Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Recommendations for Crafty Folks, Gardners, and Knitters

I indulged myself, as is tradition, and made a rather large purchase of books on my recent birthday. A little gift to myself. I've had some time to sit down and at least turn all the pages and in some cases read quite a bit and I've got some recommendations.

First up, I've been dreaming of putting in an organic vegetable garden ever since I moved here to Austin. I've also been dreaming and scheming about some major landscape changes to the back yard. It's got great bones - a patio, a covered porch, and lots of shade - but I want it to be spectacular. Spectacular and dog friendly. It is their domain after all. I found these books: Dogs in their Gardens by Page Dickey and Dog Friendly Gardens Garden Friendly Dogs by Cheryl S Smith. The later has a ton of very useful information about materials, safety, and plant suggestions. She shares not only her gardening know-how but also some very practical advice on managing the dogs in the space. The former is strictly a picture book, but it does have a lot to offer in terms of inspiration. I recommend them both.

Second to indulge the book artist in me - I've been fascinated by pop-up books and their forms and structures lately and have been planning a new series of small artist books that will involve screen printing and pop-up structures. I ordered a fantastic book - The Pocket Paper Engineer How to Make Pop-Ups Step-by-Step by Carol Barton of Popular Kinetics Press. I've been familiar with Carol's work as a book artist for several years as she is quite accomplished. This book is great! Not only does it offer clear and concise tips, instructions, and tools list it has projects. There are several pre-printed pages which you cut, score, and fold, to make pop-up cards, and pockets within the book to store your finished cards. Very clever!

And of course I had to also indulge the knitter in me. This time rather then go for a book of patterns, which I seem to have quite a collection of, I went for instructions and encyclopedic references. Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti and The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes. Both are staples to any knitter's reading diet and every knitter's shelve should have them.

That's it! Quite a haul I know but it was my 40th birthday so I went all out. All books are available from Amazon and I've included links in the sidebar. Happy reading!

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Bunch of Knitting FO's

I've been finishing my knits lately. And it feels dang good. First up Flair the knit jacket for Wendy Bernard of Knit and Tonic. I knit this using Blue Sky Alpaca's Dyed Cotton. 6 Skeins total, which really isn't much, it makes this a very affordable jacket. I picked up some special buttons, but they also weren't bank breakers. The pattern definitely falls in the easy category and it took just a few weeks to complete.

Next the last pair of felted clogs. The patterns is from Fiber Trends. It fast and simple. Add some extra time for felting and drying, but otherwise they are pretty much instant gratification. I used Nashua Hand Knits Creative Focus Worsted which felts beautifully and has a nice halo.

Lastly I whipped up the Beach Beanie from Hats a Knitters Dozen in anticipation of the cooler climes of New Mexico. Because I wanted some warmth from this hat I used Blue Sky Alpacas 100% Alpaca. I delectable, soft, finally haloed yarn. The patterns is super easy and took just two short evenings to complete.

Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Photo Tips

I've been taking tons of photos, re-shooting all the pictures for my Etsy shop as a part of a new year shop makeover. And I've learned a thing or two. I'm not by any stretch claiming to be an expert, and I still have things I'm struggling with, but I do have some tips to share. It doesn't matter if your taking pictures of products for your website, or other online sales site, or if your taking pictures to share your creativity with the world through online communities like Ravelry, and Flickr, or to post on your blog - you should make an effort to take good photos.

Tip1 - Always, always, always use natural light. Unless you've got a tungsten balanced professional light kit or box, shoot you photos outside in natural light. It will keep your colors true, and add a certain warmth that you just can't get from an artificial light source. It is best if the light isn't too direct, as that can cause harsh shadows, and/or a washed out look. An overcast day is great, or late afternoon or early morning when the sun isn't directly over head. I sometimes use the covered porch - it's filled with light but protected from glare. If you can't go outside, shoot near a sunny window.

Tip2 - Never, never, never use your flash. It just looks bad. It changes the colors and causes weird glares, reflections, and hot spots. Do yourself a favor and turn the flash off.

Tip 3 - Put your subjects in a context, stage your photos. It adds visual interest plain and simple. Find yourself some props, and a place to shoot and play around with styling your photos. In addition to adding visual interest it can be useful in communicating to your audience - if you're shooting a product show your customers how to use it. Or make allusions to how it was made. Any additional information you can communicate will further the connection with your intended audience. And use your imagination, having more creative photos let's the world know that you're a creative person.

Tip 4 - If your shooting clothing put it on a model. It doesn't have to be a live model, although sometimes that is better, it can also be a mannequin. Bottom line is clothes don't look how they're suppose to spread out on a table. This is one I still have trouble with - I don't always have someone around to be a model, I don't always feel like being my own model, and while I have a vintage wire mannequin she's tiny and the clothes I make for myself don't fit her.

Tip 5 - Use an interesting background. Again, unless you've got a professionally set-up back drop don't use sheets, or bedspreads to try to imitate one. It will look like hell and it's boring. Be creative with your back drop. Try different textures and colors. Light colored items benefit from the contrast of a darker background and vice-versa. Try a wooden tray, or a wicker baskets, or decorative papers, or pages from a book. Be creative, create a visual metaphor, use your background as another opportunity to add interest and express your cleverness or sense of humor.

Tip 6 - Take lots and lots of photos. Once you have something set up take several shots, move in a little closer, move out a little further, shoot from a higher angle, shoot from a lower angle, shoot it in reverse. Now re-arrange your props, change out your props, and shoot it all again. Now move to a different part of the yard where the light will be slightly different and do it all again. Taking tons of photos will give you choices, so you will truly great photos to post.

Tip 7 - Let your style develop. If you're taking lots of photos, and your being creative with the styling and use of props, and your being patient and thinking about what your doing your own style will start to shine through. Just like with writing practice you start to develop a voice, your photo taking will start to develop an eye. And it will be your eye, unique to you, and will give your photos a signature look that helps to communicate who you are and what you're all about creatively.

The old adage "a pictures says a thousand words" isn't just an old adage. It's true. Your photos are an opportunity to communicate in ways language can't. I hope these tips are useful in making your photos speak for you in new ways. Get out the camera and have some fun.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Spreading the Blogland Love!

So I wouldn't normally post twice in one day - Unheard of actually, but I was surfing around today and noticed that I'd received a You Make My Day Award...

Sweet! So Windy Knitty gave me the prize. I almost missed it, but catching up on my blog reading today I noticed on her blog that she had passed the blogland love my way. So thank you!

Here’s how it works:
Give the award to up to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel so happy about Blogland! Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so that they can pass it on. Beware! You may get the award several times!

So now I must share the love - These are the blogs that have been making my day lately.

Cloth Paper String
- She knits, she prints, and she takes great photos.

Cosmicpluto - I love her knits and Her Patterns

Deconstructed Artichoke - Her blog is new, and she's a very talented Book Artist

The Plucky Knitter - She just posted some beautiful yarn and I have a secret crush on her dog

Green Chair Press - Another great Printer and Book Artist

Knit Creations of a Curious Mind - Always good for Eye Candy

Knit and Tonic - Another source of fantastic knits and patterns

Monday, February 4, 2008

Reading Recommendation - Craft Inc

This past week I devoured Craft Inc Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business by Meg Mateo Ilasco. It's a great book and I highly recommend it. Whether you have dreams of hitting the big time with your designs, or you're thinking of doing a few craft fairs or opening an etsy shop, there is something you can take away from this book.

Ilasco covers the business aspects, some of which is a reminder of things you probably already know, but maybe haven't followed through on - like registering as a DBA. Much of it applies to designers and artist who are really taking their ideas to the level of out sourcing, hiring employees, and major marketing campaigns. These parts don't really apply for me personally, I print in very small editions, and want to keep it that way. So these sections only got a quick skim. But there was also a lot to be learned about things like pricing strategies, and the importance of packaging, and ways to market yourself.

She also covers the creative aspects. It was these sections that I got the most from, these parts of the book were a welcome inspirational kick in the pants. When the subject turns to creativity in general, it really stirred my pot, so to speak, about things like being out in the world, and developing your ideas, and taking time to just think.

In addition, Craft Inc. is well written in a conversational tone, with a great layout and design, so it's pretty to look at while you read. If you're a creative type, and you have any aspirations of making your craft more than a hobby, I recommend this book.