Sunday, May 30, 2010

summer berries

One of the best things about summer are the wide variety of fresh berries; raspberries, blackberries, and of course the staples of any 4th of July desert; blueberries and strawberries.  Amid all of the green of summer the rich color of these berries really pop.  Here are two treasuries that feature our sugar scrub and blueberry soap, and celebrate the lovely colors, tastes, and smells of summer berries.

click the pics to take a closer look!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

craft fair tips

I am quite a craft fair newbie myself.  My sister and I are going to our second fair EVER on July 11th.  To prepare, I've been scouring the internet for tips and advice to help our next event go off without a hitch.  I decided to compile a few of my favorite tips and ideas that we will certainly be using at our next fair
  1. Levels: Most of the lists of tips I saw recommended creating levels on your table.  It makes the space look less cluttered and also makes it easier to see all the items.  As ugabuga bowls mentioned, another great thing about using boxes or crates under your table cloth is that it creates cubbyholes, to store all of your behind the scenes needs.
    • Also Gina advised in a comment on an earlier past, rotate your products to keep it from getting cluttered, and keep it interesting for repeat viewers
  2. Marketing: One of the most important things about craft shows is getting your name out there.  Craft show connoisseurs have a number of great tips---
    • LOTS of business cards
    • email list so you can let people know about new items, or other craft shows you'll be attending (Christie Cottage recommends putting your shop name on your pens so they can advertise for you in case you lose a few)
    • booklets or postcards with some of your past work and of course all of your info!
    • big banner with your shop name
    • The Indie Craft Fair Guide advises putting up a sign that says so if you are willing to do custom orders- people may not want to ask if you look busy
  3. Decor: Everyone agrees, this is one of the best ways to make people notice you, and to convey your style.  Here are a few ideas--- 
    • make your shop look homey-flowers, real, or fake; dishes to house your products...
    • bring in the public with free samples if you can, or free candy/food- this I know from experience, people love free stuff.  Put your info on handouts, so it's like a business card
    • put out a laptop or digital picture frame with a video of you making your products, a commercial, or a slideshow.
    • actively craft if you can- it can be really interesting to see the artist at work!  
    • Decorative banners- I love the little triangle banners myself, too cute!
  4. Don't forget!
    • bring plenty of water- with all the selling you'll be doing, you may need it! (great reminder, promopixie)
    • receipt book- not a necessity, but may be handy for later
    • labels for all your wares- Christies Cottage recommends printing out your list of items from etsy or artfire, so it already has pricing, then just cut them out and tape them on!
    • change
    • tape
    • pens/markers
    • bags/boxes for purchases
These are only a few of the MANY tips I found.  For more great ideas, check out these blogs

Friday, May 28, 2010

the treasuries go outdoors

You can tell that it's that time of year again, the treasuries praising the great outdoors are everywhere!  These 2 gorgeous treasuries both feature our the woods lip balm.  While you look at these earthy treasuries, see if you can smell the fir and cloves...

click the pictures to take a closer look

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Promotion is Beautiful

I've decided to start a new guild on artfire.  In order to be approved it needs at least 5 members.  I've invited a few people, but it hasn't happened yet.  Let me know if you'd like to join.  At the moment I have to invite you.  This guild is: Promote the art you love, and don't feel bad about not promoting what you don't.  Art is subjective.  Be as involved as you want to be.  Forums should help you out, not stress you out.  Here are the pieces:  Banner:

  Description:Any kind of support within the handmade community is valuable. Promotion of handmade shops not only drives traffic our way, it also provides support for a fellow artisan. One of the most rewarding things about having another artisan promote your shop, is the knowledge that a peer supports and values your work. This guild is about supporting the art that you love and believe in. It is about being honest and subjective in promoting, and letting artists know that you love their work.  Mission: To support the artisans and the handmade community by giving honest feedback, and promoting art we believe in.  It's all about love and beauty! 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

photography all her own

Lesleypayne is the next featured artisan awaiting sales at artfire.  Lesley is a photographer with the kind of style you could recognize out of a crowd.  I love her black and white images that focus on texture with the absence of color.  The stark contrasts of the black and white allow subtle textures to blast through!  Lesley's photography also focuses on shadows, making an object seem soft or hard through use of light.  Lesley's black and white images have a sort of creepy vibe to them that is quite excellent! 

The other one of Lesley's photographs that I especially love is The Sailor and His Sweetie.  The photograph is reminiscent of the classic WWII photo V-J Day in Times Square.  That photo is an epic depiction of an epic time.  I like Lesley's photo especially in contrast to that classic photo.  Instead of an epic representation of American life, Lesley's photo captures daily romance, a touchingly private moment shared between two people.

Lesley's work is pretty obviously unique.  One of the things that makes her stand out is her choice of materials and equipment

I stand out in handmade websites because I still use film.  Digital photography is less costly, but I will always love the process of developing and printing my own film.  Developing every roll is like opening a present!

A lot of the objects I choose to photograph because of texture.  For my series of abstract images the form and non-reflective surfaces are important.  My goal is to make timeless images weather it's digital or film medium.  

With so many choices of online marketplaces, I am interested in why people choose to sell on artfire.

I was drawn to artfire because people can purchase items without having to go through the process of creating a user name.  The creators seem genuinely interested in helping sellers are developing new features all the time.

I agree that artfire seems very much to be seller focused.  The administrators are active in the forums and quick to address any issues that sellers have with the site.

Stay tuned to Lesley's shop for more developments

In late may I will start offering silver prints and fine art images as postcards.  Images of London and Paris are coming soon.

Where to find lesleypayne

I have a store at Etsy
I am participating in Market Day Iowa Aug-Nov. (series of Satuday art markets)
Everyday is one day closer to not having to sit a cubicle.

I think we all hear you on that front, Lesley.  Lots of luck to Lesley, and remember to go check out her shop.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

fat crayon tutorial

 My sister Rachel made these cute crayons for our nephew Jackson.  He'll have to wait a little while to use them, he's only 3 almost 4 months old right now.  I'm so excited to see what he'll draw with them in just a short time!

She was nice enough to make a little tutorial for the blog, and send me these awesome pics.  Enjoy!

Old crayons in a variety of colors
Glitter (optional)
Silicone baking mold (oven safe)
Heat gun or double boiler (I don’t recommend the microwave.  It takes way too long to heat up the crayons, and you don’t have as much control over combining your colors).

1.       These crayons are perfect for little hands; however, due to the extreme temperatures needed to melt wax, I don’t suggest letting little hands help you out when you make these crayons.  Heat guns get incredibly hot, so it’s best to keep children far away from them.  

2.       Lay out a newspaper over your work service.   

Choose a mold for your crayons.  The younger your intended user, the bigger your rebatched fat crayons need to be.  Choose big molds for very young children, and smaller molds for older children.   

The absolute best molds are those trendy silicone molds than you can bend.  You can get them really hot, but they don’t hold the heat for long (which means no burned fingers).  It’s also really easy to pop out the finished crayons when they are ready.  You can often find them in the Target dollar bins (as ice cube trays), and I know they carry a wide selection at Michael’s.       

3.       Amass a collection of old, broken, yucky crayons.
We certainly have plenty of these from our childhood; an entire pink bucket full.  We loved our crayons!

4.       Separate the crayons into color-coordinated groups.  Each group will make one fat crayon.  I chose to do the primary (red, blue, and yellow) and secondary (purple, orange, green) colors, plus brown.  Make sure you include a variety of shades in each group.  For example, in my group of red, I included brick red, red, pale pink, maroon, and fuchsia.  This will give you pretty swirls when you melt the crayons down.         

5.       Peel a skinny vertical strip of paper off the length of each crayon, then remove the whole sheet of paper in one fell swoop. 
Can't you tell Rachel's an English teacher?  "One fell swoop," so beautifully descriptive!

6.       The number of crayons you need for each rebatched fat crayon will vary.  My molds were approximately 1 inch deep and 2 inches wide.  I used 10-12 crayons for each mold.

7.       Chose a couple of darker shades in one of your groups.  Place them in the bottom of your mold, aim your heat gun at them, and fire.  Use a low setting, and do not touch the mold, it can get hot.  

Once they are melted, throw in the lighter shade.  Try not to mix the colors too much because you want a pretty swirly pattern.  To make sure I did this, I held the lighter crayon in my hand and aimed the heat gun at just the end.  That way the crayon dripped softly into the mold.  

* If you do it this way, make sure to keep a safe distance between your hand and the blast of heat.  Heat guns WILL burn you!*   

Once both colors are in the mold, they will mix naturally, but you can use a toothpick to swirl them as well.    

8.       Cool.

9.       When the rebatched crayons have hardened, use your heat gun to melt the topmost layer of the wax.  Throw in a couple more crayons in different shades and melt.  Feel free to throw in different colors of glitter into the hot wax.  You can also add white, silver, or gold to your color groups.  
10.   Cool.  Repeat process until mold is full.

11.   When your rebatched crayons are completely cool, pop them out of the mold and you’re done!

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial for today.  Rachel said that it involved quite a bit of trial and error involving microwaves and including multiple fire alarms!  We hope this tutorial will make creating your own crayons easy for you without all the drama.  Time to make beautiful crayons of your own!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the BIG crafty

We got into the Big Crafty!  It's a super cool handmade market in Asheville that has been getting bigger and bigger.  We applied last year, and were rejected.  (We decided it was because of drastic overflow of applicants since we didn't get a rejection letter.  Hope that was it!)  But this year we made it!  Last year I didn't get to go because I was in Peru, but I went the year before that, and it was amazing.  It's great to see that those sellers on etsy and artfire are real people.

We've only been to one craft fair, this past winter at a high school in our area.

Other way around in this photo.  Rachel's making a silly comment!So we're trying to figure out ways to make our booth extra special, and market well.  I had the idea that it would be great if we could have our label printed on cheapo tissue paper/ wrapping paper--apparently not really feasible. 
My other thought was stickers.  I was thinking that they would look good on our bags, and the boxes I'm planning on making for the jewelry.  If anyone has had any luck with cheap personalized stickers, please please let me know where you got them!

I'm also hoping that we can be a little more organized at this fair and do a little more thinking ahead.  It's surprising how difficult it is to think of ways to display your things in a short time.

If anyone has any craft fair tips, please let us know.  We're pretty inexperienced, and would love some advice!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What's in a name?

An interesting topic on the artfire forums about where your username came from.  I thought I'd share my story, and I'd love to know about yours too!

There are so many interesting screen names online, and I wanted to create my own. This was before I started my etsy, so basically I wanted something clever for my various online presences.  I ensued the help of my boyfriend, his was TheRiskyShift, which I thought was pretty cool.  We had a brainstorming session, and I finally came up with ajoeynamedroo.  It seemed to pop into my head out of nowhere (say divine intervention?)

I think that my name fits me and my creations well.
1. The kangaroo is my favorite animal because I love that it's so hoppy and energetic.
2. My sister and I watched Winnie the Pooh as children, and I really like the artwork of old pooh.
3. Finally, the a boy named Sue reference, was simply me trying to be clever!

All together, I hope that my name reflects my artwork; energetic, classic, whimsical, and clever!

Where did your name come from?

Friday, May 14, 2010

sour cherry and grapefruit pops with rosemary

Here's my promised recipe for pops of my own invention.  The recipe is based pretty heavily on this compote recipe, which is amazing, by the way Grapefruit Compote.  I did add a few twists of flavor, and adapted it to work for pops.  Here's what you need:

1/2c sugar
3T honey
1/2c water
3 sprigs rosemary
1c grapefruit juice
1 grapefruit
~12oz canned sour cherries in light syrup (refrigerate)

yield 7 large pops

1. In a saucepan stir together sugar, honey, water, and rosemary.  Bring to a boil, and boil on low for 5 min, stirring occasionally.

2. Fish out the rosemary and discard (or taste some of the mixture on the rosemary, delicious!)

3. In a small bowl, section the grapefruit catching the juices.  Try to discard as much of the skin as possible, pieces should be pretty small.  Add juice.

4. Stir syrup mixture and grapefruit mixture together.  This is your first layer.

5. Pour half of the mixture into the molds (these can be anything, as long as the open end is larger than the closed end.  You have to be able to pull them out.  I used washed out single serving yogurt containers.)

6. Put these into the freezer and freeze for at least 2 hours, or until hard.  (more is always better in this stage)

7. Take the cherries out of the freezer and distribute into molds.  Feel free to use as much or as little as you choose.  I added ~6 cherries for each cup.  Also pour in syrup.  (you may want to try sweet cherries, I personally like the tartness of morello cherries)

8. Freeze for ~1:30 hours until partially hardened, push sticks into this layer

9. Freeze for another hour or more until layer is hardened

10. Pour in remaining grapefruit mixture, freeze for ~4 hours

That's it!
I love the mixture of sweet and tart in these pops, and the pretty peach mixed with red.  Beautiful!

Note that this recipe is still a work in progress, so feel free to experiment, and I'll come back and make changes as needed.  Let me know if you have any suggestions or alterations.


Monday, May 10, 2010

layers of URSAMAJOR

Next up in the artfire feature series is URSAMAJOR.  Her beautiful recycled pieces would be wonderful to add some cool urban vibe to a wall in your house or apartment.  
Leadeth Me Not I love the combination of the soft spray paint, and the hard edges of the found objects.  The layering also gives the piece a really cool effect.  The common place nature of ursamajor's materials gives her beautiful work a playful, laid-back style, making it a great addition to any eclectic collection of art.  ursamajor has a wide variety of unique pieces.

Leadeth Me Not is my favorite, it reminds me of sun rays!  That's the great thing about abstract art,  You can make it your own simply through interpretation.

The world of craft is HUGE.  In choosing artists to feature, I tried to find things that I had never seen before.  The interesting thing though is how artists distinguish themselves and what they do as unique.
The thing that is a bit different about what I do is that I try to create using materials that would have otherwise been thrown out.  My spraypaintings are created with unusable scrap lumber left over from cabinetmaking or construction.  Much of it is very high quality plywood, but it is odd shaped or too small to be of much use in construction or cabinetmaking.  The paint is also consumer leftover paint, dropped off at a local waste and recycling facility. The objects used to make the "silhouettes--scrap metal, game pieces, toys and other odds and ends, were also landfill-bound.  Aside from that, the particular process involved in making these paintings is unique also.  I have not seen anything quite like them anywhere.
Visions of Tibet
I've never seen anything quite like them either!

Diane of ursa major has an interesting viewpoint of her art.
I started making the paintings because I love to experiment with different mediums--particularly mediums and/or methods that are not widely used.  I love the effects that can be obtained with spraypaint, especially when colors are laid one over the other, and create a new color  where the colors merge.  In later years, I have leaned more and more toward abstraction and expressionism.  The human eye always looks for the familiar in the unfamiliar.  In abstraction, what is found is different for each person.  Perhaps nothing is found?  That does not mean the art is "not good".  It is simply not speaking to YOU.

 I think that you can see this perspective subtly in the pieces, and it's what makes them so unique, beautiful, and exciting!  I love how artistic attitudes can transfer into the work without the artist even having to try.
Marketing strategies can be almost as complicated as the process of creation itself.  It's great to find out how others deal with this huge issue, as it seems to be one of the most complicated aspects of selling online.

I use facebook and secondlife to bring people back to my websites.  I have used twitter and stumbleupon to network my art, but so far it has really not worked for me.  Those kinds of things only work if someone is A. interested  B. in the right place at the right time C. Paying attention.  They generally make me feel as though I'm screaming into a black hole in space, and no one can hear me. 
That's the way it is online--you are either unheard or drowned out unless you are very, very lucky.  I have had my art available online in various places since 2004, and it is a lot of work with very little payoff by comparison.

I certainly share Diane's sentiments.  It can be frustrating.  Although the hugeness of online can be daunting (and may seem a little like a black hole ;).  It also means that you're getting to a wider audience, and while many of those people may not care a lot, you also have a chance of getting to that perfect buyer!  So, Diane and the rest of the handmade community, keep up the good fight.
I've been an artist all of my life.  It's really the one constant that has always kept me going and kept my spirit full of life.  Within the last twenty years, more and more I have been intertwining my environMENTALism with my art.  I call myself an ARTivist.  As artists, (and I use the term loosely, to describe anyone in the arts in general, including visual arts, music, dance, theater, comedy)  I feel we have a responsibility to use our art to incite positive change in the world.  I believe the arts are actually medicine for the spirit that we create to heal ourselves and the rest of the world. This is my definition of the term "high art".   My goal is to try to teach the greater public that art isn't always created to make  your living room look nice, or to match your couch.  It is the conveyance of a feeling, a thought, a protest, a prayer, a message, perhaps a warning.  It is communication.  It is medicine.  It is meditation.  It is spiritual.  I believe people are all pieces of a great spirit, larger than any of us can imagine.  All knowing, all encompasing--good and evil both at once-- it's ideas, it's reasoning, and it's plans are just out of reach to us.  I believe the arts are the "voice" of that spirit. 
~Diane Marie/Novia Halostar (second life)  Ursa Major Gallery and studio

I love to see an artist so full of purpose and knowing who they are.  Diane's collaboration between activism and art is so well thought out and clear.  I really think that it shows in her art.  I certainly think that knowing why you create is an asset to your business and much more importantly to yourself!

Here are a few other places that you can find URSAMAJOR
In the summer, I have a small roadside tent show featuring my art and jewelry, and I hand out business cards featuring the various websites where my work can be seen.
I also have a gallery space in secondlife at Artropolis, and have been written up in various blogs about my Secondlife presence. (webiste under construction, apparently)
I also have art displayed at  

Hope you enjoyed this feature, and please check out URSAMAJOR's shop

Monday, May 3, 2010

a focus on distractedbyshiny

In perusing the artfire forums I found a great post where users could post their shop if they had zero sales.  I posted my shop, encouraged by the fact that I am not the only one!

Some of these sellers have some really great items, that are definitely just waiting to be discovered.  I looked through the list and picked out a few of my favorites to feature on the blog.

First up is distractedbyshiny

I was attracted to this shop first by the name and then of course by all the shiny!  One thing I love about this shop is the variety of shapes and styles of her fused glass jewelry.  When selling one type of craft it's easy to get stuck in a rut, but distractedbyshiny obviously tries something new with each piece.
KC told me a little about how she got started with fusing glass and her shop distractedbyshiny.  I love her story, it has a great do it yourself feel, and I can totally identify with her difficulty throwing anything away!

I am a collector - not of fine art or antiques - a collector of STUFF.....stuff that I can't throw away because I know that "Someday I'll find a use for that" or stuff that I can't part with because "I can make something out of that".  I come from a very artsy crafty family - and a family of "collectors".  

When we cleaned out my mother's house, I came across a box of dichroic glass pieces.  I had never worked with glass and had no idea what I would do with this stuff, but it was WAY too cool to throw out and I knew someday I could make something out of it!!  So, after reading about fusing on the internet, I decided to put some pieces together and throw them in my kiln.  I was instantly HOOKED! 
In the beginning I was using my old ceramic kiln.  I would load up the kiln every night and in the morning I couldn't wait to open the lid to see how everything had come out.  It was like Christmas morning...every morning!  I've moved to a glass kiln that fires quicker so I don't have to wait as long to see my results, but it is always a big surprise to open the lid and see what's inside.  I am constantly experimenting with different technique - some work well...others...well.....But the experiments keep things fresh and keep my work evolving.  

 It's great work, and I'm looking forward to her new evolutions in the future!  Be sure to check out distractedbyshiny's shop to see what other lovely fused glass jewelry she has in stock.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

adventures in lighting

Here's my simple little light studio.  I made the light box out of a simple cardboard box, and taped tracing paper on the top and sides.

There are instructions for light boxes all over the place, but the reason I took this photo is to show you the lamp.  I found that this adjustable multiple light lamps are really handy to adjust surrounding light.  I already had it hanging out in my living room, and it hit me one day that it would be perfect for photo taking.

My light box is a little flimsy and I still have to use picasa to improve the lighting in my photos.  But I do think that I'm making my way closer and closer to some great photos!