Day Trip to Southern Pines: Expectation vs Reality

My husband was away for a weekend ministry conference, which I didn’t go to because I find them socially and informationally overwhelming. But I thought hey, just because I’m spending the weekend alone, that doesn’t mean I have to stay home. So I planned a little day trip just for myself to check out some art galleries in the nearby town of Southern Pines.

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Above: the coffee shop marketplace and the stuff I bought there, the crepe restaurant and its food, and the gallery.

Expectation: a relaxing drive and a fabulous day of being in my element and pretending I don’t live in a black hole (again with the hating on Fayetteville, sorry, it’s just not a great fit for some of us).

Reality: take short cut through Ft. Bragg, where GPS doesn’t work – 30 seconds of open road, windows down, hair down, radio up, and then – take a wrong turn, get stuck in the sand, try to dig out, wait for friends with truck, continue to destination, walk past all the lovely shops that closed before I got there, get lost again with dead phone until I’m so tired of driving I’m actually happy to get back.

It reminded me of this show where all these people are abducted and stuck in this fake town where they’re part of some human experiment and they can’t leave and if they find a way out they end up back in the same place and they’re like “nooo” but they have no supplies and there’s nowhere else to go.

But I did enjoy the weird phenomenon of strangers actually being nice. In Fayetteville we have some super awesome friends who would pretty much help anyone with anything (my aversion to excessive social contact notwithstanding…seriously thanks guys) and then everyone else just mean mugs me for smiling at them in the grocery store to be nice.

Drive an hour away, and the random guy at the gas station sees me checking my car and reassures me that the fluid dripping out is just from the air conditioning. The lady at the awesome coffee-shop-slash-handmade-marketplace that’s actually still open is cleaning up from a crazy coffee machine mishap and we talk about our day and handmade business. The man who sees me wandering around town stops to help out and turns out to be the owner of the main gallery I’m looking. It’s closed for renovations I guess but he walks with me and tells me a good place to eat and asks about my work. The guy by the road tells me which way to get home.

I’m not sure if what you’re getting from this is that people are nice sometimes and things work out, or that I need serious help with navigation and probably other things too, LOL.

But hey, it was an adventure, as my husband called it, and now I know it only takes an hour to get to a place where I want to stay a while and I might have some creative opportunities (haven’t heard from the gallery near Myrtle Beach) and can enjoy the creativity of others.

Best Etsy Sales Month Ever!

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So I opened my Etsy shop about 5 years ago at the suggestion of an enthusiastic friend. Sales were practically nonexistent for the first few years (yes years, but don’t let that discourage you, I really wasn’t trying very hard) as I figured out my niche, worked other jobs, and eventually realized I had to learn business as well as my craft to succeed.

Recently though, I’ve been able to put a lot more time into it and at least start to figure out what I’m doing. So, minus seasonal highs and lows, my business is getting better and better over time.

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Above: a graph of my revenue over the last two years. Not sharing the numbers just yet but there’s plenty of improvement.

If last year is any indication, I should have a very busy holiday season. But this month I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’ve already beat my record sales month – last December – in only August! I’m not sure about off-site sales, but it’s my best month so far on Etsy. The big order I got for wedding hairpins definitely made a difference, but the little orders added up too.

So I am trying to come up with something nice (and affordable) to send each of my August customers in the mail. Meanwhile, I’ve added a coupon code to my shop for the month of September – $5 off any order (of at least $10)!

Selling handmade definitely has its ups and downs, not just financially, but emotionally. It’s not easy to take rejection when your work is so close to your heart, or to be misunderstood for even trying. And I’m definitely not making a livable income yet so I’m lucky I have a supportive husband (before you read that as “I’m a freeloader,” I do my part supporting him too).

Then again, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet. Maybe I should be honored that anyone is spending their hard-earned money on my non-essential items. And when it is going well, it feels great, maybe more so for all the hard work and bad times and doubters.

So feel free to head over to my shop {here} and use coupon code CELEBRATE5 on your order.

Or check out my aforementioned friend’s work, now on Behance {https://www.behance.net/katiepylman}.

And if you’re an artist/entrepreneur too, I hope you’ll keep trying!

Beach Trip!

So, as I mentioned, Joe and I finally went to the beach last weekend. He’d just graduated from an Army school (congrats babe!) and had some time off, and we really needed to get away together. Between training and teaching Crossfit classes, he’d been so busy I wondered if we would even remember how to spend time together. Yes, I am dramatic. Anyway…

He picked a hotel in a relatively quiet area near Myrtle Beach. We ordered pizza and watched TV the first night, then hit the beach and went out for a nice dinner on our one full day, and the last day we browsed a couple shops on the way out.

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Above: some photos from our trip – the beach, us, the Flying Fish restaurant, and the little ceramic whale I bought at the Sunset River Gallery.

Our trip was not without its little stresses, but driving back to Fayetteville was downright depressing.
I’d been so optimistic about moving there. After our two years of long-distance friendship and dating before getting married, I was ready to go anywhere to be with my husband. I also liked the people I met and the things going on when I visited. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people here. And no offense if you’re from here or actually like it. But in my almost 4 years of experience, a bustling military town is not a good place to be an artist or an introvert, and I am both.

We did, however, stop at an art gallery that last day at the beach. Walking through room after room of beautiful paintings, jewelry, and other handmade items from local artists, I wondered what it must be like to live in such a thriving creative community.

My husband, being a better advocate of my business than I am (and/or better at talking to people in person) asked what you have to do to get work displayed there. The owner gave me her business card and, after emailing photos of several paintings and a link to my Etsy shop, I am anxiously waiting for a reply. How great would it be to get my art exposed to tourists? Not to mention having an excuse to visit the beach more often.

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Above: A work-in-progress painting of one of my photos from the beach.

So, back to our life for now. Maybe someday we can live somewhere quiet.

What are you doing to get away this year? What creative opportunities are you pursuing?

Trading Handmade Items

Joe and I are back from our mini vacation to the beach and I’m back at work in my studio with orders to fill and photos to paint and lots to catch up on.

Two of my current orders are trades, the first I’ve done – some geek jewelry items for some Jamberry nail wraps, and a mushroom stitch marker for a bar of honey almond goat’s milk soap.

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Shown above: my trade with a fellow Instagrammer.

I never thought much about trades until I was asked. Maybe they didn’t seem like “real” sales. But then, I’m always looking at other people’s stuff and saying, “maybe I can buy that when I get more sales.”

Trading kinda solves that problem. It carries a little more risk than “normal” sales, but it can be a great way to put your work out there and also try new things that you may not be able to buy.

So here are some {Trading Guidelines} from Etsy. This is just a brief write-up from the FAQs, but it outlines some common sense practices for trading within Etsy’s terms, some of which seem helpful for trading anywhere.

Well I hope you found that helpful. And yes, I am open to trades! What are your thoughts?

Fall-Themed Jewelry Items, Old & New!

Joe and I still haven’t gone to the beach this summer – planning for this weekend when he has some time off – and, being a crafter, I’m already thinking about fall!

It seems to be a favorite season of many. I mean who can say no to many-colored leaves and pumpkin flavored everything? Plus some of us are not built for the heat of the South!

So anyway, I’m a little early (for once, instead of being a little late!) but here are some of my fall jewelry designs in polymer clay.

Some are coming back from last year, some are brand new, and all are inspired by the beautiful colors and images of nature in Autumn, plus a few fun items for Halloween.

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Well I hope you like them! If so you can shop {here}.

What’s your favorite season? What seasonal items would you like to see?

New Clay Project: “Geek” Themed Jewelry

I recently got a Facebook message from a high school classmate who now owns a toy and game shop in our home state of California. He wanted to know if I’d consider sending some handmade jewelry items for the store to sell on consignment, and said themed items would do well, such as game pieces (dice, meeples, etc) and Doctor Who or Harry Potter type items.

Being a closet nerd girl, I liked the idea, and it’s always exciting when someone comes to you with an opportunity to expand your creative work. I had a few other potential projects and wanted to make sure I could keep up my Etsy shop inventory, so I agreed to send a few items and see how it goes.

Of course, once I started brainstorming, it became somewhat of a personal challenge to cover all the major geek fan bases. Not there yet, but here’s what I have so far!

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Shown above: Hedwig the owl earrings for the Potterheads (also available here), Tardis charm for the Whovians, R2D2 pin/pendant from Star Wars, and a hobbit hole door from my personal favorite, Lord of the Rings/the Hobbit

Hope you like them! What’s your favorite fandom? What would you like to see me make?