Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New year - what's the word?

A friend of mine started a tradition a few years ago that I've completely co-opted. Instead of coming up with a list of new year's resolutions pick one word that will help define the experiences you want for the year. I love this idea as opposed to a list of resolutions I probably won't keep. A single word to push me to focus on what I think is important for the year.

I don't remember every word I've picked over the last few years, but do remember "Bold" and "Create". I think I used something akin to "Do" a few years ago as well.

For 2010?

I've chosen "Learn" as my guiding word. I'm excited about this and am already thinking about all of the things I want to focus on learning:

  • I'm going to be a new mom. Being a parent is going to be a daily exercise in learning new skills and patience.

  • I want to enhance my design skills on the web side. The basics? No problem. But I want to learn to do thing so I don't feel held back when designing for the web.

  • I want to expand my knowledge of papercraft - always!

  • I want to read, read, read.

  • I want to relearn drawing by hand, so I don't feel so bogged down when I want to produce a sketch.

  • I want to learn more on the technical side of renewable energy to understand available technologies better.

But, it's all about learning.

What's your word for 2010?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas to all

After some serious scrambling, I managed to get my holiday cards out in the mail on the 23rd of December. At this point, I think they might be New Years cards.

This was my first attempt at using my die cut machine (KNK Groove-e) I purchased way back in late June. It definitely takes some trial and error to get the hang of it. But, luckily, the software is compatible with Illustrator, so so far I’ve only had to learn the basics of the cumbersome software that comes with the cutter. I can do all my actual drawing in Illy.

I’m happy with the results, if more time consuming than I’d hoped. Everything was done with papers and coverstock I had on hand, using up extras of papers I purchased for other projects. The design was originally freehand drawn, then scanned, and finally traced in Illy. The card is two sheets – an overlay with the diecut pattern and an internal coverstock card, attached to each other via a string binding.

Enjoy! And for those of you who celebrate Christmas: have a safe and merry one! For those of you who don’t: have a lovely, quiet 25th.

Learn more about the KNK from the online expert - Sandy McCauley

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Custom boxes as gifts

I love making custom boxes for gifts. The packaging becomes part of the gift itself. I've had people tell me that they display their boxes long after the gift itself is gone. They use the box for regifts (which is my favorite use for them), with the boxes often reappearing year after year within a family. Not only can I customize the size of the box to fit the contents, but I can customize the paper and design to fit the recipient(s).

But, of course, making these boxes is time consuming. I wish I could take the time to make them for all gifts, especially at Christmas, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. So, I often pick one or two gifts that get a custom box, rotating through family and friends.

Here's one I made for a gift of wine this year:

When it was done, I used a lovely red ribbon to tie it closed. Green and red – hard to get more Christmasy than that.

Interested in a custom box for your gifts? Email me or convo me via my Etsy store.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Viney sketch

I've been enjoying drawing some more abstract patterns lately. When I draw, I'm very slow and get frustrated quickly. But, for some reason, I don't get irritated when working on something more abstract like the above, even if it takes as long or longer than sketching a realistic scene.

To draw the vine pattern above, I freehand sketched the pattern, then scanned it in and redrew over it in Illy, giving me vector art I can resize, change color, etc.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tone on tone patterns

One of my favorite techniques is to create a subtle pattern using weaving as a source for the pattern. By using the same paper, but weaving it together, I can create a textural effect without overwhelming a simple design with something busy. One of these days, I'll take some weaving classes to expand my pattern repertoire.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday show fun

Booties from Joy Bilee. Etsy shop:

Admid a very busy weekend, the hubby and I stopped into the 2009 Etsy Rain Holiday show. It was quite probably the perfect size for an arts/crafts fair. It was big enough for some good meandering, but small enough that I didn’t start glazing over halfway through the exibits. We found some great treasures for holiday gifts and I met a few people I’d only emailed in the past. The photo above is the one thing that we bought for “ourselves” - cute, fabric baby booties for Junior. Who doesn't love crazy cat fabric?

While wandering, I made two observations though. One - I felt bad for the jewelry vendors. There were just too many of them, probably almost half of the vendors, for their wares to stand out very much. And the second observation - I was reminded once again that packaging and good merchandise display can make all the difference. I definitely glossed over displays that were too crowded. Showing everything in hopes of attracting a variety of buyers can backfire by creating a “mess” that no-one wants to delve into.

Most memorable line heard from a vendor? It’s a tie between:
  • The woman who crochets wire into art and jewelry made the comment that her stuff was not inspired by war after I'd made the comparison to it looking similar to chainmail.

  • The overheard story of the little girl who wanted her dad to “buy her a rainbow” after seeing a shank of hand-dyed wool.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

But, it's not even Thanksgiving

I know, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving, but I've begun to post some holiday cards and items in my Etsy store.

I think my favorite word used around this time of year is "Joy". Go ahead, say the word out loud. You can't help but smile a bit. It's a word that hasn't lost its meaning as a polite phrase like "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". We can say "Merry Christmas" and not really think about what we're saying, but I think it's much harder to wish someone joy without consciously thinking about what we're saying, which puts meaning behind the words.

What's your favorite holiday word?

Links to holiday items posted so far:

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm back

After a series of adventures in the land o' pregnancy – nausea, dehydration, hospital stays – that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, I'm back! I'm so lucky to have the husband, family, and friends that I do. They've been exceedingly supportive and understanding.

Junior's doing well. He's on track to be born in mid-March. And all the tests say he's healthy. Yay!

So, expect posts from me in the coming weeks.

I'm restarting with an announcement for a holiday craft show coming up. I'm not in it, but you can be sure I'll be there admiring all the pretties (and purchasing some too). If you're in the Seattle area I definitely recommend it. The show is the EtsyRain Holiday Show. They have an amazing line-up of artists and crafters this year.

Show details:

2009 EtsyRain Holiday Show

November 21st & 22nd, 10:00am - 5:00pm

Intiman Theatre lobby, Seattle, WA (map)

More information and a list of participants is available here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


O' blog, how I have neglected you. The good news - I'm neglecting you because I'm pregnant. The bad news - I'm neglecting you because of all the first trimester nastiness sapping all energy and will beyond what's absolutely necessary. Everyone promises it'll get better. With that faint hope in mind, expect a lag until after Labor Day. Then, hopefully I'll pick back up with some semblance of vigor.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Design isn't just for advertising

As a graphic designer by day, I truly appreciated this opinion article by Allison Arieff over on the NY Times web site. Imagine easy-to-follow, well-designed forms; clear and precise info boxes for your mortgage; signage designed for easy reading (see an older article from the NY Times for examples of this). The article is calling for a national design policy, and while many rebel against this siting a loss of creativity, I think at a basic level it would do much more good than harm.

I think of forms first and foremost. Often relegated to a side task or to someone with no training beyond a good grasp of Word, I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to scream and then redesign forms in doctors offices, government agencies, court offices, grocery stores, banks, etc. A well thought-out and well-designed form always immediately jumps out at me, mostly because it's so rare. I wonder how many mistakes could be avoided with better forms that flow logically, offer the right amount of space for requested information, and have common sense explanations for terms that might be industry-speak. And while a national design policy can't do anything about those horrible forms at my bank, they can remind people that good design isn't just for advertising and brochures, but applies to everything. It can save time, money, and help avoid mistakes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The winter queen would like white ferns

I've posted a new set of cards over in my Etsy shop. I really enjoyed creating this illustration of a fern frond. The fern image comes from a fern in my backyard and I love the detailed edges combined with the flat off-white color.

And, as I've said before in this blog, I do think packaging is an important part of the whole. In keeping with the light, neutral tones of these cards, I wanted to do something simple for the packaging, so created a pocket. I added just a bit o' shiny in the tie used to close the package.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sail away, sail away, sail away

I will be taking a few days away from the blogosphere. Expect new posts mid next week.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ode to the handwritten note

The NY Times has a great article on how stationary and handwritten notes are not dead. It's wonderful to hear the love in the voices of those who are quoted.

I do find it a little sad that it focuses only on high end stationary, which, for print and paper-philes like me is lovely to send, receive, touch, feel, drool over at De Medici Ming (store in Seattle), etc. But, I do wish the article made mention of the fact that hand written notes on any card, not just the expensive hand-engraved on french paper versions, are always well appreciated and are worth the time. Who doesn't love receiving hand-written notes in the mail these days?

Take my niece and nephew. My sister-in-law has always been wonderful about writing thank you notes. The notes are always timely, well worded, and much appreciated. As my niece and nephew have learned how to write, thank you notes have slowly started coming from them. It started with my sis-in-law writing the note and they would add a little picture, then their name as they learned to write it, and more recently they have written the notes themselves. Not only are they learning good manners, but I have loved watching the evolution of their notes, pictures, handwriting.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where's that 40' x 40' studio I requested?

I recently purchased a die cutting machine. It's going to be great and save a lot of time once it's set up. Unfortunately, it's a bit larger than I'd expected, so I've been spending the last few days purging my office/studio of the piles that have built up since the last purge in 2007. It's amazing what accumulates if you don't keep an eye on things.

On a positive note - aside from the new die cutter - I did find quite a few single cards, one-offs, discontinued items, experiments, etc. Over the next few days I'm going to post most of them over in my Etsy shop as sale items.

Now to find just a bit more space.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's amazing what color and a perspective shift can do

I posted a new set of cards over in my Etsy shop. Called “Wave hello”, I think it's amazing what putting a very similar cut pattern on a different color and lying it horizontal instead of vertical does to the image. Suddenly what looked like a creature from the deep now looks like the deep (water that is).

Dare not speak its name

More fun with security envelope patterns. I just posted this new card over in my Etsy store. Done freehand, using an exacto knife, the pattern came out very cthulu-esque. Does a message written in a cthulu greeting card need to make sense?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dragonfly fire challenge

I've been working feverishly on a couple of projects this last week and have not had time to post anything. But, happily, today after a few minor projects get done I'll be able to dig out my office and find out what color my desktop counter is.

Although I can't go into details as the project isn't done yet, a recent challenge presented itself - combine "fire" and "dragonfly" in interesting ways. Here is one illustration I came up with.

(The actual dragonfly is from Awardik, iStockphoto. The rest is me.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Black and red all over - small boxes

I've just posted a third in my series of small boxes over in my Etsy store. This one was a lot of fun because I took a craft that to me feels very earthy and of the pioneer spirit - weaving and made a pretty gothic-feeling box. Again, it comes back to that idea of combining elements in unexpected ways.

I do love going back and forth between the darker, gothic, snarky side of my personality and the natural, earthy, save-the-environment side. Sometimes it feels like a boxing match, waiting to see who will win today.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yart Sale at Corbae

June 10th - 14th

All purchases made in Corbae’s Etsy store from June 10th through the 14th will receive free U.S. shipping.

And be sure to check out sales Etsy-wide. Many shops will be participating in the annual Yart Sale with specials and discounts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Leaf - tree - vine - small boxes

I've just posted the second in a series of small boxes I've been working on over in my Etsy store. As June is taking hold around here, and all the trees are finally in full leaf, I'm more and more inspired by trees and green of late. This box reflects that inspiration, with natural colors and textures and an impression of a vine.

I love summer in the Pacific Northwest!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Repeating patterns - small boxes

I've posted a new, small keepsake box over in my Etsy store.

I've been having a lot of fun creating smaller boxes, and using up the piles of my small pieces of matboard. The smaller boxes definitely take more concentration to get the smaller corners and bits to fit together correctly. But when they're done, I love coming up with lists of items that would fit in them.

This particular box uses a repeating pattern in different materials, which ties the many shades o' blue together.

Watch for more small boxes to show up over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Political papercraft

Over on BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow (brilliant author - highly recommend his books) has posted an excellent use of papercraft in politics by the Chicago Tribune. I'm having one of those, "I wish I'd thought of that" moments.

From BoingBoing, "...the Chicago Tribune has created this Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) 'Pinocchio' pdf with real Nose Grows with Lies action!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One of us

I've never been much of a joiner, but late last week I joined an Etsy team - EtsyRAIN. EtsyRAIN members are joined by location, not by product. Located in the Puget Sound area / greater Seattle area, there are well over 600 members - all selling on Etsy and all in the Seattle area. Wow!

If you're in the Seattle area and want to buy local, add "team etsyrain" to your search criteria when puttering around on Etsy. And watch for EtsyRAIN members at your local arts and crafts fairs.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Plait present pockets

Who doesn't love alliteration? I've posted a new product over in my Etsy store just in time for all that grad and dad gift-giving. Upcycled and recyclable, these completely unique envelopes are perfect for small gifts. I'm thinking of posting instructions for them. Of course, I need to write the instructions first. If you're interested in instructions, email me at info [at]

Friday, May 29, 2009

Packaging as part of the whole

I've been really enjoying Jackie Hernandez' posts on handmade and creative packaging over at Crafting a Green World. I'm definitely a strong believer in packaging and think it can make or break a product, and the items she's posted are absolutely beautiful. They have my head spinning with new ideas.

I am surprised at something she said though. In her post on Thursday, she said, "You do not need extravagant overdone packaging that will probably be thrown away by the recipient. Instead keep it simple, keep it easy to open, and keep it handmade." When reading that, I kept coming back to the question: why make something that will be thrown away by the recipient? If at all possible, shouldn't the packaging be something that can be reused in some way? I know it's not always possible, but when it is, it sure seems like the more ecologically-friendly option.

Two examples of this in practice come to mind. I visited Japan for the first time a few years ago. That's a country that knows how to create beautiful packaging. I still have some of the "ordinary" papers a few books I purchased were wrapped in, and have used other papers in projects since then. They were too beautiful to just recycle. Even simple wrapping was a work of art. Although I was leaning in that direction anyway, that trip really did firm up my belief that the packaging can be as important as the inside.

Secondly, I was thinking of shopping bags. Although the majority of my purchases go in cloth bags these days, I do still occasionally get store bags. Cheap plastic bags go directly into the recycling, but sturdy, well-made paper (and sometimes plastic) bags with cloth or string handles go in the drawer to be used later. And we do use them until they fall apart. What better branding for a company than to have their logo seen again and again because they've made a bag that can be reused?

Ultimately, for me, it comes down to lifecycle being as important as origin.

I began creating keepsake boxes as part of my card sets as a long-term packaging solution. The box can be reused long after the cards are gone.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Envelope from envelopes

As noted in earlier posts (here and here), I've been having a lot of fun coming up with ways to reuse security envelopes and their exceedingly cool patterns. My newest attempt resulted in a smallish, custom envelope woven from several different patterns. Time consuming? Yup. I don't know how many of these I'll make, but I sure do like the look and feel. The paper has taken on a bendable fabric feel from the weaving.

Friday, May 22, 2009

No need for pastels

After a few days away and an evening spent in the company of a great group of friends – many of whom have been having babies lately – it's gotten me thinking about baby gifts. I love browsing through Etsy or contemplating gifts I can give that are handmade instead of hitting up the nearest Babies-R-Us. One of my favorite gifts to give is a blanket and hat combo I've knitted myself. I'm not an expert knitter by any stretch of the imagination, but simple patterns in long rows is great.

Aside from enjoying the knitting, I really like the fact that I can choose non-pastel colors. Honestly, there is enough baby blue and pink stuff out there. I'll stick to the colors I like and know new baby's parents will like. I'm pretty sure that baby newborn doesn't care yet, although I'm sure neurologists/psychiatrists will tell me different. I've knitted a navy blue blanket for my brother and his wife's first little one and a dark sage-green and ivory blanket for some good friends, but I think my favorite is this deep purple blanket. Knit all in one piece using circular needles, I love the rich, dark color and the reversable pattern. There is no right side. I may keep this one "just in case".

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Paper options limited

As much as I love paper and communication via a tangible item, people are often surprised to find that I'm also a strong believer in using technology to communicate – e-newsletters, email, web sites, electronic brochures, social networking, etc. To me, using electronic forms to communicate daily makes the occasional paper communication that much more important and meaningful. I love when I receive a well-designed, thoughtful piece in the mail or from a company – from a postcard to something more involved. More often, though, items I receive are poorly designed, cheap, and with a muddled message, if one exists at all; reminding me why I find most direct mail a waste of trees. And yes, I'm a designer and owe a portion of my income from designing direct mail.

Where does my diatribe lead? Not where you think. Although I do think electronic communications are a better use of resources in many ways, recently I've seen an unfortunate fallout from the lack of creative design and printing. More and more papers have been discontinued, leaving fewer options to choose from when we can design that creative piece. White or off-white in a dozen textures? You're set. Rich colors? Difficult. Texture in a printable stock? Probably not.

It seems like a classic catch-22. Fewer people are using printed materials for communication, so paper companies are providing fewer papers, giving fewer options for printed pieces. Of course, it does mean that when I do receive a well-designed piece, I'm that much more appreciative. And, it does force us designers to be that much more creative.

The cinnamon-colored paper used in this set is just an example of an amazing paper no longer available.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Patterns within patterns within patterns

As I noted in an earlier post, I've been working on some projects using the patterns found in security envelopes. After a couple of false starts, I finished up the first set of cards yesterday. Cut freehand with an exacto knife, I'm pretty happy with the outcome – pairing two patterns together.

Shown: 4" x 6" blank, folded card and 2.5" x 4" blank, folded gift tag

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Scraps take on a new life as bookmarks

I love paper – shiny, handmade, banana, hemp, linen, wood – paper of all kinds. But, I often find the me-that-loves-paper at odds with the me-that-wants-a-sustainable-lifestyle. I have a hard time reconciling the two sides, especially when I walk into de Medici Ming or even Paper Zone and begin drooling over all the pretties. I end up keeping a lot of scraps. After all, they'll be useful for something, right?

So, I end up drowning in boxes of scrap paper. I've made it a mission to plow through the pieces and use them in projects this year. I've detailed one attempt below as a stack-o-scratch paper.

My new project had been bookmark sets. Who doesn't love using a real bookmark to mark their place in a book instead of that envelope or newspaper corner? I love these sets because the bookmarks aren't so “precious” that one doesn't want to use them for fear of damaging them, but still pretty enough to have fun choosing the right bookmark for the book.

I've sold a few sets, and there is still one available in my store.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Using patterns in different ways

I just posted a new box over in my store. I've found that I love to take a pattern or item and use it in a different way than expected. In this instance, I used the same "net" pattern one would use to make a dreamcatcher and turned it into a more lacy pattern on the top of this box.

I'd love to hear about and/or see examples from others who have repurposed well-known patterns/items and used them in different ways.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pocket sketchbooks with some style

My dad is an amazing artist. He does do a decent amount of his work away from his studio, so I thought he'd be a perfect test case for some mini books I'd been wanting to make for a while. I did feel a little guilty combining a test case with a Christmas gift - a little.

I love the concept of the thinner Moleskine notebooks intended to carry in a pocket so you always have a notebook with you. But I've always thought they had "issues" as well. For one, the thinner notebooks also have soft covers - not so great to write/draw in if you don't have a desk or bartop underneath. And, the thin notebooks come in "kraft".

I wanted to make a set of notebooks small and thin enough to carry in a pocket, with a bit more personality than "kraft", with a hardcover, and lies flat so the small pages aren't more of a nuisance than they're worth.

I came up with these. 5.5" x 3.5", with 28 pages each, my dad says they do what I'd intended. I think I'm going to make another set to sell over in my Etsy shop.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hidden beauty in security envelopes

Lately, I've been collecting security envelopes as they arrive in the mail. Although not a new idea to re-use security envelopes, there are a few projects that will incorporate the inside patterns.

It's been fascinating to me to collect and actually pay attention to these patterns. They are as varied as they are beautiful. It's a good reminder about how much of our world is purposefully designed and we never notice. So, here's a shout out to all of those designers and illustrators who have made something beautiful out of something so mundane as a security envelope.

Above are some of my favorite designs so far. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No more Jordan almonds – creative wedding favors

Over at Etsy, Vanessa has posted a new article in their “Handmade Wedding” series on wedding favors. She’s shown some amazing Etsy finds as favors, all of them way better than those jordan almonds that no-one seems to actually like.

It reminded me of the wedding favors we handed out at our wedding. We still get compliments on them almost ten years later.

We had many people at our wedding who had never met before and decided to do something that would work as an ice breaker. Each guest received a small box with a plate of steel inside it (approximately 2” x 3”) and a custom bit of magnetic poetry attached. We purchased several boxes of magnetic poetry and had a lot of fun spending several hours making up one-liners for each gift.

At the wedding, guests who didn’t know each other had a great way to break the ice, asking each other to read their poetry and exchanging words to make new lines. It was a lot of fun. And each guest took a completely personalized gift home with them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Making scratch paper

Despite my best efforts, as a graphic designer, I print – a lot. If the papers I print don't have proprietary information, then I add it to my “stack” of paper to be used as a “blotter” when I'm glueing items. Great for a gluestick/PVA junkie like me. But lately my stack is getting a bit tall, so I've been looking for alternative uses.

I came up with a stack of scratch paper for notes, figures, lists, etc. Cutting a standard letter-size piece of paper into quarters gives a good size for scratch paper. But, I really didn't like just having a stack o' paper sitting on my desk, so I made a container. It's made of mat board and covered with a burgandy red paper and lined with black. I then made a collage of words cut out of magazines to cover the back panel, which will slowly reveal themselves as I use the stack of paper.

Dryer balls actually work

I'll be honest, making and using wool dryer balls was more of an experiment than something I thought would work to get rid of static cling, but they do. Creating these felted wool dryer balls to use in lieu of dryer sheets or fabric softener was really easy. I just keep the basket on top of my dryer and toss one in with each load of laundry going into the dryer.

And I've made a couple of sets for gifts; inexpensive, and they look great in a small basket or crate.

Thanks to How to Make Do for the instructions.