As an artisan with a full time day job, every minute of my day is scheduled. Wake up, get up, seize the day. Work, work some more, walk the dog, yoga, computer, bed. Repeat.
Except...for the last two days. Wind and rain storm blew through Portland two days ago leaving many without power. I'm one of the fortunate households, I have power. It's my studio, though. Cold. Dark. Powerless. Leaving me powerless.
Being without power has forced me to stop and assess the rest of the season. If it's the first week of the month, it must be Bangor, Maine. Next week....I have no idea, better check my calendar. All I know is that I have a show every weekend for the next 6 weeks. On top of a regular job. Note to self...get some vitamin C. And I'm feeling stressed. How to make more inventory if I can't turn on the lights? What if I don't have the perfect items for my customers? What if? What if?
Nothing I can do...this is Mother Nature forcing me to rest up, Sometimes it takes something major to make us take care of ourselves. Let's all remember to do just that....rest, relax, be present. Stop worrying about the future, and let's just enjoy the moments. No matter how small.
I know you're all familiar with the tourist-y part of Portland: DiMillo's - the floating restaurant, cruise ships, whale watches, and lobster rolls. I'm here to take you on my neighborhood walk, and show you a side of Portland you may not know.
Meet Kylie, she came along for the walk.
See the political sign with the five languages at the top? Nice effort, but did you know there are over 40 languages spoken in the Portland public school system? Crazy, right. This guy's going to need a bigger sign!
Our sidewalks are brick. New brick, old brick, flat brick and bumpy brick. All of it treacherous in the winter.
We are diverse! Portland, Maine ranks third in the United States - so wear those rainbows proudly!
If you've driven in Portland, you know parking can be a challenge. And our meter maids don't cut anyone any slack. So, put your quarters in and set your timer.
We love art - from the Portland Museum of Art to the Danforth Inn (shown), art is as vital to our souls as lobster!
Unfortunately, our vandals are very creative. Two fences that could skewer you like a shish kabob and still they manage to deface a beautiful building. Sad.
Shameless promotion of mARTini Jewels, but I feel the message is appropriate. Explore!
No matter how small the square footage, we love our outdoor gardens! You can always find a little treasure around every corner.
Portland's interpretation of a car horn. Ha!
We have a homeless and heroin problem. No city is immune, and I wish we had the answers. Recently, our public trash cans have had sharps containers added on the back for needle disposal. Our neighbors two doors down had a break in while they were home. Scary stuff.
Portland has a lot of waterfront open to the public - this is East End Beach, (dog friendly!) and it's adjacent to the park. Beautiful at any time of year! And yes, I've been there in the dead of winter. Dogs don't concern themselves with temperature.
So that's my city! Good and bad, I love living in Portland. If you find yourself in my vicinity, give me a shout and come visit my studio!
My studio is located at Open Concepts Studio in Portland, Maine. It's such a cool little spot, I share space with painters, glass blowers, fabric artists, neon artists....the energy is palpable. We all have our own individual spaces, but the walls are only half height, so you can see who's coming and going. Most of the time in my space, it's me, or perhaps one of my assistants and me, and of course the latest Netflix binge watching episodes; I don't usually have many visitors. Sometimes a client, but not terribly often.
So I thought you might like to see a snippet into what a jewelry studio looks like. I only took a few pictures, and believe me, a lot of cleaning went into getting the studio ready for just these few pictures! It's unbelievable how things get so messy in such a short time.
Anyway, the first picture is my workbench. My husband built the bench for me, and then, later on a second one. This is where I spend most of my time. You can see my assortment of pliers and cutters, hammers and mallets, notebooks where I keep my jewelry "recipes" and in the front, a piece of silver that has had discs cut out the the steel block next to it. To the left of the pliers is my disc cutter. I sandwich the silver in the disc cutter, put in the corresponding steel punch and give it a whack with the brass hammer. Great for taking out frustrations!
The picture below is another view from my bench. In the back, in all of those boxes are different fonts that I use to stamp charms, bracelets, and navigational coordinates. In front is a dapper - I put the disc in a concave spot in the block, choose a corresponding dapper, and can make the disc concave or convex. In the front are pieces of silver that I'll either use to make jewelry, or melt down, depending on the size of the silver.
The last picture is where I keep my "little pieces" - jump rings, head pins, silver beads, split rings, etcetera, anything that I need to make pieces. I bought these great glass spice jars and use them to keep everything small. It's great to put my hands on the things that I want right away.
I hope you enjoyed the little "tour", if you're planning a visit to Portland, feel free to call me and stop in!
I welcome your questions or comments!
It's almost craft show season, the time when we artisans pack our vehicles, haul our displays, wares, and assorted paraphernalia to the local gym, parking lot, field, etc. in the hopes of selling enough goods to make enough money to buy more supplies to make more goods to sell so we can buy more supplies. Crafters, artists, artisans, whatever you want to call us, we're the hardest working people I know. Work all week so we can work all weekend. One of the things that make it all worthwhile (besides great customers and high sales!) are our neighbors, those people next to us - in the next tent, in the booth across the aisle, in the neighboring area, who look out for each other. They offer to bring you something to drink, you watch their booth while they run to the rest room, they whip out their spare change when you've forgotten yours. After five plus years, these people become your family. You look forward to seeing them, they're your consistency. Meet my family:
On The Table Coasters:
Vera and Ashley Wainwright are the funniest mother/daughter team I've ever met. They make these fabulous coasters from Ashley's original photos, and also from maps. Have a special location? You can have coasters or trivets made that reflect that original area. I had a set made for my husband for his camp, and he loved them! And you know how hard it is to find something special for guys!
Talk about a firecracker~ here's a woman with four (!) beautiful daughters and a husband who still manages to travel the craftshow circuit showcasing her amazing talent. Tracy is a watercolor artist whose art features children and animals, with a unique perspective. You'll love her work.
This is Colleen Macklin, owner, designer, creator of Seamack Design. You may think one jeweler introducing the world to another jeweler is counter intuitive, but I believe there's room for us all to be successful. Colleen is deep into the healing powers of stones, she creates chakra mobiles and jewelry. I just think it's pretty. www.seamackdesign.com.
I hope you've enjoyed meeting some really talented and genuinely nice ladies - please visit their websites and support local arts and craft!
I don't know about you, but as a woman, I'm in a constant battle over food. Is it healthy?
Should I eat this? Why don't I have any self control? Even when I cave, and eat something I probably shouldn't, I'm mentally chastising myself while I'm eating it. Seriously!
So the other day, I had an epiphany, in the Irving Gas Station, of all places. If you're from New England, you might know about Irving. Well, the Irving near my home in Portland, Maine, has just about anything you could want, from breakfast pizza to flip flops. Well, not that you need flip flops now. Anyway, the people behind the counter are so nice! Always pleasant, (despite having gotten up at 3:15 a.m.), a kind word for everyone.
Well on this particular day, I'm in a hurry. I have to get to the studio, I have a siege of special orders, and I get a diet soda. Diet soda, the stuff with all the chemicals. I really shouldn't have this. Benzyne, right? Something like that? I should probably get water. Water, right. So much better for me. No calories. No flavor, either, but no calories, no caffeine. SO much better.
This is an example of the internal conversation over the daily diet coke I have. So then, being in a hurry, I grab one of their homemade muffins. Not the one that has the dollop of cream cheese on top, just a plain muffin. If you just read about my guilt trip over diet Coke, well then you can imagine the internal dialog regarding the muffin. Oil probably. and all that sugar. You really don't need this. Get something better. Better yet, go home and make something. You need to eat healthier...etc., etc., etc.
I finally get to the register and the nice lady rings me up. The lady I see just about every day, and as I leave, she says, "Enjoy your muffin, honey!" and that's when I had my AH-HA!! moment.
Enjoy your muffin. How simple. Life is one decision at a time. Make the best decisions you can, but when you decide to indulge a little, well then, enjoy it. Give yourself permission to enjoy your muffin. Guilt. SO overrated.
For those of you who don’t know, I live in Portland, Maine, the largest city in Maine, but by most standards, a small city. I love living here. The accessibility to culture, nature, restaurants and retail is amazing. I like looking out my back door at the tug boats and cargo ships, walking down Commercial Street and seeing the latest retail changes, taking my dog to East End Beach for her morning play dates with her canine buddies. Portland has so much to offer.
Last night, though, something changed. Something relatively minimal in scope, but which absolutely confirmed my belief that we, as a country, can do better.
You see, I like to walk my dog at night, after dinner. It’s a time for me to relax a bit, and Kylie loves being out, nose to the ground. She gets to sniff the latest smells, startle the nighttime critters that inhabit the city (think opossums and skunks, not rats!) and I get to surreptitiously peek in lighted windows as we walk by townhouses. I hate to admit it, but I love to see how people decorate. I digress. Here’s the disturbing part.
Tomorrow is trash day. In Portland, we have special bags for trash, and then bins for our recyclable cans, paper, bottles, etc. Now, many people bring their redeemable cans and bottles back to the supermarket to get their $.06 back, but some people can’t be bothered and they just throw them in with the other recyclables. At night, people start bringing their bags and bins to the curb, in anticipation of the early morning pickup.
As I’m walking the dog, I see a small, beat up compact car, crawling along the street. A woman is driving, and whenever there are bins by the curb, a man in the passenger side jumps out, combs through the recyclables and picks out the redeemable cans and bottles. The trunk is open, and there’s a bag in the trunk that he throws them in. He hops back in the car, they go to the next set of bins, and it starts all over again.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like handling my own returnables, never mind someone else’s. Sometimes there’s schmutz in the bottom, the bottles are all sticky, it’s smelly! The bags end up leaking and then your car ends up smelling too. Not pleasant at all, yet here is a middle aged couple, not kids, driving around to pore through someone else’s trash for $.06 a bottle.
How is it in the United States of America, the greatest county in the world, and in particular, my little city of Portland, Maine, there are people so needy, they are forced to pick through trash for pennies?
How is it in the United States of America, the federal minimum wage translates to about $15,000 for an adult, yet the cost to live in Portland for a family of two adults and a child is calculated at over $63,000? (fact from Economic Policy Institute)
How is it the federal minimum wage is $7.25, yet if it had kept up with inflation over the last 40 years, it would be almost $11.00?
How is it that the six Walton family members who own Wal-Mart have a combined wealth equal to the bottom 42% of the rest of the families in the United States? While it may be legal to pay workers the absolute minimum wage and keep their hours low so they don’t qualify for health insurance or other benefits, is it moral? When is enough wealth enough?
I don’t have the answers. I just have a lot of questions.
So for any of you who have their own business, you know that taking the next big step, whether it's taking classes, investing in equipment, having your website updated, whatever, can be a bit overwhelming. I have the procrastination gene, where my motto can sometime be " Why worry about it today, when you can worry about it tomorrow?" For those of you who have a similar affliction, I recommend highly taking a big step that actually has a date attached to it. For me it was the NEW ENGLAND MADE Wholesale Trade Show, in Portland, ME. I have a few, loyal wholesale accounts that I pretty much stumbled into, and have toyed with the idea of expanding my wholesale business for a while. Trust me, spending every weekend under a 10 x 10 tent is not my idea of heaven, and I thought a little wholesale business might allow me to be more particular with the craft shows I actually do participate in.
Above is a picture of my wholesale booth. My intent was a clean look - mARTini Jewels uses only sterling silver and 14K gold fill from recycled resources, and so I wanted to play up that aspect of my jewelry, without the shabby chic that can sometimes accompany recycled. I had looked into pedestals with bamboo boards, and just the pedestals online were $600! Yikes! I went to the ReStore and found the perfect item. ReStore, if you're not familiar, is a retail shop where people donate new and used construction items; sales benefit Habitat for Humanity. The panels above are cabinet doors with a thick, hardwood frame, we painted the insides of the panel burgundy and organized the jewelry with velcro dots. Oh, and by the way, they cost $5.00 each. My husband crafted the hangars at the metalsmithing class he attends, and voila! I was in business.
Pro's of wholesale: you only have to make one of everything. Shops order from that sample, and then you actually know what to make, and not hope you're making all the right items. Con's: Everything needs to be able to be re-ordered, so you need to know that you can get the supplies, know your "recipe" for making the item, and then having a style number for all of your items. I now know more about line sheets and order forms than I ever thought possible.
So, now that the show is over, what were the results?
Well, first of all, the show is a smaller market, and so my booth looked fine for Portland. Not so sure I could go to the Atlanta show with the same booth, but I held my own and then some compared to other new booths, and some veteran booths as well. I got lots of leads and about 9 new orders right at the show. Considering that if I were doing retail craft shows only, my season wouldn't have even started yet, not bad! Hopefully, I'll cultivate these relationships, get some reorders, add a few more accounts, and before you know it, I may actually get to see my family on weekends.
I'll finish with a joke I just read:
A doctor, a mechanic, and a potter win a multimillion dollar lottery.
When asked what he would do with the millions he had won, the doctor replied, "I'm going to buy and island, retire, and get some sun."
When asked the same question, the mechanic replied, "I'm going to close my shop, buy a Ferrari, a gigantic house, and travel."
And finally, to the same question, the potter replied, "I'm going to keep making pots until the money runs out."
Do you ever wonder why you have the qualities you have? My mom absolutely adored jewelry, I know that's where I inherited that trait. When my parents married, my dad couldn't afford an engagement ring, she wore a simple gold band for many years. I remember, though, her delight when he presented a diamond to her more than 20 years after they were married. Later, he gave her all kinds of jewelry - rubies, diamonds, sapphires; she loved it all.
In my mom's later years, she suffered from dementia. But even in her "not quite there" state of being, she still wore her jewelry, right up until the very end. Costume, real, it didn't matter. She didn't go anywhere without her bling. The attendants knew better than to try to get her out of her room without any earrings!
My mother was ill for so long, she suffered immeasurably. When I received the call from my sister that she had passed, it wasn't a surprise. My sister had my mom's outfit planned, and in discussion, I offered to make the earrings she would wear forever. While I was making them, I thought of the irony - the only pair of earrings she would have from me were the ones she'd never see. And I kicked myself for not having made her anything while she was alive to enjoy them. What kept me back?
Fear that my own mother wouldn't like something I made for her. Ridiculous, isn't it? What mother wouldn't like something made by their child? I still have a wooden heart pin that has fabric glued to the front that my son made for me in preschool. (p.s., he's 17) And so, this message is to everyone out there who may drag their heels because not doing something is easier than putting yourself out there.
Do it. Whatever it is, take the opportunity. You may not get a second chance. Live your life with NO REGRETS! If you like the message this story brings, feel free to share.