Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Reflections, perceptions and pressures

Contrast - what you see versus real life

It's been a bit of a quiet month at work and as we all know quiet times are ripe for reflection.

I've been thinking a lot about the pressures we (or at least I) place on ourselves when running a creative business. There's the pressures of making a living and being innovative, which are hard enough, but I think the biggest pressure is fulfilling one's own expectations.

How do you define personal success? I find it's a definition which can get muddied by the pressure to be everything that other people assume you to be, and to be everything you assume your idols to be.

Sometimes I really feel like our blogging community is one big double edged sword. As many of us are strive to establish ourselves as creative individuals we filter and only present our best images (I'm definitely guilty of that). But at the same time we're reading each other's blogs and feeling so much pressure to measure up to unrealistic ideals that we ourselves are perpetuating.

Contrast - what you see versus real life

Perfect example - the home photo shoot. Select the prettiest rooms/nooks in our houses, tidy them up, play happy families. How much of that is real? I know of many couples who have had to pose for a photo shoot pretending all is fine when the reality is far from it. My flat is another great example. Even in this post I daren't show you my 2nd bedroom.

Even though conciously we're often hiding our dirty bathrooms and relationship issues and financial struggles, at the same time we're blindsighted to the struggles that others might be facing. So we fill in the gaps in our knowledge with the most rose tinted images that are very likely unrealistic.

I guess what I'm starting to realise is that perceptions aren't reality and sometimes we need to change our ideals. I want to feel grateful for what I do have, what we have achieved, and not place all this pressure on myself to be something that's probably not realistically achievable.

From a business perspective this means accepting that it is very, very hard to make a decent living doing something you love! All those creative businesses who I (and you) idealise - more often than not they face the same problems we do, just on a bigger scale with more stress. I'm still striving to prove that it is possible to make a decent living from a creative & ethical business, but the reality is that we're not there yet.

If you've read this far, then thank you. I know this post is a bit disjointed but I hope it makes some sense.

xx

58 comments:

Belinda said...

This is a very timely post for me - on maternity leave from my office job, and with big dreams of a change of direction - something more creative... something with textiles... Anyway, I appreciated reading your post. It's nice to have dreams and goals, as long as they don't stress you and stop you from enjoying what you have.

Whilst it might not be a big money maker, Ink and Spindle is (I believe)widely admired for it's ethics and beautiful products - at least by me!!. Thank you for sharing your skills with others that love what you produce.

Now I just have to decide how many of the pieces of fabric I currently have in my shopping cart I can afford to buy on my currently limited income...! :-)

Best wishes and good fortune to you!

ellie said...

Bravo. True words, thoughts, feelings. I go through that emotional / intellectual thing of looking at other creatives; feeling inspired, jealous, intimidated, out of place.......
Thanks for showing us the reality of your real home pics! Good to know that even those of you without two crazy messy kids can keep a crazy messy house. Yah to real mess - but only if we often have visitors (or magazine shoots!) to 'force' a house clean. And, isn't that what second bedrooms are for!

I hope one day being a creative, trying to earn a living gets easier- but I don't hold my breathe about that one.

With love and encouragement, Ellie

Mookah said...

Congrats on writing a nice honest piece, even though I'm sure it was very difficult to do and involved many hours of pondering the big issues.

I certainly agree that most in the industry, including ourselves, face very similar struggles. Lets face it, throwing it all in to work for someone else would be a much easier and more financially rewarding option, yet we choose the creative option because we are striving for something more.....

Don't ponder too long or you will go mad!

CurlyPops said...

Such a great post Lara.
It's extremely difficult to make a living doing what you love. From the outside looking in, it all seems like a bed of roses.
I guess that blogs also don't illustrate that lots of people with small craft businesses work really hard for long hours, and in lots of cases also have to take on other part time jobs to earn an liveable income.
I certainly take my hat off to you for living your dream, taking the plunge and giving it a go!
Now, if I could just change your perception regarding magenta....

yardage girl said...

Thanks, Lara - your words really resonate with me, and I'm sure many others trying to be a creative business. I am in awe of what you do - mainly because I know a little bit about how hard it must be at times. Hope to catch up with you soon in real life, for a real chat! Nic x

Pip said...

I totally agree with you. Yes. I do. Xx

Kaija said...

Thank you, Lara. This is something I too have had in mind lately. We are all so scared to let it show how we are not superheroes of the design world after all. (Oh we are, but we can still have a mess for a life!) I'm the melancholic Finn, who avoids being melancholic on her blog, but ends up being melancholic after all and freaks people out. It is hard to find the balance and help people see the person behind the blog without getting too personal, it is not my diary and my mom reads it :)

Thanks for giving me more food for thought once again!

Annie said...

Lara, I just LOVE what you do. I get so excited when I see your fabrics in the world and I hope your dream continues. I thought your "real" pictures were very affirming. Good wishes to you

Miss said...

Dear Lara
thank you for your honesty in this post. It's big of you to share the other side of the photoshoot, and I appreciate also your reflections on being what we are and/or what others think we are.

If I may say so, you've always come across to me as a real person - honest, and with integrity. This post is an expression of those good things.

Thank you, and I hope your 2011 is full of all good things.

Jenny

Penny (Pocket Carnival) said...

This is sort of the post I was tapping out on the keyboard today, but I couldn't figure out how to word it!

But, agreed. Yes. Exactly. Argh.

Daz said...

Hi Lara,

I agree. I love to read and look at the pics in mags such as Aussie House and Garden. I must continually remind myself that the pictures shown are not reality... but its nice escapism in any case !

Daz

monda-loves said...

I think you've summed up very well what we all feel at times.
I'm really hoping that I can make a decent living from doing what I love. It's hard work at times, but then I just have to think about what 'working for the man' was like, and it doesn't compare. We may be poorer in pocket right now but richer in so many other ways.

CraftyCripple said...

You are so right. It is hard to live up to what you believe other people are doing. I find that I wonder if half the bloggers I read actually get any sleep at all. Its the only explanation to how they can manage so much, that or they have "staff". Its the same with only seeing the perfect finished product. We don't see the 16 failed attempts or the rubbish seams hidden away on the inside. Its why I do try to be honest about my failures even if I do show my prettiest pictures too.

I really admire what you are trying to achieve with your business, and I love your designs. I just wish I had more money to buy it LOL. That's the other reality about crafting that never seems to be spoken of, how flipping expensive it all is. It seems the only people who can afford the glorious fabrics we all covet are those who have a good source of income coming into the house NOT from crafting.

Cindy said...

It makes a whole lot of sense. You can devote every cell in your being to what you love doing, and it still wouldn't be enough to make a living. It's hard work.

LeeAnn said...

I find it very difficult in "keeping up with the Jones" of the design/crafty world. The internet/publications allow me to see so many beautiful things that I would otherwise not have seen in my small town. I start to see trends and themes and somewhere in me there is a subtle change where I start to want additional "things". I started sewing as a means to be creative but also remain thrifty and live within my means. Though I completely recognize that perfect images are the best at promoting/selling/marketing, I don't like the way they leave me wanting, if you know what I mean. I have to be conscience of this and make sure when I do purchase it's not always an emotional purchase. I LOVE how you laid out your photos for this post. Perception vs Real. I may like this more than Before and Afters!

Thea said...

Hi Lara, I can totally relate to every word you have typed. It IS hard and stressful trying to make a decent living from what we do and I really appreciate your honesty as I often wonder what is wrong with me or why I continue and if it ever gets easier? We have to believe so, right?

It helps knowing that I'm not alone in feeling the many pressures. And yes, my house is a total mess! Thanks for sharing. The very best of fortunes to you. x

Ink and Spindle said...

Well said! Nothing to add that we haven't already discussed in depth, other than I've seen your 2nd bedroom & I love you even more because it exists ;)

Luz, you're the best & I'm grateful everyday that you came in to my life and we started Ink & Spink! Can't imagine not getting to hang out/be dorks/talk about boys/rant about whatever bee I have in my bonnet/discuss our plans for the future/eat avocado & jatz/laugh hysterically with you :)

The universe will provide ;) xxT

Joanne said...

So nice to see both sides of the coin. I agree with you so much and think it's great you said so.

Sam said...

very hard. yes. worth it? this is where i'm often unsure. it's so nice to know that we're not alone though as we make these decisions...

Susanna said...

This is an awesome post. Thank you so much for writing it, and for your sincere look into the creative dream. We're all struggling, we may know but it's so easy to forget, and in in some way it's nice to hear we're not alone. Thank you again. Wish you all the luck!

Anna said...

Oh, I loved this post -- the honesty here. Thank you for sharing it with us.

(And I love the 'reality' shots, too! A lived-in life in all its physical and emotional messiness is a beautiful thing :)

keepup said...

Yay Lara! Thanks for that post.
I think we all know the pics in magazines and blogs are just a mirage. When my house was in a Sunday mag it took me a week to clean up.
We still love to look and dream that maybe tomorrow we might be able to get our places like that and maybe keep them like that.
After many years I have realized that the tidy ones are in the minority. Creativity and tidyness don't often go together.(unless they have a cleaner)
In reality we are all just making a living and something has to give, for me it is always the housework. After many years I am comfortable to leave it and just have a day out on my day off instead of wasting it on just cleaning.
Be proud of what you have achieved
and keep doing it as long as you still love it and can pay the bills and take a wage.
Lynn

Rosie said...

OMG! I have been drafting similar thoughts all week. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to admit I have held you guys up as a model of success and something to strive towards. Having read this post, I'm even in more awe of what you have achieved. Congrats on living the dream...even if it is a struggle at times. Makes it all worth while in the end.

Kara Cartisciano said...

First time I've read your blog Lara and I can relate to everything you wrote...beautifully honest!

Frankie and Ray said...

Sometimes I feel like that duck that looks like it's gliding along, when underneath the water I'm paddling like a crazy woman. Do we think nobody wants to see the hard work, bad back, and long hours we put in for not a great financial return? Perhaps they do. Whatever, I'm incredibly grateful for your work, mine would suffer without access to your lovely designs, ethical and sustainable product, and all round fantastic business relationship. Some days are better than others I guess! Jo x

flowerpress said...

A great post and it reminds me of a similar one I loved on Melody Miller's blog here: http://melodymiller.typepad.com/ruby_star_rising/2011/02/racy-thoughts-from-inside-my-head-1.html

Thank you for your honesty and for the pictures of mess :-)

Ink and Spindle is a great achievement and while you may not have riches yet you do have the admiration of many, including me.
Susie

Jess @ modamuse said...

thanks for your honesty lara! i can completely relate and sometimes it feels like you're sinking rather than swimming. i just hope you can keep on doing your creative thang for as long as possible because you are brilliant and have achieved so much!

Suzy said...

Such a great post. I feel a similar pressure trying to make things while juggling little children. Sometimes it seems everyone else is more productive, has better taste and a tidier house than me!

wendy june said...

God Lara, you call that a mess, come to my house- I promise not to tidy up for you! As for my studio I have to enter it in sideways otherwise I wouldn't get in... I think you have a good balance and perspective on our whole creative industry, and to be honest it isn't just our industry- this is life. Every single business is doing the same thing. We need to stop seeing ourselves as "creatives" and hook in to the fact we are small businesses.

Love Ya Lara!

sneakycrafty said...

I was only thinking recently about the images we post of 'design', as if the lives played out on the set don't exist. Thanks for the honest post, it's a great 'fourth wall' moment and much more about the mess of life that together with our love of colour and form make it all up. I was going to say 'into... life's rich tapestry'! and so would have fallen head first into cheese!

Marjorie Rose said...

Hi! I happened upon your blog after The Design Files featured your lovely place. I must say that I loved everything about it, which is what led me here.

I like the immediate honesty in this post and I definitely agree. I just hope that people are not so impressionable that they take things at face value only. No one's home could ever look like a Martha Stewart Living magazine day in and day out. That's not living at all. No one's life is as glorious or as bad as what is portrayed in pictures or articles. What's comforting is that we ALL go through it-- the ups, downs and in-betweens.

I admire people who know this and recognize it. I'm glad I found your blog :)

Amy said...

I can only echo what everyone else has said! So thankyou - this post was exactly what I needed right now.

(And remember: messy is beautiful too! Life is messy after all).

Fer said...

It makes perfect sense. :-)

Tali said...

Love this post. It's so true!!
We are all guilty of perpetuating these myths though aren't we?
Whether we are 'creatives' or not.

Doing what you love is a hard slog and the creative community rarely talks about this aspect.

You've distilled it well in this post! Cheers!

Tali said...

oh, and you don't want to see the dust bunnies living in my flat right now!

Renae said...

Great post! I love it when people open up and show that everything isn't always perfect all the time. The blog world certainly gives the illusion that everyone has perfect lives, with perfect crafts that always turn out just right, yummy dinners and immaculate gardens. It's really not true!

Leni and Rose said...

Spot on! It's trying to live the ideal and often unrealistic measures of success that end up in feelings of not measuring up, inadequacy. And really, it's all an illusion...created by ourselves! I love how down to earth and just totally honest you are in this post and in your blog and in the business! It resonates all the way through and it's great. Real.

amongthechimneypots said...

Lovely post - very honest and refreshing.

shelf / life said...

Lara, so true! I think about this a lot as well... people often come into my shop and say 'wow, it's so nice in here - I bet you have a beautiful home'. So far from the truth - running a small creative business does not allow for time nor money for whiling away the hours on home decorating... or new clothes... or buying trips overseas... or even having a weekend sometimes! I struggle everyday with trying to keep up appearances to show that my little business is successful, but most of the time I am just a mess!

Thanks for the honesty and making me feel like it's ok to be human :)

rabbit and the duck said...

Hi Lara,
Thank you for writing such an honest post! You're definitely not alone with the day to day struggles of balancing a creative business with the need to earn a living. And I agree that our own expectations can be our downfall - I used to think that I could sew for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and earn x amount of $. Of course the reality is that this is physically impossible (I have the bad back to prove it) so I've re-evaluated what I want my business to achieve. It's helped me to really think about what is important, and that I don't need that much to be happy. I find happiness in being creative, having flexibility, and living simply. That being said, my rent has just been increased and I'm already freaking out : ) I'm sure it will all work out how it's meant to. Your work is so beautiful and the crafty community wouldn't be the same without you and Ink & Spindle : )
Love Shan x

Jesse said...

Thank you for this post! What a great way to turn negative thoughts into something positive. Blogging is double-edged, indeed - on the one hand, we're blogging for colleagues, and want to share the struggles, but on the other hand, we're blogging for customers, and want to share only the successes....

linda said...

Wow, what a thoughtful post. Visiting from Penny's blog and so glad to have read this. I totally can relate to the feelings of self -pressure. We are definitely our own worst critics. Of course, we aspire to that elusive perfection in life and work...even though we know it's impossible. I don't think there's anything wrong in showing off our nice spaces and presenting things beautifully. I do think presentation is important. However, we also have to understand that it is just that, a specific presentation and view. So we have to remind ourselves not be intimidated when we see that all around...that it's not real life - of course not! It's a photo shoot! But it's wonderful to have those images to inspire I think...

I have to say that your messy photos look pretty darn cool anyway :)

ChiaraS said...

Facing the same: 5 women and a textile-related ethical business, lots of wows and national newspapers articles, but struggling every day to make a decent living out of our beloved job. From Milan, Italy, our appreciation to you and all Ink&Spindle girls.

Leslie said...

Great post Lara, so honest and something many relate to, including me.

It's interesting because I dream of doing what you in fact already are doing at Ink & Spindle. So it is nice to read that even you, whom I perceived to be one of those lucky creatives have concerns and worries.

So thank you for reminding me that it's not all as perfect as it sometimes can appear...oh and you too have a second bedroom which is not magazine worthy!! Ha ;-)

Samgoose said...

Hi,
I've been reading your blog for a while and find it so inspirational. You're one of the people I would look at and think you had it all sorted in your wonderful creative job. As someone who aspires to one day have their own creative little business, it's so helpful to see that someone who is making a success of their talent has difficult days, loss of inspiration from time to time and generally experiences the same highs and lows as anyone else.
On a lighter note, one of the most awesome things about being creative is being able to have your own work all over your home, and your apartmrent looks beautiful. I'm not surprised it was chosen for the feature.

x Sam

Lynda said...

I guess we all just do what we can and don't get too caught up in being perfect. Perhaps there needs to be more blogs that subvert the before and after scenario and show reality. I enjoyed reading this - thanks

Little Mo and Friends said...

I've enjoyed this post very much Lara.

Thanks for reminding me that I can't always be perfect! I can't be the best drawer or blogger or have the most sales as my other artist friends. I just have to stay true to myself and keep drawing the things I love, and sharing my work as it is. Most of all I just have to be confident about what I have right now and work hard!

Thanks lara!

Full brim hard hats said...

These are very best images I like the yellow lamp it looks very beautiful and also reflecting it very much, good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Nice one Lara! Yep, can totally relate. No food in my cupboard, here at work at 7.30 working on design stuff with the flu! Completely unglamorous... Just hold onto that moment where you have a finished design in front of you that you like, before you get sick of it! Makes it all worthwhile :) And also... keep going! Lots of times I was ready to throw in the towel but so glad I didn't.

xxx Emily/Nancybird

boodely said...

Thanks so much for your honesty, and most of all for the pictures. I know all this in my head, but it's good to hear and see it again. Like seeing Jamie Lee Curtis in More magazine without special lighting, makeup, or photoshop. Oh right, she's got a normal body, and noone looks like they do in a magazine.

Michelle Engel Bencsko said...

I am grateful for a husband who believes in me and for family that can pitch in when I need them to (often). The house is a wreck, so is my mental and emotional state half the time- and I can't even reflect on my spiritual state, which I regret almost daily. However, there is something that drives me and I do believe in what I'm doing. And so long as the self-imposed levels of success are met even a fraction of the way, I'm quite pleased to continue on and give it all I've got. I consider the alternatives and I know what I'm doing is the best thing for me. For now, and hopefully for long into the future.

Stay strong! Stay inspired! Stay real!

Silvia said...

I think your post comes from the heart, and that's why we keep coming to this blog.
It's not about whether the apartment you showed us was pretty-perfect, or the life you post about is ideal. I think we all admire the talent that you've got (I certainly do!) and how you seem to make the best of each situation, even when life seems a bit hard.
We all have those moments (I certainly have one each day!) when I think: "Oh, dear - I can't say that, it would be negative" but hey, that's that.
In the end, we still get up and smile and keep going, and make the best of everything: a room, a job, or a business.
And you try.
And if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter as long as one tried.
I think you are wonderful.

Debt Management said...

Really it a great post. I feel a similar pressure trying to make things while juggling little children. Sometimes it seems everyone else is more productive, has better taste and a tidier house.

Grafik Fabrik said...

Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Jennifer said...

I couldn't agree more. The things that go on behind closed doors, the struggles we all face daily, most people don't want to see that. I admit when I go to a blog like yours, or see photos of a beautiful home, I want to think that someday, maybe I could have that life. Even though I know it's not real. Thanks for the reality check and keep on keeping on. Your work is marvelous!

Sarah Caroll said...

I'm a single woman with no significant other at the time; no great career; no sense of community; very little extended family; and no life savings...Yet I have a lot of heart and soul and a decent amount of smarts. So - I'm sorry - but all of you people who volunteer to "open" your lives to the rest of us - and then lie (may be too strong a word, I realize) about your lovely lives have actually contributed so much to the cynicism I feel about relationships and life in general. Don't you know we readers realize that life can't be as perfect as our favorite bloggers portray it to be? Don't you see how much we could all connect with one another as artists, as women, as human beings sharing this crazy trip around the sun with one another if we could only share our flaws along with our major victories?
Thank you so much for writing this post -- I'm actually humbled by your honesty. If only all bloggers could be as open and honest with their readers I think we'd have a much closer community. We're artists -- when did it become so important for us to pretend that we're perfect?!?
Best of luck to you -- you rock :).

Luisa said...

Thank you, Lara - for your honesty. I struggle with that too.

Katie said...

Oh, I just loved this blog! I loved the contrast between the magazine version and the real thing. Thank you so much for the real slice of life. I adore your prints and your work at Ink and Spindle. Divine!