Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Inspired by...

Last month, stamper-extraordinaire Karen Dunbrook honored me on her Inspired by post. Karen has been a stamping friend and inspiration to me since long before I started this blog, and I was thrilled when she joined the old OLW OLS. Karen has a way with color and sponges that blows me away. Her colors pop right off the card and create such a feeling of depth and beauty. And her designs are so balanced and eye-pleasing, and she shares so much with the stamping community through her creativity and style and generous kindness!

Being tagged by Karen means answering a few questions, so here goes.

1. What are you working on right now?
Christmas and birthdays. I try to make all of next year's birthday cards for family and friends by the end of January. It gives me something to balance all the holiday-intensive crafting at this time of year. For Christmas, I'm making ornaments for several of my trees, including a book-themed tree. I'm also trying to get all my Thanksgiving Crusade cards mailed before Thanksgiving.

2. How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Hmmm. I'd say the most unique thing about my work is how bare it is. I adore white space...that wonderful, restful empty space in a design. My favorite cards are always the ones with clean lines and LOTS of white space. I also enjoy layering white on white, color blocking, grids, visual triangles, and bling. Lots of bling!


3. Why do you create what you do?
There are really two motives. First, I want to make stuff that will cheer someone up or let them know I care. That's why I get so much pleasure from sending cards to Operation Write Home...the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines want to show someone back home they care, and enabling that little bit of love is enormously satisfying.

Second, I want to make stuff using a minimalist philosophy that really appeals to my soul but absolutely does NOT apply to my life. My life is cluttered and messy and out of my control in so many ways (often good ways!), but when I make a well-designed minimalist card, it gives me a much-needed sense of balance and (dare I say it?) control. For me, the design process is about answering this question: how can I convey my message in a minimalist way and still keep it interesting?

4. How does your creative process work?
It's all over the place. I get inspiration from everywhere...magazines, television, signage around town, advertisements, book covers, dishes, clothes and fabric, product packaging, blogs, websites, home décor, you name it.

Out of that rich garden of inspiration, I try to limit myself, often in very artificial ways. I might decide to use every stamp in my Background stamp box, or I might decide to find five different uses for Smooch, or I might take a particular color combo off dishes at Target and see how many different looks I can get with it or I might choose to use some technique in various ways to get different effects. Without some sort of limit, I am easily overwhelmed and will spend too much time staring at my stash rather than working with it.

Then my minimalism kicks in. I usually make a gosh-awful mess, pulling out all sorts of options as I work, but most of them don't actually get used. You'd be surprised at the number of times I pull out twine or ribbon...'cause they hardly ever show up on my cards! But there they are, on my desk, as a possibility.

Once I make a card, I often make a variation on it with all that stuff I pulled out but didn't use. Maybe I'll make the same design in a different color scheme or with a different stamp set. Maybe I'll switch coloring techniques or look for block stamps rather than outlines. Variation is critical to my creative process. I never ever ever copy anything directly. I let inspiration goad me into different directions. When I do CASifications (when I clean-and-simplify someone else's design), it's just a form of variation. The stepping-off point is really just the springboard for all sorts of creative play, and in the CASifications, it's the play of stripping down a design to the barest minimum needed.

And that's my creative process!


The rules that go along with this Inspired By challenge are pretty simple, but I'm not going to follow them exactly (sorry, Karen!). I'm going to share three formative influences in my stamping but NOT require them to continue the challenge...I suspect one has already been tapped numerous times, and the other two aren't even stampers.

And yes, I break every single chain letter I'm ever sent.

The first and most powerful influence on my creative style was a graphic design artist named Liz King. Liz and I worked together at Micron Technology in the marketing communications department. I was a writer/editor, and Liz did the design for brochures, charts, white papers, sales conference materials, print ads, whatever was needed. Liz's style is clean and simple, and I adore everything she does. She has such an instinct for connecting meaning and visual impact. She also made my baby shower invitations before I even knew people did that sort of thing!

Several years after I left that job and started thinking paper crafting might be fun to try, I knew I wanted to make stuff like Liz. I wanted that peace and simplicity in my work...and it took me YEARS to get it. YEARS.

Cathy Zielski was a huge help, though. She wrote a book called Clean and Simple Scrapbooking, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I'd found my teacher, someone who clearly went to the same design school (figuratively speaking) as my friend Liz. Cathy's style is very computer-generated (just like a graphic design artist!), and part of my challenge with her book was to adapt her principles to hand-stamped and hand-written scrapbook pages and stamped cards. I soaked up Cathy's book, read it, re-read it, analyzed it, parsed it...and gradually, through lots of trial and error, I figured out how to apply what she taught to stamping.

At least, I learned to apply it well enough to satisfy my inner critic. Remember, there is a huge difference between what skilled graphic design artists and crafters like me can do. Both Liz and Cathy are professionals. I'm having lots of fun pretending to be them, though!

The first and most influential stamper in my stamping life was Her Royal Rubberness Julie Ebersole. Julie was big on SplitcoastStampers when I was just lurking, and I wanted to be her, just like I wanted to be Liz and Cathy. She's still big on SCS; visit her gallery and see! I followed her blog and eventually took an online design class from her that was hugely helpful. I love her enthusiasm as much as I love her creativity. She gushes and swoons and giggles and squeals for love of this hobby, and she inspires us all to be giddy, too!

There's not enough giddy in the world.

So now you know the formative influences on my style. I'd love to read about YOURS! Did you have some unusual influence early on that helped you in this craft? What is your creative process? Please do share!

And thank you, Karen, for your kind words that prompted this post.


  1. I love learning more about your muse's etc Susan. You inspire me. I love your clean perfections.

  2. Great post and lovely, lovely cards :-)

  3. love your cards...
    Just wondering who make the I love you a bushel and a peck stamp.


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