7 Lessons I've learned about crafting a creative career

Crochet book

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.  --  Mae West

I recently read a great blog post by artist, curator and teacher Sergio Gomez on the 7 lessons he has learned about the art world.  I found myself nodding along as I read through it and decided to add my two cents.  Here are 7 lessons I've learned about crafting a creative career.

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New Baby Hats!

©2013 Lindsay Obermeyer Baby Hat with Heart ©2013 Lindsay Obermeyer Brights Baby Hat©2013 Lindsay Obemeyer Baby beret

"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.  

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etsy treasury: please close the garden gate


"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."  -- Hanna Rion

It's that time of year!  Gardening has been a passion since childhood.  Every winter I pour over the seed catalogs, plotting on graph paper how I am going to cram in more veggies and flowers.  By April it takes all my control to not go overboard. One year I planted pumpkin seeds that seemed straight out of a fairytale.  They took over the entire garden and grew up and over the garage.  I'd trim them back and by the end of the day they had advanced another foot.  Finally, I just gave up and let them run riot.  I've learned my lesson - no more squashes or cucumbers.  I simply don't have the room for them.  

With the mild winter we've had this year in Chicago, everything in my garden is on turbo charge.  The grass is now taller than my papillon. The cherry tree has blossomed.  And after patiently waiting for three years, the first tender shoots from my asparagus patch are making an appearance! Frittata?  Tart?  Risotto? Or just lightly steamed with a crack of pepper?  I can't decided how best to enjoy them.  

Thinking about my garden and my love of craft, I created this Etsy treasury.  Of course I want every item I've featured.  The sunflower seeds are perfect. Talk about a grand entrance by the garden gate with these sunny sentinels keeping guard!

sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite

Sleep tight treasury by enjolive
"Sleep tight!  Don't let the bedbugs bit! And if they do, squish them!"
-- me and Sweet Pea

Every night my daughter and I followed this ritual when she was young -  the bubbliest of bubble baths, followed by story time with a cup of herbal tea and then a singsong about the bedbugs.  Of course, we added the squish 'em bit along the way.  Even now with my daughter older, she will shout it from her bedroom before turning out her light.

I've been thinking about these rituals as I've swung from night owl to barely making it to 9pm.  Is my body adjusting to spring?  Is it caving to the battle with allergies and shutting me down whether I like it or not?  My ritual includes the same as above with the addition of a journal entry.  I like to write a few lines about what has been positive about my day.  The world provides a daily avalanche of negativity, so I don't bother with focusing upon it.  Of course, there are days when it is a challenge to find even one sentence to write that remains hopeful or lighthearted.  As Grandma would say, those are the crapolla days of life, just wipe off you shoes and keep walking.  Thanks, Grandma!

This week's treasury has a bedtime theme.  Sweet dreams!

happy spring!

the lark's on the wing, an etsy treasury by enjolive"The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven -
All's right with the world!"
  --  Robert Browning

Happy Spring Solstice!  As I write, bird song fills the morning air.  In Chicago, it is ususally still grey with only a whisper of green promise, but with these recent beautiful days of rare warmth and sunshine, I've been out in the garden.  The daffodils are in full bloom.  Squirrels scamper around the trees.  Even my cherry tree is budding.  I'm nervous that a freezing cold snap will kill it all off, but hopefully the Acrtic and North Atlantic Oscillations will stay in sink keeping the cold air up by the Acrtic cap.  

In celebration of this fine day, I created this spring-themed treasury of delightful works of art on Etsy.  

some advice to a young creative entrepreneur

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Crafting a business
"To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art."  -- Chinese Proverb

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.

spring cleaning the natural way

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Sachets Lavender, Thyme and Rosemary

"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!  

Chel Domestic Goodies

road less traveled

Picture 1
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. "

-- 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.

knitting pub crawl and a holiday market

Two great events this weekend!

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. 

Participating bars: 
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!  

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Enjolive Nixie Beanie
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!

she's gone to the dogs

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Josie

"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."  --  Ben Williams

Last week wasn't the greatest.  I went for my annual check up which inevitably led to test after test.  It seems to be my thing.  Feel fine.  Be told you aren't.  Really.  This has been happening year after year for the last 4.  How is one not supposed to stress out when given this scenario?!  

Thank goodness for my pooches, Josie and Jack.  They have taken it upon themselves to keep me distracted.  Josie loves to play ball and Jack will woof for every and any unknown reason. 

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Jack
Thinking about how much I rely upon these four-legged friends to keep me relaxed and laughing, I thought it only fitting to create an Etsy treasury in their honor.

Etsy Treasury She's Gone for the Dogs

I have to get Josie the id tag.  It is soooooooo her. Fastest licker this side of the Mississippi.  Jack would be fetching in that bow tie, though I'm sure he'd rather have the doggie donuts.