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What To Do When You… {Part 1}

I hope you’re in the mood for reading today! There was some genuine interest expressed when I recently wrote What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do and I was asked by many of you if I could explore this topic more here on decor8.

A huge thanks to Nathalie at Design Undercover for initiating this topic! To recap, Nathalie expressed to me that she’s in search of her calling and launched Design Undercover as a way to explore a world that she feels connected to but isn’t quite sure of what exactly she wants to focus on. Nathalie says, “I know the day I will find out I will definitely go for it.”

She then asks, “Do you have any suggestions on how to find your calling in the design world? Is there anyone out there that feels the same way? What are we supposed to do when we don’t know?”.

Promise photographic print by Wren and Chickadee.

Nathalie those are loaded questions and there’s no clear answer for everyone, no secret book to reveal things, no magic pill to take, because it’s about following your gut. I’ve heard many experts out there speak of the need to get in touch with the things you did as a child, and I think this is helpful advice. My career counselor at Northeastern University strongly encouraged this as well. What were you into? What did your parents encourage you to do based on their observations? Sometimes this holds the key to finding your path in life as an adult a little quicker.

When I look back at my childhood, I spent huge amounts of time rearranging furniture and decorating our family home, playing ‘teacher’ and ‘shop owner’ in my bedroom, and creating illustrated books and writing in my journals pages at a time on a daily basis. Writing, teaching, and decorating were extremely strong talents of mine exhibited at a very early age. I would go as far as to beg my mother to take me to model homes in new developments on Saturdays just so I could tour them and look at how the rooms are arranged and so I could take all the free materials and go home and edit all the floor plans with my pencils showing how I would have designed things. Yeah, a little intense for a child. Now I work with clients designing their homes. See the connection?

Also in school, I loved art class. My teachers constantly raved over my creative eye as they called it, and my ability to do collage work but beyond school I haven’t explored art for myself, but I do love it and devote a lot of space on decor8 to it so there you see this being explored in an alternate way. Painting and collage work currently is not my passion but I may take it up as a hobby soon. I write about artists a lot though. Yes, you guessed it, another connection made.

I was a huge Science and History fan, I usually made straight A’s in these classes without trying. Math was and will always be my weak point. Today I see my love for these things displayed in again, in alternate ways because I’m a huge nature lover, enjoy taking photos outside, and enjoy period films and visiting places that are filled with history and pre-war architecture. Also in school I was always involved with the school paper somehow, at one point I was an editor with my own column. Now I freelance for the Boston Globe. Again, another connection to my past.

Simple Beauty, fine art photograph by Marie Stevenson.

The reason I laid all this bare is because it’s a good thing for everyone to do at some point in their life. To think about what they were strongly passionate about as a child. Today I am a published writer, blogger, and interior design consultant. It makes sense I’d be on this path as I look back.

I plan to explore other areas in which I have a measure of talent, for instance I’ve wanted to be a shop owner since I was little and so decor8 just may become a little shop someday. I want to have cupcakes on Saturdays along with a book reading session where I read to children from a beautifully illustrated book that also teaches the importance of having strong moral values and of exploring creativity through art and design. I think moral values are slipping away from us and I’d like to do something, no matter how small, to show children that it’s also very cool to be smart, nice, and well-mannered. I have a very special shop in mind, my business plan is quite extensive! I’d love to write a book as well, but I may just start off with a newsletter as I’ve mentioned before and see what happens from there.

Make a list and see what it reveals. I think that’s a good way to get started on this journey of finding your ‘true calling’, although I don’t think everyone has only one thing in life that they are able to do well. I believe we can do many things, it just has to do more with how badly you set your heart on something and the opportunity you have to pursue it. I write this from an American perspective because here, our culture encourages us to pursue our dreams, it’s not called “The Land of Opportunity” for nothing.

Not to go all patriotic on anyone, but I only recently appreciated these words when I learned more about the work life of other cultures and the limits that are placed on those living in certain lands. Despite our nutty government right now, I am so happy I was born in this country and raised here to know no boundaries when it comes to the pursuit of happiness. For those living in a country where they may have had to train in a certain profession and strongly encouraged to stick to that for life (like my mother-in-law in Germany), I can suggest taking up a hobby that will help balance your life if you are a bit sad about your profession. Sometimes all we need is a good hobby and our day job no longer looms over us like a dark cloud.

I could write a book about all of this… But for now, I’ll close with these thoughts and open up things up for reader questions and comments.

What did you like to do as a child? Can you comment below and also tell us what you do today for a career?

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do will continue later with quotes from some great talent out there that I asked to participate in this discussion. Erin at Design for Mankind is exploring a related topic and asked me to join in along with Marisa at Creative Thursday who promises a podcast tomorrow as well. I can’t wait. More on that to follow!

(images linked above to source)

Posted in small business, what to do on April 02, 2008
decor8 great.ly shop

Happiness Is…

*New* Tamar Mogendorff bird cages and houses at Enfant Terrible…. Ah how tweet it is…


Is it okay to be thirtysomething and to dream of having a wall of birdhouses like this over my sofa in the living room? :)

(images from enfant terrible and tamar mogendorff)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, kids, small business on March 30, 2008

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Nathalie is a lovely reader from Ireland and a fellow blogger who commented on an earlier post today asking about a statement I made along the lines of doing what you are meant to do in this world. Nathalie expressed that she’s in search of her calling and started her design blog as a way to explore a world that she feels connected to and that gives her happiness, but she sees herself doing more. “I love design, interiors, art but am not sure which area to focus on,” Nathalie continues, “I know the day I will find out I will definitely go for it.”

She then asks, “Do you have any suggestions on how to find your calling in the design world? Is there anyone out there that feels the same way? What are we supposed to do when we don’t know?”.


This is a great topic Nathalie. Really. Great. I can’t wait to explore it here on decor8. I have a million ideas to share including how important it is to carry an umbrella (ella ella) with you as you travel down your newfound path. I’ll also explain what type of umbrella I speak of. I will work on rounding up 10 people including myself that have found their calling and I’ll ask them exactly how they did it and post that here along with their advice on how anyone can find their voice. We’ll get you the answers that you need, Nathalie!

If YOU readers have any tips or questions on this topic, please leave them below so I can include them in next week’s article.

Stay tuned and thank you for getting the ball rolling on this topic, Nathalie!

(umbrella from stylish stuff via design undercover)

Posted in small business, what to do on March 26, 2008

Turning Patterns Into Product {open discussion}

Samantha Hahn is a Brookyln-based artist that I’m a big fan of, especially since purchasing some work from her recently and seeing it in person. She’s so talented, her splashy hues jump from the page. So when she wrote to me recently asking about pattern design and turning patterns into products (other than prints), I wasn’t sure where to direct her. I’m asked this question quite regularly by readers and I often feel awkward answering since I have little experience in this area. Time to change that with your help!

Patterns designed by Hahn.

So the question that Samantha and so many other designers out there have is: How do you take your patterns to the next level — from the drawing board to an actual product — textiles, wallpaper, gift wrap, etc?

When I think about companies like Amy Butler Design or Hable Construction, I see amazingly talented people who do most of the work in-house and then send it out to a mill to be produced. I think the Hable girls use a textile mill in Massachusetts, I know Fall River, MA has lots of mills that people work with but I have no idea how to even contact one and what the initial investment would be. I’m sure pricing varies due to quality and the amount of colors used. A one color textile would be less costly to produce than a multi-color pattern. And if you wanted to go eco-friendly that would be even more expensive.

Then there are designer who produce patterns and send them off to a licensing company and they do the rest for you. The rep may come back to you with news that a card manufacturer would like to purchase your image or a store like Urban Outfitters would like to turn your work into art on canvas and at that point, you negotiate a price and all the details around the product. But I’m going to stop talking now because I really don’t know that much about this.

More patterns designed by Hahn.

I know Marisa Haedike has some experience in this area, as does Julia Rothman, Joy of Nantaka Joy, and Meg Mateo Ilasco so maybe these ladies can jump in and give some advice. Not to put anyone on the spot, I just look at these ladies as quite helpful and they have had a lot of success building their business taking patterns they’ve designed to the next level. Maybe they have some suggestions, links, or a few good books to suggest. Ashley G of Kitty Genius wrote about her recent experience with Urban Outfitters, AshleyG and Drew: Taking it to the Next Level While Staying Small, over on Etsy. Perhaps her words will be helpful to some of you.

I invite all readers to jump in if you can help by commenting below. Also ask any questions you may have on this topic in the comments section, too.

(images from samantha hahn)

Posted in small business on March 19, 2008

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