As winter started to wind down, I thought we really had it made as a family. We’d avoided a lot of the nasty sicknesses, and as a house with immune deficiencies, that’s a big deal. I didn’t go to the hospital. Then, we slipped into the neverending sickness. Thankfully, none of them were especially dangerous, but it did force me into much needed rest and much time cuddled up on the couch, wrapped in blankets.

Between bugs, I accompanied my parents on an amusing outing to buy underwear. I ventured off alone for a few minutes and saw this book propped up on a display. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney. I snapped a photo, and upon returning home requested it from the library. The next day, I popped in and picked it up.

In the Company of Women book cover

Reading about these various creative women and entrepreneurs has been really fascinating. As you might expect from a collection of creative individuals, the answers to their interviews are varied and rather scattered across the board. The two big threads I’ve seen I really agree with.

The favorite thing people love about their workspaces is the natural light. If you haven’t been into the office to see it, the light is the first thing people mention when they come in (besides my wall-sized crazy purple desk!). I have two full walls of just windows.

The thing people want more of is real connection with people through relationships.

When I saw this particular quote that was answering the question, “What does success mean to you?” it resonated with me and my business.

photograph of quote in book
“As long as my work continues to foster joy, celebration, community, generosity, and simplicity, I’m on the road to success.” -Dana Tanamachi

How many times have you seen me use these exact words? These are all really important values to me. These things aren’t a trend, aren’t going to leave, and regardless of direction of my creative endeavors, these qualities are marks of what I hope my life and my work is. This is what I want to leave behind.

This has led me to reflect a bit on myself as a creative maker, artist, and entrepreneur.

Wedding and portrait photographer Nikki Dukes with lemon slices over her eyes

A few years ago, I felt like God was helping me understand the value of my work as an artist. Sometimes it’s easy to negate the value of my work because it’s not a necessity. But God made the world through both a balance of creativity and order. I think that is one reason why I love photography. It is consistently both artistic and technical, orderly.

Sometimes the urge to create is so strong in me, I must do it right away. This is often messy, disorderly, and lacks much finesse. This is when my family endures a strange dinner or snack because I was reckless in the kitchen. I often veer off the course of recipes. Sometimes I’ve painted sloppy messes. Redecorated a chair with scraps from the basement. I’ve hacked a plant to scraps in the name of pruning. Or sidewalk-chalked alongside my children, deep in the dusty process.

Sometimes the urge for order is so strong in me, I must have it right away. Counters empty. Toys hidden, each piece with its set. Dust disappearing. Schedules organized. Routines established. And inbox emptied of all it can be.

But when they are together, it’s beautiful. The creativity sparks and maintains joy. It takes my breath away. It wasn’t just the messy process I needed, it was the combination that made something worth keeping.

The dinner gets eaten. The chalk gets washed away. The chair got covered in food stains (and frankly was kind of a neon shade) and it’s sitting on Craigslist right now. Construction paper paintings are recycled.

But the photographs taken with purpose. The crafted words written. The visions brought to life. Those get to stay, at least for a season. Those have both creativity and order, and hopefully reflect well the Creator.

Often at photography conferences we’re encouraged to do personal projects and allow ourselves creative freedom, not just creating what our clients want to have (or think they want to have). This year, I set a goal for myself that wasn’t just personal photography. I don’t want to keep only that part of my life fresh and creatively invigorated. I’d rather allow the whole creative being that I’ve been made to be to flourish through creative endeavors of many kinds.

My goal is that by the end of the year I have completed 5 projects that express my heart in mediums I enjoy: photography, sun printing, poetry, writing, and painting.

“As long as my work continues to foster joy, celebration, community, generosity, and simplicity, I’m on the road to success.” -Dana Tanamachi

"Live a Quiet Life, Work With Your Hands" chalkboard-style graphic