my dearest friends! But even with help, Sarah Jane Studios has grown to more than I can really handle at home: both in the physical sense and the emotional. So, why not just get more help? I tried going in that direction, and right now, getting more help = more people in my home to manage, oversee and think about. When really, I struggle with having enough space in my brain to get the trash on the curb on the right night (oh ya…Kenneth does that). I’ve played the game of Tetris all summer, with knowing where to put the least amount of effort for the maximum amount of reward: a business (and life!) philosophy I strongly believe in. And the answer is,  to hand all of my products over to companies who can handle things better than I can, and thus free up my time for more mothering, housekeeping and illustrating.

I’m starting to feel free just writing this!

Wow. But after some long, long weeks and months of trying to figure out how to move forward with what I started, and what I want for my family, I have decided to use 2 incredible small companies to fulfill, print and ship all our products. That may not seem like a big deal to you. And maybe you don’t really care, cause you will most likely not even notice a difference…well, except that my cute little hand written address label will be replaced with a digital one. Sorry. But it’s a big deal to me, because I’m handing over a baby really. Something that I started in the middle of a crisis that has grown too big for my arms to carry.

And to answer any questions, Ann and myself are still who you will hear from just as normal. All will be the same. The products the same, the only difference is that my basement and garage will be a lot less full, and my brain will be a lot less cluttered! Which ultimately means more fabric, books and art for you, and more REAL living for me!

Wow. Big load off my shoulders. Something inside of women, well at least me, thinks that we can just do it all. Well, we can’t. We should really be striving to do a few things really well. The important things. And managing a shop from home has come to the point of me not being able to be the kind of mom (or artist for that matter!) that I want to be. And while outsourcing isn’t for everyone (It’s not the best financial solution, that’s for sure!) it is the best for us. And I thought you should know, since you’ve been the fire behind the machine.

So. Back to where I was. Are you still reading this? Hi there, if you are. Last night I made my 10,000th sale, and I made the final decisions to send my inventory far away (in the USA by the way!) and I’ll be shipping it all off tomorrow!

So, what does that mean for the shop? By the end of the day today (August 11, 2011), all embroidery patterns and stationery will be unavailable for a week. Prints, posters and frames will run as normal.  So, if you need something before August 18th, today is your day.

I’m off to pack up my stuff! And I hope you know how awesome it’s been to share this journey with you. It’s a wonderful story, really. Lots of ups and downs, trial and error. Learning as I go. And this new transition is feeling great.

I’m off!




PS: This picture is a favorite view of mine from where we live. I get the “big picture” reminder every day. So lucky!


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Collaborations and Discussions

Since I’ve started Sarah Jane Studios, and really from the very beginning, I’ve been surrounded by inspiring and tenacious friends who want to start a business from their hobby or passion. It’s been so great to surround myself with such enthusiasm! And from early on, I’ve been asked to speak or be a panelist at events where business, creativity, or design has been a key topic. What a treat this has been! Even though I prepare a lot of information myself, I always come away with questions that I never would have asked myself.

I also love being around the creative energy of people like you who love what they do and either do it just for the love, or to put a little aside in their pocket book too. This generation of DIY, bad economy, Mother’s having to work more than ever, etc. …has really generated a HUGE wave of women who are so darn determined to work from home doing what they love (instead of behind a counter in a cubicle with no windows).  And it’s empowering to be around these people. So I do it a lot. And I make a lot of friends, and it’s wonderful.

But now it’s your turn to ask me some questions that I want to start discussing!

I’m going to be speaking at a few events coming up, and want your feedback. The first up, is Creative Collaborative is having another meeting tomorrow night at 7pm, and we’ll be discussing:

Alma Loveland- Pricing, choosing how to charge your fees

Mike Loveland- Balancing work with family/social demands

Justin Hackworth- Networking with other artists/businesses/bloggers….

Sarah Jane- Using Social Media to grow your business

Susan Petersen- setting up shop online, and getting your art out!

Melanie Burk- Building clients, building a website, online presence


Also, in September I’m going to be a panelist at The Creative Connection!

{I am really excited about this. I’ve never been before, but I hear it’s amazing. Key notes include Decor 8, members of the Oprah team and Blogher. Heather Bailey, Patty Young, Betz White and other fabric friends will be joining the scene, as well as other AMAZING representatives from all over: Magazines, Publishing, Media, Product Licensing, etc. You can learn everything from how to knit to how to pitch to an agent; How to host an event to getting a licensing deal. Classes include cooking, crafting, writing, business learning, and so much more! It’s going to be amazing. There is a link over on my side bar and you can click right over. }

I’m on a panel that will be discussing e-commerce and having an online shop. And, I know, there are A LOT of you that have online shops, or have always wanted to get your art/creativity out there. I know there are a lot of us that are in this, and we all want to learn more!

So…. I want to hear from YOU!

What questions do YOU have about running an online business with your art? What are the biggest concerns you have, or issues that you want more information/support on?

Leave a comment below, and we can discuss them here on the blog, at Creative Collaborative, etc. I don’t have all the answers, but I think this will be a good discussion.

Ask Away!

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