Feb 052017

Recently a customer asked me to design a photo album to commemorate her elderly mother’s birthday. She already had 2×3 mini photos, but was looking for a special album to display them. We settled on a spiral-bound album using digital papers she selected, and exchanged convos (short for “conversations,” or messages) for other aspects of the custom order, such as papers and accents.

As a small business owner who designs and crafts handmade books, I don’t have a large budget for design software. To save time and money—but mostly to ensure my customers and I are on the same page for custom orders—the use of digital proofs is critical. My solution? I use standard office software, Microsoft Office, to get the job done.

I developed a template in Microsoft Office Word that allows me to insert thumbnail images of digital papers. The template is nothing more than a table, with alternating rows for images and captions.

After I insert images into a copy of my template, I save it using a customer-specific file name. This allows me to edit the file later without affecting the original template. Then I save the file once more as a PDF file, which is a universal file format that anyone can use by downloading Adobe Acrobat Reader. Because the software flattens images so that they’re not as high resolution as the original images, this also helps to prevent distribution of them. This is important because I purchase digital papers from sellers who rightfully want to protect their intellectual rights.

After the customer selects digital papers, I create a proof in PowerPoint, outlining further choices that may need to be decided. If nothing else, providing a digital proof enables me to know that my buyer has approved the design. Then I can write a custom listing that the buyer uses to purchase the item from my Etsy shop.

In the images below, the customer needs to decide whether I should add a red or yellow handmade flower accent to the front cover. The floral image is clip art, so it serves an illustrative purpose but does not reflect either the exact placement or final appearance of the handmade paper flower I will create.

A proof image also gives the buyer a chance to review the inside cover page and approve it.

Even the inside pages require review. One image shows a pre-matted page for 2×3 photos, while the second page shows a decorative paper strip that might add a splash of color to a page. All these pages were designed using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Microsoft Office is useful for designing more than custom order options. You can use either Word or Excel to design your craft show booth space, and then add colored shapes for the different tables or fixtures inside it.

For the image below, I created an Excel workbook with a different worksheet for each booth layout. I changed the width of each row and column to .25 inch, then outlined the entire dimensions of a 12-foot wide by 9-foot deep space with a thick, dark line. Colored rectangles represent the different sizes of tables I own. It is easy to copy and paste the shapes from one location on a worksheet to another.

You can also create a scaled image of your booth space with Word by creating a table, but it takes more time to move the shapes around. Honestly, I thought it was easier with this method to print everything, cut it out with scissors, and go “old school” to design your booth space. You can then snap a picture with your smart phone, and take the phone with you to your show.

Have you ever applied to a craft show that requires sample images of your products? It’s easy to do using Microsoft Word. I simply insert images into a blank page, re-size them, and drag them to the desired location. Below is a product sample page I used for a recent application for a craft show, where I will sell my crocheted women’s accessories.

When I first began using office software for design purposes, I used Corel WordPerfect, as that is the first major software package I learned. In fact, ran a home-based desktop publishing company for 10 years using WordPerfect, serving local area businesses. I still have design templates from that program that I use, but am gradually migrating to Microsoft Office because it is more universal. I keep coming up with additional ways to use both packages for design applications for my craft business, and love to hear about the ways other people use them. How do you handle design issues for your craft business or hobby?

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 262017

It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, but in every gift store, flower shop or Hallmark aisle you’ll see reminders. On Etsy, where handmade items are king, you’ll find heart motifs being featured everywhere (and in this post, too). Valentine’s Day is an international holiday when couples celebrate romance with candy, flowers, cards, candlelit dinners and other exchanges of affection. From Australia to Taiwan, in Around the World you can read about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated.

Butterflies and Heart Soaps, sold by thecharmingfrog, https://www.etsy.com/listing/71351221/butterflies-and-heart-soaps-butterfly

I was surprised to learn, however, that the origins of this annual holiday can be found in a pagan practice in ancient Rome. According to National Public Radio writer Arnie Seipel in The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day may have begun when “men hit on women by, well, hitting them.” Seipel explains that during the feast of Lupercalia, a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and their hides were used to whip women. For some strange reason, women were said to have believed this whipping would increase their fertility. The rite was followed up with a lottery in which men were paired up for the night with women—and sometimes longer, if the match was a good one.

Lupercalia Print, 5×7, sold by CaitlinMcCarthyArt, https://www.etsy.com/listing/191474289/lupercalia-print-5×7

Flash forward to the 3rd century, when the Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine—one a priest and the other a bishop—resulting in their martyrdom which was subsequently commemorated by the Catholic Church on St. Valentine’s Day. When Pope Gelasius II combined St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in the late 5th century with a festival intended, ironically, to get rid of pagan rituals, the event became a drunken, theatrical celebration of “fertility and love,” says Seipel. About the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day, which sounds a great deal like Valentine and means “lover of women.” You can begin to see how Valentine’s Day evolved into the celebration of love that it is today. Thankfully today’s holiday is a shadow of its original self.

White Ceramic Heart Bowl, 3 inches, sold by JDWolfePottery, https://www.etsy.com/listing/97433389/white-ceramic-heart-bowl-3-inches

It wasn’t until the 13th century, according to History.com’s History of Valentine’s Day, that Valentine’s Day became associated with love and romance, also the same time in mid-February when birds were believed to mate. According to Borgna Brunner, in Valentine’s Day History, a UCLA medieval scholar named Henry Ansgar Kelly claims Geoffrey Chaucer is behind the mating birds story. In 1381, he wrote a poem that celebrated the engagement between Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. He linked the engagement, in his poem, with a feast day named “The Parliament of Fowls,” or the mating season for birds.

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

Felt Love Birds, sold by TextilePlatypus, https://www.etsy.com/listing/253795817/felt-love-birds-pure-wool-made-in-canada

By the 17th century, couples in Great Britain began exchanging letters or handmade cards that featured lace, ribbons, cupids and hearts. The tradition spread to the U.S., where purchased Valentine’s Day cards appeared in the 1850s when Esther Howland began mass-producing them. The commercial side of Valentine’s Day kept growing until now, when 62% of couples celebrate it with candy, flowers and other items. Between candy, jewelry, and flowers—more than 220 million roses, in fact—Americans spend more than $20 billion on Valentine’s Day every year.

Dried Flower Heart Wreath, sold by roseflower48, https://www.etsy.com/listing/266459789/dried-flower-heart-wreath-spring-wreath

Although sellers and shoppers alike realize there is much commercial profit to be gained on Valentine’s Day, somehow that doesn’t seem to detract from the desire to celebrate the holiday. Year-round, hearts have become symbols of love, affection, unity, strength and even sympathy. But on Valentine’s Day, hearts represent a special celebration of love.

Leather Wedding Guest Book, sold by creating, https://www.etsy.com/listing/103277651/large-leather-wedding-guest-book-tree-of

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 222017

Because we share similar passions, I read with fascination this past week an interview with President Barack Obama about how his love of reading is closely tied to his love of writing. “Me, too!” I thought as I learned that our 44th President wrote short stories about older people during early adulthood. Our 39th President, Jimmy Carter, is the first President to publish a fiction novel, The Hornet’s Nest, in addition to a collection of poems, Always a Reckoning, and a children’s story, The Little Baby Snoogle-fleejer.

Both writing and reading help people to understand the strongest emotions, and to develop empathy for others whose histories and life experiences are completely different from their own. According to Julianne Chiaet in Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy, researchers at The New School in New York City discovered that reading literary fiction increases the reader’s capacity for empathy, while the reading of popular fiction and nonfiction, or reading nothing at all, does not appear to do anything for a person’s capacity to understand others.

As our 45th President was inaugurated on Friday, this research made me wonder what fiction stories are on our most recent Presidents’ reading lists. We all know, of course, how isolating the White House experience can be. This creates a necessity for the current Dweller-in-Chief to escape from the proverbial bubble to connect with the people who are being served.

Here are some of the books that I discovered the past dozen Presidents have added to their reading lists. Several Presidents—Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Richard Nixon—are fans of Leo Tolstoy. One President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was labeled a non-reader by one writer, and so far, I have not been able to learn anything about his reading tastes, fiction or otherwise. Our new President, Donald Trump, says in this Washington Post article that he has no time to read, but despite this statement I discovered a post from U.S. News & World Report that cites a book from 1929 as his favorite fiction book, which I have named below.

Presidential Fiction Reading Countdown

45th President. All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque—recommended by Donald Trump, 2017-

44th President. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison–recommended by Barack Obama, 2009-2017

43rd President. Next, by Michael Crichton–recommended by George W. Bush, 2001-2009

42nd President. You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe—recommended by Bill Clinton, 1993-2001

41nd President. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy—recommended by George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993

40th President. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy—recommended by Ronald Reagan

39th President. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy—recommended by Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981

38th President. Novels by Horatio Alger—recommended by Gerald Ford, 1974-1977

37th President. “Anything by Leo Tolstoy”—recommended by Richard Nixon, 1969-1974

36th President. Referred to as a “non-reader” by Harold Evans in White House Book Club—Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969

35th President. From Russia with Love, by Ian Fleming—recommended by John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963

34th President. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain—recommended by Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961

For more information about Presidential reading lists, you may wish to refer to these resources:

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.