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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Content Warning: Arachnids.
Editor’s note: this article was made possible with support from Shutterfly.

I keep animals. I’ve got the standard lineup of dogs, chickens, and rabbits, but the…rabbit hole…goes a whole lot deeper than that. Thanks to my husband’s influence and (overly generous?!) encouragement, I’ve now got geckos, spiders, mice, isopods, and even a tenrec.

I’ve also had a hamster, a chameleon, tortoises, and several mantises. Sound like a zoo to you? We’re nowhere near as impressive as even the smallest of real zoos, but our exotic empire is undoubtedly growing.

As can be imagined, keeping track of and identifying all these critters becomes more important the more of them there are. After digging in, I landed with Shutterfly for my project, which was to create zoo-style “placards” to keep things lookin’ fresh and professional.

And boy, things turned out even better than I had imagined. Hold on to your butts.

The Idea

Ceramic tile with rubbery ducky
Taryn Ziegler

I was all in on this project before I even started. I decided to commission classical sketches of each of my animal species, adding the scientific name to the bottom for additional identification (and cool factor). Like old-school science books, you know? Only the classiest for this zoo.

I sent photos of my real animals to an artist, and they were able to transform them into the sketches you see in the pictures of the final products. It was important to get high-quality versions of everything so that I could resize as needed when I decided how to present them, and they were able to deliver that as well.

Then began my journey for the best “labels”–should they be stickers? Note cards? How big? What materials? Just how fancy could we make these things?! (Spoiler: the answer is…very.)

The Order

Ceramic tile jumping spider
Taryn Ziegler

Once unleashed on the Shutterfly site, it became clear to me that my options were basically endless. I considered doing small canvas prints, of which there were a million different designs to choose from. Equally in the running were some of the more unusual materials for prints, like metal, wood, and acrylic

And then…then I saw it. The answer to my search. What I saw…was the ceramic tile. A modest name for a product that oozed class and perfection at first glance. A timeless white ceramic paired with a black easel stand? Yes, please.

I chose the “Upload Your Own Design” variant since I had my own images prepped, and I selected the smaller size (6”x6”) since I would need…quite a few. Uploading all of the art was easy, and I made sure that the sizes were correct for the product so that the image quality wasn’t compromised.

I was also able to share the products with other people pre-purchase via a link provided by Shutterfly, just to intensify the suspense. And after making the purchase final, I had a short wait of under two weeks. Then…THEY ARRIVED.

The Results

Ceramic tile with mouse
Taryn Ziegler

Each ceramic tile arrived individually with its own packaging, and none of them were damaged along the way. Quality of printing is top-notch, with no visible issues of pixelation or stretching. The ceramic itself is smooth and with just enough weight to feel high quality without being too heavy.

The backs of the ceramic tiles have a sheet of velvety material, and the legs of the easels have protective caps–nice touches to keep both them and their surroundings free of scrapes and dings. The tiles sit just under the scrollwork tops of the easels, leaving them to peek out over the artwork like two curious eyes.

These tiles are big. I knew they were 6”x6”, but I guess I didn’t really know that they were 6”x6”. That’s not a bad thing. They look and feel like robust, polished presentations that could hold their own alongside a real zoo exhibit.

I had ordered tiles for all my species, but unfortunately my one hamster passed away from old age before they arrived. Her tile came nonetheless, of course. And now? Now that tile is a memorial. It’s a remembrance of one of my beloved animals, and it’ll help remind me of the precious time I had with her.

The Conclusion

Ceramic tile gecko
Taryn Ziegler

The Shutterfly tiles were precisely what I needed to take my absurd critter collection to a more respectable level. Best of all, when I purchased the tiles, I saved a bundle due to a sale they had going on. Normally $39.98 each, the tiles cost just $26.99 per.

That’s not unusual for Shutterfly. They’re often running sitewide sales with deals like getting up to 50% off everything, free shipping with no minimums, and so on. And the wide range of customizable products means you can scratch basically whatever itch you’ve got whenever you’ve got it.

You might not be shopping for “zoo” placards like me (or maybe you are?!), but that won’t stop you from finding something that you’re going to want to buy. I’m definitely coming back for more tiles when the time comes, and I’ll also eventually be browsing for customizable gifts for family members with more traditional pursuits, like…having human children.

Your life, your photos. Make ‘em count.


Taryn Ziegler

Taryn Ziegler is a localization editor working in the greater Seattle area. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell and harbors a deep love for all things related to literature and indie gaming.