Wild Advent: Seasons Greetings


Just to be clear from the jump – I didn’t host Wild Advent and was only a contributor (one of twelve artists)! So this post is mostly about my design iterations and the experience of being a contributor without further responsibilities (long story short: wow, so easy, haha). The hosts of Wild Advent were Alstro Arts and Cloverpuff, who recruited all the other artists, paid all the upfront production costs, gave us feedback on our designs, ran the Kickstarter campaign and reward fulfilment, and even contributed designs of their own plus additional supporting design work.

I designed two pins for Wild Advent! The “Wisteria Deer” and “Coral-back Turtle, as well as pinch-hitting an extra sticker design right at the end.

One of the main tenets of the project was that we would be making “hybrid enamel” pin designs, being a mix of soft enamel, hard enamel and various special effects enamels. For most of the contributing artists this was a first! In fact, Alstro is the first artist I had encountered doing a lot of this kind of hybridised enamel and I was pretty fascinated – formerly I thought you had to pick between one or the other. Apparently not!

Initially, Wild Advent was slated to be one big campaign with the end goal being 24 pin designs (plus an ornament for day 25) to create a big Advent Calendar in time for the 2024 holiday season. In support of that goal, half the designs were “secret”, completely hidden from backers so that they could enjoy the surprise of opening their Advent Calendars. A bit like a blind box series, which have become incredibly popular over the last few years. Unfortunately this concept absolutely tanked with potential backers, who overwhelmingly wanted to see the designs before they backed. That’s how pin campaigns normally go, so there’s a certain amount of expectation, I guess. Alas, the Advent Calendar concept just wasn’t enough of a draw on its own. Some folks loved it and I’m glad the Wild Advent artists tried something different but it was not to be.

So, the first campaign was cancelled and reworked into four smaller more standard campaigns: one for each Season. Our designs were already split across Seasonal themes with each theme having a distinct palette to create a cohesive set anyway. My deer pin was a Spring design (pinks, teals and light greens) and the turtle for Summer (darker green, reds and blues). The first of the mini campaigns, Wild Advent: Spring Awakening was quickly relaunched in June, with the other campaigns following every couple months after that until the whole set was funded. It was a long process but in the end it kinda worked out because manufacturing so many pins at once would have been pretty frantic.

Sketch drafts for the deer pin

I initially pitched a couple of different options for my Spring deer. A red deer + wisteria and a shika deer + sakura. Once we had a bunch of sketches like this, we did a round of feedback from the other artists (via anonymous form) to choose between concepts and make suggestions.

Wisteria Deer Draft 2
Pre-production mock up made by Alstro

The wisteria deer was the clear favourite and tbh I liked the swooshy shape of it best. If I’d stuck with the sakura deer I definitely would have pushed the drama of the leaping pose more. Wisteria needed very little edits other than refining the colours and details. I think my favourite part in the final product is all the little leaf textures under the transparent and soft enamel.

The metal mold and enamel fill guide sent to the manufacturer. Providing something like this helps to cut down on mistakes, especially if a design is complicated.
First sample from manufacturer – we ended up simplifying the purples and making the brown screenprint darker/clearer

Vectoring these pins and setting up the manufacturing guides was a bit of a slog after the art part went so smoothly! At the time I think this was my most complex pin design due to a lot of little fiddly fill areas and of course having to keep track of all the different types of enamel (soft/transparent/hard) and two colours of screenprint.

Campaign photo courtesy of Alstro Arts

The final result came out lovely though! I even managed to bring back the Sakura deer in the end as well when we needed to fill out a blank spot on the sticker sheets that were part of the campaign rewards. So I did get to push that pose a bit more after all. 🙂

This art got to be a 3 inch vinyl sticker and a 1-inch sticker on a sheet with other designs

I also designed a second pin for the Summer section!

Early sketches for a turtle or tortoise themed pin

In contrast to the deer, the turtle went through a lot more revision. Here’s my very first sketches. They’re a lot more rudimentary than the final product, as you can see. That’s ok though! We call it a sketch for a reason. The deer being hardly changed from start to finish was a freak occurrence haha. I found posing a turtle or tortoise to be a bit tricky – there’s only so much you can do with those stubby legs and flippers really. I think the cactus tortoise grabbing a fruit off its own shell has a fun sense of humour to it but ultimately the coral turtle idea had more room for colour and drama. 🙂

Draft 2 – big difference!

One round of feedback later and a lot of coral photography research and my next draft for the Coral-back Turtle pin was looking much better! I gave up a little on realistic turtle colours (they are NOT bright green haha) and instead went for what was going to look pretty as a shiny pin. Art imitates life except when it really doesn’t at all. 😉 Overall, once I had a better idea what I wanted I was able to get everything more cohesive and do some fun stuff with texture for the corals.

This all took a long long time to vector out. But vectors are best so that the manufacturing designer can grab whatever they need out of the file without issue.

Naturally the guide for this one is even more complicated, with a lot more big areas of recessed metal patterns as well as cut outs for the “water droplets”. The hardest part was choosing the enamel colours though! It’s a lot of colours to get looking nice together as well as cooperating as translucent shades. As I recall, we were limited to 12 colours for budget reasons too and I definitely came up against that limit.

First sample of the turtle – we had some trouble getting that translucent blue right! As you can see it is too weak here.
Final pin!
Photo from Alstro Arts.

The Coral-back turtle came out gorgeous after all that work though! Worth it. I’m especially proud of the purple mushroom coral – that ribbing is soft enamel over a metal pattern so it’s a real texture you can touch, yay!

To my great delight those water cut outs did work! I was fully expecting to be told no on those.
Photo courtesy Alstro Arts

Something Alstro and Clover did that I really appreciated was getting these sample swatches shown below made. Each set of swatches shows the “key” colours for each season (top left to bottom right: Autumn, Spring, Summer and Winter) which every artist was to make some use of to keep the sets somewhat cohesive. Being able to see in advance how these enamel colours behaved at different opacities and metal depths really cut down the amount of sampling needed overall, I think. The translucent colours really don’t behave how you expect!

As of writing, the final campaign (Winter) has come to a successful close and the Summer campaign is finishing up fulfilment. It’s been a big undertaking with a lot of attention to detail needed. Alstro and Cloverpuff have done a phenomenal job of organising everything and keeping everyone on track, as well as having the endurance to change tracks and follow through with it when plan #1 didn’t work as intended. We started this in 2022, I believe, and it’s looking to wrap up by the end of 2024, so that’s a long time to stay on target. I think that says good things about personal character.

I haven’t posted images of the other artists designs since, well, this blog is about my art and I don’t want to cause any confusion! But if you’d like to see more cool pin designs and how the campaigns all went down, here’s the links for you:

We all made some really beautiful stuff! <3 Congratulations to all involved and I hope the backers receiving their pins are blown away!!

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