Sunday, December 19, 2010

Loving and Loathing Changes

I start a new job tomorrow. I haven't quit my old one, though I did inform the boss of my new job and because of the change of hours was told I'd be "replaced" (though I haven't seen hide nor hair of a replacement yet). I wouldn't mind getting some extra hours by working both jobs, but if I have to quit my old job, oh well. I really won't miss it. I may miss some people, but not the job itself.

I'm nervous to start my new job. It's the first non-retail job I've had since waitressing in high school. I'm nervous and I almost feel like a fake, like I'm trying to work a "grown up" job I'm not grown up enough to do. I have to take out my eyebrow piercing. I have to keep my tattoos covered. I have to wear a uniform of scrubs, since I'm now in the medical field. I don't even get to wear fun scrubs; they have to be white white white. Can you picture me in all white? If you know me... you really can't. Lol. But, on the upside, it will be so much more calm than my retail job. No running in circles til I feel like I'll pass out. No babysitting teenagers who care even less about their job than I do. No dealing with crazies insisting you need to return this discontinued, used, not-even-from-our-store item right now or else! Or else what? They never say, but they always seem ready to climb over the counter and shake you.

So even though I'm nervous, I know things will work out for the best. Working both jobs will be exhausting for however long it lasts, and I probably won't get as much crafting done. It will help out my bills though, and right now that is more important. My business is doing well enough to support itself with little help from my own money these days, but it isn't making enough to count as a "job" just yet. With time, perhaps, but in the meantime, this new job will help out a lot.

Of course, I'm starting it right before Christmas. There couldn't be a worse time to start, in my opinion. I'm already rushing to get my house ready for guests, my presents finished and wrapped and perfect. Ugh, I'm tired just thinking about it. Is Christmas over yet? Soon, soon. Things will be much less stressful next month. I'll have time to relax and breath a little! (Probably not. I have a painting to finish, a bridal craft show coming up, and of course, getting ready for Mardi Gras in early March.) I'd better stop blogging and get back to work, huh? After a long exhausting day at the retail job, knitting in front of a movie sounds like a great way to unwind. Aaaahhh :)

Listening to: Unwoman
Pics: Some of the knitting projects I'm working on!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Green Holiday

I'll admit, I'm a little bit of a tree-hugging hippie. I do what I can to be environmentally friendly. I am religious about recycling, to the point where I'll correct my dear husband's mistakes. I use a filter on my tap instead of buying bottled water, re-use every scrap of fabric in the house rather than throw it away, look for green household cleansers, and buy organic when I can afford it (not as often as I'd like...). Over the summer, when the opportunity to save gas by driving a moped instead of my car to work, I jumped on it. (I swear, it wasn't just because mopeds are hella fun. Lol.) So I started thinking this year about green holiday practices.

We never had a tree before buying our house, because our apartments were too small. For our first holiday, I insisted on a real tree. My family always used real trees. It was a family experience to pick out a tree and cut it down, and enjoy the pine scent in the house. The next year we had a puppy and kitten running around the house, so we weren't sure how to set up a tree without getting things knocked down or crawled up. Our solution was to buy a plastic tree and hang it from the ceiling. Yep. It was actually a lot of fun, and the pets never touched it, and we got a lot of compliments/jokes from family and friends. This year, I decided to do a bit of research on real trees vs. fake and which is better for the environment. I was a little worried that "murdering" trees would be the worst option. Plastic lasts for years, and live trees have to be regrown. Well, according to this article, , real trees win. As long as you get them from a local sustainable tree farm, they are much better than all the polluting work that goes into making plastics. What am I going to do with my plastic tree? Well, I'll still use it this year. I already bought it, the harm's already done. But when it's time to get rid of it, I won't be buying another.

Do you send out an annual greeting card? Switch to email to get rid of the paper waste. Not many people hang onto cards for more than a few weeks anyway. Instead of buying plastic or paper decorations, go outside and find fallen evergreen branches, pine cones, or any other bits of nature to brighten up your house. Go to a local plant nursery and have a bouquet of seasonal branches and flowers put together. Upgrade to LED lights, and please remember to turn them off every night! I shiver in fright and disgust at the inflatable lawn ornaments people leave running all night long. Your energy bill is already being exhausted by turning on the heat as nights get colder and colder. Speaking of that, run a space heater in one room at a time, or wear slippers and sweaters and cuddle under blankets to keep your heating bill down. As we speak, I'm wearing about five layers, including fingerless gloves so I can still type. Lol.

What about how you wrap your gifts? I hate it when I see mounds of wrapping paper tossed right into the trash after Christmas morning. I recycle it all at my house, but I can't control what happens at other people's houses (though sometimes I try!). Still, re-use is always better than recycling, which is why I like using gift bags. I'll reuse those year after year, until they start to look pretty shoddy. This site, , has a few other great ideas, including making fabric gift bags (great for a fabric hoarder like me!) or using last year's calendar to wrap gifts in. This site is useful too, with ideas like wrapping gifts in other gifts, like wrapping a wine bottle in a colorful kitchen towel.

Of course, local vs. imported plays a big factor in gifts. Speaking of wine, there are dozens of local wineries to choose from, with unique flavors and styles. You also know what I'm going to say about local artists and crafters! Or... don't give "stuff" at all. Gift cards, cash, or even better, donations to charities. This site lets you buy gift cards, and the recipient can use the gift cards to donate to 100+ reputable charities. Even better, go down to any local non-profit place like a soup kitchen, food pantry, humane society, battered women's shelter, or other organization and make a direct contribution to your own community.

That's the end of my preachy post. I don't mean to be pushy, but if we all do our part, we can collectively make a big difference! Use your canvas tote bags while shopping, some stores give you discounts; even Starbucks says on their website that they give a 10cent discount if you bring in a reusable travel mug! Enjoy the holidays and don't get stuck in the snow!

Listening to: The Cure
Pics: Our upside-down Christmas tree! That's it today, as I seem to have lost picture files from our first holiday in the house :(

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Craft Fair Stories, Round 1

I've been so busy with work and Christmas presents that I almost forgot to write about how the last craft fair went. Craft fairs really make for interesting stories, especially for burgeoning businesses like mine. So here's a small introduction to what it's like for a handmade vendor in a craft fair.

Most people shopping at a craft fair don't realize just how much the vendor puts into it. As a vendor, not only do I have to pay a booth fee just to be there, but I have to supply a table, a tent for outdoor fairs (which most are), and displays for my items. My husband and I have put a lot of work and money into creating my displays, and we've had some hits but a lot of misses trying to figure out what works best.

The first display we made was long dowel racks for my headbands. This worked for the first few fairs, until I had too many headbands to fit on the rack. My DH built me a second rack, but we quickly realized this took up a lot of table space. When we set up my products at a local salon that features local artists, the owner helped us come up with the idea of using vases for the headbands. The headbands circle the lip of the vase in a beautiful array, and decorative rocks inside serve the dual purpose of looking fancy and holding the display and tablecloths down during windy days. The only down side is that I now lug around heavy rocks in my already heavy and overloaded show tote.

At first, my masks and clips were simply laid on the table. Table space soon became scarce, and whenever the wind blew, items would fly away. DH took a picture frame, gave it a plain black back, wrapped ribbon across the front in a few places, and we clipped the clips to the ribbon. This was just barely functional. The picture frame, because it was a large, solid rectangle, blocked me from anyone on the other side. It also had the unfortunate habit of falling over frequently. After some discussion and drawing, DH made me a freestanding pegboard display. I put all my clips onto black posterboard cards and hung the cards on pegs. The only downside to this display is its weight, which I can't manage alone, and the wind, which sometimes blows the cards right off the pegs. We will probably revamp this display before next year's fair season. (Any suggestions are welcome!)

We built another freestanding display for the masks soon after building the pegboard one for the clips. We learned from our mistakes, though, and made this one smaller and hollow so it's easier to carry. Instead of pegs, we nailed clothespins to it, so the masks can be clipped into place. When I did my first indoor fair of this year, I couldn't use either of my freestanding displays, so DH built a tabletop version of the mask stand. Instead of having a flat wooden board similar to the picture frame, we made it from wooden slats, so even with the masks hanging from it I can still see customers on the other side. Luckily for me, I also have a small tabletop spinning rack that I put my clips on for the indoor show. I feel lucky to work in the industries I have in the past, as I've been able to pick up discarded displays like the spinning rack and other goodies I've used for shows. My mirror may have a brand name of hair products on it, but not too many people take notice. I use a hair stylist friend's old model head to display masks and clips on. How nice it is to have a model head with hair, not just plastic or styrofoam. She has a brand name on her too, but I give her a nice lace choker to wear and she quickly becomes anonymous.

As for signage, I'm also lucky that my DH has picked up a few things from his past jobs as well. Lovely little clips specifically meant for signs hold all my handwritten notes. (They double as great holders for items with drying glue when I'm not at shows.) My tablecloth is a simple black bed sheet, and a necklace holder discarded from a past job holds some of my more delicate headbands. I've learned to use whatever is at hand, and that a can of black spray paint can add a surprising amount of class to many things.

That's just the display aspect of the shows. There's also the driving, food, bags to put purchased items in, business cards, receipts, and of course the supplies and labor that go into the pieces themselves. Sometimes I have to take off work to be in a show, because retail jobs always require weekends, and my working weekends always seem to coincide with the best craft shows. All this time, money, and effort put into the work, the pieces, and the show... and sometimes I feel like there's so little appreciation shown for it. At one show I had a piece stolen. I've had people ask for discounts if they get several items, or if it's the last day of a two or three day festival. I've had people tell me they could get something similar for cheaper at Walmart. I price my items as low as I possibly can and still make a slight profit, and I feel my prices are definitely comparable to others who make similar handmade items. Giving discounts is not something I feel I can do and still stay in business. As for comparing my items to what you find at Walmart... well, I think I mentioned the quality issue of handmade vs. mass-produced in my last blog.

But if a show is good, if the weather is right and the crowd is feeling artsy and spendy, I can make up for all that effort and even for some of the disappointment. Two weeks ago when I did that craft fair, that was one of the ones that was worth it. I'm so appreciative of everyone who came out to see me, and to all the customers who really made my day. Picking which shows to do and which shows to skip is a science, and you guys helped me pick this one for next year too.

Sometime soon I'll have to tell you about some of the people experiences with the craft shows I've done. There are some people who really make your day, others who make you roll your eyes, and plenty of people who make you do a mental double-take or a facepalm. But that's for another post; this one's long enough already.

Listening to: The Birthday Massacre
Photos: Displays from some past shows. Feel free to suggest ideas for displays or your favorite craft shows!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Buy Handmade this Holiday Season!

Ok, I know that may sound a little self-serving, seeing as I sell  handmade items. However, I truly believe in the value of handmade items, all year round, for all purposes. Let me list some reasons to buy and shop local and handmade artists and businesses.

When you give a handmade item, you are giving your loved one something unique and special, something that will set them apart from the rest, something no one else can give them, something that's quite often one of a kind. You won't have to worry if someone else got them the same thing. Many handmade artists can custom make your item so you get something personalized and individual. An outfit made to specific measurements, an accessory in a favorite color, a useful tool with a meaningful symbol or style. There are so many artists willing to go the extra mile for you. You can't say that about many chain stores.

The quality of handmade items is often better than what you can get in a mass-produced store as well. Maybe you can get that cute shirt or fashionable furniture or trendy accessory from the outlet mall for an amazing price, but will it hold up more than a few uses? Handmade items are built to last, because they are built with love, love for the customer and love for the craft. A real milliner doesn't churn out ten baseball caps an hour with shoddy seams and badly dyed fabric. She takes her time on each unique hat, making each a work of art that will last for years to come.

You'll be supporting someone who makes a living off of their craft, which is something extraordinary on its own. There is nothing better than the feeling an artist gets when his work is appreciated, and when you wear/use it for all to see, you're advertising his wares by showing others how much you love it. Carry a business card when use that special handmade piece, so when others express admiration, you can direct more business toward the artist.

Supporting local artists and shopping at locally-owned businesses helps your community directly. You're helping your friends, neighbors, family; and will come back to you in some way.

Also, on the other end of things, please appreciate it when you're given a handmade gift. Think of the time and effort that went into that object. Whether it was made by the gift-giver himself, or picked out and personalized for you, it means so much more than anything they could have picked up at the last minute from WalMart on the way to your gathering.

In the same spirit of handmade items and local businesses, please support local and independent musicians as well. Many fantastic bands create their own record labels and produce their albums themselves, to stay free from the bonds of the music industry. They put their heart and soul into their music, and spend a lot of time paying attention to every detail, from the music to the album art to the quality of the recordings. Supporting local bands is just like supporting local businesses - you're helping your community and encouraging up-and-coming musicians.

A few rocking handmade shops:

Local Shops (local to Watertown, WI anyway)

Etsy's Local Shop Finder

Awesome Independent & Local Bands:

As always, leaving you with a few photos! This time, they are of some of the latest handmade products I've listed in my shop. (Can't hurt to do just a little shameless promotion ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joke's on Me...

Friday night, I got ready for the craft fair. My husband and I finished a table-top stand we built just for this show, seeing as it's an indoor one and I don't have the room for my standing displays. I spent awhile sifting through all my inventory, picking only what I thought I could fit in my limited space. I went to bed early(ish).

Saturday morning I got up early, got dressed, and packed up the car. I drove to the venue and noticed there didn't seem to be anyone else there. I drove past it slowly, confused. That's when I noticed the large sign out front. "Craft Fair, Sunday the 21st!"


I have no idea why I spent the last week thinking it was Saturday. I even wrote it down in my datebook as Sunday. Had I even bothered looking at my datebook, I would have discovered my error before getting up early and getting all prepared for nothing.

Ah well. At least it was an in-town venue, so I didn't drive far at all, and now I'm all packed up and ready for tomorrow. I decided that since I hadn't meant to be home anyway, I would take a day to myself for once. I watched movies and knitted personal projects and cooked lunch for my husband and stayed in my pajamas and generally enjoyed my day. (What you have to realize about the cooking statement is that I generally don't cook unless I can take my time on it, and I usually use the excuse that I have no time. Didn't have that excuse today!)

I currently have four knitting projects on sticks right now. I almost almost almost am done with one, halfway done with another, barely started on the third, and the fourth will never be done so I'm probably going to turn it into something else. Lol. Of course, I also have my two painting projects, the practice and the commission, one nearing completion and one barely started. I'm also working on some cameos and other accessory projects. Sometimes I feel like I'm biting off more than I can chew, which is why I said in my last post that I wish I didn't have to sleep. But I'm sure I'll make everything by their deadlines. I'm sure. I'm going to keep telling myself that.

Early to sleep again. Getting up early for the craft fair for realz this time ;)

Listening to: Rasputina
Pics: More items that will be at the show tomorrow :D

Friday, November 19, 2010

Up Late Again...

Sleep and I have always had a love/hate relationship.

I love the feeling of sleeping. I love cuddling into a soft, warm bed (unfortunately, my bed is neither of those things these days... need new mattress and money for the heating bill!) and if I'm lucky, my husband's at my side and/or my puppy's at my feet. I love the feeling of slipping into sleep. Most of all I love to dream. My dreams are chaotic, random, unpredictable, filled with strange imagery and twisting plotlines. I love to wake up and take a few minutes to write my dreams down. I look for clues to subliminal thoughts, or hints at the future, or just enjoying the story line. Even my nightmares are at least interesting, unless it's the usual bugs-and-spiders-taking-over-everything.

Nights like this, when I know I should be sleeping but I'm not. It's not quite insomnia. It's not that I'm tired and can't fall asleep. I probably could if I laid down and tried. I just don't want to sleep yet. I feel like I have better things to do. Sometimes spending 6-8 hours doing absolutely nothing productive just feels like a waste of time. I know it's essential for body function and all that whatnot, it just feels like a waste. I could be knitting or crafting or reading or painting or a billion other things. If I didn't need to sleep, or at least if I needed less sleep, let's say just two hours a night, I could spend the other night hours doing so much stuff I never seem to have time to during the day.

AND YET... I complain that sleep is not productive, and what am I doing instead of sleeping? F-ing around on the internet, of course. So productive! Oh well. I suppose it could be construed as productive, because I use this time to keep up with all my favorite artists, writers, and musicians that help keep me inspired. One such person is my favorite author, Neil Gaiman, who has asked all his fans who blog or communicate in any other way to share this:
It is an amazing story being brought to life in an amazing fashion by an amazing independent director, but it needs help to be produced. Kickstarter is an awesome website where you can donate money to be put into various projects, and help creative people get a start. I wish I had enough money to donate to nearly half the projects I see there! I think it's fantastic that people can choose projects they want to see happen and be a part of the process to make that happen. Another of my favorite Kickstarter projects is this one:
which has already been funded and I am excited to follow her progress on Twitter! It's a local project so I'll be able to see this place start up from the very beginning.

Anyway, I'm going to try to quell my excitement and get some sleep. I have a lot to do tomorrow to prepare for the craft show I have this Saturday. If you are local, here's the info: Turner Hall in Watertown, WI from 9:30 to 4. It's called Deer Widow's Weekend (cheesy, I know, but this is Wisconsin after all!) and it looks like there will be some fun handmade-item vendors there so stop in and check it out!

Listening to: Faun and Qntal (great for falling asleep to)
Pics: Some items to be featured in the show this weekend!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


You remember that package I was so excited about? I finally got it - of course, on my working weekend when I don't have much time to play with my fun new trinkets. Ah well. I should be painting instead of crafting anyway. I did find a nice way to multitask though. Everything needs to dry sometime, right? So I paint as much as I can until the layer needs to dry, then I turn to the other side of the room and work on crafts until I have to let their glue dry. If the paint isn't quite ready to be worked on yet, I'll go to the opposite end of the room and knit for a bit. This trifecta can keep me busy all day.

I feel really lucky to have a fairly spacious art room to work in. Moving is a possibility in the near future, and I can only cross my fingers and hope I'm able to have a similar space. I could probably fit into a smaller room, but I'll have to pack everything into a lot of storage containers and bring things out piece by piece.

I was so nervous about painting again that I put it off longer than I should have. I don't know what I was so nervous about. It took me a little longer than usual to mix the colors, but that could actually be due to the age of my paint. Once the colors were in front of me and the brush was in my hand, I took a deep breath and dove in. Within the first few brushstrokes I felt a warm sense of familiarity, and as I continued I was overwhelmed by a silly urge to cry. I don't know why. It just felt so good, and it had been so long. I don't know why painting is so different than all my crafting. I could spend pages and pages trying to talk that out, but I won't. I think I'll sum it up by saying that it's just a more emotional outlet for me.

So I had a good day getting back into the habit. I got pretty far on my practice painting, and sketched out the scene for the commission piece. I'm looking forward to really taking some time to paint. I have plans almost every day this month with the holidays coming up soon, but I'm sure I'll be able to work at least a little every day and get it done soon enough.

Now Listening To: Caberet Soundtrack
Pics: An older painting, and a sneak peek of my practice painting :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Starting Point

I am up late again. It's 2:00am and I am not sleepy. However, I'm at a loss for something to do. I am taking a break from crafting; my fingers are sore from knitting. I don't want to start painting at this time of night. It's too cold to take a walk, and I sure as hell don't feel like cleaning. Hulu has run out of interesting shows and movies. The internet, bless it, has ceased to entertain me for a little while. So I'm turning to blogging.

I've been meaning to start a blog for awhile now. I never quite know what to say. I am a small business owner, so do I stick to business talk for the sake of being professional, or do I let my personal thoughts take over the blog? It's a fine line, especially in a business like mine. I'm an artist, creator, and designer; my personal life is my business and my business is personal. So why try to separate it? I will just let the thoughts flow. Let me know if I get a little too babbly, though.

I am the sole owner of Natura Pluma Designs. I handmake hair clips, headbands, and masquerade masks in several styles, but most often very flowery and feathery creations. You can see my work at and/or at I'm also on Facebook (look for Natura Pluma Designs) and on Twitter (@naturapluma). I've also become an avid knitter, and my current kick is creating cell phone/electronics cozies with geeky text talk on them, like pwnd, lol, wtf, ftw, omg, and many more. You can see a few of those at (my old shop in which I first started the accessories and masks).

My work has been featured in several treasuries on Etsy. I've also been a featured artist at C'est la Vie Salon of Milwaukee. I've been in many many craft fairs, and was even invited to a Girl's Night Out event at Merle Norman Cosmetics of Brookfield Square. I've sent out orders across the USA and even overseas. I created custom work for events like weddings, Halloween, Mardi Gras, proms, and more. All this makes me sound much more accomplished than I really feel. I'm still doing my business on the side of a clock-in job for the time being. Someday I hope to change that!

I'm a voracious reader, a fan of so many different types of music, and I enjoy many movies as well. All of these things inspire me. I think you'll see bits and pieces of my inspiration in my work. I could list all of my favorites of everything, but that's probably worth a blog all by itself.

I work with what I have at hand, especially since I'm still kind of starting out. Much of what I create contains vintage or second-hand store pieces that are one of a kind and impossible to replicate. Some things I can certainly try to create in bulk for specific events you may have in mind. I absolutely love the challenge many custom orders give me!

I think that's enough babbling for an intro post. I'll be back soon enough with whatever new thoughts roll through. Now, since it's Daylight Savings, I'll go back in time and post this blog a half hour before I started it since the clock now tells me it's 1:30am. I'll leave you with an intro photo as well, a small sample of my work and therefore who I am. Thanks for reading!