Friday, July 31, 2009

What's new at Donna's Crafty Creations? Handmade jewelry from the Dominican Republic

Wow! What an opportunity a chance meeting with an old friend has created.

Several months ago, I ran into an old friend at a local fast food restaurant. We chatted about what each of us had been doing and the subject of Donna's Crafty Creations came up. As I described the handcrafted merchandise I sell, I could see the wheels turning in my friend's mind. When he spoke, he said something like this:

There's this lady at my church who works with women in the Dominican Republic (DR). She taught them how to make beads from paper, magazine photos, boxes, etc, and now sells the jewelry they make from the beads. All the proceeds go back to the women in the DR, giving them a little extra money they can use to buy more food, medicine, or whatever else they need. She's been talking about trying to sell the jewelry at Trade Days, what do you think? Do you think she could?

We talked some more, I gave him my card, and he said he'd pass my info along to her. Fast forward to July 2009. I met with Lois the evening of July 30. We talked about the possibility of adding the paper bead jewelry to my product line. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to help, so, starting with August Trade Days, there will be one more product opportunity for my customers - jewelry made in the Dominican Republic from paper. She also has bracelets made from soda cans and clothespin springs. All quite nice. Look for them in my booth in August.

July Trade Days

Can you spell "hot"? "Friday, July 17" is one way to spell it. The heat and humidity were brutal. (I've been in worse heat and humidity one time, the last weekend in June, 2009.) It was hot!

In spite of the heat, though, there were a lot of shoppers out on Friday, far more than usual. Not a lot of buyers in the "old" section, just shoppers. I had my ice chest full of ice and cold drinks, a one gallon cooler full of ice, cold water, and inexpensive wash cloths, and what my sister calls my "fan club" - my collection of battery-powered and A/C powered fans - to keep the air moving in my booth. This time of year I'm very thankful to have one of the few south-facing booths at Trade Days. The sun only hits the roof directly late in the afternoon, unlike the west facing booths that get sun on their roofs in the morning, the east facing booths that get hit with afternoon sun, and the few north facing booths that have sun on their roofs all day. I'll take any break I can get when it comes to summer heat.

Saturday didn't feel as hot, although my clock/thermometer said it reached the same high temperature. Sunday afternoon, around 3:30, a storm blew through. A lot of vendors packed up, in preparation for leaving. I did pack up my tabletop flower arrangements, since they're not meant to withstand high winds, but I made sure they were still available for prospective customers to view. For a little while after the rain moved through, it was cooler, but then the humidity crept back in and raised the heat index back to almost where it had been before the rains hit.

I sold a few flower arrangements, a few pieces of jewelry, and made a few pairs of custom earrings. The customer who had special ordered a red and white potholder was delighted to pick it up. All in all, a "normal" weekend for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pirate Ship Cake from Wilton's 2010 Yearbook Preview Demo

Well, when the 2010 Yearbook came out, and I found out we were supposed to create the cover cake for our July demo, I asked my Course 1 students what they thought of the cake. They thought it was too intimidating, so I decided to do something else - not a cake - for the demo.

Our store manager has been getting a lot of questions about fondant, though, and I've been wanting to do a fondant demo, so cupcakes just didn't seem like the right way to go. I'd decide to do the pirate ship, then I'd think, "Intimidating". Then I'd decide to do cupcakes. Back and forth I'd go. Finally, the morning of the demo dawned and I had to make a decision. By then, I'd looked again at the cover photo and decided it didn't look that bad at all. So, I baked a 9x13 cake (I'm too cheap to buy a special pan if I'm probably not going to use it much), cut a diamond-shaped chunk out of the middle, and cut cylinders for pirate bodies out of the leftovers.

I colored some fondant light blue for the ocean (a fondant-covered cake board), colored some gum paste light blue for the waves - the color match between the two media was pretty good - cut out sails from white gum paste and waves from the blue gum paste. My car was full of "cake stuff" when I pulled out of the driveway to go to Michaels.

Several people stopped to watch me work on the cake. One young lady really got into the fantasy of the pirate ship, wanting to know where one pirate's arms and hands were (I hadn't made them yet), how the pirates would get belowdecks, why one pirate looked like he was drawing back one arm to slug somebody, .... She was delightful to interact with.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June Third Monday Trade Days

I got off to a late start setting up on Thursday - there were a few odds and ends from my "real" job that had to be polished off. Wednesday night, we had been under a tornado warning (no tornado actually hit McKinney), and I wasn't quite sure what I'd find at my booth. I'd left three tubs of hardware, lights, and fans, on my space, and was pretty sure they were heavy enough to withstand any storm winds, so I didn't check on my space Wednesday night. I ordinarily hang the wind curtains around my space Wednesday evening, but I didn't do that this time.

Thursday morning, when I arrived at my space, the crew that puts up my canopy was there. We had had so much rain that my canopy had collapsed. In fact, seven canopies collapsed in the storm, mine was the last one they had to put back up. I was very glad I hadn't put the wind curtains up, as that would have made even more of a mess for the canopy crew to sort through. I was doubly glad that I hadn't put shelves and merchandise out yet, too.

Friday's weather was threatening, but it really didn't produce much in the way of bad weather. There were quite a few people around, for a Friday. Saturday morning the weather was much nicer, but it was the beginning of a very hot, miserable day. Granted, my alarm clock/thermometer isn't an official weather station, but the thermometer registered 102 F Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was horribly humid and turned into a miserable day. Thank goodness for ice chests and wet towels. I'm sure I looked lovely with a wet towel wrapped around my neck, but I didn't get overheated.

Sunday afternoon, I noticed the blue vinyl tablecloth on my worktable/desk/office table was turning white. I didn't think anything about it until I noticed I had two blue forearms and elbows. It didn't take long for me to put two and two together and figure out that the sunscreen I use softened the vinyl so it transferred from the tablecloth to anything that touched it. I've finally managed to scrub off the last of the blue vinyl from my arms and elbows and I think I've gotten all of it off my nice white laptop.

I took several special orders from Trade Days again this month. Those will help fill the coffers.

I added several "chunky" necklaces this month and some adorable ice cream sundae earrings. I need to get those photographed, and the photos posted, too.

Overdue updates

Wow! It's been a while since I last posted what I've been up to.

Anna Glowfest wasn't quite a bust, but almost. Saturday's weather started out overcast, but not terribly threatening. I don't think the balloons went up because it was so windy. The winds continued all day, vendors started leaving around noon, the balloons didn't go up for the evening flight, then, around 7:30, event staff went around to all the remaining vendors and told us there was a bad storm 6 miles away and heading our direction fast, we should all batten down the hatches and get out before the storm hits. So we did. We left, not knowing what we'd find the next morning. Well, the next morning, it didn't even look like it had rained at the fair site. "Better safe than sorry" became our mantra.

Sunday was even more windy than Saturday. More vendors left during the day. One vendor, who hadn't staked his tent at all, or so it seemed, put up his wind curtains and left. Around 4, a strong wind came at us, and lifted his tent off the ground. Another vendor noticed the airborne tent, grabbed it, and hung on for all he was worth until a couple more vendors, including me, dropped what we were doing to help him handle the tent. It took three of us to get the tent back on the ground and callapse it so it wouldn't become airborne again. While we were struggling, the wind pushed us all sideways and took out another vendor's tent. That was enough for me. I knew my tent wasn't going anywhere, but I didn't know when someone else's tent might take my tent out. I decided to pack up and call it quits. While I was packing, one of the organizers came by and asked me if I was leaving. When I replied that I was, her response was that she didn't blame me.

As soon as I had everything packed up, I called Alan and asked him to meet me at Sicily's for dinner, after which we would come back to the festival, pack up our Tributes, and leave. By the time we returned after dinner, the balloons were being inflated for the evening glow. We had to wait until after the glow to be able to get our vehicles in place to load them. The glow was great. I think the pilots were trying to make up for the loss of flights. The glow lasted about30 minutes and featured simultaneous ignitions, pattern ignitions, an apparent contest to see who could fire his burner in the shortest, most rapid bursts, and random burns. It was fun to watch.

Monday dawned clear and calm. The vendors who were left probably had very good sales. I spent the day with Alan, watching him fly his RC helicopters and running errands.

The bands that played at the festival were actually pretty decent. Most, if not all, were praise bands, so I did get a little tired of praise music. Most, if not all, used the instrumentals from "Sweet Home, Alabama" for their sound checks. Now, don't get me wrong, I like "Sweet Home, Alabama", but hearing it 20 or so times a day is a bit much. Of course, when I got in my car to drive home and turned on the radio, what was playing but, you guessed it, "Sweet Home, Alabama". Alan even played it for me on Monday, just so I wouldn't miss hearing it so much.

I'll have to take pictures of the balloon jewelry and ornaments. Both turned out well.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Anna Glow Fest is here!

The balloon festival in Anna (TX), Anna Glow Fest, started last night. There were quite a few people around for a Friday night. I missed the actual "glow", but I did see the balloons illuminated while they were being inflated - quite impressive.

I succeeded in making a few knitted hot air balloon ornaments. I'll make more during the day today, while I don't have customers. I was lucky enough to find some very pretty beads in the right shape for hot air balloon necklaces and earrings, so I have several of those, too. I hope the weather holds.

Hmm. If I look outside now, I may be able to see some of the balloons. The wind is from the north and Anna is north of here.

More later.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's new for Third Monday Trade Days - May 2009

I've been working on new floral arrangements for Trade Days this month. You'll also be able to see new earrings, and, I hope, new necklaces for summer. I'm experimenting with new earring styles, more posts instead of dangles, different combinations of materials, summer colors. If you've never been to Third Monday, you don't know what you're missing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brownies and Cakes

In this instance, "Brownies" are of the Girl Scout variety. I had a ball teaching 13 2nd-grade Brownies to ice a cake and decorate it. The troop leader, a couple of Brownies, and a couple of moms helped get everything set up. Then the fun began.

I showed the girls how to ice a cake, then they iced theirs. Then the moms and I used cookie and fondant cutters to put designs on the cakes, I demonstrated how to pipe stars, and the girls were off, decorating their hearts out. The girls did an amazing job icing and decorating their cakes, sometimes with a little adult help, but mainly on their own. I think they had as much fun as I did. When it came time to clean up, there was surprisingly little mess that had escaped to the floor.

So, a great, big, "Thank You!", to the troop leader, all the Moms who helped, and to all the Brownies who decorated cakes with me yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Icing flowers for the left-handed decorator

History: When I was a child, I would pick up a crayon, or pencil, or whatever, in each hand and write with it. Finally, my sister (13 months my junior) pointed out that, "You're only supposed to write with one hand." Since the rest of my family is right-handed, I chose my right hand, but used my left hand for a lot of things, dealing cards comes to mind. Years later, a neurologist told me I'm actually left-handed.

Time passed, and I started taking cake decorating lessons. Then came "the rose". Yikes! The rest of the class turns their flower nails the "right" way - counterclockwise. I turn mine the "wrong" way - clockwise. I still moved my hand toward me. My roses looked like - well, you can imagine - a pile of icing, certainly not a rose. So, I practiced and practiced, and practiced some more, and figured out the key - the direction you turn the nail, the direction you move your hand, and the direction you tilt the tip all have to agree. Once I figured this out, my roses started to look like roses.

Then I became a cake decorating instructor. Oh, now I have a left-handed student. Let's see if the old left-handed tendencies are still strong enough to make a rose. How about that? I CAN DO IT! HOORAY! YIPPEE! Well, my first left-handed student decided to make her roses "right-handed", which was fine with me. Then I posted on a discussion forum that I can help "lefties" with their flowers. A request finally came in, hence the Buttercream Flower Video.

The video comes in 2 flavors, "pc" and "mac". It shows how to make a rose and how to start a daffodil, an apple blossom, and a pansy. I left out the final details for the last three flowers, since the direction you turn the nail doesn't matter. If you need higher-resolution video, please let me know. The "standard" quality video is nearly 700 MBytes, far larger than the allowed video size. The "pc" version is on the left, the "mac" version on the right.

I hope this video helps.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The next challenge is ...

... knitting hot air balloon ornaments. Little did I know that the REAL challenge would be finding/creating a basket for the balloon. Knitting the balloons is easy. I've tried weaving yarn baskets, knitting yarn baskets, and searching local stores for tiny woven baskets. You'll have to visit the Anna (TX) Glow Fest to see what I finally use.

I'm also working on hot air balloon earrings for the occasion.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bracelets delivered! On to the next challenge ....

I delivered the bracelets last night! Finally! I met my customer at the McKinney ballfields near the ballfields at Craig Ranch. This gave me a chance to see Robert Hogan's statue of Joe DiMaggio. Wow! You can even see the texture of Joe's shoelaces! Amazing. The photos on Bob's website, bronzeartbyhogan, don't do his sculptures justice.

Today is "home repair and maintenance" day. New A/C and heating unit for the downstairs will be installed today, next Thursday the upstairs unit will be replaced. The nursery is removing two dead pear trees, victims of cotton root rot, and replacing them with a redbud and a magnolia. With any luck, the insurance adjuster will make it out today to inspect the roof - we lost several shingles in last Friday's winds and the roofing contractor says it's time to replace the 15-year-old roof. It's hard to believe the house is 15 years old!

While all of this is going on, I'll probably try my hand at knitting hot air balloon ornaments. I'm renting space at the Anna Glow Fest balloon festival Memorial Day weekend. Alan suggested that I make hot air balloon ornaments to sell there. Hmm. I wonder if I can make hot air balloon earrings ... I'll have to think about that one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Birthday activities

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a good day. I started the day finishing up with Trade Days activities - taking the last load of "stuff" to storage, unpacking the floral arrangements from the tubs they were transported in and putting them back on the shelves, cleaning up bits of trash from my spot.

In the early afternoon, I had tea with two friends. We had a lovely time, snacking on delicious quiche, fruit salad, tea breads, scones, and pastries. We hated to see our time together end, but we did all need to get back to other commitments.

My husband took me out for dinner - Genghis Grill - one of our favorite special occasion spots. We almost had the place to ourselves. There were three other diners there when we arrived and only about 10 diners when we left.

I taught my Wilton Cake Decorating Course 2, Lesson 2, Monday night. This is one of my favorite lessons because the students learn to work with one of my favorite media - run sugar, or, as Wilton has trademarked it, Color Flow.

When I got home, my husband and I sampled the chocolate cheesecake he baked for me. It was delicious!

All in all, a very good day!

Trade Days - Days Two and Three

Saturday was rainy (again) in the morning, sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny in the afternoon. Sunday was a gorgeous day! There were a lot of people around, shopping, buying, chatting, a little of everything. I did a booming business in custom earrings, with several orders for next month. I even had one lady bring in a too-short necklace purchased from another vendor, who couldn't lengthen it, and ask if I could lengthen it for her. I did; a customer's a customer! I sure hope the other jewelry vendors don't start hauling their findings out there - I do a lot of alterations. Next time, maybe they'll start with me.

In a "what are the odds" moment, I was in or near my booth all weekend except for about 5 minutes Sunday afternoon. A friend was out shopping Sunday and is fairly certain she stopped by my booth but didn't see me there. What are the odds?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trade Days - Day One

I didn't realize I'd not written anything since the 9th.

The 50 bracelets are coming along nicely. I've worked out a system to speed up assembly. Other than that, I've been getting ready for Third Monday Trade Days. Yesterday's storm was interesting to sit through, outdoors, in a 24x24 spot, completely covered (thank goodness!), and largely enclosed by 6' high wind curtains. All my merchandise survived, but I did bring home the crocheted and knitted blankets to launder - four of them were soaked. Today's weather is supposed to be much better.

Tonight's the opening of our church youth group's silent auction to raise money for their mission trip. The dinner is usually excellent. I'll be on hand to answer questions about the jewelry I donated. The youth have put together several talents to share, including an indoor LaCrosse demonstration! That should be interesting to watch.

Time to get busy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What a week!

Here it is, Thursday, (Maundy Thursday for those of you of the Christian faith), and I've not added anything to my blog since Tuesday. Tuesday evening there were 10 students in my Course 1; we made it through the class and decided to split into two sessions - one meeting on Tuesday night, the other meeting on Wednesday night. For the first time ever, the store manager greeted my class! I think my students really appreciated it.

I've not had time to work on any jewelry, yet. I've been updating my resume for work. My program is nearing its end, so it's time to look for the next opportunity. Today, I've been making deviled eggs for the Agape meal at our church tonight. 18 eggs. 3 dozen deviled egg halves.

After we get home from services this evening, I'll get busy. I don't have to work tomorrow. I plan to spend part of the day working on jewelry. I hope to go to the dedication of a sculpture in Highland Park tomorrow. I found out, through Facebook, that a fellow West Virginia transplant to Texas, from my home county, no less, is an accomplished sculptor and has a dedication tomorrow. That's all for now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wow! What a busy few days. First, we bought a new lawn mower - our 17-year-old mower finally bit the dust - and a new string trimmer. Then, we bought two trees to replace the two pear trees that succumbed to cotton root rot. After that, we attended Alan's niece's wedding up at Lake Texoma. Finally, we purchased two new air conditioning systems for our house. In between, I figured out how many more beads I am going to need to finish those 50 bracelets for a fund-raiser.

The findings I ordered arrived over the weekend, too. Now I can get started making jewelry with all the gorgeous stones I purchased from another vendor at last month's Trade Days - sapphires, opals, mahogany obsidian, black onyx - look for stud earrings, links in necklaces, and who knows what else. I'll also expand the available clip-ons for those without pierced ears. I can hardly wait to get started.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Works in progress

This evening, I'm working on a custom order for a fund raiser: 50 elastic bracelets that read "I am second". I am Second is "a movement where significance in life is a shared value among people of all kinds." (Quote taken from I am Second's website.) After that, I've committed to providing a set of jewelry to a DAR fund-raiser and something to our church youth group's silent auction fundraiser for their mission trip. Well, those bracelets aren't going to make themselves, are they? Stay tuned for info on the other jewelry.

My first blog!

Wow.  This is my very first blog.  Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I live in north central Texas, with my husband and our three cats.  A little over two years ago, I started a small crafts business, Donna's Crafty Creations, through which I sell things that I make.  I'm working on getting more visibility for my business, so, here I am. 

I love to arrange silk flowers, they were the reason I started my business.  (I ran out of room for them in our house.)  I do all sorts of needlecrafts:  sewing, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, tatting, needlepoint, counted cross-stitch, hardanger.  I've learned to make jewelry.  I'm currently teaching myself to paint.  I also teach cake decorating.

I'll be back later with more information.