Nov 15, 2011

If you think you know more than evolution, you're an idiot.

Has anyone ever heard the saying "the more I learn, the less I know" ?  That's just how I feel lately.  The incredible things that I've been learning over the past few years are showing me the fantastic intricacies of life, and the amazing interconnectedness of it all, all of which we're just beginning to understand.  I am ceaselessly astonished at how one factor can affect the whole of a being and have impact on a myriad of things that you would never EVER be able to guess without science.

I'll start small, so I don't blow your mind.  The direction in which you point your foot while it is weight bearing affects the height (or even the existence of) the arch in your foot.  But get this, the way you rotate your THIGH while weight bearing affects your arch too!  As soon as you straighten your feet, and then roll your knees outward, POP!  Up come your arches, which you thought you didn't have.

Here's another one.  You must know that the length of your hamstrings affects the angle of your pelvis.  Having short hamstrings makes you stand like a shitting dog.  Attractive, yes?  By stretching your hamstrings, you can tilt your pelvis back to where it's supposed to be, regaining a butt and a lumbar curve, and reducing back pain.  When I started stretching my hamstrings though, it reduced the pain in my neck.  The shortened muscles of my calves was hurting my NECK.  Madness.

Here's a crazy one.  The way a baby feeds literally determines the chemical make up of your breast milk, so allowing a baby to feed however and whenever they want means they are controlling their diet.  Not just the amount of milk made, but the amount of fat, water and protein they take in at each feed.  Lactating breasts respond to cues like fullness, length of time the baby spends on the breast, and the spacing between feedings.   That means that using any other method of feeding besides direct mouth to breast takes away the baby's ability to get exactly what they need. (No judgement, just stating fact here, friends!)

 I love those studies that go on about the dangers of sleeping with your baby.  Oh wait, did I say love?  Cause I meant hate.  Infant mother sleep interaction is fascinating.  A mother who is breastfeeding her baby has hormones to keep her alert enough to not roll over her baby.  Not only that, she'll wake up at the same time as the baby (not being woken by the baby, just waking simultaneously).  Not only that, she'll wake up if the baby has stopped breathing for longer than normal.  Not only that, the mother's breath on the baby's face literally teaches the baby how to breathe during a transition at 3 months, during which time babies are especially prone to SIDS.  Not only that, but when a mother and baby sleep in close proximity to one another, their EEG readouts will be almost the same as they drift into and out of different sleep stages at the same time.  That means their brains synchronize DURING SLEEP.  WTF!?  Anyone else totally amazed??

The tightness of your hands is related to how effectively you are able to breathe (how much oxygen you can take in). Skin to skin contact regulates a newborn's blood sugar!  Breasts heat up and cool down according to the baby's temperature that's resting upon them, to keep the baby at the perfect temperature.  Bending a certain way in the middle of your spine (thrusting your ribs outward) can literally give you cardiovascular disease.  Chewing your food mixes it with saliva, which starts the digestion process in your mouth, but it also keeps your teeth from falling out (given that it's something tough like raw food or something which puts pressure on the bones which causes them to regenerate).  Carrying your baby as opposed to using a sling or a stroller reduces the incidence of osteoporosis later in life.  Need I say more?  No seriously, somebody stop me before i start up on diet and health.  My head is gonna explode.

Please know that I'm not writing all this stuff to make anybody feel bad about the choices they've made in life, I'm not writing this to pass judgement or to boss everyone around like a stupid jerk.  No one needs to justify themselves to me! I'm just saying we must be aware that evolution always has something specific in mind, nothing is without rhyme or reason, and all things are connected in life.  The way you spend your time, the food you put in your mouth, the way you parent your children, all these things have an optimal approach that was perfected over millions of years.  Your choices now can affect something way down the road that you don't even know exists yet.  The point I'm trying to make is that we are ancient bodies living in modern times, and to make it into the future, it wouldn't hurt to think and act like our ancestors sometimes.

Nov 14, 2011

For my alignment friends!

Today I'm going to post about something a little different.  If you've been following my blog, you know I've begun a new alignment program and am slowly working toward becoming certified as a restorative exercise specialist.  I want to document my journey and do some posts about alignment, but I don't want to start a new blog just yet.  So, for now, I'll be doing the odd alignment post here on this blog.  I was going to do a video blog, but I'm too shy right now to put up the video I did, so I'll stick to writing for another little while. :) Without further adieu, here's my first official alignment post.

Starting out in this program is very overwhelming at first.  The further in I get, the more out of shape I realize I am!  At first I was all, "i have tight hamstrings.  I just have to stretch those a little and I'll be fine".  NOPE.  There is a lot that has to be fixed in this frame, more than just my tight hams. 

The first three things I've decided to work the hardest on while watching the lectures and dvds are:

1.) Hamstrings.  Biggest problem.  I can't get close to my toes unless I'm bent at both the hips AND the knees.  I can't do half the exercises on the dvds because I literally cannot untuck my pelvis unless I'm not bending at all at the hips, or bending a lot at the knees.  So yea, obviously that's the first thing that has to change.  It feels horrible at first, getting into a stretch, but I'm slowly getting used to it and working hard on increasing my stretching time.  Ideally I'd like to be doing it every hour or two, for several minutes at a time.  It is a totally realistic goal, but I keep forgetting to do it.  My favorite move for this one is the double calf stretch (either with or without the half dome, it kills me either way) because it allows me to kill 2 birds with one stone during my stretching, and work my second major trouble spot which is...

This is Katy Bowman, the creator of the course.  Check her out at

2.)  Hands.  Really?  Hands?  Yup.  Years of screen printing and typing and being a general claw fingered freak has left me unable to put my hands flat on the floor when I'm on my hands and knees.  Seriously, for years I've been just balling up my hands and using my knuckles to bear my weight because it hurts so much.  But no more!  I'm trying to get my fingers straight as fast as possible.  Last night was the first time I ever experienced straight fingers with my hands relaxed after stretching them for around 20 minutes.  It was divine.  I can't wait to do it again.  The crappy thing about being a claw hand is that it also means my wrists are terribly weak and mal-aligned (that's a word, right?).  I think if I stayed on my path of shittiness, my wrists would have been the first thing in my body to fail me.  So I stretch my fingers individually, as well as all at once with my fingers linked, palms out, arms straight.  When I do my double calf stretch it is the perfect opportunity to practise having straight fingers without putting too much weight on my wrists, which aren't flexible enough or strong enough at the moment to support me for long.

3.)  Pectoral muscles.  This will surprise those of you who aren't in the program, but the reason people's shoulder blades stick out in the back is because the muscles on the front of your chest are too tight.  When the muscles shorten, it causes you to compensate with your back, collapsing in the center and sticking your shoulder blades out so that your shoulders can look straight.  In fact, your shoulder blades should lie flat on your back, not stick out at odd angles.

Here's me.  Tucked pelvis, hyperkyphosis, and epic scapulae.

Considering I look like a pterodactyl, that's not good news for me.  I've been doing lots of floor angels, and just trying to generally be aware of the position of my shoulders.  It seems to be coming along quickly, and I'm happy for that. 

So that's it for my first alignment post.  Not incredibly interesting or informative, I know. It's just a post to document what my freaky body is doing at the moment, and what I'm starting off with to fix it.  Now I'm off to do my double calf stretch. 

Nov 3, 2011

Goal Digging.

I've really had my head stuck in the clouds for the past couple of weeks.  I'm daydreaming about the time that I'll be working as a restorative exercise specialist, helping people get their bodies back in alignment.  I've been picturing the layout of a clinic I'd like to open, I've been making notes for seminars I want to do.  I've set lots of goals over the years, both short and long term, and I'm at it again.  To help myself, and you as well, I've made a short list of 3 helpful handy hints when it comes to setting goals, or as I like to call it, "Goal Digging".

Tip number 1:  Dont' be afraid to take your time and look as far down the road as you'd like.

A wise man once said "He goin' make into a Benz out of that Datson.  He got that ambition baby, look in his eyes.  This week he moppin' floors, next week it's tha fries", and truly those are inspiring words we can all live by.  It's not about where you are now, it's about working toward your goals step by step. You're not going to reach your goal over night (unless your goal is eating an entire extra large pizza in one sitting.  In which case, shut the blinds so no one can see what a freak you are).  You've got a long life ahead of you, (unless you're eating extra large pizzas every day) so it's fine to take your time to really work hard to reach the goal you've set.  Take the clinic I want to open.  I only just started the first part of my alignment course.  I still have to master 17 DVDs worth of exercises, know them by heart, what they're for, who can do them, what the modifications are for those with injuries, etc.  Then I have to go down south to either Washington or California to get certified.  After that I'll have to work for a while to build up clients and money to open the clinic.  Plus Myriam will have to be in school because I can't take care of her and run a business like that full time...the point is, it's a long, LONG way off.  But that does not stop me from setting my goal, and taking baby steps toward it each and every day.

Tip number 2:  Don't let your life NOW get in the way of your life LATER.

This can apply to so many things!  Remember when you were 10 and you had to have a new bike because the one you were riding was grey and not a cool color and hurt your nether regions every time you landed a sweet jump?  Did you let your life (unemployed, broke, still in school) stop you from achieving your goals?  No!  You worked hard every day, always making time to bug the shit out of your parents to get you a new bike, and you succeeded!  Good job asshole, now your parents are going to be late with their mortgage payment this month, but you achieved your goal and that's what matters.

Maybe you'd like to train to be a graphic designer so you don't have to work at Tim Horton's when you're 40, but you have a 2 year old preventing you from going back to school full time.  Don't let that little brat stop you!  Think about going back part time, or if that's not an option, start doing some self learning (buying books, researching on the interwebs) so that you'll be really prepared when your crappy kid is finally in Kindergarten.  Go back to the first tip of not being afraid to make your goal a long term one.  Slowing down is ok, but you don't have to give up on your dreams just because you have an obstacle in your life right now.

Tip number 3:  Change the way you think about working toward a goal.

I'm sure we've all heard the old adage "Life is about the journey" or whatever it is they say, but it is true.  Don't discount the path you take from point A to point B.  I know it's going to take me several years to reach some of my goals (like getting a diamond studded golden grill for my teeth) but that doesn't mean I'm in limbo until I get there.  Use your time wisely in a way that makes you happy now and propels you ever closer to your goal.  If you go back to handy tip 2, and make sure you're not making excuses for not working toward your goal, hopefully you won't ever feel like you're just waiting around for all your magical dreams to come true.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to stretch my hamstrings.  My goal is to be able to touch my toes in 7 years, but I have to work on it now if I ever want that to happen.

Oct 24, 2011

What's my motivation?

I got a really neat email this morning from a girl developing an app to help people with weight loss.  I won't go too much into it, since it's her idea and I'm sure she doesn't want any of you filthy pirates robbing it, but in essence, it makes weight loss a fun game.  The idea is that some people are more motivated by a high score than they are by their current health and longevity.  I think the idea is great.  The concept of discovering what motivates people, and then channeling that to help them reach their goals.

So it got me to thinking about motivation in general, and what motivates people to do what they do.  Everyone knows you're supposed to eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, and that Pepsi melts nails (construction, not finger), that aspartame gives monkeys brain damage, etc. etc. but lots of people still eat crap, and don't make any effort to improve.  On the other hand, some people are right on the ball with their health.  I have a friend who actually only eats raw food.  EVER.  She is very motivated to take care of herself.  What about smokers?  That smoking causes cancer and other horrible diseases (like the dreaded "yellow finger") is common knowledge at this point.  So, are smokers motivated to smoke, or are they just not motivated to quit?

There seems to be an ebb and flow to motivation as well.  Personally, I find it really hard to get my motivation up and keep it there (it's called MD, "motivational dysfunction" hehe).  I guess that's why I have about 7 unfinished crochet projects scattered around the house, and I have a place mat scotch taped behind my sink for the DIY back splash I was planning on making, and why lettuce always goes bad in my fridge (no motivation to make a salad).

There are many different reasons to do things.  Money, appearance, fear, to gain something, to prevent something.  It seems to me, however, that the most effective motivator is passion (pronounced "PASHon", Antonio Banderas style).  If what I'm trying to do is a random passing idea, and isn't a manifestation of everything that I love in life, a way to realize all my hopes and dreams, chances are it isn't going to get done.  So, since a kitchen back splash doesn't give me goose bumps, keep me up at night, make me emotional because I feel so happy when I think about it, it looks like I'll be re-sticking the tape on that place mat for months, maybe even years to come. 

Luckily for me, I've actually found something that does make me feel like that, and it's probably not what you think it's gonna be.  You all think that I'm really into art, and I am, but not the way that I'm  I have enrolled in a program about full body alignment, and it's the most sciency thing I've ever done.  I'm learning about blood physics, skeletal mechanics, thoracic this and cervical that. I'm learning why wearing high heel shoes makes you lose bladder function.  I'm learning why poor posture leads to cardiovascular disease.  And yes, I do get emotional from time to time during lectures explaining all this jibber jabber.  After all my going on and on about what path to I'm on, what direction I'm supposed to take in life, it seems that I have found it.  I've never been so happy, or loved what I'm learning and doing so much.  And  I believe that is the motivation I need to keep me going for a long, long time.  :)

Oct 3, 2011

You see what you want to see.

I know I complain a lot about my kid, but mostly I'm just kidding.  The truth is, she's nothing more and nothing less than herself.  She needs to be picked up more often than other babies.  She has an unpredictable sleep schedule.  She may or may not eat when food is placed in front of her.  Sometimes she nurses 3 or 4 times at night.

She also does a lot of really cool stuff.  She usually asks for the potty (even at restaurants) when she has to pinch one off.  I can count on one hand the dirty diapers I change in a month.  She says a lot of words, always knows when it's her dad on the phone, recognizes pictures of her grandparents, and always knows to say "Bop" (pop) right after she says Nan.  When her Baby Einstein video says the word "friend", she looks at me and says "Mai?" because Mai is the little girl next door, her best friend.

So, high needs, low needs, mad skills, no skills, she just is what she is.  The hard part of my job is having the patience to deal with the times when her "flaws" seem the greatest.  That gets me to thinking about labels again (click), and how we tend to label benign traits according to how convenient or inconvenient they are for us.  For example, Myriam needs a great deal of attention and physical contact.  Some people call it needy, clingy, or say she's too dependant.  But you could also see this trait as securly attatched, bonded, or loving.  Another example is when we go out places, or have new people visit our home; she takes a while to relax and be at ease. She's really "sensitive".  Or shy.  Or a scaredy-cat. Or, as I would rather see it, she's very perceptive, and aware of her surroundings.  She's not a wimp, she has an analytical mind, and needs to figure things out before she's fully comfortable. 

See what I'm getting at here?  None of these traits are either negative or positive, but the words we attach to the traits give them a good or a bad value.  It's a classic glass half full, glass half empty scenario.  Personally, when describing my daughter, and life in general, I'd much rather be going around with my glass half full.  And when there's only a drop left in the bottom, I want to exclaim "Sweet!  There's still a drop left in here!".

Sep 27, 2011

Make a night of it.

My wicked awesome next door neighbour and I were hanging out the other day in her driveway with our babies.  It was a hot sunny day, unusually so for late September.  The visit was short, only about half an hour or so, but it was SO MUCH FUN.  Not kidding you, it was the highlight of my day.  Last night we were hanging out again, contemplating how something so mundane could be so much fun.  She noted that when we were kids, fun was measured by how long something lasted, how much action there was, whether or not you were up past 2 a.m.  She thought it was funny that now, a quiet evening at home with her family or a 30 minute chat on an otherwise busy day could bring the same amount of enjoyment as an all night house party, or a long night of dancing at some bar downtown.  My spouse thinks that perhaps as you get older, any respite from responsibility feels like so much fun.  Like, wow, I'm not in an office at 9 a.m. trying to teach some old guy how to send an email.  Or, wow, I'm not cooking while doing the dishes while trying to comfort a screaming baby who just.won't.sleep.  Hell yea, sitting on hot asphalt with a great friend sounds a LOT better than that. 

While I love relaxing and getting a bit of down time with friends, sometimes I wish I could be productive at the same time as I'm being social.  Turns out, there's a great way to do that!  Well, depending on what you consider productive.  It won't work if you're a welder, but works great if you're a writer.  I'm talking about a writing jam!  Or a drawing jam, knitting jam, excel spreadsheet jam (if that's what you're into).  I'm so excited I've finally found a friend here who wants to go to a coffee shop and hang out and write.  Not talk, just do some productive work for pleasure.  I used to do this all the time in Newfoundland with my fellow drawers and writers, but since I moved here I haven't really found anyone who enjoys working while hanging out with friends (I know right, wtf? Who doesn't love to work instead of converse?) 

It's not for everybody, that for sure.  There are a lot of people who either need alone time to work, or are just too into chatting to be able to get'er done.  However, when you find someone that it does work with, the results can be fantastic.  Not only are you not being a social reject, isolated and alone with your pathetic ideas, you actually have a second mind to bounce said ideas off of.  I'm never as creative on my own as I am when I'm working along side others.  Eskimark, //d, Jackie, Bekki, Lacey, I'm thinking of yous guys.  The creative energy that develops when two (or more) people are involved is so inspiring, so motivating... I can't wait to be at it again on a regular basis.  It's one of those things that makes me feel like my "old" self (pre-Myriam), and it's also a wonderful way to keep the creativity alive.  Less like a shriveled old raisin in the back of your mind, more like a juicy bunch of grapes, where each grape is a different idea.  Right? Right?  (This is one of those times where I need a second mind to bounce my pathetic ideas and lame jokes off of).  Does anyone else love to do this, or is it just me and my anti-social friends?  Here's an antique photo of me when I was like, 23.  My friend //d took it one night when we were having a design jam.  Thanks D!!!

Sep 25, 2011

Etsy Banners.

I said a while ago that I wanted to focus more on my own things, more sewing, more designing.  I've done just that.  :)  I won't give it all away right now, but check out these 3 Etsy banners I just made. I'm working on getting some new things up in the shop over the next 2 weeks or so.  Can't wait!!  I like the first banner the best I think.  What do you guys think?

Sep 24, 2011

When you're not where you thought you'd be.

Sometimes I look at myself and my life and thoughtlessly compare it to other people's.  Like that girl I know who is a marine biologist.  Or that couple that just spent 2 weeks in Thailand after their lavish wedding ceremony.  Or my successful graphic designer cousin who is in her early 20s and just bought a house with her boyfriend who is a doctor (fairy tale much?).   Up until a little over a year ago, I was still living in an icy cement block of an apartment where the windows were drafty and getting hot water in the morning was a matter of luck and timing, never a guarantee.

Then I think of my parents, who suffered a devastating blow after my father was crippled in a motorcycle accident 27 years ago.  Talk about not being where you thought you'd be: in a hospital bed smoking what you thought was your last cigarette,  working at a shoe store in the mall and suddenly being (essentially) a single mom trying to pay for a house.  I think of another lady I know, who ended up being a single mom to three children because her ex husband was too much of a crap sack to stay with.  I think of and old friend whom I haven't spoken to in a decade, and wonder if her cancer ever came back a third time, I wonder if she's still around.

There are so many different circumstances you can find yourself in, and things can change gradually over time, or suddenly one rainy night.  You can always find a new circumstance though, a new path.  My mother went to night school so she could get a better job (which she got, fyi).  My father, after a year and a half of learning to walk again, learned how to program computers when he could no longer be a mechanic (due to crip-walking.heh.)  The lady who was the single mom ended up running 3 mad-successful businesses SIMULTANEOUSLY and still seems to find new opportunities every day (I'm not kidding you, this woman is my business-hero).   When you find yourself saying "I'm not where I thought I'd be",  you can remind yourself that no one is.  At one point I thought I'd be teaching English somewhere in Asia, I thought I was going to be a speech pathologist, I thought I was going to work at an insurance company forever, I thought I'd always be alone, I thought I'd always be childless.  I am, however, none of those things.  If you dont' like where you are at the present, you can always make a new choice, find a different path to walk on.  You might end up somewhere better than you thought you'd be.

Writing an artist's statement when you're not an artist...

 I'm participating in FOE (Festival de l'Outaouais Emergent) in a couple of weeks, from Sept. 8th to 11th.  While I'm really excited, I'm also really nervous!  I keep worrying that I don't have enough merchandise to stock my table, or that none of it will sell, or that it will all sell and then I'll have to sit at an empty booth for 3 days (yea right).

I was asked by the organizer the other day to submit an artist statement for my work.  The only problem is, I'm not really an "artist" at the moment, and I don't feel like I'm making art!  I've been over and over the question of what art is a million times when I was in art school.  There are so many answers and none of them seem to be wrong.  My own personal definition has to do with intent.  If the person who made it says it's art, then it's art, within reason.   Although perhaps it's not fair of me to assign a condition based on my own personal bias to someone else's work.  Who am I to define something so subjective and personal to someone else?

The point is, what I'm doing at this moment doesn't feel like art, but has the same process as my artwork would normally have.  I guess you could call it "wearable fabric sculpture", but I prefer to call it "hair accessories".  See my dilemma?  Of course I could fluff it up, lie through my teeth and clumsily impose some kind of meaning to the work.  Honestly I just like making things that are fun and pretty, and I enjoy the actual process of it all; hand sewing, placing tiny beads in just the right place, fussing over every minute detail. So, shag it, I thought.  I'll just write about that!  Here it is, my "not art" artist statement!

I have always enjoyed the physical process of creating, whether with a pencil, a camera, or a needle and thread.  The more time and energy it takes to make, the more I enjoy it!  The Elephant Studio is a way for me to make a life at exhausting all my ideas and letting my hands create what ever I want, as soon as it comes to mind.

I'm really inspired by ornate costumes from the past, clothing from other cultures, art nouveau, and fashion in general.  Although we can't all dress like Marie Antoinette or a Chinese empress every day, I like to create pieces that impart a whisper of that fantastic luxury when worn, and blend their intended function with some sort of elegant or quirky visual appeal.  My hope is that people enjoy wearing the pieces as much as I enjoy creating them.

Jul 13, 2011

Life Cartography

It's been one hell of a time since I've taken on the role of stay at home mom.  Myself and Mimi are getting our routine down, she's sleeping for longer (neglected, outside the door in her stroller) and I'm getting a little more work done during the day.  I've also been making a lot more mistakes.  I know that mistakes are a part of life, inevitable occurrances that show you're still learning and growing, but I'm wondering if they're not a sign that I'm heading the wrong way.  For the past 2 or 3 jobs I've done, I've had to reshoot at least one screen per job because I didn't place the transparency in the right spot, or somehow it didnt' shoot up right, or I tried to remove some ink with my spray bottle full of emulsion stripper (which, for those of you who dont' know, STRIPS the screen bare) instead of ink remover.  Today I rushed to the studio to work while Mimi slept and things went well until I came back up to the kitchen to find...bright yellow ink.  On the chair.  Which came ass.  Somehow, I managed to rub up against something that was covered in ink.  This likely happened because i was wearing a poofy skirt in the studio.  STUPID.  Yup, I was in such a rush to work that I neglected to put on proper studio clothes.  At least when I brush up against something in pants, I feel it on my leg and wipe it off.  But with a poofy skirt swooshing around,  I have no idea what kind of trouble my hem is dipping into.  The worst part of all:  I found a box of t shirts that I printed for a client a month ago.  To be fair, it was a really huge order, it was my first week alone with the baby, and *insert other really good excuse here*.  There is nothing acceptable about that, and making a mistake like that is a really bad sign.

The problem is, the more I work, the worse these mistakes seem to get, and the worse I feel about the whole thing.  The pressure, the deadlines, the rushing, and the baby are not things I can handle all at once.  Separately, no problem.  Together, they form a life that I'm not sure I enjoy.   I was nervous about being a work at home mom, looking for all the tips and tricks to make it work.  Now I'm thinking: do I even want to make it work?  Don't get me wrong, I still want to have my own business and do what I can while home.  But perhaps I need to pull back a bit, give myself some room to breathe, a moment to myself when I don't have to rush, allow myself a mindset that isn't consumed with deadlines and finances.  I keep forgetting that people do childcare for a living.  They get paid for it!  I do it all day for free, and then go work some more until I'm too tired to stand.  I'm like that stupid Halls candy that's got "2 jobs man" (remember those tropical Halls throat drop things? They were delicious.)

Every now and then in life you have to stop, take a step back, and really evaluate what you're doing.  You take inventory of your life, and then decide where it is you want to take yourself. This is by far one of the hardest things we have to do.  Although you can get all the helpful advice you want, ultimately it's going to fall on your own shoulders.  Some people are lousy at it, some people rule.  I feel like I fall somewhere in between that.  I don't feel like a stagnant person, never changing and accepting life as it comes.  But I also don't feel like a real go getter, a tiger who plows through life making their fate just what they want it to be.

So, what do I want?  Where do I want my life to take me?  I know I'll keep printing, but I want to be able to watch a movie in the evening, or read a book during Myriam's nap without feeling guilty about it.  I'd rather be working more on my own projects (sewing, printing, crochet, etc.) instead of only printing everyone else's designs.  As my own boss, I should be able to decide how many hours a week I work and what projects I choose to take on, right?  I have said before, in a post long ago, about how owning your own business is really about being in control of your own life.  But somehow, I don't feel so in control.  I am still letting life fall into my lap, instead of reaching for what I want. 

I'm curious to hear from you, dear readers, if you've ever felt like you're straying from your path, and what did you do to fix it?

Jul 11, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Professionalism.

I'm not gonna lie, I love good manners.  Or perhaps it's proper etiquette that I love.  Actually, I think it's both.  I love it when people hold doors for each other, say thank you, compliment each other's shoes in the elevator.  Nothing charms and entices me like a razor sharp outfit, and nothing ruins my day more than an inappropriately dressed person (I'm talking about YOU, muffin tops at the shoe store, stop wearing lingerie to work.  I wouldn't buy shoes from you if my feet were covered in scabs and I was going for a walk on the sun).  I even love entertainment that is about behaving appropriately (I'm pathetic).  Know what my favorite movie is?  Pride and Prejudice, not because of the romance, but because of how everyone is so prim and proper.  Last summer I read Portrait of a Lady loved that too.  I'm sure some people find that stuff boring, or pompous, or superficial, but I think it makes the world nicer to look at, and nicer to live in.

It's not such a bad thing to be interested in though, because I think my mild obsession with etiquette has given me a bit of an edge in my business life, since being professional goes hand in hand with manners and etiquette.  Every client gets treated the same way, and whether I'm going to someone's office for a meeting, or going to pick up a bunch of dollar store t shirts at someone's house, I never show up in jeans and sneakers.

I've been thinking a lot about professionalism, and how some people have it, but most people just don't.  I got off the phone with my t shirt supplier on a Friday and was shocked to find that an order I placed early in the week, and had received confirmation of shipment for TWICE, was in fact, sitting on their warehouse floor, in a pile of boxes that were waiting to be picked up by customers.  It sat on the floor for 4 days, even after I called to be sure it was on its way to me.  Even after I was TOLD it was on its way to me.  When I finally became aware of this gross error (after calling again to get them to track the package) I was furious, but polite (as usual) but the guy on the phone was all "oh, shit happens.  i feel bad.  it must have been the guy who packed the box".  I have not received any further correspondence from the rep I usually deal with, though he is probably aware of the problem.

The point of my long winded story is:  it was crazy unprofessional.  To shag up a client's order and then act like it was some random thing that happens all the time is ridiculous in my opinion.  Needless to say, I'm taking my business else where.  I can't stand working with unprofessional businesses, and thank goodness, I do have a choice in suppliers. I can drop a shitty supplier as fast as I'd pop C.Cassie in the mouth if I ever met her/him.

The really unfortunate thing is when your own clients are crazy unprofessional.  Things like being really late with a payment, or not giving me an order in on time so it either holds me up or ends up making me have to rush like a madwoman to finish a job, not being there when you say you will be  (and I end up carting my 10 month old around town in the 40 degree heat of the summer for nothing).   It bothers me when I can't get hold of a client for days at a time, so I can't confirm proofs with them, and have my printing press held hostage until someone remembers to email me back "yup.  that works.  go for it".  Not cool, not very businesslike.

Sucks to your assmar though, you can't send an angry letter to a client, or even act irritated with them at all.  Unless, of course, you really like bridge burning, shooting yourself in the foot, biting the hand that feeds you, etc. etc.  I'm not into any of those things!  luckily I have those nice manners to fall back on, and I try to keep a disposition that enables me to brush off all that crap that drives me insane about people.  Unless I'm being mistreated, or a client is doing something that is really wrecking my life, I tend to just suck it up and try my best to be more clear in the future about timing, payment, things of that nature.

Now, if you'll excuse me, someone on my street is riding a mini bike.  It is loud, irritating, and risks waking my baby (then I'll have to *eugh* take care of her...) I find this to be extremely rude, so I gotta go bust up some kneecaps and make this neighbourhood a nicer place to live in.

Jun 26, 2011

Do I have to fake it to make it?

Sometimes I wonder how certain people make it in this world at all, and how some people don't do as well despite their obvious talent.  I have one friend with tremendous skill as an artist, but never does as well as she wants to.  She has poor self esteem, and can't seem to realize how good her work actually is.  I have another friend who is totally mediocre at everything, and takes some of the most boring photos I've ever seen, yet somehow manages to succeed fantastically.  He thinks very highly of himself, and has unfounded confidence in spades.  Each one of them perceives themselves to be a certain way, (struggling artist, photographer extraordinaire) and then lives up to those perceptions.

I can't help but think that one's perception of one's self has great impact on how well one does in life.  "Thanks Captain Obvious!  We never knew that!" you're thinking.  I know, everyone has heard about how important confidence is.  But I'm talking about more than that (I think).  I had never really thought about it before until recently.  My crippling anxiety and persistent belief that my clients are going to be totally disappointed has brought to light how I really perceive myself, and let me tell you, it doesn't look good.  Yet, I've never had bad feedback from a client, people seem to be really happy with their finished products.   Yes, I have high standards for my work, but why do I feel I'm never meeting them?  Why can't I live up to my own expectations? 

I'm pretty sure the problem lies with a skewed perception of myself.  On paper I look successful.  I've illustrated 3 books, I run a small business which is doing well, I'm working on a line of baby stuff which people seem to like...but somewhere there is a disconnect.  The person I am doesn't seem to be the person I feel like.  I can't tell if I'm faking success, or if I really have it.  It's like a girl playing dress up in her mother's shoes.  At some point you're a woman in your own shoes, but it's hard to tell when you actually cross the line.

So how do I bridge the gap between perception and reality?  I'm sure some people would say "positive thought!  You just have to believe that you're totally awesome and rad, then everyone else will too!"  Somehow that doesn't seem based in reality.  If I'm perceived as awesome, it better be because I'm awesome, and not just a lot of hype (which I think is why my lame photo-friend does so well).  Positive thought is a step perhaps, but I don't think it's the solution.  Then I'm just shifting from one false perception (hack job) to another (Queen Awesome, best at everything ever).

I read an interesting thing once about how children percieve themselves based on how they're labeled, and how that subsequently impacts the way they live their lives.  If you label a child as smart (i.e. look at you Jimjam, you did that all by yourself, you're so smart!), they tend not to work as hard in life, because they feel they should inherently be able to do things without effort.  Label a child as a hard worker (i.e. look at you Dingdang, you did that all by yourself, you must have worked so hard!) and they will always try hard and strive to meet their goals, believing that their strength is in their persistence.

It makes me wonder what kind of label I've been working under all this time, and if perhaps I should self impose a new label to live up to, a new way to percieve myself.  "Hard working artistic genius" seems like a good one I think.  How does everyone else work on this, or am I the only one?

Jun 4, 2011

The daily grind.

As my spouse's parental leave creeps closer and closer to its end, I've been scrambling to get all the tips I can on working from home while caring for a child.  I know one thing is for certain, something has to change.  I spend a lot of my time with divided attention, trying to do 2 things at once and doing both poorly.  Like, I'll sit down to take care of some invoices and watch Myriam but end up half-assing both.  I give Myriam a pizza crust to distract her so I can focus on getting some work done, but all that happens is that I neglect my child while I play around on facebook.  I'm mom of the year.

In my quest for survival tips, I found some great advice in a somewhat surprising place.  My neighbour Topon is the founder, guitarist, manager, producer etc.etc.  for the internationally renowned grindcore band  Fuck the Facts, but he's also a work at home dad who runs a home recording studio.  I had no idea he was such a fountain of knowledge when it comes to working and parenting at the same time.  Apparently a week at home with his girlfriend back to work has made him some kind of guru.  

He was saying how he's had to really manage his time better, something I know I struggle with.  His big trick:  no internet until the evening.  What the WHAT?!  No Interwebs?  Sounds crazy, I know, but seriously, how much time gets wasted watching the latest kitty video and reading about the "6 Personality Quirks You Didn't Know Were Medical Conditions".  I do have to access my gmail account throughout the day for my business, but *my* tip is to put a shortcut to the email account on my desktop.  That way I just click on it and I'm in my inbox, there's less temptation to click all my other links, like facebook, hotmail, blogger, and google analytics (to see how many crazies are actually reading this).

The second piece of dad-ly advice I got from Topon is to really take advantage of your baby's down time.  When they go to sleep, start working right away.  The dishes can be done with a baby on your back, but anything that requires concentration should be started the second the baby closes her eyes.  If you even stop for a second to check the news, you know you're going to lose at least 20 minutes of productive time.

Even those brief periods of time when they play on their own should be used wisely.  No more laughing it up at MadTv clips with one eye on the baby.  I should be using that time to crochet, or photograph my stuff, or start setting up my catalogue.  I can do all those things while I make sure my baby doesn't attempt to find out what electricity tastes like.

It is really important to take care of pressing tasks as soon as you get a chance.  Babies are so unpredictable, you may not get another time during the day  For example, Mimi is sick today with a cold.  As a result she needs constant hugs and only took a 20 minute nap.  Guess how much stuff I can get done on days like that?  About as much as your grandmother the day after her hip replacement surgery.

So, awesome tips to recap: Manage your time by limiting distractions, taking advantage of every work opportunity, focus on the task at hand, and don't procrastinate.  Sounds easy enough, we'll see if I can follow my own advice on Monday when it's just us two. (you thought I was gonna say "Just the Two of Us", but you were wrong.)

SuperDad here even gets his baby in on the sweet grindcore action.

If you want to find out more about Topon and Fuck The Facts, you can check out their Facebook page and their Myspace page.

Jun 1, 2011

Hey man, can't be everybody's friend.

Anyone that knows me is probably aware that I am nice.  Really nice.  Too nice.  (For those of you that disagree, shut the F*@K up, you don't know anything anyways so your opinion is worth nothing).  I like to keep a cool head, and be kind and polite with everyone I deal with in life.  I like to write cheerful business emails in colloquial language to my suppliers, I like to be easy to deal with when something goes wrong (remember, I leave room for error so I don't have to panic and get nasty with people who let me down). 

A few days ago I posted about this stupid reject named C.Cassie who stole my American Apparel shirts because the illiterate freak from FedEx delivered them to the wrong address.  (here)  So I filed an inquiry with FedEx and I contacted American Apparel to see what they could do.  FedEx isn't really following up with me, and  American Apparel is now saying they don't want to reimburse me for the shirts because, and I quote "if no one was home when they delivered the package they would have sent it back to the depot".  Uhhh, are you STUPID?!  Someone was home.  C.CASSIE WAS HOME, but not at my home. 

The final verdict ?  "Since it was signed for and shows that it was shipped to the correct address; we cannot do anything for you."  Oh, but you CAN.  And you WILL.  Friends, for the first time in a LONG time, Ms. Nicol had to get nasty.  And not in a good way.  I pulled out all the stops.  I used power language, like "this is unacceptable" and "I'm not the one who screwed up in the first place" and "find a better solution" and "see you in HELLLLL!!" Ok, maybe not that last one, though I was tempted.  Instead of using phrases like "oopsie there was a mixy-doodle" I said "you got my order wrong".  My biggest hope in life right now is that the tone of my barely contained seething rage comes through in the email.

I even played the Mom card.  That's right, I'm fighting dirty!  I'm appealing to emotions, I'm bringing my personal life into my business and using it to make others feel guilty.  I know it's wrong, but it feels so right.  Shake and bake, that JUST happened.  For the first time, I didn't end my email with "thanks so much you rule call me every day your bestest friend ever, Jillian".   Seriously people, if I (a work at home MOM with a baby trying to scratch out a living in the dirt) have to foot the bill for the mistakes of FedEx (a massive empire,  complete with the ill fitting slogan "The world, on time", formerly "Relax, it's FedEx") I am going to seriously . lose . it .  What kind of world are we living in when poor mothers with barely a penny to their name are paying for the clear and obvious errors of multi million dollar companies? 

Anyway, it was a really hard email to write.  I wasn't all that mad when I had to  ask a supplier 3 times to please send me the correct equipment.  I'm not kidding about telling my sales reps that they rule.  I really do appreciate good service, and I really do understand that things go wrong sometimes.  I wasn't even furious that their screw up cost me a portion of my contract.  But this?  This is UNACCEPTABLE!!  And it's time I let them know!

Part 2 of the goal post.

So, to continue on with yesterday's post about goals, today I'm going to talk about some of my future goals.  I'm trying hard to focus on a small number of goals, and then once I reach them I can add more.  I have a bad habit of making way too many goals, and then not reaching ANY of them.

For starters, I'd like to increase my client base.  Specifically, I would like to get more graphic design companies in on the action.  So far, most of my clients have been friends and some bands we know.  This only provides me with a few jobs a month, and one cannot save for retirement on a few jobs a month.  My goal over the summer is to visit potential clients and let them know I exist.  Do you think that having a baby strapped to my back will inspire sympathy and get me more clients, or will it look unprofessional and make everyone think I'm a crazy hack job?

My second goal this summer, which is a really big one for me, is to design a few of my own shirts to retail.  This one scares me a little because of all that it involves:  investment of capitol, locating proper venues for my work, doing some designs that are marketable but not too mainstream that people will actually like and buy *gulp*.  There's also a lingering fear that the market is saturated with screen printed stuff, and I'm not sure I'm cool enough to produce designs that will rise to the top of the pile.  I guess we'll find out.

My third goal, which is kind of last on my list, is to try to promote my custom crochet work.  The opportunity to have a vendor's table at a festival at the end of the summer fell into my lap the other week, so I can't pass it up.  I've got to get some sample stock put together, possibly a catalogue, photograph all my items, have forms for custom orders, the list goes on.

I've got a busy summer of goal chasing ahead of me.  Lots of organizing, promoting myself *shudder*, and drawing *woo!!*.  I've also got some secret long term goals, but it'll be a while before I can talk about those.  It may be 10 or 15 years before I actually see them come to light, but at least I know I'm on the path.  That's the great thing about goals, you can have some short term easy to achieve goals to make you feel like less of a shit sack, and long term goals that give you something to really work for and feel accomplished when you do achieve them.  Whether it takes you 1 year or 20, the important thing is that you're working toward something that's important to you. If you've got the time, I'd love to hear about your goals.

May 31, 2011

There's a goal in the bucket dear Liza.

Now that I'm not feeding a baby every 45 minutes, and I'm not up half the night (only a quarter of it) it's time to get serious about my business, and there's nothing more serious than a list.  Unless it's a funny list, although even then it can be seriously funny. To make my serious lists businessy, I'm going to make them about business goals.  The first list is about the goals I've achieved so far this year, and the second list (which I will post tomorrow or the next day) will be about the goals I'm going to try to reach in the second half of the year.  Ready, set, GO(al).

Achievement number one this year, I got business cards printed.  FINALLY.  It was getting pretty unprofessional to potential clients who would be all "oh cool you have a business.  Do you have a card?" and I would be all "no."  Thanks to my rad spouse who designed them for me, I now have a sweet piece of card I can hand out to the many people who ask for them.

The second goal I've accomplished this year was that I hassled my spouse to get an electrician over to install a new outlet so I could have my conveyor dryer on site.  Not having to drive across town to cure my shirts has really increased my productivity!  It also forced me to clean up and rearrange my studio *again*, but it's so functional now and easy to move around in.  I can actually sew and draw and do a jig in there if I want.

The third goal I've accomplished (maybe it's actually the first, since Sebastien really did the first 2) is that I got equipment to do large prints.  It was a bit of a learning curve at first, and I discovered that I either have to stand on a platform or wear platform high heeled shoes to be able to reach the bottom of the screen.  Unfortunately I don't have a platform, so I've been sporting some pretty fancy shoes with my jogging pants at 10:00 a.m. while printing.

These are some pretty sweet things that have happened this year, but I have a LOT left to do.  Some of it is gonna be fun, some of it is NOT gonna be fun.  Stay tuned for part 2 of serious business lists: future goals.

May 27, 2011

Always leave room for error. ALWAYS.

I'm a reasonably time efficient person.  Over the years I've learned that there are some things you really shouldn't leave to the last minute.  Start working on school projects a few weeks in advance.  Don't wait until the night before an exam to study for it.  Don't wax your back the day before a big date (in case you get a rash).  You get the idea.  The same goes for my work.  I ask for at least 2 weeks between the time that an order is placed with me (and shirts get ordered THAT day, or first thing in the morning if the order was placed after business hours) and the deadline for the shirts to be finished.  That gives me 2 days to prep my screens and get ready to print before the shirts arrive, and then I have at least 10 days usually to get the shirts printed.  Because I work this way, people almost always get their shirts earlier than expected.  I get it done in case another order comes in.  I like to keep a clear plate, you know?

Now, I understand that not everyone is going to be able to give me 2 weeks notice.  Sometimes there are rush jobs, and that's fine.  This week I had a job like that.  A large order (over 200 shirts) was placed on a Friday and the deadline was the following Thursday, effectively giving me a 3 business day turnover time.  That means the shirts were shipped on Friday, but then didn't move over the weekend, then Monday was a frickin' holiday, so the shirts didn't even arrive until Tuesday.  That is NOT a lot of room for error. Also, Murphy's Law must be obeyed so of course the shipment was wrong.  The wrong amount of the wrong size kid's shirts were sent (luckily the bulk of the order was correct) so I had to return the shirts, and they sent out a new shipment. 

I did get these beauties printed though.  

It's now Friday and my shirts still aren't here.  The deadline has come and gone.  My screen is still up and inked and waiting to go.  Around lunchtime I started to worry, as the last shipment only took 24 hours and was here at 10 in the morning.  When I finally got hold of the supplier for the tracking number, I discovered that some asshole named "C. Cassie" had received and signed for my shirts.  Um, WHAT? 

The event that the shirts are for is OVER on Sunday, so there is no more time to ship me new shirts, since it's already Friday.  Plus, some jackass is enjoying 24 kid's shirts on my tab.  C.Cassie better watch their self.  They'll get more than a back-waxing if I ever get hold of them.  The worst part is that this all looks really bad on me, though I did warn the client that I couldn't guarantee his shirts on such short notice.  This is why I have my 2 week turnover time.  It allows me to make a promise to my client, and to keep that promise.  I've never not come through in time, and whether it is or isn't my fault (for the record it's isn't) the fact remains that my client didn't get what they wanted.  I cannot convey my disappointment and aggravation at this fact.  Why did C.Cassie sign for a package that was not intended for C.Cassie?  Can I sue C.Cassie for taking my mail?  That's a crime, right?  Arrgh.

I haven't really got a closing solution or gem of wisdom to end this post.  I will say this though, always give yourself enough time to do a job twice, in case you screw it the first time.  I will also say that C.Cassie is in for a world of pain, providing I ever find out who it is....

May 19, 2011

It's a Mom-lemma.

The slow moving change of my life is about to get another jolt, and I am nervous.  I've been a work at home mom since my baby was 6 weeks old, but up until now I've had my spouse home to share the domestic and child care duties.  This allowed me to get lots of work done during the day and not have to worry if my 6 month old was upstairs lighting fires or eating paint.  However, as of June 6th, the man is going back to work and the woman (me, I'm a woman) is staying home to hold down the fort, mind the youngster, AND run a business.

I thought I was going to have it made when my neighbour, a stay at home dad who has a child the same age as mine, suggested we team up.  I was all "shit yea, son, let's do it up", until I  heard what he had in mind for the division of labour.  He would be "taking care" of all the hanging out, sleeping in, and playing video games, while I took over all the mom duties. Needless to say, I think I can manage without the "help".

I think what's going to happen is that I'll be doing a lot of evening and weekend work, while taking care of Mimi during the day.  Sure I can do the odd thing like invoicing, ordering stock and supplies, printing transparencies etc. while Myriam is chilling next to me.  But the more time sensitive tasks (like exposing and coating screens) or the tasks that require a substantial chunk of time (printing 300 shirts, for example) can not be done while tending to a small child.  

Even a baby this cute throws fits and needs her mom sometimes.

A friend of mine is a graphic designer with 2 kids, and she has someone come to her home to babysit the youngest while the oldest is in daycare.  That way she can be productive for 2 or 3 hours during the day and not have to scamper away to work the second her husband gets home. I'd love to do the same, but other than my sister in law  (who may or may not have the time to come) I don't really know anybody who can help out! 

I've got a mom-lemma...or I'm a dilem-mom...or I make really terrible jokes.  At least I've got a hierarchy of stuff in my life which removes the burden of choice. I can't choose between making a deadline or taking care of my baby. Even when she has boogs in her nose and inflicts grievous bodily harm (her nails are sharp!) she's still going to be more important than my work.  Alternatively, my work is going to take precedence over my sleep, but sleep is usually more important than eating, or at least eating healthy.  Seriously, when you're up early every morning, what would you rather do at night when you finish work:  take an hour to prepare a healthy meal, then have to spend another 20 or 30 minutes eating said meal, or cram some chips in your face and then crawl into bed and pass out?

I guess I'll have to start getting even more creative with my time management.  I just thought of my first time saver!  I'll eat the chips IN bed!  If anyone has any other helpful short cuts like that, do me a solid and send them my way.  I'll be sure to share all mine with you!

Apr 20, 2011

The learning curve is a bitch...or is it?

With everything in life there is a learning curve.  Aside from breathing, there is a period of development for every skill we possess during which we are crap at said skill (although, new research suggests there may even be a learning curve for breathing, particularly through the night around 3 months of age).  Think about how long it takes to learn to walk.  How many years it takes to learn a language, something which few people ever fully master (unless lolspeak counts as a language).  As we age, it seems to take less and less time to learn something new.  Take, for example, the stupid 3 year old who attempts to tie a shoe 500 times in a row and still fails vs. the 2 or 3 attempts it takes me to learn a new crochet stitch.  (I'm superior to 3 year olds!)

The learning curve is ever present in your professional life, too.  I've personally never felt fully comfortable in a new job until several months have passed.  Now that I work for myself, the learning curve has become a bit more tricky.  On one hand, I don't have anyone breathing down my neck, threatening my job security while I learn the ins and outs of how to run the studio.  On the other hand, there's no one there to help me learn how to do it, so I'm stuck making mistakes and learning from them (learning things "the hard way", I think they call it :P )

This past month has been a long one, full of "learning" (i.e. mistakes).It seems like every job I take on has a different set of challenges.  I printed giant posters for the first time ever. Turns out, the ink is quite sticky when applied to paper, and the palette adhesive makes the back of the posters really tacky too!  Learning curve.  I printed a design with a large area of solid color in light colored ink on a dark colored t shirt.  I discovered halfway through that 3 hits of ink looks a bit better than 2 hits, but had to continue doing 2 hits to keep the shirts consistent.  Learning curve.  I printed a design with both large blocks of color, and intricate detail.  If I pressed too hard, the detail was lost.  If i didn't apply adequate pressure, the ink failed to penetrate the fabric and the color of the shirt remained visible under the print.  Learning curve.

Thankfully, I'm not a dumb ass 3 year old and it's not going to take 500 tries to get it right.  I do learn from every mistake, but every job is different so there are always new ways to shag it all up.  No matter what you do, errors will be made.  That's just life!  It just sucks to feel like your clients are guinea pigs, and they're paying you while you learn (I hope they're not reading this, hahah).  In the eyes of a client, either you have a skill or you don't.  Can you or can you NOT do a job properly?  If NOT, then stop offering the service.  On the other hand, skills must be acquired, and I can't really purchase 1,000 shirts just to practice on, can I?

At the end of the day, I still feel like I'm a good printer, I still know more about it than 99% of the people I know, and I still get lots of repeat business so I must be doing something right.  I dont' think you can ever be fully happy with everything you do all the time anyway.  If you're always satisfied with your performance, where is the room for growth?

When you stop using a critical eye to find your mistakes, you can't learn from them.  You'll get stagnant, flies will start buzzing around you, people start throwing garbage on you, suddenly you're the epicenter of a West Nile outbreak.  Ew.  I guess being on the learning curve isn't such a bad thing.  Perhaps the learning curve is endless, and if you find yourself not on it, it means you've given up. 

Feb 21, 2011

When you're flying solo.

I have so many creative friends.  More of my friends than not are working in creative fields.  Back in the day, we would get together and bounce ideas around, talk about art and design, look at art books together, hit art shows and spend hours drawing and designing.  I've written before about how surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a great way to keep your own creative juices flowing.  What happens, though, when the group disbands and moves to different parts of this gigantic country?  What happens when you stop creating because life gets in the way? How do you get back to being the lean, mean drawing machine you used to be, when much of your inspiration and motivation is now over a thousand miles away?

The first thing that I've done is to make an effort to follow my friend's blogs.  It's cool to see how they all keep the flame burning, and how they're growing and changing as time goes by.  Two friends are more into photography these days.  One friend is getting into interior design and vintage furniture restoration.  Following their blogs and talking to them about their projects every now and then helps me get motivated to start some projects to talk about as well.  That way I'll have something to say aside from how the baby is, and what new skill she's developing this week (it's commando style crawling, if you must know).

The second thing that I'm planning on doing is frivilous, but inspires me just the same.  I'm really into fashion, but with the cold weather and time restraints, I'm unable to pursue that interest at the moment.  To compensate for my constant attire of jogging pants and drool covered hoodies, I'm starting a fashion look book.  I have a huge stack of fashion magazines, and I'm gonna cut out all my favorite pieces and glue them in an empty sketch book.  Fashiony stuff doesn't only inspire me when i'm sewing, but it also inspires my illustration work.  I loves a drop of interdisciplinary inspiration b'y..

The third thing that I'm hoping to accomplish this week or next is to rethink my studio concept.  Right now, there is a computer and a buttload of music gear in the big studio, and all my other art stuff is in the little blue room (images in this post).  We're planning on making the little blue room a music/computer room for Sebas, and then the large space will be ALL studio, with all my gear, tables, sewing machine, paper, etc. stored in one place.  I'm looking forward to it, because now I do all my non-printing work at the kitchen table, and it is FAR too easy to get distracted here!  The phone, the baby, my computer, delicious foods, it's all within my reach at the moment.  Part of being creative is having the time to work through an idea without having to constantly stop every 2 minutes for some reason.  It's actually taken me all day to write this post.  I can't imagine if I was trying to draw something, or draft a pattern.  It'd be in the garbage by now!

Anywhoot, those are my starting points for pulling myself back into the "art world", so to speak.  I'll let everyone know if they work.  What does everyone else to do stay motivated and inspired?

Feb 19, 2011

on creativity

 So, there's this awesome video of Thom Yorke dancing to "Lotus Flower" that came out this week (I think?).  Both myself and Myri really enjoyed watching it the other morning when it popped up a bunch of times on my facebook news feed.  As I was watching it again this morning, it got me wondering about how people get to moving like that, and then how people get to making music like that, or how people get to drawing the way they do.  I asked myself how people get to be creative in general. 

It's a pertinent issue to me, as I myself am pretty creative (and working on being more so), and I want to foster my daughter's creativity as she grows.  It will strike me as odd if she turns out to be a world class Muay Thai fighter, and never touches a Staedtler or a Micron in her life.  Though I'm assuming that her impressive musical and visual arts lineage will impart some type of creativity to her, I also want to know how best to augment whatever it is in her nature to be.

When I think back to my own childhood and what might have made me the way I am (besides my awesome genetics), I recall spending lots of time alone.  That's it.  Except for a few months of gymnastics when I was 6, and piano once a week for a few years, my time was all my own.  I can't imagine a life where every day of the week was a different class, along with homework, studying, and family time.  After all that, when is there time to think and develop one's own ideas?  It takes more than 15 minutes of free time before bed to become a Kahlo, or a Dostoevsky.

Perhaps in the end it's all genetics.  Maybe some kids, when left to their own devices become shiftless hooligans, out dealing crack at all hours of the night.  I won't say I wasn't a shiftless hooligan, it's just that I was up drawing or writing poetry by candle light at all hours of the night (I was such a tortured soul when I was 15) instead of pushing drugs on street corners.

No art classes, no summer camps, no weekend creative writing groups.  Just me and my sketchbook, which never left my side from the age of 13 onward.  I guess what I'm trying to get at is that even the most well intentioned structure can be stifling for creativity, especially when there's a lot of it.  I guess I'll wait and see when it comes to Mimi.  If she wants to take kickboxing after school, I'm not going to stop her.  But I'm certainly not going to force her into classes she doesn't want to take.  I mean, just think of how Thom Yorke would dance if he had been sent to dance classes after school?  Or if he was also in Cadets, Boy Scouts, and the Chess Club? Not like he does in that video, that's for sure.

Feb 9, 2011

Waiting for the perfect moment.

I really like writing this blog.  For me, this blog is a link to a part of me that I don't get to express very much in my day to day life.  All day long my thoughts are consumed by Myriam, and my time is consumed by mundane tasks that pile up if they don't get taken care of right away (hello, cloth diapers).  I'm typically doing 2 or 3 things at once; cooking while I wash dishes and dance for M in her high chair, folding laundry while wearing the baby on my back.  Checking out facebook while M is hanging off my boob.  I've become remarkably domestic.  While it's nice that I've been able to adapt to my new role in life, it makes me sad that there's a substantial part of me that's being pushed to the backburner for now.

When the midget is out of my hair (either sleeping or downstairs with her dad) and the timing is just right (I'm not too hungry, there's not too many chores piled up, my online banking is done, the moon is in the seventh house, etc. etc.) then I can really let loose and write a post.  I know, how exciting, a blog post is how I let loose.  Whatever, shut up.  It IS exciting for me becuase it's the only occasion that I can focus on creativity, writing, business, and just random thoughts that *don't* revolve directly around the midget. 

Here's the problem though, Myriam needs me all the time, I'm always hungry, there are always chores piled up, I NEVER do my online banking, and I don't even know what the seventh house is!  So you see, the timing is never just right for me to let loose.  I am always waiting for the perfect moment, and that moment never seems to arrive.  My mother told me this, when I was not sure if it was the right time to try to have a baby.  She said to me "Jillian, there it's never a right time.  But you do it anyways".  Thanks mom.  No, seriously.  That is some good advice.

Maybe you want to start a business, or have a baby, or write a blog post, but you're waiting around for something (an invitation perhaps?)  It's never gonna happen.  I may as well shut down my blog if I'm only going to post during an ideal moment.  Right now, I am eating supper that I cooked while writing this post, nursing my baby, and finishing this post with my one free hand.   Evidently, the perfect moment is now.

Multi tasking: crocheting while caring for Myri.