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Blog — "design"

5 Ways to Jump Start Creativity

Heidi Shenk "business" "design" art daily life

How To Get Out of a Creative Rut

The past week has been slow in all senses of the word. The post-Valentine lull has arrived in my shop, I'm physically tired from the busy season and have been slow to start my days, the week has felt as though it's been creeping along, and I'm having trouble in the creative department.

This is not unusual. I have times like these throughout the year where I find myself needing to reboot. I might even have a mile long list of card ideas just waiting to be designed, but I just can't jump start my mind to get to the point of putting those ideas onto paper. When I'm stuck, I've found that there are a few things that help me to get out of that creative rut and become more productive again.

1 // Find a change of scenery. Usually this means that I pack up my tote with some sketchbooks, my idea book, and my pouch full of pens and markers and head to a coffee shop. I leave my computer behind, so I'm not likely to fall into a black hole, and I order a latte and a snack and just start sketching. Getting out of my studio and out of the house is a break from the norm that helps with productivity.

2 // Look for inspiration by visiting an art gallery. Sometimes when I'm in a creative rut, I need something to act as my brain's jumper cables. Being surrounded by art, reading the stories of the artists, and taking in different colors, textures, and ideas always leaves me feeling refreshed. This past Monday, I found myself in the American Art Museum in Washington, DC amidst O'Keefe, Miró, Picasso, Hockney, Lichtenstein, and Calder. I left the gallery feeling refreshed.

3 // Do something creative that isn't what you normally do. Sometimes I simply need a break. As much as I love illustration and design, doing the same thing over and over again can be monotonous. When I'm feeling a little this way, I turn to other outlets. I work on a craft project, bake something or try a new dinner recipe, play guitar or piano, or try a different art medium such as paint or pastel. Doing something different helps clear the mind and leaves me ready to come back to the task at hand.

4 // Get outside and explore your surroundings. Fresh air is one of the best ways to get the creative juices flowing. I might go hiking at a state park, go to the arboretum, or take a walk along the water. And you never know what you might see that will be inspiring in some way.

5 // Make plans to meet up with other creative people. Talking with others that are artistically minded is a huge creative booster. Hearing about projects others are taking on often helps to get my wheels spinning. My gold foil landscape prints came about after grabbing coffee with my cousin who is a painter. And I sometimes get ideas for designs while chatting with other card makers.

Is anyone else feeling a little stuck these days? Maybe it's just the winter weather bringing me down. Nothing like some good sunshine to boost my mood and productivity!


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On Being Creative

Heidi Shenk "business" "design" art

I stumbled upon this soundbite from Ira Glass a few days ago, and I could completely relate. During the past couple of years, I've worked really hard to hone my craft and to get to the point of making cards that I really, truly loved. Some of the cards that I designed when I first started my business were ones that I really didn't love, but it was the best I was able to do at the time. It has taken me five years to get there, but I feel happy with where I've found myself now. And because I've found my voice after all of that time, I feel even more creative energy through my work.

If you're struggling creatively, I hope you'll give this a quick listen. It's reassuring and encouraging for anyone who needs that little boost.

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Taking Risks and Making Changes

Heidi Shenk "business" "cards" "design" Valentine's Day

A couple of years ago, I wrote about learning to take risks. While it is true that I've pushed myself over the years in new ways, there has been one thing that has felt too scary to take on. In the past three years, I feel as though I've found my place and voice in what I do. A lot has changed in the five years that I've owned my business, and I feel as though I didn't get to focus as much on the design aspects of my cards until I got to spend a lot more time with them.

While teaching, I was constantly a ball of stress. I worked long days and the time I had after school to work on my business was extremely limited. Once I began spending my full work week on my business, I feel as though my business was able to grow in new ways that were a better reflection of myself as well as the art that I've been creating my entire life. In the process, old cards from my first years in business, no longer fit the aesthetic of my work-- something that has bothered me for quite some time.

For the past two years, I struggled with feeling happy with the old designs. In fact, I truly hated some of them. Some of these cards just happened to also be some of my most popular. For me, it was scary thinking about changing something so popular because of an undying fear that it would make my business collapse or go up in flames the instant I made any change. I waffled over the idea of redesigning them in subtle ways to better reflect my current process and products. For two years, I waffled. Two years. I asked friends and family their opinions, and then did nothing. And I still felt agitated by it all.

This week, I finally decided to do something.

And you know what? The world didn't come crashing down around me. My business is still here. I am not being engulfed by flames. And most importantly, I feel better.

For those of you who are lost, and don't recognize the card above, this is my most popular card. I have sold thousands of these since the design was launched three years ago. This is the card that made it possible for me to quit teaching. This is the card that started it all.

Taking the risk to redesign this card was beyond scary, but for me, having a cohesive line of cards that reflect who I am is more important to me than succumbing to that fear. Now that I've made the leap, you'll begin seeing a few other subtle changes in my shop as I transition a few other designs in the same way.

And guys, what do you think of the new design? Have you been stepping out of your comfort zone lately? Have you been faced with tough business decisions like this before?

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Landscape Series

Heidi Shenk "design" "shop"

The summer months in the greeting card industry tend to be slower. No major card giving holidays, and less online shopping as people spend more time outside. I'm ok with that. It gives me time to finally work on concepts that have been stirring for a while.

I've recently been experimenting with gold foil printing, a process that has been time consuming, frustrating, and rewarding all in the same moment. I feel as though I've finally reached a point in which I've perfected the process-- I know what works best and what certainly didn't work at all. While I still have room to grow and more to learn, I feel comfortable offering more items in my shop that use this process.

My most recent is a landscape series, in which I've illustrated four different landscapes.

Desert Print 1.jpg Ocean Sunset 1.jpg

I digitized my illustrations, colored them, and printed the color with archival ink. I then ran the colored print through a second process of gold foil printing the elements that were left uncolored. Each is printed on 100% recycled paper, which really lends to the natural aspect of each illustration.

I'm thrilled with how the series has turned out-- just as I had envisioned when I began the first pen and ink illustrations. No two of these prints are alike, as I hand print each one, leaving them with their small nuances and originality that comes with the process of the gold foil printing. And above all, these illustrations have been a catalyst for a new creative energy that has forced me out of a rut that I'd been previously had a hard time of overcoming.

What new projects have you been working on lately?

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Copper and Gold Foil Stationery

Heidi Shenk "business" "design" "etsy shop"

After introducing gold foil pressed cards into my shop several months ago, the creative wheels began to turn as I thought of all the beautiful foiled stationery that I could create. While the hot foil press seemed to be an easy shoo-in for foil stationery, it came with many limitations that began to irritate me. I could only press paper with letter type that was sized small enough for my press, and I couldn't really use my own designs.

With these limitations in mind, I began looking into the process of foil embossing and printing without the use of the hot foil press. I spent many hours completing test runs, and finally felt confident with the results. I have since debuted two new designs in my shop-- a beautifully simple stationery set printed in copper paired with aqua envelopes, and a gold foiled hello card sweetly paired with light pink. I'm thrilled with how my original visions for these designs have come to life on paper, and look forward to adding more foiled paper products in the near future.

Do you like the foil look? Do you prefer foil on stationery or art prints?

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