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The Third Wine’s the Charm

Book Club Wine Charm Set Cheltenham RoadSo I thought, “wine charms! piece of cake! Easy! I’ll whip these bad boys out just as soon I finish this pie and fall off this log!”

******************************2 weeks later ***************************

“Stupid wine charms! Whose dumb idea was this?!………….. Taking forever…………”

*****************************4 weeks later ******************************

1 sets down! 10 more to go!!!!!!!!

I have to confess I often start off this way. The idea seems so straight-forward. So within my grasp. What could go wrong?!

And then reality hits.

You’ve gotta actually design the things because although Jane Eyre is in the public domain the actual book covers are…..not so much.Jane Eyre Wine Charm Book Club Wine Charm Collection by Cheltenham Road on Etsy

Then you have to figure out how. exactly to create them.Book Club Wine Charm Set by Cheltenham Road

Then you’ve got to round up (affordable!) resources so you can (hopefully) make them again and again.

(and I did thanks to my awesome sister and her husband who can make pretty much anything and run a little company called  PRPromotions)

And then, just when you think “done!” you are reminded that you’re a one-man-show and the packaging isn’t going to design itself!Wine Charms made from Classic Books by Cheltenham Road on EtsyBut then, happy and feeling like you’ve figured it all out you move on to design idea number two  and are confronted with the cold truth:  You don’t remember your High School French as well as you’d hoped.French Language Wine Charm SetAnd you can’t think of what to put on the “F” which will be for the designated driver:Designated Driver Wine Charm French ABCsAnd then you buy an new camera and become……focus challenged. Not that you can’t focus on what you’re doing but rather you can’t focus the camera on what you’ve done!what the

And you took 5 bazillion pictures that way…….

And then you think “clearly it’s time for a drink…….wait!, where’s my glass?……………Dammit!!!!!!!.  Oh the irony!”

PS: the Book Club set is up and ready on Etsy.

PPS: so much for my protestations of how my blog posts should always be helpful or educational….unless you count this as a cautionary tale I guess.

The Use What You’ve Got Project….and a plunge

As I mentioned before Feb/March are kinda slow months for me.  Etsy is quiet and the stores have done a post-Xmas restock but aren’t putting in big orders.

So, I have vowed to use the down time wisely – or at least productively.

On a very practical front I’ve started a Use What You’ve Got project.  The goal is to use up all the random bits of stuff I have lying around (like this embarrassing scrap wood pile)The Scrap Wood Pile Project - Cheltenham Roadwithout incurring extra expense. Projects must be made using only what is here already.  And there seems to be a lot that’s here already.

So far it has been a blast.  My brain is in over-drive with project ideas – so much over-drive that I keep shorting out – too overwhelmed by all the things I COULD do to know which one I SHOULD do – you know what I mean?

So I started with something simple, something in my wheelhouse – lettersHand cut wood letters

Letters are the perfect scrap project for me. Easy to cut, use a lot of wood and, as a bonus, painting them lets me use up the inexplicably huge store of random paint I have gathered.Vintage Style Wood Letters Cheltenham Road

So I made those and then –

I took a plunge!

Hopefully the beginning of a lot of plunge taking. Many things about Cheltenham Road need to move forward and first up – the quality of my photographs.

I struggle a lot with the photography side. Trust me, you’ve never seen someone go from zero to cranky as fast as I do the minute I pull out my camera. And I’ve been spending and insane amount of time Photoshopping my mediocre pictures to make them presentable.

So the first step on the make it better chart was to buy a better camera.  I breathed deeply, got over my sticker shock and I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D7100.nikon d7100It’s intimidating. There is a ton to learn.

But, in truth, my pictures came out better just pointing it at something and knowing nothing.

For instance here is the same shot of some letters with my old camera and my new one.Camera Test ComparisonI’ve done nothing to the set up or the lighting – just swapped them on the tripod.  Both cameras were on “auto.”

It’s not a great picture or anything but imagine what I can do  if when I read the manual!

And then I started playing around with shots of some new coasters and I think they came out looking a bit more polished too. Union Station Vintage Subway Art Graphic Coaster Set by Cheltenham Road

Retro Style Los Angeles Subway Art Coaster Set by Cheltenham RoadSo cool! Steep learning curve but cool! And I’ve got about 10 scrap wood projects going.  And a blog upgrade underway and….and….AND!

More to come!

Lather, Rinse REPEAT. Staying Focused

The Zen version of me knows that:Life is a JourneyBut Actual-Me is hopelessly focused on:are we there So I’m not really a process-person.  I want to jump right to the finish- the finished product, the end of the book, I want to make the purchase not do the research.  You get the idea.

But my I want it NOW attitude (an approach which lead to the ill-advised Oompa Loompa acquisition of ’72) has not been serving me very well of late. There are lots of steps involved in running this business and I’ve been having trouble really keeping myself disciplined, on task and getting stuff done.

So I’ve adopted some strategies.

It’s so easy to let time slip away when part of your job is to look at other blog posts or scan Pinterest (or answer emails etc). I sit down fully intending to just to a couple of quick things and then BAM two hours have passed and I’m behind for the day.

So I’ve become very friendly with an old (and dusty) egg timer.egg timerI’ll confess I feel a bit like one of Pavlov’s dogs but this simple tool has had an wonderful effect.  If I set the timer for an hour. I’m going to work for a solid hour – no breaks, no wandering away -“just focus but only for an hour I tell myself.” It is AMAZING what I can accomplish in that hour and how energizing it is to “race against the clock.” Not “race” as in madly scurrying around stressing out but “race” as in move efficiently.

My second trick is podcasts.

My business is challenging and quite creative but there is A LOT of tedium – repetitive tasks that always seem daunting and certainly aren’t a lot of fun.

Coaster Back CuttingCutting Coaster BacksSealing Coasterstop coating coastersPainting Blockspainting tea light holdersBecause I have to actually look at what I’m doing having the TV on wont work. Listening to newscasts got a bit grim and music can only take me so far.

Podcasts to the Rescue!!!!

Free! Fascinating! Covering every aspect of life!

My current go-to’s are:

Pop Culture Happy Hour. It’s like hanging out with a group of smart, funny and perceptive friends who are all totally into the things that you are totally into. Books, movies, TV, music.

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (on itunes) – Always funny and (somewhat) educational.

This American Life Radio Archive – Fascinating stories

Crash Course: Really intense, short lessons in history, science and all kinds of stuff.  The teachers are waaaay over-caffeinated (and funny). They are excellent and often so over-packed with fast flying information that I have to listen to them twice.

School of Greatness – Lewis Howes is sort of a motivational speaker and his podcast has interviews with folks from all walks of life talking about success and their philosophies.  It can be very inspiring.

I find myself actually looking forward to the tedious tasks because I get to listen to the podcasts.

Do you have favorite podcasts? Tips for keeping yourself on task? If so please share them.

On a different note:

I’ve said before how very, very much I appreciate all your comments. I truly do.

I don’t’ often call out comments but I felt compelled to bring this one to the attention of a certain subset of my readers.

The lovely and incredibly insightful Tracey commented recently writing:

Wish……. that I was one of your sisters. You’re fun!

So you see it is as I have been saying for years to a certain subset of my readers: People are lining up to have me as their brother!

Please note that nowhere does the lovely and insightful Tracey use (nor seem to be contemplating using) phrases such as: “Obnoxious twerp,” “you were adopted” or “the mistake from the 60s”

I just wanted to point that out….to a certain subset of my readers.

OK, my timer just went off. It’s time for coasters and podcasts!

 

 

 

 

Busy January

I have successfully taken down my Christmas decorations!

Well, except for that one thing. Do you have that? You pack everything neatly away and THEN discover that one ornament or whatever that you somehow missed. And now it’s a total pain to get all the boxes back out so it just sits there mocking you……all year.that one dang ornament

No? You don’t have that? It’s just me?

Awesome.

So, I’ve moved on from Christmas but I’m always surprised by how busy January is for me.

I tend to think of post-Christmas as a time when nobody would want to acquire anything else.

But apparently that too is just me. I’ve been working on a bunch of custom HOME signs and a family is decorating their new nursery with vintage NY theme (I think I’m gonna like this kid!):Custom Child's Name Sign by Cheltenham Road

On another front, this is what happens to my dining room table when a store decides they need A LOT of subway signs.Custom Subway Art Signs Cheltenham Road

And I’ve been trying to come up with some new designs.

Some are just variations on a theme like these restyled vintage subway graphic tea light holders:Retro Subway Art Style New York and LA Candle Holders by Cheltenham Road

Vintage Subay Graphic Candle Blocks by Cheltenham RoadAnd some are re-designs of current products.

My vintage baseball coaster sets have been some of my better sellers on Etsy.

However, since initially designing them my knowledge of baseball history has grown and I’ve been meaning to revise them to reflect more great Hall of Fame players.

First up is my Chicago Cubs revision featuring the famous Tinker to Evers to Chance triple play (and Mordicai Brown cause, you know….four coasters in a set).Chicago Cubs Baseball Card Coaster Set by Cheltenham Road onEtsy

And then I got to work on my Detroit Tigers set to more prominently feature Ty Cobb and Hughie Jennings.Vintage Detroit Tigers Hal of Fame Baseball Coaster Set Cheltenham Road

This also allowed me to work on my improved Photoshop skills.

You see baseball cards are rectangular and my coasters are square so if you just resize the originals you end up with short, fat baseball players.   Now that isn’t, necessarily, historically inaccurate but still not quite what I’m looking for.  So, every element of the image must be taken apart, resized and then reassembled.

It’s slow going.

Only 10 more teams to left!  Four players to a set…..40 images…….yay!

And, finally, I honing in on a new product that you’ll first see as a Mod Podge Rocks tutorial but here is a little preview. Tutorial Preview Simple Subway Art DIY Mod Podge Wine Charms Cheltenham Road for Mod Podge Rocks

I thought wine charms would be a fun and versatile idea (clearly I’m a subway art kick – the dining room table must be effecting my brain).

I’m thinking these have a lot of potential partly because my mind is exploding with various ideas for graphics and themes. I keep having to stop what I’m doing to write them down or I know I’ll forget.

So, that’s me.  What is everyone else working on?

A Minor Set “Back”

So, I’m gearing up for the holidays (yes, I should have already geared but I don’t seem to be very good at pre-gearing).  I’m filled with ideas about what I want to do and I’m in full-factory mode churning out tons of coasters (one store ordered 500 and now speculates that they may have underestimated their need).

So all is good!

And then, foolishly, I got out of my car last Sunday.

And that was all it took for  the herniated disc in my lower spine to decide that, after years of dormancy, NOW was the perfect time to totally freak out.

What followed was an entire week of moving veeeery slowly and sleeping veeeery badly and being veeeery whiny.  It was fun!  You should have come over!

Thoughtful friends offered to share their Vicodin supplies which was sweet but made me really wonder why everyone but me seems to have so many drugs at hand.  However, I’d tried Vicodin years ago and it didn’t seem to have much of an effect.  Actually all it seemed to do was make me care a little less about the pain….. which was interesting if not particularly helpful.  So I muddled through with Naproxin.

So, since lifting things (like the garage door!)  was out of the picture I thought I’d catch up on trying some new designs and playing with my camera.

I’m just not a good photographer but I’m trying to improve.  I can’t decide if I need a new camera or a new me but I usually spend about an hour taking pictures and then three hours working in Photoshop to make them not suck.  I am only occasionally successful.

My pics on Etsy of my New York HOME sign left a lot to be desired – I’m kind of amazed (and grateful) that people took the leap and purchased it.New York HOME sign by Cheltenham Road on Etsy

I think these are a bit of an improvement.New York City HOME wood sign by Cheltenham RoadNYC HOME sign Wooden Sign by Cheltenham Road on Etsy`

I wanted to find some new, vintage nightclub graphics for Bar Keeper (the store that ordered 500 coasters).Vintage Los Angeles Hollywood Cocktail Lounge Coaster Set by Cheltenham Road on EtsyThere is just something about these old matchbook coversVintage Cocktail Lounge Coaster Set Cheltenham Road

I have no idea if some of these places were greatLos Angeles Vintage Cocktail Lounge Coasters by Cheltenham Road

Or just dive barsVintage Hollywood Coasters by Cheltenham Road

(OK The Hangover Room was probably a dive bar)

But somehow the covers make them all seem fun and exotic.Retro Los Angeles Coaster Set Cheltenham Road

But I now have to make a choice.  ballyhooI have five new images but only need four.  Which should I drop? (I’m honestly asking)

I’m happy to report that my back is much better today – so I’m” back” on track.  Which is great as being waylaid there really did get my mind racing with ideas.  Now lets see if I can turn them into reality!

A New Way To Transfer Images to Wood

A New Way to Transfer Graphics to WoodAs you know I’m always looking for good ways to transfer images.

I ‘ve used Mod Podge Transfer

I’ve experimented with Blender Pens

I’ve used Liquitex Gel.

I have to say all the results were satisfactory but each had drawbacks either due to expense, time or versatility.

So, when I read about the Wall Lenk Transfer Tool that transfers images to wood I thought it sounded awesome!Wall Lenk Transfer Tool I read about it, researched it and, quick as a flash, plunged right in and bought it online.

It arrived!

I was so intrigued and excited I immediately set it aside!

For a year!

(honestly I had no idea it had been a whole year until I checked my Amazon order history.  I thought, maybe, 6 months ago……time flies when you are running a sweatshop having fun!)

But, I have now opened it, tested it out and am here to make my report.

First off, you get what you pay for ($17)…..it’s veeeery basic.  So basic and so potentially hazardous that it makes you wonder how this is allowed to be sold.  Or, more specifically,  given my history, how it is allowed to be sold to someone like me.

It works via heat transfer and, to put it simply, the metal end just gets super hot and then you rub it on your image and that transfers the ink to the wood (or fabric or whatever).

There is no “on/off” switch.  It’s either plugged in and on its way to being insanely hot or it’s unplugged and just lurking around being a little bit less insanely hot.  I didn’t have any moments like I did with the heat gun but the potential for disaster seems to be there.

So, onto the test.

While I was home in Ohio my sister Paula and I, intrigued by all the cool yardstick projects around but dismayed by the insanely high cost of “vintage” yardsticks began to toy around with the idea of making big, faux, versions.  I thought “This is the perfect project to try out my  brand new year old tool!”

I got right to work!

And just three short months later I did it!!! When I get excited about an idea nothing gets in my way!

So, I started out with some poplar wood cut down to size, painted, sanded smooth and a bit distressed.  I wanted it to look like two different rulers so one side was light blue and the other white.Faux Vintage Yardstick Cheltenham RoadTip Number One  – to optimize the transfer the wood must be very, very smooth and the paint (if there is paint) must be given lots of time to dry.

I came up with a couple of ruler designs in PhotoshopFaux Yardstick Design By Cheltenham Road

 

Faux Vintage Yardstick Pattern by Cheltenham RoadI reversed them and printed them out.

Tip Number Two: the prints need to be laser copies or prints – ink jet prints won’t work.

I plugged in the Lenk and, following the directions  gave it about 8 minutes to heat up.

I had read in the Amazon reviews that you needed to “burn off” some of the heat unless you were actually trying to start a small fire.  I burned off the heat by just touching the tool to a piece of scrap wood.  As you can see by the photo it took quite a few touches before it stopped burning the wood -Image Transfer with Wall Lenk Tool Cheltenham Road

But it didn’t take too long.

After that it was just a matter of rubbing it slowly over the image.   You can see where, even though I’d burned off some of the heat, it still scorched the paper a bit.Transfer an Image to Wood Cheltenham Road Tutorial I found that applying a light pressure worked well and going back over the image a few times was also key.

There is no real way to tell if you’ve succeeded or not until you peel away the paper.Transfer an Image Tutorial Cheltenham RoadOn the plus side though, if you peel away the paper slowly you can see if you’ve missed a spot and it’s very easy to just lay the paper back down and give it a few more rubs.  I did this in a couple of spots and it worked out just fine.

In a few places, where I guess I pressed to hard or let it heat too much, the paper stuck to the wood.Image Transfer Tutorial Cheltenham Road

But it was very easy to just dampen a cloth a bit and rub it away.

My box was 24″ long so I couldn’t print out the full ruler on one sheet of paper so I did it in sections and just lined them up.  Once again it was pretty easy.Make a Giant Vintage Yardstick Cheltenham RoadAfter that, I gave my “rulers” a quick coat of wax and assembled the box using a pin nailer (screws or regular nails would work just as well).Easy image transfer tool Cheltenham Road TutorialTransfer Images to Wood - Tutorial Cheltenham RoadThe images transferred very nicely – I like the level of distress and you do have some control over just how distressed you want it to be

Image Transfer Vintage Yardstick TutorialI think, other than the possible risk of burning your house down, this tool offers a lot of advantages.  The transfer takes place quickly (no waiting overnight) and once you buy the tool there is nothing else to purchase.Vintage Ruler Image Transfer Project Cheltenham Road

Also, it’s a true transfer – you don’t end up leaving a thin film of paper so that frees you up as far as background color(s) etc.

Now that I’ve tested it out I’m already thinking of tons of other possible projects (which you will be subjected to I assure you).

 

Please check out these link-parties for more great ideas:link-party-palooza-banner

Knick of Time Inspiration Party

 

Travel! The Abbot Kinney Festival and New Stuff!

I just recently returned from a trip to Ohio to visit the family and recharge a bit.  Not only does my family’s creativity always get me revved up but, in general, central Ohio is overflowing with terrific ideas and resources.  It was also much cooler (weatherwise I mean) that hot, hot, hot LA so I got to get a taste of what fall is actually like!

I returned with just a few days to get ready for the big Abbot Kinney Festival (yes, I continue to be just awesome at planning!).  This was my second year (and their 30th!) at this huge one-day festival.  They close down a mile long stretch of Abbot Kinney Blvd in the famed Venice Beach area of LA.  It looks like thisAbbot Kinney BlvdI was actually kind of concerned about leaving the booth in case I would just get swept away and never make my way back.

I had come up with some new designs and I was eager to see how they would go over.

I’ve been hording pictures of vintage luggage tags and working on a set of my own vintage-inspired graphics.  I put them together package of coasters I’m referring to as The Jet SetThe Jet Set Vintage Luggage Tag coaster set Cheltenham Road

Paris Vintage Luggage Tag Coaster Cheltenham RoadNew York Vintage Luggage Tag Coaster Cheltenham RoadOf course there was a candle block to go along with it.Vintage Luggage Tag Candle Block Cheltenham RoadI’ve also been digging vintage bicycle ads.  So with the help of the always invaluable Graphics Fairy I put a set together as well (along with a tray).Vintage Bicycle Tray and Coaster Set Cheltenham Raod

vintage Bicycle Candle Tealight Holder Cheltenham RoadAnd finally I set up a section of the booth and named it “Local Love” and featured some new coasters and blocks that use vintage maps of the LA area (of course I found the maps in Ohio.  Classic!)Local Love Los Angeles Map Coaster Set Cheltenham Road

Local Love Candle Block Map Cheltenham RoadAll the new stuff went over well and I’m happy to have (most of) it up in the Etsy store now too.

And now it’s on to Halloween!   I’m doing the window for the CoOp and I actually have a bunch of Halloween ideas for projects.  Wish me luck on getting them all done…..this is going to require a lot of coffee.

Happy Fall everyone……it’s supposed to be 100 degrees here today…..I’ll take my pumpkin spice latte iced please.

 

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