Life Lessons

It’s May – which means it’s almost showtime! In between checking copy and finalizing designs, I’ll be on Roundhouse Radio (98.3FM)  tomorrow morning at 8:35am, talking about the National Stationery Show. I’m excited to be on Strong and Sharp,  sharing what it’s like to go from craft market to international trade show in one year…

This time last May, I was getting ready to attend the show as an observer. It was exciting but relatively low-key. There was a lot of walking and collecting catalogues, and many friendly conversations (and hummus!). Twelve months later, the view is very different. With a stand, a catalogue and a bunch of new designs, I am extremely focused. I hope to come back with completed order forms and a clear idea of how the year will shape up.

It’s been a steep learning curve, for sure. Being a homeschooling mom doesn’t leave a lot of time for professional development, but I’ve had some wonderful advice. My first conversation with Lloyd of Manny Stone Design – who’ll be supplying my stand materials – was extremely informative, as was the webinar I attended, courtesy of the National Stationery Show. Rob Fortier‘s invaluable session was offered free to exhibitors, and gave me just what I needed to get started – a focused to-do list, which has been my road map ever since. I hold myself to a very high (punishing) standard, so it can be hard to stop worrying about whether or not I’ll match up in my new industry. Will I be doing this “right”? How far should I – or anyone –  follow contemporary fashions? Where is the line between startling originality and art that’s just plain weird? How will I know if I’ve crossed it?

But as the day gets closer and the to-do list gets shorter,  it’s important to rest on one’s laurels a little. This means taking a moment to listen to yourself as you talk to printers, graphic designers and even the new buyer who contacted you only this morning, from New Zealand (hurray!).

So even if, on the outside, you feel as though you’re just doing the same old thing – educating and raising children, running a home, cutting and gluing little pieces of paper together – change is definitely afoot. It’s just a matter of time before you recognize that you are a well-educated design professional as well as all those other things.

Until now, I have been most concerned with what it’ll be like to stand before my peers in the industry, wondering how my portfolio will shape up. But with the portfolio almost done, it’s time to turn my focus back to my other life’s work — the children, and their education. Sales apart, I want them to understand what this trip to New York is about. Why I haven’t stopped pursuing this business, what I want it to do for the family, and what it can teach us all about the balance between idealism and pragmatism.  We’re in this together. I can’t wait to see where we end up!

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