Posts tagged learning
What I learned at Business Camp

I attended Tradeshow Bootcamp's first ever Business Camp in Los Angeles last month, and it was incredible. I've been so busy implementing everything I learned, that I'm just now sitting down to share my thoughts. I wish I could bottle up everything that was said, everything I learned, every hug I shared with awesome business ladies, and the general buzz of being in a room with 100 other business owners. I can't, so you must must must go to Business Camp next time.

In the meantime, I'll share my major takeaways. There was so much solid gold information shared, but this is the stuff that really jumped up and down for my attention as it applies to my specific business & boss lady role. And since it's been a month, you get to hear about how I'm implementing those takeaways! Win win win.

1. Don't let e-mail dictate how your day goes.

Beth Penn from BNeato Bar majorly schooled my brain about how I've been treating e-mail in my day-to-day. On her suggestion, I've been doing my best to only deal with e-mail once a day, for a set amount of time. I'm not letting e-mail be my to do list for the day, and I'm not letting e-mail derail what I'm in the middle of doing. It's pretty much the greatest change I could make. E-mail has been a source of stress and guilt for me for years, and it doesn't have to be. 

2. Keep the team connected and aware.

My staff can't read my mind. Seems obvious, but I've been leading my team like they can. The panel discussion on hiring was super insightful. I've already hired my team, but knowing what to do next has been a challenge for me. When I started the business, I never dreamed that I'd be leading a team. I'm still learning. 

We have an amazing team of part time staff, and they're all only in the shop 1-2 days per week. If I want us to be on the same page, we need to have staff meetings, more communication, 1-on-1 chats and a plan! I need to plan ahead to have tasks for everyone to do, every day. And since Business Camp, we've done just that! We had our first ever full staff meeting (with coffee and Top Pot donuts), and it was hugely helpful. It was so beautiful to see everyone together that I cried. (No shame.) We've also instituted a secret Facebook group for staying in better communication, and I've been keeping everyone busy by delegating more and more tasks to my very capable team. 

3. Move the needle every day. 

The hilarious and lovable Jen Gotch gave us this nugget of wisdom that has been my mantra this month. Move the needle. Every day. Don't just do the busy work. Do something that will grow your business. Every day. Delegate the small stuff. Do the big stuff. For me, this is the kind of needle moving stuff I've been working on: Send catalogs & handwritten notes to shops I admire. Design new products. Work toward new product lines. Research other forms of manufacturing. Buy a new printing press!!!! Make a social media strategy and stick to it. Write about what I'm learning and share it. Commit to the 2016 National Stationery Show. Make time for ideas. Make time for rest. (For me, resting is moving the needle for tomorrow. I do not default to rest.) 

4. Work on the things that need to change to make way for growth.

Growth is always the goal, but it can also be kind of a scary reality when it shows up. One of the big growth goals we have for this next year is to start working with a sales rep. I've heard Carina Murray from Crow & Canary speak about reps a few times, but new things stood out to me this time. The big one: Be ready to scale. You don't work with a rep to bring in an extra order or two. You work with a rep to grow! 

We've grown a ton this last few years, and we're finally reaching the end of what our treadle-operated, hand-fed platen press can do. It's been a hope/fear (a hope and a you have those too?) of mine this past year, and we're there. Our recent purchase of a 1970's Heidelberg Windmill will help us make the next jump of growth. (I'll share more about that in detail later this week.) Sarah from Shed Letterpress and Rachael from Pistachio Press told me all about the Windmill perks while at the Business Camp after party, and within a few weeks I had the opportunity to buy one. Growth, we're coming for you! 

5. You're the owner of a successful, growing business. Act like it!

Tara Gentile blew my mind with her talk about perception. My fears and doubts and worries color my judgement about the business. When I'm buying into those negative things, I make decisions for the business that don't make sense. Just because I'm still learning doesn't mean I'm not doing some things right. It's so easy to lose perspective and forget the wins we've had. My customers, staff, and fellow business owners have a perception of my business that is actually more in line with reality than how I tend to see it.

I remember when Constellation was just me with one rusty press in 100 square feet, and some days I act like that's who we still are. But we're not! We're a team of 6 people, 3 beautiful presses, in a storefront space, with products in 150+ stores in more than 4 countries, with a beautiful retail shop and a bright future! I say these things not to boast, but because I genuinely forget that they are true. I'm committing to celebrate our wins, and make decisions based on reality so that people's perception of us matches up with the decisions I make. 

I share all of this for a few reasons. First, if you're a product-based business lady (or business dude), I want you to go to Business Camp. Or if you can't go to Business Camp, go to a different event. But go! Invest in yourself. You're an irreplaceable part of your business. What you'll learn and the people you'll get to connect with will give you fuel for the fire. Second, it gives me great joy to share what I'm learning with all of you. Small business is not a magical, mythical, dream journey. It's hard, a hustle. Everything is always changing, and you're always changing to keep up. I want you to know that we're in it together. I've be given so much over the years by others who have shared what they are learning, and I want to be sharer too. Words have great power, and I'm always going to use mine for good, to help others.

Interview: Carl, Wood Engraver & Letterpress Printer

I am SO excited to share this interview with you today! I've known Carl since I moved to Seattle in 2009. He has been hugely supportive of my journey in letterpress printing from early on.

(Check out my story on Go Mighty for more about how Carl has so graciously helped us.) This past year, i've had the absolute pleasure of spending my Friday mornings with Carl (and his sweetie, Babs) at their home in West Seattle. I've loved every minute of my education in wood engraving and our chats about art and life. Today i'm pleased to share my friend with you! He's a master wood engraver, an incredibly resourceful printer and an all around good man. So here it is, my interview with Carl Montford!

Q: What attracted you to wood engraving and letterpress printing after your career at Boeing?
I didn’t start wood engraving and letterpress printing until just after I retired from 39 years at Boeing. I started my first ‘Montford Press’ in my garage in Wichita Kansas about 1970 or so. I wanted to further my ‘after hours’ endeavor in something creative, I have often said, I used this activity to maintain my sanity after dealing with supervisors and engineers all day…I like to think it worked.

I was all self taught, both in letterpress printing and wood engraving. However, I fell in with a group of ‘old timers’ there in Wichita that were primarily collectors of letterpress equipment, save for one gentleman by the name of Bill Jackson, he taught graphics at the university and had his own private press in his garage also, except his space was insulated, (temps in that part of the country range from below zero to above 100 degrees). Bill didn’t teach me how to do things, but he inspired me no end. He created lovely books, all hand set type, lino cut illustrated and hand bound his own books, and all printed on an old style 8x12 Chandler and Price platen press.

That inspired me to follow in his footsteps as much as possible. With the help of the local library, (way before the internet), I pursued wood engraving interests, both in examples and ‘how to’ books. I was a ‘closet wood engraver’ for many years, not knowing a single other active wood engraver for many years. After transferring to Seattle in the early 80’s and setting up my ‘Montford Press’ in my own home, (not in an uninsulated garage this time) I started amassing more type, presses and all the associated equipment. I joined the local BAG (Book Arts Guild) and found people of my own likes and interests, probably the main turning point of my artistic career. Shortly after that the internet started becoming popular, and I discovered an international  group of wood engravers, the WEN (Wood Engravers Network), this linked me into a group of artists, both beginners and master engravers, and have been a member ever since. After retiring in July 1995, my interests in all this just exploded, having an additional 8 to 10 hours a day to devote to my passion of engraving and printing. After retiring, my connections with the BAG, WEN and in about 2000 getting linked up with SVC (School of Visual Concepts). I also teach out of my own studio, both in letterpress and engraving.


Q: You've seen many aspiring printers come and go. What is your #1 piece of advice for someone who wants to learn about letterpress?
I meet lots of people interested in letterpress printing via teaching and networking. I have helped many people find presses and type, taught them how to use it all, and watched it fizzle into unused rusting and corroded equipment. This is very disappointing to me after expended that much energy helping them. So, what I now look for in aspiring printers is REALLY being serious about it. Taking lessons first, actually producing something of worth THEN start looking for equipment.

Q: Where do you go for inspiration?
Inspiration, is an internal desire to achieve whatever creates a passion in the heart of an artist. I am lucky, I love nature, animals, birds and people for my inspiration in wood engraving subjects, but for my larger products of broadsides, I have several poets I’m in collaboration with, along with a couple of sister-in-laws that are all great poets, and keep me well supplied in inspiring words and images.

Q: What's your favorite place to shop in Seattle?
Where is my favorite shopping spot?...Dusty Strings in Fremont.

Q: What's your favorite place to eat in Seattle?
Chinooks Restaurant in Ballard

Thanks Carl!

I'm Going to Paper Camp!

It's almost time for Paper Camp! The “camp” is a two day workshop put on by the awesome people from Tradeshow Bootcamp.

This Fall's camp is in Washington D.C., another city i've never been to! They'll be covering all things related to being an exhibitor at a major trade show like the National Stationery Show. The folks who are speaking at the camp are awesome, and i’m so excited to learn from them! I signed up the same day I found out about the camp – I'd been ruminating on how to pursue exhibiting, but was at a loss trying to figure out what to do first. Going to camp is perfect timing to dive in and learn all I can from people who have done this before. I was already super excited to be a part of the camp, and then I received a partial scholarship towards my tuition! It feels really amazing to know that the Paper Camp folks believe in me and my work. I've been counting down the days all summer, and now it's nearly here! I'll be in New York with Brad for Brooklyn Beta, and then I'll be taking the train to Washington D.C. for Paper Camp and learning all the things!


I've been working like crazy on our new wholesale catalog this summer so that I can bring it along to Paper Camp. I'm really excited to get feedback on it from the awesome panel of speakers! We've collaborated with photographer Dorothy Huynh and copy writer Cali Pitchel to create a catalog that looks, feels, and sounds more like a lifestyle mag than a marketing piece. The catalog is so close to being finished, and I can hardly wait to share it with you!


Lastly, I have to say that other than Paper Camp, i'm most excited to visit the Lincoln Memorial! My love for Abe is already well documented on this blog, so I won't repeat it here. But where else in the world can you see and celebrate a giant Lincoln? I'll be sure to share my tacky iPhone "selfie" with Lincoln when I get back!

Wood Engraving Update & We Got a Bird & I Got a Tattoo
A playful baby bear & our entrance at 110 Cherry Street

A playful baby bear & our entrance at 110 Cherry Street

I realized today that I had been doing blog post updates about my wood engraving classes and I left you hanging. Sorry, friends! Life & work get crazy and all bets are off. But I'm still stuck at home with a bad back, so lots of writing is happening.

Here's the tardy update: I've been continuing on with my classes with Carl each Friday, and have finished several new pieces. (They aren't available online anywhere yet - still enjoying doing them for me, and trying to decide how to present the new work. I'll keep you posted on where you can see them all soon!) Having the iron handpress has been amazing for printing my new work - engraving & handpresses are the perfect combination! Brad is seriously the winner at gift giving for this year - these classes have changed so much of how I work and think. It’s been so much fun discovering new methods of problem solving and image making.

A quick, expressive exploration in mark making

A quick, expressive exploration in mark making

I’ve been sneaking away from my computer and other work often to play and practice and create. I've been inspired me to do art work that’s all for me. I love working with my clients (I really really do), but I was an art school kid. I’d forgotten what it felt like to have an idea (inspired by my life, my relationships, my struggles) and DO it. Right then. Just to get it out. I’ve been going to wood engraving & printing on the iron handpress often – as a place to express myself, to experiment, to create. My platen press is a finely tuned piece of machinery for production. But my iron handpress? It’s forgiving, welcoming of trial & error, user friendly. I almost can’t remember what I did before “Wendy” came home.

Atticus the Finch

Atticus the Finch

In other news, we got a studio bird to keep me company! He's a tiny zebra finch, and it's been a joy to hear him singing and flapping and chattering away. He's at home with me right now - I couldn't bear to think about him alone in the studio all week while i'm stuck in my chair. Aaaaand, he'll very likely be my next engraving. Can't you picture it, with his little orange beak & feet hand colored? And a To Kill a Mockingbird quote? Fun to think about. (Especially since i've been stuck in a chair on the laptop all week. Ready to work with my hands again.)

A new kind of ink in my life. (And apparently I'm always drinking coffee.)

A new kind of ink in my life. (And apparently I'm always drinking coffee.)

In other other news, I got a tattoo awhile back. I went to Anchor Tattoo in Ballard, and it was an awesome experience. They were super sweet, even though I was a giddy 26 year old girl in a sundress, getting her first tattoo. I've been talking about getting a tattoo for years, but I never got up the nerve to make an appointment. It took the peer pressure encouragement of friends who already have tattoos (I'm looking at you, Jon & Paige) to get me to finally do it. And i'm so glad I did! I love that I see it while doing all the little everyday things that make up my life. I wanted it to be something that's always present - a reminder of my anchor & my hope. For my thoughts on anchors, take a look at the post I wrote about my first wood engraving.

That's it for today, folks. I've been enjoying writing this week (despite crazy back pain), and will be trying my hardest to keep it up.

Wood Engraving Class: Week 3

Hello friends, here's my weekly wood engraving class update!

I've finished the engraving portion of my anchor print but haven't had a chance to print it yet. It was a busy week with client work, events, etc. This coming week I'll be setting type to go along with the image and getting it printed. I'll be sure to share it with you when it's finished. In the meantime, I started a new engraving during my class time with Carl this week: a sweet baby bear!


Here's the backstory on little bear: In 2009 Brad & I made our epic road trip from Florida to Seattle, and we stopped at every fun tourist destination in the west. Seriously. The best place we came across was a drive through wildlife park called Bear Country USA in South Dakota. All of the animals were awesome, but we spent the most time watching the baby bears play. They were so adorable. We took a bunch of photos and quite a bit of video footage. (You can ask our families about the video montage we sent home...I think it was mostly bears.) I rediscovered this photo I took this past week, and i'm really excited to tackle an engraving his little fuzzy self!


The sun was shining into Carl's home studio and it made for such a beautiful, restful morning!


Carl uses a super handy photo transfer method using a xerox copy, mineral spirits, and a heating tool. It's really helpful for pencil challenged folks like me.

Wood Engraving Class - Week 2

Hello friends! I'm about to run off and do Friday night things, but I wanted to show you my wood engraving progress.

I had another lovely morning in Carl's studio - the natural light was lovely as the sun tried to make it's way out from behind the clouds.  I had made some progress on clearing out the white background by hand for my "homework," but today Carl introduced me to the dremel power tool and things went quite quickly from there. It felt like "high stakes" - I might twitch and clear straight through the printing area at any moment! (Thankfully I didn't.) We made a first proof of my engraving today, which will help for clearing out and doing final touch ups. You can tell I made progress today because of all the "chips" in the photo. I think it looks like confetti - which is perfect because it's Friday, and a weekend this badly needed is cause for celebration! It was a crazy week for me. How was your week?

While I go have a glass of wine and unwind, here's a little something for you to do. I would love it if you folks reading the blog would comment - so, the first person to speak up and say hello (or anything for that matter) will receive a free card of their choice from our Etsy store!

Always Learning: Wood Engraving Classes!

For my birthday a few weeks ago, Brad gave me unlimited wood engraving lessons with Carl Montford!

Carl is absolutely a master of his craft, and I am honored to call him a friend. He was the "matchmaker" who brought us together with the seller of our first press, and he even helped us move the press into our studio (not an easy task). Carl is an absolute treasure of the letterpress community, and I am so excited to be learning from him!

The photo above is the progress of my first engraving project. I'm working on an anchor image and using a Resingrave block. I learned so much in just the first three hours. It's so exciting to be learning a new skill from such an amazing artist. Cherish is taking classes as well, so I'll see if I can get her to share her progress too. I'll keep you posted as we progress!