Take Your Art Everywhere

sasha kretova terrain collection
Are you one of those people who get their best ideas in the most unexpected places at totally random times? You're riding on a bus, enjoying your time with friends or taking a walk in the park and bam! there's your lightbulb moment. You have to remember those ideas! You know, by the time you get home they'll be gone. I created the notebooks in the TERRAIN collection for those moments. They are lightweight and portable, while still being perfect for any type of creativity, be it sketching, journaling or planning a wedding.

From now on TERRAIN notebooks are also available in smaller size. No larger than a postcard and as thick as your average pencil, they'll fit into any bag and even some pockets. They are still perfect for your art: heavy paper, open flat binding and 72 pages of your choice (lined or blank) will provide you with the comfort and confidence you need to reveal your brightest ideas from your mind onto paper.
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Shop for new notebooks HERE.

Free Printable Gift Wrap

Before I leave you to enjoy the holidays and relax on my own little vacation, there's one little gift I'd like to give you. I designed these wrapping papers especially for you, dear blog readers, as a thank you for reading and supporting what I do, and to offer you little help with all the fun, but crazy holiday preparations. Just download the files, print them out and get wrapping. I made them in two sizes: A4 and A3. The smaller ones (A4) are perfect for a standard home printer and are enough for wrapping small presents. The larger ones (A3) are for those of you who have access to a larger-format printer, and with those you can wrap larger gifts. If you're in the US or another country, where letter size is used for printing, you can still use these, just make sure you scale them to 100%, and then just cut the white edges off. You can also experiment with pattern sizing by scaling your print to more than 100%, but I wouldn't recommend blowing it up too much, cause you might get a lower quality print.

You can download the files HERE

Also, check these printable gift tags I shared last year!

Have fun gift wrapping, gift giving and all other fun holiday activities! I'll be enjoying spending time with my family, cooking and baking and a two-day Christmas getaway with my husband. See you in January!

Give art! Gift guide #3

Watercolor art from Silke Bonde

Being a minimalist and trying to buy as little as possible, I never feel guilty about buying art. I wish I could afford to buy more art, original art directly from artists. I believe art can be a great gift to someone who values beauty, creativity and uniqueness. Doesn't buying art from someone who created it always feel like you got something so real and unique? It totally does for me, even when it's a tiny print from a large edition. When giving art, there is always an issue of whether it goes in someone's house. It is like giving an interior piece. So it is good to know the interior taste of the person at least to some extent. In this gift guide I collected some of my favorite pieces from different artists, that are pretty neutral and can go in many different settings. They each have a distinct style of their own, but are easier pieces to gift compared to something much more bold (which would make a great gift too, but you need to know the person's taste really well). I hope they will inspire you and give you ideas for gifts to give to your interior-obsessed art-loving friends.

Left to right, top to bottom:
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Even Better Linen Notebooks

large hardcover sketchbooks

I have a special place in my heart for linen notebooks. They combine coziness of textile, textured feel of raw linen, sturdiness of hardcover binding and a timeless classic look. When I realized that many of you find them special too, I listened carefully to all your feedback and have put some time into improving them.

When working on this new version, I made sure they have everything you need in a perfect notebook. I kept the good features they had: high quality heavy paper, perfect for drawing and writing, hardcover binding, that keeps them sturdy and durable and eco-friendly materials. I've put some work into improving the binding and now it lets the notebooks lay perfectly flat (as all my softcover notebooks do), so drawing and writing process can go as smoothly as possible and you can fill whole spreads with doodles and drawings. They also include additional features to add some convenience, such as elastic closing band to keep your pages safe and page marker ribbon to never spend your precious time looking for the right page.

They are available in three main colors and in several additional colors you can see in product descriptions in the shop. All colors are available in limited quantities, so if you see something you like, make sure to act fast. Learn more in my shop here. If you prefer shopping on Etsy, follow this link.

If you have any questions about these books or any other products in the shop, I'd love to chat with you in the comments! Shopping online can often be confusing, because you can't really see and touch the product (oh how I wish you could all touch these linens, they are so cozy!), so I'm here for you to address all your doubts.

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Gift Guide #2: Accessories

Image from Lee Coren

To continue the topic of thoughtful and useful gifts, I compiled this collection of beautiful accessories from small businesses and ethical manufacturers. This might give you ideas of what to give someone who loves fashion and wearables. These are all timeless designs, that go with everything and can be used for years to come. This is a bit of a personal wish list for me too. I can never have enough pouches to store all the small objects in my bags, and the ones from Amelie Mancini, Beanie on Helina and Oats Home are so neutral and versatile. I've been dreaming of this vegan leather satchel from Vegetarian Shoes for ages, so classic! Their boots are perfect, my pair is staying strong after a year in all kinds of weather conditions, can't wait to add this bag to my small collection. I discovered Lee Coren's work a couple of days ago and fell in love with her backpacks, they are so modern, so simple and the leather she uses is vegan too, which made me so happy, since cruelty free and eco-friendly leather products are always so hard to find. I've been also eyeing scarves from Windward Made and Another Feather's jewelry lately, as they both feature perfectly simple and classic designs and beautiful materials.

Hope this list will give you ideas of what to give your friends or family members, who love accessories and value quality, timeless design and natural materials. Links to sources are on the bottom of the post.

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Thoughtful gift giving + a gift guide #1

sasha kretova gift set

I took a little break from blogging, as I needed to concentrate on my work for a while. I had several new products in the works, a design market to prepare to, some personal and financial struggles, that kept distracting me, and as a result, a bit of overall overwhelm and panic. But I really missed this space! Taking a break gave me some new ideas and I can't wait to get back at it. While I was away, the holiday shopping season has gained it's speed, and I can't wait to catch up with my own gift guides and a few surprises I prepared for you.

To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with gift shopping and gift giving. I love giving, but I always want my gifts to be thoughtful, useful and friendly to our planet and society. Once it's time to find lots of gifts for lots of different people in a short period of time, this task becomes somewhat of a struggle. I have learned a few things to make this task easier: listen to people and try to remember when they mention something they want, always keep a list of "approved" companies (ethical and eco-friendly), some of which should be local (really helps with last minute shopping). I also really like to have a list of people I'm planning to buy gifts for and ideas of what they might like, which really helps plan in advance and not be caught in impulsive gift shopping. Making gifts with my hands is my absolute favorite, but I yet have to learn the art of planning them in advance, cause they do take time.

When you're conscious about nature and society and a decluttering freak on top of that, getting people to give you gifts that go with your values, might take some work too. I am not a big fan of making wish lists, for some reason (though I love them when I am the one to shop for a gift), but I am a huge fan of getting experiences as gifts. When holidays are approaching, I start giving hints about how great it would be to get a ticket to a theater play or a movie as a gift. Also gifts you can eat, drink or use out some other way, are my other favorite option. A pack of high quality tea, a bottle of organic red wine or a box of delicious vegan chocolates I can't normally afford, can make me the happiest. What I learned though, is that many gift givers don't feel that gifts like that are generous enough. So if you are into useable and experience type of gifts, you need to take time to convince your loved ones that that's what you value and appreciate more than anything you can put on a shelf.

In the next couple of weeks I'll share a few gift guides with my favorite products from small design companies around the world. When I look at these beautiful objects during this time of year, I keep asking myself: who could it be good for, who would love this and actually use it, instead of adding it to the pile of useless gifted stuff. I hope these gift guides will inspire you and give you ideas on what to give your loved ones this year to support their hobbies and passions, their style and character.

This week I'm starting with stationery! That's the most exciting category for me and I couldn't wait to share the products I found with you. These would be perfect for someone who's all about pen and paper. You know, the people who write everything down, sketch and doodle everywhere they go, love to plan and keep their desk stylish and tidy. Know someone like that? Then you might find your perfect gift for them below.

stationery gift guide

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ORGANIZE: boost your productivity

organize boost your productivity

Have you heard about the Pomodoro Technique? I learned about it just recently, because my husband has been using it for his studies and once I tried it I got pretty amazed with the results. Seriously, it has been the best way to increase productivity for me so far. Here's how it works.

You run your timer for 25 minutes, during which you work on your current task without interruptions. When the timer rings, you stop, set the timer for 5 minutes, take a break and do something unrelated to your work. Then you repeat. After you've done four rounds, take a longer break, 20-30 minutes. It's that easy!

I've tried working this way for most days last week and I got pretty excited about how much more work I was getting done. I started with a daily to-do list and just ran all the tasks I had listed during those 25 minute sessions. I did not divide the tasks between sessions, instead I just did whatever was next on the list, stopped for five minutes whenever the timer rang and continued from where I left off when the next session started. During the longer breaks I had lunch, went for a walk or did a short workout (if working from home, I wouldn't work out in the middle of our shared office, that would be weird!)

The first couple of days I got a bit stressed out, cause I felt like I'm in a constant rush. When you really concentrate on your tasks, those 25 minute sessions run really fast, as do the 5 minute breaks. But after a while I got a better hold of the technique and actually started enjoying it. I have trouble concentrating on tasks for more that 30 minutes, so 25 minute sessions are perfect for me, because I don't get a chance to loose my concentration. Short breaks really let my brain wander off and relax and when I'm back to work I'm ready to concentrate again. During those short breaks I usually get up, stretch my back a little, and try to get off the computer. From time to time I use those breaks to check e-mail and social media, but that should not be the majority of those breaks. I'm especially happy that I don't feel extremely tired in the end of a work day, like I used to. Before I implemented the technique I'd get really tired in the end of a work day, especially if I spent it all staring at the computer screen (I'm trying to implement a half computer/half making daily schedule, but it hasn't been always working yet). Some days I'd show up at a band rehearsal after work and be unable to play at all, so I ended up complaining about how tired I was most of the time. Things like that made me really unhappy about how I spend my free time. I wanted to enjoy making and playing music and spending time with my friends and family. Apparently, having enough breaks during the work day does the trick! I kind of knew that, but did not have any proper strategy to add enough breaks into my days. Now I do!

So here is what implementing the Pomodoro Technique did for me:

- Doubled my productivity
- Decreased tiredness after work day
- Allowed me to work longer days, when needed, without getting too exhausted
- Taught me to enjoy the tasks I didn't enjoy before
- Gave me insight at how long different tasks take me to complete
- Increased the quality of my free time
- Increased my overall feeling of accomplishment and happiness about my work
- Increased the amount of physical activity I get during the day
- Decreased the pains that came from sitting or standing in one position for too long (e.g. back and neck pains)
- Decreased the amount of time I spend procrastinating

I really encourage you guys to try it, if you feel that your days could be more productive than they are now, if you get tired at the end of your work days, if you tend to procrastinate and find it difficult to concentrate on a task for long enough for it to get done.

One more tip I'd like to share about implementing this technique is downloading an app onto your smartphone. It makes it much more convenient, than setting the timer again and again. The app will notify you of the start and end of each session as well as when it's time to take a longer break. There are plenty of apps if you search for "pomodoro". I've tried a couple and stuck to using the one called "Flat Tomato", because it lets me choose times for my sessions (even though i try to stick to the classic 25+5), it runs well on the background when I use other apps and it lets me set it to vibrate, which is great for working at a shared office where I can't let my phone ring every 25 and then 5 minutes, that would annoy my officemates too much. I suggest you download several apps and see which one works best with the way you work. Just remember: you REALLY concentrate for 25 minutes and you REALLY rest for 5 minutes after that, and that is the secret ;)

If you try it I'd love to know how you feel about this strategy, so please share in the comments! Oh and you can find more information on the Pomodoro website. I'm still new to this, but I just couldn't wait to share, because I was blown away with the results.

If you feel this isn't working for you, check this post I wrote a while ago about how different techniques work for different people. For more posts on planning, organizing and productivity go here.

2016 planners are here!

I am so excited to announce that my planners for the year 2016 are finally available for you to grab! I've been working on this project for the past several months and it feels so great to finally put it out into the world. These planners reflect everything I value in design: simplicity, sustainability and creativity. I based the weekly planning pages on my last year's planner design, as a lot of my customers who purchased them were really happy with the page layout. It is very clean and simple with lots of space for notes, lists, writing and stickers. One thing I added, are year-at-a-glance pages for both 2016 and 2017.

A request I got from a lot of people was to make the planner in larger size and of course this year I did. I am totally in love with the big size planner! It features extra large date numbers, that look super stylish and has even more space for those of you who love long lists, have large handwriting or just enjoy extra space. The small planner is postcard size, which makes it really compact to fit into almost any bag. It still has plenty of space for you to write in due to its simple layout and no extra details apart from the dates and weekdays.

Another thing that is brand new in these planners are cover designs. I didn't want those of you who purchased planners last year to carry the same looking book with you for that long. Now you can stick with your favorite layout, but have a different design for the new year ahead. Both designs feature my watercolor paintings printed on brown carton at an environmentally responsible printing house in Estonia (which I'm so happy I found, they are amazing to work with!) The inside pages are printed in my studio on my favorite high quality 100% recycled paper, that I especially love for its thickness, which does not let pens and sharpies show through on the other side. As most of my products, the planners are hand bound in my studio using my signature technique, that lets the book open flat, which always makes me and my customers happy, because it's super convenient to write and draw in.

If you'd like to purchase one for yourself or your favorite organized creative, visit my online store or my Etsy shop.

Life in Phone Photos #4

My life has recently been for the most part revolving around work with breaks to spend time with my husband, which does not involve using my phone, so all these photos are about my process this time. It's been a really exciting and busy time, as I am working on two products that are super important to me and are coming out very soon. One is a planner, which I talked about in my previous post and the other one is a collaboration product with an extremely talented textile designer Kaisa and her brand Beanie on Helina. I am super excited about both projects and working on them involved trying new things and learning along the way, which is always very inspiring and energizing. So here are some snippets from my workdays in the studio for the past couple of weeks.

Above: the first finished planners and watercolor textures for a client design project.

I've been doing lots of binding! Freshly bound notebooks for our collab with Kaisa and ready to be bound planners.

Some more binding: fabric covers and paper blocks in the making, before being put together into hardcover books.

Ready batches of notebooks from Tartu Collection and Linen Collection.

Travel-inspired sketches and watercolor experiments.

Pretty packages in the mail and riding my bicycle to work every day (which serves both as a free transport and as a workout squeezed into a busy day!)

Favorite tools that I use almost every day and a bunch of pretty stationery I collected for styled photoshoots.

2016 Planners

sasha kretova 2016 planner

I'm popping in to share a project I'm currently working on and am really excited about. I'm spending most of my time these days finishing up the release of my weekly planners for 2016. I've been designing them for the last couple of months and I can't wait to put them out into the world.

Everyone who contacted me after purchasing one last year have been really pleased with the simplicity of the pages (and luxurious recycled heavy paper), so I kept the insides the same for this year. I went extra creative with the covers this time though, as I thought some of you who purchased my planner for 2015 might want something different to carry in the their bag next year. I went crazy with watercolors and just experimented with textures and brush strokes for a couple of days in a row and then chose my two favorite abstract patterns for the covers (you can see one of them above). I got the covers professionally printed by an environmentally friendly printing studio located in Estonia. They've done such a good job, I was almost jumping with joy when I first opened the box with the ready prints. They look so pretty printed on beautiful recycled brown cardboard!

sasha kretova 2016 planner

Last year I had many requests for a planner in larger size, which is why this year I made them in two sizes: large and small (A5 and A6). The large one will have even more space for planning, making lists or just doodling and having fun with it. It also features dates printed in beautiful large font, which makes it look really cool and stylish. The smaller planner still has plenty of space to write in due to its minimalist design, plus it is compact enough to fit into any bag.

This year I also added "at a glance" pages for the whole year 2016 and 2017, so you can plan ahead or just check the dates whenever you need to. There are also few lined pages in the back of the planner for general notes. The whole planner will be hand bound with my favorite open binding technique, which enables the books to open flat for extra convenient writing.

To be honest, I can't wait to get my hands on this planner myself. I have to decide whether I want to use larger or smaller size though. I promise I'll show you more photos soon, once I finished binding and photographing the first batch. They will be available for ordering later this month. If you'd like to be notified when the planner comes out, make sure to visit my website and click JOIN on the front page to sign up for my very special e-mail list.