When I was a sophomore in college I started digging into my major taking ALL the art classes. My Graphic Design professor Allan Beaver threatened to fail me in my first week of his class. Mr. Beaver was a professional, he worked with Andy Warhol for christ sake. He was giving me feed back on my artwork and I wouldn’t take it. How dare he criticize my work, it was my soul on a piece of paper, what did he know. He instilled the fear in me and I did nothing but learn. He became my favorite professor and the reason I am the artist I am today. I will never forget what he said to me in one of those early classes- “you have design in your DNA.”
Besides the lessons and technical things I learned from Mr. Beaver, he taught me two MAJOR things about my self. One, I cannot take criticism well when it comes to something I create, I am SO emotionally attached to it that it is very hard for me to see past what I have done or view it from another perspective. Two, I have DESIGN IN MY DNA. Meaning the creativity that I have, my eye, my way of thinking is not something that can be taught, or taken, it is in my blood, I was born with it and I will forever have it, no matter what.
Outside of the classroom, inspiration was my high. I spent hours on Pinterest (circa 2011, before it really caught on), I started several blogs purely to get any of my own thoughts curated somewhere. NO one was reading my blogs or paying attention to me, but I was exercising my creativity before Instagram existed. Now, here we are in the world where everyone has a platform, some of which thousands or millions of people are watching.
Instagram used to be a place I posted pictures of my kids or food from a restaurant, but QUICKLY became a place for me to create. Behind Instagram I am always designing, freelancing, collaborating with brands and companies to CREATE- but IG was mine. A place I could create whatever I wanted to show what I can do. It has always been a number one priority to me to be unique and original as much as humanly possible. Even to this day when I am planning a party, if a client asks for a theme that we have done in the past, I refuse to do it the same- pushing the envelope to create something great and unique, even from my self.
I never see the point of replicating what others are doing, what’s fun about that? How is that flexing my creative juices and making me grow as an artist? With years on Pinterest and time on Instagram, you come across SO many ideas out there, and if I see Jessica Garvin with a cute bowl from Anthropologie, am I going to instantly buy it? YES. Do I scroll Pinterest to get my creative juices flowing? YES. Am I going to copy and paste what I see, I am going to TRY MY BEST not to.
I found my self in an “influencer” roll when my girls were young and I started doing all the fun mom things I had dreamed of doing. BUT, I wanted to do it differently from what I saw, not only from everyone else, but from myself. Ideas would come from me planning a party and not finding the exact thing I am looking for, cue a custom tea pot or not wanting to spend a ton of money on the girls easter baskets and shoving everything into rain boots, ’cause it didn’t hold that much. I will literally lay awake at night and think, how can I do this differently, how can I top the basket I did last year. I end up scrolling my OWN feed to see what I can do better as we enter a different holiday. When I took boo baskets vertical or put love baskets in suitcases – I spend countless hours just coming up with the idea and more time than you would like to know actually executing it.
Every time I take photos that go all the way across my feed- it takes me HOURS, I mean HOURS to edit that photo to look the way it does. I become SO proud of my work, and am giddy the night before I get to share with all of you. What I am trying to get at, is the time, effort and emotion that I put into what I am creating and sharing with all of you is immense.
WHY do I share? Because I freaking LOVE creating. I love it so much and I love that you all love it. Inspiring people brings an amount of joy, that you will never know. When you tag me in a party that you saw and recreated in your own way!? OMG someone is watching me, they are listening to what I have to say, they love it so much they are bringing it into their homes. When someone is inspired by something I did and tags me, I am doing something right.
But, “influencing” has its down side. What happens if a large creator sees what I am doing and does the exact same thing without crediting me? then what? Their huge following will see it as an idea and think it came from them. That leads to brand deals, opportunities and money in their pockets, not mine. I do not make a lot of money in the “Influencer” world, if I can that’s great, my goal is to create and be recognized for my creations. The things I have created in the past has led to to my FAVORITE part of Instagram, the relationships.
Most of these relationships are with small shop owners, it would start as them sending me product for me to share and quickly turn into a friendship. When it comes to small shops- my passion is BIG, and if there is one thing I am its LOYAL. When I work with a small shop, it’s because I LOVE them, I love their product and I love our relationship. I have been connecting with small shop owners for so long, they have become some of my dearest friends and involved in my biggest moments. Birthday parties, birth announcements, every damn holiday under the sun. The special products that they put so much time and effort into is the first thing my girls see on Christmas morning, or the special thing they get to wear on the first day of school.
I make it my goal to make sure I share the small shops I love, credit them for their amazing creations and help them grow. When that is done and they share what I have created on their pages- instantly a community is created. Women supporting women, am I right? Sharing photos I have taken of my kids, in a flatlay, at a birthday party or whatever it might, could be a little reason you sell one of your products. If you have never worked with me before just know, if something is sent to me, I will not only share and create content for you to use, but I send a hand written thank you note, we will probably chat about holiday shopping, I will help you plan your kids birthday or design your packaging, and you should expect and Christmas card from my family to yours. It is a sacred relationship, and comes before the product you make.
There were a few small shops last year that I lost relationships with. Let me tell you how impossible it was. Last spring I was in a DEEP depression over a situation that was out of my control, I am still not completely over it, but here we are. Do you know who I leaned on? (besides my perfect husband, of course), friends I made on instagram, who I can call and tell them what’s going on, and they listen and understand. Theres a trust- because it all started with sharing each others ideas and following a certain etiquette.
It is now more common to be an influencer on Instagram than anything else, and to watch creators steal from other creators has got to be the worst feeling. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it is gut wrenching. As a creator, if it doesn’t hurt to see your ideas recreated without credit, it must not be original to you. You must not have the emotional connection to your work, like I had as a sophomore in college, on the cusp of getting kicked out of class. If it doesn’t hurt, it was never yours.
That’s what I have to say. I rarely stick up for my self to avoid the drama, avoid the conflict, but I will stick up for other creators and I will say something when it needs to be said. If you follow me on Instagram or read my blog and genuinely love what I create and it inspires you to create something, I AM SO FREAKING HAPPY YOU ARE HERE. If you are another creator or a small shop and love what I am doing, lets create together. Community over competition. ALWAYS.
honorable mentions to Allan Beaver (May he Rest In Peace) and my Mother + Father, the designers who put the creativity in my blood.