FRIDAY VIBES // Viva Vivetta!

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A lot of designers are talented and make beautiful clothes, but Vivì Ponti, the genius behind the label Vivetta, goes beyond that: she makes my soul sing! Her surrealistic clothing and accessories (those collars!) seem both classic, with their clear Schiaparelli-esque style notes, and entirely modern. I mean, have you really ever seen anything like these pieces? Vivetta is fresh, dreamy, and completely inspiring. I. AM. OBSESSED!

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Are you a Vivetta fan?

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FRIDAY VIBES // You're a Grand Old Flag

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Happy Fourth of July Weekend! It's a big one for our family because both my dad and his dad were born on the 4th. It's pretty much as big as Christmas for us. I'm really looking forward to celebrating them, cooking out, and just having some relaxed family time. It will also be a big weekend for fashion, as stars & stripes are having an even bigger moment than usual as of late. I absolutely love this motif both for its graphic nature and glam rock vibes. It's classic but also feels a little bit rebellious, don't you think?

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Will you be sporting stars and stripes this weekend?

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FRIDAY VIBES // Keep Swimming

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I have a very draining creative cycle. It basically involves having big events and deadlines, like Sunday's runway show for Alternative Fashion Week, and working kind of obsessively for weeks, not sleeping nearly enough, you get the drill. Then the event or deadline passes and I'm in massive recovery mode for a couple of weeks, needing to catch up on rest and all the self-care that I neglected the weeks before, until the next big event or project is on the calendar and it's back to the cycle. While I have definitely been resting up this week, I'm trying not to fall too deep into recovery mode. I instead feel like I just need more structure and balance at all times, looming deadline or not. This is the constant creative struggle for me.

I love these swimming images because they're basically how my mind feels right now. Or, I suppose, how I aspire for my mind to feel. I've never been much into swimming myself, but I love how swimmers seem to have this perfect balance of zen mindlessness and focused purpose, kind of like meditation. The repetition of motion and pattern in these images is speaking to my quest for routine while the overall vibe is reminding me not to obsess or shut down, but to patiently and continuously keep pushing into the next phase. Just keep swimming.

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Happy weekend!

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Weekly Roundup 17/52

Happy midweek, friends! It's officially T minus 2 days until the weekend so hang in there! In the meantime, maybe these links can help to get you through.

1  I LOVED the rainbow dripping candles at the Rosie Assoulin FW16, but I never even thought of recreating the look myself as a centerpiece. Good thing Ashley came through with this brilliant DIY. (Sugar & Cloth)  |  2  Anyone else take their earrings off all over the place? I'm thinking this cute brass pyramid earring holder could be a good office solution to help reign in the never-ending pile that accumulates on my desk. (A Beautiful Mess)

 

3  I always love these hand-written posts by Adam J. Kurtz, and this one about conquering the common creative fears is especially on point. (Design Sponge)  |  4  This IG account features an anonymous Londoner snapping pics as Where's Waldo at nostalgic landmarks. Aside from being hilarious that this is someone's real life, the pictures are actually really beautiful. (HonestlyWTF)

 

5  I love a good behind-the-scenes, and this interview with celebrity designer Naeem Khan, backstage at his Spring 2017 bridal show, doesn't disappoint. All the intricate details and dreamy colors- it's really just breath-taking. You'll have to click through for the video, but I promise you won't regret it.

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Looking for a few more?

How cool are these beaded celebrity pins?!

Purple cacti + a Prince tribute = a post I can get behind.

You can now buy and live in Michaelangelo's old home.

Feeling lucky? Why not enter this Clay Mask giveaway from Hello Neverland or this Elizabeth Suzann giveaway from Lily Schlosser?

This one's kind of random, but I think these tooth fairy pillows are too adorable not to share.

I've been seeing this wolf print shirt everywhere and I'm in love.

 

What links are your favorites this week?

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STUDIO DAYS // The Beginning Stages of HOWL

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One of the hardest things about being a "creative" is that it can be a real challenge to wrap up for other people that age-old small talk go-to, "What do you do?" Sometimes I think you could ask my closest family and friends what I do all day and many of them wouldn't exactly know. I wear a lot of strange design "hats" and I'm not always the best about sharing the finer details of that with the world. Maybe it's classic middle child syndrome or something, but attention or praise is just about the last thing I even think of when I'm working on a project. It was pointed out to me recently that because of this, I don't really share enough of my creative work and that it possibly holds me back in progressing my career. This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. I often feel like the act of blogging alone is so self-focused that saying, "Hey guys, look at this other stuff, too!" is a little bit of overkill, but according to my friend (and every biz post ever written) this opinion is pretty off base.

Anyway, that is the long-winded backstory on this new post series. The short version: I'm hoping to start chronicling and sharing more of my projects here on the blog. My life lately has been pretty consumed with launching a clothing/accessories brand with my design partner, Shiree Houf. The brand, HOWL, is a combination of our last names. We just created a Facebook page and Instagram account about one minute ago (literally), so if you want to be among the first likes and follows, please hop on over! We have been very busy working on our first full collection for Alternative Fashion Week here in Columbus.

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These are some very preliminary sketches. They've changed A LOT since this picture was taken, but I don't want to give away too much of our final designs. ;)

 

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I've been a part of Alternative Fashion Week before as a band stylist and blogger. Those pics above, taken by Meghan Ralston, are of local bands, Trachete and The Salty Caramels. I LOVE styling shoots, especially with bands because they always have such cool personal style, but I've never actually shows a full fashion collection as a designer before, so that makes this year even more exciting for me.

 

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In an attempt to not let a little thing like an out-of-reach budget hold us back, we ran a fundraising campaign selling handmade friendship bracelets and, because our friends and family are obviously incredible, we reached our goal! We actually met it on my birthday, so that was extra special. The materials list is pretty endless (think zippers, snaps, linings, garment bags, shoes, etc.) so these bad boys are still on sale for anyone interested. Donations of $10 come with a friendly rope bracelet, while $25 gets you a mix-and-match set of three.

 

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Now that you've heard my official Shark Tank investment pitch, let me tell you about our collection! There are several points of inspiration: Star Wars, the 70s, athletic wear, chunky woven textures. It's got a lot going on, but there is one thing that every single piece has in spades and that's COLOR!! We are using a rainbow-inspired color scheme. The specific goal was to have a rainbow that was a little bit "off." Colors that are non-traditional to the good ole' ROY G. BIV, like salmon and mint, are what really make the color palette exciting to me.

 

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We've been doing a lot of hand-crafted textiles, like the picture above. It's a black quilted "vegan" leather that we cut into strips and sewn into tubes, which we then used those to create our own woven textile. For now you'll have to use your imagination on what this will become, but I think the woven pieces are turning out so cool! They make me really excited to see everything in it's final stage.

 

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We have a lot of white and denim pieces, but each look, even a classic flowing white shirt dress has a pop of color with a row of rainbow buttons. These buttons we actually made ourselves (and by these I mean several hundred of these) with a button tool because the only rainbow sets we found were the standard spectrum and, like I said, we're pretty committed to those "off" colors.

 

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We have made a lot of fringe. We looked into buying fringe at first, but decided instead to make it out of white cotton denim and dye it an assortment of colors. In retrospect this idea might possibly have been crazy (I won't be starting a fringe-making club anytime soon), but I do love how the colors came out and I'm really excited for the fringed garments.

 

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Thanks to the help of some friends, we were able to put together a little impromptu promo shoot. Our model, Madison Wilz, and photographer, Laurel Harvey, both deserve trophies because they helped squeeze this shoot into the narrowest of scheduling slots. Luckily, they're both total pros, so as much as we were flying by the seat of our pants that afternoon, I think the pictures turned out so good! If you're in the South/Central Ohio area and are looking for a great photographer, Laurel is really talented and working with her was wonderful. Our model, Madison, is actually my future sister-in-law and she'll be walking in our runway show, too. Isn't she the cutest? :)

 

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The show is June 12th so the next weeks are going to be pretty intense. We've got a lot of Alternative Fashion Week-related events coming up, including model fittings, an event called Couture Cuisine, where chefs will create dishes inspired by some of the designers' past looks, a Gallery Hop Pop-up Shop, where we'll be selling some of our jewelry and accessories, and filming our designer interview videos, which will be played before our runway show.

 

Now the real question is, when in the world am I going to have time to get my ridiculous roots done?! For real though, I'm thinking about kicking my platinum up a notch to icy white, almost gray, like this gorgeous 'do. Please live up to your reader's civic duty and place your hair vote in the comments. ;) I can't wait to share more of the process and eventually the final product with you!

 

What do you think of the new blog series? Do you ever have a hard time taking credit for your work?

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3 Ways to Face Fears and Start Living Your Dreams

Last week my sister, Brooke, used her super-human wizarding skills to win free tickets to see X Ambassadors. (Seriously, you guys, she wins concert tickets all the time. It's a pretty weird and awesome skill.) Lucky for me, I got to reap the benefits of her dark magic and tag along. While I was watching the concert, I was so inspired by the performances that I just had to share.

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The opening act was Seinabo Sey and she killed it. If you are unfamiliar with her, I totally recommend checking out this video. She's got pipes like Adele but paired with an edgier sound. What really struck me about her was her unapologetically simple performance. She wore a long dark coat that essentially hid her entire body and literally just stood and sang. No dance moves or glittery crop tops or fancy light shows. She was just like I wrote these songs and I'm going to sing the daylights out of them and you're welcome.

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Then X Ambassadors came out and gave an equally strong, yet totally different performance. The lead singer was throwing guitars and dancing all over the place and just overall had amazing stage presence. It also added to the inspiration factor that so many of their songs are about self-acceptance and defying odds. (I mean, I know you've heard Renegade 1000 times on the Jeep commercial, but have you seen the video? So inspiring.)

So anyway, I was standing there admiring how brave both of these performances were and I thought how cool it must be to be that fearless. But these people are human. I can almost guarantee that they are not 100% fearless. The difference is that they are just owning who they are and giving it their all regardless of fears. I myself have to face fears that come along with my creative career all of the time so I wanted to share some of my methods on how I deal when I'm feeling less than courageous. Hopefully these tips might help you embrace your courage if you've been feeling stuck in fear.


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1  Change Your Perspective on Fear and Failure

First off, not all fear needs to be tackled. Fear, especially in the form of an aversion to, say, alligator wrestling, is practical and keeps you safe. However, if you start to notice that you are being held back from life accomplishments because you fear things like looking foolish, being rejected, etc., then fear has become a problem. The good news is that it doesn't need to remain a problem. If you embrace fear as a challenge to conquer rather than an omen of doom, it can become a great motivator. Yes, this is easier said than done, but a simple trick is to pay attention to your language. Instead of saying, "I'm too nervous" or "I'm so scared," re-frame it in your mind as, "I'm so excited." If these phrases just made you immediately picture a caffeine-pill-induced Jessie Spano freak out, that actually works to my point. The reason "I'm so excited" can turn into "I'm so scared" is because the feelings are basically exactly the same. You have the power to control whether they take on a positive or negative tone.

While we're talking perspective, it's important to look at one's views on failure. This is a hard one for me and I've often put off starting tasks or following up on ideas because I'm not ready. Read: Everything is not perfect yet. If you are in a creative field, this simple mistake can be a career crusher because- spoiler alert- your work will likely never be perfect and it definitely won't be in the beginning. You know the saying: Strive for progress, not perfection. This video on storytelling from Ira Glass was a game-changer for me in this department.

I have had a tough time with both of these thoughts in my creative career when it comes to having a public presence. If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I'm extremely uncomfortable both with having my picture taken and public speaking. I have tried all the methods for getting better at both of these things (I even studied Communications for years), but I finally just had to face some facts: I am never going to be a perfect spokesperson. I have many talents and these two things are just not included in that list, and that needed to be okay. By accepting my shortcomings in these areas, I am freed from stress of perfection. It means those fears don't have to win. When an opportunity comes along to be on a news program or have photos taken for an editorial, I could easily say no because these things make me nervous. Instead, I have to choose to do my best, awkward and flawed as that may be, for the benefit of gaining exposure and furthering my career.

 


2  Find Your Guides

I can not say enough about the importance and value of mentors, especially when you are embarking in a more creative field, where the path may not be so clear. If you struggle with asking for help or advice, something that works for me is to realize how flattering it is to be on the receiving end of such favors. Imagine someone coming to you for guidance because they admire you as an expert in your field. It feels great, right? Keep in mind that your reaching out to a mentor might be a major boost in their day.

Secondly, find different mentors for different needs. For instance, my dad is an entrepreneur and has a life-long networking list so he's always a big help whenever I have a broad idea and need to know who to talk to or what the next step should be. I also have a few business-savvy Type A friends who are great to turn to when I need very specific guidance, such as send out X amount of networking emails this week to reach your X% desired growth rate. And then of course I have a few blogger and designer mentors that I admire to help guide and inspire me in areas that most people wouldn't be able to relate. As you can imagine, if I went to my dad for design help and my artist friend for business help, there's a chance I'm not going to get the optimal advice. It's important to know where to look for specific mentorship in order to maximize your results.

If you're like, "Okay, that all sounds good but how the heck do I even find a mentor?," this article has some great resources on getting started.

 


3  Get the Ball Rolling

There is an Elizabeth Gilbert quote that says, "All procrastination is fear." I realize that you are not shivering with fear in your bed at night because of that email you keep "forgetting" to send, but somewhere inside you, there is an apprehension. Are you afraid of getting back a rejection email? Are you worried that the recipient will think your request is ridiculous? Are you maybe just lacking the self-confidence to believe it could be well-received? Whatever the reason, it's important to do a little soul searching and get to the root of the problem if you are looking for permanent change.

That part is tricky, but the good news is that once you've addressed your fears, the act of conquering them is much simpler: you just have to do it. Simple, yes. Easy? Maybe not as much. You can make the job of tackling goals easier on yourself by breaking them into smaller, more doable chunks. For instance, if your dreams list includes, "start a blog," break it down into smaller goals like, "meet with a blogger friend for advice," or, "choose a blogging platform." The cool part about this is that once you start checking off manageable tasks, your confidence in your abilities will snowball, making it easier to face the bigger, scarier tasks on the list. From there, it's simply lather, rinse, repeat until you are clicking publish on your first post!


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(PS- If you like this little doodle, make sure you're following me on Instagram, where I share more of my creative work. Send me a message and I'll make sure to follow back. :) )

 

Do you have any fears that are holding you back? Do you think these methods work?

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Help! Implementing Structure to Promote Creativity

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Today's post is not one where I'm going to offer tips and advice, but more of an open debate on an issue I really struggle with- that is, how much structure should exist in the creative process?

There's a rather romantic notion that artists live a life free of rules, deadlines, and to-do lists. Or that a truly creative mind will only be hindered by such structure. To a certain degree, I believe this. I always have my best ideas when I can be my most open.

The things is, I don't actually know anyone that has financial success without the rigidity of scheduling, budgets, etc. In fact, many, if not all, creative professionals stick to an extremely regular routine, claiming it's the only way they would ever make tangible strides in their work. The routine seems to be the distinguishing factor between a creative person and a creative professional.

And yet, even though this is really my one and only goal in life- to create a sustainable creative career- I still find it absolutely dreadful to work within the confines of a routine. My day job, my writing, my housework- I am fine with having structure in all of these areas. Tasks to complete, time in which to complete them, etc. For the most part, I've got that down. But when it comes to creating art, it's a different story. If I tell myself I will draw/paint/sew whatever for one hour, or even 15 minutes, every day, I suddenly feel suffocated by the whole process. Does anyone relate to this?

I am told maintaining the continued repetition, and even the misery that may come from it, is where the magic starts to happen. That finding that certain song or tea or whatever it is that gets your brain into the zone is key to controlling the tap on your creative faucet, so to speak. My question is how do I get to that place when every time I add parameters in the form of regular timed intervals, I find myself staring at a pad of paper and wanting to bang my head against a wall?

This is going to be a continued focus of mine over the next several weeks on this blog. I set my word of intention for 2016 as "NOW." As in quit thinking about the plans, the process, the details, and just start moving your hands. Just make. Just do. Now. And I think now is precisely the time I need to conquer this mundane beast once and for all.

So, dear reader, I am kindly requesting your suggestions as to how to successfully implement routine into your creative work. Do you have a daily work routine? Have you ever struggled in this way? Did you have a moment where it all clicked? Is there anything specific that has worked for you? Any comments/suggestions/shared pain are welcome and appreciated. I promise to share any enlightenment I may find on this not-yet-successful-but-determined journey in future posts.

 

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An Introvert's Guide to Networking: Three Ways to Expand Your Personal Team

As a blogger and designer, I'm very comfortable working alone, but that's not generally how my best work, or even my best ideas, come about. That's why it can be especially important to push myself outside of the happy hermit walls that surround my comfort zone to reach out to other creatives for networking and collaborations.

If these things don't exactly come naturally to you, I hear you. Networking can feel forced, awkward, and uncomfortable. And it's something on which I'm constantly working and trying to improve. That's why I'm sharing these tips that, as an introvert, I've found especially helpful for whenever you are trying to make connections and expand your creative team.

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Think Outside of Yourself

When networking, the thought process often revolves around filling a personal need and bringing more people into your squad. However, if want to expand your reach, you may want to consider the opposite perspective and look to join someone else's team instead. If you can check your creative ego at the door, you will likely gain new ideas, new methods, and new connections that you never would have otherwise. The ego isolates, but humility connects.

Similarly, thinking outside of yourself can help to ease nerves. When my nephew was nervous about starting kindergarten and having to make friends at a new school, my mom gave him some great advice that stuck with me. She told him to look for someone else that seemed nervous and focus on being nice to them and helping them feel better. That same advice can be applied to adulthood nerves as well. If you've been wanting to pitch an idea to an editor or reach out to someone you admire about collaborating, don't focus on your own nerves or perceived inadequacies. Think about the potential value you can offer to them. Instead of asking for a favor, outline what you can bring to the table and how you can make their life easier. Consider the notion that you might be exactly what they're looking for to fill a need.

 

Watch for Bright Eyes

Having talent is great but collaborating with other talented people is even better. Invest your time into finding and hanging out with people whose talents, interests, and goals are in line with your own. They will not only be able to help you when you need inspiration and advice, but will hopefully motivate you to push harder and go further than you would solo.

Furthermore, you know that thing that you're so passionate about? If you see someone else talk about it with the same fire in their eyes, invest your time into this person. Sharing a vision and drive regarding the same topic is a rare bond that should be held onto tightly. If you aren't sure where to connect with others of similar interests, consider online groups, blogger meetups, creative courses and other places that driven and brilliant people like yourself will likely be. And never underestimate the power of volunteering. Some of my most valuable connections have been made through volunteering for someone I admire and giving it my all. It gives them a chance to see your eyes get bright about their work and solidifies you as a strong asset to the team.

 

Find Your Yang

Keep an open mind when it comes to connecting with different types of people because it is oftentimes a personality that is opposite to your own that will make for a very productive pairing. If you're a visionary, team up with a practical doer. If you prefer to work behind-the-scenes, team up with someone outgoing with PR savvy.

Take advantage of what you can learn from someone who works differently than you. It may take effort to understand different communication and work styles, but it will pay off in the end. And similarly, try to bring your own unique vision and experiences to the partnership. Whatever makes you "weird" is often one of your most valuable qualities. Cookie-cutter people seldom change the world.

 

Do you have any tips for growing your personal network? Let's talk making connections in the comments!

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FWS Book Report | August 2015

Do you all love reading as much as I do? This monthly series is quickly becoming one of my favorites because it has really put the pressure on me (the good kind of pressure) to reignite one of my favorite past-times. I tried to pick a variety this month: one "think piece," if you will, one total guilty pleasure, and one non-fiction for work/life progress. Overall, it was a great mix and for the most part my expectations were completely surpassed. I really love it when that happens. :)

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I felt like a read a lot this month but in reality I just read this book very slowly. Not because it was boring or hard to get through, but because I was just really savoring it. I hadn't read anything by Ishiguro before (like his award-winning novel, The Remains of the Day), but I'm now a devoted fan. I loved his use of imagery, every scene felt atmospheric, and thought he portrayed the complications of lifelong friendship really beautifully. The story centers around Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, students at an exclusive (and very mysterious) English boarding school, as they try to uncover the intricacies of their fates. Overall, I found it hauntingly beautiful and can't wait to read more from Ishiguro.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

You've likely already seen or read this New York Times Bestseller, which has floated around the blogosphere a lot in the past year. The cynic in me really didn't want to love a book that was found in the "Teen Romance" section of the library, but the truth is, I really did love it. I couldn't help it. It's a story of two misfit teenagers in the 80s (bonus points) who bond over reading The Watchmen (bonus) and listening to bands like the Smiths (bonus). So I admit I was pretty much sold from the get go, but what really got me was the way they spoke to each other and their many memorable lines as they tried to describe their overflowing teenage emotions. Just check out this Pinterest search and you'll see what I mean. Like I said, I went into it skeptical, but I read it in three days so what that says about my tastes, well I'll let you decide that. Overall, I thought it was just a very endearing and incredibly entertaining read.

The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine

This book is almost a decade old, but I had seen it on some "must read" list for creatives, so I decided to check it out. It some ways I was disappointed, but I think that's just because I'd already gone through all of the soul-searching, purpose-finding angst for way longer than is typically recommended and finally feel that I'm mostly through that tunnel. Now, had I read this book back when I was on my 7th major at my 3rd college and could not for the life of me settle on one path, I think it would have been life-changing. While reading, I really took the time to go through the exercises and did find that they provided a little more clarity on my passions and life path. It kind of shed some new light on how to think about things, particularly in how to explain "what you do" when you're a little bit scattered (totally related to that). Overall, although this book wasn't life-changing for me now, I think it really could be for someone at the right time in their life.

Have you read any of these books? I'm dying to hear your thoughts on these and any books you've been loving lately!

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Weekend Reading Vol. 13

In case you're looking for an excuse to curl up and relax for a bit, I've got you covered with my favorite links from this past week...

1  September = fashion = happiness. Get yourself ready with these 10 "up-and-comer" collections to look for at NYFW. (The Zoe Report)  |  2  I always love Justina Blakeney's designs and this kitchen is no exception- just... wow. (The Jungalow)

 

3  I would never have thought to make a DIY terrarium side table, but this is definitely intriguing... (A Beautiful Mess)  |  4  I thought this look at the evolution of magazine covers was so interesting and well-done. (Medium)

 

5  I'm loving this new video series, The Outlanders. I mean, if this doesn't epitomize "living the dream," I don't know what does. (The Design Files)

 

Plus, a few more gems...

Loving these gorgeous clutches.

And these art teacher necklaces.

The big Instagram news, in case you missed it.

Speaking of Instagram, such a cute post. What's one thing you REALLY want?

Have you heard about Goodwill's high-end boutiques?!

Love this chair that knows it's real purpose.

Dyyyying for this notebook. Sign me up!

 

What links did you love this week?

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Friday 5: Top 5 Products Changing my Life Right Now

There's nothing quite like finding that perfect product. The one that makes your whole life run smoother. The one that you want to tell everyone about. Sharing is caring, right?

Here are five killer products that I'm loving this summer.

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1  Laura Geller Bright-N-Balance Baked FoundationYou guys, I do not have the naturally flawless, gorgeous skin of my dreams. Mine can actually be pretty problematic, from uneven tone to way-too-regular breakouts. But ever since I started using this powder foundation, I get compliments on my skin all the time. I usually wear it as a powder over my foundation, but it's also great as a stand-alone base, which is perfect in a hurry. This is a total face game-changer.

2  IKEA Mala Paintbrush SetThis brush set is from the children's section at IKEA, but it stands up to some serious art, too. I love these brushes for watercolors and the shorter, wider handles make them a perfect (read: sturdy) choice for easy script hand-lettering. But the real kicker here is the price- $1.49 for a set of six! Amazing!

3  Juice Plus+ Orchard and Garden Blend CapsulesI really can't say enough great things about Juice Plus+ supplements and all the positive health changes I've noticed since I started taking them. I have more energy, less brain fog, and have been less susceptible to getting sick. Also (bonus), my hair and nails grow at lightning speed. I'm hoping to add the Vineyard Blend to my daily dose soon for an added antioxidant boost!

4  ShazamI know, I know. You're like "Welcome to the early 2000s, Ashley." Shazam is definitely not a "new" life-changing product, but lately it's been a major facet in my playlist game. You know how you're always out and you hear some great song you haven't heard in a while and you think "I need to put this on my playlist," but then you go home and just forget all about it? Well, lately, anytime I'm otherwise busy but I hear a song I love, I just Shazam it. Like I'm bookmarking it. And then about once a week, I go through the songs I've tagged and add them to my playlist. This is probably not as useful or brilliant as I'm making it out to be, but it's a method that is totally working for me right now. (PS you can check out my slammin' work mix here.)

5  Victoria's Secret Bra ExtendersI was apparently leading an ill-fitted life under a rock somewhere, because I didn't know these existed until recently. If you haven't ever tried a bra extender, hear me when I say this: these will change your life. They come in a four pack and work with practically any bra you can think of to add a little extra length to the band. My habit of avoiding fitting rooms had left me with a drawer full of pretty bras that were almost the perfect fit, so this $16 wonder pack literally multiplied my options! I'm obsessed.

Now it's your turn! What products are you crazy about right now?

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Tips for Effectively Using Social Media to Build your Brand's Following (with a Free Printable Guide!)

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I have something to confess: social media is something of a chore to me. I like it all in general terms, but in the blogging world, where a constant and consistent presence on social media is required, I often have a hard time keeping up. I'll be very into it one day and then the introvert in me (and I'm assuming many of you fellow bloggers/makers) wants to take a day or two off to recharge, free of constant updates and statuses.

But that, my friends, is not the way to internet success. As much as I'd love to tell you numbers don't matter, it's simply not true if you are trying to create a sustainable income. Yes, you want to focus on creating content you believe in, but at the end of the day, if your numbers are really low, that valuable content that you spent hours on won't even reach your niche audience- and those are the people who are dying to read it!

So what's an introverted blogger do? Well, if you're anything like me (meaning social media doesn't really come naturally to you), I think it's best to start with a plan. I've scoured the web and put together some of my favorite tips to help my audience (and yours) continue to grow.

 

Facebook

1. Don't neglect Facebook. I know that some bloggers forgo Facebook altogether, choosing instead to focus all of their attention on Twitter or Instagram. In my opinion, that's a mistake. There are 1.44 billion users on Facebook which means it can likely be your highest click-through referral source. it's also a great avenue for sharing posts, crowd sourcing, and joining niche groups to help bring new readers to your site.

2. Do get a separate page. It's really important to have a Facebook page for your blog or business that is not your personal account. Doing so helps people remember your brand name and become familiar with your content.

3. Vary your posts. If all you do is share links to your own blog posts (guilty of this one), people will lose interest. Behind-the-scenes snippets, funny anecdotes, and additional pictures or videos will give people reason to continuously look to your page for interesting content. Sharing quality posts from other sites/bloggers doesn't hurt either.

 

Twitter

1. Get real-real. Twitter is really fast-paced and interactive, making it the perfect place to be a little more opinionated and unfiltered. Keep in mind that you are always promoting your brand, so you don't want to push the envelope too far For me, this means avoiding anything overly negative and staying generally PG-rated, but to each brand their own. Just know yours and stick with it.

2. Utilize the hashtag. Sometimes using hashtags feels a little slimy to me, but the truth is they're necessary. They are basically free marketing, allowing people interested in your topic to find your content. Check the trending topics of the day and if one fits your content or your brand, make sure to use it. Hashtag wisely, though. Not all tweets need them and nothing turns me away from content faster than taking advantage of a trending hashtag when it doesn't even apply to the tweet.

3. Take part in Twitter chats. This is a very new area for me, but live Twitter chats are a great way to meet people in your niche. I recently took part in the #fireworkpeople chat (Tuesdays, 9 pm EST) and it was so energizing and motivational for me. I also really feel like I've already met new friends, a claim I've heard over and over from bloggers that is proving true.

 

Instagram

1. Curate your account. If you are promoting a blog or business on Instagram, it's important that all your posts reflect your brand. Choosing a general vibe and sticking with a cohesive color scheme are great ways to make your brand instantly recognizable. It's easy to go through your account and edit out any images that don't add to your brand. If you are really having trouble in this area, you might want to consider a personal account that is separate from your brand.

2. Post often. As far likes and comments on images, general interaction on Instagram holds up pretty consistently throughout the day. Videos, however, are generally better received in the evening, when people are home from work, and Saturday and Sunday have the highest traffic and response rate overall. If you are anything like me and constantly forget to take photos, it can be helpful to set alarms at intervals throughout the day to stop and snap some pictures.

3. Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. Again, I cringe a little every time I add a hashtag to my pictures, but it does help get viewers to your content. According to Who What Wear, the magic number of hashtags is a whopping 11! More or less will garner lower results. My favorite way to use hashtags is to participate in Instagram challenges (this is a great list of hashtags to take part in). I will also be launching my own hashtag challenge in July, #fwsbeautychallenge, with prompts to encourage fun experimentation with your daily beauty routine. Please make sure you are subscribed to future posts if you want to take part! It's going to be fun! :)

 

Pinterest

1. Get personal. This one's pretty simple, but adding your name to your blog/business title can help make your brand memorable and relatable to pinners.

2. Get vertical. Large vertical pictures have a much higher pin rate than their smaller counterparts. For visual proof, skim through your feed and see which ones pop out to you and which ones go unnoticed. And while we're on the topic, picture quality when it comes to Pinterest is crucial. If you are a food/DIY blogger or sell products online, pinning beautiful (and vertical) images can make this outlet your top source of click-throughs and sales.

3. Get rich. Utilizing "rich pins," which display your website name and icon under the pin, help to direct pinners to the source- you and your brand! They also give a professional look that can help garner more likes, pins, and overall traffic.

 

Well, now that we've got the tips for optimizing social media, it's time to implement them into your daily routine! If you're like me and love a checklist, these downloadable Social Media daily schedulers will help you step up your social media game and start growing your brand!

Social-Media-Tips-to-Build-your-Brand-Printables

I've included a full-color and black and white version. These are based on my current social media goals and can serve as a good guideline, but in case you want to create a more personalized checklist, I've also included a blank printable where you can add in your own specific daily goals.

 

Click to Download:

Social Media Checklist (Full Color)

Social Media Checklist (B&W)

Social Media Checklist (Blank)

 

I'll be using these checklists myself and hope to increase my overall social media presence over the next couple of weeks.

Do you schedule your social media activity?

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Weekend Reading Vol. 3

 

I spend a lot of time on the internet, so I figured it's only polite to share my favorite links with you. Here are my top picks this week...

1  I love the idea behind this Instagram account, Subway Book Review, where strangers on the subway give personal summaries of what they're reading. (Instagram)  |  2  I've been daydreaming about this Cherry Mocha Smoothie ever since I saw the recipe. It sounds ah-maaaazing! (Hummusapien)

 

3  A gorgeous hand-written rainbow thank you card (and you can download it for yourself!) (Enjoy It by Elise Blaha Cripe)  |  4  I've been wanting to try rose gold hair for a while now and I think this subtle (and very non-committal) DIY may have just sealed the deal. (The Beauty Department)

 

5  Get out your note taking tools. This is some very essential advice for getting your perfect swimsuit body. (Miss Kris)

Isn't that a refreshing take on all the crazy body obsession going on this time of year? I love her.

 

And I love these...

This post is a great resource for bloggers.

Such a gorgeous jewelry collaboration.

The taco is here!

I REALLY want this and these.

Loved this BTS peek into Studio DIY.

Are you using all these iPhone tips and tricks?

I want to paint something exactly like this.

Fiiiiiine.... I'll eat this.

And my favorite look of the week.

 

What links are you loving? Let's chat in the comments!

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That New Blog Smell

If the last time you checked out Style On High was in May, you might be wondering what's going on with all these changes around here! I had a harder time than expected getting my Bloglovin' followers transferred to the new site, so for many of you this might ring very true as this is probably your first post from the newly updated Free Wills Studio. (If this is you, you might want to check out this post on the reasons behind the change.) But today we're strictly talking looks. I wanted this new space to feel cleaner, fresher, and more energized than the old site. This started with a more stripped down theme. I actually won a Blogzilla Studio theme giveaway from Fall For DIY a few months ago. I had been coveting one for the rebrand, so the surprise could not have come at a better time! For anyone in need of a modern web design, I would highly recommend one of the clean and modern designs from Blogzilla (I went with the Velvet theme). I can't tell you what a nice change it has been to be working with a pre-designed template this time around!

As far as colors, fonts, and other design elements, this mood board shows my direction.

Free-Wills-Studio-Blog-Design-Board

There are still several things I need to do, such as reorganizing all my old categories, adding my about page, and updating the sidebar. I plan to have all these things done by the end of the month, so bear with me. But in the meantime, I'm very happy with the update, especially the new smaller, centered titles and clean social media buttons at the end of each post.

What do you all think of the new design? And more importantly, should I make the fonts bigger? Share your design ideas with me in the comments!

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