While we don’t always find ourselves in situations of our choosing, we always have a choice about how we deal with it. And that’s the very place that leaps are often born.
When graphic designer Emma Kate Codrington couldn’t get her working visa renewed, and she had to leave London and return to her hometown of Adelaide, she had a choice: try and replicate the corporate life she had created in England, or seize the opportunity to start afresh. The adventurer in her won out, and EmmaKateCo was bought to life. First as a petite design studio, then as a stationery company. It was returning to her roots that gave Emma Kate the opportunity to try something new.
A quality that is very evident in everything Emma Kate does, is being unapologetically herself. A lesson hard won after fighting anorexia as a teenager. She now completely owns what sets her heart on fire, and she brings that to the world in everything she produces. I frequently use her ‘About‘ page on her website as a prime example of brand building and how communicating what you stand for attracts the right kind of customers to your business. She even has an ‘I believe’ section on the page!
And our real life connection is living evidence of authentic connection by being ourselves online. When we first exchanged emails it was effortless and lovely. When we first met in real life, we were coincidently pretty much wearing the same outfit. Coincidentally both had fringes. Coincidentally at one point both had aspired to be psychologists. Coincidentally were addicted to beautiful stationery. Coincidentally lived for beauty and loved deep connection. She felt like the creative, funny and loving little sister I never had.
Emma Kate’s leap was allowing herself to becoming more of who she is, and celebrating human emotion. And we want more businesses like that in the world – we want more people like that in the world!
FREE PRINTABLE! Emma Kate has designed an exclusive free A4 printable quote for Of Kin readers, that reminds us at anytime we can make a different choice, not matter what our circumstances. Because when you accept yourself for who you are, ‘this is the beginning of anything you want’. Download here.
We’re lucky to have one of Emma’s beautiful designs as a gorgeous free download for you lovely kin! Download yours here and pop it up somewhere to inspire you daily.
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I mostly wanted to be a fairy (full-time). At five, when I realised this wasn’t a profession, I decided I wanted to be either a doctor or shopkeeper (big difference, who knew?). From there, I decided on a series of different career paths over time – marine biologist, teacher, florist, psychologist.
Then I became an adult and decided I don’t really believe in growing up at all.
What did/do you study?
I studied graphic design, which was a rather unplanned, last minute switch a few days before university course preferences were due, for such an overthinking, meticulously-considered high school student.
I was being mentored by an incredible woman, Adèle Basheer, at the time, and I vividly remember the day she said to me, ‘Emma, you can make a living out of your creativity. You don’t have to save people’s lives – you can bring good to the world, by inspiring people.’ So, I graduated with academic honours and the dream score I had worked so hard all year for in order to make it into psychology, and threw myself into a completely new world that didn’t require anything but to show up.
And I never looked back.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
Spilling my words and fears and heart onto tactile paper – and launching them as a stationery collection and lifestyle brand, last year.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
I had been working as a designer in London for a big time publisher, trying on the grown up 9-5 for size. Coffee to go, oversized headphones, patent heels, rush hour madness and paid holidays. It was my semi-long-term plan, until my sponsorship visa didn’t work out, and I abruptly found myself plucked out of that reality and on a one-way ticket back to Australia.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
Adèle Basheer, who encouraged me to see my creativity as an asset, and who encouraged the initial jump into design school.
Chantelle Ellem, editor of the lifestyle blog Fat Mum Slim, became a beautiful influence for me while I was living in London, encouraging me to develop my own product and self-directed project beyond freelance work and seeing design as a service. We collaborated on a project called Scatter Love, which has had great success and I’m really proud of the love we have spread over the world. This project also became my initial ‘launch pad’ for Instagram and gaining a following for my work and message.
My wonderful mum and my family lineage has influenced me greatly. In 1974, at 23, my dynamo mother resigned from her teaching job, left her hometown in rural South Australia and spent a year hitch-hiking across the world with her best friend. Then there was Florence and Athol, my mum’s two pioneering aunts, who travelled through Europe in the 1940s by scooter, at a time where women travelling alone was almost unheard of. Travel has always been encouraged and a big part of my upbringing, so I feel that this side of me was always meant to be.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
Not a whole lot! It all played out rather abruptly, and utterly unplanned. While I think I always had a vision of my ‘one day’, it just was never attached to a timeline. The concept of moving away to lose yourself to find yourself is so powerful but for me, returning to my roots, returning to Adelaide unexpectedly, turned out to be exactly what I needed to make the leap.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
The ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment was literally forced upon me – when I was plucked out of one reality and thrown into another, with no plan B. My London life and that career trajectory came to a sudden, grinding halt, simply because of the bureaucratic process.
I had been completely invested in a life that was simply not meant for me. I can see now that other forces were so obviously at play, tweaking and realigning; the axis of the earth shifting towards something very different.
I found myself with little accountability and a whole lot of space to pursue something big and different, anything that I wanted! I think it was more a matter of turning a crisis into an opportunity.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
Over time, I’ve learnt to use fear as a compass. If something feels scary, I know that’s my true north – it’s the direction I have to follow. Fear is only there to keep us ‘safe’ from risk of failure, or embarrassment, or feeling uncomfortable. But where’s the fun in that!? Because eyeballing fear and leaping regardless – that’s where you discover your grace . At some point you’ve just got freefall into the unknown. I don’t see any way around it.
Basically, it’s these words:
‘But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.’- Junot Diaz
How did you fund your leap?
I found myself in a very unique position where every life construct I had known – rent, boyfriend, renovating a house, commuting to work and routine had fallen away. I moved back to my family ‘home’ (where I hadn’t lived since I was 19) and had no real accountability or expectation on me in other life roles. I was able to devote myself full tilt.
Financially, while living overseas and travelling relentlessly, I had always juggled full-time work with freelance projects. I was able to dip into savings to fund some ‘downtime’ and design my collection, and then fund my first production run.
What other leaps have you made?
1. At twenty one, I bought a ‘round the world ticket and travelled solo through America, Canada and Europe.
2. I fell in love with a random city in France, and decided to move there (without speaking a word of French).
3. I met a guy on a plane the week I left France and one year later, after a year of emails, Skypes and love letters, I flew back to be with him (happily ever after, it was not).
4. I bought a one-way ticket to London and had the adventure of my life.
5. And, this one sounds a bit dramatic, but many, many years ago, I chose life. I spent six of my teenage years struggling with anorexia; addicted to living a life completely in shadow, living and breathing the complete antithesis of my own rules. Those years involved extended hospital stays, disjointed on-again, off-again schooling and, ultimately, the very fight to reclaim my life. This experience, although awful, dangerous and very dark, made me acutely aware of the fragility of life and what it means to really fight for living. It also carved a depth in me, and gave me a great capacity to channel light into the world in a beautiful, purposeful way. Living by my own rules – living a life in full colour is a non-negotiable for me now.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
Leap three, the one where I flew to be with the guy I met on a plane – well, that one was an utter disaster. I got over myself and my fairytale ending ideal… eventually!
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
I’ve come back to this question a few times, not sure how to respond, and really, really thinking this through. The truth is, I don’t feel fear anymore. I can’t think of anything I’m truly frightened of. This is a pretty profound realisation, because previously, I was terrified of so much. Mostly? I was most frightened to not become everything I could be.
Over the past year, my thoughts on what success means has changed completely. The ‘end point’ doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters is to show up, every single day, and give it all I’ve got, with no expectation on myself, or on life. I just know I’ll become everything I am meant to be.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.
Hands down, ten!
If I had known before I leaped, this path that I would live, breathe and travel, with all of the hours and utter devotion, heart-stopping moments, failures and transcending upper limits that would be required of me, I would have probably clutched at my few predictable life constants, and hidden under the covers. But momentum inspires momentum – and so I continue on!
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
Living life entirely on my own terms. And waking up with absolutely no idea where the next day, week or month could take me.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
Feeling perpetually overstretched. While I love every moment of this ride, I know it’s not realistic or sustainable to keep this pace up. Over the past six months especially, this feeling has only compounded. I’m learning the hard way that creativity does need rest – an empty well of creativity will refill itself a number of times through sheer passion, drive and love for your craft, but the supply isn’t infinite.
Focusing on how to keep my growth and expansion sustainable has to become a focus. I’m yet to figure this one out.
What might be your next leap?
Echoing the above, hiring help! Right now, that looks like finding someone who can be a carbon copy of me (with more energy and more wit, preferably)!
What are your favourite words to live by?
There’s that quote – ‘travel: it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller’ – and it’s true. I just want to travel, write, create, inspire.
And… ‘say yes, and then figure it out.’
I think, really, sometimes you’ve just got to leap and hope the universe will catch you. Whether it turns out to be a success or a failure, it’s always an opportunity to learn (and the not so successful jumps will always make good stories).
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
Anyone who buys a one way ticket to somewhere/anywhere – hands to heart, I hold BIG respect for your utter bravery.
Anyone dancing to the beat of their own drum, I admire you! I look up to anyone who is just going for it, despite circumstance, expectation, risk and the done’s or should’s.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
BE UNATTACHED TO OUTCOME.
Always make playlists. The songs you listen to while you are pre-leap, mid-leap, or post-leap, you will later associate with some BIG feelings, and they will later conjure some madly inspiring memories. Harness those feelings, they hold great enabling powers.
What question did I miss about your leap? And what’s your answer?
How many coffees required to make this all happen?
Answer – infinite volumes.
No, seriously – probably, ‘What don’t we see during a leap?’
That… it’s taken everything. It is important here to be clear that this path I have tread the past year has been one of utter devotion, and a lot of sacrifice. Hours aren’t seen. So much of my work is just me, myself and I – tucked away in my studio, doing the work. It’s been a hard and rather unglamorous slog of impossible deadlines, late nights, lack of sleep and constant battling and eventually trusting myself. The work on myself, the work on insecurities and fears and the sheer and simple doing of my work, it hasn’t all been pretty.
Right now I’m:
On a plane, bound for New York (planes are the best place to write).
Hearing: The hum of the plane engine.
Eating: Rice crackers.
Drinking: Gin and tonic.
Reading: I wish I dedicated more time to reading. I’ve been carrying around Big Magic for a year now, and I still haven’t dived in. This trip, I’m committing the time!
Loving: Jumping into the unknown, yet again, as I throw myself into international trade shows and meetings where I can’t predict outcomes.
So dear kin, what is it that you want? Because you’re one choice away from moving in that direction. Download your free printable and start plotting your move. We’re cheering for you.