๐Ÿ“– โ˜•๏ธ

I finished reading ๐Ÿ“– Just Kids by Patti Smith. What a beautiful read ๐Ÿ’– As I was reading it, the book reminded me of my uni years and final year, working on final project. My friend Sarune @00instant00noodles00 loved Patti Smith. We worked in her flat on finishing touches of our projects, running on 4h sleep, tons of ๐Ÿšฌ, coffee and  sometimes ๐Ÿป as we were drawing and sleeping in turns in between we were blasting Patti Smith Because The Night (belongs to looovers, because the night belongs to lust ๐ŸŽถ because the niiiiight belongs to lovers because the night belongs to us). And as I was finishing the book, thinking about drawing, process, reflection, connection with people, friends, life, whatโ€™s important, where inspiration comes from, how things are so unpredictable and intertwined, this song just became so right and perfect for my life in this moment :) ๐ŸŽต ๐Ÿ“š โœ๏ธ Just Kids.

patti smith and sarune by andsmilestudio viktorija semjonova

Networks and connections

The other day  I went to a panel talk themed Networks. It made me very curious how other creatives and especially freelancers who work on their own find communities to be part of or if they have a support system in place. I did a poll on my instagram and 68% of people didn't have a community or support group. The ones who had support systems in place it was friends 75% and 25% were part of organisations. It was interesting to see that exactly 50% had support systems in place online and the other half offline. 

When I started my career I was pretty much on my own. I didn't know any illustrators (all my uni friends had change of heart or were workin in house) or makers who were making money from this and couldn't ask for advice.  I started selling on etsy and I used teams and forums section a lot. And went for meet ups organised by Etsy where I met several people who became my close friends but our relationship started as sharing experience of being creatives/makers. I also started selling at Crafty Fox Market (pop up Markets) where I met a lot of like minded people (some of whom I knew from Etsy). They also organised some social meet ups where people could come in and mingle, which was super fun! As my career developed and I took it more into real life I made some connections but also I kept in touch with lots of people who I found through instagram. In the beginning all the support network was more unorganised and sporradic. 

But couple of years into my freelance career and after attending numerous business talks I became part of business club (we named it that way ;) with a photographer and pattern designer. We met once in two months in person, talk business plans, vent fears, dream big and give each other advice or just listen. It was the most important thing. All of us were approximately on the same level in development of our careers, we were making money in different ways and our fields were slightly different. Which meant we could give each other a different view on things but still understand every aspect of the business and creative side of things. We have stopped meeting now as our lives and careers became busier.

At the moment I'm part of several groups. First is my friends who I met through Etsy and Crafty Fox, we are good real life friends but can always rely on each other for advice, support or just venting. 

I'm part of a small online group of illustrators (we are based in different places and some of us have never met in real life). Some of us are based in the same cities and we can meet up and talk business or recommend each other for jobs or just overload on coffee and falafels. But we talk all things creative and business, burn outs, contracts, money, negotiation, health. From which chairs to get and what kind of excercises to do for wrist or back pain to how much to charge for jobs and what to look out for in contracts. The most important part of this group is the community and support system. We are ready to lift each other up and celebrate each other achievements and milestones. We are there as friends and colleagues and not as competition. 

I work from a shared studio Kindred Studios, I'm in the room with 6 other people who different things but Kindred Studios is  a community where you can talk to people, make friends and connections. For me it's such a joy to be working alongside other creative people on daily basis.

I'm also part of The Assosiation of Illustrators  (any illustrator can join, you don't have  to be UK based). I don't have an agent and they provide a lot of incredible useful resourses including portfolio reviews, help with pricing and contracts. I strongly recommend considering joining them.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if at the moment you feel a bit isolated in your work, they all are based on my experience and are extremely subjective and in general some thoughts on the subject.

๐Ÿ“บ Both internet based and real life based communities are equally valid.

If you live in a remote place with no like minded people around you or don't have the opportunity to join your local network because of accessibility or meeting times don't feel that the only way to build support system is to meet people face to face. Choose whatever works for you and your situation, don't feel like you have to do one or another

๐Ÿ™‹๐ŸผOne person and you is already a network/team :) 

๐Ÿ‘ฏReach out to people who are in the same place as you in their careers. 

If you know of (online or offline) people who are in the same place as you in their careers or are interested in the same things as you, they might feel as isolated as you and want to have that connection both personal and business. Growing together, supporting each other and lifting each other up is an incredible feeling and also incredibly helpful, you can share your experiences and find out shortcuts. It's a great adventure and it's easier and more fun when you have people you can rely on and people you can support.

Be active locally and online

Find local etsy/market anything group. Go to talks, meet ups, join online chats and live streams, FB groups and connect with people on instagram.

Consider getting a studio space

If you feel lonely and isolated consider becoming part of a collective, finding a studio space or a co working space. Some of us work better on our own and some of us need people around us but you will never know without trying and you may make some friends along the way.

Join professional network

Does your profession has an association or maybe a huge FB group? Maybe joining them will benefit you.

Talk to people

Be it online or in real life. We are all people and we all make connections and friends somehow. If you want to say something - say it, if you know someone who might light someone else's work - share the love. I personally believe it takes time to find likeminded people (it certainly took a while for me) but even the most fleeting of connections can be so meaningful. There could be people with who you just chat on instagram about Queer Eye occassionally and there can be people with who you are chatting on daily basis. Both are important.

Don't look for validation from outside

Build it from within. Please do seek constructive cryticism and reviews but do not let anything from outside to affect your personal and professional self worth. I am a strong believer that if you love doing something no one can tell you that you shouldn't draw/crochet/dress making. And sometimes our work doesn't reflect our taste and that's where your support system will help you grow but they can never replace your inner voice which will push you further in your career. 

Last but most important..

Be kind to yourself and people around you. There is space for everyone, we are not competition we are peers. โœŠ๐ŸปโœŠ๐ŸผโœŠ๐ŸฝโœŠ๐ŸพโœŠ๐Ÿฟ

Some resources (a lot of them were recommended by lovely people on instagram, THANK YOU!):

Local Etsy Teams (if you are selling on etsy)

London Local Etsy Team (they are a fabulous bunch)

In Colourful Company

One Girl Band

The Association of Illustrators

Ladies Wine Design

Creative Mornings

Women of Illustration

Freelancing Females

Freelance Circle

SheSays

Instachat

And many MANY more amazing places. Please comment below more networks. And what is your story?

Bye 2017 ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ

I love this time between Christmas and New Year. Everything slows down, nothing is happening, it's a limbo land and perfect time and space to look at the year which is nearly ending and think about the new year.

2017 was one of the most complicated years of my life but at the same time one of the happiest. As it's coming to an end I'm grateful for all the things which came my way (both positive and some which were harder to accept). Some of you know me well and some of you know me through social media but my work is very personal and my business can't be separated from my personal life, so here is my life this year chronologically.

January: Started MATS course on children book illustration which I wanted to do for ages and absolutely loved! It taught me so much about my work and things I can do and can't. 

February: Celebrated my 2nd yoga anniversary. It brought so much calm to my life, made my body stronger and taught me to be kind to myself (also do an ace chaturanga and gain some arm and back muscles). Also taught me to love my body the way it is right now, with all the back rolls, the widest shoulders. Be proud and take more space.

March: Painted Girl Power Print for 8th of March, International Womens day as an Ode to some of the amazing women who came before me and paved and are paving the way for all of us. I'm a feminist and it's a very important part of my identity. Portion of the print sales goes to charity (charity rotates throughout the year). 

Turned 30! That's a big one. So so so exciting! I feel so much happier and calmer. It has nothing to do with age but I like the number and how I feel at this time of my life.

April: Visited my grandparents and extended family in Belarus. I'm from Latvia but my grandparents still live in Belarus and I don't get to see them oftem but I miss them so much. And think of them all the time and to spend some time with them was such a treat.

May: Taught a workshop at V&A! Victoria & Albert museum is one of my absolute favourite places in the whole wide world. I would come here when I'm happy and when I'm sad, it brings me calm and makes me happy. To be surrounded by all that beauty and all those stories within the objects, all the people who's life they were part of. When I visited it as a student (in Uni) I could have not dared to think that one day I could possibly teach something in there! When I was on the bus home I did a little happy cry. An immigrant, an illustrator without an agent trying to make her way in the world teaching at V&A! MADE ME SO HAPPY! โค๏ธ 

June: This one I kept quiet for a while. After being in a long relationship and then married for 5.5 years my marriage came to an end. It's a long and complicated story as all of them are.

Learning not to ask why (but to ask what and look into the future) and not to let my brain tell me I'm not good enough (and it bloody well did) was the hardest thing I had to learn this year. A lot of the things which happened after are a direct consequence of this event but as I said I'm thankful for all the things that happened and came into my life. And first time in many years I feel happy and myself. We all deserve to be loved (even if that love sometimes comes from ourselves ;).

This and turning 30 made me think about what I want from life and who am I, what do I enjoy a lot more.

July: Took Mildred the mint Brompton bike on our first trip to the continent! First we visited my sister in Ghent. Then spent the most wonderful week with my friend in Amsterdam. It was such an important step, I always wanted to take my bike on an adventure and it was a wonderful one! Cycling by the canals, drinking beer, eating yummy snacks and talking life. Sharing the most wonderful memories which keep me going even now. Sunshine on my face, wind in my hair, hands firmly planted in my bike handlebar from stress and joy and me pedaling :))  yesss, can't wait for new adventures!

August: Bicycle trip to  Cambridge with my creative pals. The best day of them all. Again.. bicycles, wonderful women and sunshine is a recipe for happiness!

September: Moving into a studio space! I never had a studio and always dreamt about one! The best thing that happened to me, what a perfect timing and what an absolutely amazing space. I'm now part of Kindred studios. I'm sharing the room with other creatives who are all super talented and lovely people. We also had to renovate the room. Paint the walls, take 4 layers of floor off, it was quite a long and labour intensive process but so proud of this new space and my kick ass crow bar skillz (and paint roll of course). Studio space is full of light and it makes a huge difference to my work and life balance. As well as productivity. I'm so so happy to come to work and of course leave too ;). I'm excited for the new year as I have workshops and fun things planned. 

October: Friendshipsโค๏ธ Investing time into my friends, making new ones, spending time with old ones. Realising how much I love being around people and have fun and dance and do silly things. Some friendships are close by, formed by time. Some are fleeting and meaningful connections and both are so special in different ways.

November: Got British Citizenship! What an amazing thing. I've been living here for 12 years and it is my home even though some people might see it in a different way.

December: Getting ready for Christmas and drawing hundreds of portraits at Live Events. Fleeting connections is one of the main reasons why I love drawing portraits. Getting content consultation and a talk with a studio curator, planning my workflow for the future and getting some strategy and goals into my work.

So this time between Christmas and New Year for me is even more important than any other year. As really I have an absolutely blank page in front of me. Which is both terrifying and exciting. This year was all about accepting what is even when it's shit and adjusting and finding it ok (even when I have to wear socks with sandals),  the divorce, anxiety attacks, stress, happiness from unexpected places, rediscovering love for small things and enjoying quiet moments in life. Kindness from my friends and people who I barely know but showed so much warmth and support it feels my heart with joy. I made and became closer to my friends, who are wonderful people and loves of my life, thank you, thank you, thank you! This year taught me to be more grounded and kinder to myself both in professional and in personal spheres. I did a lot of creative things which are outside of my comfort zone and made me worried but I'm so happy I did. I painted, I made, I designed products and taught workshops and created social media content for pretty awesome companies. This year I learned to take things one at a time. To accept the person I am, to ask what I want to do, where I want to go. Somehow I became more confident in myself (even though my brain told me that I should shatter into pieces), I am taking up more space as a human woman illustrator and not apologising for it. I'm voicing my opinion without doubting it. I'm learning to rewire a lot of things in my brain and thankful for feminism, creativity, community, change. 

Next year I want to continue to embrace things which are coming my way but ask more questions and have more direction. Make decisions. Learn to say no to things. Book holidays and time off in advance. Spend time with friends. Get a dog (haha, I WISH), Sign up to tinder or something (joking, I'm not quite sure I really mean it I've heard so many awful stories). Eat more veggies, go on more bike rides, do more yoga and be kind to myself and emm.. figure things out (haha yeah right :)) ;). I will be pushing myself out of my comfort zone into the wild. Otherwise how I'll ever be able to do an exhibition of my work, have my book published and go to Japan?! I still want my work to be making people smile and to be visually pleasing and semantically light. ;) 

Endings are sad but I LOVE NEW BEGINNINGS. 

Thank you so much for reading this massive post and I hope you don't mind me oversharing. I often find that I don't channel my sad feelings into my work as it's quite positive and like a little escape for me and I hope for you too. But it was important to share these things. In case if you are going through something similar or just in general feeling down, you are not alone and you are wonderful. And you can always reach out. I'm here.โค๏ธ And.. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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photo by Ron

Porcelain Jewellery Making Workshop with Kinska At Mellisa Flagship Store

The other day I was lucky enough to attend a workshop run by talented ceramicist and artist Kinska at Melissa London Flagship Store

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kinska
kinska workshop at melissa

I've been a fan of Kinska and her beautiful ceramic creations for a long time, as well as plastic and beautiful Melissa shoes, so it was an absolutely perfect pairing of the workshop and location.

kinska workshop ceramics
kinska porcelain

Kinska taught us how to create beads from porcelain and think outside of the box in terms of shapes and sizes, it was quite easy as we were inspired and surrounded by her work.

ceramic snake cute
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I made a snake bead and some plain tiny beads to match. Can't wait to see them fired! snake

D4ED4C2F-F22A-4517-929A-401B9ED97C64.jpg

Thank you so much for the workshop Kinska and for having us in your beautiful shop Melissa!

๐ŸŽจโœ๏ธSTUDIO โœ๏ธ๐ŸŽจ

Hey guys! 

How are you?

I'm really good! Have you heard the news (I've been on it non stop for the last couple of months but just in case) about my new studio?

andsmilestudio

For someone who worked from home for the whole of my freelance career getting a studio was a big dream of mine. I've been full time self-employed for the last 4 years and my studio consisted of a corner of a room with lots of storage and cool organising solutions. Which was absolutely fantastic but things changed (I'll go into detail about it at some point in the future) and after a summer trip to Ghent, I came back full of energy, excitement and optimism and stumbled upon a tweet from a fellow illustrator who was looking for studio neighbors. Couldn't believe my luck! Studio in west London, affordable rent, wonderful neighbors, beautiful building, light.. ohh, just a dream! After several months of waiting, I signed the contract and officially became part of Kindred Studios !!! HORRRAYYYYY!!!!

The space took some work, repainting the walls, removing the floors (4 layers and thousands of nails), putting in some plants and thrifted tea trolly it's now dare I say a beauuuutyyyy! The building is filled with artists of all sorts (ceramicists, printmakers, musicians, sculptors and many many more). We even have our own lovely cafe with warm and delicious meals and cakes. Each day at 1 o'clock rings a bell inviting us all to go down to the canteen and share some food. The grand hall is under construction (future events space) and workshop space will be available for hire soon.

Would you like to have a look? Come in! 

I'm sharing the most wonderful room with the most amazing people Matt (illustrator), Diane (printmaker) & Carolina (printmaker). 

It's such a pleasure to work from. Just having a space purely for work and creativity is such a joy! 

Keep an eye on my events page for Open Doors Day!

Do you work from home? Studio? Did you enjoy seeing my space? :)

Getting real on Ig :)

Here is probably the longest instagram post ever but I really wanted to publish it here too, for any of you who might stumble on it later. ;)

Getting real on IG! Couple of days ago talented illustrator @marloesdevee shared her story couple of days ago about where she came from and how long it takes to get somewhere and I was really inspired to share my story and hear more & full versions of your stories too! I absolutely love @instagram but it sure can give you a very skewed perception of reality. We think some people just pop up quickly but often there is A LOT of work behind it. Here is my long version of a story.. 

***************

Here is a video taken by my Dad, Iโ€™m 5 years old and obsessed by the fact that I was allowed to play with this massive set of colour pencils (lady who owned it is a designer)! Iโ€™ve been drawing as long as I can remember and I always loved drawing and was really encouraged by my family to express my creativity. At the age of 8 I went to art school, three times a week after normal school, we were taught art history, composition, painting, drawing and other subjects. I attended art school pretty much till I was 19 (with maybe 3 years break in teenage years when I decided not to draw ever again ;))). After graduating from art school and highschool I went on to study visual communication at University of Bedfordshire. It was a combined course with graphic designers and illustrators, it was fun experience and our teachers tried to make us experiment and explore. However for the last two years of the course we didnโ€™t have an illustration tutor but guest illustration collective (trust me, sounds awesome but not the same thing :). After graduating in 2009 I ended up working in retail. It was in the middle of recession and I was lucky to land ANY job. But as time went by I couldnโ€™t find any illustration work, any creative work, no side gigs, absolutely nothing. My fire started to fizzle and my dream of becoming and illustrator and drawing for a living from an inspiration and power and motivation became my frustration. It took me around 3 years to finally get the courage to make a leap, quit a full time job, find part time job and start figuring things out. It took me at least half a year to get to the grips before I started working on my etsy shop and I came up with a plan. That if I couldnโ€™t find any creative work, Iโ€™ll try and make some work for myself. In 2013 I became full time self employed. And even though itโ€™s a dream job itโ€™s not an easy one. It can be financially stressful, also mentally challenging. I really want to draw more, I dream of one day illustrating a book and having an exhibition of my girls. Itโ€™s a journey and I have so many places I want to go with my work and sometimes admin takes over, sometimes running your own business has so many aspects there is not that much time to draw. So here it is.. a very long story and a bit of reality check from whatโ€™s happening behind cute pictures. I would love to know yours! What do you do? Where you come from? Where do you want to go? What would you like to share with the world?

<3 <3 <3

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#gettingrealonIG

Serpentine Gallery & Pavilion

One of the best things about London are amazing exhibitions, fabulous public spaces & the loveliest people.

This morning I spent enjoying all three. 

Visited Alex Katz exhibition at Serpentine Gallery and of course had a cup of coffee at Serpentine Pavilion in a company of wonderful Rika.

Couldn't resist drawing super cute Rika in front of Alex Katz beautiful painting.

Columbia Rd Flower Market

One of my happiest places in London is Columbia Rd Flower Market.

Overloaded with flamboyant people, cute puppies, tourists, crazy characters, tiny cute shops and the most beautiful flowers it's a perfect place for inspiration.

I always aim to arrive there early on a Sunday to avoid crowds but never manage to do that. So I just squeeze along the crowd, marveling at flowers, listening to flower sellers, deciding what to buy, usually I change my mind a few times and go back and forth. By the end of the market I dive out of the crowd and walk 4-5 minutes to a quiet coffee shop Caffein or Hackney City Farm for a coffee, spot of drawing & just enjoying slow moments of taking life as it goes. :)

A selection of prints based on my visits to Columbia Rd Flower Market can be found here.

Betty In Bloom

Last week was incredibly stressful for many of us and I'm no exception. With everything that is going on in politics and the world. It's hard to stay optimistic when our future depends on people who don't seem to care and now it feels more real than ever. I'm lucky to be living in London around so many like minded, tolerant, open minded and open heart*ed people. Saddness and gloom is almost tangible in London's air and you can probably hear some hearts breaking into smaller pieces once the referendum & politics are mentioned.

However yesterday provided a wonderful sanctuary in the shape of Betty's magazine New Issue Launch party and their 5th Birthday

The venue was filled with incredibly stylish people dressed in floral prints, to match the theme of celebration and new issue - FLOWERS.

Gin & drinks with edible flowers, Vicky's Donuts with sweetest petals, incredibly beautiful hand painted cookies, flower wall and all that in a company of fabulous people.

Happy Birthday Betty magazine! Thank you for such lovely celebration of flowers, magazines and fabulous people and for bringing a bit of joy and love into our lives!

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Girls & flowers are my favourite thing to draw (and after recent events it's my favourite distraction from the real world), I couldn't resist drawing some of the sweet girls I saw yesterday.