After all this gardening, the bugs need some self care!
I finished up February's Guest Artist Workshop with Lisa Larsen. Read further if you wanna hear a bit about my process, why I need self care at the end of the month and a few things I do to help the self care process along.
The first few days of the month when I receive the assignment from Lisa, I enter a slow roll. I've just come off from almost 30 straight days of creating and I need 1. A lil' breather and 2. Time to reflect on the upcoming workshop theme.
When I heard February's theme of "Bugs & Gardens," I used a writing technique to develop a quick lil' narrative to guide the collection:"What would it look like if bugs were gardening instead of people?"
That developed into the idea that they'd plant, harvest and make some Buggy Benjamins at their farm stand. Now if there's one thing I've learned about myself it's this:
WHATEVER YOU DO, BONNIE, DON'T WRITE TOO LARGE OF A NARRATIVE FOR THE DESIGNS.
'Cause before you know it I've got a children's book written in my head with a zillion sketches and accompanying illustrations and I'm hopping down the rabbit trail trying desperately trying to narrow everything in within 30 days.
So the simple narrative was "the adorable lil' happy bugs help each other garden and have a farm stand." As I design, I continue to ask the question: "What would a farm stand look like if the bugs owned it?" The details in the farm stand illustration are as close as I would get in a 30 day turn around with other designs needing to be created that are buzzing at my heels (pun intended). I'd probably go much more detailed with cute lil' bits and bobs scattered around with more time. Plus, it's vectored which was challenging with all the tiny details.
By the time I'm working on the third pattern design, I'm feeling a lil' buggy myself. My eyes twitch and flutter like a butterfly flapping her wings...despite my super-cool nerdy computer glasses. My neck is sore and randomly aching. Even my ass gets sore from all the sitting. It's hard to describe, but the inside of my body hurts. (I'm getting further testing for medical issues that could be contributing to my entire body feeling like it's been run over by a truck, but more on that in another post).
After a month of pattern designing, everything is SORE. So I've come up with some self-care/pain relief techniques that I sprinkle in throughout my month. The hubs thinks they're great, too, since I get less crabby at night and HIS fingers aren't sore from me screeching for him to rub my neck, "a lil' higher...a lil' lower...right THERE...don't MOVE...RIGHT THERE." haha!
1. Intermittently relax the muscles in your neck and try different techniques/supplies until you find what works. I tried a regular heating pad, then a gigantor-sized one that makes me look like a vampire with a cape. heehee. (It heated my back well, but didn't do so well with my neck).
I dug out a rice-stuffed handmade one from years ago and the hubs bought heatable gel packs at the drugstore that I can pop in the microwave. I use a chiropractic hard ball, CBD balm, shots of alcohol, and listen to Bob and Brad, "The two most famous physical therapists" on youtube to get some tips. (They're adorable and their recommendations are super great. Their dad jokes aren't so bad either...ha!)
The most recent tricks I've tried is the Genie Magic Neck Stretch (I have to do this slowly and double the amount of reps she recommends, but it works for me after that).
(Whatever you try, check with your doctor before doing to make sure it's okay for you).
2. Treat yourself to good equipment. A supportive chair goes a LONG way to easing body aches and pains while designing. There's chairs for larger people, those that need more lumbar support, ergonomic ones, standing tables, kneeling chairs and all sorts of great items to meet your need and care for your needs.
I'm gonna buy some computer risers to reduce neck strain, an a keyboard I can move lower to reduce wrist aches. And have you seen those devices you attach to your upper back and that "buzz" (pun intended) to let you know you're slumping!
3. Drink water. I resist water all the time, because I'm a diet coke girl. I've developed a love/hate relationship with water though and started drinking it FIRST thing in the morning because it does something weirdly miraculous to my body. Seriously...I can't believe how it helps me wake up and alleviate morning aches.
4. Set reminders on your phone to take lil' breaks that don't include TV. I'm the type of person that jumps into pattern designing mode and hate to stop. Plus, if I stop there's a risk I'll stop for the day and convince myself that binging on Netflix is goooood self care. (don't judge me...you know you do too...LOL). I really DO wanna keep going, so to keep on track and care for myself when pattern designing, I set the reminders, do a lil' dance, take a walk and get back to it. And I don't turn on the TV. Those eyes and shoulders need a break!
5. Plan your designs (as it works for you). I tried not planning my pattern designs and it was a DISASTER. I spent more time trying to figure out what I as doing--while I was creating--and spent tons of extra time in front of my computer trying to figure things out rather than actually making patterns.
However! I don't do well if I try to plan too much. If I over-plan, I "chase" the original designs and my brain gets foggy and my shoulders get tense, and I feel like I can't change my mind.
So I LOOSELY plan my pattern design collection via a short narrative and have a general idea of where I'm headed. I ultimately TRUST THE PROCESS that I'll end up exactly where I need to be. Finding YOUR way of working can be a great form of self care!
6. Computer glasses and eye masks can be great to relax your eyes. My gawd...my eyes feel strained after working days pattern designing even with using computer glasses ALL THE TIME. So I treat myself to a cooling eye mask every week to soothe any eye strain. I keep the masks and computer glasses on my desk so I don't forget to use them. And on particularly busy months of pattern designing, I'll actually schedule time in my calendar more than once a week.
I'd love to hear more about your process or what YOU do to alleviate aches and pains with pattern designing. If you'd like me to chat more about this or delve into other topics related to artists--like overthinking, mental health, anxiety, organizing, moving toward goals, etc--leave a comment!
Happy pattern designing, illustrating, crafting, or making, my friends! And don't forget to