Category Archives: design

Secret Collaboration

So secret that my collaborator doesn’t know about it yet. Hi, Erin! ::waves::

My friend Erin is, among other things—many other things—a painter. Her paintings have been commissioned by businesses (Oklahoma Employees Credit Union, for instance) as well as individuals, and you should probably get yourself an original before her work really takes off. If that’s not in your wall space allotment right now, she also sells her work in the form of prints, calendars, and iPhone/iPod cases. Erin recently posted a photo of a painting created for Pencil Shavings Studio, now that it’s hung in place:

Custom abstract art by Erin Cooper for Pencil Shavings Studio

Custom abstract art by Erin Cooper for Pencil Shavings Studio

Lovely, right? And also, wouldn’t that make a fabulous border print for a sheath dress? Which I mentioned to Erin. So now I’m just waiting for her to decide to make a Spoonflower order and ship me the fabric, so I can sew her up a dress of her own art. Something kinda sorta like this:

The Cooper Sheath, as imagined by me.

The Cooper Sheath, as imagined by me.

But with better shoes, because it’s Erin. She’s an excellent stylist.

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Filed under design, fashion, friends, sewing, shoes

Checking In

Whoooo-ie, it’s been a while since I’ve had a day “off” to check in with all y’all! I’m not dead. Or even ill. I have been suuuuper busy. I can’t promise that I’ll get back to writing with frequency, but I have made a concerted effort in the last 24 hours to dust off (figuratively) the inventory at Tiddleywink Vintage.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Vintage, some items have been noticeably stolen from the Shoppette. This does not bode well for the continued existence of said Shoppette, so if you’ve been putting off a visit—and the rare ability to try on items—then you’d best get over there before the current lease expires in August. I expected there would be some theft, but it has averaged, dollar-wise, about 30% of actual sales, and that’s more than I’d allowed for.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Design (close enough), good things are afoot. One regular client has given me an unexpected raise, which is flattering, inspires confidence, and is also so very useful. Raises make an excellent gift. And then there’s a brand new client (potentially; contract in the works) that is in for an excellent design piece, should they decide to go ahead with the proposed project. The ideas are flitting around in my head like butterflies. Beautiful, silky, sleepy butterflies. I know I typically focus on the production end of things, but print design still tickles my fancy when the client has, or at least desires, a vision beyond “I don’t know, what does everyone else do?” You would not believe how often I used to hear that, and that is one reason why it’s important to choose clients as carefully (hopefully) as they choose you.

Related: I was chatting with a colleague yesterday, and she put forth an idea about visually testing interviewing clients before accepting a job. She was joking, but I think it’s an excellent idea. Not only will it red-flag designer/client head butting far in advance of any actual disagreement, but it also acts as a way of sussing out the visual style of a person who may have difficulty speaking in terms that us artsy-fartsy types use. I frequently ask clients to send me samples of what they like, even if unrelated to their specific needs, but I think many non-creatives feel overwhelmed by the request or quite frankly don’t know what they like and just send a random assortment of stuff in hopes of earning an imagined good grade. I’m paraphrasing here, but part of the discussion with my colleague went something like “I’m looking at a client’s submitted “mood board” and it makes me want to stab myself in the eye.” If we, as designers, take control of that task and ask the (potential) client to simply check boxes, it has the potential alleviate some undue stress on both ends. Maybe.

Also Related: I need a traffic manager. Can work remotely. Salary paid in baked goods. Or homemade ice cream.

Unrelated: I have TWO GALLONS of mango nectar, in two 1-gallon bottles. I’d intended to use them up making a series of delightful rum-based tropical drinks, but I don’t drink much and so haven’t gotten around to that. I asked (on IG and Twitter) for recipe suggestions, outlining that: I’d like to use up a GALLON of mango nectar before the open container goes fuzzy or vinegar-y, and I also noted that my household consists of only two people. The suggestions that I got, while all sounding tasty, mostly neglect to meet these confining restrictions. For instance: I’d have to make 448 mango-lemon cupcakes to use up the gallon. I’ll experiment today with a mango sherbet (creamier than sorbet because, well, dairy) and some mango iced tea. That should neatly use up a quart, anyway. The best suggestion was to donate the nectar to a food bank, and I think the second gallon jug will go that route.

Still Unrelated: I reached the 1,000 follower mark on Instagram, and so am running a giveaway contest. It’s Instagram-only, though, so you’ll have to take it up over there.

Upcoming Somewhat-Related Blog Post: Why I’m @ampersandwich on Twitter and IG, and @tiddleywink just about everywhere else.

Until next time!

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Filed under design, food, friends, life-threatening clutter

We Interrupt Your Regular Broadcast…

About the Dot Blouse: It’s still in progress. I write posts “live” as it were, and I don’t have a week’s worth lined up and ready to go. In true sew-along style, we would be sewing the blouse together. That is, until I got the flu and then started working 7 days a week. It will still happen, but there’s a delay while I try to fit in cooking, cleaning, and breathing.

On to more banal, personal stuff. I haven’t gone there in a while.

Selfie with a brand-new (and stinky) perm.

Selfie with a brand-new (and stinky) perm.

I got a perm. It’s not the pin-curl-set look I was secretly hoping the stylist could whip up, but at least my wash-and-wear hair doesn’t pouf and frizz as much now. This photo was taken the day of, so it’s not actually as curly as shown here. And while we may have come a long way, Baby, the process still stinks. Literally. It took 4 or 5 shampoos to finally clear the chemical stench from my hair. Yech.

Working. Ya. I’m still officially unofficial over at Prestige Estate Services, although I’ve been “freelancing” for them regularly since October. I should technically be an actual employee by now, but I like the freedom of scheduling days off to focus on design clients. It’s just that I haven’t been scheduling days off, so I wind up spending every “off” day working on design. While I love design and estate sales, I’m running myself ragged. I know this and whine about it, but I still do nothing to alleviate the stress, such as taking an extra day off from Prestige or saying “no” to a client. I have as of this moment very conveniently had 4 days off in a row from both jobs (a client is late getting me her files), and while my time has been filled with much-needed housecleaning, grocery shopping, dental work, and Tiddleywink Vintage administration, it still feels quite relaxing.

My office is set up in a corner of the basement tiki bar/lounge/shop photo studio/storage area, and the office percentage has become smaller and smaller until it’s gotten flat-out claustrophobic. The Boyfriend and I didn’t whip it fully back into shape this weekend, but we made a very good dent in the chaos. Having unearthed the backstock that has never made it into the shop, I am simultaneously overwhelmed and inspired. However, I’m trying to move some of this inventory into a booth at a local “antiques” mall. Space isn’t cheap, but it may be worth it if people can personally inspect the items before committing to a purchase!

The newest addition to my vintage handbag collection: a Lucite purse by Rialto. SCORE!

The newest addition to my vintage handbag collection: a Lucite purse by Rialto. SCORE!

On a separate-but-related subject, I’ve been buying my dentist a boat. While the work I need is deeply discounted through Direct Dental Plans of America, it’s still a lot of work. After today’s session in the dentist’s chair, I decided to stop in at the thrift store next door to look around. I didn’t even bother to take a shopping cart or basket in with me. Any interesting cookbooks? No. How about lamps? No. Sewing patterns? Nothing. Bathroom department, which I usually skip entirely but it’s right next to Sewing: that’s a nice vintage tissue box cover, but let me think about HOLY CRAP IS THAT A—YES IT IS—IT’S A LUCITE PURSE. IN THE BATHROOM DEPARTMENT. I glance furtively around. Does anyone else see this? Was someone trying to hide it over here? I look at the price tag. Nope, this wasn’t hidden. Whoever priced and shelved this must think it’s a cotton ball container or something. Quick check for cracks or chips (none) and to see if the latch works (yes) and I’m off like a shot to the cashier. The hinge is so shiny I think it may be a repro and then under the light at home I see “Original Rialto NY” and I can’t tell you how much I got it for because it was such a steal that I’m a bit embarrassed. And feel not entirely unlike I’d actually stolen it. Now that Viva is fewer than 8 weeks away, I really need to get cracking with the packing. And this purse, of course, will be a part of that.

Since this purse goes into my Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands collection, it frees up a couple of other vintage white purses for me to relinquish to the shop. So there’s that. Maybe I’ll get some fresh product photography done after tomorrow’s dentist appointment (yes, another one) and meeting with the antiques mall manager! Woo!

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Filed under day job, design, doctors and dentists, life-threatening clutter, shoes, shopping, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy…

Be True To Your Work, And Your Work Will Be True To You

…But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for. —Billy Joel

A long, long time ago (the early ’90s), in a land far, far away (Brooklyn), I was a student of design. I suppose I still am a student of design, but back then I was given specific (and sometimes not-so-specific) assignments. Okay, that’s still the case too. But at that time I had full creative control as well as very few design prejudices. And so it was for a packaging assignment that I conceived of a line of aerosol home air fresheners. At a time when the available options on the supermarket shelves were this or that floral fragrance, my line was based on food aromas. Although my entire portfolio of work from that period was lost when I moved to Colorado, I still remember that the two scents I fleshed out were Roasted Coffee Bean and Warm Cherry Pie. And that as part of my idea for a boutique line of higher-end home fragrance, the predominant color of the packaging was black.

I don’t recall my overall grade for the project, but I do remember that my professor lambasted me during the classroom critique for using black on a product that had any relation whatsoever to food. Black, it seems, is not an appetizing color.

Ahem. The following case studies were all gathered via the dieline (a collection of “the world’s best packaging design”). Clicking on any image will take you to a brief article about its product and creative process.

Okay, I’ll stop here. I think you get my point. There were certainly features of my presentation that day which could have been improved upon, but I firmly defended my color scheme. The professor overruled my argument, but I’ve never once doubted my decision. We never got the chance to do a second round of drafts in school, but real life is different. If you believe in a particular feature of your design but the client says no, you may yet be on the right track. What can you do to improve your concept so that the client falls in love with your vision? After all, that’s why the client hired you, instead of The Other Guy.

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Filed under day job, design, food, for doing the right thing., packaging

Improve Your Photos In One Easy Step

Facebook. Flickr. Instagram. Picasa. Twitpic. Photobucket. Snapfish. Smugmug. Everybody you know is posting their photos online, somewhere, somehow. And the most common, numero uno “flaw” I see whenever a person is the subject of a photo is this:

Centered Head Syndrome

The subject’s head is squarely in the center of the photo. Her body is cut off at an awkward point, and there is an enormous amount of empty, boring sky overhead. Now, this is a completely natural thing to do. As a typical human being, your focus is on your friend’s face. And your camera’s focus, quite literally, is in the same spot. But you need to embrace technology, break some boundaries, and MOVE YOUR CAMERA. Move the viewfinder down a bit. Maybe even turn it sideways. Take two steps closer. Now:

Make your friend the center…of attention.

The simplest thing to do, and if your photos fall prey to Centered Head Syndrome it will improve them by 1000%, is to think to yourself, “head to toe.” While looking through the viewfinder, can you see your friend’s head and toes? Good. Start there.

“But the landscape is so pretty, I don’t want to leave it out!” Great, work with it.

There are plenty of instances where you’ll want to get creative and start cropping your friend’s body for artistic purposes, and there are diagrams online which tidily map out where to crop, or not crop, for the best image. You can delve into the “Rule of Thirds” to think about better composition overall, no matter what the subject of your photo. But before you go there, I want you to have 10 photos under your belt where you can see your friend, or friends, from head to toe. Master this one thing, and then expand on what you’ve learned. Your friends will thank you for it.

__________________

With many thanks to the U.S. Gov’t/Peace Corps for providing a copyright restriction-free photo of a beach in Togo. It’s so restriction-free that I don’t need to credit anyone or anything, but I will, because I can.

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Filed under design, family, friends, Thank you