Kawaii Shark ita bag pin layout template tutorial December 31, 2019 00:00

From Jess: 

I've been meaning to do this for months, so I thought it would be fitting to end the year on a productive note!

I want to share with you my preferred method for creating ita bag inserts to use as pin layouts in the Kawaii Shark ita bag -- in this case, I use large sheets of stiffened felt (which you can buy on Amazon), and I trace the pink "pinsert" that ships with all Kawaii Shark ita bags as my guide to creating an accurate shape.

But what if, like me, you're really picky about your pin layout and you don't want any of your enamel trinkets being blocked by the display window's edges or the shark's cute teeth? You can take it a step further by choosing a light-colored sheet of stiffened felt (one that you don't intend to ever use as a layout; I decided on this rather gross flesh tone) and cutting out where the teeth and edges of the window are. That way, you can lay that template on top of your felt inserts to have a decent idea of the best spots to place your pins.

Please enjoy this poorly color-balanced series of photos explaining how to make your own template:  

Did that make sense? Did you find it helpful? Do you now have intricately-planned pin layouts that you want to show off? Please share them with us by using the hashtag #kawaiisharkitabag, and/or tagging @rescuesirens/@pinsofsteele on Instagram!

See you in 2020, buoys and gills!

Kawaii Shark ita bags are LIVE! December 14, 2019 00:00

From Jess: 

Because everything always takes longer than expected (even when you think you've added enough extra wiggle room!), my mass order of Kawaii Shark ita bags arrived here on my doorstep less than two weeks ago. But! One reason they took longer that I predicted was that I went back and made some last-minute changes to get the design juuust right, and now I couldn't be happier with them. I may never carry another bag again.  =)

The last of the pre-ordered bags is on its way to its new home, which means... the remainder of the bags are now available for sale online!

If you prefer to use Etsy, I've reactivated the Kawaii Shark bag listing there; however, I'm trying to move away from Etsy and their rising fees, so I also have the bags listed for sale on (along with my "Rescue Sirens" enamel pins and our ghost net bracelets). In addition to the full-price standard bags, Pins of Steele also offers discounted "minor flawed" bags if you don't mind a scratch here or a speck there and you'd like to save a few bucks!

While the Kawaii Shark ita bag was originally designed to be the perfect complement to your "Rescue Sirens" pins, it's ideal for your shark- and ocean-themed pins, too, and its neutral gray-and-white color scheme means it also goes with any outfit or collection of pins. The bag ships with a pink "pinsert" to use to display your pins, but my favorite material for creating pin layouts is actually stiffened felt, particularly this 12"x14" variety pack:

You simply use your existing pinsert as a template, trace it onto the felt, cut it out, and you have a new place to put your pins! I haven't counted lately, but I think I have about fifteen or twenty different pin layouts that I've made, and there's enough room in the bag's display compartment to stack more than one layout (as long as you use rubber pin backs that won't scratch the pins behind them!) so you can swap 'em out on the go.

What's next? I already have three of the five Miami Beach Rescue Sirens available in enamel pin form -- Nim, Kelby, and Echo -- with Pippa and Maris currently in the proofing process, so it won't be too long before you can create a layout for your Kawaii Shark with all five of our girls. (Actually, if you have the chibi Rescue Sirens pins from a few years ago, you can already do that!) I'd also love to create pins based on each mermaid's companion animal, starting with Nim's zebra shark friend, Coral.

The past couple of years have been challenging when it comes to "Rescue Sirens." Chris, my husband and writing partner, has been busy directing "The Call of the Wild" (you know, that silly day job!), so I've found myself mired in writer's block with no one to throw me a rope. Meanwhile, our much-hyped pitch meeting with an entertainment production company earlier this year went straight to Nowheresville.

I won't pretend that wasn't pretty crushing. I thought I'd gotten used to this sort of disappointment -- the three other entertainment companies we've engaged with over the years, while all very nice, have each had their own quirks, and we never moved forward with any of them -- but this latest company didn't even respond to us for eighty-nine days. That prompted me to finally pull the plug and ask for our pitch book back because, seriously, that's no way to treat anyone. Who wants to work with someone who can't be asked to respond after three months, even if it's only to say "Thanks, but no thanks"? That was never going to be a good partnership, even if they'd wanted to do something with "Rescue Sirens." When someone shows you who they are, believe them, etc., etc. But even though I know we dodged a bullet, it still sucks.

However, I have hope for 2020. "The Call of the Wild" (finally!) comes out in theaters on February 21st, which means I'll have my husband back, and we're both eager to return to our own creative endeavors. I can't make any promises, but I'm crossing my fingers that we can get that second "Rescue Sirens" novel out there at last. (It's outlined! I know exactly where to go! It's just the actual writing part that's tripping me up. Ugh.) I'm chomping at the bit to introduce new characters and new aspects of the "Rescue Sirens" world that I've been keeping under wraps for waaayy too long, and we have some amazing concept art to share with you guys, too.

In the meantime, creating pins and such gives me a job that I can do all on my own, that's really satisfying and (compared to writing a book!) has a super fast turnaround. It also helps that pins pay for themselves very quickly and actually bring in money instead of digging the pit deeper, haha. Look for more "Rescue Sirens" goodies in the future!

Small Business Saturday November 30, 2019 08:44

From Jess: 

Today is Small Business Saturday, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and -- like almost literally every other small business on the planet -- we're running a sale to celebrate.

Everything on my pin-related website,, is 15% off until 11:59 PM (California time) on Monday, December 2nd with the checkout code BFCM15OFF. All three of our "Rescue Sirens" pins, adapted from illustrations by Kellee Riley, are in stock and ready to order! (Pippa and Maris will be joining them sometime in early 2020, after the proofing process.)

In other merchandise news, I'll have an update on the Kawaii Shark ita bag VERY soon. Until then, we wish you and yours a merry and bright holiday season!

Kawaii Shark ita bags are almost finished! October 31, 2019 18:03

From Jess: 

After missing out on anything Halloween-related at all in 2018 due to being in the middle of principle photography on "The Call of the Wild," Chris and I tried to make up for it this year! I brought my Katrina Van Tassel costume back to the after-hours Halloween party at Disneyland Resort when Chris and I attended earlier this month, we visited Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights together for the first time (and I hadn't been to HHN Hollywood in the better part of a decade, although I worked as a "scareactor" at Universal in Orlando for seven years back when I lived in Florida), and I even released some special Halloween-themed pins based on Chris's cute witch drawings. Oh! And I wrote a guest blog on Chris's website comparing the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" segment of Disney's "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" to "Beauty and the Beast."

All the while, my Kawaii Shark ita bags were being assembled, and they're nearly done now! Here are a few progress shots for you:

Once the bags are completed, they'll ship to me, which will probably take about a month -- maybe longer if they get stuck in Customs (cross your fingers that that doesn't happen). After I receive them, I'll mail them to everyone who placed a pre-order, and then I'll make the remainder of the bags available on my pin-related website, (Nothing listed there is active just yet.) I might also re-list the bags on the "Rescue Sirens" Etsy shop, but I'm trying to move away from Etsy and their fees if possible. Whatever the case may be, I hope to have the Kawaii Shark ita bags in-hand and up for sale just in time for the holidays!

In the meantime, I also plan to do a "Rescue Sirens" pin shop drop next month, so our adorable enamel pins illustrated by Kellee Riley and produced by yours truly will be available online for a limited time.

I hope your October has been fun, safe, and delightfully spooky, and I'll see you in November!

Kawaii Shark Ita Bag Update/What's With All the Pins? September 30, 2019 23:42

From Jess: 

My Kawaii Shark ita bag, designed as a companion piece for our “Rescue Sirens” enamel pins, is in mass production! Hooray! While we wait for the bags to finish being manufactured and shipped, I wanted to give you an up-close look at the bag and its functionality.

Let the video clips commence! (The first and third posts contain multiple clips.)



I want to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who pre-ordered this bag and made it possible to produce it. I'm really proud of it, and I hope you'll all love it as much as I do! If you missed out on the pre-order, I'll be making the bags available once they're in-hand and everyone who participated in the pre-sale has received theirs.

Now, on to a related question: Jess, what's with all the pins? I thought you wrote mermaid books.

I do write mermaid books! I've also been spending most of this year assembling a pitch book for an animated series, coming up with episode ideas, guiding the creation of additional concept art, and meeting with companies. But finding the right home for "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" isn't an easy task, and we're still searching. I'd be lying if I didn't say this was frustrating and disappointing.

And that's one reason that I've been producing enamel pins as a side project these past nine months. They're fun, easy, and fast! When you've been working on something for years, it's nice to be able to finish a project; it's the difference between running a sprint and a marathon. It's really rewarding to see a concept through to completion.

My husband and co-author Chris has been working on his current film, "Call of the Wild," for the past couple of years, and it's all but consumed our lives. We're both really looking forward to getting back to "Rescue Sirens"; we miss writing together, and we miss expanding the world of our lifeguard mermaids. But in the meantime, I want to keeping creating little bits of treasure, like the mermaid pins that I've been making, to bring Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa, and Maris to life in new ways until we can finish the second novel.

But I understand that not everyone is into pin collecting or ita bags! That's why I've made an Instagram account solely for all things pin and pin-adjacent: @pinsofsteele. That's where I'll be posting most of my pin announcements, as well as future updates on the Kawaii Shark bag.