This week I finally started screen printing for Spring/Summer 2018. I had been itching to start ever since the boxes of shirts started arriving on my doorstep a few weeks ago, but I have been sick and germy.
I’ve ordered more shirts and onesies than ever this year; I’m doing more markets than usual, and am hoping to sell more in shops. All very optimistic you say, but also ever so slightly terrifying. It’s all fun and games when you are tapping away, ordering all the lovely shirts online. But then they actually arrive: the sheer physical mass of them, the space they take up in my living room, dining room, every room, is downright overwhelming!
Urged on by a desperate need to start reducing the size of those gigantic piles of plain clothes, I started printing with a frenzy on Monday.
The SS18 collection is full of juicy colors: orange, sunshine yellow, emerald green, aqua, and ultramarine. I’ve also got a slogan tee in this collection, just for fun; the ‘told you so’ tee pretty much says it all for the times we live in.
It has been so enjoyable figuring out which colors to print on these shirts. I’ve been printing on the yellow shirts with a beautiful blue-violet that made me do a happy dance, and have been pairing bright orange with cream, and pale green with raspberry pink.
Screen printing is instantly gratifying, each fresh print is a revelation and a treat for the eyes. However, by Thursday, the non-stop, frenzied printing and washing had left my hands sore and raw, and I had painful calluses on my thumbs. The day was murky and heavy on the head, and a dance class had left my muscles sore. So I decided to put down my squeegees, and take a day off to do some super exhilarating inventory and write this (even though it will only be posted on Friday).
I’ll be back at the print table on Friday. I can hear those shirts whispering to me…
– This blog post was written in pieces over the weekend. However, it could only go live this morning. Hope it still makes (relative) sense!
I am starting to write this from a hotel room in Manhattan. I have just eaten a really nice dinner, taken a long bath, and watched a movie BY MYSELF. I may paint my nails later.
People, I am on my own!
You are probably thinking “So what?” but let me explain myself more clearly:
I have not been on an overnight trip by myself, without my kids, since the eldest was born (that’s eleven plus years!). Better late than never; it’s pure indulgence. I have spent the whole day doing exactly what I want, eating and drinking what I want, and not having to search for bathrooms every thirty minutes. And that is only part of the joy of this weekend.
I am in Manhattan to attend Playtime NY, a trade show for the latest kids fashion brands. I thought it would be good to connect with other people in the industry, see some beautiful design, get an insight into future trends, and well, be inspired. Job done. Thank you very much, Playtime, you were beautifully curated, and I now have a lot to think about. My head is full to bursting with all sorts of thoughts and ideas… and I got a free tote bag to boot. It was a good day.
Playtime only started on Sunday, and I arrived in New York at noon on Saturday, so I had a little time to play. Here is some of what I got up to in the big apple:
I visited MOMA
Of course!! Everything about MOMA puts stars in my eyes. Just looking at the sign on the building makes me happy. It is a mecca for anyone with a passion for contemporary art. Also, it has great cafes. Especially great when you don’t have kids with you, and can freely order delicious things with ricotta, eggplant, and caramelised onions in them, and eat all of them at your own pace. Yes, yes I am gloating. Not sorry.
I went shopping at the hugest Uniqlo I have ever seen!
Uniqlo has a flagship store on 5th avenue, with a whole half floor dedicated to it’s MOMA inspired t-shirts. Be careful if you visit though, I got lost twice in the store. I swear they place their mirrors strategically to confuse already directionally challenged shoppers like me and suck them into a spiral of endless shopping! I bought an Andy Warhol T-shirt with bananas on it for myself. No photo, but I’ll take one soon, promise.
I wandered aimlessly – because I could!
Well, mostly because I get lost easily, even in a city with a grid system. But wandering in Manhattan is good for the soul. I walked a lot, soaked up the atmosphere (literally – it was raining all day) and was thankful that there were no little ones getting damp and tired by my side. The rain drove me into unexpected places. This is how I discovered Eataly, a foodie’s paradise with every good thing Italian cuisine has to offer, including drinking chocolate that will almost stop your heart. Other happy discoveries I stumbled upon whilst semi-lost were ‘Books of Wonder’ a lovely children’s bookstore in the Flatiron district, the Flatiron building itself, the beauty of Grand Central Station, and the weirdness of being in an Amazon bookstore opposite the Empire State Building, where I sheltered from the driving sheets of rain on Sunday afternoon and, of course, bought another book.
The Flat Iron Building
Great kid’s bookstore in the Flatiron district
Inside Books of Wonder
I visited the New York Public Library
Finally! I have wanted to visit this place for the longest time and see the library lions, and ask for a Paul Varjak book. I love libraries in general, but this is the queen of libraries (and the people who work there are the nicest). I attended a small but very absorbing exhibition about the sixties counterculture and social revolutions, and managed to squeeze in a visit to the beautiful rose reading room before closing time.
My time was limited, and I stuck to midtown Manhattan more than I would normally, because of the need to not wander too far from Penn station on Sunday (remember, I get lost easily). But, there will be another trip. My kids love New York too (read about their NYC favorites here).
One last thing. My seven year old wept uncontrollably when I told him that I was going to New York. He loves public transport, and was sad to be missing an opportunity to ride the subway. Whilst searching for a gift for him, I found the fabulous book below. It is the perfect book for Subway enthusiasts, and visual readers.
Do you remember when we did our town planning summer camp last summer, and asked that same question of our campers? Do you remember the sheer excitement when the mayor of Vienna visited that same camp, and reviewed our ideas? The trail of influence is not hard to trace my friends. 🙂
Pat yourself on the back, my little campers. You have possibly inspired a wave of change. So what were the top things that our campers wanted most for our town?….
More sidewalks and walkability (gasp!)
A large indoor playspace/bounce zone for cold seasons.
More water fountains along the W/OD trail
A community swimming pool and water playground
A town central metro/bus hub, and less driving
A multi faith worship/meditation center that encourages discourse
A drop-in art studio/maker space (they are Noctiluna kids after all)
More recycling bins in public places
Some of the more inspired answers on the Patch survey do actually echo these. These kids have their fingers on the zeitgeist, and I have high hopes for their generation.
This year’s summer camp enrollment starts soon, and I’m wondering whether we should do some town planning again. What do you think?
Ifeel like I must have written about this before.
It seems unlikely that I haven’t. I must have craved a bit of a chinwag about this pertinent issue at some some point during my time as Head Honcho of Noctiluna. Okay, let’s just assume that I have.
It doesn’t matter though, it’s an important enough subject to warrant another post, and it’s something that is always on my mind to some degree. Also, this is cheaper than therapy for me, so let’s do it.
If you run a small business, work for yourself, and are situated exactly where the buck stops, you have my commiserations… and congratulations. If you work from home, times that by ten.
It’s a funny old world, when you are your own boss. You can go from feeling empowered, inspired, and elated, to feeling mopey, unmotivated and misunderstood in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. It may always be like this, so learning to ride those waves, and jump back on after a storm is important (Yup, a surfing analogy from me, the landlubber. I can do that, because I’m the boss – there’s an UP for you).
Here is my own (very) personal list of ups and downs:
UP: I have total creative freedom. My boss totally trusts my design instincts and let’s me explore them to their fullest.
DOWN: It gets lonely working by yourself. You start talking to yourself, and smiling at strangers on the street like a pyscho. Thank goodness for the summer camps for dragging me out of hermit-dom every summer.
UP: I can arrange my day how I like, so that I can flit between projects and work to a schedule that suits my temperament well. I even manage to work two jobs a year.
DOWN: I have to be a jack of all trades. I can’t avoid spreadsheets, inventory, marketing , or phone conversations, because I am the accountant, marketing manager, and receptionist all rolled into one. This is a tough one for creative types, who find it hard to snap into other roles. You are constantly being placed outside your comfort zone.
UP: I can be flexible. My boss understands when I have a sick kid, or need to attend a school performance (well my design boss does, the summer camp boss is a total meanie). During most non summer-camp work days, I can hit the gym, and pick my kids up from the bus stop if I want to. I have worked with a sick baby sleeping on my lap. She’s a good egg, my boss.
DOWN: People mistake my aforementioned flexibility for being free. I am constantly assumed to be available for last minute childcare, or a lengthy chat. No people, I actually have a schedule, and it’s a busy one. If I choose to spend an hour at the gym, I end up working evenings. Fairs and markets often happen on weekends, so my work week is an unusual one, but it is one nonetheless.
UP: No commute, no having to dress up fancy for work, a well stocked fridge.
DOWN: Home fatigue (it’s a real thing), feeling somewhat dishevelled next to the Booz-Allen moms at the bus stop, a well stocked fridge.
There are potentially hundreds more of those, but here’s the bottom line:
I love my job. I love the playlists that I play while I work. I can listen to Thomas Hardy novels while I screen print, and nobody complains. I can eat lunch at weird times, and get completely absorbed in my work for hours without interruption. Sure, I miss having coworkers sometimes, and wish I could bat ideas back and forth with someone.
I try and get around those things by meeting up with other designers and educators for creative chats, and I keep myself on a rich diet of books, learning, and exhibitions.
Maybe, I’ll work in a bustling studio at some point in the future. Who knows? Maybe I’ll finally stop harassing my poor husband with every little detail of my workday in the evenings.
Full disclosure: this was typed yesterday morning, on an empty stomach – sorry. As of yesterday afternoon, we have heating!!!! Woohoo!
Maybe 2018 will be a voyage of self discovery; I have certainly learnt a lot about myself over the past few weeks.
I have always thought of myself as being a great wanderer who thrives on change. My parents would call me a gypsy when I was younger, because I was always on the move, and my husband thinks I am the twitchiest person alive. I’m that woman who moves her furniture around every month so it doesn’t look the same. I never expected to put roots down anywhere, but I did.
My latent gypsy tendencies have been tested hard over the past few weeks.
We have been forced to live a transient lifestyle, due to our on again, off again heating situation. Hotel rooms, friends houses, libraries, museums, any heated indoor public space was our domain…
…and I am so tired.
Tired of schlepping my life around in bags, tired of packing and unpacking, tired of keeping track of possessions. But the main thing I am tired of is: not being in my own space.
I need my own space.
So here I am, back in my freezing home, ensconced in my frozen workroom. I am wrapped in a blanket, with a space heater by my feet, a woolly hat on and a big mug of ginger tea. Don’t tell me I don’t know how to enjoy life,I have embraced the concept of Hygge! I even have a bloody scented candle in here!
I choose to be here. I don’t really have to be here. Many kind friends have offered me their warm homes to work in (thank you, friends), and I have tried it, but I JUST WANT TO BE IN MY SPACE. Hear this, I don’t even want to be at the library (gasp! ) I just want my own space.
Yes, I would rather sit here in the coldest house in Virginia, than be in a warm, cozy library – you heard it here.
I missed being in my home, I missed knowing where everything is, and how everything works. I missed being able to make myself proper tea with my own blend of chai masala. I missed being able to use any combination of art materials I want to, not just the ones packed in my overnight bag. I missed not having to clear up my mess. Moving around was an adventure, but now – now I am content.
Home sweet Home
There I’ve said it, I’m a homebody. I don’t know how long this love affair will last. I still have plans to give away belongings, and trek across deserts when I am retired.
It is just so nice to be here even though the house is cold and horribly messy, and there are footprints everywhere from the heating technicians.
Give me just a few minutes to thaw my fingers off, and clear the fuzz in my head, and I ‘ll start making art again. Promise.
I know, I know – there are a lot of things that weren’t so good about 2017. It was an upsetting, completely off tilter year to many, not least me.
Still, it would be churlish to not admit that there were some moments of happiness and beauty in there. I’m really happy that 2018 is here, but let’s put 2017 to bed properly before we jump straight into talking about the shiny new year. Why thirteen highlights? Well I tried to control myself, but just couldn’t stop after ten – that’s why.
Here are my favorite things, big and small, from last year:
The Women’s March – The year started off with a bang, and a brand new hat. The march was an amazing, emotional experience to be part of, and it was satisfying to witness the discourse, and year long domino effect that it sparked off.
The East Wing – A new happy place. I fell in love with this newly reopened part of the National Gallery last year. It has a beautiful light and art, and is the perfect escape from the burbs on gray days. Go visit it.
Yayoi Kusama – the Infinity Rooms. After years and years of waxing lyrical about Kusama to students, and boring the socks off them, I finally got lucky enough to visit her work in the flesh. Mind…………….blown.
Analog Art. 2017 was the year I dedicated a lot more time to painting on canvas. I’m self taught, pretty rusty, and a lot of what I created is terrible, but the sensory input is delicious, and the process is truly satisfying. It’s a form of meditation, it’s messy, and I’m going to keep doing it.
England Trip. Always, always a source of happiness. The kids and I met old friends, ate a lot of battenburg cake, used public transport every day, and fell in love with East London again. I’m actually shocked that I never wrote a blog post about it! Hmmm…. Another London blog post coming up, I guess.
The mayor’s visit. The campers at the Noctiluna Summer Camp were pleasantly surprised by a visit from the mayor of Vienna. It was like the scene in Elf, where Buddy spots Santa in Gimbels “Mayor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
They shared their ideas about town planning, and I was so ridiculously happy and proud of them all.
8.Solar Eclipse. A singular and eerie experience that I got to share with my campers whilst continually half squealing “wear your glasses!”, and worrying about bad luck (it’s an Indian thing).
9. Crafty Bastards – I got in this year!!!!!! Woohoo!!!!! The premier craft show was held at Nats Park on a bitterly cold weekend, but boy was it an amazing experience.
Note to the organisers: I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN.
10. Gift and Gather – After years of saying that I should… I did!
Get my products into a shop, that is. You can see them at Gift and Gather in Occoquan, VA, which is run by a fellow crafter with an amazing eye for beautiful, well crafted things. 2018 will be the year of more shops.
11. Grump at Zoolights – By far my favorite show of the year! The lights were magical, the people were lovely, and I found the perfect spot to sell my (Mostly animal themed – well what do you know!) shirts! We went back again with the kids, and it is a really fun event.
12. Mini crafter – This was the year that my eleven year old started getting creative, and making things. She taught herself to sew and now makes the most adorable felt toys. Mostly food based (she is my child after all). She has sewn little macarons, cookies, samosas, doughnuts, and a range of trucks for her brother. I am in total awe of her.
13. The Books, all the books! – I really can’t go into great detail with this one because, well, I have a tendency to ramble when it comes to books. Suffice to say, I read some great ones last year, including TheLilac Girls, The Muse, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Born a Crime, and Americanah. I already have a 2018 pile waiting for me. Yippee!
Apart from that, there was a lot of yoga practiced, comedy watched, tea drunk, parenting stumbled through, and screen printing done.
Well 2018, I wonder what surprises you will bring with you. Maybe a trip to Denmark? A partnership with another artist? The kids learning to load the dishwasher properly? One can only hope. Bring it on!
that’s a good analogy for my life right now. There are just so many different strands in there that need to be straightened out.
I’m down to my very last holiday show. It’s been a good season, and the last show, Grump@Zoolights, looks very promising in every way. However, despite being done with the screenprinting, ironing, sewing, and late night battles with my computer, I feel more jumpy than ever this week. Aren’t I supposed to be winding down?
Nope. This is the kids’ last week of school, and there seems to be something going on every day of the week – concerts, parties, gift swaps, learning shares. Teachers, I love and value you very much, but maybe… consolidate it? Also, for some, unfathomable reason, I seem to have been ordained one-who-must-remember-EVERYTHING this week. Whose bright idea was that?
I have written much about the ups and downs of working from home before, and this is one of those instances where, working from home seems to equal appearing to be free for any holiday related duty. Uh no kids, while I enjoy putting up the tree, and attending your various splendid performances, I can’t pop to the grocery store/the school/the mall at the drop of a hat every day; and yes, it was me that stress ate that box of peppermint creams that you were saving for your school party. Sorry, not sorry.
I do love the Holidays, I really do, honest! I’m really looking forward to my family arriving, and I’m looking forward to sitting in front of the fire drinking mulled wine, and I’m looking forward to eating latkes with friends, and the kids opening their presents on Christmas morning, and my husband pretending to be the Grinch. I’m just a bit grumpy right now. Speaking of which…
Last weekend, I took part in this extremely well curated show, which is always bags of fun for kids and adults alike (photos below). Next weekend (Saturday, to be precise) I’ll be at Grump @ Zoolights, at the National Zoo. This event is going to involve holiday lights, music, animals, a choo choo train, and a cool European style craft market – I defy you to not show up. It’s going to be a blast, and by then I should have untangled some of those figurative and literal string lights.
I’m hoping to squeeze this little post in on Friday morning, because I have made a promise to myself to blog regularly every week.
It’s harder than it needs to be sometimes, because I get very precious about my posts, and take forever to figure out what I want to say. I have never been able to put out snappy one sentence posts because, these write ups are cathartic for me. Ever since I was a child I have written my problems and ideas down in diaries, notebooks, scraps of paper to clear my head, blogging is the latest extension of this. I still have an addiction to notebooks, and am a ridiculously analog person in a digital world, but carpal tunnel put paid to my furious morning scribbles – so I blog.
…has not gone exactly to plan. We were in a horrible car accident, and our beloved van was smashed to smithereens. Luckily, none of us were seriously hurt, but we need to get another van fast before my next show. Aaaaaarggghhh.
Speaking of which, I have been ironing and sewing, and tagging freshly printed stock like crazy for Grump 2017 (One of my favorite shows)!
If you live in the DC,VA,MD area, I highly recommend visiting Grump, because, quite apart from the stellar quality of the vendors there, it has a really fun atmosphere. This year there will be a bunch of workshops happening, which I have signed my kids up for. They are going to try knitting, painting monsters with watercolors, and hugging yetis amongst other stuff. Also, I’m teaching a collage workshop for kids. I’ve been making these little Scandinavian gnome collages as a trial….
Other Exciting News
Noctiluna shirts and onesies are now stocked in Gift and Gather, a lovely new gift shop in Occoquan, VA. It’s a seriously well curated shop, that supports local makers. I have real problems not buying the shop up each time I visit. Beautiful place.
All that, and I managed to take the kids to see Santa, do a huge amount of online Christmas shopping, start making a unicorn gift for my daughter, spend quality time with my dentist, put the tree up, alternately harass and goof around with my homework-avoiding kids, stress eat way too much gingerbread, and guilt myself into working out. Even the slow-ish weeks are more busy than they seem at first glance.
Happy first day of December! The holidays are looming and things will be just fine. Even better if you visit Grump 😉
Hellooo! Did you miss me, readers? Sorry for the lost week, but I have been ridiculously busy getting ready for the biggest show of the year, while trying not to neglect my poor children.
What a crazy, a-ma-zing experience for me. It was my first time doing the show, and I was totally blown away by the quality of work from all the other vendors. If you like really good design, and handmade stuff, this is the show to attend. I wanted to buy everything! I probably would have bought everything, if it wasn’t for the tiny little fact that I was working there, and couldn’t leave my booth for longer than five minutes.
The weather was mutinous. An intense cold snap took hold of DC, and there were moments where fear of frostbite was a real thing, especially during the 6.30am start, when the temperature was only 20 degrees. Believe me when I say, vendor life is not for the faint of heart.
I’m actually a little surprised that shoppers braved the arctic climes to come out and support us, when they could have stayed at home, wrapped in a blanket with the heating turned up, drinking a cup of tea. But I guess that speaks volumes about the reputation of the show.
It was a long weekend, and I may have ended it cold, tired and sore, but it was totally worth it. I sold a lot of stuff, made some new crafty friends, and saw and bought some really beautiful things. Also, now that I have thawed out, I feel warm and fuzzy when I think of my husband, who almost froze to death at Fenton St Market for me, and my parents, and friends, who helped out over the weekend, looking after my kids, and standing in the cold with me. It certainly does help to have a good support system in a job like mine.
On to the next show
Grump at the Crystal City Underground, is on Dec 9th (I’m doing the one at the National Zoo on the 16th as well)!
Sooo excited about this one. First of all, it’s indoors!!! Yay for my fingers and toes, and for my family! Second of all, it’s a little geeky and off center- excellent. Thirdly, like Crafty Bastards, it has a well juried, most excellent group of makers.
I’m going to be doing a little craft workshop for kids at this one as well, which is why I have frittered away the best part of yesterday afternoon researching gnomes, trolls and Moomins. Yes, of course it’s for work!
The wheel keeps turning, time to order some new shirts!
and it is just going to get busier and busier up until Christmas. This year is looking to be a landmark year for Noctiluna kidswear. We are doing more and bigger shows, and I have been printing non-stop, so that we will (hopefully) have enough inventory for them. Word is, that we may also be in a local gift shop or two by the holidays. Fingers crossed for that.
While this is all great, really great news, it’s also got me feeling a little sick in the stomach. There I was just happily coasting along with my teeny tiny business, sticking to the stuff I know best and avoiding the rest. All of a sudden I have the opportunity to grow a little, which means stepping out of my comfort zone – it’s downright intimidating!
Growth means getting better at stuff that I have been dreading for years. Growth means doing inventory, keeping accounts, analyzing statistics successfully, communicating on time with other humans, and of course, screenprinting a whole lot more! I’ve got the last part covered, there’s steam coming off my squeegee, but I’m facing a very steep and very terrifying learning curve with all the other stuff! I mean, the thought of interviewing a prospective employee makes me shiver with horror, and my eyes go blurry after looking at numbers for longer than half an hour. Art school never taught me any of these skills. Quite frankly, I’m a little taken aback:
“You mean I have to actually do business stuff? I thought designing and selling kids’ clothing would be all ice cream, hopscotch, and watercolors – not a crash course at Wharton!”
Yup. It’s time to grow up (just a little) and grow a pair. Fear is a large part of who I am professionally, I let my brain blow things out of proportion, and little stumbling blocks can paralyse me indefinitely. I have been forcing myself to let go of some of that fear.
With the help of my very practical and relatively fearless husband, I have started to teach myself new skills that involve more than just printing cool stuff.
I have been working weekends and nights to get things done for the upcoming shows, and I have been dipping into the Halloween candy more often than I should, but I can literally feel myself becoming more methodical, productive, and proactive. It’s a slow road, but that’s okay. I think slow progress is the best kind of progress for me, new skills and work methods need time to sink in and make sense to me, and the more they do, the less intimidating this is.
Oh, and British Art schools – you rock, but if you haven’t started adding a business skills component to your courses yet, DO IT!