Thursday, July 31, 2008

I love seeing new homes that my items have found...

The very talented Barbra from AllAboutTheButtons created this sweet little ACEO using a boot she bought from me at High Pie Supply! I love seeing what other people make with the things they buy from me! I especially love that velvet ric-rac...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ah, the art of being an Etsy mom...

I was recently asked my thoughts on being a stay-at-home-mom who sells items on Etsy (in relation to a Storque article). Although my ideas weren't published (they chose a different angle), I thought I would share this with you!

I find this to be such an interesting topic. When others post about it in the forums, or discuss it in passing, the general theme seems to be "selling on Etsy gives me an opportunity to be at home with my kids."

This is not exactly the case with me! Having grown up with an artistic mother of my own, I simply want my children to know that same sense of artistic confidence. After all, I truly believe that anyone can be creative - it's just that most people find their creative self to be a stranger lost somewhere in childhood.

My Etsy shop, Those Greathouse Women, began as a way for my mom and I to work on something together. I always imagined that I would raise my own family near our old farm in Southern Indiana, but life never plays out the way we imagine... I find myself very happily married to a wonderful man who happens to be tied to a job that dictates where we live. Alas! My mother and I are no longer in close proximity. Her own surprising life changes have taken her in other directions as well. She spends part of the year living on a beautiful sail boat in Key West, where she has the freedom to play out other artistic dreams and keep that creative spirit alive. We are Those Greathouse Women, and we struggle to find a clear artistic direction because we love to do so many things. We started our shop to have a way to connect, to continue to create together, and after a love affair with Etsy and realization that perhaps we could be a part of Etsy's dream we decided to sign up...

Four years ago, I became a mother. Now I have 3 children! It's funny how becoming a mom myself made me see my own mother in a new light. In our almost daily phone conversations, I share little stories about the kids, and my mom shares stories about me when I was that age. She remembers the fear of babies underfoot while sewing at the sewing machine - and trying to help by pushing the foot pedal! Now I have a few little "helpers" myself.

The more I get involved in my own business, the more I recall nostalgic memories of being a child in my mother's house. The rhythmic sound of the sewing machine, the smell of the glue gun, and the click click of the iron as it moves across the creaking ironing board. My mother's workshop was an awesome sight! As a child, it seemed to be mountains of colorful fabric, bins of miniature treasures, and rainbows of ribbon. I can remember spending hours with my brother sorting vintage buttons by color and putting them in the tiny drawers of our old repurposed baby dresser.

I wonder what kinds of memories my own kids will have of me? When they catch sight of my studio door open, a look of mischievous wonder spreads across their faces. Can they sneak in before I catch them? I imagine it must be like a candy store to them. I have my own mountains of fabric, and hundreds of miniature treasures line the walls in tiny drawers and bins. Finished I Spy Bags lay in neat piles on a bookshelf, while the unfinished ones lay in chaos on my sewing table. I imagine it is hard to have a mother who makes toys for a living, and yet they can't play with them all. I have learned that my own kids need their own I Spy Bags (usually they get the prototypes!), but it does nothing to deter their longing for the little piles on my shelf of finished products.

While others may say that they sell on Etsy to spend more time with their children, I find it to be more of a release to get a break from my children! Yes, I get to stay home with them... but I was doing that already (and getting a little stir crazy with all the baby talk). Now I get to stay home with them AND do something fun for myself. It's just an added bonus (YES!) that I get to make a little money doing it. The business is really taking off now, and yet perhaps it is not the right time. I'm feeling torn between business success and "being there" for my kids. They are still quite young, after all.

I guess my limits and priorities will be tested with this fall's holiday rush as I attempt to fill orders (while keeping in the Etsy spirit of doing everything myself). Does it count if I make my kids work for me? Maybe they could sort some buttons. More likely they would eat them. Or throw them. Or flush them down the toilet. Just another day in the life of an Etsy mom...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How does your garden grow?

The buds are finally peeking out, and I'm hopeful that I'll actually have flowers in a few days! After pulling all existing landscaping and replacing the sidewalk last year when we moved in, this is the first time that the house doesn't look naked!

Of course, the neighbors think I am crazy. For weeks they thought I was growing a vegetable garden right smack in the front of the house. Yeah. I think some are still wondering.... What can I say? It was less expensive to plant hundreds of seeds than to buy one bush that would look lonely and bare all summer. Maybe next year we'll get into the "real" landscaping. For now... bring on the sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On setting up a sweat shop...

Of course you must know that I can't possibly make everything myself. I have plenty of free labor around the house. I only hire the best and most experienced pattern makers and cutters.

My oldest designer (age 4), created her own cupcake pattern (out of recycled boxes just like mommy does), traced it, and cut out a front and a back piece of fabric.

Then she saw something shiny and moved on to the next project. I guess that's what I get for not even paying minimum wage...

Her coworker plans to work twice as hard in half as much time so he'll still have time to do some weeding during his break.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A slice of summer

Introducing the watermelon - featuring an entirely new construction method and innovative wrap-around window!

A juicy preview...

What do you think is the perfect summer icon? I know what! I've made it into an I Spy Bag! As soon as the sun comes up (and I feed all three kids breakfast, change diapers, start some laundry, and *maybe* brush my teeth), I'm going to take some photos and list it in my shop. If you want to know, check my shop tomorrow (Friday)! A little thinking outside of the box led me to develop an entirely new construction method, which I am thrilled about... Stay tuned.

I made the front page of Etsy!!!!!!!!!

Today I casually glanced at the front page and... OMG there I was! It was surreal. Okay, so one of my I Spy Bags wasn't on there, but some train beads from High Pie Supply. I'll take what I can get!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just one more reason to love Endicia...

As you already know, I'm in loooooove with Endicia. I haven't been to the post office since, well, I can't remember the last time! Shipping has never been so easy, and I don't have to waste gas and time driving to and waiting in line at the post office.

Yesterday, I discovered a whole new reason to love Endicia. A month ago, I sold some beads to a customer in Canada. He emailed me yesterday asking what was going on with his order since he hadn't received it yet. Well, 1st class international packages don't have tracking numbers, so normally I would have been out of luck. This has happened to me about 3-4 times, and each time I felt inadequate due to the lack of information I had to give the customer. All I could say was "check with customs - I mailed it on XX/XX" and hope that he/she believed me.

WELL! All I had to do with this order was go to my postage log within my Endicia software, and copy the log information. Since Endicia connects directly to the USPS for each transaction, a customs number was generated on the spot, and I was able to give that number to my customer. He can now go to the local customs office and actually have something to give them to help locate the package. The log also shows exactly what printed on the label, so he can check to see that I sent it to the correct address, and it shows what day I printed the label and on what day it mailed (no guessing here). No trust issues. It is what it is.

Of course, I have yet to hear back from him on whether he received his lion beads... I suppose Endicia can't prevent lost packages, but it certainly improves customer service from a seller to a buyer - for ALL types of packages.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My house cleaning leaves something to be desired...

This past weekend, I decided that I needed to do a bit of house cleaning - mostly in my workshop - but the rest of the house could use it, too. I knew that my cleaning left something to be desired when, upon seeing me vacuum the living room, my 4 yr old daughter said "Mommy, are we having a visitor?" Hm.

The workshop/studio was beginning to feel a big claustrophobic. I was drowning in a mountain of fleece, and no longer able to efficiently work. Why haven't I been posting regularly? Well, I had to clear a space in front of my keyboard just to be able to type! For the past 6 weeks, my husband was out of town... I kind of "let it go" as it were. He returned on Thursday, so now I have no excuse - it is time for an overhaul!

I go back and forth on whether I should share pictures of the total chaos of my studio.... I have to consider that maybe you are a customer, and maybe you don't want to know the craziness into which your product was born. Or maybe you do want to know... It's not like I have food or anything in here... although you might find a half empty (or half full?) water glass lying around. I have this terrible habit of not throwing away trash when it would be so simple to do so. For example, I use USPS Priority shipping envelopes (that come free from the PO), and they have this little strip of paper that you pull off to seal them. Instead of taking an extra second and throwing that into the trash where it belongs, I tend to leave it right on my desk, usually until enough build up that they begin sliding to the floor. THEN I think - hey maybe I should throw these into the trash? Why do I do this?

Of course, like many artists who prefer to work in total chaos, I know where just about everything is at any given moment. Or, at least, I know the general vicinity. Just yesterday, I sunk my hand into a pile of fabric and pulled out a circle punch (yes, for paper) sight unseen and just about spot on. I knew exactly where it was! Last night, my husband asked "where's the tape?" Oh, right here honey (as I stuck my hand under a pile of stabilizer scraps and felt around like someone looking for their eyeglasses)...

I seem to have the same problem with my purse. Everything but the kitchen sink? Who needs the sink when you've got hand sanitizer?