Our Weekend in Asheville

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As I mentioned in my last post, Joe and I recently went to Asheville to spend the weekend together before he leaves for another deployment. Just in time for his birthday, our anniversary, and Christmas. If you’re going to tell me it’s part of the job, or it could be worse, trust me, I know. It still sucks.

It’s always nice to leave the constant stress of life in a military town, but I was especially excited to go to a place that is know for its art and artists. I only hoped it wouldn’t distract me from my limited time with him (but, in my defense, he did pick the location).

The five-hour drive didn’t leave us much time Friday night, but we spent Saturday checking out local studios and galleries, did glass-blowing together, and had a nice dinner out. Sunday we did some shopping, drove the Blue Ridge Parkway to take pictures, and then settled into our hotel room for pizza and Netflix. Monday we were going to see Lookout Mountain but we were tired and decided to head home.

I’m not sure if I was more distracted by all the fabulous art and beautiful scenery and strangers actually being nice, or the crushing realization that I probably wouldn’t be happy again for what seemed like a really long time.

Despite my initial optimism about Fayetteville, I’ve spent four years here and I still struggle to find people I connect with or things I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, and I deal with a lot of things to be with him. But to be stuck here while he’s halfway around the world? Don’t even judge me for hating my life.

I know there are people who care, but living with depression is a little bit like being stuck at the bottom of a deep dark hole. It takes a rare kind of person to reach into that hole and try to understand enough to help. Most people, even with good intentions, will stand at the top trying to tell you how to get out, which only makes you feel worse because you can’t.

So I had the brilliant idea of moving to Asheville while he’s gone, taking a break from our busy life, and pursuing my art among other artists. Because it’s one thing that really helps me, but sometimes it makes me feel like an outcast.

Not sure if I can actually pull it off though. Things are a little complicated financially, with us owning a house in Fayetteville, Joe getting out of the Army soon, and both of us running businesses that are still getting off the ground (unlike my superhuman husband, I don’t think I could handle a “real” job at the same time. And we need to be smart and pay off some debts while we can).

Also, I realize changing my location won’t change everything in my life. But maybe all I need is a chance to do my own thing. I’ve never been on my own. I’ve been told I’m the kinda girl who knows who she is, but life is hard and maybe sometimes it makes me forget. Does that make any sense? I just hope the friends I do have will understand and be there when I get back.

So I’ve started a page {here} on GoFundMe where you can support my trip. Don’t feel obligated, I know everyone has their own life, stresses, and financial burdens. But if you’d like to support my art and help me deal with another deployment, that would be awesome. Or shop my Etsy {here} so at least I’m earning it!
If not, hopefully I can find a way – to go, or to be content where I am.

My Obvious (or Not?) Etsy Tip

I just wanted to write a quick post before I leave for the weekend! My husband and I were going to spend the holidays together, but the Army had other plans for him, so we are at least going away for the next few days. Which I kind of don’t even want to enjoy, because it will make me miss him more. But I’m done talking about that because, much like a teenage girl, I just can’t even.

Anyway, as I mentioned, my handmade item sales on Etsy (and occasionally Facebook/in person) are going great, but it took a long time to get there. So I have one little tip I’d like to share with you, which is probably really obvious, but somehow it just clicked for me!

I’ve spent a lot of time listing items and just kind of guessing what people will like enough to buy and what they won’t. So my shop has a lot of items that never sell, and a few that do, and recently, a few that sell over and over again.

It finally occurred to me to ask myself what people like so much about those items. You can’t always tell. Maybe one is popular because it’s one of a kind (for example, all of my pendants are handmade, mostly with polymer clay, but my best seller also has a hand-painted image that I guess makes it a little more artistic) and another because it’s based on something that’s already popular like a book, movie, or sport.

So instead of trying to make items similar in style – which might also be a good idea – I tried making variations of the same designs. Like converting a popular necklace design into earrings. And guess what? One of them sold a couple days later!

Leave it to me to take 5 years to figure that out. Maybe I was just having too much fun making & listing one random jewelry piece after another. Which I guess is fine too if you’re not living off your Etsy income, which I’m not. Of course it’s nice to have, especially for buying more art supplies (I just got a set of professional-quality markers for the first time in my life), but I also think it’s important for me to set goals and to feel productive doing something I enjoy. Call it therapy.

I’m sure I still have a lot to learn about running a business – it doesn’t come naturally to me like being an artist – but I wanted to share my little lightbulb moment: paying attention to what customers like, and why, can help you a lot! Duh?

Well I hope you can take something away from this post. And now I will get back to my weekend plans and my pathetic moments of getting sad whenever I see someone at the grocery store who looks like Joe (really, self? He hasn’t even left yet!).

About My Custom Work

I can’t believe it’s October already! Last month was very busy with lots of sales, a big custom order, and teaching kids’ classes at home. This month, however, I’m expecting a bit of a lull before the big holiday surge. So I thought it would be a good time to share a little more about my custom work.

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Shown above: some Kettlebell earrings, customized with the logo of a CrossFit gym in California; a “How to Train Your Dragon”-inspired pendant, personalized in honor of a little boy’s birthday; and some elephant cake toppers in Pumas Unam college colors.

Whether it’s a simple change of colors, the addition of a name or logo, or designing a whole new item, custom work is a unique opportunity for both buyer and seller to work together and create something really special. Sometimes it’s no big deal, sometimes it challenges the limits of my time, skills, and materials, and sometimes I’m as surprised as my customers by what we can come up with.

Below are some examples of personalized items I recently sold. I have also done work for baby weddings and, as I’ll probably be posting about soon, Christmas. I am happy to customize one item or twenty, as seasonal time constraints allow, and try to work out a price and processing time that’s reasonable for both of us.

So if you have a special occasion coming up, or you would simply like to treat yourself with something you don’t see in my shop, please ask about my custom work! And better yet, ask before the holiday madness begins!

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