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Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Feature -- Beaded Tail

This week's featured Etsy artist is Beaded Tail, who is also the Etsyblogger of the month for June! Congratulations!

I love the focus on animals in this shop, as well as the charitable focus. Isn't this Lucky Ladybug bracelet precious?



Enjoy the interview!

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

I'm a member of two fabulous teams - the EtsyBloggers and the Etsy Angels.

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

I make beaded jewelry with many items having an animal related theme whether it's cat face beads, dog charms, paw toggles or butterflies. I learned how to make jewelry in 2007 after my mom took a class a beading class and subsequently taught me. My creative process involves seeing something or thinking of a new design and then I mull it over in my head for a few hours or a few days before sitting down and attempting to make it. Creativity doesn't come easy for me but I'm working on tapping into my creative side every day!

3. Tell me two (or more) other interesting things about you.

My day job is a CPA and I live in Oregon but work in Colorado thanks to the ability to telecommute. I'm married to my high school sweetheart for nearly 22 years and we have two cats, Angel and Isabella, and a husky, Sadie, who always make us smile! My husband and I love exploring Oregon's beautiful coast, trails, waterfalls and mountains.

4. What inspires your creations?

I often see a jewelry design and figure out a way that I can make it or something similar. My latest necklace was inspired by seeing a singer wearing a similar necklace on a TV appearance. I have too much left brain so it's hard for me to envision things from scratch so most always I have to see a style or design and then work my way towards it.

5. How did you get involved with Etsy?

After my mom taught me how to bead, I ended up making enough bracelets to cover my arms from wrist to elbow so I knew I either needed to stop beading or sell them. While doing a Google search on animal beads I came across an Etsy shop for the first time and checked into it a bit further and here I am today!

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

Finding time to make new things. Between work, my blog, family and just the desire to be outside sometimes, it's hard to sit down and make new items.

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

This is the necklace similar to the one I saw on a singer on TV. It took me about a week to get the nerve up to sit down and try to make it but once I did, I absolutely love how it turned out:


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

For sellers, keep track of your income and expenses! Not only does it help at tax time but you should always know your bottom line to make sure your prices are set accordingly. As an accountant, I guess this is what I always think about and I know the struggles of trying to determine Cost of Goods Sold and Inventory amounts at the end of the year so keeping up on it makes things so much easier.

For buyers, you can't go wrong with buying homemade but because of the nature of buying online, if you have any questions or can't determine a size, color, etc. from the pictures and description provided, contact the seller for more information. My experience has been that they will gladly help you with your questions so you get exactly what you expect.

9. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?

I would love to learn how to knit and my grandma had taught me how to crochet when I was a kid so I want to refresh my memory on that too. I recently caught the scrapbooking bug and want to learn more about working with paper too.

10. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?

Since my Etsy shop was opened to help raise money for animal charities, I'm very proud of donating approximately $1,200 to various charities to date!

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

I blog daily at http://beadedtail.blogspot.com
I'm on flickr at http://www.flickr.com/BeadedTail
Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BeadedTail

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mama's Pre-Show To-Do List

I'm often asked about preparing for craft shows and trunk shows, so I thought it would be fun to publish a list of my own tips and reminders. YMMV and all that, but hopefully some of these will be helpful, whether you're getting ready for your first show or looking for an antidote for that "I know I've done it before, but I think I'm forgetting something" feeling that always seems to happen the night before a show. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, here are my top 10 from my own to-do list:

1. Inventory!

I remember the weeks leading up to my first show (Renegade in SF) I had several nightmares that I drove off and left all my items at home the day of the show. Pack it carefully and be sure you can carry it into your show (a wheeled cart or dolly is ideal).

As much as possible, shoot for a wide range of colors, styles, and price ranges within your inventory. If you offer custom options, bring along a sample to display and have order forms ready so your customers can make their purchase then and there (don't forget to charge for shipping if needed). Have your inventory priced or have pricing signs prepared. I find that customers prefer to see the price than to have to ask what it is.


2. Display!

This is something I'm always improving upon. I find display ideas everywhere I look these days. I scour thrift stores for items I can re-purpose and tinker into unusual displays. I've used candle holders to hang jewelry, changed wall shelves into table top displays, and in a pinch I've also purchased traditional jewelry displays from places like Fire Mountain Gems. I'm always collecting baskets and bowls and unusual containers with an eye for using them on my craft table.


At my recent shows, I was pretty happy with the way that my jury-rigged thrift store finds worked together. Especially at the SF Etsy Sampler, where space was super tight. For my newest display, I'd nailed dowels to a wooden CD crate, spray painted everything white, and prettied it up with some beadwork. The CD crate, turned on its side, gave me a little shelf for items as well as a place behind which to hide the essentials: pens, receipt book, credit card knuckle buster, calculator, hand sanitizer...


It was nice to have a little window to peek through while showing off my items at eye-level.

Plus, once I'd clamped it to the table, the set up was much more stable than my earlier version (of which you can read about here). For one who talks with her hands, display stability is hugely important! It would also be essential for an outdoor venue with any wind.

Note the beadwork on the hanging display:
Also note that it's fun to display your items being used, if applicable. I stick my knitting needles inside balls of yarn and put my beaded bookmarks inside a book -- and the choice of book is always fun for a conversation starter. I get lots of comments on my Rumi collection.
Yes, I will put cup hooks on anything and everything. Spray paint cures a whole host of evils. (As seen here, applied to a yucky green hanging shelf.) Keep your colors unobtrusive whenever possible. White is nice and neutral.

Don't forget your table and table covering (unless the venue provides them) and a chair is nice -- a high stool is even better. You don't want to hide behind your table. Much of the charm of shopping at trunk shows and craft fairs is the chance to interact with the creators who make the items, and it's friendlier if you are at or near eye level with your customers.

3. Change!

Be sure that you have an ample supply of change. I like to keep $200 in $1, $5 and $10s in my change stash. Especially if you’re only accepting cash. And I also recommend figuring sales tax into your cash price and rounding up so you don’t have to worry about making change with coins. MUCH simpler.

Some folks like to use a cash box. Personally, I like to wear it. I was using a fanny pack up until recently -- I am now totally in love with my brandy-new, custom designed vendor apron from yoopers:
4. To Charge or Not To Charge?

While some shows have a cash-only norm, accepting credit cards can really help increase your sales. Especially if your items are $20 and higher, I think accepting credit cards is a good move. Smart phones now have neat apps to help streamline this process (you'll have to ask somebody else about what, exactly, they are... for all my tech-savvy, Etsy shop, bloggy goodness, I am pretty clueless about a lot of this stuff. Says the gal who has yet to ever send a text message!) Personally, I have been very happy with ProPay. They have a special $29.95 annual premium price for Etsy sellers. You can get more info here.


5. To Market, To Market...

Don't forget that every show is not only a selling opportunity but also a marketing opportunity. Have ample business cards on hand. Put out a sign-up sheet for your mailing list -- even if you aren't really doing a newsletter yet, it's always a good idea to work on a list of interested customers. Promote your online presence, of course, but also include information about other local shows and venues where people can find your work. For example, at my recent Knit-One-One show, I had out postcards advertising the SF Etsy sampler, and many folks grabbed one at the same time that they took a business card.

While sales totals are an important way to know how well a show has gone, keep in mind that shows pay off in advertising and later sales as well. It can be useful to offer a specific coupon code to your customers -- this will allow you to track later sales that might be a direct result of the show, which can be helpful information as you assess the success of the show as a whole.

6. A Hungry Vendor is Not A Happy Vendor.

I always bring bottled water and something quick (and not messy) to snack on. Depending on the length of the show, this might be an entire meal. You don't want to be stuck at your table with your stomach growling! Better to have that with you than have to leave your table and get it. Plus I think it’s always nice to have a little discreet nosh there at the table to keep my blood sugar up. And don't forget a breath mint. (But leave the gum at home!)

7. Pretty & Practical

It's important to dress appropriately for a show. Wear one or more of your items if that applies. Wear comfortable clothes but keep in mind that you are presenting a persona -- the face of your work. And I wouldn't be a Mama if I didn't remind you to wear sensible shoes. You'll likely be on your feet a lot!

8. On the Up & Up

Be sure you have some method for record keeping -- a receipt book with carbon copies is a great basic tool for keeping track of your sales. And be sure you're prepared for the show with any necessary licenses and/or tax forms.

9. Bring a Buddy

If you can, it's great to have somebody else to help you at the show. I've primarily done selling situations where I shared a booth, so my "somebody" is usually my booth partner. Another pair of hands makes set up and break down worlds easier, the company is nice during the inevitable down times, and it's essential for those times that you simply have to "skip to the loo." (In a pinch, you can make friends with your neighbors at the craft show and offer to watch their booths in exchange for them doing the same.)

10. Wrapping It Up.

I try to be eco-friendly in my own shopping (says the gal who owns about 20 canvas shopping bags) and these days it seems fewer people need their purchases bagged, but it’s a nice touch to be able to offer gift boxes/bags – at the very least, something for your customers to use to carry away their purchases. For a last minute solution, I’ve swallowed my greenie pride and gone to the dollar store and bought multi packs of those goodie/gift bags that are often used for parties. Or even paper lunch bags can work, depending on the size of your items. Gift wrapping is another nice option to offer, though in some venue setups it can be tricky to find the space to do it. Don't forget the marketing potential of wrapping and labeling. You want your customers to remember who made that wonderful item that they just purchased from you!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pause

Well, it's taken me a few days to recover, but I'm delighted to say that the Sampler was a big success! The gallery space was gorgeous, and it was great fun to meet so many talented SF Etsy team members. We had a very busy day!

One of our team members, Akiyo of My Dear Darling, put together a nifty podcast post as a recap of the event. Cool pics too! Yours truly is the first interview -- it was my first podcast EVAH. Actually, my first recorded interview for Mama's Magic Studio, too. Woo! You can check it out here at the SF Etsy team blog.

I only have time for a very brief pause today -- we're getting ready to go on a much needed vacation. The blog will be pretty quiet for the next two weeks. But I'm already looking forward to July -- new products itchin' to get listed in the shop (just need pictures!) and creativity is sparking all over the place. Did I mention that I'm experimenting with handmade fabric flowers? FUN!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mama Gets To Be A Grownup Today!

As the kids are getting older, I'm finding more time and opportunities to emerge from full-on Mom mode and Just Be A Grownup. It's refreshing. I love being a Mom, and I thoroughly cherish the blessing of being able to be home with my kids all the time, but it's not the entirety of who I am.

Today, I get to be a grownup almost all day long! No extra pairs of size 3T underwear in my purse, no grubby hands to hold as we cross the street, nobody to worry about except myself. Well, myself and the entire SF Etsy team.... I'm headed up into the city later this morning for the SF Etsy Sampler, our first SF Etsy Team Trunk Show, and since I'm one of the organizers of the event I feel very responsible for it.


It has been such fun planning this event with fellow SF Etsy member, Kendra Renee, and all the wonderful folks on our marketing team. It's my first time putting together an event like this, and I've learned a LOT. Since taking over the team leadership position in January, I've really enjoyed seeing the SF Etsy team becoming more active. Fingers crossed that today is a grand success!

Local folks, I'll hope to see you there!

P.S. 6/15 This round of the Etsybloggers carnival asks us to write about a "Recent Accomplishment," so I'm submitting this because becoming the SF Etsy team leader and planning this event definitely comes under the category of Recent Events Of Which I Am Very Proud. Don't forget to check out the recap post and podcast here at the SF Etsy team blog!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

All told, today was a good birthday -- definitely an Adult Birthday (in that we spent the better part of the morning dealing with paperwork for putting our house on the market) but nice nevertheless. I had lots of sweet well-wishes, which were greatly appreciated. I also got beautiful flowers in a new vase from the kids.
BJ presented me with a necklace he had made himself. "It's handmade crystals, Mommy!" (Amazing what they can do with crayons and paper these days, isn't it?) Very sweet. I wore it all day, even to our dinner out. (An ambitious outing to a local Chinese restaurant, at which the kids were less than wonderful. But they ain't gonna learn without practice, right?) And BB gave me a flower for my hair as we were getting ready to leave for dinner.
We finished the evening with cupcakes! (Custom made from our favorite local treat shoppe -- mine had chocolate cake, marshmallow filling, and vanilla frosting. Yum!)
I also picked my giveaway winner today. Big congrats to Cathy, who has already claimed her prize. Thanks to everybody who entered! It was fun to celebrate by sharing some of my handmade magic.


Add in the latest Guy Gavriel Kay novel, a very thoughtful gift from S, and it's clear that it was a very satisfactory birthday day. I'm such a lucky lady.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lil' Graduate

BJ graduated from preschool last night, which was pretty stinkin' cute. (Though also a wee bit silly. Apparently young 'uns graduate from *everything* these days. She says in her best old geezer voice. Or should that be geezeress? Yes, Mama is feeling the fact that come Thursday she'll be definitively closer to 40 than 30...)

ANYway. Back to the cuteness at hand. The kids had decided this was a Dress Up Event, so we got out our finery.
Both kids chose their outfits. BB settled on hers primarily because in the afternoon I'd been experimenting with making handmade fabric flowers and had made her a red flower hair pretty. So of course her dress had to match. BJ's tucked-in shirt didn't last for long.
It was a gorgeous evening, and we enjoyed walking over to the school as a family. The kids held hands most of the way.
The graduation ceremony was appropriately short and adorable. The kids sang some songs, including the class favorite: John Denver's "Country Roads." Then each child donned a mortar board and paraded across the stage to receive a diploma. I have to say, I was glad they didn't play Pomp and Circumstance. They kept it nice and low-key.

As they got their diplomas, their teacher Ms. S asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Lots of "firefighters" and "policemen." One "police girl." Two "helicopter drivers." One very cute boy wanted to be "a Daddy."

Our boy? "I want to be a scientist!" Ms. S, obviously in the know about this answer, asked him, "Which kind of scientist?" Answer: "A paleontologist and an astronomer!" That's my boy.
The tassel was quite fun, naturally. Here's BJ with his teacher after the ceremony:
My little guy is sure growing up. Last week, S and I went to kindergarten orientation for his school. How is that possible? Wasn't he just a wee baby? I'm sure before I know it, we'll be celebrating more graduations.... more milestones.... more years gone forever. All those cliches about time turn out to be profoundly true, don't they?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Win $25 of Handmade Magic from Mama's Magic Studio!


I'm delighted to announce that I'm giving away one $25 gift certificate to one lucky winner -- it's my second Etsy-versary today, and in five days it will be my birthday, so clearly it's time for some celebrating!


To enter the giveaway, simply visit my Mama's Magic Studio Etsy Shop and take a look around -- then come back here and leave a comment on this post that includes information about your favorite item(s) from the shop.

You can also earn additional entries by doing one or more of the following:

THREE ENTRIES: post about this giveaway at your own blog, including the button above and a link to this post, then come back and leave three comments for three additional entries.



ONE ENTRY: heart" my Etsy shop (mark it as a favorite) and/or "heart" the item (or items) you like best in my shop, then come back and leave one comment for one additional entry.



ONE ENTRY: become a "follower" of this blog or subscribe to the RSS feed (see sidebars) OR mention that you are a current follower or subscriber, then come back and leave one comment for one additional entry



ONE ENTRY: become a fan of my Facebook Page, or mention that you are a current fan, then come back and leave one comment for one additonal entry. Be sure your comment includes your facebook name for verification.



ONE ENTRY: post about this giveaway on your own Facebook Page, then come back and leave one comment for one additional entry including a link for verification. If you like, you may post on your facebook and re-enter daily between now and the end of the giveaway.



ONE ENTRY: follow me on Twitter, or mention that you are a current twitter follower, then come back and leave one comment for one additional entry.



ONE ENTRY: tweet about this giveaway, including a link to this post and the tag #mamasmagicstudiogiveaway, then come back and leave one comment for one additional entry. If you like, you may tweet and re-enter daily between now and the end of the giveaway.



If you would like to include any of these additional entries, be sure that you leave an additional comment for each additional entry, with the relevant details. At the end of the giveaway, each valid comment will be numbered and counted as an entry, then a winning number will be picked randomly.

Don't forget that your first entry needs to mention which item(s) you like best from my Etsy shop! And the winner will be notified by email, so if your profile does not link through to an email address, be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment(s).

The winner will have 3 days to reply to their notification. If no reply is received, I will choose another winner.

The winner will be chosen on June 10th -- my birthday! So all entries must be received by midnight PST on June 9th, 2010. Good luck!

P.S. This contest is void where prohibited. Must be 18 years old to enter. It is available to entrants worldwide. $25 total gift certificate value cannot be combined with other discounts or offers. Winner pays shipping (which can be valued as part of the gift certificate). $25 Gift certificate must be spent all at once in a single shopping trip at my Etsy shop.

P.P.S. I have moderated comments on this blog, so don't worry that your comment won't show up right away. I review them several times a day and will get them posted ASAP! Thanks!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Simple Pleasures

My kids don't have simple minds, but they sure have simple pleasures! Seeing their delight in little, everyday things is definitely one of the bonuses of parenthood.



Quotidien errands like a run to the post office box become a grand adventure when the kids are along. (When it's not a total pain in the patootie because they decide it would be fun to untie my shoelaces and sit on my feet while I'm waiting in line with an armload of packages. This happens too, sometimes.) We have a post office box, and checking to see if there is mail is always entertaining. First the kids have to help me find our number. Then they want to see if anything is for them. It rarely is, but boy is it exciting when there is mail addressed to them!



The other day, they received a thank you letter from their friend Ea nd E's sister T. E's mom A had transcribed it, and the kids giggled and wiggled with joy as I read aloud the note. Then BJ insisted on reading it for himself, laughing the whole time. So much fun had from a simple gesture!



Even better than a letter is a package. Even a letter with something small inside, like stickers, counts as a package in their eyes. But the bigger packages are more dramatic, because they don't get delivered to our P.O. box. We get a notification about them and have to pick them up at the window. Standing in line, gripping that little yellow notification card, the kids are on fire to know: Is it for us? Is it for me??? (This excitement and The Holding Of The Yellow Card is often enough to keep them from the Let's Trip Mom game -- see above -- so that's a bonus, too.)



Recently, Nana J sent the kids a package. Oh, the anticipation when BJ saw their names on the box! He squirmed the whole way home. Since BB can't read yet, she took our word for it but wasn't quite as excited, I think because she didn't discover the information herself. When we opened it, BJ was a little disappointed to see that the contents were new clothes. But while BJ wandered off to play, BB made up for her earlier lack of enthusiasm as she declared that she wanted to try on everything. The girl loves her clothes, especially pretty skirts and dresses!

When she had decided which outfit she liked best, she insisted that I should "take a picture and put it on the computer, Mommy!" So here it is:



She's holding the drawings that she made for Nana to say thanks for the clothes. This was her idea, which made me very happy. Things like that make me feel like I'm doing something right as a parent!



Actually (touching wood) these days I'm feeling pretty good about parenting. Time with the kids is more often easier than challenging. They are getting along pretty well. The frustrations are still there, of course, sometimes intensely so. But the good times are happening more frequently than the bad. Elizabeth Pantley claims that you're doin ga good job as a parent if you feel that you are doing the right thing 70% of the time. (I have to say, much as I like that claim, I do have to say that I think it depends on what, exactly, is happening during that other 30%....) I wouldn't give myself a 100%, not by a long shot, but I'm falling squarely in the B range and even getting an A now and then -- mostly when I am able to slow down and allow us all to savor those simple pleasures that are offered again and again in the course of a day. So much of the time, it's just a matter of being able notice them to enjoy them.

When folks talk about mindful parenting, I think this is part what they mean. And when you're a mindful parent, you don't have to get an A + to do well. As someone who has spent much of her life focused on grades, assessment, and excellence, it's a great relief to come to such a conclusion.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June? Already?

Gosh, it's been busy here in Mama's Magic Studio! I'm filling almost every spare moment with creative energy, prepping for two upcoming events -- the Knit One One Jazzy June craft show on Saturday June 5th, then the SF Etsy Sampler Trunk Show on June 12th.

Mama's fingers are sore from so much wire work! And you can always tell when I get super busy, just by looking at the frequency of my blog posts... I've even taken a bit of a break from my Friday Features. But those will be returning soon, I promise!

I am working on some new designs -- including gifts for Father's Day. It's always exciting to work on new designs. My shop definitely leans towards the feminine, so it will be nice to have some items for the guys. I won't have time to get pictures and list them in the Etsy shop in time for Father's Day, because I'll be closing up shop for vacation during the second half of June, so the only way to see them is in person this Saturday or next!

June always seems to sneak up on me. Much of that has to do with the fact that our family life has a decided focus on the school year, which means a busy push in late May and early June. Even though S wasn't teaching this past quarter, our household heart has continued to beat to the pulse of the academic calendar. And here it is June already!

Which means -- in four days I will celebrate my two year Etsy-versary with Mama's Magic Studio! (I've been on Etsy longer than that, since my first shop opened in 2006, but since that shop is now closed I celebrate according to the Mama's Magic Studio dates.) I'm trying to decide what I should do to mark the occasion. A sale? A giveaway? Let me know what you'd like to see!