19 September 2013

Spending time with loved ones

My grandmother, Sara Maria Cortés, back in the day
One of the things I don't often talk about on my blog is how I am not perfect. I talk about being a human, which implies imperfection, but I suppose there's always room to share a bit more, to allow oneself to be a tad more vunerable.

For some time now, I've been ill. I had big dreams of getting over it and being awesome all over the entire world, but then those dreams got dashed when I wasn't able to leave my bed for a while. Thankfully, I don't have to stay in bed unless I want to these days, so don't get too worried or anything. But that amount of time made me think about what I had to start prioritizing in my own life.

A lot of you know that I care-give for my grandmother, affectionately known as "Lita" (short for "Abuelita," the Spanish word for "Granny"). I've been doing so for the past 14 years. During that time I've learned an important lesson: spending time with loved ones is one of the greatest joys in life.

I can't remember a time where I didn't hang out with my grandmother. And now that it's harder for her to remember some times long ago, it's even more important that I try to help her out with that.

The other day, I was sitting with her in the kitchen having lunch. She sat at the table in her wheelchair drinking out of a cup, I sat on the floor drinking out of a pot (I hate doing dishes) and it hit me how I felt both very old, very young and ultimately privileged to be in that exact position. I felt old because only adorable little old ladies sit around drinking soup and chatting about the good ol' 1930s. I felt young because I could swear I used to sit on the floor when I was a kid while my grandmother cooked for her husband. And I felt privileged that I could be in that exact place so many years later.

Lita has been showing a lot of concern for me. She's a very selfless woman. She should be worried about how she's feeling, but often she'll ask how I am before she'll even try discussing where she's at that day. So we have our little back-and-forth routine. She used to ask me what I've been making (she may be my Cuteness Quality Control Expert, but she doesn't know my business name), but since I haven't been able to give her an update for a while, she's started asking how I've been feeling.

And lately I've been feeling rather useless. The only thing I can be bothered with these days is talking with her. Usually she wants to talk about the good ol' days, so we do that. As I'm a Mormon, I thought it might be helpful to try to record some of what we talk about. When I take down these stories in broken Spanish (until I eventually give in and start writing it all down in English) and read them back to her later on, she's able to smile, laugh and come up with more details. 

For both of us, some days are better than others. Sometimes she gets her stories a little mixed up, sometimes I'm too confused and not as patient, but most days we just have a good time. I often feel like when I'm putting all the info together, I'm some kind of time detective trying to get to the bottom of it all.

So - the question needs to be asked - why am I telling you about all of this?

Because, although I realise most of the people who were initially interested in what I had to say when they heard me speak at a conference or purchased one of my products, or signed up for my newsletter don't keep up with my blog (neither do I, so I guess we're even-Steven), I thought I owed an explanation for the hardcore audience who has stuck it out.

I don't have any upcoming shows. In fact, I haven't done a show in all of 2013. I'm not sure I will do any in 2014. I haven't updated my Etsy Shop in a while. And I'm not even sure I feel like working on it anymore. But I reserve the right to come back full swing when the health and the mood picks up.

Until then, rest assured, I'll be taking care of myself and my family. I will be spending time with the loved ones I had to neglect during those marathon all-nighters in 2010-2012. And I will be preparing for some LDS greatness in the near future (I'm currently prepping for the Temple). There's a lot of good things going on in Steph Cortés' life, but it's all a bit behind the scenes. Hopefully, I'll be able to fill you in a little more on how that's going as things go along.

In the meantime, so long and thanks for all the fish!


- Steph

15 July 2013

Sketching the insomnia away with Luchadores & pixels

On a particularly sleepless night, I decided to sketch something inspirational for myself in a journal I'd purchased last year to specifically be filled with adorable product ideas. Thankfully, I didn't disappoint myself when I started drawing one of my Luchador plushies.

This Hot Sauce Wrestler is bright teal and hot pink.
His colours kind of remind me of bubble gum wrappers. :)
[photo by Steph Cortés]

Although I've stitched up several Hot Sauce Wrestlers already, I haven't had the heart to finish them. "They're just so much cuter in my mind," I tell myself. "The masks could never look this awesome in real life."

I'm kind of a jerk to myself. Especially at night, right before I'm about to go to bed. You see, I was falling asleep when this train of "All the things I should be doing instead of sleeping" hit my pillow and woke me up. It's been happening a lot lately, so I've decided to try and channel it into making cute drawings.

AND NEW Cross-Stitch Kits! :D I've been working through some graph paper notebooks with my coloured pencils. You'll be happy to know that the coloured pencils are super cute, too. So I'm freakin' surrounded by cute while I'm drawing cuteness at 3:30 in the morning.

Proof of my work in progress... new Cross-Stitch Kit that says "thanks, dude!"
[photo by Steph Cortés]

When I showed my husband the mostly-done-prototype, he asked why anyone would ever wanna say, "Thanks, dude!" I rolled my eyes and said, "Well, I didn't have enough room to stitch in the miniature fist bump that goes with it."

That must be why I come up with this stuff in the middle of the night while he's asleep. ;)

Other patterns will include typewriters and crayons (of course). We hope to also sell the patterns online as well. We just have to make them effing perfect first. ;) In the meantime, peeps in Seattle will be able to get their first pick of the new patterns, as these new kits will be debuting at Ugly Baby & LaRu at the Pike's Place Market. 

The rest of us will get them later this month on Ye Olde Etsy Shoppe. ;D

17 June 2013

I forgot to tell you that I took a break...

Me (left) and my sister (right) colouring with crayons in our childhood backyard
I have a long-standing relationship with crayons. When I dubbed myself a "Life-Long Crayon Enthusiast" on my business cards, I wasn't kidding. So I started telling the world that I wanted to make an amigurumi crayon line, cos "Do what you love and love what you do," right? But I guess that telling the world what you love and showing them are two totally different things.

Showing them requires a lot of hard work, scary leaps of faith and hope for it all to turn out right.

Somewhere along the line, I seemed to run out of all those things.

In the past 4 years that I've been running nerd JERK, I'd like to think that I've been pretty transparent about how I've lived my life - creative and otherwise. I've taken big leaps of faith and you've all joined me for the ride. And I'm very grateful.

But most of 2013, you've all been waiting for me to come on back... to join you on this creative journey again.

There have been those folks who knew me when I was a power work horse. I'd stay up all day and all night for weeks, just to get things done for my creative business. I set HUGE goals and, much to my surprise, I MET THEM! I got to work with my freaking heroes! I got to give speeches and classes at successful universities and huge conferences. I was invited to travel around the United States and help people learn about this creative industry that I've always loved. I even got married with the help of my creative peers to the most creative guy in my life in front of all the folks who helped make it possible.

It's crazy-amazing how blessed I've been.

The walkway to my wedding reception, lit up by The Society of National Industry's amazing pyramid lights - photo by Stefanie Renee
So I really don't why it was that I just shut down at the end of 2012...

Everything seemed to be going my way. I was working with Rena Tom at Makeshift Society in San Francisco, helping her spread the news in every way that I could. To this day, I still rock the MSS calling cards and give them out to people I think would be interested in her vision and what it has to give to the world of creative dreamers, movers & shakers. I even pay the dues every month even though I haven't much in my bank account, nor have I been to the clubhouse in 6 months. I do this because when you believe in something, you support it as much as you possibly can. And even though I've been absent, I believe in Rena and her vision - I've seen MSS change lives. And it certainly changed mine.

After my work there was finished, I started concentrating on my other projects (of which there always seem to be so many). Then I suddenly stopped.

And it never occurred to me to ask myself why...

It occurred to me to feel a lot of shame about not doing more, not going out and seeking new partnerships and opportunities. So I tried to reach out and make more of those partnerships again at Craftcation in March this year. And with a minimal amount of effort, I had a butt-ton of new friends! I told people about new things and helped them with little hitches they kept hitting. I was amongst friends and I was enjoying myself.

In fact, I found myself in a whole new pool of amazing folks with even more new opportunities. There were even some people who referred to me as a "Craft-lebrity!"

And I was shocked. Cos how could I be considered a craft-celebrity if I'd been absent for the first quarter of the year?

I'll post this ultra-unflattering selfie to drive the point home
I guess the truth of it is that I just ran out of steam. I ran out. And I didn't know where to get more.

Since I ran out, I'm not where I want to be.And I only kinda have some sort of inkling of how to get back to that place where I'm helping people out and feeling fulfilled.

But, like I said earlier, it requires a lot of hard work, scary leaps of faith and hope for it all to turn out right.

Judging by how I nearly worked myself to death the last time I started from scratch (nerd JERK no longer means Mario, after all... and now I have to make crayons the next big thing) and I've lot a ton of momentum on this overwhelming pile of projects... what do I do to get back there? To regain the drive to even embark on the journey.

The truth?
I have no idea. But I think it started with posting those crayons. Maybe it starts with this post. Maybe showing how human I actually am helps me regain my faith... or just enough to make a few scary leaps.

I guess we'll have to see!

24 January 2013

Not the only JERK in town - Soda Jerk Dillon

Since it was his last shift, I made Dillon sign his comic.
I totally realise this was wholly unnecessary, but he was a good sport about it.
Sometimes (and I hesitate to admit this) it's hard being the only JERK in town. And by that, I mean that humans often refer to me as "nerd JERK" and not my given name.

So what a relief it was when I walked in and saw Dillon at The Ice Cream Bar and someone referred to my new buddy as a "Soda Jerk."

It was obvious I was among friends.

What made it even better is that when Dillon had met on my previous visit to this 1930s style handmade soda & ice cream establishment, I had let him know that I thought this place was so cool that I might wanna do a comic about it.

So with my pen & notebook in hand, I started into The Ice Cream Bar's one year anniversary celebration.

What I didn't know was that it was my new friend's last shift ever. :(

That was until he told me... Good thing I keep my word and thought to bring my comic stuff (and that was just a failing Micron 08 & a shitty Daiso notebook).

Had to fix his name, cos he was tooooo effing nice to correct me on my spelling.
Today my friend Loun and I had "the best damn root beer float in the world" (Dillon's words) and a scoop of PB Rocky Road. I was trying to draw his hat while watching it through the mirrors in the joint when I heard my name. He was calling us over to the bar.

We chatted about it being his last night (I'm not gonna lie - I was pretty brokenhearted about it since he was way cool). I had given him my card last time, and he mentioned that he'd gone onto my website. That was damn cool of him.

He even said he wanted to order my comics and mentioned telling the owner that she ought to commission a comic about their unique shop. I was touched - and truth is, I would do the comic either way, cos the place is rad.

Here's a little more about Dillon:

I was gonna change his name, but hey! It's my mistake, so it stays in its pure form.
All facts were fact-checked by the man in the comic.
We sat at the bar for a while, having our waters refilled and chatting with him between customers. He made some rather interesting drinks with tinctures and extracts - he even tasted them as he was making them, which really impressed me.

As I was inking his bowtie, we geeked out about Mario Kart 64. He even combed his phone's pictures to show us his customised controller. It was such a good time being the gang of nerds in the corner.

I wanted to invite him over to play N64 before he left town, but I ended up rationalizing against it for some reason. I mean, I'd only met him once before and he was taking off. He was probably busy and stuff.

I imagine he was like "Why are you asking me to take this picture?"
Well, I won't say that I'll never go back to The Ice Cream Bar, cos I was there last night and Alex made us a totally legit Pistachio Milkshake of DOOM with Wild Cherry Whipped Cream (YUMMMM!!).

But I will definitely miss Dillon. San Diego, you'd better know what you're in for: a whole lotta deliciousness from this Soda Jerk.

From one JERK to another:
Dillon - you had better send me your address. I owe you some comics. And if you're down, Loun and I would love to play some Mario Kart with you when you visit SF.

02 January 2013

Slightly Larger Glasses for 2013 - My Big Plans

Test Shot for my "Slightly Larger Glasses for 2013" vlog
Tests shots are great, cos they show you BBW bags in the background
So once again, the year has changed and we're starting anew, nerds!

But THIS YEAR, I'm starting pretty dang new by doing something really scary: letting go of something I'm known for and just putting MYSELF out there for the world to invest in.


The emotional baggage that came with moving onto selling only my original character designs and nerdtastic art has been unexpectedly roller coaster-like.

  • "Will they like it?"
    • "Sure, they'll like it."
  • "Will they buy it?"
    • "Sure, they'll buy it!"
  • "Will they want more?" 
  • "Will they lose interest?" 
  • "Will they hate what I'm truly designing from my insides?"
    • "...Ermmmmm???"

I'm sure that everyone has this negative self-talk as an entrepreneur. It's natural that when you do something kinda scary (like all the amigurumi plush you've become known for since 2005!), you start to let those scary feelings creep in. After all, it's the quirky neurosis that gives us our loveable charm!

But I just need to remember that I don't need to let those feelings take me over.

So, in the spirit of making SURE that I make good with all of my big promises, I did a couple of videos on New Year's Eve on 2012. 

This is the first of my promises to you:
I will always let you know what my plans are.

So now they we've gotten THAT out there, let's make sure our plans for the new year stick!

Here's to 2013, folks! Big plans, big hugs and big excitement!

Geek on,

- Steph
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