Thursday, June 25, 2009

Upcoming Features and Projects!

It has been a busy couple of weeks here. I knew we had a small amount of time between the Prescott show the first week in June and next show for Denver. In these short weeks, We have managed to design four upcoming magazine features and finish one that was started before we left, design my next line of fabric, design four upcoming wool projects and find time to design some jewelry. I also designed four digital quilts for various fabric companies and wrote about eleven instructions. And lets not forget my fight with technology that is still ongoing while my desktop computer is out have a new hard drive installed. So here is a quick run down of upcoming magazine features:
*Witch's Brew MCCalls Quick Quilts November issue dropping in August
*Spinning Circles Quick Quilts Fall issue dropping in August
*Birthday-Go-Round remake McCalls Special issue dropping in August
*Ghosties on Posties The Quilter Novemeber Issue dropping in September
*Welcome to the Poles McCall's Quick Quilts January Issue dropping in October
*Rock Legend McCall's Quick Quilts January Issue dropping in October
*Winter Wonderland The Quilter December Issue dropping in October
*Art Deco Wool Pendents McCalls Quilting Holiday Issue dropping in October
*Pop Flowers Fabric Trends Fall Issue dropping in October
Love Bugs McCalls Quick Quilts March issue dropping in December
*Hoppy Easter-3 ways Quiltmaker March/ April issue dropping in February
3-D Bead necklace Bead Unique Spring issue dropping in January
Newton's Lullaby McCalls's Quick Quilts Septemeber Issue dropping in July
Cool Cats Fons and Porter- Spring

The features marked with an * are all finished and out the door. As you can see we work way in advance of the magazine print date.
I also just finished the free project sheet to go with my new Polar Opposites collection. I am posting the quilts here. Blank should have the pattern available soon. We have all the fabric on order and will add to our website most likely in August once it comes in. I designed one quilt and used the polar bears on one and the penguins on the other. I wanted to keep them separate due to the fact that polar bears live at the north pole and penguins live at the south pole. The quilt we designed for McCall's using this collection I put the penguins at the bottom of the quilt and the polar bears at the top of the quilt. I hope you like our newest collection. Well back to painting today. So until next time....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heidi vs. Technology

Wow what a week! I got in a fight with technology and we are still waiting to see who is declared the winner.
I am usually embrace technology. It is how I run my business. I do most of my communicating with our different clients via email. I talk to you through my blog and emails. I am always surfing the net for ideas and reference. I do all my designing on the computer, write instructions, run the business and so much more on my computer. So when my internet goes down as it did last Sunday & Monday, I have lost half of my resources. Now when I got the internet working again on Monday, my desktop computer started to have major issues and then my backup files got corrupt in the process of trying to fix the desktop. All in all a disaster week for me and technology. I think there were gremlins in my office last week.
This is one of the down sides of running your own business, unless you are blessed with computer specialist in your family, when something breaks it is up to you (or me) to fix it or find someone who can fix it. After twelve years on my own, I have learned alot about apple computers and can fix several issues on my own but there are still challenges especially if hardware is involved. So the most important advice I can give you is if you purchase an apple product, spend the extra money for the 3 year Apple Care protection plan. For me this is my personal IT department. If I cannot figure out the problem, I can call these guys free and they can walk me through fixing it. Not only is it free, but by them walking me through it, I learn how to fix different problems if (or when) they happen again. I never wanted to know so much about computers but it has come in handy with keeping everything running. Just another perk of owning your own company. Another piece of advice is to have two computers with the same programs and power (if financially possible). I like to have a desktop and laptop so I have one to travel with and one at home if something happens to the laptop on the road. I was able to take my desktop in store and still had my laptop I could continue my work on. This will not help you with the time it takes to try a sort out the computer issues (for me, several days were lost) and get everything running again. But it will get you back on track with your other work that much faster.
So after getting the internet up and running, re-formatting and re-installing my programs on my desktop and finally having to cry uncle and take the monster into the apple store to figure out what was wrong (It was a Broken Graphics Card), I am happily back on track with technology for next week. So until next time.......

Friday, June 12, 2009

Creativity Burn Out- Oh my!

Hello again sorry it is taking me so long to post again. I have had one of those weeks. I have posted a photo of Cleo, my dog whose look reflected how I felt this week. (Though she looks this way all the time) Sometime after I take a trip, I get so tired that I get in a funk. Though Prescott was a short trip (only four days). I think is because it was just a week and half after my last trip back east (8 day trip), everything just caught up with me. I came back to work on Monday ready to go and get a bunch of designs done, as well as instructions and planning, but by Wed. I was so burned out and tired, I just lost my groove. This may come a surprise to some, but any artist can get creativity burn out. This usually happens at the busiest time when it is not recommended to just stop and take a break. Though I have learned over the years, that stopping and stepping away for a bit is a better way to deal with burn out, than trying to bang your head against the wall and push through the burn out. I have figured out if I take a break and step away I am usually twice as productive when I come back to the drawing table.
So how did I get burned out this week, Kathy and I started the week with six projects going at one time and they were all at different stages of production, laying around the studio. I also was thinking about several upcoming projects as well as the overall direction our studio is moving in. Add in the everyday headaches of life and being overtired from traveling without having a weekend to rest up and you have classic burn out. So enough of whining about how I got in this condition that I am sure we can all relate to, let me tell you how I counter this condition.
Sometimes, like this week, I took an hour to just clean up the studio. By cleaning up the studio I feel like I am cleaning out my head. Most of the time I get burned out by trying to do too many projects at one time, just like this week. I looked at each project and decided what had to be done to complete each project.  I made a list of projects in order of fastest to complete to the projects that still had a lot of work on them finish. Once Kathy got to the studio she and I finished up the couple of the projects that were almost done. Then we prioritized what was left by their deadlines. I cleaned up anything that was just lying around the studio that did not have anything to do with what we were working on this week. This only takes a small amount of time because I keep the studio pretty organized on a day-to-day basis seeing how others have to come into my space and work too. (Now if you work better in chaos these tips may not help.) Once I had my space organized, I start making lists, I love lists. Most of the time I do not even follow the lists, but by creating them I am getting all the chaotic thoughts out of my head and down on paper in an organized manner. Again I prioritize items by easiest to complete and by deadline. I like to do several easy projects in between projects that take longer. I gives me a sense of completion that keeps me motivated to move on to the next task. When I do too many long projects back to back I feel like I am never going to finish anything and start to burn out. Another trick I am learning is when I do have several large projects going at once is to break each project down into several smaller tasks. Tackle each smaller task over time and before you know it the large job is done. Now the next step to recovery is to take time away from the studio and look at the rest of my life, if that part is in chaos then it is harder to do my work in the studio. Today I spent the day just running around taking care of things that have nothing to do with work. Though it is hard sometimes to take time away to do things like take the dog to the vet or get my car fixed, once these things are taken care of I can again focus on my work. Now the most important step to burnout recovery is to take a day or an afternoon off as soon as the deadlines make it possible. Do something as simple as lay on the couch and read a book or go to lunch with your family. Don't worry everything will be waiting for you when you are done relaxing and back to full form. I know it is hard to justify taking a break when the world is weighing down on you with tasks and problems, but remember it is easier to handle anything once you have regained your strength and energy and there is only one way to do that. Take a Break! So until next time......

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Trip to Prescott

Hello again. It has been a week since the last post. We (Kathy, Jerry and I) packed up and went to Prescott, AZ for the Thumb Butte Quilt Guild Show. I am posting a couple of photos of our booth. As you can see we were in a high school gym and brought lots of goodies. We were lucky enough to be in the room with the actual quilt show, so we had a wonderful view of the amazing quilts that were hanging. I was very nice to visit with all the quilters and always an extra bonus to see quilters that have been to one of my lectures or workshops I have given at the guilds. A special thanks to the ladies of the guild who were most helpful to us all weekend.
This trip I did not take my laptop with me. A first I can assure you. Though it is always nice to have the chance to unplug, it takes more time when I get back to the studio to catch up. I have an iPhone that keeps me in touch with all my emails and the internet and unlike my laptop it fits right in my pocket. It certainly is an amazing phone that does every thing from giving driving directions to playing movies and music as well as the normal functions listed above. I have no idea what I ever did without it. 
Well this is a short post due to the fact that I really do need to catch up on my other work. This week I have to finish painting my next fabric line, we have five quilts and one piece of jewelry due for upcoming magazine features due 7/1/09 and I have several projects on the list due for fabric companies this week. We also need to get ready for our next show in Denver in July. So as you can see just another week at the studio. So until next time.... 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Behind the Scenes-Designing for Magazines

Today has been a busy day working on instructions for several upcoming magazine features. We are very lucky to have several magazines pick up my designs throughout the year. Now I know this sounds exciting and it is. But it is also involves quite a bit of work. Designing for magazines differs from designing pattern for fabric companies, because we work 4-6 months ahead. So that means it was just Halloween in our studio. Each quilt we design will not be seen for several months and because we like to offer a fabric kit with each feature, I have to make sure I use the newest fabric collections that will still be available when the magazine ships. 
When I go to market, I check out many different fabric lines from the fabric companies and make a list of collections I like and the date they will be available. I star the collections I think I could make a strong quilt design with. Some companies are willing to send me samples of the fabrics that I am interested in along with their basic collections that I can use for upcoming designs. I tend to use these collections more so because of the convenience of already having them in the studio when I sit down to sketch. Once I have my idea and main fabrics for the quilt design, I select the remaining fabrics for the quilt. I try to use fabric that all comes from the same fabric company for each feature. This helps us order the fabric for the fabric kits we will offer and makes it easier for the magazine to list suppliers. Also after the quilt is completed, I send a photo of the quilt to the fabric company whose fabric I am using. The fabric company can use the photo as a marketing tool to help sell the fabric to the quilt shops. The fabric companies rarely show a quilt that has their competitor's fabrics next their own in the quilt.
Once I have the fabric and idea selected I do a final sketch or digital quilt I send to the magazine that I think the design will fit best. Each magazine has their own theme or style and it is important to understand the different magazine's style before sending designs in for consideration. I have about a 75% success rate when submitting designs. This may surprise some who think that everything I submit gets picked up. The truth is I just submit that many designs to the magazines each year.
Once I have a magazine interested in a design, I contact the fabric company and let them know what magazine is picking up the design and request sample yardage from them to make the quilt sample. I also make a job folder for it just like any other job. Because once the magazine picks up the design that is exactly what it is. The editors have deadlines to meet and if I am late, it messes up their schedule. Though sometimes a quilt may be late because we are waiting on fabrics to arrive (this is a pitfall of working with the newest collections). On average we get the fabric two to three weeks before the quilt is due, giving us plenty of time to meet the deadline.
When the fabric arrives, Kathy (my assistant) or I make the quilt top. Then Doris (my mother-in-law and long arm quilting master), quilts the quilt. Then the quilt comes back to my studio for the binding, sleeve, label and our photography. Every quilt we make gets a label that I print on special fabric that irons onto the back. Once the quilt is complete, we ship it off to the magazine for their photo shoot. I will not get the quilt back for a couple of months, the magazine will keep the quilt as reference for any color corrections done right before the issue goes to print. That is why I take a photo of each quilt before sending it out the door. I use the photo for reference when I write the instructions and for our website to promote the fabric kit we will sell.
Once the quilt is shipped, I sit down and write the pattern and get together the fabric order for the fabric kits.  I then send off  the pattern and order to Jerry (my father-in-law and partner) to edit the pattern and take care of ordering the fabrics. Now we wait....
The magazine will come back to me with the final yardage about a month before they are going to print. This sometimes matches the yardage I originally came up with and sometimes it differs. We will change our yardage list here at the studio to match the magazine and use this as our cutting list, so our kits match what is published in the article to avoid any confusion with the quilters. This is also when we go back to the magazine with the kit price they will publish.
Now that we have the final yardage from the magazine and hopefully have the fabric for the kits in house, Linda,who bounces between working with me or working with Jerry will cut and package the kits and get them ready to ship.
Once I know the magazine has dropped, I add the photo of the quilt and fabric kit info to our website and wait for the orders to come. 
As you can see there are a lot of steps to each magazine feature we do and it is a team effort that makes the process run smoothly. I have to thank the different editors and fabric companies I work with for their support throughout the process.
If you want to see what we have upcoming in magazines, please check out my website (link to our website is listed to the left) once you get to our website look under "What's New". I am working on re-designing our website to make this info appear on the first page rather than buried in the website. But that is a job for another day. I hope you have enjoyed a sneak peek of the steps involved to create each magazine feature we do. So until next time.... 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fabric Designing, What is the Process?

Well today was actually a pretty calm Monday at the studio. I finally had a chance to sit down and sketch out the new tools for my next fabric line. I am always excited and a little nervous every time I start a new set of paintings for a fabric line. Once I get going, the process is so fun. 
I have spoken to lots of fabric designers and each one approaches fabric designing differently. Actually no two designers have told me the same process. I guess each designer just figures out what works best for them and their technique is a unique as the designers. So here is a peek at how I approach designing fabric.
First I talk with the Diana at Blank and we decide together what the next line s
hould be. This helps me do a collection that will hopefully be a better seller and not repeat something another designer at Blank is doing. 
Once I have the theme of the collection settled, I start to think about all things that go with the theme. The line I am working on now is a follow-up collections to my successful Tooling Around group. This means it has to go along with the older collection while still
 having a fresh new feel to it. As with any collection, the objects in the artwork need to be easily r
ecognizable by the majo
rity. SO for this collection the tools need to be common and I try to stay away
 from obscure tools. I start getting ideas by doing a google image search of my topic. This helps me become
 familiar with my topic and what the objects I will be illustrating look like in reality. As with my Polar Opposites collectio
n (out this Summer) I actually found microscopic photos of real snowflakes. I used these as my reference when I painted the snowflakes for the fabric. 
Next I start sketching ideas usually right in front of the computer, going back an
d forth between sketching and referencing the objects I am drawing. These drawing are very rough and are more to help me decide what I am going to paint and how I want to lay out the background.
Once I have my ideas researched and sketched, I decide if I am going to hand draw the objects or if I am going to draw the objects on the computer. The computer sketches are cleaner I tend to use the computer for objects and I tend to hand draw characters. I like the rough feel to hand sketching when doing animals or  anything in nature. I draw each character or object I want to later position on my backgrounds. I like to do everything separately because it is 
easier to make changes or to adjust the scale. 
After I have everything sketched out, I am ready start adding color. I always hand pain
t or color my designs because it adds depth to the design and make each fabric feel like a hand painted piece of art. I paint the backgrounds separately and usual
ly will do several different color choices for e
ach background that I later send in to Blank.
Painting usually takes the longest time. I took five years of marker rendering classes in college and learned alot about drawing and shading an object so it looks 3-D. Hand marker rendering has been replaced by amazing computer programs. But I really think learning how to draw and shade an object by hand is extremely important to understanding how to create a great drawing. Because of my background I tend spend more time adding shadows and highlights to make the shape feel 3-D. Though
erience has taught me to consider how small the object will be scaled for the fabric. Sometimes less highlights 
are better if the object is going to be really small on the final piece. One of th
e most detailed objects I have painted for fabric is the hockey mask for My Love of the Game fabric I will add the photo here for you to see. My favorite mediums to use are acrylic paints and color pencils. My next line is baby fabric, for this collection I am planning on experimenting with pastels to create a softer look. I will let you know how that works out.
Now once everything is colored, I scan everything into the computer and use photoshop to scale and position the different objects onto the scanned hand-painted backgrounds. I usually do this step but on some collections I send everything to Blank and they arrange the pieces in the collection for me (usually if the collection is a rush) and send it back to me for my input. 
I tend to design the entire collection in one colorway (or color family) and I will send suggestions to Blank for other colorways if I have any. If I do not, they will come up with other colorways for me to look at. As you can see there is a lot of back and forth between the artist and the fabric company.So if you have the opportunity to design fabric, make sure you like the company you are going to work with and you both have similar tastes.
Once I have everything painted and laid out, I send all the original painting on to Blank. They take over the process from here and about six weeks after they receive the artwork, I get a set of strike-offs (small pieces of the artwork that is printed on cotton) back to review and make any changes to the colors. Once these are approved the fabric goes on to be printed. Next step is for me to design a project sheet using the collection for promotion. 
Now you know the secrets behind designing fabric. So until next time.....