Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ugly Doll Mentality

I used to really like watching Boston Legal. I was sad when they cancelled it because it was a clever, witty show that employed talented actors of all age ranges. I didn't always agree with the statement they were trying to make, but usually the story lines made me think.

They already knew the show had been cancelled when they did one episode involving suing network TV for age discrimination in it's shows. At one point John Laroquette's character was having lunch with a judge and he says that TV shows have been dumbed down due to the fact that people split their focus between TV and doing other things like texting and working on the computer so they have to make shows less complicated because people don't focus on them. I have noticed this is true, especially with sitcoms. Most of them aren't as funny or well written as they used to be and they resort to very base humor. I don't understand why some of the most popular ones are as popular as they are. I can't even watch The Office. I watched it twice and it made my brain want to bleed just trying to process how inane it was.

But I don't think this proverbial dumbing down is limited to TV. I have noticed a lot of this in the art world lately as well. I know that trends in everything come and go and that this too shall pass, but I am not sure this is a positive direction. Particularly for collectible toys.

I have labeled it Ugly Doll Mentality. If you have never seen Ugly Dolls, they are actually pretty cute, well made and worth the roughly $20.00 price point. They are basically pillow type creatures made of fleece with blanket stitched felt facial features and shapes so ugly they are cute. I confess I have Jeero and Ice Bat. Although, Rizzo has claimed Ice Bat as her own and likes to sleep on him.

While I think this is fine for a manufactured product, I am not sure it's the best trend in handmade. I keep seeing this style crop up, quite often for the same price point you could purchase a traditional mohair bear or animal. It's not the style I have a problem with, as it is that I have been noticing how poorly so many of these things are made in order to achieve this look. In fact I have been noticing that some long term artists are jumping on the bandwagon. I would never presume to tell anyone what to make or buy, and I do think homespun, folk artsy animals do have a certain charm as long as they are well made. What I worry about is that if someone purchases one of the ones I have seen that look as if they have been literally thrown together they will fall apart in a very short amount of time. If this happens, how will that effect their future purchases? What if they would have graduated up to more traditional collectibles but won't because they received a low quality item for their money? I realize that there are traditional style bears and animals out there that are assembled poorly as well, but not in such large quantities.

I am afraid this may be a side effect of our hurry up world. Are we so anxious to get something done that we don't take time to put a lot of effort into it's creation? Are we so busy that we can't put our best effort forth, or...are some of the newer artists not taking time to properly learn their craft?

From the other side of the fence, as a consumer I have been very nervous about purchasing soft sculpture lately from people I don't know. Certain venues are getting a reputation for having sellers that don't create a lasting quality product, and it shows in the their close up pictures. Sadly the venues keep promoting these items over quality items. I think this creates the perception that people will be getting a nice item when that may not be true. I recently saw one item that had sold for $200.00 that was made from a lopsided basic two piece pattern out of muslin. I was appalled to see in the close up pictures that there were raw edges sticking out of the seams that had been poorly whip stitched together and that the artist referred to it as an "animal thingy" as if she didn't even know what she had made. It had a face drawn on with a sharpie.

I urge you as buyers to really look at the big picture,(pun intended) look at the stitching, quality of materials, and how an item is assembled as opposed to just the overall look of it. Think about what you're getting for your dollars. Is this something you want to have in your home to display for years to come or is it something that you thought was cute in the moment and bought on an impulse?

As artists, there is nothing wrong with making any style you want as long as you are using good supplies and figuring out a way to get the look you want without having to sacrifice quality. Artists are smart, we should never "dumb it down."

(Oddly enough after posting this earlier, there is a treasury on the front page of Etsy featuring several of this very type of thing. It's a shame they never promote traditional soft sculpture.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009


We went to see "Knowing" with Nicholas Cage this afternoon. The previews made it look pretty exciting. Now I can find something redeeming in nearly any movie, but I have to say, this movie was SO bad...don't waste your money. It's convoluted and pointless, with plotlines that go no where. When you leave the theater you will feel bereft and slightly confused. I can think of a zillion things that I could have done better with that two hours.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Too Many Ideas

Little Garbanzo was lucky enough to be added to a treasury by Totally Crosses yesterday, be sure and stop by her shop, she makes some amazing crosses. If you would like to visit the treasury, you can do that here:
Click here to go to the treasury

While I was viewing the treasury yesterday I noticed something. My picture was very light compared to the rest. Everything looked much brighter colored on my old computer screen. I edited his pics, but I think this new one shows me what is probably a truer color so I am going to have to go back and redo all those pictures!

While I don't relish that prospect since pictures are so time consuming, in a way I think it's ok that I have to redo them. I have been working on a new design for my website and I will probably want to have pictures that better match it anyway.

Artists have a well of ideas and inspiration that we draw from. Sometimes that well runs dry and we have to fill it up with new inspiration in order for new ideas to grow.

Lately however, my well has been overflowing with ideas. So many ideas I don't even know which one to do first. I haven't been spending too much time at the computer except to work on graphics and teach my Mother how to use the new laptop I bought her. Other than that, I have been working on these ideas that are practically ready to burst out of me like the monster in Alien! (Wasn't that a pretty image! *grins*)

She is able to do video chat now though, and she is quite happy about it. I like it, it makes me feel like she isn't so far away. My parents moved to Montana a few years ago. I know most people like to move somewhere warm when they retire, but not my parents...they went to a very cold place. Of course I shouldn't say much, we just got over a blizzard here. I know they are happy there, but I don't get to see them as often. It's very difficult to get there by plane and the drive is horrendous. We are going to visit in August though.

In the mean time I need to go to bed before I fall over. It's really late for me, and I have more ideas, photos and laundry to work on when I get up!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Nice Surprises

I had two nice surprises in the last couple days. The first was that I bought a hyacinth at the store. I remember reading it's better to get the ones that haven't bloomed yet when buying potted plants so I picked up one that was just green buds. The others that had bloomed were white or purple, and I didn't know which color it would be when it bloomed. As it turned out it was a lovely shade of pink!

The second surprise was that Laura at BFG Designs included Basil in a really cute treasury on Etsy!

You can see that here!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Free Shipping ~ A Thank You To My Blog Readers

To celebrate getting all my computer stuff switched over, and my followers being patient while I did that, I am offering a special discount to my lovely readers! Yes...it's true, absolutely no continental US shipping costs for blog readers until the end of March on anything purchased from my website. I don't want to exclude my international friends, so if you are in another country and would like to take advantage of the offer, I will deduct the US shipping amount from the international amount so you still get the same discount. (I hope that made sense!)

All you have to do is put "I'm A Blog Reader" in the e-mail header when you order.

This rare offer lasts only until Midnight MST of March 31st, so don't miss out on your favorite piece!

Hugs, Kelly

The Big Switch Over

In case you may have been wondering why I haven't been posting much lately...or even if you haven't noticed, I have been working on a very big project. Sadly my computer was 3 years old, and while it was working fine it just couldn't keep up any more, and I had a good wait to look at things even with cable. That's the sad part of computers. They become obsolete before their time.

I was trying to hold out for a new one until July because I wanted one for my birthday. I got my birthday present a little early, in fact I got it yesterday. So I had the arduous task of moving all my files, after spending three days cleaning off my desk. It was scary how much stuff I had on it. The migration programs weren't compatible so I had to do it manually. I have zillions of picture files, because I take too many pictures, I like to draw pixels and I had all my website images.

It took me hours and hours to rebuild my website, but I am glad I had to do it manually. I ran across something I had been trying to figure out how to do. I am fairly savvy with all that, but I am completely self taught, so every once in a while something escapes me for a while that I want to learn. Luckily I figured it out tonight. It's that silver lining thing I guess.

I got a hybrid this time, and the tower is tiny, but the monitor is HUGE! HUGEEEEEEE! It's also quite a shock to how blurry my other one really was. It seemed quite clear until I saw this screen. The clarity is mind blowing. So that's why I have been silent on my blog for the most part. But I am almost all done with everything so it's upward and onward to other frivolous things like laundry and bear making! *grins*

I have a topic I want to post about in reserve, so I will be back to my usual soon...very soon. Until then I hope you're all doing well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Spring!

Spring dawned into a gorgeous day in Colorado. It was almost 70 degrees today. I love Spring despite the fact it's brutal on my allergies. It's a time of renewal and new growth and I always feel like I am renewed and sprouting new growth right along with it.

I feel very inspired to work right now and make new things...but I have to clean my computer desk first. I got a new computer and R is going to hook it up when he gets home tomorrow.

I better get to it so I can make new bears! Hopefully I will have something to show you soon. Carpe diem!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vote For Gypsy!

One of our local news stations has a thing on their website where people can upload pictures of their pets. If they get enough votes as best picture they put them on the early morning news. So I submitted the picture of Gypsy above. She isn't running for office, or making any campaign promises, but you have to admit she sure is darn cute...and slightly weird. You can vote for her by clicking the link below. I think that Gypsy and that picture deserves 15 seconds of fame...now don't you! *grins*

The box to vote is under the picture slightly to the right.

Click Here To Vote

Listening To Your Own Creative Voice

Some teenagers go to extreme lengths to set themselves apart from the crowd. I think they do it so that they know someone is looking at them and thus affirming that they are alive and have something different to offer to the world. Sometimes it involves an outrageous haircut or manner of dressing. But yet they want the name brand of electronics, sneakers or jeans that are every one else has that are popular at any given time, especially if those items are worn by someone who is famous that they admire. It's an interesting dichotomy to want to be accepted and similar to everyone else so you fit in and yet remain unique.

I think as artists we strive for those same ideals. All too often we want to create something that fits with the current trend in handmade so that we make sales and yet remain unique and true to our own style. In fact I have been noticing more and more of that lately.

As I have said before, we have dozens of venues now for anyone who makes anything to be able to easily open a shop and put it out there for sale. Very little effort and money is required to do that. While I believe on one hand that's a wonderful thing for artists, I have begun to wonder if it has a down side.

A couple posts back I told you how thrilled I was that the new bear pattern worked out the way I wanted it to on the first draft. I was wondering what I did different this time. I suppose to a degree part of it is simply years of experience and knowing how pieces will turn out with the proportions drawn just by looking. But I wasn't sure that was the only reason.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that a large part of it was because I have been downsizing so to speak. As I also mentioned in previous posts I have been keeping a distance from these some of these venues, so I am not being bombarded with pictures of what everyone else is making.

I had also been letting the magazines rest for a few days. Then last night I picked up one of the Somerset publications and was thumbing through it when it struck me how each issue is starting to look the same. While the pictures are beautifully done, they are also photographed more or less the same each time with the same style of things in them. In fact I have noticed cross over features on some of the same artists in some of them. Many of the pictures and items I look at on the selling venues reflect that style as well, and even feature those same artists again.

This has to have a huge impact on our subconscious because these images stick with us whether we want them to or not. I don't remember a time when so many people were trying to make things that fit into a such a small niche than they are now. When we are bombarded with images of the same thing over and over we begin to consider it the norm. Remember when waif thin models first started appearing and everyone was outraged because they looked anorexic? We have seen them for so many years now that it doesn't even phase us because overly thin women on TV and in print have become the norm instead of the exception. It's gotten to the point where normal sized, healthy looking women are considered fat.

Perhaps so many images of similar handmade items coming at us from every direction is working against our own creativity? When I stopped tuning in to so many proverbial channels my own creative voice was able to be heard above the crowd. I could make a pattern that was a little more current in shape, but still stay true to my own style.

It's a good thing that we can adapt to stay current with certain trends, but not just to be able to sell something because it's the hot thing or way to do it because everyone else is doing it that way right now. I think it's very important that we ask ourselves who we are listening to when we sit down to create. Are we listening to the creative voices of others or are we listening to our own creative voice? It's self defeating when we listen to the creative voices of others above our own and try to emulate certain styles in order to get our work noticed and featured. It has the opposite effect and we blend into the crowd. If we listen to ourselves first we will always be more happy and content in our work, and we won't have to resort to an outrageous hairstyle to stand out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Basil And A Brand New Front Page

Lollishops has a brand new front page, with handpicked items, a featured seller, newly listed items and a current magazine display where ads can be found! Basil was lucky enough to be included on it! He was pretty excited about it!

Monday, March 16, 2009

~*~ Balbina ~*~

She is finally done! You can visit her on my website on the Bears Page

I would also like to wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Saol fada chugat.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sneek Peek

I just finished putting R on a plane to Phoenix for a week. He is going to be taking a masters class that's work related. He is pretty excited about it, he has wanted to take it for a while now and the company finally got him in. I guess it's a popular class and they had to buy him new equipment to the tune of 15k. They have so much faith in him though, and that's a nice thing for him but I sure am going to miss him this week!

On my own work front, I have been working on patterns! I haven't gotten the simple bear done yet, but I did make a new 15 1/2 inch bear pattern that I am feeling quite enthused about. Balbina is the first one and she is done, but not costumed yet. So being the modest little bear that she is, I am only giving you a teaser!

I am going to take a nap, and when I get up...I will start figuring out what she might like to wear. I am sure it will be something fun!

Update: Balbina is dressed, and ready to have her picture taken tomorrow. I feel so happy over the way she turned out. It's nice to nail a pattern on the first try! But I really managed to get the shape and design I wanted. I hope you will all like her too!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy 5000!

As if hitting 2000 views on my website wasn't fun enough...I have hit 5000 views on my blog as of today! That's pretty exciting!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Power Mesh?

Yesterday afternoon I received a swimsuit I ordered in the mail. I hadn't bought a new suit in about ten years. I had gotten several for my last tropical trip and then after that when I had the shoulder surgery I was swimming a lot to regain the strength in it.

The over chlorinated pool at the gym wreaked havoc on those suits and I found myself in serious need of a new one for this upcoming vacation. Despite being a nearly recovered shop-a-holic who loves fashion and color, I am pretty boring when it comes to swimsuits and sun glasses. While I have a couple other colors of both I tend to prefer basic black. I am not sure why, it is what it is.

I ordered the suit shown above in black, and when I took it out of the package yesterday the first thing I noticed was how heavy it was. The description said it was lined with something called power mesh. It's pretty common for suits to have some sort of flimsy "control panel" type lining in them so I didn't think much about it. I tried the suit on and was surprised at how well it fit. I am long in the torso so I have found a lot of suits are too short. One of the main appeals of this one was that it has adjustable straps.

I have to tell ya I don't know what power mesh is made of, but they should call it chain mail and get it over with! Whoever the inventors of power mesh are, they have taken control to a new level!!! I don't think those Machiavellian girdles my Grandmother used to wear held her in as well. I swear I looked 30 pounds thinner, but yet the suit isn't too small. I also couldn't breathe. I guess that's ok though since when you swim you tend to hold your breath anyway. I just hope the weight of this thing doesn't drag me to the bottom of the ocean like an anchor!

I am having mixed emotions about it. While it's the most constricting garment I have ever worn (and I have worn a few since I have been known to sacrifice comfort for beauty on occasion) it's also like a miracle! There is a demented side of my brain that wonders if I could get an entire wardrobe made out of this stuff! I better get it all to match blue since I will never be able to breathe again...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Long Winter

For some reason this winter has seemed so long. It's been warming up here a bit, but the wind has been blowing like crazy and I still can't go out and enjoy it because it feels cold. Cold air, pollen and dust are my worst asthma and allergy triggers.

We are going to Barbados in May for our 20th anniversary and I want to go now. Right NOW! I am so ready for warm tropical beaches and blue water. We haven't been anywhere warm and tropical since we went to Playa del Carmen for our 10th anniversary unless you count Vegas and I don't. R gets to go to Phoenix next week for work and I am so jealous. I love Phoenix since I went to college there. It's going to be warm there.

I can't seem to get motivated this week either. I need to finish the bear I am working on and it's been going slowly. It's not that I don't want to finish or am unhappy with it in some way. In fact I love the color and it's coming along beautifully, I just feel this odd need to hibernate. I could happily go crawl back in bed right now.

I need to have something ready for my ad in nine days and I finally have a vague idea what it's going to look like...I think...*frowns* I have had some ideas for a few things, including a celebration of color pictorial I want to do on my other blog but I can't seem to get up to go do them. I also need to clean the powder room...don't want to do that either. I just need to find some energy and motivation that doesn't come out of a coffee cup!

I guess I will haul my posterior out of this chair and go do...something...

Who Are You?

I love to read. I read all sorts of things. I have read many of the classics, adventures, romance, biographies, fiction and a whole host of other things. Right now I am reading a book that I am almost embarrassed to admit called "Bunny Tales." No...it's not a cute childlike book filled with stories about fluffy little animals, it's an autobiography about a woman who was one of the girlfriends of Hugh Hefner.

When I was much younger I worked with a group of guys who told me I should send them some of my pics. I thought they were just teasing me, but they sent in some pics of me they took at a picnic and I was asked to come and audition/have pics taken. I have always had a bad girl side, but never that bad. Even if I had thought I was attractive enough, (which I didn't) I could not have ever posed nude. It's just not who I am. I didn't respond and I never gave it much more thought. Reading this book hasn't made me regret that choice either to be quite honest.

It's funny though, when I look back at pictures of myself from those days I was surprisingly pretty, but I had no idea. I dated a lot of attractive men, including a male model, a race car driver and a few musicians. Most of them weren't that interesting or that interested in my brain or me as a person. I wasn't sure why they dated me, but I think in retrospect I know why. I was just arm candy. None of those relationships lasted very long.

About 6 years ago I met a man in passing who I was being cordial to, that told me I should just "move along." I guess he thought I was flirting with him or something and he didn't realize at the time I was married and wouldn't have been interested in him anyway. I thought that was a really strange response to someone who was simply being nice and asked him why he said that. His reply was really surprising, he coldly told me I was the type of woman he always avoided because we are too pretty. I was still confused and asked for more of an explanation. He said on the off chance I would actually go out with him, that women like me are never intelligent, too high maintenance, rely on our looks all our lives and always leave men after having used and abused them in the end. I was speechless for so many reasons I can't even process them all even now. I also felt really bad for him, he was so judgemental.

Even though I find him very attractive and so do lots of other women, R is probably the least attractive guy I ever dated. He also has the biggest heart, best sense of humor and most kind, loving and generous spirit I have ever met. He shares my love of animals and I have found that someone who loves animals is nearly always a good person. I love him beyond measure and I think he is truly beautiful inside and out.

It's kind of interesting what we think of ourselves when we look in the mirror. Do we ever see ourselves as what we are? Not just superficially, but also who we are? When I look in the mirror now, I see an aging, overweight woman who is tired a lot from lack of proper sleep and has nothing to offer the world. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would find me attractive. Ultimately, I don't really care if they do or not because I am not only what I look like. But every once in a while everyone wants to feel attractive I think. Oddly enough despite all that I still get flirtations from men. One guy had the nerve to ask me out while R and I were waiting in line for a movie and he was holding my hand! I have no idea what the guy thought when he did that. Obviously I didn't say yes!

If I ever wrote an autobiography like the girl mentioned above, what would I write? How would I tell the world who I am? Could you do it? I know what the title would be though..."Close Encounters And Lost Causes." (I am joking...sorta.)

How do we know who we are? We can be self aware in our good and bad points, but does that tell us who we are and how the world sees us? Are we who we think we are, or are we a summation of the way people view us? I guess I am waxing philosophic this morning because I have been trying to figure out lately who I am. I think I am going through a sort of metamorphosis. Perhaps that is something everyone goes through when they reach a certain stage in their lives. I also think it's why I have been adding little tidbits about things that happened when I was a child. A friend who reads my blog pointed out yesterday on the phone how surprised she was that I was adding those to my posts lately, since I have rarely talked about my childhood. Maybe I am trying to figure out who I am by thinking about where I came from and the events that shaped my life.

I made a post on my other blog with a picture that I overlaid onto a background and then I put words on it. The words represent what I see at any given time. I could have added a thousand more words but there wasn't room. If you're interested in seeing it, you can do that here:

Cirque de Lune

Maybe I am being vain, or insecure and afraid of getting older. Or maybe...I am finally just growing into myself and I want to find out who that person really is! For some reason it seems important to me right now to figure that out. I am not sure why but I am equally sure that the answer to that question will present itself in due time. It usually does.

So I am curious, do you know who you are? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you attractive? Do you know it? Do you know who you are and what you're all about? Do you think that others see you the same way you see yourself? I think whether it's physical or something deeper, that most people are attractive in one way or another to be honest. I also think that the most important thing is that we are attractive in some way to the people who love us the same way they are attractive to us. But I still wonder...do you see what other people see? Chances are you don't. Maybe we never can, but I still want to try to find out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Five Dollars

I remember when I was a kid and my Grandmother got her social security check for 300.00 for the month she would give me one dollar to spend on anything I wanted. I know that might not seem like much, but in the 60's you could still buy a little something for a dollar. We would walk up town and I would get a little stuffed toy, or some farm animals or sometimes I just got a little present for her.

One month we went to Kings Department store and I found a Malibu PJ. She was a friend of Barbie's. I wasn't much for dolls when I was a kid, but I really wanted PJ, she seemed so exotic to me with her purple swimsuit, sunglasses and beads around her pony tails. Plus she was from a magical land called Malibu! She cost three dollars though and my Grandmother just couldn't afford to give me another two, so we put her on layaway for two months. When I got her I was so thrilled. I played with her for years. Sadly she was accidentally left behind when we moved once.

Forty years later, there isn't much you can buy with one dollar, or even five dollars. Recently I was asked to join a social network on Ning. It looked like a really fun network and I was pretty enthused. There was a fee of five dollars for a year. Again I know that doesn't seem like very much. You can barely get out of a Starbucks for under five dollars, so what is that much for a year membership to a network right?

I drew a mental line in the sand and I just can't seem to bring myself cross that line to pay it. I am not real sure what I would be getting for that five dollars. Social networks on Ning are free to create and they don't cost anything other than your time to maintain unless you choose to do an upgrade. I don't think the upgrade costs more than twenty dollars and to be honest I am not sure what you get for that money because I have kept my own Ning network free.

But it isn't even about not really understanding what I would be paying for. It just seems like lately every time I turn around someone wants money from me for something on the internet. It's usually not a whole lot. Twenty cents to a few dollars to list on selling venues, ten to twenty five dollars for a membership here, two fifty for a donation there. I understand that a lot of hard work and people's time goes into these sites and I am not saying they aren't deserving of the small amount they ask for. But after a while these small amounts here and there start to add up. I have to ask myself what am I getting for this money?

Recently one of the sites I sell on decided to put together a coupon book for the artists on the site as a way for us to promote ourselves. The cost was ten dollars. I chose not to do it. First of all I don't feel comfortable giving coupons for my work. It's fine if you do feel comfortable with it, it's just not what the bear business is usually about. I guess the idea is to introduce new customers with the assumption they will return. Bear artists give discounts to people who are return customers as a thank you sometimes or for other reasons that we deem a good idea, but not as a way to get business initially. Secondly I should pay ten dollars to give a discount off of my profit margin? Mohair costs about 150.00 a yard and up and my prices are already more than fair for the work I put into them.

There is a certain mentality that goes along with using a coupon and I am not that confident they would return after receiving a big discount on the first purchase anyway, not to mention there is no guarantee anyone would even choose to use the coupon. I am not real clear where they are to be distributed or how. That's probably my fault for not reading all the details though. I saw the word coupon book and knew it wasn't for me. I am not sure I would want to buy from an artist who offered a coupon either. I know that might seem odd since we live in economic times where any discount you can get the better. But somehow it would make me feel as if the person doesn't value their work. *Shrugs* I am sure they do value their work, it's just a perception I seem to have.

I am definitely not a cheap person, and I know that when you are in business you have to spend money to make money. But having people ask me for five or ten dollars up front all the time is starting to get weary.

The next time you are about to shell out a few bucks for something online, stop and think about it. Ask yourself what you are getting for that money? How much money have you put out in small increments and has it been worth it? Has it helped your business or brought you joy? If you saved up all those small amounts what could you do with that money instead? Maybe you could help someone who really needed it, or you could buy yourself something nice...like one of my bears! *Grins* I decided to take my small amounts and save them up for something that would help my business, hopefully giving me more sales that will give me money to help someone else as well as myself. I would never presume to tell anyone what to spend their money on, but whatever you choose to do, make sure all your five dollar bills count instead of passing them out without a thought to anyone and everyone who asks just because it seems like such a small amount at the time!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It takes A Village

Last night I was watching a show on ancient architecture. I love ancient history, it fascinates me much more than recent history. They were discussing monolithic structures. As usual the scientists and archaeologists interviewed on the show questioned how and why these structures were made because some of them are pretty amazingly sophisticated in their construction. They inevitably had to go to the weird explanations of levitation or alien intervention. I find that to be a little insulting to our ancestors to be honest. I think they had the capacity to figure out how to do it and execute it through simple hard work and ingenuity.

There is a weird perception that ancient man wasn't as intelligent as we are today. I am not sure I agree with that. I do believe our brains have evolved to be able to process a lot more simultaneous information at a time because we are bombarded with it, and we certainly have more technology, but I don't believe that human beings were ever stupid on the whole. Someday future societies may look back on us and think we were pretty primitive and not very intelligent too. I am sure ancient man had as many great thinkers as we have today, but they are lost into the misty void of a history that had very little written text to record their impact on the world. Luckily we still see their mark because they built these amazing landmarks to record their having been here.

One archaeologist on the show questioned the ability of a certain tribe to build these incredible structures in part of the world because he said they would have all had to have been master stone masons. I was fascinated with the precision that these were built, but I personally don't find that so amazing. In our current society we have all become masters of many things, like driving cars for example. They said that some of these methods couldn't even be replicated today. I am sure that's true, simply because we wouldn't take the time to do it. Ancient man didn't have to go to meetings, pick up the kids from school and take them to soccer practice or go to the gym, so he had time to focus on perfecting his stone masonry skills.

They questioned why these people always built such huge monuments. They had all sorts of theories again, some of which were rather odd and convoluted. I think the answer is very simple.

Imagine for a moment if you will that we didn't have cars, planes, the internet, TV, newspapers, shopping malls, microwaves, curling irons, and a whole host of other things that make our lives very easy and connect us together, thus making this a small planet. The world would suddenly be a much larger, intimidating and difficult place.

As I type this, it occurs to me that within moments of my posting it...it can be read by people all around the world. I have readers from some pretty far off places. We can interact, become friends and have conversations without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes and crossing oceans. In fact I wouldn't have the chance to meet many of the people who read my blog, or I read theirs if it weren't for the internet. That's a pretty amazing thing that brings us all closer together.

But ancient man didn't have that option. The world was huge and intimidating and he felt a need to leave his mark on it. I believe they wanted to prove they were not so insignificant. I think we have all wanted to believe that since humanity began because it helps us feel as if our lives hold a larger meaning.

Also since he didn't have all those things to distract him, he had a lot more time to devote to building things. We have heard the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" but I think back then it took a village working together as a community to be able to do pretty much everything. If they didn't work together and have a close knit society they didn't survive.

In modern society we don't have that same sense of community. Very rarely does an entire city come together in a combined force to make something happen because we don't need to. When it does happen it makes the news because it's such a rare occurrence. We live in a "me" generation because we can focus on ourselves and our families thanks to all the conveniences we have.

I think coded somewhere deep into our DNA we still have the need for that village mentality though. Since we no longer have that need to work together to survive on a day to day basis, we have to create our own communities so that we have that sense of belonging.

On a personal level, I miss the community we used to have in the bear world from when we gathered for a common goal at bear shows. So I decided to create my own community for bear artists in the form of Mohair Divas and my own monument in the form of my website which gave me a great sense of accomplishment to build. There are lots of social groups and clubs online and in the real world. I believe that we still need a village to survive in this world and since we don't get it from our cities, we have to find ways to create that feeling for ourselves.

Even though we don't build massive structures because we have so many other things to spend our time and energy on, we still need to build relationships with each other. We need that human interaction to know that we are alive and that we matter, and we need to find a community to build on so that we can leave our mark on the world.

I think it still takes a village to raise a well rounded child, and we need to come together in that village to stay well rounded as adults. We still have the need to build things together. No man is an island. But I have to wonder, if he was isolated on one...what would he do? Would he build giant statues like they did on Easter Island to leave his mark on the world?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Happy 2000 And A Pin Cushion

My website hit 2000 views today. I know that might not seem like a lot in the whole scheme of things but for having it up about a year and a half with very little advertising, I think it's pretty good.

Also I made a petite little pin cushion in a seashell for my Mom. I was thinking of making some for sale, but I am not sure if anyone would like anything like that. So any feedback would be appreciated.


I once heard a joke that said when women watch TV they have to be doing something, and when men watch TV they are doing something. Sometimes I look over at R sitting in his chair slightly glazed over, remote in hand and wonder if he is even aware of anything beyond that football game or Stargate rerun on his big screen. While I have a few shows I can sit and focus completely on, for the most part I have to doing at least a little something while I am watching TV. I never sit through the commercials either, that's always a few minutes to get up and go do something in another room.

Since I have been trying to take it easy the past couple days I have had to sit around a lot. I still had to do something besides watch TV though. I am really bad about throwing out interesting magazines. I have a basket full in one room, a shelf in another, a large sail cloth basket in another, and they find their way into my bookshelves if they contain something truly special.

My earliest recollection of magazines are when my Grandmother used to get McCall's. I couldn't wait for it to come out because that meant I would get a new Betsy McCall paper doll. I loved paper dolls.

When I was in third grade I remember very clearly a Better Homes & Garden one December that had a stuffed panda on the cover wearing a red plaid tam and vest. There was a pattern inside for the outfit to make for a teddy bear. I asked Santa for a panda that year. Surprisingly I got one too, his name was Waldo and I loved him dearly. Good ole Waldo and I had many adventures before he fell completely apart. I don't think he was well made because I was a very careful child. I miss him and I wish he was still around since he was the only bear of my own I had as a kid.

I have learned a great deal about life from magazines. No one ever really taught me how to apply makeup, pluck my eyebrows or how to develop my own fashion style. I learned those things from Glamour and Mademoiselle.

My favorite magazines have always been decorating and craft magazines. I love the teddy bear publications too. I remember the first time I saw a copy of Barbara Wolters "Teddy Times." Not too long after that Teddy Bear & Friends and Teddy Bear Review came into being. I was utterly delighted.

As an artist I take inspiration from magazines. Not always the ones you would imagine either. I just got a new Romantic Homes and am quite inspired by the colors and fabrics used in some of the featured rooms. I may try to incorporate that into a bear.

My most recent favorite is Somerset's "Where Women Create." I guess peeking into the rooms and studios of other artists somehow brings a voyeuristic tendency that I never knew I had to the surface.

Tonight I had gone through a stack of old magazines, sorting them and keeping the ones I still wanted and discarding ones that no longer held as much appeal. I learned a few things by doing that. It's interesting to see how my tastes have changed in the last couple years, and I learned that every single picture of me in a magazine is terrible. I mean really dreadful. Of course whenever I go to a show I always look awful for having driven across the country, and come down off of my mountain closer to sea level, and experienced a change in humidity. It makes me puff up with retained water like a blow fish. I am by no means a thin girl, but I swear I look twice as wide in every picture.

After sorting through all these magazines and watching things I can't even remember on TV, I decided it was time to go soak my feet. I really love baths, but there is something quite delightful about just soaking your feet, using the foot massager and then slipping on some gel socks after having slathered on a nice thick shea butter cream.

Now if you have ever had a cat, chances are that cat liked to come into the powder room with you when you were going to have a bath. All but one of the cats I have ever owned has loved bath time. I have no idea why.

Gypsy is no exception. She thinks my powder room is her room. She also thinks that everything in it should be shared with her. When I ran the water for the tub I heard her hit the floor upstairs and meow all the way down the stairs as if to say; "Don't close the door til I get there!!!" She came in and took her usual spot on the toilet seat, then looks puzzled as to why I was sitting on the edge of the tub fully clothed. I had brought in a new issue of "Country Living" that I hadn't had a chance to read yet. I sat there soaking my feet and perusing the pages, so she decided she should join me on the edge of the tub. She kept leaning over to see what I was looking at. I finally showed her the page and asked her if she thought it was pretty. She leaned over, studied it intently and then looked up and meowed quietly as if to say; "That's very nice, now turn the page please." Gypsy is a very funny and weird cat who tends to be conversational and interested in all that I do.

After I was done, I went back to the sofa and picked up another magazine from the sorting stack. I guess Gypsy felt I had looked at enough and crawled on top of it and laid down. She was right. As much as I love looking at magazines, it's much more pleasant to share a little quality time with my devoted friend.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Taking It Easy

The last couple days I haven't gotten a single thing done that I would have liked to. I had to cancel an appointment for a facial too. I was sad I had to cancel it, because I have never had a professional one before. I am used to doing it on my own, and I was looking forward to the treat, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sit there for an hour.

I did get a start on that pattern finally, but then my kidney's started acting up. Luckily they don't do it all that often despite having PKD, but when they do, I don't get much done. I have no energy, I ache all over, I run a fever, I sleep a lot, and I can't eat.

R brought home a bottle of cranberry juice for me. Doctors will tell you that it doesn't do much, but I disagree. It always fixes me right up to drink it. The problem is that pure cranberry juice has to be one of the most vile beverages on the planet. I am not talking about that nice Ocean Spray Cranberry Cocktail...no I am talking about all cran, no sugar, no other juices...nothing. If you've never had it, it's extremely bitter and acidic.

It took me three hours tonight to get a big water glass full down. Hopefully by tomorrow I should be on the mend and I will be back to blog more and maybe even give you a sneak peek of a new bear.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Don't Make Peanut Butter

Carl Jung had this theory called Synchronicity. Basically it's the idea that common themes recur in a short space of time in unrelated situations. Since I made my previous blog post this morning, I have been experiencing synchronicity with the phrase "branding yourself."

It just keeps popping up all over the place in relation to artists today. I realized this is simply the latest fad in selling jargon. To be honest I am not big on that sort of thing. These words are bandied about for a while and then replaced by some new phrase or word that casts an imposed importance on whatever the world feels we we should be focusing on as sales people at any given moment.

I saw one poor soul confused today because someone had asked her for a profile of herself and her brand. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to say about her brand or if she even had one. She was in a panic about it, because she felt as if she was doing something wrong or sub par as an artist since she didn't really have a brand pre se. I kind of felt bad for her, but it was at that moment that the whole thing struck me as funny.

Having lived in Wyoming for seven years, branding there means to burn your mark into the hide of your livestock so that it can be identified as yours. I envision holding the poor little bears down and searing a winged heart shape onto their posteriors. I don't think they would enjoy that any more than I would.

I also think most of us equate brand names with groceries or small appliances. The first thing that springs to mind is Jif peanut butter commercials from when I was a kid. But here's the thing...I don't make peanut butter. This brings to mind a mental image of the bears with a shrink wrapped label around their torso with my logo on it. Again...I don't think they would enjoy that, nor do I think it would add to my sales in the long run. *grins*

Anyone who has been an artist for any length of time will have developed the continuity to their style that will make their work identifiable. Especially when it comes to making bears and animals because they have a face.

With the ability for anyone and everyone who has ever made anything crafty to sell on the internet with such ease I have noticed an increase in what I think of as sales psycho babble. People are getting caught up in focusing on these issues as if they are so crucially important. What they should be focusing on is what they make. Selling things isn't that hard. You make it, put it out there and advertise it in some way to let people know it's there. That's all we need to do. We don't need to "brand" ourselves, that comes naturally when we decide what types of things we want to make and get to the point of having a recognizable style. We don't need to make ourselves crazy and over think it. Besides...branding irons and shrink wrap labels are a business expense none of us need.

Etsy Branding And Overstepping Their Bounds

I swore to myself I wasn't going to make any more posts about Etsy. I really wasn't. I have been avoiding them for a while because they frustrate me so. The only thing I have done is list new stuff and leave. I have barely read the forums in the past few weeks, I haven't looked at the front page, I haven't relisted any of my items and I haven't promoted them in any way. I have been happier for staying away too. However, I discovered a link on another blog to their post about their new marketing strategy and made the mistake of having hope that they finally figured it out and went to read it.

In the past, even when I have made harsh posts about Etsy I have given them the benefit of the doubt to a degree. I keep thinking they are going to figure this out and make their site work for the masses. After their latest marketing strategy I don't think that's ever going to happen without a complete overhaul of their administration team.

It's never been any secret they take it upon themselves to brand certain types of items the staff favors and promote them, but they finally come out and more or less admit it in their post about Etsy Merchandising found here:
You can read her post here

They are going to have "themes" and they encourage people to make things to fit those themes in order to get that exposure they dangle like a carrot in front of our noses. We know deep in our hearts we won't get it. But they still dangle it.

The problem I have with all that is this...yes Etsy is their own business and they can run it however they want, but..BIG BUT here...they have touted themselves as an online venue for all things handmade up until this time. If they are a venue, what gives them the right to try to make trends? Shouldn't that be up to the sellers and the buyers? They claimed in a subsequent post that they were trying to create a breath of fresh air with the front page and yet people keep saying how stale it is because it's always the same stuff. I completely concur. I don't even bother to look at it anymore because I know what I am going to see before I ever get there, and most of it isn't something I am interested in. When I find a gem on Etsy it's nearly always because I did a search.

The majority of people who run Etsy are incredibly young. The people who sell on Etsy are all ages. The people who (would like to) buy on Etsy are all ages. So how can this small group of very young employees decide what a trend or theme should be for their customer base when they don't even have a good grasp on who those people are? I don't believe for a minute that they are basing it on any type of public polls. If you want to find out what people want to buy, there is a sure fire method to get those answers...ASK THEM! Then use what they tell you. Get the demographics, find out who your customers are, and what ages they are. What price points they like, and how much they are willing to spend. Don't just decide for them.

Many of the artists trying to sell on Etsy have been in business considerably longer than they have, so what gives them the right to suddenly stand up and say they get to choose what the theme for any given time will be, beyond holidays and that we as artists should conform to that. Etsy's motto should be celebrate the unique! Isn't that the point of handmade? Think how fun it is to find a great little treasure that you know not everyone has made and not everyone will have. That is half the reason many artists make what they make. We want to provide a unique, high quality item that can't be found anywhere else.

How many artists have you seen getting upset when someone creates something similar or exactly the same as what they do, but yet here is Etsy telling them they should do that very thing. How counter intuitive is that?

I am sure you probably think well Kel if you're so frustrated by them why not leave. Yes, and and that is coming soon because I can barely stomach the site any more. I am hardly involved there now other than to list and leave on the off chance someone sees my work that wouldn't have seen it anywhere else. To me that is worth the twenty cents a listing, it is not worth my time to promote my shop or relist my items any longer. But the larger issue is this; Etsy has grown to the point where they can make an impact on the handmade movement as a whole. Even if we are not selling on the site we have the potential to be effected by their choices if they set a precedent.

Do these people have the right to set trends in the handmade marketplace? From my perspective the answer is no. Not unless they are going to make it a juried site. If they only want to promote certain types of items aimed a small market then they need to step up and jury the site. If you think otherwise that's fine, but think how it might impact your business dealings in the long run. If you feel this is wrong, make your opinion heard. I posted on the feedback forum and put my two cents in. I doubt it will do any good, but I had to say what I felt.

If they want to be a shop with a specific look and style of items that's fine. They can be the next Urban Outfitters or Zappos as they quoted. If they want to remain just a sales venue for all things handmade then they need to step away from overstepping those bounds and their trend setting and allow the customers to choose what they like and what they want to buy. As it stands right now, they are not giving their customers the fair chance to do that by displaying all types of items the site has for sale in order to make them aware of what their choices are. If you don't go to Etsy with a specific item in mind you want to search for, chances are unless it's one of their pet items you won't know it's there. Even if you do go search for something specific you have to keep your fingers crossed that their faulty search engine will find all that you are looking for.

Etsy is such a great concept, I really wish they would stick to that concept and give both their sellers and buyers a fair shake, and realize that it's not their place to choose for us unless they are willing to brand themselves first and admit they have become a store or specialty type of site. Buyers are intelligent, we can decide for ourselves what we want to buy without having to be spoon fed their so called trends that largely only appeal to a very young market.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Dentist

***If you're squeamish about the dentist you may not want to read this***

I just got home from the dentist. I was supposed to go Thursday but I was so stuffed up from my allergies that if he had stuck his hands in my mouth I would have suffocated since I couldn't breathe through my nose. I have a real bad allergy to pine pollen, and since I live in Colorado that tends to be something of an issue. Especially with the onset of Spring, when it warms up like it has been lately.

The visit was painless. Apparently I don't have a problem, and my tooth is getting sore because I have a little space in my gum where junk catches and irritates it. I also have noticed lately that I have receding gums on my upper two corner teeth. I am not sure what they are called but I have always referred to them as my vampire fangs. I was sure he was going to tell me I have some sort of heinous gum disease, but I don't, I guess I just brush my teeth too hard from what he said.

He recommended a periodontist to see about getting gum grafts. Who knew they did that! If they can do it, I am going to have it done though, I would like to keep my teeth. I have one crown and I hate it with a passion. I have issues with anything fake in or on my body, other than eyelashes and earrings. I can't even imagine having a replacement joint or a plate in my head...or breast implants. *Shudders*

I have a weird issue with the dentist, but unlike most people I have never had any fear of going. When I got the crown I had to have a root canal first and it didn't even phase me when they told me. My only problem is that Novocain doesn't do anything at all to me. I am lucky that the dentist I have now has encountered two other people with the same issue, he offers sleep dentistry and that's the only way I can get through it. I still kept waking up during the procedure.

Most dentists I have had in the past refused to believe me. They think it's a fear thing and they have to give it a try. When I had to have fillings, they started to drill, I started to scream and they got mad. I had one over zealous character once that gave me ten shots before R stepped in and said that's enough now, it's not going to work. I finally had to suck it up and sit there and grin and bear it through the pain until they got it done. It doesn't bother me to get shots in my gums. My arm is a different story, but I think that goes back to being weirded out by foreign objects in my body, and having a healthy dose of terror about doctors. I have had to have two serious surgeries and three minor ones, each time I was a bundle of nerves before hand. But when I had my wisdom teeth out, I was calm as could be.

This gum graft thing sounds pretty gruesome, but even that doesn't freak me out too bad. Maybe it's because I know your mouth and eyes heal faster than any other parts of your body. Or maybe it's just because I am weird. *giggles* Either way, today was no big deal and I was glad I didn't have a cavity. I am going back on the 11th to get them cleaned. Fortunately I have been blessed with really strong teeth, hair and nails so I haven't had too many problems and I don't have to go very often.

I went to bed late, and only got about two hours of sleep because I had too much coffee, so I guess I will go have a nap.

Being Blond

Ever since I first read about her fateful misstep that led to a tumble down a rabbit hole as a child, I have been in love with Alice. What's not to love, she got to have tea parties and go through mysterious doors and meet all sorts of interesting characters. I could identify with her in a way. She was a little blond girl who fell into a world where everything was topsy turvy.

But in 2000 American McGee got a hold of her and turned her into a dark, macabre figure for his video game. He also changed her hair color. Since then I have noticed many works of art depicting Alice as a brunette.

In fact I have noticed a trend lately for painting little lolita/fairy tale-esque girls in art. I really like some of these works, but I am having a heck of a time finding blonds. I ran across an artist on Etsy who did utterly charming images, and I really wanted one. The trouble was she only did brunettes and an occasional redhead. I have found several artists lately who did these types of pieces and not a blond among their work.

When I was a child I loved fairy tales of all sorts, but I have to admit I identified more with Alice, Goldilocks and Heidi. I liked Snow White but I am sure I would have liked her more if she had been blond. I know it's perfectly normal to create things that resemble ourselves because they are an extension of us. But when we buy art we like to find something in the piece that as a collector we can identify with also.

So why have blonds become so unpopular? Even in high school or college movies the nasty girl is usually the blond now. In the 20th century we were portrayed as bimbos, stupid or just plain annoying. Towards the end we seemed to be making headway for a while. (Pun intended!) But lately we have regressed into something to be disliked.

We live in a world where we are supposed to be accepting of all sorts of things, but yet one of the last few prejudicial stereotypes is against blonds. Having been born blond, especially one with certain ample...assets, I know where of I speak. For one thing, people never believe your hair color is natural. I don't know why not, obviously some of us had to be born that way.

As I have mentioned in previous posts I worked for Boeing Aerospace, and I had to constantly prove myself. Actually I have had to prove myself a lot in many arenas over the years because of it. It's a difficult burden to go through your whole life with people automatically assuming you're sub par intellectually and/or "easy" just because of your hair color. I have received a lot of hate over the years from other women who didn't even know me as a result of it as well. I have also gotten a few things handed to me because of it. I never asked for them, and I never expect them. But lets face it when you're young and not well off and someone offers you a set of tires at half price because of a special "blond discount for today only" you're not going to turn that down because it meant you could eat that week too.

My best friend in college was absolutely beautiful. Men adored her, she was tall, and had thick straight chestnut hair and big blue eyes. I was tall too, but I always felt awkward next to her. I envied her a little. But one day she was feeling out of sorts and I was trying to cheer her up. She turned on me and snapped; "We weren't all born lucky golden people like you!" I was utterly shocked. I never did figure out why she thought I was the lucky one. No one ever judged her the same way they did me.

Like Alice, I live in a topsy turvy world with a great burden to bear because of my hair. If you're not blond then I suppose that's a hard thing to imagine that you could be constantly judged on something so superficial. People send me dumb blond jokes in e-mail quite often. I guess they think I will find it funny and no one thinks anything of it. But yet if they made an ethnic joke to someone of that ethnicity I am sure people would be horrified.

R told me once that I was the only blond he ever dated. I thought that was weird at the time, but since then I have read that there have been studies that say men prefer to marry brunettes because they are more stable and faithful. Yes...that has appeared in print many times. I even read an article once that said men equate blonds with shiny objects, they get momentarily distracted by us. So I guess I am just a quick diversion at the same level as a dirty piece of cellophane glinting in the sun for many guys. And you wonder why we have a hard time being taken seriously!

The truth is blonds are no less intelligent, faithful or stable than any other woman. We have run countries, invented great things and walked while chewing gum with no difficulties for centuries. Nearly every blond I have ever met that was truly dumb or of low moral fiber wasn't even a natural blond. Alice managed to find her way out of the rabbit hole. I hope some day the rest of us can climb out of that hole we have been stuck into by society and stereotypical thinking too.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fun Stuff!

Today has been pretty fun. I started off with an interesting e-mail. Briarhurst Manor had seen my post about Valentines Day and wanted to add my "ghost" story to their website. I don't know that it was that exciting since all that happened was my hair got caught or pulled and R was teasing me that it was the ghost. However they had the following to say:

"We have been having a lot of these incidents happening lately, especially when children have been in the Castle or on one of our historical tours. We believe that the entity that is doing the hair pulling is the child Freddie Schneider of the original groundskeeper Frederick Schneider, who died on the property in the early 1890's. Thanks for sharing with us."

I don't know what to say exactly, maybe it was...maybe it wasn't. *grins*

Then we went to the mall, where I spent too much on some clothes to get ready for our vacation to Barbados in May. I also went into Borders and was pleasantly surprised to find the new issue of Somerset Studio. The first co-op ad I did with Lollishops is in it. So that was pretty exciting!

Then we stopped at the Elephant Bar for dinner, came home, watched a bad movie and I took a nice long nap.

When I got up I got an e-mail about my little bluebird. She is going to be winging her way to Belgium to live with Mireille Bejign of Bearytale Teddies who makes the most wonderful and fun bears. I really like the ones with the butterfly wings!

Now I am going to go work on my new pattern! Today is supposed to nice and warm so I am going to try to get some yard work done.
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