Crafter’s Tale – The First Market of the Season

I love making stuff. I could print, paint and sew all day, and often I wish that could be all I do. Selling, on the other hand, scares me stiff. I always get nervous before my first market of the season. Will I get my tent set up on time? Will the weather hold? Will anyone turn up? Will I sell enough to cover my costs? Will I have enough products for each market? Will my square reader work?
Yes, I’m needlessly anxious about the whole thing. The words “sales tax” make me break out in a cold sweat. I fantasize about having an agent who takes care of the sales and marketing side of the business, leaving me free to just design and make.
Despite all of this, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself at these events. I have to relearn this truth each season.

My first market this Spring was Gala Artisan’s Indie Craft Fair in Kensington, and it was a lovely way to kick off the season. Here are some highlights…

The Weather

After a very gray, soggy Saturday that made me want to hibernate and give my soul to Netflix for eternity, I was really expecting Sunday to be horrible. But a tiny miracle happened – the sun came out, not a little bit, but a lot. It was a lovely day, and the beautiful people of Kensington were out in force. Thank you, Mother Nature.

The HostsIMG_5952

Gala Artisans is a beautifully curated shop in Kensington MD, and they run this market. Consequently, there is always a great group of crafters at the event, and a sense of camaraderie that makes the show a lot of fun.

The Books

The craft fair is run in conjunction with Kensington’s Day of the Book, which means free activities for the kids (including a scavenger hunt), and I get book related goodies. This year, there was a table of free books, and my husband actually snagged me a Margaret Atwood that I haven’t read. Score!

The People

Kensington is my kind of place. I has a quirky, alternative vibe, and I found myself talking to some really interesting people. One customer I met, turned out to be the guy who writes the Designer Daddy blog. I only realized much later that I had saved an article about his artwork, long ago. Check out his super cool lunch notes here. I met so many creative people – authors, artists, and performers, it was inspiring. Also, I kind of fell in love with this little bakery.

The Kids

There is a reason I make products for kids.
I genuinely like them, and I seem to still be one of them. I had a lot of interesting interactions with kids at the market. Some wanted to tell me about their day, some just came to stare, a couple wanted hugs, one needed vital information about unicorns. One particular kid chose the space under my table as his designated pooping spot away from prying eyes (luckily he was still wearing a diaper). The fact that I designed a robot that looks so similar to one of my mini customer’s favorite toy, shows that I am still totally in synch with my target market.

The HelpIMG_5948

Once again, my ten year old proved an invaluable assistant. She has much better selling skills than I have (albeit, a little on the aggressive side), and the cuteness factor always helps. The six year old was not as helpful, but Kensington MD obliged us with a constant stream of trains to keep him happily occupied (see beautiful freight train graffiti below).

I’m broken in and ready for my next fair now. It will be ViVA Vienna! In my adopted hometown of Vienna VA. Always a good one for the kids. See you there?



About My Spring Break – Blue Skies, Sentimentality and Spanglish

Spring break is over, and life shifts back to it’s normal rhythm.

I spent last week in the warm sunny embrace of Cancun wondering why, despite the bright blue sea and the pretty flowers, I felt restless. I’m not sure if resort life is quite right for me – I’d rather be wandering around an old crumbling town or climbing a hill that I’m not supposed to be climbing. I’m a real pain to be around on vacation, I just don’t know how to idle.
Having said that, I do feel incredibly healthy and relaxed now, and my Spanish has improved considerably – I have been trying it out on as many people as possible, and have not been slapped once so far. After a week of swimming a lot, reading a lot, and being waited on a lot, I can honestly say that I am ready to get stuck into my work again.  Before I start rambling on about work, here are some of the most important elements of my break.

The Water

My favorite element. I’m a water baby. I love to swim, and just being near water is therapeutic for me. I think I swam more in the last week than I ever have before. I just could not do justice to the beauty of the ocean with my sketchbook, but here are some water inspired drawings that I did do. As you can see, my obsession with patterns continues.

This Read

Yes I know it’s not typical beach fiction, but I am a history geek, and it is such an engrossing read that I could not go away without it. When not frolicking in the warm waters of the Caribbean, I spent a lot of time with my nose in this. Also, it’s a crime not to have a good read during National Library Week.

Powerful Memories

The last time I visited Mexico, I was twenty something. I took a buses to Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Merida, and spent days drawing, exploring, and soaking up the history and culture of the Yucatan peninsula. This would explain why I felt so fidgety this time around. It was lovely, but not a particularly ‘Mexican’ experience. This visit bought back strong memories of that first trip. The work it inspired is still hanging on my walls. One day, I’ll visit all those places again.

That Blue
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The colors in the sky and sea were so vivid, and overwhelming. I understand why Frida Kahlo and Yves Saint Laurent were obsessed with blue. I’m a color junkie, constantly painting things in my house (see the new color on my dining room walls above). I need to find an outlet for my current blue obsession. Watch out for a new collection of blue-ish paintings coming your way.

I have a busy spring/summer ahead of me packed with fairs, and summer camps. I kick off the season next Sunday with the glorious Gala Artisans Craft Fair in Kensington MD. It happens in conjunction with the Kensington Book Festival, and is near a railway line – so that ticks a lot of boxes for my family. I’m off to label and pack all of my new products right now, and I’ll let you know how it goes!




Doing A Lot And Very Little At The Same Time – My Unique Work Week.

I’m going on vacation next week (yay!) so, of course, this week was supposed to be a week of frenzied non-stop work, and last minute run-around chores (boo!). If my Fitbit had not broken (Again. Seriously, design a better strap already.) it should be clocking impressive miles. However, a three hour long pediatrician appointment on Tuesday, a two hour IEP meeting on Wednesday, a pretty large plumbing disaster, and a storm put paid to that plan. But I tried to stay focused and productive, and I don’t want to dwell on the negative. So here is a list of things I have done, and things I have enjoyed over the past week:

Crafting Progress

The tee shirts and onesies for the Spring/Summer shows are almost done, after a few sewing marathons. Now let the worrying about whether I have made enough commence.


Current Reads

I always have a few books on the go. This week, I’m thoroughly enjoying Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime, which jolted memories of Journey To Jo’burg  from my school days, so I ordered it to read with my ten year old. I’m not getting through the Elegance of the Hedgehog very fast, but I suspect that is because I’m listening to it in the car, rather than giving it all my attention – it has yet to capture my heart. Neil Gaiman books are a permanent fixture in my life, much like teatime and punk rock. My daughter is currently obsessed with Anglo Saxon culture, so we excitedly compare notes about Norse v Anglo Saxon culture. Nerds for life and proud of it.
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I’m working on this piece right now, and am at the bottom of the painter’s curve, where  I’m deeply unsatisfied with how it is going. But I’ll push on through until it starts working.

Sketchbook Updates

My poor sketchbook has been a bit neglected this week. I need to push myself to do more observational drawing. I have always loved drawing, but tend to just draw abstract or imagined imagery. My observational drawing skills are getting rusty, so I plan to work more on that next week.


I’m a voracious, lifelong learner. Lately, I’ve been on a professional development streak. I’m thinking of ways to grow my business, and new skills I can acquire. In my last post I talked about incorporating a Learning Hour into each day, dedicated to developing skills, and learning new things. Well I have been doing just that, and an hour just doesn’t feel long enough! I have been working on updating my portfolio and my blog this week.
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Summer Camps

Enrollment is finally open for the Noctiluna summer camps, and I have been knee deep in registration forms and spreadsheets. my head is permanently in curriculum writing mode, and literally everywhere I go, there is something that sparks off an idea for a camp project. I was shopping in Target yesterday, and a set of toddler building blocks got me thinking about a 3D architecture project.

Happy Spring Break!

I’ll be on vacation next week. Hopefully, I’ll come back with a happy sketchbook. When I get back, expect a LOT of curriculum writing, tea, and ridiculously exciting news about summer camp themes. I know you can’t wait. 😉
Have a lovely weekend!


Finding Ways to Dream and Stay Productive At the same time

When I close my eyes and picture myself in the future, I am painting huge canvases in a studio that looks a bit like Picasso’s one in the south of France. Sunlight streaming through windows, the beach only a short walk away. I will wander through meadows, and live in a house that looks just like Frida Kahlo’s Blue house.  There will be windchimes everywhere, and the aroma of fresh coffee and almond cake.
Yup. Sometimes I have a very loose grip on reality (Oh, and by the way, I don’t even drink coffee!).

I’m a big, soppy dreamer.

I think that’s a given with most artists – overactive imaginations and a fear of inertia are apparently the norm amongst us creative types. However, life often gives you something very different from your dreams. Take my life for example: I work from home, have two kids, and live in the suburbs, so my life is riddled with routines, repetition, and not much in the way of wandering through meadows.  I won’t lie, it can sometimes bog me down and drag me into anxiety driven yearning for change and stimulation – that’s what fuels my frequent trips into the city. But I can’t be mopey all the time, I need to get on with things. I am a parent, I own a business, I have a lot of projects on the go (and dreams to realize). I can’t just give into ennui.

The artist Chuck Close once said that “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”  He is right, and I am forever on the lookout for ways to stay motivated and productive.  Every few months I shake my routine up a little and add elements to it that will keep me on my toes things during my work day. I go through super productive periods followed by periods of chaos and procrastination. Here is what is working for me at the moment.

The Learning Hour
Sounds like a BBC daytime programme!
Everyday, from 3pm-4pm, (that time of day when I normally start to slump and snack mindlessly) I dedicate an hour of time to developing a skill, or learning something new. Right now, I am taking an online course called So You want to be an illustrator? by Lisa Congdon. In the future, I plan to develop my watercolor and lettering skills, and sort through my portfolio. It’s only an hour a day, so things are developing slowly. However, do not underestimate the power of learning new stuff.  The Learning Hour gives me a burst of energy that seeps into the next day as well.  It’s so important to stay current, and evolving, and to not produce work in isolation. I think everyone needs to incorporate a Learning Hour into their day.

The Chopped Schedule
Working from home gives your schedule a lot of freedom – maybe too much for the likes of me. To deal with my general wiggliness and short attention span, I have adopted a technique used by the best preschool teachers. I write a schedule each night for the next day, chopping my day into short chunks and mixing up my tasks so my day is varied. This tight structure works for me at the moment because I am working on so many different projects and can easily feel overwhelmed by it all.  Here is an example:

8-9.30am work on canvas, 9.30 -10.45 sew shirts for markets, 11-12.00 yoga class, 12.15-12.30 lunch, 1.00-3.00 write curriculum and respond to emails, 3.00-4.00 learning time, 4.30 kids get home. After the kids go to bed: sew shirts.

Sounds uptight and scary? Well, that’s just because this happens to be a particularly busy time of year for me. Not every day will be structured so tightly, and some days focus on certain projects more than others. Last week, I’m was makeup artist for my daughter’s school play performances, so things were a little more crazy than usual, and I worked more in the evenings. Right now, this helps me stay on top of things.

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Self Care
I make time for my yoga practice and dance classes during the week, because they keep me happy and vital, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. With a job like mine, people often assume that I am really not working full time, and mistake my relatively flexible schedule for an emptier schedule. I am learning to look people in the eye and say “Actually I run my own business, and that is not easy. I often work in the evenings and on the weekends, and my brain hardly ever stops thinking about Noctiluna.” I’m learning to say no to some of the things I get asked to do, and I’m learning to speak confidently about my work. Sigh.


If you own a small business, and work from home keep on going, and realize that there will be tantrums, stress eating, people who don’t understand what you do,  and times when you wish you had a 9-5 job. But as my husband says, “keep going, and one day that studio by the beach will be yours”.   All my love to the hard working dreamers out there.