Trying to be a Master of One


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“Jack of all trades, master of none” – I have been called this many times in my life, and I used to get a little offended every time that I heard it. I love being a creative, crafty type person, and I can’t quite ever commit to a single medium, hence master of none. Most recently, I have wanted to have an embroidery business, and be a writer, simultaneously. But, I think I decided otherwise, for now anyway. I love what my little business is, but I also want to grow it into something a little bigger, and a little more sustainable.

I started wrenbirdarts about 4 years ago, and got serious about it 3 years ago. Since then, I’ve have about 3,500 sales on Etsy, AND, I just had my 100th sale on my stand-alone website yesterday! I know that 100 sounds pitifully small, but I think it’s huge. Etsy was the very best platform to start out with, and gave me a really great customer base, but selling from my own website is a completely different animal. I have to find ways to stand out and to woo people to come and visit my webstore, and of those people that I persuade to take a look, only a few are going to buy something.

Basically, all of those marketing, small business, etc. articles that I’ve been reading late at night while laying in bed for the past couple of years, were finally put into practice. And holy crap, so much work!

I’ve been working on spiffing up my social media and working on product development. I have a new product line that I will be releasing in late summer, and as I get closer I will talk about the details. And I’ll also be picking up my blogging series on creatives again. I’ve just been busy with the details, so rather than putting out a rushed post, I am taking a little break.

In between embroidering furiously, working on business staples, and product development, I’ve also been taking little mini-vacations in between. So far, I’ve taken a week to go to Portland, OR, a quick trip to Astoria, OR, for the Goonies celebration, been out on a boat a few times, and taken in lots of the summertime festivals around Seattle. Here are a couple of pictures of where I’ve been.

Seattle by water

Seattle by water

Astoria, OR

Astoria, OR

Solstice Parade, Seattle, WA

Solstice Parade, Seattle, WA

I made a hanky to commemorate my 100th website sale

I made a hanky to commemorate my 100th website sale

I hope this little update finds you well, and busy doing your summer things. I am looking forward to coming back with fresh writings and new projects to share. Happy summer (or winter in Australia)!


Self Care Interview with Vanessa Laven of Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts and Survival Organs


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In the United States, today is the dreaded Tax Day, and I’m not going to give it more than a mention. I’ve passed way too much stressed energy to the tax man this year. Pfft-that’s it, time to move on and remember there are so many more things in this world that should capture our thoughts.

When I read through Vanessa’s interview, it really resonated with me for several reasons. Her words are touching and I’m grateful that she has the voice to write about cancer in strong, clear words. One of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago, and though she has a great support system, and is a seriously tough broad, sometimes her support system just can’t help. I get frustrated, and then feel really shitty about getting frustrated. This happens because I can’t do anything to make it easier for her, and I can’t understand what she feels like. So, to have someone like Vanessa who does get it and writes about it, was a little gift that I could offer my friend.

Anyway, I’ll shut up now, and get onto today’s interview. Please welcome Vanessa!

Tell us a little about yourself. 
My name is Vanessa and I live in Minneapolis with my husband and two cats. I’m learning what life in the Midwest is like after growing up in the Metro NYC area. It’s very different but I love it here!
What is your creative business? Is it your full time gig?
I blog about life as a young adult cancer survivor at Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts. My other job, Survival Organs, is where I make adorable, adoptable internal organs — durable stuffies with unique hand-embroidered faces. There’s sure to be one with just the expression to fit your thyroid, uterus, or brain’s mood! And both are my full time gigs.
How did you get started in your creative endeavor? 
I started blogging a few months after I finished chemotherapy at my husband’s urging. In 2010, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and there were very few personal blogs that were still active about life with lymphoma. Cancer was really isolating and at 25 years old, I was hungry to hear about other young people who were alive after treatment. I couldn’t find anyone who had been in my shoes and was still talking about their cancer experience. So I decided to do just that as a way of helping the next person like me. I’ve always kept a journal and I even had a private LiveJournal in high school, so blogging was a natural transition for me.
Right before my cancer diagnosis, I lost my job in the Great Recession of 2009. Having a gap in my resume and also not having any hair made me decide to just go into business for myself. By chosing myself, I’m able to work around my doctor appointment schedules and I have the flexibility to pause what I’m doing to take care of the side effects I still deal with from chemo.
vanessa laven Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts
Describe a ritual or routine that keeps you grounded? 
Every morning I have a cup of cafe con leche, a Cuban style latte. I’ve been drinking this every morning since I was a little kid, using the same brand. It helps me stay connected to my Cuban background. I also love martial arts and I get my best thinking done when I’m lifting weights. Both are the best ways I blow off steam.
Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts
How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout? 
Cancer has made me very in tuned with my body, which is great! I just hate that I learned to listen the hard way. 😉 I make sure to really listen to what my mood is saying. If I wake up grumpy or sad for “no reason” that’s a good sign that I’m not doing something I need or I’m avoiding something scary. This is where journaling really helps me suss out what need isn’t being met. If I get an idea (or just a hint of an idea) of what I need, I give myself the permission to stop working and go do it. I’m always surprised what even a 5 minute creativity or go outside break does for improving my mood. And whatever I’m working on (or not working on) can wait a bit without the world crashing down.
Where can we see more of your work? 
I blog over at and my organs are available for purchase at I also have a newsletter
Thanks so much to Vanessa, make sure to check out her blog and Etsy shop!
I can’t tell you how much I admire Vanessa for her words, and how much I love her stuffed organs. And on a self-care note, since wrenbirdarts has been my full time business, I have been so much more in tune with what my mood is saying. I can completely relate to sitting down and writing if I just can’t figure out why I’m in a funk. Especially when you work at home, alone, it’s necessary to be really in tune with your mood, or if you are just feeling a little off. Sometimes all it takes is a little walk around the block to clear my head, and get the blood flowing.
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#self care blog with Survival Organs by wrenbirdarts

Just get started, even if it feels like you might throw up!


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In this blog series, I usually interview creative business owners who have been at it for some time, and have established a full time business. Here’s the thing that’s easy to overlook: everybody starts out playing with an idea that just won’t stop rolling around in their mind.

Wrenbirdarts was my 2nd handmade business, and embroidery was the 3rd handmade business idea (jewelry, bags and wallets, embroidery) since 2002. For me, I always knew that I wanted to start my own business, though when I was younger, my dream was a coffee shop/bookstore. And what started out as an idea, and experimenting with different techniques and designs, evolved into a respectable embroidery business.

When I was just getting started, which for me was about an 12 year beginning, I didn’t post on social media for my business, and I didn’t put myself out there and talk about my work or that I was starting a business. Looking back, I think that most of that was a confidence issue, and I was really afraid of criticism and that not everyone would like my work. Now I know that not everyone will like my work, that’s unavoidable, and I know how important social media and exposure from other blogs and links from other business’ social media is to drive traffic to my shop.

I do have a point here, and what I am trying to highlight is that the 2 people that I am interviewing today, though they are just getting started, are already putting their work out onto the internets, and that is a big, gutsy move!

Without further ado, I want to introduce you to a couple of artisans who are in that starting place, and moving past the hobby stage into the business stage. Here we go!

Tell us a little about yourself. 
Jessica: I’m really excited to participate in your blog Erin, thank you for having me! I’m Jessica and I live in Fairbanks, Alaska. I live in a cute little cabin outside of town with my dog Andy and my cat Alkin.
Jessica of Sweetpea Jewelry
Mike: I’m Mike Valle, an art school grad with a degree in furniture design.  I’m a designer, creator and engineer. I’m originally from a small town outside of Boston, but now live in the Greensboro, NC area.  Work brought me down here, but I won’t complain, especially during the winter months.
Mike Valle
What is your creative business? 
Jessica: My creative business is Sweetpea Jeweled, and I create handmade statement jewelry. I am in my second full year of operation and it is not yet my full time gig. That is the goal for one day though.
Mike: I create mosaic portraits using bottle caps. It’s more of a hobby at this point, but who knows where it will go.
Sweetpea Jeweled Necklace
Mike Valle: bottle cap art
How did you get started in your creative endeavor?
Jessica: I’ve always been a creative person. Nurturing my creativity and making things fires me up, it’s my passion and I feel that it touches my soul. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit as well so it really evolved organically from a love to make things to a desire to do something for a living that I’m passionate about.
I have done some small shows and bazaars locally, but my business is primarily e-commerce. I find the local shows a great way to get face to face feedback and when I have the time (and energy, they’re a lot of work) I’ll do one.
Mike: I started saving caps when I was in college with no real plan for them, until a few years ago, when I made the Mona Lisa.  I’m lucky enough to have family and friends around the country that help save caps for me as well as a few local bars.
Describe a ritual or routine that keeps you grounded?
Jessica: I find it keeps me grounded to take time before bed to dump my thoughts out. I do some reflection and then I journal. Whatever feels like it needs to get out gets dumped onto paper. Sometimes it’s something emotional that feels unresolved and sometimes it’s ideas and things that I want to pursue in the future. I really find this quiet time essential and it’s easy for me to do in the evening, because I’m relaxed and ready to quiet my mind.
Mike: Not particularly, each piece is different and I use a few different methods for creating them.  I wish it were more cut and dry, but I suppose that what makes them unique.  Completing the glue up is the thing I look forward to most, as it’s a relief that all the caps are finally secure.
How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout? 
Jessica: The number one way I keep from burning out is knowing when I need to take a break. It took me awhile to finally listen to my body and mind and know when I’m going past striving to a breaking point. It’s true everyone has their own unique makeup, and for me, I cannot be in a constant state of pushing myself. When I feel like I’m drained and uninspired I’ll take time to unwind and remove myself from “work.” Some of the ways that I do this are to take a really long walk in the woods or to play brain puzzles. I’ve found that some of my best ideas and inspiration come during or after I take all of the pressure off. Not everyone performs well under pressure, HA! 🙂
Mike: This is my get away.  Creating these helps me escape the stresses of the day.  I have other hobbies including woodworking, and stained glass that help me relax.
Where can we see more of your work? 
Jessica: My website is; you can access my online shop and read my blog, which has some inside peeks at my process. The blog is fairly new though, so I would be honored if you’d check it out. I’m also active on instagram, which I absolutely loooooove. Instagram is so pretty and fun!
Mike: My facebook page is what I keep most up to date, .  I also have a twitter account that I try to keep up with .
I loved posting these interviews today, it’s a gentle reminder of how scary it was to take that first step. That was the most difficult for me, and I would do a million things differently now, but that’s all part of the learning process and taking that barfy feeling leap!

Self-Care Interview Series with Colleen Pastoor of Lemon Thistle


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Today’s self-care interview features Colleen, a DIY blogger and scheduling extraordinaire. Colleen’s blog is not only lovely, but the projects are all very accessible, so if you don’t have 17 hours to spend on a single DIY project, you can still add a little pretty to your daily life.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that making AND maintaining a schedule is the only way that I can reasonably balance my work life and personal life. In today’s interview, this new mom and blogger inspires me with her ability to get things done. I’m still struggling to stay on a daily schedule, so I will turn it over to Colleen of Lemon Thistle.

Tell us a little about yourself. 
My name is Colleen Pastoor, I’m a 20-somethings wife, mama to 18 month old twins (the sweetest things on earth), new home owner (that we’re completely gutting and renovating the DIY way) and lover of pretty things (but on a budget). I’m living it up in beautiful BC- that’s Canada’s West Coast.
I believe you can have a beautiful life, home, and party without spending a lot- we’re keeping it real on a budget so anyone can join in on the fun. Every day deserves to be special, there’s no accomplishment too small to celebrate. I hope that my children will learn to love the little things in life- that’s why I run my business the way I do.
What is your creative business? Is it your full time gig?

While I firmly believe my full time job is raising kind and creative children, my business is a DIY and lifestyle blog. Lemon Thistle features Parties, Home Décor, Gifts and Printables (oh, and babies too!). Three times a week I share hands on tutorials, beautiful photos, and personal stories with my readers. This started out as a creative outlet when I was pregnant on bedrest, and has grown to take up every minute of my spare time if I let it. I’m so happy that I can get paid to do what I love.

TroiCrombie- Colleen Pastoor, Lemon Thistle

In the fall I was teaching part time at a University and while I completely loved this, I was finding it was too much to run my blog while being a stay at home mom and a work out of home faculty. Around Christmas, I expanded my business to not just write and create projects for my own blog, but to consult and help small creative business owners start blogs of their own to grow their businesses. This is so much fun for me, as not everything I dream up fits with my audience. I’m looking at it as a way to merge my passion for education and my love for blogging. I get really excited talking about the business end of blogging and realized (after being asked a bunch) that small business owners don’t have time to learn all the ins and outs- but they can see how much a blog would compliment their business. This has become my largest income stream.

St Pats Party-Lemon Thistle

How did you get started in your creative endeavor? 
Lemon Thistle totally began as a hobby. I always had dreamed of starting a blog, but didn’t think I could commit the time to it. As I was sitting on my couch watching every re-run on television, I decided bedrest gave me the perfect opportunity to give it a shot. If I couldn’t commit the time to it and enjoy myself while I had no other commitments (literally), I wouldn’t be able to after kids. I had dreamed that it might become a business for me, but I didn’t really see it as a reality until last spring when I started learning about the business of blogging. A few months later I was getting requests for paid work (both editorial writing and creating freelance DIYs as myself and for other businesses), this is when I saw it as a real business opportunity for me.
Fox Mask.
Describe a ritual or routine that keeps you grounded?
Coffee is my one constant- it so helps me focus and relax, when my kids go for their nap, or I close my office door I always have a cup in hand. Since my kids are my number one- when they’re awake, I try to be with them 100%. Sometimes this isn’t possible and I’ll need to jump on my phone and respond to an email or post on social media. As they grow, I need to change my routine, because their needs change. I used to get two naps to work, now I only get one. They used to sleep in so I could crank out a few hours in the morning, now they’re early risers. As they change, I need to change my routine too. Now I my kids go to a family daycare for 6 hours on Tuesday- that’s my day to complete my daylight photography. The best thing I did for my work life balance is buying a desktop computer. Before christmas my laptop died and since my work is image heavy, constantly editing images, I found the cost of a desktop was much more affordable to get a quality machine. Now, when my kids are up, my office door is closed- so I’m not tempted to keep working when they’re awake. Also- when I’m working in the evenings (my husband takes the kids two nights a week so I can close my door and crank out work), I’m not in our family space being distracted by how cute (or troublesome) my kids are. This has increased my productivity incredibly.
My creative process has also become more streamlined the longer I’ve been doing this, and the more demands that have been put on my work time. I live by my editorial calendar, it not only helps me schedule my blog posts- but the posts of clients. I have a book that I draw all my ideas out in and then I assign them to the client or my blog as I need to fill in my editorial calendar. This helps me from sitting at my computer trying to decide what to write for tomorrow morning- and wasting my time browsing Pinterest for ideas. Every time I sit down at my desk, I make a master list and assign times. I use to manage how much time I devote to each task, so I don’t get sucked into something and realize my whole evening is gone. At the end of my work time, I re-write that list for tomorrow. This helps me feel in control of my workload.
How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout? 
I actually struggle with this one. I’ve made huge strides in the past six months, as my workload has multiplied, I’ve found strategies to better manage my work/life balance. I have told all my clients when my work hours are, and am upfront if they have a request (‘Can you change the tile image on that post from last week?’ ‘Can you create a post to introduce this giveaway I’m doing?’) that I won’t be able to look at it until my next work-time (tomorrow, or the next day usually). I have also scheduled those work times with my hubbby and family. They know that on monday nights, I don’t go to family dinners because I’m working. They know that on Tuesdays I won’t go to gymnastics because my kids are at daycare etc. I’ve also scheduled Date Night, because it’s easy to let that be last. As I talked about above, my biggest accomplishment in preventing burnout is closing my office door when my kids are up. I plan coffee dates with friends at the park, visit cousins and hit Target with my sister-in-law when my kids are awake without feeling guilty for ‘wasting time’. When it’s not my scheduled work time, my job is to be a mom and have a life outside my computer.
Professionally, I’ve made it a priority to connect with other creative professionals. It can be so isolating to work online- you need to find support! At first it felt like a waste of time, but now I make sure to schedule it in. I’m always taking an online class to better my craft and view this as a necessary part of my business. It helps me feel like I’m pouring into myself and not just putting out all the time.
Where can we see more of your work? (social media, your website, shops that sell your product, etsy, etc.)
You can find my lifestyle and DIY blog at and I always share the other places I’ve been posting on my Facebook page (and TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest– I can’t help myself!. If you’re interested in seeing some of the work I do for my clients, shoot me an email and I would love to send you some links!
Headshot & Lifestyle Family Photo- Courtesy of Troi Crombie
St Patrick’s Day Party- Recent blog collaboration I coordinated
Thanks so much to Colleen for taking the time to talk about self-care and scheduling!

Self Care Interview with Happy Guppy Toys March 17, 2015


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Here in Seattle, everything is abloom (that’s a word, right?), so the bright, happy crocheted animals made by my guest today seemed absolutely perfect.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Danielle Begnaud and I have one husband and one dog. The three of us recently moved from Austin, Texas to Springfield, Missouri. I like to make things, dance, the color red, coffee, and silliness. 

Self Care Interview with Happy Guppy Toys

What is your creative business? Is it your full time gig?

I hand make little yarn toys and created Happy Guppy Toys to share them with other people. Sometimes I sell my toys as little figurines and sometimes as baby mobiles, family portraits, or greeting cards. Sadly, it’s not my full time gig just yet, but I’m hoping to work to that point in the future. 

Happy Guppy Toys Product Photo

How did you get started in your creative endeavor? 

When I first learned to crochet while I was in college, I could. not. stop. My desk was full of little animals, my walls were full of hanging versions of the animals, and don’t get me started on the yarn containers that I tried (and failed) to keep hidden under my bed. Nothing made me happier than making a new, little cute things, so in order to take back my room, I started selling whatever I made on Etsy. I got a few orders now and then, but I really started taking it seriously when I got close to graduating last May. I rebranded, designed my first product line, and polished up a brand new website. And so Happy Guppy was born!

Puppies by Happy Guppy Toys

Describe a ritual or routine that keeps you grounded? 

My morning routine really helps me to start my day and continue to be productive throughout. I usually wake up, post on social media, drink some (a lot of) coffee and eat breakfast. Posting on social media might seem like a strange thing to do right when you wake up, but it helps me relax while I go through my morning because I know I’ve already done one productive thing towards my business. 

How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout? 

This is something I definitely struggle with. People often tell me that I am a very hard worker, but I tend to work for hours on end without giving myself a break. I can get very consumed with my work and achieving the goals I set for myself that day. I’ve noticed that when I’m not feeling my best, exercising and then showering seems to help me recharge. If I’m feeling burnt out on a certain task, I ask myself, what do you really want to be working on right now? And then I do that for a few hours to regain some juice.

Where can we see more of your work? 

You can visit my Etsy shop at , my website at or follow me on Instagram @HappyGuppyToys

IceCreamRattle by Happy Guppy Toys

Thanks so much to Danielle for letting me interview her, especially since she is obviously quite busy. Not only did I just fall in love with Happy Guppy’s crocheted creations, but I am excited to have the chance to highlight a handmade business in its beginning stages. In my own experience and interactions with other small business owners, almost everyone starts their business in conjunction with working your “real job”, until you hit the exciting and scary point when you can finally quit your day job.

I also really appreciate her candor when it comes to self care. Especially when you are working a day job and are growing a business, it’s incredibly difficult to take the time for you. I still struggle with self care when I have orders sitting in my queue, email to return, and blog posts to write. Today, even though I have orders to fill, and bookkeeping for taxes looming over me, I am going to take a couple of hours to play tennis, because I know that I need to get out an move around to feel like a human. So, with that, I am signing off. Make sure to check out Happy Guppy Toys!

Stay up to date with the goings on at wrenbirdarts. 

Self-Care Interview Series with Sayraphim Lothian March 3, 2015


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It’s an exciting day around these blog parts for a couple of reasons. First of all, wrenbirdarts is stepping off of the continent today for today’s interview series. Secondly, I get to introduce someone who I met through Instagram, and was inspired to create my own little style of craftivism after following her work. I realize that this is starting out very vague, but never fear, your questions will be answered in just a few lines.

I will say that Sayraphim is an incredibly kind and inspiring person, and I actually feel pretty damn cool to kind of know her. Without further ado. . .

Who are you?

I’m a public artist and craftivist.
Craftivism is a growing worldwide movement which uses craft for activism purposes. So it’s about changing the world, changing minds or opening up discussions about issues through craft in the public or private sphere. Some people have a crafting group where they can discuss issues, others craft in public where people can come and talk to them about what they’re doing and why. Other craftivists make things for people in need, like blankets for homeless shelters or beanies for newborns in hospitals. Still others produce items with political messages on them to display in public, banners, clothing, quilts etc, or do a worldwide call out for people to knit or crochet a single square to send in, so they can stitch them all into a giant protest piece.Others make your own clothes to avoid supporting sweat shops or environmentally disastrous production techniques or simply learning to patch your clothes to make them last longer. There’s many people making craftivist work in various ways both in the public and private sphere.

My work is using craft to make the world a better place both with tiny temporary works of public art and through participatory projects. Most of the public art works are acts of Guerrilla Kindness, handcrafting small artworks to leave out in public spaces as gifts for those who find them. It’s injecting a little magic back into adult life, and rewarding people who like to look around them as they go about their day.

Sayraphim Lothian for wrenbirdarts Self-Care Interview Series

Cupcake by Sayraphim Lothian

What is your brand of creativity, and is it a full-time gig?

As well as my public art practice, a few years ago I co-founded the playful event company Pop Up Playground, we make games and playful experiences for people of all ages. The games are mainly face to face type games, only occasionally are they digitally supported (so usually they’re not computer/video type games) . We run an outdoor festival in March every year (that’s the end of summer here – perfect weather for it!) and collaborate with cultural institutions to present games based on their stories, events, collections and more. We also run games out in the streets and we’re about to start Modern Parlour Games,  a monthly residency at a pub where we showcase new and experimental games we and other designers have created.

As with any arts practice, it’s all a more-than-full-time gig!
Sayraphim Lothian for
Where do you live?
In Melbourne, Australia
Do you have a regular ritual/routine that you most look forward to? 

Making. Pure and simple! There’s always loads of admin, as well as I run the social media for both Pop Up Playground and myself, and while it’s always wonderful to reach out and chat to other people who are interested in the same stuff you are from all around the world, my favourite part of my practice is to simply sit and make… After this interview I’m heading back to the studio to sit down and continue to quilt a street art work from an old school Melbourne street artist named Psalm. I’m currently working on my first solo show in around 12 years called Craffiti ( It’s creating soft sculpture works inspired by some of the amazing street art that abounds in Melbourne. I’ve made 3d figures of owls and foxes, a tiny giant octopus and some beautiful autumn leaves and I’m looking forward to the other pieces I’ve got lined up to make for the show. In this super crazy time it’s snatching moments of calm to just sit and make and it’s bliss.

There’s an idea of ‘bliss’ or ‘flow’, that everyone has an activity that they love to do, you know those things that make time and the world disappear and your entire being is just you and this thing. Making is my bliss and I’m extremely lucky that I get to do it as my job.
How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout?
Taking time out for myself is really important. So sitting on the couch with our dog, she’s an older dog, so she snoozes a lot and likes being patted. There’s also going to galleries, walking through parks, breakfasts at cafes (although that’s usually gearing up for a day rather than unwinding from one!), playing old and weird board games we get from thrift shops, having nice dinners and a good glass of wine or working on a craft project that has no deadline. At the moment I’m hand stitching a hexie quilt from our old clothes, which will eventually be a queen sized blanket that keeps us warm while holding our histories close, it’s really restful to work on because there’s no deadline or public outcome, it’s just for us whenever I finish it.
Where can we see more of your work? 
You can find me on instagram:

and you can see all my projects at

Pop Up Playground can be found on
and our website is
Craftivism by Sayraphim Lothian on
Thank you so much to Sayraphim! This girl is seriously busy using her creativity to save the world, so I feel really lucky that she agreed to show up in my little corner of the internet. You should take a few minutes to check out her work, past and present.

Self Care Interview Series with Lauren Rudeck of LaRu February 24, 2015


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This past fall, I got really interested in self-care, and how it relates to daily life as a small business owner. Rather than talking about my own version of self-care every week, I wanted to reach out to others in similar businesses, and see if there were similarities in the balance of life and work. I conduct my interviews via email, giving each interviewee the freedom to consider answers in their own words. What happened unintentionally was that I learned what many of these handmakers did as a full time job before starting their little business. These are the things that you don’t usually find out by “knowing” someone through social media. As a former social worker, I am particularly drawn to the backstory of how and when someone decides to start a handmade business. This rang true when I heard back from Lauren Rudeck of LaRu. Lauren is a fellow Seattleite, and I run into her from time to time at crafty type get togethers. Everyone, meet Lauren.

Who are you?
My name is Lauren Rudeck, owner of La Ru and co-owner of a brick and mortar store called Ugly Baby and La Ru (located in the Pike Place Market).
larudio-opening Craft Interview Series by wrenbirdarts
What is your creative business? Is your creative business a full-time gig?
I create illustrations of animals and robots. I also turn those illustrations into shirts, necklaces, belt buckles, earrings, DIY craft kits, and a whole lot more. La Ru is my (mostly) full time gig. I started La Ru almost 7 years ago on Etsy (, then 2-1/2 years ago I opened a brick and mortar store with Rosalie Gale from Ugly Baby. When we opened the store I was working at an architecture office as a project designer 4 days a week, then 2 days at the store, and on weekday nights and all day Sunday I would work on La Ru stuff. After a year of working non-stop I decided I couldn’t take it and that I needed some me time, so I left the architecture firm. I occasionally do consulting work for them, but La Ru and my shop are my main focus.
robot-e-1 by Lauren Rudeck
striped-robot-2 by La Ru

Where do you live? 
I live in downtown Seattle – actually right across the street from my shop, so my commute to work is super easy.
Do you have a regular ritual/routine that you most look forward to? 
I currently do not have a ritual or routine. I had a baby 6 months ago, which caused me to throw routine out the window…well I guess you could say my current routine is to start working as soon as she goes to bed. It’s too hard to get anything done during the day, so I just wait until she goes to sleep. Most days this works, but there are some where she wakes up a lot – those are usually the days where I need to get a bunch done. 🙂 I am currently trying to find that perfect balance of being a new parent and furthering my business.
How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout?
Often times I am caught up in running the business side of La Ru that I don’t get to draw as much as I’d like to. So my self care is to take an evening to just draw. It’s my time to experiment with new characters, ideas, or pens. Whenever I feel like I am going to burn out or whenever I just need a break, drawing really relaxes me and puts me in a different mindset.
town-1 by Lauren Rudeck
squirrel-2 by Lauren Rudeck of LaRu
Where can we see more of your work? Social media, shops, etc. 
You can find my work at my shop Ugly Baby and La Ru located in the Pike Place Market (1430 Western Ave) – right next to the Spanish Table. You can also find me on:
La Ru website:
Ugly Baby and La Ru website:
Instagram: larudio
Twitter: @LaRuDio

Self Care Interview Series with Orange Twist Cards February 17, 2015


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I took a little hiatus last week, because it’s been unseasonably warm and sunny. After working on last minute Valentine’s Day orders, I just needed to get out and walk and enjoy my surroundings without wearing a jacket. Now, it is sunny today too, but I’m not quite ready to fully retire just yet. Not to brag, (okay, maybe I am tooting my own horn) but I’ve walked an average of 8 miles a day over the past week, and I’m feeling pretty fantastic. I am certain that Seattle hasn’t seen the last of winter yet, so I do not feel bad taking a few days to adventure around. Hey, this is one of the perks of owning a small creative business. It’s not quite the height of my busy season, so I can still rearrange my schedule a little when I just feel like playing.

I was thinking about today’s post as I was shuffling through my stock of cards. My mom got me into the habit of sending thank you notes from a very young age (thanks, mom), and I am a little late sending out thank you notes from Christmas this year, so I need to sit down and scribble some notes. I love sending cards in the mail for no particular reason, and today’s creative business owner has some of my favorite cards in Seattle. When I first moved here, I used to go to the Fremont Sunday market specifically to buy these cute cards. So, let me introduce you to Claire from Orange Twist Cards.

Who are you?

My name is Claire Jauregui. I’m an artist, printer in Seattle.

Self Care Interview with Orange Twist Cards by Erin Duncan

Where do you live?

I’ve called West Seattle home for five years.

Do you have a regular ritual/routine that you most look forward to? Care to share? 

Starting in January, my partner and I have been running three days a week together. I look forward to spending that time with him because he’s a great coach and makes me feel good about my running progress–however insignificant it seems.

How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout?

Screenprinting is physically demanding and repetitive and so much of my self-care involves keeping my body in good health and preventing overuse injuries. A big part staying healthy is forecasting inventory needs so I don’t get stuck with a huge amount of printing that needs to be done in a short amount of time.

I hold my stress in my neck and shoulders and my routine helps me relieve tension, migraines and  muscle spasms. When I get extremely stressed my neck locks up and I cannot turn my head from side to side. When I print a lot I make sure to ice hands/shoulders/back depending on what is aching and I always wear wrist braces when printing. I also wear wrist braces to sleep when my tendonitis is really acting up.

I stretch every morning and evening and walk nearly everyday. When I don’t want to walk I tell myself I only have to walk for ten minutes. Most of the time I walk 30-50 minutes.

Last fall I also added a weekly Qi Gong class to my routine which has been a positive step for me as it gives me a chance to get out of the studio, do something good for my body, and recharge my energy. It’s helped me build a stronger core, helped me develop deeper breathing habits, and helps me feel calm.

Preventing mental burn-out tends to be easier for me when I am eating well, stretching, and exercising. I also feel much better when I am in touch with friends and family. Ideally that means seeing them in person, but writing letters, and talking on the phone are also also important.

I do my best to take time away from business. Taking days off from work is important. So is spending a week or three away from the studio during the slower times of the year.

When it’s the busy season, I’m not always able to take two days off each week, but I always take at least one. Working seven days a week is a recipe for disaster for me. Time away from my business allows me to feel excited about the new week, mentally and physically rested, and better able to plan and direct my focus.

Self Care Interview Series with Orange Twist Cards by Erin Duncan of wrenbirdarts

Where can we see more of your work? Social media, shops, etc. 

My work can be found online at as well in person at markets and retail shops. I love my stockists and you can find them at at

Self Care with Orange Twist Studios Seattle by wrenbirdarts

Orange Twist Cards Design by

Thanks so much to Claire! I have admired Claire’s work since I first moved to Seattle, and recognize her style every time I see her cards in shops and at festivals. I hadn’t connected with Claire before, aside from some brief gushing at the Fremont Market, so I am glad that I had the chance to connect with her over self-care routines. I am going to leave you with a couple of pictures of Seattle that I snapped while walking over the past week.

Seattle, WA by Erin Duncan of wrenbirdarts

Ballard Locks, Seattle, Wa by Erin Duncan

And here’s one from an impromptu trip to Portland a couple of weeks ago.

Portland, Oregon by Erin Duncan of wrenbirdarts

Self Care Interview Series: Kaitlyn Bright of Owl People February 3, 2015


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When I started this interview series, it was partially out of my own curiosity. My own self-care routine varies, and I wondered whether this was common in the field of creative entrepreneurship. I am also interested in what activities other creatives do to take care of themselves.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that creative entrepreneurs are everywhere. I used to think it was an unusual career path, but I think that once you start paying attention, we are all around. Today, I am introducing Kaitlyn Bright, who is a creative that I have known since we both attended Catholic school in Grand Island, Nebraska. I never would have guessed that all of these years later, we’d run in a few of the same circles-creatively AND online. Kaitlyn is kind and funny, and I’m so pleased to have crossed paths with her again. Welcome, Kaitlyn!

Who are you? 
I am Kaitlyn Bright.  Sewist of all kinds of stuff, fabric junkie and an enjoyer of creative people.
Kaitlyn Bright of Owl People for Erin Duncan of wrenbirdarts
What is your creative business?
My business is Owl People.  I have a problem with making too many things.  My main gigs are canvas banners, chalkcloth banners, key fobs, dolls and some baby goods.  I have a thing for mixing color and pattern and messing around with transfers, dyeing and upcyling vintage fabrics.
Kaitlyn Bright, Owl People
Owl People, Kaitlyn Bright for wrenbirdarts
Is your creative business a full-time gig? 
Some days it seems like it!  I have my main seasons where I am very busy.  It starts in April when I am working to create a large inventory so I can begin selling at our local Farmers Market.  I sell from May-July and shut off before the fall/winter shows start up in mid September.  I am always busy in the other months creating wholesale orders and stock for local stores.  My 3 kids very much remain my full time gig.  It’s all a balancing act that I am horrible at figuring out.
Where do you live?
I live in Lincoln Nebraska. I love my little town.  I have been sewing and selling since 2004 and it really has been good for me with lots of local support.  Handmade has really really taken off this year in particularly in Lincoln.  There is a good support for those that create and I am always impressed that people want to buy instead of DIY(ing) it themselves.   We have good local brew here, great coffee shops and lots of trees and trails.
Do you have a regular ritual/routine that you most look forward to?
I do have a part time job working on Mondays and Wednesdays doing Insurance Marketing.  The other days of the week you will find me at home, running the big kids to school, coming home to have coffee, playing with the baby and jetting to my sewing lair once he lays down for a nap.  I can get a lot of sewing done in 2 hours and just love baby nap time.  As much as I despise my 2 day a week job, it is so refreshing to get out of the house and just be.  I am usually so bored with my job that I can get a lot of Owl People stuff done and personal things done.  It is nice.
How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout? 
Personal care: I like to take the time to meet up with friends.  Go to a movie, have drinks, make dinner with friends.  I have horrible mom guilt but I know it is important to do fun things and my husband knows that I need it too.  Creative care:  I take every winter to make a quilt for my family.  I never sew for myself and I love to but just don’t make the time.  Winter is generally slower and I love to quilt and show that I can make myself something kick ass.
Quilt by Kaitlyn Bright of Owl People
Where can we see more of your work?
I am on Instagram as kaitlynofowlpeople and facebook as Owl People
The Pilgrimer:  Lincoln Ne
This post has been brought to you by 2 girls from a smallish town in Nebraska.

Self Care Interview Series: Strawberry Hedgehog’s Tracy Perkins January 27, 2015


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It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time to meet another maker, and  read how she balances her workload with self-care. I was thinking about this blog series this morning as I was writing, and I haven’t really talked about why I think self-care is so important in some time. Let me start by saying, I am not always the best role model of practicing self-care, which is why I interview other creatives who are probably better at demonstrating self-care than I am. Personally, I do get quite a bit from this blog series. I love celebrating other creatives and their work. But I am also incredibly curious to learn what other people do to de-stress and take care of themselves.

Owning a creative business is non-stop, even in the slow times. There is always more that can be done, improvements to make, product to dream up, and hopefully, orders to make and ship. Without that clock to punch, or someone to tell you that it’s time to wrap it up for the day, it’s really easy to work 10-15 hour days, not including the social media or returning of email that we probably do late at night, or early in the morning while still under the covers. One thing that I’ve noticed is the importance of a ritual for creatives. I think that it’s easier to squeeze in that self care routine, once it becomes automatic. You don’t have to think, “Oh, well, I’m really busy today, I’ll do it tomorrow instead.”. My self care includes running, meditation and occasional yoga, but it’s really easy for me to “tomorrow” these activities, because I haven’t quite established them as an daily routine yet. My goal for the next 2 weeks is to get really strict with myself to establish the routine. That said, I was too rushed today to run or meditate, and did “tomorrow” it, so don’t feel bad if I’m describing your self-care practice.

Anyhoosy, today, I am introducing Tracy Perkins of Strawberry Hedgehog , and I am particularly impressed with her tea drinking self-care routine. Her description of centering is so beautiful and inspirational. I can’t remember how or when, but I started following Strawberry Hedgehog on Instagram. I love Tracy’s feed. It’s an engaging mix of her soap business, nature and delicious photos of food that never ceases to make me hungry. I’m going to jump out of the way, and let Tracy take over now.

Who are you?

I’m Tracy Perkins, a 33 year old vegan non-toxic small business owner and soap junkie.

Strawberry Hedgehog Soap for wrenbirdarts Self Care Blog

What is your creative business? Is your business a full time gig? 

My creative business is called Strawberry Hedgehog. I hand craft vegan bath and body products without animal byproducts, toxic fragrance, dyes, detergents, and preservatives. Soap making is my passion and full time gig. Teaching Environmental Disasters to eager college kids part time is my beloved hobby.

Strawberry Hedgehog Soap for wrenbirdarts.wordpress.ocom

Where do you live?

I live in beautiful downtown Phoenix, AZ, just a two minute bike ride from my soap factory and a ten minute ride to my classroom.

Do you have a regular ritual/routine that you most look forward to? 

I have a regular ritual of steeping and drinking tea mindfully every morning. On the best days sipping tea in my little urban garden centers and inspires me. When my schedule is out of control and I feel pulled in too many directions this brings me back to myself and gives me a sense of stability. It is not just the tea itself, it is the act of blending herbs that I am feeling, stopping for a moment and listening to myself. What do I want? What will serve me best? Treating myself and my choice as something sacred, as an act of connection with plants, the soil they are grown in, the rocks and living things that broke down to feed that soil, the creatures burrowing through, flying or crawling over and creeping on the plants. It is a meditative moment that reminds me of the impermanence, insignificance and absolute awe of living a new day.

Strawberry Hedgehog Soap, Morning Tea Ritual

How do you practice self-care/prevent burnout?

My primary self-care is time in my garden, time playing with my furry critters, time with loved ones, listening to live local music, and doing yoga. Restorative yoga is my favorite. I do it from home through Sacred Sangha with Carrie Hensley and I love the Laughing Buddha class with Robin Afinowich in Tempe, AZ for a great in-person class.

Where can we see more of your work?

My work can be seen at all Arizona Whole Foods Markets and at a handful of fabulous boutiques, check online on my website at for locations.

Strawberry Hedgehog Soap

Thank you so much Tracy! You are an inspiration in mindfulness.