Friday, May 30, 2008

National Stationery Show Review, The Pen Pavilion

At first blush, I figured "The Pen Pavilion" would be sort of boring, and there was definitely a different vibe for the most part in the writing instrument aisles (lots more men, business suits and important looking meetings going on). But a girl who truly loves paper of course loves pens and pencils too, so I had to check it out. I am attached to my ultra-fine point sharpies (perfect for writing on stardream by the way). And I have always loved drawing with roller ball pens...I'm looking at you sad collection of almost empty Pilot Precise V5 pens in extra fine point black. You have served me well.

My husband, an engineer, also enjoys a nice pen and recently introduced me to Uni-ball's Signo Micro 207. It's spring-loaded which is not a real plus for my needs, but I'll give it a chance. My three year old did some preliminary quality testing today while doodling with "Daddy's Pen" and managed to bust the spring, but it was easily points for that Uni-ball. I'll definitely put it into my rotation and perhaps I'll sleep easier at night knowing I can now prevent check washing and make cute illustrations with a single writing instrument.

But back to the Pen Pavillion. I put aside the above preferences and found two items of interest. One was the Yoropen, a uniquely designed pen that reduces writing strain and was a NSS Best New Product Winner in 2007. I didn't get to try one at the show, but plan to try one soon. I'm wondering if it might take some getting used writing with this very different design? I'll keep you posted, and if anyone has tested one out, feel free to comment with your thoughts on it. Offered in several lines (Standard, Superior, and Executive) and styles (ballpoint, pencil, and even crayon)...there seems to be a price point to fit almost every budget. I'm thinking one of these would be a perfect stocking stuffer for my husband since the design is advertised as beneficial to left-handers for a variety of reasons.

My favorite writing instrument booth of all was Batle Studios. These graphite sculptures you can write with stopped me in my tracks they were so beautiful. The Olive Branch, Twisting Leaf, Wing and Thatcher Shell from their current collection are my favorites, along with the Calla pictured here. Stunningly crafted, these beauties won't rub off on your hand. Now if only I had an awesomely clean and organized workspace fit to place one on.

Got a pen or pencil you adore? Comment and let me know. I love writing of course, but I'm even more curious to know what other illustrators and designers like drawing with. As for the Pen Pavillion, I'm glad I strolled through. Not quite the rush I got (am I geeky or what!?) as toured the actual stationery aisles, but fun nonetheless.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mad Nibblin'!

Jen, Sweet Talk Boutique's Butter and Sugar, recently debuted our new MadNibbles cookie on her blog. Honestly, I can't say it any better than Jen. After all, these word wacky cookies were her crazy idea and I've got boatload of work to do. If you're not a regular reader of Jen's blog...take a look around while you're there. If you're a wedding fanatic like me, you'll love her bubble-bursting post on wedding cake myths entitled: Attention Please...Not All Fondant Tastes Like Crap.... It's that sort of stuff that makes me happy that I get to work with Jen on a regular (not quite everyday, but almost) basis. But anyway...Here's her MadNibbles post word for word (Oh yes, and I asked permission first!):

Didn't you just ______those cool ______ fill in the blank note _______ that you could _____ with all your ______? LOL We loved 'em. We loved 'em so much we could just eat ' you can too. We've designed our own text to suit any fill in the blank craziness you can come up with and put it on our yummy cookies to ship out fresh to you or your pal.

Just like all our Invitastions, you get to pick the box color and ribbon color, but this time the matching card that comes with the cookie is a pre-printed post card all ready to be addressed and mailed from the recipient to you or anyone else they want to share the fun with. We also send an edible marker to fill in those blanks! Hey, we'll even try to match or compliment the marker color to the ribbon color when possible.

$20 each and available now at Sweet Talk Boutique! In addition to the new fresh look on the home page and the introduction of MadNibbles, we've got some other goodies in the works. Check back often this summer to see some cute gift ideas we're bringing to our boutique just for you!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

National Stationery Show Review, Part 1

I'm going to guess I need a couple posts to share all of the wonderful, new, and interesting sights I came across during my first experience walking the National Stationery Show in New York this past week. I'm still in the process of looking through all the tons of materials I brought home with me, and I'm also mulling over the direction I'd like to take my own business in over the next year. Attending the show is extremely beneficial to aspiring stationery designers, those stationers hoping to exhibit sometime down the road, or for artists wondering where to focus their creative energies. But watch out kids, you might walk out wishing you were a retailer. For those who truly love the art of letter writing, you will certainly feel the urge to shop!!!

Perhaps the most exciting part of the show for me was meeting fellow stationery designers whose work I admire and am familiar with. In many situations it was great to finally put a face to the name and/or marvelous work. First up is Jill, from Jilly Jack Designs, who was kind enough to share a photo of her hip and stylish booth for this post. Jilly Jack's designs are fresh, eco-friendly, and manage to be bold and capture a certain softness at the same time. I'm loving the line's sweet felt folio packaging, which holds and coordinates with the enclosed note cards and envelopes. Just perfect for stashing in your desk drawer.

I'm a printmaker at heart, and while etching has long been my favorite media, I'm completely enamored with the woodblock designs from Artful Sentiments. Artful Sentiments designer Molly offers a huge selection of cards offering a wide variety of images charmingly printed in bright and catchy colors. My personal choice, her lovely desk calendars which are sure to spice up any home or workspace.

Letterpress was at the forefront of the show this year. There was lots of it! I was delighted to see a few familiar faces as I walked the rows, including fellow upstate New York locals Debbie Urbanski and Harold Kyle of Smock. Debbie and Harold are committed to printing sustainably, using fine bamboo paper and all while reducing the carbon footprint of their business and giving back to environmental causes. My favorite designs from their social collection are "horsey", "ellie" and "giraffe." Too sweet. Having had some of my own work printed with Smock's parent company Boxcar Press, I have seen first-hand this shop's love for the historic art of letterpress. With their beautiful colors and deep impressions...if there is such a thing as being gorgeously green, Smock has it down. Just scroll through the images on their home page and I'm sure you'll agree.

Whimsical preppy is how I'd describe the many deliciously colored offerings from The Paper Menu. Carried by a whole bunch of authorized online and brick and mortar retailers, you should have no problem tracking down the greetings, invitations, calling cards, and much more, that designer Marie has become known for. My favorite pick from The Paper Menu? Their gift wrap that can be personalized with a message, monogram or image. I'm definitely going to be hunting that down sometime before the holidays hit!

This is just the beginning. I promise there is more to come in a future post!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sweet Talk Boutique Gets the Cool Mom Treatment

I was delighted to find that Sweet Talk Boutique was recently featured on Cool Mom Picks! In between nibbles, Cool Mom Liz managed to write a totally tasty post about our cookies!!!

I'm headed off to the National Stationery Show this week to immerse myself in new trends in the stationery industry. Which reminds me—now you can get all the sweetness of our STB designs, but without all the calories (although a little cookie never killed anyone's diet right?). Our signature illustrations are available on note cards and sets. Oh yeah, and Jen's got a ton of changes cookin' for the Sweet Talk site so check back soon!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blogging for Hope: Las Mariposas of Yesterday and The Rights of Women Today

Bloggers Unite
Bloggers Unite is an initiative designed to harness the power of the blogosphere by challenging bloggers to blog about a particular social cause on a single day, in this case the cause is Human Rights. Today, my single voice will be joined with thousands of others in an effort to make a real positive difference in our world. I want to positively impact our world by shedding some light on the need to support and defend women human rights activists. These courageous and deeply dedicated women fight for basic economic and social rights and in many cases they have been assaulted, harassed, threatened, imprisoned, and tortured for it.

My interest in women human rights activism was sparked after reading "In the Time of the Butterflies" by Dominican-American author Julia Álvarez a year or two ago. I became obsessed with The Mirabal sisters, three of four Dominican sisters who were assassinated by the dictator, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1960. Throughout my education I was a great lover of world history, but I am ashamed to admit that I had little knowledge of the political history of the Dominican Republic (or most other Caribbean countries for that matter). I know it is easier said than done, but one way in which I would like to see our world change is to see American students educated about history other than our own. In many cases, I realize students also lack knowledge about the United States and our own current events, but in order for our society to maintain influence and the ability to change the world around us for the better, I believe we need to KNOW that world. That means better understanding other countries ad their culture. Just like my interest was sparked through a fictional account of a true story, I pledge to nurture sparks that I see in the young people around me.

As part of the Movement of the Fourteenth of June, The Mirabal Sisters (also known as "Las Mariposas") and others fought valiantly to end Trujillo's dictatorship. After the sisters' numerous imprisonments and torture, Trujillo sent men to intercept the three women after they had visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugarcane field, then beaten and strangled to death. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain. Besides being wives, daughters and sisters, these women were also mothers. Thankfully, Trujillo's plan to eliminate the sisters backfired somewhat. Their deaths caused public outrage in the country and raised support and awareness for their cause. Trujillo was assassinated six months later in 1961.

On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 (the anniversary of the day of the murder of the Mirabal sisters) as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the sisters. This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day. The Human Rights of women are perhaps more endangered now than they were during the time of "Las Mariposas." If you do nothing else, then please make yourself aware of the violence perpetrated daily against women around the globe and in our own country. Colombia and Darfur may seem far away, but unfortunately violence cuts across boundaries of country, economy, and culture.

You may not feel like an activist yourself, but I guarantee you will be inspired by the stories of today's Human Right's activists from around the globe. I was particularly affected by Mao Hengfeng's story. A mother of twins, she was dismissed from her job in 1988 because she became pregnant with her third child, in violation of China's family planning regulations. According to Amnesty International, Mao Hengfeng is reportedly detained at Yangpu District Branch Police Station in Shanghai, where she is kept in solitary confinement. Lastly, I urge to to seek ways that you can support and defend these brave women and the many nameless victims of violence around the world. Whether it is through signing petitions, educating yourself, involving yourself in aid or relief organizations, or just simple prayer, I believe we women can make a difference in the world, in the lives of our global sisters, and within ourselves.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Picture Book Ponderings: Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life.

Think Illustrator Maurice Sendak, and I'm sure "Where the Wild Things Are" is the first thing to come to mind. I tend towards some of Sendak's lesser known favorites, like "Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue" (which I just used to help teach my 3 year old the virtues of caring, or rather the perils of not caring) and this little gem of children's lit and illustration "Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life."

Sendak wrote this book to deal with the death of his beloved Sealyham Terrier, Jennie. You might remember her from "Where the Wild Things Are" as she has cameos in a few of Sendak's books. And if the real Jennie was anything like the salami and pancake loving Jennie in ""Higglety Pigglety Pop.." then she was quite the character. Jennie is a dog who has everything. Discontented, she goes out in the world to find something she doesn't have. When she comes across a pig wearing a sandwich board advertising an opening for a Leading Lady in the World Mother Goose Theater she jumps at the opportunity. But there's one hitch, the job requires someone with experience. One thing Jennie does not have.

When I was in high school I used to read this book to my brother who is eleven years younger than me and I'm not sure who enjoyed those read-alouds more...the child or the teenaged big sister. Sendak's signature pen and ink style became a major inspiration to me as a young designer and illustrator, encouraged my interest in etching (which often uses similar drawing techniques), and showed me that with a little imagination an artist can take something small (a brief nursery rhyme bearing the a portion of the book title in this case) and spin it into a sweeping visual and literary narrative. Whimsical yet dark, this book speaks to that childhood, teenage, and well...even that grown-up...desire to take risks, seek more, and find out what the great big world and that "castle yonder" hold for us all.

Filled with crazy characters—an ornery baby who refuses to eat, a milkman who is also a cat, a very hungry lion, and the equally food-obsessed Jennie, this book offers quirky quips that you are sure to find yourself quoting after the reading is done. The warmly detailed illustrations, never fail to suck me in and the story is just plain charming. I mean who wouldn't love an adorable but spoiled dog, who is put through her paces and ends her story with this: "As you probably noticed, I went away forever. I am very experienced now and very famous. I am even a star. Every day I eat a mop, twice on Saturday. It is made of salami and that is my favorite."

Maurice Sendak's work has taught me that to illustrate something is to do more than just re-interpret the words on the page as a companion visual. True illustration illuminates the text, bringing additional dimensions to the story and stylistically branding the narrative at the same time.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Keyed In!

I've recently decided that I am going to start carrying Lilie's A Planet 4 Creation cards around with me every time I wear her awesome Green Skeleton Key Pendant. I literally get no less than 3 compliments on it EVERY time I wear it out. And I'm wearing it more and more these days, because who doesn't love compliments? From pre-school teachers to sales clerks to neighborhood friends or visiting family members, everyone I talk to seems to have a question to ask or a kind word to say about this lovely little piece of jewelry.

Actually, it's not that little, which is one of the things I love about it. The design I own is from a previous season, but it looks similar to this beauty which is currently for sale on Lilie's site. Just switch out the stunning red heart for a lovely green glass bead. Plus this key looks like it has a history. It brings some mystery to the pendant and I think that's cool. I have been collecting found keys and wearing them around my neck since I was a teen, but Lilie's additions of czech glass and porcelain beads, or Swarovski crystals, definitely take wearing keys as jewelry to the next level. A Planet 4 Creation also carries a wide variety of key jewelry! Check out the whole section here! There are pendants that use antique numbered keys, skeleton keys, or iron replicas of treasure chest keys, and a large selection of earrings using different key charms.

A Planet 4 Creation is also celebrating a birthday this month, so take advantage of this discount code "Birthday3" for 30% off! It expires May 31, 2008. And don't forget to mention this blog, Design is Everywhere, in the Customer Referral. If you do, you'll get a free gift! Happy birthday A Planet 4 Creation...and many more to come.