Just a quick update to show some of the artwork I've been working on recently. I'm taking a mixed media class (again) and loving it. Each week I try a different style of mixed media. I love learning new techniques and finding my artistic groove.
Looking back on my last blog post – January 2015 (sorry, I’m not posting often) – I see that I set some New Year goals for myself. I’m happy to report that I accomplished all of those goals.
I met my swimming goals by qualifying for – and attending – the Masters Nationals Championship meet in San Antonio. My husband swam too and we met up with his longtime friend and childhood swimming rival. We got to know some of our Masters teammates better, and I reconnected with a few friends from my college swimming days (Go Gauchos!) Oh, and there were some former Olympians there too. Very cool to see that level of swimming up close. Most impressive of all? The oldest swimmer competing at Nationals was 98. Amazing.
I learned to meditate – harder than I thought it would be. There are so many opportunities to ignore this item on the To-Do list (like my desire for coffee first!) I kept with it for a few months and really enjoyed the experience. I felt more clear-headed, able to focus on the things I want to accomplish. I felt more calm and able to deal with stress. I tried a few and found that the guide’s voice is very important. My guy sounds a bit like the actor Russell Brand. That may not be your cup of tea, but I get a little smile on my face every time I begin. His name is Mark Golding and here’s a link to his recorded meditation. Enjoy!
Unfortunately life got in the way (stress!) and I stopped. It’s interesting that when I really needed it most, because of stress, I stopped. I miss meditating and believe that the practice adds to my daily life. I will start again as soon as I finish this post. It’s really that simple. No excuses.
Finally, my goal to create my own artwork came through in a very big way. I’m doing it! I’m making art and I love it. Sometimes you just need to jump in and do it. That’s what I did. A quick trip to Michael’s, toss a few tubes of paint and a few canvases in my cart, and I’m on my way.
For unknown reasons (or undiscovered reasons), I decided to start with some portraits. First I drew my kids, then my mom, then a stranger I found in a magazine. I researched how to draw noses, eyes and mouths. I used my son’s 6th grade art class hand-out, “how to draw faces.” I am taking every opportunity to improve this skill. Art and creativity are definitely muscles that need to be exercised regularly.
Most recently I started taking art classes through our city civic arts program. I really enjoyed the mixed media class where I started working in collage and then over-painting. Having a specific day and time carved out of my schedule for art was just what I needed. The time flew by and I learned so much from my instructor and classmates.
I’m collecting artists and “stealing” their techniques, with my own style. I found inspiration from the work of artist Dan Casado. It’s very freeing to create using different techniques. I study an artist’s work, analyze why I like it and try to figure out how they got there. Some work is successful and some less so, but I’m always learning. Most importantly I’m having fun.
Prints of a few of my pieces are for sale on FineArtAmerica.
I just started a new class entitled Creative Art: Dreams & Memories. I’ve only completed one class where created mail art (decorated an envelope.) It was fun and frivolous and after the first class I’m excited to continue. The possibilities for expansion are huge. I need to open my mind and allow myself to be open to whatever comes my way. It should be good!
Writing down and publishing my goals is key. This seems to be a cornerstone for me. Write it down. Do it. And then watch what happens.
OK – off to meditate!
Goodbye 2014, you were lovely but it's time to go. As I sat and tried to sum up the year I felt stumped, perhaps not enough coffee this morning. OK I have cup number two and I decided to look a look at my calendar and refresh my memory. Hey! I had a pretty great year. So in the spirit of optimism and gratefulness, I wrote a list on the back of an envelope (that's where all the great lists start)
My 2014 gratitude list includes (but is not limited to):
Yesterday on our drive home from the mountains my family discussed goals for 2015. We all had some solid "do-able" items for the list. I'll share mine here. When you write - or type - your goals and share them, they are more likely to work out. So here goes:
In 2015 I would like to learn meditation. I think this will help me become more focused and accomplish the other goals I have for myself.
I will swim in 3 swim meets and qualify for all my events for the Masters Nationals meet in San Antonio, TX (this will require some consistent training on my part!)
Also, I'd like to keep up with my somewhat recent artistic surge. I have been finding projects that inspire me on Pinterest and recreating them. Here's one now!
For years, I've wanted to create a "winter" painting - something that could come out for just this season. Finally, I took the plunge and made it happen. I'm pleased with the result. I was inspired by an image I found on Pinterest by THIS ARTIST
Happy New Year people! Live it up!
Oh, one more little nugget! After nearly starting a conversation with a great friend that verged on gossip
(or at the time I would say it was gossip masked as "concern for another friend") she said this to me:
There are two types of business: your business and NOT your business.
I felt inspired to break out the Modge Podge and create this.
The block has a few other gems I need to see on a daily basis.
I call it a block of wisdom. And a great reminder.
Hmmm… where to start, where to start? When I last updated this blog I was reevaluating my creative business. I finished my taxes and recognized that this crafting business – primarily textile based – is more of a hobby than a business for me. That led me down a path of contemplation about what I was doing and why. I asked myself some basic questions about my initial goal (make something, anything, that a non-friend/family member would buy - check).
The follow-up question to that is “did you enjoy it?” Answer: yes and no. I love making things. I love that people (total strangers, even!) wanted to purchase my creations. But I was disappointed in the amount of money I made in relation to the amount of time I spent. That’s the honest truth. Also, I felt a little stuck in the scarf making biz, and wanted to move on from those.
Deeper questions follow:
What do you want the business to look like? Do you want to eventually pay the mortgage with this business? The answer to that seems to be a big NO. There are many reasons why. The most fundamental is that I don’t want to loose the joy of creating things and I definitely don’t want to turn away from my passion because it became a grind.
Don’t get me wrong, There are people out there who are making a go of it with their creative businesses. I loved making things and each sale is a thrill and I will continue to offer my creations in my Etsy shop, but I’m still figuring out what that looks like. My Etsy shop is now reopened with scarves and zippered pouches and ornaments – just in time for the holiday season. Of course I will update when new projects are available there.
I’m grateful that I have time to contemplate such questions and answers. I’m grateful that I have the freedom to change direction if I want.
So skip over Easter, end-of-school, 4th of July and a pretty major house remodel, and fast forward to present day (Happy Thanksgiving) I find myself in need of a new goal. (You know I’m a big fan of the goal setting.) I need of some focus, so I don’t look back at the end of the school year and ask “what did I do this year?”
This summer we remodeled the kitchen/living room and I enjoyed the creative decisions that came with that. It was very inspiring to work with a professional designer. Shout out to Jennifer Runkle at Runkle Design. Now I have the opportunity to put my creative stamp on the remodel through numerous projects. That list looks like this:
I love Pinterest. There are so many great ideas that inspire me. In an effort to jump-start my creativity and give myself another goal, I will choose one project per week (am I too ambitious? we shall see) from my Pinterest boards as inspiration. I’ll post those recreations here as well as on my Pinterest board titled “From Pinterest – I actually tried.” There are sure to be some successes and some failures (which could be hilarious.)
Last week, I found these wood block houses via Pinterest. They came from a great website called Things with Wings. I'm just beginning to explore this website, but I love their style. So I made my own version. I got to use the Modge Podge I so love, as well as cool papers and collage techniques I’ve picked up along the way. They add a little personal whimsy to my shelves, and more importantly, they make me smile. -Mary
New Year’s Resolutions? I’m not a fan.
It’s not that I don’t like self improvement – I love that. It’s just that New Year’s resolutions seem so big and damning. I’ve never had much success with big changes.
If you’ve read any of my little (but growing) blog, you know I’m a big fan of goals (read that post here.) What’s the difference? For me, it's about attitude and planning. Maybe it's just that, in the past, my resolutions have been unrealistic (too big) or not specific enough (no plan.)
When I set goals they are specific, and they are backed up by solid plans. I’m not talking about general goals like “become rich” or “find happiness.” Setting a goal works when you have a plan behind it. Yes, most people want to make more money and/or be happy. It’s the “how” that’s important. You got to have a step-by-step plan.
So it’s time to set personal and business goals for 2014. Personal goals are easier for me so I’ll start there. One personal goal I have is to compete in a swim meet this year. I’m a 47 year old former collegiate swimmer who is freaking out about diving off the starting blocks (what if I strain my back? What if I belly flop? What if I simply fall off?) To address this concern, I’m going to practice. Seems pretty logical to me. Practice swimming fast. Practice diving off the blocks (it’s been a while.) I’m entering a meet in early February and will report back on how it goes (that should be a funny post, so come back and read it!)
Setting business goals are more difficult for me. After the busy holiday season, when I participated in my first craft show, I need to regain some focus. If I’m calling this a business and not a hobby – which believe me, Uncle Sam says it’s a business - then I need to pay more attention to details.
Business Goal #1: Get a handle on the record-keeping. I have been pretty hippy-dippy about how much I’m spending vs. how much I’m bringing in. I know I’m making some money (I’m not THAT hippy-dippy) but I really couldn’t tell you exactly how much. See that bulging envelope over there? It holds all the receipts (at least I have them!) So that’s my dirty little secret confession and Business Goal #1. Get the books in order. (My husband is doing a little happy dance right now.)
Business Goal #2: Take it a little further. Expand my horizons.
I enjoy creating all sorts of things. I have a well-documented love for fabric. I like making jewelry. I’ve fallen in love with my little bird and heart ornaments. But I want to take it further.
I want to step out of my comfort zone and exercise a muscle that has been sedentary for too long. I want to paint. There, I said it. I have this little voice in my head that says “you need to paint something. Anything.” The voice is getting louder. As I swim my laps I have all sorts of conversations with myself – and sometimes with others, but they don’t know I’m talking to them because I’m underwater (an entirely different post.) Lately, the underwater conversations and images that accompany them are all about art – painting and multi-media specifically.
So goal #2 will include some paint, some paper, some glitter (for sure) and a canvas or two. And if I'm feeling brave I will share it here. I’m not necessarily going to sell this art, but I’m excited to get back into it. I’ve done a few multi-media projects in my time and really enjoy the process and outcome. Friends who hike with me are always curious about the stuff I pick up off the ground, bottle caps, tags, chain. Now we'll see what I can do with it.
I’m contemplating participating in an online painting course like this one by Kelly Rae Roberts or Brené Brown.
Have any of you taken an online painting/creative course? Let me know what you think.
Business Goal #3 But wait! There’s more! Goal #3 will be to have a blast with the fabric that I already have (and I have a lot of it!) and create more scarves (which I still love) and a few other fabric-related products that are on my “to-create” list. I’m excited about that too. UPDATE: I just learned that my sewing machine needs to go in for service. It will be gone for 2 weeks. Before I send it away I'm going to whip up a few things - using some of the fabric that has been calling my name. Nothing like a self imposed deadline to get me going!
Goal #4 Finally, Goal #4 is a combo personal/business goal: Watch better t.v. Not less t.v. I love my programs, but I have to kick some (most) of the reality shows to the curb. I know they are entertaining in a sick fascinating way, but I’m starting to get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see them. No judgment here though. You keep on watching them. I understand the draw. I’m just going to resist. I wiped them from my DVR, readjusted the recording options and will stay away from the Bravo On Demand feature. Plus, Downton Abbey started so I’m happy. And Revenge. And Nashville. (There’s some stupid stuff, but I love it!)
The reason Goal #4 falls into the personal and business sections: I like to watch t.v. while I’m making things. I look forward to the hand-sewing parts of my projects so I can click on the tube and watch those women be so mean to each other. Now I will stitch to lovely British accents instead (although Downton has it’s elements of Housewives… that Edith and Mary relationship is messed up.)
One reason I started this blog was to share the joys and challenges of turning my love of making things into a business. I really am a beginner though, so if you came here for expert advice, well, sorry. But if you came here to see how I’m doing or are in the same boat, welcome! Stay a while! Leave a comment. We’re all in this together. Kumbaya.
I participated in my very first craft show a few weeks ago. It went great! Here, I’ll share the work I did to prepare, my experience at the show itself and what I’d do next time (yes, there will be a next time.)
If you are interested in learning how it came to be – check out my previous post about Goal Setting.
Before I even knew I’d be doing a craft show, I set some goals for my business for the holiday season. I wrote down how many scarves and headbands I realistically could make on a given day. I also assigned a specific amount of time to “marketing” – updating my blog, my Etsy shop and Facebook. I also wrote: “create a new product” on the list.
Preparation. When I was invited to do the craft show, I felt prepared because of my list of goals.. If I kept to my schedule, I would have what I thought would be enough inventory. What I didn’t consider is that I would also be selling items in the weeks prior to the show. So there I was, making scarves and posting them on my Etsy site, and low and behold, people were buying them. So I would make more. It was a great “problem” to have. I finally decided that about a week prior to the show I would stop posting new items on Etsy and reserve them for the craft show.
Research - Learn from those that have done it.
I did a little Google search on “tips for craft shows” and that led me to many great articles. I especially liked this one from a blog on Etsy.
My big take-aways from my research were these:
Planning for the Craft Show
I worked very hard, not only creating my products, but also considering the details of the event.
Involve your friends
The show itself was great fun. I’m sure because it was my first and I had adrenaline on my side, the time went quickly. I arrived to set up at 9 a.m. (doors opened at 10 a.m.) and Lauren and I were cleaning up at 3 p.m.
Many friends came and I felt very supported. I sold ¾ of my scarves. Because I was busy, I did not get to see much of what other vendors were selling, except those directly around me (light-up glass blocks that look like wrapped gifts, purses crocheted using plastic bags and aluminum can pop-tops, custom name plates for kids rooms, homemade jams and lots of jewelry.) My mom reported that I had the best booth (of course she did, thanks Mom) and I did feel like I had quite a bit of activity. I think my pricing was right for this audience (a small church community, and of course, my friends.) I also felt like I had a popular item – the infinity scarves – that no other vendor offered. That is thanks to the organizers of the event who required vendors to commit to their products in advance, so that no two vendors were selling the same things. Thank you Calvary Baptist Church!
I also paid attention to what people were saying as they were trying on scarves, looking in the mirror and commenting to each other. I was in the back of my table, busying my self with a few hand-sewing projects (another great suggestion - this from my sister Beth: “Keep busy so that customers don’t feel like you’re staring at them.”) Most popular comment: “Oh, that’s cute, but get this one because it will go with more.” I sold all of my neutral scarves first – the blacks, greys, and creams. The brighter colors and/or patterns sold well, but not until the neutrals were gone. Scarves displayed on the mannequin always sold.
Sales of my other items (ornaments and headbands) were slow. The scarves really stole the show, and that’s ok. I am curious about a different way to market the ornaments and headbands. I think they have potential, but I need to find the right niche.
Here’s what I wish went differently:
But all in all, it worked out fine.
Again, huge thanks to the friends and family who came to help and buy! It was a lot of work. I learned a ton. Would I do it again? You bet!
Update: After the show I came home and cleaned up the tornado of fabric that took over my house. I took a few days to decompress and then I photographed everything that did not sell at the show and put it in my Etsy shop. I also started sewing again. I am adding new items to my shop daily and they are selling fast -- Go check it out!
Next time: New Year, New Projects. I love my scarves, but I’m itching to fire up my creative brain to try something new.
Stay tuned for new creative endeavors.
A word about goals. Setting them, working toward them, getting (and staying) focused. The word is: YES.
In my last post I wrote about trying to become more focused on my goals. I needed to shake off the glow and haze of summer that left me a little fuzzy on what was ahead for me. I woke up and saw that each day passes and I really want to make them count - to have something to show for those 24 hours.
So I wrote a post about setting goals. And guess what happened?
July 31, 2013 -- (this date is sort of funny. sort of pathetic. sort of well … real life!)
Summer is nuts. Every routine I established during the school year is out the window. Exercise? Not so much. Dinner? PB&J is legit. Laundry? Sorry, maybe tomorrow. Cleaning? Well, lets not pretend that ever really happened.
I could explain how busy I’ve been with two kids on summer swim team, a dog that doesn’t get walked enough and a husband who works from home. (see how I just explained that?) But I think most of us are in the same boat. Regardless of if you have kids, dogs, husbands/wives/partners – summer just throws a wrench into the routine.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re having (had) a fun time – lots of swimming, vacations, friends and family. It’s great -- just different.
But that’s ok because it is officially Fall. I love this time of year. Time for change.
As I mature (really?) I realize that I’m not so great with change. I have a tough time getting on board with a new schedule. It takes a while. I’m working on that.
It’s no surprise that my creative business on Etsy (the online store where I sell my handmade goods - Infinite8Creative) took a back seat over the summer. I see it sitting there, in the waaaay back. With the laundry.
In an effort to get focused, I read books and articles about growing an online business. I’ve found these very helpful:
Sell Crafts Online
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Selling Your Crafts on Etsy
I’m also a huge fan of Brian Tracy’s GOALS!
At first look I thought GOALS! looked like a cheesy “get rich quick” type of book. But it surprised me with its’ simple message: you are responsible for your life. Don’t blame other folks when you’re not where you want to be. Get focused, set some goals and head in that direction. Pretty simple.
I tend to pick it up and randomly read from any chapter and it helps me focus, and not just on my business, but on my life goals as well. You should check it out.
My “get back on track" reading gives me lists of things to do. I love lists! And I can’t wait to put some little check marks next to each item. There are some really great suggestions about marketing – SEO (that means Search Engine Optimization!), research (who’s selling what and where?), pricing (what’s my product? are other people selling the same thing? how are they priced? how can I make my products stand out? etc.)
Etsy has a blog section with all sorts of advice for improving your business.
I recently read one blog post on Etsy that inspired me to step out of my box a little more. The article described some of the most successful craftspeople on Etsy offer the most unique items. Don’t be afraid to be bold and unique. Stay true to your artistic vision. If you want to be known as the seller of porcupine art, or grasshopper sculptures, then do it. And do it big.
I’m going to try to bring more of that uniqueness to my shop. More of “me.” That’s exciting!
When I first started out on this little adventure in March 2013 my goal was to sell something online – put my toe in the water and see how it felt. My friends and family came through in a big way. Thank you! Then I thought it would be really cool to sell something to a stranger. I’ve sold some items to complete strangers (thank you Bethanne in IL - you were my "first stranger sale.") - which still surprises and thrills me!
New Goal: I want to do better on Etsy. However, it’s not enough to say “do better” or “sell more.” I need to be specific with my goal.
So, this week is about setting that specific sales goal, ramping up production on my existing products and introducing one new product.
Oh, and I will make sure my family has clean underwear.
Go out and set yourself a goal for this week, or month. It can be anything, seriously. It can be “do the friggin’ laundry, and actually fold it and put it away.” See what happens. I’d love to hear how that goes for you. Leave a comment.
I'm back! Woo hoo!
Summer is busy with shepherding kids around and trying to keep up with my Etsy store - Infinite8Creative.
On my last (and first!) post I promised to explain the name of my business - Infinite 8 Creative. It was inspired by these lovely ladies.
This is my girls' group (I'm in the middle, pink shirt) - we have been getting together on the first Thursday of each month for the past 11 years. Some of us have been friends since the womb - our mom's were pregnant together. Most went to the same high school. Some met in college. Two are related by blood, but we are all sisters. We came together as a group 11 years ago and I look forward to every first Thursday since then. We have been through a lot together (you know... laughter, tears, etc.) I love each and every one of them.
We are always trying to come up with new names for our group. First it was Bunco because we did attempt to play that game at our first few meetings. However, it became clear that none of us had any interest and soon we referred to our meeting as "bunco" using the air quotes. Several names have circulated over the years. The most recent identity has been The Infinite 8. Sort of super-hero-esque. We each own the same infinity sign necklace and wear it often. There are eight of us. The number eight looks like an infinity sign. Get it?
Long ago we decided that our group is closed to new members and/or guests. Have a cousin visiting? Sorry, you'll have to leave her at home. Old college roommate? Nope. The conversations are too personal (and goofy) to share with an "outsider." Our meetings are a place to vent and celebrate and laugh 'til we (I mean ME) pee. Bringing a visitor would upset the vibe. We also can't meet in public places because of previously mentioned laughter, tears and occasional peeing. We used to try to dine out and were asked to leave. Plus our meetings go on for approximately six hours - a server's nightmare!
So my group of ladies - The Infinite 8 - are a support system like no other. Each of them, while I can already hear their protests, is creative in their own right. If and when they would like to sell something in the Infinite 8 Creative shop, they are welcome as my featured guest artistes. They are my girls and I wanted to name my shop after them. So there.
Here are a few goodies from my shop - happy July to you all! ~Mary
My first blog post. Ever!
I've always been curious about blogging. Read my fair share of them, most of the time feeling a bit voyeuristic while doing so. Always wondered why people open up so much on their blog. Some people REALLY put it all out there. I guess they do that so other people (peeping toms like me) will read it and return. Sort of like reality t.v. - or a train wreck - you can't look away. I've never seen a train wreck, but lots of reality t.v.
Honestly, I'm creating this blog to support my creative business -- designing and creating accessories for you and your home. My business is called Infinite 8 Creative - thus the title of this blog. I'll tell you about the name another time (see, maybe you'll come back JUST to find out. oooh, i see how this works now.)
The plan for this blog is mostly for me to write about this new venture - what I'm working on, inspired by, and what makes me want to tear my hair out. Mostly it will be about my lofty, crafty goals... But maybe it will take a turn in a different direction if I feel like it. Right now, no one knows this blog exists, so who cares, right?
If someone happens to actually read this, you can find my creative items for sale on Etsy. Infinite 8 Creative
Who knows, you may even buy something. (go ahead, buy something!)
Here is how this whole Etsy shop came to be. I went to my friend Kim's 40th birthday party, with about 20 other 40-something year old moms. OK there may have been a few 30-ish whipper snappers attending, but you get the idea. I made a gift for Kim -- a black and white striped infinity scarf. Super soft, jersey knit. The ladies went wild! Well, if not wild, they were very excited by the scarf, and intrigued that I made it myself. They said "Mary! You should totally sell these!"
And I thought, "Okay. I totally will."
Actually, this idea of selling something that I made with my own two hands has been on my "to-do list" for a long time. It's kind of funny/pitiful how long I've been saying (mostly to myself) "I want to create things. Things that other people will want to buy." But guess what? Putting yourself out there and saying "spend your hard earned money on this thing that I made." is really scary for me. It's probably worth a trip to the therapist.
But after Kim's party, I felt supported and motivated. It felt like a good time to step out of my comfort zone and sell something. And I did! And I still am. And I enjoy it.
So this is where I will spout my word of wisdom (insert laugh track here) about starting a creative business. Because really? I am flying by the seat of my pants.
But come back and check on me sometime!