Miscellaneous Ramblings

August 30th Already? When Did That Happen?

In January, I wrote “So, welcome to 2014, the year of creative immersion” and then promptly was derailed by all of the non-creative bits of my life. If you’re a person who, like me, thrives on creative activities, then you know the tune and how disheartening it can be.  I know I’d been away from it for too long when simply inventorying the products for Harvest Moon Designs felt like a vacation.  Normally, inventorying is about as far from fun as I can stand to be.  Yet, it was nice just to see things that I’d made and be reminded of the creative process.

It’s time to get back on track again.  My Etsy shop has been growing cobwebs in my absence, so I’m trying to give it a little TLC and get it restocked in time for holiday shopping (hence the reason for inventorying).   I’m also attempting to get back into a daily creative practice, even if it’s only a few minutes at a time. 

I’m re-posting my list of 2014 creative goals as a reminder to myself what I’ve done and where I need to focus (while simultaneously attempting to cure insomnia in my readers).

  • Write at least 200,000 words – 100,000 each of fiction/poetry and non-fiction  – As of right now, the count is approximately 27,000 fiction and 10,800 non-fiction. After January, I fell off the writing wagon and haven’t really been able to climb back on.  I do plan to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year and if successful, will at least get my fiction word count closer to goal.
  • Quilt or crochet at least 4 new blankets for charity – One down
  • Create 24 new paintings or drawings – Two sketches down.
  • Make at least 10 new pieces of jewelry – No progress on this one.
  • Create a new batch of wands for my Etsy shop – I have approximately fifty wands in various states of completion.  This is my big push right now, as I want to get these up in time for Halloween shopping.
  • Take at least 50 decent photos to share – If pictures of my cats count, I’m almost there.
  • Finish at least 5 items from the Abandoned Projects Pile – Let’s just say they’re still abandoned at the moment.
    • Crocheted vest
    • Blue patch-work throw
    • Photo pendants for the shop
    • Woodland Santa cross-stitch
    • Autumn themed full-sized quilt

That’s where things are at the moment. With any luck, I’ll have at least one creative project to post about in the next few weeks. 

Hope you’re all finding time to feed the creative fires.

Chris Signature

 

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Resolutions – Progress Report

A few updates on that goal list I posted at the beginning of January:

  • Write at least 200,000 words – 100,000 each of fiction/poetry and non-fiction –   My total January word count is right around 31,000, which is approximately ten times what I expected it to be.  At this rate, I should be able to meet my goals without a problem. 
  • Quilt or crochet at least 4 new blankets for charity – One spiral afghan is in progress and should be finished by the end of February.
  • Finish at least 5 items from the Abandoned Projects Pile including:
    • Blue patch-work throw (from 2011 or 12) – The blocks have been assembled and seams pressed.  I’ve given myself a deadline of the first day of spring to have this one finished.
    • Autumn themed full-sized quilt (fabrics purchased in 2012/early 2013) – The bulk of the piecing has been completed on this one, but I still need to assemble everything for the top.  Another one that I want to finish by the end of the winter.

We’ll see how February goes.  Hopefully more words and lots of quilting progress.

Chris Signature

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2014 Creative Resolutions

A new year has begun and with it comes the inevitable resolutions.  Forget the usual thoughts of losing weight, saving money, and all of those practical and healthy ideas that sound so good on January 1st. This year’s resolution ignores all of the traditional goals in favor of this: Get back into a regular habit of being creative.

The past year lacked the usual myriad of creative projects that I normally have going on at any given moment.  Sadly, my biggest creative accomplishment of 2013 was finishing NaNoWriMo.  Unfortunately, the novel that resulted was pretty awful and will likely be destined for the rubbish bin if I don’t come up with a clever re-write very soon.  Other projects seemed to be half-hearted attempts as well and there are still several projects that I started in 2012 that remain unfinished.

So, welcome to 2014, the year of creative immersion. Here are my creative goals for the year:

  • Write at least 200,000 words – 100,000 each of fiction/poetry and non-fiction
  • Quilt or crochet at least 4 new blankets for charity
  • Create 24 new paintings or drawings
  • Make at least 10 new pieces of jewelry
  • Create a new batch of wands for my Etsy shop
  • Take at least 50 decent photos to share
  • Finish at least 5 items from the Abandoned Projects Pile including:
    • Crocheted vest (started last spring)
    • Blue patch-work throw (from 2011 or 12)
    • Photo pendants for the shop (from 2012)
    • Woodland Santa cross-stitch (started so long ago that I can’t remember what year it was)
    • Autumn themed full-sized quilt (fabrics purchased in 2012/early 2013)

No problem, right?  Let the creativity begin!

Chris Signature

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Vendor’s Eye View – Advice for Show Organizers

Over the last dozen years, I’ve run across several lists of advice for crafters about what to do and not to do when vending at craft fairs. I’ve written several of these lists myself and find that they’re a useful reminder that it pays to be organized and professional when attending these events.

What I don’t see very often are guidelines for those who would organize and run a craft show. With small indie shows becoming more prominent over the last few years, it seems that there are more and more instances of poor organization, communication, and leadership every year. “Indie” in many cases has come to be synonymous with “amateur” and worse. Unfortunately, it is often the vendors who pay the price for badly run events, taking a hit in the wallet.

So here are the short list of suggestions for those who would run shows:

1. Be responsive to communications from potential vendors.
Ignoring written or verbal messages from vendors simply is not acceptable. Yes, occasionally a vendor will ask lots of annoying questions that you’ve already answered or that are irrelevant. However, the vast majority of vendors send communications for legitimate reasons. Ignoring those communications is incredibly disrespectful and unprofessional.

2. If you make promises to your vendor, follow up and make sure you provide what you have promised. If you aren’t able to keep your promises, be prepared to give a partial refund or find a way to make it up to the vendors.
If you tell your vendors that you will provide a table and two chairs, then be sure that’s what you give them. Many small vendors don’t have a lot of equipment or funds and rely on organizers to supply items that they’ve promised. Likewise, time is a precious commodity for many vendors. If you’ve stated that the space will be available for set-up at a specific time, make sure it actually is. When I found that the parking lot where a show was to be held was still full of cars at set-up time, one of the show organizers suggested that I call the city police to have the cars towed if they were “in the way.” I think not.

3. Have a plan B for every aspect of the show and do not demand assistance from the vendors if you’ve failed to cover something.
This is related to the last point. Mistakes do happen, and while most vendors are very friendly and helpful people, it’s unreasonable for an organizer to expect them to pick up the slack. This week, I received an email sent on behalf of a show organizer, saying that their deal for table rentals had fallen through and could someone please loan them tables. This email arrived at the end of the week for a show this weekend. The organizer has essentially announced that they’ve failed to provide what they promised and expect other people to be responsible for providing a solution to the problem. As I said, mistakes happen, but if you organize a show, don’t place the responsibility on others to provide something that you’ve promised. Have a plan B and if necessary, a plan C, D, etc.

4. Always check required permitting, insurance, etc before the show.
One show I vended at last year had all their signs taken down by the city, because the organizers failed to get permission from the city to post said signs. The city was ruthlessly efficient about it, removing all the signs before the show even started. Many of the show’s attendees complained that they had a hard time finding the show because of the promised signs weren’t in place. Filling out a simple form could have avoided this, but the organizers “didn’t think it’d be an issue.” The key part of that statement is that they didn’t think. Unfortunately, failure to plan by the organizers does constitute a crisis on the part of the vendors, whose cash registers take the hit.

5. Appreciate that not all vendors have unlimited resources. Do not hold checks hostage for extended time periods while making jurying decisions.
Vendors may have limited resources to use for show fees and count on organizers to be quick about accepting or rejecting their applications. If you are going to take more than a couple of weeks to make a decision on whether a vendor is accepted, then do not demand that payment in full be made up front. Offer to take a deposit or create an application fee instead.

6. If something goes wrong, take ownership of the problem and do not play the blame game. Do not engage in rumor-mongering or allow others to do so on your behalf.
One show I attended last year had very poor attendance. During the course of the day, several friends of the organizer came around to “chat” with the vendors. These chats consisted of sympathy pleas for the organizers and a long list of reasons for the poor attendance that were the fault of outside factors or agencies. There’s no reason for this kind of petty blame-placing, especially when it was clear that if the organizer had followed up with a phone call or two, the problems could have been avoided.

7. Show respect for the time, money, and energy that the vendors invest in the application process. Give your vendors the courtesy of telling them directly information that affects them before sharing this information with others.
I’m going to admit that I’m annoyed with a show organizer right now. We applied for a show earlier in the summer that required the full show fee be submitted with the application, with the promise that anyone who didn’t make the cut would have their fee “promptly returned.” We heard nothing from them for over a month, not even an acknowledgement that they’d received an application.
The day by which the notifications were to be made, I emailed the organizer to ask what was going on and got no response. That evening, I checked the website to see if perhaps something was posted there and found that this year’s vendor list had been posted to the site. Two hours after that, I received a form email that was essentially a rejection letter. I never did receive a response to the email I sent. As for the fee, it came back to me this week (a rather un-prompt six weeks after it had been submitted), shoved in an envelope on which my name was misspelled. There was no letter or note included, just my check, looking as if it had been mangled (the envelope was pristine, so I can’t blame the post office for that one). Needless to say that I’m not applying for this show again, nor will I support it in any way.

8. Do not publicly disparage vendors or their work… ever.
Just don’t do it. Period. End of sentence. ‘Nuff said. If I need to explain why you don’t do this, you really should not be running a show. In fact, you shouldn’t be dealing with people at all.

So there you have it, just a few ideas for organizers. In fairness, I have to say that the vast majority of show organizers I’ve worked with have been absolutely wonderful and responsive to the needs of both vendors and customers. However, the ones that were bad were really bad. I only can hope that my fellow vendors never have to deal with these problems.

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Vendor’s Eye View

It’s a craft vendor’s life…

The alarm goes off at 5:30AM on every Saturday at least eight months of the year. You stumble out of your beds and go in search of your caffeinated beverage of choice, gulping down as the sun begins to rise. Thus fortified, you lumber off to shower and dress and if there’s time, grab a quick bite. The vehicle gets loaded full of equipment – tents, chairs, tables, boxes, and various other necessities. You hit the road while most people are still comfortably tucked into their beds, driving whatever distance is required to get you where you need to be.

You arrive at least an hour or two before the sale starts. The car spills out its contents onto the parking lot pavement. You become sherpas as you haul gear and product from cars to assigned spaces, dodging obstacles and other vendors while trying to carry unwieldy items that weigh often weigh more than the average 8 year old. Occasionally toes get stubbed and shins bruised in valiant attempts to keep from dropping irreplaceable products and expensive equipment.

Blurry-eyed and still yawning, you begin set up. With any luck, the tent will go up without a hitch or the need for assistance from the hapless passers-by. The tables get set up, legs shimmied to compensate for uneven ground. Table coverings follow and get a quick brush down. Then out goes the product… oh the precious product that you’ve poured your hearts and souls into, the whole reason why you get out of bed before the sun rises on weekends. You add bits of embelishment to make things more attractive and place a tidy stack of business cards beside your product. Then there is a brief moment of calm silence before the real work begins, when you smile and say hello to our first customers of the day.

For all my fellow vendors who know this story by heart, I salute you and the hard work that you do to share what you love. Your love of your craft and willingness to do whatever it takes to share it inspires me to be out there with you on all those Saturday mornings.
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