Friday, May 30, 2014

Why Handmade: Hobbies vs. Profession

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Those dreaded words: What a neat hobby! When you quit a full-time “real” office job complete with vacation time, a steady paycheck, and benefits to pursue a career as a professional artist, these words cut like a knife. You have either met someone who has made this assumption, or you will sometime in the future. In all fairness, if you are like me and you don’t have a storefront, your work schedule is flexible, and you can meet up for coffee whenever others are available. This can give the perception we aren't as busy as we actually are.

Illustrations for fun and Profit?

There are a number of people who have pursued similar artistic endeavors or crafts who see themselves as hobbyists. They go as far as to sell their work, sometimes in similar venues. It is not their livelihood. They do their craft for enjoyment. Those who sell their work are primarily looking for an excuse to make more. In my humble opinion, there is nothing at all wrong with that. I consider myself a hobbyist and a professional artist.

Hair Styling

What is a hobbyist? Are they less qualified to do their craft? I think not. There are exceptionally talented hobbyists out there who create amazing work. The difference lies in why they create what they do. They are creating something different for their own personal enjoyment. If your hobby stresses you out, you have to ask yourself why you do it. They can be exhilarating, and some hobbies can really get the adrenaline pumping (skydiving comes to mind.) The only expectation you need to meet is your own. If you enjoy making latch hook rugs (my father used to make them when I was a kid, but I don’t think I've seen one in years) it doesn't matter if you have no audience. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to do it.

Face Painting

When  you make the leap to professional, the rules change. You need to be good- no excellent- at your skill. You have to brand yourself and market your work, so you are noticed. A professional artist is trying to make part or all of their livelihood with their craft. You have a bigger audience to satisfy as well. You have to consider what sells and what lingers. Your favorite work may sit forever, while items you hate sell faster than you can make them. A hobbyist can ignore this trend, but the professional needs to take it seriously. If the muse isn't speaking, we have to trudge along lest we fall behind.

Painting a wall mural in the children's bedroom

I said I see myself as both a hobbyist and a professional artist. I have committed my work as a jewelry artist to a professional level. I invest time and money to personal education, marketing, tools, and materials, and I expect my business to pay for itself. I watch what my customers like and dislike. I strive to put out quality work in minimal time to maximize profit. I love my job. I am a very lucky woman, because I wasn't always able to say that. However, I have needs to relax and do something different for enjoyment. I write fiction which is scheduled to be published shortly, but if no one liked my stories I would still write them. I create illustrations for books through paintings and/or computer graphics. I design and sew doll clothes. My daughter will have the best dressed dolls amongst her friends, but I have made no effort to even consider selling them. These hobbies are a means to escape and relax. Sometimes I even make a piece of jewelry just for fun.

Fulfilling dreams as a costume designer/seamstress 

What are your hobbies? How do you differentiate your hobbies from your professional life?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Exhibiting At My First Trade Show: Surtex 2014

by Dana of The Patterned Peacock

The main lobby of the Javits Convention Center

When I quit my job last fall to pursue The Patterned Peacock full time, Surtex was a big part of my decision. Surtex takes place every May at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. It’s a trade show for illustrators and surface pattern designs to exhibit their artwork in the hopes that a company will want to buy or license something. Unlike craft shows, Surtex is not open to the general public. The attendees are art directors and buyers from companies that make anything from stationery to home textiles to kid’s products.

I was accepted into the show in September and immediately started preparing for it. Creating a portfolio of work was my biggest concern (most artists at Surtex have a portfolio containing hundreds of images). But I also had to plan my booth design, a marketing campaign, and all of my promotional materials.

My 8x10 booth space ready to be transformed

My cousin (who is a designer) and my boyfriend (who has a surprisingly artistic eye) volunteered to help me with set up and I am so grateful for that help. Exhibiting at a trade show is a huge undertaking and having a support team really does make all the difference. 

One banner up, six to go
Almost done

Prior to exhibiting, I made a list of goals for myself. I was able to achieve all three goals and, for me, that made the show a success.

1. Learn about the needs of the industry.
What type of art are the looking for? How do they want it presented? How do companies work with artists? Do they license art or buy it outright?

2. Find out which industries and specific companies are interested in my work.
Once I know where I fit in, I will be better able to market myself in the future.

3. Connect with art directors and get permission to contact them in the future.
At many trade shows, the attendees are there to place orders but Surtex works differently. If an art director likes what they see, they’ll give you their business card and let you know how they would like you to follow up with them. The actual deals take place weeks or months down the road. So while I don’t know if anything will pan out for me, I do know that I came home with a notebook stuffed with business cards and instructions for next steps.

The finished booth

Because I'm shy and have a hard time making small talk, selling myself in person was the most daunting part of the process. If you feel the same way, I highly recommend Women Make the Best Salesmen. Other sales books I read were "power of positive thinking" fluff or had a "take charge of the sales process" approach that was too aggressive. But this amazing book focuses on how to build connections with potential customers in a way that's genuine and low key but effective.

If anyone has questions about trade shows or Surtex feel free to email me. My contact information can be found here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Remembrances on Memorial Day

curated by Susanne of enchantedhue

Red Chevron Purse by abigailleigh
Morse Code Bracelet by LushBeads
Openweave Infinity Scarf by Loomination
Dog Collar in Love Chevron by codyscreations

On this Memorial Day, Americans remember and honor loved ones and friends or total strangers who have been wounded or have died in one of America's conflicts.

Please visit The Wall of Remembrance to read about personal stories or to submit your own.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why Handmade: Family Edition, Passing Down Knowledge to Our Kids

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

It’s that time of year again when my oldest has a birthday, and this year he turns the big eight. It amazes me to see the way he progresses in every way, and his creative growth process is no exception. Drawings that were little more than scribbles of crayon, now take shape as dragons and ninjas. He practices drawing his anime, and slams his pencil in frustration when he doesn’t believe his work matches the picture in his head. Meanwhile, his little sister experiments with crayons on every surface she can find, including my walls.

C learning to draw from a book

As my children get older, I age as well. This year I will hit one of those big ages. I won’t tell you which one, but there won’t be a three in it anymore. I plan to stick around earth for a lot longer, but I need to impart my knowledge on to these minds. If we do not share our crafts with the next generation, who will? As time moves on and technology grows, fewer and fewer people know how to sew their own clothing with a sewing machine. Even fewer know what to do with a hand needle. What happens when the power goes out? By the way, my husband invited me to a fabric store for our second date, as he does know how to sew. I believe this is a large reason regarding why we are married today.

The beginnings of  K the mural artist

We need to encourage kids to make things with their hands. It isn’t as hard or overwhelming as it initially sounds. All it takes is a handful of crayons, paper, and glue. There are items all over the house perfect for creative moments, and the best part? They are free. You already bought the toilet paper, and you were going to throw the roll away. May as well allow the kids to play with them first. I remember dying macaroni and making necklaces as a child. A sand and water table can be enough to entertain and spark ideas in a child’s head. When they become used to the idea their hands can create things, it is easier to introduce the idea of bigger and more elaborate crafts.

C experimenting with the hammers at the bench

In addition, we can allow our children to watch us when we work. Perhaps handing an eight year old, even a very responsible one, a lit torch is a frightening prospect, but he can watch. If you separate your work out by tasks, there may be steps where they can participate. For example, my son often sands pieces by hand for me and contributes his opinions to the design process. Other times, he brings his homework to my studio, and we are just sharing the same air space.

With it was still an experiment, C said it was a bracelet - He was right

What happens if we don’t share these incredible skills with the next generation? What knowledge will we lose as a society? We are forever changing our world we live in, by building on to to past, which can be a great thing, but should we completely forget where we came from? How do you share with future generations?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Boston Handmade at the Vintage Bazaar in Salisbury, MA

by Leanne of Loomination

I've been showing my work at the Vintage Bazaar at Pettengill Farm since the very first one in the spring of 2011. It is one of my favorite shows every year, mostly because it's always changing and there's so much going on.

There are over 130 vendors, a mix of vintage and antique dealers along with artists and artisans, live music, food trucks and other special events (such as the Vintage Motorcycle Show at the Fall VB) all spread out on the grounds of a picturesque flower farm in Salisbury, MA.

Images from

Held just a mile from the coast, in one of my hometowns, I have a personal connection with the area and remember going to many hayrides and holiday open houses at Pettengill Farm. The Vintage Bazaar is truly an amazing experience, especially for me, since I've seen it grow over the years.

I just joined Boston Handmade in late 2013, but this year at our annual meeting in January we were discussing events and I thought the Vintage Bazaar would be a great place for a BH popup. There will be eight Boston Handmade members participating under a giant 10 x 40' tent (well really 4 small tents lashed together to make one really big one).

This is the first thing I've organized for BH and I'm really excited about it! I'm not sure if that's because I love this show so much or because we're having a giant weekend long BH sleepover, but I'm sure it's going to be amazing all around.

Clockwise, pieces by: Enchanted Hue, Prunella's Workshop, McDonald Mixed Media, The Patterned Peacock

Now for the details!

When: Saturday & Sunday, June 21 & 22, 2014, 10am-5pm
Where: Pettengill Farm, 45 Ferry Road, Salisbury, MA
Cost: $5 per person, free for children under 16

Specials: Early bird admission! For just $7, you can get in at 8:30am on Saturday and get first crack at all the amazing finds.

More info and early bird ticket sales:

BH Members Participating:
Enchanted Hue 
Jessica Burko 
Lush Beads Industrial
McDonald Mixed Media 
Prunella's Workshop 
Stray Notions 
The Patterned Peacock

Clockwise, pieces by: Stray Notions, Lush Beads Industrial, Loomination, Jessica Burko

We hope you can join us for a truly inspiring experience!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Land, Sea and Air

curated by Sharon Fischer, Straynotions
Original collage with encaustic and upcycled materials, Jessica Burko
Bronze Viking Turtle brooch - Single, Prunella's Workshop
Koi - goldfish - embroidered pendant necklace, Stray Notions
Zebra Dreams - Mixed Media Collage, McDonald Mixed Media

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why Handmade: Finding Your Voice

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

It is easy to become distracted or overwhelmed by all of the styles and options available to you in your craft. When we start out, we either want to do everything under the sun or we pigeon hole ourselves to excess. For example, we can’t be retro and modern, elegant and rustic, country and city, etc., all at the same time. As artists, we master none and customers become so overwhelmed by the options, they will walk away. On the other hand, you may have designed a really cute one of a kind item, and you can make the item in twenty different colors. Even if your customers must have one of every color, eventually they will run out of merchandise to purchase from you, and they will move on.

I have suffered from both problems, though probably more often the former. Just because I have a flair for all things from the renaissance period doesn’t mean I never stray. In fact, sometimes I stray too often. As of late, I have been looking at my work and wondering if the renaissance is there at all. As new items disappear from my inventory as quickly as I make them, I have to consider if that is even an issue.

Personally, it is easy for me to reconcile the issue of not enough variety. If I make something too many times, I will become bored with it long before my customers will. (Which is also a fantastic way to ensure my work remains one of a kind!) However, too much variety can be a real struggle.

What is voice? Style? How do you develop either one? There is only one answer. Continue to work on your craft and hone your skills. If you are too focused on finding your voice, I believe it will remain hidden from you. If you allow yourself room to think out of the box, your style will naturally emerge.

Develop different lines of your work. Different lines will do better with at various venues. Learn your customer reach in each place. For example, I wouldn’t bring my more modern work to a renaissance faire. Try to have more than one option of any design type. For example, if you knit sweaters, you may have a cable knit line. You may have five different styles of cable knit, and different colors and sizes of each style. However, you would not put one character sweater in the middle of the cable knit as it confuses the issue. Instead, you would knit more sweaters to place in your character sweater line. By having different lines, you have room to explore different techniques and styles, but your work will remain focused. If a line doesn’t work for you, you can focus your energy on the lines that are more successful. Sometimes the most successful lines aren’t the ones we enjoy the most. Work on both lines, One is the bread and butter of your business, but working the less successful line is what will keep you going when you feel burnt out.

When you learn a new technique, focus on learning it very well. If you are uncomfortable with it, move on. There is no crime in not being good at everything. For example, I enjoy painting. I am quite pleased with my watercolor paintings; however, my oil painting leaves me wanting. I am not comfortable with the media, and I think it shows. I can continue to struggle with oils, or I can spend more time improving my watercolor painting skills. I choose to do the latter.

Don’t give up on a technique or a piece you love. It’s just taking longer to find its audience. I began a design based upon expressed interest from a subset of my customers. When they saw the prototypes, they couldn’t wait for it to be finished. Once they were out there, I heard crickets. I know, this sounds disheartening, but after a year of crickets, I can’t keep them in stock. It took time.

If a technique is feeling stale, the work is becoming stale too. Your customers will notice. Try something new. Your style will shine through. Your voice is a living breathing entity that is growing and changing every day. Do not be dismayed if your work now appears different from your first vision. You are just seeing the way you have grown.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Apply for Membership in Boston Handmade: Now through June 15th

Boston Handmade member Diane Ivey of Lady Dye Fiber Arts knitting and showing her work at the 2013 Boston Handmade Somerville Marketplace.

Since 2007 Boston Handmade has been connecting local artists and craftspeople, encouraging dialogue, and harnessing the power of many to strengthen the success of each creative individual. By bringing together arts professionals in all stages of their careers working in a wide variety of mediums, we learn from one another and broaden our overall creative experience.

As a group, the membership of Boston Handmade is dedicated to working collaboratively for mutual inspirational and professional benefit, regularly producing exhibition and educational opportunities for one another and the greater Boston community. As individuals, our members are committed to succeeding as professional artists, creating their original work by hand in small studio environments.

In our efforts to maintain diversity of media and technical experience we occasionally close membership to a specific category in which we are already well represented. We are currently accepting applications through June 15, 2014 in all media categories except jewelry. If you are interested in applying to become a member of Boston Handmade please read our full membership information page on our website and submit an application:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Round the Circle

curated by Jessica Burko

"...the circle is round, it has no end, that's how long I want to be your friend..."
Part of the lovely song sung by Jamaica Plain preschool students in morning circle time.

From the top left around clockwise:

1. Pale Pink Pearl and Silver Chainmaille Bracelet by Linkouture
2. Ceramic Mug, Water pattern by Early Bird Designs
3. Boyfriend Ring with Sterling Silver Wide Band set with CZs by Cristina Hurley
4. One inch Wide Dog Collar with Adjustable Buckle or Martingale in Candy Dots by Cody's Creations
5. Brown Patterned Cross Body Bag by Lida Brooke Designs

Friday, May 9, 2014

Why Handmade: Value Your Work

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Let’s talk about an uncomfortable subject- money. No one ever wants to talk about it. Your parents probably told you it was rude. You don’t want to say you are barely keeping afloat because it may mean you are a failure, and you don’t want to share you made big bucks and be taken as a braggart. However, at some point you are going to have to decide how much you think your work is worth, and place a price tag on it if you plan to be a professional artist/craftsman. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.
"Money 2" by Daniel Borman (CC-by-SA)
Take this as an example: a vendor says to her customer “I don’t charge for my time, because I think everyone has the right to own something pretty.” At first, this may sound very noble. She is willing to give her time to her craft, and she enjoys seeing happy customers. However, I do not believe she is aware of how harmful her philosophy can be.

Artists and craftspeople need to eat. Some have a second income through another job or a spouse, but others do not. This is a job for them. Albeit they have a very rewarding job they love. I worked in the health insurance industry for close to fifteen years because it provided a paycheck; if they had stopped paying me, nothing in the world would have made me go back. I would scale back how much jewelry I made if it wasn’t my job, but I would still want to continue. My time in the office was valued, and I was paid accordingly. Why would my time have less value because I love my work? If a doctor has an interesting patient whom they enjoy, they don’t charge less.

"cubibcle" by TheChanel (CC-by-SA)

Perhaps the vendor in my example doesn’t need money. She needs a way to rid herself of all the product she is making and she has run out of friends to gift. Nonetheless, undervaluing your work hurts other people in your same or similar craft who do charge for their time. Customers grow to expect the lower prices. We aren’t discussing competitive pricing here, where one charges $40, and someone else finds a way to create the same product for $35 and still make a profit. The second person is charging $10 as they haven’t included the costs of labor and tools, etc., in their pricing.

Why should the vendor have to think about anyone but herself, you might ask. If she’s happy, and customers are enjoying her work, the other craftpeople should just find other ways to set themselves apart or “get a real job.” It’s not her problem. Except it is her problem also. The woman in my example has sent a dangerous message to her potential customers. She has told them through her words and her prices she doesn’t value her work or her time. If you don’t value what you do, why should anyone else? She has suggested her work is cheap, which will attract customers looking for a bargain, but not the customers who value the time and effort she has put into each piece. These aren’t repeat customers. Should you at some point want to raise your prices to better reflect the value you put into it, you will most likely lose your customer base.
"Speed up time 3/366" by Craig Chew-Moulding (CC-by-SA) 
We have discussed why you should value your work, but how do you do it? You need to consider material costs first and foremost. If you paid $10 in supplies, it isn’t good business sense to charge $8 for your product. Factor in the cost of the wear and tear on your tools, and utilities such as water, electricity, and heat, even if you work from your home. If you work in precious metals, you need to consider the current value of your material, as it changes frequently. Small changes may not change your price, but a big spike or drop can have a big impact. In the last eight years, I’ve watched sterling silver bounce from approximately $5 an ounce to approximately $50, and dropped back to under $20. Customers are savvy, and they expect to pay close to the current value, and not what the artisan paid for it; therefore, if you paid $30, and the current value is $5, you can only charge the customer the lower value and you may lose money on the sale. (You know what they say, buy low, sell high!) Finally, you need to consider how long it took you to create the item, and choose an appropriate hourly wage.

When choosing your hourly wage, you need to consider the level of your experience and knowledge. You should pay yourself no less than minimum wage. Before you decide to give yourself no more than minimum wage, consider this: some cashiers at department stores make more than minimum wage. Are your skills more or less specialized than theirs? You may decide anyone can do what you do, and minimum wage is adequate.

You may say you are rather new at your craft and you make a number of errors needing correction, or you are slower and you do not believe the customer should have to pay. An acquaintance made an interesting recommendation to people who were less experienced at his craft. He stated he charges for all of his time when developing a new design, including the time dealing with errors. Then, when he repeats the design, he picks up speed as he becomes more proficient. When he masters the design, he doesn’t lower his price to reflect less time. Now he is charging for his expertise, and he receives a raise. When I worked in an office setting I received raises as I got better at my job too.
2012 Boston Handmade Somerville Marketplace by Jessica Burko

Finally, you may say you are interrupted a good deal by situations outside of your work. Perhaps you like to watch television at the same time, and you are aware it slows you down. Maybe you, like me, have a small child who has needs, drawing you away. How can you factor out this time? Set aside some time with no interruptions. Turn off the television and get a babysitter. Time yourself as you do your craft in a timely manner.

Now you have a price. If it seems excessive, and you truly don’t believe someone would pay that much, you can alter it. Keep in mind, you can always lower a price on an item, but you can’t raise it. If it isn’t selling at the price marked or too many customers suffer “sticker shock” you can lower your price or have a sale without losing money. If you only charge material costs like in our original example, you will lose money with any and every discount.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday Mosaic: A Mother's Love

curated by Susanne of enchantedhue

Mother and Daughter Art Quilt by JessicaBurko

Silver Chainmaille Bracelet by linkouture

Sterling Silver Heart Earrings by Beryllina

Crystalline Heart Mixed Media Collage by McDonaldMixedMedia

Mother's Day is coming up, a day to give her a break from everyday chores and show her how much we love her and how grateful we are for all the big and little things moms do for their children, no matter how old they are.

You filled my days with rainbow lights,
Fairy tales and sweet dream nights,
A kiss to wipe away my tears,
Gingerbread to ease my fears.
You gave the gift of life to me
And then in love, you set me free.
I thank you for your tender care,
For deep warm hugs and being there.
I hope that when you think of me
A part of you
You'll always see
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