Archive for the ‘on being an artist’ Category
*illustration by my Addie, age 7*
I often get asked, in interviews, or just casual conversation, where I get my inspiration from.
There are a lot of things to address in that answer, but always….and seriously always….I answer with “Children.”
Children have an incredible need to express what they are feeling in the moment, and art is one of the most natural ways they can do that.
My own children inspire me every day. They get an idea, and do something about it. Right then. No thinking, no editing, no questioning. Totally from the heart.
And not afraid to mess up, make messes and get dirty.
Easier said than done, right?
Creativity has been on my mind. And specifically that balance between letting go, hitting the moon….and making sure you gave a net to catch it in:)
It’s a balance for sure. But I can bet You’ll hear me talking about this a lot more. It’s been on my mind, and I have a lot of new exploring to do.
How do you get inspired? I’d love to hear.
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!
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.
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 website) Jenean 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!
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, Facebook, twitter, 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!
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.
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?
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?
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:)
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!
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!
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!