Dreamers + Doers 07: 100 Days of Making Cool Shit with Nora Simon

Dreamers & Doers is a new series here on Sunday Blossoms & a twice-monthly mailing you can get sent right to yer inbox. This space is for creatives to find inspiration, support and encouragement to make their dreams a reality. Written + curated by Amina Ahmad, a creative dreamer / doer crafting through life in & around Washington, DC.

Meet my awesome friend, Nora Simon aka @noramakes. She is an amazing + inspiring artist in DC and recently completed a 100 day challenge to make cool shit every day. I knew Nora mostly as a screen printer before this challenge, but here she explored some other mediums in her signature bright colors + Summer fun vibe.

For this edition of Doers + Dreamers we chatted about her 100 day project, herself as an artist / maker and the separation of art + work. Read on!

Photo above by BYT & read more about Nora's 100 Day Project there.

Q&A with Nora Simon

Why did you decide to do a 100 day project?
Art has always been an important part of my life but for the past few years I felt like it had been put on the back burner. I wanted to make art a priority again and this felt like the perfect way to jump start that change. I heard about the 100 day project on a podcast and I thought “ok, I’m doing this immediately!”

I noticed you mainly stuck to a few main mediums - collage + gouache. When you set out, were you looking to stick to a certain medium?
Originally I had set out to try lots of different mediums but I kept coming back to collage and gouache or a combination of the two. I had dabbled in collage before but I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it until I started this project. Once I discovered sparkly paper there was no turning back! I’d also done some painting previously but gouache was completely new to me. I’m so glad I tried it because it's so much fun! Also, it doesn’t smell bad and it's easy to clean up so that’s a plus.

Do you have a favorite piece from the project? 
It’s hard to choose because there are a few that I really like. It’s a tie between “Do What You Love and Let it Kill You” and “Creative Juices”.

Did you learn anything about yourself during the journey? / What did you get out of doing this project?
I learned a ton about myself during this project. I found fun, new ways of making art and I learned a lot about my own personal style. It also helped me connect with other artists who were working on similar projects.

I’m day like five into my journey and right now I think it’s still easy to find something I haven’t drawn yet. On day 66, how did you find something new to make?
I realized around day 20  that if I didn’t use ALL my ideas then I would quickly run out of things to make.  Luckily there were days when inspiration was everywhere (like when I was in Costa Rica), but then there were also days when it felt like the opposite. Before I started the project I wrote down a list of every possible thing I could think of that would make for some good art (and even some not so good art). That list really came in handy during those crappy, uninspiring days.

Did you think you weren’t going to be able to finish the project?
I never thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish but I did feel a bit burned out from time to time. I remember thinking on day 50 “OH MY GOD I’M ONLY HALFWAY THERE!” and feeling pretty overwhelmed. Luckily, the project started to fit into my daily routine better and became more habitual. Also, it’s hard to imagine what 100 days really looks and feels like until you’re knee deep in it.

What advice do you have for anyone currently on a 100 day journey?
Just keep at it! You may start to feel your enthusiasm shrivel but that’s ok. There will definitely be good and bad days. And If you don’t think you have the willpower to hold yourself accountable then find a specific person to help you out. Social media is a great place to start but having to answer to someone that you see regularly makes it much harder to skip a day. My boyfriend, Sean, was extremely encouraging and helped me photograph my work. He also asked me about what I’d be making each day as a friendly reminder to get crackin’!

What advice do you have for anyone hesitant to dive into one?
The great thing about the 100 day project is that it can be about anything you want! With that said, it’s important to choose a theme carefully. Think about what drew you to the project in the first place and decide what you want to accomplish. Also, make sure that whatever you pick is something you can have fun with every day for the next 3 ½ months because 100 days is a lot longer than it seems.

So, I’ve followed your work for a while. It’s all bright, shiny, happy, and almost vaguely nostalgic of elementary school supplies lol. I don’t know why I get that feeling! Maybe it’s bright like Lisa Frank or something. You tell me, though - where does your inspiration come from?
I was a big Lisa Frank fan back in the day so that might have something to do with it! I’m also a huge fan of anything that reminds me of summer vacation and having fun outside. Summer has always felt a bit magical to me because that stretch of time seemed so epic and adventurous when I was younger.  And even though adulthood means not having those 3 months off, I still feel like summer holds some kind of power that the rest of the year lacks. I also really enjoy quotes because I love combining typography with imagery. Certain quotes conjure up specific imagery so it’s fun to see how I can portray them.

You have a background in art and graphic design but you don’t work in the field. Would you mind sharing what led you to decide not to work in the field?
After getting my BFA in graphic design I tried for several years to make my way in the design field. I tried lots of different things: working in a design firm, working at a non profit, being the sole graphic designer at a theatre company, doing freelance work, etc., but none of them seemed like a good fit for me. It felt like all my creativity was being sucked into work that I wasn’t passionate about and that I needed to make more time for my own art. After leaving my last graphic design position I decided to call it quits and got a job at a local second hand bookstore, Capitol Hill Books. I’ve been there for the past 2 years and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I still love graphic design but I would rather use my design skills on my own terms. Being able to make my own website and business cards is pretty awesome and I love helping friends out with similar projects.

Do you have any projects coming up next? Obviously, I’m always waiting for you to open an Etsy shop so I can have ALL THE THINGS lol!
Now that I have a better sense of what kind of art I like making I’m anxious to see where those paths will take me. I want to try some large scale paintings and collages and try to get them shown in a gallery somewhere. This sparkly paper really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated! :)
I don’t have an Etsy shop but I do have prints for sale at society6.com/norasimon.

Thanks for sharing, Nora! 

Shop Nora's work on Society 6
Follow Nora on Instagram

Working on a project and want to chat about it? Reach out! Email us at hello@handmadehabitat.co

RE: Ed 06: We Can Do All The Things

Your Responses:

"This really resonated with me today. I do so many (too many?) very different things and when I explain ALL my projects to people I meet they usually get confused. Yet, if I only share the project that is most relevant to that person or to the space we are in I feel they miss the whole *me*. There is also such a beauty in connecting with a new person on a topic that has nothing to do with what brought us together. Basically, I just take this day by day and have no answers. But it is helpful to know others think about this too!" - Valerie

"Loved this and OMG I feel the SAME WAY. Really I just need to stop following accounts on instagram that don't make me happy/inspired/etc ... I try SO hard to box myself into a cute/easy/CONCISE description of what I do ... but then I end up feeling like - well I don't really excel at any of those things specifically, and much pretty being pretty good at a wide variety of things!" - Bree


DOING: 100 Days of Bad Art
LISTENING: The Hummingbird Podcast - the Importance of Listening to Yourself with Eva Jannotta
PAUSE: Take a walk.

Dreamers + Doers 06: Doing All the Things

Dreamers & Doers is a new series here on Sunday Blossoms & a twice-monthly mailing you can get sent right to yer inbox. This space is for creatives to find inspiration, support and encouragement to make their dreams a reality. Written + curated by Amina Ahmad, a creative dreamer / doer crafting through life in & around Washington, DC.

In a world where we constantly are cultivating our personal Instagram brands, I find it SO DIFFICULT to find a way to tell people what I do - online and IRL. I own a business; I make things; I hand letter; I have a blog; I write these notes to you. And I do other stuff, too.

I feel like the Internet is always telling me that I have to Be someone. That people need to know the essence of Me via a Twitter bio. And I constantly struggle to figure out how to convey all the things. I know some of you do too, because we've tweeted + talked about this - Who are we if we do all the things?

Today as I took on yet another project, I decided to attempt to let that shit go. Because it doesn't matter. Who I am on the Internet doesn't have to be all of who I am, a full representation of myself. Some of those things can be just for me, right?

But I'm curious about how you feel. Today I don't really have an answer or advice. What do you think? How do you tell people what you do? Who you are between the projects? Respond to this email. Tell me. I'd love to share what you think in the next edition.

Oh, P.S. I heard a great tip the other day if you, like me, have your hands in a million different projects - set days to work on your different projects. For example, Mondays are my yoga planning / Dreamers + Doers days. Tuesdays are studio days for my business. Wednesdays are marketing days, etc. etc. Try it!


We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems

- Arthur O'Shaughnessy


INSPIRED BY: art in nature by Leah Boelman
READING: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
BIZ TRIX: free trial for QuickBooks + chance to win $25k toward a dream studio - ends April 18!

Dreamers + Doers 05: Creativity is a Gift

Dreamers & Doers is a new series here on Sunday Blossoms & a twice-monthly mailing you can get sent right to yer inbox. This space is for creatives to find inspiration, support and encouragement to make their dreams a reality. Written + curated by Amina Ahmad, a creative dreamer / doer crafting through life in & around Washington, DC.

I have renewed Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, from the library three times. That is the maximum amount of times it can be renewed. This guide to creative living is a beacon of light, navigating the waters of summoning courage, letting go of the ego, trusting the magic of the universe and remaining curious throughout the journey.

There are about a million themes we could discuss from this book, and I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it, but what I want to relay + expand on is Gilbert's idea that creativity is a gift - a gift to the creator as much as it is to the audience.

The Romans and Greeks separated the concept of an external creative guide from the notion of the self as an artist. An artist was not a genius, but rather, they had one to guide their hands to bring forth a body of work. The artist is just a conduit for that idea that pulls them further and further through a work until it has been manifested.

Gilbert also postulates that ideas are a force of their own will circumventing the globe looking for a human partner to birth it into this world. If we accept this as true, the ego is therefore set free.

The nature of the ego believes we have ownership of ideas. However, if ideas are a force of their own, then we do not own ideas. They cannot be owned. They are free to float from person to person to person to person as a key looking for the right lock to open the door into being.

Not every idea is one we can use. Sometimes we must pass the key on to another door that it can unlock.

What we own then, is the work we put forth to bringing that idea to life.

So, if you are a painter, then paint. If you are a writer, then write. Hone your craft. Be ready for the day the right key comes to unlock your door. And that, Elizabeth Gilbert would say, is Big Magic.

"If you show up for your work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom."

- Elizabeth Gilbert


INSPIRED BY: little free libraries
READING: You are a Message by Prof G
BIZ TRIX: free trial for QuickBooks + chance to win $25k toward a dream studio

Dreamers + Doers 04: Stay Open

Dreamers & Doers is a new series here on Sunday Blossoms & a twice-monthly mailing you can get sent right to yer inbox. This space is for creatives to find inspiration, support and encouragement to make their dreams a reality. Written + curated by Amina Ahmad, a creative dreamer / doer crafting through life in & around Washington, DC.

Change is hard. Most of us don't adapt well to it. Typically, change is met with resistance. It can be uncomfortable, it can bring grief, but when we open our eyes to it, change can also bring new life.

Here on the first day of Spring, I'm reminded that every day is change.

Every day is a new beginning.
Every day is a new challenge,
but every day is also a new opportunity.
A new chance to start fresh.
A new chance to do something different
and to grow.

When we get bogged down in routine / the ordinary / the mundane, we forget how unique every moment / every interaction / every breath truly is.

"The present moment is new even if we have performed the same action with the same person hundreds of times before. Of course, it’s easy to think, 'Well, it’s just like the last time, so I’ll do what I did last time,' and then not have to listen to the new moment. But if we do that, our lives become boring replications of what we have always done before, and we miss the possibilities of surprise, of new and more creative solutions, of mystery." - Mindful.org

My new challenge is to stay open; to approach each moment as it is: new, unique, a chance. Therefore, the big moments of change won't be so shocking. Instead, they will present opportunity like nothing before. 

Opportunity leads to new experiences.
New experiences lead to new thought.
New thought leads to evolution + growth.
In life, in our work, in our selves.
Stay Open.


“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”

-Van Gogh


INSPIRED BY: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
READING: You are a Message by Prof G
BIZ TRIX: Building a Brand is like Building a House - free ebook

Dreamers + Doers 03: Unapologetic

Dreamers & Doers is a new series here on Sunday Blossoms & a twice-monthly mailing you can get sent right to yer inbox. This space is for creatives to find inspiration, support and encouragement to make their dreams a reality. Written + curated by Amina Ahmad, a creative dreamer / doer crafting through life in & around Washington, DC.

 Artwork by  Lisa Congdon

Artwork by Lisa Congdon

Activism and Art have always been closely tied together. In the social media age, I think we think of art as being more commercial than we have in the past. Commercial generally leans toward non-offensive. Art, however, does not.

Recently, artist / illustrator / hand letterer / author Lisa Congdon wrote about how her followers sometimes complain that they just want to see the pretty pictures and not be bothered with her political views. Her response: "My views have been shaped by my experience — as a woman and a lesbian, for example — just like your experiences shape your views."

Our experiences affect our views.
Our views + experiences affect our reality.
Our reality affects our work.

Don't worry about making people uncomfortable with your perspective. But at the same time, we must also remember to step outside our own comfort zones and welcome others' views that may make us a little uncomfortable. Because while all art may not resonate with our own realities, all voices need to be heard, particularly for communities with historically less visible experiences.

"While I have lost many, many followers over the past months (especially in the past weeks [post-inauguration]), I am incredibly heartened by the support that the vast majority of my following (and it’s going strong) have expressed for my activism and my activist artwork. I think most of my followers do see me as a whole human being — they want to see me as a whole human being. They like knowing where I stand, and where they stand in relationship to me." - Lisa Congdon

Likewise, but in a completely separate world, artist and founder of Black Girl in OmLauren Ash, created her platform to specifically create space for women of color to explore self-care and wellness. She says "I think that it’s just astonishing that you still look at advertisements and walk into a yoga space and will still be surprised if you see yourself represented. That is really crazy." 

Everything does not have to be for everyone.
Sometimes, creating work tailored to your particular view can be the more important + inspiring path to follow.

“In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.” – Audre Lorde

Our perspectives need to be shared. As a multicultural millennial woman, I know my pure existence is a full-time representation of my community / my politics / my perspective. But as an artist / a maker / a writer / a doer, I get to share that with the world.
And you do too.


Advice from Lisa Congdon

What has become more important to me, and the main point I want to make here, is living my truth, expressing myself as a whole person — not just someone who makes pretty pictures — is more important to me. Here’s how I put it to the woman who publicly proclaimed she was unfollowing me and all artist/activists: “I am not on this planet to please everyone or make everyone feel comfortable. I am here to share my art and my experience and to be a voice for what I believe in.”

Read More


INSPIRED BY: Miss Chelove's mural series in Pakistan / #MagnetsofCreativity
READING: In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney
BIZ TRIX: DC area friends, Washingtonian magazine is rounding up women-owned businesses for A Day Without Women. Contact info to list your biz is through the link.