Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meet My Model, or, The Pleasures of Photographing Product

The Lovely, if  Lopsided, Miss Fiberworks
As my human model wasn’t available today, I had to improvise. I do have a few head forms, as well as a dress form that I use in a pinch, but I don’t have a head to use with my dress form, and I wanted to photograph a hat and its matching scarf.

When you have an Etsy shop, you get used to eyeing everything in your house with photo props in mind. At least, I do.  So out came a folding slide projector table whose accompanying projector is long since deceased, a wooden stool, a head form, a blouse and a cardigan. And so, Miss Fiberworks was born.

I stacked the stool on top of the table, and clothed it with the blouse and cardigan. This looked like a stool with clothes draped over it; so I went looking for some towels to pad the shoulders, so that the form would at least somewhat resemble a human body. I placed a folded towel on the stool, to raise the head level a bit, as the head seemed oddly short when placed on top of the stool. I rolled the other towel, and curved it around the back of the head and out to the sides to create shoulders.
Head and Shoulders Ready for Clothes
It was necessary to thread my arm up through the sleeves of the garments, to pull the “shoulders” into the correct position, and even then they looked slightly askew.  She looked very odd from the side (Sorry, Miss F.!) but fortunately I didn’t plan to photograph the scarf from the side or back, so that was okay.

One nice thing about Miss F. is that she is very patient while I fiddle around with the product. Not a single fidget or complaint—I was very proud of her. Her expression can be a bit stiff at times, though.

Doesn’t she look jaunty? As long as I keep her legs out of the picture, I think she’ll work out okay.

If you want to see the finished result, check out these listings in my shop:

Indian Corn Striped Knitted Cap
Indian Corn Striped Knitted Scarf

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sky at Night: An Etsy Treasury

One of the fun things one can do on the Etsy site is create a treasury of the beautiful products available there.  I just made one, and want to share it with my readers.  It's called The Sky at Night, and it contains some amazing creations.  If you want a closer look, go to Etsy and check out the actual listings by clicking on each one.  Have fun!

The idea behind the treasury is to promote Etsy products in a creative and beautiful way.  Treasuries are often created using a theme.  The top three rows are the actual treasury, that would be displayed, say, on Etsy's home page (I know, dream on!!).  The fourth row is a set of alternates that could be used if some of the items above should sell.

I enjoy trying to come up with the most pleasing arrangement I can of the items in my treasuries.  I choose a theme, and do one or several searches on Etsy until I find suitable items that seem to go together.

This one was great fun--I love the deep blues and the luminescence of these items.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mission: Impossible!

The Challenge

Last weekend, we attempted what my husband called “Mission: Impossible!”—selling warm, wool products on a 90+ degree summer day. We knew it would be a hard sell; after all, we’ve been doing outdoor festival sales for over 10 years, now, so we have a bit of experience. But we were willing to give it a try, since we got into the Tualatin Crawfish Festival at the very last minute, and it was an event we’ve never done before.

We had set up the canopy in our space the evening before, to save a little time in the morning. My husband had made some new wooden racks for the booth, so we spent a little extra time deciding how to configure the booth (to be accurate, I spent a little extra time worrying about how to configure the booth; my husband already had it planned out in his head). We hurried to get racks and tables set up, then started placing the product out on them. This is always a challenge, since we have more product than display space. But we managed to get everything in place before 10:00 AM, our deadline.

We had opted not to use any “walls” on our awning, since there was no likelihood of rain in the forecast, but the booths to either side of us had walls up, so effectively we had walls on the two sides of the structure. This theoretically could have shielded us a bit from the sun, but since the sun was at our backs most of the day, it didn’t have much effect. It did, probably, shield us some from the breeze, which was intermittent throughout the day. This was a Good Thing in that it kept things from blowing off the racks and tables, but it was a Bad Thing in terms of our comfort, as the breeze would have afforded some cooling as we sweated out the day.

There was no booth behind us, so we were not shielded from the sun at all from that direction. Did I mention that the sun was behind us?? We kept trying to move farther into the booth to get into the shade, but that meant that we were blocking some of the product from public view. Oh, well…when you do a crafts booth at an outdoor event, you learn to be flexible.

The Cacophony
It is always interesting to watch people’s reactions when they walk by our booth. Some are so focused on their goal (undoubtedly something on the other end of the festival grounds) that they don’t even give our booth a glance. Others glance in, see the cacophony of colors, shapes and textures, and hurry on by. Some dismiss the booth with an “Oh…just knitting” kind of look. Some smile apologetically or say hello, then continue on past. Every so often, some brave soul ventures into the booth. Again, there are quite a variety of reactions:

The Quick, Disinterested Tourist: After a quick once-around, the visitor’s eyes glaze over, and he departs rapidly.

The Fiber Addict: This person is quite interested in how the items are made, but is not at all interested in buying; after all, he could always make it himself.

The Poverty-Stricken Admirer: This would-be customer is very gratifying, if a bit disappointing. If he had remembered his checkbook today, he really would have bought something. Everything is very beautiful, though.

• The Obtuse/Ignorant/Unobservant NonCustomer: “I have one just like this at home!” [Grrrr….!  Do you realize that this is a handmade product from an original design?  The one you bought at WalMart is probably not quite the same, if you look at it more carefully.]

• The Distracted Shopper With Small Children and/or Pets**:
          This category merits subpoints. Several favorites:

        • The Touchy-Feely Child: A small child who wants to touch everything (probably a Future Fiber Artist), whose mother is so involved in the shopping experience that she does not enforce the Don’t Touch! Rule she had stated upon entering the booth. This child often repeats the phrase, “Look, Mommy!” while holding each and every item precariously over the dusty ground.
       • The Cheeto-Fingered Girl: This one placed her bright orange forefinger firmly on the tip of the nose of our white head form…it was scarred (or rather, stained) for life! And her father pulled her away just as she was about to touch the white scood that was on it.
       • The Little Big Spender: This child, usually 7 or under, wants to buy everything in the shop, but only has a dollar. He has to ask how much every item costs, so he can decide if he can buy it, since he seems to have left his parents behind at the last booth.

       • The Visiting Dog: We once did several shows at a farm market, which was inhabited by a very sweet dog, named Sally. Sally loved to eat ears of corn, and her favorite place to do this was inside our booth. If we were lucky, she would repose under a table. (Come to think of it, we were the visitors!)  We periodically had to remove a half-chewed ear of corn from the middle of our booth, or shoo Sally out so that a customer could get close to our display.
       • The Inquisitive Dog: This dog, whose distracted owner is very interested in our shop, wants to explore everything it can reach, and touch it with its wet, inquisitive nose. Sometimes the dog will get its leash entangled around one of our table legs.
       • The Runaway Stroller: One time, our table was actually run down by a runaway stroller, which was thankfully empty at the time. Personally, I think the toddler pushed the stroller downhill to see what would happen.

**Please note that I am very fond of small children and pets.

The Perfectionist: This shopper could potentially be a customer, if I had any products that were exactly the right color, shape, or size. Unfortunately, they are all just a little bit off.

The Tease: Sometimes it seems that a shopper tries on everything in the booth, without ever having any intention of buying. This often seems to happen when there are two shoppers together. They seem to be really interested in several items, but end up nonchalantly sallying out of the booth, after having messed up the entire display.

The BUYER (Woohoo!)!!: This shopper actually finds something they, or someone else they know, would like or use, and they have the ability to pay for it. This is our FAVORITE RESPONSE of all, though probably the least frequent.

It is almost painful to watch people as they look at warm hats and scarves on a stiflingly hot day. People will almost recoil as they imagine trying those items on, and they don’t even seem able to process the fact that we have airy, lacy items like doilies and cool, lace-covered glass paperweights. Such is the state of the Fiber Booth on a hot summer’s day.

I should bring this post to a close. Perhaps I should change the title to “Mission Improbable”, as we did manage to sell a few items, after all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why I Learned to Weave

In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that I was resistant to learning to use the loom I had been given by my grandmother.  I loved having it in my home, I just didn't particularly want to use it.  When we first got the loom, the only place it would fit was in the basement--not really a suitable place to use the loom.  Reprieve!!

When we moved a few years later, we planned to put the loom in the basement again--but it wouldn't fit down the stairs!  So it ended up in our daughter's bedroom.  We eventually built a little wall around it, so that our toddler daughter wouldn't get into it.

The next time we moved, the loom graced our dining room.  For the first time, I had room to use it.  Shortly after we moved, my grandmother had to move out of her house, and as the family member most into the fiber arts, I was in charge of pricing and selling her yarn and equipment stash.  As I priced the weaving tools and yarns, I became more and more aware of the gift I had been given.  Some ladies from the Handweaver's Guild came to our sale, and one of them plunked down $100 for a small table loom, after barely looking at it.  I was amazed--it seemed a fortune to me at the time!  And she said the loom was just a stopgap until she could afford the kind of loom she really wanted (undoubtedly a floor loom, perhaps much like the one in my dining room).

About this same time, the pastor of my church was doing a series of sermons on Stewardship.  In one of them, he pointed out that we are responsible for our stewardship, not only of money and abilities, but even of material things we have been blessed with.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had been provided with not only a loom, but virtually everything I needed in order to learn to weave (In addition to the loom, my grandmother had given me warping tools, shuttles, lots of weaving yarn, and even a few books on weaving)!  I became strongly convicted that God meant me to learn to use this valuable piece of equipment that He had given me.  I asked, "Why, Lord?  What possible eternal purpose could there be, in my learning to weave?"  I received no answer to this perplexing question, but I felt I must obey.

So I learned.  I had looked into weaving lessons, but felt that they would not work for me. My son was now a toddler, and it would be difficult for me to spend hours weaving at the weaving studio with a little one in tow.  My grandmother had shown me the basic operation of the loom, and I had read quite a bit about the weaving process in the books she had given me; but I had no materials which showed specifically how to warp my loom.  I followed the directions in my generic weaving books, and learned partly by trial and error, and partly by picking the brains of other weavers I met.  The first warp I put on had to be cut off after trying to weave a few inches, as I had threaded it through the loom the wrong way!  But I soon found that I enjoyed the process of weaving, and have never regretted having learned this skill that I avoided for so long.

So, why did God lead me to learn to weave??  Perhaps I will never know, this side of eternity.  But I have decided that, if there is no great eternal significance to this compulsion to weave, maybe God just gave me this gift to bring added joy and fulfilment to my life.  And that's ok with me!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Studio of My Own!

One of the looms built by my grandfather--isn't it beautiful?

Last weekend, we moved my fiber stuff (at least most of it!) into my new studio. I now have looms, sewing and knitting machines, fiber processing equipment, my computer and a good portion of my yarn stash all in one room! Yet to come is a place for my collection of fiber-related books, and I'm not sure the spinning wheels will ever find a home in the studio--they may have to live upstairs. I am realizing that I could probably have used twice as much space in here (I still have boxes and boxes of fiber, plus lots of fiber equipment, still stored in the garage!), but I am so thankful for what I have. Kudos to my husband and son for remodeling this space for me from a garage bay to a working studio!

My mind is buzzing with the possibilities. What should I weave first? The looms have been residing in our garage (otherwise known to the family as The Barn) for the last couple of years, so I will have to remember how to warp them efficiently. I still need to find some of the warping equipment, which is still hiding in The Barn somewhere, along with loom benches, shuttles, and bobbins. Oh, will take me a while to decide how to warp the looms, anyway. I always find the planning and warping the most difficult parts of weaving. Once I get the warp in place, things get much easier!

In the meantime, I am busily preparing for a fall season of local venues, as well as trying to write up knitting and crochet patterns for public consumption, to self-publish as pdf files.

The life of a fiber artist is never dull!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How I Became a "Fiber Artist"

I was bitten by the fiber bug fairly early in life.  My grandmothers were both adept at needlework:  one did lovely embroidery and crocheted elegant, lacy delicacies; the other was proficient at sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, tatting, and even weaving.  While I was (as a teenager) inspired by the beautiful work of my father's mother, I was taught the basics by my mother's mother ("Sit down.  I'm going to teach you to tat today.").  I am forever indebted to both of these ladies who inspired and encouraged me.  I was not always the most eager student at first--I'm sure there were many other things I would rather have been doing--but the skills that I was taught stuck with me.

After I was married, I had time (as a full-time homemaker with as yet no children) to pursue knitting and crocheting, along with the occasional sewing project.  I found that the basics that I had been taught enabled me to pick up books on textile techniques and learn on my own.  I began to make little changes to the patterns I would follow, and even designed a few of my own.

Soon, my maternal grandmother offered me one of her floor looms.  These were large pieces of "furniture" that my grandfather had built for her back in the '50's.  I accepted because it was an interesting conversation piece, and part of my family's history (No one else I knew had a grandmother that knew how to weave!).  I never planned to actually use the thing--though my husband had big plans for me to weave lots of fabric and sew all our own clothes!! 

I'll tell more of the loom saga another time.  Suffice it to say that I eventually learned to weave, and even to spin my own yarn.

Over the years, I have discovered that I really enjoy learning new techniques.  Even more fun is to play around with yarn and fiber and come up with my own techniques!  The items that I create reflect the diversity of the techniques that I enjoy.  If you browse my Etsy shop, you will find quite a variety of items.  When a person first enters my booth at a festival, often their eyes start to glaze over as they look around them.  It is hard to "process" so many different types of products.  I guess I have a short attention span--before I finish one project, I am looking around for something different to do next!

I guess the reason I describe myself (with some trepidation) as a "Fiber Artist" (in spite of the fact that I have always considered myself to be highly un-artistic) is because I create the designs that I make.  Though I have read a bit about Color Theory and Design, I basically make what I think will be beautiful (unfortunately, my artist's concept does not always come together in the finished product the way that I envisioned!), and I don't worry about what others will think.

So here I am--running a small business making and selling knitted, crocheted, handwoven, felted, beaded and braided products, and enjoying the excitement and fulfilment that creativity brings to my life!