Sep 212009

Many of us like to blog, and most of us enjoy accessorizing our blogs in much the same way we do our homes. Just as we do with our wall decor or furnishings, we modify blog elements, add new ones or subtract old ones. “Elements,” in blog-speak, refers to buttons, blinkies, grab boxes, link lists, slide shows, repeating images (such as dividers for posts or side bars), and many other changes to the blog template. If you have no coding background (as I do not), you may be a little fearful of making HTML (hyper text mark-up language) changes to your blog. Fortunately, this is not an issue if you have basic Web navigation skills, and you can copy and paste.

While I happen to use the Blogger platform for my blogs, much of what I describe in this post applies to other forums such as TypePad, WordPress or even the blog page of your Web site. Better yet, it’s relatively easy to make changes to your blog’s basic appearance. Although incorporating all of the changes described below will result in a cluttered appearance, as well as a page that takes longer to load, you’ll want to check out the following 15 easy options for accessorizing your blog.

1. Using the “Share Slide Show” feature of Flickr, Rose of Big Island Rose Designs shares the pages she produced while participating in the Visual Journals Workshop. This slide show appears on her blog, The Rose Journal. To use this feature, click on a set you have created. Then, select the Slideshow icon. At any time while the slide show is playing, you can click on the Share link, then copy the “Grab the embed HTML code” and paste it into your blog. In Blogger, you can add this code to your post while you write it; just select the Edit HTML tab. If you’re adding it to a side bar, go to your template’s Layout, and add an HTML widget where you can paste the code.

2. Kimberly from the Etsy shop, The Wild Hare, uses the Lijit Search feature on her blog, The Wild Hare. What is unique about this widget is that it searches not only through Kimberly’s blog content, but also through her social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and through related content in her blog links. A world map shows where her readers live, as well as the locations of recent visitors.

3. Carol of Yankeegirl’s Watercolors uses a custom blinkie purchased from The Cutest Blog on the Block on her blog, Yankeegirl’s Watercolors and Photography. The blinkie installs as a widget, and costs $15. The Cutest Blog on the Block is one of my personal favorite sites for free blog accessories and easy-to-follow instructions on how to personalize your Web site, but the custom options are wonderful as well.

4. An important bit of HTML code to add to any blog where you have copyright concerns is the Creative Commons License. Melanie of The Creators Palette has added this license to her blog of the same name. There are several different versions to choose, so read through the options that fit your situation, and answer the questions that the Web site asks. Your answers determine the license that is automatically generated for you.

5. A fun feature to add to your blog is the Playlist that Beth of Beth Peardon Productions has added to her blog. When you sign up for an account, a playlist is already waiting for you, but you can create new or different playlists of your own very easily, or transfer songs from one playlist to another. Although you cannot actually upload music to this site, you can provide Web links to songs from a site that hosts them. Note that if the artist (or legal agent for the artist) has not authorized the music to be made freely available on the Internet, then your Web link will not be accepted. The Playlist feature works by generating embedded HTML code for your blog.

6. Liv of The Filigree Garden uses a Flickr Badge on her blog to show photos of her creations. If you have multiple Etsy (or non-Etsy) shops, this is a good way to consolidate photos for them. You have two options for badges; you can create a Flash version or an HTML version. Both versions update automatically as you add photos to your Flickr site, but the Flash version rotates highlighted photos in a collage, while the HTML version is static and provides a vertical strip of photos.

7. Instead of the Flickr Slideshow sharing option described in #1 above, Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne at Etsy uses Slide on her blog, Dye-a-Lot. If you visit Slide to sign up for an account, you will be able to upload photos from various social networking sites (such as MySpace or Facebook), photo sharing sites (such as Flickr or Photobucket), or from a Web site or your computer. Then, you can change the order of the photos, add in a slide transition style, select a theme and background, and add music or a video. This tool is very flexible. Click on the photo below to see how it works.

8. Because of the free Feedjit widget, Joon of joonbeam always knows from what parts of the world her blog visitors hail. The tracking tool is a live traffic feed that shows in real time the origin of visitors. Both the city and “sending” Web address are revealed. There is also a professional version available, for which you pay a monthly fee.

9. Kym of kimbuktu includes a Sellit widget on her Web site that is a combination show-and-buy tool. Sellit, which is free of charge, connects consumers directly to the seller. The tool uses a flip photo feature that the buyer controls. When the potential buyer clicks on “Info” or “Buy now,” he or she is taken directly to that item in your Etsy shop. It doesn’t get easier than that! This tool can also be used on social networking sites.

10. In her blog, Mystic Mooma Makes Things, Rose of Rosegardenfae shares with us her love of reading through the goodreads widget. You add books that you have read, that you’re currently reading, and books that you’d like to read. These show up in the widget window. Fellow members can view each other’s ratings, reviews and book lists. According to the site, you can “join a discussion group, start a book club, contact an author, and even post your own writing.”

11. You will always know what time it is in the blog of Joan of Sixsisters. The ClockLink widget she employs lets you know what time it is in Joan’s neck of the woods. To make things fun, you can choose a clock from a fairly large Clock Gallery. Click on the photo below to visit the gallery.

12. If you’re hoping to draw foreign visitors to your blog, you’ll need the Mini Site Translator used by Pat of On a Whimsey’s Art in the Wax. Just visit her blog, Pat’s Encaustics – Art in the Wax, click on a flag from a different nation, and you’ll see how it works. Since I have relatives in Germany, I know this is a tool they’ll find handy.

13. Kary of The Knotty Sheep features a cute Twitter My Site widget on her blog that really caught my eye. The widget is available in a variety of colors and styles, and broadcasts a friendly tone. To follow Kary on Twitter, just click on the image below:

14. Most of us use PayPal for payment in our Etsy shops, but did you know that you can embed HTML code on your blog or Web site to accept payment in the same manner? Marion of artmixter not only sells her books and CDs in her Etsy shop, but also on her blog, Artmixter’s Emporium. To learn how this works, just click on the Buy Now image below. (It will take you to a PayPal information window, not the checkout process.)

15. If you’re in the habit of saving Web posts that you read, an easy way to create a PDF document that accomodates that goal is to download the Print Friendly bookmarklet, as I have done for my non-Etsy related blog, cre8iowa Instant Challenge Library. Take a look at the bottom of each post, and you’ll see the Print Friendly icon (printer/PDF images). When you click on the icon, the tool “cleans” up the Web post so that it’s ready for printing, or you can save it as a PDF document on your computer. The software is not perfect, I have learned, since images aren’t always in the right place. However, if you use PDF editing software, this is easy to fix; I use PDF Converter (by Nuance). If you use Blogger, go to your Edit HTML window and click on Expand Widgets. Then, search for <div class=’post-footer>, and paste the Print Friendly HTML code into place on the next line. Preview it to make sure everything is all right, save your changes, and you’re good to go! Watch the video below to understand how Print Friendly works.

Thanks to all of the above BBEST sellers on Etsy whose blogs provided me with a wealth of widgets and tools to discuss.

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at

Sep 092009

In this third and final post about revving your creativity engine (see original post here) by reading inspirational blogs, you’ll note that all three of the BBEST blogs that are highlighted today serve the function of an Artist Date. These blogs are certainly about the artistic journey, but also about how art and the blogger’s personal life are intertwined. Featured today are Judi of Vintage Legacy Studio, Rose of Big Island Rose Designs, and Marion of artmixter. Let’s get started!

Judi, whose blog, Vintage Legacy Studio, is the counterpart to her Etsy shop of the same name, is one of the newer members of the BBEST team. As a life and leadership coach, Judi says part of her mission is to design space to grow, and to empower herself and others to be creative. She does so not only with her Victorian era-inspired creations, but also through writing and performance. You can visit eHow, for example, and read some of Judi’s articles by entering her user name, CoachJudiB, in the search bar.

In one of her other blogs, The Heirloom Gazette, Judi reveals that for seven years she wrote as Abigail Bradshaw, a Victorian character whose historic detail is “gleaned from antique magazines and books, and is authentic in its content.” She performed vignettes of this character, incorporating vintage songs into her performances. One of them was “The Bird on Nellie’s Hat,” a song about a bird who knew more about Nellie than Nellie would have guessed. Among Judi’s family photos is one of her Great Aunt Millie, who wore a hat with a bird like Nellie perched on it; this is Judi’s current Etsy avatar.

Recently Judi has been decluttering her sewing space to make room for new projects, and in the process she discovered some vintage handkerchiefs that were originally intended to be part of a quilt top. Instead, Judi is re-purposing the handkerchiefs into unique necklaces incorporating vintage lace, loops of beads, glass beads, and vintage buttons.

Another recent project is what Judi describes as a bib necklace, fashioned from vintage lace and trims. In her blog, she describes how challenging it was to photograph this item.

In The Rose Journal, Rose of Big Island Rose Designs writes delightfully meandering posts that will surprise you with their ultimate destinations. In Blessings in Disguise, for example, Rose tells us a story about how her husband pruned her precious kukui tree beyond recognition, but then—a few days later—she looked at the tree and realized her husband had cut the tree in the shape of a heart. “It won’t last forever,” Rose writes, “but I’m enjoying it for the moment and it got me thinking. I stressed and fussed each time he cut that tree not knowing that someday I would be blessed by a heart. (God sometimes gets out His pruning shears and gives us a good topping too! He’s trying to bring out His heart in us.)”

Kukui tree in Blessings in Disguise, described by birose

Rose’s tendency to reflect about blessings instead of missteps is evident in her collage and mixed media work, which has been evolving since, as a little girl, she collected stamps and broken egg shells. “Collage has always been my constant companion,” she says, “whether I’m working with paper, fabric, found items, or fibers. Even when I think about working with people it’s always with the idea of showing them how to take simple things and make them into something beautiful. Isn’t that what our Creator does with us? He takes the broken pieces of our lives, mixes in those of others, adds some color, spices, or laughter and makes beautiful stories, beautiful lives.” In her secondary Etsy shop, SaRoMaSa, Rose is beginning to sell her collage work.

Although many of us are most familiar with the colorful fabric yoyo flowers in Rose’s main shop, Big Island Rose Designs, Rose reveals she can also do wonders with the absence of color. Applying herself to the challenge of the Creative Every Day blog, she produced a work of collage, mostly in white.

Almost White” collage work, by birose

Scottish artist Marion of artmixter, whose blog tag line explains that “artmixter” is a mixture of art and thought—with a bit of everyday life on the side—has a busy life. Activities such as writing, teaching workshops, creating art, attending the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham (United Kingdom), and—oh, yeah—working at a paid job produce a schedule in which every day is an exercise in avoiding procrastination. “Procrastination is fine,” Marion writes, “if you’ve got the time for it. I don’t. So I have focused on the essentials, my commitments in the short term, and I’ve decided how to tackle them.” She writes, in fact, about the topic of procrastination in her new book, Finding Your Creative Focus, available on her blog and in her Etsy shop.

When she’s not writing, Marion is often teaching textile workshops or demonstrating the use of lutradur and Evolon, two unique synthetic fibers. In a recent workshop, participants produced transparent bowls with words trapped inside them. Marion’s philosphy about teaching is to provide examples of what is possible, rather than a specific set of instructions. “I make suggestions,” she explains, “show what is possible, or at least, what I think is possible at this point; you might find there’s yet more you can do with what I’m showing you. And that’s the joy of teaching workshops in this way; if you provide six people with the same materials and the same instruction, they can produce six completely different pieces of art. Of course, if you want to copy what I’ve made, you can . . . but I’m pretty sure that yours will turn out with a different ‘feel’ to mine. Why not try it?” She has written a book about lutradur, and is working toward completion of a book on Evolon.

With all that she does, it is amazing that Marion finds time for her own art. As the saying goes (or something close to it), people make time for the things that are important to them. Recently, Marion has been producing a great deal of collage work, especially with transfer dyes and lutradur.

Sample collage for workshop taught at The Gallery
Dereham (United Kingdom), by artmixter

Her artistic efforts have caught the eye of The Storque, the official blog of Etsy. If you haven’t already read it, you’ll want to read about Marion in The Storque’s post, High End Etsy: Fiber Arts.

Hopefully these BBEST bloggers have aroused your curiosity, and possibly have inspired you to explore some new areas you have not previously considered. That’s the purpose of an Artist Date. As author Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way reminds us, “Doing your artist date, you are receiving—opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.” If you missed the earlier posts in this series, you may wish to read the following:

Carving time for your Muse
Artist dates & blog inspiration, part 1
Artist dates & blog inspiration, part 2

    © 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at

    Aug 282009

    In my last blog post I discussed the importance of taking a creative timeout by reading inspirational blogs. Fortunately, on our BBEST team, we are blessed with a wealth of these! Today’s post will highlight the blogs of Gunnel of gunnelsvensson, AJ of AromaFields, and Zuda of ZudaGay.

    Gunnel, who resides in Sweden, recently re-opened her Etsy shop which features art quilts and contemporary embroidery, fabric collage and mixed media collage. She is a prolific blogger with 445 posts, as of today, going back to 2006. While the bilingual posts in Gunnel’s blog make it easy for you to follow her creative journey, what really draws you to her blog is the plethora of photos she takes of her breathtakingly beautiful work. She dyes much of the fabric with which she works, and enjoys creating a vintage look using lace, buttons and other embellishments. In her most recent post, she describes an art quilt that was previously featured in two exhibitions, but is now available in her shop. “It is old linen wich I have rust dyed and several layers of cheesecloth and vintage lace,” she writes. Her interesting quilt also incorporates a vintage letter and vintage button.

    Gunnel is an expert at using the Embellisher, a needle felting machine by Babylock that imbeds fiber in fabric. Inspired by nature, she takes lots of photos while taking walks, then incorporates her discoveries in her work. In the blog bittersweet, textile artist Morna Crites-Moore features Gunnel’s needle felted “summerembroidery 2,” which looks very much like a summer meadow in bloom.

    Besides specializing in mini art quilts, Gunnel enjoys creating fabric post cards. She has participated in post card and ATC (Artist Trading Card) swaps, and writes about them frequently in her blog. In her shop, you will also see examples of her fabric post cards.

    Another BBEST blogger, AJ of ajscountrycottage, tickles our taste buds with recipes such as Dairy-Free Fruit Smoothies and Summer Bounty Pasta, and makes our fingers itch to experiment with yarn when she compares knitting to crochet in a post about self-striping yarns.

    Knitting vs. Crocheting, by ajscountrycottage

    AJ, whose Etsy shop features her aromatic candles and soap, says that fall is her favorite season. “The weather is cooler and drier. Nights are mellow,” she writes. “I adore the scents associated with fall.” She points out that her new Bartlett Pear candle highlights all the scents of fall because it is “strong, juicy, and tart.” She is so passionate about candle making that AJ invites her readers to learn about what she does through a blog tutorial: Tutorial – How to Make Votive Candles and Votive Tutorial, Part 2.

    In addition to being a member of the BBEST team, AJ belongs to the KC (Kansas City) Etsy Team. This team is currently sponsoring a Countdown to Christmas, or 18 consecutive weeks of blog giveaways. Although one lucky person is already the recipient of a free bar of soap from AJ, you can visit the KC Etsy Team blog and learn about other holiday giveaways. Most importantly, though, make sure you visit AJ’s shop frequently, since she is always coming out with new scents.

    Last, but not least among today’s featured bloggers is Zuda of ZudaGay, whose polymer clay sculpted flower pendants and focal beads delight us visually. Zuda recently reached an important milestone, her 1000th sale, so she is delighted to share her happiness about this event with all of us by offering three free giveaways from her Etsy shop via her blog, Clay In the Hands. You can read about the details here.

    The detail that Zuda devotes to her intricate flowers is evident as she shares with us a little bit about her creative process in A Little Leaf Tutorial. Using a series of photographs, she demonstrates how to roll, flatten and shape a leaf, then carve veins into it with a needle tool.

    Besides including photos in her blog of a wide variety of her focal beads, pendants and brooches, Zuda introduces us to other artists—polymer clay and otherwise— by featuring them in her posts. Some of these include Arlene of Harrison Hollow Designs, Eugena of Eugena’s Creations, and Vicki of EllieLee. Mostly, though, I enjoy visiting Zuda’s blog to see what new products she is developing. With fall just around the corner and December a few months down the road, you can be sure that Zuda will be amazing us soon with more delightful creations.

    While you’re browsing through the blogs of Gunnel, AJ and Zuda, I’m sure you’ll be inspired to approach your own creative projects with renewed energy. Be sure to look for my next post that will highlight three more BBEST bloggers who will stimulate your creativity.

    © 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at