Saturday, March 29, 2014


I make paper for a living. This means that I stand in front of a vat of paper pulp that splashes and sloshes. So, as you might imagine, I wear sweatpants and old shirts that are stained with a rainbow of different colors of paper that I have made (that might sound a lot better than it actually looks!), and shoes that often have little bits of wet and/or dried paper pulp on them. I have even found bits of paper in my hair after an especially productive day - or worse, some hair in my paper!! Of course, I also have a busy life with errands that take me out into public life. I have my daily post office run, and I may have to run to Staples for business supplies or duck into the market to get groceries while I let things dry between batches of paper back at the studio. What am I trying to say? I look like a total slob. All. The. Time. I could hide most of my stained clothing inside a long winter coat for the last 6 months. But if spring ever finds us, I am going to have to come up with a new plan. Now what did I do with the bleach?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Something old, something new

I adore handmade things, old things, things with a story and another life that they lived before me. My house is full of objects purchased at auctions, estate sales, antique shows and handed down through the generations. I love pieces, whether it is art on the wall or furniture, where you can see the hand of the person who made it. I believe in investing in goods things once that are well made and will last.

So when I was making over my new studio, I came upon a photo of the perfect work desk. Better yet, it was in an antique store just a few miles from my house. I loved it because it was a good height for standing and working; it had great surface area for packing up orders as well as spreading out a project; and the storage was perfect: lots of drawers for all my junk and a wide open area for the unruly shipping boxes for which I am always trying to find a home. This is what the piece looks like:

I was so excited that I grabbed a tape measurer and jumped in my car to go see it that day, pretty sure that I was going to buy it and trying to anticipate how much they were asking for it and how much I can haggle with them for the best price. When I got to the store, I couldn’t find it anywhere. When I inquired about it, they said it had sold. I left crestfallen, certain I had missed out on the only piece that would work for me. A week later, when he realized I had talked about the piece every single day, my better half suggested we ask a neighbor to build something like it for us. He is a very skilled cabinet maker and made all of our kitchen cabinets for us years ago, and had just finished working with us on a bathroom remodel. I really wanted something with history and wear but I reluctantly took some measurements and made some sketches. Long story short, here is the piece:

Turns out it is much better than the original piece I wanted to buy! It was MUCH cheaper, plus I was able to give the exact dimensions for my space AND I added in a file drawer with a lock for all my business paperwork. But my favorite part are the drawer handles. I had purchased these vintage faucets handles to use as towel hooks during our bathroom remodel but decided to use something else instead. I was so tickled when they fit just perfectly on this piece instead. I was surprised at how much easier everything is because of this simple work space and the organization it has allowed me. At the end of this process, I realized how satisfying it is to work with an artisan, to ask for exactly what you want, and to get something that is unique and your vision, and does not have the mark-up of a huge corporation with an overseas bank account. I hope my customers feel much the same when they work with me and I create them handmade paper for their lives and events. What a lovely thing handmade is!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to find a good craft show

I have sold my work at craft shows for the last 25 years or so. My very first show was in the cafeteria at the newspaper where I worked. There were so many creative people working there who had side businesses in the artistic world that someone decided we should ban together and have a show one day during the lunch hour. It was such a blast! I had such success and positive feedback I launched myself into a serious craft show schedule for the next decade or so.

As successful as it was, I sold my work for next to nothing, my inventory was bought out and had my first lesson in valuing my own work and pricing it correctly. No matter how many shows I went on to do, I learned something every time, even after being a 20+-year craft show veteran. I haven’t had a booth at a craft show for a few years because my art sells so well locally and online that I have no extra time for shows. While I don’t miss the packing, unpacking, setting up, long days on my feet, packing agin and unpacking again, I do miss everything else about a good craft show. I loved the customers, their feedback, their curiosity about my work and process, the thrill of the sale, talking with my neighbor artisans, the ideas for new work...

When I was starting out, the hardest thing for me was pairing up with the right show. I did eventually figure it out, and part of the process depends on asking the right questions to the promoter before you even sign up for the show. The following are my top ten questions to ask before you pay your application fee:

1) How do you advertise? Radio, TV, billboard, direct mail?

2) How are assignments made for more desirable spaces?

3) Do you fill spaces by category?

4) How many spaces are being rented for the entire show?

5) How many applications were received for last year’s show? How many vendors were admitted?

6) What kinds of crafts have been exhibited in the past?

7) What is the recommended price range for work in this show?

8) Is there an entrance fee for customers to get in?

9) What’s the anticipated attendance this year? What was the attendance last year?

10) Are there artists I can contact from the previous year to ask about the show?

I had my questions written up into a full article by a lovely blogger, Brittany. For the expanded article — which includes explanations and insight into all the questions you should ask — go to