Apr 302015

I probably should not have waited until the last day of the month to answer the April Showers challenge for Blogging Business Artisans, but that’s what happened. LeAnn Frobom of Pasque Flower Creations initiated the challenge, as follows:

April showers bring May flowers. The challenge this month is to create something that incorporates an image or a color scheme reminiscent of April showers—umbrellas, raindrops, puddles, clouds—the (cloudy) sky is the limit!

Fortunately I had exactly the appropriate materials on hand to create an item to meet this challenge. I cut everything to size, and was ready to begin.

Raw Materials

I decided to create a deluxe version of my current address book, which consists of 100 pages—enough space for 300 contacts’ names, addresses, and various phone numbers and e-mail addresses. I honestly think this is enough space for most people, but when one of my customers told me she ran out of space for one of the alphabetic sections, I realized you simply can’t have enough pages in an address book. The address book below, Birds & Berries, is an example of my standard-sized address book.

Birds & Berries Address BookThe new address book has enough space for 102 more contacts, plus a few more features. On the inside front and back covers, I included a pocket for business cards or sticky notes. In keeping with the theme of the challenge, the print on the pockets features clouds with smiling faces, as well as rainbow-colored raindrops. I took these photos late this evening, using the back side of my cutting mat as a backdrop, so I hope you’ll excuse the shadows and somewhat muted colors.

Front Inside Cover

Front Inside Cover

Back Inside Cover

Back Inside Cover

My contact information section looks the same as it did previously, except that there is space for 102 more entries. I used a linen paper called Royal Marble Smooth in Blue from Wausau Papers that I’ve had forever. It looks a bit like a wispy sky, so it seemed to be the perfect match for the April Showers challenge.

Contact Information Section with Space for 402 Entries

Contact Information Section with Space for 402 Entries

I added two new sections to the back of the address book: one for important numbers, and the other for special dates.

Two New Sections: Important Nos. & Special Dates

Two New Sections: Important Nos. & Special Dates

Here are the pages from the two new sections, side by side.

Here are the pages from the two new sections, side by side.

The covers of the address book were fun to design. I wrapped bookboard in Umbrellas card stock from Echo Park’s Sunny Days Ahead collection. It’s absolutely perfect for the April Showers challenge. Of course, once it begins raining, May flowers follow, quite often with tulips and daffodils, so I knew I needed to add some flowers to the front cover. After all, it wouldn’t be a MisterPenQuin book if it didn’t have a flower embellishment! That’s true, of course, if the book is designed for women—a couple of days ago I posted an example of a book with buttons instead of flowers, since that book was designed to be more gender neutral.

To prepare for the flower embellishment, I pulled out my non-stick craft mat and applied some inks directly onto it, specifically Tim Holtz Distress Inks in Pickled Raspberry and Tumbled Glass. I sprayed the inks with water, and then I swiped a sheet of Neenah Bright White 65-pound card stock through the inks. I dried the paper with a heat gun. Next, I applied clear embossing ink to a rubber stamp called Newspaper Tulips from Hero Arts. I sprinkled the image with white embossing powder and used the heat gun to melt the embossing powder. After the embossed image cooled down, I cut out a rectangle around the image, and matted it.

Front Cover

I haven’t listed this upgraded version of an address book yet in MisterPenQuin, but it will be available soon if you’re interested in purchasing it. After all, Mother’s Day is around the corner! Thanks, LeAnn, for coming up with a fun challenge during the month of April.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Mar 262015

Each month Blogging Business Artisans (BBA) hosts a challenge suggested by a team member. Team members are required to complete at least four of these challenges each year. The March challenge was proposed by Cynthia of Antiquity Travelers, as follows:

The first signs of spring . . . what does spring mean to you? What inspires you as the weather starts to warm up?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that spring always suggests flowers to me. I’m sure I’m not alone! Of course, with my black thumb, we are not generally talking about live flowers in my household. When my husband brings me fresh flowers, he’s the one who remembers to water them. In fact, he brought me an Easter lily yesterday, with the blooms not yet open.

Easter Lily

You nearly always find my version of artificial flowers on the covers of my books, on items I sew, and on the women’s accessories I crochet. This month, in the spirit of honoring Cynthia’s challenge, I decided to tackle a new type of book project that incorporates a floral theme. Have you ever heard of an explosion book? Some people also call this a squash book because of the way that the pages smoosh together when you close the book. But when you open up the book, you might be reminded of the way the petals of a flower open when they first begin to bloom.

Book Opening Up Like Flower

Except that this book opens up completely, like an explosion, and occupies some acreage when the “pages” are spread out. I decorated both sides of the book.

Both Sides of Book Pages

So, what do you do with an explosion book? Fill it with memories, of course! It’s a scrapbook mini album where you can paste photos, ticket stubs, dried flowers, write some favorite lines of poetry, collect signatures, or simply glue in your choice of ephemera. And it’s a great place to add decorated tags. I made a collection of them from leftover paper. Don’t want to use them in the book? Fine. Use them as gift tags, bookmarks, or in another album.

Tags Made from Leftover Paper ScrapsAnd here is the cover, front and back. The book stays shut with the help of a ponytail holder, threaded through a large eyelet on the back cover. If you prefer to tie the book shut, you can add ribbon to one or both covers, depending on how you want to tie it, before you adhere the pages. For this book, I wanted a closure that would open and close quickly.

Book Covers - Front and Back

Now, I have a confession to make. This is actually the second version of the explosion book I made. The first version used good quality Bazzill card stock for the pages, a heavy-weight textured paper that ordinarily is great for book projects. But not this one. If you decide to cover both sides of the paper, the paper gets stressed wherever fold lines intersect, and after just a few openings and closings of the book, it can begin developing holes at those intersections. Not good! I thought about reinforcing these areas with extra paper, even fabric, but this adds bulk to the book and is just plain unattractive.

So, I gritted my teeth and started all over, keeping the cover from the first explosion book, but nothing else. What I used instead of card stock for the pages was Kraft-Tex, a heavy-duty “paper fabric” that sells in 18 or 19-inch by 1-1/2 foot rolls in kraft paper brown, black and white. What’s special about this paper is that you can cut it, sew it, paint it, sand it, emboss it, wash it, and throw it in your dryer. In other words, it’s miracle paper—perfect for a book whose pages are folded and re-folded umpty-ump times. I “trained” my paper to stay folded in the directions needed for this book by clipping the pages into place with Clover Wonder Clips, normally used for sewing.

Train the page folds with Clover Wonder Clips

When I decorated the pages of the book the second time around, I realized that I preferred to decorate them before I attached the covers. Honestly, it probably doesn’t make much difference except for the paper that is adhered close to the covers, as you have to tuck them beneath a corner of each cover. One of the most fun aspects of making one of these books is piecing together the paper prints. It feels a lot like quilting!

Quilt-Style Paper Cuts

I would like to offer these books in my shop, hopefully in time for spring graduations. These could be interesting in black and white, filled with photos of friends. They might also make great bridesmaid gifts. My head is spinning with ideas. Thank you, Cynthia, for coming up with the March challenge!

Angled Perspective of  Book

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 292015

Four times a year, fellow members of Blogging Business Artisans are asked to tackle a team challenge and blog about it. The January challenge was suggested by Sharla of Beaded Tail on Etsy:

What do you hope to accomplish this year? What are you looking forward to doing in 2015? Do you have plans to travel some place exciting, move to a new home/city or how about get a kitten? Will you be taking your shop in new directions? Let us know or give us a hint of your year to come!

Because the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are not kept, I tend to treat annual goals as guidelines or opportunities to excel instead of a contract I must follow at all costs. In fact, in looking at last year’s goals, it is obvious to me that I achieved some of them, but have room for improvement in other areas.

Review of Last Year’s Goals

  1. Find a better balance between volunteer work and creative efforts. As much as I enjoyed volunteering for the non-profit organization where I was a state Board member for 12 years, I came to the conclusion that the organization’s needs were driving my schedule, not me. As a result, I retired from that position with lots of good memories, but retain an ongoing volunteer relationship that now takes up only a fraction of my time.
Current & former State Board members of Students for a Creative Iowa. Back row, left to right: Bruce Antion, John Nolan, Keith Kutz, Steve Klawonn, Brenda Kutz, Mark Wilkins. Front row: Mary Koester, Judy Nolan, Kristie Rysdam, Sharon Wallace, Alisha Day, Jay Swords. Missing: Sam Hapke, James Honzatko.

Current & former State Board members of Students for a Creative Iowa. Back row, left to right: Bruce Antion, John Nolan, Keith Kutz, Steve Klawonn, Brenda Kutz, Mark Wilkins. Front row, left to right: Mary Koester, Judy Nolan, Kristie Rysdam, Sharon Wallace, Alisha Day, Jay Swords. Missing: Sam Hapke, James Honzatko.

  1. Establish a photography schedule. I don’t know that I have a set photography schedule, but items no longer languish in a box or a corner, waiting to be photographed so that they can be listed in my Etsy shops. Instead, I finish a few projects, then photograph them. I have found it to be more efficient to photograph a few items at a time versus only one.
  1. Have enough product on hand for craft shows. This area needs a great deal of improvement during 2015. I had a more successful fourth quarter of the year that I didn’t anticipate I would have, and ran out of product in some categories.

3rd craft show of 2014

  1. Learn about bag construction. This is an ongoing project. I signed up for the Bag of the Month Club both last year and this year, and honestly did not get around to finishing any of these rather complicated patterns. Instead, I am working on some simpler bag projects. There is, however, no particular deadline for completing bags, so I’m not going to worry too much about how quickly I gain knowledge or complete bags.

Bag Projects

  1. Clean up the paper crafting studio and sewing room. This is another of those ongoing projects that I think all creatives face. In a recent post, I discussed the need to be more organized so that “craft creep” doesn’t take over the entire house.
  1. Lose weight. I lost a little bit of weight this past year, but have a long way to go. Once more, this is an ongoing objective.

2015 Goals

  1. Streamline the creative process so that it is less time-intensive. I wrote about this goal last week in Efficiency meets serendipity, where I discussed how much time and physical effort it takes to craft books. By looking for areas to cut corners without sacrificing quality, I can achieve this goal.
  1. Strive for more economical ways to craft items. I also wrote about this goal last week in Using paper scraps to craft floral accents. By using more frequently the materials I have on hand instead of buying new items, and by purchasing supplies either wholesale or with a discount coupon, I will achieve a greater profit on sales of hand-crafted items.
  1. Optimize craft storage and working space. We live in a small ranch-style home, so there is only so much square footage available for crafts and crafting. A fellow crafter, Edi Royer, recently wrote, “Every time I think I have a good system down, I buy new things that need a new home and new organization.” The same applies to me, but the challenge is to minimize cost during that process, and to make the most of what I already have. I discussed this topic a bit in a previous post, Taming the creative beast.
  1. Aim for a more strategic approach to selling. In concrete terms, this means I have set aside a small budget for marketing education this year, and will be making changes to the ways I sell my handmade goods over the course of the year as a result of what I learn. During the seven years I have been selling on the Etsy platform, there have been many changes. If you don’t keep up, you fall behind, and so do your sales. Ever notice how young, slender trees survive a storm better than some old-but-beautiful trees? I aim to be able to bend with the wind.

Resource book

That’s it for this year. Fewer goals, but larger ones, are on the agenda for 2015. What are some of your most important business goals this year? Or, if you don’t sell, what are some of your personal ones? Feel free to share a link to a post you wrote about your goals, or to comment below.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.