Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

The Design Elements of a Chicken. Illustration from “Introduction to Permaculture” by Bill Mollison.

I first learned about Permaculture when Andrew was living out west at Bohdi Creek Farm. And from the moment he started describing the things he was learning while living there, I knew it was something life-changing. Who knew that, what would turn out to be an unplanned three month stint for Andrew in the Pacific NW, would end up being so influential on our lives?

If you are unfamiliar with Permaculture, here is the general synopsis from Wikipedia:

Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Andrew and I have talked about the general principles of Permaculture before and know some aspects of it from his time out west and the modest amount of research we’ve done, but something I read recently was sort of an “ah-ha” moment for me. It made things clear as to why the whole idea of Permaculture really speaks to me, and it’s basically this: Permaculture is design. (more…)

Photograph  by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tyrrenian Sea, Amalfi 1990

Lately I’ve been floating. Figuratively, not literally. I felt afloat in a sea of familiar things that I sort of watched go by. They would come and go on the currents and occasionally lap against the hull. I felt like I was waiting around for a breeze to come to move me forward toward my destination. It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great. The most I felt was restless. Restless to get going, but also somewhat resigned to my fate. It’s like, well, I’m here and I don’t see a rescue ship in site. Not that I even really felt like I needed rescuing.

Then I realized that I had some oars all along, so I start to paddle.

Ok, so I know this is sort of a cheesy analogy. And probably not entirely accurate. And will most likely get more cheesy as we continue, but I’m just going to go with it.

Earlier this month, as a form of professional development, I started a six-week course of Creative Coaching sessions with Kathleen from Braid Creative. I’m going to consider this my realizing-I-have-oars moment, in the analogy above. I wasn’t as helpless as I thought. There were resources available if I was willing to put the work into it.

So let me just tell you, if making the decision to work with Kathleen were the oars, the Creative Coaching sessions themselves have been the winds in my sails. (I told you it was going to get cheesier.)

Ok, enough with the analogies. For the past two weeks, I’ve been giving a good hard look inwards and it’s been insightful. So much so, that I’ve been wanting to share the ride I’ve been on. I wish I’d had the foresight when I first started my sessions to start sharing the things I was learning and uncovering because now I feel like I want to go back and start from the beginning.

And I plan to (which goes along with my mantra for the week – but more on that later) I’m just not sure what form that will take or how I should even begin to structure it. But I will find a way that makes sense.

Last night, I was attempting some light yoga (because my wrist has been bother me, ugh, side note) and the instructor said something that really resonated with me. She said something along the lines of “There are still so many things you can do, even if there are some things you can’t.” It sounds sort of like a ridiculous statement to make. Like, duh, of course. And even though she was talking about yoga poses, in that moment, it struck something. I have a tendency to focus on the things that I can’t do, things that just aren’t possible within the current situation I find myself in – be it financial, physical, mental, whatever – rather than focusing on the things that I can do now. It’s a really slight change of perspective, like looking through one eye, then the other. Just a subtle shift in movement that can completely change what you see.

I find it somewhat refreshing to be taking stock of the things that I have going on in my brain. Becoming a parent forces you to look less at yourself and more outward because your focus is on these little lives that you are now responsible for, and also fascinated and captivated by. I realize that creative/life coaching isn’t for everyone. I’m sure there are people who don’t see the point, that anything you could possible uncover, you could have uncovered on your own. Which may be true. But I’m not too proud to admit when I need help. I’m not above seeing value in other people’s experience and advice. Personally, I believe there is great value in just finding someone you’re on the same wavelength with.

So, I hope to start sharing my journey through my Creative Coaching session, and maybe they’ll motivate and inspire you to take a look inward and maybe shift perspectives once in awhile too.
Kathleen Shannon is co-owner of Oklahoma City based Braid Creative. She is a storyteller, designer, adventurer, and creative coach that helps other creatives find their voice.


A little while back I read, “Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind” put out by 99U and have been trying to implement some of the things I learned. Here are few thoughts and ideas that have resonated with me and the ways I’ve tried to adjust:

1. Routines helps us make time to be creative by “setting expectations about availability, aligning our workflow with our energy levels, and getting our minds into a regular rhythm of creating.”

Now that the kids are getting a little bit older and a little more set into their own routines, it’s getting a tiny bit easier to squeeze in my own projects. It’s pretty much guaranteed that they will be asleep by 9:30pm (except last week when we were all a bit under the weather), but I’m still trying to figure out my own routine after they are in bed. The main issue being that by that point my energy levels and brain power are almost non-existent. On good nights, the most I can usually manage is yoga, which I consider a success!

In regards to my energy levels, I’ve realized that blogging at night just doesn’t work for me the majority of the time. Or doing anything that requires brain power for that matter. It takes me twice as long to formulate sentences at that point in the night than if I would just wake up early to do it, which I’m working on trying to do more often.

2. Frequency makes starting easier, keeps ideas fresh and keeps the pressure off.

This is right on the nose. I don’t know how many times I’ve had ideas that withered because I waited too long to get them down. Also, after a long break in writing, I do find it harder to come up with the right words to communicate my thoughts the way I want. This is why I have a million notebooks. I’ve also started getting my ideas into digital form as soon as I can (I’ve been using Evernote) But I still need to try and set a regular time aside to just DO.

3. “Conditions to produce one’s craft are rarely ideal, and waiting for everything to be perfect is almost always an exercise in procrastination.”

They should have just tacked on “especially when you have kids.” Conditions are never ideal when your family and kids are the sole focus of your free time. So, I try to take advantage of any bit of solo time I have. Driving to and from work is good for thinking through problems – though not very good for documenting those thoughts. (Unless you use voice memos!) A lot of projects get made during the late hours of the evening (if they don’t require too much problem solving) or early morning or squeezed in during naps on the weekends. Usually with me just standing at the kitchen counter or sitting with all my stuff sprawled across the dining room table. Gone are the days of the designated craft area and table with all my supplies readily available within reach of a curious and naughty 3-year-old!

4. Perfectionism hinders productivity.

This one was a big one for me. It also relates to the tip mentioned above. Waiting for the “perfect conditions” or avoiding projects for fear of not doing it “perfect” – this is me to a tee. Sometimes you just need to put things out there and worry less about it being “perfect” and take pride in the fact that it got done. I’ve learned to let go and just go with the flow when it comes to a lot of things but I still struggle with this daily.

All the essays in this book have great suggestions and tips – though some of them are just hard truths that most people know but don’t want to admit to themselves. For example, the fact that social media is a time suck and distraction (you don’t say?) when you are trying to create.

So, here’s to new routines and finding balance.

For more inspiration on managing your time and creativity, check out these links:

&Kathleen is co-founder of Braid Creative and specializes in coaching for creatives

Elizabeth Saunders is a entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “Time Coach”

Leo Babauta is a creator and writer who focuses on “finding simplicity in the chaos of our lives

How do you manage your day-to-day and find the balance between work, family and side-projects?


On Creativity

Owl Tattoo

A friend of ours is thinking about getting an owl tattoo and asked if we could mock up how it could possibly look. There are probably 10 million different visual interpretations of owls in the world, ranging from realistic paintings to cartoon-y Tootsie Pop owls to abstract doesn’t-even-resemble-an-owl owls…huh?! Along with just the multitude of different styles, there are different kinds of owls that all have different shapes. Where to even start, right? I happen to have one of those owl necklaces from the 70’s that I got at a consignment shop years ago. Our friend liked this shape, so this is what I based my drawings on.

Fun Owl-y awesomeness, no? Obviously, I had to change it up a bit (fatter body, not-so-scraggly wings, etc.) and I really like how it turned out. That branch is a mess, so don’t even look at it. Now, how this will translate into a tattoo is still to be determined. Even if it ends up on the cutting room floor, I had fun making it!


Everyone knows that the Midwest is where awesome vintage goods are just hiding out waiting to be discovered by some big city folks looking for a diamond in the proverbial rough. Well, the Medina Antique Mall is one such place. Also known as AntiqueLandUSA, it’s so chock full of old shit it will make your head spin. Most of the inventory is stuff that I don’t have too much interest in, like ratty porcelain dolls with scary eyes, old baseball cards, and Victorian furniture. I mean, some of the stuff is really beautiful, just not my style.

However, we took a little trip there a couple weekends ago and found some real gems. There was one dude who had a booth full of mid-century Danish modern goods, hell yeah! As well as a few other choice pieces scattered here and there.

One draw back of this place (other than the fact that it’s super huge and overwhelming) is the fact that it’s mostly out of my price range. At this point in my life, I just can’t afford to spend $600 on a single side chair. No matter how awesomely designer-y cool it is. But it doesn’t cost anything to browse!

I didn’t bring my camera to the Antique Mall so I will resort to found images on the interweb. Here are just a sampling of the cool things I found:

1. Bertoia Side Chair by Harry Bertoia
2. Wassily Chair by Marcel Breur
3. Dansk Kobenstyle Cookware
4. Sprite Stacking Chair by Ross Lovegrove
5. Crayonne for Habitat Ice Bucket
6. Lucite Folding Chair
7. World Time Mantle Clock by Howard Miller
8. Herman Miller Eames Shell Chair
9. Italian Guzzini Arco Style Floor Lamp

Not all these items would be at home in our house, but I still enjoy them nonetheless, though Andrew wasn’t too keen on some of the things I pointed out. A couple times Andrew referred to the furniture as “looking like it belonged in Akeem’s Apartment”. For those of you who forgot the movie “Coming to America” let me jog your memory:

God, I wish that image was bigger. But don’t worry, our house looks NOTHING like that.


The title of this post really says it all. You can find (almost) anything on the internet, especially creative inspiration. If you ever feel like you need a boost of awesomeness, check out these sites:


Creative Journal

Some of my favorites of the day:

Miss Marple lamp, by Elisa Strozyk

Sweat the Small Stuff poster by Alonza Felix

I could post a ton more photos, but I’m lazy and also, you really should check out the sites for yourself.  You could really get lost in there! Which is not a bad thing.


forgotten room
Image by Timothy Sandstrom via Flickr

I’m pretty sure that bloggers are the perfect mix between exhibitionist and voyeur. As much as I love sharing, I also immensely enjoy having a glimpse into other peoples minds, lives, inspirations, etc. It’s just fascinating to me.

So it’s no surprise that I would love this site: Method & Craft

About Method & Craft:

We like to think of Method and Craft as the DVD extras of design: the stories behind the work, who made it, how they did it, and the techniques people have developed throughout their professional career. We all use the same tools, but we use them differently. We strive to educate you on more efficient, creative, and engaging ways to create your design. This site will not only be valuable to creative veterans, but also educational to those new to the design field. It’s like looking over the shoulder of your favorite designer.

If you are looking for inspiration or are curious about other designer’s processes, you should definitely check out the site.  Love love love it!


Cubagallery : Beach Bike
Image by Andrew@CubaGallery via Flickr

This has been a long time coming. If you didn’t notice, we have a new header image! This is just the start of fun and exciting things to come. What those things are, I’m still not sure. But I am confident they are good things. We’re just sort of winging it around these parts, which seems to be the way to do things when time and brain function is limited. So, until these “fun and exciting” things start happening, you can at least enjoy the new scenery!

If you can’t remember what the header looked like (it was just yesterday people, c’mon!) this was it:

I still like the old one, but I just felt it needed to be…freshened up or something. Maybe I was just sick of looking at it. Whatever the case, I’m happy with the direction we’re moving in. Progress people!


On Creativity

Winter Wedding

Andrew’s brother got married back in December to his lovely lady friend and we had the honor of working on a couple fun projects for the big day. Well, one wasn’t technically for the big day but rather for the rehearsal dinner. I designed these winter-themed invite for the rehearsal dinner. Winter has so much great imagery, so it was fun to work on.

I had started by doing a whole window with each window frame being frosty, but it ended up just getting to be too much. It looked cool without the type but then I couldn’t get the imagery and type to play nice. So, I did what is usually the solution: I simplified. And it worked nicely.

The other project was a collaboration between Andrew and I. Andrew’s brother wanted some sort of token to give to a select number of guests that they could redeem at the bar for a 40oz beer. We created poker chips that followed the winter theme by doing Xylene transfers onto pre-fabricated wooden discs.

It took us a couple tries to get the process down (we had to make 50 of them) but once we got that figured out, it went pretty quickly. Maybe we should think about doing a Xylene transfer tutorial in the future.


Howdy strangers! Ugh, are we terrible at blogging or what? I’ve been feeling motivated to share and just do more writing in general. I’m hoping this spurs some more consistent postings.

There are a number of things that I’ve been wanting to post about. New projects, old projects, new and old ideas that I’ve been tossing around the old cranium. Maybe it’s the promise of spring that has me feeling revitalized and more motivated than usual. I think it’s also the baby boy’s growing independence and seeing good changes and opportunities on the horizon that are also contributing to this feeling.

So what’s new? First, I wanted to share this logo that I designed for a newly formed online book club that was spontaneously put together.

Basically, a Facebook friend threw out the idea of starting a book club. A handful of mutual friends showed interest and – boom – the Confused Club of Book Reader was born! The name comes from the fact that none of the members has been in a book club since elementary school and none of us knew anything about starting one. We winged it and are sort of just making it up as we go. Which is actually sort of fun!

Right now, we are reading I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman. I’d actually never heard of it. I’m about 5 pages in.

In other news. I’ve been playing around with the idea of moving all non-design, non-craft, non-making related blog post to a completely different blog. I feel like the main purpose of this blog was to share things that Andrew and I make. But I’ve been wanting to write more about baby boy and other non-creative aspects of our lives but not sure if this is the right forum to do so. What do you guys think?

And with that, just a couple things to look forward to on THIS blog. Some past due Christmas gift updates, crib photos (finally!), wedding designs, and some freelance stuff that I’ve been working on.