2017: Good Stuff from a Good Year

2017, you had your moments! For all the upheaval in the world my business had a good year. I reached a lot of goals I set for myself (and heck, came up short on some too, but that’s life!). The first week of the new year I’m always in planning mode. I grab all that NEW YEAR ENERGY by the tail and try to make the most of it. I also feel that reflecting on what I’ve done, writing down my goals for the year ahead, and coming up with some strategies to accomplish those goals is really important. Especially as a solo entrepreneur, I’m the only one who’s paying attention and holding myself accountable! 

Here we are, let’s look back on my year! Some really great stuff happened and it was fun to think back on 2017.  So if you’re interested, here are a few of the highlights:

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From the top (kind of chronological, not in order of importance):

  • I got myself a new website last January! I switched over to Squarespace, and oh, Squarespace, how do I love thee? So easy and a good investment on my part.  
  • Then I got to see my work in the Print & Pattern Nature book by Bowie Style (a.k.a. Marie Perkins from the Print & Pattern Blog) - dream come true! She was also kind enough to feature me on her blog in March - how cool is that?
  • That big mug up there is ME at BLUE PRINT, my first trade show I exhibited at with my awesome art collective, Pencil Parade. That was by far the most important (and scariest) thing I did for my business this past year. I’m really happy with how it went and in fact, I’ll be back there later this year with Pencil Parade from May 17-19! 
  • Another perk of Blue Print was meeting my Pencil Parade comrades (Betsy, Megan, and Brooke) in person for the first time! These ladies are awesome and I’m so glad I have them! This pic also represents all the other artists I got to meet this year in real life, from international online acquaintances (even some art/design heroes) to some new local artist friends. This profession of mine has an incredibly supportive community and it’s important to connect with and support each other.  
  • Yes, that’s my iPad up there. I got my iPad Pro at the end of 2016 and it’s become such a valuable tool I had to include it. (I’m using it right now) It’s given me more flexibility, it helps me work more efficiently, and I actually love creating art on it too. I can make art wherever I am: with my kids, on the couch, in a coffee shop, or in bed (?!). 
  • My first greeting card with Design House Greetings for Trader Joe’s came out this past summer! It’s been SO fun to start working with them (did you know they’re based in MN?) and I have a number of new cards coming out with them in 2018.
  • Another great new client, Mpix, who make customizable photo cards. I was able to order Christmas cards for my family that were of my own design. More designs to come this year!  
  • My 30 Days of Patterns Challenge! This past fall I made a new pattern every (or nearly every) day for 30 days. It was a way for me to speed up my workflow and be really productive in a fun way and it was a good (but manageable) challenge. I made a lot of that work on my iPad too (wink, wink).
  • Also this fall I started the Yellow House Post! This is a newsletter for friends, shop customers, and art aficionados. I share new art and shop items, special promos, and free printables. I love sharing that kind of stuff (what else is the internet for anyway?). Sign up here if you’d like to receive it!

There you have it! 2017 in a pretty little nutshell. There are of course other good things from the year, including some art opportunities that won’t come to fruition until this year. Now I’m looking forward to another great year of art making and growing my business! Thanks for coming along for the ride! Happy New Year!

A look back at 2016

Happy New Year! I know I'm not the only one who was impatiently waiting for 2016 to just get on with it and be over. I don't know that I've ever felt like that before but there were a number of challenges, frustrations, disappointments, grief, and anxiety this last year in both my personal and professional life - and in the world at large. It made the prospect of a new year something to really look forward to - in a thank god it's over kind of a way. Even if it's just in my head (which we know it is) I'm welcoming the idea of a fresh start. But of course no year goes by without good things too: fun memories, joy and laughter, new experiences, the return of Gilmore Girls. So I'm taking a minute before I start setting my goals for 2017 to look back at 2016 and give myself a little pat on the back for the things I'm really proud of from this past year as far as my work is concerned. Thanks for tagging along with me - I hope your fresh start of a new year is everything you want it to be.

In no particular order:

1. I was featured (and put on the cover) of Southwest Metro magazine's April issue. It was a fun and unexpected surprise and a great way to share my work with my local community.

2. We introduced my art collective, Pencil Parade, to the world! We'd been meeting and collaborating long before this but back in February we officially announced ourselves. And we have a lot of big things planned for 2017 (see #8).

3. In collaboration with my good friend Nicole I illustrated her self-published children's book, Favorite Part of My Day. It was an awesome experience that gave me a chance to "try on" one of my long-time dreams. And there are about a thousand or so copies floating around out there in people's homes (and in public libraries) so that's pretty incredible.

4. In regard to my artwork I tried to stretch myself and add some new things (and new skills) to my portfolio. I continued painting (watercolor and gouache) which I really love and I worked a lot on hand lettering this year, creating a number of greeting cards and illustrated quotes. I'm constantly refining my style and I feel like I had more moments of "Yes, that's it!" this year.

5. I tried to get my work out into the world more! That meant a lot of sharing on social media (Instagram mostly) and submitting my work to companies, online blogs and publications, and magazines. Back in April I had a bookmark in Uppercase magazine. You can bet I'm going to keep at this in 2017.

6. I got to see my illustrations come out on a calendar produced by Orange Circle Studio! I have yet to see it in an actual store but it's pretty exciting to know my artwork is reaching a larger audience.

7. I wanted to expand my Etsy shop this year so I added some new products and new art prints. It's been well received so I hope to continue doing this into the new year with more stationery/greeting card options and some customizable art prints. (I also love my new Land of 10,000 Lakes illustrated Minnesota piece which you can get as a print, a tea towel, or a journal.)

8. This one hasn't happened YET but in 2016 I made the decision and commitment to attend my first trade show, Blueprint, with my art collective in May. It's a big step for me and I'm hoping it will go well as I really make a push this year to make my illustration and design career become more successful.

Well now, that wasn't so bad, was it? Now to start making plans for 2017 . . .

2015 Year in Review

happynewyearHappy New Year! In the spirit of a brand spanking new year I'm taking some time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Day to day it can feel like I'm going nowhere or not moving fast enough, doing enough, or working hard enough.  Anyone relate to that? Looking back allows me to really see what I've accomplished over a period of time. Sometimes it's nice to see how far I've come. (Hey! Not too shabby!) It's especially satisfying to look back on goals I made for 2015 and check off the ones I accomplished. And while I don't really make resolutions for the new year I do like to set some goals. There's something about writing things down that makes those goals real and attainable. For today I thought I'd share some of the highlights from 2015 for Katherine Lenius Design!

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  • Licensing contracts! Back in April I signed my first licensing contract for a product that will come out later this year - I can't wait to share it with you! I'm starting to send my portfolio out to a number of companies I'd like to work with because I hope to get my art on a heap of new products this year. (psst... if you're an art director, call me!)
  • A few patterns of mine were selected to be in the new Print and Pattern Nature book, coming out later this year! This is honestly a dream come true, I'm a big fan of Marie Perkins and the Print & Pattern Blog, so I can't wait to see the book.
  • I was the first runner-up for the P&B Textiles and Pattern Observer Textile Design Competition which got me so so so close to a fabric line (hello, goal for 2016!) and it was a lot of fun.
  • My Etsy shop celebrated it's one year anniversary in August! I love having an Etsy shop and the shop is doing really well. It's also been a fantastic way to connect with different people, like shop owners, art directors, and local media. I hope to add many new art prints and products in the coming months.
  • I had my first gallery show! I never ever thought I would do a gallery show (I don't really expect to do more) but my show at the Chaska Community Center was a great way to share my work with my local community, family, and friends, and even though it was a terrifying prospect at first I'm really glad I did it!
  • I had two designs selected to Minted.com which has been a really great and supportive company to work with. I look forward to adding to my Minted store this year.
  • I was included in the student showcase of MOYO Issue 8 from the people at Make It In Design. Coincidentally, they've featured me TODAY in an "emerging designer" alumni interview.  Check it out!
  • My website got a facelift! I wanted to get a fresh clean site to show my portfolio and I've been really happy with it even though I'm always thinking of improvements I'd like to make.

I also thought it would be fun to share some of my biggest influences from the year. These are the things that have taught me the most, changed my viewpoint about something, and inspired me.

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  • READING: Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon | Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert | How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone. | Uppercase Magazine, Janine Vangool, editor. Art, Inc. has such great information for working artists, everything from changing your mindset as an artist to practical tools for running your business. Elizabeth Gilbert continues to blow my mind and this book transformed the way I think about creativity and fear. Fiona Humberstone, the brand stylist, offers a beautiful and practical approach to styling your brand and I'm slowly making my way through the steps in her book. Uppercase Magazine is a constant source of inspiration and one day I hope to be on the pages of this beautiful magazine.
  • LEARNING: Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells courses. I took Part A and B this past year and the MATS courses are a wonderful way to learn about different art markets, get some valuable advice, and make new work. I also really enjoyed a few courses on Creative Live, which I love because you can view live classes and workshops for free and pay a fee when you'd like to access classes again and again. I also revisited Skillshare this year. I started on Skillshare a couple years ago when I was first learning how to make patterns and I find more and more great classes that are presented within a manageable chunk of time.
  • LISTENING: I'm a big fan of podcasts and this year I was especially addicted to Smart Creative Women with Monica Lee. I've listened to her for awhile now but I spent a lot of time with Monica in my ear this year and loved every minute.
  • CONNECTING: Although it wasn't new to me this year I really started using Instagram in earnest this year. It's been a great tool for my business and such a great way to connect with other artists and get my work out there. More recently I've been diving into Periscope and it's so fantastic! It's like having a little office of co-workers in the best way possible. I'm learning so much from other artists and it'll be a great way to connect with people. Now I just have to be brave enough to do my own scope.
  • MAKING: This could be a long list but I'm loving that I started regularly painting again this past year. Now I'm starting to incorporate a lot of mediums into my work and I love it. There's nothing better than spending a quiet morning painting.

So that was 2015! And with that I'm on to a new year! Check in again next January to see how it all turns out.