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But What If You Started With The Paper?

Background paper: Equine Elegance Page Kit; clockwork brad: Clockwork Entomology; journal block: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell; vine and feather: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale

Something magical has been happening for me lately, with the process of digital creation. I’ve been in the midst of the heated push to get the Victoria Collection Walk-Up rocking (we decided it was faster for me to do CT, than for me to put together a CT Kit for Wilde), while at the same time being surrounded by the creative rush of Duncan, Daniel, and Taliesin putting the finishing touches on the January Gathering: Winter Wonder.  And while caught up in that whirling world, I’ve also been taking a free art journaling e-course with Allyson Bright over at Determined to Shine.  All of this has caused me to maybe start the creative process from a different angle than the “average” digi-scrapper: I’ve been starting with the paper, instead of with photos.

I talked yesterday about a wonderful quote from Rebecca McMeen, and how it has served to shape Iaconagraphy (and me), going forward, and at risk of repeating myself, I want to quote it again here, because I think it’s really important in view of what I’m talking about today, too:

““I look at scrapbooking as chore oriented.  I’ve got this photo and I need to make it more special by enhancing it with pretty things.  I look at art journaling as a representation of a person’s life and soul–a way to express who we really are as we walk this earthly realm.”

I’ve done CT on a few other sets here at Iaconagraphy, and with all of them, because it was for a walk-up for a product, I always started with the paper and the elements (with the kit), and then found the photos and whatever to go with the assets, instead of the other way around, but before I started doing CT for my own business, I watched a lot of other people in my life scrapbook (paper and glue scrapbooking), and pretty much decided it simply wasn’t for me. Why?  Why wasn’t it for me? I mean, given what I’m doing for a living now, that seems a little bit odd, don’t you think?  Put simply: I decided it wasn’t for me because it just seemed too stressful!

Michael, who designed Aix-En-Provence Essentials, was one of those people that I watched scrap in the past.  He would sit down with what seemed like a mountain of photographs, and then spend the next six hours trying to find paper and elements that matched. That isn’t an exaggeration.  I just couldn’t see the fun in that? It seemed, as Rebecca McMeen so aptly stated, like a chore; not like a fun thing to do.  Certainly, once he finally produced a page, those pages (and those albums) qualified as art, but the process of getting to that point seemed entirely “un-artsy” and “un-fun” to me. It was regimented; there were rules (or, at least, there seemed to be), and that totally isn’t my gig.

I love papercrafting, and I love hybrid crafting, but the whole “scrapbooking gig” just wasn’t me at all.  Yet, I could spend hours upon hours cruising the papercrafting/scrapbook aisles at Michael’s or AC Moore or JoAnn’s.  And I was guilty often of buying packs upon packs of paper that I never actually used, just to basically pet it (no kidding).  Because of that, my move into the design branch of this industry isn’t all that surprising, I guess, but even eight months into this roller coaster ride that is Iaconagraphy, I still don’t fully get the more regimented, rule-driven side of digi-scrap.

I’ve been told that including rendered elements in my artwork is the wrong thing to do; that it’s simply not accepted in the digi-scrap world, while at the same time having countless people ooh and aah (and vote to move me on to the next level of competition) over an original Cinderella coach that I created.

I’ve been shown, repeatedly, that a digi-scrap element set simply has to include certain things: cluster frames, flair, accent pieces, and journal blocks. I’ve also been shown, repeatedly, that certain things that are “go-tos” in the paper-world of scrapbooking are less accepted in the digi-world: tags and stickers being at the top of the list.  (Yet, when we’ve put kits that include those elements to market–such as Clockwork Entomology and Absinthe–they’ve routinely sold!)

But what if there was a digi-world where none of those rules applied? What if treasuring your memories could become art-making, instead of a chore?  For me, it all started with paper, so now when I create digitally, I still start there, and the more often I do, the more magical my creative process.

So this post is my invitation to YOU to do the same thing: start with the paper. Start with the elements and the word art, and the kit that you just had to have, not because it matched that photo of your grandma perfectly, but because it spoke to your spirit.  Encourage yourself to splurge: so, yeah, maybe you have absolutely no photos of horses in your stash, so what? Maybe you don’t have a trip to a science museum to digi-scrap; maybe you just need a reminder that small things matter.  Maybe you don’t have a lot of party photos that are just begging to be scrapped, but you just want to invite a little whimsy into your life!  Whatever is currently floating your boat–whatever is speaking to your spirit–go with that! And then copy/paste that base paper into a new image, and rock on!  Make art! Maybe a photo will find its way into the mix, and maybe it won’t: nobody’s making the rules here, but you!  And then see how you feel on the other side of that, and let me know! Comment below, or head on over to our Facebook Page and start a conversation!

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And Then My Head Exploded…..

Background paper, digital asset from our upcoming January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale; journal block from upcoming January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell.

This has been the state of my brain literally all weekend. It started Friday afternoon, around 2pm, and it has just continued, full-on, non-stop, til like right now.  I’m not sure, exactly, what initially cracked my skull, and got everything flowing out of it, but I’m pretty sure Allyson Bright’s Determined To Shine courses were a mitigating factor.  I’m only a couple of weeks into 2017 at this point, but oh, what life-changing (and business-changing) weeks, full of “eureka moments”, these have been!

Somewhere around October 2016, I was told by someone in the industry (digi-scrap) who I respect that our stuff is really a better fit for Artist Journaling, than for Digi-Scrap. While I agreed with her at the time (and, obviously, still do), I sort of just catalogued it away as one of those things “I’d deal with later”.  Then I stumbled upon Allyson Bright’s 30 Days of Artist Journaling free e-course, and the rest, as they say, is history, only I’d really define it more as an eye-opening powerhouse of a kick-off to the New Year.  I started the course right smack in the middle of getting the Victoria Collection ready for release (tomorrow; 1/18/2017), while the guys are still putting the finishing touches on the January Gathering (releasing 1/25/2017), so, naturally, for many of the pages I’ve journaled for the course, I’ve used what’s “freshest” in my mind: i.e., those upcoming sets. And the more I’ve worked with those sets, the more I’ve realized the truth in those October Words: our work is a much better fit for Artist Journaling. It’s time to stop trying to fit it into the neat little box of digi-scrap, uncage it, and call it what it is, and use it for what it is!

That’s not really switching industries again (as many of you know, we’ve become somewhat legendary for doing that): that’s just hopping a fence that’s keeping us from our truest and most authentic expression of art.  It may, however, require a bit of a “sell” to some of you who’ve come with us this far, and are expecting pure, unadulterated digi-scrap assets, however, which is where things like dollar signs, and the word survival, and buzz-words like authenticity and marketing and networking come into the fray.

Rebecca McMeen has described the difference between scrapbooking and artist journaling like this:

“I look at scrapbooking as chore oriented.  I’ve got this photo and I need to make it more special by enhancing it with pretty things.  I look at art journaling as a representation of a person’s life and soul–a way to express who we really are as we walk this earthly realm.”

Which is where we get into that buzz-word: authenticity.  Because these words sent pretty much every artist here at Iaconagraphy spinning in the same direction, and if we are going to be authentically us, we’ve gotta start flowing in that direction.  Hopefully you can follow our logic:

A chore is a routine task, especially a household one; it is an unpleasant but necessary task. Face it: nobody likes to do chores. The second half of that definition is pretty apt. Now, couple that with the concept of the need to take a photo and make it special by enhancing it with pretty things.  It’s your photo; it’s a captured moment of something that was clearly important enough in your life that you felt the need to photograph it and keep it forever. So why does it need to be enhanced by pretty things to make it special? Shouldn’t it be special, all by itself? Shouldn’t it be special simply based on the fact that it was important enough for you to photograph it in the first place?  When we start to look at the captured moments of our lives as chores, that aren’t special enough by themselves, but require enhancement to become special, isn’t that just one more box that we’re allowing society at large to put us in? When you start to look at things that way, just remembering special times becomes a chore! Who wants that kind of life?

Following that same logic, if art journaling is a representation of a person’s life and soul, shouldn’t that be what we’re striving for when preserving our most special memories? And then we get to the words that really struck a chord with all of us artists here at Iaconagraphy: “a way to express who we really are as we walk this earthly realm.”  It’s as if Rebecca McMeen has a window into exactly what we’re trying to do here at Iaconagraphy! Our design, and your digi-scrap/AJ, should be exactly that: an expression of who we really are, so that one day, when none of us are here in this earthly realm anymore, the folks we leave behind can look back on it and say they honestly, and authentically knew us.

You can’t authentically know us, as designers, and no one can authentically know you based upon the things you create with what we’ve designed, if all we’re giving you is the same cluster frames, paper pinwheels, and nifty stitchy bits as every other digi-scrap designer in the market! So it’s officially time to get authentic!

I don’t care what “how to go into business for yourself” source you’re using, one thing they all have in common is the advice that, to be truly successful, you’ve got to be your brand: you’ve got to authentically represent who you are to the world, or nobody’s going to want your product.  Ultimately, when people buy whatever it is that you’re selling, they aren’t just buying whatever that item is, they’re buying into you. That’s not so tricky when it’s a one-woman-show, with said person’s photograph smattered all over their blog, Facebook, and other sales and marketing pages. That is tricky, however, when you’re talking about a conglomerate of artists, all coming together under one banner (and all coming together through the same human being as a conduit; i.e., channeled art, which is what we do here at Iaconagraphy).  When you’ve got a situation like that, one person has got to put it all on the line for everybody else, and hope that they can speak for everyone, and do everybody justice, while still allowing the others to have a voice when the occasion arises. Right now, that person would be me (Connla), and I’ve really been putting it out there on Facebook, since I started that  e-course, and I thank everyone else here at Iaconagraphy for trusting me enough to make me the spokesman for what we do.

Now, as said spokesman, it’s time for me to step up to the plate and work my hardest to make everything we do here at Iaconagraphy as authentic as our design-work.  That begins with better time-management: instead of monthly, the Gathering will officially be a quarterly feature.  While we desperately want to “show off” what we do here at Iaconagraphy, we want to make absolutely sure we’re giving you top quality when we do, and we have quickly discovered that we can’t accomplish all of the above on a monthly schedule.  We are also going to cut back to two (and at most three, and this on rare occasions) full kits per month, with in-between releases of assets that will help you better use what you already have, as well as make the best use possible of new and upcoming kits.  The next step is nurture marketing, instead of interruption marketing.  What does that mean to you, as a customer? It means less used-car-salesman or tv-commercial-style marketing (flash sale ads, for example, or constant sales ads in newsletters), and more social opportunities, such as the Layout of the Month (which we introduced in last week’s newsletter), as well as more blog posts that tell you what’s going on around here, and get you actively involved in what’s going on around here.  And the step after that one? Creating more of what people actually need in their lives, to fully create representations of their life and soul.  Our tagline is “feed your Spirit“, and that has been, and will continue to be, the spark behind everything we design here at Iaconagraphy.  We don’t want to just make “pretty things” that will somehow magically make your memories “more special” by using them as “enhancements”; we want to make things that speak to you on a soul level, and help you remember that you and your life already are special!

We are officially unboxing ourselves; becoming uncaged and unfettered, and we hope, with every single ounce of our combined creative energies, that we can help you do the same in 2017!

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…A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away….

It is a time of personal unrest.  A brave band of Spirits, operating from the no-longer-secret base of the 5′ 1″ Italian woman they oft-inhabit, have gained their first victories in this small graphic design business.  During this ongoing battle, said 5’1″ Italian woman has done her level best to stay out of the way and out of the fray, for the sake of her own sanity.

Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away: Princess Leia became One with the Force.

It’s time to pop my head in…..It’s time for the teeny tiny Italian woman (and sometime Twi’lek) who often serves as the Rebel Secret Base to open her mouth (and use her typing fingers)….

Thirty-eight years ago….

Most of my little friends saw Star Wars: A New Hope at it’s original release in 1977.  I was the kid who hid behind the couch every time the commercial would air because it terrified me. What was I afraid of specifically? Well, let’s have a go at that first commercial, shall we?

I was afraid of the Jawa.  That’s right: the Jawa. Potentially the most innocuous thing in that entire trailer for the “average child”, right?  I mean, when compared to Darth Vader and a Tusken Raider, a Jawa’s just a comical little critter that makes silly noises and has a penchant for droids.  But at the age of 5 in 1977, I was, in many ways, just as “weird” as I am now.  I have had abilities my entire life, as discussed in previous posts (before we went the graphic design track), and even at the age of five, I saw things no one else could (and by this, I mean spirits/non-corporeal entities). It just so happened that it was around that age that we were living in an extremely haunted house, and the figures which stalked me even to school from that house were robed, faceless figures. Hence, Jawas freaking me out completely.

So I didn’t see Star Wars until it’s re-release in 1978.  By that point, in order to function in elementary school society at all, you pretty much had to see this film.  So I went with my Mama and my Mema. And thus began a lifelong love affair.

Princess Leia wasn’t a Disney princess (she still isn’t, regardless of who owns the rights!).  I was a six year old girl who had been confronted her whole life with the paradigms of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, and I was none of them.  I wasn’t blonde.  I wasn’t beautiful–people often mistook me for a little boy–and I definitely wasn’t into the concept of simply occupying myself with singing to the local wildlife til some dude showed up on a big white horse. (I was way more interested in the horse than the dude!)  No, I wanted to play with Matchbox cars, and dinosaurs, and toy bows and arrows and toy swords and toy guns. And now, suddenly, here was a princess who did all those things! (Okay, maybe not the cars or the dinosaurs, but droids and wookiees are close enough!) Not only that, but when faced with the concept of a “mystical energy field” (i.e., The Force), she was not only perfectly okay with that, she saw that only the guy who knew about that stuff could save the entire Galaxy! And she didn’t flit around singing to the local wildlife waiting on some dude to come rescue her: she grabbed the blaster herself and yelled at Han Solo: “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”  I found who I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be Princess Leia.

Thirty-six years ago….

Two years later, I got a very special present for my birthday: the release of The Empire Strikes Back. (Released on May 21, 1980; for those keeping score, my birthday is May 24, and I would’ve been 8.)  The first and second grade had been turbulent years for me. I had a nightmare teacher in the first grade which led my Mother to have me tested for being Academically Gifted (turns out I am). That also almost led to my Mother seeking psychiatric placement with a group rate for the both of us, because I nearly drove her insane.  We continued to live in that extremely haunted house through all of this as well; believe me, that didn’t help.  Something repeatedly pulled me out of bed at night and under the bed. I was already having night terrors from the teacher predicament. My Mother didn’t sleep very much at all, nor did I. I lived in a constant state of terror. The second grade was a wee bit better, apart from frequent arguments (and threatened full-on fist fights) on the playground when someone refused to realize that I was Princess Leia at recess.  At the beginning of the third grade, I met my future best-friend-for-life: you all know her as Wilde Dandelion. But we were quickly separated, as our teacher ended his tenure at the school, and his class was shuffled off to numerous other classrooms. We would see each other often at recess–she always understood that I was Princess Leia, dammit!–but apart from that, we didn’t get to really develop the bond that we so craved.  At the end of the third grade, it was announced that my family was moving to a different school district, and that her family was moving even further away. The only thing that saved that summer (and that rescued me in the subsequent fourth grade) was the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

There was my Princess again! Only this time, she wasn’t some woman in need of rescue in a diaphanous white gown and ridiculous hairdo; this time, she was a Rebel Commander in a distinguished military position, calling the shots.  Even when she did “girl it up” on Bespin, after kissing Han Solo, she was clearly in command.  As a little girl who felt completely out of control in her own life at the time, once again Princess Leia showed me not only who to be, but how to be.

Thirty-three years ago….

By the release of Return of the Jedi on the day after my birthday in 1983, I was in the sixth grade, and things were actually looking up in my little life.  I had a new best friend (with whom I’ve since lost touch over the years), I had begun to discover myself as a writer, I had my first boyfriend (also a Star Wars geek like me; he’s now very successful, a world-traveler, and soon to be married to an awesome gentleman), and I had decided that I wanted to go to Saint Andrews Presbyterian College when it came time for higher education.  I had been selected to go to a special summer camp for the Academically Gifted–my first time ever away from home for any extended period of time–and I was very excited about what my future held. For the most part, by that point in my life, I had been able to “stick my head in the sand” when it came to any psychic abilities I might possess, and what made me weird was my intelligence and the fact that I was a total geek, before geeks were actually even a thing.

I went to see Return of the Jedi with my Mom, my Mema (who had a thing for Han Solo), and my best friend at the time–the one with whom I’ve lost touch. As I did before going to see Empire Strikes Back, I did careful research on the hairstyles of Princess Leia (not easy to do in that time before the internet!), and dressed as her to go to the movies (I chose the Ewok Village hairstyle, for anybody whose curious; for Empire, I did the Hoth hairstyle).  And I was presented with yet more facets of my hero, Princess Leia: now, she not only held the rank of Captain in the Rebel Alliance, she was also an active spy running covert operations, a fairly decent pilot (speederbike scene on Endor), a sister to the “last of the Jedi”, and potentially a Jedi herself in the future!  Here was a woman who could pose as a bounty hunter one minute, still have self-respect and power in a teeny tiny slave outfit the next, and then play with spear-toting teddy bears the next, all with grace, style, and empowerment.  I could happily go off to camp, and away from my parents for the first time in my life, with her as my role model: who knew? Maybe there would be spear-toting teddy bears in the Appalachians….

During the long wait (thirty-two years, to be exact) between the release of Return of the Jedi and the release of The Force Awakens, I did what most young girls do: I grew up.  So did Carrie Fisher.  I remained a steadfast Star Wars nut–it’s practically a second religion for me, and that’s totally not an exaggeration.  My love of Leia got me through a lot in those years: through the onset of disabling psoriasis at the age of sixteen; through my discovery of Paganism (which led to death threats against me, also around the age of sixteen); through meeting my future husband (who is also a Star Wars geek: I still squee every time I tell him “I love you” and he replies with “I know”).  But, as I grew older, my focus switched, as it often does, from the Princess to the woman behind her: Carrie Fisher.  And then she got me through even more stuff: my parents’ divorce; my realization that some parts of my childhood were not what I remembered but something far, far worse; my continued struggle with my disability and the depression that goes along with it, and the continuing fact that I am not like other people: I see and experience things that most people don’t even want to think might exist. Her forthright take on the world, her humor, and her in-your-face Selfness taught me that I could be all of those things, too: that I don’t ever, ever have to be ashamed of who I am, because who I am is me, and I am my own Princess!

One year ago yesterday….

We went to see The Force Awakens at the Imax here in Massachusetts.  As I settled in to watch my Princess again for the first time in so long, I had no way of knowing that exactly a year later, I would be sitting here, feeling like this.  There was so much excitement as that opening crawl scurried up the screen. Once again, my hair was as close as I could get it to the teaser shots I had seen from the film. Only, this time, I wasn’t just the Princess; I was the General:

The excitement I felt was colored by a tinge of sadness–for over the years, between college and marriage and moving to Massachusetts and that moment as the Star Wars theme boomed through the butt-kickers in Jordan’s IMAX theater, I had both gained and given up a lot. And one of those things was my “second life” as a little lavender Twi’lek named Hiraani Luna.  You see, in those years at Star Wars Galaxies, for a brief moment of my life, my husband and I had finally gotten to live (albeit virtually) in that world where we actually belong: the world of Star Wars.  And I had been a freedom fighter, and a High Priestess, and a freer of slaves, who sometimes had to act the part of the slave to get the job done (just like Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi).  Now, sitting in that darkened theater was as close as I could come to living in that world again (SWG closed December 15, 2011).  

Except it wasn’t. And it isn’t.  

I am still that little lavender Twi’lek, and I am still Princess Leia, and I always will be.  That little lavender Twi’lek came out to dance at Templefest this year (dancing, for Tyrian Twi’leks, which is Hira’s “type”, is the ultimate form of spiritual expression).  And the General Organa in me put her foot down when I finally said “enough; I’m going to let my Spirits handle the business from now on and step back, and let the world deal with this is what I can do, and this is what they can do!”  I am who I am because Carrie Fisher (and, subsequently, Princess Leia) is/was who she is/was.  And I know I am one of millions of young women who can say that today. Thank you, Ms. Fisher…..and may the Force be with you…always….