Friday, August 31, 2012

Puyallup Fair Coming UP!

(For photo credits and to see my other photo sets, visit me on Flickr)

I'm participating in the Artists in Action gallery at the Puyallup Fair again this year, like I have the past few years. It's a really big undertaking, but pretty exciting too - and a much needed boost for me in September. We are located in the Artists in Action space, which is on the ground floor under the Grandstand. We have a little handcrafted artisan boutique -- a mix of pottery, fiber arts, painting, basketry, jewelry, clothing and a bunch of other stuff, which is my category - the "other stuff" part.

New at my display this year: single bars in the polka dot gift bags, some gift sets in little metal baskets that look like houses (super cute), singles of the lip balms in the new tins, and the fall soaps scents.

I wanted to post the details early this time around, in case anyone's headed over there in the next two weeks. It's the biggest thing that happens all year for some folks, even if they are just going one night for an onion burger and a concert. Lots of great entertainment in the line up.

Puyallup Fair

The Fair is open September 7th through the 23rd. Sunday through Thursday 10am-10pm. Fridays and Saturdays 10am -11pm.  Opening day (next Friday, 9/7) opens at 9am, and it's free admission between 9am and noon only if you bring a food donation.  More details on the site under "deals and discounts".  Otherwise admission for adults is $12.50, kids and seniors $ 9.00, but kids under 5 are free.

The "Artists in Action" area, is in the Merchants Building -- the lower level of the Grandstand, at the west end, next to the Fisher Scone windows. It's a boutique style craft show, with lots of pottery and fiber arts, demos every day with artists demonstrating their techniques and craft. It's a central cashier style thing, with all of us artists milling around the floor, meeting and greeting our guests. Don't mind the elephant ear crumbs on our shirts, we can't help ourselves.

There are close to 70 artists in our show, doing fiber stuff, pottery, wood work, metal work, jewelry, clothing, hand-painted all kinds of things. Some new artists and new stuff. We've mixed it up and changed around the booths a little bit. We're still doing demos all day of how we make our wares. I'm working a bunch of little small shifts in the mornings (til about 2pm) so I'll be in and out.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!  I'll be working - so much to do to get ready before we set up early next week.   This is going to be big y'all!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Endings and beginnings

An update on all that fretting from last post:  I do indeed have 3 new fall scents that I'm pretty happy and excited about.  They turned out better than I hoped, and I just need to get a few more batches of those made in the next week so that I'm covered.

And yes, in fact, the Baby Love soap is over.  Both of the fragrance oils I used to make that particular blend are discontinued forever.  They were discontinued in December, but I guess I had just re-ordered in November, so I didn't notice until now, and have no way to stock up or get more.  They were pretty expensive and special things, so there is nobody else making or carrying anything similar.  I've done an exhaustive search.

I know this will make some people very upset.  Loss of a beloved thing is always really hard.  I feel the same way.  Of course the first reaction is denial.  And then how can I get something almost like it to replace it as quickly as possible so I hardly know it's gone missing.  I haven't given up hope that I can somehow mix something together as a replacement (like the Havana soap).  But it's going to be awhile before I have the time to work on that.  The investment I put into it will sort of match the requests, sobbing and hand wringing I get from customers.  It hasn't been the biggest selling soap, so a little wait and see . . . please feel free to contact me.

So just a little rant about the state of things in the world now since it's hit me in the arse a few times in a row this past week.  We're living in a place of vanilla and it makes me sad.  I love choice.  I love variety.  That's why I make so many seasonals and new scents.  It's so much fun to try new things and not be stuck with just the same old.

But first the recession and then the economy never really turning around, retailers have had to cut back on stock and selection.  Stores stopped carrying myriad smaller and obscure type things and just focused on the few most-popular brands and items.  In the crunch, customers bought less and only the primary things they needed.  So stores carried less items.  They couldn't afford to keep such large stocks of things that didn't turn over as fast.  So suppliers got hit too, and stopped making the stuff that didn't sell.  Or they made changes to the minimums, and if you didn't want thousands of them at a time, they were discontinued.

It's happened everywhere, and I'm not immune to it either.  I've had to go through all those heart-breaking decisions myself.  But I hate it.  I hate that special or custom or unusual things are now no longer available anywhere.  That's what happened at my local grocery store with some of my favorite ethnic and organic products.  That's what is happening everywhere you look.  Sure, there are still some niche shops - but the prices are high.  And there is still the one-of-a-kind handmade stuff (please support these too before they have to quit!).  But in general, in the mainstream shopping, it's much more limited than it was a few years ago.

The man I lamented all this with at the fragrance oil company said he has never sold as much vanilla and lavender in his life as the last few years.  And I have to agree, it's the same with me - those two scents have really been so much more popular recently.  The slightly kooky ones, I don't hardly make at all because nobody orders them.  Sort of chicken and egg thing.  Maybe it starts with the customers, and they are looking for simplicity and comfort?

I don't know.  You can go round and round.  The answers are the same.  Discontinued.

Sorry for the downer.  Have a great end-of-summer weekend y'all.  It's the final hurrah before school, back to work and fall begins in earnest.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Running backwards

I'm frazzled today.  Things are going in the wrong direction.

First, the Havana soap.  I'm pretty sure I made an announcement here that the Havana soap is back.  It was a scent that I carried for years, a long time ago.  And then the fragrance was discontinued.  I bought up what I could and made it for awhile longer while I searched for a substitute.   Years passed and there just wasn't anything like it out there.  Until late last year.  I found a new fragrance that was almost like it.  And I made a test batch.  It turned out perfect.  Yahoo.  It's fixed!

So I put it back on the website.  Made the announcement.  And nothing.  I took it to a show, but during the summer I had so many spring and summer scents, that mostly I didn't bring it out to the public.  It just wasn't selling online at all, so I took it out to Anacortes where people went crazy for it and I sold all I had.  So when I went back to the website to temporarily put the "out of stock" sign on it, I realized that I had totally goofed and it was invisible all that time.  It wasn't actually on the site.  Oy.

I made more last week, the day I got back from vacation.  I wasn't thinking.  I just made it by memory without looking at my notes.  Forgot a major component of the scent.  So I've got about 60 bars of woodsy, but not Havana soap.  And no time immediately to make more of that.  I'm buried in Fall soaps and Puyallup Fair soaps - trying to get everything finished by the end of the month.  I will get it back up, I promise, but maybe mid-September?  Kicking myself.

Which brings me to the Fall soaps.  I started a plan last month and made a little flurry of test batches.  When I got back last week, I didn't like any of them.  I really, really, really hate just doing what I did last time.  Even though I've got requests for some of those same soaps, and I've still got bottles of those fragrances just cluttering up the studio.  So I gave in, and made a couple of batches of repeats.  But over the weekend I came up with a new plan, and made a few more test batches.  This morning, I'm convinced they aren't going to be good either.  I'm out of time!  I've got to make all the rest of it, like yesterday.  And I still don't know what to do.  Looks like it's going to be a bit of repeats and a bit of um, something else.  We'll see how today's and tomorrow's last minute batches turn out.  But there will definitely be a few weirdo extra soaps at shows and maybe the clearance section.

Lastly, I'm in a panic about the Baby Love soap.  It's one of the very first fragrances I started with.  I've had it for over 15 years.  And this weekend when I tried to buy the 2 different fragrance oils that I use to make that blend, both are discontinued.  I think.  They are just gone from my supplier's website.  And they won't return my frantic phone calls today.  Oh.  My.  God.  There are so many people who will freak right out.  It's all they use.  Like forever.   I have no idea how to replicate that sort of thing.  It's a complicated blend of a bunch of things, and I'll never be able to do it on my own.  An exhaustive search all weekend came up with absolutely nothing out there that even comes close.   Just like Havana.  It would be easier to try to do it on my own with a bit of McGyvering.  But that's going to be a very long and expensive journey, and it will still be out of stock for an extra long time.

Ok, don't make a mad run on buying me out of that one.  I'm still waiting for a call.  I've got a bit more of the fragrances at the moment to make more, and the last batch isn't cured yet.

Maybe I shouldn't have said anything.  But I'm in anxiety mode and don't know what to do about any of it today.  Except dither and fret.

Bumps in the road.  There are ups.  And there are definitely downs.  Gotta have both.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Life's A Beach

(For photo credits and to see my other photo sets, visit me on Flickr)

I'm back from vacation and the studio is open again.  It's back to work and business as usual.  It's going to be full steam ahead from now until the end of the year I guess.  Things get busy now, gearing up for the Puyallup Fair.  And then they get busier as we head into fall.  And busier yet as it turns towards the holidays and winter.

Hard to wrap my head around all that at the moment.  But the gears are turning.  All the new fall products need to be introduced in just a few weeks, and the fall newsletter will be going out at beginning of the month.    I'm working on lots of little things, making plans and pushing forward.

It was good to get a little time away.  But you know how you always need a bit of a vacation after you've just gotten home from vacation?  I'm still catching up this morning. And probably the rest of the week will be like that too . . .

Monday, August 06, 2012

Studio Closed - Summer Break

Popping in for a couple of quick things:

1.  I'm taking a short summer break this week.  The studio will be closed starting today, through Monday, August 13.  Any orders, emails calls, etc. will be dealt with on Tuesday, Aug 14.  Thanks for your understanding.  It's been a long summer and I need to recharge my batteries and enjoy a little of life outside of work.

2.  A ginormous THANK YOU to all my loyal friends and customers in Anacortes this last weekend.  Even though it was hot, hot, you all came out to buy soap and support the artists out there.  I had my best weekend sale ever.  Really.  EVER!  Which is tough to do after 16 years in business and especially in our still crappy economy.  I broke records, and I couldn't be more pleased.  I know it's still tough for a lot of folks to make enough money at the shows.  And I'm incredibly grateful that you continue to buy my products and make the effort to come out to the festival and spend your hard-earned dollars.  Much love to you all!!

Whew.  Whirlwind weekend.  I'm fatigued beyond belief.   And I just have to power through the loose ends today before I get a chance to think about something else while I sit quietly somewhere and just take in the success.  Long summer.  Lots of hard work.  And a little something to show for it.  Feels good.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Anacortes Arts Festival

This coming weekend is the Anacortes Arts Festival.  It's one of my biggest shows of the year, and I'm excited to be heading up there again.  I'm even more thrilled because I was an invitee again this year.   It's a big honor to be invited back instead of going through the jurying process, and it's based on sales - so I must be doing something right!

At the heart of the Festival are 250 booth artisans who fill six blocks from 4th Street to 10th Street on Commercial Ave. These artists come from throughout the Northwest and as far away as New York, Florida and Arizona. Each year they are chosen through a selection process based on quality, originality and marketability. Check out the full Listing.

There's also food and a beer garden.  There are demonstrations, a showcase gallery at the port, kid's areas, music performances, street entertainment - the works.  It's a ginormous show from end to end of the entire town.  Hope you all can take a trip up/over there this weekend!

Dates:  Friday through Sunday, Aug 3, 4 and 5, 2012
Hours:  Friday and Sat 10 - 6, Sunday 10 - 5
Where:  Commercial Street between 4th and 10th, downtown Anacortes
My booth location:  Space 512C, center of the street, center of the block between 5th and 6th streets.   Right next to the alley in mid-block, south of Gere-A-Deli corner. 

Lots more info on their website, including maps, directions, all the different venues, booth artisan lists, etc. 

This is the last show of summer for me.  I'm off on vacation all of next week and closing the studio for that week.  Stock up now.  Call or email before Friday if you need something quick.  See you this weekend for a little fun in the sun!