small business, small steps

Sweet Relief by Simpy Photo
Sweet Relief by Simply Photo

Since I've been away from English Muffin all week I'm not really in a small business frame of mind, so I'm going to direct your eyes to some of my favourite small business resources and blogs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. And if you have any faves of your own, please pass them along, I'd love to expand my reading list.

Gwen Bell
Crafting an MBA
Modish Biz Tips

Have a great weekend, and I'm looking forward to sharing some photos from our trip to Finland with you on Monday!


We make a good pair

Here's a little eye candy for you today. I really enjoyed making perfect pairings last week for Valentine's Day, so I thought I'd do it again today.

1. Felt Flower Necklace 2. Par Avion

1. Butterfly Specimens Print 2. Spring Mountain Hand Towel

1. Welcome to City Town Tote 2. Big Smoke

What combinations embody perfection for you? Here are some of my favourites...
dark chocolate + cardamom
saturday morning + croissants
popcorn + movies

Have a great Thursday,


Music Wednesday : Aloe Blacc

What? Music Wednesday? I know, I'm crazy, but just go with it.

Aloe Blacc - Shine Through

Aloe Blacc's album, Shine Through is full of great tunes that you'll be humming all day long. Big Chuck has recommended artists off of the Stones Throw Record label before and they've always been great, Aloe Blacc is no exception. You can listen to samples from his latest album on the Stones Throw website. May I recommend you jump down to #14 I'm Beautiful to begin, and then up to #7 Dance for Life to get those hips a shakin' and then further on up to #4 Busking to hear a little ditty about waiting for the bus (a tune I can really relate to).

The full version of I'm Beautiful and Busking, via YouTube.

Have a great Wednesday!

image via Stones Throw Records


Melinda Josie

Melinda Josie
Feature in Uppercase Magazine & Kittenwillows

Melinda Josie is an artist and illustrator who works on children's books, editorial work, creating textile designs, and making fine art. She was born in Milton, Ontario and later moved to Muskoka where she spent a happy childhood filled with picture books and pet bunnies. Melinda works and lives in Toronto, Canada.

Melinda Josie

Melinda Josie
Fox and Clover silkscreen card

I really love Melinda's bright and oh-so-sweet prints and illustrations. Her simple and clean style as well as her use of colour let my eyes travel across her work effortlessly. I would love to have her french language children's book, Le Géranium, on my shelf one day. You can see a small sample of the images inside as well as read a synposis of the story about the extraordinary character, Philippe-Aubert, here.

Melinda Josie
Le Géranium

Melinda Josie
Letterpress Card Set

For more information about Melinda, or to purchase her giclée or silkscreen prints, fabrics, or letterpress cards, you can visit her website. Also, don't forget to check out her lovely blog.

Have a wonderful Tuesday,

ps. Don't forget, I'm away this week, so I won't be around to reply to emails or comments ~ but I'd love to hear what you think anyway!

(photos posted with the permission of Melinda Josie)


Ski Holiday in Finland

Karhu wooden cross-country ski

Good Monday morning!
I have some happy news to share with you... I'm in Finland! Big Chuck and I left on Saturday morning and will be staying with my family at the cottage for the week. But don't worry, I wrote a week's worth of posts before we left so your regularly scheduled programming won't be interrupted. (phew!) The only thing is that if you are looking to get in touch with me via email or through the comments I won't be able to respond until we get back. This week will be unplugged - literally. If you were hoping to place an order in my Etsy shop this week, please note that items won't be shipped until Monday March 1st. However, to ensure the speedy delivery of your parcel, I will be upgrading your package to Priority Shipping free of charge.

Have a great Monday :)

(photo via flickr)


small business, small steps

Below are a few of the designers and bloggers who I admire...

design mentors
1. Jenna Park | whimsy & spice
2. Grace Bonney | design*sponge
3. Joy Deangdeelert Cho | Oh Joy!
4. Erin Loechner | Design For Mankind

I have a few very special mentors in the design world. I've never met any of them, but through the internet I feel like I sort of "know" them. They blog, they tweet, they do interviews and formspring Q&A's, they offer advice and share their stories, and through all those things I have been able to discover that we have similar goals, ideas and inspiration. They are huge successes in my eyes, but at their cores I've come to realize - we really are not that different. I hope one day to be on their radar, but that is not really the point. The point is to learn from them, to soak up what they are putting out into the world like a sponge (some might say like a design sponge! ha ha, blogger joke), and apply that knowledge to my own business and work. I see them as my teachers in a classroom where I am surrounded by students and peers who I find endlessly inspiring.

Personal Style
When I think of the biggest lesson I have learned from my mentors, the first thing that comes to mind is personal style. Their work is distinguished and distinguishable. Their voices are clear and their messages constant. I know when I see their work that it is uniquely theirs, not that it is repetitive or does not grow and evolve, but that it is imprinted with the ideas and qualities that make up the person behind the work. Trends come and go, and sure, we all want to stay current and not miss out on an opportunity to get our work noticed, but at the core if we're only in it for the 15 minutes of mustache (one of the trends from this past year that comes to mind) fame, then what's the point? If we move from trend to trend and never define who we are as artists, then I can't believe that sustained success can be achievable.

Dream big, then dream bigger - Oh Joy
Another important lesson is one that I need to remember everyday; no one is going to do the work for you, it's up to you to set your goals, meet your standards, achieve your dreams and then do it all again. Oddly enough, the work it takes to deconstruct something seems so much easier than the work it takes to build it in the first place. Why laying a brick takes more energy than knocking one down I don't know but, I do know that the hard work and belief in one's self begins and ends with you. I really love Oh Joy's Dream big, then dream bigger tip because it is full of hope and inspiration. It reminds me that I am the only one who places limits on myself, and the only one who can exceed them.

Patience My Sweet
No one, not even Martha became a success overnight. Although, when it doesn't happen immediately, it can be a little disconcerting. I learned my patience lesson within the first month of opening my shop. I had printed off the first batch of Animal Alphabet Posters, my website was online, I had emailed everyone I know to announce the big news. Big Chuck had brought home a bottle of champagne and some yummy cheeses to celebrate, and then.... nothing. Nada, zip, zilch, not a peep. All that excitement at having started my own venture and nowhere to put it. Looking back, I realize that this was perfectly normal, expected really. It takes time for people to see your work, especially on the internet where it is alongside the work of so many other talented artists. It takes time to find customers who love what you do and will tell their friends about it. It takes time to develop a conversation with your audience and find out what it is they are looking for. Perhaps I could have done some of these things before I opened English Muffin, but to be honest trial by fire has always been a pretty effective way for me to learn. Patience is at the heart of any venture. If you begin at a gallop you may loose hold of the reins, and if you can't guide the horse, who knows how far from home you'll end up?!

Having mentors has always been an important part of my own personal learning experience. Especially now, when I'm not in a structured classroom environment, I find it helpful to have a few beacons of light to help me find my way. It is also immensely comforting to know that the struggles I am currently dealing with have all been experience before, that they are a normal part of growing a business.

As always, I'd love to hear your own experiences and thoughts.
Thanks for reading!


What I Wore Illustrations

what i wore - illustrations
1. 181209, 2. 2.1.10, 3. 1230, 4. WIWT_120110, 5. What I wore today..., 6. :: What I wore Today :: 2nd January ::, 7. jan 24, 8. January 18th, 9. Alpha60 dress, 10. What I Wore Today 12th Feb, 11. 9, 12. Untitled, 13. ., 14. Untitled, 15. november 6, 16. what i wore today, january 29

How cute are these illustrations?! I found a new flickr group called "What I Wore Today (drawings only)" full of creative illustrations and outfits. I picked out a few of my favourites. I think I like them so much because I find these hand drawn illustrations so charming. I have a secret to tell you, in fact perhaps I shouldn't - you may think I'm a fraud! I can not draw. It's true, put a piece of paper and a pencil in front of me and ask me to sketch anything more than a stick figure in oversize clothing and you'll be very disappointed. However, put me in front of a blank Illustrator file and I'll draw you the prettiest ice cream cone you've ever seen ;) There, I've said it. I hope we can still be friends.

Have a great Thursday!


Alanna Cavanagh

alanna cavanagh

alanna cavanagh

I found Toronto based artist Alanna Cavanagh through one of my favourite blogs, Ill Seen, Ill Said. Her screen printed Penguin Books book covers have such an authentic vintage feel that I was immediately drawn to them and wanted to see more. In addition to A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, she has also printed Watching Birds by James Fisher and The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism & Fascism by Bernard Shaw in the same style. Beyond screen printing and illustrating them, she applies a technique that gives the prints an aged quality, so in the end, they resemble more your favourite well-worn book covers than clean and bright newly printed screen prints.

Alanna works as an illustrator, screen printer and typographer. Her work has been featured in Canadian House & Home, Uppercase magazine, The Globe & Mail, and many other online and print publications. Currently you can purchase her prints at Hollace Cluny, 1070 Yonge Street, Toronto.

alanna cavanagh

Be sure to check out Alanna's website as well as her lovely blog too.

Have a great Tuesday!

(photo: Alanna Cavanagh)


Music Monday : k.d. lang


After k.d. lang's amazing performance of Leonard Cohen's moving song, Hallelujah, at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, I felt it only made sense to devote today's Music Monday post to the wonderfully talented Ms. Lang.

The timing of her performance on Friday coincides with the release of her new album, Recollection, a double CD of many of our old favourites and some new, previously unreleased, tracks. I have to admit that my resident music aficionado (Big Chuck) and I disagree quite strongly on the subject of k.d. lang. I had to wait until he was out of the house to listen to her new album in full at the volume which I felt it deserved. For me, her voice is warm and weathered, powerful yet understated. I love listening to her sing just about anything, but Canadian classics, like those on her earlier album Hymns of the 49th Parallel, can - just like the lighting of the Olympic torch, make me teary.

But alas, you should judge for yourself. You can preview her entire Recollection album on iTunes or via her website here.

Have a wonderful Monday, and I'd love to hear where you come down on the issue, "to k.d., or not to k.d.?"

(photos from k.d. lang.com)


small business, small steps


The ME in My businEss

This week I changed my Twitter name from EnglshMuffnShop to BessCallard, big deal - right?! Well, yes, sort of.

I have been thinking about my brand lately as I try to launch this little baby company into the real world. I have been examining all aspects of how English Muffin behaves in public and have been thinking about my role in all of this. As I am the principal designer, illustrator, photographer, shipper, and customer relations girl, are not customers who are buying English Muffin designs really just buying me? And by trying to separate myself from the English Muffin brand, am I hurting my own chances to get my name and designs out there, resulting in less opportunities for both myself and English Muffin?

Where do Bess Callard, designer and illustrator, and English Muffin, print and poster design shop, begin and end?

Reading Danielle LaPorte's article 3 keys to un-branding...and why I changed my twitter name gave me some interesting food for thought. She describes the idea that in the end a strong brand, although great for selling your product, can really box you in as an artist. You are not your website, or your products or even your art, you are you and rather than hiding behind your work you should be out in front of it. This idea really struck me. While English Muffin has been my creative outlet for the past year and a half, it's not all I am as a designer. Perhaps while trying to teach English Muffin to fly, I should have also been pushing my own butt out of the nest. If I thought I had issues promoting my English Muffin work, then multiply that by a million when it comes to Bess the graphic designer and illustrator.

With that said, I plan on bringing all of my work under the umbrella of Bess Callard. Sure, English Muffin will still be English Muffin, but I want to keep the story of the brand personal and authentic. I want to be at the top of the pyramid and my work to fall neatly underneath me. I think there is no better example of this idea in our industry than Martha Stewart. When I think of her I don't think magazines, or tv shows, or bedding and towels, or even weddings, I immediately see her, and her personal style, in my mind's eye.

So, in a nutshell, that's why I changed my Twitter name, and bought the domain besscallard.com.

Have a great weekend,

(photo by Sam-Plant)


We make a good pair

1. wooden heart 2. candy hearts

1. teacup & saucer 2. cupcakes

1. twill tape 2. xoxo pencils

Peas + carrots, Forest + Jenny, chocolate + strawberries, me + you
Some things are best enjoyed together.
How about you? What pairings do you enjoy the most?

Happy Thursday :)


Packaging | UQAM

Image 6

Image 4
St. Hubert's new "green" packaging

If you love looking at great packaging design on blogs like TheDieline and Lovely Package (like me!), then you should really check out Packaging | UQAM. The site's curator, Sylvain Allard, is a professor at L'École de Design at L'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). He is interested in sustainable and environmentally sound packaging design. I particularly like the Québecois Rotisseries St-Hubert's new eco-friendly packaging. They made a move away from styrofoam to recyclable materials as well as reducing the size of their containers.

Here are a few more things I like over at Packaging | UQAM...

serif bag
Serif Tote Bag by Little Factory

tissue box
Justin Lortie proposes a reflection on the environment.

Helvetica Biscuits by Beverly Hsu

Have a great Wednesday!


Vancouver (and surrounding area) 2010

Vancouver 2010

1. Vintage Typewriter Key Pendant - Gwen Delicious
2. Solid Oak Leaf Necklace - Beazuness
3. Denim Skirt - Trapper Jane
4. Alice and the Rabbit, the later years - Living Feral
5. Barnwood Frame - Paradise Hill Designs
6. Small Feather Earrings - Mountain Man Creations

In honour of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I thought I would dedicate this Canadiana Tuesday to some artists from Vancouver and it's surrounding area. I found so many great designers and crafters on Etsy from the majestic province of British Columbia. I really like how all the selections above have a rustic/rough-around-the-edges appeal. They do a great job of summing up that certain Canadian je ne sais quoi.

This weekend while strolling through our neighbourhood, Big Chuck asked me what my favourite Winter Olympic sport was to watch, "why, figure skating!" I declared, he's more of a giant slalom kind of guy. What about you, what Olympic Winter sport tickles your fancy? Have you got your stop watch ready? Will you be judging the athletes from your couch at home?

Have a great Tuesday,


Music Monday : José James


I guess I've been in the mood lately to add a little more structure to the blog. Before the weekend I told you I'd like to get my small business column, small business, small steps, going as a regular Friday feature. Today, I'd like to add another one, Music Mondays. I know the title is a wee bit unoriginal (and not as delicious as the now defunct Muffin Mondays) but I can promise that the content will be tasty to the ears and hopefully new and exciting to you too.

Big Chuck, my fiancé, chef and resident music aficionado, sent me a link to José James' website on Friday. I spent the weekend listening to his new album Blackmagic (the title track is one of our faves). Here are a few words on James from my music man himself, "One could describe José James as a male version of Erykah Badu. His tracks are based around solid grooves and he artfully blends elements of hip hop, soul, jazz and funk." (ditto). I think it's a perfect album for a romantic Valentine's Day too.

Have a musical Monday!


small business, small steps

JH Doll House Furniture 1

I thought I would revisit this post, and maybe even try it out as a regular Friday feature. Don't get your hopes up though, the last time I said I was going to do a regular feature was when I did my first (and only!) outfit post. You had forgotten about that, right? Well, I'm hoping that "small business, small steps" sticks around a bit longer. I have spent another good little chunk of my week researching how to start and run a successful small business, and would like to share some of my findings with you - ready?!

This week was a really great week, really. I had the week off from teaching English and used it to play 'dream job'. You know, the game where you get to live your dream job for the whole week and not worry about money because, hey - you have a real job (that begins again right after the weekend). If you haven't played it, I suggest giving it a try. The number one thing I read when perusing the "How to get your dream job" (or a version thereof) articles is, make sure you love your dream job as much as you do in your dreams. And it's true, some people would not be cut out to work from home with only a little dog (who sleeps all day, anyway) and endless podcasts to keep them company. But me, I love it. Sure a little more social interaction would be good, but that's what dinners out and post office runs are for, right?

Now, this is a good find: NO BUSINESS PLANS REQUIRED! (I wasn't yelling at you - I promise, it's just that it felt so validating to read that). It has been my stubborn belief since day one of starting English Muffin that charting a concrete course for what I assumed to be choppy waters made no sense. Read this article, Don't write a business plan and I have a feeling you'll agree. While you're there, you should check out asmartbear.com's entire blog, as it is full of important and interesting articles on small businesses. I've currently got Why I feel like a fraud bookmarked - but that's for another day.

Another method of research I really enjoy, although I'm on the fence these days about how useful it really is, is the interview. Don't get me wrong, I love reading them and can get lost in internetland using this Google query formula: Name of Favourite Designer + Interview + enter. I have read hundreds of interviews, I'm sure. There is something very comforting in hearing about the success and failures of one of your design mentors. I have found so much useful information and inspiration in these interviews and I definitely recommend reading them, especially in the beginning stages of your company. For me, however, I think I've reached my saturation point. There is a common theme in all of them, and that is, everybody's story is different, difficult and (if you're reading about them) ultimately successful. I think I try to find the encouragement and validation that I need from other people's stories, it worked out for them so it will work out for me. At this point in the game, I'm ready to move away from that and into the more practical research that will help English Muffin to ultimately be that successful company. That said, here are a couple goodies from my designer interview bookmarks folder ;)
Formspring.me - Design*Sponge Q & A: an interactive forum where you can ask Grace anything, and read her answers to all the questions posed. cool!
modernemotive blog - Whimsy & Spice interview: check out all the interviews in the category, "The Self-employed Life" on Adele's blog

If you've made it this far - thanks for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts and to know if there are any of you wonderful readers who are on a similar journey, business or otherwise.

Have a great Friday and bon weekend!

(photo: Made by Joel via Lobster and Swan)


Experimentations in Typography, Day 1


Yesterday, having some time on my hands, I decided to do a little experimenting with drawing type. Inspired by Jessica Hische and her truly out-of-this-world typographic and illustrative work, I thought it might be fun to try my hand at designing some typefaces too. It was a really interesting and fun project. The sans-serif font, which I'm sure is quite similar to what the first attempt at creating a typeface looks like from most designer's, is all based on the letter 'o'. I discovered that 'o' is really the key to the whole alphabet. It sets the letter widths, x-heights and plays a big roll in the construction of many of the letters. The script face was much more difficult and I didn't end up creating the whole alphabet, only the letters I needed. In the end, I'm really happy with the way that both of the faces look - not too polished, but with a bit of a hand-drawn and personal feel.

Experimentations in Typography, Day 1 = fun!


Have a great Thursday (I can't believe it's already Thursday - I don't want this week to end!),


S.O.S. H2O

Humidifier Factory via SwissMiss

Every Winter morning I wake up feeling the same way, like my long and restful slumber had taken place not in my warm little bed, but out in the middle of the desert, baking under a hot sun. Okay, small exaggeration perhaps, but still...

Winter and dry skin, nails and hair go together like Summer and ice cream. I moisturize and drink tons of water but to no avail, the big electric heater in our flat manages to win every time. We should really have a humidifier, I know, and now that I have found these modern and design friendly ones, perhaps we will!

1. Blomus Humydo Humidifier
2. The Zen Humidifier
3. Plus minus zero Humidifier

Have a great Wednesday,


FELT studio

images: FELT studio

These gorgeous felt installations were designed by FELT studio, a laboratory that explores the material and culture of modern industrial felt. The studio, led by Kathryn Walter, is located in Toronto and they work with an international roster of clients. Above are some examples of FELT studio's work for the Gladstone Hotel, Charles Street Video, and Hotel One respectively.

My Felt Pocket

This is my own felt creation. I had a project on the Bauhaus in my first year of design school, and made this little felt pocket to hold a series of information cards. It was tricky to find high quality felt available to purchase retail, so my mom and I went to a felt distributor/wholesaler and pretended we were looking to get a prototype made of some product we had created. We ended up with this lovely little piece grey felt and two little white disks. Not bad, eh?!

Have a great Tuesday,


she & him

I don't usually put links up to music I'm listening to, but... I've been streaming the latest album from SHE & HIM via myspace, and when it ended I found myself wanting more.
SHE is Zooey Deschanel and HIM is Matt Ward - have a listen.

(image via SHE & HIM)

february: short + sweet

Hello February!

The sun is so bright today that it's almost as if Spring is reminding us that it's just around the corner. Luckily, it comes a little bit earlier here than back home in Canada, sorry guys!

I have this week off from teaching (Austria is the land of holidays - not that I'm complaining), so I'm focusing all my energy on my somewhat neglected kid, English Muffin. I've had a mini surge in Custom Name Design orders lately which makes me kick myself a little for not putting them in the shop sooner. Oh well, live and learn.

The last week of February Big Chuck and I are heading to Finland for a week-long ski holiday with my family. We'll be staying at the cottage and doing lots of cross-country skiing, eating, and generally trying to stay warm. I'm so excited!

I'm off to the post office now (to drop off 7 custom name designs!!) and then to the new Asian grocery that opened up around the corner a few weeks ago.

Have a wonderful first day of February,

(image: English Muffin 2010 Calendar)