Category Archives for Inspiration & Rambling

Moving forward after loss…

2016 was a hard year for me and my family. It marked the end of my dad's Alzheimer's Journey when he passed away on August 2, 2016. 

With a few months of distance it's interesting to reflect on the past year and the things I've learned. 

If I had to draw it, it would look like the letter U – the descent being the last months of watching my dad deteriorate and figuring out how to support and stay connected to him, how to support my mom who was losing her best friend and husband of 54 years and how to navigate the personal grief and loss. 

The bottom of the U would be August through October – the initial loss and figuring out what life's new-normal looked like.

The ascent, or coming out of this stage of our lives, began in November when my mom, sister, brother and I went to London for a week – my dad's final request. He wasn't from England but always loved the country and all the history of Astronomy that was there. 

I'm usually not a New Year's Resolution person or a person who decides everything will be different with the changing of the calendar from December to January. But this year was a little different…

By closing the book on 2016 and starting 2017 I wanted to start fresh. It was time to come out of the fog and find my footing.

Once again I have discovered that I'm a “happy artist” – I'm creative and inspired when I'm happy. 2016 was honestly the least productive new-art year I've had since I started my business. I'm happy to report that the inspiration is again flowing and I'm excited to be playing with some new styles and designs for the art licensing market.

I started my business in the throes of divorce in 2004. I remember a friend saying, “I can't wait to see what you create!  Everyone knows the best artists are those that are suffering or have mental health issues…” Maybe that applies to some of the classics like VanGogh but it certainly doesn't hold true for me!

Grief has no timeline – everyone's process is different. I thought it would be easier than it has been since I had been pre-grieving the loss of my dad for over 5 years… it hasn't proven to be the case. As I did through the Alzheimer's Journey, I'm being kind to myself and doing my best to be patient with the process. (Patience isn't always my #1 virtue!) 

I'm picking up my paintbrushes and dusting myself off. Let's see what comes in the year ahead!

– Tara Reed

P.S. If you want to learn more about my dad and his passing, click here to read my blog post on my Pivot to Happy website that helps families dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's.

I’m the mom of a GRADUATE!

Tara Reed and Kyle Cowper - Boston University GraduationMy son graduated from Boston University on May 13, 2016. So proud of him!

This boy and I, we've had an amazing ride for the past 22+ years! Great weekend celebrating him.

I did really well in the tear department! But I'm sure when he leaves Portland in June it will be a different story (yup! Just typing that got me teared up!)

But this has been my job and I'm pretty darn happy with the results! Than you to everyone who has been along for the ride and supported us!

Extra bonus fun part?

He and some friends had an open house for their families and used plates and napkins I designed. Love that I got a graduation license this year in particular!

Kyle and Graduation Plate by Tara Reed Designs


Why I won’t be at SURTEX this year…

why I won't be at surtexMy son is much of the reason I dared to dream of a career in art licensing…

when I began in 2004, I was recently divorced & wanted to work from home for him.

He’s been my art critic, my biggest supporter and by my side through this journey. It’s hard to believe that he is graduating from COLLEGE and that after 11 consecutive years at SURTEX, I won’t be in a booth.

I’m still creating so reach out and let’s work together!

See you next year…

– Tara Reed

My Word for 2016: Allow

Every year I pick a word to represent the year ahead… last year I got a “cease & desist” from an attorney for my word – it was THAT powerful!  (Sorry – won't tell you – don't want that to pop up in my life again!) This year after a bit of journaling and reflection, I've chosen ALLOW as my word for 2016. So many unexpected things happened and shifted in 2015 and so many things are still in flux for 2016… I find myself wanting to control them, to find a crystal ball, to KNOW how it will play out. But life doesn't work that way. We have to do the work and release attachment to the outcome.  I've decided I need to work on my ability to trust and ALLOW things to unfold in the way they are meant to.

How are you at ALLOWING?

Allowing doesn't mean you don't have opinions, that you don't react, pivot and work to make things happen that make you happy. It doesn't mean you are a victim – it means you don't battle. You don't fight, you notice.

You look at the circumstances of your day, week, month, etc and you get curious. What brought this about? How do I want to react, if I want to react at all? Do I want to participate in this or not?  Does what I see / feel / hear make me happy or something less than that? How can I PIVOT – can I change my circumstances, my attitude or both?

When I chose ALLOW as my word it is to remind me to be more peaceful with the process. To not pre-worry about things that may or usually may not come to pass. To do my work and see what happens. See who shows up and what evolves. I'm excited to see where my word and my work will take me!

What word have you or would you choose for the new year?

Whatever it is, I wish you grand adventures, lots of fun, laughter and happiness.  I also hope you remember to PIVOT your focus when you aren't feeling these things so you can get back to what life is meant to be!

– Tara Reed

My musical son

Warning: Proud Mother bragging a little to follow.

Cowp MusicMy son and I had a very creative house… it was just the two of us from the time he was in 4th grade through his high school graduation in 2012. His dad and I had divorced and we lived on opposite coasts for years. While I built my art business, my son learned to play the electric guitar. Later he became passionate about producing music and in addition to a double emphasis in Marketing and Operations Management, he's been working towards a minor in music. (AND he will graduate in 4 years!)

He was featured on the blog Mad Music and I just had to share. It's a mother's right after all…

You can find him online as “Cowp Music” – on Facebook and other places.

Read more about what my son is up to and listen to some of his music on Mad Music

Follow your dreams and encourage others to do the same!  Cheering you on Kyle!

– Tara Reed

Interview on Fifty Jewels

I was interviewed by a friend, fellow artist and now blogger extraordinaire, Kimberly Montgomery.

I shared my journey with her on a recent Coffee Talk post so if you want to hop on over and learn more about where I started, where I've been and where I'm heading, click here. (You can also see my hairstyles through the ages!)

While I wrote the answers to the interview questions, it was a little weird to go back and read it! I often fall into the trap of focusing more on the things I still want to do than stopping and acknowledging what I've accomplished. I'm working on that – and hope you will too if you are like me. I really appreciate the questions Kimberly asked because it did make me stop and reflect – something we all need to do more. 🙂

fifty jewels

Here's what Fifty Jewels is all about, in Kimberly's words:

I created this blog for women who love fun, crave the unique and are totally behind choosing joy.  If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place!

Life’s full of fun stuff, and that’s what I bring to you. Cool things, great places and clever ideas to help you add more delight to your day.  After all, life is about choices — let’s make good ones.

Hope you jump over and read the interview and leave a comment – here, there or both! 

– Tara Reed

The day my son turned 22…

The day my son turned 22 is today!  August, 31, 2015.  It seems like just yesterday and a lifetime ago that he was born. I had an idea of what motherhood would be like and no idea at the the same time. We've been through some adventures that's for sure!

A few things my son has done in the past 22 years…

  • learned to crawl, walk and run
  • learned to talk, yell, pout and negotiate
  • learned to ride a bike, recover from a fall, ski, skateboard and drive
  • learned to read, write, report a stolen bike to the police, travel half way around the world by himself and how to fix a broken toilet handle
  • made me smile, made me cry, made me proud and made me shake my head
  • gained 142 lbs and grown 50 inches (that's 4'2″)

In the same time, I have…

  • gotten divorced, dated and remarried
  • learned to decorate cakes, quilt, scrapbook and how to use Photoshop
  • started a business, started and sold another and started yet another
  • bought and sold 9 houses, moved 8 times and remodeled two fixer-uppers
  • learned how to be a mom to a son and I now believe it's a lot more nature vs. nurture
  • built a ton of Legos, listened to a lot of guitar and been to the ER twice (I think that's pretty good for 22 years – and we each only passed out once!)
  • learned how to parent a teen, how to be ok with that teen's friends being afraid of me, and how to let said teen become the amazing, independent young man he is today
  • I haven't grown taller but I've certainly grown as a person – and we won't talk about the weight gains and losses and re-gains, and re-losses…

Together we have…

  • hung out, grown up and experienced a lot of life
  • read books, watched movies and shared many adventures
  • traveled to England, Germany, Hawaii and New York
  • laughed, cried and pushed each others buttons 
  • survived his childhood – ok, that's being dramatic, he was a pleasure to raise, most days
  • supported each other, consoled each other and had some deep discussions on life

This year he will graduate from college.  Some would say my job as a mother will be done but I think it will just change, he'll always be my baby no matter how big, tall or old he gets. I can't wait to see what comes next!

A very proud, sappy and sentimental mom –

– Tara Reed

Kyle turns 22 - Augusst 2015

Art can make a difference…

A friend and fellow artist, Kathy Davis, has created an amazing non-profit art center that enhances the arts and culture for people within her extended community. Located in Horsham, PA (not too far from where I grew up!) it's an amazing place for connecting, taking classes and more.

The Scatter Joy Center for the Arts is  hosting a very big event on Friday evening, September 25, 2015. The event, entitled “Joy Squared”, will feature an exhibit of artwork on 6 x 6 inch canvases. The exhibited artwork will be sold that evening through a silent auction and all proceeds will benefit the art center.

My happy place - Tara ReedI decided to do something different and create a canvas to support this great cause.

I don't usually paint on canvas – it scares me a little to be honest! I paint on paper then scan it into my computer and put things together in Photoshop. I can move, change and manipulate things in ways that can't be done on a canvas. But getting out of your comfort zone is always (usually?) a good thing so I went for it.

This coffee canvas will be going in the mail today and heading across the country!  I also created a video of the work in progress if you want to see that too.Scatter Joy Arts Center auction - September 2015

Join in the fun and contribute some of your time and talents to this worthwhile fundraising effort. Also, please share this information with your friends and family and encourage them to get involved. If you live in the Horsham, PA area, go check it out!  (Send me a photo of my canvas on the wall too if you think of it!)

Here's to art opportunities in our communities!

– Tara Reed


Professional Artist Magazine

I am beyond honored to be included in the December 2014 / January 2015 issue of Professional Artist Magazine.  The magazine has a lot of great advice for artists of all kinds – from revamping your artist statement to acing your next art show… Writing a strategic plan, how to hire an art coach and more.

Professional Artist Magazine - Tara Reed

My article about art licensing includes contributions from Paul Brent, Jennifer Pugh, Jane Shasky, Stephanie Burgess and Alicia Dauber of Licensing Liaison.  If people look at you and scratch their heads not understanding what it is you do or are trying to do – you can hand them the article and get them up to speed.  If you are new to the concept, grab a copy for yourself!

I'm excited to read the rest of the magazine – I have yet to fully understand what an “Artist Statement” is quite frankly – my marketing degree is showing again!

I found a copy at my local Barnes & Noble.  You can check other bookstores or find it online at

Here's to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Shopping at Big Box Stores Support Small Businesses Too…

It's the week of Thanksgiving here in the US and that means lots of food, family gatherings and shopping.  Thanksgiving Thursday is followed by Black Friday – the day retailers hope to “be in the black” – as in, making money.  It's to official kick-off of the holiday shopping season.

small business saturdayThen comes Small Business Saturday… Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local. Small Business Saturday is a registered trademark of American Express corporation.  There are lots of images floating around Facebook… like this one. (I couldn't find the original creator or source of the image – it isn't mine, no copyright violation is intended)

While I like the basic concept, there is definitely some black-and-white thinking that I feel compelled to address.

Specifically – “Let's make sure our money goes to individual people and not multinational companies.”

Well… multinational companies aren't just nameless, faceless money funnels.  They need a lot of people, resources, etc to survive.  And many, many small businesses are helped when you shop at places like WalMart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe's and more…

THIS small business owner, for example.  And many of my friends and clients.

I am ONE PERSON, working out of a home office, making a living, paying my bills and taxes and contributing to my community.  I do art that goes on products that are primarily sold in large chain stores… so if you boycott “multinational companies” – this artist is going to be in a world of hurt.

Many of my clients, who are vendors to the big stores, are US based small businesses.  Their livelihoods are also tied to big stores.

I'm not saying don't go to that craft fair or locally owned hair salon – don't get me wrong.  But I think the message is getting a little too cut and dry – David vs. Goliath if you will.  Goliath supports a lot of David's in this new world economy.

How about we all “mix it up” this holiday season?  Don't ONLY shop at WalMart but don't avoid it out of principle either.

Napkins at Walmart - 2014While we are on the subject of WalMart, if you do find yourself in there, look for these cocktail napkins – designed by me.  Manufactured by a company in Philadelphia.  Moved around to all the locations by trucking companies who bought gas, food and probably coffee, all across country.   If your WalMart has canvas wall art for Christmas, you might be supporting my friend Jennifer Pugh – another one-woman artist business out of Utah.  Her family thanks you for your support as well.