Memories Of Terrible Tuesday – 35 Years Later


Tomorrow, April 10th, 2014 will mark the 35th anniversary of an event that changed my life forever.

When as many as 38 confirmed tornadoes danced the Red River Valley.  More destruction from the same weather cell would spill into the next day, affecting parts of Arkansas and Missouri for a total of 59 tornadoes confirmed.

Photograph of the Seymour, TX tornado of 10 April 1979.  (Wiki commons)

Photograph of the Seymour, TX tornado of 10 April 1979. (Wiki commons)

They later called it Terrible Tuesday.  Many remember that a mile wide path was carved through Wichita Falls, TX, killing 42 people.  But another tornado also came up through the edge of my hometown of Lawton, OK a few hours before.  And we lost 3 people too.

I remember it being called an F4 or F5 long ago, but it seems that time has downgraded it in the records to an F3.

They say that particular tornado split into two, possibly three tornadoes after it hit town.

I believe it happened at my house.

I always get emotional when I remember that day.  I was 7 and a half, and I remember the day like last week’s trauma.  The jewel green look of the sky when we were at the Safeway grocery store on Ft. Sill Blvd.  The way the air tasted, tingly like a weak 9 volt battery playing in the back of your mouth.  The way everyone ignored the weather in Oklahoma and went about their business.

You gotta understand.  Tornadoes were no unusual thing.  However, usually they were small.  Maybe they take out a barn or something.  Maybe they never touch the ground.  Maybe we get a little excitement, but rarely was it that big of a deal.

People ignored tornado “warnings” all the time back then.

I remember standing at the back glass door, staring at the heavy rain when we got home.  Watching the hail come down and get louder and larger.

My mother worked for the American Red Cross at the time.  She helped train folks in disaster preparedness.  I’d watched every film our local chapter had to offer at the time.  We knew well that the safest place in the home was as close to the center was you could get and away from windows.  And we had regular drills at school, filing into the hallways, crouching on our knees with our heads face-down towards the floor and wall, our open textbooks held to cover our necks and heads.

On Monday night before, there was a PTA meeting at Will Rogers Elementary School – the school I attended and lived across the street from.  Mom and her director gave a presentation to our school and parents about tornadoes, what to look for, where to go, what to expect. The biggest thing I remembered from that meeting was the Red Cross director talking about hail and rain.  He held strings of white beads in front of a poster to represent hail as he described the pattern progression of a storm.

He said, “It’s not the rain and hail you need to be afraid of. It’s when it suddenly stops.

It’s because a tornado sucks everything up.

I stood at our back door, watching the rain and hail get harder and larger.  Suddenly it was like a switch had been flicked and there was a stunning moment of silence against the jewel green sky.  My mom hung up the phone and yelled “Kids, hit the hallway!”

The hallway in our antique home, a house old enough that it still had some of the gas pipes for lighting in the walls, was a tiny 4-5 foot circle that our bedrooms opened to before spilling into the living room.  I grabbed my cat Taffy and my little brother’s hand and we sat down low.  There was just enough room for us and mom.  She managed to flip the breaker before the first crash.

They say a tornado sounds like a freight train….

But I never heard it.

I heard my swing set crash through my bedroom window.  Nearly every window in the house broke.  The sound of glass and boards flying through our home filled my ears.  As did the sounds of my little 5 year old brother screaming as he writhed in my hand and tried to get away to run.

“Hang on to him!”

Of course he was scared.  I tightened my grip on his arm, and suddenly Taffy bolted from my arms.

And somewhere, in the middle of all the crashing noises, there was a sudden pounding on our front door, just maybe 20 feet away.  Mom got to the door to let my friend Francis and her brother and sister from across the street in.  We didn’t get to play real often, and she was a little younger than me but Francis was one of my best friends.  Her father was in the army and her mother was at work, so the kids were home alone that afternoon.

I heard Francis’ sister say over and over, “The table fell on me.  The table fell on me!”

One of them was barefoot (or was it two?).  And somehow, they made it through the storm and across the street to our house just before their home collapsed like a pile of cards.

And then, as they huddled into the tiny circle of our hallway with us, it was over.  And somehow, our home filled with debris, none of us was hurt.

“There is no tornado. There is no tornado.”

Mom had grabbed our radio.  An announcer emphatically urged the public not to panic, that reports of a tornado were false.  “There is no tornado. There is no tornado.”

Dad had seen the tornado from downtown where he worked, just a few miles away.  He raced home.  Mom said he kicked in the only undamaged door left in the house.  My grandma lived a block away.  She saw a board come at her through her hallway and managed to get into the hall closet in time.  It would be three days before I saw my cat again, thankfully alive.

Stepping out into the world after that was surreal.  We lived on a corner diagonally across the street from my school.  Surveying the damage, half the school gym was peeled away and gone.  On one side across from our corner, a neighbor’s house was missing its entire roof.  Francis’ house on the other side across from our corner was a pile of rubble.  And the house across from us next to hers had completely vanished.

People used to steal our apples all the time. I guess they won’t anymore.

Trees, rubble and power-lines were everywhere.  The neighbor’s old tall tree beside us just barely missed crashing through my parents’ bedroom.  Our old sycamore tree looked shaved on one side.  The apple tree didn’t survive.

Bits of someone else’s swing set were in our yard.  Unbroken dishes that didn’t belong to us had miraculously shown up inside our house.  Even food had been blown around. For decades our neighbor had a saltine cracker framed that was put through their ceiling.  I heard that it finally fell out one year when her husband was fixing the roof.

The day took on an even deeper experience as it was also Passover night for our family.  We weren’t Jewish, but our church at the time kept Passover services after sundown on April 10th that year.  I forget why it was a day earlier than other Passover services.  Some sort of argument about the right way to figure the date.

Normally, children were not allowed at these solemn services.  But there would be no babysitter in our home that night.

We were late for the service, but I remember the deacons and other volunteers helping us in.  My brother went with my father and I with my mother for the foot washing ceremony.  I watched as a woman removed my mother’s shoes and washed away the mud and grass from her feet.  I watched as the symbolism impressed itself upon her.  Tears were in her eyes and suddenly everything felt raw to me.

More tornado sirens would go off that night. 

Some of our church members drove up from Texas for the service.  I heard that one of the families returned to Texas that night to find their home completely gone.  They thanked God they were at services instead.  Everyone murmured how we were all indeed “passed over.”

I remember sitting in a little diner that night, mom and dad talking, trying to figure out what to do.  We couldn’t go home to sleep and we didn’t really have the money to eat out or get a hotel, but there wasn’t any choice in the matter.  I remember hearing mom talk about how the mattresses would have to be replaced, because there’ve been cases of glass being embedded in them by tornadoes.  The diner had those little juke boxes on the tables.  “Don’t Say Goodnight Tonight” was playing at a table nearby.  It was really popular back then, but to this day, that song feels like a haunting to me.

A lot would change after that.

As the weeks would pass, our community would come together to help each other.  I remember the American Red Cross bringing relief bags with food and toiletries and the irony of it.  Grandpa came and helped my dad fix our roof.  The repairs seemed to go on forever.  And I remember how a year later, it still seemed like we’d never recover.

Our neighbor who lost his roof fixed up his house and also moved away.  I can’t remember his name, but I remember that he had red hair and had been so kind.  I liked him and was angry that the tornado took him away from us.  The new neighbors never could compare.

Francis and her family also moved away and I never saw her again.  Never got an address; don’t even know her last name.  It felt like injustice and I’ve always wondered about her ever since.  I remember when the cranes came to clear away the rubble of her collapsed house.  I kept hoping she’d come back.  But it was like a curse had fallen on our neighborhood.  Her home’s lot remained empty for a long time.  And the empty lot left next to Francis’ home (where the whole house had disappeared) remained empty for the longest.

And for years, my brother and I cringed with every swirl of wind, every time the leaves blew into curls, every time a storm pounded our roof.  And for years it was hard on our parents too.  It took a long time to balance the trauma we all felt.  And the financial blow was no small thing.

I would later grow up and move on.  But every once in a while, there’s a look in the sky and a taste in the air that throws me back into the memories of a serious 7 year old child who would never forget.

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How Do You Know If You’re Pricing Your Offers Properly? – Guest Blog by Lynn Scheurell


Intro

“Starving” artists, charities, yoga teachers, writers, massage therapists, musicians, holistic practitioners – I tend to lump us all into the same basic category because often our struggles are the same. These are the things we do for the heart of it and often it’s not the easiest path. Business doesn’t always feel easy when you want to put love first. And yet, we still need healthy business practices if we’re going to thrive.

We get this.  We know we need to charge for our work and get paid for our services.  We know we need to value ourselves and put a price on our amazing talents. But… so how do you know when you’ve got it right?  A friend of mine has a good answer!  But let me introduce her first.

Lynn Scheurell - Creative CatalystI’m really blessed to know some incredibly talented people in Austin and around the world.  Lynn Scheurell of Creative Catalyst is one of those excellent people who just happens to also be an excellent teacher in business and marketing. She teaches people from literally all around the world. She’s both creative and business minded and she’s a writer, publisher and inspirational speaker.

I also trust her with anyone I send her way. (That’s a big deal to me, btw.)  And one of her recent newsletters just happened to really hit on some of the very same points we were discussing just a few weeks ago about pricing and valuing our work as creatives.

Now the letter is one that Lynn only sends out to people on her list and it is about services she offers. So I want you to know that up front. However, I felt it had some really good points y’all would appreciate. So I asked her if it would be OK to share it with you. And she said yes!

Here it is. Enjoy and check out her credentials at the end!
(And if you talk to her, tell her I sent you!)


Are You Pricing Your Offers Properly?
by Lynn Scheurell

Here’s how you know if you are pricing your offers properly…
- you feel good about your work with clients.

If you feel drained, resentful, anxious, frustrated, watch the clock, stressed about money, feel like you can’t breathe, pushed or hurried in your time with clients, then a boundary around your worth is being violated through your pricing.

The inside secret is that you are the only one who can set and honor your boundaries. You are the only person who can set your fees.

Tragically, most entrepreneurs under-value their work by at least 10% – and that likely includes you.

You may not have a pricing strategy in place, or have one that doesn’t serve you, or have pricing that doesn’t connote your true value.

In fact, I have a personal story about that to share with you… from wayyyyy back when, I was a practicing Feng Shui consultant. (Feng Shui remains one of my true loves to this day… but I digress!) ;+)

Anyway, at the time, I was charging $75 per consultation (without time limits!) – and I couldn’t GIVE them away!

I worked with a business coach, who told me I needed a higher fee. I thought she was out of her mind – raise my fees when I wasn’t attracting business as it was??? Holy cow… but, per her instruction, I meditated on a number and got one.

She was on vacation for about three weeks but I decided to put that number into action immediately. (I am a Catalyst, after all…!)

The first time I said it out loud to a potential client, I’m not sure how he heard it over the sound of my knocking knees! But over the course of the next three weeks, I had more consults using that new fee than I’d had in the previous three months at the lower fee!

When my business coach returned from vacation, we had a session. Of course, she asked if I had a new number and I said yes and that I’d been using it already.

She asked what it was – and remember, she knew my fee was $75. When I told her $450 – and that I was GETTING it! – I’m pretty sure she fell off her chair!

The point is that, once I was charging enough, people believed that I was offering something of value. I was more in line with the market in terms of fees. I didn’t need to ‘wait’ for some reason to justify my new fees based on filling my schedule at the lower rate first. And I was getting booked right and left at the new rate!

It felt great to actually be receiving my value professionally. But it took me honoring myself and following my intuition and then claiming my worth before it could happen. Only when I did could my business take off… and I haven’t looked back since (except to share this story!). ;+)

How this applies to you… you must know your value and claim it through your fees. And your rates must make sense within a strategic framework, or business model.

If you don’t have a business model, you’re flying blind and it’s likely that your business feels scattered. If you can’t predict your monthly income in advance, it’s time for an overhaul.

The fastest way I know to upgrade your fee structure and business model is to work with someone who understands revenue models AND understands you and what you bring to your clients. It’s actually rare to find that combination in an expert. (I know because I searched for that very resource early in my own business!)

Fortunately, that’s one of my signature specialties… I offer Business Vision Mapping for forward-thinking entrepreneurs who really GET that it is vital to price their offers properly within a strategic business framework.

These Catalysting sessions are designed to answer your questions about implementation, neutralize personal fears, limiting beliefs and obstacles and/or address sticky situations as you gain new momentum in your business. And they are invaluable as you begin taking action into new territory to grow your business.

Pricing your offers properly also means that you are honoring your clients.

If you undercharge, you feel drained and will look to shortcut your time and energy in delivering the product or service.

If you overcharge, your client will feel taken advantage of and look to maximize their investment in ‘creative’ ways that won’t serve either of you in the long run.

You really do owe it to yourself AND your clients to properly price what you do…

To Honoring Your Clients And Your Worth ~

Lynn


Biography

Changing the world through business starts by understanding your motivations, inspirations and purpose; in other words, changing the world starts within you. Only then can you apply your intensity through strategic business models, systems and focused action to create conscious, and often dramatic, results.

Lynn Scheurell is a visionary pioneer, spiritual teacher for entrepreneurs and authority in the area of conscious business. She is a leading proponent that entrepreneurship is one’s highest calling made manifest through service and that one’s business is the ultimate tool for personal growth. And she has a rare skill as a gifted communicator with solid experience in business models and systems.

Internationally known for her empowering and inclusive approach to conscious business, Lynn teaches entrepreneurs how to identify, align and express their true nature at every stage in business to accelerate results. Learn more at www.MyCreativeCatalyst.com.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”
Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?
Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows


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What’s Your One Thing?


I read a really good article from Entrepreneur Magazine today. It’s called: “12 Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Best Advice They Ever Got.”  I wanted to share it with you because it’s good stuff!

I like reading about other entrepreneurs, because that’s what all we handmade artists and writers are, even if we don’t really think about it.  We are entrepreneurs. And even if we’re not in a more traditionally recognized “business,” our struggles to get started and to thrive are much the same as anyone’s.

I love the entrepreneurial path as one of the most life enriching paths there is.  Being in business for yourself presents you with perspective and challenges you would never otherwise choose.  And with experience like that you can’t help but grow.

There were two stories in this article that I especially liked.  The first was Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ story about advice from Jack Cassady.  I love that a successful man took time to reach out to someone just starting out, encouraged them and reminded them to never quit.  It’s just a wonderful example of how someone can help not only enrich the life of a single man, but of a whole generation of people.  Read the story and then imagine if Mr. Cassady had never taken the time?

The second story I really appreciated was Dane Atkinson’s advice about creating clarity for your business.

He says the following: “One thing that I’ve slowly come to realize is that focus is so critically important…. Saying ‘no’ to great ideas is necessary to get to the brilliant ones.  At every step of the way you have to cut towards one path.  It’s such a hard thing to do as an entrepreneur because you don’t really have the confidence in where you’re going yourself…. We all expect services to do one thing right….  It’s a very simple formula that you just repeat and rinse all the way to success.”

One_ThingIt strikes a very personal chord for me.  I have seen more business failure based in decisions that spread a business (or organization) too thin and keep them from specializing in what they do best.

And I’m here to tell ya – artists are guilty of this!

A business or an artist gets a good focused start, enjoys some success, then starts looking at what others have, trying to do what others do, then fails and everything is lost when they would have grown if they instead stuck with honing their focus instead of spreading to areas that aren’t really them.

We talk about it all the time – know your purpose.  “Know Thyself.”  It’s the crux of all success.

A business needs its purpose as much as any person does.

Don’t covet what others have, don’t try to be something else because you see others succeed at it and you think you should have a piece of their pie. Don’t get off in the weeds and leave your purpose.  I am capable of doing a lot of things.  I like the idea of a lot of things, but my focus stays pretty clear.  And I’m not just content, but excited to let others be experts in other areas for me!  Because we all thrive then.

How do you serve? What’s your passion and purpose? What do you love?  What fires you up!  What do you bring to the world table?

Now be the best at that you can be, pouring your heart and soul into it!  Don’t add anything to your mission that doesn’t feed that!

As soon as you covet the path or success of others and try to add their purpose to your path, you water down your own success and ability to serve.  You water down your own value to the world, because you’re supposed to be you, even as a business!  Success doesn’t revolve around serving multiple masters. I’m not talking about getting too comfortable or never challenging yourself, I’m talking about getting clear about your purpose in the world, without trying to be others.  Learn from others, then be yourself!

Clarity is the key.  Find your unique business path. Does your business do X, Y or G?  Because it can’t succeed doing all A-Z.  Unless you’re God.  You don’t think you’re God, do you?

Find your own path.  The rest is for someone else to do and make their own – and thank goodness!

Special note here: One of the worst things you can put on an application to a show (and I suspect other types of applications too) is that you “do everything.” Don’t do that.  It’s like applying for a college scholarship and saying, “I want to major in everything and specialize in nothing, please award me money!”  You need to choose a focus or a specialty.  That will best help you and the show director (who is responsible for planning a successful show for everyone) the most.

You are an investment.  Clarity is king.

So what’s your one thing?


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Sorry I fell off the planet… but Happy New Year and check out some news!


Four weeks.

It’s been four weeks since my last post.  Like that yellow bird, I fell right off the NaBloPoMo wagon face first into the dirt.  And it’s a wonder, because I really enjoy writing here more than I enjoy all my other work.  You’d think I’d be playing hookey all the time just to be here.  But no, I get side-tracked with the serious and the mundane things in life.  Why do I have to pay taxes and mop…

So… actually…
I owe you guys some serious crochet news! 

News I’ve been aware of for a few weeks, but have been remiss in passing on.  Did you get the winter Interweave Crochet issue and wonder where the 2nd article is?  Well, that 2nd article on crochet hand holds has been moved to the Spring 2014 issue!  Just about in time for me to go to Spain!  So hang on another season and look for it then.  :)

My latest projects

I stayed busy in December with a couple shows and madly crocheting for Christmas gifts.  These are just a few of my projects that actually ended up in pictures.

red_textured_diagonal_cowl

I’ve been working on this new stitch idea. I have no idea what to call it, but it involves making some stitches in a diagonal pattern and stretching them kind of in the same way you stretch the loops in a Solomon’s Knot when you make it.  It requires some definite discipline and consistency to get the stitch to come out evenly for the entire project.  I had to practice it a bit, because during my first run, after putting the project down for a couple of days, my continuation turned out completely different in gauge than my beginning.  This project, while considered advanced in skill, is fairly consistent once you get the hang of it, because the entire piece is this one stitch.

purple_textured_diagonal_cowlMy sister-in-law saw me working on this and really fell in love with the texture, so she asked if I could replicate this pattern for her in purple.  Remember my quest for a very specific yarn?  Well, thanks to T-Rex from Ravelry who was kind enough to sell me her Taki Savoy, I was able to create this for her.  The way it’s photographed here, it might look like some sort of ladder stitch, but it isn’t.  It’s exactly the same stitch as you see in the red, just redone in this lovely eggplant yarn.

You might also notice the necklace she’s wearing.  That was another crochet project that I finished for her.

Backstory

The pendant is a large piece of charoite that I found on a trip to Arizona a year and a half ago.  There’s this sweet little town called Jerome, about halfway between Prescott and Flaggstaff.  Getting there is a nightmare for anyone with vertigo of any kind as the roads to get there are not only winding through the mountains, but there are steep drop offs just off the edge of the roads with no shoulders.  Jerome itself is an old copper mining town that’s built right into the sides of the mountain cliffs there.  And it’s aptly called “America’s most vertical city.”

Today, the town is very artistic and full of interesting shops and yummy little places to eat.  Walking around the town didn’t bother me a bit, but driving the roads – well… let’s just say that I had no idea I had a problem with heights and steep drop-offs until we took this trip.  Of course, why would I think otherwise.  I grew up in the Great Plains where the only mountains nearby are amongst the oldest and most worn down on planet Earth.  I’ve never been faced with roads the likes of these before.  And I didn’t like it.

knit1_bead2_jerome_AZAnyway, back to the great parts about Jerome.  While we were there, my dear hubby noticed a yarn shop, up on the second story cliff above us (seriously, it’s an oddly built town).  “I’m probably going to regret this, but let this be proof I truly love you.  Dear, there’s a yarn store up there – do you want to check it out?”  My hubby is so awesome!  “Yay! Of course I do!”  The name of the shop is Knit 1 Bead 2, and not only did they have a variety of specialty high-end yarns there, they also had some amazing beads!

charoite crochet necklaceThat’s where I found this sweet little (ok, not little at all) pendant.  And what I decided to do was instead of simply putting the pendant on a leather thong or a silver snake chain, as would seem more typical, was to instead crochet several separate strands of cotton thread to put together to create the necklace for the pendant instead.  These photos don’t do it justice, but I like the texture they create and of course I like the comfort and lack of metal reaction that crochet jewelry can offer.  My sister-in-law is much like me, allergic to many metals.  That said, I did still use sterling silver findings for the clasp in the back (not pictured).  Believe it or not, this took many hours to make.

I had some fun getting things together for a couple of small shows.  I didn’t get into any big shows this year thanks to breaking my ankle and surgery at the end of summer.  (I guess I haven’t really told you that story. Sigh, OK, it’s on my list.)  Anyway, thankfully(?) the deadlines for all the big shows are in the summer.  And well, I knew I couldn’t handle my usual crazy hauling and churning out product this year.  So I didn’t.  I focused on walking again.  However, I did have an opportunity to sell a bit of my stuff off in December, including some old inventory.

Every year I add new inventory and every year some of it doesn’t sell.  It’s part of doing business.  However, I have come to realize that holy cow! Between moving last year, packing the winter before that and breaking my ankle this year, I still have inventory from  – get this – 2009!

I do not like to carry inventory very long.  After too long, it feels like stagnant energy itching to find a different home.  So it’s past time for me to clear it out.  Which is also a cue to watch out for some sales, because this is one time I completely advocate slashing your prices and I will be doing it.  And every penny will be going toward Spain.

testing_the_length_with_some_helpAmongst new things I added to inventory this year are my ruffled gothic muffs and a few more eared hats.  Here you can see just how much my kids love me, as I test out a hat to make sure I didn’t make it too long. I would almost say my life is like a musical, but that would really be a little too normal.  Although, seriously… we’re all musical and we all do sing.  Perhaps a better description is that my life is a comedy, but I think it would only appeal to a small few as most of the laughs are inside jokes and there seems to be an awful lot of work. So I guess really, it’s a surreal sort of thing.  Oh and that shirt I’m wearing, is indeed a Doctor Who spoof on Michelangelo’s cherubs smashed up with the Weeping Angels.  I love it, though I try to remember not to wear it around little kids.

gothic_ruffled_mittsAnyway, so in this other photo you’ll see not only the pair of my ruffled gothic muffs, but a copy of Hyperbole And A Half that my kids’ English teacher snatched up for Christmas.  I didn’t know she was a fan, but I’m not surprised and even pleasantly pleased!  (I know some of you are HAAH fans!)  The book was just released a couple of months ago and it has both new and classic favorites!  Btw, if you have not heard of Hyperbole And A Half, and if your humor is remotely like mine (and you can tolerate some coarse language), then seriously check out Alie Brosh’s blog and book. And let me tell you, the book does not disappoint.  It’s super thick and full of full color pages of Allie’s artwork and stories.  I’m so glad they didn’t try to edit it down for space and fewer pages!  The God Of Cake is one of my favorite stories.  Go check it out. You are welcome.

As far as the ruffled muffs, I didn’t realize that’s the only photo I have of them! So I guess I will have to figure out making another pair.  Besides the fact I have yet to write that design idea down either. Hmph…

And so, there it is I guess. 

The weekend between Christmas and New Year’s is here and I am catching up.  Lot’s of work to do and Spain is only a couple of months away.  And I am working on details there!  Turns out there might be a yarn store close to us in Barcelona!  I am totally stoked and will fill you in as I set things in stone, or at least have a clearer idea of what I hope to pull off.  Btw, if you’d like to help me out with a few dollars towards my trip, you can find the secure link here.  I just discovered I will have to buy new suitcases for us.

Ah well, I guess it’s about time.

In the mean time, stay tuned for more world of handmade talk.  I have some nuggets of support for you that I think you’ll like.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

The Story Of The Face-Planting Yellow Bird
Juicy Crochet News: Catch Me In Print!
I Want To Travel The World And Meet Other Women Through Crochet!
Help Me Find Some Yarn? Pleeeeeaaaassseee?
Help Me Find Some Yarn? Part 2…
When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”
Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?
Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, Crochet Community, Crochet News

Don’t Shop-Block Your Fellow Artists


OK, I had to find a nicer way to say it.  Unfortunately inspired by true events. 

I thought about it and thought about it.  And this was the nicest way I could think of to say that and still get the sharp point across.  Don’t shop-block your fellow artists and professionals.  (And likewise don’t let anyone do it to you.)

Just don’t.

When you’re doing shows, especially juried shows, there are internal cultural parameters as to what’s acceptable professional etiquette and behavior from participating artists, and what is not.  Not too unlike wearing white to a wedding when you are not the bride and it’s not your wedding day, you never want to block or steal a sale from anyone else.  And though most of these rules should be rather common sense to everyone, since they are mostly about basic manners and professionalism, unfortunately they are too often not clear to everyone.

One of those rules is to never violate another artist’s sales space.  We all paid for space at an event, it’s your job to govern your own space, but also to support the show as a whole and to support each of your fellow artists by maintaining a professional approach to everything.  Never come over to a fellow artist’s booth and talk to the customers in their space or block them from being able to shop.  It doesn’t matter if you just talked to them a few minutes before somewhere else.  It doesn’t matter if they’re your best friends whom you haven’t seen in years.  Unless they left their glasses on your table, you don’t go after them into someone else’s space.  You just don’t do it.  Not to mention that it can be seen as stalking.  If you just must talk to those customers, do so privately and in the public arena, not in someone’s space.  Not ever.

And the same goes for friendly chatting with your fellow artists in their spaces.  It’s one thing if you’re friends with that other artist and you’re chatting privately, but as soon as a potential customer shows up, you politely exit, get out-of-the-way or at least shut up right then.  And you keep your chatter to a minimum, because everyone is there for one main reason – to serve the customers at the show.  Nothing else should have a higher focus than that.

You never stand with in front of someone else’s space and block traffic flow to their booth either.  It’s incredibly rude!  In fact, it’s a faux pas for customers too.  Congregating in front of an artist’s booth that you have no intention of shopping at, thereby blocking traffic flow so others cannot easily see or enter that artist’s booth, is a terrible thing to do to someone.  However, because we all want customers to have a good time at an event, we artists generally try to be polite and patient with customers who do this, for a little while.  (If you’ve done this unawares – now you know better – don’t do it again!)

Artists should abso-frickin-lutely know better.  Traffic flow is gold at a show.  Every booth and logo and display is all counting on traffic attention at a show.  You can only sell as much as you are seen.  And you never want to mess with that for anyone!  Talk about bad, bad show karma!  And if it’s obvious that you are doing something like that intentionally, it can get you black-listed – for good reason.

Why is all this important?  Because shows (especially juried shows) are for professionals.  Shows survive and do well as a whole marketplace.  To be respected as an artist and human being, you have to consider the long view and the reputation you build every single day with every single action and choice you make.  And how well can you represent not only yourself, but the other businesses (shows) you align yourself with.

So just on a purely professional class basis, you never, ever EVER do something that could cost your fellow artist a sale.  You know what it’s like.  It doesn’t matter if you like that fellow artist, if you do the same work as they do, or if you’re friends or enemies.  It doesn’t matter if you had the same idea they are selling out there right now or you’re so sure that your product is better and it’s killing you that they were juried into the same event.  You never show your ass or cost them a sale.  You have the decency and professionalism to keep your mouth shut and let them do business.  Express any concerns you have to the appropriate planners and then move forward being the good person and professional you know yourself to be.  Don’t stoop to lower level behavior.

These professional principles aren’t just for the show circuit though.  They hold true anywhere, even online.  It’s happened to me.

I marketed a service offer to my followers on one of my social sites once.  (I’m not just a crochet designer/writer, I work in other fields too.)  In this case, I offered some tech help to some fellow professionals whom I care about through one of my various public pages.  A page you have to subscribe to, to see.  And guess what?  Someone immediately commented about her “identical” services on my post, on my page!  She was just dying for the world of my own readership (not hers) to know that she also wanted to offer what I’m offering.  In all reality, she stepped into my booth space and hawked her wares.

Dude!  You don’t do that!

Needless to say, I took her remark down.  It’s my page, I can do that.  I didn’t choose to respond to her remark though, because anything I could say would either cost me sales, or cost her own sales/reputation.  And it would just leave a bad taste for everyone.  After all, her remark was already… professionally awkward, to say the least.  There was no way I could tolerate her move professionally.  However, I also wasn’t going to compound her mistake by making one of my own in a public response to her  either.  Taking the remark down was as much kindness to her as it was defensive for me.

Whatever your profession, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

So here’s the thing my dear artists and colleagues of all walks of life.  I’m betting you already know this, or my title wouldn’t have drawn you in.  You’ve probably already had it happen to you at one time or another.  You know of other fields and incidences where this principle can be applied.  And if you’ve chosen an indie-business path, then you also know that you’ve entered a world where everyone expects you to show some class, to elevate your awareness and likewise raise your level of professional behavior.  Because you are everything in your business and your business reflects on your reputation.  There’s no one to praise or blame but you.  That’s part of what makes this path such a growth-inspiring one.

But it behooves us to help set the example.  Reach out there and help those newly inducted into the world of business ownership.  Be a part of discussions and local Chambers of Commerce and get to know other artists and professionals in your field.  And help everyone understand the level of professionalism that is expected of them.  By example if by nothing else. Pass this article around so others who might not realize what they’re doing can wake up and smell the coffee.

We all need to eat.  We all need to survive.  We all have medical bills, and special needs and causes we fight for.  And we all have lessons to learn.  There’s plenty of need and plenty of pie to go around.   So have some class.  We’re all in this together.  There’s no need to cost someone else their piece.

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Filed under Business, Doing the Show Circuit, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Sometimes It Takes Being MacGyver To Succeed


You know, there’s a neat little benefit that something like the NaBloPoMo challenge gives you, as a writer, and as an individual pushing yourself to grow.

It puts you against a wall.

There are two types of fuel for success in the world: inspiration and pressure.  And while we often crave the first, it’s the latter that we need to value a bit more.  Because it often helps us the most.  Why? Because it forces us to deal with things we would not otherwise choose to.  And we need that as a balanced part of life too.  Not too much of either, but enough of either one.

NaBloPoMo is 30 days, blogging every single day, no matter what.  And of course, when you participate during the traditional November month, there’s always Thanksgiving week in there too.  So you have to make your turkey, and eat and write about it too.

But putting yourself on a daily deadline and making that honor commitment to make your posts count every day is quite something to embrace.  It creates stress, it forces you to be creative under less than ideal circumstances and it gets you to face a task you might otherwise wish to avoid.  And it forces you to adapt when things don’t go as expected.  Even when you have some ideas on what to write about, it doesn’t mean that those ideas will spark and flow the day you need them to.

The same is true in business.  Even when you prepare and have a plan, it doesn’t mean that’s how things are going to work out.  And you have to learn to be flexible.  To think on your feet and not get bent out of shape too easily over anything.

As for writing, I personally have 49 subject ideas in my queue right now.  And not a one of those ideas would flow for me tonight.   So with the clock winding down to midnight and not an idea that wants to say more than a sentence or two, the pressure pot is on.

Then it dawned on me, that pressure pot often squeezes the best out of me.  Because when push comes to shove, and all you have is a rubber band, a piece of gum and a toothpick and the timer is running out, some kind of genius takes place when you focus well enough.

And that’s a lot of what we deal with in business.  Heck, sometimes it’s why we’re in business.  We were put against a wall, our choices were pared down and we were forced to work with a situation that was not ideal or to our liking.  Like getting laid off, or having a child with special needs or whatever.  And we had to come up with a solution and rise above.

Being in business for yourself is risky stuff, and sometimes you have to think like MacGyver in one of those unexpected situations.  How are you going to fix this, or deal with that or avoid those?  The pressure is not often what I would call pleasant, and sometimes it happens as a result of some failure (learning experience) on our part, but it does often in my experience push me to elevate my thinking and come up with a solution.  And I always grow.

So don’t be afraid to feel pressure.  Sometimes it brings up in you skills you didn’t know you had.  Sometimes that wall is more support than you think.  And sometimes even, it becomes your greatest story.

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Filed under Business, Education, NaBloPoMo

Mini-Maker Faire Round Rock – Recap


Back at the beginning of the summer, I let you guys know that my crochet hook experiment was going to be at Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire (just outside Austin).  And then soon after MMF, I raced off for my summer road trip across country with the kids to go visit Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front (and a few places in between).  But with breaking my ankle at the end, and the long recovery from surgery, I never did give you guys a recap of how Mini-Maker Faire went! So here it is!  Let me go back in time and fill you in.  ;)

As you know, I’ve participated in the only two large Maker Faires hosted in Austin, back in 2007 & 2008.  And I absolutely loved it!  The experience was beyond my expectations and for once in my life, I really felt like I’d found more than just a handful of “my people.”  It was like finding your roots in a tribe.  Unfortunately though, Maker Faire was not able to come back to Austin in 2009, which was a huge disappointment to me.

Then sometime last year, thanks to the work of Austin Tinkering School, a 2012 Mini-Maker Faire in Austin was born.  However, the timing of it crashed into the same time we were putting our house on the market.  So I didn’t even get to attend, much less present.

Thankfully, TechShop rolled into town.  They are a very cool community workshop place that I want to buy into.  I learned about them through the KidBot work my kids and I were doing with The Robot Group during the summer of 2012.  Interestingly enough, TechShop’s concept was inspired by Maker Faire out in CA.  So it was super cool that they decided to host a Mini-Maker Faire here in Round Rock less than a year after they opened.  As soon as I learned about it, of course I jumped at the chance to participate!

The Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire was crazy and awesome.  And though I thought I had a plan, yeah – that went out the window.  None of the site setup or traffic flow was according to plan either.  And I did not get any photos as planned either.  But it all worked out fine.  Some other folks took pictures and told me they would contact me later to share them, but I haven’t ever heard from them.  It’s somewhat disappointing to have poured so much into doing the event for free, only to have no photos or visual record that we were there or even a part of it.  But that’s what happens when you are too busy to be able to take photos.  However, TechShop did put together this little video and you can catch a tiny glimpse of my booth at about 11 seconds into the video!  So there you go, flash proof that crochet was represented! ;)

Because I chose not to do a for-profit booth (I really did not have time to get merchandise together) I was set up in the big main room not far from the entrance.  I was also right next to a working Tardis Console display, complete with buttons to push and sound effects, which you will also notice in the video.  It was awesome!  Though pretty loud in the echoing room.  We had to do a lot of shouting to communicate while all the kids went crazy for it.  And of course, I loved that all these kids are so educated in the ways of Doctor Who today.

Tom Baker as Doctor Who, with the amazing long scarf!

See, I grew up watching Tom Baker as the 13th Doctor way back in the 80′s in OK, where no one else I knew ever did.  I was such a geek even then.  Seeing all these excited kids was just…. sweet.  In fact, one of the reasons I really stuck with crochet was due to my fascination with Tom Baker’s scarf!  Which I have yet to replicate, btw.  But I’ve made many, many long scarfs just because of him.  Anyway, so I guess we can all lay some blame on Tom Baker and his writers for at least a little of my extreme fascination with crochet.  Even though yes – I know his scarf in the show was knitted!  Hey, I was a kid – the modality doesn’t matter. Simply the long scarf.  That is all.  That and the awesomeness that is Doctor Who.  And Tom Baker.

(Speaking of, I finally got to watch the 50th anniversary Doctor Who Special tonight, and I loved it.  Last cameo scene brought me to joyful tears.  Tom Baker, I still love you!)

Back to Mini-Maker Faire! One of the fun things TecShop did was create an allocated chalk-board wall for everyone to write their answer to fill in the blank of one simple question:  “If I could make anything in the world, I would make ____________.”  The answers were quite fun!  Here are just a few photos we caught. Notice how many Doctor Who references there are!

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Finger-knitting was insanely popular at my booth at this Maker Faire – again.  I have taught this to kids in the Austin area for over a decade.  Usually, I tell every kid I teach – OK here’s the catch – you have to go teach others.  Go infect your friend with yarn love.  I do this in crochet too, but little kids love finger knitting and all that requires is yarn to keep them busy.  I used to work in special education in college and we used activities like finger knitting with children of all types and abilities.  It’s amazing how even a child with ADhD can calm and focus during this activity.  And even the parents seem more peaceful.  I used to tuck an extra ball of yarn in the hands of mothers and say – here, keep this in your purse for the next time you’re at the store with the kids.  ;)

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My daughter designed and made this giant wooden sword, with a little help from her dad on some of the cutting.

Anyway, this year my daughter Jessica taught the kids finger-knitting while I taught crochet and talked about hooks.  She also brought her giant wooden sword she made for Halloween last year, which gained loads of attention.  At one point, we were working at separate tables when I turned around and realized cameras were on my daughter and she was being interviewed for some sci-fi crafty internet show thing.  I still don’t know how I feel about it.  I quelled the urge to run over and ruin everything by asking – don’t you think you should ask her mother for permission before you film my child?  Hopefully they were responsible interviewers, etc..  Supposedly they were going to contact us if they used the footage, but we have not heard anything about it.  (If anyone out there sees footage of Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire 2013 out there somewhere, please tell me??)

I didn’t have time to finish all the hooks for the experiment as planned, so I also brought my own personal collection and let people play with it.  One lady crocheted a swatch using every (smaller) single hook in my collection.  Awesome.  A lady from Brazil came by and chatted a while.  She talked about crochet yarn as fat as your thumb and as tiny as a silk sewing thread and how crochet is something *everyone* does in Brazil.  She also talked about a street in Brazil paved in yarn and fiber classes.  It sounded amazing.  She said fiber crafts for them there is like car lots are for us here.  Tons of them line the streets.  Which was kind of a weird/sad thought.  I must go see this someday.  I wish I remembered what town she said she was from.

People who were interested in knowing more about how to read patterns came by, including some who were talking about wishing they could get more Japanese patterns in the US with symbol crochet maps.  I concurred.

There was one main thing that helped me out with the giant crowds of people that I’m really happy I did.  I decided to make a “science fair” type presentation board with photos and reports on it about Jimbo’s and my crochet hook experiment, plus diagrams and photos of various hook shapes and extra information.  A lot of photos were taken of my board and lots of people came by to talk to me because they read my board.  Very cool.  However – I forgot to put Aberrant Crochet or Jimbo’s or my name on that board anywhere.  It was on the report sitting in front of the board,  but no where else.  (sigh)  Well, what can you do.

I ran out of business cards and fliers though, so here’s hoping that somehow, somewhere out there these people will get in touch or something.  Who knows?  But then again – how may people do you get in touch with yourself after taking a business card?  Yeah.  So you know what I mean.

Still, all in all it was a fascinating day of people who were fans of crochet, or fans of yarn or who were just fascinated by my experiment.  I really enjoyed it and I was hoarse by the end of the day.  Much of the content that I spoke about is what you see printed in my articles in the 2013 Fall and Winter Interweave Crochet magazines.  (Speaking of which, the winter issue should be available in a couple weeks!)

So there you go, a Mini-Maker Faire Recap, albeit a late one!  I’ll try to catch you guys up on my road trip here soon.  :)

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, crochet, Crochet Community, Crochet Hooks, Make Faire, NaBloPoMo

I Have Some Thank You’s To Share


There are some important people and groups to be grateful for today.  I received two contributions this week for my Spain trip.  I know how to reach Doug to thank him, but Donna, EF is very secure, so I have no way to contact you personally to say thank you for your help!  (Thank you for leaving a name!)  So, Doug/Donna – thank you so  very much for your kind words and support: both for my work and for my upcoming trip.

I can’t believe we leave in 98 days!!!  crochethook

If you are unfamiliar with the story about my wish to travel the world to study crochet hooks and the hands that hold them, please read my post: I Want To Travel The World And Meet Other Women Through Crochet!  (Again, not a pickup line.)  That post tells the back story of this crazy idea I have about making a documentary about crocheters around the world, about all the very different kinds of hooks on every continent in the world, and about the hands and stories of the women who own them.

It’s crazy!  And yet, I’ve never been outside the contiguous United States ever in my life.  Ever.  I’ve never even seen Alaska or Hawaii.

So I’m set up to go as a chaperone on my daughter’s AP Spanish trip to Spain.  However, because I’m not staff and because I’m not a student, I’m on my own for all fundraising.  So that’s where selling all my crochet and asking for help comes in, because I’m running out of time.

Thank you so much for the help guys!

I also want to take time to express gratitude for two young marines I know who will not get to spend Thanksgiving home with their family.  Instead of sitting back and relaxing after a hefty meal, they and many other US service people around the world  are working their butts off for us.

So here’s a shout out to all the soldiers, police officers, firemen, doctors and emergency personnel who are working today, keeping watch and being there should they be needed.  To all the people who respond to emergency situations, to the agencies that keep things running and the night watchmen who let us sleep, and to those who volunteer at the food kitchens and keep the roads and transportation open:

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Ergonomics In Crochet Hook Design And The Hands That Use Them

My Crochet Hook Experiment Will Be At Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire! Tomorrow!

What Gripes Me (Crochet Hook Shapes) – Crochet Ruminations

Crochet Hook Engineering – Types of Tools – Crochet Hook Challenge

Crochet Holding Positions For Hooks – A Tutorial

Did You Miss Out On This #Crochet Goodness?
(Twitter crochet chat from around the world!)

Juicy Crochet News: Catch Me In Print!


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Filed under 'Tis the Season, NaBloPoMo

Pumpkin Pie Secrets Plus A Gluten-Free Version


I love the Thanksgiving time of year.  We didn’t keep Christmas when I was a kid, so Thanksgiving was the one time each year that I got to spend with all my other family members, no matter what our religious beliefs at the time.  That one holiday was responsible for most of my memories of my cousins and uncles.  And it’s the one day a year we stop and purposely, as a family, as an example to our children and as a nation, take time to be grateful.  I know many don’t, but in our families, we take it very seriously.  Perhaps because our American family roots, both mine and hubby’s, on all four of our parents’ sides, goes back well over 225 years.

There were many food traditions in my family during the fall and winter seasons, but one absolute must tradition every year (besides turkey) was to have pumpkin pie.  Not sweet potato pie, not pecan pie (though that’s a must for my husband’s family) and not chocolate or apple or any other pie.  Though many of those pies were always present too.

But pumpkin pie…  This was a command performance every year.

If you don’t like pumpkin pie, then I’m going out on a limb and saying, it must be because the only kind you’ve tasted is store bought.  Which is nearly flavorless.  Pumpkin pie should have all the exquisite spices and in my opinion, that is mostly skimped on in commercially produced pies.  And if you think you don’t like homemade pumpkin pie, I’m guessing it was made by someone who didn’t have long pumpkin pie traditions in their family to know how it should taste.  Because pumpkin pie is an amazing custard dessert that easily doubles for a (mostly) nutritious breakfast, with coffee of course.  And those holiday scents don’t hold a candle to the real thing!

There are a couple secrets to how it should be made, of course.  And it doesn’t require growing your own pumpkin.  In some ways, I’d like to think that my family’s long and deep cooking traditions might have some influence on even me today.  They probably don’t, but it’s nice to think they might.

In either case, I do know that this is how my great-great grandmothers liked to make this pie.  They also liked to substitute sweet potatoes when pumpkin wasn’t available or was too expensive to get, but it’s not nearly as good.  Some people can’t tell the difference, but I most certainly can.

Trivia: Did you know that pumpkin custard was often baked not in a pie shell, but inside a pumpkin shell?  And let me tell ya, it’s not the easiest to move around!  (I helped my daughter make it once for a school project.)  Pie shells = way easier.  Pumpkin shells get soft and like to collapse.

Julia's Pumpkin Pie

This is one of my pies, after cutting into it to make sure the custard had set just right. See how dark the orange color is?

1)  Don’t use white sugar.  In fact, I don’t use light brown sugar either.  I use dark brown sugar.  Yep, get the flavorful stuff.  And if you don’t have dark brown sugar, you can try substituting 1/4 cup molasses + 1 cup white sugar for each cup of dark brown sugar you need.  (Mix it well.)

Pumpkin pie should not be a light color.  It should look like a burnt pumpkin color thanks to all the flavor inside!

2)  Pumpkin pie spices should include not only more than a dash of cinnamon, but also cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  And sometimes a smidgen of allspice.  If you have it.

Those two rules right there will go far in making your pie better than anything else you’ve had – providing of course, that you don’t have similar family recipes and already know what I’m talking about!  Time and again, people are amazed how much they do like pumpkin pie when they try mine.  I currently hold about a 90% win-over rate.

Want to take a stab at a delicious pumpkin pie?

Pumpkin Pie:

2 deep-dish pie crusts (homemade is always tastier)
2 eggs, lightly beaten (larger the yolks, the better)
1 15oz can solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or sub 1/4 cup molasses + 1 cup white sugar, mix very well)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (Watkins is the best brand)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (no more – or it will over power the recipe)
2 dashes of nutmeg
1 dash of allspice (optional)
1 12oz can undiluted evaporated milk (or a 1 1/2 c. half & half)

Prepare pie crust dough according to recipe or package directions.  Mix filling ingredients in order of listing above. Pour into pie crusts.  Bake in preheated 425˚F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350˚F. Bake additional 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool before serving.

Note:  When using a metal or foil pan, bake your pies on a cookie sheet.

Want to make this pumpkin pie gluten-free? 

You can bake it like a crème brûlée custard!  Ditch the pie shell and instead pour your mix into greased oven-proof ramekins or custard cups.  Line a 9×13″ pan with a towel, carefully keeping all edges of the towel inside the pan.  Place the custard cups inside the pan on the towel, then pour hot water around the custard cups and saturate the towel.  (I use a teapot.)  You want the water to come half-way up the side of the cups.  Bake, uncovered, at 350° for the first 20 minutes.  At this point, if you want to add a topping like pecans or streusel, this is the time to add it.  Then bake it another 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Total cook time this way is 50-60 minutes (or until knife comes out clean).

And there you go. Pumpkin pie heaven!  crochethook

Happy Thanksgiving preparation day, everyone!  If you try my recipe, you must be sure to let me know!

PS  :)  You may share my recipe as long as you include my name (Julia M. Chambers) and a link to this post on my blog. Thanks!  :)

Go ahead and click a link below to pin or share this post. You know you want to! : )


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I Wish You A Day Of Ordinary Miracles….


I give you a favorite snippet sent to me once, that I’ve embellished upon.  I do not know who the originator was.

“Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles….
A fresh pot of coffee you didn’t make yourself.
dandelion_wallpaper_1280x800An unexpected phone call from an old friend.
Green stoplights on your way to work.
The fastest line at the grocery store.
Your keys right where you left them.”

And I tried to think of more ordinary miracles and added…

A good sing-along song on the radio.
A meaningful compliment paid to you.
A coupon for your favorite snack.
A discount at the gas station.
A $20 bill you forgot in a pocket.
A word of gratitude paid to you by another.
An “A” on that test, or equivalent at work.
And a chore already done.

I’m sure you can think of more ordinary miracles as well!

As we move into this holiday for Gratitude, I just want to say thanks for sharing with me, for brightening my day with your responses, for supporting my quirky dreams and for sharing with others.  Thank you for your bright lights and thanks for your feedback each step of the way.

I wish you the brightest of daily blessings….
~ Julia

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Filed under Inspiration, NaBloPoMo, Writing

I Give You Permission To Thrive!


This past week’s evolving discussion on entrepreneurial, service and creative business has been really enjoyable! :)

I love hearing the stories, reading everyone’s comments and even being disagreed with. We have really dug into some issues that are on the minds of the majority out there in our fields and I know that all our thoughts and input are helping others now and will in the future when they are searching.

But there is one thing I really want to give some attention to that I keep hearing in the voices of artists, and massage therapists and musicians and a myriad of other creative right-brain, heart-led thinkers out there.

And that’s this general sense of guilt that it’s not OK to thrive.

There are two angles to this: Those who don’t have confidence that they can thrive and those who do have confidence, but don’t think they should thrive.

I keep hearing things like, “My motives are not money, I just want to make enough to get by.”  “I enjoy this kind of work, so I don’t charge much because I’d do it anyway.”  “I can’t afford much, so why should I expect others who can’t afford much to pay me?”  (That’s a big one.)  “I’m not good at business stuff.”  (Another big one.)  “I don’t want to seem greedy, or too focused on money.”  “I don’t need to learn about business. Only greedy people do that.”

And on it goes.

Umm, hello!  This may be news to you, but I don’t want to just scrape by.  I know what that’s like and I don’t want to live it.  I don’t want my kids to live it!  My father was an entrepreneur with 4-5 employees, and we just got by.  Thank goodness for Grandpa’s garden some years, because when there wasn’t profit after paying everyone, there wasn’t profit.  And profit is how Dad got paid.  And he was seen as a leader in the community.  (He also had trouble getting paid by his customers.)

We survived.  Obviously I’m here to tell the story.  But we did not thrive.  We did without shoes, scraped by on food and cut every corner we could.

Stop what you’re saying to yourself and to others and really think about that.  Because I don’t think you really mean it when you say things like that.  Because that would honestly just be weird to only wish to “get by.”  We cannot grow on “get by.”

And I don’t want to just survive.  I know how to do that and it’s not enough for me.  I want to thrive.  And that’s where I’m heading.

And you know what – you can come too.

I give you permission to thrive.  And permission to say no to what’s unhealthy for you.  Including poisonous customers and relationships.

I grant you permission to create a plan, a strategy and a structure that is good for you and good for growing your business.  And if you get paid for what you do – you have a business!  It’s not a bad word!

Learning and becoming good at business is not greedy.  I give you permission to go forth and conquer – not the weak, but yourself.

I give you permission to be confident, brilliant and excellent – no apologies!  No dissing your accomplishments, talents or yourself.

I give you permission to be successful.  And you know what else?  To define for yourself what success means to you!

I give you permission to earn a living doing what you love.  And permission not to feel guilty because others don’t (yet).

I don’t however give you permission to be unkind, dishonest or apathetic.

I give you permission to be yourself fully and to enjoy making money.

I give you permission to take risks, to stray from the sidewalk, to do something breath-taking.

I give you permission to let go of “supposed to’s” and instead embrace “want to’s.”   And to release all scarcity mindsets.

I give you permission to ignore advice! And your parents and your siblings and anyone else who is harming, not helping.

I give you permission to ignore good advice and strike out on your own path!

I give you permission to fail!  And fail again!  And to not see that as a bad thing!

I give you permission to allow yourself some clarity about what you really want in life and to let go of those inner blocks that are getting in your way and standing between you and the rest of your freedom.

Why am I giving you permission?  Because apparently we haven’t all given ourselves permission.  And hopefully, if you know what I’m talking about, somewhere in here is a seed that you can adopt and take home with you.  Go with my blessing!

It’s time for us to commit if we’re going to master the calling of being an entrepreneur.  Business is like a garden that requires love and tending.  And it either thrives, or dies.  Or gets overgrown and sidetracked by weeds.  All of us artists, writers, musicians, and consultants – we’re all entrepreneurs.  Don’t kid yourself otherwise, we are in business for ourselves.  Art requires discipline and skill, just as does business!  So we know we can do this!  If an artist can sacrifice and pour out our soul to do what we love – you tell me why we can’t succeed at the core principles of good business!

I invite you to write yourself a code of ethics that embraces responsibility, integrity and ingenuity that you can embrace heart, mind and soul.

I invite you to be selfish and think about your needs: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental.  Who does it benefit if you are not nurtured?  Seriously! Who?  Kill the starving artist mentality!

I invite you to think of your business as a child you are bringing up and to nurture it and yourself.  To nurture the relationship you have with business and money.  To provide it structure that it cannot provide for itself.

I invite you to forgive yourself and to be tender and kind in your dealings with yourself.  And yet, not to be too easy on yourself either.

I invite you to analyze your business inward, not just outward.  Find your unique value to the world.  And find who benefits from that?

I say these things as much for me, as I do for you, because I need that encouragement too.  I want my children to have it someday too.  There’s been an unhealthy disconnect between the creative soul-driven worlds and business and we do not need to feed or foster it.

The key is our mindset.

What does thriving look like for you?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

Please Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet


11 Comments

Filed under Business, Inspiration, NaBloPoMo

You Can’t Work All The Time


When you’re an entrepreneur, it is easy to be sucked in 24/7.  And honestly, that’s much as it should be.

Why?  Because being in business for yourself is a responsibility that requires your heart and soul in order to run and to succeed.  Your business succeeds as you will it to.  And business is work.  You will find a lot of satisfaction in working for yourself, but the catch is, there’s no clock to punch out and there’s no guarantee of income and success.

But you can’t work all the time.  You have to break sometime.  You have to switch gears sometime.  You have to rest sometime.

I tend to have my fingers in several projects at a time and work way too many hours for the pay I make.  Part of it’s because I work for myself, and that’s often part of that life.  Part of it is because I’m catching up from losing 2.5 months and missing all my fall shows to a broken ankle.  So not only did I miss out on pay because of that, but I have medical bills to pay off too.  Yippee Ki Yay.  And while it feels really good to be getting back to normal (well close), I’m pretty exhausted too. Besides being a designer, I also do social media consulting for a couple of small business clients.  So my brain is constantly going back and forth from creative to computer, as much as I can stand.  Plus there’s the fundraising for Spain and well, everything left on my mom plate at the end of the day.  Someone please do some laundry for me? 

However, this is Thanksgiving week.  I don’t like falling into the holidays at all, much less Thanksgiving.  It’s important to me at this time of year to take time and experience this week with awareness.  And to meditate on the things that matter most in life.

So today, I got ready for Thanksgiving week by spending my time baking.  And with clean up.  It’s still maintenance and creativity, but of an entirely different sort than my business.

We have a tradition at our charter school of making pies for the teachers.  This year (after all, it’s our 11th year there) I did not sign up for the usual volunteer sheet that blankets the whole school.  This year the kids took polls from their teachers and decided what they wanted to make for them and we shared the work individually.  It’s our way of showing our gratitude to our teachers for what they do for us.  And there are a couple of them who may get bonus food.  I’m very thankful for the experts who are helping to shape my children’s experiences and are helping to prepare them for life.

So I go to bed tonight in a house that smells of peach pies and banana breads.  And I make some really amazing banana bread, let me tell ya.  My daughter’s peach pie rocks too.  (Our secrets?  Over ripe bananas and unsweetened peaches.)  Tomorrow I have chocolate truffle pies to make and more banana bread I want to give to our neighbors.

I did have to stop in the middle and go buy a new mixer, but in the end it was a nice break from the usual work at hand.  The baking that is, not the going to the store on a Sunday night bit.  I actually kinda hate shopping.  Except for yarn.  And maybe motorcycles and drums.

Just as it’s important for parents to make time to still have dates even after having kids, it’s also important for business owners to still in a sense court themselves and do something else completely different than baby their business.  And you may find if your ideas are getting stuck and stagnant and you’re worrying about burning out, that this is especially important to do.  You don’t have to take a vacation or do anything expensive.  You just have to switch gears and do something different from what you normally do to survive.  It’s OK if it’s still “work,” but it has to be different than what you’ve been doing.

So unless you have a show this week, this is a good time in the U.S. to take a bit of a breather and allow yourself to do something different, that you haven’t done in a long time.  And if you’re not in the U.S., then it may be a good week to make a date for a break anyway, what with other holidays looming on the horizon.

Take a break, get some rest, let down your hair and entertain yourself in some different way.

What will you pick?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


1 Comment

Filed under Business, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2


I received a comment on my blog post from yesterday that shows I need to further clarify what I mean when I say – price is not really why people buy.  Mandy brought up the following, and it’s a legitimate position.

“Forgive me… but I respectfully disagree with one of your points. …. It’s not that I don’t value great art, but purchasing art of any kind, for any reason, is a luxury for me. So if your beautiful crocheted scarf that I admire deeply and would love to own is priced about $20 more than what I can allow myself to spend, it’s going to stay right where it is. No offense or disrespect intended, but my funds are limited and my hands are essentially tied. I may be the minority?

Having said that, in the past year or so I have started teaching myself to crochet as a hobby, and have started giving crocheted gifts. As a result, I’ve had ladies ask me if they could buy some of the things I make. I’m lost when it comes to pricing my work because I am a hobbyist, and a newbie. My materials and time are valuable, but maybe not in the same respect as those of you who are true artists and are supporting your families with your craft. I am guilty of thinking to myself that I’d like to offer my work for a bit less than some of the prices I have seen, because of my personal experiences, and because I know most people in my community and surrounding area are not likely to pay “artist prices.” Have any of you run into this, and do you have any advice for someone just starting out? I’m not opposed to one day crocheting to sell, but for now it is just something I enjoy and a way to give practical handmade gifts.”

Mandy, thank you for your valuable addition to the discussion and daring to disagree!  I’ll explain my position better below.  Dear Community, she’s asked a question of all of us, so feel free to respond, politely.

First, I’ll refer you to my article “How Much Are You Worth.”  Here I talk about the difference between novice and expert work and about sweatshop pricing. And that’s something we all have a responsibility to do something about. We have gotten used to being able to live off the work of others in low economies. And so when it comes to the actual cost of our materials and goods where we live, where it’s more expensive, we still think in terms of 3rd world sweatshop pricing.  But do we really expect anyone to live off 50 cents an hour? Or for anyone to pay off their degrees and training and education, not to mention materials and taxes and fees that way? Of course not. No reasonable person would. And yet, every time we price our work in par with a sweatshop, that’s what we do.  And in an economy that is much more expensive to live in.  I cannot usually buy yarn as cheap as the sweater you buy at WalMart.  So when I make that sweater from the materials available to me, cheap or expensive, it’s still going to cost way more, no matter what – even if I don’t charge for time and expertise at all.  And there’s nothing at this point that I can do about that.

On the other hand, in general, the market will not bear outrageous pricing.  So I would argue that there should be a natural cap to how much beginner level type work should go for.  Sticking a bead on an ear wire and slapping a $100 price tag on it better mean that’s one heck of a valuable bead.  Because we know how much skill and time went into it and that cannot alone bear the weight of the price tag.  Sometimes things just aren’t practical or there just isn’t a market for them.  Who wants to pay a significant chunk of money for a cashmere wash-cloth to scrub dishes with?  Unless you can provide some amazing advantage as to why this would make someone’s life better, this is just not likely to sell.  There’s no demand and even more, it doesn’t make sense.

We can’t always afford the work we love.

This is part of life. Sometimes that means we learn to make it ourselves to offset cost of time.  But even then, even with my level of expertise, I can’t myself always afford the work I can produce.

For example, I have a friend who has amazing wood carving skills, he literally works for the stars – several celebrities own his work. And yet, he has four kids, one with downs and says he cannot afford the work of his own hands. The materials and time and methods are all that specialized and expensive. Should he stop making what he makes? No. There is a demand for it and what he does is highly specialized and arguably a dying art. He’s really (I mean really) good at it. Would you have him instead do something he’s not good at? Not to mention take away the work that is feeding his family, and paying for the therapy his child needs for downs. Even so, he doesn’t yet feel like he can justify owning one of his best pieces yet.  The materials and expenses alone are cost prohibitive.

Now, my friend works in a highly specialized scenario that relies on the help of galleries and such, which also increases his expenses, but his story illustrates a point.

When you are in the handmade market, it’s important to price fairly and consider developing a range of products.

That is, if you have no plans to get that highly specialized. You want your highs, your lows and your middles.  For example: I have some amazing purses I’ve made, where the blunt, literal cost in materials to me is over $150 and I haven’t even lined them yet. Their final cost will be substantial. The silk, the beadwork, the specialized hardware to make them look and work right – all of that requires not only a lot of time and expertise out of me, but also the money to acquire materials. And because I’m not a warehouse, I cannot get warehouse prices on materials either. So I’m slowly but surely investing in the work I’m putting into them. Everyone loves them. Will everyone be able to afford them? Nope. But they are my OOAK high-end specialty art pieces and out there someone will decide to snap them up. That said, I also have made some purses I could comfortably sell for $35. My level of expertise is the same, but what is different is mostly my cost in materials.

This is why it’s important to have a range of product prices and work you are doing in business, if you want to hit a wider range of customers. The fact is, it’s my work, my service and my story that will draw you to me. (My writing even.)  Either you will like my work or you won’t.

Maybe you can’t buy my high-end expensive purse.  In that case – the price data is what helps you say “no” to that particular piece.

However, that is not the same as saying no to me.

Because if I have another beautiful piece, where the materials do not cost nearly the same, and it is in your price range, you will likely settle for that instead.

And that’s one part of what I mean about people not saying no based on pricing.

Sometimes “No” Is Really About Guilt

There’s also the reality where people say no seemingly “based on price,” but it’s really based on guilt. The “it’s not you it’s me” scenario. When a customer has money issues or financial PTSD, that is not something you can ever control. And their bad relationship with money is theirs to bear, not yours. Getting their sale will not make a difference to you in the long run. You have to look at and make decisions based on the long financial picture of a business, not the spur of the moment whim.  This gets back to knowing your market and even knowing your individual show. Not everyone will feel like they can afford your stuff. If they did, then you might as well be a dollar store and have trouble paying your bills.

Newbies who are dropping their prices out of fear that they can’t get a sale is an entirely different thing from trying to price fairly. It’s important to understand the distinction. A) Price dropping like that creates an unhealthy relationship with money and it can get you into trouble with your business. B) Most juried shows forbid it and it can get you kicked out.  C) Business is risk. Don’t get into it without embracing that fact.  It’s not if you will fail at some point, it’s when.  And it’s about you learning not to see failure as a bad thing.  Becoming a business owner is one of the best things you can do for your own personal-growth.  Kinda up there with parenthood.  You will learn amazing things, whether you set out to or not.  D) People are not turning down the artist based on price as much as they are based on their experience. If you like my work, my story, my service, and if I have something in your price range you want – you are likely to buy it. Period. It’s really that simple. If you don’t like my work, no amount of dropping my price is going to make you spend money on it.

And that pretty much sums it up.

Everyone justifies their spending somehow.

I know someone who for years complained about how she hated her shag carpet, but couldn’t afford to get it replaced. carpet was her “luxury.”  And yet, she always had the latest clothes and fine jewelry to wear. It was her choice. She just didn’t invite anyone over.

Me? Hey, I value quality shoes. I’m on my feet all the time and have a degenerative genetic joint condition that causes pain. You better believe I invest in good footwear that won’t aggravate my degenerative condition. It could cost me hundreds of dollars, and I don’t care, I will work a 3rd job if I have to not to be in pain. I also value a good dishwasher. For reasons I just stated, I try to limit the time I’m on my feet. So a dishwasher that never breaks down and practically eats the garbage from my dishes is an asset I want to own. My time is worth more than to be constantly fixing something.

I know someone else who has almost no kitchen ware, but they have cutting edge materials and sewing equipment for quilting. And yet another person who values homegrown food most of all and would sooner spend $10 on seeds than on a new shirt.

We all have those things we see the value in much better than we see in others. You want to look for the customers who will value you.

Back to what I said before about fair pricing.

I repeat, we’re not talking about over-pricing.  (Though there are cases where it can be used as a management tool, but that’s another article.) I’m talking about fairness that’s win-win.  But as Laurie Wheeler from The Crochet Liberation front said it best: “You are not a sweatshop!” And you’re not. OK? So stop working on something for hours and then charging $2 to a stranger for it. It’s wrong. And anyone who supports that kind of self-abuse is also wrong. As is anyone who raises their kids to think about money and work this way.  And those 3rd world countries everyone’s wishing could get better pay will also never be better off, as long as we all help promote this lack of value for time and hard work. If you’re giving a true gift, or you’re doing charity work, that’s one thing. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

What is my hour worth?  A sack of potatoes?  A loaf of bread?  A lunch?  Or a cheap cup of coffee?

When you dare to enter business, it’s important to recognize the value of every single part of the equation. And it’s time we grow up and get a handle on what a responsibility this really is. My customers work hard for their money, every bit as much as I. My suppliers also work hard for their money, every bit as I. When all we respect each other, we create balance and everyone can win.

There is another thing though.  We tend to be worst of all about valuing the work that women traditionally do. Even we women do this to each other.  Even in this day and age.  And we need to stop and think about this when we size things up and question whether we’re guilty of it or not.

So, I leave you with a challenge. Whether you own a business or not, it’s a good exercise to help you get a handle on what you value, how you spend and also recognizing how it might be for others too.

Stop and think about a $20 bill and just what you would justify spending it on and what you would not. Would you take a friend out to lunch? Would you buy a scarf? Would you pick up some gourmet coffee or buy a pack of smokes? How about a case of canned goods? How about a skein of yarn, or a tube of paint? Maybe an organizer? Or an iPhone case?  Makeup maybe?  A couple of crochet magazines?

What things could you do with a $20 bill and would or would not do? And once you’ve thought about that deeply, then analyze each item’s true worth in terms of the value it provides or not. $20 to feed a friend, or to keep someone warm for the winter, or to help you get organized, etc..

Money is nothing more than a tool.  How do you use it?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


31 Comments

Filed under Business, Crochet Community, handmade, NaBloPoMo

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?


I wrote the article: When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?” a few days ago and it has really stirred up some conversation from fellow business owners.  Comments from Twitter, Facebook, G+ and this blog have poured in from around the world as other artists and entrepreneurs chime in about their experiences and frustrations.

And there’s a common theme popping up – the concern about pricing.

Often times, artisans will lower their prices because they want to be sure they will make some sales. There’s nothing wrong with making money – we all need to eat.  Still from our business side of things, we start to see our expenses pile up, and we get worried.  And then we start tweaking our prices.

Maybe we see someone else’s lower prices and we feel we have to compete.  Maybe we’re just nervous about the show.  Maybe we really haven’t thought through the true cost of our item.  Maybe we have guilt issues over making money on our own and by not working for someone else to be paid.  Maybe we truly just want to have some fun and throw a sale, kinda like how we might throw a party.  And maybe we ourselves have undervalued an artist before and we know it.  So we try to compensate for that guilt too.

Who knows?  But right or wrong, we all give lowering our prices a try sometime, for some reason.

But here’s the thing – that bit that you lower your prices to, at shows and for general public shopping, does not really make a difference in getting the sale or not.  All it makes a difference in is your bottom line.

People are not really quibbling over dollars here and there.  And people only think on the surface that they spend money with artists based on price.  Perhaps a little, but it’s not really the core place that people operate from, it’s a peripheral one.  Price is a data point by which we try to measure our true reasons for what we buy and why we justify it.  But it’s only one data point and it’s not the core.

The heart of why people buy is not money, but instead their experience of it. 

Why?  Because innately, we are after the human experience of things.  Innately we are ever seeking to improve that core life experience and either you, your story and your product fit into that connection or you don’t.

If you are truly an artist and not just a manufacturing machine, and if you will truly embrace your art, your expertise, your passion – people don’t just invest in the thing you produce.  They invest in the artist.  They invest in you.  They invest in your future and your light.  And that’s where you want to distinguish yourself.

Price your items fairly.

In no way am I saying be extravagant or unreasonable in your pricing approach.  We’re not talking about pissing into a jar and hawking it on Craigslist for a million bucks.  But you need to think about all of your overhead, your taxes, your licenses, your internet fees, your materials, your table fees, your travel fees and last but not least – your time.  Think about it fairly, set your price and then stick to your guns.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever tweak your prices. 

Figuring out your market usually takes time and experience.  Until you’ve been in business for at least a year, you really don’t know anything.  And never use your first show ever as a measure of what business as usual looks like.  Whether that first show is good or not, no individual show is going to tell you what you can count on.  So you will adjust from time to time as you figure things out.

But never do you want to make your prices unfair for you.  For the health of your business, you have an obligation to care for it, just like you care for a child.  In order for it to grow and thrive, and in order for that business to successfully serve your customers, you need to make good healthy decisions.

You are judged by the prices you set, for better or worse.  And if they are not right, they become your problem and not your solution.

If you don’t want to be associated with knock-off bargains, flea-market tactics or Wal-Mart mentality, then don’t look like them.  If you don’t value yourself more highly, why should anyone else?  And if you don’t stand up for yourself, who else will?  It’s your life to live and your business to run, no one else’s.

This is a really important thing, because in the handmade and service markets, prices that are too low are often a sign of inexperience and lack of professionalism to everyone in the know.  Your fellow artists know it, your buyers know it and your show directors know it.  It takes discipline to run a strong business.  If your prices do not match the needs and design of a show, it just might be what keeps you from getting in.  And it could be a whispered warning that you might be too risky to team up with either.

Pricing should not be about fear or negative emotions.

It’s fairness and it’s strategy.  Gather your data, give it the attention it deserves and then design a logical working framework with flexibility built in.

Last but not least, build in lows and highs, but remember that most of your sales come from the middle. 

Part of the human psychology is built around the justification of what experiences we choose.  And most of us will not fall into the extremes.  But we will look at those extremes as measurements to help us find the middle ground that feels right to us.  We like groupings of threes, fours and fives.  Too much more and it gets complex, too little and we innately don’t feel we have enough data to make the jump.  Make it easy for your buyers to feel good about their decisions, knowing they are looking for certain data points to reach their conclusions.  And then wow them with your amazing talent and service.  You’ll have it in the bag!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


18 Comments

Filed under Business, NaBloPoMo

I Want To Travel The World And Meet Other Women Through Crochet!


OK, that’s not a pick up line.

Really.  I’m serious.

But I’ve never traveled before.  Wanna help?  Do read on.

Anyone who’s ever met me, or even simply read my post Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet, can tell how passionate I am about the art of crochet.  Even when you don’t crochet and never thought you’d like it, hang out with me sometime and let me share.  It’s a transformative experience.  By the end I’ll have you seeing magic and fireflies and wondering if you should look in the backyard of your own craft for them too.  ;)

But it’s not just the art of making crochet fabric that I find exhilarating.  It’s the crochet hooks and hands holding them.  I love to sit down over coffee, tea and hooks with crocheters anywhere I travel.  We chat, I ask questions and I study their methods, hands and hooks and stories.  Why?  Because each of these facets are unique.

A crochet hook in it’s most simplistic state is simply a stick with a crook on the end.  And yet, the shapes vary so widely across the world.

I’ve heard that there are crochet hooks made out of bicycle spokes in Peru, that are crochet hooks on one end and knitting needles on the other.  And the artists who use them will actually flip their tools back and forth between crochet and knit – all within the same project!

Fascinating!  I want to see this!

There’s an entirely different kind of crochet hook used in a Scandinavian country I can’t remember the name of.  It’s only a couple inches long, made from a long piece of hammered coiled metal that forms a thumb pad for holding, while the hook part itself looks somewhat like a fishing hook, except it’s not sharp.  And they make socks with it!

I have to see this! 

I want to sit down and crochet with these artisans and study how they use these widely different tools!  How do they hold their hooks and yarn and position their hands?  And what is their muscle memory background?  How does this muscle history affect the technique and look that they achieve in their crochet?

Crochet is one of those arts that is present in some form on every continent and in every culture in the world.  And yet, we have barely scratched the surface in comparing notes.  And why is that?  I mean, Japan has some crazy beautiful techniques.  And there’s Croatia, which is equally graceful and entirely different!  Not to mention South America!

There’s something here.

The shapes of our hooks are part of what dictates what we are actually able to do in crochet.  I talk about hook shapes a lot, because for some reason, we don’t enough.  And yet, obviously we need to.  Once given voice, we crocheters hunger to.  Once given permission to explore the possibilities, we can’t wait to hear how someone else works with a hook and learn from that.

Just take a look at the Twitter discussion we had around the world on the matter just a month ago today.  You can read about that here: Did You Miss Out On This #Crochet Goodness?

My phone was literally blowing up from the activity!  I decided to write a blog post about the Twitter chat so my other peeps (who are not on Twitter) could also chime in and be heard.  Later that post was featured on BlogHer’s front page and people commented on how fascinating the discussion was, even though they themselves didn’t crochet.

My yarny-crafting brethren – there’s a story in here somewhere!  And I want to make it happen.

It’s why I wrote the articles for Interweave Crochet magazine.

It’s why I make videos and want to run experiments with crochet hooks.  And I want to take those crochet hook experiments abroad.  I say we all have a madness, and this just happens to be one of mine.

And yet…

I’m the little girl from Oklahoma, who made it to Texas, but has never left the contiguous United States.

Ever.

Well, OK there was that customs place on the Canadian border in MN, but that doesn’t count.  (Though when I was a kid, candy bars written in French and English seemed very cool.)

So here’s the deal guys.

I’ve been talking about this forever.  And you’ve been encouraging me to do it forever.  And an opportunity to cut my teeth on world travel fell into my lap.  It’s my daughter’s high school trip to Spain.  And the last stop is Barcelona – not only known for art, but it’s fiber art!  :D

Granted, it’s just an educational tour for my daughter’s AP Spanish class, but it’s for 10 days and the structure and the group will be a great way for me to get my feet wet as a world travel nOOb.  Plus I’ll have the benefit of going with three very well traveled teachers I trust.  I’ve volunteered to help as an extra chaperone and we’ve been raising money and getting ready all year.  We leave in just a few months.  I even hope to arrange a meetup with Ravelry friends whom I’ve never seen while I’m there.  It’s be great!  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wanna help me out and join me for my maiden journey?

Instead of buying me coffee or sharing a ball of yarn, would you contribute to my travel campaign and help me get to Spain instead?  After falling down the stairs this summer and breaking my ankle, my initial plans were set back a bit.  I’m doing better now and I’m going to make it, but would love your help to secure my spot on the tour.

What am I going to do with this experience?  Well, I’m going to study and write and learn of course.  I’m going to take pictures and talk crochet with anyone who will let me.  I’m going to be awakened, even if only a little, in the way that only travel can do.  And I’m going to try to keep up with the AP students who speak more Spanish than I ever could!

But more than anything, this is me literally putting my money where my mouth is.  I’m making a commitment towards what I’ve been talking about for years.  I’m traveling the world for crochet.  I’m going to find that story.  And I’m bringing  it home.  Help me do it?

Stay tuned!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Ergonomics In Crochet Hook Design And The Hands That Use Them

My Crochet Hook Experiment Will Be At Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire! Tomorrow!

What Gripes Me (Crochet Hook Shapes) – Crochet Ruminations

Crochet Hook Engineering – Types of Tools – Crochet Hook Challenge

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, Crochet Community, Crochet Hooks

Are We Becoming Another Tower Of Babel?


Comments from my blog post a few nights ago sparked some meditations for me.

Though I don’t want to see us lose our past and forget the eloquent arts of how to write or how to speak, I also see that we’re evolving.

When you stop and think about it, it’s not just that the world is shrinking.  With the influence of technology and our society’s adaption, we are learning and forming new languages and cultures.

We just don’t think about it that way.

Technology is a great tool.
Tower of BabelBut it’s also putting us in a position to be in contact with so much input of data, that we are now evolving at faster and faster rates.

Even our vocabulary.  Language and behavioral evolution that previously would have taken much longer to evolve, after traditional historical fashion, is now happening in days.

It’s a fascinating realization.

Someone across the world in a country I’ve never seen, much less understand, can have an affect on my ideas and decisions.  Even if only to simply decide whatever they’ve chosen to have for dinner sounds good to me too.

It’s an amazing frontier, and a bit of a frightening one as well.

We romanticize about secret societies and orders of human history.  But we are creating them even as we speak.  We’re developing languages and micro-cultures that only the members of which really understand.  Only this time, it is not mountains and rivers that divide or unite us.

Twitter, texting, Facebook: these all have language specifics, expected behaviors and values. “Secret codes.”  And if you’re not “in” the culture, then you don’t know. Not too unlike being in the military, or being a sci-fi geek. Each subgroup has its values, it’s language, it’s own support system and even its own humor.

So it brings us back to that evolution factor and how fast this is taking us just exactly where?

Because I definitely think there’s an argument that can be made for the potential to create an experience not too unlike the story of the Tower of Babel. Where the language and cultures become confused.  And instead of unity within a single people, an undeniable division and separation of cultures is born.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

The Balance Between Communicating Too Much And Not Enough

Three Communication Tips To Help You Get Your Point Across

Four Dysfunctional Attitudes About Communication

When There Isn’t Enough “Me” To Go Around…


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”


I was so irritated.

It happened.

I’m not going to say their name, give you details, or talk about the proposal, but I certainly am going to write a warning for anyone who will listen.  And I don’t frellin’ care that I want to yell about it all over the internet.

It happened.

Red_Wine_GlassAnd it was asked by the owner of a new business, who days after asking me to commit to a project, came back and bemoaned the fact that she had a slim budget for her grand opening.

Was there any way I could negotiate a lower price?

“I can appreciate the prices you charge because of your extensive expertise, but…. I’m paying for all this wine and I don’t have enough money.”

blinkhuh

What. The. Hell.

Really.  After a week of knowing my price, and me setting aside time and making preparations.  Really?

So dear readers:  would you take a 50% pay cut if your boss asked?  Bet not only you wouldn’t, but you’d tell him where to go!

DON’T DO THIS!  ARTISTS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

And just because you’re used to buying 3rd world cheap, doesn’t mean you’re justified in asking for my services, scheduling me and then asking me to slash my pay.  (What d’ya wanna bet that ain’t box wine you’re springing for.)  I could have far better respected you coming clean and saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t have as much money as I thought,” than to ask me to work for half price.

“I have 200 people on my mailing list that I will advertise your business to when I advertise my event. So you’ll get exposure.”

Really?

“Exposure” is the rotten kiss of hard-work-for-nothing in many cases.  Every newbie thinks at some point that every flirtatious offer to exchange products or services for “exposure” will be good for them.  Too often it just isn’t.  And for some businesses, too much of that kind of financial risk is just the kiss of death.

And 200 people on your mailing list?  That’s all?  If the wind is blowing the right way, I might get one contact out of that.  IF your email ad is done nicely.  But statistics are not in favor of even that.

“I’m sure people who attend my event will become future customers for you.”

Here’s where my eyes start to glaze over just a little.  I’ve heard all this before.  People who try to present themselves as having assets they don’t really have.

In over a decade of being in business for myself, not once has making a donation, or participating in someone’s private event ever… let me repeat that… EVER sent me a lead, much less a sale!

Now.  I do a lot of charity work.  I’ve often donated to cancer causes with no questions asked.

But here’s the big key.  I don’t do it for exposure.  I do it because I choose to give back to the world through a kind heart and generosity.  Because that feels right to me and because I want to.  That doesn’t mean I don’t put my name on my donations, but giving for exposure is the wrong reason.  Spending business assets on possible “exposure” has never paid for me.  Not saying it won’t for someone else, but it never once has for me.

Artists and designers and consultants and musicians and all those other entrepreneurs out there need to be just as respected for their time and expertise as someone who works for the man.

And whatever this weird fatal attraction is, where society is dying to have us colorful creatives around, but you want us to pimp ourselves out for cheap, has just gotta go.

Stop dissing our fields.

Stop diminishing our returns.

Stop using us.  And artists, don’t you go caving either!

We have every right to feed our kids and have a warm bed too.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Help Me Find Some Yarn? Part 2…


Tahki_Savoy_Purple_19_Yarn2As I posted last week, I’ve been looking for a particular purple colored Tahki yarn line called Savoy.  Purple color 19.

Well, the super awesome T-Rex from Ravelry came to the rescue and let me buy two balls of this yarn from her!  YAY!  I should get it Wednesday.  :)  My sister-in-law will be stoked.

However, I’m keeping the search open for another ball or two – just in case.  It would really suck to get 3/4 of the way done with this project and then discover it still really is not enough yarn!  (I think that must be every yarn lover’s nightmare!)

So if you by chance do find more of this yarn, I’m still interested in buying.  Just let me know.

And thanks very much! :)

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, NaBloPoMo

Someone Needs Your Good Thoughts Tonight – Part 2


As a follow-up to my post last week, which you can read here, I thought you might like an update on the young man who was contemplating the taking of his life.

First off, all of you who stepped out to comment, or share, or just pledge a prayer and a good thought – you make a difference.  A difference Michael felt.

There was also Nina’s personal note, which I copied and sent to Michael’s aunt for her to share with him.  He was awed and grateful.  He said it helped so much.  And his aunt was also very grateful for such a personal response.

And he’s still been struggling all week.

But you know what?  And I believe you all had a part in this.  Michael was in a bad place again this week.  (Apparently he’s also hearing voices and has terrible headaches.)  But instead of doing something drastic, he called 911 instead and he asked for help.

And he got it.  He’s getting help now. I believe you helped do that!

Please continue to keep him in your good thoughts and prayers, that he gets the help he needs and gets well.  And keep the family in your thoughts too.

Thanks for being the awesome, loving people that you are!

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The Balance Between Communicating Too Much And Not Enough


I like details.

I like specific questions. I like specific answers.  I like conversation.  And most especially (besides sheer writing for the joy of it), I like thorough two-way communication.

But sometimes, no matter how much you like to communicate, you find yourself on uneven ground, face to face with someone else who does not communicate the same way as you.

communication_blocked_signedI’ve been told that I’m too bold, and that I’m too timid.  That I’m too detailed and that I don’t communicate enough detail.  And so often times, it begins to feel like some kind of dance.  Which direction will this dance partner take me today?  And will I be able to follow suit?

And that’s without the “do I take them literally, figuratively or read between the lines” sub-rhythm that I also know all too well.

Since I like writing, and because I like being thorough, when it comes to letters and emails I can tend to get wordy if I’m not careful.  And I tend to write the same way I’d converse with someone.  Some people really like that.

But not everyone.

Some people will only communicate over email in cryptic short bursts.  And more often than not, these are the people who tell me that I don’t communicate enough.  When the reality is, I gave them so much information, they just didn’t really read it.

Often when I catch on to someone’s short communication pattern, I will try to pattern after them, and keep my responses short like theirs.  My husband is more like this.  I’ve figured out that I need to keep any emails I send him short, focused and sweet, or call him instead.  One or two lines, no more.  Otherwise, he won’t read my email.  He just won’t.  And then I’ll hear later how I never told him something.

However sometimes, especially in business, I can’t justify using short burst communication, because there are too many important details that need to be addressed.  And this is when I really need whomever I’m working with to get over their preferences and adapt to me so we can get things done.

And yet, the cryptic short burst communication type folks will still tend not to read what the information they are sent.

Sometimes I try to relegate communication to “phone only” with these individuals, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to refuse to use phone conversations anymore.  Which to me is quite weird, because typing is such a one-dimensional way to communicate, much less in a few sentences of 8 words or less.

I’ve seen more misunderstandings take place thanks to only communicating in text over the internet than anything else in all my life.  Ninety percent of the time, if someone would just pick up the phone, there wouldn’t end up being a misunderstanding at all.

There’s a little rule of thumb my husband taught me that he used in his sales job and that I view as a golden truth: If it takes more than two emails, it’s time to pick up the phone.

But you can’t force someone to call you.

These are the times that try my professional soul.  And sometimes my PTO motherhood soul.  And sometimes my wifely soul too.  Though hubby and I have the luxury of recapping with each other every day.

So when that important communication blunder takes place, what can you do?

One idea: Try to head it off before it takes place.  Establish a particular format or a thumb-nail sketch of rules that you use to govern your communication by.

For instance, I used to require a phone number before I would work with anyone over a custom order and insist on talking with them over the phone at some point.  It helped a lot.  It kept me from hours on the computer just trying to talk to people, and it kept me from misunderstanding something because all I got was a 10 word response.  Having phone access gave my clients and I both a much clearer understanding of one another.  Not to mention it kept people from forgetting about their orders too.

However, I’ve gotten away from that practice, thinking perhaps I didn’t really need it, especially for internet sales.  And it hasn’t worked out as well.  Some things work out just fine and others, not so much.  When I’ve asked for someone’s address four times, it gets a little annoying after a while.  So I’m probably going to reinstate that rule again.  Along with a general structure of required information that I want before I even consider their project.

When push comes to shove in business and communication, we need a structure and a plan.  Since the only person in the world we can truly control is ourselves, sometimes we just have to check ourselves, try to listen to the beat, roll with the music and dance anyway.  But other times, we need to build checks and balances into our system to take care of potential issues that arise.  Like my phone number requirement for custom work.  Or a basic who, what, why, where, when, how approach.

The truth is, people really mostly want to hear about themselves, what interests them most and be pampered.  And it’s our job as professionals to figure out what all that is. We listen, we ask, we take notes.  But somewhere in there the customer has to meet us in the middle.

I’m here to serve you.

I’m not however a mind reader.  I do not offer, nor do I provide that service.

So it’s your job to 1) help me understand how best to serve you and 2) help me understand what your expectations are.  Because I cannot deliver what I don’t understand and I cannot live up to something I have no idea exists, much less never offered.

Which means all I have left is to take you at your own words.

All ten of them.

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Filed under Business, Crochet Ruminations, NaBloPoMo, Writing