Saturday, January 31, 2009

Favorite Things: Brownie Edition

Its hard working in a grocery store. We have delicious food of every variety constantly around. Christmas candy season is the worst. The other night I was cruising the aisles looking for something delicious that didn't list butter as the first ingredient, and I settled my gaze on this:

At first I was all 'ehh... these will probably taste like cardboard'. They don't, and in fact, I strongly encourage you to eat these brownies. Straight away.

1) Prep is simple-- they mix up with a little fat free vanilla yogurt.
2) There's a really easy microwave recipe for a single serving, which strongly curbs my needs to leave the knife in the brownie pan and return 20 times throughout the evening. Instead I mix up the little single serving, pop it in the microwave for 45 seconds (perfect fudge-ocity) and then eat it right there in the kitchen in all of its hot delicious glory.
3) 110 calories, no fat. It feels like you're getting away with something.

none as of yet, though I'll keep you posted.

I have a four day weekend, so I'm taking advantage and working on a couple of prints and a custom order. Look for them up the shop by Monday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Craft x2

Back in that ever so heavy-handed rant about Target a few weeks ago I mentioned that maybe we'll start to see design activated on a local level, or perhaps we'll find that there are simply more attempts at making corporate design appear handmade.

What I couldn't find in that moment was an example of this trend-- Adam later brought it to my attention that we'd had a discussion previously about one recent and glorious example:

Starbucks. Holiday 2008. Very Crafty.

In other updates of the creative variety, I received my first edition of Craft Magazine today and was thrilled to see Amy Sedaris gracing the front cover. She wrote an article inside on parties and shares a hilarious angel food cake step-by-step. I love her brand of funny because it always seems like everything is perfect on the surface, but a closer inspection reveals that something is terribly, disturbingly wrong. I uploaded a photo of the cover because its such a perfect example-- I didn't even notice she had smooshed cake clasped between her hands until later.

(click to see larger)

PS-- if you're Craft Magazine or Handmade Detroit reading this, thanks for the free year of issues! I can't say it was the highlight of having a table at the show (because that was 8 hours of meeting incredibly awesome people) but I was super excited to win a bonus door prize! I usually only drool over issues at the art supplies store.

Subscribe to Craft here.

I was informed today via Design Sponge that Domino Magazine is closing up shop, so it looks as though this subscription of Craft started just in time-- though I think I will find Domino hard to replace. I didn't approach Domino so much as a shopping mag (because I can't afford and wouldn't want a $2000 ottoman) but I think it was a great resource for inspiration and for keeping up with trends on design's place in the home.

What I would love to see is a shelter magazine like Domino that featured exclusively handmade and salvaged/thrifted art and goods. Now that would be exciting.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Favorite Things: Google Reader Feeds Edition

If you're not familiar, Google Reader is tool that allows you to track internet information and blog entries from a variety of sources in one convenient place-- like your own constantly updating internet library of favorites. I check it almost every day-- here's a handful of my must reads.

1) GOOD Magazine Blog
GOOD, which I also subscribe to (you can name your subscription rate, so its entirely affordable) is an amazing magazine jam packed with visuals-- graphs, diagrams, charts-- it completely entertains my visual leaning mind and fills it with useful information. It constantly references the greater world, and helps me remember to think outside of my bubble.

2) Cake Wrecks
Cake Wrecks is a hilarious blog with photo after photo of cakes gone bad. My favorites are the cakes where the client presents the baker with a specific photo and winds up with a much different result. Don't read with a drink-- you'll spit it everywhere.

3) Obsessive Consumption
Kate Bingaman-Burt draws everything she buys and posts it for you to see. She often adds side comments about how she feels about her purchases or what drives her to buy them. I find the personal habits of others highly entertaining, so this stream is really delightful. She also has a really cute illustration style-- her daily drawings definitely push me to maintain a sketchbook.

4) Nothing But Bonfires
Holly Burns' is a British ex-pat living in San Francisco who has a really lovely writing style. She's funny and self-deprecating, and despite her constant assertion that she's boring, leads a really interesting life as she bounces around the globe visiting family and writing for Travelocity. She also makes occasional Best!Things!Ever! posts, which is where the idea for My Favorite Things came from.

5) Post Secret
Another site that fills my need to better understand human idiosyncrasies. Here's how it works-- you make an anonymous post card that shares a secret. You mail it to Frank. Frank scans it and posts them all on Sunday morning. Then I sit at home and wonder about the story behind it while I drink my coffee.

If you have any favorites I would love to hear about them! If you'd like to add this blog to your a feed program like Google Reader, there's a link on the sidebar.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I make jewelry?

So I've had my eye on beautiful nest necklaces like these for a long time. They immediately made me think of my mom, who has three daughters and taught me everything I know about having an earthy, rustic sensibility and style. I knew she'd love one, it was just a matter of when I'd pick one up.

As I investigated further I thought they seemed a little chunky I wanted something lighter and a little messier-- so I rounded together a few supplies and tried my hand at making a pendant of my own. It was actually really easy to put together with a trip to the store and some jeweler's pliers. I found these tiny turquoise/sea green beads and used less wire to put this one together:

(by the way: I thought it was hard to photograph prints, jewelry is much harder- even with a macro lens. I have a whole new appreciation for those amazing jewelry photos I see on etsy)

So its a tad wonky, but for the size I was aiming for (it measures just under 1/2" across and is remarkably light) its dainty and perfect. I now have supplies to make.. ohh... 50 more of these. I already had clasps and findings, so once I bought the wire and beads I immediately had a ton of materials.

I may do a shop giveaway or two with them around Valentine's Day-- at the very least, I have gift inspiration for awhile.

Other great jewelers to check out on Etsy: Ragtrader (I picked up a stunning twig necklace from her in November which I love and wear with almost everything) .... and more locally ChainChainChained (my table was next to hers at Etsy at the Market this past fall, and I loved the work there.

If you haven't purchased jewelry on Etsy, I would highly recommend either of these sellers-- the goods are really high quality, and they both have great prices.

I had a lovely three day weekend putting together a record number of orders following my Buy One Get One sale. Thanks to everyone who picked up a print or two or six (like my new Medici, Rachel) My closet is significantly less cluttered, my prints are reorganized, and I am looking forward to what's next. I even figured out what to do with those prints with a dinged corner or two, but I'm going to have to save that for next time because I have an action-packed day of sign making in exactly nine hours.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Land was Made for You and Me.

Happy Inauguration Week!

I have a hard time putting into words how amazing, beautiful and symbolic this moment is for me, for us. That 46 years and a day after "I Have A Dream" this man can take the oath of office on Lincoln's Bible. After living for so many years with the door closed, finally the light will again shine in. Everything had to happen the way that it did. It is written.

Buy One Get One Sale!

After combing through my inventory and trying to figure out where I'm going to put new work (under the bathroom sink?) I've decided to throw in a freebie of your choice when you place an order. I would much rather see it up on your wall than hidden away in my closet, so....

Drumroll Please...
Purchase any print at regular price, and I will throw in another item (of equal or lesser value) for free!!!

Edit: One exception: due to the elevated cost and materials needed to ship glass, I cannot send a $20 framed print with the purchase of an $20 framed print. So if you purchase a framed print at that price, you are limited to any screen print or unframed woodcut print. Unless your name is Rachel, because that means that you ordered before I realized it and you win!!

now through Sunday, Jan 18th.

You can leave the print you'd like in the Message to Buyer section once you've placed your order. If you forget, I will contact you and ask which one you'd like, or you can feel free to email or convo me.

At the very least, you could pick up a 5x7" woodcut print for free-- the above four are all available in the shop right now.

If you'd like to pick up a gift and get a little something for yourself too, then this is the perfect opportunity.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


So I have been fine-tuning how I do things over the last few weeks. I've learned that everything related to growing a creative business is about trial and error. I've only been doing this for around six months, and I've already learned so many lessons. I've learned that being present with my work is more successful than leaving it somewhere-- that fairs and shows are much more suited for it than exhibitions are. I've learned that its important to engage people visually and mentally, to share your stories-- although this is something I would have done anyway. Perhaps that's part of what makes Etsy such a wonderful tool-- that you can share the story behind a piece right there.

The lessons I've been working on lately have been more practical in nature. The paper I have been using for woodcut prints these last few months (Japanese rice paper) is beautiful and delicate, and perfect for hand pulling prints, as I have been doing. But-- it bruises so easily, and is pretty floppy. I have been backing it with reused corrugated cardboard, but the paper will bend around the cardboard, and get all roughed up, especially if the print is at a show and hundreds of hands are flipping through it.

So I asked for a tabletop press for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and am now using heavier textured card stock. The new paper is sturdy enough that a backing isn't necessary, it comes in a variety of colors, and doesn't get bruised up unless you force it! The overhead is a little more, but in the end, I'm not tossing almost perfectly good prints with a dinged corner or two. (Anyone want a perfectly good print with a dinged corner or two?)

I printed up a few Fleming Creek prints on this stock yesterday:

and love how they turned out. I bought some nice greens and browns too, some more will probably show up the shop throughout the weekend.

I've also been working finding ways to brand everything a little more cohesively. I purchased a custom-made stamp with the shop address on it (in Futura, my favorite mid-century font) and created a tiny lino-cut leaf to accompany it on correspondence and on prints.

I also thought I might be motivated to get extra prints matted/framed/stretched/photographed if I gave myself some kind of deadline, so I signed up for the Reinvent Your Space showcase on Friday.

This showcase didn't do wonders in terms of sales, but it did pay for itself and might drum up future sales, which is important to consider. All in all-- I probably wouldn't buy a slot again though.

I never thought business was that interesting, but I have come to look at it differently. You can see a direct correlation between cause and effect, and its fun to try new things and see what happens.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Day at the Office

We are getting ready for February events at the store-- and our theme for the next flyer is the weather, since its what everyone in Michigan plans their entire lives around this time of year. I'm so excited about this theme-- here's a sneak peek!

This is paint on white foam board with spacers between each layer-- there will be snow falling from it, and it'll be hanging just feet from the real snow, in the store's front entry.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Consumer Psychology 101: A Trip to Target

I rounded the back corner in Target today and was immediately sucked in by their newest home design campaign. Not to hate on the bullseye, because without it I don't know where I'd shop, but you know that a particular theme in design has reached the top of the arc and is on the way back down once Target pulls it in for their stores. I say that and yet, guilty as charged, I buy it too. Its the best place to find cute on a budget, even if the cute is a little past its prime.

I was amazed at how well this area was staged at first-- I think its something about seeing such a large retail area pull off such a cohesive sense of ambiance. They paper the back of the shelves with rich graphic shiny retaily wallpaper to create that tone, (see the rusty orange on orange plant silhouettes below) and then throw in products on top in groupings that pair well. All in all, its really smart branding at work-- and I've got to respect them for that. (Even if I can't respect them for charging $4 a potholder, sheesh)

Although as a sign maker, I get a lot of mixed emotions when I see this sort of thing:

My coworkers and I joke all the time that we have an antiquated job-- take a look around you the next time you're at the store and you'll notice that plan-o-gram style corporate signage is everywhere. Rather than designers finding employment on a store or area level, a small group of core designers do the work for the entire company and the artists... are running the registers, I guess. Corporations work this way to save money-- an in-house art department isn't cheap. It does boost sales though, and hopefully that idea is catching on. I'd like to think that as a part of this movement toward handmade goods, we'll start to see design activated on a local level again. Or we might just see more attempts at making corporate design look handmade.. PS target: your type is too small here.

For the record, IKEA employs interior designers on a store-by-store basis to create their rotating faux homes, no corporate mandated looks there. And plenty of local businesses hire visual merchandisers, along with a handful of department stores, particulary in high foot traffic areas.

In the meantime, I'm trying to buy more mindfully right now-- the less new goods you buy from the store, the less the manufacturer sends to that store, then less is produced from raw materials and so on. It seems to me like America is finally scaling back the Dollar-store, mass quantities, living-on-credit mentality, and getting back to the idea that its ok to buy something of high quality that you'll have forever-- the idea that you don't need a new fill-in-the-blank every year or five years.

Most of the shops I see on Etsy support that mission in one way or another. Not only are handmade items intrinsically more precious because you know they were made with care, but they often make excellent use out of second hand materials-- if for no other reason then because they're cheaper-- I definitely think of my bottom line when I use leftover wood for stretcher bars, secondhand carboard to back my prints, and thrift store frames.

I don't know where I'm getting with all of this-- like Target, this post sucked me in one direction and then left me feeling something entirely different.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things

I have been meaning to throw out a steady stream of great discoveries, but since I haven't started by now, I'm going to compress what would be several entries of that nature into one. Without further ado, here's a short list of favorite things.

Design Websites

I make the rounds of most of the popular design websites and blogs- and I find the following two to be indispensable.

First up is Print & Pattern, a blog devoted exclusively to current trends in surface design. The entries are great because they're so image heavy, with only the occasionally sprinkled caption. Its my first stop if I'm looking for quick bursts of inspiration. Its constantly loaded with international designers (the writer is British) that I've never seen before. Entries run the gamut from super-cute kawaii designs to intricate and subtle stationary and everything in between. Many of the images are photographs taken by the writer as she stalks out trends both home and abroad. Her entries around the holidays really juiced up our design process at work this year.

Some of the featured work is predictable and all over the design circuit, but a lot of puts a fresh spin on what's going on. The illustration above is a prime example. Birds and flowers in some combination are everywhere right now, but this designer's treatment of them is refreshing-- I particularly love the colors used.

This design comes from the wonderful Lucy Clarke, via Print & Pattern.

The second website is as specific as Print & Pattern is general. Grain Edit shares work with very specific mid-century aesthetic references, and if it happens to be your thing then you're going to think you've died and gone to blog heaven. The mix of old and new is awesome, and sorting by tags allows you to read entries specific to an era or style. Here's a sample of the delicious goodness they dig up:

I know, right? I lovelovelove everything about this little vintage hotel tag, especially the combination of sleek modern script with utilitarian sans-serif fontage. And the color, and the shapes, and the screen-print looking feel with the white outline...

The first movie I'd like to talk about is the worst movie I have ever seen. Ever. I'm discussing it simply because its so bad you have to see it. The Happening, starring Mark Walberg is about an act of airborne eco terrorism caused by plants. (possibly) This movie is so incomprehensibly bad from start to finish I wouldn't even know where to start-- the script is terrible, the directing is some kind of nightmare (made obvious by Zooey Deschanel's terrible performance despite the fact that she's normally such an amazing actress). It was so bad that the New Republic compiled a list of its worst moments here. I would highly suggest you watch it-- if for no other reason than to see people try to run from the wind and to cringe over the world's creepiest old doll.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I watched the pilot for Showtime's United States of Tara this weekend, you can check it out on Fancast. Toni Collette plays a mom with dissociative identity disorder and John Corbett of Sex and the City fame plays her sweet husband. They have a pair of highly dysfunctional kids, and a whole array of personalities that Collette plays with amazing hilarity. The Season 2 premiere of Flight of the Conchords is also available on Fancast, and is just as funny. I'm so glad HBO brought it back.

My storage closet is bursting at the seams, and I will be announcing a sale tomorrow. You might even go so far as to say it'll be a blowout. Its time to clear away the old so I can make the new-- I'm starting to think about what shows I might like to apply to over the summer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Print Preview: Terrariums

I finally kicked the holiday hangover and got back to normal with a little printing action this weekend. I have been stopping in at Amy Merrick's charming blog for awhile, and was amazed when she shared her lovely dresser of terrariums in all of their Victorian-esque glory. For her well-written instructions, visit this how-to she put together on Domino's website-- which is where my terrarium photo a few posts back comes from.

Anyway, Chris treated me to a terrarium day of awesome for my birthday. We drove around town collecting moss, potting soil, gravel, old glass containers and a couple of houseplants, and I spent the rest of the day assembling them into my first terrarium village. I sketched out a fun little print inspired by this process a few weeks ago, but just got around to printing and listing today.

My favorite part of this whole process, like making actual terrariums, was deciding what to 'plant' into my containers. In the end I went with a tropical plant, a little cypress tree, two stalks of jade, and some ivy. You can find this print up on the Etsy shop.

I also printed a small companion edition of the jade in the clamp jar on leftover bits of canvas. I will not be stretching these, but custom matting and framing them instead. In fact, I may even mat and frame some of the larger ones-- I think a heavy wood border will give this print some nice weight. Anyway, here's a sample of what I intend to do with the small ones:

This is popped into a 4x6 frame, I think they'll look a little better matted into 5x7". I will be on the hunt for those in thrift shops tomorrow, and they will be up on Etsy soon as well. I'm getting braver about shipping glass* so I will probably be offering more framed prints on Etsy in the future.

Lastly, here are the prints from my Icy Tundra Trade with Shannon of Loaded Hips.

I received so many compliments on this pair while over the holidays. They hang in our bathroom right between the doorway and a set of shelves.

* My childhood friend Vicky purchased a framed print over the holidays and it got stuck in the package chute at the post office in such a way that the box was taking a direct hit anytime you tried to open the drop box door. I couldn't get it out and couldn't get it to drop down. I ended up leaving a note on the drop box begging for USPS patrons not to bust it open on a Priority Mail address sticker. After all of that it came to her in perfect condition!