DIY Woven Placemat


1 DIY Placemat DIY Round Placemat DIY Woven Placemat Tutorial

5 DIY Placemat tutorial Woven

By Anna of Annabode.

We haven’t updated our woven hyacinth Ikea placemats in years, and although they’ve served us well, they have become harborers of dried oatmeal, bread crumbs, and God knows what else.  They’re also just tired.  I decided replacing them would be the kind thing to do.

I’ve always preferred round placemats on rectangular tables—they prevent the look from becoming too linear and echo the shape of the dishes nicely. And don’t you just love the textured, minimal look of those woven ones? While you can’t beat that price, I set out to create my own version of a DIY-woven-placemat that could still be made for very little money, but would look unique (and even more lovely).


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A Davis Garden Tour (& Friday Links)



A fun local event, the 24th annual Pence Gallery Garden tour is coming up: one gets to peek into the neighbors’ yards as eight gardens are opened to visitors for inspiration, while a local artist paints or draws the landscape. I just came across these pictures of my favorite house on last year’s tour.

While most of the homes last year had large lawns and colorful blooms, this one featured more drought-tolerant plants (though there is a pool and some lawn here, too). I’m curious to see how the tour will be different this year to reflect the water shortage in California, and will be looking for ideas for our own backyard.


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Here’s an interesting article on the drought in California (in defense of those beleaguered Almonds), and some other things of note… 

This cucumber-avocado salad is on my “to-make” list.

What a toddler can teach you about decorating.

And I got the Design Mom book about living with kids a few weeks back (at the Oakland book signing!), and I’m loving her advice.

So happy the rumors were wrong, and they’re still selling: for closed-toes alternatives to Salt-waters, these are my favorite summer shoes for Hudson. Love that he can pull them on himself. (Toms just started making something similar, too!)

“Diffusion of responsibility” and “the Bystander Effect.” (Or, why you should assign tasks in case of emergency.)

The $70,000 minimum wage.

Comparison is the thief of joy.” (It’s not all Facebook’s fault.)

Hacks for Netflix binge-watchers. (Aron used to be anti- by the way, but Freaks and Geeks changed it all. Do you remember your first binge?)

And finally, guess what’s coming to California? (Los Angeles, to be exact!)

Brilliant! Filling water balloons for a party can be such a drag and, on a drought-related note, prompt kids to leave the water running.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be in New York for a workshop; you can follow me on Instagram.

P.S. Last weekend was UC Davis’ picnic day. I posted some pictures from the event, if you’re curious. (& Here’s from last year.)

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DIY Marbled Jewelry Box


DIY CIgar Box Jewelry Box copy

I’m excited to introduce you to a new contributor that you’ll see on here from time to time! Anna is a talented designer and DIYer who believes in creating a home that’s beautiful and affordable. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen her do, so I’ve asked if I could share some of her projects and invite her perspective on Hither & Thither. Today she’s sharing a project from her site, Annabode, and next week she’ll be back with something original! Welcome, Anna—so pleased you’re here. 

As I was staring at the jungle of our dresser the other day, I decided I needed to check my egregious clutter habit and tame my jewelry once and for all! An old cigar box my dad gave me was conveniently positioned amongst the various odds and ends. Problem and solution all in the space of five minutes!

And so, I give you: the DIY jewelry box—from a cigar box! I’m really loving the marbled paper, leather, and brass details. You can make this in an afternoon and use any kind of smallish wooden box you have kickin’ around.


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Written-wax: the art of Pysanky



Just before we left New York, I walked Hudson over to the Ukranian museum in the East Village to see their display of Pysanky eggs—raw eggs are decorated with a beeswax-resist technique and colorful dyes, similar to batik on cloth.  It’s a tradition that spans centuries and a skill that was often passed down from mother to daughter. They have hundreds in their permanent collection, many regionally specific; they are usually on display in the spring.

I’ve had these photos in a draft ever since our visit. Every year I think I’m going to order a kit before Easter and follow an online tutorial to give the craft a try, at which point I’d have photos of my own eggs to add. But I think it’s time to pass along that little pipe-dream for now. I hope someone else will try it and report back.


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The Art of Silhouette


Did any of you get your silhouette cut by the artist on Disneyland’s Main Street when you were a child? I find the keepsakes to be such a treasure. 

We have one of Hudson from our trip to Disneyland, and one of both kids from DisneyWorld, and I’ve always found them to be very sweet, but we had the pleasure of getting more recent ones of the pair when silhouette artist Karl Johnson came to Davis as part of a tour—and they’re incredible. The profiles are just spot-on and I can’t believe he was able to cut these so quickly—and completely freehand—while the kids were squirming and moving around!


I’ve heard that you can make your own by taking a profile picture, blowing it up to the desired size, and cutting it out as a template for tracing on art paper. Have you tried it? Even that would be challenging. For me, it only highlights the talent of someone who does this as an art. 

If you’ve never seen it done, here’s a video.

P.S. I shared these on Instagram, and some asked about my source for frames. These are pre-matted gallery frames from West Elm.

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Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!


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veggie chips

Funny thing. I wished Hither & Thither a happy sixth birthday last year, but I got ahead of myself somehow—a few years back, in fact! Someone finally corrected me. This year marks six years. The first post was a picture-less entry written by Aron, on January 19, 2009.

What I didn’t get wrong is that every year on here is worth celebrating. And it never ceases to surprise me—even as its demands ebb and flow—how much of a role Hither & Thither plays in my life now. I’m so grateful for all of the readers whom it engages—those who have come along since the start (when Aron and I were writing it together in New York) and those who just recently started reading. For me, it’s so rewarding to have such a supportive space in which to grow as a writer and a photographer, and to build a career of my own vision. But of course it’s often the conversations, the friendships made, the back & forth, that’s best of all.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. With a trademark lack of brevity, I’ve compiled a look back at this year’s highlights. I so enjoyed looking back through some of my favorite posts again; I hope you will enjoy this, too:


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The Work We Do: Liza Lubell


TheWorkWeDo Liza Lubbell

The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. This week, I’m speaking with floral designer Liza Lubell of Brooklyn-based Peartree Flowers.

Liza has one of those jobs that seems both entirely romantic and entirely impossible at the same time—like most jobs that involve balancing artistry and client desires (“a dance,” Liza put it more eloquently). I’ve always been curious about the life of a floral designer and have only been recently given the chance to look behind the scenes with a few friends and acquaintances who have their own businesses. I was grateful that Liza—whose work is incredibly beautiful—was willing to talk in more detail about how she came to do what she does, and what it’s like day-in and day-out.

Tell us, when did you first decide floral design was for you?
I got my first taste for horticulture in college, working as a landscaper during the summers. When I finished school with somewhat useless degrees in philosophy and art, I started to think more and more about plants and flowers, and decided that working at a flower shop sounded like a lovely way to start to figure out the rest of my life. I moved to Portland, Oregon and essentially begged for employment at a shop I had discovered from afar. There, I learned I really adored working with flowers—and I was intrigued at the idea of owning my own business. After a year and a half, I decided I wanted to do things a little differently and branched out to start my own business. I really thrived and got comfortable in Portland for another four years before I made the move back to New York.



Are you self-taught? How did you learn what you needed to know to get started?
I learned pretty much everything either on the job or by teaching myself. I didn’t know what “processing flowers” meant and had never even made an arrangement before I found myself employed as a florist. I learned a lot very quickly. Early on, I would hoard leftover flowers from the shop, stay up late, and try my darndest to figure out how to make things look beautiful. In the end, it was a very exhilarating, rewarding—and frustrating—time.

It sounds like your decision to pursue floral work was a bit of an unexpected choice. Did you ever think you’d end up where you are today? Were you ever anxious it wouldn’t work out?
Truth is, I never thought about it. That might sound bizarre, but I never really worried about it. I just assumed I’d figure it out as I went—and I have.


After several months of running this series, we’re finding there are no typical days for most creative professionals. Is this the case for you, too?
Yes. That’s something I really cherish about this job. It’s always different depending on the project at hand. But a somewhat typical day starts with me listening to some terrible—or terribly awesome—pop rap while driving to the flower market. Then I’ll spend the rest of the day running around 28th Street trying to find interesting materials while high-fiving flower buddies and spilling coffee everywhere, shoving everything into my tiny car, driving to my Greenpoint studio, processing flowers, making arrangements, responding to emails, eating croissants, writing proposals, gossiping with fellow freelancers, freaking out about having enough or too much material, and then going out for cocktails with friends after work. Distilled that way, it’s pretty fun.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
It’s hard to wear a million different hats all the time and have to be an expert at everything. There’s a lot of “fake it ’til you make it” happening on a daily basis, but I also think that’s a huge part of what being a business owner is all about. The secret is none of us really know what we’re doing all of the time—but so long as we do most of the time, it’s going to be okay.


What advice would you give to someone hoping to become a florist?
Become a sponge. Intern or freelance with a few people and see what it’s like from a variety of perspectives. There’s a lot of allure and mystique to working with flowers—I still feel that way after nearly ten years—but it’s also a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of schlepping, lifting, driving. You’re constantly moving matter. Initially, I envisioned that working with flowers would be this romantic job where I could read great novels while leisurely playing with plants. I was totally wrong. It is, however, a good opportunity to work on flexing your muscles—creative ones included—and to practice running your tush all over the city.

What do you love most about your work?
I love helping clients realize their visions. I love transforming spaces into magical flower worlds. I love surprising people and introducing them to materials they’ve never seen before. I love working closely with farmers and understanding more about the growing process. I’m learning so much all the time, and I try to always push myself to keep it interesting. With such a versatile and ever-changing medium, it never gets old.


What inspires you creatively? What keeps the ideas coming?
I get inspiration from so many different sources. From color combinations I see in clothing, to weeds growing out of the sidewalk—it’s everywhere. I go to Costa Rica every winter and I find the colors of the ocean, the sunsets, and the bougainvillea are so intoxicating that I can’t help but gravitate towards the brightest hues when I return. More simply, though, the flowers themselves inspire me. There are such different materials to choose from at all times of year. I never ever tire of seeing the first hellebores of the season—it’s better than Christmas.

What’s next for you in 2015?
I think I have to keep that a secret for the time being—but I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into an interesting new project in the new year. I’m pretty excited about it, so please stay tuned!

Thanks so much, Liza. Visit Peartree Flowers, here. Top portrait by Matthew Williams.

Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series. Read more about the inspiration behind it.

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The Art of saying Thank You



On my to-do list this week? Write thank you cards.

Just after Skyler was born, I got into the routine of keeping a stack of cards on the counter in a basket—along with pens and keys and stamps and such. As soon as a gift would arrive, and with inspiration fresh, I’d scribble off a note, add a stamp, and leave it out for the postman. But I fell out of habit and now, post-Christmas, the task is a bit more daunting.

Do you send handwritten thank you notes? Do you expect them? Where do you stand on cards versus emails—or texts? After Thanksgiving, somebody sent a card our way that was so nice and simple: something to the effect of ‘great food, great company, great time—thank you!’ and it served as a reminder of how little it takes to show someone you appreciate something. (However, if you’ve come over to our house recently, please don’t take my saying that as solicitation!)

Of course there is a formula one can follow for the tried-and-true thank you. It goes something like this:

Greeting. Write out their names: “Dear so-and-so.”

Gratitude. Begin with “thank you for the such-and-such.” (Money is typically given the euphemism of “generosity.”)

Gift. Keep it simple, but the idea is to say something you like about the gift, usually involving how you will use it, why it was so kind, etcetera. Be yourself and keep it honest. “It looks so pretty on the table.” “The kids will love picking something special out.” “I can’t wait to wear it on vacation.”

Giver. When will you see them next? What did you enjoy about seeing them at the holiday party? Traditionally, here is the place to say “You are always so thoughtful. Your friendship means so much.” I once read that the trick is to mention the past and allude to the future in a single line.

Gratitude. Again. “Thank you again.”

Greeting. Again. Sign it however makes sense to you: Love, Best wishes, Yours truly or, perhaps, XO, followed by your name.

Holiday Gift Guide

Here are some lovely cards you might set aside for inspiration:
Sycamore Street Press, Thank You My Dear Card (Top)
Smudge Ink, Chevron Thank You Card / Sugar Paper, Kraft Scratchy Thank You Card
Ferme à Papier, Llama Thank You Card / Sycamore Street Press, Thank You Indigo Card
Smock Paper, Pink Heart Letterpress Card / Quill & Fox, Sincerely Thanks Card
Hammerpress, Sign Language Thanks Card / Rifle Paper Co., Rosa Merci Thank You Greeting Card

Or you might consider a set of personalized notecards, where the phrase “Thank you” is left entirely to you. Both Pinhole Press and Minted are good sources of personalized notecards.

Where do you stand on this matter? On what occasions do you send a handwritten thank you, if at all? 

P.S. This man wrote a thank you note every day for a year. An interview with Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press, who designed that top card.

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Remodelista at Heath SF


Of all of the beautiful markets that pop up around the holidays, the Remodelista one may be my favorite. I don’t think there was a single vendor whose wares I didn’t admire or covet. The prices tend to be higher, the assembly a bit more aspirational—but the selection also tends toward heirloom, so it’s inspirational as well.

Are you familiar with the site Remodelista? I subscribe and have to confess that there are too many posts each day for me to keep apace. But I can never bring myself to unsubscribe because it’s so full of gems. The founder, Julie Carlson, launched the site as a digital guide to home design and so on any given day you’re as likely to find a round-up of well-designed faucets as you are a minimalist home tour. If you don’t own a home or aren’t remodeling a kitchen, it can be easy to scroll past. But they’ve got a talent for finding beauty in the practical, and I love seeing who they bring to their market.

This year, we even got a babysitter and made a date out of going into the city to visit!

Some highlights…

Up top: Silvia Song‘s gorgeous carved wood (smooth as butter), greenery at the terrain booth, and ceramics by Sarah Kersten.


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Renegade comes to San Francisco



The Renegade Craft Fair–an ever-growing, curated event for DIY-ers and small businesses—came to SF a couple of weekends ago and we had to check it out. We always enjoyed seeing what sorts of inspired products popped up when we would visit in New York (here’s my a post about the last one I went to, in Williamsburg). 

Some of my favorite finds this year…


Sycamore Street Press (Letterpress and Design, like beautiful custom stamps—that’s me and Skyler with Eva) / Hero Handmade (Illustration & Screen Printing—great posters for SF fans) / Small Adventure (Illustration & Paper Goods—aesthetic is very Wes Anderson) / Cactus Club (Paper Goods–love the prints!) / Young America Creative (collective design studio—gorgeous Seasonal Eats posters) / Joshu + Vela (totes, backpacks, & wallets) / Martine USA (gorgeous leather accessories—I bought myself a keychain) / Emmiebean (cute custom portraits)

If you recognize any vendors in the photos whose links I missed, let me know! (Update: Alpaca throws at top by Asher Market)


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Two of my other favorite sources for independent maker gifts: BRIKA and GREAT.LY. Great shopping options for the holidays!


One of the best parts of the Craft Fair can be the venue. The setting—Fort Mason, with stunning views of the Bay—was particularly beautiful, and maybe the best find of all.

P.S. Skyler and I took the cutest photos at the photo booth, but I can’t find them! Drats! I still love these first ones so much.

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The Work We Do: Nicole Franzen


TheWorkWeDo Nicole Franzen
The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. Today, I’m thrilled to feature photographer Nicole Franzen.

I’ve been following Nicole since she first started blogging, back in 2010. We would alternately leave comments on each others’ sites and one day she offered to take some photos of us with Hudson. He didn’t fully cooperate, but I have always been grateful. Since then, Nicole’s career has (deservedly) taken off and I’ve always hoped to hear more about it! I’m so glad she agreed to talk about following her passion to become a professional photographer—and to create a stunning portfolio.


Your website describes you as a “food, lifestyle, and travel photographer.” In which particular field did you get your start?

I got my start in the restaurant industry, actually, at the age of 14. I started at the bottom as a busser, then worked my way up. At 17, I moved to the Caribbean, where I got my first waitressing job. I was always very serious about food—I wasn’t waitressing for the cash. I was doing it for the love of all things culinary.

I learned so much during that timeI was always asking questions. Eventually, I moved back to New Mexico, which is where I’m from; then to South America for a year; then to New York. That was about eight years ago.


How and when did photography enter the picture?

I’ve always had a love for photography, and in my travels and my day-to-day life, I’ve always had a camera in my hand. But when I arrived in New York, I still wanted to be in the restaurant industryI hadn’t considered making of career of combining the two until I was in my early twenties.

Once the idea had occurred to you, how did you begin pursuing that career?

I bought my first SLR camera, and I started a blog. At the time, I was visiting the farmers’ market once or twice a week and experimenting a lot. I’d buy ingredients I’d never tried before, and then I’d cook them and try to photograph them. I mostly failed at that for the first year or solooking back at those photos is funny now. Still, the blog took off.



You mentioned failing at food photography for the first yearhow did you learn what you needed to know to get better, and to launch your professional career?

I kept practicing. I kept shooting every day. I asked other photographers if I could assist them and everyone turned me down — but I kept studying the work of people who inspired me, thinking, what’s the common thread here? What are they doing?

I also used social media as a tool to share my work, and to keep meeting people. That was a big goal in the beginning: to meet new people all the time. Overall, building my career was a gradual process.



Do you ever regret not going to school for photography? Or to college in general?

I moved to the Caribbean instead of going to college. I was a little bit of a rebel in that way. I came from a single mother home and didn’t have money for a college educationI also wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet. So I decided to take a non-traditional path. There are moments when I wish I was a better writer, or that I’d studied art history, but what can you do? The path I took was valuable in different ways.

What would you consider the most challenging part of your job?

Managing clients is hard, because mostly, all I want to do is focus on being creative. Also, when you work for yourself, you can’t really take a sick day. You’re pretty much working all the time, because there’s always something to be done. But I love what I do, so I want to do it. I feel really grateful.



What role has social media (especially Instagram) played in the development of your career?

It’s been huge. I’ve had editors approach me, saying, “We want to give you this story because we love the way you live, the places you go, the things you shoot, and the way you shoot them.” It became a selling point. It’s amazing how you can connect with people on Instagramit’s mind-blowing at times. I’ll post a picture of my messy bed, and then think, oh my god, all of these people are looking at my messy bed now.

As with everything, it has its advantages and its disadvantages. You have to know when to disconnect, and when not to share.

That’s great advice. What other suggestions would you offer aspiring photographers?

Be persistent. Practice every day. Always focus on moving forward. And, be your own worst critic, but don’t forget to pat yourself on the back when you do achieve things. That’s important.

What’s also important is taking the time to do personal projects. In any creative field, whatever it is you’re doing becomes workas a photographer, you’ll have to shoot things you may not necessarily want to shoot because you have to pay your bills. So make the time to do your own thing. It keeps you inspired.



What in particular inspires you the most these days?

Travel. I think of myself of a visual storyteller, and when I travel, I like to capture everything from the architecture of a place, to the way the city streets run, to the people, to their homes, to the food they eat.

Are you working on anything at the moment that’s particularly exciting?

I’m working on a children’s look-book, which is a completely new thing for me. Every year, I evaluate what I’ve shot, and what I want to do more of, and what I want to try next. If I’m just shooting a ton of food, I get a little burnt out. I like to mix it up. I’m inspired by changes.



Thank you, Nicole! It’s been so inspiring following your career. How interesting to learn about the challenge of finding professionals to shadow (and to think that you must be asked the same all the time now). I appreciate the advice to be persistent—and practice.
For more, visit Nicole’s website, blog, and Instagram.

All photographs by Nicole Franzen (naturally). Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series! Read more about the inspiration behind it

P.S. See all the previous entries in The Work We Do. 

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THE WORK WE DO: Rebecca Atwood


TheWorkWeDo AtwoodLEAD-ALTERNATE-rebecca-atwood-textile-design-career-advice-interview

The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. This week, Brooklyn-based artist and textile designer Rebecca Atwood shares her story.

As someone who managed to translate her interests (and considerable talents!) into a successful business, Rebecca is exactly the sort of entrepreneur I am eager to hear from. 


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Getting ahead of the holidays



Ready or not, the holidays are just around the corner. This year—Skyler’s first—everything seems to be happening faster.

Every year I say I’m going to get ahead—on holiday wish lists, plans, cards, and the like. This year, it’s going to happen! I really want to savor this season with our two little ones.

First step: holiday cards. We went with Minted last year, and we loved how they turned out—so it was an easy choice to go with one of their designs again. (And they’re sharing a discount with readers. See below if you’d like to do so as well.)


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THE WORK WE DO: Joslyn Taylor


TheWorkWeDo JT

The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. This week, I’m speaking with designer, stylist, and blogger Joslyn Taylor.

Joslyn’s blog, Simple Lovely, was one of the first I read when Aron and I first started Hither & Thither, together, back in 2008. And I credit her with some of the site’s success: she called it one to watch at Alt Summit, way back then. (She also interviewed us!) We’ve been in touch since, and I’ve let her know that (along with Julia, of course) she was actually an inspiration for this series: at one point a corporate exec with a blog on the side, she’s reimagined her entire career.

I’ll let her tell you the story. 


You’re a woman of many careers: editing, styling, blogging, designing. Tell us how you got your start.

Many people think careers develop in a straight line, but mine definitely didn’t.


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THE WORK WE DO: Maia McDonald Smith



TheWorkWeDo Maia McDonald Smith

The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. This week, I’m thrilled to feature graphic designer and art director Maia McDonald Smith.

I first became familar with Maia through Pinterest. (And, with 1.8 million followers to her feed, I’m guessing some of you know her that way, too.) It was only much later, after realizing how often I was repinning her picks, that I found my way over to her blog: Conundrum (at the time, “Design Conundrum”). With her warm voice and uniquely crafted career, she seemed like just the person to ask about her path.


You’re a freelance graphic designer and an art director, too—how did you get started in those fields?

My first job out of school was with I worked there for over four years. After that, I moved to the Bay Area to work for Williams-Sonoma. Both of those jobs taught me a lot, especially about working with big teams and how larger corporate companies function. Ultimately, though, I wanted something smaller and more creative, which is why I decided to go freelance. Since being independent I’ve been lucky enough to work with clients like Cuyana, Apartment 34, Darby Smart, and of course Rue Magazine. I’ve been Art Director at Rue Magazine for over two years now and I love it.

That’s an impressive resume. Did you go to design school?

I did study design in school, and I loved it. School projects can be so fantastical and you usually don’t have a client to keep in mind, so you can really do whatever you want. It’s a bit of a reality check when you start doing real work, but my experience in school was well worth it.

Did you always know you’d be a designer? What did you dream about doing as a little kid?

Doing something creative was always at the top of my list, but I changed my mind a lot. When I was in elementary school, I thought I was going to be an Olympic swimmer. In high school, I kept on going back and forth between being an artist, a designer, or something in politics. In the end, I think I went in the right direction.

I’d love to know what a typical day in your life looks like—or are there no typical days?

I don’t really have a typical day. I spend a lot of time at my computer designing for upcoming issues of Rue, answering emails, or posting to social media and my blog.


You’re a new mother—congratulations! She’s adorable. How are you navigating the balance of work and family?

I’m still kind of figuring that out. Working from home has been really helpful, and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. So we just tag team it, and when something works we just hope it still works next week. Things are always changing, and I’m learning to try to just go with the flow.

What do you find is the hardest part of what you do? Do you ever miss your non-freelance days?

Since I work for myself, it’s always the not-so-fun stuff that’s most challenging: getting payment from clients, dealing with insurance, remembering to save money for taxes. Those are the things I miss about working for a bigger company. But overall, the freedom of working for myself is totally worth having to deal with those things.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to become a designer or an art director?

I think going to school for design is really beneficial. There are people who succeed who aren’t trained, but you can gain so much from your peers and teachers in a school setting. Also, paying attention to design in your day-to-day life and thinking about what you like or what you would improve is a good way to hone your skills.

Love that. What makes you happiest about the work you do?

I love the moment when I get a brand new project or client and my mind is swimming with ideas. It’s always the beginning of a project that inspires the most creative energy—the challenge, then, is being able to sustain some of that energy until it’s finished.

What inspires you creatively? What keeps you driven?

My family, food and cooking, social media (like Pinterest and Instagram), traveling, and being in nature always help to inspire me.

What’s next? What are you working on now that you’re most excited about?

I can’t give too many details yet, but I have some cool projects coming up for both Rue and other freelance clients. I’m just getting back to a full-time schedule after a difficult pregnancy and then being on maternity leave. It’s a refreshing change of pace.


Thank you so much, Maia! It’s always interesting to me to hear whether those who choose to leave corporate jobs (albeit creative ones) are happier working for themselves. I’d be curious to hear from readers who have experience on both sides. Visit Maia’s website, Conundrum, for more, and find archived issues of Rue Magazine

Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series. Read more about the inspiration behind it. Know someone who’d be great for “The Work We Do,” or have a request for a profession you’d love to know more about? Email

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THE WORK WE DO: Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press


Eva TheWorkWeDo

The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. 

Today’s interview is with Eva Jorgensen of the letterpress stationary company, Sycamore Street Press. Eva was one of the first people I met “in real life” that I had initially made contact with through blogging (here’s hers). She and her husband, Kirk, were in Brooklyn for the 2010 Renegade Craft Fair and were expecting their first child. We’ve kept in touch ever since (she designed Skyler’s birth announcement) and it’s been incredibly inspiring watching them grow their business (and their family) since that summer. 


Give us a little background about your history as an illustrator. When did you start Sycamore Street Press?

My mom is an artist, and I grew up admiring her creations and painting alongside her. After trying out several other more “practical” majors in college, I applied to the art program because I couldn’t not do art. I ended up getting a BFA and MFA in printmaking. I loved the way it walked the line between fine art and graphic arts, and I loved the communal aspect of the printshop. I spent a lot of time in the letterpress studio during grad school and when I finished in 2007, the modern letterpress renaissance was really taking off. I noticed that, and started to wonder about starting my own letterpress stationery company. I brought it up with my dad, who’s an entrepreneur, and he encouraged me and gave me the confidence to go for it.

At first, I thought it would be a little side business, but within six months, it had become a more-than-full-time occupation. I would draw, draw, draw, and then print for days on end—sometimes for as long as twelve hours a day cranking the press back and forth. (My right arm and shoulder got really strong—I loved it.) Six months after that, my husband Kirk and I made the decision that he would join me full-time. It had always been a dream of ours to work together, and we realized that Sycamore Street Press was our way to make that happen.


Can you elaborate on the term “hand drawn life,” that you reference on your website? It’s such a beautiful conceptI’d love to know more about how you embody what it means.

To me, a “hand drawn life” is one that is lived intentionally. It’s edited down to the most important things. It’s full of simple beauty and joys. It’s the kind of life Kirk and I try to lead and create for our kids.

What skills did you have to learn—if any—in order to launch your business?

So many. I had the artistic skills, luckily, having gone through all those years of art school and really honing my drawing style and creative process there. I had passion. I also knew how to work hard, thanks to my parents. But I had absolutely no business skills or knowledge, unless you count the lemonade stands and Girl Scout cookie experiences from my childhood. I had a lot to learn. I still have a lot to learn. But I feel I’ve come a long way, too. Things like branding, trade shows, wholesale, profit and loss, bookkeeping, trademarks, copyrights. The list could go on and on. Looking back, a minor in business or accounting would have been really helpful. And if I’d there would have been a class about how to start a successful stationery business, I could have skipped over a lot of my early mistakes. Speaking of which, I’ll be launching an online course called “Stationery Business 101: Starting Strong” on August 4th, and it’s exactly the kind of thing I wish had been available when I began my company.

Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator?

I had lots of different ideas—from children’s book illustrator to travel magazine editor to art professor—but it always involved doing something creative.


Take us through a typical day in your work life.

Every day, week, season, and year are different. Over the years, though, I’ve been able to spend a bigger and bigger percentage of my time on the creative end of things. At first, I did everything: shipping, packaging, printing, sales, customer service. Now I’ve handed over all those tasks to other team members, and I focus on the creative—the design, social media and PR, and the big picture stuff. Of course, I still have to spend some time doing administrative tasks, but I’m trying to cut them out and prioritize as much as possible. Time is the most precious commodity.

To give you a rough idea, here’s an outline of a “typical” day at work:

9:30 AM – Get to work. Check in with the team.

9:45 AM – 12:30 PM: Emails, social media, and administrative tasks. My mornings seem to slip away so quickly while working on a bunch of smaller tasks. Sometimes I’ll let all those things slide, though, so that I can get right to work on whatever my big current project is.

12:30 PM – 1 PM: Lunch. I’ve been trying (not always successfully) to take lunch away from my desk.

1 PM – 5 PM: This is my most productive time of day. I try to focus on bigger creative projects: illustrations for new products, a blog post, creating course content, etc. Often, I’ll have one project going myself, while I also go back and forth with Allison, my design assistant, on something we are working on together.

7:30 PM – 10 PM: Once the kids are in bed, I’m back at my desk. Often I’ll pick up where I left off on a bigger project. Other times, I’ll dig into emails, social media, scheduling, or other ongoing tasks.


What are some of the more challenging aspects of your job and how do you navigate them?

If you’ve never owned your own business, you might be surprised at how much work it takes. New entrepreneurs say this over and over again: “I knew it would be a lot of work, but I didn’t realize it would be this much.” Your work becomes your hobby. And that’s okay, because you love it. (At least I do, and you should to, if you’re starting a business!)

If you have kids, you often have to work nights when they are in bed in order to get everything done. If you don’t have kids, it’s easy to end up spending every waking minute working. I know I used to. I always wish I had more time, and that’s something I’ll always struggle with. But being a mother and an entrepreneur has really taught me how to prioritize, and I’m grateful for that.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to do what you do?

Figure out what your aesthetic is, how it’s different from what’s already out there, and then really hone in on that. Having a distinctive style and remaining focused on that will really help you get noticed. Also, know that it’s going to be a lot more work than you ever imagined, and be prepared to let a lot of other things in your life go.


Lastly, what do you love most about what you do?

I love the life that it’s created. Kirk and I get to work together. I take Fridays off to be with my kids (Kirk does the same on Wednesdays). I’m able to surround myself with creative people. It’s not a perfect life, but still, it’s a beautiful life.

I’ll always remember the night Kirk and I decided to take this path. It was Thanksgiving, and we were in Milwaukee for a craft fair, and we were walking through the dark city streets while talking about the future. Kirk was in school for Slavic Linguistics and had been planning on becoming a professor. But we’d really been enjoying working together at Sycamore Street Press, which had been growing, and we realized this might be our chance. I’m so glad we made the leap.


Thanks so much, Eva!  It resonates with me that it takes a second love—a truly competing interest (like family)—to force you to learn how to prioritize. Sometimes it would be simpler if it didn’t, wouldn’t it?  Thank you for showing us how you work toward a balance. And for the inspiration to take a risk! 

Visit Sycamore Street Press. Photos by Jessica Peterson.

Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series! Read more about the inspiration behind it. Know someone who’d be great for “The Work We Do,” or have a request for a profession you’d love to know more about? Email

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THE WORK WE DO: The Wonder Jam


The Work We Do: The Wonder Jam

It was just over a year ago when I first heard about The Wonder Jam: Allie Lehman announced on her blog that she and her husband, Adam Lehman, were starting a new business together to help entrepreneurs “be the brand of their dreams.” I was just starting to think about how to make writing Hither & Thither viable (financially) and needed some advice. I was particularly excited to find a team that might be able to consult on design as well as all of the stuff I’d until then ignored, but wanted to learn about (SEO? Alt Tags? What?). And before I knew it, we were redesigning the site!

It’s been such a pleasure working with them; I told Adam the other day that he could easily be the volunteer coach on a kids’ basketball team—their enthusiasm is wonderful. But what’s really amazing is, just over a year later, getting to follow all of their success. So I wanted to ask them about how they took that leap to create the thing of their dreams. 

To start, we’d love a little background about your history at The Wonder Jam. How did the idea for this business come about?


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Julia Child: The ultimate entrepreneur?


Julia Child: Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Do you know what you’d like to be doing, career-wise, in five or ten years? (Or now, perhaps?)

Some certainly do. I have a feeling that, for my part, the future hold many roles. There was a time when I thought I would be an academic: I finished two master’s degrees, and the coursework for a PhD, but realized more years put toward a thesis wasn’t a good investment if you don’t want the end-goal. Then we moved to New York and I dabbled in magazines a bit before starting at the bottom at a mid-size book publisher. I took an internship, and worked as an editorial assistant for a few years, eventually working my way up to Editor before leaving to stay home with Hudson. Since then, blogging has become a part-time job, and so I get to put on quite a few creative hats: freelance writer, photographer, publisher, advertiser… somedays it feels like one big internship. It’s challenging and dynamic, humbling but full of possibility—it can be very rewarding. And it has opened a lot of doors—though it’s hard to know which ones to step through right now. I am so lucky to get to stay home with Hudson and Skyler these years (my primary role is caretaker). But I imagine that one day—sniff, sniff—they’ll go off to school and I’ll be happy to build on this media experience.

But while I’m very happy blogging at the moment, I do imagine that the role will evolve. So I’m especially fascinated whenever I hear about men and women who create a job for themselves—often after devoting a number of years to parenting, and sometimes simply to fuel a creative need.

Julia Child, of course, is first to come to mind when thinking of inspiring self-starters. She took her first cooking lesson at the age of 32! There’s a great article on Inc. with her “Recipe for Entrepreneurial Success,” my favorite being the author’s distilled: “Don’t wait till everything is perfectly organized to start a new project. You have to learn along the way.” 

Later today, I’ll be introducing another new blog series that you’ll find appearing regularly on Hither & Thither. “The Work We Do” will feature creatives who work in fields many people aspire to, and which will ask each person how (and why, and when) they started doing what they do. I love getting a look behind the scenes. I hope you will, too!

Where do you stand on this? Are you in your dream job? What was your trajectory? Be sure and check back later today and join the conversation!

[Photo of Julia Child taping The French Chef via, courtesy of Paul Child.]

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