Friday, May 06, 2016

Holiday Spirit?

Hi blog-world! It's been a while, but I'm back today to share with you some holiday card designs I've been working on. As a stationer, I am forced to be in the holiday spirit despite the beautiful spring weather. But at least Colorado weather is unpredictable enough that we can still get snow in early spring :)

I had a lot of other work on my plate in the midst of Minted's holiday photo card challenge so I didn't have enough time to execute any designs from scratch. But I had some designs from last year that didn't make the cut so I decided to re-work those instead.

Truthfully, I was heartbroken nothing made the cut last year. I felt SO good about them all! But guess what? What I think is good is always improving & changing as I am continually learning & growing in this field :) The year-break from those designs was good for me to gain some perspective and I *truly* believe they are much stronger pieces now than they were last year. Whether they're good enough to make the cut is another question but I feel good about them and my place with my business in general that if they don't make it, I am prepared to launch them myself. So keep a look-out for when they are available for purchase later this year!

First up is last year's "Geo Frost" design that I turned into Geo Knit this year. I built out the pattern some more and the intent was to echo the idea of a geometric abstraction of a knit sweater pattern. I also went with a bolder serif-type to balance out the thick lines in the pattern and decided on a kraft-paper background to add some warmth to the geometric pattern.

Holly & Pine was one of my favorites because it incorporated some watercolors I painted. But looking back, my critiques of it now would be that the graphic is too small and does not do much for the overall card. As a result, this year I decided to blow it up and really feature the type & watercolors. I also picked a full-bleed photo to help achieve that effect. And I changed out a sprig of holly for some pine cones I had painted at the time but never used.

I remember when I first designed "Bright Starburst" I was so proud of the starbursts I created and that was the only thing I obsessed about. But looking back, my critiques would be the mess of lines within the type as well as the tight-vertical feel of the type. Also, the starburst is kind of hiding when it really should've been the star. So this year, I changed the type to one with more horizontal lines, cleaned up the starburst within the type, and really expanded the starburst. I hand-placed a lot of those lines to get that "random" effect. With some input from other Minted designers, I also scaled back the stroke weight on the lines to make the starburst feel lighter and more delicate. 

...and that's a wrap! You can rate the designs by clicking on the images and selecting the score you would like to give it. It will automatically advance to a random design after you rate one. As a reminder, 1 is for MEH and 5 is for YES, that is awesome! :) Please also spread the love and check out the other 3000+ amazing designs! There is also a separate voting group for designs with foil-pressed elements here. A quick way to rate designs is directly from the challenge link by hovering your mouse over the "rate it" box and choosing your rating or else go and click "vote" at the very top of the Minted page and it will take you to the blind-voting system that hides designer information so as to not bias you in any way. The more you rate the more fair the system is, helping to preserve the meritocracy at Minted! 

Cheers :)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day

Since it's Earth Day, some of you might be wondering how we can tread a little more lightly on this lovely planet of ours. So today I would like to talk to all the menstruating women out there or anyone else who's curious about the one thing that has significantly reduced my impact on this planet: the menstrual cup. I'd also like to talk about it in an effort to end any stigma that's still associated with periods and/or talking about them :)

(Disclaimer: The following is for informational purposes only and is not offered as medical advice, nor does it substitute for consultation with your physician. If you have any gynecological/medical concerns or conditions regarding the use of internal feminine hygiene products, I encourage you to consult your physician.)

I've been using one for 9+ years now and have not looked back. Tampons never worked for my flow for the same reason pads were really gross-feeling for me so switching to a menstrual cup has felt revolutionary for my periods! Most menstrual cups are made out of non-absorbent medical grade silicone that collects your flow until you're ready to empty it. Instead of dealing with changing tampons or pads every couple hours or when you accidentally leak, the menstrual cup can cut down those emergency bathroom runs to virtually none! For example: I empty/re-insert the cup once in the morning & once at night. On my most heavy day(s), I will empty once or twice midday just to ensure no leaks. Instead of letting my period control my day with tampon or pad changes (sometimes the flow comes in spurts and overloads your disposable product: ladies, you know what I mean), I can plan for when and where to manage my period stuff because the menstrual cup just keeps collecting until I'm ready! Silicone menstrual cups can be disinfected by boiling in water for a few minutes, in case you're wondering.

Full-disclosure: I do use a reusable & washable pad for my heaviest day(s) because sometimes I get so into my work that I forget to empty midday and leak a bit and also for when when I was first learning how to properly use my cup. But I have been considering trying out THINX period-proof panties as the pad can get uncomfortable when I'm active. Washable pads and absorbent panties are also great Earth-friendly alternatives for women who cannot use the menstrual cup for whatever reason.

Other than saving you an estimated ~$2k in disposables over your lifetime, (I've spent ~$130 over the last NINE years between 2 menstrual cups and a week's worth of washable pads), here are another set of reasons to try out a menstrual cup:
  • You don't need to travel with a suitcase full of disposables or worse: finding a pharmacy in a foreign land.
  • If you're an outdoorsy person: same as above but you also get to skip packing out used pads or tampons! Just be prepared with hand sanitizer and extra toilet paper and/or a bit more drinking water for rinsing and/or wipes. 
  • You're saving the planet! According to this article from Slate, the average woman throws away 250-300 pounds of sanitary products in her lifetime. A menstrual cup could reduce that to ZERO! 
  • You may never worry of leaking overnight ever again. Everyone's body is different and some have reported leaking overnight even with the cup, but I, personally, have never had an overnight leak using a menstrual cup. No more emergency laundry situations
  • You get to learn more about your own body and take charge of your menstrual health! You might learn about an irregularity in your flow. You might learn that you have a tilted uterus. And, if you're trying to have a baby, knowing about what your flow is like can give you a glimpse into your fertility. If you are seeing an acupuncturist or fertility doctor, they will almost definitely want to know details about your flow that you've discovered from using a menstrual cup. Being able to quantify your flow and any changes in it is, in general, a very useful thing to know when discussing your menstrual health. 
There is a bit of a learning curve when first trying it out, but that's where you learn about the intricacies of your body and flow :) Also, different brands have different shapes so you might need to try out a couple before you find one that suits you. I used a Diva Cup for many years and always had leak issues, so recently I bought a Moon Cup and found the thicker rim provides a much better seal for me and thus far FAR less leak issues. They do cost more up-front compared to a small pack of tampons or pads, but they are WORTH IT: it's equivalent to roughly four or five packs of tampons or pads but lasts FAR longer than 4 or 5 cycles!

Have I convinced you yet? I'm going to assume I have, so YAY! You can find them for purchase online or places like Whole Foods or check your local holistic health shop, which is where I found the Diva Cup 9 years ago. When I first looked up menstrual cups, I was digging for information in discreet online forums and the only other reference was the product website. Menstrual cups have definitely become way more accessible and mainstream, which makes me so happy to see :) I'm sure our planet appreciates it too!

If you have any questions about menstrual cups, feel free to write me at "my blog name" [a] 

Happy Earth day :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Birth Announcements

It's been a while since I last participated in a Minted challenge but for the latest birth announcement challenge I thought I'd at least re-submit the few from the letterpress challenge last summer that I felt really good about but didn't make the cut. Of course I couldn't just re-submit without reworking things, since they obviously could use room for improvement if they didn't get picked originally! Links to the designs you can vote for are the images themselves. You know what to do once you've clicked through ;) Thanks in advance!

Watercolor butterflies was my favorite from the last challenge that I was really sad about not getting picked. But now that I've had some distance (time) away from it, I do see that the white cutouts (which were necessary for letterpress constraints) were clunky and took away from the softness of the design. Also, it was a real challenge getting the background to blend with the photo and thus wouldn't be very accommodating to any photo without a smooth neutral background. On the left we have my re-design for this current challenge! I used a rose gold foil for the butterflies and framed the photo with the watercolor instead of trying to blend it together. I think I like this iteration much better: hopefully the votes reflect my perceived improvements :)


Framed dewdrops was another design that I was really hopeful for, but didn't make the cut. Looking back at it, I can see the dewdrops could use more refinement around the text so that is what I focused on in the update on the second one below.

I also re-worked it to fit one of the die-cut card shapes just in case it scores better ;)

The falling sakura design scored really great! Best score I've ever seen, I think, but alas: they were only picking 50 and there were hundreds of designs. 

And while I probably should've left a good thing alone, I thought I'd punch up the design with richer colors so it would pop more during voting. If anything, I am very curious to see how this coloring will score. 

Hello Sunshine was my favorite cutesy design, but I don't think many people understood my intentions for the blind debossed clouds. 
So for the redesign I went with the blue color I had scrapped in favor of the white. I punched it up with a bit more texture too. 

I loved my little lamb design and I didn't think I would ever touch this again but I resolved to rework it since it obviously didn't resonate with voters as much as it did for me. 
I ended up simplifying the elements down to the stars and moon because maybe the sheep and the fence were just too much fluff on top of a cute pattern as is. Less is more or something like that? And I turned it into a multiples announcement. I'll be sure to bring the sheep back some other way though! I love them too much :) 

This last design, No Bounds, was inspired by the idea of all the ways families can grow. "Love knows no bounds" came to mind when I thought of the parents and children that are flown all over the world to meet their forever families and so sky-writing was a natural progression in my thought process. I was reluctant to let this one out into the world because something feels unfinished about it, but I thought it'd be better to put it out there and see how it scores before coming back to it. I feel like I simply need more time to mull this one over. I want to turn this into so many other things though! Like a wedding invitation, or elopement announcement. So I might secretly be rooting for it to flop :P Ahh, I know: I'm weird!

Don't forget to click through the images to vote :D Voting closes on the 29th.

Thank you to all the eyeballs out there who gave me feedback as I worked on the redesigns < 3



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Van Remodel - Part 5 (finished enough)

Ian shared the van reveal on facebook but I realized I never followed up on my blog, which I assume some people were waiting to see. Sorry for dropping the ball! We were just so done with the van when we got to this point that talking about it any more was making me crazy. We got it to this usable state just under a year ago but still have not found the motivation to really trim it out as we've taken on other projects. I foresee us leaving it as-is for a while more =p

So... where do I begin. Let's take a tour, shall we?

First off, we have to go back (1) and look at (2) where (3) we started (4):

It used to be a cushy passenger van with green carpet, two captains chairs in the 2nd row, a bench seat in the 3rd row, wood trim, limo lights, and a tv with VCR (I know you want that VCR). Ian built a bed out of 2x4 when we made our move from CA to CO, which satisfied our needs for a while but once he learned how to weld, his inspiration to transform this space took off!

He began with a full gutting:

We insulated the floors and walls, paneled it with 1/8" plywood sheets, and decided to cover up the large side windows for a) better insulation and b) ease of install. The greatest challenge in this build was the curves in the van. They were everywhere and inconsistent and a P.I.T.A. to work with. Ian rewired everything in the back and installed back up and rear view cameras, a ceiling vent fan, and an LED light on the wall. He welded & spray painted (some of) the bed frame & the slide-out frame to support the fridge, built all the cabinets, installed the vinyl plank flooring, and upholstered the overhead speaker paneling and a few doors. Oh, and he installed an extra battery under the van along with a solar panel on the roof and a solar controller on the wall behind the driver's seat. Of course, that list is a gross over-simplification of the huge scope of what Ian really did. 

This is the view from the side doors. Note the passenger seat swiveled around. That was made possible by a swiveling plate that Ian engineered and welded. That was the first thing he welded for the van.

 The bed folds back on Ian's side to allow for more walking room during our waking hours. The left side is where we put our clothes and packed sleeping bags.

The bed folded out & all made up. Ian's 6' and I'm 5'5" so I gave up some bed length for the cabinet. We left the small operable windows accessible in the back for circulation and for a little peep area to check for stranger-danger before we get up. We use bubble-foil insulation cut-to-size for covering the windows. We originally were planning on blinds of some sort but the foil has been enough for us so far.

Our sink cabinet. Most things you see on top are from Ikea, except for the single-burner Coleman propane stove. For our safety, if we ever use the propane stove inside the van, we have the vent fan on with windows open and/or the side doors are open for circulation. And we don't have the burner sitting on the dish drying mat you see here. So far it's all worked out. We also have a small fire extinguisher tucked behind the driver's seat. Safety first!

The fridge/freezer pulled out and open all the way. We mounted a shower grab bar on the door as our handle. The reason for that is because the original handles were just small plastic handles that Ian accidentally ripped off the old door panel one time, so we went with a beefier replacement with the remodel. It's a nice towel rack too =)

When the seat is swiveled around, the fridge can only be pulled out partway, in which case we can pop the lid out of its hinge to access the fridge.

Under the sink is a water pump, drain tank for waste water, and storage for our two-burner stove, propane, and kettle. The right side also has an access panel to get to the fuses that control the pump and inverter and other wiring.

 The 16 gallon (60L) water tank is tucked under the fridge frame with a little access door to see how much water we have. We have a hand pump stowed in the van in the instance we run out of power or if the water's too low for the pump to reach.

 Ian welded the bedframe so that there is unobstructed access throughout to easily slide gear in. The cubby on the left stores Enzo's food, treats, and brush along with extra wiper blades and a snow brush. The cut out in the flooring (a bit difficult to see, but it's there in the bottom left area of this photo) is for a concealed anchor plate where we can put back in one of our captains chairs should we have a 3rd passenger.

A view from the back.  We store our camp chairs, camp table, climbing gear, kitchen bin and food bins underneath here with room to spare.

The cubbies here store a battery jump-starter, first-aid kit, solar shower, and shower mat.

The solar panel that powers our vent fan, fridge, LED lights, and water pump.

The speakers and cubby that Ian built and upholstered.

The cubby has our vent fan remote, LED lights, and two USB charging ports. This is where we store our kindles, books/magazines, camera+accessories and other miscellaneous stuff.

And that's it! You probably noticed wall & ceiling joints with vapor barrier+insulation poking out the edges. That and 3 more door panels are basically the remaining things to be finished. Oh, and some covering for the roof over the front seats. Right now it's just bare metal with two jaggedy holes cut in the metal on each side. We were originally thinking of making a panel with lights but having used it without, we haven't missed it since we always have a headlamp around. I think if we ever finish the trim work, we'd just cover the jaggedy holes in the metal. 

A few big things we've learned from this process that we'll do differently next time:
1) Start with a van with straight walls. 
2) Install the flooring throughout and then build on top. As it is, Ian just put flooring down where you see it: he floored around the cabinets, which he regrets because of the dirt-trap the bare plywood floor can be and also because it's not water-resistant in the cabinets. 
3) Start with a van with straight walls. Did I mention what  P.I.T.A. the curves were?

A general source list for the major pieces:
- Counter top: $10 scrap board from Ikea's As-Is section. Probably a former desk or cabinet siding.
- Ikea FYNDIG single bowl sink
- Ikea TÄRNAN pull-out faucet (looks to be discontinued as of July 2015 when I just checked)
- Ikea RINGSKÄR soap dispenser
- Fan-Tastic vent fan with rain sensor
- ARB fridge-freezer 50 QT
- LED light strips purchased on ebay originating from China.
- LED wall light purchased on ebay also originating from China.
- 100W Solar panel  (I think this is the one we bought.)
- TrafficMASTER interlocking vinyl plank flooring from Home Depot

Oh! One thing I recently purchased for the van is this roll-up over-the-sink dish drainer:
It is coated with a heat-resistant silicone (up to 400F) so it can also be used as a trivet. It is invaluable given our limited/non-existent counter space. Highly recommend for anyone living in a small space! I normally have it folded in half over the sink so we can still use the faucet. 

I have cushion covers in the works for the bed, but so far I've only cut the fabric: still need to sew everything. These photos were taken before I got to that. 

If you have any questions about process or resources, leave a comment below and I will do my best to get back to you. I hope this and my previous posts about our van remodel were useful! We gathered a lot of ideas from others who shared their van build so I hope this adds to that knowledge base =) 


Tuesday, June 30, 2015


After Minted's holiday photo card challenge ended, I thought I was all tapped out of inspiration and was prepared to take a break. But then they had to go and launch a letterpress challenge and I just couldn't resist giving it a try. I started off just reworking a couple designs from the holiday challenge to be letterpress-ready and from there my ideas kept rolling. I ended up submitting 11! I've never hit double-digits before so these all feel really special to me. The design brief called out for holiday photo cards and birth announcements but given that I was tapped out of any holiday inspiration, I focused mainly on birth announcements.

First up is Geo Frost

& Season's Eatings renamed For the Foodie. I beefed up the line-art and the dots in the lettering.

For Floral blooms I used a falling sakura graphic I created for a project years ago but never ended up using it. This layout was inspired by Minted's design brief looking for faux full-bleed photos. The idea behind that is that they can't letterpress on top of digitally-printed things so the idea here is to "fake" a full-bleed photo with a white gradient. 

Starburst was inspired by this vector pack & the phrase "merry & bright". I created my own starbursts/light rays and played around for quite a while (this is what my work area looked like in the process)

before I landed on this.

Framed foliage was a reworking of this old design, which I was really hopeful for before (and I still think it's so pretty) and now I'm hoping people will see it in a better light this time! 

Hello sunshine was me trying to continue with those starbursts (because it seemed a waste to only use one of so many that I created!) and I ended up seeing a sun. And then I thought, "hello, sunshine!" which seemed like a cute phrase to welcome a baby & then I thought "ohmygosh, how cool would it be if clouds were blind-debossed" & then this happened. I tried using a blue background, which I really liked, but the polls seemed to really favor the white-on-white. The yellow bits and the clouds are meant to be letterpressed, but the yellow could also be digitally printed to reduce costs. 

Graph paper was inspired by its namesake and the idea that if it could be letterpressed, it would have a really cool feel to it. I gave it a classic schoolbook feel to go with the graph paper theme.

Continuing with the inspiration from blind-debossing, the idea for this started off with the clouds I created in Hello sunshine, which I then thought would work perfectly if little lamb limbs were digitally printed around the white fluffs. And then Little Lamb was born. The yellow bits are also meant to be letterpressed, but again could be left digitally printed if needed.

Evidently I became obsessed with creating something that had a lot of texture if letterpressed. So for In a Galaxy I started off just thinking of blind-debossing again with a moon-texture, but a little poll online revealed that my moon texture didn't make everyone immediately think of a moon, but rather just generic space-stuffs. So I embraced it and went as far as to hand-paint that watercolor wash for the deep-space background. The stars were created with the symbol sprayer tool in Ai. I have to give the 老公 props for helping me figure out the transition between the moon (or planet) and the background. For the longest time I was opposed to doing a background at all because of the awkward/harsh transition. The feathering effect was looking really cheesy so 老公 suggested a gradient on ring just slightly larger than the moon, which turned out perfect (in my eyes). 

Framed Dewdrops was, again, the result of playing around with an old pattern I started to create for another project years ago but never used. I felt like they would do well surrounding a rounded out photo, which led to this oval shape that gave me a bit of a vintage-y feel with the type & layout, yet it's combined with a fresh dewy pattern and color. Again, I think it would be really cool as a letterpressed card.

Watercolor Butterflies was inspired by this Kate Spade clutch. I sometimes look to my favorite stores for inspiration and Kate Spade often delivers with their bold graphic pieces. I loosely followed a similar pattern to theirs for my butterfly. It started out on top of just a plain faux-full-bleed photo fading out to white, but it was looking pretty boring, so I pulled out the paints again and created another watercolor wash. After a lot of playing around with the scale of the butterflies and the watercolor gradient, I ended up with this:

Thank you to everyone who lent me their eyeballs & gave their input: it was immensely helpful!
*fingers crossed" for some good news this summer/fall =)


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christmas in June

I don't know about you guys, but I'm super excited for Christmas this year! I know, summer JUST arrived: what am I thinking?! Well this year I decided to create some stuff for Minted's biggest challenge of the year: the holiday photo card challenge! I participated once many years ago and was completely intimidated and overwhelmed by all the amazing entries and also found it challenging to get in the holiday spirit in the springtime. But this year, with the crappy weather we got at the beginning of spring (note-to-self: don't plant anything until after Mother's day >.<), I found it easy to get in the Christmas-spirit and decided to participate.

First up is Geofrost. I borrowed the "jewel" shape from my Geo Wreath Thanksgiving card to create a frame for this one with a foil finish.

Season's Eatings was inspired by the feast of the holidays. I ended up creating the lettering for "season's eatings" because I couldn't find a font I liked for it. Once this Minted holiday madness ends, I plan on turning that into a full display font so keep your eye out for that!

Holly and Pine is the result of a few watercolor painting sessions. A simple illustration with clean text to frame out a large photo.

Newborn kisses started out in a very different place than where I ended up taking it. It began as another lettering exercise:
While I really love how the ribbon"holiday" turned out, I found it too be too scripty for the look I was going for, so then I went & started to create another font. And yet again, no matter how I worked it, I just wasn't liking it. So I turned to my trusty condensed sans serif favorite and ended up with this:

So the only element I kept was the slant. And while I didn't intend to channel an 80's color-scheme, apparently I couldn't help it. 

Ribbon of Joy was a last-minute design that I put together as a challenge to myself: what can I do in 10 minutes? And then plus another 20 in editing time ;) To be fair: I already had the basics of the ribbon done as a draft for something else that didn't get used. 

I have always greatly respected designers who were hand-lettering and type geniuses, but after all this: I have a whole new level of appreciation for this craft! So much more to learn! But this has all inspired me to try my hand at hand-lettering Chinese characters (speaking of which: you MUST watch this). I've got so many things I plan to create and want to create that I'm super excited for the next few months (years, even!). Stay tuned =)

But back to the point of this post: I hope you all take some time to vote! There is SO much great stuff out there that deserves to be seen, you guys! I'm just trying to ignore the fact that there are 4661 entries O_O You know..... my little bunch of 5 out of all those... not intimidated at all...  But hey: better odds than the lottery...? Though I seriously don't know how Minted can choose: there are SO many amazing ones!

You can vote through the challenge submission gallery page. Scroll down to see the submission gallery and hover over the "rate it" button below each piece. You can also click on each of my submissions to vote on larger images and it will advance you automatically to another randomly selected design after you rate each piece.

In the mean time, I'm going to go get started on voting myself. It closes June 22! Happy June everyone =)