I've Been Selfish / by Jen Bachelder

At the end of August, I decided to cut some freelance work to make space for my studio work. I’d like to say it was a rational decision that I made after a few months of planning and plotting a responsible path. It wasn’t.

Have you read The Oatmeal’s post about breathing and creativity? In short, he compares creating to breathing. We need dedicated periods of off time and on time (breathing in and out). I really identify with this comparison. I was happy another creative had put words to my feelings, but I didn’t take the time to evaluate my current projects and where my time was going.

My initial dumping of client work wasn’t because of that piece. Honestly, the plate-clearing was a bit of a tantrum. I wasn’t enjoying the projects I was working on, and instead of probing for more fulfilling work, I just wrapped up what I was doing and took a step back. I’m not particularly dramatic, but sometimes it just feels right. (Have you ever flipped a Monopoly board covered in hotels? So right.)

Once I had that space, I realized I hadn't been alternating breathing in and out, but holding my breath.

That Parking Lot

As there was no plan post board-flipping, the obvious thing to do was browse my parking lot for the most interesting projects. I came up with a short checklist.

  • Complete and sell the 2017 TrashCal.
  • Put myself (my work) out there. Way out there.
  • Knock a few creative things off my 2016 Bucket List.

Vague, but simple.

Getting Out There

Kickstarter (Two Birds, One Stone)

I ran a small Kickstarter from September 1st to October 1st. The goal was to raise enough funds to print my 2017 TrashCal. In previous years, when I’ve failed to produce a calendar, the main excuses were time and funding. Committing to finishing the calendar during the same 30 days I raised funds eliminated both issues. This also knocked out the first item on my To Do and launched me straight into the second.

Craft Shows

In the same spirit as the Kickstarter, I decided to frame out time to sell my work at shows. With a surplus of 2017 calendars on hand, there’s no better time than the weeks leading up to the holidays. Doing one or two shows wasn't going to cut it, so I started signing up for everything. I booked seven shows between October 13th and December 11th.

Participating in shows also happened to be on my 2016 Bucket List. Check.


Over the years, I’ve purchased many, many different kinds of frames in hopes that something would properly display my totally garbage work. Because the pieces aren’t flat on the front, back, or around the edges, they’re difficult to frame. After each purchase and disappointment, I tossed the frame into the same closet as my work, putting it off until another day.

A few months ago, I found some 11x14” frames that I could destroy (because, obviously.) and put back together to hold my original 12x16” pieces. I had custom backs cut out of chipboard, and I used those to sandwich my pieces between the lightweight frame and the new back. It took a few tries (I've got a frame with screws coming out the front if anyone wants it), but when it was right, I nearly cried. Finding a great way to finally finish pieces I started in 2011 was a little overwhelming.

An unexpected side effect of this super selfish season has been the eminence relief of finishing personal projects that were nearly completed. I didn’t know these unframed works were bothering me, but there is no high without a low, and I feel so happy that they're really done.

Breathe in that sweet, sweet, fresh air.


While prepping for these shows, I couldn’t decide what pieces to travel with and what to leave at home; the works I favor don’t always line up with the works my viewers favor. (This happens to Adam Lavine, too.) I needed a way to show my full portfolio so I could stop stressing about it. Something that passersby could browse quickly and casually. 

I created a simple catalog of my works that shows each piece and lists the title, date created, and any notable trash I used to create that piece. I know this is practical, but I've never felt so ridiculous. “You know what the world needs? A catalog of my work!”

Although I think of my portfolio in chronological order of completion, I placed each piece in order by color. Shockingly, this new sorting brought up feelings comparable to framing my work. Even if the world doesn’t need a catalog of my work, apparently I did.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.


You know what else feels ridiculous? Designing a logo for your personal brand. Okay, so designing that logo doesn’t feel that ridiculous… until you start putting it on everything. I just started screen printing my logo onto tees and tank tops. The good (and bad) news is that my mark is new and most folks haven’t seen it before, which makes it less weird that I’m wearing it all over the place.

What's Next


Ricochet's coming back.

I launched Ricochet in 2015. It was messy and a ton of work, but I felt great mailing out those kits each month. I've spent a little time brainstorming how to better solve my market's problem (getting a personal note out the door in a timely manner), and I'm really excited about some tweaks to the project. December will be full of experimenting so I can start mailing immediately in 2017.

Mean Tees

I'm not exactly sure what this is yet, but it struck me in my sleep. It was one of those have-to-get-up-and-fetch-a-pen situations. More to come.

All In

If it seems like this is a lot for only a few weeks, that’s because it is, but I’ve never been a one-foot-in-one-foot-out kind of lady.



Title Image: Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash