Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hiatus

After nearly a year away from sewing for my souk, I took my left over wares to a bellydance workshop/show weekend hosted by the Bellydance UW (Madison) club, and sold a bunch of stuff!  It was certainly a motivating reminder of how much I love to CREATE, and how fun it is to make money off of my creations.

For the past year, all of my creative juices have been soaked in WEDDING.  Jesse popped the question last year on Memorial Day weekend at his parent's house, and since then we have been enjoying the planning and crafting processes that will make our wedding really personal.  We are making faux mercury glass vases as centerpieces, and we went to antique stores to buy depression glass plates under them.  Then I have been cutting runners for 20 tables, designing a candy buffet, creating a wedding website, and doing graphic design for thank you cards, banners, etc...  Don't get me wrong, it has been fun, but it has also been A LOT.  ;)

...And the icing on the cake has been my amazing student troupe, Aylin.  I have this HUGE group of amazing ladies (and one male dancer) who I am choreographing for.  It is so rewarding and fun to put together big group pieces with multiple parts and lots of different dancers, but because I take it so seriously, it is also really stressful at times.  ...And on that note, I need to jet to teach at A Perfect Knot.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nostalgia~SOLD

When I bought this beauty, I was just a wee baby dancer, and it has served me well--being paired with many a skirt for different looks and even being my website's image for the past 2 years. 

Alas, I just felt like it wasn't ME anymore, and I haven't wore it in over a year at the restaurant (the only place I do cabaret anymore), so it went out over the ebay train to some other dancer's closet!  Hopefully she will love it and wear it more than I have recently.

Bye bye white bedlah!  Hello to a new costume... (evil laugh)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My new addiction...

That's it.  I am addicted to BHUZ.COM's costume swap.  I have been obsessively watching the website for hours now... drooling over costumes and deciding to swap or not swap my own costumes... Oh man.  Dangerous! 

It also lead me into a lot of ebay bidding...  which could be fine, or it could end with me winning a lot of stuff I just don't need and can't afford... yikes! 

AND I have to work on skirt and belt for Suzanne C from the Netherlands tomorrow.  MUST finish her set of customized ruffle butt skirt and ruffle butt pants by Friday morning to ship them before I leave town to visit the fam.  I have already spent the money she paid... so I have to get that done!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marathon crafting, day 2

 There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.  
 ~Unknown

Honestly, I am feeling exhausted, but I'll not give up.  I *WILL* finish 4 ruffle butt skirts and belts by Friday.  I finished and shipped the two custom black vented arm warmers to NY and OR, and now I am going full steam ahead to finish everything for the fashion show and vending this weekend.

 

Here are the pictures of the Ruffle Butt skirt I finished today.  I love the midnight blue with cream and silver... it just feels like the stars in the sky twinkling above the ocean.  



 




It is a large skirt, so I hope that the right lady falls in love with it this weekend.  I am trying to diversify skirt sizes... it feels like such a gamble because people could have color preferences that don't match the skirt I made in their size specifically...







Here is the purple skirt I half-finished today.  It still needs lace on the back, ruching on front and back, and decorations, but the color is just enchanting.  I need to get it on a model in the sunlight because it will absolutely sell itself.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Changing my "brand"




"A brand is a living entity - and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures" 
~ Michael Eisner, CEO Disney

I really like what Eisner had to say in his quote above--that a brand is really the small gestures you make.  

I have been selling crafts online for 2 years now.   I've seen the etsy.com marketplace change, and, as a result, my shop has changed.  A big part of that change has been the popularity of etsy, fascinators in general (you can buy them at Walmart, literally) and the surge of international crafters on etsy offering wares for less money.

Initially when I started selling, I sold OOAK fascinators made from hand curled peacock feathers, buttons, and pearls mounted on felt backing with hair clips.  

I named each piece after an admirable and beautiful attribute or thing: "Whimsy," "Cappuccino Moon", and "Pomegranate Wine"... eventually I branched out into a thesaurus to keep me going!





I explored different textures, feather types, and aesthetics.  I got a batch water marking program for my photography.  









I took pictures of myself in my bathroom with my little camera from college.  I would face the viewing screen on the camera towards the mirror of the bathroom sink so I could make sure I was in the picture.  I wanted to show the size and placement of the fascinator in a woman's hair.
 


I got to know every craft store's silk flower supply.  My favorite was ranunculus flowers from Hobby Lobby on Madison's south side.  I just loved the uber soft silk petals and the wide, flat base.  I bought bleached peacock feathers on ebay from a peacock farmer, and I made a ton of beautiful fascinators with the champagne, iridescent feathers.






I had really good business, and I charged a high mark up for the time, creativity, and "extras" that went into each piece.  I made hand made cards out of beautiful scrapbooking supplies with embossed covers thanking each buyer.  For my first sale ever, I even made an origami box to keep the fascinator in!






Although I was marketing myself towards bellydancers, I made many custom orders for brides and bridal parties.  I even designed steampunk fascinators in teal and antique gold for a wedding in Australia!  I also worked with local brides - meeting them at coffee shops and bringing a tuperware of flower bases and feathers to show them.



I created a logo for my shop with peacock feathers and dyed guinea feathers as the background because I loved working with the textures of feathers and silk flowers. 

I only sold bellydance costuming or clothing as an after thought - mainly to sell old costume pieces I was no longer using.

NOW though, fascinators are just not lucrative for me.  The fact that you can buy them at every local store - even Walgreens! - has just put me under.  As a merchant and artist, you have to make something hand crafted that people can't buy for cheaper from China (nothing against the Chinese).  So... I started to shift my focus. 


This spring, I declared that I would not put an ounce of money into my souk that wasn't for a prepaid custom order.  I sold off the rest of my back stock of fascinators (and some costuming too) at a deep discount.  My goal was that I would clean out my souk completely and only take in custom orders, but what I didn't anticipate was that without good photos and good examples of my work, it wasn't easy to market my souk.   Moreover, I started to understand that I needed to give a suggestion for what the custom item could be for a buyer.  At a yoga class in the final shavasana, my mind started race with new ideas for designs like fireworks!  I decided I'd market 2 or 3 different types of skirts as the basis for custom orders. 
Custom ordered skirt I made this summer

Then I was invited to vend at Shimmy in the Grain...  AND there was the proposed fashion show!  Being home alone all day this summer made me go crazy making stuff for the event and for my students who were excited to volunteer to model my stuff. 

And last night, I started to look at address stamps.  I'd really like one for my business to get back to creating beautiful packaging that feels one of a kind for shoppers.  I used to have a lovely peacock feather return address stamp, but I've moved since then. When shopping for a new stamp last night I realized I should really get a different design.  Very little of my business revolves around peacock feathers now.  I think my new stamp should be lacy, frivolous, and shabby chic

Skirt I made for fashion show at Shimmy in the Grain
So now I'm thinking about changing my logo too - Peacock feathers and bright colors don't really represent what I'm doing any more...  so now it seems I am shedding my skin, emerging into a new identity as a "souk", and I guess I find it to be pretty exciting.  If only the summer were longer so that I could really spread these new, dewy wings.
I even created teal and gold fascinators for a steampunk wedding in Australia.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crafting before Housework!

The only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary.  ~Mary Kurtz

  
Dishes piled in both sides of the sink, scraps of fabric and thread trailing behind me like bread crumbs, and a craft-loft that looks like a fabric bomb went off---This is the current state of my house.  Again today I pushed normal responsibilities aside to sew.  




Accompanied by rain (the first in literally months), Rosie's snores, and "ROME", I made some serious headway on my belt for my upcoming performance at Shimmy in the Grain in two weeks with my bellydance students.    

I am really excited about the belt -- it truly is unique and artful.  I was beginning to feel afraid that I wouldn't have anything for myself to wear, after working so hard on costuming to vend at the event.  (Of course the costuming I perform in should be just one step up from the costuming I vend).

Here is the outfit so far.  I actually wasn't going to wear these together, but I think they look cool with the mirrors as a tie in between the pieces.

 Unfortunately tomorrow I'll have to get down to business at the house before I host some of my bellydance students for a crafting party!  The loft needs to be... at least inhabitable - and probably vacuumed...!  Yikes!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ruffle Butt Extravaganza




 I have been crafting like mad lately-- partly to continue to get ready for Shimmy in the Grain in two weeks (*gasp*) and also as a part of my mom's annual week-in-Madison with me.  Mom does not sew at all, so she saves up all the missing-button, mending, and alteration projects  from the family to bring to me.  This time I shortened a pair of dress slacks for my brother, shortened 5 tank tops for my mom, and created a bunch of throw pillows. 
Mom had this idea shortly after Grandma's passing of making pillows out of Grandma's clothing, which I find  morbid and comforting all at the same time.  It is sort of like the necklace that they made of her thumb print... when I touch it, it is reassuring that that is the impression of her hand, but it is also rather macabre to think that they made the impression after death.  The pillows go into the same category for me; the fabrics that Abuelita chose for clothing is so beautiful!  It is genuinely nice to see the bright patterns and floral prints imbued with the memory of her.  On the other hand, when I first attempted this project for Mom, I ended up crumpled in a ball on the floor crying... Somehow, cutting up her clothes so fresh with her memory was like cutting her up too. 
This time around though, I approached it more like an art project, and the results were quite pleasing.  I deconstructed and creatively assembled 3 pillows for Mom.  I made her sit up in the loft with me and help with ironing and deconstruction so that she'd know how hard it was, because initially she was under the impression that making these pillows would be some small task.  To be fair, I suppose it would have been much simpler if I wasn't such a perfectionist about lining up seams and having patterns that actually looked like pillows--not like a nightgown made into a pillow.



After all that sewing with Mom, I ended up feeling driven to continue to create for myself after she left.  Jesse watched "ROME" with Rosie downstairs, and I ascended into the loft to craft my heart out.  I ended up making 2 new Ruffle Butt Belts that I am so proud of!  They are just gorgeous.  I really need to get a model into them on my etsy store, because the flat photos of the belts laid out just don't do them justice at all.  They are very perky on the derriere if you know what I mean! 
I made one in ivory and black with bright gold accents.  I was envisioning saying something about the finished belt like, "Fit for a steampunk queen, not an airship pirate!"  It is certainly girly and frou frou, rather than strong and tough.
The second belt is really striking with alternating black and white laces, a striped ribbon in the center and bright silver trim.  I love the big O rings on it. 
Today I just kept going!  I have two more Ruffle Butts in the works--one with a student, Kristina, specifically in mind, and one for myself to perform in personally. 
...And that is what I'm off to work on right now... Ta ta!