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.