Make and Meaning

Paul Overton of Dude Craft and Sister Diane Gilleland of Craftypod launched a new blog today called Make and Meaning.  The intent of the blog is to explore the larger issues of crafting including materials, process and crafty business topics.  So far, I’m a fan.  The articles do indeed raise some meaty issues and the discussions are intelligent and thoughtful.  I just spent some quality time on the post about craft book publishing.  I’m also totally digging the magazine layout.  Well done, guys.

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

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Yes, Please: New Papercraft Book

My in-laws gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday (yeah, they rock).  I planned to spend it on some kind of paper craft book, but everything out there was too specific, or childish, or boring.  Then yesterday A. pointed me towards Papercraft: Design and Art with Paper and I freaked out a little.  Actually, I should say that A. Pointed me toward this post on Daily Icon, which has a lot of amazing images from inside the book.  It’s not due to come out until September 9th, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Parasol Mag Issue 2 Out

Yasmine may not actually be a posting a print a day lately, but she is CRANKIN’ on this magazine.  Published monthly?  Seriously?  I know it’s a pdf publication but that’s still ambitious.  I wonder how long she can keep it up.  I probably would have folded by now.

Issue 2 is a little heavy on the vintage-inspired photography, but it also has some neat features, like interviews with two 15-year-old artists (one of whom is a Biz Miss in Liberia — go Lovetta!) and a funny article about “Recession Projects” by Maria Adelmann.  She’s like a one-woman WPA, both sponsor and recipient.  My favorite thing about Parasol, though (aside from its price — nothing!), is that every article (and ad) is linked, so if I want to find out if I can afford those gorgeous flats from the vegan shoe company profiled on page 26 (answer: no), all I have to do is click on the company’s name.  Now if only Kindles came in color and cost $50 I’d be all set.

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Speaking of the WPA,  A. told me about a friend of a friend who just started a new WPA in NYC with a donated office space and a whole slew of grants.  Is anyone doing that sort of thing in the Bay Area?  Please let me know.  Also, does anyone know more about the NYC project?  I can’t find them online except for a link to a Rhizome page, which I can’t view because I’m not a paying member.  Bahstids.

It's All Going to Be Okay

It’s been way too long since I posted last, I know.  We adopted a dog last week and it’s craft fair season again, so what little work I’ve been able to accomplish has gone exclusively towards getting ready for last weekend’s Indie Mart, and this coming weekend’s Unique Los Angeles. Still, I’m able to read the interwebs a little during meals, and yesterday at lunch I read Hugh MacLeod’s “How to Be Creative” manifesto, also called “Ignore Everybody” in its soon-to-be-published hardcover form.

MacLeod’s manifesto is a really refreshing read, because it puts the American dream back into perspective.  It never promises anything — least of all that your creative idea will be successful — but it reassured me that my dreams are worth pursuing, and that success is still a reasonably attainable goal as long as I’m willing to put the hours in.

“How to Be Creative” is organized into 37 little chapters (40 in the hardcover edition), each titled with an original, pithy truism, such as ” Selling out is harder than it looks” and “Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.”  While I agree with some of MacLeod’s proscriptions more than others, the sentiment behind each idea is sound.  For example, on “keeping your day job” (#7), I may not agree that I should just “find that extra hour or two in the day that belongs to nobody else but me, and…make it productive” because I want more than an hour a day to be creative.  As long as my life is financially stable, I don’t think it’s necessary to put a lot of time into a day job I don’t find especially meaningful.  But I do agree with “balancing the need to make a good living while still maintaining one’s creative sovereignty” (i.e. the “Sex and Cash Theory”).  In other words, it’s important not to compromise your creative work in order to make it more marketable, because that’s not fulfilling either.

I would recommend reading this manifesto to anyone who struggles with creative work, whether you’re in a band, thinking about starting a business, or just wondering where to go with your art.  You can read the first twelve chapters on MacLeod’s web site, or you can download the first 26 chapters in pdf format at ChangeThis.  I think now that he has a publisher, however, you won’t be able to read the whole thing unless you buy the book when it comes out in June.

Gluttonous Waifs

I discovered an interesting site today called “design glut.”  The intertubes led me first to their store (they had a pork chop bank), but I was intrigued by the following description near the top of the page: “Our webzine is an inspirational resource for entrepreneurs.”  More accurately, their webzine is a series of interviews with successful designers.  More inspirational than resource, I’d say, but good breakfast reading nonetheless.

It does make me a little upset and covetous to read entries where the founding waifs interview successful designers their own age (24-year-old cool hunters get invited to Davos? Seriously?) but those are my own issues.  I just can’t handle people who are two or three years out of undergrad and already “experts” about something.  Expertise is your consolation prize for getting older and less attractive.  I’m sorry, but that’s just the rule.  You’re not allowed to have youth/beauty AND expertise/money.  It upsets the balance of the universe or something.

Worth Its Weight: MagCloud

A few months ago I wrote a post about Ponoko, a service which allows you to create and sell custom laser-cut products on demand.  Today I was introduced to yet another interesting on-demand service: MagCloud.  MagCloud allows you to publish magazines on demand, at a cost of $0.20 per page.  They handle all the printing, binding, subscriptions and distribution, so you can focus on the creative work of putting the publication together.  Even better: while they are still in Beta mode, publisher proofs are free (excluding shipping).  All you have to do is upload a hi-res pdf.

Like other on-demand production services, MagCloud isn’t cheap.  An issue of Craft would cost $30 to produce this way — twice the normal cover price and significantly higher than the cost of a subscription.  But without advertisers to satisfy, magazines published on-demand can be a lot more streamlined about their content, which can help cut down on costs.  Have you ever noticed, for example,  how many magazines these days have more than one product review section?  Craft and ReadyMade have at least three apiece (tools, kits, books, music, etc.).  I recently learned from someone in the industry that these reviews exist primarily to lure advertisers.  Companies that advertise get first dibs on submitting products for review, thus gaining free publicity alongside their paid advertisements.

As a new service, (they’ve only been around since July), MagCloud is still somewhat limited in its parameters. Shipping is currently only available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, and there is only one page size available (US letter, trimmed down to 8.25” x 10.75”).  They are also conspicuously missing an FAQ page.  To get all the specifics you need to look at their front page, their blog and the help section.

Still, with most of my favorite publications out of print or on the verge of total blogdom, I’m happy to see that there is hope of filling the void.  I can’t wait to see what innovations occur in publishing now that anyone can run a magazine.

Tip: You can use MagCloud publications as textbooks, catalogs and portfolios, too! At $0.20 cents a page, it’s a lot cheaper than making color copies.

Worth Its Weight: StartupNation

If you don’t already use StartupNation on a regular basis, you probably live under the same rock as I do.  I was a little appalled at myself to have just discovered the site this morning.  It’s extremely comprehensive and well-written, but what differentiates StartupNation from other entrepreneurial web resources is its integration of information and services.  For example, in an article about timing a good PR campaign, you can click right to a page that gets you quotes from pre-screened PR firms.  The best part?  Everything at StartupNation is 100% free.  You don’t even need to sign up for anything.  You just visit the site and use whatever you want, barrier-free.  I’m currently loving the ten-step plan for growing your business.

In addition to the web site, StartupNation also runs a weekly radio show, which you can download as a free podcast.  It’s great for commutes, though it admittedly has a “boomer emphasis.”

Worth Its Weight: the SCORE Web Site

SCORE stands for “Service Corps of Retired Executives,” and is a volunteer organization dedicated to helping individuals start successful businesses by receiving advice from those who have already done it.  I’ve taken a few SCORE-sponsored workshops in the past, and used their sample business plan to write my own, but today I discovered even more free, useful goodies on their web site.

I’m particularly taken with their “60-Second Guides,” which cover everything from pricing to hiring.  Especially at this time of year, time is tight, and I love being able to learn how to make real improvements to my business without having to read a lengthy guide.  One of my favorites is the 60-Second Guide to Building Word-of-Mouth Referrals.  Similar to the 60-Second Guides is their collection of “Top 5 Business Tips,” which also helps you focus on just the essentials in a variety of topics.  In this section, I especially liked the tips on budgeting, which can help you put together a rough budget for when you don’t have time to go line-by-line.

Another collection of goodies I love is the template gallery.  Here you can find tweak-able templates for a lot of things you can’t find elsewhere, like a break-even analysis, and a business plan for a business that already exists.  The financial templates all come in both Adobe PDF and Microsoft Excel formats, with the formulas already programmed in.  This allows you to plug in your own numbers or to tweak the formulas and see how the totals change. No fancy calculations required!

Finally, for the days when you have more time for professional development, you can read in-depth articles in SCORE’s online “Reading Room.” There are literally hundreds of articles here, that cover everything from selling online to disaster preparedness.  And of course, I always recommend visiting the web site of your local SCORE chapter for free counseling and low-cost workshops.  Biz Miss, educate thyself!

Hindsight is Crazy-Making

I had a complete meltdown yesterday.  I took an all-day seminar at the SBA entitled, “Writing Effective Business Plans” and immediately began to feel that it was a mistake to start my business.  A horrible mistake.  It dawned on me that my job for the next year is going to consist solely of digging myself out of the hole I’m in. By the time our lunch break rolled around I was already having heart palpitations so I went outside for a walk.  In the window of Stacey’s bookstore, a book entitled, Get a Life That Doesn’t Suck caught my eye.  I headed straight for it, telling myself I was doing reconnaissance for my sister, not me.  The chapters had titles like “Start. Do it Now,” “Think Good Thoughts” and “Have Fun! Celebrate Life.”  Useless.  I put it down and went back to class, where I listened to the really smart and successful-sounding comments of my classmates.  One woman named Suzanne told me how lucky she felt that the business plan class was happening just a week after she quit her job to start a business.  She had four or five business ideas she liked, she said, and now she was going to plug in the numbers in order to decide which one was most likely to succeed, and therefore, which one she should start with.  I almost threw up.  Why didn’t I think of that a year ago before I got myself into this mess?

As soon as I got home I began a panicked rant around the living room, starting with a list of all the reasons why I was never going to get rid of my inventory in time, and quickly progressing to the declaration that my entire life is pointless, I contribute nothing to the world, and I am a complete waste of space.  I was seized with the immediate and overwhelming desire to recalibrate my life and develop a new long-term plan — now. It was already 10pm, but how could I sleep that night knowing that in the morning I would have to begin completely changing my life?

Whenever I find myself in a crisis and don’t know how to proceed, my first instinct is to educate myself.  I don’t like to make choices, especially life-changing choices, without feeling fully informed by the “experts” first.  So the place I turned last night was to a well-used copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. GTD is best used as an organizational and time-management system, but I remember reading a chapter (#3, it turns out) about forming plans of action, from small projects (the view from 10,000 feet), to major life goals (the view from 50,000 feet).  The chapter lays out a step-by-step plan for accomplishing a comprehensive life review, which made me feel better about not have a plan myself.  “You’ll notice that a natural organization [emerges],” it told me.  So, after getting a few things out of my head and down on paper, and after committing to also read The Now Habit and The Four-Hour Workweek, I went to bed.

And that’s where I am this morning, standing at the edge of a giant precipice, ready to take the leap.  I’ll let you know what I find at the bottom.