handmade for woman and home

spillymade blog

Handmade for Woman and Home


One Little Word... Reach!
Utah Mountain

Off and on for years I have followed Ali Edwards' blog. Not because I have a particular interest in scrapbooking... I really don't, but just because I like her style. I admire her ability to track her life in a creative way. I am, in fact, horrible at the life tracking, photo keeping and general presentation of our family's life events for posterity's sake. I've tried, but the task is just overwhelming - not like the old days where you developed your film at the local drugstore, picked the good ones and slapped them in an album. No, now we all have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of images to sift through, edit and sort, file and store. Painful! Still, I find myself heading back to Ali's blog from time to time. Usually this happens at the start of the year when she's introducing her "one little word."

I've wanted to choose "one little word" in years past. I've come close. Silent brainstorming gets me to the point of coming up with an unwritten list, but then I fizzle out, get distracted and give up. This year, however, I feel a pull to participate. I feel the need to reflect, dive deep and investigate. So, on a hike a few days ago I listened to Ali talk about One Little Word on the Elise Gets Crafty podcast. I started making a list of words on my phone right then. I knew this time I would get farther.

I made a list of about twelve words, but no matter what other words came, one alone spoke to me. REACH.  

REACH, both a verb and a noun, can be your final goal or the act of getting there. However you look at it, REACH is beyond wherever you started. REACH means you are either doing something about attaining your goal, getting that "thing" or you have already arrived. Either way, I think this is a pretty powerful way to approach a year where I am trying to figure out the direction of my business, find ways I can grow personally, creatively and professionally, and, most importantly, get out of my comfort zone and make real change no matter what that might look like twelve months from now.

My plan is to work through REACH, to do the exercises outlined in Ali's program to truly connect with my word. But even if I don't do it all and simply just think "REACH!" as I work through the steps of 2017, I will be ahead and will reach some of the goals I set out for myself.

This is my commitment to a more thoughtful and mindful year ahead. In 2017 I will REACH beyond...

Jennifer Spilly
Right Now
Instagram Best Nine 2016

Instagram Best Nine 2016

It's been a while. Checking in to share my Instagram Best Nine of 2016, the posts that received the most likes over the past year. It turns out that these images are some of my favorites too. It seems the moments and achievements that touch us most deeply are the things that speak to others about ourselves the most deeply too. Over the past year I started doing some block printing and hand dying, I had a couple of awesome vacations with beautiful vistas and tasty cocktails, I took a stab or two at building daily creative habits, my kids grew (and I have the pics to prove it!). And two things will forever be so: 1) I am a sucker for pics of my kids from our annual Christmas Tree Trek (especially with silly faces and Santa hats) and 2) my husband sure knows how to light a tree... he's always the most popular guy on the block this time of year.

For anyone reading, I wish you a Happy New Year and leave you with a list of thoughts on where I am in my life right now, Taking Stock inspired by Pip of Meet Me At Mike's. Make your own list, it's fun and harder than you'd think...

Making : lists
Cooking : Enchiladas
Drinking : coffee and wine, what else is there?
Reading: In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney
Trawling: Hot for Food Blog and Lauren Toyota... I'm not vegan, but she's inspirational.
Wanting: a new couch
Looking: forward
Deciding: on my "one little word" 
Wishing: people find peace
Enjoying: twinkly lights
Waiting: to speak
Liking: fresh flowers
Wondering: how to get it all done
Loving: my old dog
Pondering: a cleanse and a better fitness plan
Listening: to old vinyl with N
Considering: classes and workshops... for me!
Buying: groceries... really, it never seems to end
Watching: family movies with the kids
Hoping: it all works out
Marvelling: at the freedom of birds
Cringing: when I think ahead to January 20
Needing: nothing
Questioning: my direction
Smelling: geranium
Wearing: my Blundstones almost every day!
Noticing: friends who seem to have it together
Knowing: that they probably really don't
Thinking: about classes and workshops
Admiring: creative people
Getting: rid of extra stuff, making room for the Holiday haul
Bookmarking: One Little Word
Disliking: the tween years
Opening: Holiday cards
Closing: the year
Feeling: a little stuck
Hearing: my own voice
Celebrating: new beginnings
Pretending: that I am not a procrastinator
Embracing: my babies who aren't babies anymore

Natural Beauty & Announcements
Shadows & Bike Tracks
Shadows & Bike Tracks

We are currently on our annual vacation to Crested Butte, Colorado and I must say that due to some massive rainfall (sorry fellow Californians!), Mother Nature is in rare form. Yes, it is ALWAYS beautiful here! This is our twelfth year in Crested Butte and we have yet to be dissappointed, but this year is by far the most spectacular when it comes to just all out beauty. Our schedule usually gets us here just as the wildflowers are wilting. This time, however, I am constantly finding myself in awe of the variety of flowers and colors I find at every turn. Each day I hike with the dog along the same trail, and each day a new  scene draws my eye - new varieties of wildflowers waving in the wind, clouds of every shape and color imaginable, critters peeking out of bushes and scuttling along the trails, mountain reflections like paintings on the lake. I could go on and on... it really is amazing. Here are just a few highlights...

Sunny Flowers
Sunny Flowers
Courageous Caterpillar
Courageous Caterpillar
Mount Crested Butte Reflection
Mount Crested Butte Reflection
CB at Sundown
CB at Sundown
Real Mountains (looking like a painting)
Real Mountains (looking like a painting)
Morning Hike at Peanut Lake
Morning Hike at Peanut Lake

In light of all the beauty and relaxation, however, there is still work to be done. So... keep your eyes peeled here or on the Sewing Classes page of my website. The Fall sewing schedule should be up in the next day or so. I am revamping the format a bit with Monday and Tuesday classes running longer sessions focused primarily on the beginning sewist. Wednesday classes will be completely new and improved featuring Wednesday Workshops, one-time three hour classes focusing on one project each time for the experienced sewist. These will be one-off classes where students will complete a specific, pre-planned project in one three-hour class. Stay tuned for more information!

Fruits, Veggies & Creative Friendships

Strawberries What a great day! Back in May I was lucky enough to pick up a session on our school auction to draw with fellow parent, Neiley Royston. Neiley is an amazing artist who composes beautifully dreamy illustrations inspired by her weekly meanderings through the Marin County Farmers Market. Today, I had the pleasure of finally taking my little field trip with Neiley, her daughter and a friend to the market, choosing some fresh, art-worthy produce and flowers and heading back to Neiley's home to get to work.

A few hours later I had created a fun collection of my own. Let me be clear... I like to draw and do often with my kids, but I need some serious help. Normally, I don't share my drawing with anyone but my kids, but I've wanted to develop this skill for a long time. Neiley finally gave me the confidence to trust my own instincts and just keep working. As "they" say, "we are our own worst critic" and I certainly look at these little art works and think of many things I would do differently a second time around. However, I am pretty proud of myself. Even if the drawings aren't what I would consider perfect, the process alone and the chance to get to know a fellow creative soul right down the street is worth any fear I might have sharing this work on the internet.

We started with line drawing some fennel...


And then I took a stab at a rather adult looking beech mushroom...

Beech Mushroom

I played with watercolors and still life...

Melon, Cucumber & Purple Pepper

And then a little blended watercolor pencil...


Finally, when I was home, I couldn't resist doing just a little more so I saved a few of the strawberries I bought this morning and...


To top it all off, it actually rained. I mean, like, it really rained... in July!

Neiley & Jen with Market Flowers

Here's to creative friendships, trusting your instincts and rain!

art, friendsJennifer
Goals, Intentions & The State of Things

  Palms in the Evening

...tempting you with a pretty pic to get you to read my long analysis of the state of things.

My friends and family get semi-regular glimpses of my home and creative life on Facebook and Instagram, and my local school community stays connected with my business through my class offerings, but it is no secret that the original intention of my business seems to have gone by the wayside.

My original goal and intention was to run a creative business in which I design and produce textile goods - bags, purses, pouches, camera straps and other original fabric items - and sell them online, at craft fairs and eventually in local shops through wholesale accounts or on consignment. I planned to market my work the same way as many other creatives with Etsy as my shopping cart linked to my website. The site would feature a blog bringing interested people regular content with behind-the-scenes glimpses into my process, tutorials, lifestyle features, and inspirational links. All of this would be augmented by a presence as a business on Facebook and Instagram.

Instead, I ended up teaching a lot of classes and not making much of my own work and, in turn, not selling or writing much at all. I look at my shop and I have a mere 20 sales (there have been other sales via personal contacts and craft shows, but still, not many). I have a handful of inventory left over from the last couple of years because I never applied myself to the relisting process on Etsy and I lost steam doing updates on my Facebook business page. By spring of this year, I found myself extremely burned out on teaching classes as well.

With teaching, it started out as a side thing - a couple of years ago a few people asked if I could teach their kids. I figured, "Why not?" One day a week in my living room quickly grew into more until I had to rent a studio just to keep my household sane. I was eventually scheduling four days a week plus private lessons on weekends to accommodate everyone who had interest. So many students were happy to sign up again and again that they became "advanced" and wanted to choose their own patterns but still work in a group setting to benefit from my help.

All of this sounded great, even successful, in theory. The reality was that I was dreading class because I knew it would be an hour and a half marathon each day of racing from pattern guide to pattern guide, sorting out pieces and steps, and troubleshooting problems when steps were skipped or done wrong only for lack of teacher attention. An hour and a half on any given day may not seem like a lot, but when you figure in all of the additional time it took to prepare projects for classes, help select and often shop for fabric and notions, guide students through pattern steps and troubleshoot, clean and prepare the studio for each day's class, manage all different kinds of personalities, not to mention schedule and publicize the classes for each session so they get filled... well, it's A LOT!! At one point I had 24 students (6 per class) and almost all of them were doing different projects...

Complaints? No! Whatever frustration or burnout came from this process is my own fault. I simply wanted everyone to be happy and so I let my students pick their own projects as they gained more knowledge. This was a mistake. In fact, most of the time I really enjoy teaching sewing to truly interested students. There is nothing quite like the moment a true beginner completes her first project and clearly can't wait to run and show her mom that she actually made something useful. Ultimately, I needed to put more time into finding a way to streamline the process so everyone continued to learn and have fun, but so I could stay relaxed and sane.

With regard to designing and creating product, I'm not sure if it's lack of time, lack of inspiration, lack of energy or something altogether different that has killed my momentum here. I really don't know. Looking at how classes have been going though, it's no wonder that after all the preparation and execution needed for classes, I didn't have the drive to make my own work.

I suppose some people might find themselves in this position and think it may be time to give up, but I have no intention of doing that. What I am going to do is take this as a sign that I need to reevaluate my business, restructure my class format, set some real goals and streamline my schedule in order to maximize my creative time. And so, I begin again on this blog if for no other reason than to document my own thoughts, to remain accountable to myself. It's not as if I have a huge audience here, but if I put it all out there - even if no one else reads this - at least I will have some record of the process.