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!
As artists, we make a specific something with a specific purpose or reason in mind. We try to convey our own meanings.
Every time a customer walks into the booth, I give my well rehearsed spiel. "These are fairy doors. They are hand carved and hand painted. You stick them at the base of a tree or on a bookshelf, anywhere you want to invite the fairies."
My main goal and purpose is to offer products that will draw the fairies into your world and enchant it. While accomplishing that goal, I have also sought out ways to appeal to a wide audience and remain unique.
Despite my intentions as the creator, the customers will find different ways to use my product and different meanings behind it. Take, for instance, Seeds of Inspiration's Ouch Pouch Line. This is an aromatherapy product that can be used in the freezer or microwave as an ice pack or heating pad. It's scented with lavender and chamomile and can be used for anything from bumps and bruises to ear aches and migraines. A friend and constant customer, Jess, used her personal ouch pouch on her bottle fed puppy. The poor little guy was the only one of his litter to survive and the ouch pouch neck wrap helped offer the comfort and warmth he normally would have found from his litter mates.
My customers tend to first have their interested piqued by recognizable, or even not so recognizable, designs. Then the door itself. Sometimes the purchase is for nostalgia, sharing the interest, or a different meaning behind the same message. A Dalmatian fairy door is now used to memorialize a beloved pet who has crossed the rainbow bridge. My TFIOS door becomes a reminder to a loved one that everything will always be okay. Or, most recently, a custom ordered 82nd Airborne fairy door will bring comfort to a little kid every time he gets scared at night.
Another example is my fairy bottles. They normally feature miniature scenes in tiny glass bottles. People have used them as ornaments to hang on their tree. They use it as attachments to key chains. Just a few months ago, at the steampunk convention it was used as part of a cosplay outfit.
John Green said books belong to their readers. The same goes for art. When that door leaves my booth, it opens to something more. It becomes more than I could ever dream.
There’s an irony to accidentally cutting yourself while carving a door inspired by the man of steel. It’s not the first time I’ve done it. I carry enough bandaids with me on a daily basis for my purse to be considered a first aid kit. During the last craftsman’s guild fair I received a very nice scar on my finger. On the bright side neither of these injuries required stitches. But it reminded me of something I and some fellow crafters talked about during the HMSB Maker’s Retreat last weekend, the difference between a hobby and a business.
One of the crafters there talked about how it was the difference between something like Handmade in South Bay and something like the Torrance Craftsman’s Guild. On the ride home from the retreat, though, we decided it was more than that though. For us in Handmade in South Bay, it’s our business, our income, our livelihood or what we’d like our livelihood to be, but it’s also our passion. There is a flame that refuses to die. Yes, we get frustrated and walk away for a bit. We put down the needle and thread and paint and brushes, but we always come back. We walk around with idea books stuffed in our bags and purses. We have our planners as our brains. And we never stop thinking about our business. Even when it’s something as simple as spying all the trees that would be perfect for a fairy door, or dreaming up a new design. We are our business and we take it with us, in our purses, in our notebooks and phones, in our brains, and in our soul. You can hear it in our voices and see it on our faces when we talk about it. We live and breathe not only our businesses, but what our businesses can do for the world at large.
And we bleed for it. We cry for it. We try for it. We risk for it. And we work for it. From the moment we wake, to the moment we rest our heads on our pillow. We do not work a nine-to-five. I don’t think we know how. Sometimes dinner, when we remember it through our painting pallets and sewing machines, is at 9 o’clock at night. Lunches are optional and breakfast is accompanied by updating social media and scheduling posts. When Degas was going blind, he switched to sculpting, because there is no such thing as idle hands for a passionate artist. Again, we don’t know how.
We are disciplined enough to accomplish it amidst the mind-sucking everyday distractions that come with working from home. We are brave enough to bare our souls to an often unkind world, sometimes even in the circles where we should feel the most safe in doing so and who should be able to understand the most. We push ourselves further than we ever thought we could go. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Passionate handmade entrepreneurs do hundreds on a daily basis. Larger events. Events out of state. More events. Different events. New products. And we do it with very little respect, sometimes even from our fellow crafters who use air quotes whenever they refer to their work as a business. Because while to them they fail to see it for themsevles, us who are businesspeople, who are passionate, who do what we love and love what we do, it is an insult to us.
We are crazy. Crazy to think we can do it and put ourselves through it. To be this passionate. But as Jack Kerouac said, “The only people for me are the mad ones.”
So, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Apple Inc.)
At my most recent event, a customer mentioned how cool they thought it was that I had very ancient symbols, such as my goddess fairy door, and some newer symbols, such as my Mockingjay inspired ornament. I had something for everyone, they said. As Seeds of Inspiration put it when I was talking to her about it, it’s almost like a secret handshake. Whether it’s the knowing look and smile I receive from a customer picking up the goddess fairy door, or the squeals and shouts of excitement over my TFIOS inspired products, it kind of feels like a secret handshake. The customer and I share more than a mutual understanding and knowledge; we share a connection.
Certain symbols like that of the goddess or the okay… okay clouds from TFIOS fit into certain niches. If you know Divergent you recognize my Divergent door. The same can be said for many of the symbols I use. Some people who have never heard of TFIOS will buy a TFIOS inspired fairy house because the glow in the dark infinity sign on the top reminds them of their wedding. Most of my sales, though, when it comes to a more specific audience comes from people who fit into the niche. Teenagers tend to gravitate most to my products that are inspired by young adult fiction. A woman wearing the celtic knot necklace and matching earrings is more likely to pick up my celtic knot tree of life door.
That being said, there are certain universal symbols, recognized by all and it is all who seem excited to see them. A sixty year old man will pick up the same spiderman fairy door that a six year old girl picked up not five minutes ago. An eight year old boy will gush over the same Lorax fairy door that a thirty year old woman gushed over an hour or so before. There is a connection there, too. Everyone knows Thomas The Tank Engine. Anyone can recognize Thing One and Thing Two. There is no one who does not know the Batman Symbol or The S Superman wears on his chest.
Then there are the personal symbols, like my logo. This is not universal. This does not fit into a specific niche. No one I have ever come across knows the artist. But it’s not so much the artist. It’s not even so much the artwork itself, though it is a huge inspiration. It is a connection, too; a connection to my grandmother that I then share with my customers.
Deep down all symbols are somewhat personal, even the most universal. There is a reason we feel drawn and choose certain symbols over another. When it comes down to it, it can be as personal as scent, and yet it still holds a capacity to connect two total strangers.
Acorn Tops is proud to be able to have a little something for everyone. I extend my hand… you know the handshake.
How do you define a good show? The ideal situation is to sell out and get back what you make tenfold, right? I mean, let’s be completely honest here. This is a business. This is my job. This is my source of income. Idealism, however, is not always the handmade small business entrepreneur’s friend. That is to say, craft shows tend to be hit or miss. Even shows that proved to be a big hit one year, sometimes turn out to be a miss the next. There are many reasons for this, whether the organizers changed the layout, the date of the event was different, the economy, or something as simple as weather.
Branching out, which is necessary to grow the business, results in taking the chance on that event we’ve never been to before, which may or may not be good. Yet another risk we entrepreneurs tend to take. Brave little guys aren’t we? But there’s that word again. Good. What exactly are we saying when we define an event with this term?
So, selling out seems a little far-fetched, at least for me at this point. No, this is not pessimism. It’s more acceptance that this has been the trend thus far at my events. This then means, I’m probably not going to walk away from a show a sudden millionaire or even a thousand dollars richer. (Wouldn’t that be nice, though?)
If we define a good show in terms of money, then based on experience, research, and learning from Handmade in South Bay and fellow member’s experiences the money earned must equate to multiple factors, including booth fees and gas. Let’s say at the end of the event, you glance at your receipt book and spontaneously break out into celebratory song and dance for making all of $200. This must have been a good event, right? But let’s take into consideration what you spent on the event. Everyone have their calculators out? Let’s say you spent $40 on gas and $150 on the booth fee, that’s $190, meaning you technically only made $10. That is not enough for groceries, for rent, not even enough to restock the product that sold. A bit of a downer, right?
To figure out a good show a very basic equation should look something like this: (gas)+(booth fee)+(materials to make more product to restock)+ (daily expenses whatever they be)+ (etc.) = good show and celebratory song and dance.
As this is a business and a job, finances are a BIG part of it. So where do we, as handmade small business entrepreneurs find our umbrellas when our receipt books and wallet decide to rain on our parade? If we just defined good shows by money, especially while we’re still young and growing, face it, we’d all drown. There’s another way we can define good shows.
Handmade small businesses are not just making product and collecting money and working social media. We are also in customer service. And could anybody deny our clientele is a big part of what can make a show good?
This is not to say that it isn’t frustrating to have people walk into the booth, spend hours gushing over your product to never take that next step and actually buy it. This is not to say it doesn’t make us want to pull out our hair when someone distracts or steals a potential sale. And this is not to say that it doesn’t make our teeth grind when a customer criticizes or demeans our work. (Handmade small business entrepreneurs must be saints for some of what we put up with.)
Originally posted on Acorn Tops Tumblr: On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
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.
Originally posted on: On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
The first magic any of us really experience is in a book. There is nothing more magical than joining Jack and Annie when the tree house spins faster and faster until everything is still, absolutely still. They transport us to Neverland and Wonderland. They teach us things. That loving something can make it real because we’ve all had our Velveteen Rabbits. To sit and smell the flowers like Ferdinand. Or all you need is a purple crayon to make a whole new world. Sometimes the magic was in understanding a character so completely, because we’ve all had terrible, horrible, no good very bad days. Sometimes the magic was in the simple joy Amelia Bedelia’s blunders brought us or Dr. Seuss’s nonsensical rhymes. And sometimes the magic was simply just in saying goodnight to the moon.
For me, my favorite books growing up are filled with memories. Not so much my mom tucking me in at night, though it is that too. The memories and magic for me are a connection. In each of my grandmother’s Lucy Maud Montgomery books, my grandmother wrote her name. For me to pick up that book that she loved so much, means the world. It is a type of magic that words fail to describe. To hold the books she held, to read the words she read, it is like her being there and reading them with me. My all time favorite children’s book, though, would be My Mama Had A Dancing Heart. I cannot write a blog about children’s books without mentioning that one book in particular. The mention of it alone makes me smile, because it is something my mom and I share to this day.
John Green called reading a collaboration between the reader and the author. I would go a step further and say it is also a collaboration between reader and reader. There is something special, something exciting when someone reads or has read the same book. There is a personal and intimate connection, whether it’s between family, friends, classmates, or that random customer who walks into your booth.
Constantly, I return to this first magic. A lot of times for me, personally, it’s like visiting old friends. Once more, I explore The Hundred Acre Woods. Once again, Max and I start a wild rumpus. Years later, since my library has grown, so has that magic and my inspiration. Now I find it in J.R.R. Tolkien’s poetry: “Not all who wander are lost.” Or in some contemporary young adult literature.
Through fairy doors and fairy houses and ornaments, I’m able to take this magic and continue that connection and collaboration. It has always been the first real magic, and now, for me, it is where I turn to first for inspiration.
Originally posted on: On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
This picture hung in every bedroom of every house my grandmother lived in. She received this picture when she was six year old, Christmas 1934 from her Sunday School teacher. She gave this picture to me, and ever since I have carried on that same tradition. This picture was the inspiration for my business and has now become my logo.
When my grandfather passed away, we received his carving tools. Many of these tools were handmade themselves. They have the initials carved into the bottoms of the handles. The ones that are not handmade are labeled in permanent marker. Every time I hold them, it’s like holding his hands.
With my grandmother’s inspiration and my grandfather’s tools I have created Acorn Tops. From the picture, my line of products have expanded from hand carved Fairy Doors to include Fairy Houses, Fairy Gardens, Fairy bottles, ornaments, and soon Raggle Taggle Fairy Dolls.
My business is small. These roots, this tie to the past and to my family will give me the wings for me and my business to soar.
Originally posted on: On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
To anybody else it is just a broken fence post. It is just a broken tea cup. It is just an earring without its pair or an extra terracotta pot. We throw away these items; toss them aside because we believe they have lost their value, all the while failing to see the true magic and beauty behind them.
When we were children we could make anything what we needed it to be. Boxes were houses or ships. Backyards became kitchens. Markers became light sabers. Swings became a rocket and dragons. We did not just see items for what they were originally designed. Make-believe and playing pretend gave us a magic that many have lost when leaving childhood.
My mother is one of a rare few who can still find the magic and use of items normally tossed aside. Her handmade business, Seeds of Inspiration, makes cat toys using recycled denim from old jeans. Recently on etsy, I came across a bird feeder made out of glass salsa bottle. Trash for Teaching re-imagines items cast away in bulk and doomed to landfills and uses them to help in teaching within schools and communities.
The trick is to return to that child-like outlook of the world, where anything can be anything else. Put away our adult eyes for just a while and embrace the magic and gift of seeing more to everyday items then their assigned purpose or value. You’ll be amazed at what you can find. The possibilities are endless.
On Fairy Wings and Acorn Hats
The magic behind it all!