Sunday, May 20, 2012

Exclusively yours

A while back, I thought it would be nice to include some handmade gift cards with my items.

I figure - whether someone is ordering a gift, or they are getting something nice for themselves, its always so satisfying to find it it wrapped up nicely, with a thoughtful card, just for you.  Everybody deserves a present, now and again!  :)

So, I contacted Rachel from PaperBeau, which is a handmade paper studio in the UK.  We're both one woman bands - so to speak - so I was happy to patronize her shop.  I love to support my fellow Etsy shop owners, especially single artisan shops run by one person - like myself.  Call it biased, but there's certainly a feeling of camaraderie amongst us Etsyans.

To my pleasant surprise, Rachel made these ADORABLE owl cards for me on lilac, coral and carnation pink paper - and they turned out even more adorable than I imagined.  The purple has flecks of silver leaf in it, the pink is slightly distressed and has speckles of white and color, and the coral is well-textured with bits of white fiber throughout.

I now proudly give each and every order from my shop one of these super cute owl cards.  Designed just for Beach Plum Cottage by PaperBeau.  Just another way for me to say, "Thanks for buying handmade"  Honestly, from the bottom of my heart - THANK YOU!

Supporting handmade artisans is a lot harder than just going to your local Target or shopping mall.  By buying handmade, you're not only giving a gift that was made WITH care, but to the artisans that you support, you are saying "I care!"

The time and love put into making, giving and owning handmade products... it's worth it, I promise!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A thousand words

When people ask me what living on Martha's Vineyard is like, I answer honestly and simply: like heaven.

I would not at all be surprised to die, and wake up back in Chilmark.  And rather than try and TELL you about it, rather than attempt to describe to you the oak scrub forests filled with birdsong, or the beautiful clay streaked cliffs, or the sunrise over the ocean is like...  Rather than tell you...  I thought I would just show you.

Here are some of my very favorites from my personal collection.  I have taken these photos over the course of the past three years, here on Martha's Vineyard.

A word of warning!: This is a BIIIIG block of photography - so if flowers, animals and beaches are boring to you, you should look away now!  Avert your eyes!

...But if you didn't like those things, you wouldn't be here in the first place, would you?  :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

One woman band

One of the things I've had to learn since opening shop at Etsy is how to be a one woman band.

It began with just the love of crafting... Simple enough, right?  Just the thrill of being creative and productive was what started this whole crusade.

Somehow, last summer it started with "Oh, I won some ribbons at the fair for my work... Friends and family said I should sell my goods online.  Etsy looks fun and easy!  How hard could it be?"

I sat on Etsy for SO LONG, just waiting to get noticed.  My product photos were so-so, and I kept waiting for the day that Etsy would just get the word out to the world about my little shop.  I eventually realized that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.  Learning what to do, and how to do it, has been a long and trying process.

Now I am my own product photographer, photo editor, social media campaign strategist, Facebook fan club president, and so on...

These days I am constantly shipping and receiving packages, and the post man knows my name.  He sees my car pull into the parking lot and has my packages up on the counter, scanned and ready to carry away by the time I walk in.

I shop so frequently with Amazon and other supplies companies, that I've almost always got SOMETHING in my shopping cart.  Whether its a new batch of beads or ribbon, I'm always looking for something new for my shop.

Recently I got a HUGE batch of great things in the mail - all for Beach Plum Cottage.

BOTH of my business card orders came in on the same day!  

Etsy has great deals going on with both and - I was able to secure these for very little!  I really LOVE how my products looked on the back of the mini Moos (top photo).  This is my second set of Mini Moos, and these are probably my favorite, by far!

The Vista Print set (bottom photo) matches my shop banner, so I like how that all ties in together.  I also got a rubber stamp from them so I can mark my packaging!

See?  I got a big lot of brown kraft paper envelopes for merchandize.  Each bag has my stamp which reads "Made with care by BEACH PLUM COTTAGE Martha's Vineyard"

As you can see, I also bought some organza drawstring bags for jewelry and gift boxes.  I bought a lot of gift boxes a few weeks ago, but did not order nearly enough!  I'm sky-rocketing towards 50 pieces of jewelry in my inventory, so this surge of bracelets and anklets for summer meant I needed more supplies.  Which was great, because now I can include these cute little drawstring bags.

All jewelry orders now come packaged like this.  :)

Last, but not least, was an old order of ribbon.  I ordered this so long ago that I forgot I had even bought it!  It must have gone on back-order and Amazon being the amazing little helper that it is, filled the order for me later after restocking the items, even though the price had gone up by then.  Isn't shopping online easy? 

These are American Craft ribbons.  Not pictured, but I also got a BEAUTIFUL lot of Martha Stewart ribbons that look like this.   I'm going to be using them in some future up-cycling gift jars and gift wrapping projects.

I'm adding new projects all the time!  Make sure to stop by and see what's up!  <3

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Crafts and cats

Hello again from Chilmark!

It’s a wonderfully sunny weekend here on Martha’s Vineyard.  It’s been raining and gray Monday through Friday, but seemingly as soon as Saturday hits, the weather clears and things are just B-E-A-UTIFUL!  :)

The rainy days actually make for better crafting days for me.  The cold damp always makes me stay indoors, make a cup of tea and get down to business, while the sunnier days like this see me outdoors, wandering around in the meadow, taking photos of all the new flowers and playing with the kittens, Charlie and Butters.  

Such talkative little ones!

I adopted these kittens from the Animal Shelter here on MV last fall and boy were they ADORABLE when I first got them.  They’ve matured into wonderful, friendly animals and Chilmark is the perfect place to allow them to explore safely.  We live relatively far back from the main road, and we’re surrounded with woodlands and grassy meadows for the cats to play in.  We began taking them outside about six weeks ago, during our unseasonably warm March and April.  The hot weather made for perfect opportunities to take Charlie and Butters out for some training sessions.

As you can see, they LOVE to be outside!  
Most of their day is spent rolling in the dirt, hunting for bumblebees and other small animals.

When they are inside though, its a different story! Butters likes to get into my crafting supplies and has devoured a full yard of pink organza ribbon before!  They are good little finders, as they discover beads and yarn scraps I didn't even know I had dropped, until I hear them skittering across the floor - the latest "cat toy" for Charlie.

I have to keep all of my things - especially my hemp and bamboo cord for jewellery making - well out of reach of these little scamps.  

They’re also suckers for playing with my yarn balls when I’m trying to crochet.  I like to let my yarn fall to the floor at my feet where I can just let the lead come naturally, rather than yanking at the skein to get some loose yarn every few stitches.  This is great for my crochet stitches, but also extremely tempting for little kitties.  

Every now and again I'll feel a tug on my work, look down and see one of the cats looking up at me, with their paws on the yarn. Their face seems to say, "WHAT? I didn't do anything!", but I've caught them red-handed!  

Or red-pawed, as it were :)

Do you all love animals, as well as crafting?  What sorts of trouble do your pets get into while you’re trying to be creative?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Greetings and Salutations!

This is my inaugural blog post!  If this were a boat, I'd call it the S.S. It's About Time! and break a bottle of champagne on her hull.  That is to say - I've been meaning to do this for a loooong time.  Well, I'm finally here!

Let's make the introductions, shall we?  :)

M, my name is Maggie, my store is Beach Plum Cottage.  I live in Massachusetts - Martha's Vineyard to be exact.  A lot of people have intense reactions to the words MV.  They conjure up images of the rich and famous, a presidential playground for the summer season.  And that's not entirely false - there are a good number of wealthy, and celebrities who come to visit us, but they give the island a bad rep.

This place is, at its core, a farming and fishing community.  When the summer ends and all the rich and famous go back to their homes in New York and California, the rest of us hunker down and get work done.  Islanders go back to herding sheep, bringing in crab and lobster traps, they busy themselves in their winter studios painting, creating, working their trades... trying to make a living the way that they have done since the 1600's. Yep, we were settled loooong before most of the rest of the country, and some of the byways and farms are still named after their original inhabitants.

We are an island of honest, hard-working folks who definitely did not grow up with a silver spoon in mouth.  We live relatively simple lives, free of any chain stores and fast food restaurants.  Heck, we don't even have a stop light!  I haven't seen a freeway on-ramp or heard a car horn in three months... since I was last on the main-land, of course.  Life around here moves reaaaaal slow, the way it probably did in the olden days.     We stop to smell the roses, we stop traffic for families of guinea hens crossing the road.

A sailboat lazily bobs up and down just offshore in Aquinnah

But because of our tourism-based nature, high cost of real estate, most of us live a pretty intense life.  The cost of living here is 60% higher than the national average - as all of our goods have to be ferried over on a boat.  Housing here is 96% above the national average and gas is steady around $4.50/gallon.  Fine for the vacationing folks who come here from the Jersey Shore to spend their money on a summer vacation, but for whose of us who try to eke out a living year-round, it gets tough, so you have to get creative.  Many people who own beautiful homes will move out, and live out of their car or a friend's bedroom for four months, just to rent our their house to tourists during the "high season".  We lovingly refer to this as "the Island Shuffle" - trying to make the most of what you've got, while you can.

As a result of all of these things, island living has made me into a very simplistic person.  If I don't need to drive somewhere, I don't.  If I can get there by walking, I use my Chevro-legs.  We cook all of our meals at home instead of going out to eat or grabbing a burger - simply because there ARE no burger joints!  And OH BOY, is crafting is an adventure...

Instead of going to A.C. Moore, Michael's or Jo-Ann Fabrics like many of you all do, there is not a craft store on Martha's Vineyard.  Instead, I order EVERYTHING online, especially my supplies for my Etsy store.

I "window shop" by making online shopping bags full of stuff.  I go to the company site for Red Heart, and end up with about $200 worth of various colors of yarn and crochet thread in my basket.  Of course, I can't afford to buy everything I see, but its nice to dream, right?

I end up buying a lot of yarn at once and then parceling it out as I go.  I try not to break into a new skein until I've found a purpose for every bit of the last color.  I up-cycle fabric, I re-use scraps and I invent new homes for found buttons and other tid-bits.

Where some people see a lost random button, I see the feature for a new flower headband.

Where someone sees a colorful bit of leftover yarn, I see a new shell for snail friend.

Since I order just about everything online and I live on a rural route where the postman doesn't leave packages, I get lots of little orange notifications.  I walk the half-mile down the dusty dirt lane to the main road where my mailbox is.  I open it and see a little orange slip of paper with my name on it!  Happy day - this means that something I've ordered online is coming in today!  *clicks heels together*

As I drive to the post office, passing rolling green sheep pastures overlooking a briny pond next to the sea, I wonder what I'll be picking up today.  A box of yarn?  Hot glue sticks?  That order of ribbons that I placed in April?  I drive to the Chilmark Post Office and I have to brake and wait for a group of wild turkeys to pass.

Hydrangeas frame an old cedar shingle Cape style house... Quintessential Vineyard

This is my little island life.  I live.  I craft.  I take pictures of wild turkeys and trees and flowers.

And now, I share it with you.  :)

Come visit me at my Etsy shop, won't you?