I've been organizing art supplies on weekends lately. Last night I sorted through some random bits of molded and painted model magic and air dry clay that I had made years ago. I must have been inspired by Maggie Grey's "Raising the Surface with Machine Embroidery" book at the time. The random bits inspired today's rainy day art project. I got out the air dry clay, a bunch of stamps, and some bits of copper, fused Angelina fibers, and Glitterati film. Tyler and I had a great time playing with it.
I started embedding thin bits of sheet copper in the piece of clay that I was molding so Tyler decided to do the same thing. His creation on the left below got smooshed and turned into something else shortly after I took the photo. We'll have to paint the final creations another weekend since the clay has to air dry two to three days first.
I still have to figure out what I'm going to do with all the other molded bits.
My next big art event is coming up this Saturday when I participate in the Yorktown Art Stroll. I have been working steadily to build up my inventory of Free Lace Scarves to have enough to display and to put up in our Etsy store soon.
I love working on these scarves. In the design phase I revel in the mix of colors and textures of the fabrics and yarns that I use. During the machine-stitching phase, I enjoy thinking about what colors I want to use next or about other projects in progress or planned. The stitching is repetitive enough that I can use the free space in my mind to puzzle out any issues I am dealing with.
This week I have been puzzling out what product descriptors I will use when I put my scarves on Etsy. I have always called them "Free Lace." It's the term used by the instruction book I bought so many years ago. Lately, though, I have been wondering if that is the best term to use. If I use the term in a search in Etsy, Instagram, Google, etc., all I ever come up with are knitted or crocheted scarves. I wonder if that is a problem, or is it an asset that mine are so different.
I am having trouble thinking of alternate descriptors. One I came up with is Confetti Scarves. If I Google that, the scarves I see are somewhat similar to mine - at least the ones I make with small fabric shapes, but many of mine are made with yarns or ribbons. The term doesn't see to me to fit those scarves well. If I search for Ribbon Scarves, I don't come up with anything like mine.
I could use some help coming up with some good search terms for them. Here are some pictures of some of the scarves.
What descriptor terms could you suggest for these??
Last weekend I participated in my first art fair type of event here in Virginia. The development I live in had a 30-year anniversary celebration of its founding. Part of it was the marketplace I signed up for. I had no idea what to expect of it, but thought it would be a good way to meet some of the neighbors and start getting my work out there. The venue is only a couple of miles down the road from my house and the table fee wasn't very much, so it was an easy decision. I brought pillows, dyed silk scarves and art cards so the set-up would be easy too.
I am very glad it did it. If I'd measured my results based on sales, I would have been very disappointed. But I'd gone into it with no real expectation of selling anything, my hope was to make connections. On that score I was successful.
My neighbor at fair also made art-to-wear. She was impressed with my work and she came up with a couple of recommendations of places for me to go after. One place she told me about was a small gallery in Yorktown that sponsors an annual Art Stroll right down on the waterfront. As it turned out, we were planning to meet our son for lunch at a restaurant right there the very next day. I was able to check out the gallery and on a whim asked about participating in the stroll--which takes place in just two weeks. To my surprise I was able to get a spot. I couldn't get a space in the building - my first choice, but they did have a space in their big tent. So I jumped on the opportunity - might as well go into this with both feet. I'll need a bigger, more elaborate display for this one. So I've got some work to do, but I'm excited.
My neighbor was very inspirational as well as giving me concrete advice. She told me early on that she is 83 years old...and still doing lots of fairs and events. She had her daughter with her on Saturday, but usually she said she does it all on her own. So with good luck, I've got quite a few years yet and it'll be worth my time investment to check out these venues.
On with my plans...
I recently read Shawn Achor's "The Happiness Advantage." It was recommended in my Operational Behavior in Healthcare graduate course. I read it cynically expecting it to be all fluff while hoping it wasn't. I was very "happy" to find there was a lot of substance to it. It focuses generally on work success, but Achor's "principles" can be applied to life in general. Having tried one of Shawn Achor's recommendations for several months now, I can actually say that the book has helped me start to form a new habit. His details of numerous studies to back up his recommendations in his book helped to convince me that the book wasn't all fluff. (Not that I don't like a good dose of fluff once and a while...)
Achor discusses forming new habits in his "Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule" chapter. He resonated with me when he says "The reason willpower is so ineffective at sustaining change is that the more we use it, the more worn-out it gets
(Shawn Achor's "The Happiness Advantage," page 152)."
I am someone who has tried to change my habits through will-power and has failed almost instantly. His solution is to make changing your habit as easy as possible. I wanted to have more art in my life again. My interpretation of how to do this was to make it as easy as possible to draw something each day. I didn't have to draw anything specific and it didn't have to be good. My initial goal was to draw just three lines each day. I attached a black drawing pen to by small sketchbook and left it in the bag I take to work with me.
I made it about as easy as I could to draw. I wouldn't have to find something to draw on because it was always in my bag. I wouldn't have to go digging for a pen because it was always attached to the sketchbook.
I haven't drawn every day. I definitely lost the habit some over vacation. I have done tons more drawing than I would have if I had not made it easy for myself. I have even expanded beyond just three lines with a black pen. I have been drawing with markers and colored pencils after work or at other random times. Tyler has joined in with me at times. The third drawing here has his contribution with the squiggly black lines that overlay the leafy almond shape drawing.
This drawing on the left, I like to refer to as Tyler's totem pole. He was having fun drawing eyes and mouths. I wonder if he was remembering Mom's photo of a totem pole in Alaska. He likes using markers or "mah-mers" in toddler-speak.
I've now moved my tiny watercolor paint set and watercolor cards to a super-easy to access location in the living area of our apartment. I'm planning ways to make it easier to access other art supplies, too. Keeping scissors, pins, needles, tiny beads, and what not out of reach of a toddler adds an extra challenge to the planning. I think I've figured out a workable solution. There are some drawers in the front closet that are going to get repurposed.
How can you make it easier to form a new "happiness" habit?
After updating Sonja on my latest travails this morning, I realized that I should share this experience with a larger audience. It is something others might run into and perhaps I can help someone else avoid the panic I went through. Here's the story.
As I said in my last post, I am getting ready for a small show tomorrow morning. It's mMy first time for face-to-face selling here in Virginia. On Wednesday I set out to update my Square account to be sure that I'd be able to accept credit cards. To my chagrin, I discovered that I'd accidentally deleted my login details from my LastPass account.
Usually that's not a huge deal, you just request a password reset. Which I promptly did - several times. The problem was that the promised email with instructions never showed up. Not in my inbox. Not in spam.
I sent an email about the problem to tech support. Got an automated response that said it might take 1-3 days for them to get back to me. One day, okay. Three days, a big problem. Tried to call tech support, but in order to get them to speak to you, a customer code is necessary. Which you get by logging in to your account. I was getting concerned. By mid-day Thursday with no response from tech support, I was beginning to panic. (I have gallery duty most of today so I couldn't wait much longer.)
Then, on a whim, I decided to go through all my gmail folders to see if somehow the needed email was in a weird place. That was my stroke of luck. I found the password reset email in a folder labeled Important. It sure never occurred to me to look for something like this when all the alerts remind you to look at your spam folder as well as your inbox if your message is "lost."
On the face of it, a folder for important emails makes some sense. But the kicker is that this is not a folder I set up myself, nor do I have any control over what goes into it. And messages apparently go there directly without ever hitting your inbox. Thus I have ever even noticed it was there. I have to click on More to even see it. It also does not flag that it has new emails in it in the same way that the rest of the folders do - with the number of new emails in parenthesis by the label. I discovered today that apparently the title turns red when there are new emails in it. (Today it is gray, yesterday it was red.) Next time I'll know. Right now I still have a bad taste in my mouth.
So - am I the only gmail user who was unaware of this Important folder/function????
PS - My square account is now all up-to-date and I'm ready for tomorrow - I think.
I am getting back to my work this week. We enjoyed a long visit from my daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old grandson last month. As you can imagine it takes a few days to come down to earth again afterward. This morning I have been spending my time ironing and thinking about shipping costs for on-line orders.
I have been ironing because I am participating in a marketplace event this Saturday at Fords Colony where we live. All our silk scarves have been packed away for several months now. They need pressing to be ready for display. They'll all need relabeling now too. I have to update the labels to reflect our new location and contact information. I am managing to fit in some creative work this week, but there is a great deal of house-keeping I need to do to be ready for this event. I have not participated in any in-person selling events since I left Western Avenue Studios at the end of April.
I have been thinking about shipping costs because I read an interview with Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy this morning. In the interview he answered several questions posed by Etsy sellers. The issue of "free" shipping came up several times.
One of the things that drew me to Etsy as the platform for our new on-line sales venture was the enormous amount of help available. Etsy provides a great deal of assistance in helping sellers maximize their sales. As a professional market researcher in a prior life, I appreciate the value that good data can provide - and I understand the need to pay attention to it. Etsy has the size and dollars to collect types of information that I could not afford on my own.
Today's key information for me was that on-line customers are increasingly unwilling to pay an additional charge for shipping. Needless to say, the whole idea of "free" shipping raises the hackles of small merchants. There are very real out-of-pocket costs for shipping items to customers. In all our years of selling fiber art supplies on line, we always passed through our shipping costs as an additional charge. We believed that we were being transparent and that customers should understand what they were paying for.
I have to admit that I have reconsidered my position based on the Silverman interview. He was very matter-of-fact in saying that "this is what customers are telling us." You can choose to build those costs into your prices or not, but if you choose not to, it may hurt your sales. In my mind, it boils down to--do you listen to the customers or not. My market research days tell me that it's always best to listen to the customers and respond the best you can.
So one of my housekeeping tasks for the next few days will be to figure out my best estimates for shipping our various items and update their prices accordingly. I realize that one way of being transparent is showing the customer right up front what the total cost of the product will be. I also realize that if I build in the shipping cost, I will have a standard way to ship each item which will streamline my processes. A "win-win" situation, as they say.
Here's my grandson telling me "Get to work Grandma Ann."
I am happy to say that tonight my work has its debut in the Williamsburg area. I am participating in the Members' Co-op Show at the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center. The members' preview and opening reception happens tonight. Needless to say I am excited and a bit nervous - per usual. I am exhibiting my jackets and scarves, plus just one wall piece.
Saturday was hanging day. Everyone I met was very nice, helpful, and complimentary about my work. It is the first time they've had work like mine, but no one made me feel like it didn't belong. I was pleased with how it fit in the space.
One bit of delightful serendipity...The air conditioning unit below the jacket on the wall makes it billow out like it's flying. I love that. It gives it a life of its own.
The one wall piece that I included was my "self portrait"--Here Am I. I decided to include that in lieu of hanging an artist statement or bio on the wall. It was created from scrap silk (thank you again Maria) covered with embroidered words I'd use to describe myself. I made it last fall for the Self Portrait show at the Loading Dock Gallery.
So tonight's my big night. I'll let you know how it goes.
Many of my friends know that my favorite place to shop for clothes is Marketplace India. The styles are simple, timeless, easy to wear and care for. The best thing though, is the fabric and the hand-embroidered embellishment. The fabrics are hand-dyed (often wax batik) or hand-printed. Almost every garment has a bit of hand embroidery to enhance or add to the pattern in the fabric. These clothes give me inspiration for my own work as well as giving me joy when I wear them.
Several years ago, I also bought a couple of table runners from them. I used them atop a buffet and another drawer unit in our condo. When we moved I decided it was time to retire them. They had faded and looked rather tired. I still liked the pattern of the fabric so I hung onto them thinking I'd repurpose them somehow. A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to looking at them again and decided I'd cut them up for pillow covers.
There were two layers (I thought) seamed together around the sides. So the first thing I did was to cut around the edges to get rid of the thickness and separate the layers. Much to my surprise there were not two layers, but three. The inside was also a beautiful hand-done wax batik print. In the one, the inside was a single fabric of the same pattern as the outside, but in a soft purple color. (The outside was black and white.) In the other--more of the same but also a nice rust pattern.
The other nice surprise was that the back of the black fabric which had been sheltered from the light still had it's nice intense color. So far I have made two new sofa pillow covers from these table runners and I have probably enough for at least one more. Here are the two I've finished.
I fussy-cut some of the motifs from the inside fabric and appliqued them onto the back of the outside fabric with hand embroidery. I also added a bit more embroidery to enhance the original pattern. I am quite pleased with the result. It feels so good to take something old and worn out and make it into something new and vibrant again.
Look for them soon in my Etsy shop.
Two things happened this morning that made me realize it was time for another blog post. One was an email and the other a Facebook post. The email was the announcement of a new post on Jane Dunnewold's blog Creative Civilization. Jane is a person who I find very inspiring, both artistically and personally. The introduction to her post for today was a commentary on social media and its potential for good. As I've found consistently true of her posts, it was thoughtful and concise. I urge you to take a look at it.
The Facebook post that I saw this morning was a fine example of "craft[ing] an environment where people honor each other and themselves with their written and visual sharing..." as she so aptly puts it. My friend Kevin Connolly had visited the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's annual fair at Sunapee this past weekend and he posted a couple of pictures of my work in the CraftWear exhibit. I was delighted to be honored by him in this way. I was also especially delighted because I was not able to travel to the fair this year to see how my work was displayed. I think you will agree from his photo that I really would have missed out if I had not seen this.
Seeing it like this, I can hardly believe that I made that jacket. It has risen to a whole new level. I am grateful to the display artist and to Kevin for the photo. He graciously sent it to me so I can print it for my portfolio. Thank you again Kevin.
I am delighted to announce that our new Etsy shop is already open and ready for business. Needless to say it will be a work-in-progress, evolving as we get more experience. So far I have just stocked it with a selection of One-of-a-kind Art Cards. They were easiest for me to photograph well and to figure out things like shipping. Next I will be working on adding my Sofa Pillows.
All in all, I have found Etsy's set-up tools very user friendly. It is very obvious that they are used to working with small operators like us. There is help and suggestions for success at every stage. For example, when you are setting up the products, there are very concrete suggestions for what to include in each section. For the product description, it suggests:
"Start with a brief overview that describes your item's finest features. List details like dimensions and key features in easy-to-read bullet points. Tell buyers a bit about your process or the story behind this item."
Similarly, for the item photos there are tips about getting good photographs and suggestions for the types of pictures you might want to include. To my amazement, you can include up to 10 photos for any given item. I didn't really need more than one for my cards, but for my jackets being able to include several should be a big bonus.
'I found these suggestions very valuable. As I reread the one on product descriptions, I realize that I should beef up what I wrote for my cards to tell more about how I made them. I guess that will be my next step as I work on this.
Better get to work on that.