Polymer Clay Tools

Posted on

Happy Wednesday! This is Kim, with Fantastical Menagerie. I wanted to share some of the resources I use to find tools to work with my polymer clay. A lot of us start with the basic tools that can be found at most craft stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Sometimes you need a more specific tool than what can be found there. In my years of working with clay, I have found some great alternatives for sculpting tools and texture tools.

AmCreatures on Etsy has some nice hand designed tools. They are based in Canada. Their tools are mostly directed at sculpting dolls and faces for puppets, but work well for polymer clay. Some are for sculpting scales, eyes, and tiny detail work. Their prices are very reasonable for custom tools.

If you find that kneading clay fills you with dread, this next tool has great reviews, is simple to use, and does it in seconds. Its called the NeverKnead. Its an expensive investment, but works based on pressure. Instead of spending a great deal of time and pain with clay, try this!

If you need sharper straight blades for your clay, especially for cutting canes, Creative Canes Etsy shop sells tissue blades, which are medical grade and extremely sharp. Flexible enough for cutting curved shapes as well. The shop also offers different polymer clay finished cane projects.

Pottery114U sells pottery clay stamps that help with imprinting texture into your polymer clay. They are inexpensive, durable, and versatile.

When searching on your own, include searches for cake decorating, pottery, and other crafts, since tools may work for other mediums.

 


DIY Unique Yarn Storage

Posted on

Hey there, Hackers! Tis your intrepid ScribeSarah, back with some tips on how to keep your crafting space clear and organized. Now, even little ol’ anal-retentive me gets her home a little messy with all her little projects but there are ways you can get that chaos organized, even if it doesn’t always look like it. While I tend to be a bit of a jack of all trades in the craft arena, for today’s exercise, I thought we would focus on ways to keep your yarn both accessible and stowed so that it’s not taking over your home.

There are quick and easy ways to store your yarns and threads, most of which you can find at your local Container Store (a place I am not allowed to go unsupervised because I will buy all the things). However, if you’re looking for something a little less ordinary (and costly), there are a bunch of things out there that you can use or re-purpose for these needs.

For yarn that isn’t being used currently (or for that yarn you found you just couldn’t leave the craft store without despite not having a specific project you bought it for), you could use old wicker/weaved baskets. My grandmother had a ton of these just hiding in her cupboards and when she passed away, rather than donate them to the Goodwill, I kept and re-purposed them. Some I use for small balls of yarn (leftovers from projects past) and some I use to keep finished projects. These can be decorative and left out by a chair or sofa or can be standard square that fits in a closet or on a shelf easily.

Another thing that gives your not-being-used yarn a happy and somewhatImage result for vintage suitcase retro home is to put those old suitcases to work. Vintage suitcases are a beautiful way to store these items that still look neat and classy. They fit in closets, under beds or sofas, but still show off a little glamor when pulled out for use. They can also be stacked decoratively in a corner or on a shelf (e.g. hat boxes, etc). You can line old suitcases with any fabric you like too, so the inside as well as the outside has a special sort of flare.

If you like assembling items, this next item is for you. Simple pegboard and hooks are a fabulous way to store your yarn while still keeping it readily accessible and easy to use. You can customize size, shape, even color quite easily and load as many or as few skeins onto a board as you see fit. You can also create many small boards to mount along the wall of your craft room in a funky design or pattern. The sky’s the limit with this option and it works best if you have a dedicated craft area or room.  For an easy-to-follow tutorial, check out Dwell Beautiful’s step-by-step instructions here.

Coffee cans are a fun, decorative way to store yarn you are currently using on projects. They come in various sizes and, depending on how much coffee you consume, you may have a restoring supply. You can paint or decoupage the outside of each can, simply slice a small hole in the lid of the can, then place the ball or skein in the can and thread the end through the lid. Glue guns, glitter, rhinestones, shelf lining paper and yarn itself are also fun ways to decorate the outsides of the cans. Not only does this give you storage, it is also an inexpensive yarn holder. But if you don’t want tons of coffee cans just sitting around your space, you can also mount them on the wall (without the lids).

Image result for coffee can yarn

And finally, we come to milk crates. These may be a little harder to come by but they give you a great way to create your own yarn shelves. They are stackable, come in different colors and can be used in small and large spaces equally as well. Got a lot of yarn? Just keep stacking on the crates until you have a place for it all. For this idea, I recommend using an anchor of sorts when stacking against a wall; the higher you stack the crates, the more likely it is that the whole thing could topple over. You will also want to lash the crates together as well to make your yarn storage sturdier.

Image result for milk crate yarn storage

These are just a few ways to take items you may have either laying around the house or are easy and inexpensive to acquire and use them to organize your space. But don’t stop there. Look around you. You never know when inspiration will strike. That random item that’s just collecting dust in the corner may be the next great organizational tool in your crafting adventures.

Save


Exercises for your Hands

Posted on

A different kind of post for today. This is a subject that’s been weighing on me personally the past year, and I wanted to share my findings and help my fellow artisan crafters and artists out there. As much fun as it can be to make really cool items by hand, it’s equally important to make sure you’re taking care of those hands. Just like the tools you hold, your hands are an important and vital part of your crafting that can be worn down if not given time and treatment. So the first thing I’m going to start out with is a video on exercises you can do for your hands.

These exercises are designed to help prevent and/or cure injuries such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. While traditional 2D artist are most known to have these issues, as a crocheter I’ve come to find this video invaluable. Less then 5 minutes a day is all you need to run these stretches and the benefits are already starting to show for me. I would recommend doing these daily for anyone that creates things with their hands; yes even writing. Your future self with thank you.

Since it was important enough to be the top comment, I want to include David Kuckhermann‘s addition on feeling a stinging pain while doing the stretches.

for those of you guys who ask about the stinging pain in the thumb/wrist while doing the stretches –  This is how it went for me: I had the same sharp stinging pain in the area that was inflamed while I did the stretches. The doctor I consulted with advised me to do the stretches anyway – once every hour or so for 8-10 seconds. I was careful to not overdo it but to stretch enough to still get the stretching effect on the muscles. In the beginning it was very painful but already after two days I felt a big positive change and had much less pain.

Note that I am not a medical doctor, so if you experience severe pain you should definitely consult your doctor before continuing these exercises.

The next advice I want to touch on is taking vitamins. This seems silly, but hear me out. I’m already required to take them as I have a genetic iron deficiency (my body doesn’t have/make enough naturally) that a simple multi vitamin takes care of. If I have super dark circles under my eyes when you come by at shows….it’s cause I’ve forgotten to take them regularly…again. Personal needs aside though, one of the muscle pains I can develop from crocheting is along my tendon muscle near my elbow. It can feel almost like a knot is sitting there, not unlike a charlie horse issue in your leg, that feels more sore then shooting pain. After consulting with my doctor, he suggested I try adding extra potassium to go with my multivitamin as it was possible I wasn’t getting enough in my diet. After about a week I noticed a marked difference and have been attempting to keep up with it. Potassium is an electrolyte and besides helping with your blood pressure, it also aids in electrical impulses carried through your body for proper nerve and muscle communication. Think of it like lubrication for your muscles. 😉

The last bit to add here is the one everyone knows and no one wants to hear.

Rest.

Yup. Take a break. Do anything that doesn’t put high stress on your hands/arms. Play some video games, watch movies, whatever you like. Give your hands a rest as much as you can before doing more creating. When you do jump back in don’t go ‘nose to the grind stone’ either to try and ‘make up time’. You’ll just undue all the rest you gave your poor hands and get you back to square one. I took a week off with no crocheting after NYCC last fall cause my hands/arms were so sore, and even though they felt normal after only 2 days, I stuck to the plan and then went at a slightly slower pace for a bit when I started back up until I felt I could resume normal activity/speed.

While none of the 3 suggestions I’ve listed are full proof and you should always consult your doctor first if you have severe pain or injuries, these are good places to start finding a plan that works for you and gives you & your hands a nice long working relationship. 🙂


Gearing Up for Show Season, Part 3

Posted on

Happy Wednesday! This is Kim, with Fantastical Menagerie. In previous Wednesday posts, I have brought up how to apply for shows, what to do for Juried events and photos, and what questions to ask an event to determine if its a good fit for you. Once you apply, and receive an acceptance, what next?

Creating stock for the event. Generally, think about the theme of the show, the demographics and buying power of customers likely to attend an event. If there are special guests or celebrities, consider whether items inspired by them should be something you offer. A wide variety of pricing can also help. The rule is enough stock to refill your table 3-5 times.

Make sure your display is tasteful, geared toward the event, and something easily visible to customers. It should never overpower your stock. If using tables, consider table lifts. They are easy to make or buy, and raise the tables enough so that customers don’t have to bend too far to see what you have. Organize your things, and have price tags or price signs out. Many customers don’t want to ask the cost of items- they may simply walk away and assume they can’t afford what you have. A sign across the front of your table or hanging on a display behind you will help with customers that are farther away. If at an art or craft show, having a banner across the top bar of your tent, or framed is a nice touch. Make sure it includes a logo or photos, along with contact information such as websites, email or social media links.

Invest in good business cards, shopping bags in paper or plastic, wrapping tissue, bubble wrap, boxes, or other packing materials for customer purchases. Unless you are selling bags or purses, most customers want their purchases wrapped. Buying handmade implies a higher level of service, so make sure that every part of the purchase is a pleasant one. If you want to make reusing or recycling part of your concept, offer newspaper, saved bags, or them about going green. Make sure you can take credit cards, because it will account for a significant number of your sales.

Before your show, its also a good idea to make sure you utilize social media to its full potential. Advertise the show, share photos of the art available, and make sure to publish directions and a map to your space. When at the show, walk around, talk with other artists and vendors, and network. Many times you can share customers, or direct them to someone who may sell something you don’t make. It is a small community, and it helps everyone when you are nice.

Next week, we can talk about pricing your items for your event!


Being a Woman in Business

Posted on

Hello Thursday Crafthackers!

Image courtesy of Fat in the City.

Seeing as how yesterday was International Women’s Day, I thought I might write today a little bit about being a woman in the crafting small business scene.  Where there are both men and women who read this blog, I would like to address some of the things that I’ve experienced as a woman running a making business in an arena that is difficult and not always as welcoming as we might like. To be clear, this is not an article that is going to vilify men, as… well. That’s not fair, now is it? It does, however, address some of the differences and some of the experiences that I’ve had and how I’ve handled them.

Image courtesy of History.com

First, you need to be proud of who you are and what you are doing. Whether you’re crafting something for personal enjoyment, or for your own small (or large) business venture, you need to know inside that this is who you are and what you love. Many people criticize what they think to be risky, or something that they don’t understand, and this can come from many directions and often comes from good intentions. It can come from potential customers, acquaintances, friends or family.  I have experienced this a number of times, and have been in the position where my brother has done work as an independent contractor without receiving the kind of negative feedback I’ve received from concerned parties on multiple occasions. This made me wonder how much of it was related to me being a woman and being seen as vulnerable, lacking in business acumen, forethought or if it was just the type of entrepreneurship that was being perused – something in the legal field verses something that is hand made.

I figured it was probably a combination of things, and that most of these comments were being given (or withheld) were done so without thought of what was actually being said. It’s times like this, where you can see similar situations being handled differently that it is the most important to be sure of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. All business ventures where you are doing something on your own are risky, and you might get more feedback from unexpected sources than you’re anticipating. Remember to fall back on the people who do support you and help to build you up rather than tear you down. Nothing great was achieved by sitting on the sidelines. This is your journey, and the choices you make should be yours, not someone else’s.

 

I have experienced so much support within the small makers business community that it is so heartening, and I’m very lucky for it. Though, as I’m sure many of you have experienced, there are times when you might have a potential client or someone who is perusing your wares, asking you questions about what you do. I have never had a problem with these questions as I ask the same of other businesses. What does start to get irritating is when your expertise is being scrutinized by someone who does not have the experience to back up their scrutiny. I have encountered this multiple times in multiple different arenas, whether it be in regards to what I’m making – which is a specialty skill – or aspects of the business that as a business owner you need to be familiar with such as the standards and laws governing employment and taxes.

This can be especially frustrating when the person who is questioning you is doing so only to find fault in your education, experience or knowledge. Let’s be honest, none of us is 100% knowledgeable about every subject, but you cannot assume that if someone is making adorable plushies, or fabulous jewelry that they are not also a sharp businessperson who knows the finer points of the things involved in running their business. I have experienced this a number of times, and when the intention is to take you down a peg or two, it becomes very evident as you’re listening that this is the end goal. Not to fear, though. Come back to what I wrote way back up at the beginning. Know yourself and your product. It can be frustrating when it feels like someone is interrogating you, but lashing out is giving them what they are looking for, and will really only make you feel worse.  Just be aware of who is around you and how much time they’re taking up. You are well within the scope of politeness to hand them a business card and let them know you’re happy to answer any other questions they have but need to talk with some of the other customers that are waiting.

Happy International Women’s Day. I hope that for all you ladies doing your thing, this lets you know


Knowing Your Worth.

Posted on

Hello Thursday Crafthackers.

I do a great many things with my time, and realistically work a variety of very part time jobs so that I can be social while making my own business work from home. Just yesterday I had a conversation with someone very close to me that inspired me to write a post about it, since I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who has ever had to have this type of conversation. I was talking about some private tutoring I was doing and about how much I was charging.  I told them the amount I decided to charge (since some of my costs were cut down from being able to do this from home), but I also told them the amount I should be charging for my time.

The reaction to this number was that I should not think so much of my skills to overshadow what people are willing to pay. Basically a “don’t be too big for your britches” scenario. I had to sit for a moment and think – was I really charging too much? Was the average price that I was quoting far more than anyone would realistically pay for my time? There’s a lot of ways to look at this, but perspective aside, it’s a strange thing for someone to tell you that your skills are not worth what you think they are. But the real question is this: Is that person right?

In my case, I had done a whole lot of research to come up with the price that I did, comparing education, types of degrees, methods of teaching, subjects taught and experience teaching within the field. All of this had pointed to my pricing being right, and this is what I explained to them. After I had a chance to mull over this conversation it got me to thinking that I suspect there are a lot of makers who get the same kind of feedback about their pricing or their time. And I suspect, like me, it is from people that we care about and are close to.

So, how do you find balanced pricing and how do you know how much your time is actually worth? Well. There aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules for this as if you have tried to sell your hand made item, it is a balance between what you are worth and what people are willing to spend. That being said, you can’t just throw a price that looks good on your work and your time and call it a day. One of the best things you can do is research your competition, both machine made and hand made. What are other people charging for something similar to what you’re doing? Are there differences in yours that will influence how much time you put into them? Are there things that you do that makes your product better or stronger?

When you have a good idea of what’s out there, you can reasonably look at what you’re doing and see if you’re charging what you should be. As I mentioned above, though, it’s not just what you produce that you need to think about, it’s your history and your quality. It’s your experience and your expertise. If you have a decade of crochet under your belt and you’ve been making and selling baby blankets at $50 dollars each, you are probably underselling both yourself and your product, charging barely enough to cover materials.  Where it may not be feasible to charge for every hour you put into your work -I know, it’s sometimes a hard balance between price resistance and fair pricing, you absolutely should be charging for your labour.

When you run into this problem, and you will at some point, know your market and know what ‘s out there already. Know how much time you put into your products and know what your experience means to your project. You shouldn’t have to justify the cost of your time so much as just explain why your time is as valuable as it is. Being confident in yourself and your value is one of the hardest things to do but is also an extremely important one. You will often find, as people learn about hand made and the specifics of the crafts they’re interested in, that there are many people out there who will pay market value or even a little bit extra for expertise, high quality craftmanship and for your hard work.

I think in the hand made market, many of us don’t charge what we should. It took me a long time to wrap my head around my time being valuable and charging for it. Those who I’m close to don’t always agree with what I charge, but ultimately, if they don’t understand the time and the skill that it takes to do what you’re doing, then they won’t understand why you’re charging what you are. So whether it’s a friend, a parent or a customer who makes a comment about your pricing, you should know why your prices are where they are. Though you are an artist, that does not mean that you will work for exposure or that your work is just something that you enjoy doing, and so shouldn’t charge for. Not only will this give you confidence in dealing with naysayers, but it will just help to make you more self assured about your work. After all, you’re a highly skilled individual, why shouldn’t you be paid a decent wage for your time like everyone else?

 

Happy crafting!

~Megan


Finding Your Muse Again.

Posted on

Hello Thursday readers!

As the holidays have now finished up and we’re all starting to get back to normal life, have you found that you might feel like you’ve lost some inspiration? That you are running on empty from the cons, shows and sales that may have fueled your small making business through the summer? You aren’t alone. Whether you’re working full time for yourself or you’re working for someone else while you explore your artistic endeavours either through crafting or through a part time business, the time after the holidays can be a hard place to find your inspiration again when all you want to do is sleep and recover and possibly just hibernate for a couple more months under a blanket.

Courtesy of Deposit Photos

I find myself struggling with this every year, between the lower energy of the wintery, sunless months and the come down from the chaos of holiday work and commissions, I know that all I want to do is play video games till spring. Is it healthy? Probably not, and so we have to find ways to get the creative juices running again and getting back into the healthy habits we adopt during convention season. What’s the first step I recommend? Give yourself some time to breathe. With everything being so hectic, how can you feel ready to dive back into your art before taking a little time to actually leave the holiday rush behind? Take a  week or two if you can, to do things for yourself and to let yourself relax without obligation.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Next, it’s finding that motivation to start working again, and being consistent about it. For me, I need to ease myself back into things. If I start going full throttle ahead, I burn out pretty quickly after giving so much of my time and energy to others. My personal recommendation is to set small, achievable goals that get bigger each day you work or with each project you do. Meeting these goals will help you to feel that sense of accomplishment that helps to drive and build your internal motivation. Without that internal motivation, you won’t find that you are enjoying what you’re creating and  your quality won’t be as high.

 

I think my last big hurdle at this time of year, comes when I realize I don’t have any conventions that are coming up until the late spring or summer, depending on your schedule and how often you sell.  It can be hard to build stock for something that seems so far away, especially if you don’t have commissions to keep you busy. For this, I recommend something that might sound counter intuitive, but here it goes. If you’re able, do something you enjoy while you work. I listen to audio books, podcasts, I watch tv shows and movies. I might not work quite as hard and fast as I do without these things, but it keeps me in my work room getting things done, and I don’t feel like I’m locked away, working for nothing. As soon as I feel like that, my work quality goes downhill and my motivation is shot.

I hope that these tips were helpful and I hope that it helps to know that you’re not alone in feeling like this, and that the solution isn’t necessarily to just suck it up and get back to it (though that might work for some people). These are some of the things that work for me and I hope that they work for you too.

Happy Crafting!

~Megan


Keeping Those Resolutions

Posted on

happynewyear

Happy Sunday and a very happy new year to you all! Last year definitely had it’s ups and downs but I do hope that your own ups outnumbered the downs. I, like a good majority of people, tend to make some kind of new year resolution that I totally intend to keep and then end up getting sidetracked/give up on/push until next year for any number of reasons. The biggest roadblock to keeping mine usually stems from one of my greatest aspirations and biggest adversaries: organization. I love the idea of organization but execution always seems to fall short of my expectations. Like I am just going to magically become this domestic organization goddess that knows exactly what I am doing with my life because I finally got all of my yarn out of the plastic bins overtaking the office and into cube baskets on shelves.

Uh huh, sure. I've heard that one before.

Uh huh, sure. I’ve heard that one before.

Let’s be honest here, one of the big reasons I am obsessed with Pinterest is because it gives me all of these innovative ideas for de-cluttering my home by going to the dollar store/covering this cardboard box in washi tape/building new storage out of toilet paper tubes but I can count on one hand the number of these solutions I’ve actually attempted. Organization is also my foe in other parts of my life…I adore planners. Back when I was a wee student and discovered the themed student planners, part of my prep for the year was always picking out just the right one. I very much enjoyed filling out assignments, important dates, and social events. I also love the idea of journals, as my untouched but pretty journal collection can attest to but I never seem to be able to keep up with it. Add into that my accomplishments as a list maker and you have my ultimate organization conundrum. Is there something that exists that can help me keep better track of everything while still letting me following my meandering route and also act as a creative outlet? Turns out there is.

bulletjournalven

Enter, the bullet journal. One of my very good friends (who may be picking up some blogging duties here – yay!) introduced me to this concept at the end of last year and I had yet to investigate it thoroughly. WARNING: a search may suck hours of your life away if you are not prepared for the black hole that is “bullet journal ideas”, not that I know from experience or anything. So what is a bullet journal, exactly? Well, this world being what it is, of course someone actually gave the concept a title and bought the domain name so you can go to the official Bullet Journal Website for a description or this article from Buzzfeed gives a pretty good background but I think I truly got interested because of this article on The Lazy Genius Collective. Not only do they keep it real, they are wonderfully witty as they go about describing what the basic pieces *usually* consist of.

This is cute and all but I have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many books on both of those lists to ever set it up this way.

This is cute and all but I have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many books on both of those lists to ever set it up this way.

The important point that I’ve gotten from the articles is that this is not something you should feel pressured to keep precisely organized. All of the pieces are your pieces and they should be done in a way most effective to YOU. It is part planner, part to-do list, part diary, and part whatever else you need. It definitely does not need to be the most beautiful thing you have ever produced and I would caution you to not be intimidated by all of the cute doodles or calligraphy level entries you may find in an initial search. One of the biggest parts of making this useful, however, is the index page. This is your guide to your bullet journal that will tell you where to find all of those different thoughts, lists, and dates. Along with “signifiers” which are like your own secret code of symbols for giving quick look assignments to tasks or notes, this truly seems like something that I would not only keep up with but may also enjoy. If anything I have described above resonates with you at all, I do highly recommend checking out this lovely madness I am about to plunge headlong into. On that note, we have MAGfest coming up this week and I have to make my packing list! Have a fantastic week, all!

Stay crafty!

~Laura

 


Self Employment, the Holidays, and Relaxation

Posted on

Hello Thursday Readers!

Like Beauty and the Beast, self employment and the holidays have a very complicated relationship. This is often a time of money making, but it is also a time of family. If you’re like me, then even when you have done a lot of what you need to, you still feel guilty taking time away from your work over the holidays. Add in lack of sleep, travelling, trying to find time and money to get all the gifts that you need to, sleeping in beds that aren’t your own, and the general blahs that can sometimes come by virtue of the lack of sunlight, or the holiday season in general, and you can have a pretty rough time without realizing.

Image from Dreamstime

So I wanted to take a post to remind all of you how important it is to make sure that you give yourself a break over the holidays. If you have orders, if you can get them done before hand, do. But, make sure to check with clients when they need things as you might find that some aren’t on a timeline and may be more understanding with the time restrictions during this time of year. Knowing that your client is flexible can take a huge load off, and keeping them in the loop about your schedule will help to keep you from feeling guilty about it. Remember, that even though you might not be able to take a full vacation, giving yourself a vacation from obligation for a couple days is super healthy and really needed around this time of year.

To that token… here are a couple DIY relaxation remedies that will help. Spirit Sister gives you three recipes for cosmetic pick me ups that will help relieve your winter stresses, all while doing it on the cheap. Check out her moisturizing avocado face mask and her sugar lip scrub to help relieve some of the physical symptoms of winter. Taking care of your body when the weather is out to get you is a good step to taking care of the self.

 

Also a must to check out is The Plant Strong Vegan who gives recipes for four steps to self love that are especially important at this time of year. Please check some of these out as there are some great recipes linked into her page and some good ideas for taking a load off after going through one of the most stressful (though fun) seasons.

Your crafting business is only as healthy as you are, both in mind and body. So be kind to yourself, and remember that you absolutely deserve some time to replenish your energy and gather yourself for the coming year.

Happy Crafting!

~Megan


Entrepreneurship, Emotions and the Hard Con Life.

Posted on

Hello Thursday Readers,

As many of you have read, I’ve done a lot of work writing about the various trials and tribulations of running a small business (especially a maker’s business), talking about the different strategies I use to keep on top of things. Today, however, as we start pulling towards winter and getting into seasons of high demand, and going towards a show myself, I’m reminded of how much stress there can be in vending at any show, and some things to keep in mind if this is the route you’re looking to take.

courtesy of Fanexpocanada.com

Let me preface by saying that conventions -large or small -are a wonderful way to network, introduce yourself into new markets, and make some money with a relatively low overhead cost. I love my conventions, and I look forward to them throughout the year, not only because they’re a lot of fun and almost like a family reunion with all the returning vendors, but the attendees are fabulous and creative types that like to engage, ask questions and get to know you as a maker and as a vendor.

There is a reason, however, that workers and I joke about the “hard con life.”  Make no mistake, I have fabulous times at most of my conventions, but the time leading up to them, even if you’re well prepared, is a stressful road. I notice my stress levels kick up about 3 weeks to a month before any convention starts up, and there can potentially be a lot of fallout from that stress.  The first piece of advice I have for you – and I find it hard to take, myself – is to be kind to yourself. You’re worrying and working hard to make this show a success, and it becomes very easy to beat yourself up about any little thing you forget or any little mistake you make. Giving yourself a break and treating yourself well will help to keep those stress levels at bay (or at least manageable) and keep you from transferring that stress to those around you.

Something else to keep in mind, is that you will often not feel as prepared as you would like to – ESPECIALLY if you are a maker. Making takes up a lot of time and skill, and no matter how fast and how hard I work, I sometimes feel I’m understocked for a show. Remember, that this can happen, and it’s at this point where you need to have a backup plan for how you will sell without as much product there – whether it be through photos to get those at show orders, having a backup plan will help you to keep yourself motivated to keep making rather than experiencing paralysis from being overwhelmed.

Have checklists for everything. Have a list of supplies you need to order, of what stock you’d like to be floating, of what you want to bring to your convention, of the people you need to contact, even the administrative tasks that need doing. It’s easy – especially when you’re stressed – to freak out over all the things that need doing. Having lists that you can cross off and lists for what you don’t want to forget will let your mind let go of that part of the worry, since you know you are prepared. Not only that, checking something off your list (even if it’s as small as printing invoices or replying to an email) will remind you that those small tasks are still work that you’re doing and is progress towards your greater goal.

Lastly, plan your meals for the convention. Eating well will keep you from getting hangry, and it will keep you energized and feeling good. Eating junk will leave you feeling lethargic and bloated and when you’re planning on working a show for a weekend, you need all you can to keep your energy up. So go shopping, prep your meals – including snacks – the day before, buy some big bottles of water and energy bars. Remember to take breaks to eat, even if you don’t think you’re hungry. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than discovering you’ve become a horrible person because you need to have a sandwich.

Good luck!

Happy crafting!

~Megan