9 Years of Pencil Shavings
Happy Birthday, Pencil Shavings Studio. Nine years ago in April of 2008, I started blogging regularly after a stop-start of posts that date back to 2006(!). I’d been a graphic designer for a few years at that point, working for a tiny apparel company and then eventually running my own little studio (party of 1!). But then I had Jude and I found myself trying to decide where to go from there.
Roughly about the time that Jude was six months old, I came out of the newborn fog and realized that I wanted and needed to be creative in some capacity and blogging was just starting to kick off. I loved connecting with other creative women – many of them mothers – and seeing that I could be a mom AND turn my creativity into a profitable business.
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL
And so I did it. I wrote stories about our lives and I talked about the things that made my heart go pitter patter. I showcased the projects I was doing both professionally in my graphic design studio (which eventually morphed into product design and the shop which I ran for five years until ultimately shuttering in 2016) as well as updates to our house. I talked about style and identity and all the things that come together to create an individual point of view.
It’s been an incredible ride, all nine years. Blogging and design in general has led to some pretty amazing things that I never imagined. I’ve had some exciting collaborations with the Limited, Studio DIY, Jill Rosenwald, and plenty others. I’ve contributed to Better Homes & Gardens for the past three years, been named favorite decorating blog by their editors, had a multi page spread in their Stylemaker magazine and been cheered on by so many of you.
The shop was a game changer for me in so many ways. It allowed me the flexibility to create products (a total dream of mine) and flex my graphic design muscle all while still being able to stay at home with Jude and now Archer. And then once Jude got into school full time, I was able to expand even further. Pop-up shops were always a highlight of my year because I got to meet my customers face to face. I learned that I loved creating products and styling the images; I also learned that I didn’t love the nuts & bolts of running a business because it took away the time for me to do the thing I was best at (creating!).
HOW IT’S CHANGED
In the early days, blogging was exciting because it was an unfiltered window into other creatives’ lives. I liked seeing the behind the scenes, reading the funny stories or the sources of inspiration, and finding new-to-me things that brightened my day a little bit. It was inspiring to find other people and learn how they lived in their little pocket of the world. And the first blogging conference I attended in 2012 made my head explode. YES! I had finally found my people! I felt legitimized and encouraged by so many opportunities and like-minded creative women.
Then somewhere in the middle, things changed. Bloggers became more like magazines – we upped our game with better photography that was just as good as any print publication and we stopped telling the personal stories that made us so appealing and approachable. So REAL. And like the darlings John & Sherry Petersik said in their Alt Summit presentation this year (which you can hear on their podcast), magazines also started to try to be more authentic and real like the bloggers. Drawing back the iron curtain, if you will. Neither is better than the other; we’re different and that’s where our strengths lie.
Likewise, sponsors arrived on the scene as blog readerships (like mine) began to expand. It’s been a delicate balance to include sponsored posts to help pay for the expenses incurred (website hosting and design, supplies like cameras and laptops, software like Adobe Illustrator) especially now that the shop is no longer in the picture. Sponsors have been able to provide opportunities for me to expand in ways that I could have only dreamed of.
And yet – I don’t want to lose touch with the reason I started writing to begin with. Community. History. Memory making. Legacy-leaving. Relationship building. Design is what brings us together; community and relationship is what causes us to stay.
So now it’s 2017 and some say blogging is dead. Social media changed the landscape and bloggers (including me) have seen their site stats fall while their social media followers increase. People consume their information in many different ways and I know this to be true as I follow so many different people (on Instagram, especially) whose sites I never visit.
For me, I’m still interested in the same things that I was before. I want to follow interesting people who are living interesting lives and sharing them. Creatives who share their processes. People who are brave and willing to be transparent. Designers who are interested in many facets other than their sole design field. I’m less interested in shopping blogs or carefully styled posts, as much as I love styling images myself. I want real, authentic – flubs, flaws, highs, and lows. I believe there is still an audience for that.
Professionally, I miss designing products, and I’m hopeful to find a way to continue doing that through collaborations and licensed collections. I do not regret shuttering the shop because it enabled me to focus on enjoying my youngest (and last) baby. Babies don’t keep, but everything else can wait. In the meantime, I continue to take on branding clients and do some consulting for a few retail clients which keeps my brain always spinning for new solutions and ideas.
Ultimately, I don’t know what the future holds. But I continue to dream big about fabric lines, furniture, pretty home accessories and paper goods. I think there’s a market for my colorful point of view out there in the big wide world.
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