Archive for April, 2014

Ode to Japan: iconic nature, timeless tea

April 30, 2014

We’re starting a three-part series looking at inspiration from Japan, because it’s an inspiration of a country. There’s so much to love, from manga and anime to kabuki theater and sumo to – of course – sushi. Don’t even start us on the amazing pens and stationery, in every thinkable color – though we might have to draw the line at the cat cafés.

 

You may know that Japan also has a rich artistic tradition, going back centuries and ranging from pottery to woodblock prints to calligraphy.

 

Some art depicts important Japanese traditions – like the tea ceremony. Also called “the Way of Tea,” or chanoyu, it was influenced by Zen Buddhism and Chinese tea-drinking practices, since at least the 13th century. Full of ritual, it centers around the host honoring the guests, by methodically preparing and serving matcha (powdered green tea) in a memorized series of hand movements and gestures. It’s also a spiritual experience that embodies the Buddhist principles of harmony, purity, tranquility and respect.

 

The Mitsuji Preparing Tea Japanese Vintage Art Poster shows this tradition in action, from the ceremonial dress to the humbleness of the host (on the right) to the array of utensils used to grind, heat and serve the tea. It’s actually very bitter, so they serve it with traditional sweets. Make sure you do the same when your guests come over:

http://www.zazzle.com/mitsuji_preparing_tea_japanese_vintage_art_poster-228500919754467687

 

Realistically, we can’t talk Japan and ignore its stunning nature. From lakes and archipelagos to mountain ranges and sea, it’s a beauty of a country. Not far from Nagano, home of the 1998 Winter Olympics, is the small town of Shinano (population: under 10,000). It was part of Shinano Province before being absorbed into Nagano Prefecture, in 1871.

 

Shortly before, a painting was made depicting its steep slopes, tall trees, verdant mountains and homes that blend into it all. The Shinano, Japan circa 1837 Poster pays homage to this town of tranquil beauty:

 

http://www.zazzle.com/shinano_japan_circa_1837_famous_places_of_japan_poster-228158866666505737

 

We finish with a flourish: Mount Fuji, standing more than 12,000 feet tall, is Japan’s highest peak and still an active volcano (last erupted in 1707-8). On a clear day, you can see its symmetrical, snow-capped peak from Tokyo. It’s a national symbol, worshipped as a sacred mountain and, as of 2013, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – having “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries.”

 

The Red Fuji Poster comes from a woodcut made by Katsushika Hokusai, around 1831. Considered a master of landscapes, the artist was one of the first from Japan to gain renown in the West. This print, one of his best-known works, is part of a series of 36 views of Mount Fuji.

 

Allegedly, if you dream about the mountain on the first night of the new year, the rest of that year will be lucky. Who knows – maybe if you hang it in your bedroom, you’ll join the ranks:

 

http://www.zazzle.com/red_fuji_jp_poster-228882118859157346

 

Next in our ode to Japan, we grace you with food inspirations. Save your appetite!

5 Ways to Stay Sane When Working from Home

April 28, 2014

As a Zazzle store owner, sometimes designing and promoting your products can get a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re working from home. With distractions like the fridge and laundry around, it’s not always easy to stay focused. This week we’ve come up with five tips that will help you keep your sanity and stay productive.

1. Set goals

Setting long and short-term goals will keep you motivated and focused on reaching your end vision.  Sometimes it helps to define your high level goals first, and then work backwards to identify the milestones you’ll need to hit on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis to reach these goals.

2. Create a daily work schedule

Making a daily work schedule can help you keep your work and personal life balanced. Make a schedule for yourself and write down  how much time you would like to spend on each activity for that day. Do you want to spend 4 hours on designing and 4 hours on building and sharing links? Are there any important site or blog updates that you need to carve out time for? Are there any holidays or current events for which you need to revise your schedule?  Along with planning out your schedule, it’s also helpful to have a set end time for your workday so you don’t run over into your family time.

3.  Have a designated work area

Having a designated work area is key to staying focused. There are plenty of distractions at home like the television and the dishes — and those snacks in the cabinet aren’t going to eat themselves. Therefore, it’s important to have an office or desk that is specifically allocated for your work time. Create an environment that works best for you and take factors like  lighting, space, and distraction levels into consideration.

4.  Take breaks

Taking breaks can help improve your productivity. Breaks let you reflect on what you have done so far for the day and on what tasks you still need to finish. It’s good to get up once an hour and take a five minute break to let your mind and eyes rest. Getting out of the house is a good idea as well; eat lunch in a nearby cafe or go for a walk  around the neighborhood, for example.  It’s important to have these little environmental changes so that your work and home life don’t blend into one, and you can stay on track.

5.  Remember why you work

Remembering what got you started working on Zazzle can help you stay motivated because it reminds you why you do what you do. Are you working to pay bills or is it because you are passionate about what you do? Maybe you are seeking financial freedom, or maybe you are looking to be known and recognized. Perhaps it’s a little bit of everything. Whatever the reason, little positive reminders like post-it notes on your computer or posters on your wall can help you stay inspired and driven during your day.

 

Happy designing & affiliating!

 

5 Tips on Promoting Your Small Business With Swag And Gear

April 27, 2014

We all know that social media is an effective way to market your small business, but if you’re hosting an event or trying to get a local marketing strategy going, you’re going to need some in-person enticements. One of the best ways to do that is with company swag or gear. To ensure your swag marketing efforts are effective, check out these five tips.

1. Make Your Swag Relevant

Think about your audience. Handing out key chains at an event with a lot of young kids is probably not going to be the right strategy. On the other hand, giving away iPhone cases at a function with an older audience probably won’t work so well either. Take some time to think about what kind of swag your audience truly wants or needs, and tailor your strategy accordingly.

2. Commit to a High Level of Quality

It’s always tempting to go with inexpensive swag, but it’s just not a good business move. You might consider giving away 1,000 flyers with your logo on them a success, but since they are not reusable, most likely the majority of them will get lost or thrown away. Products like t-shirts, tote bags and stationery are great example of items people will use again and again, and when they do, they’ll see your logo on them.

3. Get Involved in a Wide Variety of Events

You can get different types of swag or gear no matter how you want to market your business, but it all depends on the particular event – the more you sign-up for, the wider the audience you reach. Research local events, investigate area businesses looking for sponsorship, and keep abreast of upcoming regional festivals. Once you have an understanding of how to promote your business, you can get a better idea of the swag or gear you need.

4. Get Creative

Giving out smaller swag may be seen as passé or cheap, and handing out generic bottled water doesn’t get the word out about your business. However, if you gave away a reusable water bottles with your logo on it, your advertising has staying power. You could also give out something unique like a flask or a deck of playing cards.

5. Ask your customers

Still having a hard time coming up with the right swag or gear for your next event? Just ask your customers. Reach out to them via your social media pages, alert them of your upcoming event, and don’t be shy about asking what kind of swag they’d most appreciate. You can even institute a customer survey if your event isn’t imminent. Choosing the right swag or gear is important, but you can avoid the guessing game by going straight to the source.

What successes have you seen from using swag or gear to promote your business?

Featured Designer Interview with Christina Siravo

April 25, 2014

This week we’re talking with illustrator Christina Siravo about her diverse creative background and how Zazzle has helped her make a living as an artist.

Zazzle: Tell us about you! Where are you from/where do you live?

Christina: I live in Portland, Maine and am a graduate of the Maine College of Art, where I earned my BFA in Illustration. I am also a professional singer- cantoring for weddings and funerals, and I enjoy performing music locally.

I’ve been able to make a living through creating art and singing– and Zazzle has been a really great tool in helping me to achieve that goal.

Zazzle: What is your background in art or design?

Christina: When I was a child, I began designing my own greeting cards and selling them door to door- I was encouraged and pursued it further. We also wrote and illustrated our own books in elementary school, as a class assignment- and since then I knew what I was going to do. In high school and through art college I was involved in musical theater and Opera productions. Music continues to be a source of inspiration for me and they go hand in hand.

At MECA, I was given the opportunity to explore a variety of mediums such as printmaking and oil painting, sculpture and so on. It was in my second to last year that I was able to declare a major in illustration (we were the first “Official” Illustration majors to graduate from MECA!) I was so glad because Illustration was definitely my calling.  I love cartooning as well, and I work with children after school and in the summer teaching cartooning.

Zazzle: Where do you find inspiration for your artwork?

Christina: There are so many things! I have an active imagination and really love anything with an old, quirky, vintage style and aesthetic: fairy tales, vintage illustrations, metal lunchboxes, package designs, old children’s books. I’m especially drawn to animals, and expressing their different unique personalities through drawing. I also enjoy drawing fantasy art, and my art is influenced by many different cultures.  I keep getting drawn back to styles of Illustration that inspired me as a child, such as strawberry Shortcake, Beatrix Potter, Lisa Frank, etc.

When I’m working with kids, it’s really inspiring to see them learn and grow, when they have an “a ha” moment, or discover how to create something new in their own style. They inspire me all the time with their great ideas and make me laugh –they’re so fun to work with!  Unlike many adults, they still use their imaginations freely, which is a very refreshing perspective to be around.

Zazzle: How did you get started on Zazzle?

Christina: I started back in 2007. I wanted to find a way to get my art onto products, and make sure I retained ownership of all of my designs. Being on Zazzle gave me that kind of control over my art, the types of products I want to make and royalties.

I’ve had a very good experience with Zazzle, and I recommend it to other artists when they ask me about the different ways I earn income from my art.

Zazzle: Do you have a favorite Zazzle product? Which of your designs seem to be your best-sellers?

Christina: It depends! I have so many different images that would go well on different products!

My most popular designs are definitely the “Sushi Cat” series. People seem to like them so much, and can always find one that reminds them of their own cat, or a cat of someone they know! People also really enjoy birds and any kind of animal related illustrations. Typewriters are also pretty popular too! (I have three! )

Zazzle: What advice would you give someone who wants to start out with their own Zazzle store?

Christina: I’ve noticed that people really like products that they can customize, so it seems that allowing customers to add their own touches is a good way to get more sales.

I’d also recommend uploading seasonal designs prior to the Holiday- People are often looking for customizable cards and seasonal related merchandise. See what other designers on Zazzle are doing as well, and try be a part of the community by promoting other artists too.

Bad grammar: something up with which we’d never put

April 24, 2014

There are two kinds of people on Earth: descriptive grammarians and prescriptive grammarians. Not that we have to tell you that, of course. It’s a bitter divide among grammar nerds, and it’s unlikely ever to end. (See how we didn’t split that infinitive? You’re welcome.)

 

It’s all about how we use language and what “correct” English means. Is it the grammar, spelling and syntax from the rules we’ve made and tweaked over time (say the prescriptive camp), or the language we use naturally every day, with its errors and emphasis on simplicity (retort the descriptive camp)?

 

We’re not going to take a stand; we just want to be understood, and loved. (Notice the semi-colon there?) But you, dear nerd, must pick your side. Do you use the Oxford comma? When to use the semi-colon versus the colon? Whatever side you choose, rest assured you’ll have validation (and impeccable punctuation).

 

The sticklers among you will get a major grammar kick out of the Prepositions Mug, whose meta self-awareness will make you smirk whenever you sip your loose-leaf tea:

http://www.zazzle.com/prepositions_mug-168009615362418262

Maybe your pet peeve is when people misuse cognates? We know. Breathe. Let it out. It will be OK. Have a sweet hot chocolate, marshmallows and whipped cream and all, in the Grammar Nut Caffeine Effect Mug:

http://www.zazzle.com/grammar_nut_caffeine_effect_mug-168922739809876156

 

Something else that’s sure to affect you, with only positive effects, is our final mug of choice — the classic “walk into a bar” scenario applied to … grammar! Contain yourself. Behave. Get ready for the It Was Tense Coffee Mug, and order two for each of your grammar-nerd friends, since they’ll definitely break the first out of exuberance:

http://www.zazzle.com/it_was_tense_coffee_mugs-168218215693101744

 

Obviously we don’t have to remind you of the panda that eats shoots and leaves (comma-free). We applaud your crusade to keep English clean, fun and full of puns. Word.

Happy birthday to The Bard: here’s what’s in a name

April 23, 2014

Act One:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death …

 

Shakespeare was born in 1564,

The exact birth date still unknown to us

But celebrated on April 23

(He was baptized on April 26).

His plays are staged more than anyone else’s,

And translated into every major language.

How’s that for just one man (ignoring the conspiracies)?

 

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England

He was the third of eight children, to John

And Mary, alderman and landowner

(Respectively), as this black-and-white print

Of Shakespeare’s birthplace handsomely depicts:

http://www.zazzle.com/shakespeares_birthplace_print-228268570094171478

 

Act Two:

… Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.

 

In London, 1598-99,

Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing,

A brilliant piece of comedy and wit

With man and woman fated to pair up,

But they must court each other first until

They realize it. The Front Piece to the Quarto,

Dated 1623, is priceless,

As both memento and an iPad case:

http://www.zazzle.com/front_piece_to_much_ado_about_nothing_quarto_ipad_mini_case-256345527602145106

 

Act Three:

Pray you now, forget and forgive: I am old and foolish.

 

In London, 1603-6, he wrote

One of his final plays: King Lear, about

An older man gone mad over power

And ego (sound familiar?), who must make

Amends with his estranged daughter Cordelia.

This oil painting by Hillingford portrays

Lear vulnerably, winning forgiveness

From Cordelia. At last, some happy peace:

http://www.zazzle.com/cordelia_and_king_lear_oil_on_canvas_poster-228191120846294305

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumber’d here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream …

 

 

I Left My Heart In…

April 22, 2014

We’ve asked Katrina Lau, a longtime resident of San Francisco, and also a fantastic member of our marketing team, to pick her favorite Zazzle products that exemplify this beautiful city.  Though it can sometimes be a foggy city, it’s also a city for foodies!  But it’s not just the great restaurants that have us loving San Francisco, so here are a few other reasons.

 

Packed with good eats, rich culture, and historic landmarks, it’s no wonder that tourists flock to the City by the Bay each year! San Francisco’s just a quick 30 minute drive from our Redwood City office, and we Zazzlers would love to introduce to you our prime picks for this popular hilly city.

 

First stop: Golden Gate Bridge. There’s no skipping out on this famous landmark, and it’s a breathtaking view even for San Franciscans. Let’s take a piece of the bridge home with us, shall we?

http://www.zazzle.com/the_magic_electric_golden_gate_of_san_francisco_poster-228198154342269214?pt=pillow-189097350464634670

 

Beautiful scenery doesn’t just come in the form of bridges, though. Mission Dolores Park is a perfect place to enjoy good eats and take in this city’s culture. Grab some famous sandwiches and ice cream and don’t forget your phone case showing off this cool spot by local artist Nidhi Chanani:

http://www.zazzle.com/simple_pleasures_galaxy_s3_covers-179959998889318824?pt=case-179906216136705013

 

San Francisco’s also known for beautiful architecture, and one of the most popular styles in the city are Victorian homes. These Painted Ladies are located in Alamo Square, and while they’ve been featured in numerous media outlets, we like them because they’re the perfect mix of color, elegance, and city history.

http://www.zazzle.com/a_row_of_victorian_homes_poster-228681654381946116

 

Flower power and tie-dye of the 60s may be mostly gone today, but the Haight Ashbury district still boasts a peace and love culture. Good vibes, strong diversity, and hip boutiques and restaurants make this famous intersection a go-to if you’re in the city!

http://www.zazzle.com/haight_ashbury_tshirts-235665501725372684

From gifts on cable cars to Chinatown, we’ve got all your bases covered.

http://www.zazzle.com/san_francisco_mug_by_hearts_and_all-168890793028374488

How to Start a Blog with WordPress

April 21, 2014

Starting a blog is a fantastic way to promote your products, your brand and yourself. Did you also know that writing a blog is also a great way to connect with your fans and customers?

Today, we’ll show you how to create your own blog on one of the most popular and easy to use platforms – WordPress.

1) Create your WordPress account

To create your account go to http://www.wordpress.com and click “Get Started”. Next, fill out your email address, choose a username and password, and pick your blog domain address. WordPress will let you know if the domain address that you choose  is taken,  and will also show you suggestions for similar domain name options that are available. If you want a free blog, your blog address will look like this: http://www.yourblogname.wordpress.com. You can also choose to pay for your own domain name, for your own website address that is powered by WordPress. That blog address would then just be the name of your website: www.yourblogname.com. Direct domains are better for SEO (search engine optimization.)

Once you choose a domain name, you will be prompted to enter your blog title, tagline (a brief description of your blog,) and if you like,  a blog post goal.

 

get_started31step1_wordpress

 

2) Choose and customize your theme

Choose a theme (a template) that goes best with the type  of content you will be sharing. Will you mainly be posting pictures and videos? Then choose a theme that has a lot of room for images. Will you be mainly writing stories? Then a choose theme that’s more text heavy.

WordPress offers free and paid theme options, as well as the ability to change your theme.

Once you choose a theme, you will have the option to customize your theme with different background colors, header, etc.  Remember, you can always change your theme, so you can try out a few before you create too many posts, and see which one you prefer.

choose_themecustomize_theme

3) Create your first post

You can choose a format for your post by picking text, photo, video, quotation or link.  Not sure what you’d like to post? Take a look at the “Inspire Me” link which directs you to other people’s content. It’s a great way to get fun and fresh ideas.

create_first_post

Below is an example of what  a photo/image  post looks like with the PinkTouch2 theme. Underneath your post, you will see that there is an “About the Author” section which shows a description of the author that you can fill out in the  public profile section.  The post will also show any categories or tags that you added to the blog post.  Categories are a great way to keep your blog posts organized. Tags are what make your content searchable on WordPress.

post_examplepost_example1

 

4) Review your Home Page

Your homepage is a place to check the latest posts from your blog and the blogs you follow. You can also view your statistics, where you can see how many visitors, views and comments you have on your blog. This helps you see which blogs posts perform best and during what times/days of the week.

You can search for various blogs from this page by searching for different “tags” or viewing the “You May Like” section.

wordpress.com  stats_wordpress

5) Review your Dashboard

The dashboard can be overwhelming at times, but once you know what each section is, it’s lot easier to work with.

Your dashboard will have “screen options” which let you choose what you’d like to see on your dashboard.  You can set your preferences  to have “Stats” and “Quick Draft” on your dashboard page, for example.

dashboard_screenshot

Let’s take a closer look to each section of the dashboard.

dashboard_screenshot2

A. Home: The home section shows you everything that’s on the home page including blogs, posts, comments, and stats. You can use Omnisearch to search through all your blogs, comments, pages and images.
B. Store: The store section allows you to add a store to your blog for $99.
C. Posts: The posts section lets you see all of your posts with the option of viewing by categories or tags. You can also copy posts in this section.
D. Media: The media section houses all of your images and videos.
E. Links: The links section shows all of the links that your blog  links back to.
F. Pages:  The pages section shows all of your blog pages. For example, if you have an “About Me” page on your blog, it would show up there.
G. Comments: The comments section shows all of your comments and lets you search your comments as well as filter them.
H. Feedback: The feedback section is where you can find all of your feedback from readers, see your blog ratings, and create and view polls.
I. Appearance: The appearance section  is where you can customize your blog with options to change the header, background, etc.
J. Users: The users section is where you can add new users to your blog, as well as view your profile and personal settings.
K. Tools: The tools section is where you can add the “Press This” bookmarklet to your browser so you can share content from the web on your blog faster. In this section you will also find the website verification options for Google, Bing, Pinterest, Twitter and Yandex.
L. Settings: The settings section is where you can find all of the options for writing your blog, your reading preferences, email preferences, etc. You can even set up push notifications for yourself if you’d like to be notified each time someone leaves a comment for example.

There are definitely many parts to starting a blog, but once your account is set up, it’s really easy. Are you ready to give WordPress a shot? Go here to get started.

On April 18, a Super-anniversary …

April 18, 2014

Pop quiz: Later this week, someone special turns 76.

 

He grew up in Kansas. His favorite color is blue.

 

He wasn’t born on Earth. His dad’s a scientist, but he’s actually adopted. His (adoptive) dad is a farmer.

 

He’s not like the rest of us. He’s kind of superhuman — but he uses his powers for good.

 

He writes for a newspaper, and lives in a big city. He has an archenemy, a major crush, a deathly allergy and a second, secret night job.

 

Sounds like a spicy life, no?

 

It is: it’s Superman‘s. (Not bad for a senior citizen!)

 

On April 18, 1938, the very first Superman comic appeared. It was created by the writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, who were high school students in Cleveland (precocious much?).

 

We can’t get enough of this super-dude with a heart of gold, and a stylized shield on his chest. We want to visit Krypton. And Metropolis. And work at the Daily Planet. And fume at Lex Luthor, and have lunch with Lois Lane.

 

Who wouldn’t? And while we’re at it, who wouldn’t want to celebrate this birthday with a bang?

 

Bang number one: the Superman Stare Wall Clock. You know it’ll always be there — on time, in place, ready for action. Like our hero, it’s epic, fierce and definitely intense:

 

http://www.zazzle.com/superman_stare_wall_clocks-256646415456411881

Bang number two: the Superman Red Throw Pillow. For sitting back and devouring a comic, or pizza (but definitely not another superhero’s movie). Stay comfy, stay hungry, and most of all stay good:

 

http://www.zazzle.com/superman_red_throw_pillow-189617859393500669

 

Bang number three: the Superman U.S. Flag Wallet. Because when you leave the house, you’ll still need his protection and style. And when the man of steel’s with you, impossible is nothing:

 

http://www.zazzle.com/superman_us_flag_tri_fold_wallets-256146521731138860

 

And in case you need him around, don’t forget to say, “This looks like a job for Superman!”

Muppets Most Wanted: when it’s easy being green

April 17, 2014

If you’re anything like us, you legged it to the movies last month to catch the opening of the latest Muppet caper, Muppets Most Wanted. (We loved it!)

 

Adding Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais to the usual Muppet mix was a foolproof plan for hilarity. They get to be among the newest members of a franchise that’s now more than 60 years old (egad).

 

As Statler and Waldorf would say: That’s not half-bad … Nope, it’s all bad!

 

In honor of our longtime friends, we have some winning ways to celebrate everything Muppet — whether you’re a Kermit fan, Miss Piggy devotee or Statler and Waldorf soulmate. (Such a soft spot.)

 

Many of the Muppets we now love got their start on The Muppet Show, which started in 1976. Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Animal and Gonzo all made their debut there, along with the first celebrity guest stars.

 

The first slew of flicks came in the late-’70s, with the legendary Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper and Muppets Take Manhattan.

 

As of 2012, they even have a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Envy!

 

And how to celebrate? We’ll start with a classic. Nothing spiffs up a room like a print of Kermit’s evil doppelganger. Case in point, the Constantine Print:

 

http://www.zazzle.com/constantine_print-228918940444926984

 

Next, here’s a way to spread the Muppet love. Travel the globe, stay at home, but tell your friends all about it with the Muppets Tour the Globe Post Cards. Tiny car, eight wild-eyed Muppets, careening through Europe — you could customize the text, but could you ever surpass them?

 

http://www.zazzle.com/the_muppets_tour_the_globe_post_cards-239509467878218949

 

Finally, a way to take our beloved Muppets out with you, everywhere and always. That is, after all, the key to happiness. The Animal World Tour Courier Bag is crazy devilish fun and rad, as it should be (and as you should be):

 

http://www.zazzle.com/animal_world_tour_courier_bag-210232904457301318

 

We’ll leave you with one last nod to our favorite two-man peanut gallery. They always put it best.

 

Statler: This is a very moving moment.

Waldorf: Yeah. I wish they’d move it to Pittsburgh!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 669 other followers

%d bloggers like this: