Monthly Archives: December 2015

14 Reasons to Celebrate 2015

hooray_loresI’m in awe as I write this blog post. How can it be the last post of 2015??

Today I wanted to take a minute to look back and reflect on my accomplishments this year! If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know a lot have happened. And let me thank you first of all for supporting me and encouraging me along the way!! It really means a lot.

I’m not very good at talking about my successes, so here I am, doing something a little scary!

1) I completed the 365 Day Happiness Project in April.

In April of 2014, I started a daily drawing project about happiness. I didn’t know if I was able to commit to it for a year but just had to do something that puts myself out of my comfort zone every day. I successfully completed in in April of 2015! As a result, I’ve grown my audience, have gotten multiple opportunities, and have deepen my art style and practice tremendously. I wrote a 9-part blog series reflecting on the project here.

If you’re in or near Seattle, I’m having another show in January at a non-profit coffee house Luther’s Table in Renton, Washington. Come on down and enjoy my original drawings 🙂 Part of the sales is donated to the organization.gratitude_web

Now that I’ve had a break from doing a daily project, I’m planning on starting another one in 2016! I’ll let you know what and when it’s going to be, but I plan on starting it in the Spring of  2016 🙂 Woo hoo!

2) I quit my day job.

Now this is huge. I left my day job of 14+ years at the end of July to pursue art full-time. It was one of the biggest life changes I’ve ever experienced besides coming to U.S. at age 18 and getting married 2 years ago. It was a scary and difficult decision, but I knew it was the right thing for me. I haven’t regretted that decision once! I share my process of quitting my day job cold-turkey here.


3) I had 4 art exhibits and 8 arts/crafts shows.

When I completed my 365 Day Happiness project, I ended up with a bunch of new works with the theme of happiness. I’ve developed more confidence as an artist through the project, too, and it gave me a push to put myself out there even more. I had 3 shows from the art work I made for the Happiness project, and one show for my new watercolor abstract work.

watercolor photo

I’ve also been doing a lot of local arts/crafts shows beginning this summer. l love interacting with my audience in-person and am learning a ton about doing shows!

craft show pic
My adorable customer at one of the holiday shows ❤

4) My revenue grew 6x compared to 2014!

I’ve seen significant growth in my revenue after I quit my day job in July. It really goes to show that when you work hard and put yourself out there consistently, opportunity will come. And I have more flexibility to say yes to these opportunities without a regular day job. Granted it’s still not a very big amount, I still want to celebrate it!! Here is to more revenue growth in 2016! (<– insert sounds of glasses clinking here.)

5) I started a weekly blog and continue posting every week.


I knew my goal for 2015, if I didn’t do anything else, was to practice writing more consistently. I was feeling pretty good about where my art practice was going, but writing always took a backseat. I just didn’t enjoy it as much and didn’t know who I was when it comes to writing. But I knew in order for me to push my art career to the next level, I needed to add writing to my tool box.

So I made a public commitment (this works for me very well) to start publishing a weekly blog every Sunday beginning in June. I mostly write about what I’ve learned about creativity and motivation. It doesn’t always come naturally but I carve out time to write first thing in the morning every day.

Just like working out, writing is a muscle. You practice it consistently even when you don’t feel like it, and you’ll be stronger and more comfortable. I’ve found my writing “voice” through my consistent practice and have noticed it’s not as much of a pain to write any more – in fact, I enjoy it now! I love hearing how my blog is helping people, too 🙂

A quick advice to people who want to blog more consistently: 1) Write and have multiple posts in a queue before start publishing it. I try to have 4 posts in a queue regularly, so when I’m swamped or take a time off, I’m still on schedule. 2) Write like you speak. This is another great advice that helps me with writing. As a non-native English speaker, I’ve been conditioned to follow grammatical rules to a T especially when writing. But I watched a webinar of Laura Belgray, who is a super funny and talented copy writer, and it changed my belief about writing “correctly.” I highly recommend you download her 5 Secrets to Non-Sucky Copy on her homepage. When I try to write like I speak, my writing is more engaging and personable. And I have more fun writing that way!

6) I started a monthly newsletter in August.

This also adds to my writing goal for this year. I wanted to reach my audience who may or may not be following me on other social media platforms and give people a convenient way to get updates about what I’m working on. Though it’s still fairly new, I’ve been getting pretty positive responses from my readers so far. If you enjoy reading my blog and want to get more of that good stuff, sign up for my newsletter here! 🙂


7) I offered a monthly art subscription service.

At the end of last year, I thought about what I can do to challenge myself on the product end and offer my audience a convenient way to get their hands on the new products I was making. Are you familiar with the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept? You’d typically pay a subscription to a farm and receive a box of their seasonal harvest weekly or so. It’s a way to support the farmers directly, and you get fresh, local produce regularly!

Anyway, my concept for art subscription, 2015 Gift of Happiness, was very similar to that. Customers will buy an annual or 6-month subscription and get a product from me every month. I also send my subscribers a special newsletter every month talking about the story behind each product.


I think the concept itself was great. But my timing and marketing were not very well planned. As a result, I had a very small number of subscribers, so financially it was not very successful. BUT I was able to put more care and attention into each subscriber and was able to connect with them at a deeper level. That’s an opportunity only possible when you have a small number of people to interact with.

Let me share what my happy customer said about the monthly subscription!

“I have really enjoyed my subscription to Honeyberry Studios recent product series. Yuko’s joyous attitude really shines through in the delightfully colorful designs and products she sends out, and always with great packaging. I especially like to gauge the progression in her practice as an artist and illustrator via the series. I highly recommend her products and services!” – Jafon Hakkinen, Receiver Design, SF

Yay! I ❤ my customers. They’re just the coolest!

Through the process I learned much about putting out products, so that was a big plus! Whenever I have a less-than-successful launch or project, I just consider that I’m paying to learn, just like going to school! I’m paying for my future more successful self 🙂

With that said I’m going to put a hold on the subscription service in 2016. I might do it again later on as I grew my audience and interests. Stay tuned!

8) I completed two monthly art challenges.

After I finished my year-long daily art project in April, I was a little lost. It was such a huge part of my creative life, and suddenly my routine had to change. I was still making art every day, but it was just not the same.

So I was delighted to join a couple of art challenges on Instagram in June and August with an illustrator Janine Crum. Janine would send out a prompt every day throughout the month, and we draw and post what we made on the internet. It gave me the sense of direction and a new challenge as I had never done prompted drawing like this before.

The prompt for this one was “breakfast.” I do enjoy drawing food a lot!

If you’re interested in what I and other artists made during those two challenges, go to Instagram and search #MakeWithMe

9) I learned how to block print on fabric.

Learning how to block print on fabric was another game changer for me!! I took an online course, Design, Carve, Print (new class coming up in February of 2016!) with Jen Hewett in February, and it totally changed my creative practice in a big way.

I immediately fell in love with the process of block printing on fabric and have been incorporating the technique in many of my works ever since. It’s so meditative, and I love that I can make art that people can use every day! I wrote about my experience in the class here, and you can check out some of my block printed goodies on my Etsy shop 🙂

holiday-tea-towels_6_flat_loresI just signed up for a screen printing class at a local arts organization in February, am super excited about that too!

And, I’m teaching my very first block printing class in Seattle this spring!! If you’re local, I’d love to have you in the class! Registration opens on February 1, 2016 🙂

Yay! It’s happening!

10) I started working out.

This may seem unrelated to my art practice, but I’m proud to have overcome my fear of gym and have been working out consistently for about 9 months now. OK, “fear of gym” may be an exaggeration, but I was intimidated by it and had been avoiding it for most of my life. I thought gym was a place where young, good-looking, and athletic people went to do their perfect routines, and people like me, who were uncoordinated and not athletic at all, didn’t belong in there. I had also injured myself running in the past and was not sure of my ability to do it right.

But I took out the courage to check out the gym in my neighborhood and started working out with the owner/personal trainer. If you had not worked out before or just want to push yourself more, I highly recommend working out with a trainer! Yes it’s more $$ but it was totally worth it. He encouraged me and pushed me enough so it was challenging, and I learned the right way to work out and became more confident in my physical ability, which is a big deal! It also changed my belief that the gym was full of young, good-looking, skinny people – all kinds of people work out there – lots of people of color, older people, families, people with different abilities and shapes etc, so I feel very comfortable.

Our personal training sessions ended a long time ago, but I still go about 4 times a week and sometimes join their group exercise classes. I feel more energetic and strong when I work out. It gives me the mental discipline so I’m able to stick to things that are challenging outside of the gym, too!


11) I started taking mini-sabbaticals every 7 weeks.

I shared the concept of Small Scale Sabbaticals a few times, but I started taking every 7th week off in October to recharge. Since I quit my day job, I was just going and going. I felt like I couldn’t stop working because there are so much to do, and I was inpatient to get where I wanted to be. Inevitably, I started feeling burnt out. I decided to implement regular breaks and have taken two sabbatical weeks since. It’s been AMAZING! Though stopping everything for a week feels a little scary, it makes me work harder and more productive when I’m “on” and helps me to focus on self-care when I’m “off.” Read more about my experience and thoughts here.


12) I started meeting with accountability partners.

Accountability partners are someone you check in with regularly for support and accountability around specific goals. I have two awesome accountability partners I’ve been meeting with monthly, and I look forward to our meetings every month! It’s so nice to be able to talk freely about how things are going and share the struggles s as well as successes. I interviewed my accountability partners in these posts. If you’re curious about having an accountability partner, I say do it! It has given me and my partners so much.


13) I’m a Creative Coach!

Since I quit my day job, I’ve been thinking of ways to combine my two passions: art and helping other people, and came up with this brilliant idea of becoming a Creative Coach. I have the experience and skill set of helping others in a non-judgemental and strength-based environment, and what better way to help other artists and makers achieve their creative goals than to coach them?? I’ve been running a pilot program and working with a couple of clients one-on-one for several months. And I’m loving it!! You can learn more about my thoughts and meet my fabulous clients in these posts here.

I’m opening up my Creative Coaching practice officially in February 2016 and can’t wait to help more artists! For more information, visit my Creative Coaching page! I’m also kicking off the new year with a free 4-week challenge starting Monday January 4, 2016! If you’d like to receive a weekly email with prompts, tips and helpful tools from me to set and work on your creative goals during the month of January, sign up here.

I’m also planning an in-person Creative Coaching workshop series in Seattle this spring. Ah, so many possibilities!

14) I created a drawing tutorial.

It’s been on my to-do list to create a drawing tutorial for quite some time. So I was delighted when I was asked to create one for Wing, Worms, and Wonder blog hop in October!

I created a nature drawing tutorial using markers for the blog and had a lot of fun doing it 🙂 If you’ve missed it, you can check it out here.


As a result of this collaboration, I got invited to be a Guest Teacher for Kiala Givehand‘s  The Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals! I’ll be working on another goal of mine: producing a video tutorial, for this project 🙂 My video tutorial is scheduled to appear in the e-course in March of 2016, and I’m SO excited for this opportunity! You can learn more and enroll here. I’d LOVE to have you in the class and learn with you 🙂

TJW 2016 Teacher Image Yuko flat

And this wraps up the recap of my successful moments in 2015! Tell me what you’re proud of this year! Pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve put in to achieve your creative goals. The seeds you sowed this year will grow next year and beyond 🙂

Have a peaceful New Year’s and see you in 2016!!

xoxo Yuko




The Journey Within Blog Hop: Holiday Food Drawings + A Giveaway!


Hey there!

Welcome to my bonus blog post this week! If this is your first time visiting, I’m happy you’re here 🙂 I’m Yuko Miki, an artist, blogger, and a Creative Coach in Seattle Washington. I normally post blog article about motivation and creativity every Sunday.

If you haven’t’ heard yet, I’m going to be guest teaching in Kiala Givehand’s The Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals in 2016! I’m super pumped for this opportunity and can’t wait to put an awesome teaching material together for you all 🙂

TJW 2016 Teacher Image Yuko flat

To kick it off, Kiala has asked each of the 16 teaching artists to give her a drawing challenge for the month of December. Kiala has been posting her December challenge on her blog here, and you can view each teaching artists’ blog hop on there too.

For today’s blog hop, I gave her this prompt: “Draw your favorite holiday or winter foods!” You know how much I love eating and drawing food… 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Japan, and the biggest holiday of the year is New Year’s Day. We typically eat mochi (rice cake) and all kinds of good foods (“osechi”) our moms have prepared from January 1st through 3rd and visit with the relatives and go to the shrines etc. I haven’t been able to go back home for the New Year’s for many years and miss it every year.

Photo of Osechi from Looks so delicious!

To prepare Osechi is quite involved. It consists of many vegetable, fish, and meat dishes that each signifies good luck, happiness, and prosperity. I remember my mom and grandma working on it throughout the week before the New Year’s. Our house would be filled with the aroma of black beans being cooked in the crockpot and other sweet-soy sauce-y smells.

And I couldn’t wait to eat mochi in so many different ways! We eat them in soups, dip them in sweet soy sauce, soybean flour, or sweet bean paste… Ohhh…. I’m drooling just thinking about it!!!

Mochi sketch from my 365 Day Happiness Project.
Here is another sketch from the New Year’s Day 2015! Obviously, I was very excited about mochi 🙂

I’m fortunate to be living in Seattle, where we have easy access to Japanese food. But it’s still not easy to put together your New Year’s Osechi here. It can get pricy, and I just don’t have the patience to cook hundreds of different little things!

So I normally settle for eating mochi dishes on the New Year’s Day and a few days after that. It does a pretty good job of making me feel like I’m celebrating the holiday Japanese-style 🙂

Another culinary tradition I’ve kept up for the New Year’s is to eat soba (buckwheat) noodle soup on the New Year’s Eve. I don’t know any historical background of this tradition, but I’m wondering if people were gearing up for all the rich foods to come for the next 3 days? Anyway, my family would sit down for a bowl of soba noodle soup every New Year’s Eve. It’s an easy dish to prepare, so I’m able to do it almost every year!


This year, I was feeling a bit concerned about my holiday food tradition, though, as I’ve been on a special diet of low-sugar and low-carb for the month of December. Yes, I know if I cheat a little bit, it won’t kill me, but I’d like to stay on top of it as much as possible.

Most of the soba noodles you can find nowadays have wheat in it (note: buckwheat is actually not wheat/grain, so it’s OK to eat on my diet.), so I’ve almost given up having the soba soup for the New Year’s Eve.

But I found out our local natural food grocery store carries soba noodles made with 100% buckwheat! Granted it’s more expensive, I was very happy to find an option 🙂

Behold 100% buckwheat noodle from Eden Foods.

What is your winter holiday food tradition?? What makes it special? If you decide to try the challenge I gave to Kiala, be sure to leave a comment with a link to your blog or a webpage so I can look at your beautiful work! AND, if you post your comment by Tuesday 12/29, I’ll choose one commenter to win a free quarterly enrollment! Woo Hoo!

Thank you for joining me on the Journey Within Blog Hop today! Be sure to check in with Kiala tomorrow to follow along!

And I look forward to seeing you in the class! If you haven’t signed up yet, follow this link to enroll 🙂 Give yourself a gift of art and creativity this coming year ❤

Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko


What’s the value of your creativity?

creativity_loresWhen I used to work for a non-profit social service organization, about half of the funding came from government and municipal entities. The contract renewal and budget approval time of the year was always stressful. I wasn’t the financial decision maker so I only knew the financial state of the organization on the surface level. But after the recession, we were under a constant threat of losing governmental funding. It was really sucky. It was terrible to work your butt off to help people in a bad situation and to be told (indirectly, in their action) that your work was not important enough to continue funding for.

Luckily, domestic violence victim advocacy community had a really strong presence in the region, so with the strong public pressure to the government, we were able to continue receiving their funding every year. But other social service agencies were not that lucky. Many of them had to reduce program offerings or forced to do more with less. And at the end of the day, the point is that we had to fight for it. We had to prove our worth to the funders to continue providing services. Which is pretty crappy.

On a similar note, I’d hear from time to time that public schools were cutting music and arts programs for financial reasons. I would have the same yucky feeling whenever I hear the arts are the first ones to be cut. What kind of a message does that send?

It says that arts are not as important as other subjects like math and science. It says that arts do not bring as much value as other things people are willing to fund.

As artists and makers, we need to pay attention so we don’t internalize these negative messages ourselves. I’m not saying that arts should be prioritized over other things. I’m saying that the unique value arts and creativity bring need to be recognized, and people, young and old, need to be encouraged more to nurture their creative side.

I saw a statistics once that people “lose” their creativity at a significantly high rate after age 8. And it spikes again after retirement. Interesting, isn’t it?? The presenter explained that it’s not that our creativity naturally declines, but rather we’re just not encouraged enough to be creative as we get older. And many of us when we retire and get out of the expectations of the workplace find the space to be creative again.

In this video, Brené Brown (my hero!) talks about creativity and vulnerability so eloquently and describes how kids get discouraged and shy away from engaging in creative activities after getting bad marks in art classes or teased because their creation doesn’t look a certain way. Early experience of shame around creativity really sticks with you. It’s so powerful that some people avoid any creative activity like a plague!

Have you been to a non-arty conference or workshop where the facilitator asks you to draw how you feel or what your ideal self looks like or whatever? I never really understood why people were so embarrassed to share their drawings with the group. It struck me after watching that video that I was naturally a pretty good artist as a child and never really experienced negative interaction around creativity growing up. So even though I’m not a master artist and get insecure around my art sometimes, I never feel ashamed of my creation. On the other hand, I was not very athletic and was often ridiculed in P.E. class, so I dreaded and avoided (and still do!) any sports activities. It totally makes sense! The shame I felt growing up left such a bad taste in my mouth about any physical activity. I’m slowly recovering from that now as an adult… Yikes.

Let’s go back to the conversation of values that your art and creativity bring, shall we? When I hear value, naturally, I think of money. Social media is flooded with the v-word. I’m sure you’ve read a blog article or two talking about how to bring the most value to your clients etc. While the money-making aspect of business is very important, I sometimes feel lost when I think of what “value” my art is bringing to my audience.

People can buy my art prints, but it doesn’t make them more money. Well, at least not until I get super famous and people start fighting over my work 😉 But you know what I mean. So what is the value of my work?

I bring this up because I provide “nice-to-haves” for a living. You know, I’m not fixing someone’s car or rescuing people out of a burning building or anything. And it makes me doubt my work’s value sometimes. People don’t “need” my art to survive, right?

It’s true if you want to think of it as an absolute necessity for survival, like if you’re stranded in the middle of the desert, you’d probably choose a drink of water over a cute drawing of a cat. But we don’t get stranded in the middle of the desert very often. At least many of us don’t… So why do we measure value of our work against something super tangible or basic human needs?

Think about what values you’re getting out of the things that are not directly helping you make money or do specific things. I know you have them! Like your favorite shows on Netflix. Art on the wall. How about your cat that’s snoozing on the couch for 12+ hours every day?? You have them because they’re clearly filling some needs you have that are not tangible.

We have a Netflix subscription so we can watch shows that entertain us. I have many art on the wall made by artists you’ve probably never heard of because they make our home beautiful and inspire me to create more. I have a cat because he gives me the unconditional love and the comic relief. Oh, and apparently petting your kitty lowers your blood pressure! I guess that’s a tangible benefit they have 🙂

Do you see? Just because they don’t directly help me make money, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a value. And you might have noticed that they’re all helping me to stay well and happy – which is super important if I’m going to keep working hard and thrive as an artist.

If you’re able to read this blog that means you have access to internet. That means you can afford “nice-to-haves” in one shape or another. Think of why you chose to have those things in your life. It doesn’t have to be a physical “thing”, either. Maybe you’re subscribed to an online artists’ community. Maybe you work out with a personal trainer. Are they less important than having a cold, hard cash in your hands right now? Not necessarily, I bet.

How are those things making your life better? Imagine if you don’t have them, how would your everyday life be different? And how do you think your creativity is making other people’s life better? I know many of you have taken the time to tell me how my blog and art work have inspired you. You have no idea how much your words of encouragement mean to me! Yes, money can certainly motivate you to do things, but that’s certainly not the only thing or even the top 5 motivating factors for many of us.

And on the flip side, if you didn’t have these “nice-to-haves” for whatever reasons, you’d definitely need to use your creativity to make your life more interesting or convenient, wouldn’t you? After all, that’s what we did as kids. We made up stories and characters to entertain ourselves. We could get lost in the world we created for hours and didn’t think it was waste of our time. There were no boundaries or limitations of what we could do with our creativity and imagination. And it can still do that if we let our creativity run free. It’s just that we picked up some baggage along the way and learned to hold on to certain things as our security blanket. Being creative has become riskier as we got older.

Creativity is a gift that keeps on giving. Everyone has it. But many of us were told it’s not that important or you were not that good so we stopped nurturing them. When your creativity is not nurtured, it becomes more work to access it so you don’t even bother trying.

Being creative is empowering. It lets you see things in different ways. You realize you can do things you never thought were possible. You learn to adapt to difficult situations with grace.

Whether you’re a writer, a singer, a dancer, a painter, a poet, an actor, a comic etc. etc. etc., you’d be doing a disservice if you were holding yourself back because you don’t feel like you’re providing any values. Don’t believe it if someone treats your work as “less than” because it’s not perceived to have values in a conventional or super tangible way.

What you do is important. Without art, this world would be so boring and not really worth living for. So don’t wait till you retire to find your creative sparks again!! Now is always a good time to start.

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m participating in the Journey Within blog hop by Kiala Givehand this coming Tuesday, December 22! Come on by and join me in a couple of days 🙂 I’ll be sharing my holiday food tradition with my drawings!









Say No



Lately I’ve noticed saying no to potential opportunities more or be a lot more thoughtful about saying yes. I’d been trying to say no to time wasters all along, but this is money-making opportunities I’m talking about here. It’s not like I’m making a lot of money from my art yet. How can I afford to say no, then?

You’ve probably heard the advice “take any jobs you can get” especially when you’re starting out. I’ve always felt a little funny about this notion that when you’re a new at something, you should be grateful and say yes to anything no matter what. Say yes to projects or clients you don’t feel good about. Because, how else are you going to pay your bills, right?

When you compromise your values or processes to pay your bills especially if the job is closely related to your passion, it’s bound to make you feel resentful and burn out.

If you feel like you can’t afford to be choosey with the project you take on, it probably means that you need to have other ways of bringing in an income. You could do the Overlap Technique Seanwes talks about and keep a day job, or work on building up your savings so you could quit cold-turkey and don’t have to worry about  paying your bills while you pursue your passion.

OK, so let’s assume your bills are taken care of for the purpose of this conversation. If the money is the number one reason why you can’t say no, then you need to figure that out first even if that means you can’t pursue your passion fully or at all until your bills are taken care of. I know it sucks, but seriously, mixing your passion and money is a tricky business.

If you’re dreaming about making a living doing what you love, do whatever it takes to avoid burn-out! It’s the best thing you can do!

Let’s talk about how you know when to say no. I ask these questions to help me decide if the opportunity is right for me.

1)  Do you have time to do it?

I’m getting better at this but used to underestimate how long anything took from start to finish. I would get frustrated because I said yes to things thinking it’d only take so long to finish but in reality it took waaaaaay too long.

For instance, I just recently said no to an art show. It’ll be showing some of the pieces I already have. And I almost said yes because I know the organizer and like her personally, and it’s not like I needed to create a whole new artwork for it. But it was coinciding with a couple of big holiday craft shows I’m doing. Since I’ve done a few art shows now, I know putting together a show, even if you’re not making new art, can be a lot of work!

I’m having an art show right now at a nearby cafe, so my husband suggested I just take them down and hang the same art work at the new place when the show is over (the new place is only a few blocks away). But I don’t want to show the same pieces again because it’s boring.

If I don’t follow my husband’s reasonable advice, I’d need to take them down from the current venue, bring them home, choose different pieces to show, make sure I have a scan of all the original works (and if not, scan, edit, and upload them), trim them, mat them, and frame them (go get frames if I don’t have them). I’m gonna need display signs, coordinate uninstall/install with the people of each venue, drive, park, etc. Uninstalling the pieces doesn’t take very much time, but it’s still work. Installation usually takes longer when I’m doing a good ol’ nail on the wall method. You have to measure, level, and hang your pieces carefully. When I’m hanging about 12-ish pieces, it usually takes anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. Now that’s a chunk of time! And that doesn’t even include all the prep time, which could take 2-6 hours.

If it wasn’t the holiday crazy time, I would’ve said yes. Like I said, I almost said yes to this. And I’m sure I would’ve managed it somehow had I said yes. But it’s been a little bit of a pattern lately, and I always get so overwhelmed and resentful and swear I’d never do that to myself again. So I said no and felt GOOD.

In order for me to know exactly how long my tasks take, I log my hours on Google calendar. I like having a documentation because I can’t hold that information in my head! It’s also helpful to track your progress over time, too. When I was working on a series of watercolor abstract paintings, I got quicker as I worked on more pieces e.g. 8 hours per piece to about 6.5-7 hours. So in the future, if I do a similar project, I can make a pretty accurate estimation of how long it will take to complete it.

With that said, though, 99% of the time, things take longer than I think. I need to remember that when I’m scheduling things. I try not to schedule things back to back and also schedule some extra buffer time just in case. And don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to clean up your art equipment, packaging and shipping your stuff, taking and editing photos, backing up your files etc. that’s related to our project! They add up.

2) How is your work going to be valued?

I was recently talking to a potter friend of mine about commission works. We both had a similar reaction about people coming to us with very specific request about what the piece should look like. It feels like they’re coming to you for the technical skills but not for your unique voice or the artistic expression. I’m tempted to charge more for these types of projects where clients have a lot of subjective or arbitrary art directions and want you to follow them exactly. The best kind of clients are ones that love anything and everything you do and pay you to create your best work for the project.


When I work with a client for a commission work, after getting all the initial information back, I talk to them about my creative process and how I use the One Concept Approach. 

With this particular process, you get all the relevant information and project goals at the beginning, then you go away and do your work and come back with one final piece for the client. No arbitrary revisions or input. This way, the client can focus on what they’re best at, which is knowing about their goals, and you can focus on what you’re best at, resulting in you providing your client with your best work.

When I heard this concept on Seanwes podcast, it blew my mind. Really?? This is OK? I mean I loved it. It totally shifted my belief about power and value I had as a creative professional. It’s not mean or stubborn. It’s saying: Hey, you came to me because I can create what you want. Let’s be on the same page about how that can happen most effectively for both of us.

Anyway, I do use this approach when I work with clients, and most of them have been totally OK with it. In one situation where we had a problem, it was because we had a miscommunication, and not because this particular approach was bad.

I’m a shameless idealist, so I would choose to turn down a job if the job/client requires me to compromise my values or process. Even if that means I need to get a day job again to pay my bills. And maybe you’re not as sensitive as I am to that aspect – and that’s OK as long as you have strategies to combat burn-out!

3) Ask your gut.

Above all else, your gut is the most effective tool to gauge whether you should say yes or no. Money or no money. Time or no time. You want to pay attention to that gut feeling. We all have it.

Unfortunately, many of us have trained ourselves not to listen to it or talk ourselves out of it because it’s not logical or you’re afraid of the consequences of saying no to something or someone.

Like you, I’ve said yes to many things I shouldn’t have. You know the moment you say yes, you regret it and feel the tight knots in your stomach. You put off working on the project as long as you can. You dread the whole process. You’ll get the project done because you have to, but you’re drained and resentful. Not very nice.

It can be scary to go with your gut especially when your head and heart are saying something else. But once you do, you’ll know that your gut is always right. When I decided to quit my day job cold-turkey, I was scared (= my heart’s voice). I didn’t think I was ready (= my head speaking). But my gut was telling me I needed to do it. So I did and haven’t regretted it once.

I do a gut check by imagining saying no to a project. If I feel light and relieved for not having that thing on my plate, then it’s probably not right for me. Maybe it’s not right because I don’t have the time. Maybe it’s not the kind of project I want to take on even if I had time for whatever reasons. You could also imagine saying yes to something and see how you feel. Focus on how you feel in your stomach, not in your head (=logical, rational voice) or heart (= emotions, fear, shame etc.). Your head and heart might try to sway you in a different direction by asking you, “But what about the money?” or “Oh but don’t you wanna have a good relationship with this person? Are you sure you want to say no? They might never ask you to do this again.”

But what’s your gut telling you?? Listen to it and see what happens!

And the thing is, even if you say yes to a wrong thing, it’s not going to be the end of the world. You wouldn’t be excited about it. You may have to pull long days and late nights and not have a day-off for several weeks. You may feel small because your client is micromanaging your creative process.

But you’ll learn from it. No experience is wasted no matter how sucky it is! That’s how I’d like to see life anyway.

I remember several years ago I was in a workshop about self-care, and the facilitator said to us that saying no to something else is saying yes to yourself.  A light bulb went on at that moment!


I want to say yes to myself more. Because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do that for you!

Take care and talk soon!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m so excited to let you know that I’m guest teaching in the Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals e-course hosted by Kiala Givehand in 2016! Give yourself a gift of art and creativity and learn with me this coming year ❤ Find out more and enroll here 🙂








Back from my sabbatical week!

slow-down_loresHappy December!

Can you believe we have less than a month left in this year? I sure can’t!!

I originally had a different post prepared for this week but decided to do a report back from my sabbatical week off instead! It seemed a lot of you liked my sabbatical report last time around, and if I make a habit to do a report back from every sabbatical, it’ll help me stay on track with my mini sabbaticals and self-care 🙂


I took my sabbatical the week of Thanksgiving, and it was SO needed! I had multiple holiday art & craft shows in November, and with everything else I had to do, I was pooped. I was so ready to unwind and recharge!

The timing was great because it was the holiday week, and I wasn’t able to work the whole week anyway. Dave, my husband, had the most of the week off, too, so even better!

In my last sabbatical, I kinda had an agenda and things I wanted to get done. I consider sabbaticals to be the time to focus on things I don’t get to do normally, and not just a vacation. You can read more about what I did during my first sabbatical here!

For this week off, though, I didn’t really have an agenda. It was partly because I was too busy working up until that point and didn’t put a lot of thought into how I wanted to spend  my time off. It was also the holiday week, and I already had a few social things to attend on the calendar. I try to avoid filling up the calendar with events during my time off! I like structure but also enjoy freedom 🙂

Here are some highlights from my sabbatical week!

1) Family & Friend Time

When I’m in a hustle mode, I’m not very good at making time for my family and friends. I try to be mindful of spending time with people I care about on my sabbaticals.

Since Dave’s been working out of town a lot and hadn’t seen each other very much, we decided to kick off my sabbatical with a day of hanging out! We went grocery shopping (OK, not super exciting, but I enjoy going to the grocery store with him :)), went to the matinee of the new Hunger Games movie (intense!!), and went out for a delicious Japanese food at Nishino, one of the most amazing Japanese restaurants in Seattle! They were participating in the Dine Around Seattle, where you can get a 3 course dinner for $33. Many of the participating restaurants are pretty fancy, and we can’t normally afford to go, so we like to take advantage of it when it happens in March and November. Anyway, the food was amazing, and we were a couple of happy campers 🙂

nishino dinner
This is what I had… I can still remember the yumminess! Mmmm.

On Tuesday, I had a coffee date with my new artist friend, Esther Loopstra, and had a great time chatting about art/illustration business and just getting to know each other. I love her work, and her positive energy is really contagious 🙂 Since I quit my day job this summer, I’ve been working on my own for the most part. I have artist friends I talk to on the internet, and it is nice to have someone so close that I can get inspired by.

On Thanksgiving day, Dave and I visited my American parents. They’re the family I stayed with when I first came to the U.S. almost 20 years ago (wow!!), and we still get together for the holidays. Living so far away from my family is hard sometimes, and I’m so grateful that I’ve made new families here along the way 🙂

He’s chill on Thanksgiving Day and every day!

We also had lunch with good friends of ours during my week-off. We hadn’t seen each other for over a month even though we live so close by. We spent almost 3 hours at the restaurant talking and catching up on what we’ve been doing. It was so nice ❤

2) Health & Fitness

One of the many perks of working from home is I can cook and eat healthier and have the flexibility to fit in a regular workout schedule. I’ve always eaten pretty healthy, but when I work from home (and don’t have a regular paycheck!) I tend to eat at home a lot more. And when we eat at home, we use mostly organic ingredients, eat more veggies, and it’s not as rich.

Because it was the Thanksgiving week, and I knew my diet would be a little off, I ate extra healthy at home.

lunch sketch
My typical lunch looks like this. I love roasted veggies!

I also went to the gym one extra day. I’ve been getting into kettlebell workouts lately, and adding one more workout session to the week totally kicked my butt!! But I felt really good 🙂


I used to be an avid yoga practitioner but have been slacking off for the past few years. I find it hard to “slow down” these days because there are so much to do and so little time, you know? I know intellectually that things like yoga and meditation are good for you, but my first reaction is “But I don’t have the time!”

It’s a bad habit many of us have to think that “being still” is not productive and waste of time. I almost talked myself out of doing some yoga during my week off, but I remembered this proverb: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Sigh. That’s exactly right…! Things you’re avoiding the most are often what you need the most. So I did a couple of yoga/meditation sessions, and again, it was awesome 🙂

3) Research & Preparation for Special Diet

Since early summer this year, I’ve been suffering from eczema that came out of nowhere. I’d never had any food or seasonal allergies before and didn’t have eczema as a kid, either.

I’ve been working with my naturopathic doctor on some diet modifications for several months, but nothing is sticking. We suspect it’s caused by the intestinal yeast overgrowth and decided to take the treatment to the next level. It’s basically a very low-carb, low-starch, and low-sugar diet to starve off Candida and bring back the healthy balance of gut flora. I’ve been on a modified diet for a while now, so it won’t be a super drastic change, but it’ll be stricter and I would have to pay a very close attention to what I eat for the next 4 weeks or so.

So I spent a lot of time reading articles about it and researching different recipes online. I’m excited to find many recipes that work for the treatment and have already made a few tasty dishes! My favorite sites to find good Candida Diet recipes are herehere, and here.

Here are a few things I made during my sabbatical! They were all pretty simple to prepare and yummy!

Curried Shrimp from
Chicken Zucchini Burger from
Stuffed Peppers with Turkey from I’d never made stuffed anything, but it was so easy! Although I forgot to put the green chiles in, they were still delicious 🙂

Please note that there is SO MUCH different information about Candida diet out there! Do talk to your doctor if you’re considering trying the diet.

I know it’ll be challenging – I’m worried I’ll be hungry all the time and will have bad sugar and carb cravings – but look forward to positive outcomes at the end of the treatment! And I’m excited to explore different recipes to make and eat 🙂 Wish me luck!

4) DYI Project

I like to learn new skills during my sabbaticals. Art related or not. This time, I wanted to learn how to repair holes in my socks a.k.a. darning! I’m not very skilled at sewing, and it’s one of the goals for next year to learn how to sew. Now, darning socks doesn’t really require “real” sewing skills, but it’s a practical skill with some hand sewing practice 🙂 And at the end I’ll have socks without holes! Woo hoo!

I love my SmartWool socks. They’re stylish, light, and keep my feet very warm. But they can be on a little pricy side, and I always felt bad pitching them when they have holes while everything else about the socks was still great.

I read articles and watched tutorial videos about how to darn socks (I found this and this helpful). It’s pretty simple actually!


So one evening, I sat down with a pile of socks that have holes or have thin spots and started working on them. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I discovered Glee on Netflix at the same time (how did I not watch this until now??) and got totally engrossed in the show, so I didn’t get a lot of darning done. I repaired one and a half pair 🙂 But now I know how to do it, so I can keep working at it this winter! It’s very satisfying to learn a new skill, put it into practice, and see the results in a short time.

OK, that’s it from my sabbatical week! It was really chill. I had a good combination of hanging out with people, working on projects, and spending time alone, which for an introvert like me, is a critical part of self-care.

Now I’m ready to tackle the holiday craziness once again!! Let me know if you’ve incorporated sabbaticals or something similar into your self-care strategies 🙂

See you next week!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m offering free U.S. shipping on my Etsy store through today (Sunday, December 6) with a coupon code “JOYFUL2015” Get some holiday shopping done 🙂