Unorthodox Crafts
 
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Stone Soup Artisans is a craft cooperative in Saco. It was the second shop that Caleb and I stumbled into when we were looking for places to market our earrings. Several years ago, I started working in the store a few days each month - a job which got me out of the house and somewhat out of my comfort zone. Having never worked in sales previously, it took me a while to be at ease with the computer system and customer service. But it has been a great experience and I have had the pleasure of meeting many fantastic people through my involvement with the shop.

My "featured" artist/friend today is Laetitia Borden. She is a talented pastel artist who happened to come into Stone Soup Artisans when I was working and we immediately clicked. She is wise and funny, generous and kind, and has led an interesting life. Like many artists, she is proficient in a variety of different media and I have enjoyed introducing her to origami and other paper-crafts. I feel so fortunate that she came into the shop on one of my work days; but I am coming to believe that these things do not happen by accident. Somehow, we were meant to meet.

 
 
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In my previous life as a craft fair attendee, I did not appreciate how hard it is to be on the other side of the table (hmmmm....that sounds like a great title for a book!!). In my current life as a crafter, I have become increasingly picky about which fairs I participate in. I seem to attract bad weather and spent one memorable June Saturday standing in several inches of water, so I no longer do outdoor fairs. I prefer venues with large booths so I have room to spread out all of my stuff. And I love the fairs that provide help with unloading the car! I have met some amazing fellow artists and crafters at fairs and it is always fun to see who has come back year after year. I enjoy the camaraderie that develops as we share the joy of good sales and the tedium of the final hour.

My "featured" craft-artist/friend today is Barbara of Acorn Arts Studio, LLC (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Acorn-Arts-Studio-LLC-Gorham-Maine/608185209248348?sk=info). My booth was next to hers at the USM Craft Fair in Gorham (a fantastic fair, by the way) and we made an immediate connection. I look forward to many more craft fairs as her neighbor and I am enjoying the process of watching her business grow! Her work is beautiful, finely-crafted, and reasonably-priced. Check out her FB page - she also has an Etsy shop and welcomes custom orders!

 
 
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For me, the hardest part of my business is marketing my products. I learned so much from the owner of one of the first shops we ever sold to. Caleb and I walked into the Kennebunkport shop with a plastic container piled full of loose earrings. We had no business cards or brochures, order forms or invoices. We had no real understanding of what we were doing. The very patient shop owner looked directly at us and said, "I love your product, but your presentation needs some work." So we went home and polished our presentation. We had good sales in this shop and the owner was nice enough to connect us with a sales rep. A few months later we received an order for 108 pairs of earrings from a store in Boothbay and our business suddenly became real! Sadly, the Kennebunkport shop closed a few years ago, but I will always owe a debt of gratitude to the owner who took the time to advise and teach us about the marketing end of the craft business.

The person I am "featuring" today is another shop owner who is the best promoter of my products and (perhaps more importantly) a good friend. Bonnie Brooks is a jewelry designer and owner of Bonnie's Place (http://www.bonniesplaceme.com/). This little shop is a hidden treasure well worth finding. Off the beaten path in Rockport, Bonnie's Place is filled with items handmade by Maine crafters and artists. Bonnie knows details about each product and its designer; she is the consummate saleswoman, who loves her job and it shows. The only thing she needs to improve upon is promoting her own products!! I feel blessed to have found Bonnie and will spend this weekend making more Forever Cards for her because she just keeps selling them! Check out her website and if you are in the Rockport area, stop in and visit with Bonnie - you will LOVE her and her shop!

 
 
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My son and I started this business on a whim about 5 years ago. It has been an interesting ride and I have no intention of getting off anytime soon. I did not anticipate that being a home crafter would expand my world in so many ways, since working from home can be a lonely endeavor. But in addition to making great connections with my customers, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many fellow artists and crafters. We help each other find marketing venues and we support each other in spirit. We share materials and ideas. We share frustrations and successes. I am happy to share information about some of the people (and their businesses) who have become important in my new creative life.

Nance Trueworthy is both a jeweler (http://www.nancetrueworthy.com/jewelry/newabout.htm) and photographer (http://nancetrueworthy.com/). I feature her photography in my forever cards and I own a signature necklace (pearls and gemstones) which never fails to elicit compliments. Nance's jewelry is available in many shops, but she also accepts custom orders. It makes a wonderful gift or treat for yourself! Her photography has been featured in books, calendars and cards - and she is available for personal photo shoots and occasions (weddings, etc.). Check out her websites and give her a call!

 
 
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Like many knitters, I have a ridiculously large stash of yarn. Sometimes I buy it with a specific pattern in mind; often I just buy it on a whim with no plan for how I will use it. I am also a sucker for new crafts. When I saw the Lucet (also known as a knitting fork) at the Fiber Fest last weekend, I knew I would enjoy using it. It creates a braided cord somewhat reminiscent of macrame and can be used with almost any yarn or fiber. After experimenting with yarn left over from knitting my Clapotis shawl (of which Latke approves) and with the ribbon that I use for knitting necklaces, I started a cord using two strands of a fairly heavy yarn that has been sitting in my stash for years. The yarn was given to me and is a blend of fibers with enough mohair to make it too itchy for me to wear. My goal is to make a cord long enough to coil into a rug. But I have no idea how much yarn that will require so I might end up with place-mats or coasters instead. The braiding is easy and mindless - a good thing to do while binge-watching Orange is the New Black (my current obsession). Although I did not need a new craft, I am glad to have one which uses materials that are sitting in my stash. That way, I can justify buying more yarn (oh yeah, I did that last weekend also...)!