Hello 2012

Happy New Year, everyone!

(Like every year before this) I declare that 2012 will be the best year ever.  2011 was mostly taken up by apartment-hunting and CCE, but this year I’m leaving myself room for some new creative and business pursuits.  New stuff for 2012:

  • First up, the Deep Creeps will FINALLY hit stores.  It has literally been years since I started working on this new line, but the packaging finally got approved this week, so the little buggers should arrive in stores sometime around April 1st. Leonardo the dumbo octopus is first, followed (hopefully) by the still-unnamed angler fish in October.  BTW, folks, if you have any good name ideas for an angler fish (she’s a girl), please send ‘em my way.  Nothing is clicking so far.  There’s a full set of Deep Creeps and some shout-outs in it for you. 🙂
  • Secondly, drawing every day.  I feel my drawing muscles have somewhat atrophied lately from lack of use, and I’m trying to build them back up again, no matter how much it hurts.  I’ll likely post some examples now and again of useful failures and successes, but I certainly won’t subject you to every tired sketch.  I’ve been going steady for about two weeks now. We’ll see how long it lasts.
  • Thirdly, I’ll be speaking at the Craftcation conference in Ventura this March, while continuing to teach monthly classes on indie biz topics at WorkshopSF. CCE is not happening in 2012, but the girls and I are already cooking up ideas for 2013 while we consider other CCE business like non-profit filing and fiscal sponsorship in the meantime.
  • Fourthly, a WHOLE NEW BUSINESS. I’m not really talking about it yet, since I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch, but stay tuned for what I hope to be the summer launch of a brand new digital venture.  Business plan and prototypes are already underway.
  • Fifthly, all the usual new year’s-resolution-type stuff like eating healthier, getting up earlier, staying more organized, driving less and exercising more. I’m taking my bike for repairs on Wednesday, so I can attempt a ride to work on Thursday, when it will be sunny and un-cold.  The route is much flatter from this new apartment than from our last, so I’m hoping this can be my new commute.  I have incentivized the bike-riding by making the following deal with myself: if I regularly ride my mom’s 20-year-old bike to work this year, then I can have a pretty new commuter bike for Xmas in December.

That’s about it for now. I’m trying to keep the list fairly short, since the quickest way for me to fail is to overwhlem myself. What are your plans for 2012?

The Last Craft Fair

This past weekend I participated in my very last craft fair.  When I first started Sweet Meats, craft fairs were invaluable.  The direct interaction with thousands of potential customers allowed me to collect a ton of feedback about prices, popular products, displays and marketing: deli wrapping was a hit and often served as the tipping point between browser and buyer; when it came to products, “I love you more than bacon” was the big winner in buttons, but the ham always came out on top in the toy category.  At last week’s Bazaar Bizarre, however, I learned some broader lessons:

Lesson 1: you can’t half-ass a craft booth

The Bazaar Bizarre was the only fair I did this season.  I wanted to hurry my transition out of retail by getting rid of some inventory, so I didn’t bring much new to the table (no pun intended).  Aside from a couple of prints I had little in the way of new products, so none of my usual customers were interested.  I also didn’t have the second table I thought I had purchased, so it was difficult for shoppers to make sense of the crowded display.  All in all, my booth looked a little sad compared to my neighbors’ open, well-lit, and organized spaces, so I didn’t fare too well.  My plan to off-load boxes of toys to an audience that already owns them backfired completely.

Lesson 2: outgrowing the craft fair

Craft fairs are absolutely the right market for a growing handmade business, for all of the reasons I mentioned above.  But they are no longer the right market for me.  The whole weekend I felt a slight twinge of embarrassment at being there.  I was disappointed in myself, like I was dressing for the job I had rather than the one I wanted.  This feeling was compounded when more than one person approached me with a confused/vaguely distrustful look before asking, “Aren’t you the person who put on the CCE conference?  What are you doing here?” It seemed as though they suddenly didn’t trust that I knew anything about running a small business since I was standing behind my products piled sadly on a table, with no customers clamoring to buy them.

The Big Takeaway

As with most things in life, you only get out of a craft fair what you put into it.  And because I have already mentally left that world behind, I didn’t put much into it.  Just like I tell my students, you can’t market right unless you’re in the right market.  Now that I’m hoping to build bigger and better things, I need to find a new market with room for my business to grow into.

Best Halloween Decorations Ever

Now that we’ve got first-floor, street-facing double windows, I plan to do a lot of window display practice.  Since we just unpacked our last box today (woo hoo!) I think I’m a little late for Halloween, but next year I am definitely creating a set of creepy silhouettes a la Jeffery Rudell.  I just love how simple and ungaudy they are — not to mention inexpensive and recyclable!  I’m thinking of going with a Hannibal Lecter dinner scene (with a nice Chianti).

If you’d like to make something eeevil for the trick-or-treaters ringing your bell next week, Jeffery has a whole book of ideas and instructions that can help you pull it off in time.


Images courtesy of Jeffery Rudell

Soon it will be time to start thinking about holiday windows!  Can anyone share a link to ideas they’ve enjoyed in winters past?

Rug Roundup

A. and I bought an apartment last month!  It’s bigger than our last place, but also colder and darker, so we need to purchase a lot of essentials to get it ready, like light fixtures and rugs.  This week I went a little crazy looking at rugs in particular.  I need to organize them in one place in order make a decision, so forgive me while I go a little lifestyle-blogger here.  If you’re also shopping for a modern, graphic rug, you’re welcome!  I just did all the hard work for you.  But mind the date-stamp on this post.  In six months probably none of these rugs will still be available, though the shops they link to might have something similar.  Enjoy!

Clockwise from top left (prices listed for approx. 5’ x 8’ size): Momeni Tempo ($778.99) — great for a kids’ room when they’re too old for this one, Dwell Studio Draper Stripe ($250), Dwell Studio Loop Texture Dove ($550), Normann Copenhagen Dahlia ($1004), Angela Adams Nectar ($750), nuLOOM Magnifique Chevron ($276.23), Angela Adams Birds of Paradise ($750), Z Gallerie Ombre ($399.95), Thomas Paul Tree ($876)

Once again, clockwise from top left (prices listed for approx. 5’ x 8’ size): Bev Hisey Anise ($?), Gandia Blasco Lepark ($2,225), Bev Hisey Moroccan ($?), Sara Schneidman Green Contemporary ($3,050), Peace Industries Norooz ($1,680), Ralph Lauren Cameron Stripe ($805), Second Studio The Ocean ($2,066), Urban Outfitters Floral Stripe ($68), Peace Industries Fuller ($1,680)

Good lord, how does Grace Bonney do it?  I’m exhausted already.  Anyway, last time, clockwise from the top left, yada yada: Madeline Weinrib Breeze Denim ($1,250), Madeline Weinrib Blue Lulu ($925), Madeline Weinrib Dusty Blue Adam ($4,500), Bev Hisey Spun runner($?), notNeutral Links runner ($270), Second Studio Cubizzmo ($1,887), Second Studio Cassady ($1,887),

Labor Day

Growing up in New York City, Labor Day was always bittersweet.  On the one hand, it signaled the end of warm, carefree days spent without any obligations.  On the other hand, it also signaled a fresh start through blank pages, pristine erasers and new clothes.

I still get excited by the start of fall.  Though I desperately claw towards a break each summer, when I reach my parents’ farmhouse in the mountains, it is with a sense of relief, not eagerness. The days pass in a blur, and I walk around a little like a zombie, while my brain and body take time to recharge. By contrast, when I return to San Francisco at the end of the August, I do so with a low-grade electric buzz in my system.  I can’t wait to sweep away the detritus of the previous year and start all over, deciding which goals and projects to keep pursuing, and which ones to let go.  I discard every mental weight and superfluous object in my line of sight.  What I am left with is a clean, simple list filled with nothing but promise.

A few things on this year’s list:

  • Learn new skills: after spending a lot of time teaching and programming CCE, I decided that this year I would make more room for my own education.  I’ve already signed up for a cheese-making workshop and a long-overdue typography course.
  • Be my own client: my part-time job pays most of the bills, but it also means I essentially work three days a week for the same client.  I’ve decided to use the other two days to work mostly on my own projects, and to only take on new client work that really excites me.  After all, the only way I’m going to get hired for the projects I want to do is to first make those projects myself so clients can see examples in my portfolio.
  • Get representation: once the old portfolio is beefed up a little bit, I’m hoping to approach some agencies about representation.  I’m currently finding this difficult to research, so if anyone can share the name of a creative agency they like working with (especially if the agency does props), I would be forever grateful.

Do you have a fall ritual?  Anyone making a fresh start with their career or way of life?  I would love to hear the ways you recalibrate and welcome fall.

CCE 2011

I realize that I haven’t posted much lately, nor will I get through the mountain of no-longer-relevant items that I meant to post until mid-August at the earliest.  Why?  Because I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs.

Not to toot my own horn, but our schedule and speaker line-up has tuned out pretty kick-ass, don’t you think?  I’m especially excited to hear Jeff Rudell’s keynote address.  He is one of my personal heroes and it felt like a real coup to get him on board.  I’ll be posting an interview and sneak peek with him in the next week or two.  Other amazing speakers include:

  • Meg Mateo Ilasco, author of Creative, Inc. and Craft, Inc. and creator of Anthology magazine
  • Diane Gilleland, Editor-in-Chief of Craftzine.com
  • Erin Loechner of DesignforMankind.com and Uppercase magazine
  • Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop
  • Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith of The Curiosity Shoppe, authors of two Show Me How books, and creative directors of the Pop Up Magazine events
  • Artist and Illustrator Lisa Congdon
  • Cathe Holden of JustSomethingIMade.com
  • and more than 40 other generous and helpful experts

But seriously, check out the schedule and then register for all three days because it’s going to rock the free world and I want you all there with me.  You can RSVP for the CCE 2011 event on Facebook (and invite friends as well) or “like” the conference page.

The Creeps are Coming!

Leonardo the Octopus, my very first Deep Creep, will be making his debut in the Bazaar Bizarre pavilion at the Bay Area Maker Faire.  The Maker Faire takes place at the San Mateo Fairgrounds next Saturday and Sunday, May 21st-22nd.  If you’ve never been to the Maker Faire before, grab your friends and/or your kids and make a day of it.  Never will you see so much human creativity, ingenuity and fun in one place.

At the Bazaar Bizarre, I will have exactly 24 Leonardos.  No more.  Once they’re gone, you won’t be able to get your hands on one until they appear in stores at the end of June.  This is also the only time you will be able to purchase the Creeps directly from me, since I am getting out of the retail game.

Also at the LOV table will be the last of the Sweet Meats, and an event-only deal on Mitch the Monster.  I’m also considering offering some decorate-it-yourself plush misfit blanks, but I’m hoping the real coup de grace will be the display itself.  Come check it out!

Entrepreneurship by Necessity

This week’s East Bay Express newspaper, covering the eastern cities along San Francisco Bay, interviewed me for their feature, “The Recession-Era Entrepreneur.” The article, written by editor Kathleen Richards, explores the trend of Bay Area residents becoming entrepreneurs by necessity. According to Richards:

Due to the economy, slim job prospects, and skyrocketing education costs, more and more young people are finding their fairy-tale careers beyond reach, or simply not on the horizon. As a result, many are supplementing their incomes — or banking entirely on the do-it-yourself route — by starting their own businesses, many within niche or specialized fields.

It’s definitely a trend I’ve been seeing among my small business students.  What do you think: are entrepreneurs by necessity more likely to fail because they have less passion and/or planning, or are they more likely to succeed because they have more at stake and therefore try harder?

Do you have your own business?  If so, why did you decide to start it? Was it a lifelong dream, an economic necessity, or a combination of both?

WonderCon 2011

While last year I also spent most of WonderCon weekend behind my “small press” table, this year I was tasked with taking some photos for RottenTomatoes.com.

As is the case at all “cons,” the highlight is the attendees who come in costume (if I change the name to “Creative Entrepreneur Con,” do you think I can get people to come to CCE in costume?).  Below are a few of my favorite WonderCon things:

People who really sell it

Although I have to give props to Leah for trying to exude some major Carrie Fisher ‘tude, the clear winner here is definitely Lando Calrissian.  Look at that Billy Dee Williams point-and-smirk!  Classic.

Spidey really wanted to look good for the camera.  He took off his backpack and shoes for maximum authenticity, and then gave me multiple amazing and spiderrific poses.

Enthusiastic children

How psyched are these kids to be wearing their Halloween costumes in April? In public?!

Almost as psyched as this kid is to be eaten by the Alien.  Why are Leather-Spidey and Batman ignoring this perilous situation?

Non-human characters

Not to continue to harp on the awesomeness of the Alien, but he just roared so hard it blurred this guy’s face off!

I love love love R2.  He rolls around the hall all day, bleeping and blooping sweet nothings and hugging children armlessly.

DIY Amazingness

I’m not sure who this character is, though I want to say it’s the evil slave lord from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  But check out his awesome skull hat — he made that himself with tinfoil and model magic.  Tin foil!  I wonder if he got the heart from I Heart Guts, who also had a booth.

Group costumes

Picture Day aboard the Death Star:  “Okay now, troopers to the right, officers to the left…yes…now everyone remove your helmets and say ‘Hail Vader!’ Wonderful! That one’s going on the company web site.”

I have no idea who these insect-guys are, nor why they’re traveling with a 60s flight attendant, but they sure make for an intriguing tableau as they buzz by.  They remind me a little bit of Arthur the Moth from The Tick.