Saturday, March 27, 2010

Handmade Heaven

There is a great community of creative souls on etsy. Today, a lovely etsy lady at Fabric Fascinations built a scrumptious collection of home art items from twelve or so etsy artists. I'm including a link to that treasury here--you should check it out. I have decided that if I walked into a room decorated with all of these items, I'd feel like I was in heaven!! You can visit Fabric Fascinations at

Handmade Heaven Treasury link

Friday, March 26, 2010

Handmade Cottage Industry

When I was in college in the late 1970s, I had a printing press in my dorm room. I used the press to print return address labels that I sold through mail order. I would have to print during the day because that press was old and noisy and made a "clickity-clickity-click" noise that made everyone crazy. I have ever since loved the feeling of being a part of the handmade cottage industry. I love the freedom, the creativity, the sense of accomplishment, and the rush of success!

Another benefit of cottage industry, which means making a product for resale inside your home, is that when you grow, you get to move out of the dorm!! Perhaps I wasn't completely ready to move out of the dorm, but my business sense told me that living in community and operating a noisy printing press was not ideal. And also, the people in charge told me that the time was right for me to move out of that dorm, so, it worked out for everyone.

Sometimes getting too big for my space means I have to simplify instead of move. Being forced to plan growth is good for entrepreneurs because many of us tend to take on more than we should. If we are running out of space, we are forced to make choices about what to pursue, and that thought process is useful. One key benefit to simplifying the artwork I produce in my home based art studio is that I can better manage my cost of goods sold. What do I mean? If I produce 25 kinds of folk art, I need many more raw materials than if I create 10 kinds of folk art. My space limitations allow me to store wholesale quantities of supplies for my 10 folk art specialties. I could not buy wholesale quantities, space-wise, when I was trying to create 25 different items.

I have received many words of wisdom as I grow my small business within the exciting field of handmade cottage industry. Here are a few links you might find helpful, too! U.S. Small Business Administration SCORE: Counselors to America's Small Business Kari Chapin, author of The Handmade Marketplace Crafting a Business by Kathie Fitzgerald

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Beauty Myth

My apologies to Naomi Wolf. I got her book's name wrong in my last post. If you are interested in her book, it is titled The Beauty Myth. There is probably of different book, the "Beauty of Myth", or at least, there should be! I'd read it, because I am a geek...

Fulfilled Women

I was born during the late 1950s, graduated from high school in the late 1970s, and finished raising my own kids in the early 2000s (if one is ever really done.)

My mother's peers began to experience the new freedoms of being American women that feminism provided, and I was raised to trust in women's authority both inside the home and outside in the larger world. My dad did not insist on a patriarchal home, was a member of the National Organization for Women (go dad!) and my mom was an enthusiastic, goal-setting businesswoman and mother to seven kids.

In my own early motherhood, I began to question fulfillment and happiness based on this broader stage of possibilities, as I was among the first generation of women who could take for granted our ability to do, say, and seek pretty much whatever we wanted. I did not feel limited to the stereotypical wife/mother role. Yet, my personality is rather Susie Homemaker. I feel more comfortable as the queen of my domain vs. the new captain of industry. I never really liked entering a man's world; I wanted a woman's world space! In the 1980s, the business world really felt like a man's world to me.

I found the following quote by Naomi Wolf, who also wrote the Beauty of Myth. I present it here hoping it may mean something to you as well. I know not every woman seeks to be a mom. I know not every mom seeks to be career-oriented. I do know that without a strong circle of women friends, my ability to thrive in this world would be minimized. Here's a photo of my three kids; thanks for indulging me. Have a beautiful, fulfilled day--in the manner of your choosing. Thank you to all those women of the past who have paved our way! I also send my thanks to all those women who are part of my cheering section. You mean the world to me!

" The most fulfilled women I have ever met, in a career context, are those who produce their own work the way our evolutionary model suggests we are meant to: in flexible, family-friendly environments, in which work hours can wrap around the ebbs and flows of the dramas of parenting, and which a strong, respected community of other women understands these seemingly disparate forms of accomplishment and cheer each other on."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Inside my studio

I love to read about artist's studios. Where Women Create is one of my favorite Sunday afternoon reads. What I see in pictures of studio space is positive energy! An art and craft studio is exciting and I feel truly blessed to have my own studio. I have claimed an entire floor of our home for Nestle and Soar Studio. My dear husband Ted is encouraging and a regular visitor to this creative zone. I think I need a more comfortable chair to encourage him to stay longer, however! For the most part, I do my creativity standing up. My tables are lifted to counter height and I can move from station to station, which feeds my multi-tasking personality.

The best part of my studio is my ping pong table! Besides the fact that I am a mighty ping-pong player (just ask my kids!), this large horizontal surface is ideal for fiber arts. On my ping-pong table I can stage multiple projects, organize a large order for packing, and rotary cut projects involving yards and yards of fabric. When I invite students into my studio for workshops (which I do, so watch this blog for information), I can set up 6 sewing machines with ease.

When I retreat to my studio each day and see the luxurious space I call my own, it helps me feel the value of my art and creativity. I wish for you today the joy of claiming a creative space you can call your own.

Nestle and Soar!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ladybugs for Alicia

I have a feeling that a majority of my friends have worked in a retail job at some point in their life. They bagged groceries or sold leather gloves at the mall. Picking up a retail job to make Christmas special is an easy and temporary effort.

Other people I know have made work in a retail store their career. As the Education Coordinator for a retail chain, I have met many great folks in the past 3 years at JoAnns in Westminster, Colorado. Today I want to tell you about Alicia and her mom. They shopped at JoAnns yesterday and remind me of why I get a kick out of being in the retail world.

Alicia is 7 years old. She is a sweet freckled-face girl who is so easy to be around. And she loves making things. I met her when she celebrated her 7th birthday in my classroom, painting bobble-head animals with her 8 BFFs. She comes with her mom to visit me now about once a month. She received a toy sewing machine for her birthday and has the goal of learning to sew her own clothes! Yesterday, I helped Alicia and her mom select supplies to sew bean bag ladybugs. We selected black flannel, red cotton with white polka dots, and after much debate, a package of medium wiggle eyes. Alicia carefully considered each choice by feeling the fabric and deciding whether or not it was ladybug-worthy.

You should know that Alicia's mom has never learned to sew. She doesn't have the language to talk about the items on a project supply list. When Alicia read that her project requires iron-on stabilizer, Mom stared blankly at me and pulled on her sweater. What Mom lacks in vocabulary, Alicia makes up for in enthusiasm.

So the 3 of us slowly walked the aisles of JoAnns with a mission. You probably guessed we were collecting red, black, and cute for the ladybug project. But we also need to shop for a little confidence. Mom really wants Alicia to excel at sewing. She wants the excitement in her daughter's eyes to grow and continue so that this lack of sewing as a life skill can end; and end in a fun way!

When this little family left the store with a bag of goodies and a date to come back to the classroom to be taught how to sew ladybug bean bags, all seemed right with the world. Retail jobs can, to quote Shakespeare, truly sucketh. Today, my retail job warmed my heart.

Here's to your creativity today!

P.S. My classroom at JoAnns is changing. Watch my blog for more information about where and how my workshops and classes will be offered!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fantasmagorical Flowers

Okay, I may be making up a word here--fantasmagorical--but I thought I heard James Cameron, director of simple movies like Avatar and Titanic, use this word. He explained that the world of Avatar was fantasmagorical. He said it was like a dream world, or a world you enjoyed while dreaming; something like that. I looked it up in my good old Webster's, but do not find the word. I'll have to look into this, because perhaps I was dreaming myself when I thought I heard Mr. Cameron speaking?

Speaking of my fantastic imagination, I have made a dreamy flower pillow this week that I'd like to share with you. I used boiled wool felt cut into flowery shapes. I layered, trimmed, and embellished my little heart out. I like the results; I am still playing with the penny rug inspiration with this piece. Like a vintage penny rug, my flowers are appliqued in a grid pattern with circular elements; blanket stitch embroidery keep them tidy. I'd enjoy knowing what you think!

I placed this pillow in my etsy shop and we will see what happens. In the meantime, I am imagining many other pillows right now. I think I'll go turn the fantasy into reality!

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bird's-Eye View Treasury

A lovely lady added one of my wool felt pillows to her etsy shop treasury. This is a collection of items with a like theme or style. Her treasury was called Twitter Birds!

If you would like to check out her treasury, you can see all the fun stuff she found at

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kapok -- My New High Fiber Diet

Talk about eating a high fiber diet! I received my wholesale order of kapok this week and I have been tasting it, peeling it off of my apron, sweeping it off the floor, and breathing it in! Kapok is as soft as silk! I can plunge my hand into the 40-pound bags and it feels like the softest silk, the most newborn kitten, the absolute best!

Kapok is a natural fiber from the seeds of the kapok tree grown in the South Pacific. It is hypoallergenic, fluffy, and a sustainably harvested filler. Like the bamboo batting I love in my quilting, I add kapok to the list of my new favorite fiber. I use it for filling my needle-felted pillows and it plumps my Freckled Bird lapel pins. (A flock of these freckled birds was last seen in my studio.) Kapok resists clumping which is ideal for your pillows; you can wash them and they bounce back to their original shape! Instead of the scratchy polyfil that is so last week, kapok is easy on my textile-weary hands. (My go-to hand moisturizer is now Alba Botanica; I buy that by the boat load, too!)

I've been shopping for kapok pillow forms for months and finally made the decision to buy this fiber in wholesale quantities and make my own pillow forms. I am glad that I did. I am placing them on my etsy shop this week if you'd like to try them in your own creative life. One day, kapok may be readily available throughout the country in many retail outlets. Until then, you can count on me!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Heart Art

My heart is bursting with love! Today is definitely a heart-themed day for me. After more than a year of trying to manage my heart health through diet and exercise, and a little bit of worry, I got word today that all is well! The blood tests reveal that my family history of heart disease will not be my undoing. A little bit of statin drugs and a whole lotta oatmeal, along with many hours of walking and a vegetarian diet, was all it took!

To celebrate this banner day in my life, let me show you a little bit of heart I made today. I am not yet finished; there are dozens of seed beads to be sewn. But this heart plump (don't you love that word?) is ready for its close-up.

I invite you to visit my etsy shop. One day soon, a wool heart plump pincushion will be ready for you to buy there!

I hope your heart is bursting with love. Let's all warm up a bowl of oatmeal!