Friday, June 29, 2012

received this note from the universe today and thought I'd share it ....

Cat , please help spread the word. Here are the top 10 ways people give away their power:

1. Asking others what they should do.
2. Thinking God decides who gets what.
3. Worrying about how their dream will come true.
4. Thinking they have dues to pay.
5. Attaching to unimportant details and outcomes.
6. Believing in soul mates.
7. Thinking karma or spiritual contracts are absolute.
8. Fear of anything, especially falling in love.
9. Waiting for their ducks to line up before acting.
10. Choosing to be unhappy.

Understand the truth, little bird, and you will soar.

Caw-caw,
The Universe


*don't shush your inner voice print by emily mcdowell draws

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pricing for our Skillset - Part II - why we had better be doing whatever it is we are doing very, very well

Skillset is the tricky part of a maker's pricing formula.

This is probably why no one talks about it very much.

(skillset can sometimes be offset with the uniqueness of the maker's makings and their presentation and, yes, I know that kind of offset can annoy makers with practiced skillsets over thousands of hours, but it is just the nature of business right now - unique trumps better but unique lasts about 5 seconds and then you had better get yourself some more unique - or some better skills)

If we are not continually improving our craft, even the best marketing and sales skills won't save us in today's competitive environment over the long haul.

Wait- what the hell are we hauling? Forget I said it. Let's just call it building a sustainable business - no long hauling here - I am way too lazy for that.


We need to stay on top of our craft and be learning new things - this means taking courses, reading books, experimenting, exchanging ideas and best practices with trusted peeps.

Skillset matters. Producing something of quality matters. Producing something that matters matters.

And lots of other stuff that goes into crafting a successful product and creating a successful business matter, too, but we need some maker chops for people to take us seriously.

We need to know what you are talking about. We need to know what we are doing. We need to be doing good work - no, we need to be going great work (not flawless work - because where's the soul in that) - and we need the skills to do it.

(And yes, we also need to pay attention to developing trends - where is the market heading? Are customers' budgets shifting? What are we being asked about the most? What's being talked about? This is not always something we need to take action on, but we do need to be aware of it and a huge plus to being a small business is that it allows us to be fast on our feet and pivot and change direction and even move backwards if we do want to take action)

Now at a certain point our skillset will start to matter less than our reputation and the uniqueness of our offerings because life is a giant circle after all or a spiral really, bringing us back again and again to the same place at a different level - a place where we bring our experiences to bear on a similar situation allowing us to choose differently. It is no different for our businesses.

With a maker business our most important asset is us. So making a commitment to invest a reasonable percentage of our energy (time and money) into improving our skillset will sustain us over the long haul (I can't seem to escape the pack mule verbage - ugh).

Back to tie this in with our pricing models in Part III - for the maker who needs (ie heartful yearning) to make stuff and Part IV - for the maker who needs (ie heartful yearning) to use certain skills

* surrender print by the talented jessica grundy of solocosmo

Monday, June 25, 2012

getting off my a$$ - the true story of a crafty solopreneur's adventures standing up for herself

this is my chair ---->

this is the chair that sits in front of my computer ---->

this is the chair you will not find me sitting in for the next 7 days ---->

You may be asking yourself -

Is she going on vacation?

(I wish, but dammit, no)

Did she get a new chair?

(no again, although this one does have some rips - they don't bother me though)

Well, fo' sure she's not going to stand up for a week, is she???

(because in my mind you all talk like Eminem)

YES, I am getting off my a$$ (the dollar signs are my way of not cursing at you) for the next 7 days.

I have a chair at my work bench of course, but the rest of the time I will be (cue the Jaws theme song) STANDING UP.

I am determined to cut down on unnecessary web-browsing time (why does checking one little thing turn into a 30 minute distraction for me) and get myself into a more active position with the goal of working smarter

(I always stand up for important phone calls - and now I will get to pace again, like I used to when I had a real job and an office and a door so no one could see just how much pacing I was doing, in fact I hardly ever sat down to work and now I am mostly always sitting down)

I'm going to put my computer on a higher cabinet - I'm not going to be all scrunched up over my keyboard, don't worry - I will be standing tall - in fact I plan to be 3" taller by the end of the week.

(kind of picture Brooke Shields printing paypal labels - without me actually looking anything at all like Brooke Shields)

Desperate times call for desperate measures folks- I will let you know how this goes , but I have to go now - my back hurts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

what's in your wallet ....

A few years ago I took some feng shui classes and when cleaning out some boxes of clothes yesterday

(our bedroom closets are finally finished - yay - I will post pics soon)

I came across some of my notes.

Feng shui is the 3000 year old Chinese art (science?) of balancing the energies in a space to assure the health and good fortune for the people using it. It's based on the idea that the world is alive and filled with chi or energy.

During the class we used a compass and made a Ba-Gua of each room in our house (an octagonal grid containing the symbols of the I Ching). It was fascinating and has made a big difference in my life and especially how I look at the things I surround myself with.

One of my biggest aha moments from the classes

(you have to picture Oprah for this)

was about the way I cared for and carried money.

I used to have a wallet crammed with cash and notes and receipts - I was buying a bigger messenger bag every year and could never find what I needed when I needed it anyway.

Anyhoo, some of the changes I made from this class that I think have helped change my financial life are:

1. Carry your cash in order with the biggest bills on the top, always face up (I did this instinctively from my banking days) - you want to see the large bills when you open your wallet so you tell yourself - I am prosperous and always have more than enough money.

2. Have a large enough wallet that the cash is not crammed in there and separate the cash and coins.

3. Do not carry receipts in your wallet because they represent money going out

4. Do not carry photos in your wallet or notes, etc - your wallet is about attracting money and taking care of yourself with your money and nothing else

5. If your wallet is falling apart or is hard to close (money will be flying out of your life) or hard to open (you will be too tight fisted with your money) - get a new one. Buy one that you love.

6. Carry credit cards that feel good to you - if you have cards that represent debt to you keep them somewhere else. If you have a credit card that means abundance to you in some way put that on top so you can see it when you open your wallet.

(debt has gotten a bad rap the last couple years, but if you can look at debt as society's belief in your future earning abilities and are not afraid of it, it doesn't have to be a bad thing - it is always your belief that makes something good or bad)

7. Take care of your wallet. Know where it is.

8. Do not keep stagnant money in your wallet. Use it. Bring in new bills. It needs to flow.

9. Don't be all - "this cash is dirty I have to wash my hands" - there is a money exercise HERE (I haven't tried it yet, if you do, let us know how it goes) that you might resonate with.

Now, life is all about paying attention to your intention and our money doesn't work any differently.

* beautiful handmade wallet by Tanya Ivanova of Tizart

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pricing for Our Skillset - the piece of the pricing puzzle that doesn't get talked about enough Part 1

When I was a bank manager

(yes, I was a bank manager, please don't judge me)

there were salary ranges for different positions within the bank.

So, if a bank teller's hourly salary range was $10-$15 an hour, a total newbie would get $10 and a teller with say 5 years experience would get $15 and a teller with 20 years experience would get .. well, $15.

There was a certain dollar value attached to specific work and at some point more experience just didn't translate to better, more valuable work - to make more money the teller would have to develop new skillsets and transition into a different position; one with a higher (perceived) value.

As makers things are different, but the final say in our perceived value is determined by our customers (some would say "the market" but I do not believe so much in large homogenized things like "market" right now, so we will just say customers).

And the skillset we bring to the table greatly factors in too, until it doesn't anymore.

Let's say you are a person making necklaces who buys a charm and a chain and strings them together and if you are working with certain materials - either one of a kind findings or precious metals or stones or if you package or market your necklace in some very clever way you can charge more than someone who goes to Michael's and buys a charm and a chain and puts them together, but ....

this is because you have expended more energy (in the form of time or money) into your makings to increase their perceived value

you have taken the time to either search out those one of a kind findings, or make that special packaging or do that branding and marketing establishing yourself as an expert or you have put additional money into the metals and stones you are working with

this is not because you have a greater skillset and often when you factor in the additional energy expended - you are not really making more than our Michael's shopper because for makers in a crowded marketplace - skillset matters.

Many online shops were likely started with a 'what the hell' - let's throw it up there and see if anyone buys it

(and I know this pisses off a lot of skillset focused makers and the only reason it doesn't piss me off is because it is pretty much exactly what I did with my shop Uncorked in the beginning)

and I don't think this is something to be totally discounted as a jumping off point

sometimes the best way to start something new is by making the earliest conditions for success very, very easy - of course if this "easy" isn't followed by "more challenging and skill growing" we are in for a whole heck of a lot of well ... nuthin much.

There are also makers that start a business with a skill set that has been developed over time (which is how I started Polarity) and sometimes many, many years of time and this has to be factored in - until it can't be anymore because this increased skillset cannot be recognized by the customer as increasing the item's perceived value (and then lots of things other than skillset come into play).

There has been so much great info out lately about pricing for makers and hopefully talking about skillset (and raising of standards and challenging ourselves) will contribute to a fuller conversation.

As makers wanting to be paid what we are worth - which for many people means enough to quit our day job or pay our bills without actually factoring in whether we are doing the kind of work and have the kind of skillset to justify that yet -

well, if we want to earn what we are worth and if we are working from our hearts we are worth a hell of a lot - well to pay us for that we need to be thinking about just what we are doing to produce well, magnificence

yes, magnificence let's go there - even when there requires us to stand on our toes and stretch out our arms and fingers all the way - and to be attuned that when our skillset reaches a certain point (maybe someone who has been knitting for 2 years has the same skillset as someone who has been knitting for 10 - or maybe she doesn't) we probably need to be adding value in other ways.

So, anyhoo - will continue this series next week and if you want to know what the hell I am getting at here (which is multiple things actually because life is messy) you will have to stop back (please don't hate me, but I miss you when you're not here).

NOTE - the new moon on Tuesday in Gemini was exactly conjunct Polaris the pole star - Polaris is on the tail of the great she-bear constellation, Ursa Major.

It's known as having great spiritual power, since all the stars appear to revolve around it. Many legends associated with the star Polaris and the she-bear Ursa Minor are about women and spirituality and I have been obsessing about Polaris for a long time (I even named my locket for her)

and since all signs above are pointing to a new empowerment of the feminine down here it is worth reading about. There is a little essay here that supports all my feelings about this new moon.

* may the odds be ever in your favor print by cloud and clover

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

String Art Letters on Old Books - Upcycled Tutorial




Some may remember my string art project a year or so ago with rubber bands

(I learned a lot from that project including why this is called string art - my rubber bands have since launched themselves across my studio at odd moments zapping me in the back of the head - but great art can be dangerous folks, so rather than take it off the wall, I just work with my bicycle helmet on at all times now - this has created a lot of bad hair days, but on the plus side I am ready to jump on my bike in a flash if I need to make a run for it - ie the zombie apocalypse the CDC was denying existed a couple weeks ago - not that they would tell us if there was a zombie apocalypse or if a Polarity customer has gotten themselves magnetized to a street sign or something - not that this has happened ... yet, but I need to be ready)

I also learned complicated patterns are not for me.

(save them for the experts - ie 10 year olds at summer camp who make those amazing owls and sailboats).

Now I am not actually spelling out the word POLAR here, although we are expecting 100 degree temps today so this would not be a bad thing - but am still working on my last 3 letters.

Trying to decide if I should flip the books over and work on the blank back sides

(this is actually a display project for my upcoming wholesale shows).

The blank sides may be what I end up with, but I really, really love seeing the titles, even though it is all a bit busy, so I am going to try it both ways, but for today in this heat I will just stop with POLAR and focus on this

(since I don't have an air conditioner in here yet).

This is a totally easy project.

Just print out your letters, double stick tape them to your books, drill nail holes - note drilling into books is kind of like rubbing 2 sticks together, so drill slowly unless you want burn marks, nail around the letter, remove your paper template, string your embroidery floss.

There is no right or wrong way to do this - if you like things orderly you will probably need to take your time with your nail holes and strings and want to use the blank book backs.

Some tips would be - if you use the front of books, outline your letters (zigzag in and out) with the floss so you don't lose track of your nails and fill in areas you don't want to fill in, use a thread color that totally contrasts with the book (notice my letter R will probably have to be redone), when threading don't cross a nail head - you don't want a thread hiding a nail head - and you can totally use the small nail heads usually used in string art I wanted a kind of furniture nail head look with this.

Monday, June 18, 2012

GIVEAWAY - Old New Again Winner's Choice of a 2 Hook Wall Vase, Two Wall Vases or a 12" Tall Letter!!

CLOSED- Winner will be announced this weekend!


Old New Again is the totally amazing woodworking shop of Liz and Rick from Green Bay, Wisconsin!

Old New Again features the most gorgeous wooden letters, wedding decor, key hooks, cottage decor, wood wall vases and more.

I love their warm, distressed color palette and all their wonderful pieces!

Liz and Rick have created an incredible, warm, upcycled shop of wonderful pieces for your home.

Every piece is sturdy with much attention to detail. The design and finish are what sets Old New Again's pieces apart. Rick's carpentry skills and Liz's art background work together so you get the most beautiful, well-made home goods around.

Their motto is DETAIL, DETAIL, DETAIL!!


We are so lucky to have one of their cool pieces that marry form and function so, so well for this week's giveaway!

WHAT YOU GET:


One lucky winner will receive YOUR CHOICE of a 2 Hook Wall Vase, Two Wall Vases or a 12" Tall Letter!!



HOW TO WIN:


Visit Rick and Liz's amazing shop Old New Again and leave a comment below letting them know your choice of a 2 Hook Wall Vase, Two Wall Vases or a 12" Tall Letter!!

For additional entries:

(5) Twitter this post
(5) Blog about this contest; linking to this post
(5) Follow my blog
(5) Facebook this post
(5) Like OldNewAgain's Facebook Page 

Let me know if you have done these things so I can give you additional entries. This contest is open to U.S. residents.

DRAWING:

Enter by midnight JULY 4TH!! Good luck! CLOSED- Winner will be announced this weekend!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

confessions of a dog person ...

I have a confession to make.

I do not really like cats.

I think this is true of all dog people.

I trace this uncomfortableness with four legged felines

(I am oddly not bothered by three legged cats, probably because I haven't met one yet)

back to the many cats my family raised while I was growing up who were

1. totally neurotic
2. totally destructive and
3. totally determined to BITE

(hubs and I once had a cat named Snowy who got out and got herself so high up a tree that we had to literally dislocate our necks or lay flat on the ground to see her. My daily pleadings with the fire department went on for 22 days

-they said she would come down when she was hungry - she didn't-

before they finally agreed to come over with their ladder truck. It took the firemen an hour to close my street and set up their ladder and then about 30 seconds to drop Snowy the 120 feet to the ground when she tried to scratch the fireman's eyes out.

Luckily she landed in some bushes. Unluckily she ran off and was not seen for another 22 days while I scoured the neighborhood nightly with my daughter, banging on cans of cat food with our spoons and calling her name.

One night we returned home to find her on the front porch calmly licking her front paws. She ran into the house and proceeded to down 6 cans of Fancy Feast

-my guilt over my role in her near death experience making me buy her the "good stuff" while she was missing-

in about 22 seconds, poop the entire 6 pack into her litter box and settle onto my lap to be petted and fawned over and then attempt to bite me)

But when my brother and sister in law asked me to care for their zoo 5 cats and 2 birds while they went on vacation this week I didn't hesitate because

1. they never go on vacation and really needed to get away and

2. they smartly asked me very late on a Saturday night hoping for an Absolut-soaked bad decision on my part

Anyhoo when I began my twice daily trips to their house, I arrived to find some rather complicated laminated "instructions"

including which pets listen to which radio stations, which are allergic to which foods, whose plates are whose, peanuts to be thrown under one tree for the squirrels (and oh yes, there is a family of squirrels in the attic), birdseed to be thrown under another tree for the robins, where which cat would most likely be hiding

(they are somehow under the delusion that I am going to stick my hands under a bed to remove a cat, somehow forgetting that I might need to end the week with all fingers still intact)

who gets petted under the chin and who on the head, etc, etc, etc
And the instructions for the cockatiels are even more precise and intimidating.

The birds have their own room and obviously it is very, very important that the cats (who live for an opportunity to put one over on an unsuspecting babysitter)
DO NOT GET INTO THIS ROOM.

Also there is such a thing as nightflight where the birds could throw themselves around their cages and die if the cats scare them

by doing something like banging on the door for example which seems to me rather likely to happen given the fact that it seems to be their life work to get into this room

(I have multiple cats at my feet when I try to slip in there - I have to fight the urge to punt them like fuzzy soccer balls)

so I have been up all night imagining the horrors that could be going on over there when I leave the little killers cuddly kitties alone in the same house with those poor birds.

I have 4 days to go before they return -

everyone please keep their fingers crossed for me that I make it through with 5 cats and 2 birds living to tell the tale (although I may have to bribe them to keep quiet about what is actually going on with the instructions sheets)

and 3 days before I delete this post.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

how to not put people to sleep (unless they are under four feet tall and have gotten on our last nerve)

Very few people will like our best, most amazing work - the work that makes our hearts sing, the work we are being called to do,

the stuff that will not get done unless we do it

but the more we try to adapt our work to suit a larger audience, a more generic crowd,

the kind of people who will nod and smile at our stuff because it fits their idea of what stuff is supposed to look like

the more we water ourselves down for that - well the more ordinary our work is likely to become.

(Zzzzz - cue the caffeine please)

We will not have anyone who hates what we make, but we will not have anyone who would kill to get their hands on it either.

(yes, we want customers who are wild eyed rabid for our makings - peeps with itchy trigger fingers, hopefully poised on the $45 in their wallets and not an actual 45 - peeps who will tell 2 friends who will tell 2 friends and so on and so on and so on - free locket to the first person who emails me where the hell that tells 2 friends thing is from it is driving me crazy)

Think of crocs

(the shoes not the amphibian/reptile? - my brain has somehow lost access to the animal classifications we learned in 3rd grade, actually my brain has lost access to alot of things these days - I am trying not to let this worry me although every time I start to worry about things I have forgotten I then forget to worry so it is all working out very nicely for me)

they are the butt ugliest things on the planet, but fans are totally rabid for them - entire jewelry lines have been created to bedazzle them for pete's sake..

No one who first saw these things was thinking "Hmm, I like these shoes."

We were either thinking they were the stupidest things we had ever seen or they were freakin' genius and we had to have them and if we were thinking that - we bought them.

Now we probably can't be so specialized that we appeal only to eco friendly gardeners who grow zinnias in Nebraska (do zinnias grow in Nebraska?), but we have the whole wide world to market to now and eco friendly gardeners who grow zinnias sounds about right to me for the size of a marketplace we can RULE.

Many years ago I bought an industrial embroidery machine

(later I bought another one and I still have these 2 gigundo machines in our extra bedroom - they come in handy for overnight guests who want to add some monogramming to their bathrobes during their visit)

it was at a time when they had become sort of affordable

(with an emphasis on 'sort of' - this business was mostly a giant money suck for me - I will have to post about that sometime)

and numerous people were getting into machine embroidery. I met alot of people during my time involved in that industry and I can tell you that everyone I know from those days who is still doing it specialized in their best, most amazing work.

The girl who only embroiders baby bibs that she makes (and has 3 babies), the couple who go to horse shows and only do that (they have 2 of their own so know what horse people need), the guy who only does vintage car enthusiast caps (and of course he has a vintage car, too) - well, they are all still stitchin' away.

All the people who thought that more is more and tried to do everything for everybody is gone, closed sign in the window, outta business, machines gathering dust and rust in their spare bedroom .... (ugh).

The stuff we are called to make - the stuff that makes our heart sing - the stuff that keeps us up at night - the stuff that won't get made unless we make it is probably very, very specific stuff.

This is the stuff that has grown from our own life story

We just can't deliver our most powerful work when we try to appeal to everyone (cue the politicians in on this one) - we will only succeed in putting our audience to sleep - and unless that audience has been driving us nuts all day and is currently wearing footed pajama bottoms - this is probably not a good thing.

* be yourself print - art by erin leigh

Thursday, June 14, 2012

repurposing vintage finds - we really don't need those colorful whoseewhatsees from Target


Just a quick post today while I finish up some orders and family stuff this week

(is family stuff ever finished ...)

before I get back on track next week with a SUPER cool giveaway and a new marketing series for makers.

I took some pics around my house of some easy-peasy repurposed vintage goodies. The key to being able to flea market is to use the stuff you can't live without.

1. Vintage sifters make great silverware caddies - I have these out all the time, although it may not be practical for everyone - they would be great for parties.

2. Gumball machine turned dog treat holder - Olive comes running from anywhere within a 2 mile radius when she hears the handle turn - it is also a great way to get her to do some work around the house since we charge her in nickels

3. Grater turned magnet board - perfect for recipes - if you would like one of these adorable magnets just pop me an email - I have a few left over from a party I would be happy to send one your way for free

4. Birdbath turned bathroom/dressing room caddy - perfect for appliances, towels, soaps, etc

My other tip is my stop at 3 rule - which means my collecting must stop when I get to 3 pieces - so I do not end up on Hoarders until I am really ready to be there

(ie glassy eyed expression, chin hair, knee stockings, pissed off children)

I am about 75% there this week .... still need those knee stockings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

the journey of energy into matter ...

I have always been surrounded by big dreamers - people who think big

(and sometimes this thinking big results in the kind of craziness that has someone proclaiming that they invented Facebook because they said to their college roommates in 1987 that there should be a way to keep track of who is single and who is dating - electronically)

but maybe don't always take action.

I have never found the expression 'the well planned job is half done' to be ... well, true actually.

There is a whole lot of space between the timeless buzz of a dream and the time-filling demands of actually giving birth to it.

Because the action part - the journey of thought to form, the journey of energy into matter - no matter how many affirmations are said and positive thoughts are thought

(and I know these things do help with our intention and focus ie attention, but have never actually gotten anyone off the couch)

is pretty much the key to the whole thing - nothing actually happens until well, until something actually happens.

Anyhoo, our saga with David for anyone who has been following it at all closed a chapter a few weeks ago when he went awol, relapsed, got violent in a social setting he should have never ended up in and landed himself in jail.

He is probably going to get out next week, still untreated by anti-psychotic meds for his schizophrenia and looking to come back to our house.

(or maybe just looking for us to say he can come back to our house so he can get out of jail - it is hard to say and there is no lasting truth here anyway since the disease outruns any chance of finding it)

But our house isn't the same place he left. The windows are still peeling and the stairs still squeak, but being inhabited this summer by one person broken open and one person closed down from the experiences of the last six months doesn't create a whole lot of healing energy for anyone else - so much has been expended without an equal amount of anything coming in that things have become unbalanced.

(when I first started meditating again after a long lapse, I noticed that although I could exhale for what seemed like hours, my inhalations could never keep up - a sure sign from our bodies that we are putting out more than we are taking in)

And the dream work - the turning energy into matter - part of our journey has become as splintered as David.


* was it all a dream print by joy st. claire

Monday, June 4, 2012

major geek alert - adam savage (the mythbuster guy) at maker faire on why we make what we make


An inspirational 20 minutes with Adam Savage from Maker Faire last month.

He tells a great story about his Indiana Jones hat plus how he got started building his obsessions and why makers should embrace the things that they have no choice but to make ... love that!