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Archive for the ‘Christmas Gift’ Category

“We Just Got a Makeover” post card

Shortly after I opened my first shop, in November of 1984, Carol Hall moved her little restaurant in next door, in the north end of the old Coast Hotel. That was the first time I met her and it was plain love, right from the start. Those were lively days on Franklin Street, with the irresistible aroma of roux wafting out of her doors and into mine, driving us all mad with desire.

I had never even heard of pepper jelly before, and when i asked Carol what you are supposed to do with pepper jelly, she said, with her sparkly Louisiana accent, “Why I put it on my red beans and rice!” — like it was perfectly normal. Needless to say, I was a convert instantaneously. Sometimes we would just have a red-bean-and-rice attack around three o’clock, close the doors to my shop, and go over and beg.

Carol’s spicy New Orleans home cookin’ perfumed the street for blocks. Gumbo, jambalaya, andoille sausages…it was hard to pick one thing off the menu, once you had tried it all. Every single thing made you want to die from pleasure.

Lucky me…Carol asked me to make her logo when she started putting up pepper jellies to sell to the NOLA-starved throngs. I used a lead typeface i had bought from an old hobby printer, called Chic. I was just starting out on my own and everything was so exciting and fabulous. Sorry I don’t have any photos of that long-ago logo to post here.

Eventually, Carol moved over to a little shop on Main Street and called it by the same name, Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company. Her line of preserves grew and grew. And grew. By that time, she wanted the labels to reflect a more handmade character, so she had her husband Albert draw the label art that would last for years and years, with a darling, naive rendering of red and green peppers and vines.

Freshly jarred

She sold all kinds of jams and jellies there, mustards, chutneys, vinegars, and she brought in other products too, locally made wine jellies and salsas, interesting, food-related stuff, pottery, but the Red and Jalapeno Pepper Jellies, now joined by Ginger, Peach, Mango and Roasted Garlic Pepper Jellies, held their own, and still do to this day.

Fast forward: business was good, the name well-established, and many honors and awards had been bestowed on her scrumptious products.  Carol decided she wanted to slow down a bit. She had been working her tail off for a couple of decades. That’s when she passed most of the business to her daughter Leslie Hall.

The labels changed again when the Halls all sat down and together hammered out a really different look for their products that was a little more upscale. All the labels were on cream colored paper, with burgundy type, small gray drawings, accented with gold foil, and die cut in a distinctive shape. They were all the same color and the product name was a bit small to read from the aisle, but they lasted a long time too.

The storefront, too, was passed to a long-time employee, and now Leslie was just doing the wholesale end of things, with part-time help from Carol on bookkeeping and consulting. “Just” is the wrong word to use…Leslie figures she has made over a half-million jars of jam, jelly and preserves in the years she has womanned the stove.

Leslie is a dervish in the kitchen. She is so organized and fast that nobody can keep up with her. Four or five pots of various jams are bubbling away on the stove, she is sterilizing jars, cleaning up constantly, putting the labels on by hand, answering the phone incessantly, making plans for trade shows, and taking care of her granddaughter, all at the same time. I could go on but…

Well, finally we come to the actual point of this blog post: A few months ago, Carol and Leslie called me up and said they wanted me to redesign their branding, to spark it up with a more modern look. WoW! Was i ever happy to revisit this with them.

They had had a family meeting, without my being there, and talked about all the things they liked about past labels as well as what was not working. They knew they wanted an updated look, but it needed to keep that trademark handmade quality as well. With a lot of experience in redesigning labels (and a certain amount of dread — it’s really an upheaval, you know), they leafed through lots of clip art books, culling for that special wood engraving look they loved, thinking about typefaces, whether to use foil or ink, and etc., etc., and so on.

When I went over to the kitchen to meet with them, Leslie was all ready with a carefully drawn label on a jar to show me. She was pretty happy with it and wanted me to do something to adapt it a little bit — but she also said she wanted me to use my own imagination too… OK. I said, “You know, Leslie, this looks nice, but it has this wood engraving from what looks like the 1600s, of a woman wearing a snood, stirring a black pot over a fireplace. Umm…do you think it’s modern enough?”

I took the drawing away and lots of notes and ideas and went to work. Honestly, I don’t know how this happens, how i get these notions for designs. Really, I can’t even begin to figure it out. Something starts coming through, I play with type, colors, layouts…really I don’t know. The first thing that happened was, I made a square out of the long name, Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company. I tried a bunch of faces out. I got a little feeling about this. Something started to jell, as surely as a pot of bubbling plums and sugar starts to set up…

I took the idea over to Carol and Leslie to see how I was doing. At first, they were in shock. They didn’t know what to say. It was so different from their idea that they could hardly absorb it. They kind of had to push back against it. Then they started to look at it and think about it, warm up to it. Then they said a lot of stuff that I had not known about originally.

Number one thing: the word HOT is NOT a good selling point. People are often scared of HOT (I am not one of them). After thirty years of doing this business, they had a firm grasp of what did and did not work. HOT had always been problematic, and HOT was in the name of the company. In my first rendering, HOT was the biggest thing on the label.

OK, back to the drawing board with more notes and admonitions. As I said, this was jelling. The process, however it works, is always a back-and-forth, a conversation and a communication. I am a medium between what the clients want and what the logo wants to be. That is such a fun position to be in. Witchy!

After more messing around, I called them again, and went to meet with them, this time with a bigger concept. Each label would be a different color. All of them would have the product name in white letters on a black rectangle, with “HANDMADE” floating in a separate rectangle underneath. The “Hot Pepper Jelly Company” part of the name would only appear on the back of the label. The name Carol Hall was all that would be on the front. Each label would have the name of the contents in big enough letters to be read from an aisle. The colors would be vibrant and coordinated so they would look beautiful all together, or by themselves, or in a gift basket. Oh la la! They liked the idea more and more, warmed to it, and finally embraced it. It was thrilling, as exciting as the first time we worked together when I was brand new to having my own business and so was Carol.

Carol and Leslie went to work picking the color palette. I loaned them my Pantone ink books and they went on an exploration of colors, trying various hues on the various products to make sure the label looked good with the jam or mustard color, leafing through William Morris books in search of saturated, sophisticated combos, making sure that everything harmonized and popped.

At last, we put the whole thing together. Like this:

Cherry-Amaretto Jam label

Cherry-Amaretto Jam label

Carol Hall's Hot Pepper Jelly Company's products are Yumminess in a Jar

Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company’s products are Yumminess in a Jar

(The painting in the photo above is a portrait my friend Bob Ross did of me in the ’80s.)

So that is a kind of (not really “kind of”) lengthy synopsis of my relationship with Carol and Leslie Hall. A big, long love affair of mutual admiration and respect, with a happy ending. They love the twenty-six labels we have finished so far and they are getting rave reviews from most of their clients (some people can’t stand change, of course, but overall, it’s a home run), and orders are rolling in like crazy. We already had to order a reprint of some of the most popular items. This is the best news to me. That the labels are beautiful, exciting, popular…and, truly the acid test, effective.

If you are looking for really great presents for the holidays (with good looking packaging — wink, wink), I cannot give you better advice than to find Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company and buy a bunch for all your friends and yourself. As the seal I designed for the labels says “Still cookin’ — Small Batches — Family Owned — since 1985.” It’s an amazing product line that comes from an amazing family. Yummy in every way. I am so honored to have been given this assignment.jam group

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Sheesh. Am I a dilettante or just diverse? So, today’s post is about many topics and me me me, I guess. But I have all these things going on right now that are so exciting and fun that I want to tell you about, and, after all, this is MY blog, right?

First: My beautiful, amazing, virtuoso piano playing friend-accompanist Ira Rosenberg and I will be playing Torch Jazz at the Westport Hotel on Saturday, November 19th, starting around 7 pm. The last time we played there it was so packed that there was LITERALLY no room at the Inn. Every room upstairs was booked and every chair in the dining room and back rooms full of at least one person. Ira and I have been working on a bunch of new material and having our usual blast together getting ready for this gig. So please, if you want to come and hear some of the most beautiful songs ever written in the history of the world, songs that take you to another time and place, make reservations asap!!! Here is the number: 707.964.3688. (I gratuitously also mention that we made their website, just so you know we also do that.) Here is us at the September performance:


Second: My show of my new project, My Baby’s Love Letters, has been extended through the month of November!!!!! The opening is on Second Saturday, November 12, from 5 pm. I may or may not be able to be there to tell you about it, but really it doesn’t matter so much. The display tells all:

They make the most love-fest Christmas presents and unparalleled wedding gifts too, not to mention bar and bat mitzvah gifts, baby shower gifts and just about whatever event you can think up. Don’t wait to get that shopping list out! Bring it to the Highlight Gallery and make your orders now. I just made a fabulous initial for a wedding gift from an aunt to her niece. It had the bride’s and groom’s names (which both started with the same letter), their wedding date, the name of their favorite song (You and Me), and a few secret messages from the Tia and Tio. The report was that they LOVED their Love Letter and were so, so surprised. Of course!

Well, listen, I have to go for a walk in a minute. Loving these last warm Indian Summer mornings along the headlands. The tides are so high right now that the waves are sloshing right up to the cliffs. It’s exciting to watch them crash up against the rocks so closely that spray travels right up to me.

So, Thirdly: The November issue of Real Estate Magazine comes out TODAY and it is SO fabulous I can’t even believe it. You can pick it up all over the county over the weekend or read it online at Real Estate Magazine. The magazine is packed with all things real estate in Mendocino County and our feature story, which, this time, is about Maureen Gealey’s experiences in adopting  and helping others adopt orphaned children from China, and her missions there on medical teams that do cleft surgeries on little kids from the poorest villages out in the countryside. I was crying half the time as I designed the layouts for the cover and the story.

And finally, (sorry this is so long! It’s like four posts in one.) I just want to encourage you to call with your ideas and questions and dreams about our graphic design and printing services. The end of the year is a great time to rebrand or freshen up your present image with a new logo or breathtaking business card or thank you note or website, all of which we can help you with. And don’t forget that we have lots of boxed Christmas and Holiday cards now, all at, as they say, rock bottom prices.

I will have some new business card posts here very soon and also law firm announcements and wedding invitations.

You should also know that we will be vacating our building on Main Street in Fort Bragg very soon. After twenty-seven years, we are ready to make things smaller. But we will continue to provide our same amazing printing and design work from a littler venue. We hope there will be very little interruption in our services during the move but if you need something soon, this is the time to make your order.

OK, must get cracking! I hope your Thursday if full of fabulosity and music and fun and creativity.

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A fabulous, schmoozy time on Second Saturday in Mendocino last night, with a passle of gallery openings and people traipsing all over the place reveling in art, sipping wine and running into everybody they knew in the village. We love that about living up here: community trumps everything and you have to build in extra time for all the hugging on the sidewalks.

My Baby’s Love Letters, the new project I’ve been telling you about of these big, framed initials that are made up entirely of line after line of LoveLOVELove, took up the whole thirty-foot wall on the east side of the front door at the Highlight Gallery and I had a blast greeting visitors and telling them about the twenty-six Love Letters. It was a feat to get all those frames straight but Sharon Peterson and I did it together like the Two Stooges and they look dramatic and chic, as you can see. We sold some too!!!!

The Highlight Gallery is brimming over with gorgeous woodwork, paintings, sculpture, jewelry, photography, glass, pottery, weaving and more. A terrific showplace for local artists, and certainly an honor for me to have my installation there for this month. I hope you will stop in and get in on some of that love-emitting wall of Love, or go to their website to see a condensed version of all they have there. It’s amazing and gorgeous, and the view of Mendocino Bay from the front window is worth the trip from anywhere. I so enjoyed working with Sharon, Adrienne, Judy and Joanie in that peaceful, beauty-filled place.

My Baby’s Love Letters are wonderful gifts for so many occasions: birth days, birthdays, baby showers, christenings and brises, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and newlyweds, anniversaries, client gifts, Xmas and Chanukah, girlfriend presents, or just a sweet way of telling somebody you are mad about him or her. You can learn more about My Baby’s Love Letters in previous blog posts and on the new website that we got up just in time for the exhibit!

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This is the B with a heart and that is my Grandma’s photo. She was one of the many people in my life who taught me how unconditional love feels

You can’t spend two days putting up a show without waking up with your mind looking like a photograph in a developing tray — taking shape, becoming clearer, pulling out details, and then projecting into the next hours of your day — how will it be? I was thinking about all the My Baby’s Love Letters we hung on Sharon Peterson’s beautiful Highlight Gallery thirty-foot wall yesterday — twenty-six letters, plus two personalized ones equals twenty-eight — and about what was in those letters, which, of course, as you by now know, is LOVE.

LoveLOVELoveLOVELoveLOVE, over and over. Between 1500 and 4000 LOVEs in each letter. That is over 70,000 LOVEs on a wall. My god. And then, as my mind wandered about in pre-consciousness, it flew to Dr. Emoto‘s experiments with water. I’m sure you have read about him. Like, if you think loving thoughts into a glass of water, the water’s structure changes to beauty.

This crystal was formed from thinking “Love and Gratitude”

Here is a quote from whatthebleep.com: “Essentially, Dr. Emoto captured water’s ‘expressions.’ He developed a technique using a very powerful microscope in a very cold room along with high-speed photography, to photograph newly formed crystals of frozen water samples. Not all water samples crystallize however. Water samples from extremely polluted rivers directly seem to express the ‘state’ the water is in.


Dr. Masaru Emoto


Dr. Masaru Emoto discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. He found that water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors.

The implications of this research create a new awareness of how we can positively impact the earth and our personal health. The success of his books outside Japan has been remarkable. Dr. Emoto has been called to lecture around the world as a result and has conducted live experiments both in Japan and Europe as well as in the US to show how indeed our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions as humans deeply impact the environment.”

So, of course, the implications of a Wall Full of Love could not be avoided (in my brain): what kind of power is that wall emitting into the room? The neighborhood? Will Dick’s Place next door be affected? Will all those bottles on the other side of the gallery wall be imbued with loveLOVElove, too, and the bikers, when they drink the contents, will they feel a rush of desire to kiss somebody? And what about the people who venture through the Gallery’s door today? Will love just hit them in the solar plexis when they cross the threshold? And if they buy a Love Letter and send it, will the UPS man feel it through the brown paper wrapping? What about ME? I’m the one who put the thousands of LOVEs into the letters…how has that affected me? Actually, I am kind of a mushball of love right now.

WoW!!! This is going to be a science experiment.

Can the LOVEloveLOVE be transmitted on the internet too? Because the My Baby’s Love Letters site is up now. It’s over there emitting You-Know-What all over the place. OMG, you know?

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