Behind the scenes of a photo shoot

Posted on September 30, 2015 by Kristin deNeeve

A few weeks ago, I drove to my old stompin' ground to visit some friends and photograph some new products. It was like a party with my best friends: Marita Madeloni took the photos, Maria Hill helped model (a.k.a. drink wine) and style the product shots, and other friends dropped in to hang out during the shoot. It was the most fun I've ever had during a photo shoot. But by the end of the day, we were totally pooped! Styling the products, getting the right lighting, and making sure things translated in the photos was a lot of work. And I wasn't even the one taking the photos!

Here's a little behind the scenes visual journal, so you can see what goes on behind the camera. All photos © 2015 Madeloni Photography unless otherwise credited.

Setting up for the Wine Tasting Party Kit shoot. Yes, of course those are donuts in that bag.


Pouring wine...


Left: Sometimes you gotta get in funky positions to get it just right. That's what she said. Photo credit: Shawn Hamilton.

Right: Maria's husband, Shawn, was a good sport.


Left: Maria oogling one of my cards. I'm pretty sure her facial expression changed once she saw what it said on the inside.

Right: Discussing a strategy for arranging the cards.


Left: Making cards look "casually" arranged takes lots of effort.

Right: Gettin' crafty with snowflakes.


A mess of Semi Sweet Press stuff.


Getting the props juuuuust right with my hand that looks like a claw.


I made a huge mess of their dining room table, which we had to promptly clean up to prepare for a dinner party later that day.


Marita Madeloni is a portrait and lifestyle photographer, and kicks some major ass in the kitchen. See more of her genius. Maria Hill is a brand coach, lifestyle blogger, and donut aficionado. Learn more about what makes her awesome.

It's an ugly process...

Posted on September 01, 2015 by Kristin deNeeve

A lot of people ask me about my creative process, how an idea turns into a final design. My ideas can come from conversations I have with people, brainstorming sessions on the couch in front of the TV, or even from my husband (he's a really funny guy). And sometimes I just really, really want to draw a donut so I find a way to turn it into a card. As for the drawings themselves, they aren't always pretty. In fact, sometimes they look like they were drawn by a toddler. See for yourself...

Here's a thumbnail sketch of an idea I had for a birthday card. I wanted a bunch of semi-stupid-looking animals with party hats. And as you can see, these animals are pretty funny-looking.

Then I decided which animals I would include, and developed my characters more through sketching.

Then I sketched the final art on watercolor paper, outlined it ink, and colored it with watercolor. I scanned the art into the computer, laid it out, and added a background in Photoshop. See the final card here. These guys also live on invitations and gift tags.


This sketch shows the evolution my characters sometimes go through. The bird on the hippo starts off pretty generic in the thumbnail sketches at the top. Then I decided this bird was actually a hitchhiking chicken, who was catching a ride on the hippo. So I gave him a bindle and made him more egg-shaped and cute.

I decided my chicken didn't have enough personality, so I turned him into a hobo by adding a crumpled hat. This is the final inked-in drawing, done by hand.

I scanned the artwork into the computer and added color in Photoshop. Tada! See the final card here.


Here are a few more examples:


See the final card here.



See final card here.


See final card here.


See final card here.


See final card here

I hope this gives some insight into my creative process. Although a lot of my illustrations end up sweet and cute, they don't always start that way!

Beer. Tasting. Party.

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Kristin deNeeve

Those three words, although great on their own, are even better together. This month Sacramento kicked off Sacramento Beer Week, an annual event showcasing and celebrating local craft beer. It's also the perfect time to introduce to you our Beer Tasting Party Kit, which is everything you need to throw your own beer tasting party. Um, except the glasses and beer. You gotta provide that part.

Each kit serves 8 guests and accommodates 6 beers. You'll get: tasting mats, score cards, invitations and envelopes, numbered beer tags, paper bags, pencils, and a healthy dose of irreverence. For popular folks who have more than 8 friends, you can avoid alienating them (this time) and purchase additional settings, also available in the shop.

So for those of you who would like to celebrate Beer week from afar, or those of you in Sacramento who would rather avoid the bar and brewery mayhem this week, pick up a kit during Beer Week for 25% off! No code required, sale ends 3/8/15.

Bottoms up!

A Homemade Gift for your Sweetie

Posted on January 27, 2015 by Kristin deNeeve

It's hard to believe Valentine's Day is in only 2 weeks. Yet as a card maker, I've had Vday on my brain ever since I started working on our new card designs. This year's designs include the usual mix of sweetness and wit, but I also threw in a bit of raunchiness just for fun.

Still in the midst of my usual holiday spending hangover, I decided I'd get creative and make a Valentine's Day gift for my husband. I looked online for some DIY Valentine's Day gift ideas, and I'm not joking, ALL of them sucked. Mason jars full of pink jellybeans and flowers made from construction paper reminded me of the gifts I would give my mom when I was 8. Then I remembered one particular gift I gave to my poor mother: a coupon book filled with lame promises of dish washing and unlimited hugs. And I thought, why not make a coupon book, tailored just for my husband? Here's an example of some coupons I'd include in the book:

    • 2 hours of Netflix tv/movies of his choice, with no complaints or eye rolls from me
    • 1 viewing of the movie "Touching the Void" without any of my grumblings about the dangers of ice climbing
    • 2 meals out at any restaurant of his choice, and I will comply
    • 1 hour of Natalie Merchant, Phil Collins (or a combination of the two) and I will not try to shut it off or exit the premises
    • 2 times he can say "tits" without getting slapped, pinched, or punched
    • 1 public outing when he can wear his tan Patagonia fleece without ridicule (from me, anyway)

    You can customize your coupons to fit your partner and his or her quirks. And don't forget to add an expiration date. Knowing my husband, he'd decide to redeem the Natalie Merchant coupon sometime in July, when I'm tired, hangry, and regretting my decision to make the coupon book. And don't forget, this gift will need some sort of creative packaging. I think a Semi Sweet Press card should do it. And what a coincidence! All of our Valentine's Day cards are 30% off from now until 2/7/15.

    Happy gift making!

    Hello, 2015!

    Posted on January 13, 2015 by Kristin deNeeve

    After a flurry of endless craft shows, online orders, and freelance work, I took 2 wonderful weeks off to relax, clean, and recharge. And it feels good to be back. I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, but I do like the idea of a restart, and what better time to do it than in the new year? I've got three things on my list to do consistently in 2015.

    Have a normal work schedule. I'm talking normal office hours, M-F. This can be tricky when your office is literally a hop, skip and a jump away. But I've quickly realized that the stress of working day and night, weekdays and weekend, is counterproductive and really bad for my physical health. I think if I'm just more strategic about my time while I'm "in the office," I'll be more productive overall. Of course when the holiday season ramps up again, I will completely abandon this and become a crazy person again.

    Start meditating. Any of you who know me personally might think I'm losing my mind because that's not really my thing...but when I'm feeling pulled in many different directions, I have a hard time focusing on the tasks at hand. I've heard meditating is like exercise for your brain. And if I'm going to subject my body to situps and crunches, then maybe my mind has got to follow suit.

    Get rid of crap I don't need/want. When my husband and I moved to New York several years ago, we purged 60% of our stuff and it felt great. We said we would never again accumulate crap we don't need, but lo and behold, it's happening. So while I may live in California, I'm going to start thinking like a New Yorker again. If it doesn't serve a purpose other than keeping me from feeling guilty for getting rid of it, it's gone. That means you, blue dress that I bought three years ago that looks cute on the hanger but like a sack on my body. And you too, 20-lb illustrated medical book that I found at Goodwill in 2012 but never cracked open. Fuhgeddaboudit!

    And while I'm on the subject of purging, you all probably have lots of holiday cards stuck on your refrigerator or lined up along your bookshelves and mantles. Before you toss them, consider keeping the ones with cute designs (like your Semi Sweet Press ones, am I right?!) to turn into gift tags for next year. 

    All you need is scissors, a hold punch, and some string. You can also use a circular punch if you have it. Just cut or punch out areas of the card that would look cute on the tag, punch a small hole at the top and add the string. And if you don't feel like making the tags now, put the cards with your gift wrap so when you go to wrap presents next holiday season, you'll be ready to go!

    Papa's got a brand new bag.

    Posted on November 16, 2014 by Kristin deNeeve

    Well, Mama's got a brand new bag. Er, website, actually. Mama's got a brand new website.

    Welcome to the new site! Things have been busy at the SSP studio. Between preparing for the holiday season, working on custom card designs, working on new card designs, and getting this website ready for launch, it feels like the Tasmanian devil has paid us a visit. Kind of looks like it too.

    Here are some of our new, Semi Sweet products:

    Sweet Pea New Baby card


    Get Well Pansy card

    Miss You Cat card

    ...and we now carry gift tags and mini cards!

    So please come in and have a look around! And, please note that we're now offering free shipping in the U.S. for orders over $50!


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