Finding Your Creative Balance
Meet the Artist:
Located just outside of San Francisco, CA, I started my career in the corporate world working in Human Resources in the heart of Silicon Valley Tech. Over 20 years I built a career and a reputation as a fierce advocate for women in tech and in leadership; ultimately receiving awards and public recognition for my work. I loved crusading for women, and it remains a focus in my professional life today. But working in Silicon Valley is hard. It can wear you down in dog years. About 5 years ago I started to feel the drain of "running up hill" at work every day, and I recognised I needed to find some mental balance if I was to avoid a nervous breakdown. I couldn't afford to just quit, so I needed to find a way to power on.
I studied art off and on during my college years, and dabbled with sketch art in my 20's. Career, marriage, and family took priority and without even noticing, I had put the artist in me aside. Standing at this crossroads in my career, I suddenly realised what I needed.
Getting reacquainted with art truly saved me. Having an outlet to channel emotions and decompress from the day made me a better leader, a better wife and a better mom. Over time, however, I started to worry about the amount of waste artwork can create. Wrappings, tubes, brushes, plastic jugs, wipes, more supplies...it seemed endless and I wanted to do better, to be more responsible. I wanted to find a way to create in a more sustainable way.
While taking out the recycling one evening the thought hit me, why are we throwing all of these gorgeous bottles away?!! I did some research and before I knew it I had an idea that felt perfectly at home with me. I began cutting bottles and I turned them into mini pots, planters and short vases. I hand paint each one using acrylic paints or alcohol inks, and then finish the pieces with a glossy resin. These pieces evolved into creating succulent and air plant gift sets.
Creative Business - what I’ve learned:
I don’t LOVE every aspect of running a creative business. I admit it! I prefer to create all day (and have!). I don’t prefer the administrative tasks, the prep work, the clean up, etc. But if I fall behind in the less than glamorous aspects of my operations, it will mean trouble for my business. So…to stay on track, I assign a day of the week to certain activities. Assigning a day of the week is a way to hold myself accountable, and it saves me from getting off track.
I allow myself 1 hour of creative time before going to work during the week. The sun is nice and bright in my yard, and I love the crisp morning air. If my first meeting is at 8am, I’ll set my alarm for 6am to make this happen. It definitely takes discipline!
Just about every creative process has a lot of prep work that has to take place before we can actually apply our art. For me, this includes sanitising bottles, splitting them, polishing them, and applying a primer. It’s arduous and time consuming, and I would just about do anything to avoid the processing work! So now I assign a day - Wednesdays. No matter how big or small the pile of bottles might be, on Wednesdays they get processed.
Over morning coffee I catch up on Social Media marketing and set up my posts for the day. When I am done with that cup of coffee, I put the phone down and head to my Studio for creative time. In the evenings I do this again, but I set a timer for 30 minutes in the evenings to make sure I don’t fall down a social media rabbit hole and waste hours of my time.
I audit and stock up on all of the product minutia Sunday evenings. This includes tasks such as printing up a supply of product labels, thank you cards, assemble boxes, or organise my prep table. Prepping ahead of time and staying organised is key. I never know if I’ll get one order or five orders on a week night, so being able to put these orders together efficiently is critical.
Balancing a creative business on top of a full time job and a family life can be tricky. I set boundaries for myself during the week and weekends to ensure I spend time on me (my art) and also with my family. I try to wrap up any work for my business by 7pm during the week, which gives me a full 2 hours with my family in the evenings. On the weekends, I’ll reserve an afternoon to my creative work, and I’ll reserve an afternoon for my family. This is often negotiated as schedules flex, but the idea is to continuously show my family they are MORE important than my art.
Writing this, I know that none of my little tips are innovative. They’re pretty typical, really. But here’s the key. Many artist will agree that the creative process can become obsessive. If left unchecked, the creative in me has the potential of taking over just about every aspect of my life. And it has! I’ve learned my lessons the hard way. So these tips, simple as they might be, are like little super powers: Discipline! Accountability! Predictability! My ultimate advice is to know what works for you, and set up a system so you can activate your own superpowers and let your creative thrive!