Regency Cat Bookmarks, original artwork by TaraFly

My Regency Cat portraits are now available as bookmarks, trimmed in ribbon and lace, for sale in both my Etsy shop and locally in Funkstown, Maryland ~ at The Guten Tag, a family owned gift-shop in Historic Town Center.

I mentioned The Guten Tag back in April, when I began selling my framed prints of Mr. Darcy Cat and Redcoat Soldier Cat there.

I’ve been thinking of ways to expand my selection of goods, and Michelle from TrueBookAddict on Blogspot suggested bookmarks as the purrfect compliment to cat characters inspired by classic novels! 😉

These are created with reproduction prints of my artwork – the same quality prints I sell in my shop, using K3 UltraChrome pigment ink and Ultra Premium Presentation paper.
I’ve taken decorative cardstock found in scrapbooking stores and adhered it to the backside of each art print, using Modge Podge decoupage glue.

I applied a couple thick coats of acrylic varnish, let it dry, and punched a hole in the top for threading a bit of lace or ribbon.

Creating bookmarks featuring my Regency Cat artwork, Mr Darcy Cat bookmark

When I stopped by The Guten Tag to visit Jessica Synder, the shoppe’s owner, to deliver my bookmarks and chat a bit… we discussed upcoming holiday merchandising ideas.
She loves to deck the store floor to ceiling with ornaments, so I’ve decided to begin a special portrait series based on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet, which will be featured on Christmas ornaments! 😉

I thought it would be fitting for Clara Cat and the feline Nutcracker Prince to battle an evil Mouse King! Bwahaha

They will most likely begin as original paintings, which I’ll reproduce onto the ornaments, allowing people to collect the full set. They will be available during the holidays both in my Etsy shop and locally at The Guten Tag.

I brought my camera along during this visit, and Jess graciously allowed me to wander the shop and take photographs of all the treasures!

iron metal dressform with crochet snowflakes and tags

I drooled over the wire dressforms, stone urns, statuary, garden obelisks, and bird-cages. I also loved the creative ways in which she showcases her items, arranging random finds into beautiful and elegantly coordinated collections.

Golden goblet, obelisk, light, mirror reflection, photograph by TaraFly.

My Flickr slideshow of photographs will give you a taste of what you might find inside The Guten Tag gift-shoppe; it’s definitely worth checking out in person!

And of course, remember to ask “How much for that Darcy in the window?”…. 😉

Mrs Bennet Regency Cat Thank You Card by TaraFly Art

Mrs Bennet says "Thank You", from The Crazy Cat Family

One week until Christmas – and I’ll bet your tree is up AND decorated! Your gifts are probably tucked away inside the closet, attic, trunk of your car, or else they’re in route with guaranteed delivery.   (Forgive me if I chuckle a bit over those dubious postal deadlines – it’s an old inside joke shared by the secret cult of online merchants).

Most likely, you have – this very evening – returned from the grocery store to stockpile your pantry with yams and cranberry sauce. If you live in the Northeastern United States… that includes 10 gallons of milk, a case of sparkling kiwi-strawberry or peach flavored water, 12 loaves of sandwich bread, some deli meat, and enough toilet paper to keep you in comfort in case the snow buries your house up to its shingles.
And you’re forced to dig air holes in your chimney.

And naturally, I’ve done none of the above. As in years past, we’re keeping Christmas (and Mia’s birthday next Friday) relatively conservative and quiet.
No guest list, huge table spreads, or mountains of gifts. I’ll send the cats out in a sled team if we need anything.

But despite the fact that I didn’t quite reach my sales goals for this year, and wasn’t able to splurge on fancy toys and gadgets for the kids, I’m extremely satisfied and appreciative of the support we’ve received from my loyal fans and new customers. 🙂

Purchases made from my two shops (and Zazzle, too) are meaningful, because they directly contribute to my family’s welfare, in addition to the small percentage I’m donating to sponsor a cat from… an animal sanctuary, which is akin to tithing to a church owned by cats.

You’ll hear this all the time, especially in recent years – that helping the small business owner is also helping the community … but it’s the simple truth.
Each sale is important because it puts food on our table and diapers on our children, and enables a stay-at-home mother to live above the poverty line and not seek help from government welfare.
And you know me, I’d rather cut off my hand than beg.

When I began writing this post, I was reminded of an interview I’d read, which was published back in the late 80’s. One of my favorite actors, Michael J. Fox, was talking about the importance of his fans, and he said,
“My attitude is that this one paid my rent, that one bought my car, and that one paid for the hockey tickets.”

Essentially recognizing each fan as having made a direct contribution to his quality of life, and acknowledging his gratefulness for them….
it sums up exactly how I feel right now.
Of course, most Hollywood big-shots will thank “the little people” out of obligation, but the wise ones understand the truth: We created those celebrities ourselves, and purchased the crystal palaces in which they live, by spending the money required to make their films and franchises a hit.
Or not.

Mr Darcy Cat by TaraFly Regency Cat Portrait in Frame

Mr Darcy Cat handsomely framed in the hallway

Although sales of Mr Darcy Cat aren’t paying my rent yet, I was able to help alleviate my husband’s monthly financial concerns …here and there, by paying a utility bill, keeping the car filled with gas, and making a trip to the grocery store without using our shared debit card. 😉

The last few weeks leading up to Christmas have been blessed with fresh attention and excitement over my artwork, and I have a few prospects lined up for the New Year, including venturing offline and into an actual gift shop. Shhhh… fingers and whiskers crossed.

Even more importantly, to me, is the shift in Joe’s attitude towards the time I spend online and upstairs in my studio. My recent sales were steady enough to carry us through each week.   He has been more appreciative and positive-minded, even going so far as to plan an expansion with new products.   His lofty dreams involve chopping and sanding fallen logs…. which will, of course, have cats painted on them. 😉
I’m beginning to feel that encouraging sense of team camaraderie that has long been eluding me… and I have you, dear readers and fans, to thank for it!

Without you, I would be just another mom of half-feral, young children, who sits at her computer… blogging about pipe-dreams and doing nothing to fulfill them.

But this journal is more than just my mindless ranting. It is also an account of my beginning – the cold-hearted retail cocoon that I’ve emerged from, the obstacles and inner struggles I face as a growing artist (and mom), and the career roadmap that I’ve lightly sketched onto a ketchup-stained napkin.
I don’t exactly know where I’ll be 10 years from today, but I am determined to reach my ultimate goal of a self-employed, family run business.

It will be interesting, and probably amusing, to look back and read this first-person narrative of my progress over the years. And someday, you and I will be able to reminisce and say:
“Remember when…?”

You’ll make some obscure reference, we’ll both laugh, and my future hardcore fans will shake their perplexed heads.
Because it is our little inside joke.

Should we create a secret club, with hand signals and passwords, too? 😉

An autumn field and sunset in the country

Rolling country fields at sunset... taken while living in PA.

I’m juggling a few balls in the air, so expect some goodies in the coming weeks…

First, the deadline for Etsy’s Space Craft contest, partnered with NASA – is literally days away, and I’ve got an awesome entry for it! Regardless of whether my piece earns a place, this portrait inspired by the intergalactic aspirations of our forefathers is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine.

Here’s a sneak peek… but you’ll have to wait until after this weekend to see the rest!

helioscope dated to 1880s and TaraFly's digital art telescope rendering

A helioscope dating back to the 1880's, and my digitally painted version

Jane Bennet’s portrait is also coming along and I will be unveiling her next week as well.

I’m happy to report that my first cat doll has received some rough toddler handling over the last few weeks, and has passed the durability test without flying fur… eh, stuffing. I may be looking into streamlining a line of dolls once I perfect the pattern. Okay, once I actually draw a pattern… 😉

I have a new T-shirt design featuring Mr. Bennet, which I think is just adorable. He is already available in my Zazzle shop, but I would love to sell some of these shirts on my site and Etsy, although I can only produce them myself as iron-on transfers at the moment… screenprinting seems more popular, so I will check into whether my multi-colored designs can be affordably reproduced onto shirts.

My other transfers have held up really well, so far… and I’m very lazy when it comes to following laundering directions. I laugh maniacally at the symbols and throw everything together. Everything gets put into the dryer, whether it should be line-dried or not. Yeah, beat me with an environmentally friendly stick.

When I lived in the country, we had a clothesline which I attempted to use, but I never quite managed to get the hang of it. The clothes were either rigid or full
of spiders, but my ex-husband hated the electric dryer and cussed at me for using it.
(One wonders why he bothered leaving it hooked up…. was it the proverbial Tree of Knowledge?)

Nowadays, convenience and fluffy clothes win out… unless these ghastly electric bills climb any higher.

I noticed some faint crackling in the transfer after they escaped the heat, but it gives them a worn, lived-in character. The colors are still bright, and nothing is peeling.

TaraFly modeling her artwork Red Coat Soldier Cat on T-shirt

Here was the shirt I made with Red Coat Soldier Dommie.

My transfer directions also specify that shirts should be washed wrong-side-out. Hehe That never happens. I don’t separate colors and whites either… The majority of my wardrobe predates all three of my children, and none of the fabric bleeds or shrinks anymore. 😉
I do wash everything in cold water, unless it’s extremely soiled, to save money.

Speaking of saving money…. ahem. Since the holidays are around the corner and people need gifts to buy, and I need money to buy gifts…
Beginning Monday, November 1st, I will be offering Free Shipping on orders over $25.00 in my Etsy shop This applies to both domestic and international customers; the shipping costs will be refunded through Paypal.
And orders over $50.00 will receive a 10% discount and free shipping, also via Paypal refund.
Because Etsy still hasn’t given me the one thing on my Christmas list: a coupon/discount system for customers. And I’ve been good this year… 😛

A similar offer will be available on my website: free shipping for orders over $25.00… however, every new or existing customer to my Art Shop (between Nov. 1st and Dec. 31st) will receive a 10% discount on any purchase, regardless of the total.
It would be awesome if I could bring some additional traffic to my website, since I sweated and slaved over it for months.

Which reminds me…. when you’re visiting my site in the coming months, you might notice some tinkering behind the scenes, as I experiment with different colors, graphics, and the site map. I’m looking for an alternative to my landing page, perhaps using site highlights (latest blog excerpts, sales info, etc).
The Neapolitan color theme is also wearing out its welcome – well, the strawberry pink color is anyway.

white tan brown color palette for website

my current and prospective color palettes

I’ve been toying with the idea to get rid of the sugary pink altogether, or at least eliminate it from my headers, and focus primarily on white… with accents of tan/sienna and chocolate brown/black. Think – calico cat! I want to invoke the feeling of calico fur, and also brown is a comforting, studious color that reminds me of archival parchments, cavernous libraries, and dusty books. 🙂

You can imagine how this indecisiveness makes it difficult to market myself… alas, I’m still using business cards with fire-breathing Dominic on them! LOL It’s hard to believe that he was still the focal point of my website 10 months ago… it was so hard to say good-bye.
Perhaps I’ll design something for him especially for the holidays, as a tribute. The Christmas Cat who tends the fireplace, or the Thanksgiving guest who spit-roasts the turkey…

On the horizon… after Jane B and the Mystery Piece are finished, work on patient Mr. Bingley will begin in earnest. Joe and I also discussed adding more photomanipulations to my Regency series, in addition to “Gazing On Pemberley” and “The Letter”… as they are always well received. Perhaps something with an autumn or winter flavor. (I particularly like the potential of my opening image, the field).
And I’m also planning to create another Mr. Darcy Limited Edition print for the yuletide season, same number of prints: (50) 8×10 and (20) 11×14 sizes.

As with Halloween Darcy, they will only be on the market for a limited time during the holidays. If any prints remain afterwards, their listings will be taken down until the following October. So you’ll have to wait a whole year, and hope a few remain, unless you get one soon. 😉

Phantom Masked Cat by TaraFly framed limited edition reproduction

Phantom Darcy Limited Edition (shown here framed)

Yes, I realize this post sounds terribly “spammy”… which is why I rarely write updates on my work and need lots of practice. But now that I’ve shared everything with you, and all these inspiring ideas and irritating To-Dos aren’t crashing around in my brain, I can regain focus and start checking things OFF the list.

Yeah, and don’t even get me started on the Holiday Boot Camp thing… editing my titles and tags (again!) and including metric dimensions in each shop listing.

Does anyone know where I can hire a rabid pack of zombie cheerleaders?
It is Halloween, after all… 😛

Transfer Darcy Cat onto my navy shirt.

Mr. Darcy on the front; scripted logo on the back...

A few weeks ago, Lily from TwoStrayCats introduced a line of printed pillows that got my mind whirring… I approached her about the possibility of collaborating with me on a series of pillows featuring my artwork, because I’d like to expand myself but can’t sew a lick.
Wait, that didn’t make sense… can anyone sew a lick? If there was a way to sew your tongue to the fabric, I would probably find it. 😛  

Anyway… instead of jumping at the chance to make extra work for herself, she suggested that I use heat transfer paper with my fancy printer to create my own fabric line. It sounded like a wonderful idea… except that I would still need to purchase pillows ready-made for the experiment, and it felt like cheating. Well, to me it does. 
It got me thinking about my old idea to add my artwork to T-shirts, whether to sell or simply to wear around the neighborhood as a form of quiet self-promotion. Lord knows I need some help in that department; I have a tendency to shoot myself in the feet every time the opportunity arises to market myself.  

A couple of weeks ago, I was out in public.. (yes really, I was OUT in public!).. and I had a handmade notebook with me to jot down some notes for my last blog about picture-hoarding. I had designed the notebook cover to display a print of my work, and was feeling pleased with myself for the shameless plug. 

 So an older gentleman approaches me and inquires whether I’m a writer.
Immediately, my mouth opens and I say,
“No, I’m just making a few notes in my journal.”
And he shrugs and walks away. *kick, curse, kick* 

 It would’ve been the perfect opportunity to say,
“Why yes, I do write. I’m currently adapting Jane Austen and I also chronicle the experience of owning my own business and selling my artwork… see this journal cover? That’s an original of mine.”
Why is it that we always think of the appropriate thing to say 15 minutes after the moment passes?  

I got back in the car, and headed for home… driving is an excellent activity for brainstorming, although the state troopers would probably reprimand me for saying that, as it is technically distracted driving, and I’ve missed turns on more than one occasion when my mind was elsewhere engaged. 

 I began mulling over why I tend to unconsciously sabotage my own efforts. And I came to this realization… I must hate myself. No, seriously. I must have some deep self-loathing that seeks to punish itself for an imaginary offense. There is no other way to explain the situations I’ve found myself involved with, the bad relationships, the dead-end jobs, the constant put-downs… I tell myself I can’t sew. Have I ever really tried? Other than to mend a button or ripped sleeve, I haven’t attempted to follow a pattern since grade school, when I created Frankenstein’s nightgown and swore off sewing forever.  

 I should treat myself with respect, look after my best interests, and supportively work with myself as a team … all those management seminars and motivational speeches that retail associates are forced to endure came back to haunt me, and what I saw in the rearview mirror was a terrible employee. In fact, I wanted to fire myself, and hire someone with a Can-Do attitude. 

  I could very easily travel back in time and point the blame at my father, mother, teacher, or religious leader… somewhere along the line, someone probably failed to
respond to my emotional needs, and instilled this self-depreciating behaviour within me. However, “the devil made me do it” has never been in my repertoire, and neither
has “I had a rough childhood” or “everybody picked on me”. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether we’re dealt a crappy hand, we still need to play them to our advantage
and make our lives work for us. I’m not a victim of circumstance; the only person holding me down is myself.  

 I dug into my closet the other day, and realized I didn’t own any plain cotton T-shirts for practicing with heat transfers. Everything was patterned, printed, ruffled,
and textured. So on my next grocery trip, I made a stop at the evil super center’s apparel dept. for some clearance love, and found a few plain tees marked down to $3 a piece… the perfect price for my experiment.
Of course, each time I walk through the automatic doors, I’m bombarded by well-meaning co-workers who inquire after my children’s growth and how I’m acclimating to “being a stay-at-home mom”. I’m sure that I’ve mentioned my art business to a few of them, but everyone seems to have forgotten that I do much more with my newfound “free time” than change diapers and watch cartoons.
The company would have sucked my soul and creative passion if I had continued down their “Pathway To Success”, and by no means did I regret the decision to align my career goals with my personal vision. So why did I keep an armful of old work uniforms hanging in the closet? Is it merely a visual reminder of where I came from, to keep me motivated, or is that self-destructive mentality taunting me… “You’ll need those uniforms eventually, when you FAIL.”
…Those navy blue, cotton T-shirts… hanging like lynched corpses… the wearers of whom have watched their dreams being executed for the sake of a steady-but-barely-scraping paycheck and group health insurance.  

 Plain navy. 

You know, my Darcy Cat would look awesome against a navy background. You take the cards you are dealt and make them work for you… including the remnants of a job that couldn’t confine my individuality. My inner voice was right – I will be wearing those old uniforms again. This time, however, when a shirt defines who I am, it will be a reflection of pride. 

Artist TaraFly wearing her custom Mr Darcy Cat t-shirt

Click to view the work-in-progress pics on Flickr! 🙂

Romantic Mr. Darcy Cat portrait ©TaraFly

Dominic dressed as Mr. Darcy

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a regency cat artist obsessed with one of the world’s greatest works of literature, must make an adaptation starring cats!
The idea of penning a series of children’s books (tentatively geared towards 8-12 year olds), based upon Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has been a goal of mine for quite some time… after beginning the Regency Cats series last summer, and seeing the warm reception of Mr. Darcy Cat, I’ve decided upon an entirely feline cast.
I had been putting off this project because of the huge number of characters required to be painted and brought to life, and the various two-legged limits upon my time. 😉 Digital art, however, is something that can be tackled while juggling baths, brownies, and pre-nap breakdowns. It doesn’t require a table loaded with finger-tempting paint and fancy paper. It can be quickly saved, and easily salvaged if a stray hand smacks the keyboard… which they often do. hehe

Committing to this project, I’m going digital with the illustrations and I also intend to hire Darcy Dominic to play himself. I’m leaning towards my calico Lizzy, as well, although I’d like to study additional calicos and perhaps change her facial markings a bit.

I’ve broken the novel into eight sections, and will be writing a “mini-series” centered around key plot-points; for example, the opening introductions and the Meryton Ball – where Lizzy and Darcy first cross paths – will serve as “Book One”. Jane’s fateful trip to Netherfield, and Lizzy’s subsequent arrival to lend assistance, will be “Book Two”. Mr. Collins will star in “Book Three”… and so forth. My stories will feature dialogue adapted for a younger audience, and will balance the large chunks of conversation with more descriptive actions and settings.

Breaking down the lengthy story into a bite-sized series will make it kid-friendly, and also enable me to make each story available to my audience upon completion.
Also, it will allow me to delay the burden of designing so many characters at once, since a few are not introduced until later in the series (i.e. Lady Catherine and Georgiana).

Still, however, there are many key characters that need to be created at the beginning… and my mind is starting to whirl at the prospect of casting such a large number of cats. Therefore, I’ve decided to host the first of several contests on my facebook fanpage.

I’d like to invite everyone who is a fan, and anyone who would like to join, to share your favorite photos of your cat(s) on my fanpage… they can be cute, humorous, scary, angry… I want to see expressive cat faces! I will create a special folder for fans to upload their cat images, and you are invited to vote for your favorites by Clicking “Like” and commenting on which character you think they ought to portray.

Merlin the grey tabby cat

Merlin attempting his best love-sick expression

For example, if you liked this photograph, and you think he’d make an adorable Mr. Bingley… Click Like and Comment! 😀

Those of you who aren’t familiar with the cast of P&P, that’s okay! You can still comment on your faves, and I will also provide a reference sheet outlining each character’s main profile which might help you.

The deadline for entering the first photo contest, and for voting, will be Saturday, May 15th (midnight, EST); the winners whose cats are chosen to appear in the series will each receive a free photo portrait of their cat in character, signed on the back by myself. They will also receive a mention in the book’s credits.

The first casting contest will focus on these principal characters from “Book One”: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth’s four sisters – Jane, Lydia, Mary, and Kitty, Mr. Bingley, and Charlotte Lucas. (I’m hoping to downplay Bingley’s sisters at first, and introduce them officially in “Book Two”.. but we’ll see)

I plan to self-publish using, in softcovers and jacket hardcovers, until an interested publisher can be found. “Book One” is slated to be complete and available for purchase by August.