Makers + Shakers - Meet Ollibird

A couple of years ago, over on Seattle Mamas, I started a series interviewing local powerhouses who started with an idea and turned it into a crazy reality.

It was so popular, I thought to myself, 'hey self, you should do the same thing, except this time, you should stalk some more of  your favorite bloggers from all over'. So, I created the Makers + Shakers Series: 8 Creatives You Should Follow.

The series was so popular, I decided to continue it with 8 more creatives...and today is our finale.

To say that I'm a huge fan of today's creatives, Mike and Alma Loveland of Olliebird is an understatement.  I love their design work and have purchased many products from their shop Caravan, for parties and fun crafting time, as well as having them as a sponsor for my Party With A Purpose fundraiser.  I am so bummed I missed meeting Alma at Alt Summit this summer.

Anyways, enough gushing...let's find out how they tick!

Please tell our readers a little bit about who Mike and Alma are.
Mike and I met about eight years ago when Mike stumbled across my blog. At the time I had a simple personal blog where I'd write about anything going on in my life, pretty much like a public journal. Mike came across it, started reading, and figured I was everything on his list of what he was looking for.

So he decided to put himself out there and email me. I remember seeing "Mike Loveland" in my inbox, and when I read his email saying that he thought I sounded cool and he'd like to get to know me, I figured, "Well Loveland is actually a pretty cool name." I agreed to meet him—IN A PUBLIC PLACE AND WITH FRIENDS—and it took me all of 2 seconds to figure out that he wasn't a weirdo. Ha.

We clicked right away. It has been a lot of fun being married to another artist. In fact, when we were first dating, I was totally uncomfortable applying the term "artist" to myself. Mike got me very comfortable with it, and after 8 years of working together, I think that we've helped one another to grow artistically so much.

 Besides work, of course, we are parents to 3 wonderful kids. Our kids are an incredible source of joy and inspiration to us as we work. But keeping it real, they are also a source of frustration and stress. I wouldn't want you to think that everything is wonderful and everything is roses. Work is amazing and often it is challenging and stressful. Family is amazing, and often it is challenging and stressful. But the great thing is that in both cases, the positives outweigh any of the negatives!

I've been a huge fan of your work for years...I remember coming across an article about your Olliblocks. What inspired you to team up in and get into the business of design?
 When we were first married, we were both working at corporate jobs. I was commuting an hour each way to work every day, and when I got pregnant with our first child, we figured maybe it was a good time for me to stop the commute and branch out on my own. So I left my job, but kept on the company as my main client. We thought about a 10-year plan: I would work freelance and try to build up my career, and maybe in TEN YEARS I'd be making enough money and we'd be ready for Mike to leave corporate America and join me freelance.

Well, about a year after I left my job, the economy collapsed, and the company Mike worked for closed down. Suddenly we WERE on our own, and faced with the question, can our 10-year plan be our 1-year plan? Thankfully the answer was yes. We were able to make it work then, and we've continued to make it work. We realize that we are lucky to be able to do something that we absolutely love professionally.

Between Ollibird, your art and design studio, teaching classes at (I've taken one of your online classes and learned so much!), designing apps at Tryangle Labs, and my favorite, your shop Caravan, being a husband and wife team and not to forget, being parents, how do you manage (or appear to manage) juggling it all?
We're not juggling it all perfectly, that is for sure. I once attended a lecture about balance where the presenter talked about balance as a verb, not a noun. We don't set a goal of balance and then achieve it, and then everything is perfect. Balance is something that we are continually working to maintain, and sometimes that means spending a lot of time on one important thing while ignoring another important thing.

During the time that we have worked together, there are certainly times that have been more balanced than others. Right now, our third baby is still rather fresh; he is six months old. So we are in a stage of finding a new balance again.

One thing that I have certainly found is that I love to focus on one thing at a time. That's not always something I'm able to do, but it is something that I'm working towards—simplifying the projects that I am working on and organizing my work so that I am able to give my projects the attention they deserve, as well as enjoy the process more without being stressed about 5 other things I need to be doing. I like something else I've heard, that you can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time.

Right now it's a Monday and my house is out of sorts. I still haven't showered today and it's almost 4:00 (and someone is coming to visit me at 4:00). But this weekend, I was able to step away from work-work, do a creative project with Mike just for art's sake, and go to our local aviary (one of my favorite spots) with my family during some spectacular weather. To me, that's worth a messy house.

On another day, I'll have a clean house, but maybe I will have had less sleep, or it will have come at the expense of spending time outside. I don't expect perfection of myself, and I don't expect perfection of my life, so I guess that is helpful, too.

Speaking of creativity, I know there are so many choose from, but do you have a project or product that is your favorite and why? 
Ha. It's usually whatever I have just finished doing. So right at this exact moment, I finished and sent off a floral pattern to one of my clients, and it may be the best floral pattern I have ever done. I'm pretty excited about it. The week before that, it was homework I'd just finished for an online class I'm taking.

Of course, you mentioned the Olliblocks, and they are definitely one of the projects I am most proud of. So far I have designed over 150 Olliblocks characters. These are always very fun to do, and I already have in mind the next set that I'll be working on, hopefully in the next month or so!

Readers see beautiful, styled photos but we rarely see what is going on behind the scenes or how things didn't turn out quite the way you planned. How do you handle having to kick into Plan B or Plan C? Do you have a 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' experience to share?
Last week actually! I am taking Lilla Rogers's Make Art that Sells course, and my assignment last week took me away from the computer. I say that I have always been creative, but when I learned Illustrator, I finally found the medium that clicked for me. So I do 99% of my work on the computer. I typically don't even sketch anything by hand, and can go months without touching a pen or pencil.

But this weekend, I needed to do some collage and some painting for my homework. I had to bring in Mike to help me, and there were times that I got really frustrated by my limitations. I shared my feelings on Instagram, and I liked that one person pointed out that that's how she feels when she tries to use Illustrator. It reminded me that there was a time that Illustrator was also very challenging and frustrating to me, but I kept pushing through and I made a lot of things in Illustrator that weren't that great, but eventually what I was doing started to look good.

I think it's important to remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and it takes a lot of mistakes or a lot of failed attempts before things start turning out the way they look in your head.

I am inspired by things around me...a pretty pattern may spark an entire party theme. What things inspire your creativity?
Honestly I love Pinterest for this reason. For me a quick scroll through Pinterest is enough to make me want to MAKE EVERYTHING. Ha. Last year, I needed to create some cool packaging for a project (sorry, it's not one I can share yet!). So I looked up packaging on Pinterest and LOVED seeing what people were doing, and how people were pushing boundaries.

That's all I needed to then be able to look at my product and think how I could package it in a new, cool way. What I came up with was totally different than anything I saw, but because of the glut of creativity I see on Pinterest, it pushed me beyond what I might have thought of on my own.

Do you have favorite blogs and/or websites you like to visit when you have a moment?
Honestly, like I mentioned above, Pinterest is my main source of creative inspiration. I guess I'm now lazy when it comes to finding fun things to look at. I like that it's all visual and it's all in one place. I also spend time on Instagram if I have a quiet moment!

I love to ask everyone I interview: if you are stranded on a desert island and can take one item and one meal, what would they be?
Right about now, being stranded on a desert island sounds great! Give me a comfortable lounge chair and a tasty beverage and leave me there for a while :)

I am right there with you!

Follow Ollibird/Alma Loveland on Pinterest and Instagram; keep up with their shoppe, Caravan, on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for sharing your hand-drawn fun with us!

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