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Archive for November, 2011

Inexpensive Gift Ideas - Part 3

November 29th, 2011 at 02:14 pm

In past posts you read at The Frugal Artisan how to save on good gifts, especially for the hard-to-please folks such as teens and grandparents. (Links to those stories are given below).

Right about now is the time I always have to take my kids to shop secretly for the dad, my very own DH. Even though we have a tradition of posting wish lists, my husband fills his with TOOLS (big bucks), OUTDOOR GEAR (bigger bucks) and SCIENTIFIC items (biggest bucks) like weather stations and telescopes.

So it's not the taking of the kids shopping, it's the figuring out what will please dad on a kid budget. Like $10 or less.

He is not a great deal of help when I ask either.

Well! Here are my secrets and they might be helpful to you...

1. Special organic foods. We have gradually changed to a more organic diet, emphasizing backyard produce and local foods. The health food stores are expensive, yes! But this is the opportunity to find things we would like to try and give as a gift. Nothing perishable, of course, but there are many choices, eg snack bars, dried goods, even drinks.

2. High Quality, No Chemical Toothpaste. Lately I've seen reports of the detrimental issues with cheap toothpaste. And sorry, I just don't want to make my own (at least yet). Tom's of Maine toothpaste is one of the highly rated products, however, safe and effective. And expensive!! I think it runs around $5 a tube! Yikes. It's thick and hard, you don't use as much. My husband has come home with it a couple times in the past, and this is another good candidate for a kid to buy for him.

3. High quality pure castile soap. Dr. Bronner's soap has been around for 100 years practically. I used it years ago and love it. It is a treat, tingly and hugely refreshing in smell. It is easily available at the drug store. Perfect for dad.

Hope this inspires you! Give it a tweet (left side bar) and pass on the help if you want. Thanks!

Past Posts fyi:

No Kittens This Year aka Panniers and other off the Wall Gifs

Sanity Saving Ingenuity aka Before You Go Shop

Feathers are In! aka
How to Make a Feather Barrette

Right Under My Nose

November 28th, 2011 at 10:14 am

How do you stay compassionate while at the same time economically sound. If I could do it all the list of charities I favor would be ridiculous:

Sierra Club - definitely one of the top on my list, the environment is my raison d'etre. And the river groups I've volunteered with also need my membership Friends of the Santa Clara River and Friends of the Los Angeles River {where btw I met my husband!!}
....
Public Radio - smart news, wholesome educational programming, and since I am a consumer, yes, I should contribute
....
Local Arts - I sell and participate actively in my association. It is incredibly dependent on volunteers and donations. This year the gallery roof needs replacing and next year it needs termite treatment.
....
Humane Society - I have a soft spot for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Every year I want to help less fortunate families or children or animals in November and December. This year we have a family in our rental house, which to our chagrin, is having difficulty paying the rent.

Ooh boy. Not a good situation. It's a dad with 4 boys (one grown, one teen, and 2 younger). Mom is not present. This guy has all the right values. Honest, does not waste money, doing everything in his power to raise his kids well. But not regularly employed at this time. Frown

I suspect this family is not going to have a big holiday. So instead of the rivers, instead of the dogs and cats, I am going to give to them. It's not going to be easy, anything unusual will be looked upon as charity and may be hard to receive graciously.

It will be: a big turkey to cook, a bigger batch of cookies (many dozens, especially with all those kids!), a couple gingerbread house kits for fun, and maybe a basketball or some sort of board game.

Any other ideas?

Giving to that Chosen One

November 21st, 2011 at 12:02 pm

At this time of year I always wish to find a very needy person and give a little happiness. Oh, more than the usual charitable things we always do. Sure we already:

- Donate canned food to the local pantry. Our schools and even the US post office have food drives which I contribute regularly.

- Participate in events which proceeds are donated. All of my craft show fees and commissions are given to non profits including; a non-denominational women's group {who is providing education for a chosen group of African kids}, the local 4-H chapter, the figure skate club, and two local art associations. All of these groups operate completely on donation and volunteers.

- Give to the thrift stores. I don't hold yard sales. I give nearly everything we don't use anymore: books, household items, clothes, furniture, electronics and you name it to the thrift stores. And naturally I shop the thrifts every month or so for my own wardrobe and small needs.

So how can you do something especially personal. It is not easy. Would you invite a down and out stranger to your house for a Thanksgiving meal? Probably not, the system is now to go to the centers and help serve. How do you find a family that wouldn't otherwise have a christmas tree or gifts and give such? Perhaps a church could recommend a family, but I am not a church goer. Sometimes the local paper reports on a very needy organization, but it is hit and miss if I see the article.

The past few years I have given to a really good family crisis shelter that does small miracles with kids, young adults and their relatives. They were the recipient of proceeds from one of my past craft shows and had a speaker once who was a girl who went through their system. Inspiring is the understatement of the century.

They ask people to fill wishes from the giving tree each year. So even though I don't get to give to a kid personally, I pick at least one big wish to fill and take it in.

Here is what I'm giving this year...

Wardrobe and Doll









Sewing up our own little project runway!
(shown top to bottom):
Fancy Party Dress
Purple Pantsuit
Gold Skirt
Shortsleeved Dress

(not shown: 2 pairs shoes, and Miss Doll herself!)

Thanks for reading and warm Thanksgiving wishes!

Panniers, and other off-the-wall gifts on my list

November 18th, 2011 at 09:12 am

Past columns from The Frugal Artisan tipped you off on how to save when gift shopping, especially for some hard to please categories such as:

1. Teen boys-get them outside and off the electronics with equipment from the used sporting goods store. Free weights? tennis racket? skateboarding? You will be surprised at the huge variety of possibilities in these stores. If there is not one near you, look at Craig's list.

2. Grandma (who doesn't need anything)-patronize a pop up craft boutique for handmade soap, recycled wool sweater felted gloves or any number of fantastically clever ideas that you would never see elsewhere.

While I think hard before every purchase about buying handmade or from locally owned businesses, sometimes it just isn't possible!!

For example, take my husband (no Henny Youngman jokes please). In our family we post a 'WISH LIST' for gifts to avoid wasteful spending. Since he is bike riding to the grocery more and more, my husband wants panniers to more easily carry a good size load from the store. OK! I am definitely supportive. Great exercise, good for the environment, excellent example to our kids and neighbors.

Panniers are those saddlebags that straddle the front or back tire of a bike. They are not inexpensive. But we belong to REI, the outdoor gear coop, and get 15% back from every purchase annually. Great timing because there is a new branch opening near where I work and that specific item is reduced 25% for the opening. So, not handmade and imported Frown and not exactly locally owned, but here I go today!

So what do little girls really want? A kitten. Well, my little 11 y.o. girl is not going to get a kitten with the high strung dog we have in the house. She is easy to shop for though I try to stay practical and give her things she needs. Still not at the age to want clothes, though last year she wanted fuzzy UGG type boots.

I can solve the kitten problem pretty well and give here a mouse. We have had one for 2 years and it is extremely easy to care for, no smell, inexpensive. I am happy! It is my son's and little Ms. Mousie is geriatric and isn't going to be around much longer. My daughter would love to have one next.

Next time: Charity Giving ~ Gifts for Needy Youth
(shown below, shoes we are making for a doll and wardrobe to be given a very special family halfway house).



Satin slippers with back polka dot laces



Silver thread and Periwinkle stripe doll houseshoes

On a (rock n) ROLL

November 16th, 2011 at 02:30 pm

Gangbusters! That is the way November has been for my small biz. A second big special order was placed yesterday. It will take until after the New Year for me to fulfill.

A couple weeks ago an inquiry came to my Etsy shop for 2 dozen identical pairs of gold star sequin gloves in a short turn around time like these:



However I was a little taken aback because that is a large quantity to ask from a one-of-a-kind designer. I politely declined at the time.

A pair of the gloves were purchased this past week in my Etsy shop and yep, it was by the same person who inquired about the multiple pairs.

So I opened the discussion with an apology and an offer to work together. I did a little homework, noticing the person's email signature indicated 'Director' of what sounded to be a youth organization.

Bingo. The customer was very flexible with the design, the timing. I wanted to show support for her work and was flexible with the pricing. Everyone is happy!!

Today another beautiful moment...a customer in England purchased this guitar string bracelet.



Seems I am on a roll!!

Hitting the Targets (not that big box one either)

November 14th, 2011 at 06:36 am

"It's about making connections, finding out about other craft shows, networking" ~ that's what I remember repeating the first few years of having a small home-based jewelry business.

Now it's more about the sales. After picking and choosing where to put effort as far as events and groups, it's time to SHOW ME THE MONEY! Ha ha.

By the way, a few days ago I mentioned I had a huge order for Ransom Party Invitations. You can see them here. It turned out the customer was having a moving party, IN SWEDEN! OK, what a surprise!

Last week I also got another order from exactly where I target my market!! I browse the Wall Street Journal online regularly and make comments and posts as I see fit.

Voila! A well-written, smart, professional woman came over to Pretty Cheap Jewelry and made a purchase because:

"the urge to have the best for less still drives my shopping persona"

and

"Who wudda thought a WSJ writer also would be a talented artist producing beautiful low-cost jewelry?? The perfect storm, from my perspective!"

This past weekend was the 2nd of 3 special events I am scheduled to sell holiday gifts. It was a small, local arts group in the charming town near me. The fees were nothing but 20% of sales and set up time. As expected, I will get a check for a very modest $20 or so. But I am satisfied with that cause it all adds up.

Oh, I am on a roll! Got another order on Sunday for a pair of the new hand beaded gloves I designed this year. They had attracted some attention, probably because there is not much out there like them! Fortunately I have a couple similar pairs and put them on line as well...

Gold Star Winners



Sparkling knit gloves makes everyone a star. I have embellished lightweight knit gloves with my original design. On the back of each hand are sewn 3 sequin stars. On the wrists are sewn lots of gold glass tube beads. Great for the skating rink, driving, walking the dog, or at school. An all around winner gift which is easy on your budget!

Choose either royal blue (shown: above) or pecan brown (shown: below)

Order HERE



Thanks for reading!!
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Color Fun

November 11th, 2011 at 01:10 pm

Second gift boutique of the season set up today! It's a small venue and a cold rainy weekend. Sales expectations are modest (haven't I said this before?!) but there is no table fee, just a small commission percent. The small return is worth the time I will put in.

Hope these attract some attention! Pure copper adjustable rings in a variety of fun crystal colors.

Also available on-line, in fact, specially priced and BUY ONE GET ONE FREE!

Adjustable Copper Ring with Line of Sparkling Crystals




Choose from (front to back) teal, tangerine, honey gold, sky blue, forest green. Available here



A sweet little gift for a girl! Thanks for looking!

WAIT!! Before you buy that electronic device for Christmas READ THIS

November 10th, 2011 at 09:33 am

Although I went to this online site for details about a vampire electricity reducing device, I ended up reading this article instead. It will strike your thrifty fancy but hits very near and dear to my environmental heart.

Electronics to take over Holiday Purchase

Summary?
1. Projections reported from a respectable source. The Consumer Electronics Association is cited from the beginning. I don't know how transparent they are, but my intuition is they are honest enough even if basically a trade and industry group.

2. One-Third of all gift purchases may be electronics yet there is almost no thought of how to retire and dispose of the eventual e-waste. Hundreds of thousands of tablets, cell phones, cameras, and ereaders are going to be sold. Where are they going to end up.

3. Price is the overriding reason where/what/how the items are bought. No surprise here. Isn't it time to add the cost of recycling, reusing, disposing of the item into the purchase price.

I don't want to repeat here a few other passages in the article though they are eye openers!!

So are you going to buy a computing device this year? What will you do with it down the line?

Want a Seasonal Job? and best photo ever

November 9th, 2011 at 09:46 am

Just saw a link from a frugal blog writer out of upstate New York that UPS is now hiring for seasonal jobs. Not sure how to apply, but here is the map of where the jobs are located (lots and lots across the US).

Hope this is useful to someone!

Didn't this ring photo beautifully? No special set up, just placed on a white paper in outdoor shade. Then adjusted the background with photoshop. That's all. Wish I could replicate this every time!!


14K Gold Filled Adjustable Ring - Anniversary Band

Simple classic band in gold and pure crystal. Adjustable; will fit perfectly. Exceptionally strong and provide a generation of satisfaction. Unheard of value in 14K gold filled jewelry. Only from The Frugal Artisan. See more here.

Complaint Dept went Straight to the Sales Fairy

November 8th, 2011 at 10:12 am

It happened again. Just yesterday I pondered how to increase sales in holiday venues for my artful jewelry and crafts. Display more? Adjust prices? In particular I pointed out a pair of earrings that were personal favorites, but which did not seem to attract attention in person. I wondered if the price was a bit high, but hesitate to have at least a small compensation for time and design talent and certainly cannot sell at a loss.

Surprise! One of the pairs in question was just purchased today by a first time visitor to Pretty Cheap Jewelry.


Double scroll links with a garnet dot accent, on 12K gold filled hooks.

One pair left, available by special order only.

It has happened before that I nearly give something away just to be pleasantly surprised with it being sold in the next day or two.

So with this experience I summon more patience in showing and promoting the (what I think are really great) naturally shed feather barrettes like these:


Sweeping peacock feather, large gull wing and royal blue metallic bow are mounted on a clip hair barrette. Feathers are hot this year, and this barrette lasts longer and costs much less than the crimp styles. More photos here


Two gull wing feathers topped by a large sheer copper bow are mounted on a clip hair barrette. More photos here

THANKS for giving me a bit of your time!
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Opening Weekend

November 7th, 2011 at 10:45 am

And they're off! Holiday special art and craft events are officially underway. This past weekend was one of the big (well attended) shows I am fortunate to be part of. For one 6' table, after a very affordable $35 fee (plus 15% commission), I cleared about $100.

Funny that some of my less favorite things were popular (such as two pair of peach stone and coral earrings) and some of my personal favorites languished. For example, these two earrings were priced at $10 (though the first is priced lower online, click the links to see). And they were not paid much attention. Why?

Scroll Heart Earrings

I've hand formed gold wire into delicate heart shapes and added a freshwater pearl dangle for movement and color. See more here.

Double Scroll Earrings

Beautifully styled ornate links of open scrolls are fancy enough for special occasion, affordable enough for every day. I formed the links by hand from gold colored wire. A wine red garnet dot dangles at the bottom to increase the richness of the materials. See more here.

Sales for me have not changed much in the past couple years. Someone shake me and say that is FINE!! Especially in the recession economy.

In reality, I would very much like to increase my sales. How to accomplish? The opportunities might be:

1. Display More. Increasing the number of things displayed might result in more sales. At this time I have 35 earrings on two types of racks, 6 rings in a ring tray, 15 bracelets on bar, and various boxed items.

2. Adjust Prices. Finding the market price is an iterative process, sometimes trial and error. I have to cover my expenses but after that, it's a tough call.

Any advice?

Backwards Business Practices

November 4th, 2011 at 09:52 am

The light at the end of the tunnel is shining. It's been 6 years since the first time my handmade jewelry went up for sale to the public. A couple years of heavy internet marketing followed and probably a dozen local stores carrying my work have come and gone. Add countless special events under my belt. And now I'm thinking of shrinking the business.

What brings this on?

I've given away more things recently than ever than at the beginning of this career. I seem to be using backwards business practices. Maybe it's just a confidence in my work {Here, have these gloves, they are great quality and suit you well} or maybe the struggle to keep things on a shelf out in stores is getting tiring. My local arts group is decluttering the displays, good for the long run to elevate quality, but the potential for jewelry sales will decrease.

If my customer for special order cards comes through this month, this will go to her free...

14K Gold Filled Amethyst 3/4 Ring


In the beginning it was a pleasant surprise to reap income to cover the expenses of the work. Modest increases in price have brought in a little tiny profit, but not so much to decrease customers' interest.

Maybe I want to devote time again to fitness and my family. It takes half a Sat or Sunday to go on a hike in the local hills. And there's only a half dozen years at best till my kids are likely to move out. Not to mention my hyper dog who would love a 30-60 minute walk every day if I could spare the time.

So seriously, after the next 6 weeks is over, a bunch of things may go into Pretty Cheap Jewelry online. And I go into semi-retirement!

Got an Idea!! New Biz Just Waiting to be Started

November 3rd, 2011 at 09:29 am

I'm always disappointed with the small businesses that (used to) fill the little corner shopping centers in our area. I dream of fun little boutiques filled with delightful house decor, fashionable accessories and clever paper goods. Why not mobiles of clouds floating above, and great hair clips? Instead, it's a big deflating blah sub sandwich place, or another fitness joint.

So I have an idea for a small biz. It's different. It's needed. And I don't have time to make it happen. Oh how I wish I weren't already in a moderately technical career!!

For the past few years we have been involved with figure skating. There are regular competitions and events, as well as an end of the year holiday show.

The culture of this sport is high end: that private coaching is essential, that original choreography is necessary, and costs are not to be spared in the details. This is unlike other sports such as cross country track, for example, which the only really really important equipment is in the shoes.

So for every event we have to buy an outfit. And almost always are the outfits brand new, original design, and custom made to measurement. Now, on occasion the same costume can be worn for a skate number repeated (such as in more than one competition). But the life of a costume is about a year. Then it goes in the closet, outgrown, and looked upon with fond memories.

This is the kind of thing I am talking about...



Even the winter holiday show, there are group numbers that 10 or 15 matching costumes are made. The whole set of costumes are never used again.

So! Wouldn't it be great to have a depot of used costumes?! A solo skater could choose from a wide range of styles. Perhaps even group numbers could be designed to fit around a set of costumes already available.

What a relief in cost to the families to be able to purchase outfits at a greatly lower price than custom made. And to sell on consignment outfits that would otherwise never be used again. Good for the earth of course too.

Should I drop everything and open a teeny storefront? Or start with a spare room in the home if I had one!!

Now one note: there is a woman who has a small private used skate business associated with our rink. She has a selection of used outfits, but her big expertise is in fitting skates. The costume part of her business seems to me to be halfhearted. It could be much much wider and bigger. Remember, this rink goes through hundreds of costumes a year.

Hollywood wardrobe business anyone?

Now or Later - a Candy or a Holiday Shopping Philosophy?

November 2nd, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Do you think it's smarter to shop around early for end-of-the-year gifts or wait until the retailers make big discount offers in the last few days of the season?

The advantage of the former may be in more informed and stress-free purchases, especially in electronics or technical goods. It's a great time now to get out and see what's being offered on craig's list and local ads for second hand cameras, game systems, sports equipment, and small furniture.

But in the last couple years last minute blow outs have been given for computers and even clothing to boost sales in these lean economic times.

BUT WAIT!! BEFORE you answer, try to make the choice...

~ BUY FROM LOCAL INDEPENDENT RETAILERS ~


Can you shop early (or wait till the last minute) and still support independents? Let me count the ways.

1. Get to the pop up boutiques nearby. The starting gun has just gone off. Throughout Nov and Dec are likely a host of shows in churches, non-profits and homes around you. These are not just your knitted booties anymore!! You will be delighted with the variety of thing and the MODEST PRICES. Trust me.

2. Use online independent gift sites.A great site like Etsy will stretch your budget and open your imagination. Type in search words at the top bar, or use the category topics on the left side. Even the 'Buy Local' category will point you to things made nearby. Sort the results by price!! There are thousands and THOUSANDS of sellers hungering to make sales and the prices show it!!

Here's a few of my rock bottom deals on Etsy, all handmade originals made by me. Thanks for looking!


Dolphin Charm Earrings - Buy 3 Get 1 Free ($5.99 ea)
buy here


Sterling Silver Rosette and Moonstone Earrings $8
buy here


Peacock Sweep Feather Barrette $8.50
buy here

Candy Fairy, meet Sales Fairy

November 1st, 2011 at 01:41 pm

Does the candy fairy visit you? She comes late after trick or treating when the kids are in bed. She 'buys' treats the kids are willing to part with and left in a big bowl out on the table. More candy? More money or 'gift'. A painless way of reducing the consumption of sweets. I love the candy fairy!

The sales fairy is coming to visit this weekend! I hope anyway. It's the first and best boutique of the year for Pretty Cheap Jewelry. The early birds snatch up really inexpensive and creative gifts to fill their lists the season. Some of the new things on my table?

FEATHER BARRETTES


Feathers are the hot accessory this year, but I put both humane and frugal spins on the style. All the feathers in my work are NATURALLY SHED. From wild backyard species to country birds and more, I pick up loose feathers in the environment. Look around yourself, there are more than you'd think.

Instead of a single use hair accent, these are barrettes that last a much longer time. And my prices can't be beat.

Shown above: 3 Blue Jay Copper Ribbon available here

More feather barrettes available here


BEADED GLOVES
They look vintage but these handbeaded sequin gloves are brand new. I start with plain lightweight knits and embellish like crazy. Some gloves are fancy enough for New Year's Eve, some are for happy kids at the ice skate rink.

Perfect for driving or just walking the dog, many many styles (ask me for more pictures!). A very beautiful gift for the 'don't-know-what-to-give' person without denting your budget.


Shown: Sequin Flower and Pearl Charcoal Gloves available here

More gloves available here

CLASSIC RINGS
I've perfected a simple ring style that fits every girl's dream and every boy's budget.

Three sparkling crystals line an adjustable band of pure copper. The cost? Practically nothing.



Shown: Moss green with extra metallic shine, custom fit band, $8 available here

Other colors to choose from: tangerine, steel blue, and more (ask below).

Thanks for reading!
Blog readers can get a special discount on any purchase at Pretty Cheap Jewelry just ask me below.