4 Wins for a Home Based Creative Business Uprooted by Immigration
For the past 15 months, I’ve had to pack up my entire life and art studio and move to a different country every three months. Going through the immigration process is no joke.
Applying for a visa so that I could live with my husband of 9 years in his home country of Sweden, meant I had to float back and forth between the United States and Sweden. Somehow maintaining an art practice and growing my creative home-based business in the process.
The time frame for how long this could go on: as long as it took. My goals for 2021 were low, like real low, like just surviving living with your family again at the age of 29 kind of low.
But perseverance paid out big and some amazing experiences were gained this year despite not having a true home.
Here’s a look back on a few wins through the seasons of 2021.
Took the leap with acrylic paints and painted the Tropics Art Print Collection.
I painted these vibrant lush tropical scenes in my darkest hour. More literally than figuratively.
They are not exaggerating when they tell you that winters in the North are miserable. Coming from Florida, it feels like I just wasn’t taught in school how the axis of the earth really works and what it does. Because the days are nearly nonexistent. The sun rises at 9am and sets at 3pm. And the actual sun only ever gets to the 10/11am marker in the sky and then sinks back down again. It’s insane.
As you can imagine, I was not my chipper self and I turned towards my paints desperately needing a refresh.
I purchased some acrylics, never having really used them before, and set off to learn a new medium and hopefully bring myself out of the funk. I was getting the hang of acrylics by working with a limited color palette. It forced me to blend streaky strokes and place globs of paint in areas and ways I wouldn’t ever do with watercolors.
I found myself painting beach scenes with idyllic landscapes, swaying palm trees, and welcoming crystal blue waters. The dream getaway from cold dark Sweden in Winter.
The reprieve I was looking for in these paintings came and every time I look through them or at the art prints on my walls I feel a reminder to find ease and flow. To just let the cycles pass.
Looking back on that process now, I realize a shift occurred in my painting practice. My watercolors tend to be more precise although that’s not something I particularly enjoy, it just happens that way. But after the Tropics collection, I think 'loose play' entered the fold. And that’s something that I’m really grateful for from 2021. Now cultivating loose play is a quest for 2022.
The Tropics Collection will soon become the Paradise Collection, more on that coming._______________________________________________________________________
Finally found a groove with Procreate and created the beginnings of my Flowering Fruit Print Series.
You know when you have this idea in your head that you want to get out but for the life of you, you can not get your hands to create the quality of work that’s in your head. I’ve been trying to create a cohesive style on Procreate for nearly three years. And it took me nearly three years to find a flow with the app.
I mean, I wasn’t working on it consistently and often (because it all looked so terrible I figured what’s the point) but a weird lightbulb moment went off in my head one day. It’s so obvious now, but I was approaching Procreate wrong. I thought it was a new tool that I had to learn from the ground up. Once I approached it like I would with my paintbrushes things fell into place. I gained an understanding of texture with transparency and found my favorite brushes and birthed one of my favorite art print series, the Flower Fruit Series (soon to be The Harvest Collection - more on that coming).
This was the first time I saw prints of mine at 70x100cm (27x39 inches). At the time, it felt like a huge shift in what I could offer my collectors. No longer were people limited to smaller sizes but could now go big with their spaces.
This collection was also so important to me because it allowed me to keep the little momentum I felt in my life by working digitally. Having the luxury to own an iPad and easily create all my art elements on it for a collection while moving from place to place allowed me a lifeline. I didn’t need to haul suitcases of paint tubes to create.
It was also the first time I brought some type design into the mix. I think I am a TERRIBLE graphic designer. I took a graphic design class at Parsons while I was studying at the New School and I failed it. I was really bad. But I had the idea and knew how I wanted to lay it all out and I trusted my gut on the typeface. It all felt very instinctual, something that I don’t always lean into. Oftentimes I think we feel that the harder something is the bigger the return will be, and that’s just not always the case. These prints are really good and I’m proud of them and I’m grateful I trusted myself enough to not overthink it all.
When I think back to designing those and to that launch, I was more confident about that body of work than the rest. I really loved the way they turned out and still do. And being able to look upon older work with a smile and not a cringe is a big win in my book._______________________________________________________________________
Created an original art collection in a different style with all new materials.
When your time frame for creativity and inspiration, painting and production, shipping, and customer service is whittled down to 10 weeks, it’s really hard to imagine yourself undertaking a task let alone announce it to the world that “This is coming!” 10 weeks may sound like an awfully long time to create a body of work. But let’s be real. You have ideas all the time, like wanting to repaint your laundry room or put wallpaper up in your kid’s room. Redo the garage. You’ve had the ideas for months, maybe years! But how long did it take you to actually get started?
The creative process is similar. As an artist, I have painting ideas floating around my head all the time but only a few ever get pulled out of that space and given the energy to come into the world.
I had no plans for releasing an original collection this year because I didn’t think I could handle it logistically or emotionally. Not having a collection planned put me in a weird headspace. I felt like what am I really working on right now?
In June I started a 30 Days Challenge to help me find some direction. On day 18, I painted what would become the template for my only original collection of 2021.
That blip of an idea that had been floating around was plucked and put on paper and the rest was set in motion.
This was such a left turn at the time that I decided to pull out ALL the “I want to try that” stops. 18k gold leaf? Yeah, let’s do it. Large cradled wood panels? Why not? Incorporating black and white stripes? Duh. Acrylics as the medium? Yeah, you’re definitely confident with that paint now…
I had weeks to get the paint down and out the door before I had to head back to Sweden. Looking back, I laugh at how ridiculously unlikely it was for this to have worked. Creating an original collection while being time-bound was something I’d never experienced before and for me to assume I could get it all done and be confident in the work I produced was just downright arrogant.
But that loose play entered the fold unannounced again. And I fell into a rhythm with these retro stripes and gold-centered flowers. And they turned out beautifully and went on to be one of my best-selling collections.
It’s interesting the weird flashes of ease that emerge in moments of fatigue and instability. There’s always a gentle reminder lingering that if you just simply trust in creativity, you will be rewarded. 2021 has taught me to lean into those moments as soon as I realize they’re there. I hope for many more in 2022._______________________________________________________________________
The approval of my Swedish visa.
I should start by saying that at the moment of writing this, I don’t actually have the visa, only the approval email.
But what an email that was to receive.
Going through the Swedish immigration process has been a challenge that I was simply not prepared for. It was an awakening in a sense of how deeply your personal life plays into your professional life. Superficially, we all know that. But feeling and seeing all your business goals and plans reduced to whatever you can create in a few weeks while in country A or country B was jarring.
The instability is overwhelming.
My birthday, October 28th, marked six months since my application was officially filed. Not wanting to prolong this weird purgatory I was living in, I decided to be more proactive in the process. I mean, I don’t know if that’s the right way to word that or not but I needed to feel like I had some sort of control over my life again. So for the next two weeks, I pulled photos and documents, leases, joint bills, anything and everything I could find that showed that Will and I have shared a life together since 2012.
There is a moment of ease and happiness that pops out in moments of turmoil. Little opportunities to reprioritize your way of thinking.
I went through literally thousands of photos of our life together over the near-decade, and it was the first time I’d done so since he went through his American immigration process.
It sort of felt like a reset button had been pushed.
My angst and anxiety that was being fueled each passing day as no change was made in our application status felt minor compared to the gratitude I felt looking back on those pictures.
We’ve lived such a privileged life! And through the years of photos, anyone can see real happiness between us. Both coming from families of divorce, I count us lucky that we’re nearly at our 10th anniversary and still genuinely like each other, love each other.
I made a 29-page-PDF titled “Will and Jordan’s Relationship Packet.” Inside it was photos from each year of our life together, our NYC apartment leases, joint bill’s from our time living together in Asheville, tickets purchased together from our time living in South America, and all the adventures we’d shared since.
It was undeniable that our marriage was real.
Within one week of sending that PDF to immigration in Sweden, I received an email with big bold letters stating “Your case has been settled. Your application is granted.”
I reread it three times just to be sure I didn’t miss any detail that would result in that statement being untrue for our case. Pure excitement exploded in my chest. And I felt for the first time, in a really long time, that I could get going again. That I didn’t need someone’s permission to begin the life I had been trying to live.
The difficult process led me to readjust my mindset and look upon things with a greater sense of gratitude and I’m thankful to have had that adjustment. The triumph of getting the visa approval not only lay in being able to live more fully with my partner but also acknowledging that life is good, really good. The importance of being more mindful and present in your life and professional life is a lesson that 2021 taught me. What a difference that makes when you feel like you're in a race all the time.
The big wins from this year may not have felt like wins if they weren’t achieved during a point in my life that's been filled with instability and uncertainty. I mean, that’s all this is right? Finding balance. The great ebb and flow. So maybe it’s all just a matter of perspective. When things feel like chaos is all that exists, maybe you just haven't noticed the little blips of opportunity and peace that emerge in that space. And maybe the point is to be vigilant in your awareness of those moments. For a home-based creative business to no longer have a space and location to nurture and grow from means what? Instability? Stagnation? Or perhaps it breeds creativity in itself.
Maybe it’s all BS. Maybe I’m just trying to convince myself that it all wasn’t that bad and that yes, I’ve gotten through it so it all feels smaller now. But maybe that doesn’t matter? Maybe all that matters is that I got to this place in my thinking where I can appreciate that in order to have a win there also has to be some loss.
- In order to experience a win you'll experience some loss
- Moments of instability and uncertainty breed opportunities for growth and expansion
- Being bold, pushing forward, and trying new things is always more rewarding than sticking to the same old path
- Bringing gratitude into the daily mindset can generate a sense of peace during times of distress