The other day, I came across a really cool artist on Etsy, who made an awesome linoprint. It looked like this:

These three words struck a chord in the deepest part of my creative soul. As part of my New Year’s Resolution I vowed that I would try my hardest to create a successful handmade business. By successful I mean increased organization, exposure, sales, and opportunities to share my work with others. I think to be successful in any independent enterprise one must -or very well should be- SWEET, STRONG, and AMBITIOUS. So far in 2012, I have been a busy bee indeed, all the while thinking of that powerful combination of words.

I’d like to think of myself as SWEET by nature. I’ve never bullied anyone. I enjoy giving much more than receiving. I make it a point to always be perceptive about things that bring joy to other nice people, and then surprise them when they need it the most. I definitely get that from my mom. If everyone else is happy, I am happy. I also get that from my mom. I’ve been trying to employ my sweet sensibilities in my business by promoting other crafty people and the cool things they make. I do so by making lots of Etsy treasuries, posting photos and links to Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest, and donating my handmade goods to worth while causes. Just the other day, I had a lot of fun putting together a treasury entitled etsians in the 7 cities, which showcased the abundant creative talent in Hampton Roads, a place I call home. It made me feel good to learn more about the cool handmade culture in my surrounding area. In the process, I made connections with some really nice people.

Not to toot my own horn, but being SWEET is easy for me. To be STRONG is a much greater challenge. I am a major wuss, completely non-confrontational, and too much of the time, unsure of myself. I sometimes get intimidated by all of the amazing things people are doing/making and I begin to doubt my own work. In 2012, the new, STRONG-er Marie is letting go of this counter-productive, detrimental attitude. I have no use for it. The more time and effort that I invest into cultivating my creativity and my business, the more hope and sincere belief I have for it. Every week, my Etsy shop looks better and better. Every day, my creative imagination grows. Every minute, my hands become more capable of creating something awesome. Every kind and encouraging word that people go out of their way to share with me is a tiny push forward. Just the other day, I received the nicest message on Etsy in reference to an item in my shop…

Hi Marie!

I can’t tell you how much I LOVE these yarn triangles. My aunt sent me $50 for Christmas with strict instructions not to buy anything practical with it even though I need so many things. BUT I think I need these earrings the most. They are magical.
I live in Brooklyn but am flying to San Diego to visit my sister-in-law tomorrow. I want to get her a pair and two for myself. I am not sure which ones but will pick tomorrow 1/5 or the next day 1/6. I will probably have them shipped to her as my daughter and I are staying until 1/22.

Thank you for being awesome!

…This brought a huge smile to my face. I’ve never been thanked for being awesome. The fact that she thought my earrings were “magical,” and the best way to spend her $50 made me stand just a little bit taller. Thus far, my handmade items have travelled to California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Portland, sweet ol’ Virginia, Australia, Italy, and Norway. It’s such a cool feeling.

After receiving her earrings in the mail, the very kind woman that sent me the heart-warming Etsy message, posted a little surprise to my facebook page…

we just got your earrings in the mail and we LOVE them! so reasonably priced, great simple designs...I really have never seen anything like them. natural, artsy, great colors! thank you! we will be ordering more and spreading the word! we've even attached a (slightly cheesy but lovable) photo of my sister and I modeling our faves.

This past week, I surprised myself with my level of AMBITIOUS-ness. I revamped my Etsy shop and Facebook page, organized my billions of product photos, made a bunch of new advertisements, and designed my very first sponsor ad, which is now displayed on Oh So Lovely Vintage, one of my favorite blogs. I keep visiting the page just to see my humble little ad that I made all by myself. I’ve already gotten some traffic to my Etsy shop because of it. I’ve been hard at work this month getting ready for a hopefully lucrative and fun-filled summer. I’ve decided to fulfill a life-long dream and become a part-time peddler. My goal is to travel around Virginia and surrounding states to various craft shows and music festivals. I am preparing myself now, trying to get a little more AMBITIOUS every day. Starting my own business has proven to be a highly empowering and positive experience and I know I have so much to learn. Over the past few months, I’ve met a lot of creative and inspiring people that played major roles in the evolution of my jewelry and my business. They gave me great advice, which I immediately implemented. I know that small businesses should be ever-changing, and at this point in my life, I’m ready to change.

a whirlwind of photo shoots.

December 26, 2011

Like many people, I feel like I haven’t stopped moving over the past few weeks. I’ve found it difficult to sleep, unable to turn off the thoughts and ideas manifesting in my brain like explosions of creative confetti, maddening and exciting all at once. I know that sounds cheesy, but that is the only way I can describe it. I’m sort of mad at myself that I haven’t taken the time to document all of the baking and crafty projects I’ve been doing lately, but I hardly had time to complete them let alone photograph them in an aesthetically pleasing way. I did manage to take a series of photos of my new jewelry line, which I am so excited to share with people.

Planning these winter photo shoots was far more difficult than any that I did this summer. First of all, it was freezing. Second, the sunlight was scarce. And third, I had to find a time that was convenient for everyone in the midst of this hectic holiday season. I had planned to wait until after the holidays, but I really wanted to present some nice photos of my jewelry to present to all of the holiday shoppers. Fortunately, I was able to do four different photo shoots, some of which were with people I hardly knew. Interestingly enough, friends of friends that had seen my previous photos contacted me to see if they could model some of my jewelry. I was surprised and flattered.

For me, this was sort of a daunting task, as I am somewhat shy and could use a little work explaining the direction that I want my photos to take. After reviewing all of the photos, I am so happy that I forced myself outside of my comfort zone. I made some new friends and connections and I got just a little bit better at verbally communicating my creative thoughts with other people.

With the help of my models, I found some great places to use as backdrops for my photos, and discovered new ways of expressing the intention behind my creativity. One girl suggested that I play music that expresses the style of my jewelry and that has made all the difference. I can’t believe it never occurred to me before! It really puts people at ease and inspires them to open up the most vulnerable places within themselves to become, in a way, a piece of art. Music has the power to unplug people from the mundane parts of life, and feel passionate and important. It took some of the pressure off of me to explain my aesthetic goals. I also got some great ideas browsing “pretty poses” on Pinterest. I made a really inspiring collection of photo ideas to use for future shoots.

These photos opened a few important doors for me. The owner of Beaucoup Vintage, a really cool shop in Frederickburg,  saw one of the photo shoots and contacted me to be featured in a trunk show at her shop. Needless to say, I was flattered and very excited. After adding the photos to my Etsy listings, I made sales three days in a row. This might not be a big deal to the well established sellers on Etsy, but I was super excited! One friend even described my jewelry as “joyful,” which really made my day. All of these things have pushed me a little further to pursue my creative dream. I can’t wait to do some more photo shoots and possibly make some new friends! Here are a few more of my favorites…

Ok. Enough. If you would like to see more of my jewelry, please visit my Luna Rosa business page on Facebook. Happy Holidays!

DIY paper clip earrings

November 29, 2011

 

Recently I felt myself falling into sort of a creative rut. I took a little break from crafting and began perusing my favorite blogs as well as the always inspiring craftgawker. During my ventures, I stumbled upon a bunch of really fun new DIY projects, one of which I had to try right away –paper clip earrings. I love when I already have all of the materials required to complete a project. Anyway, after finishing one pair I was hooked. Not only did they turn out really cool, I strangely enjoyed the therapeutic motion of winding string around wire. I made a bunch of earrings trying both colored hemp and yarn. I gave a pair to my friend, Laura, for her birthday and was super excited to hear her say she “could totally picture them gracing the pages of the Anthropologie catalogue.” These earrings make unique holiday gifts, so I’m excited to pass along this tutorial. So here goes, my friends…

paper clip earrings

what you will need:

As far as the glue is concerned, one that dries clearly and quickly is ideal. I took a picture of only one paper clip, but obviously you will need two. Also, I know 84 inches sounds like a lot of string, but if you plan to wrap them the way I did, in a continuous pattern with minimal knots, it is best to use one really long piece of string. Anyway, next you will unbend the paper clip at all of the rounded edges…

Once the edges are all open, you will shape it into a triangle. The open side of the triangle will overlap a bit, which makes it easier to bind the sides together. Next you should tie a knot, secured with glue, at a point on the triangle, like so…

Add a tiny bit of glue to a small area of the paper clip, as it will dry pretty fast, and wrap the string around and around in a tight fashion. I try to wind the string away from the opening so that I may use it to my advantage. Rather than spending lots of extra time pulling the ridiculously long piece of string through the triangle with each turn, you can simply slide it in through the opening. You will see what I mean…

Please excuse my poorly trimmed nails:) The only tricky part of this project is wrapping the overlapping, open side of the triangle. I tried to overlap the sides one on top of the other rather than side by side so it would be less visible. Just do your best to hold them in this position with a good amount of glue while you wrap. It’s really not that hard, I promise. Once the string wraps all the way around, wrap it to a point just below the top of the triangle so you may begin the infinitely easier task of wrapping it across the triangle. Try not to go too crazy with the glue so the earrings look nice and neat. I left space at the top and bottom because the string is most secure from unraveling. When you reach a stopping point, tie a knot and secure it well with glue. They should somewhat resemble these…

That’s my friend Laura wearing her new earrings. I love how they happen to match her shirt perfectly! You can do so many different things with these earrings. Instead of wrapping them so tightly, you can make a sort of webbed, dream catcher look, and even add some beads to it…

If you decide to use yarn, you can achieve some really interesting looks. I should note that yarn is much more stretchy, so you won’t need nearly as much as you would with, say, hemp. I would go so far as to say you may need only half the amount. If you like the rainbow hemp, you can purchase some at a lovely shop called Hemp Hutt. I hope this tutorial was clear enough. This is my first one! Enjoy and let me know how it goes!

Of course, you will need some music for inspiration. Here is a random playlist of awesome songs.

Don’t worry, though. If you don’t feel like doing this, but you think the earrings look cool, I’m selling them in my etsy shop!