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Archive | April, 2010

Provo Craft Acquired By BAML Capital Partners

Sorenson Capital, which purchased a majority stake in Provo Craft in 2005, has now sold a majority stake in the company to BAML Capital Partners. Sorenson Capital will retain a minority stake in the company, along with Provo Craft management.

BAML Capital Partners is the private equity group of Bank of America, that was created by the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch equity groups. As part of the acquisition, Provo Craft has entered into new credit arrangements that it says will facilitate its continued growth.

BAML Managing Director Brian Gorczynski focused on Provo Craft’s technology products as the real value of the acquisition:

We are excited to acquire this interest in Provo Craft. Jim Thornton and his outstanding management team have a commendable track record of developing successful technology products.

Other contents of the press statement about the acquisition also seemed to stress that the company sees itself as a technology company, focusing on the history of the Cricut line and the debut of the Cricut Cake. The announcement also indicated that Provo Craft “expects to announce additional product innovations later this year.”

Provo Craft had revenues of over $250 million in 2009. According to a 2009 article in Utah Business magazine, the company’s revenue has doubled (and profits gone up 500%) under the tenure of current CEO Jim Thornton. That article also emphasized that the company’s future lies in technology, saying Thornton “visualizes the company becoming a half-billion dollar enterprise within the next five years as it becomes one of the top technology brands.”

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6

Paperclipping Roundtable #14: Done Is Better Than Perfect

Episode #14 of Paperclipping Roundtable is now available for listening! Noell, Izzy and I were joined by designer Stephanie Howell and listener Heather Lord for this go-round of the table.

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And for this week’s show notes…

Referenced On The Show:

Picks of the Week:

1

Provo Craft Issues Statement on Cricut Cake Controversy

The Cricut Cake machine that was unveiled at CHA Winter 2010 amid much buzz will be launched on HSN on April 14th. Unfortunately for Provo Craft, as that date approaches the machine’s origin has become surrounded in controversy.

The controversy has been fueled by custom cake designer Linda McClure of Vidalia, Louisiana, who has posted a lengthy statement on her website claiming to be the real inventor of the Cricut Cake machine’s concept. Her daughter has been posting on several prominent scrapbook message boards on her mother’s behalf, drawing attention to and defending her mother’s claims.

McClure filed an application on March 24th, 2010 for a patent related to the process used to cut gum paste with the Cricut machine. Whether the patent will be granted is yet to be determined in a lengthy and complex process. Approval is by no means certain.

After McClure’s allegations worked message boards into a frenzy over a few days, Provo Craft finally felt compelled to do something that is rare for them: issue a response to negative publicity. Among other things, Provo Craft claims they started development of the Cake machine in 2007:

In 2009, Linda McClure approached Provo Craft about a method of cutting gum paste, a method with which Provo Craft was already familiar and whose documented development dates as far back as 2007. We reached an informal agreement that provided for Ms. McClure to be compensated at fair market value for her time and consulting services as we prepared to launch Cricut Cake in 2010. She accepted, performed certain activities, and was compensated accordingly.

More recently, Provo Craft and Ms. McClure discussed the possibility of extending a formal consulting agreement. We believe that some of her requests, including both financial and non-financial terms, were unrealistic. Further, Linda was adamant that her requests were non-negotiable. As a result we chose not to enter a long term agreement with her, and unfortunately our relationship deteriorated.

Provo Craft’s initial research and development for Cricut Cake began in 2007. Since then, Provo Craft has conducted extensive market research and consulted with industry leaders, and both professional and aspiring cake decorators. We’re grateful for the valuable input and the enthusiastic support of these individuals, and we look forward to our continued relationship with them. We also hope you share our excitement for the fun possibilities that Cricut Cake will bring to creative kitchens everywhere.

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Review: Pink Paislee Artisan Elements

Not only is this new product something unique, but they are acid free and a lot of fun to play with, too. Pink Paislee has come out with a new product called Artisan Elements, and in its debut they released three different items: sets of swirls, frames, and an alphabet.

product images above from www.pinkpaislee.com

I don’t know what the material actually is. Somehow it’s not only soft and flexible, but also acid free. So many scrapbook embellishments these days do not state they are acid free, so to see Pink Paislee come out with something so unique that is archivally safe (and fairly flat) makes this scrapbooker super happy.

The possibilities, it would seem, are bound only by the imagination. I’ve tried inking, stamping, misting, painting, glittering, gluing, using marker pens, gold leafing pen, and even debossing the material with the GCD ChipArt tool I reviewed a few weeks ago. Everything I have tried to make stick to this material works.

Above is a piece I experimented on heavily. Some mediums take a while to dry, but everything I’ve tried does indeed dry and stick to the surface.

In the example above I used Smooch inks (that have a liquid eyeliner type consistency and applicator) to paint the design. It took a few minutes, but it was fun to do – I felt like a kid with a coloring book.

While coloring in detail was fun, I find myself leaning towards just picking one color to decorate the pieces. Below I’ve used Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist in Timeless Lilac to color the flourish. Rather than spritzing, I dipped a small paintbrush into the Glimmer Mist and let the mist soak into the cracks of the design creating deeper color in the lines, and a lighter color along the raised portion. This is both quick and simple.

While acrylic paints do work, I found that thinning them out into more of a glaze-like consistency helped me keep the intricate detail showing up better on the more detailed pieces.

Spraying or spritzing the pieces to give a more uneven look is a lot of fun too, as seen below with a frame.

The material is very soft and easy to cut if desired. Below you can see pieces from the alphabet set. The Q is spritzed, while the question mark has been drawn on with a metallic marker.

I have only two complaints about this product. First, I wish the alphabet had more than one of each letter. Second, I wish there were a lot more designs to choose from. I’d love to see more fonts, styles, and individual elements such as buttons, flowers, leaves, butterflies, and other shapes that would be both useful and fun to use. It is my hope that we’re going to see a lot more of this special material in the future from Pink Paislee.

Supplies: Pink Paislee patterned papers, Artisan Elements, and journaling paper; Making Memories small letter and number stickers; American Crafts Thickers; Tattered Angels Glimmer Mists; Tim Holtz Distress Tool.

On this page, I used pieces from each of the sheets of Artisan Elements. The brackets shown above were spritzed with Strawberry Shortcake Chalkboard Mist, then lightly glazed with Mermaid Glimmer Glam by Tattered Angels.

I cut this frame in half to make more of a bracket to hold the date for my layout.

Finally, I used a paintbrush and paints taken to a glaze-like consistency to quickly decorate this large corner accent.

I feel like I’m just scratching the surface with this new material, and knowing that it’s flexible I am currently pondering the possibilities for altered arts and other off-the-page crafting.

Pink Paislee Artisan Elements are in stores now, and available through online stores such as Scrapbook.com and Two Peas In A Bucket.

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1

Stampin’ Up! Overhauls Color Palette

Stampin’ Up! announced Tuesday that the company is overhauling their core color palette with the release of the 2010-2011 catalog this summer and making major changes to their product offerings.

The changes will go into effect on July 1st and will create a new 40 color core color palette at Stampin’ Up!. It will include five completely new colors: Marina Mist, Cajun Crazy, Cherry Cobbler, Early Espresso and Daffodil Delight.  Ten previous In Colors will be made part of the new core color palette: Melon Mambo, Rich Razzleberry, Pacific Point, Tangerine Tango, River Rock, Soft Suede, Riding Hood Red, Pink Pirouette, Baja Breeze, and Wild Wasabi.

* new colors

Neutral colors will now be part of the core palette instead of a separate palette. Sahara Sand, Very Vanilla, Whisper White, Basic Gray, and Basic Black from the former neutrals palette will be part of the new core palette. The existing color Kraft will be renamed Crumb Cake for the new palette. The rest of the 25 core palette colors will be drawn from the existing Stampin Up core palette: Regal Rose, Tempting Turquoise, Old Olive, Pumpkin Pie, Real Red, Chocolate Chip, Elegant Eggplant, Night of Navy, Not Quite Navy, Always Artichoke, Garden Green, More Mustard, Bravo Burgundy, Pretty In Pink, Rose Red, Perfect Plum, Bashful Blue, Certainly Celery, and So Saffron.

Palette colors will be reorganized into four color collections, called Brights, Neutrals, Regals and Subtles. In addition to the 40 core colors, each year there will be five new In Colors, which will have a life of two years.

The overhaul will also mean a large group of colors will be retiring. Thirty colors will be retiring in all, unavailable after the end of June 2010:

Kits of new colors for items such as card stock, markers, classic ink pads, pastels and watercolor crayons will be available for sale to help Stampin’ Up! fans fill in their color collections and transition to the new core colors.

The new color offerings will be smaller than previously, 50 in all when the second set of rotating In Colors is added next year. By comparison, the 2009-2010 catalog offers 62 colors. Stampin’ Up! explained the reasons for the reduction:

We retired colors based on sales history and focus group feedback. Members of our focus groups indicated that they had some colors they didn’t use; for instance, they purchased a whole family of ink pads and then rarely used some of the colors in that family. In addition, sales on many colors were very low, and the cost to support those colors was not worth the return. We were careful to choose the most popular and up-to-date colors.

Another reason we reduced the number of colors is that we wanted our collections to be less overwhelming to new demonstrators and customers—we wanted it to be easier for new stampers to get started. And with fewer colors in each collection, demonstrators and customers can save money and use that money to purchase more of what they love—stamps, accessories, and other items.

Stampin’ Up! is making other moves that seem influenced by the current economy as well. Besides reducing the selection of offered colors, Stampin’ Up! is also almost completely eliminating a long-offered product. Full sized Craft Stampin’ Pads will be available after July 1st only in Basic Black, Whisper White, and Very Vanilla. The Craft Stampin’ Spots mini ink pads will continue to be offered for the full core color palette, along with the ink refills for them.

The pigment ink Craft Stampin’ pads, at $7.50, have been the more expensive of the two ink options offered by Stampin’ Up!. Their dye ink Classic Stampin’ pads are priced at $5.95. A 12 count color collection set Classic Stampin’ Spots sells for $22.50, while the Craft Stampin’ Spots sell for $25.95. (These Stampin’ Spot collection prices will likely change in the new catalog since the new collections will have 10 instead of 12 colors in them.)

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6

Provo Craft & Make The Cut: The Technology Background

As noted earlier today on Scrapbook Update, Provo Craft has filed a lawsuit against software company Make The Cut over an issue that is somewhat new to the scrapbook industry: digital copyright security protection.

One issue seems to be of particular interest to Provo Craft in the lawsuit. Make The Cut recently provided an update that included a new feature they described as “experimental”: cartridge backup. Although Make The Cut indicates that their software doesn’t create a full reproduction of cartridge date, even partial data copies was apparently enough to warrant major attention from Provo Craft’s lawyers. This may explain why Provo Craft has chosen to take action against Make The Cut while seeming to leave alone Craft Edge, the maker of Sure Cuts A Lot software which also allows cutting from a computer with Cricut machines. The Sure Cuts A Lot software doesn’t access Cricut Design Studio or allow the use/copying of cartridge images.

Creating backups via cracked security protection has long been a fought-over issue in the technology world. The issue has been fought about regarding DVD’s, gaming cartridges, and other types of media. Media companies have pretty much always held that it violates their copyrights to create back-ups of the media they sell, or to transfer those media to other formats for use (such as ripping DVD’s to store and watch on your computer). But software, which doesn’t always work but still exists, to crack the copyright protection on DVD’s continues to be distributed via the internet. An exception to this are CD’s, which iTunes even has a built-in feature for importing, because there are usually no copy protections installed on them. (One notable exception: Sony BMG got in a lot of trouble several years back for installing computer-damaging root kits on some of their CDs that caused problems for users who inserted those discs into their Windows computers. They ended up as the subject of a recall, several class action lawsuits and state & federal sanctions.)

The creation and maintenance of closed operating platforms (where a company uses copyright protections and proprietary technology on equipment or systems to control how purchasers may use them) is also a highly controversial issue to many. Apple is (in)famous for doing this with the iPhone to control what applications users may run on their phone. The phone’s lockdown has resulted in a practice called “jailbreaking” where some users hack the phone so that they can install applications other than the officially approved ones sold in the iTunes App Store. The result has been a running battle between Apple and the jailbreakers, where the iPhone is repeatedly secured with a new operating system update, and then hacked again by jailbreakers. The same battle has already started over Apple’s brand new iPad device. (This differs from devices like a personal computer, which is designed as an open system designed to have any compatible software you can get your hands on – or even write yourself – installed on it.)

Provo Craft has in essence created a closed operating system for the Cricut with the secure proprietary software that runs the machines. Only their cartridges can be used in the machines, and only their Design Studio software or Gypsy can be used to access the machines for cutting. Companies like Apple say that a closed system provides a better user experience by eliminating outside errors being brought into a system. Many users agree and like the natural simplicity of a closed system.

So why does Make The Cut (and iPhone jailbreaking) exist? Because some users feel that once they buy something they should have the right to do with it whatever they want. A certain segment of consumers sees the purchase of an item as absolute. It’s a black-and-white philosophy: “I own it, so I should be able to do what I want with it.” These users chafe under limitations of a closed system.

These issues may be new to the scrapbook industry, but they certainly aren’t new to technology. As technology invades the scrapbook industry more, we will see more and more of them.

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www.DickBlick.com