Sharing a Passion for Handmade

"I believe it is important to thirst for knowledge every day of your life. If you are tired of learning, you are probably tired of living... "
Holly J. Stanger

My photo
FloDo is short for Florence's Daughter in honor of my mother who instilled in me my curiosity and appreciation for all things handmade.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Much to Learn, Much to Do...

Creative people everywhere share at least one basic thing in common - we love to share our art. No matter what the medium of choice, the joy we feel when creating is an infectious kind of happiness that we can't wait to pass on. Whether we are displaying our creations, selling our wares, teaching or attending workshops there are many ways of sharing this feeling and I for one am certainly glad we do! Nowhere can this sense of sharing be found more prominently than a delightfully magical place in Manchester, Maine called Sweetland Retreat.

Sweetland Retreat is a charming little antique farm turned artist retreat in the heart of rural Maine. It is the brainchild of twin sisters Joy and Jamie, and Jamie’s husband Brian. This little group of artistically talented, wonderfully welcoming, downright down-to-earth individuals has taken a wonderful piece of Maine history and are single handedly (or I guess you would say triple handedly) turning the well loved, well worn former single family home into a place where artists from all walks of life can come together in the spirit of sharing their craft. The hope is that one day down the road, when all the painstaking renovation is complete, this beautiful house will become a full fledged artist’s retreat/B&B. With its incredible antique rock wall, beautiful flowering shrubs (many decades old) and flowers and its well tended vegetable garden, it is a glorious and relaxing location where one cannot help but want to overstay their welcome.

The main barn of the old property has been carefully and lovingly turned into an open and airy artist studio flooded with many sources of natural light. This space is used to host workshops taught by local artists and teachers (Joy and Jamie included) who share a wide variety of fine arts, crafts and more. From polymer clay flower making to precious metal clay jewelry making, body scrub classes to classes on encaustic painting, beginning sewing workshops to gelatin printmaking, digital photography to etsy shop setup, knitting to Ukranian egg dyeing, the list goes on and on with more classes of various types being added all the time (I believe there was even a violin class).

I have attended a couple of the offerings at Sweetland Retreat and highly recommend them to anyone interested in a fun, creative, one of a kind experience. Some classes are held during the week but most are held on the weekends making it very convenient. Many classes have the supplies included in the price of the workshop; all you have to do is show up and have a great time! And, Joy, Jamie and Brian are infectiously warm and friendly.

Check out their website for a schedule of upcoming workshops and treat yourself to a wonderful experience. You will be glad you did!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Granny Knits Inspiration - One Stitch at a Time

I think I mentioned that I wanted to introduce you to the wonderful members of the Etsy Maine Team and the timing is perfect to introduce you to Elaine of GrannysKnits.  We call her Granny but her grandson just calls her mom... 
 Read her inspirational story on GrannysKnits Storque Blog

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finding My Community

Living in a rural community, be it in Maine or any other state, makes starting a home-based business a challenge. The first obstacle is getting the word out to a wide audience. Finding cost effective ways to advertise and market your shop are critical. Word of mouth is always helpful but can only spread as far as the networks you have created. Complicate this with the fact that many of us with this type of business are also out in the working world, if we are lucky, full time and the challenge is greater. Opportunities for promotion and growth do not just present themselves to us… Or, do they?

While scanning one of my favorite crafting community magazines, and to be perfectly honest with you I do not exactly remember which one, I came across an ad for a website called “Etsy”. Now mind you, more often than not, unless I am in the market for a particular supply or material for my many projects, I usually skip the ads and concentrate on the articles. But, something peaked my curiosity. I went to the site and as I looked it all over and began to understand what Etsy was I grew more and more excited. The prospect of actually establishing a store front where I could point my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, relatives and anyone else I came in contact with (well, not everyone) to “see what I could do” made me a little giddy. It didn’t hurt that it was so inexpensive to get started. At the very least, I would gain some experience in working with a website. “Free” training is ALWAYS “a good thing” (sorry Martha). So, I set about following all the directions to create my shop and post all the items I had ever made, not giving much thought to what the end result would look like. I posted one of this and two of that and even offered to remake some items in different colors, sizes… you, get the picture. Then beaming with pride over my accomplishment, I called everyone I knew and practically demanded that they “look at what I did”. I was sure that within a matter of days everything I had posted would be SOLD and I would be so busy making more I would have to quit my day job!

Well… 8 months later and no sales (which of course I could not understand) I stopped looking at my shop every day and stopped demanding that my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, relatives and anyone else I came in contact with (well, maybe not everyone) “look what I had done”.

Then, one day in the lunch room of my “day job”, I was reading a local newspaper, to be perfectly honest I can’t remember which one (actually I can as there is only one) and I saw an ad that contained a word that caught my eye. Now mind you, more often than not, unless I am looking for a sale at the local supermarket, or more realistically, the local fabric store, I usually skip the ads and concentrate on the articles. (Hmm, I think I heard that somewhere before…) But, this one caught my eye. It was an ad for an upcoming craft show featuring “Artists from the Etsy Maine Team”! I thought “Wow, other people really do use Etsy. I am not alone. And, from the looks of their wonderful flyer, they are very talented people”. So, I added the craft fair to my calendar. I wanted to know what this “Etsy Maine Team” thing was all about.

I was a bit nervous as I headed to the craft fair. I felt a bit like I was going to meet some secret society and that my measly business cards and the fact that I had a shop (and I now use that term very loosely) on Etsy would not be impressive enough for this group of artistes to give me the time of day. But, I could not have been more wrong.

First, let me say that while I had been so busy setting up my shop, which at the time was a bit of a daunting task for me, I had not even perused all the myriad of offerings that the then hundreds, now thousands, of shops and sellers had to offer. I had no idea what I was in for and boy was I in for a treat! At the craft fair, each of the “vendors” offered very unique and wonderful wares. Everything was very colorful and the presentation from one table to the next was true “eye candy”. Exquisite (I don’t use that word very often unless I mean to make a point, and I MEAN to make a point here) jewelry, accessories, kitchen linens, vintage items, jewelry, children’s tutus, baby booties, soft toys for infants and other magnificent items… and did I mention jewelry?

I met some very interesting people that day. Each of them had their own story and each had their own talent and skill, and well deserved pride in their individual products. But, equally as impressive was the fact that each of them was a member of one team. And as a team they all supported each other and their art. Every single person there was welcoming and friendly and open. They not only were receptive to telling me about their own shops but more often than not encouraged me to talk to the other vendors and promoted their team members’ items as well, and with pride. There was no competitive tone or attitude among them. They did not see me as an intruder for asking so many questions. They encouraged me to join their group and listed many of the pros to membership: networking, group support, resource sharing, idea bouncing sessions, team meetings, critique of shops and encouragement to keep going even when it did not look like success (sales) was on the immediate horizon.

Wow! I left there excited once again. I immediately went home and requested my place on the team. I was eagerly accepted and immediately supplied with the tools I needed to expand my vision and re evaluate my goal for my own shop: forum discussions, resource links, list of team members. I gained a new appreciation for the available resources on the Etsy site but more importantly I gained a community. A community - available through a few strokes on the keyboard, any time, day or night, weekday or weekend - of like minded artists with the common goal to promote HANDMADE and each other.

It has been several months since I met that great group of people. Since then, I have learned much about Etsy and its opportunities. I have learned much about how to really create a shop and not just a mishmash of all things made by me. I have learned much about websites and taking better product photos (thanks Joy!) and have even made a few sales. I have learned how to brand myself (not that kind of brand) and create my shop’s identity. I have learned that this process takes time and dedication and TONS of patience. And, I have learned that I have so much more to learn. Most of all, I have learned much about being a member of a community. A community of like-minded individuals who take a little time out of their day to share their successes and failures, their achievements and their frustrations, and ALWAYS their support…

I look forward doing my part as a team member by introducing you to many of the members of the Etsy Maine Team. I know you will be as impressed as I am…

OH, and did I mention the JEWELRY???

Photos by featured  Etsy Maine Team members:  beckyrose, junquerevival, littleputland, quenchmetalworks, jamieribisi, cleverkitty, etsymaineteam

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Cleaning with the Maine Team

Everywhere you look are the first sure-fire signs of spring in Maine - the "cone zones" are in bloom.  They are popping up everywhere!!!  But, all kidding aside, many of us are feeling the first pangs of spring fever.  Especially with the clocks "springing forward" and the "extra" daylight. 

Generally, all creatures great and small feel a stirring this time of year.  It causes an insatiable desire to "purge the nest" or spring clean!  The etsy Maine Team is no exception and is itching to spring clean as well!

Led by the ever enthusiastic DreaBunny of BunnyBaubles and BunnyBeads many of the team members are having "clearing out the cobwebs" sales and promotions.  For a current list of etsy shops participating in the clear out, check out the Maine Team forum.  Or, you can search Etsy for all items with the "tag"  MaineSpringClean to see all the items included in this fantastic sale at once.  This is your chance to cash in on some EXCITING, FABULOUS and WONDERFUL deals available from this very talented team of shop owners.  Don't miss your opportunity! 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's all in the way you look at it...

I am fortunate enough to be the daughter of a very talented  seamstress (although she would never have admitted it) whom I am sure originally learned to sew out of practical necessity, and perhaps partly because that is what all girls were expected to be able to do in her time. She had many skills and interests, not the least of  which were sewing and quilting, knitting (hand and machine), crocheting, needle punch, cake decorating, ceramics, making jewelry and woodworking - the later of which I was not even aware that she even did for most of my life. The items she made, whether fabric or wooden, were carefully created and made to last. She took the time necessary to make everything look professionally crafted and fortunately she passed the passion and appreciation for all things handmade on to me. I pay homage to my mother by continuing to enjoy and create the things she taught me to love.

As a fiber artist and designer my mind translates what I see into two and three dimensional pieces of art made of fabric, fibers, paper, wood and all sorts of other findings. The tools of my trade include those of a typical "artist", paint, pencils, paper, sketches and such, but there are other tools such as sewing machines, fabrics, threads and the like that I use the most. Computer graphics and digital photography lend themselves handily to my machine embroidery digitizing skills and designing interests.

Living in Maine, photo opportunities abound. Known for our rocky coastline and deep forests there is never a lack of places to visit and revisit. Although born in Maine, I enjoy playing tourist and take hundreds of pictures wherever I go. I recently designed several sets of note cards featuring artistic renditions of some photographs I have taken on my "tours". You can find them at: FloDo Designs on Etsy

In the coming weeks and months I hope to tell you more about my projects and  introduce you to some other handmade artists of Maine who share the same passion as I for all things handmade. 

FloDo Designs Shop on Etsy