Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Post of 2012

I'm back...with a lesson in busyness and a review of the new Hero Arts catalog.

A Lesson in Busyness

I have a new stamp...a cling background stamp from Hero Arts called Looped Flower Pattern. It came with the new catalog. I love the stamp, but the catalog leaves a tad to be desired. More on the catalog below.

Large background stamps seem a bit antithetical to clean-and-simple design. They take up all that glorious white space, after all. But when used properly, they can add interest to a card without making it fussy or busy. Like this:


For the above card, I paired the Looped Flower Pattern with a large sentiment from A Muse. Three white layers keep the design fresh and light, and adding the light green color to the sentiment links the two stamped layers visually. This works.

For the next card, I changed the orientation to accommodate a vertical sentiment from Papertrey's Beautiful Blessings and added a touch of bling to emphasize the key word and bring blue to the sentiment. The sentiment isn't as clean and simple as the Happy Birthday one, and that creates a bit more busyness on the card. The clean font and straight lines work well with the curves of the background, though.


The final card today crosses my personal line in the sand as being too busy, although I don't think there's anything else wrong with it. The sentiment is from Hero Arts' Dictionary Greetings. The focal point is very busy...lots of little words! I tried to simplify it by highlighting three bold words with lavender, and that's certainly better than the unhighlighted version, but it's still too busy for my taste.

A Bit Too Busy

What saves it, sort of, is the contrast between the very linear text and the curvy background.

Lines love curves.

And don't you forget it.

Anyway, whether or not you like busy cards is more a matter of taste than anything else. I prefer cleaner cards with more white space and very strong focal points. Other people want to look at more stuff. It's all good.

The 2013 Hero Arts Catalog

So you know, I don't receive any free stuff or compensation from Hero Arts. I'm just a long-time customer offering her free and completely personal opinion for what it's worth, which may not be much at all, but it's my blog so here goes.

The Hero Arts catalog is something of a holiday tradition with me. Every year, I buy the new catalog and eagerly peruse it during the holiday break, not just for the new stamps but also for the sample cards, which are always so fun and colorful at a very gray time of year. Unfortunately, as with some other stamp catalogs, every year, the Hero Arts catalog gets smaller, and I find myself feeling cheated. In 2008, it was 90 pages. This year, it's 64 pages...a ten-page drop from 2012.

The price is still $10.

I miss the old catalog value. The 2008 catalog is loaded with tons of sample cards with plenty of cool layouts and ideas--so cool that I still have it even after tossing lots of other companies' old catalogs-- but the 2013 catalog is pretty much just a catalog, with an occasional photo of a card or tag widely scattered throughout. I probably won't keep it past a year.

There's a $3 Card Gallery that I got for "free"...but it's just a four-page, single-fold pamphlet. If I'd paid $3 for it, I'd be upset.

I understand that Hero, like most other stamp companies, is relying more and more on the interwebs for marketing. With all the blogs promoting Hero Arts, it's certainly easy to find inspiration without bothering to look at the catalog. But I perused the new stamps on Ellen Hutson's website (which is a lovely website, by the way) weeks ago, and found that an annoyingly impersonal substitute for the catalog. Ellen sells the stamps (and that's all I expect from her), but Hero should love them and package the catalog in such a way that the love shows.

I miss the old catalogs. I miss the love.

For a full disclaimer, I should note that before children, I worked in marketing and coordinated production of many, many print pieces, brochures, and books. There's a value to beautifully produced print pieces that can actually be quantified, but the world is changing and clearly Hero Arts is following the times. It just makes me sad.

As for the new line of Hero Arts stamps, they're better than last year, but I miss the size indicators in previous catalogs. When stamps were shown at 60%, the old catalogs said so. This one does not, so you're left wondering how big they really are, especially if you're a new customer. That said, the whole line seems fresher to me, yet still clearly Hero Arts. There's some genuinely new stuff, along with some rehashed decade-old stamps, and it all works great together.

Which just goes to show that Hero's designers make stamps that stand the test of time and still seem fresh and fun and appealing. No complaints there.

Now, if they'll just give me an old-style, more inspiring catalog next year, one that I'll want to keep for years to come, I'll have nothing to complain about at all.


  1. Beautiful cards Susan! The soft ink color you used for the background is wonderful.

    I felt compelled to comment on your review of the Hero Arts Catalog. I enjoyed reading it and have to agree with the general premiss that print materials are shrinking. Initially, I was not happy with this trend either, being I'm a graphic designer. I've noticed that my print jobs have sadly dwindled over the last couple of years. Change is difficult for me, especially this change. In evaluating this issue I've come to the conclusion that although print may never die out totally. It's in transition and as long as we have the Internet it will never come back to its original glory. I'm finally settling in and embracing the idea that most, if not all of my inspiration will be coming from the Internet and other electronic medias.

    I've enjoyed your CAS card making and thought provoking writing over the past year. I look forward to more of your creativity in 2013.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jackie! You're still in the game, so to speak, whereas I have been out of it since 1999. So much has changed that I have been out of loop for, and as a result, I'm not going gently into that good night. You have the advantage over me of working through that change, and I'm so glad that you are embracing the new and finding goodness in it. It gives me hope that I'll get there...eventually!

  3. I felt the same about the catalog ... and although there is plenty of inspiration on the web, I prefer to have the paper in my hand. Having the inspiration of a card next to the stamp image was great in past issues. And I find browsing real paper more relaxing.

  4. Dear Susan, I just wanted to say thank you for all of your inspiration throughout the year. You are very kind and generous in sharing your work and thoughts. I wish you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

  5. Just adding my 2 cents worth here, too. As much as I looked forward to the catty- and with all the hype, to boot!-I was disappointed for the same reasons mentioned.
    Sadly, I found Better Homes & Gdns magazine dropped their January issue by a full 100 pages. My word, but that's ridiculous! A sign of the times? Ouch.
    On a fun note, we're still digging out of the record breaking (since 1971- I remember it, too!) 2 feet of snow here in Montreal, Cdn.
    It's soo, so pretty, though!!

  6. Thanks for another year of ideas, inspiration and thought-provoking blog posts. Best wishes for the new year!

  7. Hi, Susan! HAPPY NEW YEAR! These cards are all amazing--I especially LOVE the first one! Thank you for the review of the Hero Arts catty, too. I love catalogs as well but I don't like to pay money for one that does not provide inspiration. If I just want to see the stamp images, I'll go online. If I want inspiration, I buy the catty. But I guess not this one. How sad! Here's to hoping that this trend does NOT continue--I couldn't cope without the printed word and image!

  8. Hi and all the best of the new year to you. First, I really liked all the cards, even though lavender is not a go-to color of mine. By the time I got to the 3rd card, I was thinking, "That's SO not Susan!" and laughed when I read your comment on it. As for the catalog, I haven't bought a stamp catalog in years, both for the reason you mentioned and because of the temptation. I still have various stamp company catalogs from 5-7 years ago that were especially inspiring for layouts and ideas. Now, I rely on blogs and the occasional browse-through of a magazine at the store. If I like the ideas, I buy it. What's the world coming to when even Newsweek has shut down printing their "catalog."

  9. Oh, I hate the decrease of the printed word! In everything. I'm wondering if eventually I'll be forced to buy a kindle because that'll be the only way to read. But I'll hold out to the end! I love a real book, no matter what anyone says. I've noticed the same things in catalogs, Susan. Makes me wish I'd have saved all my early Stampin' Up catalogs that had SOOO many sample cards --- one or two with every single stamp set. I loved it for card layouts, but even more for seeing the beautiful results of putting different colored card stocks together that I'd never have considered. Their "layering" on cards was actually quite CAS back then. Progress and change is really hard for me, and my techno-husband just shakes his head at me.

  10. Happy New Year and welcome back.... you were missed.

    Nice little lesson in the cards today - love your bg use too :)

  11. I just wanted to start the new year by telling people how much I appreciate their sharing. I love reading your point of view and your CAS style. Thanks for all the inspiration. When I got my catalog in the mail, I thought surely it must be a mistake. This booklet is the new catalog? But, such are the times. Alas, I guess I'll be buying fewer catalogs.

  12. Happy New Year Susan!! I'm still following, hoping your CAS style will rub off on me amidst my cluttered world. LOL I'm no authority on anything, but I have an opinion about everything. I don't buy any stamp catalogs, but I do keep any that are sent to me or given to me with the purchase of stamps or dies. And I do love having that inspiration, although I refer to it very rarely for inspiration unless I'm desperate. LOL I don't know why. But it seems to me that the current economic depression is the reason for so many businesses cutting back. All businesses, not just the paper crafting ones. Advertisement has always been expensive. With the price of gas still high, delivery of product is so tough right now and businesses are cutting back where ever they can. And some are even making horrible decisions that end up closing their doors. I've seen so much dishonestly in businesses that I have dealt with over this several year economic depression. And it really shocks me, because in my mind everyone should be honest to begin with, but especially when keeping customers is so critical during a depression.

  13. I enjoyed reading your comments about the HA catalogs. I wasn't stamping in 2008 so I'm not aware of how things used to be at HA. I love their stamps and buy a lot of them, but can't say I'd ever pay for a catalog! LOL! My policy on that has always been that if someone is trying to sell me something I'm not going to pay for their advertising even if they throw in some ideas of how to use the products... it's all still their "advertising" to me. Maybe my attitude is reflective of the fact that I'm such a new stamper that I've always had the Internet available where I can find inspiration and more card samples than I could ever peruse. I'm sure with the terrible economy HA doesn't have as many customers who are even able to purchase a catalog, thus the cutbacks. I'm afraid with the economy the way it is and only getting worse we'll continue to see more and bigger cutbacks and unfortunately, not just at Hero Arts. I share your sadness, but for different reasons. I hope I'm wrong, but I think there are tougher times ahead than most people realize.

  14. In keeping with my new year's resolution to, ahem, keep it minimal, may I wish you a most Happy New Year and add I enjoy your lovely cards and honesty in your posts.

  15. As a long time Hero Arts customer, I too was considerably disappointed with the catalog....not just the lack of samples, but the quality of samples. Some just had one sentiment stamped on a tag and that was it. I decided to email Hero Arts with my concerns. They responded with the offer to email me the 4 page pamphlet, which I already had because the store I bought it from insisted that Hero send them the inserts for their customers. Next catalog that comes out, I will peruse it before buying.

    Encouraging others to communicate your thoughts to Hero as well. Maybe they will reconsider the next catalog.

  16. Happy New Year Susan. Yours is the one blog i keep coming back too. I love the clean look and find it hard for me to acheive but I do love that it's okay not to have to jump through hoops to make a more than presentable card. It's been a fun year even though I feel i haven't stamped as much as I'd like to. sometimes it just happens that way. Thanks for all your help.

  17. Fabulous cards, Susan!
    Very happy I found your blog this year - not only for the incredible inspiration but the brilliant writing too.

    Inspired and entertained = all in one place!

    I am a long time customer of Hero Arts, I have every catalogue from 1999 - except this years :( I have looked at it briefly online but have not has a chance to order it yet. That in itself is unusual, it is usually a definite countdown to when I can buy it and I would spend hours looking through it! There are definitely some changes afoot, over at the HA campus - quite possibly due to the economy! Hero Arts will always be my number one company, but with that being said, I do shop at other companies at times now, where as before I hardly ever did.

    Here is to a wonderful 2013 :)

  18. I have to agree with anonymous, having only been regularly crafting since 2009 I have always had the internet around for my inspiration. I have a number of blogs (yours included!) which I go to for inspiration when I'm in need of some. The number of online galleries, and now pinterest, along with google, means I can quite quickly find inspiration for particular stamp sets. The idea that I would pay for a catalogue seems completely alien to me. I would write to HA and let them know. at the very least they could send a password with the catalogue for a private photo gallery of sample pictures). On a separate note, I'd like to wish you a happy new year :)

  19. I just checked out the HA catalog online, and WOW was it unappealing. I always like to look at them online for all the inspiration (too cheap to buy one), but this one was really lacking.

    I'm sure it cost a lot less to produce, but as a consumer I am not a fan.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!