{Giveaway} Papel Picado DIY Kits

25 Apr

Spanglish Baby

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo! We’re giving away one of our DIY kits to 5 lucky winners. Hop on over to SpanglishBaby.com to enter the raffle.

While you’re over there, check out their well-written and thoughtful website full of articles about raising a bilingual child. Advice, reassurances on common concerns and tips can be found there, as well!

New: Papel Picado DIY Kits

1 Apr

Ay Mujer Papel Picado DIY Kits

Now available in our website and in our Etsy shop. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

How to assemble papel picado banners

Each kit makes [4] 6-foot banners. It includes a variety of flags in a mix of bright colors. They’re great for any occasion, really. Dia de los muertos altars, fiesta-themed party decorations, or simply for an easy cheery craft project.

Ay Mujer packagingAy Mujer DIY kit instructionsAy Mujer packaging

I had a lot of fun designing the packaging. I wanted them to be something that I would be excited to discover in a boutique or museum gift shop. The labeling, instructions, and informational booklet are all bilingual, (English,Spanish). The paper is 100% recycled. I included our palomitas (doves) as a keepable, pop-out element. I can’t wait to see where people use these!

I’ll build on this concept with more themed banners. For now, I’m happy to be able to offer this fun kit at a reasonable price to our crafty fans!

Reflections on Costco, self-employment, and a thank you to my Latina sisters

16 Mar
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Hey! That’s me on the table of contents. Click to read the full article online.

The shop was featured in March’s Costco Connection magazine. This was no small thing. It was the first time my work was featured in a national publication (in the U.S.) that wasn’t  specifically for weddings.

Of course, not everybody is a Costco member, yet I was curious to see what kind of response it would get. I am a Costco member. We shop there a couple of times a month along with what seems like at least half of suburbia. Truth is, I don’t love going in their huge warehouse because I always end up spending more than I planned. My dad calls it “Hundreddollarcostco”, one word. Yet, I have a grudging respect for their brand. It keeps me coming back– mostly because I believe that what I’m buying is well-made, a good deal, or higher quality than the regular big box store’s wares. 99% of the time this is true. Therefore, I don’t fight the pull to sit down at the kitchen table and spend a few minutes looking through their coupon booklet and monthly magazine. As with the store, I believe that I’ll come across a great deal or read something unexpectedly informative, interesting and helpful. I was excited to have the shop exposed to people in this positive light.

It also provided a unique opportunity because I figure, like us, most people read the mailing when it first comes out and throw it out after a week. It’s a bubble of new info, invaluable to a small business.

So, 15 days after the article came out, I’m reflecting on what I learned:

  • Costco Connection readers are follow-up kind of people. The deluge of inquiries I received was fast and direct. 
  • They are also kind. Many folks sent a note just to say, “Congratulations. I love your work. Keep it up.” This, I find amazing– that people took time to read the article, visit our website, find & fill out the contact form– just to be nice! 
  • They have good ideas. I’ve been focusing on the wedding market for a few years. Mostly, because there is a built-in industry, making it easier for me to build a focused line of products. Also, because I wanted to avoid being ‘the birthday party lady’. But what I realized is that I’ve been limiting the brand’s reach– not helping it to be focused. Papel picado is not specific to one occasion. I’ve decided to embrace this truth. I’m already working to expand our offerings.

One more insight: I’ve only been doing the social media thing for the company for a few months. We got a lot of new followers after the article came out, especially on Instagram and the ol’ Facebook. Of the new followers, the people that are connecting with our brand through social media are mostly women, the majority of them Latina and/or small business owners.

For the love of God, I don’t know why this surprised me! I mean, I named my company Ay Mujer!. When I thought about this a little more, I realized that it was because my actual buyers are not Latina in the same majority ratio. It’s more like 40/60.  I’m not sure why this is– maybe it’s our prices or maybe it’s because the Latino community is not as present in the indie crafting scene, (our Etsy shop being the brand’s highest-visited site). Or maybe it is another reason that I have yet to learn.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking on this all week and I find that I am so happy. I really am. I feel the support of my sisters deep in my bones. You see, what keeps me going everyday is the vision: the idea that I can build a high-end, artist- run brand that reflects my cultural influences and respect for quality craftsmanship. Somewhere along the way, I unconsciously became fearful that my work was “too Mexican” and that Ay Mujer! would end up marginalized in a kitschy fiesta niche. [Which, if you know me, is dead-wrong because my Spanish is no bueno and my interests are so eclectic that the last thing I am is "too" anything.]

So yeah, I’m happy. Because, although I may have lost sight of it for a while, my vision came though anyhow and it was seen and enjoyed by my fellow Latinas and I’m not the only one who finds it worthy and special.

And that is no small thing.

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A pretty mistake

15 Jan

A pretty mistake

Introducing my newest design, our Santa Cruz banderitas! Personalized and custom color small papel picado flags. Originally designed for a rush order, but it turned out that the couple was having a non-denominational wedding! (Not that I go around adding crosses to everything. It was a detail provided in their design inspiration images. Either way: oops!) Needless to say, I neutralized their flags with a quickness by cutting a flower over the cross. But the original design is too pretty to let it sit. So, I’m happy to offer them in the shop!

Sold by the dozen.

Dia de Los Muertos Altar for Lencho and Ester Flores

9 Nov

I had the opportunity to participate in the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit at Palm Springs Art museum again. This year, it was at their beautiful new satellite location in Palm Desert.

The altar was in honor of my grandparents. It was a family effort, con mucho amor!

Florencio “Lencho” Moreno Flores (1924-2004)

Maria Ester Ochoa Flores (1928-1998)

They were both born and raised in La Sara, Texas. They were married on August 6, 1947. They enjoyed over 50 years together.

Long-time residents of Indio,CA, they settled in the Coachella Valley in the early 50’s.

Rancho Las Flores, Thermal, CA 1980. That’s me as a baby.

Lencho was employed in farm labor and agriculture from an early age. He was known for his friendly warm smile, generous hospitality, compassionate heart and optimistic outlook. He was a supporter of the labor union movement in the 1960’s and of Cesar Chavez. He was very patriotic and extremely proud of his sons and daughter who served in the military. Above all, he was a spiritual man and a devout Catholic; serving his church and all the community through prayers and songs.

Making buñelos, early 1990′s

Ester was a farm laborer as well. Later, she became a full-time homemaker and mother. She only had a third-grade education and knew very little English, but she was blessed with a sharp mind and an uncanny ability to stretch a dollar a long way. She managed the household expenses and the family savings with an iron fist; yet she generously always had a place in their home for extended family and traveling friends to stay.

She was a devout Catholic and very spiritual as well. Privately, she practiced traditional healings of the indigenous people of north Mexico & Texas, and was respected for her teas and powerful prayers. It’s no accident that two of their daughters are nurses and another daughter and son are mental health professionals.

Lencho and Ester had 6 children, 15 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. We love and miss them!

My dad and his dad. Thermal, CA. 1979

Making the Altar…

Me and my Mom, installation day.

Fully assembled & lit for the evening’s festivities.

About the altar:

  • Photos of their farming days create a path to the steps, representing the transition from their earthly life of hard work and toil in the sun to a celebration of their transcendence to Heaven, where they are happy souls reunited and free.
  • Ester loved roses and the color pink. After their passing, the family remodeled their home. Twice the house was painted beige and twice the paint mysteriously dried pink.

Their wedding picture in the background…

  • The lovingly created central figures (above) were made by their son, my tio, Florencio ‘Jayar’ Flores.

  • The molcajete and comal, (cooking instruments), were Ester’s. Her fantastic Tex-Mex cooking is dearly missed. The plastic fruit bowl and doilies were hers as well.

  • I designed and cut the papel picado with lyrics from one of Lencho’s favorite songs, De Colores.

  • The paper flowers were made by their great-granddaughter, my daughter, Bella, age 13.
  • The wooden plaque, “La Familia Flores”, hung over their front door. It now hangs at my parents’ home.

Final daytime view.

The saddest part is always taking the altar down. All the physical pieces are put away and we are again left with the memory of our loved ones. I cheered myself up with the knowledge that my daughter now knows her abuela’s face and got to hear many stories of her life over the course of working on this project. Her memory lives on!

Election Day 2012

6 Nov

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It’s Election Day and we can officially say that our Viva Obama papel picado banners raised a total of $155.00 for the Obama for America 2012 election campaign!

As they sold, we were donating $5.00 per banner. They went all around the world: from Australia to the UK to Canada. We even got to send some to Ohio’s campaign headquarters! Thank you to all who purchased for participating in your democracy and supporting both the campaign and small business. It was a win-win-win experience!

How-To: A Papel Picado Tutorial with free VIVA OBAMA template

20 Sep VIVA OBAMA papel picado by Yreina Flores Ortiz
The Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos is coming up right around election time. Papel picado is a common decoration for this holiday’s festivities. Papel picado is cut or punched paper, made from stacks of tissue paper with the use of chisels, punches, hammer and blade. Here is a how-to tutorial for you Obama supporters! It is meant to be an introduction to making papel picado using the most-widely available modern tools. Hey, we don’t all have access to a blacksmith to make us custom chisels.
VIVAOBAMA_papel_picado_AYMUJER

This original design is free [for personal and educational use].

You will need:
Design template
X-Acto knife, blade #11 or #16 (as pictured)
About 6 sheets of tissue paper
Glue stick
String
Surface to cut on (a self-healing mat works very well)

Directions:

1. Download and print out the design template.

2. Stack the sheets of tissue paper with the printed template on top. Leave room (about an inch) above the top of the design for a flap. It may help to staple everything together to prevent shifting as you cut. Just carefully remove the staples when you are done.

3. Cut out the white areas of the template. Hold the knife firmly. Press hard. Make smooth, continuous cuts. Be brave! Use the non-cutting hand to hold your paper down around your cut.

4. Trim the edge off.

5. To string your banner:

  • Fold the top edge of a flag.
  • Open the fold and apply glue stick gently to the flap.
  • Lay your string in the crease.
  • Close the fold and press it closed, from the middle > out.

6. Pick a spot to hang up your work!

If you’re not an Obama fan, that’s cool– I have another tutorial over on Etsy.

Not the crafty type? These banners are also available in my shop. $5 for each banner is donated to the Obama for America campaign!

Annnd, I’m back!

19 Sep

Hello everybody! I’ve been so busy over the last 6 months. Many changes to the shop. I’ll be writing more about that in detail over the next week. In the meantime, here are some highlights:

  • The demand for hand-cut work finally surpassed my physical abilities. After much travel and research into our options, we invested in a laser cutter to help expand production. This change is HUGE.
  • We are now a team of three. For more info about ¡Ay Mujer! and to see photos of our studio, you can visit our beautiful About page over on Etsy.
  • At last, I can accommodate larger orders in a reasonable turnaround time. Hello event planners and brides with big ideas! Call me, girl!

Other highlights:

  • I joined Twitter… I know. How late am I to the party? Anyway, if you feel so inclined, follow me. I’ll post works-in-progess photos, new designs and the occasional Sample Sale. @aymujershop
  • My Los Novios banners are in the new October issue of Brides magazine!
  • I’m pretty excited because now I have time to work on new designs. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to grab a pencil and get to drawin’.

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is sell framed original paper cuts. I’ll leave you now with a look at the first of these, available in the shop:

“May You Have Good Health and Happiness All of Your Life!”
Framed original papercut papel picado flag.

Amor for Zorro, Geocaching and the Long Beach Reads One Book Program

1 Mar

So begins another adventure, as adventures often do, with a friendly email and bit of luck…

I was contacted by the organizer for the Geocaching Challenge in this year’s Long Beach Reads One Book Program held by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. I get lots of requests for donations to charity and community events, but this message was crazy-friendly and she signed it “Di (Di pronounced in Spanish, not English - Dee, not Die)”.

A woman after my own heart. 

In her words: “Each year they host an event called “Long Beach Reads One Book” (now in its eleventh year). A book is chosen by a committee, and then for roughly a week in March, several activities are scheduled, such as lectures/presentations/discussions, demonstrations, nature walks, etc, etc, etc. In short, this year’s book is Zorro by Isabel Allende…. If you have read the book, then you know that the story has several themes, among them mission life during the early 1800s, rancho life, life in early Los Angeles, relations between the Spanish and the Native Americans in the region, pirates, the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish history/end of the Inquisition, secret societies, etc.”

Awesome. I love Isabel Allende, my mama is a retired librarian, and I’ve listened to the entire unabridged Zorro audiobook, (loved it) a few years ago! So, other than that, the next thing that caught my eye: geocaching. What is that?

Again, in Di’s words: “This year, in addition to the “traditional” types of activities and events, the Foundation is adding GEOCACHING to its lineup, and that’s where I come in. If you have never heard of geocaching, please click here and watch 8 minutes worth of video If you don’t have eight minutes, hopefully you have at least six, in which case watch the first and third videos. My husband and I have been charged with creating the “Geocaching Extravaganza” for this event. In all, we plan to hide anywhere from six to ten caches across the city, to be found by community members, young and old, during the month of March.” 

And so it was that I came to meet Di and I talked myself into cutting over 100 mini papel picado flags for a geocache in a Long Beach Public Library as “loot” for fellow book lovers.

I also scored a couple of tickets for my me & my mama to go see Isabel Allende speak later this month!

These are the flags I made for the Zorro Geocaching challenge.

We settled on a romantic design for the flags as they represent the festive spirit of the residents of El Pueblo de Los Angeles (as depicted in the book), and specifically the marriage of Don Alejandro and Regina (parents of Diego/Zorro). Click here for the Foundation’s webpage for the One Book Geocaching Challenge.

But, when it came down to it, I still wasn’t sure what this whole geocaching business actually was. At Di’s urging, Fernando & I went to the official Geocaching website, signed up for a free membership and did a search for any cache near our home address. We were floored when we saw that the nearest one was less thank 2 blocks away! We excitedly fumbled for our smartphones, found a GPS-enabled geocaching app, and downloaded the free trial. 5 minutes later, we were walking out the front door with our son, Elias, in tow.

Our first geocache! It was a "nano" magnetic, bullet-sized canister that unscrewed to open.

The logbook inside the cache was a strip of paper that unrolled to reveal 34 signatures from previous geocachers.

It takes a special kind of nerd to enjoy the thrill of the hunt for nothing more than bragging rights and a higher tally next to your Geocaching profile name. Turns out, I am one. And, even better, I married one. We are hooked. Elias, however, is skeptical because he’d been secretly hoping for buried treasure.

We are looking forward to finding more caches. It’s a fun and free activity for families (a rare thing these days). Plus, you get to work together as a team. It was Elias who actually found the cache- we were stumped!

One last thing: there is a Geocaching 101 workshop this weekend being held at the library where my flags are hidden. If you are near Long Beach, I urge you to give it a try and please let me know how it goes!

Comparing polyfabric vs. tissue paper

21 Jan

This post is mostly for potential buyers and the curious.
Following up on the Polyfabric material. Some new things I found out about it:

-It is not fire-proof.
-The color is bleed-proof. (So is my tissue paper.)
-The color is UV-resistant. I hung a banner outside in the full desert sun for 3 weeks and it did not fade. Tissue paper starts to fade in a couple of days.

While I had them hanging in my backyard, a weather alert was issued: High Wind Warning weather alert: Winds from NNW at 22mph gusting to 65mph. I took some video during the early hours of this all-day windstorm. In the clip below, these banners had been blowing for about 4 hours. Neither one had torn yet!

Now, on to the testing…

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