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,, @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,, @oleiah

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January 13, 2017

Why Working From Home Sucks/Is Awesome

I’ve been working from home since June 2011 = 5.5 years. Before that, I only worked in real offices for 3 years. So I’ve been working remotely longer than I ever worked in a workplace. Wow. We live in the future!

Now, I don’t work for myself (I’m not freelance), I work for a company. I’m just a remote employee, away from an office full of people up at headquarters 1,200 miles away.

Working from home is, on the whole, amazing and awesome. If you asked me how I like working from home, I’d say, without pause, “I love it.” But everything good is balanced with bad. Here’s what I think:

AWESOME: quiet

It’s quiet at home. I like quiet. I can sit and really think through things without having to drown out voices with noise cancelling headphones. I’m a quiet introvert by nature; quiet is my jam.

SUCKS: no co-workers

Yes, I have co-workers, but we obviously don’t work together in the same space. This makes casual brainstorming and impromptu chats about ideas super rare occurences. That melding of minds, that social interaction – I know they’re powerful, but it’s harder to do online. Also, communicating with people via email and the internet is so much slower. Meaning, intent, body language, and subtle messages get lost in translation.

AWESOME: no commute

I kind of hate driving. When I worked in an office and had to drive to work in snowy Minnesota weather, I would take the long way because it was more winding-back-roads/less go-fast-on-crowded-highway and it felt safer. Driving is stressful shit and I feel sad for anyone who has to commute to work everyday. I’m so incredibly thankful I don’t have to. Having to drive to work again would be a dealbreaker for me.

SUCKS: never leave the house

When you work, eat, chill, and sleep - all in the same space - you never have to leave the house! Working from home has definitely turned me into more of a homebody. Mayyyybe a little bit of a hermit. It’s just so EASY to stay home and fill my day with work and projects; sometimes I have to force myself to get the hell out of here for a change. Can’t say I’m proud of keeping myself cooped up all the time, but when my only reason to leave is to go buy an overpriced latte? I usually talk myself out of it.

AWESOME: flexible time

Because I don’t have to answer to a boss who sits down the hall, I have more flexiblity with my time and with how I choose to structure my day. It’s nice to feel like I have a safe space for drawing all day long and not being required to talk to anyone.

SUCKS: feeling like a slacker

There’s a stigma about working from home: that if you work at home you’re not really working, you’re just watching TV and sleeping. It’s an old-fashioned perspective, I think. Old skool managers think you’re trying to get out of work by “working” from home so you can just sit around all day and goof off. Anyone who works remotely will tell you this isn’t the case. In fact, I often feel like I need to prove that I’m a hard worker, by replying to emails right away, and always answering the phone, and working late if I didn’t “show” enough work for the day. Whatever that means. It’s all made-up in my mind. I never want to look like a slacker, so I try extra hard to not be.

Does anyone out there NOT like working from home? What are the biggest things you miss by being away from the action? Advice on keeping things balanced?

Why Working From Home Sucks/Is Awesome ⇒ Creatively Operating,, @oleiah

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January 6, 2017

7 Goals for my 2017 Art Practice

Every year I make resolutions but they suck. And I usually try to make too many changes at once, in every single area of my life at the same time. Same old story.

I’m over resolutions.

That said, I still like the idea of New Years and starting fresh. “Resolutions” but in a different way… I like the One Little Word concept, or the idea of coming up with a “theme” for the year rather than specific goals. Or creating a moodboard of how you want to feel this year.

Maybe I’ll do some of those, too. I always like a good moodboard.

A big part of the changes I want to cultivate in this new year have to do with my art practice and creativity. I want need to make it better. And I foresee more art equalling more happiness for me. At least right now in this season of my life.

So in 2017, I think I can do these:

Embrace my weird

Embracing everything that I inherently love, even if it’s embarrassing or cliche. Drawing from my love of 90s movies, incorporating whatever esoteric kick I’m on right now, art journaling weirdo imaginary characters…

Feed the beast

Throw a glance to my artistic diet. Not a complete overhaul, just thinking more about what I’m putting into my inspiration. What am I consuming that can feed my art practice? Should my inputs be more varied? What sources of inspiration am I binging on that aren’t serving me?

Make a damn mess

Explore mixed media. I’ve got the supplies and I know I enjoy creating with all those tools. Plus it’s different than my typical (9-to-5) work projects.

Change my mind

Whatever the hell I feel like drawing, do it. If I feel like abandoning my art journal or starting a new drawing challenge, whatevs. I always place too many restrictions on my art and end up hating the process. I’m gonna try to go with the flow of whatever exciting new thing is capturing my interest right now. Life’s too damn short.

Share it

I have this romanticized vision of working secretly in my cave, all alone, til I’ve created this amazing collection of work. Then I unleash it upon the world and everyone is dazzled. I’ve even heard the blogging advice of “don’t start a blog until you have a dozen [insert number here] posts already written and ready to publish”. But it doesn’t work like that for me. I get bored and I can’t stick with it. However regrettably, I thrive on finishing something and putting it out there. Maybe because I’m a Leo and they say Leos always want to be the center of attention. I guess I kinda do it for the Likes, and the recognition. (Admitting this makes me cringe.) But whatever. If that little hit of dopamine keeps me making art, I’ll take it. Publish.

Simplify life shit

So that I can clear more space in my head and my environment to fill with art. Quit saying yes to other projects and ideas. Purge physical clutter and things that are no longer serving me. Buy less. Try to keep my apartment clean. Clear out my desk drawer often so I don’t have to live with old, useless shit. Embrace my core self and quit feeling bad about eating supper in front of the tv, or wanting to sleep in, skipping a workout, or being a hermit. It’s all good.

Lighten up

Don’t take art so seriously. Play. Draw like a child (forever). Make ugly stuff and share it (yes, share the ugly!), do whatever, and worry less about how I’m “supposed” to draw, or how I “should” make art.

Whaddya think, friends? Does your art practice need a hit of freshness? What’s your biggest annoyance in your (daily/weekly/rare) creative life?

7 Goals for my 2017 Art Practice ⇒ Creatively Operating,, @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.

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