Wedding Invitations {Brian + Meredith}

Brian and Meredith are a super fun couple that I met through mutual friends in the Madison cycling community. When I sat down with them regarding their wedding invitations, they were looking for a few things:
  • an organic, laid-back style
  • eco-friendly - limit the number of pieces 
  • incorporating bikes and the city
  • a fall wedding = a warm, autumnal color palette 
Meredith sent me this photo she took at their venue for inspiration:

With their great direction, I was able to pull together several concepts.

We went back and forth a few more times and eventually landed on the final layout:

Once we had the layout, I started painting! Here are a few progress shots.

After all the color flats were laid, I added the text, which was a font I created out of my handwriting. The invitations were printed at Think Ink & Design on French Speckletone - a recycled paper - and paired with grass green envelopes. The main invite and map are actually 1 piece of paper, printed double-sided, to be a bit more eco-friendly.

This was such a great suite to work on - made better by working with such a fun couple. Together, we created a pretty fantastic piece of art to celebrate their special day.

MAKE! Conference 2014

It's no secret that Madison, Wisconsin is a creative community. Between the University, art museums, Gallery Nights, Art Fair on the Square and craft shows, being an artist in this city is pretty great. 

A couple years ago, after I started focusing on illustration, I rediscovered Design Madison - a local group of "creative thinkers...where talent meets inspiration". Before joining DM, I had made friends with several local designers/illustrators via social media. But working from home, alone - virtual friendships only get you so far. I wanted to get out and actually meet these people I knew on Twitter and Instagram! That's when I attended my first Design Madison meeting and "IRL" friendships were forged. It has been so amazing getting to know everybody.

Fast forward to July of 2014. I got an email from the president of Design Madison, asking if I would be interested in speaking at the MAKE! Conference - a conference dedicated to connecting, learning and being inspired by others in the creative community. Honestly, my first instinct was NO WAY! I do NOT do public speaking. But after a few moments, I reconsidered. This was a HUGE honor. I really respect what DM is doing for our community - and this would be an amazing opportunity.

So I got over the initial shock and answered YES.



I'll be honest. I have never been as terrified as I was last week preparing for my presentation. I had ample notes, but gathering all the images from the last half of my life was tricky and time-consuming. Plus if there was any info I needed to show, I wanted to hand-write the slides - so that took a lot of effort, too. I knew I had a half-hour to talk. But how many slides would that take? I know when I get nervous I tend to ramble. Should I bring notes to keep me on track? And then the whole technical side of creating the slides threw me - I refuse to use Powerpoint, but I've never used Keynote or Prezi. And what size should my images be? (Thanks to Alex for technical and moral support!). So, so many questions. That was NOT helping my stress level. 

Well, I put together the slide show. I ended up with 62 slides. (Too many? Don't think about it, emily!) My talk was on Saturday, so I went to the conference on Friday as an attendee. Wow. So many amazing speakers. (Don't get intimidated!) I got to see long-lost designer friends also attending the conference. There was a meet-and-greet Friday night which was another opportunity to connect (and get even more nervous). 

Saturday rolled around and I was still nervous. I hardly ate anything in the morning in fear that I was going to hurl. Prior to my talk, my friends were super encouraging and supportive. They did their best to build me up. (Thank you! You know who you are!) It was time. My mic was placed, my slides were ready. I somehow made it onto the stage without tripping. I was introduced, and it was all me. 

I introduced myself and as I mentioned my "husband and daughter", I motioned to them in the crowd. (Yes they were in attendance!). Stella stands up, puts her "paws" up and starts panting like a puppy. The audience chuckles. Then she yells, "Can I have a doughnut?" and everyone laughed. I announced to the crowd, "If I get through this, I'll get you a doughnut!" and the ice was broke. It was brilliant. I couldn't have planned it better! Thank goodness for my family because it was exactly the distraction I needed. And I started talking!

Here are a few key slides:

And at the end I gave everyone a postcard and custom emily balsley illustration pencil. The back of the card was blank with the prompt "Doodle what 'Make' means to you". I was hoping to generate some MAKE! doodle love on Instagram and there were several participants! It was super fun to see everyone's interpretations.


I made it! (without puking!)

As far as I'm concerned, I thought it went really well. I didn't forget much and I hardly used my notes. I even survived some Q&A. I am really, REALLY proud of myself. I knew that this was something I needed to do. Not only for my career, but for myself. I know I need to scare myself once in awhile in order to grow. And presenting at MAKE! was probably one of the scariest things I've done. And I am forever grateful to my friends and family who were uber supportive of me. I am SO lucky.

One thing that made me particularly nervous was presenting in front of my peers. As I mentioned in the beginning, Madison is chock-full of so many talented creatives. And I am friends with a lot of them. Any one of us could have been chosen to speak at MAKE!. For some reason, it was me. So I felt added pressure to present something not only exceptional, but something they didn't know about me. I hope I was successful.

Whew! Long post. But I wanted to document this very pivotal moment in my career (public speaking! say what?). Now, IF I'm ever asked to present again (!!!), I will at least have my "first time" under my belt. Not to mention all the stuff I've collected, scanned, sized and filed. Yay! That is a good feeling.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I'm not sure if my talk was recorded. But if it was, I will be sure to share it!

Desktop Calendar {August 2014}

Late again! I just cannot manage to get a calendar out on time these days...

This month I decided to focus on a theme that is near and dear to our family:

As you probably know, biking is a big part of the Balsley family. Stephen and I met at a bike company. Stephen raced very seriously for years, and I raced [not so seriously] for a year or two. When Stella was born, our riding became more commuter/recreational, but it is still our favorite mode of transportation. 

Earlier this year, I did a post about Stella learning how to ride her 2-wheeler. Last week, after breaking her little bike several times, we decided the universe was telling us that we probably needed to get her a bigger bike.

Stella and her new bike
Well, she loves it and has already put about 15 miles on it in the last week! Over the weekend we decided to take her on the trails to see how she did. We had a blast!

The biking Balsleys

I have to say - I am super excited about this new chapter in our lives. Having Stella bike with us is going to be so awesome. I wanted to commemorate my excitement with a desktop calendar full of bikes bikes bikes!

To download the August calendar, you can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. 

Happy biking!

Almost There {Trek + Design Madison + Allan Peters}

Last night was a very special night for Design Madison. DM teamed up with Trek Bicycles and Target Creative Director, Allan Peters to put together an art show called Almost There.

Anyone could participate. Any medium was welcome. All we had to do was create a piece a piece of art that is inspired by our interaction with biking. This was right up my alley!

I have a lot of memories and experiences with riding my bike. From learning to ride on my orange sunshine-speckled banana seat bike as a 4-year old, to saving up enough allowance for my first 10-speed when I was 12, biking was a big part of my life growing up. As a college student living on the UW-Madison campus, my bike WAS my transportation. And then, of course, landing a job at Pacific Cycle led me to a couple years of racing bikes - road, mountain and cyclocross. Now, since having Stella, biking is still a very important part of our life, from riding the amazing bike trails in Madison to pulling Stella to and from school in her trailer, we are a crazy biking family.

Late last summer, Stella finally learned to ride her two-wheeler. It was a pretty big deal. She had been flying around on her balance bike for a year, and we KNEW she could totally do it - we just had to figure out how to convince HER that she could do it. If any of you are parents, you know just how hard that can be. Basically we had to wait for her to want to do it ON HER TERMS. And then she was off.

That was the idea I was trying to portray in my poster - my girl with her long flowy locks flying behind her - riding off to who knows where - on her bicycle. Now it's time for her to form some biking memories of her own!

I'll leave you with a few photos and videos.

And another fun fact - that little orange bike with the streamers Stella is riding? I designed that for Schwinn! I actually had her in mind when I drew the little characters. It makes my heart soar watching her ride one of my creations!

Let's hope for some warmer weather soon...because now I want to go ride!

Global Talent Search {Round 2}

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I made it to the semi-final round in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent search. Wowee!

Our round 2 assignment was designing a Fall-themed Farmer's Market Tote. It was pretty open-ended, other than we had to focus on nature. AND it was suggested we incorporate people and hand-drawn type. Suggested? Yup. I'm doing it.

I love going to the Farmer's Market and Autumn is my favorite season. I thought about WHY I love them so much. Our family always rides our bikes to the market and we find a good place on the grass to call our "base". Then Stephen and I take turns running around the market picking up our favorite stuff. We end up just chilling out watching the people shuffle by as we munch on raspberries, beef jerky and Stella's favorite cookies. (We don't buy a ton of produce at the market because we get a CSA). When we're done, I load up my cute wicker basket with all of our goodies and we ride home.

And in Fall, I love, love love the fallen leaves! I love the sound of them crunching under my feet. I love watching them fall quietly to the ground as the sun illuminates what's left on the trees. But my favorite part is walking through the piles that accumulate on the edges of the sidewalk. I'll admit I may kick a bit harder than normal, just to see them scatter in my wake.

So I knew I wanted to incorporate biking and fallen leaves. I wanted to focus on the experience of traveling from the market, gliding silently through the fallen leaves with our precious goodness strapped to our bikes. Though browns, oranges and yellow are so typical, I wanted to throw in some bright colors to complement their warmth. If this design were screen printed on a canvas bag, I think they'd really pop.

With all of this being said, 6 finalists will be chosen to move onto the next round. Five will be picked by the amazing panel of judges, and one will be the "People's Choice" finalist. This is where you come in

Please take a look at the online gallery of all the phenomenal semifinalists. I would love your support, but you can vote for up to five different artists, so please share the love! Voting ends Monday, so don't delay!

Thanks again for your vote and all of your support throughout my journey. This has been an incredible year.

Rachel in Lux


Today I want to share a fun project I recently completed for a friend. Last fall, a couple of our friends, Jordan and Rachel, moved to Luxembourg for a fabulous job opportunity. Rachel decided to start a blog called Rachel in Lux to record her adventures across the pond. She approached me to illustrate a blog header that was unique to her and would encompass her new life in Lux - a little bike riding, some gorgeous architecture and her companion Willow the Dog.

We wanted to keep it crisp and clean, so we limited the color palette on the white background. Rachel and Willow's sweet smiles, some breezy flourishes and subtle patterns keep the imagery whimsical and fun. I even created some additional swirls and category titles to tie all of the elements together.

All-in-all, I really like how it turned out (plus it is inspiring me to freshen up MY blog header!) and I think Rachel likes it, too - even better!

I highly encourage you to head on over to Rachel in Lux to read some interesting and funny posts on the adventures of a Wisconsin girl trying to figure out life in Luxembourg!

Have a great day,

Project {Frisbee Golf Bags}


I am back with another random project I completed over the summer. A couple of Stephen's co-workers are avid frisbee golfers and expressed they'd love a sort of satchel to carry their discs (and anything else they'd like to carry with them). I figured I could probably help them out.

My challenge was coming up with a bag that was functional, yet manly enough that didn't look they were carrying purses. I also wanted it to be fairly low-profile, so they could wear it while throwing. This was my solution:

Even though I love patterned fabric, I felt it would be more masculine if the shell was solid, and incorporated the pattern into the lining. For some extra Bluestar pizazz, I hand-painted the shell to suit the guys' tastes. Typically I wouldn't hand-paint the fabric because it is SO time consuming, but since my screen printing studio STILL isn't set up yet, this was the only way I could get the desired effect. I added a pocket to the inside front for keys, drinks or any other incidentals. And the magnetic snap isn't visible from the outside...again, avoiding any embellishments that could make this bag look too girly.

All-in-all, I was pretty happy with how these turned out. And I figured I could always use the pattern to make myself a purse! But of course I'd add some extra pockets...A button or two...ya know - those little details that make a purse super cute!  :-)


Wyatt & Katie {Part 2}


Remember this post where I showed you Wyatt & Katie's screen printed Save the Date postcards? Well, last Friday, they got married! And I had the pleasure of designing their whole set of wedding invitations.

Keeping with the charcoal grey - magenta - white color scheme, my original plan was to screen print the whole set. But unfortunately, with our move to a new house, I wasn't able to get my screen printing studio set up in time. So instead I printed them on my spiffy Epson. Because I wasn't limited by the screen printing process, I was able to have a little more freedom with the detail and color variations. 

Here we have the whole set:

We kept with the bike theme and all of the text is hand-drawn type. Some more details:

It was such a fun project! I loved having the freedom to "do my thing".

And tomorrow I'll show you one more related project.

Until then, have a wonderful day!

Wyatt & Katie

Wyatt and Katie are two of Stephen's co-workers who have fallen in love and are going to get married this Fall (yay!). They are a super-fun couple that I have had the pleasure of getting to know since Stephen has worked at Saris.

Well, not too long ago, Katie asked me if I'd be willing to help her out with their Save the Date postcards. After I found out their color scheme of black, grey and magenta and their possible theme of bikes, I knew this was going to be a neat-o project. 

I really wanted to screen print the postcards, but with our crazy purging and cleaning, and having potential buyers come through our house, I knew that was going to be a challenge. But I love challenges, so I surged ahead. Things got off to a smooth start, but then I realized for whatever reason my positives were different sizes. Doh! That won't make for accurate registration, that's for sure.

Other than that little hiccup, it was a pretty good print run. It was my first time printing two-sided, so I wasn't sure how the registration worked for that. After a lot of guessing and testing, I finally got the spacing right. It was a great learning experience. And, in my personal opinion, I think they turned out really good!

I was excited I got to throw in some of my hand-drawn type and an old-school tandem bicycle. Thanks, Wyatt and Katie, for this fun, creative opportunity!

Cycling Fuzzies

Hello! Remember me?

Wow, it feels like it has been a really long time since I've been here. Don't worry - I'm not slacking - it's just the opposite. Lately, computer time = work time. That means no blogging, no drawing, no blog-reading. Boo. 

Even though I've only been running on about 6 hours of sleep, the excitement of these projects keeps me motivated. Schwinn is in full gear, and I've been rolling on setting up the decal artwork. I finished screen printing, cutting and scoring our holiday cards, and now Stephen takes over with writing and addressing them. (Isn't he an amazing husband?!?) I'm currently in the middle of the biggest custom Fuzzy order ever (7!!!), and it is easily the most meaningful order I have done. I just sent off my first Plush Team project. And I have a new illustrated animation in the hopper.

I wanted to post some of my latest Fuzzies. October ended up being a big charity month for me, with 6 Fuzzies going out to various local events. I was very honored to contribute to these wonderful organizations. The above 4 Fuzzies were custom-made for the Saris Gala, and event to raise money for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. To make them even more appealing, I cut up several of my bike jerseys to outfit these four. It was my first experience with this mesh jersey material, and I have to say, the slinkiness of the fabric wasn't the easiest to work with - but in the end, I think they turned out pretty cool.

And these two were a special order traveling all the way to sunny San Diego.

Once all of these big projects are complete, hopefully by the end of the month, I'm going to start working on some fun holiday ideas I have jingling around in my head. Usually I am so busy during December that I don't really get a chance to truly enjoy the season. I'm hoping this year will be different.

Yeah, right.  :-)

Ride the Drive

Today the City of Madison celebrated it's active lifestyle by giving up the cars and opening it's streets up to the bikes. Continuing the commitment to becoming a more bike-friendly city, Ride the Drive is all about allowing the community to experience the city from a different perspective. Whether by bike, roller blades, stroller or foot, thousands of people came out to enjoy 6 miles of Madison streets which were closed to automobile traffic.

Our family got the pleasure of holding down the fort at the Saris Cycling Group tent in the Family Zone. Stephen, an employee of Saris, welcomed kids (and adults) into the booth for face painting and a coloring contest. I was given the task of designing the coloring contest, featuring Lance Armstrong, 7-time Tour de France winner, who made an appearance at the event. We were hoping that Lance would stop by the booth to pick the winner of the coloring contest (which unfortunately didn't happen).  Here's how the coloring sheet ended up looking:

Coloring contests are tough to design! Especially when I want to add lots of detail, I have to keep reminding myself to simplify - this is only a coloring sheet, after all.

I also got the opportunity to do the face painting. I love face painting! It's always fun hearing the ideas the kids have. There was only one request I couldn't handle: Spiderman. I know Spiderman wears a red and blue skin-tight suit and has big oval-esque eyes, but I really couldn't guarantee it would have a resemblance without having a picture to reference. Apparently peace signs are popular with the kids these days, and beagles. Or maybe it's because one little girl wanted a beagle, and then all the other kids who were waiting wanted one, too. Not sure, but I got to be quite the expert at drawing beagles by the end of the day. I also got to draw butterflies, lions, an alligator, hearts, an angel, ladybugs, a T-Rex and of course, bikes.

I even had a man request a handlebar mustache! That was fun...though I definitely prefer drawing on the smooth skin of a child than the bristly whiskers of an old man.  :)

Here is a recap of the day in photos:

1. Kiddos coloring
2. Lots of people out riding their bikes
3. Stella, earlier in the day
4. More coloring
5. The poor lion braved the 90 degree temps ALL DAY!
6. Picking out a CycleOps sticker
7. Hard at work
8. Stephen hanging up the masterpieces
9. Taking a break
10. That's me! Probably determining which color to use.
11. Did we break the record of 30,000 people?
12. There's the beagle that started the trend
13. There's Lance riding by!
14. Stella, later in the day - face paint and marker smeared EVERYWHERE!
15. Focusing...and another beagle.
16. Lion face

The day was so fun! The booth was hopping all day. Awesome, but unfortunately it meant our fam couldn't escape long enough to go for a ride. But I have to say, Stella was a trooper - she stuck it out for 5 whole hours, even missing her nap. But I think she had a blast. And after all that, I think she has a future as a face painter!

Hope you had a great weekend!