How fun that eBay now let us curate our own collections? I've been putting together some of my own and I like that it's easier for me to sort things. One of my favorite collections is On Pointe, which is everything ballerina. Most people don't know, but ballet was a big part of my early life. I was working toward to become a professional dancer, but one major head injury forced me to quit. Despite that, I still keep up with the ballet world - like collecting vintage dance wear or posters.
You jump on to an opportunity (immediately) when the World Barista Champion said he'd teach you how to brew coffee. My dear friend, Julie, and I stopped by Handsome Coffee on a Monday afternoon and hung out in the backroom with Michael Phillips for two hours learning the proper way to grind coffee and do pour-over. Quick summary: Lots of laughing, screaming (mostly just me afraid of hot water), lots of math and lots of coffee. Tyler Wells happened to stop by and was kind of him to teach Julie and I how to do french press. Fun day!
I really truly appreciate and love the friends that are in my life right now - some old and some new ones. Recently, with a chance of (or perhaps it was finally time) releasing an old resentment that took up large part of my inner world, I found myself wide open for new knowledge, discoveries and love. I can't even explain all the magical things that have been happening to me. Most importantly, through all that, I have a group of friends that allow me to question, to share and to discuss from career to everything spiritual.
Often times, people would ask how I become friends with such amazing group of people. I never really have a clear answer for it, but I am a true believer of being genuine with good intention, have faith, just let things happen naturally and the right people will come along. We are close because we value the idea of helping and supporting each other more than anything and that's important in order to grow together.
I hope you have a group of friends that are there to support you too!
*image source: my Instagram
Have you seen the beautifully designed Mad Men collection from Estée Lauder? I have a set and I'm just loving it! To go with the theme, I've created a Pinterest board for Estée Lauder. I just can't get enough of the fashion and glamour in the 50s and 60s.
*image sources: logo and products from Estée Lauder.
It's been a week since I returned from this year's SXSW. I had such a wonderful time speaking on a panel with Suzanne Schloot of Kate Spade and Natanya Anderson of Whole Foods Market, hosted by Jean Schneidnes of Neiman Marcus.
Sharing my personal story:
I must admit, public speaking is something I have avoided for most of my life. As an artist, I want my creativity to be heard and seen, but at the same time I want to be away from the spotlight. However, I'm at a stage where I consciously desire to remove old habits and face old fears. So, I said yes to the opportunity. For about a month before the panel date I was struggling so much. I struggled with, of course, fighting the fear of public speaking. I struggled with turning my daily creative process into words (Why do I Instagram my breakfast? I don't know!). And then I struggled with the urge of self-sabotage (the good old "Oh, I'm not good enough."). Thankfully, I'm surrounded by friends that understood my fear and they believe in me so much. That alone, knowing you're loved, gives power to courage. Thanks to Joy, Bri, Jen, Sally, Brett and Joel for being there, means so much. Sorry to sound like I'm making an Oscar speech, but I just have to give hugs to Michael, Joanna and Jacki of The Soil & The Sun as well. As nervous as I was and as crazy as the scenes were, the time spent on those Austin streets with the three of them was magical. And then a chance to have my very first Austin's breakfast burrito with Tyler of Handsome Coffee Roaster an hour before the panel was just amazing. I mean, you can't beat eating breakfast, drinking coffee and listening to a successful business owner sharing his personal stories. Last person to thank: Thank you, sis, for secretly being part of the audience! xo
On Visual Voice:
Our panel's topic was Visual Voice: Branding on Photo Networks. So what is "visual voice"? Here's a good recap of what we covered and some "live" tweets for little snippets. I was on the panel, but I learned so much about social media from the corporate point of view. Here, I'll share my point of view as an artist, a personal brand. First of all, with everything you do you should get to know yourself first. You can't sell yourself without knowing what you're all about. Have the courage to be your true self, then streamline your work, your personal style, your pins, your Instagram... everything should make sense together. With that, brands and clients with similar esthetic will approach you. Keep in mind though, when you shift your brand you'll most likely lose some followers, but that's ok because you're losing those (sadly) that you can't connect with anyway. Having a clear identity and personality will help set you apart. Of course, there are other factors too, such as talent and hard work.
I know that social media doesn't quite work with all personalities, but it works for me. I like to express myself visually, I enjoy documenting life and beautiful people and things, so visual networks are perfect for me. Find something that works for you, if you share your creative outlet people will respond. I think being an artist nowadays is a fortunate thing because we can take advantage of social media and broadcasting our work is a lot easier and faster.
*image source: my Instagram
About two or three years ago, I made a point to always make time for myself. It was difficult in the beginning because 1) the society has conditioned us to think that if we're not busy then we're lazy, 2) I'm a workaholic and 3) I didn't know what to do with myself. At first, I'd take short breaks - leave the desk for lunch, stop by a bookstore or 30 minutes walk by the beach... Now I just pick a day or two out of the week and not work. I'll be honest, even typing this makes me feel guilty. What would my clients think?! However, I learn to let that negative feeling go fairly quickly because I know, in the end, the break from work will be beneficial to me personally and professionally. It's good to go out, get some fresh air, see some friends, talk about things that bother you, hear different perspectives and feel energized again. I often tell myself this: Even superheroes feel defeated and need to rest sometimes.
image source: Bonnie Tsang's Instagram
The first response I got, almost every time after I excitedly told a friend I'd be visiting Detroit, MI, for a job was, "What's out there? It's not the safest place, don't go out at night or walk anywhere by yourself." For some reason, that didn't scare me. What scared me was when my brother told me how cold it'd be out there during January. I guess I'm spoiled by our L.A. weather.
I knew nothing about Detroit when I arrived, but I fell in love with it by the end of the day (I was there for a day only). It's certainly sad to see a city in decay, but it's so beautiful to find how passionate the people are for their city. Everyone there was so nice. So nice. They were eager to share their stories, their favorite places I should check out, the history behind an architecture... It's also beautiful to see new lives in Detroit - cafes, restaurants and shops.
I got up at dawn, drove around in and out of the city for a bit. I have read about a coffee shop, Chez Zara, with really good nutella latte, so I had to stop by. Now, don't scream "WHAT?!" at me, but I am not a fan of nutella. However, this drink was quite good. It was creamy and smooth, very comforting for a cold morning. By 9am, my client took me to Avalon International Breads for breakfast. I chose sticky bun, which was huge and not too sweet. For the next few hours my client showed me around town, visited Eastern Market, Michigan Central Station, The Detroit Mercantile Co., Great Lakes Coffee, Guardian Building... For lunch, we went to Slows Bar-B-Q. mmm... Pulled Pork...
After work (thanks to a tweet from Molly), I went to visit Signal Return, a letterpress print shop/workshop. The shop was closed that day, but Joel was so nice to let me in and showed me around. The space was amazing! If only L.A. has something similar. After I finished shooting the space, Joel took time out and took me to Belle Isle, an island park in the Detroit River. My favorite spots there are the aquarium and the conservatory. Sadly, they were closed by the time we got there. :(
Overall, Detroit reminds me a lot of Portland, I would definitely visit again. And I think the city deserves a second chance and to be seen with fresh eyes because it is going toward a new and very good direction.
Chez Zara 1555 Broadway Detroit, MI 48226 (313) 962-9272
Avalon International Breads 422 W Willis St Detroit, MI 48201 (313) 832-0008
Great Lakes Coffee 3965 Woodward Ave Detroit, MI 48201 (313) 831-9627
The Detroit Mercantile Co. 3434 Russell, Unit 109 Detroit, MI 48207 (313) 831-9000
Signal Return 1345 Division St., Ste 102 Detroit, MI 48207 (313) 567-8970
Belle Isle 6925 E Jefferson Ave Detroit, MI 48218 (313) 628-2081
Thank you, everyone, for making my 2012 a very special one! Looking forward to new adventures in 2013. Wishing you all the best!!
I'm writing this on my birthday eve. So many thoughts going through my mind that I can't sleep. I normally don't care much for my own birthday, but maybe because this year is 12/12/12 and also the last year being in the thirties, I'm a little emotional (?). Looking back, in the past nine years I got married, have a baby, divorced, found the love of my life, took a leap of faith and became a photographer, lost the love of my life, lost myself, then found myself... I must say, as tough as it was, the best time of my life (so far) has to be my thirties.
I got divorced when Miss V was about 2 years old. Being a stay-at-home mom with no income, I got myself in a serious financial situation. Credit card companies were calling and collection agencies were sending threatening letters, it was a frightening. Just as everything seemed to be so bad, something good was happening - I met a person and he became one of the very important persons in my life. While I was at one of my lowest points in life, he was there to guide me and to encourage me. Eventually, I stepped out of my fear and went back to the world to look for a job. Things were slowly back on track, but as a single mom and my parents being close to retire I realized a regular 9-5 admin job wouldn't be enough to provide for the family. At that time I thought, "Well, I love photography, my friends said I'm good at it, so maybe I can do that on weekends as a side job?" And that's what I did. My boyfriend at the time was very encouraging, he bought me my first camera bag, a camera strap that I was dying to have (things I didn't have the money for) and he helped me with several weddings. I had so much drive at that time, I would say yes to every job, I was out meeting and networking with all kinds of people. I looked at other people's success and I just wanted to be up there with them, not realized heading upward meant some people in my life that I loved dearly weren't enjoying the ride with me.
I had assumed that the person who was there for me when I was so vulnerable would also be there when I was going after success. Problems started rising, arguments were increasing, and eventually the relationship collapsed. I made a really really tough decision, between Miss V, my career and him, I chose to let go of him. I planted myself so deep into the relationship that when I pulled myself out I had also completely lost myself. I didn't anticipate such deep depression and so much pain. I started questioning if I did the right thing to let go, if maybe I gave up the fight too soon. I also questioned who I was as a photographer and why I didn't like my own work. It was a very confusing time. In the morning I'd have to act normal because I had family and a business to tend to, but by night I was drowned in sorrow. The pain... was unbearable. I can honestly say that I fully understand why some people choose to end their lives (not that I ever thought of taking my life) because when the soul is in so much pain, death became nothing.
For many days and months I just let myself fall and broke into pieces. I didn't fight the pain, I didn't let go of the thoughts about him, I didn't stop questioning about what I want to be as an artist, I just kept falling and falling. Just when I felt I was completely hollow, that's when magical things were happening. Without any intentions, I started meeting new friends that guided me the right way, I'd get jobs in New York that forced me to face the fear of being alone and really learned not to rely on others, I'd be photographing weddings and saw with my own eyes what true love is like. Slowly and slowly, I picked up my broken self. I picked up parts of me that were "positive" and let go of the parts that were "negative", which means I had to cut off a lot of things and people that were taking my attention away from myself. I had a lot of holes in me (still do), but I had very strong intention to fill them up with positive things. This process took more than two hard years with constant battle between the heart and the ego.
Tonight, on my very special 12/12/12 birthday eve, I am feeling emotional because I know I come a long way to get here. I can't say I've fully rebuilt myself, but I know what I want and where I want to go are getting clearer. I learned so much in the past 2-3 years, which I wish I can share everything I in details. The guidance and teachings from all the people I encountered, with some eventually became my closest friends, will always be with me. To those that wrote and expressed they're going through tough times, please remember that nothing last. Challenges, difficulties, pain and sorrow... they'll eventually go away. Don't give up on yourself.