Labor Day Painting Sale & Life Update

Labor Day Sale!-2

This may be the longest it’s ever been since my last update. I’ve been trying to plan better and be more consistent in my business and in life but, as they often do, unforeseen obstacles have gotten in the way.

I guess it’s finally time to admit that our relocation has been more of a nightmare than an adventure. I tried to be optimistic and make the best of it, and I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed certain aspects of life in this area, but “normal moving stress” and obnoxious neighbors gave way to a series of disappointments, specifically a lack of business and personal connections, and finally what I consider betrayal from our friends/Joe’s business partner who we followed here.

This is probably not the place to go into detail, so suffice it to say that they behaved with incredible selfishness and unprofessionalism and, intentionally or not, did a lot of damage to our lives and the gym. And in the end, they weren’t the ones to stick around and deal with it. It’s hard to explain in such vague terms without sounding like I’m being petty, but I’ don’t want to start drama, I just feel the need to share what’s been going on in order to move forward.

It didn’t help that I was, and still am, trying to manage recurring major depression with basically no support system. I think the hardest part was losing faith in myself and other people, because the red flags were all there. We knew better. But whether out of goodwill or desperation, we gave the benefit of the doubt anyway. Either way, it’s shocking to be treated like nothing more than a means to an end by people who said they cared. At least I’ve learned that my instincts are usually right, if I would just listen to them.

As all of this was coming to an end, Joe found out with about a month’s notice that he’d be deploying for the fourth time. We knew this was a possibility and I was honestly never sold on living here, so my backup plan was – surprise! – temporarily moving to Asheville, where I hope the plentiful art, good food, nice people, and beautiful mountains will remind me what it feels like to enjoy life.

You may remember I’ve tried this before, and maybe I’m being stupid, but logistically it’s more realistic this time. We’re just renting and we want to move closer to town anyway, so in between, I’ll put most of our stuff in storage and find a small place for me and the cats.

My online inventory may change a bit as I try to take advantage of local shows, galleries, and other activities, but I plan to keep my shop running and updated. Maybe I’ll even blog and make YouTube videos again! Either way, I’m sure there will be plenty of inspiration for new projects.

So on that note, I’m participating in Etsy’s Labor Day sale with 30% off all paintings in My Shop, including minis, magnets, and ornaments, to try to reduce some of my larger/more damageable stock before I have to pack it. It runs from the August 30th to September 3rd with a preview today.

If you’ve read this far, I want you to know that even though I’ve fallen behind with certain things, it has meant the world to me to have my business and its growing support network to focus on through these struggles. I may have largely gone without friends or opportunities in person, but at least there’s the Internet, right? So thank you guys and I hope you’ll stick with me and see what’s next in the coming months!

Website Update & Clearance Sale

After careful consideration, I have decided to close my Shopify store for now. I really wanted to have a fully functioning ecommerce website of my own, but unfortunately it has not brought in enough sales to cover the fees or the time I spend updating it. I know I could have done a better job of self-promotion, but right now it’s just not realistic.

This is not necessarily a negative thing. In addition to running my Etsy shops, I finally have my items in two brick and mortar stores, one local and one in another state. Simplifying my online presence a bit will help me keep up with everything.

I’m adding pages to this blog, which will serve as my website going forward and will link to my Etsy. I will also be moving my art listings back over to my jewelry shop, so when you click over to the shop page, everything is in one place. They even offer guest checkout now, which is convenient for new customers.

So before I close in about a week, please take advantage of 50% off any remaining items at NoelleLewisArt.com with coupon code “CLOSING50.” Of course, you will still be able to purchase my art, jewelry, and other items any time on Etsy, but I won’t be doing sales like this often! 

I probably could have made things easier for myself (and maybe less annoying for you) with better planning, but much like life, building a business is a learning process. So thanks for staying up-to-date, and please let me know if you have any suggestions! 

Local Update: Handmade Marketplace Booth

About a year after relocating, I finally found a local spot to sell my handmade items. 

If you didn’t read my post about moving, my husband left active duty military to start a gym with some friends. I chose to be optimistic that our relocation would be an adventure and not a disappointment. I guess it’s been a little of both. 

Besides the usual stress of moving and the challenges of adjusting to civilian life, we have had some unexpected difficulties and found ourselves pretty isolated in the life we choose to live as business owners. But we have enjoyed slowing down, spending more time together, and finding little things to appreciate about this unique and interesting area.

I had also planned to get my work into some local shops or galleries, and for a while, my search was very discouraging. But I finally found a new shop in Lebanon that specializes in handmade, recycled, and vintage items from local artists and businesses. As soon as they had a booth I could afford, I reserved it. Now there’s a little display in the back full of my jewelry, accessories, cards, and even a few paintings. 

I’m hopeful that this will be a great opportunity for me, not only as a way to grow my business, but a way to be a little more involved in the community. Check out The Marketplace at the Mill’s Facebook Page, and if you’re local, see my stuff and more in the shop upstairs! 

New Website (Again) With Store! 


I’ve decided to try again with running my own website. And despite my last attempt’s failure, there are some important differences that give me hope for this one.

I’ve mentioned this before but just wanted to briefly state that while I appreciate Etsy for helping me get my business started, and I will continue to sell there for exposure, it’s feeling less and less like the best fit for my products.

On top of that, I decided a while ago to branch into two shops, which made sense at the time but may or may not have been the best idea. Because I want to keep parts of both shops, it’s difficult to undo at this point.

So I really wanted a place of my own, for potential customers to find all of my listings in one place and not lost in all the not-so-handmade competition.

I’ve tried a lot of other platforms and most were either inconvenient or unsuccessful. My first actual website fell into both categories, especially since it didn’t even have a store. As a “solopreneur,” I really needed something fully functional but easy to update.

So, with the holidays fast approaching, I decided on Weebly and set up my site, which does have a store. I’m still on Etsy and will gladly take orders there, but I hope NoelleLewisArt.com will be a great place for new customers to shop.

I’m also still figuring out how to integrate my blog without giving up WordPress, but for now it’s linked on the blog page and I will be using it to post updates as usual.

To kick-start sales, I’m currently giving away a free greeting card with each first time order (coupon code FREECARD). I have a lot of options that coordinate well with my art and jewelry, so it’s a great way to do some holiday gift shopping.

If you’ve stuck around through all the changes, thank you for your support, and I hope you will continue to find it worthwhile. And if you’ve just found me, welcome and please have a look around!

Moving Again: North Carolina to Tennessee 

After about 8 years of service, my husband is getting out of the army. So after almost 6 years of marriage, we finally had the chance to choose where to live.

Of all the places we could have gone, we spent our entire military life at Fort Bragg. And while North Carolina is a beautiful state, Fayetteville was not a good fit for us.

People dislike it for a lot of reasons (and again I mean no offense to those who do like it) but most importantly for me, I found very few things going on that I wanted to get involved in – specifically opportunities for my business – and very few people who shared what I care about. I really did go there with optimism and try to make the best of it, and while I appreciate the people who supported us and will miss the things I did find joy and inspiration in, I spent a lot of time pretty unhappy.

Meanwhile for my husband, Army life was not really what he expected, and the gym he started didn’t exactly go as planned either. He did have a bit of an easier time making friends but overall didn’t enjoy the area much more than I did.

So when another couple presented an opportunity with a new gym in their home state of Tennessee, Joe was interested and I was skeptical. Our discussions went in circles so we finally visited.

I found basically nothing I was looking for in the area we were looking at, but somehow went home with thoughts of creating my own opportunities, something I never felt like I could do before while being so overwhelmed by my surroundings. For Joe, it made sense, with the gym, a National Guard position, and college classes. For me, it would be an adventure, and there’s at least a part of me that doesn’t mind that once in a while.

We were able to find a house through the aforementioned friends and, a few weeks after making a decision, here we are in Watertown. Moving has been a bit of a nightmare (isn’t it always?) and we are certainly still adjusting. I’m not in love with the annoying rooster next door, the limited internet access, or the half hour drive to my favorite craft store. But I don’t mind solitude, the mini horse down the street, lots of trees, and as always, the beautiful sky.

I do have my studio set up again, and will be checking out local possibilities and of course running my shops. I hope to either find new inspiration or finally get bored enough to catch up on all the ideas already in my head!

Thanks for sharing in my creative journey and I hope you will enjoy whatever I come up with next!

P.S. Subscribers, if your email was messed up I apologize, my finger got over-eager while I was still composing!

Festivus Games Craft Booth

  
Some of you may know that my husband runs a CrossFit gym (which I’ve been meaning to blog about). Next month they are hosting the Festivus Games, a competition designed to include people who are not hardcore athletes. I feel like it kind of goes with how they run things at CrossFit Metanoia; they’re all about meeting people where they are to help them reach their goals. 

Joe suggested I set up a craft booth with the other vendors at the games, since I make some Crossfit-inspired jewelry and people might be interested in my other designs too. 

I was hesitant at first, thinking my artsy, nature-inspired designs would seem out of place. But all kinds of people will be there and it couldn’t hurt to try something different than the craft fairs I’ve done before. Plus it would be nice for us to do something together business-wise, since we both work really hard at completely  different things. 

So I have a lot of setting up to do in the next couple weeks, but I will be there with my fitness themed designs and lots of other options too (you can check out my gallery pages or Facebook Page to see some examples). I look forward to meeting more of my husband’s clients and any other locals who would like to check it out! 

Care & Cleaning of Polymer Clay Jewelry

I wanted to start including some care and cleaning sheets when I ship my polymer clay jewelry orders, because there are some differences from other types of jewelry that some people might not be aware of.

Most of what I found came from the websites and blogs of other artists, which I will link below. Here’s what I pieced together so far – let me know if it sounds helpful as a buyer, or if you have any other tips as a seller!

1. Use regular jewelry cleaner on the metal parts, but only soap and water or light buffing on the clay parts

2. Keep away from solvents – cleaners, hairspray, nail polish, etc

3. Keep out of heat and extended periods of direct sunlight

4. The clay is strong but can be scratched or broken –  be careful not to drop delicate pieces or place in pockets or purses

5. Store your pieces away from high humidity to keep metal from tarnishing

6. Not recommended for wear during sleep, showering, or swimming

7. Please keep pieces away from small children for their safety

References: Eugena’s CreationsPink Cat DesignSaved Spirit DesignsEtsy Team Discussion

 

 

Craft Organization: Planner & Swatches 

In the spirit of beginning-of-the-year organizing, I’d like to share a bit about my first planner since high school. I should probably start by saying I’m not naturally the most organized person, depending on what we’re talking about and the mood I’m in. But running a creating business requires keeping track of a lot of things, so I usually have a series of lists on my iPhone – to dos, ongoing projects, etc.

But when I saw Cindy Lietz/PolymerClayTutor’s Planner Ideas Video I was inspired to try it, especially because of the Swatch Section she has for craft shopping, which I will get to in a moment. I didn’t pay attention to what brand she bought and probably wouldn’t have wanted to spend that much due to my never-ending supply list, though it might be worth it if you use a planner regularly.

What I did was pick my own planner on Amazon – a coloring planner that I hoped would add enough fun to keep me using it – and then a half size binder and some tabs and sleeves from Walmart. I had to trim the pages and punch my own holes, but I was able to squeeze it in. You can also buy basic planner pages or even make your own.

I added some pages of my own in between, since I still work better with weekly more monthly to-do lists than daily planning, and some more in the back for things like project ideas, business and marketing ideas, shopping lists, etc.

Then, with some more guidance from various online crafters, I used some half sheets of cardstock and some free printable templates to make swatches of paints, inks, powders, glitters, stamps – even chips of polymer clay!

 

A few snapshots of some of my planner pages, lists, swatches, and handmade paperclips!

It’s hard to say how useful the actual planner is for me compared to my phone. I’m still getting used to checking the binder, but I feel like I have more room for detail and I don’t have to worry about deleting anything. And of course, the coloring is a nice way to relax and practice with different mediums.

I’m still thinking about how to take inventory of more dimensional objects like tools and jewelry findings, but I think it’s helpful to be able to look at some of what I have when I’m at the craft store. Even if I don’t necessarily keep up with specific quantities, I can remember what I bought in the first place and see what other colors would complement it.

So I hope this gives you some ideas for a fun, useful, and/or budget-friendly planner system (you can find a lot more ideas on YouTube, I just don’t remember which other videos were the most helpful!). Let me know in the comments what kind of craft planning and organizing works for you!

Rearranging Etsy Shops / Reintroducing Art Jewelry

There’s nothing like starting your day with new orders in both of your Etsy shops. Admittedly, this basically never happens for me, but today was a good day.

Anyway, I wanted to share a little update on what I’m doing with those two Etsy shops. It’s probably annoying how often I change things, but I’m still figuring out what works and I don’t want anyone to be confused in the meantime.

I’ve always sold jewelry in my first shop, PasticheAccessories, albeit with changing styles and mediums over the years, and recently ornaments and cake toppers to supplement seasonal sales. Since I opened my second shop, NoelleLewisArt, I have been using it to separate out my paintings.

But I’ve realized I have at least two different styles of jewelry – the stuff that’s fun and popular like my movie and fitness themed items, and the stuff that’s artsy and time consuming such as my landscape cane pieces. 

I want to allow the one to shine without discontinuing the other, so I’m experimenting with moving some of what I’m calling “art jewelry” over to my fine art shop. This will allow me to have more appropriate branding and pricing, and maybe give me a foot in the door for selling more paintings. Meanwhile, my jewelry shop can remain more or less as it is. 

I will also be offering some items discounted sets as the holidays approach – for example, $5 off when you buy a matching necklace and earrings – and possibly a free shipping coupon in case someone orders from both shops and I can combine shipping. This came up today with an international order, which of course is not cheap to ship. 

So let me know if you have any thoughts on this change, as a customer or as a fellow seller! And here’s a peek of the newest collection being posted in my art shop – I’m also working on a sunflower version!

 

Poppy Fields Mixed Media Painting
  
Poppy Fields Mini Mixed Media Painting
  
Poppy Fields Necklace, Earrings, and Barrette
 

Craft Room Organization – Work Tables

There are a lot of expenses to consider when you’re running a handmade business. On top of supplies, tools, and packaging, you have to think about things like furniture, technology, and website/shop fees. 

So I try to work with what I have and just upgrade when necessary (besides my love of trying new tools & materials whenever possible). For a year or so, my main workspace was a little wooden table left by the previous owners of our house. I could fit most of my clay and clay tools, but found myself having to move around the room to finish pieces that included paint or jewelry findings. And as I accumulated new supplies, I began to run out of room.
I wanted a folding table so I could also bring it to craft fairs, but decided to be cheap and buy a thrift store desk instead. It’s actually perfect because it has extra shelves and fits pretty much everything I need for the whole clay jewelry making process, plus I wouldn’t really want to move all my stuff now that it’s set up.

 

My workspace before & after (the “before” got a lot more crowded than it is here).
 
But when my husband insisted on buying me my folding table (thanks babe), I also got to upgrade my shipping station (previously on an old TV stand that wasn’t quite big enough for everything or tall enough for sitting in a chair). Now I can have my printer and all my packaging supplies in one place, and get my items ready to go at the table instead of on the floor. 

 

My shipping station before & after (ignore all the nail polish; that’s for another project).
 
So I guess if there’s a point to this post (besides “yay, new stuff,” haha), it’s this: if you’re on a budget, you still have options for making your business or hobby work. But if you have some extra money or you use something a lot, a little upgrading & reorganizing can make your life a lot easier.