Once Upon a House

Image

This is the beginning of a story that will carry on for years. Back in 2012, my husband and I purchased this home in La Pine, Oregon which is a very small town just south east of the center of Oregon. The climate there is referred to as “high desert”. Dry air, cold nights, perfect days and lots of blue skies. The air in La Pine smells like apple sauce in the spring and vanilla in the morning when the sun just starts warming up the Ponderosa pines. If TV had smell-o-vision, they would have added this smell to the Bonanza series, because without it, there is a large piece of authenticity missing.

When I met my husband (#3 I confess) back in 2006, we bonded over a shared dream to have a cabin in the high desert of Oregon. We joked about designs we would add, like a trap door in the middle of the main room so I could sweep all the junk under the house. I lightly argued about the placement of the wood stove and whether or not we would have indoor plumbing. It was a dream but one that was fun to imagine.

If you read my first blog, you will find that I once had a sizable nest egg that was subsequently seized by the IRS. Well, in 2012, 4 years after the money was taken away, the IRS unexpectedly refunded almost 1/4 of the money and as a result, we started thinking about making our little dream a reality.

We had already been looking at houses on a Bend, Oregon real estate site so the next step was to find out how much financing we would be able to get. I went to our local USBank, where we held a checking account and met with their mortgage specialist. I won’t mention her name, but needless to say, after a confusing and very curt meeting she calculated a sum of $130K and I left feeling like an uniformed idiot. As a first time home buyer, I had a lot of questions about terminology and the difference in finance rates for manufactured homes, property and “stick built” homes….which was a term I had only learned when she abruptly corrected me. She made me feel foolish and immature. So, in typical introvert style, I left with visions of whomping her WWF style and instead drove home like I was Mario Andretti.

We now had a number to work with, so we wasted no time hoping in a car and driving 4 hours to get to Bend. The Realtor we met, Nancy, we very genuine. It was February and the roads were covered in slush and ice. We drove the 1/2 hour from Bend to La Pine in relative silence as I admired the small pile of rocks she kept in the cup holder of her SUV and pondered what the day might bring. My husband had been armed with a sheet of listings he had pulled off the internet and Nancy plotted them in order of nearest to farthest away from Bend so we would have a feeling for how long a commute we might have for employment and significant shopping.

LaPine….or is it La Pine….can’t get a real answer on that…is a township of about 5000. Rural Highway 97 cuts right through it connecting California with Canada. There are a few fast food restaurants, a small grocery chain, and even a Best Western, but mostly, it is a town that you might overlook as you passed through. While that is difficult for the economy, it makes it nice for those of us who grew up in and appreciate small towns. Back behind the familiar corporations that line the highway, there are fabulous restaurants, wonderful gift and craft shops and the friendliest hardware store I have ever been to. It would behoove you to stop if you are ever in the area and get the BEST Mexican food and service at Cinco de Mayo…or go to the Red Rooster for breakfast….and if you are crafty and like cloth the Quilt shop will literally leave you salivating.

Enough said, La Pine was the place for us. The first thing I noticed as we pulled off the highway was that the majority of roads were not paved. HUGE puddles of indeterminable depth blocked many of our paths, but Nancy waded through like a pro, even bottoming out her SUV at one point, in a hole so deep that there was a muffler left behind by a previous driver. We bumped and slushed our way for miles and came to the first house on our list.

And here I will leave you for a bit because I KNOW you want to go and research La Pine, Oregon and get a good visual before I continue. In blogs to come, you will hear a home buying nightmare, a costly victory and continuing takes of renovations, decorations and the ETSY business I try to keep afloat through it all.

It has been a CRAZY year!

Etsy and the Future of Handmade

I was recently engaged in a conversation with another blogger about the new changes that have been made to ETSY. If you are unfamiliar with ETSY, as imagine most of you are, it is (or perhaps was) the foremost site on the web for selling and purchasing handmade arts and crafts. If you were looking for a truly unique, one of a kind hand crafted treasure, ETSY was the place to look.

When I joined ETSY in 2011, I was extremely optimistic. Not optimistic that my handmade crafts would sell necessarily, but optimistic that there was a place out there on the great information highway that was not only listening to the small, introverted, creative wave that pulsed vibrantly through space but also celebrating it! We have always been here. The craftsmen, the artists, the woodworkers, sculptors, jewelry designers, painters, weavers etc. Our ancestors have their handiwares in museums, because they are considered to be a part of an important cultural past and, well, a lot of what we make is just plain AWESOME.

We are special…bear with me….To decide to make one’s living as an artist, takes guts. It takes a belief in yourself that most of society did not help nurture. Most of us had to turn our backs on “better” careers that would have ensured financial stability. Most of us still have a “real” job on the side to support what the majority of non artists see as a hobby. Most of us…heck ALL of us, can’t help ourselves. The desire, the need to create is innate.

ETSY was a place, where we could all congregate, converse, support. promote and CARE about each other. I am an introvert, and I do not use that term lightly. ETSY gave me a platform that allowed me to not only show the world my talents, but give them value in the form of cold hard cash. Psychologically speaking, ETSY was great therapy, it was a safe place to take a risk with something new, or collaborate with others to create something unique. We, as artist, did not have to compete with machines, or corporations, or mass produced junk. We were among friends, kindred spirits, we had a home.

At this point you are most likely wondering why I am writing this all in the past tense. ETSY has, at the urging of those with their hands on the financial forecasting spreadsheets, decided to allow artist to have their designs created by a manufacturer. Now at first, you might think this is no big deal, and in truth, sellers like this have been popping up all over ETSY for years, unchecked to my knowledge. But what this means is the ETSY marketplace will be dramatically altered. If I design a dress, I can have a factory make it in a variety of sizes and colors. I can send my drawing to ZAZZLE or a similar site and have several cases of coffee cup made, ready to ship. I can, in theory, design almost anything my heart desires and have it mass produced to sell on ETSY. Now, the powers that be, say that the seller will need to identify themselves on their profile as a designer, not a crafts person, but lets get real, who looks at a seller’s profile before making a purchase any more?

So, now when a customer wants a unique, hand crafted treasure, and they type in “coffee cup” they will have to wade through the same mass produced products they can find anywhere on the web. They will have to read every seller’s profile to see if they are getting what they want. Mass produced items will have a lower selling point, so when a buyer is looking to spend only $20.00, their top options they will see will not be from the artisan, but from a designer. Don’t get me wrong, the creative world turns on designers, EVERY item you buy was designed by SOMEONE. My own daughter is in art school hoping to be that someone, some day. I have a great respect for all areas and levels of creativity, but ETSY was the one place that WE had. WE the hands on crafts person. WE who had no other venue but seasonal craft fairs and farmer’s markets. WE who so desperately needed and deserved a platform high enough that someone could hear our voice. And now it is gone.

The kind folks at ETSY have told us that they know they did not implement the support structure to protect the lowly artisan from mass produced items…. YET. They know that they “still have a lot of work to do”. They know we are unhappy. They know we feel betrayed and I hope they know that by not giving us, the artists, a voice, they have ruined many dreams and put many of us out of business. They tell us they know……they know. But do they care?

Please let me end by saying that as a shopper, I still highly recommend ETSY. There are still thousands of artists slugging their way through, trying to get your attention. We on ETSY have heard from several of you, who despair at the time and effort it takes now to find us through the confusing mess….please don’t give up on us. We need you!!!!