Searching for Patterns in Morocco

I’d been dreaming of visiting Morocco for the past few years, so when my husband and I were planning our next travel adventure I knew where I wanted to go.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco and Finding So Much More | shannonmcnab.com

It’s probably no surprise that my main motivation for traveling to Morocco was to get inspired by all the patterns it has to offer. And it DEFINITELY didn’t disappoint!

There were even instances where I was so overwhelmed by the color and artistry we saw that I completely forgot to take photos. Luckily, I still remembered to pull out my camera often enough to capture a few magnificent shots.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

What I did not expect was to completely fall in love with the country and it’s culture.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of amazing places, but I can say without a doubt that Morocco is the single greatest country I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.


It’s hard to articulate what made Morocco so special, but I’ll do my best. First off, this was a trip of firsts for me: first time in Africa and outside the Western world.

Also, I found the Moroccan people to be among the most welcoming I’ve ever met. Nearly everyone we interacted with from our tour director (who was the BEST I had ever seen) to the shop keepers to the children playing soccer in the streets, were warm and friendly.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Prior to our trip, we did have some friends and family who voiced their apprehension about us travelling to a developing nation that was predominantly Muslim (99% of Moroccans follow Islam). And while I appreciated their concerns, I found their worries completely misplaced.

Of course, some of the street vendors can be VERY pushy which takes some getting used to, but there was never a moment in Morocco where I felt unwelcome or unsafe. On the contrary, nearly everyone we encountered seemed genuinely happy to greet us, even the camels.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Some of my favorite memories from the trip were moments not originally planned on our itinerary. One in particular that made a deep impression on me was visiting a family’s home in a Ksar near Erfoud (just west of the Sahara desert).

In America, there’s a lot of focus on buying new gadgets to make life “easier” and working long hours to make a living, yet we often feel lonely and disconnected. But in Morocco, there’s a much larger emphasis on the importance of community.

This contrast was never more apparent to me than while standing on this family’s rooftop and literally seeing their entire community built around them (ironically snapping photos of it with my multiple gadgets: a dSLR and iPhone).

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Then there were the quintessential Moroccan experiences that made the trip exceptional. Like our 90 minute camel ride to a desert camp where we spent the night in the middle of the Sahara desert.

It was an otherworldly experience riding along the dunes where as far as you can see there’s nothing but golden sand.

Then all of a sudden, a little oasis comes into view.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Morocco felt familiar and foreign all at the same time and to me, it’s that clash that made it so unique to my past travels. I was also in awe of the ever changing landscapes (did you know Morocco has forests and even a winter ski town? I didn’t, I stupidly thought it was all sand).

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the food yet! The food all throughout Morocco was incredibly healthy and delicious. Each meal was usually accompanied by cooked salads and olives, and ended with mint tea (which was divine). Just writing about it is making my mouth water!

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Also on previous trips, when it was nearing the end of vacation, I felt exhausted and ready to return home. But not in Morocco. Although I was exhausted from the all the travel, I wasn’t ready to leave.

I could have easily stayed for several more weeks … or months.


By now, I think you get the idea that Morocco now has a special place in my heart. And if it’s a place that is on your must-see list (as I really think it SHOULD be), I heartily suggest you make it your next destination. And not only for its beautiful patterns, but also for its beautiful culture and people!

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Surtex 2017 Recap Part 1: Booth Set Up

Wow, what a whirlwind the past month has been! After spending a week in New York for Surtex, I came home and immediately hit the ground running with my post trade show follow up. . . and that's what I've been doing for the past four weeks.

Surtex 2017 Recap Part One: First Impressions as a Newbie | shannonmcnab.com

I've had lots of time to reflect on my first trade show experience at Surtex and, not surprisingly, I have a LOT to say about it! So instead of trying to cram all my thoughts into one blogpost, I've decided to write a few posts over the next month or so, where each will cover a different topic.

In today's post, I'll be focusing on my booth setup, plus share my own personal Surtex prep horror story. I hope you find the information helpful (especially for all you future exhibitors out there).
 

Surtex Booth Set Up

My husband and I arrived in New York late Friday night and tried to make it to the Javits Center as early as we could manage Saturday morning.

The moment we stepped onto the escalator of the Surtex entrance, I was immediately full of excitement! I've been dreaming about exhibiting here for so long and I think it finally sunk in at that moment that I was living out one of my dreams.  

Surtex 2017: My First Trade Show Experience | shannonmcnab.com

Finding my booth was easy, but then came the major task of actually setting up the booth. I'm sad to say that in all my excitement, I didn't actually take any pictures on setup day, something I regret.

Also, the lighting at the convention center is awful, made even worse by the vibrant orange carpet; it cast a weird, orangey glow on all my photos of the booth. So of few photos I managed to take with my phone during Surtex, most of them are unusable. No joke – the two photos you see below have been HEAVILY color corrected in Photoshop.

Tip #1: If you want to get great photos of your booth, bring a quality camera. I have a Canon dSLR, but didn't bring it since I was trying to pack as lightly as possible. Lesson learned!


Ok, photo rant over! Let's get back to booth set up.

I'd say 85% of setup consisted of getting the banners hung into place. I had an 8x10 booth, so I had 9 banners for the booth panels and 3 for the counter.

Now you would think hanging 12 banners wouldn't take too long, right??? I thought so, BUT I WAS WRONG! After borrowing a step stool from my across-the-aisle neighbor, Virginia Kraljevic, and having the help of both my husband and my good friend, Kirsten, it took us over 4 hours just to hang the banners.

It probably doesn't help that I'm a perfectionist which meant several banners needed to be repositioned multiple times so the horizontal breaks I designed into my banners lined up.

Luckily, we still managed to finish hanging the banners with about two hours to spare, which gave me plenty of time to set up my sample products (seen on the shelf in the image below) and decide how I wanted my counter laid out.

Tip #2: If you have an 8x10 booth or larger, have at least one helper with you during setup day. I saw a few exhibitors putting up their booths solo and have no idea how they managed to pull it off!

My Surtex 2017 Booth | shannonmcnab.com

Besides setup taking longer than I anticipated, I encountered a few other minor hiccups during the day. However, by Sunday morning my booth looked great and I'm happy to say I got lots of compliments on it from exhibitors and buyers during the show.

Here's just a few more things I made note of during setup day (in no particular order):

  • The Javits Center doesn't turn on the air conditioning until the show opens on Sunday, so plan on wearing breathable, summer clothing. I had heard this rumor ahead of time and made sure to wear a tank top, but I still got too hot! Next time, I know to pack shorts.
  • Buy more Command strips than you think you'll need. I purchased two packs (96 strips total), but somehow we still ran a few strips short. Luckily, my friend Lizzie (see the two of us in the photo below) was two booths down and gave me extras she had. If I had to do it all over again, I'd buy 3 packs.
  • When designing the banners, avoid any horizontal breaks that need to match up on adjacent panels (like I mentioned above). Also, light colored backgrounds make the Command strip "bumps" more visible than dark colored backgrounds. I'll definitely change the way I design banners in the future.
  • If you're going to cover the counter sides, consider one long banner that wraps around the entire thing instead of one banner for each of the sides, like I did. The measurements we received didn't match up with it's actual dimensions; the width of the front and sides were smaller so I had to improvise and overlap the banners. Next time, I'll just order one long banner for the whole thing.
  • If you're coming from more than 1 time zone away, consider arriving a day or two early. Coming into NY from CA late Friday and then having to get up at 8 AM (5 AM to us) on Saturday was ROUGH! Looking back, we should have arrived on Thursday. BONUS: That also means I would've had two days for setup and could take my time.
  • Right before you leave the Javits on Saturday, take a quick tour of the show floor. Once the show starts Sunday morning, there's very little time to saunter through the aisles and see other exhibitors' work. We walked the floor before we left and I'm glad we did! Not only did I get to see beautiful work and what motifs were trending, but I could also make note of booths I wanted to visit during the show (mostly to meet fellow designer friends I "met" on Facebook or Instagram over the past year).
Surtex 2017: Lizzie and I - Accountability Partners | shannonmcnab.com

Lesson Learned: ALWAYS Have a Backup Plan

Several of the exhibitors I talked to who were Surtex first-timers had at least one horror story during their Surtex prep. Here's the story of mine – and it's rather loooong:

About six weeks before Surtex, I had my banners printed at SmartPress. They arrived two weeks later and looked AMAZING!

Because I was traveling to the show from CA and didn't want to lug the 30lb box of banners through the airport, I shipped them via my local post office to Lizzie in Virginia who had graciously offered to pack them in her car.

I paid extra for 2-day shipping to make sure they arrived with two weeks to spare before the show, but 7 days later they were still "in transit". So I went to post office to get more information only to be told that there was no guarantee the package would be delivered in time. I broke down in tears.

After the initial panic subsided, I called SmartPress to order a second set of banners and have them delivered directly to Kirsten's office in NY. They were very sympathetic on the phone and guaranteed delivery on May 18, one day before I left for the show.

Not surprisingly, the original box of banners arrived at Lizzie's house two days later. I initially told her to recycle them, but then decided she should still bring them "just in case."

Then the morning we're flying to NY, Kirsten texts me to say the package of the 2nd set of banners never arrived at her office's mail room. So I double check the tracking information only to find SmartPress accidentally sent them to my house again (instead of to the new address I gave them).

Sure enough, the FedEx guy shows up with my new set of banners 30 minutes later. Since I knew Lizzie was already driving up to NY with the first set, it wasn't the end of the world, just a final twist in a crazy turn of events.

SmartPress immediately called me after I alerted them of the mix-up and they couldn't have been nicer. Not only were they apologetic, but they refunded me the entire cost of the 2nd set of banners.

Moral of the Story: Always have a plan B, C, and even D, plus give yourself ample time to execute secondary plans if need be! I'm just grateful I ordered my banners as early as I did.
 

Well, I hope you enjoyed my first Surtex recap blogpost! In the next post, I'll cover some of the best (and not-so-great) advice I received, plus share a complete vendor list of who I used to get everything printed and ready to go. Look for that post sometime within the next two weeks!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear any Surtex question you may have in the comments below. Feel free to ask me anything and I'll answer as best I can!


One Year with Paisley

This weekend our little family celebrated a big milestone: it's been exactly one year since we adopted a shy 12 week old terrier puppy. Who knew that just 365 days ago, our lives would be changed forever . . . and ALL for the better!

One Year with Paisley | shannonmcnab.com

When Paisley came into our lives last August, I definitely wasn't prepared for the constant needs of a growing puppy. So in those first few weeks, I had several emotional breakdowns (probably coaxed along by a severe lack of sleep due to a crying puppy) and at one particularly low point, we even considered giving her back to the rescue group.

I guess I should mention that I wasn't exactly in a good place mentally last year, so taking care of another being besides myself definitely challenged me and I wasn't sure whether I could handle it.

Fortunately, after about two months we turned a corner. Paisley started consistently sleeping through the night (which meant so was I finally). Jeff would take care of her in the mornings so I could sleep in a bit. She and I finally got into a groove of our daily routine so I could get some work done. Slowly, things just got easier.

One Year with Paisley | shannonmcnab.com

Looking back now, it's hard to believe that was only a year ago. And honestly, I don't even remember what our life was like without her. There are so many things I would have missed out on if we didn't stick with it during the first few tough months with her:

  • I'd miss out on my cuddle sessions with her on the couch every night.
  • I'd miss out on our daily walks around the neighborhood.
  • I'd miss out on her obsession with her favorite toy we have lovingly named the Octopus. 
  • I'd miss out on her kiss filled greetings every morning after dropping Jeff off at work.
  • I'd miss out on her love of blueberries, chicken, and ice cubes.
  • I'd miss out on her defending me from the evil thing in the bathroom: the shower door.
  • I'd miss out on giving her belly rubs and smothering her with kisses.
  • I'd simply miss out.

I'm SO glad we made the decision to keep you Paisley girl. You fill our lives with so much joy and we love you more than I ever thought was possible. Happy anniversary to our little happy family!


Why Taking a Month Off Was the Best Business Decision I Ever Made

It feels good to be back in the swing of things after I made the decision to take all of March off from my business. However, I should confess that there is a tiny part of me that is sad my "vacation" is over.

While I got several things accomplished, many of which I had been meaning to tackle for years (top to bottom house cleaning I'm talking to you!), I came back last week not entirely sure I was ready to settle back into work.

We took a weekend vacation during my break to Monterey and the change of pace it provided was very refreshing.

We took a weekend vacation during my break to Monterey and the change of pace it provided was very refreshing.

Fortunately, I was happily surprised that I got more accomplished in 4 days last week than I did in two full weeks pre-break. So what's the difference between Feb 28th and now?

Well I'm not 100% sure, but I know I can attribute a big part of it to the shift in my attitude towards my business. Before I went on break I was drained of creativity, having become a self-mandated digital scrapbook collection making machine for the past two years.

That design mentality was toxic and it made me resent and regret certain choices I had made.

And more importantly, it meant that I started to lose sight of the reason I started this business five years ago: because I have a passion for designing and enjoy seeing what scrapbookers can do with my kits.

So while starting my design break with a less-than-awesome mentality and after taking four full weeks off to do whatever I felt like, you'd think I would either be:

  1. Completely uninterested in design and ready to shut the doors on Scotty Girl Design and move on to other creative endeavors OR
  2. Exploding with design ideas and salivating at the thought of building my first new kit in over six weeks.

Well, the truth lies in the shades of gray between those two options. During my time off, I did sincerely contemplate moving on from scrapbook design, but I had to be honest with myself that I'm too fond of the industry to move just yet. And while I wasn't bursting with new design ideas, I did come back last week with a renewed sense of purpose and a slightly altered mindset, a happier one at that.

So while I wouldn't say I found the meaning of life or the key to my business's prosperity, I do know I want to continue to search for what will make me happy and successful.... one design at a time.


Finding My Happiness Again

It's been two months since I published the post about my battle with depression on my sister site Scotty Girl Design, so I thought it was time to address it on this blog and give an update on how things have been going. Have I reached a new self-enlightenment in the past two months since my commitment to change? The answer is "maybe a little.”

Take Time to Do What Makes You Happy | shannonmcnab.com

After realizing that overworking myself was having an adverse effect on both my physical and mental well-being, the biggest hurdle I overcame was making the decision to slow down and reprioritize:

New Releases

I decided that churning out weekly or even bi-weekly collections of new product just wasn't doable for me in the long term, as I firmly believe in quality over quantity. So for 2015, my new product goal is to create only one kit or collection per month in my personal use shop at The Digital Press. (UPDATE: I retired from digi design in June 2016 to pursue a full-time career in surface design).

There will be times, of course, when I'll break this rule as inspiration will strike and I'll decide I want to create two kits instead of one. And that's ok, because it will be because I WANT to and not because I feel like I HAVE to.

Work that's created when you're excited to design always turns out much better than those that are forced.

I can actually look at any kit preview in my shop and immediately tell exactly how psyched (or not) I was to make it. And from now on, I want to be amped up about EVERYTHING I make.

It does not mater how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. -Confucius | shannonmcnab.com

Learning a New Skill

I feel that one of the best ways to grow as a designer is to learn a new technique or add to your current skill set, yet last year I was in the mindset of just maintaining where I was at and churning stuff out.

I feel like my creativity has suffered as a result, but it's not something I realized until I was in the middle of teaching my pattern design class at Scrapaneers – NOTE: I now teach design and business classes on Skillshare. Throughout the course of the class, many of the students had "ah-ha" moments when everything they learned came together and suddenly creating tiling repeat patterns just clicked. It was a joy to witness!

So they inspired me to revisit something I've always wanted to improve upon: my hand drawn typography skills.

I've dabbled in typography in the past, but I'd love to dive deeper into it and learn some tricks of the trade from the best in the business.

First up, I'm taking a Skillshare typography class by none other than Jessica Hische. I've worshipped her type skills for years, so I'm really excited to take her class! I'm also hoping to follow it up with a class or two from Mary Kate McDevitt, another hand lettering goddess I admire.
 

Breaks Are Totally Ok

Perhaps the biggest shift in my mindset is realizing that it's ok to take breaks from the business. Actually it's not just ok, it's essential to be a happy, creative business owner.

That revelation actually started back in December when I was neck-deep in work, and then I opened an email from Do What You Love. Beth Nicholls was sharing her very personal story of being in a constant loop of burnout---quick break to recover---repeat and boy did it sound all too familiar!

But then she said something that gave me pause: "...so we have decided to take December off – no classes, no deadlines, no stress." How could a business owner just stop working for a month?

At first, I didn't understand how it was possible, but as my own personal burnout was manifesting, I realized how could a business owner NOT stop working on occasion to recharge?!?

Of course at the time I knew I couldn't just drop the ball and take January off – actually that should be plural since I was juggling so many different balls in December (PHRASING! <--Archer reference, I couldn't help it!) – but I knew I wanted to take some time off to help find some happiness and get a bit of my design mojo back. So after planning things out, I've decided to take the entire month of March off from my business.

Now that doesn't mean I'll become a hermit over the next four weeks while I recharge, I'm actually hoping for exactly the opposite, but it does mean that I won't be creating any new designs until early April. 

As for my blog, if I feel like I have a personal story to share, I may jump on here to share it, otherwise you can still keep in touch with me on Instagram. Toodles til April!