back in the spring, i went for a walk with my family (whoa, that still sounds weird to say and not have it mean my brothers and parents). there were some beautiful birch trees where people had stripped the white bark off. we lamented this and tsk tsked about how sad it was (could someone go back and explain that to my eight year old self please?) then we saw some dead birch trees on the ground, and my husband pulled a piece off for me. i stared at it for months, looking for inspiration. i knew i wanted to send it through the mail, but to whom? and how? and could i even do that?

so when i saw a stack of pre cut bark that was painted to look like birch at the art of home, i knew exactly what to do with it.

i trimmed each piece down, wrote a short message on the back in sharpie and packed each one in a cellophane bag (i tried a test without the bag that failed miserably - sorry sam for the sad arrival, and to canada post for the undue stress). i put label stickers with the addresses, and of course, some christmas postage. for some i even included our ridiculous family photo!

they were definitely a fun surprise for all the recipients!



it has been such a pleasure these past few months to create custom stamps for new clients. it can be a bit of a process trying to get the right file, or alter the ones we have - but it's always worth it when i look at the final product (like the ones below). i haven't included any personal address stamps below (permission required i should think), but i've done a lot of logos, some personalized stationery, hang tag designs, wedding monograms and more. search me what ampersand distillery is doing with this beastly stamp...but i can't wait to find out!
there is a certain empowerment to stamps. they are beyond perfect for small businesses who can't pay to have cards and tags printed, and they make printing on impossible surfaces possible (recent client's have stamped on paper shopping bags, coffee cup sleeves and cork photo mounts).




before moving to victoria, i worked at the kitchener-waterloo art gallery. now, back in ontario six years later, i am again working at my favourite public gallery.

i am totally enamoured with our current exhibition and thought i would share some images and info from our curatorial tour. although born wisconson, lynne cohen is known as a renowned canadian photographer from montreal. she unfortunately lost her battle with cancer in may 2014, but her artwork lives on in both public spaces and private collections.

her photos are 'immaculately conceived' and never hold a title or descriptor. they capture readymade places and moments in the passage of time. there are no people in the images, but remnants of their presence are clear. above all, cohen strived to find places which exuded a feeling of weirdness or anomaly and which felt slightly 'off.' locations include men's clubs, military practice areas, public facilities and halls - but here i am sharing some of her pool or 'spa' images.



i don't take a photo of my baby if i don't think i can make it a good photo. that sounds terrible doesn't it? but here's the thing, my baby could be doing the cutest thing in the world - but if i take a photo at nine pm, in lamplight, from the wrong angle, with a pile of dirty laundry behind him, the picture won't have captured the moment the way i did in my mind. and that is what i'm trying to do when hit the shutter; i'm not just trying to freeze time, i'm trying to preserve the feeling i have in my heart. and if i waste my time taking a terrible photo, i not only miss being fully present in the moment (something we all give up a little of when we pull out the camera), but i have nothing to show for it.

so when i do take a photo - i make it count! below are my ingredients for what makes a good photo of your baby:

key ingredients

one | light
daylight is the best time to take a photo. natural light is key. i will emphasize this because it's the number one piece of advice when taking a photo of someone. capture your subject in natural light, during daytime, near a window. the light should be in front of your subject not behind (in the photo below, the window is to the right of my son. if it had been to the left or behind him, his face would end up in shadows). overcast days are best for photographs.

two | background
I'm always always always thinking about the background elements of my photo (and how i don't want them to be there). use a light blanket instead of a dark one when taking newborn photos, clear away background clutter that distracts from your subject, and look for light backgrounds that make your baby "pop" (doors, white walls etc).

in the photos below, i wanted to capture how cute and tiny my son looked against the big rocking chair. but all of the toys he was playing with were pulling the focus from him. in the following two images you'll see that i cleared the clutter, and changed the photo direction. (i put a book on the chair to encourage him to do the same thing over again).

*it is always a risk when you choose to change the elements of a photo because chances are high the scenario will change at the drop of a hat and the baby will wriggle away.

three | focus
i think that in our desperation to capture our baby, we take photos too quickly. which is a real shame because the beauty of a child can be so easily captured by focusing on their face, and the expression in their eyes.
so feel free to snap a quick pic but then pause for a moment - focus the lens (or press your finger on your smartphone screen over the area you want to focus on), and then take the photo. there's a certain magic in taking a perfectly focused photo of a baby because we rarely see them in a state of stillness!

four | perspective
think about how you could take the photo that might be different, or unexpected. we usually take a photo in two ways: the first, straight on facing our subject. and the second is from wherever we are standing. try taking the picture from above, from below, from behind etc. try to get right down on the floor with your child.

the photo below i took sitting on the floor. i called to my son and i ended up with this nice picture of him looking down at me.

five | patience
taking photographs of a baby takes a lot of patience. luckily for me it's my last name! you may have a certain scene or set-up in mind but your baby has other ideas. he or she will wriggle, cry, and probably find more interest elsewhere. so wait patiently until you see something you think will make a nice photo. this might include a funny face, a stream of light shining on your baby, or the little crawling into unexpected places.

for the photos below i was really stressed out. it was the day before Halloween and i was going away the next morning so i knew i wouldn't be there on the actual holiday. it was four pm and the light was fading fast. my son was not in the mood for a costume and photoshoot but with a little patience, and a lot of photos, i was able to get some really beautiful shots of jack in his "lumberjack" outfit.


bonus tip:
take a lot of photos!
50 % of your photos will be blurry, 20% will include funny faces (not the kind that is "so cute" though), 20% will be boring....and a glorious 10% will be magic.




sometimes when i create something i think "why haven't i always been doing this?" or "this is such an obvious product why did it take me four years to make it?"

but then i think back to where i began and see that it would have been impossible. because while some creations are sudden and genius, most develop slowly over time. and while i don't think i've ever created anything genius, the slow but steady approach seems to be how my stationery develops over time. which is sort of crazy considering i move pretty quickly when i have an idea i am excited about  (after 3.5 years of never selling cards i thought up, designed and sourced supplies for a whole line of 50 cards in under a month!)

i talk a little bit here about the progression and goal of an aesthetic in my online shop - and touch on the colour phases i went through. but today i want to focus on holiday products.

below are images which depict the major changes in my products and style. each section spans from 2010 to 2014. it's very interesting to see how some themes and colours are evident in the earlier years and then come back around again in later years (like the kraft colours, the simplicity). it's also neat to watch the progression of my text designs. in the earlier envelopes you can see my first attempt at lettering with the "visions of sugarplums" text. later you can see a similar but much more mature version of the same text!

i think the most important changes i have made over the years is moving from items and images that i think other people will enjoy to making choices that suit my own tastes. because while it is tempting to try and please everyone else, i don't think your branding and creations are successful unless they speak to who you are.

* i apologize profusely for the small and terrible images. i think my photography has progressed as well!

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