Just Start Something!

Holiday Art SaleWow, the weeks just fly by!  This week has been warp seed, with so much work to do (not a bad thing), running around, and not a lot of time for blogging.  But today I’m making time to blog, because I really want to write about last week.

Last week was pillow week:  starting on Sunday with a Holiday Bazaar to benefit the kids’ school, and ending on Friday night with a holiday sale I hosted at my office space, in conjunction with the Phinney neighborhood art walk.  At the first sale I sold four pillows and was disappointed, but then I got over it.  At the second sale I sold four pillows, and was disappointed, but then I got over it.  Hmm, a pattern was forming.  But ‘getting over it’ is probably an understatement.  ‘Invigorated’ might be a better word.  So much got triggered by these sales.  I learned so much.  I got so many new ideas.  I met so many people. Now I have the confidence to make some bigger next steps, and I’m really excited about it.  Now I totally get why it’s so important to just start something!

The Holiday Art Sale was the third time I’d ever sold my pillows. But this sale wasn’t just me showing up at an event, it was my event; I was the host.  It was held in the common area of the building where I share my office, and eight other artists/makers participated.  We had a great mix:  woodworking, fine art, photography, jewelry, gourd art, bags and accessories, bronze necklaces, and of course pillows.  And I had so much fun.

I spent all day Friday getting the place set up, and I have to say, it looked pretty darn good.  Here’s a before and after:

BEFORE:

BeforeAFTER!

After

It was a festive night, and lots of friends stopped by.  Even Santa!

My pillows and SantaI had a nice space up front next to Todd, who made ten beautiful bronze necklaces. Todd really didn’t have time to make necklaces, but he pulled it off by working late nights at his shop, and they were gorgeous.  I loved having Todd there, and it was when he sold a necklace to Kate the gourd artist that I realized: it’s all about the story. 

Here’s that story…

Todds NecklaceKate had complimented me earlier on the necklace I was wearing.  Todd had made it for me in October, and similar ones for my sisters.  That was back when I was planning to visit my sister Maureen at her home in Texas, to help out while she was having chemo.  My younger sister Nicki was going to be there for part of my stay and I was so excited for the three of us to be together for a couple of days. A rare treat.  So I asked Todd if he would make three necklaces for us, all in the shape of a triangle, to represent three sisters and the strength in threes.  He made them in bronze, and they were perfect – heavy, luminescent and beautiful.  But I never got to give one to Maureen.  Instead I gave one to Nicki and one to my mom on the day of Maureen’s funeral.  They looked beautiful on each of us.

Todd assumed I’d told Kate this story when she was looking at the necklaces, but I hadn’t.  I’d just told her that the triangle represented my sisters and me.  So when she was buying one she told Todd that the triangle represented herself, her sister who had passed, and her daughter.  And Todd told her the story about when he was making them originally, how he was hammering on one of them to make it flat, the hammer landed on it funny, and it flung away, disappearing into oblivion.  He heard it cha-chinging onto the ground somewhere, but could never find it; so he made a new one.  Then when we got back from Texas there the triangle was in his shop, plain as day, and so he finished it.  And that was the one that Kate had chosen.  So Kate loved it even more.  We shared a teary moment when she showed me her necklace and said, “I’m pretty sure Marueen had something to do with this.”

And that’s when I realized the power of a story.  You can have an amazing product, but without a story people won’t have as much of an emotional connection.  Buying something typically is not a logical decision, it’s an emotional one.  You can buy jewelry from Target, and you can buy jewelry from a craftsman.  But when you buy from a craftsman, you are also buying that connection.  That story.  You can also buy pillows from Target, or you can buy them from me.  What’s my story? How am I connecting with customers?  I need to tell my story somehow.

Stay TunedThe morning after the sale I got a text from my friend Chris who apologized for missing the sale, asked how it went, and said he thinks I should also make meditation pillows.  That’s when it struck me:  My pillows are kind of like meditations.  One pillow is just words, with verbs like “notice, see, care, commit, embrace, risk, trust, love” that I believe are the ways to live a good life.  The Tin Man pillow probably doesn’t need words, but on the back it says “Follow your heart” – another message for a good life.  The TV pillow with the color bars is called “Stay Tuned” and the idea is that we need to tune into the world around us, and not so much into our screens.  Hmmm, a theme is developing…

Words To Live ByBut my story is bigger than making pillows with inspirational messages. These pillows are a big part of my journey and my quest for the good life.   I love making them.  They represent everything that is important to me:  creativity, comfort, design, aesthetics, craftsmanship, learning new things, making things by hand, being adventurous, facing my fears, and owning who I am.  I love words and quotes.  I love fabric.  I love to make my pillows at home with my kids where they can see how something is made.  They get to  see the process  from end to end and they are always coming up with new pillow ideas for me.  My pillows are enriching my life in ways I never imagined.

So even though I didn’t sell a lot of pillows this holiday season, I still got so much.  I got to meet so many people, and be around other artists who’ve done this sort of thing for a while.  I learned a lot from them, and realized that they are a huge resource for me.  So another big lesson I learned was that I need mentorship.  I need to learn from the people who’ve done this successfully and in a way that I think would work for me.

And while I loved hosting the sale, and having the party atmosphere, I also realized that while it’s okay to sell to my friends, that market is going to be saturated pretty quickly.  It’s time to define my customers and figure out the best ways of reaching them.

Before these sales I sewed like crazy.  My little corner in my house was a pillow factory, creating lots of lots of pillows in all sorts of color combinations.  Todd at one point said, “I think you have enough pillows, don’t you think you can stop now?”  Oh no, I don’t have enough! I thought as I kept on sewing.  Clearly I did, but I’m glad I had the deadline of the sales to push me.  I’m much better at sewing and now I have some inventory.  Now I have an etsy site.  And yesterday I made my first sale on etsy!  Woo hoo!!  It was for the “Stay Tuned” pillow, which will now be living somewhere in Poughkeepise, New York.  How cool is that?  It made my day.

But alas it is now time for a little break from the pillows.  Today is the last day of school before the holiday break, my parents arrive in a few days, and I am so excited for Christmas.  Mostly I’m excited for family time, sleeping in, relaxing, socializing, and reflecting on all that has transpired recently, and over the past year.  It’s been a big year.  A very big year.  But I am pretty excited to jump into some new adventures in 2015!

So, to summarize, here are the things I learned from my pillow sales:

  1. Just start something!
  2. It’s all about the story.
  3. I need mentorship.
  4. It’s time to define my customers and figure out the best ways of reaching them.

Hmmm.  Pretty good!  Happy holidays!!

Full Moon Wishes

Full MoonSaturday was just one of those days where I had to drag my kids all over town.  Todd was busy all day, and we didn’t arrange any play-dates or sleepovers, so they were stuck with me.

First we had to drive way down south to take Miles to his APP testing which took two and a half hours. Nadine and I occupied ourselves for the duration by going to nearby Pacific Fabrics so I could buy pillow inserts and zippers, and then walking around Uwajimaya and China Town.  Then at night I brought them with me to Art Under $100, a craft fair in South Park, where I was meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long.

They were totally bummed in the morning when I told them what our day would be like, but when we finally got home that night and looked back on it all, we talked about how much fun we had.  Miles felt really good about the test he took, Nadine and I laughed about the funny stuff we saw at Uwajimaya, and I told them how much I loved hanging out with them all day, even though we had to do “boring” stuff.  Then we made our full moon wishes.

We’ve been making full moon wishes ever since I took my alchemy class last year and learned all about the power of the moon.  Whenever I say goodnight to the kids on a night with a full moon, I remind them to make their full moon wishes.  On this full moon night Nadine told me that she wished she would do really well at her gymnastics meet the next day.  Miles didn’t tell.  And I told them that I wished people would love my pillows. Then we snuggled and said goodnight.

We had to get up early the next morning to get to Nadine’s gymnastics meet which was all the way in Redmond.  We took two cars, and she and I were out the door by 8 a.m., making it it there by 8:30 so she could warm up.  The meet started at 9 a.m. and I got to see her do her bar, beam, and floor routine.  It was her first meet of the season and she seemed a bit nervous, but she did great.  I missed her vault because I had to leave early so I could get over to my pillow sale.

The pillow sale was actually a ‘Holiday Bazaar’ craft sale to support the kids’ school.  It was held at a school family’s big beautiful house, and it was full of other moms who made stuff like bags, jewelry, soap, granola, and lotion.  There were kids there with some cool stuff too, like shrinky-dink earrings and candles, which I thought was very impressive.

Holiday BazaarI got a corner spot where I could set up my pillows on the window seats, between a woman who made jewelry and home-made sunscreen, and another woman who made purses out of designer fabric remnants.  My pillows looked cool in the window, but the corner spot wasn’t ideal, as people had to squish between two tables to get to them.  But I was happy, and hopeful, and my neighbors were really fun.

Just after I Gymnastics Meetgot all set up I got a text from Todd which said, “Nadine got first place, which means high score on vault and beam, and second place on floor and bars.”  Go Nadine!  Way to get your full-moon wish!  I was so so happy for her and couldn’t stop smiling.  I told everyone.

The Holiday Bazaar kicked off at 1 p.m. and I immediately made two sales.  The first was to a friend who bought the pillow with the Words to Live By on it for her daughter for Christmas.  The second was to another friend who bought the Tin Man Follow Your Heart pillow.  As soon as she got to the sale she came right over to me with her credit card and said, “I love this pillow!  I’m getting it!”  Hooray!  So nice.  I’m going to sell a whole bunch of pillows today I thought.  But no…

I sold two more pillows that day.  To two other friends.  Four sales total.  And when it was time to shut down at 4:30 I was pretty bummed.  Why didn’t I sell more?  What was wrong with my pillows?  What was wrong with me?  Was my spot bad?  Are pillows not a good Christmas gift?  Were my prices too high?  Why didn’t I get my full-moon wish?

I packed up my stuff and went home to an empty house.  The kids and Todd were still at Grandpa’s, then going to get a tree.  So I poured myself a beer and started watching The Royal Tenenbaums.  It was the perfect movie for the mood I was in.  I love that movie, and I started to feel better.  And I started to change my mind about the day.  And I decided that I really did get my full moon wish.  I didn’t, after all, wish to sell a lot of pillows; I wished that people would love them.  And they did.  And I love them too, and I’m really proud of them.

In hindsight I realized that so many people had the nicest things to say about them, and that the people that bought them really really seemed excited to have one.  The lady selling purses next to me said, “I can’t believe you didn’t sell out of those pillows.  They are amazing.”  A friend of mine that was working at the sale came over to my corner to admire them, and asked me all about how I made them.  She added that she thought about selling some of her stuff, but she thought that her price point would be too high for this kind of sale.  Another friend texted me that night and said they were the best most unique thing there, but that people were probably more prepared to buy small gifts there.  And another friend texted me from the Urban Craft Uprising which was going on the same day, a sale I would love to do some day, to say that she didn’t see anything there like my pillows, and that she would love to help me sell them at their summer sale.  How nice is that?

So what does it all mean?

It means that this is only my second sale ever and that I’m still in a discovery period.  I still have so much to learn.  And every time I put myself out there, I learn stuff.  I’m realizing that I really need to figure out who my customer is and how to best reach her/him.  I’m thinking I need to find and talk to people who’ve successfully done this sort of thing, and learn from them.  And I’ve decided I should spend some time figuring out how to source my materials at a lower cost, and how to make them in less time.  Clearly this is not going to be a get-rich-quick operation.

But it’s fun!  And I love it.  And I have another sale on Friday, and so many ideas after that.  So I guess I’ll just have to work hard, be patient, and see where this all goes…

The Tin ManFollow Your Heart

Pillows in the Garden

P-Patch GnomeA week before we left for our trip to Alabama, my neighbor sent me an email asking me if I was still making pillows, and if so, would I like to share a booth with her at the upcoming Art in the Garden event.  I love this event and I adore the P-Patch where it’s held.  In addition to crafters selling their wares, they have craft projects for kids, live music, a beer garden, and food trucks.  It’s their annual fund raiser and it’s a really fun way to spend the afternoon.  So I replied to my neighbor with an enthusiastic “Yes!” and got busy filling out the application.

Then I started to get nervous.  Was I crazy?  It was only three weeks away and I only had eight completed pillows, no display, no business cards or payment system or web-site or etsy site.  What was I thinking?  And I was about to leave on vacation!  But there’s nothing like a deadline to light a fire under my butt, and so I made a plan.  The week before vacation I would focus on the business side, and the week after vacation I would sew like crazy and make my display.

The first thing I did was order a Square device and download the app so I could take credit cards with my iPhone.  That took about two minutes.  Check!  Next I set up a gmail account for my business.  Check.  Then I decided to make business cards.  What to do, what to do…  So I took out my sketch book and found a sketch that I thought would work well on a business card.  I scanned it into Photoshop, along with the name of my business which I had hand-printed, then put it all together with my email and web address, and saved it as a jpeg file.  Now I could import it into an on-line business card app.  I decided to use Zazzle, and it was a pretty straightforward process.  100 two-sided business cards cost me $24, including shipping.  I also needed tags for the pillows, so I decided to make business cards again, but this time using VistaPrint, where 250 cards costs only $23.  I put my business card image on one side, and care instructions on the other.  Here’s how they turned out:

So Fashion Business CardsManifesto Wordscare instructionsCurious about the name?  “So Fashion?”  Well I have Miles to thank for that.  Here’s the story.  When Miles was about 3 years old he would look at things, like a car or someone’s outfit, and ask, “Isn’t that so fashion Mama?”  I thought it was so cute, but for some reason I thought he meant, “Isn’t that so fashionable/hip/cool Mama?”  I would hesitate and reply “Yes, I guess it is Miles.”  Because sometimes it was on old Pinto, or some other not-so-attractive car like it (no offense), and I worried a bit about his level of taste.  But as he got older and more articulate, it turned out that when he was saying “so fashion,” what he really meant was “old fashioned.”  When finally one day he corrected himself and said “I mean old fashioned” I thought to myself, Duh!  Of course that’s what he meant!  Leave it to me to confuse the two, and to project my own meaning onto it.  So funny.  (He also used to call his pacifier his fire pass.  Nadine knew exactly what he meant.)

I originally thought I would name my business “Spruce.”  I liked the idea of my pillows sprucing up your home and life.  But one day when I was driving around, and my mind was wandering around, I landed on the idea of calling it “So Fashion.”  I was thinking not only about the idea of how we all put our own meaning onto things, but also about how I love modern design and technology, but I also really embrace the traditional, the hand-crafted, the old fashioned.  And I liked the idea of a name with a story.  So there you have it.

So I got a bunch of stuff taken care of before we headed off for our week at the beach, but I didn’t get a web-site or an etsy site set up.  Oh well.  I figured that it was okay not to have them for this very small first step into pillow selling, and I convinced myself that I probably wouldn’t sell any pillows anyway.  And off we went on our relaxing get-away.

When we got back, with only five days til show-time, I started to sew like the wind.  On Thursday I painted an old crib I had white, thinking that would be how I would display my pillows.  And by Friday night I had 16 completed pillows, and was ready to go.  Ta da!

The event started at 11am, so we had plenty of time to set up, and even though my wares were bulky, set up was pretty easy.  Unlike my booth-mate who had lots of big frames to hang, and boxes of greeting cards to set up.  Todd was an amazing help to both of us, and I have to say, he has a great eye for creating a lovely display.  We got done in time, and I think it looked pretty darn good, especially since neither of us had done a test run.  Here are a few shots:

So Fashion - Art in the Garden DisplayOur shared boothArt in the GardenMy mother-in-law showed up at 11am sharp and was my first customer.  I told her I couldn’t possibly sell her a pillow, that it would be a gift.  She does so much for us!  But she insisted, and I took her money.  My neighbor said, “She totally wants to help you out.  You should let her.”  Okay, that made me feel better.  And then throughout the day I had a lot of friends and neighbors stop buy, and many of them bought pillows.  So nice!  And by the end of the day I had sold 8 pillows and made $400.  Wow!  I really didn’t expect to sell so many or make so much.  It was really exciting.  But more importantly, I learned so much.  I learned which patterns and colors people liked the best.  I learned that most people didn’t know that I had designed all of the patterns myself, and done the silk-screening.  I learned that I am a spaz when in comes to taking people’s payments.  And much much more.

So, what’s next?  Well it’s definitely time to take some good photos, get an etsy shop set up, as well as a web-site.  And I need to make more pillows!  I need to make a lot more of the pillows I called “Stay Tuned” (the ones with the TVs on them) because those sold out right away.  And for the pillows I called “Manifesto” (the ones with the words) I need to make more with the grey material.  Grey was the hot color.  I also want to figure out how to best present myself and my pillows – how to share my story better.  And finally, I need to decide where to sell them next!  Doing the Art in the Garden event was the perfect way to dip my big toe into the craft-show waters.

And when I wasn’t busy selling my pillows, I couldn’t help but take a few photos of the amazing flowers at the P-Patch:

P-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the Garden

P-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenIt was so great having my first pillow sale in such a beautiful and inspiring place!

Stay tuned for more on the progress of my etsy site and web-site.  And please check out my neighbors photos.  They are spectacular!