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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Craft Challenge to put some sparkle in your June

Sometimes I feel like playing hooky.  I am usually able to push through it, but this week it got the best of me.  You know what I mean.....the work is piling up, a deadline is approaching, the pressure is on....but you are not gonna do it.  At least not today.  The weather is glorious, the garden is calling, that project you have been ruminating over is suddenly ready demanding to be created....
Man...I have had Spring Fever for a week! 

It started with a textile emergency.  My kitchen table is an old red metal industrial work table.   It is very cool and I love it, but the look needs to be softened a bit.  A table runner does the trick but I had given away the one I had and the broad expanse of metal was driving me crazy.  I have had a hankering to Felt a table runner and  the project would not be put off any longer.  I made a promise to be thrifty.  I ...er...have a tendency to commit the Cardinal Sin of crafty biz owners:  I use my inventory as my personal stash.  It drives my husband crazy.  I totally get why it drives him crazy....it wreaks havoc with inventory numbers unless one is diligent about writing down what is taken.  When I am in the creative zone I get "project drunk"  and lose my focus.    It is all to easy to walk to the stockroom to get what I need want.    I promise myself that I will remember to enter it into Quickbooks later, but I don't.  This is a bad system.  I started keeping a small notebook on my worktable so that I could keep notes on what I was using, but usually forget to do it  am not as diligent as I should be.  I vowed to complete this project without shopping in my stockroom....it was going to be a "stash-buster" project...and I did it!

In any event....I have been happily playing in the studio as much as I could over the last week and finally finished the table runner.  It is a folk arty piece that does just what I want it to do:  it plays up the fruit theme of my kitchen, softens the look of the metal without hiding it, and provides a comfy place for my cat to sleep.  I was pleased.    The photo at right shows the completed project, the picture below is after the piece was needle felted, but not wet felted.  There was about 1/3 shrinkage after the wet felting process.  I am working on the tutorial ...it was a fun and super easy project.

I am so inspired by the entire felting process.  The possibilities for home decor are limitless!  I am currently noodling around an idea for a chandelier, as well as a flag wall hanging (inspired by those of artist  Morna Crites-Moore).  Happy, happy, joy, joy...so much to think about!


Textile Love has not been the only thing competing for my attention this week.  There has been a great deal of chicken drama going on.  Last week I was super psyched about my chickens....I had 13 eggs in the incubator and my first baby was hatching.  All I did was run back and forth between the computer and the incubator.  I was obsessed didn't want to miss a thing.  I even videotaped one of the babies hatching and Facebooked about it.  It was ridiculous---but I couldn't stop myself.

I thought I had been a good Steward Of The Eggs, so I was devastated perplexed when chick number two was born with funky feet. I only hatched 3 of 13 eggs and one was deformed.  YIKES!   I spent an entire day scouring the internet and perusing the Chicken Forums (yup, they are out there!) to figure out what went wrong.  I learned that the chick was suffering from "Twisted Feet" which results from the humidity in the incubator being too low.   Low humidity will also result in a poor hatch rate.  ARGHH!  It was my fault!!!  I followed the directions on the incubator, dammit!  Unfortunately, ignorance of Chicken Husbandry is no excuse....so I spent another few hours researching treatment of this dreaded condition.

Splints seem to be the best hope for straightening her feet, but it is not an easy thing to keep the twisted feet of a baby chicken properly splinted.   The other chicks pick on her, so I was forced to separate them.  She is eating, but not growing. I am  not real hopeful.

Yeah...I know I am weird... but what can I say?  I am passionate about like my chickens....even the gimpy, high maintenance, slightly  imperfect ones.  One of my broody hens just abandoned her eggs, so I now have 11 more in the incubator.  I am watching the humidity very closely this time around.

...But there has been even more than Textile Love and Birthin' Chickens to keep me away from my business responsibilities.....

...my 10 year old nephew spent the day with me yesterday.  My sister had a kidney transplant a few years ago and the darn thing is acting up, which means lots of time in the hospital.  It has been a long time since I had 10 year old around and it was great fun.  We cracked open the eggs that didn't hatch and found it to be squeamishly compelling for both of us.  We puttered in the garden and we made salsa from scratch.  He particularly enjoyed helping me re-splint chicken feet all day long.  It was a delight  but not a bit of business work got done!

It is no fun to play alone.  So...I figure...maybe it is time for YOU to play hooky too!
 
We have a new challenge for June....give yourself the gift of some creative time!  We have 12 packages ready to be sent out ---FREE--- to a Crafty Retailer in need of some creative fun!


                                                                                                         
                    JUNE CHALLENGE KIT
The kit includes 15 yards of Swarovski yarn in Pacific Opal, some Crystal Copper Two Hole beads, Swarovski Pearls, a 30mm Crystal Copper Button, a plethora of Blue Zircon crystal baubles, craft sequins, copper filigree pieces, seed beads and more!

Make whatever you want, however you want.  The only requirement is that you send me pictures of the finished piece, as well as the work in progress, and a description of the creative process.

Photos are due by July 1, 2010.


Want to play?  Let me know!


The April "Crystal Rocks" Challenge was an unqualified success.  
The scope and breadth of the entries were incredible!  The star of the kit was the Crystal Rock Iron On round pieces that Swarovski recently introduced.  I have to confess...I LOVE 'EM!   They are wonderful to look at and easy to use...a hot iron is all you need!

Here is what our intrepid participants created:
 
Hannah Rosner:
Hannah is half of the Good River Gallery team.  Her work gives me an inferiority complex. She works magic with a needle and thread...take a sneak peak at what she put together for the Etsy Designer challenge.  YOWZA!


Ashley Menza

 Ashley Menza of Menza Designs crafted a classic and elegant bracelet and earring set showcasing the 22mm channel settings.   Sweet AND sophisticated!  The design would be a perfect addition to a store class line up....are you teaching these days, Ashley?  I think it would be a sell out.


Michelle Heim:

 I knew that Michelle Heim, the owner of Beadalotta, was a talented beadweaver, but I was not familiar with  her wild side.  I think that you will agree that the piece to my left is killer!  Contemporary and relevant.  Kick Ass, Michelle.

She channeled a more demure muse with this lovely woven pendant, which is now hanging on my own jewelry wall!  Lucky me!  Thanks, Michelle!  




Barbara Howard:
Barbara Howard, owner of Hop on Over Bead Shop did a meaningful pictorial that we can all relate to, I think.  She used the kit components and seed beads to embroider the "Footprints in the Sand" prayer imagery on a leather shirt:

... I decided my theme would be how God is carrying me. My theme is the famous Foot Prints in the Sand. I used taupe pearls as the foot prints, the Swarovski squares for my camp fire on the beach, The Iron on Swarovski’s as the rock in the water, The Swarovski rings and gold pearls and seed beads for the sun and its rays. This piece has taught me the technique of embroidering on leather and not to give up. I hope you enjoy viewing my piece as much as I did creating it. Thank you for this opportunity to participate in this contest and hope to be included in future events.
 
 Christine Jensen: 
Christine works for a crafty Retail Superstar, Rosie Long, owner of Kiowa Rose.    I am not surprised to see the quality of talent employed at Kiowa Rose.  Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Pack!  

The piece is well balanced and Christine managed to use at least one piece of every item in the piece.  The focal pendant is spectacular!

Marlene Gruetter:
Marlene is the owner of Marlene's Felting Madness.  She is a felt maker extraordinaire, outstanding teacher, and a fine human being.  She is new to bead embellishment but was ready to give it a try...and I am so glad that she did!  The "Rocker Chick" choker goes beautifully with her red leather jacket.   She won't part with the jacket...I already asked!

Maggie McCloud:
 Maggie is part of the  Crystal Bead Beauties team.  She made an incredible handbag "from scratch"
BRAVO!












Kelli Burns:
Kelli Burns of The Hole Bead Shoppe  always comes up with utterly wearable designs, and this was no exception.  I love the addition of Turquoise to the colorway!

Linda Ratka:
Linda continues to amaze me.  She is a new felter although her work does not show it!   The fun and funky felted hat is wonderful!

Pam Maxfield:
 ....and last but definitely not least, we have this asymetrical fantasy piece by Pamela Maxfield of Bello Modo.  What a sweet taste of spring!

What a delight to see how many of our participants chose to include fiber in their work.  Textiles are where it is at!


...SPEAKING OF TEXTILES.....



I just got my copy of the just released 1000 Artisan Textiles, by Sandra Salamony and Gina Brown.  OMG!  I think this book and I are going to be spending some quality time together.  The pictures are amazing.  I will try not to drool on the pages.  If you are a textile person, it is a must have! YUM!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Customer Service, Anyone?

One of my earliest blog posts focused on some outstanding customer service that I had experienced while shopping at a trendy New York boutique.  I was on a vacation with my daughter and the visit to this shop was one of the highlights.  It was a great trip:  lots of was money spent, a copious amount of mother/daughter bonding took place, and there was even an "extortion worthy" picture taken with the Naked Singing Cowboy...yes, a good time, indeed.

However, this one particular Manhattan Boutique really stood out for both of us.  The clothes were amazing, but it was more than the clothes---after all, there are lots of cool shops in the City.  It was all about the customer service!

We had been walking for a long time, we were hungry, and we were carrying lots of shopping bags.   We were trying to do more walking than cabbing so that the cab fare money could go to our clothing budget.  We were tired and grumpy...and we wanted to get to the hotel NOW.  Forget the savings....it was time to hail a cab.   No more shopping, no more delays.

We were making our way along the street, trying to hail a cab, when we stopped in our tracks.  OMG!  Look at that window!  Clothes that appealed to teen and mom were displayed in a captivating window.  Our feet no longer hurt, lunch could wait....we had our second  wind!

We spent a minute taking it all in...display after artful display...then we got down to business.  We were happily gathering items to try on and a beautiful woman appeared with an armful of items for me to consider.  She had been watching us...saw what we were attracted to and got busy.  Her guesses as to sizing and style were spot on.  She was charming and knowledgeable.  I assumed that she was the shop owner because her behavior was so professional and proprietary.  I was wrong....she was a sales clerk.  Wow.  Sometimes sales ability comes naturally, but most incredible sales people get there through proper training!

Sadly, it has been over  a year and I have encountered nothing similar since.  The customer service I received recently is more typical:

I was in the check out line with a friend.  There was one customer at Register One, which was staffed by a young man.  There was an employee filling out paperwork at Register Two.  A third employee, a teenage girl, was standing between the two, leaning on the counter and staring vacantly into space.  Although the sale had concluded, the  young man at the register was having a lengthy "nice weather we are having" conversation with his customer.  Vapid girl continued to be vapid----there was no smile, no eye contact, no nuthin'!  The third employee was engrossed in her paperwork and was clearly not going to let customer service interfere with her agenda.   It was kind of odd, but not completely atypical.  This went on for about five minutes.  Five long annoying minutes.

My friend had several plants and I was carrying a 50 pound block of chicken feed.  It was getting heavy and I was starting to get impatient.  The guy at the first  register finally concluded his weather dissertation  and the lady at the second register appeared to complete her paper work.  They simultaneously looked up with big bright smiles.  They were talkative and engaging.  Even the vacant eyed teen girl came to life with a smile and eye contact.  It was really, really weird.  It was like we were invisible until it was "our turn."

A Twilight Zone moment.

Where does your sales staff fall on the Customer Service Continuum?    "Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Pack."  You are setting the bar!  Are you doing a good job in training your employees?  Communication is critical, and yet it is often very difficult for women business owners to communicate effectively with their staff.  Many shop owners have such a innate desire to be liked that they find it difficult to be assertive.  They are worried about appearing "bitchy."  Get over it!

You are not being a bitch by making your expectations clear; rather, you are only being a bitch if you act like one while you are communicating your expectations.  Be a STEEL MAGNOLIA!   It is totally fair to expect the people you pay to do the stuff you want them to do in order to TO MOVE YOUR STORE FORWARD.    Employees generally want to do well---they want to please the boss, they want the store to be a success.  Too often they are simply not sure how to go about it.  Unfortunately, it is easy to lose control of your shop if you do not establish clear processes and procedures.

Consider asking a friend to act as a secret shopper and report back to you.  Give her $50 bucks to spend in your store WHEN YOU ARE NOT AROUND.   The owner of the feed store probably would be horrified to learn about my experience....at least I hope so!  I wonder what you would learn if you could be a fly on the wall in your own shop?  It might be interesting to find out!

A good sales person is worth her weight in gold, and a bad sales person can cost you the same!  A sales STAR will know your product line as well as you do, will enjoy crafting so that she can engage your clientele, and she will be personable without becoming cloying.  She will take direction but has initiative, even offering you suggestions as to how to improve the process where appropriate.  She takes every opportunity to "up sell" and will make each customer feel like a treasured friend.  Does your staff make the grade?  Have you ever trained them to "up sell"?  It doesn't take much effort to ask the gal who is purchasing fabric if she is "all good with thread."  It is not high pressure, could save the customer from having to make a return trip, and will steadily add to your bottom line.

Sales Consultant Sam Manfer has a great article on the subject of employee motivation here and you can download  a motivational staff  Bingo Game here.     There is no excuse to have a "C level" employee in your shop with so many folks looking for work.  Mediocrity sucks!  Take the time to cultivate the "A" Talent and watch your balance sheet respond to the change!


IN OTHER NEWS:

I don't know nuthin' bout birthin' chicken babies....but I am sure learning!  I have had hens and one rooster for the last few years.   The experience has been an absolute blast.  They are very funny to watch, easy to care for, and prolific egg layers.  There is something remarkable about walking to the coop to collect fresh eggs every day!  Unfortunately, I have never had a hen "go broody" and want to hatch her eggs.    I found an incubator on Craig's List and decided to give Mother Nature a push!  I  I do not know for certain how many of the eggs are actually fertilized, but  Mr. Rooster appears to have quite a way with the ladies.    All day, every day, if you get my drift.  In fact,  I am surprised that there hasn't been a clucky rebellion to whup his randy ass.   In any event, I put 13 eggs in the incubator and hoped for the best.  It has been three weeks and the first egg started to hatch yesterday.  The totally cool part....I could hear the chicks peeping long before a single egg started to crack.  It has been great fun, although Rosie the Wonder Dog thinks that I have a tray full of squeaky toys that I am keeping from her. She is beside herself with excitement.




I am going to have to keep a close watch on Rosie!  She is a bit too interested, I think!


 



IN THE STUDIO:

I am still working on the table runner but hope to have it completed before the end of the week.   The runner will be constructed of several needle felted pieces that are then "assembled" via the wet felting process.  The tutorial should be available by the next post.  The picture at right should give you an idea as to the scale. I am working on a bright blue trim and colorful felted fruit embellishments for the edge.  It should  be a cheerful addition to the kitchen table!


The next project on my To Do List involves a Handbag Makeover.  I collect vintage handbags and I usually leave them exactly as I find them.  I picked up the  vintage burlap and leather bag at left  for $1.50 at an estate sale. Although it is a great size and is very well put together, it screams "little old lady" to me.  I figured that it was worth spending the buck fifty to see if I could morph it into something fun.  I plan to cover it with felted flowers and crystal embellishment.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Marketing Events are Critical for the Cash Strapped Retailer

Customers are inundated with choices on how to spend their money but have less money to spend. What a conundrum.   Competition for that dollar is intense.  That's a fact, Jack.  Bemoaning the state of the economy does little to get your rent paid.  Savvy retailers know the value of scheduling frequent customer appreciation events to get cash flow positive.  After all, it is much easier--and way cheaper-- to delight existing customers than it is to forage for new customers.  Are you taking advantage of this simple marketing strategy?

Successful Event Marketing does not require a big budget or even a particularly brilliant idea.  However, it does require time and consistency.  Many of your stores are a little slow right now.  You can spend your hours worrying and ringing your hands or you can take control of your life.  Turn the downturn into an opportunity by using the extra time to get your marketing plan in order.  Gather your staff together for a brainstorming session and fill out a marketing worksheet.    Once you put an idea down on paper, it is more likely to become a reality for you.  Leverage technology to reach your goals.  The beauty of an email blast is that you actually have time to pull off an event to spur sales this week-end!   We recently blogged about Crafty Retail Superstar Jackie Goff of Uptown Fibers.  She was able to generate one half of her monthly revenue in one week-end, based upon an email blast sent a few days before the event. No advertising costs, no major headaches...just determination and a clear sense of purpose.

I received an email from my LYS announcing her 6th Anniversary week-end celebration.  Honestly, I probably would have passed on the event because I had just spent more than I would have liked on the 40 skeins of yarn needed for my current afghan project.  Puma was disturbed to have her nap interrupted by my camera.  But I digress....

I wasn't planning on going to the event.  It was a busy week-end, I had already spent my yarn budget, etc.

....and yet.....

I spent $150 and had a great time.  Huh?  I know, I know...I didn't plan on it but the yarn shop owner did a CRAFTY RETAIL SUPERSTAR kind of thing.  She got on the phone a few days before the event because she "wanted to make sure that I got a personal invitation from her."  BINGO!  She had me ...hook, line, sinker.  How could I say no?  I went, but I went with a steely resolve:  NO SPENDING.

You can imagine how quickly my resolve crumbled when I saw the beautiful jewel tones in a wool/silk blend---perfect for my next project---and it was "Buy one, get one free!"  Yowza!

"That will be $149.79."

Sigh...I guess I can use my clothing budget for yarn.  Again.

I confess.....I can resist anything except temptation and I bet your customers are similar....so TEMPT THEM!    Roze, my local yarn shop owner did a couple of brilliant things to ensure that she got the job done:

First, the owner of Fiber Art in Odessa, Florida,  knew that an anniversary required a big celebration.  Roze contacted all of her vendors and explained that she was having a party and asked them to donate door prize items.  They were happy to oblige and the prizes helped generate a buzz leading up to the event.  Savvy Roze followed up with thank you notes to let her vendors know that their efforts were appreciated.  Warm fuzzies all around.

Next, Roze made sure that she sent out an email blast notifying all of her customers about the event.  Her best clients received a special invite to a customer appreciation soiree the night before the big event.  They got first dibs on the sale goodies, as well as great wine and festive appetizers.

Roze made sure that she was adequately staffed for the event and even had a good friend step in as "store greeter."  She was a charming gal who joked that she wasn't crafty at all, but she was a heck of a greeter.  It was a nice way to break the ice for someone who was walking into the store alone.

Roze made sure that she had a loss leader.  She jokes that her "Buy one skein, get TWO FREE" promotion had her suffering some heartburn, but in the end it proved to be a winner.  Customers clamored to take advantage of this deal and in addition to ridding the shelves of some targeted product that needed to go, many customers invariably added other "non sale" items to their baskets.

Finally, Roze called EVERY SINGLE PERSON on her list to personally invite them to the shindig.  Note that she only spent two hours on the phone.  I know that those phone calls aren't easy to do, but do them anyway!  They are very effective.  Remember:  I only went to the event because I had received the phone call! I spent almost $150  and then called Roze the next day to ask her to pull another $150 worth of sale yarn for me.  What can I say?  It made sense to buy it on sale.  I need it to finish the afghan that I haven't even started yet.  Yup, it makes perfect sense.

I guess I can use my hair budget this time around.   Sigh.  What can I say?  A crafty girl needs her crafty stash.  But I digress...

Roze's sales greatly exceeded her expectations---she sold $10,000 of product over the course of the week-end.  No advertising expenses, just planning and focus.  She got rid of old wool inventory just as we are heading into a Florida summer.   Good job, Roze!  You do not need an anniversary to stage a party.   Celebrate Spring if you have nothing more creative....get some wine, a fruit plate or two, and get going!  You can find some quick and easy marketing ideas in this post and a marketing calendar listing zany promotions ideas can be found here!




Motivated?  Good!  Now put down that bag of Cheetos and get off the couch.  Trade in those fuzzy slippers and sweatpants for your short skirt and cute sandals.  Be a walking advertisement for your store.  Get your employees behind you  and  make it happen! You are strong, you  are powerful, you are a RETAIL SUPERSTAR!    C'mon...you can do it!

Ready, set, GO!




In other news.....


On my studio table:

 My industrial metal kitchen table needs the softness of a runner.  The green one that I had been using was recently gifted away.  Accordingly, I need a quick replacement.  In an effort to effect some sort of a cosmic payback for my recent yarn indulgence..ahem... I am currently working on a wet felt/needle felt table runner that will utilize my scrap wool. There will be nothing purchased for this project, No Sirree.  I just laid out the first layer....an apple green that is definitely NOT my favorite color. It will be interesting to try to turn it into something I love.  Stay tuned....tutorial to follow soon!
 


Speaking of tutorials....Part II of the Embedded Crystal Cuff tutorial is now available for download here.  It is free, it is easy, give it a try!

If you missed Part I, check it out!




An Attitude of Gratitude really does make life sweeter.   I shared a poignant moment with my oldest son yesterday that made me pause for a moment of quiet appreciation for my many blessings.  Jake recently moved to L.A.  Jake---the silly young man pictured at right---has stars in his eyes and is chasing  his dream.  I am really proud of his fortitude and his focus but I miss him like crazy.  Yesterday he called me and I could tell that he was a bit shaken.  He shared something that appeared to be nothing more than a moment in time when it happened, yet it turned out to have a profound impact on him.

Jake was in the train station last week when a young kid (he described him as a young traveler/"gypsy" sort of kid...kind of a lost soul with a gentle disposition and a tattooed face) came up to him out of the blue and asked to borrow his cell phone.  Jake handed it over, got it back, and went on his way without a second thought.  Yesterday he got a call from a frantic Mom hoping against hope that Jacob might hold the key to her child's whereabouts.  The kid had gone missing and Dad had flown into town and was randomly driving the streets of  L.A. hoping to find him in a city of millions.  Mom got Jake's number from the person her son had last called and that is where the trail ended.   He had to tell her that he didn't have a clue and the woman fell apart.  What a nightmare for her.    I am so grateful for a close and connected family and hope that you will join me in sending out a prayer for that mom and her son.



So, yes...times are tough, every sale is harder today than it was yesterday, but I am really, really grateful for what I have in my life.   

What are you most grateful for today?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Politics and other Scary Stuff

WARNING:  THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL "Crafty Retailer" POST.  I am violating every marketing rule ever written, but I am going to do it anyway.  Yup...I am a rebel---a middle aged outlaw----and a  fairly intense human.  I have always "pushed the envelope" and sometimes it works.  Other times....not so much.  In any event, the middle of the road is a place I rarely travel.   I have a tendency to speak my mind even when it works against me.  I have been that way ever since I was a kid.

 FLASHBACK:  6th grade Student Council elections.  After a "primary" it had come down to me versus Jimmy, a cute hippie boy that I was crushing on.  The 25 students in my class were told to write the name of their candidate on a slip of notebook paper.  Crush be damned....I was on pins and needles as the teacher counted the slips.  Yippee!   I won the vote 18 to 12! 


  Oops.  25 kids, 30 ballots.  

Chicago style politics in Sarasota, Florida, circa 1972.   I debated whether I should remind the teacher that there were only  25 kids in the class.   What to do?  What to do?  Gee whiz....I really wanted to be on Student Council!  What to do?  What to do?  Of course, the safest bet was to keep my 11 year old  mouth shut.  After all, I didn't do anything wrong!  I didn't bribe my classmates to cast more than one ballot.  It wasn't my fault that the teacher couldn't count! My stomach hurt.   Despite a brief wrestling match with my conscience,  I ultimately pointed out the obvious and we voted again.  I lost by a wide margin.  Paybacks are hell.  But ya know what?  My stomach didn't hurt any more.  I didn't have a crush on Jimmy anymore, though.

My stomach hurts now.  It has been hurting for months.  The political nightmare we are living is making me nuts.  I can usually deal with the tumult by gardening, felting, crocheting, or some other crafty endeavor.  Those  are my "thumb suck" activities and generally work to soothe me.  It isn't working.  I hate making people uncomfortable....I am in sales for God's sake!...so like most rational people I try to monitor my public speech in an effort not to offend anybody or ruffle any feathers.  I will go for months keeping my most controversial thoughts under lock and key....doing deep breathing exercises and praying for restraint all the while.

But you know what?  I feel as though I am going crazy...kind of like Alice after having fallen down the rabbit hole!  The country is changing...right before my eyes.  I am screaming in my head.  I want to ring some sort of an alarm, connect with kindred spirits, etc.  but  all I see around me are folks watching Reality TV and eating cheese doodles.  

This is bigger than politics...it matters little whether you consider yourself on the Left or on the Right of the political spectrum.   We are fundamentally changing the country.  Is it for the better?  We are approving entitlements that we cannot possibly afford and are obstreperous in our refusal to accept the fiscal reality facing us.  Where is our common sense?  I see a country that is morphing into an entity which is unrecognizable.  Something that is markedly different from the America I grew up in.    A country that is starting to look more Socialist than Republic (note:  we are a Republic, NOT a Democracy).  Am I imagining it?  Does anybody else see what I see?  Is anyone else getting a little nervous?

QUERY:   Does my concern make me a Racist Right Wing Religious Nut? 

HELL, NO!    

I am ever so weary of the politicians who try to pigeon hole me!

They do it to scare people and it is MARKETING BULLSHIT. It is not reality so why do so many people buy into it?  I mean, I am sure that there are tobacco chawin' gun totin' bigoted right wingers out there, but I don't have any in my social circle.  Frankly, I don't even KNOW anyone like that!

I am not Christian.  I am not rich.  I am not racist.  I do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.  I am a middle aged Jewish artist with a belly button ring and a hankering to get my nose pierced.   My daughter is trying to talk me into getting a tattoo with her when she turns 18. "C'mon, Mom!  It will be a bonding experience!"   I might actually do it if I can find a part of my body that is completely hidden and  resistant to sagging.  I haven't found it yet. ...

But I digress.....

I do not care what color you are, who you worship, what you smoke or who shares your bed.    My son's girlfriend has plans to move in with him in a few months.  No sweat.  I lived with my husband before I married him.  We have been married for almost 26 years.   We consider it our responsibility to be charitable...we recently paid for a young Filipino girl's education.    It wasn't in our budget and we had to sacrifice to make it happen but we thought it was the right thing to do.   She had been kicked out the the World Vision program because she got pregnant.  She needed a future...a plan to support herself and her child.  We could help.  So we did.    Get it?  I am a child of the 1970s.  I don't want THE MAN keeping me down. But I don't want him propping me up, either!   Does this fit the media image of  a political conservative?   Nope....and yet that is also part of who I am.  I am an unrepentant CAPITALIST.   I have spent the last three years working like a demon to pay down debt I incurred because I made poor business decisions.  My problem, my responsibility.  I did not ask for a bailout or public assistance.  I love the Constitution.  I believe that the men who wrote it were divinely inspired and I am more than a tiny bit troubled by our politicians, their vision for the future, and the impact on the country I love.  I cannot know what is in the president's heart, but his philosophy appears to differ markedly from my own.
 
[OMG!  Did I really just type that out?  For the whole world to see?  I hope I used my invisible ink!]

 We all look at the world through our own individual lenses.  My perspective is my reality and your perspective is your reality.   I totally get that and I would love for you to share what it is that you see.  Do you think I am crazy?  It is totally possible...tell me where I am wrong.    Please give me some facts to support your position.   Are we on the right path?  Will the road  we are on lead to something good for your business?  Your family?   How do you see it?  Are you shocked?  Chagrined?  Asleep? Are you educating yourself?  Following the congressional votes?   Let's open a dialogue, here.  I am a kind, compassionate human.  I don't fit society's stereotypical image of a conservative.   I do not want sick children to go without medical care or poor old people to eat dog food.  Similarly, it is probable that you don't fit into the box society has created for "typical Obama supporter," either.  Let's talk...maybe we will all learn something.  You can be anonymous if you wish.

Allrightythen! 

Too much information?  I am still the same gal ... now you know just a bit more a bit  more about me.  I hope that  you don't have smoke spewing from your ears.  I hope your brain has not exploded.   I really hope that we can still be friends and share a blogging good time and that you will continue to read my tutorials and buy stuff from me despite my gauche breach of political correctness!  My brilliant business major son urged me not to hit the send button  because he thinks that it will be my self destruct button...but a gal has to do what a gal has to do and I have faith in you, dear reader.

Keeping it real is kind of scary....but at least my stomach doesn't hurt anymore.  

 
EMBEDDED CUFF TUTORIAL, Part II

It is finished!  The piece is finally finished!  I love my new cuff bracelet and I hope you do, too.

I was delighted by the response I received to Part 1 of the Embedded Crystal Cuff tutorial and I have finally finished the piece.   I was originally looking forward to making a camouflage themed cuff, with lots of greens, browns, and black.   However, once I got the base felted, I couldn't seem to get moving on to the embellishment stage.  Every time I looked at the  piece, my hands and heart remained uninspired.  Bummer!  However, I have learned over the years that I need to go where inspiration takes me, so I decided to forget about the project for a while, leaving it to ruminate in the back corners of my addled brain.  A  KILLER FIND at a local estate sale, combined with  a peak at Kelly Burn's use of chain on the cover piece of Bead Unique magazine, got my creative juices flowing again.

I snagged a wonderful assortment of sewing embellishments at an estate sale last week...including a BAKELITE belt buckle!  YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY!  The lacy bits got me thinking.....Kelly's chain usage got me ruminating....and soon I was on a roll!

LOOK FOR THE TUTORIAL TO BE POSTED ON FRIDAY, MAY 6.


We are still waiting for a few slowpokes to get their photos in from the April Craft Challenge, but the ones that we have gotten have been pretty darn amazing!  We will have pictures of all of the projects as well as information about the creative process and the identity of the artists posted on the website by the beginning of next week.

Each participants received the kit pictured below---at no charge:
What a delight to see the varied and disparate collection of pieces!  Here are just a few examples of the stunning  submissions that we have received so far:

Pamela Maxfield, the talented owner of Bello Modo and her right hand employee, Shelly Haas crafted this incredible piece at right.

I found the asymmetrical quality of the piece very appealing.  The fiber flower packs extra punch with the addition of the Hot Fix Crystal Rock.  It is a statement piece that is a real show stopper!


Hannah Rosner of Good River Gallery did the incredible cuff bracelet pictured at left.  Hannah is an incredibly talented artist who seems to possess an unlimited bag of talents.  Be sure to check out her blog post on the piece, which details her creative journey!


Barbara Howard used our components and seed beads to paint the incredible picture highlighted above.  She actually embroidered the piece on a leather shirt!  Barbara had this to share about her piece:

My theme is the famous Foot Prints in the Sand. I used taupe pearls as the foot prints, the Swarovski squares for my camp fire on the beach, The Iron on Swarovski’s as the rock in the water, The Swarovski rings and gold pearls and seed beads for the sun and its rays.


Brand new felter Linda Ratka impressed me with her sophisticated hat!  It is nuno felted and hand sewn...truly a visual feast!

I first met Linda when she participated in the Nuno Felted scarf workshop that I taught for Swarovski this year.  Linda has clearly gone on to bigger and better things!  Way to go!





Thank you to all who have participated!  We have a new Challenge kicking off June 1....stay tuned for the details!




COMING NEXT WEEK:  Frugal Marketing Ideas for the Financially Challenged Retailer.