Monday, January 30, 2006

Kaleidoscope eyes

The endless rain in Seattle is a real downer. It’s been a solid month of heavy, gray skies, constant record-breaking rain, and dreariness.

I spent the weekend immersing myself in the cheery shop windows downtown, filled with Spring fashion, happy colors, flowers, hearts and promises that the weather will indeed change. And spent some time at the Gift Show too, drinking in all the creativity and beauty on display, sparking some fun new ideas -- for the business and just for general amusement. I love to check out the “competition”, but it’s a great way to spot trends, find new and unique packaging, and compare prices on supplies. It’s always useful and a fun way to start out the year.

So many colors and pictures swirling through my head last night, I could hardly sleep. Ribbons and tags. Displays and lights. Scents, fragrances, scrubs, lotions, fizzies. Cupcakes, wall paper patterns, travel postcards, fabric swatches, flower arrangements – all chasing each other in circles, like a kaleidoscope. And today, I am weary and excited. Writing out notes, making sketches, tap tap tapping the calculator – trying to make the puzzle pieces fit together.

Do all artists struggle with balancing imagination with the limitations of structural components and business requirements?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tossed salad

Paralyzed by indecision . . . pathetic, really. Tossing the same few things around and around in my brain like an overdressed salad. And coming up with the same answers. Yet unable to commit to any of them. Do I want to continue along on autopilot doing the same routine I’ve done before, content in my comfort zone? Do I want to turn it all upside down and try something scary and new, exposing myself to risk and failure? Is there ever a happy medium – like dipping your toe in an ice cold lake while bundled up in your sweater?

More than before I am compelled to flip things over and see what is on the other side. Toss out some long time scents or products that never quite catch on? Radically change my show schedule, to try new ones in areas I haven’t visited, at the risk of missing some of most loyal supporters at long-standing shows that just never quite profit like they should? Give up the old snail mail newsletter and go full throttle in the computer online world? Change the whole structure of the seasonal schedule – because really, who cares if the Spring newsletter arrives on Feb 1st or Feb 20th? What if it happened only three times a year? Or two?

Many of the original systems, schedules, products were born out of another context. And they have worked quite well, at least for a while. But now, in this new millennium, new decade, new year -- where we get the chance to recreate everything from scratch and follow what pique’s our interest just now -- do we keep maintaining tradition for tradition’s sake? Am I attempting to satisfy the customer’s expectations or just selling them short by not expending the effort?

So, chasing my tail, asking more questions than finding answers, I still have not scheduled the year ahead. I still have not planned out my seasonal products. I still have not worked out a plan for the newsletters and the web site. I still have not updated anything at all. My desk is clear. My year is wide open. My imagination is fighting with the confines of my own boxes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Back into the oven

I’ve spent countless hours the last couple of days in front of my computer screen, searching for packaging ideas and comparing prices. I’ve had a few projects on the back burner that I’d like to try, but they need to be fitted into cool little bottles and jars. This exercise often cooks up new ideas for all kinds of things, but it’s also tedious and time-consuming. And my back side is a little numb and the eyes are strained. The challenge is to find something new, different and unique, that still has a reasonable price tag. Because people buy with their eyes and noses, but we all still have budget challenges.

The next step is actually ordering samples of the items I like, getting them into the studio and playing around with them. Do they show up on the doorstop looking just like their pictures? Or are they cheap imitations? And then the product gets put in, and messed around with to make sure the caps fit, leaks don’t happen, sprayers actually spray, everything stays in one piece when jiggled around. Sort of giving it the once over.

Finally, I cook up labels that might work. So the process takes some time, but it’s fun and play, and sometimes leads to things I hadn’t intended in the first place.

And just about when I get it all worked out and am ready to go into full production – the price suddenly doubles, the distributor stops carrying it, or the manufacturer stops making it. Such is life.

Anyway, today I still haven’t found quite what I’m looking for. I’m off to the Gift Show later this week for more ideas, and maybe a little more brainstorming. The pieces aren’t quite coming together yet on these two particular pet projects. So back into the oven for a little more baking . . .

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mommy, some day I want to be a blogger

Happy New Year 2006! Last year had it’s fine moments, but was certainly filled with tragedy, and I am quite glad to be rid of it. Cheers to starting anew!

One of the things that really sparks me, is the chance to start over. Every day of every week of every year, we have the opportunity to toss out whatever isn’t working, and start over brand new. It is only ourselves that holds us back. We could toss out the whole lot if we wanted to – the entire closet, the household, dump my business, sell the whole thing, pack up the car and drive to the other side of the country or fly to a new world and begin again, doing something radically different and completely new. But we are comfortable with our routines and daily grind. So we take smaller bites. We start a diet. We resolve to be more organized. Mostly trivial stuff. This year I wanted to start a blog.

I’m still working out why, and will discuss that soon, but for now, I am just starting it. I am usually a perfectionist, and want it all to be pretty and perfect before I present it to the world. But today, I am just jumping in, all awkward and uncoordinated. I have never blogged before. I have never journalled before. I’ve never even written a “dear diary” entry before. But I’ve felt increasingly compelled to share my thoughts with the world at large. Or at least put them out there somewhere, even if nobody else reads it or cares. Something will grow from this – I can feel it – and I am excited to start the journey.

So today I have entered my account information. And taken the first step. It’s tiny, but it’s action. And action begets more action. And that’s how motivation it started, and from where all great things come from. I highly recommend it. If you’ve got some huge looming idea or project or resolution – don’t procrastinate (my favorite hobby). Just take one teeny, tiny, little step. Even if it’s just opening the phone book and looking up a number. Then tomorrow, do one teeny thing more. And before you know it, you are well on your way to actually accomplishing something.

This sounds dumb, I know. But I am the world’s best list maker, paper shuffler and procrastinator. And everything I’ve ever accomplished, has been from forcing myself to do things one little step at a time, not just endlessly planning them. Jumping in, without knowing all the answers, or having the right outfit, or knowing where I’m going. It all becomes clear as you go along. Sometimes the clarity is just realizing that you don’t want to do it at all anymore. And that’s quite fine too.

So here I am. And the journey begins. So many things to talk about. Where should I start tomorrow?