Surface design : Sheri McCulley

Sheri McCulley’s art heroes are mid-century superstars - Betsey Clark, Mary Blair and Charles Schulz. “My inspiration comes from mid-century pop culture, classic stories and sayings, nursery rhymes, and the commercial art of my childhood. I always wanted to create art that could be mass-produced and reach as many people as possible, which is why I went into licensing. I love the idea of a child being as excited to have a new pillowcase with one of my designs on it as I was when I was nine and my mom sewed me a pillowcase out of Holly Hobbie fabric.”

 

sheri mcculley - chick-a-doodle floret - green

sheri mcculley – chick-a-doodle floret – green

 

Sheri’s patterns are full of life and activity, and often incorporate animals, people and flowers – and sometimes  everything together! They’re a mix of sweet whimsy and bright fun with touches of mid mod and folk, all delivered in palettes of pastel brights.

Working out of her own studio in Overland Park, Kansas, Sheri spreads her creative output between pattern design, embroidery and papercraft, seemingly without drawing breath. {” I tend to lose track of time when I’m designing, and often forget to eat lunch (as well as breakfast, and sometimes dinner)”}. A self-employed illustrator and pattern designer, she licences her art to various manufacturers, as well as selling paper-based products and embroidery patterns directly to consumers on Etsy.

 

“I truly blend my days and nights and therefore weeks into one creative non-stop process. I love it. I live it. I breathe it. Hopefully the passion I have for it shows in my artwork and craftsmanship.”

 

 

sheri mcculley - chick-a-doodle tulips

sheri mcculley – chick-a-doodle tulips

 

Like many creatives, it has been a convoluted path to get to the point where she is with her business. After graduating from art college, she got a job teaching graphic design at another college – “a type of work I was pretty well acquainted with since my dad was an art professor. Though I ultimately left higher education and spent time raising my kids, I always kept designing and spent a couple of years at a small private school as an assistant kindergarten teacher / elementary school art teacher. I enjoyed coming up with new art projects for the kids every week, each designed to teach some principle of art.”

Teaching was a joy. “What was interesting to realize is that the overall ratio of kids who actually have an obvious passion and talent for creating is about the same in kindergarteners as college kids. I liked encountering the special kids who have an obvious affinity for art and who surprise you with unique or deep ideas about what they create, even at a very young age.”

 

sheri mcculley - rainy day flowers

sheri mcculley – rainy day flowers

 

Sheri got serious about her art business about eight years ago, when her and her husband/business manager Tom Seibold first went to the Surtex show in New York and had a booth. They produced fabric, cards, crafting supplies and struck up a few licencing deals, including producing Christmas merchandise for Macys.  However, the focus of her business has shifted and grown. Tom told me “While we still do some licensed products with a few long-time manufacturers, Sheri has been shifting into selling her own designs via digital downloads and print-on-demand products (like the Spoonflower fabrics) – all of which offer ongoing sales with no definite end date, as well as her own hand-crafted stationery products, sold via her Etsy shop.”

“In fact, her Etsy shop is an increasingly important part of her workload as orders come in from around the USA as well as other Anglosphere countries – including the UK and Australia. She personally customizes, prints, and die-cuts each piece of stationery, and it was actually her ‘Signature Fragrance’ design that got this business started. She did an announcement in what we now call her “signature cut” style (i.e.: shaped card, not rectangular) for our niece during autumn, 2012.

 

“The photographer’s random shot of the bride holding the announcement got ‘pinned’ and set off a flurry of requests to have her do it by brides-to-be.”

 

The change from purely licencing designs to being more hands-on with the stationery through Etsy has been involved and hard work, but ultimately more satisfying. “I like being my own product manager, controlling the designs and quality, and working first-hand with my customers—the brides-to-be.”

 

sheri mcculley - kitsch-n-mixer utensils

sheri mcculley – kitsch-n-mixer utensils

 

Another aspect of her business is designing a collection of shapes for cut paper, which are sold via digital download to the crafting market. Illustrator files are converted to files that work as cutting paths with digital paper cutters like the Silhouette (/CraftRobo) or any digital cutter that can connect to a PC (i.e.: not the ones that use designs pre-loaded on cartridges). Each collection includes a series of floral elements that can be selected and cut on demand for specific projects (you can find out more about her digital files here).

Being an avid collector of vintage textiles and furniture since she was in college has resulted in a home full of wonderful vintage, including furniture that she and her husband Tom have refurbished. More importantly, her textile collection – some of it dating back to the 1930s – was the inspiration for turning some of her own illustrations into embroidery patterns. Always charmed by the “Aunt Martha” transfers that had been used by American housewives for generations to add personality to aprons and dishcloths, Sheri saw the resurgence in hand embroidery a few years ago, and it all just clicked.

 

sheri mcculley - tinker talk

sheri mcculley – tinker talk

 

sheri mcculley - tinkers toys

sheri mcculley – tinkers toys

 

sheri mcculley - tinker thinker

sheri mcculley – tinker thinker

 

Despite all these creative endeavours, Sheri doesn’t really even consider herself a ‘crafter’. “I grew up creating art of all types and started embroidering at a young age; although these days, my most craft-like activity is papercrafting, such as the items I design and prototype for the craft art patterns (and print-and-cut downloads) I sell on LetteringDelights.com, and the embroidery patterns sold on Etsy.”

 

sheri mcculley - digital papercuts

sheri mcculley – digital papercuts

 

sheri mcculley - signature frangrance wedding stationery

sheri mcculley – signature frangrance wedding stationery

 

 

“You could say I’m inspired more by designing the elements behind the craft, and giving crafters the pieces that will motivate them to create.”

 

You can find more of Sheri’s patterns in her Spoonflower store sheri_mcculley; more about what she’s up to on her blog; and you can also find her embroidery patterns as well as her beautiful wedding stationery in her Etsy store, sherimcculley.etsy.com.

 

Small Biz How-To: Ways To Stretch Your Marketing Budget
Ways To Stretch Your Marketing Budget:
Guest post by Damian Wolf
marketing budget

 

Limited marketing budgets

Making every dollar count is important whether you are a small or a big business, especially nowadays when making a marketing strategy is extremely pricey and it costs even more to maintain it. To make your company stand out the most and to be present everywhere, your marketing team will have to employ a few marketing tricks which are not expensive or hard to perform.

Stretching your budget might seem like an impossible task, but if you have a proper and well trained marketing team, they will be able not only to find the best deals but to also utilize some methods of advertising which are mostly free. Creativity is still the best way to promote your business.

Ads are more than just advertising space

Perhaps the easiest and cheapest way to use ad flyers is to order them in bundles and to have a whole heap of them. However, if you combine reprints with other information as well, then your customer will have a double exposure which might be more effective. Think about supplying all your departments with reprints so that they can utilize them as well and if customers are there, they can pick up a copy as well.

Moreover, using reprints with other mail material, you can spread your ad campaign even more, especially if you send your customers custom-made mails or if you present them with information which they might have missed before. Remember to stick to a good ad campaign, of course, do not just blatantly re-use it, but try to harvest the basics.

Change is good, but not always

Not every new idea might work well for your company or business. It is important to stick with something that works, and if it works well then build around those ideas. However, it will be extremely important to also utilize surveys and research what is it that your audience finds most effective.

Be online more

Remember that nowadays the Internet helps spread the word faster than any means in the world, and if you have a good marketing team; they will be able to make a good and firm presence on different social networks. Be active and present as much as possible, as you might connect with not just potential customers but with other potential partners as well.

It is advisable to hold contests or smaller social Net events which the general public can join; you will be more engaged with your customers and the prices are virtually negligible for such social events.

Blogs are also a good idea to keep your regular customers and partners updated about upcoming events and what is currently going on in the company. Furthermore, you can post information either to present new ideas or to present your company in a better light. All in all, a blog can be used as an effective advertising tool, but be careful as it will require time and effort to make it run well.

Marketing literature

Brochures are still a very good way on how to inform the general public. But printing them can be sometimes difficult and expensive, and in order to avoid problems with different markets, it is perhaps best to create a general modular layout which you can reprint with ease and without having to change anything drastically if you need a new type of brochure.

Also consider creating online and interactive brochures that your customers can visit and explore, and the upkeep of such services will be significantly lower than printing large quantities of brochures. On the other hand, also consider the fact that virtual brochures are much easier to change and they can be adapted by demand.

Think outside the box

There are certain rules and procedures when creating a successful ad campaign; however, there is no rule to tell you how you should go about it. Use every aspect of your company to your advantage, and chances are that because of the unique idea and method of delivery customers will be more interested.

If you combine promotional gifts with unusual methods of advertising, it will be far better than just doing what everyone else is doing. Creativity can sell you more than any ad campaign could. Do not be afraid to experiment as there is no recipe to rapid success. If you do find a good combination, try to stick to it and use it wherever possible.

 

*

Author bio

Damian Wolf is a writer and part of creative team for promotional items at Cubic Promote in Brisbane (you can check samples of his work here). He loves to write and discuss and write about new trends in marketing and little things that actually make our lives better (not business related). When he’s not too occupied with business or writing, Damian loves to travel with family and barbecue with friends.

 

Surface design : Maze and Vale {Leslie Keating}

Leslie Keating of Maze and Vale is a serial creative, picking up ideas and inspiration from “absolutely everywhere. I try to keep track of them in a sketchbook, where I also keep a ridiculous number of lists of things to do and projects for consideration.”

 

maze and vale - quill in peacock - certified organic cotton

maze and vale – quill (peacock) – certified organic cotton

 

Named for her two daughters, Maze and Vale grew out of Leslie’s intense love of fabric and her background as a graphic designer. Hand screen prints on natural fibres, in a range of muted tones punctuated with bold, her designs are clean, simple and graphic.

“About 7 years ago I fell in love with sewing in general but particularly with quilting and wanted more control over the prints and colours I could use in my work. I’d worked with a lot of hand printed fabric before and decided to use my graphic design skills to create my own textiles. I started carving stamps and using them to print on cotton and linen and then moved onto screen printing as a way to cover larger areas more quickly. Screen printing was way too much fun to stop, and so I decided to start selling the fabric I was creating.”

 

maze and vale - seedpods in perfect red - organic cotton

maze and vale – seedpods (perfect red) – organic cotton

 

To keep her ideas fresh, Leslie uses a variety of techniques with her original sketches, working between hand-carved stamps, pen sketches, or even working straight into Illustrator. All her prints are pulled by hand in her one room studio, and all the colours are custom mixed by her using environmentally friendly, water based textile inks and are printed on natural, sustainable fibres of hemp, organic cotton and linen.

Her list of favourite artists and designers is long. “I honestly couldn’t name them all but a few that immediately spring to mind are Lotta Jansdotter, Julie Paterson of Cloth, Arounna Khounnoraj of Bookhou and Lara Cameron of Ink & Spindle – all amazing designers who screen print their own work, as I do.”

 

maze and vale - tiny forest in alabaster

maze and vale – tiny forest in alabaster

 

I asked Leslie if there was anything quirky or curious about her that she’d like to share. She replied, “I very often get my rights and lefts wrong which I thought was pretty ridiculous until I read an article a while ago that said it was a common trait of highly creative people. Now I see it as a badge of honour! I’m also terrible at remembering people’s names unless I see them written down, another quirk of being so visually oriented, I guess.”

 

Leslie never lets the bad experiences get to her. “I tend to just roll with the punches; it makes life a lot easier, and some really beautiful work can come out of ‘mistakes’.”

 

 

maze and vale - verses - overcast - organic cotton

maze and vale – verses – overcast – organic cotton

 

I love Leslie’s description of her design, Verses.

“Hand drawn marks that resembled text; I added and sketched until I had two paragraphs of unknown words. The paragraphs’ spacing is a bit random and wonky and it somehow makes my heart ache just a little bit, like there is something life-changingly important written there, if only you knew the language.”

 

maze and vale - xox - velvet black - organic cotton

maze and vale – xox – velvet black – organic cotton

 

Her best piece of advice? “To ignore what other people are doing and follow your own style. If your work is from the heart and you put 100% into it with no shortcuts, your audience will find you. (Well, you also have to put it out there in order to be found ;) )”

You can find more of Leslie’s gorgeous fabrics in her Etsy shop, mazeandvale.

 

Small biz how-to : Monday Mini Makeovers {part 5}
Monday Mini Makeovers {part 5}transformations - this way - photo - lulus thai noodle shop - RedHedgePhotos etsy

{image – Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop by RedHedgePhotos.etsy.com}

 

Welcome to Part 5 of Monday Mini Makeovers! I hope you’re enjoying this series, but more importantly, I hope you’re learning some great stuff too! I know I am – the more I figure out what works and what doesn’t work for others, the more I learn about how I can improve my own biz. AND I get to meet some wonderful people and see some great products too!

So, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock or something and wondering what this is all about, this segment is aimed at showcasing the websites of creative micro-businesses just like yours, and giving them the once-over. For each biz I feature, I will give my honest opinion about my initial impressions of their site, with the idea that not only do these lovely people benefit from having a fresh set of eyes over their online presence, but that everyone who reads this can also get tips on how to charge up their own websites and shopfronts.

Would you like one for your biz too? You can! Monday Mini Makeovers are open to the public, so if you’ve got any sort of creative small biz and you’d like me to take a look at your online shop or website, read more about what to do here.}

OK, let’s meet this week’s lovely folk!

 

Belinda from Bell Designs

belldesigns.etsy.com

belldesigns.etsy.com

 

Hi to Belinda from BellDesigns.

Belinda has a beautifully crafted range of jewellery that she makes in her home studio on a rural property just outside Adelaide. She’s got some lovely work, and her shop is doing OK so far (excellent reviews with a 5 star rating is definitely admirable). I think just a few little tweaks will help her shop to really ‘pop’!

Most of Belinda’s work is in silver, and she has styled her product shots with various backgrounds to present a generally monochromatic theme to her whole shop – a range of white, grey or black stones, with the occasional hint of wood. This is fine, but it’s important to make sure that lots of greys don’t make it all too dark.

Starting with her shop banner, I would lighten and brighten the image; I would probably also turn up the colour saturation a little to show off the gold and make it seem a bit ‘warmer’. In the same way, several of her product images would also benefit from being brightened up a little – some of them are a bit dark, and/or need a bit more contrast to show them off.  I would probably also limit the backgrounds to two or three types – consistency makes for a neater looking shop.

‘Bell Designs’ is a lovely name, evocative of bell-like sounds and everything lyrical and beautiful. It would be great if the shop banner reflected this a bit more – think of the flowing curves of many of the jewellery designs. Inspiration might come from the flowing lines of nature, using plants like lilies and ferns as a starting point.

With regard to her Policies page, the Welcome message could be improved. Don’t send your customers elsewhere for information – it doesn’t hurt at all to repeat your happy welcome and brief intro. Customers like to see friendly and happy! There are also a few typos and grammatical errors that should be fixed. If you’re stuck for what sorts of things to include or change, go to some of your favourite Etsy shops and have a read through their policies; after reading half a dozen or more, you are bound to get a better idea of what does and doesn’t work!

I love Belinda’s photo of the country on her About page! And it’s good to include general shots of the workshop and jewellery display. Cute puppies are also always a winner in my books – but I’d suggest getting them out and about in the countryside being happy – grab a great photo of them there, to re-emphasise the rural/handmade setting and convey a sense of how much you enjoy where you are.

It’s great that you give information about caring for your jewellery in your Shop announcement, but perhaps this info could also be included elsewhere? e.g on your policies page somewhere, and most certainly in a little info sheet when you post their order.

Now to the DESCRIPTIONS of items. I’m glad you give the definition of what gold-filled jewellery actually is, and how thick the gold is. Lots of customers still have no idea and might think that it’s actually filled with gold!!

Two other things would be helpful in each product’s description.

  1. Your first paragraph is the most important one – give them a beautiful reason to want this item! If they like it, they will want to read more about it. For instance, your intro could read, “This is my most popular bracelet – called the ‘jingle-jangle’ because it makes such a wonderful sound when it’s worn!”

  2. While you give the actual measurements of each item (and note, it would be helpful to list these in both cm AND inches), we all know that bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and so a link to proper measurement guides would be very helpful. Direct them to size charts somewhere, either on the web, or offer them as a printable PDF so they can figure it out for themselves. I have also seen useful pictures that show you how low different length chains hang around your neck .

 

Phew! I know that might sound like a lot, but really, each one is a general tweak. It’s the little details that add so much to the overall finish and professional presentation – for your items AND your shop.

 

Justine from Yarn for Baby

yarnforbaby.etsy.com

yarnforbaby.etsy.com

 

Hello and welcome to Justine from YarnForBaby.

Justine makes a very cute range of clothing and accessories for babies and small kids – I encourage you to check out her Giraffe set, or the Elephant suit!

Generally speaking, this is a very lovely, fresh looking shop. The product photos are good – clean white backgrounds, and colourful, bright clear images. One thing I’ve noticed though is that there are very few images of babies wearing the items. I know it’s not practical to have photos of your items being worn for EVERY product, but think about doing it for some – especially those items that are reproducible, and are made specifically for photo shoots. It could be a good investment in your business to collaborate with a photographer and get some great shots of a few different sets being worn (perhaps set on a pale background so they fit in with the rest of your photos). Do you have friends with small children you can borrow? Previous local customers that you can contact? Having the occasional picture of a worn set interspersing the ‘standard’ images will make your shop look more interesting and add some reality/depth to what you do.

Your shop banner would benefit from a little more consideration of your shop’s style. Certainly, it’s good to see some sets being worn here, but the images should be better than just snapshots – the lighting and styling is inconsistent. Think about what the feeling is that you want to convey. A professional looking banner will have consistent styling and colouring, and will convey a mood and say something about your shop – the logo and product images for a discount store are very different to that of a boutique. Spend some time looking around other online stores in your niche, and take notes of what you do and don’t like.

Justine’s About page gives an excellent description of who and what she is, and how much crochet means to her. If she could add the same enthusiasm and passion to her Policies’ “Welcome” section, that would be awesome! It doesn’t have to be more than 1 or 2 sentences, but it would really lift it.

Getting yourself noticed is not just about having a good-looking shop either (although it’s certainly part of it). When you use Social Media, really USE it! Share things from around the internet that interest you; ask questions (not just about your products) – get your customers to talk about themselves, and get a sense of community happening. There are lots of other ways to connect with customers online too – I talk about a few here and here.

fabric dot

Now it’s over to you readers again!

How did YOU go with all of that?

Can you think how the suggestions I’ve made today could be applied to your biz? What would you change? What would you keep the same? Have I still not solved your problem for your biz? Maybe the previous Monday Mini Makeovers  might help. And as always, if you’ve got a specific question let me know in the comments below. – I’m more than happy to help anytime!

AND, if you would like a Mini Monday Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is pop me a line at info@tractorgirl.com.au, with a link to your shop. If you want more information about how the MMMs work, you can read about them here.

See you then!
Julie X

Photography + Craft : Clemens Wirth

Clemens Wirth swears he’s not a wizard despite his red hair. But I have my doubts when I look at his miniature moving dioramas and  think about what has actually gone into making them. I think they’re incredible.

 

clemens wirth - gravity

clemens wirth – gravity

 

An Austrian filmmaker and artist living in Innsbruck, he first got himself a DSLR camera during his multimedia studies at university, and started to experiment in macro photography through investigating both nature and everyday objects. The details of the world have fascinated him ever since.

Despite graduating only three years ago, he’s already worked with an impressive list of clients including BBC1, Working Title Films UK, and Red Bull Media House, and was nominated for the 2012 SXSW Excellence in Title Design Award. In fact, it was his final year project, the title sequence for a film about World War I called Herbst, that got him the SXSW nomination.

 

clemens wirth - figures for herbst

figures for herbst

 

Working with a variety of model railway figures, he created images of the loss surrounding war, detached from reality but perhaps even more poignant for their likening war to a game played with toys.

 

 

His most recent work is a series of still photographs called New Adventures, and he describes it as “the end result of my previously learned experiences in miniature and diorama. I love to work on a small scale, to handcraft, to tinker, to make, to tell little stories and finally pack it all together in a picture where there is room for your own interpretation.”

 

clemens wirth - above the clouds

clemens wirth – above the clouds

 

clemens wirth - fly me to the moon

clemens wirth – fly me to the moon

 

clemens wirth - heavy rain

clemens wirth – heavy rain

 

clemens wirth - fireflies

clemens wirth – fireflies

 

 

clemens wirth - herbst

clemens wirth – herbst

 

You can find out more about him on his own site, www.clemenswirth.com, and purchase prints from his Etsy shop, ClemensWirth.

 

clemens in the studio

in the studio