Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Creative Girl Book Group: Chapters 9 and 10

Chapters 9 and 10 of the book Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career by Katherine Sise focused on preparing for the job interview in a mainstream Creative job and THEN what to do once you land the job.  It was very interesting to rethink the dreaded questions you get in the process like "what are your strengths and weaknesses"  and the sticky nature of the answers you or I give.  One thing I took away from Chapter 9 is that it seems like the old stigma of having to dress in that traditional business suit has been done away with a bit.  The author encouraged the reader to let a little of your personality come through in your wardrobe.  I like the reasoning behind this.  When you go into this process, you do want to make sure to let your boss know a bit about what he/she is getting you as a potential employee.  I think wardrobe is one way of assessing whether each is a good fit.

I liked the concept in chapter 10 of continuous learning.  I think this is incredibly valuable in owning your own business as well.  I think a part of minimizing the risk of becoming stagnant in your work life is to continue to look for "the interesting" in the work you are doing or the industry you are involved which ultimately helps one to find passion where it can be found.

Anyone else reading along with me?  Put your comments and/or your links in the comments and I will be sure to stop over.

-Robin Norgren

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pepe and the New Old Couch

I hope you had a great weekend!  We recently scored this beautiful old's just long enough for two (people that is) to stretch out at each end, carved wood arms in the design of acanthus leaves, vintage velvety gold tufted's lovely!  I spent most of my weekend on it reading Villette with my little guy, Pepe, as it is just too hot now for me (and him).  Pepe wanted to be sure and model this new addition for you and let everyone know how he's enjoying it!

[caption id="attachment_338" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Oh Hai! You have a camera?"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_339" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="I don't notice you at ALL"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_340" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Oh my this is quite comfortable"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_341" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Would you just pet me???"][/caption]

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ikea's Love for Textiles Book

I'm back from Houston after a round of scans and doctor appointments at MD Anderson (you can read more about my story); fortunately I've returned with good news tho I have to go back in three months to do it all again.  In the midst of appointments, we found ourselves with a sizable chunk of time and I had to get some retail therapy!  We headed north (I think?) to Ikea and I scored some absolutely beautiful draperies (Henny Rand), a new ironing board cover that didn't fit AND this beautiful new book, Love of Textiles for only $10!  The book is filled with sumptuous photography imploring mostly Ikea fabrics in the most inspiring ways.  There are some DIY to close out each chapter; most do not require machine sewing...easy peasy.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="321" caption="image credit"][/caption]

From the Ikea website:

This is not a book to read. It's a book to touch, to browse, to be inspired by and enthused about. Because textiles aren't about sharp scissors and awkward sewing machines. They're about creative desire. So stop reading and step inside our textile world.

I've poured through the pictures and text every night before bed and it has been such a nice getaway mentally after a busy and stressful few days.  Unfortunately, the book appears to be only available in store; I'm not sure why Ikea has never got into the whole online biz but perhaps you can bribe a friend that lives near one to pick you up a $10 bucks you can offer to buy them one too!

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Creative Girl Book Group: Chapters 7 and 8

Chapter 7 of the book Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career
helped me work through those daunting fears I have rallying around any new idea I try to implement.  What an obstacle fear can be!  Many times I recognize it for what it is and I am able to hold it at bay. The reality is that operating a handmade business where the majority of your sales depend on how much you are marketing...well YOU!... can turn into a bit of a nemesis, especially in those times where you might be doubting yourself.

I like the quote this chapter started with:

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" -- Anais Nin

    My greatest fear has to do with whether or not I have the stamina to market and promote in the manner you MUST when you are starting out.  The reality is that at some point I should be able to gain some momentum because I am learning more efficient ways to market and to produce and to integrate new ideas.  But I know I could not spend the hours and hours I spend now for the rest of my life.  That would be ridiculous!  There is a point where doing what you love has to find balance within a normal life, one that includes family and social engagements.  For right now, I have INCREDIBLE wiggle room because my hubby is deployed and I do not sleep well.  But there will come a day that this will all change.

Final words on Chapter 7:

"Don't be so obsessed with making the exact right step that you paralyze yourself from moving forward"

       Chapter 8 dealt with putting together a resume which did not really pertain to my situation at this time.  What I did like about the chapter though is the section on finding ways to build in the experience you need in whatever field you would like to forge out a career.  In that way , you are working toward that day when you might need to craft your resume.

What about you?  Leave your links in the comments if you are blogging along with me and I will definitely come by and visit.

-Robin Norgren

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I love the idea of yarnstorming or sometimes called yarn bombing; if you are not familiar with the practice, it is sort of a guerrilla style knitting installation popping up in public spaces that was made famous by Magda Sayeg of Knitta Please.  Today these installations mean different things to the groups that create them but each signals us to have a deeper relationship with our day to day environment.  This beautiful installation is in the German town of Velbert, created by Ute Lennartz-Lembeck.  It took approximately 200 hours of labor and 400,000 stitches to complete the project!

Here is Ute Lennartz-Lembeck's car packed in preparation for the installation in Velbert.  Again, I'm in awe as I barely finished a scarf last Christmas!

Have you seen any great examples of this public art or participated in it?  Fill me in on the details!

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Basic How-to for Craft Shows Part 2 of 2

Getting Ready to Go......

Ok, we learned in my last post what you need for your first craft show, now lets learn what to do with it...

You should have everything packed and ready to go a day or two before.  I always like to have everything loaded in my truck the day before. Make sure you have your list and check it twice.  Once you arrive and check in, the show coordinator will tell you where your booth will be, find it first, then pull your car around if possible.  Depending on the set up and what time you arrive, the earlier the better, you may be able to pull right up to your space to unload. If not make sure to have your dolly with you to help move your things.  I have forgotten it before and had to carry every thing from pretty far, believe me it is no fun.

Always set up your tent first, then your banners, tables, and table coverings.  From here you can start decorating and set up your displays.  Give yourself plenty of time to set up, it takes me 3-5 hours to set up my display.  You can set up your booth anyway you like, but I recommend you keep the customers in mind.  Try to have a good flow, I like to have them come in one side and exit out the other, of course it will not always happen this way, but it is good to keep in mind while you are setting up.  It is also good practice to do a trial run before your show, so that when the time comes for you to set up, you are familiar with how you want to display your merchandise.

Once you are all set up, and the show is starting it is time to sell, sell, sell! Make sure you have plenty of change, and a calculator, as referenced in my first post, and get ready for the customers.  Always smile, be friendly and answer any questions that the customers have about your products.  As a rule I never bargain with customers, you may want to, but I decided after I let customers talk me down a few times, that it was not worth it.  My things are priced reasonable and not too much over what I have put into them including my time.  If I let everyone talk me down on my price, I would just break even.  It is up to you how you want to handle this, but have a plan, because you will be approached several times over the course of your show.  Ask the customers what they are looking for and what they like and that may help you promote your items, for example, if you sell handmade soap, ask what their favorite scents are and maybe you carry that scent or something similar.

You will need to charge tax at your shows, the easiest way from me is to figure it into my price, that way I do not have to deal with change. I will round-up to the nearest dollar in most cases. Do this before hand so that you do not lose on money on taxes. Most shows will collect city taxes at the end of the show, you will be responsible for mailing in your state taxes.

Never leave your booth unattended, if you have a friend or family member that can come and relieve you for a break, do that.  If not you will need to stay in your booth or close it down, to take a break. Most shows do not like for you to close it down, so if I am at a show that is far from family, I sometimes ask my neighbor to watch my booth.  In most cases the people around you are very friendly and will be happy to do that, make sure you do the same for them.

Once the show is complete, turn in your taxes, if required, and start packing up.  All shows request that you do not start packing up until the show is over.  If you do they may not allow you to return. Some are very strict about this and some are not, especially if the show has wound down for the day.  Take the time to pack things back up nice and neat that way it is ready to go for the next show. Believe me I have learned this from experience!

Each craft show is different and with the economy today, it is hard to tell you how you will do at a show. Some shows you will do great, some you will break even and some you may even lose, the point is to try!  The more shows you do, the more you will learn what to do the next.

Congratulations! You have completed your first craft show!  Count your profits, and whatever they may be and be proud of yourself for making it through.  Craft shows are a lot of work, but can be very rewarding.

Now let's get started working on the next one!! :)

--Mary Lindsey

connect with me: twitter | facebook

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creative Girl Book Group: Chapters 5 and 6

photo credit

So here we are at Chapters 5 and 6 of the book Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career.

Here is the link to my friend Jane's blog to find her take on these two chapters.

The chapters offer practical journaling prompts which aid in your decision to make a move from your current job or stay put and start slow in your "off time" until you are sure you have a handle on how your lucrative your idea is. I am coming from a different perspective in that our family made the decision to live lean and get debt free while my hubby is deployed. So what I am prepping for is when my little one starts school in August. The reality is we have been treading water so our little one would not feel abandoned with one parent gone for months at a time and the other working full time. But the time is coming when that will all change.

That said, I did take VERY SERIOUSLY the prompt to list what you don't want in a job. The reality is that the struggle to find ANY job is one where we need to be grateful for what we are able to get. I think for me I took this exercise to mean if I am going to go through the trouble of starting my own business, pouring hours upon hours into its success, what am I willing to endure?

These three things I came up with for sure:

  • I need to create a business that thrives on innovation.

  • I cannot produce the same thing OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

  • I need to have social contacts; some outside connections with others who are involved in small business but also others who are completely UNRELATED to what I am doing so that I can take a mental break. A job that offers variety in its tasks so I am not constantly drudging through the tedious.

Another great question is what does success look like/what kind of life opens up for you when you make the plunge into owning your own business:

  • more calculated use of my time

  • becoming more strategic about where I want my business to go

  • less "busy" work

  • trust my intuition

Here is my friend Sonya's link

Feel free to add your links to your blogs if you are reading along with Jane, Sonya, Lisa and me. I would love to come by and see your thoughts on these or other chapters of the book.

-Robin Norgren

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Easy Crystal Pendant Tutorial

Are you like me?  You have hundreds of tutorials bookmarked for future reference for when some magical opportunity arises that you have the supplies handy, not to mention the time?  Well, for about a month or two, I've been going back and forth to this cute tutorial to make a Crystal Pendant from Little Birdie Secrets.  It looked super easy and had a very high end French vintage look which I'm all about, the problem being I couldn't find the stinkin' crystal (kind of essential).  They reference a store I've never heard of that doesn't sell it online; in fact no one does that I could find.  I even searched at antique shops but you need a new piece with a flat back to accept the paper.  Low and behold, I did find it at Micheals last week, after I did about three passes thru the beaded jewelry section.  They even sell it with the bale attached, so it was a win/win for me.  Once I had the key piece, it was extraordinarily easy to put together and I've been getting compliments every time I wear it out!  Ok, here's the tutorial and pictures as listed on Little Birdie Secrets with my notes in bold:
You will need:
-a crystal pendant (this one is from Connie Crystal-Stacy bought it at our local Ben Franklin) or glass tile remember I found it at Micheals under the brand BEAD GALLERY
-a pair of scissors
-patterned paper make sure it is heavy duty so it's durable and doesn't tear in the application process
-a pinch bale (Stacy bought ours at Ben Franklin) included in the Micheals pendant
-A clear crafting glue like Diamond Glaze, Crystal Effects, or Glossy Accents
-a chain (any length you like, we chose 24")
-a pencil
First, pick out a patterned paper that you love. The possibilities are endless; you should have seen us trying to choose one! Once, you have chosen, trace the pendant on the paper and cut it out with scissors.

Add some Diamond Glaze / Crystal Effects / Glossy Accents glue to the back of your pendant. Use sparingly, if you add too much it will bleed out the edges after you press the paper on.

Now press your paper face down on the back of the pendant so it can be seen through the other side. Press firmly to release any air bubbles.

Once it it firmly in place, you can trim any excess paper from the sides with a pair of scissors or Exacto knife, and then file with a nail file to make sure there is no paper sticking out. Be careful not to file the crystal--it will scuff easily. To protect the paper, we suggest applying a thin layer of Diamond Glaze to the back of the pendant as well.

Here is how mine turned out; I just love it!  I only could find two pendants but I want to collect a few more as I think this would be a super easy craft night with a few friends or make awesome gifts!

crystal pendant tutorial

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Explaining Handmade

I love my shop, I really do…we are an amazing mix of handmade goods from myself and several other artisans, also a few well-done mass produced lines.  Together it makes the perfect collection; in fact, many customers can’t tell the difference between what is handmade and what is mass-produced.

So, today I get one of those customers that ask me to “reorder” a mosaic in the shop she saw over 6 months ago.  Problem being it was handmade, one of a kind and the artist doesn’t take custom requests because of the nature of her work; it’s impossible for her to replicate any piece.  Thinking I would be better at this by now, I begin to explain how the item is handmade and one of a kind…by an artist, not a factory.  I see the lady is visibly becoming upset because ultimately I am telling her no.  Exasperated I tell her how I deal in a lot of one of a kind items and I always encourage people to buy it when they see it…or someone else will.   She makes an off hand comment that if my artist really valued money she would do this for her.  I left it by taking her info and told her I would pass the info on though I really wanted to choke her.

Later, I got to thinking I never explained myself well enough.  We all want to make money; it's how we put food in our mouths, drive our cars, pay the bills…but some lucky few that create do not let money dictate their art.   I know for a fact that my artist appreciates all the money her craft brings as a single mom with a mortgage; however I know her time is more precious.  She spends her free time after work and on occasional weekends sans kids to create these masterpieces, so why would she let someone dictate how she spends it?  Especially, when the right buyer will come along?

I did pass on this story and info to my friend and artist and she just shrugged and laughed.  For me, the confrontation still lingers in my mind and bothers me that there are still so many people that just don’t “get” handmade art and crafts.  Hopefully, my shop and artists can find better ways to help convert the public and I personally will continue to use my buying power towards handmade goods.

How do you explain handmade to a mass produced lovin’ world?

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creative Girl Book Group: Chapters 3 and 4

photo credit

I have read plenty of creative business books.  With all of that reading,  I should have reached a point where I have a solid formula in place for running a business.  Alas, this past week I again came to some realizations about how I am spending my time.  I will admit it.  My prices in my shop for my items have not been in line with the reality of how much time and care I take to give each individual who chooses to purchase an incredibly special connection.  So what tends to happen is I rush around with my mind all over the place because there are not enough hours in the day for the way I run my shop and the way I price my goods.  Does that make sense?

Ok so onto the book.  Which actually I have been talking about I guess since this all came as a revelation to me as I was reading chapter 3.  This chapter challenges you to find your "Creative Happy Place."  Truth be told, if your creative energies are no longer flowing beautifully into the other areas of your life, you (I!!!) need to redirect my focus.

Chapter 4 challenges you to take those revelations you got from chapter 3 and write down a clear plan of action on how to regroup PLUS encourages you to begin seeking out mentors/peers and asking them for assessments of your work and the direction you desire to take with your business.  I know!! This book is rocking.

So this morning, I already feel lighter, having given myself permission to take back my creative business and work it more efficiently.  Anyone else got some revelations this week? Leave your comments and/or share your blog link where you discuss this section or any other section of the book.

(FYI: The book is Called Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career
by Katharine Sise.  Feel free to join in.  I blog two chapters a week on Wednesdays)

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Basic How-to for Craft Shows Part 1 of 2

Let me guess, you have been making handmade goods for years; you share your creations with family and friends, and they always tell you the same thing. "You really could make some money selling your crafts, they are great!" So you decide to try out a craft show, and that is were all the fun begins...
First things first is finding a craft show...and a good one!  Check with your local Chamber of Commerce, or perhaps there is a favorite craft show in your city or region that you have been to before, ask local officials for contact info. Another good tool is festivalnet, they list all the arts and crafts festivals in your state along with contact information. Once you find a craft show that you are interested in, the next step is to apply. All shows have an application fee that is usually non-refundable and some just charge a booth fee, which can range from $20.00 up to $600 and more, depending on the size of the show.  Some shows are juried, meaning that you have to be voted in by a panel of judges, this keeps shows from carrying too much of one type of craft, ie.. jewelry.  If your item is unique you should have no problem, and if not, you will need to try to get your application in as early as possible.  I recommend starting out with a smaller show and then working your way up to the bigger shows. Make sure that when you mail in your application you follow all the directions and fill it our completely, also make sure to attach well-lit and sharp photographs of your work, some will even request photographs of you making your items.

Once you are accepted into the show now comes the fun part! :) Getting ready for the show!!
Things you need for the show...I always try to make a check list before I get started and check it off as I go. Depending on what you make, you may need to start planning weeks and even months in advance to ensure you have enough items to sell. Also make an inventory list; this will help especially if you have lots of small items.
1. A good tent - I recommend the EZ-up tent, you can find it at Sam's or online, make sure it is white and has the removable sides. It will cost you about $200.00, and it is worth it, because it will last you for a long time, if you take care of it.  Another VERY important thing to have for your tent is weights. You will need 4 weights for each leg of the tent, each weight should be 20 lbs or more. You can get creative with this as well, I have seen people with buckets filled with concrete, and they decorate the buckets to match the tent. Whatever weights you use, just don't forget them, I have seen people tents crushed by wind, sometimes completely picked up and carried away by the wind, not only can the wind mangle your tent but your inventory too. The weights will help protect your tent and crafts. So DON"T FORGET THE WEIGHTS! Ok, moving on...

2. Tables - to display your crafts on, unless you have very large items that will hang or will sit on the ground. You will also need table cloths and table skirts (I always use the plastic table skirts, they are good and inexpensive, and you can throw them away after a few shows) this saves a little money, because the cloth table skirts can be pricy.

3. Display materials - along with your tables and table skirts, you will need something to decorate and display your items with. Be as creative as you can be with this. I always like to set my booth up to look like a shop, also try to control the flow of the customers, since you only have a 10  x 10 space.  Make sure it is very appealing to your customers, so that you can draw people into your booth.

4. Signs - you will need a banner with your company name on it, I always try to make sure it matches my booth as well.

5. Lots of inventory!!

6. Other supplies to have with you:

  • String

  • Chair to sit in

  • tape

  • clips and clamps

  • snacks and beverages in a cooler - you will be there all day

  • apron or cash box - make sure you have enough change I normally bring $100 -$200 depending on the size of the show.

  • rubbermade bins for carrying your supplies and crafts in

  • receipt book

  • notebook for special orders

  • mailing list sheet for customers to sign

  • pens and markers

  • mirror - if you have items that people will want to try on

  • price tags

  • calculator

  • packing materials and bags

  • garbage bags

  • doll

  • dolly to help carry your items to your booth

  • And last but not least, plenty of promotional items, ie. business cards, pens, buttons or free samples.

Be prepared ahead of time and have everything packed and ready to go a day or two before, and you will be just fine.

In part 2, we will discuss all about the show, setting up, selling and completing your first show.
Stay tuned......
--Mary Lindsey

connect with me: twitter | facebook

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heartfelt Thanks

Healing Hide a Heart

For the last six months I've been in a new club...not one I ever imagined I would join; the cancer club.  As a 36 year old with no family history of cancer it was an incredible shock and through the past months, I've just been on autopilot...had surgery, recovered, had radiation therapy, recovering the fact that this just happened is settling in.  I have a few things on my side; I'm seeing the best docs at MD Anderson and they feel they "got it" but I quote "it was a significant pathology" as they say, with a high rate of recurrence.  So, I'm left finding a way to deal with living with the possibility that I may go through this once again, or several times.  Fortunately, being in this "club" there are survivors that have been so gracious to me and I hope eventually I can be like them and give back to those newly diagnosed.  One such kind lady, an 18 year survivor of head and neck cancer (like me) sent me this beautiful purple healing heart!  She makes this lovely hearts; called hide-a-hearts...because they are tiny enough to stow away with you in your pocket.  I've always been a big fan of her work so I was incredibly surprised and humbled when I found her sweet package addressed to me! It meant a lot and that little heart will stay right with me on my journey, especially as in the next couple weeks, I return to MD Anderson for my first follow up and scans.  The purple color signifies healing, which I didn't know; from her blog, Mary Catherine writes:
Because it is located at the top of the color spectrum and associated with the seventh chakra, purple is a color for galvanizing the center of the body to facilitate connection with universal energy vibrating at the highest frequency. Purple is the color of healing and strength.

I hope it works, but knowing people understand intimately what you are enduring has power too; I feel less alone in this battle.

If you would like to send your own Hide-A-Heart to someone in need, Mary Catherine has a wide selection to choose from and for variety reasons (or just because!); please check out her website:
Hide A Heart button

--Lisa LeBlanc

connect with me: website | twitter | facebook | pinterest

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Creative Girl Book Group: Chapters 1 and 2

I had my sweet friend Misty take some pics of me this week.  This is actually a big week for me.  A year and a half ago January 31 I boarded a plane to Germany where I truly deepened in my creative and spiritual life.  It is just amazing to be here, knowing the things I have gone through and knowing how GOD fostered a deeper sense of value for living a creative life...

     So I started reading through Chapters 1 and 2 of Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career
by Katharine Sise.  I have read quite a few creative books this year.  But this one is giving me a greater intensity for approaching this lifestyle as a means to also provide for my family.  Having a creative career however calls for the same things as any successful career needs: an unfailing work ethic and strategic planning.  In Chapter 1, Sise talks about mining all of the skills that you have offered in other job settings and "apply them to your next career step (p. 16)."  Many creatives have found that the key to having success is to diversify the revenue streams for your career.  Chapter 2 builds on these keys and reminds us to celebrate not simply destination markers but mini victories that happen on the way to the goal; those unexpected surprises that validate the path you are on.

   I gotta tell you everything about these two chapters feels like I am reading this at just the right time.  I got a couple of things in the works that I am excited about and I hope that I can have the courage to really move into them because they are uncharted territory for me.

   So the plan is I will journal my progress in this book on Wednesdays.  Meet me here and if you are working through the book with me, please leave a link in the comments.  I will be sure to come around and, who knows, maybe someone else will be helped by your journey as well.

AND don't forget to check in with Jane who is also going through the book with me: CLICK HERE

--Robin Norgren