Category Archives: My Thoughts

You are brave 💛

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 😆)

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 do look so cute 😀 haha!

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

(But what’s up with my left hand in this pic? 🖐 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.

Very scary.

(👆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 not 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? 💁🏻‍♀️ 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 💛

xo

ps. My new collection offers this and other encouraging new designs 😘 Go get inspired today.

Loss & Gratitude

[👉 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 yet 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 good 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 choosing 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 😘 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 ☝️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! 🥳

 

All things that remind me of spring 🌸

It’s finally warming up a bit in Seattle.

Truth be told, I’m not a biggest fan of summer 😬 Mostly because our apartment heats up so much that this homebody gets pretty miserable staying indoors. I’m sticky and tired by late afternoon.

But spring.

Especially late spring when you don’t need a down jacket any more but you’re not sweating profusely walking around in the sun.

65F°, lightly cloudy, gentle breeze… That’s heaven for me.

You know, if I were a vegetable, I would be a lettuce. Not a tomato or cucumber. Just plant me in a cool shaded area. I’ll get bitter and go to seed as soon as the temperature goes above 75F°.

I often browse my website just to enjoy the cheerful artwork and daydream for a few minutes (that’s not weird, is it? 😝).

These are some of my cards that reaffirm my love of spring!

May the spring be always in your heart 🌸

xo

 

Plastic or no plastic? 🤔

I don’t feel guilty very often.

I know, it’s so un-Japanese of me! But for some reason, I seem to lack the “guilt gene.”

I don’t feel guilty for saying no to dinner invitations if I’ve already had enough social engagement that week (limit up to 2 per week! 🙄)

I say “sorry” if I accidentally step on Dave’s foot – which happens more often than you think because he has big feet 🐾 But I don’t feel guilty because I wasn’t trying to hurt him on purpose.

I eat donuts 🍩 and french fries 🍟 without feeling guilty because they taste good and bring me joy.

I take responsibility for my actions and face consequences, but as long as my motivations are not malicious, I don’t feel guilty.

BUT.

There’s something I’ve been feeling guilty about for quite some time…

Can I tell you what’s been killing me inside slowly?

It’s having to package my greeting cards in plastic sleeves.

Yes, it’s there for a good reason. Mostly to protect my goods from the oils on our skin (and the worst offender, children with candy-covered fingers, I see you!! 👦🏻🧒🏻🍭)

But they’re BAD for the environment. Period.

I’m not one of those people who preach zero plastic use. I’m surrounded by it every day in our home, vehicle, clothes, etc. It’s so convenient and useful, I can’t imagine how we can or want to go back to not having it at all?

I do try to minimize the use of single-use plastic (e.g. food wrap) and try to reuse or recycle our plastic stuff as much as we can.

{I made these waxed fabrics to cover foods in the fridge a few years ago and love them!}

Greeting cards are by far my best selling products. I sell so many of them and use tens of thousands of plastic sleeves every year.

Even the plastic sleeves come in their own plastic bags. Ugh 🤦🏻‍♀️

I know my decision to use plastic sleeves or not won’t make a significant impact on the environment as a whole. I’m such a small fish in a big, big ocean.

But I want to be more mindful and feel good about every aspect of my business.

(At least all my cards and envelopes are made from 100% recycled content 🌱)

So I’ve been asking myself, do they need to be in a plastic sleeve?

The short answer is, of course, “no.”

There are lots of other companies who sell their cards naked.

(This may not be something you ever notice, either – I never paid attention to whether a card was sleeved or not before I started selling my own.)

I’m aware that there are biodegradable sleeves on the market as well. It’s definitely a more expensive option as you can imagine.

As I head into my busy show season, I’m planning to experiment with not having them in plastic sleeves.

Does it change my customer’s behaviors?

Impact on sales?

Is the disastrous result I imagine (like previously-mentioned sticky-handed-children touching everything in my booth and running away 😱) really going to happen?

I don’t know. I just have to experiment and see.

In a meantime, I’ll be making plastic sleeves “optional” in my web shop!

I currently offer 98 card designs in my shop 😬 and have to add the option individually (as well as editing my product descriptions), so it may be a work in progress for a while, FYI.

(You can always email me and tell me if you don’t need a plastic sleeve before the change is fully implemented!)

Thank you for letting me “think out loud” with you today 😘

xo

ps. Are you easily guilted or not so much? Is there something you’ve been feeling guilty about and want to change?? What’s the hardest part of making that change? Tell me in the comments! I love learning more about you 💗

Does it speak to you?

When I’m at shows, I often see my customers carefully go through my prints and cards and have an emotional reaction.


I hear:

“Oh…this is so true.”

“My sister needs this.”

“Your art is so HAPPY!”

And occasional (and my favorite)

“I’m dying of cuteness 😆”

I also hear:

“Your cards say exactly what I wanna say!”

YES!

What that tells me is my messages feel more authentic than the ones you find at big box stores.

It makes me happy because I do care a lot about what I say on my cards.

Art is important, of course. And the message is equally as important!

When I craft my messages, I pull a lot of inspirations from my past work in social service.

At the domestic violence organization I worked at, we were trained to be non-judgemental listeners and supporters of the DV survivors.

Not an advice-giver or tell-them-what-to-do-er.

That approach was perfect fit for my personality. Everyone’s situation is so different. I don’t even wanna pretend to know what’s best for other people!

Instead, I let them know I saw and heard them. I wanted them to know they were not alone, and that they didn’t have to prove anything to me.

No matter what you’re going through or how you feel about yourself, you deserve respect and dignity.

So when I create messages for my work, I ask myself, does this feel respectful? Would I actually say that to someone I care about?

Or would it be helpful for me to hear this?

Because when I dig deeper – and making good work always requires you to dig deeper – I’m the one who needs to hear those messages the most.

I’m no better than you. I don’t have it all together. I need to be reminded of my worth every day.

Art heals, and to be honest, I’m just as much of a recipient of its healing power as you are ✨

Art also connects people.

Even though I’m severely introverted 🙋🏻‍♀️ I still need connection to other people to thrive. And my art has helped me to share myself and connect with so many awesome people (like YOU ❤️).

I’m super grateful that you’re at the receiving end of my creations, and I hope my art is helping you to connect with your loved ones, too 🌈

Thank you for being amazing!!

xo

ps. do you wanna come enjoy my art and connect with me in person? I have shows and markets coming up! Click here to see my show schedule.

pps. a friendly reminder – price of my 8×10″ prints go up on June 1st. Purchase them now to take advantage of my current price.

I’m a pessimist.

When I’m at craft fairs, my customers ask me what inspires my art.

I tell them I’m not a naturally positive person so I need a reminder to be happy.

So I make art that’s uplifting and positive.

Often people respond with “me, too!” 🙋🏻‍♀️ or “yeah, it’s so important, especially now.”

I make happy art because it brightens my day and I want to share the joy with you.

Here are some of the messages I think of on a daily basis. If you’re needing a little boost today, soak it in 😘

I have this hanging on my living room wall.

I often take so much for granted – my husband, health, friends, etc.

When I’m in a funk, this message is a great reminder that I still have a lot of things to be grateful for.

I’ve got this in a sticker form and have it on my laptop where I see it every day 🌈

It’s easy for me to feel I’m not _____ (pretty, talented, thin, productive, focused, loving, good wife – you name it, I got it.) enough especially when I compare myself to others (more on that next.)

It’s nice to see this reminder and tell myself that I’m enough the way I am today.

And THIS. This also hangs in our living room.

I use social media, like Facebook and Instagram, every day for my business. I love how easy it is to connect with my friends and community there.

At the same time, it’s made it so much easier to compare myself to other people on the internet.

These are the thoughts I have often:

“Woo, look at her beautiful studio space! My work space is a mess, and I can never show it to anybody.”

“Her shop has so many sales! I wonder if I’d ever be so successful.”

“Wow, she has so many followers and likes on Instagram. Why don’t I have more?”

I still have these thoughts, but this message grounds me.

I remind myself that there are lots of people who have fewer followers or “likes” (or not on social media at all!) and have a very successful business.

(Or HAPPY.)

And everyone’s journey is different. I’m the only person who can know 100% of what’s going on in my life and business. What works for someone else may totally be a wrong choice for me.

It helps me to find peace wherever I am in life.

And if you’re having similar struggles, I hope it helps you, too 😊

xo

My self-care strategies for a busy show week 💗

Hey,

I wrote this post for my newsletter a week ago – the event has already passed (or if you read this when it comes out, you can still catch the last day of the event ) but thought my self-care strategies would work for any time I have a demanding schedule… so here  you go! Hope it inspires your own self-care goals 😉

***

I’m exhibiting at NW Flower & Garden Festival for the first time this year. I’m super excited for the big show this week – and feeling nervous.

Feeling nervous not only because it’s a big investment for Honeyberry Studios, but I’m worried I’ll be completely exhausted after 5 long days (11+ hours) of being in public.

Being the biggest introvert I’ve ever met, I know spending that much time around people is going to drain me of all the energy. Probably by day 2. Terrible.

So I have a few self-care strategies to help me get through the week:

Stock up on foods: I don’t like spending a ton of money on foods at show venues (plus I don’t really have time to get away from my booth to wait in line.) We went grocery shopping yesterday and bought a bunch of snacks, lunch foods, and beverages to take with me. Plus I have some frozen leftovers in our freezer I can just thaw out. I know I won’t have time to cook for 5 days, so now I’m well stocked with foods I could possibly want!

Ask for help: Dave will also be out of town most of the week and I had a shipping conundrum. I ended up asking my kind neighbor for help, and she’s gonna take some packages to the post office for me while I work at the show. I feel so much better reaching out for help! If this is hard for you, remember, people who care about you want to help you if you let them.

Sleep: This is gonna be hard. I’ve been trying to get 8 hours of sleep every night after watching this interview on Joe Rogan show. But, the NWFGS goes until 8pm most of the days, and by the time I get home, it’ll be 9, and then I need to unwind for a couple of hours before I go to sleep (some people, like my husband Dave, are lucky enough to be able to sleep whenever, wherever – that is not me, unfortunately.) and I have to be up at 5-5:30 the next morning. So, no, I won’t be getting 8 hours of sleep. I’ll shoot for 7 if I can!

Let it go: I believe mental well-being is as important, if not more important, as physical. So my biggest intention for self-care this week is – let go of all the expectations. I’ll try not to obsess about everything going as planned (because you know it won’t!) and be ok with that. I’ll do what makes me feel good, and that includes cutting myself some slack when I don’t meet my goals. After all, 5 days out of your entire life is a really short time. It feels overwhelming now, but I know once it’s done, I won’t even think about it. So why stress about it today? I’ve done everything in my control to make it a successful week, and I trust that I’ll figure it out if something doesn’t work.

And I know I’ll have fun, too. Meeting customers and making friends with other vendors is always delightful 💗

So I’m taking a deep breath and moving forward with peaceful mind.

Hope you’ll have a self-care-filled week, my friend!

xo

 

Am I putting too many eggs in one basket? 🐣

Hi friend,

​I was on my mini sabbatical week last week.

I’ve been taking off every 7th week to rest and recharge since October 2015. 

(This brilliant idea is inspired by seanwes and is THE best self-care strategy I’ve incorporated into my life so far ✨)

I typically stick to my routines during sabbaticals. Getting up at the same time, going to the gym etc. I find that if I don’t follow my routine, I feel more sluggish and low-energy.

For work, I do minimum maintenance, like shipping orders and responding to emails, but no big deadlines. And sometimes I do big picture planning stuff during my sabbaticals.

To me, mini sabbaticals are not exactly a vacation, but it’s time to focus on things I don’t usually prioritize.

(And I’m writing this email the week before, so don’t worry! 😉)

Sometimes, it allows me space to just ponder. 

For example, I created my 2018 revenue chart inspired by one of my heroes, Jen Hewett.

Ta da! This is where my income came from last year.

My overall chart didn’t surprise me. It looks very similar to what I had in 2017. Teaching and video-making took a bigger portion of the pie in 2017, but I’ve been cutting back on them to focus more energy on my product sales, so it makes sense.

Breakdown of my retail sales, though, was a little bit concerning.

Almost 90% of my direct customer sales came from doing shows and markets. No surprise because I upped the game on in-person events significantly last year.

But I wonder how sustainable it is.

Just these couple of weeks, Seattle was hit by heavy snowfall. And if you know anything about Seattle, you know that even an inch of snow on the ground can shut everything down.

Earlier last week, snow hurt the traffic for Seattle Gift Show. The last two days of the show was so painfully SLOW 🐌 Then another show got moved to a different weekend because of snow. And as I write this, I’m wondering if the show for this weekend is gonna get cancelled or if I’m able to get to the venue, and even if the show happens, chances are the traffic is gonna suffer because of more snow in the forecast.

So much of the show’s success is out of my control.

It depends on so many things, like whether or not I get into a show that attracts the right people for my work, what else is happening in the world (like Super Bowl), who your booth neighbors are, where your booth is located, and of course, weather.

I’m not saying I won’t do shows any more, because I genuinely love doing them, it’s totally my jam 😎 and apparently, my #1 money maker.

It makes me realize, I want to make my online shop and wholesale business just as successful so I’m not relying so heavily on revenues from in-person shows.

I’m not looking for a business advice or suggestions today – I have a process of figuring out ideas and strategies that work for my unique needs. I’ll ask for help when/if I need it 😉

When things slow down, whether it was intentional or forced, it creates a space to ask questions.

How are things going? What’s working and not working? Where do I want to go? What could change to make things better? These are some of the questions that are floating in my head right now.

Speaking of growing my online shop, you know my new collection has just launched last week.

(Now THAT is a segue if you ever saw one 😆)

It’s a delightful collection with colorful and happy art – and my shop is always open even during the Snowmageddon ☃️

Grab a hot cocoa, and enjoy exploring the world of cuteness 🐰 from your cozy couch.

Stay warm,

xo

 

Good news 👍 bad news 👎

Let me start with the good news.

I found what I was looking for on my birthday last week.

SNOW!

It was peaceful and quiet up in the mountains. (We went to Hyak – only 45 minutes from Seattle – a wonderful place to play, snowshoe, or country-ski.)

Thanks for your kind birthday wishes 💗 I felt loved.

So the bad news is – I was aiming to launch my new collection last Friday, but no, it didn’t happen😿

Prep for Seattle Gift Show (which is a trade show for shop buyers) has taken more time and energy than I anticipated (duh)  and I haven’t had a chance to update my web shop yet.

I still need to photograph my new goodies, edit them, and write descriptions, which takes time…🤪 especially because I have more products than I thought I’d have. More on that later.

I hate not meeting my goals. 

I’m also trying to take better care of myself physically and mentally this year, so I’m letting go of my expectations and telling myself it’s OK to push back the launch date.

​I can totally see you go “It’s not a big deal, Yuko. Don’t worry about it.” because I know, things like internal deadlines aren’t really that big of a deal to anyone else but me. At least I hope you’re cool with this 😀

My new collection will be up in the shop as soon as it’s ready next week – keep your eyes peeled for the announcement 👀

In the meantime, enjoy the last preview of my new collection!

At shows and markets, I often get asked “do you have a wedding card?”

And I say “well, I don’t have a card that says ‘wedding’ but I have lots of love cards!” and some people make a funny noise and walk away.

I understand. Sometimes, you just want a card that says exactly what the occasion is.

So I created this “happy wedding” card featuring soft watercolor-style succulent bouquet.

Who doesn’t love a succulent bouquet?? They’re gorgeous!

This design made me want to go back to my love for simple line drawing and watercolor. So I created a few more in a similar style.

Ah, llama graduate.

I actually created this design for a drawing tutorial video for Sakura of America last year. I loved it so much that I brought it back as a product 🍎

CUTE.

And this.

Loon Father’s Day card.

I’ve been taking long walks around Seward Park lately and noticed lots of these loons on the lake. Though I’ve never seen this adorable situation with a baby on the back of a daddy loon in person, internet tells me it’s a thing.

It’d be perfect for a nature-loving dad, don’t you think? 🦆

Confession time: that was gonna be it for my new collection – but inspiration hit earlier this week and I had to make a couple more designs.

(and that’s partly why I’m not ready to launch the collection just yet…)

Loving the simplicity of this new Mother’s Day card! I’m obsessed with this color palette this season 🎨

And a little word play for the gardeners 😆

I’m gonna be at NW Flower & Garden Festival this year and thought this would be a big hit 🥕🐰

OK, so I’ve created whopping 11 new designs for the collection – WOW and every one of them gives me the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Thanks for your patience as I figure out how I can manage my time and energy better this year.

I promise it’ll be worth the wait!!

xo

 

How I became a full-time artist

If you’d told me 10 years ago that I would become a full-time artist, I wouldn’t have believed you.

I would’ve thought you were out of your mind and averted your gaze while laughing uncomfortably.

I don’t have an art degree. I make cute drawings. That’s not “art.” Being a successful working artist is an option available only to a selected few.

Or so I thought.

My story of making a transition from working at a non-profit org (that’s totally non-art-related) to becoming a full-time artist fascinates many people.

If you’d ever wondered how it all unfolded and what I’ve learned in the beginning, you’re in luck!

I recently got interviewed by a fellow artist, Eileen McKenna, for her blog, and shared my origin story.

(Including my celebrity encounter, my #1 advice for creatives wanting to go full-time, and lessons I’ve learned.)

Here is how the interview starts:

What inspired you to do your “Happiness is” project?
At the time (spring of 2014), I was toying with the idea of becoming a working artist. And then I thought, if I wanted to be a working artist, I should be making art every day and enjoy the process. So that’s why I decided to start my 365 day daily art project. I’d also learned about Lisa Congdon (one of my heroes) and her daily art projects and was deeply inspired by it. I wanted to get over my fear of putting myself out there, too. It was sort of a shock therapy where I’d post my drawing (and not always perfect) every day, and eventually I cringed less about sharing my work on the internet.

As far as the topic goes, I wanted it to be something that’s relatively easy. I first thought about making art about food I eat every day, like a food journal, but knew I’d eat the same thing over and over 😀 So then I thought of happiness and what makes me happy every day. I’m not naturally a glass-half-full kind of a person…

Continue reading on Eileen’s blog.

Hope you enjoy!

xo