Who do you think you are?

30-something mother, wife, lawyer, writer, design junkie, craftaholic, cook

likes: clever tools, snazzy colors, working for justice, kid wrangling, Meyer lemons

dislikes: inefficiency, civil discovery, most shades of purple, Tori Amos

What? You want my life story?

My Shop

 

The Twitter


Subscribe!

 In Your Reader

 In Your Email

Sunday
Sep192010

Ta Da! New Shop

This is a post about my wee design business, but first I want to thank all of you lovely people who read my blog, who comment on my ramblings, and who identify with and encourage my peculiar brand of lunacy. Your comments and emails on my last post mean more to me than I can ever say.

Now, friends! I am so excited today. Because after months of dithering, weeks of coding, and hours of photographing and retouching (a task I'm sure is designated for one of the inner circles of Hell), I am finally ready to announce that the Cottage Industrialist SHOP is open!

"Wait, what?" you ask. "Haven't you had an Etsy shop or three? And wasn't there a stand-alone shop in there somewhere?"

Well, there is that.

But those were just dress rehearsals, trial runs.

"Why now?" you ask.

Well, I was prompted to ask myself how serious I am about this little business when I was approached by a home design magazine that wanted to feature my fabrics. (Cue cartoon eyeball-popping-out sound—details coming soon!) And after a lot of soul-searching, I realized this means a lot to me, that it's about far more for me than mere commerce. It's about connection and communication, too.

Now, I know that plenty of people do big-time business with nothing other than an Etsy store. That rocks. But for me, it has just never been a good fit. No matter how hard I worked at it, my Etsy shop never looked the way I wanted or had the options I wanted for my customers. Etsy is at the economic center of the vibrant handmade community, and while it garners huge traffic, I never felt I could stand out there amidst all the noise—though if I ever get around to making that letterpressed, mustachioed, owl-in-a-cowl riding a bicycle through a heart-shaped-bokeh-sparkle field of mushrooms, I am TOTALLY starting up a new Etsy shop.*

In the meantime, I'm taking a different tack. I won't leave the promotion of my work and my little corner of this community to others. I'm going to do it myself, on my terms; I won't always be able to afford advertising, but that's ok. When I do spend my money, I'm going to do it with my friends in the handmade community who support the values I try to impart to my work as a designer and crafter.

There's lots more to come over the next few months, but I just couldn't keep the lid on it any longer. Please consider signing up for my shop newsletter.** If you do, I promise to be perilously derelict in sending out updates; when I do send out updates (never more than 2 per month), I promise they'll be chockablock with fun freebies, nifty tidbits, and sidelong anecdotes of the sort you've come to expect from me. I decided to add a newsletter because, while I'm very happy to be writing this post, I don't want my blog to turn into a non-stop shilling station for my little business. They are related, but they aren't one-and-the-same.

hey, now! sign up for the shop newsletter





 

When you visit the shop—you are going to visit, right?—you'll see that, in addition to my fabrics, I have re-introduced a small selection of eco-friendly paper products and a variety of lovely new printables. And until September 30, enter "NEWSHOP" at checkout for 20% off on your whole order!

Finally, and at the risk of coming across like one of those people who give 10-minute awards acceptance speeches for awards no one cares about, I would be remiss if I didn't thank a few people who have given encouragement, valuable (and gentle) criticism, and precious time to help me turn this store into a reality: Cheerleader Extraordinaire, Jan "Daisy Janie" DiCintio; Insomniac Chat Buddy, tokatefromkate; and Biggest and Longest Suffering Fans, DM, JAM, MWM, SMHB, DJM, TB, ECP, CRS & ESG (you know who you are).

*No gnomes were harmed in the making of this idea. Seriously, I kid, I kid. If you love cowls or owls or what have you, it's all good. Theyr'e just not my thing, right?

**If you're reading in a feed-reader, you may not be able to use the sign-up form—never fear! You can sign up for the newsletter from the form on the shop homepage.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep082010

Hi, I'm Cameron, and I'm running for president of my life.

When I was in sixth grade at the Den of Iniquity—I mean, Laing Middle School—I decided to run for class representative to Student Council. The class representatives were elected out of each Social Studies class, so when it came time to give speeches, it really couldn't have been all that nerve-wracking. But I honestly don't remember a single word or plank of my platform speech. I do remember Sophie's, though. Her platform was simple: You should vote for me because I have time to be your Representative. Cam doesn't have time because she is already in Chorus and the School Play and Odyssey of the Mind.

Way to campaign on your strengths, right?* Except it worked. I lost in a landslide. And thus ended my dreams of public office. I've pretty much never campaigned for anything since.

***

Last night I had a conversation with a mentor and trusted friend from law school. I've mentioned here that I have returned to my alma mater as an adjunct professor. I can't tell you how meaningful this is to me. It is an accomplishment of which I'm proud, to be sure. But much more than that, it is an experience that I am relishing. I come from a family of teachers. I believe in teachers and in teaching. I am proud to be in their company.

So I was more than a little thrilled, as I sat in the adjunct office holding office hours, when my first visitor was a professor whom I have so admired and learned from. He sat down and called me "Professor" with a wry smile and asked how my class was going. And I spilled out a monologue laced with my characteristic enthusiasm and self-effacement, gushing about every minute detail and admitting, with a mixture of pride and chagrin, that for the upcoming class I had taught myself some rudimentary animation skills and made a movie for my students.

It wasn't long before the ghosts of that sixth grade critique returned.

"Is that the best use of your time?"
"Well, maybe not? Not exactly. But it's fun. I enjoyed it."
"But it's time you could have spent writing."
"True, but..."
"Is that really something in which you're going to gain mastery?"
"Well, no, but..."

And then, here, I trail off. Because it is true. I spent hours and hours this weekend teaching myself to animate a movie in Flash. A movie that lasted exactly 45 seconds. And that my students appreciated but will have forgotten by the time they drag themselves to class to turn in their first graded written assignment in a few weeks. Why on earth was someone who has the long-stated goal of moving into academic law teaching screw around with some silly animation program when she should be writing the next piece of scholarship that will move her career forward?

Why does she write a blog? Much less a blog about design and food and craft and life? What good is that doing her career?

Why does she toil away designing fabrics that sell only a few hundred yards a year? Designing printable stationery, forgodsakes?

Why on earth does she bother making homemade ketchup and mustard? Who does that?

Was it really necessary for her to applique the tiger's stripes on that costume? You know, they make tiger-striped fabric these days.

Dear God, she walks like a stoned ostrich...what possessed her to take ice skating lessons?

She should focus. She should set her eyes on the prize. She should have some discipline! She should do research. Write articles. Have them published. Network.

Well. I'm here to tell you. She just can't. And even if she could, she doesn't WANT to.

In the race to be the president of my life, I am the only candidate. And the only constituent.

If the truth be told, I want to want to do what I'm supposed to do. I really do. But I just don't have the heart for it. Or. More accurately: I have a heart—a huge, gobbly, hungry heart. A heart that is not satisfied by accomplishments on paper. A heart that sings loudest when it is fed by new experiences, that measures success by its own internal meter. A heart that doesn't always do what it should do.

And so my friend, my mentor, said, "That's fine if you're willing to accept the consequences."

The consequences. I have a great job. I have a great second job. And a great third job. I have a sweet and kind and understanding husband whose heart, like mine, is fullest when it's pushed to the breaking point. I have an amazing child who is proud of his mommy even though he isn't quite sure yet what it is that I do. I can live with these consequences.

Ok. I know it's not that simple. The consequences. Really. I am always, always physically tired. I may never be a full-time REAL law professor. I will probably always be a little bit poor. I may never write that great novel that lives in my head because I can't sit still long enough to write it.

But at the end of the day—at the end of my days—will I be disappointed in this life? A life that has led me to live in every corner of this country? A life that has led me to cook dinner for Sidney Poitier and have a heated literary argument with Saul Bellow? A life that has brought me friends and acquaintances from every walk of life? Honestly, who wouldn't want to learn to play the harmonica from a Swiss expat or to teach Shakespeare to a group of Russian seventh graders?

Every time I look at a knitted garment, I feel a kinship with women in Peru whose weird way of knitting is the same way I taught myself years ago.  Every time I see a beautifully carved wooden bowl, I think about the time I spent leaning over my father-in-law's lathe, carving my own bowl, absorbing his advice about the proper pressure to place on the gouge—advice that seems relevant to every minute of a life well lived. When I study the patternwork of William Morris, and I can trace out the nearly invisible boundaries of the repeats; when I look at the intricate ironwork of Philip Simmons, and I rub my fingers over the well-faded scars of my own attempts at metalwork; when I watch scratchy films showing the laborious work of the gifted animators who drew Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny cell by cell, and I think of the countless minutes I've spent animating 45 seconds of film; I am jolted with a sense of oneness with people who are long ago and far away but who enrich every inch of my built and designed and crafted environment.

I think it's easy for people who are gifted with singular focus to dismiss the passing fancies of people like me. It's easy to label us as dilettantes and write us off as petty, trifling. We don't live big-I important lives. But if human existence is like a giant Tinker Toy (and I'm not saying it is, but wouldn't that be great?), I think that it is we woebegone people—the focally-challenged, the terminally interested—who are the connectors, the cogs. And that's not such a bad thing to be. Important, even.

So that's it. I'm Cameron. The writer. The designer. The lawyer. The mother. The wife. The teacher. The artist. The cook. The maker. The doer. The friend.

I'm running for president of my life.

And I approved this message.

 

*In fact, Sophie had plenty to recommend her. She was funny and charming and  smart. I hear she still is. But I wouldn't know. When I waved at her about 10 years ago in a restaurant in Los Angeles (we both lived there), she pretended not to know me. Sophie 2, Cameron 0.

Friday
Aug272010

Swimming

I woke up this morning to the sounds of a very rollicking summer thunderstorm. Lovely, really. But because I have, shall we say "fluffy?" hair, my thoughts turned to whether this rain was going to continue through the morning. So I looked up the weather for today. And then I saw the weather for tomorrow. The last saturday in August. Highs in the 80s (which in South Carolina is positively fall-like).

And I started bawling. Correction. I am still bawling. As I am typing this.

Where did this summer go? How is it possible that it's the end of August, and I've only taken my little boy swimming twice? I feel guilty and a little cheated. But I have only myself to blame. (Yep. Still bawling.)

It's not that we haven't had a lovely summer full of fun things. We have. It's just that swimming is my summertime thing. I look forward to it every year like a little kid. And then every year, as the summer is ending, I invariably feel that I haven't gotten to swim enough. This year, more than ever. We don't live near a pool, and for all of my love of swimming, I'm a little phobic about the beach. But if I made time to do it, we could easily drive to my mom's house about 45 minutes away and swim in her neighborhood pool. I just haven't made time.

Why?

I talk about my kind of crazy life on this blog, and I think I make it sound kind of romantic and glamorously over-scheduled. And that's not disingenuous. I think that my life is pretty darned cool. I have a fantastic husband and an amazing child, not to mention a loving and wonderful extended family. I get up in the morning and go to work as a lawyer, giving my voice to people who would otherwise have none. The work is hard—it's time consuming and emotionally draining. But I care about my clients, and I love (I mean love) my coworkers. After my son goes to bed I get to design fabric and draw and write stories and read books. And, starting this week, two nights a week, I get to go to my law school alma mater and teach a new group of students what I have learned; I have dreamed of this opportunity for years, and so far it's just as good as I'd hoped.

But at the end of a week full of all of these good things, here I am sitting at my computer at 6:30 in the morning boo-hooing about what I haven't done. Because as much as I try to trick myself into believing otherwise, it's simply not possible for a person of even moderate imagination and passion to do and experience and accomplish every notion worth pursuing. Eventually, trade-offs have to be made. This summer, I have traded sun-drenched afternoons of swimming and wrinkled fingers for a combination of other indulgences and more pressing responsibilities.

I use this blog to tell stories, to share my creative process and product, to say "look at me!" But I also use it as a touchstone. A place where I come to reacquaint myself with...myself. As E.M Forster said, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

So what do I think? I think that I probably need to slow down. But I don't really know how. I don't know if I even want to. Right now I think I'm just treading water. I know that what I don't want is to look back five years from now and realize that I had my priorities all wrong. Maybe what I really need is a sunny afternoon floating on my back to figure it out.

Sunday
Aug152010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

This weekend I spent about 3 hours alone in a doctor's office pondering my own mortality. Well, really, most of that 3 hours was spent pondering the unspeakable horror that is my skin tone in the cruel pall of flourescent lighting. But, my mortality, it was pondered.

See, I have been having this weird not-quite-dizzy-but-definitely-not-normal malaise for the past few weeks. A normal person would probably have done one of two things if confronted by this feeling: 1) beat feet to the doctor in order to rule out anything serious or 2) waived it off as just one of those things and gone about her business. I did neither. Work has been relentless for the last few weeks, so finding a way to accommodate the incomprehensible schedule my doctor keeps was out. And, because I am an inveterate hypochondriac, just waiving off this feeling—which is something akin to the feeling you get when you drop from a great height—was also decidedly out of the question. So, as is my habit, I chose the path of greatest resistance: persistent worry, with no hope for a logical, practical resolution. For two weeks, I called my situation "vertigo" and told everyone around me to chill out, while I silently contemplated my living will.

Finally, on Saturday, after no small amount of prodding, I dragged myself to the doctor (not my regular doctor, but a very nice urgent care place that takes my insurance). I hoped for something simple, like a clogged ear, but I feared something serious, like, say Ebola. Well, I didn't really fear Ebola, but the things I did fear all sound too embarrassing to admit now. Ebola is a lot less hysterical than what I had in mind.

If not Ebola, then what?

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug042010

Things I Am Loving Right Now

The surface of ye olde blogge has been rather still lately, but there is much busy-ness just below. Soon enough, I'll be able to show off some new, nifty stuff of my own, but in the meantime, I thought I'd take a minute to wax poetic about some things that have been knocking my socks off lately. 

We bought Doodles at Lunch: 36 Tear-Off Placemats after flipping through it for about, oh, 10 seconds. Remember Ed Emberly books? You know, where you drew about 100 different animals all from your thumbprint? Those were the tops when I was growing up. But, well, Ed...move over because Deborah Zemke's 36 doodles knock the old Emberly way outta the park. What I love about these suggested doodles—aside from the fact that they achieve remarkable realism with a minimum of drawing, breaking each doodle into its fundamental shapes—is that each doodle is built from a letter of the alphabet (or a number, thus 36 doodles, rather than 26), AND the letter of the alphabet that is the basis for the drawing is also the first letter of the item being drawn. My favorites: The sideways E's that make the feet of the Elephant and the two lowercase N's that make the head and body of the Newt. My son and I spent well over an hour one afternoon drawing and re-drawing these doodles. He opted for markers, while I chose my favorite black Staedtler pen and watercolor pencils. Rather than drawing on the pages themselves, which are intended to be pulled out and used as placemats, we each worked on our own large sheet of paper so that we can practice these doodles over and over. We were both very happy with our work—for someone who designs constantly in spite of significant insecurity about drawing, I found this really satisfying. I plan to track down some of her other titles for even more fun. 

More! There are more things I love right now!

Click to read more ...

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 27 Next 5 Entries »