The Gala Artisan’s shop in Kensington. These guys organized the craft fair, and the shop is amazing!
My Booth at the Crest Gala Artisans craft fair
It is gray and gloomy, the rain is coming down in thick sheets outside, and I can’t believe that just two days ago I was frolicking amidst the Azaleas in my garden. What fresh madness is this?
Bad weather aside, I am feeling a little somber anyway today. I really shouldn’t be, I should be happy, excited, elated even, but I’m not.
Last weekend I took part in an indie craft fair run by these guys in Kensington, Maryland. Business was good, very good in fact. The Kensington folk seemed to like me and my products very much, and I sold out of almost everything. I must confess I wasn’t quite expecting that, I still have two more fairs to go this Spring.
Perhaps I should have taken some time to appreciate this little win, but I have always been a bit of a worrier. I hurriedly ordered more shirts and onesies online, and realized that I will need to get a large amount of printing, ironing and sewing done by my next fair on Memorial Day weekend (This is the first time I have needed to make more stock in between shows!).
The Root of my Fear?
I always expected that someday I would reach the point where demand would outstrip supply and I’d need to rethink my production processes, but I never really allowed myself to think about it properly. I think sometimes I’m so scared of making that turning point from tiny kitchen table business to proper label, that I subconsciously sabotage myself.
I have never made much of an effort to contact boutiques and shops, because I’m anxious about whether I could keep up with their demands. I’ve never taken part in trade fairs because, what if someone likes my work and orders a lot of it, and I can’t make enough to keep up with their needs, and I have no proper printing setup…kids will be home soon….what do you mean ‘extra homework?’…there’s not enough time…gah!
See what I mean? Total worrier. I’m sure there are other worriers out there like me. Maybe we could form a support group, Small Business Procrastinators Anonymous, any takers?
Well I guess a much needed turning point is here at last. It’s time to start getting faster, more efficient, and more professional; but where do I start? Do I need to explore new ways to make my shirts? Do I need to find someone to work with me? What do I do first? I’m all questions and no answers. I think I’ll go and drink tea, write a list and start putting my concerns on paper. I’ll be back with some plans soon!
*All mentoring and advice is appreciated, and thank you for joining me on my strangely shaped learning curve.
The crowds arrive
It’s that time again. The time of year when I start checking my weather app neurotically, line boxes of products up in the family room for everybody to trip over, and prepare my children mentally for the upcoming chaos. Yes, the Spring markets are here!!!
Now, I don’t actually do many markets. I know crafters that are booked solid every weekend through April, May, and June. Good luck to all you fine, dedicated, folk, may the sun shine bright for you, and may your wares sell plentifully. However, my enthusiasm for getting out there and selling products has been tempered by my enthusiasm for spending weekends doing stuff with my kids. When they are older, I will do ALL the shows, right now I’m on a very whittled down schedule. The schedule grows gradually as my kids do, I’m trying to find the right balance. Also, I’m still learning about shows that are out there, next year I want to do Handmade in Arlington for sure!
If you are reading this, and live close enough to the DC metro area to visit a market, do come and say hi! A vendor’s life can be lonely, so it’s good to meet people and make friends at these events. Speaking of which, here are the markets I’m doing this Spring:
- Gala/Crest Indie Craft Fair -Sunday April 24th 11am-4pm
Run by the Gala Artisans Store, this runs in conjunction with the Kensington Day of The Book festivities, and has kids’ activities.
- ViVA Vienna – Sunday May 29th – Monday May 30th 10am-6pm
Vienna VA’s memorial day festival is a big rollicking ball of fun. Apart from the market,where you can meet yours truly, there are carnival rides, performances, and it’s all in my hood!
- Old Town Arts and Crafts Festival – Sunday June 11 9am-6pm
Run by Volunteer Alexandria and held on the waterfront, a truly beautiful location. The Torpedo Factory Art Studios, and plenty of restaurants and boutiques are nearby.
See you there? I hope so!
Don’t Instagram, Facebook, and the rest, do a great job of making our lives and jobs seem a heck of a lot more interesting than they actually are?
Instagram is my favorite, it puts sparkles on everything, even my messy, outdated kitchen with scratched up cabinets. It’s the photo equivalent of bright red lipstick, or rainbow sprinkles on a cake. I do make pretty t-shirts, but Instagram makes them look even prettier, and it kind of gives me an unwarranted aura of professionalism. We all want our products, and indeed ourselves, to be shown in the best light possible, especially when we are just starting out.
This year, I started to think more about my business’s image, and how to build a cohesive look for my brand. Up until now, I have been mostly focusing on just getting my products made on time, and not so much on how they are marketed to the public. My clothes labels were often hand made in a hurry (that should be my tag line –Handmade in a Hurry!)and totally inconsistent with the style of my business cards, and other marketing materials. When I sent customers their Etsy orders, I’d wrap them in tissue, stick them in a bubble wrap mailer, and Bob’s your uncle!
I want to be more slick and organized, but right now I can’t afford to go the whole nine yards, hire a graphic designer and give my image a huge overhaul. So, taking tiny baby steps, I discovered a few companies that could help me get started with branding.
- First stop, Moo.com, I really like their easy to use design services. I designed me some sweet square shaped business cards, and some stickers, and clothes labels, all with a consistent style and font, using bright glossy Instagram images of my work on them. I’m also thinking of making a photo book of all my past designs, to use as a mini portfolio, with them.
- Then I customized a rubber stamp from Paper Source and Three Designing Women, so that I could spend less time slooowly hand writing my address on everything, and to give all my mail a cohesive and professional look.
- I put together a wrapping station for mail orders with all these new tools and rolls of bright yellow tissue paper bought in big rolls from DickBlick (yellow is a big obsession right now).
- Next, I’m going to go back to my textile design roots, to design my own signature repeat prints on fabric using Spoonflower.com. I already make my fabric labels with them, and would love to start using my own fabric on bags, and as linings on products. It would tie products together nicely, methinks.
- I have plans to print the same designs onto my paper shopping bags. Super excited about this.
I know all this stuff is just the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. But boy do the sprinkles make that cake look more inviting, and taste better. Pour on those sprinkles, baby! I’ll be back with photos of the fabrics.
I am more thankful than usual that it is a Friday, this week has been nothing but an uphill struggle.
First of all, there was/is the dark, dank weather, the howling wind, and the general feeling that Dementors are floating about in my neighborhood.
Then, seeing as it is Springtime (can you sense my sarcasm?), my nine year old has been sent home twice in one week with red, swollen eyes,a scratchy throat, and the need to ask questions every 30 seconds. Really, Spring? You were supposed to be my favorite season. A season of hope, warmth and optimism. We are done, I’m sticking my tongue out at you.
Also, for some reason, my laptop has gone mysteriously missing (I’m wondering whether to blame the kids or the Dementors). Too many interruptions to my work-flow, bye bye productivity.
I could write a post about work-flow, what it is, and how to get back into it; but I have to pick up my kids from the bus stop soon, so that will have to wait until next week. See what I mean? Absolutely no time to achieve a flow.
Instead, here is what I have managed to achieve this week:
- I printed, ironed and sewed a batch of 3-6 months onesies in softer colors, after realizing that I had completely and stupidly forgotten to print that size altogether during my big printing session!
- I made an inventory spreadsheet, so that I don’t make as many stupid mistakes the next time I print.
- I ate a lot of chocolate to ward off the Dementors, seeing as I can’t produce a fully formed Patronus charm. In the interests of full disclosure, I also ate Sriracha potato chips, and my five year old’s alphabet cookies, it’s been that sort of week.
- I worked on my curriculum for the Summer camps, while also researching projects on Pop Art for a local elementary school’s fundraiser night. This led to me getting a bit carried away on Pinterest, and forming fully fledged obsessions with Yayoi Kusama, and medieval jewelry, oh dear.
- I drew in my sketchbook for two evenings, even though I promised myself to draw every evening. I did, however, convince my five year old to sleep in his own bed every single night. Score!
- Books: I got half way through Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and a chapter of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, when I should have been sleeping, and listened to two thirds of The Half Blood Prince in my car. Consequently, my mind is a big, hot mess of fantasy and I’ve been having some fairly disturbing nightmares.
- The nine year old and I discovered nail polish that looks like sprinkles, and devoted way too much time to it.
- I have been drawing on mugs with Sharpies because it is fun. I’m trying to convince myself that it is research. I would like, at some point in the future, to start putting designs on ceramics, so maybe I wasn’t just frittering away time.
- I have been playing at graphic designer, and ordered some new business cards, stickers, and tags for the Spring shows.
- I went to the library to return some books, so I wouldn’t have to pay any fines, and got sucked into a book fair for an hour (I didn’t know about it, I swear!) when I should have been working.
- I spent an inordinate amount of time applying compresses to the nine year old’s eyes, putting drops in them, listening to her woes and, of course, feeding her woes. Apparently, the best thing for feeding woes, is grilled cheese.
My children are fed and well (apart from the red, swollen eyes), and I beat them at Just Dance last night (every little victory counts).
Sigh… hello weekend, please try not to bring snow. Next week is a fresh start, with hopefully more flow to it.