Wednesday, April 23, 2014

the right-brain way {and a right-brain giveaway!}

If only Jennifer Lee had been in my life in the 90s! I was whiling away my days in a full time MBA program, both ambitious and bored. I wanted desperately to break out of the traditional corporate life & onto my own creative career path, but I did not have the understanding or discipline in my emotional toolbox to know what that even meant at the time. Ideas were whizzing around my right brain on roller skates with no interest in being tamed, while the left half was just doing everything it could to hang on to the curriculum and the structure I needed to get through the program. Neither side of my brain would trust the other, which meant there was either an ongoing battle between the worlds or the doors were simply glued shut. One day I was so overwhelmed by the struggle that I panicked in the middle of a finance class, grabbed my things and made a dramatic bolt for the door, bringing the class to a halt because I had so much baggage in my hands that I couldn't even get that door open and the professor had to let me out. There just weren't many resources, let alone support, to help me make sense of it all.

I finished my degree and tootled back into the corporate clutches to pay off my graduate school loans, and went through the motions until I hit my limit, jumped full time into my art, and spent a lot of time trying to broker the peace treaty between the left and the right. It took me years to find a comfort level doodling my way toward this new career (I didn't even want to call it a career for a while), and it took even longer to work up the nerve to launch my art into a business. I am thrilled with my choice but I have to admit that I still struggle severely with left-right woes. Every single day. Some days fifty things hit me all at once and all I can manage is to pivot in a large circle and get nothing done. It's frustrating. I can cope with it & get back on track more easily than I used to, though -- partially from experience and partially because there are now, thankfully, resources and support that didn't exist before.

Jennifer's first book, The Right Brain Business Plan, was a gift to my bookshelf and my daily life. Her writing helped me to get out my dreams on paper, clarify my goals, prioritize my plans and to look at my business in a holistic sense instead of compartmentalizing it all. Also, on a personal note, it made me feel like I wasn't a lone freak. I realized there was actually a community out there who struggled with the same things. I was even more anxious to get her new book, Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way: Sustainable Success for the Creative Entrepreneur (published by New World Library with beautiful illustrations once again by Kate Prentiss). While her last book was about the planning, this one is all about the doing. The doing is usually where it all falls apart for me, and I need the help!

In the publisher's words: Building Your Business The Right-Brain Way "combines solid business expertise with a right-brain perspective that inspires creativity and innovation. Jennifer Lee’s fresh, empowering approach emphasizes taking action and continually improving to achieve extraordinary long-term results. Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way offers real-world-tested techniques that can benefit all sorts of businesses, whether you’re a sole proprietor running a coaching practice, a crafter looking to license products, a wellness professional with a team of employees, or any creative soul making a meaningful difference with your work."

What I love most about Jennifer's new book is that she trusts the right brain to take the driver's seat in her approach to developing a successful creative business. Her book is methodical and easy to follow, but not one bit of it is dry or posed as an unbreakable rule. Her writing is entertaining and rewarding to read -- and her words are totally actionable. Each chapter is full of tips, prods, checklists, questions, colorful work(play)sheets, action accelerators, reflections, confidence builders, right-brain boosters, left-brain chill pills, suggestions on cultivating connections, ideas on how to identify your creative gifts, cultivate your message and package your product/service offerings, and personal anecdotes from other creative entrepreneurs. I loved reading their stories, identifying with obstacles they faced, appreciating the sacrifices they made, learning from their experiences, and celebrating their successes.

Another personal takeaway from this book is realizing that the chasm between the two halves of my brain is not really as wide as I so often (and histrionically) like to pretend. It's all in the attitude & finding the way for both sides of my brain to work in sync with the other to fulfill my own personal passion and mission. That (for me, anyway), is the key to building a successful (and sustainable) art business. Bolting from a finance lecture is not the way to do it.

If you need The Right-Brain Way (Right Away!), and I understand if you do, you'll find it at Amazon or New World Library

If you'd like to play a giveaway game (you know I love to do those), I have one extra shiny copy sitting on my desk just waiting to be sent. Just answer me this (a question from page 40):

What would you tattoo across your chest?

I'll pick my favorite answer on Sunday, April 27!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

love, lettuce, peace

Cue up the beep beep beep of the Artsyville delivery truck! I'm backing up with yet another photo dump. (When I realize that it takes just as much time to batch the entire week into one post, I'll start posting daily again.)

Starting with a message of love & peace -- and the lettuce that sneaked into the middle -- for Passover. Thinking especially this year of our old friends in Overland Park (where my kids went to preschool) in the wake of Sunday's tragedy. I was relieved to find out that everyone we knew was OK, and so sad for the ones who weren't.

We had an early seder in Philadelphia with family...

But not before gobbling up the last of the breakfast yummies from my brother-in-law's bakery.  (If you're in the Philadelphia area, it's Four Worlds Bakery on Woodland Avenue!)

It was 80 degrees that day, so absolutely popsicle-worthy that we popped over to the Lil' Pop Shop

& walked around the neighborhood. (I love West Philly!) Philadelphia is only about 90 miles south of us, but it feels like it's in a different climate zone -- all the flowering trees were in full bloom while ours in North Jersey have barely started.

So we've been making our own blooms and color mixes to help move spring along. 

A week ago Sunday I hauled the girls all around NYC -- it was a stunning day & Mr. Artsyville was stumbling around Hong Kong fresh off a 16 hour flight, all bleary eyed & zombie like, so I thought we'd do the same thing on the other side of the earth. I made the kids walk. and walk. and walk. We hadn't been to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side yet & so we took the Victoria Confino tour. I thought it was terrific; my 11 year old thought it was interesting; my 7 year old just wanted to go to the gift shop. (which was also terrific.) 

We ran into Marco's Art Mobile somewhere around Soho or Nolita -- one of those hazily defined areas where I'm always hesitant to say with certainty where I am.

Walked past this game of hoops at just the right moment :)

They each got a little hand treatment at Lush, too.

Good & tired kids. Just how I like 'em.

Mr. Artsyville brought back a load of sweets from 7-Eleven in Hong Kong, but curiously enough, upon closer inspections of the labels none of the goods were native items. I think stuff just goes through Hong Kong (our washi tape, for one); no products seem to originate from there. No matter. I love sweets from foreign shores no matter where. He went to the Hong Kong Ladies' Market (not what it sounds like) and bargained ferociously for those adorable chopsticks.

Drawings wrought by little hands keep appearing all around Artsyville....



and bigger hands too.

I'm working on a bunch of little wordy tiles...

...for a very specific purpose to be revealed whenever I can get around to finishing it.

As always, if you stuck with me through the end, congrats! You deserve a prize! Have a great week!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

how to put together a pop-open card

Sucked into school projects! That's where I've been the past few weeks. The first was the evil science fair (nuff said), the second was the creation of an 18 foot burlap and felt banner that I thought was going to put me in my grave, and the last was a set of invitations for a fundraiser that (comparatively speaking) was a most light and airy prance through a spring meadow. Instead of designing a flat invitation, I decided to create a trifold piece that popped open & delivered the message like a little gift. It took a bit of fiddling around to figure out where I wanted the folds, but once that was done it went pretty quickly, and so I thought I'd share the process here in case anyone is interested. (Even though I made invitations, you could easily make any kind of card out of these -- birthday, photo, holiday, moving announcements, etc.)

List of ingredients:

*Basic 8.5x11 cardstock in various shades. I used 65# cover, and you can get some great shades at Michaels in packs of 50 for about $4 each. Sometimes $3.33 if you get there on a good day.

*Coordinating A2 envelopes. Paper Source has a good selection, though I get mine directly from French Paper. (If you are a paper hoarder, beware...French Paper is an easy place to go for a quick visit and then check out a few hundred dollars later.)

*Washi tape (of course!) 

*1 inch paper circle punch

*A paper scorer or bone folder

*Paper cutter

*Glue dots or double stick tape

Pick your cardstock color. Each sheet will yield two pop-open cards.

Chop it in half lengthwise with a paper cutter. This will give you two pieces that are each 4.25" wide and 11" long. 

Turn one piece sideways, pick your favorite washi tape & start unrolling. (Side note: for those who have been asking when I'll get my washi back in, we are running another small batch and if all goes well, it will be here within 6-8 weeks!!) I picked my Jolly Town design, as this was a fundraising invitation for two sweet little boys, and it seemed like a good fit :) 

You'll want your washi to wrap all the way around the length of both sides -- 22 inches and some change. If you can manage it, lay it out & wrap the tape so that the ends of the washi meet in the middle or overlap slightly. Be prepared to squint and grunt a bit while you're trying to make the ends meet -- it's important to have the tape straight & aligned all the way around. (The side where the washi ends overlap will be the inside of your card -- you'll layer your message on top of the overlap so no one will see it.)

On the inside of the card (the side on which the washi ends have met/overlapped), score the left side at exactly 2.75", then do the same thing to the other side. It isn't totally necessary to have a paper scorer, but it makes the folding easier and it gives the piece a clean, polished look. This will leave you with an area in the middle that measures 4.25"x5.5" where you'll put your message. When you fold the sides together, they should meet precisely in the middle, unless they don't, which will inevitably happen if you are making a bunch. Laws of statistics prove that you will have at least a few screwups along the way, which I did, and then it is up to you to decide whether the gap or overlap is bad enough to warrant a do-over, or if the recipient really won't notice or care. Your call.

Now, for the center: pick another coordinating cardstock color (or use white) and handwrite or type your message, then affix it with double stick tape. I typed mine in Word and printed two to a page. I wanted a slight border around my inside messages, so I trimmed them down to 3.5"x5".

To seal the pop-open card, make circles from the cardstock with your paper punch, and secure it with a glue dot underneath each side. Alternatively, if you have a Xyron Creative Station (which I use), you can run a piece of cardstock through the permanent adhesive cartridge so it is already stickified when you punch the circles.  For an extra little flair, doodle on the seal with a black pen.

Pair it up with a coordinating envelope and you're done! If you have leftover seals, you can also use those on the backside of the envelope.

I also made coordinating thank you notes that were super fast & easy (lower right). I cut the cardstock into 4.25"x5.5" pieces, shaped the corners with my trusty Lassco corner rounder, and then put one strip of washi on the front -- no wrap around on this one. To get a clean cut, I let the washi strips hang off the sides just slightly and then trimmed along the edge with scissors. 

That's it! If you have any questions on the pop-open (or thank you cards) -- just ask!

xo, Aimee

Monday, March 31, 2014

make each cup count

I poured some color into the cup today & started a new doodling project! Last month, one very kind friend sent me a Starbucks gift card -- just because. Instead of mindlessly quaffing away the balance like I usually do, I am going to create a new piece to commemorate each dose of caffeination I get from that card (probably 12 in all). Not all will be coffee related, but this one seemed a fitting piece to kick off the project :) Hereby marking this as doodle number 1 of my #MakeEachCupCount project (and thank you to my friend who knows how much I count on coffee to fuel my creative endeavors).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

good clean fun

My cut & paste hand soap bottle has a companion! It has held up so well against the elements that I decided to make a dish soap bottle with my collage scraps. For this one I used a Method dish soap bottle -- it is very sturdy, has a great shape, and is easy to cover. The only tricky part was the ridge at the top. Keeping the pieces tiny helped to get around the curve more easily. I sealed it with the magic craft potion (matte Mod Podge) and though I didn't keep track of the coats, it was probably around 6-7 coats. It was an easy crafty quickie and good clean fun!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

moving on

Big day in Artsyville -- I'm clearing out of Etsy! After a year of going bonkers managing my doodle goods in two shops, I've decided to move all of my re-listable items (prints, jumbo magnets, stationery) under one roof so I can redirect my energy into making new stuff! ♥ I’m having a lightning quick sale (just today, March 12 & tomorrow, March 13) to close out the listings. The unimaginatively named code MOVINGSALE will take 50% off my remaining Etsy baggage. After that I'll be tending shop full time at

(I still love Etsy, of course, so I’ll keep the shop handy for my once-in-a-while handmade goodies and for de-stashing sales!)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

magic words for march

It's that time again... Magic Words are back! I've been working like a magnetic devil this week to sort these little guys into their new oddball families. If you already have some on your fridge or scattered around the house, now you can add to your collection & make even more zany phrases. There are twenty-ish packs now up for grabs on EtsyInstead of photographing each pack individually this time, I've listed every single word you'll receive in your pack, so you'll still know exactly what you're getting. With each order I'll enclose a little surprise (just like a Cracker Jack box)!

Also, if you order 4 or more packs, I'll send you one of my handpainted 8.5"x11 Magic Word Magnet Boards (while they last) so you can play around with your words in color! Long story short -- my refrigerator is a magnet snob and won't take the magic words, so I searched high & low trying to find a colorful two-tone board. Couldn't find one, so I created my own, and I made more of these than I can possibly use myself! I've also included a brief tutorial if you want to know how to make one. (Note -- they are a real pain in the rump to make -- but worth the effort!!) 

That's it for this Sunday & the shop talk -- I'll be back in a few days!! Thanks to everyone who has come back to the ville this week! xo Aimee

Friday, February 28, 2014

in the paint

It has been a paintier-than-normal winter around here! It started with the living room. The olive drab we inherited with the house two years ago finally depressed us all so much that I got up one morning, went to Sears and came home with one can of primer and two cans of Orange Spice.

Then, on one of our snow days (I've lost count) I whisked the kids off to IKEA in their pajamas...

and stumbled on these fabulous (and cheap) paints in the kiddie section!

They are thicker and more opaque than watercolors -- closer to a gouache effect. Unapologetic color. I love them.

And they work wonderfully for a quick & simple wash, so I can move on to my documenting with ease. 

I've also been collaging it this winter (cut & paste is one of my favorite winter hole activities)

and, in what might be the biggest shocker in Artsyville history, I got on the air and did a 90 minute "Free to be Me" watercolor & collage art journaling demo for 21 Secrets Live. It was hosted by Lisa Wilson and we had a blast!

This picture has nothing to do with anything, other than I like the way the light hit the bottles and it was a novelty to see the sun.

I finished the scrappy light garland -- but only half of it lights up now, which looks horrid, so it will have to live life unlit.

Doesn't everyone need giant clothespins? I scavenged these from the bargain bin at Michaels.

I made my 5th grader an ID tag to give a shot of color to the charmless cello case.

A nice surprise in the winter wonderland -- our neighbors have a little red doghouse!

Yesterday I went browsing at the candy shop (Blick Art Materials) but had to pass on the watercolors, because my mission was to find & buy an enormous paper cutter...

to go along with my new wide format printer -- which means jumbo prints are coming to Artsyville soon!

The magic word magnets will be back as soon as I get them sorted into packs. I'm also letting go of a few of my handpainted magnet boards. (And as for the shop -- big changes are-a-coming in the next few weeks.)

That's it for this fine Friday morning in the ville & the last day of February. Thanks to everyone who stopped by The Artsyville Cafe this week!

 {joining Paint Party Friday once again after a full season in the winter hole.}

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

out of the winter hole

Back from the break I never meant to take! It just happened. I fell into the winter hole. If you're a hibernator, you know how it goes. Over December I read every book by Alexander McCall Smith I could find, during January I don't even know what I did, and the greater part of this month I spent on the sofa with a crochet hook working on a new neurotic blanket, drinking beer and watching the Olympics. (If only the Olympics knew what a couch potato it inspired in me this year!) 

I've been Instagramming regularly from the winter hole, which I love to do, because it captures fleeting moments quite neatly. Snap and post. The downside of it is that Instagram doesn't really support extensive introspection or prattling on; time and attention spans there are short, so who wants to hear it? But I've missed doing that, so I'm back here where I can talk to myself. 

Working backwards (and I will probably have to break this up into several posts over the next week to connect to where I left off in December):

How I woke up yesterday (a little prankster jacked up the iPad to full volume)

On top of all the snow days, we also had a February break last week and were sick of being housebound, so we hopped a train to the city (the novelty of having New York City in our back yard has never and will never wear off).

We met the bubble guy while walking through Central Slush (the day everything started melting)

Partook in an artsy activity at the Jewish Museum (we were there for the Art Spiegelman Co-Mix exhibit) and I fell in love with these arty thingies, which I found out later were Crayola Color Sticks. Not crayons, not pastels. Pure colored pencils -- without the wood. They are geniuses of little devices. Gorgeous color.

And the same goes for the posies on the Upper East Side. Thank you New York for always having fresh flowers on the street.

We took to the ice, where we got top scores in falling down and hanging onto the side railing.

Scaled trees that didn't look very scaleworthy.

Built a downright kick-ass Slip & Sled slope in the back yard (with feet of snow, it rather built itself.)

Took a whirlwind trip to see Grandma J for the day.

I left a clue for my Valentine to find his prize (it was a lemon meringue pie which turned out to be more like lemon meringue pudding)

Cleaned my art room; no longer do I have to shove around stacks of crap to get to everything! At least for now.

And this is what happened when the girls woke up early one morning and made their own breakfast.

During January, the school runs a lunchtime workshop program staffed by parent volunteers to help keep the kids from going insane from day after day of recess in the hallways. I taught Do-a-Doodle again to the 1st & 2nd graders (I also brought donuts, which upped the popularity this time).

After each Do-a-Doodle session I hightailed it to the other end of the school & did Tape Crazy with the 3rd - 5th graders.

I started a scrappy light garland inspired by Lisa, which has me squealing in delight one minute (it looks really neat when it lights up) and cursing the next -- it requires a lot of fabric scraps and is slow moving. But I will finish.

Same goes for the neurotic blanket. Crochet is agonizingly slow. Ideal for a winter hole activity. Four more stripes to go.

I also doodled a new welcome sign, which seems like a good place to halt for now. If anyone is still out there, welcome back! I know there are two friends who still check in, because they kindly wrote to find out if I had perished, and I think Bella stops by once in a while too. So I'll put the virtual coffee on for at least four, and if anyone else is in the neighborhood, come on in. The door to The Artsyville Cafe is open again!