“Who’s Your Professional Crush?”

Liz Craft and Sarah Fain posed that question on a recent-ish episode of their podcast, Happier in Hollywood (#73). They were identifying the differences between their “nemeses” and their “professional crushes,” people in their Hollywood circle who either irritated them because they succeeded by taking actions that Sarah and Liz found distasteful or who they wanted to emulate.

A professional crush, they said, is not a romantic crush, but is someone who is,

“doing everything you want to do and is a person you want to be. . . . Their success doesn’t get under your skin. Their presence does not grate on you. Instead, the heavens open up.”

I was surprised at how quickly I could pinpoint designers from the Spoonflower Community who fit those profiles. My nemesis shall remain nameless, but my crush is a gal who calls herself, “ottomanbrim,” a.k.a. Tina Vey.

First of all, I adore Tina’s picturesque handle, “ottomanbrim.”

Secondly, she’s a very kind person—friendly, approachable, and supportive of others’ efforts.

And thirdly, her designs make me swoon! Every single one of them. She has a mid-century modern vibe with this cool, linocut flair. Her patterns are hard-edged, but playful. She achieves what I strive to create—designs that are elegant and fun. She enters a lot of challenges and manages to maintain her style while adhering to the letter and spirit of the competition theme. Her style is so well developed and distinct that I can recognize her work in a crowd.

ottomanbrim designs
A sampling of ottomanbrim’s adoration-worthy designs from her Spoonflower shop.

Part of the reason that I abandoned the Spoonflower Challenge Play-to-Pay strategy was that my efforts were resulting in a disjointed collection of designs. Lots of one-off pieces. Since I was gearing each one toward a predetermined theme, I was taking myself down tangential, dead-end paths. They were fun exercises, but they didn’t really get me anywhere.

Tina, on the other hand, has managed to avoid those dead ends somehow. She has over 300 designs in her Spoonflower shop, many of which are challenge entries, and they all seem to work together. Even in their variety, it’s one, huge, cohesive collection, which seems like a very good goal to shoot for.

So, with that in mind, I’ve been working on a group of two-color designs that stem from my Black & White Wallpaper challenge entry. One color is always white, which, I hope, will be the hook that unites them. I’m going for whimsical, clean, and graphic.

two-color designs
Laying out prints of the new designs to see how they work and play together.

I shot for 30 designs initially because Spoonflower will let you sample in bulk for about a $1 a piece (versus $5, if you do them singly), but what I thought I could do in one month has taken three. I’m so excited about the results, though, I’m pooping pink daisies!

I have a palette in mind, but I think I’ll upload all of them in black and white, too. You can never go wrong with black and white!

“I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black.” – Henri Matisse

Succumbing, Surrendering, and Sunbathing

So, speaking of Gretchen Rubin . . .

In a very early episode of their podcast, Happier, Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth, discussed the fact that there can be an upside to the feeling of envy:

. . . envy is actually very helpful because it shines a spotlight on something that we try to hide from ourselves. We don’t want to admit that we feel envy, but if you really confront that envy, it can tell you something useful about yourself. Envy means that somebody has something that you wish you had. And when you know that, then you can ask yourself, ‘Well, is there a way that I could have that thing too?’

After I abandoned my second experiment with the Spoonflower challenges, I suddenly felt estranged from the designers who were still in the game. It was so silly! The whole Spoonflower community—people whose work I admired, whose Instagram posts I genuinely heart-ed, and whose success I applauded—had suddenly gotten under my skin. They were the same, lovely people, but had benched myself because I’d decided that the challenges weren’t practical enough. I was pouting and unhappy, and, apparently, I couldn’t be happy for them either. It was just icky.

I wanted to be back on the team! I missed the camaraderie, the feedback, and the deadline. I enjoyed being in what Gretchen calls an “atmosphere of growth,” a state where we find happiness when we’re learning something new. I could do all of that on my own, but it was heightened during the challenges. When I recognized that I was just jealous and had no reason to be annoyed, I said, “Eff practicality,” and gave myself permission to get back in the game.

Jumbo MidCentury Fusion repeat pattern
“Jumbo MidCentury Fusion,” Large Scale Black & White Wallpaper challenge, 190th/834.

And it was so much fun! The pressure was off, and the goodwill was back. I entered the Large Scale Black & White Wallpaper challenge at the end of November last year, digging out an old mid-century modern design I’d abandoned and mashing it up with a chunky damask pattern. I still didn’t get into the Top 50, but I think I stumbled onto something promising with the two-color design. Win, win, win!

I was kind of amazed that I had found sunshine on the other side of the crapulence. Negotiating with envy is never going to help me get Misty Copeland’s dancer’s body, but in this case, it worked a treat. What a simple solution!

Thank you, Gretch and Liz!

Spoonflower wallpaper mock-ups
Uploading a design as wallpaper in Spoonflower automatically creates these adorable mock-ups. Now I want to run everything through the Magical Wallpaper Machine.

Is It Thursday Yet?

Sometimes I miss the nights of watching TV in the 90s. On Thursdays, NBC had a “Must See TV” line-up, which ran all of their funniest shows back-to-back. In various combinations, they lined up Friends, Mad About You, Seinfeld, and Fraiser, and I looked forward to it all week. I was fresh out of college, I had no more homework, I was making up for lost TV time, and it felt utterly indulgent.

A few years later, my husband went back to school, and we cancelled cable because we had to scrimp. The reception from our TV antenna was always sketchy, so we got out of the habit of planning our week around our favorite shows. Then I went back to school, we discovered Netflix, and we never returned to the land of commercials.

But “Look Forward To Thursdays” are back! Now with podcasts!

I don’t follow a ton of podcasts, but I’m very loyal to the ones I do. Some are regularly scheduled; others are happy surprises. Of the weekly shows, one drops on Tuesdays and the other two on Wednesday nights, so on Thursdays I can listen to all of them at once. It isn’t quite like the good old days when I just plopped on the couch—now I look for things to wash and fold and chop. The house tends to be tidier on Thursdays.

The line-up includes:

The shows are semi-related. Gretchen got it all started with her sister, Elizabeth. Then Elizabeth (a.k.a. Liz) started a spinoff with her TV writing partner, Sarah. Kristen Meinzer was originally the producer for Gretchen’s show before taking off on her own with Jolenta. It’s all good stuff—conversations about happiness, habits and personalities, showrunning, and self-help books. The gals are successful, candid, entertaining, grounded, thoughtful, wise, positive, badass, and unashamed to admit that they have issues too. I want to have lunch with all of them.

My favorite sporadic shows are:

  • The Unmade Podcast with Tim Hein and Brady Haran. Two childhood friends from Australia brainstorm themes for podcasts. Lots of funny ideas and contagious giggling.
  • Art For Your Ear with The Jealous Curator, Danielle Krysa. Artist interviews and a friendly, inspiring connection to the art world.
  • Adventures in Arting with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. I’m still new to this one. Julie does a little bit of everything. She works for Brother and AccuCut, has a craft show on PBS, a blog, a vlog, and a podcast, and I’m fascinated by her productivity.
  • And, when he feels the whim, Wil Wheaton’s stream-of-consciousness Radio Free Burrito. (Because I like the California vibe, and I’m a wee bit of a Trekkie.)

Listening to podcasts gets me out of my head and leaves me with so many ideas to nosh on that I tend to bring them up in conversation, here, there and everywhere, so fair warning! 🙂

 

I think need this: the “I WASN’T THERE when Tim asked John Hewson about his reply to the budget speech in 1992” t-shirt. Dreamt up by Tim and Brady in The Unmade Podcast’s “Omelette Space” episode. ❤

Spoonflower Power, Part 2

Way back last September, after I decided that the first step I should take toward building an art/design career would be to establish a royalty revenue and that the best place to start would be Spoonflower, I had the brilliant idea to start entering weekly design challenges again. This was my logic: if I was voted into the Top 10, I would win Spoonflower credits, which would pay for future samples. (Any design that is made available for sale has to be proofed, which costs $1 to $5 each.) Even if I only made it into the Top 50, my challenge entries would be automatically placed in the Marketplace. I figured I made it into the Top 10 once, and I could do it again.

“A very smart and cost-effective plan,” I thought, patting myself on the back.

I entered two challenges back-to-back: a Limited Color Palette for which I misread the rules that said, “use of black and white accents is optional,” as “not optional,” and a Cut-and-Sew Fat Quarter project which was a whole new adventure for me. Despite the fact that I turned them both into extra-challenging challenges, they were a lot of fun to work on.

Since my last entry, I’d taken a terrific online course with Sherry London called, “Photoshop for Designers,” through the Textile Design Lab, and I got to use some of the fancy tricks I’d learned from her. I also taught myself how to set custom shapes and use the pen tool, which got me away from futzing with rasterized drawings. I felt like I finally had the chops to run with the designer big dogs and was so pleased, I was strutting around the studio high-fiving myself.

And that should have been the signal that pride would be coming (or is it “going”?) before an eventual fall.

When the votes started flowing in (or in my case, trickling), it became crushingly apparent that while I had personally grown by leaps and handsprings, I still had not caught up with the amazing illustrators and painters who had continued to develop their skills and make connections while I was off on a four-year coffee break. I was still paddling around the design harbor in my little kayak admiring the scenery, and the others were cruising out to sea on their big, beautiful schooners.

My Limited Color Palette entry, “Winken,” 265th/555 vs. willowbirdstudio’s glorious “Fabulous Feathers,” 1st/555.
My Fat Quarter Cut & Sew entry, “Gingerbread Bell Tota,” 69th/262 vs. gaiamarfurt’s charming “Christmas Doll 2018,” 1st/262.

In the first challenge, I placed in the top 47%, and in the second, top 26%, which did put me only 19 spots away from the Top 50, but still not in the Top 50. It dawned on me that trying to subsidize the development of my fabric collection by winning Spooncredits was like trying to bankroll a movie deal by playing the Powerball. No guarantees! Plus, I had created two random designs that didn’t fit in anywhere.

I finally had to admit that challenges were probably not the smartest use of my time.

“Recalculating…”