Friday, April 18, 2014

My First Pitch Contest: Merrimack Valley Sandbox

In early February, I applied for the Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox. It was an easy application - about a dozen not-so-easy questions to answer on an online form. I wasn’t sure my craft business was what they were looking for, but I knew some other craftspeople who had done it, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

They chose about fifteen businesses to participate in the pitch contest. Each business would set up a table for the networking portion of the evening and seven would pitch their ideas. There was also a wild card selection - a name drawn from among the remaining table presenters who would be invited to pitch on the spot. 

Handwoven Throw Rug in Process

The next week there was a workshop at the Sandbox on pitching our ideas. About five of us participated and I was very impressed with the other businesses. Everyone had wonderful ideas and they were all great at speaking about them. We were given a worksheet which described the five points the judges would be scoring on in order to select a winner. I left feeling inspired, if a bit overwhelmed.

The pitch contest, scheduled for the following week, was snowed out. More time to work on my pitch, right? More like, more time to psych myself out. I was having trouble coming up with all the information I needed to cover the five points and decided not to go for the wild card. I decided that I would present my business at my table, listen to the other pitches, but I wouldn’t put my name in the hat. One step at a time!

My usual table display

On the day of the pitch contest, my table looked great. I’ve set up for literally hundreds of craft shows, so making a good display comes naturally to me. As I was networking, people kept telling me that they couldn’t wait to hear my pitch. I explained that I was just a table presenter and wasn’t pitching. A few people asked why I wasn’t trying for the wild card. I didn’t really have a good answer for them. “I’m not really ready,” was the best I could come up with, which sounded lame, even to me.

As we watched the pitches, I was amazed. The ideas were all equally innovative and interesting, but the presentations were all so different. Some people were really confident presenters, others were nervous and kept losing their train of thought. I have serious stage fright and while one part of my brain was saying “I’m so glad I’m not up there,” another part was like, “I could totally do that.”

As it turned out, only six of the seven presenters had been able to make it that night, so they were choosing TWO wild cards. Only a few of the table presenters had put their name in the hat, so they all had really good chances of being picked. It was mentioned several times over the course of the night that wild cards had won prizes in the past.

Double Infinity Scarf, one of the pieces I brought to the Pitch Contest

As the first wild card was presenting, I decided to throw my name in the hat. I figured if I did it, then at least I would feel like I had put in the effort. A phrase I’ve heard repeatedly is that people tend to regret the things they didn’t do, rather than the things they did. I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity and regret my choice. It’s not like they were going to actually pick me.

They picked me!

The good thing about presenting on the spot is that you have no time to get nervous. Seconds after they called my name, a microphone was in my hand and I was up there talking. I hadn’t practiced my pitch, but I had spent a few hours on the worksheet and knew what I wanted to say. I know I missed some things, but I did the best I could.

As the judges went out to do their deliberations, people kept congratulating me on what I great job I did. I was still in shock. I knew that words had come out of my mouth, but I couldn’t remember what they were.

A few minutes later, the judges were back and the prizes were being announced. They announced third prize first and….

I WON! Wow. Five. Hundred. Dollars!

Left: My BIG check! Right: The judges, including BH member Diane Ivey. Images from

I really can’t describe how wonderful I felt. The best feeling was that I had gone up there, taken a shot, and done it - seized the opportunity.

Since the pitch contest, I have had some amazing opportunities. I was the featured entrepreneur at one of the Sandbox’s weekly Entrepreneur Meetups and have appeared on the Friends of Kevin Radio Show. I’m also working on my application to the summer Accelerator Program (due May 1!), which helps early stage businesses through workshops and mentorships.

What’s the next step for your business? Have you worked with any small business centers or entrepreneur programs?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Collaboration between Jeweler and Dog Collar Maker

by Kerrie Beck of Cody's Creations

In June of 2013, I moved my studio from my home to Natick Center. At 43 Main Street I share the floor with a tutoring center, a jewler, a silversmith, a wordsmith and a lampwork glass artist. Such an array of talents gives the studios of 43 Main a fun and diverse feel. Often we meet in the common area to bounce ideas, show our new work or just have a chat.

Liliana of Liliana Bead came into my studio to talk out a project she was working on, a necklace intended to be worn at prom. She needed spacers for the beads to give it the look she wanted, so after a few minutes I had made for her little ribbon beads. The fabric beads were the perfect accompaniment for her glass beads.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why I Run: A Boston Marathon 2014 Photography Project

by Lucie of Lucie Wicker Photography

I decided earlier this year to start a personal project about people from Boston running the 2014 Boston Marathon. It began with the idea of shooting a few of my friends who were running (including fellow BHer Stephanie Cave!) and expanded to friends-of-friends and people I connected with through various social networks, all living and training in the Boston area.

Stephanie Cave at Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain

At a Boston Handmade member meeting in February, I told everyone about this project and they all agreed I should find a place to show the work during the marathon. We began brainstorming potential spaces along the route and the next day I got in touch with my friend Rachel who handles the regional marketing for Sweetgreen located right at the finish line on Boylston Street. Lucky for me, she loved the idea of having a show hung for the month of April in conjunction with the marathon!

I'm happy to say that after many hours of coordinating shoots, meeting with runners (in all kinds of winter weather!), typing up their stories, printing, framing and hanging... the show went up on April 5th! I'm so pleased with how it came out and I couldn't be more proud. Along with the photos, there are bios of the runners including their names, where they live in Boston, their occupations, how many marathons they've run, and why they run. Those running for charity have QR codes in their bios that link to their fundraising pages. Sweetgreen has gorgeous brick walls which the pieces really stand out on.

If you're interested in checking out the show, it will be up for the month of April. Please stop by and let me know what you think!

659 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

To view the project online and read more about it, please visit our website

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Boston Handmade Gears up for Marathon Monday

curated by Sharon of Stray Notions

This year the Marathon is expected to draw a record number of participants and runners.  From the sidelines and in the race itself our members are showing the 118th running of the marathon some love.

Stepanie Cave will be running and we all will be cheering her on in our own way.  You can do some carb loading of your own chased by a hot beverage adorned with her cupcake covered cozy.

Lucie Wicker has been photographing runners including Stephanie in a series of photographs which are currently on display at Sweet Green on Boylston St. in the Back Bay.

Bev Feldman of Linkouture has designed a charm bracelet for runners and those who love them and is donating 20% of the proceeds to One Fund Boston.

And our four legged friends can support our fair city with a collar depicting the Boston skyline from Kerrie at Cody's Creations.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Handmade: Creating a Facebook Banner with PicMonkey, Part 3

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

This is it! The last installment. Phew! We have all been busy editing our product photos, right? Today is the exciting day where you get to see all of your hard work come together into one amazing banner, which we will upload onto our Facebook pages.

I made a couple of changes to my photographs. If you recall, I had a fancy frame around it, and I placed a label with type. I included both for the purpose of the tutorial, but I chose to remove them for the final banner. They felt cluttered to me, but this is a matter of preference.

For a Facebook Banner photo collage, you are going to need as few as three pictures, and as many as seven. This is entirely up to you. You may also want to include your logo. You will need a digital copy in .jpg format. It will need to be significantly under 851x315 pixels, as this is your entire banner. You can size your logo in the Basic Edits screen.

Making a Photo Collage

Step One:

Click on the Collage Icon in PicMonkey. It will automatically bring you to the files on your computer. You can select multiple files at once. Find your photograph, select it, and click choose in the right hand bottom corner.

On your left, you will have all of the photos you have chosen for your collage. I have a working theme of work in progress for my banner. My previous banner focused on my Viking turtle brooch line. You may have noticed you cannot see the entirety of every photo. Do not be concerned. These are just thumbnails. Also, you will notice the bottom right thumbnail is my company logo.

I have selected seven items for my banner, but I don’t have to use every single one. I have found it is easier to have one too many than one too few at this stage. You may have a photograph that just doesn’t want to play nicely in your collage. It’s easier to swap it out for another one.

If you missed a picture, you can easily retrieve it by clicking on “Open Photos” in the blue thumbnail. It will bring you to a screen where you can select to obtain photographs from your computer.

Step Two:

Now we need to choose a layout for our collage. Click on the Layout Icon. Your pictures will disappear, but they are not gone. They are still in the Photos tab.

PicMonkey makes this really easy for us. They have three different layouts for FaceBook banners:

I actually can make adjustments to the layout if I prefer. For example, I can get rid of a photo cell by running my mouse over it and clicking on the X that appears. The other boxes will fill in the space. I can also stretch or shrink the cells by clicking and dragging the gutters. However, I don’t recommend playing with the layout dramatically until the photos have been placed.

Step Three:

Return to the photo tab. You can AutoFill your photos in the middle menu, or you can drag and drop them from the left palette to the place of choice. AutoFill is faster, and you can still move the photos around as you like, by clicking and dragging:

Uh oh! That pesky logo didn’t fit perfectly. I have a few options. I can change the proportions of the other pictures, or get rid of a couple of photos. I can also elect to not use the logo.

Step Four:

Maybe you have an odd number of pictures and an empty cell. Rather than leaving it blank, you can use a swatch from the swatch menu. You can even add type over the swatch later (you will want to finish your collage completely first.)

Step 5:

The Background menu will allow you to change the spacing between the photographs, and round the corners. You can also change the background to any color available in the spectrum. See below for an example of what I can do (but not what I chose…)

Save your work. You are ready to upload to your Facebook page.

Step 6:

Go to your Facebook Page. Hover your mouse over the banner area and a box will pop up that says “Change Cover.” Click on it, and a menu will pop up. Choose to upload photo. Find your collage banner, and click on it. Click the “Choose” button in the lower right corner. Congratulations! You just made a Facebook banner using PicMonkey!

Of note, after spending very little time with PicMonkey, I have found I can create a new banner for PicMonkey in about 15 minutes.
If you want to see my new Facebook banner come visit my page at: . I’d also love to see what you did with yours!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Mosaic: For Boys and Men

by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

Retro Cars and Skyline Baby Gift Set by StephanieCaveDesign
Oxidized Sterling Silver Unisex Wide Band Havanero Ring by CristinaHurley
Black Leather Card Case by LidaBrookeDesigns
Paper Quilt with Two Snappy Guys by JessicaBurko

Finding a gift for men - big or little - can be time consuming and frustrating. The selection for women and girls always seems to be twice as big and varied.

Boston Handmade members make finding a unique piece easy. You can shop online at their etsy stores (type 'bostonhandmadeteam men' or 'bostonhandmadeteam boys' into the search bar) or their individual websites (which you can find here).

If you would rather shop in person: some members have their own gallery or atelier that is open to the public, and you can also find us at various Arts Markets. This information can be found in the online stores.

Happy shopping!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why Handmade: Creating a Facebook Banner with PicMonkey, Part 2

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

I hope over the last week you have been playing around with PicMonkey, becoming more familiar. If you have, you may already be comfortable creating a Facebook banner of your own. If not, I am going to walk you through, step-by-step making a banner. This tutorial will show you how to edit and resize a photograph, include your company logo, create a photo collage sized appropriate for Facebook, and upload it to your page.

Editing a Photograph

As I noted last week, you want to be careful editing product photos. The best solution is to take a perfect photograph with fantastic lighting, so that the only changes you are making are to the size and cropping of a photograph. However, if you, like me, are not a professional photographer, you may find you need to make subtle lighting and color corrections to make certain your photograph matches the actual product. This is not the time to correct mistakes you made during the creation of your item.

Of note, a Facebook banner is not for the purpose of actually selling the item pictured. Instead, you are sharing what your business is all about. You may choose product you have already sold. Some artistic license is acceptable as well, as customers are not linking to your banner with the intent to buy what they see!

Step One:

Click on the Edit Icon. It will automatically bring you to the files n your computer. Find your photograph, select it, and click choose in the right hand bottom corner.

Step Two:

I took this photograph using my camera phone. I like it because it has several pairs of earrings. However, it’s not the most visually exciting picture. Let’s see if we can liven it up a little without loosing the integrity of my work. I am going to start with the crop tool, so I can remove some of the cardboard box.

We are already in the Basic Edits menu. The top option is Crop. Let’s click on it now:

A menu pops up on your left. There is a dropdown (currently states No fixed proportions) where you can choose pre-determined sizes. These are useful if you want to select a specific part of your photograph and have it scaled to a standard photo size. As our image is not going to be printed, we will leave it where it is.

The actual size of my photo is currently 366 x 234 pixels. I can change the size here, or in the resize menu. This is useful if you need the photo to fit in a specific space. Keep in mind that if you do not click the “scale photo” box, the program will stretch the photo to fit your dimensions. This can have a carnival mirror effect that can be a lot of fun or give you a big headache!

We do not have a specific size, at the moment. We just want to get rid of part of the photo. When we selected the Crop menu, a grid showed up on our picture. The grayed out area is what we are cutting away. We can increase, decrease and move around the edges by clicking and dragging with our mouse. When you find something you like, click the green apply button.

Step 3:

Once cropped, you may find your photograph needs some minor adjustments. For example, under the Exposure menu, you can adjust the brightness and contrast of the picture, by sliding the circles on the bars. You may need to make huge adjustments, or just minor tweaking. Do not be afraid to play—you will get a preview of what you have done, but nothing is permanent until you hit apply.

Similar adjustments can be made under the Colors and Sharpen menus. These three menus will most likely not alter the integrity of your work, but they can resolve minor issues due to poor lighting or a difficult subject.

Step 4

Let’s talk about the Effects, Borders, and Textures Menus. Many of these options are not available unless you sign up for a Royale account. I’m not going to tell you whether you should or should not sign up. I don’t recommend using these for product photos as they detract from the item you are selling. However, there is room for some playing in a Facebook Banner. The menus work the same way as in the previous step. Each choice comes with adjustments you can make it uniquely your own. For example, in the above screenshot, I chose “Dark Edges” under Effects. The default uses black; however, I can choose any color in the provided spectrum for the edges (I chose teal as it compliments the copper nicely). I can also adjust how much of the edges are darkened, the amount of fade, and the intensity. Do not be afraid to play with these adjustments, as you can come up with some interesting effects. Nothing is permanent until you apply, and as always, remember to save often with a new file name, as it is easy to revert to an earlier saved version if you do something hideous!

If you venture into Texture overlays, you will find more options than in other areas. For example, under “Space,” there are three different options, depicted in three pictures. In the screen shot above, we are in the Effect submenu; however, if you click the “Move” button, there is another submenu where you can move the effect around by clicking the different buttons.

**Keep in mind that we plan to create a photo collage. Write down the effects you use for your first photo as you will want to be consistent with your other photos.

So here it is…so far. I chose to apply Sepia tones and dark edges from the effects menu and a Simple Edge from the Frames menu.

Step 5

Let’s talk Type and Overlays, because they are applied the same way. The Overlay menu (the Butterfly) has a wide selection of clipart, and I am going to choose a label. Once my label is placed, I will place type over it.

I chose my label, which appeared in a random location on my photograph. A pop up menu also appeared to the right (it may pop up someplace else on your screen) The label itself came with a white lined box with 5 handles. The middle handle will allow you to rotate the label by dragging it with your mouse. The other handles will allow you to change the size if the label. If you click in the middle of the label, you can drag it to the desired location. You can stretch the label by holding the shift key at the same time as you click and drag on the handles. You can change the color in the pop up menu. When you are pleased with the result, click outside the label and the handles and pop up menu will disappear. You can make them return by clicking on the label.

Now go to the Type menu and choose a font you like. Select it and click “Add Text” at the top of the list. A text box shows up with similar handles, that work the same way. A pop up menu appears, where you can change the size, alignment and color. Click in the text box when you are ready to type your text. You can highlight your typed text to make any adjustments.

Step 6:

If you haven’t been saving all along, you should save now. There is a middle menu at the top of your screen where you can hit save. Make sure you save it as a .jpg, and you remember where you saved. Repeat this process for a few more photographs for our photo collage.

Stay tuned until next week, when we will create the photo collage for the banner. We will also upload it to our page. I hope you are having fun!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Nowrooz Celebration

curated by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

A few soft green new things to adorn your home, your person, and your pet in the New Year:

Tapas Dish by jilljburns
Green Mariposite Earrings by Beryllina
Handwoven Table Runner by weavelea
Dog Collar with Adjustable Buckle by codyscreations

The first day of spring marks the first day of the Persian New Year, Nowrooz. It is one of my favorite celebrations. Lots of symbolism and ceremonies that represent the End and Rebirth, Good and Evil. Traditions include germinating of seeds as sign of renewal, cleaning the house, making or buying new clothes, lighting and jumping over bonfires in hope of enlightenment and happiness for the new year, and setting up a ceremonial table with 7 dishes that start with the Persian letter sinn (the number 7 is sacred in Iran, and the seven dishes stand for the seven angelic heralds of life: rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty).

The celebration lasts 13 days. On the 13th day, Sizdeh Bedahr, every family goes outside for a picnic, games, and to celebrate the end of the holiday season. The germinated seeds are thrown into a body of moving water. They are said to have absorbed all the ill fate and pain that might be destined for the family, and the water carries them away.
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