Suzanne Eisenhauer joined my “Welcome to Your Creative Oasis™” class last fall. She was searching for a creative career – a way to combine the wisdom gleaned by years of success in the corporate world with her desire for creative fulfillment. During the six weeks our group met, I watched as she absorbed the Kaizen–Muse® creativity coaching tools and techniques I introduced. I saw flashes of inspiration mixed with moments of frustration. (“When will I ever figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life?” Sound familiar?)
|Welcome to Your Creative Oasis class in action|
As you can imagine, I had one of those “oh-wow-I’d-do-a-back-flip-if-I-only-knew-how-and-wasn’t-terrified-of-the-idea” moments when I received an e-mail from Suzanne a few months after our final class with news of her fabulous new creative venture! SuzanneBag creates one-of-a-kind handbags using funky vintage fabrics and buttons with fun names inspired by pop culture of the 60’s and 70’s. One look at her brightly colored website and you know she’s having a blast pursuing her creative passion by creating these funky pop-culture purses!
Suzanne graciously agreed to an interview so you can hear her inspiring creative success story. If you’re asking yourself, “When will I ever figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life?” keep reading for tips and inspiration from someone who is living her creative dream.
What was your inspiration for creating SuzanneBag?
A friend in Hawaii has been making these wonderful colorful vintage fabric handbags for years. I always envied her job because it allowed her to be creative in the fabric choices and designs. The thought of doing something similar had never crossed my mind, even though she had told me I had a wonderful eye for vintage fabrics.
After struggling for nearly a year trying to decide what I wanted to do “with the rest of my life,” my husband said, “You have an eye for beautiful things, have you ever considered making handbags?” Strangely enough, it was only then that the light bulb went off in my brain and I thought, “I can do this.”
How did it feel when you knew that this was the direction you wanted to take?
It was amazing how quickly I not only accepted, but embraced the idea. My mind raced when I thought of the things I would need to put in place, the least of which being sewing refresher classes! But the thought of shopping for vintage fabrics and creating something beautiful with my hands was heady stuff indeed.
What role would you say taking a Creative Oasis Coaching™ class played in creating your business?
Before taking your class, my view of creativity was very close-minded. I certainly knew what I did well creatively, but never encouraged or challenged myself to think outside the box. That’s what the Creative Oasis Coaching™ class did for me; it taught me that creativity could be found in countless places, even the ones I didn’t currently excel in.
Which tools or techniques that you learned through Creative Oasis Coaching™ have been most helpful to you?
I think the most powerful tool for me was journaling. I say that because when you spill out your thoughts on a page, you never know what might come out. Sometimes it’s surprising how much insight you have trapped inside just looking for the opportunity to make itself known. Just as yoga teaches you to listen to your body, journaling teaches you to listen to your inner thoughts and feelings.
Mind-mapping was another great tool, to take a word or central theme, and start working outward to create a diagram of sorts. When you’re completely honest with yourself, it’s amazing what ends up on paper.
We talked about “small steps” during our class (Kaizen means small steps to continuous improvement.) What was the first small step you took towards creating your handbag business?
The first step I took was signing up for my first sewing class since junior high. The second step was shopping online for vintage fabrics to inspire and encourage me.
In what ways do you get to use your creativity in your business now?
I opted to create my own handbag patterns instead of merely copying others I saw on the Internet or at the store. I might take a general handbag design, but then I would tweak it until I incorporated all the things I might want in a bag.
Also, there’s nothing more creative than shopping for fabrics. The vintage ones are the most fun by far, but interior fabrics also have to be matched up. There’s something deeply satisfying in seeing these two very different fabrics mesh seamlessly.
How do you find inspiration for your designs and names (which I love!) of your designs?
I have made a point of creating handbags that I would want to carry myself. I incorporated elements from other handbags I may have had in the past and liked for a particular reason.
Because I work with fabrics from the 60’s and 70’s, I chose female TV characters of that time period: Gidget (from the movies and TV show), Marsha (from “The Brady Bunch”), Daphne (from “Scooby Doo”) and Samantha (from “Bewitched”). Since most people have seen these shows either originally or in syndication, they are fun little pop culture references.
Do you run all aspects of your business or do you have an assistant?
Heavens, no! I don’t know what I would do without my dear husband. Since he is a web developer, he put together my amazing website suzannebag.com. He set up my Facebook fan page (facebook.com/suzannebag), Twitter account (twitter.com/suzannebag), Flickr account (flickr.com/photos/suzannebag) and the ability to monitor traffic to Etsy (suzannebag.etsy.com).
What advice would you offer anyone who doesn't know quite what they want to do with their life, but believe they want to do something creatively satisfying?
Don’t give up hope! It took a long time for me to decide what it was I could or should do. Invest in some classes, get a feel for what you enjoy and do well. And remember, you don’t have to leave a lucrative job to do something creatively satisfying with your life. Many people are able to express their creativity outside their careers.
Do you have any tips for DIY entrepreneurs?
I know it sounds simplistic, but do what you love. Start slowly and leave your expectations at the door. Unless you know exactly what you want to do and how to do it, there’s going to be a learning curve. Allow yourself plenty of time to perfect your art. Realize, that success doesn’t come over-night, people have to know you or know about what you’re doing. Very importantly, watch your costs. If you overpay for supplies, you’ll never make your money back, no matter how much time and energy you expend. And finally, if at all possible, set up a designated workspace.
How does it feel to be running a creatively fulfilling business?
It’s still hard work! There’s no getting around the work part, no matter what you do. However, there is something to be said about working on my own schedule, in my own house, on my own terms. It’s wonderful to take time off when you need it or to spend an entire morning just researching a potential new design and not worrying that you aren’t “being productive.” There is a lot of satisfaction in creating something that other people love and want. And the beauty of it all is that I can continue to create new and different things to keep the creative process fresh for me. There are always new bags to design, unique fabrics or buttons to get your hands on. I get a little thrill each time I cut into a fabric that I’ve never made a bag from before. Oh, the endless possibilities!
Finally, I want to share a wonderful quote that truly inspired me while attending Creative Oasis Coaching™:
“Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Thanks so much to Suzanne for sharing her inspiring story! Seeing people follow their creative dreams and enjoy the amazing personal satisfaction that brings is one of my all time favorite things in the world. It makes me feel like I’m doing a series of back-flips in my mind even though there’s not a hope in Hades of me ever doing one in real life!
Until next time, all the best from my Creative Oasis to yours,
Jill Allison Bryan
Founder Creative Oasis Coaching ™
Certified Kaizen-Muse® Creativity Coach