Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Daylily

Recently a new gift shop opened up in the center of South Deerfield.  This cute store has the work of some incredible local artists and artisans.  Even though the store has only been open a couple of months, Bridget tells me that she already has regular customers and traffic is great.

Her wonderful selection includes fine art, original greeting cards, small furniture, glass, hand soaps, and jewelry.  And as of today she will also be carrying a small line of Jansjems' steampunk jewelry.

Stop by and visit.  The Daylily's summer hours are Thursday & Friday, 10am - 5pm and Saturday 10am - 2pm.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lou's Upcycles

 I recently saw my friend, Lou Leelyn, at a craft show and it occurred to me that I haven't done a featured artist in awhile.  Well here's a small tribute to a fellow artisan who not only creates from un-recyclable materials but also makes a real effort to educate others on how we can reduce our impact on the environment. She holds workshops to raise awareness of environmental issues.  And her blog is a wealth of information.  

Plastics.  A new and important commodity to invest in back in 1967 when "The Graduate" was made. It has since been propelled to essential status.   Products made of plastic could potentially last decades,  yet our main use of them is for inexpensive, single-use items the disposal of which contribute to a multitude of environmental problems.

Lou takes those dog food bags, or the plastic bags you get from Target & Walmart, layers them, and, with a warm iron, fuses them into a textile she can use to create tote bags, hats, cosmetic cases, and even a rain coat.  

Sometimes referred to as trashion, her pieces are unique, colorful, sturdy, and very popular, especially when customers find packaging from their favorite products being used.  If you don't catch her at a local craft show, you can purchase from Lou's Upcycles on Etsy.

In her "spare" time, Lou chairs the board for the Artisans of Western Mass. and is one of several dedicated members working on new ways to promote and market handmade in Western Mass.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gift to the Backyard Animals

I'm only home a few days each week now and my garden is suffering.  Since we joined CISA and get our veggies from a local farm, I haven't felt guilty about not planting vegetables this year.  I just wouldn't have the time.  But my perennial garden is lush and I've got a nice selection of herbs out near the fence.  And they cry for me to weed and thin and just pay attention to them.

Sensing my neglect, a rabbit has taken up residence in my backyard.  I would've thought he'd prefer a yard with a vegetable garden, but I guess this one is a gourmet.  He/she's eating the tops off of several of my flowers.  Because of him/her I probably won't have lupins again this year.  Anytime one of the plants sprouts a few leaves, they're gone the next day.

Where there's one rabbit, there are probably several.  And this one is no exception.  My neighbor says he has seen baby rabbits in his yard recently.  So I guess that means more mouths to feed.  The garden will be much less colorful this year.

And don't  get me started on the digging this little guy has been doing.  He's planting oak trees that are sprouting!!  My husband saw him chasing a crow out of the yard yesterday.  Territorial little terror.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Sociology of Craft Shows

I'm people watcher.  To keep from getting bored when traffic is slow at a craft show I often observe and wonder about certain behaviors.  I recently set up a tent at a very large 2-day show and here are some of my observations:

Even the most bold and self confident customer has a hard time walking away without buying. They don't want you to feel rejected, especially when they've spent 20 minutes trying on a dozen different pieces.  I know that even if they love my jewelry for its cleverness they may not want to actually wear it.  It's ok.  For me, appreciation is almost as good as a sale.  But they don't know that, so they:
   --ask you to hold a piece and never come back for it
   --tell you they'll be back when they decide which necklace they want
   --say they're just doing research today and will come back and buy tomorrow
   --pretend to take a phone call and leave the tent, never to return

You have to be aware of the shy customers who end up in your tent because they caught one of your necklaces in their peripheral vision so they stop and look.  Easing them into the tent is like getting a bird to eat out of your hand.  But once they're in, they often buy if the price is right.

I love women with big personalities.  They chat and joke with you and you can easily convince them to try something on that they would never think to wear.  They're fun and make the day pass more quickly, even if they don't actually buy.

At every show I run into someone who loves something of mine but doesn't want IT; they want something like IT.  I don't do custom because I have found people are too often disappointed in the finished product they themselves have designed.  Their vision and reality differ considerably.

Occasionally you run into a crafty octogenarian who used to make all kinds of things "back in the day."  He's lost his wife recently and is just looking to reconnect with artisans and tell someone about what he used to do.  He's cute and funny and I'm happy to make his craft show experience a pleasant one.

Then there's the patron who must be used to shopping in places where the price signs and sale signs are prominent.  So he walks into your tent and asks, "So what does everything in here cost?"

I'm particularly fond of the guys looking for just the right gift for their wife or girlfriend.  They really shop, look at everything, and usually buy jewelry.  Of course I really like them when they end up buying that gift from me.

You really have to watch the women who come in groups, try on a dozen different necklaces, pick things up and put them down in a different place, and just wreak havoc for 5-10 minutes.  They might actually walk off with one of your pieces in their pocket and you won't notice until after they're gone and you're putting your display back together.

The artisans I know and associate with are a proud group who appreciate and value anything handmade.  They don't haggle over prices.  We price fairly taking in the cost and time to create and factoring in what the market will bear.   So I was very disappointed  to observe the following behaviors as I walked around the show and chatted with other vendors:
     --the jeweler who adds up a purchase that comes to $76, tells the customer that $66 will do, and then      takes $65.
    --the jeweler loudly hawking his wares (questionably handmade by him personally), telling people that though the price is $175, he'll gladly take $150.   I figure he bought it from someone else for about $40.
    --the woodcarver who's only asking $38 for a piece but takes $35 when the customer asks if he'll accept less.

Is the economy so bad that higher end craft shows are turning into flea markets?
Is that what jewelry designers have to do as the competition gets larger every year?
I'm not even selling at full retail.  Should I double all my prices then give customers a 25% break when they buy?  This is marketing but it seems so dishonest to me.
Don't people realize that at $150 the $175 bracelet is probably still marked up 200%?
Am I giving consumers too much credit for knowing the true value of a handmade item?

Selling handmade is still about finding your customers; people who appreciate your work and are willing to pay for it.  But it gets harder all the time, especially if you're designing jewelery. And I find more women are satisfied with inexpensive strands of beads. You can buy several of them for the price of an artistic precious metal clay design.

All this is food for thought in this changing economy and  I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has marketing suggestions or any other kinds of suggestions for selling handmade.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

                              Celebrate! West Hartford 25th Anniversary Logo

Getting back into the swing of things with one of my favorite craft shows this weekend.  If you read my review from last year you'll see that crowds come regardless of the weather.  That's a good thing since the forecast calls for possible thunder showers. It's well organized, there's food, no admission fee, and a great variety of high class artisans.

 I met some great vendors last year and am looking forward to seeing them again.

Come on down to the common in front of the West Hartford town hall.  It's not far and I think you'll amazed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Feeling very guilty about not having written in such a long time, I'm posting a quick FYI to let people know that I haven't abandoned the blog nor have I stopped creating jewelry. My life has just taken a detour that I hope will be temporary as I'm lately preoccupied with family health issues.

My mom has now been to the hospital 3 times since March and been forwarded to rehab 3 times as well. She has issues with unmanageable pain that no one seems to be able to help her with. She's presently in a facility that is not only rehab but long term care. It's focus is a bit different and they seem to be more attentive to her needs. I still have to show up weekly, check on her progress, meet with doctors and therapists, occasionally do laundry. The drive is 70 miles each way. And we're still paying rent on her assisted living apartment where she hasn't spent much time.

I stay at mom's old house and while I'm there try to do some cleaning to get the place ready for sale. Going through memorabilia, pictures, and old things is emotional and exhausting.

I've found some more fabric and vintage lace at the old homestead that I'll be selling in my Fabricoutlet shop on Etsy. But that means I have to take pictures and spend a few hours on the computer lising them. It's hard when my gardens are calling me to weed and all I really want to do when I'm home is veg out on the couch reading a book.

Looking forward to this year's first big craft show next weekend. Celebrate West Hartford is a great show. People come no matter what the weather and the organizers are organized. So I will try to spend some time going through my stock and deciding what to take. If you're anywhere near West Hartford on June 11 & 12, visit the craft show. There is a wonderful variety of excellent artisans and crafts people.

Hope to be writing again sooner.