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.

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Jan 192015
 

I’ve mentioned previously that the handcrafted books I make involve a time-and-labor intensive process. While this fact hasn’t changed, one of my goals this year is to find ways in the creative process to become more efficient. Obviously, that increases my overall profit, as a pricing formula is supposed to include not only a value for the cost of materials used, but also a value for your time. Some of the obvious steps anyone who creates and sells can take include:

  • Spend fewer dollars on materials by buying items on sale or at wholesale prices.
  • Use fewer materials.
  • Use materials you have on hand (which assumes you have organized your work space so you can locate these materials easily).
  • Streamline the making process to include fewer steps.
  • Recruit an assistant for mundane tasks. This could be a willing family member, but it might also be someone you hire for a few hours every week.

Well . . . likely I am still not being paid for all of my time (ahem), but I have discovered a few ways to be more efficient in the use of that time. These methods apply to everyone who sells handmade products:

  • Group similar tasks together, and work assembly line style.
  • Find an alternative method to accomplish a time-intensive task (such as a new tool that speeds up your process).

In my quest to be more efficient, I looked at the part of my bookcrafting process that I enjoy least, takes the most physical effort, and uses up the most time: sanding the edges of book covers. My book covers use heavyweight chipboard as a foundation, with rounded corners to help prevent the chipboard layers from separating over time. (Did you know that chipboard is made up of compressed layers of cardboard?) Then I use a Dremel drill sanding tool to smooth out the rough edges, and follow up with hand sanding to “seal” the paper to the chipboard so that the paper is less likely, over time, to lift up from the chipboard. Finally, I brush the edges with a walnut stain distress ink just for appearance’s sake. There are lots of steps involved to achieve this look.

Secret Garden Gratitude Book

Secret Garden Gratitude Book

This year I asked myself why I couldn’t simply wrap the paper around the edges of the same heavyweight chipboard, instead of sanding the edges, and eliminate the distress ink on the edges. I’ve done that for a few books previously, namely envelope mini albums and accordion fold photo books.

The Love We Share Pocket Envelope Album

The Love We Share Pocket Envelope Album

Elephant Walk Mini Photo Book

Elephant Walk Mini Photo Book

I’m not sure why I didn’t use this process for the rest of my books, since it’s much faster, but this past weekend I assembled seven books using this method in the time that would normally take me a week.

Habits are difficult to break, however. I was accustomed to gluing a vertical ribbon accent down the front of my books as one of the last steps in completing a book. So, I did the same with the book covers I crafted this weekend, completing one set of covers after another . . . but without a ribbon embellishment. I simply forgot about it. And then I realized I should have glued paper to the front cover, adhered ribbon next so it could wrap around the top and bottom edges of the book to the inside, and then cover with a square of paper on the inside front cover for a neat, finished look. Oops.

Forgot the ribbon accent

I wondered if there might be an alternative to ribbon that would still look nice. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a Sizzix Sizzlits® Die sitting on the floor in my craft room, waiting to be put away properly. Hmm, I thought. That could be useful.

Sizzlits Die

Next thing I knew, I was slicing up paper swirls on my Big Shot die cutting machine, and then lining up book covers for embellishment.

Pile of paper swirls

I love it when efficiency meets serendipity. What do you think?

7 books in one weekend

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jul 282014
 

Do you ever feel as if the progress you’ve made isn’t visible to anyone but yourself? That’s what I felt like this weekend, when I worked on different stages of handmade books. It was a productive weekend; really, it was!

I sliced through various sizes of bookboard and chipboard for different kinds of books, rounding the corners afterward with my Zutter Round-it-All.

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I printed inside pages for address books, lined journals, save the date books and password notebooks. Then I trimmed them to size, and rounded the corners with my Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper.

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I assembled books, and decorated the covers with a floral embellishment.

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Finally, I stacked the next group of books for today’s work session.

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There’s always more work around the corner, but it feels good to push the peanut forward!

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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