Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thoughts About Setting Goals for the New Year

I have a love/hate relationship with the last week of the year. I appreciate the slower pace of my life because of the obligation void on my calender but I get anxious about the lack of sales in my Etsy shop. I know that once the calendar turns to the New Year my plate will fill up, orders will start flowing in for Spring weddings and I'll be longing for another week of respite from the chaos!

This is a repeated pattern each year that I have come to expect and typically I use this week to reflect on the past 12 months and lay out plans and strategies for the coming year. There are so many things that I set out to do in 2014 and I never made them happen. The top of my list - I had hoped to get my own website set up but settled for simply linking my Etsy shop to my blog.

Sometimes we can make some grandiose plans that seem quite doable with a full 365 days in front of us. To blend our goals and dreams into real life can be hard work. It's also easy for us to compare our progress with someone else who seems to be accomplishing much more in the same or less amount of time. I do this to myself all the time!!

Yes..... confession time! My son, and business mentor, was gracious enough to let me vent with him one afternoon while his kids took a nap. What I shared with him pretty much boiled down to the fact that I was looking at what other people were doing and let it make me feel like I was a failure. He patiently waited for me to finish my ranting and crying and said, "stop comparing yourself to them".

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/232850243210047557/


I had gotten on a road called "comparison" which lead me to another road called "discouragement" and that lead me straight to a no-outlet street called "failure". It can happen to me so easily when I get distracted and take my eyes off my own road and start looking at where other people are traveling. Sometimes there are curves in my road or I have to slow down for speed bumps or the incline of the road is so steep that I doubt I have what it takes to keep moving. It's at these times that I easily assume others never face these road hazards and their journey is smooth and perfectly paved.

As I set some goals for 2015 I want to be okay with getting it done but not always trying to reach that point of perfect to label it a success. I also want to stay off that "comparison" road!! It's never a good detour and it always ends up in a bad neighborhood!!



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Blessings


I want to wish everyone a joy filled Holiday Season! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting my creative business and spending time with me here. I'm excited about the New Year and have so many great things brewing for the coming months. 

Blessings,
Laura





Monday, December 22, 2014

DIY: Infinity Scarf

infinity scarf tutorial from mamableu.com


My son called me last week and asked if I might be able to help him with a project. He has a clothing business and was given several yards of knit jersey fabric by one of his vendors. He wanted to turn it into several Infinity Scarves to use as gifts.

mamableu.com

Two great things about knit jersey is that the yardage is wide (usually about 60") and the edges don't ravel after it is cut. The width of the fabric was perfect for the length of each scarf so we cut the yardage into 28 inch strips. Then, to turn each strip into an Infinity Scarf, we simply sewed the ends together with a zig-zag stitch. Easy Peasy!!

mamableu.com

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Thoughts About Etsy and Strategies for the New Year

So here’s the thing…..Etsy has made changes and a lot of people are having a hard time accepting that. I don’t blame them. Change can be hard sometimes. I’ve had my shop open on Etsy for over 4 years and I based my business plan and strategies on the things that had always been in place. Furthermore, my team involvement was based on Treasury making with the goal of getting my teammates and myself on the “Front Page”. That’s the way it had always been and I figured that was the way it always would be. With the recent changes Treasuries have a completely different role than before, therefore most Treasury teams have folded. 


It’s easy to scrutinize Etsy and I’ve read many conversation threads about the subject but I hesitate to get into a ranting and heated discussion over the details of it. So many shop owners are making plans to jump ship because they don’t like what is happening. In light of all this I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the subject at hand. 

Let me first say that I like the changes that Etsy has made over the last couple of years which have made it easier for me to run my business. There are details and drop down menus that I can personalize on my shop listings now. Accepting payment on my shop site or through a credit card processor on my iphone makes my business more portable if I choose to do booth events. One of my favorite changes is the ease of printing shipping labels for each order so they are ready to drop in the mail. Bypassing the long lines at the post office is awesome!!

I also have shop stats available that tell me where my shop views are coming from - inside and outside of Etsy - and what keywords my customers are using to find me. Best of all…..BEST of all, is the “cha-ching” that I hear from the Etsy app notification whenever I make a sale! 


Yet, there is a flip-side to things. There is always a list of frustrations and challenges, especially when you are building a business. Ask any entrepreneur who is working to gain ground and build a solid foundation for their business in this ever changing world of technology.  It doesn’t matter if your business is based from a website or in a brick-and-mortar shop, we all need to have an online presence. With Etsy, there is a lot that is out of our control because we don’t design the site and we don’t understand the algorithms of Etsy. But consider this…..Etsy has considerable “trust value” in the eyes of shoppers around the world. This is an invaluable factor that we get to hang our shop sign on.

When you have the urge to complain about your situation I have one question for you, “what are you doing about it?” I agree that being a business owner is a lot of work and it's easy to get overwhelmed and dismayed with it all, especially when things you used to do just aren't working anymore. There ARE things we can do and they're going to be different for each of us.
I propose that we take a few steps back, remove the critical perspective lenses we have been viewing things through and start fresh. A new year is about to begin so this is a good time to evaluate our business strategy for 2015. This is my personal goal and I invite you to join me. 


I am reading books. I’ve subscribed to a site that is offering analytical info that I’m willing to test in my own business and share my findings with you. I’ve got some ideas that I want to try that are different from the norm but I believe may bring some positive results. I'm updating and tweaking things. I’m asking questions of shop owners who are getting lots of sales and haven’t missed much of a beat during the last couple of months. And, I might come to the conclusion that it's time to create my own website and use the next 12 months to transition my business there. 

I’m excited and energized about the possibilities that lay in front of us and I am hopeful! I know many of you may not feel this way and that's okay. I value your feelings and opinions about the current situation we face on Etsy. And most of all, I miss the comradery we had on Treasury teams and the beautiful Front Pages we made together. 

I invite you to leave a comment here or start a conversation with me via email at mamableudesigns@gmail.com. I know there are a lot of things that aren't working anymore and yes, it's totally and completely frustrating. I get that....believe me!! But I also know that some of you are seeing pockets of hope. You've tried some new things and they're working. I'd love to hear about them!

My intention here is to continue this conversation with you. One of my strengths is "problem solving" and I'm on a mission to offer you viable solutions that will breathe fresh wind in your sails. I don't have all the answers and I will never claim to have a perfect plan that will positively bring success to everyone. But....I have a mama's heart that sees the potential in all of you and I want to encourage you all to "never give up"!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Anthropologie Workshop

Even if I don't plan to do any shopping at Anthropologie, I love to walk through their stores and check out their creative displays. It is a place of inspiration to me! I heard someone describe their stores as a "museum" experience.... and I agree.

Several weeks ago my daughter and I attended an afternoon workshop at our local Anthropologie store. It was something on my wishlist of things to do and I was so excited to finally be part of one!







Our instructor said we'd be creating paper and cardboard feathers for a future store display but we could make a watercolor and gold leaf feather to take home with us. It was so fun to chat with my daughter, enjoy some holiday snacks and play with paints and gold leaf for a few hours!

We were never told how they were going to use the feathers. I knew they'd do something dramatically beautiful with them....and they did! 







Friday, December 12, 2014

Gold Trimmed Canvas Ornaments

DIY - Gold Trimmed Canvas Ornaments from MamaBleu.com


Cut light weight canvas into strips and brush with Mod Podge or Liquid Acrylic Medium to add stiffness to the fabric.


Once the fabric is dry you can cut the strips into desired lengths. Paint edges with gold paint and add words with a fine tip Sharpie marker. Add a colorful thread for hanging from your tree or a branch bouquet in a pretty vase.





Monday, December 8, 2014

The Art of Lettering

Have you noticed the current trend of handwriting and calligraphy? In a day when most people rarely pick up a pen to hand write anything, the lovely art of pen strokes is capturing people’s attention.

As a child my dad used to say to me, “if you are bored, go practice your penmanship!” The art of handwriting or the use of a writing instrument to make beautiful letters used to be something we were graded on in school. It was even a rite-of-passage for my kids when they were in second grade. This was the year cursive writing was introduced to them. Learning how to convert a printed letter into a slanted curvy or loopy shape was difficult for some. But once mastered, their teacher allowed them to do all of their school work in cursive writing.

Now that my grandson is in Kindergarten, he is learning to master the art of lettering. Yes, I consider it an art even in the hands of a 5 year old. When I see him struggle with the construction of a letter I remind him of basic shapes he already knows - a line, a circle, an arch. After all, letters are just an artful combination of shapes.

I first studied Typography while in college but played with embellishing letters and words when I was in high school. It was a lot more fun to draw puffy letters with flowers and swirls growing out of them than to study history or listen to a biology lecture!! Making words look pretty has always been a passion of mine. 

Personalized Clutches and Wristlets by Mama Bleu Designs

So after seeing all the really pretty calligraphy art being posted on Pinterest and Instagram I started thinking about my letter making supplies and how they have been neglected for so long. Free-motion stitching words and names with my sewing machine is something I can do easily now, but my calligraphy writing skills have become quite rusty!

Even though I have lots to do in my studio to stay caught up on my orders I am trying to carve out some time on the weekends to practice my calligraphy penmanship. Attending a workshop would be wonderful but they are often inconvenient because of their time or location. I’ve heard some great things about the classes on Skillshare, especially Molly Jacques’ class - Introduction to the Art of Modern Calligraphy. I’m thinking of checking it out soon. How about you?

In the meantime, it’s back to my sewing machine and artfully stitching letters…..stringing them together with colored thread!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mama Bleu Designs and Southern Weddings Magazine

In the whirlwind of preparation the day I left for China, I found out that a set of my custom-made Bride and Groom hoops is featured in the Winter Edition of Southern Weddings Magazine! As you can imagine, the details of the trip took precedence so I quickly forgot about this amazing news.

Mama Bleu Designs featured in Southern Wedding Magazine

Upon return home in mid-November I sorted through my pile of mail and was delightfully reminded of this happy news when I tore open the package that contained my complimentary issue of the magazine. Oh my goodness is this publication packed full of beautiful photography or what?!!

Bride and Groom Wedding Chair Hoops by Mama Bleu Designs

Bride and Groom Wedding Props by Mama Bleu Designs

So thank you Angela from Angela Marie Events for making this possible again. You are a delight to work with! And Ashleigh Jane Photography , you always makes Mama Bleu Designs look good!!!  Thank you!