school.

by Liz on 03.18

Little J is already (already!) at an age that demands we begin seriously talking about preschools for the fall.

School is a sort of scary thing for me, which I’m sure is no surprise. I’ve faced each of his new phases with dubious resistance and blogpost navel-gazing. Why would school be any different?

Though I have my nights of sweaty terror, my real fears aren’t really Law and Order or Nightly News-based. Excluding a few panicky moments, I’m less worried about the dramatic and extreme, and more worried about just… life stuff. This is the beginning of a whole world full of things outside of my protective grip. Kids and their mean jokes, embarrassing mistakes in front of jeering classrooms, impatient teachers who maybe won’t fully understand just how sweet and special he is. All of the little quirks and ticks that are just his, things that I find so endearing- what if they’re just fodder for teasing and cruel nicknames?

The teacher encourages us to set aside a day to visit the school as a sort of test-run, making sure it’s a good fit, feeling out his little comfort levels. We pick a day, put him in some new pants, and pack a lunch.

I drop him off and linger in the doorway, watching as he runs to sit at a squat table full of other kids his size. I force a grin and wave goodbye, squelching worries that he won’t be understood, that he won’t fit in, or (maybe the worst), that he won’t fit in and won’t realize it. Of course I want my kid to march to the beat of his own drum and feel empowered to be his own person. But I also sort of hope that “own person” is just normal enough to scrape by without any traumatic taunting.

At the end of the day, we pick him up. He bounds out the front door, turning back to wave as all the kids on the playground call, “Bye Josh!” The teacher hands me a stack of construction paper projects still tacky with gluestick, and pulls me aside. She smiles, explaining that all of the kids were running a race in the grass and one little girl tripped and fell over. All of the other kids- small, oblivious, intent on their own place in the race- ran around her, or hopped over, or quickly sidestepped her. Just Little J stopped mid stride, bending to the girl to ask, “Are you okay?”

So, yeah, this story was partly a bald excuse to just brag about my son on the internet. But I also had a bit of a moment there, as I do when I’m in these navel-gazey modes. I’ve been so concerned that I need to protect my little son from outside unknowns, I never considered that maybe he could be the kind of kid who protects other kids. I worry about not being there to help him, and instead, he’s already helping others.

Maybe school won’t be so bad.

Besides, I survived being called Lizardbreath just fine. Hardly even think about it any more.

 

 

 

 

kickstart.

by Liz on 03.03

After a year of big plans for Betsy Ann Paper, we had one very specific goal for this year:

Lay low.

Our next Big Step in the ever growing, ever changing list is to hit the National Stationery Show. But, we knew that would mean a lot of preparation, a lot of planning… frankly, a lot of cash. So, 2015 NSS, here we come! Til then, we’d planned to spend a year focusing our energies on making that possible.

Then, I was invited to attend.

THIS YEAR.

The National Stationery Show gives us the ability to personally meet retailers from all over the country. It provides the chance to end up on shelves in small independent shops, all the way to big retail chains. It legitimizes our small business to all of the big guys. On top of all of that, accepting this invitation to come this year instead of next, means that we’ll be specially featured as up-and-coming artists. It’s an amazing opportunity- one that we just can’t pass up at this stage in our growing business. But, one that also came up just a bit sooner than we planned. Three months is a short amount of time to work out all of the logistics of catalog printing, booth building, getting our butts to NYC. But it’s an incredibly short amount of time to raise the money that would make all of that possible.

With highest hopes, we’ve pulled together a Kickstarter. It’s still a pretty tall order- only 25 days to raise $3,000, and that’ll just cover the bare minimum booth fee. There’s still so much more to do! But we’re confident that, with a push, we can really make this happen, and really make it worth it.

If you have a chance and the ability, it would be super terrific awesome of you to contribute. Backers get all sort of good things (stationeryyyy), plus that happy-fuzzy feeling. If contributing personally isn’t in the cards (haaaa. cards), I’d really appreciate your help passing the link along and spreading the word! We’re incredibly grateful for the many kinds of support we’ve received over the last few years, and we’re excited to take this next step.

boring business post.

by Liz on 02.18


But I guess you can read it, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I have a lot of Thoughts about this last year and Betsy Ann Paper. This’ll be my sixth try at making sense of them all, so fingers crossed we all slodge through this. It was a year of swift, rapid-fire changes that demanded a lot of legwork and planning. And so much quick change and heavy work meant I figured out a lot of things about what I’m doing and what I want to do. Fast.

The first domino fell when I decided I want my cards to be available in shops. That one small decision meant that I needed to let go of the “hand paint each and every card” idea that (I thought) was at the core of everything. It meant a lot of work. I had to really hammer out the exact specific designs so we could digitize and perfect and replicate them. Then we had to figure out printing, and then snap new photos, and then make a catalog, and all sorts of other small steps in between.

But the bigger struggle for me was the emotional processing end of all of that.

Don’t you snigger over there.

When you work for yourself (or maybe it’s this way even when you don’t), and you want to change things around, there can be a very real fear that you’re changing the wrong things. That by changing, you’re selling out or losing who you are and missing out on what sets you apart. I had to decide for myself- by giving up on hand-painting each card, was I giving up on myself?

And you know, I have given up on myself a few times before. Rather than just doing what I love and am good at and what my gut says I want to do, I look at what everyone else is doing. I compare myself. I say, “Oh, this is popular right now!” and jump on a trend. That’s the completely wrong kind of flexible, the kind that’s self defeating and makes you blend in, instead of stand out. I experience that kind of pressure a lot when I spend too much time online. I see what all of these other great creative folks are making, and I want to do the same. I want to try and make everything. And when I try to do everything, I don’t do any of it well. I’m much better off figuring out what narrow, singular thing is My Thing, and trying to do an amazing job at just that.

It’s an odd little tension, understanding who you are as a business and being flexible to the market within that knowledge. It’s so, so easy (for me, at least) to have too tight a grip on some nonessential that isn’t really crucial to what I’m doing, or conversely, to be too willing to drop what I’m doing in favor of whatever is cool or trendy.

I hope to keep growing and changing as a business- otherwise, what’s the point? But I want to be smart about it, to grow and change in ways that are completely consistent with the kind of company I want to have and be, and the kind of work I want to do and make. At the end of the day, I want to be really proud of everything I set out with my name on it.

And I’m really very proud of what I did this year.