Monday, December 31, 2007

How I learned to Crochet

So how do I learn a new skill? I did learn fine art skills in college; drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking. Which is a good base for the crafts I create. Now I learn a lot of new skills the following way so I thought you might find my method interesting, and probably familiar.

First, some background. I have been knitting since my mom showed me how when I was a child. She also showed me how to crochet. And I remember, vividly, starting to crochet a scarf in rainbow acrylic yarn but never finishing it. I think I still own almost everything I ever had and would not be surprised to someday find that unfinished scarf in a box in my parents' house.

But knitting took and I made many simple afghans; knitting a whole ball of Red Heart acrylic yarn then starting a new one in another color, repeat until I created a blanket. It was repetitive and soothing and when you were done you had something practical, I loved it.

I had tried following patterns but if I put the project down for any length of time, I forgot where I was and gave up in frustration.

I love knitting in the winter, very cozy. And in the past year have gotten more ambitious about learning new stitches. I learned to knit hats on 4 needles, I learned basket weave, seed stitch and knit two together yarn over. I still don't follow patterns, and I'm not very sophisticated about yarns. I mostly make scarves, hats and throws.

I bought a complete set of crochet hooks at an estate sale this past May with the intention to revisit crochet. I have seen a lot of sweet crocheted items on Etsy recently and it's really sparked my interest.

My learning method is this:

1) I have someone who knows how to do the thing I want to learn describe it to me so I have an overview to start with, this helps me form the questions I want to answer.

2) I go to the bookstore and read many books and magazines on how to perform the skill. I read them all because they all have slightly different ways of saying something and they all have different pictures. (This also helps me decide if the skill is really something I want to pursue).

3) Now that I have broadband I have been able to watch tutorial videos on YouTube though this is new for me.

4) I buy the book that makes the most sense to my way of learning.

5) I try it myself, but there is always something I don't get.

6) I read more books, including ones written for children if available :)

7) I have someone skilled show me how (thanks BrickMillStudio!)

8) I try again.

By this time I should understand enough to finish some items. This encourages me to hone the skill and learn more variations.

Things I learned this way (more or less, I can't always get access to and/or don't always need every step): photo silk screening at home, polymer clay caning, knitting a hat on 4 needles, wet felting, and now crocheting.

Next, I am in the middle of my learning curve in Gocco, a little more advanced in sewing and at the beginning of resin.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How is your winter so far?

Hi there! We had 3 storms before the official start of winter. The driving was bad, took D almost 4 hours to get home from work one night. Here are a few New England winter pics:

We had a lovely Christmas with friends and family...

...and now I am thinking toward the new year. I hope to expand on the made in lowell brand and increase the number and kinds of products. I have a Gocco I am dying to use and resin I need to learn about. I have dozens more of mom's great illustrations to make into cards and I have just re-learned to crochet.

I'll keep you posted on all my new and continuing projects! What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Virtual Studio Tour

Disclaimer: After the video plays, YouTube brings up other random videos that I did not choose, so click those with caution :) Mine is perfectly safe! Fun for the whole family even.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Open Studios, Holiday Arts Happening Recap

Western Avenue Studios had a special second Holiday Open Studios on December 8th and I had a great time! Faithful readers will recall I had a migraine for the previous one, but this past Saturday found me in top form and ready to go. I will admit I was a bit frazzled as I had a show on Sunday as well.

Sometimes the packaging and such take up enormous swaths of time. I decided to redesign the stickers I put on my jewelry boxes, that had me peeling and re-sticking for quite a while. I also adhered return address labels to all the receipts in my receipt books. I've never had any really good way to package my barrettes so I created a pillow box template and started cutting them out and assembling, then of course those needed a sticker too! I shredded tissue to put in egg boxes then I cut and folded egg info cards. I printed and cut up business cards too! When I have decided on my new logo, I will have business cards professionally printed.

So Saturday went really well! People came through and bought my things, though maybe not as rabidly as on the 1st, but they did buy and I am grateful! I saw friends and met new people. I am really enjoying the friendship of the other artists in the building.

I sold out of my newest flower/nest pin within the first hour and a half! This put me in a bit of a spin as I could see myself at the Worcester show lacking my one hot item! I worked all day to replenish my stock and was very successful.

In the evening, D came to help me pack up and load the car. We were able to go home around 8:30. I stayed up later to be really, really ready for Sunday.

The sunrise on Sunday morning in Lowell:

Sunday morning, D drove us to the DCU center in Worcester where we were able to bring the car right into the building to unload! Very cool and convenient. I have never met a nicer bunch of people than the volunteers and staff of stArt on the Street. They were right there and ready to help unload! It was a well organized show.

It was very cold with that big door open and they gave us cups for free coffee at Starbucks so D went off in the car to fill them. As soon as he left I turned around and saw that my purse was not in my stack of stuff! There were two possibilities: it was in the car or it was stolen. Along with my wallet, the purse contained all my show change. I rarely lose anything. I really started to feel awful. My words to D echoed in my head "If it's too much trouble to get the coffee, just go home..." We live 45 minutes from Worcester and we don't have cell phones. Sigh.

Meanwhile, Liz showed up and immediately comforted me as the lack of sleep and stress got to me and I started to cry. D was gone for about a half hour. I was using Liz's cellphone to leave a panicked message on our home voicemail when she said "Hang up! Here he comes!" And there he was! Striding toward us with my hot coffee. Relief part one! I told him the situation and he ran back to the car to check. Ten minutes later he strode in again with my purse held over his head in triumph! Relief part two. I really love that man :)

After that, I recovered and kicked into gear setting up my table opposite Liz's in our ten foot space. Here's Liz and her gorgeous table of sparkly things:

Here's my set up:

My new flower/nest pins:

We met some other Etsians including Paper Menagerie, plus saw Heather of Heather Wang Jewelry and Peter and Eve of La Sal Mountains Studio who are also at Western Ave. Amanda, yet another WAS artist came to visit and shop!

I wore one of my new pins and waited for the holiday shoppers! Well, we had a few, but unfortunately, not in the kinds of numbers that make for a really successful show. So cash-wise, I would not classify the day as a success. But I did enjoy myself and passed out a bunch of cards and talked with a lot of friendly people and demonstrated needle felting.

Mom and Dad came out to visit!

That's always nice and I did sell a bunch of Mom's cards. D came back at 5:30 and we packed up in the fastest time EVER, I only broke two nails and we were headed home.

I thought I would have all this free time since I had been working so hard for these two weeks and now they are over. But it turns out I had put off a lot of things in that time and look, here they are, patiently waiting for me to attend to them :) So I'm back to work!

Friday, December 7, 2007

I am making things!

This is it! The last push to the last two shows of the holiday season. I can't say I am cool and collected, that would be lying :) But I am happy and excited and everyone's support has buoyed me up and is helping me sail through. Thank you!

It's been an amazing year of learning and building this business, but I feel like I have barely started. I have a lot planned for the next year. I am working on a new logo, can't wait to see if I can pull it off :) I also have plans to finish my studio interior design and get it all sleek and pretty like I envision instead of a pile of boxes! I will design new products including blankets, pillows, bags. I will also add screen printed items; t-shirts, cards etc.

I also want to focus on paring back my supplies to the truly necessary, destashing my excess goods in my Destash Shop.

But now I must concentrate on the next two insane days, whee!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Great Open Studios!

Yay! What a success :) Saturday was cold and SO windy, the objects flying through the air above the parking lot of Western Avenue Studios were large, yikes! But the artists braved the elements as did holiday shoppers and my parents.

This open studios was longer, from 10-6 and I'm glad I did most of my cleaning on Friday because I didn't manage to get in until 9:45 Saturday morning and had just enough time to run my trash down to the loading dock and turn on the Christmas lights before folks started showing up.

We had a fairly steady stream of really nice people all thrilled to be either discovering WAS for the first time or returning to see what was new. I had some new flowers I have been needle felting from thick and thin single ply wool yarn, they are my latest passion and they went over well! I need to take product shots and list them in my Etsy shop. And I need to make more, they are fun!

I also worked on some of my original design needle felted flowers:

I had quite a few people come in to say they had come specifically to see my work! They had spotted the postcard I put up around town or they had found this blog. I am thrilled that people take the time to come and find me! Thank you!

Mom and dad got in around 11 and I was glad for the company. They like to hang out and observe the scene, talk with the other artists and eat a little lunch. I love having them there and it's fun to let people know that mom is the artist who does the drawings for the cards :)

At one point I did look up in time to see my dad rolling past my studio door on a Segway! Someone was giving demonstrations and at various times I saw people glide by in the hallway, it was vastly amusing. I understand D even took a spin but I somehow missed it.

Here's Maria, a wonderful and very creative metal smith a few studios down from me, taking her ride:

D brought me coffee, gave me a hug, rubbed my shoulders and chatted with mom and dad for a bit. Then he went off on Saturday errands.

I actually had a migraine all day and kept it barely in check with Excedrin. Wow! Lousy timing, but what are you going to do? D fed me when I got home, I took a hot bath and put an ice pack on my neck and went to bed.

I still had a really great time and I am gearing up for next weekend when I will really be put to the test. I have another open studios on Saturday and on Sunday I have the Holiday Arts Happening with Liz of Lush Beads!

A lot of shows are happening this weekend, I'm sorry I can't go support The Intuitive Garden at the SOWA show and we are all missing Bazaar Bizarre. But I'm glad we have shows and that people are enjoying buying handmade for the holidays!