Summer Sundays

Don’t you just LOVE summer time? I know, there are some that loath the heat and humidity, but that is just the nature of summer. Life is full of negatives, but I usually choose to focus on more positive things – summer and weekends are two positive things at the top of my list. There are so many things I love about summer, like the sunshine and the energy it provides – it brings happier dispositions, longer days and healthy vegetables in my garden. I enjoy the extra time with my daughter as she’s getting older and more self sufficient, (although bittersweet at the same time). The outdoor events in our area that give opportunity to get out and socialize with our neighbors and friends a bit more and looking for new opportunities to be of service. I stay busy, evenings and weekends are when I work for myself, fitting in some advertising and order fulfillment between loads of laundry (or maybe vice versa). I love my little creative side gig – it’s been my thing for almost 12 years now, but Sundays, I take a bit slower usually, if at all possible. Church is at the top of my Sunday list and sometime we go out for lunch and keep the kitchen quiet all day long. Other than that, I wing it with a bit more of a restful approach. Summer Sundays often include time in my garden, or swinging on the front porch with my dog and a cool drink, thinking and listening to my pond fountain while enjoying the calmness. Summer Sundays are one of my favorites.

With the arrival of the global pandemic last year, most retail businesses have went through many changes. My little side gig is no exception and I continue to strive for better ways to keep it growing or at least hold steady. Shortly after the onset of Covid, I chose to stop hosting painting/crafting workshops and tried to focus more on just creating the handmade items I would occasionally offer for sale via Facebook or Etsy. I pulled out my basic sewing and crochet skills (thanks to both my Grandmother and my Mamaw for this bit of knowledge) and made enough cotton masks for a small army, crochet dish cloths, a couple of small blankets, button dish towels and a few other random things. I donated the majority of the handmade masks, as there was a dire need at the time, but with all the other crafty items I was accumulating, last fall I decided to set up a temporary in house display for selling my items online, mostly for local pick up. Keeping up with consistent SEO and marketing is a bit challenging for me – especially with the overwhelming flood of others with more time doing the same exact thing. I sold a bit here and there, but not as quickly or as much as I was hoping for, so I put my thinking cap back on…. What in the world am I going to do with all this now?

Since get togethers were being put on hold and shopping of any kind became more of a stressful challenge we’ve all found a new appreciation for online shopping of all kinds. (Amazon and I have become great friends, albeit this relationship is a bit one sided). So as I was posting my little one-off crafts and masks I started to notice a slight uptick in people wanting more custom items rather than just the standard, popular ‘thing’ you can find at several different places. I would post a sign or an ornament I’d made and I’d have someone ask, “Hey, can you make one that says…. “or “that looks like…..?”. I’ve always kind of known this (hello– I make a living from custom work in my daily job and my side gig) but, my hope was to build up some inventory ahead of time as my time is so limited.

Lesson learned: not all bright ideas were created equal.

So, I started taking more custom orders here and there and creating less of the newest popular thing that every other maker is selling too. These have mostly consisted of rustic painted signs for clients on request and most of my orders come from locals that know I do this sort of thing, although I don’t advertise this very often right now. Shipping is a hefty addition to custom requests from out of area orders and I have yet to find a happy niche for pricing custom items high enough to justify my time and still be low enough that shipping charges don’t deter an out of town buyer.

In January of this year, I decided to set up retail space at a local vendor mall hoping to sell some of the acquired general signs and crafts I had been accumulating. Mask mandates were in full swing and people were successfully social distancing and starting to get out and about a bit more (I also, really wanted to get the displays out of my home office space) and I figured, it can’t hurt to try. This is the second go around I’ve had with renting vendor space and although it has it’s benefits, the rent is high enough I have yet to make a profit from it 6 months in. Early in the year I also took a chance and purchased a laser engraver to add some new depth to my sign making as well as offer other engraved items. Spring always brings an increase in orders for my line of work so I changed gears a bit and started focusing more on my printed items and graphics. I’ve done several banners, postcards and a logo design here and there. Cast plaques continue to be a great seller for me via Etsy, especially in the spring and summer. Although there have been changes in the items I offer, the most recent being the decision to stop selling vinyl decals, every time I think about narrowing down the variety of items I deal with, I get a custom request for something new or I think up another item in a new style and I resort to keeping the variety over narrowing down. All the things, all the time, but some things more often than others. It may not be the best business plan, but it’s kind of been mine this far and it works for now so I’ll just stick to it. 😉

So now here we are in June with more and more people being vaccinated and getting out and about. I’m building up a stock of supplies for my lasered items and will be working on more designs that will be customizable to a degree. I’m going to be closing down my booth space at FAE and hope to add online shopping to my website soon to replace that outlet – this seems like a better avenue to pursue under the current circumstances. Some of the items I’m going to focus on for my shopping site will be personalized keychains, magnets and cake toppers on the small end of things, engraved tumblers, glasses, kitchen items and of course, a variety of custom made to order signs and plaques. If you have suggestions or requests, please feel free to message me. I’m always open to new creative ideas and my makers heart loves a new challenge to ponder over on my porch swing come Sunday afternoon. Life is what you make of it after all and it takes all kinds of people and all kinds of things to keep it interesting. Give me a shout when you’re ready and let’s make something beautiful together.

Thanks for stopping by.

– Jill

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