All posts by Yuko

About Yuko

Hi! I'm Yuko! I'm the illustrator/artist at Honeyberry Studios. I live and work out of my home studio in Seattle, Washington. I like to create art that is joyful, happy, and accessible. I get my inspiration from everyday small things, nature, animals, and food.

Life lessons my grandma taught me

I’m a glass-half-empty kinda gal. Does that surprise you? Or you knew that already?

I still haven’t figured out if it’s nature or nurture. It’s probably a little bit of both.

I suspect my grandparents on my dad’s side played a big role in instilling pesimistic tendencies in me at a young age.

My dad was the eldest son, so we lived with his parents, which I loved as a kid. My grandma was my main caretaker until I was about 4 since both my parents worked outside of home.

The thing about my grandparents was, especially my grandma, they didn’t have a lot of boudaries or filters ๐Ÿ˜ฌ They’d often criticize our neighbors or family members openly. They never ran out of things to complain about and lamented about life in general.

I don’t blame them. Life did deal them bad hands especially for my grandma.

She went through WWII as a terrified and hungry teenager, had an arranged marriage to my grandpa when she was 18, forcing her to move away from her family in the city to a rural area where she was expected to do physical farming work while raising 3 boys – she desparately wanted a girl and told me how dissapointed she was when my dad and uncles were born ๐Ÿ˜… She also told me she never loved grandpa. Like, all the time.

Yikes.

But you can understand why she was so bitter about life, no?

One of my earliest memories of her is me feeling an intense sadness for her when she was telling me how she’d saved up little money she had as a teenager to buy this delicious looking bread that she’d been ogling from outside of the bakery – and when she finally saved up enough money to buy the bread, it turned out so nasty tasting and she was extremely disappointed.

So, so sad.

Most of my adult life, I’ve been working to reset my mind to a default that says life isn’t full of sadness and suffering.

Staying positive takes me a lot of practice and intentionality.

I started meditating in 2013, and it’s helped tremendously with staying centered when things get hard.

Another thing that helps me with my positive mindset is my daily journaling. I jot down three things I’m grateful for in my journal before I go to bed.

It only takes me a minute, but I love having the time to reflect on the day and focus on the good things that happened before going to sleep.

I’ve been journaling for almost two years now, and here are some of my most common entries:

– laughing with Dave

– walks in sunshine

– going to bed

– good show & meeting awesome people

I rarely have big, over-the-top things to be grateful for. It’s the small, seemingly unimportant things that make me realize how good my life is.

And I’m grateful for my grandma for teaching me that – the little things I take for granted could be taken away at any moment. I’m lucky to have choices that she’d never dreamed of having.

Do you have a grounding practice or ritual? Are you a glass-half-full or empty kinda person?

Reply to this email and tell me. I genuinely enjoy hearing from you ๐Ÿฅฐ

xo

ps. I’m discontinuing my notebooksin my shop, and they’re on good-bye discount now. Grab them while supplies last๐Ÿ“š

I โค๏ธ Cats

I love cats so much.

When I was little, I wasn’t allowed to have cats.

Neither of my parents understood my intense needย to have cute furry feline friends, and it was very sad.

We had a shiba inu, Alex, but he and I were never good friends.

So I thought about cats pretty much 24/7.

I’d check where the neighborhood cats hang out on my way to and from school every day.

I fantasized many scenarios where a kitty would show up at our doorstep and my parents would magically OK me keeping it.

As I got a little older, my parents finally understood it was ok to have a cat, and I’d adopt cats from my friends or just off the street throughout my early teenage years.

My parents had a strict “No Pets in The House” policy (except for our giant gold fish. Seriously, those things grew to be 9 inches long!), so the cats had to live outside, and none of them lasted longer than a few years, sadly ๐Ÿ˜ฟ

Fast forward 15 years, I adopted two cats with my ex, and we (cats and I) had a nice, long-term relationship until a few years ago.

lulu & sheppie respectively

I haven’t had any kitty of my own since then, but I do make a point to visit friends with cats from time to time and get the refill on some kitty love.

Cats also inspire my creativity a lot. Surprise!

Many cat-themed drawings were made during my Happiness Is 365 day project back in 2014-2015
Kitty doodle in my sketchbook

And, here are some of my fan favorite kitty designs in my shop.

This is my ideal birthday party!
You did it!
oldie but a goldie
Works for pet sympathy or every day
winter kitties

Do you love cats, too??

In case you didn’t know, I have an entire Cat Lover’s collection๐Ÿ˜ฝ in my shop that you’ll love.

In addition to these adorable cards, you’ll find prints, wrapping paper, and ceramics, too!

Meow ๐Ÿพ

xo

Mercury retrograde got you down? ๐ŸŒŒ

If you know me at all, you know I HATE conflicts.

I know hate is a strong word, but I’m not even going for a dramatic effect. I really do hate. it. so. much.

When I’m in a confrontational situation (especially the unexpected kind), I feel sweaty-palmed, my stomach gets tied up in knots, my body is shaky, and my brain gets all scrambled.

I can’t think of the right words to say in the moment so the whole experience is extremely frustrating and unsettling.

Usually after an incident, I’d have an intense inner monologue about how things went and what I should’ve said/done differently in the situation.

I’d run many different scenarios in my head and imagine how the outcome could’ve been different, Dr. Strange style.

Or trying to find reasons why it wasn’t my fault and it was about the other person.

Because most of the time, it isn’t about me even though it may feel sooooooo personal at the time.

This cycle might continue for a week or comes back months, sometimes years later ๐Ÿ‘ป

So when I had a few unexpected interpersonal confrontations/conflicts/awkward moments in the last few weeks, it’s thrown me off balance.

For example, I was being courageous and said something in a meeting that stirred a very emotional reaction from another person and it became very messy very quickly ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

In another setting, my behavior (I don’t even know what I was doing specifically) hurt someone’s feelings, and we had to have a follow-up convo about it.

And most recently, I accidentally shared certain information about a mutual friend to someone, which was not public yet, and had to do a minor damage control…๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

(Wait, am I just becoming more insensitive?? ๐Ÿ˜‚ Something to ponder…)

I was in my usual super analyzing mode after an incident and then learned it was Mercury retrograde this month.

I’m not an expert astrologist and don’t usually track when they happen. But I get the gist of it.

When Mercury retrogrades (i.e. it looksย like it’s going backwards from where we are), you may feel things are out of wack and stressful for no good reason. I understand Mercury retrogrades impact the areas of travel, communication, and technology, in particular.

You may think it’s a bunch of woo woo nonsense ๐Ÿ”ฎ and it’s ok!

But as soon as I found out it was Mercury retrograde, instead of staying caught in my negative thought spiral, I said to myself “Well, it’s Mercury retrograde. No wonder it didn’t go well ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ”

I was able to move on much more quickly and stopped blaming myself or the other person.

There are lots of memes about Mercury retrograde. And I totally think they’re funny, too.

I โค๏ธ Adam J. Kurtz

But it does help me be more forgiving and compassionate towards myself and others.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful it we could be so understanding when Mercuryย isn’t in retrograde? ๐Ÿ˜€ which is most of the time?

Who am I kidding – you probably already are, you beautiful magical unicorn. But me? No ๐Ÿ˜‚ I try to be. I don’t always succeed.

I put this card up at my desk where I see it every day as a reminder.

Maybe I need to pretend it’s always Mercury retrograde. Or create an imaginary entity that influences us beyond our control at all times.

Oh, wait, I guess we don’tย have control over anything anyway wether the stars are aligned or not ๐Ÿ’ก

So maybe just remembering that would help??

And, if you’re feeling the effects of Mercury retrograde like I am this month, good news is, it’ll be over in a few daysย ๐Ÿฅณ

Be gentle with yourself, and take good care, ok?

xo

Back from mini sabbatical โญ๏ธ

I was on my mini sabbatical week off last week.

What the heck is a “mini sabbatical”?

I take every 7th week off to rest and recharge.ย 6 weeks on, 1 week off, then repeat. (I still take the weekends off in the meantime, or the weekend equivalent ๐Ÿ˜ฌ)

It’s on my Google calendar perpetually, so I don’t even have to think about it.

Brilliant, right? The idea is not mine. It’s seanwes.

(BTW, he’s writing a book about it. Totally check it out if you want to learn the hows/whats!)

I’ve been practicing it since October 2015, and I’m pretty certain I would’ve been burnt out in my biz a long time ago if I hadn’t been taking the regular time off.

During my mini sabbaticals, I still engage in my biz to keep it going, like replying to my customer emails and fullfilling orders.

But other than that, I try to keep my calendar open and do what I feel like doing.

Last week, I had a few obligations that took me out of sabbatical mode, but I still got to do things just for fun.

Here are some highlights ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ

I’ve been baking more lately. I wanted to eat chocolate-y cookies, so I made these Chocolate Crescent Cookies. They were delicious ๐ŸŒ™
These porcelain cuties came out of the kiln. I turned them into little pins โค๏ธ They’re not for sale, but I’ve got a few more kitties and birdies and plan on putting them in my shop when I have the time. Sign up for my newsletter if you wanna hear about it first!
Dave’s working on Orcas Island for a couple of weeks, and we share one car, so I took him there last Wed. I miss his big smile ๐Ÿ’—
On my way back from Orcas, my ferry was late for over an hour ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ so I doodled this. I’d had a difficult confrontation with someone the day before and had been processing it. Making art about my emotions and situations always helps.
And then I was back to work at Redmond Arts Festival last Friday – Sunday. It was a great show and I was so happy many of you came out!

Self-care is super important, my friend.

And NOT selfish.

Hope you’re doing something to recharge your energy as often as you need!

xo

You are brave ๐Ÿ’›

I was much braver when I was younger.

I said goodbye to my friends and family and moved to Seattle from Japan when I was 18.

I wasn’t afraid. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. I knew we’d stay friends and family even if I was no longer there physically.

I was SO excited for my future in the U.S. None of the “what-ifs” could’ve held me back.

(And I wasn’t asking a lot of what-if questions back then ๐Ÿ˜†)

As I got older, it’s become scarier to take risks.

Changes are hard because letting go of what’s safe and known is scary. The older I get, the more I’m attached to what’s “mine.”

I have more to lose.

But I still say yes to things that are scary.

Some things are small, like should I be wearing overalls? Would they make me look like a weird 40-year-old teenager?

with my friend, Katie, at Magpie Mouse Studios

You be the judge. I think I look pretty cute in them. Ok I may have posted this because I doย look so cute ๐Ÿ˜€ haha!

And really, who cares?? I’m sure you have much more important things to worry about than my outfit choices ๐Ÿ˜‚ I know I do!!

(But what’s up with my left hand in this pic? ๐Ÿ– It wasn’t a bad Photoshop job, I swear!)

Other decisions have more serious and long-lasting consequences.

Like, quitting my job 4 years ago to work in Honeyberry Studios full-time.

Veryย scary.

(๐Ÿ‘†In this case, Dave was the true brave one.)

And, you know I got a major case of imposter syndrome when I took on a Board position at the NW Network recently.

When I hear a little voice in my head say, “Don’t do it! It’s dangerous. You’ll fail and everyone’s gonna know about it!!,” I have to pause.

I remind myself of what I’ve heard on a podcast once that the regret of notย doing something is much worse than the regret of doing something.

So when I created a bunch of new work for my 2020 calendar (coming in October!), this message resonated with me the most.

Here is the thing – I tend to deflect when someone tells me I’m brave.

I think, “No, I’m not brave. It’s no big deal. It happened because of _______ (my parents, my partner, my situation, my age, my luck, fill in the blank!)”

Do you do that, too??

(Did you notice I did that earlier when I mentioned it was Dave who was the brave one when I quit my job? ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ Correction: It took both of us to be equally brave to make that decision.)

I’ve been practicing owning my own bravery – no matter how small it is.

The more I notice myself being brave, the more confident I feel in business and life. And it helps me put myself out there more and share my gifts with others.

See? It’s a win-win.

You’re brave, my friend ๐Ÿ’›

xo

ps. My new collection offers this and other encouraging new designs ๐Ÿ˜˜ย Go get inspired today.

Happy 4th!

If you’re in the U.S., Happy 4th!

I usually don’t do anything on the 4th ๐Ÿ˜… but this year we’re going to a BBQ at my friend’s. They’re grilling up some steaks and salmon, they said. So fancy โœจ We’re bringing a salad from our garden. A proper celebration!

(However, I guarantee you I’ll be in bed by the time fireworks start ๐Ÿ˜‚ I got earplugs.)

Just like my new birthday card implies, I’m not much of a partier. Cozy celebration that ends at a reasonable time is def my style.

No matter what you’re doing, be safe and enjoy your day ๐Ÿ’™โค๏ธ

xo

๐ŸŽ‰ New collection is here! ๐ŸŽ‰

I did it ๐Ÿ˜ญ

My new collection is online NOW.

Enjoy 5 new cards, 2 prints, 4 stickers, and one magnet!

And remember, you always get free shipping with an order of $35 or more (U.S. only).

I LOVE every single thing in my new collection, and I hope they’ll bring you joy today.

Happy Sunday, and Happy Pride!

xo

ps. in case you missed the link, you can shop my new collection online here.

Loss & Gratitude

[๐Ÿ‘‰ trigger warning – I talk about loss of a partner in this post]

Hey friend,

Loss of a spouse is popping up in my life a lot lately – not my own, thankfully, but it’s showing up in a podcast I listen to, a Netflix show I watch, artists I follow on social media, a book I’m reading, and recently, a friend of a friend.

I haven’t had death in my close relationships yetย but know it’s inevitable.

Like the writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, joked about in this podcast episode, death rate has kept it up at 100% since, well, always. Yet we’re still flabbergasted and appalled when someone we love dies.

I’ve been reading the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resiliance, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

This book had sat on my “for later” shelf in my library account for a few months, and honestly, I forgot what it was about.

I was jolted awake in the opening scene where Sheryl’s husband, Dave, dies suddenly and unexpectedly on their vacation in Mexico.

(Pretty much my worst nightmare.)

I have a tendency to fantasize about terrible situations on a goodย day, and loss of close loved ones has been on my mind a lot lately.

My Dave makes fun of me that I have such a morbid imagination and I “pre-mourn” stuff.

He’s Mr. Silver Lining – always looking for positives in life and doesn’t spend whole a lot of time and energy thinking about the negatives.

You may agree with Dave and think it’s unhealthy for me to dive deeply into the world of loss and grief when things are fine in my real life.

I can understand the argument. It does seem unproductive and harmful to intentionally picture your spouse dying suddently and experience the loss and grief on purpose.

(Granted, it’s an “imagined” loss, which cannot be compared to the real thing. I acknowldege the real loss would be 1000x more devastating and horrifying and life-changing.)

Yet, I can’t help but wonder, how would I survive such a loss? Would I ever be happy again? Could I feel true joy after you lose someone you love?

From what I’ve been learning (and from my experience working with domestic violence survivors for many years), it seems the answer is yes, even after you experience a tremendous loss and trauma, you can still be happy again.

One thing I want you to understand is when I’m in my dark fantasy world, I’m not feeling depressed.

Rather, I find overwhelming gratitude for what I do have in life.

Clearly, Dave is alive and well today. I don’t want him to go anytime soon but even if he did (sorry Dave!!), I’ve had wonderful 12 and a half years with him. It could’ve been 3 years instead of 12. Heck, maybe we would’ve never met if the stars hadn’t alighned in the first place!

And let me state the obvious that I’m choosingย to imagine this situation. If this were real, I’d have no choice but to live it.

I do believe in silver lining. It’s just that I need to fully embrace the bad before I can appreciate the good. It’s not helpful for me to jump right into the positives before giving time and space to honor the negatives.

Only then, I can move on to celebrate the good things that surround me. And my art allows me to express joy in life.

Thank you for letting me share what I’ve been thinking a lot about ๐Ÿ˜˜ I know it’s not very easy to hear or think about loss.

I hesitated to write about this today but did it anway in case you’re struggling with loss and grief, whether it’s from death, divorce, illness, or rejection from your family.

I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you. You’re not alone.

xo

ps. I highly recommend the book and podcast episode I highlighted above โ˜๏ธif you or someone you love is experiencing grief. Great resources.

pps. I’ll be back next week to tell you about my new collection! ๐Ÿฅณ

 

A gentle reminder for your self-confidence

Do you ever get a funny look when you try to explain to a stranger what you do?

“What do you do for a living?”

“Oh I’m a Cheese Sprayer.”

“A cheese what!?”

Ok, maybe you don’t have an odd-souding job like Chesse Sprayer (look it up, it’s a thing.)

And really, neighter do I.

But there is one thing I tell my customers that gets a funny look, oh maybe 75% of the time.

It’s not the fact I’m obsessed with cats. Or that my bedtime is 8:30 ๐Ÿ˜ด

It’s when I tell people my stickers are dishwasher-safe.

I tried to ignore that funny look at first – I thought I was reading their faces wrong. You know, sometimes, people just look funny and it has nothing to do with you.

But then I noticed the sense of relief in them when I followed up with “so you can put the sticker on your water bottle, and it won’t peel off.”

photo by Lauren Krygier

ohhhhh, I see, they thought I was suggesting they wash the stickers in the dishwasher. By themselves.

Which they can. But, that wouldbe weird, wouldn’t it? I’d give them a funny look, too, if they told me that ๐Ÿ˜€

Honestly, I don’t know how they make the stickers dishwasher-safe. I know they’re vinyl. The rest, magic, I suppose ๐Ÿฆ„

I still get the funny look when I tell people about its dishwasher-safe-ness, but I just smile and explain what that means.

You know what else makes me smile?

It’s that my stickers have quickly become one of my best-selling products.

Naturally, new designs are coming out when the next collection launches in a couple of weeks ๐Ÿฅณ

If you’re needing a gentle reminder to feel more confident, these are for youโค๏ธ

They will be available in my online shop during the week of June 24.

Sign up for my V.I.P email list, and you’ll hear about it first, and I’ll send you a promo code, of course ๐Ÿ˜˜

Can’t wait for you to have them very soon!

xo

ps. You can also pick them up at Fremont Street Fair and Urban Craft Uprising Summer Show on 6/22-23 if you’re in the area.

Imposter Syndrome & saying yes to something that scares you

Happy Pride!๐ŸŒˆ

You may have seen my announcement on social media that I’ve recently joined the Board of Directors at the NW Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse.

I’d worked for another local DV org for 14 and a half years before making a transition to working in Honeyberry Studios full-time and have always been a big fan of the Network.

So I was honored and surprised when I got an email from my friend, Eli, who is the Board President at the organization a few weeks ago.

In his email, he said he thought I’d be a great candidate for the position and asked if I’d be interested in joining the team.

I was very excited for the prospect of joining the Board but hesitated to say yes at first because I didn’t feel qualified.

When I pictured “Board of Directors,” I imagined a group of people who are white, older (than me), upper-middle class, and have a corporate job or a “real” business.

(You know, not a “handmade” kind of business…)

I didn’t fit the profile at all ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

Big imposter syndrome kicked in, and I was swallowed in a whirlpool of “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios.

What if I suck at the job? What if I couldn’t deliver what they expected from me? What if I make a bad decision or give terrible advice? What if it’s more time-consuming and stressful than I think?

I was afraid they’d find me out.

They’d be disappointed and it’d be super awkward. And then they’d wish they’d never asked me to join the team, and now they have to have a meeting to make a plan to gently exit me from the Board and never speak about it ever again.

I know, my imagination runs WILDsometimes – it’s good for my creative work, but not so good for other situations ๐Ÿ˜›๐Ÿ˜ญ

Eli and I had a few back-and-forth about the logistics and my concerns – he patiently reassured me that I had a combination of qualities they were looking for.

While I still felt an imposter-syndrome hangover, I wrote this letter of intent.

That’s when I knew I really, really wanted to do this.

So I was very happy when I got a call from Eli several days later telling me that I was officially IN! ๐Ÿฅณ

Interesting, though, that my imposter syndrome got even worse when I shared the news on social media.

A lot of people sent me kind, encouraging messages and congratulated me. It was wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.

Overwhelming because a lof of the comments were about me as a person, like “you’re great” or “you’re wonderful” and I didn’t feel I deserved it.

I was telling Dave how these comments were making me uneasy because I hadn’t actuallyย done anything yet.

A little voice inside me was saying, “Yuko, anyone can join the Board. But what are you going to accomplish? You’ve been away from the work for so long. Do you remember half of the things you said on your resume?”

Yeah, right. People should really hold off on congratulating me until I do something awesome.

Maybe I shoud’ve kept it a secret.

And then Dave said, “You know you’re gonna do great work, right?”

Right.

Sometimes when my brain tells me I can’t do something, I listen to the people I trust, who say “yes you can.”

from my next collection ๐Ÿ’™

If I trust their judgement, and they say they believe in me, then I should believe in myself, too, you know?

It’s so meta, but I think you get it.

And that’s how I’ve gotten over the most recent bout of self-doubt.

Being uncomfortable with something new and unknown is healthy.

I know I’ll continue to have moments of insecurities throughout my life – after all, I’m a human being with lots of feelings (LOTS) – but I’ll also continue to learn and practice skills and tools to manage them more effectively so I can get back to being my whole self more quickly.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, because I wanted you to know it’s OK if you feel this way too.

when I say I make art that tells me what I need to hear, I mean it ๐ŸŒต

You’re not a robot๐Ÿค–

Sometimes we stumble and get stuck. There is no shame in that, my friend.

I know you can, too.

xo

ps. my friend Sarah at Saltstone Ceramics is having Queer and Dear show throughout this month and July! Go enjoy the work of amazing queer artists in person or online ๐Ÿฅฐ