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.