Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Shopping for a Cause

At first it seemed so far away and now the days are quickly approaching. January 9th my husband Don is leaving for Africa. He will be joining one of the pastors from our church along with 7 other men for a 2 week ministry trip.

Titus and Juli McGowan-Boit have a ministry in Kenya called The Living Room. They provide health care services for the sick and dying and have created "a home where no one has to die alone".

Over the last 10 years I have seen firsthand what a hospice care facility or home care service can offer both the loved one who is slipping toward death and the family members pulling close during those final weeks/days.

One of the outgrowths of Juli and Titus' ministry is a workshop where they build coffins instead of purchasing them. It is all part of the loving, personal way they touch people's lives there in Kenya. Because my husband is a 3rd generation carpenter, he is particularly interested in talking to Titus about this part of their ministry.

Juli and Titus are visiting family for a few weeks so we will be visiting with them this coming weekend. We are also planning to attend a private benefit screening of a documentary film about their ministry called "The Space Between". It will be showing at the Harmony Gold Theater in Los Angeles on the evening of December 8th if you are interested in attending with us.

With all this in mind I am going to be donating a portion of my sales from Mama Bleu Designs between Nov 28 - Dec 2 to instead of offering a discount coupon code for this holiday shopping weekend. you in advance for your support!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Million Little Ways - On My Top Ten List of Good Reads

I can't tell you how many people have told me that they are not creative. And my response is......I don't agree with that statement! We are ALL creative in one way or another.

Someone who agrees with me on this is Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky. She recently wrote a book called "a million little ways - uncover the art you were made to live" and I am devouring every word!!

We are all artists.
We are all creators.
We are all living poetry!

I'm always looking for a good read and I found one in Emily's book. It is definitely on my top ten list! Get a copy for yourself and a few for holiday gifts. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Etsy Science: Getting Ready for the Holidays

What does that mean really......getting your shop ready for the Holidays?

For those of us who have been through a Holiday season on Etsy as a shop owner, we can tell you that having some systems in place and organizing things in a way that streamlines our work can be crucial. These things don't need to be huge. It's a collection of little details that add up and make a big difference when it's crunch time!!

There are some great resources on Etsy for you. Even though many of them were put into place over a month ago, they are still helpful. If you go to the Online Lab video library you will find a collection of videos labeled 2013 Bootcamp. These are awesome resources from the Etsy office and successful Etsy shop owners. You may also find it helpful to refer to the discussion thread on the Etsy Success Team board. Joining this team will allow you to interact in the conversation and ask questions but it's not necessary to join if you only want to glean from the advice posted.

One small thing you can do for yourself, if you haven't already, is to establish a shipping center. I think you will find this a crucial time saver. Lines are getting longer and longer at the post office already.

I don't have room in my studio for a shipping center. It is one of the smallest rooms in our house. Instead, I chose to use a closest in our guest room. Closets are underestimated!! They are like mini rooms with huge potential! I should do a whole blog post about that! Hmmmm.

When I discovered over-the-door-hanging-ironing-boards I was elated! What a space saver. They may not be the most attractive thing to hang on your door but hey, they come in really handy. topic here but worth revisiting the memory.

When my grandmother was living with us in 2005, my husband and I took a 2 week camping vacation. One of my sisters was staying at our home with her during that time and needed to use our ironing board. When she asked my grandma where we kept it she couldn't recall that we had one of these hanging on the bathroom door that leads to our laundry room. They went on a scavenger hunt throughout our home without finding it. All the while, they walked by it dozens of times. We had a good laugh over that!!

So anyway, this ironing board is inexpensive - a handy work space at a good height - and folds up out of the way when not in use. Inside my closet I have a file cabinet that holds many of the supplies I need for shipping. Purchasing a digital scale from the post office is a huge time saver and a business write-off. You will need one if you plan to print your shipping labels on Etsy. This is what will keep your out of the post office lines!! An Etsy blog post gives some great tips here!

There are packing and shipping supplies that I have used throughout the year so I restocked my inventory in anticipation of increased sales. If you are low on business cards, now is the time to reorder them. If you use mailing or packaging labels, restock those as well. Basically, much of your preparation is about taking care of the mundane business details that you may not have the time for when you are really busy filling orders.

I am already seeing discussions posted on team boards about when the holiday rush will start. For some of us, it has already started. For others, we will see sales increase on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or shortly after. 

If this is your very first Holiday season with Etsy I want encourage you first and not compare your beginning to someone else's middle!! We ALL have a starting point. We all have that milestone in our business. We need that business "baseline" for future reference.

Just remember to have fun this Holiday season. My kids will tell you that one of the things I always said to them when we were out doing our Christmas shopping was - "put your patience hat on"!! Put yourself in your customer shoes and let your customer service dazzle them! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pie Season

It is pie season!

My husband and I meet twice a month with a group of couples from our church. We always start out our time together with a potluck meal. Tonight I brought homemade apple pie!

Being that we won't meet again until December because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we decided to prepare a mini Thanksgiving meal. As I was preparing my pies today I thought about a blog post by hello emma. She completely inspired me to do something fun with my pie crusts. Talk about playing with your food!!

Of course, with my grand kids here today my time was limited and I didn't have the desire to use her entire method of cutting beautiful words into the pie dough so I improvised with a simpler method. My technique......using the tip of a kitchen knife to write out stencil-like letters.

I love the way these turned out!! Imagine the fun you can have this holiday season by putting words of inspiration, friendship, silliness - on your homemade pies!

My pie recipe is easy! I use the same method for the crust, oven temperature and time as for my berry pie. The only difference is the filling.

Apple Pie Filling is ~
6 - 8 tart apples, pared, cored and thinly slice (about 6 cups)
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon (I love cinnamon in my apple pie so I use more!)
dash of ground nutmeg

Instead of building a lattice style top crust, you will use the full circle of dough. Either cut a few slits in it to release the steam or do something fun and unique with a word or two cut into it!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Being Honest With Myself

Typically this is the time of year that gives me a bit of breathing room. I'm dividing my work time between filling orders and creating new things. I never know when the holiday ordering rush will start but I know it's just a matter of days.... maybe a week or two.

It is during times like this that I start to organize and restock, question and evaluate. With 3 Christmas seasons under my belt at my etsy shop you'd think I'd have it all figured out. I tell myself every year that I need to write down debriefing notes in January but I never do.

Organizing and restocking is easy for me. Questioning and evaluating, in and of themselves, are good things. They give us measuring points for growth and improvement. But this is where I find myself in a quandry!

For months now I've felt like I've been in a race.

I think the race accelerated when I signed up for Lilla Roger's MATS A class during the summer. She is an amazing teacher, mentor and encourager! I learned so much in such a short amount of time but I also became well aware of what I don't know. Most of what I don't know has to do with the digital part of art. This has been a challenge, a struggle and to be honest.....sometimes a place of defeat.

The thing is.....I know I can learn these things. I even tried setting aside some time to learn enough to get by so that when the MATS B course started I would be ready. I've been racing against myself. I had put up an imaginary finish line and felt like I needed to finish the race or be defeated. I'm not even sure where the finish line is or what it looks like.

When thinking and praying about this today the word "toiling" came to mind and I looked up the definition. It means "something that binds, snares, or entangles one; an entrapment". Exactly! I've been toiling over this so much that I've gotten completely tangled up in it. It was strangling me!!

This is not about Lilla's ecourse.
This is not about my lack of knowledge.
This is not about my inability to learn new things.

This is about letting go of some things!
This is about finding my path again!
This is about seeing the blessings!

This is about BEING right where I'm at and enjoying it! I should know this by now! I have learned this lesson over and over again! I am enjoying the creative place that I'm in so why do I strive and toil to be somewhere else? I guess it's just part of my journey.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Talk Pillows

 Wreaths ~ an arrangement of flowers, leaves, or stems fastened in a ring and used for decoration. They can be simple or decorative and this is the time of year when most of us pull them out of storage and hang them.

There are certain shapes and designs that inspire me and wreaths are one of them. Not that my mom or grandmothers hung wreaths on their front door but for some reason they give me a feeling of nostalgia. After I painted this wreath designs on canvas last July I've been thinking about doing a series of wreath paintings. Because time seems to accelerate when I have lots of things on my plate, it is now November and these plans will probably have to wait until after the first of the year.

Nevertheless, I kept finding myself sketching wreaths. All sorts! So I decided to put them on fabric and see what would happen.

What happened was an explosion of inspiration....and a whole new line of items for Mama Bleu Designs was born. The more I played with my paint and fabric and free motion sketching technique, the more I got inspired. The ideas are still flowing so more are coming!

For now, I'm pleased to introduce a collection of stitched illustrations with words on pillow covers!

This design is a familiar one from my shop and lends itself to being stitched with an inspirational word or a name. Offered as a made-to-order item allows you to chose the word or name and the fabric for the horizontal strips. I have fabric charts to view with all the choices.

This is the pillow that was inspired by my painting. It's definitely one of my favorites and I'm finding a place in my home for it! Did I say I have a thing about berries too?

These two are straight from the drawings in my sketchbook and I love the simplicity of them!

I think this would be a perfect wedding gift but would be a great gift for any occasion!

The word "hello" may not be inspirational but there's something about it that speaks joy to me. It's friendly! It's personal! It's happy.....and it's with a fun geometric wreath that is so trendy right now.

Thanks for stopping by! Mama Bleu says HELLO and wishes you an amazing day!