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 =)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Double Knotted Happiness

It's been a long time since I last spoke of my wedding invitation designs, but today I've got some news: Double Knotted Happiness made it as an editor's pick AND it just launched for sale so you can tell all your friends who are looking for bilingual invites about it! :p I originally submitted it with rounded corners, but I suppose squared off corners helps tie in with the other accessory pieces. Anyways, enough talking. Let's take a look at all the pretty-ness! Click the photo to take a look at the matching RSVP, direction, reception, thank you cards, and envelope that I designed as well.

While I am sad for the other designs that didn't make it, I've got plans for them so don't you worry ;) I'm just so excited to be part of their growing collection of bilingual wedding invitations! Thank you to everyone who voted and for the continued support in all I do.


Monday, January 12, 2015


Hello 2015! And everyone who made it through the holidays =) Minted kept me busy throughout the holidays and over the new year with their birth announcement and fabric challenges, which I am here to tell you is open for voting/rating! I didn't submit as many as I would've liked, but I'm OK giving these other designs that didn't make it more time.

With the birth announcement, I was originally planning on creating floral designs but ended up with just one feminine one and two gender-neutral ones. It's funny where my process takes me sometimes. Let me introduce you to my latest creations =)

Le cahier - inspired by vintage school notebooks.

Simply Framed - I actually started this design as a flowery one based on one I created for a client, but like I said, my designs end up taking on a life of their own. I used the same text layout as the one for my client but took it to a completely different place with the delicate border.

Pretty Pink Foliage - again, this one began with elements from my Painterly Dew Drops design and while I kept a similar color palette, it diverged quite a bit from there. 

And on to the fabric! Like the birth announcements, I had other floral designs in the works but I needed more time with them so I held off on submitting them for now. 

Speckled fabric print - it was meant to be a small delicate print. I don't sew (other than the odd hem or fixing a hole Enzo chewed out of his bed) but I imagine you could use it for anything! ;)
8-Bit Winter - Inspired by the classic PC game, SkiFree! I was originally trying to model the game layout with moguls and trees and flags, but I was enjoying all the different characters I could create more than those other elements. Thus, I focused on creating skiers and snowboarders in all their classic forms eg. walking with their board/skis, falling on their butts, and bombing down the hill. I added in a healthy sprinkle of snow to break up the uniformity of it all. If this doesn't win, I still fully intend on getting it printed via other venues because I just think it's so fun. I imagine it being used for kids bedding, pajamas, and other things that my non-sewing self can't think of!
So that is what I've been up to lately. If you have a moment, please click through the links and rate my designs and rate some of the others while you're there too: there is just so much talent out there that deserves to be seen! You can either go one-by-one or click to the overview pages for each challenge. The birth announcements are here and the fabric prints are here.

I am looking forward to a busy & productive year as I find myself in a very inspired place right now. Hope you all have had a great start to the new year! Wishing my friends with babies on the way a happy and healthy rest-of-your-pregnancy & a smooth birth! And congrats to the friends who recently had a baby =) Eeee! So excited for you all!

Happy 2015  xoxo

Monday, December 08, 2014

What I've been up to...

The last couple weeks I've been almost completely consumed by Minted's To Have And To Hold Wedding Challenge, but in a good way! Never have I had so many ideas swimming in my head: I only wish I started on the challenge sooner! But even still, 5 entries is still 5 times more than the first time I entered one of their wedding challenges with my Only Fish in the Sea design. In this challenge, I was determined to produce a series of bilingual Chinese/English invites after a series of failed attempts in the past. Looking back, I feel like I've come a long way since then. This time I started with 3 ideas and it quickly grew (or maybe that's spiraled out of control) into 5. I was focused on specifically Chinese/English because the wording and formatting for Chinese text is quite specific, especially when you get into formal wording. Plus I feel like I had to include the double-happiness character in there one way or another on them all. So without further ado, here are my 5 designs! Sidenote: voting has not begun yet but I will update you when it does with a look at some of my favorites from other designers. And here's a tip: if you 'like' a design, you can later filter challenge submissions by your likes so you can find them more quickly =)

Double knotted happiness - inspired by the knots found on traditional Chinese clothing. The knotted frame is shown in a rose gold foil texture, which if it gets picked to sell on Minted, would be actual foil when printed and not an illusion, in case you thought it was odd!

Knotted frame - inspired, again, by Chinese knots, but also Chinese architecture.

Neon joy - inspired by neon signs found in many major Asian cities. This bright design was a very big departure from my original starting point. How far did I stray? Well when I went to export to JPG, my AI file was still titled "Sakura", hehe. 
Painterly dew drops - after the last thing I designed, I was still feeling inspired by wreaths and the round shape of the card. It was also a fun challenge fitting all that text into such a small space.

And last but not least, Traditional Dress - inspired by cutesy things that we, Asians, love and traditional Chinese wedding attire.

I must say that no matter how many times I enter these challenges, my heart always skips a beat when I share my work with the world: it is so nerve-wracking! But in a good way =) Neon Joy & Traditional Dress were the last-minute additions to the collection. From concept to final product, most of my time was spent on tweaking the text and consulting my mom on the wording to make sure it all made sense and felt right to a Chinese parent so I have to thank my mom for all her help and patience with me. Thanks 媽媽! And you'll all be proud to know that through this process, I finally learned the keyboard shortcut to switch between Chinese & English typing =p I always knew how to switch on my Mac but on the PC I don't know why, I just never bothered to look up the keys! Working in Chinese & English kinda forced it upon to me to learn though. 

Phew. So that's what I've been up to lately, which would explain why you may or may not see a holiday card from us this year! 'Cause you know, carpenters never get around to fixing their own houses or something like that right? Well, apparently this stationer never gets around to her own stationery! nevertheless, I am going to try my hardest to get something of my own done because I'm still brimming with ideas!

Hope everyone else is feeling not as overhelmed by the impending holidays as I am and having a lovely December =)



PS: I forgot to mention, only because they are as integral to my process as is using my computer, that I owe lots of thanks to my dearest friend Holly & my always-blunt-but-very-constructively-critical husband for all their opinions on the many iterations of these designs I spammed their chat windows/inboxes with =p

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Van Remodel - Part 4

We're getting so close I can almost taste it! A lot of behind-the-scenes work was done over the last month with plumbing, engineering a lock for the fridge slide, adjustments to the cabinet, and cutting the counter to size just to name a few. In the last few days, however, the results have been more visually impacting as the 老公 put in some intense hours of work to put the sink/faucet/soap pump in, installing the cabinet & countertop, securing my bed platform to the frame and wiring up the cabinet for a light are the big ones I can think of.
I contributed greatly, as usual, with my insulating skills. I also had the task of creating a template for the 老公 so that he could cut a panel for the back corner. Making templates is something most who do conversion van campers don't seem to deal with, at least from my searches. Most people seem to have a vehicle with straight sides or straightforwardly curved contours so they can just slap paneling on without accounting for weird indents Our van has special curves and angles and we had to make cardboard templates for nearly every part of the walls. I feel that detail should not be forgotten in this project because it is so tedious but important and many things were contingent off those templates, which is why this has all taken so long. SIGH

Speaking of wall paneling, the 老公finished the wall paneling around the cabinet, so as of this moment we have walls on one whole side of the van! Whoo! In addition to that, he installed the solar controller on that wall panel (seen in the photo below on the right above the counter) so we can easily see what our power situation is. It's the little things, people!
You might notice some scratches in the face of our cabinet (or I might've just brought it to your attention and now you can't not see it), which is one of the most annoying oversights in this venture: the plywood was scratched up in many places when we bought it, but didn't see it until we got home and started cutting & so now they're emblazoned on the front. Le Sigh. We still need to seal the cabinet with something water-protecting so we'll probably tackle how to cover that up at that point. For now, it's in our faces reminding us to always double-check!

But on to happier notes: guess how much that "countertop" cost us? $10!!!! How? Because it's not countertop material! We bought some scrap cabinet siding from Ikea's as-is section and its length was PERFECT for our purposes. The 老公 only had to trim the back edge to get the depth we needed. Given its visual impact in the space, it was the cheapest thing we bought for the van. muahahaha. I am pretty proud of the find ^.^ Granted, because it's not countertop material we need to be a bit more delicate with it. I'm thinking we'll find something to re-surface it in once we ding it up enough. Of course it would be 1000x easier if I had thought to resurface it before all the fixtures went in and it got attached to the cabinet, but we are on a time-crunch & we're just trying to get it to a usable state for next weekend, so whatever.

With ALL that said, I know you were patiently waiting for me to just show you the progress already:

Isn't it so pretty?? Ignoring the missing chunk of ceiling panel & all those tools & random bits of garbage, of course =p

So yeah!!! Front seats & one of the side door panels & handles have gone in since I started this post. While he did that, I got to work on food prep for our trip:
Homemade dried mango & fruit leather is the yummiest =) 

Lots more prep to do before we leave but for once I finally feel on top of my tasks and ready for this trip!