Rachel Burke on keeping up a daily project

Words by Madeleine Dore
Photography supplied by Rachel Burke

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
― Andy Warhol

For many people with creative inclinations, committing to daily projects can be daunting. Full-time work, freelance work, projects, children, social commitments, study and countless daily obstacles make it difficult to sustain the momentum of creating something day after day.

Stylist, photographer and designer Rachel Burke may have discovered the secret to sticking to long-term projects.

In 2012, she combined blogging, sewing, designing and hot-glue-gunning to make a dress every day for a year to raise over $5,000 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Since, she has dabbled in semi-daily projects and created various crafty series. Often gaining inspiration at dollar stores, Rachel will bedazzle ordinary pantry items, create jackets out of tinsel, and even decorate her own legs with flowers, googly eyes, streamers and pom poms.

Since September 2016, she has been attaching anonymously written apologies to fluffy homemade pom-poms for her heartfelt Apomogy project. It’s an ongoing community art project about saying you're sorry with a pom pom and has expanded to an online space, exhibition, and even a ‘Pomcast.’

Needless to say, there is a lot of daily crafting, styling and creating occurring in the life of this Brisbane-based darling.

Balancing full-time work as a senior designer with commissions, Burke has found external motivation key to maintaining momentum. “Each day I made a dress it felt like I was working towards something because it wasn’t just something I was doing for myself – I was raising money for charity.”

How to stay on track with a daily project

Another key motivating factor for Burke was creating a sense of accountability through sharing her daily project on social media. 

“If I didn’t make a dress, I felt like it would ruin my project and that I would let someone down. I used that as motivation.”

The beauty in creating a daily project is that it doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment, or even a year-long sojourn. Starting small and doing something for a week or a month can help to refine your approach. 

The most important aspect is to start. “Find a way to set small goals. Start your project and give it just three months.”

I feel doing a daily project can get a little bit one-way if you’re not putting it out into the world or if you don’t have a goal.

Setting specific end-goals including exhibiting can help keep the motivation day to day. “Tell yourself, I'm going to try and do a little exhibition of it, or I'm going to try and display this at my local coffee shop. Even if you're not going to do an exhibition of something, have an endgame.  It can be as simple as wanting the daily project to contribute to your creative flow.”

It can help to involve or encourage other people to also do a daily project alongside yours, both for accountability as well as connection. For Burke, she often involves the community in her projects – from selling dresses to requesting apologies from strangers. 

“I feel doing a daily project can get a little bit one-way if you're not putting it out into the world or if you don't have a goal.”

Both time and financial investment need to be viable for a project to be ongoing on a daily basis. “People think I must spend so much money on craft materials, but I just use really basic things and find all the possibilities in the everyday objects that I am able to access. If I had a 3D printer, I wouldn't know what the hell to do with it.”

Knowing when to stop a daily project

Once momentum with a daily project is achieved, stopping rather than starting can become the biggest hurdle. 

“I've become better at balancing. Six years ago when I first started getting into this stuff, everything was a little bit out of whack. I had my own label, I was doing the daily project, I was working, it just got too much. I grew distant from people because my whole life was just about going home and sewing,” she explained.

“It taught me that if I do a daily project of that scale again, I just have to make sure that I don't isolate myself or make my whole life about a project.”

It taught me that if I do a daily project of that scale again, I just have to make sure that I don’t isolate myself or make my whole life about a project.

While we might set projects at one point in our lives, our energy and interest can easily shift and wane. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to stop doing something when it no longer serves us.  

This applies to how much we take on – the amount people feel comfortable juggling varies. For some, the daily project, the side project, the day job, the night school, the partner, the children, the board, the event, and so on can be exhilarating – for others, it can be excruciating.

“Don't force anything that doesn't feel right. For me, not doing stuff and not keeping myself occupied feels more stressful than the alternative. I love filling my time up. In saying that, I've gotten much better at saying no to projects that I don't feel are worth my time,” explains Burke.

“If I'm going to accept the project, it needs to be worth the time away from my family, husband and dogs, or the time away from my own projects which I really love. It has to be something that is worth it.”

Read more: Rachel Burke's daily routine