The Reality Of Working From Home

I see a lot of articles, blog posts, and movies where well dressed, self employed people work from a beautiful chic cafe; sunlight filtering in through large windows, coffee and pain au chocolat set carefully at an artful angle next to their brand new laptop. I want to know who these people are, how I can achieve this beautiful lifestyle, and also how I can eat pain au chocolat for breakfast everyday without putting huge amounts of weight on. It’s not too much to ask for, is it?

I too am self employed, and yes, this means that I have a decent employer and pretty flexible work hours. It also means that my work seeps into every other aspect of my life, so I have to work from a variety of places. Are these places glamorous? Well, I have on occasion been spotted sporting rather stylish outfits and eating pastries in public, however, more often than not this would be at a Mother’s Day Tea at my son’s school (shortly before I would destroy said outfit with screen printing ink).

My work lifestyle is definitely not glamorous, it is weird and unpredictable, sometimes mundane, and often very fulfilling. This is why I want to share it with you as the antidote to all those perfect work scenarios that we see online.

Here are the places where I do my work.

  1. My Dining Room 
    AKA my studio. This is where I screen print while blasting loud music from my radio so I can ignore marketing phone calls and door to door salespeople during the day. Note: this is why we don’t host a huge amount of dinner parties, and have very cheap dining furniture.
  2. My Kitchen Sink
    An extension of my studio. The place where I wash my brushes, squeegees, and screens (after I wash everything else that was in there first, sigh).
  3. Waiting Rooms
    Where I write the blog posts. I spend a lot of time waiting.
  4. Sitting outside my son’s Tae kwon Do class
    A great place to do mundane stuff that doesn’t require too much focus, ie: ordering materials and designing spreadsheets (five year olds doing Tae Kwon Do is literally the cutest thing ever, I just can’t focus on much else at this time).
  5. The Library
    For Research. Oh who am I kidding, I mostly pretend to research and end up staring at new fiction longingly instead.
  6. At the School Bus stop
    This is always the place I am when very important phone calls reach me. Always.
  7. My Sofa
    Where I draw in my sketch book every evening, a habit that has helped me break out of many creative blocks, and discover much geeky TV. Thank you sofa.
  8. Wholefoods
    A place where parents of prospective students regularly reach out to me (“are you the art camp lady?”). Interviews and enrollment take place over free guacamole and chips samples, and impromptu parent-teacher conferences happen.
  9. Yoga Studio
    The think lab. Okay, I know this is a stretch, but if you think about it, a calm mind helps the big ideas flow later on in the day, so this is part of work, sort of, maybe.
  10. A Variety of Churches and Schools
    Where the camps actually take place. Lack of studio space has meant that I have met almost every pastor and head teacher in town. I’m pretty much famous now, you know.


That, my friends, is how working from home is done when you are an artist/designer/teacher/mommy/bottle washer/business woman, who lives in the suburbs and fights off suburban life every day. It’s the warts and all non-Chai Latte truth.

Now get me an assistant, a Rodarte dress, and a pain au chocolate now!!


A Lovely Valentines Mess

Valentines Day in our house is always messy (much like this post, I actually have no idea what direction it’s heading in). Once an art teacher, always an art teacher, especially during February and December. Gift giving equals crafting chaos for us.

The kids always insist on making Valentines cards and presents for each other, and although the outcome is generally very nice, the sheer amount of paper clippings, sequins, and googly eyes strewn around my house is disconcerting to say the least!

This year my five year old made minion valentines, not surprising really, minions are his obsession of the moment. The nine year old settled for a mustache valentine set that she bought at Target (I mustache you to be mine – haw haw). Then she felt  a bit competitive upon seeing the minion valentines, and made extra valentines from scratch using photos (without permission) from old albums. She is sort of forgiven, the valentines turned out beautiful, and she had the sense to not touch any old black and white photos. Phew.

Valentines day was cold and yucky, and the five year got sick the night before (typical), so we were housebound for most of the day. However, we did get to embrace a few things we love doing (in addition to wiping noses and doing the laundry).We went to Cafe Paul and ate giant pillowy macarons, which were delicious, and then we watched animated movies while drinking chai, then the kids built a fort while I read The Wells Bequest, which combines three of my obsessive loves: libraries, time travel, and NYC.

That actually reminded me of something we used to do annually when the kids were smaller: Favorites lists, inspired by the endless lists of good things that my daughter would churn out every day. We would list as many of our favorite things as we could on long strips of paper, and share them (it’s more entertaining than it sounds, really). I think it’s time we reinstated that tradition in our house, maybe today. I’ll share the lists once they are done.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of some of my favorite things:
Weekend lie-ins, the smell of freshly mown grass, early morning sunshine, buying stationary, cuddling my kids on the sofa, eating chocolate alone, unexpected cancellations that free your weekend up, drawing for no reason, reading fairy tales  for grown ups, street art, tea time, dancing, libraries, goofing around with my best friend, being in a crowd in a big city, warm weather, surprises, elephants, macarons……..

Hope you got to indulge in some of your favorite activities over the weekend. Happy Valentines!


It’s Not Always About Getting Ahead

This is a post dedicated to all those small business owners and fledgling entrepreneurs out there. Keep your chins up and read on :

First let’s get three things straight.

My business is growing, but it’s growing very slowly. Very slowly. I have clearly missed the overnight success boat.

Secondly, I have very little in the way of time, resources, and infrastructure on my side.

Thirdly, I have no business background. I have a design background, I have a solid art education background, I have a sense of humor, I am scarily tenacious, double jointed, and have a lot of dreams; but still, no business acumen.

Doesn’t really sound very promising, does it? I know.

Despite this, I carry on doing what I do. Every year, I fight a lot of battles to move forward a few inches, make some discernible progress. I have amazing ideas for the summer. Right now, I am trying desperately to find a suitable space to run my summer art camp, and I’m trying to do that before all the bigger, more established camps suck every available kid in Fairfax County out of their back yard and into their vast (yet, much less interesting -ha!) programs. Small fish in big water? I feel like a tiny minnow swimming in the ocean.

I am also printing up a storm, so that I will have all my products ironed and ready for the Spring markets.
I’m working by myself, time is ticking, the days don’t have enough hours, and the kids have been at home a lot recently. It can be overwhelming, and my family will vouch that I started last week as the grouchiest person on earth.

So…..this would totally be the wrong time to take a little mental health break, right?

As it turns out – wrong!
A good friend of mine is throwing a birthday party for her five year old at a black light bowling alley. She asked if I could help out, and I said yes. So last week we spent a morning cutting bowling pin stencils, and making glow in the dark t-shirts for the little party peeps. And guess what, it was great. Weirdly, I actually got the same amount of my own work done in half a day as I do in a full day.
How is that possible? Here is how:

  • Taking my focus off what desperately needed to be done, and doing a non work related creative activity, gave me a nice little brain break. I came back to my job with renewed interest, and a fresher perspective on my work (all cliches, I know, but it’s true).
  • Doing something for a friend, and not for work, made me feel good. It was nice to just help someone without expecting anything in return. My improved mood gave me a burst of energy, similar to the high you feel after a good workout. Hence I got more work done than usual that afternoon, and the next day.
  •  Most of the time I work at home by myself. This means I often succumb to bad habits, such as visiting the snack cupboard every ten minutes, taking breaks when I’m not supposed to, and being very self absorbed. Having company meant that I didn’t do those things at all, and there’s a lot to be said for hanging out with real life human beings instead of a radio. We had a lot of fun, I introspected less, and I had a healthier start to the day, which had a knock on effect for the rest of the week.
  • Last but not least, working on those shirts, without worrying about selling them was nice. I didn’t freak out so much about the outcome, and it gave me an opportunity to try out new materials and methods. The whole experience has got me thinking about doing a stencil making street art project with my campers this summer. You never know when inspiration might hit you. That Steve Jobs was right about the dots connecting unexpectedly in your life. Smart man.

I’m back on track after my blue period, and I know there will be other blue periods, but they will end, just like this one.

The message, as always, is play the long game, take the breaks you need to take, and just do what feels right to you.







Staying Motivated After Snowzilla

It is tough staying motivated when you work from home. Often schedules get gooey and the line between work and home life is not really a line, more a series of dashes and smudges. Being productive requires a lot of pep talks in front of the mirror, and a decent amount of self control. Sometimes it’s easy to stay focused, other times not so much.

I was doing alright up until Snowzilla happened, and suddenly I had two overly enthusiastic helpers at home with me for a week, and nowhere to go.

I couldn’t really get much done last week. I managed to screen print a little with the help of my nine year old (while the five year old walked around hitting things), and recycle some old screens, but mostly I gave in to the snow day mayhem. I took the kids sledding, I shoveled while they pelted me in the back with snow balls, I cooked a lot and ate even more, watched all three of the Hobbit films, waved a white flag while the kids covered the ground floor of my house with a giant train track, and kept a very close eye on the five year old and his marker pen collection.

It was fun, but at some point during the eight day snowcation, I started to get despondent (it doesn’t take much, does it?).  I started worrying about my business and the direction it was slowly shuffling in. “I have no idea what I’m doing, or where I’m going.” 

That is when I sat and answered the questions below, found on The Stellar Cafe, a lovely blog written by Peter H Reynolds (he of The Dot, and Ish fame). Sometimes all it takes is a few moments of reflection, to get back on track and feel motivated again (or maybe I’m just a very changeable person).  Asking questions about yourself is never a bad thing. Have a look. Maybe you will want to answer some of the questions yourself, or maybe you have some better ones to add to the list.

Happy Monday!

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1. What is something important to you?
Having an open mind. Taking the time to understand and empathize with other people and not being too judgmental or fearful of differences. Helping my kids to be this way. Going with the flow.

2. What special talent do you have?
Teaching/mentoring young people: I have a good rapport with kids, and remember my own childhood experiences vividly.

3. What place has special meaning to you?
London will always have my heart, it holds my childhood memories, and just feels right when I visit.

4. Who has helped you find your way?
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve found my way yet, it’s taking me a bit longer than expected. Many people have helped me this far, mostly close friends and family. I’ve spent so much time with my head in books, that I can’t ignore their influences on me. However, most of the time, I have just accidentally stumbled onto a path.

5. What do you hope to do someday?
A creatively fulfilling job that pays the bills, keeps me on my toes, and still let’s me spend time with my family. Does such a job exist?

6. What do you need to be more happy?
People, more contact with people. A higher density of people around me (I’m a city girl). More family nearby, and like minded artist friends to bounce ideas around with.

7. What is a big dream you have–if reality wasn’t an obstacle?
Moving closer to the city and buying my own beautiful, roomy studio with huge windows, just a few minutes away from home, and just creating stuff with no limits every day. Ooh. and traveling to as many places as possible with my family and a sketch book. Not much to ask, huh?

8. Who have you helped along the way?
I hope I have helped some students along the way.

9. If you wrote a book about your life up until now what would the title be?
The Grounded Gypsy.

10. If you wrote a book about your future what would it be titled?
How to Grow Old Without Growing Up