Moments of Reflection on the Path to a Creative Lifestyle

Three years in the making. Three blog posts to reflect on the journey. 

If you missed Monday's blog post, please feel free to stop on over there and take a peek at the face behind these typed words or to get a bit of context for today's blog post.

Scarlet Elfcup began as a way for me to combine my love for knitting, sewing, reading, writing and photography hobbies. It was not begun because I thought I might have enough talent or skills to sustain a living out of making dolls or natural fiber arts. Far from that notion, I thought that I really wouldn't go very far with it all, but that it would be fun to try for it and to learn new things along the, what it takes to run an on-line business, what it takes to bring to life figments of the imagination that will transpire into something tangible and beautiful and that provokes this emotional response on the human soul...the thing we call art.

When I see lifestyle blogs, artist's creations photographed or handmade items posted online, I immediately imagine that the maker, the person behind the scenes is tucked away in a cozy cabin warmed by a hearth of fire, drinking a hot cup of tea or sitting prettily behind a beautiful minimalist workspace, writing or creating away in the peaceful bliss of endless time and space. I envision this magical sight where one can find the peace and clarity to spill one's soul to the world from a place you call your home.

The reality is, this is likely untrue for most creatives. For me, it's been a time-fight between endless loads of laundry, piles of dishes, grocery store runs, meals to plan and make, lunch boxes to pack and clean, my children's activities and school schedules (school performances, piano and violin lessons, swim practice, outdoor hikes for toddlers), a multitude of drop-offs and pick-ups throughout the day, a number of my own activities to keep my body and mind in balance (training for the next mountain, running for fitness, yoga to stretch my body and still my mind), life responsibilities (currently a massive project to rejuvenate and repair an old house of ours in San Francisco), time with extended family and friends and the list goes on. The truth is that some days I can barely keep my head on straight much less have a moment of peace and clarity to truly bring my visions to life.

In the first two years of bringing Scarlet Elfcup to life, my working hours were from 8:00 PM (when children have been tucked in) to 2:00 or 3:00 AM. At the beginning, my children were ages 1 and 3, so the days were designated to them entirely. At night, after they went to bed was when I was most productive, most inspired, most efficient because it was a lengthy span of time when the house was quiet and I can focus without interruption and with clarity to bring to life the endless dreams floating in my head. It was the time when I can see with much clarity how to bring my ideas into something tangible...a new pattern (whether it be doll, creature, doll clothing or knitted item).

For me, working out my ideas did not come so easily. There were countless times when I spent hours sketching, cutting, mocking up a pattern and then scrapping all of it to start from square one again. Endless hours were spent in trial and error until alas those stitch lines would come together to form a body, a limb, a face, a garment that I felt proud and happy to have created. The process of bringing an idea to life, whether it be doll, creature or garment, took a lot of time. When one project was done, the process would repeat itself for the next project because I simply don't enjoy creating the same thing more than once. After two years of working by night and going on 4 hours of sleep a night, I had to adjust my lifestyle to fit in more sleep. After all, the signs from lack of sleep were starting to show in my health, my mind and emotional state. But, I'm "an all or nothing" sort of person. If I've decided to begin something, I have 100% of my best in it. I can't feel happy if I know I haven't put my best foot forward. And working nighttime hours for this duration was the only way I knew how to put my best effort and hard work toward Scarlet Elfcup.

These days, I sleep a full night's rest. After the children go to sleep, dishes cleaned and the next day's lunch boxes are packed and ready to go, I work for maybe an hour or two...that's nighttime rendezvous with Scarlet Elfcup friends have all but vanished. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit in Scarlet Elfcup time in between my busy daytime responsibilities. And truth be told, a creative process isn't one that can be "picked-up and dropped-off"'s a process that takes time, the right mood, the right ambiance, the right moment...that 'ah-ha' moment that doesn't just come magically as we will it to. 

Fitting Scarlet Elfcup into my daytime hours has been a process of adjusting and readjusting my creative time with my children's ever-growing schedules and demands. But, I've learned that this is the essential process of pretty much everything we tackle in life. We tackle something. We re-evaluate. We adjust. And we continue with this process until we reach a place of comfort, control and contentment. But, we make sure not to stay too comfortable because we know that nothing lasts forever and that we must be ready to go through the process of re-evaluating and re-adjusting even when we have felt settled and content.

Below: A few of my favorite projects from the previous years.

As I move through my own journey on the road toward a creative lifestyle, I can now fully appreciate what other artists must go through. No matter how beautiful and enchanting they showcase their life as an artist, the truth is, it's really not that glamorous. It comes with blood (literally...for all those needles and barbed felting tools that jab and poke are quite merciless sometimes), sweat and tears. There have been moments in my making when I simply wanted to break down with tears of the time I had spent nearly 10 hours completing a doll. I am on the homestretch and working to place the wig on the doll (my last step before the oh-so fun bit of making clothes for the doll). In the short span that is equivalent to the blink of an eye, a hangnail from one of my dried up fingers snags at the doll skin holding together a beautiful lip line and lo and behold, I have a beautiful doll smile with a hole next to her lip corner. Truly, the hole was equivalent to one single stitch on that jersey fabric that broke. But, unlike some mistakes that can be repaired (such as a dropped stitch in knitting), this one was not repairable. There have also been moments in my making when I simply had to step away from the project because I was not able to figure out a solution for how to stitch together an idea that I had envisioned. One such project was 'A Boy and His Gypsy Moth'. For this small boy and his gypsy moth, I had all the visions drawn and sketched. I was so ready to bring the project to life. But, after many trials of failed attempts at the gypsy moth that I wanted to create, I decided to set the project aside. Sadly, the project is still sitting untouched, but preserved like a museum piece, in a closet. Such is the life of creativity and making. It often does not go swiftly, efficiently or smoothly as we see in the beautiful online posts of Facebook and Instagram. But, I think we would have it no other way because the end result of our process (struggles and all) far exceed the pains we must hurdle to get there.

Join me on the next blog post. There I will tell you why I'm still in this and why I'm in it for the long run.