Thursday, December 9, 2010

Handmade Holiday Cards

I usually make our holiday cards but this year I'm really going to enjoy sending cards made by my talented friends:


1} Pressbound

2} HeatherJeany

3} Thimblewinder

4} Zoetropa

Monday, November 29, 2010

Etsy Holiday Gift Guide - Rhode Island

In the last few years Rhode Island artisans have become some of my greatest internet friends, and because RI is not far from where I live, I sometimes get to see some of these friendly crafters in person at shows! I have my work in the all handmade shop Craftland in Providence and I do very well there. I feel like Rhode Island folks just get me. And I get them too! I highly recommend their gorgeous goods:

à la mode stuff
Seatbelt bags :: home decor :: jewelry & more. Linda makes amazing items with seatbelts, yes, seatbelts. Also industrial jewelry, switch plates and fun jewelry. I have one of her home prints and I love it!

D. S. Brennan Photography
I only know this photographer through her friendly tweets, but I love these images. They cover all my favorite topics: flora, fauna, the ocean!


HeatherJeany

Screenprinted goodies, handmade with love. What can I say about Heather? She is a fabulous person who makes utterly original work! Dell and I buy her cards and bookmarks whenever we see her. And the coffee at her shop is excellent too.

K. O'Brien Jewelry
Contemporary handcrafted jewelry. Kim is someone I met online and am very glad I got to meet in real life. She is so generous and kind, and her jewelry is gorgeous!


Kristin Crane

Books, travel journals and other fun stuff! Kristin is an amazing bookbinder. Her map-covered, hand-bound, blank journals make excellent gifts for travelers and graduates. Plus Kristin is the fun voice of Craftland on Twitter!

Parrott Design Studio
Letterpress wedding & stationery. I've met Sarah in person at shows and I just love her elegant letterpress!

Tanner Glass
FUNctional Objects for Everyday Life. Suzanne is a glassblower! How cool is that? She's also a super nice person I love interacting with online and running into at craft shows :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Etsy Holiday Gift Guide - Local

This holiday gift guide features local area (Massachusetts, New Hampshire) artisans I've gotten to know better this year. Please check out their shops for gift giving ideas! (Note: gift to self, always an excellent choice :)

Kerry Hawkins
Kerry takes pictures that capture what's interesting about a particular place at a particular moment. She often photographs a person's hands as they are making something and posts it on her blog, always makes me happy when she chooses me :)



Mimi Kirchner

Mimi's work snuck up on me. I never intended to become interested in art dolls, and I will tell you, I'm still not really. But Mimi's work just mesmerizes me. The details, the materials, the craftsmanship! Her unique take and the characters she chooses to manifest. Wow. You'll see.


Red Staggerwing
Lisa makes beautiful bags that are expertly sewn! I treasure the little card case I got from her.



Stonehouse Studio

Betsy transforms polymer clay in elegant ways. Her work is beautiful and modern.


Stray Notions
Sharon has a whimsical way with textiles I find charming.


To Boldly Fold
I'm just getting to know Melissa, can't wait to see her work in person, I love the finishing touches on her hand bound books; vintage buttons, beach stones.



Vintage by Crystal

Crystal makes charming, vintage-inspired spun cotton decorations which are at once nostalgic and modern, very sweet.


Zuguu
Jen's work is so adorable and her craftsmanship is so expert, I think I need one of her ornaments this year!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Etsy Holiday Gift Guide - Lowell

I made a list of some excellent local online shop owners I know, they either live in or have a studio in Lowell, Massachusetts. I hope you will check them out for your holiday shopping!

Brick Mill Studio
Intricate and lovely bead crochet by an expert. I have a bead crochet bracelet in my favorite colors and it is so comfortable to wear, I treasure it!



Heather Wang Jewelry
Enamel jewelry and custom pieces, this is her 2010 ornament, I have one and I love it!



The Intuitive Garden
Painstakingly-crafted, original, resin jewelry. I have a HUGE collection of Intuitive Garden earrings that I treasure and wear all the time.



Junk Culture
For the the ultimate in hip eco-giving, buy vintage! Junk Culture has an excellent eye for classy and kitschy home goods.



Lush Beads
Carefully constructed jewelry, this is from her new unisex industrial line made from upcycled computer parts, I think they look excellent!



Skiing Weaver
Handwoven Scarves, wraps, journals. My Skiing Weaver scarf gets a bazillion compliments and is so comfy!



Sweet Lydia's
I don't eat sugar so I am relying on all of you to support this super nice baker! The husband gives her smores an enthusiastic thumbs up and I think they would make any holiday party a hit.



Walk On The Moon
One of a kind & limited edition artisan jewelry, she has an eye for things that sparkle exquisitely!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Making table covers for craft shows

Recently my good friend Candace asked me to sew her some custom table covers. She bought king-sized cotton sheets, washed them and loaned me her spray bottle. I gathered my sewing machine, iron, pins, measuring tape, straight edge, cutting mat and a rotary cutter.


Some of you may know that I am not an expert sewer, but this was going to be straight lines and I knew the hardest part would be the measuring and cutting. Also the ironing! Never again will I ever try to iron anything without using a spray bottle. What a lifesaver. Candace had tried to get 50%/50% sheets so they wouldn't hold a wrinkle so steadfastly, but that kind wasn't available and time was short so we made do.


I cleared my crafting tables, moved everything to the sides of my studio and pushed the tables together to make a large working surface. I also set up one of Candace's tables to take measurements. I put a plastic drip cloth on the floor to keep the white fabric from getting dirty on the rusty metal floors.




I measured and cut and folded over and pressed and hemmed! The most exciting moment was when the thread pulled out of my machine as I was changing the needle. You see, I've been tying the new thread to the old one for years and pulling it through without learning really how to properly thread my machine. So when it pulled completely out my heart stopped for just a second. Then I got onto the trusty internet and found a threading diagram for my 20 year old sewing machine! Have I mentioned how much I love the internet?


I don't think I handled the inside corners with finesse, but at least the measurements were right!


Candace really loved the covers and her work looks smashing on them!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Should you sell your crafts?


I have been approached many times by folks who know what I do, which is make things and sell them. They make things and want to know if they should sell them too. They want my advice. What do I tell them? Well, it's a very complex question with many nuances.

I make and sell things full time, but I do not make a full time salary, so I am very lucky to have people in my life who help me to make ends meet. Without them I would have a very different lifestyle. Someday I hope to be able to make enough to be independent, but I have no idea when that time will come. People who have it more together would come up with a five year plan. That's not the kind of person I am.

I sell a little bit in lots of venues; on Etsy, in my studio and at craft shows. I also sell in consignment shops and to other shops through wholesale.


I work every minute of the day and well into the evening 7 days a week. I don't mind. I generally don't get burned out because I love what I do and the tasks are varied; item production, new product development, marketing, bookkeeping, show applications, photographing products and listing them, etc. But I am ALWAYS working. And remember, I do not make a full time salary.

So. Should you sell your well-made thing? I have no idea. Your thing might be the hot new thing, or the best version of that already hot thing, or even just another very good thing. Or your thing might not have a market at all, or a very tiny one.

My life up to starting my Etsy shop: I had about 20 years prior experience making and selling things at craft shows before the popularity and ease of internet shops existed. I worked as a production artist for other small business owners all through the 90s. In the aughts I managed two retail businesses, one of which was a fine crafts gallery.


My life now: I am computer literate. I use and enjoy social media. I can take photos of my products and Photoshop them to look enticing. I have graphic design experience. I stay aware of material, color and motif trends in the current handmade marketplace. I am always paying attention and coming up with new ideas.

I am not trying to sell the most items possible, I am not a factory. So I price my items at what I need to make for it to be worth my time, this often puts me at the high end of the market for many of the things I make. That means I sell fewer things.

Will your item sell on Etsy? I don't know. Etsy is only a venue, it's up to you to bring people to your Etsy shop. Does the thing you make have a market? Research it online. Can you invest the time and perseverance it takes to become more than a needle in a haystack on a site as enormous as Etsy? A place as vast as the internet? Since 2006 I have built an online presence that helps people feel comfortable buying from me. I update frequently enough so that people are reminded that I exist but not so much that I become an overexposed pest.

Etsy is NOT expensive. Would it hurt to try? Maybe it would hurt your feelings if it didn't work out. Would that make you so sad it would take all the joy out of making the thing you love to make? Would you be content with a sale here and there? Only a few people are going to become crafting rockstars. I've been in magazines, books, I went on national TV and though I'm certainly a rockstar to my mom and dad, I am not inundated with orders. What is your idea of success?


Though I would like to sell more than I do now, being inundated with orders is not of paramount importance to me. I want to make beautiful things well. I want to sell them to people who appreciate them. I want people to smile when they see what I made. I want my whimsies to mitigate, just for a moment, the existential angst. As long as I make enough money to keep being able to to do that, I feel successful. Would you work this hard for that goal? Would you work this hard for less?

Should you sell that thing you love to make? I don't know, why don't you try? Here is a good resource to help you get a handle on all the possibilities available to you: The Handmade Marketplace.

Pick the marketing methods that appeal to you and try them. If what you are doing doesn't work, adapt. If it turns out the business of making and selling things is not for you, don't sweat it, now you know. Maybe you just want to enjoy making things without the added pressure of selling them. If you do become inundated with orders, write and let me know, I love a success story :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sewing How-To Resources


When I ran my Stitch magazine giveaway, I asked entrants to suggest a link to a sewing tutorial website they found helpful. I really want to thank everyone for their generosity in sharing their faves! I compiled a list of these great resources below:

U-Handbag


Pattern Review


Merriment Design

Sew, Mama, Sew!

Noodleheads

Maiden Jane

Oh, Fransson!

Amy Butler

Angry Chicken

Anna Maria Horner

Now that I have had a chance to look through all these sites I am going to announce the winner of the bonus round of my giveaway: a free pincushion ring to the person who recommends the site I like the best!

The 4 sites that were the most appealing to me were:

U-Handbag


Sew, Mama, Sew!

Noodleheads

Oh, Fransson!

But the one I think I will make the most projects from is
U-Handbag
, so alamodestuff is the winner of the pincushion ring!

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address to send your pincushion ring :) Thanks again to everyone who entered and offered such useful information!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Winner of the Stitch Giveaway!


Hello! Thank you to everyone who participated in my Stitch magazine giveaway, I really appreciate your kind comments and suggestions for sewing tutorial resources.

To arrive at 18 entrants I culled out my comment, my mom's comment (sorry mom!) and a duplicate comment leaving me with this list:

1. Sonja
2. PoetessWug
3. kcroteau
4. alamodestuff
5. Chrissy Ann Ceramics
6. melissa
7. andrea creates
8. Paputsi
9. Campbell
10. MB by Brigid
11. Jane
12. Marissa
13. Sharon
14. The Sexy Knitter
15. booksNyarn
16. Jean Ashley
17. Renee
18. AniDoll

I then entered the numbers 1-18 into the Random Number Generator on http://www.random.org/ And came up with this result:



Congratulations Marissa! I'll be in touch to get your snail mail address.

Meanwhile I will need some time to look through all the wonderful sewing website suggestions and choose the winner of the pincushion ring so stay tuned.

Thanks again!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stitch Magazine Giveaway!


So excited and honored to have my pincushion ring chosen as a wish list item in the Special Fall 2010 issue of Stitch Magazine from Interweave Press!


I am very happy to announce that I have one copy of this fabulous issue of Stitch to give away.

After 20 years owning a sewing machine I am sadly still mostly a novice and I am itching to learn more about sewing, especially small projects like pillows and bags. So here's what you do to enter this magazine giveaway: leave a comment below with a link to your favorite sewing tutorial website/blog or your favorite online sewing project tutorial. That's it! The winner will be chosen randomly from all the entries received.

As a special, separate bonus, I will send a free pincushion ring to the person who points me toward the website or tutorial I find the most helpful and/or inspiring.


The giveaway deadline for entry is Thursday, September 23rd with the winner of the magazine giveaway announced on Friday the 24th.

The winner of the pincushion ring will be announced after I have had a chance to look at all the links.

Please remember to include a way for me to contact you if you are the winner and good luck!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Podcast Recommendation of the Week - Number 5


Here's a quickie podcast recommendation for a short week:

Planet Money!

I love Planet Money on NPR. This team of reporters investigates the economy, economics, and economists then reports back in an entertaining and easy to understand format. Recommended if you like Marketplace and want to know more about what economic terms like Collateralized Debt Obligation mean. They go deeper into what actually happened during the recent economic meltdown by talking with economists of all opinions.

I got so interested in economics after listening to this podcast that I tried listening to other economics podcasts but, um, no. The Planet Money team is doing something special. The segments are usually short, about 20 minutes, which makes for a nice little bite of a podcast.

Cheers!

You will find the previous entries in this series in a list on the right.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mom Painting

video
I ran across this video I shot of my Mom painting which is from 2007. I found it among files transferred off the hard drive of my mom's old fried laptop. And here's what my Mom was working on! Beautiful Mom, just beautiful!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Podcast Recommendation of the Week - Number 4


Podcasts are great for listening to a show I missed during the day, or a show that's not available on the radio. But to keep up with current events I daily listen to radio live-streaming on the internet. That is quite possibly my favorite perk of this amazing technology age. All day long at my studio I tune in to different NPR stations through my computer, stations too far away to pick up through my humble radio antenna.

While I get ready in the morning I do listen to one of three local NPR stations I can tune in on the tape-to-tape AM/FM boom box I bought back in college. I am lucky to be within range of New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR), Boston College Public Radio (WBUR) and the Grandmama of them all, WGBH. (Which I know stands for Great Blue Hill because my dad always pointed out the actual hill as we drove past it when I was a kid).

At my studio the radio reception is terrible so I turn on my PC and boot up Windows Media Center where I have my favorite stations bookmarked.

In the mornings I love Morning Edition, news and culture for several hours.

From 10 AM to 12 noon I love listening to WAMU's The Diane Rehm Show. Diane talks with pundits about politics, experts about issues, and authors about books. It's also a call-in show so she takes questions from the audience. She is very smart and engaged. Don't let her voice throw you. She has a tremulous tone due to a paralyzed vocal chord, but she will certainly grow on you if you give her a chance. I especially recommend her lively Friday News Roundup.

If Diane isn't covering a topic I'm interested in, I'll turn to energetic and engaged Tom Ashbrook with WBUR's On Point, a similar format show. both Tom and Diane are great at coaxing callers to get to the point.

At noon I like Here and Now an hour long program also from WBUR. This show covers national stories a bit more in-depth with longer interviews and also goes a bit off the beaten path sometimes to find interesting musicians and such.

At 1 o'clock, I hate to miss Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Fresh Air is an hour long interview program that covers news and culture in a thoughtful entertaining way. The topics can be silly or serious. Always excellent. This is the kind of show that gets me interested in a person or topic even if I'm absolutely sure I don't care.

2 pm is Talk of the Nation. It's actually on from 2-4 but my local stations have dropped the second hour so I turned to the NPR Broadcast Schedule linked from the show page to locate WNJN in New Jersey which plays both hours. Isn't that cool?

At 4 it's time for the venerable evening news program All Things Considered. Just hearing the iconic theme song is enough to make me feel all is right with the world even if the news they are about to tell me proves my feelings wrong.

By the time Marketplace comes on at 6 or 6:30 I am usually back home cooking dinner. I love listening to the day's economics news in this half-hour, easy-to-comprehend format.

So now you know the extent of my NPR addiction. But I am not ashamed! NPR keeps me entertained, informed and sane. Invite me to your cocktail party, I know at least a little bit about everything going on in the world. :)