The long way here

Greetings from Salt Lake City, Utah. I left home around 5:30am with plenty of time to get through customs and such. Unfortunately, due to the extremely cold weather (-30 degrees celcius plus wind chill), the plane's computer system was non functioning and required rebooting. The flight was delayed a few hours, and thus my connection to Salt Lake via San Francisco was lost. So after landing in SFO, I had enough time to grab a sandwich before boarding to Pheonix, Arizona. Wearing my winter boots and lugging around my coat and sweaters!

Landing in Arizona and seeing palm trees was really strange. Not where I imagined I'd be today! After another delay in getting the third plane out to the runway, at last it was take off to Salt Lake. I arrived about 15 hours after I began, which is actually a bit longer than it would take to drive from Calgary to Utah!

My bags are still in San Francisco, but I guess I'll see them in the morning. Good thing I have a whole extra day tomorrow to take it easy. The Grand America Hotel is incredibly grand indeed! My suite is big enough to host a mini party right here. And once my bags arrive (which are full of party supplies and camera equipment for this Friday's Squarespace + UPPERCASE mini party with my clothing used like packing peanuts) we actually could.

Nighty night from Utah!

The Clean Slate

As the year starts to wind down, I start dreaming about all the things that I'd like to do in the following year. At that point, the new year exists in the future as an ideal, a fantasy... In my mind, I say, "In the new year, I'll have more time to do X, Y and Z. In the new year, I'll have systems A, B and C in place to ease my workload." It's a soothing thought to think that the new year will bring a fresh start, a clean slate. Especially at such a busy time for my business—with managing the surge in Christmas orders and subscriptions, there's also a magazine to edit and design and get to the printer before the holidays. 

This November, I thought I was on my way to getting the X, Y and Z and the A, B and C set up. After considerable thought, planning and diligence, I hired a full time employee. Despite best efforts by all concerned, the person just wasn't working out and I had to let them go (a few weeks before Christmas! I felt like such a Grinch!!) So rather than ending 2011 with some help and light at the end of the work tunnel, I was going solo once again: editing, designing, shipping, database entry, subscription management... The equivalent of at least two full time jobs in a part-time schedule (I stay at home with my toddler in the mornings). 

And so here is the first of January. (So soon! How did that happen?) The season of resolutions and best intentions. And now begins the really hard work: figuring out how to achieve the ideal. I suspect it is going to take the rest of 2012 to get there.

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• improve my handwriting! I have so limited time that when I write anything by hand, my thoughts rush faster than I can write (emailing and typing on the keyboard are the culprits) and my scrawl is just awful. I resolve to make time to slow down, breathe, write and appreciate pen on paper. I will be posting handwritten blog posts as often as I can muster. I suspect that there are many of you who share my desire to improve your handwriting. I invite you to join me in pen posting! Leave a comment if you'd like to join me on this quest.

• more online content. I have no shortage of content to share, but the blog has necessarily had to be ignored at times. I'd like to get back into regular posting as well as sharing more behind the scenes of the magazine process and supplemental content to each new issue. (The bigger project here is a complete revamp of all of my online assets.)

...and of course, more great content for the magazine and future book projects to be announced! 

Happy new year to one and all.

Featured on Mom Inc Daily

I am happy to be featured on today's Mom Inc Daily, Cat Seto's blog. "Mom Inc Daily is a creative and business sanctuary for moms. Cat and her community of “Designing Moms” share their daily posts about their love for motherhood, design and the intricacies of running a creative business." Thanks, Cat and Annie, for asking me to be part of it.

I decided to provide a true-to-life snapshot of our living room. Although it is fun escapism to see perfectly presented homes, wouldn't you rather see what things are really like? I know I get frustrated by seeing "family" homes with nothing out of place, no clutter, no books, no mess. We certainly don't live like that!

Owl costume

It is a major triumph when I find/make time to sew something. Here is Finley's first Hallowe'en costume. It was fun to put together... I just made a vest that is large enough to fit over his winter jacket (it snowed this morning) and made some wings. The materials are remnant pieces I took from my mom's stash of leftover suiting material as well as some cut-up trousers from Glen. There's some French General linen that was part of a table centrepiece at The Creative Connection and some Fog Linen swatches that were part of an issue of Selvedge magazine. The brown ribbon is leftover from my wedding decorations and I think the piece of gold fabric was my grandma's. It's nice to have a variety pile of fabric on hand because if I had had to go out and buy this stuff I don't think the project would have happened at all. Hoo hoo hooray for all of us packrats!

Guest Blogger on Elements

photo from the Elements website
, a creative firm in Connecticut, recently invited me to submit some page layout examples from UPPERCASE magazine for a book they're working on for Rockport Publishing. They also invited me to be a guest blogger on their site and that post is up today. I invite you over to their blog to read a bit more about me. Thanks, Amy, Alysson and the Elements team.

Issue #11 preview (and iphone advice, please)

instagram pic by Karyn ValinoI'm still waiting for the truck to arrive with my many hundreds of pounds of magazines. But many of the fine stockists have already received their shipments, like the workroom in Toronto. (Thanks, Karyn, for the instagram pic!)

I had planned on taking my own instagram pics and twitter about the new issue but my technology is not cooperating. My iphone has worked a-ok for a couple of years, but this morning I dropped off Glen's phone at the repair shop (alas, his met its match with a muddy puddle). After exiting the repair shop, I checked my phone for the time and proceeded on my way. Twenty minutes later, I got to my office and tried to use my phone and it doesn't even turn on! I've tried to restart it to no avail. My first thought was that the repair shop is an evil genius that can transmit "no-workie" signals to unsuspecting phones so that they need repair. It had a full charge this morning.

The frustrating thing is that learning from Glen's unfortunate incident, I was all set to sync my phone on my work computer so that I would have all the videos and pictures of Finley safe and sound. Now what should I do? I don't want to lose anything! The more I think about the pictures on my phone, the sicker I feel. Anyone have recommendations on recovering an iphone 3G without erasing images?

Looks like I'll be heading back to the repair shop on my walk home. ugh!!!

The road I'm on…

Tomorrow's my last day at home/work before we all take off (yet again!) for another trip. This time to Seattle to celebrate the launch of dottie angel. I can't believe how quickly the year has gone since Finley, Glen and I first met Tif and her family at Mossy Shed.

When I look back at the 18 months since Finley was born, I can scarcely believe at how much the magazine has grown (let alone my baby boy!)... and that I've also released FOUR books: The Elegant Cockroach, Work/Life 2, A Collection a Day and dottie angel. That's over 1600 pages of content. People often ask "How do you do it?" The answer is simple and difficult at the same time. I just do. Each magazine issue, each book, has its own set of steps. If I just do one thing, then the next, and the next... just keep going and it will get done. Some of the steps are easy and joyful (design, editing, creating), other steps are long, arduous, stressful and not much fun at all (logistics, bills, shipping). But even when the steps seem painfully impossible, I know that if I just push my way through, things will get done. And so even getting one step done in the long process becomes a reward in itself.

Publishing UPPERCASE magazine and creating books is the road that I'm on. I am happy to be on it! Though I am grateful that I started on this path before having a baby. Being the owner of your own business has the benefit of flexibility. My workspace and worktime have been adjustable (for the first year, I designed the magazine, Cockroach, Work/Life 2 and Collection a Day from my basement at odd fits and spurts between feedings, playing and changings.) Glen and I juggle our creative work time with looking after our child; having a supportive partner like Glen makes my work possible. (Glen has been working hard, too—he has finished writing the first draft of his second novel!)

In some ways, I think that I have pushed myself so hard in a creative and business sense because I had a baby. I did not want motherhood to impede my own pursuits and I set out to prove it to myself. My child benefits from a mother who is creatively challenged—and happier for it. Though I would really like to reduce my to-do list (and assign some of those steps to someone else) to free up more time for thinking, musing, planning, playing, making and doing nothing. Indeed, finding that help is a step coming up on my list.

Step one? Spend a lovely few days in Seattle with my great little family, the wonderful Tif and her clan... rest, relax and have a well-deserved vacation.

If you're in the Seattle area this Friday, please do come by Assemble and visit.

A digital mockup of the front of the book launch invitation

(Oh, and out of curiosity I'm also going to check out what "big" publishers do and attend the Design*Sponge book release celebration at Anthropologie the night before.)

Thanks, Mom!

The dottie angel book has many extra little details that make it very special—and labour-intensive. The stitched scalloped-edge postcards adhered to each cover had to be stitched by machine. With a print run of 3000, that's a lot of stitches! Over 3km of stitches, actually!

Thank you so much to my mom and to Paige for taking on this arduous task. Mom stitched her way through 2200 postcards, so chances are high that the book you order will be her stitches on the cover.

Above are some images of my mother's workspace which is just off the family room. The sewing area is designed to fold up and fit behind a closet door, but I can only recall a handful of times when it has been completely stowed away. Which is a good thing because my Mom always has a project in the works.

She recently put up a flannel wall so that she can view her quilts in progress:

Below is a hand-hooked rug that she made. It is one of my favourites; I like the graphic design and use of black.

My Dad holds up a recently completed quilt (he's got quite the wingspan!:

Finley admires some flowers:

Thank you again to my skilled, talented and hard-working mom.

Renegade SF: Petit Collage

Visiting Petit Collage and Lorena Siminovich was a highlight for Finley since I bought him "I like vegetables"—a nice board book with touchy-feeling textures. Finley's baby book library is full of Lorena's artwork! "In My Den" has been well-loved and well-travelled and though it is patched together now with packing tape, it has come with Finley on his travels to be a friendly reminder of home.

Getting personal (A Collection a Day summer blog tour)

I'm definitely a collector at heart, which is why Lisa Congdon's A Collection a Day blog in which she posted a special arrangement of one of her many collections throughout 2010 was such an inspiration. It was so inspiring that I asked Lisa if we could collaborate and turn the web project into a book!

What you might not know is that I procrastinated in contacting Lisa for quite a while. I was expecting a baby and just figured Lisa's idea was so good that surely a big-name publisher would just scoop it up! My entrepreneurial and design drive weren't yet dampened by late-night feedings, so I emailed Lisa with my book proposal. I was honoured that she preferred to work with me rather than any other publisher and that we shared a similar vision of what the book could be.

Since Lisa would be busy completing her online project until December 31, 2010, I figured that when the time came for me to design the book, I'd be accustomed to motherhood and it wouldn't be too difficult to get it all done. I'd design it late that year and just add the final pages in January and off it would go to the printer! Sounded simple enough.

What I didn't anticipate is that after the initial getting-to-know-you months of having a new baby, and the few months of exquisite babyness in which they lay happily on the ground and stay in one place, is that the growth and development rate is incredible! I would just get used to one stage, and Finley would quickly be on to the next one... rolling over, crawling, standing... walking!

Designing the quarterly magazine plus committing to publish four books (The Elegant Cockroach in October 2010, Work/Life 2 and A Collection a Day in Spring 2011, and The Suitcase Series Volume 2: dottie angel for later this summer) and being a new mom has been a challenge and then some. I'm still in awe that I'm getting the job done—and proud that everything that I've released is very high quality, unique to UPPERCASE and most definitely a labour of love.

A Collection a Day and its collectible tin are highlights in my career as a designer and publisher. I hope you'll decide to add them to your own collection of books. (Available in the online shop here.)

There have been some late nights (and some crying), but the first 16 months of managing a business and mothering a baby have gone pretty well. I think a lot of newcomers to UPPERCASE don't know that it is still essentially a one-woman operation. (But believe me, I'm exhausted.) Over the next months, I hope to get more help in managing the logistics side of publishing—distribution, circulation, subscriptions—since there really is way too much work for one person to handle, especially since I don't have as much time as I used to. UPPERCASE is my baby, but it's getting too heavy to hold on my own.

Anyway—back to A Collection a Day! We're having a summer blog tour! What better season to start a collection or two? With flea markets and garage sales (and more time for eBay?) now's the time to add to your collections or start a new one.

Thank you to the following blogs who are part of the tour so far (email me if you already have your copy and have posted about the book and you want to be part of the tour!):

July 6 Design for Mankind
July 13 Cafe Cartolina
July 20 DesignWorkLife
July 27 Poppytalk
August 3 sfgirlbybay

A Collection a Day can be purchased right here. thanks!

Work/Life 2: Jason Neil (Don't forget to VOTE!)

Jason Neil's illustration portfolio is defined by its amount of Canadian content. "I have always been involved in current affairs and things of a political nature, which along with my love for travel have been a great influence in my work. I'm fascinated with Canada, it's history and you will see aspects of this patriotism in my work as well." If you need any illustrations of the current federal election in Canada, then Jason's your man!

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I'm not a very political person, but with Canada having its fourth federal election in seven years, it is time to elect a government that will last—and make some lasting changes. Jack Layton has had my vote from the beginning of the campaign and his positive conduct throughout has only reinforced that decision. I hope the current momentum for the NDP continues over the next few days and we see some exciting results on Monday. I'm not one to post a sign on my front lawn, but I think social media can really have a positive effect, at the very least to encourage people who would normally ignore elections to become engaged.

Allow me to indulge in posting this sign on my virtual lawn:

Whatever your political leanings, fellow Canadians, please don't forget to vote on Monday, May 2!

Signs of spring...

Cover illustration by Work/Life 2 participant Andrea D'Aquino

Sorry for the blog silence these past ten days, but I have been a busy busy bee. After returning home from San Francisco (to more snow, ugh!), I have been steadily designing the forthcoming spring issue, number 9. NINE! hard to believe that we're almost into double digits...

Today was nice and sunny and the snow is starting to melt. And even better, the files have been uploaded to the printer! Please be patient with me as the magazine works its way through prepress, proofing, printing, binding, inserting, mailing... It will be a few weeks yet before this issue is complete in all its print glory. In the meantime, please subscribe/renew so that your name will be on the master mailing list and you'll be first in line to receive it.

Here's a synopsis of Issue 9:

Food provides us with so much more than basic survival. From harvesting your own vegetables, shopping at the local farmer’s market or cooking a homemade meal—the day-to-day involvement in the gathering and preparation of food can be delicious and fun. For many, though, a love of food is taken to other creative levels. Through packaging design, food-inspired photographic pursuits, gardening, sumptuous cookbooks or even blogging about what you just ate, we celebrate your passion for the edible. We hope to whet your creative appetite with this food and gardening-inspired issue!

Also coming up:
Work/Life 2 is now shipping and the book launch is slated for April 7 from 5-9pm as part of the First Thursday celebrations.

Lisa Congdon's A Collection a Day will be shipping in April but when exactly is still to be determined. Soon!

Tif Fussell is off visiting her English homeland, but I have the pleasure of reading through her first draft of the Suitcase Series Volume 2: dottie angel while she is away. Tif and I are both very excited that Emily Chalmers will be penning the foreword! I've just purchased Emily's latest book, Modern Vintage Style, and can't wait to spend time with it.

Each and every book and magazine issue is a deeply personal experience for me. I put everything I've got—and then some—into creating things that I am proud to publish. The year so far has tested my abilities and energy on all fronts with two books and two magazine issues to complete in the past four months! Working from home has meant fitting projects in between the activities of motherhood. My baby is now one and quickly switching gears into toddlerhood... there's a lot manage around here. Thank you to Glen for being so helpful and letting me head down into the basement to get things done. You make the impossible possible.

With issue 9 off to production and (hopefully) a bit more time to breathe, I look forward to springtime with my family. I'll still be a busy bee—it's just my nature—but I plan on making time to smell the flowers.

A look at Issue 8, now with dog and baby

This weekend, I photographed Issue #8 so that you can see what's inside. These days, putting anything on the floor invites a lot of attention.

Finley quickly crawled over to investigate and I asked him to help hold the magazine while I took pictures.

Nice job, Finley!

Our dog Percy wasn't interested.

Finley, on the other hand, really liked the magazine and crawled away with it. bye bye!

To see more images of Issue 8 (dog and baby-free versions) please visit my flickr set.

A question for local folks...

Photo by Jeremy Hood

It has been nearly six years since I first moved my design business into Art Central in downtown Calgary. At the time, my plan was to have a nice design studio and, as a side business, I would also have a small shop selling design-related books and stationery. Thus UPPERCASE was born. I mused that someday I'd like to publish books under the same name, so I designed a logo that would look good on a book spine. I didn't think I'd delve into publishing so quickly nor so thoroughly, but I love it.

Alas, I had to close the physical retail aspect of UPPERCASE one year ago. Expecting a baby was a big factor in the decision, but also the cost of maintaining store inventory plus paying magazine print bills was just too much to take on. Customers through the building had begun to dwindle and Art Central didn't have the buzz of activity and energy that it once had. I had far more web traffic and online orders than actual people coming through the door and the need to focus my business to an online model was very clear.

I still love my studio space in Art Central and plan on revamping it to meet my current needs (baby-proofing?) I hope to be able to work downtown on a more regular basis now that Finley is approaching his first birthday. I have lots of ideas for events, workshops and the like to best make use of the space... it is just a matter of finding time!

I am dedicated to staying in Art Central; I think the place still has loads of potential as a focal point for creativity and community in Calgary. However, over the past two years, tenants have come and gone and it has definitely been seeing some tough times. We could blame this on the economy but that's an easy excuse. I would like to hear your opinion on Art Central. What can we do to make it better? What would you like to see happening in the building? What sort of tenants would be a good fit? What would you like to see and do in UPPERCASE?

Please leave your comments below or if you have something lengthy to say, please email me.

A Swedish moment…

At my dining room table, proofing the inkjet printouts of issue #8.Proofing requires post-it notes and these Lotta Jansdotter ones are the prettiest around.Glen gave me this lovely teapot by a Swedish designer for Christmas, as seen at Rare Device.Since visiting Camilla, we've been coveting white floors. In the past few months we've transformed our home with white walls and floors and we love it!

Some snapshots from the first day of 2011 during a quiet moment at home alone. My visiting parents were at the mall and Glen and the baby were out and about. Even Percy was being still for a few minutes so that I could concentrate on proofing the magazine.