Designer Vaca | Part II — Joshua Tree

Following Designer Vaca, I headed to Joshua Tree with a group of four other ladies who had also attended the conference. We’d set it up in the lead up to the trip — one of my Designer Vaca roomies had been in touch with another group of girls who had shown interest in visiting Joshua Tree, and invited me along.

Before heading out, we spent some time at Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium. If you haven’t been before, it’s pretty awesome, and worth a visit. A huge array of cacti - an instagrammer’s dream (cue a group of creatives lining up to get the perfect shot). We spent a good hour wandering around, taking in the scenery, and taking plenty of photos - I have enough cacti photos to last me a lifetime.

We made a quick pit stop at Trader Joe’s for the essentials (wine), and off we went!

I’ve never felt so at home with a group of strangers before. As with Designer Vaca, I had a fleeting moment of panic, when I remembered that I was about to go off for a few days with three strangers. But, there as never a moment where I felt that I didn’t belong, nor any of the others. There was a great balance of personalities, and it felt natural.

On the few days we were in Joshua Tree, we had a great balance of exploring the National Park, as well as plenty of down time. While, I initially scoffed at waking up early to catch the sunrise in the park, I am SO glad we did it. Mother nature is incredible, and I am grateful for the opportunity to see the sun come up over the park; it was truly spectacular.

A quick stop to the farmer’s market, a few other shops and then on to Pioneertown. For the Aussies reading, it’s a very condensed Sovereign Hill (and not half as good in my opinion). It was set up in 1946 by Hollywood investors, as an Old West set that was also a town worth visiting.

It was smaller than I was expecting, but worth a visit; especially to Pappy and Harriett’s Pioneertown Palace to grab a bite.

We took a few trips to the park; we explored a number of points of interest, as long as heading back to catch the sun set. Sunset at Arch Rock was another highlight - the colours of the sun hitting the rocks is wonderful. Desert scenery is mind blowing to me; all the colours, the flora, the sky and the way the light hits the rocks. It’s such a visual delight.

The Cholla Cactus Garden was another sweet little spot. The cholla cacti, otherwise known as “Jumping teddy bear” cacti, aren’t as cute as they look. Their spines will insert into your skin at the lightest touch. There are other cacti/plants in this area, but the huge amount of cholla cacti is crazy.

And, it wouldn’t be a trip to Joshua Tree without some crystals! I managed to convince my roomies to head to Joshua Tree Rock Shop, to have a peruse. I always like to walk around and see what grabs my eye (I know, I know; hippy crystal sh*t. Don’t judge me).

I came away with a Tigers eye sphere and a small citrine rock. The crystals felt like a fitting way to encapsulate the feelings and thoughts I had had during the trip, and in the coming weeks.

WEEKEND REFLECTION

In the end, we’re all in this together. I know, that there was a time that I felt intimidated and even threatened by other creative women. I think it can be a natural reaction; when we doubt ourselves, other women who are doing what we want to be doing and doing it successfully can be down right intimidating. I’m not proud of the fact I use to feel this way; i’d get so angry at myself for feeling so threatened by people.

This trip really highlighted to me that I’ve moved beyond this. I’m finally past all that, and appreciate the connection with other female creatives, and welcome their talent, wisdom and insights. I an also fully celebrate with others in their success, rather than feel that all too familiar stab of jealousy that I would have a few years back.

I’ll take connection, wisdom and learning from other amazing creative women, over jealousy, any day. Learning that were all in the same boat; often, none of us have any idea of what we’re doing! But, that’s why we have each other.

Shout out to my travel buddies; Elle, Melissa, Brooke and Linsey. All amazing in their own ways, I wouldn’t have had these moments of reflection without spending the weekend with them.

Shout out to Linsey for the Lightroom Preset — and her generosity in setting it up, cause I couldn’t figure it out!

Been to Joshua Tree? What’s your favourite place to visit??

Designer Vaca | Part I

Grab a cup of tea, coffee, or a glass of wine — this post is one of my longer ones. If you’re not interested in reading the whole post, skip to the bottom, where you’ll catch some highlights of the trip. Happy Reading!

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Last week I flew into Palm Springs to embark on my first Designer Vaca*. I’d booked months and months ago, and the trip crept up on me - I had a moment of terror on the plane (and a few days before) - wondering what the hell I was getting myself into. Being an introvert, the idea of going to a conference where I knew no one and then spending five days with complete strangers was definitely anxiety inducing!

If you haven’t heard of Designer Vaca, it’a an anti-conference for women graphic and web designers to come together to “dream, relax, collaborate, share experiences, and learn from each other”. The conference runs for three-ish** days, The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, and there was plenty of time to relax and sit by the pool (turns out, this is just what I needed).

Arriving a few hours before my roomies, I took the opportunity to have some quiet time by the pool, read my book and get acquainted with the pool-side cocktails that were on offer. Having a few hours alone, to sit and relax, was HEAVEN.

Wednesday night was spent mingling at the welcome cocktail party, and making new friends. My fan-girl moments started pretty much straight away; spotting Shauna of Nubby Twiglet, Mica of May Designs and plenty of familiar instagram handles (we had our handles on our name tags). Recognizing someone from their instagram handle is a strange experience; it often felt like I was meeting an old friend, but…I didn’t know them.

I reconginzed Lisa, of fernweh.land, from her insta handle. I’ve always admired her brush lettering — she has such a confident stroke, not to mention a beautifully curated feed (check out some of her work here). We hit it off straight away, and spent plenty of time together over the next few days.

Thursday kicked-off with mimosas (yes!), followed by guest speakers, pool time and a break out session. I won’t go into a play-by-play of everything that happened (you’d be here all day), but speakers over the few days included Arian Simone (of Fearless Magazine), Kathleen Shannon (Braid Creative and Being Boss Podcast), Mica (May Designs), key note speaker Sarah Dubbeldam (founder of Darling Magazine) and Gala Darling.

I had a few moments of feeling completely out of the loop having no idea who the speakers were (way to make me feel kinda old!). I reminded myself, that this is why I go to things like this, to stay in the loop! AND to get myself out of my comfort zone. SO IMPORTANT. And, when you don’t know what you’re in for, it allows you to go in with an open mind, and be surprised (I LOVE surprises).

While I gained a lot of insight from all the speakers, it was the break out session I truly enjoyed. In our groups, we discussed topics/questions that were chosen from a list that we contributed to the previous night. It was great to chat about relevant topics and issues that come up for us all and hear how our we all approach it. Honestly, this information was so valuable — I could have spent the whole few days of the conference chatting about these topics.

It highlighted for me that I do have an incredible network, both here in Vancouver and back in Australia, of incredibly strong, talented women. I hadn’t ever taken the moment to stop and think about this. Chatting to a few women at Designer Vaca, and learning that they DIDN’T have much of a network, blew my mind. I completely took it for granted that I was surrounded by my wonderful network of women.

The conference ended on Friday, with a few optional sessions in the morning. I decided to go to Gala’s “Mindset Ritual”, which was all about mindfulness and gratitude. Having worked for lululemon for a number of years, this wasn’t new to me. However, it was a good reminder, and I always enjoy hearing the different ways people practice gratitude. Since returning from Palm Springs, I dug out my gratitude journal that dates back to 2011 (!!) and have been scribbling thoughts down each morning. A lot has come up for me on this since returning home…definitely worth it’s own blog post!

All in all, I had a blast. Just taking the time to travel somewhere new, get out of my comfort zone (and my head) is always a positive. It was a good reminder to keep attending conferences/workshops/etc., and anything that keeps me on my toes and pushing that comfort zone. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own little world and think that we don’t need to expand our minds or our network.

I also didn’t expect so much to come up for me in the week following Designer Vaca. I felt like I got clear on what my future holds (career wise), which feels amazing! I also felt like I was able to focus that post-conference energy and plan how I’m going to make the magic happen!


HIGHLIGHTS

Connecting with so many amazing women!! Special shout out to Brooke, Adrienne, Julie, Lisa, Linsey, Elle, Melissa and Lucy.

Mica May — I’ve been a fan of hers for I don’t know how long, and it was so incredible to not only hear her speak, but have it be so relaxed and informal. Having the opportunity to chat to her one on one was a HUGE highlight for me.

Gala Darling — Her session on mindfulness and gratitude was the reminder that I didn’t know I needed! And her outfit was seriously amazing. Not sure how she survived in a PVC dress in the desert heat!

Pool time, duh.


LEARNINGS

Oh boy, there were A LOT of learnings. Most of these came upon my reflection of the five days away, and not necessarily things speakers said, etc.

Have confidence. You can do it. People are running successful business on less talent experience than you. I don’t mean to make it sound like these ladies aren’t talented, they are! I guess what I’m trying to get at, is that I’ve always seen myself as needing to improve at things before I start. I had a lightbulb moment that I have everything I need! Experience and talent. I just need the confidence.

Cut the crap. Drop things that don’t serve you, or help push you towards what you want to be doing and where you want to be. For me, I find it hard to say no (see setting boundaries below) and find myself taking on small jobs that don’t pay well and take all my time and energy.

Be grateful for the network and friendships you have around you. YOU DO have a wonderful network of caring, creative and talented friends.

Focus on your goal. Write it out. Rewrite it. Always keep it top of mind.

Self care. I use to see self care as selfish, but the time away reminded mean it really is a necessary practice. Especially for my mental health, taking time to exercise, , giving myself space to breathe, disconnect, reflect is HUGE. It inspires me. Taking care of me means I am a better person for my husband, family and friends.

Remember what inspires and revitalizes you. I’ve begun to final understand that self care leads to me often feeling inspired. Those times when I’m in the sunshine, travelling, meeting people, pushing myself out of your comfort zone, is when inspiration creeps in.

Set boundaries. It’s ok to say no. I struggle with this on almost a daily basis. Not being able to say no, because I don’t want to disappoint people. My counsellor said it best, “would you rather feel disappointed for 10min about saying no to someone, or feel long-lasting resent towards that person as a result of saying yes?”. I know what I’d rather chose!

VALUE you. You are worthy. Clients will see the same worth as you do; if you do things for cheap or undervalue yourself, they will also undervalue you. Hmm…yup. I totally do work for way less that I should. I undervalue myself and it shows in the jobs I bring in and how my clients view me.

Stay connected with other creative women, no matter how near or far. Connection matters. You don’t know what they can bring into your life. While staying with strangers terrified me, it was possibly the best thing I could do for myself. Chatting to women who deal with the same types of things I am dealing with, who more often that not were also introverts (WooHoo! Introverts unite!), and who genuinely cared and wanted to support each other in what we do. More than anything, this gave me the confidence and inspiration I needed. So much love to all the incredible women that attended.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Would I go again? I’ve flip-flopped back and forth on this answer. There were times during the conference, and straight after that I was set on not going back. It felt a bit pricey for what we got (keep in mind, I'm paying in CAD$, so that was a major reason for the pain in the pocket). It really would have been nice to have a few more meals covered, for $350 (especially when it’s really only one full day conference).

At the time of writing this, I’m still undecided. A few of us have spoken about doing our own get together next year, given that conversation with each other was what we really gained the most from. However, the networking opportunity to meet so many talented women from all over the world, was pretty awesome.

I DO recommend: taking a few days afterwards to see some sights with new friends. As much as it was out of my comfort zone, it was an incredible experience.

Things I would do differently next time: Stay for longer and do more exploring! If I do return, I would 100% stay the Friday night at The Ace. It seems a lot of attendees do, and it would have been great to have the extra time hanging by the pool.


Phew! It’s been a big few weeks, and I’m excited to wrap up the year and get going on new projects. I’m looking forward to writing more — another thing I forgot how much I enjoyed!

Were you at Designer Vaca? Or have you been below? Have any questions? Comment below, or email me. I’d love to chat!

Em xox


*fun fact: while "vaca" is short for vacation in English, it means cow in Spanish. Designer cow just doesn’t have the same ring to it 😂

**I say three-ish as it kicks off with a cocktail party Wednesday night, a full day Thursday, and a few sessions Friday morning.

It's beginning to look a lot like...Market Season!

Yikes, blink and you’ll miss it! Summer, that is.

Autumn has officially hit here in North America, a little sooner than I was hoping for. While I have enjoyed a cooler apartment, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the long, sunny days.

The change in weather also means market season is kicking off in full swing! Crazy to think that this is all leading up to Christmas (14 weeks to go!). The hardest thing about this market season is choosing what markets to be at.

Vancouver market game has really stepped it up in the last few years, with some awesome markets popping up. It’s hard to find a balance of getting out there, meeting people, selling and keeping your sanity. More than anything, I love meeting and connecting with people, as well as getting feedback on my product. So many markets fall on the same weekends.

I could hire someone to help me run a second stall, but making genuine connections is what really counts for me. And, I can’t be at two places at once.

So, for me, less is more. Choosing fewer markets, and being able to spend time chatting is what I like. My number one salesperson (aka my hubby), likes it too. He LOVES a good chat.

That being said, I’m mixing it up a little bit this year and trying a few new markets! I’m kicking it off this Saturday, September 22 at The SeaWheeze Sunset Festival!

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Sneak Peek

Print design - exclusive to the Sunset Festival

The Sunset Festival is run by lululemon and is part of the weekend of celebration for the SeaWheeze half marathon. Not only will the have a huge outdoor yoga class and some awesome bands, you can find a selection of local artisans selling their wares.

You don't have to be a runner to attend; the festival is open to the public. Buy tickets online now!

Hot off the heels of the Sunset Festival, is Fall For Local on September 29-30. This one is near and dear to my heart, as it was my first ever market. Kelly (owner) and Suraiya do an incredible job of curating and running the market. I also volunteer at the monthly Fall for Local talks (for more, check out their website; link above).

Some designs you’ll see popping up at upcoming markets (and online). I’ll have a range of new and existing tea towel designs and adding to the mix, are enamel pins, foil prints and tote bags! I’m excited to bring the new designs to life.

Following up from Fall for Local, I’ll be at my first ever East Side Flea market, on October 20-21. I’m really looking forward to this one, and hoping to make a regular appearance.

I’ll be announcing upcoming Holiday specific markets soon.

In the mean time, come see me at one of the markets listed above, shop my online store, or find me on Etsy! I’m also starting to take custom orders for Christmas (more about that soon). Shoot me an email for more details, or, just to say hi: hello@emmahands.com

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Wedding

I'm currently packing for a week away to see family in Calgary (my husband's side). His grandma was unable to attend our wedding, so I packed our wedding photo book to take with us.

It bought back so many memories! I couldn't resist having a flip through and reminiscing. This was by far my favourite project to work on. 

I created everything from the save-the-dates, to tea towel wedding invites and napkins that doubled as wedding favours. 

For our first anniversary, I created a wedding photo book, with a wooden box. It was such a nice way to put all of our memories into one book, and to tie back to the traditional first anniversary gift of paper.

Do you know anyone getting married? I love working with brides to create a unique wedding experience. Email me at hello@emmahands.com for more info.

Wedding book and wooden case, Artifact Uprising
Wedding photography (front cover and contents of book),

Until next time,
 

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Leap of Faith

[This post was originally written in October 2017]

My recent fling with anxiety saw me leave my full time job. I'd entertained the idea of working for myself for a long time. It was a familiar day dream, one I spent a lot of thinking about (even telling people about!)...I'd make the leap one day..."When I get more clients" or "When I get a new laptop" or "Oh, I need the latest pens/technology/new notebook before I can do that" or "I just need to build my folio more". There was an endless list of excuses.

A quick visit to my doctor, suddenly saw me taking three months off work to rest and get myself back on track. I'm not a stranger to depression and anxiety, but this time it was a complete curve ball. I'd worked myself into such a stressful state, over a number of months (years?) that it had started to manifest in my body, in the form of severe digestive issues.

I'd realised that I'd fallen out of love with my job. It was no longer what I wanted to be doing, and I'd lost all passion for it. I'd become miserable and not myself. My unhappiness was a slow transition, I didn't realise just how low I had become.

While I loved the people I worked with, it was the job itself I wasn't enjoying. On paper, it sounded great. When I told people what I did, I'd often hear "Wow! That's so cool!". When everyone is telling you how awesome your job is, it's hard to understand how you really feel and easy to keep slogging it out. 'Cause it's an amazing job, right?

Many hours of sleep, days on the couch (thanks, Netflix!), endless pots of tea and a lot of soul-searching, I realised it was time to move on.

I am scared? Shitless. Wondering if I'll get work, be successful or when the next paycheck will come is terrifying. But I know I have to do it. For too long, I've suppressed what I need to be doing, and it didn't do me any good.

As scared as I am, I’m also excited to to jump in the deep end (they say fear and excitement is the same thing!). I know it won’t be easy, and I’m sure i’ll fail at times. But, I’m finally following my passion and it feels so good.

32

Today, I turn 32.

That sure does feel weird to say. I still feel about 26, and have to mentally correct myself almost every time someone asks how old I am. 

The younger me thought I'd have everything pretty sorted by now. I had a vision that I'd be married with two kids, have a great job and be living my ideal happy-family life (whatever that is).

I got the married part sorted. The kids part...they aren't far from my mind, but it's not something that will be happening anytime soon. The best thing about having friends with babies, is that I can play with them and then return them.  The thought of caring for a little being, terrifies me.

And the great job I had in mind? I just quit my full time job to pursue my own business (aka, I'm sitting in my home office with not much to do. How many times a day can one check their emails?!). And a happy life? I wouldn't say I'm unhappy, but this past year has been a bumpy road.

There have been times that I compared myself to my friends, we all do. They seem to have this whole life thing sorted. Happily married, with a baby or two. They have what I thought I'd have by now. 

It's so easy to focus on where we think we should be in life, and lose sight of where we are, and what we have achieved. 

Spending the day by myself in Seattle (hubby is at a conference), sipping on some bubbly, I can't help but be pretty damn happy about where I'm at. It might not be what I imagined, but I am happy with my achievements, and excited for what the coming years will bring. 

Em xox