Tuesday, July 31, 2012

WHY Faith Works...?

What is your message?  Why are you in business for yourself?  Point to clarify - to make money, to get paid for what I do - isn't the answer we're looking for...

Weeks upon weeks have gone by since I began following Marie Forleo, nervously attempted a slightly rehearsed video scholarship application, continued to follow Marie's video blog...done tons of independent research, found out about Laura Roeder, scoped her blog, investing along the way what I could and just in general working my butt off.

But my opening questions I've put off answering.  Truthfully, I even lied to myself a bit about what I thought my answers were.  But down the line, along the road I've had several little "ah ha" moments (in between insomniac hours and a teething, and therefore understandably, upset child) with my businesses.  These moments have been both unexpected and inspired.  Like a unicorn and glitter-filled freight train, scares the bajeezus outta ya until you realize, "O look, neat!"

Sure like nearly anyone else who starts a business I want to make money.  And really most of us do.  At the very least we will accept money for what we're doing.  But while that doesn't make us bad to want that, it shouldn't be all about that.  Fact of the matter is I don't think I ever (until Marie pointed it out and near walked out of the screen at me asking) really considered the big three letter word - WHY?  I figured I knew the answer and I didn't need to elaborate on it.  Boy, was I mistaken!

So in a rare moment I'm going to take you into my noggin, let you view the noodle...get ready for a bumpy ride...

I love making "stuff".  I'm a tinkerer and my medium is arts & crafts - more specifically and in a large portion anything made with fibers.  Id est (ie, that is to say) crochet, knit, macrame, weaving, braiding, chainmaille, jewelry, clothing, & accessory design by proxy.  But while I could tarry off the names of things I've made, of crafts I love doing, and even recall with a fair amount of detail some art I've produced that is since "long gone".  I could not seem to answer the question.  I realize now that I wasn't ready and that it just wasn't my time and honestly I am thankful for the "missed chance" that has afforded me so much other opportunity.  A pinch of realization is worth a ton of what ifs.

The thing is I've always loved working with arts and crafts.  Ever since I was a little girl and first exposed to it. The whole idea of taking these bits and putting them together in some way and creating something has always made me "oooooh" and "aaaaaaaah".  And as with some many people who "make stuff", the statement was invariably addressed to me as, "O you should sell the stuff you make" or  "You're so good", etc.  Honestly, before the idea was proposed to me I would have likely never thought of it.  I make stuff, I love making stuff.  To work with my hands, and bring something into being that wasn't there before...to BIRTH a creative project has always been something special to me, something divine... (and therein lies our segway to the next factor).

My beliefs (my internal faith in the world around me, people, things beyond and above, and outside of us) have always been important to me.  I like to consider the idea that I don't practice my faith, I live it.  And I don't mean to sound like I'm approaching that soapbox, I'm not reaching for any pedestal either because trust me I am just. like. you. (pause for dramatic affect)  What I mean is that I believe that living my beliefs is the only way to practice.  It's not some wrote routine I'm following because I "should" or "always have", it's how I choose to live my life.  The thing is making stuff is a passion for me - and I see utter beauty in it.  And you know what, looks aside - really, I like visually appealing things, but that's not even what I'm getting at...I mean that there is a beauty in our ability to craft things.  And the level of complexity at which we (humans) do this sets us apart from every other living organism on the planet.  Brace yourself for the "tear jerker"... because this is where it gets personal.  I want to integrate this experience for everyone out there who owns anything.


Okay, let me break it down - my tag line at first was "Faith Works to put the beauty back in your life."  It came to me one day, it sounded good, it seemed to answer the big why and I kept it.  After a point though that "put" really started niggling at me.  It sounded too forceful, too bossy.  I decided I wanted, needed, and believed in a gentler approach.  So I threw out the "put" and brought in the "bring".  (How's that for grammar...)  I read it allowed, I liked it immediately and immensely better.  To help you bring something is service, it's helpful, it's encouraging - it's the kind of message I wanted to get out there even if I didn't fully understand it.

If I've lost you (which happens when you're creative & verbose) don't worry I'll lay it out on the table for ya:

My purpose in business is to bring the simple beauty of the human element back into your life.  In the form of things I make I teleport you into an intimate relationship with what you buy from me.  I am not a huge corporation with hundreds of thousands of stock in one item, my prices are not the cheapest on the block, my store is not located in every town (okay well it is in every town with internet).  I am a single artist/crafter handmaking something for you to own and use with awareness.  I put the human touch back into what you're buying, I put a face on that favorite sweater, a loving touch.  I am a real person to connect and communicate with.  Whatever I've made is made just for you, I want you to feel special, and I was you to cherish my offerings because I cherish your support of my love.

To me - We are all divine creations.  In each of us is that spark of the Otherworld that despite our similarities sets us apart for everything around us and draws us together.  Each feeling we have is divine be it good, bad,  or indifferent.  Every experience we have is a divine experience.  And everything we make, use, or come into contact with is divine.  In a time and place where there is and has been so much focus on the negative I want you to be able to look about your home, your office, on your person and see something handmade with love and care and be able to smile.  Yes, you heard me, I want you to smile at your hat, knick knack, yes even your paperweight.  Because it's not just stuff, useless junk to clutter your life with.  It's something special that you loved enough to buy and keep.

So I've gone on with that tagline - feeling it was the right thing.  But eventually I felt a little closed in still.  I felt that though that tagline was super fantastic, it was only serving a part of what I was putting out there.  One day in the last two weeks the rest of it hit me.  Brought on by a parody of a saying I knew from a funny T-shirt ("I put the fun in dysfunctional.")  My new & improved tagline now is:

Faith Works...to bring the beauty back in your life & put the FUN back in functional!

I add the ending because sometimes a cigar is just a cigar - I might make a hat, just because I want to.  It's still got that spark in it because I have put some of myself into the making of it - but to take off my fuschia tinted sunglasses it's a hat, and it's in a fun design, pattern, or technique and I wanted to share it with you.

So the long and short...what's my purpose?

I'm providing YOU with some handmade awesome.  I'm intuitively creating and deliberately working with you to create what you want.  I'm putting my own quirky spin onto the creation of things, while still honoring the techniques of those before me.  I want to remind you of something beyond the ownership of your product.  I want you to be able to understand it's process, appreciate it's fabrication and purpose.  I want to help you put awareness back in your ownership of something, rather than having something just because it's cool or trendy.  I want you to be able to look beyond the physical object and into what it stands for - the an element of divine creation brought to you by someone like you in physical form.  And the bonus...it's quality, sometimes simple, always unique and best of all it's made with that divine human element, it's a work of art made in faith because simply put Faith Works.

And a little shout out to Marie Forleo & her team - I sincerely thank you for allowing me the opportunity to refine myself, my message, and discover it all.  For giving me the chance to try again later and be supportive of myself and the process of my ideas!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bathroom Organizer for Tampons!

I've long loved baskets and while basketweaving is among one of the many things I'd like to work on learning  I haven't gotten around to it yet.  Crocheting though is something I'm always doing and I love anything I can crochet.  While looking at my desk last night I notice a tampon I'd idly stuck in my pen  holder (yea, I know what in the world...)  The desk itself was rather cluttered and I decided I would go and clear it up.  Now I will point out that due to my fixation on the oddness of a tampon in my pen holder I actually ended up not truly cleaning my desk so much as creating.  Given my focus on paperwork and the technical side of the store lately this is perfectly fine!  I browsed my queue on Ravelry, knowing I had marked a few projects that were baskets earlier.  I was between a few pattern but decided on a "fun" one rather than your garden variety box-shaped basket.  A few hours later I have created a fun little basket to stash tampons in!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Book Review - Organizing Your Craft Space by Jo Packham

I just went to the library today to return a book (sad face!) and peruse the shelves of the crafting and art section.  Imagine my pleasant surprise when I find this book!

If you're the creative type there is a reasonable chance that you struggle with organization.  If you're like me you get into "creation mode" and all semblance of order dissipates immediately!  Jo's title is clear, concise and immediately catches your eye for it's usefulness.  In the foreword you get a personal peak at her reasoning and feel you can really relate, urging you to read on.  And if you can relate to the quote below (from the Foreword), then this book is definitely for you!

"And it occurred to me that here are probably thousands of women, just like myself, that need to take the time to get organized in order to become inspired to actually create wonderful new pieces."
Jo continues on in her Introduction saying:

"It doesn't seem to matter - as artists, crafters, or otherwise - whether we think of ourselves as organized or not.  Event he most disorganized of us has a system."

The quote brings a sly grin to my face personally as I have known many a crafter or artist to claim they cannot be organized due to their creative abilities.  As one myself I appreciate order, and love it in fact in every other aspect of my life, but I can empathize with the interference of creation to compartmentalization.

Jo's book is conveniently divided into a beginning chapter that gets you started.  In her beginning chapter she literally covers the basics of reorganizing, and not just your space, but your time.  The subsequent chapters are dedicated to individual types of crafting and organization that works well for them.  Each chapter concerning a craft space is full of colorful pictures of different ideas, "Tips", and "Things To Consider" written out clearly throughout.  The regular text within each chapter also provides practical information for organizing the spaces.  She ends with an appendix of "Metric Equivalency".

Perhaps one of the things I love most about this book is that Jo does not impose a "stock" organization method upon you.  Many people balk when given only one, or limited, choice(s) and it goes to show how well thought out this book was to take that into consideration.

We give Organizing Your Craft Space 5 out of 5 for it's practicality and clear cut methods, not to mention the great visual ideas set forth by myriad pictures!

Friday, July 20, 2012

July Featured Artist/Crafter - Aradia of Faith Works

Aradia's Bio:

Growing up in a family full of artistic pursuits it was none too surprising that I developed an early love for crafting with my hands and putting an artistic bent on what I make.  Being the daughter of a cross stitch designer, quilter, porcelain doll maker, and later potter I have been exposed to arts and crafts all my life and most significantly early on.  Like so many children growing up, one comes to a point where they want to do everything mom or dad is doing, and I was no different.  Starting out with simple braiding and knotting of embroidery floss I knew immediately that I loved to create things and that was what I wanted to do "when I grew up".

Oddly enough though, the very person whose works inspired me was not exactly supportive.  Being a practical sort I think, looking back, she recognized the potential struggle as an artist and knew just the amazing amount of work to produce something on your own.  But let it never be said that I am not tenacious.  So I let it be, kept it as a fun hobby and diversion and went about other pursuits...     Almost two decades later I have to laugh at myself as I look back and find that I have gone full circle through multiple paths and diversions - none of which truly called to me - only to land right back where I knew even at the tender age of 10 that I wanted to be.  I think though that despite her reservations mom would be proud and most importantly I am.

1.  How long have you been crocheting/knitting/making jewelry?
I've been crocheting on and off since I was about 8 or 9.  I started simple macrame jewelry right at that time too.  I didn't start knitting till 2009.

2.  What inspires you the most?
I like to make things in fiber form if I can.  If I see something one of my first thoughts is always, "I wonder if I can crochet or knit that?"

3.  What is/are your favorite materials/supplies?
Yarn of all types, but especially Pima Cotton & Merino Wool - they are both marvelously soft and a joy to work with.

4.  Do you have a favorite tool?
Right now it's my Harmony Knitting Needles.  They are wooden and constructed and finished off in a way that it's orgasmic to use them!  They warm to the touch, but are still very light, and they seem to just glide through your knitting!

5.  What is your work space like?
My workspace is basically wherever I can get it, on the couch, in the car, outside, in line at the store...since crochet & knitting can be carried with you (depending on project size of course) it makes it easier to bring it out of the "studio".  When I have the space for an actual art room I'll be glad though!

6.  When do you find the most time to work?
With a small child, as any of you "new mommies" know - I find time whenever I can.  Usually it's late at night or during naptime.  Since my work needs my eyes to be focused on what I'm doing it's difficult to even casually pay attention to other things.

7.  How does your work fit into the rest of your life?
As a budding entrepreneur my work is my life much of the time.  Lately I've been working on launching my website online so making has taking a backseat to doing.  And typically as is true for most business owners, I spend more time doing my work then I would were I working for someone else.

8.  How often a week do you get to work?
Whenever I can make time for it!  Ideally I try to work on a few projects at once and get at least an hour in on 2 or 3 projects a day.  At times I will only work on one thing and for several hours, this is true with custom orders and short projects.

9.  Do you sell your work?  Directly? Indirectly?
I sell my work from my own website and through Artfire & StorEnvy.

10.  Do you have a business (on or offline)? Consign?
Right now my business is 100% online, but I will sell things directly to people "out of my home".  I am not doing any consignment at the present moment.

11.  Do you have a website? Blog? Facebook profile or fan page? Myspace? Twitter?  Pinterest?
I have the afore mentioned 3 websites, 2 blogs, and a page for my business.  I do use Myspace (more as an afterthought), Twitter, and I just joined Pinterest!

12.  Where do you feel your work fits in your market?  (Do you concentrate on high volume, low volume; do you make multiples or one of a kind only; Walmart or Bergdorf Gelman?)
I think of myself as middle ground.  I'm not super expensive, but some of my work isn't exactly inexpensive.  But I feel you get what you pay for.  I put a lot of time into my work, and at times I use premium supplies.  I make some things that seem "common" and other things that are strictly one of a kind.  I like to have the variety and to appeal to more tastes rather than less.  I tend to do a lot of things with a gothic theme though!

13.  What is your favorite part?
I think taking pictures, especially when it's a good clear picture.  To be able to scroll through them and know that I designed or at least orchestrated what I made is a great feeling!

14.  How did you get into crafting?
Being around it at such a young age I developed a love for it, plus I think creativity is in my blood and the early exposure set me up to go into crafting.

15. Favorite deceased artist?  Why?
I have to play Devi's advocate a little here and say my mom.  She is the reason I got into crafting and art, and my business is even named in part for her.  I also loved all of her pottery, and I can't say that about most artists.  I've never been much of one for the classical artists (sure I love some individual pieces, but I can't say I love all of their work!)  But then again, that's a big of a fib.  Despite my love of order and organization I do thoroughly love Salvador Dali.  I think he was interesting and quirky and the imagination in his work is much like you'd find within a dream.  I even have some of his work tattooed on me!

16.  Favorite live artist?  Why?
Now this is a hard one!  I think maybe Renate Kirkpatrick.  She does freeform crochet, something I'm dying to start myself, and makes the most astoundingly beautiful and truly one of a kind pieces.  As a fiber artist I love most everything to do with yarn, thread, etc but her piece - a coral mural - is to me breathtaking!

Want to know where you can see some of Aradia's fine work?  Check out her custom gallery and commission your own piece?  Find her online at the links below!

Thanks for tuning in for our Featured Artist/Crafter of the Month!  We'll see you back in August with our next feature!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's GREAT, But It Won't Sell - Part 2 - Pictures

(image not property of Faith Works, used for awesomeness)

Glad to see you back and tuning in, but pleasantries aside let's get right down to business...

For the population that can see and uses the internet (or does any shopping anywhere really) what a product looks like is the first thing that hits you.  Really you can't help.  People are visually oriented and fixated even. We can get so caught up in how something looks that it's hard to get past it (you know this if you've made a snap judgment before based on what you saw.)

When shopping online this issue becomes difficult in that only a two dimensional image (or images) is available to communicate the appearance of your product.  Aside from the obvious, clarity of your image and true representation of color and size, there are some additional considerations when photographing your work online for sale.

Lighting is a big deal when it comes to your work.  Bad lighting can distort the color or your work, and the use of a flash often isn't a help in alleviating this.  Some lighting is overly bright, "washing out" the color of the product.  Other lighting gives off a yellow tone to the entire photo distorting color by casting a yellow hue over it.

Hands down natural light is the best.  It gives the best and most realistic result of your worn in it's natural state.

How are you displaying your work?  Do you have it set up and shown "in use"?  Do you have a model holding the item or on their person?  Is your item placed on a solid color background where it seems to "float" in the picture?  How you set up your product depends on  your style of photography (or the style you want to communicate).  All of these methods have merit, and as long as they are executed properly any of them will turn out nicely.  Other points to consider in your display.  How you want you camera to take shots?

These are just a few things to consider in taking pictures of your work.  Ultimately your style and ability will show through.  don't be afraid to ask for help or hire someone if need be.  Investment in good equipment (like a tripod and good quality camera) and just basic knowledge of your equipment (how to use your camera and it's settings) and technique (lighting, macro settings, image optimization) can save you grief later.

Do you have any other tips to share?  Leave them in the comments!

Stay tuned for our next segment...the description.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's GREAT, But It Won't Sell - Part 1

So you've taken time to make this absolutely fantastic product.  You poured love, hard work, and some creative genius into it even.  And there it sits, months down the line, waiting for a new home in your store...what gives?!

Now aside from your marketing and ability to get your name out there, and whether you product is something that even appeals to who is really seeing it there are some basic and very important things to consider...and it's all about presentation.

You see, presentation is everything when it comes to selling things online.  Remember your customer doesn't have the benefit of picking up your work.  They can't turn and find you there ready and waiting to answer any questions they may have about it.  And to be frank - if they take a peak at it and think it's not worth it, they surely won't bother emailing or otherwise messaging you to ask questions about it.  The visual and verbal presentation you put out there - in the form of your pictures, product description, and even your website (or platform) itself send a message to the buyer about you,  your work, and it's worth.  It can make you - or break you.

The good thing is, that presentation is an easy fix and I'm here to share some strategies with you and share my own stories and viewpoint as both a seller and buyer of handmade things!

Stay Tuned for Part 2 Where we talk about the first element that hits your buyer...your picture.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June Product Review - Boye Needlemaster set

(picture not owned by Faith Works, used for it's stellar clarity!)

Given the individual cost of each of these needles on a fixed cable this set allows some flexibility. As with most people I do not care for the very small cables as I find them too difficult to use effectively. Personally I would like longer cables and more sizes. At the normal retail price getting only 4 cables (1 one which that is just plain hard to work with) is so so to me. The cables being plastic fresh out of the kit are a little stiff, though this is the nature of that material. Unlike others I did not have any trouble in attaching the needles to the cables. Having experience with that sort of thing I made sure to give it an extra turn to make it snug when using them and only had them loosen on me once the very first time (not having done that). Metal needles are cold and can be heavy compared to wood and plastic but is also unlikely to be bent or broken so that is a plus. It would be nicer if the parts were available in store as it's generally less expensive given the cost of shipping these days. I recommend these as a nice value set for anyone starting out who is serious about knitting. If you are not sure or think you may give it up, it's easier and wiser to just get the needles you need as you need them versus paying full retail for them. Other sets, like Harmony, have about the same amount but due to their construction can be a bit more but it comes to a matter of personal preference price aside. An aside - if you can get them offline with a discount from places like Amazon or eBay or through a store with a coupon you're likely getting a better bet. And if you have any trouble with them you should definitely contact the manufacturer to return them - particularly defective equipment. In short I would buy them again, but I like Boye in general. However, I also plan on buying another set of interchangeables by another company.

In general I give them a 4 out of 5.

(This review is featured here.)

July Update!

The summer is nearly half over already!  New with us is that we've reached and surpassed the 200 listing mark on our StorEnvy venue (this includes our sold gallery as well)!  The new site is waiting on buttons and listings itself, and our Artfire just needs to catch up with StorEnvy.

This past month we closed down our affiliate's store for PhoenixFlame Healing Center and have added all of its stock to our Faith Works store.  Originally they were kept separate, but in the interest of keeping things a bit more streamline we've decided to try this out for now.  As such you'll see a bunch of healing oriented items in our store, most with their own categories as well.

We just finished our latest custom order so now is a great time to jump in if you have something you would like as our schedule is 100% open!  New projects from our queue are always being brought to the forefront, and we have a lot, but it's always refreshing to work on a custom design!

There is also a bit of business overall we have planned - taking the brilliant Marie Forleo's advice we're stepping up our game a bit.