I just wanted to take a quick moment to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope you all find plenty of time for the things you love in 2019 and on that note….I’m signing off…go spend time with your loved ones!
Every year I’m stressed from October through Christmas Eve. Too many orders, letting people order well passed my deadline, saying yes to things I know I can’t fit into my schedule and just telling myself I won’t sleep. I got shingles twice in three years during Christmas Card season. My doctor told me I needed to reduce my stress...and I thought that’ll happen when I’m dead dude.
But during the holiday season last year I kept thinking…why do I do this? Why do I do this to myself? To my family? And this year I ask myself, why does anyone do this to themselves?
So I made a huge shift at the start of 2018 and one of those mind shifts was how can I not be overwhelmed by the holiday season? You don’t have to have a creative business or be a small business owner to ask yourself this question. We all have party invitations, invitations to things like cookie exchanges, shopping trips, invitations to relatives homes and gift shopping, decorating, etc. all on top of our regular lives. And it literally seems to have sucked all the joy out of the season for me and what I would have to guess is so many other people. But why? Why do we subscribe to this idea that we can’t politely decline an invitation if it means it will cause less stress? I’m sure the answer is different for everyone but for me I know it’s because I’m a people pleaser.
Well those days are gone...well I’m still a people pleaser but I will never rob myself or my family from the joy of the holidays again.
JUST SAY NO.
I gave up my stationery business on Jan. 1 to focus on my illustrations and my family, the two things that bring me joy, and I haven’t looked back. AND even more importantly I couldn’t be happier. December used to be when I’d really lose my mind but this year it’s a month that feels magical, exciting and fun and I hope it is for you as well! Take the time to slow down and enjoy it, say no to what you can’t fit in or what doesn’t serve you and take the time to do things that do.
When I was in third grade a drew a drawing of a women for a project in Sister Maria's class, she hung it in the hallway and for the first time in my life compliments rained in from all directions, teachers and kids a like. From that moment on people saw me as an artist and I saw myself that way too. Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be after that I always said "an artist." I applied to my dream art school in Brooklyn, Pratt Institute, and was nothing short of elated to be an adult, live in New York and start learning how to be a painter and get paid...that wasn't reality though, I wasn't going to just be able to paint in a rad loft studio and make money. I graduated and just looked for any job in a creative office...I worked for a famous Interior Designer who was downright awful and cried everyday at lunch. I became a preschool teacher for awhile and shortly after that the opportunity to be a high school art teacher fell in my lap and I took it. I had my kids and stayed home with them for awhile then started designing wedding invitations. For a long time I worked creating custom wedding invitation suites for design minded couples and loved it.
But last year I accepted the fact that I was totally burned out. The thing that brought me the most excitement had lost it's spark so I decided to let it go. But before I got there I had gotten so many requests for invitation suites with custom illustrations and then just custom illustrations. After a hiatus I relaunched my brand, just offering my art as prints and selling custom illustrations. The support from friends and long time clients was a blessing and I can't speak enough about how happy I am about this new part of my journey. I know it will continue to grow and evolve as I do and my family does and I'm grateful for that.
That’s a dramatic title for a blog post. I apologize….but not really. If you’ve ever felt like you lost everything you know there’s nothing dramatic about it. Drama is fabricated, loss is real. And sometimes those around you don’t see or understand your loss so you find yourself hiding your feelings or worse, justifying why it’s significant. That’s not worth the effort and it’s not going to change your sense of loss. It’s your’s to own not anyone else’s to understand.
A few months ago I went into my basement late at night looking for a box of books to decorate a shelf with (after a glass or two of Pinto Grigio, I’ve been known to redecorate) and when I opened the door it smelled how I imagine a rainforest would smell. I took several steps down the stairs into the pitch black laced with humidity, feeling for the light switch on my right. As the lights came on I became aware of the loud hissing sound and my eyes turned up to it’s source I realized a pipe in the corner of the basement had burst into two, spraying water across the entire width of basement soaking everything underneath. There was water at least 3 or 4 inches deep everywhere. I francticly ran up the 4 flights of stairs to get The Big Guy up so he could fix it, because honestly what was I going to do about it?
When the water finally stopped spraying we looked around and started to access, if I’m being honest…what the hell had happened. There was an empty plastic storage bin in the middle of the room and it was filled to the top with water….water had to be spraying for DAYS, more than a week probably. Clearly we never go in the basement. Snowboard boots were filled with water, cardboard boxes were soaked through, some things were already turning moldy…and then it happened. I had stayed calm until this point because no reaction I have to it would change anything but that went out the window when my eyes fixed on what was in the corner under the pipe, what had gotten the most water damage. And it made me so angry and sad all at the same time. It was every painting, print, photograph and collage I had created from the time I was a teenager through college and several years later. My entire early history as an artist was soaked in water, covered in mildew and paint and ink were running down them like a nightmare. EVERY PIECE OF ART. If your an artist, you can understand the magnitude of this…if you’re not but you’re a parent imagine losing every photo of your children’s childhood.
To some this may not seem like a big deal…it’s just paper, it’s just canvases and your house is still standing, your kids are ok, your husband is healthy. But to me it’s a lot more than physical object. It is or rather it was my history. Each piece was deeply treasured by me but not because they were all fabulous but because they each held a story. Some were stories of struggles with a medium or a concept. Some were memories of late nights working with my friends to get them done by class. Some were reminders of words of wisdom from professors. They are also memories of where I came from….each one marks a place in my own personal history as an artist and to lose them felt like losing my history. I will never remember each one and what it meant to me without them physically being present and that made me feel like the memories would be lost forever.
But they all were destroyed and needed to be thrown out, so while I was at work the next day my husband did it so I didn’t have to. I came home and ignored the dumpster in the driveway. Frankly I ignored the loss for a long time which is probably something most people do when facing a large loss. Recently I went down to the basement again looking for a wreath for the front door and noticed the empty corner where all of my work used to live. And I cried. A lot. And hard. I acted like I wasn’t, I cried while I looked over the wreaths deciding which one to grab but I wasn’t thinking about the stupid wreaths. I was missing something.
I felt really sad every time I thought about it that week, like there was a hole in my chest. I knew I couldn’t bring them back so I had accepted it and ignored it but it still burned whenever I thought about it.
I let myself grieve and then I let myself consider the other side of loss. And for me the other side meant I was no longer tied to those stories, I could start over. Any ideas I’ve had about who I am as an artist no longer had a piece to support that as evidence. I could be anything…I could start anywhere. I could reinvent myself and that, my friends, is where I found the power of the situation. I’ve started to really believe in the power of my own thoughts over the past few years…if you think it’s the worst thing in the world, it will be, if you think this could be a new beginning, it will be. So in this frame of mind I realized that losing everything is a gift…it’s the power to rebuild something bigger, better and more you than you have ever had before.
So I denied the loss, and when I couldn’t hid from it anymore I grieved it and then I was ready pick up the pieces and reassemble in whatever way I want. I’m reassembling myself in a way that begins with positivity, creativity and no rules. When it comes to my work, I do what I want when I want…I try new things, I try things I’ve done before that didn’t work and I abandoned, I rework things I’ve done forever. And the space to feel free in my work is a breath of fresh air and let’s me know the possibilities are endless.
Welcome back and I guess welcome to the brand new website! I want to address the elephant in the room right away so we can put it behind us...you want to know what happened to the invitations, right? You're thinking...you're the girl talks too a lot, says whatever she's thinking, likes a good cocktail, and does the invitations...well where are the invitations?
Well, I'm going to be blunt, they're gone. I've designed invitations for more years than I care to count right now and I've loved it. I've always felt honored to be a small part of a bride and groom's special day and I've taken a lot of pride in being able to bring to life their vision and personalities in my own unique way. I have grown from designing and printing in my little home office for friends and family to working with huge vendors, specialty printers, being featured on the most popular wedding websites, having a design knocked off by Martha Stewart Weddings (yes that happened) and shipping invitations around the world and it's been a truly incredible journey and learning process. I really have loved it but I hesitate to say I've loved every minute of it. This is going to be real talk for a minute because I think we lack enough of it when you run a business. As the years moved on I didn't love working until 2 in the morning to meet a deadline. I didn't love last minute invitation orders, I didn't love talking about cost with clients, I didn't love how much time it took me away from my family. So on December 31, I just stopped. Just like that. I had no idea what the next few months would look like but I had a confidence that I would figure out what I needed and where I was going, I just needed some time to breathe.
So I breathed...a lot. And it was awesome. I went away with my husband, snowboarding and to the beach and felt no worries about what I needed to do when I came back. We went out to dinner whenever we wanted. I spent more relaxed quality time with my kids and didn't worry about work I should be doing instead. I was able to make plans with friends and not check what I have on my calendar for work first. I got more sleep than I have had in years. I read books, a lot of them and I can't tell you the last time I read a book for fun. I watched movies I'd been wanting to see and I binged TV shows that were on my to do list. I enjoyed this time off in ways that are immeasurable. But all the while the wheels were turning about where to go next.
Now, while I was breathing I was working a little...on custom portraits. Something that I'm not even sure when or how it rolled into my offerings but it did. And while reflecting on the future it dawned on me that when I work on them I feel the same sense of excitement as I did when I first started working on invitations. That feeling was long gone when creating invitations, it wasn't new and thrilling, it was a job. But creating illustrations, that was getting my blood moving. I can't wait to get in my studio and work on them...not because I had to but because I wanted to.
So I'm back to where everything started for me and that's with my paintings. Since I was 8 years old all I've ever wanted to be an artist and make a living doing it. I recently re-read Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" and he talks about how he lived out his childhood dreams and listened to anyone who wanted to live their own. Well, I'm taking a bit of inspiration from him as I step forward into making that dream a reality. So thank you for being on this journey with me and I can't wait to serve you with custom illustrations, fun prints and things coming down the road that I haven't even envisioned yet.