As seen on …

As seen on …

The web shop has been live for a month now and I’m so happy to share with you that the wallpaper has appeared on/in several blogs and publications this past month.

THANK YOU to the following blogs and newspapers for the lovely exposure!

It was a huge surprise to see my Dark Floral last Thursday on Australia’s #1 design blog, The Design Files.

The wallpaper appeared twice in a post about the appointment of a new Director, Tamara Maynes, at The Establishment Studios in Prahran, Melbourne. The Establishment Studios are, in the words of blog author Lucy Feagins “part photographic studio, part events space and part prop store.” Lucy says: “The Establishment Studios is a dynamic space that changes all the time – the creative team here are forever re-painting their walls with various wallpapers and textures, creating new surfaces and investing in new props to ensure great variety for the events and shoots which take place here.”

Tamara was one of my first clients, before the web shop was even live. It’s so inspiring to see what she has done with the wallpaper, styling it so beautifully for these photographs. Here is an excerpt from the Design Files post (to see the full post, click here):

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I think I will adapt that caption: “INSANELY beautiful new wallpaper” and find a place for it on my website. Love that!

There was also an appearance on Design Love Fest, a blog written by LA-based art director Bri Emery. Bri has been featured in publications such as Elle Décor, Apartment Therapy, HGTV, Lucky Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, The Los Angeles Times and more. Here is an excerpt from her post (to see the whole post, click here):

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“So rad.” Love it!

It’s also an honor, as a certified Francophile, to be included on the French blog Deco Crush (see below). For the full post, click here.

DecoCrush

My high school French teacher would be happy to know that I can kind of figure out what this says: “an ode to femininity.” I like that!

On Friday of last week I was the Featured Designer over at the Pattern Observer blog. Michelle Fifis and Chelsea Densmore do a wonderful job over there, providing countless opportunities and resources for surface pattern designers, and it was an honor to be featured. Thanks guys!

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The wallpaper was also in print in the UK’s Daily Mail on Sunday‘s Decorating Blueprint on January 19th.

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It’s great to see it getting out there!

And I can’t wait to release my next Dark Floral in just a couple more months!

Once again, many thanks go out to all these bloggers and editors for the lovely exposure!

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The Hangover

The Hangover

Unfortunately, this post probably isn’t going to be as funny as the movie that shares its title, arguably one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Last week when I posted I was on a tremendous high, anticipating that all the hard work I’ve been doing over the past years was finally coming to fruition. The (perhaps inevitable) follow up to that post is, not surprisingly, the hangover :(

When those maternity nurses I talked about last week come to work on the 4th day of their 8 day stay, they know their ‘patient’ is going to have some kind of terrible, embarrassing crying fit. They told me this 4 days after Nathan was born, when I was in the middle of one such fit.

It makes it all the worse to know you’re that predictable. You’re a hostage to your hormones, a sad cliché …

And I found myself in that place again this past weekend. This web shop is like my 4th child. Last Friday it finally went live/was born at www.elliecashman.com. Unfortunately, it hasn’t (in my book) earned a 10 on the Apgar scale of web shops – yet. A few things are still missing/not functioning properly.

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I was so looking forward to sending out my big MailChimp (birth) announcement and writing gleefully about the whole experience on my blog. I was expecting a marching band, Arsenio Hall fist pumps … I wanted to spike the football in the end zone and run a victory lap, trophy in hand. Then top it all off with some embarrassing dance moves.

But it just wasn’t quite there yet.

Last Friday, I realized I would have to refrain from all-out celebration, just a little bit longer …

And there I was, sort of in limbo. The site was live, but at the same time I wasn’t ready to take it full speed to the masses, shout it from the rooftops, etc.

So I decided to devote my afternoon to the design I’m currently working on. I’m about 2 months in and have at least that many months to go. It’s such slow-going, but I’m hacking away at the thick brush of it. If I’m lucky, I have a couple of (consecutive?) hours to work on it each day.

Here’s a super sneak peek:

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Last Friday my husband took the afternoon off of work so that I could have some glorious, uninterrupted time with it. I was finally getting somewhere, was starting to think ahead to relaxing on my living room couch with a glass of wine and a good movie, when my Mac froze and I lost 3 hours of unsaved work on it! Argh!! Can’t you just feel the anxiety in your chest?? I thought I was going to throw up!

I know, I know, how could I be so stupid? I usually save every half hour. This was just bad, bad luck.

And, at the end of a disappointing day, this was enough to push me over the edge, into the deep, dingy pit of postpartum blues.

I was determined to claw my way out, but that meant foregoing that glass of wine. Every ‘free’ moment I had this past weekend was devoted entirely to stubbornly trying to turn my Mac misfortune into a blessing in disguise. I decided to grant myself a reprieve from this huge undertaking of a design and do something ‘fun’ (albeit at my computer).

A few months ago, my cousin-in-law, who will be only the 15th midwife in the history of Netherlands to receive her PhD, asked me if I would design the cover of her dissertation for her. It’s an honor, of course.

She was envisioning two birds as symbols of the cooperation between mother and child/mother and midwife, etc. So this weekend I left my Dark Floral #2, monstrous 17th-century floral still life wallpaper design on the shelf, and I cranked this out.

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We still want to play with it, with the colors, scale, maybe remove some elements. But at least it felt good to ‘finish’ something in a short period of time. Which has me thinking that I need to work on quick, loose designs like this at the same time I’m working on the meticulous monsters. For the sake of my mental health!

But now, it’s time to get back to that beast!

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

This year, at Thanksgiving, I’m compelled to reflect on the year behind me, even though it’s not over yet. That’s because so much has changed for me this year, in a way I’m especially grateful for.

At 36, I feel more complete than ever before in my life. Not because anything is finished. Quite the contrary, I have this amazing feeling that things are just beginning. It’s just the foundation that feels complete. Many times over the last (almost) 7 years, since I relocated to the Netherlands, it’s been heavy lifting. But I chose this life. I think I chose it because I knew it would be hard … to start my life over again, in a new land and a new language.

Design sketches from 2007.

Hand sketches from 2007.

In February of 2007, I took a one-way flight from New Amsterdam to Old Amsterdam. And I made a deal with myself. When I set foot on this side of the ocean, I wouldn’t speak English, a language that, after 30 years, felt like a form-fitting suit lined with cloud fleece. If something was going to come out of my mouth, it would be in Dutch, a language which I’d been studying once a week for a couple of years. In New York City, I’d found a native Dutch speaker who met me in Starbuckses all over Manhattan, sending me home with long lists of vocab. And I studied, I did, but I had a head full of words and no idea how to put them together. I had a box of beads, but no string, no clasps … no grammatical grasps.

I don’t know why I was so adamant about quitting English cold turkey (a fitting phrase for this time of year, don’t you think?) I had visions of immersing myself in Dutch for 6 months, at the end of which I would awake from a Dutch dream, knowing myself to be truly ‘fluent.’ Oh, how warped was my notion of learning a second language?? All these years later, I’ve only woken from a number of Dutch dreams (a number I can count on two hands) and what they all had in common was a feeling of stress and struggling to express myself.

What happened in those early months is that I started to say a lot less. I couldn’t express complex thoughts in Dutch. Telling stories was highly challenging; telling jokes was all but impossible. I didn’t know how to say things, so I didn’t say them at all. My personality changed: I became quieter, more serious.

Design sketches from 2008.

Hand sketches from 2008.

At 30 years old, I was starting over, laying down the first stones of a new foundation. In my new world, I felt like I child. There were so many things I didn’t understand, so many ways in which I felt out of my depths. Everyday tasks of doing groceries or going to the post office forced me to confront my incapacity, my uncertainty. Standing in line, I would look up just long enough to observe that the Dutch people around me were so much better adapted to their surroundings than I, with their native language skills and their totally sick biking abilities. I ejected myself from conversations the way I ejected myself from my bike seat on the Brouwersgracht, for fear of making mistakes, for fear of crashing.

While I disengaged from the outside world, I was escaping to an inner one, where I had another language. It wasn’t English, it wasn’t Dutch, it wasn’t even made up of letters or words at all. It was a language of images, of colors and forms, textures and patterns. It wasn’t a new language for me, but the way I needed it was new.

Design sketches from 2008.

Hand sketches from 2008.

This led me, in 2010, to establish Ellie Cashman Design. I started designing surface patterns for an agent in the US and an agent here in the Netherlands. I loved it, and whenever our two daughters (Ruby, then 2.5 and Juliette, then newborn) were at daycare or asleep, I was at my laptop (I can’t believe it now, but my first designs were done on a laptop with a 17″ screen. How spoiled I’ve become since then, with a 27″ iMac and a large Wacom tablet!)

Anyway, this thing called surface design seemed to combine my fine art and graphic design background. But it was such a big field, and I was just beginning to explore its many possibilities – to design for fashion, home interiors, wrapping paper, stationery products, quilting fabrics, tech products, you name it! I was looking at blogs like Print and Pattern and Pattern Observer and I was overwhelmed by all the inspiration I found there. I tried to emulate lots of styles as a path to finding my own. That’s what I was doing then, finding my style, experimenting with the technology – hardware and software – to see what was possible. Selling a design here and there.

Design made during a class in hand/digital techniques at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, 2009.

Design made during a class in combining hand/digital techniques at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, NL, 2009.

Because it was something I did in my ‘free’ time, something I loved to do and did for myself (not for a boss) and because I wasn’t making any money to speak of, it still felt like a hobby. It was hard to explain to people what I was doing. I had no finished products to show. When my agents sold my work, it was out of a portfolio of dozens of other nameless designers. I was anonymous. I felt disconnected. I knew I wanted to get to these trade shows myself, that no one would do a better job of representing me than I could, but with two young kids at home, I didn’t have the time resources to create the volume of work that would make going to a trade show worthwhile. My big goal for 2013 was to do Surtex for the first time (a few months before Nathan was born) but halfway through the pregnancy I decided to take that pressure off of myself and I canceled my booth reservation.

My early designs were mostly made using Adobe Illustrator.

From 2010-2012, I made my designs using Adobe Illustrator.

Then, unexpectedly, in April of 2013, several months after I’d posted it, an image of one of my dark floral wallpaper designs went viral on Pinterest. I started getting several e-mails a week from people who wanted to know where they could buy it. At that time, I was talking to a potential manufacturer. I’d been waiting for years to be ‘discovered’ by a manufacturer, and it looked like it was finally going to happen! But then that partnership fell through. I think because the interest I was receiving via social media gave me the confidence to ask for an advance, which scared the manufacturer off. I’m so happy about that, in hindsight, because each week brought more e-mails.

Some of my first digitally painted flowers, 2012.

In 2012, I moved on to Adobe Photoshop. These are some of my first digitally painted flowers, 2012.

More digitally painted flowers, 2012.

More digitally painted flowers, 2012.

More digitally painted flowers, 2012.

More digitally painted flowers, 2012.

At first, I didn’t know what to tell people. The wallpaper wasn’t available, yet, but I was working on it. I thought, “OK, if there are actually people out there who want to buy it, maybe I could look into having it custom printed.” And I posted a discussion on the Dutch Designers’ Association Group on LinkedIn, asking if anyone had good experience with wallpaper printers. I got lots of good tips, several of which I followed up on, and I ended up with a fantastic partner, a printer with a lot of experience, even a bit of a specialty, in wallpaper. The team there has since contributed to my creative process in ways I couldn’t have imagined! It changed everything when I started to design for a specific product, for a specific context and industry. My early work was missing that. I needed a focus, and in the early summer of 2013, I knew it was wallpaper.

Detail of the dark floral wallpaper that went viral on Pinterest in 2013.

Detail of the dark floral wallpaper that went viral on Pinterest in 2013.

In August, I started shipping out my first rolls of that dark floral wallpaper, and in the months since I’ve tracked packages online as they’ve boarded trucks, trains and planes on their way to other continents (5 so far!) I watch, literally in a state of giddiness and awe, as the wallpaper journeys from loading points to check points to delivery points. The UPS guy and I are becoming fast friends, as he’s patiently teaching me best practices in printing shipping labels, customs invoices and running a little business from the storefront of my front door.

This has been the perfect primer period leading up to the launch of my web shop, which really should be this coming week. The builders say they’ll be done by Tuesday. Then we’ll run a couple of tests, and be live by Friday. And, as I think about that, as I look back on the last (almost) 7 years and the last year in particular, and I feel incredibly thankful for what feels like the completion of a foundational stage, I think about a particular moment on a particular day of this past year.

It was in the early morning hours of August 19th, around 1:00 a.m. I was in a hospital parking lot, climbing into the passenger side of our silver minivan.  My husband was in the driver’s seat, and our new baby Nathan, only three hours old at the time, was strapped into his car seat behind us. It was pitch dark and there was no one else around, just our two maternity nurses in their cars behind us, ready to follow us home. In the Netherlands, there are no hospital stays after normal, uncomplicated births. They send you home as soon as you can stand up again. That may sound strange, but the trade off is these maternity nurses who come and care for you for 8 days in your home. It’s a good trade, as there is just nothing like your own bed, especially when you’re cuddled up with your newborn in it, and someone is bringing you breakfast in it :)

When I closed the car door in that hospital parking lot, my husband and I were alone for the first time since all the delivery room drama had gone down. Suddenly, there were no doctors, midwives, or nurses telling us what to do. So there we were, in the darkness and the silence, searching for words while the still images from those few preceding hours rolled by on a mental reel.

We didn’t know anything about Nathan before he was born, besides that he got hiccups a couple times a day and kicked most at night. We chose not to know his gender. Because, we said, we’ll know it someday, and sometimes in life it’s actually nice not to know. And so we spent 9 months wondering, as we’d done with his sisters before him. In that way, I think our kids were just dreams to us, so abstract, until the moment they were there, and we could see and touch them, name them, and drive home with our dreams in the back seat. Healthy. Boy. That moment had come (again) and it was incredible.

In the silence, we scraped our minds for the words to describe it, and the word that came was “complete.”

And then there was nothing more to do but hit the gas, and go.

Ruby, Juliette and Nathan.

Ruby, Juliette and Nathan, September 2013.

And that is how I feel now, about my family and about my work. The foundation has been laid. I’ve spent the last few years digging the hole, gathering the stones and putting them in place. So much of the activity was underground and unexciting, but at the end of 2013, I feel I’ve reached the surface, am maybe even breaking it and starting to build on top of it.

In 2013, there was an image.

In 2013, there was an image, and behind that image, I found words again.

In 2013, there was an image, and behind that image, I found words again. I’m engaged in conversations, with my customers, my photographer, my printer, my web builder. On this side, I have something to say, and a language with which to say it.

Last Wednesday, after Ruby’s ballet class, one of her classmates gave us a baby gift. We came home, put Nathan in bed, and Ruby and Juliette did the honors of opening ‘his’ present for him. It was a book called Meneer (Mr.) René by Leo Timmers.

Meneer René, by Leo Timmers.

Meneer René, by Leo Timmers.

We quickly settled into our spots on the living room couch, with Ruby on my right arm and Juliette on my left, and started to read the story of Réné, a dog who is a painter. He goes to the market every weekend and tries to sell his paintings, but no one ever wants to buy them. One day, a magic man shows up and tells him that if he cuts his paintings out, they’ll become real. So he cuts out a painting of an apple, and in an amazing instant, he’s holding a real, edible fruit. Then he rushes home and paints cars and planes and big house, which he’s sitting in a short time later when a rabbit named Rose comes to the door and rings his bell, asking to buy one of his paintings.

Rose ringing René's doorbell.

Rose ringing René’s doorbell.

He says he doesn’t paint anymore, that he doesn’t have any paintings to sell, and he sends Rose home empty handed. But that gets René to thinking, and eventually, he paints a painting of the magic man, cuts him out, and asks him to reverse the spell, so that his paintings will no longer come to life. Then he paints a regular old painting – a painting of a rose – and he heads off to the market and gives it to the rabbit named Rose.

To me, the message is: having things that you can keep is great and all, but given the choice, wouldn’t we all – as Réné did – give those things up to have one thing that we can give away?

I feel so lucky to have cast my line of life questions into a pool of possibilities, and to have had these answers come back to me. I feel so lucky to know what it feels like to bring life into the world. Nothing will top that. But as an artist, a respectable second place goes to knowing what it feels like when a rabbit named Rose rings your doorbell.

And now there’s nothing left to do but hit the gas, and go.

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Rose Decay wallpaper. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

Rose Decay wallpaper. Styling and photography by Ellen Mesu. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

 

Moonlight Meadow wallpaper. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

Moonlight Meadow wallpaper. Styling and photography by Ellen Mesu. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

 

Twisting Tulips wallpaper. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

Twisting Tulips wallpaper. Styling and photography by Ellen Mesu. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

 

In 2013, there was an image.

Dark Floral wallpaper. Styling and photography by Ellen Mesu. Available later this week via www.elliecashman.com.

 

Stepping it Up

Stepping it Up

I’m all giddy and excited about attending the Meet the Blogger Amsterdam conference next Monday and Tuesday.

meet-me-at-meet-the-blogger copy

I know it’s a little crazy to be attending a conference when I have a 6-week old baby. But luckily this is possible thanks to my mother-in-law, who’s coming with me (and Nathan) for an Amsterdam babysitting adventure! I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out, but it will involve feedings during coffee breaks and possibly attending the Woonbeurs with Nathan in the ErgoBaby!

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I guess it’s also possible due to the fact that Nathan is such an EASY, angelic baby! I think he’s known for some time that I am on a mission with my work right now, and he is cooperating like the little sweetheart that he is. It started, I think, when he got notions about being born on August 14th. I started to have some pretty serious contractions that night, but then we had a short conversation about my appointment at the printer’s on August 16th, and he agreed to stay where he was until August 18th. I don’t know that I would have dared to drag Ruby or Juliette on this kind of an adventure, but I guess that’s what happens when you are 3rd in the family line!

Nathan_4weeks_blog

There’s his royal highness, at 4 weeks old.

Anyway, the reason I feel I couldn’t miss this conference is because one of the key note speakers is Tricia Guild, founder of Designers Guild.

designers_guild

As surface designers go, she is an icon, a legend, a celebrity, and I’m so curious to hear what she has to share!

Of course the MAIN focus of the conference is blogging (specifically, blogging about interior design) so I have been checking out the blogs written by my fellow attendees, and I’ve found some great new sources of inspiration which will be feeding my Pinterest boards and my blog from now on. I’m so excited to be among such an amazing, creative and entrepreneurial group of women.

So in preparation for this event I did a little re-design of my blog. That’s why it’s looking a little different. I wanted to step it up, so I would fit in with this crowd!

Also, my web shop should be going live in about 2 weeks. Here’s a sneak peek at the tulip wallpaper I wrote about last time, styled and photographed by Ellen Mesu. I’ll be writing a whole separate post about her soon!

ellie_cashman_tulip_wallpaper_for_blog

The web shop will also be linking to this blog, so that was all the more reason to polish it up. And to start writing more regularly, which is my autumn resolution! I’ve been thinking a lot about the course of my business and I want to keep it personal. This blog is a major piece of that. If possible, I want to continue to have personal contact with my customers, even though the purchasing process will become somewhat automated. It’s really valuable to me to hear from people about why they like the wallpaper, where and how they want to use it. Yes, more valuable than mass sales and piles of money! It helps me to learn and grow as a designer, and to feel fulfilled by what I’m doing.

Well, a certain little man has been waiting patiently as I write this, so that’s all for now! I’ll be back next time with lots of new inspiration from Amsterdam!

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Out there, at last

Out there, at last

So, it seems that something totally fantastic has happened … One of my designs has gone viral on Pinterest and I have been getting tons of requests for it, from all around the world, every day since! It’s a designer’s dream!! Certain media entities (rather large ones at that!) are also showing interest in publishing information about the papers …

This is giving me a rapid heartbeat, just writing about it!!

There is only one piece to the puzzle that’s still missing, and that is a manufacturer. Right now the wallpaper isn’t yet available for purchase, although hopefully that will change soon. I’m looking for a partner to produce and distribute it. There are some developments on that front too, but so far nothing to report officially.

 

Ellie Cashman Wallpaper

 

Over the past few years I’ve definitely doubted myself multiple times, and struggled to have faith that this passion of mine, to create art for everyday objects, to be part of an art/design dialogue that is interwoven in daily experience, would ever be appreciated or lead to anything concrete. I’ve struggled, at times, to believe that this was more than just something I loved to do, that it had greater meaning out there in the world, to anyone other than myself.

That’s why it’s so gratifying to hear from so many who have found me via Pinterest, and who see something in the work. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to contact me and share your enthusiasm and encouragement for something that I truly feel amounts to a personal expression of me.

This experience has reaffirmed for me the reasons why I believe in this path that I’ve chosen, and I’m now inspired to pursue it with redoubled passion and vigor.

It’s important to me that art is something we have access to on a daily basis. I was frustrated in art school that all our talk seemed so detached from what was really going on in the world, that paintings in a gallery or museum setting remained so inaccessible to so many. Commercial art has its drawbacks too (no doubt), but I like to feel my work answers a need that exists in the tangible, everyday world, while also adding beauty to it. And does that in a way that is a unique, authentic expression of me, while still being accessible and affordable to others.

I see my wallpaper designs as artworks. I put my whole heart and soul into them, from the concept/planning stage to the execution.

In the end, instead of hanging an artwork on your wall, your wall itself becomes a work of art.

But I am only half the equation of course, and the realization that an end user, that a market for this kind of wallpaper is not just an imagined fantasy of mine but actually exists, is electrifying. The last couple of weeks have taught me once and for all that this market is real, and that I can (and will!) have a place in it.

Yesterday I got a lovely message from Shanan Kurtz at the Symmetric blog. She had just posted Oh, The Drama: Dark Wallpaper and included this design of mine. It’s lovely to be part of a post like this, so thank you Shanan for helping to get my work out there, at last …

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P.S. If you’re a Pinterest person (or addict, like myself) and would like to follow developments and see the latest additions to my porftolio, please become a follower of my Pinterest board { ellie cashman wallpaper }.

 

Sandy, Dutch Design Week and Poppies

Sandy, Dutch Design Week and Poppies

The past couple of weeks have had me struggling with another bout of homesickness. Strangely, the images of tragedy striking New York City (again) made me feel like I should be there … I’ve missed my New England roots many times over the last 5.5 years, but I haven’t missed New York like I have these past weeks, seeing my old neighborhood (Tribeca) in pitch darkness, my old Subway stops under water … Ah. Sandy’s winds are pulling on my heart strings …

But then last week I found some comfort in this beautiful letter from Emmy McCarthy, an expat to Amsterdam who founded the Amsterdam Mamas. As she says, as an expat, your definition of home shifts. Basically, it’s wherever your kids are!

It’s true, there’s no force of nature bigger or stronger, when it comes to my heart strings, than Ruby and Juliette. And, this is their home. So, I continue to do my best to grow my own roots here, roots that don’t give in to hurricane gusts of homesickness.

And, it’s working, slowly but surely.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, but I really failed at taking good photos. I just didn’t have the time or the right state of mind to enjoy it and to go to the two places I really wanted to go: the Graduate Projects Exhibition at the Design Academy Eindhoven and the studio/store/restaurant/city-unto-itself of Piet Hein Eek. Oh well … Next year.

 

 

I did snap this photo of a billboard featuring the legendary Mr. Eek that I took from the train platform, overlooking the Strijp-S location at DDW (an old Philips plant which has now been converted into studio/office space for lots of creative businesses, a skateboard park, restaurants, cafés and event locations, a Farmer’s Market, etc.) I think its footprint is as large, if not larger, than the entire downtown area of Eindhoven, and the city is subsidizing it in some pretty exciting ways.

What do you think of the quote on the billboard? It should have started with a “He …”, but other than that, is this true for you? Is your environment your studio, your neighborhood, your town, your city, your world?

 

Map courtesy of www.brabant.nl

 

Well, as environments go, I think mine is a pretty good one. For almost exactly 4 years now, I’ve lived between Eindhoven and ‘s Hertogenbosch, two of the major cities that comprise the Province of Brabant (seen on the map above) in the South of the Netherlands. Brabant is a candidate for European Capital of Culture 2018. From the always trustworthy Wikipedia:

“The European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union for a period of one calendar year during which it organises a series of cultural events with a strong European dimension. Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city’s image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.”

I read through the application while at DDW and I was truly impressed, both by its content and presentation. It is really amazing to think about all the things going on here, between Eindhoven being ‘Brainport’ (the city with the highest average IQ and largest number of patents per capita) and home to the world-renowned Design Academy, Philips and ASML Headquarters, the Textile Museum in Tilburg, Vlisco in Helmond, history and beauty and charm in ‘s Hertogenbosch … And I know I’m forgetting a lot of things. I could have picked a worse place to expatriate to, that’s for sure.

One thing I did accomplish at Dutch Design Week is that I met with an interior designer who is developing a product line comprised of different ranges: rugs, tablecloths, tableware, vases, wallpaper, etc. We may become partners in producing a line of wallpaper! Last week I spent about two hours learning about licensing contracts for artists, as ours would be a relationship where I would be paid royalties on net sales. It’s all described very clearly in a handy reference I can recommend: Licensing Art & Design by Caryn R. Leland.

 

 

After just two hours, I felt like I went to law school, at least on this subject. Some other great references on art licensing are Maria Brophy’s blog and the Art Licensing blog by Tara Reed. These two experts on the subject have recently collaborated on this book, which has also gotten a lot of positive reviews.

I’m also working on a commission for a private home (my first one!) and learning that this is my favorite way of working with clients: visiting their spaces, hearing about their inspirations, their stories, looking at their furniture and coming up with a unique solution for their walls. Then wallpaper becomes much more that just decoration; It becomes a truly personal and unique reflection of the spaces and their inhabitants. It becomes and experience and a story in and of itself, as all things in our homes should be …

Over the last month or so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my natural focus and how I want to approach this massive market of surface design in a unique and authentic way, and it’s all beginning to take shape. Now I’m toying with the idea of (one day) finding a little shopfront in the village of Vught here and turning it into my studio/gallery/shop, where customers can walk in and have a consultation, request a commission, see past projects on display, etc. How’s that for putting down some roots?! I think the ‘seed was planted’ (so to speak) when I read this post about bloggers opening brick and mortar shops (a new trend, apparently). But then last week I was biking by some of the charming village shops in Vught after dropping Juliette off at daycare, and I suddenly saw myself moving in (someday) …

 

View of Vught as you approach from ‘s Hertogenbosch. The church whose steeple you see here is currently being renovated to house the public library, the Vught Historical Museum, a café, etc.

The ice cream shop in town where we always treat ourselves on Queens Day (April 30).

Vught is home to one of the best patisseries in Europe: de Rouw. A very classy place that makes me feel a bit like I’m in Paris.

 

What do you think? Pretty charming, right?

These past weeks I’ve been so busy that design work has progressed slowly, but here’s a peak at the poppies I’ve been pondering …

 

 

Or, perhaps you prefer a more dramatic, dark and mysterious palette?

 

 

Talking Politics

Talking Politics

Maybe these are topics we tend to avoid. We all know and like people who have different political views than we do. But on the eve of Election Day in the US, I was moved to create this illustration and forward it to the Obama Campaign to do with it as they see fit.

These last few weeks have been the first in my life where I’ve felt truly angered by politics. I think this is because I feel there’s a lot on the line for the two little people I love most in the world.

I really admire people in public service. There are some standouts: Eleanor Roosevelt and yes, Obama among them. I think Obama is a dogged, devoted, determined worker who is so busy keeping his nose to the ground, so busy with the substance of his work, that he sometimes forgets – or spends less time on – the surface of it. What I mean is: for all he’s accomplished, we’ve only recently heard him tell us about it. It’s this humility, a quality which costs him as a politician (in the first debate, for example) which I personally particularly admire in him. This spinning, this ‘marketing’ is what he dislikes most about his job. He believes that if his work is good, it will be recognized as such, that he will not have to tie it up and present it to us in pretty packages …

He respects people enough to make their own judgments, while people seem increasingly desperate to piggyback on the judgments of others (think: big media, big brands, celebrities …)

BTW, speaking of celebrities, did anyone else nearly die laughing when Obama’s opening line at the Al Smith Dinner was: “Please, please, take your seats. Please … otherwise Clint Eastwood will start yelling at them!”

Anyway, back to this idea of substance and surface. I think we all go back and forth in our work (and in our lives?), between the actual doing of it on the one hand and the describing of it on the other. Some of us enjoy one aspect more than the other. Sometimes, it seems that those who focus on the latter get ahead with cheap shots and simplifications.

But for those of us who love the work itself, the rest can feel like an afterthought. We want to do the work, not talk about it. As Ryan Miller sings lamentingly in my new favorite song Big Machine: “People push a lot of air around … but don’t say much of anything.”

For me, humility is a quality I was taught to esteem in the highest. When I was studying for my MFA at NYU and had to write a long paper about teaching philosophy, I consulted my Dad, who has almost 40 years experience in this most noble of professions. His cornerstone has always been ‘humility for the subject’ (or substance, I guess you could say). That has stuck with me ever since.

This also comes into play in the creative process, where our end of the deal is just to show up, to hope that we will have the opportunity, at that sitting, to be the channel of some greater power or inspiration. If you do not recognize your humility in that process, then you are simply not open to it.

And if public service can be seen as a creative activity, don’t you want leaders who are humble and open, facilitating but not forceful?

(I’m sorry. I do have to say I love alliteration and may have gone overboard in this post :) )

To that I would also add conviction, a word that has meant a lot to me lately. Whatever your work is, whatever your substance is, do it with conviction. Make a commitment to it. When it’s not going your way, when you’re questioning its worth or value, commit to it all the more. It will prove itself to you. Maybe not always in the short term, but certainly in the long term.

That is why Michelle Obama says that the role of President hasn’t changed who Barack is, it has revealed who he is. Because his conviction, his commitment to his values, ethics and moral code have been constant, as you can see here.

So, besides a better world for our daughters, I think these values are on the line tomorrow. Americans have, in my eyes, a choice between substance and surface, between humility and hubris, between conviction/consistency and … hmmm … confusion/inconsistency (??? … keeping with my alliterative theme).

As a US citizen living abroad in Europe, I can attest that at least this continent is watching closely, to see where America will lead the world next.

 

What I’ve learned from living in the Netherlands: Part I

What I’ve learned from living in the Netherlands: Part I

Last week I read an article on the Huffington Post entitled “10 Things Americans Can Learn from Amsterdammers” by Erin Farber, travel writer. In a nutshell, her list consisted of:

1. Don’t spend more than you have. (Credit cards are basically non-existent here.)

2. Travel to places where no one speaks your language. (Just over 25 million people speak Dutch worldwide, compared to 1.5 billion who speak English. Not mastering at least one foreign language isn’t really an option for Dutchies, who generally start learning English between the ages of 10 and 12.)

3. Realize less choice is often more. (Dutch grocery stores are roughly 1/14th the size of their American counterparts).

4. Always offer guests coffee or tea.

5. Eat fried food. (In moderation).

6. Integrate exercise into your everyday routine. (Bike everywhere).

7. Take time for lunch, even if it’s just 20 minutes.

8. Appreciate the little luxuries in life.

9. Tell it like it is (politely). (The Dutch are … stereotypically … rather blunt. At least, by American standards. They don’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat criticisms the way we tend to).

10. Ice skate every chance you get. (Whenever it’s cold enough for the country’s canals to freeze, the whole of the Netherlands gets all up in a tizzy about whether an 11 city skating course called the Elfstedentocht, will take place. It hasn’t happened since 1997 and has only happened a total of 15 times since its inception in 1909, but that doesn’t stop one from hoping …)

 

Beautiful canal house in Amsterdam.

 

I recognize all the items on this list as being true, to some degree, but the most important thing that I personally have learned from living in the Netherlands didn’t even make the list. Do you want to know what it is?

OK, I hope so, because I’m going to tell you in an upcoming series of posts. Starting now.

 

Outdoor market in Amsterdam.

 

Actually, I spoke about this last summer at a Rotary dinner in ‘s Hertogenbosch. A 10-minute speech, all in Dutch … quite the test for my nerves. But I did survive to tell about it and, to translate it into English (something I told my parents I’d do months ago). So, here goes …

First, some context. As some of you know, I met my Dutch husband very coincidentally in 2004. At the time, I was living in New York, studying for my MFA in Studio Art at New York University. I had a horrid, horrid critique one raw November morning and decided, while standing on the corner of 59th and 2nd (waiting for a walk signal just long enough to become the target of a defecating pigeon), that I needed to GET OUT of New York as fast as possible. In what was arguably the most spontaneous act of my life, I convinced one of my best girlfriends to fly with me to Expedia’s deal-of-the-month destination (Houston, TX). I’d never been there before. I figured the weather would be warmer, the scenery different. And, an extra bonus was that my football team, the New England Patriots, were playing the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium during our stay. I’d never seen them play in nearby Foxboro, MA, but I figured they needed fans on the road too …

Oh yes, you didn’t know that I was a rabid football fan? More on that another time …

Airplane (and football) tickets were purchased before I’d really thought this through. When we arrived, we realized we had no plan, no idea what we were going to do for four days in Houston. But, we started asking around for ideas, and kept asking around until – you guessed it – we happened upon a group of Dutch people: exported, expatriated employees at Shell and Heerema Marine Contractors, 2 big Dutch companies with a sizable presence in the Gulf of Mexico. This friendly-looking group was having some drinks at the Mercury Bar (seems like every city has a bar by this name) on a (what turned out to be not-so-) typical Friday night.

Robert, my future husband, offended me immediately (see #9 on Erin Farber’s list) and I was ready to leave the Mercury Bar. But, somehow, he wrangled his way into being our tour guide that weekend, showing us what there was to see of Houston – the Rothko Chapel, jazz bars, driving ranges, malls, movie theaters – and even driving us to and picking us up from Reliant Stadium (where the Pats won in overtime). A few weeks later he came to visit me in New York, and for the year that followed we traveled back and forth between the US and Europe, in essence going on our honeymoon before we got married instead of after (as most normal people do). In 2005 he moved to New York. We lived there together for 2.5 years before relocating to Amsterdam in February of 2007.

Robert didn’t have to work too hard to convince me that we should come and live here. He wanted to work for his family business, which was and is very much tied to this area. As an artist, I felt I could live and work anywhere. Plus, I’d lived in New York for 7 years. I was tired of the grind. I didn’t want to spend a total of 1.5 hours underground on the Subway everyday, just to get to and from my work. I wanted to commute in the fresh air of Amsterdam (ha!), on my bike.

This, even though my first biking experience in Amsterdam ended (after about 90 seconds) in a rather loud and embarrassing clanging and scraping of metal on cobblestone. I hadn’t thought much of it at first, but I was on a bike with pedal brakes (which were totally new to me at the time) and no helmet (they are reserved for toddlers here). As soon as cars started passing me at a distance of no more than 6 inches, I heard one of my Dad’s favorite mantras (which he’d employed anytime I’d refused to wear a bike helmet as a child) echoing between my ears: “Ellie, do you want to be pretty and dead … or ugly and alive?” Years later, as a 26-year-old cycling down the Brouwersgracht, I recognized the wisdom of his words (and my desire to live, no matter the cost!) and decided I needed to eject myself from this biking situation immediately. Since I didn’t know how to brake, the logical solution was of course to jump from the bike in the middle of a busy intersection. Great entertainment for all the diners sitting out on the nearby terraces. No harm done though, except to my ego. Robert doubled me on the back of his bike for the rest of our ride to the Rijksmuseum, while I cursed at myself and felt certain he’d break up with me after seeing this pathetic display of (non)-athleticism…

 

Robert doubling me on his bike in our neighborhood of the Jordaan.

 

Anyway, he didn’t, and we later lived in Amsterdam from February 2007 until November 2008, in order to make the transition from American/big city life to Dutch/suburban life a little less shocking.

It was in Amsterdam that we got married. It was in Amsterdam that our first child, Ruby, was born.

 

Seeing each other for the first time on our wedding day. (Yes, before the walk down the aisle.) It's Dutch tradition that the groom picks up his bride at her parents' house. Since our situation was a bit unconventional and my parents did not have a Dutch residence, Robert picked me up at our apartment in the Jordaan. This was the only sunny Saturday of the summer of 2008, so all of Amsterdam was out to enjoy it. Half of the onlookers you see here were just passersby.

 

Now you want to know what struck me immediately about my new European life? You want to know what I have learned from the Dutch? Living here has helped me recover a sense of safety and security.

This was a feeling I suppose I lost the moment looked up at the television screen in my Upper East Side gym on the morning of September 11, 2001, and saw the first footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. I didn’t lose any loved ones in the attacks, but I did lose, as I think all Americans did that day, a sense of security, and (for my generation) a sense of innocence. That morning I walked about 9 miles from that Upper East Side gym (which was in my office building) to my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, all the while watching copy paper with singed edges rain out of the sky. The next day, Wednesday, my roommates and I alternated between sitting in our living room, watching the coverage on CNN, and sitting on our roof, watching the plume of smoke still rising above lower Manhattan, billowing up into the sky and catching the winds heading toward us over the East River.

 

View from the roof of our Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment on September 12, 2001

 

On Thursday, to my utter shock, it was back to work. Offices were open again. But my heart got stuck in my throat as my D/Q train crossed the Manhattan Bridge. It seemed the perfect moment for that lurking terrorist – the one in the corner with his hat down over his eyes – to detonate his bomb. And a few months later, American soldiers appeared in the Union Square 4/5/6 station with machine guns. The media adjusted the alert levels from red to orange, and back to red again. I made plans with my parents about where I would go, how I would communicate if there was another attack.

On the one hand, going about life as usual was the best therapy there was. Every day that passed uneventfully was a reason to feel safe again, wasn’t it? But, for me at least, that feeling of safety was one I never reclaimed in the subsequent years that I lived in New York.

It was when I arrived in Amsterdam (by comparison a village of only 700,000 inhabitants) that I suddenly felt the weight of that constant fear was lifted. But it was more than just going from a city that had once been targeted by terrorists to a city that was much less likely to be.

Over the next few weeks, in a series of posts, I want to try to describe what I’ve perceived to be the major difference in mentality between the Americans and the Dutch (without making too many dangerous generalizations). It’s just that, when I lived in America, you might have called me a bit fearful. Now that I live in the Netherlands, I am gradually becoming more faithful. I don’t mean that in the religious sense. I just mean that in my American life, I worried about things a lot more – from terrorist attacks to epidemics of disease to deadly bacteria to whatever was getting the media its best ratings … In my European life, I feel comfortable, cared for, and I have increasing faith in a positive outcome to any given situation.

 

Me and Robert at my naturalization ceremony in December of 2011. I'm now both an American and a Dutch citizen!

 

Again, I don’t want to make generalizations about entire populations of people, so I will just attempt to tell you about some of my personal observations and experiences over the past 5 years. Check back if you are curious to know more about how these themes of fearfulness vs. faithfulness have applied themselves to the major events in my life since I have lived here, including pregnancy/childbirth and parenting.


 

Finding A Natural Focus

Finding A Natural Focus

Last week I received a link in my inbox to an inspiring blog post by Michelle Fifis over at Pattern Observer. The post was titled “Filling the Void in Today’s Textile Design Marketplace” and if you, like me, are trying to find your way in this surface design world, I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already.

Michelle shares that the competition in this industry has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. So, if you want to stand out, you have to step it up. You can earn your place in the industry by being a designer who creates great artwork and runs a professional business. She defines a professional business as one that has focus, authenticity, consistency and an understanding of how to communicate with clients.

One thing many designers struggle with is a lack of focus, according to Michelle. I can attest to that! There are truly so many directions you can take in this field. You could choose to design for wrapping paper, quilting fabrics, greeting cards, lamps, wallpaper, tabletop, fashion fabrics, you name it! Thanks to digital technology, just about every product can be printed and personalized these days.

Then there’s the way you work: You can choose to work for a company, or you can choose to work freelance. As a freelancer, you can choose to work with clients, an agent or represent yourself at trade shows (or some combination of the three). You can also manufacture your own product line. Blog. Teach. Etc.

You can see examples and be inspired by just about everything around you, because surface designs are, in fact, all around us, all the time!

It’s truly a bit overwhelming and I must admit I feel I’ve spent a lot of the past few years feeling a bit lost, or worse, schizophrenic. I just want to do everything I see around me. A bit unrealistic, I know …

But I’m hoping those days are behind me. Last night I quickly wrote out 5 pages about my past, present and future as an artist/designer, so that it would be there in black and white, and I’d no longer lose it in a sea of influence and inspiration. It’s taped up on my studio wall now, and it was a great support to me today as I started working in a whole new way (a way that I’m really excited about!) Stay tuned for more on that.

I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to take this precious moment to think about our natural focus. I know I’m always so eager to get down to the designing, but wait … Stop. Breathe. Make yourself a cup of tea and answer the following questions first:

What types of products/industry do you most want to design for? Why? What is your history/feeling/experience with this type of product/this industry?

What kinds of designs do you want to create? What are the 7 most important adjectives to describe them?

What is your process/style? What is unique about it?

What are your strengths as an artist/designer and how will you work to them?

How do you want people to feel when they interact with your work?

Anyway, Michelle’s advice is to identify your natural focus, then “run like the wind!” Learn everything you can about it. Become an expert in it. Specialize. Market yourself specifically to that industry. You know the old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none?” That’s not what we’re going for. Having lots of choices isn’t always a good thing, at least not until you’ve made them. So, dig deep, look inside, and make those choices. I think you’ll feel relieved. I do!

A few posts back, I announced that my wallpaper obsession was taking hold. I’m still in the throes of it. So, I think I’ve identified my natural focus.

In the spirit of specializing, I spent part of my Saturday afternoon leafing through wallpaper books at Otto Van Iersel Paint & Wallpaper here in Vught. They were very nice and directed me to the latest florals from Eijffinger (NL), BoråsTapeter (Sweden), Origin (NL), Arte (BE), Esta (NL), Cole & Son (UK), Designers Guild (UK), Osborne & Little (UK), etc. Are these same brands in your local wallpaper store? If not, what brands are popular where you live?

Here are some highlights from my browsing session. As you can see, the middle images of papers by Eijffinger have a texture to them, and even in some cases a metallic background color. I liked that. These designs all seemed to share pretty simple patterns. A plain ground with one or two motifs, and you’re done. At least, traditionally.

But look at what Louise Tiler is doing with wallpaper:

Louise Tiler Wallpaper

Louise Tiler Wallpaper

 

Do you see anything you like? Would you consider any of these for your home? Why or why not?

Oh wait, here are some more choices from a company in the UK called Sanderson … What was I saying about too much choice not being a good thing??

So, so far I’ve bombarded you with flowers, because that’s what I love. But I have to admit I was surprised how much I fell for this new Brooklyn Tins wallpaper from NLXL/Merci and Piet Hein Eek, a product/furniture designer in Eindhoven known for his use of scrap wood/scrap materials in general.

 

Brooklyn Tins Wallpaper image courtesy of kleurinspiratie.nl

 

 

Is it because it reminds me of my glory days in Park Slope in 2001-2005? I don’t know. I think it’s just cool. Really cool.

Have you seen any interesting wallpapers lately, or do you know of any good places to study up? I want to know all about it!

P.S. Michelle Fifis is offering a new class called Building Your Textile Design Business, starting October 29. To find out more about it, click here. It’s sure to be great!

Feeling stuck, but hopeful.

Feeling stuck, but hopeful.

This week I’ve been doing what feels like banging my head against a wall, trying to complete a new design series. Does this ever happen to you? I know this is just part of the creative process, but it really is just how Julia Cameron describes it in The Artist’s Way. I have this horrible little voice in my head that’s constantly asking me: “And? You think that’s special?” “Is this whole pursuit even worthwhile?” “This is what you take time away from your kids for!?”

When I’m in a state like this, I don’t know whether to dig in and just keep forging ahead, or take a break. But so far I’ve just been stubbornly digging in, hoping for that breakthrough, that epiphany, that will restore my hope and faith – in myself, in this path I’ve chosen … you know? I’m really hoping that will happen tonight or tomorrow. Please God. If not, I guess I’ll be forced to take a break this weekend.

One of the feelings I’ve really been struggling with this week is one that I think is familiar to all mothers: guilt. Am I right? I feel bad about sending my kids to daycare 2 days a week so that I can work.

I just feel such a strong sense of responsibility towards them, and if they express an iota of displeasure about being in daycare, a (crazy) part of me has the urge to yank them out and keep them home with me ALL the time, barricade the door, home school them and never release them back into the real world … But they are 4.5 and 2.5 (old enough to enjoy and benefit from playing with other kids). My husband, who actually picks them up from daycare, says that when he does, they are usually so blissfully transported by whatever they’re doing that they ignore him and play on.

Ruby LOVES her school but sometimes complains about Friday’s after school program. Juliette always expresses reluctance about daycare (since we returned from summer holidays in August) and repeatedly tells me stories about a classmate who pushes and grabs things from her. These stories are, granted, largely unintelligible, and what I don’t understand I probably fill in with my guilty conscience. When we mentioned Juliette’s alleged victimization to one of her teachers, who is gold, gold, GOLD (!) she kind of politely said (in so many words) that if Juliette can dish it out, she can certainly take it. I’m sure she’s dishing out her fair share, as she is rather feisty, even for a 2-year old.

 

 

(Looks pretty sweet there though, doesn’t she?)

You see, when both of my daughters were born, it was immediately clear to me that they trumped anything else I ever have or ever will create – a gajillion (sp?) times over.

So, for me to take time away from them, it has to be for a worthwhile pursuit. On the other hand, I am a whole person, not just a mother. Just because I am a mother, I don’t have to let the rest of me slowly atrophy and die, do I? I need to be creating; I know this about myself. Plus, I know I am a better mother when I’m not a mother ALL the time. There are just so many things like this, where I guess you have to trust your internal feelings about what is right for you, because it’s different than what’s right for the next person. And even when you trust those feelings, there will be days, weeks – hopefully not much longer than that – when you doubt them.

 

Illustration I did of Ruby and Juliette reading (er, playing on the iPad) together.

 

I wanted to write about a children’s book this week, because last week a friend asked me for a recommendation and I totally blanked. But when I thought about it more and my brain finally booted up, I remembered a book I had as a child and that I just translated (unofficially, and with the kind help of my mother-in-law) into Dutch a few months ago, so that I could give it as a gift at Ruby’s school.

Do you have any favorite children’s books to recommend?

Well, this book I want to write about today kind of ties in with the idea I briefly mentioned above, of releasing your kids into the world – a world in which they might not be happy, a world in which they might not feel safe, all the time. It’s actually two books in a series: If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow, and If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night, by Seattle-based Cooper Edens.

I had the first book as a kid and I remember being scared of it. Maybe there should be a subtitle or an instruction manual that says: If You’re Afraid of This Book, Read It When You’re 30. It’s kind of a children’s book for adults. But with a few more years and (some painful) experiences under my belt, I can really appreciate its poetic beauty, its heartbreaking/heartwarming faith and optimism in the human spirit and its ability to find a silver lining in any situation.

Here are some excerpts (in no particular order) and some of the magical illustrations that accompany them:

If you’re afraid of the dark … add one more star to the night.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night

 

“If tomorrow morning the sky falls … have clouds for breakfast.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow

 

“If you have butterflies in your stomach … ask them into your heart.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow

 

If you become lost … make wherever you are look like home.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night

 

“If you’re afraid of the dark … remember the night rainbow.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow

 

If one day you must leave home … draw stars on the bottom of your shoes to light your way back.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night

 

If you’re at the end of your rope … untie the knot in your heart.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night

 

If your world has come undone … fasten it securely to the horizon.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night

 

If you must cry … plant your tears as seeds.”

© Cooper Edens, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Add One More Star to the Night

 

So … it’s maybe not hard to imagine that all this talk of pain and loss and suffering kind of put me off as a child (and I have to admit that Ruby and Juliette never request this book either). But reading it as an adult, I really appreciate its unconventionality. I appreciate the message that although we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we deal with what happens to us, how we fashion it into our lives, our personal histories, dreams and so on. Because it really is just on the other side of those fears/tears, that the most beautiful things can happen.

I feel this way about my kids, as I (sometimes guiltily) release them into the world. As a mother, of course you want to protect them from even the slightest twinge of discomfort. (As if you could). But on the other hand, you know if they never squared off against this inherent part of being human – pain – they would be the most boring, most unaccomplished human beings to walk the Earth! The question is not if they will experience pain (because you know they will) – at the hands of the pushing/grabbing classmate, or worse – but how they will experience it. As a mother, you cannot influence the if. But the how, yes, that’s where you come in. That’s where we all come in.

And I guess it’s the same with the creative process. We should remind ourselves, when we are in these snake pits of doubt, that it is in fact these low points that signal new, more magnificent vistas ahead. We just have to show up every day, as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her amazing TEDTalk about her creative process and philosophy.

And as the Great Julia Cameron reminds us on page 7 of The Artist’s Way:

“We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.”