Christina’s School of Arts and Tact

Sometimes, I think people forget that the people sitting in the booths at craft fairs are people. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with small businesses that are not separated from their wares by the Pacific Ocean or a corporate chain of faceless entities. Here is a lesson from the Christina School of Arts and Tact about how to talk to a vendor at a craft fair!

Instead of…
“I’m a crocheter too, I didn’t realize you could sell stuff this basic. I could totally make all of this stuff. What do you pay to have a booth here?”
Try…
“I’m a crocheter too, I think it would be so fun to sell the stuff I make! Could I ask you questions about how to get started?”
But why?
I decided that I could sell the things I make because I kept going to craft fairs and thinking that my technique and creativity often exceeded that of the people there. But in what universe would I ever tell someone that I decided I could successfully make money because I was better than them? Not only will questions like the first get you a dirty look from me (because I’m my own boss, suckah! Complain to corporate HQ all you want!), but you will get terrible information, because I am defensive. If you talk to me like you respect me, with questions like the second imaginary question, I am SUPER helpful. I will answer ALL your questions. I’ll meet you for coffee. I’ll send you links to articles and books I find helpful. I’ve even been known to email people I haven’t talked to in months with links to groups from Meetup.com and Etsy teams they might find helpful. I’ll tell you how to apply for craft fairs and tell you which ones are lucrative. The person I am sharing a booth with at Homegrown Festival this very weekend is someone who was kind and respectful and asked me how to get started – without being a jerk about it. It could literally pay off to be nice to me, and probably lots of other crafty people!

Instead of…
“Wow, this is a really fantastic idea! What’s the pattern?
Try...
“Wow, this is a really fantastic idea! Do you sell your patterns?”
But why?
Because I didn’t lug all this crap out here on a hot day at eight and a half months pregnant for my health. See the cash box? The price tags? I’m here to make money. Be aware of where you are! If we’re sitting on a city bus next to each other or something, that is a much more appropriate situation to ask about swapping patterns. If you are curious about a pattern because you crochet or knit (or sew or sculpt etc) yourself, lead with flattery, and continue with flattery. Again, if you are rude, I am not helpful. But if you are nice to me, and you clearly understand that I am trying to run a small business, I am super nice. If its a pattern I found on the internet, I will pull out my phone and email you the link. If its my original pattern, I will tell you (as best as I can, see other blog posts for my awful how-tos) what I did and how I did it. I have even had people hang out for twenty minutes while I teach them weird stitches.

Instead of…
Taking a photo of something on my table and walking out without saying anything…
Try…
“This is so great, my uncle/grandma/co-worker’s lovechild would LOVE this! Could I take a photo?”
But why?
I feel like this doesn’t need an explanation, that basic human decency in the age of technology is pretty clear about not taking photos without the subject or owner’s permission – especially in sight of the owner. But, I will say that if you ask, again, I will say yes, I will even pose in the picture for you. And I’ll tell you to use the hashtag #brightsoul on Instagram, so you can share my funny crochet beards or fabulous scarves with other people who like them!

Some general DOs…
DO keep a good poker face. Some people are waaaaay overcharging for stuff that isn’t that interesting or creative. Sign up next year and undercut them, or move on and gasp later in the privacy of your home – don’t roll your eyes and say “$20, for THIS?!”
DO give compliments in leiu of making a purchase. If you’ve groped and dissheveled my entire inventory but you don’t have any cash, I won’t be upset in the slightest if you’ve told me how fantastic I am.
DO watch your children. I have had kids take stuff off my table and try to leave (that’s called stealing, folks). I’ve had kids spill drinks and food on my stuff. I’ve had kids hang out in my booth for HOURS while their parents shop. I love kids, but I am running a business, and that business is not a daycare service.

All in all, its important to remember what it would feel like to have little bits of your creative brain on a table displayed to the world, and try to be nice!

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Arlington Handmade Holiday

It is no secret that I love craft fairs.

Besides selling stuff to pay for my yarn habit, being around people who love to make things and people who love things that other people made is just plain magical. Local! Organic! Recyled! Vintage! Handmade! Basically everything I love and live for, all under one roof.

But there was something really special about the Arlington Handmade Holiday.

Maybe it was the adorable children singing Christmas carols. Maybe it was one of those adorable children who came to my table several times to tell me that they were accepting donations for gift wrapping, should I need it.

Maybe it was the obviously fantastic organization and publicity. I say obvious, because the place was swarming pretty much all day long. At some points, I could swear I was at the outlet mall on a sale weekend… except no one was trampling me.

Maybe it was because we got lucky and had the absolute BEST spot possible at the event – open the doors, step inside and BAM! Front and center, lots and lots of super brightly-colored crochet goodness. Maybe because this is the first craft fair Bright Soul has done in the winter time – you know, the time when people actually wear hats and scarves… let’s just say the wooden cigar box we use to hold our cash was quite full.

Maybe its because its Christmastime, so people didn’t just light up because they saw something on our table they liked, but because they knew someone they loved would like it too. There were beautiful, loving families shuffling around us all day.

Or, maybe Arlington is just a small town where community is more than just a word and people genuinely believe in the little guys, like us.

…Wherever the magic came from, I’m so glad we got to be a part of it!

(And if you haven’t already, definitely hop on facebook, and like the Arlington Farmer’s Market page!)

-Christina

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The Lost Scarf

I made a fabulous circular scarf. It was wide, long, and made of three fantastic, expensive yarns. It was completely unique, dark purple, deep mustard, and a multi-colored Rowan yarn that ranged from brown to green to tan to red. There were all kinds of fibers, which makes me crazy, in a good way. There was wool, acrylic, nylon, mohair, and magic. I did a variation on a wave stitch, alternating single, half double, double, and triple crochet without any counting to make a more free form scarf that I could never repeat exactly the same way unless I wanted a couple hours of serious counting. Which I think we all know I have no interest in counting.

The point is, I made this scarf SUPER one of a kind. I didn’t write down the pattern, didn’t even try.

And somewhere between taking these amazing photos of Jennifer and coming back to my house, I lost the scarf. I don’t know if it fell out of my bag while we were taking photos, or if it fell out while we were all walking home from the creepy abandoned house I insisted the ladies pose in front of, but alas. It isn’t here. I’ve turned my house upside down, more than once. I searched my car, made my friends search theirs. I even walked back to the creepy house and searched there.

So, I’m imagining some fabulous girl was walking down this road, perhaps she was catching a bus to go see a play in Seattle, saw a lump of yarn on the sidewalk, bent down, and discovered the beautiful, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that was (is?) this scarf.

Maybe she’s imagining a fabulous crochet-er (although she’s probably thinking knitter, most people are) behind this scarf. Or maybe she thinks a particularly fabulous angel in heaven dropped it for her to find.

Either way, she owes me like fifty dollars.

-Christina

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Book Review: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet

I bought The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert with a 50% off coupon at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and I never buy books new. I usually get my books from the clearance section at Half-Price Books or at Goodwill. But this book, oh man! Totally worth it.

Most crochet books have a section in the front for absolute beginners, and then several pages with maybe a dozen or more patterns. There will be a photo of a tank top, and then specific directions on how to make the exact tank top in the picture, down to the number of skeins of yarn and hook size. As a fiercely creative person, I have no interest in making something that has already been made. My attempts at following patterns absolutely to the letter have been wildly unsuccessful, because it feels like work to me, and not like fun.

This book, however, has maybe six or seven patterns, but mostly it just explains different stitches. It doesn’t give you hook sizes or even how many stitches you need to make something – it just says “chain a multiple of four” or seven, or eleven, or whatever! So if you want to make a scarf or a blanket or a headband or a washcloth,  you can!

The pictures are bright and clear, and the instructions are nearly Christina-proof. Also, the history section in the beginning is chock-full of super interesting information about the lacy beginnings of crochet.

It is my best tool for inspiration yet. I will decide to add detail to a market bag, so I will flip through the pages and a stitch will pop out at me, and I will incorporate the “peacock fan” stitch or the “tipsy clusters” stitch to make something totally unique.

I made this cowl with the “houndstooth” stitch yesterday. With crochet, some things that look super complicated, are not. And some things that look simple are in fact, ridiculously complicated. This for example, looks somewhat interesting to a non-crochet-er, but if you look closely, some stitches are vertical and some are horizontal. This cowl took me SEVERAL hours to complete, and I’d say I go about double the speed of most people. The book had a clear diagram, and I tweaked it a little to make it more dramatic and bigger (and therefore faster to complete), substituting a quadruple stitch for a triple, a triple for a double, a double for a half-double. The photo in the book of this stitch was pink and washcloth-y. But I made it fashionable and very un-washcloth-y.

The real gems are in the back of the book – Margaret Hubert is a self-proclaimed master of freeform crochet, and she totally deserves the title. Different textures and stitches and shapes mashed together to make wearable, one of a kind art. There is also instructions on broomstick lace, which I am currently practicing, and I am absolutely picturing some pioneer woman looking at her crochet hook and looking at her broom handle and thinking “Hell yes.”

I would say this book is not best suited for beginners. If you already love to crochet, and you just need to take the next step to some more advanced stuff, and you are not a pattern person, like me, then this book is perfect!!!

-Christina

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Etsy Community Philosophy

I am used to a fairly abrasive world. I work in fast food, and have for a long time, so I bend over backwards to avoid that moment when a customer calls and speaks to me like I am not only stupid, but also evil because their pizza had more oregano on one side than the other, or because their request for light sauce was denied and their meals, evenings, and lives are completely destroyed because of it. I’m used to people shouting at me that the price is too high, I said the special was $17.99 so why aren’t they paying $17.99… until they remember we have sales tax.

And even outside of work, I’m used to being cut off on the freeway and flipped off for going 35 in a 35 and slowing down briefly to turn safely. I’m used to being bumped into at the mall, having doors not held open for me, and cashiers rolling their eyes when I tell them I do not need a plastic bag. I went to high school, where merciless teasing and bullying happened for: caring too much about anything at all, singing silly songs, not respecting the absurd ASB funding requests from the cool kids, being too fat, being too skinny, being too religious, or really, doing anything other than blend in to the sea of blue jeans.

But Etsy is different.

You’d expect the anonymity of the internet to give people who otherwise wouldn’t be mean out of fear the opportunity to lambast cyberspace with hate, but there is nothing but love (at least in my experience) on Etsy.

People put their art, their sometimes weird, unattractive, unappealing art, in full view of the whole world. And even if it is terribly designed or crafted, they don’t get crap about it. If you get included in a treasury that is poorly curated, you don’t comment to make fun of them. You simply thank and find something good to compliment. I once asked for critique on the pictures of my items, and I was given pointers and “here’s what I like”s about my items. The criticism was truly, actually constructive and didn’t make me feel smaller or worse AT ALL. (And I’m a person who has great difficulty with criticism.)Customers understand and still give you excellent feedback if their order is taking a little longer than usual, because they know you’re a human, and they’re a human too.

It’s like living in a 50s suburb. (Leave it to Beaver, not Peyton Place.)

Everyone smiles and waves hello. Everyone is walking their adorable dog, and their dog never poops. Everyone has cute floral dresses. It’s warm and fuzzy and happy.

And even in person, Etsians are such. Nice. People! I went to the EtsyRain craft fair, the Seattle Etsy team I am a part of, and every other vendor and every volunteer was so kind and helpful, it was unbelievable. They helped set up my tent, gave me excellent advice, encouraged me, and even let me use their credit card scanner squares on their smartphones.  I went to an EtsyRain meet-up in Everett, and was again given great advice, complimented like crazy, respected, and listened to, despite my lack of experience.

It seems like the whole world, and indeed most of my fast food customers, could really stand to take a page out of the book of Etsy.

-Christina

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Marysville Homegrown Festival

I love fairs, festivals, and really any kind of large gathering that centers around art. And it’s not just because I love art, it’s because art is almost always accompanied by music, delicious food, and happy people who are full of life… probably because of all the art, music, and delicious food.

As I walked to the trash can to throw away my pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw – whose proceeds went to support a local women’s shelter – I paused and took in the little old ladies in their summer best, the little kids running around with magic wands, the dogs wagging  their tails, the 100+ artists/crafters, the fun cha-cha music coming from the stage… and I had a thought:

What’s it called when you make a couple hundred dollars doing something you would absolutely do for free?

Oh yeah! It’s called…

Awesome.

 

-Christina

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Business Partners!

Everyone knows that Allison is my BFF. But now BFF has to be extended to BBPAFFLY… Best Business Partners And Friends For Life, Yo!

Allison is coming home to the Puget Sound, the Pacific Northwest, Partysville, USA. And as the best friendships always seem to go, we compliment and complete each other so well that it seems very natural that she should join me in my business endeavors when she comes back home.

I am creative. I am, and always have been, bursting at the seams with ideas. But as far as organization and execution goes, I am shockingly horrible. I am absolutely positive that I have several friends who often wonder how I get my shoes on the right feet every day, because I am always frazzled, losing-my-keys, 45-minutes-late, and forgetful. I sometimes lose money on etsy because the simple business concept that someone pays for something and you send it to them is too much for my brain to handle. I technically have paid up to ten dollars for someone to own something I “sold” them.

This is why I need Allison. My beautiful red-headed cohort who keeps her underwear separated into categories by using actual barriers to prevent the different kinds from mixing together. Plus she is highly wise, is able to understand patterns, is able to listen to sewing machine mechanical instructions for longer than nine seconds at a time, and is ridiculously creative and talented as well.

Things like having an inventory, saving receipts for tax purposes, and making an organized office workspace are now seeming like logical possibilities instead of nice ideas.

BBPAFFLY!

-Christina

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