Monday, November 26, 2012

Hal-Con 2012: A Crafters Experience Part 3, The Hidden Benefits

 

IMG_2660In the first two posts about Hal-Con detailed my decision making process  to attend as a vendor (Part 1) and the awesome guests (Part 2). Part 3 focuses on the hidden benefits. Hidden because I cannot assign a dollar value to each one, but they are profits to be considered: networking, brand building, brand improvements, inspiration, and building memories.

Networking

At Hal-Con, I was approached by small business owners for possible future consignment and wholesale opportunities. One was a B&B looking for tourist wares (mermaids, seagulls, and lobsters). Another opportunity came from a fellow creative vendor thinking of opening a new store in Spring 2013. While I do not normally do consignment sales any more, I’ve known her for many years and would happily make an exception.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hal-Con 2012: A Crafter's Experience Part 2, The Guests


In Part 1 I shared my decision making process as to whether or not I should travel to Halifax, NS and participate at Hal-Con. In this post, I wanted to share some of the many perks.
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hal-Con 2012: A Crafter’s Experience Part 1, Decisions

 

IMG_2661Hal-Con 2012 was an amazing sci-fi and fantasy convention. I attended as both a fan and an exhibitor. I wanted to share my experience.

The decision to attend began way back in March with a call out to artists and vendors. I fit somewhere in the middle of these two groups. Big vendor spaces were much larger than I could fill compared to the artist set up, but I was lucky to be an artist in the vendor room. Best of both worlds!

[That’s Nelson, the Hal-Con mascot in the picture. His shape is inspired the by the Halifax Citadel clock tower. He is named for the Lord Nelson Hotel, the location of the first convention. In this picture he is playing with a Nelson amigurumi I designed for the 2010 convention.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

June Pictures: The Silver Hook

 

I love blog posts filled with lovely pictures and I thought I would share with you some of my June crochet pictures. As you can see, June was a month of mermaids, mermen,…and even merdogs as well! This month as I am working on rebuilding my stock and adding to my Etsy shop, I will be focusing on color palettes inspired by late Summer/Autumn. Any color suggestions?

 

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Prairie Conservation

 

Herd of SheepSheep are great for many things, especially for a crocheter or knitter.  They are one of my first amigurumi designs and continue to be on of the most popular toys and patterns.

 

I am totally a nature and biology fan. Today, I was happy to read about sheep being used as bush, weed, and invasive plant control by Meewasin Valley Authority. With the loss of large grazing herds of bison and other animals from the Canadian prairies, the sheep in small scale replicate their behaviors. For 31 years Meewasin has been working towards the conservation and restoration of a the valley along with sharing their knowledge with the public.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Coming to a Store Near You?


 Nothing is official yet, but I am currently chatting with two new stores to carry my line of toys. The first store is in William's Lake, British Columbia (Canada) and they are interested in fruit and vegetable ratttles. The second store is all about mermaids (love it!) and is located in Rhode Island (USA). I need to figure out some paperwork, make toys, etc before the orders will be finalized. Once everything is ready and shipped, I will let you know and update my Shopping Page. I have also been very busy making orders for Fiddleheads in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (Canada).


Oh, and I have another bit of unofficial news. There is a new online website for geeky parents interested in featuring my Goomba rattle. Goombas are those brown, owl-like bad guys from Super Mario Bros. The website is set to go live near the beginning of July. Once I finish up two wholesale orders, I'll be making a bunch of Goombas (I'll also make them for Hal-Con in October)  


The weather in Ottawa has been muggy lately and that has slowed down my crocheting. But hopefully the heat will be passing in few days.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Handmade Everyday: Soap

I am back after a couple of weeks off of blogging. Mom came to Ottawa for a visit and I was busy playing the tourist :)

 
I'm a huge supporter of handmade. The reasons are endless, but here are a few:
  •   I am supporting my community (country, etc) - my money goes further and will stay in the community longer compared to big businesses and it encourages fair labour practices, creativity, and skilled workers.
  •   I am supporting likeminded people.
  •   The pride in their products leads to high quality wares.

 
This list could be much longer. But it comes down to my personal motto: "Through example, create the world you want to live in". Any suggestions on how to better phrase that?

 
When available and within my budget, I add handmade items to my everyday life. I have been a huge fan of handmade soap for years. I have really dry skin. Add that to crocheting for The Silver Hook, gardening, cooking, and washing dishes and my hands can be in pretty rough shape. I need gentle and moisturizing soap - characteristics I have found in handmade bars. The ones that I chose use are scent-free or mildly scented with essential oils. They sell for $6-10 a bar and are worth every penny!

 
In Halifax, I have loved the great fragrances of vegan Osha Mae Soap, and, in Ottawa, Honey & Beeswax soap at the Brewer Park Ottawa Farmers Market near Carleton University. If you cannot find any at your local markets, complete a search on Etsy  and in the left column you can choose a shop location.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Colour Inspiration: Maple Trees in Bloom

I am loving the change in season. You may have noticed from my previous colour inspiration posts, Growing Up in the 80's and Summer Blueberries  that I have been all about color this spring. I've even rearranged my Etsy shop by colour. Must be the sunshine and longer days.

 Last month during a morning walk,  I took this gorgeous picture of a blooming maple tree. Ever since I realized that decidous trees bloom, I have  loved looking at tree flowers. They arrive quickly in Spring, much sooner than the tulips and daffodiles. And I am definitely a plant person. You may not know this about me, but I completed my Master of Science (M.Sc) in botany. I have always been a nature lover and my surroundings inspire my crochet art.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fifty Rattles for Fiddleheads!


I love the group pictures - they look all snuggly!

My largest wholesale order ever and it should be arriving soon at Fiddleheads for KidsI have mentioned this store in other blog posts, but it bears repeating. If you are visiting the Halifax, Nova Scotia area, I highly recommend popping in. They are located at 300 Prince Albert Rd, Dartmouth, NS.  The store is described as a lifestyle store for kids aged 0-4 years.

What went in the box: 4 lobsters, 1 seagull, 8 monkeys, 3 bright yellow ducks, 8 carrots, 2 dragonflies, 6 giraffes, 2 elephants, 4 turtles, 6 mermaids, and 6 teddy bears. The teddy bear rattles are brand new for Fiddleheads and it is the first time they have been available in store. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Sometimes when I am working on many multiples of the same toy, I make specific parts all at the same time. That way I can memorize part of the pattern and work more quickly. Since all my prices are based on the time spent making them, it is a win-win situation :) Recently I made7 giraffes, 6 for Fiddleheads, and the seventh is currently hanging out on Etsy while waiting to find his new family.  

Work-in-progress giraffes - I love their cute faces!



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Color Inspiration: Growing Up in the 80's

Born in 1982, I turned 30 in January. The colors of my early childhood are bright, contrasting, and neon. They are the inspiration for this palette.

The three yarn colors from Red Heart yarn are deep purple Amethyst (#0356), Bright Yellow (#0324), and Pretty 'N Pink (#0722). I wonder if this shade of pink is named for the 1986 movie, Pretty in Pink, starring Molly Ringwald?

These colors are great for infant vision development when bright, contrasting colors are highly recommended. Be sure to click over to my Etsy shop, to check out these and more brightly colored toys!




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Some Like It Hot! Chile Pepper Play Food

The Request

I love getting requests...actually, that is often the inspiration for many of my patterns. Here is a conversation I received through my Etsy Shop: The Silver Hook (edited):

Hi Susan, I found your food rattles while searching Etsy newborn gifts for a dear friend who runs a food blog and just had her first child. I LOVE this idea and the fruits are gorgeous enough to display on my dining room table... never mind play with.

I would love to purchase a couple but wondered if you might make chile pepper rattles (a red and green)? I live in the Southwest and she's in the Northeast so I'm forever attempting to amp up her spicy palate profile. I swore I'd introduce her new son to the great, bold flavors of the SW as soon as he's ready. Since peppers are off her diet while breast-feeding, I thought it'd be a perfect and so very meaningful gift to send pepper rattles.


The Design

What an awesome idea! Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. Jason, my husband loves spicy food. I've been expanding my play food collection recently with grapes, watermelon, corn, etc. I was in the middle of a large wholesale order for Fiddleheads Kids Shop, but I took a day off from that project to work on the peppers.

Jason helped me design the peppers. He doesn't crochet (yet), but after examining the prototype, he suggested that the pepper tip needed to fold. Hrm...After some thought I came up with a new-for-me method for curving the tip by working new rounds into to the front loop of previous rounds. Jason also had another suggestion to make a dried chile pepper (more flat and lumpy). I could do that, but I felt that a plump pepper would be a better baby fit - easier for teething. However, it would work for non-rattle play food. Let me know (info@TheSilverHook.ca) if you are interested and I will work up a sample.

The final challenge to making the peppers was the shade of green for the green pepper. It's sort of a yellowish green. Normally I use Red Heart brand and I have many shades of green but none with right yellow tinge. I looked through my yarn stash and found yarn that I had left over from a pair of ripple fingerless gloves I made this fall. It is by Loops & Threads Impeccable Worsted in Grass that I picked up at Michaels. This brand will be a great future supplement to my yarn stash, and I can easily recommend it for child-friendly, easy care, amigurumi. Here is a link to a post about yarn. I'd also add Vanna's Choice yarn by Lion Brand to my list of toy yarn.



Finishing Touches

I sent pictures for approval and crossed my fingers.

Susan! These are absolute perfection. I would absolutely like to purchase these for my friend. In fact... I may be purchasing quite a few in the future as I have a number of friends with little peps en route! 


Since this order was being shipped directly to the new parents, there were a few finishing touches prior to shipping: a cloth gift bag and hand written card.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Going the Extra Mile - Special Packaging

 Background


When I was writing science papers, I learned to be very precise and concise. I'm a practical sort of a gal and it came naturally. I suppose it is one of the reasons that I like to be eco-friendly as well.

My approach for packaging my orders for shipping is similar. I do what is necessary. Something to protect my toys from water (although everything I make is washable), the toy, and business card. Rarely do I print the invoice- it is available online through Etsy.


Changing Things Up


But it can be really fun to break from the norm once in a while. 

I was asked to gift wrap an elephant rattle. It was Easter weekend and all the local shops were closed. I checked my gift wrapping supplies. There were some festive Christmas bags and wrapping paper. Hmm, that wouldn't work.

I could have used some blank paper and decorated it with hand drawn pictures. That would have been cute. But then I remembered how my mother always has a stash of drawstrings bags - always great for that awkwardly shaped gift. Mom is great hemming pants and sewing Hallowe'en costumes. I had a solution, and it gave me an excuse to expand my sewing skills, too.

I found some great, fun, and gender neutral fabric in my stash. I spent a bit of time conceptualizing how to sew a bag: sew up the sides and make a pocket for the string. On the first attempt I accidentally sewed the bag shut, but a little scissor work fixed that.

I love receiving interesting requests. There are so many things I  want to learn to do, but the procrastinator in my never can find the time unless it is something I am asked to do. I'm proud of my little sewing success. I think that this elephant will have a great trip to Australia. What do you think?






Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Etsy Anniversary and Six Reasons I love Etsy

Image courtesy of www.dailyclipart.net

Happy Anniversary!

Yay! The Silver Hook Etsy Shop is 4 years old! Read to the bottom for my anniversary offer.

 It is wonderful to think back at the first months I was on Etsy. I had yet to figure out my creative niche. My Etsy shop had a few toys, afghans, and baby clothes. That was before I found my love of designing adorable toys. It was months before I had my first sale. My photographs were awful.


I have come a long way. Here are some reasons I love Etsy
  • It provided an online venue to showcase my art. Before my blog and before selling at craft markets, I was on Etsy
  • It gave me a website to add to my business card - a must for any entrepreneur
  • Through my Etsy shop I have been found and invited to craft shows, sci-fi conventions, and stores
  • Etsy Labs provides invaluable knowledge on market trends, running a business, and selling tips. 
  • Etsy is my testing ground for new designs and ideas
  • I have made friends and found much needed support through fellow Etsy shop owners.

The past 4 years have flown by. While I have lots of experience with Etsy, I continue to learn new things and improve The Silver Hook. That's what I love about being a small business owner...constantly learning new things.

My Gift to You

In celebration of Etsy anniversary, I am offering a 20% discount on all orders starting today and ending noon on Monday. During the checkout process enter coupon code EtsyAnniversary. I've been busy increasing my online stock and there is lots of selection.



I want to end this blog post with a big "thank you" to Etsy and all my customers. Happy Easter :)


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Color Inspiration: Summer Blueberries



Now that winter (albeit an unusually short one) has been chased away by longer days, new bright colors are showing up everywhere. 

The windows in my crochet studio...okay, spare room.... were drafty so I spent much of Winter crocheting on the sunnier side of my home. But the weather is warming and I have been organizing my yarn stash. It is no surprise that I am finding myself inspired by the colors of my yarn collection.

I love these three colors of Red Heart yarn: Lemon, Medium Purple, and Magenta. Growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, I often went blueberry picking in August.  The purple and magenta shades often stained my hands (and other places) after a day of picking. The yellow represents the bright, sunny, warm days of summer.


 

Also,  be sure to check out my Etsy shop: The Silver Hook. I've have added lots of new toys and rattles and I have been expanding my selection of healthy play food.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Golden Rule

MC900436305[1] Yup, we have all heard of the golden rule: treat people how you want to be treated. My Dad used to tell me the rhyme when I was in school: “Don’t forget the golden rule, grab your books, and go to school.” The Silver Hook  operates based on my personality. How could it not, it is a one woman show? That is a perk of being self-employed. I have one life rule: create the world you want to live in through example. I could delve further into that, but this post is about the golden rule as that is the world I want to create.

When I am tired or stressed it is much more difficult to follow this rule.  Recently, I almost broke this rule. I received a generic unsolicited message on Etsy from someone offering their photography services for my Etsy shop. The “insert business name here”  section was left blank. If I wasn’t so much of a do-it-yourself-er I might have been tempted. Then I received an “oops I forgot to fill in the blanks” reply confirming that she is a real person. My first reaction was to ignore the message, or to send her an email about the Etsy spamming rules. But I took half a day to think about my reply.

Procrastination worked to my benefit. I looked at it from her point of view. I checked out her very new Etsy shop. She had recently discovered her photography passion. I understood she was targeting her ideal clients. She definitely wasn’t trying to annoy people with spam.

I replied honestly – I was happy doing my own photography, and I am not interested in outsourcing and increasing my operating costs. I also encouraged other venues of advertising her specialty: talking to small businesses and markets in her neighbourhood, or placing an ad on Kijiji. Shortly after I sent my reply, she sent me a message thanking me for the “gentle” refusal. I guess she had received some less pleasant  and discouraging replies. 

I understand how difficult it can be follow a creative dream. It is scary and negative comments strike deeply. I’m happy that I gave her encouragement to follow her passion. That’s the sort of world I want to create. Golden rule success.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baby and Toddler Gifts – Pairing A Cute Toy with a Book

IMG_0611February 2012 has been my best February yet – and here I thought mid-Winter would be a slow period!  People have been falling in love with my creations. I love receiving feedback and hearing stories. I often hear that my toys make great teething products. I will have to trust  their experiences– personally I’ve never tested it myself.

Another bit of feedback I received was my toy caterpillar paired with The Very Hungry Caterpillar book, makes a great baby gift. If you live near Halifax, Nova Scotia, both items can be found at Fiddleheads Kids Shop, along with many of my rattles. My original inspiration for my dragonflies was to accompany the book The Dragonfly Door (winner of a Mom’s Choice Award). The book helps children to cope with grief and loss by telling the story of two water nymphs. Many of my other toys are from nursery rhymes. I always think of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed while I am crocheting monkeys. And The Little Mermaid (along with The Last Unicorn and  Disney’s Robin Hood) was my favourite childhood movie.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Marley the Cat

IMG_0732At the end of Summer my friend, Karyn,  honoured me with a custom design of her much loved and sadly departed cat, Marley. I myself have two cats, Nike and Artemis. That is them in the side picture. I work out of my home and my cats keep me company (and entertained) during the day. Being a cat lover, this project was very special to me. And because of that, I really procrastinated making this tabby. There were just so many options for shapes and poses!

 

IMG_0622Research was easy. Over the next few months I studied my cats to figure out what about them caught my eye – their faces. And that was where I began this project. The snout and face are disproportionally large compared to the body. Sort of similar to drawing eyes a bit larger in portraits. Next, I studied the eyes. Wow, cats are so expressive. How do they look when happy and content? They squint and close their eyes.

 

That left me with two final hurdles before I could began crocheting. Tabby cats are striped, but it is difficult to create, natural, random striping. I also wanted to give this cat a bit of fluffiness. Rarely do I create test swatches, but I don’t test new techniques on completed projects. I created a mottled fabric and brushed it out using a slicker pet brush to break some yarn fibres and creating fur. I ended up buying a second, smaller brush at my local PetValu. When I explained that I was using it for crafting, the employee offered a 25% discount! While the pet store is part of a larger chain, I support smaller stores whenever possible as they tend to give their employees more discretion.

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My final consideration was the pose. When they are not hyper and running around the house, cats are sleepers! Nike and Artemis when they are relaxed stretch out their front paws. I drew a few sketches and go started crocheting. 

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Thank you so much, Karyn, for trusting me with such a special request! She makes the best scones and peanut butter balls Saturdays at the Dartmouth Farmers’ Market

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Space-Time Crocheted Fabric

In January, I visited the Shenkman Arts Centre in the Orleans area of Ottawa to see Andrea Haltrich: Space-Time Fabrics. I was happy to see crochet in an art gallery but  would have loved to see a larger, more diverse exhibition. The fabric was made by crocheting a ribbon fibre with her fingers (rather than a hook) – something I may try sometime. My husband, who has a degrees in Math and Physics, described her works as gravity wells/wormholes.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Winterlude and WIP (work in progress)

Winterlude

BRRrrrrr….but say it loudly while shivering. That is the sound of Winter in Ottawa and I heard it often last night during Winterlude -   3 week outdoor festival in the National Capital Region (Ottawa/Gatineau area). There is a snow park with forts, and skating on the Rideau Canal. Last night, Jason and I  went to Confederation Park to hear live music, admire delicate and lovely ice sculptures, and warm ourselves next to a campfire (a unexpected, pleasant surprise).

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WIP

WIP is a Work in Progress. I am currently working on a very special customer order for a very understanding friend. I’ve sort of been sitting on making this design for a long time (months). There have been sketches and lots of thought about the yarn details. Normally there is a lot of frogging when I am creating, so the finished project may look vastly different from these pictures, however I wanted to share with you a little of my creative process.

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