Monday, November 19, 2018


I shaved my head for charity last year. For a small number of donors I offered thanks in the form of a mystery gift, built around a theme of their choosing. This generous donor's theme was ensō, also described as the zen circle. The final product is made of card stock with gel pen accents and silver paint in the center.

I had a conversation with her once about a number of symbols that were important to her. I started with the symbol she had for herself, and arranged the others to radiate outward.

This was a fun challenge! A lot of image research/tracing, a lot of meticulous design, and some arguing with the Cricut about how much detail it would allow me to have in my cut paper shapes.

I started with the flowers and hummingbirds, doing research and image tracing as I added each layer. Lots and lots of tweaking, tracing new images and trying them out, changing the number, rotation, and configuration, layer by layer.

Shout out to this tutorial for applying layer effects to automatically generate radial symmetry.

 And adding in the more geometric elements.

Then, when I got to the outside edges, I had to decide what the overall shape would be. 

And could I somehow fit in a sailboat? You bet I can!

This one! This one feels right.
Now for color.

This could have worked, too, and I debated between this and the next for a while. 

There were some small changes between here and the final, but it's close.

Now for assembly!

I started with a kind of overall cookie-cutter shape, and laid the lace cutout on top of it.

Then I started placing the colored card stock pieces like a puzzle. I should have cut out more than I needed to start with in case I messed one up, but some lessons come with experience.

Card stock: multipack

I needed to make some decisions along the way, like which pen makes the best paws? I used the cutting machine to score the paw prints and then traced those shapes.

I couldn't get the level of detail or symmetry I wanted with these shapes,
so I ended up coloring the background black and having the machine cut the symbol out. Success!

Front layer: not-quite-complete lace pattern

The lace-with-cutouts went on first, lined up with the complete version underneath.

All those little notches are the exact shape and placement for the animal cutouts.
No guesswork or eyeballing. Yay computer-assisted design!

An example of hand-drawn details (traced over score marks for consistency)

From here, I drew and painted a bazillion zen circles and picked the one I liked the most. I really thought I was going to have a black center, but every possible circle on a black background just Too much black in the center of the design. When I tried a red background, it visually felt a lot better.

Glue everything together, get a frame, bubble wrap the crap out of it, and in the mail it went!

Pre-frame photo here, I couldn't get a decent shot without a ton of glare.
(Website added in photoshop for internet sharing, it's not on the real piece.)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Farewell Gift: pop up book page

A beloved executive just left my company. He's a larger-than-life, eccentric personality who has had a positive impact on everyone around him and will genuinely be missed.

A few notable things about him so this makes more sense:
  • avid bicycler, surfer, and kayaker
  • bicycle helmet looks like a watermelon
  • has a small dog
  • loves Mexican food
He and I once shared a moment in which we exclaimed about the Hero's Journey as written about by Joseph Campbell. For me, reading about that cycle was sort of like finding out that there's a mathematical formula that the whole world is built on, but with stories. He incorporated it into how he approached client pitches.

As part of his sendoff, everyone in the Creative department was given the opportunity to make a single page to be bound together into a book.

I didn't get photos of the collection, but it was overwhelming. Every page was heartfelt and thoughtful and completely different from the next. One created a minimalist portrait from paper glasses, a piece of fabric, and part of a weft from a wig. Another was a screenshot of their first correspondence with a thank you note for hiring that person years ago. Another featured accents of scrap fabric from shirts his wife made for him.

I styled my page like a fantasy RPG inventory screen.

Across the top are the words "Prepare for your next [Hero's Journey] with these items:"

"Hero's Journey" is written on a paper wheel, and as it is turned, it shows each stage in the Hero's Journey cycle.

There are six frames underneath, each with a title and an interactive element.

Protection: watermelon turns into bicycle helmet

Fearsome guardian: crate opens to show small dog

Provisions: lunch box opens, small Mexican food cutouts inside

Fortification: margarita pull tab brings the drink level down

Wave summoner: conch shell folds out/up/over to reveal Hokusai Wave woodblock illustration (with Boston Robotics robot riding one of the boats)

Fond Farewell: cartoon of me has waving arm

Video of the prototype:

Video of the final:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Princess Carolyn (and BoJack)

Making a BoJack costume is easy*: horse head mask, blue sweater with Xs and lines drawn on, gray sports coat, jeans, red converse. Princess Carolyn looks simple, but took a bit more effort. The hardest part was finding a dress with the right cut in the right color.

*I know the mane and face colors aren't exact, if this were going to be a con costume instead of just Halloween we'd put more effort into making it accurate.

Costume base: green sheath dress (aimed for teal, but everything I found had the wrong cut or more embellishments)

Then I used the Cricut to make a bunch of fish out of heat transfer vinyl

and ironed them on.

Add on a yellow cardigan (minus the cuffs) and red pumps, and we have the basics.

The necklace was made out of craft foam painted gold with a dot of red glitter glue in the center.

Bubblegum pink spray for the hair, pink clip-on ears, and cat makeup.

I wish I'd taken more pictures of the hair and makeup, it looks simple enough but there was some trail and error to get there.

Hair: teased the back a little and tried not to brush it all out again, separated out a bit of the front into two chunks, one on front of the other. The back one was teased as much as possible, the front laid over it for a smoother appearance, and both were put into a little curl and bobby pinned in place.

Makeup: cat eye eyeliner (obviously), green eyeshadow on the lids since she has green eyes, pink on the brow bone since she has pink fur, blush on the cheeks, brown eyeliner for the nose and upper lip, mouth lines, and whiskers