Consistent Inspirations Even Though the Weather is Out of Our Hands

Click the photo to see my pretty yellow crocuses and my pretty Zentangle-inspired-art mug printed with my own doodle art, too, if you like!

It's been a year or two since I first heard that phrase, "North Carolina is off its meds again" but it still makes me laugh. Because: truth. Recently my honey and I had a discussion involving key winter-based childhood memories that were notable because of the unseasonable warmth. Sort of like what we had a couple of weeks back when it's clear now I squandered my freedom and didn't go outside to enjoy it nearly enough. I had to be reminded that this kind of thing used to happen occasionally, even though it feels much more frequent nowadays.

In spite of being an unabashed "creative type" and a more-than-a-little-fortunate woman who neither puts on uncomfortable shoes for work or punches a clock, nor has to participate in a blood-pressure-spiking morning commute in order to achieve my days' goals, I nonetheless get complacent sometimes. Just like those years when my days were much less satisfying than they are now, I sometimes do squander the high points and suddenly blink to find them gone. I'm missing the warm weather now and using non-weather perks to inspire my days.

A few weeks ago when I shot the photo that looks like Spring, I had taken a break from the endless hours at a computer monitor and carried my coffee outside into the glorious warmth that so surprised me. Notice that mug? It's printed with a piece of my very own "Zentangle Inspired Art" I never actually got around to telling you about here on the blog but which was quite a satisfying project of mine more than a year ago. I will come back to that in the next few weeks - I'm working toward something really cool, finally, to tell you and today's not the day. Still, I had to point out the mug because I want to show you one of the silly things that makes me smile on ordinary days when the weather seems to annoy me more than usual. Like in normal winter days when it's not in fact 75 degrees in February. It's shifted so drastically that we had just enough tiny snowflakes last weekend to nearly blanket the whole yard. A scene that might have otherwise thrilled and delighted me but this time had the opposite effect instead.

Nearly the same location, just a few feet away in the same front garden bed. Two or three weeks AFTER the first photo was shot.

The mug represents something to me, I think. It's one of the culminations of so many of my creative endeavors. I was washing it after dinner one night recently and I said, laughing: "I'm SUCH a dork!" He asked me why. I answered, "We have enough mugs to build someone a tiny home yet every night I make sure this one is clean because it's the one I want to drink out of every morning." Then we had a nice celebratory laugh and chat about the importance of owning our own dorkiness and being okay with who we are, perceived flaws and all.

That okayness ties into the message I've been playing with this past year, and labeling "Muserie" which is the idea that no matter who we are, if we train ourselves to look in the right places and keep the right inspirations on hand, we can absolutely be our own muses. I enjoy believing that even if we're not wired in this uber-creative way I eventually recognized as my own personal makeup, we can learn how to rally inspiring messages and scenes and details that lift our days - even frigid ones that make it necessary to put on another layer before venturing out, or muted ones wherein the sunshine just doesn't show up "like it's supposed to" to lift our spirits without effort.

So that's one of mine: a silly little old mug printed with some doodle art I created months ago and now wash extra often to be 100% certain it holds my morning coffee again and again. Every time I look at it, I think "I did that!" and I smile a little broader. Also? The sun is absolutely going to warm my face again without bitter winds, and I will then perhaps be looking for inspiring thoughts of cool breezes and even snowdrifts to combat the southern summer humidity. But not today.

Merchandise printed with my digital artwork. Leggings, phone cases, kimonos, mugs and more.

Did you ever work on something so long that when it was ready to share you didn't actually believe it? I ask because that's where I am today. At long last, I'm excited to show you my latest creative exploration. Available because of the "Print on Demand" industry, we are now able to design anything from yoga leggings to coffee mugs, kimono wraps to iPhone cases, bodycon dresses to throw pillows. And now I do this. I'm marketing the items under the name "Printed Muserie" and you can read more about what that means over here.

If we've talked in recent weeks, you might have heard me go on and on about "the leggings" because, to be honest, designing those has been some of the most fun I've had in the history of my creative life. But there's much more to it than leggings.

Because there are necessarily several different links, and pages that come at this project from a number of different angles, I've worked to organize the content as efficiently as possible. Chances are there's much more work to be done, to make this as tidy as possible. But hopefully you'll be able to find your way around without too much trouble. My hope is that you also have some fun if you click through any of these pages. Please know that all you see here reflects hours of fun and curious exploration, learning and trial-and-erroring, starts and restarts, and ultimately, a mountain of possibilities.

The two companies I'm working with most right now are Art of Where and Society6. Art of Where prints my designs on fabric, cuts and sews the clothing, and sells it to you. Society6 contracts with manufacturers of all kinds to print my work on a random array of goods... and sells it to you. That's the short-and-sweet of it all. My FAQ page is here.

Because it took so much work to pull this together and I'm only announcing this publicly now, there are literally just days of shopping left, should you want to buy any of these things to give as Christmas gifts. Please do know that. I'm sorry. But the baby couldn't be born until the baby could be born. Orders must be placed by the 9th of December, (just revised today!) for Art of Where (leggings, kimono wraps!) and by the 14th, for Society6 (laptop sleeves, wall tapestries, stationery cards.) But to be clear: this is not a holiday shop. This is a new avenue for my creative expression and there will be much more to come in the approaching year. So please consider me for your gift giving, but do come back for yourself after the frenzy dies down and get something nice for yourself!

A Tiny Mountain of Links for You

Disclaimer and Reminder, With Final Notes of Gratitude

You will almost certainly find some messes. You may click on a "category" (Society6 shop is a great example) and find that I once set it up when I had no idea what I was doing, and haven't yet removed it. You may also click a link and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I made that particular design. They're fair questions, of course. But if a creative person always compared herself to those much better at something, she might never put anything out into the world. It was time. It had to be done. We're all of us getting better every day and this project has taught me that again and again. The value of just jumping in and giving something a go.

If you see a broken link or something doesn't make sense, please kindly (and gently) let me know.
I'm continuing to tweak and improve and your help will be so welcome.

Remember (yes, I mentioned this before,) that if you do see something you like and want to gift it to another for Christmas, the cutoff dates will be here in a hot minute. In fact, Art of Where emailed While I Was Writing This Blog Post to announce an earlier cutoff date because demand had been so high, for their products. DECEMBER 9 is this Friday. That's the deadline for orders for leggings and kimono wraps, if you're going to give this to another. (December 14 for Society6!) But I'm not closing down my shop after the holidays! This endeavor has literally been months in the making, and I'm only getting started.

Thank you to My One Great Love for being so patient and supportive with this and all the other kooky, harebrained ideas I come up with on any given day. I'm sorry it took so long to get this thing off the ground. I love you more than I can say. And to my friends who took a look and weighed in with critiques and suggestions and oohs and aahs and encouraged me to keep going: I love you too. More than you, too, will ever know.

Now... about those jewelry designs I put on hold. Hmmm!

That time I started designing jewelry again but never told you

Today I realized it's time to stop getting in my own way and just write the first blog post about how I am making jewelry. Again. And about how one day, surely before too much longer, I'll be opening an online shop so I can sell some of the pretty things I've been making since March.

You'd think that telling you such a simple thing would be a no-brainer, wouldn't you? Well, I'm sure you're right. You're probably better at managing all sorts of things than I am. Which is fine. There's beauty in all our paths.

What's different about today and the days, give-or-take-8-years-ago, when I last made and sold jewelry on a regular basis, is... well, nearly everything! And I'm not even exaggerating!

The first time around, I backed into it through an unlikely avenue when - as a then-potter I fell in love with clay and kept wondering what kinds of things I could do with the clay, then started making these fun little one-of-a-kind pendants and pretty soon I had this wee little enterprise that had my wares in shops and galleries and craft fairs and the like.

This time I also backed into it by accident. Whereas I'd kept making the very occasional piece of jewelry for myself or a gift, over the years, I was all hot-and-heavy into Zentangle art and exploring all the "tangle patterns" I could get my hands on when one day I thought, "If I wanted to wear this tiny little piece of art on a necklace, how could I make that happen?" Seriously: it was that innocent.

Fast forward 5 months and I've commandeered most of a whole room in the house for my studio and when I'm not designing or consulting on Squarespace-based websites (or creating graphic designs that will be printed on merchandise like mugs and cards and pillows and leggings!!!!!!! which is, of course, a whole 'nother story for another day, but hopefully a day not too very far from now,) I am making jewelry. In part thanks to the beauty that is the Internet and its willingness to teach us pretty much anything we want to know, and specifically thanks to YouTube which was either not really that much of a thing last time I was a jewelry designer or at least it wasn't the educational behemoth I have at my fingertips today! I even have some jewelry design books!

Whereas last time I used clay and beads and a bit of sterling or copper wire to add a hint of swirly flair now and then, this time I'm using... well, everything that's not nailed down, to make my jewelry.

Not even kidding when I say everything. Tiny story for you about the time, a few weeks ago, my friend Phyllis sent me a photo of the black just-shed snakeskin hanging from a tree branch outside her back door. Once I was over the fascination/ick factor (in equal parts!) of the idea of snakes hanging from trees, potentially over my head as I innocently walked through her yard, the next question out of my mouth was, "Um. What are you going to do with it?" Which led, of course, to My Love driving me to her house the next day with a can of spray shellac-esque product to coat it with so it wouldn't fall apart in transit or the subsequent handling that was about to ensue. All so that one day I will be working this atypical acquisition of mine into the pretty designs currently residing in my head.

Mostly, though, this time around, I started out creating little pendants featuring tiny pieces of artwork - Zentangle-inspired or otherwise - and then it quickly grew so that I've got this little setup with hammers and torches and quench bowls and pickle pots and one of my favorite places to visit is this scrap metal recycling business where I always come away with the most thrilling finds of cast-off copper I then hammer and cut and torch into submission.

Besides that, I'm encasing things in resin (like paper painted with watercolor paints, vintage sheet music, twigs and bark, shells, and so on and so forth,) and exploring what happens when you mix acrylic paints and various secret binders into concrete and shape the resulting blobs into forms that will, in time, be encased in resin and attached to funky wire bails I can't wait to show you, and turned into pendants and earrings.

I've also explored etching copper with Tangle patterns. This is something I expected to do a lot more with by now but in truth has been put on the back burner while more enthralling processes capture my attention. But don't doubt it: there will be much more on that front in coming months... maybe even weeks!

"Muserie" has become a huge concept for me, all revolving around the inspiration we hunt down for ourselves. And so it became the obvious choice when I decided to name my artisan-jewelry-making endeavor. Here's the page on my website; soon enough I'll be able to market it with the dot com as needed.

"Muserie" has become a huge concept for me, all revolving around the inspiration we hunt down for ourselves. And so it became the obvious choice when I decided to name my artisan-jewelry-making endeavor. Here's the page on my website; soon enough I'll be able to market it with the dot com as needed.

There's so so sooooo much more to tell you, but frankly I just needed to break the ice and tell you something about what I've been up to behind the scenes. Maybe now I can get on with writing more interesting posts about this or that technique or lesson or exploration or disappointment - even those are showing up and surprising me far more than I expected, and I'm enjoying the process nonetheless.

For now, point you over to my Muserie page where I put up some images a while back with the intention of getting this whole endeavor pulled together and moving along far more quickly than I have so far. There are photos over there of some of the finished and in-process pieces and in time I'll flesh that out better, too.

Thanks for reading and check back again; I am so very excited to show you more of what I have in the works!

Now using a font manager. Love letter to NexusFont. Six things I've learned.

Dear NexusFont,

Thank you. While I won't be so bold as to say - yet - that you have changed my life, it's clear that you're already making a honkin impact on my workday efficiency. For that, I am elated. Thank you for being free. Thank you for providing a donate button, too, because while the zero price tag is appreciated, a donation was a must. I'm sorry it wasn't more. Love, Me.

No matter how large my font collection has grown, I've usually been able to find what I needed with a fair amount of efficiency. Until recently, that is. Then I began noticing that when I was looking for a font - especially while working in Photoshop and most especially when I was perusing titles at the latter end of the alphabet (so many fun fonts begun with S, I've recently discovered!) my work would pause, hang up, or just take way longer than I generally have the patience to deal with.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Ahem. Or research.

So I spent a bit of time over the course of several days researching my options. That's when I discovered NexusFont. Created by Seoul-based JungHoon Noh, the free windows-based program has gotten a lot of acclaim. This is the one program that seemed to come up in reviews, lists, videos and just-plain-kudos web-based mentioned. After skimming a slew of said resources, I was sold.

The download was quick and irritation-free, and within minutes I was using it, elated while intermittently kicking myself that it took me so long to locate such a resource.

You know I'm in love with something when I take the time to bother telling you about it!

It Works Like This

Load the program, make sure "Installed" is selected in the top left panel, and to the right, every font loaded on your computer will appear in a scrollable list on the right. But not only is the name of the font visible, the sample text (which you can change at any time to suit your needs,) appears in each font, showing you how all your fonts compare. You'll quickly want to start breaking down your fonts so that certain kinds will be more easily-accessible. That's where the real fun begins...

After you've explored as far as you like, comparing and narrowing, you can then go into the program needed for your work, quickly type in the name of your chosen font and proceed without getting bogged down in viewing long, tiny lists of names.

Give Back!

I mentioned in my love letter at the beginning that Noh included a prominent Donate button on his website. I'm not proud to admit that I don't always donate when I've been given something freely such as in this case. Still, I try to remember, and particularly when the freebie proves to be such a useful resource. This was definitely one of those times.

Screenshot of NexusFont in action with numbers near key sections I've included in my blog. Click to enlarge.

6Things I've Learned about NexusFont So Far

For those readers who don't know me: my process is organic. (Also for those who don't know me: I'm only half a geek. This site is not for you if you're looking for careful and thorough technical analysis. Seriously. Those sites exist. This just isn't one of them.) I don't sit down and study a book or tutorial from beginning to end. No laboring over the ins-and-outs and teaching myself a start-to-finish list of important details. Jumping in and trying it on the fly is my way. I'll go back and learn more as time, interest, and attention span dictate. Still, I'm happy to share a few key perks of using this tool, because I think I know a few people who would appreciate it the way I do.

  1. At a glance, it tells me the number of fonts I have installed on my computer. This could be misleading; I don't have 1034 unique fonts installed. This number, best I can tell, reflects a total including every version (bold, semibold, italics, bold italics, etc.,) of every font. Handy.
  2. You can create sets of fonts. And name them what you want! So I might create a set for handwritten fonts, calligraphy, serif, sans-serif, heavy, fun... I haven't found any limits. I created a set just for the illustration in this blog post!
  3. There is a space for typing any text I like, which allows me to compare a phrase or sentence when it is rendered in all the fonts I'm considering for a project. This morning I discovered that clicking a down arrow to the right brings up past sample text, in case I need to toggle back and forth for different projects!
  4. Formatting options allow me to render fonts in various colors, sizes, and styles.
  5. In the right column you see that "Whiteboard" has a subtle gray highlight, and once this font was selected from the list, available information about this font appears in the lower left panel.
  6. See that tiny plus sign in the bottom left corner of the screen? Click it and you can add sets and groups. This was not immediately obvious to me so I had to be sure and mention it here. I haven't explored groups yet, but I'm considering (though not researching yet, because today is about efficiency and today I'm not curious enough to make the time, though you're welcome to add your own discoveries in the comments if you like!) that it's a way to include all the variations of a particular font. Time will tell. No doubt using the drop-down menu at the top will lead me to far more shortcuts and benefits.

Looking over my image now, it's evident that there's much more I could have shared with you. The designer's website link is in the lower right corner of the NexusFont panel, you can quickly see what fonts are considerably smaller than "average" (if there's an average size in font-creation... my studies haven't been thorough, though writing this makes me curious,) and the fact that there is a print button at the top that will allow you to print out (or save to PDF,) a quick-and-handy reference concerning a set of fonts, for goodness sake! So much I keep discovering. I have some additional curiosities, too. I'm looking forward to learning more.

And there you have it! My new favorite tech goodie. Outrageous to have never discovered such a tool before now, but I'm beyond thrilled that I have now. Perhaps you'll try it out too, and see if it helps with your own efficiency. I'd love to learn what you think!