Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Want to Get Out My Flip Flops!

So have you ever had such a strong yearning for the warmer months? This year it seems like it is taking forever. Well when I think summer, I think flip flops and ladybugs. With that in mind my husband and I created Ceramic Flip Flop Keepsake Boxes, with a ladybug waiting to make you smile in each. We have a variety of colors available and are always willing to work with custom orders, so you're not limited to the colors listed.

Here are a few of the boxes we currently have on hand...

This mint green and burnt orange combination is as close to
Peapod Green and Coral as I could come.

This harvest gold and mint green combination is as close to
Beeswax and Peapod as I could come.

This color combination of lime green and burnt orange came to be
because I thought it would be interesting.

This one is one of my favorite combinations.
But I always think blue and yellow should go together.

This color combination always makes me smile
the purple is as close to Violet as I could come.

We have listed a set of four that you can pick the colors of.
The full color spectrum that is ready to ship!
We've also just taken orders for six custom colors.
So while I was waiting for all the photos to download during listing the boxes, I went window shopping for more flip flops and I found this great print by malibelle.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dreaming of a Summer Night's Dream

When we moved into the house we have occupied for going on 18 years it was an exciting time. There was a park four houses down to explore with our near four year-old son and lots of challenges inside and out. One night we walked home from the park just in time to see dragonflies swarming across our yard. We're not talking ten or twenty, there were hundreds - I dare say thousands. It was sight to behold, all these dragonflies dancing across our yard. They brought glimmers of shades of blue and brilliant greens as the evening sun reflected across their bodies and wings. It took my breath away.

That happy memory was the inspiration our newest keepsake box.

With all the negativity in our daily lives, I wanted to create something that symbolized the good times. While there are some negative connotations of the symbolism of dragonflies, I prefer to look at the positives. Different cultures believe that dragonflies symbolize: agility, victory, prosperity, harmony, good luck, happiness, speed and purity. Those concepts are just what I need some days how about you?

Wouldn't this keepsake box with dancing dragonflies make a great graduation gift,
or even a gift for someone who just got a new job. It's a great reminder of the things to come.
With the dragonfly theme in mind I went searching and found this great necklace by Black Sheep Beadery. She makes one of a kind beaded jewelry and has a great selection of items.

"Fly Away With Me" by Black Sheep Beadery

My other favorite would have to be this contemporary dragon fly painting by Susanna Shap at Modern House Art. It is truly a beautiful piece.

"Original Abstract Contemporary Fine Art- textured dragonfly flower modern palette knife painting" by Susanna Shap of Modern House Art

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Time Keeps on Slipping...

Does anyone out there struggle like I do with time management?

I would love to spend my day just working on my craft business, but alas life gets in the way. I grew up in an area known for our work ethic and strong family values. In the last few years I've found myself pulled in more ways than I can count. At any time I am juggling the men in my life, home, career, two businesses, a second job,  and anything else the good Lord sees fit to place on my plate.

First of all, the men in my life... I have three sons ranging in age from 15-21 and a wonderful husband of 23 years. My goal with my boys is to make sure they are self sufficient enough that they will never need to rely on anyone else to clean, cook or do laundry. I want them to realize that they are responsible for their surroundings and their debts (monetary and otherwise). I want them to realize that no matter how much they hate each other at one time or another that in the end they need each other. Each has his own endearing or not so endearing qualities.
Family vacation Summer 2010

The oldest has a strong sense of right and wrong. He has always stuck up for the underdog. He is my saver. He knows how to save his money for long term goals. By May 2012 he fully expects to graduate from college with a BA in Justice Studies and BA of Psychology. Over the years he has been one of my greatest joys and greatest thorns in my side. If he wants to he can argue the sky is green and convince you. He's always been the one who thought about the trouble he caused and how he was going to get out of it before he jumped.

Oldest son and his girlfriend
Family vacation 2010

My middle son is the typical middle child. He's been a ball of energy from the day he was conceived. My mom once described him as perpetual motion. We've focused his energy on sports over the years but that's not to say he's the typical jock. He earns every grade he gets - good or bad, mostly good. He spends every dime he earns. He also catches the most flack for his behavior; he's been the hardest to keep a thumb on. He'll graduate from high school in May 2012. He's quick with a hug and cuddly. He'd hand most people the shirt off his back. He sometimes jumps in without concern of the consequences. When he was younger his way out of trouble was to bat his big blue eyes, present his chubby cheeks and give a big hug with an apology... for a while it worked.
Youngest and middle son
Youngest's confirmation Summer 2010

The youngest has been the most difficult to pin down. His personality really didn't start to shine until middle school, but what an awesome personality he has. He was born early and had an oxygen deficiency, which has contributed to his past struggles with infections, asthma and a processing problem. We've worked through all this and now he's as individual as the other two. He excels at math, he's active in sports and has gotten past his disorganization of not handing things in. He's always been the "instigator." He'll start something between his brothers and step back and say "not me."

I always try to make sure they along with my husband come first.
All the boys plus me...
Family vacation summer 2010

Then you have everything else. I work full time for the local university. My husband owns and operates a quick lube and small repair shop that has been in his family for over 50 years, in one form or another. We have our ceramic business, that was brought in to help take away some of the stress from the down time at the quick lube. I do our book work for both businesses. The economic down turn has caused both of us to expand into second and third jobs. My mother-in-law is aging and I am considered her caregiver when things go wrong. With the boys coming and going the house is in disarray six out of seven days of the week. When the younger two are participating in sports one of us is generally there.

With all of this I'm trying to grow the ceramic business. We've always done craft shows and now we're expanding into the online marketplace. Many days I find myself coming and going. I have inventory that needs to photographed and posted. I have a consignment shop that needs inventory generated on a regular basis, and I have the orders that come through my husband's shop that need to be filled. We have a collection of molds that need to be sorted, shelved and logged. I need to make a photo catalog of the molds we have available to be able to sell bisque and greenware (this has been a six year long project so far). Somehow I am going to figure out how to get it all done.

In the past few years I've learned a very important word when it comes to my time - NO. Organizations that I am proud to be a part of are having to take a back seat. I attend the meetings I can and I'll donate anything but my time at this point. It's just far too precious a commodity.

So how do you solve your time management problems? I admit I don't deal with mine well all the time. There are days when things just don't get done, and others where it all gets done.

Can't forget the furry boys.
The only time to get a picture of the them together when their not chasing each other.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Great Opportunity

I'm so excited to offer this opportunity!

GrapeVine Ceramics is going to start an affiliate progam. I admit I'm stealing this idea from Handmadeology's post by GwenDelicious about increasing traffic to your store, but I really like the idea of driving traffic to my business whether it's my online presence on Etsy or my face-to-face presence at the shop and craft shows. I may even come up with a program for my husband's automotive shop.

It's a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned. My affiliates get to earn product and I get new customers at minimal cost. To become an affiliate, all you need to do is contact me and we'll get started. If you want more information before you jump in please see the Affiliate Program tab at the top of this blog.

I hope to hear from you soon, I can't wait to get started.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kansas Etsy Team

In my February 23rd post, I mentioned how I had joined several teams on Etsy. One of them is the Kansas Etsy Team. It is open to all Etsians that call Kansas home. It's a great group of people all promoting others from their home state.

If you look around you'll find: photography from Steve of Country Windows in Manhattan; upcycled items from Mary Ellen of MaryZoom in Goodland; soaps and lotions by Angie of Crimson Hill; and hand-stamped jewelry by Amber of Curiously Sappy in Prairie Village. We are definitley an eclectic group spanning the entire state. I can personally attest to the quality available from at least two that are mentioned and look forward to seeing what the others have to offer.

We chose as a group to participate in monthly challenges, the first of which was due March 5th. The following items have been submitted for your review:

To determine the winner we are asking you to vote for your favorite item at the Kansas Etsy Team Blog. The winner gets "bragging rights" at the choice of the theme for the next challenge.

If you would like to see what else the Kansas Etsy Team has to offer, search the Etsy site under "all items" by typing in "ket team" in the search window.

I have something that I think is really exciting to announce in my next post, so check back on Friday!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Versatile Blogger

I've been given the Versatile Blogger Award by Angie of Crimson Hill Soaps and Scents, a great fellow Kansas Etsy Team and Promotional Frenzy Team member. I think it is a great opportunity to pass it along to other deserving bloggers. Thank you Angie!

  1. Thank the person who awarded you and link back to them in your post.
  2. Tell 7 Random facts about yourself.
  3. Pass the award on to 15 new found bloggers.
  4. Contact each blogger you want to pass the award on to and let them know you've done so, and let the giver of your award know you accept it.
RANDOM Facts About Me
  1. I have three almost grown sons.
  2. I married my best friend of 34 years 23 years ago.
  3. I love to create.
  4. Nature keeps me in total awe.
  5. I sometimes wish I had been born in simpler times.
  6. I have a spoiled beagle named Max.
  7. I was always a Grandpa's girl.
Below is my list of fabulous blogs that deserve this award!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Craft Shows for Beginners

So you want to participate in your first craft show? But, where do you start?

First let me tell you, crafters on the whole are a great group of people to get to know. They are as passionate about their art/craft as you are about your own. They can also be the most helpful group of people you will ever meet. I can remember an outdoor craft show that Mother Nature thought it would be fun to throw some good old Kansas wind at. I remember trying to pull as many items off of my shelves as possible while my husband held on to the canopy and was lifted off the ground a couple of times. An older gentleman from the booth across the way saw what was happening and helped my husband stake down the canopy on two more points, with his own stakes. We had prepared for the possibilty, we had sand bags and some smaller stakes but we weren't ready for wind gusting 30-40 mph down the aisle. This gentleman didn't have to help us and he wouldn't take anything in exchange, therefore, we've paid it forward many times over.

I'd also like you to keep in mind that each and every show is a gamble. There are no guarantees that you are going to make money at any show. Many times you have to be in the right place at the right time. You can have the best looking booth at an event, but if you don't have the products that people in that area want they aren't going to buy. Everything from the weather, economic conditions (did a major employer just announce layoffs) and what other events are happening at the same time can affect your bottom line. That's not to say you can't succeed at every show, if sales are slow make sure you network, give out business cards, generate interest in your business. Remember those friendly crafters I mentioned above... they may be your best advocates, telling promoters and other vendors about you, which leads to more show opportunities and great connections.

My suggestions to get you started are:
  1. Do your homework. Find shows you want to attend and take the time to go see how they are run. Are the aisles kept clean, does it look professional, can you see your booth next to the majority of the vendors there? Are there a lot of booths with "buy/sell items?" Speak with the vendors and ask them how they like the show and if you're interested, how to find the show's organizer.
  2. If you can, start small. Get your feet wet in small shows. This will give you the chance to work through what works and what needs improvement. It also gives you a starting point to get those pictures of your booth setup that the larger show promoters want. My first show was run by the VFW Auxilliary in Victoria, KS. The booth rent was $40 for two spaces and we walked away with over $600 profit (needless to say I was hooked). I did that show every year until they could no longer find the volunteers to run it. If it were started up again, I'd be one of the first to sign up.
  3. Make lists. What do you need to take with you? I have a basic list that I update for each show.
  4. Make any necessary travel arrangements. If you are going to a show that is going to require a stay overnight book your hotel early, that way you can choose the rate and location of your lodging.
  5. Build up your inventory. Build your inventory to the point that you are comfortable. I have found that many times we take more than we will ever sell, but it is nice to have something to replace an item that has sold.
  6. Have promotional materials. Make sure you have lots of business cards (include your Etsy shop and any other website you have a selling presence on) and give them out - to potential customers, vendors, etc. Get your name out there. Even if you don't sell a dime a professional business card and smile can bring you contacts later down the road.
  7. Think booth space. I preset my booth and take pictures before every show. Keep in mind that the pictures are to be used as a map - and are never set in stone. Everything from the weather to how your neighboring vendors set up will affect your booth space. Be flexible and roll with the punches. Find table drapes that compliment your products and make them stand out. Think multi-dimensional, use risers and props to give your space some interest and feature specific items.

Preset of booth. We then pack down into boxes labeled by shelf
That way we don't have to go searching through our inventory to put it out.

But the most important things I can tell you is attitude is everything!

SMILE AND DON'T CROSS YOUR ARMS - I don't care if you are having a bad show, there are customers/vendors who travel from show to show and if you are grumpy at one they will avoid you down the road.

ACKNOWLEDGE everyone you can who stops just outside your booth with a hello. You don't have to push them in just let them know you realize they are there.

RELAX AND HAVE FUN - The more relaxed you are, the more you can visit about your products. The more you talk about your products to your potential customers and show how original or special they are, the better your sales.

TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM EVERY SHOW - What went well, what do you not want to repeat. Perfect your setup just like you strive to perfect your craft.

Ready to show - Liberal Kansas December 2010
See the light, my husband made that because we had shows with poor lighting

Other half of booth Liberal, KS December 2010

Close up of shelves Liberal, KS December 2010

Close up of back of booth - Liberal, KS December 2010