Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is it crazy to look for friends on-line?

Some people really shudder at this idea. I can understand their fears. There are plenty of stories on prime-time television showing the creepy pedophile pretending to be a teenage boy etc. While it is true that some people are complete freaks, so many more people are well, just people! They are on-line, looking for stuff I'm looking for, sharing and inspiring anyone who passes by. They are writing their blogs late at night or during naptime and if you're open and friendly, friendships naturally happen. I'm a "throw caution to the wind" kind of person and my instincts have been right on so far.

I've really enjoyed meeting several on-line friends and all have been really positive experiences. A few weeks ago when I was planning my trip to Los Angeles, I contacted Kalani from Kalanicut (she writes a lovely lifestyle and crafting blog) and scheduled a meet-up. I had absolutely no concerns about this meet-up, though I did get some sideways glances when I mentioned this to friends and family here. Kalani and I met during a blogging e-course "Blogging Your Way" with Holly Becker and frankly everyone in that class is warm, friendly, supportive and kind. We have shared many emails and I figured she didn't have any reason to be more or less than what she had represented. And of course I was right!

Kalani, being the native Californian (for the most part) suggested we meet at the Getty Museum. It was a perfect place to enjoy art and all things beautiful. We chatted about our work inspiration, blogging tips and walked the gardens like friends who'd known each other as if we'd met at a party, instead of on the internet. It's interesting to think of the folks who complain that everything is a computer's distance away and that there are no more physical interactions anymore. I think nothing could be further from the truth! I'm so lucky to be able to have access to an entire world of people who are interesting, creative and funny. I can meet them on-line when I'd never be able to find them otherwise. And when I'm lucky enough to travel to those locations, I can discover that the delightful person on-line is just as they are in person.

Have you had some good experiences like I have?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Making it easy to find my printables!

I just created a new reader-friendly feature on my blog that I'm really excited about!
I apologize that number 4 is called "Margot Madison". I was just figuring out how it works and now I don't know how to fix it. :o)

I've designed a blog page (see tabs at the top of my blog) called "Projects and Printables" where I've listed all the posts where I've offered free Margot Madison printable files. These have been my most popular posts and I wanted to make sure you could find them when you needed them (and discover ones you may have missed). All you have to do is click on the picture and you'll be at the original post.

I'm so excited, I'm going to celebrate by creating a special printable for today. Attached is a printable "Will You Be My Bridesmaid?" Card that you can download and print for your own personal use.

Yeah! I love it when I learn new bloggy things! Do you like it?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My secret tour at Sony Studio

Last week I traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California to spend 4 days that mixed some business and pleasure for me. I stayed with my best friend from college, Amy. She lives in Sherman Oaks with her husband and 3 kids and they were my gracious and warm hosts for the weekend. Ah, I can feel the warmth of the sun and the cheerful flower colors fade as I sit here in my basement studio and look at the gray misty day outside. *Sigh*

One of the fun things I was able to do, was take a tour of Sony Studios with Amy's husband, Michael. He is a sound editor and one of the greatest tour guides since he's been in the movie/sound industry for over 20 years. He rattles off movies and shows he's worked on like we rattle off our grocery list for the week. "Oh, I met him when I was working on Charlie's Angels." or, "I met {insert famous actor here} when I was doing the editing on {this famous movie we all know}", or "Hey, that's Adam Sandler's Caddy" I'm not normally a star-struck kind of person, but it's difficult not to look like a wide-eyed girl from Ohio, who looks around at the studios and thinks "so, did Brad Pitt sit in this chair?" and "Did Gwenyth Paltrow walk into this very sound stage??" I did not say these things out loud because I had a rep to protect and the need to look cool when your not is important when in famous places.

Michael is super low key and I'm so pleased to say that so was everyone I met. He showed me around the grounds of Studio City in a golf cart used to transport all the actors and actresses to their dressing rooms or sets. Here is a picture of me on the look-out for an actor I would not likely recognize anyway because I do not keep up with movies, much less a current a movie star's name.

We tried to get into some of the sets like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy but they were unfortunately not taping the day I visited. I took a photo in front of the giant billboard anyway.

I did get to learn all about the sound part of a movie and man, is it cool! Pretty much everything you hear in a movie is a converted or replicated version of what the director wanted you to hear. Actors say their lines in the studio to adjust a performance. Background sounds are removed if one part of a scene is done when the birds are chirping in real life and are quiet when the scene is re-shot later in the afternoon. It's all been modified, beautified and perfected--sort of like the actors, now that I think of it!

I was permitted to take pictures in the Foley room, where I was lucky enough to get a longer tour friendly folks who were working that day. I'll share a little about what I learned. FYI, I'm not great with names of people or proper nouns so forgive my generic room references. And the Foley people I met will heretofore be referred to as "Hunky Tattoo Guy" and "Renee Zelweger Lookalike" (Hunky and Renee for short).

The sound effects are created by the Foley artists in this room and recorded behind that window in a sound room. You can see the guy in orange working on his "desk" (the one with all the sliders and lighted buttons). For a second, I thought that the sofa on display there was the one from my husband's first apartment, but then realized that it was unlikely some homeless person would drag it from his curb all the way to Hollywood. The glamor in Hollywood is definitely reserved for the red carpet!

 This room is packed from floor to rafters with all kinds of shoes, brooms, rugs, sandy floors, grated floors, wooden floors-- anything that they might need to use to replicate an exact sound effect. Hunky was kind enough to climb the rickety ladder to the loft and take this great shot of Michael and me.

This shows a small portion the different floor sections they have, along with the variety of shoes that might be needed. If there is a street scuffle, the Foley people watch it on the screen and actually recreate the scuffle themselves on a piece of flooring that matches the one in the movie. Now I will be thoroughly delighted when I watch a fight scene because I will be thinking of Hunky and Renee throwing down punches on this tiny piece of Pergo. Hilarious!
Here's Hunky showing me how they make splashy sounds for water scenes. It's so "Silent Movie" style isn't it? I love knowing that no matter how fabulous computers are, they still have to splash the water to make that sound. Low-tech and high-tech joining hands to make movie magic.

So I also got to go into the sound theaters where the editing happens in the context of big screen sound. I was not allowed to take pictures but let's just say I saw a little Justin Timberlake and a few blue Smurfs getting their sounds perfected. Pretty cool! Thanks again to Michael and everyone I met on the tour. You were all gracious and lovely and made me feel not so much like the Ohio gal I am.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beautiful e-vites from Paperless Press

I got this hot tip yesterday from my sister, who was complaining about the awfulness of e-vite (the on-line electronic invitation company). I had to agree with her on the negative reaction to e-vite and it's not because I'm usually designing and printing my invitations. I think on-line invitations have a very solid and practical place in the market. Sometimes, you just don't need or have the budget for beautifully printed paper invitations. E-vite is free but your envitation is paid for by advertising, which is just plain ugly and an unwelcome distraction to your event.

After reviewing the Paperless Press site, I'm really impressed! The invitation designers are really good (Prentiss Douthit was one of my favorites when I had my retail stationery store) and the e-invitations are designed to look as much like paper invitations as possible. Not only are they beautifully designed, they appear letterpressed, engraved or gold foil stamped.

I played around with the save the dates since I really believe this is a perfect use for electronic communication--link to the hotels for reservations, your wedding website, or the venues for google directions is so convenient to guests who are making plans. The font choices are plentiful but not overwhelming. You can change the font size, color and text alignment too. In a matter of seconds, I had a nice looking save the date ready to e-mail out. You can also link these to your event and sell tickets, link to your social networks etc. Pretty cool!

Of course, you get what you pay for. Sending these are not free, but then again, you are not also including advertising for party supplies either. It costs about $12 (paid in virtual "stamps") for 150 and you can also add extras like logos, envelope liners, photos and more with virtual "coins". I think that's still a reasonable deal for something so classy, don't you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mall Scavenger Hunt Party for Tweens

Well, the little girl cousins are now turning into tweens. It's a new thing and I'm getting used to their new ways and personalities; sometimes remarkably mature and delightful, sometimes worthy of a slap on the face, sometimes mutually embarrassing. It is what it is, and I'm ready to muddle through. Of course, there is really not much of a choice is there?

My sister, in her ultimate planning and party giving creativity, brought me in on the latest birthday party for her daughter (10 days older than mine, hence the cousin reference) Maddy. Having parties outside the house is ideal because there is no clean-up, and since the girls are all about Their Style, the mall is a perfect place to stage something fun with friends. Right? Well, yes and no. I'll be as brief as I can, but let me tell you that this party had it's share of drama and it was not the tween kind--it was the mama kind. Oh yes, read on...
Here are the invitations, which I thought turned out pretty nicely. I used one of my favorite hand-drawn fonts called Strangelove and created a tag that was tied around a t-shirt. The shirt was customized by printing the design (free printable at the bottom of this post) onto iron-on transfer material, which was then, you guessed it, ironed on to the shirts. The special invitation packages were dropped off to the guests via van taxi (ie. my sister's family child transport service). The shirts were to be worn to the party so we could keep track of the girls and so that they would feel like they were part of a gang...you know how girls love a posse.

The idea is that once gathered at the mall, the girls would be split into chaperoned teams and the first group back would win. Each chaperone had a card of tasks and items to find (sample below). The items were given points so that if there was a tie, then the points could break the tie. I have to say that I had some personal concerns about being a chaperone of a group of tweens. My recollection of girls at this age is not pretty. I thought I'd be breaking up fights, trying to council them off their emotional ledge or be thought of as (in the 80's language of my youth) "totally lame". I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed all the girls on my team. They were funny and spirited and eager to play the game together. They were so cute, I ended up writing down things they said like "Oh My God! I. Love. Lotion." and "Do you think this eye makeup makes me look like I was punched in the face?" While our team did not end up winning, I think everyone had a great time, including Auntie Margot.
Here's a pic of the back of the party shirt.
So, The Mama Drama story.
Apparently, we're not the first ones to think of this idea (shocking, I know) and so when we were gathering at the appointed mall location, we were also visited by the mall authorities. A mall cop and the unfriendly customer service woman told us in no uncertain terms, that scavenger hunts were not permitted at this mall. No. Hunts. Allowed. I'm pretty sure my sister (who worries herself about every possible detail of everything) about fainted. Before she lunged at the eyes of the poor 21 year old mall cop, I told him that it would be no problem and that we would just take the girls shopping instead. So we took our little group of girls shopping and if we happened to see things on our list, well, we just "made some notes" on our little card and carried onward. We did not do the fun singing stuff as to not attract attention. I'm sure the girls would have thought it fun, but getting kicked out of the mall is something that we thought should be saved for the later years at least. 11 is just too early for a public record. So, please, before you descend upon your local mall, call them first to make sure they allow this kind of thing.

If you would like to have a similar party, I now carry the printable files on my etsy store here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beautiful folk art tablecloths by Nessy Designs

You read my blog like, all the time, and remember and cherish every word, right? Of course you do. That's why you remember that one of my favorite artists I like to brag about knowing is Vanessa Sorensen from Nessy Designs. She is a truly talented lady who creates, among other illustrative and graphic lovelies, folk art designs. Vanessa and I had both been experimenting with Spoonflower, a website where you can design and upload your own images to be printed on fabric (awesome).

Alas, the wonderful tablecloths we were discussing months ago have been printed and so I must share them with you. I love Dutch folk art because it appeals to the colorful and graphic lover in me. Crisp floral imagery, symmetry, ornamentation, bold color combinations on solid colored backgrounds and modern and friendly. My goodness, what's not to love about it, people? So, "folks" feast your eyes on these and visit her blog to find out how to get one for yourself.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A few of my favorite things...

I'm on my way to the National Stationery Show to see what is new and awesome in the world of paper. I haven't gone in 2 years (a disgrace!) and I'm really excited. While, I'm gone, I thought I would share a favorite from someone else's blog. One you would really, really love because it's super different and exciting.
How about this really creative party by Mer Mag? It's a cereal birthday party for a 5 year old! The party happened in the morning, complete with jammies, all kinds of cereal goodies and Saturday morning cartoons. Such a fun idea! Here's her teaser photo, see her invitation, cake and other party fabulousity (new word invented by me, right now) here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rainbow Birthday Invitations by Sara Cormier

I admit to falling completely under the spell of rainbows. They are so 80's and therefore so magical! I'm working this theme into my daughter's birthday party this month. Of course, her birthday is in 4 days, so I'd better get crackin' eh? I'm such a great mother....

Speaking of great mothers, I wanted to show you this screaming cute birthday party invitation created by Sara Cormier of Miller/Cormier designs. I met Sara a few weeks ago and was smitten with her and her mad design skills. Sara was kind enough to share this invitation and the adorable pictures of her daughter Carmen on the Big Day.

"Celebrating 365 days of total cuteness"?? --only a mom could come up with a line that good!
Check out that adorable outfit--rainbow colors to match!

Of course, a Rainbow Cake!!! That's a mom who loves her little girl. My girl is just getting rainbow jello.
For more rainbow inspired photos and DIY ideas, you are welcome to view my Pinterest board here. I've got some great ideas for parties and gift wrapping there too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I had to redesign the Royal Invitation

I couldn't let it go. Ever since I saw the royal invitation (or a close proximation to it), I've been haunted.  You can read my shocked and dramatic over-reaction post here. I know the aristocracy has to be formal and even stiff/stodgy but I proclaim that there is still beauty to be found in that old-fashioned style!

The typesetting left LOTS to be admired using the inspired font choice of...italics. The awkward text splits make it read uncomfortably and there seemed to be no regard for the special people who are actually "commanding" this great event in history (The Queen) and those who are being honored (Sweet William and adorable Kate).

Needless to say, I was compelled to create a new visual for the disappointing original. I did this design in about 15 minutes. I'm not saying that to brag on my mad design skills, I'm just saying that it doesn't take much time to make text on an invitation look elegant and beautiful.
I used "Mrs. Eaves" which is a beautifully structured font family that has many cases; I used the petite caps for the body text and highlighted (very in an understated way) the queens name in the italics. I also italicized and enlarged slightly William and Kate's names so as to call more attention to the couple of the day. I did love the idea of writing each guest's names individually, so the guide lines were a bit inevitable (although I'm sure a royal calligrapher could have done it without lines but...).

I created the "lines" out of text periods in the same font but at about 6 point in size and adjusted the kerning to about 300. I originally (in my self-absorbed American way) blasted the reply address on the left for being unjustified in text formatting terms.

I forgot that Europeans use the stair-stepping as a standard address format. (Actually, I have British relatives and I should have remembered that, but in my defense I was in quite a state of shock). I decided that it needed to be removed from the front of the invitation altogether and put it on it's own card. Then, as you see, I added the attire to the right corner with right justification.

I recreated the royal monogram, but you get the idea and now at least it has some visual elbow room compared to the tight spacing of the original. It was unconfirmed that the photo was on the actual invitations, so I just pretended that it was never on there to begin with.

To add an element of beautiful understated detail, I used rounded corners and thought a beautiful gold edging would be a perfect and appropriately festive detail. They are royals, afterall!

Now I can finally let this design atrocity rest and wish the couple well, knowing that there is a revised and beautified version of their invitation out in the internet universe. I would also like to let the Chief Invitations Secretary know that I'd be happy to help out the next time when an international event is planned. All you have to do is ask! ;o)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Creative Retreat

I am involved with an amazing group of creatives here in Cincinnati, Ohio. We are a motley crew of writers, designers, photographers, stylists, singer/songwriters, actors, fashion designers, sculptors, movie makers and tree climbers and we have a regular "meet up" every Monday at a local coffee shop. Often our meetings are loud and lively discussions on what is inspiring us at the moment, how we can move our creative careers forward, how we can overcome the difficult parts of ourselves that hold us back and expand the wonderful parts that make us great artists. There is a lot of enthusiastic hand grabbing, journal writing, pencil pointing, googling and laughing (sometimes tears too) as we encourage our friends on our creative life journey. It's more amazing than I ever thought it could be. At the beginning I figured that I'd be a sometimes participant but I now refuse to schedule anything during my meeting time because I find it such an energizing start to my week!

One of our members, Mike Fleisch, is a "Graphic Facilitator" for a living. This means that he goes into great corporate giant office meetings and scribes (writes and draws on a whiteboard) what occurs during that meeting. I'm totally amazed that this is actually a paying gig, but he is a wonderful leader in the world of collaboration. At his suggestion, we tried to do what he does in these corporate atmospheres with a creative angle. Rather than facilitate a corporate take-over (this is purely imagination on my part, I don't know if he really does that type of thing) he wanted to paricipate in something much more challenging: get creatives to collaborate on a project and come up with a product at the end of the collaborative effort. I was "in" on word one because I know how amazing Mike is. I'm pretty sure he's a legitimate genius, though his Mensa memebership is undisclosed but I can't stop using words like "brilliant", "mind-blowing smart" and "so, so cool" when I talk about him. Plus, I love stuff like this. Heavens, half the content I write on this blog is about analyzing the creative process. What a wonderful opportunity to witness and participate in the conception and birth of a creative project!

So yesterday, five of us who were able to clear our schedule almost the whole day, holed-up at Chase Public in Northside to see what would happen. Mike led the show with a completely professional presentation. We did what we were encouraged to do and let the magic happen. And magic it is. Without telling too much detail (there may be some tweaking of the process) I'll show some pictures of how the day progressed.

While you look at the photos, think about whether this is something you'd be stoked to do as well. Would you like to do an entire day? Two days? What do you think would make a great collaborative project? Is it something you'd do with strangers, or your creative group if you already have one? Is it something your kids would enjoy?
Here is Mike presenting one of the creative exercises. An example of his "scribing" is on the chalkboard at the left.

Samples from our first creative visual "exercise".

Discussing our first exercise and enjoying coffee from Sidewinder's Cafe.

An "overview" of our creative table. Look at all the different media we brought (literally) to the table.

A peek into April's sketchbook after a writing exercise.

This discussion took place at the lovely couches by the windows. That's Dave holding back a witty remark about my writing sample. :o)

Mike sharing something that inspires him. It's a funky instrument thing. Very cool.

April sharing a song she wrote for a children's musical. Can you guess what inspires her?

Some of the ideas ready for dissection and elaboration.
I hated leaving when it was time to go. I was creatively energized but also a little exhausted. We didn't "finish" our project and I'm hoping we get back to do just that. Mad props go to Mike (of course) but also to Jenifer, Dave and April for being so amazing. I feel so privileged to know these people and to have the opportunity to do what I love so much with positive and inspiring people.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bookclub Tea Party Part 2--Designing a Space

Guests enjoy conversation near the food stations, cleverly integrated into the existing bookshelf.

I'm back with Part 2 of the Bookclub Tea Party, which reviews the designing of the space or room where the book club tea party took place. In Part 1, highlighted the invitation and other paper products for the event. The original inspiration for this party is my mother's beautiful tea set. I created this inspiration photo, and this product inspiration collage which was our guide when designing this event.

When planning the event photoshoot, I'm so 3-dimensionally challenged, I knew I'd need some solid help in that department. Luckily, Tammy Duvall was ready and willing to jump into the creative pool and add some of her own fantastic ideas into the mix. I'm especially thankful for her efforts since she was in the midst of planning a huge 600 guest Gala Fundraiser. But as we say, a little stress is a perfect way to get your creative juices flowing, right?

I asked Tammy some questions about her part of the creative process:

Designing a space is very different from designing paper products (my specialty). What skills from your past career and education did you call upon for this project?
I have degrees in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising which have trained me to analyze line, color, texture and space.
Tammy sewed a slipcover for the window seat to pull in the crisp black lines inspired by the tea set.
The pillows on the couch were also arranged to reflect the visual concept of the tea set. The black icons were enlarged and heat transferred to the white linen pillow. Tammy sewed a thin grosgrain ribbon near the edge and trimmed it in solid colors coordinating with the tea set.
When I presented the Bookclub Party, what struck you as inspirational?
I loved the idea of a Book Club Party and was inspired by your tea set--from there the vision took shape.
Every surface was considered a design space. The nectarines in a glass bowl introduced freshness to the coffee table.
What struck you as a challenge?
Our task was to pull together not only a Book Club Party but also creating the look and feel of the space, food and accessories (paper products) and the flow of the guests.
Stacks of books were used to create an instant table to rest cups of tea.
So much of your talents are intuitive (which are often difficult to put into words), can you try to describe how you took the visual inspiration and translated it into a larger space?
Any event requires a "feel" to the space in which it is being held. I asked myself, "How would I want to 'feel' at a Book Club party?" "How would I like the surrounding to look?" "How can I create those qualities which would essentially encourage me to feel social and reflective with other members of the book club?"
A lovely spot for listening and reflecting by the picture window.
We struggled half-way through the project to keep to the original concept. Why do you think creatives have such difficulty staying focused?
I think creatives are always faced with the challenge of the original concept because being creative is being open to the possibilities, respecting the possibilities outside of the original idea. Sometimes taking a walk down other paths help lead us back home, sometimes those paths take us somewhere completely different and blow our minds!

What did you love the most about the final shoot?
I loved that I was waiting for our guests to arrive any minute--that's how complete the project felt to me. I was ready to entertain!!!!

What would you change if we could do it again?
We would have had those damn raspberry-filled cakes!!! (more on this drama in a later post)

Will you ever work with me again and what kind of styled shoot would inspire you? :o)
I would love to work with you again! I don't like to dictate what would inspire me. It's when I feel most uncomfortable I am most inspired.

What true words that wise Tammy speaks! I am so struck by the part about creatives being open to possibilities. It's so true and it can be a blessing and a curse sometimes, can't it? Wandering off the path can lead to frustration and it can also lead to a design gem. There were many times when I was thankful that we had the original inspiration photo to lead me back home.

Thanks again so much Tammy! Thanks also to Karyn Hlad-Miller who did the photography and to Alexis Anderson who helped with the food. Next week I'll highlight that tasty portion of this event, and I'll include recipes as well. Thanks for reading!

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