On inspiration

27 Jan

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I don’t have any favorite blogs anymore, and I miss that source of creative inspiration. There was a time I had a few female writers tucked nicely into my reading list, that wrote about interesting, personal, weird, or funny things. That list has dried up, or become too different, I don’t recognize most of it anymore. Mostly I loved writers sharing photos and thoughts about their collections and side projects, I liked that more than the stylish cool hunters with flawless houses and outfits. I liked the process stuff, women exploring their work through experimentation and admitting to mistakes and flaws. There are plenty of blogs that I look at regularly now, but I don’t necessarily love them or find inspiration in the same places anymore.

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I don’t have very much enthusiasm for blogs about party ideas or fashion, and am easily worn out and over-stimulated by the endless cool hunting blogs. I can get sucked into a rabbit-hole of clicking and swiping for long periods, but it all feels pretty forgettable. The monetization of many blogs killed them for me, because they became too aspirational, too curated.  They are easy to look at, but don’t feel as inspirational as they feel overwhelming.  My online reading list is probably not exhaustive, nor is it complete, and its entirely possibly that I’m in a weird internet rut of my own making. My interests have shifted of course in the last few years, as have most blogs. Maybe because there is more stuff to look at, I’m looking less-deeply at a whole hell of a lot more, and feeling less connected to all of it.

I don’t write with the (alarming) frequency and intensity that I once did, and after 5 weird years of keeping this blog, I’m not sure what it is here for anymore. These days, I mostly just write about how busy I feel. I’m bored by that! I used to force myself to write to process my work and experiences, but anymore I feel hesitant to do it in a public way. Now when I need time to be reflective, I want to be away from the screen, not pouring into it. I think with the amount of online oversharing I’ve been guilty of in the past, as well as the near constant exposure to other people’s oversharing online (especially Instagram) it has made me feel a bit more hermit-y about sharing anything truly real online. I think most of my time is spent working, or trying to stop thinking about work, so I can take break to recharge before I have to go back to my work. Writing about that process feels circular, but I haven’t found an outlet to replace that practice of writing and thinking, and finding new inspiration. I used to make more than I do now, and that process of thinking with my hands was inspiring and therapeutic, but for some reason many reasons, I’ve replaced making inspiration with looking for inspiration. Again, more boring than boring. I don’t know if I am abandoning my blog, though I’ve come back this week to do a bit of digital tidying. I don’t dare to delete, but I might just be ready to move on.

Taking back the pauses

2 Jan

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This December felt like a complete blur. Even today, on my twelfth day away from work, production and my inbox. I haven’t taken very much time off this year, but I’ve been able to enjoy a good break from work after an intensely busy holiday production season. Time off (and the weeks leading up to it) have included a few colds in our household, and a lingering cough for one of us. Because of my somewhat susceptible and germ-fearing neuroses, I was quietly convinced I had whooping cough. I got tested though, and it came back negative. Turns out, I was just exhausted and sick, nothing more.

In case anyone out there is curious, the pertussis test feels like a wasabi-coated q-tip is slowly being threaded up your nose and down your throat, then slowly removed. All while you breathe deeply and your eyes water intensely. If you’re anything like me though, that news probably won’t dissuade you from following your germaphobic emotional journey to the doctor to soothe your middle of the night fears.

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Christmas! This year we flew to Seattle to spend a few soggy, but soothing days in the woods with my family, before spending the rest of the week with Saif’s family in the suburbs, just north of Seattle by about 20 achingly long miles. It rained, but never got frosty which was a welcome surprise. We did some care-taking in Washington, of our families and each other. Saif came down with a cold right as we left San Francisco, and right as my cough started clearing up. We slept until 10 almost every morning, which in itself was a glorious feat in self-care.

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Too much this year we’ve stayed up too late, checked our emails “one last time” before bed, and stared into our screens for just another “5 more minutes”. Mornings, pre-coffee saw us reacting to work emails, scrolling through Instagram before wiping the sleep out of our eyes or saying good morning. A few months ago I started leaving my phone in the office in the evenings after I wrapped up work, as a way to shut down and actually check out from all my digital time sucking vices. I’d gotten so used to sleeping with my phone next to me on the bedside table, it actually felt liberating to have it plugged in behind a closed door, on the other side of the house every night. Over the past week or two, our phones have crept back to the dinner table, and back into our hands at the weirdest moments between conversations, between words and pauses. I want to take the pauses back. All those wasted minutes could be put to better use, thinking, talking, making with my hands instead of just scrolling, swiping and tapping.

Holiday Hustle

9 Dec

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We’re several weeks into the holiday production season, which although it is going very well, feels very very crazy busy.  We had a relaxing Thanksgiving in Calistoga, then jumped immediately into holiday parties, booking flights to Seattle, crab season, holiday orders, an even busier production schedule and oh my god, rain… all to the tune of a hacking cough that won’t quit. This year I tried to strategically wind down client work as I ramped up production in the shop, though the “winding down” part took two weeks of intense pushing, while racing back and forth between the production space and my office.

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In the last two months I launched a few new products, namely genre record dividers and book dividers, then just last week, I threw in some holiday record ornaments, just to keep things teetering towards too much, just for fun.

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Now my production assistant and I are hustling to keep it all going– packaging orders to send out every few days, and keeping up with production demands.  All wholesale orders for Urban Outfitters, Turntable Lab, Dijital Fix, Sound Fowndations and others are all wrapped up for the year, and I’ll be closing up the online shop around the 20th of December to take a few weeks off. Its hard to believe that a little over a year ago I was just launching the shop, unsure of how it would all work out, and worrying whether anyone would want to organize their vinyl… and now… I don’t have that worry anymore!

Wholesale, retail, handmade

31 Oct

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The new genre collection is set to launch in the shop on Monday, and it already feels like this new collection has been a long time in the making. I will readily admit, I am not an audiophile, I am not a music expert, I am a not even a super fan (except when I’m drunk and its Tracy Chapman). I’ve stumbled into this world of serious experts/hardcore music enthusiasts/musical classifiers… I just want to organize your shit so it’s easy to find, it’s accessible, and more enjoyable for more people. I sometimes wake up at night with a new genre idea in my head, or wake up worrying that I’ve forgotten a significant genre… (real serious worries, guys). I’ve been toting around a list of genre ideas for weeks, a crumpled paper full of ideas and genres. I’ve been talking to collectors and bartenders, browsing music stores and making prototypes. I’m up to about 50+ genres at this point, but its hard to be selective when hilarious ones pop up, like “80s Hair Bands” or someone requests “New Wave” or “Children’s Folk”.  This process is a little different this time around-last November I was running around like a madwoman, getting ready for my first shop launch. It seems hard for me to believe that the shop has been live for less than a year… but when I let my mind wander to the actual number of panels I myself or my assistants have sanded and packaged in the last few months… then yes, it suddenly feels like I’ve been doing this for years, not 11 months.

I’ve been slowly adding new retailers in California and New York. This summer, Urban Outfitters started to carry a few of my products, and in early fall, I began working with a UK distributor, Sound Fowndations. Working with retailers is a different beast, packaging larger quantities for wholesale, versus my smaller-scale individual sales every week through the shop. I still love sending packages out of the shop or my office each week, I love getting emails from customers who are SO EXCITED to get my product in the mail, and spend an afternoon or evening reorganizing their collections. They send me photos, they tell me about their weird collections, and that is weirdly, really wonderful and unexpected. Wholesale accounts have allowed me to grow and invest in my business, hire assistants and buy more raw materials in larger quantities.

Wholesale is sometimes really horribly stressful. I get obsessive about every package before I send them off into the unknown. Maybe because I don’t know who the final customer will be? I want everything to be perfect, and I worry about not having any interaction with the people buying my products on the other end. What if they don’t understand that everything is made by hand, or they don’t know that the boxes are screen printed in a small shop? That kind of stuff winds me up, which is probably why I spend so much time responding to individual emails ( about when I’m going to start making genre sets for books (SOON) or answering questions about production wait lists or custom sets for bigger collectors. Up until my first retail order back in the spring, I knew, and remembered every single sale and individual product I made. Now though, I don’t know every customer, and I don’t remember every set that comes off the production line. I remember sets in new states or new cities, or specific interactions with particularly particular customers. I still feel like every product is the most important product as it moves through my humble assembly line, but that product is quickly replaced by a new most important set that follows it. I guess being my own boss is hard and funny and weird, that is what I am babbling on about. I didn’t intend to be here, but my thoughts and list-making tendencies are a few months ahead, thinking about where (and what) I am working towards next.

Summer, not so secret

14 Oct

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KateSaifWedding_Portraits_097KateSaifWedding_Portraits_088 Continue reading

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