Friday, October 24, 2014

Words That Matter

Some recent testimonials from clients. Every time an email like this shows up in my inbox, I'm blown away. We're in this together, friends. Spread kindness, help where you can, use your gifts, believe in each other, let's go, let's go, let's go.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dogs In Church

When I got to church yesterday, there was a massive St. Bernard pup sprawled out on the floor leading up the aisle I tend to sit off of. If you know me, you know this made. my. whole. day. I wanted to curl up on the floor with him (or her), but I felt like the owners might not be into it so I sat a few rows up.

It reminded me of something I wrote last summer, which I am copying and pasting below. Also it gives me an excuse to post photos of my babies ;)

Lastly, make sure to enter my current giveaway with Instead of Ashes! Girl is super talented so enter to win her beautiful art.

Without further adieu, I present to you A Black Lab Teaches Me Everything In Church:

I slid into the pew about ten minutes after mass had started. I'm a late person. I just am. When I left the apartment almost at the time church started, I figured I'd be much later than just ten minutes, so actually I was delighted with myself.

There was a homeless person in the pew in front of me, laying down, asleep, so there was a massive amount of seating open in that area. An invisible bubble of nonsense protection from whatever it is that people think they'll get from homeless people. For the latecomer here, this was great news, because it meant that I got a seat.

When I sat, I saw it; the flash of a long black tail whip up and around underneath the pew. And then my ears heard a familiar jingle of collar tags knocking into each other. And then out slid one paw, followed by the other, and bang, she was licking my feet. A beautiful black lab hanging out under the pew while her family took in the service. My kind of people. Her mom apologized profusely, but I shook her off. The only thing I could possibly think of to make a relaxing Sunday morning at church better, would be if there were dogs in every pew.

Every time she let out a little whimper, or thumped her head by accident, or jangled, or did one of the many other things that pups do, various people turned their heads, trying to place what the noise was. Add to this, the various screaming children who are either very upset, or are praising god in a way that adults somehow forget after age six. Parents who are shushing and hushing and rocking and reasoning. And then add the many other shuffles and sounds that come with a large amount of humans - jittery, cell phone having, busybusybusynewyorkers - all gathered in one quiet place. And I noticed something: the heads turning, the comments made, the stares and eye rolls and judgements. One couple got me, in particular. They were the first to whip their heads around when the sweet dog made a noise, every time. Yet they maintained a conversation between the two of them the entire mass. And this got me thinking.

Why were they here? To fulfill an obligation? Or because they wanted to be? Were they just punching in and out each week in order to earn enough star stickers to win extra good karma? And then ever further: Why do we do the things we do? Why do I do the things I do? What's the impulse? Reasoning?

I was speaking with a friend last night who mentioned they were considering making a decision based on filling their savings account. Now, you don't have to tell me about money. I'm an artist, for pete's sake. There are many moments where I'm like 'shoot I would be down to do that just to make the money'. Anyway, my answer to this was 'What do you want your life to look like? if you want to be in new york city, then be in new york city. If you want to feel secure knowing you have this check coming in and money being saved, then do that. If you want to move to, like, Atlanta, then move to Atlanta.' If she wants to make money right now, then she should absolutely do that. It's not for me to understand, it is only for her to do. Actively choose and do, based on what she wants for her life. Now, if the answer actually is that she wants to become a deep sea diver off the coast of some island but she's just too scared to pursue it.. well, that's a whole other thing. But if there's no fear, just an actual decision, then boom. There you go, do that.

I think this is one of the biggest blessings and curses of modern day living and freedom. We can literally choose anything that we want for our lives and then make it happen. Sure some choices come with a lot of hard work, a lot of money needed, a huge change, etc, but it's up to us. And there are so many choices, it can be overwhelming and much easier to stay where we're at, doing what we're doing, exactly as we are.

I'm rambling. I do this. I guess what I mean to say is: why are you doing the things you're doing? What do you want your life to look like? What would it look like if you took out a notebook and wrote out everything you want for your life, how you want it to look, where you want to be, heck even what sights and sounds and smells you want (or don't want) - what would it look like? And are you checking in with those ideas?

As for me, I've got a puppy friend here, and a blank notebook, and I believe it's high time to go sit by the water and check in with what I want, what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it. And then mayhaps enjoy an iced treat because holymoly it's hot.

Happy Sunday, friends.

Originally posted here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mustard Seed Sessions: LAUREN of INSTEAD OF ASHES

Up next in my interview series is Lauren, the founder of Instead of Ashes! First, let's start with her beautiful tag line: "Bringing beauty to the world through paper". How awesome is that?

Here's the thing about Lauren: you can feel her heart in everything she does. The way she describes parts of her life, her instagram feed, her thoughtful emails, and of course, her beautiful handmade items. In the short time I've gotten to know her, I can tell that she puts her heart into everything she does and has a kind and gentle spirit. I definitely encourage you to check out her shop, or get to know her through her instagram feed or facebook page.

Now, on to the interview! (Make sure you get to the bottom as there's an exciting giveaway waiting for you!)

MSC: What's a day in your life like?

IOA: Right now, a day in my life looks different than it ever has at other points in my life. My husband Seth and I got married about 4 months ago, and moved 6 1/2 hours away from Atlanta, GA to Durham, NC so that he could attend Duke for Law School. Since then, I have been setting up our first home, exploring the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill area. We had the blessing to have a summer where I did not have to immediately find a job, so I had some more time to dream, plan, and create for Instead of Ashes.

Generally, I will start by checking my business email, especially if I am working on a custom project for anyone. I have not advertised much for custom projects, it mostly started with friends asking me to make something. If someone asks, and I have the time, I will take on a custom job though. After that, I will check stats for my shop and see how the traffic has been doing. If it is early in the week, I may set up advertisements via HootSuite. Orders usually get shipped out on Tuesdays and Fridays. But other than those few things, every day is pretty different. I will focus on different products for a while, and then move on to another.

Some days, I will work on creating new products, like the prints that I just listed in the shop, or the bunting that is coming soon! I may restock items that sell well- usually the card sets. That means printing, folding, and packaging, sometimes accompanied by Netflix or an Anthropologie playlist on Spotify. Recently I have been working a bit more on stocking up holiday items like Christmas cards and gift tags. I am hoping to attend a craft fair or two before Christmas this year, so I want to get a head start on having product ready.

All that to say, each day really is different!

What prompted you to start your shop?

I started a different Etsy shop in college, Laurkon Designs. I made "Printables" which, if you don't know, is basically just a design file that you download and print on your own. It was great to have during college, because I would make a design, and I just had to email the file to the buyer. Since then, Etsy has actually made selling digital items even easier, giving the buyer the ability to immediately download from Etsy.

It was fun, but I started to want to make actual, touchable, physical things. I don't remember exactly what drew me to paper goods then, but I have always loved making cards. I have no idea how many handmade cards I have made over my lifetime. Whenever a cousin or family friend was having a birthday, my Mom would be in my room at some point asking me to make a card to send them (very often the night before!). When I was little, I would play dollhouse, or would create a little world with Playmobil and Littlest Pet Shop bunnies with my sisters and friends that we affectionately called "Bunnyville". Among the little pieces of our world, there was a desk with a computer on it. If someone else hadn't beaten me to it, I would have this computer in my house, and my bunny would have the job of a Hallmark Card Maker. I thought that would be the perfect job then... and I'm doing something very similar now!

I had the idea for the shop for a long time before opening it. I wanted to write Bible verses and quotes in beautiful and fun lettering,  and put it on cards and prints. Then, I started spending some time in Isaiah 61. Then I saw it mentioned on Instagram, in my devotional, and at church. That is one of the ways I have discovered that God speaks to me. Through repetition. Through different people and places, but repeating the same thing. The phrase "beauty instead of ashes" stuck out to me for a while. Then one night, after a girls gathering at church where, surprise surprise, someone had read Isaiah 61, I walked back to the car with a friend of mine and told her my idea for my new Etsy shop. She was the very first person I shared this idea with and I couldn't have picked a better person- she was so encouraging and thought it was an amazing idea. So I went for it.

Is your business/shop your full time job? If not, what else do you do? If yes, how long were you doing it before it became full time?

Instead of Ashes is not my full time job, but I hope it can be someday! I work as a Design Assistant at Design Lines in Raleigh, NC.

What would you tell your 20-year old self? 

Well, I am currently 24, so my 20 year old self was only a few years ago. I would encourage myself to do more of what I love and not just what I think I am supposed to do.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

I'm not sure if this exactly counts, but in the early days of my sophomore year of college, I saw a pretty picture on Pinterest. It was simple and aesthetically pleasing. It said "Do what you love." I was starting to embrace the fact then that I wanted to do something with my life that I enjoyed, and was beneficial to society, while also maybe paying my bills! That would be a great plan. While this might not exactly qualify as the "best advice I've ever gotten", it was definitely a launching point for my creative identity.

What's the hardest part about pursuing a "non-traditional" career? The best part?

Right now, I find the hardest part being that it has to be accompanied by another job. Don't get me wrong, I am excited to have an Interior Design job using the degree that I worked hard for and do enjoy, but balancing that while creating this non traditional job as a side project that I want to get bigger  is hard because it takes a lot of time.

The best part is getting to make whatever I want!

What inspires you?

I think I am inspired by places I like to be. I love how Anthropologie smells delightful and just has a beautiful eclectic atmosphere. A recent discovery I have made is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There are a few different garden styles represented here- it's a lovely place to walk around and relax in. I also dream of getting to go back to London and Edinburgh- the architecture, the streets, the weather, the shops, the colors, the sounds, the museums, the people, the tea :) I feel the adventure rushing over me just thinking about it.

I am also inspired by people and their love. I love being around people who truly love others and want to brighten their day, see them succeed, and see them grow. I love being in the homes of families who truly love each other, and who really welcome you to be a part of it. I am so inspired by people who so extravagantly love other people.

Thank you so much, Lauren, for your beautiful answers! Not only has Lauren been kind enough to grace us with her words, but she's also put together a fun giveaway! Head over to instagram and follow the instructions on the giveaway post (it's super simple to enter). You'll be entered to win the three beautiful items you see in the photo above!

Keep your eyes on her shop for more of her beautiful work!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Loudly, Bravely, Fully

This week was - oof. It sat on my chest until it felt like I couldn't breathe. Nothing was specifically wrong, and I find that's the worst. When something is wrong, specifically, it's easy to identify it and attack it head-on. When I just feel like everything is crashing in, that's when I feel sunk.

Which isn't to say I didn't have a hell of a week. Actually, I had the most fun I've had in awhile, out late nearly every night, seeing incredible art, keeping incredible company. I had a blast at silly auditions with girls who had zero sense of competition (the best) and at home recording funny dragon voices from my kitchen. Lunch dates, and dinner dates, and spending way too much money. Coaching artists and writing, planning, learning. Monday, in particular, I just did. I went to a dance audition with bravery in my eyes (and in my shoes), saw girlfriends I hadn't seen in awhile, went to SoulCycle after a month away, bought myself roses and sweet treats, and put on a fancy dress and heels to attend a wonderful one-night only event at Lincoln Center where it seemed like my entire industry had popped on their best bow-ties and shoes and showed up to say hi to a few hundred of their closest friends. We ended the night with drinks and snacks and conversation, and I came home and felt full in that delicious way. I took the whole day to just love myself loudly, bravely, fully.

Feelings can get tricky, can't they? We can be wildly happy and aching in pain within hours of each other, sometimes even at the same time. My heart doesn't stop aching with fear of the future or worry for someone just because I'm enjoying a concert or laughing with friends - all the layers live together. Feelings aren't mutually exclusive. Which is a long way to say don't believe the part of you that says just because you're sad, you can't be happy. You can be all things at once, feel all things at once. You're magical that way.

I wrote this on Instagram the other night and it seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. But I'll tell you a secret: as much as I am writing to you, I am writing to me. So I'm going to post it here, too. So I don't forget. So you don't forget.

Look, we might as well be real with each other, right? I think transparency and authenticity are incredibly sexy. Like, shaking the ground you walk on sexy. In a social media filled world, it's easy to cover, filter, or all together change yourself. But I think who you are - I mean, really and truly who you are - is absolutely delicious. Messy topknot, face mask slathered on, swirling thoughts, in bed with a book before 9pm, and all. The stains on your shirt, and the lines on your face, and the thoughts that you have are what make you, you. Don't hide it. Embrace those things. Fall in love with your own quirks, your mistakes, your questions, your chipped nail polish, your secret dreams, the way you snort when you laugh, and cry over commercials. Love all of it with everything you are. Meet your authentic self for tea every morning, and dates once a week, and in the mirror while you brush your teeth. Meet yourself so much that eventually you recognize the person staring back at you, in the same way we squint as an old friend comes slowly into view and then jump up and down in excitement when we realize it's really them, they're here, this person we've missed for so long. Get messy, get transparent, get authentic. The world needs you too much to hide.

p.s. that beautiful bracelet is compliments of Compliment. use code 'KERRY' at checkout to save $5 on anything in their shop.

p.p.s. one of my paintings is in an amazing auction that ends today. check out the items you can bid on here.