One of the most difficult things that I find about owning your own business is finding the “off switch.” As someone who has been dedicated to creating and art for over 20 years now, working on art of business related things has not only become a habit, but also a lifestyle.
Many times my partner Keith mentions to me that my ‘relaxing’ (off) days look a lot like my 'working’ days, as it seems that I am always in the process of making soemthing in some shape or form – be it drawing, painting, woodworking or fiber and needlework. To the untrained eye, it may appear that work time is the same as play time, but there are subtle differences that only other artists and designers can see. It is hard to explain sometimes.
I always say how fortunate I am to be doing something that I love. I don’t think that a day goes by when I am not grateful for the path my life has taken. It hasn’t come on its’ own, but with many years of work and like anyone who aspires to a particular goal, there have been some bumps along the way.
I don’t for one second think that I have reached my destination. To me, that would mean the journey is at an end and there is nothing left to explore or learn. I am one who considers my entire life a journey, and I will not complete it until I take my last breath. Otherwise, what is the point?
There is a difference between creating for 'work’ and creating for ones’ self. When I create for my job, I need to consider several things and ask myself many different questions…
Will others like this? Will it appeal to a broad audience?
Can this design be made into an understandable 'pattern’ that others can easily follow?
Will I be able to market the pieces/kits to make this project and be able to turn a profit?
All these factors are important to anyone who plans on creating as a living. Although as artists and designers we don’t like to think of them, without doing so would probably mean that our business would not survive.
I am not alone in thinking that sometimes this is the least “fun” part of the process. These nagging questions are always hanging overhead and while most of us enjoy just about any type of creating, we need to consider these questions very carefully in order to keep our business healthy and growing. It is just part of the business plan and necessary to survive as a designer.
As a result, there are times when we feel additional pressure that can sometimes stifle the flow of our creativity. I read about it often. We all get in a 'rut’ and go through dry periods when we are not fond of anything we do. It becomes a bit overwhelming when we have the pressure to produce put on us (or we have put on ourselves). Some artists work better with that and some do not. I think it is something that is very personal and varies in degree from designer to designer. No two are exactly the same.
For myself, I work well with deadlines. I find that having a set 'end date’ as a guide is not only welcome, but also necessary for me to be my most productive. I am not a fan of vagueness, and find that when someone gives me the freedom to do something 'whenever I have time’ to do it, it usually never gets done. Truth being told, I don’t remember the last time I had what others call 'spare time’ or nothing to do. But that is a good thing for someone like me. Isn’t it?
I have been designing for over 20 years now. As I think back to when I started, I recall some of the ideas that I had in my mind as to how to create a somewhat successful business. Over the years, I have tested many ideas and found that some of them work (for me) and some simply do not. I think that in most cases, “experience” is our greatest teacher and it takes many trials and failures to sift through and find what work for each of us. It is a continual learning process.
So back to the subject at hand – “relaxing”.
One of my favorite ways to relax is to work on creating others’ designs. Be it painting, woodworking or needlework, it is like therapy for me to create a project without having to “think” too much. I know that most of you will understand that, as most of you who 'craft’ do so in your own leisure time and find it pleasurable to unwind by creating. I am no different, even though I create for a living.
The key to this is to find decent, no stress instructions that allow you to fully enjoy the process without pressure or anxiety. I find that as an added benefit, by doing this I am also honing my own teaching skills and making myself a better pattern maker – no matter what the media. It is a win/win all around.
One of my favorite things to do is to embroider. I love the convenience of picking up the piece and not having to worry about set-up or spilling or noisy tools running or anything like that. I can curl up on the couch at the end of the day and stitch for five minutes or five hours without much thought. When I am tired, I simply put the thread back into a box and I am done. There is something simple and wonderful about it. (For me, anyway) I find when I am stressed or anxious or befuddled by too many thoughts, it is the perfect way for me to calm down and relax.
I have shown my pieces before in my blog here and have had a great deal of encouragement from you all. I have enjoyed creating designs from Di van Kiekerk and love her easy-to-follow instructions. She is a wonderful teacher and is now retiring. While I will miss her posts tremendously, I am grateful that I have purchased several of her kits and will still follow her through her books and videos.
I have currently been working on my second large sampler piece that she has created in a kit. This one is from the book “Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork”. I have shown the previous panels and in the past week or so I have finished up panels four and five and I thought you may want to see the result.
Here is the finished panel 4:
In creating it, I learned several new stitches, including the cast-on stitch for the hollyhocks (the red flowers) and the ribbon stitch for the blue delphiniums. They were so much fun and came out OK.
The ground flowers were easy and I was pleased with them as well:
And the tiny ladybug was stitched in single stranded silk, as the one before:
Overall I am pleased. The beautiful textures and depths of the flowers is really pretty in person:
Panel five went much quicker than anticipated.
The lovely, soft yellow irises were not as difficult as I had anticipated, and because of the ribbon, went quickly. I think it took longer to create the pretty stems than the flowers themselves.
I loved doing the wrapped wire stems though, using (again) a single strand of silk thread. The tiny thread really adds beautiful detail to the piece and is fun and relaxing for me.
The ground cover on this panel introduced two new stitches for me:
The pinkish roses were done in a stitch called “French knot roses” and I found they were much easier than I thought they would be to make look nice. I could do an entire panel of them! The peachy roases were done in a stitch called “spider’s web roses” and they also came out beautiful. The forget-me-nots were done in a ribbon stitch, as were the leaves and I decided to add glass bead centers to them instead of French knots. (I am always a rebel – adding my own ideas to what I make).
Overall, this also made a beautiful and textured panel:
On to panel six …
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I am currently doing the final touches on my own simple embroidery kits that I am creating. I have all the supplies necessary to start selling the kits now and I only need to complete the pattern packet. As with all of my patterns, I will have lots of color photos and clear instructions. My goal is to engage even beginners and offer a fun and relaxing experience for them as well as seasoned stitchers.
Today I will be working on this pattern as well as the woodworking patterns that I featured yesterday. I have orders to cut as well, so it will be a busy day. Thank you to all who have encouraged me in these many directions. I think it makes my life happy and full. I love sharing my creative process with you all.
Whether you create as a job or create as a relaxation, I hope you all find enjoyment in what you do. For myself, 'making things’ is as much a part of life as breathing, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.
I hope you have a wonderful and creative day! :)
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