<![CDATA[Unorthodox - Unique products handcrafted from unconventional materials - Brainstorms (my blog)]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 11:52:03 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Making Friends #4]]>Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:47:09 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/making-friends-4Picture
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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<![CDATA[Making Friends #3]]>Tue, 17 Jun 2014 11:12:16 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/making-friends-3Picture
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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<![CDATA[Making Friends #2]]>Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:52:08 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/making-friends-2Picture
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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<![CDATA[Making Friends #1]]>Sun, 15 Jun 2014 14:43:24 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/making-friends-1Picture
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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<![CDATA[Yarn Stash Solutions]]>Tue, 10 Jun 2014 12:54:44 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/yarn-stash-solutionsPicture
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...)!

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<![CDATA[Why Cards?]]>Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:16:54 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/why-cards
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I never intended to make cards. Of course, I never intended to make anything, so I guess that isn't saying much! I was already really busy making earrings, purses and scarves and did not need another craft - especially one that required an investment in new materials.   But several years ago, a few months before Christmas I bought some foil origami paper, thinking it would make good holiday earrings. Unfortunately, it was too flimsy to use for earrings.  Determined to make some type of holiday earring, I started making Christmas tree earrings instead.  LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!  I could use the foil paper to make Christmas trees for cards.  After a few trials to figure out the right size tree to put on a card, and an investment in blank cards and envelopes, a new craft was born. 

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But wait!  I am Jewish!  I need to make Hanukkah cards also!   Fortunately, there are LOTS of origami Star of David patterns.  Unfortunately, most of them are really boring.  I realized that in order to make a good card, the origami needs to be flat enough to fit in an envelope, but  three-dimensional enough to make it visually interesting.  Finally, I found a pattern which I liked.  The first star I folded took me 45 minutes!  Oh well, it was a labor of love and I knew I would get better at it.  And since there is not a large market for Hanukkah cards in Maine, I did not need to have a huge supply.  Ironically, I could not use the foil paper for the stars, so I had to invest in new origami paper.  Happily, the new paper I bought for stars also worked well for trees.  And since I already had the blank cards and envelopes, I was all set.

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Having entered the world of card-making, I was primed to make a Valentines Day card.  The search for an appropriate origami heart was even more difficult than the search for the star had been.  But it was winter and I was recovering from back surgery.  Unable to do much else, I sat on the couch surrounded by paper and folded dozens of hearts.  The pattern I ultimately chose uses a large rectangle rather than standard square origami paper.   OMG, more paper shopping!!  I finally found beautiful large double-sided origami paper which is perfect for the heart.  Fortunately, this paper also makes good earrings, so the scrap does not go to waste.  Then I decided that this card needed to be more of a gift - I added a magnet to the back of the heart so it could be kept as a refrigerator magnet (yup, I had to invest in magnets also...). 

After successfully marketing the Valentines cards I thought I was done with new designs.  I had a request for an origami birthday card, but could not come up with a folded-paper cake or candle which worked, so I abandoned the search.  Then earlier this year, as I was shopping for card-stock to use in the heart cards, I remembered a card which I had purchased years ago.  Suddenly, I was determined to learn how to make it.  I call it a Forever Card,  but you can find instructions on-line if you search for "Never Ending Card."  My first few were very rough - I did not have the right type of card stock or glue or paper-cutter.  But I mastered the techniques and bought more materials: better glue, tape-runners, several different types of paper-cutters, and TONS of paper.  I also purchased some photography (from Maine photographer Nance Trueworthy) to make the cards suitable as souvenirs for our summer tourists.  I have made hundreds of cards and still totally enjoy the process.  They are challenging and fun to make - the options for design are endless.  People often cannot put the cards down once they start playing with them, so the marketing has been easier than I anticipated.    And they are fun to teach - I hold classes in my home and my "students" have made fantastic creations. 
 I love having an excuse to buy more paper - as addictions go it's a pretty harmless one!  I would say I am done designing new cards, but I don't like to tempt fate.  I never know when or where inspiration will strike.  If you are interested in purchasing cards or scheduling a card class (I will teach any of the designs - but the Star of David is really difficult), call or e-mail.
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<![CDATA[Picking Crabs and Making Purses]]>Tue, 20 Aug 2013 01:06:46 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/picking-crabs-and-making-pursesPicture
I grew up in Maryland where picking crabs is an art. Getting the meat out of a Chesapeake blue crab requires patience and determination.  There is only about 1 ounce of meat in each crab, and you have to meticulously separate the meat from thin shelves of cartilage.  It is slow going! Although other types of crabs are easier to pick, the meat of the Maryland crab is especially sweet and tasty - worth the effort to those of us who grew up there.

When hosting a crab feast, some of my Maryland friends often ask that each guest pick a crab for the house for every crab that they eat.  The extra crab meat is then frozen for later use.  That way the host gets help picking the crabs, and the guests get to enjoy half of the crabs they pick (usually along with a fair amount of beer).  And then you can enjoy a fantastic crab dip at Thanksgiving long after crab season is over (at least if you have a sister-in-law like mine)!

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Four purses under construction simultaneously
How does this relate to purses??? Well, when I am making necktie purses or cases, I usually make 3 or 4 at a time - it is much more efficient to do it this way.  I also find that I am  more efficient when I am working on a custom order;  I am  anxious to get it done because I know it has a home.  Aware of this phenomenon, I have come up with a method of building up my stash of necktie products.   In the spirit of "picking a crab for the house,"  I sew several purses for my stash for each custom purse that I make.  And with 14 custom orders currently awaiting construction, I know I will have plenty of new purses for the upcoming holiday craft fairs.  And, if I am lucky, I will also get some of Sarah's crab dip...

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<![CDATA[Introducing "Full Circle Hard-Wear" Jewelry]]>Fri, 26 Jul 2013 14:58:03 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/introducing-full-circle-hard-wear-jewelryPicture
Necklace made from a metal plate
As an orthopaedic surgeon I fixed lots of broken bones.  Sometimes I put on a cast.  Sometimes I did surgery.  Sometimes surgery involved using orthopaedic hardware: screws, plates, pins and rods.  The metal hardware is used to hold bone fragments in position during the healing process.  Once the fracture is healed, the hardware can be removed, especially if it is bothersome.

When I removed hardware I often handed it to my patient and commented, "Maybe you can find someone to make this into jewelry for you. It's really sort of pretty."  I never anticipated that I might become that person.

Five years ago, I reconnected with a friend from high school.  She was in the middle of a series of foot operations and ultimately had a plate and screws removed from one foot.  She brought the hardware to me when she came to visit last fall and asked if I could use it to make jewelry.  It took me a while to envision a design plan and even longer to execute it.  Finally, a few weeks before I was scheduled to visit Laurie in Atlanta, I had a quiet night with no obligations.  After several hours (and many spilled beads) I had produced a necklace and earrings that I was happy with - designs that I thought were attractive and wearable.


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Earrings using metal screws
Laurie opened the box with the earrings first.  Initially, she did not even recognize the screws - she thought they were lighthouses.  Then she saw the necklace and realized that I had successfully transformed her hardware into jewelry.  She wore the set several times while I was visiting, and seemed excited to explain to people what the jewelry was made of. 

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Laurie models the necklace
For someone who has undergone one surgery to have hardware put in and another surgery to have it removed, the hardware represents the completion of a process:  the bone has healed and the metal is no longer needed.  They have come full circle.  Wearing the removed hardware as an accessory demonstrates this to the world.

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Laurie models the earring
When I was working as a surgeon, I truly felt honored to help people - to fix their fractures and improve their lives.  Now I feel honored to use my hands in a completely different way - artistically and creatively.  I know that I do not impact peoples' live in the same way that I used to, but I hope that my creations at least bring smiles and enjoyment.  I especially love the challenge of using unusual raw materials for my products - paper for jewelry, neckties for purses, ribbon for knitted accessories.  The challenge of transforming Laurie's plate and screws into jewelry was especially meaningful.  I was able to see materials from my past in a whole new light.  I always knew they were beautiful.  Now I can share their beauty with the world.  I have come full circle also. 

If you have orthopaedic hardware sitting in a baggie on your dresser (or know someone who does), I would love the opportunity to transform it into something wearable.  We can come full circle together.
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<![CDATA[Discovering Ribbon, Remembering Mary Jo]]>Sat, 25 May 2013 19:10:00 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/discovering-ribbon-remembering-mary-joPicture

In April of 2009 I wandered into Tess' Yarns in Portland, Maine totally by accident.  My best friend Mary Jo and I had attended a matinee at the Portland Stage Company and we had dinner reservations for six o'clock.  We had an hour to kill and it was a gloomy, rainy day.  We stumbled into the small shop primarily to escape the weather.  Just inside the door, we saw bins filled with ribbon yarn.  Neither of us could make a connection between these skeins of colorful nylon ribbon and the gorgeous knitted creations hanging above them.  The colors were the same, but how could these cheerleader pom-poms morph into such amazing tops and scarves?  We wandered through the rest of the cozy shop, met Melinda (the owner, who dyes ALL the yarn in the shop), Max the cat, and Deuce the dog.  But we kept returning to the ribbon - marveling at the range of colors, touching the unwound skeins and the knitted tops.  Such a great feel!  Such wonderful color combinations!  I was entranced.

Mary Jo and I were both knitters.  But, since I had left the busy world of medical practice behind, I had much more time to spend on the craft.  Mary Jo was still working as an Occupational Health physician.  I was a somewhat new knitter and loved to challenge myself; I enjoyed trying unusual patterns and experimenting with new yarns.  Mary Jo sensed my intrigue and offered to buy the ribbon and pattern for me to make a top for myself.  "It's a birthday present," she said.  Hmmm.....my birthday is October 1.  It was only April.  She explained that I had six months to finish making the present.  Well, I was not about to turn down such an offer/challenge! 


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I knitted the top (pictured here) in about two months.  I absolutely loved knitting with the ribbon.  The pattern was actually fairly simple to knit  (just knits and purls, no complicated lace or shaping) and I was fascinated as I watched it evolve. It started with four central stitches (just below the v-neck) and spread out from there.  It is the most striking thing I have ever knitted and it never fails to evoke comments.  Mary Jo saw it in progress, but did not get to see the finished product.  Sadly, she was killed in a car accident in June of that year. 

That is why this knitted top is so very special to me.  I wear it on my birthday every year in Mary Jo's honor.  I consider it my good luck top - I wear it when I attend my son's performances and when I do craft fairs.  And I wear it on those days when I just need to feel Mary Jo's spirit. 


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I made the first wavy scarf to use up leftover yarn.  I gave it as a gift and immediately received requests for more scarves.  I was happy to expand my product line and have an excuse to visit Tess' Yarns frequently.  Melinda's color palette is ever-changing; browsing in her shop is always a visual delight.   I began experimenting with other accessories - necklaces and bracelets - as a way of using up smaller amounts of leftover yarn.  Every ribbon product is knitted in Mary Jo's memory.  Mary Jo, who somehow knew to give me my birthday present six months early that year.  I miss her every day!

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<![CDATA[It's Not About the Numbers]]>Sat, 30 Mar 2013 13:40:52 GMThttp://unorthodoxcrafts.com/brainstorms-my-blog/its-not-about-the-numbersPicture
Origami earrings in production
Yesterday I printed six sheets of new earring cards. As I was performing the mindless task of cutting them out - there are 10 cards per page -  I considered the fact that I had printed 100 cards not too long ago, and now they are nearly gone.  Although I do keep track of my sales month to month, my bookkeeping is more about the money than about how many earrings (or purses or cards) I have sold.  I make earrings in batches: I do a bunch of folding, then a bunch of gluing, then a bunch of painting (applying the water-resistant coating), then a bunch of assembly.  I don't count them as I make them.  I just re-fill my boxes, ensuring that I have a variety of colors and designs. I focus on the process, not the end result.  The numbers creep up gradually - I was amazed to realize that I had gone through 100 earring cards.

My stash of origami paper is another gauge of my production.  I buy paper from a variety of sources, in a variety of sizes.  Occasionally I buy a really large sheet: 24 x 18 inches. Working with pieces of paper as small as 3/4 x 3/4 inches, I am astounded that I ever use it up.  But last week I realized I was running low on some of my patterned paper.  Hmmm..... that is a lot of earrings!


I suppose I could look at my sales numbers every month and do the math to figure out how many pairs of earrings I have made.  But in some ways I enjoy not focusing on the numbersIt makes the mundane chore of printing and cutting earring cards more meaningful and fun.  And it prevents the process of making earrings from becoming a chore.  It's about creativity, not numbers.

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