Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shop Change and the Benefits of Partnership

By Bexx from White Sparrow Bindery

Last October, I joined Boston Handmade with my etsy shop BooksByBexx. My “How I Get My…” mini books for vegetarians and vegans had recently become very popular, and I was hoping to expand my business enough to start doing craft fairs. The only problem was that I didn’t think I could make enough books on my own to fill a table. My friend Katherine and I started talking, and decided to team up to form White Sparrow Bindery.

We spent much of last fall preparing for our first show – the 2008 Boston Bizarre Bazaar (pictured above). We set up an etsy shop shortly thereafter, and did a few smaller shows last spring.

After graduating in May, we decided to go full speed ahead with White Sparrow Bindery. The bulk of my new work is now being done for White Sparrow Bindery, although BooksByBexx will continue to sell a more limited range of items. Since my own focus has shifted, I decided that my Boston Handmade membership should reflect this.

Selling at craft fairs hasn't been the only perk of forming our partnership - we help to inspire and motivate one another, while also working together to solve problems or create new bindings. Some of our work is done individually, and some of it is done collaboratively, and we each bring our own sense of style and skill set to the work we do.

I’m really excited about the new direction I'm moving in, and the opportunity to involve my new business in all of the fantastic show, blogging, and info sharing possibilities Boston Handmade has to offer!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Like Mother like Daughter

by Cristina of Cristina Hurley Jewelry Design

My daughter Dana has her own Etsy shop. The chirping began a bit before the summer, she had hand painted a tshirt and decided she wanted to start a tshirt business on Etsy. Summer was coming and I had planned nothing for her. So I figured we would get creative.
She really took to it wonderfully. I thought she would lose interest after a few weeks, but she didn't. She made so many images I still haven't been able to scan them all to the computer. She designed a business card and I found a special offer for free cards, just paid shipping. She got into our local newspaper, the headline read "Young entrepreneur combines her love of art with desire to help animals."
The reason for this headline is I also figured I could teach her a valuable lesson about giving back, in particular to her community. I told her to pick something she loved and cared about deeply. She said animals and I suggested our local animal shelter. We both agreed it was a great idea. So we decided to give 1 dollar from each sale to the shelter.
I am very happy with the results so far. She's using her talents to create something people like a lot. She's learning she can make money doing something she enjoys and loves doing, drawing. She's told me she wants to be an artist when she grows up. She has new ideas for other products, soon to be revealed for the holidays. She is even doing a show this weekend! She'll have her very own table at our Block Party in Canton, MA on Sept. 26th.
I could not be more proud of what she is acheiving with such a small, cute idea- an idea which began with her watching me work on my own shop. Like mother like daughter, I guess!
If you would like to see Dana's designs, go to

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Market Dogs

by Katy of muchachaK

Is there anything cuter than market dogs? NO SERIOUSLY, is there ANYTHING cuter than market dogs? (Okay yeah, maybe market babies, but that's another post...)

Outdoor markets are a dog-lovers paradise, for both vendors, AND dog owners. We vendors get to oogle them, then send them home with their owners. The owners are stoked that they're allowed to bring their dog with them to an activity that involves other humans. And so the parade goes...all day long. CUTE!

This one above is the official market mascot for Concord Arts Market in Concord, NH (she's wearing her market mascot t-shirt). Her name is Bailey, she's a dachsund-beagle mix (a Doxle!) and she loves long walks (on or off the beach), rolling like a tornado in the neighbor's yard, visiting with Gracie the beagle next door, eating stray kielbasa, and of course, holding court and licking babies' faces at her market. She is also usually a gracious hostess to other canines who visit her home market, confident in her place as mascot...but watch out big dogs. She ain't afraid of you...

Market dogs are just another vital ingredient of the cool scene and community vibe that brews up at an outdoor show...

(photo and ridiculous, market dog-obsessed post by Katy Brown/muchacha K)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Visit from Jonathan Talbot

by Chris O'Brien of Christine Marie Art

Last week some of us on the North Shore of Massachusetts were treated to a visit from collage artist Jonathan Talbot. I have always wanted to take one of his workshops in Warwick, NY, so I was thrilled to hear he would be in Lynnfield (5 minutes from my house!).

I have lots of books about collage, including Talbot's Collage: A New Approach, which describes his technique of collage without liquid adhesives. Although I've practiced the lessons in the book, it's always helpful to see first-hand how things are done, and his demonstration was wonderful.

In addition to the demo, and showing us two of his thousands of completed collages, Talbot regaled us with stories of his early days, his thought process and inspiration, and his reasons for making art, prompting discussion regarding our own artistic endeavors.

It was a two-hour tease into an ocean of knowledge that he is willing to I guess it's time to save up for one of his workshops!

Friday, September 25, 2009

WooHoo!! Boston Handmade to Appear at SOWA

by Lynne of cozycottagecreations

Mark your calendars... Boston Handmade is gearing up to headline another spectacular showing at the South End Open Market. It's always exciting when the talented artisans of Boston Handmade come together. Enjoy a day in the city filled with the autumn air, a farmer's market and booth after booth of delightful handmade wares.

Join us on
Sunday, October 18th from 10-4
540 Harrison Avenue in Boston's South End

It's our largest group show at SoWa yet, and there's something for everyone! Here's a sneak peak at what you'll find there...

CHJ Sterling OXIDIZED Cleopatra's Needle Ring - Cristina Hurley

The Talking Board Mystery Archival Photographic Art Print - Weller Wishes

Book Tote in Flower Power - 83 West
Rolling Elephant Wood Toy - The Natural Collection - Birch - Tactile Baby

Summer Bike, Matted - Kerry Hawkins Photography

Flower Power Chair - Chroma Lab

What a great way to spend the day and kick off your holiday shopping!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seasonal Items

by Jennifer Tang of MaJenta Designs

Those who've seen my Etsy shop or my booths at craft shows will likely know that I have a crazy eclectic mix of designs for all my jewelry and housewares - I just love to offer my potential shoppers a large range of fun possibilities!

However, I have recently noticed that its also good to have seasonal items too, as often those surfing the net or shopping around will want to find something that may make the perfect accessory to their Fall wardrobe, or perhaps a great display to use for a holiday party, for examples.

Therefore, for the oncoming Autumn season, I tried to find paper patterns that were rich in Harvest colors - crimson reds, burnt oranges, golden yellows, etc. much like the colors of the gorgeous New England autumn foliage!

However, it is not only important to have items that are rich harvest colors..but it is also good to be mindful of each month's birthstone colors too. I learned this last month, as in August, I saw several of the homepages treasuries that said "shades of Peridot" which is August's birthstone...and most items were NOT just jewelry using the actual birthstone, but various clothing, paintings, toys, etc. that were just that shade of green. So for September, for example, it is important to keep in mind items that are shades of Sapphire blue too. They even have a Etsy Gift Guide devoted to "Shades of Sapphire."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Daily Grommet


Maybe you've heard of Daily Candy, the daily email about new products and happenings in cities across America? But, have you heard of Daily Grommet yet? What is a grommet you may be wondering. Well a grommet is a new product that the folks at Daily Grommet do a terrific job of finding and delivering to your inbox every weekday, right around lunch time. It is like a breath of fresh air.

And here's the twist: Daily Grommet tells the story of their product discovery with a short entertaining video clip and frequently introduce not just the grommet, but also the person behind the grommet. You don't need to read about it, you simply sit back, watch, and enjoy. Neat right? Well here is the other twist: Among some of the great, smart products that Daily Grommet discovers are crafty, handmade, very interesting creations. The folks there have a wonderful eye and the ability to search far and wide for the unusual. And they sell the Daily Grommet right there on their website to boot. Ta da!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back in the Studio after Baby

Just had a baby? Yup my second daughter, a little girl born July 23. The first daughter is now almost 2.5 years old.

Trying to get back to the studio? Oh yes! It is has taken a month but I am BACK! And it feels great!!!
Not sure how many shows you can handle this season with a new baby? Totally. I have turned down a few and taken a few that I am nervous about getting enough work together for as well as making work to satisfy the galleries requests.
Welcome to days when there are never enough hours for making or sleeping!!!

There are many of us at Boston Handmade who are artist and mothers. Some of us including myself have just had a baby and are still making our work and trying to keep up. It is a multi-tasking juggling act of a life right now but it is worth it to have a wonderful family and to continue working in a medium I love. Sometimes I just want to pat myself on the back for finishing the smallest pieces because I know how much work it took me just to get into the studio in the first place. So here is a peek at my newest pieces in progress.

The next show I will be at is the Marblehead Farmer's Market on Sat. Sept 26th from 9-12.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Six new drawings from Thirteenth Story

by Jaye Frisina of Thirteenth Story

Here is a sneak peak at some new work that will be available from Thirteenth Story this autumn:

FIN #9

The Windmill

Florida Was This


Green Fall

Red Wind

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Nantucket Visit

by Lucie of Lucie Wicker Photography

I recently had a week off from work and spent part of it on Nantucket. I lived there right after college (which is starting to feel like a long time ago) and remember it as one of the best periods of my life. I still have friends out there and always look forward to going back, especially in the off-season when things are still beautiful but also much quieter. This visit I took some pictures of the downtown area I've spent so much time in but never really took the time to shoot.

Signs on the Corner of Main and Orange Streets

Weather Vane on top of the Whaling Museum

At the end of my friend's driveway

Easy Street

For more Nantucket pictures, please feel free to visit my Flickr page. Some are also available as prints in my Etsy shop.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Craftland's Grand Opening Party

By Beth of Elizabeth Brennick Designs

Craftland's grand opening party is Friday September 18th from 5-9pm. Craftland is located on 235 Wesminister Str in Providence, RI 02903. There will be free food, drinks, music, and at 8pm a pinata with some cool prizes.

Craftland was once an annual holiday sale which began in 2002 but is now a full-time, full-service shop in downtown Providence, RI. They celebrate all kinds of sparkly handmade objects and the people who make them. Check out there website for classes and gallery nights.
There hours are Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm and Sunday 12pm-5pm.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creativity vs. Production

by Betsy of Stonehouse Studio

One of the conundrums in the life of a full time studio artist is finding the balance between creative work and production work. As artists, we have a million ideas swimming around in our heads that beg to be expressed in our medium of choice. From a business standpoint, though, we know that we have to manage our time and creativity if we want to pay the mortgage.

Production work is a necessary evil. It simply doesn't make sense, from a business perspective, to only create one of a kind, labor intensive pieces. Not to mention having to photograph and list each and every piece! But I still have a problem with repetitive work. I may start out with every intention of making ten pairs of the same earrings, but find that I'll start changing things up after making just two or three pairs. One way I control this tendency is by making the same design in different colorways - varying the colors relieves the tedium of making the same thing over and over. Another way is to work in limited editions - I find it keeps craftsmanship and creativity in high gear because I know that I'll soon move on to a fresh, new design.

And, yes, we all have tasks that are real yawners. Do these at times when you're not feeling particularly creative or when you have an hour or two in between other projects. Making earwires, for example, bores the heck out of me. So I make them while at shows. It's work that requires limited tools and space and helps pass the time between customers.

Finally, it's important to set aside some time every week to simply play, experiment and create just for the sake of creating. It relaxes and energizes at the same time and preps you for all that production work on your to-do list!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Selling in the Rain!

by Katy Brown of muchacha K

On its face, selling your art outdoors in the rain does not seem like an awesome way to spend the day. In talking to other seasoned sellers though, and being one myself, I have learned that less than ideal weather is not always the kiss of death. This is important to remember as our lovely New England weather continues to give us small heart attacks through the Fall outdoor selling season!

One of my favorite ridiculous selling in the rain stories took place on opening day a few years ago at the SOWA Open Market. The opening day crowd was way down from the usual, purely because of the fantastic downpour that had decided to baptize the market full-body style. As I stood there in my tent, wet-cat shoppers ran from tent to tent, in good spirits, because they were the few, the hardy, the committed, and because of that, they were there to shop. As I handed change to one customer, my tent sprung a leak and water POURED into the back of the neck of my this point my jeans had also wicked water up to the knees, and my Chucks were one with the puddles. But I made more money that day than on a regular weather day.

One of my other fave stories along these lines is from a woman that I met while selling. She said she'd gone to an outdoor hippie music festival...the rain just kept getting worse and worse as she got closer to the festival and further from civilization. By the time she had gotten all the way there, she was so far from reality that she had no intention of going back. So she set mud up past her ankles. And waited...and as the festival opened, her tent was flooded with customers, not just mud! Again...they were the few, the hardy, and the "ready to spend".

I'm not saying that every outdoor market day is perfect, or that rainy weather days are always fantastic sales days. But they're not always the worst either. And when you sign up to sell outdoors, that's really part of the package that you have to accept: you will never have total control, over the weather, OR your sales. That's part of what I love. But I love it because I understand that for it to be worthwhile it's a commitment, that you get the best results over time/over several dates spent in one place, and that sometimes a rainy day is a blessing in disguise.

Another important thing to remember at shows...leaving early is generally considered extremely disrespectful to the event you are participating in, as well as to your fellow vendors. BUT...if that's not enough to hold you in your spot ready for the magical hour to chime so you can stuff your boxes and run...there are ALWAYS last minute shoppers. It's the smugly enjoyed right of those vendors who stay to the end, those last minute sales gems. There are always people who come flying in at the last minute because they were stuck in traffic, or because they just drove by and went "hey, looks like a market!" or because they had one too many Bloody Marys at brunch and had to sober up to drive to the show. Whatever the reason they're running late, because of the time crunch, the impending "we're about to pack up" feeling, they have to make their decisions fast, and many of them are ready to do so with cash in hand. When I see vendors pack up early, even on a dripping rainy day I think "suckers...more last minute sales for me...".

Just another reason to love outdoor selling in New England...where the weather really does change in just a few minutes at times and people love to shop local (right up to the last minute).

(Photo by Katy Brown/muchacha K at Concord Arts Market in Concord, NH)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A few degrees from Ben Affleck

by Jessica Burko of Reclaimed To You

An exciting tale and a few tidbits of advice...

Last week I got an interesting phone call from a set director/designer working on the latest Ben Affleck movie to be filmed in the Boston area. She was scouting for artwork to be used on set for the movie, and came across my work while looking through the web site for the Jamaica Plain Open Studios.

(photo to the left is of Ben Affleck and Blake Lively on the film set. Lively plays Affleck's ex-girlfriend in the movie.)

The film is called "The Town" and is a Warner Bros. adaptation of the Chuck Hogan novel "The Prince of Thieves," with Affleck playing a career thief who becomes smitten by the manager of a bank, he is also directing the picture. The bank manager named Claire, being played by Rebecca Hall, is apparently an art collector and my work will be placed in her apartment.

(photo to the right is of Rebecca Hall when she was in the 2008 film, "Frost Nixon")

This is obviously very exciting for me on many levels. For one, it means that making sure my work is represented on various artist web sites has paid off. Adding images and contact info to web sites, like artist associations and open studios, is a great way to have your work found for a variety of opportunities. Curators often look through such artist listings, and apparently set designers do as well.

The initial phone call, meeting with the set director, signing paperwork, obtaining the rental fee, and handing off the work, all happened really fast, like within 24 hours. The advice here is that if someone is presenting you with a good opportunity for your work, make sure you act in a timely manner, and make yourself available. I know from my own experience as a writer and curator that if I'm in a hurry, and the first artist I approach doesn't follow through quickly, I move onto the next artist on the list. In this case, the set director had to get the work fast because there was a possibility that the scenes in Claire's apartment were going to be filmed two days later.

With all the movies in the Boston area and other non-West Coast cities being filmed these days, the more pro-active you are in getting exposure for your work on-line (where out of town film crews are researching their set design needs) the better chance you'll have in getting into the film game. I'm sharing my story and pieces of advice not only as a working artist, but also as a professional Arts Marketer. Marketing your artwork can be as simple as having a well designed web site with good photos of your work, connecting with artist groups in your area and getting images of your work onto their sites.

Other ways to painlessly market your work is through networking both in-person by attending artist gatherings, salons, workshops, and classes, and on-line through sites like Twitter and arts discussion forums like on Art Calendar. Blogging on group blogs, individual blogs, and commenting on other people's blogs is also a great way to connect with more people on-line, as is putting images of your work on Flickr and participating in the community there by joining Flickr groups and commenting on other people's photos. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting your artwork out and about on-line, but every effort is worth the time it takes, and most of them come free.

Here are a couple of snap shots of the two pieces of mine that are being rented for "The Town" and hopefully they'll be seen in the movie and won't end up on the cutting room floor:
Both of these pieces are from my recent series of Paper Quilts: stitched original photos and found ephemera. You can see more of my work on my web site, and in my Flickr photo pool, and if you'd like to connect with me via Twitter please do.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Local Nature Wilson Mountain, Dedham, MA

by Kerry of Kerry Hawkins Photography

Yesterday, my friend, Tahli and I took a walk on the trails of Wilson Mountain in Dedham. It is really a hill but, a pretty spot with a view of Boston. It is nice have this beautiful park so close to my home. We are very lucky in Massachusetts that we do have so many state parks. Check out the the DCR Massachusetts website for a park near you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Once You Go Cheap, You'll Want to Go Back

By Alicia of Chroma Lab

A few months ago, Tony and I were yuppy-ing it up listening to NPR when we heard a fascinating program on discount stores and the death of craftsmanship. Naturally our ears perked up as we heard person after person phoning into the show to talk to Ellen Ruppel Shell, the author of the book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, about their experiences as small business owners and craftspeople competing with big box chain discount stores. It most certainly struck a chord with us, since like a lot of people we know, we are making a living by our sorely undervalued craft. I ordered the book from the library, and two months later, I finally got to read it (clearly lots of other people heard the program, too).

Just how did we get stuck in a vicious cycle of buying increasing amounts of inexpensive goods that are ill-fitting, easily broken, and designed not to last until next Tuesday, let alone next year? Cheap helped to answer many of my questions about why craftsmanship and small business has become undervalued in our country (and abroad), and why it is so hard for us all to break off what Shell, a professor of journalism at Boston University, calls our "dangerous liaison" with cheap goods.

Shell relays the history of the discount, from the first Woolworth's to the invention of the price tag, and how the so-called great businessmen of the early 20th century began to de-skill and therefore underpay their (often female) employees in the name of profit and "democracy." She explores the psychology of the "bargain," and how the receptors in our brains work against us in the heat of the moment in front of a stack of ten dollar shirts at H&M.

For me, the most interesting part of the book is the chapter devoted to IKEA, "The Death of the Craftsman." Oh, IKEA. It's so hard to stay mad at you, but I'm determined to try after reading this book. How many of us have Billy bookcases, Not lamps, and Nikkala sofas sitting in our homes right now? And how many of us have eventually put these things out on the street before going back for $1.99 meatballs and a new set of shelves? (Raises hand with guilt).

As a small business dedicated to restoring and redesigning furniture that already exists, Chroma Lab is the polar opposite of IKEA, the number three consumer of wood on planet Earth. Their products, as Shell points out, are designed to be set out on the curb so that you can come back for more meatballs and get next year's model at an even steeper discount, with no guilt about what you've left behind. This is not sustainable for our planet or for our wallets, and it does nothing to connect us with the skilled people in our community that earn their living by offering a beautifully designed, higher quality product that you would never dream of setting out on the street (a-hem, a-hem).

If you're at all interested in craftsmanship, sustainability and what the true cost of a $3.84 two pack of underwear is, then I highly recommend picking up the book Cheap. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some things to return to H&M.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Remember

Who was there now lives in our memories.
Today we remember.

photograph, Never to be Seen Again, by MarkoPhotos.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Discovering My Calling

by Colleen Baker of Tactile Baby

I have very little formal training in my chosen crafts. Most of what I know has been learned from osmosis. With grandparents that survived the depression on lonely rural farms I learned the basics – and I learned them early.

fire truck.jpg

Unlike my grandparents I grew up in relative privilege. My parents took advantage of all the conveniences their middle-class suburban lifestyles afforded them.

“The family talent skipped a generation” my mother is fond of saying as she quizzically watches me seam together a newly knitted sweater.

No doubt about it, I was deeply affected by my grandparents tales, and often daydreamed about what it would have been like to pioneer in the newly settled wilds of central Canada.

I loved fashion for certain, but why buy that dress on the rack when I could make one – except in a color that would suit me better, and that neckline would have to be changed too…)

Today there is a trendy name for that kind of person, a “DIY’er”. But in the 80’s I was considered a bit of an oddball.

old car.jpg After the last of my grandparents passed away in the late 1990’s I found myself isolated and uninspired.

I turned to books and workshop instructors to fulfill my need to learn; my techniques improved but there was something lacking.

And then in 2000 I met my future husband. Three months after we began dating I walked into my future-in-laws home for the first time and I instantly felt at home. In addition to the warm embraces that greeted me, the entire home felt familiar and comforting.

loon.jpgOriginal artwork decorated the walls, hand crochet afghans draped over couches and quilts covered the beds. But most intriguing of all to me, were the hand carved duck decoys and birds that filled the display shelves in the family room.

My soon to be father-in-law was a wood-worker.

After realizing that my interest was genuine (and not just a ploy to get in his good graces), my father-in-law became a gracious and patient teacher.

Soon my love for wood-working became obsessive (a girl can never have too many pairs of shoes, or too many linear feet of curly maple). I had found a new teacher, and my passion for a new craft was ignited.giraffe

When my husband and I moved into our first home one of the “must haves” on our property checklists was room for a workshop. Fantastically the house we fell in love with also happened to be the former home of a professional potter – workshop space was already established.

I hold my father-in-law largely responsible for the fabulous turn my life has taken since opening my Etsy shop just over a year ago. His instruction, his confidence in my work and his encouragement have helped me discover just who it is that I was meant to become, a wood-worker.

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