It’s Been a Long Time!

As 2016 is drawing to a close, I realize that, while I did not manage to make it the year that my shop became successful, I DID manage to hone my skills and determine exactly what it is that I want to accomplish with my art. I have turned my jewelry design in a brand new direction and have settled in to metal smithing.

I have thus far, been working predominantly in copper. The colors I can achieve are really amazing but I have a very long way to go before I can say that I actually have any control over the outcome.

When I started, I was more interested in the shapes I could form and had not realized the full potential of the copper. I will be working more towards fold forming and color combined in one piece, There is still A LOT to learn,

My shop will go back into full sale mode beginning next year. I also have three other shops under my thumb: one for my illustrations, one for my personal journey and one for the extra supplies I have lying around that I no longer need. So busy is going to be my new name! Stay tuned!


The Thing About Custom Orders…..

One of my oldest an dearest friends is also my best customer on ETSY. Every year about this time, she orders several things from my shop and, occasionally, she has me custom make something for her.

This year she asked me to make something for one of her friends. They live in New York, where I grew up and in truth, I have not actually seen her in over 30 years.

When I asked her what kind of hat, she showed me a photo of a regular knit cap. Whan I asked her what color, she said brown….soft….mixed browns maybe….that was it.

So, in my usual, compulsive, perfectionist way, this is what I have so far…….so far…….

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I am not sure if it is a driving need to make sure the customer always gets what they want, or a nagging dissatisfaction with almost everything I make.

I honestly have never had a single complaint about anything I have made and all of my custom orders have been received with more praise than I expected.

I know she will be happy with whatever I make, I just want it to be better than whatever she is imagining, and I can’t begin to guess what that is!

So this, along with year-end books, my REAL job, Christmas chaos and a really bad head cold have summed up my December so far…..

Now, back to the crochet!

Welcome to My ETSY World

IMG_1449Vintage bead necklace

As you may have surmised from my blog, I have an ETSY shop.

ETSY is an on-line crafter’s web site that allows each seller to maintain their own internet store. Until recently, only handmade, vintage and supplies were allowed as shop wares. Now ETSY also allows designers to create their own product and  have the actual items manufactured by a second party. Some folks are happy about the change, others are not, but that’s the basic gist of what ETSY is, if you are unfamiliar with the site.

When I first signed up, I could not remember the name. I wanted to call is ESTY, because that followed the basic rules of the English language. It was easy to upload pictures and follow the instructions for descriptions and price. I think the hardest part of posting is trying to come up with a list of 13 “tag words” that could easily be picked up by a search engine as a customer is combing the web for your product. Most Etsians (that’s what we call ourselves) would agree, I think. There are whole tutorials about picking the correct words and something called SEO, which I later learned was short for “search engine optimization”. Everyone likes to feel a bit smarter by making their new fangled computer lingo into an acronym.

IMG_5402-0013 colored crocheted baby blanket

So, I started with ETSY about 2 years ago. I was THRILLED to find a place that seems designed to help someone like me (a closet artist who likes to make nice things) find a venue to sell their creations. I had read some really great success stories and thought that I coud at least make a bit of side money while I was a stay at home mom. Let me be clear here. I call myself a “closet artist” because in a real sense, I am just an artist who has not managed to come out and express that to the world yet. I have a degree in fine art and have been creating in one sense or another my entire life. I always told myself, when I was younger, that I would NEVER cave in to becoming a “crafter”. To me “crafting” was not ART! Boy, was I wrong!

Through ETSY,  I have seen some absolutely AMAZING creations. The ability to share ideas and the products that came from them is really the soul of the site. There are forums and teams that supply you with endless insight and support. Etsians create treasuries, which are a collection of 16 items with a similar theme and then post them for the rest of the world to see. It is a clear and continuous way to help support fellow artisans by showing off what their peers find to be interesting or pleasing to the eye. I particularly like making treasuries of the oddities that some folks post, like sculptures made out of dust bunnies or giant octopus tentacles that you can hang on your wall like a hunting trophy.

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ETSY was my new “home” and in the beginning, I spent hours pouring over what others have made and how. Then I started adding my own creations to the mix and found that what seemed like an easy solution to my need to make some petty cash, was not as easy as I had thought it would be….

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!!!!

And then There was Yarn.

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I started collecting yarn a few years ago. First I bought the traditional way; by going to Michael’s or Joann’s and clipping coupons every week. Then I moved on to the bigger sized purchases, made through eBay primarily. In the process, I discovered many wonderful yarns that today I make a staple of my business. I would like to introduce you to two of them

The bulk of the yarns in this picture were purchased though Stephanie’s Studio. I discovered her on Etsy and have since done a fair amount of business with her through he main website, http://sumi-soft.com/yarn/. She sells yarn in bulk from her sale page, saving you A LOT of money and giving some fun surprises too. I have never been disappointed. What I love most about Stephanie’s yarn is that it is designed to be used in a knitting machine. This gives the hand worker (like myself) a few really cool advantages.

  1. You get A TON of yarn on a single easy to use spool. Thousands of continual feet. No need to find enough skeins or worry about dye lots. As for knots I have never found one!
  2. This is high quality STRONG yarn. It was designed to be yanked about in a machine, so while most of her yarns are very light weight (fingerling-sport) they are anything but weak. Your product will stand up to the tests of time
  3. Too light a yarn for your purposes? I think not! I have a wall of these yarns because I can create my own pallet that way. I combine 2 or three yarns to make a standard weight and have a truly unique product. Add a soft green marl and a thin black 2ply and you get a yarn that is sweater soft, but not found anywhere else!
  4. Quality. Her acrylics are not waxy and synthetic like most of the yarns you can get at a craft shop. You won’t be disappointed.
  5. Almost all are 100% USA made! – All the one’s I have purchased are, but I don’t want to make a blanket statement without proof.

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Another yarn that I am very fond of is Cestarti Yarn. The wool for these yarns comes from Cestari Farm in Churchville, Virginia. They make the yarn on site adding cotton and silk to some of my favorite varieties. The best part about their wool is that it is not chemically processed. Most wool is sent through a bath of acids that removes every last trace of vegetable matter that might be stuck in the hair, but as a result, the proteins in the wool are also destroyed. Advantages to this yarn include:

  1. Because it is not chemically processed, it remains soft and much less scratchy. It is machine washable! You may (OK do) find small bits of straw embedded in the yarn from time to time, but they are easy to pull out.
  2. End projects made with this yarn have a very natural look, feel and drape. Very authentic.
  3. The colors they offer are all very natural and work well with the yarn
  4. 100% USA made! (It’s a theme)

The only down side to this yarn is that it is hard to buy. I bought a large amount from a yarn store that was going out of business. Otherwise you have to call the farm and request and order. http://www.cestarisheep.com/about.html. You have no visuals for colors and the shipping is quite slow, but the yarn is worth it! There are very few stores that carry this yarn. The closest to me is 300 miles away and I live in a very urban area,

So there you have a first glimpse into my studio. There is still quite a bit more yarn than that. I deconstruct high end cashmere sweaters in one corner to make my own spools of yarn and I salvage every bit of yarn I do not use in hopes of making a really cool hand woven rug one day.

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Baby blanket combining three machine weight yarns

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A wrap made with Cestari yarn

A New Beginning

I have just re-written the business side of my life.

My online store name used to be Gillsie (which was a nickname I had in high school) until I realized that someone else had also been using that name and I felt like an impostor. The new name I have chosen is “Tangible Imaginings” because that about sums up how I feel about the creative process. If you are interested, here it is : etsy.com/shop/tangibleimaginings

I started my store in earnest about two years ago, when a series of events made me believe that I had the luxury of being able to quit my day job and pursue a dream.

My uncle passed away in 2008. I had only met him once, but I knew that he was schizophrenic and old and that my father was afraid of him. He came to my first wedding and fully believed that he was a Texas millionaire, complete with the boots, hat and accent. I am relatively certain he had never been to Texas, but because my parents had recently moved there, he was trying to fit in. When he died, there was a moment of sadness for me, but audible relief from my father. A few months later, I got a call that made me park my car on the side of the freeway and not move for a very long period of time, it felt like hours. My uncle had a trust fund, set up by my grandparents to take care of him and due to his low maintenance life style, it had grown into a huge sum of money. A huge some of money that my brothers and I were now to inherit, a HUGE sum of money….a shook for hours, stopped breathing a few times, felt my head pound with the meaning of the words that the lawyer was quickly ticking my way….how much? what?

I quit my day job as an underwriter for Farmer’s Insurance, and decided instead to put my time where I thought it would be better spent; with my family and art. I made wedding plans to marry my boyfriend of two years. I started cooking elaborate meals, I bought a used,  red, convertible Mini Cooper, tires for our cars, mattresses that did not poke you in the back, furniture that was not full of holes and a TV that you could see decently from across the room. The kids got braces, the dogs got their shots, my daughter traveled to New York on a school trip and I BOUGHT YARN.

Some month later, I got a call from the same lawyer. Seems there was an issue with my grandfather’s estate after he died in 1992, seems neither the IRS, nor the lawyer could come up with his tax return, seems what was supposed to be a generation skipping tax skipped the wrong generation, seems there were back taxes, penalties and such, seems like we were screwed.

About the same time, my step son started his new crusade to become the worlds youngest drug lord….and addict….and focus of my entire life. We put him in rehab, we sent him to counseling, we spared no time, expense or moment of thought, love and support. My life whirled around phone calls, meetings, methods, appointments and huge bills but when my head felt ready to explode, I would crochet, and crochet and crochet and then I BOUGHT BEADS.

Now it was 2010. My step-son was living with his mother, who let him do whatever he wanted, my youngest daughter started having medical issues and my blood pressure was through the roof. I was hording piles and piles of yarn. I had purchased another jewelry makers entire stock as she went out of business and I started making plans to open an Etsy shop.

There is, of course, a great deal more to this story….like having both of my feet reconstructed, getting paid back by the IRS and buying a house right before the IRS changed it’s mind and took the money back AGAIN.

in 2011 Gillsie: Tangible Imaginings was born out of the dust of a crazy, chaotic mess like a phoenix with a serious head cold.

I am a meticulous artisan. detailed, exacting and educated. I am NOT a marketing guru…nor even passable apprentice. What I do have is a good sense of humor, a tremendous faith in a greater power that I call God and life!

This blog, and all of its links and references to come is my attempt to reach out to the world and share the stories behind my creations. There will be hits and misses, thoughts and utter failures and no doubt, a great deal of soul searching from which I hope you can glean some value.

Now to begin the new beginning.