Mompreneur Monday ~ Cheryl Arkison, Sunday Morning Quilts



    This month I'm so excited to share my interview with Cheryl Arkison of The Dining Room Empire and co-author of the new book, Sunday Morning Quilts. Although Cheryl and I have never met in person (yet), we've come to connect via our blogs and dialog over the past year or so over email. I am in awe of her work ~ her quilting is so innovative and I am in awe of her as a person. She's incredibly witty and smart, charming and business saavy. I love this girl.

    How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start blogging?
The Dining Room Empire is where I rule the roost, and share on my tiny piece of the internet. I started blogging over 5 years ago as an additional outlet to quilting while on maternity leave with my first kidlet. To be perfectly honest, it was all about external validation when I started - I wanted people to tell me they liked my quilts. But very quickly it expanded to sharing inspiration and process on making quilts. At some point I started to share recipes and that led to a second blog. From there a network of other writers grew, as did a writing career. Recently, I've gone back to one blog. It felt like a natural transition as motherhood and my career changed. And as I changed. Now I share my quilts (finished and in process), creative ramblings, recipes, and musings from my dining room table.


         Tell us about the book. How did that project come about?

Even though I was writing stories as a kid, went to journalism school (and transferred out), and was blogging, a book wasn't something I'd ever really thought about. But then I had a lame but spectacular ski accident. Two months of barely walking, working, and mothering gave me the opportunity to think about what I wanted out of life. I was unhappy at my job (working on environmental policy and programming) and wanted a way out. And writing and quilting made me happy, it fed my soul. So I started thinking about ways to make it a career, not just an obsessive hobby.
At the same time I started talking more with Amanda Jean, another quilting blogger I knew. Our conversations, combined with my reflections, led to a book proposal. A few months later we were writing a book! We went through the entire process without having met, not until right before our final draft was due. Sunday Morning Quilts is out in the wild now. I couldn't be happier with the final product and where that wipeout on the mountain has taken me, although I still can't ski.


     Besides blogging and book writing, I know you juggle other professional hats. Some TV appearances,  some freelance writing gigs…tell us a little about that.

My first moves beyond the blog were some on-line articles. I did some for free a long the way, but only a few. I was lucky to have a couple of writers lend some good advice and door-knocking on my behalf. That led to a magazine gig at What's Up, a Canadian family magazine. I also picked up additional freelance gigs with the local newspaper and some on-line sites. And yes, a few times along the way I've cooked on a local TV set.
For a long time I was doing this while still working full-time at my other job. My goal was to get to the point where it made sense to quit the job I hated and write. In the fall of 2010 I did quit my job, but it was to be home with the family. I continued to write, but it was a different balance of work. And my family had to come first.

Click below for the rest of the interview...


     What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in these creative outlets?

Always time. Time to write/work in between being a full-time mom to an entrepreneur husband who is often out of town. Time to do my own creating and not just the stuff for work. Time to devote to my kids while still maintaining my sanity by working at my own thing.
This relates to balance for me as well. It was a hard adjustment to not working full-time out of the house. It meant a change in the relationship between my husband and I as well as a change to my career. Finding the balance with respect to my time so that all my jobs get done requires constant maintenance and reflection.


     What inspires you and keeps you motivated week in and week out to pursue creative endeavors?

It's a compulsion, really. I can't not do it. I get antsy if I don't sew or play with colour.
Motherhood has also been a motivator. I found that after having my first kidlet I needed to create. Creating fed my soul and if I didn't do it I wasn't being honest with myself. Becoming a mother led me to accept the true me. This career path of creating through words, fabric, and food is about embracing who I really am. Becoming a mother has made me much more than a mother.
     How do you find balance in mommyhood and entrepreurship?

I am the kind of person who thrives when I'm busy. My own mom would be shocked to hear that because I was rather lazy growing up! But I discovered in University that I do better at everything if I have more than a few things to juggle, otherwise I get complacent.
That being said, balance is a challenge. The challenge comes for me in making sure I pay attention to my family too while I'm working. There are days when the kids watch too much TV or we go out for dinner because I didn't make anything. And some evenings I have to put work aside to cuddle with my husband on the sofa.
One of the best things that's helped me is that my husband is an entrepreneur too. He is a risk taker and pushes me to try things I maybe wouldn't have considered. But he understands the challenges too. Plus we share an accountant.
I think an important thing to keep in mind when talking about balance is to remember that the balance point changes all the time. Right now I'm spending a lot of time with my kids. I had my third baby in March. So I stopped pursuing extra freelance writing for the time being to focus on my family, promoting Sunday Morning Quilts, and working on one more big project. The priorities shifted and I'm okay with that.



     What are your future goals and dreams, professionally?

I've got a few more books in me, that's for sure. Like almost all writers there is a novel lurking... One day, one day.
I'm also translating the writing into teaching. I've been teaching quilting for a few years, but it's been off and on. Now I am booking lectures and workshops. I absolutely love this part of the job and I hope to do a lot more in the coming years.

     Any final thoughts for us about making mompreneurship work?

I couldn't do what I do without my husband. No, he isn't jumping to do the dishes and suggests dinner out when I don't have the time to make it. But he is my biggest cheerleader. He is an entrepreneur himself, starting and running a successful millwork business. As the risk taker in the family he pushes me to do more than I might on my own and has certainly been instrumental in me getting over any fear of failure. As a couple it really helps to know that we're making these moves together, with full support of each other.
At the end of the day, my role in the family is still as a mother first. This was the choice we made as a family, for our family. I do have to work around the family schedule, and not the other way around. I'll admit, it took me at least a year to accept and be comfortable with that fact, even though I knew what it meant going in. Now that I have it isn't without stress, but it's working. And it feels right for all of us. Even on the days when a little too much TV gets watched so I can finish a chapter or a quilt.

     Favorite food and favorite guilty pleasure TV show?

Well, I just had a baby, so it's a good thing you didn't ask this question a few months ago. The answer would definitely have been burgers and grapefruit. Not together.
I do have a serious cookie addiction, but my absolutely perfect food would have to be a peach.
These days I don't watch a lot of TV, but I do schedule downtime around some favourites like Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and yes, The Biggest Loser. And though my daughter claims credit for loving Swamp People, I'm more than happy to watch it with her.
      Where can readers buy your book?

You can buy signed copies of my book directly from me at my Etsy store. On-line retailers like Amazon, Chapters, and Barnes and Noble carry it. But don't forget to check out the local quilt shops and on-line quilt stores too, they are happily selling it.

    Where can readers follow you? Blog? FB? Twitter? Google Plus?

All of my work - portfolio, gallery, and upcoming classes can be found at cherylarkison.com. You can catch my life ruling from the Dining Room Empire at naptimequilter.blogspot.com. And my ramblings about it all are capture on Twitter, follow me @Cheryl_Arkison

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