Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Steotch in Time

Counted cross-stitch is one of the most affordable and accessible crafts to learn yet one of the most tedious. I love it though, ever since my 5th grade teacher made us all create a sampler for our moms, I've been hooked. So, when I see someone take this medium to the next level and do it in such a fresh and wonderful way, I have an absolute nerdgasm! A couple weeks ago, I stumbled on Steotch...why it took me so long to find them, I've no idea! They've been featured on Regretsy and have a burgeoning fan base. And here's awesomely why:

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Memorial Day - Flag Quilt

Here's a fantastic quilt idea from Diary of a Quilter to take you from this Memorial Day Weekend to the Fourth of July!  Time to start digging through your fabric scraps!  According to Amy, she used 4" squares (cut 4 1/2"). Then laid it out 9 squares across by 12 down.  I am definitely going to have to try this one!

Thank you to all our service members near and far, present and gone for helping to protect our freedom (especially my late father).  Have a fantastic and safe holiday weekend!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time for Handmade Summer Camp!

[Hoover summer camp.] Digital ID: 1262390. New York Public Library

I never went to summer camp as a kid but I have always had some romanticized image of little cabins by a lake where we make Popsicle stick crafts all day and eat s'mores all night.  As luck would have it, as a grown adult, this year, I can go to camp...and so can you!  Well...at least virtually; the New York Public Library has created a Hand-Made Summer Camp on their blog, posting a new project every couple of weeks through the summer, easy enough for both kids and adults.  They will also feature DIY book reviews and inspiration to further connect with crafters.

The first project is an adaptation from Kids Weaving : Projects for Kids of All Ages, creating a checkerboard card.

Remember s'mores are completely optional but highly recommended!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Creative Girl Book Group: Are You In?

photo credit

Are you ready to join in on the Creative Girl Book Group we mentioned last week?

Here are the details:

The Book: Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career by Katharine Sise

The Date: June 1, 2011

The Plan: We will read and discuss two chapters a week.  You can post your thoughts on your blog and drop a link in the comments or you can leave your insight directly in the comments.  This is a way to strategically perform inventory on the trouble spots in your creative business and really get a handle on the directions you need to take your creative business.

Are you in?

--Robin Norgren

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Art Saves: A Heartfelt Thank You to Art

For most of my lifetime I have taken art for granted.  It seems silly to say especially when I confess that I had a mother who was an artist.  Always having paint and canvas ready, frequent visits to museums and art openings, not to mention always being around a creative circle of her friends, I figured everyone must live this way.  It wasn't until I was a grown woman living an 8 to 5 job behind a desk that I wondered what had happened...when did I stop creating?

Eventually…thankfully, I did take a leap of faith and jumped out of the rat race, creating my own venture.  I opened a boutique, making a good portion of the products I sell.  For a long time, I didn't think of myself as an artist; I was just doing what I needed to do to stay in business and keep myself solvent...whether it was designing jewelry one day to making soap the next, it just felt natural to create.  More and more, I realize it was saving me; my creativity was (and is) providing for me daily.

These days I still actively produce for my shop but I now take time to privately create for myself too.  It has become important to me as just six months ago I was diagnosed with cancer and I need art to help work through my recovery.  Specifically, art journaling is my go to activity and when I am able to, I love gardening...it is the ultimate way to create (even Monet planted his gardens based on what he wanted to see in his paintings.)

So, if you ask does art save?  My answer based in my experience is absolutely yes! More importantly, it is not the work I am leaving behind, it is the work I am creating within myself, and for this I thank art and the blessing of a creative life.  Because, when we create we save the best work of art...ourselves.

This post is part of a linked collection prompted by Stephey Baker of Marked By The Muse, asking artists to express how art has saved them and asking them to give thanks.  To read more from other artists, writers, and creatives click the link.  All images are from my original collage work, all rights reserved.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creating Connections: Creative Girl

photo credit
So speaking of connection...

I love discussing books. AND I love reading blogs. I met a wonderful kindred named Jane while bloghopping a while back.  We got to talking via blog comments and then email.  We decided to go through a creativity book together called Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career.  Upon talking further, we decided to see if anyone else would like to join in.  So let us know either by way of  blog comments if you plan on joining. We plan on posting our thoughts and then linking together beginning Tuesday June 1, 2011.

Join us for Creative Girl Book Group.  Hope to see you guys around.

-Robin Norgren

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend in Review: Through the Big Up Lens

This weekend felt just like a continuation of the previous week with endless "to-do's", commitments, and to top it off...house guests.  It's saving grace, was Sunday; I saw that Hipstamatic had released a new Hipstapak, "Bondi" with a new "Big Up" lens and film for the popular iPhone app.  I am a big iPhoneographer (is that a word?) and the new pak was just what this app needed...a big, bright colorful finish for the great analog looking pics it already captures.  Just about everything is in bloom at home and I stole away a few minutes to capture this burst of color with my new toy:


--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Handmade Blankets for Tornado Survivors

In late August 2005, I witnessed the awesome power of Mother Nature: Hurricane Katrina.  In one day, thousands lost their lives; even more their homes, jobs and way of life.  It took three weeks before authorities would allow me to enter my neighborhood a little north of New Orleans (fortunately only minor damage at my home); however, my office where I worked had been decimated by wind and water damage.  It took years for me to resettle my life, eventually pulling out of the New Orleans area and making roots (or as I like to say it…a Nest elsewhere).

Now, when I see natural disasters on the television or online, I know exactly the desperation and heartache they are experiencing.  And like you, I want to reach out to help but often I am unsure of what is needed and how I can help.  That’s why I love Craft Hope.  Craft Hope is a voluntary organization connecting crafters with those in need.  Their purpose is simple; promote a love of crafting while instilling a desire to help those in need.

Right now, Craft Hope is running a new project: Project 13, creating security blankets for the tornado survivors of the recent deadly outbreak in the Southeastern U.S.  They are asking for any handmade, machine-washable blanket from infant to adult sizes.   A 26” x 28” blanket is perfect to swaddled a newborn and if you need a quick template, here is an easy one off their site: Take Along Quilt

The deadline for this project in June 15th

Please mail all completed blankets to:
Jessie Rayot
255 Centre St Apt 6
Nutley NJ 07110

And if the craftvism bug has caught you, please check out Craft Hope’s book for more fantastic ideas and tutorials to give back to those in need.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Uniquely Displaying Jewelry

Having my own shop and selling at a few craft fairs, I am always on the look out for a unique way to make my jewelry stand out from the other vendors.  I try to find really unconventional displays as it immediately conveys that I am selling something original.  I also love re-purposing vintage finds and giving them a new life.  Here are a few looks shared from my Pinterest collection (which, if you have not tried Pinterest...you must...best. thing. since sliced bread, I tell you).  Any of these could easily go from a retail environment to the home:



--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Washing Recipe for Soft Sheets

[caption id="attachment_62" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Why yes! I do sleep on polka-dot sheets!"][/caption]

I love a well-made bed; in fact, I will clean my bedroom before any room in the house despite the fact that company is expected shortly…as in the case this past weekend.  I ran across a fantastic washing recipe for sheets on one of my favorite blogs, Alicia Paulson’s Posie Gets Cozy.  A very simple recipe developed by an 84 year old woman to guarantee the softest sheets, I had to give it a go!  After all, we spend an average of 36% of our lives asleep; shouldn’t we make those hours as nice as possible?  So, I bundled up my favorite sheets and headed to the utility room (then I promised myself I would begin cleaning the rest of the house while they washed).

Here is the recipe and my additional notes:

  • 1-1/2 cups of cheap white distilled vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon of detergent – I use Farmhouse Laundry Soap (I sell it in my shop and have used it for years as it is natural, bio-degradable and great for my sensitive skin)

  • warm wash

  • warm rinse

  • extra rinse

  • perma-press dry (line drying would probably be the best and most eco-friendly BUT according to the recipe drying on permanent press is cooler and keeps the fibers smoother and softer…I had no idea!)

It is hard to find just the right set of sheets; a little extra care helps preserve them because as one of the blog comments noted:
“You never know if they're good ones until they've been washed about 30 times and then you can't find them again!”

So, how did my sheets stack up?  It worked!  I could tell a noticeable difference in the softness; however my survey of one additional adult, 2 cats and 1 Chihuahua (I need a bigger bed) proved only a few yawns and nodding heads to placate my excited query.   Happy snores moments later were satisfaction enough to prove my experiment succeeded and thanks enough for providing my family a good night’s rest.

And as a footnote, if I had more time, I would have ironed them and spritzed them with Farmhouse’s companion linen spray.  It’s another natural favorite of mine that you can use in the place of a water bottle when ironing... clothes come out smelling line dry!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Putting the Crazy in Cat Lady

A few weeks back, I was reading my copy of Crafternoon, and nearly gagged when I ran across the author’s suggestion to use cat hair as filler.  Now I really love my cats (all four of them), but I can’t really say I’m a fan of their hair and never contemplated using it in my crafts.  So, when I saw a pre-order for Crafting with Cat Hair, I started to wonder if this was some burgeoning trend where crafty cat ladies are rising up and shouting from the roof tops “hair balls be dammed…I’m making something cute!”  For all practical purposes, one quick search shows this is a definite trend with a handful of blogs popping up and even a Facebook site.  I have sinking suspicion that when Crafting with Cat Hair releases November 1st, 2011,  solitary Cat Ladies will unite and rise up, reveling in their new found craft acceptance.

If you are one of those crafty cat ladies or just curious, the publisher has asked for help collecting donations of cat hair for an upcoming project:
Our two cat loving crafty ladies want you to send in your cat hair. That's right. Send in some cat hair and make sure you include your cat's name and photo. When the book's publication date gets closer, I'll feature several of your proud, hair-donating kittens on the (soon to be) re-launched Quirkbooks.com. Margaret and Katie may even make a little framed portrait of their favorite kitty, to be published online for the world to see. We'll see how much cat hair we get.

Send your bags o' cat hair to...

Quirk Books
C/O Margaret & Katie
215 Church Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

--Via Catsparella

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why Heartsy is Bad For Handmade

If you have not heard of Heartsy, prepare yourself…it is the newest trend/marketing ploy to hit the handmade market.  Being touted as the “Groupon” of Etsy, Heartsy offers at least 50% off Handmade goods by featured shops within in its site.  A boon for buyers everywhere, as you can imagine, but for sellers, some just break even for the exposure.

[caption id="attachment_6" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="Brigitte Herrod Vintage Button Badge Heart Canvas"][/caption]

So how does it work?  As a seller, you request to be featured and Heartsy contacts you to negotiate a “deal”.  Typically, they ask you to offer a certain amount of a gift certificate for 50% of its value…sometimes it can be even more:
“A bit disappointed. I was contacted about being featured but they wanted me to do $59 GC’s for $19.00. With silver prices through the roof I’d be losing money right off the bat. I had offered $40 for $20 but it was a no go”  --Kristen writes via a comment on Handmadeology

For those that become featured sellers these gift certificates are used as vouchers that buyers pick up and use at your Etsy shop.  Many sellers are pleased at the uptick in traffic to their sites but admit to breaking even or low profit margins on their handmade wares.   In all fairness, a few users do suggest they have had repeat customers that have paid full price after their Heartsy deal has passed.

In the grand scheme of things, I am bothered by the fact that Heartsy makes Handmade goods a commodity to be bartered; removing the artist from the work.  For me, I enjoy supporting another artist for what their work and time is worth; the Heartsy trend just devalues this process.   Plus, are these the customers we really want?  An interesting thread running thru Etsy about Heartsy brought up this comment:
Selling your [lovely] work for less than half price to people who habitually never pay full price for anything would be a very costly error…that's some damned expensive advertising aimed at the kind of audience you don't want anyway. –SurrenderDorothy

Consider these two points made by Lisa Peter of Etsy Selling Success when trying to decide if Heartsy is right for your Etsy shop:

·  You can’t repeat this marketing scheme over and over or you’ll be out of business quickly. Good marketing is ongoing. It can’t stop with one or two efforts.

·  Building a brand based on product quality and outstanding customer service becomes difficult. The buyers of these coupons are generally looking for a deal. Your product quality and customer service doesn’t really play into their decision to buy. They most likely will be out there looking for the next great deal and end up forgetting about your product quality and outstanding service.

Rumor has it Heartsy will begin adding transaction fees soon (as they are not reaping enough from sellers).  Hopefully, this will be a deciding factor for more handmade artisans to agree that this marketplace is just not supportive to the Handmade Movement.

Have your own Heartsy experience?  Let’s discuss!

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Welcome to Cottage Nest

Hello!  My name is Lisa and I am building a community that embraces what it truly means to craft a handmade life; I welcome you to join me and my friends on this path.

Life is messy, far from perfect, but those that carve out and create meaning in what they make and how they live, know the value of each day.  For some of us, a handmade life is about crafting, gardening, cooking and even music; some may find that businesses may even blossom out of our everyday wanderings.   Here is where we share those stories, advice and connect with each other.

An interior designer, by trade, I have always been fascinated by creativity and design; however, it wasn't until I opened my own independent boutique, Nest Interiors, in 2008 that I really embraced the handmade community.  Disappointed by my first trips to market and seeing an over-saturation of cheaply produced mass marketed junk, I began creating my own items out of necessity and began making connections locally and nationally to support handmade artists.  Beyond my business, the friendships and mentors I have gained within the handmade community have flourished and really given my life purpose (sounds awfully corny...but SO true).

If you would like to contribute to our community, be it as a writer, sharing a tutorial or requesting handmade product reviews, please contact me: nestinteriorsllc [at] yahoo.com