November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday, EcoEtsy Gift Guide and A Coupon Code for 12% Off

Happy Cyber Monday to all the shoppers out there!  For those of us who are looking for something unique, one of a kind, handmade or from an independent artist running a smaller business who puts time and love into every piece they make I can't begin to recommend the Team EcoEtsy Holiday Gift Guide enough!

Details about the Gift Guide and its various categories of awesomeness can be found right on the Team EcoEtsy blog here.

I'm fortunate enough to have my shop featured in the Under $75 category of the guide this year and, truly, I couldn't be more excited to share the guide with everyone!

Can you tell by all the exclamation points?  :-)

The team is just chock full of amazing products that have a strong focus on the planetary impact our businesses can have.  Most designers use environmentally sustainable materials and practices while creating, natural ingredients, reused packaging for shipping and as much Green friendly as possible.

Like I said, my shop is included here and as many of you know I primarily create faux finished items with water based paints that look exactly like the real thing but I didn't have to mine the Earth to get the same look!  The pieces used in my faux granite items were either purchased directly from another teammate's overstock stash or from local thrift stores here in Phoenix then given brand new life!

The moss colored faux granite coasters featured at the top of this post are a great example of use of a cutoff from a fellow teammate and were just listed in my shop this morning.

I also salvage fabrics and enjoy upcycling to create something that extends the life cycle of a piece of material which could have gone to a landfill to sit for years.  Heck, I'll even use the cutoff bits of my sample boards to create durable faux finished bookmarks!

To see all the items in my shop click any of the items below.  Those and more await your discerning eco-eye!

And as a special bonus this holiday season just use the coupon code NEWSTUFF2012 at checkout to receive 12% off your entire purchase!  Its my way of saying thanks for spreading the eco love this holiday and saying goodbye to 2011 in style.

Now go, shop, be merry and BE GREEN!!!

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those who celebrate I would just like to extend my biggest hug to you all.  I hope that you are able to spend this day with the ones you love, doing what you enjoy, eating what you like and most of all remembering the many things you have to be thankful for this holiday and everyday!

Today I'm thankful for indoor heat and plumbing that runs to the dishwasher, homemade meals, laughter and good times with family and friends, all five senses, football, a glass of wine, hugs, and being fortunate enough to have the means to travel back to my hometown to spend this time with the ones I love!

I wish for the best and most yummy, nap-filled, happy holiday to you all!  Gobble, gobble!

November 23, 2011

DIY Tutorial Series Creating a Lightbox Part III of III

Sadly we have come to the final part in the amazing tutorial series by my mom, and fearless photog, Judi from Judi FitzPatrick Studio.  I hope you've all enjoyed this series as much as I have!  I really can't wait to start experimenting with various lamps and light sources with my lightbox so I can get some amazing product photos of my smaller items.

The final part of the series is all about the photos so read on and enjoy and don't forget if you're looking for some unique holiday cards for your friends and family my mom carries lots of options in her shop, the cute snowman up there is available as Snowman Wishes Handmade Holiday Card so read through the tutorial then stop on over to Judi's shop for your holiday cards today!


Hi Readers,

This is the third and final installment on product lighting. First you learned how to create a simple light box.  Next you learned at least one way to light up the box.

Now that you’ve got a well-lit place to shoot your product, it would be best if you could do that without the possible blurry shot that sometimes occurs from hand-holding the camera. But suppose you have no tripod, and don’t want to invest in one for a few product shots. You're about to learn that you don’t necessarily need one.

The bottom line is you just need a flat, level, stable surface on which to place the camera. So, you might think – “why not just put the camera on the table in front of the box and take the shot?” Good idea, except this is probably not the best angle for your product to be captured.

Instead, there are a couple of things that can be done.

First, you could use books, magazines, boxes or something else to raise your camera to a better height. Doing this so that the camera angles downward works really well to get the best shot, just be sure the camera is stable. You don’t want it to go sliding downward while snapping the photo, or worse yet, falling to the floor.

Second, you could angle the light box by raising the back edge from a few millimeters to a couple of inches. Raise the box with magazines, pieces of wood, or anything else that gives a useful angle in relation to the camera.  This can be done alternately or in addition to the above suggestion

Place the product in the box, turn on the lights (if CFLs, let them warm up for a few minutes to obtain maximum light), aim and focus the camera, then take the shot. If your camera has a time-delay setting, I’d suggest using that. That is one way to avoid camera shake as you press the shutter. If you are fortunate enough to have a remote shutter release, even better – go ahead and use that.

Now you can take product shots anytime of day or night, whatever the weather, even inside a closet if you’re so inclined!

One more thing – you can use some of these techniques to take vacation or family photos in lower light, such as indoors or early morning / late afternoon. Consider placing the camera on the hood of your car, the top of a cement wall, on a porch railing, or any other place at the right height for the shot you want to take. Using either the time-delay or remote shutter means you can be in the shot with the other people or the scenery! Pretty cool, huh?

I hope you enjoyed this series and find it useful for taking better pictures.

Thanks once again to Jenn for inviting me to be a guest writer on her blog!

Peace to all,


Hello awesome!  I don't know about all of you but I'll be making these tips work for me in product and people shots this holiday season.  Thanks again to my mom for putting together such an informative and easy to follow guide to creating and using a lightbox.  You can find Judi's tips and beautiful photography all over the web:

Etsy -
Zazzle -
RedBubble -
Blog -


To read the entire series...
Part I of III - Creating the Lightbox
Part II of III - Illuminate the Lightbox
Part III of III - Camera Position

November 22, 2011

Tuesday Tip of the Day Travel Safely

The busiest travel day of the year will be upon those of us in the United States tomorrow as we dash to and from the homes of loved ones to spend some quality time together on Thanksgiving.  All that travel means we have the ability to enjoy each other's company but also that our senses should be heightened to avoid any major issues as we make our way around town.

For those of us on the road, there are some things we can do today to make sure tomorrow's travel goes as smoothly as possible.

Check tire pressure and tread wear - A tire pressure gauge is inexpensive, easy to operate, and can be picked up at most convenience stores or pharmacy type locations.  Consult your owner's manual for the correct pressure rating for your car and inflate/deflate as necessary.  Use the old penny trick to determine the tread wear - If you can see Lincoln's head then its time to get new tires.  Better to buy them today than be waiting for a tow truck tomorrow!

Make sure your fluids are full and fresh - In my Toyota the suggested oil change interval is every 5,000 miles and I'm usually pretty good about sticking to that schedule.  Getting the fluids in my car turned over and refilled at that rate means the car will be running at its best.  A cur running that well gets better gas mileage and saves money overall.

Keep things squeaky clean - There's nothing more distracting than trying to drive for hours on end with a car full of hungry, screaming family members who can't stop talking about the smell of the apple pie in the back seat.  And those are the grownups!  Changing lanes with people pining away over cranberry sauce is difficult enough but if those windows and mirrors are grimy it sure won't help matters much.  Grab some old newspaper and a spray bottle full of a vinegar and water solution for the cleanest possible glass surfaces inside and out.

Plan in advance - In today's day and age everyone seems to have a GPS device either in the car or on their phone and we rely on these tools to get us to our destinations safely and efficiently.  But what if we get rerouted and left to figure it out on our own?  Those of us in the northeast understand because it happens more often than not.  Best plan of attack is to map out the route and review exactly where you're going before ever getting in the car.  Make a mental note of the major roads/freeways along the way and any surprises that come up in route can be handled with no worries.

Fill up - You may be thinking of nothing more than filling your belly on Thursday but make sure to fill up your car's gas tank now just in case there isn't an open station where you thought there might be.  Freeways and major interstates are likely to have open service stations along the way (even on Thanksgiving) but lines could be long so why wait if you can get it out of the way beforehand?  That's ten minutes sooner you can be eating mashed potatoes and gravy!

And there you have it! Just a few quick things we all can do when traveling by car on our way to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.  I hope these tips help you stay safe and secure!

What are your tips for smooth and easy holiday travel?

November 18, 2011

Friday Feature Finish Mountain and Cactus Mural

Last summer, before moving to the southwest, I felt inspired by a photo I saw that my mom took of some small hilly mountains in Arizona. The photo was primarily interesting because of the shading and shadows the mountain range displayed as well as the sprinkling of boulders and saguaro cactus. I pulled out one of my Mighty Boards and started sketching.

The picture stayed taped to my studio table and I referred to it to get the sun angle as well as a few examples of saguaro and how their arms jutted out in random shapes and sizes. The landscape was truly beautiful to me and still after being here for almost six months it doesn’t seem like it will ever get old.

Bright blue sky, tall and majestic mountains, bursts of color and a lot of natural inspiration made this mural sample come to life.

I’m considering getting this scanned and making prints for sale as I feel it’s one of my best paintings that I’ve done in a long time. I used to tell people that I couldn’t really do mural, that my creativity came in a different way, but after painting this piece I felt more confident in my abilities and would like to explore doing more acrylic work. Perhaps the next one I’ll do on canvas!

And now, to get inspired again…

November 16, 2011

DIY Tutorial Series Creating a Lightbox Part II of III

Morning readers!  This morning marks Part II of the DIY Tutorial Series on the beauty and benefits of creating and using a lightbox for product photography.  Once again my mom came through with a terrific tutorial that is easy to follow and should really help many of us get our beautifully handmade items out of the shadows and into the spotlight!



Happy Wednesday,

Thanks again to Jenn for allowing me to be a guest contributor to her wonderful blog.

Last time I gave you instructions for how to make a simple light box which can be used for photographing small products. But, what good is a light box without light? And who wants to spend a fortune for the lights when the box was almost free?

What you’ll need:

- Two (or three) lamps
- Daylight bulbs appropriate for the lamps
- Table, ironing board, or other level surface

What I Use:

- The lightbox you made last week
- One floor lamp with bendable arm
- One flexible-neck clip-on desk lamp
- Compact fluorescent bulbs for each – labeled Daylight or Cool Natural Light (Do not exceed wattage recommendations of the individual lamp)
- Ironing board

How I Do It:

- I place the box on the ironing board.
- I clip the desk lamp onto the ironing board and adjust the neck so that the light source is close to, but not quite touching, the tissue paper on either the left or right (Depending on my mood or the side of the item which will look best lit. If you have two desk lamps, feel free to use them both.).
- I move the arm of the floor lamp so that the light source is above the center of the top of the box. (You may have to raise the light box using books or other flat, level items in order to have enough light entering the top of the light box.)

How Should You Do It?

You’re going to have to think “outside the (light) box” here. The idea is to get as much light aimed inside the box as possible, while keeping the box level and secure.  The beauty of an ironing board is it can be adjusted up or down to fit your needs and reach the light source more effectively!

If you cannot find daylight bulbs, just be sure all of the lamps you use contain the same types of bulbs, then set the white balance on your camera accordingly.

If you must use a table lamp, remove the shade. You might have to put the lamp on a chair and the box on the dining table to get the light source at the right height.

But that's all there is to it, nou’ve now lit up your box and are ready to photograph!

Next time, how to set up your camera to get the best pictures using your new set up.

Peace to all,
Judi from Judi FitzPatrick Studio


Please visit my mom's shops or blog below in order to see how she uses her lightbox to photograph her smaller products.  Then be sure to get back next week as Part III brings this series to a close with some amazing shots you will NOT want to miss!

Etsy Shop -
Zazzle Shop -*
RedBubble Shop -
Blog -


To read the entire series...
Part I of III - Creating the Lightbox
Part II of III - Illuminate the Lightbox
Part III of III - Camera Position

November 15, 2011

Tuesday Tip of the Day Protect Yourself Online

Over the past few weeks I’ve been taking a class in school called Computer Literacy. At first I thought the class was going to be all about how to turn on my computer, as it was a 100 course, but I’m actually learning a lot and enjoying it as well as the surprising challenge it provides!

One of the things I’ll be doing in class is completing a fairly extensive research project for the final which will include charts and a PowerPoint presentation. We were given a list of topics to work on and I decided to go with studying copyright in digital media. My plan was to study things like iTunes, Netflix, and blogs to see just what protections we have in place for our original content. Now I’m rethinking the focus.

A couple days ago I read an article about a few hackers in, I believe, Russia who hacked online click ads with a malware program that allowed them to make millions of dollars that wasn’t theirs. It was quite a scam and although they were caught I can imagine the people who were involved didn’t feel like their "genius" was used in the right way. I agree and it brought up my change of heart on the final for my class.

If we click on ads, if we click on links, if we click on pictures in Facebook how can we really know just what we’re clicking? How can we protect ourselves and our secure information? Is there a way to provide content for the world while still ensuring we keep our privacy intact? These questions and more came up in my own mind and I thought it would be a good reminder to just throw out there to everyone to keep a close eye on your stuff.

Try to stay off of strange sights, don’t click links, ads or pictures from sources you don’t trust and never (read: never, never, NEVER!) give your personal information out to anyone you don’t know. One of the quickest ways to ensure you’re more secure online is to always look for 'https' instead of standard 'http' in the address line of the site you’re on. For example, my blog up there doesn’t have the s because it isn’t a secure socket.

If I were to sell products here I’d have to ensure that s was there so my customers would feel secure in knowing their information was safe. For the simple act of reading a blog it isn’t quite as big a deal.

So the long and short of it is be aware of the dangers that are out there and study up on the latest in ways to avoid falling victim to the theft of your personal information. I’ll be sure to provide additional tips as I finish my project in the next couple weeks, I imagine it will prove quite illuminating!

Have you encountered any weird things online recently that made you question your privacy?

November 9, 2011

DIY Tutorial Series Creating a Lightbox Part I of III

Our latest DIY Tutorial is the first of a trilogy on the beauty, benefit and creation of your very own light box for product photography. The series is coming to you direct from Judi FitzPatrick Studio, my favorite Photog! I can't begin to thank my Mom enough for contributing to this series, her shop photos always come out so beautiful and I begged her to do this writeup to share her knowledge! Enjoy :-)


Good Day Readers,

First I want to thank Jenn for asking me to write a guest post on creating a light box. These can be very useful for photos of small products.

Do you need to photograph small products? Do you want to do this indoors, but can’t find a spot with good light? Or, maybe you need to do your photographing after dark? One solution is a light box.

Rather than spending a lot of money to buy a manufactured one, why not make your own? It’s easy, inexpensive, and fun to do!

What You Need

- One fairly heavy-sided cardboard box – the one I used** was approximately 12 inches (30-35mm) on each side.
- At least 3 sheets of white tissue paper such as used for wrapping gifts
- Scissors
- Box cutter or other sharp bladed knife
- Duct tape or other wide tape
- White and/or black poster board
- Pen or marker
- Tape measure or ruler

How to Create the Box

Be sure that one end of the box is taped shut and the other remains open. On this open end, cut off two of the opposing flaps, but leave the other two in place.

Place the box so that the end with the 2 flaps is facing you, and the flaps are to your left and right. From here on I will call this the front.

Place an X or other mark on the left side, right side, and top. This will complete the orientation of your box.

On the 3 sides with the X marks, draw a border or frame on each, 1 to 1.5 inches from each edge – so you will be drawing a square (or rectangle), just smaller than the size of a side, on each of 3 sides.

With a box cutter or other bladed tool, such as an Xacto Knife, very carefully cut on those lines, leaving the frame around each side. These openings will allow light into the interior of the box.

You will want to diffuse your light source, so this is where the white tissue paper comes in. Cut three pieces of the paper, one for each side, larger than the openings you cut, but smaller than the size of the box side/top. Using the wide tape, attach one piece over each of the openings that were just cut.

Your box should now look something like this:

Position the box with the front facing you, with the two flaps on either side, and the left, top, and right sides those with the tissue paper.

Inside the Box
- Measure the depth of the bottom of the box (front to back).
- Measure the height of the back of the box. 
- Add these measurements together.
- Add a few inches for good measure (pun intended) & note it on a piece of the cardboard cut off (scrap)
- Measure the bottom of the box from left to right (width) & subtract about ¼ - ½ inch.
- Mark and cut a piece of poster board to match these two measurements.

FYI, the poster board I had was 28 x 22 inches. I left the 28 for the long measure and used 11 ¾ for the short measurement (left to right.) This allowed an extra 3 or so inches to hang out of the front of the box.

- Slide the poster board into the box and gently curve it upward close to the top – push it in enough to make a large base surface but not so far that it would crease.

That’s it! You now have a DIY light box. Next time, how to inexpensively light it up!

Peace to all, Judi
Judi FitzPatrick Studio Etsy Shop
Judi FitzPatrick Studio Zazzle Shop
Judi FitzPatrick Studio Red Bubble Shop
Judi FitzPatrick Studio Blog
Difficulty rating is 1, but not recommended for young children due to the use of sharp bladed tool.

** Please note: Because Judi had already created her lightbox long before I asked her to contribute this article, the first 3 pictures are of mine so they may look different than the 4th box picture, collaborative effort!

To read the entire series...
Part I of III - Creating the Lightbox
Part II of III - Illuminate the Lightbox
Part III of III - Camera Position

November 8, 2011

Tuesday Tip of the Day Make a List

I'm getting ready to go on a two plus week trip back to Massachusetts to visit family and go to my twenty year high school reunion.  Yikes.  I know that people older than me will laugh at me for saying I feel old, people younger will shake their heads in disbelief that anyone could be out of high school for twenty years.  But all I'm thinking about are the lists of stuff to get done before I leave.

Now it isn't like I'm going to another country where I have no clue where things are located or how to acquire stuff if I need it.  Though at times I still feel like my hometown is a foreign country, there are places that I know intimately after three decades of living there.  Clearly if I forget to bring something with me I can just pick it up after arriving right?

Well sure, but that doesn't mean I want to forget anything, I try to be Green and that means not buying stuff in duplicate, so I have made a master list of stuff to pack and stuff to do before I hit the road.

My list includes everything from calling my car insurance company to inquire about the discount I can get by being a member of Golden Key, to returning my library book, to taking out the recyclables.  All of the things on it are prioritized in a manner of true need.  For example, calling on insurance is something I can do when I get there so it isn't a 'Must', but printing boarding passes is kind of vital to getting on the plane in the first place so it is on the 'Must' list.

I separated the list into categories of 'Must', 'Should', and 'Would Like To' do before I take off.  Almost everything is crossed off and I'm feeling less stressed about the 2500 mile journey away from my current home back to my old one. 

Well, less stressed about the stuff to get done before leaving anyway...

Sadly "work out so I don't look a day over 18" didn't make it to any of these lists and instead I had to settle for "go shopping for an amazing outfit" which I hope to do later this afternoon.  Shopping only made it to the 'Should' list seeing as though it isn't exactly vital to be the super me just because I haven't seen most of these people face to face in twenty years.  If it gets done then great but maybe I should save it to do with some friends when I return to Boston instead...hmm...

Don't forget to get back over here tomorrow to read the first of a three part series on lightboxes written by the one and only Judi FitzPatrick of Judi FitzPatrick Studio fame!  It promises to be a great tutorial and hopefully will help all of you to snap even more gorgeous pictures of your beautiful handmade items.

November 1, 2011

Tuesday Tip of the Day - Never Stop Learning

Most of you know that I'm an English student and getting my degree at an online University.  When I first signed up I was told the minimum requirements for hardware and software and I either met or exceeded the needs so felt I was in the clear.  That was until I started my current class and learned I would have to upgrade my software to the latest version of MS Office.

At first I panicked because I already know how to use Word / Excel / PowerPoint in the version that I have and throwing anything else into the mix while studying and creating a pretty extensive research project seemed overwhelming at first. 

But then it hit me, its all about learning more. 

Knowing the 2010 version will make me more marketable, better equipped for future releases, and able to better communicate across a modern resource instead of the old and antiquated one I was still toiling away on before.  It is actually liberating to think I'll have a new skill in the next five weeks. 

Or at least Skill 2.0 :-)

So school may take a little bit of a front seat but I hope that the learned content will be able to work into my daily life either as a business owner or as a writer and student!

What new things are you learning right now?