Month: February 2015

Beginnings & Lessons Learned

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! Thought I’d share a little of what I’m so grateful for this season of the year. 🙂

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I want to pour out my gratitude towards all who bought my Christmas cards this year! As you’ll soon read, I would certainly have given up if no one had taken the time, money, and love to order a whopping 121 Christmas cards. You all have no idea what it meant to me to have you like my work and choose to use it. My heart is brimming with gratitude for you, as your care spurred me on to keep persevering.

A big thanks also go to my parents, who encouraged me, designed with me, gave me opinions, drove me places, helped me figure out stuff, and above everything else loved me and believed in me enough to keep me motivated to do this. I love you!

Beginning this business and experimenting with things I didn’t know a ton about was a hard, tear-inducing experience, at first. Readers of this post will recall that I said the same thing about running when I started, so hang tight, because the end of this story isn’t a whole lot different from the end of that one.

The idea for doing the Christmas cards came out of my love for graphic design and lettering. I had something in mind to earn money towards, and so I thought, what could go wrong? It can’t be that hard, and surely I’ll make some substantial money. So I came up with some designs . . . and fell short. Nothing I was coming up with was anything that even I – much less other people – would put on my Christmas cards. Disappointed and discouraged, I kept working at it, and with the help of my dad, got my spirits lifted when we came up with one design. Just one. Yet it triggered many more designs, which I colorized and centered and fiddled with. Soon, we were ready for a visit to a print store. My optimistic side figured printing costs would be fairly low, and I would be able to find the size envelopes I wanted right away. In my mind, there was still plenty of room for a profit in this endeavor.

We arrived at the store, and found out that printing costs were shockingly high. Like, over half the price of each card high. On top of that, there were no envelopes in the size I wanted (a size we’ve now changed three times), and the test print we did turned out very dark, meaning I would have to recolor the design. All those dreams of moneymaking I had? They were slowly disappearing down the drain. That night, I was bummed, and so was my dad, but we figured we’d still try to do this thing. It was around the first week of November.

The following week, we recolored the cards, figured out a working size, and got stuff ready to put on my blog. On November 15, the “shop” went live, and I suppose I expected orders to be coming in like clockwork, because my balloon of excitement and expectation started to deflate as my mom put something on Facebook about the cards and still no one ordered. A full week passed before I got an order from my kind aunt, then another from my generous friend Lauren, and another from a family friend (owner of Live.Simple.Soap). Okay, I told myself, this could end up alright.

Well, the print job on that order turned out a little rougher than I would have liked, and cutting the cards was difficult, as they didn’t end up fitting in the envelopes at first. *insert shocked emoji* All in all, on those first three orders, I actually lost a teeny bit of money, rather than gained it, which left me pretty disappointed. Still, it was through that that I had to realize that business is rough, and if I were to go into it solely for the money, I would be sorely disappointed for right now. However, if my heart could be changed and I could begin to accept this not as a moneymaker but as an introduction to something that could become that, I could be enthusiastic and excited about what this experience could teach me. Such a realization and heart change turned around the way I looked at things. Though orders did not pour in “like clockwork”, I was content with the face that slowly and surely they were coming in, and those first thirty cards were being multiplied by a lot.

Now that it’s over, I’m able to look back on what I’ve learned. Some of these things I’ve definitely learned the hard way, but I’m thankful everything worked out like it did. Through this, I’ve learned a lot of things about printing, designing, cutting paper (aaaaaacccckkkk don’t talk to me about how much I dislike this job!), tying ribbons (lol), being a somewhat gracious salesperson, and accepting losses. Those are all pretty much physical, designing lessons, but on top of that, I’ve learned lessons about dreams and expectations and learning how to make a good product whether there’s much in it for you or not!

A book that helped me learn these lessons was Phil Vischer’s Me, Myself, and Bob. I picked it up (for the third time!) from the library during the whole process of starting this business, and was so blessed by it. Phil Vischer is the creator of VeggieTales, something you seriously should watch no matter how old you are 😉 His book is one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read. It tells the story of his dreams, his process, his almost-giving-up moments, his success, his failure, and his surrender. If you didn’t know, Phil is barely involved in VeggieTales anymore after the company’s bankruptcy in 2003. Read the really moving story in his book.

Me, Myself, and Bob has reminded me repeatedly that God can do amazing things through His people, but sometimes the things you think will happen or want to happen have to die. Or maybe they’ll sit in the back of your mind as if dead while you wait on God’s perfect timing. Whatever the case, the end goal is to do what God wants. This could mean starting a business and failing. It could also mean starting a business and having spectacular success. Or, like in my case, it just means you gain a little money and a lot of knowledge for the future. Phil’s book is the perfect example of all the sides of these kinds of experiences. Pick it up sometime.

Sketch to Canvas: the process

IMG_52073This is my most recent canvas/watercolor project: a quote from a Lauren Daigle song for a friend of mine. This was by far the hardest canvas I’ve done so far, but it also turned out the best of all of my canvases. Let me explain the process a little, following the labels on the photo. 🙂

Step 1: sketch it out.

Pencils are important for a reason, people, and that reason is the fact that they erase. Ink pens, much as I wish they would, do not. So for my original ideas for this canvas, a pencil was a very important tool, and I can’t tell you how many times I erased the many, many mistakes that took place in that first sketch. But then, after all of the work, it was ready for something greater.

Step 2: ink the sketch.

I have a Pilot V5 ink pen, one I’ve seen my grandma use for normal writing and decided to try out with lettering. It works fantastically! I’ve been using it nonstop since I bought it, and I really appreciated it for the sketch, with adding in details. I then erased all of the pencil lines, and got ready to scan this original to trace onto canvas.

Step 3: scan the original sketch.

I’ve tried a couple of different methods of getting my lettering onto the computer. One is simply taking a picture of it, and the other is scanning it. One of the downsides to scanning is that the finished image isn’t high-quality when you’re done with it, especially if your scanner is junk challenging like mine. On the other hand, taking a picture of it doesn’t turn out as sharp and free of shadows like a scan does. So while there are pros and cons to both, I’ve had pretty good luck with scanning, especially since I take it into a program similar to Adobe Illustrator (Inkscape) and convert it to a vector after scanning it. Anyway, after a process that would literally take me days to explain, I converted the scan to a pdf file, then printed it out again on normal copy paper to trace for canvas. As you can see, I added an ampersand digitally because I didn’t feel confident drawing one. 🙂

Step 4: prep your canvas.

For this project, all that I needed to do was paint a decent watercolor background. I used two different sizes of brushes: one very small and one medium sized. I don’t have a method for watercolor, but typically I will add a lot of water and let the colors drip into each other. 🙂

Step 5: trace.

So this is what I did for a fairly accurate trace: I flipped the paper over and held it up to a window so I was seeing the letters backwards. Then, I took a pencil and heavily colored in the lines. This puts a layer of pencil lead on the words. I then turned the paper over again and laid it on top of my now-dry canvas, taking the pencil and tracing over the words on that side. The pencil’s pressure on the one side transfers the lead from the other side to the canvas. I find this much more exact than trying to free-hand it. 🙂 You’ll also note that though I added a digital ampersand, I ended up drawing one anyway.

Step 6: ink it.

I then just do what I did with the original sketch – take an ink pen over the pencil lines. I had to let the ink dry for a while before I could erase the pencil lines, as the ink takes longer to dry on canvas than on paper, but other than that minor detail, it turned out very well and I’m really pleased with it!

So there’s a little bit of what I’ve been up to, and a hopefully helpful take on transferring your own lettering/artwork to canvas. 😉

Project Printable

As you’ve probably noticed, I love hand lettering (actually, I’m positively obsessed with it), and I’ve channeled that love into making printables, such as this one and this one.

Whatever the amount of love I have for sketching, inking, and creating these printables, in order for me to print them out, they needed to be plain black and white, since we don’t usually get color cartridges for our printer. I will be making some colorful, patterned-ish printables in the future, but for right now I did something different to add a pop of color. 🙂 I’m calling it Project Printable.

IMG_5983(this printable isn’t available, as it was a gift for one of my best friends. 🙂 I’d like to keep it uniquely hers.)

For this print, I took a normal piece of card stock (as it was thick but sure to work in our printer) and painted a watercolor base on it. I’ve yet to try using watercolor paper for this type of thing. The card stock does warp slightly under the water, but after I pressed it overnight under some heavy books, it flattened out nicely. 🙂 After the watercolor was completely dry, I put it facedown in our printer, printed the printable on “best”, and voila. It was like magic, and my hands were thanking me for not making them ink that all over again!

IMG_5990 IMG_5991As you can see in the photos above, the details turned out really well. It looked authentic yet semi-professional, which was exactly what I was going for.

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(this printable also isn’t available. It was a project for some amazing friends of mine – these are encouraging notecards.)

I am really, really, really pleased with how these turned out! I wanted to make some encouraging notes for my friends after our first cross-country meet, and thought I would make postcards with our theme verse for this season on them. It wasn’t a big deal, I inked the sketch and got it over with.

But…the idea came to me, why not make them like mini watercolor prints? The idea kept growing, and after painting several card stock pages, I printed them out, got them cut nicely at the library, and flattened them. I’m thrilled with the colors and how the printing turned out.

The watercolor tip was too good not to share! You don’t have to be an expert at watercolor to paint a color base and print something out on top of it. 🙂

Praying you all have victory in Christ this week!

Fall Blessings

This fall has been full and beautiful. It’s not over yet, I know, but I was realizing the other day how many sweet, beautiful things have happened this fall. I need to write these blessings down, and in the process update this blog (on which I have been a little absent, I’ll admit!). Fall, for me, is full of blessings like…

  • wearing jeans again.
  • striped Old Navy sweaters.
  • playing Tenth Avenue North songs on guitar at 7am.
  • seeing my breath in the cold.
  • overcast days making for beautiful pictures:elijah
  • boys with brand-new walkie talkies, playing spies and wearing everything camo.
  • having such good friends at cross-country I wanna cry seeing the season end.
  • soaking in the last bit of color in the year: leaves
  • putting on a crochet hat, reminding me of sweet friends’ generosity.
  • late night concerts (yay Tenth Ave!) and singing the promises of “Times“:concert
  • friends who will wipe your nastiest tears away.
  • the boys’ last campout till spring, giving us girls a night with Anne of Green Gables (go Megan Follows!)
  • listening to the rustle and fall of the leaves.
  • musicians like Josh Garrels breaking the silence.
  • staying up past my bedtime talking with sisters.
  • breaking my back leaning over sketchbooks and computer screens, just trying to design a 3″x2″ black-and-white card with my blog, email, and phone number on it. Who knew it would take so much work? But with the help of these graphics from AngieMakes.com, I’m pretty happy with the finished product. You all get to see my signature now 😉business-cards
  • singing Christmas songs waay too early…but even as my sister yells at me to stop, I’m still dreaming of a white Christmas.
  • learning songs with augmented chords (like this one) on the piano and loving the way it feels to make the deep notes rumble and the high notes sound like they’re crying (in the best way possible).
  • laughing at small group.
  • wearing fuzzy socks (which make my day).
  • cinnamon, apples, and pumpkins.
  • family walks in perfect weather:fall-walk-3 fall-walk-1 fall-walk-2
  • running with my dad.
  • cheering for my dad when he runs a cross-country race 😀
  • sweet little sisters:anna
  • being reminded that I am clay in the hand of my Potter: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal My words to you.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do. The word of the Lord came to me: ‘House of Israel, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay? Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel.'” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
  • getting chills from this quote and beautiful lettering on Beautiefull Things:
  • finishing photography challenges once and for all (yes, it’s been a long wait. Blog posts coming soon!) and having friends who are just as slow relaxed as I am when it comes to being punctual. 😉
  • joining a writer’s club and thinking about stories again. It’s been a while since I’ve let my imagination go on rabbit trails with my pen jotting down every detail I see in this head of mine…but I’m excited about doing it again.
  • taking selfies with sisters:My sister, Sarah (right) and I. :)
  • knowing my little notes can bless friends:
  • remembering the story behind my blog’s name and getting ready to enter the season of gratitude.

May this fall be blessed for you, too! I can’t wait for whatever the next season holds…but I’m savoring this season because I’m only gonna be in it once.

2015 Cross-Country Season Recap

It’s day three of my gratitude posting. I decided to use this as day three, because I’m really super grateful for the way this cross-country season happened. And yes, all of the gratitude posts will be this spontaneous. 🙂

I’ve never been an athletic person. Ever. All my life I’ve thought of myself as “awkward”, “uncoordinated”, etc., so I never would have seen myself doing a sport. But this year, cross-country changed all that.

It was this summer when my friend, Lauren told me about a club of sorts she ran with on Monday nights. She mentioned it to me with words like, “you should come!”, and I actually thought about it. The reason I wanted to go was never because I wanted to run or join a cross-country team, but because I wanted to spend time with Lauren, who I hardly ever got to see.

The afternoon before the evening I’d committed to going to Running Club, I was really, really nervous. Thoughts were running through my head, like I have seriously never even run in my life! Why am I doing this?! I sat on the couch and plucked sad songs out on my dad’s guitar, mourning thinking about how stupid I was going to look in front of all these strangers and how I was going to go anyway.

I showed up with my sis (best moral support ever!) that foggy, rainy night in yoga pants and my mom’s running shoes. Everyone there seemed to know and like each other, and I felt like I might be able to fit into this crowd . . . that is, if I survived the first run. I didn’t feel like I would after the exhausting 15-minute warmup run with Lauren, because afterwards my head was burning and my face seemed like it was as red as a strawberry. Everything hurt. Aside from that, however, I was pretty in favor of this running club thing.

The next day, I couldn’t sit down without cringing, I was so sore. Lesson #1 running has taught me: pain is rough, but you’re gonna experience it, so get used to it and push through it.

Even though this was not normal for me, I found myself coming back and continuing this running thing. Again, it wasn’t because I enjoyed running in the least, but because I enjoyed Lauren’s company on runs where she would talk normally (it was easy for her *winks*) and I would listen as best I could, stopping every three minutes to try and get my breathing under control. 😛 My sister, two brothers, and my dad came back with us. I look back and see the Lord’s complete knowledge of me and my family then in every moment – if Laur had invited me to come to any other sports club but running/cross-country, it would have been a flat “no”, not only from me, but from my parents. My dad ran and coached cross-country and track for a long time, and he happened to know the coach on Laur’s team! What?!

Also, God was working in our circumstances by ordering our time frame so perfectly to grow me and bless me. Earlier that spring, my sister and I were presented with a missions trip opportunity to take place in the first weeks of July. It would have been a very important trip, requiring lots of preparation. We felt God was leading us to do this, though, so we decided to go. However, the opportunity fell through for us, due to safety issues. I had no idea why God had even brought the opportunity to us only to let it fall through, but I had peace about it and wasn’t concerned at the time. I now see a little bit of what God was trying to show me: had we gone on that missions trip, we never would have gone to that first Running Club. We probably never would have followed through for an entire season. I still don’t know why God brought the opportunity before us, but I trust that He wanted to show us His perfect will in this.

We came back for another couple of weeks, then there was a week when I would be gone at summer camp. Before I left, I had a rough moment with my dad because I didn’t have the drive to push myself and do my best that’s essential to a runner. I was frustrated with myself because I didn’t think I would ever develop that or succeed.

Off I went to camp, very slightly angry at my dad and at myself. God, in His wisdom, brought me to a summer camp themed “the Amazing Race”, based off of Hebrews 12:1-13. This is one of those “big-deal” passages of Scripture about endurance & suffering, two of the hardest subjects in the world.

The week went by, and I kept realizing that though running really hurt right now, it would pay off later, and that was a blessing I couldn’t have seen coming. That was just the beginning, because at that point I was only two weeks into running!

We joined the cross-country team. The only thing my dad (who was no longer an object of my wrath haha) asked of us was that we finish the season without quitting. Two weeks into practices, we did a mile time trial (seeing how fast you can run a mile). After running it, I was really physically hurting, and Lauren told me, “races (5k’s) are worse”. siggghhh. Another lesson in persevering even when it hurts!

The first race rolled around. I could barely eat, I was so nervous. The time came to go to the starting line, and all I wanted to do was run off the field and bawl, staying safely on the sidelines so I didn’t have to endure this agony. Turns out, I didn’t do that, and it was way worth it. Racing turned out to be really fun! I love the feeling of running fast, even though it hurts, and crossing the finish line with that complete confidence that I did my best today. I gave Jesus and my team my all.

My running partners, Megan & Hannah, were huge encouragers to me as we ran practices together, raced together (in the bitter cold!), PR’d (personal record, got a new best) together, etc. They were complete lifesavers for me! Thank you so much, sweet sisters!

The lessons I’ve learned from this season are endless. A big one was learning how to be real with myself and with my teammates. I’m not perfect, and so sometimes I’m going to take a race off. Sometimes I’m going to sob at night, thinking my best is not good enough before I remember Whose I am. I love cross-country and feeling like a success in my own eyes, but the main goal I want to keep in mind while running is that I’m here to glorify God. If my best is not perfect, that’s okay. I just want to serve Him with a whole heart. Running is really about a mindset, and for me, I had to learn how to put my races in the Lord’s hands. My coach was huge in teaching me this, and I’m not going to forget it or stop learning it anytime soon.

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Photo captions, starting with the top left:

  1. Group huddle before our last meet. Photo by Mr. Moll.
  2. Well, doesn’t this pack look legit? This is us at our last meet! We were together for pretty much the whole first mile! Ha but my face though. Thank goodness the photo is pretty little so you can’t see real well. Photo by Mr. Moll.
  3. Megan and I running a really cold race! Photo by Mr. Stanhope.
  4. (bottom right) I love these girls so much! My devotional group. Photo by Mr. Stanhope.
  5. All of us with our Coach. My face is hilarious, so I grant you permission to laugh. Photo by Mr. Stanhope.
  6. An impromptu group pic by Mr. Stanhope.

So, I guess you could say I’m a little depressed that the season is already over, but I wouldn’t go back and change anything for the world. God has a plan, and He worked it out completely for His glory and my good. I remember writing here at the beginning of the summer,

“To admit that I am His and not my own is so hard, because not only does He thwart the plans and the kingdoms of others, but He thwarts the plans and the kingdom of me. He tears down my walls, my expectations, my comfort zone, my heart’s desires, and my will, all so that I might be more like Christ. It is hard. So this summer, my plans might get a little messed up, but you know what? I’m okay with knowing they will be.

Every time my plans have ever been messed with, glory has been given to God. It’s hard, but I will trust Him. May your summer be the best yet, and all glory be to God!”

He has truly messed with my plans, but they’re the most beautiful mess ever. For the team and for the Lord.