An American friend of mine has been struggling through some pretty tough times recently. She's dealing with serious family illness, and all the horrible internal politics that go with it. I've been watching developments helplessly from here in NZ, wishing there was something I could do - but there simply wasn't anything more than giving support through the internet.
She comes from a place called Lake Havasu, Arizona. A local publication there runs a column called 'orchids and onions', where residents can express their gratitude or vent their frustration by assigning orchids or onions to someone. Since she has been back home with her sick relative, she has used the format in her own Facebook posts, and it caught my imagination - mainly because I have a tendency to have a black thumb, and no meal I make is complete without at least one member of the onion family! It's rather a lovely motif, though, and the imagery kept coming back to me as I thought about what might be a nice thing to cheer her up.
Although the orchids represent the positive, and the onions the negative, I chose to combine them in a philosophical "when life gives you lemons"-style design. You take the good with the bad, and you try to make something pretty out of it anyway. That's kind of her signature move. She's a tough chick, and she handles a lot of difficult things without losing touch with what makes it all worthwhile.
I wish that I could share some photos with you of her lovely home - she has been doing an inspirational job of decluttering her life, and her carefully-curated home reflects her efforts beautifully. As a result, I know of her passion for teal turquoise shades, and her love of orchids - so I had both subject matter and colour scheme covered. I hope very much that my designs will fit with her aesthetic!
After consulting my friend's husband, we decided to go ahead with a design to match one of her favourite orchids on a teal background, and that I would send it to her on one of Redbubble's throw pillows - so I got started with a plan in mind.
Onions posed no challenge - I have drawn them many times, and as most people would be, I am intimately familiar with their structure, so the only thing I needed to do was decide what kind of onion to draw, and what colour. I settled rapidly on red onions, to go with my friend's favourite orchid (photo credit to her husband).
After a lot of research and practice (including actually tracing some photos to try to learn more about how the flowers worked), I managed to gain enough of an understanding of the structure of the orchid flower to make some decent sketches, and the design evolved rapidly from there.
Once the colours started to work, the design really came together quickly. I couldn't decide on the best background colour, though! The turquoise is wonderfully lurid - but what if it's not the right shade? But the moss didn't quite pop enough...
The end result
Once I used the Redbubble mock-up feature, it became abundantly clear that the turquoise was the best choice. I decided to give her a set of two cushions, and as a result, I now also have a new stripe in my arsenal - win/win!
The cushions are already winging their way to her place as we speak - one of the things I love the most about working in the digital medium! A day's work and a site like Redbubble, and custom-printed cushion covers can appear on the doorstep of a friend to give her the comfort that I can't give from the other side of the world.
UPDATE: They've arrived!!! And they look amazing!
A date amongst the blueberry bushes
My husband and I work very hard. When we're not working on Copper Catkin stuff, or Wrought stuff, or Petone Winter Markets stuff, or any of our other projects, we're doing housework, working on our lifestyle property, looking after our pets, or working at our actual day jobs - I'm between contracts, but George works full-time hours as well as everything else he does!
We're not very good at taking time to just enjoy each other's company and have a break - so for 2018, we have decided to make sure we have regular dates.
One such date was a trip out to Pauatahanui on January 13th. We had brunch at a local cafe, then we went blueberry picking at a PYO (pick-your-own) orchard. Neither of us has done PYO blueberries - we've both helped harvest fruit and veg from large family gardens, but nothing on this scale. It was a lot of fun, and we highly recommend it!
We got home, and made many things with blueberries in them, and then froze the rest of our considerable haul - it took 2 hours to pick them in the incredible summer heat, but we have savoured every berry since!
I have had a couple of practice runs with my new time lapse set-up, but I decided that this was going to be the big one - the end-to-end process time lapse, from photo ideas all the way through to finished jewellery items.
Before I got started, I made sure that I had the right kind of audio - I knew from previous experience that the length of this clip was going to be much longer than most of the audio tracks I would be able to source, so I spent some time on the free music archive looking for some good matches, and I was lucky enough to find Ian Sutherland's "Behind The Lines (Alternate Version)":
The next step is the easiest to explain, and the most time-consuming to do - I scanned, tidied up, and coloured the images digitally. Then, I used the initial drawings to build fabric repeat designs.
Because I didn't film or record this part of the process, I had to create a little animation (my first!) to represent the process. I made a separate clip of it to test it, and then incorporated it into the final video once it was up to scratch (my standards aren't too high yet, as you can see!) #closeenough
I absolutely love the way it has come out - the earrings look amazing, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the fabrics come out!
After a great many more hours of battling the application and my own very steep learning curve, I had a rough cut to show friends. I took their feedback into account, and tweaked it as best I could. Here's my 'final' version - I hope you enjoy it!
We did a brainstorm session for Joanna from PoppetMade
Cat: What are you looking for from this half-hour online brainstorm session, Joanna?
Joanna: What I'm interested in:
1. How to make my stall more “professional” – considering all my items are handmade, how can I improve on my image?
2. What do you see working/not working as it is set up now?
3. Height – this is something that I have struggled with as my products are mainly flat! I've introduced the bib hangers to help with this.
I have two layouts:
1. Single trestle table
2. Double trestle table. This is when I share with a friend, but my portion is the same layout as a single. Her items are more bulky than mine (quilts, bags etc) so we can hang things up etc. This is usually a gazebo setup.
Thumbnail test - the 'dress' principle
Cat: To start me off, I performed my 'thumbnail test'. I looked at a thumbnail-sized picture of the display and noted my impressions.
The stock itself is neatly displayed and well made, but the overall effect is that the stall looks a little jumbled, and part of that is because there's no unifying feeling for the stall display colours underneath the stock.
I started by pulling out the main colour impressions of the display - and it was quickly evident that there were too many things going on.
Colour consistency and a point of difference - the 'flavour' principle
I grabbed a couple of the colours that I had identified, and made a collage board of things she could use instead.
Black is almost always the right choice for a good tablecloth colour, but in this case, it was too stark - it didn't look like a stall featuring baby wear.
The hangers and the blonde wood were my favourite elements of the original display, so I used the bib hangers as a starting point for a quick example colour scheme, and then I included her existing neutral wood and brown paper elements to give her stock a backdrop against which to pop. I suggested replacing the generic black baskets with vintage suitcases, painted crates (using her own colour choices), and repurposing old, mis-matched picture frames from op-shops for her price signage.
Visual interest - the 'dynamic layers' principle
Once we had established a potential colourway to get the stall 'dressed for success', I then started to look at the next issue - the lack of dynamic height in the display. I talked about using fruit stalls as inspiration - stacking and tilting the crates to get the maximum use out of their depth, as well as having an easy, modular set-up for different display requirements at different locations. I Googled some image examples to illustrate my point.
Merchandising the stock - the 'fresh' principle
Following on from the fruit stall example above, I suggested that part of the 'jumbled' look could be due to the way that the stock was set out.
When you have all kinds of colours, there are two things you can do to freshen up the look of the stall:
If it suits the product, limit yourself to a specific palette - a range of 3 or 4 specific colours, from which you do not deviate.
Alternatively, if you're like me, and your product requires a lot of shades of colour, sort your stock like a rainbow.
A signature style to get customers' attention - the 'hook' principle
Now that the hard part is done - the stall is dressed to kill, the stock is looking fresh and appealing, the dynamic layers make the best of the available space, the display itself fits the stall's flavour - how do you reel the customers in?
It's both simple and complex, and depends entirely on the individual circumstances. Each maker will have a different style, and therefore, a different hook.
At Copper Catkin, we have several quiet signature items that are part of our display, and make us recognisable long before people get close enough to see individual stock items - we use the 'grass' rug, a variety of natural wooden pegs, our Miss Match stripe, and, of course, our favourite vibrant green.
For PoppetMade, I suggested the use of a signature colourway plus possibly a signature shape -for example, a balloon-shaped chalkboard to match the balloons in the existing logo.
That kind of simple touch is what sets you apart from all the other stalls that look like chain-store window displays as a result of using unaltered chain-store items in their display. This works for the occasional stall, but for the vast majority, it just makes them and their products fade into the general 'market' impression - and that's absolutely not what you want!
What Joanna Did Next
Now, here's the fun part - it's all well and good brainstorming ideas and throwing pictures around, but it's all hot air unless you take those ideas and run with them - and Joanna did just that!
This is the most successful transformation that I have seen yet (images supplied).
I think we can all agree that this is an incredible makeover - and in only a week or so!
Yes, bearded fashion-plate ladies.
So I have been watching a lot of Drag Race and Project Runway for company while I work, and whilst most of my designs have been fairly PG and 'normal', if quirky, every now and then, the full-on whimsical side has to get an airing. So, here are some 'fashion' poses with a beardy twist. I've been drawing this kind of elongated figure since I was a kid - it's fun!
I've given them a sneaky soft-launch in the jewellery, mainly because I just didn't have the time to post about them!
I admit, I also get a bit bored with the 'standard', mainstream options for sewing projects, so I am making these available as colour-cut-and sew dolls! I've just finished drawing the backs, too. Parental guidance recommended. They will be available in colour-cut-and-sews within the next month or so - keep an eye out for them!
I've made a commitment to myself to spend some more time with family and friends, so this fortnight, I went and spent some time drawing with my niece. I had two design ideas locked and loaded, as it were, so I printed out some inspiration photos to bring with me. I gave Miss R first choice - she chose the bumble bees and clover, so I had the Kererū. Here are some of our inspiration photos.
We worked on blocking in the major elements of a composition, looking at relative scale, and how you interpret what your eye sees and use it as inspiration for a design, rather than copying (or tracing!!) exactly what you see.
People seem to assume that I draw my images by tracing, or drawing over a photo in a different layer of an image editing programme, but I draw on paper by eye. If I superimpose my sketches over one of the inspiration photographs, this becomes very apparent!
I worked on paper and combined several inspiration pictures into a single design, starting with a pencil sketch, which I then inked.
As usual, I scanned and coloured the images using MS Paint, but this was a much more complex composition - usually, it takes me around half a day to take a design from initial scan to completion, but these took almost four times as long.
This is a much more involved repeat than I usually use, so it took a lot of fiddling to get it where I wanted it to be. I used placeholder colours to help differentiate between the different zones while I constructed the design. Once I had a final version, I worked on the 'real' colours.
And after I finalised the colour scheme for the main design, I added in background colours and patterns.
Clover and bumble bees - Miss R's version
Meanwhile, my niece had created and inked her two-page repeat. I took the drawing home, scanned it, joined it up, and this is what we had:
To demonstrate for her how the next step can work, I coloured it, created a more complex repeat using the elements of her design, and uploaded it to Spoonflower so that she could see how it would look.
Next time, we will swap inspiration packs - or even do something different again - but at least now Miss R understands how to design a repeating pattern, so she can take much more control over the process in future. I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with!
In the meantime, look out for the new Kererū design as jewellery and fabric, and even colourables, soon!
It's been some time since my last Copper Catkin Consulting post - apologies! Life has been very busy recently - wonderfully so, but it all takes up time! I have been making some changes in my own life, and in my displays (as always), so I thought I would share one of my techniques with you.
As with my water lilies, this design was inspired by some amazing travel photos taken by my stepfather. I like to challenge myself to use new palettes, and these photos used beautiful shades of orange and green that I usually don't incorporate into my artwork.
Some time ago, I ordered some ring bezels on a whim because they looked like they were going to be an amazing metallic lime green... but when they arrived, they were more of a blue-green. I put them away to wait for the perfect project - and here it is!
10 years of market displays
I'm going to take you on a tour of my market stalls and display units over the last decade. I started making jewellery in 2007. There were a lot of changes in my life - I graduated with my honours degree in 2005, then moved into full-time retail while I looked for a job that would justify my degree. In 2007, I moved from the shop floor to the office, and out of a job that gave me both the technical and creative balance that I needed. My first office job made me deeply unhappy, and then I started making earrings. A year later, I moved to a better office environment. This positive move led to my rediscovering my creative side. I started wanted to paint and draw again, and my jewellery-making ramped up.
A long and winding road
Sometimes, it helps to look back at where you came from to help understand where you're going next. Copper Catkin is only just over a year old, but I have been making things my whole life.
This post is a bit of a summary of how I got here - my 'market cred', if you will.
What does Kōwhai mean?
"Kōwhai (Māori pronunciation: [kɔːɸai] or [kɔːfai]) are small woody legume trees within the genus Sophora that are native to New Zealand. There are eight species, with Sophora microphylla and S. tetraptera being the most recognised as large trees. Their natural habitat is beside streams and on the edges of forest, in lowland or mountain open areas. Kōwhai trees grow throughout the country and are a common feature in New Zealand gardens. Outside of New Zealand, kōwhai tend to be restricted to mild temperate maritime climates.
The blooms of the kōwhai are widely regarded as being New Zealand's national flower, although they have no official status as such.
The word kōwhai is also used in the Māori language for the colour yellow, because of the colour of the flowers."