Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(Almost) perfect Memorial Day weekend!

I was going to say "perfect", but realize that having BOTH daughters and son-in-law home would be the PERFECT weekend, so I'm opting for "almost" perfect. Daughter Sarah made the LONG drive home from Indiana to spend the weekend with us and the granddog.

We journeyed with extra relatives to visit the Ebright family farm, about 75 miles away. This pic has my husband Alan (left), his brother and sis.  It was our first Memorial Day since the death of their mother, and this holiday was always very important to her. She always placed live peonies from her garden on the family graves. After we placed the flowers, we lingered in the charming old cemetery, enjoying the beautiful weather and looking for the really old headstones.

After Sarah left for Indiana early Monday AM, we had to amuse ourselves to keep from being sad.  So we headed for the BORDER!  Oklahoma/Kansas border, that is! Because the wind was howling from the south  with huge gusts (the kind of wind that makes us CRAZY) we decided to drive our bikes to the border and let the wind push us the 55 miles back to Wichita. Here I am with my bike buddy Connie. The other 3 in the group were guys! We know we look geeky in our bike gear - no need to comment on that!

What an adventure!  We flew by the rapidly ripening wheat fields which are turning a gorgeous gold this time of year.

We visited our friend farmer Eddie who showed off his new combine, which is ready to start harvesting soon.

We stopped in the charming "near the border" town of Caldwell and visited the local cafe for pie and breakfast rolls (and a bathroom break).  The locals were pretty amused at our us and our geeky bike wear, but we love discovering small towns and yummy small town food! Isn't their main street charming?

What an adventure! On a day we would normally not venture out of the driveway on our bikes, we designed a one-way ride and let the ridiculous wind do the work...well, most of it!  We were still tired and hungry when we arrived in Ta-town. It's time to go to work and rest from the busy weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The happy printer and I

What? Another gap in the production process? IT HAPPENS! Our faithful printer had technical difficulties the end of last week, i.e....the printer was broken! Now they're back in business, and we're one step closer to publishing!

Our happy printer Frank delivered proofs to the L*K office this AM.  I'm not sure which was nicer...Frank's always friendly self, or the beautiful (and much anticipated) Inspirational Boxer proofs! I really wanted to give these a thorough look, so Frank left these with me. I called him when I was finished proofing and he popped back in to pick up the proofs (and play with the dog!).

So what exactly are PROOFS? They are a preview of what the finished product will look like. Check out this proof sheet...this will be the 1st Inspirational Boxer.  Notice there are 3 of the same thing!  The printer stacks up as many images as will fit on a page for cost efficiency. You are looking at the (unfolded) color outside of the Boxer. The bluish part (bottom of photo) is the back cover and the cool photo (top of photo) will appear on the front cover. The black and white inner portion (you can't see it) is on the other side of this big sheet. After they are printed and dried, they are cut and folded and boxed before delivery.

Why deliver a proof? The most important thing I am looking for is COLOR accuracy. This is the best time to make color corrections. If I happen to see a problem with text or anything else, there is still time to correct this, too. 

We work really hard at L*K to make our color as accurate as possible.  We use 3 different local printers, depending on the kind and quantity of printing. They are all awesome printers (and people) and a really important step in getting the goods to you... our faithful stitchers!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Publishing 101 continues....

Back to that pesky publishing process! We're taking you all the way from original design idea to shipping a new L*K design out the door!

On the May 6 post, we visited the photographer and had alot of fun doing some cool propped shots. We're really aiming for a different "vintage" look on this group of 3 Boxer kits, and I hoped we had some shots that would work well on our cover designs.

After I finished at the photographer I dropped the discs with the photos at my graphic designer's office. Sorry, no photo of me meeting Janice in the parking lot and doing the exchange! Thankfully, Janice's office is only a couple blocks from the photographer, which is only a few blocks from all 3 printers I use, which is really convenient. A lot of the graphic related businesses are clustered between downtown and old town, which makes my job easier!

My long-time friend Janice has been helping me with graphic design ever since we started publishing full color Snippets. Before that, we were gluing all the photos on black/white printing. Janice is a full time graphic designer and free-lances for me on evenings and weekends...thus the clandestine parking lot exchange of our info! Not only is she a very talented designer, she is the PERFECT designer for L*K because she is an avid cross stitcher!  She actually understands what I am printing, and works to make it as pretty AND usable as possible.

In addition to the photos, I give Janice files for the text and the cross stitch chart, and a print out of the text for each design (with symbols penciled in). I also give her the actual stitched models, because she likes to have them for reference (and inspiration) while she is working.

Then...MAGICALLY...a few days, or a few weeks later, Janice emails me the files with the proposed layout. She sends me files for front and back covers, and well as the inside chart layout. She takes all the info I provide and turns it into a beautiful file for the printer. I give her suggestions about how I want things to look, colors or motifs or fonts I want to use, and we chat back and forth about ideas.

Below is my monitor with the file for the first Inspiration Boxer. You're seeing the front and back cover (unfolded, of course).  The right side has the photo of the framed Boxer and the bonus pin cushion design.  On the left you can see the back cover info, as well as the photo of all 3 Boxers in this inspirational series.

I don't have the skills to do what Janice does...she is a professional!!  She spends most of her "real job" hours working on food products...Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, etc., so my work is a welcome relief from a monitor full of fast food.  And I might add...Janice has the largest monitor in her office that I have ever seen! She is a true multi-tasker! I promise to post a photo of Janice soon when we visit the printer.

After I receive the files, I print everything and start PROOFING...and proofing...and proofing some more. I have a long list of things I check for, but (sadly) it's easy to miss something. I send her the corrections, and she   makes the changes and sends me corrected files.  It's not unusual for the files to be flying back and forth after 10 PM - whenever she has time to work on L*K, I try to be ready, and awake! Often I get to my computer in the morning, and find she has sent me a file after I went to bed. Then I have all day to proof and work on it, because she won't work on my stuff until "after hours". 

I'm thrilled with how these new Inspiration Boxers are looking!  I just got to my desk this AM to find a late night email with the first batch of corrected files. I can't wait to get these guys published and show you the new goodies!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

5 ways to celebrate when it's 100 degrees in May!!!

Yes, it's 100 degrees..and hot and humid and windy and all that!  I barely took off my sweater last week when the heat wave suddenly invaded us on Mother's Day. I don't really enjoy hot weather, so I'm looking for ways to think positively about this bizarre weather situation!

1. HAPPY HIBISCUS plants on patio! I've been busy planting my patio pots and annuals around the area between my house and office. It's a short commute - about 20 steps, but I pass by it constantly, so that is where I concentrate my gardening efforts! This year's color scheme is yellow, purple and coral - great L*K colors!

2.  TINY TOMATOES are already growing on my patio tomato vines!  Ahhh...the promise of a summer full of juice tomatoes of all sizes, shapes and color. I'm really looking forward to tomato-intensive meals...where your menu strategy is to use as many tomatoes as possible. I have started oven-roasting my excess tomatoes to freeze, but that is a future post.

3. LETTUCES AND PARSLEY are ready to pick!  I planted 4 varieties of lettuce and spinach and they look better than usual. Probably due to our unusually COOL weather, up until this week. What a joy to step outside the kitchen and pick a piece of lettuce for a sandwich, or a pile for a fresh salad. Can't wait 'til the basil gets a little bigger!

4. FAITHFUL GRAND-DOG HENRY...guardian of the patio hose!  He had a close encounter with a giant mother raccoon and baby last week, which nearly took a year off my life with fright!  But he emerged unscathed and (hopefully) a little more cautious. We can hope!

5. GIANT GLASS OF ICED TEA...nestled on my messy desk next to fibers and my favorite hand lotion.  It sure helps keep me awake when I fade in the afternoon.  I don't think I was really meant to spend a whole day at a desk!


Friday, May 6, 2011

and the design process continues...

Rememberr when we started blogging about the design process way back on April 4?  We wanted to show the evolution of a design...from original idea to publishing and distribution. We were clicking right along, showing you the group of 3 new Inspirational Boxer kits on their journey towards publication....until we hit a SNAG! We ordered the frames right when the frame company took a 2 week shutdown. OOPS...who knew? Then one of the frames arrived and it was the wrong size...DOUBLE OOPS!  

The replacement frame arrived and Debbie from my local needlework shop Heart's Desire stretched and framed all 3 pieces. I don't do the stretching myself...she's an expert! Here I am at the checkout stand. My new Boxers are the wrapped things at the bottom of the pic, the wrong sized frame is sitting on top.  Who knows...it might work for something else? In Debbie's hand is my purchase of the day - a beautiful new book from Leisure Arts with designs from my best bud Judy Whitman from JBW Designs. Check it out - it is gorgeous and quite a bargain! 

Next a short drive to the photographer's studio. I had an appointment this morning, so beforehand I rounded up a bunch of props for the photos. We don't usually prop Boxer photos, but I wanted these to have a different, old-fashioned look, so I raided my office and house for some of my favorite things. I told Steve (photographer) what I had in mind in advance, so he also pulled a few goodies from his storeroom as well as his Mom's basement!  Steve is a collector...oh my...he has everything...and he even knows where it is!

We had a fun time doing arrangements with antique marbles, buttons, piano music (my piano teacher would be so proud!), a cool old Collars & Cuffs china container and lots of other old stuff. See the framed needlework sitting in the middle of the mess? Leaning on it is the BONUS design that will be included in this kit. We made it into a little pincushion and trimmed it will beautiful hand-dyed chenille from R & R.

Here is Steve standing on his trusty stool so he can shoot down on the whole little vignette. You can see one of the giant lights on the right, but there are more surrounding the table. I used to shoot all of my own photos on my back porch. You should have seen me sweating in the summer (while shooting Christmas projects) and freezing in the winter, trying to shoot with my gloves on! A professional assures much more predictable and reproducible results. The better photo file you begin with, the better the results and your ability to make color adjustments during the printing process.

Everything is DIGITAL!!!  Immediately we view the shots on the computer next to the camera.  When we are satisfied with the arrangement, we make color adjustments and save everything on a disc. When I first began at L*K, we shot real film and had to scan the photos afterwards. In order to "see" what we were shooting, the photographer would also shoot Polaroids, so we could get an instant idea of what was on the film. Sounds like the dark ages now! 

I love going to the photographer - so interesting and fun.  Steve likes having me visit, because his wife is a needleworker, and my stuff is so different from what he usually shoots. Next step...next post!!!