Monday, May 31, 2010

More New Stuff in Progress, a Rant, and Another Promotion

Just listed my bookmark o' the day, the blue and green dyed daisies from my last post. I hope someone likes it enough to want it for their very own!

I worked a little bit today on some paper poinsettias- yes, I am looking toward the holidays already! I have been looking for a poinsettia paper punch, but haven't liked any I have seen. My BFF Kendra sent me a link to a great tutorial on how to make poinsettias, and they are gorgeous! However, they are labor-intensive, so that's why I'm starting now, 6 months before Christmas. I'm hoping to use these for gift bags and tags, and figure that if I can get some assembled now, it will be easier work to put together the bags and tags a few months from now. After all, who needs even MORE to do during the holidays?! Anyway, check these out- they're not perfect since I'm still learning, but I like they way they are coming along!

I had almost everything I needed for these, except for the punch for the center petals, so I took a trip to Michael's today. I am there quite often, as it is very close to home, but I have been increasingly frustrated with them since they changed their coupon policy. It used to be that you could bring in multiple coupons to use, but now they will only accept one per customer per day. Now, I ask you, what good is it for them to print a 40% off one item coupon and a 15% off entire purchase coupon side by side in the newspaper but not let the customer use them at the same time?! I get their coupons in my email, in the paper, and at the register, so just how am I supposed to use these without making half a dozen trips there a week? Arrrgggh! Today I was fed up enough to actually write them a letter (yes, a letter, on real paper) and give them a piece of my mind. To me, it demonstrates a lack of respect for not only their customers' time, but also the environment, to require multiple trips to their store when one would suffice. Maybe I will just have to go to Craft Warehouse more often- they don't make you jump through all kinds of hoops! Anyway, rant over. The punch I got is a Martha Stewart punch, and it's not the one I really wanted, but they did not have the 5 petal punch. This one looks better than my daisy punch though, which I tried at first but didn't like the result as much.

Anyway, on to the promotion. I don't know if anyone out there is actually reading my blog, but just in case someone is, here is a deal for you! Place an order from my Etsy shop by June 7 for one bookmark at the regular price, and get a second one for equal or lesser value for half price, plus free shipping! This is a great opportunity to get a nice little gift to slip into a graduation card or to give a special teacher as an end-of-the-year gift, or even just to treat yourself to something pretty! Just place your order for both bookmarks and pay via PayPal, and I will refund the shipping and half the price of the second bookmark. Make sure that you send me a convo through Etsy to let me know you have placed the order, and mention that you saw the promotion on my blog. It's that simple!

Next time, I hope to have some more gift bags to show you. Until then, enjoy your week!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New Stuff Coming Up

Ahh, the long weekend has been great! It is so nice having an extra day off- I enjoyed today so much more knowing that I wouldn't have to get up and go to work tomorrow! I had a chance to get some stuff done around the house, and also do some creating, which I am anxious to share!

I've had my Etsy shop open for a little over a month now, and am learning more every day. One thing I've learned is to not list everything all at once- the more often you can list, the more your stuff gets seen, because it's at the top of the search list! So instead of listing all my new items, I'm going to hold off and just do a little at a time. I already listed my new azalea design today, but I have some others that I am looking forward to putting up in the next few days, and am happy to give a preview here!

Here's one I just love, two of my favorite colors together:

Here's another I'm excited about. This one uses a sweet polka-dot pattern paper and mixes deep red roses and a pink larkspur:

And here's one that is a little different. This one uses rubber tree leaves:

I got these leaves at a craft store, but can't wait until fall when I can try some fall leaves that I can collect myself. I've done some experimenting with pressing green leaves myself, and they just don't look right- they all seem to turn a kind of putrid green color, and no one wants to see that on a bookmark (or probably anywhere else)! I have done ok with ivy though, and want to try again with that, so stay tuned, you may see some of that soon!

I mentioned awhile back that I had a custom bulk order. I was contacted by someone interested in my daughter's Black-Eyed Susan bookmark for a bridal shower favor- the bride's favorite flower is the black-eyed susan, and lucky for us, she stumbled upon our bookmark on Etsy! I was happy to provide her with 13 of that design. I meant to take a picture of all of them, but I was so anxious to get the order packaged and shipped that I forgot! They all looked pretty much like this though:

I was so excited to do my first custom order! I sent along a free gift with the order, something I've been experimenting with lately, in hopes of developing a new product to eventually list on my Etsy shop. Take a look:

I have a couple of other gift bag and tag styles I've worked on, and am hoping to get a few made to list on the Etsy shop and see how they do. It's so much fun coming up with designs! The only problem is, I could go broke buying paper punches, there are SO many neat ones out there!

Look for my new bookmarks on my Etsy shop in the next few days at . Let me know what you think of my new styles!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, and Contest Winner

Happy Memorial Weekend! I know we all enjoy having a long weekend, but I hope everyone also takes a moment to remember why we have Memorial Day and thank all of those who have lost their lives fighting for our nation.

We have a winner for the drawing for a free bookmark! I had my daughter help me out with this earlier today. I wrote down the names of all of the entrants on a piece of paper and put them in a basket so that she could draw one out.

And the winner is....

BareMoose! I messaged her through Etsy earlier to let her know that she won, and she is thrilled! I hope you enjoy your bookmark, BareMoose! That was a fun giveaway, so it's not the last I will do! Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Welcome to My Garden

I would hate to bore you all with nothing but posts about my bookmarks, so decided I might expand to different topics. I love to garden, though with a full-time day job, 2 school-aged kids, etc., I don't have nearly as much time as I would like to devote to it! I get the kids to help with weeding and maintenance sometimes, but honestly, sometimes it's not worth the grumbling! They love this time of year though, because it's time to plant, and of course that's fun to do so they don't mind. This is a LOT later than I would like to be planting, but here in Oregon, the weather has not cooperated this month. We've had 1.5 inches more than average so far for May- not fair!

This is my main garden bed:

The rosemary, chives, and thyme winter over, and I just recently put in the cilantro. The garlic went in last October- this is my third year growing it, and I lovelovelove having homegrown garlic! I buy big bulbs of it at the farmer's market at the end of every summer and save them til October to put them in. Sometime in January or early February, the little green shoots start to pop up, and by mid-spring they look like this. When the stalks start to turn brown and fall down, usually in August, it's time to harvest. Then, weather-permitting, they cure outside in the sun for a couple of weeks, then go to their storage spot in the garage. Last year, I ran out of garlic by January, so this year I planted twice as much, so I'm hoping for a good harvest this summer!

I also have little 4-inch tomato plants in there- got them at the nursery a couple of weeks ago, which I hope is not too late to get some good ones in the summer. This year I have Early Girl, Willamette, and Brandywine heirlooms, which I tried last year and they are absolutely *divine*!

I have two other beds as well:

which as you can see are sadly empty at this point, save for the weeds. Darned weather! These will eventually (hopefully) contain green beans, zucchini, and whatever else my daughter and I decide to plant. We have a box of seed packets out in the garage that we hope to go through this weekend and decide what to plant.

I'm not much into garden decor, but I have two special ornaments in my garden.

This is "Kevin". My son named him. Why Kevin? Who knows...if anyone has insight to almost-14-year-old boys, be sure to clue me in!

And this is the other one. Sorry, this one is as yet unnamed!

These are both very special to our family because they were made by my husband's aunt, who passed away in March. She was a fused glass artist, and her work was absolutely stunning. Her daughters were so generous to offer the members of the extended family pieces of their mother's work to remember her by, and I know I will always think of Linda when I am out in my garden.

I also often put in annuals in borders and in the front of the house, but haven't gotten around to that yet. This year, I'd like to try some flowers that are small enough that I can try pressing them to use for my bookmarks. If it's nice for the holiday weekend, I will hit the nursery and see what I can find.

Thanks for checking out my garden! Don't forget to enter the contest to win a free bookmark - the deadline to enter is this Friday, the 28th! Details in the post below this one. Til next time- happy gardening!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Designs...And a Contest!!

In my last post, I showed you some new materials that I was anxious to work with. I've had a lot of fun with these- my men's bookmarks are already listed on my Etsy shop! See them here: . Today, I played with some of my new pressed flowers, and I'm excited to give you a preview of what I did!

Here is my first stab at those cute little cornflowers:

I love the red, white and blue- so cute with the Fourth of July less than two months away!

Here's a new twist on one of my standard designs, the True Blue Butterfly Delphinium:

With this design, I have put the flowers into little white windows framed with yellow, rather than have them on a plain white background. I really like this look, though it does push the limits of what the laminator can handle in terms of thickness! I did one of these before and sent it to my best friend, Kendra, and she said she likes this better than the standard design, so I thought I'd make a few more like it.

And finally, here are those fantastic azaleas I posted about last time!

These are so much fun to work with- such a vibrant, gorgeous color! I used the window design here too, and I really like it.

Here's where I need some feedback though, so I thought I'd make it fun and make a contest out of it (and maybe get some new followers in the process, hint hint...) I can't decide on the ribbon color for this bookmark. I didn't have time to go out and shop for new ribbon, so I worked with what I have already, and came up with three options. Here they are:

Red Ribbon

Pale Pink Ribbon

White Ribbon

So...the contest! Since I am still working on getting my Facebook fan page going, we'll use the blog comments for this. Sign up to follow my blog and leave me a comment with your favorite ribbon color for this design, and I'll enter your name into a drawing for a bookmark in that design, free, before I even list the new design in my shop! The deadline to enter is Friday, May 28 at 8:00pm Pacific (11pm Eastern). I'll post the winner over the Memorial Day weekend and contact them for mailing information via email. Good luck everyone!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New Material

So excited- I finished my custom job today, and it turned out great! Once I ship to the customer, I'll post pictures.

In the meantime, I'm looking toward June and Father's Day. I have been meaning to develop more designs for men, and this is the perfect time to do it! A couple of weeks ago, I went to Craft Warehouse on a specific mission to find some papers that would appeal more to men than what I've been using. I'm excited to give it a try! Here is what my shopping spree yielded:

I also recently put in an order to one of my pressed flower suppliers, and added a few extras to my order that I don't normally get. My head is already swimming with ideas on how to use these!

These are cornflower pieces- I love the red, white and blue tones!

Azalea- such a great color! I am going to have fun picking border colors to showcase these!

And here are some larkspur, which I have used before, but usually the pink. These are lovely shades of blueish purple, lavender and white.

The weekend is half gone, but I'm going to try to find some time before it's over to do at least a couple of new designs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beginnings, and Recent Projects

I am really excited to be getting my shop going! I've been experimenting with making laminated bookmarks for almost five months now, and finally feel like I have the basic technique down. My favorite part of the process is seeing my ideas materialize in front of me. Usually, I have a vision in my mind, and sometimes the result is as good or better as what I visualized, but sometimes it goes into "what was I thinking?" territory. Even the bad ideas are learning expriences though, so even if I throw out a bookmark or two, nothing is wasted.

I spent several months doing product development, trying different designs, asking for feedback from friends and family, to get an idea of what I wanted to make. I wanted to have some standard designs, because that would make my supply ordering adn maintenance easier- I'd know what I need, and how much. During the development phase, I learned a lot about what supplies I needed, where to get them, price comparisons and the like, and all of this helped to drive the standard designs I came up with. At first, I was going on pretty much what I liked and wanted to create. The pictures in my head were plentiful, and I wanted to see them all materialize! When I finally got down to business, that is, calculating the prices of materials and unit costs, some designs did not make the cut, because they were simply too expensive to produce. One of my goals has been for my bookmarks to be an affordable luxury, so to keep my prices reasonable, I have to have limits on my material costs.

Once I started my shop, I realized that I didn't necessarily have to limit myself to those standard designs, though. While those might be the backbone of my shop, there is still room for custom products that might not appeal to everyone, but provide options for people who are looking for something specific. I love the idea of custom work, because it's an opportunity for me to do something different and creative, so everyone wins!

Here are a couple of recent custom projects I completed. I was my own customer in this case, and I must say, I enjoyed it! My project was a custom bookmark for my son to give his school band director for an end-of-year teacher gift. My son is graduating from 8th grade this year and moving on to high school, and has been with his middle school band for three years now, so we wanted to do something special for the director. Here is what I did for him.

I chose a trumpet, because that is the main instrument that Mr. D. plays, though he teaches a wide range of instruments to his band students.

I also made a bookmark for my son with his instrument, a saxophone:

For both of these, I used scrapbook embellishments that I found at Michael's. They presented a bit of a challenge because they are dimensional, and when you are making something that you intend to laminate, you have to be careful about how thick your material is. As it is, I use three layers of card stock for each bookmark, so any embellishments that are used can't be too much thicker, or the result will be bubbles around the embellisments when laminated. These embellishments were really neat- unlike a flat sticker, these looked much more representative of the instruments because of the layers of material for different parts of the instruments. That makes for a thicker embellishment though, and added to that, each one was affixed with a foam sticker on the back, with which to attach it. My first go at each of these bookmarks was to use the embellishments as-is, and I was not happy with the results. The foam sticker made it too thick, so the laminate was bubbled around each instrument, and it just didn't look as polished as I like. My solution was to scrape off the foam sticker and use a liquid glue to affix the embellishments to the bookmark, and that worked pretty well. I added some flat musical note stickers for visual interest, and I think they add some fun as well.

I'm excited to have recently been contacted about doing my first real custom order, and am anxious to do a great job for my customer. She has chosen one of my standard designs- actually, one that my 9 year old daughter designed- and wants several of them to use as bridal shower favors! We can't wait to get started, and hope that she will be happy with what we make for her!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why I {{Heart}} Bookmarks

I love to read. I have always loved to read, ever since I can remember. My mother read to me early and often and supplied me with plenty of varied reading material. My kiddie library was enviable, and I had subscriptions for Highlights and Humpty Dumpty magazines for years. As a result, I could read all of my Little Golden Books and then some to myself before entering kindergarten. I was destined for a lifetime love of reading from the very beginning.

Since having my children and being a full time working mother, I haven’t had as much time to read as I used to, but it is still one of my first choices of things to do when I do have free time. As my kids have gotten older, I find myself with a bit more time to do things of my own choosing, and have rediscovered my love of escaping into a book. The life of a working (or any other, come to think of it) mother is very full and can be stressful, and reading has always been like a mini-vacation for me. To me, it is not just a fun pastime, but a way of maintaining my health and well-being. (At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)

I am lucky to share this passion for reading with my best friend. She and I have been friends since we found ourselves in four out of six classes together in the 8th grade. We remained friends throughout high school, moved away and lived together in college, and were each other’s maid/matron of honor. After we both moved out of the state where we grew up, we stayed in regular contact via email. Even after having kids and being buried in new mom responsibilities, we still communicated at least every week or two.

As our kids have gotten older and entered school, we have both found more time to pursue our own interests, and reading was at the top of the list for both of us. We started to send books back and forth to each other a few years ago, so that we didn’t always have to keep buying new reading materials. Then, in early 2007, she emailed me about a book swapping website that she had just joined, . A couple of months later, I joined as well. Suddenly, we both had a great source for new reading material, book recommendations, and a community of other book lovers. In other words, we had both found our home! Sharing the experience of being PBS members has brought us closer as friends than we have been since our college days, even though we still live over 1,000 miles apart.

Since I am reading more now than I have since I was in high school, I am in constant need of a bookmark. In the three years since joining PBS, I tend to have books everywhere- the family room, the car, my work tote, the nightstand next to the bed- and could never find a bookmark when I needed one. I have used all manner of things as bookmarks: receipts, check stubs, torn off corners of magazines, bill stubs, pretty much anything that was within reach when I needed to mark my place in a book. I have bookmarks, of course, I just tend to misplace them. Most bookmarks don’t hold up very well either- they get bent, torn, stained or water-damaged, and end up being thrown out. One of my favorite bookmarks, a gift from a fellow PBS member, met a sad end in an unfortunate encounter with a spilled glass of water. I remember mumbling something about waterproof bookmarks being a good idea at the time.

Much, much later, in fall of 2009, I was walking after work from my office to the parking structure, admiring the general splendor of the changing leaves. I noticed leaves of all shape, size and color, and noted some tiny, perfect maple leaves in vibrant red shades. At that moment, a vision sprung to my mind of these stunning leaves on a bookmark, framed by complimentary colors, and laminated to protect the leaves and keep the bookmark beautiful through many uses. An idea was born! That day, I went home and told my husband that I wanted a laminator for Christmas. As it was only October, I had to be very patient, but it gave me time to plan and come up with other ideas. By the time Christmas and my new laminator arrived, the beautiful fall leaves were, of course, all gone, and spring was a long way off. When I discovered that dried, pressed flowers could be purchased online, my ideas began to take shape, and I was on my way. I went through many weeks of experimenting with techniques for making the bookmarks, as well as designs. Finally, I have all of the bookmarks I could ever need, and they’re nearly indestructible as well! (Well, not quite…for example, DO NOT let one accidentally go through the washing machine with the laundry.) I love making them, and I love sharing them with others!

I hope that this blog can be an opportunity to share and get feedback on my ideas and designs, as well as chronicle my journey into the creative arts (if you can call making bookmarks art.) I look forward to what is ahead!