Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another Fishy Invitation Sale!

I sold another set of Fishy Invitations! I'm printing them up tonight. Terrific customer -- she got me the copy exactly as she wanted it and approved the comp for me right away without a lot of back and forth. I'll be able to get these out in record time!

Silhouette Thank You Notes: The Final Chapter

Okay, a short list of what went wrong: went to Kinkos when they were closed (I thought they were all open 24/7), Kinkos guy added too many cuts, other Kinkos guy cut cards so they weren't square, had the wrong envelopes, returned envelopes to paper store when they were closed, ran out of ink (several times) and several other minor disasters.

What made it totally worth it was getting this email from my customer, "I got the invitations yesterday!!!! They are awesome; you did a great job. Thanks for the extras and the fronts of the cards (from the mishap) - I will definitely put them all to use some way... we are all good!"

So very happy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Silhouette Thank You Cards: Done!

So, after the tragedy of the thank you cards inadvertently turned into postcards, I returned home and reprinted the entire 125 set of cards. The next day, I returned to Kinkos hoping that they would "make things right."

A different clerk took my stack and after hearing me repeat several times that these were cards that folded (and were not postcards) and seeing the comp that I have created as a visual reference, took them away. When he returned, somehow, he had cut them so that they were not square -- when you folded the card, the back was quite obviously much wider than the front of the card, which was not at all a pleasant effect.

It seems really peculiar to me that the cutting machine wouldn't automatically default so that it would cut items on the square, that is, either perpendicular or parallel to a given side. But I don't really know how things work there, so I can't really try to guess what went wrong.

Finally, he got things cut so that the front met the back the way I thought that they should.

Meanwhile, the manager came over and apologized for the problems the previous night and offered to pay for three of my toner cartridges and a ream of the card stock I had used, which seemed quite fair to me (I used probably about exactly half of both of those for this project, so I was partially compensated for my time).

I actually saw the young man (slacker looking teenager with huge glossy black bushy sideburns) who made the fatal cut. He came over and apologized again for his mistake. I let him know how much I appreciated that (I really did). Mistakes happen and when someone has the integrity to own up to it, it makes all the difference in the world to me.

Okay, so they made everything right and you would think that I'm out of the woods, right?

I was babysitting for the neighbors on Friday night (my neighbor, Tricia, and I have a reciprocal arrangement that really works out wonderfully for our two families) and I planned to do all my folding after I got Grace to bed.

As soon as I started to fold the cards, I realized that things were still wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. While the cards did, indeed, get cut so that all the sides were squared with each other, THEY WEREN'T SQUARE WITH THE ACTUAL CARD ITSELF.

See image.

At first I thought I could compensate by folding it so that the front was a little shorter than the back, but the problem was simply too severe and it didn't look right and I knew that the only right thing to do would be to reprint the entire set of cards one more time.

This time in order to make things almost foolproof, I added quite a bit of "bleed" all around the print. This is additional print area and it compensates for poor registration. When I cut items myself, I don't need much bleed as I can cut things exactly where I want the cut. In the case of something like this, it is possible/probable that there is some shift in how the image is positioned on the page because of the printer.

I also printed out a special guide sheet for the Kinkos guy so that it would be very apparent where I need the cut to go -- I made the lines very bright pink. If the machinery doesn't automatically create "square" cuts, then the lines should show him where the cuts go. Also, when you begin to cut pieces off, you'll naturally be cutting off your crop marks if you make the traditional type, without a guide like this. The Kinkos guy seemed to appreciate the guide sheet. I actually gave him two guide sheets and told him to split the stack into two, in case the number of sheets I was asking to print at one time was an issue.

I went to a different Kinkos this time and explained the situation to the guy. (I'm sure that if I went back to the original one, they would have made things right for me, but I just didn't want to have to tell them that things were messed up again -- they really were so nice about it the first time) He took a ruler and measured all around my piece to make sure that my piece was positioned square on the page (which would certainly have been a problem for the first two Kinkos employees if they were not). I told him that I'd added quite a bit of additonal bleed all around and, again, this seemed to be appreciated.

He was sympathetic about the issues I'd encountered already and I surrendered my stack of printouts to him with a little tiny prayer.

Anyway, long story short (too late, eh?), he cut them perfectly. Everything was square, the cards folded correctly and all looked great. He affirmed that I'd done everything correctly.

And, finally, on Saturday afternoon, after just about every mishap you can imagine, the cards finally got sent out. I used the half of the cards that had little printing on them as slip sheets (there's so much ink coverage on the piece that the black can rub off if pressed against something), so at least I put those cards to good use. I included the fronts of the cards in my package in case my customer could use them as postcards or whatnot.

Hopefully the cards will please my customer!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Tragedy at Kinkos

I almost burst into tears at Kinkos today.

My customer and I finalized her turquoise wedding thank you notes, payment was all taken care of and I spent my entire evening printing out her cards, 125 of them, on both sides.

I used my new printer, all went quite well. No mishaps with upside-down printing. No jam ups, all went fine. We even watched a movie (Dan in Real Life, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would -- I really love Steve Carrell) while this was happening with me popping up occasionally to feed the thing extra cardstock.

When they were completed, I decided to make a dash to Kinkos on the spot to get them cut (at a dollar a cut, I'd rather let them use their machine than have me wear out my exacto knife (and right hand) on 125 x 4 cuts for all those invites).

The young man who helped me gave me an extra cut for free -- cutting my 125 lovely cards right in half!

Oh, it was tragic!

The manager came right over to try to smooth things out, but obviously, they could not really reimburse me for my time or my lost evening. He did offer to reprint the pieces at his cost on their own paper, but I wouldn't have been happy with the quality of the laser printer (with a slight gloss and faint lines streaking throughout), so decided to run back home and reprint them.

He has offered to reimburse for my paper and, partly, for some of my inkjet cartridges and asked that I bring in a receipt for that. Luckily, I have been saving these as business expenses.

Anyway, the young man who was helping and made the inadvertent error looked so very contrite and seemed since in his "I'm really sorry" that I assured him that "accidents happen" (but I was still so upset I couldn't quite look him in the eye).

So, the reprint is going on right now! I'm sure that I've had some extra practice in this already and it will likely go quite well.

Okay, I feel a lot better already for writing about this.


I'll still get these cards out by the weekend. These 125 cards are my biggest order to date and I'm so very pleased with how they came out!

And, sometime very soon in the future, I'm sure I'll be able to look back and laugh at this silly little mishap!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Custom Wedding Thank You Cards

I bid on an Alchemy listing on etsy a while ago. Alchemy is where people can make custom requests for items (like they want an apron in a particular color/style or a doggie tag with their dog's name on it) and people make offers on it. It's pretty interesting.

Anyway, the listing was for custom wedding thank you notes. She had specified a "whimsical" look and a love of Dr. Seuss (she included a quote).

Getting some rough ideas out was super easy. I pulled a number of comp images from iStockphoto and sent them to her.

Here are some of the samples (all these images may be purchased from iStockphoto, btw, which is an awesome service):

The one that I almost didn't include ended up being the one that spoke to her.

That was this one:

Long story short, she accepted my bid and this is the current comp (we're trying to hone in on her particular shade of blue that she used for her dress and trying a few other variations). We added the quote, flipped the laptop so that the man was viewing it and added her cat to the picture, to complete the family unit.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dottiness, Approved!

She liked it! I think my dotty party invitation will be a hit! My customer liked the concept and had some input on some modifications. This is what it looks like now.

We tried some different colors and she wanted to use a cute font that she'd used before. Also, we put in stripes, inspired by her daughter's bedding. It's fun to do something totally customized for someone.

Here's the piece when it's all opened up:

Lots of fun... I like the new brighter colors.

In any case, I think we're pretty close to the final product, just some minor tweaking now (she asked for thinner stripes, for instance).

Great fun! I can't wait to post a generic version of this polka dot theme invitation on etsy... I've seen so many wonderful ideas for this type of party online, including some cute ideas from Martha Stewart.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Dotty Party Invitation

Here's a rough idea for someone who contacted me for a card to make for their daughter's first birthday party, a polka-dot-themed occasion.

The draft below is quite rough, but you can get a general idea for where I'm headed with it.

The card begins with a circle. You can see concentric circles die cut in the front, creating more circles.
The first circle swings away to reveal another message for the receiver.

The second panel swings away as well to show the last message, with the details about the party and rsvp information.
This was mocked up quite quickly (once I had a concept, it came together like lightning) and, in order to get some pix to show my potential customer, I had my neighbor girl stand in as an unpaid hand model (hence the dirty fingernails). Also, I really need to work on finalizing the artwork -- I'm not at all happy with the initial panel...

If the mom likes this concept (keep your fingers crossed!), then I'll finalize it for her and, later on will post a genericized version on my etsy site for sale. The idea of polka dots for a first birthday party is totally darling and opens up lots of fun ideas for the cake, decorations and games (if some of the guests are big enough to enjoy them).

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Sale!

I began posting items on etsy a month or two ago and have made a few minor sales that don't count as they were to a friend who took pity on my humble non-sale status (she meanwhile, is getting requests to do wholesale baby bootie orders and has been reviewed quite favorably on cool baby goods websites along with people who've appeared on Martha Stewart).

Earlier this week, someone convo'd me asking me about my fish invitations! Within a few days, we'd sealed the deal for twenty invitations, approved comps and today, I shipped them off with a kiss for good luck via priority mail at the post office. She should get them on Monday, well in time for her daughter's summer splash party towards the end of the month.

In between, I suffered major trauma when the printer suddenly broke down completely at an inopportune time, but despite setbacks, it was still manageable and I think I am making more than minimum wage and having fun with it all, so that is all positive.

Hooray! With this sale, as I told a coworker, I've lost my amateur status and am now a professional card designer!

Brand new printer, partially financed with my etsy sale, will be arriving next week!

Check out my friend Wendy's wonderful baby booties and gifts -- they're so adorable that they make my teeth ache... and she has been very encouraging to me.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Best circus party ever

Well, in retrospect, the theme really should have been a carnival party, rather than a circus party, as any elephants, tigers, trapeze artists and other big-top attractions were sorely lacking, however, the carnie atmosphere permeated everthing.

Guests were greeted at the door and given a paper bracelet that read "Admit one • All games" on it. Tad's parents then offered them a balloon animal (they had practiced creating hats, swords and a basic animal shape -- they were quite good), then they were shown into the back yard to begin the fun.

(bracelet as shown on young party guest's wrist as she plays the duck lasso game)

I showed them their goodie bags, each marked with their names. I told them that this party was not one where they would simply be given goodie bags at the end, but that they would have to earn their prizes. As they did, they had a ready spot to stash their loot.

We had five games that the kids played to earn tickets with which to "purchase" prizes:

  • Ring Toss (shown below), a lawn game that I picked up at Freddie's for 40% off. They got four tries and were given that many tickets.
  • Duck Lasso, with floating ducks that kids tried to lasso out of a galvanized metal tub. When they got a duck, they turned that duck over to find a number (1 to 3) and were given that number of tickets.
  • Clown Dunk. I hung a laminated clown face in a tipped over wastebasket and invited kids to try to bean him with a collection of water balloons that I'd spent party of the morning filling up.
  • Go Fish. This was a magnetic fishing game I got for the boys at Target many years ago and which they never really played with much. My carnie counted to 30 while the children tried to get as many of the fish as they could.
  • Bottle Splash. Party goers tried to knock over number of plastic drink bottles with super soakers.

One last game was the Candy Count. Kids could guess the number of pieces of candy in a jar. The guesses were written on tickets, so they could have multiple guesses, if they wanted.

I was very gratified to see how quickly the kids dived into the games and really got into the spirit of things. Of course, the big reason why they got jazzed so quickly over the games was that the tickets they earned could be redeemed for candy and toys at the concession stand, below.

My husband, Tad, manned the concession stand. You can see him spinning the cotton candy above (note: cotton candy does not keep well if you spin it and let it sit -- it attracts moisture and dissolves! You can save it in ziplock baggies, if you need to). Over the last few weeks, I picked up little things I thought kids would be interested in wherever I could find them cheap. Century Novelty was a good find. I got foam glider kits, body glitter, squirt guns, clown noses and other little things from them. At other spots, I picked up lip gloss, puzzle sets and a bunch of assorted candy. Some sparkley headbands with mylar flowers and technicolor feathers were a huge hit with the girls. Tad found some great party favors at Target and brought home wooden snakes and whoopie cushions. I sorted things into various baskets and marked them with tags that let the guests know how many tickets would be needed to redeem each item. Small pieces of candy were worth one ticket. The foam gliders and lip gloss were relatively luxurious and worth five tickets each.

Once kids got the idea, they dove into each game enthusiastically, quickly filling up their goodie bags (below).

A lot of the fun of the games goes to my enthusiastic "carnies," who are known, in their other lives, as the kids' grandma, grandpa, Uncle Johnny and godmother Sarah. They were great and kept the kids going from one fun activity to another.

My boys, above, are looking over the concession stand. Later in the party, the kids would virtually wipe it out (which was good -- I didn't need the sugary leftovers in the house afterward!).

I polled several of the kids after the party and even the most jaded of them pronounced the party a great success!

Thank goodness it's over for another year, though. And what a relief! I love the backyard birthday party (last year the boys had voted for a bowling party, which was not nearly as much fun for me to plan) and am soooo glad that this one was so successful!