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Monday, August 30, 2010

School is Back!

School is here in all its glory and I am back to not being able to find enough hours or sleep in the day. My crafting life has been temporarily put on the shelf as I get back into the routine of working 60 hours a week between planning, cleaning and actually being present at school. It always takes about a month for everything to click into place, so I am looking forward to October. I am hoping all the planning and promoting this summer will help keep the Etsy shop afloat while I get back into the swing of things. I'll keep you posted on my availability and upcoming projects.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Inspiration- Music!

   Last night I saw Tegan & Sara and Paramore live at the White River State Park in Indianapolis. I have waited for over a year to be able to see T &S and I was much rewarded. I had a great time rockin' out and it made me think of all the music that inspires me and my creative process, so I thought I would share.

1. Bjork- I really love any music in another language, but her voice and her sound is so different and unique. Some songs are edgey, some are soothing and some are just darn right beautiful. She has an energy that allows me to clear my mind and focus only on being creative. Her music videos can be very inspiring from an artistic point of view too.

2. Emilie Simon- Again, I find French another beautiful language to listen to and her music is very earthy. In fact, I love listening to the movie, Amelie in the background for many of the same reasons. The cadence and rhythm of speech really get inside me without over-taking my brain. Her videos will also leave you a little breathless.

3. Tegan & Sara- This is a little edgier that my first two and in English, so it works well for painting. As a younger painter I used to love to listen to Ani Difranco, Sleater-Kinney and Mutabor. There was a lot of angst I needed to get out and all three help feed that energy.

4. Imogen Heap- This is another one in the same line as the first three, but there is poetry in the music that really appeals to me. You must be sensing a theme now that female vocalists really trigger something for me. There is this sense of power, mystery, admiration and emotion that I can really relate to with female vocalists whether they are Tori Amos, Janis Joplin, Dresden Dolls or Alanis Morissette. I could go on and on as my music collection is largely all-female, because I like surrounding myself in beautiful things.

*Here are some male vocals I enjoy, if you prefer: Coldplay, The Decemberists, Flogging Molly, Postal Service

Can you tell music is a big part of my life? Feel free to recommend any female OR male musicians.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two New Obsessions

  I need to share my two new obsessions with you because I just can't contain my excitement any longer!

1) Craftopolis takes all your Etsy statistics and Google Web Analytics and combines them in a fun, user-friendly way to give you a good idea who is looking at what, and whether they love it or not. It also has a tab to show you which Treasuries you're in. Finding out I have new "lovers", new "hearts" and new "treasure tracks" always brightens my day!

2) Spoonflower was recently featured on the Etsy Blog, but I have just ordered my first test swatch of my own design! Oh my goodness are the possibilities endless! I have been having so much trouble finding fabric I like and need around here, so I love that I can save stress, gas and time by just creating what I need. I also have ideas in the works to create "fairy" inspired fabrics for durable fairy bedding and other creations to sell to all of you. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspiration: What's in the name?

I have recently joined the multitudes at Swap-Bot to try to challenge myself creatively and give myself something to do when the shop is slow. I was turned on to this site when a customer of mine bought a Fairy Nest Bed from my shop to give to her swap partner for a "fairy furniture" swap. I have so far participated in only a handful of swaps and haven't yet received anything from my partners, but I wanted to share a particularly poignant swap with you; "ATC inspired by your Username".
  For those of you who are unfamiliar with ATC or ACEO, Wikipedia has a great article as usual and Swap-Bot has a glossary of terms. Basically they are miniature works of art about 2.5" x 3.5" long. Many Etsy artists sell them, so that you can collect their work without breaking the bank or cluttering your walls. Of course, many crafters like myself make them for fun to trade and not for profit.
  Anyway, I thought this ATC project would be good to share with you as my "username" is my shop name and I often find that what others are inspired by inspires me.
1. Firstly, my shop name went through many iterations. However, from the beginning I was largely influenced by Christina Rossetti's poem, "The Goblin Market". I have loved this poem since I discovered it as a pre-teen. It is a rare one that tells a story without boring you to death. It also captures almost all the rules fairytales are supposed to teach us about not eating fairy food or following fairy music. It is largely about temptation and well the irony is that I am tempting you to buy "fairy" goods. Unfortunately, this name was taken by one of my favorite fairy artists, Brian Froud.

2. Then I tried to imagine where such a market might exist. I thought back to all the "magical" places I have visited over the years and I kept coming back to one image. The following is the closest I have come to the deer clearing I used to visit in the woods behind our house. It is the dappled light and variety of greens that appeal to me mostly.
3. Then I need to put a name to this image and place in my imagination; a glen. This fit particularly well because my father's name is Glenn, which I have always thought was telling of his Irish heritage and in many ways it felt that I had come from such a "glen" (pun intended). Thus the name was born and a more cohesive branding was possible.

You will see lots of articles in Etsy's The Storque about choosing your shop name carefully and researching to make sure no one else has it, and this is for a reason. It should be easy to remember, say something about your shop's intentions and not be used by so many others that it is hard to distinguish you from everyone else.

Below is a picture of the ATC I created. It is my first attempt at something so small and it came out a but like a funerary card, but I am hoping it reaches someone who has never heard of Christine Rossetti and in turn, finds as much joy as I do in reading her work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yummies- Cherry Jubilee Sauce

The other night I decided to make Cherries Jubilee to go with all our left over frozen yogurt and it was so yummy that I am still craving it. Serving it hot melts the yogurt, but really tastes the best.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes                    Cook Time: 15 Minutes

1/2 cup Sugar
1 tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Orange
1-3 cups Cherries, pitted
1 tsp. Vanilla
Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

1. Grate peel of orange until you have 1 tsp.; set aside. Cut orange in half and juice until you have 1/4 cup juice; set aside.
2. Combine sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan. Blend in 1/4 cup water and orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes.
3. Add cherries, orange peel and vanilla; bring to a boiling and reduce heat to simmer about 10 minutes.
4. Serve over frozen yogurt and enjoy!

Nutritional Info. (full recipe)- 180 Calories, Og fat, Og saturated fat, 45mg sodium, 135mg potassium, 40g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 33g sugars, 4g protein

Note- Pitting 3 cups of cherries may seem like a lot to you, so rest assure that 1 cup equals two very large servings. Also, make sure you choose ripe, sweet cherries for pitting.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tips & Tricks- Tea Dying

  I have been using tea and coffee to dye fabrics and paper since I was a little girl making treasure maps and fantasy tour guides of other worlds. I decided to dye some material my mother had left over from making drapes and an old cotton t-shirt that I accidentally stained with my new blue swimsuit. The steps below show I what I do for fabrics, but paper is very similar.

Step 1: Decide whether to pre-wash fabrics. I don't really worry about this step because if it doesn't come out dark enough or evenly dyed, then I use it for something else or try again. I like the adventure of not knowing exactly how it will turn out, but if you feel the need to pre-wash check the fabric's washing instructions.

Step 2: Fill large pot, wash tub or bathtub with the hottest water that will come out of your faucet. Dunk as many tea bags as desired (without paper tags) into the water and using a spoon to stir them. This will release all the tannins that dye the fabric.

Step 3: Rinse fabric under faucet to dampen the fabric. This makes it easier for it to soak up dye faster.

Step 4: Dunk fabric in water, so that it is covered completely. If you are worried about it floating above the surface use pie weights to hold it down.

Step 5: Wait as long as you desire as the longer you wait the darker it will be. I usually wait just a few hours. Remove tea bags and discard or set aside for reuse.

Step 6: Ring out fabric and rinse. Discard tea.

Step 7: Follow the fabric's instructions for drying or dry on hottest heat. You can also sun-dry or air-dry depending on your needs.

 1. Original White Drapes 2. Ginger Tea Dyed Drapes 3. African Bush Tea Dyed Drapes

Choosing Tea:
Most people recommend cheap, black tea, but I like to use my old stock. This time I used some ginger tea and some African Bush tea. The ginger gave a light, yellow tinge to the drape fabric. The African Bush tea (see first picture) gave a reddish, brown color to the drape fabric. The cotton t-shirt turned so many colors from the ginger tea I can't wait to figure out what to use it for. The antique look these fabrics get after dying make them so much fun to turn into cloth dolls, mixed media art and even creative gift wrapping!

1. Stained Cotton T-Shirt after Ginger Tea Dye 2. Drapes after Ginger Tea Dye 3. Drapes after African Bush Tea Dye

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yummies- Blueberry and Mango Fruit Sundaes

Tonight my foodie partner made a delicious dessert that was not only beautiful, but ridiculously yummy! I love summer-time and all the fruit that is available, so I thought I would share this cool treat with you so that you can impress your guests/family/self without feeling too guilty about the calorie count.

Prep Time: 15 minutes (unless you have to run out to get the sugar you forgot)
Cook Time: 7 minutes (do this ahead of time, if needed)

1-2 Mangoes, pitted, peeled and diced (ripen via bag-in-refrigerator method beforehand, if needed)
1-3 Cups Blueberries
1-2 Limes
1/2 Cup Sugar
5 Mint leaves
1 qt. Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

1. In a large bowl combine diced mangoes and blueberries; set aside
2. Using a veggie peeler, remove the peel from limes in strips; set aside. Juice limes to measure 3 tbsp. juice; set aside.
3. In a small saucepan bring 1/2 cup water, lime peel, sugar, and mint to boiling over medium-high heat; stir until all sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 3 minutes. Remove syrup from heat.
4. Place syrup in small bowl. Stir in lime juice; let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Remove peel and mint; discard.
5. Drizzle syrup over fruit; toss to coat.
6. Scoop yogurt into individual dessert dishes and spoon fruit over yogurt. Serve and Enjoy!

Nutritional Info- 230 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 4mg cholesterol, 70mg sodium, 55g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein

Full Recipe- Serves 8

*The ingredient list is listed with so many ranges because it should really be to taste and what is available fresh in your area. Also, there are only two of us, so we reduced it to the lowest number to have less waste and less added to our waist.
**The maxium number of limes can be too much if you are not a fan, so reduce as you see fit.
***The ripen via bag-in-refrigerator method means that you may need to buy your mangoes a couple of days in advance, seal them in a bag and place them in the refrigerator. If you are really pressed for time, place them with a banana in a sealed bag.
****Steps 3 and 4 can be done ahead of time and saved in the refrigerator a day or two until the family BBQ. Wait to do Step 5 until right before serving or the fruit will go bad.
*****Garnish with mint leaves if you are feeling extra fancy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Statsy- My First Showcase

My first showcase has officially closed and the immediate results are in. I thought I would share the hard numbers with you (because no one else will), so you might have a better idea whether it is worth your $7 or $15.

I chose my top ten most viewed, most hearted items to appear in the line-up of my showcase. My thought was that these items are already well-liked, I just need to find someone who can afford them, a collector or who is looking ahead for the holidays. Sitting at #1 is the Hobbit Hole, which has been in this ranking since almost day one. My other miniature dollhouses follow close behind, but it is the smallest, cheapest items that do well.

#1 Item- Hobbit Hole Statistics (past 24 hours):
-1 Inquiry
-8 hearts

#2-#10 Showcase Items:
-double views on average
-double hearts on average
-2 sales

My Shop:
-135 Visits
-9 shop hearts
-15 items hearts
-2 items sold

Conclusion: It definitely paid for itself today and the exposure was unlike anything I could have dreamed. My shop is that much more likely to be seen in someone's favorites or be remembered closer to the holidays. It was interesting and helped motivate me to spruce up my shop. I still have a lot of work to do. I feel as though learning to take good photos and write great descriptions is an on-going process, but I am still hopeful and enjoying handcrafting.

Upcoming Projects:
-Brownie Bungalow
-Mini Fairy boats
-Female Hero, Rustic Cloth Dolls
-Mini Fairy Garden

Monday, August 2, 2010

Homage to My Hedgie

  It is no surprise that my animals are some of my favorite sources of inspiration. I have a living terrarium full of croaking frogs and toads, a needy Springer Spaniel and a hedgehog. They are often the center of my universe and my foremost connection with nature. I can not thank them enough for the balm they provide for me.
  Today my five year old hedgehog, Brillo was diagnosed with terminal, inoperable uterine cancer. This is disappointing, but not surprising. She has lived an adventurous and uncommonly long, healthy life, so I wanted to create a tribute to all things hedgie. Check out my favorite prickly finds at Homage to My Hedgie.
  We have warm chicken, meal worms, digging in my garden, snuffling the flowers and confounding the dog to look forward to for just a bit longer. We plan to spoil her rotten until her quality of life deteriorates. Until then, enjoy your furry friends and spread the hedgie love!

Treasury List and Showcase- Check it out!

Treasure List- Enchanted Forest Children's Decor
I just created my first Treasury list on Etsy! Click on the hyperlink I have provided for ideas on how to spruce up your child's room, an up-coming nursery, your old playroom, or to add a little whimsy to your home.

Also, look out for my Kids and Toys showcase tomorrow on Etsy. I have revamped my top ten items and added more pictures to my photo website! I hope you all enjoy!