Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Be or Not To Be...That's Easy!

So here is my latest, a Breast Cancer Awareness Charm Bracelet. At first I wasn't going to make it because I didn't want to take advantage of the situation to make a profit. Then I thought, I friggin nuts!!! I have an opportunity to raise awareness AND raise money to donate. I would be crazy and selfish NOT to do this. Yesterday I made my first one and am very pleased with the results and I am completely gratified that I am doing something to fight breast cancer.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tips for a Successful Craft Booth Display, from a Buyer’s Perspective.

     Although I am a seller, I am a consumer of handcrafted items as well so I can tell you what I look for when I’m out shopping the fairs and also what I steer clear of.

     First things first, let’s stop referring to it as a craft booth, and start calling it a ‘boutique’ or ‘shop’. Ahhhh, now, don’t you feel better already? Good, let’s continue. The truth is anyone and everyone can have a craft booth but it takes effort and creativity to have a boutique or shop. There’s a lot of time and energy that goes into a good display of your wares, and believe me, your customers will notice. After all, don’t you notice a really good looking shop at a fair? Don’t you think to yourself, wow, this person is successful and confident about what they are selling? Me too.

     One other thing I want to point out aside from the list is to create your shop to reflect who you are and what you like. The minute you start thinking about what other people will think, or if they will approve or disapprove, is the minute you start to stifle your creativity. The more you tailor your space to your liking, the more confident you will be in it! The more confident you feel, the more confident you look; the more confident you look, the more approachable you seem; the more approachable you seem, the more customers will want to come in and browse. How many times have you been teetering on the decision to buy something and then made up your mind to buy it because the seller is super nice? I know I have, on plenty of occasions. So, the point here is to own your space and love it. Own it! After all, you are the one that has to manage it all day. HA!

     So here is a short list of tips to help you get your shop looking fabulous. I’ve used my experience from both sides of the table to compile some do’s and don’ts that will hopefully steer you in the right direction, if you are in fact going the wrong way, lol!

1. Look like you care.
     Don’t show up with your baseball cap, poncho pullover, and sidelines lounge chair (complete with dual cup holder). That is tacky with a capital T, seriously. I can understand the poncho pullover if you are doing an outside show but you can get my drift about the chair that only allows you to sit head level with your tables. If this is how you run your business in public I don’t even want to imagine the lack of effort that actually goes into your product. You don’t want to send this message. You don’t have to pull out your Sunday best but at least knock the dust off your good shoes, style your hair (if applicable), and invest in a bar stool.

2. Add some depth and character.
     Give height to your table. This gives dimension by adding layers. I don’t know how many booths I pass up because their jewelry or goods are laying down flush with the table. ZZzzZZZzzz!! Give your booth personality and make it different than the average craft booth. You want to think ‘eye level’ when you are giving height. Not everything has to be eye level but a few things should be if possible. This not only makes things visible to your customers but also “fills out” the space. This is as easy as looking around your house for things to borrow for your booth for the day. You don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on new things. You can if you want, that rocks, but most people gearing up for a show want to make money and spend as little as possible. To give you an example of using things from around the house; in my booth I use an old fireplace screen (perfect for hanging things!) and a small bookshelf with three cubes that I normally use in my craft room. I bought a cute little display shelf at an antique show for $3 and an old window shudder for $5. Voila! My shop has “walls”! You can also use things like crates turned on their side or even turned all the way upside down. If the box is ugly, cover it with something. Start keeping your eye open for things that you can use to give your shop height and depth, this is a must. Be careful not to overload on layers of dimension though, this can cause your shop to look chaotic.

     Set a tone. And once you’ve set that tone, tie everything into it. Setting a tone should not be confused with setting a theme. Setting a tone gives a feeling whereas setting a theme gives an experience. Make sense? How many times have you gone into a shop and felt warm and cozy? I also want you to think about how many times you’ve gone into a shop and felt gross and unwelcome. So the question to ask yourself is what you want your customers to feel like when they enter your boutique or shop. Do you want them to feel like they are buying from some fly by night operation or do you want them to feel like they have just entered an extension of your home? Or maybe if you are selling business supplies you want to make them confident in your products so you can display signs like, “So&So Business, Helping You Get Your Job Done for ___ Years”. Jewelry is easy because you can set whatever tone you want. Light a non-perfumy candle, bring some small accent table lamps, lay down a rug; whatever you choose to do, be creative and use your imagination.

     One other thing worth mentioning is the necessity of a table skirt, because really? I don’t want to see the boxes your shop came in. You can get a cheap plastic one from Party City for like $7 in a variety of colors…for the meantime. But if you plan on doing shows for a while, you might want to invest in a really nice cloth table skirt made out of drape material. I’m sure you can commission someone on Etsy or ArtFire to make one for you, or there’s always e-bay. The point? Get a table skirt, no excuses.

3. Don’t be THAT guy…
     …who hounds customers or isn’t anywhere around. Believe it or not, you are a part of your display! If you are popping out every time I even glance at something to tell me all about it, I’m gone. If I want to know, I’ll ask, K? On the flip side of that, don’t be scarce. There’s nothing worse than wanting to ask something and can’t find the artist or seller. I guess…just be available. I’ve found that I like when I can go into a shop and browse without being watched (that’s creepy), if I’m still there after a few minutes I like to be reassured that there is someone there to answer any questions. A simple, “I’m right here if you have any questions” will do just fine. And then I like to be left alone again. I don’t need to be reassured again.
Another pet peeve of mine worth mentioning is sellers who will work on something like rearrange or straighten a display right next to where I’m shopping. Unless something has fallen, I’m sure it can wait.

4. Don’t use ploys!
     Customers can usually see right through the bullshit. At least I can. Nothing will send a customer running in the opposite direction faster than if they think they are being taken advantage of, believe me. Be honest with your marketing and your customers and you will never go wrong. The minute you start selling your products to people who don’t really want them, the less rewarding it is as an artisan, and you can take that to the bank! If people want to buy your wares, they will buy them. If you are offering a drawing to win something in your shop, that’s rad! Offering giveaways and drawings unrelated to your products just to get traffic is, well, crap.

5. Use Signs and Pricing
     Make sure everything is marked clearly with a price tag and a description if needed. If you are not going to take the time to price it, I’m not going to take the time to ask. If you have things that cost different prices, you need to mark everything individually. Don’t make me read a chart, or do some crazy color coding match-up game. If something is $14.99 make a darn tag for it, really! I don’t want to feel obligated to buy something by asking how much it is. If you are a seller who does this on purpose, shame on you (and read Tip 4 again).

     You can use signs to create price groups! People love to have choices while shopping. I will make a b-line to a “Clearance” or “50% off” sign. If you have several items under $10, put them in a group and label it, “Items under $10”. If everything in your shop is under $20, display that in a sign somewhere. Do you take credit or debit? You’d better be posting that somewhere, preferably somewhere close to the “entrance” and somewhere else on your back table.

     Signs give people choices, but too many signs can make a person feel bombarded with advertising, which customers also hate. I’d say one 6’ table should have 2-3 signs max! Anything more and your customer will wonder which way they are supposed to look, get overwhelmed, and go for a quieter shop.

I hope these tips have helped you in some way. I just thought I’d share my experiences as a seller, but mostly as a buyer at craft shows to help you be successful as you take your show on the road. Please add any comments or additional tips.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Craft Table? No no...Boutique!

 So I am getting ready for Bazaar and Fair season. My first show isn’t until November 6th so I have plenty of time to get everything set up but probably not enough time to make everything I want, as usual. I’ve turned my spare bedroom (notice box spring >.<) into my craft booth, which this year I am calling my "boutique". When I set it up before the show, I'm not scrambling to make everything look good because I already know how it's going to look! It's also very inspiring to walk into a room and see your shop all laid out on display.

 I can already tell my biggest obstacle is to not put too many knickknacks on my tables. I love using cute little things to show off my jewelry but for one it starts to look cluttered, two the customers have trouble deciphering what’s for sale and what’s not, and three…damn it, I knew there was a third point…oh well.

I’m using an old fireplace screen to give my boutique height. I can display my earrings here easily and use hooks if I want to display or hang a necklace. I need to spray paint the top and give it some personality because gold is just not my thang, especially 1980’s gold chrome…bleh! But it’s totally awesome that I get to upcycle it AND it looks great with seasonal decorations draped along the top.

To match the height of the fireplace screen, I’m using a cubby style shelf. Here I will be able to “showcase” my favorite or Sale items. I plan on making each cubby a different color scheme. I can use colored scrapbook sheets to serve as the back wall of these cubby holes. Hopefully this will be just enough ‘pop’ at eye level to get some second glances. This is just the beginning...

kung-fu grip

Meanwhile I am also trying to come up with better ways of showing off my bracelets but ti is incredibly difficult to stick my arm into a box with a narrow(er) opening and get my arm at just the right angle whilst taking a picture using a stack of 2x4s as a tripod. This one turned out ok and I can crop but still...meh. What's with the kung-fu grip?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

DecapitateHer Cakes

that's me in the white helmet

When I played derby, my name was DecapitateHer and in those days having props was still cool. Now, derby has evolved rather quickly into a ‘no shit’ competitive sport with sponsors, championships, and regional and national tournaments; so props are kind of amateur-ish. By the way, Western Regionals is happening right now in Sacramento. Anyway, this isn’t about derby, I just wanted to say that since my name is DecapitateHer (in white helmet), in the beginning, I had this mannequin head and sickle and I’d skate around as if I just lopped it off. I had it strapped to a derby helmet and everything, it was freakin awesome…anywaaaay.

So I have this thing sitting around but I totally forgot about it because it was hiding under all my hats! It’s perfect to show off my earrings! Nice! I guess cosmetology school and my knack for holding on to things that “I’ll use someday” has paid off. The funny thing is I have the head in a light box so when I open my garage to get the sunlight, people see me taking pictures of a head in a box, nice!

In other news, I made this cake for my friend’s birthday. It’s my second cake “boss” style and it was fun and quicker than the Thomas one. I used waaaaay too much butter cream frosting though. I didn’t realize how thick it went on so it kinda ruined the cake. It was way too sugary to enjoy. Blah! Practice makes perfect.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I found the Best Hemp on the Planet!

Ecolution Hemp
One word, Ecolution. This is the creme de la creme of hemp twine and yarn. Hell, even their natural processing had me sunk! Their website offers information and pictures on their processing technique as well as how they use natural dyes from plants. They are so earth freindly that I would never have to wonder if the product I am selling is pure. But anyway, enough about how I want to leave my family and go work for Ecolution, let's talk about the product.

hemp twine

If you are a hemper, whether you knot or knit, Ecolution has what you need. The twine used for knotting has long fibers so it's less sctratchy (if scratchy at all) and the product won't fray easily.  If you hate those little stray fibers that stick out and poke you or that make your jewelry look like shit, this hemp is your answer.

current project

hemp yarn

The hemp yarn is love!!!! A while back I picked up a denim colored spool from my favorite store, Shipwreck Beads. Can you believe I only live 20 minutes from there?! Anyway, so I brought this hemp home and I instantly fell in love with it's charm. Soft to the touch, easy on the eyes (and fingers) and greatest of all, I could tat this yarn so much easier than twine. This is where I started tatting hemp into jewelry. I've been interested in tatting for a while, but I'll save that story for another blog post.

The catch with Ecolution is that you can't just go on their site and order a spool from their store. You have to find a retailer, blah! While I get mine from Shipwreck, you can find and order from the retailer of your choice.

This is it! Ecolution is the Best Hemp on the Planet.

Denim Hemp from Ecolution

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Betty Rocker

So I got a little obsessed with cake shows. Cake Boss, Duff, Food Network Challenge, etc. I had to try it. It looked so awesome and they make it seem so easy! I planned for 2 months and made my son's 2nd birthday cake and must say it turned out to be a complete success despite a couple cosmetic issues, but it was a solid cake...right on!

As a matter of fact, I don't think i can enjoy cake without fondant on it. Well, thats a lie, I would probably eat any kind of cake. But you get the idea. If you haven't tried cake with marshmallow fondant on it, you need to. YUM!

You see those trees? He played with those trees forever. My son loves trees by the way. I plan to make him another bling cake for his next birthday. Maybe he'll be into something cool like Batman or some other comic. That would be rad.

I'm making a 6" round cake for my friend's birthday this weekend. I'll blog about it most likely.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The Quest Continues

Hempmania – On one of my early morning searches for quality hemp, I stumbled upon Hempmania; a site that has been up and running since 1997. They offer quality hemp products and adhere to fair trade practices (sweet!). Ok, I’ll bite. So I ordered 4 spools of hemp yarn; blue, purple, forest green, and natural. I have only used the natural so far and was impressed with the finished look. There is a slight shine to it which really brings life to what is otherwise just fibrous cord. This is encouraging to use the other colors and see how polished they might look. What I’m not a huge fan of is that their yarn is SO fine, that I felt like I had giant hands palming the yarn because there wasn’t much to grip, lol! With hemp this fine, the fibers fray and fuzz if they get overworked. Overall, getting hemp supplies from Hempmania is worth it. However, I’m not ready to call it the Best Hemp on the Planet.

Next stop on my mission to find the best hemp on the planet is Ecolution. I have a feeling this is a major contender for the title. Everything from the way their product is harvested and processed to the end user results is enticing. Til next time, happy hemping!

Friday, September 3, 2010

WTB The Best Hemp on the Planet

Finding quality hemp is time consuming but worth it.

Why use hemp? For one …it’s natural! Hemp does not use pesticides. It can grow organically without using harsh chemicals that harm the earth, people, or animals. Besides the cord and twine that I use to make jewelry, hemp can be used to make more durable clothing, paper, oil, building materials, moisturizers and lotion, bags and carriers, the list goes on. Check out my treasury featuring some creative ways of using hemp.

Since I started knotting hemp into jewelry, I have used the basic natural hemp roll sold at your average Michael’s, A.C. Moore, or Jo-Anne’s. It has served me well but I have grown tired of the scratchy smelly hemp that is harvested who knows where. Now that I am back into it, I want to track down quality hemp that is grown, harvested, and processed in an eco friendly way. I want to know the origins of the hemp I use, for various reasons. For one I want to support those who are trying to create a positive impact to our planet and not support those whose main drive is money and greed. For another, quality hemp that is harvested and processed right will offer the most comfort, which is important to people who choose hemp clothes and jewelry.

Below is the start of a list of the companies I am checking out on my quest to find the best hemp on the planet. After this initial blog, I will be adding update blogs as I try out different vendors and hemp providers. Know of a great place to get hemp? Please let me know in the comments or in a message and I will be sure to give them a try and include them in an upcoming blog.

Let’s start off on a positive foot…

carnation pink results
NearSea - has quality stuff. I mean top of the line hemp. I have only tried their hemp yarn in licorice and there is hardly a flaw in their product. Their yarn seams to stay pretty consistent throughout which is invaluable when you are trying to make two things the same size. As I recall their hemp came from a reputable place and cleared my eco radar. Unfortunately, my last order from them didn’t leave me pleased. It arrived beautifully and was in great shape when it got here. It even had a beautiful twist. But once I removed the packaging, the ends started getting lost among all the rest until it was knotting and tangling and…well, I ended up salvaging what I could. High quality product, not user friendly. UPDATE! After I sent an email sayng pretty much the same thing I said in this post, Near Sea has given me a complete refund including the shipping costs. wow! Customer loyalty has always rang true with this girl.
NearSea yarn in licorice
Next company to evaluate is Hempmania! I have recently ordered 4 small rolls of hemp in different colors. Let's see what they have to offer!

star designer

I did it! I designed my very own hemp necklace. Usually hemp jewelry is pretty much set in stone. Yes you can use variations to give your stuff a different or unique look but basically, it's all been knotted before. Which can be a discouraging thing when every other hemper or hemptress has the similar products. Since I've started tatting, I have been able to use hemp in a different way to still make jewelry.

But yesterday, what started out as an earring quickly became my inspiration jump off point. After I realized I wouldn't have enough hemp left to make two earrings, I stopped my work and was left with the main part of my necklace. This has happened before, but I never followed through with completing anything from it. Not wanting to waste this prescious ( and more expensive) hemp yarn, I acted fast before my attention was taken by something else..ooh shiny! I got some beads, some findings, and set my design into motion. Granted this wasn't some crazy wake me out of my dreams idea, but for someone who gets creativity in streaks and free time in the DAYtime seldomly, I was pretty excited. I took pictures almost immediately and will be posting it to my Etsy store sometime this morning =]. Check it out!
Hemp Lace Necklace