Saturday, August 31, 2013

Prodigal Daughter

It has been a year since I posted.  A lot can happen in a year, and a lot more seemed to get crammed into this one than most.  I had some fabulous successes, some scary dips downward, and throughout the roller coaster ride I learned some valuable lessons and grew as a person.  

Primarily what happened was a little something named Broadhope Art Collective.  Last summer I started working towards getting it from the zygote of an idea to a brick and mortar store filled with art and the people who make it.  I'm pleased to report Broadhope is about to celebrate it's first birthday in October!  This little "art collective that could" is an extraordinary and eclectic mix of handmade goods from Cincinnati artists, primarily those from the West Side.  We teach workshops, too, so you can come get your creative juices flowing, tap that inner artist, even if you swear up down and all around you can't so much as draw a stick figure.  (Yes.  You can.  I hear this all the time and I'm going to tell you your WRONG).

So, that's where I've been.  I've basically been eating, breathing, sleeping Broadhope since last July.  Other things happened, too!  I had a fun exhibit up at the University of Cincinnati's DAAP library.  My kids are bigger and smarter and more gorgeous than before, and they continually amaze me.  The husband has had a crazy, life-consuming project all his own, which I'll tell you about next time.  We did some traveling, had some adventures, kept up with old friends, made lots of new friends, and time just soared by.
But something happened this summer.  I came home from our family road trip to Wisconsin (which was extraordinary and unlike anything we've done before).  But I returned to a crossroads, realizing very quickly that I needed to make some changes.  I had become an administrator and manager, I was making less and less of my own work, and I was really starting to feel the repercussions.  I had assumed roles in life I was not meant for, and it was waring on me.

It turns out Broadhope is not my baby.  This baby, who is now taking steps on its own and wobbling forward without my propping it up, has lots of other wonderful, capable artists to help it on its way.  I have no doubt it will continue to grow and thrive.  But I will be sitting in the background, enjoying the show, instead of at the helm, steering the ship.

I learned one very big, very important lesson.  It can be simplified down to one sentence:

When I am no longer making art, something is wrong, and something must go.

That something cannot be my family, which is a danger for over-busy mamas.  It is all too easy for us to sacrifice the very thing that is most precious to us.  But anything else is fair game.  Because here is what I am truly ready to realize, what I'm gonna own, what I can hold dear in my heart: I am an artist, and I've always shied away from stepping into that role 100%.  I've allowed myself to get distracted with enormous projects like a West Side art collective, which are certainly worthy and wonderful in their own rites, but not at the expense of my own art.

The solution?  I'm handing over the reins.  Slowly and surely, other folks are taking up my duties at Broadhope.  I am moving into an artist studio at Essex in October.  I know I need a community of artists around me and that I cannot work isolated in my home.

Quite possibly the best thing to come out of this year-long journey?  This lady right here.  I've found a kindred spirit.  I'm not sure what I've done to be so lucky as to have not just one soulmate in Jason, but a second in my bestie Tara, but I feel so complete with both of them and I'm forever grateful.  As Jason puts it - Tara and I make a good set.

And so, Robot Inside and abbydid will be partnering at Essex Art Studios starting in October.  We will each continue to grow our one-woman-shows separately, but collaborate and support one another as well, helping each other develop and grow.  I can't imagine not working with this lady.  She is just something special.

I've had so many amazing ideas coming at me.  They've especially started flooding in since I made the decision to step back from Broadhope.  When you open yourself up to what the universe has to offer you, that receptivity is rewarded.  I know I'm on the right track, because those creative juices are flowing.  They are powerful, and they are not going to be ignored.  I'm so ready for this next chapter in my life!  I'm ready to really step in and own who I am and why I'm on this planet.  There will still be monsters, oh yes indeedy, but there will be so much more, too.  Just wait and see:)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Westwood Art Show - come see me!

While I have been a busy little bee making things and getting involved in wonderful projects, the one area I have pulled way back on is the craft show scene.  This is likely the one and only show you will find me at this year!  So if you plan on perusing the plush live and in person at a hip outdoor event THIS IS YOUR CHANCE!
Look!  There I am, working away at my colorful little booth.  
Why this show?  Because I LOVE this show.  Westwood is a sweet neighborhood with beautiful, historical buildings like the Westwood Town Hall, where we will be holding the show.  The grounds around the Hall are grassy and green, trees creating a dappled screen from the sun.  It will be a beautiful day in the mid 70s, live music will be playing, artists will be displaying their wares, good food will be had, and crafts with the kiddos will be created.
See?  Look how cute this show is!  Older couples strolling together.  PRECIOUS.
I've been to a lot of shows in my day, both as a spectator and as a vendor.  This is one of my favorites.  The atmosphere is relaxed and happy.  There is plenty of space to move around, you aren't funneled through crowded pathways like cattle as is the case with other events.  I get so claustrophobic at things like that.  Not here!   Also, you tend to see the same artists again and again regardless of which show you attend.  But at the Westwood Art Show, most if not all of the folks working this show are from Western Hills or grew up here, and they typically are not working the craft show circuit.  So this is often the only art or craft show they will appear at.  It's a genuinely lovely neighborhood event with folks genuinely happy to see each other.
Kalli basically lived at the craft booth last year.  It was pretty great.
As Broadhope Art Collective will be opening just down the road in neighboring Cheviot, this is our home base, and many of the artists involved in that will be vending here as well.  So come hang out with us, won't you?  We'll be happy to tell you all about the new center.

And be sure to be there around 11am when Tara, also known as the stitching guru from Robot Inside, plays with her band The Mitchells.  Really, what can't that girl do?  (hint: nothing)
Best of both worlds - my monster banner and one of Tara's owl bags.  SWEET!
A glimpse of my booth from last year.  
See you soon!  Specifically, at the Westwood Art Show, this Saturday the 15th from 11am-5pm around Westwood Town Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio.

OH!  And have you contributed to the Broadhope Art Collective yet?

You have?  GREAT!  I love you and you are my favorite.

You HAVE NOT???  Well, hurry up!  We can't do this without you, you know.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Broadhope Art Collective - Help Make It Happen!

Broadhope Art Collective, our new art center in Cheviot, Ohio
Exciting news!  Remember how I've been hoping and dreaming for an art space where I can teach classes , exhibit  my work, and work amongst a community of artists?

You don't?  Well I have.  And doesn't that sound wonderful?  Doesn't it just sound like a DREAM?  

Well, it's time to make that dream a reality, kittens!  Check it out:

Yes, indeed, we have a building picked out, we have artists signed up, and we are ready and willing and able.  But we need your help.  The deposit for the space, the stools we'll sit on during workshops, the extra gallery walls where we'll hang pictures, the toilet paper in the bathroom...these things all cost cash dollars!  And kittens, we are starving artists, you know.  So won't you help a talented group of creative folk make their dreams come true?  There are all sorts of goodies available if you do!

I strongly encourage you to browse through the dozen support levels and see what rewards appeal to you.  We have all sorts of fun ways to say thank you for your support.  

I'll tell you about the two of my reward levels.  Let's start with the biggest one, shall we?  
Make your own!  I'll show you how.

At the $250 level we have the most fabulous MONSTER MAKING PARTY!!!  
Haven't you always wanted to sit down with your own, personal textile artists for a few hours, creating your own monster? And wouldn't that be so much more fun with FIVE OF YOUR FRIENDS???

Copious amounts of fun would be had, I can tell you.  There's only one of these parties being offered so jump on it right away!  Your party will be tailored to your sewing abilities and age level.  So if it's half a dozen kids walking in the door, we will be completely prepared.  All supplies are included, as is the use of our flock of sewing machines.  

And by the way, the most awesome Tara of Robot Inside fame is in cahoots with me on this.  We are partners in crime, my friends, and a package deal.  What's better than one critter maker?  

******* can opt in for the $75 dollar level and have me, your dear darling plush artist, make any stuffed creation you can dream up.  Have a drawing your child created?  Have a design of your own you're dying to see become soft and 3 dimensional?  Or maybe you are just in love with a certain character or image.  Turn me loose on it and soon it will be in your arms, ripe for the cuddling.  

I've done this sort of thing for awhile now on a custom order basis.  My wonderful customers come to me with the most amazing ideas and I have a great time with them.  Here are a few examples:

I made the NKU mascot Victor the Viking into a puppet.  That was REALLY FUN.

I made Roland of I Only Like Monsters a big brother based on his likeness.  
Dudley got a plush version of himself made, Wibbly Woo style.  
This was a very open request for some sort of giraffe or lion.  Naturally I saw an opportunity to make both - a hybrid beast we refer to as the LoRaffe!

Zebra Talker is a character concocted by my friend's son.  To surprise him one Christmas, she asked me to turn him into a plush.  
A custom assortment of Christmas stockings went to a very special customer last year.  Yes, that's a transformer, zombie, Wibbly Woo, and the Nutcracker.  
 So please, please, please consider digging in those couch cushions, breaking up the kids' piggy banks, or sorting through the junk drawer to gather up some contribution to send to us.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us, the artists involved, but also for the community at large.  This is your chance to be a part of that!  Help make this happen, own a piece of Broadhope's coming into existence.  Thank you!

The fundraiser is right here:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Come sew with me - One Night, One Craft at the CAC

Hi, kittens!  I have something exciting to tell you.  In one week, on Monday, July 30th from 6:00-8:00pm, I will be teaching a class at the Contemporary Arts Center's One Night One Craft series of DIY sessions for grown ups.  The class is $5, unless you are a member in which case it is totally FREE.  There's a cash bar, which enhances any craft, and admission to the museum is free to everyone for the evening as well.
But, Abby, what shall we make together?  

I'm glad you asked!  
We will hand-sew our very own monster gadget cozies, what I lovingly refer to as knucklebiters (because that's how far you get before they bite).  I've made about a zillion of these in my day, they are popular critters, and now I'll show YOU how to make one of your very own.  
Everything you need is included in the rock bottom price of $5.  This includes a darling felt needlebook I made just for you.  I'm so thoughtful!  
Because we are hand sewing, the knucklebiters will be made of felt instead of my usual choice of velvety-soft microfiber fur.  But TRUST ME when I say this is the easier choice for hand sewing.  Felt is fun and easy to work with, it won't move around on you like the fur would.  We will use a bamboo blend of wool that's more sustainable to the planet, and I have at least a dozen colors to choose from. You will also have your choice of hand-painted safety eyes and a fun, furry tail.  

Doesn't this sound FANTASTIC?  Can't you hardly wait?  GREAT!  I'll see you there:)

Here are the links to the event:

Feel free to email me any questions you may have or leave them for me on the abbydid facebook page. This is a popular series and they often fill up quickly, so be sure to get there on time!  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How I Sent the Boy to Camp -or- How to Mortify the Boy

Right, so, my son turned 10, that went fine, and THEN we turn around and leave him at sleep-away camp for a whole entire week.  He was completely ready and willing to go, but me LETTING go has proved to be another story.  I am missing him like crazy, constantly wondering what he's doing and if he's having a great time and looking forward to picking him up Saturday morning.

I took special delight in packing him for camp and thought I'd share.  It should be noted that the boy is NOT IMPRESSED AT ALL, and is in fact probably thoroughly humiliated, but little does he realize that what I have done is COMPLETELY AWESOME and is sure to only make him MORE POPULAR with his fellow campers.  I am so convinced of this that I am CERTAIN I will get some sort of award when I pick him up in two days time.  

There is a small, logical, reasonable part of me that knows that is delusional.  Luckily, it is outvoted by the rest of me and I'm relishing in my daydream of being celebrated.  On we go:

I labeled the bags containing his underwear and socks.  Oh, I labelled them, all right!  I labelled them with mom humor and unnecessary advice.  Picturing the appreciative smile on his face is all the thanks I need.  

The campers were advised to pack all of their belongings in a big plastic bin.  Your average parent would look at that bin and simply see an empty bin.  Luckily, our son does not have AVERAGE PARENTS!!!  No siree!  I only saw an EMPTY CANVAS, and rectified this situation immediately.  I also employed the help of my baby daddy/marital partner and also my daughter who is going through her "monster phase" much like Picasso went through his "blue phase."  

I did clear this with the boy first.  Here's how that conversation went:

Me: I'm going to write your name on the bin, okay?
Boy: Okay

-fast forward to the "big reveal"-

Boy: *long silent stare*
Me: *beaming with pride, giant dopey grin on face*
Boy: I thought you were just going to write my name on it.
Me: I DID!!! SEE????  RIGHT THERE!!!  

You also have to label all of their stuff.  Presumably because they just toss their belongings willy nilly into the woods and into the lake and onto the ground and then stir them all up in one big stinky belongings stew to be sorted out at the end of the week.  I chose to approach this with machine embroidered labels.  On the towels, these labels double as loops with which to neatly hook the towels so they may dry and stay clean and orderly.  Like that's going to happen, not the aforementioned stew business.  

Lastly, just to sweeten the deal, I mailed him stuff.  There's a care package containing cupcakes and party hats and streamers to throw a party with his cabin.  That one I just bought from the camp, that's something they offer and hence is totally kosher and not 
embarrassing, right?

But THEN I also wrote him.  I wrote him this AMAZING letter filled with helpful dos and don'ts.  

I think we can all agree this letter is the MOST AWESOME LETTER EVER!!!  It's really helpful and informative and funny.  He is one lucky kid!  I am really looking forward to that trophy, I know just where I'm going to put it.

It may surprise you to learn the boy has not written to us, despite the pre-addressed and pre-stamped stationary I lovingly included in his kick ass bin-o-belongings.  This despite me pining for him as I sit by the mailbox.  Luckily, his camp has this amazing service where they upload photos from camp each day so you can see what your kid is up to.  I have been checking it several hundred times a day and can report he has done many fun activities except for on Tuesday when he somehow alluded the camera the whole entire day.  I assumed he had been eaten by a bear, and I felt had stayed reasonably calm despite this, but then today I spotted him in the pool and sitting on a bench so all is well.  He was even SMILING in one of them!  I'm going to have to ask how they got him to do that because all I get are disapproving glares and the shaking of the head.  

If you want to send your kid to a really awesome camp, by the way, may I heartily recommend to you Camp Ernst in Burlington, Kentucky.  They have been amazing, I've never heard anything but fantastic things about them, and this really is my kid's dream come true.  You can watch lots of other kids having the times of their young lives at the Camp Ernst YouTube channel, it's also really rad.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bleaching Skulls -or- We Make Party Favors!

My son has the audacity to turn 10 years old tomorrow.  TEN!  That is an entire decade since I gave birth to him, people, and I do not like the implications.  On the one hand, I've kept him alive all this time.  He's thrived, even.  On the other hand I am not all young and bouncy like I once was.  Instead, I am the mother of a tween.  He is almost as tall as I am, keeps his door closed a lot, is prone to moods, and has started to wear deodorant.  It is shocking.
That's my kid, the punk.
What this also means is that party planning has taken on some new twists.  Gone are the days of dinosaur excavations in the sandbox and Bob the Builder collective shouts of "YES, WE CAN!"  No, these days we play laser tag with a group of our best buds.  When asked what sort of party favor he'd like, I was told skull bandanas.

 Macabre?  Sure.  But my compulsively crafty brain immediately started spinning, and I concocted a plan to make our own bandanas with skulls bleached into them.

And guess what?  It WORKED!  Added bonuses: it was a fun activity to do with the kids, no one bleached themselves or their own clothing, and the patio got a little cleaner.   Check it out:

My patio is in rough shape.  Don't judge.
Brody did a lot of this himself.  Here he is rinsing like a washer woman.

We used blue and brown bandanas, with different results.
The brown changed really quickly, while the blue took longer and had a more ghostly effect.

Here's a quick how to if your nutty enough to do this yourself:
1.) Cut a stencil.  I had some sort of Martha Stewart brand stencil film that I did not love.  It kept curling up on me.  But I had it so I used it.  You could use a different kind of heavy duty plastic sheeting, a non-curling kind, or some thin, heavy duty cardboard or mat board.
2.) I framed the stencil out inside of a large piece of cardboard for stability, then I "floated" the eyes and nose using string that was anchored along the sides and strung across the skull in sort of a web-type method.
3.)  I mixed a solution of 1/2 bleach, 1/2 water in a spray bottle.
4.) We laid the stencil over the bandana, sprayed the bleach solution onto them, removed the stencil, then watched as the color changed.
5.) When we liked where the color transformation was, we quickly transferred the bandana into a tub of water we had on standby to stop the bleaching process.
6.) I rinsed them all out again and plan on giving them a go in the washing machine before tucking them into the gift bags for the party tomorrow.

And there you have it.  Bonding with the boy and getting my craft on.  Happy Friday!

Monday, April 30, 2012

A word about pricing...

Creature holding creature.
As many of you may have noticed, abbydid has been scaling back since last summer.  I had been hitting the craft show scene pretty hard, and the balance with family life was getting a bit out of whack.  It was becoming too much, I wasn't enjoying my work, and changes needed to be made.

The result was to drastically cut back on craft shows.  Today you can find abbydid plush in one of two places; my etsy shop and Fabricate, a brick and mortar shop in Northside of Cincinnati.

The next step is to raise my prices to better compensate me for my work.  This is the part of the job I hate the most.  It's difficult for me to price my work, I'm constantly under-valuing what I do.  I took a long, hard look at my price list recently and determined I needed to be more realistic about what I charge.

I've often joked I get paid in compliments.  Some of my shows I've participated because I consider it community outreach, a way to support neighborhoods I love and want to support, despite the knowledge the sales may not be very high.  After four years, however, abbydid needs to be more profitable to be sustainable.

This has had me pondering, probably for the 1,000th time, about the prices we pay for things, and how what we pay is too often unrealistic in relation to what an item actually costs to be made.  There's nothing quite like making something yourself to quickly bring home how spoiled we've become having inexpensive goods at our beck and call, not to mention the short cuts that are made to achieve these rock bottom prices.  Ethical work practices,  quality materials, workmanship, these arewhat are often sacrificed so we can save a few bucks.

In my personal life I strive to be a conscientious shopper.  I try to be a localvore.  I consider how the animals were raised when shopping for meat.  I consider the origin and growing season of the produce I'm buying.  I support handmade whenever and wherever I can.  If I'm going to talk the talk I had damn well better walk the walk.  But the reality of the situation of living outside of the city and raising kids makes this hard work.  Work worth doing, absolutely, but I'm not beyond taking a lazy shortcut here and there to keep things running smoothly.  I'm in Target at least once a week.  I know that's not ideal.  The majority of the clothes we are all wearing are mass produced over seas.  My biggest confession here - sometimes I just don't care.  Sometimes I get tired of trying to do the right thing and say to hell with it.  But this doesn't last long, I know better, and these aren't issues I can readily ignore.

Those are my personal choices.  This is how I believe my life should be led, and these are the ethics I want to pass on to my children.  The flip side of that is to be sure I'm compensated fairly, as well.  My kids need to see I value myself and my work.  I need to see that, too, honestly.

Now, I know all too well there are indie crafters out there over-charging.  Not every handmade item is an artisan, one-of-a-kind creation worth it's weight in gold.  But by and large this is not the norm, the vast majority of crafters and artists are struggling to strike a balance between making a profit and maintain a price that is attainable to their target audience.  It's tricky.  We, as a community, need to keep this in mind. Before we loudly complain at someone's booth when shopping at a craft show that this is so outrageously expensive, I challenge us all to stop and truly think about what it takes to dream up the idea, create the piece, make adjustments and perfect the design, photograph the piece, market it, list it online, haul in displays and tear them down again at a show, pay booth fees, take a 40% cut when selling through a store, shop for materials, and the zillion other things it takes to run a craft business.

Most of us are in it because of our passion for what we do.  We are crazy to do it, quite often, so it's the love of it that keeps us going.  To see a little profit at the end of the day certainly helps keep that fire stoked.

All this is to say, kittens, my prices have gone up a bit.  Thanks for your support and love.  Carry on.

Whipper Slappers, monster slap bracelets