Archive for ‘dfmi designs’

June 1, 2016

Suddenly, the clouds part and the sun shone down.

That’s what it feels like when something huge happens and your life finally seems to be going your way. Like the universe is tipping it’s hat at you. “Congrats!” It silently says.

I’d like to present the largest and by far, the most challenging graphic design project I have ever worked on. I was tremendously fortunate to be offered the opportunity to work freelance on the design layout of the 125 Anniversary Edition, 68-page journal for University School, a well-established, all-boys private school in Cleveland, Ohio.

The theme of this journal is ‘Makers’, which highlights the innovative teaching style of the school. Being that it is quite hands-on, as well as academic, the articles also showcase the impressive achievements of former students whom have graduated and have gone on to accomplish tremendous things. Among them, James Parks CEO of Fit Bit, who is featured on the cover.

US has a tried and true format that is used for sections such as Class Notes, Valley to Heights, Athletic News and Obits, that the school has been using for years. With featured articles such as Teaching Makers, The Power of Makers, Maker Mentors, as well as the 10-page spread welcoming the new Headmaster, I had a little more creative freedom to add my own design elements, which I loved.

Many heartfelt thanks to those close to me who offered boatloads of support and encouragement, because it totally helped me feel confident enough to pull this off.I am extremely grateful for the experience. It pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of and has forever changed my perception of myself as a design professional.

Check out the link below to see the digital version.

University School Journal Spring 2016

July 31, 2014

MISSION: Dresser make-over for nursery

Just because we weren’t working on Hallie, didn’t mean we had idle hands. As a matter of fact, it might be a condition. I’m not sure we really know how to relax. However, this sort of motivation does help us get a lot accomplished. Originally, we planned on buying a different house. A larger house. One that had more room for activities. Because we were having trouble figuring out where we were going to put this baby. The problem was, we weren’t really finding what we were looking for AND we needed to at least get Dresden sold. The upstairs here at Walmar is by far the largest room in our 1100 sq.ft. house. It has served as my work studio for the past almost 11 years. Joel has a desk that doesn’t get utilized very often and the space also provides a play area (much to my detriment) for Arden’s toys. Mostly though, upstairs is my domain with rows of printers, massive shelves of cardstock and envelope boxes stacked to the ceiling.

I like to be organized, but when it comes to my studio somehow that eludes me. Over the years, I have acquired a lot of crap. Cardstock isn’t a recyclable material, so I hold on to the bigger scraps in hopes that one day I will find a use. That also goes for misprints, ribbon remnants and handmade paper left over from orders. It adds up and it takes up space. Space that unfortunately, I had to come to terms with clearing out a bit, otherwise this kid was going to end up living out of a basket in our room.

One of the more enjoyable tasks for getting ready for this baby was redoing a crazy-looking dresser. I have had this thing for over 5 years, sitting in the garage after a neighbor put it out by the curb. It was an eyesore, but rather unique. Even though it was missing drawers, it was well-built and I saw potential.

Cam's dresser before copy

The front is a little unusual, as it curves in. The remaining drawers fit well, but had the odd blocks of wood screwed on the front of them. I was left to assume these were used as the drawer pulls. Joel made the executive decision to keep them on and as you’ll see, it paid off.
So I started with the priming. Then I painted the interiors without drawers pale blue.

Cam's dresser primed copy

In a shocking twist, I refrained from (mostly) pushing my aqua/teal fetish onto this child. His whale bedding we chose does have a hint of it, but I decided to go with a dark grey with pale blue accents for this piece. The weird looking fronts soon appeared to be waves, though were still lacking something to really set them off. Enter these super cool anchor knobs from Anthropologie! anthro anchor knobs copy

At $8 a piece, it caused me to pause. However the more I searched, the more I liked them and really feel like they tie it all together! After much searching, we found great felted storage bins at Lowe’s that fit perfect.

Cam's room dresser after copy

Here it is, all put together. Granted the walls don’t coordinate very well, because it’s a cozy corner of my workspace, but it’s what we are working with for now. 🙂

March 11, 2014


Mini me Arden pretend driving copy

About a year and a half ago I began to notice a really annoying habit Arden had.
Every time she was frustrated, say putting on shoes when the tongue stuck inside or a jacket with the arm inside out, she would make this really exasperated, loud grunt. If no one responded, it would continue into foot stomping and her shouting that whatever she was having difficulty with was ‘stupid’.

‘Dude, it’s not that hard!’ I would say, as she would flail all about. “Come on, we have to go!” No, of course it didn’t seem difficult for me. I knew how to do all these things easily. As a smaller person though, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by problem solving, especially when you are slow and always being rushed.

I’m not proud to say that it took me several months of this behavior before I finally caught on. Working on a wedding invitation order under a deadline, I stood over my printer fuming. The cardstock would jam, the toner would leak, smearing across the page. Something inevitably always went wrong when I just desperately needed it to work smoothly. I let out a loud overly-exaggerated groan, slammed the printer tray back into position, shouting “Stupid thing!”


The super annoying tendencies that my pint-sized child displayed were because of me. A completely learned reaction from one of the people in her life she looks up to most. I’m giving life lessons on how to handle challenges and stress and I was totally letting her down. This made me reflect on how I could rectify the situation.

In my job, I try to bend over backwards to make others happy. Pleased clients refer others. It’s good for business and my livelihood sort of depends on it. But in my quest to do whatever it took, I sold myself and my work short. The pressure I felt, spilled into my family life. I would be up till all hours tweaking a sample, only for a client to completely change their mind the next day. It was exhausting. I realized adjustments had to be made within how I ran the business in order for me to not get so overwhelmed. I needed to get rid of tension in my neck and the weight of perfection that always loomed over me.

Slowly, progress is being made.
I know this because I don’t get the crippling migraines I used to. I do better at taking things in stride and not so personally. And Arden? Well now, she calmly asks for help with a task she gets stuck on, instead of throwing a fit. While it’s humbling to realize my faults and work toward bettering them, it’s more important for me to make my example a good one.

I saw this video a couple weeks ago that prompted me to want to write this post. WARNING: It is emotionally jarring, but it certainly gets it’s point across.

February 25, 2014

Drumroll please: IT’S A …

It's a boy banner copy

I cried.
It felt like a long time waiting for this moment. I had wanted more kids as soon as I met Joel, but the timing just wasn’t right quite. Looking up at the screen today for the ultrasound, I wanted a boy and there he was. All kicking and waving his arms.
Arden got to be there with us. She had talked about wanting a baby sister for so long. I kept her out of school a few hours just so she could witness it for herself. She laughed as she saw the baby move. It’s a cool experience for anyone to see their baby on the monitor. For her I think it was a little magical. I hope that it will be something that she always remembers, how she got to be part of it all.

Baby Stead 18 wk 2 days 001 copy

The other day, I stupidly looked at my paperwork from the previous appointment with my ob/gyn. Under diagnoses it read ‘Supervision of high-risk pregnancy of elderly multigravida’. It simple terms it means at 37, medically speaking they consider me old. As someone who has never quite looked her age, yeah, it’s super insulting. So by yesterday, as the gender determining ultrasound AND the DNA blood-test neared, I had a bit of a meltdown. I suddenly was worried that the baby wasn’t growing right, that a million things could be wrong. We did find out today that he has a tiny hole in his kidney. The doctor seemed pretty nonchalant about it, but ‘hole’ and ‘baby’ aren’t really two words you want to hear together. We still have to wait a couple weeks now for the test results to come back to find out if our son has any other issues.

I cannot believe I’m going to be a mom of two kids. A girl and a boy. It’s wild and surreal.
I already feel like a whale. I don’t recall being this tired with Arden or this large already. Maybe it’s due to MY ADVANCED AGE. I still have 22 weeks to go. Our boy is due around July 27th. I was hoping for sooner. At least it’s not August. Between Arden on the 19th and me on the 26th, we do not need another birthday in August. Arden proclaimed that it would be “SO FUN” until I told her that if that happened, she certainly wouldn’t get a birthday party this year. That shut her right up! LOL.

Arden always has lots of opinions about everything (shocker, right?) A few month ago, she told us that if we had a boy, for his birthday she would have a flag party or a car party. Because boys like those things, she said. {HA HA HA!!!} A flag party, what is THAT? I think she will be pleased to find out that he will probably like a lot of the same things she does. Pirates, ninjas, cars. Possibly even horses. Guess I better start designing more party invitations. 🙂


January 28, 2014

What’s in a Name?

Joel and I are struggling to come up with names. I suppose when we go in for the gender determining ultrasound in a month, it may make things easier. Until then, we are all like “How about this?” and “What do you think?”

Back when I was pregnant with Arden, I had made a list. I wanted something unique, but not too weird that people couldn’t spell it. There is an ‘Arden Road’ in Clintonville that I used to pass by and fell in love with the name. It still confused my Grandma until my Aunt pointed out that it was like ‘Garden’ without the ‘G’, which sort-of seemed to help her remember, but mostly she would just end up calling her Great-Grandchild ‘Erin’. (LOL)

When I researched the meaning behind Arden’s name, I discovered it was from a Shakespearean comedy ‘As you like it.’ The main setting was a magical forest named ‘Arden’. The forest was named after Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden. Kinda cool, right? It ended up beating out another favorite of mine ‘Veruca’. As in the mouthy little girl from the Willy Wonka movie, (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) who fell down the egg sorting chute. While I had some supporters, I felt like if I went that route, I end up with my hands full. (If you know my daughter, you know the joke is on me.)

In a cool twist of fate, about 6 months after Arden was born, I received a request from a Historical Society out in California to put a bid on an invitation project that were working on for a celebration they would be hosting. It was to honor the late Helena Modjeska, a Shakespearean actress and her estate named (what else, but) ‘Arden’. They accepted my bid and I was euphoric. I ended up designing and making 300 sets of invitations and reply postcards for their event.

Helena Modjeska Foundation invitation

Helena Modjeska Foundation reply

If you notice, in super super small at the bottom of the logo on the reply card, it reads ‘Arden – Modjeska’s Home in Santiago Canyon’.
How awesome was that?! Definitely a highlight of my invitation-making career. I was only sad I couldn’t attend. One day, I’d love to see it for myself.

But back to names. For boys, my go-to was always ‘Xander’. As in one of Buffy’s loyal vampire-slaying-sidekicks on the show, Buffy. It derives from ‘Alexander’, with a meaning of ‘Defender of all mankind’. I really felt I couldn’t go wrong with it. EXCEPT, it’s dramatically increased in popularity over the past 5 years, losing appeal for me. As a kicker, I just don’t feel like it goes with the ‘Stead’ last name. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to top a name with such an awesome meaning, everything seems to pale in comparison.

Then there is the girl name that Arden, who is longing for a sister, came up with like 6 months ago. Begging for a sister for at least a year, one day she sat me down and solemnly proclaimed that WHEN she had one, we should name her ‘Astley’. I have no idea where she came up with it, but oddly enough, Joel and I were both into it. If this name sounds remotely familiar, it’s because of 80’s crooner, Rick Astley. So far, from several of the people we have told, we’ve received the collective response of “Ass-what?”

Pronounced ‘a-st- ley’ it is an actual place in Warwickshire, from Old English east ‘east’ + leah ‘woodland clearing’. Or as some baby name sites list it, ‘A starry field’, or ‘A field of stars’ which honestly isn’t so shabby next to a magical forest. Whatever we end up choosing, I hope it fits the baby well.

Please post and tell us how you ended up choosing your name(s).

December 4, 2013

I’ve gotta up my game.

When I was in 3rd grade, our teacher did a thing for each student called “Your Special Day’ and it would be a surprise. We would all color that person a picture and make a book. Then their family would come in and show pictures of them as babies, tell funny stories and the class would laugh. Your friends would stand up and tell about your favorite things and then we would all eat treats. It was awesome.

I had been trying since the beginning of the school year to get picked for the task of ‘Errands’. I wanted it desperately. To escape from the classroom and be on important mission. Then finally it happened. I got picked. I had to take a note to the 5th grade class teacher. It was awkward standing in front of the older kids while the teacher took her sweet time replying. I shifted my weight back and forth to each foot now eagerly wanting to leave. Once I returned to my class, everyone’s head was bend hard at work coloring and I KNEW.

It was MY Special Day.

Being so sassy, I said to my teacher “What should I be coloring?”
Yeah, I was a pain.
I got it from my dad, my eye for detail. It serves me well as an adult. But if I wanted to get away with something when I was younger, I had to work REALLY hard at it. Videotape #’s had to be recorded at the exact number they started in the VCR, that way they could be rewound exactly to the right spot he left them. I learned a cold, wet towel kept on the back of the console would defer the heat the tv put off while on. Which really came in handy if my step-brother and I would be watching the tv in the living room and we weren’t supposed to be. My dad would always check when he came home.

So it’s only fitting that now as I try to think of ways to move Arden’s ‘Elf on the Shelf’ around that she of course, calls me on it. I got the elf out yesterday, while she was at school. I sewed it a little skirt and put a button on it’s hat, so it could be a GIRL ELF. I put it in the basket along with my stuffed animal collection (they are cooler than it sounds, not just any stuffed animals will do.) To finish off my ensemble, I made a tiny card. (Actually, I made 3, because I kept messing up writing so small.) I set it on the Elf’s lap until Arden arrived home from school and I couldn’t help but point it out.

note from sassafras copy

She was thrilled. But she noticed immediately that the Elf’s skirt was made out of material I owned. She was fired up and said “That Elf should have asked first!” (LOL) When I said it was okay, then she wanted me to read the card. It said :

Hello Arden,
My name is Sassafras. I’m Santa’s little elf.
I heard you are trying to be good, but I came to see for myself.
You must try hard to listen and not to be mean.
And most of all, to always stay on green. (it’s a classroom discipline technique her teacher does)
I’m so happy to be here and when we are done,
I hope to be telling Santa to bring lots of gifts an lots of fun.
,Love Sassy

Arden loves it and I have to read it to her like 5 times. She asked a million questions about Sassy and Santa.
Then she says “Hey, I think Sassy used your card stock. I remember seeing envelopes like this upstairs.”
(I had cut the freaking envelope in half, for goodness sake!)
Then the real kicker came when I tucked her in last night.

“You know what, Mama? Sassy writes just like you. Did you see that?”
I said I hadn’t. When she kept pressing the issue, I simply told her that we probably had the same teacher that taught us how to write.

Who does that? She’s only 5.
I’ve gotta up my game.

Sassafrass the elf copy

November 30, 2013

Hallie-the-Duplex : Week 10

In rehabbing, there is A LOT of dirty work. So many individual tasks that join forces to lead up to an actual completed project. Not really fun to do, let alone write about. They are often dull and mundane. One of these is emptying the house of debris. Vines, broken drywall, busted up flooring, a bevy of tires that resided in the basement, all of it must go in order to make room to start fresh. By doing so, we’ve loaded up and disposed of 10 trailer fulls so far. It is definitely the unglamorous side of rehabbing Hallie.

Trailer of trash copy

Another thankless task would be overhauling the sewage drain pipes in the basement. Unfortunately, a toilet doesn’t just get placed in a bathroom and Voilà = usable! There is this enormous cast-iron pipe in the basement, that was (of course) ripped out by scrappers. (Actually 2 of them were.) This one, similar to the water pipe line debacle, was broken off at floor level, making the task of replacing/fixing it a tremendous pain-in-the-ass.

Hallie the Duplex Week 9 sewer pipe copy

See that black square on the wall? It’s the crawl space. It’s dark and creepy and fairly uncomfortable, especially because Joel is not small. He has bravely climbed in there numerous times to repair leaks in that portion of the pipe. Once one was fixed, another one sprung. It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s fair to say that the bathroom we’ve been working on is almost complete, but we have had to keep you in suspense just a bit longer as all the kinks are worked out.

In the meantime, here are photos from the 1st floor living room.

Hallie week 10 living room copy

Halliie week 10 , windows and fireplace copy

You can ponder to yourselves how we will fix this monstrosity. The ceiling damage was caused by a previous burst water pipe, which caved in both this room and a bedroom on the other side of the wall. All the warped flooring (both original and a layer of laminate) has been removed from this room, as well as a small adjoining bedroom to the right and the dining room to the left. It is safe to say that it is already looking a bit better than what this pic shows since this was taken a few weeks ago. I’m really excited about the windows and fireplace in this room and plan on really making them pop. Until then, hope everyone has a great weekend!

September 26, 2013

How I became a trash-picker + Apartment Therapy’s Room for Color Contest

When I moved to Columbus from Pasadena, CA. I didn’t have much. Before leaving I purchased a compact Saturn with a roof rack and brought along what I could pack into (and onto) the car. Arriving here, I took a decent paying job training as a vending machine driver. This required me to get up at the crack of dawn, to be at the shop to take inventory and to load my truck, repetitively lifting 50lb. at a time. Oh and I also was expected to drive a 20ft. box truck on the freeway, in a large city, which I had obviously never done before. But I had a crazy positive attitude AND I needed money.

The first couple weeks were hell. I had to navigate around an unfamiliar, busy city in a hulking vehicle, sometimes parking downtown in very tight spaces, all in the name of restocking goodies. The job was very physical. I went from just riding my bike as my only form of transportation and exercise to, what felt like boot camp, a full-on complete body work out 5 days a week. I didn’t have any furniture, so I slept on the floor and my muscles ached, to say the least. It wasn’t all bad though. I could eat more than my share of cookies, candy and snack cakes without gaining an ounce. And it was all for free. One of the perks of the job. It was marvelous.

Out on my route one day, I spotted a disheveled looking dresser by the edge of the road. You would definitely say it was ugly, with green paint that could be described as the color of pond scum. Which was overlaying a darker green that peeked through in areas and could be accurately named “Mold’. I couldn’t imagine why anyone held onto this hideous thing to begin with, but I desperately needed a dresser. I pulled my truck over and upon closer examination, found that it was a very nicely constructed, solid piece. With my newly acquired strength, I hustled that 5 1/2 ft long x 3ft tall x 2ft wide bad-boy (by myself) up onto my truck (with no ramp) and was on my way.

I only lived in an apartment, so out on the balcony this beast went. I taught myself how to strip, sand, prime, paint and seal it. Being that it was my first, it didn’t turn out exactly like I would have wanted it. But I still have it 14 years later as my bedroom dresser. Since then, I’ve hauled home quite a few pieces of furniture, a lot of them for free. My daughter’s dresser and bookcase in her room. The mirrored dresser in kitchen that we used as our drink station for our wedding as well as quite a few of the lovelies in our living room. Check out our room here: Erin’s Happy to be Home Room Read about which pieces were reworked and remade to what you see now and HEY! while you are there, be sure to vote for us! We’d love to win some paint to use on Hallie-the-Duplex!

October 24, 2012

Welcome Home!

The things I enjoyed as a child are oddly enough the same stuff that I find that I still enjoy doing as an adult. Somewhere along the way, I stopped, because I guess I thought I was supposed to. To grow up, be an adult, be serious, make money, pay bills. I have found though, that a lot of that last sentence sucks and eventually it actually sucks the joy out of your life, if you let it. There is no point of depriving yourself of the things you love doing because it may be frowned upon. As long as you aren’t harming yourself or others, ultimately, allowing yourself to be who you are is going to make you happier to be around. It will make your partner happier and your kids and basically everyone else you come in contact with.

For years I wanted to make banners. All I could ever find at the store is gaudy, shiny-looking cut out letters or hearts, not very fitting for what I wanted to decorate a party with. But it wasn’t just that. You know the feeling of excitement that you get when you walk into a decorated room for a party? Whether it be Halloween, or a birthday, whatever. Someone made the effort to make it special and take it to a whole other level. The room is no longer a living room or a basement or a VW Hall. It’s now alive with balloons and steamers or spooky with cobwebs and hanging skeletons.

I wanted that feeling all.the.time. I wanted a banner hanging in my house year-round.
Yet I held back. What if people thought I was stupid? I’m rebellious, but this might be a bit much even for me. At the time, I didn’t even have kids. I told myself it was silly and pushed it deep down. For like 6 years I held back. Just like anything you push down deep, it resurfaces again and again until you deal with it. Damn those craft-making urges I have! For wanting to feel mini child-like wonder every time I walk around my house. I want warm and welcoming, fun and colorful. I want every person that steps through the door of my home, to feel happiness surround them.

So now, I make banners. Personalized ones with peoples names for birthdays or for anniversaries or because they got a promotion or because it’s Fall. Life is hard a lot times, but it’s all the little victories that get us through, that deserve recognition and to be celebrated! The banners sell well and they make me super happy, while making others feel special. My clients love them! And that sassy little girl inside of me says “It’s about time you started listening to me.”

November 29, 2010

roller coaster cont: the ups

I know, I know. I started a blog, make a couple posts, then disappear for weeks. Now I write 2 entries in one day. Random. But after that last post, who couldn’t use a little pick-me-up? I know I sure needed one.

For the last couple months, I have been putting together packets of my cards and mailing them out to carefully researched stores. I want them to be a perfect fit. OR what I think is a perfect fit anyway, obviously the store owners/ managers do not. Most places say that they aren’t looking for new inventory until Spring, which is a bit disheartening, as wedding season is slow now and the point of this, is well to make money when it’s slow.
Plus, I wouldn’t mind building a card empire. Okay, maybe not an empire, but enough accounts to keep things steady and growing. Now that would be cool! (As thankful as I am for all my wonderful clients, wedding invitations are not exactly rich with repeat business.) 🙂

I have been able to sell at Emperor’s Newest Clothes in the Short North for the last couple years and most recently at Voda Emporium in Olde Town East. I know both of the owners and am thankful for the opportunity they provide.

On a particularly fateful day last week, I took Arden to the mad house that is the children’s play area at Polaris. After about an hour there, we were leaving and I noticed a store over to the left. They had giant cardboard letters to buy. I cannot resist the lure of letters, so I had to check it out.

The inside was lovely and I don’t know what possessed me, but I asked the sales woman if the store was family owned. She said it was. Then before I knew it, I asked if I could bring my cards in for them to consider. She said that would be great.

The next day I drop off my packet of samples. With my holiday cards, there is a total of 22 designs. I was SO NERVOUS! And by the time I had walked across the mall, out to the end of the parking lot and just starting to drive away, the store manager, Israel Jones, of Shine called me and asked me to come back. The entire Jones Family (who own both Shine and Nest at Easton) were there and Laura (mom) and Addison (daughter) placed an order for 24 of each card. (Some for each store) OMG!!!! Not to mention, these people are so nice, you wish you could be a member of their family. Each one of them is a creative genius onto themselves. Combined they are UNSTOPPABLE.

Ok. Enough with the dramatics! This is super exciting though!
Needless to say, I feel extremely fortunate to be working with them. Going back in the first evening the cards where there, on display, was total awesome-ness. They look amazing. (From what I heard, are selling well, so we are all very excited.)

HOORAY! (Also much jumping up and down)
Be sure to check out their stores the next time you are at Polaris (Shine) or Easton (Nest).