June 30, 2009

Personal Stuff

There's been a lot of stuff going on recently, and I feel like I've been really falling behind with the blog here. If you're not interested in Sean and my personal life, then please feel free to skip this extra long post. I don't mind. :)

First, Sean and I just celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary! We got all dressed up and had dinner in the courtyard of the Kennedy School McMenamins. It was really lovely! I made a chocolate cake with homemade strawberry filling and ganache frosting. We've been pigging out on it, but we may have to force it upon some of our neighbors so we can still fit into these nice new clothes we just bought.

Second, our exciting news is that we may be buying a house soon! We've been wanting our own house for a really long time, but it's never been the right time for us to buy. We keep tabs on the market in our area, and I finally said we should talk to a mortgage broker. It could actually happen in the next few months!

We're trying to find a place with a big unfinished basement or garage that we can turn into the new studio space. It would be so convenient to have all our sandblasting equipment in our house with us. We're learning that we may have to sacrifice our proximity to the city to get all the space that we want, but it will be a worthwhile trade-off.

[This is a picture of the bottom of a whiskey glass that my dad carved with the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's so cool!]

The third major personal thing we're dealing with right now is my Dad's health. He just had surgery on his skull for a hematoma. I don't know how he feels about me talking about all this, but it's helping me deal with it by sharing with other people.

Basically, he bumped his head a few months ago, and the injury caused blood to collect next to his brain. He just had the excess blood removed, and now he's waiting for his brain to expand back to the size it should be. In the mean time, he has decreased function from both sides of his brain (so reading and speech can be difficult, and his creativity is impaired), and he has frequent seizures. The seizures aren't like falling-on-the-floor spasms, it's just mis-firings in the brain that make large portions of his body go numb.

Anyway, it's very frustrating for him, since he can't go to work, and he can't get around much. My dad's a really artistic person (he plays--and builds!--a number of musical instruments, he does digital mandala designs, he's passionate about photography, he draws, he has lapidary tools for making jewelry, he engraves glass, rocks and anything else he can get his hands on, and so much more,) so not having creative abilities is probably one of the hardest things he's ever had to deal with. The most recent activity he just got into is drawing Zentangles, and I really want him to do more!
I'm trying to come up with something fun for him to do with his current free time. Maybe he can do some more photography (he's got a new Canon camera that I know he loves to play with), or maybe try a new craft. Is there something fun that he can just follow the directions for? Something that doesn't involve much reading? It's so hard to imagine what he's going through. I know I'd feel completely lost if I was suddenly missing so many skills. We're all expecting him to recover quickly, but that doesn't make this time go by any easier. I love my dad so much, and it's really hard to be on the other side of the country from him.


June 25, 2009

Pepper Jelly

This is one of my favorite little snacks: crackers, really sharp cheddar cheese, and spicy red pepper jelly (this is actually hot cranberry jelly from Whole Foods, which is also really good).

The first time I tried pepper jelly was at a wine tasting near my parents' house. They served it with Chevre goat cheese, which was also amazing. I just happen to always have cheddar in the house, and I like it just as much. If you've never tried red pepper jelly, then you should get some as an excuse to throw yourself a wine and cheese party. Do it!


June 24, 2009

Selling Wholesale

After my last blog post, I got a great question from a reader who wanted to know how she could find wholesale buyers for her own work. I thought maybe it would be helpful to share some of my own story here, in case other people have that question. I'm not an expert at wholesaling by any means, but these are some of the things I've learned in the past few years. [These photos are for my most recent wholesale account, by the way. It's a custom doily design for the fabulous and classy Century Finds!]

I didn't start out selling wholesale, since most shops would rather sell goods on consignment, especially from a not-so-well-known artist. I scouted out shops in my town that carried work similar to mine, and asked to speak to the shop owner or buyer. Sometimes I spoke to someone right away, and sometimes I had to email or call them later.

Not everyone wanted to carry my work, but I did find a few shops that would take things on consignment. Some of them were fantastic about merchandising my stuff well and sending me checks regularly. Other shops hid my stuff in a corner, and then never wanted to pay me when I did notice that something had sold. It's tough to know who's going to be reliable unless you get a recommendation from another artist.

It wasn't until I'd been in business for over 2 yrs. that shops were really beginning to approach me, since they were finding me on Etsy and through blog features. I felt like I was well-known enough to demand wholesale instead of consignment, so I kindly told inquirers this. Most people declined to order (since most startup shops don't have the money to buy wholesale at first, and that's mostly who was contacting me), but occasionally someone would be interested.

Now, I have a line sheet which shows info on all of my available products and designs, plus an order form that I can give to potential wholesale buyers. If I find a store online or in my area that seems like a good fit for my work, I find out who the buyer is, and introduce myself. If it's in person, I'll try to leave a line sheet and order form with them (along with a business card), and I'll try to follow up with them in a week or so to see if they're interested in placing an order. Sometimes they'll want to see samples of my work in person, so I make an appointment to bring things by.

Honestly, it doesn't turn into a lot of wholesale accounts for me, and I'm always having to approach new shops and follow up a lot on my own. I'm just more focused on retailing online right now, but it could be very different if you have more time to devote to this. Some artists make most of their money wholesaling, so it's a good route to take for some people. If it sounds like a good thing for you, then go for it! :) You may have to start out with consignment, but it's a great learning experience and you can test out the waters a bit.

Don't be afraid to talk to a lot of shops before you find one that's interested. It's humbling work, but it's just a match-making game--trying to find the right fit for your work. You might even get advice from shop owners about your products, which could help you improve something to make it sell better. You never know what you'll learn!

Another thing to consider is that most retail shops sell reproducible work. If you make original paintings (or something similar), you may have better luck selling prints of your work to most gift shops. I don't know much about approaching art galleries, but it could be different from retailers. I'd talk to a few galleries just to see what their policies are. Etsy isn't geared toward wholesale buyers, so you might have a tough time finding them if you just sell there. And really, exposure exposure exposure is key. :) Advertise, get your name out there, see if you can display your work for free at a coffeeshop or something. The more people who see your art, the more likely you are to find a wholesale buyer.


June 22, 2009

New Stuff at Magpie in Davis Sq.!

One of the very first stores we ever sold to was Magpie in Somerville, MA--back when they were in their old location. They carry a host of fabulous handcrafted goods, from all over the country. They have a special focus on local artists, and I was completely honored to be represented there.

Since we moved across the country last year, I haven't sent anything new to Magpie until today! Totally Awesome Alison from The Sampler is the new buyer for Magpie, and she placed a great big order of new pint glasses, shot glasses and ceramic mugs from us. They should be arriving on the Monday, if my Fedex tracking is correct.

Rupert had a fun time playing with the (recycled) styrofoam peanuts before everything was packed up. He was too timid to jump down into the "ball pit" of a box. I'm a little glad of that, since I think he would have gotten lost in there. It was a massive box.

The top photo is of the little cup inserts I make to go inside our glasses when they're in stores. (I sort of forgot to send some to the local shops I have things at--oops!! I'll be sending them soon.) Each one has a little story about how the product was made, and I have them in cheery red and turquoise. My favorite color combo right now!


June 15, 2009

Banana Ginger Candy

Sean and I really like shopping at a variety of supermarkets. The most fun is by far the local Asian grocery store, Fubonn. We go there for curry and Pad Thai ingredients, cheap meat and produce, awesome soy sauce, and at least one thing we've never had before.

The last item is usually from the candy aisle, and it's not always a winner. Once, we got icing-coated cookies that looked like cruller donuts, but turned out to be jaw-breakingly hard and stale. Not everything is that bad though. We've really enjoy the sesame and peanut candies, which are similar to peanut brittle.

Recently, we discovered banana ginger candy, which wasn't quite what we expected, but I totally love it! These little rectangles of sesame numminess look like they're going to be crispy (like the brittle), but they're actually soft and chewie. The banana appears to be the binder that holds little chunks of ginger, peanuts and sesame seeds together. It's not too sweet, and it's incredibly satisfying. I highly recommend it!

Next, we'd like to try the candied squid in a bag.


June 13, 2009

Plush Raffle Loot

I was one of the very lucky raffle winners at the Bazaar Bizarre this year, and I got a box full of designer plushies! These little guys are so soft and cute, I can barely stand it!

There were three adorable creatures from Woolly Hoodwinks (I got Junco, Ludic and Reddy), plus a set of 1" buttons and postcards with the little lovelies. (Did you know that the Woolly Hoodwinks even have their own book?!)

I also got a Ninja, Bearded Lady and Gnome by Sweet and Sour Goodies. Previously, I'd thought the Ninja was my favorite Sweet and Sour doll, but that Bearded Lady has totally won me over.

I'm going to send out all 6 postcards to some lucky Twitter followers of mine, and save these fuzzies for gifts, if I can bear to part with them!


June 11, 2009

Man-tastic Front Page, or How I Love CraftCult.com

My Rocket Ship Pint Glasses were on Etsy's front page this morning! It looks like a Father's Day-themed treasury, with lots of great items. I love the tooled leather wallet, the bike inner tube book and the ceramic shot glass. Such great picks!

I discovered this page while checking my stats on CraftCult.com. If you have an Etsy shop, you need to check out CraftCult! I'm a serious statistic junkie, and I'm constantly checking to see if any of my items are featured on the front page, in the Storque, or in gift guides. Plus, they archive all the front page treasuries, so you can see exactly what you've missed!

CraftCult.com became well-known for their Heart-o-Matic, which gives you info on your shop and item hearts (the people who add your stuff as a "favorite"). What a fabulous way to waste some time! :)


June 10, 2009

Father's Day Sale!

Everything on our website and Etsy shop is 15% off until June 14th! That includes all your Dad's Day gifts: pint glasses, fancy rocks glasses (my dad's favorite), coffee mugs, wine glasses and more! We've got 4 new designs to choose from, including the pin-up girl style Mermaids above.

Maybe you have a new dad in your life, who grew up making mixtapes. Share a smoothie with your sweetie in our Cassette Tape glass.

Is your guy perfecting an urban homestead? We know you don't live in a barn, so spruce up his kitchen with a set of Chicken and Snail tumblers!

(If you have a retail shop, you can order these wholesale now!)


June 9, 2009

New Art

You may be wondering what I've been doing recently. Right? I'm sure you were curious.

Last week, I was creating new art for some custom orders. I made this movie reel design for a pint glass, and two chemistry-themed illustrations for some double-old-fashioneds. I'm finally getting comfortable using Adobe Illustrator, and it's taking me a little less time to do designs like these. Pretty cool!

We also got a big wholesale order from our friends at Magpie in Somerville, MA, so Sean and I have been putting that together. Magpie is one of my all-time favorite places to buy gifts, and I'm really happy to be sending them new items! They're getting a great assortment of coffee mugs, which is always fun because of all the different colors and shapes I end up using from thrift stores.

Magpie is getting shot and pint glasses too, and they're the first shop to carry one of our newest designs, the Cassette Tape. (Notice the little heart the tape makes? That's my favorite part!)

I spent all day today adding 4 new designs to our website, so you can buy them for Father's Day. I also updated the page for mugs and teacups, so you can request any design from our catalog. I still have to shop for new mugs, so it may take a week to get your ceramic cups, but at least now you can get the ball rolling!

Oh, and we carved this vase for our friend, Megan of Ta-Dah.

[Don't forget that all these designs are my original work, and are totally copyrighted and all that stuff.]


June 8, 2009

Now I'm Kinda Old

I had a lovely day of relaxing yesterday, and I accomplished my goal of not sending any emails. It was fabulous!

Instead of being glued to my workstation like every other day of the week, I read a few chapters of A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, played some Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the new Xbox 360 I got, plus some free demos (I can not wait to get Ninja Gaiden II!!). I did some cleaning around the house just because I wanted to, which feels so much nicer than cleaning because I really have to. I played with the cat.

[Photo by Blonde Chicken Boutique]

In the evening, Sean and I both took over our little kitchen to make strawberry shortcake and strawberry jam. I made the jam, he made the shortcake. We listened to '90s grunge music, which brought back lots of happy birthday memories for me. The Smashing Pumpkins Lull EP has two songs that talk about June, and I used to imagine that Rhinoceros was my own personal birthday song.

I wanted to take pictures of the canning process, but everything was so chaotic, sticky, and dark (I didn't want to use the flash), that I decided to share other people's great jam-making pictures instead. Click the images to visit my friends' Flickr pages--they both have tons of other great photos. Enjoy!

[Photo by Leah Pellegrini]


June 6, 2009

Birthday Decompression

So, tomorrow is my birthday! I don't have any real plans this year, so I'm taking the day off. Yes, you heard me right. I'm taking the day off. I'm not going to respond to any emails. I'm not going to edit the photos I took today of new products. Instead, I'm going to read, make strawberry jam, listen to Daft Punk Alive, and play video games on my brand new (used) Xbox 360! This is a dream come true.

Sean even spent today cleaning the apartment and folding laundry so I won't have to do any of that tomorrow. We went out for dinner last night with our friend, Michael, and the shiny snail above is the remnants of my lamb chop meal. Montage sure knows how to make leftovers pretty!

I'm going to turn 27 calmly, and quietly. There are a lot of things that I haven't done yet, that I'd imagined I would have done by this point in my life. It's interesting to reflect and see how different my path in life was from my expectations. When I was little, I certainly never imagined I'd own my own internet business! Crazy! I thought I'd be a homemaker and children's book illustrator. But I'm glad I've taken this route. And I'm excited to have so many things ahead of me!


June 3, 2009

Home from Maker Faire

This was such a crazy week, wow!

I wanted to take tons of photos, but it was too crazy on Saturday and Sunday to walk around and see anything. I also missed my opportunities to photo the Bazaar Bizarre, which I'm really bummed about.

Here are the rest of the photos I took (there aren't that many, since I only brought my camera on Friday during set up): http://www.flickr.com/photos/breadnbadger/sets/72157619216519718/

Maker Faire & Bazaar Bizarre 2009 Recap
(The Short Version)

We drove a lot, worked really hard, made a bunch of money, met TONS of amazing people, saw some great spectacles, ate some incredible food, and drove home. It was super fun, and we hope we can have the honor of doing it again next year.

We completely mis-judged the amount of pint glasses to bring with us, and completely failed to bring some designs that were in high demand. We're sorry! This was really hard to plan out. To make it up to you folks, we're going to be running a big Father's Day Sale this weekend to help offset the cost of shipping. Join our mailing list here, or stay tuned for more details!

Maker Faire & Bazaar Bizarre 2009 Recap
(The Very Long Version)

Sean and I filled our little car to bursting and drove from Portland, OR to our friends' house in Berkeley, CA on Thursday. It was a great drive, with great weather. We set up our booth on Friday afternoon, and walked around the faire to see all the great stuff we'd be missing while we worked the Bazaar Bizarre indoors. We got free beer and paella (which was amazing), and said hi to our friends Cathy Pitters and Sister Diane.

Our Berkeley friends were missing us, so we headed home to play some Arkham Horror (board game based on H.P. Lovecraft stories). Late in the evening, I had my friend take me to the ER (while Sean attempted to get some sleep before the big day ahead) for an infection that turned out to be kind of serious. I finally left around 5am, after a catscan, IV fluids and a mysterious un-diagnosis.

Saturday was a little rough, due to the complete lack of sleep and general not feeling great, but we had so much fun anyway! People visiting the BazBiz were amazingly friendly, chatty, and fascinating. There was always someone walking by in a great costume, or with a great story to tell. I was blown away by the number of people who were already familiar with our work online, since we'd never sold in California before. I was also struck by the professionalism of the other crafters at the Bazaar, since I was already a fan of most of the work that was there.

Our booth was next to the Swap-O-Rama-Rama area, so we got to see the mayhem of massive crowds of people, all digging through piles of donated clothing for screen printing or sewing. I wish we could have had time to participate! Sunday afternoon, Daryl Hannah was spotted getting her craft on at one of the sewing tables, and she hung out 'til closing!

We rested as much as possible, and had an other fun but tiring day on Sunday. That evening, we headed in to Oakland for some grub at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, which I believe is owned by one of the guys from Green Day. It was exactly what we needed!

The drive home on Monday was uneventful, except for an impressive lightning storm that we drove through when crossing the mountains in southern Oregon. Man, I'm a fan of lightning! Especially when it's flashing across blackened mountains. That was some of the heaviest rain we've ever driven through, too. Really amazing!

So now we're back to work, with a little detour to Urgent Care yesterday to switch my antibiotics. Things are finally improving, so I'm feeling relieved. We shipped out all our orders today that had accumulated over the weekend (19, total!), so we're ready for gear up for our Father's Day Sale and release of some new designs.

Oh, and I just found out that I'm one of the 11 raffle winners from the Bazaar Bizarre, and I'll be getting a whole gift basket of fun items from other vendors!! There was so much talent represented there, I can't wait to find out what I've won. Unbelievable!


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