spring cleaning



Once again I am thinking of directions to go and new places to take my art. I feel stuck in a cycle of wanting to secure an income by making smaller and more production oriented work, and a longing for creating something bigger with a farther reach. So I am doing a spring cleaning, both physically and more philosophically. I am trying to sort out what ideas are worthwhile pursuing, and what should wait, and to come up of a list of goals to stick with. Here are some initial plans.

Taking a break from etsy. I opened my etsy store in 2008 and for the most part it has been a huge success. Lately I have noticed a lag in activity, and I think that etsy has become such an enormous marketplace that unless you constantly update your inventory, network, and actively market yourself it is hard to be seen. Instead I am moving my shop to big cartel, where it can be uniquely mine both in looks and content. I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. What are the pros and cons of a more independent web store?


Submitting work to juried exhibitions. This is something that always has intimidated me in the past. But I have come to realize that if I want to consider myself a true artist I need to dip my toes in the chilly water. I want to exhibit more and expand my resumé.


Limiting my production work. For now I will stick with one of a kind sachets, books, book covers, and pillows. Those are things I love to do. The pieces I make are still unique and stand out in a crowd and working on them makes me happy.


I am of course continuing my wall pieces and collages. They are the focus of my work and my true love. But this time I also want to get better at promoting them.

We will see where all this leads. It is always easier to jot goals down than to live up to them. In the spirit of blatant self promotion I encourage you to visit my website, and my web store. I would love feedback, good as well as bad. And I have a new artist page on Facebook, please join me there too if so inclined. Happy spring!

willie



For my lovely husband's recent birthday I bought him a pair of willies. The jeans arrived bundled in craft paper and tied with ribbons made of denim remnants. They are dark blue, slightly rigid to the touch, with simple and subtle design details. Thanks to great communication and customer service, the fit of the jeans was perfect. The care instructions are clear and straight forward – wear often, wash not so often...

I have long admired Nashville based imogene + willie (I have featured them here before).  The clothing company is the brain child of Carrie and Matt Eddmenson, located in an old gas station where their beautiful pieces are created on site, utilizing American made materials as well as local talent and craftsmanship. I am hoping to visit in person on my way to Shakerag this summer. My mind is set on a pair of imogenes...

back in business


After some pondering and serious planning I have decided to return to the wholesale market this spring. I am excited about the prospect of offering the inleaf line to a larger audience and to connect with store and gallery owners across the country. I am starting small with just a few pieces, created in a sustainable and eco friendly manner using the best natural materials and quality craftsmanship. The collection will grow as the weather turns warmer allowing for more leaf printing and dyeing.

I am looking for retail partners who appreciate the unique and handmade quality of my work. If you are a store or gallery owner I welcome you to browse my online line sheet or contact me directly with any requests. I want to extend a thank you to o' suzannah and terrain, two wonderful stores who already are representing my work!

rumination and dreams, part 3

I want a place of my own, imagining a storefront studio near Charlottesville's downtown mall, just a few blocks away from our house. I am thinking exposed brick walls, rough hewn beams, tall ceilings, lots of white, lots of light. The front would showcase my art and my goods. I would invite others artist friends to display theirs as well, to provide a nice selection of locally made, handcrafted beauty. The back is to be my studio with big tables and room to spread out, with plenty of storage space for inventory and supplies. This will be a place to meet with customers and clients, and the work process will become public to demonstrate what handmade is all about. I will hire help to manage the store and assist with production. The dream goes on...

bookhou

radiance

Inspiration comes from many places. Arounna Khounnoraj and John Booth's Bookhou in Toronto seems like a perfect artistic venue, so does Hannah Nunn's Radiance in West Yorkshire, UK, and then there are places like Imogene + Willie in Nashville and The Barn Swallow in Ivy, Virginia... It can be done, and it can be done well. For now this remains the most unrealistic part of my hopes and aspirations (for more look here and here). We lack the capital and the time necessary to pull something like this off, and I already have a wonderful, light filled studio just a few steps from my bedroom. But dreaming and scheming is free, and maybe someday when everything is aligned, a space like one of these will be mine.

Lastly, thank you good morning – midnight for featuring my seedpod pillow on your beautiful blog last week.

rumination and dreams, part 2

This morning I sent out a short email to the storeowners I have worked with over the past years, telling them that I will no longer do wholesale. It was a rational decision, made after much consideration, and I know it is the best choice for me personally. But it was a hard thing to do. Many of them have become friends, some are disappointed, and I feel like I am letting them down...


Giving up the wholesale accounts is just one of several small changes I am making this year. From now on I will sell my work almost exclusively in the etsy shop. Etsy has been a wonderful experience for me and the artists and customers I have met there have enriched my life. I will be able to concentrate all my production and marketing in one place, instead of stocking and promoting several sites. The etsy shop also allows me to offer one-of-a-kind objects, like the big heart pillow above, while maintaining my original line.

Which leads me to the main reason for all this reshuffling and reorganizing. What I really want to focus on are my larger art pieces, quilts, and textile collages. I love using fabric as my canvas, incorporating printing, dyeing, stitching, and vintage into the mix. I am still learning, and I am not sure if my work is that good yet. But it is evolving and it makes my heart sing... My main web site is now devoted to the art quilts, and I hope that will help attract interest from gallery owners, buyers and collectors.

Only time will tell if my strategy will work. If not there is always room for more change, and new dreams and aspirations...

rumination and dreams, part 1

I am surely not alone spending these quiet days after the holidays thinking about life, aspirations, and dreams. I still have lots of immediate work to do - preparing for two upcoming group shows with Fiber Transformed, finishing up the end-of-year book keeping, and readying the online shop for a hopefully busy spring. Yet there is a subtle restlessness setting in, with an urge to clarify an spell out what I want to achieve this upcoming year.

I am 48 years old, with one son ready to leave the nest and the other one well on his way on the slippery road of teenagehood. For the last couple of years I am pursuing my art full time, which makes me feel privileged and lucky. But the truth is that I still work way to much, often on things that I don't feel that passionate about, and that my house, garden, pets, and sometimes my family suffer because of it. Also, despite the long hours, I am nowhere near making a substantial contribution to our family finances. My business is self sustained, but there is not much else to spread around.

In an ideal world I would be in my studio from 9 - 3 every day, delving into one creative project after another. Buyers would be ready to snatch up my work as soon as it was finished, and pay me handsomely for it... The rest of my days would be spent with my boys, cooking scrumptious meals, cleaning, weeding, and organizing my linen closet... My weekends would be devoted to family time, long walks, and dinner with friends.

To off-set this unrealistic vision, I am working on some baby steps that hopefully will bring me a bit closer to a meaningful, productive and more prosperous existence, such as less wholesale orders, gallery representation for my art, more and better marketing, and hired help. Details to come...

The images are from my studio – where happiness continue to happen. Best wishes for the new year. Happy new decade!

holiday sale

It is time for our first annual pre-holiday sale starting at midnight and continuing through Wednesday, December 2. Everything in the inleaf shop, is 15 percent off. Just enter inleafholiday in the box on the checkout page. All sales orders will ship by the end of the week and I will gladly provide gift wrapping upon request. Wishing all of you a happy and handmade holiday season!

imogene + willie


If it was not so far, I would take my lovely husband by the hand jump in the car and head over to imogene + willie. We would get there in time for some shopping, and I would finally find that perfect pair of jeans I have been searching for. Then we would stay for supper and song by the bonfire in the back yard, hanging out with other imogene + willie friends and Lalai the lab.

Imogene + willie is a boutique/design studio/manufacturing center housed in an old gas station in Nashville, TN. The company was founded by husband and wife team Matt and Carrie Eddmenson, who after working for years developing denim wear for big brand names wanted to branch out on their own. Imogene + willie is a unique concept where creativity, craftsmanship, and authenticity is flourishing under one roof. Person to person interaction is at the core of their business model, as is utilizing local talent for production, marketing, and photo shoots. The store is filled with their jeans, dresses, and t-shirts, mixed in with vintage finds and other expertly crafted goods. If you can't make it to Nashville I encourage you to visit their website (don't miss the fantastic introductory video by John Moessner), browse their look book, or contact them to find out how to get your hands on those perfect cuffed jeans.

loam, new preston, ct

I have written before about my ongoing conflict with wholesale orders and the complexity of re-selling and mass producing handmade goods. My doubts are always diminished when I connect with a store owner who is brimming of enthusiasm for her shop, its mission, and the objects that are sold within. Beth Fowler in New Preston, Connecticut is definitely that kind of person.

Beth opened her store Loam just a few weeks ago as an endeavor to pursue her passions for the environment, treasure hunting, decorating, and social responsibility. She wants to make choosing fair trade, small artisans, organic, and recycled or vintage goods as common as buying mass produced. She wants everyone to know the story behind what they buy, and who a purchase is feeding or supporting. She offers an intriguing mix of handmade goods, art, fair trade objects, and vintage treasures. Art shows will be a regular feature and throughout the year she will highlight, contribute, and bring awareness to a variety of charitable causes. I am proud to be included in Beth's new venture. Loam is a destination, so if you are in or near New Preston, Connecticut, please stop by for a visit. Loam, 13 E. Shore Road, New Preston, CT 06777, 860 619 0707.

art promotion

I had promised myself not to delve into another heavy topic, but after talking with my friend Monika over at splendid willow recently, I began to reflect on promotion and marketing. Or in my case the lack thereof. I readily admit that self promotion is the hardest part of being an independent artist (and business owner).

To my own ears, I just don't sound sincere when telling someone about my talent, skills, and general goodness. I am a little better at the behind-the-scenes stuff like maintaining an email list, sending out newsletters, and promoting events, but only to a small degree. I still have a hard time imposing my work and wares on other people. It seems like there must be a better, more organized, and less intrusive way of handling promotion through new media. Maybe not.
I am not spying, prying, or looking to steal your creative marketing ideas, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. If you are interested I'll be glad to share more of mine in future posts.

Speaking of self promotion, inleaf now has a page on facebook and I would love for you to become fans. It is not my intention to duplicate the blog over there. Instead I envision the facebook page to be a place where I will feature new work and publicize shows and other events. No pressure to join though – I know that the world is divided about "social networking" and its merits.

renewed

The new inleaf site is live. I am so pleased. It is simple and nice to look at, but the true beauty lies in the functional and easy to use the back-end. I could not have pulled this off without my friend and web master Matt Mitchell. He has implemented my every whim and request, while patiently guiding me through the ins and outs of web programming. Thank you Matt!

We are off on our much anticipated New York trip this week. Thanks to all of you who left wonderful  suggestions about places, people, and things to see and do. Our travels will be richer because of you. I may fit in a post sometime during the week, but if not I promise to provide a plentitude of images and impressions when I return.   

fresh stationery

Inleaf's business correspondence has a new look this spring thanks to sweet Martina of  blossom stamps  who transformed some of my leaf prints into beautiful polymer stamps. The intricate details of the prints are well preserved and the tiny type on the address stamp prints crisp and clear. I am inspired and can imagine more of my imagery transfered onto tags, note cards, and stickers. 

There are still a few days left to enter the give-away. The drawing will happen Monday morning. I am grateful for all the nice comments you have left so far.

mass producing the handmade

Ever since founding inleaf six years ago, I have been conflicted by the rigor required when making handcrafted work for a larger market, and the spontaneity that I normally crave when creating my art. I am often approached by store owners who want to purchase my work for resale and I am always flattered by these propositions. The idea that my pieces are available in shops throughout the country is exciting and over the years I have developed wonderful relationships with many of my retail customers.

But the reality of selling work wholesale is complicated. My fabrics are hand dyed and I print with real leaves, some of which are available only part of the year. I often use vintage fabrics and components in my work. None of these methods lend themselves easily to mass production. The dye batch of my favorite aqua blue color will inevitable be slightly different each time, the shape of the geranium leaf will vary, and the pretty cotton print used for purse linings will run out. Then there is the price discount that is expected for wholesale orders, which doesn't always take into account the amount of work or cost of materials required to complete each piece.

I love what I do, and I am fortunate, especially in these difficult financial times, to create work that is still in demand. My solution, for now, is to offer a limited wholesale line, consisting of items that are still handcrafted, but more easily reproduced and multiplied. I am also exploring possibilities to expand, by hiring a seamstress and developing screen printing techniques for some of my designs.

The reason for this post is not to complain and whine, but rather to start a discussion and share ideas. I don't think I am the only one harboring these thoughts. How do we create a viable market for handmade goods, without loosing the handmade touch? How do we sell handcrafted objects in a way that works for everyone – the store owner, the maker, and the consumer? I would love to hear from all of you!