Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Raising the Bar for 2010

Happy New Year

So what have you discovered this year: retirement, a new passion, a new perspective, a new direction? We asked ourselves what we could do to improve our little corner of the world. I'm not talking about resolutions, which are promises to ourselves we often don't keep. I'm talking about just doing, getting out of our comfort zones and off our butts, and paying our good fortune forward!
  • We get up early and work out three times a week because we know we can no longer take our health and bodies for granted. We want to live long enough to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in 27 years.
  • Whenever we go for a walk we always take a bag with us to pick up garbage that others have thoughtlessly tossed along trails, beaches and roadsides.
  • We made an agreement with some close friends to quit exchanging Christmas presents (we all have too much stuff as it is) and instead donate what we would have spent to Heifer International and our local Hospice.
  • We learned about Boxing Day this year and the traditions of giving on the day after Christmas. Early on the morning of the 26th we both took everything out of our closets and filled 6 bags with well cared for and rarely worn clothes and shoes and dropped them off at one of our local charities.
  • We have a local non profit called The Children's Village whose mission is to "provide nurturing, stable family homes in a multi-generational, enriched environment for children and their siblings in foster care". We are avid gardeners and they need volunteers to help maintain landscaping. We have the tools and the time, so they are on our list. If you want to find out more about The Children's Village go to http://www.thechildrensvillage.com/
My "Raising the Bar" theme is two fold: (1) a call make time to improve yourself and to help someone else and (2) to spotlight some artisans whose work will help you celebrate the new year and other occasions in style.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Creative Road Trip

I got to make a left turn off the 8-5 Highway 4 years ago. I do 3-6 craft fairs a year which makes for some intensive weekends, but I've always enjoyed the process and interactions. The best part was that I was getting to spend 2-3 days a week in my studio creating beautiful and useful things.

Then I decided to launch myself into the world of the online marketplace. Yikes, homework required! We're talking photography, Photoshop, creative descriptions, meaningful key words, and marketing snippets for Google searches. No fear, I jumped off the proverbial cliff and set up shops on Etsy, 1000Markets and Artfire. Okay stores are open, now what? Oh, more learning curves: marketing, networking and blogging, then byhand.me spotlights, Facebook and Twitter. Oh, did anyone mention the roadblock and frustration zones? Google Analytics says it's tracking my blog, but it's not! It costs how much to ship this? What do you mean the site went down? Why can't I talk to a human?
Now, I'm a card carrying member of the Sisterhood of the Perpetual Learning Curve and I've always loved a challenge. I approached this adventure, as I do most situations, with purpose and a sense of humor. I'm excited to have had 4 sales in my shops since June and I find it totally cool that artisans and shoppers from around the world can read my blogs and look at my work. Fellow shop owners like Julie Magers Soulen have been extremely helpful along the way, sharing their skills and knowledge.
It's taken 7 months to earn $175. I spend a huge amount of time keeping my shops stocked and blogs fresh, which translates to less time to work in my studio and create. What's wrong with this picture?
Many artisans in the online marketplace have probably never done the crafts fair route. But when you start comparing notes you start to see the irony. I made 20 times the amount I earned at my online shops at 4 local weekend fairs in Nov and Dec. I got to communicate face to face with my customers, many returning year after year to see what I've been up to and I get a chance to see, catch up with and trade with other artisans.
How many of you lament the amount of time you spend on the computer to make it all work? Is it an exciting and creative road trip or are you becoming a slave to your perceived dream? When does the joy of creating get lost and your shop becomes more job than bliss? Are you ready to get off the runaway freight and regain your creative soul?
My solution is to continue doing my craft fairs, reduce the number of shops and blogs to one each and close Facebook and Twitter. Life is short. It is more important for me to spend time with my husband and friends, to play outdoors, and to let my creative soul out of its box, than it is to be on the computer for hours a day. What's your solution to balance? I posted this same blog on my 1000Markets site today. I'm really interested in what my fellow travellers have to say.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Art of Giving - Part Three

Liquid Amber December 2, 2009

December: Here we are again with winter on the horizon, it's dark at 5 o'clock, the garden's been put to bed for the season, the woodpile is freshly stocked and the flower bulbs are in.

Giving: It's also the season of giving, but over the years commercialization has obliterated the traditional sense what that means. Whatever happened to the art of homemade and handmade? Our ancestors celebrated with gifts from their kitchens, their hands, their writings and their environment or donated time to help a neighbor.

Rethink: Look at the season and gift giving in general with a new perspective: support a local or independent artisan, shop at your local craft fairs (many of which raise money for community needs) or make it yourself. Get back to the basics and reawaken your imagination. Be creative with your wrapping and use recycled materials you might ordinarily throw out (the comics page, magazine pictures, material, old photos, ribbon and string). Let whimsy, a finely tuned sense of the absurd, or an elegant obsession take over. Make someone laugh out loud or take their breath away.

We all have so much: For most of us our closets and drawers are overflowing we stuff we love, take care of and rarely use. Make a point on the next rainy day to spend some time with your closet or that place where you store the stuff you're surely going to use someday. Harvest those cherished items you never wear or use and donate them to a local charity or drive: One of our local high schools collects coats and jackets every year to donate to shelters. Donate to your local Hospice, Goodwill, or Salvation Army store and support organizations that provide priceless services to the people they serve. The possibilities are endless, so take a little time out and think about what you can do without whipping out your debit card in a big box store. This can also translate to valuable lessons for your children.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wild Horses

This photo was taken in Montana on the way to Glacier National Park

There is nothing quite as magical as watching wild horses, whether they are galloping full tilt across a meadow, kicking up their heels and playing or quietly grazing. We were lucky enough to see several bands on our summer trip through Alberta, Montana, Idaho and Nevada. As I mentioned in an earlier blog I met cowboy poet Sue Parker this fall and she talked to me about the Wild Horse Sanctuary she supports. I decided to look them up and what I discovered was an organization of passion and dedication that works tirelessly on behalf of wild horses and burros.

Their mission is "to protect and preserve America's wild horses as living national treasures in a publicly accessible and balanced environment with other wildlife for future generations". The sanctuary is located near Shingletown, CA on 5,000 acres of mountain meadow and forested land nestled between Black Butte and Mt. Lassen. If you would like to learn more about the Wild Horse Sanctuary and their programs you can find them at: http://wildhorsesanctuary.org/

Just for fun I searched "wild horses" in Etsy and discovered some truly remarkable works of art. I created a spotlight of my favorites on http://www.byhand.me/ entitled "Wild Horses" to go along with my blog. If you click on the thumbnail photo it will take you directly to the artist's site.

Enjoy the Ride