Approaching the new year
2014 is one day away from history…. and this year has flown so quickly. We have been wrapping up our books, and reviewing the year as a part of the process of preparing for 2015. It has been a grand and glorious year that has seen us stretch and expand our territory, and our willingness to take risks in building the business.
I thought you might enjoy a quick recap:
January – Winter was in full display, with lots of snow, and blowing cold winds. We were beginning to rebuild our stock of soap, and working on the back office work of preparing for tax season. A highlight of January was the “Mellow Yellow” show at Valley Arts Center. I was blessed to have my sunflower juried into the show. We restocked a number of our shops, and continued production.
February – Two very small events – One at Solon Art Center which was a ladies night. There were a lovely selection of artists, but it was a little bit sleepy. We also participated in the St Thomas Devonshire Tea, a high Victorian tea event including people dressed in vintage clothing, and glorious hats. For that one Saturday Berea became the epicenter of Victoriana. And the ladies like our soap alot!!
March – Was a busy month for production, and restocking shops. We did not have any shows, but instead began to bulk up on our stock for a busy April and May schedule. March was also time spent working on the web site and this blog, researching products, and some lab experimentation of future products.
April – April was one of our first big stretches for the business. We applied for a large art fair in a suburb of Detroit Michigan, and we were accepted. And it was a test of our capabilities to get everything ready, packed up, taken care of and hit the road. Everything fell into place, and even though we had some issue with our electronic key to the van falling apart on the road (yes, we only have one key) we saw miracles, and we remained open to the stretching. The Great Lakes Art Fair proved to be incredible, with large pieces of my silk selling quickly, and tons of our soap flying off the rack. It was also our first three day show, but it was so wonderful, and a respite from the ordinary. This kicked off a great spring and summer season. Steve made it on Kickin’ it with Kenny because we were participating in the Lake Park System Earth Day market. We still have a framed photo of the two of them traveling with us to art shows. And we ended April with one of our old favorite stops – Vermillion in Bloom’s Spring Garden Show. Vermillion is such a wonderful town, with people who are faithful followers of our products. And it is the people of Vermillion that are so special. They genuinely love the involvement, and making this community so special.
May – Ok, i am fighting using a line… but here goes. May started off going to the Dogs – Dogs Unlimited, that is. A special fundraiser for this dog rescue organization located in Orange Ohio comprised 12-13 artists, each occupying a room or part of a room of a beautiful condo in Orange. We moved on to Eaton Collection in Woodmere, where we set up a small trunk show at Amy’s Shoes for the weekend before mother’s day. Lovely shop, great people, busy shop. We were invited to participate in the spring gallery show at the Log Cabin Gallery in Peninsula… a charming 1850s log cabin that was rescued and moved to its current spot. Diane, the gallery owner, curates a lovely show, blending well with the beauty of the surroundings, and the vintage charm of the log cabin. The day we dropped off our merchandise was a torrential storm, which found us stopping at a restaurant for safety becuase the storm was coming in that hard. And one of the big events we look forward to each year was Hessler Street Festival, which was held on the weekend of our wedding anniversary. Hessler has that hippy throwback to the late 60s feel, but there are some amazing artists, and wonderful music… and such a great people watching venue. It was a long two day show, and we were dog tired by the end of it, but it was so much fun, and so very worth every ounce of our energy!!!
June – June found us in full production mode, restocking shops, and preparing for upcoming shows. We visited the Art by the Falls Art Show on the first weekend of June, and felt thankful we were not participating because the weather was cold, damp, and slow rain. We are considering applying this year for the show. On the 14th we were part of Bay Arts Art Fest, on the grounds of Huntington Reservation in Bay Village…. Music, food and amazing art were front and center and the weather was perfectly delightful. Its one of our favorite stops… and always a great one day event. The following day we set up at the Shaker Heights Historical Center. It was quite a beautiful grounds of an old vintage mansion in the “high rent district” of Shaker. But the show itself was very sleepy, perhaps mistargeting the event goers. We ended the month with another high energy one day show in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood – Waterloo was vibrant, colorful, and a very warm sunny day. Our most vivid memory is the huge silk bird puppet that strolled the show, with the help of 3-4 handlers.
July – July was a month of new events, and the heartbreak of letting go of an old event we had loved so much. New to us was Craftymart in Akron at the Musica complex, a block from the Akron art Museum. A bit of a cramped parking lot, but a rather decent crowd of shoppers, and an eclectic collection of makers and artists. We had fun. Then came Mantua’s Art on the Hill event… we have been a part of it for the past 4 years, loving the sleepy little rural community come to life. But this year we were challenged by the sister of our artist neighbor… she was making every effort to thwart our customers and badmouth our products, redirecting our customers and shoppers to another soap maker, who was set up almost across the street from us. It never bothers us to have other soap makers in the same event, because we often compliment each other, providing a wider variety of offerings for the consumer. But this was harsh, and such poor form. The event promoter actually witnessed the activity and asked the woman to leave. We never really recovered that day, going home frustrated that people would choose to be so unprofessional. So long Mantua – you are off our list… We wish the event much success, but we are moving on. And the other new addition to our schedule was wonderful – Lakeside Art and Craft Fair was the last weekend of July, in the lovely gated community of Lakeside. Victorian cottages, and the charm of traveling by golf cart, situated on the shoreline of Lake Erie in the relaxed vacation community was just wonderful. Lakeside is a “Chataqua” community, dedicated to wholesome family vacation, education and athletics. And a refreshing change was the three day show was a thursday, friday and Saturday. We rolled out big Bertha for the first time at this show.
What is Big Bertha? Oh, its our hooped tent that we bought previously owned by a lovely fiber artist. She was purchasing a new tent, and offered hers for a very reasonable price. Big Bertha is a strong tent that requires a bit more effort to secure the pipe structural frame, and the canvas, but once she is up, she is not moving!!!! As you can see above, its much roomier, with no framing that hinders the interior of the tent. We were really thankful for the structural stability, especially along the lakefront, with the winds often at 20-25 mph gusts.
August -August was our big stretch month. We applied to two shows that were at a distance from home. August 2 was at a botanical garden near Toledo – had all the possibility of greatness, however two converging events altered that possibility – The weather suddenly went from sunny to a heavy rain storm-front that hovered over the gardens for hours on end. It rained from 9a to almost 3pm. We were chilled, soaked, and chagrined that the cost of participating in this event would not be recovered. Later in the month we had been juried into a lovely art festival in York, Pennsylvania, which enabled us to drive out and visit Steve’s Aunt. The festival was situated along the river that runs through York, on the Rails and Trails path in a tree lined area… quaint, fun, and we did pretty good… but that drive home Sunday night was killer (8 hours non stop after a two day art fest!!!) The month ended well with another favorite, Made in Ohio at Hale Farm and Village. This was our year to decide if we would plan to the event again. In 2013 the event was severely affected by the government sequester, and our revenue was more than half what we generally did at the event. Thankfully 2014 was well above plan, and we enjoyed it greatly. We also participated in a local foodfest in Peninsula, which was a hoot.
September – A sleepy start to the month, with production in full process, and preparations for upcoming events well underway. We planned a few weeks of down time to get ready for big things, knowing once we hit the end of the month we would have a non stop operation until Christmas. Our first event was a new venue, and a new opportunity – third Friday at 78th street studios was a location we had wanted to get involved in, but we wanted to be in studio space, as opposed to participating in the event through a local promotions company. We had made contact with a potter who offered a space in his studio. So the first event was September, and we were received very well. The following days (literally) was Tremont Art and Culture Festival. Tremont was another decision if we would continue, because the previous year had been down significantly. But Tremont did not disappoint us…. weather was great, crowds were strong, and the weekend was prosperous for us. Well, we will never really know how prosperous because on Sunday while we were tearing down someone got into our cash box and took all of the $20 bills…. left us the one $50 and the smaller denomination bills… We were a bit heart sick that someone would do that, but we both just hoped it was someone desperate for food for their children, or some major financial crisis. Mount Union College in Wadsworth was the next stop for us… a quaint college situated in a semi-rural area, with an annual event that was free to the artists could not be all that bad! And actually it was great. We had a wonderful time, made new friends with another soap maker, and together we sold alot of soap and things. The following day was Neo-cycle at Edgewater park – a first of its kind bicycle festival on the lakefront in Cleveland. The art market was offered as an extra to the event, but we enjoyed it. The music and food were good, and the vantage west of the city was priceless. We also returned to the Log Cabin Gallery for the Fall – Autumn in Red Show.
October – The first few weeks of October were spent preparing for my largest fiber show – Textile Art Alliance, at Landerhaven on the third sunday of the month. TAA is an arm of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and draws a wonderful patronage. I just love it when there is no explaination necessary for the work…. just understanding and willingness to support the arts. TAA upgraded me to room 1, which brought me to tears that they would appreciate my work so much as to give me the well lit room, and a vantage at the door (Prime location!!!) I had been crocheting wire crochet brooches for weeks, and they again were the big hit, with customers coming from all over looking for me. One of the best sellers was my beaded carrot brooch…. And out of my presence at that show I was fortunate to acquire several commissions for pieces of silk. One was a large beach sarong/beach cover that could double for an evening cover. We returned to an event at Lakeland Community College (Craft for the Mansion) and it was ok. We have discovered that some of the shows we did a few years ago are perhaps not our venue any more. In spite of it we met some amazing and skilled people, and had a good time. We ended the month doing a show at Fairmount Temple… which was somewhat sleepy, with limited hours. But we enjoyed the day, and I actually had several regular customers visit us for soap, and one charming woman came because she fell in love with the sterling silver and pearl crochet brooches. We were also invited back to the Log Cabin Gallery for the Winter White out show…. which is why the work in sterling silver and pearls. Production is growing more intense to have volumes of soap for the remainder of the season. Steve is now making 3-5 batches of soap per day.
November – Began with a health scare for Steve – sudden onset of double vision, resulting in a visit to the ER and subsequent testing and doctor visits ruled out major neurological issues, and isolated it to one of the three controller nerves in his left eye. As of this post the issue is still not fully resolved. We were so blessed to be invited to Prosperity Jewelry’s Holiday party in their studios…. a wonderful pair of talented artists, they open their space to 15 artists, bring in live music, more food than you could imagine, and have a celebration. What a great event. We also did a fund raiser for “Furry Friends” which literally was a dog of a show in a dimly lit outdated hall in parma, badly organized, with few buyers. Things go like that some times. Most of our month was spent building stock, stocking stores, and delivering wholesale orders. Brisk business, with that layer of stress due to the health issue!!!
December – Glorious December is all i can say. The month opened with a two day show at Lakeland Artists Market with returning customers. We never unpacked the car, but simply moved everything to Art Craft Building for the annual sale. We were in the company of wonderful artists, and we celebrated a great two days… busy, good crowds despite a power outage in the building, and the elevator stopped working twice (we are on the 6th floor of that old warehouse). We spent the week wrapping soap, and preparing for the following weekend, invited into the studios of Allen Kradlak and Jeff Dube in conjunction with Cleveland Bazaar. Lots of little miracles that weekend…. but one significant one was that the tv media was interviewing shoppers (not even in the studio area we were located) and they asked a shopper – “Whats in your bag – what did you buy here?” She reached in and the camera tightened in on a shot of our Pink Himalayan Salt soap. She gave a 30 second plug for our soap… and almost immediately after it aired we sold out. We brought more stock the next day and proceeded to sell out again. After a final third friday at 78th street studios we are now resting, reconciling, and celebrating a wonderful year.
Thank you, each of our friends, customers, blog readers and patrons…. You are why we do this… because we take such joy in knowing you have wonderful products that are healthy and good. Blessings to you on this last day of the year 2014, and may your new year be filled with joy, peace, health and prosperity.