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.

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

3 August, 2018

This weekend at the Bell Museum: Me!

2018-08-03T18:39:08-05:00An Artist's Life, Classes & Teaching, Out & About|Comments Off on This weekend at the Bell Museum: Me!

I will be at the brand new Bell Museum this weekend as an artist-in-residence in their #SolutionStudio Lab. The exhibit in this space talks about how sometimes the things you need to do your work aren’t things found in stores and how artists and scientists have to sometimes make the tools that they need. I am going to talk about how I use recycled paper all the time when I make my work and then we will be making containers from recycled papers: pieces of origami art that you can use to hold things like art materials or your rock collection. I will even show you how to make a paper cup that holds water. My sister and I used to make these all the time and thought it was super fun to drink out of them. Saturday & Sunday August 4&5, 1-4 pm.

Hope to see you there!

5 February, 2018

Tutorial: Make a valentine cut-out design

2018-02-05T13:34:56-06:00Classes & Teaching, Freebies & Patterns, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, Tutorials|Comments Off on Tutorial: Make a valentine cut-out design

Since Valentines Day is just around the corner, I thought I would post a quick tutorial for making a heart shaped cut out design. You can use any image or pattern and “cut it out” to make it into a heart shape. (Or any other shape you want to use. The steps are the same.)

Make a heart

The first thing is to create your heart. I want a nice smooth shape that is basic black and white. You could use some clip art, but I really prefer to make my own “clip art”. (pun intended) With my own art, I never have to worry about using a copyrighted image or inadvertently stealing someone else’s design. I could draw something in Illustrator or use the vector tools in Photoshop, but I think it is so much easier to just start with a piece of paper. Seriously.

Why? I like the quality of the shape. Vector designs often look too perfect to me. It is really fast and easy to use the circle tool and the pen tool to create something that is symmetrical and has perfectly smooth lines, but I think that’s boring. It is also fast and easy to use scissors and a piece of dark colored paper to cut out a shape, and get all kinds of imperfections: little wobbles of the scissors, curves that are more irregular and so on. It looks less computer generated to me and I like that.

So I sketched a heart with an arrow design on a piece of black paper and cut it out. I used a paper punch to make the little dots. Then, I scanned it. I adjusted the scanner so it was scanning it black and white and I bumped up the contrast. The scanner DPI settings aren’t very important here, so I chose 150 dpi because that should be plenty of pixels to work with.

If you have Photoshop, you can use that do do this next step, but it is also really easy to do in PicMonkey and that’s what I will show you in this tutorial.

Use PicMonkey

Go to picmonkey.com and choose Design (t icon) from the menu at the top. Then create a custom canvas. I am going to make mine 600×600 pixels. That’s a great size for a blog post or email and by making it square, it will look great in my Instagram feed.

Go to the Overlays menu (butterfly icon at left) and choose Add your Own at the top of that column. Then find your scanned heart design.

Next choose the photo or image that you want to “cut out” with this heart. I will use a picture of my dogs as my example. Choose Add Your Own in Overlays again and find that image.

To make it “cut out” you just need to select a different blend mode for this new overlay layer. Look in the Overlay pop up palette that should have popped up somewhere in your editor. (It’s on the right side in my screen shot) Under the Blend Mode dropdown, choose Add.

I can adjust the size of the overlay by using the bubble toggles at the corners or rotating with the handle at the top until I have the image and the heart cutout aligned the way I like it.

You can also use another repeating design instead of a photo; in fact any .jpg image will work. How about a sushi valentine? For this one, I just took a screen shot of this sushi stripe design that I created and used it to make an overlay.

And here I took the same idea with a different design and then uploaded it to Spoonflower to make a repeating pattern for a fabric design. This one would be cute as wrapping paper!

If you want to learn more techniques like this for designing your own patterns and fabrics, be sure to check out my online classes. There is even a free one to get you started and it builds on some of the ideas in this tutorial. Or check out my events calendar for in-person classes.

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