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!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Van Remodel - Part 3

As many who've gone through home renovations probably know, nothing ever goes as planned and preparation is more important than the actual construction part. Our van remodel is one of those cases. To be fair, things have been mostly successful because of the 老公's diligent planning: it's just all taken a very long time because our van's many curves & angles are one heck of a building-challenge! We spent a good amount of time trying to develop a way to build window frames with curved corners and things were going well (we learned all about kerfing wood), except that it was just taking wayyyy too much time and energy to get everything precise &, well, we wanted to move things along! We ultimately decided to cover up the non-opening part and frame up the vent/opening part in a simple box frame, which we admit is much more practical given that we never really "need" to look out the windows and that they're really just a big hole in our insulation efforts.

With that said, we've come a long way and I think we're on the home stretch to finishing this thing!

7 months ago:


What the 老公 has done:
- insulated the floors, walls, ceiling, wheel wells
- installed sound deadener in doors
- installed framing for the subfloor, walls, ceiling
- caulk the windows to waterproof (we learned this the hard way after a rain storm & discovering wet-subfloor that had to be taken out, dried, & re-insulated!)
- welded & painted the bed frame (partly installed here)
- made new door cover panels & upholstered them
- installed vent fan, solar panel, amp & speakers, winch to raise/lower half the bed, secondary battery
- re-wired the van for all the above plus lighting, fridge, water pump, accessory outlet
- recarpeted the front
- built & upholstered the header storage above the front seats
- installed floating vinyl plank flooring


Many months were spent just plotting out the wiring and researching materials. And I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting many other little things, but as you can see: it's been a big undertaking! Minus a bathroom, this has basically been a smaller-scale whole-house renovation.

What is left to do:
- finish insulating & installing the walls
- install the remaining door panels & handles
- install the fridge frame & water tank & pump
- build & install cabinets under the bed & for the sink/fridge
- install lights
- install floor edging at the doors
- sew cushion covers for the bed
- sew curtains for the front & windows on the doors
- re-install the driver & passenger seats
- possibly cover the wall/ceiling panels in fabric? We'll see how we feel about the bare plywood first before taking on more work

Evidently the left-to-do list is almost as long as the what's-been-done list, but the bulk of the work was planning so I feel we're in good shape to see this completed in the next month =) Not that we have much choice given our City of Rocks plan for June...

This has obviously been the 老公's project but I did help out a little! I helped with the sound deadener, wall & ceiling insulation & installation, picking out flooring, & general input on the planning process :D Yup. I'm that helpful. The sewn pieces are my task as well so I'm not completely useless in all this.

老公 says he's learned a lot for when we need to convert another van, but the biggest lesson would be to start with a van with straight sides!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Van Remodel - Part 2

A couple weekends ago the 老公 and I tackled the ceiling & the wall panels, but first we had to deal with an old leak. Back when it was raining cats & dogs over here, we discovered our windows were leaky so we sealed the windows with some silicone caulking on the outside. However, some of that water made it underneath the nice new floors the 老公 put in and made it further into the floors than he had originally treated for. So we had to take out part of the floor to get everything dried properly, which was annoying but 'tis life!

Here you can see how he insulated and built up the floor:
We then proceeded to cut 1/4" plywood for the walls. The 老公 began the process by making cardboard templates for the various pieces. Since the actual panels are much larger than any cardboard we had, he simply used the cardboard for templating the curves/grooves in the corners and measured/trimmed as needed for the other dimensions. I was on hand to help dry-fit the pieces & other small tasks but let's be honest: the 老公 is the power-tool-user out of the two of us. At one point he asked if I wanted to give the jig-saw a try, which resulted in nearly ruining one of the $20 sheets of plywood (not dire, but would be annoying to have to go back to the store and dig through the heavy pile to find another nice sheet!) Luckily the bad cut I made was in the perfect spot for another panel we had to cut later. I partly blame the person who drew the cut line though. You see, I know I'm perfectly capable of using the tools, I just don't use them with the same ease as the 老公! I'll stick to being the creative director on our projects ;)

So to summarize: the ceiling was insulated & the paneling cut & fitted for the ceiling and then wall panels cut for the back half of the van. We didn't install the wall panels yet because the 老公 still needed to run wiring for the lights and I still need to install and vapor barrier the insulation in the top section of the wall. Though after we wrapped up for the weekend, the 老公 went back and did all the wiring. =p We had put up the ceiling panel but then later took it down because the 老公 realized he needed a different gauge wire for the solar panel hook up. While he was hard at work, I researched methods to trim out the windows, which is proving more tricky than one would think! We've been lucky that many before us have converted their vans and have posted blogs/photos of their process that we can reference and get ideas for but it seems there are a very small number of converts out there with rounded windows like ours that need to be trimmed out with custom work! In my online search I came across 3 options: order custom window boxes from a place like Van Specialties, DIY our own window boxes, or mould strips of 2mm polypropylene. In the end, we decided to go with kerfing plywood to get rounded corners.

After the 老公 ran the wiring, we planned out the lighting in the van. We decided on lights for the front seats, lights near the door step well, lights underneath the bed by the back doors, reading lights on either side of the bed, and overhead lighting. The 老公 ordered LED strip lighting for the overhead lighting and we probably won't use it all so I've been racking my brain thinking of a way to DIY our own casing for the LED strip light as all the ones available are expensive and would defeat the savings of "using what we have on hand". But then it came to me! We are thinking we will assemble some sort of track for it out of wood strips. 

Anyways, here's the ceiling framework & insulated with the vapor barrier:
This is how the ceiling panel looked when we installed it and put in the vent fan trim.

Visible progress has been stalled because of the window trim issue: we need to make the window box trim first, then attach it to the wall panel, trace the opening of the window onto the panel, cut out the opening & smooth out, varnish the trim, and then install the panel with window box trim attached. We have faith that everything else will move more quickly once this window thing is figured out. 

Once the walls are up, we'll hopefully have our carpet in for the front area, put the seats back in, install the bed frame, install the water tank/fridge frame, build out the cabinets, and install the sink. We intend to cover the wood wall/ceiling paneling with fabric but when that happens will depend on when we decide to place that fabric order & how long it will take to ship in. We are OK with doing that later if it means everything else is in place & we can use the van sooner! 

Until next time =)