Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Creative Karma

I don't know about you, but when I began my crafting business I wanted to keep secrets.  I wanted to be so secret that I didn't even tell people about myself.  I owned my product and I was threatened by anyone who came near it, except to buy it.  Yep, threatened.  I didn't realize it at the time, but the insecurity of being a newbie can do that to you.

By now I've been in the game long enough to know that creativity is like love ~ the harder you hold onto it, the faster it dies.  One thing that brought me around to this way of thinking were the Etsy Success Articles.  I subscribe to e-mail notifications of these articles and read them religiously.  So much information is shared in these articles including success stories, how-tos, and tricks of the trade.

Recently I read a couple of articles included in the Etsy Reading List regarding Creative Tithing.  I have to admit the word "tithe" may have a negative connotation, but in this context it makes a lot of sense.  Both articles are about how we should tithe our creativity first to give back some of our bounty and second to create some good karma for ourselves.

What would I have done had it not been for that generous person who gave me my first Etsy sale simply to show me how a sale looks on my computer?  Where would I be without forums and blogs giving valuable information regarding sales opportunities, supplier contacts, and general encouragement? 

Now it's time to give back, and to keep giving.  Not only will you be helping someone out, or simply making someone smile, you will also notice the boomerang effect of your generosity.  Check out these two articles written by Catherine Ivins in her Olive Bites Blog.

Be free to support your fellow artisans.  Everyone loves encouragement and adulation.  Go "heart" some Etsy shops.  Tell the lady behind the table at the craft show how much you admire her work.  Buy something to support the handmade movement and give it to a friend, just because.  Share just part of the knowledge, time, and money that has been given to you.

There's no sense in keeping it all close to the vest.  Open your arms and set free the gifts you have received and welcome the gifts to come.  Be happy for those who are successful and encourage those just beginning.  Tell other people about artists and crafters you like through your blog, facebook, or even verbally at the water cooler.  Spread the word.  Spread the joy.  Give 10% of your monetary and emotional profits to support others.  It'll make you feel really good.  It will help other people.  And your returns will be monumental.

Monday, June 28, 2010

When Good Comes Out Of Not So Good

Ever have one of those weekends?  Mine included the following...

1.  A pan of peanut bars made by me that turned out wrong.  Totally wrong.  That's not like me.  I was very disappointed.  When I fail at making a dessert my whole self image suffers.

2.  A fear of DNA.  The gene pool from which I sprung proves to be quite questionable and rather murky.  Luckily my parents overcompensated on the nurture side of the Nature vs. Nurture theory and we turned out okay.  Didn't we? 

3.  A cousin who is right out there with her chemical dependency and denial of same.  Who snorts cocaine in the woods at a place filled with happy childhood memories?  It just doesn't seem right.  Maybe the memories weren't so happy.

4.  An uninvited mammal with four paws and a disregard for tasty snacks for humans.

5.  Relief over the ownership of a small plot of land on a small lake in a small township.  It didn't go to those who are totally unworthy and oblivious to its charm. 

6.  A trip to the emergency room.

7.  A death in the family, not related to the trip to the emergency room.

Photo credited to Tim Booth

Life is filled with ups and downs and it is up to us to make the most of it.  The happy times arm us with the ammunition it takes to get through the more trying times.  Sometimes people are put in our lives to serve of examples of how not to be and to remind us of how we have fashioned a lifestyle suited exactly for ourselves.  Trauma, illness, and death give us pause to be grateful, caring, and compassionate.  Sometimes the less festive times in our lives are necessary for us to appreciate how good our lives are in general.

Family is family.  They are who they are.  Sometimes it takes my extended family to remind me of how much my family of origin means to me.  I'm grateful for their presence in my life.  I'm also going to throw away that recipe for peanut bars. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Favorite

Working on bottle caps for magnets and drink charms is a time-consuming task.  Enjoyable?  Yes.  But definitely time consuming.  There is the preparation of the caps, cutting out the images, adhering images, applying resin, etc, etc.  I like to take a whole evening to devote to one task at a time.  A batch of magnets or drink charms will take up to a week.

When working on these projects I don't like to have the TV on.  It requires me to watch, and I have to have my eyes on my work.  For reasons I can't explain, music also proves to be a distraction for me when working on the bottle caps.  But I need something ~ something to occupy my mind while keeping busy with the repetition of the work.  I found the perfect solution...old time radio.

My favorites are the horror and mystery stories.  Inner Sanctum.  Murder at Midnight.  Suspense.  The list goes on and on.  I can listen and be entertained and at the same time concentrate on the work at hand.  I hear great actors in their early days ~ Agnes Moorhead, Orson Wells, and Vincent Price.  Such a talent it takes to project fear and horror by sound instead of using visual tricks.  And with some shows there is the added bonus of old time commercials.  "Four out of five doctors recommend smoking Camel," or  "You're always right, with Auto Lite."

The best thing about these old time radio shows is they now come in an MP3 format.  I download hundreds of these shows into my iPod and I'm good to go producing my bottle cap products for hours on end.  Even if Husby is in the same room watching TV, I can be engrossed in the thrilling tales of radio.  My source for buying these radio shows is OTRCAT.com.  This site offers not only horror and mystery shows, but also the comedies, dramas, and even children's radio shows.  Better still is the low price.  I can get eighty hours of radio entertainment for as little as $5.

So when you're in the mood to hear a story and don't want to be distracted by visuals, wander back in time and listen to the shows your parents and grandparents did as they gathered around the radio.  Soon you'll know the answer to the question, "Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?"

The Shadow knows...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Celebrating The Blooms

Last weekend Husby and I embarked upon our first show of 2010.  I love starting the season with a fun show, and The Chateau St. Croix never fails to deliver.

We began our weekend early Saturday morning.  Husby packed up the SUV and we drove for about an hour, just over the beautiful St. Croix River, to the countryside. 

This is the setting for the Fete Des Fleurs (Celebration of the Flowers).  The rolling Wisconsin countryside and fresh air are such a relief from the confinement of the studio and the stuffiness of the city.  Throw in a few horses and you'll feel just like Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

My roadie (Husby) and I set up the little shop and were ready to roll.  The rest was up to those attending the the festival. 

Of course there was plenty of wine, music, and food to be had.  But the best part of being part of this grand festival celebrating the blooming of the grape vines is just that...being part of it.  For me there was lots of laughing and lots of learning.  After many months of production, financial managing, packaging and tagging this weekend got me out among the public, getting feedback, and feeling honored that my items were worthy to take home and enjoy.

Thanks to all who came to support the crafters and artists as well as the winery.  Husby and I stocked up on gifts from some of the vendors as well as half a case of wine from the Chateau.  Thanks also to the Chateau St. Croix staff, for including us in their festival and for being such gracious hosts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Featured Shop - Dovecote Design

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

I remember clay.   I made little pinch pots in grade school and Girl Scouts.  I once even made a clay bear in junior high school art class.  That is the extent of my clay working experience.  However, I marvel at those who can turn a blob of nothing into beautiful and useful pieces of art.

Marsha Taubenhaus probably remembers the days of pinch pots too, but has mastered the craft since as shown in her Etsy shop Dovecote Design.  Come and see what she's created...

Ever heard of a stopperless salt shaker?  Not only is it stopperless, it has no holes!  And yet it is still utilitarian.  I never heard of such a thing until I visited Dovecote Design.  What an interesting concept, and what a beautiful accessory for the table.  

Now that spring has arrived and the flowers are in bloom, who doesn't need a little vessel in which to put the gatherings from the garden?  I love this shapely little bud vase.

How about this pretty jewelry bowl?  It would look so lovely on a bedside table and serve the necessary purpose of organizing and displaying some of your frequently-worn jewelry pieces. 

Marsha has got your stoneware needs covered at her beautifully presented Etsy shop,  Dovecote Design.  Lovely and useful art for yourself or as a gift. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sun Kissed And Blurry-Eyed

Taking a little break today after a big weekend at the Chateau St. Croix Fete Des Fleurs.  Husby and I had a marvelous weekend.  We caught up with some old friends and met some new ones.  Lessons were learned and practices were validated.  Along with it all, sales were made.  Thanks to all who came to support Auntie B! 

I'll be posting more about our weekend at the winery.  Stay tuned. 

Photo courtesy of Chateau St Croix.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Favorite

Without today's favorite I wouldn't be who I am today.  In fact, I wouldn't be, period.  She is...Mom.

I've never been a mother myself, but the older I got the more I came to appreciate all that mothers are.  They put up with a lot of heartache and are filled with so much joy simply for being a mom. 

I learned a lot from my mom over the years ~ everything from taking my first step to the intricacies of "lady things."  From my mom I inherited an undeniable love for butter and was given many opportunities just for the sake of finding myself. 

Today Mom is my favorite, not only for all she has done for me, but also for all she has brought to the world.  She's generous and gracious and a good example of how more people should be. 

Thanks for everything, Mom, and Happy Birthday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do You And Your Customer See Eye To Eye?

As I'm on the verge of my first festival of the season I thought I would share what I consider to be one of the biggest tips I know for those vending at a craft or art show.

Success tip of the day: Give your prospective customers the courtesy of standing to greet them.

The other day I was viewing photos of a craft show I had not attended and noticed that more sellers than not were conversing with their customers from a seated position.  This made me uncomfortable.  First of all it's bad for your neck to be sitting in a chair and talking up to standing people all day long.  Second, it seems kind of rude to not give your customers the respect of standing up and talking to them at eye level.

I know how long the days can be under that white canopy and of course you need to sit down once in a while.  Previously Husby and I have had two low chairs in the back corners of our canopy where we hid behind the merchandise when snacking or tallying up recent sales.  When traffic was slow of course we would sit down and rest for a moment.  But when a customer entered the tent, I was on my feet again. 

This year I invested in something I think will be very useful.  A tall directors chair.  This way if I need to sit down for any reason I'll still be at eye level with the customers when they come to check out my wares.  I won't startle them by jumping up from a hidden chair behind the display and I'll also be available for questions and comments.

My chair arrived yesterday and I just love it.  It's bar height and will fit perfectly behind my tables.  Of course I'll still stand to converse with the customers because, well, that's just polite.  But with this tall chair I'll be visible whether I'm standing or sitting, available and engaged. 

These chairs fold up easily and are under 15 pounds, making transporting a breeze and they don't take up valuable cargo space, leaving more room for your wonderful products.  They can cost anywhere from $45 to $150.  I purchased one in the mid-range. 

I'm so excited to start the season with my new chair.  It's comfortable and seems quite sturdy.  It's sleek enough that it doesn't create a distraction from my display.  Sitting periodically throughout the day won't be a shameful indulgence anymore ~ even if I need to rest my old bones I'll still be able to give shoppers the respect of talking face-to-face with them at their standing level.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Emotional Meltdown

The other day Husby and I were having a nice dinner of weenies, tater tots and coleslaw ~ romantic and healthy.

We were chatting casually about the upcoming show when Husby said something that hurt my feelings.  It wasn't his intention to hurt my feelings, but these things happen when insomniatic psychosis, hormones, and stress are flying around in the air.  We've both been under our own individual strains and his tone, along with the above stated factors, led to just one thing...an emotional meltdown on my part.

Talk about putting a damper on a romantic weenie dinner.  The point of my sharing this is to let you all know, these things are normal and should be played out. 

The more I tried to blame Husby for being insensitive and brutish the more I realized I was just trying to find a scapegoat for my own mounting stressors and insecurities.

Of course Husby sat and listened to me rant on him for a while, and then listened to me rant on myself for a long while.  He tried to reassure me, but I spent the entire evening feeling terrible not only for involving him in my little emotional web but also for realizing the true feelings I've been having about myself and my contributions as a housemate and business person. 

This sort of introspection is always good, I believe, even if it doesn't get resolved right away.  Bringing things to the surface clears up all that internal angst, which can only have positive effects.  Right?  Well, if nothing else, a big epiphany accompanied by a lot of crying makes for a really good night's sleep.  And who doesn't need that?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You A Slave To Numbers?

Relatively speaking, I'm still new to the online craze.  (Oh, this wacky internet!)  I'm scared of it, yet am oddly attracted to it.  I haven't progressed to a hand-held computer yet and my cell phone doesn't even have a camera, although I did make the leap to a laptop a couple of years ago and Husby and I entered the 21st century and dumped our dial-up service for high-speed cable access mere months ago. 

My fearful and lazy attitude toward the internet and technology in general doesn't make sense as I have a blog, an online store, and am hooked up with Facebook and Twitter.  And here's where we get into my conundrum...


With everything one can be connected to there are related statistics, and lots of them.  There are sites that track the statistics for your blog, online store, and Facebook interactions.  And those are only the ones I know about. 

The statistics are fascinating, especially for someone like me, a relative hermit.  There are people from all over the world reading my blog and visiting my shop.  I wouldn't even know about that if it weren't for the statistics sites.  However, fascination can turn to obsession, which can be detrimental to a business.

Are you a slave to statistics?  Do you check them multiple times a week/day/hour?  What information do you gather from them? 

I tend to look at the big picture.  How many people visited and where did they come from.  I don't know how to navigate a lot of sites usefully, like Google Analytics, except for those generalities.  And still I find myself rivited to the numbers.

This post is nothing more than a reminder to myself and others that statistics can be useful, but can also be a distraction to what's going on in real life.  Don't let the numbers get you down if they aren't what you expect or hope for.  Don't get overly excited over high hit numbers as it could just be a fluke.  Don't get sucked into the numbers at the risk of losing valuable production time.  Interestingly enough, the less attention you pay to statistics, the more desireable they look when you do check them out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Favorite

Today's favorite is a memory and an anticipation

It's generations old

I only have to dream

and troubles melt away

Today's favorite...our cottage on the lake

(beautiful lake sunset photo taken by Paenney during an evening of fishing)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dive Night - Miller's On Main

Dive Night is a once monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of "dive." Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot hiding under the radar. Casual atmosphere and good food. We're out to find the best food in the Minneapolis/St Paul area without having to pay a fortune or dress up. A sip of beer or wine doesn't hurt either.  See a list and links to the previous dive night posts here.

Apparently Ruthie was running around the metro area not too long ago, far away from where she lives or works.  I didn't ask why she was gallivanting around because, well, Ray was sitting right there and I didn't want to put Ruthie on the spot.  Who knows?  She might have been on the hunt for a pair of $400 shoes or something.  It doesn't really matter, because during her little road trip she saw this...

She figured Miller's on Main in Lino Lakes, MN would be a good spot to share for Dive Night.  She was right.  Divey?  Yeah, kind of. 

This is the skinny bar area.  It had a lot of character, compared to the eating area...

They tried to make it homey with some country-flavored prints on the walls, but basically we were surrounded by walls of beige with big TVs propped up at the ceiling at each of the four corners of the room.  TVs in restaurants are just uncouth.

No matter, here come the appetizers!

These appetizers were fabulous!  First were the stuffed mushrooms.  Mushroom Poppers, to be exact.  They were stuffed with beef and pork, had a marvelous texture and were seasoned to perfection.  Also delicious was the Artichoke Spinach Dip.  Roasted artichoke hearts, pepper cheese and spinach in a very zippy, spicy sauce.  Really cheesy and really good.  I was sad to have to share with the others.

Our entrees were delicious too.  We ordered quite a variety at our table ~ bison burger (Ray), walleye sandwich with BIG onion rings (Ruthie), spaghetti sandwich (me), and taco salad (Husby). 

Husby would have preferred a corn tortilla bowl instead of flour for his salad, but that's just a matter of taste.  Both Ruthie and Ray had nothing but good to say about their meals.  I ordered a spaghetti sandwich just to try something different.  The spaghetti and sauce were good, the meatballs were good, the bread was good, but for my taste they should not all be combined in a sandwich.  A) You can't pick it up and eat it, and B) I've got a weird thing against bread with sauce on it.  But my it was good, when eaten in its little subsets.  Plus, fries with spaghetti?  Well, they came with the meal and were delicious, so I couldn't turn them down. 

Despite my quirky preferences I'd have to say the food at Miller's on Main is superb, the service was wonderful and I'd definitely go there again.  The menu is very extensive, and if everything on it is as good as our meals were, then this place is definitely a winner.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Give Me Some Peanuts And Cracker Jacks

OK, the stress is building.  Those loose ends I was talking about yesterday?  Still untied, for doing more urgent things.  I'm further behind than I thought!  And tomorrow guess what ~  I won't be able to accomplish anything at the Auntie B's Wax World Headquarters because it's Husby's turn to have some fun.  And for some reason he chose me as his date. 

I'm not really complaining.  It's a good thing to get out for a date now and then with your husband or wife, especially when you've been married a while.  Walking around holding hands makes you remember why you fell in love in the first place.  Not that you forgot.  Oh, you know what I mean.

It's just that this particular date is a little out of my league.  (Ha!  That's a joke you'll get in the next sentence.)  We're off to the new Target Stadium in Minneapolis to see the Twins play some baseball. 

Baseball's not really my thing, but Husby likes it and got a couple of free tickets from a friend of his.  Besides, what kind of Twin Citian would I be if I didn't go out and root for the home team in the brand new outdoor stadium? 

So we'll be eating hotdogs and drinking beer (or something else, please), checking out the fans as we find so much pleasure in people watching, and of course, seeing those delicious catchers make their crotch signals to the pitcher...uh, maybe I do like baseball.  Husby likes it for different reasons than I do, that's for sure.

Anyway, take in a game if you are so inclined.  If not, watch it on TV and look for me.  I'll be the one with the air in my hair.  I sure hope it doesn't rain.

What plans do you have this exciting day?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Loose Ends - Price Tags

Lots of my fellow crafters and artists have already taken to the road and started showing their wares at various festivals and events.  I haven't yet, and am starting to get itchy.  The last show I did was in early November and my next show isn't for two weeks.

As excited as I am to get started, I'm not yet ready to hit the road.  It's those darn loose ends that are always pushed to the last minute, putting a little edge on the prospect of displaying everything I've worked so hard to create.

Well, I think Mary Poppins would say, "once begun is half done," nod her head and little toy soldiers would march themselves into the toy chest.  I, on the other hand, have to actually make a list, actually go through it, manually complete tasks, and cross them off the list.  For example, price tags.  Product is made, packaging has been done.  But the price tags remain unprinted or placed on the products.  I think a price tag on each item is very important at craft shows and festivals.  This is not a small task when I have eleventy-thousand individual items to display at each show. 

Yes, that would be every single item.  Every candle, every set of drink charms, every magnet.  Sure it would be easier to print out a list of prices and prop it up on the table, but not shopper friendly.  It's been found that shoppers are conditioned to pick up an item they like and search for a price.  If there isn't a price on the item, they are often reluctant to ask and less likely to buy.

If you are a shopper at these wonderful craft shows, events, and festivals, don't be afraid to ask the vendor the price of an item you like if you don't see a tag.  However, if you are a vendor, you would be wise to price every item, even if it means tagging everything the night before a show.  Mary Poppins would.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Friday Favorite

I'm long overdue.  I used to watch this movie every year during the week of my birthday but sadly now I'm lucky to get to it once every couple of years or so.  Harold and Maude

It came to the theater in 1971 and was labeled as a comedy.  I guess it is, in a dark sort of way.  I would much rather look upon it as a character study as well as a study in existentialism.  Oh, don't let all that fancy talk scare you off; Harold and Maude are up for some exciting adventures.  But if you listen to the messages the film gives, you too may find some room for thought.

Perhaps I was at a very influential age when I first saw this movie, which was about ten years after its release.  Perhaps it's the all Cat Stevens soundtrack.  Whatever the reason, Harold and Maude has held its position as my favorite movie of all time since the first time I saw it.

What's not to love?  Maude is simply enchanting and full of life, Harold is morose with a little skip in his step.  Mrs. Chasen is the ultimate socialite.  Uncle Victor is the right-wing military man.  Don't overlook the officious police officer, the terse priest, and the disinterested psychiatrist.  The quotes are memorable and to watch Harold bloom, well it's just priceless.

Cultish or not, this movie has defined me in more ways than I can ever know.  It's a reminder of how to live life like there's no tomorrow, and how to embrace all that we are without apology. 

What flower would you like to be?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

How To Fillet A Mighty Fish

Last weekend my nephew Paenney caught a walleye, mighty and true. This is a great feat on our lake. For many years there have been bass, sunfish, and muskies (which everyone dreams of catching and I wish they would because knowing there are 7-foot fish with lots of sharp teeth lurking in the waters makes swimming a little stressful for the likes of me), but the walleye have been scarce.

When Paenney reeled that mighty fish in he proclaimed, as my Grandpa Mike would say to little 5-year-old me when I caught a tiny, potato-chip-sized bluegill, it's a keeper!  And so Paenney brought the mighty walleye in from the lake and his dad, Pinky, showed him how to fillet it.  I thought I'd sit in on the tutorial, even though I have no intention of catching a fish much less filleting one. 

The first step is to make sure your fish is dead.  I didn't want to witness this.  So I didn't. 

The next step is to start cutting, right about here...

And then you cut like this...

Don't forget the rib bones...

Take off the skin with those nasty scales.  They taste terrible and get stuck between your teeth.

And there is your perfect walleye fillet.

Flip the fish over and repeat.  Then put the little mighty pieces of meat in a bowl of water until you plan to cook them, which should be soon.

Charlotte (Paenney's mom) cooked the beautiful fillets of the mighty fish with some flour, salt, pepper, and butter.  Finally, Paenney's efforts in wrangling the mighty fish from the lake paid off. 

It's true, if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, there will be bait in the refrigerator forever.  The combination of Paenney's fishing abilities, Pinky's filleting abilities, and Charlotte's cooking abilities made for one mighty tasty lunch.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Did I Miss Anything?

As you may know, I was off on a solitary road trip this past weekend.  We opened up the cottage and christened the new summer season with some hard work, some great food, and some fun with the family.

Husby had to stay behind, so of course I missed him.  What else did I miss?  The shooting up of the vegetables in his garden and the first blooming of the peonies.  His planting and gardening efforts are really paying off. 

I also missed opening days of two great treasuries in which I am featured.  Thanks to Kala and Jane, the curators of these beauties.  Check 'em out and give 'em some love.

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