Friday, June 2, 2017

All 50 states

Shops that have a focus or a theme are interesting places at which to shop. I have always been drawn to a shop that has a clear mission or vision, that takes a niche and commits to it. And here's a really neat concept for a shop: carry handmade items from all 50 states. Fifty Home in Concord, NH is doing just that. And why do I care? Because I am now one of the artists represented from the state of New York.

Concord Business Embraces Made-in-the-USA Trend

Published Friday, May 13, 2016
by Grace Dean

The buy local movement has gained momentum, and press, in recent years in direct response to the explosion of big box stores with cheaper items made oversees. Annie Clark is part of that movement, but with her own twist. Shoppers at Fifty Home in Concord are not only choosing a local merchant, they are choosing one who carries at least one item from each of the 50 states.

“My motto is, buy quality. Care about what your purchases are made of, and you’ll have a better product along with supporting your community,” says Owner Annie Clark of her home goods store, located across from the Statehouse in Concord.

Clark, a former interior designer, opened Fifty Home last summer with an inventory of goods not carried by any of the chain stores that dominate the U.S. market. That is because Fifty Home’s inventory includes at least one product from each of 50 states, and is currently expanding to include 50 more products made locally in NH. The store’s colorful shelves are lined with everything from handmade pillows and non-toxic dog toys to tote bags made of recycled yoga mats. Most of the goods are either homemade by an independent seller or produced by a small-scale manufacturer.

When Clark first opened she spent time searching Google for products made in the USA and on peer-to-peer online marketplaces such as Etsy and Grommet, where independent producers can sell handmade or vintage products directly to retailers, to source her products. “Now that I am up and running I have people knocking on my door with products to sell,” Clark says. Fifty Home has a website, but 90 percent of sales are in the brick and mortar store.

According to Clark, relying on websites like Etsy does more than provide the store with an exclusive supply of goods. It also promotes the values of small business within the national community. “The mother in Virginia who is trying to sell a homemade product suddenly has a legitimate business with the help of our retail store buying wholesale from her,” says Clark.

Clark and her husband, Jim, are currently the only employees. They work full time at Fifty Home and also work part time at their other business, The Black Bear Micro Roastery, which they have operated out of Tuftonboro for the last 20 years. Every customer at Fifty Home receives a fresh-brewed cup of coffee and as each customer checks out at the register, Clark tells them where and how each product they purchased was made.

Fifty Home just opened last year, but Clark already has a vision of expansion and new locations. “What I really want to see is a Fifty Home in every state, with each store having 50 items from that specific state as well as at least one item from every other state,” she says.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I have sold my work on and off at DEPARTURE (aptly named since it is located in the Albany International Airport) on and off for years but haven't had anything in there for a while. But today, I dropped off a bunch of my Petal People cards. DEPARTURE is a truly unique store. It is dubbed "The Shop of Capital Region Museums" because shop manager Bonnie Alexander patrols galleries and museums looking for new local art to sell there. She found me years ago through my display at an artisans cooperative and I have always been tickled to see my work as I grab a flight and head out of town. The shop is located pre-security on the first floor of the terminal between Ticketing and Baggage Claim.

Here's how DEPARTURE is described:

DEPARTURE features fine hand-crafted gifts, artwork, and historic materials from more than 60 regional museums and cultural institutions. All purchases help support local artists and participating museums.Since opening in 2000, DEPARTURE has generated more than $1.5 million in revenue for the participating organizations. From The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls to the National Racing Museum in Saratoga Springs; MASS MoCA in North Adams to The Clark in Williamstown, DEPARTURE represents all that exemplifies the unique character of the Capital Region, including the country's oldest museum, the Albany Institute of History and Art and the first Shaker settlement's Shaker Heritage Society in Albany.

Whether or not one can visit all of these great cultural destinations, a single stop at DEPARTURE offers a sampling of gifts that reflect each museum's mission and heritage. Special collections of jewelry, pottery and textiles, historic prints and books, as well as artisan-made home decor and accessories are also featured, making DEPARTURE a one-stop exploration of the Region's most significant cultural offerings.

9am-6pm, daily

For more information, call:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Simply Saratoga

I have a great featured artist spread in a local home and garden magazine, Simply Saratoga, published by Saratoga Today newspapers. Check it out. You can see me working in my studio and read about my journey creating garden-inspired art in my lovely town of Saratoga Springs, NY.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whims & Whatnots

Two new wholesale accounts in 24 hours. Woo hoo! The hard work pays off and sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I am now selling my Petal People cards at Whims & Whatnots in Greenland, NH. Find them on FaceBook or, better yet, visit in person!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Everything's bigger in Texas

"The Women’s Gift Exchange is proud to be a member of the national Federation of Woman’s Exchanges, a consortium of gifts shops initially established to provide an outlet for women to sell their handcrafted goods. The founding of the first Woman’s Exchange in Philadelphia in 1932 marked the beginning of what is the oldest continuously operating woman’s movement in the country." And I am now selling my cards there. Petal People are in Texas!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What is FSC-certified paper?

Over the many years I have been using and making paper, I continually learn new aspects of about it, and especially about manufactured paper. I print my botanical designs onto creamy smooth Cougar Natural paper but only recently learned that I was using a paper that was FSC-Certified. What does that mean? I actually didn't know. I was looking for a recycled paper for my cards, which typically costs a lot more, when my printer informed me I was already using a FSC-certifed paper containing 10% recycled materials.But some research taught me that FSC — an abbreviation for Forest Stewardship Council — certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for forest products, independently certifies that these standards have been met, and bestows labels upon the products that qualify. Certification means products like paper and wood that have been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable manner.

FSC-certified paper is different from recycled paper, as it's typically composed of virgin tree fibers rather than pre- or post-consumer recycled materials (although recycled paper is sometimes also FSC-certified). But when the wood pulp used to make this paper is sourced from a well-managed forest, it can be just as eco-friendly.

According to the Forest Stewardship Council, the U.S. consumes 100 million tons of paper annually, and recycled paper makes up just 35 percent of that amount. The remainder must come from timber forests. Encouraging paper manufacturers to seek out wood suppliers that work to protect habitat, prevent pollution, plant more trees than are harvested and avoid displacing native peoples and harming wildlife, can make a big difference.

As my business grows, I hope to move into more expensive paper that utilizes 100% of recycled materials. For now, it's a big step for me that my cards proudly display the FSC-certified label.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to write a sympathy card

Sympathy cards are difficult to compose. You hope to express meaningful love and support without saying something careless or imposing your own feelings about loss, death or your religious beliefs. Because I sell Petal People sympathy cards as well as plantable sympathy cards, my customers often ask me to add a note and send it directly to the recipient. I have seen many of those messages, both awkward ones but also touching messages that made me cry.

Many people write about how sorry they are for the loss but to remember the happy memories. When I suffered a loss and was the recipient of sympathy cards, I have to admit feeling a little upset by some of them. They were sent with love but their message was unintentionally telling me to get to the good stuff. It discounted grief. So I appreciated the ones that gave me permission to grieve. The best cards recounted a story or memory about my deceased family member, giving me a new memory or perspective when no more could be created. Perhaps the very best card I got actually outlined a grief to-do list! Among the ideas my friend wrote were these:

* Don't forget to tell your loved ones often how much you love them and how appreciative you are of their support.
* If you don't already have one, get a pet. The power of healing in having an animal to hug should NOT be underestimated!
* Find some really good spiritual books and read when you can. A couple of my favorites are "Rebel Buddha", "The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss", and "I am That."
* Spend some time outside in the sunlight taking walks in nature every day.
* Don't expect to be able to control when you'll need to cry. Always carry kleenex in all your pockets at all times. Don't leave home without some. A pair of dark sun glasses is handy, too. (This one turned out to be the best piece of advice!)
* Find something/someone that can make you laugh every day. My favorite comedian is Eddie Izzard. "Glorious" is the best of his shows. Russell Petters' "Red, White, and Brown" is pretty hilarious too. Ask everybody for comedy recommendations.
* Do a lot of journaling. When everyone else around you feels saturated by your sadness, your journal will invite you to fill a clean page, and another, and another.
* Remember what you love to do and what brings you joy, and try to do those things as often as you can. Don't worry if they don't instantly make you feel better. You're just looking for ways to plug into a positive body memory to help give your mind a rest.
* You've entered a dimension where "normal" doesn't exist so sleep when you can sleep, and if you can't sleep then get up and don't fret about it. Same with eating and all other so-called daily routines.

I can't tell you how your recipient will feel about what you say or the perfect thing that everyone will find comforting. But here's what one customer wrote in a note to their friend about the loss of a dog. I thought it was utterly sweet:

For the king of all pillows, the catcher of all balls, and the littlest of spoons. May [dog's name] forever know how deeply loved he was by you.