I don't know what it is.

Some days I can really appreciate beauty more than others. Maybe every designer feels this way, but there are days like today when I look at dribbble and am truly amazed and appreciative of all the work that’s being produced in our industry.

And then there are other days when the talent I see there is amazing in a really depressing way and I’m consumed with thoughts of self-doubt, and wonder ‘why am I not that good?’ 'why do I bother calling myself a designer?’, etc, etc…ad nauseum.

I’m not sure what makes the difference, but I’m really grateful for days like today when I can genuinely admire and appreciate others’ work for what it is. Without comparison or jealousy.

Here are a few things that I’ve found completely and totally inspiring lately.

Seed Circus lettering via Milkwood / Micah 6:8 by Matt Scribner / house sketch by Steve Wolf / the excellence of Trouvé Magazine

Support what you love

Tonight, I tried to visit only to be redirected to Better Homes & Gardens website. Silly or not, that discovery is fighting to ruin my night. I’m so tired of good publications being put out of business by mediocre ones. This is just one more in a long line of casualties. It’s depressing.

Hundreds of advertising-driven magazines exist in spite of useless content, and the ones with great content can’t seem to live long, no matter how adoring their fans. While I love the internet and technology, never once have I’ve wanted to read a magazine on a screen.

If nothing else, this is a great reminder that I need to put my money where my mouth is. I immediately headed to the Kinfolk Magazine site to purchase a subscription. This is one publication that I want to live on, for a long time. I’ve picked up an issue here and there, but tonight, I’m happy to give my money in exchange for a quality product.

Moral of the story: If I don’t actively support the ideas I love or admire, they may cease to exist. Specifically, I’m thinking about magazines, local businesses and artists. Even good ideas require funding.

The Makers Summit

What I’ve been up to lately. Planning, planning, designing, making, and teeny amounts of stressing.

I’m super excited to see this idea come to life. Conference details are online at the event site Andrew designed. I’m so excited and hopeful about the connections and opportunities that will come out of this one day. And happy to be part of the growing community of makers in Greenville, SC.

Conference tickets are almost sold out, so if this applies to you be sure to snag one today!

Brooklyn Beta highlights.

This year I had the privilege of heading to Brooklyn, NY for my second Brooklyn Beta, a “small, friendly web conference”. It’s taken me a while to post about it because there are so many things I want to share.

For now, I’m just documenting a few of my biggest Brooklyn Beta takeaways. These aren’t necessarily direct quotes, they’re mostly words and phrases I wrote down during the sessions or even ideas that have really stuck with me since I heard them a few weeks ago.

The Brooklyn Beta stage.

Here’s what I learned from:

Aaron Draplin
· always make room for helping your friends
· say yes maybe a little more than you say no
· do good work for good people

Seth Godin

Revolutions destroy the perfect and enable the impossible.
As artists, we’re under pressure to be industrialists and mass producers.

If you can be sure it’s going to work, you’re not an artist. If all you’re doing is following instructions, you’re not making, you’re assembling. You’re doing something yourself that could be done in a factory.

Also, the distinction between ‘make something you love’ and 'make something that matters’. They’re not always the same thing.

Ben Pieratt
Pursuing scale can cloud the mind and poison your product.

Kyle Kneath
Some of the principles behind GitHub.

· favor leadership over management
· favor goals over deadlines
· favor shared visions over road maps (what do we want to accomplish in the next 6-12 months)
· favor sustainable pace over hourly commitment (consistently producing great things)
· favor tangible work over meetings
· favor building new tools over using bad existing ones (aka if you use ugly software, you’ll create ugly software)

We can create a better future by creating better companies.

Cory Booker
Accountability = a standard that can be measured and has consequences for failure.
Bad people are elected when good people don’t vote.

Scott Belsky
Initiative trumps experience, and resourcefulness is greater than resources.
Critical mass vs. credible mass: thinking about the next generation of community curation.

Maciej Ceglowski

Succeeding feels just like failing, except you’re not allowed to stop.
Barely succeed. There are so many projects that don’t have to grow. Grow or die is a false set of options. Gauge your ability to continue indefinitely.  Decide whether you want to grow.

See what I mean? So many great things to ponder.

Fabulous Brooklyn Beta sponsor banners.

Also, I learned about some pretty cool products at Brooklyn Beta.

Makers Row
bringing made in America back with direct access to factories in the US.
Connecting ideas with factories who can make them happen.

The Noun Project
Image based communication to cross language boundaries. Awesome.

Designer Fund

More designers working on meaningful problems through entrepreneurship.

The Great Discontent
I knew about TGD before Brooklyn Beta, but it was great to meet them in person and be reminded about their product. They do weekly interviews with inspiring people from the creative industry.

And here’s the thought provoking question they asked that kept ringing in my ears: What message would you give to your future self?

hypocrisy and blogging.

So many good things learned during this year’s trek to New York for Brooklyn Beta. Still processing them all. For now, I’ll share one of the quotes that I’ve been pondering.

“Everyone should write a blog because it makes it harder to be a hypocrite. You have to decide what you believe.”

— Seth Godin, speaking at Brooklyn Beta

indie craft show and tell

Here’s a peek at what we brought home from Indie Craft Parade last weekend! This year was more of a blur than the last two and shopping didn’t happen until Sunday. Which means when the show was over, I remembered several booths I intended to revisit, but never made it back to!

Overall, I felt like the booths and handmade goods this year were even better than in previous years, which is hard to believe. I really couldn’t be more pleased to be part of this event! Check out what made it home with us (except for a few gift items that can’t be pictured):

Clockwise from top: Screenprinted set of 4 napkins from Tiny Peepers / medium bowl from Jeanette Zeis Ceramics / inside, three soaps from The Herb Garden, a necklace from Spectrum, and my first Finkelstein creature! / letterpressed tags from Concrete Lace / hand-lettered, letterpress cards from Ink Meets Paper / The New Empires latest album / Tea towels by Chomp Textiles / letterpress coasters from The Gilded Fete / Metal bangles from Lily / an extra bright Spectrum bead

It’s obvious I gravitate toward all things paper and letterpress — with kitchen textiles and jewelry coming in at a close second. If you missed this year’s show, don’t worry — The Parade will be back next September!

greenville grok

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Greenville Grok — a ‘conference’ that’s a little hard to explain because it’s not really a conference. There were no guest speakers. No 'theme’ or a single overarching topic. And no exorbitant price tag. But over 100 people from all over the country gathered here in Greenville to meet each other, pose questions and ask advice from their peers in the creative industry — mostly ten and twenty minutes at a time. To sum it up, it was a weekend of idea sharing that left everyone pretty inspired.

Photo by Mike Meyer, sign created by Marco Suarez

Somehow our industry (or at least this corner of it) has moved away from the highly competitive norm, and things like Brooklyn Beta and Grok are sprouting up for the purpose of helping each other learn and grow. Independent designers definitely seem to be the majority in this world. My theory: independent designers — much more than their agency and in-house counterparts — have embraced collaboration (perhaps out of necessity) and found that it’s a much more effective way to get things done.

You can see some really great photos of the event by Ismael Burciaga here.

I thought the Grok format was really refreshing. We were broken into four random groups for each session, so each set of topics was able to draw on a different combination of minds. It sounded like there were a lot of really fascinating talks happening simultaneously, but here are a few I was able to be part of:

Don’t lose the joy of creating. — Marco Suarez
Complete projects are energizing, so if your days are full of long-term or never-really-ending projects, be sure you also pursue side projects that have an end. Create things that bring yourself joy and that process will recharge your batteries.

Consume data in a more responsible way. — Rob Wright
This was a great reminder to be careful what we believe and endorse online. Everyone has the ability to 'publish’ and yet it may not all be accurate. Value first-hand accounts more highly than others and take time to digest the information you’re receiving before pushing it back out there in a retweet or link.

The ethics of technology. — Katie Stewart
The big question “Does knowing about something make you responsible?” Is there an ethical way to use and own technology or is our consumerism in the technology realm creating harmful situations for people on the other side of the world? One of my big takeaways from this discussion is that we need to reconsider the permanence of objects — aka how often do we treat non-disposable things as disposable?

Content Ownership — Cameron Koczon
Reminding us how much content we have strewn all over the web and asking aloud if the keepers of our information will be good stewards of it. We give up a lot of our rights on the web without a second thought, but it’s an issue we need to start thinking about because we’ve given a lot of people a lot of our content (facebook, twitter, pinterest, path, etc, etc.). Also, what happens to our information if that company goes under?

Other things to ponder:
· A fascinating look at John’s phone: a great date night phone?

· “Technology should help us be more productive, not less productive.”
— David Stevens in relation to email.

· Giving the Inbox Zero method a try.

· Some great suggestions for making Indie Craft Parade more profitable.

· Take a closer look at our current 'team building’ events. Are they all competitive by nature or are they collaborative and actually encouraging teamwork?

· I really need to read more.

on expectations.

“When a lot is expected of you, it’s very easy to let the pressure of meeting those expectations get to you. In fact, it can be paralyzing, and that’s not good.

What is good is that if you succeed and you meet those expectations, the cumulative impact is exponential. That’s because expectations are just leftover praise. You’ve earned them by doing something great.

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by expectations, just remember that if you weren’t capable of meeting them, they wouldn’t exist.”

— Words of wisdom (part 1) from Chris Shifflet at Brooklyn Beta 2011

more Brooklyn Beta.

The sign outside the front door was handpainted. Not the first clue it was going to be awesome.

While the conference days were really laid back and the schedule was flexible, the event was extremely well-planned and executed. You could tell the organizers worked hard to make everything special and comfortable for us. Well, as comfortable as you can feel in a room full of people you don’t know. I did my best to be social, but it was also nice to retreat back to the Greenville crew now and again.

Greenville has a really talented web community (many of whom are part of CoWork, where Andrew works). In spite of the small size of the conference (there were about 250 attendees), there were a good number of Greenville designers and developers there. Serious kudos to these (and others) who are putting Greenville on the map when it comes to quality web.

Speaking of quality, check out these pillows in the hang out area.

Our friends Mark and Paul gave a demo of their project Coursebook.

Andrew wearing his name badge. Us being somewhat anti-social.

A couple things I really really loved about this conference:

· Each attendee was given a name badge that had a custom bio written by the organizers. I have no idea how long it took Chris and Cameron to research and write these, but you can’t make things much more personalized than that!

· The speakers weren’t announced beforehand, which might have been a drawback for any other conference. But considering the rave reviews from last year and the quality of everything else, I didn’t think twice about it. It was actually really refreshing to sit down, not knowing what was coming next. I hope to share more about the content of the presentations and discussions, but for now I’m still processing everything.

· This conference was all about bringing the social media connections into the real world. Which means there wasn’t free internet. From the event email:

“Like last year, we will not be providing Internet access at the conference. We see this as a feature, not a bug. You’re of course welcome to use your fancy phones and other devices that can talk to the Internet without our help.”

People still used their phones and computers to access the internet, but in a crowd of heavy Twitter users, I thought it was relatively rare. Real conversations were taking place and most people were engaged during the presentations, not surfing the internet or busy tweeting profound tidbits. 

· Both lunch and dinner were provided for us on all three days of the conference. What I loved most about this is that we were introduced to even more great local Brooklyn food without even leaving the building. Personally, my favorites were the sweets. Pies from One Girl Cookie and unbelievable cookies from FattyCakes.

After this, the bar for conferences has definitely been set high. I took notes, and left inspired to make my corner of the world a better place.

brooklyn inspired.

Right now I’m in New York for Brooklyn Beta, a web conference that has far surpassed my expectations. I feel incredibly privileged to be here and want to say a big thank you to OOBE for sending me out for it. From the minute we walked in the door, you could tell that everything was going to be top notch.

A photo of the conference space before things kicked off.

To say this has been inspiring would be an understatement. The underlying theme of the conference has been Make Something You Love. But today’s discussions deepened that concept by adding Make Something that Matters. It’s great to be reminded how design and development can actually make a difference in people’s lives, especially when I work for a very customer-oriented company whose goal is just that. Lots to think about.

The concept and the people behind this conference are amazing, the details are perfect (hand-painted signs, incredible local food, etc) and the sheer number of people I’m meeting is pretty overwhelming. It’s good for me to get out of my comfort zone though, and I’m looking forward to what tomorrow holds!

hard graft.

Several months ago, I traded my old Apple laptop for a sleek new MacBook Air. I LOVE my new computer, and so began the task of finding a case suitable for it. I dug through page after page on Etsy, searching for just the right one. In fact, I was planning to do a roundup blog post on all the great cases I found.

Problem is, I couldn’t find enough I liked and would recommend!

I wanted a beautiful handmade case. And having sewn a few things over the years, I'm  pretty picky about quality. I know that I could make myself a case, but I’d rather buy something that’s better quality than I can do at home on my sewing machine. None of the fabrics I saw were right (I have a hard time with patterns), and there are so many (expensive!) ones on the market with bad or uneven stitching!

After lots of searching online, I finally found the one I wanted. But it cost a fortune.

So for months now, I’ve been carrying around my new laptop in one of these (not even joking) while I saved up for the case I really wanted. And last Friday, it arrived!

I have to say, the packaging only confirmed my decision to splurge on this case. I took photos so I could share the Hard Graft experience.

Each case is handmade. Which means the attention to detail is unbelievable.

Aside from quality materials and construction, another factor that sold me on this case was the design. I needed something that covered the computer completely. The MacBook Air is super slim (aka kind of slippery) and I felt like a case with any open side would be risky since it could easily slide out.

There are many other similar cases on the market now, but I remembered this company and their products from years ago when they called themselves Working Class Heroes. Even then, their detailed but simple designs stood out to me, and they were the first company I saw creating industrial felt + leather computer cases. In a world of copycats, original ideas are worth honoring. And when a company is doing something so well, I don’t think there’s any reason to settle for someone else’s version. It was definitely worth saving up for!

unintentional hiatus + handmade nation

The lack of posts here is directly related to the amount of Indie Craft Parade work that’s been going on in my ‘non-working’ hours. So, while I feel a little guilty about neglecting the blog, I’m super excited about all that’s going on in the Indie Craft Parade world!

First, the exciting news that we’re co-hosting a showing of the documentary Handmade Nation. This will be happening one week from today at the Warehouse Theatre as part of the Greenville Forward Challenge Series*. If you’re curious what the big deal about art and handmade goods is, this documentary is a great way to learn about the modern craft movement. Director Faythe Levine interviewed “artists, crafters, makers, curators and community members” across the country to learn about this subculture in America. Tickets are $10 and you can reserve them in advance here.

The second milestone we’re approaching is the application period, which runs June 1 — June 18. If you’re an artist or crafter in the Southeast, we want to see your work! We’re looking for quality handmade goods in a variety of categories. If you’re interested, or know a favorite artist who should apply, more information can be found here.

*Sidenote: we saw Food, Inc. as part of Greenville Forward’s Challenge Series, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that for us, it was life changing. This series is host to all kinds of documentaries, with focused discussions afterward that help the audience make applications to our community in Greenville. It’s one of the many helpful programs Greenville Forward is behind, and I highly recommend it!

shades of color.

I’ve been really inspired by color spectrums lately.

Instead of choosing one or two colors, multiple shades of the same color or an entire section of the color wheel is used. Despite the number of colors, there’s still simplicity in a limited palette of related hues. A sense of beauty and order.

I’ve seen it show up in everything from design to baking. Here are a few of my favorite iterations of this trend.

Clockwise from top left: source unknown — from my inspiration files / blue paint chip quilt / rainbow cake / NBC’s ‘More Colorful’ campaign / paint chip placemats


I had the privilege of spending my birthday in Chicago this year. It was a business trip, so not much sightseeing was done, but it was still fun to be in a big city and eat great food the whole time. It was rainy and cold when we got there. A full forty-degree difference between Greenville and Chicago!

The entire time we were there, I never pulled out my ‘real’ camera, but I have a few shots from my iPhone that I can share.

I loved seeing the giant old buildings with 'modern day’ businesses in them.

The first night we went to The Purple Pig, a restaurant that made Bon Appetit’s 10 best new restaurants list. The food was unbelievable on several levels. Amazing flavors and crazy combinations — like fried chorizo stuffed green olives. And the desserts! Pistachio ice cream and paninis filled with nutella, marshmallow creme and bananas. I tried to take a few food pictures, but in the low light they just didn’t look good. Look who we found at the bottom of the ice cream bowl.

The next day was full of business meetings, but we were able to squeeze in a quick trup to one of Chicago’s three Anthropologie stores. Their displays are always so inspiring and this time I got to try a few lovely dresses on!

The giant spheres are made of wine corks.

Our afternoon meeting was at the beautiful offices of Y USA, where I got to meet some of their design folks and learn a little bit more about their recent rebrand. It was really interesting to hear about different challenges they’re facing as they transition from a company with simply a logo, to one that now has a full brand system. It was great to meet everyone and learn about how they work.

We ended the night at de cero, a great taco place in the Restaurant District. They even treated me to a birthday brownie!

It was a quick trip and obviously there are many other aspects of the city I wish we had time to see and experience. But Chicago was already on the (growing) list of places Andrew and I would like to see together. Besides, I wouldn’t mind it being a little warmer next time I head that direction!