All heart

Today’s plan was to post and introduce my first digital stamp product. What I didn’t foresee was that I’d change my mind about what that first image would be. With the events that occurred over the weekend (can’t we all just live in peace? please!) I felt the need to draw this heart image and then it clicked. As my first digital stamp All Heart will always be free.

The digital file is accompanied by a coloring page and by an SVG file. Please note that the SVG file should not be used any smaller than how it’s saved (8″ wide). The details are many and some are really small. At a width the cutting machines may have trouble.

And now some happy news…
You will be seeing my digital files come more frequently in the weeks to come. My SVG projects take up more of my time (design, testing, assembly and photography) and time is something I have less of nowadays – but for a great reason. I’m working on my second coloring book and it will be coming to a bookstore near you soon. Yay! I’m so excited about this and I can’t wait to share more details when the time comes. As you can imagine, all I do is draw, draw, draw. My deadlines are during the summer months so I’ll be back to my normal SVG project speed after that.

I hope you enjoy the file and help spread the love!

Freelance to full-time (part 2)

freelance-to-full-time

Now that you know the story I want to dive into the lessons learned.

  • I’m a business owner by choice. I can decide when to quit and when to readjust.
    That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship, isn’t it? But leaving a full-time entrepreneurial life was harder than I expected because it was such a big part of my life for many years. More than a job it felt like part of my identity. I thought I would just deal with a few days of a bumpy transition and that would be the end of it. That may have seemed true externally but the battle was on internally. It finally dawned on me that being an entrepreneur was my own self-imposed role. Changing that role was also under my control. This all sounds logical and obvious. But defeat definitely clouded the lens with which I was seeing things.
  • The amount of guilt I felt about not doing the work I was “supposed” to be doing was unexpected and extremely uncomfortable. I eliminated the guilt when I accepted that change could be a good thing.
    Dr. Brene Brown describes guilt as “adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” Yes, I felt a lot of guilt. When I stopped working on my A Little Hut projects it was overwhelming. I hadn’t lived up to the expectations that I’d set up for myself as a designer and mostly as a business owner. I felt that my inaction was akin to throwing away all the years of work out the window. As it turns out that the illustrations that I worked on while on my time off gave me the confidence to self-publish a coloring book months later. They have also given a new flavor to the designs I offer on A Little Hut. My full-time job has also helped me focus on my A Little Hut projects in a different way. Since my main source of income comes from a steady paycheck my ALH work is based on what I truly want to make — it isn’t dependent on business decisions anymore. With this shift, my creativity has been given a real boost.
  • Acceptance brings gratitude — and gratitude just brightens everything up.
    When I finally reached the point of acceptance, I understood that this was simply another step in my journey — maybe one I wasn’t quite understanding but a step forward nonetheless. Then gratitude flowed in. I got a job without looking for one — how fortunate is that? It’s not like I was walking into a worse situation. It was in fact, a more financially stable one. Those of you that have worked in the freelance world know what the income roller coaster can be like. In addition, had I not been offered my full-time job I would’ve kept going without acknowledging my burnout for who knows how much longer. I wasn’t going to get very far that way.
  • Keeping an open mind is a good thing. I’m so glad I did just that.
    Even though I wasn’t sure how my transition from freelancing to a full-time job was going to go I decided to take the leap. If it didn’t work out I could always go back to working from home (umm, been there, no problem!). I’m a people person (regardless of how much of a hermit I may have appeared to be for so long – ha!) and I didn’t realize how much I missed bouncing ideas off of other creative people in close proximity. It really was a treat to do that again —and to do it with the great team that I work with. Like I said, having a full-time job has also given me more energy to work on A Little Hut projects — that was a real surprise. I have more long-term projects than I had before — aside from my paper projects I have a some clear stamp designs in progress, another big project that is due this summer (I’ll talk about that in the next couple of days) and other ideas that just have me wishing for more hours in the day.
  • Entrepreneurship is great and it isn’t wrong to stop and redefine it for yourself.
    I’m extremely grateful for the years that I was able to work at home. Extremely grateful. I was able to raise my babies on a full-time basis, see them off to school and go to all their events at any given moment, pick them up at 3 pm every day and spend great summers with them. Now that they’re older this is the perfect time for them to be more independent and self-sufficient. It really has worked out incredibly well for us. Again… change can be a good thing.I don’t know if I’ll be back as a full-time business owner one day. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t . For now, I can’t complain at all about how my situation evolved. I have a great job with great people and I get to keep my business running by choice. What more can I ask for? I think the defeat I felt was because I begrudgingly let go of the independent part of my life — the part of being my own boss. I wanted to keep things the same in regards to that one thing and it didn’t happen. The big surprise is that I feel more relaxed now — in no small part because of the fact that the company that I work for is really a wonderful place to be. So yeah… no complaints. None.
  • Sharing this story has helped me discover that I’m not alone.
    Telling our tales of hardship is not common place. I wish it was. When we share — the good, the bad and the ugly — we come to find out that we are not alone and that we can learn from one another. This isn’t new. We all know this. The key is to make it past the fear of feeling vulnerable when we open up. I’ve already had great experiences when sharing my story and I’m grateful about the exchanges I’ve had with other artists on this subject. Posting this is my small way of keeping the conversation going.Incidentally, sharing my Surtex experience was much harder to share than all of this. That experience directly affected what I thought of my design skills, while this shone a light on my business ability. The former is by far more personal.

 

The bottom line
None of what I’ve described or learned is something new foreign. I’ve always known all of this but when you’re in the middle of a challenging situation it’s easy to lose perspective. For future cases (not necessarily business related) I learned that I must keep these two things in mind:

  • Only I define my success. Whatever I set as a goal is mine to reach or change. That’s it.
  • I need to be kinder to myself. If another designer or artist friend found themselves in a situation such as mine, I’m certain I would’ve possibly given them some of the advice I described above — even before going through all this myself.

I’m sure there are more points that I can add to this list but these are the ones that I’ve kept with me for the past year and a half after making it past the mental gymnastics. For now, I hope sharing this not only helps someone in a similar situation but also helps those of you that follow and support A Little Hut (thank you!) to understand why the last three years have been less than consistent — I felt that I owed this to you.

Freelance to full-time (part 1)

freelance-to-full-time

There are innumerable articles about creative people wanting to take the leap from full-time employee to entrepreneur. What happens when the situation is the other way around, as it was for me? As you’ll see, it was a longer than expected transition.

Let me start with some background so you can understand how I came to be where I am now.

After just a handful of years of being out of college, I quit my full-time job when I became a mom in 2000. I started working as a freelance graphic designer a year later. A Little Hut started as a blog (2004) where I shared my crafty ideas that got me away from the computer and corporate work (Sadly, I just noticed that the first year of my old blog disappeared!). A Little Hut, the paper goods business, took off a few months later.

I worked as a freelance graphic designer and business owner until the summer of 2013. That’s when I was asked to help out with a short-staffed in-house design team. It was supposed to be a temporary position. Two months later I was offered a full-time job and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m still working for the same company. It’s a great place to work and my commute is ridiculously convenient. I’m 5 minutes away from work and I come home during my lunch break almost every day.

So that’s the timeline. Now comes the emotional side of things.

Even before accepting the job offer, the feelings that crept up were challenging and they took a while to process. They can be wrapped up with one word: defeat. Remember, this came just 5 months after my trip to Surtex – so yeah, this didn’t help at all. It just added fuel to the emotional fire.

Many weeks passed before I realized that the guilt of not updating my A Little Hut shop was consuming me. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. It was horrible. I felt like I owed it to my customers to come up with something, anything! But I was completely and totally burned out and what little I had in me didn’t want to produce something that wasn’t up to par. I was also adjusting to the new schedule and family routine. I didn’t even have enough in me to properly post something on my blog (more guilt!). I remember, at some point, mentioning my job but I kept the feelings about all of this to myself. I’ve always been the type of person that needs to simmer, think through, solve and then finally share.

I don’t remember when, but I finally decided that I needed to let myself off the hook and call an official time out. I think I gave myself almost a full year. Aside from an occasional post and personal work on Instagram, I answered emails that came in through the site and that was it. I really needed that time off. I also decided that if I was going to come back to A Little Hut I wanted it to be a need and not an obligation.

The struggle came with an internal monolog that would not stop. Half of me was hard about the fact that I couldn’t say no to the full-time job and was disappointed that A Little Hut didn’t make it to the point of making as much as I was being offered. The other half was kinder and just accepted this as a new step in my journey. The latter was the loser for the better part of a year.

Leaving my entrepreneurship behind meant I was leaving something that so many of my friends and acquaintances were so “jealous” of – the dream of working from home and being my own boss. It meant accepting the fact that I had to redefine who I was as a business owner and that maybe I had to drop my entrepreneur label because I wasn’t living it anymore. It meant that I needed to decide whether I was going to keep A Little Hut or close it for good. Closing seemed very drastic so I left the shop open waiting to be in a better place before making a final call.

Last year I felt the yearning of making again. I needed to create something and share it. That’s how I wanted to come back.

It’s been a struggle to set schedule for my A Little Hut projects because time is so tight nowadays. But I’m slowly getting things under control and I’m having fun again — the giddy and passionate kind of fun. I felt like either I was going to make it to this point or I was going to say goodbye. But I’m definitely back!

• • •

I want to talk more about the lessons learned  in my next post (this got so long!).
See you there!

Flowers to start a mission

Floral lattice collection

I’ve been thinking a lot of how I want A Little Hut to evolve and grow. Part of that includes what my mission is – sharing my creativity with you and for you to share yours with others. As I said years ago, on the old blog, I still believe that creativity fills the heart — it truly does! So, why don’t we spread it even further?

From now part of A Little Hut proceeds will be donated to Donors Choose, an organization that provides public school teachers with materials for their classes, needs that they can’t meet otherwise. Initially, I will be donating to art and music projects.

Taking this step makes me so happy! What I do and your support of my work will allow teachers to continue to spread the joy of making art. Yay! I hope that you can join me in this cause. I’ll report once a quarter on what we’ve accomplished together. I can’t wait to get started!

We can start with the Floral Lattice Collection. It’s based off a sketch that I drew when it was the end of the day and I just needed to draw something to relax. It’s so interesting how some of my favorite work happens when I’m not overthinking it.

I like the idea of making these gift sets so that you can share what you make with your favorite people. We shouldn’t keep it all to ourselves, right? Which makes this more of a fitting project to start with A Little Hut’s latest mission. Don’t you think?

Happy Monday everyone!

• • •

PS 
And one more thing…
As a small thank you for all your support I’m starting off the summer with a sale!
– Coupon: alhthankyou
– 30% your entire purchase
– Valid until June 12th

Floral lattice collection