Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Quiet Book Closure...LITERALLY!!

Hi there! I'm feeling rather satisfied right now. I have done what I have been meaning to do for a whole year. It's a little rough. It's far from perfect. But it is DONE! My daughter's Quiet Book cover. Completed in time for Christmas 2012. Huzzah!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

eNewsletter Giveaway

I have got to say, last night's BrisStyle indie Twilight Market was the best market I have ever been to. There was such a great festive vibe, and plenty of people coming through. I got to share a table with the lovely Sharyn from Gutsy Girl Art. And to top it off, I was not expecting to see any on my friends outside of the BrisStyle community, but saw quite a few after all! Including a lovely friend of mine from high school who came and hung out for the last hour or so, and even helped me close a few sales. (Thanks, Karen!)

Thanks to all who made purchases, it is truly exciting to see things I've designed and created going to new homes. But do you know what satisfied me most of all? Watching people's reactions as they walked past the stall. Of course, plenty of people walked straight past, but there were many who stopped and squealed with delight - either at the rain cloud brooches, or the dress brooches, or even the embroidery hoop art pieces. I just loved seeing those reactions! I loved the exclamations of, "Oh, that is SO CUTE!" and "KAWAII!!" and seeing people do a double take for a second look...I loved seeing people smile in reaction to my little pieces of wearable art. So thank you, to all of you, for making my night so memorable!

Okay. Down to business. Another GIVEAWAY!! You can win...drum roll please...drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...a Dress Up Doll Brooch with four outfits - entirely custom made just for you! You can be in the running just by signing up to my brand new eNewsletter here. You get to choose the doll's hair, skin, and eye colour, as well as each of her dresses -  style and colour! Feel free to share the news with your friends.

Good luck! Perhaps you will win! (Giveaway open internationally, and will be drawn mid January)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Green Eyed Monster Strikes Again

One thing I have noticed in this online game - blogging, selling on Etsy, being on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest...the Green Eyed Monster is always lurking, reading to pounce. Have you noticed it? It looks something like this...

Scenario 1: Sitting at your laptop, doing the first online check of the day. Log on to Facebook, Etsy, email, etc. Facebook...Oh, wow, look at that. [Friend]'s child is already [insert activity that your child is not yet doing]. Good for her!

And at first, you genuinely mean it. You are truly happy and uplifted by the sight of cute little tot doing cute things. But then that Green Eyed Monster pounces and you feel just a bit blah. If you're good at the whole meta-cognition thing, you might notice yourself thinking "Why does her kid always do things [sooner/better/faster/neater/with more flair] than mine?" which might lead to "What am I doing wrong? Am I a bad mother? I don't spend enough time with my kids. I'm just not good enough!" Sound familiar?

Scenario 2: Looking at Instagram on your phone. Scanning through food photos, sunrise photos, kids doing funny things photos...then you see it. Oh. My. Gosh. [Another online seller] is posting off 15 parcels today? Wow! Good on her, she must be doing well! 

Again, you do genuinely feel happy for her. But it's not long before the Green Eyed Monster starts gnawing at your insides. "She is ALWAYS posting items off. Why does she sell so much and I try so hard but can't seem to make more than a sale or two per month? I mean, I know her work is really lovely, but I think mine is too!" which might lead to "What am I doing wrong? Is my stuff just rubbish? Does nobody truly like my work? Am I wasting my time? Maybe I'm just not good enough!" Come on, be honest and tell me, does this ever happen to you?

Have you ever noticed the Green Eyed Monster sneaking up on you while you trawl the world of Social Media? What do you do about it? Have you ever noticed that comparison seems to reap nothing but dissatisfaction and self-doubt? How do you navigate the online world without giving way to the Green Eyed Monster?

  1. For me personally, I know that self-awareness is a big first step. Acknowledging [like I am in this post] that I struggle with this. 
  2. Secondly, reminding myself that comparison that leads to the old "I'm just not good enough" story is not very helpful. There are helpful ways of comparing myself, but I must be very wary to ward off the Green Eyed Monster. 
For example, I can choose a few shops that I see as successful shops to learn from. I can look at their business practices, their use of social media, their way of marketing their products, and from looking, I can see what is working for them. Of course, the goal of all of this observation is not to copy, but to learn the principles that are working and adjust them to suit my own personal business, style, and time constraints.

This is important to note. I LOVE the embroidery work of Dandelyne, for example. Sonia, the lovely woman behind the store, is vivacious, charismatic and a little bit wacky! She does a wonderful job of creating quality pieces, and her brand strong and style is unique and recognisable. She is one that I absolutely marvel at, when I see on Instagram that she has 56 orders to get out. But when the Green Eyed Monster threatens to start on me, I remind myself that there is no way I could possibly begin to handle 56 orders before Christmas!! Her kids are at school, and while that presents different challenges, it does allow more time, so she is able to take on more work. I just physically cannot do that much at this point in time, and there is no point wishing I could! 

And back to the friends of Facebook scenario...I have found for myself that rather than comparing myself with my friends (or my kids with my friends' kids), it is much more useful for myself and for my friendships that I ask my friends directly what they are doing, and how they are doing it. Not to make myself in their image, but to learn from them if there are skills I am lacking, and to recognise the differences that are just circumstantial, personality-based, or values-based. We are all different, and that's the way it should be. 

God tells us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice,  and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). We can't do that if we are too busy being consumed by what we think they have that we want. The Green Eyed Monster is a master of illusion, and usually has us tricked into seeing things very differently than they actually are.

So when I notice that Green Eyed Monster sneaking up on me, I can throw it off the trail by:
  • celebrating differences
  • doing something special for that particular friend
  • asking my friend about how she is managing - and really getting to know her for who she is
  • looking at my own life and thinking about where my own behaviours are vastly different from my values, and focusing on what I need to do to change that (with God's help)
  • praying for my friend - for absolute and total blessing over every area of their life
  • surrendering my feelings of jealousy to God and asking Him to replace them with love
I know several of my strategies are faith-based ones, which may not resonate with you personally. I'd love to know how you deal with this issue? What strategies do you use? 

Christmas Markets

Hi lovelies!

Just a little reminder for those of you readers who actually happen to live in the Brisbane, Queensland, Australia area (my stats show you are in the minority here). Two BrisStyle Christmas Markets are coming up in the next two weeks.

Firstly, the BrisStyle indie Designer Markets this Saturday, 8th December at St. Augustine's Church at Hamilton. All the details, including market line-up here and the Facebook event page here.

Secondly, the BrisStyle indie Twilight Markets next Friday, 14th December at King George Square, Brisbane City. Details here and Facebook event page here.

There will be plenty of lovely, quality handmade goodies to get your hands on in time for Christmas. You can do all your Christmas shopping in one place, and support local handmade makers in the process. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Latest Kids' Artwork Embroideries

The recent kids' artworks that I have transformed into embroidered hoop art.

This first one was drawn by my customer when she was three - she is giving it to someone close to her as a gift.

This second one was the first recognisable drawing of a people done by a little friend of my Miss Three. It's a picture of her (the draw-er) and her Daddy. It is to be a gift for said Daddy for Christmas.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Embroidered Dutch Houses

Recently, my hubby and I had a little kid-free overnight getaway. The cute little cottage we stayed in had this great crockery set with gorgeous illustrations on them.

They inspired me to sketch a little design to embroider. I of course chose red linen initially, then the lovely Jane of Planet Joy asked if I would do one for her on a blue fabric. I am rather happy with how that one turned out too. What do you think? Which do you prefer?

(Available on Etsy or at the upcoming BiDM this weekend or BiTM next Friday)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Let's Meet: Becca Koopmans of Wear Love Now!

Hi friends! I've got a lovely treat for you today! An interview with a lovely and talented artisan that I "met" through Etsy. I'm excited to share her story with you today. Enjoy!

Please introduce yourself and a tell us a little about what you do:

I’m Becca Koopmans. I’m a stay-at-home-mum of four kiddos in the midwest of the United States and I run a little cottage industry of upcycled clothes called Wear Love Now.

 How did your Etsy shop get started?

My heart was pregnant with a lot of different ideas and issues when Wear Love Now was born. Some of the contributing factors were the image issues that I had struggled with finally coming to rest in my own personal style. As a busy mum of four I often struggled just to get a shower, let alone put on an outfit that matched. This frustration took me to my faith in God, where I learned wearing love was way more important than wearing clothes in vogue. “Regardless of what you put on, wear love...” Colossians 3:14, became my daily dress code. Other factors included good stewardship with thrifting, a creative outlet with sewing and a flexible family schedule.

How did you get started with your sewing skills?

This is a bit embarrassing to admit. Though I come from a heritage of pattern followers and excellent seamstresses...when I was in middle school home economics, I stapled the hem to my final dress project and transferred to woodworking shop...where I scored an A+ (probably because I was the shop teacher’s babysitter). All that to say, my art has always been there in various forms...but, sewing skills I had to learn as an adult. When I became excited about upcycling clothes, my Dad bought me a sewing machine and I asked an outstanding seamstress in our area to give me some private lessons. Whenever I would hit a glitch in my vision versus skill she came to my rescue. And now, I’m quite proud of my set of skills that make my art come alive.

What do you love most about your job?

One of the biggest surprise gifts of selling my clothes on Etsy is the friendship factor. I pursued selling on Etsy following a difficult health crisis of our youngest daughter who has a progressive neurological disorder. My normal venue for interaction and friendship became more and more limited as her medical needs increased. I never anticipated the treasure house of friends in Etsy sellers (especially Homespunsociety Teammates) and in Etsy buyers...literally around the world.

I also love that when I sit and sew, or pin something, or sort through one of my baskets, one or more of my kids are right next to me...humming, drawing, or sewing a button on a bookmark....I love that. I also love creating the’s like art with my sewing machine for me...pure joy.

What inspires you?

Good artwork, especially by French Impressionists; beautiful music; nature, well-written books; friends; family; strong coffee; inspiring conversations; history; vintage style; bohemian style; designers creating outside of the box and my faith in God.

Could you please describe how the artistic process flows for you...from initial concept design to completed product?

The process varies with different pieces of clothes, but, typically it begins with the main item I want to use. I purchase items for their quality, possibilities and versatility. And then I set the top ones, the ones I’m most excited to use next, on a table and start putting lace out, material on top, twisting seams in various places, etc. Usually the longest part is gaining the inspiration...and it also is the most exciting, because I choose to wait until I get the ‘aha’ idea for each piece. Then, once I get my ‘aha’ idea, I consider the best plan for tweaking each piece and begin the cutting and pasting, so to speak...also a very fun stage as I get to see it come together. Then I let it set a day and come back to it for any last adjustments or additions. Finally, I take pictures using a barn door my husband put up for me in our backyard.

What’s the biggest challenge for you in the artistic process?

Probably my biggest challenge is balancing my to-do lists for my family and my shop. And another is, when my heart is heavy with some issue or another, creativity can’t be forced.

What does an average day look like for you?

My days begin early...I love to get up and exercise and then spend some quiet time reading and praying before all the breakfast chaos begins. My husband and kids are typically happy that’s a great thing in our home. Mari rides a small handicapped bus to school with her wheelchair, our twin boys, Steven and Schyler, ride with my husband on his way to work and then I walk my oldest daughter, Liesel, to the bus stop.
Usually I check my shop early in the morning before for the kids are up or after they get off to school to see if any packages need to go out, any questions need to be answered or anything updated. Often, I go into my sewing spot and work on a few items. Depending on each day, I pick Mari up early from school, she goes an hour to a few hours. Then, she and I spend time reading and playing and then she takes a rest while I work on home life, sewing or Etsy teamwork.

When the other kiddos get home...homework, supper and life take a front seat with my time. I’m not a night person, so I’ve learned the hard way, with a seam ripper, that sewing after the kids are in bed isn’t a good idea, but I still check in on Etsy.

Any advice for those thinking of pursuing their artistic dreams?

Dreams are really important in life. Hang onto your dreams...but, realise they may take a different form or fruition timing may be different than you picture...and that’s usually best in the long run. Listen to those who love you when you consider your dreams...including God....he’s made a lot of mine brighter and bigger than I ever imagined!

Where can you see more of your work?

Thank you so much, Becca, for sharing with us!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Embroidery as Art Therapy

In a recent post of my ponderings, I mentioned that my son's first birthday was a stimulus for reflection on the past year. It was true...and longer lasting than I anticipated. I have not been able to escape the need to reflect and process events from twelve months ago.

I say "events" because I do not see my labour and birthing experience as a single event. There was a series of events that finally culminated in Theo's birth. A series of events that touched and changed me in a number of ways, events that still evoke strong emotions in me that make it difficult for me to talk or think about that time.

I honestly do not fully understand why this is so difficult for me to talk about. My guess is that an outsider would look at the two stories of the births of my two children and expect that I would have had a harder time coping or coming to terms with my first child's birth. I was hoping and praying for vaginal delivery with no pain relief, using active labour techniques, attended just by my midwife and hubby. I got an emergency C-section after a long, hard back-ache labour; baby needed oxygen; when I was first allowed to see her, they held her up over my head just as I started throwing up with the effects of the anesthetic; it was a while until I actually got to hold her...

As compared to my second you know, I can't yet bring myself to sum it up like I did for my daughter's? It's hard to explain, so I usually don't bother trying. But I really feel I need to. Here. Now....So here is my attempt. [PLEASE NOTE: I did try to cut this story down, but I just don't feel right about that, so I don't expect anyone to actually read the full account, it's long. I just had to get it out]. On 28th October last year, I was woken in the night by contractions, around midnight. I thought they were probably just warm-up contractions, and tried to go back to sleep. However, they started getting closer together and lasted longer, until they were 3 minutes apart, lasting almost a minute, and starting to get painful. I had woken hubby when I thought they were for real, we couldn't help but get excited and start to plan how we were going to get his parents to babysit our daughter. I mean, my emotions were fully engaged in "Our baby is coming today!" mode. To the point that when I had a text from a dear friend that she had given birth, I thought, "Hurray, we'll have babies on the same day!"

Then the contractions slowed down and stopped. *sigh* This went on for over a week, mostly during the night, sometimes lasting only a few hours, sometimes much longer. I was not getting a lot of sleep, I was exhausted, and most of all, I was confused. My emotions were all over the place. I was trying not to be excited about having that baby because he could still be weeks away, but I wanted to be prepared. At the end of a week of this, I was an emotional wreck. I had been in to the hospital a couple times for monitoring, and each time, the contractions would slow down and stop when I was hooked up to monitors.

Nine days after I first thought I would be having bub, my waters broke in the middle of the night. I noticed it and went back to sleep. I called the hospital the next morning, and they confirmed what  I suspected. Because I was attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian), I would need to come in to the hospital for close monitoring, and would probably not be allowed to leave until after bub was born. So I spent the next few days in hospital, walking up and down stairs, trying to encourage baby to come without exhausting myself too much. I don't sleep well in hospitals though, and by this stage I was already physically and emotionally worn down. 

My doctor supported my choice of attempting induction before a caesarian, for which I am grateful, and I was told the date they would induce me (due to risk of infection if left longer, I was induced within 72 hours of my waters breaking).

I was feeling quite positive and well and truly ready to have this baby by the time Tuesday rolled around. My hubby and I had practiced active labour techniques together, and we were READY to put them to use! And we did! As soon as I was started on the syntocinin drip, I began to have strong contractions, which very quickly started coming two minutes apart and lasting a minute, and increased in intensity almost straight away. My hubby and I were such a great team during those hours (roughly eight or nine hours), and I'm really proud of how well we managed without any pain relief. I needed him for every single contraction - poor man would take a bite or two of (my) lunch in between and I'd grab his arm for the next one. The contractions were relentless, but I was focused, determined, and equipped. 

I was so focused, I didn't really start wondering why the baby wasn't coming out. I have a hazy recollection of various attendants consulting each other quietly, then doing yet another internal. Eventually, they told me to start pushing. I did this very carefully, under strict guidance. I pushed and I pushed. They told me I was pushing beautifully, and that my pushing was helping baby move down the birth canal, but that after each push, he would slip back up again. That was rather disheartening, but the midwife kept encouraging me that I could do it. 

It turns out, I couldn't. At least, not before the consultants decided that they were going to have to use suction to help baby come out. So they informed me that they were giving me an episiotomy. "Do I have to?" I groaned. "Yes, for your baby, we have to." A deep disappointment washed over me, but determined to meet this baby, I braced myself for the procedure.

The next few moments are very confusing and hazy in my memory. I remember feeling so confused, with people all shouting at me. There must have been 8 or 10 people in the room by this point. I didn't know which voice to listen to. The pain of crowning, but the joy of touching baby's head...then the immense, unspeakable relief and joy when they handed my baby boy over onto my chest. He lay there and whimpered and my heart ached because I felt that I knew exactly how he felt. He voiced my extreme exhaustion, my disappointment with the difficult process, my satisfaction that it was over, and the pain that I was acutely aware of as a result of the process. My focus on just being with him and knowing what he was feeling, and enjoying the result of my labours helped to mask the awful task of being stitched up. Masked it, that is, until they took him off me to clean and wrap him. Eeek. I had him back before too long (though it felt like an age), and finally the birth suite emptied of attendants, and we were left in peace to recover.

I took a long time to recover. I had anticipated (and been educated) that a VBAC would be easier to recover from than a caesarian. This was not my experience at all. I had a lot of pain in my bruising and my stitches (I tore in several places, as well as the episiotomy scar), for eight weeks after the birth. It took that long before I could stand for more than five minutes at a time. I was simply not prepared for it to take so long to feel better. Once I started feeling a little better physically, the flashbacks started.

Now, my son's birth was by no means a horrific birth. There are many stories that are much more terrifying and agonising. But for some reason, I had flashbacks to various moments of the birth for many months afterwards. As in, re-experiencing those moments, the pain, the intense emotions. Can you believe I am ashamed to admit it? Because, somehow, I believe that I am not a strong woman if I have a difficult time with birthing a child. Where did that come from? I am happy to say that the pain flashbacks seem to have passed now. However, I still have surges of strong emotions from time to time (for example, when hearing about someone else having a baby, or while writing this post). As a psychologist, I have a strong desire to understand my emotions, but I also know that sometimes it is important just to sit with them, and let them BE, no matter how confusing, intense or even unpleasant. And now, after years of encouraging people to do just that, I know personally just how hard that can be.

Through all of the reflecting lately, I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something that could help me to anchor my memory of the birth to the precious and joyous moments, rather than the disappointing and difficult moments. I have Kristen from HeyPaul Studios to thank for her #hastystitch challenge as well as her recent post about the potentially therapuetic nature of embroidery - these were other timely factors that prompted me to come up with a creative way of expressing my joy at meeting Theo, which could also be a way to process the strong, conflicting emotions at the same time.  So I decided to sketch the moments I wanted to anchor to, and stitch the sketch onto fabric.

I have to say, the process of stitching this was unlike any other stitching I have done. I felt driven to complete it, and did so within a few days. I had strong emotions very close to the surface for those few days, even when I wasn't stitching. And now that it is done, I have a strong sense of satisfaction, though it is not perfect, I can live with it and be proud of it. Much like my birth story, come to think of it...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Instagram Challenges

Are you on Instagram? I am attempting to participate in my first Instagram challenges this month.

The first is a daily challenge, from Kootoyoo. It's fun to see other people's responses to the stimulus words. You can see my answers by checking out my Instagram pics @Candykinscrafts. Or see others by searching #amonthof #mycreativespace.

The second one is an embroidery challenge issued by @heypaul from Hey Paul Studios.

Fun, fun, fun!!

If you're going to join in, please let me know so I can follow you too. :-)

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

On Working Towards A Balanced Life

Generally speaking, I like to throw myself into whatever I am doing, and do a good job of it. "It's not worth doing if it's not worth doing right" or whatever. It seemed to be easier when I was working full-time, before kids. I threw myself into my job, while at work, and threw myself into maintaining my relationships with my hubby, my church community, friends and family. I would get overwhelmed from time to time (like the time I realised I had over-committed myself at church and had to back out of teaching kids' church and leading Missions Team and focus just on leading a home group). But it seemed a little more manageable. Maybe it's just hindsight, and I don't remember it as I actually experienced it. But I recall hubby and I having a goal-setting and review session every few months, mapping out all the areas of our lives and evaluating how we were doing with keeping our priorities in check. Sure, there was always plenty of stuff to work on and make changes to, but we managed to have these sessions fairly regularly. Since having kids? Well, ha ha...

Having children has changed our lives in a massive way. They are a wonderful change, but a huge change. I don't think that there is any way to be prepared for the enormity of that change. There is suddenly so much more to juggle. How can one tiny person bring so much change? For me (and, as I understand it, for many other women too), having my first baby ushered in an identity crisis that shook up all I had ever known as 'me' and turned it inside out. Now, I consider myself to be a fairly psychologically-minded person, quite self-aware even. I knew becoming a mummy would introduce a new element to my concept of self, and would take some time to process. I knew having a baby would change how my hubby and I relate to each other. I did expect a transitional period, of course. I just did not expect it to last years. 

I did a lot of soul-searching, as I tried to figure out who I was now that I was a mum. My sense of self changed in so many ways - my body image, my fashion choices, my sense of competence (or lack there of), my relationship with I worked through these changes, I found that I tended to throw myself into one aspect of my new role at home after another. At first, it was housework - keeping a "good house". I worked hard at setting up new housework routines (which had to change each time Miss E reached a new stage of development and mobility), ironing my hubby's work clothes, packing his lunch, because that's what a "good house wife" should do. Then, developing an exercise routine - I walked an hour a day for a good many months. Then, I discovered gardening, and threw myself into that (to the detriment of aforementioned housework routines). During my first trimester of my second pregnancy, I grew far too exhausted for gardening, and so I rediscovered my love of making things, and starting putting a lot of time and energy into it. But each time I started focusing on something new, I had to give up something else. 

I can't count how many times I've said to hubby, "How do other women do it, I just can't seem to do it!" Sure, I can manage to dress nicely each day and put my make-up on and have the children clean and nicely dressed - as long as I don't try to keep the house clean. Or, I can maintain the garden and make nice meals, as long as it doesn't matter if I am in daggy old home clothes all day every day. Or, I can exercise and take care of my body, as long as I worry about cleaning the house...I just can't do it all. So I had better be clear about my priorities.

I got to a point where I felt relatively content with my balance of priorities...and then, my life (and my identity, and my marriage) was shaken up again with the arrival of another beautiful little person. In case you have never heard, the birth of a second child can be just as life-changing as the birth of a first child. This has certainly been the case for us. 

If you've been reading for a while, you will have witnessed some of my struggle with priorities over the last few months. My son's first birthday is fast approaching, a fact that is forcing me to stop and reflect on the last twelve months. While I could sit here and notice all the ways that I have failed in my attempts to live a balanced life, I am not going to do that...

I am not going to focus on my short-comings, but look forward to the future and laugh with excitement at the possibilities. I am not going to hate myself for the times I have failed my children and my hubby, but surrender them to God and draw the strength from Him to face one day at a time. To truly be in this present moment with my children. To breathe in all the sweetness they exude, and not take their failings personally. To hold them close, tickle and cuddle them, laugh with them and JUST BE WITH THEM.

There is no rule for a balanced life. There is no perfect formula. There is just one day at a time.

She's Making Jewellery Now!

A happy Wednesday to you. Here's a little clip, courtesy of Portlandia, to make you crafters giggle.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Kids Artwork Embroidery Update

We've had some rather overcast days here lately. My dodgy little old camera is happy, because those overcast days create some great light for taking photos outside. I have finally updated some photos of my kids' artwork embroidery pieces. I usually have the dilemma that I am working to a tight deadline, and have to take a quick photo with whatever light I have, right before posting the artwork off to it's new owner. However, since I have three pieces to complete for one customer, I have the unique opportunity to wait for good light to take some better photos...

I also finally did up a price guide for those interested in commissioning a work. (Prices are subject to change at my discretion, and are as a guide only).


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