Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Featuring - Leah Duncan

I originally discovered the work of Leah Duncan when I was researching packaging otpions for my own range of tea towels and I found this lovely image above. Well, I couldn't just leave it there, I had to go and check it out and I got a pleasant surprise when I found Leah's website and Etsy shop.

So what do I like about Leahs' work? I love her colour palette, her design, packaging, illustrations and her use of line (and also I love the way she photographs her tea towels!). I think she has a good range of products in her shop, ranging from her lovely cotton tea towels, cushion covers and prints and her subject latter is right up my street!

Leah lives in  in Austin, TX with her husband, two cats,  pit mix Oslo, and some foster puppies, her vegetable garden, and her favorite pajama pants. She describes herself as an illustrator, surface pattern, and home goods designer. If you want to find a bit more out about Leah you can check out her website and blog or you could follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How I manage my paperwork...

I got a tweet this week asking about how creative business types such as ourselves manage their paperwork... Well it got me thinking about my processes and how they have improved over the last year, things that work and things that don't. So I thought I'd share a post about how I do my paperwork, I'm not saying the way I do things is right, but it might help you out if you are struggling to find a way out of your huge pile of papers.

As you all know, when it comes to running your own creative business, you have to be a 'jack-of-all-trades' and when you are just starting out, you probably can't afford to outsource a lot of tasks such as paperwork, accounts etc and you end up doing it yourself. For me this was a huge learning curve, there was so much to think about and at times I didn't know where to start. Luckily, I started very small with only one or two stockists so i was able to play about with my systems to see how they worked.


I created a file for my stockists with one plastic sleeve per stockist. In each sleeve I placed contact details and list of all work left with stockist or a copy of the invoices as well as contracts etc. When work sells I make a note on the invoice and place a sticker on the front saying 'awaiting payment'. When sales are paid for I then write 'paid' on the invoice.


Now, this can be a mine-field if you aren't organised, so one huge tip from me is to 'be very organised'. You don't want to leave it all to the end of the year and then have to tackle a box of receipts!! I have a box-file for all receipts and also a small A5 ledger book. I use one double page spread per month and I label the left page 'Money Out' and the right page 'Money In' and then list what I spend (placing the receipts into the box file and stapling each months receipts together). I also keep all of my business account statements in the box too. I'm sure there are loads of programs you can use and do this on the computer but, call me old-fashioned, I much prefer to write it all down.


I keep all of my prints in digital files on my computer but when it comes to running limited editions of prints you need to keep track of where you are up to. I still haven't mastered this 100% and I'm not completely happy with my system but it works so will have to do for now. I keep a list for each print, with the name and size and colour at the top of the page and then numerically record each edition of the print and where they have gone. SOR can make this a bit tricky as some prints do come back to you unsold so you have to be super-duper organised and record this.

I hope this wasn't too boring and was useful to you. As I said, this isn't the definitive guide to how to do your paperwork, but it might give you an idea of what works for me. There are probably loads better ways to do it, and if you have a system that works well for you, please do let us know

Monday, 27 February 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Helen Russell

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now

My name is Helen Russell and I launched my work under the name Mercury Arts in April 2012. I did a BA(Hons) in Three Dimensional Design at Manchester Metropolitan University from which I graduated in 2001. At that point I found the whole putting your heart and soul in front of an audience a bit overwhelming and so pursued my other love of promoting artists by training with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. From there I did ten years in the arts and tourism sectors and loved every minute of it! But in 2010 I decided I was ready to put my creative work to the test and began the process of setting up Mercury Arts. I launched my work at BCTF and from there I haven’t looked back. Although, the work I’ll be taking this year is very different from the ranges I put on show in 2011!

 How long have you been using sketchbooks?

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sketchbooks. When I was young I always had nice sketchbooks and notebooks that I drew in and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. When I was studying I felt forced to use them and as a result it wasn’t a very happy pastime for me. Now I’ve reverted back to my childhood mindset, partly I think because I’m quite a doodly worker and these days I’ve no one there to tell me drawing in biro isn’t appropriate!

How often do you sketch?

I have sketchbooks all over the place including next to the bed. Since I’ve started working for myself ideas pop into my head at the unlikeliest times and having sketchbooks around means I can jot these ideas down quickly before they get lost in the mush of my head. I also do a lot of ‘sketching’ on actual clay rather than on paper. I document this in my sketchbooks so combined I probably sketch everyday.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?

I love it, it’s like a ritual! Nothing better than opening a beautiful new sketchbook with good quality paper and a wonderful cover. I’m a bit of a sucker for papery things

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
I am massively inspired by the natural world but I don’t sit and draw what I see very often. My sketchbooks are really used for getting the thoughts in my head documented before my brain leaps on to the next scheme

How would you describe your creative process?

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
A lot of my early sketchbooks are filled with things other people wanted me to draw or processes I was expected to follow. The great thing about my position now is I can fill new ones with my thoughts however random they may be. I’m not sure my sketchbooks are ever going to be full of beautiful, careful work, it’s not really how I use them, but if they work as visual notebooks I’ll be happy

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I do love biro! Usually combined with watercolour

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?

In terms of work content I think my most recent is my favourite because it’s the one that best reflects me and my personality.  In terms of type of sketchbook I’m partial to handmade paper and anything with an embroidered cover. Think I’m a bit of a magpie

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?

I love my penguin page. It reminds me of long happy hours spent sketching at Edinburgh Zoo which is one of my favourite places

I'd like to say a big thank you to Helen for showing us inside her sketchbooks. If you want to see more of her work you can visit her website here. From there you can find links to her Shop, Blog, Facebook page and you can have a browse through her work.. it's really diverse and there is plenty to see. Enjoy!!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Craft and Design Magazine

As part of my preparation for BCTF I decided to get some coverage in the relevant press. An opportunity arose which has enabled me to get some of my designs into Craft and Design Magazine this month so if you want to have a look on page 17 there I am at the top of the page!! It's very exciting to see my work in a real live magazine!!

The gods seem to be conspiring against me today, every thing seems to be going wrong, from getting my printer to work to not being able to do what I wanted to get done on my list!! Maybe I should just call it a day and go and walk the dog!!

How have you enjoyed the two features this week on 'featuring' and 'sketchbook peeks'? Is there anything else you'd like to see on here? I'm open to requests, just leave me a comment and I'll see what I can do!!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Featuring - Sarah Marymee

Once again, the Etsy taste test comes up trumps!!

These images above are of the work of the talented Sarah Marymee, a ceramic artist from Nebraska. I stumbled upon Sarah's work after taking the Etsy Taste Test, and I discovered a shop full of ceramics in the most beautiful colours and I want them all! I contacted Sarah to see if she would like to be featured on the blog and she told me a little about herself...

'As a ceramic artist, I love that the pottery created can serve as both a piece of art and a functional part of everyday life. I often start planning my pieces in my sketchbook, although I have had a lot of happy accidents during the creating process. Most of my pots are thrown on the wheel and then surface detail is added through carving, stamping and slip trailing. The final step of the process is choosing a glaze that fits well with the shape and design of the piece.'

Sarah also works in a number of other areas, including printmaking, painting, and stained glass - she says she works wherever the inspiration strikes! She and I share the same love of ideas that cross over from one area of art to the next and Sarah says she thinks this helps to keep her work fresh and evolving.

If you want to have a browse in Sarah's shop on Etsy just click here and you'll be taken right there.... go on have a peek, you night just see something you need!!!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Inspiring quotes....

Whilst browsing through my copy of Elle Deco last week I found an amazingly inspiring quote from Mother Theresa, all about giving the best you have in life. It really made me think, and I thought I'd try to find it so I can share it with you.... Instead I found this one, and I like it just as much...

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
Mother Teresa

Monday, 20 February 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Farah Qureshi

This week we are departing from the traditional and looking at how other designers and makers from different disciplines use sketchbooks as part of their practice. Fascinating stuff as we meet jewellery designer Farah Qureshi.... If you want to find out abit more about Farah you can visit her blog here, follow her on Facebook here, and tweet her here.... 

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now
I have always enjoyed painting and drawing since I was very young and then decided to go to art college to learn more about the different aspects of art.  Jewellery appealed to me as I love to work on a small intricate scale and working in three dimensions opened up a new world.  I now design and make jewellery professionally and sell my work through events such as London Jewellery Week and also sell to shops across the United Kingdom.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
I have been using sketchbooks since I was on a foundation course at Chelsea School of Art, in my late teens.

How often do you sketch?
It varies, when I am sourcing new ideas the sketchbook becomes an important tool, noting down my inspiration and developing ideas through to creating designs.  When I am making, creating the jewellery becomes the focus, as it is quite exciting realising the designs.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
Starting a new sketchbook is always exiting as it opens the possibility to create new work and new possibilities. 

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
The inspiration for my sketchbook pages comes from many sources, for example I have been traveling to Australia in recent years and this has inspired new jewellery designs.  Visiting botanical gardens is always inspiring and most recently I have been developing a micro collection which has been inspired by a painting.

How would you describe your creative process?
I would describe my creative process as being a cycle.  Where I start from the kernel of an idea and go through the various stages to create a collection.  Then I start the process again. 

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
My sketchbooks have evolved from experimenting with different media to focusing on developing ideas for jewellery.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I always pick up a pencil when I start to work however I do also like to work with watercolours.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
My favourite sketchbooks are the ones that I did at art college when it was a time of discovery, trying new ways of drawing and using different media

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
In my most recent sketchbooks I would chose a page which has a coloured drawing as it has encouraged me to develop a new range of work incorporating colour and my jewellery has taken a new direction, which is always a good thing

Friday, 17 February 2012

Writing a Sale or Return Agreement

I haven't had a lot of time for making new work lately with all of the preparation for the trade fair. That has led me to think of some new articles I can write which might help other Newcomers who are in the same position as me.

One of the things I had on my list, which I tackled yesterday was 'Writing a Sale or Return (SOR) agreement'. Now, I've been meaning to do this for a while now and after my mentoring session last month with Rachael Chambers from Ferrers Gallery I was advised that this would be a good idea I thought that now seemed like as good a time as any. After all this is something I need to take with me to be able give to any new stockists  and it sets out clearly what is expected from both parties, the artist and the gallery.

Some galleries are willing to purchase work from makers on a wholesale basis but in current economic climes galleries may be more reluctant to buy in work from newcomers to the market or makers who may not be well known to them, and may suggest taking work on a 'Sale or Return' basis. This gives them a chance to see how work sells in their particular gallery at less risk to the gallery, and is a great chance for emerging designers to showcase their work to a larger audience. Some of my inital SOR galleries now buy my work directly and even though SOR may have its ups and downs, my experience has generally been really positive and has led to really good mutually-benficial relationships with my stockists. I'd definitely recommend it but I think there are several things you need to consider...

My SOR agreement covers the following points:

1. A list of work which the agreement relates to, clearly dated to avoid confusion. Prices should be stated and you should make sure that RRP or artist prices are differentiated. You don't want to lose out on profit by giving them the wrong price.

2. It mentions that I retain copyright and reproduction rights of all work, and that the gallery will not permit reproduction/copying/photography without my prior written permission.

3. I state that I will be responsible for shipping of all goods to the gallery.

4. All work is insured by the gallery whilst the work is in their possession and that any breakages, damage, loss will be reimbursed to me at trade price.

5. How you wish to be paid and when and how/when you would like to be notified of sales. I have requested to be informed at the end of each month of any sales and to be paid by the end of the following month.

6. All works remain my property until sold, this is to avoid any claims by creditors if this unfortunate situation should arise.

7. The gallery will be responsible for returning work to artist unless previously arranged.

I intend to supply SOR agreements to galleries who would like to stock my work on a SOR basis so they can sign and return to me before I despatch the work. This avoids any misunderstanding. Most galleries will also supply their terms and conditions, so it is a good idea to read these thoroughly before signing and returning to them.

I hope this has been useful. If anyone would like a copy of my agreement please email me, I don't mind sharing it, as long as you understand that I cannot be held responisble for any shortfalls/omissions etc.... If I've missed anything I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Christmas trees in Feb??

I have a few themes I need to explore to plump out my portfolio, one of them is Christmas... I know a little bit late but well in time for next Christmas. I have been wanting to draw a Christmas tree for a while now and just don't seem to have had time do it. So Saturday morning in front of the fire I started my topiary style Christmas tree and I'm liking how it is turning out....

What new work are you all working on at the moment? I'd be interested to have a look so drop me a link in the comments, it would be good to have a peep...

So another week is nearly over, and I'm another week closer to BCTF (eek!). The countdown is now at 8 weeks and time is flying by. I'm happy with my progress but still feel as though I have lots to do. I'm thinking about using a 'second skin' for the walls which will mean I can paint and prepare all of the walls at home, transport them all there in my caravan and arrange where every thing is going to go before I even get there. I can even put my hooks and shelves up and assemble them when I get there. I'd love to know if anyone has tried this method before and how well it worked.

Ok, more later, I'm making a conscious effort this week to be more focussed and have less distractions from all things computer based (emails, twitter, facebook, blog) so I'm off to tackle my list of jobs and I'll be back later...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Featuring - Michelle Brusegaard

Yes, the poppies originally drew me to the work of Michelle Brusegaard, an artist from Grand Forks in North Dakota USA. I found her work on Etsy a few weeks ago and when I went to explore her shop and website I found that she doesn't just work with paper. Oh no, she has a wide range of good in her store from screen-printed scarves, ear-rings, notelets, calling cards, wedding stationery, calendars.... That shop is just full to the brim of her stunning work.

Michelle got her BFA in Painting and photography from the University of North Dakota in 2005 and moved to Minneapolis. She used to work at an art supply store and a coworker told her about the gocco, so she knew she had to get one. This led to cards, then she started printing stuff on fabric, then making screen-printed business cards. She also loves painting, photography, screen printing, batik and sometimes a little mixed media. She has shown her work at an impressive list of Craft Fairs, such as Renegade, and also has exhibited at many galleries. You can see her biography and find out a bit more about her on her website here. This just goes to show how diverse you can make your work. I often worry that I will only be recognised for my black and white bird work and feel I need to keep doing that because it is popular and sells well, but I do really want to branch out into other media, so i'm taking a leaf from Michelle's book and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Michelle also has a blog which you can check out here and her Etsy shop is well worth a visit, the link to that is here.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

getting out somewhere different...

Blimey it has been a bit chilly in the UK recently hasn't it? This cold weather is just making me want to build a little nest from fleecey blankets and cushions and hibernate on my sofa with a good book until Spring arrives!!

So getting out of the house on Saturday to do something a bit different was like a breath of fresh air. We had a drive over into Leicestershire to the Vale of Belvoir (and a gorgeous little pub we know called the Red Lion at Stathern, lunch courtesy of lovely husband!!) and took Mac our border collie for a nice walk along the Nottinghamshire Canal before we went to the pub to sit in front of the roaring fire!

After lunch we had a drive over to Belvoir Castle and it was truly BEAUTIFUL!! It was a bright crisp and cold day and the scenery took your breath away. It was lovely to visit somewhere different and see new sights, not that far from the well-trodden footpaths we usually frequent on a weekend. And it was great to have my trusty camera with me to record the views and bring lots of my inspiration home....

Monday, 13 February 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Dionne Swift

My name is Dionne Swift, I’m a Textile Artist based in Yorkshire UK.  I paint, dye, print and stitch cloth to reflect my vision and thoughts of the world around me. Inspired by both my Grans, I have had a love for fabrics for as long as I can remember. I graduated from Goldsmiths College over 20 years ago with a BA Hons Embroidery and soon an MA Textiles from UCE [University of Central England). Even before I graduated I started teaching and over the years I have had numerous roles in Universities and Colleges.  Now I run workshops from my Holmfirth studio and exhibit nationally – sharing my skills where ever I can.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?

Working in a sketch book is a ‘habit’ that is created in college, so when I was on Foundation Art & Design. [25 years]  Then they were a devise for collecting and holding images in one place.

How often do you sketch or use your sketchbook?
Sketch?  Well I might use a sketch book every day, but it can be notes, thoughts and I might review a book, in that sense I’m still using it.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
I know that a lot of people are daunted by that first white page glaring at them.  I’m not.  My sketch books are a tool to help develop or sort out a problem or body of work, they help me visually articulate my thoughts.  It’s not important to me that they ‘look good’.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
When I’m in the thick of a new project, I can lay wake in the night going over & over ideas – the only hope I have for sleep is to scrawl these ideas down, so I might keep my book by the bed and try a decipher the midnight ranting the next day.
Recently I have been drawing self portraits, left handed and continuous line pieces purely for the fun of the process and I’m hoping to expand my ideas.
Sometimes local landscapes are my starting point – I love the translucency of the sky playing off the solid land mass.

How would you describe your creative process?
I like to create lots and then review, select and evaluate, looking for common denominators within the work and personal themes I can develop.  Sometimes it’s comforting to keep the personal thoughts in a closed book!

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
During my Masters I began using ring binders as ‘sketch books’ – it was great because I could move pages and change the way the ‘story’ within the book was read.  I also started to make more maquettes to help work through ideas I see these as sketch book ideas too – only they are stored in a box rather than a book form.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I love any form of print: onto cloth or paper.  There’s an excitement when you wait to see what has transferred.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
Tricky that changes depending on what I’m working on.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
There’s something that I’m intuitively drawn too in the pale blue and in the balance of the composition.  Bizarrely I can’t say that I took this anywhere – sometime you don’t need to, you just enjoy that it’s right.

Well, I'd like to say a big thank you to Dionne for taking part in the Sketchbook Peeks. If you want to find out more about her award-winning work you can check out her website here, her blog here, and you can also follow her on facebook here too.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

sue's saturday kitchen

I'm really enjoying spending weekends at home. Last year we got to the point we had arranged so many things to do it seemed we were hardly ever at home, so now I'm making the most of cosy weekends with not a lot to do. I've started cooking on Saturdays and have stocked up our freezer with lots of goodies. A few weeks ago I got very enthusiastic with Jamie and made chicken casserole, pork and cider casserole, beef and ale and some spicy parsnip soup. The it was chilli con carne by the bucket load.. Last week it was lamb curry and veggie curry and this week I'm trying a sweet lamb tagine courtesy of Nigella. The for tea we are having Lorraine Pascale's Autumn Salad, with pears and gorgonzola.

See you when I'm two dress sizes bigger!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Designing a trade fair stand (isn't as easy as you might think!!)

Yesterday I started to plan out the space for my trade fair stand at BCTF, Harrogate. Now I'm not the best person to imagine something in 3-D when I'm stood looking at an empty space so in my great wisdom I decided to try to make things a little bit easier and marked out the space on the floor.... important lesson learned....don't stick very sticky tape to the floor of your studio. It works really well for helping dimensionally-challenged folks such as me to 'see' the space... but it was bugger to peel off!!

Anyway, so now I'm looking at the actual floor plan of my stand, in real time, stuck (very much) to my studio floor, and I realise that 2m x1m isn't really very big at all. How on earth am I going to make this space eye-catching and amazing? I'm going to have to be very clever in my use of space and go for the 'less is more' approach. I want my stand to be perfect, eye-catching, visually-stunning, I want to stand out from the crowd and I want everyone to come in and browse.... I've set my own bar quite high here, am I setting myself up for disappointment?

After seeking the advice of a few respected people 'in the know' with all things trade-fair-y I've decided to try and sketch out the space in my sketchbook and have come up with a few different layouts.... but I have to admit to you I'm struggling... I keep coming back to the same idea, which, if I'm honest with you, is a bit safe and boring... Think I'm going to have to call on my friends at The Design Engine again for their input.

As you can probably tell I do find it a bit frustrating when I don' know what I'm doing so I think I need to do a bit more research into all things technical and come up with a plan. Watch this space... I'm off onto tinternet to find out more about how to do this properly. I need to get my message across to my customers, make it plain and simple to understand what I do, my products need to be well-lit, uncluttered and well-presented... ok, off I go, I'll be back later...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

New logo

So, it's Thursday once again and I'm immersing myself in my work after a busy few days in my day job. I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of my new logo, courtesy of The Design Engine, a very talented design company up in Hexham, Northumberland. They have helped me out with fine-tuning my company logo and branding and also with my preparation for BCTF in April, all very important if you want to get it just right!

So what are you all up to this week? I'm hoping to receive my promotional badges today (will post a picture when they arrive), so I'm another step closer to Harrogate. I also have a few blogs to catch up on, as well as writing some new blog posts for my Sketchbook Peeks series I'm running here on this blog. I'd love to know if there is anything else you would like to see here? I'll be digging out some of my creative business books this week to have a look through so maybe I'll share some of my favourites with you tomorrow....

For now though, lots of work to do, so I'll keep this post short and sweet and catch up with you later...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Featuring - Suzanne Millius

This week I am 'Featuring' Suzanne Millius of Studio3ten in the USA. Again, I found her work purely by chance, looking in a treasury of someone else I was admiring at the time. I got in touch with Suzanne to see if she would like to be featured and asked her to tell us a little bit about herself. This is what she said....

'Hello...My name is Suzanne Millius. I live in the Midwest about 3 hours west of Chicago - in a charming city called, Dubuque. Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River, Dubuque is filled with lots of art, music along with very cold winters, hot summers and beautiful crisp falls. Simply put, I am an artist - living, breathing in the world around me - and creating pieces that are aspects of my soul.

I have loved drawing; painting and writing since birth...I come from a lovely family of artists and musicians. My mother is an artist - My father a musician ....(a wonderful environment for a little Pisces to
flourish!) Growing up, someone was either drawing/painting at the kitchen table - and music was ALWAYS in the background. Art is the most amazing outlet for is literally saturated in my soul.

My work appeals to a world-wide audience. I’d like to think, I have a little something for everyone. Since listing my work online through Etsy, I have sold prints all over the world including: Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Ireland, Italy, France and Spain, just to name a few. I also have art prints and cards in local
boutiques and wineries around Dubuque as well as other cities throughout the United States.

I create unique pieces filled with inspiration that everyone can love, relate to and hopefully appreciate. My work is hugely personal for me – I draw what I feel. So when someone truly connects with one of my pieces, it’s the most amazing magical feeling ever!

I continually draw inspiration from almost everything around me; the people I meet, fashion, color, the weather, good conversation, the memories we make, life experiences and of course, music. When not creating art, you might find me cooking a fantastic vegetarian meal, running (my form of meditation), playing chess, watching live music and most importantly spending time with my loving, supportive family.'

Ah, this one just makes me want to buy it and give one to all of my three sisters!! I love the words and sentiments that Suzanne uses in her work, they give it such broad appeal. I'd agree with her on that count, i think she has something for everyone.

So if you would like to see more of Suzanne's work, and there is a shop packed full of her prints, calendars (although I do believe they have all sold out) and cards you can check out her shop here.

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