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Naming a Business: Brainstorming

Sheree BurlingtonComment

The process of choosing a name for my new art/design business was so complex, I'm wondering if it's even possible to reconstruct it here. If you follow the path described here, you'll at least have a list of possibilities to brainstorm - or present to your family and friends. In the end, the name you choose will have to speak to you, whether or not your best friend or co-workers like it. 

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

In my last post I referenced a few Skillshare classes I'd taken. The worst class - in terms of polish and presentation - actually gave me the best direction. In Name Your Product in 60 Minutes, Sorin Amzu introduced me to the concept of mind mapping - a form of brainstorming. The object is to write down everything that comes to mind about a particular thing. Since I couldn't completely relate my quest to his presentation, I Googled the process and watched a few videos for clarification. One suggested using myself as an example, which I did in the map below. The only thing that keeps an exercise like this from continuing forever is running out of paper. There's much more to my awesome, complex self than listed here, but it was a great warm up. I'd like to continue it on a larger sheet. With more pictures. 

This exercise generated four additional, two sided sheets. One listed the characteristics of my target audience - my perfect customer (female, ages 25-55, college educated, art appreciator, loves house & home, decorating, nesting, bit of a DIYer, etc.) Another was covered with words to describe the characteristics of my product offering (abstract, colorful, sophisticated, artsy, floral, geometric, pattern, word art). A third focused on me - what I care about (humor, design, language, consciousness, spiritualism, law of attraction, seeking) Still another contained lengthy notes on branding - taken while watching the Skillshare classes - Branding Your Creative Business: Define Your Brand and Beyond the Logo: Crafting a Brand Identity.

Both instructors suggest beginning with a short brand mission statement - describe your business, what you offer, what you do. Virgin Airline's Richard Branson recommends using the 140 character Twitter template. As an example, my day job statement is "hand painted, personalized pottery gifts for weddings, new baby & family celebrations."

Identifying your customer: Understanding who will buy your offering is so important. Knowing who this person is helps you speak specifically to them. On the list of questions: Name, age, gender, job roll, education, relationship status, children, pets, income, music - you get the idea. Knowing your customer will help you figure out how to market to her - not the gal wearing a hoodie and pajama pants in Market Basket.

There is so much more to branding than the little, incomplete paragraphs I've crafted here. Part of being successful in a creative business is being a sponge. Read everything. Watch everything. Ask questions. Hang out with other creatives, even if it's only online.

{Uncompensated endorsement: Skillshare offers tons of classes on design, business, photography, DIY, writing and more. If you're in or are starting a creative business, I earnestly suggest you look into this great site. It is totally worth $10 a month.}

In the middle of all of this brainstorming, I found Elle & Company,  owned by a most adorable Lauren Hooker. Her logo design portfolio made me realize that I needed a logo and it had to look good in print. And because I fell in love with her lovely little ampersand, my search for Something & Company begun.

After three days of note taking, video watching, muttering under my breath and not sleeping, I knew to avoid odd spellings, the difficult to pronounce, the too much like someone/something else. I'd read credible advice to use my own name, something known/unknown. Something descriptive. Abstract. Historic. Pets. Vacation spots. Latin. Misspellings. People, places, things. WTF. This is the song that never ends.

Another weekend came and went. I'm back in the studio, standing at my desk in front of a blank Photoshop document. Tick.Tick.Tick. Something & Company. Ree (my nickname) & Company. No - too heavy on the right. Every word I can think of that stands for Design & Company. Every word I can think of that stands for Art & Company. EWICTOTSF Humor & Company. I rifle through my notes. Read "stories help people feel connected to the brand." I love a good story. My coffee's gone cold, a great excuse to get away from this exercise. On my way back from the microwave, I glance up at this sign above my old desk.

Hey, can I tell you a story?

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.

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

Polyvore

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.

TTYL

Creative Polyvore Community

Sheree Burlington1 Comment

People might describe me as somewhat eccentric. I talk too much, laugh too loud and tend to get fixated on things. I have two speeds. On. And off. When I'm excited about something, it's in a slightly crazy, kind of obsessive way. I lose sleep and spend hours and days and weeks lost in a new project. And, I can't imagine why the whole world is not as thrilled about this cool new thing as I am. Which means that it's almost impossible to shut me up.

My last obsession was Send Out Cards - design and send printed greeting cards online to anywhere in the world. While I still love SOC and use it regularly, I'm not hyper-ventilating over it like I was last summer. I've settled into a normal interest that doesn't cause my friends to roll their eyes when they see me coming.

My Latest discovery is Polyvore (PV) an online fashion site with another purpose. Users create design collages online, using images they either find on PV or on any shopping site in the world. It's fun and creative, with hundreds of thousands of monthly users creating over 30K "sets" a day.

It's free. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not "into" fashion. I wear a uniform: Jeans, some kind of top, usually a scarf, and cowboy boots. Like, every day. When I go out at night, I put on lipstick.

While PV may have been conceived as a fashion site, it has evolved to become much more. Fashion, interior design, wedding planning, art expression, literature, political commentary, exploration of depression/suicide - if we care about it, someone is designing something around it. I've found a huge community of artists, some well known to me, creating stunning art collages. I'm talking about people with real talent creating gorgeous, colorful, inspired art sets. 

In my world, I'm one of only a few designers I know. Few people, even those close to me, really know what I do. It doesn't look like much: A middle aged woman, hunched over a computer wearing a scarf, her too-tight jeans unzipped. In my PV world, I'm immersed in a sea of designers. And they're from all over the world - Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Germany, Russian Federation, Italy, Spain. And they speak English. Most of them, really well. And they're talented. Instead of designing in a void, I'm doing it in an international community of like minded people. I admire their work. They admire mine. We like each other, send messages to one another and even exchange gift sets. Through PV, I've befriended a delightful gal from the Netherlands. Wise, witty and articulate, her regular emails are are an insightful and entertaining addition to my morning coffee.

So, even if you don't get sucked in to every fun thing that crosses your path, you'll find Polyvore a fun, free way to express yourself creatively, promote your business, or even start one. Even after several months, I still find my self drawn to PV and its community several times a day. An unlimited opportunity to use the work of some of the world's most talented artists & designers to create your own? And you can use these awesome collages on your site or blog? Well that is just the coolest thing in my world.

My Studio. My Place. My Crib.

Sheree Burlington6 Comments

Hey, I thought I would show you all where I spend my days. And many of my nights. Welcome to the third and hopefully, final home of Museware Pottery. There are many wonderful things about our new home but at the top of the list is the fact that it is heated. This winter - 70. Last winter - most days around 50.

Production1.JPG

This is our main production table. It's where my production manager, Nicole, spends most of her time. She's a machine and has turned the art of hand painted pottery into a science. She loves her job and tells me she'd come here even if I didn't pay her. Her Mantra: Don't be jealous of my skillz. See that big tree in the background? His name is Benjamin. I named him back in the day when I was reading The Secret Life of Plants and having regular conversationswith him. Oh, and sleeping under a pyramid. I bought him in 1975 and placed him on a doily on my coffee table. It's hard for me to imagine my ever owning a doily.

Kitchen.JPG

This is our "kitchen." We call it that because itincludes a refrigerator and microwave but very little cooking takes place in it. The water that flows from the faucet smells slightly swampy and always makes us think one of us farted. 

The shelves on the left house my collection of mosaic glass - the remnants of an earlier creative obsession. Seven years ago, no surface was safe around me. I couldn't look at a piece of pottery without imagining it in pieces. One bottle contains the remains of a hideous bull fighter figurine found at a flea market. When the guy who sold it started to wrap it, I told him not to bother - I planned smash it. He looked stricken, like I was about to destroy a rare artifact. Because $3 can buy a thing of historic value.

ToolStorage.JPG

This area is is behind the production table and is where we keep our tools, paint supplies and working bisque. See that tool chest? It was a Christmas gift to myself two years ago. $250 for the entire thing. At Sears. It's a Craftsman. Three pieces. Ball bearing drawer slides. That noise is the sound of me beating my chest. Men gaze at it with complete envy. Don't ya just hate it when all they care about is your chest?

MyDesignTable.JPG

Now this is where the magic happens. This is my workspace. The table is 5' x8' and full of junk. My actual work area consists of a small area in front of my chair. I usually blame the mess on a lack of storage. Total crap. Give me a warehouse and I'd still have junk on my table. Before having my son 15+ years ago, I was compulsively neat. My house looked like a magazine. I am apparently healed.

KilnRoom.JPG

Our kiln room is efficiency expert Lara's domain. Lara is wicked organized - she's been with us - wow - 8 months and I haven't once had to organize her kiln carts. You've got to know I just issued a huge compliment. No one can touch me in kiln cart organization. Don't be jealous of my skillz. This room is exactly large enough to house three kilns. One foot less and it wouldn't have worked. As long as she stays tiny, she won't have to worry about brushing her cheeks against 1835* stainless steel. When we run all three kilns along with the room vent, the temperature only gets to 90*. That's a lot cooler than the 115* we've suffered in the past. While I have not seen how heat effects Lara's temperament, I can tell you it turns me into a biting, evil shrew.

Thanks for stopping by.

I Made You A Beard

Sheree Burlington6 Comments

Facial hair. It's a sign of strength. Of masculinity. Testosterone. My second husband had all three, but the man could not grow a beard. Even his attempts at a mustache were at best, um, pubic - little wiry hairs twisting out in every direction. Not a good look.

His last effort was this past summer. I dropped my son off at his place for the weekend. He came out of the house sporting a sparse little caterpillar of a mustache. It looked like he'd applied it with tape. Neal laughed and pointed. "Look Ma! Dad's Hispanic!"

"Donde esta el bano?" I ask. It's the only thing I know how to say in Spanish other than some really disgusting references to oral sex. "Si," He responds. It's the only word he knows. He may look Hispanic, but he doesn't hablos either.

While neither of us are exchanging Christmas gifts any longer, it's really all I can do to keep myself from ordering him one of these. They come in a fabulous array of colors and textures -one for pretty much any occasion. I Made You A Beard. This is the artist, Erin sporting her Lumberjack beard. If someone in your life is in need of a new look, you just may find it at her Etsy Shop. Look for a complete interview with Erin on my new and yet to be released design blog "Wicked Good Eye," coming to the blogosphere soon. Because she likes you. And you like beards.

"Cutest Blog On The Block"

Sheree Burlington3 Comments

Bad title. Very cool site. Over 300 free backgrounds for your blog. I just did it and it took seconds. The basic, center layout remained the same, so I didn't need to reconstruct the page. Each background comes with a bit of code, which you copy and paste into the HTML/Java Script screen. It's wicked easy. The following has been copied directly from their site.

1. Sign in to Blogger. This will take you to your Dashboard.

2 Under the blog you wish to change the background for, click on Layout.

3. You are now in the 'Add and Arrange Page Elements' screen. Click 'Add a Gadget'.

4. You are now in the 'Add a Gadget' screen. Scroll down to where it says 'HTML/JavaScript'.

5. Next to that, click on the (+) sign.

6. You are now in the 'Configure HTML/JavaScript' Screen. Under Content you'll see a large box, paste the entire following HTML code in that space.

7. Click 'Save'.

http://www.thecutestblogontheblock.com/index.php

You guys are gonna love this. They'll even design a custom banner to match your background for $30. Wicked talented chicks.

Another Way To Avoid Relaxing

Sheree BurlingtonComment

In an effort to fill up every second of my life with high maintenance people and things, I've decided that the few minutes each night that I spend relaxing and reading Scottish historical novels (The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon - incredible sex scenes) could be better spent. I also thought this could take the place of my long lost practice of daily journaling. Most of my life - every unedited detail - is recorded in dozens of cloth bound books hidden away in an old suitcase. I've instructed my mother not to read them until I've been dead for five years. Seriously dead for five years.

Next month, Nicole (my awesome painter/production manager/kiln room manager/shipper/receiver and occasional therapist) and I will take my line to The National Stationery Show in NYC. We'll pack up the truck and take the trip from Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire (pop. 110,000) to the Really Big City. Verra exciting (using my Scottish accent.) I plan on being the hit of the show and becoming Wicked Famous.

In an effort to look incredibly talented and earn the questionable title "artist" I've been on a three month long design binge. I've added a bunch of new stuff to my Baby Collection and am very pleased with the results. The above image is a preview of what we'll be showing. Using a combination of stamps designed by Christine Adolph & my own hand-carved stamps, the colors and shapes in this new collection just make me smile. I'm in love with the scroll stamp that's part of her Garden Melange Collection. Her work is featured prominently in my own. Watch for more of her great designs in my growing Valentine's Day collection.