Sunday, September 09, 2012

work at home mom - another end to another busy week

Sundays are like a game of Tetris in my studio.  I rush all week to get orders completed by Friday and am frantically working to get them shipped out on Saturday.  So Sunday is all about cleaning up, putting everything back in its place and getting ready for the next week, because starting Monday morning at 4:00am (the best time for me to get anything done) I have a new round of orders to complete.

It's not difficult, really, just a little boring - clean the paint brushes, put the paints away, vacuum up sawdust, (no- the nail polish does not belong here on my desk), super glue the broken toys that have piled up on my work bench after a week of little boys at play, put away the shipping supplies until next Saturday, check my inventory (out of Mod Podge, AGAIN! That stuff goes quick!), re-stack paper and fabric, file away receipts, print out new invoices and work on designs for custom orders.  Today I happen to be drawing a tropical tiki, a VW bus and hibiscus flowers.

And it's still hot here in San Diego County.  My Dad laughs and says we're so spoiled because except for several weeks out of the year the weather is pretty close to perfect.  He's right - it's silly for me to complain.  But the fan I keep here in the studio broke and the stores are fan-less and gearing up for Fall, so I suppose I'll have to hop online for a replacement.  I am spoiled.  I'll admit it.
 

And I've changed the logo for my mobile hangers yet once again.  This might be it - although I am considering a business name change... so this will probably be it for 'Out of the Box'.  I actually don't know why I haven't been doing it in color the whole time.  I wanted it to look like a stamp - in a solid color.  But now I want color.  Fortunately, since I produce these blocks in groups of about twenty, it gives me time to change my mind - which I do often.  So for the next couple weeks, the hangers will look like the photo shown here.  Who knows how I'll feel about it next week!  Maybe I'll even have a new name to unveil!!!

Okay, Sunday.  I'm ready to take you on.  Monday isn't that far away and I have orders due in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and Wisconsin this week.  Wooden surfboard mobiles are now enroute to Tofino, British Columbia in Canada for sale in the lovely Tofino Tea Bar.  So if you're in that neck of the woods, be sure to check it out soon.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

making wooden baby mobiles


My favorite part of the week is when the cutting and sanding is complete. Now the magic begins.  That is, after I brush off all this sawdust.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

work at home mom: kids as coworkers

I stumbled upon this photograph of my youngest son, Finn, taken when he was just a few months old and my #1 companion as I worked to fill my Etsy shop. He was always right there wanting to be part of all the sewing action.

Part of being a work-at-home-mom is including the kids in whatever it is I'm working on. They're so curious, as it is, and I like for them to see me doing something that I love to do because maybe it'll encourage them to pursue their passions as well. But the roles have changed as they've gotten older. Itty bitty Finn is no longer just a bystander but a hands-on helper, especially when it's time to deliver all the boxes to the Post Office.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

home sweet home: settling back in after vacation


We just got back from a week of staying at my parents' vacation house up in the Southern Sierras. (swimming in the lake and the river, fishing for the first time, bird watching, kayaking, exploring a ghost town)  Anytime the house is empty for a week or more, there's a stale, musty smell that seems to linger in air pockets here and there (and everywhere).


With no open windows and a handful of pets who have had the place entirely to themselves, it's really difficult to flush the house out. I'll open every single window and turn on both ceiling fans, but then I'll open the freezer and there it is... that smell. Open the dishwasher, there it is. Open the closet, there it is. Even just a draftless corner, and there it is.


But with every breath I take, each time I whisk from here to there emptying the contents of our bags and putting everything back in it's place I'm slowly getting that smell out of here. Whirl up the vacuum cleaner, wipe down the countertop, bring in a load of sweet smelling, clean laundry. By the next morning it will start smelling like home again. Hopefully. Maybe burning a cone of incense will help speed things along. 

Regardless, it's always great to be back home.

Monday, June 04, 2012

craft-based business plans: what works for me

I want to share two books I've been using to help design my business plan and create a cohesive brand.  Both are workbooks that take you step-by-step through the planning process for a craft-based business.

Craft Inc. Business Planner: The Ultimate Organizer for Turning Your Crafts into Cash by Meg Mateo


Sixteen Weeks to Your Dream Business: A Weekly Planner for Entrepreneurial Women by Nada Jones & Michelle Briody


Last Fall I began working my way through both of these, determined to give my Etsy shop a big boost in sales in the New Year.  I'm glad I worked in pencil because I have recently been going back over the worksheets making changes.  My plan, last Fall, was to focus on my silkscreened designs - selling yardage and sewing pillows, bags, etc. with my printed fabric.  But in December I had a custom order for one of my mobiles, which I hadn't been listing, and was encouraged to come up with a few more designs and start listing them in the shop once again.  And orders started coming in.

What both these books talk a lot about is finding your niche.  Study market trends, research your competition and identify what makes you different from all the other venders out there.  The almost immediate consumer response to my wood mobiles made me think that maybe I had found my niche.

So I furiously began erasing all my plans for becoming a silkscreen studio and began laying out new plans for a wooden baby mobile workshop.  It's funny how things work out, isn't it?  In addition to these two books, I've found that sitting down with my journal at least once a month to write about how things have been going, what I hope to accomplish in the next month and the direction I want my designs to go helps tremendously.  I also like to read over the past couple month's entries to keep me on course - always move forward, I say to myself.  In fact, I was recently reading a post of mine from the Fall where I was brainstorming the idea of getting back into making mobiles.  That really surprised me - I knew it back then but it took all these months to come back around and make this discovery, again.  So now I re-read my journal more frequently and find that it really does help to keep me on track.  I continue to move forward, with a steady rise in my profit margin, and find my sales numbers increasing monthly.

And maybe it's a bit superstitious of me, but I started making a point of writing monthly after each full moon.  When things really started rolling with the Etsy shop I gave all the credit to the moon - the power of the full moon was guiding me.  So now I write during each full moon.  Once I left my bag at my mom's house only to realize it was full moon and drove all the way back to her house, late at night, to retrieve my journal.  Yes, superstitious.  Don't want to mess with Mr. Moon!  And, if I hadn't started writing this blog post this morning and admitting this strange power that the moon has over me I might have completely overlooked the fact that tonight is a full moon.  So you know what I'll be doing tonight.  Time to review and lay out my plans for the next month!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

surf decor for a baby nursery or child's room: pottery barn kids


One of the things I love most about creating custom surfboard mobiles is getting a peak at the nursery decor expectant moms and dads are putting together.  Customers can either send me photographs of their baby room or links to their decor online.  Those who send me links often say, "They have such cute surf baby things, but NO MOBILE!"  That's where Out of the Box comes into the picture.  I like to think of my mobiles as the final element to the surf baby's room - the piece that pulls the entire room together.  Below are a few of the images (with links to Pottery Barn Kids) that customers have sent me for coordinating their custom surfboard baby mobile.  So many cute ideas for a beach or surf themed room.


I love this colorful wall art from Pottery Barn Kids.  A baby nursery or child's room should be bright, shouldn't it?  It's nice the way this wall is completely filled with hanging art.  But I imagine that even if a room had only a couple of these pieces of art, the rest of the wall could be painted (using stencils) to fill in the space with color.


Once you add a few pieces of decor (like the surfboard or the wooden fish wall art in this photo), the remaining elements of the room could afford to be simple.  I like the colorful stripes in this bedding.  It coordinates well with the beach theme without getting too fussy.


Chalkboard wall decals?!?  What an incredible idea for a child's room!!!  Again, the simple form of these wave shapes wouldn't compete with the rest of the room's decor.  And there's something very soothing and peaceful about the color blue and the shape of these waves.  This could easily be used in any room and the fact that it is a chalkboard is a bonus - it's very cool even without that feature!

 
Love the rustic nature of this nautical-themed mirror.  The colors in the mobile below were actually matched to coordinate with this mirror.  Shades of green and blue with a red accent.  Definitely beach and ocean colors.  Makes me think of a day at the beach!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

surfboard mobile in babytalk magazine: it's almost summertime!


Very exciting news: One of my surfboard mobiles (California Sun, in the OUToftheBOX Etsy Shop) is in the June/July 2012 issue of Babytalk Magazine!  It's so fun to see something I made right there on the glossy page.  And, as if the two have anything to do with each other, my mobile is on the same page as Matthew McConaughey!


See it there in the top right corner?  Here, let's zoom in, shall we?


So there you have it.  My very exciting news - the buzz of which will probably keep me happily humming along with making mobiles for at least the rest of the month.  I'm suspecting that there are plenty of Summer babies headed our way.  There have been a lot of surfboard mobile orders.  It's definitely getting me in the mood for Summer - for toes in the sand, the smell of bonfire in my hair and salty skin after a day of bobbing around in the waves.  For those who aren't ocean side, take a look at my surfboard mobiles for some beach-inspired whimsy: Surfboard Mobiles @ OUToftheBOX.Etsy.com !

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

surfboard mobile for a beach baby's nursery: decorating for your surfer baby


Here are the surfboards I mentioned that I was designing over the weekend - Now available in the OUToftheBOX Etsy shop.  We had a sudden cold rainstorm blow through our usually temperate neck of the woods, so working on this surfboard mobile gave me the sunshine I needed.  Do you like the beach balls?  I thought they added a fun, whimsical touch to a beach-themed mobile.  I transferred my designs onto poplar and I love the clean look of this light wood.  And for the sun, I added a hand-stitched, wool felt sun onto each side of a wood disc that is decorated in rays of light.


I think this mobile is very California in color and style.  Next up might be a more Aloha-inspired collection of surfboards... maybe even some pink hibiscus or plumeria flowers for a little surfer girl.  As you see in my color study, this was California from the get-go.  Frankie and Annette, Gidget, Beach Blanket Bingo... whatever you want to call it.  I'd like to do a color study of an image from "Blue Hawaii", though.  That would be fun.


With clean lines and the polished look of wood, this mobile would be a nice way to accent your beach-themed nursery or play room.  What little surf bum doesn't want to gaze up at these bright surfboards, beach balls and sun, dreaming about dipping their little toes in the sand or catching their first big wave?




Saturday, February 25, 2012

color inspiration: california surf pop culture


I'm spending my Saturday morning designing some surfboards for a new surfboard baby mobile.  I have one in the Etsy shop, but I'd like to use the same transfer process I used for the owl mobile and make some cool, retro surfboards in bright colors.  Speaking of colors, I got a little sidetracked trying to find some color inspiration - a little Frankie and Annette to spark some color combinations.  Hmmm... it just might work.

Friday, February 24, 2012

wooden owl mobile perfect for a modern crib, nursery or playroom

Let's be honest, I usually draw wings on little critters that normally don't have wings.  So what am I doing sketching owls?  Well, owls really seem to be the thing right now, don't they?  If you do an Etsy search for "owl" you'll get nearly 106,000 items.  An Etsy search for "owl mobile" will land you with over 500.  So, I began work on an owl mobile of my own.  Why not?  (notice the new mobile hanger?)


And it was actually quite fun.  (I wouldn't have done it if it was going to be pure agony.  And, no, if everyone was jumping off a cliff I wouldn't jump just to be like them.)  I made a few owl sketches before going to bed one night and then woke up bright and early the next morning with new ideas.  These owls had to be my own.  I wanted them to fit in with the style of the OUToftheBOX Etsy shop.  So I flipped through my sketchbooks and found some patterns that would work well with these little feathered friends.


And, of course, they had to be colorful!  And I had to add some of my (what I call) signature mobile shapes.  I think these little guys fit in quite nicely in the shop and provide another range of owls to the hundreds of owls already out there in the Etsy universe.  I hope they find a happy home somewhere soon.


Owl fronts are on both sides in four different color patterns and designs.  So no owl backsides on this mobile!  Only happy, owly faces.  Check it out in the Etsy shop.  If nothing else, would you mind clicking on over?  It helps my ranking in "owl mobile" searches and I would be greatly appreciative... and I'm sure you'll have good karma for the rest of the day for supporting an artist.  :)

 A-Side

 B-Side

Thursday, February 23, 2012

color inspiration from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

Last month we took the boys to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.  This was our second time going as a family and I was worried that the magic from our first trip wouldn't be met, but it was all I could have hoped for.  As we learned last year, the end of January seems to be the perfect time for visiting the Disney parks.  Not only did we get a great deal on our stay at the Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel (included in the package were two Fastpasses per person to be used at any time in any park and Magic Morning Hour privileges) but we found that all of the lines were tolerable.  In fact, the boys are quite spoiled.  They seem to think that waiting any longer than twenty minutes in line is pure torture.  Oh if only they knew what this magical place looked like in the middle of Summer!


As always, I had my own kind of fun just walking around, taking pictures and finding inspiration in the most unlikely places.  This is Disneyland, afterall, where every single detail is intentional.  Once I got home and began looking through the photos I'd snapped I found myself quite pleased with my compositions and the way that I'd captured the color.  But then it occured to me... ANYONE could have taken this photo!  These details were planned and arranged to appear just perfectly (or, not so perfectly - but again, it's intentional) in the lens. 


I love this "dilapidated" shoreside fence that leans and looks like it's been through years of wind and salty air.  Things like this always make me smirk, shake my head and chuckle with amusement.  Since we stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel across the street from California Adventure, this bay and the ferris wheel were our view for two nights.  Such a pretty view with lights twinkling and reflecting in the water.  [Tip: We booked a "theme park view" room and got a room on the 10th floor which was perfect for seeing the World of Color water and light show.]



So, color, right?  I wish I could find a place around the house to do a mosaic like this one at California Adventure!  If you look closely you'll even see things like spoons and marbles.  The boys took delight in finding the common objects hidden in this colorful artwork.  It's chaos, but reeled in enough to make it beautiful.


As we walked around the parks I took mental notes of color combinations and patterns.  I have strange photos of tiles, floor design, murals and light fixtures.  If anyone noticed, they must have thought I was crazy pointing my camera down at the ground or standing six inches away from the wall and trying to focus on the hand-painted detail.  My poor family, always saying, "Where did Mom go? Oh, she's taking a picture."  What I really need to do is put together an album for all these inspiration shots.  A lot of them aren't very pretty photographs (too dark, too bright or out of focus), but all I'm after is recording this thing that inspired me.  When I go back through these pictures I can remember what it was about that detail that appealed to me.  So I wouldn't really call myself a photographer - I'm more like an explorer, a scientist or a surveyor taking notes and compiling a document of inspiration.  And it's not really worth sharing here because what inspires me isn't necessarily what might inspire you.  It's a very personal thing.  A collection of images that will get me one step closer to seeing my own creative visions.


But what's probably the greatest thing about Disneyland is just the fact that it is there.  That it began as this little concept in sketchbook - like so many of my ideas.  That after all these years it has become what it's become.  Yeah, it's magical.  And as much as I'd love to get season passes and go every month, I think it's important to hold back and go once a year.  Preserve that magic.  I don't want to get tired of it.  I like that I still get excited about going and I want the boys to feel the same way. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Japanese-inspired hanging mobile for the baby nursery


 I've always loved Echino Fabric by the Japanese designer Etsuko Furuya.  It was so much fun finding coordinating prints and colors for this Japanese-inspired hanging mobile for the baby nursery.  Aren't these prints fun?  Car, scooter and bicycle seems like great decor for a baby boy's room.  



And on this mobile I decided not to distress the edges like I've done on my previous mobiles.  Once I sanded the edges I liked the look of the woodgrain.  I think it gives the mobile a more modern feel.  This actually got me thinking about all the different types of wood I could work with.  Currently I'm working through a pile of reclaimed cedar that was left over from building our fence.  I've had it stacked in the garage for years and it feels so great to be finally using it.  I couldn't bring myself to throw away perfectly good wood... even though, at the time, I had no idea what I'd do with it all.  So once my stash is depleted, I'll have to experiment with some other kinds of wood.  Maybe Poplar?  We'll see!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

making baby mobiles: new wood mobiles in the Etsy shop


 I've had the constant aroma of sawdust on my clothes, in my hair and practically all over the house.  I started making one of my wood baby mobiles last month for a custom order and realized that it is the perfect combination of everything I love to do.  I really enjoy being out in the garage - my woodshop - shaping wood, sanding it and bringing out the natural beauty of the wood grain.  And then I bring all my pieces into the studio where I sort through my growing collection of fabric and paper to piece together the perfect combination of colors and prints.  It's a lot like quilting, without the time-consuming process of actually sewing a quilt.  (I still have my Christmas Quilt sitting on my work table patiently waiting to be completed!)  Once I've made my final selections the real fun begins - decoupage!  It's just like arts and crafts hour in school.  Glob on the Mod Podge and watch how the fabric or paper magically seems to become one with the wood block.  After this step I get a little impatient.  I hate waiting for the Mod Podge and then the varnish to dry.  I'm always extremely anxious to start stringing all the pieces together to see how it comes together.


While in the middle of waiting, I was brainstorming new mobile designs and I decided to try adding some of my drawings to the mobiles.  Naturally, my first try at this included my flying animals.  This mobile still has a few decoupaged blocks to add color.


I especially love using fabrics designed by Heather Bailey, Amy Butler, Erin McMoris and Anna Maria Horner.  You'll find that I use a lot of orange prints.  I'm all over the orange.  Every once and awhile I try to put together a color palette with pinks because I know nurseries for baby girls tend to lean in this direction.  But I'll take oranges and greens any day.


But the mobile I'm very excited about is one I just finished last night.  This is my "Pacific Blue" mobile with drawings of kelp and sea turtles.  The starfish are decoupaged with fabric, but I've hand painted some detail to make them look like starfish. 


And now that I've figured out a way to put my drawings on wood, I'm anxious to continue experimenting.  I like how you still see the wood grain through the solid color.  I think my next mobile will be more girly with a collection of all the different kinds of flowers I've drawn in my sketchbook.  I'm on a roll now.  I love the smell of sawdust and Mod Podge in the morning!


Sunday, February 05, 2012

flavor packed super bowl party: third course

 And finally, sweet and sour meatballs.  This recipe called for diced shallots, ginger, water chestnuts as well as some bread crumbs and egg whites.  Cooked them up in a frying pan with a spray of olive oil and then served drizzled with sweet and sour sauce.  I added some sesame oil to the meat before rolling into balls.  I love sesame oil!  Nothing has more flavor than a teaspoon of sesame oil. 

And I think that'll do it.  The game is almost over so I think this kitchen is closed.  Maybe some popcorn later.  I can't believe I can still think of eating something, but, yes, popcorn sounds really delicious!

flavor packed super bowl party: second course





Boneless Baked Buffalo "Wings"

Here's How:
I marinated sliced chicken breasts in a mixture of 3 Tablespoons apple-cider vinegar, 2 Tablespoons chicken broth and 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce for about 20 minutes.  Then I added 1 beaten egg before dredging each "wing" in seasoned bread crumbs.  These were baked on a cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil (the "wings" themselves were also given a good spray of olive oil) in a 350-degree oven until done.  The dip was made from 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1/2 cup plain fat-free greek yogurt and a Tablespoon of fat-free sour cream.  I'm amazed at how spicy these suckers are for only marinating 20 minutes in the hot sauce marinade!