Wednesday, August 31, 2011

some facts about the Canadian tar sands ...


Tar Sands Action's sit-ins in Washington DC are succeeding in informing people about the Canadian tar sands and the extreme price we pay for gathering oil from them.

The protest revolves around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project, which would speed the flow of crude oil from the tar sands to US refineries.

Approx. 20% of US oil comes from Canada and 40% of Canada's oil production is from tar sands.

So what are tar sands and why should we care? Tar sands, or oil sands are a mix of clay, sand, water and oil and particularly bitumen, which is a heavy, viscous material. Unlike drilled oil, tar sands have to be mined to get at the bitumen and refine it into oil.

Bitumen is highly carcinogenic and requires extensive processing to make it thin enough to flow through pipes. Four tons of sand and soil are removed and dumped for every one barrel of oil gained from tar sands

(Al Gore wrote a great book about the devastation from soil removal- not his book An Inconvenient Truth, but an older book, I believe from before he was Vice President, the title is slipping my mind - like alot of things these days- but if you google it, it is a great read)

and three barrels of water to extract just one barrel of oil. More than 400 million gallons of water per day ends up dumped in toxic tailing pools which leak 3 million gallons of contaminated water daily.

Tar sands oil production emits 3 times more carbon dioxide per barrel than traditional oil production and the tar sands of Alberta, Canada are located under Canada's Boreal forest which is one of the largest intact ecosystems remaining on the planet. Removing the carbon-storing forest ecosystem to get at the tar sands will be more and more detrimental.

By 2020 the Tar Sands will release twice as many greenhouse gases than currently produced by all the cars and trucks in Canada!

Local production negatively impacts birds and caribou and moose and the indigenous people ... and all of us.

If the U.S. government approves the pipeline, renowned climatologist James Hansen says it will be "game over" for the global climate.

There is a petition to Obama to stop this pipeline HERE
and to focus on developing clean, safe energy.

BTW if you haven't seen Bill Nye tackle this brain-dead climate skeptic at FOX news (again) you will love this

Friday, August 26, 2011

this could be it folks ....

I mean, an earthquake and a hurricane all in one week? in New Jersey?

Global warming?

(Al?)

Well, maybe ... but my take on this is that God is seriously pissed off about all this Jersey TV - Housewives, Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious - she got one look at Snookie and said ... enough, already

(note to God - remember me, I'm the girl with the flat hair)

BTW at the post office the other day a bald man told me he has worked at the Jerseylicious salon for 15 years

(first he complimented another customer's hair, then looked at my hair and said ... nothing)

and only the mother and daughter on the show actually work there, everyone else is fake - I've never seen the show, so don't know how extensive this "fake people" thing is, but it sounds serious folks ...

As I am typing this my brother just called me and said his town is having mandatory evacuations and they need a place to go ... with their 5 cats and 2 birds - OMG

Then a friend called and said they are having an earthquake/hurricane party tonight and we are invited. I asked if I should bring some takeout

(and my brother, sister in law, 2 birds and 5 cats .. I kind of just whispered this part though)

and she said "I have a pot roast."

(grandma? sniffle)

Uh, isn't it still August? Who just happens to have a pot roast in August? But then she said the kicker that pretty much assured my participation

"I'll show you my new Dyson", she added

I mean a pot roast and a dyson demonstration just screams PAR-TAY in Jersey folks - unlike Snookie and the Situation this is how we really roll.

Off to clean my bathroom in case we have house guests this weekend .... stay safe and dry everyone.

xo

Monday, August 22, 2011

Olive Begs for Votes - no-bipartisan bickering with this one

Kella and Chris's new biz The Suburban Camping Company is a top 3 finalist in Daily Candy's annual Start Small, Think Big Contest!

The winner gets some expert business advice and since they are primarily getting their business advice from me they really need to win this thing!


If everyone could click over and give them a vote - you can vote anytime between now and Sept. 13th (and even every day) - we will be bestie best friends forever.

And of course I will totally do you a favor back - a biggie - email that old boyfriend and tell him off, prank call your mother-in-law - clean out that litter box, yes even those of you with multiple cat households - I am there for you - this is that serious!

Here is the link to VOTE for them!

(they are in the center of the bottom row)

I hate these popularity things - maybe because we are a super small family with slow clicker fingers and sporadic internet service ... plus we are very sore losers.

xo

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dig Yourself a Hole ....


I saw this quote on Seth and thought someone who doesn't read Seth (if there is such a person) might feel inspired by it today, too.



"Dig yourself a hole

Make big promises.

Burn your boats.

Set yourself up in a place where you have few options and the stakes are high.

Focused energy and serious intent will push you to do your best work. You have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide."

*do not fear print from iota illustration

Techie Textie Kids - what's too much?

My local school is lobbying for our kids attention this year by embracing technology in ever increasing ways - homework on the computer, iPads in the classroom, classroom Facebooks.

A few years ago we all thought more technology was a good thing - kids had to know this stuff or they wouldn't be ready for "the real world", right? They had to learn this stuff young.

Now we're not so sure anymore. It feels like kids know too much of this stuff and the other stuff is starting to get lost in the shuffle. I read that the average child and teen spends over 7 hours a day in front of some kind of screen - and this doesn't include texting!

(and that most teenagers sleep with their phones ... or within arms length of their phone - just what kind of middle of the night emergency text requires this kind of diligence I am not certain, but when Jason dumps Amber everyone will know about it before breakfast .. thank goodness)

My teacher friend says kids will do anything to text during class and catches someone daily - pretend searching their backpack while checking their email and sending a fast text - aren't their friends in school, too?

When I am walking Olive around other dog walkers I am usually the only person without a phone to my ear - now this may be due to some degree to my inability to walk and chew gum at the same time (not that I actually chew gum except on airplanes) but I am always thinking who the hell is everyone talking to?

One day last spring I was in line at the post office just as the high school bus dropped off the kids right outside the post office window - every single kid getting off that bus immediately flipped open their phones .. every single one. None of the kids talked to each other (and I live in a very small town so they all absolutely knew each other).

Wrists flipped in unison like the Rockettes at Christmas.

(it was sort of amazing in a scary Stepford, robotic, the world is clearly ending so shoot me now, kind of way)

I've seen toddlers routinely given mommy's iPhone when they need to be quieted down; promoting fixation on techie devices at younger and younger ages.

(of course, I will admit to giving my daughter my car keys to play with ... ie chew on ... at such times ... and she hasn't developed a car key fixation, but I still think this iPhone thing could be trouble later as most quick fixes turn out to be ... )

School is about to start up again folks, maybe it has already where you live, and it is up parents where all of this is heading. We need to pull the plug whenever possible. Family dinners help.

Research has shown that the dinner table is one of the key places that young people learn how to engage in real conversation.

(and argue and have civilized and uncivilized debates and learn to come together after things fall apart)

Maybe family dinners can save us.

(just have 'em drop their cellphones at the dining room door)

*shut down computer print by bitso truth

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

10 Lessons Learned from Wholesale Trade Shows Part III

See Part I here
and Part II here

6. You Probably Need to Do a Show More Than Once to Make the Most Impact

(you need to be doing the right show though)

It was clear that the sellers who were doing the most business had been doing the show for many years.

(how many NEW accounts they were getting is impossible for me to know though)

I guess it instills buyer confidence to see a seller back at the show - makers wouldn't return if they didn't do well would they?

Well, I'm not so sure about that actually and different sellers have different ideas of what 'doing well' at a show is due to their different expenses, price points, expectations, etc.

I could do a show again if I lost money, but I wouldn't do a show again just to establish myself unless I had alot of confidence in that show or a good reason to stick with it.

(like happy hour in the afternoons - that was kind of nice)

7. You Need to be Thinking Like a Buyer

My lines need some explaining. I have my elevator pitches down by now because it is not immediately apparent when looking at my displays what the hell I am selling.

(although I try my best!)

So, I have to take time talking about my makings. This is a balancing act though, because it is not something all buyers care about. What they really want to hear is how this will sell in their shops and I found the more time I spent talking about their shops -

(this also helped weed out people who were not really buyers and there were alot of those at both shows)

asking them what price points did best for the jewelry that sold well for them, etc - that I connected with them. And that connection is the key to the relationship, I think.

8. In Order For These Shows to Be Worthwhile You Need to Get Reorders

If these shops are all one time orders then this is alot of work for not a lot of money, especially when you factor in airfare, hotel rooms, display, shipping and food

(I admit we ate pretty darn well because after standing in the booth all day I was starving by dinner and felt deserving of something especially yummy)

so, you need to be supplying your stores with the materials they need to sell your stuff - how will the stores display it, what kind of materials can you give them to help them sell it? I gave all shops clipboards with the type of display info their customers need to see to buy.

No one around me had any huge orders - no one got "discovered".

(and if you are doing a show hoping to be 'discovered', well, you could be very disappointed, most of the buyers walking these shows were mom and pop stores and being discovered is kind of like being rescued - it can happen, but we'd better know how to swim just in case it doesn't)


<--- this was a nice place to go at the end of the day I have to admit - trying to get hubs to throw something like this together on our roof

9. It is Very Hard to Look Dynamic and Approachable While Doing Nothing

Wholesale shows are not like retail shows - they don't have the same kind of energy; there is alot of downtime. It doesn't come in huge chunks, usually, although the first and last couple hours were killers.

You are like the goalie who has to be totally alert even while the game is on the other side of the field - it is hard.

(luckily my almost-OCD gives me things to do at times like this that help keep me on my toes - like count earrings in the booth across from me - 47 pairs btw)

10. Niche Products May Need Niche Shows

Shows are expensive (the least expensive part is often the booth fee) and there are many ways to develop wholesale relationships - more about this in my next series on wholesale selling - without exhibiting at them.

If your product has a very tight niche your challenge may be to find shows your target shops might frequent and they may not be general handmade wholesale shows.

Hope this series has been helpful to someone- I'll write more on this experience in a few weeks when I have a better grip on the outcome. I did get some sales reps which was a primary goal for me, so I'll also post on how all of that works out, too!

Friday, August 12, 2011

More Lessons Learned at the California Gift Show

See Part I here

#3. Alot of makers selling wholesale do not sell retail.

This surprised me because the idea of a 100% wholesale income seems challenging, but maybe my price points are lower than many makers. I was told by quite a few sellers that the headaches of selling retail are not worth it to them. Also I heard quite a bit of anti-Etsy ramblings

(and I feel only people on Etsy are allowed to rant against Etsy - this is the same way I feel about New Jersey)

about the junk sold there. And, of course, we all know there is alot of junk on Etsy (and I don't mean the good junk called vintage), but there is alot of amazing stuff on Etsy, too and the truth is the cutting edge stuff - well, for better or worse, it's all on Etsy.

And I did have a couple sellers tell me they look on Etsy for ideas and I was hoping by ideas they meant inspiration and not any ideas resembling "oh, I should make that".

Some also said they didn't sell on Etsy because it wasn't worth the hassles of taking new photos all the time and that they thought they would be copied if they put their work there (both valid issues).

I don't think I can go cold turkey off my retail sales (although maybe Etsy's new relevancy search will change my mind about this), but it was inspiring to see people making it work for them with just wholesale sales.

#4. Rules get broken at big wholesale shows, too.

I thought that unlike retail craft shows where we all see "makers" whose makings have everything but a Made in China sticker on the bottom - a big wholesale handmade show would be pretty much exempt from this.

Sometimes I can see where show organizers can be fooled, but if putting an NFL metal charm on a chain is handmade enough for a premier handmade show someone needs to give me a new definition of handmade.

This type of thing was definitely the exception though.

#5. People do amazing work.

The work at both shows was amazing. The displays were amazing. The people were amazing. I often saw work that made me think - what the hell am I doing here? - and displays that made me tired just thinking about all the work and money that went into them.

(make sure your act is together before doing one of these shows - not to scare anyone, but you kind of need to be amazing or have amazing packaging and an amazing display and it kind of helps to have all of these things, but we knew this already, right?)

These shows are located within larger gift shows that are not handmade so buyers have walked through an incredible collection of colorful, exotic and stunning giftware - think almost everything sold in Bloomingdale's and Target, Fred Segal and Urban Outfitters before they get to your booth. We need to sizzle.

(luckily I had my day-glo orange roots to help me stand out in California - I did get my hair fixed in the one day I had home before Chicago though so they didn't help me there)

More lessons next week. Have a wonderful weekend all!

xo

Thursday, August 11, 2011

10 Things I Learned from Exhibiting at Last Month's Wholesale Tradeshows

Last month I exhibited at Beckman's Handmade at the California Gift Show and the Chicago Market - if anyone is thinking about exhibiting at these shows and has any questions that I might be able to help with don't hesitate to contact me by email.

I am still processing some lessons, but some things I have already learned are :

1. Wholesale selling requires an entirely new vocabulary - customers are now buyers (this is easy to remember if you continue to think of the customer as the end user, so your buyer's customer is your customer, too)

sales are now orders
(again, easy to remember if you continue to think of the sale as the final transaction with the end user or customer)

Most of the wholesale lingo I already knew and you probably do, too if you have done any research on wholesale selling, but a couple terms I heard last month that I was unfamiliar with were:

"Open to Buy" - this is the amount of money the store has budgeted for new purchases that they have not yet spent. Some buyers told me their "open to buy" dollars were very limited and they needed to make good choices.

This was when I would talk about my online success with my lines in a very competitive marketplace and delve a little deeper into what sells best in their shop -

my entire reason for developing wholesale accounts is to build an ongoing relationship and create multiple orders from them, not just get a onetime order, so I want to be a good fit for them so we can both make money!


"RTV" - which I thought for a second was some kind of recreational vehicle television system actually means return-to-vendor. Stores obviously want RTV's if merchandise arrives damaged, but what about if it gets damaged in the store or is just not selling?

From the shopowner's point of view they want sellers with RTV's that benefit them, but from the seller's point of view it may be hard to accept returns on handmade items damaged in the store or nonsellers.

I have always offered wholesale tradeout on my locket lids allowing them to swap out nonsellers for new options. I decided to be as flexible as possible with my RTV policies at these shows.

I would rather swap out things that are not selling and keep a relationship going with a good shop than have them mark the items at half off just to move them out and then never order from me again. Plus I have found that offering this option instills confidence and allows the buyer to make quicker decisions -

(I have a large selection that can make decision making hard for buyers and this way they feel they are covered if they make some wrong choices in the beginning)

I have also found buyers seldom take me up on this offer. This is definitely not something you need to do, it may not work for you, but something to think about.

2. Setting minimum order dollars is challenging

I know that gift shop owners (unless they have a very specific niche) need a certain amount of my jewelry (this is especially true of picture jewelry) to have a broad enough variety to sell well with their walk-in customers.

The store buyers told me that in the current economy they want proven sellers or very small volume orders for new unproven items.

So, we had to kind of meet in the middle somewhere. I set a minimum of $250.00. Most of the sellers around me had minimums of $250.00 and often significantly higher price points than mine -

so I realized I was forcing the buyer to buy more items and also maybe losing any lower price point advantage I had, but I decided to stick to it because I know in my heart that orders for less than this will probably not generate a long lasting wholesale relationship and I was clear with my intention going into these shows that was what I wanted.

I will continue this post tomorrow or maybe next week - I am trying to blog less this summer (you might have noticed) to focus on this new direction for my studio and also to have some extra family time plus I've got these wholesale orders to fill ...

xo

(yes, that awesome old truck is part of my display - my lockets are fabricated from car parts after all - and yes, many people commented on it and wanted it .. badly .. and were pretty much begging me to sell it to them - I didn't want to make them any more jealous by telling them I have two - if my makings were half as popular as that truck I'd be bringing home the big bucks folks)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

how are you? fine, I hope ...

I've been trying to post for an hour and a half - I've lost 2 posts, 3 pounds and a demented boggle (ie beagle/boston terrier, ie mutt) who fled the room when I screamed NOT AGAIN! at blogger ... sigh

I have no energy left to rewrite what was about to be my most phenomenal post ever - the kind of post that would be picked up by some blogger super-mega-group and catapult my blog readership into the stratosphere ...

oh well at least I have poptarts .. and you guys, you guys and poptarts make everything better

The only thing left to write about is my post office visit today - where

1. the postal clerk Joe told another customer that I was a painter

(huh?)

I just smiled and didn't correct him - I mean wth I did paint the kitchen once

but when I got up to the window I said "Joe, why did you tell that guy I was a painter?" and he said "I thought you were a painter" and I said "no, I'm not"

and he said "well, I thought you were a painter because you always have paint on your hands"

and I was all "huh? - paint on my hands, I always have paint on my hands? I don't always have paint on my hands Joe!"

and then I held up my hands ... and saw ... paint - wth ...

and 2. a sort-of neighbor asked me how my day was going and I told him I was very busy because I just did back to back shows and need to catch up and get back in the groove. And as soon as I didn't just say "fine", he looked all kind of annoyed that he asked.

Then I got all kind of annoyed because what kind of question is "how is your day going so far?" anyway? That's not something you ask someone if you just want them to say "fine."

That question is too specific and has too many syllables and demands an answer. Next time just ask me, "How are you?" So I can just say "fine" and not annoy you.

Ugh!

*hi, how are you? print by thebigharumph

Monday, August 8, 2011

the present moment ... taking what you love and making it what you do

I have been feeling pulled in alot of different directions lately - and this pulling

(totally self-imposed thinking of course, no one is actually making my body into salt water taffy)

is creating a state of busy-ness that is not a comfortable place for me. I can text and tweet with the best of them (sort of), but I also know I can't live in this perpetual state of distraction and lack of center.

I know all the answers are given to us in the present moment and this is exactly the place I am having trouble accessing lately.

So, this week, even as I fill my wholesale orders from my recent shows

(and production work is often a great way for me to get back into the present moment - especially when brazing because it is hard to be scattered when working with fire)

I will be taking more time for things that center me and getting back into my meditation practice which is the last thing I should let go of, but always seems to be the first thing to go when things get crazy.

Finding the pieces of what we love to do and making them into what we do is where our heart and happiness lies, I think ...

Summer is fading folks, let's not waste another minute of it ...

*I have everything I need and always will print by choosing beauty

Sunday, August 7, 2011

All Occasion Cork Necklaces for Gift Shops!

Some pics of my new all-occasion cork necklace racks for florists, gft shops, etc. The category buttons are changeable on the metal test tube rack. How cute are these mini cork necklaces for birthdays, anniversaries and more!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

home sweet home ....


Back from Chicago last night with a grateful heart for all I have learned these past few weeks and I am now getting caught up with work and life ... hoping to get my blog back on track this Monday, I miss everyone.

xo - Cat :)

* home is in my mind print by the amazing Danita and yes, we make a locket together, too