Summer Staples with Everlane


 

After an unbearably long Minnesota winter that lasted from early November until the end of April, I am so thrilled that it’s finally summer! I always look forward to walking around outside without a coat, not to mention the longer evenings, generally sunny weather, and delicious food that Aaron cooks on the grill! However, dressing for summer isn’t always my favorite. I love layering and I’m usually a little less comfortable with lots of skin showing.

 
 

Enter Everlane and their beautiful, classic, quality pieces. I mentioned on Instagram a little while ago that I was accepted as an Everlane affiliate, and this is my first blog post written in collaboration with the brand. I’ve been a huge supporter of Everlane for years: I made my first purchase (The Street Shoe) in 2015 and Everlane has been a staple in my closet ever since! They are my go-to for denim, basic staples like t-shirts, sweaters, shoes, and even undergarments! The quality of Everlane clothing is top-notch, and they work closely with their factories to maintain a healthy environment for their workers. They are also careful to keep any negative impact on the environment as low as possible, and they are very transparent about all of their endeavors. In addition, Everlane keeps their prices very affordable, which makes the brand much more accessible than lots of slow fashion brands. You can read more about their sustainability practices here. I am so thrilled that I have the chance to be an affiliate for a brand that I have supported for so long! Two of the pieces in this post were gifted to me, and the others I purchased myself.

 
 
 
 

Let’s start out with the Cotton Weave Collarless Shirtdress, which was so kindly sent to me by Everlane. For reference, I am 5’3, and my waist is 23.5 inches, and my bust and hips are both 33 inches. I ordered a 00 in the dress and the fit is perfect; roomy, but not too loose. I can already tell that this dress is going to be something I reach for frequently this season (in fact, I’ve worn it three times since receiving it a week ago, ha!), and I’m really looking forward to styling it for fall and spring weather, as well. The whole idea behind the Cotton Weave Collarless Shirtdress is that it’s a really easy, stylish one-and-done outfit that looks polished and chic without much effort. And it definitely delivers! The dress is 100% cotton, which makes it really breathable and cool. I was a little skeptical of it working well for me in the summer because of the longer sleeves, but I wore it on a mid-80 degree day and felt comfortable all day long. The cotton is soft and textured and feels really lovely against the skin - even better than I was expecting from the photos. I would normally choose the feel of linen over cotton every time, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the cotton weave fabric. The Cotton Weave Shirtdress is available in four colors: I got navy/white mini stripe, and there’s also a plain navy, covert green (which is a gorgeous olive tone) and blue/white wide stripe.

 
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There are a lot of things that I really love about this dress. It hits me a couple of inches above the knee, which is a wonderful length; it’s long enough that I’m not worried about flashing anyone, but it’s still short enough to help me stay cool and to give the effect of lengthening my short legs. I do want to note here that I’m quite a bit shorter than the Everlane model at 5’3,” so it does look significantly longer on me than is shown on the website.

 
 

The sleeves are Everlane’s ‘blouson’ style, meaning that they flare slightly towards the ends and are then gathered in at a tight cuff, which creates a gentle puff sleeve. They are whimsical and feminine, and I love the chic feel that they lend to the dress while still remaining practical and not overly voluminous. I initially balked a little bit at the longer sleeves because I work with my hands and generally prefer my sleeves to be either short or pushed back behind my elbows. I was skeptical of how well that would work with this dress, but they stayed out of the way really nicely whenever I needed them to. The belt is wide, so it tapers in at the knot and forms an elegant silhouette at the waist. I also really liked the simple, no-fuss collarless style. Last but not least, the dress has pockets, which is always a huge plus! They’re big enough to be practical, but are also smooth and low profile so there’s no added volume near the hips.

 
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Everlane: Cotton Weave Collarless Shirtdress and Day Heel | Windblown Jewelry: Uplifted Necklace | Jewels & Aces: Earring Capsule

 

I wore this piece styled very simply because it was a warm summer day - I just added a brass necklace, earrings, and shoes and called it good, which is right in line with how the dress was designed! But I could tell immediately that it is going to be really versatile, and I’m looking forward to styling it in lots of different ways. The dress would look great un-belted for a more relaxed look, with a blazer for working in an office, over jeans on a cooler day, with a cardigan in the spring or fall, with a sweater over the top for a shirt and skirt kind of look, or even unbuttoned all the way down and used as a jacket. It can be dressed up with jewelry and a nice pair of heels, or it can be dressed down with mules or tennis shoes and a sweater.

 
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On Friday morning, I put this on right away and wore it throughout the entire day to really see how it felt. I sometimes get tired of wearing dresses after a few hours and swap to a shirt and pants, but I didn’t feel the desire to do that at any point with this dress! I wore it to coffee with Aaron in the morning, through the entire workday in my studio, and then out again for dinner and drinks in the evening. I would have happily worn it on our usual evening walk, as well, but rain came along and canceled our plans.

 
 

The only con that I could find in the dress is that the fabric wrinkles a little bit, which is to be expected with cotton. I don’t mind a slightly rumpled look, but the cotton weave material would iron or steam very easily for a more professional, clean style. I also noticed that the dress stretched a small amount throughout the day (mostly at the tied waistband and the sleeve cuffs), but it was minor and would certainly shrink back after being washed. 

 
 

The shoes that I paired the Cotton Weave Collarless Shirtdress with are the Day Heel in natural suede, also kindly gifted to me by Everlane. I have been eyeing the Day Heel for months and months and was so excited to give this pair a try! I was really nervous about wearing such a light-colored shoe, but I’m happy to report that the pale suede held up really well throughout the day! I absolutely love the texture and look of suede, and most of my shoes are in shades of tan or brown so the lighter color really filled a hole for me. I did spill my drink on the heels on Friday night (classic), but with a little elbow grease the stain came right out and the shoes are good as new! 

 
 

I honestly haven’t worn a pair of heels in years! I’ve either worked as a barista or worked from home since 2013, so I never really saw the need to own a dressier shoe. However, in the last few months I’ve really been missing a shoe that would add instant polish to my outfit, and these fit the bill so, so well. The heel is the ideal size; it adds some height to my petite frame, but is still really easy to walk in. I’m one of those people who is driven crazy by ‘toe cleavage,’ and the toe of the Day Heel covers all of my toes no problem. I also absolutely love how easy it is to slip right into these shoes, and the loop + elastic at the back really help with that. 

 
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The Day Heel is called the Day Heel because they’re supposed to be comfortable enough to walk in all day long, despite the fact that they’re heels. I had read a few reviews suggesting that sizing up is a good idea in this style, but I stuck with my normal size (6) because I didn’t want the shoes to slip off my feet as I walked. I originally planned to wear the Day Heel all day to see if they held up to the hype, but it felt a little pointless to have them on at my desk in my studio so I didn’t stick to that. Still, I did wear them for a good number of hours, and while I found them to be mostly comfortable, I think it’ll take a few more wears to break them in for that really perfect fit. I noticed a slight hot spot on the outer ball of my right foot, but it was only minor and I’m confident that the leather will relax and mold well to my feet over the next few wears (update: I also wore these most of the day on Sunday and already felt a significant improvement. There is a break-in phase, but it’s quick and mostly painless). My biggest concern was that the shoes would slip off at the back, and while that did happen once, I really liked the way that the gathered heel area helped them stay on. It took me a few minutes to adjust to walking in heels again (I’ve been living in mules and boots for so long), but the transition was easier than I thought and I really enjoyed how lightweight the heels felt.

 
 
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I have a normal foot - neither wide nor narrow - and I found that these ran true to size. I wouldn’t mind a tiny bit more space in the toe area, but I think a larger size would mean that the heels would be more prone to slipping off my feet so I’m happy I stuck with my normal 6. I absolutely love the clean lines and simple, elegant style of the Day Heel, and I won’t be at all surprised if I end up adding the Pecan leather color to my wardrobe before too long.

 
 

I also wanted to briefly mention a couple of other Everlane items that I added to my closet for the summer weather and have been so impressed with! I went into this season with only a couple of sleeveless, warm-weather-appropriate tops, so I ordered the Air Cami and the Clean Silk Cami to fill that hole in my closet. I have been so happy that I added these pieces this year! 

 
 
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Everlane: Clean Silk Cami | Elizabeth Suzann: Florence Pant | Everlane: Day Heel | Windblown Jewelry: Uplifted Necklace

Silk is one of my top favorite fabrics to wear, and The Clean Silk Cami is no exception to that rule. The fabric is smooth, light, and so flowy. I ordered the Grey-White color (size 0) and the double-lining really prevents even such a pale color from being sheer. I have used nude undergarments and there has been absolutely no show-through. I really love the simple design of the tank; the spaghetti straps are very delicate, and the scoop neck is elegant and chic. The cami is long enough to tuck in easily (my preferred way to style pretty much any top), but would also look really pretty un-tucked. I’ve only worn the Clean Silk Cami on the hottest days of the summer so far, but it would also look great under a blazer for work, and I’m sure I’ll layer it under cardigans to stretch it through into cooler seasons!

 
 
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Everlane: Air Cami | Elizabeth Suzann: Florence Pant | Everlane: Day Heel | Windblown Jewelry: Uplifted Necklace

I have also been really happy with the Air Cami, which I ordered in black (XS). I am normally an XXS in Everlane tops, but I sometimes size up to an XS because of my bust. I think I could have gone with XXS here because it is designed to have a relaxed fit - I ended up sending it through the washer and dryer once and was really happy with the fit afterwards. The Air Cami is made out of a very light cotton that is slightly sheer, which once again makes it perfect for those unbearably hot summer days. The cotton is so soft and drapes beautifully, which makes this tank perfect for tucking in or leaving untucked. It has a curved hemline, which is a really nice detail that elevates the style! Since I ordered the cami in black, I haven’t had any issues with sheerness, but I might be a little concerned about that in a lighter color. The double-v neckline of the cami is such a fun detail; I am all about a dramatic back, and it also helps with keeping me cool! The straps are just wide enough for normal bra straps, but I prefer to wear a strapless option just so I don’t have to think about it at all.

 
 

All four of these pieces are going to be staples for my summer wardrobe and I’m so excited to continue wearing them throughout the course of the year! I hope that hearing my take on these items has been helpful and informative. I’m happy to answer any questions and would love to hear about your Everlane favorites in the comments below! 


 
 

All opinions are my own, and this post is not sponsored by Everlane. It does contain affiliate links, which gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support! The Cotton Weave Collarless Shirtdress and the Day Heel were gifted to me.

 

Life Update - May 2019


 
 

I’ve been pretty sporadic about blogging lately, and I wanted to check in with a few life updates that explain my absence! May 2019 ended up being an unexpectedly crazy month for us, and I’m really hoping that things settle down from here on out for a more relaxing summer.

 
 

First of all, it’s wedding season! Wedding season is always my busiest time of year. I spend a lot of time designing invitations for autumn weddings as well as day-of items for summer brides, usually with some logo and branding design thrown in to switch things up a bit! I’m probably going to sound like a horrible stationer when I say this, but wedding season is hands down my least favorite time of the year as far as work goes. I really look forward to shipping out orders and calendars during the holiday season and I also love working with brands throughout the year! But I get stressed and anxious easily and I also have a chronic disease that requires me to get plenty of rest, so wedding season - with all its due dates and many projects - isn’t really my cup of tea.

 
 

In a very unexpected turn of events, Aaron also got appendicitis early in May. It was such a weird experience and I still feel like it didn’t really happen to us, ha! It all started with some light abdominal pain on Aaron’s left side while he was doing yard work early in the evening. He came in shortly afterwards and tried to soothe the pain for awhile before noticing that it had migrated over to his right side. I wasn’t too worried initially, but when he sat down to dinner and only ate two tiny slices of pizza, I started to get concerned. A short while later he started getting chills, and when we checked he had a low-grade fever. We still didn’t really think it was appendicitis because his pain wasn’t the excruciating kind that you always hear horror stories about, but since he had several of the classic symptoms he decided to go to the ER at around 11pm. Poor Aaron wasn’t seen until nearly 4 in the morning, but at that point he was tested and told he had signs of appendicitis. After that, we stayed in a shared room with lots of very ill elderly men and nurses until about 9am, when we were wheeled upstairs for his surgery preparation. He finally went in for his procedure around 10:30am, and I sat watching his operation number on an electronic board for the next hour. It was such a strange experience, watching his progress through the surgery the same way I’ve watched for flight arrivals and departures on the electronic board at the airport. After speaking with the surgeon and hearing that everything had gone well, I made a quick trip home to freshen up and grab a few things, and I made it back to the hospital just in time to see Aaron starting to come out of his anesthetic. 

 
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We arrived back home around 4pm and settled in for the recovery period. The first night was pretty rough - lots of pain, poor sleep quality for both of us, and trying to manage symptoms with various heat pads, ice packs, and meds - but things really started looking up after that. Aaron had to stay on the couch most of the time for about a week, and then we started to slowly venture out for short walks and trips.

 
 

Nine days later, Aaron was able to open Botany up again. The coffee shop was staffed by just him and me from March onwards, so his surgery meant that the shop had to close down completely. Aaron worked half days for his first weekend back and opened up for full hours shortly afterwards. However, being closed for eight days was a huge blow to a business as young and small as Botany was, and we knew we needed to seriously consider the future of the company.

 
 

Aaron and I have both put so much into Botany, and we really clung to the idea of keeping it open through most of his recovery period. You can read more about the plans for and origins of the company here! Honestly, though, both of us knew the minute he got his diagnosis that the surgery + full recovery time of 4 - 6 weeks was almost certainly going to mean the end of the company. We debated back and forth and decided to give staying open a shot for just a few days before reality set in and we had to accept the truth. Botany is now closed, and May 27, 2019 was our last day of business.

 
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While we were both devastated at the thought of closing initially, it’s definitely had its benefits. The whole time Botany was open, Aaron was working roughly 80 - 100 hours a week. He would wake at 5 - 5:30am, leave for work at 6, and usually didn’t arrive home until around 8pm. After getting home, there were always emails, orders, and other back-end business matters for him to attend to. We got to spend roughly 30 minutes to one hour together a few days a week. For several months, that was his schedule all seven days of the week. We eventually decided to be closed on Tuesdays in order to give him a day off and also to give us some time together, which was a huge relief. 

 
 

While Aaron was working his intense Botany schedule, I was working 70 - 80 hours a week myself, and also tackled taking care of two pets and keeping our house clean, errands run, meals planned, and groceries bought. I worked at Botany over lunch every day so that Aaron could sit down and eat, and I also worked a few hours a day on weekends during our busiest times. We would close down the shop together a couple of times a week (those were what we considered our dates for awhile) and we would sometimes stay for a longer night of deep cleaning and/or miscellaneous cafe duties. I also felt the pressure (induced by our bills, not at all put on me by Aaron) to take on much more client work than I would normally do in order to provide financially for us through the Botany years. In the past two years, I’ve completed fifty-one invitation suites and forty-six branding projects - as well as creating paintings for two calendars and releasing new webshop products - and I would ideally like to be doing about half of that.

 
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Needless to say, we knew that we couldn’t keep up that pace forever. I started feeling it before Aaron did. I’ve historically been a pretty happy and positive person, but I’ve always appreciated a slow pace and thrived off of plenty of time to rest and relax. I like to keep semi-busy, but a schedule that allowed for nothing but work wasn’t sustainable for me and I knew it. I knew that something needed to change when I started noticing signs of hopelessness and depression in my normally chipper and positive personality. I found myself unable to complete basic chores or cook for us because I was just too mentally exhausted, and it was very difficult to get out of bed in the morning to face the day. Anxiety is something that’s always hovering close to the surface for my personality type (INFJ, 6w5 if you’re into personality tests), but it went out of control in the past few months and I was quickly becoming a slave to my fears and worries. 

 
 

So when we got the news about the appendicitis, we knew it was time. Even in the one week that Aaron was home and recovering, I noticed a huge improvement in my mood and mental health. Aaron is extremely resilient both mentally and physically, but our hectic life was starting to take its toll on him, too. When he went back to work, we both expected him to be thrilled and love being back in the shop. The reality was that he didn’t enjoy being there at all, was overwhelmed by negativity, and just wanted to be back at home. When it’s all said and done, we’re so grateful for the appendicitis because it really took the decision out of our hands and forced us off in a new direction.

 
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So what’s next for us? Aaron is going to school for full stack development, and we’re really excited to see what’s in store. His program starts in just over a month, so he has some time to rest and recuperate prior to the start of school. It’s an intensive nine-month program, but we’re used to being under pressure! :) We haven’t been able to go on vacation since before Botany opened, so we might try to take a short trip somewhere before our next MN-bound phase of life during the school term. I’m going to continue designing and probably won’t be able to drop back on my workload while Aaron is in school, but having him around the house makes a huge difference and he’ll be more free to help me with business-related issues and chores. We are also going to have weekends free for the first time in our relationship! We met as baristas, and the other jobs we’ve had over the years (for me: being a florist and decorating cakes, for Aaron: working in an Amazon fulfillment center) have required weekends, as well. This past Saturday - Sunday was our first weekend off in well over two years, excepting the week while Aaron was recovering from surgery - which doesn’t really count in my book. I’m so excited for the chance to make weekends special through simple things like regular church attendance, trips to new cafes and restaurants, and long walks! We are also looking forward to being able invest in friendships again!

 
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We have both been so, so grateful for the experience of Botany, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We both love coffee so much and I’m inexpressibly proud of my husband for putting everything on the line and pursuing his dream whole-heartedly. I genuinely believe that we both gave the shop 110% for the entire two years, and I’m so glad we didn’t hold back. I know that I will look back on this time of our life as a very special and unique season, and I’m eternally grateful for that. I’m also so thankful for the ways our marriage was strengthened! We knew going into the endeavor that the stress and time commitment required were inevitably going to put a strain on our relationship, and while there were definite low points and hard times, our experiences ultimately brought us closer together. We’ve both had times in our marriage so far that have required periods of self-sacrifice for the other person, and it’s usually one spouse sacrificing for the other for awhile before circumstances change and it flips, so the other person has the chance to sacrifice. My most tangible period of sacrificial love for Aaron has definitely been getting through Botany, and I have felt so fulfilled by and grateful for the opportunity to love him and support him in this time. I know this sounds so cheesy, but being his wife has been the most amazing opportunity of my life so far and I was so, so thrilled to have the chance to be his support system through Botany. In our 4.5 years of marriage, we have dealt with financial strain, living in three states, chronic illness, eight different jobs, surgery, the loss of an important friendship, three new pets and one pet death, buying and slowly renovating our first house, the start of two businesses, and the end of Botany. It’s been a crazy ride, but I am so thankful for what we’ve experienced and I believe that it will help us make it through whatever tough times are to come in our future.

 
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I wrote an Instagram post on the day Botany closed for good, and I feel that the words I said then were the most accurate since I was in the midst of feeling all of those emotions very keenly. I’ll end my post by repeating those words:

“Today was the end of an era for Aaron and I. Since we met in 2012, I’ve known of his dream to open a coffee shop. Since we started dating in 2013, I’ve entered whole-heartedly into that dream with him. It’s been a part of our relationship and our future goals since even before our first official date. We dreamed and planned and worked towards it for years, finally opening up in July of 2017. Now, due to the long recovery time from his appendectomy, we knew it was time to close. It feels like losing an old friend, like saying goodbye to a piece of Aaron’s and my relationship. It’s going to take a long time to adjust. It is truly a grieving process. Yet amidst all of the sadness and emotional exhaustion I’ve experienced this week, I am also relieved and hopeful. Opening Botany was the hardest and most demanding thing either of us has ever done, and we are looking forward to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. I’m excited to see what is next for us, and most of all, I am excited that I get to experience whatever is coming with Aaron. I’m more proud than I can express of Aaron, how he literally gave everything he had to his dream, and of all that he accomplished.”

 
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Photos of Aaron and I by Emilie Anne Szabo.

 

Button-Up Three Ways


 

This is my first outfit post and I’m both excited and a little nervous to share it with you! I decided to keep things simple and classic with a button-up and several different ways I’ve been wearing mine so far this spring. 

I haven’t really enjoyed wearing button-ups in the past, for some reason, but something changed this year and now I can’t get enough of them! I absolutely love how versatile they are, and a good button-up is such a classic piece that won’t get old or go out of style. The top in these photos is the first one I got this season, and since then I’ve purchased three more button-ups to fill the gap that I had in my closet for basic, go-with-anything tops.

The button-up I chose for this post is the Box Top in Emerald Bamboo by Tradlands. I am an affiliate with Tradlands and they are the first company that reached out to work with me, so they hold a really special place in my heart! Tradlands specializes in high-quality, well-made basics that are menswear-inspired and will stand the test of time. They are a small team of four amazing women, which speaks to me even more, as I also run a small business with a very small staff! They are committed to sustainability and ethical practices, which you can read more about here.

The Box Top fits so well in my closet and definitely embodies everything that Tradlands stands for. The fit is spot-on! Tradlands uses eight buttons to eliminate gaping or poor fit in the bust which I really value. There is also a really lovely curved hem that adds so much interest to the shape of this top. Bamboo isn’t a fabric that I’ve tried before, but I’ve been so happy with it; it’s so soft and comfortable, and it drapes beautifully. I also love the rich, deep green Emerald color! I’m all about neutrals, but this top is the perfect pop of color in my wardrobe. It’s brighter and richer than anything else I own, but it’s still neutral enough that it works well with most of my bottoms and cardigans and I still feel comfortable in it! Now, let’s look at some different ways to style the Box Top.

Loose and untucked.

The first way that I styled this top is the simplest. I wanted to highlight the lovely drape of the fabric and also the unique hem! The curved hemline makes the un-tucked look so much more flattering and prevented me from feeling frumpy, even though the fit of the top is a little oversized. I paired the top with my favorite black skinny jeans and a pair of woven mules and could have been good to go. However, I chose to add a sculptural pair of statement earrings and braid my hair to add a little more interest to the simple way I styled this! I felt really artsy in this outfit, and I love how simple and easy to throw on it is! I felt put together but still casual, and the look was so comfortable. I’d wear this outfit for just about any casual occasion!

 
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Everlane: Cigarette Jean | St. Agni: Woven Paris Mules in Almond | Shop Indio: Kelsie Earrings

 

Tucked into a skirt with a v-neck.

I wanted to get a little more creative with styling my Box top, so I tried unbuttoning the top three buttons and opening the collar, so that the lapels lay flat against my collarbone and shoulders instead of staying up around my neck. I haven’t styled button-ups this way before, and while it wouldn’t work with every neckline (i.e. a Peter Pan style collar), I really love the look with this top! The soft bamboo fabric helps the collar lie flat, and it stayed in place well while I was taking photos. For a slightly dressier and more summer-appropriate look, I paired the top with my linen Bel skirt from Elizabeth Suzann. I love the contrast of the textured flax linen with the smooth, deep green of the top! The high-waisted skirt also adds length and height to my petite figure. I opted to wear tan-colored clogs for footwear to tie in with my skirt and then added a simple, delicate gold necklace to complete the look. This is a dressier way to style the button-up, and I’d be most likely to wear it on a date with Aaron or to dinner with friends or family.

 
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Elizabeth Suzann: Bel Skirt | Bryr Clogs: Emma Closed-Toe in Bone Nubuck | Mejuri: Zodiac Necklace (gifted)

 

Tied at the waist.

My final way of styling the Box Top was also new to me, although I’ve seen many others wear their button-ups this way! I have been loving the look of button-ups being tied at the waist, and I knew this would be the perfect top to try the style out with for the first time. Because of the drape and flow of the fabric, the tie was relaxed and rested easily against my waist, rather than getting in the way or being in danger of falling out. I feel most comfortable when I’m not showing too much skin, so I intentionally kept the hemline of the top at a place where it overlapped with my waistband. I also chose to button the top buttons instead of going with more of a v-neck look, just in case the hemline did ride up and show my stomach at some point! I wanted to accentuate my waist with this look, so I paired the top with a floaty pair of silk Florence pants. Honestly, this outfit really felt like wearing pajamas even though it looks fairly dressy, which is always a win! I really wanted the beauty of each of elegant, well-made piece to speak for itself, so I finished everything off simply with my St. Agni mules and left it at that. This look could work for just about anything - it’s easily comfortable enough for running errands or working from home, but is dressy enough for dinner, drinks, or meetings!

 
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Elizabeth Suzann: Florence Pants | St. Agni: Woven Paris Mules in Almond

 

I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you might have been encouraged to try wearing a button-up top in a new or creative way! 


All opinions are my own, and this post is not sponsored by Tradlands. It does contain an affiliate link, which gives me small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support! The Box Top in Emerald Bamboo was gifted to me, but I have also purchased items from Tradlands on my own and fully support the company and their ethics!

 

Criteria I Use When Purchasing Clothes


 

When I first started working towards a more curated, ethically built wardrobe, my initial step was to purge my closet of everything that I didn’t wear on a regular basis. While the amount of clothing I had was never completely out of control, I did have quite a lot, and there were tons of pieces that I was never wearing! It felt so good to clean everything out. I was able to get my entire closet down to about 30 pieces (excluding shoes) for all four seasons of the year.

 
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For a while, I was really proud of that number. I loved the idea of a capsule wardrobe, and since we used to live on an extremely low budget, it worked out really well for our lifestyle. However, unsurprisingly, I started to feel pretty limited after about a year of having my wardrobe that small. We very much get all four seasons in Minnesota, so making that number of pieces stretch through all different weathers was definitely a challenge! By this time, I felt pretty comfortable in what my style was and which items I would reach for again and again, so I was confident in being able to build up my wardrobe again with pieces that I truly loved and would get plenty of wear out of.

 
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Georgia Tee: Elizabeth Suzann | Riley Crop Jean: Agolde | Maxine Crop: Elizabeth Suzann (not currently available) | Straight Leg Crop Pant: Everlane | Bralette: Botanica Workshop | Earrings: Shop Indio | Circle Clip and Slim Clip: Machete

 

I thought it might be fun to share a list of criteria that I look for when purchasing clothing, which helps to ensure that each piece in my closet will be worth the money that I spend on it. I definitely don’t stick to this perfectly all the time, but it’s been so helpful for me to have guidelines to use when I shop! This keeps me in check so that I’m not impulse-buying or spending money on things that will just sit in the back of my closet month after month. Here are the top things I look for in each piece I buy:

 
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Sheer Blouse: vintage, second-hand | Marlena Tank: Elizabeth Suzann (not currently available) | Tilda Pant: Elizabeth Suzann (discontinued and linked to replacement style) | Linen Tee: Not Perfect Linen
Riley Crop Jean: Agolde | Circle Clip: Machete | Zodiac Necklace: Mejuri (gifted)

 

Practicality. My biggest clothing pet peeve is having sleeves or hems that get in the way, so making sure that tops can tuck easily is high on my priority list. I also stick to shirts that are either short-sleeved or have a sleeve that can roll up easily! I credit this to the fact that I’m always either a) writing and drawing at my desk, so fluffy or buttoned sleeves really get in the way or b) working at Botany, which calls for lots of dishwashing, hand-washing, and working with ingredients. I’ve learned over the past year or so that if I can’t easily keep the sleeves of a top out of the way, it gets almost no wear. I’ve learned that unique, flowy pieces like wrap tops don’t get worn as much, which is kind of sad! I love the way these tops look, but the bottom line is that I want something that’s really easy to throw on in the morning and will then stay in place throughout the day. I always find myself fussing with the neckline and the tie with wrap tops, and I’ll often take them off in the late afternoon and replace them with a tee or cozy sweater. I don’t wear jumpsuits often (also sad!) because I absolutely hate the hassle of using the restroom when wearing one! For pants, the ones that are easiest to slip into are the ones that get the most wear. If I have to shimmy too much or deal with lots of zippers or buttons, it just feels too complicated for me.

 
 

A developed color palette. I love neutrals in every area of my life, and clothing is definitely included in that! When one’s closet is small, it helps so much to make sure that pretty much all the pieces go together well so that you can mix and match multiple ways, resulting in the ability to build more outfits from fewer pieces. My base palette is black, white/cream, grey, camel/oatmeal, brown, and denim. I do add in a few colors here and there (mostly rust/copper, olive green, and navy) but even those stay on the neutral side because that’s just what I feel at home in!

 
 

Comfort. This is always a major factor in making sure something gets worn a lot! We all feel good in different things, but for me it has a lot to do with fabric and cut. I’ve always felt most comfortable when I dress modestly, so I’ve learned that if something has a really low neckline or is too tight I probably won’t wear it. I much prefer tops that have a looser fit, and I love tucking them in with high-rise pants for definition. Linen is my favorite fabric to wear, and I also love tencel, silk, and denim. 

 
 

Classic style + versatility. I want each piece in my wardrobe to last for years, so I try to stick to classic styles that I won’t tire of quickly or that I won’t desert at the end of a season. This results in a lot of my pieces being simple, but that works really well with my point about practicality! As I mentioned above, I like to be able to wear each different item with multiple other pieces in my closet, so versatility is also really important. I used to feel the pressure to really keep up with each trend that developed throughout the years, but I feel like I make purchases with much more thoughtfulness knowing that I’ll be keeping each item I buy around for a long time!

 
 

Rise/Inseam. I only ever purchase high-waisted pants! I can’t remember the last time I bought mid-rise bottoms. I don’t like it when my back (or heaven forbid, my bum) sticks out while I bend over, and I also hate when my stomach shows when I raise up my arms to reach for something. I have a long torso and short legs, and so I prefer a really high rise (12+ inches). I love the leg-lengthening effect that high-waisted pants have! Anything that isn’t high-waisted would stay at the back of my closet 100% of the time. I also prefer cropped pants that hit right at the top of my ankle boots or show a little ankle with flats or heels! I’m petite at 5’3,” so a regular inseam is usually too long and the bottom hem requires rolling up. I don’t like the extra bulk that a roll adds to my silhouette, so cropped is the way to go! For skirts and dresses, I favor a midi length that won’t be too short when I bend or cause me to flash everyone if it gets too windy. I always go for a high rise in skirts, as well.

 
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Plaid Top: second-hand | Andy Trouser: Elizabeth Suzann | Mara Jumpsuite: Elizabeth Suzann (discontinued, new style in progress) | Cashmere Turtleneck: Everlane | Circle Clip: Machete | Zodiac Necklace: Mejuri (gifted)

 

The rule that I make the most exceptions to out of these is only buying practical items that I know I’ll wear really frequently! I love all of those pieces and they truly are what I reach for day in and day out. But sometimes, I just want something pretty or unique! I have three wrap tops, a couple of pieces with flowy or puffed sleeves, and a handful of jumpsuits because it’s so nice to mix things up a bit and wear a more interesting item sometimes. When I buy these pieces, I just have to make sure that I really, really love them in order to make them worth the money I spend. Decorative pieces also tend to be the most expensive, so I have to think really carefully before committing! I usually think about these for weeks to months before finally making the purchase. I prefer the majority of items in my closet to be ones that I’ll wear many times over, but in my mind, the truly special ones that don’t get worn as often do pull their weight, as well. They may not get worn as frequently, but as long as they stick around for a long time, it’s totally worth it to have a handful of pieces that only get pulled out for special occasions!

 
 

I’m doing a wear count for the month of April in order to learn even more about which pieces I choose over and over again! I don’t expect this exercise to completely revolutionize the way I see my closet, but I’m excited to see which pieces I wear the most and which ones take more of a backseat!

 
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Cardigan: Babaà | Boyfriend Shirt: Vetta Capsule | Straight Leg Crop Pant: Everlane | Slim Clip: Machete

 

Those are some criteria that work really well for me and curating my closet! If you have any tried and true methods for choosing clothes that work year after year, I would love to hear about them!

 

Starting Out


 

At the end of 2018, I was feeling so burned out and tired. I absolutely love my job and I feel so grateful daily that I work for myself! However, the combination of me working from home and Aaron working 90+ hours a week away from home had led me into a habit of just working, working, working all the time. By December, I had done 50% more work than the previous year, and I could not figure out what to do with myself when I wasn’t working. I took a couple of weeks off between Christmas and New Years and realized how much I needed to reset. I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to work after my holiday, and that is not the way I want to feel towards the job that is also my greatest passion!

So I decided that it was time to invest more in other interests/hobbies again. I wanted a focus outside of my work and a couple of dedicated activities I could spend time on to intentionally draw me away from my bad work habits! My two other favorite things are fashion and baking, so I started a new ‘lifestyle’ Instagram account to document those things. I found it so refreshing and enjoyable to be on social media just for fun, with no pressure to talk about my products or appear professional before my audience. 

 
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I had already been really into slow fashion since I started my journey a few years back, but actively engaging with others who share the same interest and discovering new brands drew me in even more! I found myself waking with more energy and looking forward to picking out outfits to play around with and share. I was so encouraged every time a follower reached out to me for sizing, fabric, or color advice because it felt like I was able to play a tiny part in helping others explore the very same passion that I have been. I also started blogging again - very casually, and just because I enjoyed it. When I first settled on the idea of starting my own business, I originally thought that lifestyle blogging was the way I wanted to go because I love writing, photography, and reading other peoples’ blogs! I changed direction pretty quickly because drawing and painting has always been my absolute favorite thing, but I still really loved writing those few blog posts early on in our marriage. I wanted to return to that to share more about my favorite brands, our home, and new recipes I tried.

However, over the last few months, I’ve also really struggled with feelings of self-consciousness and doubt, and that’s mostly what I want to talk about today. My fears were - as they so often are - rooted in what other people would think of me. I worried that the people following my business would feel like I was stepping out of my lane and (in some cases) into theirs. I worried that people would wonder why I was trying to start this other thing since I’m already pursuing my passion for art through my job. Why would I need to explore another avenue? Would people think that I was prideful or full of myself because I was posting so many photos of my outfits? Would my friends and acquaintances worry that I was becoming shallow and vacuous? I worried that I looked foolish. I worried that I would appear un-original and uncreative. I wanted to share my thoughts and perspective on slow fashion and on different brands I tried, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be saying anything different or adding any value to what’s already being said. I worried that people would find my outfit posts annoying. I worried about what people would think of my blog - everyone has a blog these days, and I was afraid that people would roll their eyes and think I thought too much of myself when I started sharing my ideas and experiences in that way.

 
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I’ve also struggled with where to take this interest of mine. I started investing more in fashion for fun with the intention of it being a low-stress, enjoyable distraction from the hectic pace of the rest of my life. On the other hand, ethical and sustainable clothing isn’t cheap and we live on a very average income. I started feeling guilty about spending our money on my clothes and taking what could be put towards savings (or something for Aaron) and using it on myself, instead. I am always very intentional about my purchases, but there’s no doubt that my shopping has increased since I started to focus more on fashion. Now that I follow more brands, I see more beautiful new pieces every day, which is highly tempting! I also feel pressure to not repeat my outfits as often since I don’t want my posts to be redundant, which makes shopping for new and fun pieces more appealing. 

I started wondering if I should try to make something more out of my Instagram account or my blog - maybe I should start using hashtags to increase my following and seem more ‘legitimate,’ with the end goal of being able to receive gifted items from brands. Then I wouldn’t have to spend as much of our money on this hobby of mine. Or, if it became something more than a hobby, it would be easier to justify spending the money.

What it all comes down to, though, is that I started my account and sporadic blogging for fun - as a way to de-stress, not to add more complication to our already crazy lives. I started it because I wanted to do something that I enjoy, and that’s how I want to continue. I don’t want to be swimming in my own fears about what other people think of me or let that rule my actions. I don’t want to let anxiety about the opinion of others take away the joy and excitement I felt about investing in a passion.

 
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There is an attitude in our country these days that encourages people to monetize their passions. It’s almost like there is an expectation that when someone has a hobby, the next step will be to turn it into some sort of business or side-hustle. I’ve heard this talked about more and more lately, and it’s really gotten me thinking. I think it’s wonderful that people are able to pursue their passions and work for themselves (as I have done), but I also don’t think we should all have that as an expectation. I think I have been feeling that pressure to monetize my interest in slow fashion, but there is no need, and I don’t want that to take the fun out of what I’m doing.

I also think it’s really important to note that - because ethical/sustainable fashion often has such a high price point - it often seems unattainable for the average person. So many style bloggers/Instagrammers receive gifted items or do sponsored content, and that is a big part of the reason that they have the wardrobes they do. And don’t get me wrong - I don’t have any problem with people accepting ads, gifts, or sponsored items in moderation! I know that’s a part of many peoples’ business models which also benefits clothing companies. However, I have always wanted my slow fashion journey to be very relatable, and in order to keep it that way I need to purchase the majority of my wardrobe myself. So far, I have accepted two gifted items, both from the same wonderful small company. Everything else I own has been either purchased by me or given to me by a family member. I’m proud of the fact that I can speak from a place of experience when it comes to shopping ethically on a budget, because that’s how my whole wardrobe has been built and that’s how it will continue to be built.

 
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I wanted to write this from a place of transparency and honesty, in hopes that I can encourage other people going through similar feelings of self-consciousness, doubt, or anxiety. I had to talk all this through at length, both with a dear friend and with my husband, before sorting all of the negative voices out from the truths of why I’ve started doing what I’m doing. If we could all simply be ourselves and honestly live out our thoughts and passions, it would be so freeing! This is my first small step in that direction. I don’t know exactly where this is going or where it’s going to end up, but I’m ready to pursue it without letting doubts and anxiety being the loudest voices in my head (so cheesy, but true!). I’m going to end this with a quote that my friend shared with me that was really encouraging:

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

- C.S. Lewis 

 

Slow Fashion on a Budget

There are a lot of people who feel that sustainable fashion isn’t possible for them because the cost can be so high, so I wanted to share about how it works for me! I have only ever been gifted one item from a brand, and all my other slow fashion pieces have been bought by me or given by a family member. 

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I’ve always been on a tight budget for clothes, from the time that I had to slowly save up my allowance as a teenager to when I was a struggling barista to when my business was brand new to now. Aaron is currently not earning much since he just opened a brick-and-mortar business. My business has grown over the past year, and we’re just now beginning to make an income that’s considered ‘average’ for the city of St. Paul (and let’s be real - I freelance, so that could change at any time!). But prior to the second half of 2018, our shared income was far below average, and my slow fashion journey started while our funds were at their lowest. Here are the top ways I’ve been able to afford the wardrobe I have: 

1) It takes time. I started investing in ethical and sustainable pieces three years ago. I still have a couple of pieces from Madewell, and everything else is made by small, sustainable, mostly women-owned businesses. But it’s taken me a full three years to get here! Because each item I buy is quite expensive, it takes careful planning and saving before making each purchase. This is one of the things I love about slow fashion: how carefully it makes you consider each item of clothing you choose.

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2) I buy less and it lasts longer. As I mentioned in my last post, I used to impulse shop constantly and there were plenty of items in my wardrobe that I only wore a handful of times - or that fell apart after a couple of wears. The things I bought were cheap, but I bought them often. Now, I spend a lot more per item, but the number of things in my closet is drastically decreased. I have just over 50 pieces in total for all seasons. Since each piece is versatile and pairs with multiple items in my closet, I’m rarely bored and still feel like I have lots of options to choose from! That “I-have-a-full-closet-but-nothing-to-wear” feeling hasn’t been an issue for me in a long time. Each piece has also been made to last, and almost every single item I’ve bought in the past three years is still in great condition.

3) Creating a list for each season. I always make a loose list in my head at the beginning of each season change of which pieces I want to buy and then save for those. The list is usually very short - just three-ish items for each season - which keeps costs down. If I think carefully enough about the things I might need or want, I truly love the pieces I buy and feel content throughout the season.

4) Mix and match between lower-cost basics and higher-cost pieces. Elizabeth Suzann is my number one example of a more expensive brand I adore whose clothes are very functional, but also more special/more interesting than my most basic basics (some other examples of these brands are Only Child, Hackwith Design, etc). I buy my plain tees, jeans, sweaters, and most shoes from more affordable brands like Everlane. As another example, I am itching to buy some beautiful knits from Lauren Manoogian and L’Envers and I would also love to add to my one Babaa cardigan, but those items are expensive enough that I can only buy one per winter season. To fill in the gaps, I love purchasing from bigger companies that are still transparent and producing a high quality product, and that really helps balance out my costs.

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5) Sample sales are amazing! As I just mentioned, I prefer to plan out my purchases. Sample sales are the exception to that rule because you can save so much money. At my first sample sale (Hackwith Design), I bought a pair of wide-leg pants for $25. I was able to save hundreds of dollars by purchasing items from the Elizabeth Suzann email sample sale over the winter. I also recently got an Only Child Tierra dress for 50% off from their latest sample sale. Everlane’s Choose What You Pay events are wonderful, too. Regular, non-sample sales are rare in the small business world, but when they happen, I sometimes take advantage of those, as well. For example, I picked up a pair of Aquatalia boots just before Christmas that were originally $400. I could never have afforded them full price, but they were running a 40% off sale that brought the price down lots! They were still an expensive purchase for me, but they’ve already been worth it because I’ve hardly worn anything else this winter and they are still in wonderful condition. I also want to mention that I try to avoid purchasing for the sake of a good deal (so tempting, but for me that often leads to impulsive purchases). I love sample sales because they enable people like me with average or low budgets to purchase clothing we many not otherwise be able to afford while still supporting amazing companies.

6) Gifts. Many of my ES items are gifts from my husband or my parents and most of the rest are bought with Christmas or birthday money. I always send my family several clothing items I love and have them choose from between those. That way there’s still a fun element of surprise, and the gifter also knows that I’m going to love what they get me. If I feel like asking for a piece of expensive clothing is too much, I like to ask for money gifts or gift cards, instead, and then I can pool those towards one piece of clothing.

7) Buying second-hand. Part of sustainable/ethical fashion is purchasing from brands who make new clothes in a way that is respectful towards its workers and the environment, but another part is buying second-hand. Shopping vintage, trading with friends, and purchasing from second-hand clothing Instagram accounts or places like Poshmark are all great ways to purchase clothing sustainably. I have gotten a couple of my favorite pieces from Instagram closet sales, and I also have a beautiful pair of shoes from a local vintage shop in Minneapolis. Thrifting is another wonderful way to shop, but I honestly haven’t had much personal experience with it since beginning my slow fashion journey, simply because we are so busy. Running two more-than-full-time businesses has meant that I don’t have much time, to the point that I’m even forced to have our groceries delivered - and thrifting is definitely time-consuming. Right now, online shopping is my jam because it saves so much time, but in the future I certainly plan to purchase more second-hand. 

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I also want to add that this is my own way of doing things, and I don’t want to come across as judgmental of those who do things differently. This is what works for me and isn’t necessarily what works for everyone! I wanted to share in hopes that this could been helpful on some level, but I am far from an expert and I have so much to learn! 

Finally, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite brands below. There are so many more brands to add to this list, but these are the ones that I have purchased from so far!

Elizabeth Suzann - my personal favorite for special, beautiful silk or linen pieces 

Hackwith Design - gorgeous pieces in many lovely fabrics and colors

Only Child - more beautiful linen, tencel, and silk

Everlane - basics, undergarments, shoes, denim, cashmere

KOTN - high quality basics

Corinne Collection - the softest, coziest clothing

Vetta Capsule - unique, versatile capsule pieces

Jenny C. Brooks - gorgeous linen dresses

Open Air Museum - beautifully unique, artful clothing

Dallas Daws Designs - beautiful linen and silk crepe pieces

Winsome Goods - lovely, intentional clothing

Babaa - beautiful knits

Tradlands - high-quality staples

Paloma Wool - sweaters and statement pieces

Pansy - undergarments

Pact - socks

Hansel from Basel - socks and tights

Swedish Stockings - tights

Nisolo - shoes

Bryr Clogs - shoes

No. 6 Store - shoes

Aquatalia - shoes



Because linen is my favorite material ever:

Simply Grey 

Kid Philosophy

Not Perfect Linen

Son de Flor



And on my wishlist:

St. Agni

Agolde Denim

Jesse Kamm

Lauren Manoogian

L’Envers

Ovate

Formation Design 

Eli & Barry

Lauren Winter

Two Fold Clothing

Rawson

…..And many more! :)

My Journey into Sustainable and Ethical Fashion

I’ve always been interested in fashion. It’s one of those things that I pursue effortlessly; I don’t have to convince myself to go shopping or spend time exploring the world of clothes because it’s always pure joy and pleasure! I’m far from an expert on sustainable/ethical fashion, but I have developed such a passion for it and really wanted to share my journey so far. It started out as something that I was casually interested in, and I’ve gotten more and more engaged over the past few years. I finally started an Instagram account dedicated towards fashion/lifestyle a couple of months ago as a way to encourage me to spend time on hobbies and interests other than my business (I’m a real workaholic), and I’ve become even more passionate about the sustainable fashion movement since then. I’m not a great researcher, so I know I have a lot left to learn, and I look forward to diving deeper into sustainability as time goes on. For now, I’ll just share my experience and how slow fashion works with my lifestyle!

I come from a family that didn’t have much money. My father is a seminary professor and my mom stayed home with us, so their income was very small. My parents were happy to purchase us clothing if we genuinely needed it (preferably from somewhere reasonable like the thrift store or Walmart), but any “fun” items or brand new pieces from expensive brands were my responsibility. I was quiet, shy, and awkward, so - desperate to fit in - I would purchase things I didn’t even like from the clearance section of the ‘cool’ stores like American Eagle and Hollister. As long as I had something name brand, it was good enough for me! 

When I left high school and started going to college, my style changed, unsurprisingly. I started to enjoy thrifting and soon went through what my friends called my “grandma phase.” I bought massively oversized sweaters, frilly blouses, and anything I could find with floral print. When I could afford it, I would buy new things from Pac Sun and Target, filling my arms with more clothes than I could easily carry and spending hours in front of the mirror in the dressing room.

Shopping was something that I did really frequently. If I was bored or didn’t want to be at home, I would shop. If I was upset and needed cheering up, I would shop. If I wanted to celebrate something, I would shop. There was even a time when I went shopping at least once every week because I had fallen for a boy and was desperate to try and look as pretty as I could. I would take any excuse, and my closet and dresser were full to bursting. And yet, I still often felt like I didn’t have anything to wear.

When my husband, Aaron, and I got married, things changed quite a bit. We share a bank account, and so suddenly all the money that I had spent on clothes wasn’t really just “mine” anymore. We were both baristas, so funds were low, and I became much more aware of my unhealthy spending habits. Although Aaron never made me feel bad in the least, I felt self-conscious and guilty when I spent too much, especially because Aaron made more money than I did.

My first ethical + sustainable fashion item was a pair of street shoes from Everlane. I had seen them on a big fashion blogger’s account and was totally obsessed. I asked for them for my birthday from Aaron, and I was so thrilled when he got them for me! I can’t remember how much they cost, but they were by far the most expensive item I had ever owned. I didn’t know anything about Everlane at the time, though, and had never even heard of ethical fashion. I just loved the way the shoes looked and had my heart set on them.

The coveted Street Shoes!

The coveted Street Shoes!

Heavily decked out in H&M

Heavily decked out in H&M

Shortly after we got married, we moved to Michigan and I was even more tested in my shopping habits. We grew up in Sioux Falls, SD, a small city without much variety in clothing stores. But in Grand Rapids, there was a Forever 21 and an H&M, and I was totally hooked. I felt so accomplished when I was able to go get multiple items for $10, and it was so tempting to be so close to those stores! We still had really limited income (Aaron was barista-ing and I was working part-time as a florist while I started my business), but I lived for the instant gratification that came from impluse-buying a cheap shirt or dress. Everything in the below photos is H&M or Urban Outfitters.

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My feelings towards fashion started taking a slow turn when we moved again nearly three years ago, this time to the Twin Cities. My business was small but alive and I was pretty invested in growing my Instagram to bring in clients, and I had started finding ethical and sustainable brands through the app. We were still making very little money (Aaron was now working part-time for his parents’ orchard and I was just scraping by working full-time as a freelancer), so we still had to be very careful about spending. My first small step in the ethical fashion direction was a purchase of Madewell jeans. They were on clearance and I bought them with my birthday money; if I remember correctly, I spent around $60, and it seemed like so much. I remember telling Aaron that I wanted to slowly replace the cheap, low-quality items in my closet with better-made pieces like the jeans I had just bought. I felt like it was impossible at the time because we had so little money to spare, but I knew that if I put my mind to it and saved carefully, I would be able to achieve my goal over time.

Fast forward a few months and I had discovered Elizabeth Suzann. Needless to say, I was completely obsessed. I was totally drawn in by the values of the company and the beauty and quality of the clothing. I should also mention that I had moved at least once a year since graduating from college (a total of seven moves, two of them cross-country) and had become something of a minimalist because I so hated carting boxes from new apartment to new apartment. I had started routinely purging my wardrobe of anything I hadn’t worn in months because I just didn’t want the extra stuff cluttering up my space. This was another reason that Elizabeth Suzann clothes appealed to me so much: every piece in her collection looked good together and there were so many ways to style, mix, and match each versatile item. She encouraged building a wardrobe in a way that I had never considered before by being able to pair pieces together multiple ways, which resulted in owning fewer items.

That Christmas, I received money as a gift from several family members, and I knew at once that I wanted to spend it on an item or two from Elizabeth Suzann. I deliberated for days over which pieces to buy because I was so determined to make the right choice. I had never spent anywhere near that much money on clothes before, and I wanted to be completely certain that I would wear them for years and years. 

When my purchase arrived a few weeks later, I was over the moon! I had chosen a pair of Tilda pants in black midweight linen and a Marlena tank in ivory raw silk. I wore those pieces constantly over the next year. The tank is still thriving as a staple in my closet, but I wore the pants so much that they developed huge holes in the butt, ha! I still can’t quit them, though - they are my lounge pants that I wear at home and when I do chores. They are the most comfortable item of clothing I have ever owned.

I was completely changed by that first purchase from Elizabeth Suzann. It was a totally new feeling for me to have fallen so hard for not only what a company makes but how a company functions, to think for days before committing to my purchase, and then to be willing to wait for weeks to receive the pieces instead of being able to bring them home from the store immediately. I felt so content and so fulfilled! I knew - even though I was still slightly in shock at the amount of money I had spent - that my purchase had been a wise one. 

Before, my cycle had been to choose one item of clothing at a time without thinking of how it really fit in my closet or how it worked with my other pieces. I was proud when I got things for a steal, and since they were so cheap, it really didn’t matter to me if I only wore them once or twice or if they fell apart immediately.

Now, I was much more invested in each purchase. I thought long and hard before committing to an item, making sure it was something that I would like not only for a couple of weeks but until it fell apart. I wanted to buy quality that would last for years instead of weeks or months. I also started thinking about where my dollars were going. Were they supporting huge, fast-fashion chains that paid their workers a pittance and were only concerned with their own profit and keeping their prices low? Or were they supporting other small businesses who were committed to treating their workers fairly and also caring for our planet well?

Not Perfect Linen  dress,  KOTN  turtleneck

Not Perfect Linen dress, KOTN turtleneck

I decided to commit to a completely ethically and sustainably made wardrobe shortly after making that first ES purchase. I knew that I wouldn’t always have the money to buy expensive pieces and I knew it would take lots of time, but I was determined to make it work nonetheless! 

Hackwith Design  kimono and Madewell jeans + boots

Hackwith Design kimono and Madewell jeans + boots

There are a lot of reasons I love buying ethically and sustainably. I first started because I felt so guilty supporting brands that don’t treat their workers well and that cause so much pollution. I know that my own shopping habits don’t even begin to make a dent in the grand scheme of things, but I still want to do what I can.

The longer I’ve owned a business, the more I’ve also become passionate about supporting other small businesses. It means so much to me that I’m able to do what I love for a living, and every single bride, small business, or person who purchases stationery, branding work, or art prints from me literally makes my whole world. It means so much to me that people are willing to support me, and therefore it’s a great joy to be able to support others who are in the same position as me.

I genuinely love the feeling of intentional purchasing. It feels so good to open my closet each day and know that I love and wear everything inside on a regular basis. Nothing beats the feeling of receiving a long-awaited package in the mail and finally being able to wear and style what’s inside. It’s so fulfilling, and it makes me so happy to know that the pieces I bought three years ago at the very beginning of my slow fashion journey are still pieces I love now.

This is getting long, so I’ll call it a day for now! I’ve been working on a list of tips for how to make slow fashion work on a budget, which I will be sharing soon. To be continued! :)

Editorial in Tuscany

Overseas styled shoots are always a blast to work on. I used to love traveling, but since Aaron and I both started our own businesses, we aren't free to leave our Saint Paul home very often. I also have a crippling fear of flying, so we're pretty limited when we do go places. Putting together stationery for European shoots and pouring through the photos from said shoots is currently the closest I get to traveling!

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When Josie Derrick approached me about being a part of an Italian shoot she had planned for the summer, I didn't have to think twice. Josie is the sweetest person, not to mention the fact that she is such a talented photographer! And Italy always makes for the dreamiest photos.

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However, this shoot was more than just a fun opportunity to make some pretty photos with a fantastic group of vendors. Josie had studied abroad in Italy and made some wonderful memories there, so there was a lot of emotion and authentic story behind the concept. Josie had also done some papermaking while in Italy, and she sent me some of the pieces she still had to use for the stationery! The beautiful, translucent place card paper is made my Josie, as are the pieces the love poem and the illustration are on. The paper is so gorgeous, and it really elevated the stationery, as well as making it so personal and unique for our project. I was so honored to use Josie's paper, and it really made this shoot special for me!

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I hope you enjoy looking through these photos as much as I did. I can't get enough of the soft, dappled Italian light, the earthy colors, or the dreamy villa! Working on shoots like these keep me going. They keep me creatively inspired, help me come up with new ideas, and remind me that what I get to do for a living is so meaningful. Thanks again, Josie, for asking me to be a part of this!

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Photographer: Josie Derrick / Film Lab: PhotoVision Prints / Stylist + Planner: NKT Events / Floral Designer: Jardin Divers / Dress Designers: Sibo Designs, London and Lace Bridal / Rentals: Preludio Divisione Noleggio / Accessories: Sibo Designs / Venue: Villa Montanare / Cake Designer: Tuscan Wedding Cakes / Hair & Make-up Artist: Manola Spaziani MUA / Talent: Samuele Fontetrosciani & Daphne Eisblume / Jewelry: Susie Saltzman / Stationery / Calligraphy: Esther Clark Co / Suit & Men’s Accessories: Stefanoricci Official / Linens & Ribbons: Seidenband / Ring Box: The Mrs Box / Shoes: Bella Belle Shoes

Collaboration with Gaston Luga

Aaron and I lead a very busy lifestyle. We each have our own business, and both are under two years old; that means plowing pretty much every spare minute straight back into our companies as we work to get them established.

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Since we opened Botany Coffee last July, I’ve spent nearly every afternoon there! It’s the most time I get to see Aaron in a day, and it’s also the perfect environment for me to buckle down and get some work done. Whether my to-do list is full of emails, blogging, or working on a new design, I always know that I will have an extra measure of focus while I’m out at a café without the distractions of home to sidetrack me. This comes with its own set of problems, however - since my tasks are so varied, I often have to bring multiple things to Botany with me, and my purse isn’t big enough to hold everything I need.

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When Gaston Luga reached out to me with the possibility of a partnership, I knew their product was perfect for me! Gaston Luga creates high-quality, ethically made backpacks that are both beautiful and functional. Their bag is the perfect thing for carting all of my work items between my home office and my second “office”at Botany. 

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The bag is just big enough to hold everything I need - my laptop, charging cords, sketchbook, and pens/pencils - without being so big that I’m tempted to include items that I won't use! Gaston Luga backpacks are made with high-quality canvas and vegan leather; I’ve been working towards a wardrobe made up of 100% ethically and sustainably made pieces for the past year and a half, so I’m proud to add this bag to my collection!

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If you’re in search of a high-quality, beautiful, minimal backpack, look no further. I’m in love with my black Pråper backpack from Gaston Luga! You can get 15% off a bag of your own with code clarkco15. 

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This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Gaston Luga. All photos and opinions are my own.

Thoughts on Squarespace

When I first started my business, I knew that I needed a website. I have heard of businesses that function well without them, but for the end goal I had I knew that a site would be essential. I was pretty intimidated by the thought of trying to find the prefect platform! I am far from computer-savvy, and I'm much more artistic than I am practical. My husband is the one who is gifted at figuring things out through trial and error/Google research - not me! I did my research and found a few top contenders for sites that were supposed to be simple, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing.

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The platform I decided to try first was Squarespace. I started off as a lifestyle blog (which you can still see if you go way back in my archives...haha!) but quickly changed direction as I realized that my line of work should be in art and design. Squarespace had provided the perfect platform for my blog: a simple, clean, beautiful layout, places for an about page and contact page as well as for the blog content, and a very easy back-end system that was perfect for my lack of computer knowledge! 

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Later on, Squarespace also provided the perfect platform for my illustration and calligraphy work. I kept my about page and my blog, but added portfolio pages as well as a webshop. I was so glad I didn't have to worry about changing platforms when my business changed direction! Since then, I have added more pages to my webshop, increased my number of portfolio pages, and have started using Squarespace as my client proofing platform. I'm still thrilled that it's all easy enough for me to figure out! 

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From my very humble beginnings as a lifestyle blogger to my current design business, Squarespace has been the perfect platform for my website! I have loved using it for different purposes as my business has grown and expanded, and I can't wait to see how else I will use it in the future!

If you want to try Squarespace for yourself, use coupon code ESTHERCLARK to get 10% off your first site!

This post has been a sponsored collaboration between myself and Squarespace. All text and opinions are my own.

Ethereal Late Spring Collaboration

Working with local vendors is always such a pleasure, and none more than when said vendors are also an incredibly kind and talented bunch of women! When I first moved to Minnesota, I was a little bit nervous about meeting vendors in the wedding industry. I am shy and introverted, and my business was still very new. Moving to a much larger city than I had ever lived in before was intimidating, and the thought of making friends was even more so! Thankfully, I met some amazing people very quickly, and I've loved building relationships with them since! 

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One of these women - the first I met - is Shasta Bell, who does calligraphy as well as botanically dyed ribbon. Her warm personality and kind smile immediately made me feel welcome in the Minneapolis wedding industry. She told me about some of her favorite vendors to work with, Ashley Fox and Amanda Nippoldt being two of them. Amanda is an amazing film photographer, and Ashley does the dreamiest and most ethereal floral arrangements. Ashley often sets up styled vignettes and photoshoots in her lovely studio, and when she asked me to create a suite for one such shoot, I was thrilled!

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The shoot was going to have lots of focus on texture, and Ashley told me lots about the model she would be working with, whose look was very whimsical and other-worldly. I immediately started thinking about how I could incorporate that mood into the invitation suite. I chose a selection of several handmade papers and small, minimal typeface for the main elements of the suite. Ashley requested graphite calligraphy - which is such a beautiful texture, especially on handmade paper! - and I also created a pencil sketch of an iris to incorporate the graphite texture more fully. I finished everything off with thin black twine, vintage stamps, and a lovely gold wax seal.

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As you can see, Ashley's floral arrangements for the shoot are completely breathtaking, as is the model! The lovely Heather Trachsel created a perfect makeup look for the shoot, and ribbon dyed by Shasta and ceramics from The Foundry finished everything off perfectly. Amanda captured everything so well, and the end result is such a light, ethereal, and organic shoot full of delicate late-spring flowers. 

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I loved collaborating on this shoot with such a fun group of women, and I even got to attend it, which hardly ever happens! Keep up the good work, ladies; you are all a pleasure to know and I am thrilled that I get to work alongside you! 

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Photography: Amanda Nippoldt / Florals: Ashley Fox Designs / Model: Ignite Models / Makeup: Heather Trachsel / Table Settings: The Foundry Home Goods / Ribbon: Shasta Bell

Italian Chiaroscuro

The concept of "chiaroscuro" in renaissance art is the study of light and darkness, the contrast between brightness and shade and the affect they have on shapes and forms. I first heard of chiaroscuro in my college Painting I class, where we studied the masters who used this concept frequently in their work. My favorite of these masters was Caravaggio; he captured chiaroscuro perfectly and I spent hours pouring over and trying to recreate the effect in my own paintings. 

Louise of Taylor and Porter was inspired to use the concept of chiaroscuro in a bridal fashion shoot in Italy over the summer, and the result is a completely stunning set of photos that capture the brilliance of the Italian light perfectly. The venue was a gorgeous villa full of lavish paintings and beautiful carvings. There are old-world detailed everywhere, and the setting is positively dripping with history and grace!

Lacy Geary, who styled and designed the shoot, chose two dresses that worked wonderfully with the concept of light and shadow; one dress sparkles and shimmers in the light, casting soft dapples of its own on the walls and floor of the villa. The other gown is delicate and lacy, and seems to melt into the model's skin when the sun hits it just so.

The flowers are lavish and bold, and I love how Siloh Floral combined deep burgundy tones and dark greens with soft peach and lavender blooms. The installation is wild and organic; it looks like it's been growing from the walls of the villa for years!

When creating the paper for the shoot, I let myself be inspired by the architecture of the villa and the lavish nature of the artwork that was created during the height of the use of chiaroscuro. I used handmade paper with rich texture and wild deckled edges and chose soft, earthy tones for the color palette. The illustration at the top of the main invitation is derived from an ornate golden frame in the Renaissance section of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The architectural sketch underneath the ring is a portion of arches and windows inside the villa.

Each time I look through these photos, I find something new to look at and dwell on. I am so inspired by the way Louise captured such historic beauty in a bold and modern way. The crumbling stone and soft, earthy plaster are so ancient, and yet each photo is fresh and innovative. I'm so thrilled that my work was able to be a small part of this incredible shoot!

Photography: Taylor & Porter / Design + Styling: Lacy Geary / Floral Design: Siloh Floral Artistry / Dresses: Inbal Dror and Ersa Atelier  via Morgan Davies Bridal / Hair and Makeup: Elena Cameranesi / Ribbon: Silk and Willow / Rings: Susie Saltzman / Calligraphy & Paper Goods: Esther Clark / Model: Daphne via 4 Upper Models

Molly & Ben

Molly and Ben had the most gorgeous wedding day! I started talking with Molly about her invitations in January, and I could tell immediately that her plans were going to take shape into something incredible. 

Molly's dress is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, and fit so well with the elegant and modern choice of venue, the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The wedding was the perfect blend of soft, romantic florals, classical European sculpture and paintings, and ivy-filled courtyards.

When designing Molly's invitations, I wanted to keep things simple, but also modern and classic. Molly wanted everything to be written in calligraphy - which is such a gorgeous look! - and loved the texture of deckle-edged handmade paper. We went with a color scheme of mostly white with touches of grey, and used subtle details like a hand-embossed border, thin white twine, and a blank vellum cover page to add layers and depth. I finished everything off with shiny gold envelope addressing and a white wax seal. Molly's vision of white on white took the invitations in such a lovely direction!

Molly also wanted a seating chart and numbered place cards. In keeping with the aesthetic of the invitations, we chose handmade paper and grey calligraphy for everything. Molly wanted each place card to be tied to the back of the chairs for visibility, which was very unique and pretty. The seating chart is one of my favorites, with all those lines of calligraphy, and is the only element of the stationery where illustration is included.

This day was so gorgeous, and I am so honored that I was able to create stationery for it. Every vendor added so much to the beauty of the wedding, and Molly and Ben's sweet love for each other is so evident! It's always a treat to work with brides in my own city, to be able to meet them and learn about their personality and ideas in person, and this couple was nothing short of exceptional! Thanks for having me, you two! 

All photos by Geneoh Photography

The Story of Us and Botany Coffee

It all started one slow Sunday afternoon four years ago. I remember it so clearly. My roommate Nikki and I were lounging in our living room with Aaron. Aaron liked me, but I was determinedly not interested in him. I was laying on the floor, Aaron was sitting in a chair next to me on his computer, and the late-summer sun was streaming through the windows. When we asked Aaron what he was up to, he sheepishly showed us a logo design that he was working on for an imaginary coffeeshop. “It’s just a pipe dream,” he said dismissively. “It won’t turn into anything.”

Fast forward to today, and here we are. We are married, and Botany Coffee is open. They are obviously two separate things, our marriage and our company, but they are so intertwined. Coffee has been a huge part of our relationship and our lives ever since we first met.

Aaron was playing acoustic bass in a folk band at the local specialty coffeeshop, and I was at the show by myself. We had mutual friends, but had never met. It was a classic situation - Aaron saw me and thought I was pretty, asked Nikki to introduce us, and fell for me when we all hung out a few weeks later. I was absolutely not interested in dating him, but I didn’t mind being friends (poor Aaron). By August, we were both working at the specialty café and all of my friends were trying to convince me to date Aaron. I was determinedly interested in someone else, and I did everything I could to make sure Aaron knew it. Sometime in December, Aaron decided it was time to move on and abruptly stopped talking to me. I responded by getting offended and no longer talking to him - so mature. This went on for about four months, until the other boy I liked broke things off with me and I slowly started to see the value of Aaron’s character and the respect with which he had always treated me.

Aaron took a trip to Grand Rapids, MI - where he had attended Calvin College for awhile - the exact same week that I stopped seeing the other boy. Aaron chose to add me in a group Snapchat photo he sent out while he was away. This was big news, since we literally hadn’t spoken in any format in four months! When I first received the snap, I was confused; had he heard that things were over between me and the other guy, and was swooping in when he had the opportunity? Or was he just ready to be friends again? Later on, I learned that he knew nothing of my “breakup” and was just reaching out a little olive branch. In any case, I snapped back, and by the end of the week when he returned home, we were snapping hundreds of times per day. Yes, hundreds!  

I was totally confused. I could tell that I was starting to develop feelings for Aaron, but I was also so afraid - afraid of hurting him again, afraid of being hurt myself so shortly after another relationship had ended, afraid of unintentionally using Aaron as a rebound guy. I sat out on our porch one night at 3am with Nikki, watching the moon and trying to work through my tangled thoughts. “I think I like Aaron!” I told her. “And I know that if I start dating him, we are going to get married.” That might seem ridiculous or crazy, but it was true. I knew that with Aaron, it wasn’t going to just be a short fling or a casual relationship. As a very shy and reserved introvert, I never looked for those kinds of relationships, but it was still different with Aaron. Something in the way he had always treated me, something about the way he smiled when we were together, something in his tender care for my well-being, had told me that he loved me long before we ever started dating. I knew it in those early months of our friendship, when I was so certain I didn’t like him. Perhaps it was the depth of the affection he felt for me that caused me to run during those early months.

We started hanging out when Aaron got home from Michigan, and after a week or two Aaron told me that he still had feelings for me and wanted to start a relationship. I shyly and so timidly admitted that I also liked him, but mentioned that I had just been hurt and didn’t want to rush into anything too quickly. We resolved to take things slow and feel it out as we went along; perhaps in a few months I would feel ready to make the relationship official. Fortunately for both of us, it didn’t take me anywhere near that long! Two weeks later we were dating, and it all went quickly from there.

Another conversation I remember clearly took place as we were driving from Bagel Boy to the mall on a Sunday afternoon date. We were heading to the GAP to pick out some new clothes for Aaron, and as we traveled, Aaron brought up the coffee shop dream again. He told me how he had a grandfather who had been an entrepreneur, and how Aaron hoped to use some support from him as part of the start-up funding for his café. It’s all a little blurry now, but I remember thinking how serious he was about this dream. It was then that I started trying to picture what our lives would look like as the owners of a coffee shop.

Four months after we started dating, we were engaged, and five months after we got engaged, we were married. It took me a whole year to figure out that he was the right guy for me, but once that finally got through my thick skull, we didn’t want to be apart for any longer than we had to be. Shortly after our engagement, Aaron competed in a local barista competition, and as we trained and planned, I could picture more clearly than ever what owning a coffeeshop together would look like. 

During our engagement, a digestive issue I had struggled with in the past reared its ugly head again and started limiting my diet and life severely. I made it through the wedding and our honeymoon alright, but had to leave work on a semi-regular basis after we got back home. It quickly became clear that caffeine and dairy were both big triggers for flare-ups, and it was then that I started realizing our dream of running a café together might not work after all. It was so disappointing, and I cried plenty of times as I saw that I could never function as a full half of our two-person team. 

At the same time that all of this was happening, Aaron was becoming increasingly discontent in his position at the coffeeshop we worked at. In March, he began looking for other jobs in earnest, and applied to Madcap Coffee Company in Grand Rapids. Aaron had gone to Madcap often while studying at Calvin, and it was their style of service and commitment to quality that really got him interested in specialty coffee in the first place. We waited until late May to hear back from Madcap, when we finally learned that he had been hired! We were expected in Michigan two weeks after he accepted the position. In the midst of the flurry of packing and planning, I saw a gastroenterologist and was put on a new diet to try and calm my symptoms. He confirmed that caffeine and dairy were two of the things that my body couldn’t digest, and I officially knew that I needed to look for a non-coffee job.

When we arrived in Grand Rapids, I knew my life was going to be very different. I had lived in Sioux Falls, SD my entire life up to that point, and I had worked in coffee for years. Now, I was in a new city and needed a job in a new field. It was this move that kickstarted my decision to start my own business. 

We were so excited to be in Michigan, at first. It was a new adventure, a bigger and more interesting city, and Aaron’s dream job. But I could never have anticipated how difficult it would be for me to make friends, for us to find a church, and the extent to which we would miss our family and friends who were now 12 hours away. Christmas came and we road tripped back to Sioux Falls, and I found myself desperately wishing not to go back to Michigan. Aaron saw my pain and started thinking about a way to remedy the situation - start up the coffeeshop. 

Our first idea was to purchase a multi-family home and use the income to slowly build up our savings account. In maybe five years, we would have a good start towards the amount we needed. We got pre-approved, met with a realtor, and looked at a house, but the house got sold before we could put in an offer and that kind of ended the plan for us. 

In January, Aaron decided to see if we could use money from his grandfather for part of the amount he needed to open the shop. We both thought it was a huge long shot; the amount was large, and the risk fairly high. We waited with baited breath until March, when the overseers finally chose to give us their decision: the money was ours! We started planning immediately. Our first thought was to move back to Sioux Falls and open the shop there, somewhere downtown. There was still only the one specialty shop there, so there was plenty of room in the market.  We looked into spaces to do a small pop-up and talked about who to hire. 

But, the more we thought, the more Sioux Falls didn’t seem like the right place to start. There would be a lot of awkwardness between Aaron and our previous employer. Aaron’s ideas were progressive and his menu would be much more limited than anywhere else in town, and we weren’t sure that there would be a lot of interest in the drinks he would be serving. Our thoughts started turning towards Minneapolis; it seemed perfect in so many ways. There was a much more established specialty coffee market, meaning that a more limited menu would fit in quite a bit better. Aaron also wanted the café to be non-tipping, and we knew a bigger city would be more receptive towards this idea, which hasn’t yet been widely implemented in the food industry. We already had friends and family located in the city, so we knew the transition would be much smoother, and the four-hour drive to Sioux Falls would feel like nothing compared to the 12 hours it took from Michigan. Last but not least, I knew there was a thriving art community in Minneapolis where I already had some connections. It seemed like the right place for Botany, but also for me to grow and expand my business!

As soon as we had decided on our location, we gave in our notice at our various work places and started planning for our move. By July, we were settled in a sweet apartment in St. Paul. We spent most of our early days in the city driving around in search of the perfect space for Botany. Aaron wanted Botany to be on the smaller side, and we were told by a broker that most spaces 1,000 square feet or less weren’t listed online. As we looked, we also started developing the aesthetic the space would have. We wanted it to be bright, airy, filled with natural light, and minimal. We also wanted to make sure the shop felt warm and inviting, as opposed to stark or sterile. We settled on a color palette of a few limited greens, white, and grey, with accents of blonde wood, brass, and concrete to add texture and warmth. There would also be plenty of live plants in the shop; how could there not be, with a name like Botany?

Sometime in the fall, discouragement started to set in. Aaron had come close to leasing a few spaces, but they had all fallen through for one reason or another. The overseers were re-thinking their decision to contribute, to the point that we were afraid our move had been very premature. If we were at all uncertain of our finances, we would have waited in Grand Rapids for a few more months until we had more clarity. Aaron took a job at an Amazon fulfillment center to fill his time and had to put a hold on searching for spaces, as we no longer had any capital to bargain with. We had hoped to be open by that point - or at the very least have construction on our space underway - but we started thinking it was more realistic to plan for an opening date several years in the future.

January rolled around, and Aaron was having a harder time than ever with the fact that Botany was on hold. Our funding was still on hold, and we had watched multiple spaces with lots of promise be leased by other business owners. Then, on our second wedding anniversary, we received news that we weren’t expecting in the least! The overseers had decided to contribute to Aaron much earlier than we thought, and it was deposited to our bank account within the week. Now that he had some of the start-up costs covered, Aaron applied for a Small Business Association loan to complete our funding. The process was detailed and rigorous, and we waited with anxiety while the bank sorted through the business plan and all of our information. Aaron entered into talks with a potential landlord about a space in South Minneapolis. It wasn’t an area we had spent much time looking in, but the landlords were pleasant and accommodating, the street corner was all set for a boom in the near future, the rent was relatively low, and the space was just under our 1,000 square foot size limit.

Things with the space were looking good, so we started meeting with an architect in early spring. They took our design ideas, provided us with a floor plan, and sourced materials for us. By late spring, the blueprints were complete, the contractor was chosen, the lease was signed, and we were all set to begin our build-out! We closed on our SBA loan in late April and couldn’t believe that our plans were finally starting to take shape!

When we first found our building, it was a huge warehouse that had been completely gutted from floor to ceiling. The whole space was open and unfinished, with dirt floors, raw stone, and no walls. The first step was to pour concrete in our unit, and then drywall went up and sectioned our space off from the rest of the building. Meanwhile, Aaron was working to put the finishing touches on all of the back-end business things, such as an employee handbook, finding an accountant, and choosing suppliers.

Watching our space take shape was one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced. Aaron trusted me with most of the aesthetic decisions, and I had put hours into finding inspiration for our space. Each corner had been lovingly planned, from lights to paint colors to tile and grout types to wallpaper printed with my own coffee plant illustration. We drove to Botany twice a day, once in the morning to talk with the contractors and answer any questions they had, and then again in the evening to see all the progress that had taken place during the day. Slowly but surely, the bar took shape, the millwork started arriving, the tile was laid, and the concrete floor was sealed. Paint changed the space beyond recognition, and we started focusing on details like plants, ceramics and glasses, and condiment bar fixtures.

We made our first two hires sometime in May, choosing a wonderful married couple who both have lots of experience working in coffee. The husband had even worked at Madcap; we had met briefly on our first night in Grand Rapids, right after our move to Michigan and right before their move to Minneapolis. The space was finished in early July, and we breathed a huge sigh of relief when we passed all of our inspections and finally had all of the design elements in place! We spent the last week before our open date cleaning, creating and testing recipes, and tying up odds and ends with our signage. 

July 22nd was our soft open, and we were amazed by the response we had! All four of us were working for the whole shift, and the shop was full from the minute the doors opened until the minute they closed. Everything went relatively smoothly, and we were so excited for the next week! Monday - our official open date - was busy, as well, and the whole week surpassed our expectations. We couldn’t be more grateful!

I am filled to the brim with pride in my husband! He has put so much thought, effort, and work into Botany Coffee. At 25, Aaron has his own brick-and-mortar business and is living out his long-term ambition. I can’t believe that this once-distant dream of his is now our reality! I am not able to be his partner in business in all the ways that I hoped, but I do small behind-the-scenes things like dishes, errands, and emergency supply runs. I have absolutely loved working on the design elements of the shop, from the interior to the logo and printed materials like menus. I also enjoy tag-teaming on the Instagram account with Aaron! 

I would like to thank everybody who has supported us and both far and near, from those who have visited the shop to those who have prayed for us along this whole journey. We are humbled, thankful, excited, and oh-so-happy - and a little tired, of course. If you live in Minneapolis or are ever in the area, stop by and say hi! If you live a long ways away, stay up to date with our journey at botanycoffee.com or on Instagram at @botanycoffee. 

Which of us knew, on that slow Sunday afternoon in our sunny living room, that Aaron and I would be married and the owners of Botany Coffee four short years down the road? Not Aaron, and certainly not me! And what a wild ride we have been on to get to this point. It hasn’t always been easy - in fact, a lot of it has been more challenging than either of us ever imagined - but it’s always been right and good and sanctifying. And I am so looking forward to what the next four years brings! I hope that there is a little less change and excitement, a little more time to settle into our life and city, and a sense of peace and belonging in our current situation, whatever that may be. Because we certainly do feel peace and contentment about our life at the moment, crazy as it is, and that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

All photos by Emilie Anne Szabo.

Jake Anderson Workshop

Growth as a creative is an incredibly important thing. It is tempting, when you see your own designs day after day and work alone without criticism, to become complacent, or even worse, arrogant. While I love owning my own business, one of the things I miss most about working for someone else is the constant opportunities for thoughtful critique and tips for improvement. We don't really have that in the wedding industry, at least not anywhere I have experienced. A workshop is perhaps the closest thing I've found to a critique; it's a wonderfully unique experience for vendors and attendees alike. The attendees have a chance to learn from a carefully selected team of wedding professionals, but the vendors themselves have a huge opportunity to grow, expanding their knowledge by learning from each other, the experience, and the attendees, as well. 

 

Jake Anderson Workshops was just that type of experience for me. I was thrilled when Jake asked me to create some materials for him; he is a talented photographer and works with so many amazing vendors. While creating the suite for his workshop, I found myself feeling pushed to expand my horizons and try something new, something unique. I strive for excellence in all my work, but this...this had to be my very best. The source of the pressure I felt was applied entirely from my own mind and desire to succeed, but sometimes that is the most effective motivator! The mood board for the workshop was full of soft, gorgeous neutral colors, rich texture, and light details. These were the things that I decided to incorporate into my suite.

When creating texture-heavy stationery, my starting point is always handmade paper. These sheets from Saint Signora, Share Studios, and Silk & Willow were the perfect canvas for the rest of the textural elements I incorporated: smooth vellum, wispy, carefree calligraphy, thick-yet-subtle strokes of paint, and dried flower petals. I also created some small hand-embossed details, and finished the whole suite off with minimal typeface.

Creating this suite was definitely out of my comfort zone! I usually specialize in more simple styles and rely on my illustrations to add that extra touch of je ne sais quoi. Using more texture and loosening up my calligraphy style were huge growth opportunities for me. However, I found myself learning just as much on the day of the workshop as I did while I created the stationery! I picked up film photography tidbits from Jake and his attendees, and I loved watching each photographer style stationery in her own unique way. It was so refreshing to watch other people working with my stationery instead of styling and photographing it myself! 

Ashley Fox, a wonderfully talented floral designer, was another huge source of knowledge and inspiration on that day. Ashley has spent lots of time in the wedding industry, has developed a clear style and voice in her work, and has creativity galore. Her words of wisdom and kind instruction were so valuable! I'm grateful to Jake for bringing together so many wonderful humans and creating an environment that fosters learning and improvement. An environment that brings loads of creatives together and then requires them to use and increase their skills is a wonderful thing indeed.

Photography: Jake Anderson / Event Planner: Blush & Whim / Florals: Ashley Fox Designs / Model: Allison Brown / Dress: Mira Zwillinger / Makeup: Heather Trachsel / Hair: Leah Anderson / Table Linens: Shasta Bell / Ceramics: Dust & Form / Styling Surfaces: Pilgrim & Co

Inn at Barley Sheaf, New York

The East Coast is, without a doubt, one of the most romantic and lovely areas of America. The rich history, the plentiful trees, and the gorgeous architecture all contribute to the beauty of this part of our country. When Kayla Barker contacted me and asked if I wanted to create some stationery for a New York styled shoot she was doing, it was a no brainer! This shoot captures everything I love about the East Coast: historic buildings, stunning trees (in early autumn colors, no less), and rambling country scenery. Pair that with a gorgeous Sarah Seven dress, incredibly lush florals, and breathtaking autumn light, and you have the perfect recipe for some stunning wedding inspiration!

I wanted the stationery for this shoot to be very classic and elegant. I decided to use soft white handmade paper as the backdrop for everything, and used only one other color to keep things simple. I knew that the florals were going to be a big part of this shoot, so I chose to use big, ruffly, romantic peonies to compliment the calligraphy in the invitation suite. I tied a delicate silk ribbon around the main invitation and sealed it with rose-pressed white wax, then finished off with distinguished presidential stamps. 

I couldn't be more obsessed with the marbled fondant covering the wedding cake, and I love the way the cool blue tones contrast with the greens and rusty colors in the seeded eucalyptus! The jasmine vines wrapped around the chair (and also in the bouquet) add such a whimsical and garden-y feel to the whole thing.

This whole shoot just felt like a fairytale! From the flowy dress to the blue and pink tones to the beautiful colonial-style inn, everything was utterly magical. I'm so glad my stationery could be a part of it!

Photography: Kayla Barker Photography / Photography Mentoree: Christina Piombetti / Design & Florals: Sebesta Design / Venue: Inn At Barley Sheaf / Dress Courtesy of: The Dress Theory / Dress Designer: Sarah Seven / Chairs and Rentals: Dove Tail Rentals / Hair and Make-Up: Janelle on Location / Model: Wilhelmina Philadelphia / Ring: Susie Saltzman / Cake: Queen Bee Pastry / Ribbons: Frou Frou Chic

Pacific Northwest Collaboration

Sometimes, you find a photographer, and their images just speak to you. There is something about them that is magical, moving, and completely emotive, and you're hooked. That is what happened to me when I saw Alyssa Wilcox's photography. I loved the way she captured moments and images, the way she edited, all of it. I knew I had to work with her! Funnily enough, she contacted me at the exact same time I was going to contact her, and we quickly decided on a collaboration!

I have mentioned before that I absolutely love collaborations, because they give me the freedom to do whatever I want with an invitation suite. This case was no different, and it was oh-so-refreshing to put into reality a suite that had been floating around in my mind for awhile. I used Arpa Handmade Paper in several hues, custom-mixed watercolor ink, vellum, and Silk and Willow twine. I am totally obsessed with vellum; I love the way it adds depth and layering within an invitation, and in this particular suite, I love how bits of the text underneath interact with the illustration on the translucent vellum. The whole thing is sealed with copper wax and pressed with a rose stamp I designed.

When these photos arrived in my inbox, they quite literally took my breath away. When I receive images of my stationery, I am used to seeing it all perfectly styled, wonderful and portfolio-perfect, but without a story. And indeed, it had never occurred to me that there might be a story behind styling stationery before! But, Alyssa captured not only beautifully styled paper goods, but also the story behind it. I felt like I was there in the room, watching as the invitations were laid this way and that. I could almost smell the delicate fragrance of the flowers, and feel the velvet paper with its softly deckled edges and buttery smooth wax seal.

Alyssa also talked her friend Carey, of BleedFoot Florals, into providing some flora for the shoot. The perfect selection of delicate flowers Carey chose, as well as the way she carefully styled each bloom and leaf with the paper, floored me! I can't stop starting at the florals in each photo, and yet, despite all their beauty, they somehow manage to compliment the stationery, rather than detract from it.

I feel so, so blessed to be able to work with talented artists of all kinds all over the USA. This collaboration is the perfect example of why! Alyssa and Carey, you blew me away. 

Photography: Alyssa Wilcox / Florals: BleedFoot Florals

Big Sur, California

Big Sur is renowned for its beauty. The rugged cliffs, the miles of beach stretching out into the endless ocean...it's one of the most memorable and mystical coastlines in America. It's the perfect setting for a wild, free spirited, and organic photoshoot.

The sun flares, soft, misty ocean light, and wide expanses of sand and water make this, quite simply, the most dramatic and exquisite shoot I have been a part of. The natural beauty of the area shines on everything else around it, casting a glow upon everything it touches.

The invitation suite is meant to be just as organic and free-spirited. Created on handmade paper in dull blue-grey ink, the suite captures some of the natural, wild beauty of Big Sur. Each piece of stationery is decorated with whimsical foliage illustration and hand-dipped in steely watercolor paint, which recalls the rushing waves of the ocean. 

The envelope liner of the suite is a hand-painted watercolor ocean scene reminiscent of the landscape that inspired it. The style is soft and painterly, the colors of the ocean and sky meld and blend together, and smudged white highlights create the impression of rolling waves.

I honestly don't have much more to say about this shoot, because the photos speak for themselves. Why try to add beauty through words when there is so much beauty present already? Big Sur, you are pure magic.

Photograpy: Kayla Barker Photography / Photography Mentee: Jennifer Clapp Photography / Design: Spreading Lovely / Florals: Michelle Lywood / Venue: Big Sur Bakery / Dress Courtesy of: The Dress Theory / Dress Designer: Bo & Luca / Hair and Make-Up: Beauty by M / Model: Diana Rykun / Rings: Trumpet & Horn / Cake: Lana Yarkin / Runner: Silk & Willow / Ribbons: Frou Frou Chic

Brittany Village, Berkeley, CA

When you step into the Brittany Village District of Berkeley, CA, you might feel as though you've walked straight out of Northern California and landed in Europe, instead. The streets are lined with Tudor-style houses, and the streets are curved and rambling. Pair that with a soft blush dress, a garden-style bouquet complete with ferns and wild strawberries, and two gorgeous models, and you have a recipe for a stunning styled shoot! 

When Natalie Papova of Styled and Inspired asked me to create a botanically themed invitation suite for this shoot, I couldn't have been more excited. I started out with clean and modern black typeface on crisp white paper, but softened the look with hand-painted, delicate watercolor foliage and shimmery champagne calligraphy. Vintage stamps in various shades of green added to the character of the suite, and a sharp black wax seal was the perfect finishing touch!

This styled shoot was so elegant, yet effortless, classic, but with the perfect modern twist. It was a pleasure to work with such a talented team, and I can't wait for more shoots in the future!!

Vendors: Photographer: YourDreamPhoto / Scans: PhotoVision Prints / Creative Direction + Styling: Natalie Papova of Styled and Inspired / Florals: Amanda Vidmar Design / HMUA: Beauty by Jasmine Chan / Models: Sami Swanson and Jeffrey Dean Moran

Esther Clark Co: An Artists' History

I’ve always loved art, ever since I was a little girl. My mom tells me that when I was young, I didn’t like coloring books; I preferred to draw my own outlines and then color the picture in. Some of my best memories are molding dollhouse-sized food out of clay, drawing horse after horse after horse, illustrating my own “books,” and learning how to shade with a pencil.

When I entered fifth grade, I forgot about art a little because I started playing the clarinet. Music took over my free time, especially once I entered high school. Art was such an impractical avenue to pursue, so I turned my attention to English and clarinet (although I’m not sure how much more practical that was, in hindsight!). I didn’t really return to art until my senior year in high school, when I picked up Photography I and Drawing I as an easy way to fill in my schedule. It didn’t take much; as soon as I was back with my art supplies and connected to a creative community, I was hooked.

I did major in art, and the more I learned, the more I yearned to experiment and grow as a creative. I dabbled in nearly everything: painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, and even considered taking my art history courses further into some sort of museum career. Here are a few of my early art school pieces (the painting on the left is a study of one of Monet's Cliffs of Etretat paintings).

But when it came down to it, it was always the process of creating that truly fueled the flame in my heart. I fell in love with woodcuts; the feel of my tools carving the wood, the smell of the ink, the soft crispness of a beautifully made sheet of paper, the sight of my inked block rolling through the press, the success of seeing an image transferred smoothly from block to paper. I also fell in love with the darkroom, with seeing my images come slowly to life from a blank sheet of paper dipped into the correct chemicals. My senior show focused around black and white woodcuts - a huge influence in my work still - and photographs.

When I graduated, I didn’t really know where to go with my art. I worked as a receptionist for awhile, then found a job decorating wedding cakes (which served as my creative outlet). I worked at several different coffeeshops, and there - again - found inspiration and community that led me to spend more time creating. I decided I wanted to get a tattoo. I knew I wanted to draw it myself, so I spent time searching through image after image and finally settled on a black and white floral piece done mainly in delicate linework. As I carefully drew each line of my tattoo, I knew I had found my style. I loved sketching the curvy, gentle lines of each petal and leaf, and loved even more how they came to life when I added in shading. Two years after I graduated, I had a show at the coffeeshop I was working at and felt proud of my first cohesive body of work since college.

A year and a half later, I got married and decided to drop down to working four days a week, so that I could focus more on art. I had received commissions here and there, and cherished a dream of doing freelance artwork full time. I had no idea how to achieve my dream, but knew that the first step was to pour more of my time and effort into creating artwork. 

In June, we moved to Grand Rapids, MI. I faced a career change, didn’t know a soul except my husband, and had lots of extra time on my hands. If I’m ever going to take the plunge and do this, I said to myself, why not now? I started posting my work on my social media accounts, and I was determined to learn calligraphy in an effort to make myself more marketable (my first efforts are below! So funny to look back and see those). Slowly but surely, the commissions started coming in, my Instagram following started growing, and I became more refined in my technique. I started to build a brand for myself, launched a website, and began to market my work in earnest. My husband - who is ever so much more business-savvy than I am - helped me write a business plan, I set some goals, and I started learning how to turn my passion into a proper career.

A few months later, I had another show, this time at Madcap Coffee Company, where my husband was working. My body of work felt more cohesive than ever, and I decided to launch an online shop of prints created from the originals that were hanging at the cafe. By this time, I was down to working two days a week, and my goal of being a full-time freelancer finally seemed to be within reach! I was taking on branding and wedding clients - my ideal target market - as well as the tattoo designs and custom artwork commissions I had received at the start of my business.

We decided to move again that May, and as we left Grand Rapids for our hometown of Sioux Falls, SD, I faced questions I couldn’t answer. Sioux Falls would only be temporary, and our final destination was the Twin Cities; I wouldn’t need another job just yet, but should I look for one in Minnesota? How much could my business support us through our moves and the start of my husband's own business? I kept taking commissions and selling pieces through my shop, and tried to be content with waiting to see what would happen.

We settled into our St. Paul apartment in July, and I half-heartedly looked for part time jobs while we got accustomed to our new city. I met up with creatives in the Minneapolis area, started taking on more styled shoots, and built my portfolio. It soon became clear that I was too busy with my own business to really be able to get another job. I couldn’t believe it!! Here, four years after I had left college, I was pursuing my dream. I was a full time freelancer. To be honest, I still can’t believe it sometimes! Being in the Twin Cities has been such a gift; I’ve met so many wonderful creatives, been involved in some amazing collaborations, and been fueled so much by the community here. I still worry that there will come a time when I’m no longer receiving commissions - that there won’t be a place for me in the vast world of creative small business lady bosses - and it’s never easy not having a regular paycheck. But my heart is so full, and I take on every new project with so much joy and thankfulness.

My style is pretty well established now, although I am still experimenting with new things. For example, I started dabbling in watercolor over the summer, and have loved seeing how subtle color brings my florals to life.

I’ve received quite a few questions about my favorite materials lately, so I’d like to add some of those to this post. I’ll divide the supplies into three sections:

Black and White Illustration

When illustrating in black and white, I always use either printmaking or multimedia paper, usually Strathmore. I like to draw on something that has subtle texture, but also isn’t too rough - watercolor paper, for example, tends to break up the fine lines that I use to shade my florals. It’s also important to me that the paper is about 100 lb, so that it has some nice weight to it. I always start out with a pencil sketch - a mechanical pencil with high-quality lead is my favorite here, since the tip is more fine and pointed than lead in a wooden pencil - and then trace over my rough graphite lines with Micron pen. My favorites are the 01 and 005 - I use the larger tip for outlines and the smaller tip for detail work and shading.

Watercolor Illustration

In regards to watercolor illustration, paper is the most important thing. My favorite is watercolor paper by Arches. It’s more expensive than some other papers, but the quality is incredible! Most of my paints are Blick Artists' Watercolors, and my brushes are a mix of Princeton and Master’s Touch - usually round, to help blend easily and squeeze into small corners or areas of detail. Again, I always start out with a pencil sketch and trace over that with Micron pen. Adding color is the final step! In all honesty, I still have lots and lots to learn about watercolor - this was the one paint that we didn’t cover extensively in my art classes, so I’m self-taught and am not always confident in my technique.

Calligraphy

There are so many tools that I love to use for calligraphy. I strongly prefer oblique holders over straight holders. I have always used a simple Speedball plastic holder, although I hope to upgrade to a beautiful wooden model at some point in the future. My favorite nibs, in order of preference, are: Leonardt General, Blue Pumpkin, Leonardt Principle EF, and Nikko G. For black ink, I use Speedball, for white ink, I use Winsor & Newton, and for gold ink, I use the Finetec palette. Other favorites are walnut ink (so good!) and Iron Gall ink. I prefer to custom mix any other colors from watercolor paint, and I always thicken them with a small amount of gum arabic. 

Paper

Paper for calligraphy deserves a whole category by itself! My love affair with fine paper started in my freshman year of college and has stuck with me ever since. Some of my favorite brands, in no particular order, are:

Arpa Handmade - wide range of colors, lovely velvety texture, and so easy to write/print on.

Silk & Willow - beautiful, ruffly deckled edges, fine canvas-like texture, and also wonderfully easy to write/print on.

Fabulous Fancy Pants - gorgeous soft, fabric-like texture, perfect deckled edges, and excellent to print on (although not so easy to write on with a nib).

Share Studios - so unique, completely gorgeous, and superbly textured. Available in both shimmery whites/pastels and dark, rich colors. Perfect for stunning accent pieces.

These are all of my favorites, and my standbys when it comes to styled shoots and wedding invitation suites. You can’t go wrong with any of the above, and I’m sure there are plenty of other excellent companies out there that I haven’t discovered yet!

I think that covers everything, from my humble beginnings as an art-crazed toddler to my favorite tools of the trade today! I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging. To anyone out there who wants to start their own business - go for it. If I can do it, anyone can. I have the stereotypical artists’ personality: highly impractical, a little dazed and dreamy (think Luna Lovegood), scatterbrained, emotional, and very introverted. I never thought I could be where I am today, and I’m the first to admit that it’s due to so many other people as much as it’s due to my hard work. I’m forever thankful to my husband, who has supported me and helped me since before we even started dating. I’m so humbled by and grateful to each and every person who has ever commissioned something from me or purchased a print from my shop, because it is entirely due to them that my business survives. I'm so thankful for the thoughtful and thorough education I received from three very talented art professors, and I use pieces of the knowledge they passed on to me daily. And I’m so thrilled to be a part of an amazing community (both in Minneapolis/St. Paul and online) of talented artists that inspire, encourage, and motivate me daily. Without all of those people, my business wouldn’t exist. Most of all, I am thankful to God, who orchestrated my journey and chose to place the gift of creativity in my hands, then helped me to nourish and nurture it over the years. The freelance life isn’t always dream projects and pretty pictures - in fact, a lot of the time it’s about financial stress, late nights, and self-conscious doubting - but it is so. worth it. Every minute of panic and every hardship is worth it. I can’t wait to see where this wild ride takes me, and it’s my goal to cherish and drink in every second.

Thanks to BethCath, YourDreamPhoto, and Alyssa Wilcox for the above photos of my prints and wedding work.