Sunday, September 26, 2010

Long Term Goal

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.

He asked the first, "What are you doing?" and the man answered, "I am laying bricks."

He asked the second, "What are you doing?" and the man answered, "I am building a wall."

He walked up to the third man, who was humming a tune as he worked and asked, "What are you doing?" and the man stood up and smiled and said, "I am building a cathedral."

- Retold in "The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell"

by Annette Simmons

I'm not wire wrapping beads. I'm not designing jewelry. I'M CREATING A BRAND.

Small Bump on the Journey

It's turning out to be a very busy fall. I've been doing 2 shows per month since July and while some have been better than others, all have been at least a moderate success. We've made money at every show and our recycled jewelry still sells twice as fast as our traditional line.

So as I try to turn out new steampunk designs for our show in Wethersfield, Ct., on Oct. 2, it's very discouraging to receive an email from 1000 Markets informing me that the site has been purchased by another online market and will cease to exist on Sept. 30.

I still have a few hundred business cards with the 1000 Markets website on them. And I have 60 listings on the site that will have to taken down or moved.

I could move to Bonanza. com, the new owners. They tell me it will be an easy transfer of all my listings. But I really don't like their website. I guess I was spoiled by the high end look and feel of 1000 Markets. It's the site I listed on all my craft show applications. And it was a juried site strictly for handmade items.

Bonanza is a lot like Ebay, full of resellers and cheap jewelry. Many of the 1KM artisans are moving over though lots are not. I'll just be adding all my listings to my site on Etsy for now. This means several hours of work copying and pasting from 1KM to Etsy, a lot more work than moving to Bonanza.

I guess I should be thinking about creating my own website, and I will. Maybe once the craft show season is over. Until then, look for lots of new listings on Etsy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Colorful Creations by Carol

In perusing the the Old Deerfield Fall Craft Show I found the best florist and one of the nicest people right in the booth next door. Carol Howell comes all the way from Upstate New York to do this show. And while there were other floral designers here, hers definitely caught my eye in a way the others did not.

For Creations by Carol she grows and dries all the plants for her beautiful designs. I was immediately struck by the vivid colors and then by the unusual combination of colors and material. This has been her job for a few years now and her expertise definitely blew away the competition.

She's also a very nice person who is happy to share her knowledge about dried plants.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Asian Party in South Deerfield

Some of you know that my husband is really into landscaping. This has led him to bonsai classes which turned into lots of pretty little trees which eventually compelled him to turn half our backyard into a Japanese garden. And then, of course, it just wasn't right for our sunroom, which overlooks the Japanese garden, to be anything but Asian in design.

Lots of people have stopped over to look at the garden and many others have said they'd love to see it. So he had a party this past weekend and invited a number of our friends. It had an Asian theme with Saki, Japanese beer, sushi, and Asian food from a local restaurant.

I was at the Old Deerfield Craft Show so he was pretty much on his own. Though I have since found out that John, Tom, Ron, Rick and probably other "Hoopsters" helped him out a "little".

So I came home Sunday night, changed into a kimono borrowed from Donna, and sat down to a glass of plum wine, good food, and pleasant conversation. I was surprised to find a few other guests wearing some Japanese inspired clothing too.

Two of our neighbors had brought binoculars to watch the white goats that appear each night at sunset in the rocky area of Mt. Sugarloaf. We have a good view of them from our house.

And there were lawn games, of course. And a prize of one of Ed's bonsais was given to the participant who accumulated the most points -- our neighbor, Dave! I'm sure Rosie is thrilled.

Our Weekend in Old Deerfield

We spent the weekend at the Old Deerfield Fall Craft Show. The weather was perfect (no wind) and sunshine. Our booth was near the food tent and music so we got people coming and going for food. And it was so nice to see some friends from the library (Eva & Janice), some neighbors, and Jeanie who I have known for over 30 years and haven't seen in ages. We got caught up a little in between customers.

Traffic was great on Saturday. Some of the guys who park cars at Yankee Candle and Channing Bete were at my house for a party on Sunday night (more on that in another post) and informed me that one of the lots was full and they had to close it. Sunday traffic was lighter with fewer buyers.
The atmosphere was very fall-like with lots of Halloween decorations. And the ubiquitous scare crow statuary was a nice touch.

Having Bethany work the shows with me allows me to walk around, shop, and talk to other vendors. I love to get opinions from different crafters on how well they like the show. Generally, this year sales were down. Though "Guy Gifts" who sold fire starters probably cleaned up. Some vendors felt it was just an off year, others feel the market is saturated with their type of work. A few said they won't apply next year as it's too expensive and they're not making enough.

So listen up Old Deerfield! My feeling is that this show is overpriced. Too many vendors who travel long distances are unable to cover their costs. The summer show was a clear indication that vendors are staying away and so are customers. Old Deerfield could lower their prices for next year and do away with the admission charge. The lower fee might encourage more vendors/new vendors and bring in more traffic. While eliminating the entrance fee might bring in more browsers, I've seen lots of people purchase impulsively if you can just get them into your booth.

Or maybe they just need to go back to fewer shows. Four shows a year may be diluting the market.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Prize Winning Polymer Clay Artist

I'm often impressed by the work of other artisans I meet at the craft shows I attend. While exhibiting at the Mattoon Street I had a chance to walk around and talk to people. After a brief conversation with a woman who was leaving the food court, I decided to see what she created to sell at the festival. I'm so glad I did.

Kathleen DeQuence Anderson creates colorful patterns in polymer clay. Some of her jewelry has a tribal feel while her boxes, to me, look more modern. With clay in hand she also takes the time to demonstrate to customers how she combines canes of clay into the blocks that she cuts to create her designs. I'm still not certain most people realize the time, forethought, and patience this process requires.

Fortunately the Mattoon St. Committee appreciated her work. They award prizes in each category represented at the show and Kathleen took first place in jewelry. I was not surprised when I saw the ribbon hanging from her tent.

Kathleen lives just down the road in Amherst so, hopefully, I will see her again on the craft fair circuit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recovering from Mattoon Street

So far this season the Mattoon Street Festival is my favorite show. The fact that it didn't rain may have a lot to do with that. We've done so many shows in the rain. And this was a banner year for the festival with 95 artisans.

The weather couldn't have been better and the people couldn't have been nicer. On Saturday they came nicely dressed, many with dogs on a leash, and ready to buy. Some people remembered us from last year and were happy to see us back.

We were entertained both days by a rotation of musicians, singers, and clowns.

We tried out our new sheers and I love the way they look. Makes the tent feel a little warmer.

As usual we made some new friends. Photographer Margaret Burgess was across the street from us. I bought some of her cards with pictures she took in Italy of colorful homes. And I met Kathleen Dequence Anderson from Amherst who does incredible work with polymer clay. More about her in my next posting.

And we reconnected with some old friends. Elaine, the creator of the flower brooches made of zippers whom we met in Templeton, stopped by and chatted with us. She drove out from Worcester County just to check out the show. It was nice to see Rory and Patti of Hotrocks again. They were our neighbors at least year's show.

Sunday was cloudy and a bit cooler. The crowds came a little later and many were just browsing.

The Mattoon Street Association awards first, second and third prizes in each category. Congratulations to Katie Richardson of Katie Ray Arts on winning first prize in the glass category. She's a fellow member of the Artisans of Western Mass. who was exhibiting for the first time. I think she'll be returning to Mattoon Street next year.

With the Old Deerfield Show only 5 days away and stock very low, we'll be creating as much as we can this week. This is why I usually try to space the shows farther apart. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do both Mattoon Street and Old Deerfield--2 great fall shows.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brimfield Antique Show & Flea Market

Hubby & I (2 old retired folks) needed something to do yesterday. So off we went to the Brimfield Flea Market. It's called the Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show but it's become more of a flea market over the years. We saw lots of beautiful old antique trunks and vintage kitchenware but you will also find whole tents full of Chinese imports, office supplies, new packaging and displays, new handmade and imported jewelry, and garden gnomes.Not all the fields were open on Tuesday morning but we managed to browse for 4 hours and didn't see it all. As we parked at the west end of route 20 we saw an area that was new to me. And that's where I was able to find a few things worthy of steampunk jewelry. I started this line of jewelry with items actually found in my parents' basement, so I now find it difficult to spend money on my "found objects". And when someone actually wants me to pay $5 for a rusted, broken, man's watch with the minute hand and wrist band missing, I have to wonder what he's been smoking. But other dealers were a lot more reasonable.

Having realized that just about anything can be reused in some fa
shion by someone with a little imagination, people are saving and selling everything. Bottle caps were selling 3 for $1. Broken jewelry, rusted hardware, old house numbers, all thrown together loosely into boxes were selling for $1-$3 each.

Fortunately you can still find Roseville pottery, carnival glass, Czech glass from the 1940s, and antique silverware. And the Roseville that I saw was priced very reasonably compared to years past.

So if you get a chance, take a ride to Brimfield this week. The show runs until Sunday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Steampunk Teapots

As the journey continues I find myself halfway through another year of craft shows--7 down and 6 or 7 to go. Thus far it's been a great year with most of the shows considered successful. But the jewelry made of recycled materials is still outselling traditional jewelry. So I find myself once again creating inventory for 2 big shows coming up this month.

My hubby & I spent a day with my cousin Ellie & her family recently. We haven't seen each other in awhile so it was nice to get caught up. She showed me some work they had recently done on their house and we had hamburgers on the grill for dinner.

Ellie has a collection of teapots. They're beautiful and they're everywhere. So once I got home and sat down to make new jewelry pieces, I kept thinking about teapots. As a result we have steampunk teapots for our next show. I think they'll be a big hit!

My favorite (and I don't usually go for the large, industrial styles) is this one--

And I really don't make many bracelets. Charm bracelets seem to work best when you're working with recycled hardware. But I tried something different this week. Let me know what you think.