Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from My Grandmother and me

If you have been reading this blog you know that my grandmother was one of my primary craft influences.
Here are some crafts she made for her offspring's families in the 1970s and 80s.

My family received the Scarecrow and Lion as part of a set when we were kids. My sister has Dorothy and the Tin Man now. There were several of these round ones another year. My grandma was a master at embroidery. I also grew up with the owls seen in the background here, but Grandma didn't make those.

I love this advent calendar so much. She really know how to work felt and sequins. And check out her painting on burlap, too.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008: A Year

I feel the urge to write a looking back/looking forward year end sort of post. Maybe it's the xmas newsletter tradition that runs rather strong in my family. I've never been able to put one out for my far flung friends and family, but here I am blogging. And updating my facebook status several times a day. I guess it works better for me when my sharing is limited to shorter bursts of time. And focusing on a few aspects of my life as I do here on the MAD blog helps make it doable also. And facebook - it's become a very nice way for me to feel connected to the outside world as I toil away alone in my garret all week long*. So go ahead and friend me and mention this blog and a bit about yourself if I wouldn't otherwise know you.

*it's not really like that, but it does get lonely sometimes and the weekend vending event social scene is also very appreciated.

I've grown a lot in my little business this year. I figured out that I sell a lot more if I take my wares out into the world physically. So I scheduled a lot of holiday craft fairs. Six weekends in a row. And in doing so I've rediscovered how much I enjoy interacting with the public. It's been made clear to me that aprons and similar are to be a major focus of mine in future (and present). This is great. I've gained a lot of confidence in my sewing and composition skills, so this cuts down on production time, too. Good. All good.

My production techniques really have gotten much more efficient so I think there may actually be some profit in this endeavor some day. I've made major progress in just the past few weeks as I've been forced to immediately try ideas I've been tossing around re: apron production efficiency. And I've gotten a lot faster and the aprons look better than ever. I'm phyched. And proud even. You know, with the recent attention I've gotten from the press and others and my sales figures at the holiday markets I'm starting to feel downright successful and very opptomistic about the future. I think I'm gonna go out and buy myself some shoes!

I have some goals and plans for 2009. All is revealed below, minus the numbers. Am I making a mistake being so...generous in sharing my plans? should they be a secret? oh, goes.

My Number One Big Picture Goal re: Production and Work Flow:

I am going to get my work flow figured out so I have lots of product ready when I start the retail season. After trying a number of items over the past two years I now know which ones I have to make lots of so I can make them ahead. Like, starting in February. January is going to be spent catching up on bookkeeping and listing items on my etsy shop. My farmer friend Betsy Mattox and I are going to barter labor so we'll be busy making aprons and stuff in the winter and be outside hoeing and harvesting in the summer. I am SO looking forward to carrying out this plan. I was inside sewing and ironing in front of a hot sunny window way to frequently last summer.
Research and Development Department:

New items slated to be available to customers in the Spring include children's aprons, eye glass cases, and apron-inspired dresses and skirts with big bows in the back <-- especially excited to work on these. I've always wanted to be a fashion designer. Other possible items for R&D: laundry day aprons, round coasters, simple wallets (special deal on these for other nomadic vendor-types), and maybe even a recycled leather iPod case. div Etsy Plans: First off I fill my shop with whatever I have left after this weekend and more new belts. I think etsy will be an especially good market for my belts and key fobs. Vermonters at craft fairs don't seem to know what to make of the key fobs. To be honest, I had no idea what they were either until my cousin brought them to my attention and I further educated myself on etsy <-- a brilliant place to do product research.
Live Vending Plans: I'm going to be outside in the fresh air peddling my wares at farmers markets and similar as much as possible in the Summer and Fall, with some bigger indoor craft fairs thrown in there, too. And plenty of holiday vending events. If anyone takes me up on hosting a trunk show or house party, I am so game for trying that too. In early 2009 I'm still planning on sticking close to home, but who knows? If my production becomes efficient enough I might try to schedule a show or two in a large city later in the year. Oh my!

Hey, so that's it. A little bit of looking back and quite a bit of looking forward. I'm going to be on vacation from blogging again until 2009 most likely. Thanks for reading, especially if you were directed here by my parents xmas newsletter ; >

Have a wonderful end of the year and into the new one!

***This Friday 12/19 from 11am-6pm and Saturday 12/20 10am-6pm come see me at Burlington City Hall for my final vending event of the year: Burlington City Arts Holiday Art Market.***

Monday, December 8, 2008

in the spirit

You know you're at a holiday show when they are playing Raffi's Must Be Santa and other seasonal tunes during shopping hours. I was really appreciating the switch to the Beatles White Album during vendor set-up and beak down at the Burklyn Art Council Craft Fair in Lyndonville, VT this past weekend.

Some other Highlights:
1. Getting to meet a recent etsy customer face to face. She lives in VT and is an artisan bread baker. *swoon*

2. Selling more clothespin bags than I expected. Hooray for solar dryers! And plenty of aprons, which is getting predictable in the most wonderful way. [Okay, I have to put in a big aside here: Upper Valley Life, the regional glossy mag, contacted me last week to do a story about my aprons for an upcoming food issue in early Spring (!!) Very exciting for me - I love and identify with the local foods movement so much. The writer asked if I had customers she could speak with. I contacted some people to get their permission and golly, folks have said the nicest things. It is all so gratifying that my customers recognize me as an artist and appreciate my use of recycled materials and the tradition of aprons in American culture. Feeling and sending back all the *love* *love* *love*

And I have to share this one story: one recent customer I just met, Heather of The Clothing Line, a stellar used clothing store in Burlington, bought one of my favorite half aprons - one that I've never understood why I haven't sold it yet. She completely got my ~off~ combination of patterns and colors and the vintage 1980's red/orange Asian print. When I called her about the magazine story she told me she hadn't taken the apron off in three days, was planning outfits around it, and her husband was starting to make fun of her. In a good way, I hope. I just feel my heart swelling up. Ahhh...]

Okay, back to my list of highlights from Burklyn. Remember?

3. Expanding my group of nomadic craft fair friends: Diane, Tara, Janice, Chris, Terry and Ran3dy and Nora, and the genius painter of Lamoille County, Jess Graham, and others. I *heart* friends. And really, I felt like somewhat of an amature surrounded by so many clearly long time professional crafters. Not that I'm unprofessional, just much less experienced. All the old hands (and the fairly newer ones too) are very nice and helpful.

4. Meeting new customers and getting to know the market in the Northeast Kingdom.

5. Filling my tanks with $1.69 gas in Lyndonville. The store clerk said the price would be going down again. Amazing.

6. Free food at the end of the day Sunday, including delish carrot cake I brought home for the kids. I bought myself a piece each day.

1. Tiny food portions, but I guess it's a fundraiser. It all came out even in the end though (see above #6).

2. The BAC jury rejecting my HotHolders. The explanations I received were, "There's something about potholders at craft fairs," and "Well, you know, we've seen it all before." What does this mean??? It shall probably remain a mystery.
Here are some pix of my booth. Having a corner is nice. I'm able to set up a pillar of apron/belt display and hide my personal effects inside.

Next up - The market manager in Norwich called to offer me a space at the Holiday Farmers Market this Saturday, December 13, 9-3 in Tracy Hall, Norwich VT. Yay! I'll take it. I was planning to be in Montpelier that day but I'm more established in Norwich and this fair is close to home and is a great opportunity for me to reach my summer customers close to the holidays.

After that I'll be back at Burlington City Hall on December 19th (that's a Friday) & 20 for the Holiday Art Market.
Be There of Be Square!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

MAD on the local news, again

Mountain Ash Design is getting another little flurry of press. Yay! The Channel 3 News was at the Women's Festival of Craft last weekend and the resulting story prominently features your humble servant + clothespin bags + aprons. The waistband of the apron they focus on was made from a cast off button down shirt once belonging to Channel 3's own sweetheart, Jack Thurston. Watch the piece here.

And our regional glossy, Upper Valley Life, will be interviewing me today re: my aprons. I'm figuring the issue will come out when I'm back at the Norwich Farmers Market next Spring/Summer. This is all very exciting!