Meet Your Maker: Bess Callard

My interviewee today is someone pretty special. I was lucky enough to discover her amazing "Small Business, Small Steps" blog series when I was first starting out (and she was still living in Austria). The clarity and honesty in her writing had me hooked and I could see so much of myself in everything she wrote. In fact, we've been known to call each other "blog soulmates". Haha! Speaking from experience, she is also a great designer to work with. Her designs are the perfect colourful touch for any nursery or child's room. I'm so grateful and proud to call her a friend and to be able to introduce her now to you! Everyone, this is Bess. Bess, everyone.

WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
Hi Erin, thanks so much for having me on the Dear Edna Blog!

My name is Bess Callard and I am an illustrator and graphic designer based in Montreal, Canada. I am the owner of English Muffin Shop, an illustration company that seeks to solve your children's room and nursery design dilemmas with modern, fresh and often educational prints and posters.

WHAT inspires you?
I find simple things inspiring; a bright sunny day, a tidy work space, a bowl of Granny Smith apples. I love clean lines and shapes, the contrast between light and dark and the use of movement and play in design.

WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband and dog in the Parc Lafontaine neighbourhood of Montreal. We have a great space and have been lucky enough to turn the second bedroom into an office. I work at a drafting table that my dad built for me a few years ago when I was in school. Never far from my side is Tyke, our miniature pinscher; along with his companionship and the CBC I never get lonely!

Here are a couple photos of my office taken for Ill Seen, Ill Said's "Where We Blog From" Series:

WHEN do you feel most successful? frustrated/insecure?
I feel most successful when I make a sale. (That sounds bad, doesn't it?!) I feel so successful when making a sale because it is a validation of all my hard work. It means that people are connecting to and embracing my work, so much so that they want to have it in their own home or give it as a gift. I think that is a huge compliment.

I think I feel more insecurity than frustration. The insecurity comes from analyzing too much and not trusting in myself. I could have a "normal" job, but I don't. I have made some riskier choices in hopes that I will get to lead the kind of life that allows for freedom and fun. Inherent in those choices is doubt, but I try my best to not get stuck in the land of insecurity too often.

WHY do you do what you do?
Because it's fun, creative, challenging, exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, and 100% percent ME!

HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day?
One of the best parts of my job is that every day is different. How I organize my day really depends on what projects I have on the go. Generally if I'm working on a new design I like to get started before lunch. Once the emails/convos have been answered and any overnight sales organized, I'll take a peek at my favourite blogs and then put on a podcast or the radio and get to work. On design days sometimes I get so caught up with what I'm working on that I won't have lunch until 2pm or 3pm! In the afternoon I'll most likely package orders and try to get to the post office before they close at 5pm. In the evening I have dinner with my husband and then usually wrap up the day with any odds and ends that still need my attention, and if I'm really on schedule, write a blog post for the next morning.

I'd love to wrap up with a big ol' THANK YOU! Thank you to my friends and family who are a constant source of support. Forging ahead with a one-woman online company is the kind of thing that can raise eyebrows. I couldn't imagine doing this if I wasn't surrounded by such a wonderful group of people. Most of all thank you to my husband for his truly above and beyond support. I feel so lucky every day to be doing what I'm doing, and know that I did not get here alone.


Thanks so much, Bess! As always, I am so impressed and inspired by your honesty, genuineness and passion. I wish you all the best this year! Please take a moment to visit the links above.

Sneak Peak: My New Workspace

I want to thank Eva from Sycamore Street Press for having me contribute on her blog last week. In case you missed it, I wrote about a bunch of my most favourite things: mixing modern and old, organization, needlework, books and music. I was honored to be part of such a beautiful blog and I especially enjoyed hearing from new readers! Hopefully some followed me here. If so, hello and welcome!

I hope you enjoyed those five full days of posting, because I clearly haven't been able to manage much writing since. The computer has been taken hostage for the past few days as my talented and generous boyfriend builds me customized accounting software (I know, I'm a lucky girl!). While he's been doing that, I've been busy rearranging and organizing my new workspace. I still have a few accessories to buy and install before the big reveal, but I'm so excited about it, I couldn't resist a quick sneak peak while I have my hands on the computer. Here you go!

I know this doesn't reveal much, but I don't want to ruin the surprise! You can at least tell that I have the space now to store and display all my supplies in a neat and organized way and that I have separate areas for my sewing and my editing. This makes me very, very happy!

We even have room now for Mikey J to get creative. He's recently taken up oil painting, so we set up this art nook for him. It feels great when we're working up there together, creativity seemingly bouncing off the walls, and equally as nice to be able to just leave the room and put it out of our minds when we want to relax. For two perfectionists, this is essential.

I can't wait to show you the rest. Unfortunately, it's the little finishing touches that always seem to take me the longest. Feel free to get on my case if I take too long. In fact, I encourage it!

Sycamore Street Press

You can find me guest blogging over at Sycamore Street Press all week! My first post is up and features five of my favourite examples of mixing Modern and Old. Check it out here.

Sycamore Street Press is an amazing eco-friendly letterpress stationary company run by Kirk and Eva Jorgensen out of Utah. With several contributing designers on their roster, their work spans a wide range of themes but always stays true to a bright palette, simplicity, and a fun, playful perspective. I'm honoured to become a small part of it.

Bonjour 2011: My Resolutions

I was completely wiped after the holidays this year. I am grateful for the amount of business I received, but I was pretty unprepared for it and trying to get the orders filled, on top of working, decorating, shopping, baking, and sewing gifts of my own... well, saying I was exhausted is putting it mildly. To be brutally honest, some days there were tears. But it all got done and after a much-needed break, during which I think I slept more than I ever have before, I've been gradually easing back into reality. Now the decorations are down, the gifts put away, the leftovers eaten. No excuses. It's time to look forward to 2011. Here's what I resolve to do.

Move. I used to run marathons. There's something you may not know about me. However, with the amount of running I've been doing lately, I can barely call myself a runner, let alone a marathoner. Since opening my business, fitness is the first thing to go when things get busy. And that's not right. Game plan: three workouts a week. A yoga class, a run, and a squash game. That doesn't seem like much, and I know Health Canada would shake their finger and say I should be doing much more, but I'm going to start slow. Three is better than none.

Get out. This may seem like a silly resolution to some of you, but keep in mind that I work from home for both my day job and my small business, so getting out of the house, especially in winter, is easier said than done for me. Game plan: my three workouts will get me out of the house three days of the week; ideas for the other four days include blogging from coffee shops and making more plans with friends. I need more ideas.

Number crunch. Numbers are not my thing. My math teachers disagreed (and disapproved of my English major), but I've always found them too boring to care about. Unfortunately, I can't afford not to care. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've been very lazy in the last 6 months or so with my bookkeeping and I have no idea where my business stands. I need to get on the ball before the tax man cometh! Game plan: software and scheduling. After trying several free online accounting programs out there, I've realized that my specific needs don't come for free. This week I downloaded the trial version of Quickbooks Pro. If it's the knight in shining armour it promises to be, I'll shell out the cash. It's worth it. Every pay day will be my bookkeeping day. It's already in my calendar.

Ditch the debt. Tied to the above, I aim to ditch my pesky student debt by the end of the year. It will take some sacrificing and a generous partner, but I think I can do it. My future depends on it, literally: I won't quit my day job until it's gone. So this is my year. Game plan: contribute x number of dollars every month and adjust my spending accordingly.

Make for me. There are so many things on my list of things I want to make. But my guilt over things I should be making for Dear Edna always wins. I'm afraid that this will cause me to lose all love for crafting and creating, which could eventually be the death of my business. Grim, no? So this year I'm going to try really hard to find more time every single week to make things for me. Game plan: look at it like a course and schedule one or two hours a week to make something new. I received a learning-to-crochet set for Christmas. Lesson number one: Monday at 8 o'clock.

Make space. I really have to finish setting my studio/office. Up until now I've been painting and cutting on a console table in my living room and running upstairs to sew, leaving a trail of thread in my wake. I cleared off the table for Christmas and it was a revelation. I loved it. I've been reluctant to work ever since simply because I don't want to set up on the table again! So the top priority since the new year has been to finally get my butt in gear and make space in my office for a functional studio. Game plan: I'm already on a track with this one. Yay me! I'll be picking up my new desk and shelves this afternoon, getting rid of extra furniture tomorrow (fingers crossed) and hopefully putting it all together over the next week. I can't wait!

{image via spreadthelove}

Santa Knows

Before I get to looking forward to my goals and plans for the year, I want to take a quick moment to show you some of my Christmas loot. I know it's a little late, but better late than never, and I couldn't not share. I must have been a really good girl, because Santa really brought it this year. I was delighted on Christmas morning to discover not only that Santa still comes to 30-year-olds, but that he took the time to read my blog during a very busy time of year for him and filled my stocking with things directly from my wish list. Thanks buddy!

A necklace from tree & kimball -- finally! I've been wanting one of these for myself for over a year now. Now to find the perfect outfit to pair it with. And does my love for these doily coasters from uncommon need to be explained? I can't wait to see how they look on my new desk!

That's not all! Tucked into the bottom of my sock was this amazing gift...

A vintage beaded clutch from White Elephant! Isn't the beading gorgeous? I was looking for a small wallet or change purse to fit inside my smaller purses and this is perfect. It will add a little glamour to boring every-day activities, don't you think? Imagine pulling this out at the grocery store cash? Ooh la la!

I am a lucky girl, indeed!

Au Revoir 2010: A Year in Review

Wow. We're two weeks into 2011! Can you believe it? It feels like yesterday I was raising a glass to 2009. I'm sure there are plenty of you that were happy to say adios to 2010, but I'll be honest with you, I was not. In fact, I'm certain I've been going through the five stages of grief (hence the blogging hiatus -- sorry). It was one of the best years of my life. Don't believe me? Here's the highlight reel.

Happy Birthday to me! This wasn't no ordinary birthday. It was the big 3-0! It would've been an awesome birthday just for the fact that all of my girlfriends came out just for me. But it was made extra special the moment I opened the door and got the shock of my life when one of my bestest friends (who lived in Edmonton at the time) was standing there! The ensuing shrieks could be heard for miles I'm sure. It was the best present anyone could have given me. Thank you to everyone for making it a birthday I will never forget!

Dear Edna was born! I'm exhausted just typing that line. On some sort of deluded whimsy, I decided to sew up a bunch of aprons, totes and yoga bags and open my very own Etsy store. Give it the good old college try. See how it does. Well, it was a lot more difficult and more work than I expected. In fact, saying I just sewed up a bunch of stuff and opened a store is seriously putting it lightly. But it was so exciting, interesting and the most rewarding work I've ever done! And the response was beyond anything I ever expected. I am actually kind of in disbelief that I'm not only still in business, but growing! If there's one thing that makes me excited about the future, it's Dear Edna. I'm so thankful to everyone that encouraged, supported and invested in me this year. I honestly couldn't have done it without you. Honest. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Eurospectacular '010. All those hard months spent launching my small business were rewarded with the vacation of a lifetime, a vacation I have dreamed about since I was a little girl: 4 weeks travelling some of the most gorgeous and romantic cities in the world. London, Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels, Paris, Strasbourg, Colmar, Dijon, Beaune, Lyon, Nice, Pisa, Florence, Rome, and pretty much all of Malta. And all with the love of my life. Could life get any better than that?

Downey Family Reunion. My mother grew up in a very small town near Lindsay, Ontario, called Downeyville. Yes, it is named after her family. They immigrated there from Ireland to escape the famine and carve a new life for themselves. Hundreds of family members came from near and far for our first ever reunion and it was so great to see them all. Look at all those beautiful, happy faces. It was a good weekend.

My Best Friends' Weddings. In September one of my oldest, dearest friends from high school was married and I was honored to be her bridesmaid.  Congratulations Melissa and Marc! I wish you all the best! A month later, Jen and Luke got hitched. The wedding was absolutely stunning, as was the bride. Congratulations Jen and Luke! xo

As you can see, it will be a tough one to beat. But I'm ready to suit up and accept the challenge. There are already so many exciting things in store, including more weddings, more sewing and more travelling! Yeehoo!

{top images via whitneyraepaper and Frosted}