Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Competition: Friend or Foe?

What does competition mean to you?  Does it have to be a "bad" thing?  Does the end result justify the means when it comes to more than one person achieving at a certain level, task, or career path?  Much like love, and war, is all really fair in chasing down a goal?  Is it ok to throw ethics out the window in order to be on top?

I ask these things, because this notion of competing has been on my mind lately.  I'm learning that it clearly means something different to everyone, and I'm left wondering if many people really believe it's ok to completely forego ethical practices all in the name of "success," and since we're on the topic, where exactly does that ethical line lie? 

Earlier I touched on the topic of competition viewed as something to guard against, but it's always been my opinion that this is silly, and something that is impossible to avoid.  I mean really, on a planet with how many - like 7 billion people (?) isn't it unrealistic to think you can protect yourself from this idea of competition?  Not to mention exhausting!  Now, I'm not saying you need to go around giving away your secret recipe, but what's wrong with telling someone your bottling company?  For me, what it has always boiled down to is, what exactly does it matter?  I definitely don't suggest doing all the footwork for other people, and laying yourself out there like a fine Persian rug to get fully walked all over, but I find nothing wrong with sharing information. 

I admit, I was more than just a bit taken aback when shortly after launching a new item in my Etsy shop I received an email from a person claiming to work with troubled teens, and wanting to know how I made my Out of the Loop scarves so the kids could learn it as a positive project experience.  Now, no matter what you've heard about my naivety, I wasn't born yesterday, and I was totally skeptical of the validity of the whole story I'd been fed.  After thinking about it, however, I literally asked myself "What's it to ya?" what was it to me if this was all some big lie just to get the inside scoop on how to make a scarf?  Truthfully, I was a little irked at first, because before jumping in with this new product, I'd done my research, I'd looked for it under every possible name, and found no one else making, and selling them, so I was very excited to be the first person to bring this item to the market (as far as I was aware).  It was with trepidation that I spilled my secret to this stranger, but the reality of the entire situation was that ANYONE could walk into their local crafts store, and purchase the same kit I had bought and used to create my scarves.  This was not some epic secret I had to protect, so really what is the harm in telling the person what I'd used, and where I bought it? 

It's my opinion that the difference between information-sharing attitudes, and information-hoarding attitudes is confidence.  The confidence in your own skills to be the best, the confidence in your own imagination to keep your creations fresh, and the confidence in your own personal style that you are able to create things that people will swoon for no matter how many others are out there.  I also believe "competition" keeps you reaching into your bag of tricks to keep things on the cutting edge, keep pushing yourself, and your boundaries, and I think to a degree without it things get stale.  So really it seems that the loss isn't incurred by the sharing, but that we lose more by NOT sharing with each other along the journey. 

Share something today, and watch what you get in return.  I promise it will be worth it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Color Me Happy!

On the heels of this week's lows, came some pretty unexpected highs.  It's funny, they always say when a door closes, a window opens, and so it seemed with the discovery of a new-to-me blog that I can't believe I've lived this long without!  Pugly Pixel now neatly nestled into my sidebar is the brain child of a massively creative chick by the name of Katrina, and let me tell you she is a force, to be sure!  I accidentally stumbled upon her virtual presence by way of another fave brought to us by Victoria Smith, SF Girl By Bay - which, if you're not familiar, you must make yourself.  I've lurked on Victoria's blog for ages now, and always find it a wealth of information, and am hopelessly in love with the gratuitous display of design heavy eye candy.  Whenever I'm down, or find my creativity tapped out, I take a spin around her posts, because nothing kicks my imagination back into high gear like saturating my brain with interesting images, and she delivers, let me tell you.  In fact, don't let me tell you -- Go!  Click!  See for yourself, you won't be disappointed.

But it was during my stroll through Pugly Pixel that I found this post for people tragically addicted to creating color palettes in need of a clever way to display them.  Finding myself unable to resist the temptation, I had to snag this little freebie, and give it a whirl.  In the spirit of Spring, here's what I've come up with:
The gist of it is that you can insert your own picture into the largest circle, and then in Photoshop you
can use your color selection tool (little eyedropper guy) to pull colors out of the main picture.  You might be wondering why this would be a significant feature, well I'll tell you!  Let's say you have a drab room you want to redecorate, and you have no idea where to start, but you have a fabulous painting of GIANT Easter eggs, and a teeny, tiny sprig of a tree that you want to base your decor around.  You're just in luck!  Scan, or photograph your art, upload into Photoshop, insert into this layout, and start pickin' ... pretty soon you will find yourself with a coordinating palette, and ready to get your interior design on. 

Another way I've used the template is by plugging in the colors of Pantone's Fashion Color Reports so they can be easily accessed, and close at hand when I need to reference them.  I find pulling up jpegs (or png's in this case) a much quicker task than loading a 25 page, and upward PDF file.  I've got an example of half of the Spring 2012 ladies' forecast.  Apparel industry leaders (among others, i.e. interior design, and automotive to name a few) use the Pantone Color Reports, as well as others of their products to forecast, and predict popular colors for the upcoming seasons.  Paying members receive their copy of the report in advance to plan ahead for their upcoming lines, and collections, however a free copy of the report is introduced to the public a bit later.  The Fall 2012 Pantone Fashion Color Report was just released February 9th, kicking off Fashion Week.  Your free copy of the report is available here

If you're jonesing for your own Pugly Pixel color palette photo layout template, go grab one, and if you run into trouble trying to use it, cruise Katrina's tutorials, her corner of cyberspace is spilling with a wealth of knowledge.  I'm so excited to have found this site, and even more so to be sharing it with you now.  I know I'll be checking back in for her tips, and discoveries, and once you drink the kool-aid, I'm sure you will be too!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Promises, Promises

This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me juggling projects old, and new, making changes around the ol' blogstead with even more to come (ooooh, suspense!), replenishing inventory, and drawing from my inspiration-well to get me through the creativity slump.  It was during this virtual inspirational stroll - pail in hand ready to dip into the cool, fresh water of like minded creative chicks (and their blogs I lurk on) when I was met with, I won't say "bitter" disappointment, but more like utter disappointment in the virtual company I'd been keeping (so to speak).

I'm not really a blog-aholic kind of gal, but I do have a small list of faves I like to check in on now and again.  In an age where you need to be S.C.U.B.A. certified to swim through the ever growing blog deluge for me it's important to narrow it down to a handful of specific blogs speaking to the very things that spark my imagination (lotsa eye candy a must!), published by creative women whom I respect as people, writers, and as a source of inspiration not just in the neato colors they pick out for their next project or their super-duper blog backgrounds, but as businesswomen in "The Industry."  

With a heavy heart the other day I read a post by a lady in the creative game I'd been following for several years as she took the time to explain to her readers she couldn't afford the time to answer individual emails from her fans, and readers who were seeking information on how she'd managed to break into this specific creative market, and managed to make a full-time job out of it.  Allow me to be clear, I know what it's like to be a busy lady -- whether it's children, career, continuing education, girls in high school, whomever you are, and whatever you're doing right now, if you're attempting to do it at the top of what your skills allow, then you KNOW what it's like to be a busy lady!  I'm certainly not busting on anyone for valuing their time, but I think it's important to know before you step into the Blogosphere, and start making certain (and in some cases, all) of your life public material, that you will be opening yourself up to a rather large volume of inquiries, and correspondence.  Granted, much like you can't be everywhere at once, you can't individually answer everyone's burning questions at once (or can you? A simple FAQ section, or blanket letter touching on the basics, with a few book titles to look into can actually cover a lot.), and like my mother has always discussed with me throughout life, it's not about what happens to you, or what comes up along the way, it's all about how you handle it. 

It was with disappointment that I continued reading along as the blogger then slagged off her readers as potential competition, therefore making it, in her opinion, a valid reason to keep her readers in the dark as to how they might follow her lead into an industry where not so long ago she was an unknown newcomer, going as far as downplaying key skills to know, and brush up on, whilst feeding them with false information.  Instead of being flattered, or excited to network with potential new colleagues she, in my opinion, alienated many of her readers, and made them feel like idiots for doing the one thing that so many industry insiders actually advise people to do!  "Find a blog specific to your prospective field, and get in touch with the blogger, and ask them how they got their start."  That's savvy networking, but there seems to be some confusion about that word today (believe me it has nothing to do with updating your status).  I can't say this was the only thing that turned me off of this particular blog, but it was certainly a big reason, along with the snide attitude from which it was delivered.

I created this blog at a time when I really needed something positive to look forward to.  I, like many who take to the keyboard these days, had NO idea what direction this whole "project" was going to go.  What I did know, was that I was committed to keeping it a positive experience.  I believe you can have a bad day, and even talk about things you don't like without going to an ugly, or god forbid, whiny place - blegh!  Who wants to read that?!  Thing is, I knew from experience, having had a marginally successful following on my blog posts in Myspace (remember that joint?!), exactly who wanted to read my sarcastic version of complaint-blogging.  I admit, it was funny, but the bottom line was, even though there was humor involved it was based in a negative place, and soon became too exhausting to engage in ... then take into account the comments section where people like to come and argue your opinion with you, and then turn and argue with each other!  ARGH!  That's what lead me to take a different approach in this forum, oh yeah and disable the comments (which I catch a lot of flack over, but hey, different strokes!).  Now that I'm here, and looking back at where it started, and where I'm heading (which is still a "?") I took a moment to re-read my tag up there in About Me where it states, "Created as a behind the scenes look at the creative process ..." and shamefully admit that I haven't exactly held up my end of the bargain when it comes to behind the scenes.  I've given you lots of opinions, and updates, but not a lot of insider looks at what goes on around here leaving it to come off like a wand is waved and voila all this wonderful stuff just occurs. 

So what does this mean?  Well, it means life happens!  Things come up along the way that pull focus, and need your attention, and that's okay.  Not updating a weblog, or even taking a break from it for a while (*GASP* without so much as a guest blogger!) is not the end of the world.  However, it wouldn't hurt for me to be a little more involved around here, and I do look forward to jumping back in a little bit, even if the jumps are bunny-hops, and as always ... we'll see where this goes!