Barbie and me

One of the my Barbie weddings, August 1984 (note that Barbie herself is the maid of honor, not the bride)

When I was a kid, I don’t remember playing with dolls other than barbies. But oh man, I LOVED Barbies. Mind you, I was the oldest child, a product of divorce at a really young age with both parents remarrying pretty quickly and the first grandkid on my dads side. There was a lot of love from all of my aunts who had their first niece and the guilt of divorce/new parents PLUS I had 4 sets of grandparents from the age of 2 on, 3 sets for which I was the only grandkid for many years. Combine all of that with being born in the mid-late 1970’s and I’m pretty sure that all of the many gifts I received for at least 5 years were barbie related. I remember having a traveling case of Barbies with me at all times as a little kid. Although I think I enjoyed the accessories more than the dolls. Don’t get me wrong, I had piles and piles of the clothes, from my own time and an extensive vintage collection from all of my Aunts and was into them, but I liked having the Barbies do things, and I REALLY liked the props. I had the 1960’s Austin-Healy convertible that had belonged to my Aunts that I (oops) opted to cut the faux trunk open with an exacto knife and immediately depreciated it’s value. But hey, Barbie had a lot to do and a working trunk was necessary. As I also had the Corvette from my own era and I enjoyed how much more awesome Barbie looked tooling around in her vintage pink car, but the Corvette made me realize that I also really preferred the amenities of more modern times.

One of my favorites was the Barbie dream store, which I never knew any one else to have, but I had so much fun setting up a store and making the other Barbies work there. Side bar: One day I wrote numbers on each of my Barbies, high on the outer leg, with a permanent marker. This was how I organized them. I would tell Barbies 11, 18 and 22 that they would be models in the store today. And Barbie 8 would man the cash register and on and on. I somehow felt this process was much better than names. Where on earth did I get that idea???

I was lucky to also have many Barbie home items, including a few of the dream homes, the jacuzzi set, the bubbling spa, and many furniture items. I  remember the dream bed the most vividly as it was a canopy and the stars on the bedding glowed in the dark. But I never knew what to do with all the home stuff. Barbie is standing in the kitchen, Barbie is lying on the bed. Ugh, lame, Barbie wants to be out wearing her fabulous clothes and doing cool things. I did have Jem, her stage and all of her band mates, but I was really never into the rock star fantasy, so I didn’t play with that much, if ever. I of course had the horses, Dallas and Prancer, because of my mom, which I was also not into. I had a few Skippers and and Kens and Tracy and Todd, along with all the other side characters that all came to be in the 80’s but Barbie was always my main lady. And as she really had her mind set on work, aside from the occasional wedding or night out, all the others worked for her. It’s also hilarious to point out that thanks to a few photos that my grandmother had taken of one of the weddings in her garden, that Barbie was never the one getting married. She was always in the wedding, and often helped to plan them, but it was always Tracy and Todd getting married. I do remember being excited about all of the crazy, frothy outfits, like peaches and cream, the dream gown and a few others. But I never was into the “normal” clothes. From an early age, I declared that if you were going to take the time to dress up, you might as well go all the way, it was so not worth it to stick her in something less than extraordinary.

My very favorite Barbie thing ever was this fold up home & office that came about with the day to night Barbie in 1984. Day to Night Barbie was my most loved Barbie ever, btw. That whole executive by day and cozy apartment dweller by night was my idea of perfection! That fold up office and murphy bed things was so magical to me. I’m pretty sure I received my own Commodore 64 around this time, so Barbie and I would both spend hours typing away on our computers, tap tap tapping. I found the photo above to make sure you were aware of  the amazingnes in case you never saw one in person. On the other side of the wall was a murphy, a vanity and a bookshelf and was blue on pink I believe. The day to night Barbie was just as fabulous as her home and office. The idea was that she would wear her snazzy suit and then in the evening, turn her suit skirt inside out to reveal a tulle concoction, and you would remove the jacket and bam! all along there had been a sequined top under her scarf, Barbie was ready to party!

What I’m curious about was did I request all of these work related Barbie props, or was that just was out there in the 80’s? Did they play a part in influencing how and what I thought about as I grew up? Were the working Barbies and accessories store play sets the catalyst for future non kid having, work obsessed as an accessories designer Sierra? I truly believe that of all of the toys from my childhood, day to night Barbie had the biggest impact on me. It is absolutely what I remeber the most fondly. I thank whomever thought that I needed to have the department store and the home and office accessories way back in 1984. Maybe that really was what planted the seed? All I know was that 3 years later Baby Boom came out, I was 10 and remember thinking something like: “Forget babies, I want to be an executive with my own business, you can keep the crying kids. I’ll be over here with the cool job, my own computer and nice shoes. Suckas.” And I never looked back.


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Power Pose


Want an instant boost of confidence and power (like before an interview or public speaking)? Stand a super hero in the above pose for 5 minutes. There’s science behind this that you can read about here. But really, when I’m getting ready to write pitches, I do my best Wonder Woman impersonation…on really important days I wear the costume.

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One of the realities of being an artist/designer/maker is that in order to sell your work, you have to put yourself out there. In putting yourself out there, you have to be ready to face rejection. The more you put yourself out there, the more chances of selling your work but the more rejection you will have to face. It’s just the way it goes. I’ve discussed with many friends in similar businesses how when they pitch, how often do they never hear back, get rejected and sell and it seems we all have pretty similar experiences. The majority of the time, the process goes like this: you gather a list of stores, editors or whomever and spend a few hours emailing say 10 people (I am using this number for ease of math). Then you usually follow up 2 weeks later with anyone you did not hear back from. Typically you will get a reply from 1 or 2 of the emails over all. Most likely not a straight sale, but at least 1 really promising lead. Maybe 2 more “love it, but not right now” replies and the rest are rejections…almost always by lack of response. To receive 2 replies from 10 pitches within a few weeks of the 1st email seems to be a pretty great rate and what I hope for.

Recently, after a round of follow up emails which contained what I thought was a pretty tight and quick sentence and the original email below, I had responses unlike any other round of pitching. Within 2 hours, I heard back from over 25% of the list. I don’t think I’ve ever heard back from anyone that fast! 1 loved the jewelry, but the store was full, so she added me to her prospects list (this is a solid lead, I can now follow up again with new line sheets when I have a new collection coming out). 5 let me know that I was not a right fit, which is solid feedback, as I was pitching somewhat blindly around the country with only their websites to give me an idea of their style. And 1 gave me the email of the new buyer as she was no longer that person. Besides still being in shock over over how fast so many replies came in, I was also amazed that I was actually excited to get 5 rejection emails. So much of the time you just throw yourself out there and get nothing back, it felt kind of sweet that 5 people took the time to send a quick note letting me know that it was “not me, but them”.

I found myself thinking about how I would have viewed this situation over a decade ago when I first began Manic Trout. I probably would have felt discouraged, although I would have eventually shaken it off (obviously, as I’m still doing this years later). I would not have seen it as such a positive thing though. Now I look at the 5 emails where someone took the time to reply and thought, wow, at least they didn’t just ignore the email and move on. That’s great. I also took it as an indication that this round of follow up emails had a wording and tactic should be used again and maybe the day of the week and time sent were also good for catching shop owners at a time when they can sit down and actually read and reply to emails. All great pieces of information for the next round of follow-ups which I will be doing very soon.

Somewhat along these lines, this weekend I was chatting with a few girlfriends who own businesses and we were talking about there is really no such thing as a “big break”. You need to be constantly hustling, pushing, pitching and trying to get your product and brand out there. It will never end, but it doesn’t have to make you feel bad when you are rejected for trying something. I have been trying hard to get over the fear of approaching people I have no connection to. It’s more a desire to not annoy them than it is of rejection, but so often, I will hold back from reaching out. Understanding that I have something to offer them, that they need products to sell, pitch and use has been helpful in getting over this weird block. It’s also been bringing great opportunities to the table. Having a thick skin in business is essential for sure, but sometimes it takes time to toughen. It only toughens if you keep you trying and failing though. I will sign off the same why I started off, with wise words from Michael Jordan: “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.”

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DIY Planner Perfection

I cannot help myself, there are multiple calendars in there.
We all know I have an obsession with calendars, but for the most part my addiction to planners has been pretty minimal. Mostly because I just gave up on finding what I wanted, and I’d settle dfor what is available. Really I think this is the entire reason for being so into calendars…but maybe not. They may end up being two separate and intense loves. Last week I was chatting with Renee about the quest for the perfect planner and how I gave up. Renee on the other hand has been diligently searching and searching for years, and refuses to give up…I’m in awe of her perseverance. It made me have a burst of renewed desire to find perfection in planner form and I took to google. I came close with the planners by Emily Ley, but when I discovered that they sold out months in advance, I was over it. Then I started looking at printable pages on Etsy. Which led me back to google, which finally brought me to Scattered Squirrel. I ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time this week downloading and printing pages. Testing them out for a day or two, seeing if they worked for me or not. I stapled different pages back to back to see what order I liked everything in…I may have wasted a bit of paper. But then I began to get really excited. You see I don’t need an agenda style planner…mapping out times is not really what I’m looking for. Its more of the goal tracking/list making that I need to do. But I want to do so on daily/monthly and weekly levels and this just does seem impossible in a preprinted version. Most likely as it will get very large.

Two of the pages for days of the week.
As the week has progressed, I have been kept up at night about how I will keep all of this assembled. To test it out, I just stuck it all in a white ½” 3 ring binder. I use them all over the place in the studio, so I had one on hand. I however felt that I needed something bigger…and maybe with a bit more flair! I thought of having it bound, but decided against it as I think the best plan is to remove the daily pages at the end of each month, keeping only the week/month goals in there. This way, the size stays smaller, I can look back and see progress and if I don’t want to track a day (say a day off), I’m not wasting paper. I have also already eliminated pages that I had at first thought I’d use, but after a few days realized I would not. So I imagine that as time goes on, I will be removing or even adding things (there are so many different options to choose from!!!). But for now I am really excited about what I put together. But wait…it get’s better.

It’s very hard to photograph a glitter binder, so this photo is the product shot.
I ran into OfficeDepot to grab some ink earlier today and stopped in my tracks because: GLITTER!! Right on an end cap was a sparkly gold glitter 1″ 3 ring binder, with mint interior!! I gasped so loud, a sales associate heard me and chuckled. It’s perfect. (note: I only like glitter that does not shed and this is all contained in plastic, so it is safe glitter). I now have the perfect planner (until someone makes one that like more). Yay.


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Dueling Schedules

Adam & Sierra
A rare evening when neither one of us is working.

Being self employed and having my studio at home makes it so I can have a pretty flexible schedule, however the flexibility factor has been being put to the test recently and everything is failing. You see, Adam now has a schedule that is typical to restaurant management and is all over the place. Neither of us are functioning very well with it. It took Adam a month to be able to do anything besides sleep in the hours that he’s not at work and by trying to go along with when his routine, I was loosing my mind. You see, I love a good schedule. It helps keep my head clear and the blues away. Adam also like a good schedule, but he has no choice…I however do. Somedays he has to be at work at 7am, some days 4pm and some days in between. Some night he gets home as late as 3am. When he gets home, the dogs go crazy and jump on my head and bark and as Adam is all amped up from work, he adds to the chaos and I wake up and can’t go back to sleep. Being a night owl anyway, the obvious choice was for me to work until 1 or 2am, so I’m up when he gets home. The problem is that on the days his schedule is the opposite of this, we don’t see each other as he goes to bed by 11pm and I am still wide awake. Honestly, it’s better than when I was trying to mimic his schedule, as Adam loves naps, he was making up for lost sleep, I was however just working through the longer days and exhausting myself. Mimicing his crazy schedule is not the answer. So what we’re doing seems to be the best option at the moment for us though. It’s just hard to get used to.

Do you have the opposite schedule as your spouse? How do you deal with it? Any tips for making sure you still get in a bit of face time each day?

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Deep Thoughts From The Past Week


1. Feedback from people that get you and what you do is invaluable. I have had two interactions this week, one with a wholesale customer and one with a magazine editor who both inspired me to make two such obvious, right in front of my face design ideas come to life that I was shocked I hadn’t thought of them before. Sometimes you need that last little push that you get in talking with people who love what you do but are not close to the work.

2. When you are chomping at the bit for opportunities, emails and exciting things…nothing happens. But look forward to a quiet morning and watch out, all hell will break loose!

3. The Austin clothing label, Emily Hallman is closing its doors this month. While the exact reason has not yet been revealed, in a blog post this morning, Emily mentioned that she has had an overwhelming response to this announcement and then adds something to the effect of: where have you all been? There is a very important lesson to be learned here. Brands cannot exist on dreams alone. Money must be made to survive. The word needs to constantly spread to both reach new customers and keep the love alive among the current ones. If you are a fan of a small label, be it fashion, illustration, food…whatever…please keep this in mind when you are on social media. You don’t have to spend money to show support and help make the brand succeed. Simply “liking” their posts can really go a long way!

4. I am currently failing at email. My inbox is winning and yet, I don’t really care.

5. Chia Pudding. I am part intrigued, part annoyed at the hype around yet another “super food” (I get the same way about best selling books, I eventually give into it). Does anyone have a recipe they recommend?

6. This week I finished binge watching X Files, watched a few episodes of the new Orange Is The New Black, cried my way through season 1 of Chasing Life and started season 4 of Scandal. I will sum up my thoughts here with one sentence for each: Once Moulder left, I was over the X files. I really don’t give a crap about Alex and Piper and their relationship and wish less time was spent on it. Sob, sniffle, laugh, sob, ugly cry, smile though the tears. Why are we supposed to care so much about Olivia Pope and her affair with the president, does it interest anyone at this point???

7. If there is one square inch of mud in the back yard, Mora will find it and get it all over herself.

8. Mid July is oddly a very popular time for people I know in NYC to plan trips to visit Austin. I’m afraid to tell them the truth about the weather here then. Hint: it’s hot.

9. I am a much happier person when I work out everyday…even if it’s for 10 minutes.

10. The Entourage movie is great. Not really a deep thought, I just thought you should know that.

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The 5 best things about watching tv shows about work when you’re working


For years, I have accepted and encouraged my love of tv shows about work. As I talk about a lot, when I work on production in the studio, having a series on in the back ground is similar to having people in the studio and less distracting then if there are movies on, and for that reason it really makes sense that I like to watch shows about work while working. I of course branch out, but when I watched The L Word this winter, it was a bit awkward having basically porn on while I was making bling rings. Especially when Adam would walk in and forget what he was about to say because he was mesmerized by the girl on girl action I had on. Anyway…from House to The Office to West Wing to CSI: Miami to Mad Men to 30Rock to Ugly Betty, I am happiest when there are others working around me.

I’ll admit that even when I relax for an hour at the end of the night, I gravitate toward Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars and shows like The Next Food Network Star or Chopped. Although the last two don’t really make me want to work in the studio, but they do motivate cooking and as we tend to eat a lot of sandwiches around here, it’s pretty great when I actually do that. Which brings me to the best things about watching tv shows about work…

  1. Watching people work is motivating in a way. It’s comforting to have people working hard while I work hard. Makes it easier to work until 2 am when the people on the tv are working too.
  2. My favorite thing about art school was learning that its much more fun to help on someone else’s project than your own (I luckily have very creatively employed friends and still get to do this). Watching someone else work at something so far removed from what you do is similarly interesting…especially alongside witty conversation.
  3. Shows like The Office make me really happy that I do what I do and not what they do.
  4. You can miss stuff and it really won’t matter. Many of these show focus on one case or “problem” per week and if you miss half of an episode because you were trying to figure out where your moose charms went, it won’t really matter.
  5. It’s all about relate-ability. As my life revolves around work, it makes me feel better to watch shows about people whose life do the same. It’s soothing in a way…as in “ah yes, these are my people”.

The great news is that I know I am not the only one into work shows, there is a category on Netflix that is actually called “Witty Work Place Comedies” can I hear a hallelujah?


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Pursuing dreams and all that crap


I’ve come to the conclusion that I have watched reruns of Friends too many times. I’ll even go as far to admit that I have the entire series on DVD and have watched it a minimum of 6 times all the way through. As you can imagine, I therefore have the ability to almost always draw a parallel to something on the show with what is going on in my current life and quote it. I do this in my own head most of the time as I seem to not know many people who watched the show as much as I have in the last 5 years. Perhaps some things should not be admitted on the internet. At the moment, I am relating pretty hard to Monica and Chandler when he decided (for the last time) that he was not fulfilled as a data processor. So anyway, I like Monica work everyday doing exactly what I want to do and Adam, just like Chandler… not so much. As someone who is living their dream, its tough to not encourage those around me to pursue theirs as well. Watching the person I share my life with work to live and not feeling fulfilled at all has been discouraging, and I often wondered if it was something that secretly gnawed at him from deep inside (just like Chandler! ok last one, I promise).

A few weeks ago,  after a series of events happened that made the working to live aspect fail, we discussed a change. There was opportunity to walk away (slightly battered and bruised) and start over on a path to work that was fulfilling. As with most in this situation, there is only a vague notion of what path to take…but thats part of the battle…and the fun. The downside is that in order to go down this path, we need to downsize…which means moving and adjusting our lifestyle. Really only a downside though in that I am starting to pack for a move August 1st. Ugh.

Being as I’m one of those freaky people who knew from a very young age what I wanted to be when I grew up, and did it, I’ve always been intrigued by those who have no idea what they want to do. I actually think I may be more excited to watch this process than Adam is. Either way, it’s always fun to embark on a new adventure together and this one is already looking to be quite a ride.  If you had the chance to start over with what you do would you? I’ve read that people these days have up to 6 careers in their lives. Not jobs, careers!

Here’s to following your heart…Wish us luck (and we’ll take empty boxes if you have them).

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Dealing with ups and downs of self employment

Bowls all over the place in the studio = busy = good

It’s no secret that owning a business means dealing with the ebbs and flows, the mountains and valleys, the busy and slow, however you choose to define it. All businesses have their busy and slow times and really, everyone who works deals with this…well except data entry. In my mind, data entry produces a never ending stream of monotonous work, and I fear that. But anyway…no matter how calm I am about the ebbs and how seasoned I am to knowing they will pass, and using that time to get the the little stuff done…when the flow hits I get caught off guard. All of a sudden I wake up to a full inbox containing all sort of !! and with an abundance of demands that I’m not quite used to at the moment. Sorta like taking a nap and waking up to remember  that 20 people were coming to your house in an hour for a party and you totally had forgotten. You get up and as the sleep leaves your eyes, you start to get all…yeah thats what I’m talking about…party time!!! I realize I just admitted that I equate having a crazy amount of work to do as party time…but why fake it, we all know I feel that way.

What’s the point of this rambling on a Monday morning…well mainly I’m using it to stall dealing with all of the emails. Ok, I’m really waiting for my studio manager, Lauren to arrive so she can deal with them but whatever…apples and oranges. The point is that I’m having a “woah, I was totally in slow mode and not prepared for what this week is really going to be like” panic attack in a public place. One of those moments when you wonder if the internet is being put to good use…your call. Ok…deep breaths…yay for busy!!

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Keeping the momentum going

Manic Trout Critter Necklaces

I have found that in being self employed, I tend to take slow times personally.  The result of this is that when I’m not working on a big important project, I feel like a failure.  It sounds worse than is and is actually rather common among those of us who type of work comes in waves or seasons.  My goal has been to either always have new projects coming up or if that is not possible, to use the downtime productively instead of wallowing in self pity.

However, right now I am in the midst of a string of one big project after another combined with an average of 2 shows a week.  The projects are business, personal and philanthropic in nature and pretty varied but I’m still feeling exhausted right now.  I understand that I can’t go full throttle at all times, but am so afraid that if I loose the momentum, I won’t get it back for awhile.  Being busy and working on many projects effectively gets more projects going so I’m worried it will create a slump that I can’t afford to be in.

Does anyone else go though this or something similar with owning your own business?  How do you deal with the balance of full speed and rest, I would love to hear your thought!

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