I am so excited to have Dani on the show today. Dani is one of the most artistically talented people I know. She is my older cousin who I followed relentlessly when I was young. She is not only funny but has a wonderful perspective on life. We discuss specific types of art as well as creativity. I have loved learning more about honoring creativity and allowing yourself freedom to work on what feels right.
Hi guys! On today's episode, I have my cousin, Dani Perkins. Now, although Dani is my cousin and I absolutely adore her and her mom, my aunt June, the reason I wanted to bring her on this podcast was so that you can learn a little bit about her art. Dani is extremely gifted as an artist. She has a wide variety and range as far as things that she’s interested in. But really, what i love about her is her ability to be creative in so many parts of her life. So I really hope you enjoy this conversation as we dive into what it really means to be creative, what it means to be an artist and where do we go from there? I hope you enjoy!
Dani’s Contact Information
K: Hi Dani!
K: How are you doing?
D: I’m doing great!
K: Good! Good! I’m glad to have you on the show today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
D: Yeah! Well, I’m Dani Perkins. I am your cousin, of course, and I live in upstate New York right outside of Ithaca, New York which is most well-known for having multiple colleges, including Cornell University. And I’ve lived here for about five years. I have two children - a twelve year old daughter and a now nine year old boy.
K: Are they really that old? Sorry to drop that.
D: Yes, I know! Isn’t it crazy? I’m still adjusting. I realize next year one will be a teenager and the other will be in double digits the same year so I just can’t even.
K: Sorry, I totally interrupted you so you have your kiddos-.
D: No, no, no. I don’t know what else. If there’s any other-.
K: We can kind of get into some things. So, I’m glad that you mentioned us being related. That is a portion of what we’re going to discuss today and then we really want to talk about of course your art and your creativity as well because that is a huge portion of you as a person. I interviewed my dad back on episode four if anyone wants to listen to it - Jerry Boyce, and when I was talking to him I realized that before I was talking to him that on that side of the family, there are so many similarities and it just is really interesting, especially out of the cousins. Four out of five cousins are business owners. Everyone is highly motivated, has big goals and travels, moves states when needed or when beneficial so I just find it so interesting that there’s a lot of similarities there and it’s almost like there’s just a sense of determination and adaptability and I thought it might be fun to discuss why that might be. You aren’t by us and neither is our cousin, Leah and I’m not by my siblings either so it’s not like we’re super close and connected as far as that goes.
What do you think of all of that?
D: Yeah, I think and I know I’m on the older end. You’re on the younger end of our cousins and I”m on the older end so we probably remember a lot of the same things but maybe also some differences based on age. I think that a big part of it is that in my childhood, I just don’t remember adults ever acting like work was something that they didn’t want to do. We were just really raised around very action-oriented people and I really reflected on that a lot in my work. Especially when I got married and the other person says “Why don’t you ever sit down and relax?” When I was growing up, all of the adults around us didn’t just sit around and ponder things. They got up and actually did them. They really just loved being productive and contributing and I think we still see that with our parents and our aunts and uncles.
But that whole cliche of “Oh, it’s a Monday. I have to go to work. Bummer!” or “Thank goodness, I’m home from work at the end of the day! Now I can just sit in front of the TV.” Being glad that that’s over is something I never saw an adult do. Everyone was happy to be doing stuff and contributing to their communities. I think we see that a lot now that our parents and aunts and uncles are just out there doing stuff and they do it with joy and conviction.
I think it was hard to be raised by that and not want to contribute yourself. I can’t speak for any other cousins but myself but I do know that I’ve moved across the country a couple times. I’ve lived on every edge of it, actually, except the Gulf Coast at this point which someone pointed out to me a couple years ago.
K: That’s really cool!
D: Yeah! So, my mother has always said she’d rather I be far away but have opportunities and be doing the best that I could be doing than be living right next door if that wasn’t what was right for me. And I think she would have loved that too. She would have been fine either way. I’ve never felt guilt about it, or fear from being farther away and I think it’s just having that support there.
K: That’s super insightful. I hadn’t actually thought about some of the things you said but that makes a lot of sense. It’s almost like it’s so ingrained in us and I can only speak for myself but so ingrained in us to really almost problem solve is what I consider it. We’re going to solve it, let’s figure out how to do it, let’s move. That action which is potentially different than how other people may have been raised so I think that is something we carry throughout life. I was actually talking to my dad and was like, “How far back do you think that goes?”
I didn’t know this. Maybe you knew this but apparently our grandpa Boyce, his parents either owned or operated a couple different orchards. I didn’t realize that.
D: Oh, I didn’t know that! No.
K: Yeah! Dad wasn’t real clear on the details. He was like, “We need to look into this more.” But he remembered that portion of things so our grandpa had the orchard and farming and all of that but it’s just really interesting to see like how far back some of that actually goes. We have a lot of drive and determination and wanting to, like you said, better the community even in a lot of things in order to do that really.
D: Yeah, I mean I think we see our aunt Norma worked hard and did all sorts of things and was involved in the community. She’s retired now and I don’t think does any less work than when she was working. She’s just so involved in the community. I don’t think...I can’t picture her just sitting and watching daytime television.
K: Right. Well, even with my dad, he talks about how he’ll never fully retire because that’s just not something that’s in his DNA. He’ll always do something but what he’s hopeful for is as things continue on, he’ll be able to just back off and do the jobs that he really is super invested in or wants to learn about or be able to expand in some ways so I don’t think that anyone in our family will just completely stop working, so yeah, I would definitely agree with that.
I was thinking about some funny stories from when we were little and I won't share too many that are embarrassing or anything like that but one of the ones that is so embedded in my mind and we can edit this out if you’re not okay sharing this-.
D: Oh, no! I’m just curious as to what it is! Like, I wonder if I remember this?
K: I remember grandpa Boyce yelling at you and you getting so mad. This might have not been the same exact day but you got so mad and you chucked a book in his direction and I remember being little and thinking, ‘Oh, she’s gonna die.” (laughing) And of course, there was no violence or anything like that but I was like, “Oh, that was a bad choice” even being that little. I can’t remember if it was that day or another day that we decided to make sandwiches and run away. Do you remember that?
D: That does kind of ring a bell.
K: I feel like they maybe even happened on the same day. We got mad at him for whatever scolding he gave us and then took off. But it was kind of fun. (laughing) Is there anything that sticks out in your mind in general? It doesn’t have to involve me but from our childhood that really cracks you up?
D: When I think about our grandparents, the stories that I always say from when I was a little kid, definitely it was back when you did spank kids pretty regularly and my mom always says I was famous for once I got really mouthy when we were in the vegetable garden and I got spanked with turnip tops which was really unique. It was like the most unique spanking so I was like, I don’t know why I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut. For some reason, I just didn’t have it in me. (laughing)
K: You know what thought? I always think that those things that are really hard to parent when we’re kids, they end up being really beneficial. So like as a child it’s hard sometimes for parents or grandparents or whatever when we aren’t able to maybe keep some of those thoughts to ourselves but as an adult that often means we’re able to better advocate for ourselves than others and share our thoughts. There’s always that strength that you have but it’s learning how to parent that and navigate that, you know?
D: Maybe redirecting it at times. I’ve been at work meetings where I’ve brought along really dry snacks like popcorn and goldfish crackers so that if I was afraid I was going to say something I shouldn’t, I would just stuff a bunch in my mouth and I wouldn’t be able to talk for a moment. (laughing) I found coping strategies.
K: I do think again though just that firm foundation of really feeling comfortable enough to share our thoughts and feelings, it’s really important and I think that that’s really beneficial actually that you have that so if you have to eat some darn goldfish every now and then to stop yourself, I think that’s pretty good. No issues there!
So can we talk a little bit about how old you were when you discovered your creativity and your artistic abilities?
D: Well, my mother, I’m sure you remember this too, was always taking photos. She loved photography and she always volunteered with local arts councils which meant that I spent a lot of hours as a child sitting under the table making friendship bracelets at these local art council meetings. Because my mother was a single parent, she just had to take me with her everywhere. So if she just wanted to go take photos, then I went and took photos with her. If she wanted to go to an arts council meeting, there I was. So, I think that it just always felt natural that way. I always did things like learn how to make balloon animals, tried to learn beading, different things that kids can just learn like weaving from books and it just really clicked.
K: You know, can we talk about how beautiful Aunt Gene (your mom’s) photos are? Like literally, she is so talented.
D: They are really beautiful.
K: There’s one that she took of Andy, my brother, and grandpa. And I think they were, if I remember right...were they feeding a cow or sheep? I don’t know what it was. And it was just so beautiful and such a nice reflection of that timeframe so I think you come from that talent very honestly.
What would you say is your favorite type of art out of everything? That might be a big question. But out of everything that you've tried or that you’ve seen?
D: I was very privileged that I was able to go to art school which meant not having to do it on the side while I picked a different major but just being able to try out a lot of different art forms. I was able to just do all of them like pottery and photography and just try everything out. The one that’s really stuck with me clear until today is painting and i love to watercolor paint. I think I hear a lot from other people that like to paint that say, “Oh, watercolor painting is so challenging? Why would you have chosen that one?” It can be a little hard to control because water isn’t as easily manipulated. I always explain that for me it was actually laziness because there’s no set up and clean up like there is with oil painting. (laughing)
K: (laughing) I love your honesty.
D: It’s true! You can throw it in a bag. You can take it places. You can leave it out for hours if the phone rings. I was willing to develop more technical skills than to have to do all the clean up all the time so that’s my favorite that I still do. But I think the one thing that I’ve sort of struggled with in terms of creativity is separating the idea of fine art from more crafts and you know, I can’t quite think of the words at the moment. But this idea that things like quilting, knitting, those more home-focused artworks, that those are crafts and then painting and sculpting and photography are fine art. I struggle with that because I’m also drawn to knitting. I knit a lot. I love to teach people how to knit. I follow a lot of fiber artists online and I know a lot of quilters.
I struggle a lot with those not being art forms because I just think that they are. They’re creative and they’re making things so I’ve always struggled with that terminology. Are you an artist? Are you a maker? Like, what is the thing there? Because watercolor I love but I also love these other things.
K: Oh, yeah! That makes so much sense. You know, I was actually just speaking with Katherine, she’ll be on the podcast as well, and we were talking about how sometimes people don’t always think they’re creative. Like, if you ask someone, “Are you creative?” and that someone says no, but then you start talking to them about all these ideas they have and it’s like, “Well, actually, you are really creative.” For me, if you would have asked me five years ago if I was creative, I absolutely would have said no but now that I think about it, my creativity is in different ways. It’s in this podcast, it’s in problem solving in the work I do with clients and so it’s not like that traditional view of creativity but I still think that can be its own art from as well. Maybe it’s not as tangible as a painting. I think that makes a lot of sense.
What’s your perspective? Anything you put your creativity effort into I would consider to be an art form.
D: Absolutely. I often feel like I share a lot of experiences with and really identify with people who are writers and musicians or who do theater and I am awful at all of those things and so I can’t do them but I feel like I understand a lot of the same sort of eb and flow of creativity and how it impacts your life. I think even someone who keeps a diary every day I’m like, “Oh, so you write!” And I don’t think people necessarily see that as being a creative art.
K: Right. Maybe we should just say creatives as a whole, you know what I mean? Just like encompass everything. That’s really funny that you say that about music and plays and everything. I have my whole entire life wished that I would be able to sing or play an instrument. I faked the clarinet for like three or four years and then I just quit because I couldn’t literally. I’m not even kidding. If anyone from Junior High band is listening to this they’re going to be like, “Yup, she’s right!” Because I could not play a note and that just wasn’t a strength of mine, you know?
Other people in our family are musically talented so I think that’ more so where that came from. But yeah, I think it’s just a matter of figuring out what works for you really.
So, could you tell if you ever have moments where you’re just not really feeling creative? Like, how do you find that creativity?
D: I tend to feel creative in bursts like of different types of creativity so I’ve learned to just go with that. I don’t think that I struggle with not feeling creative so much as which way and what I can get done changes every day. For example, I could go weeks without being able to think about an idea of something to write about or something to pain and then I’ll just have a day where I’m brainstorming and it comes so easily. I’ll realize like this is a day that I should probably just be goal setting and brainstorming and writing stuff down because I just have like thirty new ideas. But, if maybe I planned to paint that day, maybe I won't. I have to be a little adaptable because I could go weeks without being able to think of any other new topics.
Or, if i feel like painting like if I wake up and I’m like, “You know what would be great would be painting.” Then I know I ought to just do it because the next morning it could totally just feel like a chore and another thing to check off my list and then some days it’s really joyful and fun. I feel like almost every day I’m able to do something but some days I’m just more in an analytical mood and some days things are just coming to me more easily so I just have to write the wave of whatever comes to me whenever possible.
It’s not always possible. Sometimes you have to pay your taxes. Like, you just have to and I get that but if I can be flexible with it, it helps a lot.
K: You know, it really sounds like it’s like trusting yourself in that process, like, “Where do I need to go today?” And I’m so glad that you said that because I do struggle with that at times like sometimes I need to write this or I need to do this and maybe that’s just not something that I really feel up to on that day so it’s nice that you’re able to really just in a sense be connected with yourself and see or hear what you really need to do that day. I think that’s great.
D: Well, my work turns out so much better if I’m in the right mindset for it. So if I try to force writing something or force painting something when I’m just not in the mood, it’ll take twice as much time and often not be so good of an outcome as when I just wait, do what I feel I need to do and then eventually it’ll just come to me.
K: Have you always been able to do that? Or, is that something you’ve fine tuned over time?
D: Oh, I’m sure it’s something that I’ve had to fine tune over time. It’s also just sort of a lifestyle ability that you get to, say when you’re in college you don’t always have that option. Sometimes an assignment is due and it’s due and you just have to do it and I really admire people who also can power through and just really conjure that up from somewhere but I think it’s something that whenever I’m able I’ve been able to do that. At this point, just being able to have my own business, my own products and be able to determine that has given me a lot of ability to make those calls but it’s certainly one of those things that evolves over time depending on your situation.
K: Right. That makes so much sense. I know we’ve briefly talked about this before but I wonder if you can give your thoughts on giving yourself the room to be creative as well because sometimes schedules are just really frantic. So, how do you navigate that portion of things? Making sure you’re giving yourself adequate time?
D: I just remember that when I was at school, all of the professors said “Oh, don’t stop painting when you leave. Don’t stop or you’ll just lose all of your momentum and as soon as I graduated, I stopped. I stopped doing most creative things but I will say that that’s when I really threw myself into knitting and cooking and working on a lot of what people would call hobbies because I just needed a break from it after a really intense four years. And I’m glad that I took that break because when I wanted to later, it really came naturally to me and I really wanted to. I didn’t feel burned out at all.
But, it’s a struggle having small children and figuring out how to do that. I didn’t do as much when my children were little. I think that I really turned to pinterest for how do I do things with small children that still makes me feel creative and excited or decorating my house. Those were outlets for me then.
But I certainly have in this past year in order to be able to fit in time to do freelance work, I have woken up at 5am. There have been times I’ve stayed up until midnight. Having a really supportive partner helps a lot because if they take the kids, if my husband takes my kids to the park for like two hours, then I just have to make a choice and sacrafice something. Am I going to spend those two hours painting because I really want to and just accept that I’ll be up late doing laundry or I just wont to laundry and wont have any clean close to wear. Just having to make that choice and let something go. That’s what I have to tell myself a lot of times is, “Well, something needs to give so what can I be okay with? Can the house just be a mess? Can I get this over with or is that stressing me out and I need to make a different chocie.”
But I do think a lot of times you do have to sacrifice something. Whether that’s family time, whether that’s sleep, I think it depends on the person but it’s just been important enough to me. There’s that expression that if you want to do something, you’ll find a way and if you don’t want to do something, you’ll find an excuse. So, that’s what I tell myself putting something off and not being able to fit it in. I have to ask myself, “Do I really want to do that?” And if I don’t, then maybe I really need to reevaluate my to-do list.
K: Right. It totally makes sense. Can I ask you if you do find that something you had maybe planned originally like doing a project or a painting, whatever it might be, and you get into it and you’re just like, “This might not be something that I feel super committed doing.”
How do you distance yourself or decide to take that off your plate?
D: That is hard. I have just had to do that recently in general. Right now I’m just in a transition period where I left the career I’d been doing for eleven years. I ended two weeks ago and have been doing one part time job and just got hired as a library drafter and I’m just starting that and so I have had to just really think about, “OKay, am I really okay with doing a lot of stuff badly or do I need to drop some things and try to do a couple things really well. That’s been a really hard choice. I’ve had to put freelance stuff on hold until April 1st. I just gave myself a sabbatical which was really hard because I had done all of this goal setting and had a calendar full of projects I really wanted to do but I just had to recognize that when sometimes a great opportunity comes and you have to take it and be adaptable.
There were definitely some things I ended up right in the midst of but actually taking a step back has made me look at the list of projects I did have planned and really realize that there are a couple that I’m not that excited about and a couple that I’m really excited about.
It’s difficult but I think I’m just going to have to scrap a couple of them because I’m not going to be as motivated to complete them and so I probably wont go ahead and throw them all out like initial sketches. I’ll put them somewhere to the side and see if someday that comes back and if it doesn’t, maybe I’ll do that Marie Kondo method. If it wont spark joy, I’ll let it go. (laughing)
K: (laughing) Exactly, exactly! (25:50) That’s a really valid point though. I know for me I have a really “finish” mentality if that makes any sense. Like if I start it, I have to finish it. Maybe it’s like a family culture thing, I’m not sure. I’ll have to think more on that. But I think sometimes that can be problematic because I also believe that it’s okay to say that I tried this and it didn’t really work great for me or I don’t feel like I really vibed with that or whatever the reason may be and it’s okay to step back from that, but sometimes that’s really hard.
D: It is. It’s really hard. And I’m definitely a finisher too. A lot of people who knit have like five projects going at once but that is not me. I get one and I finish it no matter how painful it is or how long it takes before I buy the supplies for the next. Maybe I have two going if there’s a giant blanket and I want a small pair of socks I can take with me but I really like to see things out. That can be a really great quality. You can be dedicated and committed and have follow through but it can also be detrimental for me, I realized, because I can get so bogged down trying to finish something that isn’t going well trying to play on my strengths.
K: Absolutely. I’m so glad we had this conversation. You just gave me so much clarity about lots of things I’ve been curious about. That’s super helpful so thank you for that.
Can we talk a little bit about your business that you have? Danielle and Co.? There’s so many different parts to it. It seems like you have the painting, the Etsy shop, the blog, amazing resources to help others find their content. Can you summarize what you’re doing with that and which part of that you’re most passionate about?
D: I gave myself two years to start doing freelance work and to let myself just go ahead and try out a bunch of different stuff and make mistakes and change course and just let it be okay if it wasn’t something that wasn’t super lucrative or successful right off the bat because I know that I just need to test some stuff out. That’s just my personality. And so I have done a lot of that so I feel like my style has changed every six months. Probably in some of the stuff I’ve done before I settled into a bit more of a rhythm.
One of the things I struggle with sometimes is I see these amazing artists that I follow on Instagram who do just one thing really well and they just paint leaves and they just paint leaves every single day and they’re really amazing and they’re really successful at it and so I always think, “Why can’t I just paint leaves? Why do I feel like I have to do ten thousand other things?” But at a certain point I realized in order for me to feel balance and energetic and exciting, I have to change things up on a daily basis. I would say that while I love to paint and I want to say that that’s my favorite part of it because it feels like the right thing to say, in actuality I really love the design aspect of after I paint something, being able to edit it digitally and create other things out of it like seamless patterns or getting to see it on something like on fabric is just really exciting and I think it’s that transformation part of it that you can take something and turn it into something else that I really enjoy but what works well for me with that style is there are days that I’m just happy to sit and edit photos all day or be in Photoshop and there are days that I just want to be up and moving or painting.
So, doing multiple things allows me to have sort of the best of both worlds.
K: Right. That makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing that. I’m wondering, do you do all of the shipping and all of that portion of things? You have several different things. I’ve seen the mugs and the scarves and all sorts of things so do you actually ship that all yourself?
D: I don’t. It was a hard decision to make because I am one, sort of a huge control freak about my own stuff and then also I’m just a doer. I like to DIY stuff. There’s almost no home project I would ever hire someone for. Our kitchen sink is broke? I will learn plumbing. I just really like to do that but I realized at a certain point - would I rather spend my time painting or designing and thinking of ideas or would I rather spend it being angry that my printer broke and refilling the cartridges. I realized that just wasn’t going to work.
I work with a print shop that is just wonderful. It’s called Printed Mint and it is a woman owned company, it’s a small business in the United States and they’re really great.
I primarily work with them to fulfill things and so they are able to do just much higher quality printing of materials than what I would be able to do at home anyway. So, it certainly isn’t a way to make a lot of money. You’d probably make more DIY’ing it but I get to do the parts that I enjoy, I get to support the business as a partner and so for me, that has worked out really well. There’s also a small business I’ve used up in Canada, Quebec for a few things. I think that it’s hard to let go of those things sometimes but sometimes getting help from someone who has a different skill set is great. THey’re great at what they do and I get to do what I want to do and it really works out.
K: Yes, absolutely. And like you said that time portion of things because we truly only do have so many hours in the day and we as adults get to choose for the most part how we spend that time and it’s a matter of if that’s how you want to do it.
But I always think it’s so great too. There’s an author that I really enjoy. Her name is Jen Hatmaker and she always talks about how your no’s so like you saying no to wanting to ship this gives somebody else the opportunity to say yes to someone else who has that particular set of skills and potentially could do it way better. Not that you aren’t good but someone who could do a better job and that’s what their job is. That’s what they’re fit for. Sometimes I think that’s really comforting to know that by giving yourself that grace and being like, “I absolutely could do this but is that how I want to spend my time?” I think is really powerful.
D: I love that about giving someone else and opportunity. And I do, I have to tell myself that it’s a partnership. It’s not that I’m being lazy but I tell myself this is a partnership and they love what they do and I love what I do but I also had to do a lot of research to find someone I felt good about. Because I don’t want to do a lot of work and want to have things out in the world for other people and not be what feels like good quality or where anyone has a bad experience. I tried out six or seven different places before I found one where I really felt that our values aligned. So I think that’s really important when finding partnerships too.
K: Absolutely. That makes so much sense and I would agree with that. I would say, if this is helpful for you or anyone listening, with the podcast and the process of things, I have Joe who helps with the producing and he does the editing and helps with that portion of that and with the website and different things because that’s just not my jam. He’s teaching me but I’m just a little slow on the intake when it comes to some of that but that’s a strength of his and so he’s able to help with that. I have Andrea who helps with the transcripts. I have so many friends that are like “Hey, this persons really great. You should interview them” or “Have you heard about this person?” And so it’s really a community effort in a lot of ways and I think that in a lot of ways you don’t feel as isolated then. Otherwise in jobs like both of us have, you could feel very isolated truly..
D: Yeah, it really is.
K: It’s nice to be able to have some contacts like that and you can even learn from the other people as well like maybe they have some ideas or suggestions or ways to improve or just different ways to do things so I think that’s really great too.
D: Yeah. It’s wonderful to be able to have people to talk with about things because I am surrounded by a lot of amazing, creative people but it’s hard to sometimes run an idea past them if they don’t understand that particular art form or how things work or why you make certain decisions and so it does help when you have connections.
And that’s where the internet is great. There are a lot of really negative parts of being on social media but for me Instagram in particular has been a place where I feel like there’s this strong sense of community, I can ask people questions, people give me feedback and it can stay really positive but these are also people who are doing the same things I love to do and working through the same problems which can really feel good when everyone else around me is like, “I don’t understand what the issue is.”
K: That’s super beneficial. I would agree with that. Sometimes I’ll even talk about something with my podcast with my husband and he’ll want me to explain things step by step by step and as sweet and as kind and as supportive as that is, sometimes you don’t need to go back through all of that because it’s just too much for somebody if they don’t know the whole background story and you don’t want to waste people’s time either, you know? So being able to find people like my knitter in the same type of field is really beneficial. And I love on Instagram like the hashtag filter where you can hashtag and search whatever it is you want to know and find other people who are talking about that. That’s super beneficial I think.
D: I love that you can follow hashtags now as well because I definitely have followed some and have been able to follow the work of some amazing people that I definitely would never have overlapped with otherwise.
K: Can I ask what are some of the, not to put you on the spot, but if you can think of your favorite hashtags to follow.
D: You would think that a lot of them would be about painting but actually I love to follow things that are similar and yet not the same as what I do because I hate the idea that I could accidentally steal someone else's idea or be overly influenced. And I don’t want to compare myself all the time and so I don’t actually follow a lot of other painters because I find that I just spend the whole time thinking, “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” or “Oh, I wish I were that good!” Or I’ll see an idea later and think, “I totally saw someone do something similar.”
So, I follow a lot of people who do embroidery, who do felting. There’s some great #fiberart and hashtags that follow a lot of potters. I follow a lot of that. And there are some people that do a lot of really creative things. Not your run of the mill bowls and mugs and I think that it allows me to see their methods for sharing work. Like, what types of photos are they taking, what are they talking about their work, how are they coming up with ideas. I can be inspired by their concepts but as long as their work isn’t similar, I’m not actually comparing it because I would never be able to do that fiber art. It’s just not my thing.
K: That’s a really valid point though - being able to be inspired but not have to worry about one thought popping in your mind and then realizing later, “Oh no, I’ve spent all this time on it and now realize that this is someone else’s initial idea.” So, I love that you’re being aware of that too. There’s a lot of speakers that I follow that I really enjoy who talk about personal development and all of that and sometimes that even gets a little challenging because people will share ideas that they’ve heard but not always give people credit. Sometimes here I’ll mention something I’ve heard and I will just literally say, “I’m not 100% sure where I heard this. If this was you, certainly I’ll give you credit for that.”
But I think it’s just important to be aware of that because we do want to honor everybodies work as much as we can.
D: And it is hard because I think it’s human nature to see things and be inspired by them and I think that is a lot of giving credit from when you’re inspired, when you know. I think the hard part is a lot of things just come from fads and everyone’s doing it so I’ve had some people be upset. I painted these...I’m trying to think of an example...sloths. Well, there was a time where sloths were really in and someone will say, “I think this person stole my idea” but I’ll remember seeing twenty people paint something similar to that and so sometimes it just happens. Everybody is going to paint elephants sometimes. Or stars. But, I also think that it can help if you’re sort of separating yourself from other people’s work when you’re brainstorming those activities and give yourself a little bit of a clear headspace. Every once and a while I make myself listen to a true crime novel or something that’s completely separate from what I normally write and listen to and immerse myself because it makes me feel like I have a fresh head.
K: Absolutely. I listen to Ms. Paragrines Home for Peculiar Children. I’ve listened to the first and second and I have not bought the third. I listen to audio books so when I buy one I just want to listen to it my whole day so I have to be strategic with getting them every now and then and I did hear somebody say once that they create before they intake. I think they had a better way of saying it. I’m sure there’s some catchy phrase but not necessarily engaging yourself in all of this content from other people whether it’s art or writing or whatever and just really creating yourself first. It can be opening yourself up to outside influences at that point. I thought that was kind of a cool strategy.
D: That’s a great idea.
K: Can you share a little bit with us about the work changes you mentioned earlier. Can you share a little bit about that and why you decided to take that step?
D: Yeah. I loved the people that I worked with over the last five years and the people before that. I’ve been in college administration since I finished grad school in 2007 and at a couple different campuses. While I absolutely love the people and I love the values, I was personally in a great department but the actual work itself it felt like over time it wasn’t giving me what I needed on a daily basis. I wanted to be more active, more creative, be more community minded so I had taken a little bit of a leap financially and I’m sure emotionally otherwise. This past fall I was able to get a temporary job for a university reviewing admissions applications and so I decided to go ahead and use that as a sort of leaping point and went ahead and left my full time college administrative position which was a really hard decision because there’s a lot of comfort in routine and a steady paycheck and doing what you’ve been doing but I felt like I just needed to step out of my comfort zone and make a bigger commitment to the lifestyle I wanted to have and to just start living in instead of saying, “In five years, in ten years, I’m going to do something different” and I just decided I would figure it out.
And then I was extraordinarily lucky because a position opened up for the director of library for our village library in the town where my children go to school and I applied for that and actually started yesterday.
K: Oh, my gosh!
D: Yeah! I thought that my days of working for a little bit it was three jobs, then it was two jobs but I thought that was behind me and then I have a couple months of doing two before things slow down so that’s why I decided to give myself some space freelance-wise which isn’t to say that I’m not working on things. I’m trying to plan ahead and work ahead but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to complete anything or put anything out in the world before April. That has been a big weight off my shoulders and made it feel less like a chore and less like I feel guilty and more exciting that that is now something that I can only do when I really feel inspired to but I’m also really excited about my new role and I feel like it was a leap that I took and I feel very lucky that it worked out but I also think it would have worked out but I had to take a big jump.
K: You know what I think is so great is when you take essentially a leap of faith like that and just kind of go out into the unknown. Not that every day is perfect and magical or anything like that but a lot of times that middle area or don’t like to say end result because I don’t think it ever really ends but it’s quite interesting how much happiness you can find when you’re doing something that you really love versus doing something that isn’t interesting necessarily or maybe not challenging enough for you or whatever that might be. So,I think it’s scary to take those leaps but sometimes they work out really well.
D: Yeah. And I think people change over time which can be hard because sometimes you choose a major at eighteen and you make a commitment that this is what you’re going to do or you start to see your work as a really strong part of your identity and that makes it a lot harder if over time you realize that things have changed. Either your interests have changed or your skill set or the work that you do sometimes have evolved and so I think that we don’t give people enough space to be able to change their minds over time.
It’s okay to decide, even if you did something for twenty years, you could say well, “I’m so glad that I did that. I’m thankful for that experience. It doesn’t mean that I have to do if for another twenty years.”
K: Right. Well, kind of like what you said earlier about getting comfortable. This is kind of a really low-key way of relating this but I was telling someone that I’ve been drinking the same shake for a year and a half and I just realized that I don’t feel that great when I drink that and why have I been doing that and not feeling that great. It’s just because it was habit and it was comfortable but that doesn’t mean I have to keep drinking it the rest of my life. I think we get into those routines and it’s hard to break those or acknowledge how that actually may be impacting you because you're so used to it.
D: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of putting things off too and just thinking, “Well, I’ll be more healthy or be more active or start this new hobby as soon as there’s another paycheck or it’s summer, the weathers better or things slow down at work.” And sometimes that just means that before you know it, it’s been a week or a year or ten years and so just being able to take a step back and re-evaluate helps a lot.
K: Yeah. I would agree with that. Or not letting the fact that yes, maybe having a next paycheck would be really nice and would help but that doesn’t actually have to be an end result to waiting for an order to start whatever it is. I think a lot of times, we can actually start some things much earlier than we believe if that makes sense. Whether it’s for scheduling reasons or just believe in ourselves or whatever that may be. If you actually take that step, even little steps, that could give you some traction maybe.
D: Well, I have started doing craft nights at our local library about a year and a half ago and so every other Thursday night I hosted a just bring the art that you’re working on and as a way to try to meet other people in the community and feel like I was being involved. I’m an introvert and it’s hard for me to just walk into a room full of people and insert myself and so I feel like I have to have a role or an in to be able to do that so for me just going ahead and volunteering and contacting the library and saying, “I want to do this” was just a way for me to feel like I had an in with people and small towns can be really difficult to get to know people in. I don’t know how much having hosted those plays into having gotten this role now and I probably will never know but it does feel at the time it didn’t necessarily make sense that I had a full time job and two kids and freelance work to go do this volunteer thing in the community also. It doesn’t make a lot of practical sense to have done that but I just trusted my intuition at the time and it felt like what I needed to be doing and I really enjoyed it. I think that it has lead me into a new position now that I’m really excited about.
K: That’s awesome. I would totally agree that our intuition, if we can listen to that often, can really navigate us through different situations and so I love that you just trusted your instinct on that.
Also, did you know that Melanie - for people that are listening my sister - is a librarian now too? Did you know that?
D: Yeah! My mother told me. And my mother had volunteered with friends at the library in her town so I think that love of books, that is also generational because I remember our grandmother always having a romance novel in hand. And I may not read romance novels myself but I think that we come from a long line of people that love books and learning and I think the community. There has to be something genetic there.
K: I think that you’re right about that. I know for me, and I only throw this out there now incase there’s someone listening that’s very similar to this, is I have always wanted to really read a lot but what I have learned is that I literally have no reading retention and so that’s why audio books work so well for me but I’m still able to actually absorb that information in so many ways and so many people get stuck on if they’re not actually reading the book, it doesn’t count but to me it’s more about picking up that information and I think that’s how I personally work through that, if that makes sense. I’m like, “Oh, I want to learn about all these different things! Bring on an audio book!”
I think it’s important to realize that if somebody isn’t big inot reading, that’s totally fine but just find whatever way is beneficial for you.
Can I ask you a few questions that I ask everybody?
D: Yeah! That would be great!
K: So you know about Brene Brown, is that correct?
K: Okay, I was going to say I think we maybe talked about her at some point so she has the book “Braving the Wilderness” and this is just a quick summary of it but it’s stepping out into the wilderness alone, feeling really scared but finding your way essentially along the journey and sometimes even finding people out there.
I’m wondering if you can tell us about a time in your life where you really felt like you were braving the wilderness.
D: In general, I’m not someone who feels that fear or trepidation about taking things on. I feel like I could use some resources. I feel pretty resourceful in terms of getting through situations and so I totally trust my instincts with that. Where I feel like I’m really having to draw on every ounce of creativity I have is when I’m trying to do something with other groups of people or partner with people because I am someone whos really comfortable working on my own, working independently and being in isolation but I also know that that’s not good for me and so for me, actually the biggest scariest things are putting myself out there with other people and I have to really work up to that. It pays off almost always in some way. If I don’t actually succeed, at least I learn a lesson and so for me, doing things like applying for a job or deciding that I’m going to volunteer with a group of people that I’ve never met before or moving to a new place have been really scary things mostly because I know that I could easily hide away to myself and it would just be easier.
That has been something where I’ve intentionally had to step out of my comfort zone. Often for myself but also for my family. I know it’s good for my kids to have these community connection as well. I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.
K: That’s perfect, actually. That’s definitely what we’re looking for. You know, I wonder, are either of your kiddos introverted at all?
D: You know we, I would say, have a 50/50 split. We joke that my daughter Hayven is the social butterfly and we cannot go to the grocery store without her knowing twenty people. I’ll be trying to hide behind my sunglasses and she is right out there just looking for people that she knows. She’s like a little adult. We went to an event this past weekend and I had really built myself up that morning you know thinking I’m going to have to go network with people, I’m going to have to really walk up to people and every time I turned around, Hayven was chatting with some grown up about some book that she loves so it just comes naturally to her, which is great and has meant that she’s very comfortable being on athletic teams and joining the student council.
Her brother takes after me absolutely. Not in appearance. He looks just like his father. But he acts just like me and so we have had a lot of times where I realize I need to role model really good behavior for him because we’ve gone to parent/teacher conferences where they’ll say “Oh, Dialo’s doing great but he really has trouble putting down what he’s working on and come sing a group song.” And I’ll think to myself, “Well, that seems reasonable. Why would he want to sing a song with a group when he can finish what he’s working on? What’s wrong with that?”
His father will have to say, “No, no, no. He actually should be flexible and going and participating in group activities.”
So I have to really try to role model that for him. But it helps that he has an older sister that it just comes naturally to.
K: Right, right. I love that you can identify that that’s something you have to role model but I also love that you and your husband have such different perspectives. Like how you’re, “That’s totally okay!” and he’s more like, ‘Well…”
In all honesty, since I cannot sing, I wouldn't enjoy that either. I would just feel awkward and uncomfortable so I mean i can definitely understand that in a lot of ways but I suppose pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone is good. It’s beneficial. But it’s scary too.
So, who would you say are your biggest encouragers in life?
D: My mother for sure has always been my biggest encourager. Right when I was growing up it was just the two of us so she had a huge influence on my life. We lived in a really rural area so she’s always been my biggest influence but she is also someone who isn’t afraid to try something herself and go into scary situations and I know that she didn’t enjoy driving when I was a kid but when I went to apply at colleges, she said, “Move anywhere. I will learn how to drive to the city. I’ll figure it out if you want to go there.”
And she did. I remember her driving in downtown Milwaukee in the middle of rush hour.
K: Which is very scary. I’ve been there before.
D: Right! It’s very scary! But she did it in the middle of rush hour because that’s what she needed to do in order to be supportive with me and so she’s always just been very encouraging. When I’ve done things like I’ve said, “Hey, I think I’m going to quit my job!” Even though it’s an extremely steady paycheck and it’s what I have a degree in, she said, “Okay, yup! Well, I’ve quit jobs too!” And has just been very comforting that she knows that everything will turn out fine and I think it’s knowing that somebody else has that faith in me as well helps and it’s not just me being crazy or reckless. That I have someone else who agrees that things will turn out fine.
I’ve been lucky that my husbands been very supportive, otherwise there is no way I would be able to manage multiple jobs and still spend any time with our kids. And so he’s really encouraging. We don’t have a lot of similar interests that overlap in terms of hobbies. He’s really athletic. I am zero percent athletic. We try to find a couple things that we both appreciate together but I think that it’s one of the best things that you can do in a relationship is find a way to support something you don’t know anything about, you don’t understand, you don’t enjoy yourself, but being able to just unequivocally support the other person and trust that they know what they’re doing and that it’s a worthwhile effort and so that’s something that’s really important in my relationship.
K: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing both of those. I can’t speak...have I met Dennis? I don’t know if I have, actually. I don’t feel like I have but I can speak at least about Aunt June and quite honestly I think even as her niece she’s always been very, very encouraging so I 100% believe everything that you said because I think even through people she meets just in daily life.I haven’t met one person that knows her that doesn’t say, “Oh, I just love her!” Literally, people just gravitate toward her and so I think that’s great that she’s been so supportive of you. And literally driving in that traffic was awful. My dad was driving when we were there and it was just terrible and so I feel for her on that.
D: For such a small city, it has big traffic!
K: Yeah! But like what a great way to show your love for someone and support for somebody where you’re like, “I’m just going to do something scary and uncomfortable for me because i know you need to do what you need to do for you.” And that’s pretty cool.
D: I try to remember that when I’m having to do things. Like my husbands out of town, he’s getting his doctorate right now and he has to travel a lot. And if I have to take kids to basketball games, I make myself learn what the things mean. I don’t understand the rules of basketball but I need to be that mom that’s yelling from the sidelines and i need to be really supportive and enthusiastic but it’s not something I would ever be interested in myself and so I try to remember that my mother has done a lot of things that she had not wanted to do to support me and so the least I could do is learn soccer rules and basketball rules.
K: Bless your heart for that. That is so my own version of hell. I would go watch my nieces, my son is obviously not old enough, but we go watch my nieces play and it was fun to go watch them but its not my jam either so I think it’s great that you are putting yourself out there.
D: I’ll never learn football. That’s where I draw the line.
K: I understand.
D: No football. (laughing)
K: (laughing) That’s absolutely understandable.
Well Danni, real quick can you tell everyone where they can find out, where they can follow what you’re doing and I know you’re taking a little bit of a break from some of the freelance stuff but you’re still on social media and everything, right?
D: Yup! Absolutely. So my website is www.danielleandco.com and it’s sort of a hub. I feel like I try to connect to everything from there. Everyone can get to Etsy or Instagram but on Instagram I am @danielleandcopaints so yeah, I love Instagram. It’s my absolute favorite so that’s where I get to know most people.
K: You know, just a few months ago, I started to get more active on there and I really enjoy it as well. I just think it’s so much easier to connect to people and see a wider variety too of topics and lots of different things versus FaceBook where it feels more restrictive and even Twitter is a little bit harder that Instagram.
D: It has a community feel, for sure.
K: That’s a great way of wording it for sure. Well, thank you so much for being on today. I really appreciate it.
D: Thank you for the opportunity! It’s been great. I feel like I’m going to remember so much more stuff from my childhood now.
D: It’ll all come back to me. (laughing)
K: You’re going to be sitting there and be like, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” I mean I certainly there’s one last story and then I’ll be done, but I was talking to somebody and they were talking about cats and how some cats are really nice and some are really mean and I don’t know if you remember this particular cat but I remember you had one that sat on the back of one of your couches and would reach its paw out and scratch you and you had to shimmy against the wall to like stay away from the cat. (laughing) That’s always one of my stories that I tell when people talk about things that their cats have done and I’m like, “Oh, I believe it!”
D: I’m a cat person but you know, it’s not always reciprocated.
K: Well, thank you so much! You have a great rest of your day!
D: Yeah, thank you! You too!