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Currently Browsing: Blogging Along

Suzonne Stirling – Uber-Creative Stylist and Mom : Q and A

Sometime ago, I was on Pinterest and came across some fabulous image that I pinned. I must have then followed the image to its home where I found Suzonne Stirling’s delightful blog, Urban Comfort. Suzonne is a professional magazine stylist with an amazing ability to work on multiple holiday decoration projects simultaneously at the wrong times of the year. She’s an author of two sweet little baby room inspiration books, a New Orleanian, a wife, a mama, and has a passion for creating unique cocktails, baking,  recreating antiques, and throwing herself head-first into her current challenge which usually ends up better than she’d imagined. She lives a passionately creative life.

plaster dipped flowers from Urban Comfort via Shalavee.com
I’ve been subscribed to her beautiful and simple blog for some time, gawking at the pictures she takes and magazine spreads she creates for a living. She is a consummate professional, painstakingly detail oriented, and all of her pictures and DIYs are thorough. I’ve lifted these pictures from some of my favorite posts/projects. Easter eggs with fabric patterns, The vellum moths on the candle sticks with industrial light bulbs, the mirror with plaster of Paris dipped flowers, and the pictures she took stalking around the French Quarter at nighttime with her friend Tristan. 

vellum moth on industrial bulb from Urban Comfort via Shalavee.com

This past year, I peeled myself from the woodwork and said hi to Suzonne. She said hi back. Yay. And I probably gushed when she actually paid a visit to my blog around Christmas time to find out how I was doing with my holiday neuroses. One of my new-found themes of interest has been on the subject of mothering and creating and how these work together or don’t for each creative parent. And so I kindly asked Suzonne if she might answer a few questions about these subjects. I offered,”There are many other domestic artistics out there and I’m curious to see how we all feel.” Her responses are very interesting, very honest, and very familiar in many ways.  My questions are in the italics.

You have a boy around the same age as my boy right? When I had my children, especially having this second one when I’m just getting on a blog roll, I feel I need to work twice as hard to maintain my separate creative self. Have you ever felt a need to work harder to maintain or increase your image as a creative or to be successful as it relates to being a mother as well?

I have a 7 year-old son and before he was born I was completely oblivious to how it would change not only my creative life, but my work life (complicated by the fact that my work life requires me to be creative in the first place). I was about a week past my due date and sick of waiting for birth, so I took on a magazine assignment to occupy my time. When I finally went into labor a few days later, I was in full swing, all of my projects laid out and waiting. When I returned from the hospital, after an unexpected C-section, all of those projects were still laid out in my kitchen and had to be completed. It was the hardest deadline I’ve ever had to meet. I pulled it off, but it was a very rude awakening. I had grown so accustomed to working whenever I wanted, all hours of the day or night, and suddenly there were more pressing concerns.

I felt a bit panicky for the entire first year of my son’s life. I constantly felt like I was treading water, unable to ever get into a creative groove since my work was broken up into small increments of time. It was scary, being a freelancer, and I wasn’t sure if my career would survive motherhood. But it definitely got easier over time and when my son was ready for preschool at the age of 4 it felt like an incredible luxury to have 6 hours of uninterrupted creative work time – an amount of time I would have scoffed at before becoming a mother.

leaf bowl from Urban Comfort by Suzonne Stirling via Shalavee.com

Do you feel there’s a societal conflict between creating, success, and mothering?

I think we’ve grown accustomed to seeing women “having it all,” so we don’t necessarily question whether a woman can be a successful creative, business woman, and a successful mother at the same time. But I think in some ways that it’s a disservice to women. Without help of some sort, I think it’s nearly impossible to do it all well, all of the time. I think those women who make it look so easy are either spinning in circles behind the scenes or benefitting from outside help.

A friend once told me that “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.”  I’ve grown to realize how true that is. Sometimes my child needs me more and my creative life takes a backseat, limited to only what I need to financially survive. At other times he’s doing his own thing and I can play a bit more, take some time to experiment creatively. I accept that there will be ups and downs, times of struggle and relative ease. I just work to be flexible, to meet the demands of each cycle. 

Was there a point, after you’d worked so very hard to establish a product and presence, when you could relax a little?

I’ve worked hard enough that I don’t worry about my career too much. But I don’t know that I feel relaxed per se. I think when your work is creative you really need to be engaged, searching and exploring most of the time. There are too many new (and old) things to learn, too many ways in which you can stretch yourself. When I find myself on autopilot that will be a signal that it’s time to switch careers. In fact, my favorite assignments are the ones in which I feel a little out of my depth, when it’s more challenging and there’s more to lose – and more to learn. 

 

bramble drink from Urban Comfort via Shalavee.com

What do you do to keep balanced your career and family goals? To keep from burning out at both ends? What are your thoughts, mantras, or practices on maintaining the balance of being a good mother and a productive artist?

Unfortunately I’m not the poster child for a healthy work/family balance, though I am always trying. A lot of times my work is feast or famine, so I tend to work within those parameters. When my work life is all-consuming, I ask my family for patience and they generally understand that it’s temporary. But that means I need to be present and engaged with them when the work slows down. But I always find myself wishing that there were a little more downtime, fewer obligations. 

I’m always working to change that balance, though. For instance, my son needs to read for 20-30 minutes each night as part of his homework. He likes it when I sit with him, so now we read together. It’s a nice bit of togetherness and the upside is that I get to read every day, something I didn’t do much of when he was younger. It’s a win-win for both of us. 

As for burning out, that danger is always present. But the one thing that keeps me going through just about everything is reminding myself that it’s all temporary – whether it’s specific parenting challenges, a heavy workload, lack of personal time, etc. If I can remember that it’s temporary I can put one foot in front of the other until it’s done. And when that temporary challenge is over, I celebrate in some way – a date with my husband on a weekday after weeks of non-stop work, a double feature, or lounging around in my pajamas for the day. 

And now the easy questions. What has been the most exciting point in your career to date and why? How do you celebrate?

Your easy questions made me laugh. I’m still looking for the most exciting point in my career to date – and I hope sincerely that I never find it! I am much more excited about the possibilities ahead of me than anything I’ve achieved in the past. My joy lies in the journey. But I will say, it was very exciting to receive my first paycheck for a creative endeavor. Realizing that someone will pay you to be creative is a wonderful, wonderful feeling! I still get a little thrill every time I receive a check. I hope that never goes away.

Thanks again Suzonne for stopping to really think about how you would answer. Can I say, I have even a bigger girl crush on you after I read your answers. The “have it all” statement was right on. Such smart friends she has. And her thought about the “joy lies in the journey” is so inspiring. I feel honesty not only helps us with our process, it’s also helpful to anyone who shares similar circumstances or problems as us. In sharing my internal conflict with my creative self and motherhood, I’m hoping to empower others to be better at both by making respectful choices for themselves and their children.

For her thoughtful post on the power of women’s friendships, read her lovely thoughtful Valentine’s Day entitled A Season of Women here.

Creative Momma Q and A’s

There’s a theme emerging that I found myself wanting to follow and question and gather opinions and empowerment on. The theme is creativity and mothering. I started my quest for clarity when I wrote this piece on the Cone Collective meet-up in Baltimore, an event organized by Jennifer Cooper. She was kind enough to answer my questions about her experience with being a creative and a mother.  She also kindly offered me my first guest post on her blog Classic Play(note her comment on helping others in the Q and A).

I wrote and she published The Needs Of The Many and The Needs Of You , my thoughts on taking care of my creative needs and the needs of my infant. I then realized I’d found a subject I was interested in exploring a little more.

drawn like a moth to a flame

On the blog on Monday, the next installment in my journey to explore this topic as a Question and Answer with favorite blogger and magazine stylist Suzonne Stirling. She’s a Mom and is full-time freelance creative. Her answers were really interesting and gave me insights I hadn’t expected. How to balance creativity and motherhood will be an ongoing theme and one I hope benefits you or someone you know. Enjoy.

Slow Blogging My Way

Feature Picture courtesy of Holly Becker and her Blogging Your Way  ecourse

New Year’s intentions don’t leap fully formed from my head like Athena from Zeus’ skull. They need to simmer a little. There’s no simmering during Christmas when the To-Do list is doubled and you have to put breathing on it to remember to do so. But on the 12th day of Christmas, I had something to say. I’ve been watching, reading, and listening to my fellow bloggers and there’s a trend I am very happy to see spreading.

back bathroom

The theme that’s spreading throughout the blogasphere isn’t too new. It’s called “slow blogging”, a concept I first fell upon in this post at You Are My Fave dot Com. Back in October. At the same time, I was taking my second blogging ecourse from Holly Becker, who in this recent post, Resolve To Be Happy, talks about a return to passion not automation. She’s been in the blogging business since blogging’s start.

So has Erin Loechner who writes the Design For Mankind blog. In this post from a year ago about slow blogging, says,”I miss the days when blogging itself was my muse. When the simple act of sharing something I stumbled upon was the joy itself and not a frenzied race to click link after link in hopes that I’ll have discovered something truly amazing.”

shelves

My gut says that when blogging gurus Holly Becker, Melanie Blodgett, and Erin Loechner say slow down and live your best life through your blog, they may be on to something. I intend to use this medium as an impetus. To create, inspire, befriend, take pictures, and complete my life. Blogging is a malleable medium. You can work diligently to create numbers, nay mass quantities of followers. Or you can feel the zen-ness of it all. I’m the latter sort of blogger.

It was when I read Britta’ post on Hudson and Hill that someone had made simple the pay-off. “It’s how I connect with myself and other people who are on the same path as me. I’ve found so much hope and inspiration and laughter from other bloggers, and this is my small way to join the conversation”.

the other shelves

I would desperately love to have more people to read what I write since I do want it to be enjoyed. And I also want to feel joy and wonder and gratitude. To let things evolve while doing my best to allow them to and not compare myself to the “producers”. I believe that if I build it, and provide quality content while always striving to improve my technical and writing skills, they will come.

So thanks to all these stellar hard-working dedicated women I have come across who are speaking out to create a climate that is about the quality, creativity, sincerity, and comfort of the posts we create. Sandra and Melanie, you are dolls. Kathy and Amy, you are my camp. Jane and Marg my faraway friends, you are also my inspirations. And all the people who jump in and out to say hey to me here and there, I see you and I hear you and you inspire me.

Edit is My Word of the Year

I was reading everyone’s New Year’s blogs. Most eschewed the concept of resolutions. I tend to agree with them when they said, it’s not about the goal but about the tweaking of the process. And I’d add, it’s about believing you are worth the effort.

The trend was more toward picking a word. Ooh I liked that. The best part of the Atlantic Monthly was the last page containing the newest words added to the dictionary. And bloggers were picking some really great words.

I considered Resolve. Nothing like buckling down to do the work you need to get done. It’s the American way. Not feeling the love.

I pondered Inspiration. This seemed more creative bound, but untethered.

I liked Intention, however it just wasn’t action verb-y enough.

And so I embraced EDIT because I know that the potential for progress for me lies in my focusing on what needs to happen next.

DSC02878

Goals

Every time I read how people had written their 2014 goals out, I felt irked. This is a pretty good indicator that I’m just frustrated with myself. And so I set my intention to gather all my little extraneous notes from everywhere and push myself to create goals. My obvious resistance to completing this action previously has a deeper meaning. The pattern is, if I don’t stick my neck out, I won’t be setting myself up for failure.

The goals were then separated into short, mid, and long-term. Every possibility was thrown on there. How I will monetize my blog? How I will take actions to update this sucker?And how will my niche play out if I could see through the brain cloud I have around myself and my “gifts”.

edited goal chart

Process

The fun part started when I made a goal chart with colored paper, post-it notes, and washi tape. Trying to corral all my different concepts and to-do lists onto paper is tough. I still seem to have one too many notebooks around. A journal, and idea book, a weekly planner, a legal pad, and a mini yellow pad for daily to-dos. Ideally, I’d like to have less stuff but when the inspiration hits to map stuff out, I take it. And I happened to get a book out of the library that was very inspirational. More about that later.

close up goal chart edited

Space

I tend to feel busy brained and crowded. I have so many ideas about all sorts of facets of my life, I have too much going on. And the baby’s constant company and no real me time to unfold into but the nighttime tinged with exhaustion, makes for a mental feeling of claustrophobia. So I made a space for myself up in my craft room to write. Physical space. And I asked for baby help as often as I can get it. Mental space to then schedule tasks that feel like movement.

card and pencil

Edit

I shuffled and condensed and touched and made decisions on papers and objects around me. I keep doing this. I keep deciding what I no longer am and gave me permission to be who I want to be. Letting go and stepping up. Asking for support and accepting it. And this is the process of editing.  I feel lighter. I feel more positive. And I feel certain that this year’s going to be Bold Brilliant and Beautiful.

First Sneak Peek

This is me letting you know

I Did it.

What you say?

Something I’ve promised you, my dear reader, since October.

Here’s a hint.

office shot

Can you guess?

Stay tuned.

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