spice racks and duct tape: the Makery gets a make-over

This week, I carved out some time to put the finishing touches on the office/studio makeover I mentioned in this post from July.

Yep, that's right - it only took me two months to finish. You know how when you go on vacation they say you're on "island time".  Well, my friends, welcome to toddler time.  Anywho, before said toddler gets home from preschool, let me take you on a little tour!

First, the office/studio half of the room...The main change is wall color, changing the paint from a dull off-white to a cool gray, specifically Behr Ultra Polar Drift.  The color is a bit more blue/violet than I anticipated but I've gotten pretty used to it over the last couple of months. 

While I've generally been trying to work with furniture we already have, I did add a couple of key items that have drastically improved my paper storage strategies, namely the printer stand and 9-drawer unit from the Alex series at Ikea.  I've recognized the printer stand in particular in a number of studio images over the last few weeks on various blogs I read so I think it must be a popular solution for anyone who works with flat paper.  This corner I've kept pretty simple/bare for now because I'd really like eventually to have either more wall shelving/storage over my desk or a new desk altogether, preferably one with a hutch. I'd also like a new laptop and/or monitor. Okay? Thanks.

To the left of the printer is my work space, where I assemble new designs, custom orders and the occasional felt project.  The green bins underneath are new - one is for felt and the other one is for...everything else, mostly all my paper punches, various embellishments, stamps, ink pads, and miscellaneous craft supplies.  The space is a little small but works surprisingly well so long as I can keep my work surface clear (that part is a little harder to accomplish).  As you can see there are still a few items on the floor that I'd eventually like to move off the floor, and what you don't see in these images are the boxes and boxes of envelopes and a three-drawer unit of 12 by 12 inch paper in one-half of the room's closet.

I do have a little bit of wall storage, though, in the form of this single shelf, which holds my loose envelopes that I use for new designs, samples, and paper proofs, plus my ribbon and adhesive.  The three support thingys underneath the shelf were really bugging me, so I bought a couple of cork boards to fill the space for tacking up various materials that might inspire a new design or project.

Most of the storage containers I've purchased over the last year or so are from The Container Store, which is like crack for the well-organized (or those who just aspire to be) - their prices are criminal in most cases and yet I bought not one, but two envelope holders for fifteen bucks a pop.

But occasionally I find something on sale and/or a storage solution in a product designed for something else completely, like the three section tray holding my ribbon and rolls of various kinds of tape, or the spice rack I'm using for all of my baker's twine, both found (on sale!) in the kitchen section.  Let's take a closer look at that spice rack, shall we?

Now those are my kind of spices! Pretty fantastic solution to my Twinery habit, if I do say so myself.

The other side of the room is pretty minimal, functioning as guest space for, mostly, my mother-in-law when she comes to visit every couple of months or so.  But wait, there's more!  Is that a houndstooth patterned side table, you ask?  Why yes, yes it is!  The small white table that was there was just bugging me, what with its boring plainness, not to mention the goo left by corner protectors (baby #2, should we reproduce again, might just have to learn to avoid sharp corners the hard way).

So I covered it in duct tape!

$4.99 at Michael's and - voila! - you have yourself a new side table.

In closing, let me just say how much I love this room, this room of my own (kind of). It only took me a year or so to completely kick my husband out of our supposedly shared office (bwahaha!).


fresh from the Makery, how-to edition: faux swirl lollipops

Three months after the event, I finally had a chance to add the invites I made for my son's Cat in the Hat themed 3rd birthday party to my Etsy shop.

As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, the party was really easy to plan around that theme and those colors, and in the end I actually edited out a number of projects.  Even if it wasn't Cat in the Hat themed per se, I found myself buying up anything promising that came in red and/or turquoise, like these pipe cleaners and tulle circles.

My original idea was to use the tulle circles in place of tissue paper in the red favor bags to look like the hair of Things 1 and 2 sticking out (but then I found those spiky, squishy balls at Target, which were more fun, anyway).  I had no ideas, really, for the pipe cleaners but after almost buying ridiculously expensive old fashioned swirl lollipops for said goody bags, I thought about making pretend versions to use as decoration.  Well, I never got around to it...until earlier this week.

And in addition to putting them in my shop, I thought, even as easy as they were to make, I'd try my hand at a little how-to.  Here we go...

Step 1: Take one of your pipe cleaners and bend it into a relatively tight spiral.  I thought about adding a line of glue all the way around but a) I don't have enough hands to do that without burning myself repeatedly and b) turns out it's not really necessary - yay!

Step 2: That said, when you have your pipe cleaner spiral, it helps to put a little dollop of glue (I used a hot glue gun - one of my all-time favorite crafty tools) where the end is, after letting it relax just a bit into the shape it wants to be (whoa, this almost turned into a feel-good, self-helpy, motivational post).

Step 3: After the glue cools and the shape is set, apply another line of glue on the side of the lollipop that will be its back, from the center of the spiral out to one edge.  Quickly, before the glue begins to dry, set a lollipop stick (you can get these at any specialty food or craft supply store like Michael's) in the glue and hold flat until it's almost dry.

Step 4: Now it's time to wrap your faux swirl lollipop. You could use a square piece of cellophane for this step, for a more realistic effect, but I kind of like the tulle, not only because I had it on hand and I like the color contrast but now it looks like my faux lollipop is sporting a little tutu. Or a veil. A veil and a tutu.

Step 5: Gather the tulle where the lollipop meets the stick...

Step 6: ...and finish with Baker's twine (I'm partial to The Twinery, myself) or ribbon. Yummy!


Hello Etsy: we meet at last.

It's a funny thing doing 99% of my business online - up until a few weeks ago, there was many a day when the only three people I'd see and speak to were my husband, my son, and my son's daycare provider.  Since my son now goes to preschool, where instead of one daycare provider he now has four teachers, I can almost always count on saying a few words to at least a couple of extra adults. Exciting! So you can imagine the thrill of getting out yesterday - and across the Bay, even, all the way to San Francisco! - to participate in the local installment of Hello Etsy.  Like the good student I used to be, I took 4 and 1/2 pages of notes! I thought I'd share a little recap here.

The San Francisco event took place at CCA, which is kind of a drag to get to via public transit (from just across the Bay, for example, I'd spend roughly 90 minutes on a combination of two AC Transit buses, one BART train, and one Muni bus). Fortunately, I got a ride and we made it across the bay just before bridge traffic got insane.  I got there around 10:40, ten minutes after the doors opened and registration began, and expected the place to be packed.  Attendance was definitely lighter than I expected, especially since the free event was "sold out." Food vendors and craft booths were setting up and I spotted a table in the far back of the main hall offering up coffee just the way I like it: hot and free.

The event kicked off around 11.  After warm welcomes from Etsy's own Vanessa Bertozzi and CCA's Provost Mark Breitenberg, New York Times contributor Allison Arieff (her book sounds PREtty FABulous!) moderated a panel discussion titled, "From Prototype to Product."  The panel was great - diverse, funny, inspiring, etc.  First up was Patrick Buckley of DODOcase. He talked about his original idea as his prototype and how he tested the idea by handing out pamphlet-style mock-ups of the product to brand new iPad owners when the gadget first launched. Genius! I kind of want an iPad just so I can get a DODOcase for it. But wait, they make cases for other tablets, too, like the Kindle and...wait a second, no Nook? No worries, there's an Instructable for that.

Next up: Miguel Nelson of Woolly Pocket, who described his MFA experience at CCA as a kind of "art spa." I loved his spiel, wandering and a bit aloof, not unlike his journey from sculpture student to manufacturing. I'm paraphrasing here but when he was talking about figuring out how to satisfy the growing demand for these plant pockets he started adding to spaces he'd rent out, he called his brother and said something like, "Well, quit your job, come make these damn pockets, and everyone will be happy." I actually appreciated that he was the only one to really talk about how difficult and overwhelming the business side of things can be and how there is some personal value, at least, in keeping production small and making things one at a time.  I guess there's a spectrum between the two models and I would imagine everyone in attendance is trying to find a cozy little spot somewhere in the middle, where they can make a livelihood but maintain their creativity and perhaps some joy in, you know, making stuff.

Kate Sofis from SFMade spoke last. This is a pretty amazing organization that supports local manufacturing and facilitates business partnerships between small business owners and all the other people that can help to get your product made.  The only catch? You have to run your business in San Francisco. I know, duh, right, but it would be super cool if there was something like this in Oakland, or the East Bay, or perhaps Bay Area in general. Or maybe chapters. I don't know. It sounds like SFMade is being used as a model for similar organizations in other cities but what about the rest of us?

Lunch break was interesting. I sat at a table with four other conference attendees, only one of which seemed to have a pretty good understanding of what Etsy is, how to set up a shop, how to list an item for sale, etc.  There was one woman who was on Etsy but utterly clueless about how it worked (and expecting basic instruction and tutorials from this conference which was, as Bertozzi accurately described it, more about the "big ideas" that Etsy, among other organizations and communities, is participating in) and two others who were Etsy-curious, there to learn more and possibly set up shop sometime in the future. One gal I talked to described how she had a three-year plan to getting her shop started.  Well, that's one way to do it. Or, you can dive right in there like I did and make a ton of mistakes along the way!  Anywho, from the conference organizer's perspective, my table was exactly the kind of mix in attendance they were looking for: Etsy veterans, Etsy newbies, those curious about Etsy, and those interested in all the other things the conference had to offer.  From my perspective, I guess I was a wee bit disappointed only because it would have been nice to chat with people who had a little more experience running their businesses on the site.

After lunch Kelly Lynn Jones talked about Little Paper Planes. In a nutshell, I was pretty wowed by Jones' presentation.  Interested in "sincerity and community," the site she started in 2004 reminds me of Christo's model: selling the ephemera created in the planning of larger projects to fund the overall practice. Similarly, Little Paper Planes promotes the collection of (very affordable) art ephemera created by artists largely sought out by Jones, which in turn helps those artists to "not have day jobs."  How Jones manages to find the time to make her own work (and go to grad school while running LPP, I might add) is a little beyond me. Clearly, she is one of the 1% still making work five years after art school (that means I have two more years to resume making work if I want to continue to call myself an "artist"). At the end of her presentation, she gave a list of art blogs, subscription sites, and online exhibitions that I, for one, should probably be taking a look at every now and then:

Art blogs:
I ♥ Photograph
Booooooom (7 o's, FYI - I took the liberty of counting them for you)
Brown Paper Bag
Hyperallergic (I love their byline: "Sensitive to Art & its Discontents")
My Love For You
Daily Serving
Contemporary Art Daily
You Have Been Here Sometime (a Miranda July-esque title if ever there was one)

Subscription Sites (if you like all the above stuff and you have a little money to spend):
The Present Group
The Thing Quarterly (getting a lot of buzz thanks to their project with James Franco)
Art in a Box
Electric Works
Alula Editions (focused on textiles)

Online exhibitions:
Culture Hall
Art Star (I'm sure they mean it ironically, or whatever, but this name is pretty cringe-worthy)
Art.syhttp://art.sy/ (another name I'm not so keen on...one word: Qwikster)
Turning Art (speaking of Netflix, this is like that site, but for art, kinda)
Tiny Vices
and last but not least the first online art fair (VIP stands for "viewing in private"): VIP Art Fair

I'm down with blogs and subscription sites and the model of LPP, but most of the "online exhibitions" leave me a little cold. When they're "curated" it's another story but artist marketplaces I can take or leave.

After Jones' talk, I made my way first to a "discussion workshop" and finally, a "learning workshop." The "discussion workshop" I chose was "Creative Branding" with Regina Connell (who also runs the online magazine, Handful of Salt). She had perhaps the best powerpoint presentation of the day. She used Apple (of course) and Brandon Whyrhymer (less obvious, equally good example of great branding).  She talked about how Whyrhymer's difficult last name is actually a good thing because it's memorable, if hard to spell (easy - just now, for example, I remembered "why rhyme(r)?" as the thing to Google).  Despite sloppily attempting to jot down every bullet point, I don't have much else to write, perhaps because branding is not my strong suit (on the web, for example, I'm here, here, here, and here, just to name a few).

The last workshop of the day was even less useful for someone who's been on Etsy for a little while and spends a lot of time on the blog, in the forums, and just generally tweaking their shop(s).  The "Etsy Shop Tune-Up" not only focused almost exclusively on jewelry stores (no offense but...bo-ring), but didn't really offer up the kind of constructive criticism I, at least, would have been looking for had I submitted my shop to be one of the four reviewed in front of the group.  Instead, I wish the panel discussion that wrapped up the day's events had been earlier and the workshops later, because, knowing it'd take me awhile to get home and not wanting to postpone dinner and bedtime for a napless and likely already a little on the cranky side certain three year old, I decided to leave at 4, when the panel discussion, "Startup Stories", began.  I'm hoping I can find it online eventually.


fresh from the Makery: you will celebrate Halloween and you will like it!

For some reason, every year Halloween rolls around I have good intentions of adding seasonal products to my stationery shop, but every year I seem to lack inspiration.  I don't know if it's Halloween itself or something about this time of year, but after spending a good hour trying to figure out what kind of invite (wedding or otherwise) I could create with some screenprinted spider web patterned scrapbook paper I have in stock, I threw in the towel and made a few cards instead.

This is the paper in question. Good stuff, right? But what the heck do I do with it?!  Ooh, I know - I'll put a spider on that there web by embroidering some spider legs and using a metal brad for the body!  I also made a bookmark (for actual books that people no longer read) that I'll add next week, with another bookmark project I've been working on for. ever.

For the rest of the cards, I used flat orange 4bar cards and folded black 4bar notes plus purple envelopes that I already had on hand, plus some Halloween scrapbook embellishments my mother-in-law gave me last year (after Halloween, I might add).  The thing is, while I embrace the scrapbook paper and tools in much of my paper crafting I'm not so big on scrapbooking itself.  Too much effort for one or two pictures, you know what I mean?

Five little pumpkins!

And last but not least, my favorite, three black kitties. I like these cats. They're quiet and leave me alone, unlike my cats.