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Penang and Its Street Art: Guest Blogging on Wandering Mee

Posted on June 21, 2013 by Ee-Leng Chang | 1 Comment

As soon as I touched back down in Australia, I received an email from long time friend and ex-colleague Mee. She had seen a few of the street art photos I'd posted on Instagram while I was in Penang and asked if I would consider writing a guest blog post for her travel blog Wandering Mee. I happily agreed and here it is:


Check out Wandering Mee for my guest post!

I love Mee's blog, it always puts me in a holiday/adventure mode. I love travelling but don't have time to do it as much as I'd like. Well mostly I reserve my holiday time and budget for my annual Malaysian trip. So, reading about Mee's travels is an awesome substitute for the real thing. :)

When Mee asked me to write this post, I had no idea that she was going to put it in her "Home Is Where Your Heart Is" Series. I never did mention anything about Penang being my home and when I saw the post, I wondered if somehow she managed to read that in between the lines of my post. In truth I have 3 places I call home. One is being right here with my husband. Since we're both living in Melbourne now, well that's where my home is. My second home is PJ, the town that I was born and grew up in for 17 years in Malaysia, where my parents, oldest sister and most of my childhood friends still live and where I spend most of my time in when in Malaysia. I guess in the traditional sense of the word, PJ is my hometown. But my third home is definitely Penang, despite never having actually 'lived' there beyond spending my school holidays there growing up. I get this ridiculous happy smile when I'm in the car or the plane approaching Penang. Any nostalgic waves that come over me makes me think of Penang. I often wonder why this is and what it is about Penang that makes me include it in my list of homes. 

Mee brought up in her blog about the concept of home and her struggle to define home. As a migrant, albeit a less-travelled one than Mee, I've also had my struggles with that question. I used to think that people should only have 1 home and that should be where you are living at the time. So while I was still a fairly new resident in Australia, I would think that home should be Australia. But that made me feel disloyal to my hometown of PJ, Malaysia. After all, I grew up there, my family is there, my best friends are there and I had spent more than half my life there. So while I consciously call Melbourne home, I felt deep inside that Malaysia is still my home. And then for awhile I started to feel disloyal to Melbourne. After all, this is where I am now and my present and future life with my husband is here in Melbourne. And then to throw in the mix, when I feel homesick, I think of Penang (really don't know how Penang comes into this!). 

So after wrestling with this home identity dilemma for many years, I realised I can comfortably call multiple places my home. Malaysia (PJ and Penang) are 'place homes' to me. I think because I grew up there, both places are very deeply-ingrained into me as my homes. I have a deep love and attachment rooted to both the place and the people and that will never change. On the other hand, I didn't grow up in Melbourne and so while I have many happy memories here, I do not associate the physical place of Melbourne as my home. But at the same time, this is my home because this is where my life is unfolding. I feel at home in Melbourne because my husband is here and we are living and building our lives here. This is the kind of home that is movable. If my husband and I were to move away from Melbourne, this same feeling of home that I have living in Melbourne now would move to wherever we go too. In other words, and as cliche or corny as it sounds, my home is my husband! :)

Of course, the longer I live in Melbourne might also change Melbourne into a 'place home' for me. I certainly do love Melbourne and when asked where I'm from, these days my short answer is usually "Melbourne". 

I didn't mean for this blog post to turn into a reflection on where I call home. So I'll snap out of it now and just say, "What are you waiting for?? Head on over to Wandering Mee right now to get your travel-fix!" :D

Posted in Musings

Coming Soon to the App Store: Matchmaker Millie

Posted on January 17, 2013 by Ee-Leng Chang | 0 Comments

 

For the past 6 months or so, I've been working at 2 jobs. My day job is all things Hooby Groovy but at night, I've been working as a game artist for Games for Gummie, developing an iOS game titled Matchmaker Millie. And exciting news: Matchmaker Millie will be coming out on the 23rd Jan!! :)

It's been a really fun and rewarding, albeit extremely busy, experience. I've worked on 2 previous titles with Games for Gummie prior to Matchmaker Millie: Shuriken Chicken and Cow Abduct (both available for free on the App Store!). However, Matchmaker Millie by far was a much more complex and asset-heavy project. 

In terms of technical skills, through Matchmaker Millie, I got the chance to have a go at pixel art and vector art. Ultimately, we went with vector art for Matchmaker Millie. I learnt how to use Adobe Illustrator, which has since been invaluable with my own Hooby Groovy work, its made creating patterns and drafting designs so much easier! 


Analysing how I work, Matchmaker Millie has really made me realise that I tend to underestimate the time I need to do work. Funnily enough, when I used to work in Project Management at a game development studio, I noticed a pattern occurring when asking developers to estimate the time they would need for their tasks. Programmers would tend to overestimate the time they need. I would say things like "It'd be great to have this in by so-and-so, is that possible? How long would something like this take?" and they would complain and rant and tell me that it's so much work and say the most annoying thing that could ever be said to someone trying to do task management "How long is a piece of string?" Which in retrospect, I really should have replied "One day"! Well, it almost always ended up that they would finish that task a whole lot faster than they estimated. Sometimes, they probably spent more time arguing about how we're not allocating enough time for them, than they spent getting the task done. 

On the other hand, the artists tended to be more optimistic and quoted much shorter times than they would actually need. I wonder why that happened but in developing Matchmaker Millie, I noticed the same thing happening. We have weekly project meetings at Melbourne Central Community Kitchen Garden where we would figure out what things needed to get done and allocate times and due dates and set up our work list for the week. I would always jump in enthusiastically and say "yeah this week, I'll get all these levels done, and all those characters, and I'll make a start on the cutscenes, bla bla bla!" while Mr. Programmer Chen-Po will say "okay, I should be able to get this 1 task done". Of course by the end of the week, he's the one that's powered through his one task plus about 15 others while I'm still stuck on half a character. :p 


It's kind of weird, I always thought that by working 2 jobs, I would be really, really drained and tired but it really wasn't so. Don't get me wrong, there were times when I did miss the TV and couch sessions that we used to have for many hours every night. But other than that, I actually found working on both Hooby Groovy and Games for Gummie to be perfectly complementary to each other. The daily switch of pace where I could turn my brain off from working on fulfilling orders to creating game assets and vice versa was actually really refreshing and kept me creatively and mentally stimulated. Much as I love Hooby Groovy, I think its healthy to be able to turn the switch off and focus on other things too.

Well, my work on Matchmaker Millie is essentially done now that the game is about to launch on the App Store next week on the 23rd Jan! I've only had time to play it in short snippets through development, so I'm really excited to finally have time to sit down and play it properly as a gamer and not have to think "okay, I need to do this-and-that to so-and-so level". 

In the meantime, check out our latest trailer! It's been updated to include split-screen multiplayer footage, which is super fun to play though I always lose!! 


Be sure to follow Games for Gummie on Facebook and Twitter for more Matchmaker Millie updates! :)

Posted in Creations, Games, Musings

2012 Recap and 2013 Resolutions

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Ee-Leng Chang | 0 Comments

Happy New Year! It's been a fairly insane couple of months with Christmas 2012 being the busiest Christmas ever for Hooby Groovy. But now I've had a couple of days to breathe and reflect about the year gone past and to ponder about the year to come.


2012 Resolution Review

Resolution #1: Less time slacking off, more time blogging

I would say I've half-fulfilled this resolution. On the one hand, I wanted to blog more and share a little more about my own personal life and I think I've achieved that and I plan on continuing this trend. Besides new products or shop updates, I've shared Daily Sketches (now renamed Random Doodles), business and productivity musings, tiny bits and pieces from my own life outside of Hooby Groovy and of course, I've shared my journeys through creating various bespoke creations through the year. 

On the other hand, I had also planned on sharing non-me stuff too. Such as innovative creations, inspiring designs or interesting ideas that I've read about. Things that make me go "Wow" and get my brain cogs moving. While I've kept up with discovering new things and never ceased to be amazed by the genius of the world around me, I haven't shared it at all on my blog. :( 

Resolution #2: Expand my Hooby Groovy Collection

I'm really happy with this one! When I made that resolution, I was on the brink of releasing my Ninja Collection. The Ninja Collection is doing really well and has grown to include pink and red ninjas in addition to the original black ninjas. I've also launched my Zombie Collection, which is also starting to gain momentum and is doing pretty well too! And the Animal Collection has also seen a few new additions to the family such as the Bear and the Raccoon

Resolution #3: Expand my skills and keep on learning

I'd say this one is a half-fulfilled one too. On the unfulfilled side, I never did get around to having a day a week set aside to work on non-Hooby Groovy related projects. When I made this resolution, I was thinking of things like making clothes, or stationary, or other accessories. 

However, though I never did have any official project days, I did end up picking up a whole lot of new skills this year or expanding on my current skill sets. One very exciting thing for me was learning how to use Adobe Illustrator and creating vector art. I got to do this while working in collaboration with Games for Gummie on several iOS games. And of course, getting back into game development was exciting, especially since I got to go at it from a whole new perspective. 

I also spent a whole lot more time this year on doodling and I'm no great illustrator but I can definitely see an improvement in my drawing skills and am starting to see a consistent style. 

And of course, all my bespoke creations have really helped me learn new things. Every new thing that I create teaches me something new, no matter how simple or predictable I always think it will be at the start. There's always a challenge involved, whether designed-related or -manufacturing-related, and I always relish these because despite the stress, I've always learnt something new. 


2013 Resolutions

Resolution #1: New Designs, New Products

I've had various unpleasant episodes in 2012 where I've had my work plagiarized. It sucks and it hurts but I've come out of this with a very strong belief that the most important thing for me to do is to focus on coming up with new designs and new products. Time is a very precious resource and I know for sure that my time is best spent on learning, innovating and creating, rather than trying to fight a losing battle against piracy and plagiarism. 

I'm hoping to expand my collection beyond gadget cases this year. I'd love to foray into the world of stationary and printed products (I'm a stationary addict). It's going to be difficult but I'm looking forward to the journey!

Resolution #2: Grow the Hooby Groovy brand

Somewhat related to Resolution #1, but rather than products and designs, I also want to focus more on what the Hooby Groovy brand is and how to tell its story. Again, related to my unpleasant plagiarism experiences, I've had to deal with a lot of criticism and suggestions on how to run my business. I will blog in more detail about this some other time but what I've come out of it is the realisation of what Hooby Groovy is NOT. And so this year, I really want to establish what my brand is. 

Resolution #3: Better time management 

I've learnt in these past couple of crazy months that I am able to work under pressure. When push comes to shove, I can handle it pretty well. But I've also learnt that I definitely don't want to always work under pressure. I do have the tendency to procrastinate and then cram and that's definitely a habit I need to break out of. So I need to focus on managing my time better so I can achieve that fine balance of having that sense of urgency that is needed for me to break out of procrastination mode but at the same time, not be under pressure 24/7 because while I strive on it in short bursts, I will most likely have some kind of mental break down after a while. 


And of course, I have personal non-Hooby Groovy resolutions too, some of which I'll share:

Read more books

I realised that I did not read one single printed book in 2012. I did read the Song of Ice and Fire ebooks, but I still love the feel of printed books. Also I have a huge stack of books that I've bought over the past few years that have just been sitting there waiting for me to pick them up. 

Play more games

I used to play a whole lot more video games a few years ago. Around 3 years ago, I start getting very disenchanted with video games, mainly because of working in the industry and seeing it all from other end. So I hadn't really touched any games since then, besides the odd casual iOS game here and there, mainly farming games or hidden objects games because those satisfy my OCD tendencies. But lately I've been yearning to get back into playing games that will engulf me for months and immerse me into new worlds and stories. 

Focus on myself

A little selfish-sounding, but I've realised I've allowed Hooby Groovy to engulf me totally. Which is great because it is my baby! Every morning, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my Hooby Groovy emails, throughout the day I'm constantly thinking about Hooby Groovy related things, what I need to do, what I need to work on, etc. I'm probably the most boring person to hang out with because unless you want to talk about Hooby Groovy stuff, I probably don't really have much to say. 

So, a balance is needed and I need to make time to take care of myself. A little bit of that is covered in the 2 resolutions above. And of course, being healthy and losing weight and eating right. On the exercise and fitness side of things, I'd like to focus more on my martial arts training and I'd like to get injured a lot less. I've had a fair few injuries in 2012 and I'm really starting to realise that my body is healing itself a lot slower these days. So time to be careful and stop doing stupid things that will just put me out of action for months.


Wow, this is a long post. In summary, Happy New Year and thanks for sharing my 2012 journey with me! Here's to more Hooby Groovy adventures and an exciting year filled with new things to learn and new discoveries to make! :D

Posted in Musings

My Two Year Hooby Groovy Journey!

Posted on September 11, 2012 by Ee-Leng Chang | 0 Comments

On September 9th 2010, I made my first ever Hooby Groovy sale. And thus Hooby Groovy was born. Two years on, so many things have happened and it's been a wonderful journey!

How it started:

When I left my last job as Project Coordinator at Bluetongue Entertainment, I didn't have an inkling of what I wanted to do with myself. At the time, I really needed some time off and away. I always figured that after a while, I would try to find another job, most likely in the same field in the same industry. But for that moment, I was content with just doing nothing. But as I think I've always secretly known, doing nothing is never that much fun when there's really nothing to do. So luckily after a couple of months, a good friend swooped in and asked if I wanted to accompany her in a short course to learn how to use a sewing machine. It was a no-brainer because I had been trying to make myself an iPad case but having no machine nor knowledge of how to use one, I resorted to hand sewing it. A billion years later, I had myself my first Mario case:


After that, I thought that a) making stuff is pretty fun and b) hand-sewing sucks. So next stop, sewing machine class!

With my new-found skills, I started out in a frenzy of making stuff. After the apartment started filling up with iPad cases, I figured I should try to sell them because I really enjoyed making them but was never going to need so many cases. 

So I set up shop on Etsy, decided on a company name and listed my first item, an iPad case design that I I've since dropped from my collection. A couple of days later, I received an order for it!! I still remember that night very well and the hopping and jumping around that ensued. 

That very first iPad case design was based on a pattern for an iPhone case that I had purchased. It was a really good, much needed learning step in construction for me. But I wasn't satisfied with making products based on someone else's patterns. My main goal was to learn how to design and create my own products.  

The Super Mario Collection

After much experimentation and oodles of fabric getting chucked out by my failed attempts, I created my Mario Collection. I was pretty proud of my Mario Collection and with much trepidation of a newbie parent sending her children out into the world, I tentatively contacted Technabob about my collection hoping that it might draw a couple of customers. They did pick up the story and from them, Gizmodo featured my collection too and everything just sort of snowballed from there! It was a really awesomely exciting time!

And hugely scary too because I had just only figured out the pattern for the cases, I didn't have much practice making them and definitely didn't have any form of production process going on. But as orders started pouring in, it was a matter of just getting it done somehow! I had help from a few very awesome friends who rallied around and there were a fair few nights of assembly line style work going on just so I could catch up. And there was no other choice than to very, very quickly figure out my processes and tweak them to be as efficient as possible. It was a real learning on the job time! 


Changes and un-Changes

Fast-forward 2 years (I really can't believe its been 2 years!) and how much has happened!

I now have 3 Collections: The Mario Collection, The Animals of Hooby Groovy Land Collection and the Ninja Collection (Stay tuned, a new collection is just on the brink of being launched!)

My best selling design are the Pandas and I've created 238 Pandas in total, 126 Panda iPad Cases and 112 Panda iPhone Cases. All up, I've handcrafted nearly 700 products.

I've fulfilled 69 custom requests, majority are of my own designs custom made to fit different devices but a fair few have been completely new designs

I've posted orders to 36 countries around the world.

I've gone from slowly turning our apartment into a chaotic factory: 

Ms Hooby Groovy and Her Helpers

to having my own dedicated Hooby Groovy Workshop, which was always one of my big major dreams when starting Hooby Groovy: 

Hooby Groovy's new workspace!

 

I started with just one Etsy shop as my only source of distribution, but now I have products distributed via Young Republic, Shana Logic and Case On


Things that have stayed the same:

I still hand write a little note that goes with each order.

I still hand make all my products.

I'm still learning new things.

I believe my design aesthetics have stayed the same too. 


The Journey

It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns throughout. There's been highs and lows. On one end of the spectrum, I've gone from sleepless nights stressing over how to fulfill so many orders, to the other end of the spectrum of sleepless nights over how to fulfill my bill payments. I've had days of working such long hours that I've literally just started crying but since I know I have so much work to do, I just end up a crazy person sobbing out loud at my sewing machine because I can't afford to take the time out to have a good relaxing cry. Luckily, I've had much practice in working insane crunch hours from my previous job.

I've probably wasted way too much shower water while trying to solve problems (my best, most productive thinking space), some have been design challenges such as the Pinkie Pie Kindle Case, some are construction challenges like the folio-style Panda iPad Case, most have been business and marketing challenges. I've had experiences of my designs getting plagiarised but fortunately I was able to get it resolved quickly and quietly without having to draw it out into a long stressful battle. 

Along the way, I've had the support of so many people near and far. My bestest support is my husband who has been super supportive and proud of me! From helping me with ironing, cutting and pinning when I really needed extra help to helping me make decisions every step of the way. And every chance he gets he'll bring up Hooby Groovy and proudly tell everyone around us about it. :) 

My family and friends have been super supportive too, from helping out with physical labour to sharing out word of Hooby Groovy and kudos to my parents who so far have never nagged me to go get a 'proper job' ;)! And I wouldn't be able to have my awesome workshop if not for my mother-in-law letting me take over her backyard granny flat!

And then there's all the new people that I've met through Hooby Groovy. I've got my tiny network of friendly and helpful suppliers and distributors, it's been great working and communicating with them! And my customers! Literally without my customers, Hooby Groovy would be just a puff of nothing. Over the years, I've had a chance to communicate and work with so many awesome customers to get them products that they want. I have quite a few customers that have returned to order from me over and over to get more cases for themselves or as gifts for loved ones. It's such an honour that they've enjoyed my products enough to want to get more and to share them with their friends and family! 

 

So Where To Now?

When I started Hooby Groovy, I gave myself 2 years to try it out, to see if it had potential to be an actual business. The plan was that if after 2 years it was going nowhere and I had run out of steam and no longer wanted to do it, I would move on and get a 'real job'. But no matter what, I would keep it up for at least 2 years to really give it a fair chance. 

Well its 2 years now and I can happily say I've definitely not run out of steam and I really do think I could do this forever! I feel very much like a parent and Hooby Groovy is my baby (not that I know what being a parent feels like...). I feel extremely invested and motivated to making it grow up to be the best that it can be. 

I think the time has come for me to really think about what I want Hooby Groovy to be and to be more focused. While I love the way everything is going right now, in order to realistically keep Hooby Groovy running forever, I definitely need it to grow. 

So what can you expect for the future? Well, in the very near future, you'll definitely see Hooby Groovy products for new Apple gadgets (when they are announced).  And there's going to be a new Collection launching very soon too just in time for Halloween...oooh wonder what the theme will be... ;). 

Past those 2 very definite announcements, you're going to see more new designs and new products. I intend to grow Hooby Groovy into a brand known for its fun, cute and distinctive designs. The future is very exciting! A little daunting but infinitely exciting! I'm ready to put in the hard slog needed, keep on learning and continue my Hooby Groovy journey! And I hope that you'll follow me along for the ride! :)

Posted in Musings

What's in the Name?

Posted on August 16, 2012 by eelengchang | 0 Comments

Back in August 2010 when the thought of my own brand occurred to me, I had that big dilemma of what to call it. I'm not good with naming things, most of my soft toys are named with a formula of Name = Colour + Animal. To change it up, sometimes I call a soft toy a bunny when its actually a bear! Like Blue Bunny, which is actually a bear that's blue! Whooooaaaa...

 

Anyway, I knew I definitely wanted a name that would mean something to me as well as reflect the spirit of my designs. So I chose Hooby Groovy! So where did the name come from? Short answer: The Hoobs! If you haven't heard of The Hoobs, it's an excellent children's show by The Jim Henson Company, creator of The Muppets. Basically, The Hoobs are a race of (I guess) aliens from Hoobland that have journeyed to Earth to learn about Earth. There are 3 main characters, Iver, Groove and Tula who travel around on the Hoob Mobile (powered by the singing of the Motorettes) to learn about the world. Hubba-Hubba is the Hoob back on Hoobland that they contact every episode to report on what they learn and Roma is another Hoob that travels the world separately to learn things too. 

One of the best parts of The Hoobs is their little phrases, for example Hooble-tooble-doo to mean "Bye" and Hoobacious for fantastic. And Hoobygalooby for Wow! When I first heard that, I misheard it as Hooby Groovy and that word just really stayed with me!

So why choose it for my brand? Well for one thing, its such a fun word that I really liked! A more practical reason was that I already had an email account with that name so I figured I could use that email for the brand. More importantly, I think Hooby Groovy just really encompasses what I want my brand and business and life to be about. Just hearing the word conjures up feelings of fun and laid-backness and wonderment to me.

 

Most of all, it was the philosophy behind The Hoobs that really spoke to me, and that's all about learning! Discovering new things and learning about the world, I really like that! One of my favourite things to do is just think about something, anything and just go read up about it on Wikipedia. For example, I recently learnt that hedgehogs are somewhat immune to snake venom. There are so many fascinating things around us in the world and I firmly believe that it's never a waste of time to learn about anything, whatever it is and no matter how irrelevant it is to my own life. 

My Hooby Groovy journey has definitely been about learning. Right from the start, from how to sew to how to design, how to set up shop to how to set up a website. As I tackle new designs, new ideas, new requests, I learn more and more about so many things. 

Running a small business, especially one as tiny as Hooby Groovy is really tough! There's always way more work than time and never any certainty that what I'm doing is the right thing or whether my business will just fall flat on its face at any second. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush and routine of trying not to drown in this big, big world of brands and products. So, every now and then, it's very refreshing to take a step back and remember all the awesome things about running a small business and a lot of that has to do with the multitude of things I've learnt in the past 2 years! So no matter the setbacks or failures or low points I've had on this journey, there was and still is always something new to learn. And I'm glad that I have the name Hooby Groovy to remind me of that! :)

Posted in Inspiration, Musings

Lessons Learnt: Game Masters Forum

Posted on July 12, 2012 by eelengchang | 0 Comments

 

A couple of weeks ago, I spent 2 days attending presentations and panel discussions at the Game Masters Forum, a developer-focused event that was organised as part of the Game Masters Exhibition at ACMI Melbourne. It was really interesting and insightful but as I said, very game development focused, so I want to try and analyse what I learnt and see how I can apply it to Hooby Groovy. 

These series of talks were definitely more focused on independent game development than most other game development talks I've been to in the past. Well, in the same way, Hooby Groovy is very much 'indie'. I make the products I want to make, no one else is invested in Hooby Groovy or can dictate the way I should go. The freedom is wonderful of course, but at the same time, it's a really hard slog too! Often, I feel like my products are very much like the little games you find on the App Store, a needle in the haystack or a plankton in the ocean, waiting for the big whales to swallow me up and poo me out. There's just so much things in the world these days! So many choices and everything easy to access. Great for customers but as a seller, there's always that drowning feeling. How do I get my products noticed in the great, great never-ending sea of stuff? 

One of the talks in the Forum discussed the importance of being inventive. I really enjoyed that talk because it was just so right and made so much sense. As an indie, I am in the perfect place to be inventive. I have no one else telling me that I can't, because there is no one else but me involved in the risk of being inventive, no cautious investors or shareholders that just want a return on their investments.

And at the same time, because I have no one else, I can't afford not to be inventive to stand out. All projects and businesses are about balancing available resources, namely time, money and labour. That's one thing an indie has in common with the big players, the only difference is the quantity of said resources. If I were to compare myself to say Crumpler for example (because I really like Crumpler products and would love to grow my company to be something like that), they have so much more money available, which would give them the chance to hire more labour, which would make the most efficient use of their time, which would then result in more money being fed back into the system. 

Unfortunately, I don't have much money, labour is me and me alone, and time is 24 hours a day minus sleeping and eating. Immediately, I've lost the battle. Fortunately, I have the option to be inventive, there's no limit to that besides my own brain. And if I can invent something good enough, that will help set me apart from all the other companies that will always beat me hands down in all other areas like manufacturing or marketing. 

So, the big question now is how to be inventive. I haven't quite solved that one yet. But just the realisation that I really should venture out more and try to do more crazy stuff has galvanised me into thinking about my products and how I can expand on it and that I shouldn't be scared to just try!

Another discussion at the Forum dealt with the old question of Creativity vs Commerce. Does the business side of game development limit or even harm the creative side? Well, bringing that whole issue of money vs art back to Hooby Groovy, the answer is quite easily No. It all goes back to being that struggling little plankton trying hard to get noticed. And while it sounds quite harsh, this little plankton does need the whole money thing in order to pay the bills just to keep staying in the ocean with the other planktons. And I do honestly believe that being creative is the only way to go if I want to evolve from a plankton to a shrimp. 

Looking back at my body of work with Hooby Groovy, I honestly don't think I've been very inventive or creative. And a lot of that is to do experience and knowledge and confidence. As time goes on, I will gain more experience, especially if I do actively try to be more brave in my creations.

As for knowledge and confidence, that's a bit harder. I grew up in a culture that was very focused on academic achievements and pathways. People around me entered universities, studied a certain field, graduated to work in that field. So I think that deep down in a very deeply planted seed, I think that unless I've studied something properly through the traditional avenues, I don't really know it at all. Of course, I tell myself that's not the case and as I've often experienced myself, the best way to learn something is to do it! But there's always that self-doubt. I've never studied design or art or sewing (besides a short 4 session course on how to use a sewing machine), I have no prior background in any of these fields and before Hooby Groovy, never did anything remotely like this professionally. And that's where a lot of the self doubt in my creativity comes from. There's a whole lot of "Am I doing it right??" questions going around all the time. When I make something, I think, "yeah I like it, I think it looks good", but then I also think "but what if its not really good because I don't know how to know its good". 

Well, besides going back to school to study design or art, there's not much else I can do about it at this point in time besides keep on chugging and just keep learning! And mostly challenging myself to take on new things and try out new ideas. Which is why I really enjoy getting custom requests! Each is a new lesson learnt and a bit more to add to my tiny pile of experience and knowledge. Each is an emotional journey of self discovery. I get happy, I get sad, I get downright depressed, I get frustrated, I get excited but most importantly I get it done and I get to learn something. 

Most of my custom requests have been creating cases based on popular characters, which is a real honour because I really love these characters and look up to their designers and to get the chance to really study the design that goes into these characters that make up what they are is really insightful. I dream that one day, I can achieve something close to what these designers have achieved and somewhere in the world, someone can look at my product and say "Oh that's a Hooby Groovy!"

This has been a very personal reflection kind of blog post, sorry that its not more exciting but thank you for letting me use you to sort out the thoughts in my  head! :) Here's a sneak peek of the my drafting process of the custom order that I'm currently working on :) Stay tuned to see the finished product!

 

Posted in Inspiration, Musings

Does Efficiency Really Lead to Productivity?

Posted on June 15, 2012 by eelengchang | 0 Comments

Since starting up Hooby Groovy, I've become increasingly interested in and aware of methods of increasing my productivity. Running my own business where I am both the boss and the minion and a day is still just 24 hours means that I want to be making sure every little bit of time is used to its full potential. Which is a really tough feat for a natural-born procrastinator like myself. I know and accept the fact that I will procrastinate and I will get side-tracked so during the times when I am working, it had better be making up for all the times I get distracted. 

A huge chunk of my time is taken up by manufacturing my products. Over the past couple of years, I've developed a steady process for each and if not for the fact that sharp objects like sewing machine needles, rotary cutters and scissors come into play, I could probably do it in my sleep. On a completely different note, lately I've been obsessed with thinking what if I get my finger caught in my sewing machine needle?? to the point where when I'm really tired and not quite in a right state of mind, I'm almost tempted to see if its possible! I've always chickened out of it though...

 

Anyway...so, manufacturing processes! If I were to use a Panda iPhone Case as an example, this cute cuddly little thing is actually made up of 18 different components that need to be assembled together, in other words there are 18 linear steps in assembling one case. If I had to make 20 Panda iPhone Cases, the most efficient way to do it is to do Step 1 twenty times before moving onto Step 2. So 20 closure tabs, then 20 pockets, then 20 so and so forth. By doing 20 of the same tasks in a row, I eliminate the additional times spent on what I call the in-between stuff. Like changing thread colours, or measuring up a certain part, or marking a location on where to sew a particular piece. These in-between tasks may only cost me mere seconds or at the most a minute or two, but across 18 steps and 20 cases, it all adds up to quite a bit of time. 

So, that is the brute force most efficient way of working that will technically save the most time. 

Now, I said technically and therein lies the problem. You see, I've tried doing it this way before, many times actually because in my brain I know that this is the most efficient, time-saving way to manufacture my cases. However, time and time again I end up actually wasting more time and more crucially, it makes me want to tear my eyeballs out with a spoon! 

Step 1 always goes very well. I make good time, I'm happy and smiling and singing along to my iPod at the top of my lungs. Step 2 goes...alright. I still get it done in a reasonable time. Step 3, after about 3 or 4 times of doing Step 3, I start thinking about whether I have a new email, or that I never answered my sister's message about some random thing, or that I haven't checked on the couple of farming games that I'm currently playing. So I do all those things, then I get back to Step 3, a few minutes later I start feeling like a cup of tea so I take a break. Then I get back to Step 3, well I look at the pieces that I have to sew and then I start thinking of doing other things...well you get the idea. Somehow I do power through it and get it done but not without a whole lot of wasted time. 

But then after that, there's Step 4 to get through! Just thinking of Step 4 is way too overwhelming, because after Step 4 comes Step 5! And the end of the road where I get 20 cute Panda iPhone Cases is looking extremely far and tiny and unreachable and it's mocking me! You can't catch me, nyeh nyeh nyeh! And that mental state right there brings the whole production line crashing down. Because I look back on all those hours that I've spent going from Step 1 - 4 and I see a whole lot of miscellaneous bit and pieces of a Panda but no Panda! And I know there's not going to be a Panda for a long, long, loooong time! Which is really demoralising because I've worked so hard and so long and it feels like there's nothing to show for it and I've gotten nowhere at all. 

Of course the logical part of my brain consoles me by telling me that I've done a whole heap and that I have saved so much time and yadda yadda. But the other parts of my brain are too busy weeping to hear any of that. 

And so there it is. The most efficient way of manufacturing my cases is the bestest, most time-saving way...if I was a robot or a factory machine. Unfortunately, I'm not and my brain with all its emotions and mental stamina gets in the way. 

 

 

So, I've found that the most productive way to make these cases are one at a time. Because that requires just enough time that I can concentrate and focus and power through it before I'm tired and need a mental break. But most importantly, I can see that I've completed something and the next thing doesn't seem to daunting after all. 

Posted in Musings

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