Butterflies, much like the phoenix, are a symbol of transformation. Though, commonly associated with Spring, they are perhaps best tied to all year, as their life, too, is a cycle that often reflects our own and the turning of the wheel of the year. As Fall and harvest come to pass and we approach the winter and hibernation, we, too, have feasted and now tuned inward, as the caterpillar becoming the chrysalis.
Inspired by this post by The Enchanted Wren!
It’s coming on Christmas, and no I’m not about to break into The River by Joni Mitchell. Okay, so maybe it's not coming on Christmas for the rest of the world, unless you count department stores. However, I have about three events left for the year, all of which are after Halloween, and two of which are after Thanksgiving. Generally, I find Thanksgiving doesn’t generally bring many sales for me, but we’ll see if my Harvest Raggle Taggle Fairy Dolls can fix that.
Christmas, though, tends to bring a lot of sales. So, while the rest of society might still be trying to figure out which candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters this year and putting the finishing touches on their costumes or trying to decide what sides will be offered with the turkey and if the pies this year should include the apple with cheddar cheese or pumpkin and whipped cream, I’m blasting Christmas songs in my room, working on Christmas and winter related products. Ice house and Christmas fairy doll, anyone?
Holidays and seasons in and of themselves tend to offer a plethora of inspiration. One needs only to walk into JoAnns or Michaels, or, if you’re on the East Coast, AC Moore to discover any amount of craft supplies geared to holidays or seasons. This would be one of the reasons we often unsuccessfully attempt to put blinders on while walking past the fabric sections. And while I, personally, also draw inspiration many times from beloved books or favorite movies, and online through many google, deviant art, pinterest, tumblr, etc. searches, ideas and inspiration and ways to make the ideas happen, also come from the people around me.
Truth is handmade entrepreneurs owe a lot to the people around them. I am lucky to have Handmade in South Bay, my own personal Algonquin round table, where I can not only learn tricks of the trade and have help in growing my business, but also vent my frustrations and celebrate my successes. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who always asks what I’m working on and not only shows interest and compliments my abilities and work, but also offers ideas happily, like having the acorns for my squirrel fairy garden look like they are wrapped like a gift, and enjoys seeing me excited about my work. And I am lucky to have a mother who offers honest opinions of my creations, gives suggestions for making them better, acts as a sounding board and often bears the brunt of my frustrated rants and overly excited babbling, as well as the countless other ways she supports me (I could write a novel-length blog about her alone).
What it comes down to is this, Acorn Tops would not be where it is today if not for the support I get from my friends, family, and boyfriend. They all have a hand in it and many of my inspiration I owe to them. I am more grateful than I could ever put into words.
I am my grandmother’s granddaughter in a lot of ways. I share her tendency to worry; the ever constant “what will people think.” I share her love of Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne Shirley. That’s Anne with an E. I also share her love of autumn. She passed away when I was six, but I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I don’t think of her. It’s happening a lot more than usual now because autumn was her favorite time of year. Now more than ever, my mom and I will exchange looks and ask each other, “You know who would love that?” Just this morning it was the collaborative gift box sets with Seeds of Inspiration, Jessie’s Custom Greetings, and DPR Collectibles.
I keep joking that if she was still around today, we’d never have to actually buy her anything. All these seasonal product we make, be it a mug hugger or fairy door would be the perfect gifts. And I bet she’d get a kick out of it being handmade. I could see it now. Scented acorns and pumpkins at the center of her dining room table. An autumn fairy house tucked away in her perfectly square garden of perfectly straight lined zinnias.
As I type this, I’m putting the finishing touches on an autumn fairy doll. I can’t help thinking of it as ‘Grandmom’s Fairy Doll.’ If she were still alive today, this doll would be hers.
“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” And I am so glad I had a grandmother who could pass that love on to me.
In the type of business I am in, it is important that the tap of creativity does not run out. Whether or not we think creativity is as endless as Legolas’s arrows, there are times where it feels like the well is dry. We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. We’ve hit a wall, a block, call it what you like; it is frustrating.
After banging your head against the wall and pulling out large clumps of your own hair, and still getting nowhere, the question is how to get out of this creative slump. How do you get passed this?
You remind yourself you need to make product because this is your job, it is your livelihood. No one else is going to make it if you don’t. And if you don’t make it, you can’t sell it, and if you can’t sell it, you don’t make money and now, if you are like me, a thousand worse-case-scenarios are popping into your head. Not to mention, you already said you would be at two shows. This only adds on more stress and pressure, which does not help this creative constipation.
In a handmade business, creativity and inspiration is key. Instead of pressuring yourself to make something, take a step back and look for that creativity and inspiration. Sites like Pinterest let you search through countless photos and can give you countless ideas.
Find the internet distracting? Find yourself drooling over snapshots of someone’s dinner or cooing at the adorable puppy your friend posted rather than searching for ideas? Get off the computer and go green. Return to those third grade “what I did this summer” collages. Finally those stacks of magazines and catalogs collecting dust in some corner can be put to good use.
At a Handmade in South Bay meeting, one of the activities we did was a vision board. After creating a fairy house I was less than happy with, I decided to take that idea and run with it. Searching through magazines and catalogs for anything that could inspire new designs of fairy houses and fairy doors, I took some time away from carving and painting and became more inspired than I have felt since my last show. It took some time, but it was fun and it was worth it. Now, I’m itching to get creating.
Other ways to return to that endless quiver of creativity is to return to your roots. Think of the people around you. What do they like? What reminds you of them? Make something inspired by the people in your life.
Go with what you love.
Go with nostalgia.
If you’re seeking inspiration and creativity go with what you’re passionate about, be it a book, a movie, a television show, pop culture, or video game.
Get out of the house and go play on a swing set. Put away the serious, brooding, anxiety-ridden, deadline-procrastinating businessperson whose constantly checking the wallet, phone, or watch every two seconds and go for a walk, watch some clouds, take a breath, and watch the world, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
Inspiration doesn’t always hit at the work table, and the more you force it, the less willing the muses are to help.
There is a magic to reusing and re-purposing and using a child-like wonder of the world to re-imagine the way we use certain items. An earring without it’s pair turns into a door knocker. Broken tea cups turn into a garden.
On this day, we stop and think about this earth we are living on. We consider the damage done to it in the past and seek new ways to remedy the damage done to it presently for a future that is more green. On this day, we plant trees, we talk about saving the bees, and recycling, reusing, and reducing. On this day, we celebrate the earth and strive to be more conscious of the impact we have on it. However, for some handmade businesses, Earth Day does not just occur April 22nd. It occurs everyday.
Businesses like Seeds of Inspiration craft and create with ecological consciousness everyday of the year. Their impact on the environment is considered in many of their products. Their pet toys, for one, are made using recycled denim. They have bags of denim jeans friends and friends of friends outgrew and would’ve thrown away otherwise.
Their dash saches and scented specialty pillows are organic. Some of these ingredients, such as some lavender for instance, come directly from their garden. Tanza Botanicalscreates organic herbals salves.
Then of course, there is the round robins of fabric between Seeds of Inspiration, Acorn Tops, and Jessie’s Custom Greetings. Scraps of fabric from Seeds of Inspiration’s products go to either Acorn Tops for our Raggle Taggle fairy dolls or to Jessie’s Custom Greetings to use on their cards. The scraps of those scraps are then returned to Seeds of Inspiration to create handmade buttons for a new product!
Nature is a great source of inspiration for many businesses. In learning the plight of the honey bees, Lainie’s Lathers created honey soap!
According to Handmade in South Bay’s Interview with Samantha Haymes, her handmade business, The Crowned Heart, “is chocked full of things I love which includes beautiful things gifted to us by Mother Earth.” This is evident is her beautiful crystal and gem jewelry, for example and the way her art “utilizes and harnesses nature’s energies” (The Crowned Heart’s Shop Announcement).
Earth Day does not just exist one day a year. Earth Day should be and for many handmade small businesses is everyday.
The original idea of the fairy door is to sit at the base of a tree. It welcomes the fairies to the garden and to make a home if they so wish.
However, this seems rather exclusive. What about people who do not have trees or a yard, for that matter? Currently living in the third floor apartment, my mom found an easy solution to this predicament. She has decided to invite the fairies to her bookshelf, because after all what is more magical than reading?
A customer decided to follow suit with her Wander door!
Some have put them around the baseboards and walls of their rooms.
One of my first ever customers put her fairy doors around her raised garden bed and added a stone path to them!
Last year, customers told me that they were buying dog fairy doors in honor of a beloved furry companion that had passed away and they were planning on putting the door over the spot their dog’s ashes were buried.
On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
The magic behind it all!