We’re back with another great episode of the FIKA IMG_8331podcast where I’m interviewing Michelle Armas on art, motherhood and her small business. Here are some of the topics we discussed:

    1. Michelle shares her artist life and how she left her NYC job to go for it [1:22]
    2. The relationship between her art and the customer, and the nerve it takes to showcase your art [9:24]
    3. Why is being creative a necessity and advice for the creative one [11:19]
    4. How motherhood has changed Michelle [14:22]
    5. Repurposing old art [21:43]
    6. Michelle shares her recent adoption process [25:21]
    7. Maternity leave as an artist [29:28]
    8. Advice to the fearful artist and finding the balance [35:21]

Links and Show Notes:

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FIKA Podcast Episode 002: Art, Motherhood and Small Biz Talk with Michelle Armas, Part 1

Erica Eriksdotter: Hi Lovelies, It’s time for Fika.  The Swedish word that means bonding and connecting with friends over coffee or tea. This is the place to be for real talks and discussions about everything from healing, fine arts, motherhood and entrepreneurship to health and fitness.  The focus is connecting the dots through consciousness and elevating how consciousness is directed through each guest’s career and life path.  

My name is Erica Eriksdotter, born and raised in Sweden and I now live outside of Washington, DC. I am a fine arts painter and owner of Studio Eriksdotter, Certified Intra-Dimensional Healer and PR and Social Media Strategist. I am a modern woman, connected to Self who brings meaning to life through an earth centered truth.

Today, we’re having fika with Michelle Armas to talk about the life as a success full-time artist, small business owner and the life as a new mama.

Erica Eriksdotter: Hi Michelle!

Michelle Armas: Hi!

Erica Eriksdotter: Did I pronounce your last name right?

Michelle Armas: You did.  I was so impressed.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] So, artist to artist here.  You are just fabulous, Michelle.  We have supported each other over social for a few years, but this is actually the first time we talk in real life.

Michelle Armas:  Yeah!

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah.  I’ve interviewed you for my blog a while back and you tossed around some ideas with me over email which I always appreciate.  But, I am super excited to talk to you today.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, Me too!!

1. Michelle shares her artist life and how she left her NYC job to go for it [1:22]

Erica Eriksdotter: So, Just for our listeners, just a little bio about your life Michelle.  Michelle is a painter who delights everyone on her Instagram feed with colorful art and photos of her adorable little girl who just turned one.  You can find her at michellearmas.com and michellearmas007 on Insta. Her art is in several galleries and if you are addicted to Anthropologie, like unfortunately I am, then you love the fact that her art has actually been sold through them as well.  So, let’s dive in, Michelle.  How did you decide on being a full time artist? You’ve painted all your life.  But, how did you decide to just go for it?

Michelle Armas:  Um, well, I have a Master’s degree in graphic design and branding and I was living in New York and I was painting because I was super stressed out.  Because my work was not fun.  And, um, we decided after a short time to move back to Atlanta. And, my husband was working every day and I had had to leave my job in New York to come to Atlanta, so I just decided to spend all day, every day trying to make money by selling stuff. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [Laughing]

Michelle Armas: I am going to paint this painting and see if someone buys it.  And then somebody bought it.  I remember the first time that somebody ever bought a painting that wasn’t, you know, a relative, from my store.  I was sitting on the sofa and I was like holy balls! [laughing] It’s working.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Did you celebrate it?

Michelle Armas:  I did, I did.  My husband came home and he was like, “Way to go, baby!”, and you know, we just toasted, I think or whatever.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Michelle Armas:  Yeah, I still remember it. I’m still, I am still Facebook friends with the guy who bought the painting.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, that’s neat! [Laughing]

Michelle Armas: [Laughing] Yeah

Erica Eriksdotter: [Laughing] That’s awesome.  I like how you were Facebook friends and not like, here’s a business associate, you know, relationship.  I should log this contact information and put him in marketing. And, you know.

Michelle Armas:  Oh, well, I mean.  He asked to friend me on Facebook. He was my like, you know, I recognize that name, he bought something from me. I was like, okay!

Erica Eriksdotter: That’s cute.

Michelle Armas:  Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, I guess that necessarily, I mean that’s very like free spirited of you. It’s not necessarily like the path that most small business artists will go.  They will probably struggle. I mean you struggled in New York, probably like having a corporate job. But, that’s brave of you to just go for it. Did you, I assume you have not regretted it?

Michelle Armas: Oh no, definitely not.  Um, no I’ve never regretted it, not once.  I did still struggle.  The decision to do it was very simple for me.  I just can’t, I’m not good at working in offices.  I’ve never been good at it.  I’ve never enjoyed it.  I don’t like office politics stuff.  I knew that I was going to have to do something.  Be my own boss, or I was just never going to succeed. So, I just got up every day and worked on it all day, every day. And, I you know, even though I wasn’t selling stuff for the majority of that time, I was doing something.  I was putting myself out there and creating this energy and I was just pretending that I was a working artist everyday.  I would just tell myself, I’m an artist.  And, then I started telling people that I was an artist.  Then I was like, I really better have something to show for this cause I’m just saying it.

Erica Eriksdotter: You’re just doing it.

Michelle Armas: Yeah. So, it was a lot of work.  But, the decision to do it, was, I don’t know, I guess just sort of a no brainer.

Erica Eriksdotter:  And you turn out art all the time.  I mean, you’re really good at producing art all the time. Which is, you know, key because people and your followers wants to see new things all the time.  Which is a bit of a struggle that I’m in right now. Cause, I can’t, I mean, you know, I’m a very a detailed oriented. We’re like the opposite spectrum.

Michelle Armas: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: I’m super detailed and it takes me many, many, many hours to finish a piece.  And, you know, I don’t have that much time to do it.  So, uh, which is great for you.  Because you have, you know, you have, you have that connection you get, you painting something fresh.  You know how it is, with social media, if you go stale, you know, it’s not the best.

Michelle Armas:  No, it’s not.  And, I, I feel your pain.  Cause, when I first started painting those original paintings that I was making when I’d get home from work and granted work was just all the time.  Just like 7:00 am until like, sometimes 11:00, routinely 11:00 pm. It was just blech.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Eahh Yikes.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, and so, those initial paintings were very detail.  They were oils.  They weren’t very large.  They were very intricate and detailed.  But, they weren’t figurative like yours. Because for me, figurative work takes so much more concentration.  I have to just simply compose.  That’s it.  That for me is, I have to just be about composition. I would purposely make these super intricate paintings so that I could lose myself in them.  Umm, and so, then it wouldn’t even matter if I only had half an hour.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah.

Michelle Armas:  I would just do it for half an hour because it was just so meditative and then, you know.  So, I feel your pain about how it’s difficult to start and stop, start and stop.  When, for me, when I am doing figurative.  So, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah, um, I mean I love the creative process and I’m very good at, I’m just used to… Like if I’m painting fast, I don’t know what to do.  Like, I’m like, I’m like, umm,  I don’t know what to do, is this done?, uuhhhhh [Laughing] But, you know? How is the balance of this piece?  But, when I do very detailed stuff, it’s very easy for me. So, I mean, we’re doing what is easy for both of us, right?  So, but how would you describe your current work?  I don’t even know. Like, I get, I get very spiritual when I look at your stuff like it’s like, “Oh, this is the energy of that and that’s merging with this.”

Michelle Armas: Oh, that’s so cool.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, But, I mean it’s just gorgeous, but I have no idea how to describe it.  How would you do describe it?

Michelle Armas:  I would just say its abstract expressionism. It’s just; it’s just a composition of shapes and colors.  In a way that you know, that there’s tension that I’m drawn to, that there’s negative and positive space that I’m drawn to.  That colors interact in a way that makes me feel happy.

Erica Eriksdotter: Hmmm, Hmmm.

Michelle Armas: [laughing] I mean, that just to me, seems like it fits together. That’s really, I don’t know how else to describe it. That’s really all it is.  I’m not trying to say anything with it.  Umm, I’m only just, I’m compelled to compose and uh, painting is a quick way of composing.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Do people often want to tell you what they to see in your art?

Michelle Armas: [laughing] Men. Always MEN! Women seem to be able to really just revel in the abstraction and just appreciate how abstracted a piece is.  Men always, every single one without a fault, especially clients like husbands of clients that come into the studio.  They have to tell me what they see in the painting. I like this one cause it looks, if you look really hard, like  there’s a woman holding an apple [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Michelle Armas: [laughing] No kidding. Or this one looks like and my husband does the same thing and the first thing he says is, “Oh look, it’s a guy swimming on his back and there’s a bird in the corner.” And like.

Erica Eriksdotter: That’s hilarious.

Michelle Armas: Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah.  It’s, It’s, yeah. Men do that

Erica Eriksdotter: It’s like a little experiment.

Michelle Armas: It’s true!

Erica Eriksdotter: On human beings. You know?

Michelle Armas: [laughing]

2. The relationship between her art and the customer, and the nerve it takes to showcase your art [9:24]

Erica Eriksdotter:  Well, I thought when I first, we’ve talked about this before.  The nerve you have to have to showcase your art, right?

Michelle Armas: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: But, when I first, you know, because I paint very colorful pieces and you know and when it’s flowers, or stuff like that, it’s very bold statement pieces.  And, I had just assumed, maybe it’s a wrongful assumption, that, well you know, there’s going to be women between 25 and 45, that’s it. But, in fact when you exhibit, I mean it’s just everyone and it’s just such an…  I don’t know if it happens to everyone. But it’s just amazing to see who likes or who are drawn to your art.  Do you feel the same?

Michelle Armas: Oh yeah.  That’s interesting.  Yes.  Um, if I really like the person, um, professionally, I get really excited. Like, if it’s somebody I think is really talented, and they have something to say about my work or they’re drawn to it, I get really excited about that.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Michelle Armas: Umm, and that’s just really fun.  Otherwise, I don’t really like to talk about it.  I think if somebody came up and said you know, “Oh, I’m a big fan”, I get really embarrassed. [laughing] I’m just kind of like, “Oh gosh”.  Cause I feel like such an idiot telling people, “Oh I just, ah, just make them.” [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] What, are you know?  Don’t put too much thought into it.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, exactly!

Erica Eriksdotter: What a disappointment!

Michelle Armas: [laughing] I know, exactly. I do feel like I would disappoint someone.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, and everyone wants to know, for me, is uh how long did it take you to make it?

Michelle Armas: Yeah, for sure. You know what you should say?

Erica Eriksdotter: What?

Michelle Armas: My whole life.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Yeah. Yes! And, actually, I have said that many times.

Michelle Armas: Oh, good.

3. Why is being creative a necessity and advice for the creative one [11:19]

Erica Eriksdotter: I say, well, I sold my first painting when I was 10, so I guess that is, you know, a long time.  Umm, so, why was this important to you?  Why is painting important to you? You’re also creative when it comes to your outfits, I know. [laughing]

Michelle Armas: [laughing] I am?

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, I think so.

Michelle Armas: Oh, great!

Erica Eriksdotter: But why is painting important to you? And, why could you not.  If I told you couldn’t paint tomorrow, what would you do?

Michelle Armas: Oh, if I couldn’t paint, I’d just have to create something else.

Erica Eriksdotter: Okay.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, painting is a means to an end.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, why is being creative very important to you?

Michelle Armas: I think it’s just the way that I relate to the world.  That’s just who I am. It’s the way; I relate to the world. I notice energy a lot, and I’m very sensitive and I absorb a lot and I’m very observant.  And, I guess it has to go somewhere. And, it just comes out of me all the time, in form of composition.  I just constantly composing, creating, and moving, tweaking, you know, arranging.  That’s just the way, that’s the way, I interact with the world.

Erica Eriksdotter: What advice would you give to someone who is in the corporate world who has the same need of that creative process and how they relate to the world like you do?  But, just don’t do it.  Whether it’s because it’s a lack of time or being too tired or like just, you know and no judgment, because clearly this is what I’m doing. I’m in the corporate world by day and then I go home and paint or do healing stuff. But, what advice would you give to somebody?

Michelle Armas: Um, I would say that if that’s who you are, that’s who you have to be.  But, being creative is a way of living your life.  Just because you’re not creating paintings on paper that other people give a numeric value to, doesn’t mean that you’re not being creative and it doesn’t mean that the purpose of your life isn’t to be creative.  You can be creative in every aspect of your life, even your corporate job.  In fact, perhaps that creativity is the very thing that’s making you successful or could make you successful. IF, instead of fighting it, you just embraced it.

Erica Eriksdotter: I think that’s wonderful advice.

Michelle Armas: Oh, great!

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.  I think that’s wonderful advice and that’s the purpose of this, right?  This podcast itself, it’s, you know, you’re merging, how do you merge all your facets and making a more you.  Being more you.

Michelle Armas: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, I think by not resisting it and saying, “Well, I’m just a hobby, you know, knitter”, you know, and dividing yourself up into categories, that’s what makes you split. But, instead, merging all of it and saying and adding that creativity to everything that you’re doing.

Michelle Armas: Yes.

4. How motherhood has changed Michelle [14:22]

Erica Eriksdotter: You just celebrated your daughter’s one-year old birthday. Congratulations on your little girl.

Michelle Armas: Thank you.

Erica Eriksdotter: She’s so adorable and by the way, I love that you share photos of her on Instagram.  How has motherhood changed you? Or has it, has it changed your art?

Michelle Armas: I think in the sense of its changed my art, its changed the time I spend making art.  It makes me more focused. Yeah, I have to be much more time managementy.  I think being, the I’m, I wither under any kind of structure. Um, so I really, it’s hard for me to say, “Oh, okay, I can only be creative from you know, this time to this time.”  Or, “I can only work on paintings and everything else I have to do between this time and this time.”  So, I tend to, you know, um, before I was very floaty.  [laughing].  Now, I am like okay, I have to, if I have to deal with a little bit of structure for my daughter, I can handle that. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah.

Michelle Armas: [laughing] So, yeah.  That’s what I do.

Erica Eriksdotter: I remember; I think you said that during the interview on the blog.  Yeah, how, you’re not structured.  And, I’m like super structured.  To me, I don’t understand that, how you cannot be structured.  But, it works for you.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, I have other friends who have said the same.  But, I am structured in a lot of ways. Umm, I’m very organized.  Well, my husband doesn’t think I’m super organized but it’s just because he organizes in a different kind of way. So, I have my own sort of structure.  But, I need to be and I cannot be tied down with too many commitments.  Um, like you know, I can’t be like, I’m not the kind of person that can be like, well I have a dentist appointment every day at this time, and I have yoga every day at this time.  Because just the thought of having to be somewhere. Like if it’s 9:00 am and I know I have to be somewhere at 6:00 pm, I’m stressed out about it until 6:00 pm.  [laughing] You know? So, I’ve just like had to learn to deal with that.

Erica Eriksdotter: You just came back from vacation.  How was vacation?  You went to Greece and Italy, right?

Michelle Armas: Yes.  It was wonderful.  It was such a blast.  I went with my husband.  We left Alia at my mom’s house, which was very sweet.  They had a really nice time together. They were so cute.  We tried to Skype them.  We had terrible wifi, we did try to Skype them a lot.  And, it was so fun watching them just have so much fun together.  So, it was a vacation for her too. But, yeah we went to Greece for a friend’s wedding. So we were travelling with friends, exploring and then we got to see our dear friends be married and it was really it was such a special time.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, you did very similar to me.  What we did.  We went to Sweden for a wedding, a lovely wedding.  Our closest friends got married and then we tacked on Italy. You tacked on Italy as well.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, well there’s umm, I love living in Atlanta for a lot of reasons.  But, one of them is our airport.  Um, so we can take very quick, not quick, not like its closer to anywhere.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Michelle Armas: Because, you know it’s no hassle to get to the airport, you know.  It’s not unpleasant to take flights.  So, I just pick wherever there’s a direct flight. So, Rome is a place that there’s, there are direct flights from Atlanta.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Oh, sweet.

Michelle Armas: So, that’s why we picked Rome. Yeah, so we just fly to Rome.  And, then what I like to do is fly somewhere, be there, you know, like until the next morning.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Michelle Armas:  Just in case I didn’t sleep or I you know, something, I don’t feel good or something. And the next day fly wherever I’m going if I’m leaving Italy.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Oh, smart.

Michelle Armas:  Yea, so that’s what we did.  And then we just added an extra day at the end in Rome.  Because, we knew that after traveling with friends for two weeks, we were going to want some romantico time. So, that’s what we did.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Bam chick a bow wow.

Michelle Armas: We’re like; we’re going to go home to a child and a busy life. We need a couple of days to ourselves.

Erica Eriksdotter: That was very adult of you.

Michelle Armas: [laughing] Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: What did you feel, um, were you bursting with creativity when you were traveling?  Or is that the time to kind of decompress for you?

Michelle Armas: I’m always bursting with creativity. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Michelle Armas: I feel like, um, you know, I used to not say stuff like that.  Because, I would feel like, does it sound braggy? [laughing] But, I can’t help it.  That’s just who I am.  Especially, I mean, relaxing and being with friends is very therapeutic to me and we’re just so blessed.  We have so many dear friends.  That we all love to be together and we all love to do stuff together.  Travel together.  It’s kind of like a running joke [laughing] that we can’t do anything without everyone else being there.  So, that’s very when my brain gets to rest.  And I get to just be comfortable around people I care about.  That, to me, is just really restorative and then being in beautiful places and just like, appreciating their, the way they compose things.  And, the way the landscapes looks and the way lights different.  It’s just a great opportunity to observe.

Erica Eriksdotter: I agree.  And, for me, it’s, you know, being born and raised in Europe, to me I always long for Europe.  I love living in the US and I love my life here.  But, I have to go to Europe every now and then to kind of restore that creative juices and see the history and the living history and the culture and for some reason that’s where I kind of recharge much more than to any other vacation that I take.

Michelle Armas: Oh, that’s great.  And, I think that’s because it’s connected to your formative years.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah. Oh, could be. So, has the art changed?

Michelle Armas: I don’t think so.

Erica Eriksdotter: I don’t think so, either.

Michelle Armas: You don’t?  I don’t know.  I don’t know that I’ve talked to anybody about this either. So, I don’t know what anyone else would say. But, I don’t think so [laughing]. Great answer Michelle.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] I mean, Well, I mean it doesn’t have to change.  I’m just curious to see on your end if you’ve suddenly, your like, you know, darker colors or like mrrwhh. I don’t know.

Michelle Armas: No, I’m always experimenting.  I’m constantly experimenting. And, so yeah, I’ve just continued experimenting.  Sometimes a painting you’ll see that you connect with me that I’ve done right now, is can be quite old.

Erica Eriksdotter: Huh?

5. Repurposing old art [21:43]

Michelle Armas: Yeah, so, not always. But, or it can also be like half-old and then I re re you know, repainted it, or finished it recently.  Um, so…

Erica Eriksdotter: So, you never throw art out?

Michelle Armas: No, mm-mm, no, no.

Erica Eriksdotter: I have an artist friend who when he’s taking it back from the gallery and if it didn’t sell, he would throw darts at it and then break it apart.

Michelle Armas: Oh!

Erica Eriksdotter: As a therapeutic way of releasing the, that it didn’t, the negative aspect that it didn’t sell.

Michelle Armas: Oh, so he views it that the fact that it didn’t sell as a failure.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, probably.  Well, I mean, I’m putting words into his mouth.  But, and he is a successful artist.  He sells all over.  But, that to him, he would, he did that and I still? I’ve done it with a half painting that I just could not finish for some reason.  I just tore it apart. It was a huge painting. But, I can’t do it with my other pieces and I’m running out of space.

Michelle Armas: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: Well, I’m glad that you’re not that.  Cause I just, it feels, I don’t, I can’t do it, I just.  It goes against my nature I guess.

Michelle Armas: I can paint over it. I mean, if it’s a canvas, I’m not going to rip apart, because it’s a perfectly good canvas. Umm, you can tell that I guess that gives me away as having been an art student.  Art students are so frugal with their art supplies. But, um, I would just paint over it.

Erica Eriksdotter: And you, so, so then it means because, I’m trying to relate it to my art. So my art is extremely thin.  I have very thin layers, so if I would paint over it, it wouldn’t leave a mark or a bump or anything.  Does that do that for you?

Michelle Armas: Oh yeah.  My paintings are pretty textured.  You can tell that there’s painting underneath it.

Erica Eriksdotter: Which probably adds to the new painting?  Adds structure and interest to it, right?

Michelle Armas: Yeah. I mean it does affect the way that I compose.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh!

Michelle Armas: Yeah, so, sometimes I don’t, um, sometimes they’re not successful paintovers.  Sometimes they have to be painted over many times. Because, I just can’t get my rhythm on them quite as well for whatever reason.  Probably just because there is a sort of lingering tense energy around them.  But, so then I try to do something really drastic like just cover the whole thing in house paint.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Michelle Armas: Then start over.

Erica Eriksdotter:   Whoa, in house paint???

Michelle Armas: Oh, I have so much house paint. Like, you know little testers from Sherwin-Williams.  Every time my mom has to paint a wall or me for that matter, I buy like 50 samples.  [laughing] It’s so difficult for me to commit to a color.  I have to subserve the color in all the different lights and I have to see how I feel about it every day.

Erica Eriksdotter: You were Instagramming your, when you redid your um, bedroom.  I mean, you had redone your bathroom too. Your house looks amazing. But, your bedroom specifically was a lot of different colors on the wall.  I remember that.

Michelle Armas: [Laughing] That’s hilarious!

Erica Eriksdotter: I can pick a color from the swatches at Home Depot and be perfectly fine.

Michelle Armas: Wow!!

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Yeah! But, I appreciate.  Because I probably think, that it’s yes. But, I mean super smart what you are doing.  You’re putting it up on the wall. You’ve seen the light, how it reflects it.  I think I just don’t have the patience for it.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, you know it’s funny because I also don’t have the patience for it. [laughing] It drives me crazy, but I have to do it.  It’s like glossing. You know.  It’s like a pain in the ass, but you do it.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Michelle Armas: I’m sorry I said ass.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah, I think your fine.

Michelle Armas: [laughing]

6. Michelle shares her recent adoption process [25:21]

Erica Eriksdotter: Let’s go back to your little munchkin. So, um, you’ve been very open with your adoption process, right?

Michelle Armas: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: Can you briefly talk about the adoption process and why you chose to go that route? For any other listener who is thinking about it or can relate with you.

Michelle Armas: Yeah. Umm, well, I’ve always wanted to adopt, um, ever since I was kid.  I thought it was such a great, cool thing.  And, then I was not able to conceive.  I tried pretty hard.  I already knew that I had endometriosis and that I was probably not going to be able to conceive.  Although, a lot of women with endometriosis do eventually conceive.  I didn’t do IVF.  But, I, you know, gave it a good, honest, you know, go.  I wasn’t comfortable with doing IVF.  So, I just decided, great, that’s out of the way. You know, clean the dust off of my hands.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yep.

Michelle Armas: And I, I just gave myself some emotional space and then when I was ready, when I decided in my mind and my heart that I was ready to adopt, everything just kind of fell into place. And, umm, we found a company, it’s hard to explain.  If anybody is interested in asking me nitty gritty details, they can always contact me.  I’ll just a little aside there, because I am being very brief.  But, we found a company, umm and we were, there was a mother who was available within, like, right away.  It was super-fast. We didn’t have anything ready. We worked all day and all night for six days to get all this stuff done.  She picked us! And then three weeks later we have a child in arms.

Erica Eriksdotter: Wow, it was that quick?

Michelle Armas: Yeah, so in three weeks, we went from, “Oh, we found a company we like.  Maybe we’ll adopt like this, or next year.”  And then, we got an email on the 15th of August and then on the 7th of September, she was born.

Erica Eriksdotter: WOW!

Michelle Armas: [laughing] Yeah, Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: That is amazing.

Michelle Armas: Yeah and you know what else is amazing is that I always wanted…  I kept telling my husband, what I really want is a little Latin American girl. Like, every time I go to the farmer’s market and I see those cute little Mexican girls, I just. Oh my gosh, they’re so cute.  And I can identify with them because I was that little Latina girl too, you know. But, I, but I told them, you know that’s what really I want.  But you know what?  I think that adoption should be, you know, left up to the universe.  You should just be willing to take any child that needs you and that’s how you find your, you know, child soul mate.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, you don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl?

Michelle Armas: No, we didn’t.  I mean, we knew after we were chosen.  So, it’s like once you get picked, you can’t be like, Oh!!! psyche! [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Michelle Armas: You get what you get.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, it’s normal life.

Michelle Armas: Yeah. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: So, um, I would actually love to have you back on the podcast to discuss this very much in depth, if you don’t mind? Are you up for it?

Michelle Armas: Oh yeah. Yeah, sure.

Erica Eriksdotter: Cool.  I think it’s just a silent struggle many women have about infertility and like the process.  It’s not a lot of people, at least what I’m aware, it’s not a lot of people who are just so open and willing to discuss about the process itself and the reality of it, the stress of it, etcetera.  So, for anyone listening, if you have any questions for Michelle, why don’t you use the hashtag, #fikapodcast and submit any questions and the next time Michelle is on, which shouldn’t be too long, we can answer those questions for you.

Michelle Armas:  Cool.

7. Maternity leave as an artist [29:28]

Erica Eriksdotter: So, how do you take maternity leave when you own your own business?

Michelle Armas: [laughing] Umm, I have a great assistant.  And, she does all the customer service emails, all the ordering, all the printing of the prints.  Sending other prints to the printer and packing up paintings.  At the time, she packed up paintings, and processed paintings and put them on the website.  She does everything pretty much except for answer my personal emails and paint for me.

Erica Eriksdotter: And Paint!

Michelle Armas: Yeah, so I just you know…  I had saved up money.  I had been putting money aside for, I don’t know, maybe two years.  Because, it was about two years that I knew, ok, parenthood is imminent. At some point or another, I’m going to need, you know, to be able to have money, a little bit of money set aside. So, that’s what I did to be able to pay my expenses at home.  So, I had that tucked away, for I think for 2 months and then I just tried to stay, on social media.  I’ve always noticed that whatever energy I put out, even if people don’t see me every day, that’s the kind of energy I get back. So, I tried to be positive and have positive energy and like be connected with people even though I wasn’t painting.

Erica Eriksdotter: And of course you had a lot of pieces so if people were wanting to buy pieces, they were available to be bought and then you just checked in here and there. Yeah, it was a good strategy.  So, you were gone for two months? I mean, not necessarily meaning.

Michelle Armas: Yeah. No, I didn’t paint for, like, three or four months.

Erica Eriksdotter:   Ohhh!

Michelle Armas: I mean like, really paint.  Yeah, no. I took a long, long break.  Umm, I mean I painted some.  But, not, not like what I what my normal. Like a streak for me is like painting every day, all day long, for weeks.  Umm, and then I take a break and then I do that again.  So, um, yeah, no I didn’t paint anywhere near like that at all for a while. I was just too tired.

Erica Eriksdotter: Is that umm, what you noticed the most? That your creativity needed to go to your daughter and energy focused and then it wasn’t that you had any leftovers?

Michelle Armas: No, No.  The way it works for me, is, um, creativity or like the desire to be creative and the desire to express myself kind of grows and grows and snowballs and snowballs and the busier I am, if I can’t release that desire, I’m like a runner that doesn’t get to run.  I have to stop.  I have to stop. So I would get to a point where I would be like, “Ok, I am leaving today.  I have to go to the studio”.  You know, to my husband and be like, you need to be here. Cause if I don’t… and he knows me.  He knows I’m like that.  I just need to go and do my thing and then I’ll feel better, you know.  Even if I’m just like standing around and touching my paints.[laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Yeah.

Michelle Armas: I gotta go say hi to my buddies.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yep, No, I’m in my studio every day.  My studio is in my home and I just look at my art, I look at my paint. Even if I can’t… I relate to that, you just want to be present.

Michelle Armas: Yeah.  My aunt, she used to come and spend every Christmas with us when she was single.  And, she would always whisper to me at one point in the proceedings, and be like, “I just need to be with my stuff.”  [laughing] You know? And, I totally, I understood it and that’s why she would tell me because she’s like, “I know you get me. I know you know what I mean.” [laughing] And, we still say that in my family.  It’s like, do you need to go be with your stuff? [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: I so relate to that saying. That’s funny.

Michelle Armas: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: So, clearly you are a successful as an artist even though, you know, what is success? But…

Michelle Armas: Yeah, exactly.

Erica Eriksdotter: But, yeah, that’s a whole other episode.  But, have you ever missed the and I assume that your husband is still a full time worker somewhere. But have you ever missed the luxury of a steady income for you or anything else with going full time?  Now, it’s been a long time for you. But…

Michelle Armas: Um, no.  My husband’s is also an entrepreneur. He um, he’s really helped me a lot. He’s just a really great, good business owner.  He’s grown his business so much since we’ve met.  Um, So, in that sense, I guess I’ve never really had a steady income. [laughing] I mean, it is steady in the sense that, it’s like, you know, there is money every month. I’m talking like when we were first started.  You know.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah.

Michelle Armas: I’d be like, oh there’s money every month, that’s pretty cool. I don’t know.   No, I don’t I’ve never worried about that.  I can’t, I mean, you know, many times and my husband and I have looked at each other and said what is the worst thing that can happen?  We’ll never be homeless.  We’re so privileged and lucky that we have this incredible support system in our lives and in our society for us. That, we will never be homeless.  So, what is like, the, you know why hold on to the edge of the cliff so hard? You know?  Explore a little.

8. Advice to the fearful artist and finding the balance [35:21]

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah. So for those people who are still holding onto the cliff, what tips can you give them?

Michelle Armas: Umm, ok.  Imagine you let go and where are you and what does it feel like?  To me, that’s a revelation that um, once I had it, a lot of things changed for me. You know, just change your perspective.  And then also if you know what you need and give yourself what you need.  Okay, what’s making you scared? I’m scared that I’m not going to be able to make the $5,000 a month I need to live. So, then run drills on yourself. Figure out how you can cut down on costs.  Figure out every single way that you can to make more money.  Just strategize and just think of them as issues you can overcome instead of barriers for you to get what you want. Have a lot of grace with yourself. You know?

Erica Eriksdotter:   Ohhhh! I love that! I wish I had had that when I was going full blown in to my artistry.

Michelle Armas:  Oh yeah!!!

Michelle Armas: Yeah, have a lot of grace with yourself. It’s like, when you think about; you know I’ll use art as an example, like Matisse or Picasso.  You’re thinking of the old man.  You’re thinking of the person with 60 years’ experience. Okay? Imagine, like that they were scared little kids, too.  You know?  And, that’s the stage you’re in when you are starting and that’s fine.  Another thing is, I like to think about whatever decision I’m making or whatever hurdle I have in my life from the perspective of my higher self which for me is this older woman.  And, she’s so wise.  And she can look back.

Erica Eriksdotter: Dude, I want to hang out with her.

Michelle Armas: [laughing] I know, me too. Because she has all the answers and she’s just like finally figured out the whole fashion thing, she always looks amazing. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Mine is wearing a tiara.

Michelle Armas: Um, but yeah and so I try to imagine everything from her perspective.  And, she’s not afraid.  So, you know, she’s already done it, she’s older.  It’s kind of the same perspective of you talking to your college freshman self.  You’d be like this is no big deal, it’s just college. But, when you are a college freshman, it just feels like, oh my gosh. You’re standing on the edge of a precipice.  At least I did.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, what advice exactly would you give yourself in college?

Michelle Armas: Ummm, don’t go to this college.  [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [Laughing]

Michelle Armas: Go away from…oh, no. Yeah, I would have….  I was so angsty.  I was so angsty.  I was just like, oh, the universe and I was like writing in my journal all the time and like sad all the time and convinced that if I wasn’t sad, I would lose my creative edge. You know? Oh my gosh.

Erica Eriksdotter: That’s so funny cause your, like Miss Positive.

Michelle Armas: Yeah! I mean, you know, you I think you have to be.  I think it goes hand and hand with having any kind of success for yourself.  If you’re not happy with who you are and in your life, then you can’t have success. That’s just, yeah, I had to let go of all the stuff.

Erica Eriksdotter: And your balancing it, you found the balance that works for you.  Yes, you paint hard core for what a week, two weeks every day and then you’re like, okay.  Taking a break, embracing, you take vacations, etcetera, etcetera. So, you have that balance.  You finding the TLC I think that to me I was I am still clearly a workaholic in that sense.  But, I’ve learned in the last year I practiced a lot to give myself breaks and rejuvenate and stuff like that.  How do you, what is important for you when you’re taking those breaks?  Just being with your husband and your daughter?

Michelle Armas: Umm, well, it depends.  I’m super introverted which means that I recharge by being by myself.  Or, with people who are inside my little sacred circle.  So, um, I learned a long time ago, a couple years ago, maybe inside the last ten years that it is just 100% true that your body will reflect anything happening in your brain. So, for me, I have to soothe my mind, which is not looking at too much, you know, social media.  Not putting any pressures on myself in terms of any deadlines. So, I try to get everything done that needs to be done.  And, then I create all these safety nets.  Like, I have my assistant, she takes care of things.  And, then I have like, I have all, umm, these alerts everywhere, you know on my email and stuff.  That’s like warning, I’m not here. [laughing] I am giving myself permission to not be here, so you have been warned.  Um, yes, it’s essentially like I kind of lock myself in and then…

Erica Eriksdotter: Or log off.

Michelle Armas: Yeah, Yeah, exactly.  Just sort of drift way from all the stuff.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Michelle Armas: But, I feel like when you are a business owner you kind of feel like you’re never allowed to not be there.  Like, I’ll get phone calls on my cell phone. Random people calling me because there was a problem with their print or something.  And, I’m just like, “Oh, um, I’m driving, picking up my daughter right now.  This is something we need to do over email.”  So, when I’m on, those things I take care of and I’m super professional about.  But, when I’m off, I don’t even answer my phone.  I’m just like, “Peace out”.  [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: I think that’s really good. I think that’s very healthy.

Michelle Armas:  Well, you know what it is. Again, it’s knowing exactly what works for you.  What you need to be happy and unabashedly taking it.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yes, I think that is fantastic advice and specifically about what works for you.

Michelle Armas: Yeah.  Like, Amy Poehler says, “Good for her, not for me.”

Erica Eriksdotter: Yes.

Michelle Armas: Just pick the thing that’s good for your and that’s your thing.

Erica Eriksdotter: Exactly.  And, sometimes that takes a while to figure out.  But, you’ve got to test what is working.  Especially, if what you were saying, how, how you were saying about what’s in your mental part will go into your physical part. And, that is absolutely true, and that’s why we need to definitely figure out, each to our own to figure out how we can make that relaxation happen and decompress. In a world that doesn’t necessarily let you.  Um, but taking and owning that, and saying this is for me. I need to relax. I need to do this.  Even if nobody else is doing it the way you’re doing it, it’s okay.

Michelle Armas:  Yes. Yep for sure.

Erica Eriksdotter: I told you it was going to be hard to stick to thirty minutes.

Michelle Armas: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: So, I will have to make this a two-parter right of the bat, I think.  Michelle will be back to continue her conversation about her artist life, her motherhood and small business challenges in Part Two.  So, please stay tuned for that. Alright, so where can people find you Michelle?  Are you only local to Atlanta?

Michelle Armas:  Yeah, well I mean the Internet is everywhere and um you can see my work in Florida, in Georgia, Connecticut and um, I can’t remember.  [laughing] I think that that’s it.

Erica Eriksdotter: Um, and you can be found at michellearmas.com and michellearmas007 on Instagram.

Michelle Armas:  Yes, and my blog, armasdesign.blogspot.com.  Pretty much just Google Michelle Armas. Everything you need will come before you. And you can choose how best to judge me from your,[laughing], just kidding.

Erica Eriksdotter:  Yeah.  So, um, Michelle will be back to talk a little bit more in depth about the adoption process that she had and share her experience with infertility and adoption.  So, if you have any questions, please use the hashtag #fikapodcast or use the link in the show notes.  I’ll be adding more in the show notes and you can ask questions there privately.  It’s a quick, easy form.  Alright, that’s it for this episode.  Thanks for joining me, Michelle.

The next episode will feature another guest, but Michelle will be back, like I said.  So, make sure you ask the questions.  You can find me, Erica, at studioeriksdotter.com and please join my email list if you want to stay up to date.  You can access it at the bottom of my website and while you’re at it, leave Fika Podcast an iTunes review. We would love to hear from.  Feel free to subscribe as well. Thanks for listening everyone! Bye Michelle.

Michelle Armas:  Bye!


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