July 14, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Plant Nerd Kaitlyn Rich’s Botany & Herbalism



What are you working on—on the side?

I document and write about my personal herbalism practice, making my own clothes, and everything in between on my blog Nettles + Chickweed.

I’ve always been interested in plants. One of my earliest memories is picking rhubarb with my preschool class. There was a family who lived next door to my school and had a beautiful garden and kept chickens. I remember the neighbor explaining the leaves were poisonous and the vibrant pink stem was edible. While I’ve worked and volunteered with various urban garden and farm programs, as well as played around with making my own herbal remedies, it wasn’t until several years ago that I started more formally learning about plants, botany and herbal medicine with The Arctos School in Portland, Oregon. Through blogging, I am able to give myself time to reflect and process what I’m learning.

In other side projects, I also run a very small candle-making business called Lumi. You can find my candles online or in person at Lowell. This summer, I’m looking forward to putting together some new products. I love taking tealight candles with me on my travels. They help me to clear the space energetically and feel settled in a new place. I also harvested one of my favorite herbs, mugwort (Artemisia), on a recent hike. I’ll make this into a salve, which I like to apply on pressure points, to encourage relaxation and dreaming, before bed.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I work full-time as a user experience designer. My side project time is limited to evenings and weekends. I never feel like I have enough time, and my personal to-do list is always growing faster than I cross things off. But I’m a very task and goal-oriented person, so to-do lists are what I lean on to prioritize my projects and time. If something has been on my list for several weeks, I get tired of seeing it and dedicate time to complete it. Or a project will be on my list for months and this cues me in to re-evaluate if that project is one that I still feel passionate about, or if it’s time to let it go.

I’ve also been focusing on finding balance among my needs to be productive in making and completing things, slowing down by decreasing feelings of urgency, and appreciating where I am at in this moment in time. I think as designers and doers, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create a perfect and fully formed end product. But, in taking time to re-focus my energy, I remind myself not everything needs to be complete in an instant, but can grow and evolve over time.

Why have a side project?

There’s so much to learn and do—it’d be harder not having side projects! I’m motivated by learning new skills, techniques, crafts and concepts. Side projects are the perfect way to indulge in my ever-changing interests. Also, side projects are great opportunities to learn something new or commit to a goal with a friend. You can keep each other accountable, share what you learn, and it’s a foolproof reason to set aside time for hanging out.

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Diptych courtesy of Kaitlyn Rich.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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