Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moo Card Designs

Let it first be said that I don't like how Blogger handles images.  The batch upload limit is too small (5), the formatting options once in my post are pathetic and the window for composing in is too small.  Why don't they make the composition window as large as my browser window? or at least more than 1/4 the size!  (Huh, more jargon I don't have.  Highlights how rarely I ever talk about this kind of thing.  I don't know professionals who have the time for dabblers or dabblers who dabble in as many things as I do.)

These are designs for Mini Moo Cards which are basically half size business cards with designs of your choosing printed on them.  They're cute, quirky and I have a coupon.  However, they're also not terribly environmentally friendly.  They have to be shipped from London, are made on a typical paper (read bleached and non-recycled) and have a plastic laminate on both faces.  These things give me pause.  

Nonetheless, I proceed.  They come in packs of 100 cards and my occasional preference for symmetry impels me, in this case, to create a batch of images which will evenly divide 100.  The cards are 28x70mm, which is the template size for my designs.  I can't find their printing resolution on the website, but I decided not to be worried about that.  

My primary design concerns are to use my own images, to create cards that will be both attractive and engaging and to indicate that these cards are my own design.  The first two I addressed as I do all my Making: by feel.  The last I equivocated over for some time.  Ultimately, I decided to include a 5mm Creative Commons license image in each design.  This is not because I am concerned that anyone will scan my images and use them for anything.  That would be so much work (to get a decent scan of a picture that small) that I just might think it was worth letting them.  I'm also not a purist enough to think that these images just 'should' have ownership tags. (I know, wrong field, but the same idea.)  Rather, by indicating that the image is controlled I obliquely raise the question of who controls it.  The obvious conclusion is that I do, since it is my card and there is no reference to another person on the card.  I'm comfortable accepting that not everyone will put all that together.  I really don't want to toot my own horn in any more grandiose fashion.  

Most of the images are simple crop jobs.  There are two that required some work in Photoshop, and I've included the original images.  I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, good at Photoshop, but I make up for it by being persistent and taking my time.  Descriptions are bellow images.

This is a very simple crop of a macro shot of some delicate flowers.  It was taken on a hike in Sequoia National Park.  (No link because they're not an internet entity.)

These flowers were shot on that same hike.  I included more of the background in this one because I particularly like the delicate pinks among the more basic colors.  (More jargon trouble.)

This is also from Sequoia.  On a different visit, I think, though the vegetation indicates it was also spring at the time.  I have always loved the way the morning sun streames down through the trees.

This was taken in Italy, a few hours drive outside of Rome.  We (the tour I was on) had driven out to a beautiful inlaid wood workshop, probably in Sorrento and quite possibly Melany Inlaid Wood Work (that's the best I can do with the tags on the music box I bought).  In a ravine barely a block from the shop there was this grown over building and some decaying grounds.  We could see it very well from the sidewalk on a bridge.  That's where I took this photo, and several others.  Incidentally, I once Stumbled across a picture of this very same structure.  It made me smile.

This is Pompei.  The image is. I believe, a little cliche among people who pay attention to Pompei, but I still like it.  Especially with the clouds on the volcano.  Also, I felt I needed some architecture to round out the series.  Not that anyone will look at all 20 once they're printed.  Pompei and Sorrento were the same trip.

This is a non tourist section of Bangkok.  I had gotten myself lost and hired a Tuk-tuk (Wikipedia) to get me back to my hotel as I didn't want to be wandering the streets after dark.  The Tuk-tuk had stopped at a traffic light and I managed to snatch the shot.  I know you're not suppose to photograph the sun without a special lens, but I really don't care and it was a dying camera.  I really enjoy the interplay of modernity and tradition in the composition.  Also, here I placed the Creative Commons license at the lower left instead of right, which I have done with the others.  I made that choice because the lower right of this image is too crucial to the composition to allow the license image there.

I spent a year between high school and college traveling the country WWOOFing with a book provided by WWOOF-USA.  (I prefer for the acronym to mean Willing Workers On Organic Farms.)  The dog is named Hazel and she was one of a small pack kept by the owners of a farm in Oklahoma.  She was ridiculously cute when awake too.

Like I said, not great Photoshop skills.  I can't even get the color on the bird to liven up without making the background horribly artificial looking.  (I'm not even trying for jargon here.)  While the muted approach does work with the austerity of the bird, I spent a couple hours trying.  The image was taken at Hilton Head Island, SC on a family vacation (if my memory serves).  I first tried just isolating the ... I think falcon, maybe hawk, but the image was too empty.  Adding the palm fixed it and removing the telephone lines was at least possible.

This is a personally poignant picture, but I also really love the yellow carnation floating in the birdbath while you can see the tree and sky overhead.  I took several pictures of this at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church which is in Knocksville.  For my one reader, if you happen not to know, this is the same UU (Wikipedia) church that was shot up last year (NYT).  My visit was long before that, about five years ago.

I saw this beauty in, I think, the garden of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah, GA.  That flower sure looks like a rose to me, but the foliage seems to be off.  If you, my sole reader, happen to be able to help with identification of the butterfly or the plant I would be quite grateful.

This luna moth is perched on one of the beams supporting the roof over the front porch on my folk's house in Boone, NC.  My mom noticed the moth and called the rest of the family.  It was daylight, and odd to see a moth out at that time.  Maybe it was spending the day there trying to be camouflaged.  In any case, it remained still while I took quite a few images of it.  This was challenging Photoshop work.  I had to complete the end of the wing not in the photo and extend the plane of the beam it's on a considerable distance.  Even the background proved challenging once I realized that a single color green fill stole the realism from the image.  I didn't do a perfect job, but I did alright, and at the size these will be printed at I don't think anyone, besides maybe a professional in the field, will be looking closely enough to notice.  The moth is too lovely to not have included.

I noticed this praying mantis while building cutbacks in a hill on my folk's property so we could more easily walk down it.  Thankfully, it stayed still while I went and got my camera.  The image has been rotated to fit well on the template, but the odd angle of the grass highlights the insect.

This statue is my mother's Guan Yin (Wikipedia).  I believe the glass butterfly is hers too.  They're resting on the top of a chest? cabinet? of Chinese drawers.  (I think I'm using that term properly – as a name for a particular style.  It's from China and incorporates stylistic elements including iron fittings at the corners and a locking door in front of several small drawers.  Like everything else, please feel free to correct me.)  Again, I chose to place the license image at the left even though it draws out the piece of another glass butterfly that I couldn't crop out.  The bottom right is just too important to be compromised.
Edit: Thanks to Jana (my Mom!) - The piece of furniture is a Tansu Chest from Japan.  It was made of kiri wood with spaces in the planks of the drawers to facilitate air flow - to store textiles, which is exactly what it is currently doing.

This is the view off the back porch of my folk's house.  I spent many years seeing sunsets like this all summer every night.  Well, not quite this nice, that's why I took the picture.

This is a self portrait I did in high school.  Nobody told me that portraits are supposed to look like people until I tried to pass the exam to get into Kindergarden, and by that time I had already made up my mind that portraits are supposed to represent people.  That doesn't necessarily mean 'look like.'
A close up of the self portrait.  I'm cropping a tiny sliver of a much larger image, which is why the focus is screwy.  I don't think folks will really notice, but if it's more glaring than I thought, I need to know.

Another close up featuring the same crystal.  It may be a little egotistical, but I'm quite proud of this work of art.  I poured an enormous amount of my time, energy, mementos and person into it.  I tend to describe this type of Making as "mixed media sculpture involving inlaying wire, stone and other natural objects into pieces of wood."  I guess it's a decent explanation, but it never feels like it does justice to the piece as a whole.  Then again, pictures don't really either.  I felt that it was important to present images of something I made with my hands.  This is one of few things that I've worked on and actually photographed.

This is a tunnel with a creek running through it on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.  The lens flair is entirely natural, I didn't touch this up at all.  I like the 'light at the end of the tunnel' feel to it.

This is a fountain on the ASU campus.  I caught it, the wind, and the sun making beautiful rainbow babies one day.

This is the worst and possibly most interesting picture here.  I saw the dead and decayed bird in one of the planter areas at my high school freshman year.  That this bird had died, fallen on the mulch and then decayed right at the front of the school without anyone doing anything was a poignant metaphor of the school for me at the time.  Unfortunately, I mangled the image trying to get the skeleton to stick out and don't have the original photograph.  If you look closely there are some weird brown streaks in the lower left region.  I have no idea.  Happily, the bleached look gives it some character and it not only passes as artistic, but, I think, still has something to tell us.

The overarching theme of this blog is Making.  These designs are unquestionably Making, although I didn't describe them in that language.  Developing what language I'm going to be using is a large part of the work of blogging here.  Somewhere up there I used "go by feel" to describe the process of deciding in Making.  That was a good description.

I continue to need help with jargon.  That will probably be an ongoing theme.  Also, I'm interested in conversations and thoughts I wouldn't have on my own more than anything else.  I'm going to be introducing myself with these images.  Is that a good idea?  What works well, so I know to repeat it?  What doesn't work, so I can reevaluate? 

Edit:  Upon further review it has come to my attention that Moo also prints in the States.  So shipping is slightly less bad.  Slightly.


  1. What a wonderful beginning. I too have always been fascinated with semiotics - the construction of language - not always with words. Although I do have a deep abiding passion for words, I have been intrigued with image and movement as language elements as well. 'Making' seems an apt term since it implies much more than the simple taking and manipulating of images and materials -- your note about the intention, spirit and self that you pour into these creations is part of what makes it exquisite. Would someone looking at the self portrait understand all the layers of meaning you've poured into it? Not necessarily, yet the work itself is moving and 'speaks' with its own voice.

    I know some of the Photoshop jargon... yet introducing yourself through these words and images as you are... is perhaps a deeper and more memorable revealing of the questioning self than if all the pretty technical terms were at hand. (I do advocate proper terminology, I just think you're doing great as you are.)

    I look forward to reading and seeing more from you.


  2. PRETTY!

    unsolicited advice that doesn't at ALL related to any of your photos: the thing I learned from my second printing of moo cards is that a picture only works if it's something you want to hand someone on a business card. i had a handful of pictures that I thought looked really cool, but in the context of the real world they either didn't represent me-as-a-person or were hard to understand at quick glance (which is all a business card often gets)... and as a result i ended up only giving them to people i didn't care about so much. so in my next printing, i took off all the ones that didn't work so well (despite still liking them) and found it was better to have fewer designs if they all worked.

    sarah is a babblehead.

    print 'em!


  3. Leslie, thank you so much for such inspiring words. I would appreciate some help with the jargon at some point. I find that having more specific words leads to the ability to have more specific thoughts, which is a valuable ability.

    Sarah, that's a good thing to know. These are probably going to be as much social calling cards as business cards, and I expect it to take some experimentation before I know what will represent me well. I appreciate you bringing the issue to my attention so I have the question formulated as I begin to grapple with its implication.

    Now the question is, will either of you check back here . . . . . . I'm guessing not, but I'll see.

  4. Hey James,
    I really enjoyed reading your descriptions of both Making and what was Made. I agree with Leslie that your style of writing/word choices reveals the "questioning self" in a way that makes the Making process rather more transparent. So it complicates and enriches the whole concept of production, art, expertise, and so forth. Keep at it -- I'm sure this mode of expression will develop over time.

    It is just very cool that you are so consistent with Making since being a little kid. Several of those images were familiar but I had forgotten them. A little more info on the chest that the Guan Yin is on: it is a tansu chest, made of kiri wood (very light) and its purpose was to store textiles. It also has handles on the sides so it was easily portable. The wood planks making up the bottom of the drawers are not flush, so there's a lot of air circulation.

    Hope it's not too weird to have your mom post a comment on your blog. It's in the spirit of exploration into the sensed parameters of "community" and "culture", and because we share this love of stuff to Make things out of.


  5. Mom, it's more kind of awesome to have you comment on my blog. I see a diverse audience as a measure of success in finding a voice which resonates with other people.

    Thanks for the info on the tansu chest!