Booth Tour {Surtex 2015}

In my last post, I explained our booth design and why we made certain choices. Today, I'd like to give you a little tour. Welcome to the Happy Happy Art Collective booth!

tammie, emily and Jill at the start of the show. Come on in!


As I previously explained, we decided to have one wall dedicated to patterns (the raindrop wall) and one wall dedicated to characters. Jill did a quick sketch of the character wall to get an idea of how everything would lay out.

Jill's sketch of the character wall.


I designed a simple scene for our characters to walk on consisting of some rolling, grassy hills and a rainy blue sky. We all contributed a few flowers to sprinkle throughout the grass. Our characters, umbrellas and cloud were all printed on foam core. Some pieces ended up being four feet tall! I found some giant pipe cleaners that worked perfectly as the handles for the umbrellas - and their fuzzy texture was super fun!

Once the characters were attached, we cut raindrops out of adhesive white vinyl that we stuck all around. We didn't want to get them printed directly on the banners, so we would have some flexibility with placement. 

Singing in the rain!


For the raindrop wall, we each had a cloud that "rained" giant raindrops full of our patterns. The raindrops ranged from 1' to 2' tall - pretty big! tammie designed the bold painted plaid pattern for the background banner which allowed our raindrops to really pop.

It's raining, it's pouring...patterns!


As you can see in the above photo, we had a skinny wall that was kinda hidden from view. We decided to make our useless wall into our Happiness Soaker display. Jill painted some cork board for hanging our soakers and we stuck some more white raindrops all around.

Soaker wall!


Because there were three of us sharing the booth, we thought having two tables would allow us to have multiple options for displaying our work and promos. The tall table was for our promos.

The tall table worked great for grab-and-go promos.


Jill picked up some Poppin boxes to keep our postcards, business cards, magnets, pencils and stickers organized.

Look at all the fun stuff!


The low table was perfect for sitting down and browsing our books. And when we were extra busy, we were able to utilize the tall table for sharing our portfolios, as well.

Have a seat!


We had a box full of props for our selfie station. Grab a prop and snap a pic!



I also liked having a prop as I stood in the aisle trying to convince people to stop by our booth. I mean, how can you resist this? ;-)

Hammin' it up.


Last, but not least, here is our lovely raindrop garland and sign. I just love how those raindrops look when the light hits them.

I absolutely love how our booth turned out. It was not only unique, but it perfectly represented us as artists. And just in case you're not smiling yet, here are a few more shots to sum up the experience:

In case you missed my other four Surtex posts, you can find them here:

Part 1 - Promo Mailers

Promo Mailers Part 2

Part 3 - Final Prep

Part 4 - Building the Booth

Until next time,

Building the Booth {Surtex 2015}

One of the challenges of sharing a Surtex booth with other artists is coming to a consensus on big decisions. While prepping for this year's show, the booth design was probably the toughest decision to navigate. Don't get me wrong - the process was still fairly smooth and cordial - but we did have many, many conversations in order to get to the final design.

Part of the challenge was designing a booth that would play to ALL of our strengths. Jill and I have a more character-based approach, while tammie is the queen of geo and floral patterns.  We needed to figure out a way to showcase all of our skills in a cohesive manner. Since we had secured a corner booth, we'd have two main walls - so we decided to make one wall pattern-focused and the other wall character-focused. 

We also wanted our booth to look different from the rest of the booths. Last year when I walked the show I remember thinking that after a certain point, the booths started homogenizing even though the individual styles were different. Much of this had to do with utilizing the standard vertical banners to decorate. Don't get me wrong - I totally understand why that is such a popular approach - the vertical wall panels lend themselves perfectly to the banners. But how could we make our booth stand out among the sea of other booths?

The Happy Happy Surtex booth before. There is so much potential!
Once we agreed that we would have a character wall and a pattern wall, we needed to figure out a booth theme. Our theme for 2015 was Rain. As in, "raining happiness". We also worked within a loose color palette of red, pink, light blue and yellow. A common theme and color scheme would start to pull everything together. The 1st wall would have our characters walking along wearing rain slickers and carrying umbrellas, while the 2nd wall would be raining patterns - large raindrops filled with our patterns.

In lieu of the aforementioned vertical banners, we chose to get large, wall-sized banners that would cover all of the framework of the wall panels (see above). Those large banners, though incredibly unwieldy, looked fantastic once mounted - they eliminated all unnecessary seams and gave us a nice, clean canvas to apply the next portion of our booth design. We were a little worried about the weight and how we would hang them - but tammie had used some 3M velcro strips the year before with success, so we decided to use them again and they worked GREAT!

tammie smoothing down the corners of our ginormous banners during setup.
Admittedly, the walls don't look like much yet. We really liked the idea of getting our characters and raindrops printed on foamcore. This way we could attach them to the background banners with some flexibility and the added dimension would add some interest to our booth design. Again, we used those 3M velcro strips for hanging. Not one piece fell down!

One downfall of getting giant characters printed on foamcore and shipped across the country was the potential for damage. When tammie received the initial shipment, there were a few bumps and bruises:

Poor kitty and fox. (Photos by tammie)

Thankfully we had them shipped early enough that we had time to get them re-printed and re-shipped - this time with a lot more padding. Crisis diverted!

We had talked about doing some sort of raindrop garland to string across the booth. Jill found some super cool translucent colored vinyl that would add some funky texture and color. We ended up cutting and assembling the raindrops on the fly during setup:

Look at those colors!
We also got some props made out of foamcore to encourage people to stop by our "Selfie Station", take some photos and have some fun. Tammie took some quick practice selfies to whet our curiosity a couple weeks before the show:

tammie perfecting her selfie with our custom props. (photos by tammie)

Jill had the brilliant idea of handing out squirt guns swag to go along with our rainy theme. She created custom header cards with her awesome lettering which we stapled onto the bags back at our hotel. Get drenched in happiness!

A big pile o' happiness soakers. (no, they're not guns!)

As you can see, we had a lot of different ideas and pieces which all needed to come together. Since we are located all over the country, all of our conversations happened over Google Chat, email, FB or text. (thank goodness for technology!) I'll be honest - there was a tiny part of me that was a little nervous that it would look horrific once the booth was set up. I mean, we didn't even mock it up beforehand! :-O

But by the end of setup, our booth transformed into this:

Our booth after a long afternoon of setup. Now all we need is carpet!

Wowza! That's a big difference! As you can see, we had a wall for prancing characters, a wall for raining clouds, and that happy happy wall on the far left? That was the backdrop for our Selfie Station. Since there were three of us, we elected to have a tall table and a short table to help with the flow of traffic. The swag and promos ended up on the tall table for easy access, and the short table contained our portfolio books. The cute IKEA chairs allowed our guests to peruse our books and chat in a comfortable way. 

We were thrilled with how it turned out. Yes, it is bold and loud and colorful. But it reflects who we are as artists - and it was almost impossible to not look (or smile) when walking by. That was our goal - to spread happy-happiness!

Stay tuned for an in-depth look at our booth during the show. For all of my other Surtex-related posts, check them out here, here and here.

Until next time,

Final Prep {Surtex 2015}

All I could think about for the last three months was Surtex

Surtex this, Surtex that. 

I'm sure Stephen and Stella were SO over it. And now the show is done. It's hard to believe! 

Let's get back to the last 10 days before the show.

After I sent out all of my promo stuff I buckled down and pulled together some collections. My original goal was 12 collections. As I got closer to Surtex I realized I'd never be able to pull that off, so my revised goal was 8. Then 4. Four seemed like a good number, right?

I ended up designing a Surtex flyer for every collection. I not only used them for my Surtex countdown on social media (40 days > 30 days > 20 days > 10 days), but they became the placeholder on my portfolio site for all of my new work and postcards for the aforementioned promo mailers. Plus it was a good way to put some of my new imagery to use and throw in a little hand-lettering. 

I made 2 flyers for my first collection : 10,000 Thrills

My 2nd collection, inspired by Stella - was about a super girl and her sidekick. It is called Flying High:

My 3rd collection is called Little Explorers:

And finally, my colored pencil florals, Joyful Garden:

Each collection had between 6-9 pieces. When I felt they were dialed I went through the rest of my portfolio and determined what needed to be freshened up and where the holes were. I spent a week refining and creating new work. At the end I had about 85 pieces of art ready to go. I had two portfolio books - one with my new collections, and the other with everything else. Thankfully I had the foresight to order enough paper and ink - because I went through a lot! Here are all the paper scraps after I cut the portfolio pages down to size:

I wanted to go the traditional route of having physical portfolio books to show my art. Call me old-school, but I always prefer being able to turn pages - you can go your own speed, start and stop when you want, start in the middle and jump to a certain page quickly without fumbling around on a screen. Not to mention the pages are big (11x14") and you can see the work very clearly. Plus, when someone buys your art, the page can be removed without ruining the rest of your book. Don't get me wrong - the Blurb books are beautiful - but I consider them more of a supplement to the rest of your portfolio. At one point I had also contemplated using an iPad to show my portfolio digitally. But in the end I chose to just stick with the portfolio books and they ended up working awesome. 

Once the portfolio was done I had about 3 days before I left for New York. I spend that time doing last minute prep such as printing, cutting and folding the header cards Jill designed for our booth swag:

I also made a bunch more pennant flags to give out at the show. Here are a pile of ends cut and pressed, waiting to be sewn onto the felt:

My last goal (and lowest priority) was to make shirts out of some of my own Spoonflower fabric. I bought a cute pattern called the Scout Tee by Grainline Studio and went to town. Sara from The Sewcial Lounge told me the finished shirt is a bit short, so I modified the pattern slightly and added on two inches to the length which ended up being perfect. This is one of the shirts all pressed, ready to be worn:

I wasn't sure what type of fabric to order from Spoonflower - so I ordered some Cotton Lawn. It was a nice fabric, but I have to say - it was still a bit stiff for a shirt. It didn't have a lot of drape, and it gets SO wrinkly every time I wash it. But it looks cute, and the shirts were a hit at the show, so I guess it was worth it!

That's all for the pre-show prep! Stay tuned for another post all about the booth. 

Until then, have a wonderful day!

Promo Mailers Part 2 {Surtex 2015}


Yup. Ten days. And so much to do. But I have to say - after the stress of the last month, I'm definitely more chill than I was, despite the pile of work and lack of time. I don't want to go into the show totally exhausted, so I'm trying to get to bed at a decent hour (you know - 6 hours of sleep as opposed to 4 hours!) and I think that is helping to clear my head a bit. Ask me in five days if I'm still playing it cool! 

I wanted to finish my series on the promo mailers I sent out two weeks ago. After the flags were all sewed and ready to go I realized I needed to mount them to something to keep them flat in their envelopes. I got some backing board, cut it to fit and stamped them with my Emily Balsley Illustration stamp to make them even more official. Here they are, drying:

It may be hard to see in the photo, but I also designed a large rubber stamp for addressing the front of the envelopes. I love how it turned out, but it wasn't the easiest to print - the coverage wasn't as solid as I hoped and that big blank space was next to impossible to keep clean. I actually had to put a little piece of paper there to block the ink for every print. It was a pain, but it was still worth it. They're super fun!

And here are the flags on their boards. I secured them with cute washi tape.

I had also ordered some Surtex postcards, stickers and new business cards, so I stuffed the envelopes with those as well. The back of the postcard has a whimsical "nice to meet you" design.

Each mailer contained a flag on backing board, a hand-written note, a postcard, stickers and business card. I was relieved that the stuffed envelopes still fit through the sorter at the post office - that saved me a bit of $$ for shipping!

I'll be honest - I was a bit nervous mailing these out. There was so much love put into these mailers, I couldn't help but feel a little vulnerable! But that's okay. I want people to know who I am as an artist and I think these packages were the perfect representation of me and my work. And maybe...just maybe...I'll get a job or two from it!

If you missed Part 1 of my Surtex promo mailers, you can find it here.

'Til next time,

Promo Mailers Part 1 {Surtex 2015}

I can't believe there are only 17 more days until Surtex. I am SUPER excited, yet I can't wait for it to be over. I'm sure Stephen would agree with that, too, since that is ALL I talk about lately! 

The last few weeks have been absolutely insane with preparations. Even though I didn't have a lot of new art at the time, we needed to start thinking about the booth design. Which meant ordering banners. But of course, I don't want to put a lot of old work on the banners, right? So not only were we designing our booth, I was making new art at the same time. It was kind of a chicken-and-egg situation. I-need-art-for-the-banners-but-the-art-needs-to-be-created-before-I-can-put-the-art-on-the-banners. Ya know? Whew! So needless to say, there were a lot of almost-sleepless nights and sacrificed weekends while I pushed through. Once everything was ordered, a huge weight was lifted off me and I could breathe a bit. 

But just a bit.

Then I had to start thinking about promos. Originally, I wasn't planning on doing much promotion so I could focus on making new art. But then I thought, I am investing a lot of time, effort and money on this show, so it would be pretty unfortunate if no one even knew I was there! I've never done any kind of physical promotion, so I wanted to get it right. Lots of people do postcards, which are great - but I still think it's pretty easy to toss them in the wastebasket or lose them in a pile of papers. I needed something more memorable that an Art Director wouldn't want to throw away. Maybe they'd even pin it to their wall.

My answer? Felt pennant flags! I know they're nothing new - but they're right up my alley. They're throwback (vintage!), involve felt (my favorite material!) and they could be screen printed (my favorite printing method!). Plus if I really got my act together I could incorporate some of my newly-designed fabric as the binding. 

I was working on some Super Girl illustrations at the time, so I thought that theme would be fitting. A local screen printer, Screen Door Studio did the printing on some yummy colored felt. I scaled my colored pencil floral designs down to be proportionate to the flags and got some Spoonflower fabric printed. My friend Michelle saved me several hours by cutting, pressing and sewing the binding. And all of a sudden, I had a stack of amazing custom felt pennant flags!!

Ahhh. They make me so happy! I think they are a perfect representation of me. 

I'll be back soon with the rest of my Surtex promo plan.

American Girl Magazine {2014}

As I'm sure most illustrators and designers, do, I have a list of dream clients that I hope to work with some day. I am so excited to say I can cross one of them off my list - American Girl Magazine!

I just missed the American Girl craze growing up, but I've always had the utmost respect for the products. When I graduated college, they were one of the few companies I sent my portfolio to (I was rejected, unfortunately). So they've always been on my radar.

Fast-forward to the present. My daughter, Stella (7-years old) loves American Girl. I mean, LOVES American Girl. From the dolls to the books, she can't get enough. One of her favorite days of the month is when the AG catalog arrives in the mail. So it's pretty cool to see the impact the company and products have on a kiddo from a mom's perspective. And since I've been back in the illustration game, I thought it would be especially cool to do work for a company that means so much to my daughter. That would up my hipness-quotient with her, right? ;-)

So when I was asked to do the illustrations for the holiday craft feature in the November/December issue, of course I said yes!! 

I got to illustrate all the step-by-step instructions, along with the wrapping paper, window, tree and fireplace scene.

The creative team took my illustrations, blew them up huge, and displayed the holiday crafts on them like a real tree or mantle - isn't that a cool concept? I love seeing how my flat drawings suddenly become dimensional when used in this application.

It was such an honor being a part of such a fabulous publication. And I gotta say, Stella seemed pretty proud when she saw her mom's work in her favorite magazine. And that is just the best.

Brava Artist Feature

This month I am extremely honored to be featured in Brava Magazine as December's Portrait of an Artist!

I've done a bit of work for the publication (remember this post?) and I look forward to receiving my issue every month. Brava is a Madison-based magazine focused on women + style + substance - and as the editor-in-chief puts it, "[Brava] is the most fun, interesting and inspiring girlfriend we could think of". That just makes me smile! :-)

Hopefully you can read from my photo, but if not, here is the link to my feature in the online publication. Basically, it tells my story of going from a graphic designer at Pacific Cycle to full-time illustrator. What a whirlwind it has been!

And I am happy a snippet of my studio was included - the top photo is my inspiration wall that hangs right above my computer. It consists not only of some of my work, but some of my favorite artists' work as well. You should check out their work, while you're at it! Seen here is the work of Lesley Barnes, Mikey Burton, Hamiliton Wood Type Museum, Eight Hour Day and Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn.

Thanks again to the fabulous ladies at Brava for including me in their magazine!

Wedding Invitations {Part 1}


Well, I finally have a bit of a break from my client work, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some of the fun projects I've worked on the last several months. 

First up, wedding invitations! I have been getting a few more requests for custom illustrated invitations, which has been amazing and challenging. 

I'm going to start with two couples that chose to have their invitations screen printed:

Anna and Ryan got married at a 150-year old brewery by the river in downtown Rockford, Illinois. Inspired by the building's iron beams and timber posts, they wanted their invitations to have a classic, yet industrial feel. The black French Paper screen printed with white ink gave a nod to the chalkboard signage that welcomed their guests to their big day.

They wanted to keep their suite simple - with a custom monogram surrounded by laurel leaves and hand-drawn type. I got to draw that cool old brewery for the map and a cow, chicken and carrot for the food choices. They even ordered some custom stamps made to match. I heart rubber stamps!

Lisa and Mark are an active couple who can often be found running or riding their bikes. It was no surprise that they chose a nature conservancy as the setting for their outdoor wedding. This screen printed invitation suite showcases the picturesque stone wall and the canopy of trees, under which their ceremony took place.

Both wedding suites were screen printed locally at Screen Door Studio on French Paper.

Thanks for stopping by! I'll be back soon with another invitation suite. 

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!

Surtex 2014 {Walking}


Well, it has been a week since I've been home from Surtex 2014. And I'm STILL processing it all! Wow, what an experience.

I decided to check it out after I learned all about it in Make Art That Sells - Surtex is a tradeshow where artists sell or license their work to companies who will, in turn, use it on their products. The art consists mostly of surface pattern designs, but there are some stand-alone images featured as well. Since one of my goals is to some day have my own fabric line, I thought it would probably be worth my time to see what it was all about. I didn't necessarily want to have a booth YET, since it is quite the investment, so scoping it out was Step 1 of the process.

Since I was walking the show as an artist, there was some etiquette to keep in mind - most importantly, don't linger too much in the booths. The artists who were showing spent a LOT of time and money on being there, and they were there to generate business and make connections with potential customers. Having long conversations with walkers could potentially detract customers from their booths, so out of respect, we needed to make our chats short and sweet. And if someone walks up who looks like they're there for business, excuse yourself and come back another time.

Though I knew there would be some dream clients there, my goal wasn't to get business - since they were there for the Surtex artists. I didn't carry a formal portfolio, though I did make a few "mini" portfolios which consisted of twenty of my Moo business cards clipped together - to hand out JUST IN CASE I happened to meet a potential client. There were a few moments I could have taken advantage of, but I was too much of a wimp to sell myself. NOTE TO SELF: Work on pitching my art; have confidence in myself!

My "mini" portfolios and shoulder bag, created just for Surtex
I also made a quick shoulder bag consisting of my Science Fair fabric from Spoonflower. I figured that might generate some attention, so why not? Plus it was fun to sew again. It has been too long!

Lauren and Tammie, two of my fellow Happy Happy Art Collective artists were there showing their work for the first time (woo hoo!) so it would also be a good opportunity to support them (not to mention MEET them)! I ended up rooming with Muffin (another Happy Happy artist) in an Air BnB apartment just a ten minute walk from the Javits Center where Surtex was located. It was a great location, not only close to Surtex, but within walking distance of Times Square where we hung out in the evenings. It sounds like many of the Surtex participants found hotels close by Javits - which is ideal, since they were most likely hauling stuff to and from every day.

Muffin and I in front of the Javits Center on Day 1
Once we got into Surtex, we made a beeline to Tammie and Lauren's booths to say hi. We had never officially met, after all! Both ladies had wonderful booths. It was obvious that they took a lot of care and consideration in selecting what art hung on the walls and how they showcased their portfolios. Again, being conscious of blocking potential customers, Muffin and I set off through the aisles of Surtex. 

It didn't take us long to bump in to some of our classmates from Make Art That Sells! We anticipated a sort of MATS "reunion" (can you call it a reunion if you've never actually met?), but I was still blown away by how many people I recognized from class. It was so fun meeting our fellow "Matties" in real life. There was a lot of business card exchanging and hugs, and I loved every bit of it. I also got to meet several of my illustrator crushes: Helen Dardik, Elizabeth Olwen, Zoe Ingram, Dinara Mirtalipova and Allison Cole, to name a few! And I got a hug from the one and only Lilla Rogers. Wow. I was surrounded by greatness!

Elizabeth Olwen, Muffin, Jill and I
On Day 2, Jill joined us from Massachusetts! After doing our round of hellos, we decided to buckle down and walk the show with intention. Aisle after aisle, we took notes about the decisions artists made when designing their booth. Some of the things we noted:

  • Portfolio : Loose prints vs. bound book
  • Booth sign :Standard Surtex sign vs. design your own
  • Products with your art in the booth
  • Flat wall vs. bracketed wall
  • Corner booth vs. middle aisle booth
  • Tall table vs. short table
  • Code or number all your art for future referencing
  • Brand every print
  • Walls : Banners vs. framed art
  • Show personal work or original art 
  • The buzz : License or buy outright

Some of us also had an opportunity to participate in Lilla's MATS meet-up. A few things I learned from that session:

  • If buying outright - What is the life of the product? In other words, when can I get it back again?
  • As you make money, invest it back into your business
  • When you have a large body of work, display some on your website, but save some to only show potential clients. 
  • Have a worksheet for your customers which lists all the categories/sub-categories so they can check off their interests.
  • Always ask for a little more.

MATS meet-up with Lilla Rogers
On Day 3, Muffin, Jill and I walked a bit of the National Stationery Show, which was right next to Surtex. Talk about overwhelming! We were there for a couple hours and I don't think we got through 1/3 of it. I would have actually liked to have spend more time there, but my flight back to Wisconsin was beckoning me. I did see enough, however, to realize there are a lot of independent stationery companies - and many of them are wonderfully creative. Oh - and gold foil is trending. We saw it everywhere! 

Now that I have had time to process my Surtex experience, I know that it is something I can definitely handle. I will be able to produce a body of work to have a successful show. My hesitation at this point, aside from the expense, is whether or not I want to put all my eggs in this particular basket. There are many markets of which to focus my illustration, but dedicating a better part of my year in preparing for the surface pattern and licensing segment kinda makes me nervous. I have been hearing from various Surtex artists, that there is the potential for work outside of licensing, such as publishing, so that is good to know. My other option is sharing a booth with the other artists in the Happy Happy Art Collective, which I know would be amazing. Ah! So many decisions! 

To wrap up, I am very happy I got to experience Surtex. It was complete eye-candy, and it was delightful meeting so many of the artists I've admired over the last few years. I loved hanging out with my Happy Happy sisters (we missed you, Denise!) and I'm glad I was able to share the experience with them. On the other hand, it has given me a lot to ponder, and I think it's going to take me a while to figure out my game plan. 

Until then, thanks for sticking through my super-long Surtex re-cap! If you're interested in learning more, be sure to check out Lauren's, Tammie's, Jill's and Muffin's blog posts about their Surtex experience.

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!

Lean In Lean Out {Brava Magazine}

Last Fall, I had an illustration first - my first editorial illustration was published!

Brava Magazine is a Madison-based publication focused on women + style + substance. It recently got a facelift, thanks to my good friend and fellow designer, Jinger. As the editor-in-chief puts it, "We've reimagined Brava as the most fun, interesting and inspiring girlfriend we could think of.". Neat, huh?

I got the opportunity to create a full-page illustration for the article Lean In. Lean Out. What's on Madison women's minds by Anne Morrissy. Inspired by the book Lean In : Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, the article focused on "the controversy over women's roles in a 21st-century 'post-feminist' society". 

I can definitely relate to the discussion regarding women choosing work over family. Since I own my own business, I am constantly struggling to find a balance between work and life. And working from home doesn't help, either - it is much too easy to hop on the computer while Stella is playing in the next room. As my business as grown, I have made an effort to separate the two, but it isn't easy. This was a very compelling read.

If you're interested in reading the article (or the rest of the magazine, for that matter), here is a link to the September 2013 issue. The Lean In article is on page 42.


Halloween 2013

Yup, it's November. And nope, I don't have a desktop calendar to share with you yet. Soon, I promise! I figured I should probably share Stella's Halloween costume before too long...

This year, Stella decided early on that she wanted to be a witch. But she wanted to be a pink and purple witch (isn't that a princess?). After much discussion, we compromised at a black and purple witch. That way we could utilize a store-bought hat. 

I thought it would be a fun twist to make a witch tutu in lieu of a traditional witch dress. You can find tons of DIY tutorials for no-sew tutus online, so that's what I decided to do. Basically, you just tie long strips of tulle around an elastic waistband and you have an instant tutu. Easy peasy!

We kept it simple - layering the tutu over a black shirt and leggings. I added a little sparkly purple ribbon around the broom, put on some black lipstick and blacked out one tooth, and we had ourselves a cute little witch! She had been practicing her scary claw hands and cackle, so when she put it all together it was quite scary! ;-)

Unfortunately, my camera wasn't very cooperative that day, so I got very few good photos. Bummer.

I hope you all had a great Halloween! We ended up inviting all of the neighborhood Kindergarteners and their families to our house for pizza before trick or treating. My friend Jinger and I dressed up as foxes and had a little impromptu dance party, performing our routine to What Does A Fox Say? Yes, I know - people are getting sick of this - but I have to say, it was pretty fun when there were 13 kids and 2 foxes jumping and dancing around! In case you're not familiar with this, here is the official video by Ylvis:

And here are the foxes!

I'll be back tomorrow for another Make Art That Sells recap.


Sh*tty Barn Poster {Pieta Brown 2013}

Last night I finally got to experience The Barn. What barn, you may ask? The Sh*tty Barn is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin and it is an absolutely wonderful music venue. 

As they describe it, The Sh*tty Barn is where "Audience and performer coexist in an intimate and integrated space with as little separating instruments and ears as possible. No stage. Stripped down. Pure music love. Like having the performance in your living room (except, in this case, a sh*tty barn)." This rustic space is decorated with twinkle lights and decoupaged herons flying across the walls - and is furnished with old theater seats and log benches around the perimeter. It's bring-you-own-chair, and we all squeeze in to the cozy space. They have a great selection of beer and wine and a campfire warms those who are hanging outside on the lawn. It is quite the experience.

My friend Erin is very involved in the Barn. When it first opened, she took on the task of designing the gig posters for every show - quite the task, when there are dozens of shows every season. These days, she puts the call out to her designer friends to help her with the work load. I got the opportunity to design my first gig poster for the Pieta Brown show!


Me and my poster at the Sh*tty Barn
When I started the project, I was unfamiliar with Pieta's music. But I really loved it once I started listening to it - folksy, ethereal - she tells her stories with her wonderfully sweet and calming voice. I wanted my poster to reflect how I felt when I immersed myself in her music.

Pieta has long bangs and full lips. And she often sings with her eyes closed. So I decided to create a portrait of her, filling her hair with an intricate pattern of folksy icons. I even included a corn cob or two since she is from Iowa.

This was such a fun challenge! I'll admit I was a little overwhelmed at first, because I felt the pressure of making the poster represent Pieta and her music. But once I got settled in, I really enjoyed the process.

After the show last night, I got to meet Pieta and her band - they were so sweet and kind! I got a couple photos taken with them and had them all sign my poster. What a way to remember my experience. It was perfect.

If you're ever in the Madison, I highly recommend taking the hour drive west of Madison to visit Spring Green. It has a lot to offer - in addition to The Sh*tty Barn, you can find American Players Theatre, Taliesin and The House on the Rock. In fact, Huffington Post just named Spring Green, Wisconsin #2 on their America's Best Small Towns list. Pretty cool, eh?

Work/Life 3


Wow - it has been absolute madness since my last post regarding the Global Talent Search. Thank you all for your amazing support and comments! I just turned in my final assignment late last night and now I can finally relax. Until October 3, when we find out the results, of course! :-)

In the mean time, I want to share some more exciting news that occurred in the flurry of GTS. I received this gem in the mail:

Are you familiar with Uppercase Magazine? It is a quarterly publication that is chocked FULL of inspiration, artist profiles, trends, typography and vintage ephemera. As they put it - it is a magazine "for the creative and curious". I love it. I've only been subscribing for a year, but on the days when Uppercase arrives in my mailbox, everything else is trumped as I soak in the goodness found within the pages. Plus, the fresh ink smells glorious! Stella took this photo of me sniffing my latest issue...  :-)

Uppercase also publishes a book called Work/Life where they profile 100 artists from around the world. And I am happy to say that I am part of edition 3!

For the third book in the series, they focused on the theme, "An Illustrated Life" in which they "explore the illustrator's lifestyle in intimate detail and find out what it takes to stay creative 24/7". Each of us were given a fairly comprehensive questionnaire to complete, from which, along with our bio, a custom illustration assignment was crafted for the participants.

I loved my assignment - though it made me a bit nervous first. I was to ask Stella what she thought I did during the day when she was at school. For all I knew, she thinks I watch movies or ride my bike all day. That would make for an inspiring portrait! Thankfully, when I did sit down with her to chat about what Mommy does all day, she answered:

Make Fuzzies
Look at the computer
Cut paper
Use string

Phew! At least we were on the right track. I asked her to be a bit more specific about what I draw and she answered:

My friends

That was a pretty good list! I felt I had all I needed to start my composition. I decided to paint this portrait, since I thought an original painting would be a nice keepsake. I originally had a blue color scheme in mind, but I changed it up at the last minute. I thought the yellow would be a bit more cheerful - since I am pretty darned happy when working!

I am so honored to be a part of such a fantastic publication, along with some highly talented artists. Some of my personal favorite illustrators included in Work/Life 3 are Lindsey Balbierz, Tammie Bennett, Helen Dardik, Denise Holmes, Dinara Mirtalipova, Elizabeth Olwen, Ashley Percival, Erica Sirotich, Linda Solovic and Brad Woodard. Though now that I am reading the book cover-to-cover, I am discovering so many others! If you're interested in purchasing the book, you can find it here.

I recommend subscribing to the magazine and the blog - it's a constant source of inspiration! Plus - they're always looking for new content - they welcome submissions and often have Open Calls to Participate. It's a great community.

Go check it out! You won't be disappointed.

Have an awesome week!

Global Talent Search {Finalist!!!}

Yesterday I found out some amazingly huge news. Remember this?

Now take a look at my smiling face!

The judges picked me as a finalist in Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search! Wow. 

Knowing September 10th was the day of the big reveal, I woke up hoping to get the news right away so I wouldn't have to incessantly check my email all day. There WAS a new blog post from Lilla, but psych! It was just to tell us the finalists would be named later. Ugh!

Thankfully I had an early morning breakfast planned with two of my favorite ladies, so I welcomed the distraction. 

During my lovely breakfast, Lilla revealed the finalists. Seriously, what an amazing post! I loved that she included some of the judges' thoughts on each of our totes. And the summary was extremely thoughtful - giving a bit of insight into what is marketable.

As my shaky doodle above shows, I went through a LOT of emotions when I found out the results - I was stunned; I wept; I couldn't stop talk-talk-talking about it; I paced a lot; I freaked out. When I drew this, my hands were shaking so bad. But all of it was out of sheer excitement! I have to say - yesterday's productivity level was pretty low - it was so hard to focus!

It is still so hard to believe. I never thought I'd make the top 50, much less all the way to the finals! There were SO many fantastic artists in the pool, I can't even imagine how hard it was for the judges to narrow it down.

Now, onto the final round! The challenge was put together by Lilla and Margo Tantau of Midwest CBK - we are to essentially come up with our own line of home decor and/or gift products based off one of four trend boards provided to us. How awesome is that?

I don't have much experience in this category, but I welcome the challenge. I already have some fun ideas brewing and I'm ready to start putting them to paper. And there are five amazing artists joining me in the final - if you get a chance, you should definitely check out the others - Zoe Ingram, Lizzie Mackay, Daniel Roode, Josephine Kimberling and Vesper Stamper!

And - to all of you that voted for me in the People's Choice - THANK YOU! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Seriously. I am so grateful that you took the time to take a look at the semifinalists and cast your vote. I know how easy it is to ignore requests like that, but you didn't. I can't express my appreciation enough!

Just in case you missed the other posts about my journey to the GTS finals, you can find them here and here.

Now, off to do some sketches!!

Gift {MATS Week 5}

Well, we have finally made it to the last week of Make Art That Sells part 1. What a whirlwind this has been!

Week 5 focused on the Gift market. Imagine this - you're in a coffee shop and there is a rack next to the register that is full of adorable water bottles and reusable tote bags. Can you picture it? Yup - those are the kind of items included in the gift market. 

Our mini assignment was to photograph our collections. Sounds like fun! If you have cool collections, that is. As a kid, I had lots of collections - panda bears, New Kids on the Block trading cards, seashells, marbles, etc. But as I grew older, every time I moved, my collections slowly disappeared. With this assignment, I took stock of my adult collections and couldn't come up with much. Lots of fabric, of course, some art books and handmade plush from my Plush Team friends, but that was about it.

Hmm. I decided to take a walk around my house and see if there were any themes. I have been acquiring several cool vintage tins that I've been upcycling into planters. And I can't stop buying old chairs (much to Stephen's dismay...). But my most prominent "collection" I could find ended up being my potted plants! Once I started actually taking inventory, I realized I have a LOT. So I decided that would be my theme. Here's a handful from around the house:

Our main assignment ended up being designing a zipper pouch based on our collections. Lilla also showed us a couple trends for inspiration - photo realism, hyper-lush, and ink blot patterns. Hopefully we'd be able to integrate some of these ideas into our pouch.

I decided in lieu of photographing my plants and collaging them, I would do colorful stylized paintings and collage those instead. I had fun playing with super saturated colors and vibrating color combinations. Here are my little gouache studies:

I then brought them into photo shop and started piling them all together. With the idea of "hyper-lush" in mind, I knew I had to keep the colors bold and throw my typical editing out the window. "More!" I kept telling myself. "More! More! More!". At the end of my first attempt, this is what I had:

Oh my. Though it was kinda cool, it propelled me WAY out of my comfort zone. I think it met the assignment parameters quite well, but it really didn't feel like me. So I decided to start over with the ink blot idea in mind.

Ink blotting is basically mirroring to create an even grander image. I took all of my individual plant elements and started mirroring away. But something was still missing. I remembered a doodle I had done recently of "Bloom Where You're Planted", and thought that might be a good focal point for the pouch. That way it would be almost as if the girl (me?) would be growing out of the jungle I created.

Here is my final image. It's still hyper lush, but there is some breathing room in the white space, and the jungle lady is much more indicative of my style. Done!

Phew! Even though class is over, we still have one more assignment for the Global Talent Search with Lilla Rogers. This one I'm extra excited about. I'll be back to share more details!

Thanks for following me along through my journey. It was an exhausting 5 weeks, but I am so happy I did it. For those of you interested in Part B of the course, you can find all the info here.

Oh! And if you're interested in some of my classmate's interpretation of the assignment, find them here, here, here, here, and here. It's good stuff, I tell ya!

Wall Art {MATS Week 04}


I was about to post about Week 5 of Make Art That Sells, but I realized I never posted about Week 4 - Doh! So here we go - Week 4 focused on the Wall Art market.

Admittedly, I never really considered wall art for my illustration. Which is strange, considering my walls are covered in other people's work!

Lilla was really pushing us for the wall art challenge. Initially, she assigned us different color combos depending on our zodiac sign. As a Pisces, I got pink and purple. Oh, yuck. I love pink...and I love purple...but together?!? Ugh. Maybe it's because we have a 5-year old girly girl who is obsessed with princesses and unicorns and her entire room and wardrobe is plastered with the combo. Oh well - it's all about being challenged, right?

Then we were asked to collect flat-ish items in that color scheme. Papers, magazine clippings, ribbon, fabric, buttons, etc. Well, this proved to be a challenge, as well! I have plenty of fabric and ribbons, but my collection ended there. Until I wen't into Stella's art supply box, that is - pom poms! pipe cleaners! beads! feathers! Finally I was getting somewhere.

I had an inkling, but I was curious where this assignment was going to go. Sure enough. We received our main assignment, and there it was - a collage utilizing our collected items. We were also encouraged to paint, incorporate some floral imagery and a quote or words. My heart stopped. I can paint, and flowers and words are cool, but collage? It has been a LONG time since I've collaged anything. Much less using those crazy items I found in Stella's art box. But emily - this is the point, right? To push me out of my comfort zone, right? I was going to tackle this project head on.

First up, though, I had to re-think my pink and purple items. I really wasn't feeling them. They were way too "crafty" for my taste. So I decided to make my own patterned paper.

I laid out some dark purple washes and collected some items that I could use as stamps. Utilizing my screen printing ink, I stamped all over the papers to create some funky patterns. Here are some close-ups:

And all of them:

Now I was getting somewhere. I was feeling more comfortable with this project, now that I had some materials that were more "me".

Now onto the collage. This ended up being another learning moment. I realized it was totally against my nature to just "go for it" and start "slapping paint" on the canvas. Apparently I'm way more anal than I thought! I needed a plan. So I drew sketch upon sketch of possible compositions. Finally I got two that I thought I could work with:

I'm not typically super flowery, so I decided to go back so some of my pod drawings from Week 2. The lines on the sketches represented strips of paper collaged together as one solid element. Then I started cutting.

I had another realization as I was amidst gluing and painting : The permanence of collaging was freaking. me. out. I didn't have the option to Command-Z (undo), so once I stuck it down, it was practically final! And, the mess I created totally stressed me out as well. Man, I have to learn to loosen up! :-/

Working on 8x8 boards, I finally finished my pieces.

Even though my pieces ended up looking pretty different from everyone else's, I am happy with them and feel they reflect me fairy well, even though this was by far, the toughest assignment thus far.

A few of my classmates started mocking up rooms where their collages would live, so I thought that would be fun to visualize, as well. Even though I was targeting a young woman with these pieces, I immediately thought it could look cool in a funky girl's room.

I think it works, right?

My takeaway - even though I probably won't work in collage much in the future, I learned a few things. 1) I need to loosen up. I'm going to try to do some pieces just for fun when anything goes. It will be good for my soul. 2) I really like painting on wood and Kraft paper.  3) If all else fails, make your own paper! It was a lot of fun, and totally unique.

And I know I've said it before, but my classmates rock! They are uber talented! If you're interested in checking out their interpretations of the assignment, you can find them here, here, here, here, here and here.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Home Decor {MATS Week 2}

Well, there are two weeks down in this first session of Make Art That Sells with Lilla Rogers. Last week focused on the Home Decor market - a market that I honestly hadn't given much consideration.

On Monday we were given our Mini Assignment - instead of focusing on typical floral imagery such as daisies and tulips, we were to take it a step further and draw "Odd Pods" - seed pods. Who knew it could be such fun?

The shapes are still very organic, but it was the textures and the details that were so interesting. I think I could have sketched pods for days and days. Now I am curious about all flowers - what do their seed pods look like? Some of them I've already noticed, such as Allium, "Helicopters" and Poppy, but I'm going to have to pay attention to the life cycle of the flowers in our garden and do some more sketching studies throughout the season...

The main assignment was applying our seed pod drawings to the design of plates - and in a round format - something I've never had to do!

Side Note - last week, when designing the fabric, I kinda struggled with the teal pattern. After analyzing my process, I realized it was because I hadn't figured out the general composition BEFORE I sat down at the computer. I had literally opened up a white background and started importing my individual mushroom drawings. Then I scaled and rearranged from there. It was quite frustrating because I never felt there was a good balance, and I realized afterwards it was because of my approach. I rarely start digitizing my work without getting at least a rough concept composed in my sketchbook to work from. So I think that is why I was so stuck when putting together my second pattern - though I had all the elements, I still felt pretty rudderless when creating the design.

For the plates, I decided to take what I learned from the previous week and compose the circular designs in my sketchbook first, THEN take them to the computer. That worked MUCH BETTER. By the time I scanned them in, I was very comfortable with the compositions and I was excited to start playing around with color. Here are some of the sneak peeks I posted on Instagram of my pod compositions:

I played around with layering large shapes behind finer details and scaling the pods for a more interesting composition. I also drew my lines with the intention of adding shapes of color to help finish off the pods.

I was inspired by the color palette of this dress in the May 2013 J.Crew catalog:

I decided the green/neon yellow/fuschia color scheme would really pop on some plates. 

Here are the five finished designs integrating pods, a saturated palette and a bit of color blocking. I think they're really dynamic.

And just like the first week, I am constantly amazed by the talent and varying approaches to the assignments by the artists in my class. Everyone is so fabulous!

Have an excellent week!