12 Questions: Meet Tammy Collins (Tennessee, USA) Ross | October 27th, 2008

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Tammy Collins (crowdSPRING username: moonwelldesigns) today. Tammy lives and works in Jackson Tennessee.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Tammy Collins (aka moonwelldesigns on crowdSPRING).  I’m a 41 year old Mother, Wife and Grandmother. I live with my husband, and our three … interesting and spirited dogs, to say the least. Two are Catahoula Leopard dogs named Skyler and River, and the third is a little Feist named Mo.

I was born in Morganton, North Carolina, a quiet little town nestled in the beautiful Smokey Mountains.  All of my relatives lived within 50 miles of the area.  I lived in Morganton with my Mom until I was 5, when we moved to Jackson, Tennessee.  I’ve been In Jackson ever since, and I return to Morganton every year.

I grew up with Commodore 64′s and Atari’s.  Oh the hours spent playing asteroids. For anyone that isn’t familiar with asteroids (and for those who need a little bit of nostalgia), more info here.  And while it sounds like I played lots of video games, I actually read books or spent time writing more than I played games.  It seemed that I was always getting into trouble, constantly getting caught with a book, or notebook and pencil, with my flashlight under the covers, many hours past my bedtime. This night-owlish behavior and sleep-pattern stuck with me, hence the name Moonwell Designs.

I sometimes forget what time it is, get busy with something, and suddenly realize that the sun is coming up again.  During those times when I am forcing a daytime schedule, and manage to get up before 8 am, my family members know to avoid me until the second pot of coffee! And yes…I meant pot of coffee, not cup. :)

During my childhood and teen years, I was into anything creative.  I tinkered with macramé, whittling, poetry, well, pretty much anything arts and crafts related.  I created a lot of things out of whatever I could pick up in the woods.  I’d gather twigs, moss, walnut shells, pine cones, etc and after a long and fruitful walk in the woods, would return home and break out the glue. During my teen years, I fell in love with music and poetry.  I played the flute and piccolo, and dabbled in piano…until my senior year.  I didn’t get to attend more than a few months of college.  Instead I married, and spent the next 20 years raising my two beautiful daughters, both of whom are extremely creative and talented.

Over the years I have worked as a medical assistant, then a nurse.  After the beloved doctor I worked for over 10 years passed away, I changed professions. I wanted to get back to the great outdoors.  I went to work for a local nursery and landscaping center.  I started out in the potting shed, planting begonias, getting my hands dirty and loving it. Within a few months, I ended up as the office manager.  Great opportunity, more pay, but I was stuck in a little office, with one tiny little window.  Then, I went into accounting, working for a national uniform service.  Hey, the window was bigger!  I wasn’t entirely happy behind all these walls, and so I quit and ventured out onto the open road with my husband and his tractor-trailer.  I got to see most of the states and some amazing sights during those few years.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  But it wasn’t home, and that truck was getting smaller by the day!  Now I bounce my grandbaby on my lap, sitting at my computer, and create…while the squirrels play around outside of the open window.  They know it’s safe, it isn’t squirrel season. ;)

Of everything I have ever experienced, I can say this – there is absolutely nothing like a grandbaby’s smile!   Her smiles brighten my day while her drool dampens my knee, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  She is a major part of my inspiration to keep learning, growing and honing my skills, and trying to carve myself a little niche in this profession.

This is where crowdSPRING comes in.  I wasn’t sure how long I could manage to stay at home so I could take care of my granddaughter, so that my daughter could work without the expense of a good daycare.  I struggled to find ways to earn income while staying home.  Then I found crowdSPRING.  Thankfully I have been lucky enough to win a few projects and new clients over the last few months, and have also received some follow up work, making it possible to make ends meet a little longer.  Kudos to the crew at crowdSPRING.  You have no idea how much you mean to me, and how important this community is to our family.

2. How did you start out as a designer?

Remember that national uniform service I mentioned?  We had these nifty 12 color embroidery machines.  The salesman that brought in the orders for custom-embroidered shirts for local companies, often promised clients whose company had no logo to speak of, that he would create one for them.   He had seen me tinkering with paint, creating images to use while creating the monthly newsletter for our branch in Publisher.  He came in one day with a request for a logo design a company had in mind.  Luckily for him, I jump at the chance to create something, anything, for someone else!  I did what I could with Microsoft Paint, and the company loved it!  It was beautiful on their new shirts.  Over the next couple of years, I created quite a few images for companies in the area, still using paint.  I’ve designed for print and advertising needs at the request several local companies, friends, and family over the years.  This past year, I received the most wonderful Christmas present…Adobe Photoshop.  Watch out world!  I spent very long days, for weeks on end, studying every online piece of information about Photoshop that I could find.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  Both my daughters can sketch, draw and paint beautifully.  I can dream up beautiful images, but I can’t draw a decent stick figure by hand. Give me my mouse and a pen tool and I’ll go to town.  After getting a grip on Photoshop, I had hundreds of images, and found myself recalling the days I created logos with paint, and folks actually loving them.  The Internet search began.  I found a few of the “other” crowdsourcing sites before I found crowdSPRING.  The other sites left a lot to be desired, to say the least, for me anyway. Then I stumbled across crowdSPRING in early June.  I’ve been here since, don’t think I’ve missed a day.  I’ve also started finding local work in graphic design.  I still have much to learn, though in my opinion, we never stop learning.  There is always more to know, and I have a passion for learning.

3. Please talk a little about the learning process – how do you improve your skills?

I always keep my eyes open, and I look for great elements of design everywhere.  I admire the work of others.  Sometimes I’ll get into a spell where I just want to browse the work of others for awhile, admiring, ooing and ahhing, imagining.  A couple of great places of inspiration are LogoPond.com and LogoLounge.com.  I also learn a lot from the work of other creatives who work on crowdSPRING.  Imjustcreative has taught me a lot, whether he knows it or not.  :)  I’ve admired his work, along with many other talented creatives here such as FredK, 29designs, Monsterleo, Estremke, Romasuave, Lightbox, Gbarrera, and, well way too many to list all of the creatives I admire.  I’ve learned from their examples, not just their art, but the way they interpret a brief, how they communicate with buyers, how they use typography, (I struggle with typography).  I’ve learned much about the industry from the forums.  crowdSPRING has been a wealth of knowledge for me, in so many ways.  I get a good chuckle from many of my early works, and how my opinion of them has changed so drastically in just a few months.  My work has gone from being ignored quite a bit, to catching eyes and drawing comments.

I’ve also learned a lot from the Internet.  Thank you to everyone who ever wrote a tutorial!  If it has to do with Photoshop, Illustrator, or designing, and it’s online, I’ve probably read it.  I’ve always been the type that if I didn’t know the answer, or didn’t know the meaning of something, I would immediately set out to find it.  Gone are the days of the hardcover encyclopedias, dictionaries and the local library.  Now I just reach out and grab my mouse!

4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?

Nature has to be my number one influence, colors, lines, shapes, movement.  I get more inspiration from a walk in the woods or an afternoon on the river, than from anywhere else.  Jackson is full of restaurants and shopping centers, and is rich in musical heritage, but isn’t known for great art venues.  Not that I would visit many art galleries or museums if we had them.  I must admit, If I have the time, you’ll most likely find me on the bank of the Tennessee river, gazing in awe of the beauty of the water rolling by, the way the deep blue blends with the green of the trees in the distance, while I flip the eggs and turn the bacon on the portable stove.  With one little dog laying in the tent, two others sunbathing on the bank, and hubby out fishing, it’s my favorite time to soak up the aesthetics of everything around me. I’ll fish later, first there’s that unusually shaped piece of driftwood to examine, a bloom I’ve never seen before and the colored layers of the riverbank freshly exposed by the latest high waters.

5. What’s the very first thing you do when approaching a new design?

Refill the coffee cup.  Did you want more than that?  You asked for it ;)

Then I study the brief and read any feedback.  If the brief isn’t very informative, it’s unlikely that I will even decide to participate.  In my experience so far, a buyer who doesn’t put much into the brief, will put about the same amount into feedback.  If the brief is well done, I will soak it up like a sponge.  I’ll read it at least twice, visit any links they provide, visit their website if available and study any attachments included.  If I don’t know much about their field, I will read up a little on that as well, and look up some of their competitors.  Some buyers provide a list of their competitors…I love it when they do that ;)  Sometimes, it just seems to help me get into the frame of mind to come up with a solution if I know more about what they do, who they do it for, and how.

6. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?

I’ll have to say most of my favorites are recent works.  One of them was a logo design for Xend, a courier company.  I love it because it feels crisp, and bold, but yet has smooth flowing lines, and is so interconnected.   One that I will always have a soft spot for, is a design I created for Black Pearl Capital, in my early days on Photoshop.  It just turned out so amazing, compared to anything I had ever had the ability to graphically create, that I sat back and stared in disbelief.  I thought it was pretty good for someone with only a couple of self-taught months using the program.

 

7. How has technology affected your work?

Hmm, without it, I wouldn’t be doing this, since we’ve established I can’t draw a decent stick figure by hand.  From playing with Microsoft Paint, to the unleashing of me on Photoshop, and now learning Illustrator, The leaps and bounds amaze me.  I don’t have near the hardware and software I would like to have.  But then, isn’t there always something newer and better?  I’m working on it though!  For the time being, I am pretty low-tech here.  I have an Intel Celeron D 356 with Windows XP.  It may not be much, but it serves me well and I appreciate it for not giving me trouble in the years I’ve owned it. (knock on wood).  No graphics tablet or other snazzy gizmos…but then again, would it be of any use to someone who can’t draw the old-fashioned way?

One of my favorite tools however, is a website.  Since I mainly use Photoshop, I usually have to go through the painstaking process of vectorizing.  (If this shouldn’t be painstaking will someone please tell me what I’m missing!  My Adobe Illustrator trial is expired, and unfortunately isn’t quite at the top of the budget yet. My solution for SVG files is VectorMagic.com.  I have yet to be disappointed with the results.  Upload an image, check a few options, and voila.  They have a special place in my budget!

8. When working online, how do you decide whether to participate in a project?

The major deciding factors for me are the brief, and how much time I have.  Like I said before, a great brief will draw me to a project.  A brief that says “we need a logo” just doesn’t cut it for me.  I have placed a couple of entries in such projects along the way, but they were unused creations I re-purposed.  In other words, they got about as much work out of me as they put into their brief.  If a buyer isn’t passionate enough about their project to take time to write an informative brief, most likely they won’t take time for feedback.  I’m here to learn.  I learn more when I’m able to communicate with a buyer, when I’m able to find out how well or how poorly I interpreted the brief.  It’s hard for me to be objective when viewing my own work.  I’m always eager to hear what others think of it, bad or good.  So for me, if there is going to be little chance for feedback, there will be little chance for learning and I will pass it up.   If the brief is great, but the time left in the project is too short for me to do anything worthwhile for them, I’ll pass it by as well.   Great brief + plenty of time = refill coffee cup and get to work!

Oh, one more thing, I read the activity and the buyer feedback in a project I am considering entering.  If there is feedback, but it’s just plain rude, I won’t enter.  There is a difference between a negative review and a degrading insult.  It’s sad, but it happens.  Thank goodness it’s rare!

 

9. Please talk a little about the client-designer relationship. Can you talk about an example or two to illustrate how you’ve managed this relationship in online projects?

Now this, to me, is the most important ingredient.  I start with contacting them with a short message, introducing myself – if they sent me an invitation.  If not, I normally introduce myself during the comment on my first entry.  I ask questions about things if they’re not included in the brief, such as font preferences, colors, etc.

Keep the comments professional, but personal and approachable.  If I buyer leaves you a negative critique, thank them for that feedback, just as if they had given you 5 stars and a “great job!”  I’m sure none of us like to have our entries completely ignored.  So be thankful when a buyer tells you what he or she doesn’t like.  At least you’ll know what to avoid, and you know your work was evaluated…and most buyers will appreciate knowing their critique was evaluated as well.  If a buyer leaves a negative review in a rude manner, don’t sling mud back, just move along.  Some folks just aren’t as good at expressing themselves as others.

One of my favorite buyers to work with was Leslie Ann Mills Photography.  She touched base with nearly every single creative in her project. She had 262 entries, and left feedback for the majority of them.  Our communications began with her invitation for me to participate.  I replied by accepting the invitation graciously and thanking her, I asked her a couple of questions about what she was looking for.  We chatted back and forth many times during the project.  I told her early on if she had any questions at all, to feel free to ask me.  Towards the end of the project, I received a mail from her about being torn between my entries, and dt’s entries.  I knew exactly which of dt’s entries was drawing her to it, since I caught myself admiring it many times as well.  From the moment I saw it I thought it was perfect for her.  So when she sent this message, I told her what I thought.  The one that keeps drawing your eye to it, and holds a sense of awe, or “YES – that’s it!” for you, then that’s the logo you need to choose.  She made a comment about feeling bad because I had a lot of entries.  I told her something along the lines of -  A sympathy win wouldn’t do either one of us any good in the long run, and that she would regret not choosing the logo that drew her to it the most.

I could have tried to put a negative light on dt’s entry, play up my work, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be happy with that decision.  Think hard before you talk with a buyer, and choose the higher road.  Just put your seatbelt on and keep driving at it. They will appreciate you for it.  Isn’t that what we really want?  Well I do ;)  I just spoke with Leslie this past week via email.  Her website and blog look fantastic and dt’s logo shines at the top.  She made the right decision.  She’s also spreading the word for us!  I quote: “We included crowdSPRING in our recent big presentation and we are emailing our class attendants the info with a crowdSPRING link and a list of my favorite designers. I hope you will see an increase in photographer contests!  :)”   For me, THAT is a successful relationship.  If we all treat buyers with the utmost consideration and make their experience as positive as possible, they’re going to spread the good word.  Some of them can spread it wide and far.  That equals more projects…more projects = better odds!  Hey, I have a thing for photography projects.

10. What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a graphic designer?

Most challenging – coming up with something truly original, yet still simple, effective and memorable.

Most rewarding – Someone being pleased with your work.

11. What advice would you offer to someone considering graphics design as a career?

Check your personal feelings about your work at the door.  Like I said before, take a negative review for what it is – information about what they DON’T want.  If you take it personal, it’s likely your mind will be closed about your own work.  If you can keep an open mind, and try to view your art through others eyes, you’ll have a better chance to learn and improve.

12. What do you do with your free time?

And you thought the other answers were long ;)

I love to design. I have so many things I enjoy doing, that there is never enough time, and since I found crowdSPRING, I trimmed my spare time down drastically.  I prefer to sit here and create!

But when I do pull away from the computer, I truly love the outdoors.  I love to work with wood, from building a doghouse, to carving home décor or welcome signs.  I mostly use a dremel and scroll saw, and sometiems, a band saw and sander.  Once in a while, I’ll break out the old whittling knife.

I love the water – swimming, floating, fishing, or just sitting on the bank watching it roll by with my toes dangling in the water.  (reference – Norah Jones – “Toes” favorite song).  I love to “Float the Buffalo” as we call it.  We don’t do much paddling in the canoes. We can make a 5 hour trip take all day by letting the river carry us, stopping at every other bend to swim, climb to the top of the falls, jump from the swinging rope, jump from the 50 ft cliff in the deep spot. We stretch it out as long as we can.

In the evenings I love a good fire, a good book (Harlan Coben, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts), or a crochet needle and yarn.  I love to sew, NOT clothes ;)  never did enjoy that, but I love to make stuffed animals, curtains, blankets and pillows, diaper bags, etc.  I like to dabble in boat upholstery, (pretty good at it too.

I like to write, (for myself)  I love to play World of Warcraft,  I’m Selita on Greymane for any WoW fans reading this, my husband and I run the guild Crazy Train, and Crazy Train Twinks Inc, (Twink is a reference to a character that plays at the highest level in a player verses player bracket, with the absolute best gear in the game at that level).  Though to be honest, my guild misses me since crowdSPRING came into my life!

I also love a long motorcycle ride, and especially the annual Trail of Tears Remembrance Motorcycle Ride. Imagine 150,000 riders riding together. That ride is one of the most amazing experiences of my life (aside from holding my granddaughter).

In the spring and summer my husband and I love to

garden.  Flowers and veggies of all types.  I must say the tomatoes and corn are the best, nothing like a big ole fresh picked southern grown tomato, and fresh peaches and cream corn roasted on the grill in its husk.  The garden is fading fast, there’s very little left this year.  ‘Til next spring!

Thanks so much, Tammy.

 

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  • ArtbyAudree

    Tammy and the cS crew,
    I’m so glad this is part of the blog, because so many of the creatives are just a mystery in my imagination. It really humanizes them.
    Tammy, I have been drawing my editorial cartoons on Illustrator for 4 years and had a bunch of practice with it, but I never ever CONSIDERED creating a logo on photoshop. One element Photoshop has that illustrator lacks is the airbrush. WHEN oh WHEN will Adobe add that? Anyway, perhaps I will give it a go sometime, thanks to you.

    Nice to get to know you. Audree

  • Remco

    I create everything in PS to, I just can’t work with Illustrator… yet.

    Ofcourse will all my logo’s be in vectorformat if I should win something….

  • Remco

    By the way, great interview! ;)

  • moonwelldesigns

    @ Audree

    Thank you for your comments Audree! I love the airbrush. :) Unfortunately I don’t get to use it for logos much, since I’m not really sure how that could be vectorized.

    @ Remco

    Thank you! I’m not big on the Illustrator either ;) I’ll get there one day I’m sure, but like you, I always vectorize my logos, and provide an SVG file using vectormagic.com. If someone requires an AI file, I have a couple of friends willing to convert for me. I appreciate your comments! Thank you!

    Tammy

  • 29design

    Great interview Tammy – have admired your skills as well (!!!) and so happy we can learn from each other ;)

  • estremke

    Tammy,

    Being a young designer, it’s always welcome news to hear that others admire my work. And I must return the compliment. I’ve truly enjoyed competing with you, and think you’re a great example for other cSers. I appreciate the mention, and look forward to seeing your future work. (As soon as I can escape my college workload and get back to cS.)

    Best,
    Evan

  • romasuave

    Hi Tammy,

    What an insightful and captivating blog entry from you (wish I had that time on my hands to write this thoroughly!) Thanks so much for the mention, I am quite flattered, I’ve seen your work and I can tell you that you are constantly improving with every contest. My advise to you and all others using photoshop, take the time to learn illustrator because it is designed just for creating logos and vector graphics, it is very powerful and many great designs can be achieved on it (That’s all I used, I was a PS junky too at first!)

    Anyway, good luck in the future and have a great time!

    Roman

  • rcavezza

    Tammy,

    Great interview! We still need to discuss the checkmark work you did that I still want to use as smarterdrinker.com is starting to finish its design process! I think the art is still saved on this server somewhere. Your stories of North Carolina and your granddaughter remind me of my brother who lives in North Carolina near ECU with my niece. My mom loves going down there to see her and my father also drives an 18-wheeler… go figure. Good luck in the future and I’m glad you’re able to work from home these days. Three cheers for crowdspring!

    29design,

    I thought I remembered your screen name from somewhere. Thanks for the smarterfootball.com logo. We haven’t had the time to start the project yet, but after looking at the logo just now, it has motivated me to pursue it soon!

    CrowdSpring team,

    Keep it up! Your website is awesome and I can see that it is growing. I haven’t been back lately, but will be soon because I am adding a new SBU to my company – razorwolf apparel, not sure what kinds of awesome designs I will get, but look for the project within the next two months!

    Best of luck to everyone in the Winter as the current economic climate seems to be affecting many.

    Best Regards,

    Robert M. Cavezza

  • moonwelldesigns

    @29design

    Thank you! Me too!

    @Evan

    You are a fine example yourself! I’ve learned much from you. I miss seeing you in the galleries lately…I’ll be glad when your college workload lightens up!

    @Mr. Cavezza

    So good to hear from you! Glad you’re still visiting us here, and we’ll all look forward to your new project!

    I still have all the original files for the artwork you were interested in ;) Storage isn’t a problem so they’ll sit nice and tidy right where thay are as long as you need. Thank youso much for remembering that!

    Best of luck to you as well! Thank you so much for your comments, and again…great to hear from you!

    Tammy

    We do have a lot in common! I’m looking forward to a Thanksgiving visit in NC! I can’t wait.

  • moonwelldesigns

    @ Roman

    Thank you so much for your compliment and the advice, it will certainly be heeded!

  • fredK

    My compliments on the interview, Tammy. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? ;) It’s cool to witness your development as a designer right here at crowdSPRING, and the incredible courtesy and level of professionalism you’re displaying – not only in your interactions with clients but it seems with just about anyone who comes your way – is surely a great inspiration to others. (Thanks for the nod as well – I’m glad if I’ve been able to help in some small way.)

    Best,
    Fred

  • sm07

    Congratulations Tammy – great interview, really inspiring and your designs are awesome =) You seem so honest and supportive, you’re an inspiration to us all – I’m going to think about some of your techniques ie thinking about it from another’s perspective. Good luck for the future!

    Ross, these interviews are great – please keep going!

  • gbarrera

    Great interview – Thanks for the kind words! This community has some very talented and skilled designers and I’am glad to be apart of such a constructive and positive environment. Lets keep grinding, pushing forward and most importantly keep doing what we are so passionate about.

    Thanks again!
    - Gregorio Barrera

  • moonwelldesigns

    @FredK

    Yes it does, I was honored to be invited to do the interview! :)

    Thank you so much for your compliments! I’ve enjoyed competeing with you, and you’ve been a great inspiration to me in more ways than one! I really admire your work and your professionlism.

    @sm07
    Thank you for your comments. I recall some competition with you in the Start-up Revival contest in my early days here. You’re inspring to me as well ;) Great job!

    @Gregorio
    Well said! I am proud to be a part of this as well. Thank you for your comment!

  • moonwelldesigns

    Fluent in typonese ;)

  • Typecast

    Great interview Tammy I really enjoyed reading it.

    Rob

  • moonwelldesigns

    Thank you Rob! Great coincidence! I just finished admiring the work you did for the Naan Stop contest. Beautifully done!

  • monsterleo

    I aspire to have your grace and professionalism when entering contests. That is something I need to work on and I honestly mean it when I say you are an inspiration. By the way, thank you for your comments towards my work, I feel the same way with your designs and the others you mentioned.

    Cibi

  • fackhir

    Designer for Life:))

  • moonwelldesigns

    @ Cibi I’m honored :) Thank you for your comment, it means a lot to me! See you in the galleries!

    @ fackir Cheers!! :)

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  • fackhir

    http://rapidshare.com/files/140623478/Vextractor_v3.97_tmr_026.rar
    rar pass: hackhell
    you can try for vectorize on your computer.full program.
    waiting for racing for draw logo:))

  • moonwelldesigns

    Thanks Fackhir!

  • VB20

    Great interview and folio for sure, see you around.

  • moonwelldesigns

    Thank you VB20! Much appreciated!

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  • meganpr

    Hi Tammy,
     
    Thank you so much for writing this blog. I am brand new to crowdSPRING and really appreciate you taking the time to write it.
     
    It especially helps me to learn how you decide whether to participate in a project and your advice on the client-designer relationship. :)
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.havard.35 Eric Havard

    Thank you for your insights, I was so looking for the right way to get clients feedback on fonts and your method works for me. Thanks again!

    eric

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