Tuesday, November 29, 2011

They just don't make them like they used to

Hope it has been a fabulous holiday (or just plain 'ole week outside the US) for all, my family and I had a lovely time visiting the ancestral abode.  Nothing quite says home like that valley, tucked in the mountains of central Utah. 

On the colorado plateau, breathing some of the most
pure air on earth, it is easy to pretend you are the only
person on earth
In the clarity of mind that only comes to me when I'm away from the catacophy of strip malls, LED lit billboards and the constant hum of I-15 I was able to look around and gain an increased awareness of what handmade means to me.  The house that I call our "ancestral abode" was built by my Great Granddad.  He spent a few hundred dollars on the stuff that he couldn't make, nails, windows, wiring... but everything that could be handcrafted, was.  The basement was dug out with just a shovel and his sweat, the arched doorways, built in bookcases and cabinets, beautiful wood floors, and the well in the basements was not only done by hand, it was done with love and pride.

Today, even though backhoes, cement mixers and other large equipment is heavily involved in new home contruction, a great deal of the work is still done by hand.  So why is it that so many homes built today lack the quality and charm that homes built 70 years ago posses?  I'm convinced that it is that love and pride that makes the difference.  Many craftsmen working on homes are paid by the project, not the hour so they can't afford to take their time.  They can't afford to care, they need to make a profit and prices for the homebuyer need to be kept low and competitive.  Maybe there is also an issue of some mentors who have a less than stellar work ethic, so their students are not learning to take pride and enjoyment out of their work. (framers, contractors, finish work carpeters, general construction workers etc... please don't think I'm blasting you folks, so many of you are amazing and I envy your talent)

Love this shot of the store... it was obviously not taken this
past week - look at that gorgeous grass!

When my husband and I bought our current home (a condo) my husband noticed several points of shoddy construction work.  When he pointed it out to the foreman the response we got was "well, if it was a custom home we would have done it right."  Another instance of you get what you pay for?  I don't know, but we sure paid a lot of money to have things done wrong.  What I do know is that if I could do it all over I would back out of the sale right then. 3.5 years later, those same things that my husband pointed out to the foreman still scream in his face every day when he walks throught the door.  We've contemplated doing some pretty hefty changes, like making built in features.  But, we just don't know if it would be worth it, it can't totally cover the flaws and it wouldn't really increase our resell value.  We will probably just leave them as is, save our pennies and put our time and sweat into our next (and hopefully last) home.

So, as I sat in our home watching my daughters, the fifth generation of our family to be in the house, I gained a deeper understanding of what hand-crafted means to me.  Handmade does not just mean assembled with two hands.  There must be a heart behind those hands that loves their work and really wants others to love and enjoy it as well.  It means taking such pride in your work that it would be painful, unthinkable, to take shortcuts resulting in anything but the optimal results, and never putting flawed work out there with your name on it.  Except for "ooops" sales.  Love those. 

I think this is another reason that I love handmade.  When you buy handmade items you are supporting someone who is likely to poses good work eithics and is possibly raising (or influencing) children who can in turn learn that valuable concept.  I think our world could use a few more folks with those qualities.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A quick sneak peek

I'm currently packing for a family trip, I'll be out of WWW range until Saturday, Yea!  But, I thought I'd just post a quick sneak peak of the goregous quilt I've been slaving away on.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gone but not Forgotten

Buy Craft Inc. at Amazon.com

I know it has been a whole week since I last posted so some folks probably figure I've given this up as a lost cause... well maybe I did that with the first two or three blogs I started, but not this one!  I've made some pretty awesome progress on my quilt, one third of the blocks are now together and it is looking better than I had hoped.  I've also been reading some books on business and spoke to some friends who have gone through the process of starting their own business and it has been very educational. 
I just finished reading Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco, it received a four and a half star rating on Amazon and I appreciated the information on figuring out if you are small business owner material, how to ease out of a conventional day job into purely your own business, marketing strategies and some other gems Meg shares, a great deal of this book though is irrevelent for me at this point in time though.  She goes through the process of getting a business license, tax id, copyrights, tradeshows, selling wholesale, etc. so most of that is way off in the future at best for me.  One fantastic feature of this book that I found especially helpful and inspiring was interviews with folks who made it big after striking out on their own sprinkled through out the book.  It is an informative resource that I think will become more and more valuable to me as time goes on.

Another accomplishment this past week was getting my business card design.  Sarah at OhmeohmyDesign is just amazing, I wanted to give her a shining review on the Etsy feedback tool but we bundled my purchase with a recent design purchase that I had already given feedback for.  But, let me show
off her lovely work!  She is incredibly talented and pinned the tail right on that donkey as far as my taste goes.  Thank you Sarah!

One of my favorite moments this week, however, was a nightime ephipany that hit me a few nights ago.  It actually motivated me to get up, flip on some lights, sketch out some diagrams in my notebook and whip up a little mock-up prototype.  Then, and only then did this little thought allow me to crawl gratefully back into bed and sleep peacefully.  The next morning I wasn't positive that it had actually happned until I spoke with my sister.  Apparently I sent her a jumbled text message at a rather ugly hour of the night.  I'm  telling you this because it is hillarious... and yes to peak your interest.  A teaser if you will.  Shameless?  Yes, but at least I'm honest about it!  I'm not revealing this marvelous creation until a date very close to opening day.  It will be magnifica sorpresa and I am very excited about it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Suprising Impact of Creative Endeavors

I was so terrified when I first decided to make my dream of an Etsy shop come true.  I was so worried that by adding one more thing to my plate I would completely overload my brain and have a complete and total mental breakdown with long lasting results.  The mental meltdown equivalent to Chernobyl.  Which is why I am so astounded at what has actually taken place.

 In the last week or so since I last posted I have worked really hard, I’ve put time in every day working on products or on other shop issues and I’ve been shocked to discover that the effects have been the exact opposite of what I expected.  I feel invigorated, excited, motivated and content.  I haven’t felt this way for years.  As I’ve grown up and taken on adult responsibilities I’ve had to cut so many things out of my life that I am passionate about.  Hockey, horseback riding, backpacking, snowboarding, art.  The physical things have mostly been because of a lack of money and my deteriorating musculosketal structure.  But all of them have been eliminated from my life because I was felt like I didn't have time for them.  I felt like I needed to cut everything out that wasn’t essential so I would have time and energy for the important stuff (kids, family, work, housework).  Up until a few weeks ago I was still stressed out, I still didn’t feel like I had the time or energy for those things and I was looking for other things to eliminate. 

Enter determination to start shop:  I am so surprised that I now feel so good, that I think I’m actually spending better time with my daughters, I’m a little less restless at work, and the housework… well that one is kind of falling by the wayside but it isn’t bothering me like it normally would.  I’m now able to cheerfully walk past a dusty, cluttered living room to my creation corner (okay, it started out as a corner of mine and my husband’s bedroom but it has now overtaken the entire room except his side of the bed and a drawer in the bathroom, sorry sweetheart) and work on projects with my girls and my dog sitting on the side asking about the project and having fun little conversations with me while I work.
I guess I really shouldn’t be so shocked that doing something that I love would make my life more pleasant and relieve some stress but it really has made a dramatic difference.  It is just one more reason I see that schools shouldn’t cut back on art programs and physical education.  These are the things that people care about, that can fulfill us in ways that math & science just can’t. 

  Last night I finally got to lay out the squares of the queen size linen quilt that I’m working on and it is gorgeous!  I need to figure out a way to get the pictures from my camera on here (my computer isn’t working so well right now) the quilt is going to be a generous queen size, 85x95 inches and all the squares are Linen.  Hopefully I can find good linen to make the border and binding out of, and then the backing will be cotton.  Most of the colors are varying shades of brown but I also have some really stunning blue and green in there too, they are actually a linen-silk blend and have an incredible texture.  I cannot wait to see this quilt finished, and I can tell it is going to be difficult to part with.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Positive Profiling

Hi there, another month come and gone and I’m that much closer to January!  This past weekend was a good productive creative one.  My weekly stop at the second hand shop turned up some good treasures, I found some old linen clothes in beautiful colors, a 1961 Early American Pyrex bowl in mint condition and…

Drum roll please…

"allure" photo from

"poppy" photo from
  Two beautiful spoons!  Now, before you roll your eyes, these aren’t just any ‘ole spoons.  They both caught my eye in the silverware bucket because amidst all the shiny stainless steel they were a dark orange-brown color.  I snatched them up, paid $1 total for them and took them home to clean them up and find out who they were.  Turns out that the first one I found is a Teaspoon from the Rogers Co 1959 “allure” pattern.  The second is a R&B (the lower line for Reed & Barton) berry spoon in the 1914 “poppy” pattern.  They have both cleaned up BEAUTIFULLY, I was afraid at first that the silver had rubbed off them (they’re plated) and was looking into having them re-plated but after some TLC they are still silver and just lovely.

My family suffers from some sort of disease which makes us seek out vintage goodies with the intent of selling them but after finding our treasures we find ourselves physically paralyzed when it comes time to sell them.  I’m fighting it with all the technology modern medicine has to offer.  I’m keeping the bowl, but I’ll sell the spoons.  I had to reason with myself that if I sold the bowl I couldn’t sell it for much more than $10 but I would pay more for that for it.  Plus if I sold it I run the risk of having it break in the post.  The technology was no match for that particular rational that the disease supplied.  With some very potent medicine I was however able to purge a boring bowl out of my cupboard so that my disease didn’t develop into full blown hoarding.  The spoons however, can’t serve any immediate purpose like the bowl (besides looking very pretty amid all my clutter) so my plan is to sell them and keep looking for others to sell and maybe someday I can afford an entire set.  Preferably in that 1914 poppy pattern.  Thanks medical technology.
Any who, the topic I’m looking at today is writing a good profile.  I want to be one of those etsians who has such an engaging profile that you feel like you know them and you want them to come over for Sunday dinner with the folks.  Luckily the Handbook has an article for that.

The article is “Getting To Know You: Tips and Tricks for Writing an Engaging Profile”, written by Stacey Brook. I consider myself a fairly good writer but I am concerned about the exact thing that she talks about in the opening paragraph, getting tied up because the subject is me.  I want to present myself in a positive light but I am concerned (probably rightfully so) that I’m just going to sound fake, or obnoxious or like a complete nutter. Ms. Brook also states what I had already suspected. That a good profile is critical for being successful on Etsy.

While it is just plain lovely (I suppose) that shoppers can browse while sitting at home in their skivvies on the settee they completely miss out on the sensory experience of a brick and mortar establishment. You have to supply what you can of that with your shop appearance, item descriptions, and profile. It also helps to give your products some personality and history. If I’m looking at three bowls online, one was mass produced, one was handmade but I’m not really sure what the artist was like, and one was lovingly hand carved by an artist living in the Ozarks who loves iguanas and velvet I’m much more likely to go with the hand carved. They’re just more appealing when carved in the Ozarks surrounded by iguanas.

So, based on some guided questions here is who I am:

I’ve been creating little things my whole life but never thought of myself as an artist until high school when I began taking art classes. I happily let Art dominate my schedule through high school and into college. I have a B.S. in Public History which is fun but pretty much useless until I add a M.S. and Ph.D. to the collection. All of my free time (an endangered species lately) is either spent outside with my family or surrounded by piles of “stuff” engaged in some sort of creative process.
"Even for a seasoned wordsmith, writing about yourself can be an intimidating prospect. As with any self-portrait, it’s tough to capture yourself at the perfect angle and incorporate all of your best attributes in the frame.”

Capitol Reef National Park is just a short drive
away from my family home

I am a born and bred Utah girl, except for a few years as a child I have always lived in Utah and I love it. The nature that surroundsme is inspiring and I also have the incredible opportunity to be near my ancestral home in central Utah. It really was my ancestry that inspired my shop. My forebearers were a fun
bunch who did what they wanted and did it passionately. My G-G-Grandpa’s family was once criticized by a neighbor for having too much fun in life. I want to create, so true to the family legacy, I’m going to create. I’m going to seek out vintage treasures and only sell half of them, because that also runs in the family. The original Worthen's Mercentile was my Grandpa's store and it is in his honor that I call my Etsy shop by the same moniker.

Ilove to recycle old linen and cotton clothing into quilts. My quilts are simple, I use lots of solid colors and simple quilt patterns. I truly believe that they will be a favorite item in the recipients' home through the decades. The cotton and linen I use is gently worn so itis already soft but it is still durable with plenty of life still in it. I love picking out raw material and then carefully transforming it. For example sometimes I’ll find a shirt made out of the softest linen of the prettiest shade but it has a hole or stain which makes it very difficult/impossible to rehabilitate it for wear. I love taking the material that is still good and giving it a new life as a quilt. Every time my grandmother gave someone a quilt she would tell them “now you can be wrapped in my love any time you want, even when you are across the globe.” To me quilts symbolize love.

I love selling vintage for the joy of transformation as well, it is such an exciting feeling to spot that beaten and bruised item, take it home and clean it up so it can stand proud again. Sometimes it is hard to part with those items because I’m just so happy that I could keep them out of a landfill that it is hard to let them go. But, when I have no use or room for them it is very fulfilling to know that someone who loves it is getting it.

So, there it is. My profile. I know it is long… but hey it gives them a good glimpse into the inner workings of my grey matter. Right? If it is too long I welcome comments…