Friday, February 23, 2024
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Backyard Product Development and Testing With My Assistant, Mimi

garden flag with cat
Testing a garden flag design, “Holly on the Rocker”

Product testing in my back yard!

garden flag in brown back yard.
It sure brightens up the landscape on a dull day.

I have ideas for new products made from my artwork all the time—many I’ve had for years and finally had the time to work them out. Other ideas are new, based on feedback from readers and customers, or are extensions of other things I’ve worked out like the keepsake boxes and the wood-mounted artwork, or are designed around new materials or ones that have formerly been too expensive. I love to make the things myself so I focus on a certain number of projects, I also have a limited area for storage so I don’t want to have a quantity of a product here, and I enjoy working with my local printers and manufacturers, many of whom I work with for freelance assignments and it’s fun to be a little more creative and work on something for me.

I’m usually a pretty good judge of what’s going to work out but every once in a while I need to test a product for a while like the garden flags pictured here, or there’s an issue with materials and a product doesn’t work out the way I plan, like a heat-proof finish that simply was not, so there will be no hot pads right now. The past two months have definitely had their ups and downs—including a sunny day that suddenly turned heavy overcast when Mimi and I emerged outdoors for a photo session—but I have a couple of winners at the moment.

Garden Flags

The artwork printed on both sides of the polyester satin is looking pretty good after a cold and icy winter.

I’ve long pictured my art on house flags, both the large ones and smaller garden flags. These are usually printed on nylon or a polyester fabric and printed by a process called dye-sublimation, which infuses the surface of the product whether fabric or ceramic or other substances, with a dye-based ink that actually soaks into the product. It’s not terribly expensive but most of the time you need to purchase a quantity to make it worthwhile, and colors are not always reliable—I’ve had customer projects printed this way and it’s been tricky. The last thing I want is a bulk order that’s totally incorrect.

garden flag
Test flag with “Stanley With Apple” sketch.

But one of the printers I work with locally showed me samples of several different printing media, one of which is the satin these flags are printed on which can be used indoors or out. I initially tried out a few proofs over the summer to be used as placemats, but they really didn’t work well for that. Then last October I remembered the garden flags and decided to try two different art images back and front on a piece and figured I’d try it outdoors.

Then I thought I’d better try it as it would be for a flag with the stitching for the rod pocket and possibly a hem. My machine can handle sewing into this product, but it’s hard to get to with all the other materials and merchandise I have in this house, and the stitching wasn’t getting done. I took it to my friend Bonita at Distinctively Different Decor and More where I also have art and merchandise. Aside from sharing her life with five cats Bonita is a professional interior designer and upholsterer and sewing is second nature to her. She also expressed an interest in selling these and can easily sew the rod pockets and finish them for me. A partnership!

When I had this flag done, I only had it printed to see how it would look and last outdoors, and didn’t allow for the rod pocket and serged edge, but as I design the actual garden flags I am using only the image area below the rod pocket, and incorporating a solid colored rod pocket and edge that coordinates with the design so the stitching will blend in.

garden flag waving.
It has a nice wave to it.

For testing, I just used a wire hanger clipped open in the center of the bottom section so I could slip the flag onto it and easily hang it outside, and also see how the fabric reacts to metal. So far, this flag has been totally covered with ice, covered with snow, drenched in driving rain, hit with hail and sleet, and I’ve found it under snow in the garden and in a neighbor’s tree when I didn’t secure the hook on the hanger well enough. The colors have not faded, the finish has not cracked, and the fabric has not ripped or frayed—yay! I’m sure, like everything else, and per the manufacturer’s instructions, it would fade in direct sunlight so rather than wait through the summer I will need to warn customers to place them in partial sun instead of full sun.

The fabric is a little stiffer than nylon, but it still waves and curls in the breeze in a very nice way. I will have these available in April for $15.00 each and am planning five different colorful designs. Typically these flags are printed with the same design on both sides, but my test with two different designs didn’t show through to the other side. I can offer more designs if I print two-sided, but I’m still not sure. Any feedback would be much appreciated!

Mouse Pads

four mouse pads
Four mouse pad designs.

I am finally having mouse pads printed, though many people no longer even need them! It’s one of those products that was too expensive unless I only wanted to offer one design, and choosing only one of my paintings is like choosing a favorite child, I just can’t do it. But I found high-quality mouse pads with incredibly detailed and accurate printing—remember, these are images I created, I know every stroke and color. I don’t expect printing to be perfect and I’ll understand a lack of detail with some products or slightly inaccurate color if the overall image reflects my work. Best of all I can sell them for $6.00 each.

black cat with mouse pads on table
Mimi has her part in the testing process.

But even better mouse pads didn’t have printing that was reliably clear and correct, in part because they are set up for photos and most of my art files are scans, both digital, but different printing mechanisms read them differently. In four designs, two were perfect right away, two were absolutely color correct but were off-center and too large after three proofs. I won’t go into the details of it, but even certain of my art files didn’t work well until I realized it was the scanned art that was the issue. I made them a lower resolution and created a file that was the size of the mouse pad, and we are fine.

My photo assistant thought they were fun to walk on too, so if you don’t need them for your computer, perhaps your cats can use them as temporary nap stations. I found that as soon as I put one down to photograph inside, a cat magically appeared on it.

Read about creating custom items

Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


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