I think I discovered Lilla Rogers when I was in school. She represents some of the best of the best in this little field that I’m in. Lisa Congdon, Suzy Ultman, Jennifer Judd-McGee, and Helen Dardik are some of my favorites who she represents. She’s started teaching online classes I think a year or two ago to teach artists how to make art that art buyers are interested in. Secrets on how to get Anthropologie to call you! I knew a bunch of folks that I really respect taking it and I really liked some of the work that came out of there. They aren’t cheap classes and I wasn’t at a place where I could do it.
She’s now offering a bootcamp class which is kinda get your feet wet and not as intense as the other online classes. I talked with Dave about it, because I have been feeling that my work was just not as good as it was in college. I spent countless hours refining and perfecting projects in school. I confess I have not been doing that since I got out of school. I haven’t had to present my work to my classmates and have them critique it. It’s been just Dave and me editing my work. It is tough for me being the only one that pushes me. I must admit it’s lonely at times working by myself.
All that to say, I signed up for her bootcamp last Monday and it’s been awesome! Last week we had to sketch cuckoo clocks. Here is where I started. But I knew I wanted a lot of detail and I loved the geometry in the bottom right sketch.
Below is my stack of sketches and final pieces to my big piece. I lack a lot of skills on drawing figures compared to my friend Tim. So there were a lot of animals that were meant to look like something but ended up looking like cats!
Here is the final piece! I am so happy with how it turned out. It felt so good to spend over a week working on this. The more I kept going, the more questions I had to answer. What if I put people in it? Ooh trees would go great here! Should it be a fence or should it be a door. Windows or just little doodle decorations? What animals should I draw? Or should they be children? Do I need to put anything on the roof? I’m so glad to be taking the class and plan on taking the next two BIG classes that are coming up. The community is really encouraging and drives me to be better.
One person in my class commented that she wanted my drawing made into a physical clock! And now I can’t stop thinking about making that happen! I know it would be crazy expensive for me to manufacture. But maybe someone like Land of Nod would see this and get that notion! I’ll keep updating my blog with more new work and hope you enjoyed reading the process!
I have been thinking about writing this for a week now. This list is meant to be a little entertaining and just give you a taste of the amazingness I found in Japan. There is no way I can capture of all the depth and beauty to be found in Japanese culture. I was only able to leave the hotel for just a few days! So here is my list of things I loved in Japan, or rather why all Southern women need to go to Japan.
- Kindness. The Japanese are VERY kind. They go out of their way in everything to never shame or embarrass someone. I don’t think I’ve ever said “thank you” in such a short period of time. And bowed! That’s all I knew to do since I didn’t know anymore words to tell them my appreciation. Bow a lot if you want to be polite. And you’re gonna want to be polite. You are representing your country. Show some proud.
- Gracefulness. Everywhere I went, I was consistently a little jealous of how graceful they were at pouring tea. It was beautiful to watch their hands move. They move their hands differently that I do! It’s so pretty and we are so awkward.
- Work Ethic. Everyone takes pride in their jobs. Work is very important. That means all the public toilets WORK. And aren’t disgusting at all!
- Toilets. Which brings me to my next point. Their toilets are way better than our toilets. The toilet seats are HEATED. Since I was there in January, I can’t tell you how much I loved that little thing. And water starts running as soon as you sit down so no one can hear anything. The Japanese get the little things in life.
- Convenience Stores. Japanese convenience stores ARE AMAZING. They have the CUTEST food. The baked good at the 7-eleven blew my mind. I thought I’d run in and get a Snickers or something. Oh no. It’s way better. Delicious and beautiful and all for about $1. The only thing I can compare it to is a fancy bakery where everything starts at $5 each. It’s an adventure going and Dave always was shocked with my huge bag that I’d return with and I’d say “I just spent 1,000 Yen!” Thats just $10, y’all. Below is a photo.
- Sanitary. Everything is clean. Everything, including subways, convenience stores, and bathrooms. Y’all. Seriously. Just stop at ANY gas station from Nashville to Jackson and you know the kind of grossness that goes on…
- Cabs. All of their cabs have lace covering the backseat cushions!!!! WHAT. And I didn’t get in a cab that had a horribly loud TV playing.
- Masks. Oh. I’m sure you’re wondering why Dave is wearing a mask, right? If you are sick even with just a cold, you wear a mask in Japan! Everyone was doing it. It’s a way to prevent your sickness from spreading to others. I wish someone had done that for me last February when I got the dang flu (I think I got it from my gym).
- Cab Ride. When the cab ride is over, there is not a mad rush to hurry out of the cab. You put your money or card in a tray, then the driver puts your change or receipt in the tray and hands it back. Civilized. Not rushed. Good ole fashioned service. I know most of us don’t remember what that is like, right?
- Service. OH! There are no automated card readers where you swipe and enter your pin! At every single place (including convenience stores!) you put your card in a tray on the counter. They swipe the card then hand you a pen and a receipt to sign. You put that back the tray and THEN they hand your card and receipt to you. And they make eye contact and smile! It’s incredible. Revolutionary. Why isn’t this happening in America! Why did service have to leave us!
- Packaging. They package and tape up everything and they do it beautifully. Including $1 little snacks from the 7-Eleven and FamilyMart. It’s all about presentation and service. I didn’t spend near as much money as I felt like I did, because the service made it seem so expensive!
- Standing in line. They stand in line waiting for the subway. There is tape on the floor directing you where to stand at the convenience store. You know when you’ve been standing in a long line and then someone cuts in. Nope. That’s not normal there.
- Pencil cases. I have the hardest time finding a cute pencil case here. Not a problem in Japan. I love a good pencil case.
- Pens. The cutest pens you’ve ever seen in your life.
- Washi tape. Need I say more? Nope.
- Stationery. I’m probably going out on a limb here and unintentionally offend a bunch of my designer friends. I love their stationery more.
- Fabric. Also about to offend more friends. Their fabric is incredible. I was blown away, and let’s all get real for a moment. I’m very very VERY critical when it comes to pattern. Let’s just put it this way. If we have children, I’m ordering fabric from here for their clothes. If you don’t know who Nani Iro is, google her now.
- China. Their china (dishes and stuff) are way better than ours. I went to a department store and was blown away with the selection of chinas. The only option I had to register for our wedding in Yazoo City was Jars or Vietri. No thank you. I LOVED their china. LOVED IT. Wanted to ship it all home to our tiny kitchen.
- Ramen. Here in America, all we think is Ramen noodles. No no no no. Not the same thing at all. It’s cheap, amazing and delicious noodles and broth that you just have to go to Japan to experience. From what I’ve been reading, sadly it’s really hard to find good ramen in America. Below is a photo of the best ramen I’ve ever had. And it was only $8.
- Sushi. Poor Dave has know I’ve not liked sushi. But I tried some there and loved it. It’s kinda the same thing as eating fried chicken in Detroit, Michigan! Don’t do that! If you want real fried chicken, you come down South. Same goes for sushi. And ramen for that matter. Go to Japan.
- Chopsticks. Y’all. There’s pretty much no way you could have sucked as bad as I did at using chopsticks. I was nervous about using them in public, but when in Japan, you just gotta. I’d like to brag that our waitress complimented me (and NOT Dave) at my chopstick skills! I laughed SO hard but apparently practice makes perfect. Oh! Also, do NOT scratch your chopsticks together. That is considered rude, like their chopsticks aren’t good enough. Also put them back in the paper case at the end of the meal. That is being considerate to the servers. Manners matter.
- Cherry Blossoms. I must go back in the spring to see the beauty.
- Shoes. Oh my goodness I felt I was constantly taking off my shoes but I eventually got used to it. And the they were very understanding and gracious when I messed up. You’re even supposed to take off your shoes for the bathroom and put on bathroom slippers.
- Automobiles. They actually have CUTE minivans in Japan. Like, I wouldn’t want to just give up on life if I drove one of them! I wouldn’t want to just live in a houserobe and perm my hair. HA! And the trucks are adorable. We aren’t talking Fords vs. Chevy. Here is a photo of Dave with one of my favorite cute trucks. I want it.
- Maneki Neko. Anyone that considers a waving cat is a lucky charm, well they need to be my friend.
- MarioKart. Japan is the home of Nintendo and for that, the world is forever grateful.
- The Language. Now hear me out on this one. If you’ve heard me speak, you know just how thick my Southern accent is. I took Spanish two years in high school which did not go well. It was the rolling of the “R’s” that I just couldn’t handle. If I was to speak German or Russian, I’d assume I’d be spitting most of the time trying to enunciate my words. But look y’all, Japanese isn’t like that. It is possible for a thick Southern accent to pull off speaking Japanese. It’s definitely different but it’s SO fun to speak once you get the pronunciation down. It was one of my favorite things to hear over the intercom on the subway, “next stop Yoyogi Station.” Writing it doesn’t do the cuteness justice. Yoyogi is one of my favorite words now. Poor Dave has heard me say that word over and over just like the woman did haha!
- Calligraphy. Well it’s just beautiful. I could just stare and study it all day. Calligraphy is so boring now to me compared to the wild and beautiful letters to be found in Japan!
- Shibori. Did you know it originated in Japan? Unfortunately I did not get to see any while I was there. This is why I must go back.
Dave had a meetup with the mobile team at Automattic in TOKYO two weeks ago. (The mobile team designs the WordPress apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android so on the next update you’ll see Dave’s work. How cool is that!?!) We had always been planning on saving to go to Japan. This has been Dave’s dream trip. It’s the home of Nintendo, Pokemon, anime, sushi, and SO much more that Dave loves! This was a dream come true to be able to go. Half our trip was paid for with Dave’s flight and our hotel at the Hyatt Regency in Tokyo. We planned to stay a few extra days after the meetup and planned on going to Kyoto. We spent weeks researching and planning. I knew I’d be by myself most of the time while Dave was working with his team. I want to write a separate post on things I planned on doing because if you read the rest of this, you are going to book a flight to go.
Everything was pretty perfect until Saturday night before our trip began. Dave starts to feel bad the Saturday night before our flight on Sunday morning. I thought “Oh, he’ll get over a quick cold.” NOPE. The 14 hour plane ride from Atlanta to Tokyo agitated his sinuses and filled his ears with fluid. Landing in Tokyo, his ears wouldn’t pop. He went through excruciating pain and it is a miracle it didn’t damage his ears permanently from the pressure. We arrive at our hotel on Monday at midnight. The next morning I have a cold and Dave feels terrible. Thankfully I brought 14 decongestant pills, but it was nowhere near enough for what we needed. He had to go to a Japanese doctor on Wednesday because he wasn’t improving. That was the first time he left the hotel since arriving. The doctor gave him SIX different kinds of medicine including morphine for the plane ride home in case his ears didn’t improve. But he didn’t prescribe a decongestant because it’s not available in Japan. Pseudoephedrine is illegal in the country because it’s used in cooking meth. It was discouraging, because that is exactly what you need for an ear infection. I bought some OTC medicine for me which I don’t think helped much. I definitely didn’t think I’d be crying constantly while I was there.
Being cooped up in a hotel on a trip that we were so excited about, brought on some life lessons and forced a reality check on me. I was SO thankful I had come with Dave to take care of him. This would have been much worse for both of us had I not been there. The Hyatt Regency was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed because of the service. The employees there went above and beyond taking care of every one of their guests. I am eternally grateful for their kindness to us. There was a restaurant in the lobby where we could thankfully eat breakfast and lunch, avoiding the cold weather. We both realized that our trip didn’t matter but that we had each other. And isn’t that what matters most? Life is not in things! Peace can’t be found in seeing really cool sites and eating amazing food. There is more to life than stuff. That’s what I learned in the major metropolis of Tokyo.
BUT then Dave started feeling better miraculously on Monday morning! That Japanese medicine kicked in and I was feeling much better too. We had a day and a half in Tokyo before we had to leave for Narita. Those days were so much sweeter for us because of how sick we’ve felt and how discouraged we both were.
Monday was one of the best days of my life and it was our six month anniversary. In just one day, we went to the Meiji Shrine, walked around Harajuku and Shinjuku where I found an amazing fabric store filled with Japanese fabrics! We also went to a cat cafe where hung out with 50+ amazing cats for an hour.
I posted some photos on flickr of our few days we were able to get out. Dave and I are planning to go back. It’s going to take a little while to save for that trip but we must make it happen.
Last year I didn’t put up a Christmas tree until I think Christmas Eve. And then I didn’t put decorations on it until AFTER Christmas. Decorating the tree is one of my favorite thing to do ever. I used to go as a child to my grandparents and spend the entire night decorating their tree. We always played John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album, which is the greatest Christmas album of all time. I put my business before my life last year. Thank goodness I married the most sane man ever who has helped balance me out. I do not have the balanced together life down pat, but I working hard to get there.
We took time last night to clean out the front rooms that were full of stuff that didn’t have a place yet. Moving in to a new place takes time, you know? We decorated the mantle and my aunt Helen’s piano and our first Christmas tree! It’s a fake tree this year because we aren’t sure how the cats are going to handle a tree! But it’s decorated and our house is starting to feel like a home.
Life is more important than other stuff. When you run your own business, work never stops. There is always something more you could be doing. But I turned off work last night to decorate our house and it was worth it. I want to be more about quality work, not quantity. I want to be more thoughtful of the work I put out into the world. And I want to look back 50 years from now and know that I didn’t neglect our little family, but was present!
That doesn’t mean the next two weeks aren’t insane. I’ve got a house show in STARKVILLE this Wednesday. Porter Flea in Nashville is this weekend. And Indie Emporium in Tulsa is next weekend! But once that’s over, it’s Muppet Christmas Carol and eggnog time!
I hope you and your family have the happiest of Christmases!!!
We have now been living in Nashville for two months. Our move was quite insane. It takes a long time to settle, especially when you have a business that has a lot of stuff. Dave and I both have felt so welcomed to Nashville by our old friends and so many new people. I’m continually filled with thanks that we made the move.
East Nashville is like a small town, but it’s only 5 minutes away from downtown Nashville. To give you an idea, I was in the Post Office a few days ago standing in line. Normally that is just a miserable experience because the workers are all going slow and they are grumpy (at least the old Post Office by my house in Jackson.) I think her name was Lisa in the East Nashville Post Office who was so cheerful and joking with everyone. And 3 out of the 5 people waiting in line knew each other. That made such a strong impression on me. Let me explain. I love love love big cities. I love the ideas, competition, the fight to make the best work. I find much more like-minded creatives who are wanting to make their big dreams come true. But I grew up in a small town. I love walking into a restaurant and knowing at least one person, which you don’t often do in a big city. Y’all, that’s starting to happen to me in Nashville. We have the best of both worlds. We found an amazing church that I think we are going to stick with. Also we got plugged into a neighborhood group that is slowly becoming the highlight of my week.
I’ve been here two months and I am now in a retail store not even 1/2 a mile from our house! I had the hardest time getting in a retail shop in Jackson (other than Whitley’s Flowers because they are my family! ha ha!) I feel Little Things Studio belongs here. The opportunities for growth are huge for me. And I’m encouraged that there is a place for me in this very competitive field.
I’m going to say something I’ve kept private for a long time now. I had a series of disappointing contracts fall through from Surtex. I was so close to a BIG iPhone case deal and a fabric line. Don’t leave out wrapping paper and bedding! I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it. Every time someone suggests to me “you should have a fabric line,” I feel pain. If I had the funds to do it myself, believe me I would. For the first time in over a year, I’m starting to be ready to put myself out there again and try. I know there will be a long line of rejection emails and phone calls. My work is so personal to me which is great in so many ways, but SO tough when something doesn’t work out. In just the small time we’ve been here, I’ve started to feel ready to try. I am so grateful we moved and have a fresh start.