Getting there

Check out my Photoblog for more picks like this one.

It's been a week. That's the best way to describe it - gathering with family to celebrate my uncle's life, finding out that student loans really do haunt you years after you're finished with school, trying to keep up with Maddy, figuring out what we're doing with the yard this year... and it's only Thursday.

I've gained a lot of energy this week, though, likely due to the amount of time we're spending outside with the weather being so nice. Even a half hour or so a day seems to be doing wonders, not only for me, but for Keith and Maddy, too. Maddy looooooves our backyard, especially the slight hill we've got coming up to the house. I can hardly wait until we get the fence in next month and she can run freely rather than us chasing her to the edges of the property.

And even though we've been snow-free for a month now, I'm not even going to attempt to plant anything for a few more weeks. The forecast for early next week is calling for snow and a high of only 4C (39F) on day, so there's no point in gearing up the garden only to have it freeze and die. But that doesn't mean I can't plan what I'm putting in (and taking out this year - 3 annuals and a rose bush... hopefully to other gardens) before we get it rototilled and prepped for the actual planting.

But today I've got work to do. Lots of work. Tonnes of work. Will I get it all done? Heck, no, but I figure it's better to have a list to work with than try to do it without any sort of organization at all.

What I need to do:
  • finish the new bag design I started on Tuesday. To do this, I need to get to the store to pick up a pack of fasteners. Once I've got them, though, it shouldn't take me long to complete it... if I don't screw it up. I've learned to take my time and that the iron is really a good tool, so if I can keep from going at this all willy-nilly, it should turn out well. *fingers crossed* 
  • finish the embroidery work on a couple of pieces. It's not really embroidery work, per se, but it's work with an embroidery needle and floss. I'm trying to add a bit of uniqueness to some of my pieces by finishing them by hand. Not sewing machine, but hand, as the lovely calouses on my thumbs and right middle finger can confirm.
  • keep tweaking my branding. I'm still working at getting everything I have my name on (like cards, Etsy and Twitter, so far) to have a similar look. For the most part, almost everything uses the same fonts, but doesn't necessarily look the same. I've got an idea of what I want to do with the banner here, but can't actually do anything until the battery for my camera is charged. Then there's the question of redesigning this particular blog, especially when I own nisseworks.com. Decisions, decisions.
  • marketing, promoting and networking. I feel like I've plastered my business everywhere, but I know there's still a lot of work to do and that it's never ending. Yay.
And I've got my month-end to do tomorrow, as well as catch up on all the rest of the paperwork I've been slacking off on for the last month, too... necessary evil and all that. Once that's all done, I imagine there'll be some changes I have to make to my shop and decisions that will be made about opening a second shop somewhere else for the other crafts/arts that I've been thinking about doing. But for now, I'll stick to doing the creative stuff... it's what I'm relatively decent at... I think.


      Plodding along

      I've been struggling to come up with a decently coherent post today, and have had no success at all - obviously... so I'm going to step away from the computer, feed my daughter and then go shopping with her. Maybe someone at the mall will do something amusing that I can write about later...



      I'm going to what could be called a wake today... my mom's older brother passed away earlier this week. I'm not sure what of - cancer, infection, pain - but he was only 62. He continues the pattern of (relatively) early deaths for the men on my mom's side of the family.

      I think this is the only photo that exists of just him and I. It was taken after my sister's wedding in 2007 on what was the hottest day of the year. After the ceremony, we walked back up the "aisle" (hill) and I ran into Danny and his family with their cooler of beer. I gratefully accepted his offer of a nice, cold, refreshing MGD... it was probably the best drink I've ever had.

      I'll miss him, even though we weren't close. It'll take a long time to stop referring to him in the present tense, but I know eventually we'll all come to accept that he's not going to be at the next family event, making fun of my sister or arguing with my mom.

      My favourite memory of him is when I traveled east by train to go to school in Quebec. He was a conductor for Via Rail at the time and made the 8 hours we were on the train with him really special and comfortable. When I moved back home a few months later, he'd obviously told his fellow conductors to watch out for me, something I didn't expect and really appreciated.

      We'll miss you, Danny :)


      Doing my little bit

      It's been a hectic week and it certainly doesn't look like it'll be slowing down at all.

      In honour of Earth Day today, Keith and I are going car shopping. Counter-productive, you say? Not quite... we're looking at going from two cars to one, eliminating Keith's '99 Sunfire and my '06 Rio5. So not only will we be moving to a more efficient vehicle (sadly not a hybrid... only because of the cost, though), I'll have less access to a vehicle for any errands I'd need to do after Keith goes to work in the afternoon (he needs the car for his job as a sports reporter for the local daily), which means more walking. And more walking benefits not only the environment, but me as well, which is always good.

      We've just returned from visiting various family over the last few days, so I'm a bit behind on my work, but I'm hoping to squeeze in some quick finishing touches on a few pieces to put in my shop either tonight or tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, get a sale. Fingers crossed and all that :)

      Oooh! Almost forgot - there are several new photos I've just put into my Photoblog. I'm hoping to get in a post here later today - in between car shopping and groceries and Maddy... in the meantime, take a look around my Photoblog and my Etsy shop... or go out and enjoy your Earth Day :)


      Calling cards

      I've mentioned before about the challenges I've had coming up with a logo. Now that I've settled on one (I hope), I'm starting to go through all the headers, avatars and related stationery to try to get everything as similar as possible... all part of a branding strategy I'm trying to incorporate into my business.

      I've got a new header on my Etsy store, a new background for my Twitter page, I'm working a new banner for this blog - along with a new placeholder design (placeholder because I do own nisseworks.com, just don't have the funds to actually have the site hosted yet)... and then there's the business cards.

      Like I said, logo's no problem. I like my logo - a nice combination of fonts and a nifty use of a brush shape in Illustrator (I'm still using CS4... CS5 is a very, very, VERY distant purchase)... it's how I'm going to use it to effectively sell my brand that's the problem.
      This was the very first business card I did up, back when I thought I could actually be a freelance graphic designer in a city that has an odd plethora of freelance graphic designers. Ignoring the logo, it's not terrible. Simple, clean, easy to recognize... because it's pretty damn bland. Looking back (six months), I can't believe I thought this was how I wanted my potential business portrayed - especially as a graphic designer. Eep.

      The second go-around. An improvement, if only because it wasn't so bleh as the first one. This is the card that I came up with when I launched nisse.works as a handmade crafts enterprise (hence the tag 'Handmade crafts & designs... smart, eh?). If there's one thing I've learned in my many years in graphic design and journalism, it's that sometimes, less is more. I liked this card, but because I'm trying to keep expenses to a minimum, I print my cards at home (on my lovely Epson that I picked up on sale and don't use enough). And because I'm not a major print shop, those thin pink, green and brown stripes on the left side don't always turn out right. Or at all.
      This is the most recent version of my business cards. Even simpler than the previous one, but not as mundane as the first. It's got the info I want right where I want it (I'm a fan of justification - left, centre, right... I don't care, as long as it's all justified) and looks pretty damn good on the metallic cardstock I've got. But as with most things I design for myself, I'm not as keen on it today as when I came up with it, so this whole branding thing couldn't have come at a better time.

      I have no idea what the next round of cards will look like - I will be doing them myself and printing them from home to save on the costs, so there's no need to use the local big box office supply store's standard offerings. Simplicity, yet creative and unique are definitely going to have to play a part, but I don't want them to look like someone made them up in Microsoft Paint. I shudder at the thought...

      I've collected a few websites that have some pretty kickass samples of business cards that I can hope to one day emulate (not duplicate). Take a look through them and marvel at how awesome - for lack of a better word (it is after 10pm here, so...) - these cards look. Especially when you consider the old standby design of 'logo in the left corner, name and title centred, bolded and in 12pt Times New Roman, office address and information below that in 8 pt TNR as well'. Blah.

      100 Fresh Creative Business Cards
      100 Refreshing Black & White Business Cards
      The Basics of Business Card Design
      Business Cards - a set on Flickr
      Cool Business Cards



      I was out at my parents a couple of days ago for an appointment and to get Maddy out of our (tiny) house for a bit. My mom had mentioned that she had some things to give me, which kind of surprised me as she'd just given me two bags of extra material, lining and polyfill last weekend.

      I walked away with that massive glass jar and paper bag pictured above, filled with well over 35 spools of thread, half a dozen zippers, button elastic (soooo excited about this!) and other bits and bobs.

      Out of those spools, only three are my own - white, black and red. I'd bet that all this thread would cost $100 easily - at least in today's prices.. there were quite a few spools that had '5 for $1' on the stickers, or 50¢ each. But the selection of colours... oh, the colours. I've been fairly thrifty (actually, broke) so I've stuck with the standards in terms of colours, for the most part. But this very generous gift from my mom has such a wide variety of colours that I can use in my projects. Aqua, teal, wine, violet, blush, emerald, pumpkin... oh, the fun I will have.

      Along with the thread, I brought home a lot of notions. Elastics, zippers, buttons, hem tape, snaps... all things I've been putting of buying. And I know my mom didn't just run out and pick this stuff up so I wouldn't have to - those 'Klikit' snaps? Original sticker price of 39¢ is still on it, from a store that hasn't existed here for at least 30 years.

      The snaps were probably the most interesting find of the day, not only for the price. I've been using standard silver snaps for some of my pieces, but these snaps are just... different. They have the exclusive 'floating ring', which I'm guessing was pretty technologically advanced for whenever these were on store shelves (I'm guessing 1950s, based on the graphics alone), and they were guaranteed by Good Housekeeping.

      I'm looking forward to using everything I got from my mom, as well as finding the perfect fishing tackle box to hold it all.


      Diamond in the rough

      There's a folder in my bookmarks where I've saved links to sites that I've become a regular reader of over the years. When I'm bored - or, more likely, procrastinating - I go to that folder so I don't end up constantly refreshing my Facebook or Twitter for an hour straight, or re-reading the headlines on Bourque for the umpteenth time.

      One of my favourite sites in that folder is The Canadian Design Resource. I really should visit it more often than I have been lately... it's a fascinating collection of (mostly) Canadian design in every kind of format imaginable. I'm a big fan of the travel/transportation-related submissions, as well as the historical ones (especially the WWII posters). It's nice to see people actually appreciating the fact that we can actually produce designs that can compete with the ones the U.S. media throws at us all the time.

      The massively-wide variety of designs on the site is impressive too... not just graphic, but fashion, ceramic, architectural, industrial, textile, paper... just, wonderful. 



      Seriously. Blog post. Tomorrow. Promise... even it's only about cutting out a pattern for a custom bag I've been asked to do.

      I can't even imagine how I could hold down a job and do everything I'm trying to do right now. Working moms - you bloody rock :)  (I think SA/WFHMs rock, too, being one and all :) )


      Promises, promises...

      At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm still sick and not really up to doing anything beyond trying to keep my head from exploding. It's entirely possible I'm actually getting sicker. Woot.

      So, likely no new post today. No new pieces added to my shop. Nothing but rest and hopefully some sleep today.

      Have a good Monday!



      I'm slowly getting over a chest/bronchial infection/laryngitis/sinus cold, so I've been a wee bit lax in posting here.

      I'm hoping to change that tomorrow. I may even have a new piece to show off... if I can figure out the mechanics of how to close it.

      Enjoy what's left of the weekend :)


      Another iron in the fire

      I set up a Photoblog this morning.

      I'm still not sure if it was the best idea, but I did it.

      Take a look. Spread the word. Let me know what you think.

      (Also, selling prints via Fotomoto... via said Photoblog.)


      One of these things is not like the other

      I happened to catch Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags on Wednesday morning during Maddy's first bottle. I had a pretty limited knowledge of the history of the Garment District, but this doc filled in all the holes - the origins, the decades of success and the recent plummet of the industry in the U.S.

      A complete coincidence was last night's America's Next Top Model (yes, I'm a fan), which used the photo challenge to focus on the horrible effects (sarcasm) of knockoffs on the fashion industry.

      Kind of an odd juxtaposition these two shows... especially when they bookend the day.


      And it's only Wednesday

      Oh, what a week.

      I'm battling a chest cold that came on very suddenly on Sunday, but it seems to be getting worse, yet better at the same time - it hasn't moved into my head yet, but it feels like my throat is lined with tiny little needles, so I try to avoid swallowing as much as possible. It's been a blast.

      And then there's the computer issues. My iMac died a slow, painful death earlier this week... I tried to fix it or at least get it to the point where I could at least pretend I knew what I was doing.

      When it spit out the installation disk Tuesday morning and started flashing the folder with a question mark, I knew there was only one solution to my problem.

      A new iMac. So Keith, Maddy and I made a in-and-out trip to Winnipeg yesterday afternoon to pick up a new computer so I could keep trying to sell my products online and not lose touch with the outside world without an internet-accessable computer. I do have an iPod touch, but the easiest way to charge it is with a computer and well, ours was dead.

      So, yes... a new computer. And a new determination to get the marketing of my products into a higher gear. I've done some easy stuff - Twitter, comments on blogs and in the Etsy forums - but nothing really adventurous. I'm not saying that I plan on hiring a skywriter or anything, but I need to start drumming up business outside of the crafting community.

      Part of that plan is coming up with some unique and in-demand pieces, like iPad cases and more summer-friendly bags. I know that a lot of people use the slow time of the spring and summer to start compiling their Christmas stock, so there's that to figure out and hope that what I think I could sell actually sells. And the craft sales this fall...

      It's going to be a busy, busy, busy couple of months coming up. Besides the Etsy store (which is probably only going to be one of 3-4 stores), I'm going to be making all of Maddy's summer clothes and doing some custom work for a friend of my mom's. And gardening and doing all the usual family summer stuff, which this year includes putting up a fence with Keith's dad (and Keith).

      It's been a learning experience, this first month of having an online store. I can't say whether or not it's been a failure or success yet, obviously, but there are definitely things I can do (or not do) to improve my standing so that the next month is the first step on the way to feeling like a contributing member of society again.

      Tomorrow's a new day and I've got yet another to-do list to tackle. One day, the only thing on my to-do list will be 'sleep all day'... one can dream, right?



      New iMac.

      Now I can get to work. Hopefully, I'll have a post up later about the new products I'm working on, the new computer we've got and an update on the photo fixing adventures at my Etsy store.

      Woot. Woot.




      I had planned on doing a post today about what I've learned in the last month, but my iMac crapped out on me while I was uploading new photos to Etsy.

      I am now spending my day trying to get said computer running again. Of course, this happens a few days after my credit with an electronics superstore is essentially eliminated as they moved their credit from one company to another.

      So, yes, Macs do crash. This is the third time for this particular Mac.

      Fingers crossed, it'll be fixed today. If not, I guess I'll be heading into Winnipeg to pick up another one. In the meantime, my iPod Touch is getting quite the workout.