22 December 2011

Happy Holidays!

Rather than give you another excuse for my lack of posting here in the last few months (well, the last year if I'm being honest) I thought I'd share a photo of my reason. I mentioned back in June that I was expecting. Naturally, my baby finally arrived and since October 22, Johnathan Christian has been keeping me on my toes. Now we're looking forward to his first Christmas. Happy Holidays from my family to yours!

The Monkey Suit

Sitting with Santa @ Metrotown

10 August 2011

Teaching writing to clients

I read an article this afternoon titled, "3 Steps to Finding Your True Writing Voice". The author is a copywriter who has been asked multiple times, "teach me to write like you". I've read many, many other blog posts on the subject of learning to write, but this one made more of an impact.

Brushing aside the gut reaction of "why would I teach myself out of a job?" I know that writers consent to (on the surface, at least) tutor themselves out of work for the purpose of getting their names out there. In enough cases, potential clients will be convinced of the writer's talent, but not motivated to take on their own copywriting as a DIY project. I agree with the strategy, from a marketing point of view.

What I don't agree with is the impression the practice creates. Writing is easy. Here, try these tips and you too will create amazing content. Like many professional writers, I have a writing degree which took a host of instructors and over four years of my life to complete. Added to that is the introspective assessment that I didn't develop truly effective writing skills until I had several years of workplace experience to back up my education.

So with the above context in mind, my question to other writers is, can we genuinely assist self-motivated clients with a few pointers? Or in the end, are we devaluing our industry as a whole if we give the impression that the ability to make meaningful connections with readers can be acquired through a little light reading?

I'm not taking the stance that writers are experts and other businesspeople are not. It is certainly possible to develop advanced skills through self-guided study. But you have to be starting from a place of inherent talent. Almost all of us can write, just as it doesn't break any laws of physics for most of us to sing, dance, paint, take photographs, or craft a sculpture. Will it be any good is the real question.

In creative endeavours, 'good' is always relative. But for the same reason I lift an eyebrow at writers that make our craft seem like neurosurgery (instilling fear in their readers to even attempt as much as a memo), I'm wary of writers that offer to dole out admission to the wordsmithing theme park where you only need to be "this tall" to get on the roller coaster.

06 August 2011

Custom silver steampunk swallow

I always enjoy custom work, so I wanted to share this photo of my latest made-to-order design. This is a miniature and pure silver (including several ruby chips) version of my brass steampunk swallows (recent version shown in the 2nd photo).

These swallows are always one-of-a-kind, but making a tiny copy with real silver was new. It was a pleasure to make this piece and I hope its new owner wears it well.

Silver Steampunk Swallow

Brass and Silver Steampunk Swallows

19 July 2011

The allure of the market (and my Top 10)

My Top 10 Real & Fictional Markets:
Creative Chaos, Vernon, BC

Faerie Market in Wall (Stardust)

Floating Market (Neverwhere)

Fan Tan Alley, Victoria, BC

Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

Market Square
, Victoria, BC

Moss Street Market, Victoria, BC

Space Port/Station (Firefly)

Troll Market (Hellboy: The Golden Army)

Vancouver Flea Market, Vancouver, BC

After attending the public market at Vancouver's Folk Festival this past weekend, I'm still wondering, what specifically do we love about markets? The atmosphere of chaotic commerce? The feeling of doing business 'off the grid' or at least independently? Or just a magic combination of bizarre knickknacks, trinkets, treasures?

So tell me, why do you love markets?

05 July 2011

Art Attire and nesting syndrome

Steampunk and Trashion Jewellery by Christine Hart
I've finally got some pictures to share from the Art Attire fashion show on June 11 and I know this woefully neglected blog needs some love right now. It's taken me a few weeks to retrieve these photos from my sister's camera and to collect my thoughts a bit.

It was an amazing event, but more generally, I always enjoy attending literary and visual arts events for the chance they offer to see what other like-minded artists are creating. Even just spending a day in your own unique element is always fun.

For example, I reveled in the Victorian splendor that was the Antique Corset Exhibition & Historic Fashion Show at Hycroft Manor here in Vancouver, the weekend right after Art Attire. And I'm looking forward to Word On The Street again this fall.

Gears and Flowers Necklace

But looking at the photos from Art Attire, I think I'm ready to mention here on my blog that I'm expecting a baby this fall. Now that I've mentioned it, take another look at the photo of me standing next to the case.

Yep, that's a bump. It's not my style to do a bump-watch marathon on my Facebook page, but I wouldn't want anyone to mistake that for a lack of excitement on my part. My enthusiasm is always a bit subdued; it's just the nature of my personality.

Rather than write a lengthy introspection (or series of updates) on my bump, baby, and their joint progress, I wanted to share another artist's work, Amy Joy Dyck. Her work spoke to me as soon as I saw it and the prints below now reside on the wall in my workshop.

I highly recommend checking out the rest of her collection on her web site or at her Etsy shop. Her work is funny, provocative, and honest as well as visually engaging. The prints I chose communicated something I haven't been able to put into words, but Amy has been gracious enough to let me share these images here. Thank you Amy!

05 June 2011

Summer in Burnaby and new projects

It's summertime here in Burnaby and there are lots of exciting projects in my workshop. I'm halfway through my next novel - the first of what should be a trilogy. I'm heading back to Victoria next weekend for Art Attire, which should be an impressive show.

And I've started working with a new medium, courtesy of the awesome staff at the DVC Indoor Shooting Centre. These are my first few pendants that I'm sure will spark some discussion for anyone who wears them.

24 January 2011

Top 10 Twitter Efficiencies

I saw a tweet recently that caught my attention because I realized I used to feel the exact same way. A woman asked how people find time to tweet so much. When I first started using Twitter, I wasn't really sure why I was getting involved or whether or not I was even using it properly.

Over time, I got a feel for the rhythm of it. Then it became part of my job. And once I began using Twitter every day, it began to really make sense. I progressed from wondering what to say and to whom, to having to detach myself from spending too much time tweeting. Now it's a balancing act, but very worthwhile.

To get real value from Twitter, you really need to use it frequently. Not necessarily every day; there aren't rules like that. Unfortunately, a lot of advice out there is extremely vague. So I thought I'd throw out my personal strategies.

These are the tips I'd pass on to anyone who wants to get more out of Twitter, without downloading a mystery how-to guide or simply staring at feeds and streams all day that make as much sense as the Matrix.

When I got started with Twitter, I wanted concrete suggestions. Like these:

  1. Be relevant. Whatever the theme of your account, your followers are looking for thoughts, insights, information, and links related to the topic you cover. For business or personal accounts, decide what topics are of interest to you and deliver on that plan, even generally.

  2. Share articles. If you find it interesting, a number of your followers probably will too. Most publications make it painfully easy with share buttons that connect to your Twitter account and do the work for you. Most share links or buttons actually populate the text field and, unless you want to add or change anything, you just click the tweet button.

  3. Ask questions. Your followers won't always answer, but Twitter is like that. Sometimes you're talking to yourself. I felt more comfortable using the site once I made peace with that and stopped feeling shy or embarrassed.

  4. Share photos. Use your photos, albums you like, pictures from deviantART, Picassa, Flickr or wherever you surf photos. People like beautiful imagery because it can be enjoyed and appreciated quickly or referenced later. And like articles, this can often be done with share buttons.

  5. Use #hashtags for the key words in your tweet. Also drop-dead easy, this simply involves putting a number sign in front of your #keyword so that when people search Twitter, your tweet comes up. More advanced users create specialized hashtags in the hopes of their term going 'viral' or 'trending' but once you're worrying about that, you won't be reading a blog post like this one.

  6. Share products. This doesn't necessarily mean 'selling'. Nobody likes that. (Unless you're tweeting for a retailer and that's what people follow you for.) But as a regular user, if you see something really cool, share it. If you maintain a professional Twitter account, you may want to think more carefully about products you share as it can be considered an endorsement.

  7. ReTweet and do so selflessly. ReTweeting (an RT) is a good way to build relationships, but use this function as an extension of sharing what you're interested in, even if you don't receive RTs in return. When you do receive RTs, it's appropriate to thank the user, even if you thank several users at once. My only caution with RTs is that it can become easier than generating your own content, so you might want to use them sparingly to start.

  8. Mention other users. Like ReTweeting, this is a smart relationship-building tool already built into Twitter. You are, in a way, addressing the user when you add the @ symbol in front of their username. But like asking questions, you need to become comfortable with the prospect of talking to or about someone who may not respond.

  9. Sustain conversations. When you mention someone and they reply to you, take a moment to think of another response. If one doesn't come naturally, that's okay. Let it pass. Don't be a last word keener. But often it's very much like commenting on a thread in Facebook. Twitter doesn't make it as visually easy to follow comment threads as Facebook does, so using a free 3rd party management tool, like HootSuite, can be very helpful.

  10. Use a scheduling tool. I like HootSuite for this feature as well. It can turn a 15-minute session into a week's worth of tweets. I don't recommend scheduling too far in advance as Twitter users probably want a response within 24 hours. Incorporate your Twitter scheduling into a period of web browsing and you'll be surprised how many tweets you'll line up.

09 January 2011

2010 in review

In keeping with the wave of recaps for 2010, I think the year is definitely worth looking back on. So I've got a list of my top events and accomplishments.

Top 10 in 2010:
  • Tour of Victoria (July)
    Visits to favourite spots and last-minute discoveries as I said goodbye to Victoria.
  • Stalked (September)
    My third novel was released by James Lorimer & Co.
  • Beyond Junk (November)
    Started my second Etsy shop featuring recycled craft supplies.