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Letting Go in the Space Between

This is Marisa from Creative Thursday and I’m an artist, blogger, and author from LA visiting you today while Holly is away. If you already know me in this internet blogging, podcasting land, then it will come as no surprise that my article today is for the creative dreamers, a subject I am endlessly passionate about.

“We All Flock To Ruby”

So you have dreams that you want to see come true? Go for them.

Honestly I don?t think that any one of us can be reminded of that sentiment enough.

If you are a regular reader of Holly?s beautiful blog, then I?m sure you are one of the dreamers, and maybe one of your dreams includes working creatively for yourself? There are always insightful and inspiring discussions going on here in support of the creative dreamers. I was one. In fact I still am. And it?s important to note that I write this as a believer in the idea that you can have what you want in your life. My dream of being creatively self-employed came true. And my intention with this post is to share some thoughts on what has worked for me in allowing that dream to become a reality. It?s about letting go, something I am still learning to practice daily both personally and in my business.

Reaching for something greater than where you presently stand is life giving. Exciting and a little bit scary, it makes you feel ALIVE. Well let me re-phrase that; if you feel hopeful that your dream will happen it is life giving, but if you are afraid it might not, it can be a very unpleasant experience. Believe me, I know all to well that there are days when because it hasn?t happened yet, it can feel more than frustrating, often even devastating. Part of the delicate dance we learn in our life is how to find happiness in the times between the dream and the realization of that dream, a place I will call the space between. Because what you come to realize is that this is where you actually live, every day, in the space between.

Once you come to accept and even embrace the space between one dream and the next, the process of letting go becomes easier. So you might be wondering, why exactly do I want to ?let go? of something? Because when you let go, your dream has a chance to become real. I?m not sure how this happens exactly, but as much as I don?t want to believe it, every time I let go, something that I?ve been wanting comes in, even if it?s simply an answer about what to do next.

Chances are if you?re not letting go, then you are probably afraid, holding on desperately to the idea of what you want. And by doing this your life begins to stagnate, you become tired, you may blame those around you for things not happening faster, you begin to lose hope, you become frustrated. You make important decisions out of a fearful place instead of a hopeful place. Simply put if you?re not letting go on some level, then you are not trusting. And if you?re like me, you may even be trying to control EVERY aspect of your life. Not only that, but your present days become clouded with disappointment of what has not happened for you yet, instead of filled with appreciation for all you do have. And in a separate topic altogether, being in a state of appreciation is a blissful place to be and a sure sign that you?ve let go for a moment.

Not only does ?letting go? allow room for the new dreams to manifest, but it creates this space for you to notice and be grateful for your life just as it is.

And when you appreciate your life just as it is, more space is created for happiness to come in. I think it?s fair to say that most of us are in pursuit of our dreams because we think that by having them, we will be happier. True?! So why not be excited about your next dream and feel happy now. It is also important to note that I?m not referring to ?letting go? of the excitement that your dreams bring you, or letting go of the hope that they will come to fruition. I?m referring to knowing when to release the grip a little, knowing when to step back but doing so in a state of peaceful trust.

Usually there are two ways people let go. One is to give up. Right, you?ve heard that before? The familiar story is ?someone gave up on their dream and then boom! their dream came true”. The second is to trust that it will all work out.

I find it very sad to ?give up?. While I have unknowingly taken this approach, I find it incredibly disheartening to just throw in the towel. So recently I?ve tried a new approach, and that is to turn feelings of desperation and fear as to whether ?it? will happen, into feelings of hopeful expectation that ?it? will happen. This slight shift brings about a sense of knowing and calm that I can only hope to experience more often.

When I do glimpse it, this sense of calm allows me to move more graciously in life, to operate from a clear state of mind. Let?s face it. As much as we try to plan out our lives, LIFE still has a life of its own. And even though uncertainty, also known as the space between, can feel a little intimidating, there is still an excitement to not knowing how it will all turn out. What I am coming to know is that when you give into the unknown of it all, when you trust and ?let go?, whatever that means to you, life will flow in the direction it is meant to, and I believe, with your best interest at heart.

Dancing this delicate dance is constant, knowing when to take action and when to step back. When I achieved what felt like my very ?BIG? dream of being creatively self-employed, ~ somewhere just before it took hold, there was a moment where I let go, not so much in the trusting way, but in the giving up way. I literally felt like I had tried everything and I was all tapped out of ideas of what to do next. In my mind I had given it my best shot, and that?s all I knew how to do. Within weeks of this awareness, my business changed forever and has been going strong ever since. I experienced firsthand what happens when I let loose of my grip on my dreams. New doors opened and new inspiration appeared, a momentum took hold and it hasn?t slowed down. Now I have so many ideas at any given moment, that it?s all I can do to stay focused on one at a time.

Now that I?m fully living this dream that felt like years in the making, I am still reminded every day I run my business, of moments where I need to let go. There are always those times where you gear up and put action and effort into the direction you are wanting to go, and the trick is recognizing the subtle difference between those times and the times when you need to let go and trust that you?ll know the next step. These are also the moments when you become a hopeful, appreciative observer of the magic of your life, especially in the space between.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I have to say here and hopefully start a discussion so please join in with your thoughts.

Thank you for having me today decor8 readers!

(image and text by marisa haedike of creative thursday.)

Small Business Inspiration via Paper Stories Letterpress

My name is Kelly Maron and I run the little Chicago area letterpress studio, Paper Stories. I also author a blog under the same name and I have an etsy shop. I am so thrilled to be filling the guest spot for Holly today!

I make a variety of letterpress paper goods from cards to art prints to invitations. For today?s post I’d like to share a bit of my studio space with you, where my inspiration comes from, and the struggles of running a small business as a new mom. I think we only see the ‘good’ face of most businesses online and I’m here to show both the good and the ‘real’ life stuff that goes on behind the scenes. :)

I always love seeing a good studio tour but secretly feel a tad bitter by those ?showcase studios?, you know the ones? the warehouse with the original hardwood floors from the days when the space used to be an early 1900?s sewing factory, soaring 12 foot tall windows covering the exposed brick walls, a healthy dose of antiquated metal cabinets and large wooden work tables, and of course there is always some sort of lounge area filled with mid-century modern furniture, like the infamous Eames lounge they just happened to find on the side of the road. Did I just describe my dream studio? Perhaps; but if you are anything like me, with a young business, you need to keep overhead low which means making what you have work for you. I understand that ?fantasy? studio tours give you something to aspire towards but I’m here to show you a more realistic space. My space. If you have been making excuses for not making your own studio space, perhaps this will motivate you!

I work from home in a converted one-car garage where I house my 1200 lb 8×12 Chandler & Price printing press. I do all the printing and cutting in this space. It is a small space and gets rather cold in the Chicago winters, but it does the job and it’s free! I have also commandeered an extra bedroom that is more of an office space. This is where I keep my boxes of envelopes and other paper goods, store my inventory, and can sit with my laptop or just sketch out ideas. Of course at any given time, I may also take over the dining room table for the purposes of boxing up cards or getting things ready for a show. In mid September I will be a vendor again at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago so right now, it looks less like a house and more like a tornado in a paper factory.

Since my studio is small, being organized is important. I have dedicated spaces for printing, sorting, and cutting. I have tried to fit as many tables, shelves, and cabinets as I can without hindering my ability to move around comfortably. Most of the things are either thrifted, like the vintage French kitchen tins that hold my gloves, ink, and miscellaneous printing things, and the dartboard that serves as my makeshift inspiration board, or were built from your typical hardware store supplies. I use a lot of pegboards for keeping supplies within arm?s reach. Of course, the occasional trip to IKEA never hurts either for organizational supplies.

While my studio isn?t glamorous, it is cozy and comfortable plus I have a lot of photographs and collected ephemera hanging up that makes it more personal. Unless you also have a half-ton printing press, it shouldn?t be that difficult for you to carve out a little workspace for yourself.

If having the perfect workspace has held you back from following some sort of artistic pursuit, get over it. Find a little corner, organize it, decorate it and get to it!

Okay, so you have the space. Now for the inspiration. I am going to say it? coming up with ideas is hard! Wait, I take that back? coming up with ideas that will sell, is hard. I have so many ideas at any given time, that if I were my only customer, I would be perfectly satisfied. Since that is not the case, I need to think about what sells. I find this a bit frustrating at times especially when it is April and I am designing Christmas cards. Perhaps if I were only a designer, then I could comfortably rest into my delegated role. However, I am the designer, the printer, the webmaster, the shipper and anything else that needs to get done. This can be draining. However, as many one-person business owners know, you really can?t do it all yourself and sometimes you need to take a break.

For the last three years I have been doing everything myself. Two words: Not good.

I convinced myself that I would have better control over everything that way. (Serious type-A personality issues.) Finally, a few months ago I took on an intern. A wonderful girl named Lisa comes over once a week or so and helps me with various business related things. She has been a great help and is also super fun to talk to. I have found myself looking forward to her visits and have remembered how much I love to work with other people. This has encouraged me to start collaborating with others.

Illustrations from the portfolios of Angela Navarra (left) and Jen Renninger (right).

Still in the negotiating and development phase, I am working with some wonderful illustrators to create some super fabulous letterpress goodies for next year. Angela Navarra is a wonderful illustrator who I am very excited to work with on some upcoming cards. Keep an eye out for those as early as this winter. As for next year, I can?t wait to get started on my collaboration with Susie Ghahremani of boygirlparty. I can?t even tell you what we are cooking up but I promise that if all works out as planned, it will be divine! I am also chatting with my cyber-friend Jen Renninger about a collaborative project. Oh, it makes me all so giddy inside. I hope it all works out. Talking with all these talented ladies has gotten me so excited to get printing and has also recharged my batteries so-to-speak. I?ve realized that sometimes the best inspiration can come by working with others.

However, when I am left to my own devices searching for personal sources of inspiration, I can be all over the place. I absolutely love patterns, especially ones that are found in nature or in architecture. Vivid colors make me go ga-ga. A warehouse filled with antiques makes me weak in the knees. When it comes to my card designs, I have used everything from wrought iron and vintage embroidery patterns to a city streetlamp and cupcakes as inspiration. I prefer things that are bold and graphic to soft and subtle. Having a sense of humor helps as well. Give me a card with a snarky saying and I am a happy camper.

Recently I drove nearly 2400 miles visiting seven different places. I went from the plains to the Atlantic Ocean to the mountains and back again, all the while keeping an eye out for things that inspired me. Above is a little peek of some patterns that I found inspiring. You never know what will translate into a card. Walking around with a camera is a great way to record things.

Once I am swimming with a head full of inspiration, my biggest struggle seems to be finding the time. I am so amazed by other artists who seem to balance their home and work lives successfully. I have been running Paper Stories since 2005 and was doing pretty well with time management. I had left an established career as a high school teacher, with the support of my husband (also a high school teacher) to start my own business. It wasn?t until last October that I worried that my home life might conflict with my business. I had a baby boy; Jackson Calder. He is the coolest little guy. I feel very lucky to spend every day with him. Currently we don?t use daycare so all of the day time I once used for printing, filling orders, and contacting clients has been replaced with feedings, diaper changes and walks around the block. Typically I watch Jackson until dinnertime when ?Daddy? gets home, then Paper Stories is open for business. I work until late at night doing all the things that once occupied my days.

I am not quite sure how I am pulling it off, and some days I would argue that I am not at all, but somehow I seem to be busier than ever with orders and upcoming projects. I must be doing something right even if I feel like I am getting on by the skin of my teeth. The past two months have been easier since my husband, Russ, has been off for the summer but in a few weeks he will head back to school while I chase a ten month around at home.

For all you creative mums and pops out there, feel free to leave suggestions for how you manage it all. I would love to know how you do it! In the meantime, guess I am just going to have to baby proof that paper tornado I was mentioning.

Coincidentally, I was just reading an article on how to raise a happy baby. Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, wrote that children, like adults, must pursue their own interests to feel fulfilled in their successes. He says the happiest people are often those who master a skill. Something for us all to work on I suppose. Put together your space, find some inspiration and make some time, then happy mastering!

Well that is it for now. Thank you to Holly and all of you lovely readers for allowing me to share what it is like to have a small business, along with all the inspirations and frustrations that come with it. Hopefully I have given you a bit of something to relate to regardless of whether you are just dipping your toes into the creative waters or are a seasoned veteran.

(photos and text from Kelly Maron)

Posted in guest bloggers, small business, stationery on August 21, 2008

A Fine Line: Inspiration or Imitation?

Today Erin from Design For Mankind is here to talk to us on a topic that I asked her to write about because I thought she’d have a lot to say on the matter and she does! I think her words just may encourage a good discussion here today so I invite you to grab a cup of tea, sit back, and tune in to Erin’s message below — and be sure to add your comment to the mix, too! Take it away, Miss E!

We’ve heard from the fashion folk. It’s been noted by renowned photographers. Interior designers are speaking up. Web programmers are furrowing their brows.

Call it what you will: visual plagiarism, hacks, or sheer knock-offs. However you slice it, an increasingly saturated art/design community is becoming a feeding ground for inspiration? or is it imitation?

I recently read an article in Harper’s Bazaar about the inspiration behind today?s fashion designers. Many designers mentioned historical figures such as Napoleon, Carmen Miranda and [no joke] Minnie Mouse.

And I can?t help but wonder what exactly dear Minnie Mouse would think if she knew her look was being imitated. I can only imagine she?d hijack Goofy?s wagon and skitter on over to Zac Posen?s studio to give him a prompt speaking to.

Yet can we really control when inspiration sets in? Not at all. What we can control is what we do with that inspiration. Do we carbon copy the design? Or do we tastefully implement elements from the designs that we, ourselves, cherish? [And for the record, Zac Posen?s inspiration was quite tasteful in fact!]

Of course, this is how a trend is born. We certainly didn?t don gladiator sandals this summer for comfort; the Greek and Roman influences were found to be inspirational by a few key designers. And that?s perfectly fine. What?s not perfectly fine is an intentional lifting of originality. I mean truly, how odd would we look like running around in togas AND gladiator sandals?

I’m saddened at how often this happens in our creative community. Rather than lifting each other up and encouraging originality, I fear that we’ve become envious of the instant gratification that the Internet often provides. It seems that one good design and a few press mentions can skyrocket an artist into serious success. Just how far will we go to present that “one good design?”

It breaks my heart to see an unoriginal piece. To me, a unique design has life. It has passion. And it becomes beautiful only when you can truly see the artist’s spirit behind his/her work. Thus, when we attempt to borrow elements of someone else’s work, the result is often never quite right. Much like a person without a genuine spirit can be spotted like a sore thumb, so, too, can an artist without an individualistic nature.

And you know what? Bloggers, we’re to blame as well. How often have we posted material that originated from somewhere else, only to (a) forget, (b) refuse or (c) fail to credit our source?

Indeed, there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation, and although I hate to create additional boundaries in art, I’d like to see us all work harder to find our true passions. I quite understand that many of our inspirations derive from the same source, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. The problem lies in our intentions. Are we creating something that we truly believe in? Or are we creating a spin-off of something that already exists simply because it sells?

From now on, let’s embrace the community that we’ve helped to build. Let’s encourage, congratulate and experience alongside of each other, not across from. I hope that someday we can each feel proud of the talents we’ve been given and showcase these unique gifts in beautiful, original ways.

Until then, know that imitation? It’s not such a form of flattery after all.

What are your thoughts on this topic? When does inspiration become imitation? What is the difference between inspired by and ripped off? Your thoughts?

– All text by Erin from Design For Mankind.

(images from evaxebra)

Lucky Shops

Obviously I’m a girl who loves a good retail experience. I mean, just look at this roundup of shops both domestic and international. It’s a bit obsessive I know. I think that as much as I love the online world, walking into a beautifully arranged store can be a tad bit more satisfying than the virtual shopping experience. This sounds funny coming out of my mouth as 80% of everything I purchase now is online and I author a blog with most items I write about being solely available on the web. I must admit that I find online shopping more convenient though (for the most part) and usually I find fun perks like discounts or free shipping. I’m divided on this one. I love my retail shopping trips but online stores have a lot to offer a girl like me who isn’t based in the heart of a big city.

Ooga Booga in LA.

What about you? Do you shop online more than in-store or vice versa (or equally)? What are the benefits of each?

Have you noticed the City Guide section over on the Lucky magazine website? It’s brilliant. My shops section once lived in the right column of this blog and was called City Guide too. Now it’s called Shops and is located directly above this post (yellow tab). I love how Lucky editors hand pick stores from all over the world (mostly fashion and accessories – no home decor but still) and feature a boutique of the week complete with a photo of the owner.

I’ve dreamed of doing this for decor8 when it comes to home design and gift boutiques and I have store tours on the blog from time to time… It would be wonderful to somehow make this a regular feature here but I’m still trying to figure out how and if shops would participate. I’ve had store tours on decor8 since February 2006 but I’d like to step it up a notch and turn it into a more regular feature.

As a reader, are you interested in this?

Especially now since the economy here has taken a hit and people are shopping less frequently, I want to help these shops ride the tide through this period until things change. I’m seeing more and more little stores closing up shop, on the web and in local towns, and it saddens me because not only is the dream of one little store owner over, but what about all those who once had products there? While I’m not encouraging debt or shopping for the sake of buying, I am encouraging everyone to consider how they are spending their money and if quality can start to replace quantity a little more often… Buy one item that you really love for $50 from a small boutique instead of 5 items for $10 each that you merely like from a major retailer. Less stuff, more of what you love, that’s the way to go in this economy but really it’s a good rule of thumb to follow no matter how strong (or not) the local economy is. Wouldn’t you rather have a few good friends than ten that you can’t depend on? Same goes when you shop. And of course, inexpensive things can be of good quality, just because something expensive has a shocking price tag does not make it better. I have a table lamp that I spent $375 on. I also have one that I spent $100 on and another I won on eBay for $30. Do you know that the best of three lamps in terms of quality is the $30 one? The pricey version looks pretty but that’s about it, I’ve already had problems with the socket cup and the harp snapped off!

When it comes to stores, I’d love a photo of the owner, a mini interview, and of course photos of their boutique so we can see all of the goodness. Of course, they’d need to have a website. And I’d like to take it a layer deeper and get insider’s tips on display ideas, how items are sourced, and why the business was started in the first place.

Maeve Riley boutique in San Diego.

So I’m putting the idea out there to see if any store owners are reading and if so, would you like to be featured here on decor8? I can develop a special section dedicated to shop owners that would look somewhat like how I’ve organized Faves. Below each image I’d list the shop name and city.

If you are a shop owner and are interested in participating, please contact me using this form. Depending on how many submissions I get and of course, the quality of the images sent, I may try to run one at least once every few weeks. Image quality is the most important to me and of course, the store needs to carry items for the home and/or gifts (no kids, fashion, art galleries, jewelry). So if you’d like to share your shop, no matter where you are located in the word, click here and tell me more. Those who have brick and mortar locations who are also online are preferred but those without will still be considered.

Readers: To view past store tours featured on decor8 click here.

If you have a moment today please visit the Lucky City Guides for a wonderful fashion fix and don’t miss their Boutique of the Week. Great stuff over there.

(images from lucky magazine)

Posted in Shop Tours, shopping, small business on August 01, 2008


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