Friday, December 31, 2010

assembly line!


Another day, more polymer stamps! I'm having more successes than failures today, so that's something. No real plans for New Year's Eve - so far, today feels like a regular workday. We'll probably go out to dinner with a couple of friends, then hang out here. I'm thinking it'd be fun to be in the center of the labyrinth when it turns midnight, but we'll see. I might wimp out due to the unusually cold weather!

So, wow...last day of the year. It's been another tumultuous one, for sure. Many ups and downs, a total change of life for Jim, growing pains for my business, lots of changes in Lauren's life as she grows up, family drama, broken bones, Toad, more "are we going to keep our house" stress than I ever thought possible, hooping,  reunions with some old friends and a few really great new ones. That's a pretty weak sum-up of a whole year of life, but it's all I have the energy for today. It's impossible to capture it all in words anyway.
I'm excited to see what next year brings!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm a spaz!

Well, well, I experienced something new this morning. I bent over to pick up my polymer exposure unit and was hit like a freight train by a spasm in the middle of my back. I actually dropped to my knees and couldn't breathe or talk for a few seconds, then had to remain in a fetal position on the floor for a while (superdignified). Once I got up, I found I could only walk if I remained bent at a 90 degree angle. Awesome. Now, I'm no stranger to back and neck pain - a car accident in 2001 lead to my having two of the vertebrae in my neck fused. It was a major surgery during which they took a piece of my hipbone and grafted it where the herniated disc was removed, and reinforced it with a titanium plate and screws. (yup..I'm literally screwed up) Recovering from that was tough, and I still experience a lot of spasms in my neck - but I'm USED to those! This is something totally new and so far I'm giving it two thumbs down. I won't actually perform the thumbs-down, though, since it'll probably set off a new spasm.

I worked on polymer stamps all day, despite the stupid back thing (another joy of working from home..you can crawl from place to place and no one gives you a funny look) with much success! I've got several new listings in the shop and one has already sold, hurray! I'm starting with all my heart designs since Valentine's Day isn't far off. Crafters usually purchase these items a bit ahead of time. Little by little, I'll be converting all my stamps over to polymer. It's fun, now that I've got the process down (for the most part) and I'm excited about it. It's nice to not sit at the desk carving all day long. It will be VERY nice to not keep customers waiting for weeks for their stamps.

I'm hoping the back thing lets up soon and that this isn't going to be a new way for my body to torment me. I can't hoop today and that is not cool. C'mon body...isn't the neck crap enough? Let's not add "bad back" to the roster, mkay?
Thanks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Little Poly Stampmaker

Alrighty...so, still running into a few bumps in the road as far as the polymer stamps, go, but I'm getting there. Today I finished carving my last large (multiple stamp) order! I've got a few more single-stamp orders to finish, but not many at all. It's really strange to actually be reaching the end of the carving list.

I REALLY need to get the polymer stamps cranking, though, and listed in the shop. Valentine's Day is coming up and I have a lot of cool heart stamps that usually sell well. Jim got them scanned into the computer today and is working on cleaning the images up and making them into negatives for me. The hard part about all of our endeavors of late is that we have to learn EVERYTHING! Not only do we need to learn the process of screenprinting - we need to learn how to create the graphics. That means having to totally learn Photoshop, along with learning how to use each piece of equipment we've aquired. I'm having to learn to use the polymer stampmaker - there's a lot of tweaking of exposure times and stuff, depending on how detailed the stamp is.

Jim made his first hot press transfer t-shirt today, success!!! That's the other method by which we want to produce t-shirts. It looks similar to screenprinting, but is a lot less expensive to set up initially (for the customer, not us..the equipment was outrageously pricey) for someone who just wants a single tshirt or short run of shirts (like for a small business or a team). Otherwise, the setup charge to burn a silkscreen is pretty high and isn't worth it unless you're getting a large number of shirts made. This method lets us create the graphic design, print it onto a special transfer paper and then use a heat press to transfer the image to the shirt. Basically a really high-tech iron-on. Anyway..there have been many trials and tribulations just learning to use the printer itself, and today he finally got a finished product! (see photo above)

Okay....now back to work!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

the between holidays lull..

Well, despite being broke and stressed out, we had a great Christmas. I might have to wear this hat every day, it makes me that happy! Heheheh. Today is Christmas with the Ex-Laws, also known as SecondChristmas. Every year we get together with Lauren's grandparents, dad, stepmom, brother, stepsister, aunt, uncle and cousins shortly after major holidays. We do the whole big family dinner thing, get caught up, let all the kids play - it's noisy and fun! It took us a long time to reach a place (mentally and emotionally) where we can all do this comfortably (and it's probably more comfortable to some of us than others), but I'm glad we can do it.

I tried to make another batch of polymer stamps this morning. Still running into learning curve issues, but I can see that it will work. I made a few successful ones the other day, and actually sold two already. Today..meh, I think I know what went wrong but now I'm out of polymer and have to wait for more to be delivered. I NEED to get the shop up and running again, we're definitely hurting without that income.
Time to go get ready! Stay tuned..

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the storm before the calm

...so, we're apparently in foreclosure, according to our lender. The lender called a few days ago (despite having been told during three other phone calls that they do NOT have permission to call us, and having been directed to call our attorney) and informed me that our status is now foreclosure with no sale date. They can't put a sale date on the house until sometime in February. I of course sent a panicked email to the law office and was reassured yet again that this is just part of the process and that they will NOT let us lose our home. It's nice to hear those words. I very much hope they are true.

Meanwhile, we finished the print job I wrote about a few days ago, and delivered the goods to our friend in Santa Barbara yesterday morning. Glad we made it through that with relatively few mistakes! We also gained a little more experience. I really like the process of screenprinting, actually. It's so satisfying to squeeeeege that ink through the screen, then lift it up and see the print. The cleanup is sucky, though.

Today I plan to start making some polymer stamps with my new machine, so this could be an exciting day. Or it could be another day of shit fits and meltdowns if I run into a bunch of learning curve issues. I've found that I REALLY fall apart when these things happen. I guess I've always been this way - but haven't had Jim at home to notice it (and point it out) before. What I mean is, I can't just try something, fail, take a deep breath and try again. When I fail at some attempt, I apparently need to get extremely pissed off and let loose a torrent of appalling language, as well as rant about how I'm NEVER going to get this right and I might as well go get a job at McDonald's or something. Then I usually try it again, figure it out, succeed, and skip around like a happy first-grader. It's all part of the process.
I hope today brings more skipping than melting down.

Friday, December 17, 2010

go with the flow

So after yesterday's comedy of errors, today we strolled into the garage/shop and cranked out a bunch of sweatshirts, printed on the front and back, with ZERO casualties. Not a single sweatshirt was ruined. It took us maybe 2 to 3 hours to do those, a few aprons and a handful of t-shirts without messing up a single one. Crazy.

Now we're hanging out, listening to the rain, and I'm hooping to 80's music. Oh, and there might be a martini or two and one lucky corgi involved.  These days are going to be crazy, but some of them are going to be perfect.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Misshaps and Meltdowns...an album title, or just a typical day in my life?

Things that I expected to go wrong during today's bout of screenprinting: a few mess-ups, some unwanted ink blobs, moments of frustration here and there. Learning curve stuff, all part of the deal.

Things I did NOT expect to go wrong today, but did anyway: a huge puddle of spilled acetone, screwing up five sweatshirts before realizing it's not US, it's just bad ink, a note on the door from a SoCal Edison contractor telling us they're going to chop off the top of our palm tree, causing it to die, because it's near a power line...but they will leave the rest of the tree, and we'll need to pay someone to remove it., Arguing with aforementioned (and English-challenged) contractor about aforementioned tree in order to prevent its decapitation, a jury summons.

At least our lender didn't call or send scary certified mail.
Time for wine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

let's get physicals

Half of today was spent in doctors' offices. Since our insurance benefits run out in February, Jim and I decided we'd better use what we have while we have it, and went in for physicals today. We really need to look into getting a health insurance policy, and I've talked with an agent about it, but I keep putting it off. It's just hard to face. Another expense, more paperwork and qualifications...bleh. I have an aversion to paperwork after two years of trying to get a loan modification.

It's hard to face the reality of the situation - we've deliberately chosen (by means of Jim leaving his job) to give up the security of health benefits, when we both have health situations that can't go untreated (I have bipolar disorder, Jim's got some digestive and cholesterol issues)..we HAVE to get some sort of insurance, but we're broke. Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes.

Meanwhile, I did hear from the lawyer today and they reassured me that they're working on our case and that it's just a long, stressful process. They say they can postpone a sale date once the lender places one on the house (which will happen sometime in February). It's just scary, having to wait until things are juuuuuuust about to fall apart before being able to take action.
Oh, and we have about 30 sweatshirts that we need to screenprint for a friend (the friend who is lending us the screenprinting setup) before Christmas. And NO Christmas shopping completed yet.
I've managed to knock my stamp carving list down to about 31 left before I'm totally caught up and can start producing polymer stamps.
Ugh, this entry is kind of going nowhere. I wish I could write more eloquently about the situation, but the minute I start writing about it, I get anxious and any decent writing skills go out the window.
Time for dinner. And wine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not watching you...

This whole trying-to-keep-the-house business is turning us into nervous wrecks. My stomach clenches whenever I get the mail, anticipating some new nastiness from the lender. I cringe whenever I get a phone call from a number I don't recognize. Today, Jim and I were eating lunch at the kitchen table when we noticed a woman outside taking a picture of our house. Great, we thought, another "independent field inspector" or something like that. Jim went outside to see what she was doing...and it turned out she was just taking a picture of one of the trees in our yard, whose leaves have turned a gorgeous red-orange. Jeeze. Sorry, lady.

This week I'm feeling really edgy. I'm worried that this lawyer will turn out to be just another person looking to take our money and rip us off, and that we'll still lose the house along with a substantial retainer fee. Oh yeah....and Christmas is coming, wheeeee!!!

I'm trying to focus on carving, getting caught up so I can kick my stamp shop into high gear. We've got pretty much no money coming in right now, it's all pretty scary. We're trying not to wallow in negative thinking, though.
Trying.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hoop it up!

Today I spent the afternoon in Ventura and oh, how I love California! Sunny, clear, around 80 degrees, two weeks before Christmas. I'm making a point of getting myself out of the house once a week, just to avoid becoming a total recluse. There's a lunchtime hoop class in Ventura, so for now that's my get-out-of-house-free card. Today I also stopped at Coast Graphic Supply to pick up more printing supplies and went to a really cool Dia de los Muertos themed store to get an ornament for an ornament exchange party tomorrow night. Now I'm home, drowsy but happy, and it's time to get some work done. That's the one problem with getting myself out of the house - the stamps don't carve themselves, and I still have so much more to do before switching to polymer.
Jim's been working hard every day to teach himself Photoshop so we can create the graphics we'll be printing. I'm proud of him, he's really following through on this stuff. Normally we're both HUGE procrastinators. Turns out the prospect of being completely broke if we don't succeed is a great motivator.
Who knew?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the Tube

Today was spent participating in the filming of some short YouTube films with our friend James. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but he and I made several YouTube films together back when I was first laid off. They actually hit one million views a few days ago..so yay! I don't talk about filming very much because it pretty much makes me squirm in agony to watch myself on film. So despite having filmed for hours with James, I've probably only watched each film two or three times. I only play a bit part in the ones we did today, so maybe they'll be more bearable.

Nothing new going on with the house today, since it's Sunday. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Tomorrow I plan to work in the morning, attend an afternoon hoop class, then probably work some more once I return home. And yeah....nothing interesting to say today, but nothing bad, either...so there's that.  :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who's fault? Default!


I promised to blog a little each day, so here it is. Today's main thread of thought has been centered around the utter joylessness of cleaning a house that might not be yours for much longer. Cleaning in general isn't much fun...but cleaning a house the bank is trying desperately to take away from you is reallynotfun!

Today a realtor came to the door - apparently our house shows up in the system as being in default, which makes it fair game for realtors to try to "entice" us into doing a short sale. This will probably become a routine activity, since short sales are realtors' bread and butter these days. Good times, good times.

Meanwhile, whenever I speak to the negotiators at the law firm, they assure us "We will NOT let you lose your house, you are protected!". It's hard to trust anyone anymore. We've been ripped off in the past by a company that swore up and down they could absolutely help us. What if this is another scam? We're out of options if it is, because there's no more money to pay lawyers. Our credit is horrible, so if we do lose the house, we're going to have a hell of a time finding anyone that would let us rent from them. Oh yeah..and we have 4 dogs we refuse to give up (well..there's a yellow lab I can live without) and an entire print shop in the garage by which we mean to make a living. It'll hard to squeeze that into a teeny apartment. Or trailer. Or tent.

Some days I wonder if we even deserve this house. We bought more house than we could afford - but everyone kept telling us "This is how everyone does it, the real estate bubble is NEVER going to burst, you'll just keep gaining equity - you'll never owe more than what your house is worth.". We were stupid. Didn't do our homework, loved this place so much, we just went for it, confident it'd work out. Now here we are upside-down, in default and pinning all our hopes on something a law firm is telling us.
Leap and the net will appear. No net in sight so far.
Maybe it's just further down...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Invisible Net

Wow.....I've severely neglected this blog! Let see..where did we leave off? Jim was either about to leave or had just left his job with Verizon. After working for the company for almost 20 years, the last few of which were spent commuting about an hour each way, they moved his job even further away! His commute would have gone from an hour each way to two hours each way. The cherry on top is that the company wouldn't change his hours to accomodate carpooling with anyone. Yup, with almost 20 years of seniority, he was still being trumped by people with even more seniority, and had pretty much the worst hours in the department. So he'd have been getting off work at 6:30pm and not getting home til about 8:30pm. Anyway...the company offered a voluntary separation package and he decided to take it.

Paging back a bit - I also worked for Verizon, for 17 years. I got laid off due to company-wide cuts four years ago. After a couple years attempting to run a dog training business in a bad economy (FAIL), I'm now selling hand-carved stamps full time in my Etsy shop. Now Jim and I are going to try to make a go of BOTH of us being full-time artists. Yes....we're on the verge of losing our house (yup, that's still going on), are broke.....and we're risking it all in the hopes of being self-employed doing something we both actually enjoy and care about. I know. Crazy.

We've obtained a good screenprinting set-up on a sort of indefinite loan basis from a good friend - and we print tshirts for his resturant in return for the use of it. So that's one avenue. We also just spent a large chunk of Jim's severence money on a really high-end printer that's capable of producing professional grade art prints. It can also print transfers that can be heat-pressed onto tshirts. We also got a vinyl cutter for making custom decals. So....we're apparently going to be doing tshirts, decals, screenprinting...in all sorts of forms. Plus I'm still doing stamps, but am moving away from hand-carving them. I just bought a new polymer stamp making machine (a way better setup than the first one I tried last year) and am going to start producing all of my stamps that way, with the exception of custom hand-carved items. Right now I've actually stopped taking new stamp orders so that I can catch up on the orders I already have, then I will begin producing the polymer stamps.

We're working with a law firm trying to keep our house, since we got denied for a loan modification for the THIRD TIME now. So let's see.......neither of us has a stable job with benefits and a predictable income, we're trying to start a new business (incidentally we have to learn to USE all the gear we just bought..not a simple task by any means) and our future in this home is uncertain - and we NEED the home in order to run the business, AND I'm changing my method of stamp production totally. Adding to that is some really aggravating family drama that we're trying our best to not get sucked into. Oh, and Jim's dad's alzheimer's continues to get worse. We try to get up there and visit/help out every couple of months. No stress here!!!!! No sir.
So..from here out I'm going to try to blog a little every day, to chronicle our adventures as we try to build a life out of the various pieces of wreckage left from our "old" life. Stay tuned, it should be interesting...

Friday, August 27, 2010

end of (Verizon) days

In the spirit of following one's true path, I finally got around to carving a labyrinth stamp.

And speaking of following one's true path, it's official, today is Jim's last day at Verizon. Starting Monday, until his new venture (more on that in the future) begins, he's unemployed. We'll be living on half of his former income..which was already a stretch since my Etsy income is considerably lower than MY former Verizon income. *gulp* Oh, and our loan modification still hasn't gone through...so if they ask for new paperwork, we'll probably have to start that procedure all over again (for the..fourth time, I think..) because our income will have changed. *double gulp*

We might be about to start an amazing new chapter in our life together. Or this might all seem like a colossal mistake, if things don't work out the way we hope they will. Still, leaving a job that keeps moving further and further from home (and they've already hinted that this latest move won't be the last) and offers zero personal fulfillment doesn't seem like a mistake. Turning down a commute that's going to be twice as long as the one that's already unbearable, that will cost us close to half of Jim's paycheck in gas doesn't seem like a mistake. It all seems more like a sign that it's finally time to take a leap of faith and try to live life the way we want to live it, doing things that actually mean something to US (not to a giant corporation who doesn't know/care who we are).

Of course our feelings fluctuate by the minute from joy and excitement to panic and despair. Here's hoping the leap will end with a perfectly executed landing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

times, they are a' changin...

So much is happening. In the interest of not spending too much time blogging when I have a lot of work to do, here's a brief rundown. We just got back from our annual camping trip in the Sierras. It was a perfect trip. No time to elaborate now, but it was just perfect.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, we discovered that Jim's job is being moved even further away - meaning his current commute of an hour each way will become two hours each way. Four hours in traffic, plus eight hours at a job he doesn't like..yeah, not a happy prospect. The other option, which we had a week to decide upon, is a voluntary separation package. Jim can leave the company, it would basically be the same as a layoff. There would be some severence money and six months of benefits. That would give him some time and startup money to start a business of his own. We have an idea of what that's going to be, but I'll hold off on writing about it until (if) it happens. Well...the practical thing to do would be to keep the job with the reliable pay and benefits. Unfortunately, we're human and the prospect of Jim doing that commute - the money spent on gas, the wear on the vehicle, the wear on his SOUL...it just isn't a reasonable option. We can't move closer for various reasons (daughter in school..shared custody with her dad - can't move her away, upside down on our home, no credit with which to purchase or rent a new one...). SO...he's taking the plunge and leaving the company. More on that as it develops.

Meanwhile - a bit of news regarding my rubber stamps. I've had four of my more popular designs reproduced as red rubber. The goal is to eventually convert most of my stamps over to red rubber. I'll be able to ship them as soon as they're ordered and offer them for lower prices. This will save me time and hopefully increase the volume of sales in the shop. It's exciting and I hope it's the begining of a lot of growth for this business. Here's a picture of the first one to be listed!
The peacock plume is probably my most popular stamp - and also one of the most time-consuming to carve. Since it's often used for wedding related projects, the wait time was becoming an issue as well. So now buyers can still have the same hand carved images, but in red rubber form, available immediately! I'm excited. Things are definitely changing, but I think this time it's for the better.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

lab(yrinth) work

Oh blog, I've been horribly neglectful and I hope you can forgive me.
The Cambria trip was perfect. I've been back for so long that it seems futile to try to recap it now, but there was wine and moonstones, lots of food and good times. Exactly what we needed. We also explored Carmel and Monterey, met quite a few sea lions and elephant seals and a very cool bartender at Duffy's Tavern. Lots of good stuff.

We're about to leave again, actually. This time we'll be heading up to the Sierras for our annual camping trip. This year we will not be bringing the camper or the dogs, in the hopes of avoiding last year's string of near-disasters. Back to tent camping. There are pros and cons to that. All in all, it should be more relaxing if slightly less comfortable. I'll actually be closing the shop for this trip. That's a first for me. There is NO cell service up there, no wireless, no way for me to check the computer, so I have to close it down. I'm a little worried about it, but there's nothing I can do. I'm catching up on as much carving as possible before I leave, in the hopes of not falling TOO far behind. We'll see how that goes.

Yesterday I did something new, with a new friend...two phenomenons that are rare in my life these days. I went to a meetup for women artists in Pasadena. The new friend is a woman I met at a party a couple weeks ago. It was one of those serendipitous moments where the more you talk, the more obvious it becomes that you were meant to meet for some reason. She's an artist, among many other things, her beliefs (spiritual and otherwise) are strikingly similar to mine and I just felt instantly comfortable talking to her. So..she told me about this group, Artistic Women Inspiring Artistic Women, and invited me to the meetup. So I drove to her house yesterday and then we carpooled to Pasadena.

The meeting itself was nice - the group was pretty diverse - writers, musicians, photographers, visual artists, and it was interesting to share my own artwork with a group of people. LIVE people. I'm used to sharing it on the Internet, but it's a whole different thing to have a group of people who are not your friends (and thus not obligated to praise it)  view it, and to see their reactions. The stamped images (I made a little portfolio) seemed to be well received, so that was nice. The rest of the day was spent at Chantel's (the aforementioned new friend) house, talking, talking, talking, drinking tea, talking, eating cookies, and talking. It was great!

One thing we talked a lot about was labyrinths and labyrinth walks. I had no idea that labyrinths had a purpose (in fact I mistakenly believed they were just hedge mazes) or how far back their use goes. She's actually a facilitator of labyrinth walks. She got out a whole bunch of books and showed me many of the classic labyrinth designs and explained their meditative and spiritual purposes. Ironically, the park that's practically right next to my house just "built" a labyrinth recently. I'd seen it when they first began work on it, and since I was expecting some sort of topiary maze, was puzzled to find just a spiral-ey design painted on an expanse of concrete. I kept wondering when it would be finished.

Anyway, I won't go into loooong detail about all the various meanings and uses of labyrinths, but if you google the word you'll find a lot of information out there.
Which leads me to today. First of all, despite having had a wonderful afternoon yesterday, I was in a really bitter, pissed-off mood for some reason by the time I got home. I occasionaly get really frustrated with my life - with the way we can't seem to move forward on this loan modification, how Jim can't finish any project he ever starts...ugh, just lots of things that are building up again right now. Things I can't change, that make me very unhappy.

I was fixated on all those things today, yet I couldn't stop thinking about the labyrinth in the park. I decided that after a few hours of carving and filling orders I'd go take a look at it, maybe walk it. So I did, not expecting much. In fact, I was annoyed to see bike tire marks all over it, indicating that mostly it's used as a place for kids to play. There were some annoyingly loud teenagers nearby and I felt self-conscious when I first started to walk. Little by little, though, my surroundings sort of melted away. I could hear the teenagers still, but they seemed further way. I could hear wind blowing through the trees, and the slow, gentle turns of the labyrinth were soothing, almost hypnotic. I wended my way to the center and then just sat there for a while. It was nice. I retraced my steps back out and walked home a little while later. And now? Right now I feel better. Not like anything is solved or fixed, but better.

I guess one function of the labyrinth is as a metaphor for life. There's one path, and it leads to the center, but it winds its way there - so sometimes it looks like you're headed straight for it, then a turn leads you far away from it, then you start heading toward it again, but another turn leads you away. Or what seems like away. But the path inevitably leads to the center. It's not a maze, so there are no tricks or dead ends....but some of the time, you are walking in what seems like the opposite direction of where you're trying to go. But you wind up there. You just stay on the path, follow all the twists and turns, and you wind up there.
So maybe all of these frustrating moments that seem to be taking me further away from where I want to be are just twists in the pathway. Maybe I'll wind up where I want to be.
It's just not a straight path.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

(not) workin' nine to five...

New stamp alert!

So, when I used to have my 9-5 cubicle job, I could not WAIT to go on vacation. There was nothing I wanted more than to forget my job for a few days and just enjoy my life. I never, ever dreamed that someday I'd have a job I love so much that it makes me slightly panicky when I know I'll be off for a few days. Not that I'm not looking forward to the vacation we're about to take!!! No no!! It's our 10 year wedding anniversary, we're going to Carmel-by-the-sea (how can you not love a city-with-dashes-in-its-name??) and Cambria for a few days. I've never been to Carmel before, but have been told by many people that I'll love it, and of course Cambria is one of my favorite places in the world. There will be wine, there will be art, there will be rockhounding, there will uninterrupted time with my husband. It will be GOOD.

However. When I had my hated-but-well-paying (there was a sale on dashes today..) job, it didn't matter when I was gone. All of the other drones that did the same job I did could take over and seamlessly mask my absence until I returned. I hated what I did, I was simply a cog in a really large piece of machinery and as long as another cog took my place, the wheels continued to turn. Now...notsomuch. I LOVE what I do, I'm the only one who can do it (for MY business, I mean. I know there are other fabulous stamp carvers out there.), and the work will NOT get itself done while I'm gone. This means that, despite having an immensely wonderful time, there will be a small piece of my brain worrying that someone is mad at me because their stamp has not arrived yet. I will be thinking about how far behind each day of not carving is putting me. I refuse to let these thoughts in any way interfere with the amazing time I know I'll be having, but it's weird how much my life has changed.

On that note, I spent three hours today with a CPA doing my final corporate tax returns for the now-defunct (There are those dashes again!!) dog training business. I just spent $500.00 to show the IRS that my corporation operated at a loss and has now dissolved. Awesome. No regrets, though. I met so many wonderful dogs, learned so much about them, and the franchise ownership experience bridged the gap between my being a 9-5 corporate employee to a small independent art business owner. It's a place I never, ever dreamed I'd be in.
I am grateful. Anxious, but so, so grateful.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

at the zoo...

I spent most of today on a really fun project. A very good friend of mine works at the Philadelphia Zoo and asked me to make a set of stamps for them. They are doing zoo camp this summer and the kids will learn about endangered species in different countries. They'll have passports which will be stamped with the animals they learn about, and I got to make the stamps!! Yaaay! So, here they are!
Clockwise from left we've got the Orangutan, Micronesian Kingfisher, Gorilla, Golden Lion Tamerins, Harlequin Toad, Humboldt Penguin, Polar Bear, and Diamondback Terrapin. And of course the one in the middle is the Zoo Camp stamp.
I can't believe I got them all finished in a day. It helped that I had all the drawings done already and was able to transfer them to the block and carve. And now Jim is on his way home and it's time to relax!
Oh wait - I carved a new stamp yesterday too. Here it is!

Got almost the entire thing done while my daughter was in the shower. That's either a testament to how quickly I can carve when I want to, or how much water a teenager can waste.
I'll let you guess which.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I've got sun...flower on a cloudy day

This is the first bloom of a sunflower that sprouted under the bird feeder in the back yard. I'm so excited about this thing, it's not even funny. I've tried for years to get sunflowers to grow in our yard and have always been thwarted by squirrels. They always ate the buds before the flower could bloom and the whole thing would die. This one happened by accident and it's perfect! It's about four feet tall..maybe a bit taller, and has buds all over it. It's going to be so pretty when they all bloom!! It's probably weird to be this happy about a flower, but for the most part, I'm pretty easy to please.

We're having the strangest weather this Spring. Here it is almost June and it's cold and cloudy. Usually by mid-May it's HOT, but this one has been chilly and gray. I know once the hot weather hits and I'm baking in the bedroom with the portable air conditioner pointed directly at my face, I'll miss this. For now, though,  it just seems weird. Hmm....I wonder if I should do a carving of the flower??
Okay, back to work.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

impressed

I just have to say I have the best job ever. See the beautiful pendant above? It was made by Brianna of MrsPetersonPottery using my anatomical heart stamp. She's been making pendants with this stamp and thought I should have one. How cool is that??? I'm so lucky to be doing what I'm doing, creating things that I love and meeting people like Brianna in the process. For every dishonest, greedy person in the world (ahem, Rescue Rooter..), there is a person like this - willing to give something beautiful to someone they've never met.
That's something I need to remember.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

snakes and snails....er, I mean scorpions...

Last weekend was busy and discombobulating. We spent Friday through Sunday at Jim's parents' house in Coarsegold, helping out. Jim did chores that his dad needs help with, I spent time with his mom. I also managed to get ten stamps carved somehow, which made me feel less panicky about being "off" work. I couldn't ship them, but at least there were done and I could ship them as soon as I got home.
On our first night there, we were greeted by a scorpion on the guest bedroom wall.


On Sunday there was a beautiful California kingsnake in the yard! I love those and it was a treat to see.



When we got home we discovered two of last week's problems were still in existence. The plumbing backed up again, and Lucy (the dog with the thousand dollar tummyache) has worms. I wasted much of Monday waiting for the plumber to show up, since the work has a 90 day warranty. He said he'd be here between 9 and 10. He arrived at 1:30. *sigh*
Got deworming medicine for Lucy, so she should be okay. I can't believe that a thousand dollars worth of diagnostic work didn't cover testing for parasites. In a dog who eats all kinds of disgusting stuff and was having stomach problems.
On Monday a little goldfinch crashed into my bedroom window. I looked outside after hearing the thud just in time to see him hit the ground. I ran out there before Lucy could snap him up and found that he was only stunned. I put him in a little metal tub on the side yard til he came around. Poor little guy. It gave me a great photo opportunity though.


We're dog sitting again, so we have a total of six dogs in the house. I'm not sure, but I think these two dogs might overlap a couple days with two more dogs we're watching next week. So...at some point we will have eight dogs in the house. That'll be delightful.
Oh, last night I carved a new stamp. It was nice to finally add something new to the shop. Not much time for that these days.

Okay, it's Saturday and I have a ton of work to do. Time to get up!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors...


Seriously, we're being punk'd by the universe. Someone has been made aware that we got some money from our tax refund and has decided it must be rapidly taken away from us before we go and do something crazy with it. Something rash and irresponsible, like taking a short trip for our 10 year wedding anniversary next month. Just a local trip, mind you. Not back to Maui, where we spent our honeymoon and promised ourselves we'd return for our 10th. No, no! No way can we afford that. But we got a small chunk back from taxes, enough to go up to Big Sur and Cambria for a few days.

So...first thing to happen is the fuel pump in Jim's truck breaks. That was an expensive fix, but we were relieved that it happened during the only time of year when there's a chance we could pay for it.

Then the plumbing incident occured. Last Thursday, just before Jim got home, disgusting brown water began gurgling up into the shower and bathtubs in the house. Awesome. So Jim tried to snake out whatever might be causing the backup. No luck, better call a plumber. Crap. I don't know a good plumber, we've never had an issue before. So I look online, pick one called Rescue Rooter because it looked like it was a big corporation - must be trustworthy, right? And they had 24 hour service, and it was after regular business hours..and we needed help right way. So they came and tried to snake out the drains....and were unsuccessful. The guy told us he'd have to send a crew the next day with a snake that had a camera on it so they could find the blockage. This, he announced, would cost $425.00. Just for them to look, then we'd have to see what they found and go from there. *gulp* So they arrived on Friday (2 hours late) and I sequestered all the dogs in the bedroom so the crew could go in and out of the house. They come back to me with this news: they found the clog, but it's in the sewage pipe under the front yard. They will need to dig down to it, replace the section of pipe and put a release valve on it. This, they say, will cost $2,250.00 - possibly more if they find other issues beyond the clog. I had to call Jim at work to tell him we might as well kiss our vacation goodbye because we were buying a piece of sewer pipe instead.

So....the day dragged on. They had one guy here digging the hole, the rest of the crew went off to other jobs. At 4pm Friday the guy tells us he's leaving, they'll be back tomorrow. So...Saturday. The crew arrives and since Jim's home, I just hole up in the bedroom with the dogs, TRYING to get some stamps carved (oh yeah, did I mention how little work I was able to get done Friday?). The crew puts their camera/snake contraption into the pipe beyond the leak and lo and behold! Another clog is found! Under the street! But still in "our" portion of the pipe. And it's going to require blowing the clog out with a power washer and replacing thirty feet of pipe with something called permaliner. This, my friends, was going to cost TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. So we were both freaking the f*ck out. Complete meltdown. We don't have anything CLOSE to that much money. The $2,250.00 we were already looking at was going to break us. We don't have credit cards anymore - last summer I went through debt settlement, paying all our credit card debt off for about half of what we owed and ruining our credit. We had to, though, we were getting buried in debt. SO...yeah. No credit card to put it on, nothing close to that amount in the bank. None of our parents would have been able to lend it to us. Maybe we could have taken it from Jim's 401k..but it was Saturday, there was no one to talk to. Oh - and I forgot to mention, I just had the surgery to fix my broken nose last Tuesday..so I've still got a splint taped to my face and I'm feeling like crap anyway..before this happened.

SO...I called my friend just to freak out about it, and she saved the day. She gave me the number of her good friend who happens to be a plumber. I called him and told him what was going on he said "STOP!!! Don't let them do anything, you're being ripped off!!!". None of what they were saying we absolutely needed was necessary. And these people were watching us freak out when they first told us about it. I was in tears, Jim was just about having a heart attack, we were running around trying to make phone calls about the 401k..it was very obvious we could NOT afford this - and they would have happily taken the money we'd have put ourselves into debt to get. Anyway, Frank - our Fairy Godplumber, told us to just tell them to stop, pay them for whatever they did (which was basically to put a snake in the pipe to look for a clog, dig a hole, and take a chunk out of our wastewater pipe). We asked them how much all of that cost and they said it would be $1,100.00. !!!!!!!!!!!! Frank had already told me he could do the entire job (not just what they'd done so far, but to dig up the yard and replace the entire pipe) for under a thousand. I called him back and he told me not to pay them that much. Offer the $425.00 the originally quoted for snaking the pipe and maybe $200.00 for digging the hole. They argued with us. We called and spoke to a supervisor and told him we knew they were upselling us on thousands of dollars worth of work that didn't need to be done. Suddenly they were able to unclog the pipe and replace the section they removed, and put in the release valve...for a thousand, total. Amazing, no? Frank came by to check their work (as they were working..so they could see we had someone watching out for us). Thank GOD for honest people. I can not believe this company was just going to stand there and rob us. So.....despite having had to spend a thousand dollars, we felt like we got off easy all things considered.

Sunday managed to be a nice day and no catastrophies occured. Oh wait, except one of our dogs, Lucy, seemed a little off. She threw up after she ate breakfast (very unusual - this is the rabbit killer, who NEVER lets food get away from her). She was acting sort of weird. Ears down, walking kind of slowly (again, weird - this dog does everything in fast forward). She acted reluctant to jump up on things that she normally leaps and bounces across. She usually treats our house like an agility course, leaping from the pass-through, down to the couch, onto the coffee table and out the back door. Something was wrong. Then I fed her dinner and she just stood there, looking at her bowl. Again...wrong. This dog is usually finished with her food before I've managed to put the other three dogs' bowls on the floor. She finally ate..but really slowly, and only because she didn't want the others to get what was hers. I worried all night and knew I'd probably be headed to the vet on Monday.

Monday comes along and yep, she's definitely not feeling well. She did the same thing with her breakfast - just looked at it, then reluctantly ate it. She was walking really gingerly, like something hurt. She's a corgi, so I was wondering if it could be a back issue..but I also noticed she went outside, tried to poop..but didn't. Uh oh. Blockage? She does eat all kinds of weird things - sticks, dirt...rabbits, lizards. Off to the vet we went. There they did an xray (cha-ching!!) and gave her fluids (cha-ching!). The vet read the xray and didn't see any obvious blockage, but he seemed to feel something firm in her abdomen. That might have just been the food in her stomach, though. He did notice she seemed tender in one area of her back. The conclusion - her back is probably hurting and maybe that's making her just reluctant to eat. They gave me an anti-inflammatory and said to have her rest in her crate for a while to rest her back. But they'd call me after the radiologist looked at the xrays, since he's the one who really knows how to read to them. So..I get back home (oh..I forgot - my morning was already eaten by the doctor appointment to remove the splint from my nose). It's now around 1pm and I can FINALLY start to work. I'm panicking because I'm late on so many stamps and I'm getting lots of angry Etsy convos to that effect. I start on a stamp...and the phone rings. It's my vet. The radiologist read the xray and thinks Lucy has an intestinal blockage called an intussusception- where the intestine sort of telescopes into itself. Very dangerous, life threatening, requires immediate surgery. I'm sent to an animal hospital in Ventura, where they're waiting for me.
Jim raced home early from work to go with me, and I was freaking out. The vet warned me the surgery would cost between 4 and 5k!! I'm sick with worry about my dog, and also wondering where the f*** we're going to get this money, once again.

So we arrive at the hospital, they whisk Lucy away and give me papers to fill out - in which I need to decide what degree of resuscitation I'll permit if she codes during sugery. I'm crying again. That's twice in one week! And I'm not a crier!! I'm thinking I might lose my dog - or even in the best-case scenario, lose a lot of money and have a dog who has a long recovery and lots of pain to go through. They tell us they need to do an ultrasound on her first, to determine if there is indeed a blockage. We wait. They come out after a long time and tell us they've found.....................wait for it............................absolutely nothing. They didn't manually feel anything, they didn't see anything on the scan. She most likely ate something questionable and has a bad case of gastroenteritis, and that's why she's not wanting to eat. And that's probably why she's walking funny - she has a bellyache. Grand total for the vet visit and the hospital visit combined: just over a thousand dollars. Which, again, seemed like we'd gotten off easy after facing the possibility of the 4-5k surgery.

So...tax refund? All gone. We will spend our 10th anniversary marvelling at how well our toilets flush and petting our dogs, appreciating their good health.
And now I need to get up, feed the dogs (Lucy, by the way, was running, jumping and generally acting like a maniac when we got home from the hospital. As though nothing had ever been wrong. She farted the entire way home, making it necessary to ride with all the windows down..) and somehow carve, like, 200 stamps today.
Could somebody please point out the hidden cameras?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Can you hear me from under this avalanche?

Auuugghh!! Okay, here I am now, officially franchise-less and focused solely on my Etsy business. And I'm freaking out! My wait time has become so long, because orders keep coming in and I can only carve so many stamps in a day. I know, I know...this is NOT something to complain about. And I'm certainly not unhappy about the growth of the business. I'm thrilled. But I'm also worried. Will I start losing customers as the wait time increases? I'm definitely fielding a lot more "Where is my stamp, it's been three weeks?!!!" messages. I've tried to make it very clear in my shop policies and in the item descriptions that due to being handmade, there is a wait time for the item. Still, not everyone reads descriptions, and I occasionally get someone who's placed an order for a gift or to use in their wedding invitations (LOTS of that going on right now) who is shocked that the stamp didn't arrive a few days later.

Adding to the fun, I'm about to have surgery, finally, to fix my broken nose (see entry from last September) tomorrow. While it's definitely possible to carve stamps while splinted and black-eyed, I'm sure it's going to slow me down. I'm trying to decide if I should close the shop for a few days in order to try to just catch up on the orders I already have. I worry about losing traffic if I do that, though. Plus the ad I placed in Rubberstampmadness has just come out in the Summer issue - and I'd hate for someone to see it, head over to my shop and find it closed.

I think I'm just going to have to suck it up and keep plugging away, dealing with the occasional irate customer. Too much work is definitely a good problem to have, I just hope I can keep up with it all.

Oh - in other news, remember the bird that kept showing up at my bedroom door/window? He's STILL here!!!! I didn't see him at all last week and I thought he'd finally gone away, but nope, he's back. He wakes me up every morning, frantically tapping away at the window, or perching on the doorknob. He seriously looks like he's trying to tell me something, but I have no idea what it is.
I hope it's good news.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I think I've figured it out



Lately I've been trying to figure out why it's so hard to get caught up on orders. My turnaround time these days is around 3 weeks, which I hate. I'd love to be able to get things to people much more quickly, but orders have been steadily coming in on pretty much a daily basis. The carving list is long and I can only carve so many stamps in a day. Still...I can't help feeling like I should be getting more done each day. Sometimes eight hours pass and I'll only have 3 or 4 stamps to show for it. What happened?

So..I started paying closer attention to things that happen throughout the day. Here are a few recent days - none of which are particularly out of the ordinary in my life;

Saturday - got up early (Jim had to work), fed the dogs, had breakfast, put finished orders out in the mail. Headed to my "office" (corner of bedroom I've overtaken) and began carving. Answered various convos (Etsy messages) as they came in, while still working on carvings. Took a shower. Upon exiting the shower, noticed 3 of my 4 dogs were acting sort of weird. They all had that "somebody did something bad but it wasn't me" expression on their faces. I walked into the livingroom to find the dog in question (Lucy, our rehabilitated, formerly dog-aggressive corgi) standing over a half-eaten rabbit on the sofa. She was showing her teeth to any other dog that tried to come near her and the room smelled like blood. I had to pick the poor disemboweled thing up with a plastic bag, bring it outside and bury it. Then back inside to finish the post-shower activities that were interrupted by the rabbit killing (finish dressing, dry hair, etc..). Then it was off to the store to get a few necessities. By the time I got home it was 4pm and I'd gotten maybe two stamps done. Then I got a phone call about a family member who has been a constant source of worry and stress for months now - with the news that they've made yet another stupid, self-destructive decision. This phone call of course went on for a while and I then had to tell Jim about it. More time wasted. Then Jim came home and we had dinner. By then I was too wiped out to carve any more stamps.

Monday - Didn't get up as early as I'd hoped thanks to the next-door neighbors blasting hideous Mexican dance club music til rather late (requiring a call to the local police to shut it down) the night before. They apparently had a wedding. In the yard. In the pouring rain. On a Sunday night - who cares if other people work early Monday morning and need to sleep? So..got up, fed the dogs, fed myself, put orders in the mail and rushed to complete one more before the mailman arrived. When the mail did arrive it contained a distressing letter from our mortgage company (the same one dragging this loan modification out for over a year now) requiring a phone call to figure out what the hell was going on. Then came another phone call about the aforementioned family member. Then I realized that some ink I ordered STILL hadn't been shipped - more phone calls to find out what was going on with that. Back to trying to carve. Phone call from someone I'm buying a vacuum cleaner from - they're ready for me to pick it up. So..shower, off to the bank, pick up the vacuum. Once home, I HAVE to try out the vacuum, so I clean the entire couch, blinds in the kitchen, and floors in two rooms. By then Jim gets home, followed shortly by an unexpected drop in by a friend who wants some stamps made. That turned into a visit that lasted an hour or so. Then dinner. Then exhaustion. I think I got maybe 3 stamps carved that day.

Today - up early, off to a good start. Fed dogs, fed self, put orders in mail, got another one carved before the mailman came. Back to carving - and answering a large influx of convos on Etsy (surprise - many of them from people wondering where their stamps are). Then a phone call from my doctor to schedule the surgery to finally fix my broken nose (thanks again, Molly). Then another phone call about The Family Member. Grabbed some lunch. Lucy comes sauntering into the bedroom as I'm eating, with a bunny in her mouth. She plops it down on the floor (instantly attracting the attention of the other 3 dogs of course) and settles in as though she thinks I'm going to just let her eat it there on the carpet. I rush over and get her away from it - she immediately begins to fight with the nearest dog, who is attempting to sniff the bunny. I grab Lucy's collar, and she slips out of it. A three-dog fight begins, and I have to bodily tackle Lucy to put a stop to it - while using my hula hoop to whack at the other dogs, who are over by the bunny. Meanwhile, the bunny, who looked very dead upon arrival, gets up and starts to toddle across the floor, toward my bed. I quickly muzzle Lucy and grab the rabbit, praying it doesn't bite me and if so, at least isn't rabid. I put the rabbit in the side yard where it recovers with miraculous speed. Now adrenaline is racing through my veins and my hands are shaking. Can't carve. Took a shower. Now the daughter is home from school and is distraught about something. And we need to go to the store.
Hmmm.....I can't understand why I don't get more stamps carved in a day.....
Another of life's great mysteries.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Giveaway Alert!

Sorry I've not been posting regularly - I've been too busy carving! I'm really excited that the shop is so busy, but feeling guilty for making people wait for their stamps. I wish I could carve them faster.
Anyway, I just wanted to share a really nice blog interview by Meg of Paper Jot. Check it out - if you leave a comment, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free stamp! :)
Oh - I've also listed the first in a series of one of a kind sugar skull stamps, as pictured above. I'm testing the waters, if this sells quickly I'll keep releasing them.
Back to our regularly scheduled program...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

a little bird told me

The first "official" (even though I haven't signed all the paperwork yet) week  of not being a dog trainer (or you could say the first week of being a full-time artist!)  is going well. The shop is very busy, I'm on par with my financial goal for the month, things look good.

Yesterday a little bird hung out on the doorknob of the french doors leading from my bedroom/office out to the back yard. It was so funny. He'd go off and do his little bird chores for a minute or two, then he'd come back to the doorknob and sort of peck at it. He was there all day! Was he trying to tell me every little thing's gonna be alright?

Okay, must get up and start carving.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

new interview

I woke up this morning to discover that try handmade posted an interview with me! I'd done it several weeks ago - they have a "DIY interview" feature in which you respond to their questions, submit photos and then wait to see if they approve and post it. I didn't know it was approved - thank goodness for Google Alert. Hehehe! Anyway, check it out, they did a really nice job. It was a happy way to wake up.

In other business news, I've officially quit my dog training job. I'm taking the steps (and oh, there are MANY) to close down the business and turn it back over to the franchiser. I'm a little sad - I'll miss the other trainers I've met and the great people in the home office. I'll especially miss the dogs. But I won't miss waking up most nights with my brain churning, panicking about the business costing me more money than it was making me. It was a really interesting chapter in my life, but I'm happy to be jumping into my stamp business with both feet now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

cover girl

My work has found its way onto another album cover produced by Perhaps Transparent Records! This cover is for the band United Bible Studies . Click the link to see the cover. I probably didn't need to provide instructions, you know how the link thing works. ;)

This was quite an undertaking - text is always tough to carve, and the image itself was very detailed. I like how it came out. These cd cover projects are a fun departure from my usual work. Not that I don't love my usual work!

The shop's been a little slow this week, which is the first time in a while. I should be glad for the time to catch up on orders, but I worry whenever things slow down. I'm just about ready to take the leap to making this my "only" job. My dog training business is pretty much dead and I don't have the marketing skills/time/desire to try to bring it back to life. It's costing me far more money to own and run it than it's making for me. I'm going to be talking to the CEO today and more than likely will be turning the franchise over to the corporation. I think it's time. It's scary, though. This means I'm totally dependent on the success of my stamp business, or it's job-hunting time. And we all know what the job market is like these days. Not to mention the thought of having an office job again makes me want to swallow caustic chemicals. I just don't think I could do it again. Seventeen years was more than enough.
Another hurdle to getting back into the mainstream job market is my tattoo collection. With a half sleeve on one arm, tattoos on both forearms and now one on my left hand (one of my best friends, Billy, is visiting - he's the one who did my sleeve and the swallows on my hips - and I couldn't resist letting him mark me up a little more), I'm a less-than-desireable candidate for a traditional office job. That was actually calculated on my part - when I lost my Verizon job, I decided to continue being tattooed for two reasons: 1.) because I love tattoos and 2.) because I knew that being more tattooed would force me to pursue alternative career options. It was a way of reminding me to be true to myself.
Hopefully it doesn't backfire, but I think it's all in the attitude. I'm going to make it, doing what I love, because I have to and I want to.
So there.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

new stuff

I've been too busy to write lately! The shop is still busy (yay!!) and I've added a new line of ink pads. I've been a huge fan of Colorbox ink for as long as I've been carving stamps (about 14 years now), so I'm really excited to have been able to start carrying their products. So far I've just added small ink pads and a couple paintboxes (multiple-pad ink pads), but I plan to add more when I get a feel for what sells the best.
My dog training franchise has reached the point where it's costing me more money to run it than it's making. It's pretty depressing. I've put the franchise up for sale, but the odds of it selling are pretty slim. I may wind up being forced to just give it up.
SO...it's a time of reckoning for my Etsy business. I have to get really serious about it and keep growing it to make up for the income I'm NOT making training dogs.
We're still waiting to see if our mortgage loan will be approved for a modification so that we can keep our house. Things have been so incredibly stressful for us financially for so long now that if it ever lets up, I won't know what to do with myself! Seriously, what will I do with all the space in my brain presently reserved for constant worry about money?? I really hope I'm in a position to find out very soon.
Oh - I experienced a first on Saturday: I met one of my customers in person. I was making a hand painted sign for her and there was a bit of a misunderstanding between us about payment/shipping times. Luckily she lives nearby and we were able to meet up so I could deliver the sign. She was really sweet and I would have liked to spend more time talking with her, but Jim and I were in a hurry. In a text exchange with her a bit later, she mentioned that she felt a bit like a kid in Kindergarten and I knew exactly what she meant! There was this awkwardness - we'd had so many email exchanges online, yet we didn't seem to know what to do with ourselves in person. I don't know why it's so easy for me to communicate in writing but not in person when I meet someone new.
Ugh...nothing I'm trying to say is coming across the way I want it to right now. Not a good idea to write when I first wake up, I guess - and I'd better get up and start working now.
Maybe I'll be able to write something more articulate soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I heart this project

I was perplexed when I opened the mail today. I received an envelope that was obviously used by me to ship a stamp - I recognized my little signature stamp on it. What the? At first I thought one of my orders had been returned for some reason, but I noticed the recipient's address had been covered up and replaced with mine. Inside the envelope was a tag. On the tag was my anatomical heart stamp and a silver charm (milagro) affixed to the bottom. There was a web address on the bottom of the tag, so I followed it and here is what I found.
This is so cool!! Random acts of art! I'm really happy that my stamp is a part of it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Perhaps...

One of my custom stamps has made its way into the music world! I was given the opportunity to make this stamp (seen on the cd sleeve above) for Perhaps Transparent Records - a Jersey City, New Jersey based independent record label. Steve, one of the two founders of the label approached me via my Etsy shop with the custom request. He was going for a very rustic look to be used with walnut ink on cd sleeves made with recylcled material. I really like how it came out! Thanks again, Steve, for the opportunity. :)

Meanwhile, sales have slowed to almost a halt this week, I have no idea why. I should be grateful for the chance to catch up on work, but no independent artist likes to see sales stop!! I hope it's a very temporary lull, because I was just about to start purchasing ink pads to add to the shop and now there are no funds. Yikes. 
OH - I created a fan page on Facebook for my shop, come check it out and become a fan! I'll be posting exclusive sales for fans from time to time, so it's worth checking out.
Okay, back to work!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

new and improved

Still busily trying to catch up on orders. For some reason sales have been sluggish the past few days, I wonder what's changed. It's a little worrysome because I've just opened a few wholesale accounts so that I can start adding supplies to the shop...and now there's no money with which to purchase them! Hopefully things will get back to normal soon. With the dog training business still dying a slow death, I've come to depend on the income I get from my shop.
Anyway, I'm sure it'll be okay. Meanwhile, in between filling orders, I've been weeding through the shop, removing stamps that don't sell well or are just way too time consuming to carve. I've also updated a few. I had a small swallow stamp that used to sell really well. It still sells now and then, but it's popularity seems to have waned and I'm tired of carving it. The one you see above is the new, improved swallow! I also had a wine bottle stamp that was sort of rough looking, so I updated it and added a wine glass.
Those were pretty fun to carve. My local scrapbook supply store just moved to a larger location and is going to start hosting monthly indoor craft fairs. The cost to rent a table is pretty low, so I'm thinking of giving it a try. The problem with doing any sort of "live" sales for me is inventory. I'll have to somehow find the time to carve a number of stamps ahead of time in order to have enough to sell. Even if I just do one each of my most popular ones, though, it'll be a good way to network. I'll have to be sure to have a portfolio of all the stamps I offer, along with cards with my website address.
Oh, I'm also hosting a stamp carving workshop at a local children's museum the end of this month (click the link and scroll down a bit for the workshop info). I'm participating in Disney's "Give a Day, Get a Day" program. You volunteer at a participating location for a day and get a free ticket to Disneyland. Since Jim loves going there for his birthday, and we're far too broke to pay $70.00 apiece to get. This way we can both volunteer (he'll be my lovely assistant) and get into Disneyland free! Plus it feels good to volunteer, and I can try my hand at teaching a stamp carving workshop. That might be something I can offer in other venues if it goes well. :)
Okay, time to stop working for today.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Well I woke up this morning, rainbow filled the sky..."

Okay, so I promised an entry about the trip to Coarsegold and the cool double rainbow. As usual it's taken me a while to deliver. That's a theme with me lately. I had quite a few sales in December and January and now I fear I have quite a few annoyed customers wondering where the #!!%$#! their stamps are. Auugghh!! I've been working 12 hour (and more) days trying to get caught up and have only just managed to finish up the December orders and get partially into January. And here it is almost February. It's hard when you sell made-to-order items, because they're not physically in stock. They are created in the order they're purchased..so when there are lots of orders (yay!), it takes a while for everything to be finished and people become unhappy (not yay!). So that's where I'm at right now.
The trip to Coursegold was overwhelming for me for some reason. Jim was a little more prepared this time for the way his dad is and the fact that he tends to forget who he is. He handled it well. I had a really nice time with my mother-in-law. When we go up there, my job is to basically get her out of the house so she can have a break from being a caregiver 24/7. We have fun together and I really enjoy being with her. For some reason, though, this trip had me dwelling a bit too much on growing older and the inevitable illnesses and disabilities it will bring.
Anyway...I'm too busy right now to delve into that. The rainbow - that's what I was going to talk about. It was weird. The weather was totally clear when we arrived, stayed clear all day, no rain in the forecast. All the sudden the wind started kicking up and a big cloud blew over the area. It sure LOOKED like it was going to rain. So we all out went out into the back yard and wow....huge double rainbow! It seemed to span the entire sky and it just came out of nowhere. It started raining, rained for maybe 15 minutes, and then it all just blew away.
There's probably a message in there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hippie Valentine's Day

Yaaay! My newest Valentine's Day stamp was featured in Craftzine! Come see by clicking right here! I was going to wait a while to post a picture of this stamp, but since it got featured today, I figured I'd just do it now.

We just got back in town after spending a few days at my husband's parents house in Coursegold. It's really, really beautiful up there, and I've got some great pictures of a double rainbow that formed the first evening, but I'll post those in the next entry. Right now I'm too tired to write about it in any coherent way. As if I ever write anything coherent.
Back soon.

About Me

Hippieville, CA, United States
This is the story of life after losing the "real" job and the house, trying to find the middle ground between making a living and actually living.