Thursday, October 17, 2013

Finding My Lula

At the end of September, I attended an absolutely amazing creative retreat out in Park City, Utah. I've been mulling it over and trying to decide how to share this experience on my blog, not only because it was a deeply personal experience, but also because I'm not sure how to convey just how amazing it was. I will do my best :) We were each given a SMASH book when we arrived at the retreat and spent many late nights working on our books as a way to document our experience. Throughout this post are some photos I took of the pages of my SMASH book to share with you.

A little background first... Back in January I came across a post somewhere about a retreat called "Find Your Lula". It sounded like something that was right up my alley:

From the Find Your Lula website: "a retreat geared towards people that want to grow their skills (and their business) in the crafting/design industry. At our retreat you will learn lots of valuable skills like Adobe Illustrator, photography, life and business coaching, as well as have lots of fun sewing, crafting and creating. This retreat is incredibly intimate, maxing out at 14 participants. You will get to spend lots of time with your instructors and make some wonderful new friends. And, of course, eat lots of wonderful food!"

I was immediately interested. I've mentioned a couple of times on the blog over the years that my dream since I was 12 years old is to own my own creative business. I have been trying for 25 years to figure out what that business should look like and be, but for some reason I just haven't gotten there yet. I thought that "finding my Lula" meant figuring out what business I want to start, and I thought this retreat might just be the key to making my dreams come true. But... it was a big trip, and being the mega-introvert that I am, I certainly wasn't going to go alone. I quickly talked myself out of it. Fast-forward about a month and I get a text from Amy (Ameroonie Designs): Have I heard about Find Your Lula? Would I be able to come out to Utah for it? At that point it kind of seemed like it was meant to be... plus, it was a good excuse to go visit Amy again, so win-win :)

Let's get to the good stuff... Find Your Lula is the brainchild of fabric designer extraordinaire Amanda Herring (The Quilted Fish). Amanda is an enormous talent, super funny, and quite possibly the most giving person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Amanda put this retreat together because she wants to inspire and motivate people on their creative journeys. She and her team did such an incredible job. The whole experience - from the time I woke up in the morning until my head hit my pillow (around 2am every night) - was perfect. I am using way too many superlatives in this post, but they are well-deserved and genuine.

From the minute we stepped in the door of the gorgeous multi-million dollar retreat house in Park City, we were pampered like you wouldn't believe. Handmade slippers in our favorite color. A fridge full of our favorite drinks. Delicious home-cooked meals three times a day (And I mean absolutely incredible food... I was in heaven!). Warm cookies and brownies during our late-night classes. A room full of candy and treats. And except for one evening when we went out to dinner in Park City, we never left the house, and pretty much stayed in our pajamas and comfy clothes all day every day. A girl could really get used to living like this ;) And it snowed! It couldn't have gotten any better.

Still wearing my Lula slippers!

This is the restaurant we ate at on our night out in Park City.

Then there were the classes and the instructors. I learned so much. There was a lot of variety - from aromatherapy to physical therapy to photography to needle turn applique. There was definitely something for everyone, and we all had a lot of fun.

Our awesome photography teacher Kristen Pack.

My favorite photo I took during the photography class with Kristen.

I really need to tell you more about the two instructor that had the greatest impact on me. The first is Lyn Christian. Lyn is a business and life coach. She is quite a woman and a captivating speaker. She helped us determine our three core values and taught us how to remain true to ourselves based on these values. She taught us to play to our strengths, as these are the things that will make us successful. And she shared methods to manage our focus, as managing your focus is how you manage your success. She was inspiring and really made me think about how I live my life and how I need to learn to better manage my focus in order to get things done. She also stressed the importance of making yourself a priority in your own life. I tend to put myself last and only take care of myself after everyone else's needs are met. This is another thing I need to work on.

The second instructor who had the greatest impact on me was our Adobe Illustrator instructor, Douglas Allen. I love design. I have a small Spoonflower shop and I've designed a bunch of free printables for my blog readers over the years, but everything I know how to do was self-taught and was created using what I had available to me (i.e. the wrong programs). I was really attracted to the Lula retreat because of the Illustrator element, and I'm glad that the Illustrator classes took up the majority of our time at the retreat. Doug was a great teacher. He had no idea what he was walking into with a group of 12 women from different walks of life with different abilities, but he managed to reach out to every single person in the group, and I truly believe that each person walked away amazed at their personal progress with the program. I know I did. I came home and designed a new logo for the blog (it will be up soon!) and a couple new Spoonflower fabric designs (not available in my shop yet, but working on that). I love it! And such a confidence boost to actually (sort of) know what you're doing. Thank you, Doug, for giving me the tools I need to make things happen :)

My retreat-mate Mary shared this quote. Very appropriate for our week.

The last bit I want to share is a few words about my retreat-mates (who I loving refer to as my Lula fam). You never know what's going to happen when you get a group of people (OK, I'll say it, "women") together. I can honestly say that I am lucky to have met every single attendee. I'm a person of few words, but I listen and I see people, and I am in awe of what each of these ladies brought to the table. We were a varied group... some fabric and pattern designers, a few quilt shop owners, some bloggers. I have to admit that the first day, during introductions, I was really intimidated and felt like I hadn't done anything with my life and that I shouldn't even be there. That feeling quickly passed before the first night was over. We all belonged there; we all felt accepted; we all had different reasons for being there. We had a lot of great laughs and enjoyed each others' company. They are an incredibly gifted, loving group of women, and I know that I will enjoy watching them chase their big dreams for years to come.

So I flew back to the east coast, rejuvenated from almost five full days of being waited on and being completely kid-free, and I was feeling pretty good for a few days. Then, I started to feel a little deflated. Remember how I mentioned above that I thought "finding my Lula" meant figuring out what business I want to start? I started to realize that I still hadn't had a lightbulb moment where genius struck and I suddenly knew what to do with my life. I got angry with myself and started blaming myself for not trying hard enough. Why didn't I put myself out there and talk to more people at the retreat? Why had I wasted such an amazing opportunity? This lasted for a week or so, then I started reading through my Lula SMASH book. I started to see things in a different light. I came to realize that finding my Lula is something else entirely... It is not letting the gremlins in my head win. It is having the guts to make things happen, make my dream come true. I've talked myself out of and away from success so many times, but not this time.

I have a quote from Doug written in my SMASH book that says "You get what you go after." I've never really gone after anything. I get to a certain point with an idea, and then I don't even give it a chance, I just talk myself out of it. That has been my problem for many years, but I'm done. And I can thank Lula (and Amanda) for that. Good things are coming :)


Mary Miller said...

Just a great post! It's all so true. I keep thinking the same thing, what a waste that retreat will be if I don't keep pushing myself to move forward with what I learned there. Keep hammering that nail, Gwen, and so will I!
XX Mary

Amy at Ameroonie Designs said...

I love you. You are absolutely incredible and I love the sound of the fire in your post. You will go amazing places and do incredible things and I can't wait to watch you fly!!

Jenny said...

Love every word of it! I'm so glad I met you and that we're now Lula Sisters. I can't wait to see what you do with your new found power!!!

chris said...

Sounds like good things are coming your way. Cheering you on from Idaho. xoxo

Sandy Workman said...

Loved each word of your post. I still have not taken the risk of putting something that was so intensely personal in writing. What a blessing to have met you. I wrote a quote in my smash book "being soft does not mean I am not STRONG". This was a real aha moment for me. You may be quiet but you are STRONG and CREATIVE and have talents to share. Don't forget to "Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and SHUT UP!" HUGS!

ga447 said...

Wow, what a great experience you had and such friendships were made. Your creativity will sore.

annely said...

What a great post, so inspiring! Thank you!!
'Find Your Lula' sounds such an amazing retreat, I wonder if there's something similar in UK...

KJ@letsgoflyakite said...

Awesome post, I so enjoyed reading this. Good for you having the courage to attend the Lula retreat when the demands of family obligations could have been the easiest excuse not to. Can't wait to seeing your new design projects and where this experience takes you . We will be cheering you on Gwen!

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