Archive | July 2011

Teaching how to Zazzle

One of my closest friends here in Berlin is an artist and a photographer. I’ve been telling her about my Zazzle adventures for a long time, and now she’s decided to open her own store. Yesterday we met and I helped her to get her shop online and to create some products.

She told me later on the phone that it had been a fascinating time for her, and that she had enjoyed it very much. For me it had been the same, but for different reasons:

  • I like to teach. When I say “teach” I mean it in the sense of helping someone else to discover new things, to transfer my knowledge to another person.
  • When you teach someone something you have to be very clear about the process itself. Many steps that are required to put a design on a certain object I do quite automatically in the meantime; but when you teach you’ve got to have not only in mind the single steps, but how they follow another and why.
  • By teaching my friend how to zazzle I noticed how much I’ve already learnt in the process. I’ve picked up something here and something there, have gone to the forums, have read tutorials. I’ve collected a lot of knowledge, but until yesterday, when I tried to help my friend with her shop, I was not aware of how much I know. Now I know – which does not exclude the fact that there are a lot of people outside who know far more than I do!
  • Yesterday we decided that it would be good to have a manual in the German language, with some screen shots and the single steps which are necessary to open a store, to make it stand out, to prepare the designs and to create the various products. That’s a challenge which I like, and I think it will be the main project for the rest of my summer vacation!

The “Biberacher Schützenfest” – a famous country fair in the South of Germany

The marketplace of Biberach during the "Biberacher Schüzenfest"

The marketplace of Biberach during the "Biberacher Schüzenfest"

Every year in July the Swabian town of Biberach celebrates the “Biberacher Schützenfest”, which is a very old country fair with a fairground and several processions showing the history of the town.

On last Sunday you could see several guild dances – you could see the dyers’ dance, the farmers’ dance and the weavers’ dance. It had been raining cats and dogs on Thursday and Friday, even on Saturday, so everybody was wondering whether the dancers and the audience would stay dry. They did.

All the dancers were school children. Later on, on the parade, the majority of the musicians and the people presenting historical persons were children. You could see the participants of the 30 years war in their historical costumes; you could see an old mill and the miller; you could see women sitting at the weaving looms.

Here you can see official photos showing the parade and the various groups. The page is in German, but you can have a look at the pictures and get an impression.

Back on Wednesday

While you will be reading this I’ll still be away from Berlin. As a few of you might know I was born and raised on the south of Germany.

Every year in the end of July Biberach, the town I was born, celebrates the “Biberacher Schützenfest”, which has not so much to do with shooting, but with the history of the town. There are parades with people wearing historical costumes, from the Middle Ages till the 19th century.

I hope to come back with a lot of photos, and some of them I will publish on this blog.

See you all on Wednesday, 27 July!

The Charlottenburg Gate in Berlin

The Charlottenburg Gate

The Charlottenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Ulla Hennig, July 2011

This gate has been built at the beginning of the 20th century in Berlin. It marks the border between the districts of Charlottenburg and Tiergarten, and is part of the Charlottenburg bridge which crosses the Landwehrkanal.

The sculpture on the left is a sculpture of Sophie Charlotte, the wife of King Frederick I.

The Landwehrkanal in Charlottenburg, Berlin

The Landwehrkanal in Charlottenburg, Berlin

The Landwehrkanal in Charlottenburg, Berlin

The Landwehrkanal is a waterway which goes through several districts of Berlin. This photo shows it in the district of Charlottenburg, not far away from my office at work. Actually I took this photo on Monday on my way to work.

Although I have been living in Berlin for a long time now I am still fascinated with the amount of green which we have in this big city. Charlottenburg is one of the more urban districts with a big train station and the Kurfüstendamm, the famous boulevard during the time when the west of Berlin was surrounded by the wall.

But, as you can see, even this urban district has got its green islands…

Dragonhead – finished

This is the final version of the dragonhead. As you can see I added the scales, using gradients in Inkscape. The majority of the gradients are reddish, but I also used colours which tend to look golden in order to make the dragon look like something special (the king of dragons?).

I also changed the way the tongue is looking. It now looks as a flame coming out of his mouth.

It is fascinating how much you can change in a vector piece. I saved all my version with their own file titles, so whenever I want to come back to one and work on it once more I can do that easily. Looking back at my vector activities so far I notice that I have to balance between two extremes:

  1. Wanting to get it done quick, because I want to see if I can do it “that way”. This may be acceptable whenever I don’t want to submit the piece or use it as a design for Zazzle, because doing vectors the quick way seduces me to work sloppily and to oversee nasty mistakes. When you’re doing vector work you have to be patient and to be ready to invest a lot of time for one single piece. On Deviantart people often comment on the time they’ve spent on their pieces, and more than once I found it a very long time!
  2. Trying to be perfect. That’s the other extreme. As I said before you can always change things in Digital Art. In traditional art you would come to a point where you would destroy the painting or the canvas – in digital art you can work endlessly on one piece.

My first hangout at Google+

I joined Google+ some days ago and yesterday I had my first hangout. It was organised by Debbie Ohi, the blogger at, and it was a hangout for all those who’ve never been before to a hangout (what’s the verb for that – who’d never hung out?).

It was a fascinating experience. Meanwhile I am used to skype, and I love it, but a hangout with 17 people is a bit different. Debbie was explaining the hangout screen to us, so she was speaking most of the time, and we others listened. But then she asked us to to ask her questions, and the situation reminded me of a classroom full with eager, “teacher, can you tell me” children, speaking all at the same time. So hangouts where you engage in a meaningful discussion would need some structure and discipline.

Actually seeing faces from all over the world is the part which fascinates me most. Of course the variety of dialects and accents is a challenge for a person who learnt English at school as a second language. Some participants spoke very fast so that I could not get very word they said. But in the case of circles meeting regularly I think I would adapt. (or ask to speak slower). Or I could hold a white paper in front of the camera with “Please speak more slowly”…


Dragonhead - Work in Progress

Dragonhead - Work in Progress

This vector dragonhead is based on a quick sketch which I had scanned in half a year or so. I had then tried to do a digital painting of it with Photoshop, but was too frustrated with the result and gave up.

Now that I am getting more and more into Inkscape, my vector painting program I had a second try. The piece you see above is a work in progress. The poor creature is lacking many of his scales yet, and I am not satisfied at all with his tongue. The colors don’t fit. But I’m quite satisfied with the fact that this creature doesn’t look cute in the sense of a cute cartoon character. On the other side, he doesn’t look to me like a monster. Maybe he needs some touches which make him look a bit more frightening…

How the Internet helps me to grow

There are hundreds of blog posts telling you how to use social media and the internet in general for marketing yourself. No, I won’t add to that number with my post here. But I want to share two personal experiences which show how the interwebs helped me to grow.

  1. Skype. Every Sunday at 1pm Berlin time (that is 7am Michigan time) I meet with my dear friend Karen, and we talk to each other via video chat for at least 1 and 1/2 hour. I see her sitting at her computer, holding her cup of coffee in her hand while she sees me drinking a glass of water or some kind of lemonade. It is not only that my understanding of English and the capability to speak it rather fluently has become much better. We are also sharing each other’s culture – me holding a packet of German sweets or other German food in the eye of the camera, she showing me some hand lotion (which actually is also sold in Germany). The distance in miles between us is huge, but the distance between us two people is getting smaller every Sunday.
  2. Facebook. Facebook offers the possibility to found groups, and I am the proud member of a group called “Zazzle family”. Up to now there are only women in this group, and this may be the reason that the atmosphere in this group is friendly, encouraging and full of respect. Okay you might think, that’s nice, but nothing new. There are other places like this on the web. But there’s something to this group which makes it worth mentioning and praising: As you as regular readers of this blog might know I’ve got a shop on Zazzle. I’ve got my range of products with which I felt quite secure. There’s been one thing I’ve never done up to the present day: invitations. We in Germany don’t have that “invitation card industry” , and so I felt unable to create those kind of cards. However, today I took my heart into my hands and did my first one. There it was, and I did not know whether I had done it properly. So I posted it in “Zazzle family” asking for helpful advices.
    And they came! And a lot of encouragement, too, coming from people I’d never met in person, from all over the globe. What a wonderful experience! I am now ready to move on to more invitation cards and maybe try other things as well.
So whenever somebody talks about the internet mentioning the dangers of it and the way it makes people lonesome and unable to socialize I reply with those two experiences. It is not either bad or good, it is definitely both, and to me it has been a blessing.

Brown Bear II

Brown Bear

Brown Bear, 100% vector

YYou’ve already seen the first version of the Brown bear here. As you can see here I decided to take away the blur and to add some highlights. I wished I still had the original photo, because I am not sure whether those highlights are on their appropriate places. It also took some time until I felt that I had the proper highlight colour.

However, I think this version is a step forward into the right direction.