Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hello! It's refreshing to be back in Portland after the good times and the bad times of a vacation back east. I got to see my family & extended family, a gift that means more than I can express now that we are living so far away. Unfortunately I also lost my job while I was away, so some parts of our return (I came back with my sister and 5 month old nephews) have been somber. With 40-50 degree days projected for the rest of the week, though, I've got some perspective on what to be grateful for. New England in the raw gray of January is just cold, cold, cold.

So the shop is reopened, along with all those originals and framed pieces I was tooting my horn about right before going into vacation mode. I'm happy to say that international sales are making up for our slow domestic market, and some of the ACEOs I introduced mid-January sold upon reopening! I've been slow to really push the shop in the last few days, unpacking and all that, but as of Monday it is back to work in a serious and focused way.

Those of you following the blog last year also remember that I went into a period of having Etsy as my only employment. Having a full time Etsy shop taught me quite a bit through those rough months. This is one of those crunch times when I have to pull on those lessons learned and find the way to do this creative living that works best for me, and that involves finding a full time job away from the warm glow of Etsy.

But I love my shop, I'm glad to be back from vacation, and whats more- I'm very glad I have this place to come to after a day of baby care, house cleaning, and job hunting. These cards first emerged based on little drawings I would make for my friends as notes~ often it still feels like I'm sending out care packages all around the world. That's a good thing to come home to.

Photos from the Trip:

Rhode Island under snow, which waited until
our last day to fall.

After not seeing MNJ for 6 weeks he fell asleep in my arms, a welcome homecoming.

My grandpa, EB, with SL.

Monday, January 19, 2009

some endings, some beginnings

Oh what a crunch, getting everything into the shop before Valentine's day! How is it going with all of you? I hope everybody is having a good week, and looking forward to tomorrow's historic inauguration.

Yesterday was Sunday, and on Sundays I like to take advantage of the slow and quiet nature of the day~ going into work hours early (I'm a weekend worker) to paint and draw. These are leisurely hours with a whole building to myself, and one of the more anticipated parts of my week. I usually camp out in the printmaking studio, or in the back at the Production desk, listening to music and slowly nursing my coffee. After a little reading or doodling, this week it was straight into painting, those final touches on the originals I've been posting about these days. Finally finished!

Today was much more focused on home & Etsy. I finished all the painting I'll be doing for the next couple of weeks and took tons and tons of photos. Although it is windy and blustery here, we are still enjoying days of sunshine. From there is was hours of fun-filled photo editing, breaking up the monotony with some cleaning & organizing of the house. From there it was packaging the rest of my outstanding orders and posting my framed pieces! All of this as a build-up to tomorrow, my last day before vacation.

In order to make sure I'm still able to fulfill orders within the 3-5 business days I've promised in my Shipping section, I have decided to go on Vacation Mode for this time:

Wednesday January 21st to Friday January 23rd

Just a small string of days, and by its end I will still be in MA and can figure out at that time if I should wait out the remainder of my own vacation or open back up.

In this, my first year in Portland, it has been 8 months of moving (three times now!) ,transition, new friends and new family. Leaving for Massachusetts kicks off the end of yet another chapter in those months and the beginning of an all new adventure once we get back. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming months where I intend to~

1. get myself a studio space in our new home
2. learn letterpress and hopefully new skills in silkscreening
3. explore the state of Oregon and take a trip to California, too
4. grow some potted plants (oh how I miss you)
5. get back into reading, knitting, sewing and *cooking*!
6. begin serious work in freelance illustration

...and that makes up for not having posted a New Year * New Leaf post here on the blog. I'll be home with my family in a matter of days, catching up on all of the changes my nephews have gone through in the last month (the words "crawing" and "teething" and "laughing" are still too hard to believe). It has been heartwarming spending the last months in the company of the R Family, being a part of their day to day pattern of living. I'm so completely grateful for all of the help and friendship they have shown and all the new friends I've made in this exciting new city. A break will be good, seeing family will be great, and then taking the next steps into becoming established in Portland will be all the beter with these sweet people in my heart.

Thank you friends, thank you readers, thank you Etsy, and happy new year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tea tea tea, all these little framed drawings of tea. No, they're not in the shop yet because they're getting all purdied up with some watercolor, but I'm really happy with them. I have these small square frames that go just right with these small works I've been tinkering with.

This one up here is my housewarming gift to myself- tea for me! I don't always keep these things, or I do but they end up in a drawer somewhere. I am looking forward to decorating my new home with Etsy prints, and will no doubt keep you all in the loop on the decorating schemes. Oh, and speaking of decoration- look who is in the window! Well hello little lady!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hello from the windy and cold corners of Oregon, where the Spring-like days that blessed us throughout this past week are gone but not forgotten. The sun has been wild this week, after rain rain rain we were all a bit dazzled by 4 sunny days strung together in yellowy hues. We woke one morning to a magical, crystalline frost right about when it started getting cold again.

I'm packing my bags and getting ready for a trip home to my original coast, the Eastern one, so all these fluctuations in temperature have me thinking of my new home, and all the differences here, maybe hyper-aware of small changes or details. I'm pretty sure the shop will remain open through the vacation since I have people to help me with shipping. I am very much looking forward to going home (also because I have this place to come back to) and feel for some reason that it will prove to be a very inspirational trip.

I was able to get some pretty good shots of the frosty morning while out on a walk...

Alright, back to business: there are some changes going on in the shop as we enter 2009. Now that the Holiday season is over, I've taken out USPS Priority Shipping as my shipping method. I was thoroughly disappointed in Priority (this year was my first year using it as my primary shipping option) and saw no significant improvement. I bet "5.00" under shipping probably had some people scratching their heads, too, although my motivation was to have as little concern as possible for items arriving punctually. I'm putting my faith back in old reliable First Class and checking out my options in tracking... more on that beginning February.

As for now, there is an option in the shop to "order" Priority Shipping~ and that will include the cost of tracking/ insurance. I figure people ordering large orders or Gocco prints will like having this option and am more than happy to provide expedited shipping. Hopefully this will ease the shipping confusion of this past season, as well as get me back into one of the fun parts of this whole Etsy project for me: making packaging! Believe it or not, a lot of love went into my mailers last year. I'm particularly proud that when you order an ouou item, the whole production is a unified project.

Oh, and also- I've listed another Valentine- this one on a folded (and larger) card tonight. I was happy with the clarity of the photos, too! Next up are the little framed originals, but for tonight I'm considering whether or not I want to go into those with watercolor or leave them black and white in pen. Hmmm. Maybe I'll sleep on it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Here is a sneak peek at some other things I'm working on. Behind the scenes over here I had struggled with these scans (can you tell? fuzzy) until I realized it was a paper issue. Ive been re-drawing the small hoard of finished drawings from this month in the evenings when I'm able to set up at the light table. I feel happier when I know my night table is around- do you have tools like that? My bone folder, my favorite eraser, my Zebra mechanical pencil, and my beat-up light box I've been carting around for 13 years.

Am I on a tangent tonight? Probably just excited about setting up a work space again, daydreaming of that glorious afternoon of setting out my pencil jars and paint boxes. I'm sure you understand. Anyway, so these guys won't be the finished product for another couple of weeks. I'm also working on some framed small drawings and the Valentines in several other sizes. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This morning right after rolling out of bed (and grasping the coffee cup, of course) I put up the latest tiny Valentine: Serenade. Now, after posting several of these pics over the last few days I realized I'm posting photographs of the little drawings *before* I added their watercolor hearts! Wuh Oh! Possibly today I'll get some shooting done, but for now I'm off to finalize my move out of the apartment. I'm also hoping for a window in my afternoon to finish up some of the larger scale originals I'm keen on listing next week. I'll be updating here and on Flickr as these items emerge (hopefully with their watercolor finishes). :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two newer additions to the Valentine line are here! I've just finished some packing and am on my way to do a little mailing, but first I thought I would pop by the blog for a few introductions. Walk and Sweet Music are in the shop as of last night/ this morning. The smaller card sets that I introduced after Christmas also seem to be holding their own, so I'll be releasing a few new designs in those styles later in the week. Whew! Lots going on around here- and I've got to scoot if I'm going to hit the Post Office before work- hope everybody is having a good week! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It has been fun spending the last couple of nights cuddled in bed drawing these little pictures. No surprise that I'm a big fan of the 2.5 X 3.5 inch canvas, my drawing school before college took place on the margins of my notebooks. Although I was frustrated last week, it has been simplifying to scrap all my grand plans for the time being, going back to the basic Handmade premise of Etsy shop. Inspirational, too. I can't get enough of these little characters.

My friend K and I spent the morning moving me out of my apartment, but I had time in the afternoon to get some photographs in. I'm going on vacation at the end of January and thinking about either slimming down my selection for a week or closing (gulp) the shop completely for that time. Updates to follow as I address the calendar.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are under a thick fog, the low-lying clouds of winter's constant rain. I moved here for this, an ongoing rainy day that grows moss on all the stone and wood around town, the incredible moody mountain vistas that slowly fade in and out of view on afternoons like today. I love days like this, even though it is a challenge to find the right situation for taking pictures, and have enjoyed spending much of my day off walking about.

After my scenic voyages, I've been finishing some touches on the smallest set of Valentines. These are all original pen and ink drawings using pencil and MicronPigma 005 pens. I am drawing them all (there will be more sizes later) on Arturo stationary, an Italian paper with a nice watercolor-type tooth to it. They come with envelopes, so I'm not quite sure what to classify them under on Etsy, they're in now as ACEO. An ACEO is a small collectible original art card. I'll release the next size up as cards, and the larger will be in art as paintings.

Yes~ this means there are many more to come!
Gosh, I do love this job. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I promised a little while ago to present some photos of my cards up at Oblation Papers & Press here in Portland, Oregon. I'm really excited to be a part of their Local Artist section, to see people's reactions to them, and even just the small thrill of seeing my cards on actual shelves on a non-virtual shopping experience. (And look, they're on sale!)

As my friend E and I put our heads together in ongoing brainstorming sessions as to how to acquire an actual letterpress, it has been interesting working in a city with so much printmaking art. In fact, now that I'm typing this, it is pretty fortuitous to have landed here, considering this is just such the sort of art making I enjoy and want to learn more about. Still, my drawn cards have elicited a positive response, hopefully with selections on more shelves to follow.

There are more silly drawings around the stores than just the cards. Watercolors, the store bird, has a sign made by me. What better compliment than to be nibbled on every once and a while when the ladies of Oblation are looking the other way? Thank you, Watercolors. Weird, but thank you.

And, in other news, with the store slowing down and Valentine's on the horizon, I've been trying to fulfill my other promise to you- new card designs. The beginning of January has presented me with some unforeseen challenges on this front, mainly that the scans have come out terrible, the better ones have printed terrible, and I've realized it is because I changed the paper that I'm drawing on earlier last year. Sheesh.

Until I come across one of those blissfully long stretches of time where I have nothing to do but draw, I'll be using my shorter stretches of time to doodle. And those doodles, soon to be released into ouou, will begin the second wave of original art sold in the shop. Get ready! Next week the Valentine season begins for ouou, and I'm really very much looking forward to it!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

for a limited time

This week I brought back one of the most cheerful, whimsical designs from last year's shop. Butterfly Skies will be residing in the ouou shop until February 14th, or until I run out of the limited print run, since I'm still not set up for Gocco printing. Gocco printing is different than the ink jet printed cards I offer in my shop; both are hand-drawn by me, but the Gocco cards are then printed one at a time (by yours truely!) using a mobile printing press made in Japan. This is the design that appears in 1000 Handmade Greetings (thank you Smashgirl for letting me know my page number- and congratulations on the cover!) and one of my few designs without a child in it. Welcome back Butterfly Skies, and a happy Valentines to you! :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The lovely lady Lupin (of Etsy, Dawanda, Folksy...) has opened up ad space on her blog Bugs and Fishes, and guess who came along for the ride?

Lupin was one of the first felt artists I came across on Etsy in my early days of looking around before opening a shop. I am totally smitten with both her work and her blog, and really thrilled to be appearing there as a sponsor. I'm even planning on some new tea-themed designs in the month ahead, a common thread we have in both of our art... the more the merrier!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

my year in photos

Norristown, PA

Here on New Year's day, I thought it might be fun to browse through my photographs from the past year and post some highlights.
I had no idea what an emotional trip through this year's upheavals, travels, friends and... delicious food (!) would be! it all started back Pennsylvania and my full-time Etsy shop taking up my every thought...

Not soon after 2008 began, my sister was pregnant and the great design of our plan to move out west began in earnest! With much prayer, patience and NetFlix we saw the winter merge into spring. I learned some pretty difficult lessons in keeping an online business going through profits and debts (eventually just debts), went through some drastic changes in my health & diet after quitting smoking, and stored up a little bravery to take the plunge and move to a city I'd never before seen. We found out it was a TWIN pregnancy somewhere between January and April, and found out they were two boys as my sister and I parted ways to begin our travels west.


my friend and I made the drive from MA to OR while my sister finished her visit with family and boarded a plane to make the trip. At that point it seemed the best plan for fully pregnant Celeste. Phil and I saw sights all across America that were new and exciting; a night running around abandoned Omaha, my first visit to Chicago, sweet people in Billings (ah, Billings!) and mountains, lakes, parks, sculpture, petrified forest... more coffee than one person should reasonably consume in a week. Phew! Our most mind-blowing adventure by far was leaving the 90 degree May highway for a snowy stop in Yellowstone~

Certainly, Yellowstone (with 3 days left on the trip) was the point where I began to feel I had entered into a new chapter of my life, a new definition for happiness, and a broadened appreciation for the world we are a part of. If ever you are thinking "Maybe I'll drive cross-country and see what that's like..." I would say hands-down: talk to people that have done it, prepare, and do it without hesitation. If you're thinking "Maybe I'll just go to Yellowstone National Park instead"- oh my gosh, by all means do that instead!

sw Portland, Multnomah Village

...and Portland ain't too bad, neither.

I got to know this city of roses in June, of all months, when the entire place is lush and green and perfumed in summer sweetness. To say I spent the summer dazed and dazzled would be an understatement.

We spent the time getting to know our new friends the R family, I started work downtown, and thoughts of reopening the shop were pushed back and back again. It was strawberries, flowers, homemade jam, an apartment to myself, incredible coffee houses and everyone reading Animal Vegetable Miracle this summer.

RVR looking for a pal to paint with

Nice to have a break, because the end of July found C in the hospital with water breaking early. Doctor's orders were bed rest and C's goal was to Keep Those Babies In! until after 29...30...31 weeks. We were a mobilized team, I stayed with my sister as often as I could, KR and I fretted, commiserated and laughed our way through a new friendship and a whole lot of car rides back and forth.

C, RVR, and myself feeling babies kick

C and I watched more debates, more NetFlix, and even a bleary tail-end of the 2008 Olympics in those revolving hospital rooms. She had true fortitude and blessings on her side, those babies kicked and kicked but waited and waited. Finally, on the last day of our mother's first trip to Portland I got the call at work that my sister was in labor.

Every second that made up that day (well, and the next... and the next) have made this undoubtedly the most important, amazing, loving, beautiful year my life has yet seen. Those sweet boys have changed everything... my dad was right, my heart really did grow three sizes that day. I feel honored to have been there, crying with Korin and brushing my sister's hair with my hand as Shoghi and Maxwell came into this world. I feel humbled to have whispered prayers into their ears in those first minates. And I have felt such awe watching them grow and learn and take the world in in their different ways since that day that I have no words to describe it- but it is always a surprise, and always a wonder.

These two families I have by my side, my own family including my sister and her sons, and the R family of KR, RR, and little RVR, are truely a vital part of my heart and my life. Through September, October, November we have seen summer pass and autumn bring in more challenges, worries and fears. I've watched my job transform into turbulence and strife with the economic trouble, effecting my apartment and my Etsy shop too. But we have also seen great things, historic triumph, and moments of true happiness among our friends and loved ones. My folks had another opportunity to visit, including my brother and his girlfriend, which was the best family get-together we've ever had (as we doted over the boys night and day). And another little thing- my shop reopened! ...Much to my delight. :)

MNJ before his first airplane trip

In December Celeste and I spent a lot of time together before she embarked on a 2 month trip back east. The boys started smiling, and then started pouting, in the time before they left. Challenges continue on for all of us. The year might be over but transitions surely are not. There are still many decisions and shuffling to do before stability sets in for her family or myself. I've had some time while C is away with the R family, a warm and loving place to be for the Holiday season. I honestly can't say enough good things about these people and can't thank them enough, either, for keeping me from terrible lonliness without my big sis around.

I'm looking ahead to my next trip out east, to a new studio space and getting back into printmaking. I can't wait to check out the rest of Oregon and the Pacific coast in the upcoming year (well, not the rest exactly...), to see friends and family I'm far away from, and what other adventures in Publishing I may have. I'm grateful that I still have work and that I am able without hesitation to keep my Etsy shop going. I'm blessed to have new friends and old friends who I love deeply, without whom I'm not sure I ever would have made it out of those hard, depressed, clouded years of my late 20's. I wish them (and you!) all the very best in the year ahead, with joys and triumphs to make all of our hearts feel strong, bright, and loved. Three sizes more!