Kuumba and the Kwanzaa Creations Kit

Kuumba, or … Creativity. The formal Principle states: “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.” Clearly Kuumba means so, so much more than art and music or whatnot, or even the creative process that leads to such. It means nothing less than the making of all of life better–however this grand ideal may be achieved. It follows beautifully and rather meaningfully from the immediately preceding Principle (Nia, or Purpose); is backed by its successor (Imani, or Deep Faith); all three of which in turn rest on the foundation of the the first four (Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, and Ujamaa–Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, and Cooperative Economics).

Yet there is no doubt that Kuumba is most often associated with creative and artistic endeavors; and, for good reason. Is art and culture not a significant part of who you are? Who a people are? Can the arts–music, film, art, whatnot–not convey the highest ideals of love and learning? Can they not soothe you during hard times; help connect you to others and to your culture; or remind you of what really matters, grounding you in a better reality? (Yes, I know a lot of art does not necessarily do all these things … and that is okay and even needed. Not everything worthwhile in life has to be of a profound nature. But art most certainly can do these things; and, sometimes, it does.) Moreover … is the creation of art not quite a process sometimes? With everything from inspiration to actual creation, to all the effort that may take, to finished work and shared enjoyment? A process that does sometimes leave life just a little more beautiful?

Collection logo image for the Gather 'Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit at The Draw on Zazzle

Logo for the Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit on Zazzle
© 2018 Darren Olsen

The Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit is the most complicated and drawn-out “project” I have yet done for The Draw. It took about four months from conception to completion–usually two-to-three hours a day–feeling at times as though the work involved was only growing. Yet while I am not of African descent, the Principles of Kwanzaa do speak even to me, at least a little … and not least of all Kuumba. While in deference to and respect for Kwanzaa and its non-commercial nature, I had long decided against doing a Kwanzaa drawing, the key there is “a” drawing–one lone drawing like any other, soon done and placed upon several products. When instead, I hit upon the notion of doing several drawings–pieces of innumerable unrealized drawings, really–whereby families and friends could gather at their computers and themselves create something truly special and unique–it was suddenly so much more workable. Hopefully, I could create something that would allow others–families, most of all–to truly create something unique and special for their Kwanzaa celebrations … and, of course, all while sharing time together, collectively creating!

Continue reading …

Kwanzaa Creations Image Catalog

The Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit is a rather unique collection of items. Although each one only shows a handful of images at any one time, in fact, all of them contain over 80 (most of which simply are not visible by default). This means that through Zazzle’s design interface–one feature of which is the ability to show or hide available images–the options for customization and personalization are very great; certainly much, much greater than those of the typical Zazzle item.

Gather 'Round Kwanzaa Creations, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations”
© 2018 Darren Olsen

This “catalog” shows all the images available, so that if you’re interested in designing your own Kwanzaa Creations item for you and your family (ideally with your family!), you have something to help you get started. This includes a few walk-through videos too, to truly show you all the ins-and-outs of working with the images in the design interface. For even a seasoned Zazzle designer could easily be overwhelmed with the sheer number and unfamiliarity of the images alone. And, if you have never worked with Zazzle’s design interface before, trying to get your item just right could otherwise be much harder–and even much less enjoyable–than it ought to be. (After all, it should be creative and fun!)

Continue browsing …

When Policies Change: Writing Product Descriptions

Full control over projects and enterprises is always nice, particularly creative projects. Or at least, it always feels nice. A nice thing about Zazzle then (and presumably other print-on-demand companies), is that Designers have full creative control over their work. Sure, Zazzle does have a few restrictions for art and photos (for instance, nothing that can reasonably viewed as discriminatory, nor anything that encourages drug abuse, is excessively violent, nor obscene or pornographic in a non-artistic way), but in all reasonable and understandable ways, Designers are free to create whatever they want. Of course, this extends to whichever products to post as well, plus, how to organize and present them.

Yet one is always well-advised to re-evaluate their work and practices at times, and as with being part of any community undertaking, overseen and managed by a third party, sometimes, Zazzle makes changes that encourage, or even force, Designers to react. Zazzle does these things, of course, not only in their own best interests, but those also, ultimately, of their Makers and Designers. And while such changes can understandably be frustrating at times (and granted, not all changes will directly benefit all Designers), taking time to adjust to and occasionally limiting what one can choose to do, if nothing else, they are, again, simply a part of creating and selling in conjunction with a company.

Continue reading …

Placing Images for Changing Products

When placing an image on a product, it would be nice if its appearance remained consistent across different forms of the product. In particular, when placing an image on one shape or style of a product, if it still looked good on all the other ones. After all, no Zazzler wants customers to select a certain form of a product, only to be met with a less-than-good appearance of an image or, worse, empty space. Yet placing images for consistency of appearance can be a bit of a challenge. Not only can Makers offer new forms or styles of existing products, ones which have different design dimensions, but sometimes, just getting an image to look good on all the existing options can be problematic.

Designing for Zazzle thus requires some careful thought on how to go about placing images, at least if they are intended to fill all the design area of a product. (Note that the design area includes the safe area, guaranteed to remain on the finished product; a border which may or may not get cropped during printing; and a bleed area which is supposed to get cut, except not assuredly.) Obviously the shape of an image plays a big role, as does the precise placement, with centered, square images seemingly being the safest to work with. Aspect ratio and precise placement aside though, in my experience, it is usually just a matter of fully expanding the image on all the different forms of a product in turn, and then checking on all the others to see how things look. Appearance can then be optimized for all current forms, at least, simply by working on the “right” one to begin with.

Continue reading …

“Ring of Flowers” Items and Some Basic Zazzling

I like all my drawings to various extents, and hence, generally, the products I place them on as well. Some items and designs seem to me to be exceptionally cool though, such as my “Ring of Flowers” ones. “Ring of Flowers” is actually not a single drawing, but rather a composite of one, “Flowers on Sharp White”:

Flowers on Sharp White, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Flowers on Sharp White”
© 2015 Darren Olsen

Flowers on Grassy Hills, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Flowers on Grassy Hills”
© 2015 Darren Olsen

“Flowers on Sharp White” is pretty basic (a “long” version of my original drawing “Flowers on Grassy Hills”, itself fairly basic), but while it still looks good on its own, when three copies are arranged in a ring–and certain image editing and Zazzle design tools are used–it really becomes something special.

Continue reading …