Sacred Shape: A Work in Progress

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen ShotWeb design is a fast-paced field that I have a hard time keeping up with, but the fact that I have to stay up to date on my skills or risk being rendered obsolete by changing technology certainly keeps me on my toes! I have been reading and learning about WordPress for the past couple of years and was looking for a way to put what I had learned so far into practice. I learn best by doing anyway, and fake projects for tutorials are great and all, but what’s even better is finding a patient friend who needs a web site and has a limited budget but plenty of flexibility to allow me to learn as I built them a site.

Enter my good friend Kelsie of Sacred Shape Hula Hoops.

Kelsie and I fell in love with hooping together during several years of hoop groups on the bluffs overlooking Mendocino village and Big River Beach. She taught me a good chunk of my trick vocabulary and a few years ago she started making hoops. Kelsie is a jeweler, excellent chef, organic gardener, creative crafty type and very good with her hands. So of course once she sets out to make hoops, she makes gorgeous, high quality, handcrafted hoops with love! Over the years she has tried all different kinds of tubings, tapes, connectors, fire hoop wicks, sizes, and variations to find what works and looks best, and I’ve been happy to help try out all the different hoops along the way. We came up with a logo concept for the business that blossomed out of her hoop-making craft, Sacred Shape, and I designed her identity and business cards.

Sacred Shape IdentityKelsie sold hoops at a few small festivals and local events, began wholesaling hoops with the local FedEx stores, taught workshops and did a few performances with me, but soon she wanted to grow her business into something that could bring her more sustainable income. She had a friend offer to build her site but then stall for years without the project ever coming to fruition, so I offered to give it a try. We worked out a deal that allowed me time to learn the platform as I went and included partial payment in hoops. A hooper can never have too many hoops!

I knew I wanted to use WordPress for Sacred Shape’s site because it allows the control of having a site on your own servers, the freedom to completely customize the site while still running it with a WP backend, and once it was set up with a custom theme design, Kelsie could easily use WordPress as a CMS to update her site without having to know code or ask me to make endless updates. WordPress has a solid community of developers behind it and is the most widely used Content Management System, as well as being open source, updated constantly, and easy to use. But I also had to choose a plugin that would securely handle the e-commerce side of the site. After a bit of research, I decided to install WooCommerce, a free, expandible plugin that processes transactions, handles the shopping cart functionality, and does all the nerdy number crunching that’s over my head.

Building the site took about a year of planning, meetings, taking and gathering and preparing product and hooping photos, writing and editing content, learning WordPress and WooCommerce and just enough php to make them work (thank you, finding green web hosting, installing and configuring WordPress, designing a custom child theme to deck out the site with sacred geometry colorful fabulousness just like Kelsie’s hoops, and entering countless product details, descriptions, photos, prices, parameters, shipping costs, etc. etc. as I learned how to configure WooCommerce largely by trial and error. It was quite the long process, especially since we’re both so busy with other work! But the result is the first e-commerce site I’ve designed by myself and  the first WordPress custom child theme I’ve ever created, and it came out so pretty that I think it was worth the wait.

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen Shot 2

We launched the site at the end of September 2013 and threw a big launch party to celebrate. Kelsie and I practiced choreography for weeks and put together a fire show with friends. We had music, food and drinks, raffle prizes, and of course, lots of hooplah! Kelsie pulled together a lot of awesome people and put on an amazing event. Never has a site I’ve created been launched with such gusto!

Of course, launching a web site is just the beginning of the adventure. Creating and updating it with fresh content to keep people interested, fine tuning the site’s design and code, constantly updating the site and looking for ways to improve it, keeping track of stats and improving SEO are all ongoing. I showed Kelsie how to make updates, post blog posts, add images, and edit and add products and we’re both constantly learning more and updating the site. This project has most definitely been a labor of love.

Kelsie and I were friends before we ever worked together, so I’m sure that helped this project go smoothly, but our business relationship is exactly the type of connection with my clients that I crave for every freelance project I take on. I love being involved with a client’s business from the beginning and helping them express what they are all about through my designs. Especially if I’m involved early on in the creation of the business, I feel like a trusted and essential part of the team and I care about the success of the client’s business as if it were my own. It’s very rewarding being a part of the entire creative process and working with a business over the long term, carrying creative concepts through various mediums and campaigns. As a jack of all trades type designer, I love the variety of working on logos, print materials, web sites, graphics, banners, and all kinds of media, especially combined with the stability of steady work from a client over time. Building long-term symbiotic relationships with clients is what I strive for with every project, which is why I select them carefully and focus on a limited number at a time. After this project, it’s obvious that Kelsie and I make a good team whether we’re hooping or just trying to sell her hoops.

Launching Sacred Shape has inspired me to keep learning as much as I can about WordPress and keep experimenting with it. I finally archived my own site that I had designed in 2005 and replaced it with a clean install of WordPress with a plain, default theme. I have big plans to build a custom child theme and try out new things here as I learn more, but of course my own site is always on the back burner since I design for others to pay the bills.

Projects like Sacred Shape that combine my various passions are always a joy to work on. I hope that Kelsie’s web site will help spread the love of hooping and flow arts far and wide. Flow arts have played a very special role in my life and I love helping my friends go for their dreams, so this project was the perfect combination flow, friends, and lots of fun! Now, everyone go order hoops from Sacred Shape! They are amazing and I’ve been hooping with them for years, plus you’ll be helping a very deserving small business blossom and doing yourself lots of good, too!

Why I Love Working With PETA

For almost nine years now, I have worked with the interactive media team at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a web design contractor. As the largest animal rights organization in the world and one who fearlessly confronts animal abuse on many levels, PETA tends to get a lot of press, and unfortunately much of it paints the non-profit organization in a negative light. But anyone who pushes to change the status quo or stand up for the rights of the disenfranchised and oppressed is met with opposition and resistance, so I see this as a sign that we are moving in the right direction.

I invite you to check out this feature on PETA’s Community Animal Project. This division of PETA deals with the tough and heart-wrenching realities of very desperate animals who have nowhere else to turn. Animal overpopulation due to breeding instead of adopting is a huge problem that PETA tackles by offering free and low-cost spaying and neutering and encouraging animal adoption. But when severely neglected, sick, abused, and dying animals have nowhere else to turn or languish and suffer in “no-kill” shelters, PETA isn’t afraid to step in and deal with the brutal realities of the overpopulation crisis. The video below gives a glimpse into CAP and the animals they help, and gives some context to PETA’s numbers and stance on animal euthanasia. In a cruel world, the most humane option in some animals’ cases is a painless end to their suffering. PETA is one of the few organizations that has the guts to do whatever it can for each animal it helps and for as many animals as possible.

I may only play a small role at PETA by updating their web sites and designing bits and pieces of their online presence, but I am continually blown away by the compassion, dedication, talent, creativity, and brilliance of the people I work with. I just returned from Norfolk, Virginia, where our department got together for a retreat to train, plan, and meet face to face since we are spread out all over. After a week of crazy winter travel, playing in the surprise snow, learning and training, meeting and strategizing, hanging out with the people I work with, and petting plenty of adorable rescued animals, I return home inspired, awestruck, and with renewed dedication to this brave and hard-working organization.

The hardest part about working with PETA has always been dealing with people’s misunderstandings of what we do and ugly comments and misguided hate towards the organization. And the best part, that far overshadows having to deal with the bullshit, is the people I get to work with. I am so grateful to be part of such a big-hearted, talented, dedicated team and organization. Thank you for all you do for animals, PETA people! And thanks for taking in a silly circus freak like me and giving me a flexible job that allows me to use my skills for a good cause. I love my job!

It’s About Time

I am a web designer, but my web site hasn’t been updated much since I designed it in 2005. Sad, I know. What was that saying about the shoemaker’s kids having no shoes again? 😉

Anyway, it’s about damn time I revamped this thing. And I think I’ll just start fresh, with a boring ol’ WordPress template, and build from there with my own child theme and all that. Maybe I’ll end up refreshing my identity for the blog, or maybe I’ll just let what I share here speak for itself. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve been learning more about designing with WordPress, so this will be a place to put what I learn into practice, as well as a place to bare a bit of my soul, since I can do that on my little corner of the internets. That’s what the internet is for, after all. Gotta use it as the last bastion of free speech while I still can!

Stay tuned. Things may look worse before they look better. But this site will be a constant work in progress, so at least it won’t be boring and stagnant (like the site I designed in 2005 when I was graduating college that I’m finally replacing). Life is full of change, here goes another! 🙂