Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Drawing Dr. Seuss in the Desert

I just came back from a trip to Phoenix, AZ and got to spend a little time in the desert.  Coming from the lush NW I thought it looked so barren at first but the more time I spent wandering around the landscape, the more I grew to love it.  I got really excited to draw the plants, which look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book — so much quirky character.

My 4-year-old daughter was with me and one of the things I love to do is to draw collaboratively with her.  I draw something, she draws on top and so on…  the results get goofy but that's the fun of it.  The drawing above is one of those.  She named the plants (in case you're wondering why I wrote "crazy sparkle shirt" and "lined butterfly tattoo" next to the cacti).

Here's another (non-collaborative) drawing.  I'm loving colored sketchbooks these days.  I think it's 108 degrees in Phoenix now so I'm glad to be back but it was so beautiful I'll definitely return!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Joy of Color Matching (or not)

I was reminded today of the importance of color-matching and, feeling sure that everyone would find this fascinating, got all excited to write a blog post about it.  I'm sitting at my favorite tea shop writing and re-writing these sentences and realizing that, perhaps, this is a REALLY nerdy topic and can't possibly sound interesting to anyone but me.  But I'm going for it anyway so bear with me!  Here's why I think color-matching is an unappreciated art…

Nearly everything you wear or have around your home has multiple parts that need to match.  I was recently deconstructing old NokHoo sample bags and noticing how many elements had to match:
1) the main fabric
2) thread
3) elastic
4) zippers
5) mesh pockets
6) twill tape
7) straps

If you sew you probably have some idea how difficult it is to get all of these elements to coordinate.  It's nearly impossible to source off-the-shelf bits and pieces that happen to match.  I spent the first part of my career working for big companies that had whole departments in place for this and I spent HOURS staring at colors, commenting on them and sending them back until they were just right.  (As any old coworker reading this can confirm!)  Getting colors to match isn't as simple as mixing the same percentage of red, yellow and blue into a dye.  Many times each element is made in a different factory,   weather and humidity play a part and a huge factor is the type of material being dyed (plastic, elastic, natural and synthetic fabrics, etc.).

When I initially had the NokHoo bags made I was lucky to have a partner in India, where they have the manufacturing infrastructure to match colors.  Now I'm back in the US and starting to source and manufacture here.  I'm excited to work locally but, since US manufacturing has virtually disappeared, these tiny, but important, details are both difficult to find and difficult to afford.  Which means that, when you accidentally find a color that matches, it's really exciting!  Here's my serendipitous find that inspired this blog post…

Hooray! For my upcycling project a perfect match with the blue bag.  I'm making this into a kiss lock purse which I'll post as soon as it's complete.  So, when you look at the stuff you own, take a moment to appreciate all the matching parts, it's truly an art!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Best Little Artist in the World

Happy 4th birthday to my very favorite artist of all!
* this is a picture of a hug

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mistakes Were Made… And That's OK

I've been working on this upcycling project and got all excited about kiss lock purses.  In addition to the groovy name they're fun, girly and have that satisfying SNAP when you close them.  I had great material to work with, between old bag embroidery and my unspeakably large fabric stash, but where to get the hardware?  I STRONGLY DISLIKE cheap hardware.  When I designed my NokHoo bags I went so far as to have all the hardware specially cast from metal because I couldn't source anything but plastic.  (Why, WHY does everyone use plastic??  It breaks!  Pet peeve.)  Moving on… I couldn't find kiss locks at my regular Portland haunts but through frameyourbag on Etsy I ordered a few things to test. Thumbs up on the quality — hooray!

Being too impatient to do a prototype I jumped in with the fun stuff.  I found a shape I liked, made some pattern pieces and worked out the minor complications of engineering the lining, exterior and closure so the seams wouldn't show.  I first glued the bag to the closure, then stitched the frame onto the bag.

Voila!  I like it.  I'm going to sell it on Etsy!  Oh, wait, the details…  Does this happen to you?  You embark on a project, work out the details, spend precious time on it and the results are exciting but, oh, there are those little things that didn't quite work out.  For me it was the fiddly part of the bag that meets with the hardware...

Right there, do you see it?  The fabric pulls and gaps where everything meets, also, that hinge sticks out.  I should've made the top part wider.  This picture doesn't show it but I also should have been more aware of the directionality of this fabric (it's like a grid) because it stretches in a funny way if it's not sewn straight.  Mistakes were made.  I can't sell it but this is my first try.  Lessons were learned.  I shall try again.  The good news…

Check out the gorgeous hardware!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Upcycle Me!

It's time. My original NokHoo development samples have been hiding away in a pile of boxes for a while now.  Whenever I run across them I think, "I should get rid of those".  But they stay in the box, cluttering my home and my mind.  I hate sending them to the landfill because: 1) they represent blood, sweat and tears that went into NokHoo's beginnings 2) they have useful bits and 3) landfills suck.  But today, in a creative/organizational/I've-had-it-with-all-this-junk fury, I whipped out the scissors and began cutting.  Step one in my upcycling experiment. Above is the BEFORE photo. Below are the results (thus far)…

Mid-cutting. It's interesting to see the bones of the bags.

The good stuff.

I'll just pat myself on the back (or the backpack, ha ha) for starting out but… what's next?  I figure I'll sew them into carrying cases of some sort.  Any suggestions?  Special orders?  Help me bring these bags a new life!  I'll blog my progress and hopefully have something to sell on Etsy at the end of the day.  (That was a figure of speech, not the end of THIS day because it's late and I'm tired.  A different day.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why Not?

Hi, my name is Nicole and I'm terrible at social media. I was sharing my Twitter account with a friend and said to her, "it's been forever — like four months — since I last posted". She looked up my account and informed me that it had been well over a year. Right. Which helps explain why my blog has become a wasteland. My primary excuse is that I entertain a toddler most of the time. I still get credit for that but it's time to focus a little more on my business. My presence, that is. I've chosen to be a solo entrepreneur which, in this day and age, means one must be consistently present online. So in the spirit of doing just that, I'm giving my online self a makeover (maybe, if I can keep it up, I'll give my real self a makeover as a reward… good idea!). I shall blog more, sort out this Instagram and Twitter business, and do as much Facebook posting as I can stand. I'm going to tell you, online friends, more about myself and what I'm about. If you don't already know, I am an illustrator, textile and product designer and here is how my career unfolded…

I've always loved to create art but I never imagined it could become a career until some thoughtful college art professors asked, "why not?". This led me (after getting a degree in Geography) to say, "why not try art school?" which, when I finished, led to "why not apply to EVERY art job?". I landed in the world of fashion, creating artwork for kids' clothes and, eventually, to all sorts of surface and product design.

Initially I expected to do editorial or book illustration, probably subsidized by a barrista career, so it came as a surprise to be paid regularly for my work. I also discovered the wonderful world of product development and the joy of reaching a large audience. My right-brain loves to create images from the spinning mess of ideas in my head. My left-brain gets excited about putting those ideas into an orderly format and communicating the look and feel to people who will be constructing real, live products. The whole process is very much an act of creation and it thrills me: from the kernel of an idea to collaboration, trial and error, the birth of a product and then sharing that creation with the world.

My NokHoo bag designs came about after my (not yet) husband asked, "why not quit your job and move to Thailand for a while?" so I made the nail-biting decision to say "yes" to adventure and uncertainty. Of course I needed a bag to use during those adventures so "why not" design my own? And here I am, years later, navigating the adventure of design and the uncertainty of wearing all the hats in my own business. 

It's only as I write this that I realize most of my big (and most interesting) choices came from that question, "why not?". As I embark on my next phase (the aforementioned online makeover) I'm responding to this question again. Honestly, I'm not crazy about putting myself out there. Letting the unknown world interact with my online self is just strange to me. (That must make me sound old.) But if I choose to continue running my own business I've got to get with the times. So "why not?". Maybe because it makes me uncomfortable is precisely why I should do it. Or maybe I'll hate it and change my mind later. Either way, welcome to my world. Feel free to leave encouraging comments!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

NokHoo on Etsy (plus a coupon code!)

My bags are now listed on Etsy! I need to get the ball rolling with sales and reviews so I'm offering 25% off for the month of March, but only if you buy on Etsy. The coupon code is "HiEtsy". If you've been waiting on a bag, now is the time!