Thursday, January 29, 2015

Longhand Writing is a Hot Trend for 2015

In a world that yearns for shortcuts, it is wonderful to see that longhand writing is trending. I’ve been noticing it for months and it’s fun to know that Mama Bleu Designs was ahead of this trend just because I love handwriting so much. Have you noticed that lovely french words and hand embroidery are popping up on fashion and accessories everywhere? 

Linen and Black French Typography Clutch Bag by Mama Bleu Designs
Longhand Writing Stitchery, Linen Clutch with Embroidered Word by MamaBleuDesigns on Etsy

This trend is obviously right up my alley so I’ve been working on some new designs for Spring. Even though I enjoy using my sewing machine to sketch out illustrations in thread, that technique just didn't look right on these colorful bags. Since I love to hand stitch embroidered designs I thought I'd bring out my embroidery floss for these monograms. My mom taught me this craft at a young age and I began adding embroidery to my wardrobe. I wish I still had the pair of jeans I worked on as a teenager. Using a 1970s Yardley Cosmetics magazine illustration as my inspiration, I meticulously embroidered the details of a waterfall down my pant leg. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been making stitched illustration of one kind or another almost my entire life!

I pulled out my box of colorful embroidery floss a couple of weeks ago, threaded a needle and my first stitch brought back all those wonderful memories! 

Hand stitching my new line of typography clutches with my grandmother's vintage embroidery needles
Hand stitchery with my grandmother's vintage embroidery needles
Monogram Cosmetic Bag, Personalized Gift for Bridesmaid by Mama Bleu Designs
Hand Embroidered Monogram Cosmetic Bag

Monday, January 19, 2015

Unexpected Solutions

Sometimes really good things happen by accident and it turns out to be an answer you’ve been looking for.

I used to plan my schedule to include a 3-mile walk at least 3 times a week. I can’t tell you when that changed but it did, and it’s been hard for me to re-establish that good habit again. My life looks much different now than it did then and I know that has a lot to do with it. The roadblock for me has been finding a regular time slot that I can devote to doing my preferred exercise - walking. 

finding unexpected solutions during an afternoon walk

About a week ago I was faced with a dilemma because my car needed to be at the mechanics for a day. Looking at my commitments for the week I realized there was not a single day that I could give up using my car…..or was there? Tuesdays and Thursdays are my day with the grandkids so my son, who is a work-from-home dad, can have 2 very productive work days without the kids. Knowing that the problem with my car was something that needed immediate attention, I decided to find another solution for picking up my grandson from Kindergarten the next day. This is when the accidental solution came to me. 

Walking around my small home town is pretty convenient. I often walk to the coffee shop on Friday mornings to meet my mother-in-law for breakfast and the elementary school is just a couple blocks from there. Even with all the energy that a 3-year-old can exhibit, I knew that my granddaughter would not be excited about making that walk especially after being woken up from her afternoon nap. My hope was that she would be happy to sit in a stroller, snack and water cup in hand, for a 30 minute ride to school and back. And on the flip side, I was hoping that my 5-year-old grandson would be a cooperative passenger on the standing platform at the back of the stroller provided he also had a snack to munch on. And finally, it all hinged on how I would do in pushing 30+ pounds up the hill to school and 90+ pounds home. Let me just say that I’m so glad the downhill part had the heaviest load!

finding unexpected solutions during an afternoon walk

finding unexpected solutions during an afternoon walk

The end of the story is that they were both very happy and cooperative kids. Kyla helped me put the snacks together on the second day and Micah’s reply was “Yeah” when I said we were walking again. For me, not only have I found a time to get my walk in, I also don’t have the stress of finding a parking space on those narrow, crowded streets!!

I’m thankful that I was put into a position where I had to think outside-the-box! If any of the circumstances had been different I may not be enjoying the benefits of this unexpected solution!

What great solutions have you received through happy accidents?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Evaluating the Trust Value of Your Business

Evaluating the Trust Value of your Business /

On September 10 last year, I was chatting with a fellow team member on Etsy. The treasury-style front page was being transitioned to the feed-style page that we see today. I was still enjoying the hourly changing treasuries on my computer screen and felt like the wave of change would be coming any minute to wash it away. My friend told me that her shop sales had “really tapered down” and this echoed the voice of so many other Etsy shop owners. I almost felt guilty when I told her that my sales were going through the roof. I felt like something had shifted and wasn’t sure what had caused it. The onslaught of orders lasted about a month and slowed down to below normal after that. My quest since that euphoric 3-4 weeks has been to find out the key to creating that shift again….and making it stick.

With Treasury Teams scrambling as if they all just got handed a pink slip and team members taking a wait-and-see attitude, I was invited to join a “saving circle” team. It seemed like a magic pill, a team with daily activities that would likely increase my shop sales, so I jumped in. Similar teams developed over the next couple of months, calling themselves “hearting teams”, and I joined a few more. I clicked hearts for hours, day and night, in hopes that my sales would increase. With every “cha-ching” I became more and more convinced that it must be working.

After the holiday rush I needed a break from of all team activities. Besides the benefits of having fewer commitments on my plate, it gave me an opportunity to see what would happen to my business if I didn’t take my “hearting pill” each day. I’ve been taking the time to evaluate my business activities to make sure they line up with my goals and values.

We all need to make choices that we feel are the best use of our time and will help benefit our short term and long term goals. What I realized is that I was reacting without thinking things through and I got myself into an activity pattern that I thought was business building. In reality, it was like drinking Red Bull - it only gave me a temporary rush of results.

What I realized is that in that reactionary state, I had been slowing moving away from some of the things that are important to me in my business and possibly eroding the trust I've built with my customers and followers. 

  • I want all parts of my business to reflect the quality of standards that I uphold.

  • Since I am solely responsible for all business activities, I aim to work smarter not harder.

  • I want to engage in business building practices that increase trust value with my present and future customers.

Quality of Standards
I have built my business reputation on quality craftsmanship and excellent customer service. People who visit my shop, purchase my items and follow Mama Bleu Designs have come to expect that I will provide them with the best I have to offer. I want everything about my shop to provide that for them. When I started hearting/favoriting items (for the sake of  team commitments that required me to favorite things that  really aren't my style and/or my favorites) I began to feel as though I was letting my followers down. Furthermore, I felt like I wasn’t be truthful to them about what I represent.

Working Smarter, Not Harder
I literally spend hours and hours clicking hearts on Etsy items all in the hopes that others would do the same for me and push my item onto the Trending Page. By narrowing my focus on this one single thing, I put far more value on it than I should have. My business, and what I have to offer through it, has far more potential if I let my voice be heard beyond the walls of Etsy. The results may not be immediate but I believe it will prove to be a better investment of my time.

Increasing My "Trust Value"
After reading Google Semantic Search by David Amerland, I am beginning to understand some of the changes that Google has made over the past year. Much of it is based on our value as a trusted authority in our business. I believe that if I limit my business activities to clicking hearts on Etsy, I will have very little evidence on the web for factoring the worth of my "trust value" in the marketplace.

I know I’m coming to this conclusion as someone with an established Etsy business. Much of the grow of my business came from being part of Treasury Teams. I would feel very alone on Etsy without the community of friends I have built. I think that if I was just starting my Etsy business, the “hearting” teams would be a good community to join. Their activities accelerate the process of getting posted on the Trending page and that might be what a brand new shop needs. I’m not saying that every shopper who visits Etsy is going to check out what’s trending but it seems to be a preference to many people. Honestly, I think many more shoppers use the “search box” for finding what they want. They did that even when we had a beautiful treasury collection on the front page so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t continue to use that method of shopping. I am consistently freshening up my photos, titles and tags to keep my shop at the top of search queries. (I’ll be sharing more on that in a future post.) 

Hindsight is wonderful but without the benefit of seeing all of 2015 at this point I’ll just have to trust that if I stick with my personal & business values and network with like-minded entrepreneurs, I’ll fully appreciate the year end results.

I know there is so much more to consider on this topic so I'd really like to hear your thoughts!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Decorative Candle Holders

DIY decorative candle holders by

Using a few strips of fabric and a little bit of Acrylic Matte Medium, you can create some pretty candle holders to match any decor or tablescape color theme. 

DIY decorative candle holders from

DIY decorative candle holders by

You’ll need some fabric strips that are cut to half the height of your glass votive candle holders. The length should be long enough to wrap around once + a little extra. Brush a bit of the Acrylic Medium around the lower half of the glass and lay the fabric strip over it, wrapping it around the circumference of the votive holder and overlapping one edge over the other. Brush another layer of Acrylic Medium over the fabric - making sure it saturates through. The liquid acrylic will dry clear. If you paint over the fabric edge onto the glass, wait until it dried and it will easily scrape off. 

DIY decorative candle holders by

DIY decorative candle holders by

These are so easy to make with any straight-sided glass container. Have fun creating your own set of decorative candle holders!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Fresh Look for January

The holidays went by so quickly that getting back to my regular schedule almost took me by surprise. I wanted to have so much more done before I jumped into January but here we are!! It’s been cold and rainy today, which is a great excuse to put a fire in the fireplace and gather my thoughts. With frustration wanting to percolate to the top of my mind and remind me of everything I wanted to do - but didn’t, it feels good to be still and let the quiet settle in. I needed to be still and listen! A practice that I must do more often because the benefits outweigh anything on my to-do list!

Be Still & Listen Inspirational Hoop Art by MamaBleuDesigns

There is something about January that makes us want to clean out our closets and rearrange the furniture. I am guilty of that and then some. I even gave my blog a little freshening up and I’ll probably be doing a bit more. Crazy thing is that I’m proving to be a bit of a geek as I learn more about coding and all. I never thought I'd say that about myself!!

I have some new links for you across the top of the page (under the title). I tried to answer some of questions that I most frequently get asked about Laura (me - the one who wears all the hats in my business) and the short version story about Mama Bleu Designs. I also make it more convenient to hop over to my etsy shop by clicking on MY SHOP.

I just discovered Bloglovin and love that I get an email from them that gives me daily updates of all the blogs I am following. I have a Bloglovin link to the right under SOCIAL CIRCLES so you can easily get connected and follow all the goings on here.

If you have learned something new that makes your life easier I’d love to hear about it!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Inspiration Palette - Marsala and Blush

Wedding Inspiration - Marsala has been named the 2015 color of the year. This rich color is beautiful on it's own but I love it as an accent, especially in the beautiful floral wedding crown.

Handwriting Font - I have a fondness for calligraphy. Molly Jacques is an expert font illustrator and has a collection of beautiful fonts that she sells. When I heard her story about taking a vast amount of time to practice this skill until she got it perfect, I had even more appreciation for her talent!

Fashion Style - I love the look of long ruffled skirts. I bet this one would be a lot of fun to twirl in!

Tablescape - Wood slice art is so trendy right now. These caught my eye with their simple calligraphy design and make a statement as wedding reception table numbers.

Botanical - This floral bouquet is lush with the richness of Marsala and the softness of Blush. I'd love to have this in a lovely vase on my dining room table right now!

Printable - Once your wedding or other special event is over you probably want to send out some thank you cards to your guests. Here's a simple free printable card for you to enjoy!