30 letters in 30 days

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Did you once love writing and receiving letters by mail? For years now, my mail has mostly consisted of junk and a few bills. I miss the surprise of seeing a friend’s handwriting, colorful stickers and doodles, and the thickness of an envelope containing pages of story and musings.

And I remember spending long, satisfying hours hunched over a desk writing letters to friends, anticipating their reply.

So, I’m taking part in a challenge for the month of April. Would you like to join me?

It’s called “Write_On,” and the mission is to “promote joy, creativity, expression, and connection through hand-written correspondence.” The task: write 30 letters in 30 days during April, which happens to be National Letter Writing Month.

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stationery set available in my Etsy shop

Although I imagine quiet, thoughtful hours at the desk neatly “penning” letters to dear friends — my life just does not work that way right now. So, I’m sure the month will be a bit frenzied, my handwriting less than stellar, and many one-page letters dashed off and sent. Nevertheless, I’m doing it!

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Egg Press, the company that pressed my political postcard, created the event. Egg Press staff all take part in write_on. Here, Katelyn is standing next to their idea boards from previous years. Notice the bagel on the bulletin board? Yes, someone figured out how to mail a bagel.

My goals, so far, are to make my letters mostly thank you letters. Some political, many friend-neighbor-family focused. And, as much as time allows, I want to illustrate my own cards and stationery.

But really, I want to let the letter writing take me where it will. I want to get back to those days of much slower (and sloppier in my case) communication that involved so much reflection and love and consideration. Also, serendipity. I’m not sure who all I’ll write to, what they’ll say in response (if anything), or where it will all lead. I just know it will involve pens, color, stationery, cards, stamps, stickers, and walks to the “blue box” up the street to mail my letters.

You can do it however you wish, as long as you write 30 letters in 30 days, starting April 1st. I’ll be sharing updates on Instagram and here, and I’d love to hear how you’re doing as well.

 

Pressing Onward

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letterpress political postcard

“You should try letterpress,” my husband said. This was his solution to the rather expensive black-and-white printing estimates I’d received so far.

If plain old copies are spendy, letterpress will be totally out of my price range, I thought. But, I contacted the three companies he forwarded to me anyway. The first: doesn’t do postcards. The second: isn’t taking new projects. The third? . . .

. . . Amazing, supportive, kind, instructive, inspiring response! The printing cost compared closely to the other printers, but it would be in color, on luscious paper, and pressed like a real piece of art!!

Egg Press (insert hearts here) took my design, worked with me to smooth it out for the plate (see image below), and printed gorgeous two-sided postcards. You can see the dent of the press in that top picture, right? You can feel it too!

Katelyn worked with me at Egg Press, and when I went to their super-cool studio in an old warehouse overlooking the train tracks in NW Portland, she gave me a tour: opening a vault door, leading me up wide wooden staircases through a cold and dim warehouse, sliding back a huge heavy iron door to reveal:

a brightly lit, exposed brick studio filled with presses and work spaces, ink and paper, binders and cutters, and people — artists and designers and press operators. People whose talent would easily intimidate me but who were all so nice I tried to come up with a reason why I needed to stay there all day.

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political postcard drawn by me and printed by Egg Press!!

I am so proud of this 4×6 postcard, and so grateful for the supportive experience I had with Egg Press and Katelyn. You’ll see a picture of her in my next post. I’m taking part in a writing event Egg Press is hosting. You can join me if you want. More soon!

In the meantime, if you have messages you need to send to politicians, organizations, or agencies, this bold, patriotic blue letterpress postcard will catch their eye! (You can shop for them here: www.etsy.com/shop/CarrotCondo).

 

The Ugly Duckling

I once had a pet duck named Paddy. He hatched in my high school genetics class and imprinted on me, so I got to bring him home. This yellow-downed duckling followed me around, snuggled on my shoulder, and even snored.

That summer, however, he hit his adolescence, and the phrase “ugly duckling” acquired clear and literal meaning. A few adult feathers–hard, dark, and untamed–protruded roughly through his soft yellow down.

He’d peep cheerfully, but then a deep, rough “quack” would erupt from his throat, and he’d look around as shocked as the rest of us about where that horrible sound came from.

His legs and neck lengthened, and in some spots the soft down disappeared before the adult feathers came in, so he had a few bald spots.

It was a rough time for Paddy, who sat on my lap, now way too huge to sit on my shoulder, and followed me around with the soft padding sound of his newly huge feet. But he’d lost his baby strut and stumbled now and then, off-balance from the giant feathers sticking out here and there.

I thought of Paddy today when I thought of this blog post and Carrot Condo. I sometimes feel self-conscious making Carrot Condo’s business so public. I’m just three months into the second year, and I am doing so much more and so much better than one year ago, but … I feel like I’m in the ugly duckling stage.

New products are about to spring forth, but at this particular moment, it’s a slightly jumbled collection of starts: sketches, rough final drafts, queries out to printers, notes about paper options, ever-growing confusion about shipping costs and options, and the feeling of so-much-potential if I could just find six more hours in each day!

Well, all that’s to say–I’ve got a project to show you soon. In two weeks hopefully. Thank you for staying with me during my ugly duckling stage. Paddy finally formed into a beautiful (and fat) mallard. Carrot Condo, I suspect, will face this ugly stage with each growth spurt, but I can live with that as long as you’re all still here cheering me on.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of some mouse cookies I made for my friend who just turned two. I thoroughly enjoyed making them; they’re a recipe from my childhood. And tomorrow I will make another childhood favorite: play dough; although we called it “salt clay.” And because I thought I did not have any food coloring (I just found it in a box buried in the back of a cupboard), I bought some yesterday: neon! Neon pink, neon yellow, neon blue, neon green! This is a gift for twin boys having a birthday party this weekend. I hope the neon works out, I hope they like play dough, and I hope that if it’s a disaster I can come up with something else to make before the party.

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Thank you for reading! I’ll hope to see you here in two weeks!

it’s a wrap…

My holiday bazaar “season” is officially wrapped up. (Due to Portland’s snow storm, the Madeleine Marketplace** was rescheduled for Wednesday, December 14th, but I can’t be there that day.)

I still have some cards and books in stock, and if you’re in Portland we could arrange a delivery or pick up, but the very first Storybook You Can Color that I made sold out!

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The last copy of “Sometimes…The Weirdest Things Happen At Our House” went to a really nice and talented artist I sold next to at one of the shows. It made me happy that it went to her.

It also made me happy to learn where some of my cards were going. A little boy bought AIE to color for his great-great grandmother’s birthday, and another AIE is going to a woman’s daughter to celebrate the completion of her PhD!!

I had fun selling my Winter Octopus with the shrink-plastic ornament. Not many people knew about shrink plastic, and I enjoyed explaining how it works and encouraging them to draw their own designs to color and bake down to size.

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I’m really hoping people send me pictures of their colored books, cards, or ornaments–I’m eager to see my illustrations completed and curious to see how they turn out.

Next up at Carrot Condo headquarters: cleaning up, organizing, and setting goals and project deadlines for 2017. Any requests? Send ’em my way. I’m pretty sure that one general guideline for 2017 will be: experiment.

Thank you, as always, for your support of Carrot Condo! It’s encouraging and motivating for me to know you’re out there.

**The Madeleine Marketplace from 2:00-8:00pm at 3123 NE 24th Avenue. Wednesday, December 14th.

Portland Holiday Markets 2016

I will be selling Carrot Condo creations at a few craft shows in Portland this year.     

On Saturday, November 19th, I will be at Llewellyn Holiday Market from 10am-5pm at 6301 SE 14th Avenue.  

 

On Saturday, December 3rd, I will be at Lewis Holiday Bazaar & Tree Sale from 10am-4pm at 4401 SE Evergreen.

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On Thursday, December 8th, I will be at The Madeleine Marketplace from 2:00-8:00pm at 3123 NE 24th Avenue.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other vendors have made, meeting new customers, and getting inspired for new projects. I hope to see some of you!

You can find all of my cards and storybooks at Carrot Condo on Etsy. I am especially excited about my collaboration with Lisa at Panda With Cookie–three different dinosaur cards you can color and a plush ornament designed and hand-stitched by Lisa.

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My Winter Octopus comes as a Card You Can Color and has the option of coming with an ornament you can color and shrink (like old-school Shrinky Dinks!). img_4102I also have non-winter-themed items, like my Storybooks You Can Color. In fact, “Sometimes…The Weirdest Things Happen At Our House” may be ready for a second printing! Others, like “Follow Your Heart…” will be retired after they sell out so I can make room for new books. More about those in a few months!!

Winter Octopus

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Winter Octopus Card You Can Color, available in October.

This is one of my Cards You Can Color for the winter season. It cracks me up! I mean, an octopus wearing mittens? At one point, it wore a couple of socks too. But then I started wondering if tentacles are more like hands or more like feet. You wouldn’t believe the musings I had while inventing this creature.

The octopus came about while collaborating with Lisa of Panda with Cookie. When we decided not to use the octopus and went in a different direction (more on that soon), I started to tuck the octopus away in a folder, but Lisa suggested I use it for something else.

About twelve sketches and at least five revisions later, I have this guy/gal! I had to simplify, but I’m still chuckling over one of my earlier drafts that had the octopus knitting its own hat while wrapping a present. For a 5×7 card, it got too busy.

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Octopus ornaments colored and ready to shrink.

I’m also experimenting with including a “color and shrink your own ornament” with the card. That way, you can color the card and ornament to match, and you have a ready-to-mail gift. (Have you ever played with Shrinky Dinks?) I’ve got mini-octopuses drawn on shrink plastic, ready for you to color and put in the oven to shrink, but I bumped into some technical difficulties. I think I’ve just about got it worked out.

Soon, I’ll have some winter dinosaurs to show you, too. They’re also on the whimsical side and come with an ornament made by Panda With Cookie. More about this soon. Thanks for reading!