Saturday, April 04, 2015

Moving on to greener pastures...

My sketchbook with a series of designs for custom vegetable stamps, a few of my hand carved stamps, my favorite ink pads, tools of the trade, and test papers...

With a hint of trepidation and a whole lot of excitement, I am officially making the move away from my rubber stamp shop, Green Garden Stamps, and focusing entirely on my ART...

...for now? (More on that later.)

I opened my rubber stamp shop in 2010 after finding that I really enjoyed the medium and the ability to express another side of my creative aesthetic. Here's a collection of my favorite kinds of designs to carve - rustic, country, garden-inspired.

As the years progressed, I learned a lot operating this business. I also connected with tons of amazing people, businesses and organizations. Creating custom stamps was always such a pleasure. Here are some examples of my custom work.

Perhaps my favorite of all was connecting with the good people of Max's Love Project -

Such a fun stamp carved for two great friends for their wedding.

At some point along the way, I saw an example of stamps being used to show meal selections at a wedding on escort cards. It was in a magazine or online somewhere, I can't recall. But it got me thinking and sketching... and I came up with this set of four designs. 

Each measures about 1" x 1", for beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian. They quickly became a hit. Soon I had people contacting me about other options - do you have a pig? Can I get a pepper instead? After compiling a list of custom requests, I expanded the product line to include more options.

I've been selling them in various numbered sets and they are by far my most popular product. These meal stamps have often paid for much needed winter oil deliveries, weekly groceries - you name it! I'm incredibly thankful for all of my customers, press and social media sharing - it's been an amazing ride.

So why quit when you have a successful business? 

That's the million dollar question isn't it?

The answer requires me to take a deep breath because it's rather personal, actually. To a degree that I'm not quite sure how much I want to reveal. But this time in my life right now is about taking greater risks, so here goes...

Toward the end of last year, my undiagnosed lifetime of depression and anxiety hit an all time high and I finally had to confront it and deal with it. I "talked" (spurts of words in between sobbing) with my doctor and acknowledging it to a medical professional alone felt incredibly healing - a huge weight lifted. It was the first step. And now I've been on medication for the last five months and it has dramatically changed my life for the better

(At this point I feel like adding some caveat like "hey I'm no expert" or "talk to your own medical professional" or something like that. It should be obvious that I'm speaking solely about what worked for me, right? Moving on...)

It isn't as if I haven't been aware of the existence of medication for such things. But I'm about to get real here - as an artist, I was seriously scared that whatever unknown spark made of rainbows and/or stardust that "made" me an artist would go away if I was medicated. THAT plus whatever quirks I felt made me "me" kept me away from what would end up being a godsend for much too long. But I'm not in the business of looking back right now - it's too potentially destructive. I am just happy and thankful that it has come into my life here and now. However, I feel like it's important for me to say that my fears were entirely unfounded and in fact, I feel like I've never been a better artist than right now.

Medication hasn't taken away my unique self. Instead, it has relieved a ton of distractions, road blocks, obsessions, paralyzing fear and doubt, and rabbit holes that prohibited me from being really present in the moment. I feel joy and peace sincerely now, and I mean that sincerely. It isn't "numb", it isn't "fake" (as I had feared).

I read somewhere that when a person lives with chronic depression and/or anxiety, it erodes/eliminates certain neural pathways that medication can "reconnect" in a way. That makes so much sense to me and speaks to that feeling that my states of inner calm/peace/joy now don't feel "phoney" - they feel entirely natural - clean and clear.

All that being said and revealed (YIKES!), I have found that the one thing that has changed is my carving ability. Perhaps that was the lone area in my life where my anxiety actually served me well? ;) Because without it, something feels different when I carve now. Honestly, I just don't care for it anymore. At least not as something I have to do all the time. I think it used to calm me down, and now that I don't need that as much, I'd just rather be doing other things. (Painting, hiking, reading, cooking, gardening, etc, etc.)

Also, arthritis runs rampant in my family and I'm starting to sense its creeping presence in my hands and wrists. If I let myself go there, this can scare me a lot, most especially thinking about my future painting (because painting is a passion I don't ever plan on retiring from). I'm already looking into compression braces and ways to work around this, but there is no question that carving stamps exacerbates the problem. If anyone has seen the movie Words and Pictures, you may recall Juliette Binoche's amazing performance as a painter coping with severe rheumatoid arthritis. She comes up with some very creative work-arounds that were quite inspiring. (PS I really recommend this movie!) Time will tell how much this will affect me, but considering how my grandfather was already greatly suffering with terrible arthritis by my age, and working a very hard job, I have no excuses to not do anything I want. He was body surfing well into older age. Tough stuff!

And finally... unfortunately Life once again brutally smacked me with this hard truth very recently... Life is short. Just how short is unknown. In the face of that, there is really only one question - what do I really want out of my life? It can all get really heavy (and heady) thinking about this stuff, but it's important work. Checking in every now and then to see how your day to day aligns with your "big picture" goals.

It's been ten years since I quit my job picture framing and jumping - mostly clueless - into being a self employed artist. For half of that time, stamps helped compliment my painting business and pay the bills and I'm so thankful for that. But I have come to the conclusion that it's time for me to move on and focus entirely on art. On top of everything else I just shared, it simply comes down to this...

MAKING LIVING BREATHING ART is ALL I want to do, and be, and surround myself with. That and being with the people (and animals) I love, and appreciating life, and simple pleasures/blessings, as much as possible.

That's it.

Carving stamps stopped feeling like "being an artist" a long time ago, and after carving well over 2500 of them, I'd say I'm more than ready to let it go! I've cleared out my shop of almost everything but my meal stamps and some simple leaf stamps. One more wedding season maybe? Or maybe they'll all be gone next week. I'm not entirely certain. ;)

 Hungarian stamp set. Floral folk art inspired by my grandmother. 

What I do know is that this aesthetic is still very much a part of who I am and a "wing", you could say, of my creative vision. That's why I'm not so sure that Green Garden Stamps is going away entirely. I'm thinking of changing the shop name to Green Garden Studios - or something like that - and changing focus. Perhaps more digital stamp collections... (all of my digital stamps will remain available). I'd really like to get a tablet to make my own digital clip art (I worked with a graphic designer who perfected scans of my stamped images for my current designs). It's on my wish list along with a new camera because I'm also thinking of adding digital download photography of gardens, nature, and the countryside. Some of my favorite things that keep consistent with the design aesthetic I created with the Green Garden brand.

There are lots of ideas brewing around for what this could evolve into, but for now, I'm putting it allll on the way, way back burner and embracing THIS instead:

Leo last year in front of my studio at the start of painting season, around this time of year.


Recent commission - Three 30" x 36" canvases for a Houston, TX orthodontics office. I'm loving this ombre style and have created a listing for custom paintings in all sizes in my Etsy shop here:
In closing, this is all totally terrifying. Hahaha!! Putting my truth "out there" as well as boldly leaping into my greatest dreams, aspirations and desires as a painter. In a lot of ways my stamp shop was a crutch that took the pressure off of my paintings. It worked when I needed it to and I'm entirely thankful for it. Now I want more and it's sort of hmm... arrogant? to presume that I can even do it. At least that's what the nay saying voices in my head tell me, which I am learning to silence one by one and listen, instead, to a gentle and loving voice that encourages and says simply, "Go for it. What do you have to lose?". 

Many thanks to all of my Green Garden Stamps customers throughout the years and fellow shop owners that helped promote my shop! It's been a wonderful journey... :)