19 April, 2022

New Online Classes!

2022-04-19T15:32:39-05:00Classes & Teaching, Everything Else, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, UpcomingClasses|0 Comments

Want to listen instead of reading?

It’s class launch day! I have four new online classes open for registration today, from fabric design to hands-on art with recycled materials. I offer both on-demand classes where you can register and take the class on your schedule any time and live online classes where you can join me on Zoom for a virtual class. Here’s what’s new!

New on-demand classes at Teachable

Postcard Art From Everyday Materials. In 2020, I developed a series about making art from every day materials you might find around your house like scrap paper, glue stick, recycled envelopes, post-it notes. For each technique, I show you three or four designs to make into mailable postcards or other small art pieces. I originally partnered with Dakota County Libraries to host these on Facebook, but now I have them here on my website with added links, ideas and resources.

Crafting a Class. Learn how to plan, prepare, promote, and teach an awesome hands-on class. From setting goals and writing your description to fine tuning your supply list and managing students at different skill levels, this online class goes in-depth to help you craft the best class you can. I’ve redone all of the videos and added new lessons about teaching online, setting up a Zoom classroom and more.

Live online classes held on Zoom

A Spoonful of Spoonflower. Thursday May 12, 7:00 pm CDT Get a tour of what it’s like to design fabrics and print them using Spoonflower, a web-based service for printing your own fabric designs. During class, I’ll walk through creating a simple two-color design from creating a sketch to uploading and ordering. I usually only offer this for guilds and private groups and I thought I should do one that’s open to anyone!

Designing Kumihimo Braids Thursday June 16, 7:00 pm CDT Learn the basics of kumihimo, a multi-stranded braid which originated in Japan. In this class you will learn both an 8 and 16 stranded braid pattern and how to make your own marudai braiding loom. We will talk about how to design your own braid variations with different colors and yarn weights or textures.

Be sure to also check out the other classes I have available by clicking the links to Live Classes & Events or On Demand Online Classes in the menu above.

21 October, 2021

Designing Kits (and classes) behind the scenes

2021-10-21T12:46:10-05:00Classes & Teaching, Embroidery, Etsy, Sewing & Design|1 Comment

I LOVE making kits. I like designing small projects and sourcing beautiful materials. I even love the meditative afternoon of packaging things all up. It goes along with my love of teaching. For me, a kit is like a “class in a box” that you can jump into at any time. Instead of talking and demonstrating, I have the creative challenge of figuring out how to capture the important steps in photos and how to write the instructions to make them as simple and straightforward as possible. It’s a different kind of teaching, but for me it’s just as much fun.

This week has been all about cats. The cats design started as a request from students in a class that I taught with a bead embroidered dog. That dog is something I designed for a virtual class with the local county library, but then I loved it so much, I also turned it into a kit. Students in that class said “You should do cats!” and so I thought it would be fun to talk about how I designed those cats.

I always start with a sketch on paper and in this case since I already had the dog design, I wanted to make the two go together and share a similar style. So I started with my dog pattern pieces and sketched cat shapes over top of them.

My first version was too big, but I liked the shape. My next step is to re-draw the pattern pieces in Illustrator, so I made myself a note to reduce the size. That’s super easy to do once it’s in a digital format. I scanned the paper pieces and traced over them to create the pattern outlines. Then I printed out versions at a couple of different sizes so I could check it next to the dog and make sure I liked the way they worked together.

Next I started working on their faces and the embroidery. The first version, I tried to make curved eyebrows like the dog design has, but it made the cats look really angry. So I made another sample and decided to try and do tabby cat stripes instead. I liked this one a lot better. At this point in the design process, I make a lot of samples. Often if I can see they just aren’t right, I cut them apart and reuse pieces like the nose beads for the next version. I often use scrap felt so sometimes the colors are a little wacky. The beads I used here as a stand in for the nose were a little too big and square. My dog design used black sequins and black beads for the nose, but the cats looked wrong with the dark contrast. (My black and white version looked more like a skunk than a cat!)

So I swapped gold sequins for the black and found the perfect pinkish stone beads for noses. Next is choosing felt colors for the finished cats. I know that people love to make things that look like their own pet. I absolutely do. That’s why the dog kits have yellow, chocolate or black lab versions. So for the cats, I wanted three different colors too. These are loosely based on my sister’s three cats: a grey tabby, an orange tabby and a tuxedo (hers is all black). I get all of my felt from an Etsy seller because I love to support other small businesses with my small business whenever possible. So I have a color card with all of the colors of felt she carries and I spent a lot of time picking just the right colors for these. The orange tabby was definitely the hardest color choice to make. It is a darker color than the orange tabby I had when I was growing up, but it turns out that there aren’t a lot of shades of nice orange felt available. I like this combo.

Next I make up the “final” samples that I will use for the kits and then I make up one more where I photograph each step as I go so I can write the instructions.

I like to give lots of options for “what do I do with it” when creating kits. I originally thought of these as pins, but not everyone likes big pins on their jacket like I do, so I also show how to finish these with a keyring or to put a hanger on them and use them like an ornament (not pictured). I’ve seen people talk themselves out of making things that they really love because they “don’t know what to do with it” so I think the more ideas I can give, the better! (A class member also suggested making magnets, which I think is an awesome idea.)

I decided it would be fun to teach this one as a class before I launched it as a kit. So a week or so ago, I did a Zoom class and a group of us made these cats together. It was so much fun! When I was sending things out to the members of the class, we chatted about their cats, and I realized that being able to personalize your cat was really important, so I decided that every kit should have a little extra felt so you could make your felt cat look like *your* cat if you wanted to by adding extra stripes or patches. We also played around with a couple of different ways of adding whiskers.

When I got done with virtual class, I went back through my kit instructions really carefully and thought about all of the things we talked about in class and made sure I included those little details in the step-by-steps. I thought it was all done and ready to launch so I set up to take photos for the Etsy listing so I could post it later in the week.

It wasn’t until I was putting together a kit for a different class that I started thinking about these cats again and realized they weren’t quite finished. I attended a webinar by Spoonflower and Lilla Rogers this morning and we had a conversation about “pretty”. She talked a lot about that subjective “pretty” factor that makes designs really appealing and how that’s something she looks for. That’s exactly what these cats were missing: that little bit of something that took them from just a cute cat to “I have to make that”. So I went back to the drawing board.

When I was a kid, our cat Bob was an indoor/outdoor adventurer and he was a little too good at catching birds. So my mom got him a collar and put jingle bells on it so he couldn’t be quite as stealthy. So I grabbed some scraps of felt and made a collar with a jingle bell for my felt cats. Bingo! I LOVE these now. Whether it’s the nostalgia of thinking about my own favorite cat or the extra little detail that makes these a little more whimsical, I think the bell is exactly what they needed.

So you guessed it! More samples! I stitched three more samples, re-wrote a section of the instructions, and took a bunch more pictures and these became the finished cat designs. Yesterday I put together the first batch of kits for my Etsy shop. These kits are great for beginners and I hate how so often beginner (or kid-friendly) kits are made with low quality “cheap” materials. I love beautiful materials to work with anytime I am teaching, so these kits are made with my favorite materials: wool/rayon felt and perle cotton thread and stone and glass beads.

So now I have dogs, cats and sheep. What’s the next animal I should do in this series? I’d love to hear what you think!

30 October, 2020

This post is brought to you by me, or how affiliate links can make it harder for the rest of us

2020-11-15T14:06:37-06:00An Artist's Life, Classes & Teaching, Everything Else|1 Comment

I got an email a few days ago asking me a question about a Spoonflower fabric. I get questions like this on a semi-regular basis with someone wanting a recommendation for a project they are working on. I am happy to chime in with my experience; I’ve used most of the fabrics for one project or another. My site is covered with Spoonflower fabric in use. But as I was writing the email answer, I thought to myself, “didn’t I already write a blog post that answered this?” It felt like deja vu. I checked and it turns out I hadn’t, but my first instinct was to just look up that post and send the person a link to it. After all, if I wrote up a post it’s probably more in depth, more detailed, more thoughtful than what I would answer writing you an email in response.

But, I was talking with another colleague and apparently there is a kerfluffle in the craft/knitting/sewing online community because a teacher responded to a question just like I was going to do: “here’s a link to a video on my website where I answer that question.” Only the problem is that the person asking didn’t like that response and accused the teacher of just being self-promotional. Apparently a personal email in response to a question would have been fine, but a link to a video answering the same question wasn’t. Wow.

This made me think about an Instagram account that I unfollowed just a couple of days ago. The person was demonstrating some kind of a tool in a video post. It was something about quilting, which isn’t really my thing, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the post. But there were lots of comments asking about a tool that they used. It was the follow up video to that which really caught my attention. In that follow up post, the IG Influencer basically went on a rant about how they weren’t going to answer the questions about the tool and they weren’t going to provide a link so everyone should just stop asking. The reason? They stated they get paid for doing promotional posts and this tool creator didn’t pay them to do a post and they don’t work for free. I found that so distasteful that I unfollowed right then.

So don’t get me wrong, I believe people should be paid for their work. This especially goes for artists and makers. But the Influencer culture has started to creep into what I do; that idea of being paid to make recommendations for things.

I teach about things which require some technology. It’s not like knitting where I can grab any set of needles made by anyone (or even some chopsticks) and show you how to do a cast on. I have to pick an app or a software and show you how to use it in order for you to learn how to make a repeating pattern or extract a HEX code. I can’t know every app on the planet, so I am going to pick one I know and I like working with it. I can teach you a class on how to sell your work online in big general ideas, but the class people really want is the one about how you understand advertising in Etsy; a very specific thing that they need help with. I can’t teach you anything about that without talking about Etsy. And in some ways that can start to feel a little bit like an infomercial.

So here’s where it starts to get sticky: when is a recommendation really a recommendation?
It’s hard to tell anymore. 

I taught two classes recently. One was a technology related class where I showed a bunch of different kinds of apps and software. I talked about how I know some of the app developers because I have been a beta tester for them for a lot of years. Why do I volunteer to be a tester? Because I like the tool and how it works and I’m married to a guy who writes software for a living. We know lots of people who write software and apps. I like to help make this app better because I use it all the time and I know how important those beta users are. But I got some feedback after the class that it felt like I was promoting my friend’s stuff. In the another class, it was more hands-on and everyone got a packet of materials for the project. I let everyone know the specifics about where I got those materials and what they were working with. I always buy materials for classes from small businesses if I can possibly do it. That means I’m not buying in bulk from a big box craft store, but I’m getting everything from Etsy shops (or locally). And I know some of those sellers a little bit because I order from them often. And I order from them often because I think their shops are awesome and carry quality stuff which gets to me fast, which I can’t always say about those big box stores. I love being able to use my business and art practice to help support other artists. That’s really important to me.

But then I started to second guess myself. Would people think I was only recommending these shops/apps because I get a discount or a kickback? (Spoiler: I don’t.) Another teaching colleague mentioned a Facebook group that she belongs to that only allows you to post a recommendation for something if you don’t know the person you are recommending. So you can’t recommend your own video that answers a question and you can’t recommend one by someone you know. What’s left? Recommending something you randomly found on Google? That doesn’t seem super helpful. (And why do I want to spend my time Googling answers for someone else? Sheesh!)

So I thought about it. And I talked to some colleagues. And I decided that the person who thought I was a little too infomercial-like had a point. Because how would anyone know that I’m not a paid Influencer if I don’t say so? So many things we see online are so artificial. You can Photoshop anyone into any scene; you can mock up 100 different virtual products with your design on them; you can add virtual eye makeup to your Instagram videos. We all should look at things with a healthy dose of skepticism, right?

It made me think about the language I use when I talk about the things that I love and how important it is to be transparent. I need to talk about why I choose to use the tools I use when I am teaching about them if I want people to understand that I am not just showing you this because I get a little kickback when you click it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an Influencer and having your business rely on affiliate links and ad income, but it’s not what I do. And I realized that it was important to me to say that.

So I decided to write this post and say that I don’t use affiliate links or ads or cookies and I added that to the blog footer. I don’t get any discounts, kickbacks, credits, promos, royalties, freebies, or commissions for any of the services or apps I teach about or recommend. I teach about Spoonflower and Etsy (and lots of other things) because I like what they do and I have a lot of experience with those platforms that I like to share with others. I am a teacher; that’s what I do. I absolutely recommend shops and apps and things made by people I know because that’s probably why I know them. I had a great experience and came back. I believe in community, whether it’s a tiny online community or a big real-life one. It’s why I’ve served on Boards of Directors and grant evaluation panels and why I participate in pilot programs and beta tests because it’s important that someone does that work to help make the community thrive.

18 February, 2020

Learning things takes time.

2020-02-18T14:19:31-06:00An Artist's Life, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on Learning things takes time.

Tutorials that say that a project is “quick and easy” are kind of a pet peeve of mine. You see entire pages of results on Pinterest: quick, easy, no-sew, only 2 steps, 5 minutes to make, 30 second hacks. It’s not that I don’t think there’s a place and a need for quick and easy projects, but I think that’s often all you can find: the quick and easy solution to a problem that might not be so quick and easy.

I’ve spent the last week or so putting together some new classes. I know how to do that planning part, but I needed to set up a new way to take registration payments and to link them together with the event and to post them as a draft event on Facebook. None of those are “hard” things to do, but they were all things that I needed to learn something about. Square recently updated the way they do their web shop. So I needed to learn the new system. It was super confusing, but I finally have the basics figured out. My event calendar needed an update and I spent a few minutes figuring out how to add a link for the class cancellation policy to every page so I didn’t have to copy and paste it in every time. I got the events posted and then spent many minutes tapping around on my phone trying to figure out how to accept the invitation to co-host the event with my FB page, because although I found the “accept” button in the browser version on my laptop, the button didn’t work. But I digress…

The thing is, it feels good to learn something like this. It’s a sense of accomplishing something. I spent the time and I figured it out. I grumbled, I muttered some words under my breath, I was frustrated a little, but I got there. And now I know. And I can do it again.

This is the problem with the “quick and easy” solutions. There really isn’t a sense of accomplishment. You are done before you ever had to dig in and mutter curse words and figure out the solution. When I was thinking about writing and designing these new classes I am teaching, this was something I kept thinking about.

Often, I am invited to do the lecture or the intro class for a group or organization but I almost never get to teach the thing that digs deeper. I love teaching those, don’t get me wrong; but I am always asked to do the “quick and easy version”, which has a low cost and a low time commitment, but can accommodate the most students. I haven’t been teaching much lately because the only opportunities I had were teaching these same “quick and easy” classes over and over. Which is great, but I felt like I was starting to sound like a broken record. At least in my head. I know that I was only getting people to a tiny taste and not actually getting them to the feeling of having learned something.

However, sometimes cool things just fall in to place and I got an opportunity to try something a little different. A dear friend of mine wanted to try opening up her new studio to guest instructors and basically said “tell me what you want to do.”

Taking a class is a leap of faith. You go in with an expectation and anticipation, and you trust that you will get that thing or idea or concept to take away at the end. Teaching is also a leap of faith; trusting the students to come along with you for the ride. And for these classes that I just wrote and redesigned, I am taking a leap of faith with my students too. I tried to think outside of the box on these a little bit and think more about what would make them great classes and less about what would make them “quick and easy”.

So I upped the expectations on a few of them. I’m requiring students to do a little work ahead of time like uploading a file to me, so we can have a cooler experience during class working with actual printed fabric. I created two hybrid classes that have both an in-person and an online component. One session focuses on the hands-on “technology” parts that students want help with and the second online session they can do on their own time in their own sewing space to finish the project. I realized that a majority of the students who take classes from me come to class with a beginner skill level when it comes to digital design, but they are not beginners when it comes to sewing. So I made classes that matched that. Hands-on in-person work with the digital/technology stuff paired with independent lessons in the stuff you don’t need the detailed help with. This hybrid format also makes it easy to commit, I hope. You only have to fit one class session into your busy schedule, but you get a whole other half of the class to do on your own. It’s kind of like a two-for-one deal.

Will these work? I don’t know yet. I hope so. I talked to a bunch of other friends of mine who are teachers and they had varying degrees of optimistic skepticism. But just like any new product or idea, you have to prototype. You have to try it and see what happens.

Check out the new classes here

21 January, 2020

The Return of the Spoonflower Masterclass (kind of)

2020-01-21T14:50:27-06:00Spoonflower & Fabric Design, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on The Return of the Spoonflower Masterclass (kind of)

In July 2020, I am teaching a 5-day class at the Touchstone Center for Craft in Farmington, PA. It is a masterclass in designing your own digitally printed fabrics with Spoonflower, with a focus on using Photoshop as your main digital design tool. I haven’t taught a class like this in more than a year, but not for lack of interest, just for lack of opportunity. It’s hard to put together a class like this without somewhere like Touchstone to help coordinate it.

You may have found my blog because of the Masterclasses that I used to teach at Spoonflower in Durham. We had to put those on hiatus, unfortunately, because the space we were using to teach in was needed for other things and we couldn’t make the budget stretch enough to be able to rent classroom space. (Space is always the biggest challenge I have in getting a class like this put together.) So I am really excited that Touchstone invited me to be there! I call it a masterclass because of the amount and depth of material we get to cover in class, but you can take the class even if you have never designed anything before. You don’t need to have any special skills and you don’t need to have ever used Photoshop.

This is a description of the class:

Learn to design your own fabrics with Spoonflower, working with Adobe Photoshop as a fabric design tool. Using photographs, paintings, drawings and cut paper textures as starting points for your designs, class time will be focused on practice with digital tools and techniques for creating seamless textures, learning how to work with layers, and understanding the techniques to accomplish specific effects. You will see hands-on samples of all of the Spoonflower fabrics and talk about optimizing your design for printing on different surfaces, troubleshooting color and scale, and choosing the right fabric for your project. You do not need drawing or painting skills; no experience with Photoshop or fabric design is necessary, although you should be comfortable with basic computer functions (copy/paste, saving and uploading files, working with a thumbdrive). You will leave class with several print-ready design files and will receive printed swatches of your designs mailed to you after class. Visit spoonflower.com to learn more about this platform.

And you can read about the technology requirements and some FAQs here.

If you are interested in taking the class, Touchstone has given me a couple of discount codes for half-price scholarships that I can give away to two students. Which is AWESOME. Send me an email if you are serious about the class and want to talk more about the scholarship details. I want to help you get there!

23 September, 2019

Etsy Resources: A Virtual Handout with my top 10 articles to read first

2019-09-23T12:31:21-05:00Classes & Teaching, Etsy, Tutorials, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on Etsy Resources: A Virtual Handout with my top 10 articles to read first

I’m teaching a class today about opening an Etsy shop and I wanted to create a quick reference handout that had clickable links. That’s hard to do with a paper handout. So I decided to create it as a blog post and even if you aren’t in my class, this reference might be helpful to you as well.

I always recommend that new potential Etsy sellers take some time to read the Etsy Seller Handbook, but it can be really overwhelming to get started. It has a lot of information. So here are my 10 favorite articles to help you make decisions as you are opening up your shop and trying to decide what features to use.

Getting Started.

Listings.

Getting Found in Search.

Shipping.

Ads

Go to Top