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Tuckamore Design is a very small handcrafted card and print company based in Buffalo, New York. I'm a Canadian transplant, originally from Newfoundland. I've been a printmaker for 15 years, almost as long as I've been an architect. I never formally studied art, but I've taken classes from a handful of amazing artists at Dundarave Print Workshop in Vancouver, BC, and NSCAD in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I love paper, especially since I spend a lot of hours every day working on a computer for my other business, Design Synergies Architecture.

I also love to create handcrafted greeting cards for everyday and seasonal occasions. When the inspiration hits (and I have time), I make the occasional original print. Every piece is printed by hand or on an etching press.

In the early days, my prints and cards were featured at the Canadian Craft Museum, the Craft Association of British Columbia shop, and various exhibits in Vancouver and Halifax. My cards have been sold in shops in the Maritime Provinces, Buffalo, NY, and most recently in Martinsburg, West Virginia! Through my Etsy site, my cards have been sent all over the world.

My work is influenced by Celtic and Art Nouveau design, by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and by the Arts & Crafts movement. I found inspiration for several years in my front porch container garden in the Elmwood Village in Buffalo, and now I'm daydreaming of spring in my new backyard garden.

My favourite medium is linoleum block printing, especially blind embossed prints (deeply impressed and printed without ink). I'm about to embark on a watercolour adventure, and I'm wondering how that will find its way into my printmaking....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Valuing your work

Many artists, including me, struggle with pricing their work.  I've thought long and hard about how much I should charge for my handmade cards, and every time I walk down the card aisle at the grocery store, I am reminded of just how close my pricing is to that of the leading commercial card companies.

Think about it:  if you can buy a store-bought card by one of the big three (Hallmark, American Greetings, Carlton Cards) for $4, would you spend an extra 50 cents and buy something handmade and unique?  Maybe my prices are too low for the amount of work that goes into each one.  And pricing my prints?  Help!  Have no idea where to start because I honestly don't know what someone would want to pay for it.  I've tried formulas, price per square inch, and comparing it to other artists' work.  I've sold certain pieces for specific prices, so I won't go any lower than that.  I know my print prices are low but maybe it's more about confidence in the marketability of your work.

There's a really great post by Emily of Paper Tiger Press that talks about the importance of valuing your work and finding the right balance between charging too much and too little.  I highly recommend reading it.  By the way, her letterpress work is really stunning - be sure to check it out while you're on her blog.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Adventures in papermaking

Last weekend, I spent a few hours in a papermaking class at a local art store.  That got my mind spinning, as it often does, with new ideas for cards and paper art.  I spent much of sunday annoying my husband with the sound of tearing paper.  But I've got a lot of raw material to work with now!

One of the problems with paper-based art is that you sometimes screw things up, and that creates waste.  Waste drives me crazy.  In my other life, I'm an architect specializing in green buildings and sustainable design.  So I have a really hard time being a waste generator.  Taking that class was part of the greater plan to develop a line of eco-friendly cards using my own paper.  I've been wanting to do it for ages, finally got a chance to get into a class last weekend.

In printmaking, there are sometimes misprints:  a plate or a sheet may slip when going through the press, or you get ink on your fingers and unknowingly transfer it to good paper.  Usually, my mess-ups involve not paying attention to what I'm doing or trying to rush through a step.  Haste makes waste, quite literally.

I'm a big believer in what green architect William McDonough says about garbage:  waste = food.  What he means, in the context of manufacturing, is that the discards of one process should feed other processes.  

I have so much wasted art paper that can be made into new paper.  I also have a ton of newspapers, magazines, utility bills, etc. - we generate a surprising amount of paper in our lives.  And in my day job, there is way too much paper that gets wasted when we print drawings for reviews, then print them again for more reviews. 

I've already started collecting paper into boxes in my studio, some of it torn into bite-size pieces and ready to go into the blender. 

One of the ladies in my class last weekend brought lavender and I put some in a couple of sheets - heavenly!  It is the best smelling paper!  That got me thinking about other natural additives - I have a bumper crop of Boxwood Basil this year which is just crying out to be picked.  There's only so much pesto a girl can make!  Might be interesting to drop some of it into a paper mixture.

I've also been saving flowers from my garden that I can add to the pulp mixture.   Sheets of paper aren't the only things you can make - I've been thinking about designing paper sculptures,  using recycled paper pulp, like a paper casting. 

Our instructor had some really neat ideas, and I jotted down a few of my own in my sketchbook.  I'm really psyched to get started on some new work.  Let's just say that this year's collection of Christmas gift tags are going to smell yummy....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Busy summer so far

Etsy's "Christmas in July" promotion kept me busy for most of July, trying to keep up with orders (I know, what a problem to have!).  I sold a lot of last year's holiday cards, which made space in the studio for this year's batch - soon to be starting up again.  My Snowflake card was the biggest seller - I sold every last one of them, and had to stop relisting it!  I won't be making any more of them until September.

I also joined an Etsy team, Unique Women in Business (UWIB), which has been great.  So many talented and supportive artisans in that group - really happy to be part of it.

As soon as the orders started coming in, I realized just how big a mess the studio had become.  I couldn't find anything!  All of my shipping materials and my files were in a hopeless pile.  It took me about a day and a half to deal with that, but now it's a working studio again.  Good thing, because I have to produce a lot of stuff for an upcoming show in November (Women's Gifts) and for the holiday season.

My shop was featured in at least 6 treasuries on Etsy last month (seriously, I lost count - it was a crazy couple of weeks), which no doubt helped boost sales.  That was very exciting.  Now it's time to start thinking about christmas card designs, and trying to find winter inspiration in 80+ degree weather....(this photo was taken in Newfoundland after a late winter ice storm).

I ordered some promotional postcards from VistaPrint, which arrived yesterday.  They look great, and now I have to finish my list of places to send them!  I ordered them to promote my work to retail shops.  My plan is to send them out to a selection of shops where I think my work might fit very well.  That's a tough thing to figure out - you never really know if a shop owner is going to like the few photos on the postcard enough to look at your website, but it's worth a shot.

Have to get them in the mail before I head out on vacation in a couple of weeks - a road trip to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  I'll be checking out some shops along the way.  I already found a lovely irish shop in Portsmouth, NH, that I want to visit. 

I'd love to cut back on shows and increase my wholesale market.  That's one of my business goals for this year.  My original big goal, when I first wrote my business plan, was to recoup the investment in my press!  I'm getting closer to that!

And as of October 9th, Tuckamore Design will be 1 year old!  I'm going to do a special promotion in my Etsy shop for that, but I'm not sure exactly what yet. 

But before that, my birthday is on August 5th and I'm going to feature free shipping all day on Thursday.