Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Glimmer of Light on a Sea of Sameness

When Jansjems first began we did a few church fairs to try out our displays and get our feet wet. We learned quickly that our customers didn't attend church bazaars. Its been about 3 years now, so since I wasn't selling anywhere, I decided to drop in on a local church bazaar just to see if things had changed.

I was surprised how this craft fair had grown. There were definitely more booths than my last visit maybe 3 years ago. But in touring the room I noticed that 5-6 of them were raffles of one kind or another. I recognized a few members of the congregation selling hand sewn and knitted items. Really beautiful things that were selling well at prices that didn't cover the cost of materials. Food was also selling well.

Glimmerstone was one of only 3 people there with professional set ups, business cards, and packaging. I bought a Christmas present for someone from her. She weaves beads to frame gemstone cabochons. It's the kind of jewelry that takes a great deal of time, and patience that I don't have in great supply.

She'd make a great addition to the Artisans of Western Mass. I'll have to ask her if she wants to join us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey as a Side Dish

Thanksgiving is still a week away but I just did most of the grocery shopping for the event, anything that I can freeze or that will keep until then. I have a craft fair this weekend and my youngest daughter is coming home for a few days, so I try to get some things done early. I'll be cleaning house and baking on Monday & Tuesday.

We always have Thanksgiving at our house and we'll be about 14 at the table this year. Those craft show Lifetime folding tables sure come in handy as the dining room table only seats 10 uncomfortably. I usually have good attendance for Turkey Day. Is it about the great turkey I roast, or the pies, or maybe it's because the pumpkin soup is so yummy? No, it's all about my mom's stuffing. Everyone comes for the stuffing.

The year my dad died, Mom just wasn't up to making stuffing so I did. I have the recipe and I've watched her make it often enough but somehow it just isn't the same. It's that Babci cooking magic that somehow makes it better.

At my house the turkey is just a side dish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Craft Fair Conundrum

To apply or not to apply, that is the question.I seem to be always looking for a new craft show in the hope that I will find my customers there. We've had several successes this year and I'll reapply to those but I'm looking to replace the poorer shows.

Knowing that high school shows and church bazaars are definitely not good shows for us, we decided to take a look at a show at the other end of the scale--the professional promoter shows.

There are a few big promoters who run shows along the East Coast. Sugarloaf Craft Shows, Castleberry Fairs, and Craft Producers are the biggest I know of. Spaces at Sugarloaf start at just over $500 with electricity extra. It's a lot of money but would it be worth it?

This past weekend we drove down to Hartford for the Sugarloaf show at the Expo Center. It is definitely huge. We went on Sunday and by 1:30 the parking lot was full and they were sending cars to an open area at the end of the street. People were piling into the show despite the $9 entrance fee. My first impression was that this was the place to be.

But on closer inspection, most vendors were not doing well. Some were barely covering the booth fee. Higher end jewelry wasn't selling and pottery was selling only if it was unique. One potter has perfected a purple glaze that you can't miss. Though this show didn't have the usual mass of country craft vendors (I don't think I saw even one), the food vendors clustered in one aisle seemed to be getting most of the business.

Had we done the show this year we would have had no competition in the steampunk jewelry catagory. We might have been able to take in $800-1200. But after subtracting the booth fee we wouldn't be left with much. I can make that much at a much less expensive show and end up with more profit.

So Sugarloaf is out for now but there's a Castelberry show in the same location in December. It's $450 for the booth fee and their most expensive show. Is that because it's their best show or because the Expo Center costs so much to rent? I'll try to get to that show too and find out.

For anyone interested there is a more detailed review on my Arts & Crafts Shows Review page for Oct/Nov.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Me, Myself, & I (small rant)

As a former English teacher I tend to be a little more sensitive than most about grammatical errors. Over the years I've managed to stop flinching when reading something online that misuses the words your, you're, there, they're, or their. And I'm becoming resigned to the fact that punctuation has become a free-for-all with writers making it up as they go along. Though I have to admit I was a bit stunned recently when someone on a forum wrote that she "was not aloud to use the computer".

But spoken malapropisms still make the hairs rise on my neck, specifically the ever increasing misuse of "myself". All the pronouns that end in self or selves are reflexive. That means they refer back to the subject of the sentence. Like looking in a mirror.


I can see MYSELF.

You get the idea. But if someone else is looking at you...
JOHN can see ME.

We're taught as children to name ourselves last and say "you and I are going shopping". But saying that "he gave money for shopping to you and I" is bad because he should have given it to "you and me".

I, me, and myself are pronouns with very different uses. Using "myself" all the time is silly and wrong. And while its use is sometimes meant to sound educated or formal, it really reveals the opposite.

Sarah didn't give the spreadsheets to John and MYSELF. She gave them to John and ME.
Arthur and MYSELF won't be taking the train to NYC. But Arthur and I will.
YOU and ME won't be around to see the change. But maybe YOU and I will.
When in doubt, remove the other person or people from the sentence and you have "Sarah didn't give the spreadsheets to me, I won't be taking the train to NYC," and "I won't be around to see the change."

The opinions of people like MYSELF should be ignored. But the opinions of people like ME shouldn't.
But you can't really correct people. They would hate you. And with everything that's going on in the world, does grammar really matter?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Think I Need to Hire a Techie

I'm not making much jewelry these days but I'm working really hard (and out of my comfort zone).

Jansjems as a business needs to move forward. I have an online presence and I have found a few shows that are successful for me. I network a little both with AWM members and other crafters I have met. So what's next. Well, maybe I should set up my own website. Etsy is fine but it could get sold like 1000 Markets did. Or it could turn into something else that I don't want to be a part of. There's lots of speculation on the forums about where Etsy is going. People talk about moving to Cargoh, Big Cartel, Zibbet, Artfire, Bonanza. But none of these have nearly the traffic of Etsy and each one has its own issues. Having my own website would be a little safety net. And another source of exposure, I hope.

So I've purchased a domain name--I now own And I've spent hours on the web looking at host sites and asking people for information on them. I got into the forums and found people who have actually tried several. I think I know who I'm going with but I'm hesitant to make the big plunge. I have to play with templates, design pages, etc. Oh yes, everyone tells me it's easy. But it's never really easy.

My computer has crashed on me a couple of times in the last 5 years, and always in November. Every November I start feeling anxious. So I've decided that I need a backup system. I thought about buying an external hard drive but got talked into an online backup program instead. So once again I spent about 4 hours on the computer looking at websites, reading reviews, going through tutorials. And I finally settled on one of the 4 best as reviewed by PC Magazine. Sugarsync isn't terribly expensive, it automatically backs up your work every time you save a change, and it was very simple to install. It also advises you what you actually should back up, in case like me you're not sure. I think it was the 30 day free trial that I noticed about the same time I started to get a headache that finally sold me.

When I worked in the library we had a systems department that made decisions about software, upgrades, changes. They installed, did the trouble shooting, and fixed any problems. I got really spoiled. Now I am not only the designer, I'm the CEO, COO, CFO, AND the systems department. While I'm happy to handle all the other work, I really miss having a Systems Dept.

Monday, November 1, 2010

As Seen on Oprah....??

MAKE $250,000 IN WEEKS AS SEEN ON OPRAH AND 20/20. Well, I don't know that anyone is making anywhere near that amount on this pyramid scheme, but the mailing list sellers are cleaning up and the U.S. Post Office is making up for some of the money lost to emailing.

My husband and I have received this chain letter 4 times in the past week. People are really gullible (or desperate). Ignoring the fact that these chain mail schemes are illegal, this one is also expensive. They aren't asking you to send this to 10 friends but to hundreds of people. And they provide addresses to mailing lists that cost from $30 to $625 depending on how many people you want to send to. You have to photocopy 6 pages of propaganda. Then there's the postage. It costs $183 to send this mailing to 300 people at $.61 per envelope. No, Oprah hasn't endorsed this scam. And those promoting on the web and using Paypal to collect their money are being shut down as Paypal discovers them.

My husband recently answered a nuisance phone call which offered him a "free" month of restaurant and travel coupons. He knew he'd have to remember to cancel the subscription before the month was up or be charged $30 but he thought we might get a few usable coupons out of the deal. He didn't give anyone a credit card number but in 2 days we had 2 charges for $2.95 for P&H and later another charge for $1 for a "free" subscription to US Magazine. The offers did arrive but no coupons were enclosed, only instructions on how to subscribe on their website. But when trying to bring up the website my security program tells me that it "can't confirm that your connection is secure" and advises I don't go there. I wonder how many people have paid the $6.90 for this scam. And, yes, I've canceled the credit card they were able to access without anyone giving them the number.

Lastly, as an online retailer I'm always looking for new ways to market my products. Recently in the Etsy forums someone mentioned the Facebook Marketplace as a way to increase traffic. It's a free service so I've listed 5 or 6 items with a link to them on Etsy. And it's true that traffic has doubled and even tripled in some cases though this hasn't yet brought me a sale. What has increased is the number of scammers wanting to buy my products. This week alone I've had 2 requests for jewelry but the customers want to pay with a Western Union money order and will actually send more than the item costs. As usual the emails are written by someone for whom English is not their first language. And they want the item asap and ask that I return a check for the overage so they can pay for a "private delivery service". What's wrong with the post office?

For those of you who aren't aware, a Western Union money order can be faked. And if you deposit a fake one in your bank, it can appear to clear, so you ship. It can sometimes take awhile but you will be out the entire amount of money order plus your merchandise. If you have to take a money order, the ones from the Post Office are much safer. For all the complaints about Paypal, it's the safest way to get paid.

As Sgt. Esterhaus would say, "Be careful out there."