My Shop

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch...

When I was younger - much younger - I used to dream about living in an artist community where I could be surrounded by myriad of vastly creative people and that the interchange would lead to something magical.  -Sort of a modern day Bloomsbury Group-.  Sadly, I am no Virginia Wolf, but I have recently  stumbled on to a community of the most talented artisans and vastly creative people: Etsy.  Yes, I sell my little finger puppets there (among other things).  But beyond that, I have had the opportunity to metaphorically rub shoulders with some amazing people.

One such incident occurred when I was contacted by a young mother (and fellow Etsy shop-owner) from Australia who is currently living in the states who wanted me to make her some finger puppets for advent calendars she was in the process of making for her friends.  She wanted Old MacDonald themed puppets to fill certain pockets of the calendars.  I have been in the process of putting together sets of my puppets and an Old MacDonald set was at the top of my list, and so I was more than happy to oblige her request.  

It got even better.  She was hoping to have them look somewhat like the animal illustrations in a book that belongs to her young daughter.  I got the ISBN# from her, got the adorable book from our local library and proceeded to do the mental exercise of how to literally make those creatures jump off the page.

Then, it occurred to my client that she would like to include some way of storing the animals after they were retrieved from the advent calendar and I had been mulling this same problem...  What would I put my Old MacDonald set in for storage?  I was able to offer up a solution for both of us: a simple drawstring bag.  So, I made those for her as well!  I was such an easy solution, but so elegant!   

Here is her adorable advent calendar... I want one!

This is how my puppets played into the project.
By making those bags for her, I was able to experiment a little with what I'd like to offer in my shop.  She was thrilled with the results and gracious enough to send me the sweetest message of gratitude.  But it is I who am grateful.  The partnership we forged in creating this simple gift for her friends was so rewarding for me.  And this is an experience I have had repeatedly at my little "cyber artist commune".  It stretches me and makes those late nights in my sewing room worth it and not seem quite so lonely.        

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Holidays

I had the best of news the other day:  My mom and step-dad are traveling from California to spend Thanksgiving with my family here in Colorado.  This is a such a sweet treat!  This holiday season is bitter-sweet for me.  My oldest daughter will be graduating from college in the spring, and my 17 year old twins will be graduating from high school at the same time and they are planning to go out-of-state to school.  My twenty year old son is looking to a professional future that may very well take him from our home in the near future as well.  We will shortly be going from having all five children under the same roof to just the baby being home.  I am so grateful to have her!  I think my mom is coming to offer some moral support as our family is on the cusp of big change.  Thank you mom!

 I remember when I was about the age of my twins (I am the middle child of a family of five kids) that my dad made a comment at the dinner table that it would not be long before family dinners with all of us kids there would soon be coming to an end and that we would never be together in quite the same way again.  I didn't believe him.  Now, when all my children gather around our family table for a meal together I savor the music of their laughter and the conversations we share.  This time will soon come to an end.  They will go on to live their own lives as my brother and sisters have done.  I am in equal measures excited for my children and sad for myself.  I will miss them!

My hope is that the traditions and memories we've formed as a family, particularly those that focus on the holiday season, will turn their hearts towards home, even when they cannot actually be here.  When our oldest daughter celebrated her first Christmas, I made hand puppets and hung them all over the Christmas tree.  When our next son was born, I made fabric baby toys and blocks as ornaments.  When the twins were born, we were just lucky to HAVE a tree.  I was a very busy mommy with four children aged four and under.  One year, when the four older children were still quite little, however,  I made countless picture frames covered with fabric and placed pictures of them all over the tree.  I think I'll dig those out of the basement this year and add pictures of the baby to the mix. 

Every Christmas that I have had the privilege of being a mother, I have wanted to hold onto some sort of memory of that year.  Usually, an ornament for the tree serves as a memento.  This year, I've started this little business, and so I think it will be fitting to hang a little dove that I have made and  that I am selling on our tree.

My little business is promising to fill the empty space my growing children are leaving behind.  The skills I have gained while raising them have not only colored our memories and Christmas trees, but have also enriched our life together.  I am grateful to share those gifts with you.  Best wishes for a happy holiday season from my home to yours.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

With a Little Help from my Customers

A while ago, I wrote a blogpost about learning to say no.  In the midst of trying to start my little business, there have been many voices other than my own seeking to define what my business should be.  I appreciate that so many care enough about me to share their ideas.  I say, "Keep the good ideas coming!" Don't be offended if they don't all come to fruition.  Some ideas will naturally resonate with the vision I have in my head as to where this whole thing is heading... Some will not.

Here's one idea that did really hit me as a fun one that I wanted to pursue.  A woman contacted me via my Etsy Shop requesting that I make her some hippos in colors other than the blue that I was offering, to give as party favors for her son's Hungry Hippos themed birthday party. She told me it is going to a Hippo and food themed party and they will be collecting food for a local food bank - WOW!

I cannot tell you how fun these were to create.  My whole family fell in love with them instantly.  And while I do not condone bogarting trademarked materials, we are just calling these inspired by Milton Bradley's Hungry Hungry Hippo Game...   So, I hope you get a chuckle out of my new Hip and Happy Hippos!  I sure did!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sewing Season

I think it is safe to say that sewing season is in full-swing!  It always sneaks up on me, but it cannot be denied that about the time the fabric store starts really pushing Halloween prints, it is time for me to sharpen my needles and get to work!  Luckily, the weather has turned colder, so I don't feel guilty for shunning the now absent sun to sit and sew.

 First there was the impromptu Halloween Party that forced me to throw together a super-hero costume in half an hour, and then the party at church where we unveiled the official "state" costume for the year. 

Here's little red riding hood!  Now, it's time to get those thanksgiving turkey table favors put together, Christmas stockings and possibly P.J.'s for the family... That is if I don't think of something else to make  first...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saying No

I started writing this post about a month ago when I was in the midst of getting ready for a huge craft event that was going to be the kick-off event for my business.   My focus then was going to be on saying no to those people and things that were standing in the way of me meeting my objectives.  Then, my baby got sick (very sick) and I did too.  I realized then that I was focusing my "no's" in the wrong direction.  I still believe that one of the key phrases every business owner must learn to say is no.  And funny, it is important for mothers to learn as well.  I am, among other things, both.  Of course, I am a wife and mother before I am an entrepreneur and I must remind myself of that fact from time to time.  I adore my children.  I love them more than life itself, and sometimes when I get caught up in things that really don't matter, I need a reminder as to where to aim my "no". 

Time just melts through my fingers when I sit down to sew.  I really need to get a clock for my work area, because I lose all track of time when I am creating.  I do not have unlimited time and in my heart I know it.  My seventeen year old twins will graduate from high school this year, my oldest daughter will graduate from college, and my baby will be off to Kindergarten next fall.  Time is slipping away from me with my children as well!  Sometimes I just need to stop and remember what my grandmother used to tell me all the time when the older kids were little, "It goes by really fast!"  I would say "I know Gramma, I know."  I had NO IDEA!  And so, sometimes, I have to say no to my list of projects and spend time with my not-so-little-ones. 

I love holding my little girl's hand when we're walking and feeling its soft pudginess in my hand.  I close my eyes and try to capture those moments.  On the rare evenings that all my kids are home for dinner, I mentally dance in the music of their laughter.  These times are quickly coming to an end.   So, even though I know I will fill my little shop with all kinds of goodies soon enough, sometimes I have to say no and just BE with my family.

There is a strange thing that occurs when people find out that somebody they know can sew:  they bring out all kinds of unfinished projects and they are just sure that you'll be willing and able to complete them for them.  Here, I am learning to say no.  But if I do say yes, I truly mean it and I am happy to do it.  I read a quote once that said something like, " Asking a friend who sews to do your mending is like asking Michelangelo to paint your garage."  I like that.  I need to defend my sewing time by saying no to other projects from time to time.

I have been overwhelmed by the support I have gotten from friends, family and total strangers as I have started this business.  There are so many good ideas and suggestions swirling around in my head as a result of all these generous people.  I am learning, however, that at the end of the day, I have to find my own path.  Here, I have learned from my teenage son: He had a band and I remember that all of us would make well-meaning suggestions as to how he should run the band and what music they should play.  He would smile and tactfully nod and then, in the end, do what he had in mind in the first place.  I am really coming to respect his wisdom.  When one is involved in a creative endeavor, there are so many voices swirling around in one's head.  To say no, even to some good ideas is vital at times to make something authentic to one's vision and self.  I am learning to do that.

The bottom line: nobody can be everything to everybody.  When I was younger, I thought I could be the exception to that. Now, I am beginning to know better. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How This Little Piggy Gets to Market

Well, it's official!  I am in business.  I finally placed 100 little pieces of my menagerie of little creatures in my Etsy shop.  Among those items up for sale is a little piggy finger puppet.  I thought it might be fun and kind of informative to show you the journey pink felt goes on to become such an adorable little creature.

First:  I cut out about a million little piggy pieces: cloven hooves, bellies, snouts, and ears.

Next:  The bellies and snouts are sewn into place and then the eyes and other features are embroidered on the face.

Next:  This is the step that makes me smile every time.  Placing all of the little appendages where they are to go.  Because of the nature of sewing the thing together, the arms and ears are placed inward and it looks like the piggy is playing peek-a-boo! Very cute.

Finally:  I cut the whole thing out, turn it right-side-out, snip a gazillion stray threads, a bit of trimming up, and we're done!

Before we go to market, a sample of each design must undergo a stringent product analysis and quality assurance to determine its playability and durability by our expert QA Department.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why “Imogene’s” Tea Garden?

My Grandmother,  Imogene Talbot Anderson
When I decided to share my love of sewing for children publicly, I decided to name my little business after some of my other great loves:  Imogene was my grandmother.  She was, in my estimation, a pretty amazing woman.  Orphaned at the age of nine, she and her younger sister and brother were raised on her grandfather’s (my great-great grandfather) farm. To put it mildly, she did not have a wonderful childhood.  I think because of the hardships she faced at an early age, she resolved to improve her circumstances.  She went to nursing school, worked many years as a nurse, and ultimately earned her Master’s degree in an era when very few women sought advanced degrees.  When she and my grandfather retired, they determined to be the best grandparent s they could be to us grandkids. 
I cherish the memory of countless weekends spent at my grandparents’ house.  They encouraged creativity by providing us with many open-ended activities.  There was the woodworking bench in the garage and always a ready stock of lumber for the grandkids to saw, hammer, and build into creations of our own designing.  They kept a box of empty plastic containers for us to play store.  There was always a stack of paper, scissors, glue, and old magazines from which we cut out pictures to make “books” and just create in general.  In the evenings, my grandmother would teach us the lost arts, of crochet and other needlework.  Though an educated woman, these crafts and project were by no means beneath her.  I think she understood that women, in particular, thrive when they are engaged in creating something.  The few afghans that I own that she crocheted remain among my most treasured possessions.
My little "Imogene"
Skipping ahead several decades to the time our family was blessed with our youngest child – a true miracle by all accounts – it seemed only natural that we name her after my grandmother, giving her the middle name Imogene.  She has breathed new life into our family of five children and is a constant joy to all of us.  Most of the items I have created have been inspired by her.  I am always seeking to create things that will help her to experience to some small degree the joy of creative discovery and imaginary play that I experienced at my grandmother’s home.
Reaching across the generations, I see similarities between the two Imogenes who have graced my life.  Among other things, they both have taught me how to love unconditionally and to truly embrace each day. To be my authentic self and do things that I love to make other people happy.   And so, I have named my little business after them to honor them and to remind me each day how lucky I am to have had these Imogenes in my life to love me, inspire me and challenge me to strive to make them proud.

...As for the "Tea" and "Garden" in my business name, well heck, who doesn't love a good cup of tea??? Keep reading, and soon I'll tell you all about my garden.