I closed my shop & here’s what happened.

Emily Ley Simplified Planners at Pencil Shavings Studio

As you may know, I closed my shop on December 31st after 5 years of designing and manufacturing and styling and shopkeeping and tax-taking and pop-up-shopping and … well, you get the point.

A few days after I made the formal announcement, I went into my favorite paperie here in Oklahoma City and I looked around at all the beautiful products, several designed by people who are friends. And I felt this deep pang, like I was stopping in the race and watching everyone else go on while I stayed behind. I felt like I was leaving the club. I love paper, design, products, pretty things, ribbons, packaging — all of it. Why was I stopping?

Several people have commented to me about the closing of the shop. Initially it was kind of difficult to talk about, to be honest. Bittersweet is probably the best word for it. And it was frustrating because I felt a little misunderstood, as if I was going to quit doing stuff all together (not true!). But as January 1st dawned and the holiday season craziness was over, I felt shockingly light,  like a huge burden was lifted. I feel so much freer and I’m ready to tackle new things, and open myself up to other projects.  I feel a subtle shift in my style happening and by letting go of the shop, I feel better able to approach the next phase in my creative career.

Molly Hatch for Anthropologie mugs

Back in 2012, I attended Alt Summit for the first time and it kind of rocked my world (as evidenced by a solid week of posting about it – gahhhh OVERENTHUSIASM). One of the takeaways I had from that experience was to build a routine of doing things that bring you joy, to maximize your productivity. My job as a designer who works from home tends to be kind of solitary, which is great in some part because I need some alone time. But I didn’t love the isolation of being at home all day. So in 2012, I spent a lot of time on my Mother’s Day Out free days sitting in coffee shops with my laptop, meeting new people, enjoying the time out of my house and in the world, exploring new little shops. And much of Pencil Shavings Studio and the products I created was born from that experience. It was so joyous to me and I look back fondly on that year in particular.

So what happened? What changed? Well, I got busy enough with the shop that I didn’t have time to do that anymore. There wasn’t any time left for thought and coffee shops, for the nurturing of my creativity. There was too much time spent managing stuff, shipping (which was necessary and required me to be at home all the time), shooting product images (which I do absolutely love) — it meant less time for writing, meeting, hanging out, dreaming, and ultimately inspiration.

Already two weeks into this new year, and I’ve made changes. I’m using those two precious Mother’s Day Out days that I get a week for joy-finding and soul tending. I’ve been back at that favorite cafe numerous times, and I’ve enjoyed spending time on leisurely lunch dates with my husband. Simon has remarked how different I seem already – more present, more joyous. I feel it too. Change is good. It doesn’t make it easy and it doesn’t mean there isn’t a little grief for What Was. But I have hope for What Will Be.


  1. run again
  2. be a better friend
  3. less overwhelm, more margin
  4. practice art (calligraphy, drawing)
  5. read more
  6. write more stories
  7. document my kiddos more
  8. hone my photography skills
  9. shoot more pictures
  10. attend a creative conference