It’s Aliiiive!

Link

We’ve gotten our new blog up and running, but to simplify the transition, we’ve started fresh on our new site.  That means that all our old posts will remain here, but won’t be directly visible on the new blog.  This site will remain available though, so none of the content will go away anytime soon.

From now on, all updates and new posts will be found at http://blog.insouciantstudios.com, so update any bookmarks accordingly.  Thanks.

 

Upgrades and progress.

If you stop by here with any regularity, you may have noticed that I’ve not been updating the blog much of late. My web developer is working on migrating the blog to a new domain, and has advised me not to post any valuable content, as there might be some losses during the migration. I did however want to let you know that we have updated the website, with our own new e-commerce platform so you can check-out directly with us. The url is https://store.insouciantstudios.com/ , and I’d love it if you’d take time to click through and have a look. I hope you have a great weekend. (We’ll be working on moving the blog and getting it settled in it’s new home).

Happy Birthday, me!

Tomorrow is my birthday, so I thought I would skip the normal material, and post on the things I’m crushing on right now. Feel free to think of it as a style post (there will be a real one of those coming up soon–I’ve been working on it regularly) or you can just see it as a gift guide.

1.
I want chickens of my own so bad (almost as much as I want sheep)… but I have nowhere to keep them. Despite the lack of suitable chicken-keeping space, I could totally rock this adorable chicken printed blouse starting now.

 

 

 

2.
I’m always looking for new gems to shine in my work. These are spectacular. (And there are way more in my Etsy favorites list).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. My favorite store is still Anthropologie, because they have things like these amazing heels, fun sweaters, and great party dresses. But I also regularly shop at Madewell, J Crew, and Lands End (their Canvas line has great basics).

 

 

 

4. I’m still always knitting, and I’m crushing pretty hard on a variety of yarns from WEBS, especially Noro Silk Garden Sock and Zauberball Crazy. I’m also still hoping for a yarn bowl, to keep my balls of yarn from rolling away when I knit (which should also help to deter the cats from offering their “assistance”.

 

5.
I know not everyone is interested in giving me a gift (and it’s fine, I totally understand), but if you were hoping to recognize my birthday without, you know, actually giving me stuff, there are some awesome charities out there. I am particularly fond of Heifer International, Tabby’s Place, and The Blind Cat Rescue. Knowing that some money made its way to any of those organizations on my birthday would give me warm fuzzies.

6.
Since it is my birthday, and I have a shop, I would be remiss if I didn’t have a birthday sale. The sale covers everything in the store, the code is BIRTHDAY, and it will get you 17% off your whole order when you enter it at checkout. I’m still out of town, so there is a shipping delay–all orders placed between now and the 26th will ship on the 27th of September. But if you can wait a week, it’s a good sale, and getting some orders on my birthday would be an amazing gift. Feel free to tell everyone you know–exposure would also be an excellent gift!

7.
This has nothing to do with my birthday, but this awesome Praying Mantis kept me company while I was weeding this afternoon. My chrysanthemums are blooming beautifully now, and the garden is almost back in shape. My fingers will be grateful when the weeding is done. But the time outside is nice. I hope you have an excellent weekend & a fantastic Friday, and that you get to spend some time outside in the gentle sunshine and fresh autumn air. That’s what I’ll be doing on my birthday.

Camping… now with pictures.

Since I find myself sitting at the airport with nearly 2 hours of free time until my flight to the east coast departs, I thought I would take the time to actually tell you about our camping trip (with pictures, now that I have them), since it’s the reason the post last week got bumped.

We went camping on the Yuba River in the Tahoe National Forest with a group of our friends. It was the kind of trip that groups of friends always talk about taking, but never actually mange to schedule and organize, except, this time we did. That the trip happened is largely to the credit of one member of our group, Jason, who went the extra mile to pull everything together. I’m still amazed we were able to pin everyone down for 3 whole days!

I think part of what made the whole thing possible is that it wasn’t a trip really in celebration of anything in particular, except perhaps the fact that this is the first time the whole gang has been on the same coast in over 2 years (although we did have one person fly in from NY just for the weekend). It wasn’t a trip planned over a holiday weekend or near the major winter holidays–so there was a better chance that everyone would be free. And I’m fairly sure the only reason we were able to get a campsite as easily as we did was that we were booking after Labor Day Weekend, which really signals the end of the major camping season in most places. In any case, the logistical complications that usually inhibit a gathering like this from coalescing just didn’t pop up.

Our group is mostly centered around the SF/ San Jose area, so the Yuba River (and the Cal-Ida Campground where we stayed) is a significant drive– three-ish hours for the closest people, and more than four for the bulk of the group. That means that the first day (Friday) and the last day (Sunday) are really both half days in terms of the fun stuff, especially once you factor in set-up and take down of the campsite. In real terms, though, two nights, a full day, and two half days is plenty of time for squeezing in lots of fun & catching up.

Friday we drove up, and set up the campsite. Our carload of the group was the first to arrive, and there were very few groups besides ours at the campground–which was great for creating a remote & relaxed atmosphere.The campground has lovely old live oak and pine trees, and sits on a hill above a stream. The sound of burbling water and the smell of pine forest dominate (it’s lovely).

Friday was mostly about setting up and cooking. Several people in our group are excellent cooks, and food is a big part of most of our gatherings. One friend pre-marinated and packed a bunch of chicken, another made awesome chili, someone else brought corn to roast over the fire and a bunch of fresh zucchini. Kevin and I didn’t take much of the fancy cooking burden this go-round, but we had fun tending the grill and turning the corn over the fire.

Saturday was our big-fun river day, but we started it with an excellent, travel friendly egg & tater tot breakfast casserole and a few leisurely cups of tea & coffee.

We had originally planned on tubing down a section of the river, but the water was too low for that to be easy. Instead, we spent the day at a phenomenal swimming’ hole in the river. It was deep and cool, with excellent rocks to jump off, and excellent rocks for collecting, too. We packed lunches and trekked down a very steep hill to get to the spot, but it was well worth it for the seclusion we found at our destination. After a quick swim and lunch, the group got down to the “serious” recreational business of the day–more swimming, lots of jumping into the deep water from tall rocks, and plenty of aquatic frisbee!

Me being me, I quickly located a place the search for pretty rocks, and spent a good part of my afternoon sifting through pebbles. At some point, I will polish my finds and turn them into jewelry. I have rocks and shells squirreled away from most of the trips i’ve been on just for this purpose. They make better, and more personal, souvenirs.

Once I had found a sufficient stash of stones to keep, I started building rock cairns. I love coming across rock cairns that other people have built in remote places, and I adore the idea of leaving my own environmentally-sensitive legacy. Cairns are interesting to build too, the challenge being to place them somewhere neat (i.e.. challenging to get to) and to make them as tall (and solid) as possible. After I had built a few cairns, my husband and another friend joined in, and we made a good number, including a few stacks on a rock in the flow of the river, and a few nice towers placed higher up. Naturally, someone in our group decided that their contribution to cairn building would be of the destructive variety–they used our towers of rock for target practice and demolished quite a few. In the end, though, I left several excellent rock piles, and clearly made the statement “This is no accident; I was here, and I had the time and patience to build something!”

After a long day of swimming, diving, and light construction, I took a little rest in the shade of a rock and contemplated the small fish in a little pool at the edge of the river. FYI, if you ever need to find shade outside, just follow me. I always find the good shade (or I burn to a crisp).

We ended our day with more great food, an excellent campfire, and S’mores, naturally. I don’t have any pictures of the fire, the s’mores, or the brilliant night sky full of stars, but if you’ve been camping, then you should have no trouble picturing it. Saturday wasn’t really the end of our trip, but it’s a good place to end. It was a perfect, clear night.

Scheduled Outages

I missed Thursday is for Blogging again this (last?) week, but with good reason–I was busy packing for a camping trip to the Yuba River in Northern California. I was so busy packing (and unloading the last of the contents of our moving POD, which was picked up Friday) that I didn’t have time to give you a heads up that the post would be coming in late (but more interesting).

I went with my lovely husband and a big group of friends, for three-ish days of campfires, grilled and fire roasted foods, river swimming, s’mores, and general merriment. We were 20 miles from the nearest town, way out of cell signal range, and totally unplugged. It was great. I had planned to have pictures, but while I took my camera and extra batteries, I never actually removed it from my bag. It’s okay, I’ll have some pictures at some point, our group has a surplus of photographers, and plenty of pictures were taken.

I have some other possible scheduled outages in blog service as well. I’ll just go ahead and explain my calendar to you now. Things are getting a bit hairy (and exciting) for the next month.

This week, I may miss a post on Thursday as well, I’m not sure yet how my schedule will be. I’m headed out again (Wednesday), this time back to Maryland, for two weeks of work at my Mom’s farm. She’s in the very, very final (I so hope this is true) stages of readying her farm for sale. We are flying in to tie up loose ends, pack up the final odds-n-ends, polish the landscaping, install new flooring in the kitchen, and clean everything until it sparkles. It’s going to be two weeks of very hard work. Naturally, my birthday falls in the middle of this work trip, so in all likelihood, I will be waiting to really celebrate it until we are back home in CA. I should have some nice before & after shots of our work on the farm for you next week though.

Once we return home, things will remain fairly busy. I have my first craft show in over two years the first weekend of October (It’s Lambtown in Dixon, CA) and all the prep that comes with a show. I need to organize my inventory, label everything with prices, and weigh out and band lots off wool. I also have a lot of dyeing to attend to, and I have to do a preliminary set-up of my table to figure out the organization and layout ahead of time, so I can make sure everything is pretty, functional, and easily shoppable. My booth always has the added complication of two very disparate categories of inventory–wool and jewelry– so figuring out how to display both in a lovely and cohesive way is challenging, and I know I haven’t yet worked out all the kinks.

After Lambtown, I still have some big business & personal things to tend to! I’m doing a promotional stitch marker giveaway for a fiber retreat (they are going into the goodie bags for retreat participants)–which means I need to make 100 stitch markers (two each for 50 participants) and then neatly affix them to business cards and have it in the mail pronto. I’m also participating in two Reddit Gifts gift exchanges (Trick-or-treat and Dr. Who) for which I need to make appropriate items by the Oct. 15 shipping deadline.

As busy as I am over the next month, and as hard as finding time to blog might be, it looks like I won’t have a shortage of things to talk about–especially since I am still (also?) working on my fall and winter jewelry lines, and gearing up for what I hope will be a very busy holiday season. I’m also hard at work trying to get my own website set up with my very own e-commerce system, so you can shop directly from my web page, instead of linking over to Etsy or Lish .

And as far as being busy goes, today is no exception. It’s Monday, so I’ll be “celebrating” Monday is for Cleaning (especially important since I was gone for 3 days and I am leaving for 2 weeks) AND I have to pack for my trip, do laundry, and finish unpacking from the camping trip! On that note, I guess I had better get going–since I am hoping to squeeze in some Lambtown prep/ wool dyeing/ stitch marker making today as well. Have a great week, and I will see you on Thursday or soon after!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Copying another designer’s work is a huge taboo in the fashion word. So that I am about to give you an entire post about how I sometimes copy other designer’s work, and how it’s a really great way to improve and diversify my own work may come as a surprise. But the truth is, all designers riff of off each-other from time to time, and sometimes they arrive at the same place at the same time by taking vastly different approaches. Sometimes two items look the same, and the designers got there different ways, and other times, two designers follow similar seeming paths, and arrive quite far from each-other.

Sarah Tolzmann, who has a great design & fashion blog, Note to Self, and is fun to follow on pinterest, pinned a pair of Loren Hope earrings the other day. I’m not sure that I can say I liked them, precisely, but they interested me. I liked things about them, if not the end result. I liked, for instance, the color palette. I liked some of the shapes they included, and how those shapes were arranged. I thought they might be fun to copy, but in beading. (I could copy them exactly through metalsmithing and stone setting, but where would be the fun in that, right?) So right away, I’m not really talking about making a mirror image of someone else’s design, what I am really talking about is interpreting a design–because if you copy something in a medium different from the original, then it’s not a copy, it is at the closest an adaptation or interpretation.

 

I use this copy-as-interpretation in another medium trick frequently in my design work, and I have a system. If I am copying something for dyeing wool, for instance (and I copy a lot of pictures of floral arrangements, for some reason) I take the image and break it down into it’s component colors. These earrings, then, are bright pink, clear, gold, and pale green. They are mostly gold, pale green, and pink–the clear part is just an accent. In wool, I can’t even do clear, but I can do white–so my options would be to change to white or ignore it totally–giving me roughly equal parts pink, green, and gold. How the colors are arranged can be useful too–in this case, the gold appears as parallel lines, while the pink and green are dots. So I might do something like stripes and dots on the wool.

But I’m not doing this design as wool right now (I will, but it’s not the subject of this post). I am copying it as jewelry, but shifting to beaded jewelry. So the colors, gold, pale green, hot pink, and clear are important. So are the shapes. The pink gem is a square, the green gem is round, the clear and gold elements are rectangular. The arrangement matters too; the pink is on top, the gold is in parallel lines at the sides, and the green is at the bottom.

The first step in making this copy then, is to pull beads that match those criteria. Pink & square, green & round, golden & clear rectangles; gold wire, too. I quickly find the elements I need– but immediately have to switch the pink to a pale pink (if I want square) and swap the green to an ovoid shape (to get the right color). I quickly mock up the approximate shape using the beads and wire. The result, is however, uninspiring. I fiddle with it for a while, and don’t really get anywhere.

 

Then I spot something else on my design tray–some pink beads I pulled for the design copy (right color, wrong shape) are right next to some glass beads from work I was doing yesterday. And they look amazing together.

 

I switch tracks, deciding to focus on the beads that look right together right now, and set the copying project aside. I have maybe 16 inches worth of the little glass beads, and 3 of the ridged pink spheres (I only have 3 in stock). And I am feeling… off kilter, like the design should be asymmetrical or in some way off balance. Asymmetrical designs that don’t feel wrong are challenging– they need some kind of obvious balance point to act as a focal point, and it needs to be apparent that the design is intentionally asymmetrical, not just poorly assembled.

I spend a good deal of time arranging the three main beads for the necklace, but the balance isn’t happening. It’s not asymmetrical, it’s just off. I dig through the stash looking for other beads– something to put with the pink and something as a focal. Since the glass beads flash in shades of amber, yellow, pink, and lavender, I’m looking only at those colors. I quickly eliminate the yellow, it’s too loud. Lavender turns out to be too twee and girly. Red works, but the red beads aren’t right. Then I find a lonely pink agate. It’s darker than the beads that inspired this whole project, but similar. It’s bigger but still round. It’s a good focal. At the same time, I find 3 round dark purple beads. It’s not a shade that’s in the glass beads, but it feels right. Where lavender was too sweet, this dark purple is more mature and sophisticated, and feels like autumn. I love autumn.

Now I have the 16ish inches of glass beads, the dark pink agate focal, and 3 each of the dark purple and hot pink. I’m still feeling off kilter for this design. That’s okay, though. It’s easier to create balanced asymmetry with a larger number of beads, and I have an odd number of each. I place the focal bead at the center, and then alternate the pink and purple beads at equal distances. Too organized. I then stagger the pink and purple beads, so they get progressively further from the center as they move out. That works. I then count out how many of the glass beads it will take to make the intervals between beads longer in a predictable way. I come up with units of 6. So there is the center bead, then 6 glass beads on each side, then a larger bead, then 12 glass, a larger bead, 18 glass, a larger bead, and then 30 glass before the clasp. Odd numbers, a set color palette, and an increasing but predictable distance between elements based on a multiple of 6. A design that’s off kilter but not out of control comes together.

While I was working on the necklace (and searching for components) I pulled other beads in the same palette. More hot pink, some amber, purple, pale green, and yellow. Now I’m thinking about autumn leaves, and there are simple pink geometric leaves. They look good with the amber glass beads from the necklace, and quickly become earrings.
Then I think about leaves some more–and pull some vintage copper leaves. I quickly pair them with little golden crystals. Then I think about how half of what is amazing about autumn leaves is their movement once they are detached from the tree. The way to get that lively feeling is with chain, so the copper leaves are suspended from chains. I try them with another iteration of the pink leaves and amber bead “branches” but the contrast is too jarring. The copper leaves on chains become their own piece.

I’m still thinking leaves. And about how irritating I find it that many autumn palettes forget early fall, where there is still lots of green. How early fall is really all about the contrast between green and “autumn” colors like red, orange, yellow, and brown. I still have those pink leaves, one final pair. I have some lush green crystals, too. And the amber glass beads. These elements quickly combine to form another pair of simple autumn leaf earrings.

I make one more necklace and pair of earrings with the bright pink and amber glass elements, this time playing with shapes– circles and pie-wedge triangles. I use up the last of the amber glass beads, and put away most of the bright pink. I’m back to the earrings I started out copying.

Again I try to get the construction right. Pink square, parallel gold lines, rounds of green. I make it more linear, putting the parallel lines of gold right next to each other. It’s still wrong. The pink is too light, too small. I still have nothing square in the correct pink. It’s still not working. I try to distill the design again, more generally. Pink + Rectangular (since a square is just a variation on a rectangle). Gold + Parallel lines. Green +Round. I like the green ovals, they feel right. I like the yellow fluorite, too. The pink isn’t working. Neither is the construction. I try to break it down. Pink on top, green on the bottom, gold on the sides in parallel lines. I try making it again, but with diamond shaped pink beads that are the right shape (a diamond, like a square, is just a variation on a rectangle). Closer. But still wrong. Still too stiff. And then I see it. The gold has to be parallel, below the pink and above the green. But it doesn’t need to be connected. It can move. Movement, really, is one of the best things about beading. It’s design that captures movement without restricting it.

The pink diamonds are the right color, and they are drilled on both ends. I devise a way to attach a loop to the center top, and then make additional loops at each end. Then I think parallel gold above green and round. I try a few variations of two lines of fluorite connecting to a single green oval. The connection is awkward if it is parallel, and angled otherwise. And too stiff. I try something else–parallel lines of fluorite terminating in the green oval. One on each side. Two green ovals on each earring. Four total. It works. The design incorporates what I liked about the original–the colors, aspects of the geometry, but sacrifices the exact shapes and some of the proportions of the color. I have more green, but that’s okay, I like green. Less gold, as well, and more movement. But it feels right.

Thursday is for blogging, so it’s thursday, and I’m blogging

So since it’s Thursday (for a little while longer) and since Thursday is for blogging, I think I owe you a post. This week I was planning on talking about marketing, or more accurately, the trouble I’m having with (social) marketing.

The trouble is, I think, a lack of engagement. All the marketing wisdom says that social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are a great way to develop a following for your brand or business. And I do have some followers (who I love–thanks guys) but beyond getting a few direct clicks, it seems that very few people are eager to spread the word, so to speak. And when people aren’t eager to share news about a product, that suggests to me a lack of engagement with the brand (or a lack of enthusiasm about the product).

I’ve been trying to work through my options for developing a more engaged following, because, to the best of my ability, I’ve ruled out problems with my product. One approach, naturally, is improving my own consistency with this blog. I think spending my time writing here, and writing honestly, about the day-to-day operations of my business is a good way of connecting with people (I hope it is). I also think some people might find my process (and struggles) interesting and informative, and maybe even useful. Again, that’s my hope. My other hope, with blogging consistency, is to develop a dialogue with my followers and customers. I would really love for people to not only read what I’m writing, but also to write back, leave comments, and engage with me. Because this isn’t just a business, there’s a person (Hi!) behind everything, and I really care about what I’m doing. With that in mind, I’d love to answer any questions you have– just leave them in the comments!

To get things started, I’ll tell you something about myself. I like both coffee and tea. I like hot tea and iced tea. I prefer espresso to drip, and over the last few years, I’ve moved from skim milk in my lattes to 2%, then whole. Now, I drink a breve–that’s espresso and half-and-half or, even better, cream. Although I love my tea & coffee, I can’t have caffeine after about 4:30 in the afternoon–it keeps me up.

As for using other social tools for marketing, again, I think consistency is key. Fortunately, regularly updating my studio’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/InsouciantStudios) and being active on my Pinterest accounts (http://pinterest.com/woolpops/) and (http://pinterest.com/kitknits/) come more easily. So I think the game plan there is just to keep at it and collect more followers over time–hopefully, some of my current followers will be kind enough to tell their friends about me, too.

The last element of my goal to improve my use of social marketing is to try out new social networking programs early on–so I can stay ahead of the curve and find new ways of reaching and interacting with people. In that vein, I’m testing out a Facebook based sales platform called Payvement that allows people to shop directly on my studio’s page. In addition, Payvement is linked to a newly launched social shopping service called Lish. In the spirit of trying new things, I’ve got invites if you’d like to check Lish out for yourself: https://lish.com/login?invite-code=8a70f1a7-2b08-4331-b9bb-89f60f4faf58&ctref=2_56_7_4_6.2lkCB1.2lkCB1.0.2AHk1

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget, I’d love to hear from you!

Making this blogging thing work.

For me blogging is a challenge, perhaps more than it should be. When I sit down to put word to thought, I want to do it well ( I do have a degree in English, after all). Blogging is also a challenge because I am never quite sure what to share– should it be more personal? More about the process of knitting, dyeing, and making jewelry? More about my design inspirations? More about how I am running my business and making day-to-day decisions? It’s a tough call. I could probably write with equal fluidity about any of these topics, if I sat down to do it and kept at it.

So what are the issues, and are there solutions?

But I think here selectivity is key. I don’t want my blog to be a journal, but I don’t want it to feel impersonal. I don’t want it to be all knitting or all jewelry– because I want to capture and maintain the interest of a broader audience, one that reflects my fashion and fiber customers (and my personal interest in fashion and fiber arts). I do want to include more about process, as I am as much a process oriented person as a results oriented (product) person.

In fact, it is my process minded side that has taken me from loving jewelry-as-adornment to loving jewelry as a design and manufacturing geek. That same personality trait took me, within a year, from learning to knit to learning to dye wool, all the way down to learning to spin and finally to buying and processing my own raw wool. But I digress.

As process goes, though, it can be challenging to document for several reasons. The first and biggest stumbling block is that documenting the design process inherently requires an intrusion into that process (stopping at each step to take pictures and make notes is not a subtle pause). The second is that disruptions to design flow can have adverse effects on the end result–literally making it hard to complete some designs or to do it well. Disruptions in timing on dyeing can be particularly hard on the end product. And I also worry that deep discussions of my process will inadvertently reveal some vital secret about how I create my items, and that such a revelation will erode the ground my business is built on. However, since process is key to how I operate as an individual and a business, I will include information on that process as often as I am able without upsetting my work-flow balance overmuch.

Including more posts on my design inspiration seems like it would be easy, but in a lot of ways this is the most challenging. A large amount of my inspiration comes from experiences I have collected throughout my life–so I often work from a place of trying to capture a “feeling” of autumn, or the “idea” of botanical edginess. Capturing personal feelings and ideas is a fairly abstract and subjective process, and it’s hard to talk about how I do it, particularly without making those posts deeply, and overly, personal. But I will make an effort to tell you where I’m coming from, design wise, when I can articulate it clearly. And on the dye side, sometimes it’s really simple to share my inspiration, since I frequently pull my palettes from artwork or floral arrangements–so there should be no reason why I can’t share that.

In terms of including information on how I am running my business and making behind the scenes decisions, I think it’s important to include at least some of that, because it is such a large part of the life I actually live on a day to day basis. I live and breathe my company, it’s my baby, my pet, and my plan for the future. I both want and need it to succeed and grow.

The final issue I have faced as a blogger is consistency. I have been terrible about making posts regularly. Beyond terrible, really. In my personal life, the solution I have used effectively for making sure that really important things get done is to give them a set time to happen. The house gets cleaned each week because MONDAY IS FOR CLEANING (it’s Monday because the trash is picked up Tuesday morning). Giving a task an “is for” ensures that it gets done, because it becomes part of the foundation of my schedule, which is otherwise fairly fluid. I rely on having a handful of set, very important weekly activities to give structure to my life, without making my days overly rigid and scheduled. So, for now, lets say THURSDAY IS FOR BLOGGING and see if it sticks. I think it’s important, so it should.

A day’s work.

Since I’m self employed, a day’s work can be anything I want it to be really. I can do farm work, pack things into boxes, make jewlery, dye wool, knit. I could even spend every afternoon in a chair in the sun with a book and a stiff drink (but I’d probably just get a sunburn and a headache). In theory, that’s awesome. In reality, my boss appears to be an insane masochist, intent on working me until I literally cannot stand any longer. (Boss lady says: Oops, that’s only happened a few times…I didn’t know you would be in so much pain later, you seemed fine at the time). The best way for me, then, to work at home involves some rules and some lists. (I’m sure this comes as a surprise).
Rules
1. Make list of rules. (I’m kidding, that was rule 0, list item 1).
2. Write it down. Write it all down. I juggle way too many things to keep them all in my head, so I have lots of to-do lists, shopping lists, task lists, etc. Sometimes, seeing everything written down in a list is a helpful way to visualize everything that needs to get done. The rest of the time it’s demoralizing!

3. Balance. I do tend to overwork myself physically and mentally, so a good day includes a balance of physical and mental tasks. If I use my body and my mind in equal measure each day, I go to bed tired, ready for sleep, but not exhausted or wired. Recent (and ongoing) physical tasks include metal-smithing, field mowing & seeding, weeding & landscaping. Mental tasks include maintaining the books for my studio, drafting listings, pondering design ideas, phone calls (I find making calls fairly stressful), drafting shop listings, and the blog. Taxes are a currently looming mental task.
Today I did some mowing and field maintenance, picked up tax prep software, went to the gym, ran a bunch of errands like going to the grocery store and hardware store, and finished work on a metalsmithed necklace project (and the blog now). Today was good and balanced, and I should have no trouble getting a good night’s sleep.
4. Flexible scheduling. For me this means creating a schedule that’s orderly but not overly rigid. “Make hay when the sun shines” is a guiding principal–almost literally sometimes. But what that really means is time your tasks appropriately–and in my job as farm manager, much of my work is genuinely weather dependent. If you have to work with the weather, you need to be flexible, or you’ll wind up wasting your time mowing wet grass (and spending 90% of your time cleaning clumps of wet grass out of a clogged mower deck). Since my farm work is weather (and daylight) dependent, it gets priority when the sun shines–and the jewelry and wool work gets slotted in around the farm work. In crappy weather the jewelry and wool work gets more priority time. Urgent tasks (like trees falling on the barn in a hurricane and taking out the fencing in every single pasture, huge snowstorms, or large custom orders in the shop) get priority over everyday work.
Flexible scheduling also means having set items around which the schedule can be structured. The post office closes at 4:30 here, and I ship orders same-day or next-day. So if I have an order I haven’t shipped, at 4:00, I’m heading out the door with packages ready to be shipped. This means everything has to be pulled and packed, and labeled before 4:00. It also means that I have to schedule other tasks, like tree removal or mowing or painting with the knowledge that at or before 4:00 PM, I will be going to the post office. On Monday of this week, that meant at 3:55, I stopped mowing, hopped in the car, made the post office run, and was back mowing again by 4:15 (literally). Having deadlines you can’t move makes scheduling easier in many ways, since you can arrange the items you have control over around the one’s you can’t control. Another set point in my schedule is cleaning the house on Sundays. I clean on Sunday (because the trash & recycling are picked up Monday). Having a day each week where you know what you will be doing is helpful if your schedule if otherwise largely in flux. It provides…balance!

5. Take a break. (This is husband’s rule…boss lady is less inclined). Flexible scheduling would seem to indicate that I can take breaks as needed (and it’s true, I operate that way for small things like eating, checking e-mail throughout the day (is that even a break?!) and the bathroom). But it’s harder (for me at least) to take real breaks, where I can actually dis-engage from work and stress–since I see gaps in the schedule and slot in small tasks that have been left undone. When you work at home, it’s hard to leave the office. But breaks are important for mental and physical health. I’m just not great at taking them, or realizing when I need to take them! Husband makes it simple, by planning day (and part-day) trips out of the house and off the farm. So we can have a real break. Because breaks (when you’re not working) are important for balance.

So what’s really in a day’s work? Everything, in moderation. And a constant quest for balance and organization. You know what? I should take a break! Good Night!

Harried working conditions.

It’s amazing I get anything done around here at all–especially when it comes to photographing new designs. There are always eager “helpers” at hand to annoy me. I mean assist me.

At least they don’t charge me for helping. Unless biting counts?

(Does this count as micro-managing?)

At least I don’t get lonely at work! Have a great week!