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!