Better to be Busy

It’s been radio-silence from me since last week, and I apologize. I’ve been running about handling off-line responsibilities and there has been little time to blog. But I’ve been taking notes and taking pictures and I’m ready to report on Operation Twelve Ounce Bottles.

Clementine Case Box Flat
Clementine Case Box Flat

Case boxes, 4 pack carriers, 12 ounce bottle labels, custom crowns, every one with a different vendor, and they all need to coordinate and get to the brewery on time. I think the best way to anticipate issues and do things right the first time is to know everything you can about the process. So, I visited Unicorr Packaging Group, Imperial Packaging Corp, and Mercury Brewing to check out the whole process.

Clementine 4-Pack Carrier Make-Ready
This will be die-cut and folded into the Clementine 4-pack carrier

I mentioned a few weeks ago the importance of working with your production artists, and the people at Unicorr really proved that to be true. Our case boxes were designed as a two-color job for cost efficiency and to work with our simplified 12 oz bottle label. But the blue and orange of the Clementine White Ale labeling don’t overprint on cardboard very well. I worked with the production team at Unicorr and we developed a half-tone solution that solved the problem and could be extrapolated to the Lubrication case box and any future Clown Shoes cases.

Imperial Packaging is located in Rhode Island. There are larger companies who specialize in beverage carriers, but Imperial is a local business that’s growing. They just moved into a larger facility in Pawtucket and I was one of the first clients to visit. I was given a tour of the facility, approved my Clementine carrier make-ready right off the press and got a great recommendation for an Italian restaurant that serves stuffed calamari.

Mercury Brewing Bottling
"Shlemiel! Shlemazel! Hassenpfeffer Incorporated!"

Finally, I visited Mercury, who contract brew Clown Shoes Beer. Now, I didn’t really NEED to visit the brewery, but I find it helpful to understand how the bottling and labeling process happens—plus, I got some beer samples and went out for steamers with my son for dinner afterwards. We were in Ipswich, after all. I think it’s the law that you have to eat some seafood before you leave the town limits.

Lubrication 4-Pack of 12oz Bottles
Lubrication 4-Pack of 12oz Bottles

So, Lubrication 4 packs are on their way to liquor stores near you and Clementine 4 packs are bottling this week. Then, on to bigger and better Clown Shoes beer labels, with an emphasis on “Bigger.” Stay tuned!


Wunderlist for iPad
Wunderlist for iPad

I like my apps inexpensive, simple, and universal. Wunderlist from Wunderkinder is all of these things and my tool for managing lists.

First, it’s free. Free is the magic number, yes it is, it’s the magic number. You thought it was Three but that guy had a speech impediment, it was Free all along.

Second, it’s easy to understand, intuitive to use. You make a new list, name it whatever you like, Shopping, To-Do, “Client’s Name Here,” however you like to organize your lists. Then you add things to check off. You can give it a due date. You can set-up notifications. You can flag the item as a priority. When the item is complete, you check it off. Just how you hope a checklist will work.

Wunderlist for iPhone
Wunderlist for iPhone

Third, it’s universal, and then some. The wholly trinity, Mac, iPad, iPhone and they sync together. If you’re out and about and don’t have access to your own devices, you can access your lists through their web app. But seriously, you left BOTH your iPad AND your iPhone at home? Were you abducted? I don’t understand this scenario. You can add new items to the application via email and sort them out later, if that makes your life easier. Wunderlist is a very accessible application.

You can use Wunderlist as a task manager, especially for smaller projects, but it’s at it’s best when it is used as a list manager of any and all sorts. Personally, I keep the Mac app open on my machine at home and I’ve trained my son to add things to the “Shopping” list whenever we run out. And since Wunderlist syncs with my phone, when I go to the grocery store I have the most up-to-date list of what we need in the house.

It’s well designed, you can customize the appearance, and it just works. Tool for this Tuesday’s recommendation? Most definitely Wunderlist.


Social Media Disease

I spent the weekend helping to set up the Facebook page and the Twitter account for the Ukulele Union of Boston. They have a big event coming up on July 28th, a Ukulele Melee at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and it was high time they got a proper social media presence to promote it.

I’m pretty comfortable with Facebook and Twitter. I use them daily, mostly just for my own social life. I also helped Boston Scientific with their Women’s Health Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, so I have a good take on how to employ these tools in a public relations arena. What I’m saying is by the end of the weekend I thought we were in good shape and I was feeling pretty chuffed about my social media skill set.

Then I got my Google+ invitations.

I’ve only been playing around with this for about an hour, building my circles, going through copious amounts of email addresses, figuring out who to add and where. Setting up a Google+ account is a lot of work! Maybe I’m just wiped out on social media following this weekend, but so far, I’m less than impressed. It’s not terribly intuitive and visually Google+ is blander than a mayonnaise sandwich on Wonderbread. Of course, I haven’t started using it really, so it’s hard to discern what the Facebook-killer hype is all about. Buzz didn’t work for me because I thought it shared to much, too much of what I was reading, too much of what my friends were recommending. Instead of getting a curated feed I was getting a firehose in the face. I hope the stream of information from Google+ feeds will be less overwhelming, but with the ability to share even our search results with friends, I can’t help but wonder if Google+ is going to provide more content than we could possibly consume.

What are your thoughts? Is this just the learning curve I’m dealing with? Do you see Google+ as the Facebook killer, or is it gone by way of Buzz and Wave? Does the Google model of online app development work for social networks, or should they have waited until they had something more fleshed out before going beta? Is Google+ trying to be too many things without doing any one of them well? Do I need a nap? Maybe I just need a nap.

Bootleg Christmas 2009 CD Cover: Bootleg Beach

Every Christmas my son and I assemble a compilation CD for our family and friends. They’re bootleg CDs of songs from my personal collection, thus the name, Bootleg Christmas, and to make things more cohesive we choose a theme every year. In 2009, I was learning to play ukulele, so the theme was Bootleg Beach, Christmas songs from warm climates, beaches, islands, deserts, South America, you get the picture. The illustration is a Josh Agle (Shag) inspired tropical scene where Griffin and I serenade a hula dancing Santa by the light of a campfire and a full, Pacific moon.

Unicorn Chaser, Anyone?

Well, we’ve had a lot of fun these past few days, it’s been mentally exhausting inspiring so much discussion. I cannot imagine being a real public figure with people commenting on my every decision and misstep. All I’m saying is, “Please!…Leave Britney alone!”

But right when I was feeling the need for to shave my head and call it a day, my son, Griffin, performed this ditty at our local Ukulele Union of Boston and all the bad people just went away. It’s a feel-good palette cleanser to ready us all for the weekend. He’s such a cute kid. I hope you like it. Let’s talk again next week, k?

The Salvation Army and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Dedication

Located in Uphams Corner, Dorchester, the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is a cutting edge service, education and health center. I was honored to design the invitation and program materials for the Dedication Ceremony this Spring. The theme of the event was The Promise of Hope—Fulfilled, I designed the invitation, shown here, with a short cut first panel, revealing the sky of the panel beneath and opening to reveal the artist’s rendering of the new center, the fulfillment of a promise from Ray and Joan Kroc to the Boston community. (the image illustrates the tri-fold invitation as you open it. Left to right, cover, first two panels, full spread)

Sometimes, a Pipe is Just a Pipe

Meeting on the Mound
Meeting on the Mound

Last night, my friend, Cathie, invited me and my son to join her and her daughter for the Sox vs. Jays game at Fenway. We had amazing seats, first base line, 7th row, you could almost touch the players, it was too much fun.

About halfway through the 4th inning my phone started buzzing with Facebook posts and text messages all related to this article on The post was referring to a kerfluffle on Beer Advocate in which a contributor to the site launched a full out rant aimed at my client, Clown Shoes Beer, and their sexist, racist labels. The diatribe resulted in a 350 comment thread in which people both agreed with the original post or defended Clown Shoes’ right to be, well, clownshoes. It also included a comment in which the original poster quoted me out of context and made it seem like I agree with her. The thread was locked before I got home from the game, leaving me with no opportunity to defend myself.

So, this is my response to the question, “Are Clown Shoes’ labels offensive?” Sure. Why not? Offensive is a subjective term. If you look at the labels and find yourself offended, there you go. Do you have the right to say so? Abso-friggin-lutely! Shout it from the highest mountain, or your Twitter account, or your brothers’ website, whatever your bullhorn is, use it, loud and proud. Here, let me loan you a sandwich board and a bell, you can be offended Town-Crier style, I got your back.

I get it. There are things that offend me. For instance, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding of lyrics, I cannot listen to Sublime’s Wrong Way without getting offended. Politicians who proudly misunderstand the basic facts of American History offend me—mostly because they’re too lazy or stubborn to find out the right answers and correct themselves. Those ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin offend me because they always run them in the middle of South Park, or Tosh.O and then I feel guilty for laughing when we come back from commercial. So, if someone looks at the illustrations I’ve done for Clown Shoes and finds them somewhat distasteful, then you go on with your bad self and be put out. It’s your right.


My labels for Clown Shoes—which were named Best Craft Beer Art of 2011 by—are not illustrated with a sexist intent. For instance, a Tramp Stamp is a tattoo placed on the lower back of a woman to emphasize her sexuality. In Germany, they call it, Arschgeweih, meaning, “Ass Antlers.” Can you imagine if we had named a beer Ass Antlers!? We have nicknames for these tattoos because they have a purpose. The woman who has one is confident in her sexuality and she is enticing the viewer to appreciate her. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.

Brown Angel is a mix between pin-up girl, Blaxploitation goddess, and hip-hop diva. She was inspired by Pam Grier in Coffy, and Rosie Perez dancing to Fight The Power in the opening of Do The Right Thing. These are powerful women, not victims, and just because they have ethnicity, doesn’t mean the label is racist any more than appreciating a Bettie Page pin-up makes one a white supremacist. As a woman, and an artist, I have a hard time with either of these images being labeled chauvinistic. Chauvinism is an attitude of superiority over the opposite sex. I’m not designing woman who are inferior, I’m designing women who celebrate who they are. So, who is bringing the inferiority? The viewer? The offended? It’s a complicated question.

Finally, and this one made me guffaw, I mean seriously spit take—Clown Shoes Lubrication. Why is Lubrication offensive? Well, first, we’ve got the name. It’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s having some fun, but the label copy pulls it all together, “Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter. Social lubrication, people coming together to unwind, is what we’re talking about.” This is not a dirty joke for the sake of being dirty. Lubrication is an American Black Ale, dark as oil, but at only 6% ABV it’s one of Clown Shoes’ first sessionable beers. The social lubrication marketing gives you an idea what you’re getting in the bottle.

Lubrication illustration
Clown Shoes Lubrication, Full Illustration

Second, the illustration is apparently offensive because of the placement of the gas nozzle. Next time you fill your tank, take note of how high you hold the nozzle, I’m guessing it’s not up by your belly button unless you drive a Hummer. Apparently, our critics saw not a dispenser of fuel, but a “dong.” Yes, their words, not mine. I went to art school. I was taught to say, “phallic symbol.”

Now, let me tell you, when I designed this I was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s gas station paintings, 1950’s sci-fi robots, and by those old Texaco commercials with the jaunty hats and ties. That’s it. You get your car lubed at the service station and a tin-man requires lubrication, it works both ways. The client actually wanted to go sans-illustration for this beer, but I convinced him that it would be inconsistent with the brand and that I had a great idea! Never in my wildest imagination did I think this label would inspire such vitriol! But when you have dong on the brain, you see dong wherever you go, I guess. Ironically, robots don’t even have sex that way, there’s a lot more welding and screaming of 0s and 1s.*

So, there you go. If you find your way to my website because I illustrated some beer labels that started a tiny tempest, you will see that I put a lot of thought and research into offending people and selling beer. I also design yearbooks for elementary schools and websites for stores your mom would probably like. I appreciate this opportunity to respond to my critics and I encourage you all to drink good beer with a sense of humor and an open mind.

To Be in Two Places at the Same Time

Pretty Weed in my Backyard
Take time to snap reference photos of the flowers

How busy are we all these days? It’s only 9 a.m. and I’ve already billed three hours, taken my kid to (sigh) summer school, scheduled a tire repair for the Camry, fed the cats, and followed up with two vendors. Not to mention checking in on Facebook, uploading videos from the Fourth of July, posting an event, inviting the family, and taking some reference photos of this pretty weed growing in my backyard.

I was stomping up the stairs with bags of groceries Sunday and I noticed these lovely strands of budding flowers. They’re tiny, really, and there are three or four of them at the top of this plant that started growing next to my porch. I thought, they would be sweet to illustrate, I could make them into a decorative element, part of a frame, something to letterpress, who knows? But I had arms full of melty stuff in the hot sun, so I didn’t get back to shoot some photos until this morning and half of the buds had already opened. If I waited until tomorrow, what would have been left?!

You can’t photograph flowers while you’re carrying milk and eggs and you can’t be in two places at the same time. So, what do you do? As a freelancer I face this problem all the time. I have a press check for one client, but I need to research vendors for another. I have to get my invoicing and administrative work done to build my business, but I’m facing a desk full of actual billable work with deadlines and clients who want to know that they are my first priority.

Hiring someone doesn’t really solve the problem for me, this is intermittent overload, not enough for full-time help. Plus, I’m not equipped to add another person to my operation. My solution? I use a virtual assistant.

Black Ink Virtual Assistance is better than any app I could recommend for productivity. Chief Efficiency Officer, Melissa Black, is available to be the extra me I wish I could be. If I need to walk away from my computer to get some sketching done, she’s available to respond to my email and make sure my vendors and clients are being heard and their needs met. If I am falling behind on promoting my business because I’m focused on clients, she can ghostwrite my blog—not yet, but she could—build my business Facebook page, or maintain my Twitter account. She’s even helped me with concierge services. My son wanted tickets to a show for his birthday and the day and the hour they went on sale I was scheduled to be at a press check. Melissa made sure we got the tickets while I took care of business.

It’s easy to be efficient when you can delegate your responsibilities. It’s hard to delegate your responsibilities when you work for yourself. Having a virtual assistant allows me to work like I have a back office, with the flexibility of freelancing. What an invaluable tool for any productivity arsenal!