A Simple Rhino Tale

It started as a simple craft done at the kitchen table.  The kids had been given this gingerbread man cutout that was laminated so they could bring it home and trace it, play with it, make more gingerbread men…You get the idea.  But this made them want to make other shapes that they then traced and colored, like the gingerbread man.  There came from this simple day of play, a collection of rhinos.  Large and small, bright and bold, with fierce horns, and bowed heads.  Some even had two heads…one on each side!  (Just to represent the monstrous side of things!!)  They were so precious.  The kids cut them out, colored them, and turned them into puppets with popsicle sticks.  Like many things born in this way, they were all too soon forgotten, having fallen under the table, or stuck behind a chair, and they were no longer interested in playing with them.  That is when my inspiration struck!  IMG_5970

You see, I had been experimenting with fabric design, and playing around with my own doodles for a couple of weeks, trying to get the hang of the graphic nature of online fabric design.  In a moment of brilliance, I saw these sweet, disregarded rhinos for what they were…Complete and total inspiration!   My kids might have been finished with them, but I was only getting started.  I deconstructed the popsicle stick version, and layed them out on a white surface to photograph, and the rest is history.  I now have a collection of ten or so fabric designs, all featuring the rhino stick puppet cut outs.  I love them.  When I look at them, I am instantly happy, rejuvenated, and transported back to that magical day.  I know it was a magical day because I have tried over and over to recreate the experience with no luck whatsoever.  They can tell I am onto them now, and like the tap-dancing, singing frog, they just sit there and ribbit at me when I suggest in my most cheerful voice, “Who wants to make some stick puppets with a new animal today!?”  I IMG_3911know it will come back around one day, but for now, I am utterly smitten and happy with our little rhino collection.
Each time an item sells with the fabric they helped design, I tell them about it, and give them a little cash for their piggy banks.  It has become a source of pride and joy for them to see their drawings made into something lasting and tangible.

Then one day a few months ago, I receive this letter through Etsy:

“Hey there,
I am a Zookeeper with the Toronto Zoo and I am organizing a fundraiser through our AAZK committee to help raise money for Rhino Conservation! Last year we were able to raise over $17,000!
We are currently looking for any Rhino related items that companies/ organizations would be willing to donate as auction items for our event! All funds go directly towards the facilities that support Rhino Conservation!
If you would consider donating a Rhino blanket I also have an official letter I could send you along with more information need be!
We REALLY appreciate every little donation and will definitely advertise what companies donated items for our auction in hopes that it would also help you get more business!
I hope to hear from you soon and am happy to answer any questions you may have!
Thank you!”IMG_9886

I thought that was so awesome.  Awesome in so many ways…the conservation of rhinos?  CHECK!  The pleasure of meaningful donations? CHECK!  Getting our family business all the way out to Toronto? CHECK!  And my favorite one of all…Talking to my daughter about the significance of this project?  Check.  I let her read the letter and asked her what she thought.  She does have a sense of ownership over these blankets and quilts with her drawings on them, and if I was to give one away, I wanted to know how she felt about that.  It meant I wouldn’t get paid for it, which would mean she wouldn’t get any dollars for her piggy bank either.  Did she even hesitate for one, single second?!  Of course she didn’t.  She thought it was amazing and awesome too.  We looked into the organization together and IMG_1513did some rhino research, and we became even more aware of the issue than we already were.  When I shipped the blanket off to Toronto, I made sure she knew it was on the way, and we celebrated the moment together.

I guess the moral of the story here is this…You never know where an idea will take you.  You never know what small thing will one day become a very big and important thing.  You never know when a laminated gingerbread man made from blue construction paper and sent home in your child’s school folder will change the way you do business.  You just never know, and isn’t that amazing!  Now I see rhinos everywhere.  Mostly they are sad stories about poaching, or declining populations, but I hear them.  I am aware of them, and I donate to the cause as I am able because it feels like the right thing to do…and the kids think so too!

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Today’s Featured Item: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Quilt

il_570xN.602463201_byuyToday’s featured item is a fun and different way to expose your little ones to music.  Featuring notes from only the treble clef of the song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the notes are all correctly rendered and positioned to reflect the tune.  It is a whole cloth quilt, meaning that the top of the quilt is not pieced, but consists of one entire cut of fabric.  The back is straight black, and it has black binding as well.  I wanted the quilt to reflect the simplicity of sheet music, so I chose to only use the white and black colors on this one, although I did an Amazing Grace quilt and added colorful binding, which I preferred once I saw it as a finished project. It is 100% GOTS organic cotton, with organic cotton and bamboo batting inside.  I really enjoyed making this quilt, and can see it going in so many cool directions…For example, with someone who writes their own music and wanted to give a personalized quilt as a gift…So funky and unique!!  To see the Etsy listing, click here.

Just WOW…

Let me start by saying WOW!!  Thank you to everyone who has signed up to be a part of our site and get blog updates!  I feel totally humbled and grateful, (and to be honest, totally impressed with myself for making a website that anyone would sign up for!!) so thank you for helping to make this effort worth it.  I wanted to build a site that would engage folks and let them see a little more about  our family business, but I am finding that “I” need a place to share things too.  IMG_6648I guess that is really the heart of this blogging world…folks wanting a place to share things.  Every time I turn around,  I feel like we have gone through so many little milestones, and I’m excited to broaden my “sharing circle”!  Just this week, we’ve made it through one summer camp and started another, got a learner’s license for my son, took him driving for the first time, volunteered on a local co-op farm, and I’ve been working like crazy getting ready for my QuiltCon 2016 submissions!  I am just dying to share it all!  It does take a little more time to get to the blog than it does just to throw a FB update out there, but I find that I have never been good at the little blips…I tend to say nothing at all or everything in my head.  I am also a bit of a rambler, as you may have riddled out…So just WOW!!  Thanks for signing up!!  I guess to say thanks, I will share some beautiful pictures I took of a hike I went on after the first day I dropped my daughter off at Horsey Camp.  It was a very reflective day for me because it has become so crystal clear that she is growing up fast…There were a lot of things to think about that day and a hike was just what I needed.

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A tiny little violet. Almost looks like a flowering weed, but then you get up close and realize that there is so much beauty there. Then she said to me, in her very tiny Alice voice: “I am NOT a weed!”

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Aptly named Buzzards Roost. I startled one out of a tree and almost fell over some rocks! #smooth

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Look at all those tiny little hairs!! Nature is crazy and amazing.

I saw the cones before I saw the tree...The telltale sign of a long leaf pine in the area. Then I looked up...

I saw the cones before I saw the tree…The telltale sign of a long leaf pine in the area. Then I looked up…

And sure enough! There she was! Longleaf pines are native to this area and make the best cones!

And sure enough! There she was! Longleaf pines are native to this area and make the best cones!

Now, if you were starting to think that maybe you are in the wrong place because you wanted to see lots of cool crafting stuff, and this isn’t what you thought it would be, there will be lots of crafting stuff too!  I’m just getting warmed up, and part of this family business is making sure we get lots of family play in there too!

Today’s Featured Item

il_570xN.735175741_baocToday’s featured item is a beautiful desk caddy, featuring live edges (meaning uncut and following the natural shape of the tree) and cracks throughout the tree rings that give this piece a ton of character.  It has the feeling of having been well loved for a long time, and will comfortably hold lots of tools on your desktop.  The wood is chestnut, which is not only a very rare tree in this area, but is also part of the heartwood of the tree, showing the initial growth rings which are so beautiful!  This very old tree came to us from downtown Columbus, after it fell in a storm and had to be removed.  This hardwood is dark and rich in color, more so than most other woods we have ever worked with.   Josh originally made one of these at the request of some very good friends of ours as a gift for her husband who is a graphic designer.  They are a great use for “end cuts” of wood, that would otherwise be mulched or used for firewood.  I love when a new project can be born from something that would otherwise have had minimal value.

Today’s Featured Item

IMG_5186This quilt is one of my new creations of 2015.  It features hand dyed organic cotton muslin and wonky, perfectly imperfect circles.  What I love about this quilt is that I had never used circles before…Never actually sewn circles, to tell the truth.  When I imagined this quilt and drew it out in my notebook, I never thought I would have so much fun with the circles.  First, I cut out my large squares and large circles.  I cut them all into quarters, and layered the quarter circle on top of the quarter square, and then traced the circle shape onto the square and cut it out.  I actually wanted the circles to be wonky and improvisational looking, and was surprised at how uniformly it all turned out, even though I didn’t use a template or anything to trace out my circles!  Raspberry Pie, make your big debut!

Online Interview

I was recently asked to do an interview for an e-book, based of some product photography (see picture below).  The online interview was kind of fun, so I am posting it here first!  Aren’t you lucky!  *insert winkie face*  To visit her website and see the post visit here.

Q:   What methods, if any, do you use to promote your shop? (FB, twitter..ect)

A:   I use FB ( www.facebook.com/goodwinscustomcrafts ) and instagram mostly. I don’t use twitter, I’ve just never “gotten” it. We also have a website of our own, where we post galleries of all our past work, and a very loosely put together blog.

Q:  Have the recent Etsy changes affected your sales at all? DSC_0092

A:  Recent Etsy changes have affected my sales and views. I feel like the rearrangement of the home page and the somewhat obscured position of the “Categories” tab has made it a little harder for people to directly browse items. It seems to hinge much more on social connectivity throughout Etsy now than it did before.

Q:  When it comes to photos, have you seen any sort of trend on what kinds of photos best sell your product?

A:  Photos? Clear, bright, bold, and no nonsense seems to work best for me. I do like to take a picture of the item “wrapped” so that folks know what to expect when it arrives in the mail.

Q:  If someone wanted to start selling their crafts today, what advice would you give them?

A:  Selling crafts online today? Be ready to invest, invest, invest! The more time you put in, the more you will get out. And be ready to be flexible with your expectations.
Q:  Do you have a website outside of Etsy? If so, do you find it useful?

A:  Yes…I am not sure how much traffic goes through the site, but we do have one. www.goodwinscustomcrafts.com I am still very much in the “back and forth” phase of whether or not to sell items from the website, but I do see it going that way in the future as our business grows. Between my husband and I, we actually have FOUR etsy shops, so the website is a place where we can showcase all of our items under one umbrella.

Q:  Do you ever hire professional services such as photographers or advertisements?IMG_1812

A:  We have never hired professional photographers or advertisers. I have done trades before…items for photos of those items, and that was awesome! I have a Nikon D200 my Dad gave me, so I use that for most of my picture taking myself. An iphone takes a pretty decent picture as well in a pinch!

Q:  What first inspired you to make and sell crafts?

A: What first inspired me??? Restless hands and too much free time. Plus, it just sounded like a really fun and challenging thing to try.

Q:  As a marketer, I am particularly impressed with your FolksLinen shop because it is fairly new and already has 19 sales. What do you attribute this success to?

A:  Folks Linen has surprised me a little too….I think the affordable napkins, at such a friendly price point have helped with some of these first sales. I did sell these items in my other shop www.goodwinscustomcrafts.etsy.com for a long time, but just recently made it into it’s own, independent shop. I think that was a good move for several reasons.

Q:  Do you have a “regular job” outside of Etsy?

A:  Sometimes I daydream about a “regular” job with a “regular” paycheck, where I get to gossip with co-workers about nothing in particular, then I realize that is 100% crazy, and I get back to work. Most of the time that happens when I need to get up, stretch my legs, and go for a nice walk outside.

Q:  Do you sell your products locally?

A:  I do sell my products locally on special occasions. I do not frequent weekly markets with my goods because I prefer to sell from home and keep life simple when possible, so I regard these opportunities very carefully, and almost interview the event before I decide if it is a good fit for me personally. I am selling at an event this weekend, actually. It is called Dinner on the Farm and it is a farm-to-table dinner hosted for over 200 people on this rural farm not far from where I live. I am most excited about the food and watching the kids run and play on the farm! We also do a yearly show in December with a good friend of ours who is a potter. We do the show at her country home, very informal, lots of tea, cookies, and conversations. That is my kind of show.
Q:  Do you participate in any forums or FB groups (No need to list the names) If so, do you find them helpful?

A:  I do participate in only a couple Etsy groups / forums. I also receive the Etys newsletters, and subscribe to their emails. I check them regularly, hoping to see my goods featured on some category headline, which has happened a few times over the years! But it is also just a really good way of keeping in touch with what is hot on Etsy. I don’t follow trends, but I do like to be aware of them.

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A Discovery of Grandmother’s Treasures

Today I will share with you an afternoon I spent unboxing some things I was given from my Grandmother’s house.  She recently moved from her home, just because it was so much work for a 90 year old lady to take care of on her own, and I have inherited a wonderful collection of things from our beloved family gathering place.  Included, but not limiting to: my Grandaddy’s hat collection and hat rack, a handmade stool, my grandmother’s bread-making pans (which, yes! I use to make bread every week), two very cool LED lanterns I gave to the kids for reading in their beds at night, a vintage lamp, and a hundred other little treasures that I can’t remember off the top of my head. IMG_8178 But today, I share with you the unveiling of her fabric and linen collection.  To a lot of folks, I am sure this stuff would just look like scraps, or too old to want to keep, or too delicate to want in a house full of (very) messy kids.  But to me, these things are treasures, in every sense of the word.  Each box I opened was a new discovery.  Stacks of jersey knits she used to make clothes from.  When my son was little and would stay with her, he would often come home with a new outfit on because he would go over there and ask her “What are you going to make for me today, Grandmomma?!”  In one box lace.  Tons of lace.  Vintage, beautiful, delicate lace, that I have never used before, but is so pretty I want to just make a curtain out of it.  In one box linens.  The nicest, softest, linens that look like they have never IMG_8210been used, but surely have been.  They were just cared for so carefully that they still look like new in the original box.  One set still had the stickers on it that said “Made in Belgium”, but when I asked her where these might have come from, she couldn’t quite recall.  Not to mention my pictures I showed her when I asked didn’t nearly do them justice.  And the list goes on and on.  I have said before, that I have a hard time using the fabric I get from her because I want it to go towards something really special.  I hope one day to honor her by making something wonderful out of all these treasured fabrics!  The vintage viewfinder rivaled all of the other fabric treasures too!  I felt like I had struck gold when I pulled those from the box!  (I have the original beige viewfinder too!)

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The Juice Bar Date.

I am so excited about this new local business that has come to town called Juice Bar Columbus.  Let me tell you!!  I try to stay really on top of food health, except when it comes to juicing…I don’t know why this is.  Maybe the cost of a decent juicer, or the waste that it would create, and most definitely the clean up after the fact.  So here comes my confession:  I have never tried green juice!  Or carrot juice, or beet juice. You get the idea.  I have always thought that I would just rather eat the thing than vampirize it to death.  I am here to tell you that I was completely in the dark about juicing!  When I realized that the Juice Bar was opening in Columbus, I got SO excited.  Mostly because I have been getting bored of coffee, probably because I drink it so much.  I have even turned to tea numerous times a day, despite digging my heals in for years and insisting that I don’t like tea…it feels healthier than coffee in my body.  IMG_6980Especially considering that I used to get coffee that was heavy with syrups, whipped cream, and who knows what other stuff in it.  I stopped that habit last year, and switched to a local shop, Fountain City Coffee, because they were the only ones in town who offered organic milk, locally roasted coffee beans, and they even make their own syrups from scratch with the simplest ingredients.  LOVE IT!  But THEN, as it goes every now and then, I started wanting to just keep it simple and drink it at home.  Even still, there are times when I need some serious energy to power through work, usually in the afternoon…I drink coffee all morning, so by the afternoon I want something different.  Even smelling coffee brewing in the afternoon can give me headaches.  BUT I drink it even then sometimes when I am really desperate for that energy boost.  Well, midday coffee headaches no more!!  When I have the time and money to treat myself to something that will energize me in the afternoons, I am going to the Juice Bar!!  It was so delicious, and they were so generous with the samples that I was almost full before I even decided what I wanted to drink.  I settled on a mixture of Fresh Greens and We’ve Got the Beet.  It was perfect.  Not only did it give me energy, but I felt so good all day!  I wanted something to reduce inflammation, because lately it seems like everything bad in the body is somehow linked to inflammation, and they had some wonderful recommendations for that as well!  I must say, the next time I have an afternoon that is dragging by, I am going to do myself a favor, and head over to the Juice Bar.  I am curious about how many organic ingredients they use…Maybe I will ask next time I am there.   Also will be bringing my own reusable mason jar next time!!

Happy New Year!

Etsy runs this special blog series called “Quit Your Day Job” where they feature a shop who has “made it big” in the world of Etsy, and taken the leap to quit their full time day jobs to be full time makers and sellers.  WELL, Etsy hasn’t featured us in their blog, we are taking it upon ourselves to feature our own selves!!  The New Year brings a lot of exciting new changes for the Goodwins, which you might suspect at this time, means that Josh Goodwin of Goodwin’s Custom Crafts has quit his day job of ten years to be a maker and a seller full time by my side!  Well, not literally by my side, as his shop is outside and mine is inside, but you get the idea.  We are really excited, and honestly, a little nervous too about this new leap, but it just felt like the right time to give it a try.  We are young and full of energy, the kids are all really supportive and crave family time, and we have this amazing global network of shoppers who LOVE high quality, hand made stuff!  How blessed and greatful we are to be able to make this announcement.  But most of all, humbled.  Humbled by the support of our family and friends, by our fans and loyal customers, by the shear magnitude of this leap of faith in our craft.  Wish us luck, and cheers to 2015!!!   1502365_785485781477224_77523337_o

Plus Sign Quilt and My Discovery of the Red Cross Quilt Project

I wanted to make a plus sign quilt, which led me to the internet for some research.  We are flooded with images, stories, and blips that we register as cool or nostalgic.  We file it away in the back of our minds, thinking one day I will try that, or that reminds me of something I had as a child, or evokes some other nameless emotion.  So it was for me with the new rage of plus sign quilts everywhere.  It is the new symbol of gender neutral and packs a powerful stream of thoughts and emotions, but whose idea was it originally?  This was something I wanted to find out before I actually made anything with this design, as it has become increasingly important to me to be as completely original and authentic as I possibly can with everything I make.  IMG_2831So of course, I went to Wikipedia and various quilt indexes to see who made the FIRST plus sign quilt.   I found that while the notion of a “Plus Sign” Quilt might be a modern one, the symbol of the Red Cross is not even remotely new or original to anyone living today…Especially quilters.  The sign of the American Red Cross, an organization founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, is very well known and recognized as a symbol for humanitarian aide and distaster relief.  So much so that in 1917 during World War I, in an effort to raise money to help with recovery at home, a quilt campaign was established that called anyone who could make and contribute a quilt featuring the symbol of the Red Cross, to do so.  The quilts were auctioned off to the highest bidder and funds were used to help purchase ambulances and other emergency equipment.  A lot has happened since that time, and now plus signs are everywhere.  I felt pretty safe in assuming that I would not be infringing on anyone’s rights to make a quilt featuring plus signs, but the symbol reminds us that there is always growth that can happen after something traumatizing happens in our lives.  It reminds us to have hope for more and to stay strong.  My research led me to realized that the symbol is bigger than me or my creative juices, or one person out there who may have made a plus sign quilt.  It is a symbol, almost universal, to make this world a better place and to help one another.  I decided to try a simple screen print for this initial project.  I really enjoy the process of screen printing, but as with most new techniques, it still remains a bit of a mystery to me.  I printed a large, whole piece of organic cotton muslin with black water-based, non-toxic ink, and made it into a double thick playmat, measuring 60″ x 60″.  Organic hemp denim went on the back, with two layers or organic cotton and bamboo batting inside.  This project sold last year, but I want to make another one day.

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