Works in Progress

I know it seems like I’ve fallen off the face the earth, but really I’ve just fallen very deeply into a project vortex.  There’s lots to be done before WonderCon next weekend, and by far the  largest undertaking (literally) is a seven-foot-tall version of Mitch the Monster for Neon Monster’s booth.  Since I’ve never built anything of this scale before, I’ve had a few setbacks, mostly material-related.  The structural engineering of an 18” stuffed animal is VERY different from that of a larger-than-human-sized display.

A. took this photo a few days ago when I was tracing out the pattern pieces on our living room floor.  It’s the only room in the house large enough to accommodate a single one of these pieces.  There are four of each of these pieces making up the monster’s body.  He’s still not quite done (I’m having eye issues), so I’m going to get back to it now.  I’ll be back to posting useful things in a week or so…on my brand new almost-finished web site!  Get psyched!

DIY Do: Tree Ring Wedding Wheel Invitation Templates

Wow, it must be wedding-planning season, because I’m starting to get a ton of e-mails again about our tree ring invitations.  Neither A. nor I really have the time (or inclination, if I’m going to be honest) to create so many similar sets of invites for clients so I spent most of today preparing these invites as downloadable templates for Photoshop and Illustrator.  They’re ready to go straight to the printer once you’ve entered in your own text, but they’re also fully editable so you can customize them as much or as little as you want.

The templates are up in the Burning House Etsy shop already, and I’ll be adding them to the regular Burning House shop in the next few days.  If you or someone you know has been coveting a set of these for their wedding, now you can create a unique set using your own text, fonts, colors and/or printers.  You could even DIY the whole thing from start to finish if you like.  Enjoy!

Thing-A-Day: Oscar Night!

I’ve always wanted to have an Oscar Party.  The visuals are so dazzling on Oscar night — from the incredible gowns to the elaborate dance numbers — that it makes for the perfect party theme.  So this year I’m taking the leap and actually doing it.  I’m REALLY excited!

My time is very limited these days, so I’m focusing just on games and food.  To start with, I’ve created twelve bingo cards for red carpet time, because we all know that’s when the show really begins.  If you want to use these on Oscar night, click this link to download the pdf.  I’ve designed them to be reusable year after year, so if you have an annual Oscar bash, you could laminate these and use them with dry-erase markers.  You could even play several rounds this way.

Before the awards, guests can fill out an Oscar scorecard to guess who/what will win in each category.  I found a good one over at Rotten Tomatoes.  At the end of the night, the best guesser wins!  For the awards themselves, I’ve downloaded Jessica Jones’ Oscar Bingo cards from her blog How About Orange.  I’m using cheesy $1 DVDs as prizes.

To keep everyone’s bellies happy during five hours in front of the TV, I’ve put together a no-cook Oscar food and drink menu based on all ten nominated films:

  • Avatar: “Unobtanium” (Blue Tropicale cocktail)
  • The Blind Side: Superbowl veggie dip (decorated to look like a football)
  • District 9: Popcorn “Prawns”
  • An Education: Apples for the teacher (kinda lame, but it gets fruit in there)
  • The Hurt Locker: Stealth Bomber cocktail
  • Inglourious Basterds: Nazi pigs in a blanket
  • Precious: Harlem cocktails
  • A Serious Man: Bar Mitzvah bagel chips with cream cheese and lox
  • Up: Kevin’s bird food (assorted chocolates)
  • Up in the Air: Airline Snack Pack (cheese, crackers, raisins and nuts)

I tried to keep the menu as simple and varied as possible, so I can get everything ready in under an hour, and no one would feel sick if they wanted to sample everything.  If you’re low on ideas for your own Oscar party, feel free to use any of these.

Enjoy the Awards, everyone!

Plush 101 Class!

Do you live in the Bay Area?  Would you like to learn how to design and make your own plush toys?  You’re in luck, because I’m teaching an Intro to Plush class on Monday night at Workshop SF!  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, learn how to make a unique gift for your sweetie.  Hey, it’s how the Uglydolls got started….

Update: this class just got moved to the week of the 2/15.  More details when I have them….

Thing-A-Day 2: Gift Wrap

I’ve got two good friends with birthdays coming up, and I want to give them each something special.  Unlike my husband, I’m no good at making personalized cards, so I decided to personalize the wrapping instead.  Therefore, today’s instruction is:

Create very personal gift wrap for a loved one using materials you already have lying around the house. If you don’t have a future gift on hand, wrap an empty container you can use later.  Here’s one I made for my friend Christine.  She’s an artist who works a lot with neon colors and giant fields of graphite.  During the day she has an admin job.

Here’s your inspiration:

A round-up of gifts from design*sponge (this shredded pompom was the inspiration for my grass below)

and this round up from Creature Comforts.

And here is your tutorial: How to Create Garden Gift Wrap, like this one I made for my friend Elissa, who has the most wonderful backyard garden ever.

  1. Get a piece of paper that is at least 1.5 times bigger than what you are wrapping.  This will be your sky or your lawn, depending on how you see it.  Fold it in half across the shorter dimension. (I used a piece of 9”x 12” construction paper)
  2. Open the paper back up and place your object inside, sliding it up to the halfway fold (I used a decoy gift for this tutorial so Elissa won’t know what I got her).  Fold the side edges around your gift.
  3. With the edges folded in, place double-stick tape or glue on the bottom half of the paper.
  4. Fold the entire paper in half again to seal it up into a sort of envelope.
  5. Cut three or four strips of a thinner paper like crepe paper or tissue paper that are more than twice the width and height of the exposed portion of your gift.  Layer them on top of one another, about an inch apart.  Fold them in half lengthwise.  (I used the wrinkled green tissue paper that the gift arrived in)
  6. Wrap the entire length around the bottom of the gift and glue or tape the end in place.
  7. Remove this sleeve you just made and cut long snips all the way around it.  Each snip should go about one third of the way down the sleeve.  Snipping really fast will create more haphazard grass-like shapes.  Now snip again, snipping two thirds of the way down.  This will create layers.
  8. Slide your gift back into the sleeve, making sure it is resting inside the folded portion, so it will not fall out through the bottom.  Secure the grass sleeve to the top half of the gift with more tape or glue.  Fluff out the grass with your fingers and add any embellishments you choose.  I used an artificial flower, some rub-on letters and a piece of cotton twine.Enjoy!

Thing-A-Day: No Frills Meat Indentity Branding

This weekend I re-organized my studio.  I never realized how much my half-finished projects were stressing me out until I finally tackled my bin of cut but un-sewn plush pieces.  I thought that perhaps I could turn them into kits, like the ones I have for making mini hams, but it wasn’t worth the time to make detailed instruction booklets. Could I somehow turn them into simple, no-frills kits?

Yup.

nofrillsbag

Inspired by the recession, the Helvetica movie, and the joy of removing physical and mental clutter, my thing-a-day was some quick and dirty identity packaging.  The design takes a (huge) page from the no frills supermarket packaging I used to see growing up.  Sure, the kerning could be better but what you you want?  It’s no frills.

nofrillssteak nofrillspork

nofrillsbacon nofrillsminis

Thing-A-Day: Plastic Leaves

Inspired by this epic post at CrookedBrains (via DudeCraft) of things made out of credit cards (and these rat pins, specifically) I decided to see if I could cut complex shapes out of plastic gift/rewards cards.  Turns out that it’s not too difficult, as long as you only cut in towards the center of the card and don’t try to curve your lines too much — perfect for making leaf shapes for holiday wreaths.  Last year I made this wreath and it took forever.  Each leaf was constructed by tying together seven separate plastic triangles with wire.  Each leaf was then tied onto the wreath form one by one.  Oy.

creditcardwreath

This year, I’m thinking of making some mini-wreaths, but with just one piece of plastic making up each leaf.  Yesterday I practiced a few different leaf forms to see which ones were easiest to cut.  Here are some of the more successful examples, which only took a minute or two each to make.  I’ve got a maple in there, a couple of oakey/hollyish ones, and some toothed leaves.  I tried a few really simple shapes as well, but they didn’t seem as autumnal as these.

creditcardleaves

Do you have any other ideas for iconic leaf shapes?  What have you made from plastic cards or other recycled materials?

Ask Biz Miss: Sustainable Fabrics

**Note: though this is a very respectfully worded request (note how she doesn’t ask specifically for my sources), it is considered good etiquette to ask advice like this from someone with a related but non-competing business, like someone who’s in fashion, or who makes baby products.  That said, when I had this exact question starting out, I asked the plush toy makers down the block from me.  They were more than gracious and generous in their help, so I’m paying it forward to all of you.  For more on the subject of crafty business etiquette, please see this article I wrote for the Bazaar Bizarre San Francisco blog.

I am currently designing my own line of stuffed animals (not meat products) and would really appreciate your advice.  I would like to make a product that takes the environment into consideration.  I am finding it extremely difficult to find recycled fabrics.  I did find recycled polyfill.  Any advice you can give on finding an environmentally aware manufacturer and materials would be greatly appreciated.

As far as sustainable fabrics go, it is difficult to find them outside of the hemp/wool/cotton/natural fibers area, but there are some polyesters that can be made from recycled plastic, such as fleece and fake furs.  I have never found a place to purchase these in small quantities, so I source my fleece in China, where the minimum for each color is 300 yards.  (I was lucky enough to have a friend whose toy company runs a reputable factory in China.  They were able to point me towards fabric mills there.)  There is a fleece called EcoFleece and a short fur called EcoPile, both available in the U.S., but these lines also require large wholesale orders.  You’ll have to do some calling around and searches through wholesale directories like ThomasNet to find them.  Some manufacturers only make/carry a set of common colors, and others can dye your fabric in any color you choose.

There is also an organization here in San Francisco called People Wear SF that held a small sustainable fabric trade show twice last year. If they do it again, it would likely be in the next month or two.  If not, someone there might have a list of past exhibitors you can contact.

Since you are starting out small, you may have to make some compromises about your fabrics.  For example, you might consider buying fabrics from a creative re-use center or something similar.  I don’t know where you are located, but here in the Bay Area we have S.C.R.A.P. in San Francisco and the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-use in Oakland.  At these places you can buy fabrics otherwise destined for the landfill and you will have lots of choices when it comes to fabric type (but maybe not color/print as much). You can also pilfer clothing and pillows from thrift stores.  Felted sweaters make excellent no-fray fabric for toys and some stores sell by the pound.

You can also just buy off-the-shelf fabrics in the beginning, and try to maintain your commitment to the environment in other ways (which is what I did).  You’ve already found some recycled fiberfill (Carlee sells this in bulk in New Jersey or you can buy corn-based fiberfill from your local fabric store), which is a good start.  You can also ship your toys using only recycled and/or re-used packaging, and you can plant trees or buy credits to make your business carbon neutral.

I hope this helps. There’s unfortunately not a lot of information out there regarding material sourcing, because it’s one way small businesses discourage competition.  If any readers have info they can share, please add it to the comments.  Thanks!

Worth Its Weight: Top Ten Typography Mistakes

Maybe it’s because I just saw that “Helvetica” movie, but I thought I should share this with you: Brian Hoff’s “10 Common Typography Mistakes.” This is a great primer for anyone DIY-ing the design of their own marketing materials.  Even if you have no professional design training, using these tips will get halfway to having a professional-looking brochure or web site. via swissmiss

typographymistake