Sunday, December 21, 2008

My photos of entrances to the underworld

Imagine... Vincent and Catherine in these locations:

As we draw nearer to the Beauty and the Beast fan's celebration of Winterfest I'd like to post a few more of my photos. I hope you like them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where to go from here?

Ok, I don't really like to talk about myself, especially when it comes to negative things but I have spent the last 3 years trying to establish several internet stores where I can sell my own jewelry and stuffed animal patterns and make enough money to keep my husband off my back. I have failed to earn as much money as a 13 year old babysitter. I love making creative thins and I love working from home. I have earned over 1300 positive feedbacks on eBay and I also have a nice pro-store and 3 stores on etsy. I have fibromyalgia so I suffer from muscular pain and fatigue. I also have a very rare genetic disease called co-pro-porphyria which prevents me from taking almost all known medications (my liver will not metabolize them).

I need a new career. I have no idea what direction to go in now. I invested a great deal of time and money becoming a high school English teacher only to be driven to resign by the vice principal at the school I worked for. Nothing I did would satisfy her. I spent a year crying as I walked into the building, often during my lunch break and I also cried myself to sleep at night. I'm 53. I have had so many terrible bosses in my lifetime that I am terrified of working for another one.

I'll admit I have been battling depression for several years now. My husband insists that I earn an income and every time I think about being in a job interview, confronted by the question, "Why did you leave your last job?" I just feel a mixture of pain and anger and I can't imagine what I could answer that would make someone actually want to hire me.

I am a highly sensitive artist. I am terrible at corporate politics. I wish I could network with other people for suggestions on where to turn next.

It is snowing outside. We have several inches of accumulated snow. It would be lovely if I didn't feel so sad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas is almost here!


Several months have passed since my last post here. It is hard to come up with something new and interesting to write every day. I don't feel comfortable sharing every intimate detail of my personal life and I'm not sure what would interst my readers. I have created some interesting new pieces of jewelry but is that really what you want to know? The decine in the economy has had an impact on my sales and I am becoming discouraged. Christmas sales are very poor for me. I have invested in showcases on Etsy in order to promote my work. Nothing makes any difference. I guess my absence from my blog is a reflection of my own discouragement. I feel helpless.


I have enjoyed taking some beautiful photographs over the last few months. This is the one activity my husband and I most like to share. I often think about the underground world of Vincent and Father depicted in the 1980s TV series Beauty and the Beast. I have been photographing scenes that remind me of the show.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I decided on the photographs to use in the listing


Here are the photographs I'm including in my Etsy listing plus some shots I could not fit in since Etsy limits the number to five.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photos of Memorial Jewelry I created for myself.

I'm still thinking about how to offer custom memorial jewelry. I talked to my best friend about it yesterday and she made a good point about how long it would take to communicate back and forth for a custom piece. Paypal requires that sellers ship within 7 days of payment or gives you no seller protection. I have found if I ask 5 questions customers only answer 2 of them.

Below is the brooch I made after my cat died. I bought a pair of earrings and took them apart and used one as the centerpiece. The image reminde me of him with his striking features and long muzzle. I believe he was half Egyptian Mau (rudy).

In the back of the brooch I have included some of his fur. The colors of the beads and selections of stone beads were to represent his colors. Dangling from the side is a spray of beads ending in hematite hearts and crystal tears. I wore this brooch for quite a while during my grieving provess. It made me feel closer to him.

While he was alive I made a brooch with a heavy glass "marble" over the photograph.

The very first bead embroidered necklace I made was this hand sculptured and hand painted image of my cat while he was young and healthy.



The pieces in these photographs were made to honor the memory of my beloved cat. They are not for sale. I would like to offer to make custom memorial jewelry for other people on ETSY in my FantasyCreations1 shop. The watch crystals and glass hearts I have now to use in photo jewelry were not available to me then. The custom pieces I want to be able to make would have bead embroidery but the central pieces would be different. I am still thinking about how to create a listing for custom memorial jewelry. If I posted a photo of one of these pieces people would expect me to make the same sort of piece for them. I don't want people to think I would only do pet or cat themed pieces.
Feel free to post a comment. I only set up the protective barriers to prevent a virus spreader I heard about, who was using etsy related blog comment posts to entice people to click and catch his computer virus, from using my blog to harm my readers. I welcome helpful and interesting comments. The only post, so far, that has attracted comments was the one with photos of orange houses.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I need suggestions for making a listing for custom memorial jewelry in my Etsy store

Tonight I started a new thread on Etsy in the techniques and materials category in the community forums. This is what I posted:

I'm a bead embroidery artist and when my beloved kitty died I created a beautiful brooch with some of his fur inside a hiiden pocket with a window in the back. Wearing it brought me a lot of comfort while I grieved. It occurred to me that I could make unique jewelry for people grieving a loss but here is my problem-- The piece I made would not be the same at all to what I would create for each person. What do I use to make a sample that will reach out to people and easily translate to them as something I could make to honor their own loved one?I could make a brooch or necklace with a photograph in the front and optional hair inside the back or not. I don't want people to think the loss has to be a pet but it could be a pet. Someone about a month ago mentioned wantion jewelry to honor the memory of a miscarried baby. I'm not sure how to bring up that idea since I don't want to cause pain. I also could make jewelry for those who want to honor a living loved one (new baby, boyfriend, husband, son), perhaps someone working and living far away, such as soldiers in Iraq. I don't have any human beings away at war or who have died in the last 20 years or so. It takes quite a bit of time to create bead embroidered jewelry so I want this sample piece to be beautiful and meaningful after I photograph it for the listing.I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on this.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sara Lee Truck Driver Nearly Killed ME!

A few days ago I was crossing the street with my husband. We were crossing with the walk sign, in the walk lane. A Sara Lee delivery truck driver was on the phone and made a turn directly towards us. My husband was ahead of me and saw him headed towards us. He yelled at him and I awoke from my internal thoughts and looked at the truck's grill and bumper and realized he was not going to stop and I would be struck and run over in the next 2 seconds. I ran. I barely escaped. I could have struck the side of the truck with my hand as it passed. I screamed at the driver and watched him drive away, never touching his breaks or turning his head or getting off the phone, which he held to his left ear.
If I had been an elderly or disabled person I would be at my own funeral right now.
I decided to investigate and report him to his supervisor at Sara Lee. I went into Fred Meyer and a witness gave me her phone number and said she and her little daughter had been distressed by the scene and thought they were about to see me killed. I got the driver's name from the administration at Fred Meyer and when I got home I made several calls to the offices of Sara Lee. I left messages about the incident since no one anwered the phone. Later that day I got a phone call and the woman took down all of the details and assured me she would contact the man's supervisor. I later got a call from the supervisor. He assured me that safety was their first priority and that the driver would be dealt with.

So dear readers, I am grateful to God to be alive and glad I can still run in spite of my fibromyalgia. I recently saw the movie "The Bucket List" and this incident made me think about the things I still want to experience or accomplish before I "kick the bucket." I suggest you see the movie and think about how fragile our lives are and kiss your loved ones and tell them you love them often because we never know when something will come along and snuff out our life's flame. If I were to have a Tatoo (which I will not) I think I would want the words "This TOO shall pass" as a daily reminder to appreciate today and live a life of love and gratitude. There is a story of a king who wanted a phrase that would make him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy and a wise man came to him and offered "This TOO shall pass."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Here is the history of my stuffed animal gift shop








In the Early 1980s My Gift Shop was Named
Flaming-Martin Gifts



I designed over 100 different stuffed animal patterns and created the beautiful, high quality stuffed animals and sold them in my store, Flaming-Martin Gifts. I designed and painted all the signs. I used to tell people that I made smiles for a living. People would come into my shop from their busy, harried lives, and soon begin to smile as they touched the soft fur of the stuffed animals and remembered how their own favorite stuffed animal had comforted them in their childhoods. I remember people coming back to my shop to buy more stuffed animals for friends and loved ones and telling me how much everyone loved my creations.
Sometimes people would pick up an animal and ask me if it had a name. I would always reply, "Ah, there's magic in naming things and that power must lie with the animal's final owner. Haven't you had a stray dog or cat come and beg for food and the moment you gave it a real name it was no longer a stray. That animal was now yours. If I named these little creatures they would belong to me. I am just their creator, their true owner has to find them, love them, and name them." My customer would smile, sometimes I know they thought I was a little crazy, but most of the time, I think they understood a profound truth: There is magic in naming things.




Fantasy Creations was Born in 1984


In 1984 I published patterns for 13 of my stuffed animal designs and wanted the new business to have a name separate from my gift shop, so in 1984, Fantasy Creations was born. I worked on selling the patterns in a variety of ways including through Crafts magazines. But, in the end, I packed them away in large cases to await a time when I could market them more cost effectively and 20 years later I now have several stores named Fantasy Creations on eBay, on Etsy and on the internet and I am gradually gaining more and more happy customers every day. I sell my stuffed animal patterns to people all over the world.




A Look Inside the Gift Shop
Beginning with My Magnificent
Bald Eagle in Flight



My most amazing design was the Bald Eagle in Flight. It had a three and a half foot wingspread. It was a limited edition soft sculpture with a signed and numbered card attached to the tip of the wing. I only made a few of them. It took 10 hours of agonizing work to finish one. This was never designed to be a child's toy. This design required a wire framework inside the wings. It sold for $100 over 25 years ago (I don't think I would accept less than $400 if I made one today), and was destined to grace a man's study. This creature put my male customers at ease because of its fierce, masculine, symbolic power.
Now, back to the gift shop, so I can explain more about how it worked. My husband helped me in hundreds of ways, like taking the professional photographs for the brochure, and painting and remodeling the front of the gift shop. I kept the sewing machines, cutting table, and the cases of fake fur upstairs. We rigged a system to ring the doorbell when someone entered the front door and I would drop everything and run downstairs to take care of the customer. Most of the time I brought stuffing and animals that needed to be turned right side out, and stuffed, downstairs with me, so I could make good use of my time. It is not easy trying to make a living when you have to do everything from buying supplies, to designing, to sewing, to selling, as well as accounting.
In order to make over 100 stuffed animal designs, I had to find fake fur that looked like the animals I wanted to create. I was thrilled when I bought the material for the bobcat and went to work, right away, designing a realistic bobcat pattern. Most of the time I got the pattern right the first time but I did have to go through two prototypes before I was satisfied with the final fierce, regal, wild cat design.

Dragons and Unicorns were very popular sellers in my gift shop. The Large Dragon was at least five hours of work. The open mouth with Rick-Rack teeth had to be stitched in by hand. This was another limited edition soft sculpture that came with a signed and numbered card. I made dragons in a variety of colors, black and silver, red and black, green and black, orange and black, blue and black (with silver down the back), and my personal favorite: purple with black and silver.

The Man in the Moon pillow made a great hanging piece for a baby's room or a bed decoration for a teenager. They sold so often that I made over a dozen, to hang up in my shop, in every color I thought a moon would look good in.




I filled the front window of my gift shop with lots of beautiful stuffed animals to catch the eyes of people passing by.



The Giant Unicorn Pegasus (two and a half feet tall and over 3 feet long; large enough to sit on to watch TV) was the one that really brought customers into the shop. Most people settled for a less expensive, smaller unicorn, or some other animal but if I sold one of these giant horses, you can bet I went to work on creating a new one for the front window, right away. One thing I learned the hard way though, was that stuffed animals have to be rotated out of sunny windows or the fake fur quietly sun rots and you can pierce your fingers right through the fabric! (a word to the wise).
I also created a variety of realistic horses, a giant elephant, a giant seal, and more. I really came to believe that there was a person meant for every creature I designed, and it was only a matter of time before they found each other. One of my favorite stories was when I had designed a lonely baby camel and it sat on a shelf, unnoticed, for over a year, until one day a woman came into my shop and picked it up and didn't put the little camel down. She said something about the little camel spoke to her and she had to buy him. She picked up one of my business cards before she left and a few weeks later I was surprised to find a post card, addressed to me, from the lady, telling me how the little camel was her traveling companion on a trip across country and that he had been a blessing to her. Well, that convinced me that no design was a mistake just because it didn't fly out the door every day.
I was often asked why I didn't make traditional teddy bears. My answer was that you could find teddy bears everywhere else, in every size, and shape, and color imaginable but where could you find a Loch Ness Monster (sea dinosaur) or a killer whale and its baby, or a cacomistle? I even designed life like, rare and unusual animals for the Portland zoo: a red panda, a ring tailed lemeur, and a Humbolt penguin. I loved the challenge of creating stuffed animals that you couldn't find anywhere else. I did make a cute bear puppet and a realistic polar bear cub, though.

My T-Rex was always fun to make and popular for tough little boys who would turn their nose up at most stuffed animals. I made them with those tough little boys in mind and reinforced all stress points thoroughly.
I give the bunny pattern for free to customers who buy more than one pattern from me and the pattern is also included with the Man in the Moon Pillow pattern, along with the rainbow ball.
The Canada Goose was a favorite decorative piece and was purchased by adult men and women. It carried a signed and numbered, limited edition card.
The Merhorse (one of my most popular published patterns) was always one of my favorite stuffed animals because when you held it the tail sliped around the back of your arm and pressed gently, like a hug, and gave you a feeling of comfort. I donated one to a counselor to use with children who needed to talk about things.
The puppy dog and lamb were so popular as gifts for young children that I made them available as patterns, so people who sew could make them to give or sell at craft fairs.
Eventually I had to close the gift shop in order to pursue career opportunities that would bring me more income. I can’t compete with the price of stuffed animals made in China so I don’t aspire to open another gift shop stocked with finely handcrafted stuffed animals. I have done many things that earned more money for me than my little gift shop but nothing has matched the satisfaction I got from the direct contact with customers and creating new designs every week. Selling on the Internet and reading positive customer feedbacks has given back some of that lost sense of “making smiles” for a living. It is my desire to continue to grow my Internet business until I earn as much as I did working for other people. I will accomplish that goal one happy customer at a time.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The email I received today made me realize why I designed all of those stuffed animals over the years

I got an email today from a young girl who was sad because she lost her beloved companion stuffed animal. I will share it here but keep her identity private.

My name is ----- and I am 15 years old. My mom had gotten a stuffed pegasus we named Rosy from her best friend when she was 13 years old. It was in the 80's. We see on your web sight a unicorn/pegasus that has the same face and body as our Rosy but yours is larger and the legs and mane and wings are different. Our Rosy was thrown away by a heartless maid in a hotel on our last trip two days ago we tried to get her back but it was to no avail. Rosy has gone everywhere with us for 28 years and we are heart broken. We have photos of rosy and we can give pretty accurate measurements. Would you be willing to try to make us our Rosy again? Please call ------------ or e-mail ----------- with the details of what you need from us if you say yes or if you can't, maybe you know someone who can. Thank you, -----.

I wrote her back:
Hi,
If you email me photos of Rosey I can have a look and email you back. I sold a variety of Pegasus stuffed animals in the 1980s in my own little gift shop, called Flaming-Martin Gifts, and Rosey may have been one of my creations. I was making them before they were widely manufactured by big stuffed animal companies. Do you remember if Rosey had a sewn in tag in the rear? None of my creations ever had sewn in tags. If the pattern is one of mine of course I could make you another. I would have to see which of the designs it was to tell you a price. I look forward to looking at the photos.
Blessings,
Becky

Later she sent me photos and said they had found a Dakin tag that belonged to Rosie. I will not copy another businesse's design but I began to search the internet for vintage Dakin pegasus stuffed animals and sent them links and suggestions for their search.

A few hours later I wrote her this letter:

Hi again,

I have given a lot of thought to your family and your loss of your beloved Rosie. If you have never read the book The Velveteen Rabbit you should get the book (it may even be printed on the internet) and read it. Rosie would qualify, like the beloved rabbit in the story, for becoming real. No new stuffed animal will ever be Rosie. It would be like loosing a sister or your dog and trying to clone them or find a look alike. It will never be the same. Rosie came into your life and blessed it and now she is gone. You must grieve the loss. Love again but keep a special place in your heart just for the memories you shared with Rosie and make new memories with a new soft friend. I have spent many years making stuffed animals and there is magic in it. I never name the ones I make because the magic begins when the owner looks into its face and names it. Like a stray cat that you one day give a real name to-- it is not a stray any longer; it is yours now. Rosie has become real through love. The grief you feel is real and don't feel foolish about it. Love and loss are both a part of being human. If we never love we never grieve but then we never fully live either.

Blessings,

Becky

Dear readers of my blog, after reading yesterday about how I was giving up making stuffed animals to sell how do you think this girl's letter made me feel? I am very sad not to be making beautiful creatures that go out and touch the lives of people and bring comfort and joy for years as their little Rosie did. There is magic in it and our federal government representitive was as unempathetic with my plight as any steriotypical bureaucrat could possibly be. We live in a strange world, my friends. I have no idea how we can change it but I used to tell people I made 'smiles" for a living because in the 1980s people would come into my gift shop and before long they'd be smiling.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm frustrated! I'll no longer be offering my finished stuffed animals for sale.

I have been looking into the federal regulations on stuffed animals and after speaking with a federal representative, Dollie Nicholson, regarding flamability testing required on all stuffed animals, no exceptions for home crafters, I have decided to pull my two animals from my etsy store listings. I am feeling very angery and frustrated. Here is the correspondence. What do you think of this?
_______________________________________________________

Dear Ms. Becky:



It was a pleasure talking with you yesterday. I am Dollie Nicholson a compliance officer with CPSC. I am responding to your inquiry concerning testing of stuffed toys. For your information:


1. There are no federal safety flammability standards for stuffed toys; however, there is a voluntary standard that all stuffed toys must conform with.

The voluntary standard is in the toy specification ASTM Designation F963-07. It provides very specific instructions on the test methods for stuffed toys.

The purpose of the test is to determine if the entire toy bursts into flames within a specified time. ASTM International, 100 Barr Harbor Drive , PO Box

C700, West Conshohocken , PA , 19428-2959 , www.astm.com

2. I am not aware any laws or standards to make fabrics fire resistant/retardant.


There are CPSC requirements for stuffed toys that your product must meet. They are:

Toys/Children's Products
small parts
FHSA
1500.18(a)(9)
1501
Regulatory Summary
Test Manual
Test Laboratories

Toys/Children's Products
use and abuse tests
FHSA
1500.50 (also pdf)
1500.51 (also pdf)
1500.52 (also pdf)
1500.53 (also pdf)
1500.14(a)(5)
1500.83(a)(8)
1700.14(a)(6)
Test Manual
Test Laboratorie

Toys/Children's Products
sharp edges
FHSA
1500.49
Test Manual
Test Laboratories

Toys/Children's Products
sharp points
FHSA
1500.48
Test Manual
Test Laboratories

Toys/Children's Products
painted with lead or containing lead
CPSA
1500.17(a)(6)
Test Manual
Test Laboratories
Guidance for Lead in Consumer Products
Regulatory Summary
Metal Jewelry Enforcement Policy
Metal Jewelry Test Method
Metal Jewelry Health Rationale
US Candy Importers: Lead in Wrappers
Mexican Candy Producers: Lead in Wrappers
Mexican Candy Producers: Version EspaƱol
Lead Testing for Children’s Metal Jewelry FAQ


Please visit www.cpsc.gov for more information. You may contact me should you have questions or concerns.

Regards,


Dollie W. Nicholson

Compliance Officer

dnicholson@cpsc.gov

(301) 504-7603

*****!!! Unless otherwise stated, any views or opinions expressed in this e-mail (and any attachments) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Copies of product recall and product safety information can be sent to you automatically via Internet e-mail, as they are released by CPSC. To subscribe or unsubscribe to this service go to the following web page: https://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx *****!!!
____________________________________________________________________-

Dear Dollie Nicholson,

Thank you for sending me the information. I will not be listing them as toys. I will be selling them as soft sculptured collectibles (fabric sculptures) for adults and teens and specifically informing customers that they are not intended for small children.

It is unreasonable to require a craftsperson, who is not a manufacturer, to pay a lab to have their few handcrafted creations burned. They are very time consuming to make. I only make a few of them and the materials cost me a lot of money. Each animal is made with a different plush so I would essentially make the various animals and pay someone to burn them all up. What kind of sense would that make? These are not samples of hundreds, or thousands, or millions of the same identical animal. They are essentially each unique works of art. I make them using the best materials and only new, pure polyester fiber stuffing. I reinforce all of the stress points and use plastic eyes and noses secured with lock washers inside the animal. I don't attach ribbons or any other small parts. I never put wires or other sharp things inside.

Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me and send me this information. Now I am most interested in knowing what terminology I specifically need to use to disqualify my soft sculptured creations from being tested by fire. What would I need to say in the description that would make it clear that these are not toys? Can you send me links to information about who/what is exempt and how to be exempt? Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Flaming-Martin
__________________________________________________________

Dear Ms. Flaming-Martin:

Stuffed animals are intended for use by children of all ages. This includes children under the age of 3. If you stick a label that states your product is intended for teens and adults, that conflicts with the age labeling guidelines.

Dollie Nicholson


________________________________________________________________________

So, dear readers, I have decided not to sell my lovely handcrafted stuffed animals anymore. I will continue to sell the patterns.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I have been busy making new things!





All of these pieces are for sale in my etsy store, FantasyCreations1. These are just a sample of all of the exciting new pieces I recently finished ans listed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I had fun at the Gem show.



I'm making many new handcrafted jewelry pieces to list in my Etsy and eBay stores. I went to a Gem show here in Portland and bought many beautiful beads. The (dyed) red coral beads and branches are amazing. I have handcarved coral rose beads that I already worked up into a stunning necklace and earrings set. I'll be listing them in FantasyCreations1 on Etsy.
I hope all of my lovely readers are having a great summer. It is hot here. I need to go open some windows, evening has fallen while I was posting comments in threads in the Etsy Forums. Blessings!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Here is another one of my newest additions to my growing Beauty and the Beast Collection


The Unofficial Tale of Beauty and the Beast by Edward Gross. This is a treasure with summaries of all of the first season episodes and interviews and black and white photographs of the cast.

These are photos of the Beauty and the Beast TV show scripts I bought recently

" The Prodigal," written by David Peckinpah, First House Draft Dated August 25, 1988. It is 54 pages long. This script never made it to the screen. It continues the conflict between Mitch and Vincent after Mitch is released to be at his father's side as he dies and then escapes from his guards.... The voices of the characters are so real you can hear the actor's voices through the script.
" Act of Mercy" written by Peter J. Kappesser, First Draft August 18, 1988. It is 56 pages long. This script never made it to the screen. It involves a lion-woman, like Vincent, who grew up in Russia. I hated the ending but the story was engaging and compelling.
"Notes from the Underworld" no author or date is given at all. It is 55 pages long. This script never made it to the screen. This story involves clearing the name of an old man who was blamed for the deaths of his men in a mining accident years before. Vincent risks everything to get the proof that the blame lies with men in power in New York... Even Catherine has to turn her back on him as the "community" sentences Vincent to banishment!


"A fair and Perfect Knight" written by P.K. Simonds, Jr., Directed by Gus Trikonis; Goldenrod paper Nov. 7 1988, (6th=final draft?)
"Labyrinths" Story by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Teleplay by Virginia Aldridge, Directed by Daniel Attias Nov. 30 1988; 7th=Grey draft (final?)
"Remember Love" (Formerly "Touchstone"), Written by Virginia Aldridge, Directed by Victor Lobl; Dated September 20, 1988, Blue draft =8th (final?)
"Ozymandias" Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Frank Beascoechea; First Draft =yellow dated Feb 16, 1988.