Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seasons Round Exchange

Last year, I was introduced to Waldorf education and fell in love with their preschool. With two children enrolled this year, I knew it was time to start a nature table. I had never heard of a nature table before, but the concept was not new to me. We already had a little nature bowl set aside where the kids could put their outdoor treasures (leaves, sticks, pine cones, acorns). A Waldorf nature table just goes a bit beyond that by adding tiny woolen people and felt animals to signify the changing of the seasons. Like a tiny seasonal scene that depicts what might be happening outdoors. Here are some great examples:

A few months ago, I was thrilled to stumble across this website (actually a blog) called Seasons Round Exchange. Each season, an exchange of 3-5 nature table items is organized between 100 participants. At least one of the items must be handmade, and the others can be from nature, a piece of artwork, or store bought. Somehow I remembered to sign up on the right day and secured a spot in the Autumn exchange! In July, I was paired with my mate, Grace, who uses the Waldorf curriculum to homeschool her three young children. We exchanged friendly welcoming emails to each other, and I was reminded that the internet is truly amazing! I was connected with another mother from across the country with similar interests, and she was going to help me get started on my very own nature table.

I started doing a needle felted tree for her, but soon decided that it was too labor intensive for me to get it done in time. I ended up making one of my little gnomie guys - a stump man with a toadstool hat. He was one of the first things I made when I joined the Handwork Group, and I was known as the toadstool lady for awhile (I had an obsession with toadstools!). He paired nicely with a cardinal I made earlier in the summer, and I felt both were true reflections of me. I cut a simple leaf shape for them to sit on, and added a nut ball for dimension and texture. My kids threw in a hand-picked acorn at the last minute! I was happy with how it turned out, and I really hope that she liked it. I can't wait to see what I receive in the exchange.

Grace keeps two wonderful blogs - I especially loved reading/viewing her blog, near:far. I encourage you to check out her beautiful photos and thoughts on motherhood.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It pays to be nice!

Once or twice a month I receive a convo on Etsy asking me for advice about one thing or another. What promotions work for me? How did I get started? What kind of camera do I have? How do I organize my shipping? Could I critique their shop? I guess having over 1000 sales makes me some sort of expert (boy, do I have them fooled!). Sometimes I still feel like a newbie myself. There are always new things to learn, other ways of doing things, new points of view, -- "whatever works" seems to be my life's mantra.

I always respond to those emails. No matter how busy, how tired, how overwhelmed. I've been there. Sometimes I still feel like I'm there.

Early last week, my inbox was overflowing with these types of emails. I thought "Whoa! What's going on?" It turns out that I was mentioned as an Etsy mentor in a recent online article. Etsy's blog, The Storque, runs a series called "Quit Your Day Job" and featured a shop called Little Sapling Toys. I actually wrote up a little blog post about them back in February. Thank you to Nick and Kimber, for crediting me as your first Etsy mentor!

See, sometimes it pays to be nice. And for the record, I sincerely answered every one of those emails I received. Here's to you, newbies!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Guest Blogger on "Beaver Island"

My friend Trish, who makes those adorable pigs in our Handwork Group, shared this story with me recently, and I thought it was so great that I wanted to pass it on to you. With her permission, of course, I've reprinted the email she sent me:

This year we wanted to try something a little more remote than our usual camping in Michigan State Parks, so we went to Beaver Island, the most remote inhabited island in the Great Lakes and a 2-hour ferry ride from Charlevoix.

As we set up camp, black flies attacked my ankles. Uh-oh. “I hadn’t thought about black flies,” I said out loud. “How could you forget the black flies!?” snapped my husband as he swatted at his ankles. Later, we heard there’d been no black flies until our arrival.

The next day, it poured, but we were dry in our kitchen tent, along with lots of black flies.

Later, we went swimming but I was like "Hey, who put the ice cubes in Lake Michigan?!" The kids plunged right in. I hopped back to shore.

The next night, it rained, but we felt snug and dry listening to it drumming on our tent. My husband had done a good job of rustling up cots and air mattresses for the four of us for our first tent camping experience in eight years. However, there wasn't one extra square inch of space in the tent once we were all zipped into our sleeping bags. So if you had to make a midnight bathroom run, you first had to find your shoes which were somewhere underneath our daughter’s air mattress by the door while balancing over her and being careful not to fall on her, then lean over and unzip two zippers inside and then the outside zipper. By the end of the week, we didn’t bother with the shoes.

Meanwhile, our neighbors had all the most modern conveniences in camping equipment– two spacious tents, two shower tents and their own personal boat toilet. What a compound! They even had pitched a screened tent on the beach because as they told me "When you're at Lake Michigan, you can count on black flies, right?" Er, right. But the item I envied most was this huge inner tube which seemed to me the key to swimming in Lake Michigan because it kept you OUT of it.

The next day it rained again. This time, my pillow wicked in the water, and I had a dampish sleeping bag. That night, it was so cold that around 2 a.m., my husband went to the car and got the wool blanket to put over the kids’ sleeping bags. I had to give him credit; I would have kept it! We put our winter hats on to get through the rest of the night; it's amazing how much better you feel with a warm head. The next night, we went to bed with our hats on and had to pull them off in the middle of the night because we were roasting. Cold one night, warm the next.

The next day, the wind died, and the mosquitoes moved in. Was this Beaver Island or Mosquito Island? When we got home, we counted our mosquito bites; we each had fifty a piece! It seemed like we’d dealt with every Old Testament pestilence. Where were the locusts?!

But on the "up" side, we saw an osprey pair on their nest, a beaver swimming back and forth in his pond (they really are "busy"), the tails of two snakes as they slithered away, lots of monarch butterflies drifting about, swans bobbing up and down on Lake Michigan, a male turkey, a female one with her brood, deer and toads. The kids found some great old trees to climb. There was spongy moss everywhere– kind of like you’d find in a Hansel and Gretel woods.

I was so skanky by our fourth day that I finally plunged into Lake Michigan (after tiptoeing through all the ice cubes) and really found it refreshing. The next day, I took another dip and felt completely human again. Why had I waited so long? I wished I'd gotten the hang of swimming in glacial water sooner.

We had a bonfire on the beach the night before we left. As the fire died down, all the stars came into focus. Are there really that many stars? My son saw his first shooting star. He said after he saw his first shooting star, he would go to bed because he was tired. Smart kid. My daughter stayed up with her dad and saw eight more.

As we passed by a restaurant the next day on the way to the ferry, we heard live Irish music on their front deck. A father sat playing music with his four children as they waited for their lunch to be served, his face beaming with pleasure. The other diners were captivated. His daughter danced a jig, sang and played the tin-penny flute. His other three children played the fiddle, guitar and Irish drum. Many of Beaver Island’s 600 year-round inhabitants are of Irish descent. This family had visited the island to perform that week.

On the way home, we stopped at a rest area on I-75 and made macaroni and cheese for dinner. How remarkably easy to be able to walk in the restroom and turn on the water!. Amazing the way the water flowed right out of the faucet!

As we passed through the downtown area near our metro Detroit home, my seven-year-old son said "Boy, it's really noisy here! I'm going to have to get used to this!" My children took showers and marveled at how they could just go to the next room to go to the bathroom. So, we returned home with a new appreciation of home.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New technique, new products!

I'm thrilled to announce part of my new line of I Spy Bags - appliqued shapes! This train and dino are just a sample of so many designs floating about my workshop in various states of completion. I'm so excited about this new method because it means I can work on patterns that I previously shied away from due to complexity. Stay tuned! It's December in my studio, and I'm in the holiday spirit :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to school time...

A recent trip to Target brought back fond memories of back-to-school shopping. I loved getting all new supplies - pointy new crayons, crisp white paper, fully charged markers, shiny folders, and all matter of pencils with a fun press board pencil box to match. I still remember the year that I was old enough to get "college ruled" paper instead of "wide ruled."

I grew up attending art fairs all summer with my parents. By the time fall rolled around, my wardrobe consisted of hand-dyed t-shirts, artsy jewelry, hand-knit scarves, and bizarre winter hats. I loved the prospect of "going back to school" and getting all matter of cool new things to wear to celebrate the occasion. Specifically, I remember my first day of 7th grade. I had gotten this really cool hand-dyed t-shirt at a craft fair - it had clear sequins sewn onto the front. In short, it was AWESOME (I was going into 7th grade, for goodness' sake!). All summer I scouted those art fairs for the coolest stuff.

A picture of me on my first day of Junior High reveals cool handmade bangle bracelets and my sequin tee...

Of course, 24 hours into 7th grade, I realized that my wardrobe was all wrong, and I needed to go shopping again - to buy the same things everyone else was wearing. What was I thinking? It was 7th grade!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Zucchini Bread. Mmm. Tasty.

It's that time of year when coworkers, neighbors, and family start pawning off zucchini to anyone with an appetite. Any gardener who has ever grown her own zucchini knows that one plant could feed the entire town (or at least it seems that way). Our first few zucchini of the year ended up as zucchini fries, stir-fried zucchini, or parmesan zucchini medallions. As the novelty wore off, I knew my kids were ready to try a sweet recipe. Enter Zucchini Bread. (nut free because we have a nut allergy in my house). My husband says this recipe is so good that you could put cream cheese icing on top and call it a cake. We tried one loaf in a cake pan, and it baked just fine!

Zucchini Bread - nut free!
1 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar (or 1 cup splenda, 1 cup sugar)
3 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1 8oz can crushed pineapple
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 large loaf pans (or 6 mini loaf pans, or 2 8-in round cake pans, or a bundt pan).

You'll need two separate bowls. In large mixing bowl, add oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt (we use a wire wisk because we don't have a sifter). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, stir just until moistened. Add zucchini and pineapple and finish mixing. Bake for about an hour, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean (mini loaf pans take about 35 minutes). Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack. They freeze well, too! Just wrap in foil or plastic wrap.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

There's nothing like a good hole-in-the-wall

Annually, I make a Southern trek and visit one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall discount warehouses. Located in a run-down industrial part of town, it looks like it might have been an old grocery store at one time. Always fun, always disorganized, and leaving you with a feeling that you need a shower afterward, it has aisles and aisles of random dusty products that no one really needs.

Except me. I've found some of my greatest I Spy Bag treasures at this store, digging up to my elbows looking for forgotten trinkets and fabulous miniatures. This year, I took a friend with me. I explained on the way there - we're looking for a needle in a haystack, and we don't even know what the needle looks like. Sounds like fun, eh?

They have aisles of old fashioned floral ribbon that is stacked horizontally (instead of vertically like you would see at other craft stores). Among the rows of Christmas decorations, potpourri scented fake flowers, and glass votive holders, many treasures can be found. Last year, I stumbled upon hundreds of realistic plastic ants, tiny babies, and Trojan coins. I was really hoping for more ants this year (no dice), but I did find these incredibly tiny Santas and fun little tennis rackets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

3 weeks strong!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've begun a new work regimen by scheduling general tasks for each day of the week. How is it working so far? I'm happy to report that this is my third week, and it has worked wonders for me!

I'm seriously able to get so much more done in a day, and I'm really surprised at that. I think the amount of work looming over me was actually paralyzing and I wasn't accomplishing much.

With my new plan, I'm able to compartmentalize each of the tasks, and only work within that category for the day. For example, today is my "computer" day. I'm supposed to update my blog, work on PR opportunities, read my HARO queries, check in with my Etsy teams, Twitter under the Modern Handmade Child account (part of my contributions to the EtsyKids team), read up on the latest Etsy gossip in the forums, catch up on my blog reading, etc......

NOW, don't get me wrong - I cannot do all of that in one day. BUT, I'm able to just sit in front of the computer and do what I need to do. Allow myself to browse and read articles, and write posts, and not worry that I'm wasting my time. Because this is what I'm supposed to be doing today. And (lo and behold) it actually brings me business, and keeps me informed of the amazing cyberspace art-i-verse. Before this plan, I would feel guilty sitting in front of the computer and feel the need to be designing, or sewing, or photographing. But now I design on Mondays, sew on Wednesdays and the weekend (and the evening sometimes), and photograph on Thursdays.

If you have any trouble at all with time management, you should definately give this approach a try. It is just flexible enough that I'm able to get a lot accomplished, and not so rigid that I can't take a day off to shop for supplies, or have a play date, or have coffee with a friend. Instead of making me feel like I'm putting something off, I simply feel like I'm shuffling things around. Let me know if you are making over your time - I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kids Travel Happy

Having just sent off a fresh order of I Spy Bags to one of my favorite wholesale customers, it occurred to me that I really should share their awesome site with you! Kids Travel Happy is a website dedicated to keeping your child happy and safe during all kinds of travel - by train, plane, or automobile (and everything in between). I especially love the unique search feature - search by mode of transportation, by age, or even by what kind of travel tray you own. (and if you don't have a tray yet, you can buy that there, too!)...

Some of my favorite items are the packable hula hoop (who knew you could pack a hoop?), magnetic paper dolls, crayons that won't roll away, and even a travel toy tote to keep it organized! And, check out this baby holder - you'll realize how ingenious it is if you have ever had to use a public restroom while traveling alone with a baby.

Kids Travel Happy has the best selection of travel toys and travel gear, pulling from both commercial and handmade markets. I am honored to be among the industry's best in this shop! The next trip you take - whether a plane ride across the ocean, or a trip to the grocery, visit this site first. They are a great customer of mine, and I'd love for you to show them some love! Don't forget you can also find my I Spy Bags there :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Now this is some serious catnip...

I decided that our kittens deserved a treat after surviving a month with my toddlers, so I went on the hunt for some catnip. We have none in our garden, and none of our neighbors seem to even know what it is... I wished my mom lived closer. I know she has some right outside her door! Anyway, I finally found a promising seller on Etsy - Layla of Flowering Tree Botanicals. Described as "highly fragrant and fresh" and "the strongest catnip we have ever stumbled across" - I was sold, and eagerly handed over my paypal money.

HOLY CATNIP! I swear the cats came running the day the postman arrived with the package. I sprinkled a bit over the kitties' heads and they wrestled with eachother for at least a half hour. Later I found my cats cramming themselves into the trash can in an attempt to sleep on the outer packaging that held the catnip. As the catnip lay in its ziplocked bag on my desk, the kitties milled about my feet yowling. I knew it had to be hidden. or up high. or something. A disaster was surely in the works. I put it on top of some fabric on my highest shelf of the studio. Literally wedged between a pile of fabric and the ceiling, it was finally out of reach.

OR SO I THOUGHT. The next thing I know, I've left the room for a glass of water, and I hear a crash. One of the cats climbed my entire wall of fabric and got his claws in the bag enough to bring it down. Within seconds the cats had jumped that bag like they were lions on a zebra (you know, like on the discovery channel).

I think "some of the strongest catnip we have ever stumbled upon" is an understatement. In the market for catnip? Look no farther. And be prepared with a lock box.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A walk in the park

Friday is my non-work day. I don't have a sitter, and I'm left to fend for myself. Taking care of 3 little kids isn't so hard (as long as I'm not trying to get ANY work done). It has taken me a while to realize this - but now I actually enjoy Fridays because I don't have to work and I get a chance to enjoy my kids.

Yesterday we explored a local park and discovered an oak tree completely covered with these:

At the time, I had no idea what they were! At first I told my daughter that it was a caterpillar, but we poked at it and determined that it was very solid (although fuzzy and soft) and was most definitely NOT a caterpillar. So I googled around when we got home and learned that it is an oak tree gall produced by a small cynipid wasp (which is harmless to humans, by the way). It is actually created from the cells of the Oak tree leaf, mutated by an injection from the wasp. Then the wasp babies live inside it. Freaky. But cool. This type of gall is called a hedgehog gall (cute, right?).

The other highlight of the day was seeing two noisy swans on the lake. Most of our lunch conversation centered around what a swan sounded like. I can't say that I remember ever hearing a swan before (aren't they usually quite silent?), but their honk rivals Molly Lou Melon's. Each kid had their own way of making the sound, my 3yr-old's rendition sounded like a gutteral "dump, shump." My 5yr-old's sound involved a mixture of "honk" and "quack," and my baby just squealed like a pig (which was adorable, but sounded nothing like the swan to my ears). Luckily, we met no one on the trail, so our sound pollution likely didn't bother anyone (except perhaps the wildlife).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Freezer Pops

When I was a kid, I used to go swimming with my friends at the city pool. Well, actually it was the country club, but in our small town this meant little. It was just a rectangular concrete pool with two diving boards and a never ending expanse of concrete all around where we could spread our towels and lay on our stomachs in the hot sun (with (gasp!) no sunscreen).

At our house, freezer pops were not allowed. Filled with sugar and a big fat zero for nutrition, my mother kept us as far away from those things as possible. Frozen sugar-water, kool-aid in a tube, "ew" she would say. Of course, this made the acclaimed freezer pop even more desirable. Oh, that clear tube of sugary juiciness seemed to be the epitomy of summertime treats just out of reach from my slippery childhood fingers.

Even though we had a nice in-ground pool at home, it was a special treat to get to go to town and swim at the country club without my parents. The pool was surrounded by a rusty silver chain link fence, and the only entrance was through the mildewy bathrooms. At the other side of the bathrooms the only way to get to the pool was through a 2-inch swirling puddle of water with sloped sides. This mini-pool was (I suspect) to clean our dirty feet before we got to the pool, but it disgusted me beyond belief. Painted an offensive shade of turquoise, the water was always speckled with dead bugs from the night before, and quick dip of my toe in the corner would confirm its sub-zero temperature. I tried with all my strength to straddle the puddle while clutching my towel and "pool money", trying to stay on the dry sloped sides with my dirty feet. I wasn't the only kid who tried this, and unfortunately failed miserably.

The best part of going to the country club pool was, undoubtedly, "adult swim." Every hour, the lifeguard blew her whistle and announced "adult swim." This was a time when the moms could take a dip or the elderly could get in a few laps. I suspect, though, that "adult time" was just a marketing ploy to get the kids to spend their pocket money. During adult time, the lifeguard opened the candy counter. Behind the splintery board of a divider, there was a deep freezer filled with sticky frozen summertime goodness. Orange push-ups, ice cream sandwiches, and an entire rainbow of freezer pops. Grape, please. We would hand over our quarters and gather around the sides of the pool, splashing our feet at the grown-ups until the lifeguard closed up once again and climbed her lifeguard chair.

These days, I allow my kids an occasional freezer pop. I've even been known to have one myself here and there. uh, sorry, mom.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Make a stop on the Handmade Highway

I recently came across a tweet by Lori of Risky Beads, inviting me to make a stop on the Handmade Highway. I checked it out and was instantly charmed! Take this exit off the Handmade Highway and you can see a little snippet of information about my shop. Lori is promoting us like crazy, and we could all use a little promotion on our side, right? Recently, she put together this great slide show of sellers featured on the Handmade Highway (including me!):

Lori explains the Handmade Highway as "a virtual, contextual rolodex for handmade sellers." When you sign up, you complete a little questionnaire that asks things like "do you sell wholesale? Are you willing to participate in blog giveaways? Are you interested in charity opportunities?" and then she compiles it all together for you, resulting in an easily searchable web page of handmade sellers. So, if you write a blog and you're looking for a handmade seller to do a giveaway, you can search here. Or if you are a retail shop looking for new handmade vendors, you can look here. Search results can also be narrowed by specialty or location (like children or jewelry, or Detroit). She even keeps a separate blog devoted to featuring sellers on the site, giving each of us extra attention. Who doesn't want a little extra attention?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summertime plan - relaxation and time management

I've returned from a relaxing visit to my mother's house (where I grew up), and feel rejuvenated and ready to work. Okay, not really, but it was a fun time (especially relaxing when the kids were sleeping).... I know I'm not the only one who has also taken a vacation from blogging. Summer is just that time of disconnection, when people relax, lose touch with schedules, and get together with family. Even people without kids can feel it in the air. Society just slows down a bit, I think.

Unfortunately, while I've been enjoying the lazy days of summer, my work has... ahem... come to a complete stop. I really need to get back into production mode.


Last weekI came up with a plan. I've never worked in an artful capacity with a weekly schedule, but I vow to give this a try.

The first thing I did was sit down with my mom (and business partner) and discuss the future of Those Greathouse Women. What direction do we want to go in? What are we itching to create, research, discover? What are our financial goals? Creative goals? Time management goals? What are my family commitments and what do I need to change in order to meet them? How does our business need to change in order to keep up with current trends and business practices? It sounds like a daunting task, but it was actually quite fun, and so much easier to work through with my mom rather than attack by myself.

I will elaborate in future posts about specific aspects of the plan, but in short, here is a sketch:

Mondays: work on new items
Tuesdays: computer time (blog, research, social networking, teams, forums, etc)
Wednesdays: sewing/working
Thursdays: photographing/editing, blogging
Fridays: I don't have a babysitter! HA!
Saturdays: sewing/working
Sundays: sewing/working

This accounts for about 5 hours per day, which is when my sitter comes to relieve me of the children (allowing me to ACTUALLY get work done), or when my husband is available to help with the kids (on the weekends). I still have to squeeze in shipping and other things during the evenings, but I'm trying to make time to spend with my husband so he doesn't feel like an Etsy widow every night!

Notice that I plan to blog TWICE a week! Well, we'll see, won't we?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear Blog, I think of you often, really I do...

I go through phases sometimes where blogging is always on my mind, but somehow never reaches the keyboard...

I'm finally getting the hang of Twitter, and might even be enjoying it. I used to think Twitter was just a weird creepy way of talking to myself with other people reading my thoughts... but I'm getting over that. Some people DO want to read my thoughts, after all, and I'm learning not to mind so much! I find that it's easier than keeping up the blog (sorry) because every tweet is short and sweet. It's not such a time commitment, etc. So, if you are on Twitter, give me a follow!

What am I doing right now? Baking a homemade carrot cake for my husband. He is super dad and he deserves his favorite cake on Father's Day!

In the studio, I have a new room air conditioner, which will hopefully increase productivity. Our central air just doesn't adequately cool this room, and I'm one of those people who is ALWAYS hot and negatively affected by humidity..... Definitely worth the money to keep me cool and happy. (Maybe that's why I'm finally updating the blog?)

Kids had a week of camp last week, and another coming up. It's just day camp (no overnight camp just yet), but they are loving it. I would love it even more if a bus came and picked them up and brought them home...

Etsy has been a bit slow, so thank goodness I still have eBay to pay the bills! I've been listing like mad over there, offloading some gorgeous antique millinery flowers and velvet feathers. Many auctions are ending tonight, and I plan to put up a whole new batch this week, so keep an eye out!

I can hear the pitter-patter of little feet running on our sidewalk outside my window. Oh, and there is a knock at the glass. Hello little one! Yes, I'll be outside in a moment. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Berkley Art Bash 2009

It's craft show season, and I was lucky to score this table in front of The Berkley Chop Shop in downtown Berkley (Michigan) on Saturday. I decided not to show I Spy Bags at this fair because a good wholesale customer of mine, Catching Fireflies, is across the street and I didn't want to step on her territory! I joined forces with a friend of mine, Leah, who has sewn for The Handwork Group and hopes to start her own Etsy shop soon. We were a great pair, and I thought the table looked lovely. Rain threatened all day, but we were able to stay dry, and temperatures were cool. Overall it was a great day of socializing and spending time with friends!

You can see in the top left corner of the picture, my little experimental narwhal! I didn't get any pictures of it except this one... It sold rather quickly and I was a little sad because I quite liked it and had imagined a fantastic photo shoot with it. Perhaps I'll make another...

Also, you'll notice some absolutely FABULOUS crowns that my mom made. I'm excited to be photographing a few to list on Etsy. Watch out, these are TDF! (to die for) You'll be lucky to get one (if I can pry it out of my kids' hands).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Name that Indiana Wildflower

This unique wildflower grows at my grandmother's house in Northern Indiana. We visited there over Memorial Day weekend, and can't find it in any books. Do you know what it is? The color is very pale lilac, and the "bells" are a little larger than your standard Indiana lily-of-the-valley. Can you shed some light?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oh yeah, I can see the floor AND I can see my work surfaces!

I never promised it would be perfect, but I'm proud none the less. Only 4 hours of (not so solid) cleaning and picking up. Now I can get to the "real" work. As much as I hate cleaning, it sure does motivate me to make things! I know, mess things up again.... but such is the process.

If my studio is a reflection of my mind...

Then I guess I'm really messed up! It has been a long few weeks of working hard on custom orders. Phew! The last teacher custom photo bag went out the door this morning, and now I find myself sitting in my insanely messy studio. I cannot work in this environment! I don't mind having things stacked up, but I have to have some desk space!

I debated whether or not I should let you glimpse my mess... eh, why not? If you've got a mess, then maybe this won't make you feel so bad about your own!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vote now for the Tulip Lady!

A fellow member of The Handwork Group and my friend, Leah, created this awesome art doll and it was chosen to be a contestant in Etsy's latest contest, Which flowers make your garden grow?! You can vote for your favorite flower here. (I hope you vote for her!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fairy Salad

My mother visited over the weekend, and we (as usual) had lots of fun! She came up with the idea to have a fairy salad one day for our snack, and the kids absolutely loved it. They got to pick fresh flowers for a bouquet, and even some violets to eat on our salad. Purple cauliflower was a huge success, and I've never seen my kids want to eat salad so eagerly! Although, admittedly, my kids like salad anyway... this may not work for your own kids!

Credits: fairy crown made by my mom, cape by my grandma, shirt by hiccup apparel, melamine dinnerware from various seasons at Target (flower plates still available online).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Spy a Toadstool!

A taste!

Another taste of my new I Spy Bag designs coming up! Three are in the works. Think woodland, forest, nature. I'm having so much fun :)

And a taste of some beautiful vintage flower posies I'm photographing for the supply shop. I still need to work on the descriptions with my mom, so they aren't quite listed yet. She knows more about antiques than me... and flower identification.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A new line is coming!

Just wanted to give you a sneak peek... Been sketching out some new designs for I Spy Bags that I'm really excited about. Drawings are complete, patterns are in process, and I chose some fabrics this morning to begin working around. I'll go to the fabric store today to gather up some extras, and hopefully have time leftover to start cutting!

Stay posted :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trinkets - Doodads - Charms - Miniatures - Novelties

When I first started making I Spy Bags, I (of course) researched all my competitors heavily and really strove to make mine different. One of the things that made mine unique from the start was that I really paid attention to what I put inside the bags. Most makers put ordinary household items in their bags: pennies, rubber bands, paper clips, pieces of ribbon, foamies, confetti, etc. Besides being boring, some of these items are risky (pennies are toxic if swallowed, and a paper clip can easily be bent to poke right through the plastic window). I'll admit that my first $50 spent on trinkets included mostly beads, buttons, and baby shower and wedding favors that I purchased in the craft store. I had no idea that it was so incredibly hard to find those little doodads. Everything I found was either too sharp, too big, or not durable.

A few weeks into selling I realized that I had a product that people wanted, and to make money, I had to bite the bullet and start buying in bulk - admit to myself that I actually might go through 144 of an item. It just wasn't feasible to be paying a quarter for a single charm. I found some lovely vintage charms on Ebay, some fun beads and things on Etsy, and checked some local holes-in-the-wall for goodies.

Eventually, these just weren't cheap enough for me and I started looking to the big cats. Most really big manufacturing companies wanted nothing to do with little old me. Buying 3000 butterflies wasn't enough of a quantity for them to take me on as a client. With diligent research (hours and hours and hours and hours), lots of emails, and a few phone calls, I secured a handful of wholesale accounts and placed my first minimum orders. That was about a year ago.

Today my stock of vintage charms is nearly depleted and I am sad. All of those original items bought at the craft stores are long gone, and I am getting bored with my 3000 butterflies and plastic babies by the case.

I'm still confident that you will not find better items inside another I Spy Bag - mine are truly the most unique. To try and get that point across, I decided to put a picture of the possible contents on each of my listings. That picture was taken about a year ago, and I realized today that I should really take a new one. For one thing, there is a plastic gun in the photo that was part of a dozen or so random charms I got in an order, and I've never even put a gun in a single I Spy Bag except by special request. I can't tell you how many emails I get requesting that I specifically NOT put a gun in their child's bag. I get it.

Last night I found myself browsing the old haunts looking for new arrivals and milling over whether or not to reorder a few of my favorites. Realistically, I do not need any items right now. But I love having the variety, and while I used to have over 300 different items, technically I've sold many of those varieties and now I'm down to about 200 or so. Yes, I know I only need about 50, but what fun is that? I guess I need to be certain that I will be making I Spy Bags before I go and order a million more trinkets!

Here are a few on my wish list:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Silk Waldorf Marionettes

I was recently asked to take some promotional photos for my daughter's school of these traditional Waldorf silk marionettes. I think they turned out quite nice, and I hope the school is able to use them for a brochure or poster or whatever.

I thought the shoot would be quite easy, but as it turned out, it is quite difficult to hold a marionette AND take the picture at the same time. I ended up using my 12 second timer a lot, which was hard in its own rite since I was then photographing blindly (without seeing the picture composition at the time of the shot). Interesting, to say the least, and a great learning experience. I'm always up for learning new things! Next time I'll bring an assistant :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where is Spring?

Well, spring may not have completely hit here in Michigan, but it is in full swing down in Southern Indiana where we spent the Easter weekend at my mom's. Her place is simply magical this time of year - I wasn't ready to leave! A few pictures....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Missing Pig!

Has anyone seen this little piggy? He came upstairs with me for a photo shoot, and never made it back to my studio.... maybe he went to market.

Around the house

That's where I've been, in case you're wondering.

If you have kids, you know that a change in seasons means more than just opening the windows and switching to lighter jackets. It means tackling a mountain of clothes from last year - what fits? What can be passed on? Is this too girly to be passed on to your brother?

Last weekend, I washed ALL of the winter clothes - snow pants, snow bibs, snow suits, gloves, hats, scarves, coats... knocked all the mud off and wiped down the snow boots. I folded it and put it all away. Of course, it snowed on Sunday night (stuck!) and we had to drag it all back out on Monday for school. Michigan in winter means that the kids wear snow boots every day. So, that means that they haven't worn any other shoes in months. Guess what? None of their shoes fit from last year, so suddenly we are out of shoes. We have a mountain of shoes and none of them fits anyone. Sigh.

Finally, I feel we have transitioned to spring. Yesterday it was in the 70s, today the sun is deceptively shining - it is in the 30s. Sigh.

Easter sales for me were pretty good - I'm so glad I was stocked up and prepared. Last week I was looking at a pile of brown bunnies thinking "why did I spend so much time on these and now they haven't even sold?" In a matter of days I was sold out. Phew! I don't even have any Easter eggs to carry over until next year :)

Today I'd like to take a break from work, and make some little spring animals for my kids' baskets. I've been sewing deer and lambs and pigs for weeks.... it's time that I put a little of that energy into them. Tomorrow at Handwork Group, I think I'll snag a few patterns from the other artists and make... well, I won't spoil the surprise!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I find the best way to get back into blogging is to just start a post about anything, no matter how mundane, how short, edited or unedited. So here goes...

What have I been up to? Well, I finished that pelican I was working on. Like weeks ago, but I left you out of the loop - sorry. He is already sold! I was thrilled to hear back from the guy who originally asked me to try it and he bought it on the spot.

Here he is partially finished (without his final layer). I took it with good intentions for blogging about my progress.... I had some trouble with the beak, and ended up completely severing the first beak, and redoing it from scratch. Be glad there are no pictures of the first beak - yikes!

And finally finished!