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HANDMADE SHOPS

Inside the Crusoe Jewelry Studio

Tucked into the corner of a former carriage house turned wood-shop at the edge of Williamsburg is my studio, where I create Crusoe Jewelry. When the creative spark to launch Crusoe Jewelry hit me, I turned to my boyfriend, a woodworker and furniture designer, for guidance on everything from design to production.  Not only did I seek his advice, but I also suggested that a storage space in the corner of his wood shop could become the perfect jewelry studio. Always excited by a challenging project, he swiftly turned the storage space into the Crusoe Jewelry Studio.

JewelryBenchAfter roughly sketching out the concept, most designs are created first by a hand-carved wax model. Using a variety of tools, everything from files to razor blades to sandpaper, the jewelry begins to take shape. Often the original design evolves into something different, almost as if the design is emerging directly from the wax. Because wax carving can be a more mobile operation, if it’s a nice day out, I will move out of my jewelry studio and park myself right in front of the open garage door to work on the waxes. (more…)

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Stranded Treasures: Wearable Hand Sculpted Blossoms

strandedcollageWhether or not is feels like spring outside where you are today I want it to feel like spring on your computer! I am so happy to introduce you to Stranded Treasures designed by artist Sharlene Maher. I think her colorful work will definitely brighten your day! I have absolutely fallen in love with the beauty of her designs!

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Sharlene started sculpting flowers from clay 12 years ago and is now making a living from what she once considered just an enjoyable pastime. She has taken her passion that was inspired by memories of flowers and scents from living in New Jersey, San Francisco and Florida full-time and is loving discovering new ways to grow and share her work with the world.

Pink-Lily-Studspink lily earrings

She does not use any molds to create her flowers – can you believe that?! She loves to focus on the art of sculpting and mixing colors to bring her visions to life. Her attention to detail comes to life in each photo of her jewelry and also in all of the options she offers. Customers can have the flowers in different sizes, on rings, on lockets, as clip-on earrings (perfect for my mom!) and she even has a scented variation!

Red-Rose-Studsred rose earrings

A big reason she has such a diverse selection is due to balancing her creative nature with listening to her customers. As her business has grown she has learned a lot about her customers and that they are similar to that of a florist – people shopping for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, romantic gestures and more. She has now created a site full of gorgeous designs that she loves creating because she know her customers will love them too.

Red-Poppy-Sterling-Silver-Braceletred poppy bracelet

I encourage you to spend some time on Stranded Treasures today. Allow yourself to be whisked away as if in a meadow of every flower you have ever seen. Did I mention there will be butterflies there too? Be sure to follow Sharlene on her Facebook page too. I hope you enjoyed starting spring with these gorgeous creations and be sure so share this post with a friend who might enjoy a little bouquet today!

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This post was kindly sponsored by Stranded TreasuresAll views and ideas here are my own.

Interview with Amy Frank, fabric artist and small business owner

unnamed-2Bio:  Amy Frank is the designer and creator behind Mindfully Made Studios. Amy’s unique, thoughtful Blessing Bands©, yoga mat carriers and other inspirational accessories can be found at http://www.mindfullymadestudios.com and also in 40+ stores nation-wide. She lives in Central PA with a patient husband, 4 crazy kids and an even crazier yellow lab. : )

1.  Tell us about your handmade business and how it began.

I’ve been sewing and selling work for some time, but Mindfully Made Studios was born shortly after I had our youngest daughter. With 4 kids under 5-years-old, I was overwhelmed.  I wanted something to remind me of how lucky – how blessed – I was. So I made my first Blessing Band©. Friends noticed it and asked me to create personalized bands for them. Soon, I began selling them online and in a few local stores, and my business unfolded from there. Here is a link to a video that tells this story: http://youtu.be/foPUOegruro

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2. What is your education? Do you have special training from school that has helped you to run Mindfully Made Studios?

I have a degree in Communications and Business and worked in business consulting and fundraising for several years before having a family.  I think this business background helped me to understand the importance of organization, goal-setting and tracking outcomes.  I also took several courses through the Art Business Institute.  Their seminars capture the fine points of building an art-based business.  The information I took from those seminars helped me to take the next steps in my business.

3.  What steps have you taken to transform Mindfully Made Studios from a hobby into a full blown small business operation?

First, I had to decide where I wanted to go with my work.  Believe it or not, there are lots of options for us artists!  Did I want to blog and write books, sell product at shows, teach, sell through stores and distributors?  While often we do many of these things at once, I believe it’s beneficial to decide where you want to focus your energies. 

My products lend themselves easily to wholesale sales or selling to retailers.  I decided this was my primary focus and have been working to place Mindfully Made Studios in stores and shops around the country.  By focusing primarily on this step, I have been able to grow our wholesale accounts to almost 50 stores this year.

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4. I know you have done some traditional craft shows, but tell us a little about the professional trade shows you have also attended and what that experience was like.

Last year, I began selling my work at wholesale trade shows around the country.  This was a huge financial commitment and a scary leap for my business.  Happily, these shows are the primary reason we’ve been able to expand so quickly.  I think once you know where you would like to go, make a plan and try it.  Even if it’s scary!

5.  Can you share some helpful advice that you received?  Who gave this advice? 

Carolyn Edlund (http://www.artsyshark.com) from the Arts Business Institute (http://www.artsbusinessinstitute.org) has been a terrific help to me as I’ve built Mindfully Made Studios.  She stresses the importance of keeping up with the often-not-fun business side of your work.  While your creative work is important, also be sure to take care of BUSINESS…bookkeeping, insurance, taxes, etc.  Set aside at least one day a month for these tasks. 

Carolyn also suggested a big change to my business early on.  I was calling my Blessing Bands by a different name and she – very bluntly – said “I don’t get that name, you need to change that.”  I was a little taken back, but I saw her point and quickly re-introduced my bracelets as “Blessing Bands.”  Ironically, that’s when they really began taking off! : )

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6.  What advice would you share with someone hoping to take their handmade business to the next level?   

Decide where you really want to go, talk to others that have reached similar business goals, and make a plan to get there.  Also, don’t try to do too much at once.  I often get so excited and inspired that I over-do it and burn out.  Try to set manageable goals for yourself and celebrate small successes!

7.  What are you conservative plans for the future of Mindfully Made Studios?  What are your crazy big dreams for the future of Mindfully Made Studios?

Conservatively, I would like to continue growing our retailers to about 100 stores this year.  I would also like to introduce several new products into our line.  Ultimately, I would like our Blessing Bands to be picked up by a few major retailers that fit our brand.  Subsequently, Blessing Bands would be on the wrists of the majority of men, women and children! : ) I say this jokingly, but I really do believe those little bands help people to stay present and peaceful…and that is what REALLY inspires me in my work. 

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8.  Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your handmade business?  

I just want to stress the importance of not losing your original focus when building your business.  We all believe in handmade because we know that the things we create hold special significance and we LOVE making them.  I would encourage you to put practices in place that help you retain your creativity and love of making.  I try to set aside several hours a week for new ideas and designs.  It doesn’t always work, but the intention is there.

It’s also very meaningful and FUN to remember that this is YOUR business and that means you get operate I a way that is meaningful and special to you.  We give a portion of our proceeds to a foster care advocacy group called CASA.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to give back in that way.  It inspires me and my employees to work harder every day.  We also believe in our local economy and stress that our goods are made in Central PA.  I am proud to say this and I feel inspired to work harder to continue to help our local economy.   It’s your business, so you get to do what YOU want…how fun is that?!? : )

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Virginia Lindsay — Gingercake Patterns and Design

Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design. She loves the to sew practical, fun, and stylish things! Several of her patterns have been published by Simplcity and she has also written 2 books. Sewing to Sell and Fabric Stash Cuties:  Pretty Little Birds.

Photos From Our Holiday Gift Exchange!

The holidays are always such a whirlwind so I love it even more that so many of you slowed down to create and send a package to another creative this year! I still have photos coming in and will add to this post as they do but here are a bunch of fun ones!

gift1I loved seeing the progress of this custom watercolor painting from Maat Silk for Plumeti Joli!

sneakpeekSneak peeks from Rosy Toes Designs and Hug A Tree With Me.

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Pretty photos and packaging from Ma Petite Valisette and One-O!

gift6Triangles and circles form Blackbird Bags and Broken Winged Bird.

gift3Fun and festive packaging from It Just Flows, Rosy Toes Designs, Broken Winged Bird and Berry Sweet Treats. (clockwise from top left)

gift7Bright colors from Joyful Linens and Saluda Farm Girl!

gift4Stationery and a coveted scarf (so cute) from Blondies Shop to A.J. Wear Jewelry.

gift5Batches of goodies from Berry Sweet Treats, Little Gold Fox Designs, Cats Eat Dogs and Plumeti Joli,  . (clockwise from top left)

gift8Packages from me and a heart pillow plus a handmade paper necklace from Dream Tree Crafts.

Thank you for all of the amazing photos! I can feel the love shared during this exchange! Now I am wondering if you would interested in doing a spring or summer one when it is not the crazy holiday season. Let me know your thoughts!

Artist Meagan Moore’s endpapers

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Today I want to introduce you to artist, Meagan Moore. Her artwork will tug at your heartstrings, stir your imagination and soothe your soul. She creates unique, vintage-style illustrations that invite open-ended storytelling and I have never seen anything quite like her work. Her new collection is called “endpapers” because each piece is hand drawn and then typed with a manual typewriter on blank end papers. End papers are usually described as the blank or decorated leaves found at the beginning and end of books.007--Worth_It

Meagan has taken the “endpaper” to draw an illustration and type a quote that could easily be the end of a story. They are so expertly drawn and the words so eloquently chosen that the observer of each piece can’t help but wonder what events happened to get to this end page.

I have become enamored with Meagan Moore’s ability to engage an admirer of her work and turn them into a reader, a detective, a storyteller, a writer, an adventurer all seeking to discover the story that led to the image and words she has created.

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Her work is the perfect gift for the child, the dreamer or the artist in your life. I have picked 2 out for my sons and keep thinking of the fun they will have dreaming up different stories to lead up to their “endpaper.” Meagan also likes to inspire people to create their own tales and encourages custom messages on her prints too. She shares her work in the form of art prints and greeting cards on her website http://www.MeaganMoore.com.

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If you are are drawn to her work and in the San Francisco area you will be able to meet Meagan and see her work at the San Francisco Bazaar Holiday Show. During the summer you can find her combining her passion for kids, creativity, and being really, really silly as the founding camp director of the Camp Galileo on the Island.

I hope you have now fallen in love with Meagan’s work as much as I have. Please use the coupon code “SUCCESS” to get 15% off everything in her store (she has tons more designs!).

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I know you are all so wonderful at supporting fellow artists so be sure to check out her lovely website, http://www.meaganmoore.com, and also follow her on Facebook at Moore Artworks. Let her know that you discovered her on Handmade Success and you may be in the process of making a new creative friend!

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This post was kindly sponsored by Meagan Moore. All views and ideas here are my own.