Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Road with Dreamweaver: Summer Festivals

It had been my intention to create a blog entry following each festival, but graduation, applying for taking the board exams, and all of life's little crisis have gotten in the way. So I'll do my best to share a few pictures and comments on our experiences. For folks crazy enough to think about vending, these entries will at least give you a feel for what you should expect. I'll probably enlist Hannah's story telling as well. But since she's now fully immersed in sanding and buffing pendants, it seems only appropriate to give her the space to write as well!

We had a fabulous time at the Fabulous Forth in Columbus, NC. Perhaps the greatest grace, besides excellent sales and a lot of fun, was the fact that our art was truly appreciated. Folks there valued the work that goes into creating pendants for our table. It was a wonderfully organized festival - they had trash cans down the middle of the street at regular intervals with boxes for recycling; the only event we've seen that did that. They had virtually no litter at the end of the event!

We did have the privilege of being stuck with a tent on the right hosted by a local Baptist church, and on the left were the Shriners with their fancy little cars. I say "stuck", because the Baptists were blowing up helium balloons for the kids, so on the right we had these sound effects - *FWEEEEEEP* with an occasional *BLAM* when a balloon popped. On the left, the Shriners were letting the kids honk the horns on their show cars - *AHHH-OOOOOOGAH!* So all day long it was *FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*, *FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*,*FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*, with the occasional *BLAM* thrown in. Hannah developed a nasty twitch and may require therapy... The weather was excellent, as it was still early in the season, and not too hot - also we were into the edge of the North Carolina mountains and the elevation also meant it was cooler.

We each bought watermelon for the other on the sly and had a great laugh over that! One sale we remember in particular was to a lovely older woman dressed elegantly in a pink outfit. She spotted one of Cyn's polymer clay necklace creations (priced at $45.00) and it was a perfect match for her beautiful attire. She stood there awhile and tried to talk herself out of the purchase, but she had clearly fallen in love with it at first sight, and it truly fit her as though it had been specifically designed for her. She of course, bought it and went off very happy!

We also saw a magnificent parrot riding around on a man's shoulder that preened at all the attention it gathered. Another wonderful encounter was a group of very talented young people who were in a local theater troupe who were all wearing shirts advertising their latest production - "Aida". When we talked to them about it, it turns out that this was the Elton John/Tim Rice version of the opera (Hannah has seen Verdi's version). We were invited to come see their show later in the week, but our schedules made it impossible, alas! These kids pounced on the earing selection and about bought it out, which was great fun! The Fabulous Fourth ended with - what else? - a fabulous firework display which was glorious! Then, very late at night, we packed up and drove home, happy and exhausted.

Our next event, however, was - um - challenging. We went to the Gaffney SC Peach Festival, a few weeks later with high expectations. Its the largest Peach festival in the state, with festival locations all over the town for 2 days. We were signed up for both Friday and Saturday and discovered that a crucial alteration was to have extreme effect on us. The past years, the Peach Festival had the arts and crafts section located indoors in a building. This year, for some reason, they had moved the Arts and crafts section outside. This proved to be unfortunate.

We arrived to find chaos already there ahead of us, as there had been a mistake in measuring out the 10x10 booth areas. They were hastily rearranging vendor locations to fit and we wound up around a far bend, in the sun, just past the shade trees...darn it! Oh well. We got the tent up, and Hannah ran an errand for extra drinks and lunch supplies, while Cindy set up the tables. When Hannah returned,sales were brisk and things were looking good....until Hannah peered around the back of the tent and saw THE CLOUD.

Hastily, she informed Cyn that we had better batten down the hatches because a bad storm was coming. However, all Cyn could see was a bright sunny day out the front of the tent, so she assured Hannah that it would be OK to continue a little longer. After a couple of repetitions of this, Hannah finally asked Cyn to look around back, because The Cloud was now a green-black wall of thunder and lightening taking up most of the sky behind us, where upon Cyn's eyes bugged out and we began dropping the tent flaps and pulling in the merchandise! We almost didn't make it!

The howling maelstrom struck moments later and we tell you folks, given that there was some cloud rotation, 60 mile per hour winds, hail and continues lightening, thunder and a solid wall of water out there, it was as close as we EVER want to come to sitting out a tornado in a tent! We had discovered moments before that the zipper on the front tent flaps had broken, so Hannah valiantly grabbed the two front flaps and held them together, and was swiftly soaked through from head to toe. Cyn's was inside the tent hanging on to the frame, that despite being pegged firmly into the ground, kept lifting off. Without Cyn hanging on for all she was worth, the tent would have flipped.

At one point a large crash heralded the large double tent two spaces down from us being hurled across the road, smashing and scattering merchandise everywhere - several other vendors suffered the same fate. But the worst was yet to come...the water began to rise. With appalling lack of foresight, the festival planers had placed us in a field with no drainage...and we were at the low point. Helplessly, we watched the water flow into the tent and steadily rise until we were standing in a foot of water that would not drain away! So there stood Cyn, knee deep in water, clinging to the shaking tent frame, and she finally yelled at the raging storm "You can't have it, its MY tent!!!" Several vendors sheltering desperately under another tent near by heard her and broke up in sympathetic laughter.

The storm finally past, but the flood did not. Hannah hiked down to the entry gate to find help and discovered that the woman in charge of the festival had run home briefly on an unavoidable errand, and was not there. She arrived moments later, horrified at the damage and havoc, for there had been no storm when she had left. Upon hearing of our plight, she immediately followed Hannah back over and froze in appalled shock at our tent and area which was now mired in a foot deep lake of muddy water.

She immediately let us choose another spot across the road on higher ground and sent down four enthusiastic strong teenagers to help us move across the way. We are very grateful for the assistance we were so promptly given! (Hannah had a traumatic moment when it was discovered we were once again next to the Shriners! AH-OOOOOGAH!) We got everything moved, locked it down and went home (we were only a little over an hour from where we lived) and changed out of our soaking wet clothing - Hannah literally looked like she had been submerged - showered, got a warm meal in our bellies and came back.

In our absence, another storm rolled through, but our tent weathered it all right, thank God! At this point, there were no customers, as they had fled the storms, and it was growing dark. We have a generator - many thanks to Hannah's electrical engineer of a brother who procured it for us! - so we had lights set up to vend at night. However, that was when we spotted our second serious draw back. The huge field we were set up in had the rides, the music stage and the barbecue area all at one end....and the arts and crafts at the far end away from everything.

Separated as we were from the rest of the event, there was no pedestrian traffic flow our way, and no lighting, so our end of the field was dark. We had lighting - but we were isolated and did not have another customer that night.

The next morning we returned and discovered a new problem...there had been conflicting times given for the opening and closing of the festival. The vendors had been told one time frame, but the public had been told another - if we had known the officially listed times were 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, only four hours - we would probably not have anted up to go to this event. So we sat there with virtually no customers yet again for 2 - 3 hours, before the crowd finally began to trickle by.

At this point, thouragly alarmed by non-existent sales, we began running our sales pitch with a vengeance, It paid off to some extent. We made the (rather higher) cost of the festival plus expenses back, with some small profit. Most of the other vendors were not as woman only made $80.00 dollars combined total for the two days of the festival, which as she was from Tennessee, was a severe loss.

Most vendors there either took a loss, or barely broke even...we were very lucky! At this point, unless we hear that the Peach Festival has moved the Arts and Crafts back into an indoor venue, we will not be returning to this festival!

And then this last weekend, we were in Little Mountain SC for the Reunion Festival and it was fantastic! We had fairly good sales, we met many wonderful new friends, both other vendors and customers, heard great music, and even got some beer - Hannah immediately became the designated driver, but we truly didn't drink that much...and in that heat, it sweated out again immediately anyway!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the Road with Designs by Dreamweaver: Newry and Trenton

My small business venture is a huge success despite the challenges! The latest challenge occurred two weeks ago, just before we went to a festival, when I realized that the finish I had been using was not trustworthy. I had researched and learned that Varathane and Future floor polish were good on polymer pendants. The only Varathane in the area came by the gallon at $40, but Minwax had a similar product that was $10 for a small amount. I've been using it on all my pendants and beads. Then I learned the hard way that it doesn't work, despite the recommendations on the internet. So I pulled everything on the table (if anyone reading this has a problem, please contact me!!!).  I had two weeks to get enough product on the table to go to festival. Shesh. So I concentrated on pendants, creating about 50 and sanding another 25 before using my new Varanthane. I pulled all necklaces with polymer beads, and only had about four replacements on the table -- but those sell better at Etsy (even when I deliver in person -- the sales number on the site is deceptive).  

I'm pleased to say we visited Newry, SC two weeks for their mill festival. An unincorporated township, they are in Wikipedia but not my GPS! No gas station, nor Wal-mart, but they do have a post office and a population of 52 in the 2000 census. We met a lot of art lovers, however, who truly appreciated our work, and sold five of my handcrafted polymer pendants. They also seemed to appreciate the murano style glass and danglingly earrings from Peru (a real boon since they had only arrived the day before - the lady at the table next to me was selling the same thing for more than twice what I asked). 

We didn't even have time to take pictures, so this picture of the mill, where they offered tours, is courtesy of Wikipedia. The mill has been sold to a development company who plans to invest $11 million to convert it to apartments. We were set up on the main street and the kind people in the house behind us provided me with electricity for my fan. We were impressed with both the music and the hospitality, and plan to attend next year's festival as well. 

Last weekend we got up at 3:45 to drive to Trenton, SC, returning home at 3 the following morning (why didn't we do this when we were in our twenties?). We had a terrific time, located near the bandstand, enjoying local talent. We were entertained by an Elvis impersonator, fabulous local musical talent and dance. 

We had a great reception, once again finding that low prices got us quite a few customers. It's tough watching my pendants, which I spend a great deal of time designing, creating, sanding through three grits, buffing and polishing selling for $5. 

But they do sell! They still don't sell as quickly as the glass, but I'm working on the process and think as the glass becomes a passing fad, their popularity will increase. 

I've also employed the resident artist in more than running the buffing wheel. When we were at Newry, a lovely lady I'll call Miss Betty described her family's life around the mill. Five generations they lived in Newry and worked at the mill. She was looking for a humming bird for her sister for Christmas. When I got home, I put her to work painting. Imagine a mural artist with a tiny pendant! LOL She said she needed a smaller brush! 
I liked the results so much, I asked for a few more and sold three at work. These are priced between $15 and $22. 

I'm not satisfied with the pictures of the pendants I created, so I'll post them next time. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sold! Black and Gold Murano Star Necklace

Because every necklace has a story...

I was busily typing notes for a wonderful woman with whom I often barter services. In the midst of the job, she reenters the room and says, "I love the star necklace on your website. If it does not sell, I'd love to barter for it!" At that point, her wonderful partner cries out "Sold!" And orders my employer to leave the room. "I just got paid, and what I do I owe you?" Smart like a fox, I ask, "Do you want matching earrings, too?" The picture is the happy result.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On the Road: Murrell's Inlet

It's been a long time since I've written in this blog. To catch up, on fast forward, Hannah and I have both graduated. Hannah's applying to grad school school, but is temporarily in a holding pattern. I am officially done, but graduation isn't until August. Since student loads have paid mortgage and lot rent for three and a half years, and we didn't expect the lag time for Hannah's acceptance into grad school, we've been suddenly thrust into overdrive. 

So in addition to working full time and finishing grad school, I've been devoting every spare moment to jewelry making. I work 5 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday with occasional three hour stints early Saturday mornings. So I would get off work after trying to work in homework where I could, and rush home to the studio. The result has been amazing. I've done great work, if I do say so myself, and have had a wonderful time at various venues showing off. I created wonderful puzzle piece necklaces, inspired by a dream, and thought they would be perfect for Murrell's Inlet. But since I'm so far behind blogging, I'll start with the Myrtle Beach trip several weeks ago.

Immediately following Hannah's extremely successful senior show (she sold a fabulous painting for $1,000!), we went to the Blessing of the Inlet at Murrell's Inlet in the Myrtle Beach area. We had a wonderful time there, learned a lot, and met terrific people. We had been very excited about this opportunity to vend. Last winter, Hannah found the ad in a local paper looking for artists/craftsmen. The first rule was that all items had to be hand crafted by the exhibitor. No reselling of items, representing someone else's work, no kits, etc. Since I not only design jewelry but create much of it from polymer clay, I was certain I would be successful. I submitted a portfolio and was accepted. When we arrived I was surprised by the number of jewelry vendors, since the application stated people would be turned down if too many representatives of any one type of item applied. Nevertheless, I liked the vendors surrounding us, especially Carol from Connecticut who vends gorgeous dichrolic glass. 

Shortly after the festival began, I sent Hannah out to case the competition. She came back rather alarmed at the breach of the clearly specified rules. Hannah stated that a group of four had ten tables and three tents in the center of entrance. As soon as patrons approached, they saw this booth of Murano style glass pendants. No decoration to the tents. Just poster board prices, ribbons, and glass. Hannah even walked up and asked which of them was the artist an the lady just kind of sputtered. Another woman overhead, and walked over bold as brass, proclaiming, "Both of us." Since I have a couple of identical pieces beaded into necklaces on my table, we all know she lied.

My neighbor Carol didn't sell a thing all day. She said she's vended for 22 years and never had that experience before. I sold three necklaces, only earning the cost of the festival (add camping for two days and gas money and I lost $200). Turns out, the pendant people had been in my very spot last year and were the only ones to have a successful day. (Carol and several others were new to the festival, like me). The hosts are aware, but tolerate the fiction in order to fill vending spaces. Carol told me that up until 5-10 years ago, vending was extremely lucrative. If you spent $30 for a spot, you averaged $300 in profit. As costs have increased, standards have decreased. Rules are ignored to fill spaces as older vendors stop vending. Newer folks making smaller profits and sometimes break the rules to be able to come out ahead.

Certainly, many festival do enforce their rules. But smaller ones, maybe not. The more I talk with other vendors, the more I hear about declining income, desperation, and necessity. I knew I to get a new plan...more on that in the next blog. Despite our bitter disappointment, we still had a lot of fun. The day was beautiful, the smell of salt water enticing. We had a steady breeze and later I used a napkin to wipe my face -- it came awake entirely blackened! Silt was everywhere. The music on stage was also off key all day. A comment form passed to the vendors became my opportunity to clearly explain why I wold not be back. But we stayed cheerful, had a wonderful fish dinner at the local eatery, and spent the next morning sitting on the beach.

The following day we headed to Brookgreen Gardens, a treat we have discussed for years. As an English Major with a minor in Art History, I discovered a little known sculptor by the name of Paul Manship. I wrote several papers on his work having seen it in the Dixon Art Gallery in Memphis, TN. Many years ago I told Hannah about him, and she was enchanted. I shared by museum book of Manship's work, and she was stunned. She had seen several of Manship's work, those marked location unknown, in Brookgreen! 

There are no words for the wonder of the experience of Brookgreen Gardens. We arrived at the height of the spring flowers. The walk around the gardens, the heady scent of spring blooms, and the wonder of the art soothed our much wounded souls. I hadn't sold a single puzzle piece necklace, although I must have head a hundred compliments on them, and was bitterly disappointed. As I stood beneath Manship's sundial, I cried in wonder. It had stood at the gates of the 1939 World's Fair and was considered to be the world's largest sundial. 

Then we found the piece from the cover of the gallery book I had shared with Hannah, and I gaped. Diana about to turn the pursuing man into a stag. The detail was staggering. The enameled eyes Manship was famous for still glisten at the viewer with hidden knowledge. Every moment of the trip suddenly was worth that moment of standing in the hot sun, gazing at the works of a man who had inspired by my love of art history. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go Team!

The challenge: Capture the team spirit that my daughter embodies. Please create a tiger paw necklace using orange, purple and white. My sixteen-year-old daughter loves the design and wear anything thematic.

The answer: rich purple glass beads and seed beads compliment this custom polymer clay pendant and matching purple, orange and white beads. Finished with an extension chain and a tiny star.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Friend's Son

Because every necklace has a story...

I adore commission work. It didn't take long for friends, family and coworkers to begin buying necklaces for their loved ones, for secret Santa, or for themselves. But this story probably touches me the deepest.

I have a friend who made hard but wise decisions many years ago. Despite the pain in her heart, she has been separated from her son for a great many years. Now an adult, they recently established contact. Viewing his picture on Facebook, she saw that he wears "guy jewelry" and commissioned this piece. She envision black and silver, giving me creative license to interpret it my way.

This is the result.

Stained Glass Murano Heart

Because every necklace has a story…

Many years ago, I minored in Art History. I loved studying the Gothic period with its marvelous cathedrals and stained glass windows. When I happened upon this heart, echoes of that rich glass letting in the light of heaven compelled me to obtain it. Now I invite you to share that rich spiritual light that fills the heart.

Swirls of gold and silver foil compliment the swirls of red and purple in this stunning necklace. I have added Swarovski crystals and lampwork beads, as well as other elegant glass beads to compliment this heart. The silver seed beads create an illusion of a silver chain without the weight and will never tarnish.

Necklace is 20 inches long and the heart with bale is approximately 1 5/8 inches.

Featured at Designs by Dreamweaver

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because Every Necklace Has a Story...

It's also great to here the stories of what compels people to buy my art. Mel from MI tells me that she has a sister in Easley, SC. When she saw my abalone shell post to Etsy, she purchased in within five minutes of posting. Living near Greenville, the location caught her attention. She says she loves her purchase.

Getting folks to look may be one the greatest challenges I face. People constantly tell me that they love my work, requesting a necklace for themselves or a loved one. Most come back asking for several more. A friend even asked if I would create a dog necklace for her beloved pet. What a delightful challenge!

A work friend, Criss, bought a T-Shirt necklace for her daughter's birthday this weekend after she admired Criss' necklace over the holidays. Criss recounted the phone call word for word this morning. How delightful to hear something so small brought so much joy!

My "adopted" daughter, the daughter of my sister-of-my-heart, got her income tax refund this weekend and promptly bought four necklaces she's been keeping an eye on. Then she requested another, "more mannish" creation, for a friend jealous of her new Celtic Cross necklace.

And yes, every necklace is unique. I never made exactly the same thing twice. What's the fun in that?

And yes, the gorgeous necklaces featured here were listed on Etsy this weekend!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I've sold hundreds of necklaces to friends or patrons, at festivals and flea markets. Yet I never cease to be delighted when someone purchases my work. Last night I was listing necklaces to Etsy, which is a new venue for me.

I finished loading this necklace and went on to the next, a lovely pink and green heart. This shell piece was found in an inexpensive jewelry shop just before the holiday. It was strung on hideous black and white size eight seed beads and the zebra pattern overwhelmed this lovely shell. Enchanted by the shell, I restrung the necklace. I didn't like the dull beads I had chosen and restrung it again with these wonderful luster finished black seed beads and two tone crackle glass. While the necklace is strikingly different from the rest of my stock, I was pleased with the results. Pricing it at a reasonable rate, I posted it and moved on.

Five minutes later, I finished posting the pink and green heart. Wait. That can't be right. I know I just posted the shell--where is it? Cameron, on the other side of the room, said to check the sold tab. Nonsense. It just posted. Nothing has sold yet. I don't have enough items. On a whim, I checked. SOLD!

Blessings to the wonderful woman from Michigan who has proven to me that perseverance pays off.  She is a blessing today.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ever Wondered What a Hundred Pounds of Beads Looks Like?

A hundred pounds of beads, purchased from Firemountain Gems, arrived yesterday. I ordered more than 200 items, which earned me a huge discount.Cost? $507.81 including $5 for shipping and $2.50 for handling. I've shopped all around the internet as well as local stores, spending about the last six weeks planning this order. I only ordered things I could get cheapest at this source and placed the largest order I've ever done. It was worth it. I probably got items at about 20% of retail cost. I only bought beads because I have found that the findings (clasps and other metal parts) are cheaper when I bid at Ebay.

When the boxes arrived at my UPS store, where all of my mail is delivered for security reasons, they were a little nonplussed. They asked Cameron to wait until after 5 to pick it up when the strapping teenager would arrive with dolly. With a winter storm rolling in, I didn't have that long. So I headed over, assuming that I could break the boxes down at the store into the smaller boxes in my back seat, and carry the beads out that way. 

The order was packed in two boxes, sized 15x10x7. Each box weighed approximately 50 pounds. I'm very proud to say that I was able to lug them to my backseat without a problem. Of course, I couldn't stand to wait any longer and opened them to peak at my order. Oh my, I was impressed.
Arriving home at the same time the winter storm rolled in, I quickly carried my treasure to our studio and began unpacking. And unpacking. And unpacking. Did I mention the discount was based on number of items ordered? And the biggest discount requires 200 items? Or that I spent all my money on beads and haven't yet purchased sufficient organizers?

Eight hour later, Cameron teased me that I couldn't sleep on top of the beads like a dragon does its hoard, given that I'm a princess and the pea kind of girl, and I went off to bed. But I had sorted the majority of the beads!
Which also introduced a new problem. I still have a dozen or so necklaces to post at Etsy. Originally created for the flea market audience, they were scaled down in bead types and priced low. Now I look at these simple necklaces and balked. I can't put the pitiful things on Etsy! They aren't up to my new standards. Not elaborate enough. Not rich and interesting. Sigh. Now I have more beading to redo!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Barefoot Arts and Designs by Dreamweaver at Work

Our home is small, but we've managed to dedicate a studio to the two industries. Cameron is currently at work on a commission piece (just in time to pay the electric bill, thank goodness). So paint and beads jostle for space until we can drop the wall between the studio and the library. With her south facing window, Cameron's studio was perfect to take photos of jewelry this week. 

I typically take one weekend a month to make polymer clay beads. I had to work at the treatment center last weekend, which really cut into the process. Nevertheless, I made dozens.

Yesterday was wonderful for another reason, as well. An acquaintance came over to get some tutoring in Art Appreciation. I had a new butterfly necklace I was about to post to Etsy. The acquaintance took one look and asked how much, buying it on the spot!

I've also posted new items to Etsy.Be sure to check them out!