LWM ~ Different Shades of the Same Color

My first Listening-Wearing-Making post of the year! I honestly wasn't sure if I'd continue this series this year. I hit a point last year where I simply felt like I was listening to all of the same music all of the time and wearing the same small section of my wardrobe. I did feel like I was making a lot of new designs tho! But like all things, I think we seek comfort and familiarity with some things when life gets a bit bumpy or busy, and the last quarter of the year is nothing if not busy for me! 

Listening ~ On to the good stuff! Please, oh please, if you are a lover of bluegrass/folk/americana music go and listen to Rayna Gellert's new album Workin's Too Hard. I'm in love with this album that's a mix of old-timey traditional and original songs. (If you love Gillian Welch I think it's safe to say you'll love Gellert.) 

Wearing ~ Lately I've been especially into monochromatic anything, including outfits. There's something subtle and textural to an outfit that is mostly varying shades of the same color. I like the rusty-red orange of this tank top with the brick red of this skirt. (I actually changed to a ruddy  red brown nubby sweater before I left the house for my day.)

Outfit details:
~ tank top, sweater, skirt, and boots - all thrifted
~ River Rocks Necklace
~ Akin Earrings
~ Stepping Stones Bracelet
~ Twist ring

As an aside, I seriously cannot believe sometimes how long my hair has gotten in the last year. I think I just got so busy with things I'm passionate about that I stopped paying attention to it, until one day I realized I could practically sit on it!

Making ~ This month I've been very focused on creating the prototypes for my next collector for spring/summer. This collection is going to be very feminine and fun, with bright juicy colors and more limited edition designs. Below is a sneak of something I'm pretty darn excited to debut, and can't wait to model for you guys! I'm going to have the new line available by March 13th. Follow along on Instagram if you want to see more sneak peeks as that date rolls closer. 

Happy Thursday everyone!

Item of The Week ~ Effortless and Elegant Petal Earrings

It's been fun featuring a new weekly item these last few weeks! There's always so much that goes into each design, from mining my life for inspiration, to figuring out how to streamline the production, to creating a prototype and giving it a test-run (which basically means I wear the piece for a few days to see how it wears, then I make any necessary tweaks to the design), to photographing each piece for listing on my web-shops.

PetalEar.jpg

This week I'm featuring my Petal Earrings. These are such a great classic staple for any wardrobe! I was inspired by flower petals (specifically lotus flower petals) in creating this design, hence the name. With their monochromatic coloring and small, delicate nature you can throw these on and just about forget you're wearing any earrings at all. 

As my offer to you this week, these earrings will be available at 1/2 off in my shop through next Monday when I'll have a new item-of-the-week for your enjoyment! That makes them only $16.50 per pair (plus shipping and any applicable taxes of course.) Simply use the discount code petal and you're on your way to your new favorite pair of everyday earrings. 

Thanks for reading! 

Item of the Week ~ A classic: Swoops Earrings

This week I chose to feature a classic Tangleweeds design: the Swoops Earrings. I love this design. It's one that I am especially proud of and that my customers seem to love (thank you!) Last year I rolled it out in even more stone options, like the moonstone pictured below.

I remember when this design came to life. I was still working in my garage studio (which was also my living space - yes, folks, for the first year and a half running Tangleweeds I rented a garage bedroom that doubled as my studio!) It was a rare afternoon where I had some time to mess around with creating metal components. I had made a bunch of these curved metal bars and simply decided to turn them vertical instead of horizontal. 

The nice effect of this design is the way they swing and dance as the wearer moves about. They're also very lightweight - one of my Tangleweeds signatures. 

My *special offer* on this design is 35% off with code swoops through next Monday. Click here to shop the Swoops, or click on either of the images above. 

And, P.S., these make for a great Valentine's Day gift for any gal that likes long earrings!

Creative Tenacity: Hard Work, Smoke and Mirrors, Connections, and Time

Welcome to Creative Tenacity! My new blog series that I hope will be full of helpful advice for those of you looking to sell your handmade wares. . . or maybe even start your own handmade business! 

For this first entry I wanted to dwell on some general thoughts and feelings I have, and that many others in the handmade business realm share, about what it takes to make it all work, and especially, what you need in the way of guts, stamina, and gumption to even get started. 

Pretty much all of the advice I’m going to offer here I wish I had taken a bit more seriously when I was first getting started!

1. You’re going to work harder and longer than you ever thought you could/would and it’s not always going to be fun or even make you happy. Yup, that’s right. Especially if you quit your day job and now have the added pressure of paying your bills with your business. Now that doesn't mean it won't be hugely satisfying and rewarding - it will be! - but it's going to demand more of you than sometimes feels possible.

I can remember, when I still had a day job and would day dream about working at Tangleweeds full time, thinking that once I could, then nothing would be too much. There would be plenty of time and I would always get EVERYTHING done on my to-do list. And I thought I would do it all serenely, while walking around in a Zen like state everyday, perfectly content and happy in the mere fact that I worked for myself. 

Boy-oh-boy was I wrong! Very quickly I realized that most days I was barley going to skim the surface of what I hoped to accomplish and that no, I wasn’t going to serenely go about my days completely free of all stress. I struggled with this. I thought that once I was working on Tangleweeds full-time I would find unlimited satisfaction and happiness in my life. I thought that because I struggled so much at first, that I was doing something terribly wrong. (When I look back on the first couple of years of Tangleweeds I think the only thing I really did wrong was simply be too hard on myself.) As time went by I learned the invaluable lesson that I had been pinning unrealistic hopes on Tangleweeds: that my career with Tangleweeds would fulfill me in all ways, would be my ticket that declared I was a worthy person. (As a side-note: one of the enormous perks about being an entrepreneur is you will learn so much about yourself if you’re paying attention on this journey.)

So, in total: Know that you’re going to work very hard for possibly longer than you anticipated (like, years!) and that you might not always be thrilled with every step of the journey. AND, maybe most importantly, just because the journey is hard and at times discouraging, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that you should give up. Quite the contrary, it means you’re doing it!!! The hard work pays off in little bits over time. 

2. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the handmade business world so don’t compare yourself or your business to others. 

Now, when I was still working my day job (coffee shop for those who might wonder) I loved to read Etsy’s “Quit Your Day Job” series and pour through blogs by folks who had made the big break to pursue their passion full time. At the time that was actually great fuel for me. It energized me to believe that it was possible to sell my jewelry full time. But something I realized very quickly when I did quit the day job was that I had to distance myself, at least a little bit, from keeping up on how everyone else was doing selling their handmade jewelry, clothes, dolls, etc. If I wasn’t careful it quickly became a game of comparison that would do the exact opposite of energizing me. It would deplete me and leave me feeling like a failure for not being further along with my biz. 

The reason this sort of comparison is so pointless is for one basic reason: you don’t know what resources, circumstances, support system, etc this other person you’re idolizing may have at their fingertips. You also don’t know how long they’ve been at it. Oftentimes 10 year handmade businesses can look like overnight successes, especially if you discover them one night in a half-drunk, pity-party Pinterest binge. I know folks with 10s of thousands of Instagram followers who are barely making a dime off of their business. I know folks with a measly following of 50 on Instagram who have ben supporting themselves and a family for years. The surface of things can be deceiving at times, hence what I mean when I say there can be a lot of “smoke and mirrors” when it comes to running a successful handmade business (or any type of business for that matter.) Remember to focus on what you’re doing! If it’s helpful, give yourself social media “black out” periods where you can truly hone-in on and focus on what you’re doing, and especially what makes your work so wonderful.

There are many other resources and opportunities that are going to vary with each person’s unique set of circumstances and lifestyles. Everyone has their own unique set of limitations on their time and money as well. After about two years of full-timing it with Tangleweeds I would often start to get frustrated that I wasn’t feeling “further along” and a large part of this frustration came from comparison (who is it that once said “comparison is the thief of all joy?”) I think though, the best antidote to the unhealthy comparison game that we can all easily get sucked into in today’s social media age is true connection with others who get what you’re going through. . . which naturally leads me to my next piece of advice. . . 

3. Talk to your peers and to others doing what you’re doing. This part is SO important! And it took this naturally inclined introvert a couple of years to realize the importance of it. 

Being an introvert I was totally cocky about working for myself. So many people warned me I would be lonely, it would be hard working by myself and for myself. That I would miss the camaraderie of a true “workplace.” I thought that none of that would get to me. Boy was I wrong! The re-affirming nature of just having someone to give even just 30-second feedback completely evaporated. I didn’t fully realize how much I was missing work cohorts until I started to connect with other makers at the arts and crafts fairs I would sell at every month. Over time those connections grew into something truly sustaining. Many of them are now friendships that criss-cross our business lives and are some of the most valuable relationships I’ve made in my adult life.

Now, I did say your “peers” and not folks that you look up to who are already successful and this is for a good reason. Folks who are where you’re at are often a better immediate resource for info that is relevant to your concerns in the present. They are also a lot more likely to be able to relate to where you’re coming from with your struggles than someone 10, 12 or 20 years along. (As an aside: I do think that asking for advice from folks whom you look up to is a great idea, it’s just not the exact point I’m making right now. It’s also something that I have loads of advice on, but that’s for another time =). 

I think maybe the two most significant things I’ve done since starting Tangleweeds that have really helped create a community around me of like-minded and similarly employed folks, has been -

  1. joining the San Francisco Etsy Team
  2. to co-create with Kyla of Impressed By Nature a small business incubator group that meets monthly and provides daily support for each other as we navigate our businesses and our lives. We named the group Creative Pursuit Collective, and I’ll share more about that group in a later post, but feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments!

At this point in my Tangleweeds career I feel lucky to say I have a wonderful and supportive group of people around me who help me get through the tough times and offer feedback and advice when I need it. If you’re not sure where to start regarding connecting with others, here are my top three suggestions:

  1. if you sell on Etsy, join the Etsy team (https://www.etsy.com/teams) for your local area. I know not all geographic areas have their own Etsy teams, but you can always look into joining the one that is closest to your locale.
  2. even if you’re not ready to participate in some of the larger, more expensive craft fairs, look into smaller events like pop-ups and local street fairs. Then, bring a friend or a family member along to help you out so you can get away from your booth for a bit and talk to other vendors (while always being mindful that they are there to work and sell their product, so if they’re busy with customers, make sure to graciously step aside.) Sometimes just the briefest of introductions is enough. If you can grab a business card of theirs you can connect with them later, after the event is over via email or other social media.
  3. work on those close connections. While joining groups and meeting people through social media is wonderful, there’s nothing better than one or two people whom you can really connect with, who really get you. I highly recommend making time for lunch or a coffee date with a single real life person once a week, or maybe twice a month, if your schedule will allow for it. And I don’t just mean with folks who run handmade businesses as well. I’m talking about the connections you hd before you ventured into this territory. Fostering and nourishing these relationships is important too!

Most of all, remember that like most things in life, building a supportive community of people around you will take some time. Be kind and gentle with yourself as you navigate this new way of connecting. 

4. And lastly for today: give yourself lots of time. By which I mean, give yourself plenty of time to hone your craft/skill, etc. 

I recently started weaving. As a hobby. I am not interested in trying to sell my weavings any time soon as I want to cater to the creative freedom that comes from not putting too many demands on a passion. I made jewelry for at least 7 years before I ever sold a piece. Mainly because I was so passionate about the work that I didn’t really want to pull any energy away from the sheer act of creating. 

Once you decide to start selling your work, and especially if you decide to start a business, you are always going to have a lot of balls in the air at once. Making time for pure creative experimentation and exploration will no longer be your main priority (don’t get me wrong, you’ll still need to make time for this). There were moments in the first couple of years full-time with Tangleweeds when I craved the time to simply mess around creatively with no concern for the consequences. In the beginning though, I had to push that time to the outer edges of my schedule while I figured out all of the practical business stuff.

In short, if you’re just getting started on your craft, don’t rush into making a business of it right off the bat. Selling your work a little bit on the side though can provide invaluable feedback. I encourage you to give your creative muscles the room they need to grow before launching into creating a business from your handmade work. 

There you have it! The four pieces of advice that I think are pretty damn invaluable to anyone starting out selling their handmade goods:

1. Be prepared to work harder than you thought possible
2. Don't compare your journey to anyone else's.
3. Connect with folks who are doing something similar.
4. Give yourself time to hone your skill/craft.

Now, I'd love to hear from you guys! Leave a comment on the post below about your handmade business adventures. What's the single best piece of advice you received? And maybe, if you were like me, a good piece of advice you didn't take heed of at first but wish you had? 

I'll be back in mid February with my next Creative Tenacity post. In all honesty, I'm not sure what I'll cover in that post just yet. But it'll be something brought to you from my unique perspective, honed by 7 and 1/2 years running Tangleweeds. I sincerely hope you enjoyed this post and found at least some of it helpful!

New Series * Item of the Week Feature

Eons ago, back when I didn't have a website and I still blogged over at Blogspot/Blogger, I used to run a special "item of the week" feature. I've decided to bring this feature back because I love how it allows me to really put the spotlight on one particular piece - to give more detail behind the design and why I love it! I'll also be offering the special item at a discount for the week it is featured. 

For the first item of the week I chose the Desert Fan Earrings, a personal favorite of mine from the Earth Relics collection that I put out last year. Last year I was really finding myself drawn to larger, more organically shaped stones and wanted to find a way to showcase some of these stones in earrings. That alone is a challenge as larger stones have a quite a bit of weight to them. I prefer to design earrings that are lightweight and easy to wear. These particular rutilated quartz stones I used were the perfect size: large enough to showcase the natural beauty of the stone, but small enough to not be too heavy for earrings. 

I also knew I wanted to incorporate elements of beadwork into the design with some hand-forged metal components. The soft palette of these reminds me of a sunrise over the Arizona desert, and an overall softness and softening of my approach towards life that needed to happen at the time.  

If you love these and want to get a pair before they sell out (there are 3 pairs left, all of the Earth Relics pieces are very limited editions), then head on over to my shop and use the code "desertfan" for 40% off now through next Monday, when I'll release a new item of the week!

And happy Monday to all!

Full Circle ~ Self Care and Creative Windows

Getting back into the swing of things this week. Working on my next collection for spring and summer. Trying to focus more on self care. I often struggle with that last one. I'm so driven to work hard and create with Tangleweeds that sometimes it feels easier to, well, just do things the easy way, which for me tends to lead to long work hours and not a lot of time for taking care of myself. But I promised myself I'd truly make an effort to take better care of myself this year. I'm starting small: daily meditation (even if it's just in the car during my drives from Vallejo to Oakland and back), flossing (and making an appointment for a teeth cleaning), and stretching - all daily. 

Above, assorted photos from the Seattle tradeshow and work in progress. Also, I got a rolling mill last week and I couldn't be more thrilled. It's seriously helping to streamline a huge chunk of my production along with opening up some new creative doors. I'll post more about the mill once I really get crankin' with it!

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Below: Some pieces that shipped out to one of my new stockists in Seattle.

worktable explosion as I work on my next collection

Ahh, Thursday. My favorite day of the week. Seriously, for the longest time it's been my favorite. Two of my favorite radio shows are on on Thursdays (one about herbalism and one about astrology and activism), and in general there's just something in the air that makes me love this particular day of the week. Today I'm working from home, but I'm also going to take some time out to go see a movie all by myself, one of my absolute favorite things to do! I think I'm going to go see La La Land.

Enjoy your Thursday everyone!

P.S. Next Tuesday my first Creative Tenacity post will go up here. I'm touching on some of the most salient advice I was offered when I was first starting out, and why it took me a while to realize I needed to take the advice offered. I hope you'll join me here for a good read.

Creative Tenacity

If you follow me over on Instagram, then you already know that this year I’m going to be starting a regular series of blog posts geared specifically towards my fellow creatives who are looking to start selling their handmade goods! Helping others out in the small ways that I can is something I’ve been wanting to incorporate into Tangleweeds for quite some time now, and this blog + Instagram seemed like a great way to do it. 

I’m going to cover the areas of running a small handmade biz that I feel the most equipped to offer advice on. Topics will range from the specific to the more broad, touching on such aspects as finding success at craft fairs, resources for inspiration and motivation, vendor etiquette, taking the leap into wholesale, building and finding a creative community that supports you, and so much more.

I’m excited to offer this to my creative followers and readers of this blog!

Before I offer up my first serving of creative advice though, I want to dispel any notions my readers may have that I am an all-knowing, all-seeing, have all of the answers at the tips of my fingers creative biz-wiz lady. ‘Cause you were thinking that, right ;-)? In all seriousness, I want to offer up my perspective because I think that it may be helpful to some other folks out there struggling to sell their handmade work. And because helping others feels great! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many of us, especially women, love to help others out, but when it comes to asking for help for ourselves we’d often rather walk around in the dark, stubbing our toes on things and bumping into who-knows-what rather than admit we need help. I am a work in progress when it comes to admitting I need help, but one thing I have found to be true is that the more I offer assistance to others and see them benefitting from it (and not keeling over dead because they asked for it) the more I’m able to ask for help myself. 

I also think that we all have our own unique perspective and vision that is unlike anyone else’s. Being a millennial I grew up with the notion that we are all “unique snowflakes” and that idea has been torn apart and made fun of in many a social media “news” article, but I think there is some truth to that. How many times have you met someone, someone who you had made certain assumptions about, or over-simplified in your head, only to discover that the subtle nuances and unique attributes about that person are like no one else? I may be going a little astray with that tangent, but my main point is to say, the more us creative entrepreneurs share what our path looks like, and how we got to where we are, the more clear it becomes for others. So much of this handmade economy is rather new, lending to a “walking around in the dark” feeling to many of us when we first set off down this twisty road. And while my path isn’t going to look exactly like anyone else’s path, sharing my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gleaned from the last 7 and 1/2 years of running Tangleweeds may help someone else out with a problem or tough spot they may be in.  

My first helpful-advice post will go up on January 31st. In the meantime I’m combing through my own notes and listening to what others would like to hear more about. If there’s a specific topic you’d like more info on, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll endeavor to make it a part of the topics I cover in 2017. 

In the meantime, I hope everyone’s new year has been off to a good start. With so many different types of energy swirling around in all of our day-to-days, I know it can sometimes be difficult to maintain focus and vision on a creative business. I hope this little blog here helps a few of you out along the way! #creativetenacity

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Full Circe ~ Ready to Dive In

Good morning! And happy new year! (even if it is a couple of weeks late=) I'm freshly back from a trip to Seattle for the Seattle Gift Tradeshow and a two day re-treat with my fellow biz-ladies, the Creative Pursuit Collective. Needless to say, the last half of December and the first half of this month have gone by in a blur! 

I drove up to Seattle with Amy Rose. It was a winding and challenging adventure, what with the huge storms blowing through the west coast during our travels. Not to mention the nervousness ahead of us about how the tradeshow would go. The trip was a good reminder though, that if I can push myself to do things that make me a little nervous and a little uncomfortable, that the rewards will come in dividends for years to come! I'm now feeling a little bit like I could take on the world if (I needed to.)

By Chance necklaces  - a popular hit at the Seattle Tradeshow. 

By Chance necklaces - a popular hit at the Seattle Tradeshow. 

Slightly tacky opulence at  The Unicorn  lounge/bar in Seattle. We didn't have a lot of time for non-work related activity, but we managed to sneak in a bit of downtime! I simply adored this place.

Slightly tacky opulence at The Unicorn lounge/bar in Seattle. We didn't have a lot of time for non-work related activity, but we managed to sneak in a bit of downtime! I simply adored this place.

A couple of days after getting back from Seattle, I was off to a short two day re-treat with the Creative Pursuit Collective, a small handmade business incubator group that I formed with Kyla O'neil of Impressed BY Nature almost two years ago. This was our first re-treat. It was rewarding, challenging, and insightful. We're already planning a mini-one for the middle of the year!

The ladies of the Creative Pursuit Collective (CPC) left to right: Ann Marie, Kyla O-Neil, Laura Bruland Shields, Maggie Hurley, and me! (Not pictured, Creek Lia Van Houten)

The ladies of the Creative Pursuit Collective (CPC) left to right: Ann Marie, Kyla O-Neil, Laura Bruland Shields, Maggie Hurley, and me! (Not pictured, Creek Lia Van Houten)

There's going to be lots of great stuff coming in 2017 for Tangleweeds and I can't wait to share it ALL with you guys. But, first and most relevant given that you're reading my blog right now: I'll be starting a series called Creative Tenacity. It will be a series of monthly or bi-monthly blog posts chock-a-block full of helpful tips and info for anyone hoping to venture into the world of selling their handmade goods. Look for a post with more details about that next week. 

And in the meantime, I hope 2017 is off to an inspiring start for everyone. I know we've all got our challenges and that the road ahead will not always be clear. What I do know is that the more you surround yourself with people who can support you through it all, the little bit easier and more manageable it all becomes. 

Secret Sale Just For Blog Readers

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! And hello quiet blog?! This time of the year is always jam-packed for me, and one of the things I often don't have time for is blogging. I know I have loyal readers out there, and in lieu of new posts for the rest of the year, I wanted to extend my Good Karma sale to you guys for the rest of the year.

***Take 30% off all orders in my Webshop (this sale does not include my Etsy shop) through the end of the day, New Year's Eve!***

Simply use code "GoodKarma"*

*orders placed between December 13th and the end of the year cannot be guaranteed for holiday delivery

I hope everyone has a beautiful end-of-the-year!

LWM ~ Bringing Back the Fall Layers

It's finally feeling like fall around here! The sounds of raindrops in the morning, pumpkins in the store (I like the funky, warty ones!), and warm layers to make you feel all cozy. 

Lately I've been listening to ~ The Felice Brothers new album. Currently my favorite song is Aerosol Ball. There lyrics are fun and slightly off-the-wall with a honky-tonk, country feel. Enjoy!

Wearing ~ Layers again! Tights and boots with skirts and dresses are my go-to when the weather gets colder. I actually think I wear pants in the spring and summer, more than I do in the colder months. I'm also wearing two of my current go-to pieces from the Tangleweeds collection: the Soar necklace in speckled rose, and the Raindrops earrings

Making ~ More earrings in the style of these Mountain Fan Earrings. I've been so happy that my new designs have been received as well as they have by my fans and collectors. I love working with these unusual stones in slightly larger and sometimes irregular shapes and sizes. There will definitely be more of this work coming to the webshop in the next few months. 

I hope everyone's week is going well! I'm a busy making bee prepping for my slew of holiday events. I still need to nail down my open studio hours. For you local folks who like to shop from me directly at my studio, I'll have those hours up by the end of next week!