Just the Flax, Ma’am

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On Saturday, I was a vendor at a holiday craft bazaar at Ithaca First Assembly of God Church. Over forty vendors set up tables and displayed their handmade items in the sanctuary, the entryway, hallway, main fellowship hall and a smaller side room, which is where I was located.

This was my fifth craft fair since I began this tiny business in September and I’ve attended a couple of humdingers, let me tell you. I won’t mention names, but some were very far out in the country and all, except this one, were not advertised well.

Thankfully, First Assembly is on the ball. There was a Facebook event, an email went out to the participants to share the event with friends on their social media pages, and an email went out to local churches to advertise as well. The women in charge were super organized and knew what Square and Apple Pay were which meant we would definitely have WiFi. The place was clean, brightly lit, upbeat Christmas music played and the people came in droves to shop.

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My table had ornaments, small felt dolls, natural body care products, decorative pillows, and nine flax warming pillows. Honestly, I hoped to sell my ornaments and dolls and pillows along with the rest of my things. And I thought I would because they’re cute and seasonally appropriate. Alas, not an ornament or doll sold. My winter balm, made of coconut oil, shea butter, and lavender sold out. Lots of lip balm and several lotion bars sold as well. But my continual bestseller are these flax warming pillows. Some have lavender flowers added and some are flax alone, but they all come folded and tied with ribbon. I display them in a small treasure chest I found at Mimi’s Attic with a blackboard sign.

When I wracked my brain, I could not remember how I ever decided to make these pillows to begin with. Maybe someone mentioned them to me? Maybe I just bumped into the idea on Pinterest? Anyway, I made four pillows for the first craft sale back in September and I sold out. Every place since–even the very worst sales–I sold a few of these. Well, this Saturday, I sold out of all nine of them. It is interesting what people want. You really never know. Part of me thinks these flax pillows will continue to be a “bread-and-butter” item for my business. Part of me is worried I’ll make up a bunch of these and they’ll sit unwanted on the shelf and people will want something else. I’m going to go with the former leaning and purchase flax seed in bulk from the Amish tomorrow. If I’m wrong, all my friends and family will be getting these pillows as gifts for the next year.

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The greatest part of Saturday, though, even more encouraging than having very good sales, was all the friends and family who came. They hugged me, chatted about kids and work, asked me about myself, took photos, laughed and commented on my items for sale. Many of them purchased things as well. It felt wonderful to have made things for people I love to use or give as gifts. My mother came with my niece–she’s the one that bought my last two flax pillows. Alan was an angel and came twice: once to replenish my ones and fives and again to bring me lunch. When I packed up at 3, my heart was happy. If only every craft fair could be as full of success and a sense of community. Today, as I cut out fabrics for another dozen flax pillows, I felt carried along by the lightness and merry atmosphere of that event. If only I could package that feeling…it would be a bestseller too.

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Crafting a Business

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This week I am at the sewing machine stitching up little dreams that pop into my head: things I’ve seen on Pinterest or in magazines, with my own twist. Also, I’m filling special orders and replenishing stock. On Monday, I sewed up ten flax and lavender pillows for a friend’s order. On Tuesday, I sewed and filled four more so I’ll have enough to bring with me to the next craft fair. I also spent time ordering supplies and figuring out what boxes I needed to order for products I will sell on Etsy.

Today I finished two pillows with felt lettering on them and cut out lots of muslin triangles and letters in reds and greens to make Christmas buntings. Tomorrow, I hope to add a few more pillows to my stock, and make a few felt mitten garlands.

I’m waiting on one ingredient to arrive so I can make beeswax food wraps. They are a practical, beautiful and fun alternative to plastic wrap. I also have a recipe for a winter balm, a whipped body butter, and more lotion bars that I want to try.  Plus I should finish at least two more paper art canvases to take with me.

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This weekend is a craft bazaar in Ithaca at 1st Assembly of God church on Bostwick Road. I’m looking forward to a busy day, meeting people, answering questions, and hopefully, selling a lot of things I’ve made. At the same time, I’m chomping at the bit to open my Etsy store. This will require several hours devoted to photographing the items, writing up descriptions, measuring and weighing everything.

Tonight, after going to a local craft supply store and shelling out more money for thread, ribbon, and fabric, I started to panic. Suppose nothing comes of this? What if I can’t connect my products with the right people? What if…

As I sat in the car with tears dripping off the end of my nose, Alan spoke words of courage into me. “You’re creative and smart, have lots of good ideas, you have plenty of spunk. You’re figuring it out. I know it’s scary, but you don’t need to get all emotional–it takes time, but you’ll get there.”

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And then he looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you want it to be successful?” I nodded, “Of course, I do.” “Then it will. Don’t give up and you’ll get there.” All this could sound like cliche, except I knew he meant what he said and it worked.

“Thanks for talking me down off the ledge,” I said. Then I dried my eyes and we went into Greenstar to get my coffee, kale and oats. Local musician Tenzin Chopak was at the register, which was a definite perk.

Right now, so many little pieces of this business have to be worked out, but I’m determined to do all I need to. Truly, I love a challenge and a year from now I’ll be glad I did everything that seems so difficult right now.

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Day 23: Crafting a Journey

Today I ran errands. OMG, it took five hours. I tried to get everything done, including all the craft supplies and the grocery shopping at three different places. Driving from Interlaken to Ithaca, I drove behind a pickup truck the entire way.

At the local fabric store, a very sweet woman cut my fabric for me, but took twenty-five minutes doing it. She talked about her own craft business and her divorce and how happy she is now. After the initial hello, I settled in for a good long listen. Maybe I have that kind of face? People want to tell me things. It was ok, but my progress was slow.

After all the stops, including Wegmans where I saw my parents, and two Trumansburg stores, I crawled home following a huge, red, belching dump truck going ten miles under the speed limit.

What I listened to the whole time in the car was this On Being podcastKrista Tippett had a conversation with Mary Catherine Bateson, who wrote Composing a Life, which I’ve never read but want to. She is also Margaret Mead’s daughter. I first really looked into Margaret Mead’s life in the fictional book Euphoria that I read last year. She talked about how our life can be an art form.

These deep and rich conversations help me evaluate my own way of living and give me tools to explore the questions about whether or not my life is going in the direction I’d like it to. Am I composing or arranging my moments, these fleeting days and nights, in a manner that I can be proud of? Am I generous and kind? Do I take time for the important relationships? Am I developing my character and not giving into selfishness and being blindsided by my natural tendencies and biases? Am I growing and enriching my soul with nourishing practices? Music, instruments, books, art all come to mind for me.

It’s late and there are fifteen teenagers partying outside this room, so my thoughts are jumbled and I might not be making much sense. But, check out that podcast, if you haven’t, and OnBeing in general. And please share what you think about it.

Day 21: Doing All the Things

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I woke up at 6:40 yesterday morning, ready to say hello to the day. That’s rare. Especially since I went to bed close to 1AM. The sun sparkled over the lake and hillside as I put all my craft stuff into the car, kissed Alan goodbye, entered the address in my phone GPS and headed toward Searsburg.

(FYI: The night before, Alan had offered to help me, but since I had nothing heavy, I didn’t bother to wake him. When he came downstairs right before I left, he asked, “Why didn’t you wake me? I said I would help you.” I assured him he could help me unload the car when I returned home. And of course, he did.)

I arrived at the Grange first and asked if I was setting up there. They said they were full and I must have a table at the church. So I drove around the corner, parked and descended a short flight of stairs to the basement.

If you’ve been in church as often I have, you know the familiar church basement smell. Damp, but not unpleasant, with the cozy memory of many potlucks lingering in the air. The ladies had soup and sandwiches available for sale, so the smell of several delicious soups filled the room, as did sound of pleasant and comfortable conversations as women and a few men set up their table displays and chatted.

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I had a whole table and a half for myself, which provided ample room for my pillows and wreaths, as well as the natural body care products, felt dolls and ornaments I displayed. The people were very friendly and helpful and I felt immediately at home. My cousin, Erica, and her daughter were there, selling floral arrangements and jewelry. It was great having family there!

The day passed by fairly quickly. It wasn’t very busy, but people came steadily, two or three at a time, and walked around the tables. My friends, Laurie and Grace and Kathy and Dawn came, as well as my Aunt Judy and cousins, Jayna and Kaylee. Seeing them was the high points of my time at the sale.

At 2pm, I packed up and was just about to go, when Erica’s daughter came over and held out flowers in a cute Halloween vase. They were for me, she said. Isn’t so humbling and wonderful when someone does something so sweet and unexpected? I thanked them both and drove home feeling grateful for the generous-hearted people in my life.

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After lunch and a nap, Alan and I finished getting the kitchen set up, prepared food and started applying our makeup. It took an hour and a half! Oh my goodness, I was so ready to be done. Alan’s makeup came out looking better than mine because he was more patient and careful, (story of my life), but we finished, cleaned up and threw on our costumes just as our first guests arrived.

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Lights were on, decorations lit, Alan’s Halloween playlist going and we talked, danced, ate and drank until 2AM. Each guest raved about the spooky and fun atmosphere and our costumes and had a great time being here. We went to bed happy and satisfied we took the time to make this party happen.

 

 

Play, fun and celebration are important to the human experience and make us healthier and happier. Our days may be full, but we need to make time for the kid in us.

What are you planning in your life that is purely for enjoyment? I’d love you to share in the comments.