How I’m Transforming Our Garage

Good morning!

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (I post in my stories on the weekends that we work on this) you know I’ve been working hard on cleaning up/cleaning out our garage and moving it from just a work space to a more inspiring and “pretty” space, both for me and for my customers.

I’ve been leaning a bit more minimalist in our house lately, pruning away things that I don’t need or use that are just cluttering up my time and my life. That mindset—exactly what it means for my family and I–has been taking shape over the past few months, but it’s been hard to get there when it comes to business stuff. I had so much in the garage that I was saving for a certain project or idea that I was going to get around to “someday” that it was getting in the way of the projects that I was really excited about and really taking away my motivation to create what I really wanted to create.

I had to realize that in the same way I get overwhelmed “at home”, I was also getting overwhelmed “at work”–I had too many possibilities and not enough time or space to get them all done. I had to let things go or I wouldn’t be able to make the progress that I wanted to in my business or in making the garage look the way I wanted it to.

So here’s the big, scary, “before” (it’s actually not as big and scary as it truly was because I took photos way after I initially started. So look at this but imagine it being a lot worse):

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See that gray washed pie crust table in the middle of the photo all the way to the left? This is what the garage looked like when a customer came to pick that one up. Not great, right? I’ve been running into that situation all summer, though, and I really wanted to create a space that I enjoyed more and that would be more inspiring to me and to my customers.

That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle with this move. For a long time, I really wanted a retail space. I was saving for it for awhile, even. Then goals changed a bit, as they do, and that dream got a little farther away from me. But this kind of pushed it’s way in, and then I would lay in bed and think about how much of a step back this dream was from that one. I almost felt embarrassed about it–who has a store in their garage? Who is going to come and shop in my garage that’s freezing half the year and kind of unpleasantly hot the other half? What about torrential downpours, when the roof leaks a tiny bit in that one spot and water soaks into that one corner? Primarily, though, it just looks a little dark and dingy and, well like a garage.

I played around with my Etsy backdrops for a long time, but they were almost all too small for me to take photos of the increasingly larger pieces that I was creating. So the first step on this journey was to throw up some curb find scrap wood and do a white wash over most of it.

 

 

The photo with the shutter shelves looks all right, but obviously this one with the dresser makes it obvious that this solution wasn’t quite what I wanted just yet. Still, it took me probably two years after I first put up this backdrop to upgrade to this (keep in mind, this is just about one half of the north wall of my garage):

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So much better, right? I used 1′ x 6′ common pine boards with a white wash over them. It actually ended up being a couple of different white paints over the course of the whole project, because, as you know, I have paint everywhere (literally in places I didn’t know I had), and most of it is at least half used, so rather than buying new paint, I pretty much just used up what I had. I don’t know about you, but I get a real sense of satisfaction when I get to throw an empty paint can away. I’ll admit, this is kind of strange, but it’s true.

Speaking of paint, I so should have taken pictures of this corner (the one down below) and what it looked like before, because it was an absolute disaster. I basically had these makeshift shelves that were loose boards supported by 2 x 4’s that weren’t exactly even and definitely weren’t that great to look at. Then I found this beauty one night during a particularly fruitful curb shopping trip:

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This has been my paint can corner for a long time, and before the 2 x 4 shelves, there was a metal cabinet there. The latch on that cabinet never worked properly, and so the door was always swinging open and getting in the way, and the shelves on the inside were too narrow for much more than two cans of paint each, so a lot of it was stacked in the bottom and it just wasn’t that convenient (or pretty).

When I found this piece and Dan measured it and discovered that it fit in this space perfectly and had amazing storage, I was pretty much over the moon. Charlotte was also very excited because this thing was filthy, and before I could wash it, it needed to be sprayed down with the hose to get rid of the first layer of grime. Charlotte’s favorite way to help me is by spraying things down with the hose (painting is a very close second). I really wanted to paint this, but I knew I wasn’t selling it, and I’m always hesitant to paint a piece for myself that I know I’m just going to using in the garage. I compromised with myself and used some paint that I didn’t love (obviously not Annie Sloan–I love the color here but not the finish, for my normal pieces, anyway), and it made such a difference:

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There’s something about seeing my paint cans all lined up like this, out in the open but organized and ready to be used, that is really inspiring to me. I don’t feel like I have to clean up before I can start working. There are three shelves hidden underneath, too, where I stashed my boxes of sandpaper, my box of trash bags, some cleaning supplies, and my basket of shop rags–you know, the less inspiring stuff (all of which used to be just out on my workbench, always in the way and never organized).

We had these big light hoods up in the rafters that were leftover from the previous owners:

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Dan did a little poking around in the rafters and discovered that they weren’t hooked up to anything, which makes total sense, since the electrical in our house has always been a scary jungle of wild cords that go nowhere and connect to nothing but are ominously marked “live” and are constantly appearing out of nowhere from places that we thought we’d checked years ago. It’s a real fun circus over here when it comes to potential fire hazards. Anyway, just to be safe, of course, he turned off everything for about an hour and pulled all of these down for me.

In addition to making it a lot more open and less cave-like, I sold the hoods on Facebook later than night, which helped us purchase the next round of common boards for the walls. I love it when that happens.

Back to the north wall. Here’s the before and after:

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I apologize for the second picture being so dark at the back–I’m fighting the shorter days now. I’m also in the process of pricing a window installation back there to let in a lot more light–I’ve always wanted to put another window in for the extra light and also so that I can see and hear Charlotte more easily when she is in the backyard playing.

One of the things that is back there in that very dark corner is this cabinet (it’s probably going to move across the garage and onto the workbench when that wall is done, but I haven’t totally decided that yet):

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I wish I knew more about this piece. It’s super old and handmade, from what I can tell. When I have better light, I’ll take some photos of the inside so you can see the way that the shelves fit in there. Seriously, so cool. I bought it at an estate sale for about $17, which I still can’t believe. It locks, and it seems like it was made to go on top of another piece. I’ve taken it to a few shows and almost sold it a couple of times, but I’ve never been able to get rid of it, and maybe that’s a good thing now. I’m currently using it to store the props and the little things that I use for my Etsy photos, and, like the paint cabinet, it’s really nice to have a place to store these things where I actually enjoy looking at them and can easily find and pull things out.

Previously, they were either scattered all over the garage, stored in random crates, or, most recently, sitting on a shelf all jumbled up and stacked in such a way that I couldn’t really find anything efficiently at all. It’s always felt like a waste to me to put so much time and effort into the space that I’m working in–I could be using all of those resources to work on more pieces–but it’s honestly made such a difference so far, and I’m barely halfway done. I’ve always enjoyed working out in the garage but now that it’s actually pretty and a lot brighter out there, I’m enjoying it so much more. I can’t wait for my window to be installed and to finish up the back wall and I’m so excited to take the final photos and share how my Christmas sale went with you!


How do you feel about your work space? And does anyone else out there sell out of their garage? I’d love to see your photos! Let’s connect in the comments.

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

Goal update!

Good morning!

I have to say that our whole “word of the year” (mortgage) thing is already way more effective than any resolution that I’ve ever made. I won’t say that it’s been smooth sailing during this first quarter of the year, but it has definitely helped us stay on track and say “no” to things that don’t move us towards our goals.

The biggest roadblock we hit was a medical thing that came up in February. Charlotte had had recurring ear infections since last December, and the pediatrician finally decided that it was time to send her to the ENT after they’d tried several rounds of antibiotics. Sadface. That lead to her having to get tubes put in her ears. Double sadface.

They did the surgery in early March and everything went great. We put our goal on hold and saved everything we could to try and avoid dipping into our emergency fund to cover our portion of the expenses. When I got the bill in the mail I was a little nervous to open it just in case we hadn’t saved enough, but we had saved almost exactly what we needed! We ended up having $100 left over to throw on the mortgage in April. I was so thankful that we were able to cash flow this “emergency” (which never felt like an emergency because we had a plan and we worked it) in one month, plus celebrate Charlotte’s birthday and prepare for Easter. It’s one of the most amazing feelings that we’ve ever had.

So here’s a recap of my first quarter goals, how they went, and how I’m moving forward into next quarter.

Goal #1: No spend January (I did this again in April–for the most part)

Recap of January:

I made it my goal not to shop for the business at all, and it yielded some decent returns.

You might remember my heart banners:

 

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These did pretty well at shows and in my shop. I kept on experimenting and looking forward, and created a bunny version for Easter that did even better. It is still selling for baby showers and nurseries! This was one of the things that I really wanted to come out of my no spend month–expanding my vision and therefore my product line.

Another side effect of not shopping in January was that I scoured the garage and the basement for vintage pieces that I had never cleaned, photographed, finished listing, etc., and actually sold a lot of pieces that I had previously been reluctant to list. This was super exciting as well–I have a tendency to buy something in the moment, decide it isn’t right for my shop, think about getting rid of it, and then ultimately hold onto it because I might “need it someday.” My no spend month helped me get over that a little bit.

For April:

I shopped a little bit, but mostly for new inventory. I found an amazing estate sale at the end of the month right in Rochester, and got some great pieces for my Etsy shop. My struggle last month was definitely the weather–by mid-April last year I had a huge pile of stuff going in the garage already for my late April shows, but no such luck this year. It was STILL snowing here in the middle of the month and I was stacking pieces all over the house in an attempt to still get work done and keep from freezing to death out in the garage.

I did get one or two warm days where I was able to get a new display piece finished using a bunch of stuff that I had laying around, so that was good.

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

My goal was 200 listings by February 15–I didn’t actually keep track of when I met it, but I know it was later than that. The good news is that I’m there now, right?

I’m around 220 listings now and listing consistently really brought up my sales in March, which was officially my best month ever! I hit 900 sales and was able to save almost everything we needed for the tubes, which was super amazing.

For April:

Obviously my next goal is to make it to 300, but I don’t know if that will happen for this quarter. My more realistic goal is about 260, but we’ll see how it goes. I think one of the biggest things that has come out of my devotion to consistently posting new listings has been a big increase in sales.

The increase in activity in my shop has led to me making my biggest sales goal yet for my business in April (factoring in two shows, Facebook sales and Etsy sales), and the Richmond show put me beyond my target for the month, which was really exciting. The business part of things used to be really frustrating and time consuming for me because all I wanted to do was create things, but over the past few months I’ve actually begun to enjoy it a lot more, and I think it’s because I’m setting hard targets and then watching as I get really close or even beyond them each month.

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

I haven’t decided on the co-op yet. We tried a spring Junior League show at the Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township at the beginning of March, and it was really disappointing for a lot of reasons, none of which I want to get into right now. Maybe I’ll do a post on it if I can figure out whether it would be worth it or not.

It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to newer Goal Digger podcast episodes though I still refer back to a lot of her early ones. I’m still loving Allie Casazza’s “The Purpose Show“–there was an amazing episode about perfectionism a few weeks ago that I’ve already listened to about 3 times. I’ve also started listening to Christy Wright’s “Business Boutique” podcast, after attending a one-day event in Grand Rapids two weeks ago. I want to do a quick post about that as soon as I’m done digesting all the great information I got.

So far, my favorite books have been Fervent and Missional Motherhood…both focused, obviously, more on faith and family than on business, but it’s all connected, right?

I’ve still been getting most of my planning, writing, and Rochester College work done in the mornings or while Charlotte is at preschool, though I’ve been sprinkling in walks with my dog and a little bit of working out, too. Starting off my day with nothing but a cup of coffee hasn’t been super effective with helping me maintain energy throughout the day (go figure, right?) so adding some physical activity has been super helpful with that. Plus, I’m super unlikely to fit that in at the end of the day…


How are your 2018 goals going? I’d love to hear about them!

 

#metrodetroitmaker Goals for 2018

Good morning girl bosses!

I love this time of year! My slow time of the year corresponds with the New Year, which makes it the perfect time for setting goals, building up inventory, and plotting out how I want the year to go (which also means planning the shows I want to do).

Yes, I said, “setting goals” not “making resolutions.” The thing I don’t like about resolutions is that they often become more like wishes rather than achievable goals. I have no idea what my New Year’s resolution was last year. I probably didn’t make one. But I also didn’t have a focus for the year like I have for this year. Wanna hear what it is?

Mortgage.

Let me back up a little. This post will eventually get around to my business goals for the year, but first I want to give you a little background on what’s going on with us and our personal goals for our lives (it’ll all make sense eventually).

When I started this business, it was to help with our debt snowball. For more on that, hop on over to Dave Ramsey’s website. His stuff is gold if you’re really ready to buckle down and tackle your finances like an adult. If you’re not into delaying gratification, driving an old car, and pretty much never eating out while you’re working his plan, you’ll probably want to stay away.

We’ve been out of debt for about two years now, and our next step has been to tackle our mortgage, but we haven’t been pounding on it like we should be. The reason is partially because I stopped paying us out what I had been so that I could build up the business a bit more—you know, investing in a better camera, a design for the shop, fancy business cards, lots of shows, etc. etc. For a little while, I was toying with the idea of really bulking up my business savings so that I could invest in renting a retail space of my own.

Fast forward to last month, when Dan and I were thinking about and planning for 2018 and doing our budget for the year (yes, the whole year. I’m a huge nerd. I can’t live without that kind of structure).

I had already decided that I wanted to pick a word for the year, and I told Dan about the idea. Looking at our budget at the priorities that we had, it was pretty easy to decide on our word.

We have an aggressive goal of paying down 33% of our mortgage by the end of this year. I say it’s aggressive because the income from my teaching job plus the set amount from Dan’s income that we’ve decided to dedicate to the mortgage will only cover about 18% as it sits right now, which means my business has to contribute an additional 15%. That’s a lot, but I know that I can do it if I stay on pace with what my business produced last year (here’s hoping that I can surpass it and contribute even more).

So how does that affect my goals for 2018?

So glad you asked.

I want to start with my goals for this quarter, which I hope to transition into each quarter (with some tweaks) as the year goes on.

Goal #1: No spend January.

That’s right. I have vowed not to darken the doors of JoAnn’s, Hobby Lobby, or my cluster of beloved thrift stores this month. AT ALL.

I’ll give you a minute to recover.

I’ll admit, this is hard for me. I get a lot of inspiration and creative energy from these places, not to mention materials for my pieces. But you know what else I get? A lot of stuff that I don’t even remember purchasing! Good stuff. Stuff that I could really use.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m spending my January creating pieces that I already have the materials for, and I have plenty—wreath forms, felt, fabric remnants, paint, furniture, wood scraps, card stock, notions, ribbon, dowels….the list goes on. And you know what else I have a lot of? Half started projects that I never got around to finishing! I have nine dowel lengths painted and ready to be made into fairy wands. I have at least twenty (and probably more) tea wallets already cut out and ready to iron and sew. I have a telephone bench that needs to be painted. I have a wire wreath form spray painted gold and waiting for some felt flowers. I have felt flowers that are all cut out and waiting to be put together. The list goes on and on.

And do I need to go to JoAnn’s in order to complete any of these pieces? No, I don’t.

Not only will I save time and money by not visiting these stores, but I will also be decluttering my work spaces by using up materials that I already have laying around! Just this past week I finished two pillows (the forms have been sitting there for at least 6 months) and several linen heart banners for Valentine’s day from leftover fabric from over a year ago:

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It’s already the 15th, and I’m feeling the withdrawals and trying to convince myself that the excuses I’m coming up with to head to the craft store are actually really good reasons for me to break my vows and buy a bunch of new stuff. So far, I’ve been able to resist, and I’m putting a lot of obstacles in my own way by making sure that I always have a project in my face that needs to be completed.

One side effect of this experiment that I didn’t anticipate was that my creativity has been engaged in a different way than it has been lately–by forcing myself to use only materials that I have, I’ve been seeing the items in my basement and garage in a whole new light, and seeing new ways to use materials without even having to browse Pinterest for inspiration. It’s been fabulous, and I can’t wait to share more of the pieces I’ve been creating lately!

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

As I’m going through bins and boxes of materials and pieces that I’ve purchased for one project or another, I’m discovering some amazing things that I no longer need but are going to be great additions to my shop. As of writing this post, I have 113 listings in my shop, and I’m on a mission to get to 200 by the middle of February (that’s about 2.8 listings/day, which is more aggressive than I’ve ever been in the past. The number one thing that I’ve found that consistently drives people to my Etsy shop is consistent postings, so this is a really good goal for me, and one that I actually have time for right now!

Stocking my shop is always on my radar, but during slow times when I’m at least a month out from my new craft show I can really buckle down and focus on getting as much new inventory photographed and ready as possible.

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

This one is still developing. There are at least three new shows that I’m planning to apply to this quarter, and I’m also toying with the idea of renting some space inside a larger co-op type store. There are several places where I’ve thought about doing this in the past, but now there’s a new place opening in downtown Rochester, and that is almost too close not to make it worth it.

I’m still an avid Goal Digger podcast listener, and I’ve recently added The Purpose Show to my playlist, as my new podcast material. It’s a little more focused on motherhood than on small business and goals, but it’s a nice way to round myself out and make sure that I’m focusing on my family and not just on my business for the better part of the day.

I also want to add a few books to my reading list for this year that have to do with my business, and I’m hoping to start with Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I haven’t come across any other business related books for the list yet, though I have TONS of fiction books that I’m hoping to get into this year.

I’m also shaking up my morning routine (I’m just now getting back into my routine of heading to Starbucks at 5 a.m. on non-preschool mornings) by adding morning pages to at least a couple of my mornings each week. I typically brain dump into my planner each week, but my planner is a bit tight on space, and my brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish which is a little overwhelming for those neat little lines and boxes. I’m hoping that doing a massive dump will help me to streamline so that I don’t overwhelm my poor little planner.


What are your goals for 2018, both personal and business related? Do they overlap at all? I’m hoping to get some of my fire back with a solid goal that will really affect our family’s life going forward into the next two years. When I started this business, that fire was there, and it fueled some major growth!

I’d love to hear from you about some of your strategies for a productive year, month, and week, too! Do you bullet journal? Use a planner? Do morning pages? How do you release all that extra “stuff” from your brain so that you can be free to concentrate fully on the most important tasks for your week?

Here’s hoping to a wonderful January and an even better 2018! Get your goals on, girl bosses!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Christina’s October Barn Wedding

I’m going to let everyone in on another secret. I love weddings! Everything about them. The food, the dancing, the getting to see friends and family, the celebration of love, the kids running around—and family weddings are my absolute favorite. Since I started dating Dan, it seems like we’ve been to a bazillion weddings (there are almost 30 first cousins), and every one of them has been perfect.

Christina’s wedding was especially perfect because I got to be along for most of the planning and preparation ride—she basically gave me her wish list, a small budget, and creative license to handle the entire venue set up. Her wedding board was full of ideas for the reception she planned at an awesome barn venue on the other side of the state, and from the minute I saw it I knew it would be a favorite fall project, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

July was wine bottle month—I had them soaking in my driveway, drying in the sun on my deck, scattered across the kitchen in various states of first coat, second coat, and wax, and then packed into bins to be taken back to Paw Paw intermittently throughout the summer.

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Christina’s colors were pink, white, and gray, and I did all the wine bottles (95 to be exact) in those colors using some Annie Sloan Old White and some leftover Wise Owl chalk paint I had in Petal and Gray Linen. It took two coats of paint to get the bottles fully covered. I probably didn’t have to wax them, but I wanted them to be as durable as possible, especially since we were transporting them back and forth across the state, so I figured the wax wouldn’t hurt, and it would have time to cure over the summer so that we could keep the paint chipping to a minimum (though Chrissy said she didn’t mind the shabby look).

After several thoughts about the base of the centerpiece, we decided to go with simple barn wood squares and slabs to tie in with the venue and keep everything unified (we debated using vintage mirrored trays, wood slices, and fabric squares, but the barn wood went best with the rest of the décor).

Once the wine bottles were well underway, I started to work on the guest book idea. Christina wanted an alternative to the traditional guest book in the form of an art piece that she could hang in her living room or master bedroom. Since her husband has two children, she didn’t want to leave them out by doing a piece that featured only her and Jabin, so she opted to have me do a piece that featured their family’s last initial. Again, I used ideas that she pinned to her board or sent me on Facebook (we had to communicate a lot that way since we are 2.5 hours apart!). A lot of the ideas we saw had a dark wood stain—I suggested going with a gray wash since that would work better with the color scheme of the wedding and the color palette in her house. I used a gray Minwax stain, a 28” x 28” piece of pine, and cutouts of the letter “Q” and hearts to get the design right before I started painting.

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These are the little things I work on at night when I’m watching TV with Dan. It’s pretty bad…I almost can’t just sit on the couch without having something to do with my hands, unless it’s a brand new episode of Game of Thrones, or a crucial play in a Patriots game. Everything else we watch, I have to multitask during.

I took advantage of a sale and a 20% purchase coupon at Joann’s to buy a ton of wood slices for the table numbers, then painted them with chalkboard paint and drew all the numbers on them ahead of time, since I wanted to save as much time as I could ahead of the actual wedding day.

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Christina also needed a card box, so I transformed this radio shell that I’ve had sitting around my garage for about a million years (I’m really into hyperbole in this post, I guess). I’m going to do a whole post about this project, so I’ll just do a quick before and after photo for you here, and you can look for the detailed post later this month. This was a project that I’d had in my head for about as long as I’d had the radio–I just needed the perfect excuse to work on it!

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The rest of what I used was all things I had sitting around my garage—crates, barrels, chalkboard signs, an old ladder—basically, anything rustic and barn-y looking that I had I crammed into the back of my van the morning we set out for the hotel. I also brought along the elements that I needed for Beth’s baby shower as well, since that was happening that night (Friday). Another thing about having a big family is that there are always a bunch of things going on at once–I can’t remember a year where there hasn’t been at least one baby or one wedding, though there are usually both, and multiples of each, and so we often celebrate multiple occasions when we get together. Beth’s baby shower was an adorable woodland theme–I’ll have a post up about that event soon, too!

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Friday night after the shower we spent a few hours getting the flowers ready—boutonnieres for all of the groomsmen, baby’s breath bouquets for the girls, and roses and baby’s breath for Christina. We also made a little bouquet for their daughter, Taylor. I had fun doing the bouquets, but I won’t claim to be an expert, and I didn’t take any photos of the process, shockingly enough….the only other time I’ve done bouquets was for my sister’s wedding a few years ago, so I felt a little bit rusty. The last one was probably the most beautiful…I always feel like my first few tries are a bit of a train wreck.

We only had a few hours to prep at the barn, so I brought along as many aunts and cousins as I could find, and Christina sent a few friends to help as well. The venue, MillCreek Wilde was a little smaller than I had pictured, since I’d only seen it in the photos on their website, and as we were unloading, I was trying to mentally check off all the things that I’d brought and sort out what we needed and what we wouldn’t have room for.

**While you’re over on their website, because you know you clicked that link, can we just take a moment to gush over the bridal studio? When I walked in there before all the girls arrived, I was like, whoa. Amazing. I want that exact thing in my backyard. I would spend all my time in there. Give it to me now.

The biggest thing was prepping the tables, so we started there. Tablecloths were steamed, barn wood was set, wine bottles with baby’s breath were placed, and table numbers were assigned according to the seating chart.

Christina and her mom, Carol, did this really cool thing along one wall of the reception area where they had us hang all the wedding photos of all the family members that they could get their hands on—just the couples, and it was really sweet. With such a huge family, they had no problem covering the wall with the photos, and it was one of the biggest things that guests commented on—they’d never seen anyone do that before and it was a really special thing to see.

One of the biggest challenges of the day was the head table. I’d brought a bunch of mismatched linens with me, along with bunting and little cheese boxes and a cute DIY’ed Mr. and Mrs. banner, but, because of the weather, the ceremony was moved indoors, which meant that the reception area was also the ceremony area and the head table couldn’t be put together until AFTER the ceremony—about a half an hour before the dinner would be served (which also means that I didn’t get a good photo of the head table, so don’t be surprised when you don’t see it).

Luckily, the head table was made up of four or five rustic farmhouse style tables that were stained dark and whitewashed slightly, and they didn’t really need a lot of dressing up. After the ceremony, I threw the biggest lace tablecloth that I have (it used to belong to my grandmother) over the center of the table on a diagonal, pinned the banner across the front, and then scattered my rose and baby’s breath chees boxes along the front, using the bridesmaid’s bouquets to add a little more interest here and there.

We ended up having about a million extra wine bottles, so I used them everywhere I could—I stuck them in the bathroom, along the stage by the dance floor, by the windows, on the dessert tables—all the extra ones really helped tie the whole thing together. By far, I’d spent the most time getting all those bottles ready, so I was going to use them all!!

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Weddings are the best, don’t you agree?

Talk soon,

Jess

 

Craft Show Review: Ray Township Fall Festival in Ray Township, MI

Good morning friends!

I have been having a wonderful and relaxing past few weeks—I know I should really be gearing up for the winter, but it’s always hard to keep going full force once the school year begins and I’m back at Rochester College—even with reduced hours. I’m only teaching my creative writing workshop this semester, and I really couldn’t be happier. It was a struggle for me to turn down part of the schedule that I was offered, but it’s turned out to be the best thing about my fall.

After Junkstock, I didn’t have anything planned until the first weekend of October, but when we were in Richmond someone came by our booth to invite us to the Ray Township Fall Festival. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but she also happened to mention that the event was free.

That, of course, made me take a closer look. What gave me the most pause about the show was that the hours were 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and we usually have more luck selling in the early part of the day. I was nervous that we’d drive out there, set up, and then listen to crickets for four hours. I guess the reason for the later hours was that the organizers also run a farmer’s market in the early part of the day, so there was a conflict doing the festival in the morning.

I didn’t end up signing up to do the show until a few days before, but I’m glad I did. It was a relaxing event, it wasn’t too far away, and we did decent business. I also actually got some work done, so it was a win-win-win.

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Price: When I heard that the show was free, I thought two things (besides “how awesome!”):

  1. This must be the first event of this kind.
  2. They probably aren’t expecting a big turnout.

Even with those potential negatives, however, my mom still really wanted to give it a try, and since the weather was so nice and we already don’t mind driving out to that area, we decided to go for it.

I guess there’s not much else to say about the price–free is free, right?

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Location: The event was held at the Ray Township Hall and Park, and it was really a lovely little spot just north of Wolcott Mill (one of my favorite fall destinations). It’s about a half hour from my mom’s house, and forty-five minutes from mine, but again, I love driving in the country, so that’s really not a downside for me. We also really like this area because we spent a lot of time out here as a family when we were little, and because my brother and sister-in-law live out here now. It’s a really pretty part of southeast MI.

The park had a walking path and some wooded trails, which I walked a bit during the 5 o’clock hour. The event also boasted live music—the band kept busy doing covers of mostly 60’s hits, which was fun, and they had pumpkin decorating for the kids and an array of vendors that were mostly farmer’s market type things. There were also some clothing booths and Big Time, Bag Time— my mom met these ladies back in the summer at a one-day Frontier Town event and they are super sweet (and happened to be our neighbors for this show, which was fun).

 

Traffic: Nothing really started happening until after four, and then we had a few sales between four and six. We made a grand total of $50, which wasn’t bad for a free show.

Overall, traffic was slow, but steady, especially from four until six. There were a lot of folks there with their kids, getting faces and pumpkins painted and playing on the playgrounds. They had a food truck and a coffee truck, which drew in a lot of people, and probably the final number of attendees was around 200 or so.

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I managed, for the first time since 2015, probably, to get quite a few projects done during the show:

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I always go back and forth about whether to work during a show—sometimes it’s really distracting for me, and I want to just focus on the piece and not stop to talk to customers. On the other hand, sometimes they just want to stand there and watch, which means they stay in the booth longer, which means they have a greater likelihood of making a purchase.

Because they let us leave our cars parked right behind our booth setup, it worked out really well for me to get some work done that I could then just stash back in the car. We set up a blanket behind the booth and hung out back there for most of the night:

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Another great thing about this show was that it gave me a chance to work on a new display for my MI signs:

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I’ve struggled with how to display these for a while—when I first started making them, they sold really well just out in crates on the ground, but lately, people haven’t been noticing them as much (or maybe the market is just so saturated now with MI products—it’s probably a bit of both).

Dan pulled these closet doors out of the trash on our street for me a little over two years ago, and they’ve been sitting in the garage ever since. He actually recognized them when I brought him out to look at the new display the other morning.

I’m especially happy to have that out of the way and ready for the show next weekend—it’s one less thing I have to do to get ready for The Vintage Market.

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The event was put on by the Bruce Township North End Market, which, again, hosts a weekly farmer’s market every Saturday in Romeo. They invited us to come on Saturdays through October, but I think we are busy every weekend, sadly. Apparently, it’s been free all year and the other vendors that have been doing it say it’s been working out well. They don’t just have farmer’s market items, either–she said they accept a variety of vendors and items.

The Ray Township show also gave me a chance to set up and play around with the display for next weekend in my head a little bit—I have a few good ideas for how I want to set up that booth since it’s a two-day event and I put a little more time/effort into designing the booth.

Have you ever done a last minute event just because it was free or really, really cheap? How did it go? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Meet Your Maker: An Interview with Emma Carley from By Emma, With Love

Good morning girl bosses! Today I’m so pleased to introduce you to Emma Carley, a fellow girl boss from the twin cities and a dear Instagram friend, in a post that is part Meet Your Maker and part craft show review, plus a lot of fun.

Since I’m on a quick break from craft shows for the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun to share Emma’s thoughts and advice with you today, since she just finished her very first in person event two weekends ago.

Emma runs her Etsy shop and website By Emma, With Love, and when she was prepping for her first show, I happened to see a post or two on Instagram about it. I wanted to reach out and share my blog with her in case, by some chance, there was anything that might be even remotely valuable to her, and she generously offered to do a quick interview about her very first event, which is super exciting to me for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s been so long since my first event that I have a hard time tapping into what it was like to make that leap, and I want to be able to serve girl bosses in the early stages of their business and craft show career, as well as those who have been doing this for a while.

The second reason that I’m excited to introduce you to Emma is that I’m seriously so impressed by the time and effort that she put into making her very first event so successful. Seriously, I don’t know how her booth looks this amazing, and I am so, so glad that I don’t have pictures from my first event, which was a hot mess, friends. After 50+ shows, I still haven’t got my set-up totally figured out, so the fact that this is her very first show and her booth looks this incredible blows me away.

*All photo credits to Emma Carley.

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Without further ado, Emma Carley from By Emma, With Love:

#mdm: How did you make the decision to do your very first show?

We live in a very small town, and our neighbor is on the city council and happened to be the organizer of the vendors for our local town festival. She knows about my blog and Etsy shop, so she approached me and asked if I’d be interested in having a booth. I hadn’t really thought about it before, since typically I only make a couple pieces at a time, and do mostly custom orders for people, but I was immediately intrigued!! I decided it would be a great opportunity to build up a product inventory, get my name out there and hopefully build my little business a bit!

#mdm: What specific things did you do to prepare? What ended up being the most important thing you did to prepare?

I realized that there were so many logistical things that needed to be done for a physical sale versus my online business. I had business cards made, got set up with a Square card reader, bought tags, bags, receipts, and all the other business-type things that I would need. It was actually a great motivator to put some time into the more tedious and less creative aspects of my business!

#mdm: How did you go about putting your booth together? Did you practice beforehand? Design specific elements for display? Did you booth end up how you envisioned it?

I definitely had a picture in my head of how I wanted my booth to look, but had to get a bit creative since I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on the display. I set it all up in my dining room the week leading up to the show, and took pictures of it, so that when it came time to set up at the show I was able to quickly put everything in the right place.

I’m especially proud of the display wall I made out of a few plywood panels and some extra paint I had lying around – we don’t have a pickup truck, just a small SUV, so I knew that I’d have to get a bit creative with my display. I was able to design two walls that easily fold down and fit in the back of my SUV, which worked perfectly! I also used fabric buntings that I had leftover from my wedding to beautify the wall and my whole booth a little bit, which ended up being perfect for my branding and display.

I found a $15 spool table at Goodwill, and an adorable vintage folding table on Craigslist that also fit nicely in my car and worked perfectly with the aesthetic of my booth. It all ended up coming together really well, and I’m super proud of my booth display!

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I’d say she deserves to be proud about this booth!! It’s fabulous!

#mdm: Tell us about the show!

The show was a bit of a hybrid for our town festival – it was outside right on the downtown strip, and was equal parts antique car show, food trucks, craft fair, and small shop displays. A lot of the other booths were very different from mine (think LulaRoe, Pampered Chef, essential oils, jewelry, etc.) which was nice since I wasn’t really competing with anyone selling similar items. I had a 10×10 space, so I invested in a 10×10 pop-up canopy, and was responsible for bringing everything for the display myself. The downtown spot I reserved was $40, which was super reasonable!

The hours of the sale were 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., but we definitely had a slow start to the day. It was actually pretty discouraging for awhile, since very few people even stopped by the booth, let alone bought anything. I didn’t have any real customers until about 11, but then it got very busy, very fast! Most of my sales happened between 11 and 2.

#mdm: What were you surprised by?

The amount I sold!! I didn’t have a huge inventory going in: I made around 30 signs, and also had 10 mugs, a couple decorative trays, and a bunch of keychains that I made as mostly just a bonus. I went in to the sale with a very realistic approach – our town demographic, especially for a car show, isn’t necessarily my demographic, so I really didn’t know how much interest I would get. I also haven’t sold at a show before, so I saw this opportunity as a chance for exposure and research more than anything, to see what people liked most and what I should make more of.

I was pleasantly surprised! I sold around half of my inventory, and also got a lot of interest for custom orders and even from a couple local shop owners who want to buy some of my products for their stores.

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#mdm: What was the most important thing that you learned from doing your first show?

You have to know your demographic! Since I haven’t done a show before, I made a little bit of everything: a lot of cute home type signs, a few coffee and wine-related signs (of course), and some local-focused signs (Minnesota and Wisconsin art, signs about river towns, etc.). Without a doubt, my location related products sold the best. I actually had two people buy signs that were unfinished that I brought to work on during the day, and finished them while the customers were shopping!

I also definitely learned the importance of authenticity. I know that when I’m at a show as a customer, nothing turns me away from a booth faster than an over-eager or “salesy” shop owner. Instead, I tried to have very authentic conversations with the customers, and I think that’s probably the reason for my success.

#mdm: How do you think in-person events will factor into your business plan in the future?

I was approached a couple weeks ago from an event organizer who asked me to sell at an event at an apple orchard at the end of September. Since I already have my display arranged, and I figured I’d have leftover inventory from this show, I said yes!

In general, though, I’m not sure how many shows I’ll do. I definitely loved getting the face-to-face contact with customers, and it was really fun to set up a display, but it was also a ton of work, and between school, my blog, my Etsy site and my weekend wedding job, it took over my life for a little bit. I’ll probably keep shows on the back burner for now, as a mostly summertime way to supplement my online business and get some exposure and feedback.

In general, though, I’m definitely open to and hoping for more selling experiences!

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#mdm: What else can you tell the readers about doing an event for the first time? Do you have any advice? Insight? Encouragement?

If you’re not sure if you’re quite ready, take the leap and try it out! It’s a great way to push yourself past your comfort zone a little bit, and gain business experience and make connections. I think my biggest insight was that you never know exactly what you’re going to get at your first event. Going in as prepared as possible and with an open mind will ensure that you have the best experience possible. Also, keeping realistic expectations helps keep you from being discouraged. I went into the show simply hoping to meet some local people, get exposure for my business, see what people liked and hopefully make a little bit of money, so the sales I made exceeded my expectations. Now I know a little better how to prepare for my next show, which is so valuable.

One of the things I did during the show that ended up being really successful was bringing a couple unfinished pieces to the show with me to work on during slow times. It was mostly just out of necessity, since I hadn’t had time to finish them all in time, but I actually ended up selling two pieces before they were finished because customers saw me working on them, and wanted the finished product! If it’s possible for your business, working on one of your pieces during the show is a way to show your customers the handmade nature of the product, and they can see how much time and effort you put into each and every piece. It was also a great conversation starter!

Another of my concerns going into the show was that no one would like my stuff – putting your own artwork that you’ve put so much of yourself into on display is nerve-wracking and a bit scary, and I was nervous that I’d get criticism or at least indifference. Luckily, the people who stopped my my booth were all incredibly kind and supportive, and it reminded me that we’re all our own worst critic! If you make a product that is high-quality, and you have authentic interactions with your customers, you’ll have a great experience and also hopefully make some money!

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Isn’t she the best? Girls, I think Emma’s advice is so valuable, and the amount of effort that she put into her booth display is still so impressive to me for a very first show! I was definitely not this aware of my brand/image when I started doing this!

I know we can all also relate to the fact that we have so many demands on our time, that doing these events takes over our lives for a bit! Between creating new inventory, stocking up on things like bags, tags, and display pieces, and planning how you’re going to get all that stuff to the actual event, who has time for real life, “real” jobs, and necessities like laundry and cooking dinner? I know I don’t. Planning ahead and getting the prep work done a little at a time is definitely essential.

Is there anyone else out there who recently did her very first event? How did it go? And for those of you who started a long time ago (like, before Pinterest was really a thing and there were basically no resources), how does your very first event compare with Emma’s? Are you ladies as blown away as I am?

A huge thank you and congrats to Emma for sharing this awesome experience with us! Here’s where you can connect with her online on her Instagram, blog, and Etsy shop, since we are a little bit far apart in real life.

Until next time friends!

Talk soon,

Jessie

DIY Vintage Suitcase Craft Show Display Piece

Hey friends! I’ve had so much fun with this series, and I want to shift just a little today to talk about a recent display piece that I finished for my craft show booths, upcycled from a vintage suitcase. Still in the vein of craft show how-to’s, but a little more specific, I suppose. Booth design seems like it should be a huge thing for me, but I struggle with it, especially with all of my big pieces. I just want to paint furniture and throw it in the booth (and then carry it back out)–and I don’t always think carefully about my booth or table design. I’m always trying to get better, though, and designing small elements like this suitcase display is one of them.

I’ve talked a lot about how I hate having little pieces scattered all over my furniture, and this summer I’ve been trying hard to come up with unique ways to display my smaller items so that the furniture in my booth doesn’t have to serve as a prop for my other pieces.

I really like the way that this piece helped to showcase some of my smaller items, and I’ve been positioning it right at the back of my tent in an effort to draw customers into my booth and get a conversation going. People almost always ask about the journal covers once they’ve noticed them, and it’s fun to talk about how much I love books and creating art out of old, forgotten ones. It’s rare for me to pass up a bookshelf at an estate sale without at least looking it over, and I’m a huge sucker for antique books.

It’s been a while since I’ve created a piece specifically for display—in fact I want to say that the last one I designed was almost four years ago, when I first started doing shows. I didn’t build that one—my brother did—but it was a tall lattice frame that we used to hang wreaths and signs on. I can’t remember when we stopped using it, but it might be time to figure out how to get that piece back in the rotation. I’d love to be able to display my MI signs more effectively.

Anyway, on to the DIY vintage suitcase display:

 

I picked up this handmade wooden suitcase at a killer estate sale in my mom’s neighborhood earlier this summer, and I had it for sale at a couple of vintage markets before I decided that I was going to keep it and use it for something awesome. The display I created with it worked out really well at Sterlingfest, and I was super excited for how I’d be able to use it for the rest of the year’s events, as well.

There are several small items that I make using upcycled vintage books, and I’ve been wanting to showcase them somehow for a while now, so I went in that direction with this display piece. I wanted to try and get my keychains, necklaces, journal covers, and coasters all in one spot.

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This suitcase looked like it was made in shop class or something, by M. W. H. in 1977. I was going to paint the whole thing, but I didn’t really want to cover this up, because it feels kind of special to me, and no one is really going to see this side of the display anyway. So I left the outside as is. The inside still needed to be painted eventually—I wanted it to be bright and clean so that my items would really stand out against a neutral backdrop.

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The first thing I did was attach some hooks to the top of the skinny side and to the top of an old chalkboard sign I had left over from a baby shower I styled last year. I would have just painted a chalkboard section on the inside of the suitcase lid, but it wouldn’t have been smooth enough, because the top and bottom of the suitcase was made from an old piece of paneling or something, and it has these deep grooves in it:

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I almost rethought this project when I realized that my original vision for the chalkboard section wouldn’t work, but I actually really like the fact that the chalkboard sign is a separate thing. I think it adds a little more dimension to the piece, and it’s a lot easier to change the wording of the sign mid-show if I never need to if I can just unhook the sign and leave the rest of the display set up. If the chalkboard was painted on the back of the actual suitcase, it would be a lot more awkward to try and change it (with any kind of legible writing) without laying the whole thing down flat and totally disrupting the booth.

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I put another row of hooks in a line under the chalkboard sign for the key chains and necklaces. The paneling was pretty thin, so I just screwed them in by hand. The first few poked through the front of the suitcase, so I had to feel out how far to put them in without pushing through to the other side every time. I didn’t use a ruler or anything to make the line of hooks perfectly straight, which I probably should have done, but hey, nothing’s perfect, right?

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On the deeper side, I knew I wanted to do a shelf for some of the coasters at the top, and then leave the bottom for the journal covers. I didn’t buy anything special to make the shelf—I just used a scrap piece of molding that I had sitting around on my workbench. I put a couple of screws in from the sides for that, and then I was pretty much done with putting it together the way I wanted it.

The inside needed a few coats of Old White in order to be fully covered, so that took a couple of days to dry. My garage was so full of furniture ready for Sterlingfest that I couldn’t really work on big pieces anyway, so I had to spend my time getting little things ready. I was also working like crazy on my fairy wands, if you remember.

Here’s the photo of my completed and stocked DIY Vintage Suitcase Display:

upcycled suitcase boutique display

During shows, I also prop a second chalkboard under the key chains with the individual prices of these pieces, since I don’t usually bother to tag all of my smaller items, and I add two more hooks on either edge of the inside lid for the necklaces, since the chains for those are too long to hang on the same hooks as the key rings.

I love making the vintage dictionary coasters using the large engravings of insects, flowers, and plants, but I never sell as many of those as I do the Michigan map coasters—I don’t think I’ve ever done an event where I haven’t sold out of those. I’m always on the lookout for vintage and MI maps when I go to estate sales—just another one of my obsessions, I guess.

This piece is ideal for almost everything except the coasters–that top shelf is just too small to hold anything other than two sets, so I still end up having to pile the coasters around the bottom and to the side of the display, which is mostly fine. I’m almost to the bottom of my current box of tiles, so maybe once my current inventory runs out, I’ll take a break from making them for a while so that I can figure out a better display.

Thanks for reading, friends! Have a great weekend!

Talk soon,

Jessie