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Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Feature -- BKD Signature

This week's Friday Feature is the talented BKD Signature. I was particularly impressed by her Charity Collection which she explains like this: "I have just added my HBP Charity Collection! I am super stoked about this! For every item bought from the collection, $5 will go towards my sorority's philanthropy Homeward Bound Pets. HBP is the local non-profit, no-kill animal shelter in McMinnville, OR. "


For example, this lovely glass pendant, Kitties in Love, is from her Charity Collection:Enjoy the interview!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How
did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

Currently, I make crocheted beanies and headbands, glass pendant necklaces and earrings, and crochet amigurumi. I self-taught myself how to make everything. I bought a beginner's crochet book and researched on YouTube. I also bought an amigurumi book. From there, I've modified the patterns and experimented to make up my own. I bought a pendant kit online, which came with instructions, and I learned the best way to do it from my mistakes.

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

I am a part of CCCOE (California Crafters Club Of Etsy) and Sac Etsy Team


3. How did you get involved with Etsy?

My friend introduced my last summer. I didn't really think about selling on it until this past February.


4. What inspires your creations?

I've loved crafting since I was very young. I feel that it's in my blood. When I see things I like, I try to generate ideas to incorporate them into my skill set.


5. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

I haven't been getting very many sales. This has been very frustrating for me because I love what I do and want to share it with the world. I have gotten so much positive feedback, but my sales do not reflect that. The economy is not helping me either. I feel that my newbie status hinders me. I feel that I do so much to promote, but it is not helping.

6. What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously
sold)? Why is it your favorite?

I love all my items (this perfectionist doesn't sell it unless she loves it) so it's very hard to choose. I guess I would say the most recent beanie I've made:


7. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

Get on the forums! I have found so much amazing support and advice on there.

8. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you. (Hobbies,
achievements, favorite something-or-other, family situation, jobs, etc.)

I am a college student who is using Etsy to spread her love of crafting, which has the added perk of paying for college. My favorite color is blue. I have newfound obsession with buying cute fabrics from Joann's without knowing ahead of time what I'm going to do with them.

9. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations? (blog,
website, flickr, facebook, twitter, etc.. please provide relevant links)

Facebook Business Page: BKD Signature
Blog: http://www.bkdsignature.wordpress.com



And just in case you needed another excuse to go shopping, note that BKD Signature is participating in Etsy's Christmas in July sale, with other offers available through 8/3 as noted in the shop announcement. Happy shopping!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Anything

Part of the charm of childhood for me (and if I'm honest with myself, it's a pretty large part) is the creativity and humor inherent in the ways that children express themselves. It's been such fun as a mother to see my own kids make up words and expressions. Every time I notice the kids stop using one of their linguistic idiosyncrasies and start speaking "properly," it's bittersweet.

For months, BB has said "anything" when she means "nothing." As in, when you ask her what she'd like to eat, if she's not hungry she'll reply with a vehement, "ANYTHING!" And if you're not tuned in to what this means (i.e. -- DO NOT attempt to feed me!) and instead take it at face value (she must be really hungry, because she'll eat anything at all!) then woe to you!

S just reported the following, which makes it clear that she's beginning to understand a little better how to use the word "anything" properly. He said that she was playing earlier today, taking various animals out of their storage bin and arranging them on the rug. This is her narrative, which accompanied the placement of each animal: "And then the next day, a giraffe came. And they didn't do anything! And then the next day, a snake came. And they didn't do anything! And then the next day, a baby snake came. And they didn't do anything!" (Continues as she arranges many more animals.) With great satisfaction, at the end, she announced, "And they all lined up!"

Featured Etsyblogger for July -- MiesMama

One of these days, I'm going to teach myself felting. (Don't worry, S, I don't plan to do so until I have more crafting space than the cramped corner of the bedroom that is currently my "studio!") Yes, my name is Jen, and I'm a serial crafting addict. (Hi, Jen!) I have a list of crafts I'd like to learn that is rivaled only by my list of books that I want to read (and re-read). And felting is very high up on that list!



Until I manage to learn how to felt (and probably long after!) I'll keep admiring lovely felted items like those found in this month's featured Etsyblogger's shop. MiesMama's Tree Fern clutch bag is just yummy!





I love her self-proclaimed mission, as stated in her shop announcement: "My goal is to spread a little handmade goodness, and perhaps be a little more self-sustaining along the way." Her handmade goodness encompasses felted bowls, garlands, key chains, pins, hair accessories, tooth fairy pillows (a brilliant concept!) bags, and "other goodies" like these "Wee Fairy Oakmen."


Someday, I'm going to have the space to set up a nature table. (Probably about the same time that I finagle that extra studio space... sigh.) Aren't these little guys too charming for words?

Congratulations, MiesMama! I really enjoyed checking out your shop. Not to mention your lovely blog! It's always fun to learn more about my very talented fellow Etsybloggers!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quakers

As we drove home from our afternoon playdate today, BJ asked me, "Mom, are the Quakers really real?"



We don't know any Quakers, though I respect their religion quite a lot. I thought hard, wondering if he might have read something about the Quakers -- he's reading everything in sight now, often right over my shoulder when I'm not always aware of it, so one really has to be careful about things like newspapers and the Internet these days. (Not to mention The New Yorker, which has been directly responsible for recent conversations with BJ about devils, angels, and Hell.) I couldn't come up with anything at all that might have introduced him to Quakers; no recent headlines, news stories, books I've been reading.... not a single thing I knew of that would have anything to do at all with Quakers.


Then it hit me: his oatmeal!


(image courtesy of Quaker Oats Company)
Sure that he must be thinking of Quaker Oats, even though he hasn't eaten any since the spring, I nodded. Just as I was about to launch into a bit of holding forth about religion and history, a small voice in my head offered up that oft-repeated bit of parenting wisdom, Only answer the question being asked. So I said, "Sure, they're real."



"No," he replied, " I mean, are they really real."



"How do you mean?" I asked.



"I mean the Quakers! The people who make earthquakes happen!"



Ah. So we're not talking about anything having to do with hot cereal after all. After explaining that people don't make earthquakes happen, I fielded a few more queries about what one should do during an earthquake. None of this was new -- living in California, with a mother who is terrified by the idea of earthquakes, he's already been given the lowdown more than once. Not surprisingly, he still wanted to know what made earthquakes happen. I talked briefly about pressure building up along fault lines, fairly sure that I was way over his head. Then an analogy occurred to me:



"You know how your back gets itchy, and you ask us to scratch it or move around to scratch it yourself?" (He has recently discovered the bliss of a good back scratching and now requests them on a regular basis.)



"Yeah!"



"It's kind of like that. Parts of the ground build up with pressure, kind of like getting itchy, until it needs to move to release the pressure, kind of like scratching an itch."



"And then the people who walk on the ground make it itchy again!" he asserted with conviction.



OK, so he's not quite an expert geologist yet. But I have to say I'm relieved that he's not pondering existential questions about a religious faith that dates back to the 1600's. I know my son is a serious and thoughtful child, but I'd be a little worried if he was that serious and thoughtful at age four!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Swim Class

BB had her first swim class today -- actually, it was her very first time in a real swimming pool at all. (Though she will tell you, repeatedly, that we also have a pool in our backyard. It's an inflatable kiddie pool, and she loves it.) I was nervous, but she was very curious and excited about the prospect of going swimming, perhaps first of all because she got to Wear Her Swimsuit! I'm pleased to report that we both enjoyed ourselves very much, and we're looking forward to next week.

The lessons were held in the backyard pool of a friend of ours, L, who is a mom to one of BJ's playgroup pals as well as a 9 month old baby. The instructor is a friend of hers with extensive experience teaching swimming to all ages. I liked him quite a bit: he was gentle, good-humored, and enthusiastic. His own kids (age 2 and 4) joined us in the pool, along with his wife. It's supposed to be a "Mom and Baby" class, and since the other two moms who were joining us weren't able to make it today (L was feeling under the weather, and the other mom had to cancel last minute) it was especially nice to have their company. I think it was really good for BB to see other kids so comfortable in the water.

I'd emailed with the instructor beforehand regarding the fact that I have some issues with fear of water (even though I can swim just fine). I really don't want to pass along those anxieties to my kids. My fears are why we'd not yet done formal swimming lessons with them; we'd hoped to have S take the lead. Some time ago he did do some one-on-one work with BJ at the campus pool, but there just hasn't been time for that sort of thing lately. (By lately I mean within the last year!) So it was becoming apparent that if this was going to happen, I was going to have to suck it up and get in the water with the kids. I dreaded it, to be honest. Not only because of my anxieties about the water itself, but also because it would mean getting into a swimsuit in public -- so when L suggested the swim lessons at her house, I jumped at the opportunity.

(Side note: while the fears are less easily dealt with, I did find a serviceable solution to the swimsuit issue. I never did like women's swimsuits, not even when I looked good in them. Now that I'm a much more generously sized version of that teenage self, the thought of wearing an ordinary swimsuit makes me cringe. So I purchased a pair of men's swim trunks and matched them with the top part of a women's tankini. It sure ain't Sports Illustrated, but it's a fun Hawaiian print on bottom and black up top -- and at least I'm not a hirsute embarrassment to myself or my kids. Honestly, given the conversations I've had with other moms about all this, I'm surprised that other folks haven't already started such a trend. I could give you a feminist analysis of all this, Gentle Reader, but I'll spare you the soapbox.)


L's pool, like many, has a main part, which is somewhat kidney-shaped and of an average size, and attached to that is a circular part that I believe is a whirlpool or hot tub (neither was on while we were there, so I'm not sure). BB wanted nothing to do with "the big pool" when we first arrived, but she made a beeline for "the little pool." In there, she could stand on the shallower part at the edge of the circle, the part that would be used as a seat or stair by adults, and she could circumambulate the entire loop. It also was deep enough for me to stand comfortably in the center, which was a plus. BB began the session full-out in watching mode, merely observing the two other kids and the adults in the water, but in a very short time, she was feeling very comfortable in "the little pool," jumping around on the seat/stair, splashing, and playing with floating toys. I was also feeling pretty good, I'm happy to say. I greatly appreciated the fact that the instructor did not push her to do anything she didn't want to!

Given her inexperience, I was truly amazed at how much BB was willing to do. She had an especially good time letting me "swim" her around to chase and grab some floating "treasure" (plastic colored "jewels") by putting her chest on one of my shoulders and supporting her belly and legs with my arms. She even started some kicking on her own! She didn't want to blow bubbles with the other kids, but soon thereafter she put her own face in the water and made a creditable attempt at bubble-blowing. After being shown how to do it, she managed to get out of the pool by herself several times, using elbows and knees. She did not want to let the instructor pour water over her head (not surprising given the resistance we get when it's time to wash her hair!) and we didn't do any submerging. But near the end of the lesson, she asked me if she could get into the big pool and even started climbing over the low wall All By Herself -- the lure was a big inflatable boat in the main part of the pool, in which she wanted to ride around. Which she did, much to her delight. At the end of the lesson, she didn't want to get out of the water!

Happily, since it was our friend's pool, we were able to hang around a little longer and play in the water. But lunchtime was approaching, and nap comes soon thereafter, so we had to finish up and get something to eat. I didn't manage to get any pics of us in the pool itself, since I had to be in the water with her the entire time, but I did get a shot of her waiting to eat lunch:
As you can see, she's pretty mellow. She devoured the pasta I'd brought for her and fell quickly asleep in the car.
Took a two hour nap when we got home and asked for more swimming when she woke up. I'd call that a successful first swim class! We hope to start BJ in his own class next week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Snippets

Recent bits of conversation:

In the car after BJ's total meltdown at the end of our Monterey Bay Aquarium trip yesterday (too tired, too overstimulated, too much dealing with the crowds) -- BB has been almost silent the entire walk back to the car, while BJ has thrown a Royal Hissy Fit.

BB (to BJ, who has settled a bit but is still sniffling): "Okay, here's what you do. You don't cry, OK? It's a little trick! You don't cry!"
BJ: continues sniffling

***

BB (to me, after bathtime, apropos of nothing): "You are a Mama Potato!"
me: "I am?"
BB: "Yes!"

***

BJ (to me and S): "Does Cupid shoot arrows?"
me: "Yes -- and it's supposed to make people fall in love."
BJ (after a thoughtful pause): "Does it hurt?"
me, laughing: "OK, Dr. Love, you field this one."
S, laughing: "Sometimes!"

***

BB (at the Kaiser lab on Saturday, waiting in line to get her blood drawn -- she may or may not have eaten some paint that she chipped off the windowsill; said paint may or may not contain lead, one of the many "joys" of living in a house built in 1926) "I don't waaaaaant to go to the doctor! I promise promise I won't eat paint Ever Again! Never Never!"
(This received some puzzled looks from the other folks in line.)

***

BJ (while at the park this morning, collecting sticks and pebbles): "Here's some nature!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Feature -- Rose Works Jewelry

I'm very pleased to announce that I will be resuming Friday Features, a series of Mama's Magic Studio interviews with fellow Etsy artists. We're getting things going again with an very talented Etsyblogger, Ruthie, who owns two shops: Rose Works Jewelry and Kindred Spirit Treasures.



I especially admire her bead weaving, like in this Grapevine bracelet:

Enjoy the interview!



1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

My main shop - Rose Works Jewelry - carries a wide variety of jewelry. I've been making jewelry for fun for around 10 years now after a friend introduced me to wire-wrapping. Over the years I picked up how to do basic stringing, and then someone gave me a bead weaving magazine and I fell in love! I love to experiment and learn new things and I'm always adding new things and styles to my shop :)

I get my crafty-genes from my Mom, and it shows! We now share a shop together called Kindred Spirit Treasures. In that shop you can find a variety of items. My Mom's contributes the knit and crochet items, we both make cross-stitch items, and I have some key chains! We have lots of ideas, so who knows what you'll find there next!




2. To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong (if any)?

The Etsy Bloggers

Big Damn Crafters

Etsy Bead Weavers




3. How did you get involved with Etsy?

Friends have been telling me for years that I should sell my work. Then a friend told me about etsy (after first buying a piece from me) and I was hooked!



4. What inspires your creations?

Everything? I love seeing what other artists creates. Even if its from a completely different art form that I would never be able to do! Just seeing beauty inspires me to create beauty. I also love talking about creating with my friends and Mom because sometimes I get my best ideas that way!



5. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

Jewelry does not sell easily. There's just so much out there! I admire the artists that are able find a niche and focus on that, but I just have too much fun doing a wide range of things! My health problems can also make posting new items in my shop challenging sometimes because I won't be able to get pictures.



6. What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite? (Please provide a link)

I really loved my piece "Swiftly Changing Waters."

It's part of a series and I've just had so much fun creating each piece! I'm itching to the next one I just have to get the right beads...



7. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

Join some teams and get to know people! The majority of my sales have been from team mates that have become my friends :)



8. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you. (Hobbies, achievements, favorite something-or-other, family situation, jobs, etc)

Hmm - I'm a complete eccentric - so there's a lot I could say! One fun fact is that I was a swing dancer for about five years. I still would love to dance but my health prevents it. A not so fun fact, but central to my life right now, is that I live with debilitating asthma. I've had asthma problems my whole life, but over the last few years it's progressively gotten worse to the point where I had to stop working and drop out of school. It's been an incredibly hard year, but my jewelry creations are what have kept me sane because I can often continue to create even when I'm struggling to breath. And it gives me something I can do to feel productive on days when even walking across the house is challenging!



9. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

http://www.roseworksjewelry.blogspot.com/ is my main blog. I also have a lot of fun with http://www.roseworkstreasuries.blogspot.com/ and http://www.ajedismusings.blogspot.com/!

Note that Ruthie is currently running a Christmas in July sale. Details are in her shop announcement. Happy shopping!






Cuties

I've been remiss about posting pics of the kids (actually, I've been bad about posting at all for the past month or so!) but now that things have calmed down a bit around here, I look forward to blogging more regularly again. Here are some shots that have been in the queue.

Daddy's Little Girl (she saw his joystick up on the shelf and insisted on being allowed to check it out.)

Playing Pajama Sam, complete with mask and flashlight (to capture darkness and lock it away inside his "lunchbox," the red box in BJ's hand):
Making a nest of blankets for hanging out and reading:

Making "A Snowman"

Getting ready for Crazy Hair Day at preschool:
BB trying to get her hair to stick up, too:
Taking a pretend bath (which requires emptying out the stuffed animal basket to turn it into a "bathtub). This is one of BB's favorite activities recently:

Summer Science

We've been having fun with summer science recently. The Galileoscope that I ordered 6 months ago finally arrived yesterday, much to BJ's delight (and bringing out the excited kid in S as well). This snazzy telescope is an inexpensive ($15) fully functional instrument, designed in honor of 2009 being the International Year of Astronomy. They have been so popular that the manufacturers have a big backlog (hence the 6 month wait) but in our case, the lag was perfect. I wouldn't have guessed that in the interim my son would turn into a budding astronomer! We plan to bring it with us when we go camping next month, which should give us a good opportunity to use it without all the light pollution in our vicinity.

Both kids are turning into little biologists, marine and otherwise, setting up little habitats throughout the house. Make-believe zoos, aquariums, oceans, and forests are constant elements in their play. It's a joy to watch their imaginations at work!

I have plans to do some science activities with the worm bin, once it is established a little better. And, just to mix it up a bit, we've been hatching prehistoric crustaceans to watch them grow.


Not just any prehistoric crustaceans, either. We're talking ones that have their own cool soundtrack: Triops! (Thank you, They Might Be Giants, for originally bringing them to our attention). Yes, they have three eyes ("One that looks up, and one that looks down, and one to keep an eye on the other pair of guys...." though the third eye is much less distinct) and yes, the illustration is a fair approximation of what they look like full grown. (Minus the hat, the one in the TMBG video is fairly accurate, too, though significantly cuter. Guess that shouldn't be surprising since Disney was involved.) S found them at the planetarium gift shop when he visited with BJ and my dad last month, and BJ has been wanting to grow them ever since.

We needed a small (1 liter) tank for our set up, and I wanted something with a lid to keep the cats out. We purchased a Betta fish starter tank, borrowed the bedside lamp from my bedroom, and bought some spring water at the grocery store.
The kids were pretty excited!
BJ very carefully emptied the container of eggs into the water.
And in 24 hours, we had itty bitty Triops!

Triops only live for between 3 weeks and 3 months, a fact that I made sure to drive home with both the kids. (BJ is already scheming for how he'll get a Betta fish once they have gone to "Triops Heaven.") When they first hatched, they were very tiny, visible only as little moving white specks. Here they are, a day old -- the circles at the front of the tank are air bubbles, about the size of bubbles in carbonated soda.







video

Here they are a week later, about an inch long.

Five of the eggs hatched and started growing, and it was intriguing to see five little creatures like horseshoe crabs scuttling around. They are very active (the TMBG video got that right!) and according to the brochure that came with the kit, "How large they grow depends on the amount of light and food they receive. After hatching, they often double in size daily."

What they don't mention in the brochure is that they are cannibalistic little buggers. We now have 3 adult Triops, and I personally witnessed the largest of the three (the one on the left above) consuming one of the smaller original five when they were a little more than a week old. While it was still alive and wriggling. (Shudder.) I have to say, I'm kinda glad that the kids weren't around to watch that one. The fourth must have been eaten sometime during the night, because when we got up on day 9, there were only three of them left.

When BJ came to check on them that morning, of course he noticed that some were missing. I told him that they had died. "What happened to them?" he asked.

"See that big guy?" I said. BJ nodded. "He ate them up."

"Oops," BJ replied, in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.

Oops indeed. You, too, can have cannibals in your kitchen; just visit the Triops website and order your own kit!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lessons Learned From My First "Real" Craft Fair


As regular readers know, this past weekend I participated in the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair. This was my first "real" craft fair experience with Mama's Magic Studio, and I'm delighted to report that by my standards it was a smashing success!
I'm still adding up all the sales and checking inventory, but current totals are very encouraging. Over the weekend, in credit card sales alone, I made almost half as much in sales as I did all year in 2008!


Granted, my gross receipts for 2008 were far from large -- which is not surprising, given that this is a very part time endeavor for me. (My full time gig is Mom, not the Mama in her Magic Studio, though when the kids are older I hope that will change.) My sales last year would not have even paid for one month on our mortgage here in Silicon Valley. So half of that isn't an enormous amount, in the larger picture. But for me, it's huge. So I'm quite pleased!

The best sellers were my handcrafted knitting needles, which received lots of notice and praise:
Also popular were my Knit the Knot Known earrings, bird's nest pendants, and knitting stitch markers. The stitch markers were a last minute inspiration, heeding the advice to have some lower price point items.

At $2 each or 4 for $7, they were a real hit -- I sold out of my larger stitch marker style before I could get a picture! The larger ones were decorated with lovely foil lined glass heart beads. These stars are the smaller size, which were also popular. I'm not sure if it will be worth the fees to put them in my Etsy shop, but for in-person sales, they were great.

All told, I'm very glad to have participated in the fair. It was also a special treat to get a booth visit from my brother-in-law and his family! They were the only familiar faces all day, and I was very touched that they came out to support me. I'm incredibly grateful to S for watching the kids all day on Saturday and Sunday so that I could go, and I have high hopes to be there again next year!

One thing's for sure -- when I do my next craft fair, whether it's Renegade 2010 or something else, I will have learned some important things from this past weekend. Here's my list of Top 10 Lessons Learned From Renegade 2009:

1. I Want Wheels!

There I was, feeling all clever when I packed up the car, because I'd thought to bring a plastic laundry basket for toting my stuff between the car and my booth. With all the little boxes and knickknacks that I'd brought, it's a good thing I had the basket. But hoo boy, was I jealous of all the smart sellers who had carts of one kind and another or packed their stuff in wheeled suitcases. It turned out that our booth was waaaaaaaaaaaaay at the back of the Festival Pavilion, and it took me a good 40 minutes of walking back and forth between car and booth space, making trip after trip just to lug my stuff where it needed to be for set up and break down. Next time I do this, I want wheels!

2. Thank Goodness for Good Partners!

I was so glad to have such great booth mates. My partners in craft were two other members of the local SFEtsy team: Jeyn of JeynReyn (who was interviewed a while back as a Friday Feature here at Mama's Magic Studio)
and Ben and Sara of Kitty Baby Love.
Ben and Sara were there with their little 2 month old baby, and Jeyn had her adorable toddler daughter. (Along with Grandma to help with the kid wrangling!) Here are Jeyn and her daughter, getting ready to get their free picture taken (see below for more about the freebie).
I was nervous about the prospect of sharing a 10 X 10 space with so many folks (heck, in truth I was nervous about just about everything connected to the fair in the weeks leading up to it!) but financially and logistically an entire booth to myself was simply impossible. Couldn't afford it; couldn't afford the time to create enough inventory to fill it. Filling my 6' table was hard enough!

But being in the company of these lovely people contributed a great deal to the success of the day. I wouldn't hesitate to share a booth again!

3. Location, Location, Location!

Probably the biggest bummer of the show was finding out that our booth was at the very back of the building. Here's what things looked like at the entrance on Sunday morning, when I got there to set up -- that's a lot of vendors to get through before folks made it to me! And even more to get through once the crowds arrived.

Here's the view back towards the entrance, standing front of my booth on Sunday and looking back towards the door:

Once the crowds arrived, it was fascinating to watch the traffic patterns, so long as I didn't think too hard about what it might be meaning for my sales -- if I hadn't done as well as I did, I would have been pretty depressed by the implications of my location. That large empty space to the right of the pic above didn't help matters; I could see plenty of folks who came to what they saw as the "end" of the aisle and just turn around without ever making it down my way.

Happily, however, I was also right across from the bathrooms, which are always a draw. And the restrooms were right next to this booth:

There was a line at this booth for most of the day -- this pic was taken after the fair had officially closed and the folks running the booth had hung around so that the vendors could play, so the crowds had left by then. Their shtick was a free photo booth, similar to those that you'd find on a beach boardwalk or at an amusement park, but they'd added the genius detail of a suitcase full of props (afro wig, silly hats, viking helmet...) and their photos were digitally produced and printed right there from their computer. For "free" (or whatever you felt like tipping) you came away from the booth with a postcard sized print with three black and white head shots. Brilliant! (I'd share mine, but the scanner isn't working alas; trust me that it's very cute, including a parasol and a fake moustache.)

I'm sure that the draw of the line of happy folks waiting for their turn in the booth helped direct traffic down towards my table. A very good thing!

Several things I learned here, but the most important was to make the best of an imperfect situation. On Saturday, thinking that one side of the booth would be "dead" (the side facing the restrooms) we'd decided to set up our tables in a U shape with the entrance facing what we thought would be the "busy" side of the aisle. In this arrangement, the back of my table set up faced the photo booth above.

In truth, I'd not noticed the photo booth when we were deciding how to set things up on Saturday. What ended up happening? All day long, folks kept trying to shop my table from the wrong side! The same thing kept happening to Jeyn. So on Sunday we flipped out the U and had each of us facing out. It seemed much better, working with the traffic flow rather than against it. Here's the set up on Sunday:


4. Let them Touch!

I have a long way to go in terms of product presentation and table arrangement, but watching folks confirmed a hunch I'd had -- folks want to touch things, and it's best to keep that in mind. Use it to your advantage, having items that are displayed in such a way as to encourage your potential customers to touch at least some of your product. Also be sure to keep out of direct reach those things you don't want handled all the time.

For example, my stitch markers and my yarn ball pendants were presented in little wooden bowls at the front edge of the table. Perfectly designed to invite inquisitive fingers.
I sold 5 of these yarn ball pendants to one customer who had enjoyed rolling them around in the bowl and cradling them in her hand. Like the stitch markers, they are sturdy and not of a really intimate nature (like earrings, for example, which you'd need to keep clean) so I had no qualms about letting folks play around with them a bit.

Other items, like my beaded dragonflies, are more fragile. So I hung them and my earrings higher up, where folks could see them easily but where they weren't as tempting to touch.
Of course, if somebody showed interest in the item, I was quick to let them know that I was happy to pull it off the display so they could take a closer look.

5. Show It Off!

I wore my bird's nest pendant both days, and it was a great prop for talking about the pieces and showing them off. Both days, I sold many pendants. On Sunday, I wore a pair of my fraternal earrings -- is it coincidence that I didn't sell any on Saturday but did on Sunday? Jeyn had the same thing happen with some of her scarves; after putting one of them on, she sold several within a very short time. People like to see your stuff in action, so don't be afraid to show it off!

I also found it useful to put things in context. I had many of my bookmark baubles hanging on display, but few sold on Saturday. On Sunday, I decided to add several more books to the table with the bookmarks inside and on top.


On Sunday, I sold many more bookmarks. I think as the person making this stuff, it's sometimes challenging to remember that not everybody will immediately understand just what something is supposed to be!

I used to get that reaction about my knitting needles, with folks sometimes mistaking them for really long hair sticks. But thanks to good signage and clear hang tags, not a single person at the fair seemed confused. Instead, of, "Oh, those are neat. What are they?" I kept hearing, "Oh! What beautiful knitting needles!"


6. A Good Table Is a Stable Table

I had such booth envy of those folks who were clearly old pros at the craft fair business. Many folks showed up with power tools and assembled little boutiques in their 10 x 10 space, including actual counter tops and flooring! In comparison, my little table from Target has a long way to go.

But for a first-timer, part-timer, I did fine. I'd thought a lot about my table before getting there, and I knew the importance of adding some height to my display. Working within my budget, I used inexpensive decorative cardboard boxes to stack some items at the back of the table. This looked good, but turned out to be a bit dangerous given my tendency to talk with my hands. For most of the time, I stood right behind the bird's nest "tree" display. Not once, but twice I knocked it straight over with my enthusiastic body language! Oops.


So next time, I need to work on making my display both pleasing to the eye and more spaz-friendly.

7. Advil and Caffeine: Secret Ingredients for Success.

Not that I really needed more proof of my habitually taciturn, serious nature (see this post) but about noon on Sunday, I found myself thinking, "Wow. I guess really don't talk and smile enough in the course of a typical day." As I fought back fatigue and a headache induced by doing so much sudden smiling as I greeted folks in my booth all weekend, I longed for an Advil and some caffeine. The drugs were nowhere to be found, alas, but I did pop for a $2 can of Coke from the Pavilion cafe. In half an hour or so, I felt much better for it and was able to enjoy the rest of the day. Next time, I'm bringing a full first-aid kit and a six pack of soda -- and I don't usually drink the stuff!

8. Paper and Plastic

This isn't so much a lesson learned as a tip confirmed. I made my share of cash sales, and I'm proud of the stack of paper bills that filled my fanny pack at the end of the fair. But by far the majority of my sales were paid for with plastic. I was so glad that I followed the advice I received and arranged to take credit cards. Especially given our booth location (see above). By the time folks got down to us, many had run out of cash! I recommend Propay for folks like me who will only need to accept credit cards occasionally.


9. Go for the Gifters

Time and again, folks who came to my booth were clearly looking for good gifts. The bookmark baubles and the knitting needles were primarily bought as gifts, based on my customer's small talk. (One lovely lady went so far as to call up two of her friends, both avid knitters, and grill them on what size knitting needles they would want!) When pricing and packaging, keep in mind the customer buying items as gifts. I was pleased that I'd thought things through enough to bring along gift boxes, tissue paper, and gift bags. It felt great to be able to offer these amenities to my customers, and they seemed to appreciate it very much.

But I ran into a bit of trouble when I realized I'd forgotten an eraser -- the prices on my knitting needles were written in pencil on the back of the hang tags! I didn't want to remove the tags, since they had important information on care and (perhaps even more importantly) they identified my shop. But neither did I want to wrap up gifts with the prices still included. Luckily, our booth neighbor (another Etsian, the amazing Eleen) was happy to loan me an eraser when she heard that I needed one.

10. One is Fun. More is Marvelous!

I had a fantastic time working my table by myself, but it's a looooong day: setting up at 9 am, selling from 11 am to 7 pm, and not getting out until 8 pm or later. On Saturday, I just took home my inventory and left my set up. Sunday, when I had to break everything down, I didn't leave until well after 8:30 -- I was one of the last dozen vendors to leave. See tip #1 above for why: all those trips back and forth and back and forth!

Along with having wheel envy, I found myself looking longingly at those folks who had help. Many people had at least one partner, and some seemed to have an entire team. (Many of these were the same folks with power tools, constructing their little boutique booths. Impressive.) I had great support -- but it was in the form of my darling husband staying home to watch the kids. My booth mates were kind about watching my table for a short time on those few occasions when I had to leave (and it was nice to have the restrooms so close!) but it would have been very nice to be able to take a little break once in a while, to walk around the fair for a bit, and I would only feel comfortable doing that if I had a partner to handle any sales when I was gone.

I saw several vendors there as a family (not to mention the folks in my own booth!) but they were mostly wee babes or older kids, perhaps age 6 and up. Mine are right in the middle right now. BJ was sweet, telling me beforehand that he wanted to come along and "help," but he's not ready yet. S has fond memories of helping his own mother at craft fairs (she used to sell pottery, stained glass, and fabric goods) so perhaps someday when the kids are older we can make this a family outing.

So next time, I'm keeping these tips in mind. I have to say, it feels really nice to talk about a "next time." It's lovely to do a little long-term dreaming about what the future might hold for me, my family, and my little business. I certainly never imagined, before I had kids, that I'd be calling myself a handcraft artist. Things just keep getting better in Mama's Magic Studio. It's an exciting time!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Family Plans Foiled By Raisin

We had such great hopes for the day. S is going to be mostly solo with the kids for the weekend while I'm at the craft fair all day on Saturday and Sunday, so we thought it would be smart to "feed the meter" with some good parental time today. We talked it over, considered options, and came up with some Family Plans. Recently I've been getting good one-on-one time with BB while BJ is at preschool, and BJ has been clamoring for "Mommy time," so we decided to divide and conquer: S would take charge of BB, and I would do something special with BJ.

First thing this morning, we each took "our" kid aside and explained that they were going to get special Mom/Dad time. We asked them what they'd like to do. They both said they'd like to go to the Children's Discovery Museum. OK, not what we'd anticipated, but we're flexible. So we headed over there as a family, figuring that this would be completely compatible with our Master Plan. Instead of herding both kids around, making one go where the other wanted to go all too often, we'd split up and meet again for lunch.

Well, I should have known that things were headed south when BB started crying and wanting me to hold her the moment we got to the museum. Granted, it was mobbed with kids, lots of them on field trips. This made both BB and BJ skittish. But S was his usual stoic self, and he soon brought BB around. We confirmed our plans to reconvene at noon for lunch, and as S ambled off with his daughter in tow, BJ and I went over to the new Curious George exhibit.

We had a good time, in spite of the crowds -- only a few stressful moments when BJ couldn't do Exactly What He Wanted because there were so many kids waiting for their turns. We soon headed over to the Wonder Cabinet, which remains his favorite place in the museum. We hadn't been there for long before I saw S heading our way, carrying BB.

"Not going well?" I asked, thinking I knew the answer.
"Worse than you think," S replied.
"What do you mean?"
"She put a raisin up her nose."
BB sniffled, right on cue.

So much for our plans. Turns out that BB had been so upset in the museum that S took her outside for a snack. She then refused to sit next to him on the bench, telling him instead that she wanted to be By Herself (which is a theme with her these days, when she's in a less than stellar mood). BB ended up sitting on one bench By Herself, eating her snack and sulking, while S observed from a distance on another nearby bench. Apparently, after a while, she came back over to S and was all love and snuggles. Only to look up at him and inform him, "Daddy, there's a raisin up my nose!"

S didn't witness the insertion of said snack food, but (in spite of the magnet episode) he believed her. We couldn't see the raisin, but she sounded stuffed up, and she was consistent about telling us that it was her left nostril. After trying to get her to snort it out -- only to have her keep sniffing in -- it was clear that a doctor's visit was going to be necessary. We left the museum, and S took her in while BJ and I stayed at home.

And after the 3 hour wait at the urgent car clinic, the doctor confirmed that she was being entirely truthful -- pulled out the raisin with one of those little hooks. She's totally fine now and has informed us several times that Food Does Not Go In Your Nose It Goes In Your Mouth.

Indeed.

When I shared this story with my mom, she was quick to point out that when I was a kid, a little younger than BB is now, I also put a raisin up my nose. And had to go to the doctor to have it removed, the same way.

Ah, the karma we set up when we are mere children. (And given this trend, is it any wonder that I've refused to even allow baby powder in the house? My mom will tell you all about that story, too -- how I made it "snow" with an entire Economy sized bottle.) I just hope we've had our share for the moment. I don't want to come home from the craft show to more such stories! (Knock wood!!!)

A Renegade Weekend!

Mama's Magic Studio is all set for the Renegade Craft Fair -- or as ready as I'm going to get! It's been a busy two months of preparation. Here's the final inventory of what I'm taking with me, most of which has been made in the last 10 weeks:
30 pairs of handcrafted knitting needles
50 bird's nest pendants (in various styles of number of eggs, color of eggs, color of wire)


18 pairs of Fraternal Earrings in various styles


24 pairs of Knit the Knot Known earrings

28 yarn ball pendants (a new style that coordiates with the Knit earrings)

16 beaded bangle bracelets

7 beaded dragonfly suncatcher ornaments

43 bookmark baubles

59 stitch markers (another new design)

It wasn't as much as I'd hoped for, but my hopes were extremely ambitious. At any rate, it should be enough that I won't embarass myself with an empty table.
Any wonder my fingers are sore? It will be good to take a break (and get back to blogging more regularly) but for tonight, I'm really looking forward to the weekend. Local folks, come on by and say hello! The Fair will be at Fort Mason in San Francisco, from 11 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more info, see here.
FYI my Etsy shop will be closed for the weekend while I'm at the fair. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Christmas? Oh, Right -- it's JULY Already!

I was at the Dollar Store today with the kids, hoping to find some big bottles of bubble solution. We snagged the last one. This has happened every year since I had kids who could walk: in the spring, when the weather starts to get nice, we stock up on bubble stuff at the dollar store. They have big wands and bottles of solution that are perfect for little ones. Then, in a few months, even though we'd thought we bought plenty, we're out -- and none can be found.

Apparently, July is the wrong time of year to go shopping for bubble stuff (at the dollar store, at least). MUST REMEMBER THIS NEXT YEAR!

However, if I had wanted to start buying Christmas decorations, they had an entire aisle chockablock with stuff!

Which reminds me! This round of the Etsyblogger carnival had two choices for topics: Christmas in July, and Hot Dogs. (July being National Hot Dog Month, and all.) I don't care for hot dogs, and things were too crazy busy this year for me to run a Christmas in July sale in my shop. (Though I've done so in years past.) Especially since I'd been doing my Etsy Anniversary sale in June. Maybe next year....

But many Etsy shops are running Christmas in July sales. You can read about them here. And for listings of special Etsyblogger Christmas in July sales, check out the Etsyblogger Shop!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Week's Worth

Another week gone! Here's a sampling of what we've been up to:

Last Sunday, we visited the Oakland Zoo with Uncle M, Aunt J, and cousins M and K. First time we'd met K, who is 10 weeks old now. Right there is the perfect example of how busy we all are these days -- can't believe it took us that long to get together! Had a great time, though. Always such fun to see the cousins together.Moments before BB ended up stepping in the water....

BB took another turn against the merry-go-round -- a few moments after this picture was taken, she demanded to get off. Luckily, they hadn't started the ride yet!

For the first time, BB was tall enough to ride the car ride. All By Herself! Made her day -- she's still talking about it a week later!

We also go to visit with our favorite Tia this past week! She came over for a few hours on Friday, hung out with us for pizza and playtime. BJ had a lot of fun chattering away about the planets and his plans for intergalactic travel. Here he is setting up the solar system for her benefit (note the hula hoop "rings" around the "planet" balls):


We went to not one but TWO birthday parties at Pump It Up in the last two weeks. Turns out BB wants NOTHING to do with the idea of a bounce house. Surprising, given how much she enjoys jumping in general! The first visit she wanted to be carried, mostly by S. The second, she at least consented to watch and didn't need to be coddled the entire time -- a good thing, since I was there by myself with both kids. Here she is, "just watching!"
BJ has really come a long way in terms of independent play and being more comfortable interacting with other kids his own age. (Thank you, preschool!) He was great, just running around on his own while we watched and cheered him on.

What else have we been up to?

Finger painting!

Playdates! We especially enjoyed a water balloon playdate hosted by BJ's friend D.


It was to celebrate D getting out of his cast after breaking his wrist. I was nervous about bringing both kids to the activity, thinking that BJ would love it and BB would hate it. Happily, I was wrong and both kids had fun -- I think it helped that the kids were more interested in popping the balloons on the ground (and picking up the burst pieces) than in throwing them at one another.
Another milestone worth noting: this week, we finished reading our first "real" children's chapter book. BJ had been asking about Alice in Wonderland, so we decided to try reading a chapter a night. I'm amazed by how attentive he was. I didn't think he'd have the attention span for it yet, but he sat through each chapter without any problem at all, thoroughly entertained. Even BB got something out of the book, enough to start "playing Alice" by pretending to swim around on the living room rug, her "pool of tears," though she was apt to wander off a few moments after we started reading. But BJ was able to follow the plot quite well, and he's already asking for another "big book." Not sure what the next choice will be. Perhaps "Wind in the Willows."

I'm also into week 3 of some significant lifestyle changes. I won't get into the gory details at the moment, but suffice to say that things had reached a crisis point. Between ongoing insomnia and general health concerns, something had to change. So I'm exercising more -- started a yoga class on Monday mornings and walked with some mom friends on Tuesday. Friday and Sunday, I went on a long walk and did a bit of running too. Feels good to be moving.

The impetus to exercise is related to my need for better sleep. It's been a good 5 years since I've slept well. BJ and BB still have their nights, but I can no longer blame it all on the kids. (Except for the fact that their night wakings have trained me to have disturbed sleep!)

It turns out Kaiser has an online "Overcoming Insomnia" program, and it's not half bad. It was shocking to document that I was only getting between 5 and 6 hours of sleep (on a good night) and my "sleep efficiency" was about 60%. (In other words, I was spending 40% of the night awake and frustrated.) This past week, thanks to the changes suggested by the program, I was averaging 6 hours of sleep a night, and more importantly my sleep efficiency was in the 80% range. So not sleeping a whole lot more, but sleeping better. Steps in the right direction. (I'll post more about this next week -- pray the trend continues!)

Lastly (of course!) I've been taking all the time I can get to finish preparing for the Renegade Craft Fair. It will be this coming weekend, so the clock is really ticking. S was very generous in giving me two work days a week for the past few weeks, so I've been able to get more done than I would have guessed. On Wednesday, I set up my table display to see how things were coming together.
Ignoring the kitchen clutter in the environs, I was pretty pleased. Smack dab in the middle of the kitchen is the only place in the house to set up a 6 foot table, so it wasn't up for very long. But long enough to confirm that I'll have enough inventory finished to fill up the table (yay!) and long enough to tinker with options a bit. I especially like the way the knitting needle display turned out. The pictures don't really do this justice -- the lighting in the kitchen is really bad, and I just snapped these quickly before I had to take it all down.
Local folks, I'd love for you to come by Fort Mason for the fair! It's 11 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday, July 18th and 19th. Let me know if I should look for you!