Creative Living: Interview with Yuko Miki

yuko mikiOne of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

I found Yuko on Instagram when she was in the middle of her 365 day “Happiness is” illustration challenge, which got me completely hooked on her feed. I loved her cheerful drawings of everyday pleasures and soon found my way to her blog where she shares super helpful insights into what she’s learning on her journey as an illustrator. She recently quit her day job to draw full time and it’s been inspiring watching her grow.

What sort of creative work do you do?

I’m mostly an illustrator and make simple and friendly drawings for stationery and wall art using pen and ink and watercolor.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?

Not really! I guess I’ve always been interested in creative activities but didn’t think I was “creative” per se. When I was little, I liked to draw. But I didn’t do much to nurture my interest in the visual art then and moved on to drama and theater in my teenage years. But after high school, I didn’t pursue any creative passion for many years. I guess I was being too busy being a college student and navigating the new phase of my life being away from my home and family for the first time!

yuko miki

How did you get started?

So I worked for a non-profit social service organization for a long time after college. It was about 6-7 years ago or so? I was doodling a silly picture on my notebook during a meeting. A friend saw it and liked it so much and asked me to draw more for her. I think that’s when I remembered the joy of drawing from my childhood. You can make something with pen and paper and make someone smile. It’s so simple but felt sort of magical, too.

Of course, at that time I had never dreamed of becoming a full-time artist. I would just doodle here and there and contribute my drawings to a very low-key volunteer projects for friends etc. I never thought being a working artist/illustrator was possible because I don’t have an art degree and felt too old to be pursuing a dream like that.

Anyway, I did end up opening my very first Etsy shop in 2010 selling my crocheted accessories. It was a hobby for me, and the sales remained pretty slow, but I definitely tasted that joy of making again. The experience of using your skills, imagination, and tools to create something that wasn’t there before is just priceless. And it’s so rewarding when people actually pay for what you make!

Over time, I started adding more of my illustration work on my Etsy shop and transitioned my shop and business into Honeyberry Studios in 2013. Around the same time, I started cutting back hours at my day job so I could put more time and energy into my creative business. Although my art business was still very small, I decided to quit my day job cold turkey in July 2015. I was being stressed about juggling my creative business with a demanding day job, and my husband’s business was beginning to pick up, so the timing was right. It was very scary to leave the stability of my day job (I was there for almost 15 years), but I don’t regret that one bit!

What’s your process like?

I think it’s very important to not lose the sense of play and wonder in your creative process. I like to doodle and sketch for fun as often as I can when I’m relaxing or watching a Netflix show at night. I think some of the best work comes when you’re making art for yourself and being true to your creative voice. I would often look back at my sketchbook and get an inspiration for future products and illustration work.

Whether I’m creating work for my products or a client, I try to stay consistent in my style. My style is very simplistic, and I sometimes feel insecure about it. But I remind myself that my audience is actually responding to the simplicity of my style, and it’s very important that I don’t compromise it, trying to make it look like someone else’s.

What or who inspires you?

My art is often inspired by nature, animals, and food 🙂 I love to cook and eat good food! I also love simple and charming aesthetics, and I think the motifs made by nature are the most beautiful!

As far as people who inspire me, artist and illustrator, Lisa Congdon, is my hero. Her path to becoming an artist in her adulthood really resonates with me, and I respect and admire her work so much. She’s also very kind and down-to-earth, and that’s something I value a lot in people!

Sean McCabe, a handlettering artist and an entrepreneur, is another hero of mine. His work ethic and the quality of content he puts out are simply beyond comparison. I love to listen to his podcast when I’m feeling blah, and it gives me an instant motivation boost! A go-to resource for my creative business.

I also want to say my husband Dave inspires me to follow my passion and be the best person I can be. He’s been a freelance permaculture (a.k.a. ecological whole systems design) designer and educator for several years and demonstrates ways of living that are wholesome and intentional.

yuko miki

What’s your biggest creative struggle and how are you coping with it?

My biggest struggle right now is to focus on one thing. I think most creative people struggle with this because we’re interested in multiple things and can do many thing really well! Since I quit my day job, I’ve been trying to do everything I want to do (e.g. selling products, doing commission work, blogging, and starting a creative coaching practice!) and hoping something will stick. While it may not be the worst approach ever, I’m realizing that I need to really focus on growing one aspects of my business first before starting a new venture. It’s scary to have to pick just one thing to focus! But I’m hearing that message over and over, and I’m finally listening to it.

I’m coping with it by giving myself some time and grace. For better or for worse, I’m a cautious person and don’t like to act without a plan, so I’ve been spending some time thinking about what it means and figuring out the next steps for my business.

What’s your # 1 tip about everyday creativity?

I think it helps a lot when you have a clear purpose and know why it’s important for you to have a daily creative practice. Ask yourself how a daily creative practice will help you achieve your big goal. Is it to become a better artist? Is it so that you can quit your day job and become a full-time artist some day? How does creativity make your life and lives of other people better? Your daily practice becomes a lot more engaging when you understand how it’s helping you achieve your long-term goal.

What are you working on next?

As I mentioned above, I’m currently working on recalibrating my business strategies to create a clearer focus. With that said, I have a multiple teaching opportunities coming up in the spring both online and locally in Seattle, which is very exciting! So, I’ll be working on planning and creating materials for them next!

Where can we find you online?

I’d love to hear from you!

You can find me:

Website: honeyberrystudios.com
Blog: honeyberrydiary.com
Instagram: @honeyberrystudios
Facebook: @honeyberrystudios
Twitter: @honeyberrystu
Email: yuko (at) honeyberrystudios.com

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