Monday, December 19, 2011

The Greeting Card Way

Over ten years ago, when my business partner and I still owned our greeting card manufacturing company, we worked with a local accountant who handled the more complicated financial aspects of our business.  He soon became a friend who often chided us about how nice we always were in our business dealings.  I remember a few consultations when we had sought his advice about some pending financial confrontation, he would advise handling situation with firmness, then add "of course, you can say it in 'the greeting card way'".

Over the years, I have learned that not all companies operate in "the greeting card way".  Especially in an economic downturn where money is tight, the niceties of business are often the first things to go.  But some businesses not only operate with integrity, they also still do little extra things that make business such a pleasure.

Today was the perfect example.  Ralph, our mail carrier, brought this little box to my door.  It was a Christmas gift from Legacy Publishing in Clinton, MA, one of my favorite licensees.




Inside the box was a one-of-a-kind figurine made especially for Legacy by Vaillancourt Folk Art.  It was gift wrapped with a signed card tucked in beside it.  As I picked up the delicate figurine, I was hoping it was signed and dated.  Yes, it was!





Rarely do companies take the time to make such thoughtful, memorable exchanges.  But Legacy seems to understand how the small things are part of what makes our greeting card business special.

If you are shopping for Christmas, please remember to look for Legacy Publishing's calendars, journals, coasters and a variety of other stationery products.  It's easy to see the care they put into every product, just like the care they put into their business relationships.

Merry Christmas to you all.  May yours be filled with little unexpected kindnesses like this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season...for a New Calendar!





The 2012 calendars are selling out quickly so get yours soon!

If you are a Missouri customer looking for the 2012 calendars in stores, check our updated Where to Buy page for a complete list of retail locations in Missouri.

And remember, you can always find Shelly Reeves Smith's products online at these retailers: Amazon.com, Calendars.com, Andrewsmcmeel.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Legacy.com.




c 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith, LLC

Monday, December 5, 2011

Countdown to Christmas



Like my son (who obviously loves technology), I enjoy reading a few of my favorite blogs and websites daily. There is such a wealth of information available online from generous and talented writers. My favorites cover everything from licensing to finances, crafts, frugality, and early childhood education.

This morning, this article at Passionatehomemaking.com called "On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me" struck a chord with me. Our budget has been tight this year and dates nights or gifts to each other have been scaled back considerably. So I decided to try this series of small gifts to thank my husband for all the little things he does for us (shhh, don't tell him!).

I don't insist on a lot of rituals during the holidays, though I like that other people have them. I'm often too practical for my own good...so much so that I forget to let my creative side loose at home. The great thing about this particular gift idea is that the presents needs not be expensive -- something I wish could be true of Christmas gifts in general. The real memories made at Christmas are the creative and heartfelt ways we come up with to express of love for each other.

Thank you Trina Holden for your great articles and for writing today about this charming holiday tradition.

Passionate Homemaking -- On the First Day of Christmas

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Calendar Signing This Weekend!

Join me Saturday night, December 3rd, at Hammons Black Walnut Emporium in Stockton, Missouri for their annual Christmas event. It is all part of Stockton's "A Living Christmas" celebration on the city square.




I will be at the Emporium from 6PM-8PM signing copies of my 2012 Andrews McMeel "Seasons of Friendship" calendars. In addition to other signing opportunities, there will be free samples of Hammons' famous Missouri-grown black walnuts and their selection of delicious products. There will also be free giveaways and the chance to shop their wide selection of Christmas gifts.







For more information on this event, please contact Hammons Emporium at 417.276.5800.

I'm looking forward to visiting Stockton again. I hope to see you there!



C 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith, LLC

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Tradition

With Thanksgiving just a day away, like most of us, I'm taking time today to make dishes for our Thanksgiving dinner. Among the items on the menu are these rolls we affectionately call Vera's Butterhorns. They have been a favorite in our family for over 30 years.



If you have a copy of the second cookbook in the Among Friends series, Heart and Soul, you will find this recipe on page 24. The version is an updated one of the original first given to me by Vera herself when I was 10.



Vera was our landlady and neighbor when my family first moved to Missouri in 1975. She was one of those gems among people -- sweet, kind, hardworking and generous, an amazing cook and homemaker. I can still hear her soft voice as if she were standing next to me.

During the two years we lived next to her, Vera and her husband Orvis took our little family under their wing. Knowing we were far away from our home in Iowa, she always made us feel welcome and loved. Without fail, the Streeters would invite us to their family gatherings when we couldn't be with our extended family. On nearly every occasion, Vera would get up early and make these amazing rolls.

One Saturday morning, she invited me to get up early (6AM -- early for me) and help her. I'll never forget her kneading and kneading, then turning the dough over to show me how velvety it should look when it's ready to rise. She even took time to write off the recipe on a little scratch pad, which I have saved in my recipe file.



Though I usually use my stand mixer and dough hook when making these, last night I decided to mix them like Vera did... by hand. I even followed her original recipe. From the feel of the dough when I rolled them out, I think this will be the best batch yet. As moms and grandmas have known for centuries, there is something about kneading bread by hand that makes it come alive.



This year, I tried a new twist: I made and froze them ahead of time. I plan to thaw and bake them on Thanksgiving morning like the recipe from moneysavingmom.com. Although the butterhorns at Moneysavingmom.com are delicious made this way, I have never tried this method with our butterhorns. I'm guessing they will respond the same. We'll see how it goes.



This Thanksgiving, as you gather with your loved ones, consider asking a family member who might make a dish you enjoy, to write the recipe down in their own handwriting. It will be a gift you will treasure for many years. It may also help you remember details about the time you spent with them, as those memories can quickly fade. Good food made by loving hands has a way of helping us remember the important people in our lives, doesn't it?

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are able to enjoy the day with those who mean most to you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Power of Momentum

The word momentum is a powerful little word. I never fully realized how powerful until recently. I knew it was something you needed when, say, running up a hill or trying to get to the top of a mountain pass or encouraging a group of people to unite for a cause.

It wasn't until I started to apply it in less literal ways that I realized its power. If you're familiar with Dave Ramsey's teaching, momentum is one of the hallmarks of his plan for paying off debt. He teaches Financial Peace University students to group their debts, smallest to the largest, and then pay off the smallest one first. It might seem counterintuitive. It's easy to assume that the best way is to tackle the largest debt first. But it soon becomes clear that the power of momentum is well worth taking smaller steps, completing those tasks, and spending a little more in interest payments.

It's true for many little things in life -- cleaning house, working in the garden, or tackling any goal. Sometimes completing just one little thing, then one more little thing, will give you the momentum to finish the entire task in record time.

It finally occurred to me how true it is for art. I have known for 20 years that I worked better with a pile of complete paintings at my side, but never understood why. It obviously bolstered confidence and calmed those nagging doubts. But I think it's more than that -- the act of completing something changes the way we think.

The inverse is also true. The first painting in a group -- whether it be a collection of greeting cards or the first of 12 paintings in a calendar -- is always the most challenging. One has the advantage of the excitement of beginning a new project, but it also feels like being a trapeze without a net or taking that first step up a long hill. I think, as artists, we have to recognize the little things that encourage momentum and to make sure we use them to our advantage.

I would be curious to know how other artists tackle extended projects. What gives you the momentum you need to complete a project?



copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New for Fall

A sneak peek at a new painting. Doesn't plaid just say cozy?




It's so easy to be inspired to paint in the filtered light of October. It's a lovely time of year to be outside!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Going, Going...

It's hard to believe, but it's the end of September and the 2012 calendars are already in low supply.

I noticed today that Amazon.com has only 4 Abundant Blessings Monthly Pocket Planners left in stock. They say there are more on the way, but I know from placing my own orders that availability of the Abundant Blessings Wall Calendars on the wholesale level is limited, if not completely sold out, by now.





If you plan to purchase the 2012 Abundant Blessings or Seasons of Friendship calendars, please order soon for the best selection. They are available at Hallmark and other gift stores that carry Andrews McMeel calendars. You can also find them online at quality sites like andrewsmcmeel.com, calendars.com, and amazon.com. Remember to type "Shelly Reeves Smith 2012 Calendar" in the search window if the link does not take you directly to my products.





The new year is just around the corner so order soon! And a special thank you to everyone who has made the effort to find these calendars in stores and online since 2010. I know it's been a challenge considering the name confusion between companies, but we appreciate your loyalty and hope to see you again in 2013!



Copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith, LLC

Sunday, September 25, 2011

History of Art

For those of you who sat through Art History classes in college...and actually liked it...this is for you.

I recently bought this updated copy of the classic book History of Art by H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson. Does it bring back memories? I ordered this copy in a panic when I couldn't find my original from college. Of course, the day it arrived, I found the old one safely stored away. But now, I have a backup.

Janson, as some call it, is a huge coffee-table-size book filled with pictures of art from Etruscan urns to Andy Warhol's soup cans and filled with information about how each piece relates to other events of its time.



I'm not sure why it's important to have this book in my possession. I kept few things from college, but I can't seem to let go of this. Perhaps it's because it's so dense with information. Or maybe it's like a travel guide for the aspiring art collector/world traveler.

But the more likely scenario it that it reminds me of one of my favorite professors, Mrs. Harriet Mears. She was a small, soft-spoken, well-educated lady who exuded intelligence and kindness. She was always restrained and professional, but in her art history classes, her excitement was hard to contain. At times she would get so excited describing the cathedrals of Europe that she would almost seem out of breath. I completely understood - even only seeing them in pictures took my breath.

She also taught weaving and other art classes (I can just hear the snicking from the pre-med students) all of which I enjoyed mostly because she taught them. Her love for her job and for artistic effort was infectious. Anyone who knew her loved her company, whether they were a student or a colleague.

She was also a safe person to be around for those of us who were...how shall I say it....slow to grasp less objective styles of art. You know how it is...you can't admit to just anyone that you prefer neoclassical architecture to modernism or realism over abstract expressionism.

A week after buying the book, it came in handy in a different way. Ison decided he was a big boy and didn't need his high chair. So in the absence of a booster seat, we pressed Janson into service. Turns out, when paired with Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living, it's just the right height to bring a 19-month-old child up to table height.

I wish Harriet could see this picture and meet my son. I think she would approve of this twist on "form follows function".







Copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Summer Vacation

Well, it wasn't actually a vacation. I completed a calendar and worked on several other projects. But I did take a break from blogging to spend some extra time with my family.

In doing so, I spent a lot of time watching my son's first attempts at creating and building. In just a few short months, he has quickly gone from baby-toddler to little-boy-toddler. Among his new tricks and skills is stacking objects in interesting ways...like this kitchen-inspired sculpture that he made, then of course quickly abandoned for something much more interesting.


I didn't actually see him stack this, but I have watched him build towers before with other toys, like the Fisher Price POP-ONZ Pop & Twirl Building Table that our dear friends loaned us (I say "dear" because this is quite possibly the best toy ever invented). When my son, or any child, plays with it, I see them piece together colorful shaped blocks with unwavering confidence and enjoyment, then promptly congratulate themselves afterward with a rousing round of chubby-handed applause.

If one definition of art is the act of creating, then a child joyfully arranging objects to his liking has to qualify as art. Watching the process has certainly helped me remember that art should be playful...and temporary. As I have said before, in the midst of deadlines it's easy to forget that, in truth, everything around us is temporary, even the masterpiece we might be creating.

In taking time to play, we gain so much perspective. I hope you took time this summer to enjoy some unstructured time...and that you made sure to congratulate yourself afterward!


Copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith, LLC

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Western Wisdom


I know this is an art blog. So why is there an old picture of a cowboy on this post? It's someone close to our hearts around here...Hopalong Cassidy, one of my husband's favorite cowboys.

My husband's grandfather was a real-life cowboy. His son, in turn, spent his childhood in the western lifestyle, working on ranches, riding horses and carrying a gun. Hearing all the stories from these men, my husband devoured as many Hopalong and other cowboy books as he could find as a kid. They were all easily 40-50 years older than he was at the time, but he enjoyed the stories, the adventures,..the heroes.

It's hard to believe it's been nearly 100 years since cowboys in books and later on the silver screen captured the imaginations of a generation of girls and boys. The stories were straightforward and the lessons clear - be honest, brave, responsible, work hard and help your neighbor. Oh, and be polite to ladies.

I did not grow up reading about the classic cowboys, but I was a devoted fan of those who appeared in the movies and on TV in later years like The Lone Ranger and Gene Autry...and of course, James Arness. I liked him so much that when we moved to Missouri, my main concern was that "they might not have Gunsmoke". For kids like me, Matt Dillon (U.S. Marshal, not teen idol) embodied all that was courageous, honorable...and handsome.


Recently, I stumbled across the list below from a Hopalong Cassidy promotional website and decided to print it and frame for my son's room. It will go perfectly with all of the western ephemera that he will surely inherit from his dad -- felt hats, Zane Grey books, Red Ryder BB gun, etc. But I realized how true the advice is and how we've somehow lost our need to rise to these standards. Sadly, they seem outdated. But I long for a day when we might return to teaching our children thoughtful principles like this.

So, here's to a simpler time, at least in our imaginations. When a publicity company would even think to print and distribute a "creed" like this -- and the public would actually buy it...and follow it. Here's also to timeless concepts such as right and wrong and thinking of others before yourself. What could be so bad about all that?


Hopalong Cassidy's "Creed for American Boys and Girls"

1. The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be mindful at all times.

2. Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their instructions.

3. If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way.

4. Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don't be lazy.

5. Your good deeds always come to light. So don't boast or be a show off.

6. If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways.

7. Many animals are good and loyal companions. Be friendly and kind to them.

8. A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean.

9. Our country's laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully.

10. Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Symphony

Since I've been busy with spring deadlines, I haven't taken time to blog. My artist friends seem to be taking a break from online activity, too. We must all be holed up in our studios painting away!

However, I wanted to write briefly to share the activity going on outside the studio, in the yard around our farmhouse. We had an especially wet spring this year in southern Missouri. The weeks of rain and subsequent flooding were destructive, but the abundant water has been a boon for the flowers.


Foliage and flowers are more vibrant when freshly spritzed with rainwater. The shrubs and perennials seem more lush than usual, after weeks of daily watering.


I'm not a particularly whimsical person. In fact, my practical side sometimes gets in the way creatively. However, when it comes to flowers, I'm positively imaginative. To me, flowers always look like they're doing or thinking something. Even those confined to vases or draped over tables never look static. Rather, they appear to be engaged in conversation, bending toward one another as if to share a secret or show affection.


But because of all the rain this year, what used to seem like a conversation to me is more like a symphony. Waiting for flowers to bloom this year was like sitting in a grand hall, waiting for musicians to begin their performance. First, March and hyacinths, like the principle oboe directing the intonation with a single A note...


Then followed by the swirls of random tuning in different registers -- the bleeding heart, lilac, sun-kissed jonquils, tulips and delicate violets.


At some point mid-April, everything gets quiet before the big reveal...the iris and peonies wait until just the right moment...

Then it begins, usually with the spider-wort (which is actually much friendlier than the name suggests)...


Flowering shrubs of all kinds, fences overflowing with honeysuckle and the billowy, soft peonies. On clear evenings when the setting sun filters the light, the scene is so richly painted.




Of course, living here in Missouri, the woods are never far away, so the wildflowers join in over the fence row, taking their turn to bloom, as if on cue.


I know, you're thinking...if you're imagining music in the yard, you just might be spending too much time alone! True! But if you're a person for which solitary tasks are necessary, flowers are great company.


Of course, it won't be long before the harmony in May turns into a rave of weeds and bugs in July, but I'm going to enjoy this peaceful time of year while it lasts.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

Over the past few months, I have been sketching for various projects and thinking about how much I enjoy this part of the design process. In doing so, I stumbled onto this sketch from the 2012 calendar projects.




It is obviously quick and rough. But aren't sketches like this appealing? Even ones rendered in a hurry, with little notes all over them, I find hard to throw way.

Perhaps it's because they reveal so much about the decision-making that goes on in a painting...and the possibilities. It's not just about how the painting turned out, but all of the other ways it's could have turned out. It's sometimes hard to discard the ideas that one sketch represents.

Here is an excerpt of that February spread, in final form. The bookmark will be moved to the right side and some other elements and colors have been tweaked, but it's fun to see this one version of the sketch come to life.





And here, a close-up of Kerry Boone's lovely verse.






The 2012 Seasons of Friendship calendar, along with the Abundant Blessings version, will be available in stores in July. You know, calendars are a little like sketches, too. Their empty pages represent so many possibilities...dates waiting be filled with events and plans. Perhaps that's why some of us can't throw these away either!


Copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Jazz Bunny

This very classy bunny is just one of three whimsical Oliver Lake prints given to my son for his birthday by his Aunt Windy from Hawaii. I just love his shoes.



Here are the other two. A fiddling squirrel...




And this cool bird (undoubtedly playing jazz, but I like to think he could also mash Little Cabin Home on the Hill):



Oliver Lake is a UK based artist whose illustrations have appeared in publications like "Time Out" and "The Independent" as well as children's books. Prints like the ones above can be found at his Etsy store, Iota illustration. Thanks Aunt Windy for introducing me to Oliver Lake's work -- and for a gift our little man will enjoy for years to come.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Paint What You Love

Most creative people are familiar with this saying, or ones like it. It's something we say to one another when we need inspiration and encouragement.

But it becomes especially important for commercial artists when deadlines, contracts and other demands of the business crowd their way to the front of our minds and it is hard to focus on anything else. At times like that, artists need to remember why they were inspired in the first place -- to spend time with the people or things makes their hearts sing.

A few years ago, after a couple decades of trying to chase the latest trends, I decided that the rural side of life -- anything farmy, kitcheny, homey, gardeny, earthy (the last one being the only actual word of that bunch!) -- is where I am most at home creatively. Though I always keep current trends and the preferences of my customers in mind, images of life in the country are always my best motivator. As we all are with places we love, I'm drawn to it, whether at home or traveling.

A dear friend once told me that he has spent most of his life trying to recreate his grandmother's farm. I realized in that moment that I do the same thing -- and since having our son, it's become even more fun to create a comfortable nest for my family that is reminiscent of that farm. Perhaps that is why I couldn't help but take a picture of this little bouquet my husband brought home last week. He found it on property he maintains for his conservation job -- where an old farm used to sit by a spring (don't you love it when the flowers keep blooming long after the house has been torn down?). It was delivered to me in a little water bottle, gently wrapped in a wet blue shop towel.



Just that morning I had received an request from a customer to include blue Ball jars, as she collects them. So I found one of the blue jars that came from my grandparent's house in Iowa and gave the flowers a roomier home. The bouquet seems quite content on our old metal table. And my heart has been singing away since then!

What inspires you?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bruner's Hallmark


A little over twenty years ago, after graduating from college, I moved to Kansas City, MO to work as a production artist in an advertising agency. But somehow the rumor started that I had moved to Kansas City to work at Hallmark as a greeting card artist. Of course, there are worse rumors to have going around about you -- and I never did mind that one.

But it was ironic. Since I was a little girl, I have loved to linger in Hallmark stores, browsing the racks of stationery, envelopes, calendars, cards, etc. imagining what it would be like to design things like that.

Then, one day, the dream came true.


No, I didn't get a job at Hallmark, but that would have been great, too!

The dream was to be able to design products that were sold by Hallmark stores -- from both my own company and other quality licensees. And it was everything I'd hoped for.

One of my favorite Hallmark Gold Crown stores is Bruner's Hallmark in Nixa, MO. They have loyally carried my calendars, boxes, boxed notes and other products for years. And now they offer a great selection of the Blessings of Home line from Legacy Publishing.


As you can see, Derek and the crew at Bruner's do such a beautiful job decorating the store. They are also friendly and helpful -- always willing to assist you in finding just the right gift for the right person.


Last winter, a few weeks before my son was born, I bought his baby book and a frame (with a quote that makes me cry every time I read it aloud) at Bruner's. There I was, 9-months pregnant in the frame aisle, clutching my baby book, sobbing. But then again, emotion is just part of the experience.

If you haven't been to your local Hallmark store in awhile, you have to go in a see what you're missing. If you live in the Nixa area, stop in at Bruner's. Just be sure to bring your tissues -- and if you're heading to the Shoebox Greetings section, a friend to laugh with. The rumor is it's a great place to spend a little time thinking about the people you love - and I don't think anyone at Hallmark minds those kind of rumors!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blessings of Home

I am so pleased to share with you my new stationery line from Legacy of Faith called Blessings of Home.




The collection features a variety of stationery featuring favorite passages from scripture. It includes notepads of different sizes, journals, an address book binder, coasters, recipe box, note cards and more.


You'll find so many clever ideas at Legacy like this 9" x 9-1/2" Weekly Reminder...





This adorable 2" x 3" Mini Spiral Pad...




And this cute-as-can-be 3-1/4" x 10" List Pad Keeper.




To browse the entire collection, go to Shoplegacy.com, or retail.shoplegacy.com for retail customers.

While you're there, be sure to look for the new designs by my favorite artists John Sloane, Ellen Stouffer, Ned Young, Sherri Buck Baldwin, Robin Davis and Dan DiPaolo.

What better way to celebrating spring than to add some cheerful, new stationery to your home or office!




Copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith
Shelly Reeves Smith, LLC