Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Joy

I am taking a break for the remainder of 2013 to enjoy time with family and friends.
Thank you so much for joining me this year and supporting me in my creative business! I'll be back in 2014 to share more ideas and inspiration. 
Blessings to each of you during this holiday season and as we begin a new year!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Memories of a Doll Maker

My mom was a doll maker. She loved creating dollies with rosy cheeks and pretty floral or checkered dresses. She must of made hundreds of them and many of her handmade treasures went into the hands of her daughters and grand daughters.

Her first doll, we called her Abby, was given to my daughter as a birthday gift. It went just about everywhere with Heather and Abby shows every bit of the years of love she received. Every few months she was stuffed into a pillow case and given a gentle machine washing but there are things that won't come out in the wash. These worn and fraying fabric were stitched together with love and hold the aged stains of childhood memories.

I am not a doll maker like my mom was but I have the tools, the knowledge and one of her patterns. So this Christmas season, I became a doll maker for a few days.

It was bittersweet to pour out the contents of this pattern bag. I unearthed a time capsule from 1993.....the year she got sick and stopped making dolls. Tears rolled down my cheek with happy discoveries mixed with the sting of loss.

She must have accidentally cut an extra leg piece and tucked it in the bag for her next project. It was there for safe keeping these past 20 years. An ordinary shopping list of materials in her handwriting is now a treasure. A collection of her favorite buttons were there too.

It was not uncommon for my mom to give us small gifts throughout the year. "Just because" she would say! Her words spilled out this weekend as I used her pattern to create a new doll. It should have been her hands making it for 2-year-old Kyla. I stand in her place instead. These pattern pieces take shape at my sewing machine. I am the doll maker now!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas, Hot Cocoa and Kids

It was a perfect day to crank up the music and deck the halls with holiday decor. My grand kids were here and the rain was coming down steadily all day so it actually felt like a full fledged winter afternoon!

This second time around with young children in my midst several times a week has taught me that it's much better (for all of us) to involve them in the process. It helps me slow down and enjoy the process more and the kids love helping out!

My sister Julie was a preschool teacher for several years and still teaches young children at MOPS. She had given me some great ideas on how to foster discovery and help my grand kids enjoy the Christmas holidays. There are so many things around my house that they can't touch so I want to make sure that they are surrounded by a number of things that they CAN touch and interact with.

Ann Voskamp is an astounding example of a mom who weaves her faith, her family and hands-on projects that involve her children. She is a farmer's wife, a home-schooling mom of 6 children, an author and a blogger. You can find a wealth of encouragement, ideas and free downloads from her sight every week.

A couple of years ago I downloaded and printed these "Jesse Tree" ornaments from Ann's website. I laminated them and added a ribbon loop for hanging. By adding some tall branches to a galvanized bucket I created a tree for the grand kids to hang their ornaments on.

When my kids were young I found that one of the biggest battles I fought with them about was over who's turn it was. They always wanted to be first. So this is how I solved it and I'm using the same idea with my grand kids. My grand daughter's birthday is the 26th and my grandson's birthday is the 19th so I declared that all the even number dates are Kyla's days and all the odd number dates are Micah's dates. It worked with my kids and so far, it's working great with my grand kids!

There is a small sheltered area behind our local library where they stack books for the people to freely take. I often find children's books that are in fair condition and bring them home. I started a collection of Christmas books for my grand kids this way. I pack them away with my holiday decor so they are just for reading during the Christmas season!

An idea that Julie recently gave me is so age appropriate for Kyla right now. She loves dollies and she's been talking about "baby Jesus". I found a sweet mini baby doll (by Circo) at Target for less than $5 and it is a perfect size for her to carry in a little basket or cuddle in a blanket.

A friend told me years ago that strings of white lights make a great photo prop for holiday photos. It took a bit of convincing but I got a few photos of the kids with lights wrapped around them. A bit of Christmas fun!!!

There was a time when I made all sorts of wooden gift ware. My mom and I organized a Christmas home boutique every year from when my daughter was 8 months old until she started Junior High. During those years I created several wood nativity sets. Between the sets that I created and kept over the years and one that Julie made for me, I have plenty for my grand kids to play with and enjoy!

Julie has made the wood block nativity for family members and several friends but does not have plans to sell them outside of that circle. The pattern she uses was something she purchased about 30 years ago through Focus on the Family and crazy as it can still find it online here!

By the end of our afternoon together I had most of my holiday decor up and the rain was coming down pretty hard. There was a moment when a clap of thunder was so loud that it sounded like the sky was ripping open right over the house. Micah's eyes got really big and I thought he was going to burst into tears. He completely surprised me when he said, "that was COOL!"

There's no better way to end the task of holiday decorating than with a cup of hot cocoa in a Santa mug!!

We are counting down the few days left till Christmas! This weekend will be full of grocery shopping for family meals and wrapping packages. I hope your weekend is full of hot-cocoa-drinking wonderfulness!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Evolution of a Design

I returned to school when my kids were in Junior High and pursued further education in art. Graphic design has always been an interest of mine and most of my classes were centered around it. I never mastered Photoshop and Illustrator but dream to make it a natural part of my art making some day.

I find that much of my art education boils down to specific ah-ha moments that have rooted in my mind and are hinging points for my design process. One of these is a statement that my graphic arts teacher pointed out one day. As an experienced designer who was currently working in the industry He shared his observation of the young artists being hired right out of school. They are all anxious to move right to the computer - he said - and don't have the patients (or perhaps the experience) of drawing out "thumbnail sketches".

Thumbnail sketches: the term describes a small drawing on paper (usually part of a group) used to explore multiple ideas quickly. Thumbnail sketches are similar to doodles, but may include as much detail as a small sketch.

Whenever I take an idea directly from my head to my clutches or pillows, I typically find the design will be disappointing (in my eyes) because it is not fully thought out. It is so much easier for me to work out the details on paper!

My sketchbook is the place where I collect my thumbnail sketches. It is the place of genesis for many of my ideas. It is where my designs can take root and grow!

I know this process is a success when I hear back from my customers that they are thrilled with their purchase and they can't wait to give it to their wife, sister or best friend. These are photos of bags that I created during the rush of my holiday orders. The dust is settling and now that I have time to consider making a few gifts of my own it is unbelievable how quickly Christmas is approaching!! In a few days you will find these items listed in my shop again.

I find that one of the hardest things for me at this time of the year is transitioning Mama Bleu Designs through the holidays. I don't want to disappoint people when I pull items from my shop but at this point is it the best way for me to slow the flow of orders down to a trickle so I can get enjoy the holidays too. 

In a few days you will find these items listed in my shop again. Thank you all for your feedback on my recent designs. They are fuel to my soul to keep doing what I'm doing!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snowflake Memories

My mother-in-law is one of the sweetest women you'd ever want to meet. Ever since my father-in-law passed away in July of 2008 each of the siblings and/or their spouses have a weekly "date" with her. Something we both look forward to each week is our coffee date at Bean Town on Friday or Saturday morning!

It's not unusual for mom to volunteer to help out with numerous projects and this week involves decorating a bulletin board at her church.  She gave me a call today and asked for some help with a small project. With so much on my plate it would have been easy to tell her that I don't have the time for it......but how could I say no to mom?!!

When she walked in a few minutes later I offered to get some supplies but she said she had everything we needed in her tote bag. That is so typically mom!

 My afternoon assignment: to help her make 8 snowflakes.

I've made memories with my kids with this holiday craft. Now I was making snowflake memories with my mother-in-law!  Squaring up rectangular sheets of paper, folding them into triangles and snipping away shapes filled my table top with white confetti. Mom was apprehensive at first - afraid to make a mistake. But slowly...... she snipped here and snipped there.

My favorite part of making paper snowflakes is the "reveal". Carefully unfolding the paper and pressing it out flat to see each unique design.

"Each one is unique", says my mother-in-law. Just like the real thing!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Making Time to Enjoy the Holidays

I am blessed beyond measure with an overwhelming amount of orders so I made the decision to pull all of my made-to-order items (except the wedding collections) much earlier than I had originally planned. As an artist who creates handmade gift items, I always walk a fine line between satisfying my customers and making time to enjoy the holidays.

Even now as I work to complete these Christmas orders I have several new ideas floating around in my head for next year!! I can't believe there's just a few more weeks and we'll be stepping into 2014!!

In the meantime......I hope your weekend is wonderful!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do What You Love

I was standing at my work table last week and started laughing at myself. I am doing what I love!

Doubt wants to tell me that no one will like what I paint or draw or stitch. It all proves to me that when you create something from a place of joy.....people will know it....they will sense it.....they will want to be part of it!

So, I stand at my work table each day, painting or drawing or stitching and creating bits of joy just for you!

Monday, December 9, 2013

DIY: Christmas Greens

I love bringing bits of nature in our home during the holiday season. Fruit, leaves, pinecones, pods,'s all beautiful to me!! And what other time of year do we bring a whole tree into our home!!

With the schedule both my husband and I are keeping with work these days I was wondering if we'd ever find a few hours for picking up a Christmas tree. We decided, rain or shine, we'd go to the Holiday Open House on Saturday at one of our favorite nurseries. It turned out that getting a little rained on was well worth it. After using 2 gift certificates and subtracting their 20% discount we paid less than $7 for our tree. Then during our drive home, my husband reminded me that we get a $10 store credit when we return the tree stand. We just couldn't stop laughing at how fun our little Christmas tree adventure was!!

Sunday morning we ventured into town for some breakfast at our local coffee shop. A clever boy scout mom made an adorable hanging sign for her son to wear as he sold mistletoe to passersby. How could we resist?!!

I decided to bring in a few cuttings from our trees and add some more fresh greenery around the house.  I just added a bit of floral tape around the top of the stems to hold them together. I'm okay with the floral tape showing but if you create some of these for yourself, you may want to cover it with some twine or ribbon.

Create some simple arrangements of your own and have fun!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Word Art

Pinterest is such an amazing place of discovery where you can get completely lost for hours. You definitely need to set a time limit for yourself before opening that door!!

Mama Bleu loves the french language and came across some lovely word art this week. Did you know that "Noel" is the french word for Christmas. How appropriate!!

I hope your weekend is wonderful!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Etsy Science: Customer Service and Gift Cards

The best resource for teaching someone about something is your own personal experiences.

During my 15 year career with Creative Memories I found that the best way for me to give excellent customer service was to familiarize myself with every aspect of my business that my customers would experience. If I didn't know the steps they would have to go through when they ordered from my website then how could I answer any questions they might have about the process? The lessons I learned from this were invaluable!

Today, as I walked through the process of using a gift card on etsy, I was reminded of this lesson once again. Now I know why I've gotten so many questions from frustrated customers. They couldn't get their redemption code to work and I didn't know how to help them. If you have never redeemed a gift card on etsy, you may find it helpful to know a few things about the process.

I assumed that when I made my purchase, all I needed to do was enter the gift card "redeem code" at check out. But, when I did this, I received an error message each time. What I discovered is that this box is ONLY for discount codes from that shop.

So here's the deal......
You need to go to to turn the "redeem code" into shop credit. Once you do that, your credit shows up at the top of your screen.

Another thing I learned is that every item of every shop that accepts etsy gift cards will have that little green box with a bow symbol next to the item. That way, when you are shopping, you will know immediately if you can use your shop credit toward that purchase.

When you make a purchase you simply check the box if you want to use your credit. I had $25 in credit and made an $18 purchase today. The leftover credit is still in my account and never expires.
One thing you need to know if you are an etsy shop owner is that you cannot pay your monthly etsy bill with this credit.

I want my customers to have an enjoyable, stress-free shopping experience at Mama Bleu Designs. Every little bit that I can learn about navigating the process allows me to improve my customer service that much more!!

Happy Holiday Shopping!!