Simplicity…

Simple. Curated. Space. The concept of simplicity is at once easy and difficult to achieve. Ask any realtor the difference between the way a buyer sees a property is often a simple matter of getting rid of clutter. A simple, curated space is visibly more attractive.

Neutral paint colors actually help the buyer’s imagination as to how the place can be made their own. The mix of simplicity and abundance in landscape design is also highly prized. Though a cluttered, unkept yard is off putting. So, how do we choose? There’s an art to abundance and an art to simplicity in almost any design.

Businesses, large and small, are turning more and more to online shops to support the loss of in-store purchases. If you’re setting up an a product page, a website, an online shop or even an in store display- simple and curated helps your customer decide, then imagine your products as their own. Simple isn’t boring. The vintage wooden spoons aren’t lined up like soldiers, they’re artfully arranged with simplicity. Simple table settings may seem plain, yet the color will come from the food and personalities around the table.

If you’re a seller of unique one of a kind pieces- a simple display on frayed fabric is a simple charming display. I once wrote about my favorite small and useful kitchen tools, On white foam core board, I snapped a pic and the tools were easy to recognize. In store or an online shop, this sort of display is easy on the eye, very little explanation needed and easy to price.

Often a product needs a bit of interest, the black striped napkins and ladle become the stars. It’s simple and curated. Cooling racks might not look inviting on their own, add simple cookies- the buyer sees the advantage of owning one.

Often cooked food isn’t as pretty as the ingredients- my grandmother’s egg plate with a single egg sets the scene for deviled eggs. An iron skillet is simply beautiful- a pone of cornbread on a wooden table tell a story.

Before spices are blended- they’re more beautiful than the mix itself as a display. Pretty vintage white linens, a bowl, simple utensils only need a sprig of lavender for me to write a story!

Simple. Curated. Space. Works for almost anything. Simple, neutral and calm space is easy on the eye. It’s a subtle, yet Top Design Tip. Avoid overwhelm any time, now more than ever. Go easy on the eye as often as you can. Simplicity is at once easy and difficult to achieve. It’s doesn’t have to be perfect, just really good. This is one tip I’m confident will boost sales and with a little restraint- you can do it!

Love y’all. Brenda

*Easy Spice Blend:

1-2 Tablespoons Granular Coffee 3-4 Tablespoons Kosher Salt 1-2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns 1 Tablespoon Paprika 1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional) 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder 1-2 Tablespoons Pure Cane Sugar

*Grind spices together into a rough chop. Store tightly. Perfect as a rub for grilled Meats.

Time…

img_5706Whether we like it or not- Time passes. Think of a clock… before we can say Tick- it’s already become Tock. That’s how fast time goes by. Being busy is a good thing- yet as Thoreau said- ‘It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is- What are we busy about?’ I’ve asked myself this question almost everyday in the past few months…‘What will you do with this time?’ Some days my mind is sharp and I’m clear on what I’ll do with the time…other days seem like a blur. Some days I’m busy and yet it seems nothing gets done. Other days, I’ve been less busy, more focused and gotten more done in one hour than a whole day through. That’s the problem isn’t it? Our minds are often so overwhelmed, then when the noise is turned down, we filter out the urgent and are focused and productive on the important.

I think my best gift is to be on the support team. I’m never happier than when I’m cheering on others. In my immediate family, one was responsible for the adoptions of 1000’s of children, another is an excellent reading specialist- untold numbers or children will benefit from her work, still another is a software engineer working to keep our country safe, and another is an environmental engineer. What they do might look like luck or magic- yet,  I know it’s a combination of intelligence, imagination, making the most of their time and hard work.  To say I’m the underachiever in this bunch wouldn’t be an understatement. Still. During this pandemic, what we’ve found out is that those who are the support teams are the most essential workers now.  Hopefully cheering my family on, being their personal support, made a difference in what they’ve been able to achieve.

img_5705So! In an effort to support creatives, here’s where I’m spending some of that precious time.

  • First, let me give you a critical piece of advice– if you write a blog that’s great, just make sure you’re active on at least one other social media platform.
  • Post about what you love, at work and having fun. History will be very curious about what ‘regular’ folks were doing this pandemic.
  • Just be yourself, show up in your feed- even if you’re like me and hate to show my face or take selfies, thank you very much! Don’t try to perfect- that’s not a thing anyway. Put as much of yourself out there that’s decent. ( That’s what Momma would tell you anyway)
  • Work and also have fun.
  • Connect with people. That’s what being social is all about! Engagement with others helps you and helps them too!

img_5703If you’re interesting in growing– here’s my Rule of Four plan I’ve had in place for a while now, I try to do it everyday and uses barely any time at all:

  1. Like and leave at least 4 comments on accounts you follow. I no longer believe just leaving a “like’ is quite enough.
  2. Follow at least 4 hashtags- leave at least 4 comments on accounts you don’t follow. 
  3. Like and comment on at least 4 Stories or Videos. If they leave a message for you- please make a remark!
  4. Find 4 small accounts per week that you aren’t currently following- like and comment on their feed. This might be my favorite of the four! When someone’s starting out of beginning something-  leave a short appropriate comment. *And please don’t confine yourself to just one age or type, find folks who are creating things you aren’t, who are living lives in different ways.

Years go by so fast, we’re never sure what we did with the minutes- we only see the results when if we look back.  Here’s what I know for sure- so much more is happening in the minutes than in the hours, days, weeks or even years. All of it accumulates into something- hopefully, it adds up to a life well lived instead of well spent. Not that time doesn’t matter, it does. Yet, just like money- how you spend it or save it matters less than how you’ve lived.

Remember life rarely ever works out like we plan. We get sidetracked or distracted by all the setbacks, never realizing this- Life almost always turn out like it’s supposed to. Supporting others is never wasted time.

Love y’all, Brenda

Could we talk about Negative Space?

img_5640Could we talk about Negative Space? No, no, no- not that negative space of our mental states. Yet, that’s the point too- when we entered this time of lockdown and uncertainty- our minds were affected and overwhelmed. Still, I wondered – what will I do with this time to help others?  Those who are pursuing creative endeavors- product based or service based, yes even writing a blog. So, in an effort to put to use some of my experience in creative and conventional marketing. When I gave you Five Principles of Good Design–  The use of negative space Is hidden in three of those Design Principles-

  • Focal Point,
  • Light and Color,
  • Abundance and Restraint

Negative Space is a design principle, one so common that you’re apt to ignore it unless you’re looking for it. In fact, hidden in all 3 of those design principles is the use of Negative Space. Use it if you want your artwork, photograph or cupcake as the Focal Point. You actually use negative space- especially with Light and Color or lack thereof. And! Restraint might be the order of the day when Negative Space is employed!

Later, when I wrote a post forInstagram , the use of negative space was so apparent, I realized I had neglected a critical principle of good design. In fact, one photo in particular made me have that lightbulb moment. In collecting charming images of aging adults- some were in black and white- others were in color- to make the post flow as it should I had decided to convert all of them to black and white images. Here it is- see if you can detect negative space at work!img_5611

Yes, it’s the actual image of the lady herself! Not distracted by any other color, wording or clutter around her- she stood out in beautifully stark relief. Her image is the positive space. All around her is what is called negative space. And yes, it works with color also. Take this cupcake, if you’re a baker or food photographer- a tray of beautiful cupcakes cannot compare to a single cupcake pictured with the use of negative space.img_5623

After decades of working in product campaigns, on the selling floors of shops and stores and helping to reset the retail space- it was drilled into us that display space is highly prized real estate. What we put on those walls, in cases or counters hand how it was displayed made all the difference. The composition and balance created on those walls enhanced its appeal to shoppers.img_5614

You can expect these white blouses to be expensive, unique or that this is a new line carried by the retailer simply because of few blouses using up all of that valuable real estate! Think of a handbag display in a high end store– the wall has far fewer displayed than in a discount store, where everything is crammed in tight! High End Shoes are often displayed in this ‘set apart’ manner as well. The couture shoe is highlighted by the negative space around it. img_5626

The eye is able to rest precisely because of an often overlooked and basic design principle called Negative Space.

I wanted to talk to you about the use of negative space in your creative endeavors, one which will uplevel your products or services, make your space more notable and even appear more valuable. The grid of products on your Website or Instagram feed, for shoppers is much like a store front to display your array of products and services. And don’t think color can’t be used to great effect to expand what’s on your Virtual Wall – take a look at this beautiful one… the use of pink is the negative space, the eye rests and then sees the actual products!img_5616

Having to close a physical studio, workshop space or brick and mortar meant you had to up level your online presence with platforms like your website or Instagram (which is the favorite platform currently for inspiration and business.) Negative Space isn’t just an important tool- it’s now a critical design element, so that when anyone looked at your IG grid. With the use of Negative Space design, folks could see- not just a mass of beautiful images of your photographs, jewelry, garden, clothing or accessories designs, negative space highlights your designs and also gives the eye a chance to rest.  Overloaded minds aren’t just yours, the shoppers minds need to rest as well. Take a look at the difference between one image and another- see which one enables your eye to rest (both use negative space by the way)

If your grid is full of images, the eyeglasses will draw the eye far easier than the shoes and accessories image. The use of quotes on blank backgrounds – usually white, neutral  with black type is most effective. Even an image of a simple logo could be considered easy on the eye. img_5634

Use quotes or negative space images every 4-5 blocks also helps your grid – Breathe.  Another benefit of negative space! Closely comparted to the silence in a musical piece called Rest, even though in art, the use of negative space.

img_5503The point is, your customers or target audience, right now, is also as overwhelmed as you are! Regardless of what you’re selling- cleaning tools to soft leather bags even industrial equipment- the use of Negative Space is your insider tip! Try it, I think you’ll be amazed…

Love y’all, Brenda

* I’m going to show you two images- one is a Before I began to employ negative space in my grid on IG- the other is After… side effect was more followers! The first one is Before- the Second One simply adding negative space with the use of quotes-

 

1) Just a bunch of unrelated photographs- img_5628

 

2) Use of negative space-img_5629

 

A Map is Essential…

img_5482This old map hangs on the wall in pride of place, it’s a favorite here at the cottage.  Over 40 years old, it’s a map of our home county. A symbol of so many things, still- what I truly love is that it has the backroads, the railways, the river and streams that are so unique, right here. The towns are marked, the main roads that take you quickly from here to there and still has alternatives for ambling through the scenic routes too. It has a legend, a directional compass and pertinent information. Having a plan is one thing, having a map is quite another thing entirely, especially when times are uncertain. And, you may have to adjust the method by which you want to go, for part of the journey.

img_5481Did you know that it’s not uncommon for mapmakers who make maps for others, to have difficulty drawing a map for themselves? Good planners don’t always plan well for themselves.

And, while maps are helpful- the best mapmakers will tell you that taking the first step is the most difficult. So many choices! Still. Here’s what they look for- Landmarks, street signs, distinctive displays, prominent public buildings, lighthouses, natural streams, bridges and unusual landscape outcroppings. The main purpose of any trailblazing effort is to find a way forward and more importantly – to find your way back.

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A good starting point, for any creative venture is to ask yourself– Why did you decide to go on this journey anyway? And, if the answer is merely- to make money, it will never satisfy you or those who would do business with you. Again, I say – A Map is Essential. It’s your strategy. Some say of strategies- ‘If you can’t write it down, you don’t have a strategy.’ You need a strong plan A and a solid plan B, even the dream of a plan C.

Are you stuck, lost, looking for adventure or at a crossroad? Maybe, the road is blocked or you can’t see two feet ahead of you.  If your boat has gone adrift or run aground, you’ll be grateful for a lighthouse! And, what of road signs? This one always puzzled me- Beware of Falling Rocks. Now, what in the world are you supposed to do about a rock in the act of falling? A falling rock is like Hurricane Katrina and what this Pandemic is too. It’s those things that come out of the blue- fall out of the sky or silently, stealthily come at you when you least expect it. Fallen rocks never come marching down the road in full daylight or give much notice when they do. Right?

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That’s why your personal Map is Essential. It gives you options. The folks and businesses who do well, when trouble comes, move quickly to adapt. When fashion designers began making face masks, I applauded. When restaurants had to close- the ones who quickly adjusted to Take Out Only- may not have made as much- still going out of business wasn’t an option they considered. Others, who have adapted the best of all- had more than one stream of income.  You must create streams of income, or enhance the business you have with personalized service. After speaking with well over a dozen folks who are doing very well with their blogs and other creative businesses, here’s what I’ve found-  Bloggers and writers are adjusting their messages, some are using this time to create e-books, developing physical products they can sell, designing for others who want an online presence and even becoming course creators.

And, while a blog might be their home base, still -if they were offering workshops before- they adapted to workshops to be done remotely. If they’re designers, artists or creatives- they poured some of their time into helping parents with children at home- one is offering printable art for kids, exercises, games and more.  Others are doing podcasts, developing online classes for adults.  I’ve been taking one myself! In fact, I believe they work, because when I was first starting out, I took online courses from this platform, @wordpress every chance I had! It’s how I learned to blog and more. Other creatives have formed cooperatives and collaborations to keep their spirits up and found new outlets for their work. Some are learning to create personalized experiences with potential customers. Others are offering health and nutrition advice.  Instead of letting this pandemic be a roadblock, it is time well spent.

img_5298Some counselors are offering one on ones, even professionals who were already doing business virtually, were ready even before they saw it coming. Photographers are finding outlets with stock photo companies as a new stream of income. The printing company I use, quickly made masks and liners available, then sold out, rebooted and even sell replacement liners too. I purchased these and am very well pleased.

Others, began offering a free service to go along with their product, even if it’s waiving shipping charges. Still others who own physical businesses finally had the time to deep clean, re-paint and style their places to make them ‘magazine worthy‘ and are uploading photographs online, with a renewal of their customer bases and adding new fans regularly.

*This is worth noting, develop at least one social media outlet, now. Two might be better. When I started blogging, Facebook and Twitter were very active, basically for friends, family and opinion; now, Instagram is truly geared to inspiration and business! And… you’ll find plenty of it there. For me, it’s like taking the scenic view!img_5301

At least one course creator has a live Q&A every week, because she knows that having a personal experience is what keeps her students onboard and becoming successful themselves. *I know this is true because I’m one of her students!  I also predicted early on that delivery services and professional cleaning services will see a boom in businesses. Every surface will need to be cleaned and this is repeat business.

img_4819Those who have reliable transportation are becoming delivery services for other businesses.  And, did you know that podcasts are projected to develop into a billion dollar industry? According to AARP magazine- actor Alan Alda, at 84, even managing Parkinson’s disease, is still going strong with over 70 podcasts, if that doesn’t prove any age can do it? Nothing can.

img_5479When you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall- look carefully at that map of your business, be willing to adjust, take the scenic route- dream a little, be open to new possibilities. Who knows?  You might be the one who is a trailblazer or even teaches the ‘New Rules of the Road.’  If you resist change, it’s frustrating. If you change your outlook and adjust- you might find new ways of doing things are even better than before. A Map is essential. Remember, with a map there’s always more than one way to get where you want to go!

Love y’all, Camellia

*From Brenda: For the last few months, we have been accepting a few one on one coaching sessions from time to time, it’s been a wonderful experience!

*I am taking a course called, Instagram Makeover by Kat Coroy. It’s made a world of differnce in my feed and more! I was honored to be asked to help her with some course updates! Find her  @katcoroy and take that course! Xxx

*We also participated in a podcast at the end of 2019, honestly, this may be an option for almost anyone! look into it!

 

Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.