Monday, January 1, 2018

I had 55 ...

And now I have 4. POOF, just like that ... 51 were bought by very happy people. I tell ya, this is a GREAT problem to have. To almost run out of a ornaments before a Christmas tells me I am onto something! 

I LOVE Christmas and creating Christmas decorations. I started making ornaments about 4 years ago for my family, as it brought me a tremendous amount of Joy. They are well received and are anticipated every year. A year ago this month, I decided to create a test market for my Christmas Ornaments after my first customer bought one. I was a bit nervous. Creating for family is one thing. Creating for you all, well that is just plain scary, putting my creations out there, for sale. Yikes! But, I wanted to see what would happen if I created a bunch of these and then sell them. Soooo, I had to develop a plan. Oh boy ...

I bought wooden balls and eggs, inserted little eyelets and primed them with gesso. Then I had to buy a tree to store these while I was painting. Check. Plan is well under way.

Paint is important. Some paint works better than others. The key is to paint once, so finding a paint that allows that to happen can be tricky. Re-painting over an area slows down the process, I found out.

Next is designing these one-of-a-kind ornaments. I have to think outside the box and keep a sharp eye out for of all kinds of ideas. Nature is a big source of inspiration for me as well as Pinterest. Once I have an idea what I want to draw, I pencil it on the ornament, then cover it with a light white wash of gesso so the pencil doesn't smear. Another lesson learned the hard way.

Here is an example of me painting an ornament. Super fun! The more I create, the more I wanna create. Brings soooo much Joy (there is that wonderful word again!)

To add some dimension to these, I added black lines to the shapes I painted. I tried a thin black marker and well that ran like my nose during the winter, so those dumb things got thrown out. What about Rapidograph pens?? These pens are hard to come by now, but lucky I save old art supplies and had some laying around. Did a test on an ornament. It passed. Then I sprayed it with a glaze. Fingers crossed, as I was spraying. The ink didn't run. WOOHOO! Success!

So, after I had a couple dozen ornaments completed, I thought to myself, "Who is gonna buy just an ornament? I mean, how are these gonna be any different than any other ornament out there? There needs to be a story behind these." Back to the drawing board. 

I envisioned these ornaments being created in a very whimsical, magical, far-far-far away place where you all want to visit and explore. A place where you all become inspired. A happy, joyful place, with chocolate. If Santa's workshop at the NorthPole, Harry Potter's fantasy world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them's unique creatures and nature, The Hobbit 's wonderful color combinations and Winnie the Pooh's landscape all played in the sandbox together, this place I have in my head would be birthed. Great. Now I need a name. Ah-ha, Cubbyhallows. Now I need a name where the ornaments are made. Bingo ... The Enchanted Sugarplum Treehouse. PERFECT! Now I need Christmas gnome names. How 'bout Hobbyhiggle, Mossybuttons and Olliewig? Beautiful. It is coming together, with the help of my wonderful friends and some serious brainstorming! Now I need a logo. That should be easy, I mean I am on a roll here.

It wasn't easy and the inspiration came to a screeching halt. Daggomitt!!

I was looking for inspiration and it just wasn't coming to me. The only element that worked was the treehouse icon. This logo had to be whimsical and represent the designs of the ornaments. About the time I was having a major design block, I took a girls trip to Waco, Texas to visit Magnolia Markets. To be honest, I only watched one episode of Fixer Upper before the trip so I had no idea what was in store for me. Once I walked through the doors of the market, the inspiration hit me like a ton of bricks! I mean A TON! After seeing the entire place, with my jaw to the ground, my Enchanted Sugarplum Treehouse logo was created. My inspiration was back in full swing and actually, in more ways than one. But that is for another blog. YIPPEE for inspiration!

I did a happy dance back to the drawing board.

I created my logo and the packaging to go with it. So when you purchase an Enchanted Sugarplum Treehouse ornament, it comes in a keepsake box, wrapped in tissue with a card explaining the story. All these are numbered, which you will see on the back of the card. Perfect! There is only one of these made, just for you.

So now you know the story of how these ornaments came to life. It has been a fantastic journey and one that has just started. I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be a great year for The Enchanted Sugarplum Treehouse. And never know, maybe someday the gnomes will have an actual treehouse to create these fun ornaments! (hint, hint Treehouse Masters!) ...

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Start with drilling a small hole.

Then you add the cute little eyelet.

1" half rounds to be added to the wooden ornaments.

Ornaments are ready to be primed.

Ornaments are ready to be primed.

Perfect time to pencil my design ideas onto these cute little blank wooden balls 
while watching tv.

For this year's ornaments, I created a wooden tree stand. All these ornaments are waiting 
to be painted on. I think I have my work cut out for me!

I find a ton of inspiration in nature whether it is the color or patterns. Nature is endless ...

Winter wonderland at its finest! An some major inspiration as well!

And you never know when you will find inspiration. This is a rug at a restaurant.

A little whimsical Christmas action here. And yes, the elf rammed his sled into my tree, 
climbed up the ladder and fell inside. True story ...

I LOVE color and LOVE to have a large selection of paints to choose from. 

A few of the ornaments, close up.

A cluster of ornaments.
Meeko the studio cat paying a visit.
Meeko the studio cat decided to step in my paint. Lovely ...

The Enchanted Sugarplum Treehouse logo.

This is The Enchanted Sugarplum Treehouse packaging. 

Ornament charms showcasing my Debi Studios logo on one side and
The Enchanted SugarPlum Treehouse icon on the other.
Because you have to have a Meeko on your shoulder while creating.

Monday, August 4, 2014

We ARE on the same team, aren’t we?

How to work with a graphic designer, when things aren’t working

As I wrote in my last (which was also my first) blog post, “Working with an illustrator, layout artist, designer, graphics specialist, or whatever can be a lot of fun.” Actually, I should have written “… should be a lot of fun” rather than “… can be a lot of fun.” After all, this is art, and art is fun, right? Remember art class in grade school? Pure joy! Endless fun!

But now we’re all presumably grown up and sometimes – too often – the fun never begins when it comes to working with an artist. Looking at my 25 years as a graphic designer/illustrator/artist, I can see plenty of reasons why the relationship between an artist and a client can have problems. Generally speaking, there are two symptoms of a problem. One, the client is not happy with the work. Two, the artist feels as if she or he is always at odds with the client, and just can’t seem to deliver the results the client wants. In the end, the product is off target, there is a lot of grumbling and every step on every project is pure pain. For both sides.

Sometimes the cause is rooted in differing personalities. Other times the unhappiness comes from work styles that aren’t working together. Of course, these would not be insurmountable obstacles if the end product was outstanding. In that regard, it’s like a hockey team. All the players may dislike one another, but somehow if they win the Stanley Cup, no one cares much about having been at odds with one another all season.

But what if the end product isn’t outstanding? What if the artist thinks it’s awful and the client thinks it missed the mark? What’s the problem?

I have to be honest here:  with the vast majority of my clients and on nearly all projects, I don’t have a ton of experience with dysfunctional work/creative relationships. But I have had some that didn’t work, and believe me, just a few of these leaves a dent. So, what’s the problem? How do we fix this?

I’ve found over the years that this usually comes down to a lack of communication. And that’s understandable, because everyone communicates differently. One person’s “clear explanation” can be another person’s “clear as mud” suggestion. Just about every time I found myself out of sync with a client the basic problem was we weren’t communicating effectively. He or she thought the goals were very obvious, and I thought I understood what we were trying to achieve, but in reality, we were aiming for different targets. That just leads to a client unhappy with the first couple of stabs at the project, and that unhappiness (yes, we artists are usually VERY sensitive when it comes to clients being unhappy with our work!) leads to more pressure on the artist, which leads to a reduction in creativity, which leads to lower quality in the next round of work, which leads to more unhappiness on the part of the client … and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

How do we both avoid this vicious circle of off target work, unhappiness and stress? We talk. We talk it through, maybe talk it to death. We do that so I understand, for example, what you really mean by “bright and colorful,” because to me that may have a much more “bright and colorful” connotation than it does to you. It really is about communication in the context of a relationship, and that’s the key. The better the communication, the better the relationship and the better the finished products.

So I do my best to really “talk it through” with my clients, and in some cases, they may think it’s a pain, but trust me, it’s just a way of making sure we understand what YOUR goals are, so I can hit them. And remember, once we’ve worked together on a few projects and we’ve made a conscious effort to communicate well, it won’t take as long on future projects, just because we’ve built that good working relationship.

OK, before I close out this post, I have to cite one of my favorite, funny quotes:

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  - George Bernard Shaw


Thursday, June 5, 2014

"No" is Not A Bad Thing

Working with an illustrator, layout artist, designer, graphics specialist, or whatever can be a lot of fun. After all, you’re working with someone who can help you get that dream piece of art for your living room, or that customized presentation for aclient pitch, or those perfect illustrations for that children’s book.

And isn’t it great when you find a really, really good artist … you know the one who takes your ideas and does exactly what you say? Doesn’t that artist make it all SO easy? No headaches, no mess, no fuss. Just your vision, delivered right into your Outlookin-box.

No doubt, you’re investing your hard-earned money and your limited time into working with that artist you’ve hired and you want THE absolute best possible result. After all, the end result is, well, the end result. And you want it to be perfect. You wantit to carry your message, make your statement, support your pitch, tell your story. So, an artist who just listens, says “Yes Ma’am” and gives you what you asked for is perfect, right?

Uh, maybe not.

Remember, you hired that artist because you are not an artist. You hired that artist because she or he has experience, expertise, insight and knowledge that you don’t have. That, and that artist’s proven talent, is why you’re opening your check book. So,as long as you’re paying, you want to be sure you get every penny’s worth of your hard-earned cash and you want the best final result. And no offense intended, since you’re not an artist, you probably haven’t thought of everything imaginable to achieve yourdesired result. After all, that’s what the artist is supposed to do. You want an artist who will ask questions, who will make suggestions, who will come up with a new angle that had never occurred to you before … you want someone who bring a creative sparkto the work. What you really don’t want (even if you ARE a control freak with a vision carved in stone) is an artist who is just an order taker, someone who is a flesh-and-blood interface between you and the computer, or the paintbrush, or the pencil.  You’re paying for that knowledge, that perspective, the experience and the ideas. So use them.

The bottom line is, if the designer you’re working with never has any suggestions, feedback or new ideas, and if he or she is just carrying out your directives, you’re not getting your money’s worth and you’re almost certainly not getting the best endresult.

OK … but what about that artist who makes every part of every project a battle? Well, I’ll address that in my next post …