Ten Natural Mood Enhancers For My Rubbish Week.

This post was supposed to be an upbeat one about happiness, but I have not been at my happiest this week.
It has been a frustrating and pretty crappy week, but hey, silver linings, it’s almost over.  Nobody is happy all the time, even though Facebook would like you to think so. It’s normal to have highs and lows, and it’s normal to stay low for a while longer sometimes and dedicate solid time to a good mope. Considering my obsession with Thomas Hardy novels, I should be a lot more mopey and morose than I actually am.
Despite all of this, and despite my less than ideal week, I’m going to go ahead, and share this list of things that have brought smiles into my life over the past month (partly because I don’t want to rewrite this post, and partly because I want to help bring shiny, happy moments into your lives. I do take time to appreciate the beauty of little, everyday things, and there have been some good moments over the past few weeks. So here goes…

  1. Reading Passion: Americanah
    This book is seriously interfering with my ability to do anything. It is so good that every time I catch sight of it, I need to read a few pages. It makes me think “yes!” after every page. I know that there is going to be a serious hole in my life when I finish this, so I definitely need to have another one of Adichi’s books on hold and ready to pick up at the library.
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  2.  Drawing Every Day
    My favorite mood enhancer. Drawing and reading have always been my favorite things to do. I treat drawing like a form of meditation and get antsy and worried if I go too long without doing it. Most of the time, I start without any idea of what I want to draw, and just let things unfold on my page in their own way. It’s cheaper than therapy! Try it
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  3. Warm Weather
    Okay, it’s not warm, it’s sweltering, but I don’t care. I grew up in England, so any sunshine is a good thing, and a reason to open doors and windows to let in the outside, while other people get annoyed. Also, how great is it to not have to put twenty pieces of outerwear on your kids before they leave for school? My mornings are much better.

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    Time off with the kids
  4. Sharing Interests With My Kids
    My kids are getting to that golden age, where they are fairly  independent but still love hanging out with me, and they are getting into stuff that I like too! We have been crafting, biking, coloring, and watching Anne of Green Gables, and reading The Hobbit together. The eleven year old shares my dark sense of humor, and does a nice line in sarcasm. My birthday comes up in a couple of weeks, and I know that all of us will have a good time this year.
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  5. Plaza Arts
    Okay, this store is seriously addictive, and way too close to my home. I go in for a canvas, and come out with a handful of newfangled markers. There is also something nice about seeing other artists shopping for materials, and knowing that they exist nearby. I think I actually saw a rainbow over the store the last time I walked towards it!

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    Notebooks from Plaza
  6. Mastering a new method of screen printing
    I’m so happy about this!!! I have finally been able to put aside the time to figure out how to expose screens properly with photosensitive coating at home.Didn’t you study this sh#% at college? Aren’t you a professional screen printer? I hear you say. Well yes….but at college, we used premixed screen coater, and had big, professional exposing tables, and time! Putting aside time to figure out the logistics of how and where can I do this was something that took me longer than it should have. But finally, I have figured it out and the world is my screen image! I can put any of my drawings on a screen, woo hoo!
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  7. The Hand Maid’s Tale
    One of my favorite books is a TV series, and it does not disappoint me. I know it is dark, but it tackles issues close to my heart, head on, which is actually soothing.
  8. Planning For A Vacation
    I’m going to my original hometown, London,  in a month’s time! Wait, I need to put this laptop down to do the Snoopy dance from Charlie Brown ………………………………………………………. okay, I’m back. Yes, I still have one fair and three weeks of summer camp to deal with before this happens.  But when I feel down,  planning details of my trip is an instant happiness boost. Just thinking about seeing my parents, and childhood home makes me smile.
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  9. Unexpected Meetings  
    I bumped into the Mayor of Vienna last week, while having my hair cut, and she offered to visit the kids at my camp, and look at their town planning projects! I also, met the owner of a boutique, while working at a market in Alexandria, who was interested in my products. Last night, I caught up with a parent at my children’s school, who I haven’t seen in a year and had a really nice chat. Sometimes, I forget to connect with other people because I work by myself, but it is always lovely when I do.
  10. Remembering All Of The Above
    Writing this blog sometimes forces me out of a rut, because it forces me to look back and take stock of my life. It is so easy to stay bogged down, and forget about good aspects of your life when you are having a bad run. And sometimes it feels good to wallow in sorrows for a bit, but when I want to climb out of that pit, the blog certainly helps me stay thankful for what I have. I think everyone should have an equivalent, be it a diary to write in, or a friend to vent to. Do it, get that stuff out of your system when you need to.

Take A Break Wonder Woman! (identifying your work patterns)

I think have mentioned this before: part of working for myself means that I often alternate between periods of hyperactive, super-smug productivity, and what I like to call ‘Buffering Time’.

You know that experience when you are fully immersed in a movie on Netflix, and all of a sudden it stops, and you have to wait for it to sort itself out before it can continue playing? It’s annoying, but you know that it will resume playing at some point. So instead of glowering at the screen you go and fix yourself a snack (or stare at another, smaller screen – don’t lie, we have all done this). I do a version of this with my work schedule. Sometimes my brain starts buffering, and I scale what I do down, or change direction for a while.  For all you visual people, here is a highly scientific graph showing my working patterns:

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Stop laughing.

I recently had a great run of highly productive weeks, where I finished projects, checked tasks off lists, and felt great power running through my veins like a smaller, more jumpy version of Wonder Woman. I printed, ironed, sewed, and packed products for a fair, did inventory, wrote curriculum for my summer camps, worked daily on my illustrations, got up early, hydrated regularly, practiced yoga, and Instagrammed a lot of it,  every – single – day.

The line on my graph has turned downwards this week. The Buffering Time strikes again. I spent two days running back and forth between my kids’ school, the pediatrician’s office, and the ER, due to an appendicitis scare (it’s fine, turned out to be something much less worrying). I spent another two days feeling thrown off schedule, overwhelmed with unfinished work, and too physically tired to wake up early and work that extra hour.

That’s fine, I’ve learnt to take the dips in my work rhythm in my stride, they don’t freak me out (as much) any more. At the risk of sounding like an old hippie, you learn to breathe through the hard stuff, like in Yoga. Someone please hit me with a big stick, I sound so annoying.

The point is, managing time effectively isn’t the same as being busy all the time. I know I will catch up with any work that needs to be done once I hit my stride again, because when I’m on, I’m ON. I know that the graph will turn upwards again soon, and I know that I need to recharge a bit this week, or I will crash. I’m going to take advantage of my dip. I’m going to get my hair cut, and try some of those lettering projects in Mollie Makes’.

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It’s important to identify your own work pattern, and know how to use it to it’s fullest advantage, and please be forgiving with yourself.
My business’s busiest season is about to coincide with the end of the school year, and all the hoopla that that brings with it. I have two weekends of craft fairs to work (which means making more shirts), and concerts and recitals to attend. This will be followed by three weeks of teaching what has to be the world’s best Summer camp, no compromises. This will be followed by a month in England (woohoo!), and another, final week of summer camp. Then the new school year, and my design/printing session for the Holiday fairs begins.

So I’ll take my relaxed, dopey weeks when I can take them, without any apologies thank you very much. You should too!  Be nice to yourself.

Love, Chitra

 

Soggy Diary of A Local Vendor

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a craft vendor? No? Well I’m going to write about it anyway. You can choose what the next post is about, if you like.

Last weekend was Memorial Day  weekend, which in my town means ViVA Vienna. This is our town’s annual Memorial Day weekend carnival. According to my kids, it is a weekend of rollicking good fun and sticky sweetness. There are rides, performances, traditional carnival foods, freebies, vendors, and normally, there is blistering sun.

I wouldn’t know about this, because I never get to experience ViVA Vienna the way the rest of my family does. I am one of the aforementioned vendors. My own personal experience involves standing in one place for nine hours for two days straight, and then spending the following Tuesday slowly hobbling around town with a pained look on my face, and a large coffee in my hands.

ViVA Vienna holds a special place in my heart, and selling at markets is a necessary part of my job, but let’s be honest here for a second, okay? I have a love-hate relationship with markets. Like many vendors, I would rather be making stuff than selling it , but apparently the two go hand in hand. When people ask whether I enjoy selling at markets, I’m not sure how to answer them, because I have mixed feelings.
Take ViVA Vienna for example, on the one hand, I get to meet amazing people, introduce myself as a local artist to my community, and hobnob with friends, all while selling my work and making money – pretty sweet. On the other hand, I have moments of quiet madness, when I desperately want to get out of my hot 10×10 tent, and have a go on the massive slide with my kids. And then there’s Mother Nature; outdoor markets are so unpredictable, and things can flip in a minute. It rained so heavily on Sunday, that nobody stopped by for hours on end. My chair was soaked so I couldn’t sit down at all, and I was becoming increasingly freaked out about my merchandise getting damaged. That is not a recipe for big smiles.
Conversely, Monday was beautiful, sunny, dry, and jam packed with happy customers. Sometimes unpredictable is good, sometimes it gives you gray hair and frazzled nerves.

At the end of it all, the good does outweigh the bad and ugly, and it’s always a fun weekend for my whole family.

Here are some honest high, and lowlights:

  • Highlight So…many…cute…babies. One of the perks of designing for babies and kids is that I get to hang out with them while their parents are shopping. Cuteness overload, extreme happiness…sigh.
  • Lowlight A sudden torrential downpour on Sunday afternoon makes me give into soul crushing sadness, despite the decidedly cest la vie attitude that I tried to adopt on social media that day.
  • Highlight When the rain washed all the customers away on Sunday, I realized that I had bought a notebook with me. I worked on ideas for future products, and had a pretty productive few hours.
  • Lowlight My feet and legs still feel sore, and not the good sore that you get from exercise. Standing in one place for so long doesn’t really suit my temperament.
  • Highlight The people!! I got to catch up with so many friends, some I haven’t seen in a long time, and repeat customers. I discovered other screenprinters and designers, and made plans to meet up with them. ViVA Vienna really is the most sociable event I work all year. It’s lovely to realize how many people you love in your town. I even got a chocolate care package when it rained hard!
  • Lowlight I’m still doing laundry after some of my products got wet in the rain.
  • Highlight Friends always turn up to help us set up and break down our tent in Vienna. It is so lovely to have that support when you are exhausted.
  • Highlight Memorial Day turned out to be gloriously sunny. My tent dried out, lots of people came, and the kids looked ridiculously happy all weekend!

My next fair is on the Alexandria Waterfront in two weeks. Enough time to recuperate and get more things made. Fingers crossed for no rain.

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Rainy Sunday
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Deserted market because of rain
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Chocolate care package from good friends

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Memorial day – the sun comes out!

Mayday, May Day, and Mayhem. The Busiest Month of The Year

Apparently the distress signal Mayday comes from the French term m’aider, which means “help me”. The signal was invented in the 1940s by a radio officer in Croydon airport.

These two facts make me smile, because, first of all, I like the fact that something so important came out of Croydon; the term “mayday” comes to mind frequently when thinking about past shopping excursions there.
Secondly, May is just about the most manic month on my calendar. Three family birthdays, Mother’s Day, ViVA Vienna; and, with the end of the school year looming, hurried Summer Camp planning.  May is a month of looking and feeling like a dishevelled rabbit caught in oncoming headlights (apart from Mother’s Day of course, when I scrub up quite nicely). It is exhausting, but I have been pretty productive. I have been printing up a storm for my local Memorial Day festival, ViVA Vienna. It looks like I’ll be spending this week frantically ironing, sewing, and putting labels on things, in between large, fortifying cups of tea. I thought I’d share some pictures of my May work so far with you below.

Oh, and before I go, one last thought about May.
I miss traditional May Day – they don’t celebrate this in the US. You know, a day off work on the 1st of May to celebrate Spring and workers unions, and indulge in much pagan revelry. I miss watching kids prance around maypoles, and gawping at morris dancers. Does that still happen in the UK? So many things have changed since I left (mostly for the better), but I really hope May Day has been kept intact. I remember being one of the maypole kids when I was little.

Aaaah, the life of an immigrant, it’s like being the spread in a sandwich (I’m going to leave you to work out the meaning of that one yourself).

Happy May, wherever you are!

 

Choosing Self Employment – How To Stay Positive and Productive

Guess what? I’m a great, big whinger

Huge surprise, right? Please insert crying with laughter emoticon here.

I have noticed that I am constantly on the lookout for external reasons to blame my stuttering, pigeon-stepping, career growth on. There are just so many good reasons to choose from:
Being a mom, not having a proper studio, working in isolation, not living in an arts hub, lack of time, lack of contacts, lack of good chocolate. There is always something around to take the blame.

But I chose this path with my eyes open, and I knew about all those issues when I started. I knew that my growth would be slow and long, and difficult. I knew that the path would cut through my young family’s years of early childhood and early parenting, and that I would choose to be present for most of that. I knew that I would choose to work less for a few years, but not forever. Not forever. It’s time to work, and grow more now.

Taking Responsibility For My Choices

Most obstacles to growth are just that, something to stumble over, and then pick yourself up and carry on. We don’t lie permanently spread eagled on the sidewalk after a stumble, do we (even though sometimes we really want to)?
Yes, it’s tough to not have a separate studio, but I do have a big home, and there are plenty of artists, and small business owners who have managed to do a lot in very tight spaces. Yes, I would rather work in London, where I have a ready-made creative community to lean on, or in a city with a large art focus, but I’m here right now, and there are good things about that. It’s really pretty here, and I haven’t really taken advantage of the prettiness fully. I have an incredibly supportive spouse, who helps hugely with work and home duties. Plus, DC with it’s art scene is just a train ride away. I just need to make more of an effort to get off my backside and appreciate the good stuff.
And here’s the big one – Not Enough Time,  there is NEVER enough time, whether you are a parent or not. The answer to that is, I need to use the time I have more efficiently.

Managing Time

Those of us who are self employed, are very fortunate. We have more flexibility in our schedules, and can work strange hours, so that we can be present for those personal events that matter to us. I get to spend a lot of time with my kids, and I’m happy with that. But I do want to work more as well.

I have been listening to Laura Vanderkam’s audiobook I Know How She Does It, in which she talks about time management, and how people really have more time than we think we do.  It has made me look at my weekly calendar in a new light.
I have weeks where I am incredibly productive, and weeks where I resemble that character, Sadness, from Inside Out – just a melted puddle of a human, paralyzed by indecision and anxiety.  I think I need to accept that some weeks are going to be more productive than others, and that my work schedule is always going to be more unorthodox than usual. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t get as much done as someone working 9-5 in an office.  I’m starting small, but here are some things I am mindfully putting into my schedule, to help me be more productive. If you are self employed, maybe they could help you as well.

Strategies

  • Get up early and work on deep thought activities, such as writing curriculum or blog posts an hour before the kids are awake. I’m a morning person, sharp as a nail at 6am, but I haven’t been making the most of that lately. Starting the day this way, will help to set the tone for the rest of the day (of course, that means an earlier bedtime too – I still need my sleep).
  • After the kids go to school, start the day by actually doing work. Don’t look at social media or emails in the morning. Put an hour aside in the evening after the kids go to bed, to answer emails, and communicate with customers.
  • Start big. Be super productive on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so that if it is possible, I can ease up a little towards the end of the week.
  • Practicing self care. Do some form of exercise every day, whether it is a lunchtime yoga class, a gym session, or a walk. This is never a wasted hour, it will provide the energy needed to keep going strong.
  • Work a few hours on the weekend, maybe Sunday evening after the kids are in bed, to set up for the week ahead.
  • Don’t feel guilty about working in weird places such as outside my daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class. Having a hard stop at 4pm every day when the kids get home, can sometimes leave me feeling unfinished, but I like spending time with the kids, so I’ll fit the remaining work in at times that I can.
  • Whether it is drawing in a sketchbook, screen printing shirts, or working on a painting, maintain a daily practice, even if it is only for a few minutes on some days. Sometimes that means setting up automated tasks in advance on slow weeks.

There are other things I already do, such as keeping a visual schedule, and dividing my work day into small blocks of time. Those are just things that work for me right now. I’m open to suggestions from other self employed people in creative industries. You know where I am.

This Year’s Hot Themes For Summer Camp!

A week ago, I was in the middle of a serious curriculum writing streak. I wrote curriculum like a boss, there was smoke coming out of my keyboard, and I enjoyed it (honest, I did). Things were trotting along at a nice pace. There I was, researching, writing, ordering materials, checking boxes, signing checks, making slideshows, photocopying maps, pretending to drink coffee like a grown up, all while feeling pretty smug about it all.

Maybe a little too smug.

In response to my disgusting smugness, the universe has given me a sick child to deal with this week. Balance has been restored to the universe, and I have been, hmmm, very slightly less productive. I have taken a lot of temperatures, watched quite a few Wallace and Gromit films, and spent a lot of time trying to get started on things. Sigh.

I’d really like to give you a beautifully written, well thought out post, layered with meaning and beautiful prose. I’d like to be the person I was last week. However, the best I can do right now with my sticky Motrin-tipped fingers is give you a stream of consciousness paragraph about summer camp themes.

I love writing curriculum for the Summer camp. I’m the head honcho, so I have a lot of freedom with regards to, well, everything. I like to tie in a lot of current, real world issues to the projects, and choose themes that the kids can get really passionate about (like cake, and recess).
It’s Summer camp, not school, so the kids will drive the bus, so to speak. Some of these themes will fly far, and others may not be explored very much. Of course, we often go off on a tangent when the students get really excited about a subject, and sometimes we just pick berries, or our noses. That’s what summer is all about.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the things that the kids will be looking at (when we are not playing outside and napping under trees).

Wayne Thiebaud and Joel Penkman treats, painting childhood and nostalgia, color theory, OK Go, block printing, aerial landscapes, Janine Antoni, Play Doh bake off, cartography, fantasy lands, Narnia, Middle Earth,  Paula Scher, planning communities, perspective, wooden buildings, graphic design, transit maps, Mark Ovenden, Harry Beck’s Underground map, designing transit systems for Vienna, composition, minimalism, Mondrian, Christoph Niemann, logos and letters, visual narratives, comic books, Zoetropes, wordless books, illustration, Suzy Lee, Goodnight Gorilla, stab stitch binding, storytime ….. and more.

Well now I’m even more excited for camp to start. Only a month left before the fun begins….Maybe I should stop watching Shaun the Sheep?

Happy Friday.

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Wayne Thiebaud cakes
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Yup
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My current state of mind
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Keeping it real during the last week of camp
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pretty picture from the last camp
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pretty picture from the last camp
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pretty picture from the last camp
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pretty sandals from the last camp!

Crafter’s Tale – The First Market of the Season

I love making stuff. I could print, paint and sew all day, and often I wish that could be all I do. Selling, on the other hand, scares me stiff. I always get nervous before my first market of the season. Will I get my tent set up on time? Will the weather hold? Will anyone turn up? Will I sell enough to cover my costs? Will I have enough products for each market? Will my square reader work?
Yes, I’m needlessly anxious about the whole thing. The words “sales tax” make me break out in a cold sweat. I fantasize about having an agent who takes care of the sales and marketing side of the business, leaving me free to just design and make.
Despite all of this, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself at these events. I have to relearn this truth each season.

My first market this Spring was Gala Artisan’s Indie Craft Fair in Kensington, and it was a lovely way to kick off the season. Here are some highlights…

The Weather
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After a very gray, soggy Saturday that made me want to hibernate and give my soul to Netflix for eternity, I was really expecting Sunday to be horrible. But a tiny miracle happened – the sun came out, not a little bit, but a lot. It was a lovely day, and the beautiful people of Kensington were out in force. Thank you, Mother Nature.

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Gala Artisans is a beautifully curated shop in Kensington MD, and they run this market. Consequently, there is always a great group of crafters at the event, and a sense of camaraderie that makes the show a lot of fun.

The Books
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The craft fair is run in conjunction with Kensington’s Day of the Book, which means free activities for the kids (including a scavenger hunt), and I get book related goodies. This year, there was a table of free books, and my husband actually snagged me a Margaret Atwood that I haven’t read. Score!

The People
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Kensington is my kind of place. I has a quirky, alternative vibe, and I found myself talking to some really interesting people. One customer I met, turned out to be the guy who writes the Designer Daddy blog. I only realized much later that I had saved an article about his artwork, long ago. Check out his super cool lunch notes here. I met so many creative people – authors, artists, and performers, it was inspiring. Also, I kind of fell in love with this little bakery.

The Kids
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There is a reason I make products for kids.
I genuinely like them, and I seem to still be one of them. I had a lot of interesting interactions with kids at the market. Some wanted to tell me about their day, some just came to stare, a couple wanted hugs, one needed vital information about unicorns. One particular kid chose the space under my table as his designated pooping spot away from prying eyes (luckily he was still wearing a diaper). The fact that I designed a robot that looks so similar to one of my mini customer’s favorite toy, shows that I am still totally in synch with my target market.

The HelpIMG_5948

Once again, my ten year old proved an invaluable assistant. She has much better selling skills than I have (albeit, a little on the aggressive side), and the cuteness factor always helps. The six year old was not as helpful, but Kensington MD obliged us with a constant stream of trains to keep him happily occupied (see beautiful freight train graffiti below).
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I’m broken in and ready for my next fair now. It will be ViVA Vienna! In my adopted hometown of Vienna VA. Always a good one for the kids. See you there?

 

 

About My Spring Break – Blue Skies, Sentimentality and Spanglish

Spring break is over, and life shifts back to it’s normal rhythm.

I spent last week in the warm sunny embrace of Cancun wondering why, despite the bright blue sea and the pretty flowers, I felt restless. I’m not sure if resort life is quite right for me – I’d rather be wandering around an old crumbling town or climbing a hill that I’m not supposed to be climbing. I’m a real pain to be around on vacation, I just don’t know how to idle.
Having said that, I do feel incredibly healthy and relaxed now, and my Spanish has improved considerably – I have been trying it out on as many people as possible, and have not been slapped once so far. After a week of swimming a lot, reading a lot, and being waited on a lot, I can honestly say that I am ready to get stuck into my work again.  Before I start rambling on about work, here are some of the most important elements of my break.

The Water


My favorite element. I’m a water baby. I love to swim, and just being near water is therapeutic for me. I think I swam more in the last week than I ever have before. I just could not do justice to the beauty of the ocean with my sketchbook, but here are some water inspired drawings that I did do. As you can see, my obsession with patterns continues.

This Read
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Yes I know it’s not typical beach fiction, but I am a history geek, and it is such an engrossing read that I could not go away without it. When not frolicking in the warm waters of the Caribbean, I spent a lot of time with my nose in this. Also, it’s a crime not to have a good read during National Library Week.

Powerful Memories
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The last time I visited Mexico, I was twenty something. I took a buses to Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Merida, and spent days drawing, exploring, and soaking up the history and culture of the Yucatan peninsula. This would explain why I felt so fidgety this time around. It was lovely, but not a particularly ‘Mexican’ experience. This visit bought back strong memories of that first trip. The work it inspired is still hanging on my walls. One day, I’ll visit all those places again.

That Blue
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The colors in the sky and sea were so vivid, and overwhelming. I understand why Frida Kahlo and Yves Saint Laurent were obsessed with blue. I’m a color junkie, constantly painting things in my house (see the new color on my dining room walls above). I need to find an outlet for my current blue obsession. Watch out for a new collection of blue-ish paintings coming your way.

I have a busy spring/summer ahead of me packed with fairs, and summer camps. I kick off the season next Sunday with the glorious Gala Artisans Craft Fair in Kensington MD. It happens in conjunction with the Kensington Book Festival, and is near a railway line – so that ticks a lot of boxes for my family. I’m off to label and pack all of my new products right now, and I’ll let you know how it goes!
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Doing A Lot And Very Little At The Same Time – My Unique Work Week.

I’m going on vacation next week (yay!) so, of course, this week was supposed to be a week of frenzied non-stop work, and last minute run-around chores (boo!). If my Fitbit had not broken (Again. Seriously, design a better strap already.) it should be clocking impressive miles. However, a three hour long pediatrician appointment on Tuesday, a two hour IEP meeting on Wednesday, a pretty large plumbing disaster, and a storm put paid to that plan. But I tried to stay focused and productive, and I don’t want to dwell on the negative. So here is a list of things I have done, and things I have enjoyed over the past week:

Crafting Progress

The tee shirts and onesies for the Spring/Summer shows are almost done, after a few sewing marathons. Now let the worrying about whether I have made enough commence.

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Current Reads

I always have a few books on the go. This week, I’m thoroughly enjoying Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime, which jolted memories of Journey To Jo’burg  from my school days, so I ordered it to read with my ten year old. I’m not getting through the Elegance of the Hedgehog very fast, but I suspect that is because I’m listening to it in the car, rather than giving it all my attention – it has yet to capture my heart. Neil Gaiman books are a permanent fixture in my life, much like teatime and punk rock. My daughter is currently obsessed with Anglo Saxon culture, so we excitedly compare notes about Norse v Anglo Saxon culture. Nerds for life and proud of it.
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Painting

I’m working on this piece right now, and am at the bottom of the painter’s curve, where  I’m deeply unsatisfied with how it is going. But I’ll push on through until it starts working.
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Sketchbook Updates

My poor sketchbook has been a bit neglected this week. I need to push myself to do more observational drawing. I have always loved drawing, but tend to just draw abstract or imagined imagery. My observational drawing skills are getting rusty, so I plan to work more on that next week.

Obsessions

I’m a voracious, lifelong learner. Lately, I’ve been on a professional development streak. I’m thinking of ways to grow my business, and new skills I can acquire. In my last post I talked about incorporating a Learning Hour into each day, dedicated to developing skills, and learning new things. Well I have been doing just that, and an hour just doesn’t feel long enough! I have been working on updating my portfolio and my blog this week.
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Summer Camps

Enrollment is finally open for the Noctiluna summer camps, and I have been knee deep in registration forms and spreadsheets. my head is permanently in curriculum writing mode, and literally everywhere I go, there is something that sparks off an idea for a camp project. I was shopping in Target yesterday, and a set of toddler building blocks got me thinking about a 3D architecture project.
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Happy Spring Break!

I’ll be on vacation next week. Hopefully, I’ll come back with a happy sketchbook. When I get back, expect a LOT of curriculum writing, tea, and ridiculously exciting news about summer camp themes. I know you can’t wait. 😉
Have a lovely weekend!

 

Finding Ways to Dream and Stay Productive At the same time

When I close my eyes and picture myself in the future, I am painting huge canvases in a studio that looks a bit like Picasso’s one in the south of France. Sunlight streaming through windows, the beach only a short walk away. I will wander through meadows, and live in a house that looks just like Frida Kahlo’s Blue house.  There will be windchimes everywhere, and the aroma of fresh coffee and almond cake.
Yup. Sometimes I have a very loose grip on reality (Oh, and by the way, I don’t even drink coffee!).

I’m a big, soppy dreamer.

I think that’s a given with most artists – overactive imaginations and a fear of inertia are apparently the norm amongst us creative types. However, life often gives you something very different from your dreams. Take my life for example: I work from home, have two kids, and live in the suburbs, so my life is riddled with routines, repetition, and not much in the way of wandering through meadows.  I won’t lie, it can sometimes bog me down and drag me into anxiety driven yearning for change and stimulation – that’s what fuels my frequent trips into the city. But I can’t be mopey all the time, I need to get on with things. I am a parent, I own a business, I have a lot of projects on the go (and dreams to realize). I can’t just give into ennui.

The artist Chuck Close once said that “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”  He is right, and I am forever on the lookout for ways to stay motivated and productive.  Every few months I shake my routine up a little and add elements to it that will keep me on my toes things during my work day. I go through super productive periods followed by periods of chaos and procrastination. Here is what is working for me at the moment.

The Learning Hour
Sounds like a BBC daytime programme!
Everyday, from 3pm-4pm, (that time of day when I normally start to slump and snack mindlessly) I dedicate an hour of time to developing a skill, or learning something new. Right now, I am taking an online course called So You want to be an illustrator? by Lisa Congdon. In the future, I plan to develop my watercolor and lettering skills, and sort through my portfolio. It’s only an hour a day, so things are developing slowly. However, do not underestimate the power of learning new stuff.  The Learning Hour gives me a burst of energy that seeps into the next day as well.  It’s so important to stay current, and evolving, and to not produce work in isolation. I think everyone needs to incorporate a Learning Hour into their day.

The Chopped Schedule
Working from home gives your schedule a lot of freedom – maybe too much for the likes of me. To deal with my general wiggliness and short attention span, I have adopted a technique used by the best preschool teachers. I write a schedule each night for the next day, chopping my day into short chunks and mixing up my tasks so my day is varied. This tight structure works for me at the moment because I am working on so many different projects and can easily feel overwhelmed by it all.  Here is an example:

8-9.30am work on canvas, 9.30 -10.45 sew shirts for markets, 11-12.00 yoga class, 12.15-12.30 lunch, 1.00-3.00 write curriculum and respond to emails, 3.00-4.00 learning time, 4.30 kids get home. After the kids go to bed: sew shirts.

Sounds uptight and scary? Well, that’s just because this happens to be a particularly busy time of year for me. Not every day will be structured so tightly, and some days focus on certain projects more than others. Last week, I’m was makeup artist for my daughter’s school play performances, so things were a little more crazy than usual, and I worked more in the evenings. Right now, this helps me stay on top of things.

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Self Care
I make time for my yoga practice and dance classes during the week, because they keep me happy and vital, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. With a job like mine, people often assume that I am really not working full time, and mistake my relatively flexible schedule for an emptier schedule. I am learning to look people in the eye and say “Actually I run my own business, and that is not easy. I often work in the evenings and on the weekends, and my brain hardly ever stops thinking about Noctiluna.” I’m learning to say no to some of the things I get asked to do, and I’m learning to speak confidently about my work. Sigh.

So…

If you own a small business, and work from home keep on going, and realize that there will be tantrums, stress eating, people who don’t understand what you do,  and times when you wish you had a 9-5 job. But as my husband says, “keep going, and one day that studio by the beach will be yours”.   All my love to the hard working dreamers out there.

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