Since moving back to our hometown almost a year ago I've gotten a good taste of what creativity is like in this town. I like to not-so-jokingly joke about how creatives here in the Shoals are closet-creatives, because this place tends to be a bit too traditional for Just Being a Creative to be ok.
It's something that David and I have struggled to put ourselves at the forefront of. With Indie Spaces, Indie Shopography, and my new platform as Emily M Thompson (personal brand extraordinaire), we've found ourselves in a very unusual and unexpected role as creative role models. We're proof that you can be untraditional and still eat three meals a day.
So, I say all this to introduce you to our friend Ben, a local creative in a similar struggle. A struggle for respect and recognition in our traditional little city.
Ben is a local creative (and official indiepreneur) who we met as he was beginning his creative venture into woodworking. Soon, we were talking about branding, and then we partnered up to make him legit. I soon found an amazing passion in Ben for not only making wood furniture, but designing it, with an eye that I'll admit I didn't expect.
After seeing several of his pieces, and coveting each of them, I set to crafting and designing a brand that portrayed Ben, and burly woodworking-ness, and his purpose of designing and woodworking pieces that are both beautiful and functional.
One of my favorite things about this project was that because Ben is local, I also got to add photography to his branding package, getting him images that he can use in his own marketing.
Here's what I did for Ben:
- Branding development and design
- Business card design
- Price tag design
And here's what Ben had to say about working with me:
Starting your own business is never easy. It poses a host of difficulties; honing your skills, building clientele, knowing which projects to take on and which ones to decline, pricing, inventory, labor, finding your target market, the list goes on.
When you have limited time, and resources it's very easy to make concessions, and not always wise ones. One of the aspects that I was sure I couldn't make concessions in building a brand image. Being a designer, I had a pretty clear image in my mind of what I wanted and also what I didn't want. After seeing some of Emily's previous work I knew that I could entrust her with bringing that vision to fruition. In just a couple of brief meetings I felt that we saw eye to eye and that she would be able to produce a branding structure that would be suitable for my new (ad)venture; let me tell you, she really knocked it out of the park!
I couldn't have been more pleased with the results, and I believe that I now have a realized brand that is representative of my style today and that will also give me the ability to grow into the future.
And he also built us an outdoor bar. I'll openly admit it's my - hands down - favorite piece.
I've been really picky when choosing which local clients to work with, and my work with Ben molded this need for exclusivity amongst local businesses and creatives that I'll work with. I love working with clients who are ready, and it's the wonderful level of mutual creative respect within this project that created such magic.
You're getting there Shoals. I'll help get us there, one project at a time.
If you'd like to get in touch with Ben to purchase one of his cutting boards or rolling pins, or chat with him about designing and building a custom piece, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to chat with me about a branding and/or website project for your creative business, feel free to get in touch. I am now taking projects for early-Fall.
This spring I took a long weekend with my Mikey to Austin. We had a serious talk about how hard we work, and how that allows us to play as hard as we'd like. During that conversation I promised myself that I wouldn't let this mantra die, and I made a silent promise to myself that I would travel somewhere every month, at least for the summer, but hopefully for the rest of forever.
So far, so good.
Our trip to New Orleans was pretty epic. There was good food, great drinks, drag queens, and stories we'll never tell anyone. I had multiple craft popsicles from a cute shop called Meltdown, a fantastic French 75 from Café Soulé, and came really close to buying a couple of voodoo dolls (and might have gotten cursed by a voodoo mistress).
All in all, I could not have asked for a better birthday weekend, or to have spent it with more fabulous people (except for maybe you, La).
As for my summer travels, we're thinking a weekend in Chattanooga may be on the books soon, and definitely some fun in Nashville. And, just maybe, New Years in New Orleans. Because we flippin' love that fabulously smelly place.
This past weekend Indie Spaces held it's first pop-up shop. It was a monumental moment for David and I, but it was an even bigger one for our friend Heather, the fab lady behind Bohemian Bop.
It was a big event, with catering from Magpie+Ruth, homebrew beer from our friend Arron, and ice cream from Shirey Ice Cream. Heather launched her new tshirt line to we're guessing around 200 attendees over two days.
It was the kind of event that makes David and I really really happy to have started Indie Spaces. It's giving local independent entrepreneurs a platform that drives us everyday, and makes us so excited to host these kinds of events.
We're planning on hosting more events like this one for other local makers, and can't wait to share each of them. Shake up the Shoals.
Since moving into our cute little house two months ago, we've remembered how much we love to entertain.
Before moving to the mountains we had dinner parties almost every weekend, with really great food, big laughs, and lots (and lots) of wine.
Now that we're out of the mountains, and in digs that are fab for entertaining, specifically our really great backyard, we're back in the spirit of entertaining. As much as possible.
One of the things we've been looking forward to the absolute most has been having a Smash Party, or, more poetically named, a Smash Bash.
And so, as soon as it got warm enough to have a Smash Bash we put one on the books. Which is exactly what we did this past Friday.
We invited some of our closest, and in some cases newest, friends to our Bash. And, looking around, I realized most of them came to us, or at least flourished with us, through Indie Spaces. The Space (as I usually call it) has become a catalyst that has brought us together with some of the most fantastic people. Fantastic, smart, driven, and really effing awesome people.
And each of our little events, whether they be centered around Indie Spaces, or personal gatherings like the Smash Bash, are all collaborations. They're all joint ventures that end in the most fantastic products.
The Smash Smorgasbord
I knew I wanted our guests to create their own smashes. I laid out a tray of fruits and homegrown herbs, asked some of the guests to bring bottles of liquors, and finished it off with simple syrup and agave nectar. We got some of that good crunchy ice from Sonic. You know the kind.
A Fine Dinner
Dinner parties are best when the food is exceptional, and though I like to think I'm a pretty fine cook, there's nothing I love more than handing over the cooking to an actual chef. Which is exactly what I did.
Our friend/neighbor/indie Arron is a fantastic foodmaker/brewer/vintner (and in the process of opening a brewery), and as soon as I mentioned wanting to throw a Smash Bash he immediately offered to make the grub, along with our woodworker friend Ben who has spent quite a bit of time in the kitchens. Our friend Heather from Bohemian Bop also brought a couple of appetizers.
On the menu for our Smash Bash:
Garden Dip (we call it crack, because you can't stop eating it)
Grilled Marinated Pork Chops with Apple-Jalapeño Compote
Grilled Corn with Parsley-Garlic Compound Butter (which we also call crack)
Sweet Potato Biscuits
For dessert, we had more smashes.
We set the table up in our back yard, put on the food, and had at it. The weather was perfect, the food was exceptional, and the bar has been set high. I'm pretty sure it was the best dinner party in all of dinner party history. Our Indie Smash Bash was a success.
All hale the Smash Bash.
Yesterday I recapped my long weekend trip to Austin with my pal Mikey. I could go on and on about how great of a trip it was, again, but it wasn't just about good food and big laughs. For me, it was also a bit of a wake up call.
You see, sometimes, as a creative entrepreneur, people think that I just kinda get to do what I want. And, as that's partially true, as I am doing what I want, that doesn't mean that I just get to throw in the towel and jet set to wherever I want, whenever I want. At least not if I want to eat, pay rent, and keep shoes on Cute Kid's feet.
What being a creative entrepreneur does is give me the flexibility to do what I want, not just taking willy-nilly opportunities. But, it's not without consequence. We independents have to work our asses off. Like whoa.
I still have deadlines, an inbox of requests, and bills in the mailbox everyday. Being a creative hardly means that I can be any less responsible than anyone else. In fact, I usually have to work harder.
Running your own business (let alone two) means I'm often pulling 12-14 hour days, not always having a weekend off, and constantly obsessing over the right ways to social-media-ize. These are just a few of the prices that I pay to jet set wherever I want, "whenever" I want. My 9-5 friends don't usually have to be that involved (though I know that some of you are, so don't think I'm undervaluing you).
Mikey is one of those work-your-ass-off-like-whoa 9-5-ers (often 7-6ers). He brings home work much too often, but he freaking loves his job.
And so, while enjoying cocktails over brunch one morning in Austin, we talked about how much we work, but also how hard we play. And, how working that hard makes us never feel guilty for playing as hard as we do. (Honestly, for a moment, we pondered on whether or not we should be feeling bad about having cocktails so early on a Monday. We decided definitely not.) But also, how being able to play hard makes working so hard totally worth it.
And then we toasted our mimosas and adopted our new mantra:
work hard, play hard
You see, I've felt really bogged down lately: not into generating blog content, feeling weary about taking on new clients, and way overwhelmed with Indie Spaces. I've had several moments of wondering what it's all for. Why am I so into helping other businesses when I'm not feeling very excited about my own? What can I do to spice up my work life? And, ultimately, why do I work so hard?
So I can play hard, dammit.
Whether play hard is taking a long weekend with my pals in Austin, or taking an entire day to watch Disney movies in bed with Cute Kid, or spending a weekend night partying at an event at Indie Spaces, I'm doing this to enjoy life. As much as possible.
I don't think that I could free myself as much during my off-hours if I didn't love what I do so much. And therein lies the lesson. I love what I do so I can love what I do, in a never-ending cycle of hot-damn-I'm-lucky.