BIZ: Feedback makes things better.

You don't have to work in a vacuum. (It's too cramped in there, and too dusty.)

You don’t have to work in a vacuum. (It’s too cramped in there, and too dusty.)

In advance of their Fall Conference, Schoolhouse Craft asked me to write a little post with some business advice, and I decided to take the time to write about one of the things I’ve learned from running the store.

One of the best things about my job is that I have daily chances to interact with customers and creative types. I don’t even have to try!  They just walk through my door, and react to my work. I didn’t do a great job with this before I opened the shop (although I always encouraged friends to let me critique their work.) It takes a lot of courage to ask the tricky questions about your work and your business.

The benefits of that back-and-forth are so valuable, and will encourage you to push your work in new directions, to perfect your business, and to be a well-rounded maker. Since not everyone has the benefit of sitting in a gift store, so I thought I would share some ideas for bringing a little creative input your way.


The Kind Of Things You Might Ask About

You probably already have a good base of people to ask about these things. It’s worthwhile to keep adding to you collection, but in the meantime be sure to get feedback as often as you can.

Feedback On Your Products As A Whole.

This is the hardest thing to ask for, and the hardest advice to take, but it’s incredibly important for the development of your work and business. Encourage your audience to be candid– and make sure to take a deep breath before reading anything that might be negative.

Your Packaging And Promotional Materials.

Ask people to proofread for you, and offer edits. Make sure to run it by people who have no idea what you’re working on– it should make sense after they see everything.

Shipping And Bagging Procedures.

Send a package to a friend, and see if everything makes it there alright. Ask people what they are looking for when they buy a similar product- do they want a cute bag and tissue? A gift box? A Thank You card?

Your Prices

Ask if they would pay that for a similar product. This is also a good opportunity to ask what things you can add or change to give more perceived value.

Suggestions Of Materials, Tools, And Techniques.

This is a great thing to run by people who work with similar processes, but you might even get good results from out-of-the-box solutions from people who have a completely different knowledge base. Some people can be close-mouthed about their technique- but I think that sharing information is good for everyone involved.

Advertising and Networking Opportunities

Is there a chance to reach your niche audience that you haven’t considered?

Sales Opportunities

You can try all day an never round-up all the craft shows, shops, events, and other great places to sell you goods. Other artists can give you ideas of what has worked for them, and non-artist friends have surely seen great opportunities too.

Other Business Practicalities

like software or person for booking and accounting, an excellent Lawyer (just in case), Liabilities you might not have thought of, etc.


Other Ways to Get Feedback

There are ways other than one-on-one question pestering to get your questions answered.

Attend Conventions And Meetups For Creative Businesses.

(Like Schoolhouse Craft.) Be sure to schmooze and look for people who have similar interests- and get contact information for everyone.

Make a Mailing List

Put together an email list of people who are willing, and who you can count on to give you honest feedback. When you have a new design, run it by your list, and see what they have to say.

Join or Start A Facebook Group for Creative Feedback

You can keep it private, if you don’t want just anyone to see what you’ve got going on.

Offer To Look At The Work Of Other People

Giving advice is a great chance to work on your own experience, and it you help people, they are more likely to help you with feedback down the road.

Befriend People with Different Backgrounds and Experience

People with lots of opinions and ideas. People like your friendly local shop owner.  You know the one….



TODAY: It’s Okay to try it Your Way.

IMG_2720_OKAYAs creative folks, we know that our work will change over time. We’ll have struggles, and we’ll have breakthroughs.

I feel like I’ve been going through a lot of that lately. I’ve had to make changes to the way I do things to accommodate for my schedule at the shop, and the limited time it’s allowed me for more creative endeavors. All in all it’s been a great experience, and has caused me to grow in directions I wouldn’t have expected. Since we’re focussed on building a creative community here at A-i-M, I thought I would share some of my experiences and encourage you to share your own.

Today I am thinking about…

Trusting Your Instincts

A friend keeps reminding me that “you have to know the rules to break them”, but I’ve always been the kind of person who knows the rules- then sticks to them. My rebellious side would let me break a few,secretly, but the other side would never be happy unless my lines were straight and my skill immaculate. It was tedious, and I was never happy with what I was making.

Because of limiting factors, I started working in a new way. I moved away from the computer and started working extensively in pencil. I would sketch, erase, sketch, erase, until I built up a design I was happy with. It all happened on one pieces of loose-leaf card stock; with a lot of lead, and a lot of erasing.

But I kept questioning myself. What if I was doing it the “Wrong Way”?

At some point I just decided to forget about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong way if I am happy with the result. Our satisfaction with our work is the most important outcome. If I was happier breaking a few rules and following my own instincts, then that’s the way it should be.

We have to have the confidence that our way is the right way, for us at least. That means trying new things, and feeling it all out…

but that’s what growing up is all about.

What do you think? Have you had any breakthroughs this summer? Any projects that surprised you?
Are you trying things your way?


SHOW + TELL: Paper Scrap Birds, from the Vault

We’re not happy unless we’re making things- which means we have a whole slew of projects from the time before A-i-M. We thought we take time now-and-again to share some of these projects from the DIY vault. This one’s more of a Show + Tell, but it’s a great example of how you can add creativity into you life anywhere…. even with scraps.

Have I mentioned I am unable to throw anything away?

A few years ago, after printing and trimming massive quantities of cards, I was left with a treasure trove of cotton, cover-weight paper strips (which I have since started using to make handmade paper).

I grabbed a bottle of Elmer’s glue and started working them into simple Christmas decorations, using the strength of the stock, and a few tricky reinforcing pieces disguised as decoration. Eventually the pieces began to turn into birds, trees, and other fun critters.

I would find a picture of an animal, and work with the paper scraps until they started to take a shape I liked. It was fun trying to recreate animals with the strips, using just glue and the natural resistance of the cover-stock.

I enjoyed playing with them, and making scenes and patterns out of the shapes. Nothing beats a quick, simple exercise that uses scrap materials.

I’ve got to go now- there’s a box of black paper scraps calling my name.

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

I’m currently reading the book, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. I’ve been stuck in a chapter that’s all about incorporating positive thinking into our everyday lives and shooing away the negative chatterbox we have in our heads. This is something I definitely need to work on! One step she suggests, is to make your own affirmation cards and place them around your home as a reminder to embrace ‘happy thoughts’ instead of dwell on the negative.

Last weekend, I made a trip up to Seattle to visit friends. While spending the afternoon with Alison at her shop in Issaquah, I finally sat down and made these watercolor affirmation cards. I love how they turned out and was excited to bring them home and display them.

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

Supplies Needed:

• Watercolor paper
• Watercolor paint and brushes
• Scissors or x-acto knife

The first step is to paint a wash of watercolor over your entire page. I do this by first covering the paper in plain water, then adding in color. The wet watercolor paper will help to distribute the paint and create the ‘wash’ effect. You can use your brush to blend in different colors. Once you’ve covered your entire page, let it dry completely.

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

Once dry, cut your watercolor page into small cards. I cut mine to be 3″ x 4″.

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

Next choose your affirmations! An affirmation is a positive statement that something is already happening. I came up with a bunch of different phrases that were meaningful to me. Once you’ve chosen a word or phrase, write it on a card. I used black watercolor to paint my affirmations directly on the card, so I made sure to practice using my brush in my sketchbook.

An affirmation is a positive statement that something is already happening.

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

You could also use a pen or ink to write on your cards. Whatever you are most comfortable with!

After I finished writing my affirmations, I used a small brush to paint some complimentary designs on each card, making each one unique.

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

SHOW + TELL: A Birthday Shrine + The Giveaway Winner!


The Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who participated in our giveaway this month. We loved hearing about all the different ways people relax and take it easy. The end of summer is the perfect time to do just that!

Now without further ado, the winner is…. KATIE SMITH!! Congrats Katie!

Now Onto Today’s Post…

Normally I look forward to my birthday every year. I love having a summer birthday and am always excited to throw a great party (usually tiki themed). But this year I have been dreading the thought of turning 30. So to lighten my mood and get excited about my favorite day of the year, I decided to make a little shrine for myself to honor this milestone and celebrate ‘officially’ becoming an adult.

I started making this pasta art shrine a few years ago when my friend Zerrin and I found the project in an old craft magazine from the 1950’s. We loved the idea so much that we decided to make our own. It was a really fun craft project! And the perfect activity to do with a friend. I only recently got around to finishing glueing the pasta and spray-painting the entire thing gold. It feels good to finally finish a project and I love how it turned out!


Setting up my shrine display…

To make my birthday shrine display, I cleared a space on a table in my living room and laid a favorite cloth down. Then I set up my pasta art shrine and placed my favorite tarot card inside as a special reminder for myself. Next I picked some fresh flowers from my garden, gathered my favorite stones, candles and other items from around my house and arranged them all around the shrine.


I love the look of my birthday shrine and having a special reminder for myself to see everyday leading up the my birthday. Each day, I light the candles and allow myself time to ruminate on what it means to be turning 30 years old and to be thankful for all that I have, and stay hopeful for the future.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies
Art journaling has been a part of my creative process since high school. It’s the one thing I always come back to when I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed by life and is the one place where I can create intuitively, without a specific purpose or judgement. Just the act of doodling on a page or making a collage in my journal calms my nerves and helps me to reconnect with my true self.

Whenever I get the ‘itch’ to journal, I get out my art journal supply kit (which I often carry with me in my bag or purse) and get started.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit

My Art Journal Supply Kit Includes:

• Pens and markers
• Colored pencils and sharpener
• Glitter glue and gel pens
My travel watercolor set
• A small pair of scissors
• Glue stick
• Mechanical pencil and eraser
• Large zipper pouch (mine is handmade by Slide Sideways, now known as Year Round Co.)

I love to experiment and have fun when working in my art journal so I like using supplies I wouldn’t normally use when making art. I love adding a touch of glitter or using a white gel pen to doodle over a dark watercolor wash.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies
TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies

My Favorite Collage Materials:

• Vintage National Geographic magazines
• Vintage postcards and other ephemera
• Vintage books
• Pressed leaves and flowers
• Any other bits I find and collect

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies

You may have noticed that I use a old book as my art journal medium. There’s something about drawing inside the pages of a book that feels so satisfying. There are no blank white pages staring at me saying “this better be good” and I love choosing an old book with a title and cover that speaks to me.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies
TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies

Do you art journal? What are some of your favorite supplies or techniques?

SHOW + TELL: My Favorite Art and Drawing Books

SHOW + TELL: My Favorite Art and Drawing Books #reading #art

I love turning to my art book collection whenever I’m in need of a good dose of inspiration. Studying other artist’s work and learning new techniques is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

1. Picture This by Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry is a creative genius. I saw her give a talk at Portland State University some years ago and was so inspired by her work and words. She’s most known for illustrating her comics chronicling the adventures of Marlys and the Near-Sighted Monkey. Picture This is an activity book of the most unusual sort. Marlys and the Near-Sighted Monkey present questions like, “What is making a picture all about? What makes kids draw? What makes adults scared to draw?”

2. Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Michael Perry

This book is a must-have for anyone interested in hand-lettering. Michael Perry showcases the work of tons of talented artists and designers. Some of my favorites are Kate Bingaman-Burt, Deanne Cheuk, and Human Empire.

3. The Diary of Frida Kahlo

For those of you unfamiliar with Frida Kahlo, she was an amazing Mexican artist known for her captivating surrealist paintings. She suffered from lifelong health problems, many caused by a bus accident she survived as a teenager. It was through the isolation of recovery from her injuries that she began to paint. Her diary is filled with fascinating sketches, painting, and writings of her life.

4. Daring Adventures In Paint, by Mati Rose McDonough

I’ve been a fan of Mati Rose for some time now. Her paintings are rich, colorful and playful. In her book, Daring Adventures In Paint, she takes you through her process of finding inspiration, trusting your artistic path, and finding your voice. The book is filled with gorgeous photos and step by step instructions on a variety of techniques she uses in her work.

SHOW + TELL: My Favorite Art and Drawing Books

5. Spilling Open by Sabrina Ward Harrison

I first discovered this book in high school and it was a life changing experience. If you are a fan of art journaling, this book is for you! Spilling Open is the first of many books by Sabrina, but this one is my favorite. Written at age 23, Sabrina explores “the art of becoming yourself” through messy paintings, collage, ink spills, drawings, photos and more.

6. The Creative License by Danny Gregory

I love the honesty and creative style of Danny Gregory. He discusses the fears and insecurities we all face when confronting our creative side and how we can all muster up the courage to go for it. In The Creative License, he gives us “permission to be intensely, brilliantly, wonderfully creative” and shows us how to get started on fulfilling our artistic dreams.

7. Drawing Nature: A Journal by Jill Bliss

When I first moved home to Portland in 2009, I took a drawing class from the talented Jill Bliss. It was a delightful experience. We sat outside in a park and practiced drawing leaves, flowers, and anything else we found in nature. Those classes inspired her to write this book! In the first part of the book discusses her drawing philosophy and walks you through a variety of different techniques. The second half is like a typical journal for you to practice in with fun tips and tricks from Jill!

All of these titles are available at the Adventures In Making Amazon Store. Purchasing through our store earns us a small percentage of the sale. Thanks for supporting us!

TOOLBOX: Rachel’s Favorite Drawing Supplies

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing
After a recent trip to my local art supply store to stock up on supplies, I realized how much I love getting new pens, tubes of watercolor paint, and finding the perfect paper. Even as a kid growing up, I always looked forward to a new school year and fresh new pencils and notebooks. Since I’ve taken up illustration and making art for Camp Smartypants, I’ve found some favorite tools I use again and again. I’m always on the look out for new materials to try out, but I rely on these essentials for most of my drawing.

For Sketching + Drawing

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing

1. Spiral Bound Sketchbook

I prefer the spiral binding for my sketchbooks because my pages are able to lay flat at as draw and it’s easy to curl up on the couch with. You just have to be careful not to crush or bend a metal spiral, or you’ll be annoyed while working in it.

2. Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad

The perfect tracing pad you carry in your bag along with your sketchbook. Read more about how great this thing is in this post.

3. Mechanical Pencil

Mechanical pencils are my go-to sketching tool. I prefer these over a normal pencil because I don’t have to worry about sharpening, and I can get a consistent line weight as I use it. I don’t worry about using anything fancy, any mechanical pencil will do the trick.

4. Blackwing Pencils

I picked up a sampler set of Blackwing Pencils after taking a lettering class from Mary Kate McDevitt on Skillshare. I learned a lot about the drawing process from taking her course and now use a blackwing to draw over my sketches, making for a nice clean drawing.

5. Metal Pencil Sharpener

A good pencil sharpener is an essential tool. I use a Mobius & Ruppert Brass Pencil Sharpener. It’s something I picked up in college and have used ever since.

6. Staedtler Eraser

The Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser works great.

For Inking

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing

1. Translucent Marker Paper

Another material I picked up in art school, this marker paper is great for ink drawings. You can achieve the smoothest lines with little bleed from your pen.

2. Ink Pens

I use Copic Multiliner pens. It’s one of many good brands (Fiber-Castell is another good one) and comes in variety of sizes. 0.3 and 0.5 are the two sizes I use most often.

For Watercolor

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing

1. Arches Watercolor Paper

A high quality watercolor paper. I use hot-press for watercolor and ink, and cold-press for watercoloring only. The difference is cold-press paper has a nice texture while hot-press paper is smooth.

2. Shmincke Watercolors

I first learned of Shmincke watercolors from Geninne Zlatkis. They were a big investment, but totally worth it. The pigment is bright, saturated and beautiful.

3. Paint Brushes

I use fairly cheap paint brushes. The brand shown are Princeton Snap and Loew-Cornell.

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