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Toddler Tees & Tatts

Mom Heart Tattoo Etsy Listing
Mom Heart Tattoo Etsy Listing

Ideas come to us when you least expect them and you need to jot them down before they’re lost! I’m going to take you through the thought process of one of my latest original Etsy listings that came to me last week.

Ideas Can Arrive Anytime

I arrive at the gym at 7:30 am and the pre-workout is just about to kick in. I usually think about how my workout will pan out for the day and decide whether I’m going to listen to an audiobook or some gangsta rap (100% accurate, I’m very contrasting). At this moment in time, I’m not thinking about the stresses of work, errands I need to do, and hopefully, if you ordered something from me on Etsy, it’ll be packed and ready to be shipped on the way to the office. For those of you who don’t know, I do work full-time and Mattmade is a pure side hustle.

Anyways, my mind is clear, minimal interruptions and when this happens I’m always ready to jot down any ideas that hit me. That morning, I wanted to create a tattoo shirt. Whether or not it was tatted bros at the gym that made me think of it or not, I don’t recall…I’d say it if it was, but that’s how our subconscious works, you may not realize you think of something based on your environment or if a good idea resurfaces without the clutter of everything else that’s usually top of mind.

The Idea was Simple

Ideas start simple, and it’s better that way because it’s easier to write down. I opened Google Keep on my phone and typed out “Mom tattoo”. Cliché right? Sort of. I’ve been dying to use a new product that allows me to create premium quality temporary tattoos, and since matching sets are my jam on Etsy…I wanted to create a matching shirt and toss in some temporary tattoos that match. I don’t need to write that down, I’ll recall that when I hit the tablet later to sketch it out.

Expanding the Idea

It’s about 6:30 pm, I made it home, finished eating and I’m ready to get cozy for some sketching out. I visualize a classic heart with a small “mom” banner across it, you’ve seen it before. I chose this because it’s familiar and my novel twist is that I wanted to include the temporary tattoos.


I’m just trying to jump back into drawing, so take it easy on me. Luckily this listing is going to be made for toddlers, hopefully, they’re forgiving on my quality of design.

Sketching out the mom heart tattoo
Sketching out the mom heart tattoo

Refining the Drawing

If you look at any drawings in the early stages, it won’t look right, my drawings are no different. The good news is, I didn’t want perfectly clean lines, I wanted this to be truly hand-drawn, ya know, like a tattoo.

That’s the Fun Part

A lot of people (including myself), purchase some designs that they simply cannot design on their own. If you do that, you jump to here in the process. The thing is, creating something completely original is not only the fun part, it’s also the most rewarding. When someone purchases an item that started with a sketch, I’m so completely flattered every time I make that for someone. That’s a feeling that’s hard to replace.

How Will it Look Tho?

I could dig into file folders and find ideas that I spent time designing and when I drop them into a mockup of an item, I’m just not interested any more and I close the app and don’t take a step further. I don’t love every design I make, but the first step is to see how it will look. So that’s what I did below with a blank shirt stock photo below.

Matching mom heart tattoo shirt and temporary tattoo stock photo mock-up
Matching mom heart tattoo shirt and temporary tattoo stock photo mock-up

I Get Feedback

At this point, I usually post on my personal Instagram account through stories and get initial reactions from friends and followers. I gauge reactions (or none at all) and that helps me determine if I’m heading in a decent direction.

I’ll Run With This One

With this one, I want to get more lifestyle photos, not just the design on a shirt. I want to show off the tattoo and shirt together so I ran some tattoos and some shirts on my press at home. I decided to go for white shirts instead of black. After comparing the print in my creative space, I liked the white shirt much more.


Snapping pics of kids isn’t much different than trying to take a pic of pets, you win some and lose some. I was able to salvage some shots of the 50 blurry shots. They’ll work this time, however, I do need to reconsider my incentive plan for these lil superstars…I don’t think snacks and craft supplies are cutting it anymore.

And that’s how the matching mom heart tattoo and temporary tattoo set came to be. I hope to create more unique offers like this one and feedback is definitely welcome by sending me a message on Instagram, Facebook or right on Etsy!

If you’re interested in seeing this listing live, you can check it out here!

Matt Ross Handcrafts Pens From Old Skateboard Decks

Handmade Pen Made From Up-cycled Skateboard Decks. Photo Credit: Matt Ross

Featuring Matt Ross Wood Design

As a maker, I have it pretty easy. Once I create a print, I can reproduce it relatively easy. Major props to those hands-on folks. We’re talkin’ woodworkers, leathercrafters, seamstresses…All of the creators that really put in the hours on single pieces. I wanted to give a shoutout to a friend of mine that found passion in turning old skateboard decks into functional works of art. Matt Ross out of London, Ontario spends hours on each handcrafted project, and it really shows.

I was pumped when Ross was down to turn two of my old decks into a writing tool of awesomeness. Ross let me pick the pen features and then picked up my decks to make it happen.

It’s really interesting to hear about other peoples’ passions in creating and I asked Matt how he got started. “When I was 13, I built my own mini ramp by myself, and after that, I wanted to get more into woodworking. I started watching construction shows and slowly got more into it” Ross explained. Worth mentioning, that it must have been a sick ramp because Ross still rips to this day.

Ross continues “I was at Canadian Tire one day and the Mastercraft mini lathe was on sale and I decided to buy it. I had no idea what he was going to do with it.” Soon after Ross picked up that lathe, he got into pen making out of exotic woods. After a few successful projects, Ross was chilling with a buddy one night and they thought it’d be sick to use skateboard decks instead of other woods. Anyone who skates knows that old decks are easy to come by, which aside from being totally awesome, Ross can save on raw material costs as well.

Ross notes “People talk about the art behind what I do, I just tend to make things that have a function.”

original skateboard decks before turning into segmented pen blanks
Original skateboard decks before turning into segmented pen blanks

I gave Ross two decks. The first one was a brand I tried to start back in high school. NCM Skateboards. I silk-screened blank decks and shirts to help pay for college, so turning this deck into something I can use every day had sentimental value. NCM Skateboards was sort of my “lemonade stand” back then, where I learned the basics of a side hustle. The other deck was just an old RipNDip that I had laying around, but it’s pretty sick too, right?!

Showing the skateboard deck layers on the new segmented pen blanks.

When you see how much goes into a handmade item, you have a real appreciation for the final product. I’m not able to show you the hours of stripping the old decks and slicing them down into small pieces, which takes hours (Believe me, I heard all about it from Ross). Following that, there’s a LOT of cutting and glueing to create 2 blocks which are now the segmented pen blanks, this is about a 2-3 day process which accounts for drying time.

When those are dry, a perfectly drilled hole needs to go through the segments. The drill holes need to be precise for the pen kit to fit for the pen to work flawlessly.

Segmented pen blanks on the pen mandrel.

The segmented pen blanks are mounted on the pen mandrel, it looks like it’s almost together, but those metal pieces are actually bushings and they’re the same size of the pen kit that’s going to fit onto the pen blanks.

Polishing and finishing.

While it’s still mounted, it’s polished and finished while it’s still mounted on the pen mandrel. During this process, the pen begins to actually look like a pen. At this time, the pen still has a ways to go, the pen kit still needs to be installed onto the segmented pen blank.

Keep in mind, this whole process can go sideways at any step of the way. Ross mentioned it gets a bit nerve-racking because hours of work can be thrown away. The further you get into a project, the scarier it gets because there’s always a chance you could throw away the hours you already put into the project if the segmented pen blanks crack or chip during this process.

These handcrafted pens take about 12-15 hours to finish and the going rate for these ranges from $80 to $150. The pens that Ross craft use popular premium pen cartridges from brands like Parker & Cross so your pen can last a lifetime with refills easy to come by.

Matt has been getting into a lot of other handmade items, like light switches, bowls, and even lamps (yes desk lamps made out of skateboard decks!). Check out some of his other work by hitting up his Instagram.

Custom Matt Ross Pen
Custom Matt Ross Pen

Good Ideas

Good idea
Good idea

A lot of the books I’ve read lately talk about the concept of “good ideas”. When I think of the concept of good ideas, I think about creativity. The concept of creativity is interesting. Absolutely everyone is capable of creativity and therefore capable of good ideas, and I’d like to talk a bit about that. I’ll be referencing some good reads that I’ll outline at the end of this post.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is objective. Not everyone will see the same idea as creative, but the concept can be explained rather simply. Allen Gannett lays it out really well in his book The Creative Curve, where he simply states that “creativity is the combination of familiarity and novelty.” When you’re able to successfully marry the two opposing forces, you’ve got a creative new idea.

An Example

Consider food trends, and let’s use plant-based food as an example. Food producers take very familiar meat products and create plant-based alternatives in the form of them. If the latest vegan patty wasn’t marketed as a burger substitute, there’s a good chance that it wouldn’t be as successful.

You Can Brainstorm Good Ideas

You can spend hours trying to whiteboard new ideas, matching up familiar and novel concepts. This exercise can be fun, and who knows, it could also be rewarding. Off the top of my head…here are a few concepts that are familiar with a novel approach.

  • Eyewear that can play music
  • A vending machine that dispenses smoothies
  • Luggage that charges devices inside it
  • Socks with a stash pocket (Yea, I don’t know…)

I’m sure that all of these ideas exist, whether they’re good or bad, I’m sure someone may think that they’re creative. The point is that you can use the simple formula of Familiar + Novel to come up with your own. For this, I recommend you pick up The Creative Curve to build on this concept (Link below).

Good Ideas Can Arrive When You Least Expect Them

In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about the two parts of the brain, the passive and the deliberate areas (Kahneman refers to them as System 1 & 2). Kahneman touches on the point that when we deliberately try to think of good ideas, our mind gets cluttered (I’m paraphrasing here) and it’s often difficult to force those good ideas, whereas when our mind is clear, our automatic thoughts have room to breathe and we have those “ah-ha!” moments, you know “shower thoughts” as some people say. This concept assumes that we have great ideas buried in our mind and when our mind is clear, they finally surface. Experts say that the best way to inspire this type of thought is through meditation or simply by taking a vacation, where you literally take a break from thinking too much.

Good Ideas Can be Deliberate or Passive

So you can effectively brainstorm good ideas or let them come naturally. The key is to write them down as soon as possible! When it comes to good ideas, the worst feeling is forgetting what they were. Have a notepad handy or use an app to scribble down your good ideas whenever you get them. Always be ready for a good idea.


You can’t always do it on your own. Coming from a classic read from 2009 by John C. Maxwell, How Successful People Think, it’s even better when you collaborate with others. This can turn a good idea into a great one. Create your own personal network of thinkers and always be prepared for great ideas to come about. The really cool thing about collaborating is that the next big idea can come from anyone. It could be a friend, a colleague, a customer or even a stranger.

Asking For Your Help

With this all in mind, I’d love to collaborate with you! I’ve created a questionnaire that asks you a few questions so that I can come up with new ideas. Your input is extremely appreciated and your information will be kept to myself. The survey should only take a few minutes and it means a lot to better understand my readers and customers.

A Reward to My Etsy Shoppers

For everyone who has purchased something from my Etsy shop that has completed my survey, they will be entered into a draw for a chance to win their Etsy purchase. The instructions are outlined in the survey to qualify.

Please Click This Link to Find my Quick Questionnaire

Lastly, as promised…

Here are links to the books I mentioned above. If you want to spark up great ideas and learn more about good ideas and creativity in general, these are a great start!

The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell

My Sweet New Drawing Pads

Personalized Left Handed Drawing Pads
Personalized Left Handed Drawing Pads

Okay, so I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to, oops. The good news is, summer is here and I’ve got some crafting adventures in the works!

In the meantime, I’m super pumped to share my sweet new drawing pads that I had made just for me!

At face value, they’re just sketch pads, but I made sure the basics were covered to give me everything that I wanted in a drawing pad.

What Makes These Drawing Pads So Special?

I’m glad you asked. These sweet lil drawing pads are perfect, here’s why:

My sweet new drawing pads
My sweet new drawing pads
  1. 5×7″ landscape oriented – perfect for quick sketches and large enough for enough detail to capture and digitize.
  2. High-quality drawing paper – ideal for pencil sketches and heavy enough to handle ink illustrations
  3. Thick cardstock cover – so they’re sturdy enough to toss in my bag or into my motorcycle saddlebag.
  4. They’re backwards – Because I’m a lefty.

Now I can draw anywhere, because I made enough to have one with me wherever I go.

So simple, yet so awesome. Am I weird for being into these so much? Likely.