Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stormy Weather at Red Bud Isle

Doesn't that sound like a great title for a cheesy mystery novel? The weather last Sunday was pretty mysterious, especially when viewed from my vantage point on Red Bud Isle. It's a gem of a little city park, at the dam where Town Lake (renamed Ladybird Lake, but I'm still not used to that) & Lake Austin meet. The island was created by large boulders that were dislodged when the old dam collapsed in a huge flood in 1900. The clouds rolling in over the dam looked rather ominous. Patrick wanted to check out the fishin' (turns out it wasn't so great that night) & I went along to read & enjoy the scenery...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Local Talent Tuesday with Samantha Hlavaty

Hello there! Hope you've all had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. I'm back in Blogland today bringing you an interview with Samantha of Nepenthe's Bathtime. Sam makes wonderful bath products from the highest quality essential oils, fragrance oils, colourants & botanicals - all vegan-friendly & not tested on animals. Read on to learn more about the inspiration behind her products (and that wacky name!). My personal favorite scent she makes is Ginger Lime - if only this blog post was in Smell-o-vision...

Beth: First, please give us a little background on your studio.

Sam: My studio is our kitchen, which is also deemed the soap lab half the time. Creating soap and bath products began about 5 years ago as a hobby and a way to diffuse after a stressful day of work, and has managed to morph over the years into a full time business, especially within the last year. Last summer I decided to put more focus on it and set up a few shows to see where it would take me. Three shows became seven, invitations to sell at Feats of Clay and show at the East Austin Studio Tours, and I was filling orders until Christmas Eve. It was an amazingly busy few months! I continue to sell my creations at shows, on Etsy, and [through] my website.

Beth: Why soap and bath products & what's with the name?

Sam: As a child, I loved to raid my mom's gardens and make little concoctions out of the flowers and herbs. Unfortunately for her, at that age I had absolutely no clue what preservatives were. To this day, I am uncertain of how many moldy jars of mush she discovered throughout our home. I’m afraid to ask! Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot over the years. In general though, I have always loved bath products, aromatherapy and botanicals. Mixing with this a passion for art, design, and colour ... it was a natural fit!

Nepenthe is actually the name of my dog who was adopted from the Town Lake Animal Shelter in 2000, and she still manages to keep me on my toes with her mischievous antics. The word “nepenthe” loosely means a Greek mythological potion which washes away pain and sorrow and creates happiness. As well as a fitting name for her, it was an appropriate name for my bath line.

Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work?

Sam: Anywhere and everywhere... in nature, architecture, traditional art, fashion, food, music, design, and the list can go on. I love looking at the foundation of objects & colour combinations, figuring out what attracts me to them and then seeing if I can replicate that feeling or concept in soap. I continuously challenge myself to push the limit of design in my medium without compromising the products' quality.

Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?

Sam: I envision Nepenthe's Bathtime as a storefront cottage, filled floor to ceiling with bath products & botanicals, nestled in a cozy tourist town. I would absolutely love that! For now, my goals are to find my way into more stores, do even more custom work for showers, parties, corporate, etc, and provide private labels.

I will be teaching some soap & spa classes this summer at Marmalade Skies, which I am really excited about. I am also currently working on DIY soap & spa kits which I plan to release this Fall.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twine-wrapped Mason Jar Vases

How cute are these?! They seem very simple to make, & they'd be perfect for some al fresco entertaining this Memorial Day weekend! Pop on over to Vickie Howell's blog for the full tutorial. She even has a knitted version, if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

creative genius: Cardboard Safari

Oh my goodness! These are the coolest cardboard animal "trophies" ever! Get that hunting lodge look with a hip, eco-friendly twist (they're made with recycled cardboard instead of you know, um... slaughtered defenseless animals). Check out Cardboard Safari on Etsy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Sorry everyone, but I am in a bit of a time crunch today & won't be able to post the interview with Samantha of Nepenthe's Bathtime. I want to do it right & not rush it, so I will save the feature for next Tuesday. Nepenthe's Bathtime's Etsy shop is currently on vacation until May 20th, so next week will be better! In the meantime though, check out their wonderful Tea Soaks. They smell amazing!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Plant Mystery Solved!

Well Samantha totally guessed it. That blurry photo was a venus flytrap in a red pot! Congratulations, Sam! Coincidentally, Sam is the soapmaker extraordinaire behind Nepenthe's Bathtime, and she's the pic of the week for Local Talent Tuesday. Be sure to check back tomorrow for her interview. {total coincidence; this contest was not rigged, I promise!}

Friday, May 15, 2009

The 3/50 Project - Save Your Local Economy!

I love shopping local, and Austin is a city overflowing with creative, often wacky, always interesting, small businesses. We like to "Keep Austin Weird," ya know. Here's a cool project you can take part in to help the local economy thrive wherever you are...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Contest! Identify this plant to win free stuff!

I've been taking a lot of pics in our backyard lately, documenting all of the fascinating things we've got growin' back there. This photo was an accident, but it got me to thinking: wouldn't it be fun to do contests with the blurry pics to see if anyone can identify them? My EtsyAustin pal, Christine of adaptive reUse, has been doing a similar thing on her blog already. She holds contests to identify her mysterious thrift store finds, so I got the idea from her. My contest is this: the first person to leave a comment with the correct answer will win one of my ready-to-color greeting cards of their choice! Here's a hint: it's native to the Carolinas in the U.S. Have fun & check back on Monday for the answer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Fun Freebie: Monkey Hangers

Yesterday I finished a new Fun Freebie for May (which I do realize is practically half-over - sorry for the delay!). Fun Freebies are a new monthly thing I'm doing to promote my line and try to build a following on my blog & website. They're also a fun diversion from sewing for me - I really enjoy drawing & it's a nice change of pace. I also plan on doing kids' activity books & craft kits in the future, so most of these Fun Freebie illustrations will find their way into those as well. And of course, I can use them for my ready-to-color stationery line, too.

{Editor's Note, 1/29/10: I'm no longer creating new Snuggle Herd Fun Freebies monthly, but will continue to add new ones periodically. You can see them all in my Fun Freebies Flickr set.}

I'm really happy with how these little monkeys turned out. They're based on my newest almost-finished toy designs, Max & Molly. I'm really close to having the stuffed toy versions ready to go, but I've run into a bit of a snag with the design of Max's hat. Hopefully I'll be able to work that out & get them listed soon. I'm hoping to have a few ready to take to the Green Market Festival at Austin Children's Academy this Sunday (gee, isn't that what I said before the LAST craft show I did?!).

Anyhoo... I will have some of these monkey hangers cut out to use as giveaways, in any case! I think I'll put them out with crayons as a little craft activity for the kiddos. I sure had fun coloring some of my own, as you can see. I'm partial to drinking coffee while I color and drawing wonky stripes & polka-dots in the background.

After I colored & cut them, I went around the house finding places to hang them. They're cute hanging just about anywhere! on a lamp or bookshelf...

on a wardrobe...

or in the kitchen as a reminder to buy more bananas!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Local Talent Tuesday with Tracy Owens Chasteen

Today we have a peek into the busy, busy world of Tracy Owens Chasteen, jewelry designer & owner of Polished Two. Tracy makes lovely jewelry from a variety of materials including ancient and replica Ming Dynasty pottery shards, Czech glass beads, wood, brass, semiprecious stone, copper and shell. She's an Etsy superstar with over 2300 sales in her shop - I just know that Etsy is going to pick her to be a Featured Seller any day now! Tracy also sells in local boutiques & craft shows, and is always helpful and willing to share her small biz knowledge with the rest of us on the EtsyAustin team.

Beth: First, please give us a little background on your studio.

Tracy: My studio is a room in my condo that started out as a guest bedroom and office for both me and my husband, but my huge bead and jewelry supply collection sort of forced the hubs out. We furnished the room with a Murphy bed, two desks (one for each of us), and a whole wall of Elfa shelving for my beads. But once I started selling my creations online, I took over his desk as my packing and shipping station, slowly taking over the entire room. And within the next few weeks I plan to add in several more rows of shelving for my growing supply needs. The guest bedroom/office has gradually turned into a bead warehouse and one woman jewelry-making studio.

I don't make my creations full-time in the traditional sense. I have a day job in marketing and business development that I love too, so I juggle them both. I go to work Monday through Friday and do my regular, full-time job in an office building, then come home in the evenings and on weekends and work on my crafty stuff--making new jewelry in my studio, packing orders, and working on promotions and networking activities related to my Etsy shop. If I actually sat down and figured out how much time I spend keeping up with my Etsy shop and stocking it with new goodies each day, it may turn out that I spend the equivalent of full time hours--but I'm doing what I love, so it works out well.

I've been selling crafts ever since I can remember. Even back in high school I was making and selling hair accessories and shirts decorated in puffy paints. Then I moved in to rubber stamping. After collecting thousands of decorative rubber stamps, I started a little catalog business. I had to give up my mail order business when I moved into the college dorms, but as soon as I settled in Austin after college, I got into jewelry-making. I started out just selling my stuff to friends and co-workers and doing an occasional craft bazaar or trunk show, but after I while I had my eye on starting a website. I found Etsy a few years ago and loved that I wouldn't have to design and maintain my own website...and the rest is history. Now I sell almost exclusively via Etsy, but my jewelry can also be found in several boutiques that have found me through my online shop.

Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work?

My inspiration comes from everything around me--especially my super huge bead collection. Having a lot of beads in front of me--even when they're in a messy pile--is an inspirational source of ideas because I'm always noticing new and different color combinations, often combining colors in unexpected or fresh ways based on where the beads lay all over my desk. I'm also inspired by vintage designs. I love going to estate sales and checking out the vintage jewelry collections. Sometimes I buy inexpensive pieces to recycle, but most times I turn into a regular looky-loo who just admires the wares that have been carefully collected over the years. I find other inspiration in fashion and design magazines, boutique shopping, and in custom requests. I have some regular customers who've given me some [of] the best ideas!

Beth: Describe how a really productive day of making art goes for you.

Tracy: My most productive days are often Sundays. Since I work all week, my evenings are mostly spent packing orders and working on promotional or marketing activities, but I make a few pieces here and there. On the weekends, I usually go out of town--often to the Texas Hill Country--to get away and relax. When I get home on Sunday afternoons, I'm ready to create, inspired to try new things, and have the dedicated time to put everything else aside and design new jewelry. The ideal, productive Sunday for me involves sleeping in late and spending the rest of my day and evening in my studio.

Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?

Tracy: My goal as an artist is merely to keep developing my craft. I woul
d love to learn some new jewelry-making techniques to integrate into my designs. As a business, I love that I can have an Etsy shop and sell something that I love to make while having the total flexibility to keep my professional job as well. I feel confident in the diversity of my skills that I can always make a living no matter what the economic situation is and one way to really enhance my skill-set is to keep learning and growing in my craft. There is always something new to learn.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Morning Magnolia

We've inherited 5 magnolia trees with our house - 4 in the back & 1 in the front. The one in the front yard happens to be right in front of my studio window, lucky for me. It's quite a view. Magnolias are so gorgeous that I'll even forgive them for the HUGE, leathery leaves they drop constantly. They make a big mess, but just look at the size of this bloom!

Not-so-great photo: the view from my window - way better in real life!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Get Crafty for Mom

Sunday is Mother's Day, so be sure to tell yours that you love her. Why not do it in an extra-special, creative way while you're at it? Here are some treats Mom is sure to love!

Diane Gilleland of Crafty Pod has written an excellent tutorial for an envelope photo book over on the Craft blog. I really like this style of book because you can sort photos by theme & simply place them in the envelopes, instead of having to mount them and create a nice layout for the pages. Don't get me wrong, I love a well-made scrapbook with all the bells and whistles (the kind that my sister makes), but I just never seem to find the time to finish them.

Another idea, especially nice because of its recycled nature, is to make a little basket like these that Emily of red bird crafts dreamed up. So pretty, and they're made from empty rice pilaf boxes! Check out Emily's hanging basket tutorial. These little lovelies would be great for flowers, a mail catcher, or any number of things.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Flowers for My Anniversary

Pretty, no? That was taken at The Great Outdoors last summer. I felt like giving myself flowers because today is my one month blog-o-versary! I participate in the Monthly Goal Meetup on the Modish Biz Tips blog, and it's time for another check-in. In fact, the Goal Meetup was the impetus to getting this blog rolling exactly one month ago! It's a really neat idea aimed at connecting small biz owners to help hold each other accountable - a really important factor for those of us working from home. It's great to see what others are doing & give each other feedback & support. So here's how I did in April:

1) launch version 2.0 of
2) increase my Etsy shop listings to 50 items
3) finally start blogging! i have the name - craftymishmash.blogspot - but no content
4) add at least 2 more stores to my list of retailers
5) finish development/production of new monkey toy
6) develop some lower-priced items such as brooches & digital prints to diversify my line
7) post new pics to my Flickr groups

Well, 3 out of 7 ain't bad, right? The new & improved is up & I hope you'll check it out. I got blogging (obviously) & it's been really fun. I've been posting at least 4 times a week. Thanks to everyone who's been reading & cheering me on! And I'm this close to finishing the development & production of my monkeys - so close that I'm going to count it as an accomplished goal. ; ) Look for them to be featured here soon! I've done some work on goal #6, but still want to do a lot more. As for the other goals, well, not so much. I'll carry those over to April, plus add a few more:

1) increase my Etsy shop listings to 50 items
2) add at least 2 more stores to my list of retailers
3) develop some lower-priced items such as brooches & digital prints to diversify my line
4) post new pics to my Flickr groups
5) update my wholesale line sheet to include baby clothing line
6) design a coupon to include with orders to encourage repeat customers
7) research displays for boutiques (a better rack for my toys, to keep them more neatly arranged and a card rack for my stationery line)

I could go on and on, but I think I'll try to stick with 7 per month. That seems doable...

If you're participating, please leave a link to your blog post about your goals in the comments below. May you all have a productive & prosperous month!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Local Talent Tuesday with Kristen Pumphrey

It's time once again for Local Talent Tuesday, and this time I've got Kristen Pumphrey from Pommes Frites (get it?). Kristen makes an assortment of things - "Reused, Repurposed, Really cute!!" Her clever book safes, hand-carved into vintage books, are super-cool. They'd make great gifts for that hard-to-buy-for guy or gal on your list. And her obsession with plaid has resulted in adorable buttons and magnets!

Beth: First, please give us a little background on your studio.

Kristen: I work at home. My boyfriend and I have a two bedroom house and I quickly adopted the second room as my "work room." Finally a place for all my junk! In addition to Pommes Frites, I work two part-time jobs (at Art House as a gallery attendant and as a hostess at Woodland... I'm a professional greeter!).

The beginning incarnations of Pommes Frites started back when I worked at Adorn Magazine as an Editorial Assistant. I was making owl-shaped soy candles and did a few craft fairs, like the Bust Craftacular. But of course, it was hard to build a business when you already crafted all day long at your day job! When I moved to Texas, my big goal was to "officially" start my business, and that happened in October 2008. I mainly sell on Etsy, but also sell at some local craft fairs.

Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work?

Kristen: I like to create things that make me (or others) laugh. I love old books, and hate to see such pretty ones on the bottom of the clearance pile or on their way to the trash. I think I find my biggest inspiration in thrift stores, looking at all the things people gave away and wondering how I could give it another life.

Beth: Describe how a really productive day of making art goes for you.

Kristen: Since I work two other jobs, it's really about squeezing in work time when I can. After I get off work, I'll carve a book. Before work, I'll take pictures while it's sunny. When I have full days off, I listen to hours of "This American Life" and carve, carve, carve. Then I sand and glue. Then make a few buttons.

Some days, I can get up to five books finished, but other days, I'll get distracted by dishes or Etsy and only get a couple done. That's the problem with working from home. Since my work isn't really portable, I jot down notes all day long - ideas, to-do lists, doodles for new logos. The most productive tool I've discovered? Having a designated workspace! I've become 200% more efficient since that happened.

Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?

Kristen: Big picture goal? To support myself full time [with] my business! Ah, that'll be the day. Until then, I'm happy just creating what I can, when I can. I love what I do!

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