Category Archives: Business

More on Dog Enrichment Toys

Yesterday’s post was about Dog Enrichment Toys. In my research online on the subject, I came across dozens of different types and brands. It certainly seems like there are a lot of manufacturers out there jumping on the doggy bandwagon, all hoping that their product is The.Best.Dog.Toy.Ever.

That’s not going to happen, luckily for some and unluckily for others, whichever side of the retail market you happen to belong to. Dogs, like children, adore novelty. The scientific term for this, (yes, there really is one), is “neophilia”. Click here for the Science.

So, in effect, any toy that’s new is The Best Toy Ever to a dog. For the next few minutes anyway, until the novelty wears off. But, before you despair, and go out and splurge on more new toys, here’s some really good news…Put away a toy in a cupboard for a few days, and meanwhile let your dog play with its other toys. It’s a matter of “Out of sight, out of mind”. When you reintroduce that toy to your dog again, it will again be The Best Toy Ever. You could even fill the same treat dispenser with a different type of treat each time, and your dog wouldn’t care less that it’s the same old dispenser, he’s more interested in what’s inside it.

Here are just some of the more unusual enrichment toys available on the market. I won’t name them or provide links, as all you need to do is Google “Dog Enrichment Toys”, and you’ll be presented with a shedload of sites offering these products. I will however say this: try the DIY ones first, as you may already have the materials needed to make them at home, and save a lot of money AND have some fun yourself in the making of the toy. The retail manufactured ones can be quite expensive to buy.

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Here are some examples of DIY dog enrichment toys.

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As you can see, the first 2 above are essentially the same, only one uses PVC piping and the other uses empty drink bottles. The principle is the same – the dog needs to tap the bottles hard enough that they spin on their axis (the horizontal pole) and the treats fall out.

In the last picture, the toy is again made from PVC piping, (check the plumbing aisle in your local DIY store). The ends have been capped with a tennis ball. You can also buy end caps from the same aisle you get your pipes from. Drill some holes randomly in the pipe, fill from the end with kibble treats, and your dog’s challenge then is to push the toy this way and that to get the treats to fall out.

The trick is keeping the dog keen while it figures out how to get the treats out. Some dogs are very smart and will test out different ways of getting to the treats. Others will lose interest after just a few failed attempts.

Dog Enrichment Toys

Since I’ve recently become responsible for providing Enrichment Toys to some of our more needy dogs at the Refuge, I seem to have developed an interest in researching different types of Enrichment Toys for dogs.

Enrichment Toys for dogs, cats and other pets come in different styles and levels of “difficulty”. I use the term “difficult” very loosely, because really it’s not fair to compare a dog’s ability to a human’s. Dogs lack opposable thumbs, for one, and only have their snouts, mouth and paws with which to open or close anything. Whereas we as adult humans would think nothing about twisting the top off a jar of pasta sauce, or using a peeler to peel carrots.

So, what “difficult” means for dogs in the context of Enrichment Toys would be more akin to “How long does it take the dog to figure it out?” As in, how quickly can Rex learn to push the treat dispenser in such a way that the kibble within falls out so he can eat it. Or, can Rex figure out how to use his nose and tongue to push the treat along the maze until it emerges so he can gobble it up.

There are many, many different types of Enrichment Toys, also known as Puzzle Toys, Slow Feeders, Activity Toys, Boredom Busters, Enrichment Dispensers etc. Some are very simple, consisting of one piece only, such as the ubiquitous Kong:

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(Image: Google Images)

Others are complex and contain many different parts, and require the dog to stand on levers to release the treat. There’s even an ambitious one that works using centrifugal force…you put kibble in the middle of the flying-saucer shaped dispenser, and when the dog nudges or rattles it around, the kibble within spin out. An example is shown below, designed by a Swedish woman named Nina Ottoson. You can read about Nina’s personal story here, and check out her many products for “activating” pets (her own term for it) here.

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(Image : Google Images)

You only have to Google “dog enrichment toy”, or “dog activity toy” to find hundreds of examples of both manufactured and homemade DIY versions of such toys.

At the Refuge recently, we had 2 of these funky flying-saucer treat dispensers. One was given to a dog named Wolfie, whose technique was to chew on it. I tried the other out with a greyhound named Pi, and he amazed me by thinking outside the box. Instead of nudging the dispenser around, like I was expecting him to, Pi’s technique involved stamping down on the side of the flying-saucer disk, and making it flip over and over, so the kibble dribbled out. Clever Pi!

From Out Of The Ashes…

Once upon a time, alright then, back in 2010 when I first arrived in Perth, Western Australia, I discovered to my great delight that there was a Borders bookshop in the city, on Hay Street.

Sadly, scarcely a few months later, Borders shut up shop and disappeared. The company went bust, taking with it all its outlets all over the world. It was a sad day indeed for booklovers who relished the idea of being able to pore over pristine pages and enjoy the feel of paper between their thumb and fingers, before taking those precious books home. Previewing a book digitally on a mobile gadget just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Last week, I had to post some items at the Post Office in the city. And I decided to walk through the very quaint “London Court” walk through shopping mall through to Hay Street, where I intended to grab some lunch before heading home. London Court is worthy of a blog entry in its own right, but that will have to wait another day.

Imagine my surprise when what should I spy in the space previously occupied by Borders the bookstore, but another American import.

Pottery Barn.

Pottery Barn! Right here in Perth, Western Australia? No, it can’t be, surely?

Yes, Pottery Barn. Plus, Pottery Barn Kids. And also their more contemporary, edgier, small-space- living style little sister, West Elm.

So, what’s a girl to do but to go find out what all the fuss is about. Here are some photos to show you. Enjoy!

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T2 Eye Candy

Oh, just some photos of the delectable teacup and teapot offerings at the Perth T2 store. I always make sure to drop by there on my way home from the Dogs’ Refuge, to test their newest brews. Ice cold tea goes down a treat on those hot, sunny days, I tell ya!

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And, some sweet little teaspoons too. What can I say, this store makes me a happy bunny. It’s a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of colourful delights. A treasure trove for the senses. Eye candy. Mmmmmmm T2! ❤

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From Joan Beiriger’s blog : Tips On Getting Art Licensing Deals

I subscribe to Joan Beiriger’s blog on Art Licensing, where every so often, little gems of advice turn up to help aspiring art licensees get that licensing deal.

Joan’s post just the other day is just one of these valuable nuggets, and, just in case the link doesn’t work for those who aren’t subscribed, I’ve copied and pasted her wise words here for you all:

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On social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs) artists periodically post that they are frustrated because they have not been successful in licensing their work while other artists continue to post comments and pictures about their licensing success. Why is it that some artists are successful and others not?

There are many reasons. But basically the reason why some artists are successful is that their work is very well done and can compete with other artists in the industry, have themes that consumers want on products, and has a lot of art that is licensable.

The following discusses the importance in knowing if your art is good enough, knowing what art styles and themes that manufacturers license for their products, and building a relationship with manufacturer art directors.

• Is your art good enough?
How do you know if your art is good enough (executed well, have the right themes, colors, composition, etc.) to be able to compete against other artists in the licensing industry? Below are tips on what you can do to figure out why you are having trouble getting deals and how to improve the chance in licensing your art.

– Hire a consultant
It is difficult for an artist to recognize why her/his art is not being licensed. Getting kudos from family, friends, and fellow artists will not help to get deals if the art is not licensable. And, one way to find out is to hire an art-licensing consultant. A consultant can tell you if you need to have more art, what themes you need, and suggest what manufacturers to approach. But, most importantly you need a consultant that will be very forthcoming and tell you the truth IF your art is not good enough to compete with other artists.

Unfortunately not all consultants are capable in telling an artist the truth about their art since it is difficult for many people including consultants to hurt an artist’s feelings. Thus, when choosing an art licensing consultant make sure you stress that you want to know if your art is good enough to be licensed. If the consultant says your art is not, ask why and ask for suggestions on how to improve your art. Read “On Art Licensing Coaches (consultants)” for links to some art-licensing consultants.

– Compare art
Another way to determine if your art can compete in the art licensing industry is to compare your art with art that has already been licensed. Licensed art on products can be seen in gift stores like Hallmark, at trade gift shows like the Atlanta Gift Market, on manufacturer websites, and on e-store websites.

When comparing your art to art that is already licensed the purpose is not to copy the licensed art but to look at the art and determine what it has that makes a manufacturer license it and what your art lacks. This is not very easy to do since it is hard to accept that your art may not be good enough. Thus, you need to be open-minded and willing to admit to yourself that your art could stand improvement.

Below are some questions to ask yourself when comparing your art to licensed art.
1. Is your art style licensable? Not all art styles are licensable for products in all product industries. For instance, some forms of fine art appear like the paint was slapped on haphazardly and has not well defined motifs. Is that your art style? You probably will not find many products other than home décor prints with this art style because it does not appeal to the mass market. Read the article “Editorial: Not all art is licensable” for information on why not all art is licensable even if it is well executed.

2. Is the composition of your art pleasing and the motifs well arranged? For information about art composition read “Creating Licensable Art: Composition Tips”.

3. Do you have enough or too many motifs in your image? For instance, if you have a painting of one flower with a bird and the manufacturer is licensing art with a multiple number of flowers and several birds in the image then you probably will not be able to license that image because your image is too simple. But on the other hand, if your art is very busy with a lot of motifs and the manufacturer is licensing art that is simple with only a few motifs then you would have difficulty in licensing the art to that manufacturer. Closely look at licensed art in the different industries (fabric, decorative flags, greeting cards, jig-saw puzzles) and the different manufacturers in each industry to determine what they want.

4. Does the licensed art for a particular manufacture have a bright and pleasing color combination while your art is dark and drab looking (unsaturated colors)? You probably need to pump up the color saturation if you want to license the art to that manufacturer. Or, is the manufacturer licensing pastel colored art and you don’t use pastel colors. Then, probably that is not the manufacturer for your art.

• Learn what art manufacturers want
It is REALLY important for artists to create art specifically to be licensed for products in the industry(s) they target. And because the art themes must be popular in the mass or niche markets, it is REALLY important to know what art styles and themes the licensees need to be able to sell their products. Thus, it is REALLY important to research what art styles and themes the manufacturers license.

As pointed out in “Changes in Art Styles Used on Products” each industry (decorative flags, greeting cards, fabrics, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, table top, etc.) and even different manufacturers in the same industry have different criteria when selecting art to license. The criteria depend upon the manufacturer’s customer base and how they wish to differentiate themselves from their competition. Learning what kind of art they have licensed is a MUST before submitting art to them.

For example, since I am interested in licensing my art for decorative flags, I have spent many hours on my computer researching flag images on the e-store flagsrus.org to determine what are popular themes, what makes some art on flags standout more than others, are the designs simple or detailed, what art style(s) are used, do they use borders, do they use words, etc.

I now know what art themes are used by individual flag manufacturers. And I have discovered that some flag manufacturers tend to license pretty and more pastel looking art while other manufacturers license images with contrasting and bold colors. The most used word on flags is “welcome”. Some manufacturers use words on the majority of their flags, and others only have words on a few of their flags. Applying that information when creating my art has helped me get deals with six decorative flag manufacturers. Thus, researching manufacturers in the industry you decide to target like the example above and applying that information to your art can increase the likelihood in licensing your work.

• Build relationships with art directors
The art licensing industry is all about building relationships. Building relationships with manufacturer art directors is important because if your art sells their products and you are easy to work with then they will continue to license your work.

In order to build a good relationship you need to remember that it is not what an art director can do for you but what you can do for the art director. So being willing to edit your art to their specifications, willing to compromise, being flexible, being prolific in creating art, being reliable, and showing your appreciation helps to build a strong relationship.

• Summary
Licensing art is very commercial and competitive. And to be successful, artists need to create for a commercial purpose and not just whatever they desire. The art needs to be well executed in an art style that is popular for the different mass and niche markets. And, artists need to learn what manufacturers license art, the products they sell, and what art styles and themes they need for their products. Read “Finding Manufacturers that License Art” for more information about the manufacturers.

Good Luck on Your creative journey! :-)

The Emperor’s New Clothes

…is the title of British Russell Brand’s independent movie, which premiered in Australia today, June 11th 2015. It’s filmed by Michael Winterbottom, and is a documentary featuring live action in the streets of Britain with Russell Brand, along with video clips of long-archived UK and worldwide news footage.

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No, despite its name, the film has nothing to do with the fashion industry. Or the fairytale. Rather, it is Russell Brand’s own way of inciting a British People’s Revolution against the giant, crushing cogwheels of the world’s Banks; it addresses the issue of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, by comparing the wages of top bankers and company CEOs against that of the man in the street.

For part of the film, Russell, armed with a megaphone, is in the front passenger seat of an advertising van, with a giant billboard on both sides exhorting the British public to “Shop The Bankers”, with large photos of high-level bankers beneath. It’s Russell’s way of naming and shaming these people, for drawing huge salaries in the millions of £££, while workers struggle to survive skyrocketing costs of living on hourly salaries that don’t even cover the cost of a cup of coffee these days.

These bankers pay themselves 7-figure salaries PLUS bonuses each year. The figures vary from a paltry £4 MILLION to more than £7 MILLION. Meanwhile, the average British worker’s wage is around £7 an hour, with an average yearly salary of just over £22000.

“Does that look or sound fair to you?” Russell asks a group of 100 primary schoolchildren, as part of an experiment in the film. He gets a resounding “NO!” from them.

Yes, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Top Shop get (dis)honourable mentions too, for TAX EVASION. Apple was very recently dragged to court in Australia for not paying enough taxes. Also read this article.

How does Apple justify its claim that it makes very little profit? Why, by making sure its money sits pretty in tax havens, or is shuffled between countries with lower tax rates. Its CEOs and top honchos pay themselves handsomely, jet about on holidays everywhere…while its slaves in China get paid something ridiculous like $2 a day (or was it 20 CENTS??!) and work for up to 18 hours a day.

DOES THAT LOOK OR SOUND FAIR TO YOU?

I had to go into the City to watch this film, as it wasn’t ever going to make it to the big screens of my local cinemas. One, owing to the contentious and hotly debated subject, two, because it doesn’t star a bunch of A-list celebrity actors and three, because it’s not an Action movie that caters to the lowest denomination. You have to have your brain switched on to watch this film.

The only cinema showing The Emperor’s New Clothes in Perth CBD was Cinema Paradiso in Chinatown. I’m sad to say that, in a cinema with a capacity of 300, I was THE ONLY ONE watching the film. Boo, Australian humanity, with your ignorance and insistence on staying asleep! Yeah, sure, when it’s The Fast & Furious 7, the cinema is booked out, but when a film (and an excellent one too) requires thinking or reflection, and a call to real action, action that will impact your lives and the lives of future generations, suddenly you have no time or inclination.

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Artist Inspiration : Rex Ray

Rex Ray is a San Francisco-based artist whose bright, colourful and eminently cheerful works have graced numerous magazines, been used in advertising and marketing campaigns, i.e he is a successful commercial artist.

I first came across Rex Ray’s art on Pinterest, very recently. It was this:

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…and it reminded me strongly of my childhood days. One of my earliest childhood memories was being in my Maternal Grandmother’s house and playing with some sheets of paper and a tub of magic marker pens. I remember doodling circular and oval shapes like Rex Ray’s example above, then drawing lines and patterns inside them for colouring in. Obviously my efforts were not as accomplished as this…I was only around 4 or 5 years old then.

I love when an artist’s work triggers off memories or emotions in me. It’s like opening a door into hitherto forgotten fantastic kingdoms, and it motivates my own creativity by providing fodder for my imagination.

Rex Ray’s art does just that. His work is so accessible it has tremendous commercial potential and therefore translates very well to home furnishings, wall hangings and decor, mobile device cases, scarves, bags, rugs, advertising posters, music albums etc. Here’s what he says about himself on his site:

I have worked in both fine art and commercial art for twenty-five years. Because my artwork references and rehabilitates ideas of decoration in art it seems only natural for the work to also apply to various products. I think the role of the artist is very different today. The artist doesn’t have to work alone in the studio consumed with angst but can work in many diverse ways. Some of my influences include Dada, kitsch, pattern and design, pop art, and commercial art – therefore the work translates well onto various consumer products.

It’s exciting to take my aesthetic and my view of the world and mash it up onto a box or a scarf and see how it affects the medium and the see how the work is affected by this new application.

With my Rex Ray Studio line I plan to extend my artwork into new mediums in the home decor universe. I’m intrigued by the idea of providing the basic elements for people to create their own ‘Rex Rays’ in their homes. I like the idea of my work reaching as wide an audience as possible and affecting people’s environments.

Here are my favourite Rex Rays, curated from Google Images. I’ve included some photos of the artist himself, and also examples of how well his art transposes onto homewares and garments:

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For information on where you can buy Rex Ray’s artwork, as well as what forms they take, and how much they cost etc, head to Rex’s site first and foremost. A word of warning – they are on the high-end, pricewise, and if you happen to live outside the USA like me, before you go trolley-happy and load up on Rex Ray goodies, please do yourself a favour and check the postage first. I went to a print-on-demand site that boasted over 4 pages of Rax Ray’s prints at affordable prices…and when I checked postage costs to Australia, found that it would cost nearly US$100 on postage alone, 5 times what the print itself cost.

Some more Mashups

Just some digital mash-ups of my Gelli plate monoprints, that I created using just 3 Apps, namely Photo Blender, PicsArt and Photo Editor. I love the riot of bright colours.

I might put these up on Kess InHouse Design’s website. I’ve been rather neglectful about updating my artist portal on Kess InHouse Designs. It’s high time I posted up more designs to be licensed, and why not these? I think they would translate very well to duvet covers, cushions, wall art, rugs etc.

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Graffiti Art : Baldivis

Baldivis is a newish suburb a few miles down the road from Rockingham, where I live. It started out with some new housing developments, a couple of schools and a small shopping mall hardly worth mentioning. Without a car, the Baldivis mall is terribly inconvenient to get to…there are only 2 buses that go anywhere near it, and 1 of them stops half a mile away.

That was then. This is now. Over the past 2 years, Baldivis’ “Stockland” shopping centre or mall has slowly been expanded and renovated. Just recently it celebrated the grand opening of a new extension. And what an extension it is. It’s gone and quadrupled its size from 7000 square metres to a whopping 29500 square metres.

I happened to visit Stockland Baldivis just last week, as the newest extension was opening to the public. As hubby parked our car outside McDonald’s, I noticed 2 great big walls filled with the most wonderful, vibrant graffiti. So, after having our lunch, and before going into any of Stockland’s shops, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the graffiti.

Here they are. I hope you’ll find them as cheerful and happy as I do.

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This mural is a collaboration between 2 well-known street artists, “Beastman” aka Brad Eastman and Kyle Hughes-Odgers. Click on the hyperlinks to access their respective websites.

I hope no one tries to deface this beautiful mural, or spark off some graffiti artist turf war. I’ve seen similarly wonderful graffiti art in Perth City defaced by lowlife scumbags with no respect or intelligence. Hey, people, it’s Art and it’s meant to be enjoyed by everyone, so please respect it and leave it alone!

Artist Inspiration : Erin Ashley

I love love love Erin Ashley’s Art! Bright, zingy colours, in strips and stripes, splishes and splashes, drips and drops, text and numbers, weathered and scratched, grunged and textured…wonderfully vibrant, beautifully translucent, many layered, infinitely interesting. Or, how about just plain Gorgeous!

Excerpt from Erin Ashley’s website, which explains her thought processes behind her art:

Art has the power to make one see things in a new light. It helps us see the beauty in things that some may overlook, or take for granted. As an artist, inspiration comes to me in many forms. I see so much beauty in old weathered things. A new life that hides behind an old, waiting to be discovered. Layers of chipped paint, rusted metals and old buildings- they excite me and spark new ideas within me.

I begin my work without any preconceived ideas at all what the finished work is going to look like. I like the idea of each painting being a journey, ending at a beautiful destination. My paintings are made with lots of color and textures, bringing out the old with the new.

I am a self taught full-time artist with a desire to create, capture and preserve a true beauty of art in each painting – in hopes to create a happy escape for the viewer.

Erin Ashley’s work has appeared in several galleries in the US and Italy. Her work has been shown behind the scenes on The Rosie O’Donnell show airing on the Opera’s Winfrey network, DreamWorks studios in Los Angeles, Cartoon Network in which she designed a custom logo painting, Time Warner editing suites, Dick Blick Art which commissioned her several paintings to display in their corporate office Chicago, HGTV Housing Works Show/Design on a Dime held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC and Best Of Fall Designs held in NYC. Erin Ashley has received several awards for her art and currently works with many prestigious interior designers and publishers.

Published in Professional Artist magazine, American Artist, Better Homes and Gardens/Color Made Easy, Studios magazine, Art.com Fall magazine, Art.com Spring magazine, Art.com Summer 2014 magazine, Art.com Holiday catalog, San Francisco Chronicle, American Airlines/Sky Mall magazine 2013 and 2014, featured on cover 2012 Liberated Dreams gallery book, Arte Energia Creativa gallery 2014 art book / Italy, Art Journal magazine, 2014 inside cover of Surround magazine, Holiday Surround magazine, 2015 Summer issue Cover and spread Better Homes& Gardens REFRESH magazine. Erin Ashley’s painting titled: Pier 44 will soon be aired on “Million Dollar Listing” San Francisco – stay tuned!

Prints of her art can be found across the globe in most major known home stores and catalogs such as, Bed Bath and Beyond, Z Gallerie, Home Goods … her art is now featured on many home store products such as ottomans, clocks, bath items, hand bags and bedding comforters.

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I could post up more images (from Pinterest, where I’m curating a Board specifically for Erin Ashley’s work), as Erin is quite prolific, but I’ll let Your fingers and eyes do the walking and seeing instead. If you’re interested in purchasing Erin’s artwork, you can contact her through her website, or visit her Etsy shop.

Enjoy!!