cait +tiff

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T / a little bit of freedom…sort of

Can you tell I have an icon?

I keep saying I’m funemployed.  But I’m really not.  There are clients.  There are deliverables.  There are thousands of photos.  But I just get to decide when I work, and how I work.  That morning post-workout coffee is no longer limited to 15 minutes!

Since leaving my not-so-fulfilling full time in-an-office consulting gig last week, I’ve been feeling like Will Ferrell encountering New York City for the first time in Elf.  Except that I can work my way around Photoshop. I’ve been feeling more responsive.  I’m feeling so much lighter (because sitting is the new smoking).  And I am back to my slightly frantic self (see Muppets: Animal).  Cue George Michael, RIP.

But also like there’s a fire under my ass again.  Because for the past 6 months, I’ve more or less been plotting, Dr. Evil style, of my return to the freelance environment.  There are websites that need to get updated.  Portfolios that need to be shared.  The hustle is real and it is so back.  I have plans that need to get manifested.  I even just drafted something called the Berlin Strategy (doesn’t that sound like a sequel to Homeland?).

Except I might choose to catch up on 12 episodes of Supergirl instead while editing photos I took 2 years ago.

I first came across creative accountability in one of Katie’s posts.   And she’s totally right.  We have our clients that keep our work accountable, but as creative entrepreneurs, who keeps us moving forward?  I’m not exactly a start up with a venture capitalist that wants to see returns.  Nor am I actually in school and have classmates to commiserate with.  And a career coach isn’t exactly in the budget. I needed someone else, in Phnom Penh, who was on the hustle, with clients and personal goals and learning to pursue too.  And all I had to do was ask her out!  We meet for regular coffees, look at each other’s work, bounce ideas off of each other and see how each other are doing on that road upwards.  Doodles may be involved.

This all helps to keep that fire under my ass lit, under control, with enough heat to keep me on my toes.  But I also have some time for myself, to feel bored and find ways to get out of it, and to fail, or figure out a whole new set of things I can do (I see you, coding).  The doors are wide open now and I get to pick which one I go through.  Come on baby, light my fire*.

*Oooh cheesey, but I like it.


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T / biz notes / brain flotation devices

Photo Credit: Łukasz Cyrus

Photo Credit: Łukasz Cyrus

I don’t talk about it a lot, perhaps it’s because of the way I was raised (Chinese parents aren’t big on talking about emotions), or the way I am (an annoyingly and not healthful propensity for dealing with problems on my own…eldest child syndrome?).  But when I get a pause in the work flow, I don’t tend to enjoy it.  Instead, the anxiety monster lets loose and it gets biblical.  I’m not even religious, so if I’m comparing it to the apocalypse, it must be bad.  And perhaps it’s the change in the seasons (the monsoon is here), or the fact that work is picking up, but all the feelings are happening and they all are gunning for me to shoot myself in the foot.  These include:

  • I am completely and utterly uninspired.  I clearly suck.
  • Do I actually belong here? Or do I stick out like a sore thumb?
  • Why the heck are you hiring me?
  • I’m totally going to screw this up.  You’re really making a mistake here.
  • I should never have left [insert big well-paying international job]
  • Elevated heart rates galore.

The truth is, things are going great.  I am really happy about where I’m going and the rate I’m doing it.  I even bought myself a bunch of things (yay cookbooks!! and because money).  I really suck at self care when it comes to being mindful, but a series of great reads (and a watch) have epically helped me to get out of that stupid anxiety bear trap.  They either give me brand new ideas or validate things I’ve felt. And I read them over and over again when the monster sneaks in.  Because they are that great.

There are lessons in making it in comedy, slow and small, from one of my favourite performers.

Even the biggest creatives in the industry feel it too.

By November, I’ll basically working four very different jobs.  This is not at all a bad thing.

20 minutes of writing (or colouring in my case) is like a really sharp knife. (Thank you Victoria!)

Lessons learned. Lessons learned.  Lessons learned.  That’s three great sources filled with people who’ve been through it.

Wait. Here’s one more.

Oh right. One more.

The two-ish years of this career pivot were worth it, even if it meant a pay cut.

And here’s a crash course all about it (also Camille Rowe is a girl crush).


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T / the creative rut, and how I’m getting out of it

Photo Credit: Klaudia Medano

Photo Credit: Klaudia Medano

I am sitting in front of my computer.  And I can’t get started.  Actually.  No.  That’s a lie.  I started a bunch of things this morning.  Then I inevitably deleted them after more than a few frustrating attempts that only yielded fitfuls of “ugh.”  So that’s been my week.  In addition to struggling to get my energy and my appetite back, I’ve also been trying to get “it” back.  I’m sure you know what “it” is.  And it’s not just relegated to those in the creative field, but…really…anything.  When you’re feeling hungry, but you don’t know what to eat.  No amount of coffee, or spice will pick this meal up.  Everything is just, blah?

So I decided to see what the experts have to say about it.  Because I’d really like to get out of this.

1. Let yourself play. I think I’m gonna go find one of my colouring books and go a bit nuts today. (Thanks Jane Parter @fastcompany!)

2. I’m going to take a little step back.  Notice that there is a lot going on right now (hello jobs and clients, see you later Cait, all the things) and make tiny adjustments. (Merci Victoria!)

3. I’m gonna go have lunch with someone awesome.  (Create & Cultivate always has the best tips)

4. I’m gonna try to trick my brain a bit (Design*Sponge is so lucky to have Adam J. Kurtz)

5. I’m going to go do the dishes and laundry.  Because I might not get anything done today. But at least I’ll at least feel good about an empty sink and a pile of clean towels that won’t get folded (that’s a pure piece of Tiff advice).

Fingers crossed on these working!

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blogoversary 2.0

Tiffany TsangHooray! We’ve made it to two years on the blog. Thanks for hanging out with us! We interviewed each other about where we were then, and where we are now. Spoiler alert, we’ve changed a lot.

What were you doing two years ago, professionally?

Cait: I had stepped away from my career in public health already, tanked a job with a private sector organization that I loathed, and had made one dress. My professional life was nothing to brag about and I was trying to find something that I loved. I had just done a few drawings for myself and Tiff, and was trying to figure out how to draw pants.

Tiff: I remember it exactly.  I was in between assignments.  Still working in public health for a very large international organization, not feeling quite fulfilled. As in, my wages were going up, but levels of responsibility weren’t.  And I was still being occasionally referred to as an intern.  There were also a lot of older men, and I’d do a little dance whenever another woman would step into the room.  That’s where I was.

How did you feel about it?

Cait: Not great. Giant ball of self-doubt and insecurity, pretty sexy stuff.

Tiff: I loved the field work and the act of public health research.  But I realized that the things I loved about the job when I was 23 no longer matched what I wanted from the job when I was about to turn 30.  I also had a boss who told me that a career pivot every five or so years is the best thing a person could do, so I thought, why not?

What are you doing now?

Cait: I’m moving! I got a job with a handbag company in Los Angeles and I am spending the next week in Phnom Penh hugging my friends and drinking coconuts. I am putting the final touches on my second line, just finished two badass wedding dresses, trying to remember where I put my fun jeans. When I get to LA, I will be working on branding, writing, and fabric sourcing for one of my best friends. The blog will live on, stronger than ever, and I can’t wait to see how it grows.

Tiff: I’ve got a good thing going.  Aside from the flu that I’m recovering from right now.  I work part time in communications for a very cool project that promotes technology and development in Cambodia.  I’m surrounded by amazing young people and I have such a great lady boss that I look up to.  When I’m not there, I’ve got the blog with Cait, and I’ve got myself a little photography business now.  During busy periods, I’ll be shooting families on the weekend and perhaps some product and editorial on the weekdays. I also find myself helping smaller start ups develop their brand and social media identity.

How do you feel  about it now?

Cait:  Good, really good. I am ready for this, and can’t wait to dive in. Change is hard and blah blah blah, but the people I love will stay with me, and I mean that literally. When they come to visit me in LA, they will stay with me, and I will burn their passports. Shit, don’t publish that second part.

Tiff: It’s basically the best career pivot I could have ever asked for.  We both gave ourselves time to learn, marinate, practice, fail, learn from our mistakes, and all of the nuances.  I know I’ve still got a really long road to go by, but I’m so happy about what I’ve achieved so far and how much room there is for me to grow.  I’m not satisfied or complacent with things.  I’m really eager to learn more about the sector.

Favourite thing in the last year?

Cait: The fashion show in February. Me, my parents, all my favorite PP people in one place, putting my little creative heart out there and crying all the happy tears. Probably the best day in the last decade.

Tiff: Hands down, shooting all these beautiful and wonderful ladies for Cait’s lookbook.

Thing you’re most excited about in moving forward?

Cait: Tacos, and Tiff coming to California! To eat tacos!

Tiff: Two words: Joshua. Tree.


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T / ladies who do (and talk about it)

Artwork by Miguel Porlan.

Artwork by Miguel Porlan.

I remember this feeling when I started to find my footing in that past life.  I was exhausted.  Except this time, I am more than energized by it, excited for the future and I am constantly thinking of building, improving and getting better.  I feel focused and I can envision where this is all going.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally feel like I am still out to sea and taking on water.  Yes, that probably sounds a little melodramatic, but those moments also bring on the risk of self-sabotage, quitting, and heading to land.  I don’t know why I’ve got so many marine analogies today, but I’ve got one more.  Come hell or high water, I am so in this.  But sometimes I need a buoy, a light house, basically anything to help me stay the course.  Please note that I’ve never actually enjoyed boats (that’s Cait’s thing).  You know that podcasts are my thing (all of them here), and I wanted to share a few of my favourite resources that I’ve been using to help me make better business choices, better ways of working and know that others have been there before. There is a whole bunch of wonderful, talented and brilliant ladies who are killing it and sharing with the world how they did it and all the feelings they felt while doing it.  Because these feelings are valid, everyone has them at some point or another, and there should always be resources to help you out of them.  And I look forward to chores because I get to listen to these ladies.

Ladies-Who-Work---PodcastIt was serendipity that it was Leandra Medine who answered my Google when I typed in “exhausted podcast” in a moment of weariness.  I’m not joking.  We have been fans of Man Repeller since the dawn of blogging.  And her words are just as witty and wonderful in audio as she is in type.  With Monocycle (not to be confused with the more serious Monocle), Leandra goes through the whole gamut of feelings when it comes to biz building and it came to a completely relief to me that she feels those feelings too.

You don’t need to be a creative entrepreneur to dig Why Do We Have Things?  The ladies behind The American Edit and Hackwith Design House get into the deep with designers and small business owners about the reason why they got into it, and everything that happened every which way and between.

Ladies-Who-Work---Podcast2I have to give mad props to Megan Tan because she just got picked up by (insert mega huge podcast network that she reveals in her latest episode) after all of her hard work in independently producing and hosting Millennial.  Megan is such a fresh voice and if I ever meet her, I would give her those four words: “you really get me.”  Millennial is all about all the feelings and the hard work that come with getting out of school and really making it in something you love.

There is nothing more than I love than extraordinary women.  A Toronto-based podcast about extraordinary women hosted by a funny lady?  Even better.  Host Lauren Mitchell gets all the good ones on Cavern of Secrets. Cheryl Strayed, Tavi Gevinson, Carrie Brownstein.  And those are just the big names.

All of these podcasts are available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your ear candy.  I am going to go make brownies now.

PS – Victoria McGinley’s Biz + Blog Advice and Create & Cultivate are also amazing clicky things that offer all the advice.


C / Put me in, coach


A few weeks ago, I started working with a career coach. To be honest, I didn’t exactly know what I was signing up for. I have been in therapy before, and didn’t know if this was just going to be be a more targeted version of that, or if it was more of a what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up process. I think it can be both of those things, but for me, it’s neither.

Therapy was for fixing things. I felt badly about some specific stuff, and we dove into that and figured out ways to let go and be ok. This is totally different. Coaching, for me, has been all about moving forward, making plans, and sticking to timelines. I know what I want to be when I grow up,  I just need some help and strategies to get there.

I found my coach through my wonderful friend, Kate, in Phnom Penh. She is someone that distinctly has her shit together. She’s leading a fantastic organization, is crazy hilarious, has two amazing girls, and someone that makes rooms better to be in. I was surprised when she told me that she was in coaching, because I had seen that as something people did to get through major life change, or mid-life crisis stuff. It turns out, I was wrong, and a lot of my friends here have coaches that help with a range of things.

I have the tendency to deal with my own stuff after dealing with everyone else’s, and put my own efforts at self-development at the end of my list. With the coach, it’s my homework to work on myself, to analyze my behavior and work through the barriers that are keeping me from what I want. It’s empowering and awesome and I need the push.

My coach is part of the Coaching Collective, an organization that works with people all over the world via video-conferencing. I can’t recommend it enough, and if you would like any other information on the program, feel free to contact me.

This post isn’t sponsored, it’s just something that has already made a difference in my life.




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T / build that biz

The last couple of weeks have been nuts.  And it only occurred to me this week, that I may have cultivated a tiny infant of a business after a year of very focused gestation.  This tiny business has yet to be defined, branded; and don’t even talk to me about incorporation yet.  But I think it’s got some substance to it and I can’t wait to start talking about it a bit more over the next weeks.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the amazing resources that are helping me get there.  A couple are great reads and perpetual scrolls and clicks. Another is a brilliant class taught an idol in the blog and design world.  They are all by an amazing and diverse group of ladies who are all about sharing and caring.

The-PostVictoria McGinley is designer, business advisor, branding consultant and pretty much bi-coastal.  She shares all of her loves, recipes (this one’s has been on repeat in our house for the past couple of years), and also business advice on her blog.  Her latest one is geared towards clients of designers, but has been incredibly helpful in the way I work as a designer (though I definitely cannot be calling myself one yet).  The way I position myself for clients, communicate with them and at the end of the day, truly help clients attain what the need at the end of the day.  One of my big values as I build this biz is to be client-driven and really attuned to their needs. I feel like having these in the toolbox will help me get there.

The-BlogI’ve been following Alt Summit and Create & Cultivate for the past year and while I don’t see my intercontinental travels coinciding with their stellar conferences in the near future, it’s definitely something I’d really love to make happen one day.  Drawing on the experiences of so many ladies who may have been at the forefront of the design and blogging scene, to new young things who are really making things happen, I can literally spend hours scrolling through all of the biz tips that are being shared.

The-ClassKate Arends needs no introduction.  She’s behind all of Wit&Delight, the branding at Askov Finlayson (among others).  And now, an amazing class, Building Your Brand, on Skillshare (my favourite learning site).  I just completed it this past weekend and was amazed about how deep I got in just 45 minutes.  Branding has become really important to me as a way of communicating who I am, the exact breadth and depth of what I do, and what I want my clients to achieve.   It’s also helped me to focus on the skills I need to get there and get better.  Learning about my vision, values, my mission and how to get an action plan together to achieve those elements was so important for me.  I basically relaxed for a second and smelled the roses.  It felt good.  I highly recommend giving Skillshare a free trial for a month and giving this shorty of a class a try.  



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T / happy monday / hello productivity

Photo Credit: Todd Selby

Photo Credit: Todd Selby

This year, I made productivity, integrity and accountability as a few of new year’s resolutions.  Not necessarily goals or objectives I needed to accomplish, but values I wanted to uphold in all parts of my life.

But then Netflix happened. In Cambodia.

And it is what I spent a considerable portion of my weekend doing. Specifically binging through The Mind of a Chef.

So enter TeuxDeux.  This is the app that’s going to keep me in line this year.  For me, one of the biggest challenges of entering a creative career is self doubt.  The fear eats me up and I wind up finding other things to do (read: baking green things) rather than accomplishing the tasks that will actually help me move forward.

Created by the design maven cum serial entrepreneur, Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka Swiss Miss), Teux Deux is the solution to all of my productivity slumps (I’m looking at you, 2-4pm).  It builds upon other productivity apps I’ve tried and failed at because it absolutely feeds into my competition loving self since I can see my productivity stats.  And it’s simple and pretty in the way that a Swiss designer would (and the colours are absolutely customizable).

I get to see what I have done, what I’ve still got to do, and clicking on a completed task and seeing it dissolve into the grey is just so satisfying.  This is what I’m up to today (yes, I’m a meal planner)!

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 10.58.49 AMTry it out! TeuxDeux is offering a 30 day free trial, with the option to subscribe at $3/month or $2/month if you sign up for a full year!

I’ve gotta go finish my list, whilst this orchestral ditty (by Arcade Fire violin maven, Sarah Neufeld) plays in the background. Happy Monday!

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C / a little push


I am done with school at Central Saint Martins, and I head back to Phnom Penh in less than a week. I can’t really tell how I feel about it yet, but I think its somewhere between “Hooray! I get to see people I love” and “Dear God, please don’t let me lose this feeling.” It will be a huge transition, bigger than moving to London, because I don’t exactly know what’s next. I like having something on the horizon, and it’s all haze right now. I don’t love it.

In order to not freak out completely and burn my passport, I am looking for a little push and advice. Now, for those of you who know me, you know very well that I hate advice. I will take advice from exactly 4 people. It’s not because I think I’m smarter than everyone, it’s because I’m crazy stubborn. That being said, Little Miss Stubborn Pants needs a bit of help these days.

This is about my billionth “fresh start” in a new career. Let’s call my CV “diverse.” I am trying to dig in and focus on a direction, but finding it difficult to do so in a field that is, quite literally, riddled with shiny objects. You know Dug the dog from the movie Up? That’s me when I look at fashion jobs; I find something I like, I’m really into it, and then I “SQUIRREL!” (If you don’t get this, watch the clip.)

Because I am bad at asking for help, I have looked for it on the internet. It’s easier that admitting it out loud, and easier to go back to when you really need to hear something again and again. Here you go:

  • My dad told me to read What Color is Your Parachute about 5 years ago, and I am finally doing it. Now if you click on that, be warned that the website looks like that guy is definitely selling a food processor on TV. It’s not a good website. But what is in the book so far is valuable. The first edition was published in 1970, as a guide to job hunting and career changes. It was designed to veterans look for careers after leaving the military, and for those that need some help changing careers and re-directing passion. It’s revised annually, so the information is up-to-date and relevant.
  • Go ahead and make fun of Eat, Pray, Love as much as you want, Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons, is monumentally lovely. The podcast goes alongside her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and she talks to human women about finding and diving into what they are passionate about. I think she’d be a wonderful person to have at Thanksgiving.
  • Kate Arends from Wit & Delight wrote this piece on vernacular and how putting yourself, and other people in boxes, stifles creativity, acceptance, and collaboration. I think letting go of labels that we put ourselves in is really helpful, and for me, it lets me learn from people around me and not judge myself too much.
  • Tiff, in her great wisdom, sent me this article a few days ago and its a great read. BOF asked seven new-ish designers to give advice for creatives. My favorite line is from Christopher Kane, quoting Louise Wilson “There’s always someone better than you. It’s just human nature. So really work with what you have and prevail at what you’re good at, but don’t try to do everything because you’ll burn out.”
  • Mindy Kaling always has something good to say about growing and changing. She’s a funny lady, but also crazy insightful. I like her interview with The Guardian from a few weeks ago, where she talks about perspective, loss, and the importance of being kind.

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T / my new friend

The-Shady-Lemon-HeaderI’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but I couldn’t exactly get the words down.  I wanted to write about everything: not quite acing (or the opposite of that) at the whole online learning thing; the debilitating fear that comes before starting a project and taking a month or two to conquer it and actually start; the stimulant-free heart palpitations that comes from walking onto a photoshoot location and realizing that it isn’t quite what you had planned.  The general feeling of not #winning or not being in the right place.  Guilty of fraud basically.

Then it happened. I had been working on a project for a while: Shrimpyan ampersand structured from a coctail glass with a lemon twist.  Feeling proud of some the work I had put into it, I shared it with my partner, and in his Germanic bluntness, he replied: “it kinda looks like a shrimp.”

I gave the darn thing a second look and my beloved swoosh of a lemon twist DID LOOK LIKE A SHRIMP.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  John didn’t ask for a shrimp cocktail and I had given him one.  Thank goodness no one has a shellfish allergy.

Cait and I have been learning all summer.  But in very different environments.   In my case, Katie would probably call it “baptism by fire.”  The formal folks would call it a cooperative education.  Thoreau has a poetic way of saying it. But then I stumbled upon an old shot I had taken of a particularly deviant lemon and suddenly it dawned on me. This is the shady lemon. It looks a little funny, so you’re not quite making limoncello (because we’re all legal) out of it at first.  But give it some time and you’re going to get a perfectly bittersweet elixir out of it.  It’s like the time I wanted to reproduce an edgier sequence inspired by these shots…but I wound up with beautiful Alissa bathed in soft and natural light instead.  All of these “mistakes” were incredible learning experiences too:


Or maybe I just really needed that coffee.


This dish could have been yummier anyways. No harm no fowl because the roasted chikcen was way better.


Those were sadly not our incredibly delicious affogatos.

Roberto taught me that with all the hundreds of thousands of photos I would take, only a droplet would come out the way I wanted them to.  Jenn is a pro at the less-than-perfect shooting situation.  Lessons are coming from every direction. And every day, I am focusing on the one thing I need to whether it’s to finish a project, build this new career or keep me mindful of my own goals beyond work.

I know I’ve got some taste but it’s not enough.  My classroom is on the street, my teachers are the wonderful folks in this global community. Though I might not acknowledge it at first, I’m picking up some mad skillz with every shoot, with every interview and every story I’m hoping to tell.  And I’m incredibly thankful that you’re all willing to read up on us through this whole ride. 


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request persmission for use. But why would you? These are hilariously awful shots.