Leiah M Jansen

January 29, 2018


care collage

January 1st is an arbitrary time to begin anew.

Happy New Year to all – at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
~Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets

But I still like New Year because of the historical tradition to start fresh in January. Plus, coming right after the hustle-bustle of the holidays is good timing. When the new year rolls around, I’m usually ready for it. Ready to halt and then breathe.

This year has started out slow.

But any time, any month, any week, any day is a good time to steer yourself in a different direction.

I haven’t had much success with single new year’s resolutions in the past. I’ve come to know myself well enough to know that I rarely follow through with succinct goals. I’m better at general “vibey” goals, made up of multiple activities. I’d rather focus on trying to shift my mindset to get closer to being the person I want to be.

In the past, moodboards, pinterest boards, and slideshow screensavers of inspiring photos have helped steer me in the direction of who I want to be. This year, when thinking about my new year’s “resolutions”, I considered what seems missing? What area of my life feels like it could be stronger?

The idea of having a “one little word” for the year is one that resonates with me. (I first learned about this concept in the scrapbooking community.) In previous years, I’ve chosen words. But I didn’t actually do much with these words each year; I only remember these because I had them engraved on a ring.

one little word rings

2013: unstuck
2014: connect
2015: burn
2016 & 2017: I never chose words
2018: care

This year, I didn’t plan on choosing a word. It came out of trying to wrap my arms around the general new-years-y vibes I was feeling at the end of December.

I chose care.

I’m not planning any elaborate activities or goals based around this word. Again, it’s just a general vibe and path I’d like to steer myself on to. Become more caring. When I have a choice, choose to care.

Care encompasses many areas of my life. It means self-care, home care, earth care, caring about relationships, caring about my body, about my possessions, about how I present myself to the world, caring through sharing, caring enough to research more, and caring about my art and creative work. Mostly, I’d say care = self love. But going further than just “take baths and do yoga”, it’s about respecting my talent and working harder to access the greatness I know I possess and can achieve.

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
~Steve Prefontaine

So far this year, these are some things that have sparked my interest and helped me act more from a place of caring:

You can boil down all interactions to two categories: ones that grow love and ones that diminish it. Choose love.
~Jewel Kilcher

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November 17, 2017

My Yearbooks

Since I only ever take digital photos these days, my pictures rarely get printed. Even if I did order prints, where do you put them? Who wants all that paper clutter?

I don’t really care if I have photos displayed in my home. And I don’t super miss photo albums like I had growing up. But I do miss being able to show people pictures in-person and talk about them. (And not via Facebook.) But instead of printing single photos, I’ve come up with a solution that I’ve been quite satisfied with for the past 6 years: yearbooks.

My yearbook is a photo album that only includes photos from the past year.

Before Thanksgiving every year (since 2012), I make a single square photo album that sums up our year. I include all our best/favorite photos from the past 12 months and create themed page spreads. Then I bring the book with me the next time we visit family. When they ask, “what have you guys been up to?” I pull out the book and show them (and I secretly love doing that).

I don’t just toss all my photos into the book– I deliberately plan out what each page spread will be. This forces me to create a narrative for the year, and it’s actually pretty insightful. Do I like the story of my life this year? What would I change for next year?

One theme that we loved from 2013 has had a place every year since: food we loved this year. Looking back at old yearbooks is super fun, especially this food page and seeing what we were loving back then.

A couple of our books have signatures in them. I think this came out of my sister joking about it being a “yearbook” and asked if she could sign it like you do with school yearbooks (quite literally: “never change!”). I said yes, and let other family members and friends write in it, too.

One other thing I do with these books is tape our holiday card into the back. I just use double-stick tape on the back of an envelope. This way, I have that year’s holiday card right with the book. We typically write about our travels and life events on the card, too, so it’s also there for that extra info.

Details about the books:

  • I make them on Shutterfly. Their software is easy to use and the print quality is fine.
  • Besides my photos, I use only free backgrounds, stickers, and elements in Shutterfly. I try to just have fun with the layouts and get them done as efficiently as possible, knowing that if I spend too much time on it I will get sucked in and be frustrated that Shutterfly isn't my beloved Adobe InDesign.
  • Each book is 8x8 inches. One of my books came with a free upgrade: Lay-flat pages. It's bigger than the rest. Unfortunately, Shutterfly doesn't tell you that their fancy layflat pages makes your book 1 cm wider. Had I known, I wouldn't have done it.
  • Shutterfly's 8x8 books are about $20. I typically pay for mine using free 8x8 book coupons I get from my local Safeway. I can pretty much rely on getting a coupon in the fall. If I didn't get a coupon, I'd just wait for a good sale: Shutterfly always has sales.

My Yearbooks ⇒ Creatively Operating, leiahmjansen.com, @oleiah

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October 5, 2017

Handmade Fabric Autumn Banner

I love fall, but I don’t have a ton of autumn- or Halloween-themed home decor. To keep my holiday decorating contained and manageable, I usually create a little “altar” of decorations. For autumn it’s candles and pumpkins. For Christmas it’s our little tree with lights.

This year I decided to create a small fabric banner that I could hang at my altar and reuse in the future. This mini tapestry now hangs where a Christmas tree would, and nicely fills the vertical space.

I used only scrap fabric I already had.

  • tie-dye: from a maxi skirt that I altered into a mini skirt
  • chevron print: from new pillowcases I sewed earlier this year
  • black & white print: from a sample fabric swatch of a print I made for Soul Flower
  • plain black fabric: an old t-shirt of Rob's that I cut into rags

The fringes I made by cutting thin strips of the knit fabric and stretching them a bit. Knit fabric tends to curl when you pull on it, creating the perfect fringes!

The twine pieces are from a roll of jute(?) string I’ve had for years. Surprisingly, it comes in handy for a lot of things. I’ll have to buy more when it runs out.

The letters I cut out of black t-shirt fabric and stitched on. Knit fabric is a pain to work with like this! It curls up like crazy. I struggled with “Happy” but learned for “Autumn”: I coated the backside of it with Elmer’s glue and let it dry before cutting out the letters. Glue acts as a sizing to the fabric, adding stiffness and preventing it from curling. Worked like a charm!

I sewed everything with my old sewing machine, except the blanket stitching around the edges (which I did by hand).

I painted the pumpkin with acrylic paints, starting with a white base and a second coat of orange. The white behind helped the orange paint pop, instead of getting lost into the black background. Drew the pumpkin lines on with orange Sharpie.

It’s the perfect addition to my little autumn altar!

Handmade Fabric Autumn Banner ⇒ Creatively Operating, leiahmjansen.com, @oleiah

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April 27, 2017

How I'm Building a Kinder Wardrobe

It’s Fashion Revolution week this week. Because of my job, I think about ethical fashion every day. My wardrobe is still a work in progress, but for the past few years I’ve started to actually align what I wear with my values.

What inspired me to build a more mindful wardrobe:

  1. working at Soul Flower
  2. watching The True Cost movie
  3. learning about ethical fashion, minimalism, zero waste, veganism, and all different aspects of mindful living

As of April 2017, this is my wardrobe:

sidenote: yes, my clothes are mostly black and gray. this is a deliberate style that took me years to figure out. but that's a story for another time.

35% of the items in my wardrobe are secondhand: bought thrifted, got at a swap, or are hand-me-downs from someone. The rest I bought new. I’d like to buy LESS brand new.

I don’t have many items that I’ve owned for a long time. I tend to cycle through clothes because they’re shitty and start to look bad, or because I get bored. I’d like to give my clothes a longer life cycle.

A pretty decent chunk of my wardrobe was made in the USA, and I credit that to all the clothes I own from Soul Flower. The rest of these countries are from brands whose working conditions I know nothing about. Not cool.

Moving forward, here’s how I’ll continue to build a kinder wardrobe:

Buy less

Always first: buy less. It’s hard to go against the cultural norm of buy, buy, buy. You’ve got to continually remind yourself why you don’t want to participate in our consumerist world. But collecting clothes and things doesn’t help our planet and doesn’t make us happier.

Buy secondhand

If I do buy clothes, shoes, or accessories, secondhand will be my first instinct. I’ve had good luck buying used online from eBay, Vinted, Poshmark, and ThredUp. (Here’s a referral link to ThredUp - you get $10, I get $10.) I enjoy the hunt, and although I’m hesistant to admit this: in the past, I’ve spent hundreds of hours searching for a single item… over the course of weeks/months. But all that time and energy has resulted in the best-made purchases in my closet. No joke.

Buy USA made

It’s becoming easier and easier to find USA-made brands these days. And I will continue to seek them out. I like USA made because it seems like those items are higher quality and more mindfully designed and crafted. Plus it supports local economies and people getting paid fair wages.

Buy Fair Trade

Buying Fair Trade is the next best thing to buying USA made, I think. I’m not against purchasing items made in other countries, as long as the workers there are treated like actual humans and not machines. Fair Trade means safe working conditions, third party oversight, and fair wages. Jewelry is incredibly easy to find Fair Trade (or handmade in the USA), so that’s a category where I have zero tolerance for fast fashion.

Love what I own

This can be difficult because it’s so easy to get swept up in wanting what other people have and getting sick of what I have. But I think once you start to buy more mindfully, you are careful about what you bring into your wardrobe. You’re more likely to pick something you LOVE instead of something that’s just on sale. And this makes loving that item easier.

If we want to see fashion become a force for good, we're going to have to change the way we think about what we wear and why we wear it. We need to love our clohtes more. We need to look at them as precious heirlooms and as trusted friends.

How to be a Fashion Revolutionary

Another aspect to loving what I already own is taking care of what I own. Mending rips and tears. Laundering correctly. Washing my bras in a mesh bag and air drying to make them last longer. I’d also love to get an indoor clothesline or drying rack in our apartment to cut down on energy and wear.

To help you in YOUR journey

  • I’m collecting USA-made and ethically-made items and brands I like on my Slow Fashion pinterest board.

  • The Done Good app/Chrome extension alerts you when you’ve found a mindful brand. I’ve discovered a bunch of awesome companies with this.

  • Verena Erin of My Green Closet youtube channel does an inspirational job living and explaining ethical fashion.

  • There are a thousand other ethical fashion resources I could link to here. But I don’t want to overwhelm. If you’re interested, just search for ‘ethical fashion’ and follow your heart.

Here’s to living mindfully!

How I'm Building a Kinder Wardrobe ⇒ Creatively Operating, leiahmjansen.com, @oleiah

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I am an artist who collects. Instead of keeping everything to myself, I'm trying to share more. This blog is for my artwork, finds, and creative projects, along with inspiration and thoughts on creative and intentional living.