"Babies are such a nice way to start people." -- Don Herrold
My recent photo shoot included new baby hats! I started this line late last fall and sold them all. I am now deep in production making more for the summer and fall craft fair season in a wider color range. Each is hand knit and needle felted by me in luxurious wools, silks and cottons.
"Babies are such a nice way to start people." -- Don Herrold
Mary Lawrie and I created one of the garments Elena Lai Etcheverry wore for Charity Wings' LIVE at CHA. During the event, Elena interviews designers and companies about their new projects and products live online. Viewers get sneak peeks and can purchase raffle tickets for fantastic giveaways. All money earned goes to charity. It is really an amazing win-win for all involved.
Yesterday I received an email from a young art student seeking business advice. The following is a slightly edited version of what I wrote her. Much of it is pertanent to Chicago, but there are bits which I think apply to anyone.
Attend the Creative Chicago Expo. March 24th is the date for artists. It is free with lots of great workshops. Topics range from setting up a business to copyright law in a digital age.
Attend the Expo prepared with business cards. You can get some made on the cheap with Vistaprint. I prefer Lady Printing myself as it is a woman-owned business with excellent customer service. The owner even sends you a hand written thank you note. Moo cards are cool too. Anway, you need the cards as you want to be able to give them out as you network and meet people.
I am reading a great book on personal branding. Get it or another similar book. It will help you enormously with networking, developing your brand image, how you present yourself to the public, etc.
Next, join the Chicago Craft Mafia website and mailing list. We offer (yes, I'm a member) free quarterly presentations pertaining to craft entrepreneurship. It's also a great time to network and get advice from others. Our next one is in April. While you are at it, sign up for the DIY Trunk Show email list. In June we will be sending out application information for our annual fall craft show.
Start looking up business webinars. There are many that are free and they are a great way to keep you motivated, learn new skills, and brush up on ones that are rusty.
This week there is an inexpensive workshop being given by the director for Lawyers for the Creative Arts. (Many towns in the US have such organizations. Check with your local arts council.)
Read through the business section of Chicago Artists Resource. There is so much information that it can be a bit overwhelming. Take your time reading through it. (Note to those not in Chicago, the website has many national and international links.)
Join HARO - Help a Reporter. Three times a day you will receive queries from reporters all over the US - blog, print and tv. Write back to those that are relevant. You may be quoted in their articles which means free publicity!
Get on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.
Start a blog! Promote your blog on your social media feed and your business card. The blog should be used to announce new products, upcoming shows etc., but also let it reflect you and your interests and how these tie into your art.
This next peice of advice comes from a friend - start a business journal. Write down your success, failures, joys and frustrations. On those days when business sucks, it helps to be reminded of your successes. And when you think you can sail free and clear, it's good to have a notebook of memories that keep you in check.
Make your product uniquely your own. Keep it true to you. Both products you mentioned are market saturated, so what twist can you give them? I hand knit hats for the holiday markets. Nothing elaborate, but I have many repeat customers because I knit with quality in mind and have a quirky sense of color. I love the whimsical and that shows up in my work. The same level of quality and professionalism is true of the art I show and sell through galleries.
Good luck! Have fun! And yes, as my mom would say, a person who started and operated a catering business for 25 years, there will be days you will swear you were drunk when you decided self employment was a good idea. Those days pass, just like a bad hangover. (Yes, my mother actually said this to me, just about everytime I called her when I'd be losing my nerve.)
What advice would you give to this student? Please share it here. I'd love to learn more and will be sure she and her classmates see it.
"My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance."
-- Erma Bombeck
The other day I watched with horror as an evil, wool-munching moth flittered across my studio. It's a sure sign that spring has arrived - and that I need to do some cleaning.
Grandma hated the smell of moth balls. She swore by her time-tested recipes for herbal sachets. I've been making, selling and using these herbal sachets for years. They don't last forever, so it's time for me to make a new stash. I figure if I need them, you might too. So, I've started listing the first batch at Enjolive - my Etsy shop.
Keeping one's yarn inventory (or drawer full of gorgeous wool sweaters) moth free isn't difficult. First, make sure everything is free of food debris. This is less a problem with a yarn stash, but stains often end up on sweaters, so it is best to give them a wash or take them to the local dry cleaners before storing them for the summer. Once done, toss in a sachet or two and relax.
With the flight of that evil moth, I am going to do a thorough check of my yarn inventory to be certain it hasn't laid eggs. If you see signs of moth invasion, don't panic. Take the item and either freeze it in your freezer or take it outside for a few hours in the sun. Both actions will kill all larvae.
Now that I'm having to go through every bin in my studio, I figure I might as well give the whole house a scrub down. Ms. Martha always has excellent room by room cleaning guides, but I love these all- natural recipes from Rodale. They are non-toxic and cheaper than the store brand versions. Many of them also smell great with the addition of a few drops of essential oils.
As I really do find cleaning to be a bore of a chore, I think I might liven my spirits with a treat from Chel Domestic Goodies, a fellow Chicago Craft Mafia member and domestic goddess. Love the gloves!
-- Robert Frost
I've been absent from Serendipity these last few weeks due to a cold. Well, actually it was more like laryngitis that turned into nasty bronchitis before seguing into a mild form of pneumonia. After two rounds of antibiotics, bottles of cough syrup and oodles of naps, I'm finally feeling like myself. While sequestered to my bed, I could hear Mom's voice telling me to slow down. She had been extolling such words long before she passed away. She knew I have this tendancy to bury myself in my work. When one loves what one does, it's difficult to take a break. After all, work doesn't feel like work when you enjoy it. Right?! But when one has been sick three times in a year, it's time to listen.
It's moments like now that I wish I could ring her up to chat. I valued her opinion and sure would love it now. Whenever I felt a bit wobbly about career decisions she would recite Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken with extra emphasis on the last few lines (see above). This year has been amazing. My work has been featured in exhibits across the country and as far as London, all the while receiving numerous reviews. I was a featured artist during Chicago Artists Month and my community work The Red Thread Project® was performed three times, involving well over 1,000 knitters and crocheters of all ages. Truly, it's been an amazing road to travel, but racing down it at full speed has taken its toll.
So what to do, what to do....
I've decided to pull back on my exhibition schedule. There I said it! I need time to pursue my career as a proect designer. I fully plan to continue making and exhibiting art, but I won't take every opportunity given me. I'll be choosy. Fewer shows means more time to reflect upon new work and really give it polish. Less emphasis on finding, securing, shipping and installing exhibits means more time in the studio to experiment. This experimentation will in turn fuel the work I do as a project designer for craft companies. Being choosy means pushing my career toward solo exhibitions in smaller, regional museums. I've missed showing in acadmenic galleries and museums and have it on my list to pursue more of these venues. I also want to show more internationally which is going to require some research.
I put this out there because I must stay to the path I've delineated and not be sidetracked which is incredibly difficult for me to do. These are my New Year's resolutions - to stay focused on new business plan, take more breaks, go on a vacation and spend more time with family and friends. I also have pledged to not end up in the doctor's office again, let alone the ER! It's an apple a day for me!
The image above is of an Etsy treasury I recently curated. Take a look. The work is beautiful. I especially love the chunky cable slip cover for a chair. It makes me want to curl up with a good book which is exactly what I'm going to do right now.
"Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons."
--Ruth Ann Schabacker
It's craft fair season and I am busy in the studio. The DIY Trunk Show broke all expectations! Thank you to all who stopped by my booth to say hello. Your smiles were a great gift. And to all who made a purchase, thank you again. I woke up last week to find a giant puddle of water in the basement. The leak was more than a leak. Evidently everytime I turned on the bathroom sink, a huge waterfall came cascading down my basement wall. What normally would have caused a major panic was offsett by such great sales and knowing I could easily pay the plumber. So a mighty THANK YOU!
You can next find my work at the Out of the Box Holiday Gift Market (see image above). I will be there 12/10, 12/11, 12/17 & 12/18 selling my beanies, berets, and bags as well as new charming paper ornaments made with vintage papers and colorful felted hats pins.
In the meantime, I am busy knitting more of the red "thread." I picked up another 68 donated hats, so I guess that means another 68 yds of i-cord to knit over the holiday weekend. Yeah!
My daughter and I have a tradition. We make pumpkin pancakes followed by either pumpkin pizza or homemade pumkin ravioli (in a sage and brown butter sauce) followed by pumpkin pie. Yes, being a vegetarian, it's a pumpkin theme around here rather than the focus on a turkey. When completely full and barely able to move, we head out to the movies to watch the latest chick flick. Unfortunately there aren't any chick flicks on offer, so I think it will be the latest Muppet movie. While I will miss family in St. Louis, I am thankful for the down time we have together, giving us a chance to recharge the energy levels before holiday season swings into high gear.
Wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!
The first is Unwind - a Knitting Pub Crawl with The Red Thread Project® - Saturday, 11/12, 3-6. Registration / check in is at the Rogers Park Business Alliance (RPBA) - 1448 W. Morse. You must check in and get a wrist band at RPBA, but then can travel to whatever bars in whatever order. The goal is to visit all 6 pubs. At each bar you will receive a playing card, the best poker hand at the end of the night at each bar wins a prize.
I will be rotating between these fine bars collecting hats for The Red Thread Project® and assisting with hat making queries.
Act One Gastropub - 1330 W. Morse
Buffalo Bar at the Heartland Cafe - 7000 N. Glenwood
Chuckies - 1412 W. Morse
Duke's Bar - 6920 N. Glenwood
Glenwood Bar - 6962 N. Glenwood
Morseland - 1220 W. Morse
This event is presented by Rogers Park Business Alliance and Sifu Design Studio and Fine Yarns.
On Sunday 11/13 from 10-3 is the 3rd annual Holiday Market at the Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N. Sheridan Rd. I will be there with new beanies, berets and bags, plus my latest line of hat pins and the ever popular all natural, moth repellant herbal sachets. There will be many fine treats and a fantastic raffle! Don't miss it! And yes, I now accept credit cards. Woohoo!
Here is Mimi the Mannequin modeling Nixie, a deliciously soft beanie knit from Highland Peruvian wool, merino and a merino / silk blend yarn with needle felted dots for a bit of extra dash. As always, my mission is to brighten the grey winter landscape with bits of bright color!
-- Isaac Bashevis Singer
My neighbor Alex stopped by my place a few weeks ago to help with moving a few things. I loved that he was wearing my hat. He commissioned it after seeing me outside photographing hats for my Etsy shop. I thought he was kidding. I tend to think of my hats as feminine. Alex proved me wrong. Actually he was rather miffed that I hadn't taken him seriously. He liked my designs and appreciated the quality of my knitting. Lesson learned. I need to rethink my entire hat collection as either unisex or consider some as more masculine than not. I especially love the fact that he asked for his name to be embroidered on it. I asked if he wanted block lettering. I stereotyped again, thinking a block font would be more masculine, but Alex preferred my scripty style.
Another happy customer sent me a picture of herself wearing her custom beret. I love how it goes with the poinsettia! Stacy is great. Being an artist herself, she has an amazing sense of color and style.
Her commissions have also given me pause for consideration. Now I'm thinking of lines with specific themes. Day, dawn, dusk, midnight. Persimmon, key lime, banana and blackberry. Perhaps some inspired by imaginings of characters from favorite novels. Hmmmmmm. Many possibilities to consider.
My mission is simple - to dot the dreary winter landscape with color. Seriously. Have you ever noticed how the city of Chicago seems to turn grey every winter? Grey buildings, grey slush, grey coats. I think the Swedes have it right. They brighten their short winter days with lots and lots of color.
To help complete my mission, I have placed all goods on sale at my online shop Enjolive through Thursday, December 2.
The garden has long been a source of my inspiration. There is the act of gardening which helps to clear the mind while exercising the body after hours working in the studio. And then there are its many forms and colors. I often reference it in my hats, such as this beanie called Lee.
My Visions of Paradise series was all about the garden which you can see in this piece from 1988 called The Enchanted Forest.
Of course, every gardener must have a helper. Mine is a dog. She digs holes for me, "trims" plants by tearing off leaves and supervises from my lap as I pull weeds. Josie's shenanigans frequently force me to get on her level and take a closer look. Here she's sitting in the herb garden among the lavender and boxwoods. I had to keep shooing her off the thyme which she decided made a most comfy cushion.