May 29, 2009

Maybe the Toughest Camera Ever!

On our digital camera's second trip with Mr. M to the job site, it returned home with scratches on the view screen. Mr. M is a bull in a china shop. We've had the camera for several years, and it's been to many places with us, and never had any hint of wear or tear. Well, until the trip with Mr. M. Anyway, I just saw the coolest camera while looking at Apartment Therapy, and I think it will be on my list of things to purchase once we start a family. It's the Stylus TOUGH camera, and I've never seen anything like it before!


It comes in other colors, as well, and it's as tough as it looks! If you want to watch video of some of the torture the cameras were put through, like being submerged in a fishtank and made into an ice cream sundae, check out the video posted at Apartment Therapy.

I could see this camera being a great gift to any new parents wanting a camera that will hold up through all of the toddler/adolescent years. I will definitely be keeping an eye on it for a while. And, maybe by the time Mr. M and I have kids, it'll be less expensive, too! One can hope...

May 26, 2009

Post-Holiday Weekend Relaxededness

No, that is not a real word in my title, but I like the sound of it. I really enjoyed my 3-day weekend. I had a lot of time to do things I enjoy doing, for once. I'm normally running around doing Bible studies here, ball games there, various parties over there, and so on. But, this weekend was a weekend where (with the exception of our god-daughter's 1st birthday party), Mr. M and I did whatever we wanted. We were able to squeeze in a ton of relaxation, and were even able to go various places and just walk around and enjoy each other. I was also able to start organizing my cross-stitch that still needs to be framed, paired up potential frames with different pieces, poked around Goodwill and various other stores for frames (I'd rather buy secondhand than pay a ton for a frame), and started the custom piece I just recently designed. That's in addition to organizing all of our paperwork from previous years, and getting some kind of organization started with Mr. M's business paperwork. I feel very accomplished, yet very relaxed and rejuvenated.

Mr. M worked a little bit yesterday so he could get an inspector in to look at his framing. He needs the inspector before he starts laying deck boards. He's building a huge deck right now, 16 x 32 feet, and part of it will be screened in with a roof. And Mr. M is doing it all on his own. It's his first huge job, and he's pumped that it will be something substantial that he can show he's done.

While Mr. M was working yesterday, one of the neighbors stopped by to talk to him, and he now has potentially two other jobs. Yay for Mr. M! It's one of those things with your own business where you never really know if you're going to have something else to work on when you finish your current project. I'll probably always be a little nervous about that uncertainty, but the Lord definitely provides when we need it most. And so far, that's the way it's been for us. And I am very thankful for that.

May 25, 2009

Featured Etsy Seller - South Paw Studios

I am so very excited to be posting this next feature.  Katy from South Paw Studios makes some absolutely wonderful jewelry.  I bought the earrings below for myself and the moms for Mother's Day, and I wear my pair all the time now.


I also got these, which are absolutely lovely in person!


Okay, so enough gushing from me.  Here is Katy's feature!

Tell a little about yourself.
Growing up in a home with both artistic and creative parents, I felt that it was in my blood to become an artist.  Early on, I dabbled in almost every medium from ceramics, batiking, silk dying, watercolor, and sewing to photography, but it was in jewelry design that I found a good niche.  When my father, a glass blower, gave me a book on jewelry design, I delved further into the art.  Although I had been crafting treasures for my family and friends, a great opportunity came to me when I was 17.  A friend of mine was wearing a piece of my jewelry when she was shopping in a boutique.  The owner loved what she was wearing so much that he inquired as to where she got it.  Soon, I placed my jewelry in that boutique and my pieces began to sell.  It was then that I knew I was onto something.

Driven to turn my jewelry-making passion into a growing business, I decided to take a chance and form South Paw Studios.  Thanks to an encouraging husband and loving family, I was able to devote all of my attention to the designing and creating of wearable art.  Owning my own business was a dream come true -- and it still is.

I have been active in the jewelry trade for ten years.  My collections have grown to include custom bridal sets, bookmarks, a wholesale line and one-of-a-kind pieces.  I am continuously evolving and staying up to date on the trends and new ideas in the industry.  I am the sole artist behind South Paw Studios -- there are no production lines or kits used in my work.  I use only the finest gemstones, venetian glass and metals.

We are also a military family.  My husband was active duty Army for 6 years, served in Iraq, and now he is a full-time member of the Ohio Air National Guard, 180th Fighter Wing.  We are also the proud parents to a little 2 1/2 year old boy.

When did you open your Etsy shop?
August 2008
Jewelry here, and beads here.

What inspired the name of your shop?
I chose South Paw Studios because I am left-handed and I make handcrafted jewelry and thought it sounded cool.  I chose to be South Paw Studios, instead of South Paw Jewelry, because I never wanted my business name to limit what I could create.  Now, I have South Paw Beads, and maybe soon, South Paw Weddings.  But, South Paw Studios jewelry design will always be my flag ship line and anything else will fall under it.

Do you have any advice for fledgeling shop owners such as myself?
If I had the first year to do over again I would have started as an LLC instead of a sole proprietorship.  That way I could have had my own business line of credit without having to worry about stretching my family's financial limits.  I also wish I wouldn't have spent so much money on bad inventory.  I bought some bad quality beads in the beginning and was buying them about once a week, which was not a good spending habit since I was paying a lot in shipping costs each month.  Plus with the beads being poor quality the work that I created didn't sell as fast.  Always spend the money on higher quality materials, it makes your work more reputable and sets you apart from some of the poor craftsmanship that is out there.

Do you have a blog?

What was the reason for you to start a blog?
I saw a lot of other Etsy artists were using a blog as a way of promoting their work as well as others, and it was a way to share great information, such as your Etsy link or photography tutorials.

How do you deal with the ups and downs of retail in handmade sales?
The ups and downs are okay now, but there was a time, about a year ago, that things were mighty slow for South Paw Studios.  That is when and why I started South Paw Beads.  More and more I started looking at my bins and realized, "hey, I could open a store with all these beads".  So I thought I would list a few of Ebay and Etsy and THEY SOLD, much to my surprise. The entrepreneur blood in me said, "hey, I can do this".  It has been great fun, and gives me even more of an excuse to BUY MORE SWAROVSKIS (which my husband just loves, hehe).  It also helps in this uncertain economy because if I am not making a sale on a particular day in jewelry, then most of the time I am making a sale selling beads, or vice versa.  It is a great way to liquidate old inventory, and it definitely keeps the cash flow moving.  It is extremely frustrating when there is no cash flow.

What is your favorite color, food, and person?
Favorite color is easy -- purple.  It always has been since I was a little girl.  Food -- pizza and steak are tied.  For my favorite person, well, my best friend, Shelly.  She is like my soul sister; no one gets me better than her!  I also love my husband, but he is a given, or else I wouldn't have married him. :-)

Do you have a favorite item in your shop?  What inspired you to create it?
My favorite item in my shop right now is my hand fabricated swirl earrings.


I am trying to move more into fabrication of metal, and this is one of my first creations in that series; and I am also completely addicted to swirls.  It drives my husband crazy.

Are there any random facts about yourself that you'd like to share?
I taught myself how to juggle, and the sound of crunching lettuce makes me nauseous (weird I know).

How long after opening your Etsy shop did you have your first customer?
The first day, I had a sale, then there was a dry spell for about 2 1/2 months.  Then the holiday season hit, and it hasn't stopped since then.

Do you have a job separate from Etsy?
Nope!  Jewelry design IS my full-time job, and has been my full-time job since June of 2002.  It took 5 years to get to that point (started in Oct. 97), but still going strong!

How do you promote your work?
Twitter, for sure, helps get extra view counts.

Also, renewing and adding a new piece at least once a day to my Etsy shop.  And, finding blog features such as this one, and business cards!  They go everywhere with me.  I even leave one whenever we go out to eat with the receipt.

What are your favorite Etsy shops?
MsBelle - Her work is amazing and she uses some of the best gems out there!
Bijoux d' Odalisque - Tremendous eye for detailing.
Amanda Khalsa - Each piece of her jewelry is really a little masterpiece of art.

What is your favorite small pleasure?
I love to make s'mores, and I love to get a little pedi and mani now and then.

What are a few of the goals you have for your future and how do you plan on making them a reality?
I want a major retail chain/boutique to pick up my jewelry line.  I plan, at some point, to get a PR agent.  She is already lined up; it is now just a matter of time and money.  I also want my jewelry line to be involved in the fashion world in some way, whether it be on the runway, or an article write-up in Lucky, or on a celebrity on a TV show.  I want to be name-worthy.  I want someone to say this is a "South Paw Studios" original.  So something like that.  It may seem farfetched, but I am on my way!

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Well, I guess I couldn't really come up with a certain sentence that changed my life, but I can say that the way I was raised was the best!  My parents were very supportive of me as a young, budding artist.  I remember being maybe 3 years old or so, holding a bunny wash pad in one hand and trying to duplicate it on the wall in my bedroom with a marker.  Now most parents would freak, but mine were very cool about it and glad to see me creating.  They NEVER told me I couldn't do something.  When it came to being creative, that I wanted to try or do, they always pushed me to do it and supported me.  They never told me that you could never make a living through art.  My father was a successful glass blower and my mother was very creative with interior design.  I feel that the combination of the two, and art just always being a part of my life, was a constant influence to me.

Wow, Katy!  What great answers you have!  I think they provide so much insight, but also a glimpse of the type of person you are and how much you love your work.  Those of you that are reading this should definitely check out her Etsy shop.  Her passion definitely shows through her work.

As for my favorite piece in her shop right now, it would have to be her Fire Opal Red, Green, and Canary Yellow Faceted Cubic Zirconia Necklace.

 
What will be your favorite from South Paw Studios?

Stay tuned for another great feature next Monday!

May 19, 2009

I Love More Giveaways!

So yes, I am a giveaway-aholic. (Is that a word?) I regularly enter sweepstakes online, and have been lucky enough to win a few here and there. Here is another one I'd like to win.

Stacie, from Simply Stacie is hosting an Ecotools Giveaway. The prize? An Ecotools 5 Piece Brush Set!

I also love makeup, and am constantly looking for bigger and better products. This set would be something I'd love to get my hands on! If you're interested in entering, just go to Simply Stacie for the details.

There's also another giveaway going on at I Heart Handmade. This one is for a black and white original papercut called Gathering Flowers from Papercuts by Melissa.


How pretty is that? Cross-stitch requires patience, but this I think would require more patience than I even have! If you'd like to enter to try to win this gorgeous, handmade piece, just go here for all of the details.

Good luck to everybody!

May 18, 2009

My First Featured Etsy Seller - Fubabee

I'm so excited to have some great people working with me to get a feature series going for my blog. I'll be posting a different Etsy artist every Monday, starting today, so you'll have to check back often for the new featured artists.
The first Etsy artist in this series is Lisa from Fubabee - Pretty Stationery for Beautiful Souls. I had the pleasure of working with Lisa when I was planning my wedding over a year ago. She was such a great person to work with, and I wound up having her not only design my wedding invitations, but also place cards, table numbers, and a little message for my photo guest book. They were so very pretty!  And, as a bonus, Lisa was so simple and pleasurable to work with! Here are a few pictures from Lisa's shop of a few of the things she created for me:

                                 

Aren't they pretty?? Well, anywho, without further ado, here is Lisa from Fubabee...

Tell a little about yourself.
My name is Lisa and designing stationery is my part-time love affair. I work as an art director in a publishing company at my full-time, and doing this helps me balance out my corporate life.

When did you open your Etsy shop?
It was 2 years on May 17!

What inspired the name of your shop?
Fubabee is a nickname a childhood friend's mother gave to me.  I went to a boarding high school in Massachusetts, which is a 5 hour drive from NYC where I lived.  My friend's mother gave me a lot of advice growing up.  And when I'd visit she'd always exclaim, "My Fu Baby's come home!" So naturally it became my handle. These days I'm transitioning to "Pretty Stationery for Beautiful Souls" because that's what my philosophy is, and it can be taken to mean several meanings by both the giver and receiver.  It's a happy medium to work in and I love it.

Do you have any advice for fledgeling shop owners such as myself?
Develop your own style and do what you love.  I've seen a lot of people struggle only because they aren't true to themselves.  If you are passionate about what you do, it will show through in your art.  People are savvy and they know how to spot someone that is less than genuine.  You have let your own love for what you do guide you, and it is constant work to improve.  Success isn't an overnight thing.  It takes dedication.

Do you have a blog?

What was the reason for you to start a blog?
Sometimes I'll present client spotlights, sometimes I'll talk about mistakes I've made, and I fixed it.  It's a smorgasbord of paper talk.  My reason for starting it is so people can see that it's a one woman operation, and that it's far from perfect.  But in the end they know that it's me that touches every single piece of invitation or note card they order from me.

How do you deal with the ups and downs of retail in handmade sales?
I just deal with one project at a time, one issue at a time.  Whenever I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of orders that come in (usually around now since it's wedding season), I plow through and just make a checklist of To Do's and just mark it off as I complete.  At the end of the day, I get a great sense of satisfaction once I finish all my orders and look around and see all these packages ready to be shipped.  I just have to be appreciative that people can appreciate what I do.

What is your favorite color, food, and person?
Right now my favorite color lingers in the blues, between pool and robin's egg and teal.  My favorite food...that's hard to say because I am a foodie! The other night I ate this Mexican sandwich from the local Mexican restaurant.  It's called a cemita, and it's like the perfect sandwich with grilled chicken, cheese, basil, onions, tomatoes, guacamole and mole sauce.  So bad but so good! I have to run it off later! My favorite person is my fiance. There's not a day that doesn't go by that he doesn't make me laugh! We're like two silly kids when we're together.

Do you have a favorite item in your shop? What inspired you to create it?
Great question! I'd have to say the Modern Lace Wedding Invitations because it was my first set of invitations designed.


The most fun to touch would be the Japanese Collection note cards.  I love how they dance in the sunlight.


Are there any random facts about yourself that you'd like to share?
I love to bake, and I will be training for my third marathon which is in October. (So in this case I run to balance out all that baking!)

How long after opening your Etsy shop did you have your first customer?
Right away! I was shocked! But then it took a couple of months before I started to do consistent promotions and saw results.

Do you have a job separate from Etsy?
Yes, although I would love to have Etsy as my full time! It's much more satisfying.

How do you promote your work?
It's a constant process of marketing and selling and getting feedback from clients. I write a lot for others and offer advice to couples who in turn trust me enough to purchase from me. If things aren't exactly as they like, I do what I can to make it right. I'm a fan of an honest day's work and stand by the integrity in which I conduct myself. I also set up a Flickr photo account where people can see what I've done. That helps drive a lot of traffic to my shop.

What are your three favorite Etsy shops?
The Fetching Hound because her little bites are so addictive!

Earmark Invitations Her style is so fun. I met Bridgette back in December and she was just the nicest person. It's always nice to see other stationers who are doing it because they love it. Sometimes people get so competitive that they won't give you the time of day if they know you sell in the same category, but I always feel that there's room for everyone, and certainly for her work which is so fun and bright!

I'm also very fond of Morgan Street's soaps and scrubs. They're instrumental in my relaxation after a hard day's work!

What is your favorite small pleasure?
I love coffee, especially from this tiny mom and pop shop from the west village called McNulty's. They've been around forever, and I can't get enough of their coffees.  That first sip in the morning just makes the day!

What are a few of the goals you have for your future and how do you plan on making them a reality?
Goals are just small steps to a big dream.  Right now I'm crossing off the home ownership goal. My fiance and I just purchased our first home so we're excited! My dream is getting a small studio/retail space, and I plan to do that in about 2 years after we're all settled in to our new neighborhood.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Don't think you "can't" do something. Just think "how can you"?

What a great interview with some great answers!  Thank you bunches, Lisa, for participating in my very first feature series!  Another fun thing I'll be doing for this series is posting my own favorite item that the Etsy sellers currently have in their shops.  From Lisa's shop, my favorite (other than the design used for my wedding) is the Personalized Daisies Flat Note Card.


 And for those of you who've never visited Lisa's shop, you'll definitely have to.  She makes such pretty stationery that appeals to so many different types.

Stay tuned next Monday for my next featured Etsy seller!









His First Huge Job!

I am so pumped for Mr. M right now. He has a friend that had asked him to put up a wall in their house to divide one bedroom into two, and take another wall down to extend a closet. That was a pretty small job for Mr. M, and I think he's just about finished with it. Because he's just starting his business, it's a little more difficult to find jobs right now, especially with the way the economy is. But, as of this weekend, Mr. M had informed me that his friend wants to put a huge deck with a porch on the back of his house. And he wants Mr. M to do it for him! That is a huge job! And it's great for Mr. M in that he'll have something like that under his belt when it comes to his company. Keep your fingers crossed that this friend likes Mr. M's bid for the job!

May 13, 2009

New stuff!

I'm planning on starting a blog series where I feature various Etsy sellers that I've worked with/bought things from. At this point, I plan on posting a new feature once a week. This will give others new ideas on where to shop at Etsy and show some favorite items, as well as provide insight on what it takes to have an Etsy shop. That should help me out, too!

Speaking of Etsy, I've finished stitching a new design that I'll be able to add to my sale items soon. I just need to figure out what kind of frame to use. Maybe I'll start a poll and see what you think (well, the few of you that read my blog...).

Also, I'm so excited that a fellow Etsy seller, Geri, from Knits and Bits has commissioned me to create a personalized cross-stitch picture for her. I've finished a design, and will be sending it to her tonight. I hope she likes it! Also, she'll be one of the first few people I feature here, considering I'm creating a special piece for her and she created Mr. M's wonderful business card holder that was a gift from me for our first anniversary. So, check back soon to read her feature!

May 7, 2009

More Downs Than Ups and Gooey Cupcakes

Yesterday was Mr. M's birthday. We agreed to keep it simple since we had just gotten back from vacation and have another wedding to go to this weekend. So, I got him a cute card and some of his favorite ice cream. And, since I had absolutely no time to even think about baking him a cake, I bought Edy's Slow Churned Take the Cake ice cream. Can I just say how surprised I was that it tasted exactly like cake?

We went out to one of Mr. M's favorite restaurants for dinner. We got our usual, then headed back home to eat the ice cream. Two of our friends from church stopped over at about 8:30 or so to watch Lost with us. It is unheard of for us to miss it! Anyway, the friends brought over cupcakes from Coldstone Creamery. I never heard of them, and they are so sickeningly sweet, but so cool, too! (No pun intended). They have different varieties of cake, with different flavors of ice cream on top, then icing, and it's all in a Belgian chocolate cupcake cup. Needless to say, I couldn't finish mine, and Mr. M was happy to finish it for me.

On another note, Mr. M was kind of bummed for part of the day because a potential client to which he had given an estimate called him to say they were going to hold off on the job for now. So, he instantly thinks that he bid the job too high. That could very well be the case, but knowing how he's bid jobs in the past, I know he's not high at all. Sometimes I wish he'd ask for a bit more because I feel like he's undercutting himself and his abilities. But, anyway, my perspective is that maybe it's because the economy is crap right now and they're saving their money for something they may need a bit more later on. Who knows...

So, now Mr. M is worried about how he's going to get more business. Plus, the one job that he initially thought would only take him several days is now taking him almost two weeks. The crappy weather doesn't help, either. He's worried about getting paid in time to meet with his accountant next week because we surely can't take the money out of our regular account, and he may not have enough in his business account to cover it, currently.

I know everything works out for when the Good Lord thinks we need it the most. But, as humans, we love to worry. So, hopefully, all of the downs we've encountered, and will encounter in the future, will soon be outnumbered by many ups.

May 5, 2009

I Love Giveaways!

I'm always looking for great giveaways, and I've found yet another one. For any other bloggers out there, you can get two entries into the giveaway if you post about it on your own blog. The giveaway and rules can be found at the Creature Comforts contest post, and this is what you could win!


This really great necklace was created by Annie and Imogene. I'm currently addicted to great necklaces, so it would be a huge bonus if I actually won!

Signs

Mr. M's birthday is tomorrow. We usually don't do anything huge for birthdays, especially this year since we just celebrated our 1-year anniversary and just got back from our friends' destination wedding the other day. I was hoping to be able to get this for Mr. M's birthday, but, alas, it's now not being released until mid-May.


It's the Pizza Pro 3000! Yeah, I'm a dork, but how cool would it be for Mr. M when he invites his friends over for pizza and then breaks out this awesome 'circular saw'?

I digress...

Now I have no clue what to do for his birthday...

On another birthday note, we saw Mr. M's parents at the wedding this past Saturday, and they were thoughtful enough to bring his birthday presents with them. They got him one of the best presents ever, and I totally can't compete with it right now. They got him magnetic signs for his truck that have his business name and phone number on them! So cool! The only thing they're missing is his MHIC number, which, by law, should be posted on your vehicle if you're to use it as a work vehicle.

We went to a local sign store yesterday to have two magnets made with Mr. M's MHIC number on them. And, he also ordered a sign to put in the yard of whatever home he's working on at the time. They sent us a draft within several hours of our order, and they should be done by later today. I'm so excited for Mr. M and the fact that he's able to pursue something he's been wanting to do for a long, long time!

May 4, 2009

From A Gorgeous Beach

One of Mr. M's good friends got married this past weekend.  We used it as our vacation for the year.  They rented an absolutely gorgeous house on the beach that we got to stay in from Wednesday until we left yesterday.  Little did we know how busy we'd actually be.  Regardless, we had a good time and the wedding was gorgeous.  

We were on the beach in Corolla, NC, and I must say that beach has the most interesting stuff on it.  More than any other beach I've been on.  We saw dolphins, pelicans flying in single file, a blue crab stuck in the sand (we saved him), tons of sand crabs during our 'romantic' evening walk on the beach (we almost stepped on a few), tons of awesome shells, horseshoe crab egg sacs, and pieces of horseshoe crab shells.  

This is the only picture I could get of the dolphins.  They were so elusive.  It was kind of like trying to photograph lightning, where you have to anticipate where they were going to appear. Do you see the fin on the left side of the picture?


There was no lack of gorgeous views from the house.  Here is a sampling of what I got to enjoy every day.






View from one of the back decks.














The view from our room.












The view from one of the front decks.








And, how could I post about a beach wedding without posting some pictures of the wedding? Here are a few of my favorites. 











 








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