Category Archives: Tutorial

My Blog Workflow & Editorial Calendar

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Hi there!

I shared my tips on how to blog consistently in my last post. Today I want to show you the app I use to organize my editorial calendar and workflow.

Until recently, I’d never really used a formal organization system for my blog. When I was publishing a weekly blog, I’d just jot down my ideas on a notebook and moved things around on a paper to sort of organize them. It worked out fine, but since I increased it to 3 times a week, it became a little harder to manage, and I needed a better organization system.

So I did a little research and found Trello. Trello is a free project management app (you could also pay for added services) to help organize all types of projects. All the reviews I read said how easy it is to learn and use, and they also showed an example of people using it as their editorial calendar, so I decided to give it a try!

I’ve only been using Trello for about a month, but I really like it! They have tutorials and blog posts on tips and tools, and their product is pretty easy to use. I like the simple user interface and drag/drop function to move my items along the workflow.

I pretty much copied their example for setting up my editorial calendar and created my workflow like this:

Trello workflow blog editorial calendar honeyberry studios

Article Ideas –>  To Write Next –> Writing –> Editing & Graphics –> Post & Promotion Scheduled –> Published

And here is what I do for each step:

Article Ideas:

Like I mentioned in my last post, I refer to Seanwes’ list of 62 blog topic ideas quite a bit to get inspired.

To come up with blog article ideas, I do a brainstorming occasionally and jot down ideas whenever I think of potential topics. I make a new card (which is like a sticky note you can write things and move around) in Trello under the list “Article Ideas” to keep them in one place.

You can add categories to each card (i.e. your virtual sticky note) if you want to. My general categories include themes like Products & Services, Tools & Product Review, Processes, Lifestyle, DIY, Art & Illustration, and Self-Care. You can see the list of categories (it’s called Labels here.)

Honeyberry Studios Trello Blog Categories

I try to mix variety of topics to inspire and encourage people to live a fulfilling creative life.

To Write Next:

When I add potential blog topics to my list, I also assess if any of them are time sensitive or relevant to publish during a certain time period to promote an event or products.

For instance, when I was a guest Instagrammer for Sakura of America last month, I wanted to let my readers know about it right before it started so I wrote a blog post about it and published it the day before it started. Or I try to share behind the scenes look and work-in-progress of my new products and services as well so my audience learn the story behind my creations in a timely manner.

Once you're in the "card," you can add the due date.
Once you’re in the “card,” you can add the due date.

Other topics can be more free floating and flexible. I try to share recent works from my sketchbook regularly and write a review on tools and resources I love.

I try to rotate topic categories regularly so my readers can enjoy learning different types of things from my blog. So I might write an article about my favorite tools one day, and the next one might be about my recent drawings, and the next one can be more focused on self-help for artists.

Once I determined the timeliness of the articles, I move the cards with the most urgent due dates to “To Write Next” tab.

Writing:

Then I start writing my first draft in WordPress.com. My first draft is very very informal.

I start with some kind of a working title. Sometimes it’s the final title, and often I change it depending on what my final article is like. This is also when I schedule the date and time for my blog to start saving. I just don’t want to publish my draft accidentally.

WordPress honeyberry diary draft schedule

Anyway, I just start typing whatever comes to mind about a topic in no particular order.

I might just put down some words and phrases and keep going.

This short video where Seanwes shares his writing process was super inspiring and helpful. He says when you’re writing your draft, pretend you don’t have a back button on your keyboard and just keep typing.

I used to get stuck on small details and was trying to edit as I went when I first start writing. And since I switched to this method, I just get more contents down on my page a lot quicker.

Even though I’m not as hard core as he is about not deleting or correcting something as I go (I still fix typos as I see it), it helps to get ideas out of my head and keep going. And as I get my thoughts out of my head on to the page, I think of more things to say and it makes my contents richer.

Some articles that are more contents-focused are naturally longer-form, and others like my sketchbook round-ups are more visual focused and usually short form.

Editing & Graphics:

Once I’m done with my draft, I normally come back to it a day later or so. It helps me to see my writing with fresh eyes and mind and helps with the editing process.

In this phase, I correct mistakes, typos, add or delete things, insert links where necessary, change orders, explain things differently, and try to make it flow better in general.

This is where I usually create or find images to use for the blog as well.

If it’s more content-heavy post, I normally create a new title image. I come up with a concept that represents the message of the article or create a handlettering piece that matches the title. I try to spend no more than 2 hours for creating the title image from start to finish.

If I’m writing a tutorial or tools review, I take screenshots or photos of the tool after writing the draft. Oftentimes, I realize I need more images for the article as I edit, so might do more photoshoots later.

Once I have the images, I edit them on Photoshop and upload them on to the WordPress media library to use in my posts.

And then, I go to the preview mode and read the article on the webpage. I often notice new mistakes when I’m reading it in the Preview mode. So I go back and forth between the preview mode and the draft page to fix mistakes and anything that doesn’t flow very well.

I repeat this process a few times.

I also test all the links in the preview mode to make sure they work. Nothing more frustrating than a broken link!

Post & Promotion Scheduled:

Once everything looks good, I create and schedule a post about the blog article on my social media, namely Facebook and Twitter.

I set the schedule for the blog post on WordPress when I start writing so I don’t accidentally publish it immediately as I write. But if I change my mind about the publishing date and time, I could change it here or later.

I copy the blog shortlink, which WordPress creates for you or you can use services like Bitly to shorten it. Otherwise, the link to your blog article can be super long and cumbersome.

I come up with a little blurb about the blog article to post on each social media platform so my audience has some ideas about what the blog is about. I also use one of the images (usually the title image) from the post and manually upload them on to each social media post. I’d like for my audience to see different images for each post rather than seeing the same old blog banner all the time as it’s kind of boring 😀

I’ve tried to use WordPress’ publicize feature, which automatically shares the post on connected social media accounts, but it was a little glitchy for me, mainly with the images not showing correctly or at all. I got tired of it not working as expected and that’s why I started scheduling the social media post separately manually. It was a long time ago, so maybe now it works fine. I just haven’t tried it for a while.

For my Facebook page (not my personal page), I just use their built-in schedule function.

For Twitter, I use Tweetdeck to schedule my posts. It was recommended by a friend, and I like it. It’s simple and easy to use. My only pet peeves would be that once I schedule a post, I can’t edit it? Maybe I’m missing something here, but only option I see is “delete.” So I end up deleting a post and re-creating another one if I needed to edit it. Which is not super awesome.

For Instagram, since I can’t schedule the actual post beforehand, I save the featured image on to my Photo app on my iPhone so it’s easily accessible when it’s ready to be posted.

Published:

And when the time comes, WordPress will publish your post at a scheduled time! Hooray!!

It’s satisfying to move my card to the Published column on my editorial calendar 🙂 I should probably empty them regularly as it’s piling up pretty quickly.

Screenshot 2016-03-19 07.42.44

I’m still new at using this tool and having an editorial calendar and am happy to share more as I learn the tool better!

Hope it was helpful 🙂

xo Yuko

Yuko_profile

6 Tips on How to Blog Consistently

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I get a lot out of inspiring people through my art and love to help other artists by sharing and teaching what I know.

I’ve been blogging pretty consistently since last summer. A friend asked me for some tips on blogging the other day and thought some of you might also be interested in knowing what works for me.

I actually first started blogging in January of 2014. That’s when I started taking my art a little more seriously, and everyone was talking about how you needed to blog to make your business more successful. So I said, why not??

I didn’t have a clear goal for my business or blog back then and just shared things I thought people might enjoy.

Then I started my 365 Day Happiness Is drawing project in April of 2014 so that became the focus of my blog for a year.

Though I was posting my art every day, my blog was just another social media platform for me to share my art on, so I wouldn’t count that as “blogging consistently.” There was hardly any writing involved.

After I completed the year-long drawing project, I knew my next goal was to write more consistently. You might wonder why visual artists might need to write, but I knew I could build a deeper relationship with my audience if I shared my writing more. I also wanted to help other artists with more practical things, and writing would be a good way to do that.

I’ve written a blog post about why I want to write more here if you’re interested! (<– You can reference your own materials when you’ve written a bunch of contents, which is also pretty nice.)

So here are my 6 tips on how to blog consistently:

1. Have a bunch of posts in queue before you start publishing

I have to say this is the best blogging advice I received and follow to this day. So many people want to publish consistently and have the intention of doing so yet have a hard time keeping up.

Why not have a bunch of posts ready to go before you start publishing them? It helps with the consistency and creates a buffer for when you need it (e.g. you get sick, other life events etc.)

It may be hard to fight the instant gratification of finishing something and sharing it right away, but it’s worth it. I like the feeling of not being on a deadline all the time!

When I was publishing my blog article once a week, I had about a month worth of posts (4-5) ready to go. I still have the same number of articles in queue, but since I post more often now, I would like to build up more reserves when I have time. My goal is to have solid 2 weeks in a queue at any given time.

2. Determine the “why” for your blog

Just like having a clear goal for any other creative practice, it’s important for you to clarify your purpose, i.e. your “why,” for writing.

What do you want to accomplish by sharing your writing on the internet? What value is your blog going to provide for your audience? Is it going to help someone? Is it to help yourself? Is it to document your progress with your goals? Is it to share your life with your friends and family?

And when I say value, I’m not just talking about helping people make money. It could be something to make people laugh or cry, stay healthy, find solutions to what they’re struggling with, help them cook a healthy meal for their family, entertain them with your stories, amaze people with your creations, or inspire them to create a fulfilling life for themselves.

You want to find the “thing” for you. And don’t worry about creating something new that’s not already out there…because…it probably is out there already! That’s not the most important point. The important thing is recognizing you have a unique voice and perspectives on things that only you can deliver for your audience.

Having a clear goal and direction for your blog will help you focus on what to write and makes it easier for your audience to find and connect with your contents.

3. Try to write in your authentic voice

When you’re writing to reach people and connect with them on an emotional level, you want your authentic self to show up and not the formal, grammatically correct self (unless that’s your brand personality!)

This is something I struggled with a lot in the beginning and still do especially as an English-as-a-second-language writer. Because I learned proper way to write textbook English growing up, rather than learning it naturally in everyday life, I have a hard time breaking the rules and knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not.

But I wanted my audience to get to know me through my writing, and I want my writing to be friendly, warm, and approachable. I want my readers to have a consistent experience whether they’re reading my blog or looking at my art.

In order to accomplish that, I follow these tips:

  • Write the way you speak. You still want to be careful not to be too disruptive with informal grammar or typos, but you want your writing to sound natural when you read it out loud. If you read your sentence out loud, and you’re tempted to say it differently, you might want to consider changing it.
  • Imagine you’re speaking/writing to someone you know. I pretend I’m talking to a couple of my close friends when I write. It helps my writing to be more personable.
  • I loved Laura Belgray’s 5 Secrets to Writing Non-Sucky Copy! It’s hilarious and helpful.

4. Publish your posts on a consistent schedule

If you want to grow your audience through your blog, publishing on a consistent schedule will help. You want your audience to look forward to seeing your contents and  make your blog part of their routine.

When I set my goal to publish a blog once a week, I decided I’d publish every Sunday morning at 7am. There are many statistics out there about when you get a higher engagement for your blog etc. I didn’t really worry about the stats, though, and chose the day/time based on the fact that people tend to have more time to read on weekends.

Earlier this year, I increased my goal to 3 times a week so I can share more about my art and processes on top of my self-help-y contents. I thought publishing on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays would be a good schedule for me.

I wanted to avoid Mondays because it’s a busy day for most people going back to work etc. and your inbox tends to get flooded with emails that come in during the weekend. So Tuesday or Wednesday seemed like a better option. And by Friday, you’re ready to transition from work mode to a weekend mode, so you’re more likely to consume contents for fun and inspirations.

At least that’s how I ended up choosing those 3 days for my blog. I must say these are not scientific facts… 😀

Even if you don’t officially announce your schedule to your audience, having a consistent publishing schedule helps with your own accountability.

And if you do let your audience know and stick to it, they will learn to expect your contents on certain days of the week. For this reason, I would recommend publishing your blog at least once a week. It’s just easier for your audience to track.

5. Schedule time to write consistently

In order for me to stay ahead, I schedule time to write daily. Especially since I increased the frequency of my posts, I’d run out of my reserves if I become lax about it!

On my typical work day, writing is usually the first thing I do in the morning. Your brain is clear of information clutter and I can focus a lot better in the morning. I usually write 1.5-2 hours per day.

I know some people batch their writing, like for example, you can designate every Wednesday as a writing day, and you take care of all your blog writing that day.

I haven’t tried that method yet as that seems a bit much to me. Like making art, I like to write in stages and parts, then leave and come back the next day to add/edit. It helps me to look at my writing with fresh eyes, and I stay more productive that way.

6. Just start writing 

If you’re wondering what you should write or if you’re a good writer or worried about what people might think of your writing, just start writing something. Anything.

Oftentimes, you don’t know what you should or can write about until you actually start. And the blank page cant be very intimidating!

Like many things in life, starting is the hardest part. Just start writing about anything, like what you ate this morning and how you prepared it. Or how you’re struggling to start writing and how you’re feeling as you write.

Remember you don’t have to share everything you write! Write for yourself. Start journaling about what you do. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. You will start seeing some themes emerge and you’ll find your voice.

And, if you need ideas and inspirations for a blog post, you can get a list of 62 potential blog topic ideas in this Seanwes podcast episode! It’s totally saving my life as we speak!!

Writing never used to be something I enjoyed. I avoided it for a long time because I wasn’t comfortable. Now it’s part of my everyday creative practice, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Who knew??

I’m gonna share my writing workflow and tools I use on my next blog post! Stay tuned 🙂

xo Yuko

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3 Things I Love about The Journey Within E-course!

It’s almost March, and my Nature Line Drawing class for The Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Journals hosted by Kiala Givehand will be live in just a few short days!

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You know I LOVE making simple line drawings of flowers and plants. When Kiala asked me to guest teach for this e-course, I was really honored and excited.

This course is year-long, and each month features different teachers and themes. Students are encouraged to follow along tutorials and learn different techniques every month, and there is a private online group to share their work and get to hang out with the teachers live on a monthly live session!

Look at the monthly theme here. Isn’t this great?? Kiala put this together to bring personal enrichment through art and creativity and did an awesome job at that!!

  • January = Explore & Discover
  • February = Self-Love & Intentional Living
  • March = Nature & Natural Living <– this is what I’m teaching!
  • April = Poetry & Music
  • May = Creative Empowerment
  • June = Wonderment & Dreams
  • July = Sanctuary & Silence
  • August = Harvest & Family
  • September = Memories & Archives
  • October = Devotion & Meditation
  • November = Gratitude & Words of Wisdom
  • December = Reflection & Memory

Here are 3 things that make this course unique:

1) It’s online, so you can access it anywhere, anytime that’s convenient for you. It doesn’t matter if you live in a rural area where you don’t know anyone creative like you – you get to participate and interact with others in this supportive on-line community!

2) You get to learn from different teachers with different styles and perspectives. It makes the learning experience more interesting, and it will help you get out of a creative rut if you’re experiencing one!

3) The materials are very accessible. You don’t have to be an experienced artist to enjoy it – Anyone with a creative mind will have lots of fun exploring different themes and techniques!

Many people start out the new year with a goal of having a consistent creative practice and have a hard time continuing the momentum without the on-going encouragement and guidance.

This course will be a (gentle) kick in the pants to reenergize your intention to embrace creativity throughout the year. It’ll give you fresh contents every month and a supportive community to learn in so you can incorporate creativity in your everyday living and meet your goals.

And get this – you only pay $120 to access everything for the whole year. Yup, everything: the tutorials, support, community, live sessions, and most importantly your motivation. For the whole year. Talk about getting bang for your buck!!!

It’s definitely not too late to enroll in the course! You’ll still get access to all the materials for the past two months as well when you register.

This short video about my creative inspirations may give you a better sense of who I am as an artist and what my class is going to be like 🙂

 

I’ll be on the live session on Sunday 3/13 (11:30am PST) and would love to see many of you there! ❤ Join me today!

xo Yuko

yuko_flowers

DIY Filming: Making of My First Drawing Tutorial Video!

Hi guys!

Like many of you creative people, I love to learn. I love learning new skills and tools to create something new. Sometimes I set goals to learn specific skills (e.g. writing, learning a design software etc.) and tackle them businesslike, and others, like cooking and sewing, kind of happen organically.

Last October I posted a nature drawing tutorial on this blog and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to do more tutorials and was hoping to venture into video making as well. And lo and behold, I was asked to be a guest teacher for the e-course The Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals hosted by Kiala Givehand in March!

I was honored to be asked, and it’s given me the push I needed to make my very first video tutorial!

I worked on it last week and learned a bunch in the process. I’m all about sharing tools and processes with you in case you find it helpful, too. For the most part, I didn’t use any fancy tools or tricks and hope it’ll make the process more accessible to you if you’re thinking about making a video yourself. This is my first time making a video, so if you’re more experienced, you probably won’t gain very much from it. But if you’ve never made one and are intimidated by it, this post is for you!

Enjoy the behind the scenes peek into my video production!


1. PLANNING

By nature I’m a planner. I like to gather as much information as possible before I get started on something new. I’ve been getting a little more relaxed about not having all the information before I start something lately, though. I know a lot of learning happens during the process of doing, and if you wait till the perfect moment, you may never start anything!

I don’t have unlimited financial resources, so I wanted to make this video without spending a ton of money and wanted to do this with things I already had without compromising the production quality too much.

I really didn’t know anything about creating a video, so I went searching for tutorials about filming and editing your own video on the internet.

Although this is not specifically about making a video tutorial, I found this Skillshare video, “DIY Filming: Creating Pro Video Using Tools You Already Own” by Mark Cersosimo super helpful! It was very easy to follow, and he has lots of practical tips you can use.

I also created an outline and scripts before I started filming so I have the clear vision of the flow and contents. I didn’t do the storyboarding, though, as I was pretty anxious to start filming. It would’ve made the whole process a little smoother if I had done it.


2. TOOLS

My camera

I decided to film with my old-school point and shoot camera. It’s Canon IXY Digital 920 IS, and I got it in 2008-ish? I enjoy photography and would love to upgrade to a DSLR camera some day, but this little camera has served me very well all these years and works just fine for now.

Mic

I recorded the audio on my iPhone 5 using the Voice Memos app (comes with your phone for free). I know the camera has a built-in microphone as well, but the quality is not very good. I’ve read that audio quality is more important to the audience than the video quality if you had to choose (here is a quick video to demonstrate the point), so I decided to record the audio separately using my phone.

I could’ve just put the phone in my breast pocket or something like that, but decided to get a clip-on microphone that plugs in to the phone to improve the audio quality just a tiny bit.

We have 2 parakeets in our tiny apartment, and they’re going to chirp no matter what, so I wanted to be extra diligent about getting a good enough quality of audio for this project. I got an inexpensive ($17) clip-on microphone above on Amazon, and it definitely made a difference on the audio quality! Well worth the investment.

tripod_lores

Because I was filming this video by myself, I decided to get a tripod. Got this basic tripod on Amazon for $23. It’s got good reviews and seemed fine as a starter tripod.

But when I was doing a trial set-up, I quickly realized my tripod was not quite adequate. It was fine for shooting uplight or angled, but I realized I needed to be able to also get some overhead shots for to show my drawing process more closely.

Dave and I did some creative problem-solving, and came up with this totally DYI set-up to achieve my creative vision 😀

Overhead camera setup

Ta da! OK, I’m a little embarrassed to show you this super DYI set-up, but it totally works! And I didn’t have to spend any more $…which is always a plus 🙂

Basically, the tripod is laying horizontally on a box and a few books I piled at the right hight, with the camera facing down, and I placed a couple of chairs back to back and put a pillow on top for the tripod legs to rest on. You just need to look in the view finder to adjust it to the right hight/angle etc. before shooting.


3. FILMING PROCESS

I set up by the big window in our living room area during the shoot. Since it’s winter in the Pacific Northwest, I got a pretty good overcast indirect sunlight during the day time, which was perfect for the shoot.

While filming different segments, I made sure it was recorded after each take. Sometimes I thought I hit the record button but it wasn’t on, or my video was recording but I forgot to turn on the microphone etc. My camera would also think the memory card was full when it was not (maybe the old age?) and suddenly stopped recording in the middle of the take a few times.

So I’d shoot a segment, stop, check to make sure it’s recorded, upload the good recordings onto my Dropbox, delete the footage from the memory card and reformat the memory card (for some reason, my camera thinks it’s still there even after deleting the footage if you don’t reformat…)  and continue shooting again. I did the same thing for my audio. Great thing about recording it on my iPhone app is I can then upload the recordings straight from the phone to Dropbox.

I’ve learned the hard way to label the video and audio files correctly so it’s easier to match them up later when you sync them. For example, I’d shot multiple takes of my introduction and labeled them Yuko’s Intro Take 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. to choose the best one later. But I only uploaded the voice recording that I liked the best and labeled it “Yuko’s Intro” without the corresponding number to match the video, so later when I was editing I had to spend extra time to figure out which footage the voice recording went with.

These are somewhat tedious steps but helped me save a ton of time and frustration when editing the project!


4. MUSIC

How can you tell a good story without music, right? Since I’m not a musician, I looked for some free/royalty-free background music resources online and found these sites helpful!

Wistia’s Music Collection

Incompetech – I found it helpful to start out with their collections rather than searching from a huge database. Their collections are grouped by the genres and feelings you’re looking for.


5. EDIT

After I got the footage and audio uploaded in my Dropbox folder, I put together the video in iMovie app. It’s a free app that comes with your Apple computer and lets you produce a basic video pretty easily.

Screen shot
Don’t worry the awkwardness of watching/hearing yourself wears off after a while… 😀

Again, I looked for some tutorials on how to edit your video in iMovie and found these pretty helpful!

1. Syncing Sound in iMovie Tutorial by Matthew Pearce is a short and sweet tutorial about how to sync your audio and video in iMovie. I love his “3 claps before talking” trick! So helpful.

 

2. iMovie 101 by Simply Mac is a quick introduction to the basic functions of iMovie. Good introduction but it’s for an old version of iMovie, so I got a little confused.

 

3. iMovie Tutorial for Beginners 2016 by Eric Timmer gave an overview of the basic video editing functions for newer iMovie app. It was a little long form (43 minutes) but gave me pretty much everything I needed to know to put my video together in the newer version of iMovie.


OK, that’s it! I had a lot of fun making this video and hope it was helpful for you!

My Nature Line Drawing tutorial will be available for students in the e-course next month. It’s not too late to join the class for this quarter only or for the whole year (definitely more value for the investment!) to get access to my tutorial and tutorials from 18 other teaching artists.

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And here is  a mini clip of me flipping through my sketchbook 🙂

 

Learn how to make nature line drawings with me this spring! In case you missed the link, you can learn more and join the class here.

Have a wonderful day guys!

xo Yuko

yuko_flowers

Behind the Scenes: Creating One-of-a-Kind Valentine’s Gifts

Hey guys!

In my effort to offer even more creative inspirations for your life  (read more about that in my blog here), I’m starting to share more of my art products and creative processes on my blog now! My goal is to publish at least 3 posts per week as compared to one weekly post previously, and I hope you’re enjoying it so far 🙂

Yesterday, I shared a story behind my new untraditional Valentine’s paper products. (If you missed it, you can scroll down to yesterday’s post or check them out here. They’re adorable!)

Today, I wanted to share behind the scenes of my new block printed XOXO Tea Towels and Project Bags!

Some of you know I’ve been block printing on fabric since winter of 2015. I took Jen Hewett’s Design, Carve, Print e-course and immediately fell in love/got addicted with the block printing!

Here are some of my block printing works from last year:

2015 holiday tea towels

Colorful tea towels from fall/winter 2015

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Totes and drawstring bags from summer 2015

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A typical block printing set-up. This artichoke printed market tote is one of the most popular items on my shop so far.


When I create new designs for my block printing project, I keep in mind the following:

  1. My block printing design needs to have a cohesive look and feel as my other illustration work on paper.
  2. It needs to have clean line work and a little bit of details/texture to make it very simple but interesting.
  3. It typically needs a good balance of positive/negative space.
  4. A motif around 4.5″ x 4.5″ usually works well with what I do.

For my new Valentine’s XOXO collection, I had an idea of designing a simple lettering of XOXO. I initially thought of just creating a simple “XOXO” shapes, but it looked a little boring/not in line with other products I had created.

As I was making a bunch of sketches to add decorations to my letters, I remembered this sketch I made several weeks ago.

Crochet tools doodle

I like to crochet and was doodling some tools as I watched some Netflix shows with Dave one evening. I was vaguely thinking it would be cute to create a project based on these but didn’t have a real idea yet.

And then I realized the letter X could be two knitting needles crossed together (2 crochet needles would’ve been a little funny because we only use one needle usually!) and the letter O could be a yarn ball!

I know knitters/crocheters like having project bags for the things they’re working on, and I can dedicate my block printing Valentine’s gift products to them ❤

01_valentine's-sketches_lores

So I sketched some more ideas using knitting needles and a yarn ball on paper. I like to draw with bold felt-tipped or brush pen to get a better idea of the final image. I don’t like having a really thin line as a positive space in my block printing project because I use a softer carving block and thin details are easier to break or get accidentally cut away in the process.

Once I’m happy with a design, I trace it with a tracing paper and a pencil.

Then I flip the tracing paper over and rub the pencil drawing on to the carving block with a spoon (or a bone folder if you got one.) I use MOO Carve carving blocks because they’re softer and easier on my hand when carving.

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It’s going to look like this after you rub your drawing on to the block. The black lines indicate the part I leave out, and the white part gets carved out.

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Then I carve away the white part! I use a linocut carving tool from Speedball.

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Once the block is carved, I start test printing on my test fabric. For this design, I kept the two motifs together on one block since they’ll always be used side by side, and it’ll save me some time when printing!!

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Seeing the image come alive for the first time on fabric is absolutely my favorite moment!

I use the water-based fabric screen printing ink to block print on fabric. For this, I used Speedball fabric screen printing ink in red.

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When test printing, I look for parts that need to be cleaned up/tweaked. And then I print and clean several times until I’m happy with it.

Once I’m happy with the blocks I carved, I print them on my products. Since I don’t sew, I usually get my blank tea towels and bags from these companies:

Online Fabric Store

All About Blanks

ConventionTOTES

I design the layout that works well with each product and get to printing!! I let them dry overnight and heat set the ink using my iron after they dry completely.


And voila! These Valentine’s XOXO Tea Towels & Project Bags are ready to delight a special knitter/crocheter in your life ❤

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Pink and Red 100% Cotton Tea Towel. It is color fast and will not wash out. I use them at home and they’re very durable!

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Red and White 100% Cotton Tea Towel is also available on my shop! It’s going to be a lot of fun to make some Valentine’s Day treats in the kitchen with these bright and joyful tea towels 🙂

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You can’t go wrong with the simple repeat pattern.

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They’re even cuter together as a set 🙂 Swoon ❤


And the new design comes on 100% Cotton Drawstring bags as well! They are another great gift idea for the creatives in your life. Use them as a project bag or to organize things (especially for your little ones) to carry around in your big bag!

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8×10 100% Cotton XO Drawstring Project Bag 

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And its big sister 10×12 100% Cotton XOXO Drawstring Project Bag

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They’re heat set, so the ink is printed on the bag permanently. You can machine wash cold. Easy-peasy!


I hope you enjoyed learning how my block printing products are created. I love how each product is slightly different and is a unique work of art you can use every day 🙂

If you’re interested in learning how to block print on fabric, check out the workshop I’m teaching in Seattle in April and May! If you’re not in Seattle area, Jen’s e-course I mentioned above is a great place to learn, too.

OK, I hope you’ll have an inspiring day, my friend!

xoxo Yuko

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Let me tell you what I did on my first sabbatical week.

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Hello guys!

It’s so nice to be back from my mini sabbatical week! For those of you who haven’t heard, I decided to take every 7th week off to step back from the day-to-day and recharge. I just had my very first sabbatical week the previous week, and it was really awesome!

As promised, I wanted to report back and share how I spent my week off. To me, this was not a vacation, per se, but an opportunity to breathe and do something I don’t normally get to do.

1) I created a new drawing tutorial.

Some of you may have seen it, but I participated in a blog hop with Kelly Johnson of Wings, Worms, and Wonder on Wednesday October 7 as a guest blogger! I had always wanted to do tutorials, so I was excited and honored when she approached me to join her.

She asked each participating artist to come up with a tutorial that inspires people to connect/re-connect with the nature. I thought about what I could teach people and decided to create this Fall Leaf Marker Drawing tutorial! I’ve received positive feedback from folks that it was very accessible and inspired them to try marker drawing. I really enjoyed the process, too, and hope to create more tutorials in the future!

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2) I cooked more.

I might have mentioned this here before, but I’m not that into cooking. I don’t dislike it but just don’t enjoy spending a lot of time cooking up some gourmet meals (that’s more my husband’s thing, which I’m very grateful for!) I enjoy eating simple tasty meals that are quick to make.

But there is something about non-regular cooking, like making jams, baking, and making fermented foods that I like. It might be because the process is fairy simple, and you get to enjoy the products over time? Canning and fermentation make me feel very empowered, too. You can turn some fresh ingredients into things that last for a long, long time. Magical!

I used to do these things more often before I got serious about my art business. Even though I’m not juggling a day job and art any more, I’ve been plenty busy and was feeling like I didn’t have the energy to do much else.

My husband had been asking me to make more jam because we were out for a while. So I decided to tackle that during my sabbatical week!

We buy fresh fruits in bulk during the summer and freeze them. I prefer to make jam when the weather has cooled down because our apartment gets super hot during the summer, and it wouldn’t be fun to do water bath canning then… :p

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I made three kinds of jams this time! Our all time favorite blueberry, apricot, and I made a new addition, spiced apricot with cinnamon and clove. YUM.jam02_lores jam03_lores

It’s kind of a long story, but I’ve been on an elimination diet of no grain flour for a while. But after making so much yummy jam, I really wanted to have something to eat it with. So I did some research and found this easy almond flour muffin recipe!

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It was really quick to make and was delicious! It has a nutty, earthy flavor, and the texture is very similar to cornbread. It went really well with my jam too!almond-muffins03_lores

And I just generally spent more time cooking during the week. I love to eat and am happy when my creations turn out yummy!

3)  I made art for fun.

I still make something every day, but nowadays I spend much less time making art just for fun. During the sabbatical week, I tried to turn off my work mode and doodled my little heart out.

Here are some of the drawings I made!

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Aren’t these fun?? As I shared in this blog post, I always get new inspiration and fresh ideas for future work when I’m playing around.

4) More friend/family hang out time

I had a few dates planned with my friends but ended up having just one for one reason or another. It worked out fine because, well, I’m an introvert and I recharge by being alone 🙂 My husband was away for work for a few days too, so it was a good balance between having a nice quiet time alone and hanging out with him when he was home!

5) Veg out!

Don’t worry, I wasn’t being productive and doing things all the time, either. I did sleep in and just veg out too! In one afternoon, Dave and I just watched a whole bunch of Netflix shows on our couch. It was very nice 🙂

He was helping me be a couch potato!
Our kitty was helping me be a couch potato = his special talent

It took me a couple of days to turn off the work mode, but I really enjoyed the slow week. I totally feel more energized and calm this week. I’m really glad I decided to schedule regular time-off and can’t wait for my next mini sabbatical! I’m gonna need it 🙂

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo Yuko

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Draw Yourself Back To Nature Blog Hop Day 3: Fall Leaf Doodle Tutorial!

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Hi everyone! Welcome to the special edition of my blog post today!

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I usually post an article about creativity and motivation every Sunday. Even though I’m on a mini sabbatical this week, I get to show up for you twice… How cool is that?

For those of you who just discovered me through Kelly Johnson’s Draw Yourself Back to Nature Blog Hop, it’s so nice to meet you 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to stop by! NOTE: There is an announcement about a cool giveaway at the end of this post, so don’t miss it 🙂

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Before we dive in to today’s nature drawing tutorial, let me take a moment to introduce myself! My name is Yuko Miki, and I’m an illustrator, print-maker, and a blogger in Seattle, Washington. I was born and raised in Himeji, Japan.

HImeji is best known for its beautiful castle! Photo credit by Yoko Miki (a.k.a. my mom)
HImeji is best known for its beautiful castle! Photo credit by Yoko Miki (a.k.a. my mom)

Himeji is a pretty big city, but I grew up in a rural part of the city surrounded by rice patches and mountains. My grandparents grew rice and many of the vegetables we ate. I used to take it for granted and didn’t really think it was anything special. I even thought farming and growing up in a rural area were kind of uncool!

Beautiful view from Mt. Syosha, Himeji, Japan
Beautiful view from Mt. Syosha, Himeji, Japan

I moved to Seattle about 19 years ago to study English and ended up staying here for good. Seattle is a great city, but I was pretty disconnected from nature and growing food for many years. I re-discovered the wonders of nature and re-connected with the soil when I met my husband, Dave, almost 9 years ago. Dave is a permaculture designer/teacher/author and helps people create an ecologically sustainable life. He inspires me and many others to choose a way of living that is kind to people and the earth. Yea I know, he’s pretty cool 🙂

We got married a little over 2 years ago. Boy time flies!
We got married a little over 2 years ago. Boy time flies!

My journey as an artist has taken kind of an unconventional route, too. As a child, I enjoyed drawing but moved on to other interests in my pre-teens and didn’t engage in any visual art for a long time. About 5 years ago, at my day job I was doodling some cartoon during a meeting, and my co-worker really liked it and wanted me to draw more. I started drawing here and there for fun and for friends, and I loved being appreciated for what I can create on paper.

A drawing from when I was little. Not sure how old I was. I love how dynamic kids' drawings are!
A drawing from when I was little. Not sure how old I was. I love how dynamic kids’ drawings are!

I grew to like drawing more and more, but I never thought I could make it as a professional artist. I never went to an art school, and my drawings are pretty wonky. So I enrolled myself in a Graphic Design program at a local college in hopes to become more creatively employable and finished a certificate in 2014.

But in my last portfolio review class, I started freaking out a little bit. My work didn’t really look like other designers’. My design was pretty wonky and focused a lot on my illustrations. Oh no, I thought, I’m a bad designer!!

I nervously finished my final presentation to the class. Then our instructor, Susan, said to me, “You know, you’re not a bad designer. But you obviously are more passionate about illustration. Why don’t you just pursue illustration?” And I knew then and there that’s what I needed to do. I’d been so concerned about how unpractical my dream was and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my work even though people around me saw my potential. It’s so funny how you sometimes feel like you need a permission to follow your dream!

Anyway, then I started a daily drawing project back in April of 2014 where I made a drawing about happiness and shared it on the internet every day for 365 days. It helped me gain some traction, and I developed a daily creative practice helped me grow as an artist.

A lot of my daily happiness drawings were inspired by nature.

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And somehow the universe aligned, and I was able to quit my day job at the end of July 2015! If you’re interested in learning more about how and why I quit my day job, you can read it here!

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I’ve been enjoying being my own boss and hustling to take my art business to the next level for the past two months. I talk a lot about my journey and share my learning on my blog here, so do follow if that’s something you’re interested in 🙂

OK I think you got a good sense of who I am and what I’m about… Now, back to our topic for today!

I was stoked when Kelly Johnson from the Wings, Worms, and Wonder approached me to join her Draw Yourself Back to Nature Blog Hop! She’s asked the participating artists to provide a nature drawing tutorial, and I was so excited to join because I’ve been wanting to create tutorials for a while and hadn’t done one yet.

My tutorial is loosely related to Kelly’s nature journaling tutorial prompt No. 1 from her ECourse (which by the way is packed full of awesome resources and tutorials, easily worth more than what you pay!) where she teaches you how to draw nature by breaking them down to simple shapes.

I like using simple shapes and lines, and most of my work is pretty flat as opposed to photorealistic.

So here is my brand new Fall Leaf Doodle Tutorial I created for you! Follow along the steps and create your own nature-themed doodles. Have fun!

1) Materials you need for this tutorial: sketchbook, coloring markers & drawing pens.

I used Bee Paper Super Deluxe sketchbook, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens, and Pigma Micron Pens (size 01 and 08 in black are my favorite!) in this tutorial. Of course this is not a requirement to use these specific brands/products, and you can use what you already have and are comfortable with.
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I enjoy drawing with different mediums (watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, etc), and I like the portability of the markers when you’re on the go. Since you can layer and draw without worrying about the colors bleeding into each other, you have more control over the piece as well.

For this tutorial, I used Pale Orange, Yellow, Vermilion, Coral Red, Woody Brown, Orange, Fresh Green, Light Sky Blue, Light Warm Gray, and Ice Green Koi Coloring Brush Pens.

2) Gather your inspiration and references!

For this tutorial, I’m drawing fall leaves that spread and fill one page of your sketchbook. Since I typically draw things in simple and stylized manner, I like to look at several different images to get the feel for what I’m going to draw. Like Kelly mentions in her tutorials, you can do a goodle image search and/or go out and pick up leaves from outside!

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A quick google images search for “fall leaves” returns lots and lots of pretty images.
And I found these pretties on a quick walk around my neighborhood.
And I found these pretties on a quick walk around my neighborhood.

3) Pick a couple of leaves from your references and practice drawing them with a marker.

Like Kelly mentions, we’re not trying to be scientific botanical illustrators here. As a commercial illustrator, it’s more important to me that my drawings have my voice (a.k.a. my style) than how accurate or real they look. My style is simple and whimsical, and it makes my art fairly accessible to people.

You might be wondering, “I don’t know what my style is. How do I find it??” Well, unfortunately, there is no shortcut for finding your style. But you can find it by 1) paying attention to what you’re attracted to aesthetically, and 2) practicing a lot.

Whether you’re attracted to more realistic art or stylized illustrations, only way to get better and deepen your style is to practice.

So turn to your sketchbook or any scratch paper, and start making simple drawings of the leaves you chose with special focus on their shapes. Don’t worry about any mistakes or details. Draw it big. Draw it small. Maybe exaggerate certain aspects and see what you think. If it’s wonky, that’s OK. Nobody is going to see this, so just relax and have fun 🙂 Think of it as your visual brainstorming session! There is no need for judgement or order. Don’t be precious with this. Just go for it.

If you’re intimidated by more complex shapes (like the maple leaf), start with the basic oval-almond shaped ones!

Some examples of how your marker sketches can look like.
Some examples of how your marker sketches can look like. Very simple.

4) Experiment with layering different colors.

One of the things I like about drawing with markers is that I can layer the colors in a very controlled way. Sometimes you have a good idea of what it looks like with multiple colors layered, but other times it can be a total surprise. Occasionally, you mix two colors (e.g. any complement color combo) that you thought were interesting and get a muddy mess. So just test them out on your sketchbook or a scratch paper.

Example of layering colors. I used Yellow to draw the first leaf and layered Orange in half and Woody Brown on the other half.
Example of layering colors. I used 1) Yellow to draw the first leaf and 2) layered Orange on the left half and Woody Brown on the right half. You can achieve more subtle hues by layering colors.
Similarly, in this example I show the 1) outline 2) filled with Vermilion and 3) layered with half Light Warm Gray and half Burgundy. Layering with gray colors is a great way to darken a bright color.
Similarly, in this example I show the 1) outline 2) filled with Vermilion as a base color and 3) layered with half Light Warm Gray (L) and half Burgundy (R). Layering with gray is a great way to tone down a bright color.

On a side note, I like having a color chart of the makers I have so I don’t have to test it every time.

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You can simply draw small shapes with each color, put their name below the swatch and keep it somewhere handy!

5) Once you practiced drawing some shapes and layering colors, let’s fill your sketchbook page with them, shall we?

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STEP 1: Chose one base color. I prefer to start with a lighter color to make it easier to layer on later (I’m using Orange marker here). To make this tutorial simple, I’m going to use one basic leaf shape for this piece. Draw a few larger leaves with your base color. Don’t place them so tightly together as you’ll be filling the white space in the following steps.

I like to just go for it without drawing with pencils first, but if you’re nervous or have a specific pattern in mind, feel free to draw the shapes with the pencil first and fill it in with the marker.

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STEP 2: Chose another base color (in this case, Yellow) and draw a few more leaves in the white space. Again, leave some space in between.

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STEP 3: Using the same base colors, add in smaller leaves in the white space. Vary the directions, sizes, and shapes slightly to fit in the space. Leave some white space between the leaves.

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STEP 4: OK, now it’s time to layer some colors on top of the base colors! I added Woody Brown color to some leaves. It’s a nice subtle fall color. Koi Brush Pens work sort of like watercolor so the base color still comes through the layers. For some leaves, I covered the entire shape, and for others I just layered on half of the leaf.

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STEP 5: Then I added Vermilion on top of some of the leaves. This color really pops!

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STEP 6: Then I went over the leaves with either Yellow, Pale Orange, or Coral Red. I typically layer 3 times (base + two layers) either with 3 different colors or same color multiple times to get the hue and depth I want.

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STEP 7: Once you’re happy with the leaves, let’s decide on the background color! I wanted the warm fall colors to pop, so I decided to go with the blue-green hues (their complementary color scheme.)  You can learn more about color theory here.

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I picked Fresh Green, Ice Green, and Light Sky Blue for my background.

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STEP 8: Fill in the background! I like to draw lines around the leaf shapes as I go so I don’t accidentally draw over the leaves. When I’m filling the larger space I can go faster in bigger strokes, and the lines around the leaves signal me to slow down. I like to leave a small white space between the leaves and the first background layer. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

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First background layer is done! You can see the strokes pretty well. I like the look but if you prefer not to have stroke lines be so visible, you would need to pay more attention to the directions and length of your strokes.

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STEP 9: Let’s add another layer to the background! I’m using Light Sky Blue here.

14b_second-backgroundCU_loresSo this is why I like to leave a small gap between the leaves and the background. As you add second and third background layers, you can come in a bit closer to the leaves than the first layer did to create a boarder with only two or one color layered.

This creates lighter colored boarder around the leaves, which helps the leaf shapes pop. You don’t need to be precise about this process. Play around with it to find what you like.

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After two background layers.

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STEP 10: Add the final layer. I used Fresh Green marker here. You can probably see that I layered it on pretty loosely. Again, if you prefer a more uniform or flat look, you just need to be more mindful of your strokes.

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Close-up. At this stage, the background colors go up to the edge of the leaves to fill the white boarder around them. I still leave some white spot peeking through.

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STEP 11: This is the final step! Add the veins with your drawing pen! I used the Micron size 01 in black.

You could try a few different styles of veins, like straight lines going all the way to the edge of the leaf, shorter ones, curved veins, tightly spaced vs. widely spaced etc.

I like to add the pen lines at the end because it sometimes runs if you go over it with the markers. And the black lines are sharper/crisper when you add them at the end.

Voilà!! And you’re done!!

I love this method of doodling because it’s really accessible and fun. My favorite time to doodle with markers is after dinner when my husband and I sit down to watch our favorite Netflix shows 🙂 Because I’m drawing simple shapes and not worrying about details so much, it’s a perfect activity to relax and unwind with.

You can also play with combining different shapes like this one below:

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Or add interesting patterns to the leaves like this one:

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And this one is created entirely with markers:

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Possibilities are endless!

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial! This was my first time putting together a tutorial, and I had a lot of fun and learned from it too.

OK, before you go off to create your own doodle masterpiece, I have a few quick announcements!

1) Tomorrow’s blog hopper is Carolyn Lucento of Magical Movement Company! Be sure to check out her blog here for another tutorial and a sweet giveaway!

2) Kelly Johnson’s hosting a live hour where she’s doing a simple journal making tutorial and having a Q&A on Friday the 9th at 1 pm EST. More info here.

3) And last but not least, I’m giving away the original drawing I made for this tutorial to one lucky winner!! To enter, simply comment on this blog post before the end of this Sunday 10/11 at midnight EST. I’ll pick one winner, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday 10/13 on Wings, Worms, and Wonder’s blog!

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Fall Leaves, 5.5″ x 9″, markers, pen & ink on archival paper.

Thank you again for hanging out with me!! If you’re new to my work, let’s connect on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Have a wonderful week connecting with nature and creativity 🙂 Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko

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