Category Archives: Maison Celeste

Australian Loteria, Part One

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Click on the picture to go to the NEH Oaxaca website, also known as the Wired Humanities Project. Scroll down to High School/Middle School Art / Celeste LeTard Williams / “Lotería” to download the PowerPoint tutorial.

Last summer, when I attended the NEH Oaxaca Institute for School Teachers, I created a PowerPoint tutorial on how to make an original Loteria game about any topic.  I am happy to say that it was posted on the Wired Humanities Project page along with some worksheets and resources for the classroom.  Just click on the image to the left and it will take you to the lesson plans prepared by myself and my colleagues from last summer’s Mesoamerican Institute.  You will need to scroll down to the section which says High School/Middle School Art, then look for my name and the title “Loteria”.  There are also some worksheets to be used for students to draw a loteria card, as well as a rubric and a sheet with the original cards and calling rhymes listed on it.

This year, I planned on having my students create a Loteria game about Australia.   The idea was to introduce the original Mexican Loteria and to have the students search out analogous icons and symbols from Australia to replace the Latino images.  I have done blog entries about this idea in the past. This one actually lists the different cards of the Loteria in order.   I also collect Loteria decks and images, which I use for classroom examples.

An important resource is also the gallery of Loteria Card Deck uploads at Elsewhere.org.  There are about 20 decks scanned and uploaded to the website.  They are great for examples.  You could have students research the images there, but just beware of the “Queer” Loteria because of inappropriate images.  Some of the other decks are great for pulling images.  Or, you can just purchase a Loteria game at a Mexican grocery or at an online source.

The thing I appreciate about Elsewhere.org is that there IS a variety of images.  So you can pick and choose your images for classroom appropriateness.  There are things on the traditional deck that could be considered inappropriate.  For example, La Sirena/The Mermaid is usually bare-breasted.  You can find images with covered breasts, such as the Anahuac Sirena and the Compadres Sirena.  There is a non-smoking El Catrin (also known as the Dandy, or the Gentleman), El Valiente (The Brave One)  without a weapon,  La Botella that is not Tequila – yes, I know, the one in the original deck is catsup, but I don’t like the image.

There are also some images that could be offensive, such as El Negrito (The Black Man) and El Borracho (The Drunkard).  And, El Soldado (The Soldier) is pretty much always going to have a gun.  But, you could replace those images with something else from one of the other decks, such as El Payaso (The Clown), or El Mono (The Monkey) or El Moro (The Moor, or Arab), or El Atleta (The Athlete) or Los Boxeadores (The Boxers).  Also, I like it that El Apache could also be El Azteca.  And… El Gorrito (the Bonnet – who wears a bonnet anymore?) could be replaced by El Sombrero (The Hat).  The possibilities are endless!

I really appreciate the work that was done with the Loteria Card Gallery.  Take some time to look throught the images.  Especially noteworthy are:

  • The Clemente Jacques Series 2 and Alternate Series 2 – These were introduced  in the 50’s or 60’s.  The images in the Series 2 Alternate look older than the Series 2, which are more refined.  These decks are very hard to find – I paid almost $100 for a Series 2 on E-Bay.
  • The Loteria de Teresa Villegas – also published by Clemente Jacques and available online – try E-Bay.  Teresa Villegas also has a website with more details about her Loteria project.
  • My Loteria, by Cristina Sosa Noriega, was available at HEB grocery stores, along with coordinating products.  Some of the products are still seen on e-Bay and she has a website.
  • The Loteria Zarela was commissioned by WalMart several years ago and was put on a product line for home and bath.  Zarela Martinez is a celebrated chef who has a restaurant in NYC and has authored many cookbooks.  She also had a designed loteria of fruits and vegetables.  These items are very hard to find now.
  • Maison-Celeste.com – my CafePress Store is where I display and sell my own Loteria designs.
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New Vintage Loteria Designs: La Muerte and El Cupido

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Just in time for Valentine's Day!

I love my Vintage Loteria Cupid!  I don’t know if it is a boy or a girl… The image is from an old Loteria set that I bought at a flea market in Mexico.  This version has been around for a long time, and has been copied so many times that the pictures are rather grainy and murky.  I love building them up from 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inches to a usable size, then cleaning them up and making them beautiful again.

I think I am getting the hang of standardizing my image sets for CafePress.  I upload about 5 huge files to my image basket for each design I make.  The sizes of the images range from 9 by 12 inches to 23 by 35 inches.  I have found that the rectangles do well for shirts and oval objects, but the posters need specific measurements to get rid of any white edges.  The squares work well for circular items as well as squares, so I haven’t gone to the trouble yet of tailoring my designs to a circle shape (or an oval) yet.

Death in a pink frame...

My other design is La Muerte – which is seen in a lot of Loteria decks (The Cupid is not as common).  I like this image, which is a little more dynamic than the traditional standing Death in the Don Clemente deck.  I also liked the blue color in the background as opposed to the pink on the D.C. deck.  I chose elements that bring out the skeleton’s colors, as well as the scythe.  This is the 9 by 12 inch image.  The larger image for the poster has a pattern of colorful sugar skulls on the top and bottom, with a turquoise stripe coordinating the whole thing.

I like the idea of mixing up the designs in my shop, so that everything doesn’t just have the same image.  For one thing, one image won’t do for all of the items.  I have learned that over the years after my original impulsive shop opening with my Valentine designs.

I have 10 designs right now in the Vintage Shop.  After I’ve done two more, I can think about designing a calendar.  I have been selling quite a few calendars with my Milagros and Loteria themes.  It is very gratifying!  Here is a link to the Calendar Shop.

Shame on you, CafePress!

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I have been meaning to write a blog post about this for a week or so, but thinking about it bums me out.

In case you don’t know what CafePress is, it is a site that sells t-shirts and other items printed on demand.  Thousands of designers have bought into the concept, opening up shops and uploading their own original designs to sell to the public.  I was soooo happy when I discovered their service.  I have been a member since 6/25/2004, or so it says on my account.  I started out with the free option, opening up a separate shop for each design.  Then I decided to upgrade to a Premium Shop for about $60 a year, and have consolidated my designs into one shop (Maison Celeste).

Now, I will be the first to tell you that I am not making a living off of my earnings at CafePress.  I make from $30 to $120 per month.  But I have really appreciated having my shop up.  It’s great exposure, and I have sold my work not only in the United States, but also abroad.  Just recently, I have had triple the orders that I had last year, which was encouraging.  I plan on highlighting more of my products on my blog, explaining the creative process behind my digital work.  I have also planned some other promotional ideas…

But a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a problem with my commissions.  The way CafePress used to work, I would set the markup for my items in the shop.  I could either choose to set an exact markup price for all items, or choose an algorithm that produced a sliding (relative) profit scale.  There’s also a place where you can choose what they call tiered markup: low,  medium, high or premium.  I usually choose high, which gives me from $1.00 on small items to $6 or $7 on larger items.  Every time I sell something, the markup is shown on my report.  I got the same profit, no matter if the customer clicked straight on my shop or if the product was found through the CafePress Marketplace search engine.

When I last checked my sales report, I noticed two things. First of all,  the items purchased by customers through the CafePress Marketplace were more expensive to the buyer.  For example, my La Paloma Tote Bag is priced in my shop at $15.99.  The original cost is $12.99 without the design.  Therefore, I make $3.00 on that purchase.  On June 14th, however, someone purchased that same tote bag through the Marketplace.  The cost to the customer was $17.00 and my profit was $1.70 (a flat 10% of the newly elevated price).  I was aghast.

So, the other night, I started to do some internet research to see if anyone else had learned more about this strange change then I did.  I came across a very detailed report written by Jim at Irregular Times.com.  He not only commented on the change in policy, but detailed what happened when he removed his products from the Marketplace (yes, one can opt out of the Marketplace).  Even though some of his products were purchased from his shop, he still received the Marketplace 10% markup.  The post is very enlightening, and more information has been added through reader comments.  The basic idea seems to be that CafePress is, in essence, competing with its own designers.

I have since been looking into alternatives to CafePress, although the thought of re-doing everything bums me out.  I found a very informative comparative article on Squidoo.com called “CafePress Alternatives and Competitors” .  I have gone to Printfection, but they definitely don’t have the merchandise range offered by CafePress.  I don’t think that I will miss all of the items, like the coffee mugs and notebooks, but I definitely need someone that prints posters, cards, and magnets.  On the upside, Printfection has a massive range of t-shirt styles and colors.  I don’t get the appeal of the cutting boards, though…

I am already a little familiar with Zazzle – I just didn’t see any advantage to their program.  In fact, last time I checked, there seemed to be no option to have a shop.  Looking at the site now, it does look a bit different, and it has a really large merchandise selection.   The article in Squidoo basically says what I had heard about Zazzle, that the markups are limited and no stores.  But when I just clicked on “Sell” at Zazzle, it looked like they had made some policy changes, perhaps to lure people from CafePress.  I will look into it more later.

Finally, there is Spreadshirt, which is a German company.  At the moment I am unable to access their site, because of maintenance.  But the range of products is impressive – as are the prices.  I think I looked at one wacky halter-like t-shirt that was going to sell for 75 Euros – not Dollars, but Euros!!!!!  I will go back later.

In the meantime, please go to my CafePress Shop and check it out.  I am planning on removing myself from the Marketplace, which means that I will need to do more promotion myself!

Yet Another Loteria Project…

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I know- it seems like I will never run out of things to do with loteria.  After working with my students’ cards for House of the Scorpion, I dewordpressleoncided to take a break and make some of my own.  I had this idea of using these vintage loteria cards I found in Mexico.  I am assuming that they are copyright-less, but I could be wrong.  I really like the look of them, and they have quite a few images that are different from the more well-known Don Clemente deck.

I got this idea sort of out of the blue.  I like working with scanned fabric samples, and have used them in my Quilt Loteria and my Milagros collections.  Suddenly I had this image of the Diablito (devil) card framed by a pretty flowered pattern.  I have worked in Photoshop to alter the scans of the vintage cards a little bit, and then I chose coordinating fabrics.

The first one I did was El Leon.  I decided to make him number one because I am a Leo – and we all know what happens when we use the “G” word.  I found a pretty gingham print and altered the colors to fit the lion card I chose.  Then I framed it again in a simple checkered plaid in yellow and blue.  That was my basic design.

I think it has bwordpressjarabeeen a little while since I worked in my CafePress shop, so I first went in and deleted some images on the server that I am no longer using.  Then, I reorganized some of my image files and closed some shops that were either for my one-time use or were no longer relevant.  Then I added the new “Vintage Loteria” section.  I have done just about one design and one shop per day for the past 3 days.  My latest is the one to the left – isn’t it HOT?

Today, after setting up the Vintage Jarabe Tapatio shop, I did a little studying up on image sizes in CafePress.  Usually I work with one image and alter it to fit two different shapes:  One is a rectangle – which I make really big and use for everything from posters to refrigerator magnets.  The other is a square, which I use for square things, like tiles, or round things, like buttons or clock faces – I just don’t worry that they are not a circle within a circle.

The problem with this is that no one proportion of rectangle fits for every poster and frame size and all of the other rectangular things, like postcards, greeting cards, notecards and journals.  So, this time I made three sizes:  one 8 1/2 by 11 inch, one 11 by 17 inch, and one 11 by 11 inch square.  I also am keeping all of the elements of the design in a folder on my laptop, so I can alter a design or make another size.  I may have to store more of these things on my computer at home, because my laptop is getting pretty full.

So, go check out my Vintage Loteria Shop!

Viva Zapata!

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No, I haven’t been totally lazy while I’ve been on vacation.  I have been half-heartedly cleaning house.  So far, I have cleaned the bedroom surfaces and dusted and folded clothes.  My husband is supposed to vaccuum and movivazapatamilagroforwordpressp, but he’s been sick, so apparently he cannot clean house.  No comment.

I have not yet unpacked my laserjet printer, and we are now at the halfway point, holiday-wise.  I had been meaning to print out a whole lot of images I have stored on my laptop.  In particular, those heart ex votos and milagros I have been collecting for a year or so now.  I have yet to come up with a really organized filing system for the images.  I am sure I have duplicates of many of them.  And, truth be told, some of the designs are different by maybe one element.

Earlier, I tried putting them in files according to what shape they were and if they were silver-colored or painted.  Then, I just went ahead and filed them according to the source where they were found.  I don’t feel bad about copying the various images and designs because I do not plan on going into the ex-voto or tin ornament business.  The designs provide inspiration for my own creations.

Last night, I created a new heart “blank” and decided to work on an Emiliano Zapata theme.  I really like how it came out.  Now, you can see a little bit of his gun, and of course there are his bullet vests, but it’s not as violent as many of the Zapata t-shirts I’ve seen worn by my students.  In our school, of course now we have uniforms, but before that, we had restrictions on what sort of images could not be worn to school.  Those were mainly any reference to alcohol, tobacco, weapons, sex, or gang symbolism.

Because I am a connoisseur of t-shirt art, I often would notice things that were not notices all day by other teachers.  Such as:

  • a drunken Chihuahua saying “yo quiero tequila”
  • “homies” pouring a beer bottle onto a compadre’s grave
  • scantily clad women on low riders OR being carried away by Aztec warriors
  • Scarface carrying a pistol AND a cigar
  • Soccer fan t-shirts with beer ads on them
  • Zapata, riding a horse, carrying a shotgun (with the support of the Virgin of Guadalupe, of course)

Whenever I would call a student on the Zapata t-shirt, I would explain that we had no problems with the Revolution or with Mr. Emiliano and his friends.  Then I would point out that it was the GUN that cannot be worn to school.

Now, you may be thinking I am being nit-picky about this, but years ago the school secretary pointed out that I was wearing an inappropriate shirt.  I was dumbfounded.  I had purchased the shirt when my husband and I visited the Salvador Dali museum in Florida.  It was a painting called “Lively Still Life” – I think.  The object that was “objectional” was the knife, floating in the air.

So, please visit my Milagros CafePress shop to see the items available.  I think I am going to work on a Christmas t-shirt/card design next.

Sold! One Frida Kahlo Shrine Frame

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As of late, I had gotten out of the habit of updating my Etsy site and of putting things on EBay to auction.  So, this week I started to work on that.  I had the pictures – my husband took themil_fullxfull44562565 a month ago.  I just needed to crunch them down and put them up.  After two days in my Etsy shop, one of my newest shrines has just sold!

This is a Frida Kahlo postcard framed in one of my exclusive wooden shrine frames. I was experimenting with putting different ornaments on the tops of my shrines.  I had this really nice flourish hanging around, so I glued it on there.  It is painted a bright red-orange and embellished with wood appliques that are accented in yellow. The top crest sports a 3-D butterfly – a Punch Studio sticker – and there are butterflies on the insides of the doors. The image is under glass and surrounded by a coordinated border and sequins. The front doors have two more wooden appliques and I have added jewels to the door handles.

So, I am plugging away, trying to get things up for sale.  Christmas is coming up, and I want to make sure that I have enought moolah to buy gifts!  I also may be visiting a friend who just got a fellowship to work in Johannesburg, South Africa starting in January.  That’s a long shot, but I am trying to think of it in terms of items sold – that would be about $1500 for airfare alone – so that’s gonna take some selling!

I love to organize things…

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That’s what I am doing right now. Last night, I continued to clean and organize my studio. I found a couple of things I had forgotten about and tried really hard to throw things away. I also organized my sequins, confetti, and all of the objects that I put in my assemblages and story boxes. That is a lot of stuff – confetti is like spices: you have to buy a whole package to get one shape or item, but you are probably never going to use them all.

I must have about 21 or more of these sectional containers – I think that they have 18 compartments (or 16 small compartments and 1 large one – why do they do that?) – 3 of them can hold images from a 54 card Loteria deck. I also have my sequins and confetti in these boxes – I am currently organizing them by color. Not to mention the many small organizers I have filled with stuff. I collect Mardi Gras beads and medallions, small blown glass objects that used to be on wine charms and swizzle sticks. I have some jewels, rusty iron hearts, plastic cocktail hangers (I’ve got some cute muscle men and mermaids)

What You See is What You Get

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I have owned the domain name http://www.maison-celeste.com for probably more than a year now. Before that, I owned http://www.maisonceleste.com. The latter, I cancelled because a year or so had gone by and I had not published a website. When I went to get it back, it was no longer available. Bastards! Having learned my lesson, I am not going to sell Maison-Celeste.com – I even prefer the hyphenated version. But I still don’t have anything up there.

Maybe about 4 years ago, I took an evening class on website building. I actually got the hang of HTML and played around with blog templates and had a little Bravenet site up. Then, I got spoiled by the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors. So, while I have several websites – on Etsy, on CafePress, and here on WordPress – I still haven’t got the BIG site up. Today, I tried to change that.

My husband has a copy of something like FrontPage on his Mac, but I need something handy on my laptop. That is where I get most of my work done. I am not ready yet to splurge on a copy of Dreamweaver – well, yes, I’m ready, but it would not be financially responsible at the moment. So, I started looking on the Internet for free HTML editors.

I found one that looked good, called Amaya. I downloaded it and created a little webpage – just a graphic of my Loteria Celeste with a welcome message. Underneath was a simple table with links to my other sites and my e-mail address. I figured that would do until I got something else up. I saved the files in a special folder on my laptop, then headed to GoDaddy to upload them to my site.

Over an hour later, I still had not succeeded – even after downloading an explanation about uploading files. Now, I will admit that uploading was not something I did a lot – but it was supposed to be EASY. It’s NOT! I am going to enlist the help of my husband and hope I don’t get scolded too much for downloading a program he had not approved of… Right now, I am going to do the boring part – planning the site and writing copy. It’s just not as immediately gratifying as posting in my blog! 😉

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to use GoDaddy’s Website Tonight. My new site is supposedly hosted on GoDaddy.com. Well, I found out that “Website Tonight” is a bit of a misnomer: I did not get a website that night. For one thing, the “free” Website Tonight account offered to me would have required that I cancel my domain name, wait for it to come up for use again (supposedly in a couple of minutes), then snap it up under that particular offer. That was not reasonable. It was very frustrating – although the GoDaddy guys were very nice.

Organization

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April 15, 2008

I am obviously not the best blogger in the world.  I could use the excuse that my computer suffered a severe crash this weekend and I am only just getting it back together, but I had all of that vacation time and still did not write!

I have been doing a lot of organizing in my workspace. I had about 20 or so rolls of wrapping paper that I have been hoarding, so I unrolled them and flattened them using my cookbook collection.  Then, I folded them and stored them flat in boxes.

I have also stockpiled a large amount of lovely flat, rectangular boxes that our Dell computer components came in at school.  I was going to use them for dioramas, but they will make great storage boxes.  I plan on finding some way to organize my papers – by color, maybe? or style?  Then, I can cut pieces of the paper out and post them on the sides of the boxes.

I spent a lot of time over the holidays checking out all of the TJMaxx Homegoods stores in my area.  I have pretty much claimed samples of most of the Punch Studio papers and cards available for sale there.  Now, I need to sort and use them.  I plan on selling some of my surplus in batches in my Etsy store and on EBay.  I think that there is a market for paper – we’ll have to see.  Now, I just have to find a way to sell all of my surplus sequins and confetti!

I also purchased a bit of fabric on eBay – I am trying to round out my collection of Hispanic fabrics – I found a store that sold some great Frida fabric, as well as a pattern of Talavera plates and Mexican toys.  I think at last count I had collected almost 20 different Virgin of Guadalupe images.  I plan on using the fabric like I do paper – I don’t plan on sewing anything at the moment.  Most will be centerpieces for shrines.

I made one new Virgin of Guadalupe shrine over the holidays – I just need to put a couple of coats of Mod Podge on it and then I may put it up on eBay.  I have not put much up for a while on eBay – I am trying to get organized right now.  I have put up some lovely Loteria Collage notecards in my Etsy shop:  Check them out!