Jan 30, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Yana Smakula (Day 3)

This is part of a series on improving my cardmaking through studying other designers' cards. If you're unfamiliar with this series, you can learn more about it here


Today I wanted to focus on using Yana's Perfect Cardmaking Formula. Yana's formula is basically: 1. a pretty floral, 2. a skinny sentiment, and 3. a specialty paper in the background, such as woodgrain or a pattern. Here's a couple of  cards Yana made using that formula. 


More recently, Yana discussed her formula here, where she posted this card.

  • I love the idea of an easy to use and easy to remember "formula." 
  • The floral clusters and sentiment form a perfect focal point -- even though there are a lot of elements, my eye immediately goes to the flowers. A clear focal point is essential to any card. 
  • Yana mixed it up a bit. In the first card, she used a beautiful gold die in place of specialty paper. In the second, she added another sentiment on a piece of vellum. Both are clever and add a lot of interest to her cards. A "formula" can be a starting point. 

  • Love a formula! I wanted something other than a white background to tone down the bright blues and greens so I made my own "specialty paper" by clear embossing a striped background onto pale gray cardstock. (I originally made green striped paper and it was dreadful with these flowers). I don't have a lot of background stamps, but now I see how versatile they are and I'm adding a few to my wish list. 
  • Yana often pops up various elements of her cards. I popped up the sentiment, some of the leaves, and the small buds with foam tape.
  • At this point, I was a little unhappy and felt the card was missing something. I went through Yana's instagram account again and noticed that her cards looked more finished than mine. I took a quick photo of my card with my phone. That seems to help me "see" the card better. I noticed that I had colored over the little stamens on the flowers with my alcohol markers. So I added some white gel pen on top of them, and then carefully added some black marker along the edges of some of the leaves and stems to give them a more finished look. It made a difference. 
  • It's possible to learn a lot from another stamper, and then take those lessons and make something that is absolutely not a copy. 
  • I haven't bought any new craft supplies since I started this series (although I did subscribe to a kit, more on that later). I think what I am learning will help me choose supplies more wisely. 

I used Hero Arts stamps for this card, so I am including this in the Blog Name Hero's January Challenge.  

My Supplies:  Hero Arts floral and sentiment stamps (lost the names but do not think they are current); Hero Arts Intense Black ink; Wow Bright White Superfine Embossing Powder; black, white and pale gray cardstocks; Impression Obsession Diagonal Striped cover stamp; Sakura white gel pen; sequins from a specialty Mermaid mix from Hero Arts; Altenew Alcohol Markers; foam tape; JudiKins clear embossing powder. 

MOOD WHEN DONE: I'm very pleased with how this series is going. I know I don't post a lot of cards, but in the background I'm studying and practicing. I should be back later this week (or next) with some lessons inspired by one of my all time favorite people in paper crafting!  

Jan 27, 2019

Let's Talk Affiliate Marketing (and Why I'm a Fan)

I've seen a few blog posts recently from designers who participate in affiliate marketing addressing some negative comments about affiliate marketing. So I thought I'd weigh in.

Disclosure: I do not participate in affiliate marketing.

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How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Source: justlearnwp.com

"Affiliate Marketing" is another way of describing a commission, or in my view, profit sharing between a crafter and a company.

Let's say I participate in affiliate marketing with X Company. I buy a stamp (or, get it for free), use it on my blog and other social media, and link it to The X Company Store. You follow my link to that stamp in The X Company Store (if I'm participating in affiliate marketing, you may see the words "shareasale" quickly pop up in your browser).

Depending on the arrangement between The X Company and me, if you buy the product within a certain amount of time since clicking on that link, I'll get a percentage of what you paid for the stamp. The percentage is often around 10%, but it may vary.

Six Thoughts About Affiliate Marketing

1. Crafters with large a following are popular for a reason. They are talented -- there is something about what they create and/or how they present it that attracts a large following.

They are so good that they make us want to buy the product. 

Personally, I need their ideas. I want these crafters to stay in business and keep inspiring me.

2. Speaking of business, affiliate marketing is a business. Many crafters are no longer crafting for a hobby -- it is their job. I love this. It's about time that talented crafters get rewarded with more than a free stamp set and the honor of being on a design team.

3. A few bloggers who participate in affiliate marketing get off track by the language they use to defend or explain affiliate marketing. They focus on their time and effort, and the expense of running a blog, rather than their talent in using products so well that they generates sales for a company.

We stampers already know blogging is time consuming and expensive (we are buying the products and many of us are blogging too!). I prefer that they emphasize their talent and their value to both the stampers and the companies. Be proud of that talent!

4. Most stamp companies are small businesses. Some are very small businesses. Affiliate marketing allows these very small companies to get our attention and stay in business.

There are so many paper crafting companies competing for our attention online. In fact, the amount of new product released every month is mind boggling (a post for another day). A large established company could pay a top designer a flat fee to use a product, but many companies don't have that type of liquidity and having to pay a flat fee up front for each product would limit the number of products they offer.

5. There are some downsides to affiliate marketing. It encourages top talent to only use new products. We see sets used a few times and then we are quickly being introduced to something else. In addition, affiliate marketing encourages the top talent to use only products for which they get a commission. It influences what they pitch to us. It's our jobs as consumers to be savvy about this (again, a post for another day).

6. You'll read that affiliate marketing is at no cost to the consumer. This is tricky. It is true that I'll pay $20 for a stamp set regardless of whether I click on an affiliate link. It's possible that the price of that set would go down if the company wasn't paying a commission to the blogger. However, it's also possible that, absent the crafter's use of the product on his or her blog and social media, the company's sales would go down and, therefore the company's prices would go up to make up the loss of revenue.

For me, the more important issue is whether the stamp company gets all of my $20, or shares it with the designer that influenced me to purchase it. I vote for the latter.

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To me, affiliate marketing is a win-win-win for talented bloggers, companies and consumers. Admittedly, sometimes I forget to use it. I tend to create long wish lists, not buy most of what's on the lists, and when I do buy, I forget to go back and click on that affiliate link. I've said it before, but this time I'm committed to clicking on those links. I need that inspiration to keep learning and growing.

Jan 24, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Yana Smakula (Day Two)

This is part of a series I'm doing on improving my cardmaking through studying other designer's cards. If you're unfamiliar with it, you can read more about it here.

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I'm back today with another card inspired by the talented Yana Smakula. I wanted to make a card that used some of the lessons I learned in my first post in this series. In that post, I talked about how Yana stamped the images in her card perfectly and then added details between the images that added richness. The card that I made, inspired by hers, had more space between the images and didn't seem as exciting to me.

So for this lesson, I wanted to see if I could improve my stamp placement and fill in some of the spaces between the images.


Is that a stunner, or what?  Yana created a white border on a one layer card with no masking, so that none of the images were cut off.

And, here's a beautiful card Yana made a couple of years ago using Altenew's Hello Sunshine set.

  • Once again, Yana perfectly placed the images in both cards. 
  • Both cards have clever details that add a lot of interest. In the first card, the white border with no masking is beautiful. If I didn't see her make it on a video, I wouldn't have believed it! 
  • In the second card, Yana added a gray shadow around the images, drew white dots inside some images, and popped up the sentiment. She also made a wreath out of a non wreath set. That's hard to pull off well. All those things make her card special.
  • Both cards are bright and colorful. Who wouldn't want to take these out of the mail box?
  • They are "simple" cards that aren't simple at all.

  • Placement of the images is really important.
  • It's hard to make a card with a white border without masking. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't use that large blue flower in the lower right. And, the next time I try this design, I'll place paper around the border so I have a guide. And there will be a next time.
  • The Hello Sunshine set doesn't have any tiny elements, so I found a small heart from another set and used a fine black marker to make the dots. I think it added a lot.
  • Yana colored white cardstock with a Copic marker to make matching paper for a strip sentiment in this card, so I copied that technique here. It's a surprising break from white on black cardstock and I like how it turned out.
My supplies:

Altenew Hello Sunshine stamp set; Altenew Buttercream, Warm Sunshine, Ocean Waves and Dusk alcohol markers; Wow Bright White Superfine Embossing Powder; Hero Arts Intense Black ink; Micron black pen; Neenah Solar White cardstock; foam tape; sequins. I cannot remember where I found that heart, but those tiny elements come in handy. 

MOOD WHEN DONE:  I love the card I made and I don't think or say that often.  It's not perfect, but I'm aiming for better, not perfect.

Thank you for reading along and commenting. I'll be back next week with more Learning Through Inspiration. 

Jan 21, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Yana Smakula (Day One)

I'm on a mission to improve my cardmaking. You can read about what I'm up to in this post. I hope you enjoy this series!

Today, and in some later posts, I'm focusing on Yana Smakula. I love everything she makes. Period.

If you look through her blog or instagram feed, you'll see that Yana's cards are colorful, beautifully made, and often seem to sparkle. Her photography is outstanding. Yana designs for Spellbinders, Hero Arts, and Simon Says Stamp (among others) and I suspect she is responsible for selling a lot of products! In addition, Yana's you tube channel is one of my favorites. Her videos are clear, engaging and full of useful tips.

Yana was kind enough to permit me to use her photos on my blog, so you can see right away how my card uses her ideas.

Yana has several videos on using colored pencils on dark cardstock. Here's one card Yana made that is just stunning (as is her styling and photography).

Before I made my card, I made a note of

  • Coloring on dark cardstock is interesting, new to me, and looks elegant. It reminds me of Indian fabric.
  • The flowers are perfectly and evenly placed. 
  • The gold is beautiful and the pops of white brighten the card. 
  • The jewels look like they belong there. 
  • The styling and photography are beautiful.

  • The flowers are Yana's card are closer together, and she filled in the spaces between the flowers with more white dots and with jewels. That really added to the beauty of her card. I have too much empty space between the flowers. It looks a little anemic. That's an easy fix for the next card. 
  • Yana recommends Faber-Castell Polychromo pencils. I have quite a few Prismacolor pencils, and a handful of the Polychromos. I didn't see a huge difference between them, but I haven't used pencils in a while. I won't buy anymore Prismacolors because they break too easily, which is why I don't have a pink pencil. Using a pink pencil would have made the blending on this card easier. Note to self: add a pink pencil to my wish list and practice blending. 
  • Yana used a Sakura Classic White Bold Line 10 white gel pen, while I used a finer 05 pen, to outline the flowers. That made a big difference, as the white outlining on Yana's card is more pronounced. I ended up using Nuvo Crystal drops on the card as the gel pen looked too pale. If you are going to use a white gel pen to outline, get the Bold Line #10.
  • I'm beyond hope when it comes to photography and styling. I try but I'm not expecting huge changes... 
  • I used Yana's technique to make the card, as shown in this video. It involves stamping first with dye ink, coloring, restamping with Versamark, and then embossing in gold. It's a labor intensive technique, but can yield beautiful results. I didn't have the Hero Arts set that Yana used and as soon as I saw her card, I wanted it. I still do, but I was able to substitute a larger floral set. I don't need every set I see (did I say that??).
My supplies:

Prismacolor Magenta pencil; Polychromo white, magenta, light green, emerald green; Altenew Galactic Stream and Versamark inks; Altenew Botanical Gardens stamp set; Hero Arts Kind Messages stamp set; white and blue cardstocks from the stash; Sakura Classic White Pen #05; Nuvo Simply White Crystal Drops; Wow Superfine Rich Metallic Gold embossing powder.

MOOD WHEN DONE: I'm getting a kick out of doing this series. In the past, I wouldn't have posted this card because it feels off.  Now I'm learning and having fun. I hope you are enjoying it too.

Stay tuned, as I have more cards inspired by Yana coming soon.

Jan 20, 2019

A New Series! Learning Through Inspiration

I've been pretty frustrated lately with my cardmaking. I've taken online, and in person classes, but something was still missing. So, in an effort to improve, I decided to try a different method.

I studied many cards made by one person to find the common elements that appealed to me. Instagram is an easy way to do this -- you can see many cards from one person very quickly. If you aren't on Instagram, you can also just look at a designer's blog. If the designer is on you tube, you can also go to his or her channel and watch several videos by the same person.

I learned a LOT by using this method and I'll share the first thing I learned today and then the rest as I share the cards I've made since I started doing this.

(I already knew this, but needed a reminder.) 

Most of the time, the supplies -- stamps, inks, paper, etc. aren't the issue. If we don't know what we are doing, buying a different line of stamps or inks or the latest coloring medium is a waste of time and money. (Sometimes, it does make a difference -- having a good paper trimmer, sharp scissors, an ink pad that isn't dry, etc. matters). But, generally, buying new things isn't the answer.

Over the next few weeks (not every day), I'll share with you what else I learned. I'll post (with their permission) beautiful cards made by very talented crafters, explain why I think they work, and then the cards I made inspired by them. Some of the cards I made came out great and some not so much, so I'll also be sharing what went wrong and what went right. 

I'd love to have you join me and get your feedback. Maybe you'll learn something too, or can share your insights.

Here's a snippet of a card I made that I'll be posting soon.

Can you tell who inspired me?

MOOD WHEN DONE:  I'm never done learning......

Jan 17, 2019

Advice for Cardmakers from a Non Stamper

Me:  "I don't know what to do with myself. Everything I make lately ends up in the trash."

Mike: "Go online, find something you like, and steal it."

I've seen worse advice.  All righty then.....

Jan 14, 2019

I Heart You

Used a "LOVE" die from The Stamp Market to make a stencil, and then used the stencil to make a pale blue on white card background.

Stamped flowers and leaves from Altenew's Adore You (my all time favorite floral set) onto to watercolor paper with Versafine Onyx, embossed in clear, watercolored, and hand cut.

That cute little "i heart you" sentiment is from a set that is free if you buy a minimum amount from The Stamp Market. I could buy everything that company makes -- the owner is so talented.

Although I practiced stenciling the background on typing paper, I ended up tossing the original. I had used Distress Oxide Weathered Wood -- a pretty light blue/grey, but the oxide ink came out too heavy on the stencil. I wanted a very pale background and ended up using Distress Tumbled Glass.

See that little make up brush?  Rather than get it from a craft store, I reached out on Facebook and asked if a cheaper option existed. Why yes! I got mine here. I know they make some that have flat bottoms so that they can stand up, but I'm fine saving money.

MOOD WHEN DONE:  Happy! Now time to clean up the mess I made.

Jan 12, 2019

Shaker Thank You

This uses a Memory Box die that has been in my stash for years. I cut it on a piece of leftover watercolored paper. Made a shaker card. The base of the card is aqua cardstock colored with Pistachio** Distress Oxide ink. It's more of an ombre that the photo shows.  

** Speaking of pistachios, I made some killer dark chocolate/pistachio nuts bark for Christmas this year. Melt Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate wafers*** in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Throw in some nuts. Spread on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet. Chill. Break apart. Put in bags (and/or eat).

*** Do not use the Wilton chocolate wafers. I used some of those and it was a mistake.

MOOD WHEN DONE:  I'm doing all right. I like this card, but it's not my fave. I made many others with this die and I'll post them as soon as the sun provides some good photography light. 

Jan 2, 2019

Got Goals?

Happy 2019!

Hope the new year is kind to you and your loved ones.

We had a quiet start to the year -- playing board games and cooking. Not bad, and better than I expected as 2018 ended with a short hospital stay for me (I couldn't walk due to sudden new leg pain). But I'm fine now (medical stuff is truly a mystery) and they found what is wrong (for which I am so grateful). Looking forward to avoiding that type of pain in the future!

So I have some goals for 2019 (the common thread is to get out of my rut), and thought I'd share and come back next year and see if I met any of them. Would love for you to share yours!

1. Try out a new recipe every week.  

My son gives me cookbooks for my birthday and Christmas (this year a new cheesecake pan and soup and cheesecake cookbooks.) I used to make fun of my mom for making the same 5 meals her entire life, but I've fallen into that same habit, so I think he is sending me a message. 

Let's see if I can make 52 new-to-me meals. I started New Year's with a great Mulligatawny Curry Soup recipe. It was a fair amount of work, but worth it.  

2. Do something positive in the political realm. 

I'm tired of listening to myself complain about politics and want to do something to move this country in the direction I think it needs to be going. Not sure where to start, but anything is better than nothing.

3. Reach out and do something nice for someone once in a while. 

The other day a wonderful couple came over and brought me flowers because they knew I had been in the hospital. That's the type of thing that I wouldn't have thought to do. I might have sent flowers or a card, but it took time for them to buy them, text me, and drop by. So kind, and it meant so much. I need to think of others more often and then follow through.

4. Go someplace new in Dallas every week.

The city is full of places to go and I'm hoping to venture out every week. We've barely scratched the surface of this city, and we need to push ourselves to get out more. 

That's it for me. I have no stamping goals, other than to continue to enjoy the hobby. 

How about you?