Monday, August 30, 2010

Yikes, There's a Dragon in My Yard!

We've had a foggy, cold and windy summer, or as someone quipped the other day ~ a mild winter. Fall color is just starting to show around the neighborhood. Several days ago I walked down to our garden in the late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky and surprising warm on my back so I just stood there for a few minutes soaking up the heat. As I opened the gate and I looked up and to my right and was shocked to find a huge red dragon on the edge of the pasture. She was an impressive sight, at least 25 feet long from nose to tail.

I think she is a friendly sort. Though you can't see them here, our neighbor's black cat and two chickens were lounging in the shade of her long neck. I was actually able to get close enough to snap a picture of one of her fiery scales.

Here there be dragons came to mind, something I once saw printed on an old map. I decided to see if it was an authentic quote. I found that one of the more recent sources of the quote is that it's the first in a series of books about an "extraordinary journey of myth, magic, and mystery" from the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica by James A. Owen. You know what's really cool, the second book is called "The Search for the Red Dragon".

Friday, August 27, 2010

Add an Etsy Treasury to your Blog or Website

I was bummed when could no longer provide artists with the capability to do spotlights. I used spotlights frequently to go along with my blog themes. Enter Etsy Treasuries and a whole new venue to get some incredible work seen and build networks with other artisans. 

I always email the artists I've featured with the link to the treasury. This enables them to find it without going through thousands of pages. They can then post the link to their blog or website and leave comments for you.

If you're featured in a treasury, I encourage you to click and comment. It gives feedback to the curator, increases visibility for artists, keeps the treasury active and someone may click on your shop after reading your comments. You know, it's a pay it forward kind of thing.

Here's a short tutorial on importing an Etsy treasury to your blog:

1) Open your photo processing program, I work with Picassa but they all have similar functions.
2) Open your treasury.
3) Go to "view" on your toolbar and reduce percentage to a point where you can see the title and all 16 thumbnails on the screen, 65%-68% works for me.
4) Use your print screen function (Control/PrintScreen) and Picassa will capture the page.
5) Go into Picassa and crop the treasury.
6) I then "Save As" and give it the treasury name (I save photos that will go on my blog or Etsy shop in desk top folders, then I don't have to go hunting for them).
7) There won't be an active link to artist's shops like an Etsy mini or a spotlight, but you can add a link to your post to take visitors to the actual treasury, which does have links directly to artist's shops.

Thanks to Molly at
for getting me on the right path. It certainly does take a village.

Link for "Fire and Ice" treasury is

So off you go: Create a great Etsy treasury, share it with the world and share it with the artists. If you're featured in someone else's treasury or want to promote one you've done you now have the tools to do it. Happy Trails.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Saturday Afternoon Bear Hunt

We live on a hill at the end of a road with neighbors on either side who have small children from 3-5. You can often find one or more of the crew down in the pasture by our garden. On Saturday afternoon we discovered that we could sit out there and be out of the cold wind that has been plaguing us for a couple of months. We set our backs to the setting sun and transformed into lizards on warm rocks while we chatted. The kids soon tired of sitting around and requested that my husband Rod take them on a bear hunt. He is a former preschool chef and teacher, a kid magnet and has the fertile imagination of a 6 year old.

"Story Telling"
Thanks to Philippe Fernandez for letting me use his amazing illustration

There are no fences between properties up here and areas around our property and one of our neighbors have a great variety of trees and flowering shrubs that form thickets and great hidey places.

The kids decided that Rod would be the “tall things” lookout and they would be his protector and lookout for “short things” ahead and behind. They all carried small sticks from the brush pile to defend themselves if they ran into the bear. They circled down around the old Victorian next door and Rod asked if they should knock on the door and see if the bears were home. The 5 year old said “No, we shouldn’t disturb them” and they continued on the hunt.

Suddenly the old stump down along the winter creek became a bear. They fought a hard battle and were victorious in the end. It was decided that they would have bear and fresh berries for dinner. The children gathered leaves and twigs in a pile for a pretend cooking fire and told Rod he should light the fire because he was the adult. Once that was done he was sent to gather blackberries.

They had a fine meal and decided since they had already be gone two weeks they should hike out of the woods and head home so their parents wouldn’t worry. They were about half way up the hill and the 3 year old stops the crew and said “we forgot to put out our campfire”. He was going to go back and take care of it, but the kids decided it was everyone’s responsibility so they all went back to put out the pretend campfire before emerging from the woods.

There are so many stories to tell from fanciful to family history, share them with your children and grandchildren. Rekindle your imagination and you will enrich their lives and your own.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Marketing Close to Home - A Primer for the Craft Fair Season

Before I jumped into the online marketplace our venues were local craft fairs. My husband and I have been doing 3-5 fairs annually for 20 years. They can be great marketing tools and learning experiences. I love the fact that people from all over the world are reading my blog and purchasing my work on line, but craft fairs are where we make a majority of our sales. The big plus is that we get to meet our customers face to face and have developed a following that comes back each season to shop with us. 

Dickens of a Crafts Faire ~ Santa Rosa, CA

I wanted to share what we've learned over the years, here are some things to think about:

1. Visit craft fairs in your area
2. Look at the venue, would you want to be there?
3. Has it been well advertised?
4. Is there too much of one thing ~ like jewelry?
5. How is the quality of the work?
6. How have vendors set up their tables? You can get great ideas about what to do and what not to do.
7. Talk to artisans, ask their opinions and how they're doing.
8. Enter only juried shows ~ this insures quality work and a variety of wares for shoppers.
9. Most of the fairs we do are fundraisers for community organizations. It's a way to pay it forward and something you might want to consider.

Displays ~ Do test set ups ~ Most venues have room for 6-8 foot tables. Get a couple of tables out at home and play with potential set ups to showcase your work. I have a black table cloth that covers tables and drapes down on all sides to hide my travel boxes. Displays don't have to cost you a lot of money. I found most of my display items at the flea market, second hand stores and Ross.

Test set up for my new display 

Photograph your work ~ Learn how to photograph your work. It's really important to have good photos not only for a website or online shop, but when applying to juried shows. Besides it's nice to have a "portfolio" of your work. Photoshop and Picasa have tutorials, bloggers and artisans on Etsy have writen detailed primers on how to get great photos.

Deco Bluebird Salad Servers ~ Chocolate Sundae Desk Set

Make a list and check it twice ~ Every fair is a little different. Some are indoors and some are outdoors, some provide tables and chairs and some don’t, some have power available and some don’t.  I have a list of everything that goes to each fair and I do mean everything: from displays to a $100 in change, receipt books to products, pens to gift boxes, table cloths to lighting, food and water.

We pack everything into a series of tote boxes for ease of storing and moving and check items off as they’re packed in the car. There is nothing worse than getting to your venue and finding you have left something behind. A simple Word document can be updated easily. Trust me, a little time spent up front will serve you well over the years. I also photograph my display and take an 8 x 10 with me so when I am unpacking I don't have to think about what goes where.

Business cards are a must ~ We do our local fairs as Sticks and Stones and my online shops and blog are Shelley Macdonald Designs. We keep business cards for both on the fair tables at all times to let shoppers know I have an online shop. I wear my jewelry a lot and we never go on a hike without taking a couple of my husband's walking sticks. Don't leave home without business cards in your purse or wallet. You never know when someone might ask how to get a hold of you. We were invited to do a craft show in the next county and I asked the organizer how he found us. He had purchased a cane from my husband at a fair three years prior and kept the business card. It's really easy to make your own, Word has templates and office supply stores carry packages of the blanks. You can also find great deals online for designing and printing cards.

Credit Cards ~ This is the first year we'll be taking credit cards. A number of vendors have told us that the ability to take credit cards increased their sales so we figured it was worth a try since we are now doing up to 10 shows a year. Do your homework, talk to fair vendors and then make an informed decision. We found a really good deal with Propay. If we're in an area with no wifi (as we often are at small town fairs) we can scan the cards on a hand held reader and enter information once we're home. Find out where the nearest ATM to your venue is located so you can let a customer know if they prefer not to use a credit card but are low on cash.

The dreaded inventory ~ No matter how much you hate the idea it's important to keep track of the cost of your materials and labor to come up with a fair price for your creations. A simple Excel spreadsheet can do the calculations for you. Check the forums on Etsy and other online venues, artisans have posted great templates. Never be afraid to ask questions.

So there it is ~ Hope you find some useful elements here. The fair circuit is hard work but a lot of fun. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Bee's Knees

"The grass is always greener over the septic tank"
Erma Bombeck

We live in the country and like many folks in the area we have a septic system. The tank was replaced several years ago and we put in a rock surround to mark the perimeter and back-filled the area with wood chips and a couple of pieces of yard art.

A small succulent volunteered along the edge and we've let it spread over the years. It now fills almost the entire area, about 80 square feet. Every August the patch bursts into bloom and becomes carpet of little white flowers. It's a honey bee diner for weeks and you can see hundreds of bees working the area at any one time. It's a pretty cool sight.

Plant flowers and fruit trees for your butterflies, birds and bees. You'll be rewarded by your visitors' beauty and knowing you're helping their survival.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not Your Average Pancakes

So I'll bet you never considered pancakes as an artform.

 Tyrannosaurus Rex
My husband was the chef at a children's school for 8 years and every Friday he made designer pancakes for the pre-schoolers. Their job was to try and stump him with their requests and they came close a couple of times, but he always managed to create something that delighted each and every one of them.  

Pirate Ship 
If you have little ones at home or if your kids are having a pajama party announce the Designer Pancake Challenge and see how you do. His first tool was a turkey baster filled with pancake batter. The kids called it his "pancake pencil", but he was soon "drawing" freehand with a large spoon. I won't tell if you decide to practice before facing the family food critics. 


 Good luck with your next mission.....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thoughtful Tuesday

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration. 
Thomas Edison

The objective was to limb our redwoods up about 15 feet and remove secondary growth and brush for fire safety. Six hours of hacking and hewing has its rewards. The old hammock fits perfectly between to two trees!