Friday, April 29, 2011

Homemade Body Products: Easy and Cheap

I make and sell handmade soap, lotions, lip balm, and other such wonders. However, I know there are a lot of folks out there who would rather make their own. That's part of the reason I write books--to teach people how to make their own body products, and save money and be more independent.

There are some products, though, that are just so easy to make at home, I don't even bother making them to sell. This is for various reasons, usually involving packaging and preservatives I don't want to hassle with.

In the spirit of giving (after gassing up my car the other day, and wondering how on Earth I even manage to do that some weeks), I present some recipes and ideas for your own body products. You already have some of this stuff at home, so the cost is minimal.

1. Scrubs

I do make and sell scrubs, but if you don't care about scent, you can make these yourself, easily. Combine sugar and oils until the consistency is how you like. The end. I recommend olive oil and refined sugar. Scrub up before soaping off, and enjoy. I make this with rougher, raw sugar, to sell, and add fancy essential oils--my customers love it. Any scrub is great on the feet--used daily, your heels will be soft and smooth and sandal-ready. Unlike mine, because I usually can't be bothered. I'm the soap makers daughter going smooth-less.

2. Face Exfoliants

Use a washcloth! I wash my face with soap and a washcloth every day, and it really helps to smooth out my skin. You can make a facial cleansing oil from castor oil (buy it at Walgreen's) and olive oil, combined. Put your washcloth in super-hot water in the basin, while you massage the oil into your skin. Wring out the cloth, and then steam your face with it. Wipe off your face, dunk the cloth, wring it out again, and wipe off the oil one more time. Your face should feel clean and super-soft.

Another exfoliant is baking soda. Be careful with this one, as some folks might find it a bit too abrasive. Mix it with olive oil, and gently rub it on your face. Use soap and a washcloth to clean it off.

If you have hormonal acne, like I do, you might try an aspirin facial. Keep a cheap bottle of uncoated aspirin around ($4 at Walgreen's), and put 3 tablets in your palm. With your other hand, flick water on the tablets to get them to dissolve. Scrub your face or only affected areas with that stuff, then wash off with soap and water. The salicylic acid in the aspirin is what is in all the expensive acne stuff. Now you know. Also, I am not a doctor of any kind.

3. Facial Treatments

Again, start with olive oil. Put it on your face and rub it in. The end. Costco now sells grapeseed oil, too. This stuff is just as cheap as olive oil, and it just as good (if not better). Soap makers all know this, and you should too: just slap some oil on your skin and be done with it. It will soak in.

If you want an actual facial treatment, and have and extra half an avocado (Who leaves an avocado uneaten? I mean, really), mash it up and smear it on your face and let it sit. Then wash it off. For something soothing, you can grind oatmeal up in a clean coffee grinder until it is powdered. Combine that with some honey and a little water, to make a facial paste, and proceed as usual for facials. Oat powder is great in the bathtub, as well, to soothe itchy skin.

4. Hair Treatment

Can you guess what I'm going to say? No? Readers, really. Slap that olive oil in your hair, comb it through, put it up in a cloth, and go gardening. For hours. Then shampoo all that out, and style as usual.

Enjoy frugality! Celebrate anti-corporate action! Go green! And when you want to learn how to make soap, I'm here for you.

Featured Crafter: Deedra Wilburth from Astoria Lane

Please welcome Deedra Wilburth of Astoria Lane on Etsy, who makes the most delightful magnetic bookmarks.

How do you find out about craft fairs in your area? Do you sell online exclusively?

As of right now I only sell online. I am hoping to be part of a local craft fair in the fall, so I am focusing on creating enough inventory for that. I research events online, as well as researching ideas and products and what is "up & coming." I do this to make sure my shop is still relevant to what potential buyers may want.

What was the impulse to start your business?

Making my own schedule was highly important to me. I am involved as a volunteer in the deaf community teaching the Bible in American Sign Language, so I am constantly traveling everywhere. I have been to other countries and all aross the United States doing this--so that is the main reason. A second reason behind my descision is I love what I make, and try to see what I can create today. I love seeing my friends' reactions to what I make. We are all really creative and we bounce ideas off of one another, and the end results sometimes are so amazing. To be able to do that for income is really awesome.

What is your niche? What sets you apart?Why did you choose that niche?

Right now I guess my niche would be my magnetic bookmarks. They sell like crazy in my shop at the moment. No one seems to be making them the same way. I like clean lines and a modern look in general, so I try to bring that into the shape of the bookmarks and I like to meld that with vintage and fun-looking papers. I chose these bookmarks because I always lose bookmarks. I remembered when I was a little girl, a friend gave me a bookmark that had magnets, so I wanted to make some that were more grownup-looking and something I could show off proudly.

Which materials/colors/techniques interest you the most right now? What is inspiring you, creatively?

I have been changing direction lately on new creations, and have been focusing on vintage window frames from old houses, turning these into something useful like memoboards. I put magnetic chalkboards and fabric covered corkboards on them so that these windows can continue their usefulness, even in this energy-efficient world we live in. I love the idea of turning something that has no more use into something completely different that helps it regain its usefulness again.

What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?

Be patient with yourself, and do not set impossible deadlines. Whenever I accept a custom order, I have to make sure I give myself enough time to complete it. For the first couple of these, I set deadlines and I ended up so stressed out to keep it. Even though the buyer loved it, I ended up not happy with the end result because I didn't enjoy making the item.

Thanks for participating, Deedra. Where else can we find you online?

Here are my links:

Readers, how cute are these bookmarks? Deedra's items have a low price, are super-cute, and sell easily. What items can you add to your line that meet these criteria?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Featured Crafter: Michelle Dempsey of Talia Custom Designs

Please welcome Michelle Dempsey of Talia Custom Designs to our legion of Featured Crafters. I am IN LOVE WITH her bowl covers. My grandma had these, only hers were made of plastic and elastic, and they were a bitch to clean. Of course, grandma didn't have an automatic dishwasher--all of those horrible plastic bowl covers had to be hand-washed. These covers are bright! And groovy! And machine washable! Does it get better? I think not.

Onward with the interview!

How do you find out about craft fairs in your area? Do you belong to a crafter's alliance? Do you do all your own research? Do you sell online exclusively?

I have a few local crafty friends that I can have "craft" talk but I'm currently not in a crafter's alliance and haven't been in craft fairs. yet. I just started my business, again, after taking a hiatus to focus on family life. I want to establish my work and store before I venture into craft fairs. I hope to do it sometime in the very near future. In the meantime, I'm working on selling wholesale in addition to online.

What was the impulse to start your business?

The joy and passion of creating things started my hobby. Having such satisfaction after finishing each product, I decided to share my finished product with other people. I was in the corporate world for 10 years before getting married and having kids. Even with my successful career, I didn't feel complete. I always admire other people who follow their dreams and do things they truly enjoy with the talent given to them, whether it be playing sports, performing on stage, or creating an amazing recipe. I, now, feel like one of the people I would admire.

What is your niche? What sets you apart?

Finding a niche was the most challenging part of starting my business. I had doubts on whether my items would sell or who would buy them so rather than having that as my main focus, I decided to make products that are fun and bring me joy. When sales are down, my passion is what keeps me motivated. I feel multiple niches can enjoy my products.

Which materials or colors interest you the most right now? What is inspiring you, creatively?

With Spring around the corner, I've been inspired to make things with bright colorful fabric as well as items that are appropriate for the warmer weather.

What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?

Have fun! Enjoying what you are doing is a strong motivator. Another advice is to not get overworked and take time to do other things that I enjoy. When it gets to be too much work, it's not so much fun anymore.

What question would you like to ask our readers?

What do you enjoy the most about handmade products? What attracts you to handmade sellers?

Thanks for joining us today, Michelle! Readers, what answers do you have?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Featured Crafter: Maria Konstantin

This week's featured crafter is Maria Konstantin. Her Etsy shop has the most delightful crocheted items. Maria is from Bulgaria, so I have edited her responses for clarity. Enjoy.

Where do you sell your crafts?

I sell my creations exclusively online in my Etsy shop: I totally love it and I spend every spare minute working on my products and my shop.

What was your inspiration for your business?

I was always obsessed by crochet and knitting. I remember it was back in December, 2008, when I lost my day job, which made me look for opportunities to help my husband with supporting our family. So one day I came across Etsy and it was like, wow that is my thing! To create and make money out of what I love to do the most. Later, I got a new day job, but I just could not give up on my shop. Now I try to balance between my two jobs, which is not always easy to do.

What do you love to create most?

What I love to create the most are the crochet beads and making necklaces with them. But I must say those beads were not the products that I started my shop with. I was always thinking of necklaces that are made out of fibers, textiles, cotton thread - soft materials, mostly pure cotton and I wanted the best part of the necklace to be NO metal parts. So I came up with the idea of the cotton crochet beads strung on crochet cord or ribbon. I think they are perfect for little ladies.

What are your favorite materials? What is inspiring you right now?

Like I said before, cotton thread is my favorite material and the round wooden beads too, which I use for my crochet beads. What inspires me are the colors that I see around me. If a certain color pops in front of me I always start playing with color combinations in my mind. Lately I get inspired by fruits, too. That is why I started making my crochet amigurumi fruit necklaces. I just love them!

What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?

At the beginning of my Etsy adventure I wish I was told that pictures and descriptions are very very important for selling online.

Thanks for participating, Maria! Readers, she obviously has some great photography skills--what photo tips do you have to share?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Featured Crafter: Amy Castle of Rainy Roots Studio

Please welcome Amy Castle of Rainy Roots Studio on Etsy. Her art makes me happy. What about you?

Please tell us about yourself and your art.

My earliest memories of being really happy and feeling worthwhile and “good” are of my elementary art classes. I was horrible at math and science but was really lucky to have had some phenomenal art teachers early on. That, along with a loving mom who really couldn’t
afford to, but encouraged and bought any and all art supplies I wanted – and trust me I LOVED art supplies, and that love has not changed one bit. You name it, I have it! That exposure has led to my interest in many different mediums over the years.

Without question, art is my therapy. Although I have studied art all my life, my degree is in Interior Design and I’ve been in the design field for 25 years. It is my “bread and butter” although I’d love nothing better than to be able to work full-time as an artist/craftsperson and hope to do so at some point. I am really concerned about the Earth we all share and I feel like if each of us would just make little changes for the “greater good” we’d all reap the benefits. I’m that person who hangs on to stuff “cause I can make something from this” and drives everyone nuts…cardboard, bubble wrap, used dryer sheets, potato bag netting… name it! That’s why, for me, my pop can art makes me feel like I’m doing my little part to bring attention to
recycling and upcycling. Things CAN be made from what most people throw away!

Do you vend in shows? Do you sell online exclusively?

I have done shows in the past although not for the pop can art I’m currently doing, but I’ve never had much success. I’ve been encouraged by fellow artisans to do a few shows this summer, so I may just check it out again. It is nice to give people the chance to see and touch my art in person.

What was the impulse to start your business?

I don’t remember ever not having that impulse! My experiences with working for others have not been positive, so I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that self-employment is the only way I can grow and be happy.

What is your niche? What sets you apart?

Honestly, with everything I do, I strive for originality from beginning to end. Everything is always my original art to start with. Many of my pop can designs started out as original hand-cut stamps that I make (you can see an example on my Etsy site) and stamp onto recycled stock for greeting cards. I avoid using other people’s art--I want it to be ALL MINE!

Which materials/colors/techniques interest you the most right now? What is inspiring you,

I continue to love the process of creating a hand-carved image and then creating a print with that image. I am also really quite obsessed with letter type and fonts…I have a friend who calls me a font geek and that’s fine with me. I love doing custom work for people – names, monograms, etc. I love the process of embossing a design into the metal from a pop can – it gives me immediate gratification, which I really need! None of this working on a piece for days stuff for me…I want it NOW! I have to say though that the process of getting the can to that stage is quite a tedious one – All the cans are cut by hand with my special scissors, cleaned and hand-flattened. (Let me just say that I am a manicurists dream.) I live on 8 acres in the country and am continually inspired by my woods, the farm next door and the textures and colors in the landscape that’s all around me.

What piece of advice would you give to someone starting a business?

  • Be very organized right from the start…it’s much harder as you get busier. Keep good accounting records and save all business related receipts…mileage, office supplies, etc.
  • Be proud of your work. It’s yours – All yours!
  • Be thankful and say “thank you” a lot. Even if someone shows interest but doesn’t buy, let them know you appreciate them and they may come back later to purchase something. The internet is a cold, faceless, impersonal world; make it more personal whenever you can.
  • Don’t be afraid to self-promote: Mention your art business in conversation, do a Facebook page with a link to a website or shop, Tweet about your art AND others’ art. Make friends in these social media outlets and promote their stuff, too. These efforts will pay off if you are consistent.
  • Try to be patient. It takes a little while for the rest of the world to realize that you’re an artistic GENIOUS! (still waiting…)

What question would you like to ask our readers?

I’m wondering how many other sellers are involved in shows and whether they feel it is a good investment in time and money. Also, how do they get information on what shows are coming to their area, and how do you know which shows are consistently good?

Where can the readers find you online?

Thanks so much for your participation here, Amy. So, readers! What answers do you have?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Soapcrone at Makerie Market (by Firefly Handmade) in Boulder, Colorado

I will be vending at the Makerie Market this coming weekend. If you are in Boulder, are near Boulder, or think about Boulder more often than once per year, then perhaps you should come visit. This market is going to be amazing.

Stop by for the crafty! And bring a friend!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Featured Crafter: Becky Fowler of Harriet's Haven on Etsy

Please welcome Becky Fowler of Harriet's Haven on Etsy. Her delightful designs make ordinary items special. I hope you enjoy her interview.

How has owning and running a business changed you? Is your life better? Worse? More stressful?

Owning my own business has been wonderful in the sense that I get to keep my own schedule and balance the daily activities according to my family's needs - not someone else's. I find that I am free to make my own decisions and am more relaxed and easy-going. My husband and children benefit from that because I am there when they need me, and I am better able to make sure their needs are met. I love that my job is creative and the success of it relies on the time I put into it. The only complaint I have is that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to work on all of the ideas in my head.

What was the impulse to start your business?

I've always had a creative side. I can remember as early as elementary school and making papier-maché birds and watercolor paintings. During the summer months, I created wizard hats, wands, capes and other things out of construction paper, glue and glitter. They were quite impressive! When friends came over, we rode our bikes around the block while wearing my creations. I braided bracelets out of embroidery thread and set up a stand near the road and went door-to-door in hopes of making a sale. I tried to convince my friends that it would be more fun to draw fashion designs instead of playing outside. I loved all of this.

Later on, I continued art classes in high school and took a couple of photography courses in college. It was evident that a creative lifestyle was my calling, but it wasn't until 2008 when a friend told me about Etsy that I realised there was a global marketplace for people like me. By that time, I was ready to leave my bank teller position, so I began working on product development almost right away.

What is your niche? What sets you apart? Why did you choose that niche?

My products have fallen into an eco-friendly type of category and are perfect for people concerned about our environment. Even though all of my products are made from new material, they are made from natural cotton and burlap. They serve the purpose of replacing costly and wasteful products such as plastic sandwich bags and brown paper lunch bags. My draft dodgers serve the purpose of cutting energy costs and blocking drafts caused by poor insulation. My new line of clothes pin bags reinforce the importance of saving energy and line-drying clothing when possible. There are items similar to mine on the market, but my products are unique in that they are all meticulously stenciled with one of my original designs. The designs are either nature-inspired or kid-friendly and appeal to many tastes. As I have gotten older I have become more aware and concerned about environmental issues, so I feel it is important to incorporate eco-friendly items into our everyday lives. Since I enjoy making the products, it has been a pleasure to offer them to others.

What inspires you creatively? Do you think you will go off on a tangent and change things, or do you prefer to keep things the same?

Many things inspire me, but if i had to choose 3 things, I would say my children, nature and travel. I am constantly amazed at what my kids accomplish and I especially enjoy seeing what my oldest (age 5) creates. When she finishes a piece of art work, I can visualize how she interprets an idea. Both of my children seem to have a bit of musical talent which they get from their dad, so I can't wait to see how that develops through the years. Many ideas come from nature and things seen while traveling, especially color, shape and formation of objects.

I love what I do, so I will continue on this path, but I plan to offer more choices in design and product. I'm still working on adding all of my clothespin bags to my shop, and I plan on adding another line (to be announced) before the end of the year. Because I love photography, I have prints available in another shop: And to round everything out, I love searching for vintage items, so I have began offering them for sale in this shop: In this shop, there will soon be handmade products made from vintage fabrics and other repurposed objects to fill my need to create with other media.

What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?

I guess the biggest piece of advice I wish I had would be about the financial part of running a business. It's easy to keep records of purchases and sales, and I do have a little background in accounting, but I still find tax time to be stressful. Other than that, I wish I would have paid attention to those who told me to keep at it. I wasted too many years at various jobs that I was unhappy with. My mom would often tell me to keep creating, crafting, and photographing. A few years after high school graduation, I was approached by my art teacher and she was disappointed that I hadn't followed the creative path at that time. But because this has finally happened, I am truly grateful for the support of my husband and family and friends and all of my wonderful customers.

Where else can we find you online?

Here is my Facebook page:

And I have a blog, too:

Thanks for the interview, Becky! Readers, what is your favorite item in her shop?