Thursday, April 30, 2015

Creating a Neighborhood Gratitude Tree

During early Fall of 2013 I had an idea and put it into place. I established the large redwood tree in our front yard as a Gratitude Tree. Neighbors, friends, those who were walking or driving by were all invited to add their own note to our tree. I thought I’d just do it for a season, take it down a couple of months later and reestablish it for a few months each year after that. 

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

The response I got was amazing and I was a little sad to take it down. I’m not sure why I thought it should be a temporary thing but I did...and my neighbors let me know time after time that they were sad that I took it down. Well I re-established it several months ago and we’ve decided to keep going year round.

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

For now, my sign is handwritten and needs to be rewritten every couple of months. And the tags that I have out for people to use are exposed to the weather. I’m considering getting a mailbox of some kind. I think it will be a great addition to the tree area and a good way to keep the tags and pens protected from the weather. 

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

We are know now as the “neighbors with the Gratitude Tree” and that’s pretty fun. All we did was put up out some tags, a few pens and added a sign that invites people to join us in declaring their gratitude for all things big and small. 

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Mom and daughter at our neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

words on a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Creating a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

words on a neighborhood Gratitude Tree

Monday, April 27, 2015

Illustrated Faith

I mentioned last month that I met Shanna Noel on line and she introduced me to a way of blending my faith with my art in a tangible way through Illustrated Faith. These are my latest watercolor journaling entries.

Illustrated Faith

Illustrated Faith

Illustrated Faith

Illustrated Faith

I met with a group of friends and we did some illustrated journaling together. We all agreed that it was a great way for us to slow down and enjoy putting pictures to some of the words in scripture that mean so much to us.

Illustrated Faith

Illustrated Faith


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't Lose the Moments in the Middle of the Busyness

One of my sister’s came for a visit last week and at the end of the day she said, “wow, your life is busy!” I’ve said no to a lot of things and try to narrow my commitments to those that are most important to me and my family but my life is still very full!

I used to fight against the busyness and by the end of my day I was filled with frustration over the details that didn’t get finished or the lack of checking things off my to-do list. I used to think that I wasn’t doing things right if I didn’t accomplish certain things each day but what I realized is that I was measuring the wrong things and putting too much value on “accomplishments”.

The conversation and laughter that happened during the two days my sister was here will be remembered for a long time but the tasks I checked off my to-do list are already forgotten.

My daughter and granddaughter were here as well. All four of us in my studio, talking and sewing and crafting and laughing hysterically in one of the smallest rooms in my house and loving every minute of it.

 family time in Mama Bleu Designs studio

I have a long list of goals for this year which include setting up my own website, improving my etsy shop and doing some mentoring projects….to name a few.  It all weighs on me as the weeks go on but their value is nothing if I don’t enjoy the moments in the middle of my busyness.

I’ve said it so many times before. Reaching goals is great but the journey to our goals is where we live most of our lives! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Create Color Grid Charts with Picmonkey

Ever since I started taking custom orders for my bridesmaid bags, I’ve created color charts for fabric choice references. Each time I purchase a selection of new fabrics I update my color charts. It can be quite a chore to make these updates and I’m always looking for a better way to make these charts easy to read, true to color and streamline the process.

how to create color grid charts with picmonkey
Because I learned how to create a collage in Picmonkey and appreciated how easy that was, I chose to use it again for this task.

SCAN IN YOUR FABRICS

I’ve used different techniques to capture a sample of my fabric offerings. I started by taking photos of each sample but found that the color was too inconsistent. I also tried capturing photos from fabric websites but they look too digitized.

The easiest and most consistent way for me to capture the realistic color and texture of my fabrics is by scanning them. I use a CanoScan LiDe 700F.

EDIT PHOTO COLOR AND SIZE

Even though my scanner does a great job of capturing color and texture I always find it necessary to edit them a bit.

You’ll also find that when using Picmonkey to create collages you’ll need to reduce the size of your photos. If you don’t the program will block you from adding all the photos you might want. Because I used 25 photos to fill my chart, I reduced them to 800 x 800 pixels.

CREATE A GRID CHART 

I like to use a 5 x 5 square grid for my fabric charts. Anything smaller is too hard to read in my opinion. I showed you how to create a collage design in my previous post. I used this same technique to change a square template into a grid of 25 squares. 

Once I created my grid I simply dropped the photos in. Since I like to add a reference number to each fabric square I went straight to the “edit” screen, but to my dismay I couldn’t retrieve the grid to use for the next 25 fabrics.

My solution to this roadblock was to create the fabric charts and “save” them without the reference numbers added. After a completed chart was saved to my desktop I deleted the photos from the grid and the sidebar and added the next batch of 25. I repeated this process until all of my charts were finished. 

ADDING TEXT TO YOUR CHARTS 
Since my charts were now saved as photos, I opened Picmonkey again and used the “edit photo” function. Adding geometric shapes and text my charts was super easy this way!

If you are using Picmonkey to make collages or reference charts and you know any tricks for making this process easier I’d love to hear about it!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Secrets to Getting Press for Your Etsy Shop

There are so many ways of putting yourself out there in hopes of getting published in magazines and on blogs. I’ve listened to podcasts, watched Etsy trainings and collected ideas but I just haven’t made the time to reach out to magazine editors or bloggers yet I’ve consistently been published in major publications year after year. 

Secrets to Getting Press for you Etsy Shop

So what is my secret?

Being on Etsy….plain and simple!!

ETSY IS A RESOURCE FOR MAGAZINE EDITORS 

Year after year I get emails from people who work in the editorial department for magazines and they are looking for items to feature in their next publication. They know that Etsy offers an abundance of new and seasoned artists and makers who are constantly creating new items. Their  job is to find one or more items that match the theme of their magazine article. Because they are working 3-6 months ahead, I’ve had editors click through my sold list to see what seasonal or holiday items I’ve offered before.

ETSY IS A RESOURCE FOR BLOGGERS 

Most of the requests I’ve received from bloggers have been about reviewing one of my items and featuring it on their blog. It may be tempting to jump at every offer that comes your way but before responding I suggest that you do some investigating.

I always take a look at their blog. If the look of their online presence, the voice they are using or the audience they are attracting is completely different from mine then I know I need to decline the offer.

If you get this kind of offer and you don’t see any red flags then go ahead and try it. It may work really well for you. And if it doesn’t then chalk it up as another learning experience.

Not all requests from bloggers have anything to do with reviews or sending products. Most of the time I get an email notification that they have used some of my photos and are featuring my shop because they like my items and my photos. These blog posts often bring traffic to my shop several months or years later. One such feature for me is this one by Ann Kelle!

GREAT PHOTOS ARE IMPORTANT

The one thing I hear over and over from magazine editors is that they like clear, bright photos with white backgrounds.

I spent most of 2011, my first full year on Etsy, tweaking and improving my photos. The fruits of my labor came in January of 2012 when an editor from Stampington & Company approached me about publishing a couple of my items in their June issue of Sew Somerset. I was completely shocked and overjoyed as you can imagine. 

You can find info here on how to make your photos publicity-ready. 

KEEP YOUR ORIGINAL PHOTOS ORGANIZED 

In most cases, when approached about using your photos, a magazine editor will request a high resolution photo of your item. The images that are posted in your Etsy shop are too small to be used for print. I would suggest that you try to organized your photos in a way that makes it easy for you to find all of your original images.

RESOURCES FOR CATCHING THE EYE OF THE PRESS

Although treasuries are no longer featured on the front page of Etsy, there are other ways to catch the eye of magazine editors and bloggers. This article and this article may be a little outdated but I believe you will find most of the information helpful and relevant.
 
Another Etsy article about Getting Press is written by Amy Flurry. I checked out her website and found it to be full of great advice if you decide you’d like to reach out for press opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Benefits of Joining Prototype Teams on Etsy

Etsy prototype teams were such a mystery to me for so long and often, even when I joined some of them, I didn’t give any feedback. Recently, after being an active member of the Listings Management Prototype team, I realized how valuable our voice can be when we give honest feedback in this type of forum.


So let me walk you through where to find the list of Prototype Teams, what you might expect when you join them and how you can benefit from being a part of these projects. 

HOW TO FIND A LIST OF PROTOTYPES ON ETSY 


A link to the list of prototype teams can be found on your Etsy “front page” ~ the page that appears when you click the HOME button or the orange Etsy word in the top left corner. Scroll down the page and you’ll see a list of links on the right. Prototypes is the last link in the list. 

When you get to the landing you'll see that Etsy describes prototype teams as projects released by Etsy Admin for the purpose of gathering data and observing how people use them. These projects may come and go at any time and they may not work as expected. 

WHY JOIN A PROTOTYPE TEAM  

First of all, if you decide to join a prototype team, there is no rule that says you can't leave the team later. 

So why would you want to join a prototype in the first place? The projects that Etsy introduces through prototypes are usually new features they are considering for future release. The members of each team are given the “beta” form of the tools or features. It’s like getting to read a book before it’s released to the public AND we get to give our feedback about how the book ends.

Etsy recently released an update to the Listings Manager on Etsy. As part of the prototype team I had the opportunity to give feedback about the features. I remember telling them that scrolling up and down the page from the title to the tag boxes was so time consuming since I pull my tag words from my listings title. I was shocked that they really listened to my frustrations and made some immediate changes! With a few more tweaks they designed the page so that the title appears at the bottom of the screen when you are working in the editing window!! 

MEMBERSHIP INCLUDES PREVIEW FEATURES 

Whether or not you decide to join in on the feedback conversations, you still get to use the features or tools. After you click “join prototype” they will instantly be available to try.

One such feature you may want to try right now is being tested by the Saved Snippets for Convos team. If you find that you are typing the same message over and over again in response to convos, you may want to join this prototype so you can save message snippets to a drop down menu that is available each time you type out a response to an Etsy convo.  


So in short, I encourage you to check out the list of Prototype teams about once a month. I'd like to know if any of you are part of a prototype and what your experience has been.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Coloring Easter Eggs with Watercolor

I had every intention of bringing out the dye kit for coloring our Easter eggs this year but I changed my mine at the last minute when I saw the beautiful colors of this set of watercolors I just got. The clincher was the resounding “yeah!!!” when I shared my idea with the grand kids. They were all in!

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

Creating art with their little hands is not a new thing to them as I shared in my post about cultivating creativity in kids. The prep work for this project was simple! I boiled and cooled 2 dozen eggs earlier in the day and turned this into an after school project. I spread out a sheet of paper, filled a container of water and laid out a handful of various sized inexpensive brushes next to the watercolor tray. The kids did the rest! Well, almost! I couldn’t resist playing with the paints too!!

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

Micah painted some eyes and rosy cheeks so I added some hair and a tiny mouth. A little collaborative project. 

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints

coloring Easter eggs with watercolor paints


Happy Easter!! Happy Resurrection day!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Finding Your Tribe

What should your Tribe look like and why does finding your Tribe matter?

finding your tribe

When I first started blogging in 2010 and then when Mama Bleu Designs really started to take off in 2012, I read so much about artists getting connected to a tribe. I wanted that so much but I didn’t know what that should look like and how it would even happen for me.

ART RETREATS

I have questioned if I should attend an art retreat and get connected that way but the timing has never been right for me. It’s on a list of mine and perhaps I will attend one in the near future. There are so many to choose from and if this is something on your “bucket list” you may want to check out the details on each of these retreats.

Art and Soul has been going on since 1999 and there are a couple of retreat events scheduled for 2015.

Squam Art Retreats are held a couple of times each year and started in 2008.

And if you saw my post on Illustrated Faith, Shanna is constantly posting information about retreats and workshops on her website.

ONLINE COMMUNITIES

Online communities are good and a lot of great things can come from them. For me, I tend to be inconsistent with them and I prefer a face-to-face connection but I HAVE made some friends online and have learned so much from these communities.

I’ve talked so much about the benefit of joining Etsy Teams. There are literally thousands of teams to choose from but I believe the most benefit comes from the groups that are focused on supporting your business. You have to apply to these teams and agree to adhere to their requirements. Here is a short list of teams you might want to start with.


Facebook Groups are often created as online communities. I have found that some of the podcasts that I enjoy listening to will have a “closed group” that I can apply to. These groups offer a space for further conversations about related topics. One of my recent favorite podcasts is Being Boss and I just joined their facebook group.

There are websites for the creative community and OhMyHandmade is one of them. My intention this year is to take better advantage of what they have to offer. For me this means doing more than just reading their blog posts but possibly becoming part of their community. Websites that offer a tribe connection may (and often do) have a subscription fee. You may consider backing away from fee based groups but if you really think about it, your commitment level increases when money is involved!

MY TRIBE

I may or may not find a group of creative women that I can regularly meet with but that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up the search. In fact, I believe that every conversation I have about this will bring another connection my way and eventually bring my tribe together. I see glimpses of it once in awhile!

In the meantime I am coming to appreciate the tribe that I DO have in my midst. They may not describe themselves as creatives but that doesn’t make them any less valuable to me. These women encourage me in all parts of my life and I have the privilege of doing that same for me.

This past weekend I attending a birthday brunch for my daughter-in-law. As we started our meal together she shared that last year on her birthday she decided she was going to be intentional about building a community of women around her. The fruit of her efforts sat around the table with her. Some were young and some older. Some with children and others without. Some are working in the corporate world and others are teachers or pastors. Our common bond…..we are women in need of fellowship and encouragement and honest heart conversations so we don’t feel alone on our journey.

My encouragement to you is to intentionally build of community of people around you that you can have honest conversations with. There is not right or wrong way to do it. It may happen in a couple of months or a couple of years but it is worth it!! Find Your Tribe!