Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I rarely blog about exactly what I design at my job, mostly because everything we do is top secret until the day it hits the shelves. The toy industry is as closed-lipped as the CIA. "Secrets" occasionally get leaked, especially since as an industry, we are such a small, tight-knit community, thus my reluctance to talk about what I do. But not long ago, a few of the toys I've been working on hit the shelves, and I thought I'd share them with you. One reason is because I'm really proud of how everything turned out, and the other reason is because I was able to use some of my Photoshop skills, closely related to digi-scrapping, in the final product. It was so fun to do!
I work on a girl's fashion doll line called Liv. Some of you may have daughters or granddaughters who love Liv dolls. Although I've been a doll designer for 25 years, on Liv I'm primarily a playset designer. 'Playset' is the industry name for toy environments. Think doll houses, toy pirate ships, or princess castles. For Liv, I designed a cute lodge playset, where the dolls can hang out, cook, eat, play games, and sleep.
I worked on this project for months, and as is typical for a toy, it went through many versions and styles before it finally came together into the set you see here. It was fun to design each little detail, from the speckled coffee pot and mugs, to the copper pots, and farmhouse sink. There is lots of 'photo real' label art and backgrounds, which I put together in Photoshop, to create a realism that is different than the illustrations that are used on other doll playsets, like Barbie. I also designed the fabric art, using a combination of public domain art and my own illustrations.
Maybe you'll get one of these playsets for one of the little girls in your life. Let me know how they like it! You can find it at Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and almost any toy store. (If you see a horse that goes with the Liv line, I did that one too!) You can click on any of the images for a closer look.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Other than war, there's not much that strikes fear into the heart of man like the words "Great Depression". Visions of migrant dustbowl families, people selling pencils and apples on street corners, and hobos riding the rails create a shudder in our collective consciousness. But not everyone was unhappy during those miserable years between the Stock Market Crash in late 1929, and World War II. Movies made during the thirties often showed the glamorous side of life- society girls, dapper men in tie & tails, families without a care in the world. Real life for most families was probably somewhere in-between.
My Mom loves to tell me about her life in the thirties. She graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1930, and married in 1939, so she spent nearly all of her young adult years living as a single girl during the Depression. Yes, times were definitely tough. Mom wanted to go to college, but the bad economy combined with her sisters' early marriages, and her Father losing his livelihood of farming back in the 20s, gave her no choice but to work to help support the family. As soon as Mom graduated from high school, she put her application in to the Telephone Company, and was hired immediately. She worked as a long-distance operator, and 'Information Please' girl, for over 8 years until her marriage. She loved her job, especially the great friends she met at work. She often says that no one ever complained about being poor because everyone was poor. Mom loved lovely clothes (and still does) so she carefully picked out fabrics and trims, and she and her Mother put together a lovely wardrobe for work and play. And play she did! Mom had more fun! She had an extensive gang of girlfriends and guy friends, and they loved to hike, swim, camp, dance, bike, take road trips (of course, Mom didn't own a car, but she made sure one of her beaux did!). They didn't often go to movies, but had lots of fun hanging out at each others' houses, or just people-watching in town. It didn't take much money to have good, clean fun back then.
I think one of the reasons my Mom has always been such a happy, optimistic person, is because she learned at an early age to make the best of any bad situation. Lots of love at home, and good friends can make troubles seem small. I hope I captured some of the feeling of fun that Mom enjoyed during this time, through her photos and story. I also hope I learn the valuable lesson that circumstances don't dictate our happiness or unhappiness. Just keep dreaming big, and have fun enjoying life!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Doing a family tree like this, with me at the bottom and my ancestors spread all about, is really not correct... but graphically it works pretty well. Actually, I should have my ancestors as the roots, and then me & my husband as the trunk, then our children & grandchildren as the branches. (Or my parents as the trunk, and my siblings & families as the branches... or my grandparents....and on and on....) Well, it's all just family, right?
I've been working on this layout for a couple of days. Actually, truth be told, I've been working on it for over a year, mostly in search of a good tree photo. Every time I see a huge tree, I wonder, 'is that the right tree?' You gotta have a good tree. Not too many leaves, but a bare tree is pretty boring. It needs to be wide, and the branches fairly close to the ground, so you can put lots of photos on. Also, from a design standpoint, it had to have mostly sky behind it, so I wouldn't have to have the complications of extracting a tree from a background. Not fun. Here's the photo of the tree I used:
I took the photo at Malibu Creek State Park in Malibu Canyon. I found the tree many months ago, when the leaves were off, and I finally thought to come back and take a picture when there was a little greenery. I think it works pretty well!
Then of course, there are the design questions. I considered doing something more interesting than just plopping a bunch of photos of my ancestors in the branches. But when it came right down to it, I think that's all I need. It's busy enough without something else to look at. It should be noted that I don't have pictures of all of my 5 generations shown here. In fact, in my 4th generation, my great-grandmother Gruetzmacher is missing. I have never seen a photo of her, and the photo of her husband Herman, is the only known photo of him. So, all in all, it's just a nice way to showcase one's ancestors in a pretty typical, iconic way.
If any of you are interested in using this background for your own family tree, leave me a comment, and I'll see what I can do. I'm not in the digital scrapbooking design business, but from time to time I have something that I would like to share.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
So, how do you like my new look? When I started my blog, I used my own background of some old newspaper... it was nice, but it was getting a bit boring. I decided to change my background, so a couple of months ago, when I switched to that wooden background (which was a Blogger photo) I tried to use my own photo. I tried to edit the HTML to allow me to publish my own 'seamless' photo, but it just didn't work right. So I gave up until I read yesterday on the Blogger Buzz, that it's now possible to easily use your own photo for a background. I know lots of my scrapping friends have their own 'patterned paper' backgrounds. But I just never got around to figuring out how to do it once I removed my original paper. My idea is to change my background photo every month or so. So I went into my iPhoto archives, and picked a couple dozen photos to try as backgrounds. I created a Photoshop Action to resize them exactly right, and now they're ready to go, any time I get bored. I did test a few, and some of them are a bit busy. Plus, they aren't seamless. But on the whole I think it's a nice change. This photo was taken in Park City, Utah at the end of the summer last year. I like the way the leaves just have a hint of yellow, perfect for early fall.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Starting in the late '40s, a builder named Joseph Eichler, developed and built over 11,000 homes in California. He had an idea that inexpensive, quality, modern homes with open floor plans, atriums and skylights would appeal to the post war families who could appreciate new ideas in living. His homes were mostly single story, with very plain facades. Usually only a door, and a simple garage door or two, were all that could be seen from the front. No windows. But open that door, and you entered an atrium area, that served to bring the lush outdoor garden indoors with huge windows and sliding glass doors.
(photo purloined from an Eichler real estate website, so sorry)
This patio atrium, was designed to be a living space, like any other room in the house. Most of the Eichler homes, actually about 10,000 of them, are in Northern California. The other few hundred are in Southern California, in only three locations. I'm happy to say that just a few miles from our house, in Thousand Oaks, is one of these neighborhoods. I learned about Eichler homes about 10 years ago, when a friend of mine from Mattel, told me about his home in Thousand Oaks. I've visited it a few times, and although it's very plain on the outside, inside it's beautiful and airy. I've never been a huge fan of modern architecture or design, but I'm developing a real love and appreciation for these amazing homes. Yesterday, I decided to go to the Eichler area for a photo shoot for a project at work. I was shooting exteriors (rats!) so I wasn't able to sneak any peeks into the wonderful homes I saw. The fronts are plain, but the owners add their own fun little touches like whimsically colored doors, interesting landscaping, a mailbox that's a replica of the house. I put together a quick view of some of the front doors and interesting entryways into these fabulous and fun homes.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Erica Hernandez on 2 Peas, posted her weekly challenge yesterday... to do a 'comparison' type of layout...it was so funny, because I had just decided I wanted to scrap both of these photos of my wonderful nephew Ehren. Ehren just started teaching Art History, his perfect job, at Westminister College in Salt Lake. He's an amazing man, and I wanted to show in a creative way, some of the things he's accomplished, and places he's lived, from then, until now.
I took the cute li'l photo of Ehren when I visited Houston, where their family lived, back in 1976. (See here) The current photo was taken on our family reunion camping trip in August. I think Ehren looks so handsome and professorial!
Here's another layout about Ehren, done a couple of years ago. I like them both... I think they capture interesting facets of the very interesting person that is Ehren.
Friday, September 17, 2010
It seems that I spent a ton of time in the Subways of New York last week... I must have bought 4 $10 passes, some for me, some for Annie. We made several trips from Manhattan to Annie's apartment in Brooklyn, plus the usual forays around the city. I was by myself a lot, and Annie & I traveled together a lot too. I really do love the subway. It's a great opportunity to see different people... people of all ages, ethnicities, economic levels, interests. I saw models, businessmen & women, students, families, tons of tourists, the poor, the rich. Fashionable or homeless, they all seem to take the train. I especially loved the subway musicians. On my last trip on the Subway on Wednesday evening, I heard the loveliest voice... a young woman singing and playing a guitar on the upper level at Union Square. I barely saw her, as I was rushing to catch my train, but I heard her voice wafting down the stairs and into the platform area. It just brightened my evening.
I thought I'd try to capture the feel of the subway with my layout. Click on the image for a closer view.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The Perfect Grandbaby and his parents were here for a brief visit this past weekend, and we loved spending a bit of time together... I took a quick series of photos of Jackson on his Mommy's lap, and this one was just so cute... the first thing that popped into my head was the song "Your Smiling Face" from James Taylor. Seeing his little smile just melts this ol' grandma.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Today is my second anniversary of being a blogger, and I must say, I'm truly astounded that I've kept this up. It's not that I'm a person who gives up easily, or loses interest in things, it's just that blogging requires a certain outlay of time, commitment, and consistency... none of which I have in abundance. But somehow I've stuck to it.
My youngest son Alec, who's 25, came for a visit this weekend, and he wanted to look through the two binders of the computer letters I sent him while he was a missionary, from 2004-2006. I had already filled two binders each for our other two missionaries, so, for a total of 5 1/2 years, my letters served as my personal & family journal. It was doing these letters, starting in 2001, that kind of led me into digital scrapbooking. I had been using Photoshop for my profession, and I had also begun doing a lot of photo restoration and family history, and posters and flyers for Church. But those letters were kind of a visual history of our family activities. I filled them with photos, my current projects and toy designs, and each one had a masthead that was created special for that letter. They were kind of like mini-layouts. So, I think that's really how I got started. It was like a visual journal, and my blog has allowed me to continue that visual aspect, as well as adding the written commentary, like these missionary letters.
Here's to many more years of blogging!
One of the little mastheads I made for Alec's letters, each one shared a photo of him from his younger years, with a little story about the photo or about him. He's still my Little Boy.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I wanted to commemorate this day by recycling a layout I did last year on September 11. I have been watching videos of the tragedy for the past several days, and reading the stories of those who witnessed it, and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes, and an ache to my heart. Each of the flags represents those who lost their lives that morning: heroes and innocent victims alike. We will never forget.
Friday, September 10, 2010
I spent a full day in airports and on planes yesterday, leaving me lots of time to play on the computer... and I didn't even need an internet connection! I returned home last night from my wonderful trip to New York, and I have enough photos to last me a little while. I completed two layouts yesterday... perhaps if I were a speed scrapper I could have done lots more, but I used my long layover & flight time to just do a lot of experimentation.
My layout "After the War" is just a bit about our family in 1946, the year my older brother was born. He was one of the first Baby Boomer Babies... born in May of that year. Since the war in the Pacific was over in August of 1945, you can do the math. Of course, the case for a true Baby Boomer would be more compelling if my Dad had gone to War, but he didn't. Dad owned our little community's grain mill, and it was determined that his business was necessary to Vale's economic survival. He served as the Mayor during the War years, yet always regretted that he was not allowed to serve his country.
The second layout was purely playtime. I really didn't know where this was going, but midway through it became obvious that I was channeling the Art Deco and Bauhaus schools of poster design in a purely amateur way, of course. It wasn't until I was getting ready to post this, and decided to see if I could find some examples of the style I was aiming for, that I came across these images. Really, I didn't copy! It was just an accident!!! Great minds think alike, even if those great minds have been dead for 50 years!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Annie has a wonderful job in New York... she works in a cool Chilean shop called Puro Chile. It's a very upscale, trendy looking shop, where they sell gourmet food, books, and amazing Chilean crafts- including furniture, pottery, jewelry, textiles and leatherwork. I've enjoyed watching her interact with customers, and see how much she enjoys her co-worker Camila (with her in the layout) and the manager, Danny. She loves her job, and they love her. She's not only doing a great job of helping customers, but is helping build their website.
Annie certainly has taken to New York.... she has tons of eclectic friends, and gets around like a native. She knows where to get $1 Chinese dumplings, and the best thrift stores. I love her independence and resourcefulness. This has been such a fun few days. We're off on a new adventure today!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Yesterday I was walking in lower Manhattan, looking for one of my favorite art supply stores, (which I never did find) when I found myself at a very familiar crossroads, and one of my favorite places in New York. Where Broadway and 5th Avenue intersect, right near Madison Square, sits the famous Flatiron Building. It was one of the earliest skyscrapers, and was built in 1902 on that very narrow sliver of land where the roads diagonally cross. Although I am a lover of architecture and interesting buildings in general, what made me nostalgic and a bit sad, was this area was the location of the former International Toy Center. The Toy Building, as we called it, was located across the street from the Flatiron Building at 200 5th Ave. The famous clock (which is in one of the photos on the layout) is directly in front of the Toy Building, and was one of the icon images of the toy industry. For years and years, every year Toy Fair, the huge toy industry trade show, was held in whole or in part in the Toy Building, and other buildings close by. The excitement I felt as I would draw near the Toy Building, with the crowds, crazy promotions, costumed licensed characters, and all the busy-ness of Toy Fair, is quiet now in that part of New York. The Javit's Center is the hub of Toy Fair now, but Toy Fair just isn't the same any more, now that the Toy Building has been sold, and 200 5th Avenue looks like any building in New York.
Monday, September 6, 2010
I took the red-eye to New York Friday night/ Saturday morning. Actually, to be accurate, it was the Red Eyes, as the journey stretched nearly to infinity with a canceled flight from Detroit to LaGuardia. I ended up switching airlines (a long, boring story which I will spare you the details) and arrived safe & sound sometime around noon on Saturday.
But the point of this is just to say that I had lots of reading & scrapping time on the plane. I started this layout of our beautiful older daughter Amy somewhere over the Heartland, and finished it last night in my hotel room. For those new to my blog, Amy lives in Salt Lake City, where she manages a great boutique, and enjoys a busy & fun life. At the end of July, when we had our family reunion trip to Southern Utah, Amy drove down to Kanab with brother Alec, Alicia and the Perfect Baby Jackson. After the reunion weekend, she drove back to Southern California with us, so she could spend a few days with the family, and attend her ten-year high school reunion. She looked absolutely gorgeous- tan, with her streaky hair and cute outfit. I particularly loved her cool skirt, and that red sweater really made her glow. She had a terrific time, and I know she was a big hit with her fellow Moorpark High School alums. As I told her, I wish I'd looked like that at MY 10 year reunion-I mentioned in an earlier post that I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and as big as a house. But I was so pleased that she had so much fun, reunions can be traumatic experiences for some. I just wanted to show off our beautiful daughter, and let her, and you know, that she is loved by her humble Mom (and Dad too, of course).
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I'm in New York this weekend, actually until Thursday. I'm spending my time this weekend with Annie, and then on Tuesday, I have business for work, a big presentation in Manhattan, then a couple more days with Annie until I come home Thursday night. I have a lovely hotel room right off Times Square. I really hate Times Square... mostly because it's so gaudy & also because I HATE crowds and I'm not all that fond of tourist spots. But that aside, it's always great to be in NYC. I love all the excitement of the city... great food & shopping, wonderful architecture, and surprises on every block. I arrived yesterday morning, and then eventually wended my way downtown to the great little shop where Annie works. It's called Puro Chile, and is an upscale Chilean gift & gourmet shop. Photos & layouts to come! I stayed in Brooklyn with Annie & her zillion roommates and the awful noise of a Saturday night party next door, outdoors. I didn't get much sleep, and so it's so nice to have a comfy, cushy, quiet hotel room for the next few days. Annie will join me tonight, and she'll stay with me the whole time I'm here. So, watch this space. I'm sure I'll be blogging a bit more about my New York adventures.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I've scrapped many photos of my Mother's favorite cousin Luella... (see here and here) but I just couldn't resist adding her photos to my line-up of old family photos I've been scrapping in a fun style lately. I remember Luella very well... she and her husband Jim lived in San Diego for many years, and they made the trip north to South Pasadena many times to visit our family. Luella was the elder daughter of my Grandmother Martha Gruetzmacher Ward's brother Will. She grew up in Geneva, Minnesota, and if the photos are any indication, she was definitely pampered and beloved.
The next layout is about something I DIDN'T do.. when we were in Utah for our recent vacation, we passed this gorgeous private swimming hole several times a day as we traveled about. I fell in love with this pretty glen, and the amazing red cliffs, and the stunning reflections of the deep blue sky and cottonwood trees. I was almost tempted to hop the fence, and dive into the cool, blue water.