Friday, February 8, 2013

The Pep Squad

Now that my studio is much more workable – and becoming more so every day – I feel added pressure to produce, create, succeed... I have no reason to fail now, right? I have every tool, all the time, all the space, right? No excuses...

But I really can’t look at things in that way; so black and white and absolute. That’s what crushes creativity...that thinking creates fear. Fear not only crushes creativity, it crushes a lot of other things we were meant to enjoy in life. It’s the greatest enemy of love and joy and creativity and freedom.

I’m going to have to keep at being my own pep squad - silently cheering myself on when my mind starts thinking I'm losing the game. Forget ‘no excuses’, ‘no fear’ is what I’m focusing on. Every day that I take steps with that focus in mind is a win...for me and, eventually, for my business.

I took some more pics today; things are getting better in that department every day. I was shooting more to test the light than for the composition of the picture itself so they look a little plain. But...this was on a very gray day and I think with the editing I did in Photoshop, they’re acceptable for adding to the shop. That’s way encouraging.

With a few more details and some more effort at composition, miracles (like shop openings) could happen!

These are my babies, my buddies, my studio cats, etc. (also known as Chloe and Gracie). You know it’s cold here when these two share a bed!

Mr. Bee has built a fire in the library/den/thingy room; I’m heading out there to heat up my old bones.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Silver Linings

 I got a slow start this morning. My brain felt a bit thick, foggy, which is not surprising because that coincides with the weather outside...thick and foggy. I hoped the sun was going to come out at some time, but not one little ray found it to our corner of California today.

I’ve been incredibly frustrated these past few days as I’m sure my recent entries indicate. One day last week, I even wrote a blog entry promising pictures later in the afternoon and it never happened. Because every picture I took that day was so bad I couldn’t make them right no matter how much editing I attempted. I’ll never make the mistake of over-blog-promising again!

Turns out taking pictures outside with large, inanimate subjects was much easier than trying to capture smaller, more ephemeral subjects like paper goods - especially white paper goods - indoors. So I was churning a little bit this afternoon.

To forestall tearing out of hair, I called my Wonderful Neighbor Vickie...we both needed a break so she popped over for a visit. We discussed my stumbling block with pictures and she said “you need to give up that perfectionism”. Then I showed her the shots I took this morning and she said “you need help”. See!! It’s not just my imagination or some fear of failure or something. I really am bad at taking pictures.

There is, though, a potential silver lining. It turns out that Wonderful Neighbor Vickie's son’s girlfriend is taking photography classes and might have some skillz; photography skillz! I get to meet her on Friday to pick her brain and discuss solutions. Woo hoo. 

Oh – there was another silver lining, too. Wonderful Neighbor Vickie loves all of my products and bought two before leaving. How's that for enouraging?!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Happy Accidents!

This morning was my quick job at the doctor’s office and then back home for work. Still have a lot to get done, for heaven’s sake!

Making progress on the pictures... I’ve found one thing for sure; taking pictures with my phone is not the best way to go if I’m looking for quality. I mean, that probably seems obvious to a lot most of you but I’ve seen some great photos taken with phones. I thought it might work for me. Just sayin’...

I’ve finally gotten some color products. Pink and red for Valentine’s Day – although I’ve almost missed the window on that holiday! – but I’m glad that those colors will work year round, too.


I’m really liking the dotted-swiss glassine envelopes. They were created by happy accident...I was embossing something else and one of the envelopes snuck in. It looked great so they’re going in the shop as card, favor or gift envelopes. Hope others like them as much as I do.


Tomorrow will be in studio all day - which I’m typically not on Monday or Tuesday – so I’m looking forward to seeing exactly how much I’ll accomplish. Feeling positive on all fronts at this point and I swear the re-launch will happen tomorrow – even if it’s only one product!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Stay Off of My Pink Suede Shoes

We watched a movie this weekend – The Paperboy. WORST. Movie. Ever. Okay, that’s of the 5 worst movies I’ve ever seen. And that includes TV movies, peeps. Man, it was disgusting. I just read a review that called it ‘a sleazy mishmash’. Kay? Don’t pay any money to see it. Seriously.

This is what I saw when I walked into my bedroom after getting coffee this morning:

In case you hadn't heard...I have a little bit of a shoe obsession. I love high heels even though I don’t have many places to wear them. Apparently, I’ve passed this obsession on to Gracie, our youngest kitten. Doesn't she look blissful. Maybe she’s dreaming about pink suede shoes. Stay off of my pink suede shoes, Gracie!

On the shop front: I’ve done the descriptions for my products and they’re in the shop. I’m still working on pictures. I read some things – suggestions, tips, pointers – on etsy this weekend that'll help me. I was somewhat encouraged, in reading through the forums, that almost everyone struggles with this part of the business – it’s just not intuitive for most of us.

Each item is allowed 5 pictures and I think that all 5 should be used, if possible. The pictures are what actually sell the goodies, after all, so it matters a lot. Just keeping at it, hoping to get better each day.

Before I go...looooove this...too rich for my budget, though!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Breaking The Blogging Rules?

I have a list of things I must accomplish today; the shop reopens tomorrow. I’m thinking about having 10 products for opening but, as always for me, the pictures are last blog entry is evidence of that! Those pictures all had a slightly blue tint - and they were the good ones! – but I don’t, personally, like to read blogs without pictures so I published with less than stellar shots.

There are so many factors that affect photographs because there are so many factors that affect light: time of day, time of year, available light sources, direction of light, blah, blah. You all get it and I get it but it’s going to take me time to learn about all that stuff together to turn out decent images. I’m up for the challenge...

In the meantime (probably doing something that breaks blogging 'rules' here), I'm publishing this post without pictures for all of you morning readers and I'll update this afternoon to add pictures from the day. Let me know if you find it frustrating. I'll try not to make it a habit!

Now back to that product list: gift box kits, glassine envelope wrap sets, mini garland kits, love notes and one paper craft kit. Oh – a few sticker/label sets as well. Lots of cute stuff (hey, Valentine’s Day is coming!) with more to come.

Next (while learning photography, developing products and filling orders (fingers crossed!)) is marketing and spreading the word about Industrial Country on etsy.

Speaking of etsy, I know it’s a great source for a lot of the things I still need to learn. There are videos and blogs and discussions and all kinds of things that can assist shop owners in becoming successful. I know I sound like an ad - not what I’m aiming for – but I’m just thinking out loud... I need to spend more time there picking up tips I can implement here.

Back to work now, back here with pictures this afternoon!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cotton Candy

The Weekend:
Laundry: Check; Movie (PPV): Check; Laundry (a lot of laundry!): Check; Church: Check; Naps: Check. It was a pretty standard weekend here at Industrial Country Worldwide Headquarters. Besides the above, I also created a few more test designs and refined others. With a look at opening the store this week, I want to finalize the few products I’m launching with and continue testing new ones.

This is one of my current favorite tests (please ignore cardstock color – I use scraps to cut test designs):

I love how it turned out but it’s so complex that it took awhile to cut – if I remember, about 15 minutes. That’s way too long to make production 'money-smart' right now but I’ll keep it filed in case I grow large enough to buy a high speed cutter; this design would be more manageable then. It'd be so pretty in white or pink or red, maybe even black. I should make a gift box with this design for Mr. Bee's Valentine's Day present - I'll take a few pictures if I do.

These just arrived at Industrial Country.

So cute! Love polka dots.. They'll be debuting at an etsy shop near you soon.

I’ve also finished the little heart garland kit; it takes about 5 minutes - tops - to put together and adds a little Valentine’s touch to any space. It’s double-sided so you can hang one over a doorway or over the bathroom mirror or on your cube wall at work...wherever it strikes your fancy. There’ll be a few of these kits in the store when it opens so you can get one for you and one for your love.

Speaking of love...I Love (capital L) baker’s twine; it’s old fashioned, it’s cotton, it’s sturdy, it’s cute! I love, even more, that it comes in so many great colors now; happy colors and bright, they look like tiny little candy sticks (that makes it cotton candy, right?). I want to make so many things with this twine: pom-pom garlands, wraps for votive candles, embroidered tags and cards - all kinds of cute stuff. As usual, more ideas than time but that's a great problem to have...I'm not complaining!

Speaking of ideas, I'm getting back to work.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Storage Dreams

 This is my (no longer secret) dream. have not only that level of organization but that style. Do you really think there are people out there who live like that? It’s all organized and pretty around them? Do you think they put everything away when they’re done using it? I know I’m not that person, not even close. But they must exist out there...

Organization is a watch word for me in 2013. I know it’s a watch word for just about everyone in January but I’m hoping to carry it all the way through the year. And my studio is at the top of the list for immediate reorg. It actually has been for awhile.

Here’s how my studio looked yesterday (at least one wall of it):

Here’s how it looks this morning:

A little neater, a little cleaner, a little tidier...

I’ve been gathering together and paring down and throwing out and rearranging for months now. Not, you know, 40 hours a week but I thought about it a LOT (which should count for something) and made several small attempts at rectifying things. And then it happened; I started working in here exclusively (as opposed to the family and/or dining rooms) and it just wasn’t working.

So I’ve moved and tossed and moved again - it’s already working better for me. Certainly, getting that little stand and printer off of my work desk made a huge difference. But there’s much more to do. Like the other 3 walls (which I can't bear to show). They’re worse than this wall started out!

It’s happening out of necessity, really. The more chaotic my surroundings are, the less energy I’ll have for business. And that’s not good.

So chaos is out, order is in. And that’s very good!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slick Counters

 I looked at my blog using my phone yesterday. Shock and horror! My pictures weren't displaying. Such a rookie mistake...  I fixed the links this morning, though, so we're back in business (she said, blushing).

 I did do a little unconventional baking this weekend, and it worked. As promised, here are a few pictures:

I mixed up a spice cake batter, thinning it a little bit by adding an extra ¼ cup of milk. Then I just heated up the waffle maker and started filling it with the cake batter. The first one was a mess! I put waaay too much batter in the test waffle and it overflowed onto the counter and stuck all over the machine. Waffles two and three were progressively better and 4-36 were perfect. By number 12, I was cruising...until I knocked over the open bottle of Wesson oil. That took a while to clean up, believe me, we had some slick counters for awhile.

The rest of the weekend was the normal stuff: hanging out, watching movies, naps and church. Lovely and very nice to have that extra holiday Monday to do more of the same!

On Tuesday, I worked a few hours in my doctor’s office, preparing her billing statements, etc. I do it every week. It’s a huge blessing for me as she has a retainer-based medical practice; working for her helps to offset the cost for my husband and me (my husband is self-employed and I’m (currently) unemployed; we have no health insurance). We are happy to have a great doctor; she’s literally been a life saver for me.

Speaking of unemployment, more designs are coming off the cutter almost as we speak! I’m working primarily on paper products for Valentine’s Day, weddings and showers. I have hundreds of ideas...for signs, pillows, dish towels, accessories (more home d├ęcor stuff) floating around in my head but they’re all going to have to wait until after Industrial Country at etsy is back up and running again.

Which, I hope, is next week.


P.S. – The mouths at my house didn’t care for the waffle/cakes so I never made the icing I was planning on: cream cheese, maple, cinnamon. Yummy...which is why I didn’t make it...I would have had to eat it all!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Putting It Into Practice

Happy Friday!

So glad to be here this morning...

During my ‘hiatus’, I tried to keep my hands in researching, designing, and/or creating whenever I had spare time. I keep up with a few blogs and was inspired, while hopping around a little, by what I saw going on out there on the old www.

I’ve always loved tools. I think it’s because they look cool and they’re functional. I don’t own too many ‘manly’ tools but I do have a few great ‘crafty’ tools. My very favorite - by far- is my Silhouette Cameo.

I bought it in November, toward the end of the month, when I sold a friend some things I had to raise the cash. It's been in fairly regular use since then - I’m actually a little afraid I’m going to wear it out! I’ve created quite a lot of things that'll be added to my etsy store over time.

 A few in development now:

Creating products takes design and test and redesign and refine, etc. until it can go into ‘production’. That’s why my studio floor frequently looks like this:


If I had my way, I’d bring new products to my store every many as I could design. The problem arises, of course, when it comes to testing and production. I don’t hate or even dislike these phases; they just aren’t my favorite so I’m much slower at them. And that can, potentially, be very bad for my business. Handmade/small-batch made products don’t create and sell themselves, after all!

It’s always an effort at balancing and, especially to me, not over committing. As a child at holidays, I used to hear “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” because I could rarely finish all of the food on my plate - but everything on the table looked so good! As a designer, I feel much the same – I’d like to produce (rather than consume) everything in my mind - it’s all going to be so fun! - but that's completely unrealistic.

I know that the more I learn to balance all of the needs of the business, the better off my business (and by extension, I) will be. Of course, the knowing is one thing. Putting it into practice is another!

Speaking of practice...I think I’m going to try to do some unconventional baking this weekend. If it turns out bad, I’ll tell you about it next week. If it turns out well, I’ll tell you about it and show you pictures next week!
Speaking of balance - time to get back to work...


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pleasures and Pitfalls

Hello again!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve been here; a lot has transpired in the last few months and I’ve just been going with the flow...a LOT of family things have been priorities and, frankly, that’s the way it had to be.

I apologize for my absence and like I said, a lot has transpired but now I have the opportunity to pursue my business (almost) full time - I’m going to grab it and go! I am in my studio that smells faintly of cat poo and vanilla, writing to you about the pleasures and pitfalls of ‘self employment’. Yes, cat poo. I don’t care how fast you scoop, when the space heater is on, the poo smell lingers. Hence the vanilla candle. And no, I don’t have the cat poo genie yet (I don’t know why they call it a litter genie, it’s not 'litter' you put in there) and I’m not saying I’ll get one, either.

But, I digress.

Back to business which, speaking business has had to change since its last incarnation. It’s very difficult to lift and move furniture with chronic back problems. Given that’s the case, I’ve designed some new stuff – paper goods, home goods, kits and even some vintage – that I’ll use to renew/restock/relaunch my etsy store. Although the vintage goods won’t include large pieces, vintage will never be completely out of my heart or home, so I’m going to have to keep shopping for it, yes? It'll be different than my first intention but that's one of the pitfalls of self employment, sometimes reinvention is necessary, whether you like it or not.

Another thing about self-employment (especially as a sole proprietor/employee/designer/creater/janitor and human relations department) is that sometimes life, the real stuff, interferes. For example, I had intended to start blogging last week but then that flu (or gastroenteritis, as my doctor insists on calling it) decided I was going to wait longer. I really didn’t have the strength to argue...

So that’s how it is. Going forward, I may blog every day. I may blog every other day. I may blog for a week straight and then take 4 days off. Don’t hate’s just the way things are for some one who is self-employed (etc., see above), working out of my home with limited resources of time and money. I may throw a little faith, a little politics,  a few recipes and a lot of family stories into the mix to keep things interesting (okay, maybe not so much on the recipes...) but that’s the way my life really is - all jumbled together, faith and family and business and fun – every day. It's just the way I roll...

By the way, LOVE this... . Very cute and functional.

Until next time!


P.S. - The smell is gone now, thankfully. Talk about the pitfalls of self employment!