Friday, 26 April 2013

Taking a Day Off

In my experience, when you work for yourself there is an unending list of things that need to get done. There is always the potential to tick another job off that list so it can get increasingly difficult to justify taking time out to rest, to play and to do something other than just working.

But I find when I do take some planned time-out (even for a couple of hours) it inevitably improves my mood, my perceptions and my long term ability to work in a satisfied and creative manner.

I just seem to forget this every time I get immersed in a new project. Eventually I will go for a walk in some beautiful scenery, go to an exhibition or watch a new film and I will remember why all work and no play makes Sadhbh a dull girl.

Do yourself a favour (I’m also talking to myself here) - make a plan to do something lovely. I would say do something that is your kind of lovely, don’t worry about anyone else. If it feels indulgent to mark this time out for yourself, you are probably the one in most need of it. Every machine needs to be maintained and cared for in order to work effectively. Your mind and body are no different. I think the key is to plan it though, think of it like an important meeting; schedule it, commit to turning up and make the most of the opportunity while you are there.

On that note, I have been promising myself for a while now that I will take some time off and I have finally committed to taking a short holiday next week. Too Folk to be Cool will be quiet for the week also. So as ever, thanks for reading and hopefully I will see you on the other side.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Xcut Shape Cutter System

Last week I wrote a post about my journey to market and all the processes I go through to get my work looking professional and of a high standard. I mentioned this Xcut shape cutter system and I thought I would take a little time here to sing its praises.

For my birthday, I got the super deluxe fancy fancy gift set version from my lovely parents.  It contains: 15 shape templates, cutter carriage, and 2 blades. As it says on the box, the 15 shape templates can create 30 different shapes and also, frames in a variety of sizes.

I think the product is aimed at card makers and scrapbook makers but I have found it very useful for the labelling of my work. There are five different shapes: square, oval, diamond, circle and rectangle. They all come in three different sizes; small, medium and large. On the back of the box the set comes in, they give all the measurements to all the different sizes. Gary and I have found this information very useful when designing labels in Photoshop on the computer. Instead of guess work, which we employed lots of before, I can now hold the template in my hand and make a decision based on the information before me. Gary can then measure it up on the screen and we have cut out the stage of printing designs in multiple sizes trying to get the best fit.

I will say that you do need a cutting mat for using this device at its best. I would recommend getting a cutting mat anyway though. They come in really useful in any craft or art work and save your surfaces from scratches. I use an A4 cutting mat and for this, it suits my needs perfectly.

So you are probably wondering how you use the bloody thing! Well, let’s say you have your printed label, measured and ready for cutting. You place your sheet of paper or card down on your cutting mat. You then place the template over the label you want to cut out. Sometimes it takes a little time to adjust it to the right position, but the result is worth your patience. For me, I find it easier NOT to have a guideline printed out on the paper itself, so then I can just place the template down and I don’t have to worry about trying to include or exclude the line in the cutting. I think if you can learn to trust your eye that is the best measuring tool you have.

The cutter is a small round device that sits down onto your chosen template. The handle can turn 360 degrees so you just press down and there is a small blade underneath that cuts your paper. You run the cutter around the template and VOILA, your label is cut out. It does take a little practice to get the pressure and your grip right but it is no hard labour.

The reason I wanted to share this with you is just to promote DIY marketing, labelling and self promotion. I love finding out ways people make things themselves from art to books to cards to cakes to magazines. Taking the risk and having some self belief that you can do a job yourself can be very powerful. Money can be a real issue for small businesses, cottage industries and makers of all varieties. Where do you spend your money? Printing and design work can be quite expensive but does add a professionalism to your endeavours. Maybe have a go yourself and see what you can come up with. I like when people use their skills and ingenuity to come up with new ways to leap over barriers they are presented with.

 I would encourage anybody to have a go at making their own labels and marketing material using your imagination and the message that is at the heart of your product. I used to use Letraset transfers and hand drawn designs on luggage tags for my labels before I got more adept on the computer with the help of Gary. In my experience, people really appreciate the effort and I find it can help to increase the value of the work you are explaining and supporting in your labels.  

Friday, 5 April 2013

My Neighbour Totoro

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Original Story and Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki

A Studio Ghibli Production. 1988

Main Characters: Satsuki and her little sister Mei, Totoro.

Studio Ghibli was established in 1985 in Tokyo. The studio was led by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. It has produced over 14 feature-length animated films with titles including “Howl’s Moving Castle”,” Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke”.

A Personal Note: I want a Totoro, not a soft toy version, a REAL Totoro. Of course one could never own a Totoro but I would like to sit down with him and have a good old roar. I would like his help in my garden and then I would like to take a nap with him….well…..on him.

Before you think I have gone completely crazy, I advise you to get your hands on this beautiful, comforting film and have a look for yourself. If you don’t want to do all of the things I just mentioned, I worry for your inner-child!

Set in “an idyllic rural retreat” you get swept away to a world inhabited by adopted grannies, soot sprites, acorn seedlings, giant friendly trolls and a cat bus (not a bus service for the conveyance of felines, no, it is an actual cat, the shape and size of a bus with magical transportation capabilities).

I love the gentle unfolding of the story in this animated film. The conflicts that do occur are human and relatable. There is nothing that is too aggressive or too assaulting. The emotional journey you take with Satsuki and Mei is involving without the constant threat of peril and without a condescending all-encompassing resolution in the end.

The art work on this film is detailed and glorious. The character development, the landscapes and the family home are so inviting I want to pack up and set sail for Japan.

The underlying themes of respecting nature, the importance of the family bond and the magic and wonder of innocence are subtle but well constructed. I feel that rather being hit over the head with “message”, you feel nourished by a keen observation of tradition and a respect for the intelligence of the audience.

If you are feeling a little tired of pretty pink princesses and over-hyped, over-advertised 3D movies in super duper high definition, give the skilful animated world of Studio Ghibli a go. Hopefully you will be as captivated and enticed by this view into a different culture as I am.

Nerdy Fun Fact: Totoro is so awesome he makes a guest appearance in Pixar’s “Toy Story 3”.

My surprise 30th birthday cake

All quotes and information taken from The Studio Ghibli Collection DVD.
All images and characters copyright of Studio Ghibli.