Category Archives: Creatives Cupboard

Expanding a vision with help from the design community.

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Creatives' Cupboard:

Early bird deadline is tomorrow!

Originally posted on Creatives Cupboard:

Ilise BenunSince have the unique opportunity and pleasure to meet and collaborate with Ilise Benun of Marketing-Mentor.com the past few years. I am really excited to amp up the direction of Creatives’ Cupboards towards my future dream of hosting my own “Creatives’ Cupboard Camp”. I was approached by Ilise back in June at the HOWLive Conference in San Francisco about her future travel plans in my neck of the woods to speak at the  PICA 2014 design conference. I saw this as an opportunity to introduce her to amazing collective of creative professionals I have been lucky enough to meet, collaborate with and simply lunch with while sharing our own stories of our hopes, fears, accomplishments and failures.

Ilise’s influence in the creative community has grown over her 25+ years in the industry. Based out of New York, her influence is felt around the world. It shocks me at times…

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Our dreams are ours to bring true.

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Yeah, this is a post Oscars thought. The one thing that I have come to realize over the years is no matter one’s status in the world, the value of who we are is ultimately the same. We all have an amazing opportunity to make our life experience into one of our own making. There is not another’s job to make our lives better. I will admit that there are likely a few who actually do have that type of person supporting them and or pushing them. I think in the end though, they are being cheated out of realizing their own value then.

I kept thinking about what my perception of the celebrities in my early years. At the time they seemed to be elusive and special, so much so, I was not worthy when I compared myself next to them. I am at a space now that I see them in an adjusted light. Their achievements and skills no longer make me feel unworthy, in fact, it is my admiration of them that motivates me to find the value I see in them, in fact in myself. I just need to work at my dreams and my life. Knowing that every step I make moves me forward, I can acknowledge my own achievements and maybe even a happy dance or two.

I just keep seeing that the more we celebrate each other, the easier it is to celebrate our own lives. We are our own worst critics, so if we can find it in ourselves to praise our own acheivements, maybe we can allow ourselves a happy life.

New Faces to “note” at NOtaBLE Lunch

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I just got back from the second lunch of the 2014 season. Things were looking good this year with my next two lunches being ‘sold-out’ so quick. Kept the number to eight and ended up with 2 cancellations and one pick up, so overall, it turned out ,I think, the way it was supposed to. The mix today was perfect, a couple regulars, Brett Gilmour, Christine McGavern and Lindsay Harle and then three newbies! All attendees (yes, Brett, yours will be in the mail) were gifted a copy of the myDay planner – more paper goodies. We met up at local sensation, NOtaBLE, always tasty and an great and energetic environment.

We had the pleasure of meeting Jamie and Richard from Chirp Media . They came upon the lunch when Jamie was perusing eventbrite for meet ups with a focus on creatives and lucky for us, he found this one. Jamie and Richard are collaborators in their recently created studio that is made up of themselves and a couple other creatives. In conversing with Jamie, I learned Jamie is from the west coast and recently moved here a year or so ago. He has found it a challenge to find a non-clicky creative community. Well I hope his searching has ended. Creatives’ lunch is NOT about any clicking.

The gem of the bunch was to meet Dean Foster, an illustrator who has moved to our hometown all the way from South Africa. The move was in part to find a better life for his family and he has found the challenge is getting back to his skills in illustration in our fair city. His challenges are not unlike the same ones we all face. Not only is he foraying into getting back into being a solopreneur but doing so in a new country with different views and rules from where he is from. When I told him about the lunch, he was taken aback by the openness of the idea of creative peers meeting and sharing stories, being open and friendly. His experience in his home country was different, much more competitive and less friendly. He asked if this friendly thing is a ‘canadian’ thing, which I would like to think is true – but the fact is I KNOW that there are many other creatives around the world whom I have been lucky enough to meet, have the same ideals of supporting fellow creative peers. At the very least, I hope Dean felt welcomed.

I participate in an online accountability group, Designers Roundtable, and was sharing my stories of those I have met from setting up these lunches. I was thrilled to hear a couple designers from other countries/cities say how they were inspired to start their own similar lunch style connections and I really hope they do.

The next lunch is happening in April and outside of meeting the full team of Chirp Media, I look forward again to sharing a meal with fellow lovers of the creative profession. In the past couple months I have met a photographer moved here from Russia, an illustrator from South Africa and more local creatives that just seem to come out of the woodwork. I encourage you all to come out of hiding and meet your own local creatives. Who knows what we can all creative when we put our heads together.

Expanding a vision with help from the design community.

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Ilise BenunSince have the unique opportunity and pleasure to meet and collaborate with Ilise Benun of Marketing-Mentor.com the past few years. I am really excited to amp up the direction of Creatives’ Cupboards towards my future dream of hosting my own “Creatives’ Cupboard Camp”. I was approached by Ilise back in June at the HOWLive Conference in San Francisco about her future travel plans in my neck of the woods to speak at the  PICA 2014 design conference. I saw this as an opportunity to introduce her to amazing collective of creative professionals I have been lucky enough to meet, collaborate with and simply lunch with while sharing our own stories of our hopes, fears, accomplishments and failures.

Ilise’s influence in the creative community has grown over her 25+ years in the industry. Based out of New York, her influence is felt around the world. It shocks me at times when I mention her name, and someone doesn’t know who she is, but I have to say when someone does recognize her, they are always a fan and admire all that she has helped them to elevate their own creative businesses.

 I am really excited to be co-sponsoring this event with the GDC Alberta North Chapter as part of the PICA 2014 design conference.

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 The date has been set for Thursday, May 8th, 2014 and hosted at my local community centre in Panorama Hills NW Calgary, AB. The topic of this interactive workshop is focused on top five marketing tools that can amp up any service provider business.

After attending a variety of workshops and conferences over the years, I have grown an appreciation for the elements one benefits from. Yes the inspiring energy are great, as well as the useful information and don’t get me started on the connections with those with similar passions. But the one thing I really get as a self employed entrepreneur is that there is only so much TIME in a day. I need to ensure my time is well spent and to top it off, if I am going to also invest my budget towards these endeavours - I am benefiting in more ways that one. Hence, the goal of this workshop is to have each attendee walk away with their own personal marketing tasks, tools and pitches started – so all it takes when you return to your desk is to keep going instead of starting at a blank page looking for answers to pop up.

Attendees can expect to touch on these five elements of a productive marketing plan:

  1. Specializing
  2. The ever evolving ‘pitch’
  3. Marketing Tasks
  4. Marketing Tools
  5. Benefits of Retainers

 Each participant will receive two custom publications; myNote publication and the new myDay that are both designed and created by crystalink.ca, a $50.00 value. For more details please check out the full event description on eventbrite.

Channeling the Appeal of Mascots into Dingy Digital Bingo Halls

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How the power of iconography helped revive the bingo industry.

Bingo is a game that used to be thought of as nothing more than a retirement home staple. However, thanks to the power of mascot appeal – along with the wide distribution channel of the Internet – interest in the game was rejuvenated. The bingo industry recognizes the allure of this type of iconography, utilizing mascots with the aim of appealing to as broad a demographic as possible.

In his book Understanding Comics, cartoonist and comics theorist Scott McCloud states that the more detailed an image of a figure is, the less we project ourselves onto them. Conversely, the less details there are, the more readily we relate to them. This is because realistic-looking figures already have their identities established via the abundance of details which define their appearances. On the flipside, since cartoony images lack detail, our minds subconsciously fill in the visual gaps with our own features.

In other words, a sketch of Brad Pitt is a sketch of just that: Brad Pitt; whereas a simple drawing of a smiley face could be virtually any one of us.

Many cartoon illustrations aim for that perfect balance between realism and iconic abstraction. This is so that people will be able to see themselves in those characters without totally sacrificing the established identities of said characters.

As stated, it’s a technique that’s been used to full effect by the online bingo industry. Some online bingo providers even make use of multiple mascots to maximize audience identification. Gaming Realms’ bingogodz.com features a lineup of Greek god “re-representations” designed to cover as wide a range of characterizations as possible. There’s fat and jolly Zantos, dance floor star Afro-Dity, coffee-chugging Hypnozzz, and others. Furthermore, if the Bingogodz commercial is any indication, more amusing deities from other pantheons are soon to follow.

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Cartoon characters have always had that innate ability to reawaken the child in all of us. Basing on how they helped make bingo cool again, they’re evidently able to rejuvenate near-dead industries as well. 

Let’s Talk 2014 Issue

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CC-StackThings have started to return to routine around the Reynolds’ household. Kids back in school and my own business has amped up with clients getting back into the groove as well. I don’t know about you, but I always have this impression that the two weeks over the December holiday I will have ‘time’ to focus on the extra projects I have on the go. Yeah, shake my head – not! The fact is, getting back to a work routine actually encourages more schedule in my day and therefore ability to plan in all what I have going on, which there are quite a few.

I wanted to give you all a heads up on the plans for the Creatives’ Cupboard publication this year. To be honest, it is a plan based on going with what works. At this time I can pretty much 80% confirm that there may not be an issue created specifically for the HOW Creative Freelancer Business Conference this year in Boston.

Due to personal plans and how things have worked out this year with partners and lack thereof. I was extremely lucky the past couple of years to have partnered with Topline Printing, Red Dog Graphics and Neenah Paper to bring these creations alive. Now, is the time to start looking at how to move the project forward into an actual self publication.

But as I said, nothing is set in stone EXCEPT that there WILL be a 2014 issue released in May. A combination of digital release on issuu.com and print versions created for the upcoming Workshops for all those who register and attend. I will also be looking into offering them for purchase if the price point works out as feasable.

I have had a couple interviews with some pretty great people, Jenny Poff (Owner of Presque Isle Designs and instigator of the Designers Round Table), Richard Medina (Aspiring 15 year old designer) so far. Making interview dates with Giancarlo Bianco (Creative Brand and Image Consultant, Panama). I am still working on my list of people to inspire me and hopefully readers.

Since this issue may not be part of a specific conference, this allows me the opportunity to build upon it and grow in the direction my creative brain (which never stops) wants to go. Creating a publication that is not just inspiring but a resource for the business as well as creative elements in our own unique niche’s. On the deck is a summary of time-tracking and/or financial services. Which one is best for the no/low budget and then higher. When is it worth investing in more and most importantly which ones’ are simple and easy to work with – because we all know that time = money.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts I would love to hear from you. Please email me!

For those who haven’t seen the previous issues, you can view  both issues here:  2012 | 2013

Clarity Means Letting Go

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I had an epiphany last night. It was the final 6 month check in with the Designers Round Table group. The goal of the group was well, to create a goal and work to meet it. I had the pleasure of chiming in first and I humbly admitted that when it came to my original goal – I did not meet it. I did improve my business increased billings which let’s face it, we all have to pay our bills, but when it came to my dreams of having my first official publication of the newly branded ‘myNote’ (previously known as the iNote), things have made a turn.

The original instigator of the DRT, Jenny Poff, was brilliant in her response, “You are not alone, we all have, or either are, right there with you.” When I reflect on the challenges of why I couldn’t meet my goals, they all seem like excuses to me, since we are our own worst critics. Perhaps these excuses should really be viewed as symptoms of a larger problem.

  1. Lack of a clear plan. I started the group with my first goal of “No Heart Attacks”. The dream was so big and daunting that when I thought of all the elements that go into creating a solid publication start up I had a real hard time defining each main goal and then all the minor ones that come before the big one. I am a brilliant larger picture thinker… when it comes to the details, that is harder. I like to work on what I love, so I have a tendency between procrastination and avoid working on those details I don’t like.
  2. Doing it all myself. Fact, we tell our clients that they need to look to the specialists in their areas for support, so why do we ourselves not take our own advice? I think a key reason, budget. Whether it is lack of one or a small one. We are smart people and yes we can learn how to do things, but let’s be honest, will you use the skill again? Or let’s get to the heart of the matter, will you actually be any good at it to warrant all the time time and effort into developing the skill. Will your project be subject to your lack of understanding and skills? Yes. So here is the gist of it – when it comes to any project worth doing, it deserves being done well. We talked about the 3 elements of a project that can NEVER be done together: Great, Fast and Cheap.
  3. Limited time in a day. Squeezing more work into an already full schedule. REALITY CHECK: The whole “Life Balance” theory is a sham! If I had no sleep and ignored my family, maybe I could reach all my dreams. This begs the question, what are your dreams? Do they not include a happy personal life? Whether you have kids or not, I am not going to get into the debate here, fact is we all choose what we do in a day. I have made the choice to run a business, be in a marriage which is constant work and add on top of that children. At the base of everything, they do come first in the big list of priorities. My day gets cut up into chunks where I give to my husband, kids, business/clients, community, passion projects and what seems to get forgotten, time for my own well being. As much as I despise being held to a schedule, my challenge is to schedule specific tasks into a day (see #1) so bit by bit things do get accomplished.
  4. Saying Yes. This is my biggest downfall. At the end of everything I realized that in order to stay sane, the pace and list of commitments this past couple of years I simply cannot keep up with. The fact is, when I have my hands in so many baskets, I can’t invest enough of myself in each in order to do well in everything. I really think I have been doing a half-assed job. My motto has always been to ‘Just Show Up’. Yes, that is part of it, but simply being a body isn’t enough to make headway. I have started to clear up my plate on my end by being more selective on what is worth investing time into and I will be dropping and letting go of some big commitments in the new year.

So my goal for 2014 is to gain clarity, and the first step will be to start letting go.

I have my list of two big commitments that I will be dropping and finishing up. And the next will be to reflect on the above ‘excuses’ and taking heed. I will:

  1. Create achievable goals.
  2. Budget, account and ask for help for anything worth doing. I am opting for Good and Cost Effective (a.k.a. Cheap) – and avoiding the phrase “Fast”.
  3. Schedule in tasks from #1 into my day.
  4. Say “No” to more non-billable work unless I am willing to drop something from my #1 list.

Perspective is a brilliant skill that I think we all need to incorporate in our every day, not necessarily at the end of a year. But bottom line, no matter when you choose to reflect, take into account of your excuses/symptoms and simply make solid choices. Your choices are your own and only you are accountable to yourself in the end.

Get Your Copy of “Lucy Tries Luge”

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At Lisa and James’ last book signing at the Cross Iron Mills Chapters location, my daughter Lucy and I popped by to get our own copies for ourselves and it makes a fabulous Christmas gift!

In response to my last blog post, the last couple of days I have had a couple requests on where people can purchase their own copy of the newly released book, “Lucy Tries Luge”.  It seems online searches about winter olympics has brought up my last post about the book launch, my friend and illustrator, James Hearne worked on with Lisa Bowes, the author. With the upcoming winter olympics, people are keen to spread the word of winter sports and if you didn’t know, all profits in sales are donated towards the Canadian Olympic Luge team.

I checked in with the author, Lisa Bowes, and asked her to provide details to share. The book can be purchased online at the following two sites:

If you are in Calgary, you can find copies at:

  • Monkey Shine Books ( 113 2215 33 Avenue SW, Calgary, AB  T2T 1Z9 Canada)
  • Owls Nest Books (815A 49 Avenue SW, Calgary, AB  T2S 1G8 Canada)
  • Chapters Indigo @ Cross Iron Mills Mall
  • Pages in Kensington (1135 Kensington Rd NW, Calgary, AB T2N 4P4)

After Christmas, the book also be available at more Chapters Indigo book store locations as Lisa makes her rounds.

A Creatives’ Lunch Success Story

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My first local creative connection was with James Hearne. I met him while admiring his art he was selling as cute and adorable children’s clothing. At first glance I was smitten with his style. From there we would meet up for coffee and lunch, basically sharing our stories of working freelance. I loved his story.

Originally from the UK, James and his wife Paula travelled Canada on a holiday about 15 years ago (it could be more), and found they loved it so much they chose to stay. James at the time had been working freelance with an agent back across the water. I loved it when I would pass through COSTCO and see his illustrations on christmas cards and wrapping paper, in fact, James had even seen his art on some tea towels, surprising to him since he never heard of it’s usage. That was a great story he shared about contacting the company who produced them and proving his copyright and the misuse of his art, with a decent ending where the company came through with apologies and providing a return in value. One of the challenges when your art is sent overseas.

His work has been used around the world, in fact, some of his illustrations have been used by UNICEF for their holiday greeting cards, which I snagged a set at a kiosk in IKEA one day. After doing years of christmas themed images, not surprisingly James had been itching to try something new, hence his try at selling his illustrations as embroidered children’s onsies and t-shirts. The trial didn’t take off, but his drive to expand his opportunities haven’t. Thank goodness, not only has he now have a children’s book under his belt, but he is looking at other media and platforms to share his art.

When I first started my first Creatives’ Lunch back in 2011. James was skeptical about what exactly was the benefit of attending and meeting other creative professionals. Needless to say a year later he humbly admitted his scepticism to me and how right I was. Not only did he have a chance to meet with others and learn from each other, he began working with a copyrighter from the Calgary Zoo, creating custom creature illustrations for their newsletter and other promotional pieces.

After that, he met Patrick LaMontagne of Cartoon Ink. It was after Patrick was approached about working on a children’s book that he declined as it wasn’t the type of direction he was looking to work in and so he referred James. The rest is history and “Lucy Tries Luge” by Lisa Bowes, one of the sports anchor/reporters for CTV Calgary News.

I made the effort to pop by the media launch today for the book and was blown away. The book itself is a story about a girl who gives the sport of luge a try. James shared with me how he had visited Canada Olympic Park to get reference images for his illustrations in the book. Some great work when you get to see his ability to showcase the park’s luge in a fabulous perspective.

Yes the book is amazing, but what really blew me away was how the author, Lisa collaborated with the school board, the canadian olympic luge team and supporters of sport for kids to create an event that created excitement for the 100 kindergarten children about winter sports. I have a personal love of the character, Lucy. Not only is she rocking the sport with courage, but my daughter is named Lucy – wanna guess what will be in her christmas stocking this year?

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I learned a lot about how to launch with flair. All I can say is well done Lisa (and the team I am sure that is supporting her)! As it stands I have been having a hoot seeing the media talk about the launch on twitter and on my own local news networks. James is flabbergasted at seeing himself on television!

Watch the CTV news story!

Read the full story.

Kudos to a brilliant illustrator – I understand the humbleness of not really seeing the value in your work until you get outside affirmation – so enjoy this James and know that it is well deserved!

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Evolution Towards Immersion

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Things have been quiet here on the Creatives’ Cupboard home front. Between a summer of working around my two girls (9 and 7 years) not being in school and trying to catch up and focus on the direction of my publication dreams, I have come to evolve my vision. Things are in the beginning stages, but I will promise there will be more information to share as I get my focus.

Originally my dream was to create the unique publication slash notebook creation created and available for subscriptions. Then reality set in. My dream, though unique and from what everyone has said is valuable – the print cost per is as unique and high quality as my vision. So as with all things production, the more you can create, the less cost per it takes to make. In order to do that, I need to focus on growing our Creatives’ Cupboard community.

I have made some headway by expanding my Creatives’ Lunches out west in Canmore and Banff. I have also made connections and plans to branch north in the Edmonton region this fall as well. In keeping with my vision, I am focused on making creative connections, not just networking opportunities. I strongly believe that making quality connections with one or two people is much more valuable than handing out a few business cards that you simply can’t guarantee will ever follow up with you.

The ultimate dream is to host the first ever Creatives’ Cupboard Camp! A 2-Day getaway where creative professionals can escape their daily grind and immerse themselves among their ‘people’ and get rejuvenated creative energy than translates into re-ergizing their own creative passions and in most cases their business. Partly inspired by Stefan Mumaw, author of Caffeine of the Creative Mind, Chasing the Monster Idea and Creative Bootcamp, to:

Host a local opportunity to create an environment where one can be immersed in an idea culture with other unique perspectives and experiences to soak up and invigorate a creative mindset.

In order to get things going I am working with Ilise Benun to host a spring-time Marketing Workshop here in Calgary. A great opportunity for those who haven’t had the opportunity to attend the Creative Freelancer Conference. We are in the early stages of logistics and I look forward to sharing that intel as things are confirmed.

Until then, if you have any ideas or insights on the type of workshop events you would see yourself benefiting from, please drop me a line. I would love to hear from you!