exciting news.

February 18, 2012

Wow. I just realized how long it’s been since my last post. I am so bad. Anyway, so much has happened since I last wrote to you all. First, I recently made my 90th sale in my Etsy shop! I remember, not too long ago I might add, how excited I was when I reached my 10th sale. It seems that the more sales I make, the faster they start coming. At the moment. I am averaging about four sales a week. I hope to start making at least one sale a day. My next bit of good news is that I finally finished my graduate school application for the distance learning program in Historic Preservation at Goucher College. I decided this program suited me best, because I won’t be geographically confined to any particular place. Acceptance letters will be mailed out on March 12th. I don’t like knowing a precise date. It makes me nervous. Still, I’ve decided it’s out of my hands now. I gave it my best effort, so if I don’t get in, it’s not meant to be. In other news, I went back to my old job at Hope House! It’s only part time, so I have time to pursue my other interests. I really missed everyone a lot, especially after looking through some old photos. Here are a few of them:

Anyway, they are awesome, and I am happy to be working with them again. I also recently got a second job as Gardener’s Attendant at Hermitage Museum and Gardens, which is a historic house museum/art museum. The house rests on twelve acres of gardens and wetlands overlooking the Lafayette River, so I think I’ve got my job cut out for me. I’m looking forward to spending some solitary time outside, digging in the dirt. I’ve interned and volunteered there in the past, so I’m really excited to get a paid position!

Apparently, two jobs and a jewelry business weren’t enough for me. I am now a co-owner of a new shop called Kitsch! A very nice and talented crafter named Michelle just so happened to see some of my jewelry through a mutual friend on her facebook newsfeed. She contacted me and we became friends. She introduced me to some other cool girls, who were brewing up a plan to create a place dedicated to the arts and crafts community. In addition to selling handmade goods and art from fellow Virginians, the shop would offer a variety of awesome classes and workshops. Once we realized we had enough financial capital to fulfill this shared vision, we jumped right in. We found a great spot located on a side street of a main thoroughfare in downtown Norfolk, in a very artistic-minded community. We were able to find most of our fixtures either for free, or for dirt cheap from thrift stores and flea markets. We also didn’t need to spend any money on merchandise because everything is on consignment! We already have over forty consignors, many of whom are from the Hampton Roads area. We found the rest of our consignors by scouring the many shops of Etsy. I must say, we have quite a lot of wonderful things including jewelry, clothing, housewares, bath and body products, and other random cool things. Our grand opening weekend extravaganza is February 25th and 26th. We plan to have live music, good food, crafter demos, and free craft projects of course! Stay tuned for photos and like us on facebook!

Advertisements

new stuff!

January 26, 2012

Hello friends! I am making tons of new stuff for the spring and summer. Lately, I’ve been inspired by so many things from vintage calico fabrics to vibrant and exotic beads. Here is a preview of some of things I’ve been adding to my shop…

These earrings remind me of those fun toys I used to play with in the waiting room at my doctor’s office back in the day haha! They were strangely calming, which I guess might be the whole point.

I searched high and low for these calico fabrics, and I finally found an awesome collection from this nice lady on Etsy. Her shop is called In the Old School House.

I am slowly but surely adding new metal designs to my shop. I discovered a fool-proof new way to draw the perfect moon shape, so I improved the look of my celestial earrings. After posting my new and improved earrings, I sold my first pair to a nice girl in Antioch, California. I hope she likes em’!

I love this fabric! It is the prettiest shade of light blue. I know these earrings will look stunning with a tan! I can see it all now… white sun dress, big retro sunglasses, strappy sandals, and these baby blue beauties…

My list of nation-wide customers is growing each week. My jewelry has travelled to the following places…

(This list is more for my own personal pleasure but I just want to share it because I’m so excited!)

Amenia, New York

Antioch, California

Atlanta, Georgia

Australia

Berlin, Germany

Brooklyn, New York

Conyers, Georgia

Darrow, Louisiana

Fredericksburg, Virginia

Livorno, Italy

Los Angeles, California

Madison, Wisconsin

Morrison, Colorado

Oslo, Norway

Parker, Colorado

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Playa del Rey, California

Portland, Oregon

Richmond, Virginia

San Diego, California

Spring, Texas

Talahassee, Florida

Westerville, Ohio

Wheaton, Illinois

And tons of people in Hampton Roads yaaaay!

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.

etsy love.

December 30, 2011

I love Etsy. I always have. Since the moment I laid eyes on it after a Handmade Parade craft show back in (I think) 2006, I knew it was a happy place. This particular craft show was one of my first experiences with authentically handmade culture. The bright colors, the good smells, and the hopeful people stirred a new sensation within me  -one of complete consumeristic joy mixed with a bit of envy. I had always loved creating things but never considered selling them to be a viable money-making option. Here all these people were selling things that they had made -magical things to me.  As I walked around marveling at the most unique products I had seriously ever seen, I realized just how much hard work the sellers put into their respective businesses, not only the product but the presentation and the professionalism. On top of that, everybody was so nice and enthusiastic about what they were selling. Either they truly loved their job, or they were really good actors. Sadly, I could not afford to buy everything I wanted that day, but I was comforted to know that I could one day -thanks to a few letters printed on almost all of their business cards –etsy.com.

I was extremely curious and went straight to my computer when I got home. WOAH. The very first page was entrancing. My eyes tried to focus on the items displayed in a rectangular arrangement of visual splendor. It was a few minutes later that I realized the sheer magnitude of this handmade phenomenon.  I couldn’t believe all of the categories of handmade and vintage things just waiting for my consideration.

Needless to say, I was on Etsy for a few hours that night. My eyes ached when I finally went to bed at 3 am. And I had to work the next day too! It was no longer just about buying things. It was so much more.  It was a welcomed vacation from the craziness of life to a land of limitless creative possibilities and passions pursued. The PASSION oozed from the product photos and descriptions, and the sellers’ intimate bios. What I loved the most was the story and feeling that sellers brought to life in each handmade listing. I bought a few more things that night, and for the second time that day, I felt really good about the transaction. In a way, I felt like I sort of knew the people, and by owning and appreciating their handmade creations, I was helping their dreams come true. When I learned that listing a handmade item was only 20 cents, it finally occurred to me that I could try if I really wanted, to create something that another human being might want -with very little risk involved. It was such a happy, exciting feeling.

Made by Merriweather Council

Etsy has been the best study guide a novice jewelry seller like me could ever have. It’s fun, interactive, and enthusiastically helpful. There is a plethora of resources available to all levels of Etsians from buyers to prospective sellers, to beginning shops, to well-established businesses. Clearly, the learning process never ends. YES. It is overwhelming. YES. It is easy to get lost in a sea of worldwide handcrafted loveliness. YES. It is a lot of work. But it’s like a fun game too. It’s a challenge to make, photograph, name, and describe something I create that will hopefully reach out to at least one other human being. Essentially, I can play the role of designer,  inventor, photographer, marketing specialist, salesperson, financial analyst, and authentic human being all at once. This continuous cross training of professions is very time consuming but to me, never boring. And when I do manage to sell something, it is an indescribably wonderful feeling.

I am very new to selling my handmade goods. Every day I gain crucial knowledge in building a successful business. In fact, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that just a few minutes ago, I discovered Etsy’s Shop Stats. With this amazing tool, I can analyze my shop statistics and hopefully increase my shop’s exposure and appeal to the world -even through other venues like Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, and even WordPress. In fact, this is what prompted me to write such a glowing review of Etsy. Just by reading my Shop Stats I learned that my recent attempts to start a blog and Facebook page have really paid off, significantly increasing my level of exposure and subsequently my sales. This feature also showed me that people are drawn to both brightly colored photos against a stark white background, and photos of real people wearing my jewelry in a visually pleasing way. The words “Bob Dylan” and “Navajo,” have earned special places in my heart as winning item “tags” since Shop Stats informed me that they are my most searched keywords. I am so glad I am now aware of this highly informative feature. Checking my Shop Stats will become part of my weekly routine, pushing me to constantly learn ways to improve my product as well as my effectiveness as a seller. I hope to one day make a person think, “wow this girl has really taken her craft to the next level…”

Perhaps the best thing about Etsy is that it is collaborative. You can join teams, attend craft labs, post in forums, and just talk to other sellers. In my experience, most people are happy to share helpful bits of advice with an inquiring newbie. Etsy WANTS you to success. Of course, they benefit from your success, but they also understand the importance of cultivating small businesses, promoting independence and creative thinking. Basically, I just love Etsy. I could talk about it all day. I like to look at it as a sort of frontier for craftspeople of the world, a place where handmade dreams become reality. It is corny but true. Just see for yourself.

I’ve always been attracted to bright colors and lots of them. Don’t get me wrong, I do love earthy simplicity, but when it comes to grabbing the attention of potential customers at craft shows, it literally pays to have a unique and colorful presentation. I suppose it all depends on what  is being sold, as well as the target audience, but for my stuff in particular, it makes perfect sense. When creating the following displays, I was inspired by the aesthetically pleasing appearance and texture of seed beads. First of all, they serve well in anchoring rings in a fixed position for optimum visibility. Then the tiny specks of different colors blending into one perfect “super color,”  invokes that inevitable child-like excitement, much like that feeling of walking into a candy shop. This sets the mood for a “kid in a candy shop” type of shopping experience. Seed beads work in pretty much any horizontal fashion. I chose to use them in repurposed vintage muffin tins, which I purchased from a thrift store, as well as wooden miniature collection displays from the Dollar Tree that I laid flat. I decided not to paint the unfinished wood, to further accentuate the seed beads and the handmade treasures resting inside them…

Though this jewelry may not necessarily be your style, you have to admit there is just something about it that makes you want to stop and marvel at all the pretty colors. Right? These displays are cheap and easy. I found tons of quality seed beads at Hobby Lobby that I just dumped in a photo box, although it’s probably best to keep them in a more sealed container. I can just see it raining seed beads right now. Anyway, I love digging my hands into the box of beads each time I prepare my displays. Never underestimate the power of texture.

The next display is more of that simple look that I also love. I know not everything can be bright and colorful. I’m not trying to overstimulate. I found these cute unfinished wood serving trays in a pack of two, one slightly smaller than the other, at Michael’s for $3.99. I laid a plain piece of burlap inside them and lightly sprinkled some chunky gold and iridescent glitter on top. The photos don’t really do the glitter justice. It adds just the right amount of twinkling femininity to complement the jewelry…

Lastly, and perhaps most eye-catching of all, is my antique birdcage display. A very generous woman gave this awesome find to me. It is dainty and perfect for displaying my many fabric button earrings. I attach the earrings cards to the wire cage with cute little clothespins…

A friend of mine recently hosted a party at her house to help me in my craft selling venture. It was really cozy and fun! I didn’t get very good photos, but you’ll get a general idea…

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!