handcrafted decoupage glass trays featuring original art & inspirational messages

Naming a Business: Branding

Sheree BurlingtonComment

I am a project driven person. I approach each new {big} idea with single minded purpose - throwing myself into my work to the exclusion of everything else, including sleep. Some might call this a form of OCD. Whatever. It's what I do and I've been this way for so long, I'm barely aware of how insane I may look to others. Just get out of my way and let me get this thing done. Once I'm done, my interest, energy and adrenaline are depleted. I'm cooked.

After completing the launch of our new Sketchbook Collection last month, I found myself in my usual directionless, post-project funk. My desk and work table are littered with the remains of that project - piles of sample plates, brochure rejects and a growing stack of unanswered, un-dealt-with correspondence. Which includes my 2014 taxes and worker's comp insurance. I know. I publicly promise to deal with them Monday morning before I do one single other thing. Pinky swear.

What's been keeping me up these days is our new line of art prints. When I first got the art print idea, it seemed like such a simple thing. Design some prints. Put them up for sale on our site. Ya. No. That was before my Number One, Nicole questioned my un-thought-out decision to sell them under the Museware Pottery brand name.

Naming a Business: Branding - Wing+Tree Creative Business Blog

She pointed out that because we are known as Museware Pottery, some might be confused by the new offering. Kind of like Coke all of a sudden deciding to sell batteries. Or that they might choose a print over pottery wedding gift - effectively causing us to cannibalize ourselves. While I did not agree with the latter, her observation combined with My Guido's relentless insistence that Art Print Company be a completely separate entity - gave me pause. Thoughtful Sheree is a student. Don't tell me what to do Sheree barrels ahead and does whatever the hell she feels like doing. Because she knows everything. Just for the record, I don't. I just act like I do, which explains why self employment suits me better than getting fired from yet another job.

Student Sheree recognized that she needed to understand branding before she made any more decisions. One of my first Google searches led me to Iowa State University's Building Your Brand page. I have to tell you, I fricken love the internet. Everything in the whole wide world, the good, the bad, the sacred and profane - all of it - right at my fingertips. And me, in my bathrobe. Anyway, the post helped me to define, from a business perspective, what a brand represents to the consumer mind, and why I should care.

Recognizing the importance of branding led me back to my go-to place for learning creative and business stuff, Skillshare. In the last months, I've taken dozens of classes through Skillshare and almost without exception, have come away learning really important stuff for refining and developing my business. My last two classes - Branding Your Creative Business and Branding the Logo - Crafting a Brand Identity made me realize that Art Print Company needed its own identity. Possibly even its own website. Which meant I wasn't just selling art prints. I was starting a whole new business.

Once I got over the enormity of this revelation, I realized that Art Print Company needed a name. Naming a business may be one of the most challenging tasks an entrepreneur faces. Names are permanent. And people respond to them as if they matter, which means they do. My first inclination was to name it after myself. I've been in this business for 10 years and a quick Google search reveals pages of stuff associated with my moniker - none of which I'm ashamed of. Thank God the internet did not exist in the 70s. Since I have at least some name recognition, it seemed like a good - if uninspired idea. Armed with direction and resolve, I grabbed my reserved domain name and applied it to my new, unbuilt Squarespace site and called it done.

Then, like a bop on the head from The Universe, I found the blog post Naming A Business After Yourself: When Is It A Good Idea? by the practically famous Emily McDowell. She did exactly that. She also made a credible case for not doing the same. Since her entire fan base finds her by her name (or by Googling "the Emily that makes cards") she had to find a way to transform her one-woman-show self into the growing, staff supported, product producing powerhouse she and her brand has become.

Once I read Emily's argument, my whole running with scissors momentum ground to a slow, disappointing WTF halt. Once I got over myself, I enrolled in another Skillshare class called Naming Your Product in 60 Minutes. In spite of being poorly organized (videos uploaded in reverse order) and difficult to follow (sorry, Sorin) it did contain enough useful information to get me all excited about finding a real, lasting name for my new ... stuff.

Sorin introduced me to the concept of mind dumping - brainstorming ideas by drawing them out rather than linear list making. While my efforts were not nearly as clever as this one, they were a useful way to organize a ton of random information. I spent the entire week brainstorming - writing out pages and pages of ideas in a form known on the interwebs as MindMapping. In some ways, it was the same kind of fun as giving birth - an analogy I regularly apply to the creative process. In other ways, it was a creative project just begging to be developed. What I eventually came up with makes me so happy, I can't wait to share it.

On Age & Beauty

Sheree J. Burlington3 Comments

I turned 60 on April 10th. Becoming 60 and being 60 are two different things. The first is somewhat entertaining. The latter is something of a surprise. First, and I know it sounds cliche - it sneaks up on you. I've stared at a motionless clock. Endured an endless week. Wondered how much more winter or summer or rain or waiting I could take. But the years - they slid by like a deep, silent river.

My 19 year old son, Neal, used to tell me I had no idea what it was like to be a teenager. To him, the decades that separated us were lifetimes. In some ways they were. One gathers a lot of wisdom between 19 and 57. But the heart, the fundamental part of our being, the part of us that always was and always will be - that part doesn't change. I may not be the wing nut I was at 19, but my core self remains unchanged by the passage of time. Nineteen may seem a lifetime ago, but to me, it was yesterday.

It was yesterday when I stood in a featureless brick building, raised my hand and took an oath to serve in the US Navy. I was 19. Yesterday when I carried a sleeping newborn into a tiny, empty apartment and began my life as his mom. I was 38. Yesterday when I watched them lower him into a grassy lawn, surrounded by our family and friends. I was 57.

When I started this post, I was laughing - at the passage of time, the saggy boobs, the chicken neck, the absurdity of how little time we have. Right now, I'm crying - a little over the loss, but more over the sheer beauty of life. Of his smooth, handsome face, smiling at me from the lock screen of my phone. Of the fact that he picked me - imperfect, wonderful me - to be his mom. I'm crying over the overwhelming love I feel when I think about him, and how he continues to return it, showering me with feelings so intense, crying is the only way to bear it.

While searching Facebook for a picture of Neal to add to this post, I came across a note I'd placed on his page:

I wish you could just come home. I wish your leaving was a bad dream. You can't. It wasn't. Here are my wishes for you:  I wish you by my side every day, guiding my hand. I wish to always hear memories of your laugh and the way you called my name (mom mom mummy mumma ma mom mom.) I wish to find the wisdom of your new life in the choices I make for mine. I wish for your happiness, your fast and free flight, your knowing. I wish to spend the rest of my life honoring you - my only son and my absolute best teacher. I love you, Neal.

I turned 60 on April 10th. I've lived more years than I have ahead. And as the days unfold, I'll use the wisdom I've gained from the long road, the forgiveness I've received from my mistakes, the softness I've learned from the loving. I'll use the wishes I had for my son and the hopes I had for his life to guide me. And I earnestly, sincerely share those wishes with you, whoever you are.  To quote Abraham - there is great love for you here.

In My Dreams

Sheree BurlingtonComment

Yesterday was not my best day. Even as I drove to my favorite breakfast diner - a decade long ritual, I could not shake off the urge to sleep. I yawned through breakfast, causing my table-mates to joke about my wild relationship with my Guido. What they don't know is that we have been together for nearly three years and no long feel the urge to romp all over the place. We still romp, but in a more controlled, we'd better get this done because it's nearly midnight and we're both tired kind of way. Too much sex is not my problem. My problem is a brain that I cannot switch off. 

I left work at 3 yesterday and made a bee-line for the couch. Just before I went under, I checked my phone - 3:33. Since 33 is a significant number for me, I took it as a sign that this was the right time to shut the brain down. Stop planning, scheming, making, doing. I fell into a dreamless sleep and awoke at five, feeling - better. 

Dreamless. Lately all of my dreams involve settings that look like obstacle courses. Steep, slippery mud covered inclines. Me - scaling, sliding, falling, reaching the top, strong and tan and muscular. A snow covered mountain side sliced by gaps and fissures caused by a spring melt. Me - jumping, clearing, landing - scrabbling my way to the top. Vast, truss supported mill buildings filled with doors and passageways and machines and strangers. Me - wandering the halls, wiggling locked doorknobs, making my way up long flights of stairs, moving equipment from one room to another. The crest of a huge mountaintop, overlooking roads lined with buses and trucks and the black soil of newly tilled fields. Me - lifting my arms and flying down the mountainside, gliding over the roads and fields, feeling the sun and wind on my face. 

What the fuck. No wonder I'm exhausted. I plan and design all day then climb mountains and fly at night. Wait a minute! I climb mountains and fly! Ha! In not one of my dream do I fail. I always make it to the top. Always. According to the teachings of Abraham - dreams are a highly creative state. So while all of my dream themes involve struggle, I manage to find a way around, through, over. Which has always been the story of my life. 

Art Print Mockups

Sheree BurlingtonComment

I've spent the last couple of months shopping around for a mockup program to feature our new, in development line of art prints. Yesterday I purchased Mockup Scene Creator from Creative Market and am very pleased with the results. This program includes a resizable desk that can be personalized with accessories like lamps, plants, books & magazines, coffee cups, Chinese takeout and even a fluffy grey cat. Particularly cool is the large selection of posters, photo and picture frames, which was the whole point of my search.


Placing our art prints in the frames was easy - it just took a couple of clicks and and the results are pretty credible. It's also easy to switch up the scene to reflect the use of the room for which the print was designed. The items give the print a sense of scale, which will be useful to potential buyers.

I'm kind of psyched about these art prints. We've been pottery people since the beginning, so having a new, well priced offering that can ship in a couple of days will be a refreshing change for us. It will also give Nicole and Kris a break from me and my big ideas. A couple of months ago, this stuff was all tucked away in a photo box. They encouraged me to find a way to use it in my work. I thought they were nuts. If the early response to this new work is any indication, we may find that I'm the nut. Which would not be news to a lot of people.

Designing For Museware

Sheree BurlingtonComment

At the end of the month we launch a large new pottery collection called Sketchbook. The last time I introduced new designs was back in 2009. My retailers long ago stopped asking us what's new. What's new is that we cut our lead time in half. Launched a new website. Produced our first print catalog in 6 years. Found out that there's life after the loss of a child. Learned that if you hire enough meh workers, eventually a gem named Kris will materialize. 

The bulk of our business is wedding gifts, which means that from April - November, we are balls to the wall. Come January, we clean. Paint. Organize. Tweak the site. Count the weeks til wedding season. And since I am the designer and the only one who produces any designs, if new work doesn't happen in Q1, it's not happening until the following year. 

This year, it happened. I got over my fear, lethargy, grief - whatever and made a decision. 2015 is the year of Finally, New Stuff from Museware. This decision was followed by a creative block that lasted for weeks and made me question myself as a designer. Getting over it required my stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing stuff I do in secret when no one is watching - my own really naive drawings.

Our new pottery collection is based entirely on my own Sharpie on copy paper while watching bad TV sketches. So is my in-development line of art prints. Or fabric panels. Digital downloads. Clip art. Or anything that we can offer during Q1 when everything grinds to a halt. I don't know where this work will lead, but I do know that that I find that little owl up there so stinking cute, I just wanted to show it to someone. Anyone.

Keeping It Simple

Sheree BurlingtonComment

A few weeks ago I came up with the big idea to create and post a pattern a day. What I did not know was that this idea would soon feel like a pair of cement shoes next to my bed. I took a fun new thing and turned it into a third shift, minimum wage job. So I quit. I'm going back to creating patterns only when I feel like it. Last night I did not feel like creating, so I spent time on Pinterest looking at pattern boards. Here's what I found. I don't like my stuff. It does not jump off of the page at me. It does not ask me to look at it. And I'll tell you why - because it tries too hard. It's filled with too many shapes and too many colors and too much too much. I'm at work and should be working on my website but don't feel like it. So I created this simple little pattern instead. Feels pretty good. 

Finding My Style

Sheree BurlingtonComment

My fabric design journey began in 2011 when I picked up a copy of Kimberly Kight's new book, A Field Guide to Fabric Design. I was lead to her new publication by a link on her popular blog, True Up.  Kim has since moved on from blogging about fabric to a collaborative fabric design effort for Cotton & Steel, a division of RJR Fabrics. Yay Kim! 

Most of my attention was focused on the pages describing the mechanics of repeats. Because to the untrained eye, it kind of looks like magic. In the section "Designing Repeats by Hand" she explained explained step by step how to physically create a repeat. There was something about the act of drawing, cutting and reassembling the design that solidified the concept in my mind. 

According to Kim, textile designs fall into three distinct categories: Floral, Geometric and Novelty. With the exception of my first ever Illustrator (Ai) teacup pattern, most of my patterns fall into the floral category. While I was not consciously aware of the choice, florals are a good choice for the me because stylized flowers are easy to draw and are happy even when rendered in non-traditional colors.

Because I've been designing in black and white for almost a decade, working with color does not come naturally. And since it slows me down so much, my last several designs feature the same recycled color palette. The cool thing about Illustrator is that recoloring designs is incredibly easy - literally the touch of a button. 

Finding one's personal style is an organic, evolutionary process that can't be rushed. It took me more than a year of creating abstract design collages before a distinct style began to emerge. It was fun to hear followers say that they recognized my work before even seeing my name. My newest pottery designs are based on hand sketches and are a real departure from my earlier work. Even they have a Sheree-ness to them. Eventually, so will my pattern work. 

In my 30 year long design career, all of my mistakes and missteps have been made in private. I've shared my work only after it's been worked and reworked and scaled and tweaked to death. Sharing this very personal design process, along with all of its imperfections, is a bit scary. And a bit fun. 

On Becoming a Mac

Sheree BurlingtonComment

This pattern repeat was created using three of the motifs from yesterday's unfinished pattern along with an additional flower motif. Start to finish, this took about 90 minutes to complete. It would have taken less time if I hadn't gone wacko deleting programs from my computer yesterday. Like, half of the programs listed. So now my computer won't open images in Photoshop, Illustrator or any other program. I did this because Adobe Creative Cloud is a memory hog and I wanted to free some up. My 6 year old PC is perfectly happy running QuickBooks and Word. Photoshop and Illustrator? Not so much. 

I used my antique work computer instead of my shiny new Mac because lately, my Mac hasn't been very happy, either.

Back story: In January, I decided to learn surface pattern design and signed up for Jessica Swift's Pattern Camp. And since the entire design community uses Mac, I got the big idea that I needed one, too. So the plan was to learn a new operating system  at the same time I was learning Illustrator. Totally Not Recommended. 

I purchased a 13" MacBook Pro and a seriously gorgeous 27" Thunderbolt monitor. Oh. My. God. Even the box the laptop came in is gorgeous. I set up the new system - which took minutes instead of hours. And had practically no cords. My PC is festooned with cords and wires. 

I was perfectly happy with my purchase until I started producing actual patterns in Ai. Shortly after finishing my class, I was introduced to the spinning Pinwheel of Death. A close cousin to Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death, the pinwheel is a candy colored, smiley faced warning. We became friends. Messages like "not enough memory to save/preview" began to appear. Not a good sign.  

Concerned, I lovingly carried my new MacBook Pro to my local Apple Genius Bar for a check up. And learned that running Adobe Creative Cloud used all of my RAM. All 8 gigs of it. There was nothing left for saving or any other command. And there was no way to upgrade the memory. 

Yesterday, while lamenting my dilemma, My Guido suggested that I return my laptop. Since I bought it nearly 4 months ago, the thought never occurred to me. I packed it up and drove to the mall. I can not tell you how impressed I am with Best Buy. They took it back and gave me full credit for it. I handed them an additional $1140 and brought home the biggest, baddest 15" MacBook Pro made. It's a sleek, shiny, low slung race car with dual exhaust. I can't wait to drive it.  

When I do, I'll need to rework this pattern to eliminate those holes. Because rushing almost always produces mediocre results, I'll take my time. Add some variety. Work on the colors. Or not. Maybe instead, I'll start researching the Mac that's going to replace my work computer. Since I spend all day on it, this one will be a rocket ship. 

30 Minute Pattern Design Fail

Sheree BurlingtonComment

Yesterday I had the big idea to create a pattern in 30 minutes. It was a fail. I thought I'd save time by using existing artwork and used these from our soon to be released Sketchbook Collection. The time I saved was spend futzing around with color. I've been designing in black and white for over a decade - color is a new and scary component of pattern design. I'm compelled to play with it but find it hangs me up every time.

The plan was to group a collection of motifs together and to repeat that group several times. Easy, right? Missing was something soft, solid and round to balance out the long, skinny and open. Finding this new element will be easy. Creating a cohesive design without this balancing component will take forever. So while the time challenge was a fail, I've decided this pattern won't be. I'll put some time into it tonight and post the results tomorrow.

Minute Pattern Design

Sheree BurlingtonComment

I love the work I produce when I set design and time limits. Some of my best collage work on


was created in less than 5 minutes. Minute design forces me to shut down the critic and to make choices based on intuition. With only three months of Ai experience under my belt, day long design marathons are common. I finish my patterns exhausted, wondering how I'll live long enough to fill a portfolio.

For this personal challenge, I set a limit of two motifs and seven colors. And a really loose time limit: Not All Day. And I surprised myself. In less than an hour, I created this cute little hippie print. Tonight I'll see what I can produce in 30 minutes.