Failure after Failure: A Handmade Booking Journey
by Dustin Fisher
They say in the movie business that you’re never happier than when you see your first daily and you’re never unhappier than when you see your first rough cut. Well, I was never happier than when I made my mockup and never unhappier than when I finished the first box for my final.
First, let me talk about my schedule. After turning in my mockup on Thursday, I felt a sense of relief for an hour and a half. Then I knew it was going to take a Herculean effort to finish three of those things with more precision (and complete) in a week’s time. I started Friday night and worked for the four hours each night between outing my daughter to bed and her midnight feeding. It was clear that wouldn’t be enough. So I adjusted my work schedule such that I would also put in four hours after her midnight feeding and try to nap with her during the day to catch up. It was a radical concept which could easily backfire, but it was my best chance at manufacturing enough dedicated time for this project.
I did this from Sunday night through Wednesday night and started sending Meredith panicked emails at 4am with lines like “THE SKY IS FALLING!! Fear for your life and save your cats because as God is my witness, the Nothing is coming!!!” I’d then retract them in the morning with stuff like “I’m sorry again. I think I had one too many ‘project progress twizzlers’ and they were eating into my brain.” It was an unhealthy schedule, despite what just-power-through-it Dustin thought. I was thankfully for my sanity’s sake, given an extension to Tuesday, and I promised to have the one box finished by class Thursday. I’m pleased to say that my daughter, not final-project laden anxiety, kept me up all last night. Somehow I feel that’s a victory.
Briefly, because there’s nothing I can do to make this more interesting, this project turned out to cost a lot more than I thought at the outset. The decks of cards alone cost $105 for four. Between artist paper, book cloth and binder board, I probably paid another $40. Then I needed lots of stuff printed and there’s no real cheap way to do that now that I can’t just use my work’s printer. It cost me $30 at Staples just for the one mockup. I was thankfully able to get my wife to sneak into her office before work and print out the stuff I needed for the project. Also, I wasted $40 on DoubleTac, but that is being reimbursed to me for the remainder of the product since it didn’t work for my purposes. So using Meredith’s math, I should probably charge upwards around $125 for these. I may just try to cut my losses.
OK, with the benefit of time and sleep, I can now see that the sky was not indeed falling. My project underwent a few setbacks and has a few inconsistencies, most of which even a discerning eye that didn’t put them together wouldn’t notice. So I’m going to itemize my failures in three different categories below: Failures obvious to everyone with eyes (Level 1), Failures a scrutinizing eye could find (Level 2), and failures only I will likely ever know about (Level 3):
1) Case One – Book cloth too small (Level 2): After the mockup was so successful when I was just winging it and cutting the book cloth as need be, I thought I’d measure out the book cloth for the remaining boxes and cut them before I started gluing the binder board to make things easier on me. Well, there were some gross mismeasurements. The book cloth in total was about an entire inch shorter than it needed to be. I needed to peel off the binder board after gluing it down on several occasions. This pissed me off more because I thought I had accounted for the “spine” of the box and everything than because of how I was worried it would look. As it turned out, it looks fine. There are some stray pieces of binder board showing because the book cloth doesn’t wrap around where it was supposed to, but a Sharpie disguises that pretty well when using all black book cloth as it turns out. (Note: This was the discovery that made me lose my mind and start sending those emails the first night)
2) Inserts too big (Level 3): I wanted the inserts that held the chips to be looser so you could take them out and move them around. Because of another miscalculation, the inserts are pretty flush against the box. But that was a stylistic choice that the buyer doesn’t need to know didn’t work right. They all fit and that’s what counts.
3) DoubleTac is not the same as StudioTac (Level 3): Yeah, I didn’t even use it so nobody will know anything about this, but the StudioTac was supposed to be my savior. But three art stores local to me didn’t have it. And Utrecht was closed at 745pm when I got there Wednesday night. So I went to the MICA store and they sold me this crap and told me it was the same thing but a different name brand. They lied. This is why I hate MICA. (Note: This is what spurred the second night’s panic-ridden email)
(Inside the case inside the case)
4) Case #2 is really the mockup amended (Level 1): I figured after my first box was so much worse (in my eyes) than the mockup, why not just make a couple amendments to the mockup to have it be final product material? So I added some book cloth where need be and put the new artist paper over the old artist paper and voila! My only issue was that the front cover elements were just glued on rather than being inset in chip board (a Cheerios box). So I made some chip board and cut it out so that the elements would show through and glued it to the front. You can tell there’s obviously extra book cloth on top of the old book cloth, but it could just be a design choice, not a mistake. At least when you’re not looking at it in a series of three, you can.
5) Book Cloth is inside out (Level 2): The black book cloth has two sides to it, one shinier and one darker. The darker side looks to me like it’s supposed to be the outside. After putting together the first case and hating it already because the book cloth was an inch too short, I noticed it was inside out too. Then I noticed it was inside out on the mockup too and I hadn’t noticed that for a whole week so it probably wasn’t that big of a deal. Again, only if you look at the third case that looks like I wanted them all to look would you notice.
6) The Velcro doesn’t like sticking to artist paper (Level 1): One of my cases has artist paper on the flap all the way to the sides. There is Velcro used to hold the case shut and the Velcro seems to peel off the paper pretty easily. But it should stay together long enough for me to sell it. This is a technique I learned from a car I bought off Craigslist. The muffler fell apart two days after I bought it. Nice work, sleezeball from Craigslist.
7) The inserts that hold the cards are not put together so well. I accidentally put the card element on first, so the hinge would either cover it up or need to be short. And so they’re too short and keep falling off.
There were some successes in this process, though none in that first week.
1) The third box, as I just mentioned, I finally got the way I wanted the rest to look. I cut it as I glued, like I did with the mockup, which made it easier to be precise and make adjustments as needed.
2) The handle turned out to be a pretty awesome functional and artistic element. My wife’s suggestion of using the rope shows just how much smarter she is than our entire class put together.
3) Glue stick. F@$# StudioTac. The glue stick works just fine to get the paper onto the cards.
4) The cover looks awesome with the book cloth peeled behind the chip board to uncover the inset artwork.
5) I added a cover to the box that the cards are in (inside the case). The lid has the book’s title and tagline “Play your cards right and you just might make it out alive” and the bottom of the box has the about the author element. I thought it was a fun place to put that.
(Copyright, colophon and About the Author)
6) The concept of having a choose your own adventure book made into a deck of cards turned out to be a lot of fun to write and I feel like a pretty decent success. I honestly hope to possibly make this the first book in a series, with others to follow that may have to do with strip poker, etc. The writing took a heck of a long time but turned out to be lots of fun.
All in all, I loved this project. I also hated it, but ultimately, I have something fun to show people, even if my wife isn’t too thrilled about paying $2100 for me to take Arts & Crafts.