Thursday, January 19, 2017

Favorite Things

Another random corner of my house -- this time, the living room.  The art is all by an early 20th century commercial artist named Haskell Coffin.

Most of it is advertising  art -- calendar girls, movie star portraits, etc. -- but the one in the center is my favorite, and the first piece of his that I bought.  She's a cut-down WWI-era poster for war saving stamps.  The poster originally read "Joan of Arc Saved France -- You Can Save Too."

I've seen the whole poster on Ebay, and it's not that expensive, but this is how I found Joan, and a friend framed her for me, so that's how she'll stay.

All the art in the living room is by the same artist.  I love that era of commercial illustration, and for a while he was very easy to find.  (Not so much anymore, possibly because I acquired most of it).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Force for Good

I share a lot of recycling art and random eco-friendly things that interest me over on my shop's Facebook page (every Tuesday, if you're so inclined to check it out), but this one was interesting enough (and long enough) to also put it here.  (Source is Huffington Post).

This is an amazing business model, using every single thread of fabric that other manufacturers have already discarded.  What would the world look like if more businesses operated like this?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Now We are Six

This photo is from our second anniversary dinner (four years ago), shortly before I broke the news to Mario that I wanted to quit my job in April and try doing my own thing.

I was wearing my wedding dress (which I am not certain still fits, and I'm not trying it on tomorrow to risk hurting my feelings; besides, it's cold).  Mario was wearing the aqua shirt that I made for the wedding, as well.

He was looking particularly curly that night, which means as part of my anniversary gift, he let me scrunch his hair up and resisted combing / brushing / pulling his hands through it and straightening the curl.  At least until after the waiter took the picture.

Now that's love, people.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Favorite Things

My godmother's secretary desk, filled with random
 relative treasures that I can't part with, topped
by two taxidermied ravens. Because why not?
I'm trying to put more time into developing my vintage Etsy shop this year.  It's been around longer than the handmade shop, and has consistent sales, but up until recently it's had no Facebook presence.  As tired as I can get of social media, it does help with sales.

In some respects, vintage is easier, sales-wise.  People know those things exist, they just have to search for them.  With handmade, you have to anticipate not only what people will want, but how they're going to search for it.

On the other hand, it's a lot easier for me to do Instagram or Facebook about the handmade shop, because I'm more invested in the products -- I make them, after all, and I like to talk about them.

So a new feature on the vintage shop's Facebook page will be a Favorite Things post, photographs of vintage items in their natural habitat (i.e., my house).  That way it's not all product placement -- which Facebook's algorithm doesn't push at people, even if they follow the page -- and it's more personal.  Plus, I do love my vintage pieces, and I like to talk about them.  So maybe this is a way into it for me, as well as others.

Plus, you all get a disjointed tour of my messy house this way.  (I don't know about you, but I love snooping into people's lives, so . . . )

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Girls

Amazing how long it takes to make the simplest changes sometimes.  I've had my embroidery machine for a few months now, but every time I made a batch of dolls, they went right out the door to a craft show and then most of them didn't come home.

Which is a very good thing, but when I'm supposed to keep up with Etsy as well as in-person events, not so much.  The custom doll listing still had the photos from when I hand embroidered the faces, and after explaining to several buyers that the dolls no no longer looked precisely like the photos, I knew I had to get myself together and update my pictures.

Problem solved.  I had a few girls left post-Christmas and just made a new batch to drop off to stores this coming week.  I also did something logical and added a photo showing the 3 skin tones available for dolls, instead of just explaining that they can be made in light, medium or dark.  It's easier to say that hair is available in light and dark blonde, red, brown and black (plus fun colors), but everyone's idea of skin tones can vary.  This will hopefully clear up most questions.

Is there any other information you think should be included in the listing?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow Day

I'm not sure how much exercise I would ever get if this place wasn't in my neighborhood.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


My favorite orders are always the custom ones.  I love seeing what people come up with -- the thing they could never find, or a recreation of a long-lost toy.  Recently I was contacted on Etsy by someone who wanted a specific doll for her daughter.  A doll that isn't made.

Her daughter is in love with the grandmother character of a cartoon show that I've never even heard of.  There are dolls of the major characters, but Abuela didn't get a doll.  And that's who her five year old daughter wanted for Christmas.  When Christmas came, she was disappointed.  And then her mom thought to try Etsy, to see if anyone could make one.

The mom sent me a photo of the character -- which I'm not going to put up because it's licensed and I'm not and it's not an exact replica anyway, just an "inspired by," but still -- and I got to work.  The only fabric I didn't have on hand was light gray for the hair, but luckily the thrift store down the street had a pale gray men's shirt on the dollar rack.  I used the lower portion of the sleeve, so I still have a whole large shirt left for other projects.

I'm really loving my machine embroidered faces.  The hand embroidered ones had a different feel, but even when I was really moving, I couldn't do ten faces in a day -- and in busy season, that sometimes is what needs to be done.

All the other fabrics I had on hand -- the bright pink was the pocket from a skirt, the paisley was the back half of a vintage skirt that I'd cut up ages ago, the lace was two separate bundles of hem lace that probably arrived in a cookie tin from one or another elderly female relative.

She went to the post office on Tuesday, in time to arrive for a special birthday party this Saturday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I've Still got Class

6 girls, 16 weeks, 18 pieces
At the mid-point of every semester, I decide I'm not going to teach the next time around.

Three times now I've made this decision, and three times now I've changed my mind.  They're little monsters, but they're starting to be my little monsters.

When the fall semester started, I panicked.  Sixteen weeks seemed like an eternity, and then I got an idea -- I would "suggest" to them that they do a service project, making stuffed toys to donate to our local Red Cross House.  I wasn't sure how the idea would fly, charity without a choice, but the other idea, a half dozen 10-12 year old girls all wanting to make different things, would drive me over the edge.  Not only that, it would make supply-gathering much more difficult.

Surprisingly, they were all for it.  Every so often there'd be grumbling about keeping a piece, but they were always shamed out of it by one of the other girls.  Eventually, with the holidays approaching, I instituted the "make three, keep one" rule.  Whenever a piece was finished, I bagged it and took it home so there would be no problems.

The Tuesday before Christmas was the final class, and, like the Grinch, I brought everything back.  We set it up in the main room for the parents to see when they came to pick the girls up, and at the end, only two pieces ended up going home, and those had been made deliberately as Christmas presents.

Class starts again on January 10th.  I know I've got at least 4 of the same girls again, and probably all 6.  I asked for suggestions as to what they would like to make this semester, and two of them asked if they could learn to quilt.  Part of me wilted at the suggestion, but then I thought of the 3 large bags of scraps in the class cupboard, and agreed.  My supply order this time was enough batting to make 8 crib-size quilts, a little more polyfill for a few remaining stuffed animals (I know they're not totally over that) and a few random supplies that were running low.

It's been lovely having a break, but I'm actually almost ready to go back and face my little monsters again.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Resolutions. Sort of. Maybe.

City Hall - 2 weeks before Christmas.
Philly rarely looks this good.
I'm not big on making resolutions, mostly because it seems that the biggest challenge is getting them to last until my birthday at the end of the month.  If there's something I want to change, I start in when it occurs to me.

But here are a few general directions I want to go this year.  They aren't resolutions as such.  As follows, and in no particular order:

Be kind, but take no shit.  My biggest flaw is impatience, so I'm going to try to cut the world (and therefore myself) a break and not expect them to do my bidding -- or read my mind -- straight off the bat.  On the other hand, I have never suffered fools gladly and I'm going to call people on their crap a lot sooner, for all our sakes.

Be more of a pain in the ass.  This follows close on Be kind, but take no shit.  Because of temping and being busy with my business for the holidays, I haven't been able to be as involved as I'd like.  As of this week, I'll be joining in "Tuesdays with Toomey", which is a group of community members who visits our senator's office each week, attempting (in vain, thus far) to actually get the senator to meet with us, or even listen.  This is a man who has asked that federal funds be withheld from Philadelphia -- from his own constituents! -- because he doesn't like our status as a sanctuary city.  I may not have voted for you, dude, but you're still my senator, and you have to at least listen to me.

Keep focused on my business.  Things went well this year.  I'm doing end of year numbers and while my income didn't really increase much from 2015, I feel like I've gotten things more streamlined and under control, and now that I have a better idea of what works and what doesn't, it will be easier for me in the future to improve that.  The blog coverage this year that got me a lot of custom sales was a fluke, a lucky one, but it's taught me that pushing custom items in the shop is really the way to go.  I'll need a lot of ready-made inventory for shows, but custom work is also something that gets a lot of discussion in person, so I need to be ready.

Tech less, smile more.  I never wanted a smartphone, but I had to get one for craft shows so I could take credit cards.  It's also useful for monitoring Etsy when I'm not near my computer, answering questions from potential customers, and posting to Facebook and Instagram.  But enough already.  I make fun of the zombie apocalypse type all the time, and I don't want to become one of them.  Phone time will be of necessity and not for recreation.  If I have people around me, I'll talk to them.  If I don't, I'll do what my mom used to tell me to do when I was bored, "Shut up and make something."  She wasn't always right, but that's always been good advice.

Move.  The exercise resolution.  It doesn't have to be any one thing, and it probably shouldn't be, because if I get bored, I won't do it.  I'm not looking to suddenly have the body I never had as a 20 year old, but sitting at either a desk or a sewing machine is wreaking havoc on my ass (and also my back).  Since I run to the post office 2-3 times per week, and my local post office is near the cemetery, every post office run will now include 2 circuits around the cemetery.  I live in a house with a lot of stairs, and even though I try to be efficient and do as few trips up and down as possible, I may just stop being so efficient if the tradeoff is being more active.

More quality time with Mario.  Certainly  not end of the list, but least well-defined.  We spend time together, but the quality varies.  Less TV, less technology, more outdoor time, more joint projects.  If we both decided at a relatively late age that we wanted to get married and be together, we should actually do more together things.  For anyone reading anything into this, don't.  Things are fine, we're happy, our anniversary is coming up mid-month, but marriage, or any relationship, is always a work in progress and we're always in the process of figuring out how to make good better.