Unintended Hiatus

It’s 4p.m. on Monday afternoon. I have to be at my regular job in four hours for a 10-hour shift, but I’ve been wrestling with some things and I’m going to sort out a couple thoughts regarding this side hustle of mine.

A week or two ago I started writing this. I’ve been getting e-mails about my Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate needing renewing. It will only be $10 or so, but it was a reminder of how much I have neglected Neat & Keen this year and the question is: What do I want to accomplish here?

Getting Back To Music

In January a friend of mine asked me to play an opening set for a show at Byer’s Brewery in DeKalb. I was nervous and excited. I did the math and realized it had been about ten years since I had performed in public.

Since that experience we’ve had a statewide shutdown (yadda, yadda) and I find myself going live with some short musical sets more than I have in the past. Most sets are more like a clumsy open mic than a polished performance, but it’s been nice putting even a little effort forward. I used to play in an acoustic duo with a friend and he has since told me he can’t remember how to play many simple open chords. I’ll never be a professional, but I don’t like the idea of being a guy who “used to play guitar.”

John playing a set in the print studio while wearing a Santa hat
A short live set from the print studio in my basement

The Data Loss

A corrupted database caused me to lose years of posts from this site that included research and development on a number of projects. Would you like to know how to make your own vacuum table for silkscreen printing? That post is buried in a mess. I can fish it out along with dozens of others, but it is time consuming and maybe not worth it. The loss of all the work is still a punch to the gut.

The Love Poem

This is a project I have debated resurrecting a number of times and it’s funny how I can get so busy with life that I sometimes forget this is a thing I did.

Once upon a time the Holstee Manifesto really grabbed my attention. A few people built a (seemingly) successful business on the strength of a single-color letterpress poster.

An original silkscreen print from a line of the Love Poem

The Love Poem was something I came up with as an answer to a problem that was bothering me. The Beatles said it most simply: All you need is love. We don’t think of love as a resource of a commodity, but I was raised to believe that the more love you freely give, the more it will be returned to you. There are times I read the news and I’m not sure if that is true. If not for the data loss I would just link to one of the old posts about the Love Poem, but things being as they are, I will share it here again:

Does not YIELD. Does not Cease.
Says “Citizens of Earth, We Come In Peace.”

Opens Doors, Fights No Wars
Takes Creepy Crawly Spiders from the bedroom floor
And places them gently unharmed outdoors

Donates blood despite the needle’s stick
Because someone elsewhere is injured or sick

Gets together to study
Does not grouse
Says, “Hey there buddy
This one’s on the house.”

Says, “I’m going to quit smoking,
Eat right, and exercise more,
So I can stick around longer
And watch love flourish like never before.”

Wastes not and fixes broken components
Puts the toilet seat down
(It takes just a moment)

Love says, “Forget the third quarter earnings
and dollar amounts
It’s our customers, employees, and
long-term prosperity that counts.”

Is patient
and is kind
Can not, will not
be left behind

Does not envy.
Does not boast.
Helps dig ditches
and mend fence posts

Love may not be
all that you need,
But it’s the first ingredient to go in
and what we need most indeed

You could quibble with some of the stanzas (I might quibble back), but overall it’s still something I’m proud to have created. Sometimes it makes me uneasy that I would attempt to take a positive message to create a product to profit from, but I’m not asking to be a millionaire here. I’d just like the chance to maybe work for myself, get a little bit ahead. I’ve been working third-shift in factories and warehouses for fourteen years. It would just be nice to get some kind of a break.

There were typographic designs, pictograph designs, and so many iterations of posters for the Love Poem. Sometimes its good to take a break from something, but maybe that’s a project I need to revisit soon.

All The Rest

This summer I decided to paint my house. I did not fully appreciate how much of a challenge it would be. I’m taking short breaks from it for my sanity as I can, but there are definitely aspects of it that I need to wrap up before snow starts falling, and that always happens sooner than you think. It has extended my unintended hiatus, for sure.

For the purposes of shameless self-promotion, I uploaded some of my art and logos to RedBubble so that I could get some custom masks and pins. They aren’t great, but you’re welcome to buy some for yourself. If you really want to support Neat & Keen, come by the studio some day to buy some art. I have lots. I’ll make you a deal.

I had more I was going to write about other big ideas and projects in the works (the Vari-Dot notebooks, greeting cards, furniture designs, guitar building), but maybe it’s best to parse these out over time. The real thing I’m still asking myself is do I really want to work for myself or do I just want to find the time to work on the projects that make me happiest?

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me elsewhere. Sometimes the answer is clearer from a different perspective.

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