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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Open for Business!

After some serious re-working of my banners and marketing copy, I am so happy to finally announce the official opening of my etsy shop!


It's a great feeling to see my cards listed and out in the world for people to purchase. Of course, I've still got some serious creating, marketing, and business planning to do. On top of adding new products to the shop (a must if I want to stay visible in the etsy search pages) I've also set a new goal of participating in a craft fair this year. I will need to build my inventory and range before seriously applying for one of the big Toronto shows. I would love to show at City of Craft in December, especially since this is the show that introduced me to so many amazing Toronto artists. It's a competitive arena, however, so I'll have to put together a stellar application before August 31st. (Including my first Christmas-themed cards! That's right, it's not even July yet and I'm already dreaming of snowflakes!)

I hope you visit the shop if you have a chance. I would love to hear feedback about the presentation and write-up of the cards.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Here... Take My Card

I crossed a big project off my To Do list today by finally creating my business cards!

My stamping aesthetic has increasingly moved towards single, detailed images in dark ink against lighter backgrounds and I wanted to maintain this look with the cards. This morning's session began with my continued search for the best image to stamp on the cards that would be small enought to provide room for text, but large enought to showcase a print style similar to the detail and texture of the greeting cards. After dismissing a long list of potential images, I settled on three: a branch, a lotus, and a typewriter.

I started with the typewriter stamp.

I tested the stamp a few times in my notebook, but didn't really like the image and decided to move on to my other ideas.

Next came the lotus stamp.

The resulting image was clean, but generic, and didn't really convey much about my broader style or purpose. In fact, this card immediately gave me a 'hotel' vibe, so I scratched it off the list and moved on to my third image: the branch.

I liked this image better, but still didn't think it worked for Sonnet & Mayhem. So, I decided to go back to the typewriter stamp and test it out on an actual card before venturing back to the kitchen table for a fourth carving session. To my surprise, when I stamped the typewriter image on an actual business card I liked it much better.

An hour or two spent bumbling around with my business card template, various typewriter fonts, and my printer, and the first offical Sonnet & Mayhem business card was born.

Not only am I really happy with how the overall layout and look of the card turned out, but I'm also releaved that the typewriter stamp has proved to be an easy print to replicate. The image looks good in dark, heavy ink, but also works well with a lighter, water down mix, and it's also easy to place in the right spot on the card. This makes for a quick printing process, which is a must if I'm going to be producing these things in larger batches.

The one downside of having the typewriter image and business card text work out so well is that I may need to rethink my other business designs to make sure the overall image of Sonnet & Mayhem remains consistent. That, however, is an issue for tomorrow. Right now I need to get some sleep.

Down to Business

Yikes! It's been almost a week since my last post and I'm shamefully behind on my projects. Between graduations, graduation parties, my first wedding anniversary, a massive clean of our apartment, and a decent amount of time becoming re-acquainted with my childhood favourite Black or White (Good-bye MJ), it's been pretty crazy around here.

However, I've finally taken a few of my vacation days and have a glorious stretch of open time ahead of me in which to get a huge amount of work done on the cards, the business cards, the etsy shop, and this blog.

Stay tuned! I promise there will be lots to come between now and the end of Canada Day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

aut vincere aut mori

The Latin phrase above translates roughly into 'either to conquer or to die' and just happens to have been my motto for this evening's activities (It's now after 1 a.m.). I promised a hand-stamped card for my sister's law school graduation and after much blood (literally... carving can be a dangerous activity), sweat, and scattered lino-block shavings, I think I've soundly defeated the challenge at hand.

With so many traditional graduation images to choose from, I did quite a bit of brainstorming before I finally settled on the jubilant image of graduation hats being tossed in the air. Simple, fun, and relatively easy to carve.

I started off with nine hat images in various mid-flight poses.

It was a good thing I erred on the side of too many hats because I destroyed one in the carving process and ended up eliminating two more after I tested the stamp.

The stamp produced a good print, but in order to really make a fantastic card I felt that I needed to go beyond the standard 'Congratulations!' Fortunately, the internet will grant even the most absurd request for information and, after a brief search of latin law phrases, I came across the perfect message:

You May Approach the Court

What could me more perfect than that?

The printing process was relatively smooth. I destroyed a few of my good, white cards in the name of art, but I think the final card will be perfect for tomorrow's celebration. Now, not only have I been inspired to produce more event-themed cards, but I also discovered one of the funniest Latin phrases I have ever read.

They can because they seem to be able to

Ridiculous, right? I think I'm going to make it my official Sonnet & Mayhem motto!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh, Summer...

I had a great time outside the city this weekend. T made a chocolate stout cake that was easily over 2500 calories per square inch (i.e. heaven) and I did, well, not a whole lot. Just a lovely, relaxing weekend.

I'm not getting too off track with the stamping though. In fact, I have a very tight deadline (tomorrow) for a graduation themed stamp because I promised my mother I would have one ready for Wednesday when my sister graduates from LAW SCHOOL! So, I should have another stamp for my collection by this time tomorrow.

Pretty soon I'm going to need a bigger box!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Everyone Needs a Good Hutch

I'm a fairly neat and organized person, but I'm currently dealing with a very limited amount of space in which to store my supplies. Most of my printing happens right on our kitchen table and it's not the kind of art mess that I can leave scattered around after each session.

Luckily, I own the world's best hutch.

It really is the simple things in life...

On a different note, I will be heading up to my parent's place this weekend and will not have access to email (except via T's blackberry, but I won't be writing any blog posts on that). I'm hoping to get a bit more carving done and possibly make some headway with Infinite Jest. I should have an update on Sunday night. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I intended tonight's testing session of the shell stamp to be brief, but my experiments to find the perfect ink consistency for the print instead resulted in a marathon session of playing around with new techniques. I use basic speedball inks for the prints and up until this point I have been diluting them with only enough water to help the ink brush on smoothly. I like using the thicker ink because it tends to leave a heavier print on the page and gives the image a slightly three dimensional quality. However, the thick ink technique was not doing much for the shell stamp.

Then I accidentally put too much water into the brush and ended up with a much softer grey stamp:

I liked this print a lot more and decided to play around with making the ink even thinner and lighter. The end result was this very lovely print:

With this little progression under my belt, I decided to see if I could improve the prints from any of my other stamps using this new heavily watered down ink technique.

[Insert hours of frenzied activity, paper and ink scattered everywhere, sighs and groans, a brief tea break, and many, many rounds of trial and error.]

The resulting images are equal parts experimental and (I hope) beautiful. Some of the stamps (the trumpet, the rose) produced great prints when brushed with heavily diluted ink.

The broken lines of the rose stamp were almost eliminated by the light ink, meaning all that carving wasn't for nothing!

A totally waterlogged trumpet stamp produced this image:

And, while I didn't print any cards tonight, I do have pages and pages of practice prints to reference when I do get around to another serious printing session.

The best discovery of the night, however, was the potential to produce a really interesting, multi-print piece of art from the stamps. It's something I thought about doing with the Chrysler building stamp before, but this page of trumpet prints is much more inspiring. It might look like just another test page, but I am totally in love with how the different trumpet prints look together.

It was fun to get back to printing after so many days of doing background work for my etsy shop. Hopefully, I won't destroy too many cards trying to replicate some of these images on salable items!

Sweet and Simple

I've been trying to think of a small image that I can stamp on my soon-to-be-printed business cards to give them the same unique, handmade flare as my cards. The image needs to be about the size of a quarter (maybe a bit bigger) and should feature enough detail to match the kind of prints that customers can expect when they order one of my cards. Unfortunately, settling on an image has been a lot harder than I thought. Most of my stamps to date won't work because they're too big and I'm also trying to be careful to avoid images that might misrepresent the main focus of my card designs (i.e. I think a little flower stamp would make Sonnet & Mayhem seem too 'traditional invitation' oriented).

I worked on this problem for a while last night before giving up and carving a regular sized shell stamp. I haven't tested it yet, but I'm hoping that the thin lines of the carving produce a similar print to the french horn. I'll be sure to post my practice prints tonight.

As lovely as the shell stamp might be though, it isn't getting me any closer to solving my business card image dilemma. Should i go for abstract? Simple silhouette? A variety of different, yet related designs? So far, I've entertained the following possibilities: four-leaf clover, shooting star (I know, terrible, right?), person doing a jumping jack, finger print, brass bell...

Maybe I'll go with a bird image. A wren or blue heron. A sparrow even. Birds are suitably identifiable, yet have the potential to be odd and beautiful in silhouette form. I guess I'll have to keep experimenting tonight and see what I come up with.

Of course, suggestions are also welcome!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things I can't get enough of...

1. Evenings in June
2. Patio dinners + great friends + great conversation
3. A really good, challenging book

Thankfully, I've been getting my fill of all three lately, which is part of the reason my card making and etsy shop progress have been slow. My next two evenings are free for creative work, however, so my carving slump should end shortly. Of course, the really good, challenging book in question is Infinite Jest, so I might not actually get anything done this summer except conquering the +1000 page monster.

Why Infinite Jest, you ask?

Well, I've been a David Foster Wallace fan since Brief Interviews landed on one of my course reading lists in undergrad. Then, I came across Infinite Summer, which is an online challenge for readers around the world to finally roar through the fifty pound paperback.

How could I resist?

Of course, I'm not sure my strategy of adding a huge summer reading challenge to my To Do list is the most effective way of keeping my fledgling creative business on track. I'm chalking it up to 'inspiration' for now, but we'll see how I feel by page 572.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weekend 'To Do' List

There's nothing I love more than a good 'To Do' list and, with so much to prepare for my etsy shop, the weekend's list is a doozy. Luckily, I purchased a beautiful new notebook specifically for my 'To Do' lists, financial record keeping, and brainstorming needs.

Of course, a 'To Do' list is only as a good as the get-down-to-business work ethic that follows it, and I'm determined to get as many entries on this list completed as possible before I head off to a wedding tomorrow afternoon. So far, my productivity has been high.

I completed 1. 'Create and print information inserts' this morning and I think they turned out really well. I especially like the way the red paper livens up the packaging of the cards.

I've also taken advantage of this gorgeous day to tackle 6. 'Take better pictures of cards.' The sun on our balcony has been amazing and the outside shots are a big improvement from the dull, gray inside shots I've been taking.

Now, with some brighter shots of the cards and drafts of the marketing copy completed, I'm finally ready to get down to the technical details of posting the cards. However, I also think it would be criminal to miss a precious sunny, warm afternoon in June, so I'm off for a walk with T and maybe a smoothie. Not on the 'To Do' list but, for a pale, vitamin D deficient Canadian, important nonetheless!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Need An iPhone

Generally speaking, I'm not one to covet technology. My computer skills are moderate-to-fair and my pay-as-you-go emergency cell phone is charged so rarely that the only way it could actually help me in an emergency is if I was being attacked and could throw it in self-defence. It takes me a good five minutes to navigate through my husband's blackberry to find a phone number and I've dropped my digital camera so many times that I probably should never have been given one in the first place. At the end of the day, I'm really more of an aged paper and thin-tipped black pen kind of girl and I tend to splurge on beautiful notebooks over anything that requires charging.

Something tells me that this is about to change.

Today, as I browsed through my regular circuit of art and design blogs, I came across this little article on design*sponge about two new apps that have been designed for the iphone. The new apps allow you to take a picture with your iphone and instantly match the colours to corresponding sherwin williams and benjamin moore paint chips and colour numbers. Amazing!

As someone with a new apartment in her near future, this latest iphone development might just be the final fun, sparkly thing to get me to embrace the wired life.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I've been a bit under the weather, so progress on the shop has been on hold. However, I did get a chance to print up these little beauties. I'll be using them to seal the plastic envelope for each card.

Up Next:

Create an information insert featuring my email, the blog address, and a brief description of how the cards were made. I still haven't figured out a subtle way to include 'Sonnet & Mayhem' on to the cards themselves, so I need to ensure that the packaging includes this information. I didn't factor needing an appreviated marker of the company name when I chose 'Sonnet & Mayhem' and, therefore, neglected to notice that the name's initials don't send the most approriate message about my cards!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Slow and Steady

I had big plans this weekend for getting my etsy shop up and running, but I got a bit sidetracked printing on my new, colour cards. Unfortunately, instead of strengthening my inventory, I learned a painful lesson about not looking closely enough at my card stock before making a purchase.

The new cards have a rougher finish than the white and tan cards I ordered a few weeks ago and they're also made from thinner paper. When I tried to print my more detailed stamps on them (the trumpet, the french horn) the rough surface didn't pick up all the detail and the wetness of the ink made the front of the cards curl slightly. The end result was a lot of work and very few polished cards.

Luckily, one red card did turn out nicely.

At this point, my favourite cards are still the crisp white ones that really show the tiny details of the stamps. My most consistent prints have been the french horn and the power line stamps, so they'll likely be the first ones up in the shop.

I've also been working on writing a lot of copy for the shop, which has been an interesting experience. I'm trying to strike the right balance between establishing a little narrative and personality in the descriptions without making them sound too silly. I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer to see if my pitches are effective! Until then, I'll be fine tuning the packaging and trying to get some better pictures of the cards I've made so far. I still haven't gotten the lighting/angle/flash dynamic quite right.

Sweet Victory

I'm not one to brag, but I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Step 1: Strawberries, cherries, raspberries

Step 2: Dark chocolate + Jackson Pollock

Step 3: White chocolate + Jackson Pollock

My husband's smore pizza didn't stand a chance.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I should not be left alone in an art supplies store...

I swear my intentions were good when I set out on a lovely walk today to do some brainstorming and pick up one new piece of lino-block. After resolving not to spend any more large sums of money on 'materials' until I have actually sold a piece or two from my current inventory, I should have had the self-discipline to enter the brightly coloured, ‘endless possibilities’ world of an art store without putting the net sum of my last pay check at risk. Unfortunately, I react to brightly coloured tubes of paint the way some people react to shoes. I hadn't even made it to the lino-block section when a stunning column of new, blank cards caught my eye. It was a bit of a frenzy.

I am now in possession of the most beautiful rainbow of pink, yellow, red, and black cardstock (with matching envelopes!) and justifying my purchase by envisioning the vibrant character of my soon-to-open etsy shop.

Still, I feel a bit guilty about breaking my own newly established business guidelines and I think my temporary art store splurge should be cosmically balanced by some other form of restraint. In terms of sacrifice, Starbucks teas are absolutely out of the question, so I might have to get a bit more inventive. Maybe I should handicap myself in the pizza making competition by imposing a stricter budget on my ingredients.

In the end, I'm not going to be too hard on myself for the cards. They certainly have more of a chance of redeeming their cost than most of the stuff I buy and I think the stamps are going to look great on non-white backgrounds. Also, I did exercise some serious restraint with my other item of desire today. I was one adorable whimper away from taking home a three-month-old black lab puppy playing in the pet store.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New and Improved?

It's always tough to spend three or four hours drawing and carving a stamp only to press it and discover that it’s not quite as amazing as you anticipated. This is precisely what happened to me last night. My feeling about the rose stamp was lukewarm at best, so today, after re-assessing my carving, I decided to go for bust and try to fix it.

The main problem with the stamp was that I tried to make it somewhat modern looking by emphasizing the outline, but I also included a bunch of scratch lines to make it look realistic and shaded. Not a good combination. My only option was to take out the shaded parts and try to clean up the image.

I also opted to chop off the leaves.

I like the simpler lines of this stamp, but the extra carving has left parts of it damaged and the imprint is always going to have broken lines. One option is to fill them in by hand like I’ve done in the image below, but I think having to do that for every card is going to be too time consuming. Maybe a different colour or multiple imprints might pick this one up.

In other news, my big goal for this weekend is to set up my etsy store and get at least four cards posted. Actually, I have two major weekend goals – The other involves soundly defeating my husband in a dessert pizza cook-off! I'll definitely be posting updates about the former and I just might have to include a separate post for the latter (with a photo of my winning pizza, of course!)

A Rose is a Rose

So, my goal last night was to carve a new stamp and post the results, but the carving portion of the evening dragged on well past my bedtime.

Here are the results of my initial stamps for my rose cut. I'm not very happy with the print at the moment and might undertake some more surgery on the linoblock tonight.