Carrot-Paced Creativity

The new year has begun, and slowly but surely, new projects for Carrot Condo have been decided and deadlines penciled into my calendar.

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Nevertheless, there are so many things I want to create and so little time. Feeling frustrated one day, I grumbled to myself: I should have drawn a slow, slimy slug as my logo instead of a carrot.

But then I remembered one of the first times I grew carrots. I planted them at the same time as some squash. Nothing happened with the carrots, but within a few days, the squash sprouted bright, plump leaves shaped like Mikey Mouse ears.

By the time the squash vines were growing inches per day, the carrots flashed tentative peace signs–two tiny leaves making “V” shapes barely a quarter-inch above the soil.

Test strip for graphite pencils.

Even when the carrots finally possessed lush, fuzzy greenery, it was impossible to know if anything edible grew below. The squash produced sage-colored boulders that yielded juicy, bright orange flesh.

Turns out, the carrots had been doing the same work in a much quieter and subtle way. We harvested a bounty of long, lean, sweet carrots, some orange and some purple. They stayed crisp and sweet for months.

While I’d sometimes rather be the squash, showing quick progress, the carrot logo turns out to be even more perfect than I’d thought. Projects here at Carrot Condo are humming along, slowly but surely. Like the carrot underground, I’m not yet sure what some of it will turn into–there’s one new character I can’t wait for you to meet. She just popped out onto my sketchbook one day and has been delighting me ever since. I’m not sure if she’ll be a book or a card or something else.

Drawing while power-washing.

I’ll have pictures and stories of progress to show you soon, and new products available by May 1st.  So, stay tuned, and thank you for following along with my carrot-paced creativity.

Carrot Condo’s First Craft Show

I sold my books and cards at the Madeleine Marketplace bazaar yesterday, and it completely exceeded my expectations.

IMG_1239I signed up and paid my booth fee with just a few goals, to learn as much as I could about:  setting up a nice display, talking about my work, and using Square to accept card payments. I learned all of that and more.

One of the best things about my experience were my two neighbors: Panda With Cookie who makes plush toys like this dinosaur; and Paul Gerard the writer-hiker-tour-guide-taxi-driver-craft-show-MVP.

IMG_1240I’d been at my table five minutes and had exchanged maybe two sentences with Panda With Cookie when she offered to email me suggestions for craft shows I could apply to next year. I was already so excited to do this show that I’d practically skipped into the building, but her quick generosity tripled my happiness.

PaulGeraldDisplayThen, Paul introduced himself. I recognized him from shows I’ve attended as a customer, and I felt really lucky to be next to his table.

First, he surprised me by glancing over my books and saying “Congratulations! You wrote four books.” He said he meets a lot of people who tell him they have a book idea, and they ask him all about publishing and cover design, but he usually learns they haven’t written the book, not a word of it. “Most people don’t even start,” he said.

This brought me back to the basics. I’ve been so excited to launch Carrot Condo, that I don’t think I ever took a moment to step back and appreciate the four books and set of cards right there in front of me, completed and in the world, from idea/daydream to reality. I let myself feel proud for a few seconds, then got back to fidgeting with my display.

Second, Paul surprised me by saying “I’m retiring. This is my last show.” Most of the vendors there knew him and obviously loved him. Apparently, he’s said he’s retiring before but then comes back, so they didn’t seem to believe him.

However, for the next six hours, he not only entertained me with with his easy humor, he kind of taught me all he knows. He gave me an extensive database of places where I could sell my books, told me stories about his experiences at shows, and then gave me all of his table display stands when we were packing up.

So now, I have all kinds of sentiment woven into my table display: my mom’s table cloth, my best friends roller cart that holds everything perfectly, and Paul’s display stands. I’m already feeling ready for next year!

IMG_1242Lastly, the customers at the bazaar were incredibly nice. Some people looked through my books quietly, others had questions, and many bought books as gifts.

Imagining my books or cards wrapped up and given as a gift motivated me to keep working at making these better and better and better. I left the show with two pages of ideas. Now, I need to let things sit and sift and then figure out which project to do next. I might be asking your opinion on this in the future.

Thanks for reading and being part of Carrot Condo’s journey!

A Family That Colors Together …

Kathy’s bookmark. No surprise. Kathy paints rich, gorgeous canvases and teaches art.
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Bookmark before talented coloring happens.

…gets 45 minutes of focused quiet, or learns about making decisions and preparing to win or lose.

After the launch party, one family was so excited to color they stopped to buy colored pencils then went straight to their dining room table and colored together for 45 minutes.

Try to enlarge the picture of C., the little boy, holding his bookmark–it’s meticulous! His mom told me that for the words “Read Good Books,” he’s thinking of animals whose names start with each letter (R = racoon, E = eagle) and then coloring the letter the same color as the animal. Future engineer here maybe?

Thank you to Gary Speich for these photos!

IMG_1077IMG_1078 (1)I also got to see C.’s first page from “Sometimes…” where the whale swims down the street, and C. made the rooftops rainbow! I never would have imagined something so brilliant!!

Then, there’s the family whose evening coloring time paid off … literally. Josh, Katie, and Rosie colored together in the evenings at the dining room table. They talked about each of their decisions to choose certain colors or add things to their pages and inspired each other to be creative.

I also heard that Rosie was very, very, VERY much hoping to win a prize at the launch party. I fretted … what if she doesn’t win? I knew her parents had talked through this possibility with her, but I couldn’t stand the idea of her being disappointed — she’s been one of my biggest supporters, and she’s only 5.5 years old!

Well, the first award was announced: “For The X-Factor: we can’t name it, but we absolutely love it, Josh is the winner.” Up walks Josh, Rosie’s dad, for this amazing page (the trees look like they’re levitating):

Click here to see “ShyPanda.”

Then, you won’t believe this, but the second award was announced, and it was Katie, Rosie’s mom! She won for “Most Vibrant, this one is so striking, we can’t stop looking at it.” For good reason. Look at this:

Click here to see “Sometimes…”

I learned later from Katie that at this point, Rosie was sniffling and trying not to cry that she hadn’t won anything. But, three awards later, the second-to-last award was announced, “Most Charming: we want to wrap this one up in a bow and keep it like a pet” went to … you guessed it … Rosie!!!!

Click here to see “Fortis & Lucita.”

You see why I asked five people to be impartial judges. Such effort and talent and time went into coloring these pages. I knew I could never make a decision. Little did I know an entire family would each win an award on their own individual merit. Kind of a perfect storybook ending, don’t you think?

Some day, I’d like to invite a group of all ages to color one afternoon. We’d color the same page, from the same story, then hang them up on the wall and look at all the differences.

I love that the reader of these storybooks makes each book totally unique by coloring it their own way, using their own interpretation, and their own preferences. No story ends up the same once colored. This makes me infinitely happy!

And The Winners Are …

I asked five friends to serve as judges of the coloring contest for Carrot Condo’s launch party because I  knew I would not be able to do it. After deliberating among themselves (look how serious they are),

Dave Andersen, painter and professor, announced the winners

and greeted each one with a fist bump: The first four of seven categories are posted here. The final three will have a post of their own because it’s such a great story.

“Most Meticulous: such precision and attention to detail boggled our minds” went to Gloria (who also happens to be my mother and a featured character in “Follow Your Heart, Trista Gay!“):

IMG_1156This one raised questions about what kind of pencils to use for coloring. I’ve got a separate post about that drafted for the future. There are some fun options out there, as long as the pages are printed on thick, receptive paper.

“Most Enthusiastic: this page makes us want to jump up and down” went to Otto, who colored both front and back. The judges said his work reminded them of modern art.


“Most Thoughtful: this one makes us sigh with contentment” went to an entire family: Charlie, Kaitlin, Avery, Diane, and Morgan who added a googly eye, a poofy cloud with sparkles, 3-D flowers and a star.

IMG_1152“Most Unique: this one looks like no other; we think it’s visionary” went to H, who used metallic pens and decorative tape. (The metallic is hard to see here, but the panda and the bird both glitter and gleam.)

IMG_1155When H pinned her entry to the bulletin board, she said, “I think ShyPanda is my spirit animal.” I’m still smiling about that!

The One That Got Away

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Before I show you the Coloring Contest results, you have to see the one that got away. When posted on the bulletin board at the launch party with all the other entries, I think it looked like a page nicely colored. When you compare it to my original page, however, you’ll be wowed. Here’s the original:
FollowHeart coloring page blog

Here is the “after” as colored by Akira:

Look at everything Akira added to my original:  a dog, a little girl in a #5 jersey, a witch, an owl and ghost, an extra painting on the wall, and one painting turned into a little chicken! Oh, and a mouse!

I’m stunned by this page!!!  Akira’s drawings blend so smoothly with mine that it looks like these additions were there all along.

What am I going to do about this? I’m thinking of contacting Akira to see if she wants to collaborate with me on a new storybook you can color. A good idea, no?

Okay, stay tuned. I’ll post the first four categories and winning entries next. And then, there’s a great story that goes with the final three winners. Plus, more pictures from during and after the launch party.