Who me? aka How to direct people to your social media sites.

I taught a class a few weeks ago about social media for fiber artists. We were at a conference, which is a great place to network with people who have similar interests and passions. One of the things we did at the very end of class was to pass around a sheet of paper for everyone to share their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media handles. I volunteered to gather up all of that information and email everyone a list of links so they could all follow each other. It would be like a jump start for your new social media account.

It wasn’t until I sat down to put it all together that I saw the flaw in my plan. Nobody knew how to share their handle or contact info for these various sites. For about half of the things that people wrote down, I couldn’t find them no matter how much I searched. I felt terrible. If you are an experienced user on any of these sites, this may seem like something that’s obvious to you, but I realized that nowhere is there an explanation for newbies that says “this is how you tell other people how to find you”.

So here it is; a quick-and-dirty guide to how to share your stuff.

Facebook Page

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 10.33.40 PMThey just redesigned the Facebook Page a little bit and now this information is super easy to find.

Go to your Facebook Page. Look on the left side under your profile picture and you will see the name of your page (ie Becka Rahn: Fiber Art). Right underneath that in lighter type it says @yourusername (ie @beckarahn.fiberart).

In the screenshot you can see it pops up a little help text box (black) if you hover over that username. By default, I think the username is a string of numbers, but you can change it to be whatever you like by going to Page Info in the About tab (which is further down on that left sidebar).

Note: this is not the same as your personal Facebook login username. If you want someone to get to your personal profile, they can just search for you by name or email. This is the way to get someone directly to your business or artist page.

If someone searches on Facebook for @beckarahn.fiberart they will go directly to my page. Or I can give the address as www.facebook.com/beckarahn.fiberart

Twitter

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For Twitter, your handle shows up just under your name. When you are logged in to your account, look just to the right of your profile photo. You will see your name on the top and below it @username (ie @beckarahn). Your account will be found at www.twitter.com/username (ie twitter.com/beckarahn) or someone can search on Twitter for @username and find you.

Instagram

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For Instagram, it’s even easier. The name that shows up there in the top center of the screen is your handle. So you are @username (ie @beckarahn) if someone wants to search or you can be found at www.instagram.com/username

 

 

Pinterest

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Pinterest makes you look just a little bit harder. If you log in to your Pinterest account, first click the person-shaped icon to look at your profile. It’s at the top right of your screen.

 

Then click the pencil icon in the top left corner of that profile screen, right above your name. Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 11.20.19 PM

Clicking the pencil will pop up an edit box and if you look about halfway down you will see the word Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 10.36.18 PMUsername. That’s the link to get to you: www.pinterest.com/username

 

Etsy

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 10.38.35 PMDon’t know your etsy shop’s direct link? Go to your shop and look in the very top of the browser window at the address of the page. It will say https://www.etsy.com/shop/username (ie www.etsy.com/shop/beckarahn).

You can also use username.etsy.com (ie beckarahn.etsy.com) and that will get you there too. Sometime searching for your shop name in the search box isn’t 100% reliable. By using the full address, you can be sure someone will get there.

Putting it together

So for example, if I were going to put my social media links on my business card, it would look something like this:

  • www.beckarahn.com
  • beckarahn.etsy.com
  • Facebook: @beckarahn.fiberart
  • Twitter/Instagram: @beckarahn
  • Pinterest: pinterest.com/beckarahn

If I wanted to add clickable links to an email, website post or anything else I’d use:

  • www.beckarahn.com
  • beckarahn.etsy.com
  • www.facebook.com/beckarahn.fiberart
  • www.twitter.com/beckarahn
  • www.instagram.com/beckarahn
  • www.pinterest.com/beckarahn

Know you’ll forget it?

WalletCard

Right-click or option-click this image to download it. Print it, write in your information and tuck this in your wallet. Or take a photo of it and store it in your phone. Then you’ll always have it when you need it. Like when you take a class with me and I pass around a sheet of paper for you to write down your links.

A tale of Two Cons: Weaving and Star Trek

In the last week, I had the awesome experience of attending both a weaving convention and a Star Trek convention. If the zipper bag pictured above gives you any clue, you can see that these are both things that I enjoy.

The weaving convention was the annual Handweavers Guild of America conference, which was held in Milwaukee. I was a “leader” which means I was there to teach 5 classes on everything from social media to fabric design and to participate in their runway show. The Star Trek convention was held a downtown hotel in Minneapolis and had actors from all of the Star Trek series in attendance, doing Q&As and photo ops.

Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) these two “cons” had a lot of things in common.

A conference is a conference.

There were panel discussions, seminars, cocktail parties, VIP areas and volunteers with clipboards and headsets. There was “conference center food”: numerous forms of bread and cheese (pizza, nachos, pretzels) under heat lamps. There were bored-looking spouses on their cell phones holding bags. There was a registration table staffed by volunteers trying to keep track of 6 things at once. The air-conditioning was cranked to ice age levels. I am pretty sure you could get dropped in to any conference anywhere on any topic and know you were at a conference.

There are costumes.

I am sure this doesn’t surprise you about the Star Trek con. Sci-fi gatherings are famous for this. I saw Klingons, Vulcans and a baby Trill. There were exquisite reproductions of Bajorans and swords made from tinfoil-coated cardboard. As a lover of costumes, I was delighted with all of the things made by hand.

We didn't go in costume, but this was Halloween a few years ago.

We didn’t go in costume, but this was Halloween a few years ago. I get it.

Weavers also wear costumes. It is a given that you wear your favorite handmade stuff when you are at a fiber art conference. I made a tank top with my weaving themed fabric specifically to wear to this conference. I saw handwoven shawls and jackets, handmade shoe laces and a pair of amazing sprang leggings. (Sprang is finger-weaving technique.)

You can ask anyone about what they are wearing and they will tell you all about it: how they researched it, how they learned how to do it, why they love it, where they struggled. And if you ask them about it, you will be rewarded with a smile that lights up the room. They do it because they love it.

There are celebrities.

I said hi to the brilliant John DeLancie (aka Q). It was quiet when we were there and it was a tiny room, so I was standing just a few feet away from him when I walked in the room. I know I had a huge smile on my face when he looked up, so I said hi and he said hi back. It was neat to make that little connection. We enjoyed the Q&A sessions we listened to. Marina Sirtis (Troi) was really funny and Gates McFadden (Crusher) so genuine and geeky.IMG_4008 2

I wouldn’t rank myself up in the “celebrity” status, but the very first afternoon I was at the weaving conference I felt like a celebrity. Someone recognized the fabric my shirt was made from (one of my designs) from Instagram photos. A student from a workshop I taught last summer came over and told me how much she had loved that class and how glad she was that I was there. An Etsy customer that I did a big custom order for came and found me in my classroom to show me the loom she made with her tiny weaving loom kit. One student handed me a handwritten thank you note at the end of class to say thanks for teaching her. I felt like a rock star. It was awesome.

I felt some awkward empathy with the Star Trek actors. The conference was small and not very busy and many of them were sitting at tables covered in glossy photos, surfing Twitter on their phones and waiting for people to come over and chat. I have sat at art shows and smiled at streams of people who walk right by. My art might not be your thing, but imagine what it’s like to have your art be yourself (as an actor) and have people just walk by. That must be SO hard. I know that watching someone pick up one of my scarves and smile at the fabric design is the best feeling; I can just see the connection. It felt weird to me to go over and chat with strangers about a show they made 30 years ago, so I hope that my big smile as I walked by conveyed a little how much I appreciate their work.

There is geeky stuff to buy.

IMG_3957It’s a vendor’s dream: an audience that is guaranteed to love what you are selling. There are things to collect. There are things you can’t get anywhere else. There are people selling things because they love what they do and are just as big a geek as you are. There are t-shirts if you want to proclaim your geeky-love to the world and there are things that you know you will be the only one at your workplace that knows what that thing is sitting on your desk because it belongs to a special level of geekiness. There are always silver jewelry charms that are made in the shape of something thematic (drop spindles, Star Fleet communicators) and coffee mugs with the conference logo. There are always large unisex t-shirts that are big and baggy on me. (That’s a personal pet-peeve.)

There are people who love what you love.

When I thought about writing this post, I immediately thought of that quote by Wil Wheaton (coincidentally a Star Trek actor) which I posted above. Cons are where you find those people who love the same stuff that you do and you all are there celebrating the way that you love it. It’s pretty cool to be able to wear a shirt that has weaving shuttles all over it and have someone stop dead in the hallway and say “That’s so awesome!” and not “What the $%# is on your shirt?” It’s fun to be a part of a tribe.

That’s kind of the whole philosophy behind my Etsy shop, honestly. I am a fiber art geek and I make things for other fiber art geeks. That’s what makes it fun. I don’t do it because it is fun sewing dozens of zipper bags (that is super boring, I will be honest). My job is making things that help people celebrate the things that they love. That’s fun.

Have you ever been to a conference focused on a particular theme that is near-and-dear to your heart? I had a great time at both places and it was great to be a geek along with all of the other geeks. It wouldn’t be as much fun if we weren’t all there together.

Shout out to the Handweavers Guild of America conference!

Love of Weaving - Twilight

I wore this fabric today in honor of you! If you saw me walking around today and asked about it, here’s where you can find it. There’s a green version too.

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photo from @donnastitches who saw me on the way to teach this morning.

When art won’t let you go, you write a book.

Sometimes when I finish a piece of art, I’m not finished. The ideas or inspiration or designs are still in my head and they still have something to say. I think this is why many artists do things in a series, like Monet’s variations on haystacks. The piece itself might be done, but the art is still trying to say something.

This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually, I am done and ready to move on. But the art for the recent public art/utility box project that I did is one of those that stuck around and wouldn’t let me go. Before I had even finished up the final technical details of getting those pieces ready to be installed, I decided that I wanted to write a book.

The beautiful thing about making a book from this project was that most of the hard work was done. Because I was already making print ready files for sticky vinyl coverings, I already had high res files that were perfect for printing. And I had a lot of “leftover” photos. When I started the project for Prospect Park, I took about 500 photos so that I had options to work from. I wasn’t sure what I would need and I knew I didn’t want snowy winter pictures, so I shot a lot last fall.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.42.17 AMThe story for the book I wrote at about 2 am one morning and it started with pictures of feet. The book has a very simple story; basically it’s about taking a walk with an artist and looking around you for art. Exactly what I did when I took the photos to make the collages. I realized that I had several photos that had my feet in them, because whatever I was photographing was on the ground. I was planning to just crop out my feet if I used those photos, but what better way to illustrate a walk and bring me into the story a little bit?

It’s a “kids book”, because I think there is a lot in it that kids would enjoy. Did you know that I snuck in a few pictures just for me? My dog, Leo, appears on one page. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s just his fur, and he’s wet.) There are lots of things to look for in the photos and I continued the I Spy game with thumbnails of things like colored pencils and faucet handles to look for in the photo collages.

IMG_3667I decided to publish this book myself. The great thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. The terrible thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. But I really think that was the best fit for this kind of a book. And I love how it turned out. I used a service called Blurb to print the books. It is a print-on-demand company, which means I can get as many or as few printed as I want to. They had a template set up for InDesign, which I use all the time, so the setup was really easy. And thanks to my sister Beth, who is my best second pair of eyes. She always sees the stuff I missed and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when something looks dumb.

Of course, I would like to sell a few, but more importantly for me, I want people to know the story. How many times have you run into art out in the world that was without context? Sculptures in parks, murals, mosaics. There is rarely an artist’s name and there is almost never a story. And don’t you always have things that you wonder? Why are there whales painted on the wall under the bridge? What’s the story? There is something fun about making up your own story, but I am curious. I want to know the artist’s story. I want to know the connections and I want to make my own connections beyond just thinking “I like those whales.”

So this book has several different stories. It’s about the art that’s in the book. But I also included a page about the art that I made first, the art that’s on the boxes. If the world is kind to them, the installers tell me that those wraps can last for several years. And I hope people wonder about them and have questions. I wasn’t allowed to put my website on the boxes (lest it look like advertising) but maybe through the magic of Google, someone will be curious and find the story.

And don’t think I am forgetting about fabric in all of this. I collected lots of photos of circles, thinking I would use those for making some part of the designs. They didn’t make the final cut for the boxes, but I used them for the cover of the book and to design this fabric:

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I made a dress from it to wear to the walking tour the neighborhood association did for the boxes. You can see a little bit of that here in the article that the local paper wrote about the project and it’s available at Spoonflower.

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. - photo courtesy MN Daily

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. – photo courtesy MN Daily

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 4.33.35 PMIf you’d like to get a copy of the book, you can get them at:

Fabric Design Tutorial: Photo Collage Bonus Mashup

I posted a tutorial just a few days ago showing how to create a “scrapbook style” fabric design from a collection of photos. You can think of this post a variation on that theme. It’s a different way of using the same tutorial.

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In my last artist newsletter, the free download I sent to subscribers was a photo of a sunflower on a transparent background. It went along with the Prospect Park utility boxes project that I did recently; in fact, you can see that sunflower in the cafe scene and on the bicycle headlight on one of the boxes.

Maybe a fabric design with photos of your dogs or friends and family isn’t something you are interested in. What about flowers? This fabric design is a mashup; it uses that sunflower photo (and several other flowers) plus exactly the technique I described in the scrapbook style tutorial to make something totally new. I used the “color cell” option in the Background tool set (paint palette icon) to add the blocks of solid color to this design.

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What other variations on this theme can you come up with?

Fabric Design Tutorial: Create a “Mini Photo Scrapbook” Fabric Design

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.48.36 AMI am going to call this tutorial the first in what I hope will be a series of “Suggestion Box Tutorials“.

I got an email from a woman this morning asking for help designing a fabric to make a keepsake zipper bag. She and a collection of friends are meeting up this summer and she wanted a little something to give each of them to commemorate the occasion. She had a great idea for what she wanted the fabric to look like: a collection of photos and little graphics that were all significant to this group of friends. The photos should be scattered like postage stamps on a white background. She even sent me a sketch.

Her question was: did I know of anywhere there was a tutorial that could show her how to do this and how could she make sure that it was just the scale and size she wanted?

Could I think of anything? No. So, this seemed like the perfect tutorial for me to write.

What does your intention tell you about your design?

If you have had the chance to take a class from me, you know that one of my tips for creating really successful fabric designs is to design with intention. The intended use for your fabric can give you so many hints about how you need to set up your design files.

This fabric is intended to be a lining for a small zipper bag. So we know that will use pieces of fabric that are maybe 10-12″ square. If I create a repeating tile that is larger than 12″, I won’t see all of the photos that will be in the design because I will be just cutting out a piece. Maybe that’s ok. Or maybe you want to make sure that each bag has every photo visible. That’s a choice for you to make.

I also know that if my zipper bag is 10-12 inches, I probably need the photos to be pretty small in relation to that so that the scale makes sense. If the photos are each 6 inches, I will only be able to see a couple of them once I cut it out.

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Do the math.

So for this project, I am going to use that information to set up my design file (aka do the math). Why do I need to do that now? Can’t I just do the fun part (designing it) and worry about that math stuff later?

The number one thing I hear from new fabric designers is:

I uploaded my thing to Spoonflower and it was so awesome, but it was totally the wrong size! I thought it would be small but when I uploaded it, it was huge! I don’t know what happened. I was so surprised.

This is the step where you can make it turn out exactly the size you want it to be. It just involves a tiny bit of math.

  1. Decide what size you want your repeat to be. By “repeat” I mean the file that you will upload to Spoonflower. Spoonflower computers will repeat that file it to fill as much fabric as you want to print. Yes, you repeat your repeat. English is weird.

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I decided that for this zipper bag lining, I want my repeat to be 12″ because I want to be able to see the whole thing with all of the little photos when I cut out my lining piece. That’s my design choice. You make your choice.

2. The magic number is 150.

The only thing you need to remember about resolution for this project is 150. Resolution is the number of dots (or pixels) per inch that the file needs in order to print at the size you want. Dots per inch = DPI.

Spoonflower’s printers use a resolution of 150 DPI. That’s why 150 is our magic number. That means if you set your file to 150 DPI, you will get exactly what you expect to get. That’s a rule. 150 uploaded = 150 printed. In otherwords, if I make a file that is 12 inches at 150DPI, I will get a printed design that is 12 inches. No more, no less. So how do I set up the file?

3. Figure out how many pixels that is.

Resolution is the number of pixels per inch. Since we know how many inches we need (12″) and we know how many pixels per inch (150 DPI) we can figure out how many total pixels that is. And we need to know the total number of pixels because that’s the number our graphics program will ask for.

inches x resolution = pixels

12 inches x 150 pixels per inch = 1800 pixels

That means if I want a file that will print exactly 12 inches wide, I need to make a file in my graphics program that is 1800 pixels wide.

Remember that number. 1800 pixels. Write it down on a scrap of paper.

Create a new blank file.

For this design, I am going to use a program called PicMonkey because I think it is the ideal tool for this design. It’s going to make it easy. You can use any program you want to to make your designs, but PicMonkey has some built in tools that I know will work really well for this. That’s why I picked it. It’s a free online graphics software that works right in your web browser. You don’t need to download anything.

Go to PicMonkey.com. At the top of the screen you will see a menu bar.

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Click on the option on the right that says Collage.

Set up the Layout.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.22.09 PMThe reason that PicMonkey is such a great tool for this project is because of this collage tool. Look at the left sidebar on your screen for the icon that looks like a grid. If you hover your mouse over it, it will say “Layouts”. Click the Layouts button.

Feel free to explore the options in this panel! These are all of the different ways that PicMonkey can layout a collage for you.

(There are some options that are marked with a crown – those are part of the upgraded “Royale” package that PicMonkey offers, which is an annual fee of $40/year. We will use a free layout option for this project but that $40 per year membership is totally worth it. Note: I don’t get anything from PicMonkey for telling you that; it’s just my personal opinion. I just love PicMonkey.)

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.24.22 PMClick on the option called “Square Deal” out of that list and then pick the little icon at the very far right (a grid of 25 squares.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when I told you to write down “1800 pixels”. The very next thing you want to do is set this file to be 1800 pixels. Look at the bottom center of the screen and you will see where to type that in. I put in 1800 for both the width and the height, so I will have a 12 x 12 inch square as my file size. (See how easy that was!) Hint, if you click the Lock Icon after you do this, it will keep it at this size while you are doing the next steps and rearranging things.

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Add your photos.

The dotted lines in this layout represent the places I can drop in my photos and graphics to make up this design. But first I need to load them into Picmonkey.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.35.43 PMLook back again at the left sidebar. Choose the top icon that looks like a picture of mountains and is labeled “Images”. The very first thing in the panel of thumbnails will be a button (top left) that says “Open Photos”. Click that and it will pop up a window for you to find the files on your hard drive.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.36.58 PM

A hint: It’s super helpful if you collect everything you want to use for this design and put it all together in a folder on your Desktop (or somewhere else handy). Then you can select and upload them all at once instead of needing to hunt and peck all over your computer to find what you need. Load all of the photos you want to use right now. You can click that “Open Photos” button more than once to keep adding photos.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.44.14 PMYou will see all of your photos pop up in the thumbnails along the left side of the screen. They don’t have to be photos. Anything in a .jpg format will work, like little graphics or screenshots. Just make sure you have permission to use them.

Now the photos are ready to use. I chose a bunch of photos of my dogs for this example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill in the blanks.

You can now click and drag the photos from the left sidebar and drop them in the boxes in the template on the right. If I look back to the sketch my friend made, she has photos scattered all around the design, so I am not going to fill in every box in the template, but I will leave some spaces.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 3.05.41 PMWant to vary the sizes of the boxes a little? You can click and drag to change the size and shape of the rows and columns. Hover with your mouse between a couple of boxes and you will see a double arrow pop up. You can drag with that double arrow to make the columns and rows bigger and smaller.

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Recenter a photos? Hover over a picture and wait for your cursor to change to a 4-pointed arrow. Now you can move the photo around within the box (to recenter it).

Want to add another photo and insert an extra box into the template? Grab a photo from the thumbnails, drag it over to where you want to add it and wait for a blue outlined box to pop up. When you drop the photo it will add a new box where that blue outline was. Now there are two photos in that space.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 3.11.02 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-13 at 3.11.10 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoom? Click any photo in the collage to see an Edit button (top left) or an “X” (top right). Click the “Edit” button and a menu will pop up that will let you zoom and rotate that photo you have selected. Click the “X” to remove the photo.

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How do you know if the photos you are using are going to work and not look pixellated? Pretty much it is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I could help you do the math to check that you have enough pixels in each of these photos and so on, but honestly, if it looks blurry, or pixellated, or in any way yucky when you look at it in this step, it’s going to look that way when you print it. It’s pretty simple. Your best bet is: if it looks yucky, choose a different picture. You can’t fix blurry or pixellated.

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