Monday, March 30, 2015

Launch Before You Are Ready

It was a year ago that I set a goal to launch my own website. The reasons for it then are different than my reasons for it now, which confirms that things are always changing. No, I’m not announcing today that my website is ready to launch, but as you can see, I launched my new logo design. It’s the first step in making it happen.

I could have waited until everything was in place but there comes a time when you just have to step out in faith and say “here it is” …… and the rest will happen. 

You are on the right track!

Since I have made the decision to handle this part of my business myself I have to patiently do a little at a time as I’m filling orders, handling the day to day things for my business and doing life as it happens!

When I first launched my Etsy business I was so tied up in knots about having everything figured out before I pressed published. I wanted to make sure that every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed. I asked “what if” about everything that could possibly happen before it happened and pushed my opening date back further and further.

The truth is, for you and for me, we have to jump in sooner or later. Our best lessons are learned while we are swimming in the water of our business. We can strategic everything from the shore as much as we want but we eventually need to be brave and jump in. 

I launched my logo today. It may seem like a small thing to you but to me it means that bigger and more challenging things are coming. It’s my first step toward launching a larger part of my dream.

Have you been standing on the shore of your dream? Have you been afraid to jump into the water because you feel you’re not be ready? Launching - taking the first step - is the hardest part of the journey. You will never have it completely figured out but that’s okay because no one has it all figured out perfectly!!

So, about my CHALLENGE from last week. I asked you to take a guess as to what font I had chosen for my logo and I gave you 7 designs to choose from. The thing is, no one chose La Veronique, but I have happy news. The three of you who took the time to comment and make a guess EACH receive a discount coupon code to use at Mama Bleu Designs. I am so glad you shared your guesses and expressed your opinions!

So Ann, Susan and Patricia - please email me at mamableudesigns@gmail.com and send me a note with your email address so I can give you the details. Thanks so much in joining me in this impromptu giveaway!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Go With Your Gut Feelings and Make It Happen

When I first started my Mama Bleu Designs business most of my decisions were made with very little thought. I scanned some of my art designs and added a bit of text for my avatar and my shop banner. Now that I’m giving my business a facelift everything feels so hard. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and wondering what is bringing on all this stress and indecisiveness. I believe what it boils down to is a lack of self confidence. Eesh! I mentor people all the time about this and now it’s time to preach it to myself!!

go with your gut feelings and make it happen

As a mentioned in a previous post, I spent some time with my son so I could get some ideas for a fresh new logo. I had already narrowed down my color palette so that helped. As I watched him create a few ideas with Adobe Illustrator I wished I could navigate that program as confidently!

YOU CAN’T RUSH THE JOURNEY

I made a comment to him about how I wanted to have this part done already so I can get on to the next step of this journey. His reply back was so profound for me. He said, “You can’t rush this part. You need to sit with these ideas for awhile and see how they feel.”

I’ve been sitting with the ideas we came up with that day. I printed them off and they hang near my work table. I look at them on my computer every once in awhile and the colors make me very happy but something feels a little off with our initial design. So last night, with the little bit of knowledge I have about Adobe Illustrator, I struggled my way through some new ideas.

GO WITH YOUR GUT FEELINGS

In the letter to my Indecisive Self I said I needed to go with my gut feelings. My gut has been telling me to use a calligraphy font for my website title and my logo. The struggle I’ve been having is that my line drawing of a bird doesn’t pair well with that type of font.


PUSH THROUGH THE HARD STUFF

My first thought was to change the line quality of the bird to match a calligraphy style. Although I wasn’t sure how to do this I was willing to spend several hours just playing around with the sketches my son had made and see what would happen. Sometimes it’s hard to make the idea in your head match what you are trying to create on paper or on the computer. Although it’s hard I always find it rewarding even if it’s just to learn what doesn’t work.

INVEST THE TIME

During those hours of trial and error with the Adobe program I learned a few things. I played with fonts and colors and my take-away from this time was bigger than anything I could have imagined!!

DISCOVERY LEADS TO GREAT IDEAS

I felt like my grandchildren. I found myself in a place of discovery. I had very little knowledge to base any decisions on and some very happy accidents happened. In fact, I discovered a solution for my design question that I never even considered and will probably use it in finished logo!

ANOTHER AH-HA MOMENT

If you know how to do a screen capture on your computer screen you might want to try this. I love some of the fonts from Creative Market but I didn’t want to invest in one without trying it out with my logo elements. So here’s what I did.

Once I found a handful of favorable ones I tried them out by typing out “Mama Bleu” in the type box. After screen capturing each of them I brought them into Adobe Illustrator. With that done I was able to play around with other elements of my logo to see which font was a good fit.

Choosing a Font www.mamableu.com


I listed several of them above. They are all in a rough format but I thought it might be fun for you to see part of my process and take a guess as to which of the fonts I decided on. The first person to guess my personal favorite will get a 5% discount coupon for shopping at Mama Bleu Designs. I'll announce the winner on my blog next Monday. 

Ready, Set, Go and Reply with a comment about your guess!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ideas for Personalizing Your Shipping Packages

My customers are constantly telling me that they feel special because their order is packaged like a gift. That has always been my goal so I’m glad what I’m doing is working. My wrapping paper and packaging style has changed and evolved since I opened my Etsy shop but the purpose behind it has always been the same. I want each and every order to have a personal touch even down to the thank you note!



GIFT WRAP YOUR ORDERS

There is a shop in Cambria, California that I used to visit every year during our weekend stay there. They always took the time to package my purchase in a little brown bag with a piece of raffia tied around the top and a sprig of rosemary and dried lemon added for a special touch. I always walked away feeling like I just bought myself a gift.

I adopted this packaging style for the first year or so of my business. Each bag was handmade! I dried the fruit myself and picked rosemary from my own garden. 


ELEMENTS OF JOY AND SURPRISE

It became obvious as the number of orders increased that I would not be able to put the time and effort into hand making each package. At that time I started looking into packaging materials that I could purchase that still had a quality of joy and surprise to it.

I took an online painting class earlier that year and the instructor sent me a little gift in a glassine bag. I could see that there were some fun things inside the package but there was still an element of surprise hidden behind the frosted paper. I had found my new packaging inspiration!

Personalized Clutches, Perfect Thank You Gifts from Mama Bleu Designs


BEAUTIFULLY SIMPLE

As my business grew even more I needed to find ways to keep things beautiful yet simple. I use supplies like tissue paper, white wrapping paper and printed logo stickers. And I always include a handwritten thank you note. 

Personalized Clutches by Mama Bleu Designs

ADD YOUR OWN TOUCH TO SOME BASIC SUPPLIES

I order all of my supplies from Uline. I’ve found that they are a great resource for just about everything I need. Before you send off your next order think about what you can do to add a personal touch to your packaging. I’d love to hear some of your ideas!!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Guidelines for Choosing the Right Fonts for Your Website

A font is a set of text characters - letters, numbers, dingbats and punctuations - in a specific type style and size. The type design for a set of fonts is the typeface and variations of this design forms the typeface family.

Since I’m in the process of redesigning my website, I find myself in the midst of font choices that make sense for my new design. I am overwhelmed with all the beautiful fonts available to me so I’ve been having a hard time making some final decisions. I know there are branding experts and website designers that I can hire but I’ve chosen to do this myself. With that said thought, I did ask my son for some advice because he is a graphic designer.

I had it in my head that I should incorporate a lovely calligraphy font in my logo because I personalize my items with cursive writing and hand lettering. Yet, every time I matched my little bird drawing with it something just didn’t feel right. I went through dozens and dozens of fonts and couldn’t find one that worked.

What I realized is that my simple line drawing needs to be paired up with a simple san serif font. Once I did that everything clicked!! 

Guidelines for Choosing Fonts for your Website

Sometimes we need to step back and take an objective look at our websites and realized that making them simple, clean and easy to read are the best choices. With that in mind, here is a short list of guidelines for choosing the right fonts for your website.

LIMIT THE NUMBER OF FONTS to a minimum: A good rule-of-thumb is to limit your choices to no more than 3 different fonts to keep your site looking structured and professional.

FUN FONTS: These type of fonts should be limited to titles and logos. They are hard to read in the body of written text

READABILITY: You will find that most printed materials use a serif style font but the web is different. A simple san serif font is easier to read from any laptop or mobile device.

When I am looking for a new font I generally go to DaFont.com for a generous selection of free fonts. Just this week I was introduced to a new site, FontSquirrel.com, which offers an abundance of free fonts as well.

If you are looking for some font style inspiration you can check out my Lettering + Font + Design Board on Pinterest. I’d also love to hear about any other sites you have found that offer free font downloads!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Illustrated Faith

I love happy surprises and I received one a couple of weeks ago when I came across Shanna Noel’s website which is all about illustrating your faith in a journaling bible. Chatting with Shanna via email has been a delight and I love her story about how this artful way of capturing thoughts and scripture verses has turned into a passion of hers. 

illustrated faith

When I started Mama Bleu Designs I brought together some of the things I love, painting and sewing, to create my personalized bags and home decor. Illustrated Faith is much the same way in that I’m able to merge my love for painting, lettering, journaling and God’s word. 

illustrated faith

illustrated faith

Quoted from IllustratedFaith.com ~ Some one once said “we have translated the Bible into many languages but never to a creative one” and that is exactly what Illustrated Faith is striving to do; provide a place to see the bible through a creative mind.

All of this is still new to me but I know one thing…. since I’m a visual learner I doubt I’ll forget the verses that I’m illustrating!! 

illustrated faith

illustrated faith

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cultivating Creativity in Kids

It has been a passion of mine to bring my grand kids into my studio and let them create right along side me. I let them experiment with various mediums and have fun cultivating their own creativity without any rules of how to do that. The reward for me is seeing their imagination grow organically because they know there’s no right or wrong way to make their art, create their project or tell their story.


I treasure the story my son and daughter-in-law told me about a parent-teacher conference they had with Micah’s preschool teacher a couple of years ago. She said that after putting a pile of art supplies on a classroom table, Micah dove in and started creating immediately while the other kids sat and waited for instructions. She was amazed at his excitement to create and fearlessness to do his own thing. She suggested that they get him into an art class and they replied, “he kinda already IS…. with his grandma”!


Being one who has spent years trying to shed the stigma that there are rules for making art and only art made within those rules has any value, I am determined to convince my kids, my grand kids and YOU that this is absolutely not true!!


A little back story for those of you who are new here. I’ve been watching my grand kids at least 2 days a week ever since they were 3 months old. Micah turns 6 in a week and Kyla will be 4 this Summer. So you can see, we have spent a lot of time together!


So how am I cultivating creativity in my grand kids?


Let Them Discover Mark Making as Toddlers

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids



As soon as my grand kids could hold a crayon or other drawing tool without shoving it in their mouth, I put paper in front of them and let them draw. Since I wanted them to discover art making with without my panicing voice telling them they were drawing on my table too, I decided to look at this project from their point of view. They had never used a crayon or pencil before. I was the one with prior knowledge, not them, so I didn’t want to taint their time of creative discovery with any words of correction (within reason of course).


When they first started drawing I spread out a large sheet of paper on the floor with a handful of crayons and let them have fun! If they sat at my table I spread out a large vinyl tablecloth under their artwork or cover the entire table with a roll of paper so everything was art making territory.


White Paper Only


Coloring books have them place but they are an exercise of coloring within the lines of someone else’s work. White paper is blank and ready for a young imagination to explore color, shape and lines.


Graduating to Washable Markers

 cultivating creativity in kids



I love markers. The colors are more brilliant than crayons and they make a bolder mark on paper. The one drawback with markers though is that they can dry out if the caps are left off. Letting my grand kids use markers gave me the opportunity to teach them about caring for their art supplies. They learned that if they didn’t put the cap back on they would have dried up markers next time.  I learned that they needed to wear aprons when drawing with these juicy felt tip pens. Yes, they were washable markers but I didn’t want their parents to find marker lines all over their clothing every time they spent the day with me.


Colored Chalk

 cultivating creativity in kids



Using sidewalk chalk is a fun outdoor project but doesn’t need to be limited to concrete walks. Since chalk is easily washed off of surfaces I encourage my grand kids to find other surfaces to draw on. I think their favorite is a big chalkboard I created by painting chalkboard paint on a big sheet of plywood and leaned it up against the side of the house. My favorite is watching them collect rocks and draw lines and smiley faces on them.


Discovering Paint

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids



This is an easy one to introduce but there are a few things I learned. Water usually goes everywhere so I have a large plastic tarp that I put on the table and anything near by. No kidding! When I first introduced watercolor painting to my grand kids they were just a couple years old. I had the best time watching them discover not only what the paint looks like on paper but what happens when the paint brush touches the surface of the water.

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids


I learned the hard way that acrylic paint does not come out of clothes. When I was taking art classes in college I ruined many of my favorite paints with an accidentally dropped paint brush. I have invested in some plastic paint aprons for the grand kids and I also have what I call "paint clothes" for them to wear when I want them to feel the freedom to really get into their projects!


Scrapbook Style Learning


Art is a great way for kids to grow in their fine motor skills! Learning to use a small pair of scissors was not only fun for my grand kids but beneficial too. I have a drawer full of old magazines, spiral bound journals and colored paper. I encourage them to cut them up as they wish and paste them in the journals with glue sticks. Using scissors is a skill that is hard to master with little hands but is very doable with lots of encouragement. I try not to judge whether my grand kids are ready for a new skill. I introduce it to them and see what their frustration level is. If it’s so hard that it takes away from the fun and hinders their discovery time, I wait and introduce it later. When cutting the paper was too hard I encouraged them to tear the paper.


Make Their Art Supplies Easy to Get To


 cultivating creativity in kids



I’ve created a space for all their art supplies so they can get them out whenever they want. This way they don’t need my help and they can create any time they want. I think it’s important for them to have independence in some areas of their life. This is an easy thing to release to them. Kyla asks to do some kind of art every morning when she arrives and Micah goes straight to the art drawers when we get home from school.


Whether or not my grand kids decide to choose a career path in art as an adult is up to them. My hope is that these years of play and discovery through art making will influence them in becoming great creative thinkers.


Time and time again, I have discovered things WITH them. Art took on a new dimension for me as I discovered and rediscovered things through their eyes. I often sit with them and make simple marks on paper with crayons and markers or watch the watercolor paint swirl in the water. I praise every mark they put on paper, every color choice they make and ask about the story behind their art. In return they say, “good job grama” when I’m working on my own projects. Heart throb!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How I Develop a New Idea

When asked what my creative process looks like for developing an idea for a new product for Mama Bleu Designs I wasn’t sure I really had a “process” until I looked up the definition of the word.


Creative Process: A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.


I wouldn’t say that I go step-by-step through the same process every single time I create something new but there are certain things that help me get from start to finish.


 personalized monogram bags for MamaBleuDesigns

Sketchbooks and Journals


I’ve developed the habit of carrying a small sketchbook or journal with me almost all the time. Inspiration comes to me from almost everywhere so I want to be ready to make a sketch,  jot a note or capture a thought when they come to me. I used to have a journal for each type of activity but that system went out the window long ago. I have a morning journal entry next to a page of sketched ideas mixed with ideas for keywords. It’s not a really organized way of collecting my ideas but that’s what ends up happening. In a perfect world I’d have everything separated and easy to find.


I prefer a journal with an elastic band on it so I can mark the page where I left off. When I find a journal that I like that doesn’t have an elastic band I often use a simple hair band or large rubber band to wrap around the book.


 idea sketches from MamaBleuDesigns


 pile of sketchbooks from MamaBleuDesigns


My Favorite Pen

I like a black pen with a fine tip that flows nicely. When I need a waterproof pen to use under or over watercolor I like to use a fine tip sharpie or Staedtler pen. Otherwise, my very favorite pen is  a Pilot G-2 with a 0.38 tip. It writes nicely and I love to draw/sketch/doodle with it. I’ve tried other pens in the past but for now this is the one I  buy by the dozen so I have one handy in my purse, with my journal, on my work table and clipped to my sketchbook!

 idea sketches from MamaBleuDesigns

Tracing Paper

When I take an idea sketch to the next level I like to use tracing paper. It’s sturdy enough to make a pattern from and transparent enough to see different design layers through.

Usually I have a hoop or clutch size that I’m working with as my basic pattern dimension. I like to draw out my designs or write out words in full size on tracing paper. I’ll cut each element out and play around with their placement on the basic pattern. I know that some people like to do this on the computer but for me, it’s so much easier and faster to experiment with layers of tracing paper.

Pattern Drafting

Once I’ve sketched out my ideas and played around with design elements it’s time to draft a pattern. Sometimes I just tape together my tracing paper pieces for a pattern but most of the time I write down some measurements in a notebook to refer to for cutting sections of fabric or
placing design elements.

Making Samples

I always make a sample of a new design so I know the pattern is perfect. I don’t want to find myself with 10 orders for a new bag while I’m still adjusting the pattern. There are times when I keep making adjustments and creating samples over and over again just to make sure everything is right. Sometimes I decide to go ahead and photograph it for a listing in my shop but there are other times when the design just doesn’t work.


 work in progress for a stitched illustration from MamaBleuDesigns

My Final Step

After all of this creating and refining, I look at the final product and ask myself, “How do you feel about making this 100s of times”? I have to be honest with myself on this because most of my items are personalized and I HAVE made them 100s, if not 1000s of times. If my answer is not a resounding YES then I scrap the idea and go onto another one.

Inevitably, as I’m going through this process with one idea, several other ideas come to mind. It’s a cycle - a never ending process of sketching out ideas and bringing them to life.

What does your creative process look like?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sometimes These Things Happen

Sometimes I have to go with Plan B because Plan A is on my primary computer that is having a very bad day. I have some great blog posts to share with you but they are a bit delayed because I'm using another computer temporarily. Thanks for your patience while I figure this out and check back tomorrow for a brand new post!

 MamaBleuDesigns



Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to Use Picmonkey to Create a Color Palette from Your Style Board

As much as I’d love to be well acquainted with Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, I don’t have the time to invest in increasing that skill right now. I only know enough to get me by on a few things. So, when I wanted to create a color palette from my Color Style Board I looked to see what PicMonkey could do for me and found success!!

How to Use Picmonkey to Create a Color Palette Collage by MamaBleu.com 

I know there might be others who are curious about the process so I thought I’d share a few how-to tips. PicMonkey is a free photo editing service that allowed you to also add text to your photos and arrange them in collage templates. Even though there is a list of standard templates to choose from, they can be easily altered so the possibilities are endless!

You’ll start by going to picmonkey.com and clicking on the collage icon. This will automatically open a window from your computer so you can choose the photos for your collage. You’ll find a menu board on the left with different collage configurations. I chose the “Cards” option and the 6 x 8 size from the drop down menu. 

www.mamableu.com

www.mamableu.com

As you drop your photos in you’ll see a thin grey line appear. This line indicates what area the photo will fill. You can also touch the sides of each column or row and pull or push to make them narrow or wide. This is also true about the width of the entire collage. I wanted to create a long, narrow design and by adjusting and playing with it that’s exactly what I got. 

www.mamableu.com

www.mamableu.com

Once you fill the top two rows with your photos and arranged them the way you like, it’s time to switch over to the edit window. It is there that you can create the shapes for the bottom section and grab colors from your photos. 

www.mamableu.com

www.mamableu.com

It’s easy to create a shape and duplicate it over and over instead of creating a new shape each time. A menu for this option will appear by right clicking on the shape. 

Clicking on each shape will activate a color box. Click on the eye dropper and hover it over the colors of your photos until you find a color you like. After clicking the color, you’ll see a set of numbers and/or letters in the box on the color chart. You may want to add this as text to your color box or make a note of it somewhere so you can refer to it later. This information will help you create a consistent look with the colors for your blog or website. 

 Did this information help any of you? Do you have any other helpful hints for making this process easier or better?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Building a Community on Etsy and a Loop Give Away

I can’t imagine being an Etsy shop owner without the support and connection of a community. The once unfamiliar faces of some of the strongest shops on Etsy are now my virtual friends and have become a great source of information, ideas and encouragement.

Elite16 was one of the very first teams I joined back in 2010 and I’m excited to share with you that I’m joining 16 other team members in an Instagram Loop Giveaway this week! That means, by participating, you have the chance to win one of 17 awesome prizes! 

Custom Made Floral Wedding Clutch by MamaBleuDesigns

The Loop Giveaway starts on Tuesday, March 3rd and runs through Thursday, March 5th. I’ll be choosing one lucky winner who will receive this brand new floral bag that was just listed in my shop. (cosmetics and gift card not included)

So if you haven’t done so already, hop on over to Instagram and follow me there so you don’t miss out when the Loop Giveaway starts!! See you there!!

Custom Made Floral Wedding Clutch by MamaBleuDesigns

Custom Made Floral Wedding Clutch