Monday, June 28, 2010

July Artist of the Month~ Bette's Bags

I personally get kinda tired of looking at my own stuff sometimes. The same fabrics, the same shapes, the same, the same.... going to new shows and being exposed to new customers sometimes helps. So does looking at the wonderful work other accessory crafters are doing.

I first met Betty through our Etsy team and was taken with her cute designs and unique business arrangement. My mom and I can hardly agree on the color of the sky, let alone an artistic atheistic. However, they make it work out and have some wonderful bags to prove it.

Beyond the luscious fabrics and attention to detail, the practicality of Bette's Bags can't be denied. I especially love the Purse Pocket Roll-up Organizer! These little guys are awesome. You pile all your stuff in it and stick it in your purse. Then, when you switch purses, you pull that out and put it in the other purse. No more leaving behind your favorite lipstick or that pen you always need. And, for $10, no way I'm going to try to figure out how to make one myself, I'll just get one from Betty.

In addition to the sewing, Betty has developed a line of knit accessories and even sells the patterns. I love that she doesn't mind sharing the secrets so you can make your own!

Read on and learn more about the background of Bette's Bags.

Q~How did you get started?

A~ Maggie, my daughter/partner, complained for days about seeing another woman carrying her very expensive "Designer" brand new bag as soon as she walked out of the store. As a Joke I made her an Original One-of-a-kind Bette's Bag so that she would stop complaining. She liked it and used it. When friends and co-workers asked her where she got her bag, she suggested that we sell them. So we started with out with just one design at local Holiday craft shows.

After a while we developed more designs and set up a table at the Arlington Court House Market once a month....the rest, so they say, is history. We do shows throughout the year and continue to design new styles as well as adding hand-knit accessories to our line.

Q~Why do you continue?

A~We still enjoy what we do! It is our avenue to express ourselves creatively as well as offers us an opportunity to be a part of a very special group of artists. My greatest pleasure is meeting and building friendships with other artists and craftsmen at shows and markets.

Q~What is a great success story?

A~Having people "inspect" our work and share with me that they recognize it to be a very high quality. One that I will never forget was a woman who was raised in the Amish faith (know for their hand-made quilts). She not only appreciated my work but she purchased several items as gifts for her daughters. I will always remember our conversation and her very kind and supportive words.

We were also very proud to be voted as third runner-up in the Washington's City Paper's Best of DC 2010 Reader's Poll of Best Local Crafter. Now that was a surprise and a great honor!

As far as a successful product goes I would say the our "Purse Pocket Roll-up" probably gets the most questions and attention. It's such a simple little accessory, but very useful.

Q~What is one of your greatest failures?

A~SO many to choose from. Failed designs are a normal part of the creative process that I have come to accept.

Q~Where do you get your inspiration?

A~I draw my inspiration from listening to friends, co-workers, family discussing what they like, what they need, what I should make next.

Q~Why do you make/create what you do?

A~We typically make what we would like to carry. We joke that every "new bag" that we make is our "Favorite so far"...until we design/construct the next one.

Q~Where is your favorite place to sell? Or Favorite show?

A~In the DC Metro area Ballston Arts & Crafts Market is a great market. It has great location and demographics, friendly vendors and artists, supportive management and very supportive shoppers.

In the Baltimore area I enjoy the Squidfire Shows (Holiday & Spring Marts). Squidfire has more of an edgy - hip vibe, very stimulating show.

Q~What is one thing you love about your business?

A~Connecting with our customers. So many have become friends.

Q~What is one thing you loathe?

A~Paper work!

Q~What is your dream about your art?

A~To be able to devote my time and attention to Bette's Bags full time.

Q~What is your mission?

A~To continue to develop and grow as an artist and as a human being.

Q~Where are you based?

A~Our actual Studio is in my home in Bryantown, MD. It used to be Maggie's bedroom but the fabric, sewing machines and purses have officially taken over.

Q~Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

A~Pittsburgh, PA. It is very supportive of the Arts and is the friendliest city int he US.

Q~What would you be doing if not this?

A~ I'd be crafting and creating something. I've been sewing and crafting all of my life. Creating is a part of who we are. Maggie has started her own Photography business this year and it's doing very well.

Q~What is next?

A~Only "the Force" knows.

Q~What is your favorite question to ask people?

A~Ohhh, That's really nice. Did you make that?

Q~What is your answer to that question?

A~Why yes I did. Thank you!

Q~ What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen sparrow?

A~ African or European?


To learn more about this talented artisan, the following links can be used to:

Purchase a bag:

Find a show:

Friend on Facebook: Bette's Bags Fan Page

Purchase through Etsy:

I also got to know Betty through being vendors at the Ballston Art & Craft Market. It is the second Saturday of each month and she will be there on July 10th. Please come and meet her in person and see these darling bags.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm always charmed by Charm City

Jen-A-Fusion has been busy. Jen-A-Fusion apologizes for not posting up pictures of works in progress, more Facebook updates, new items or pictures of shows and for the oil spill... what?? Sorry, I got a little carried away with the apologies...

And, don't you hate when people speak in third person?

So, thought I would take a few minutes to give a mini tour of the studio at large, the projects and products being worked on, but first, I will take a moment for this week's show.

Most of the reason I'm busy working away is due to Baltimore, for several reasons. First and foremost, I'm headed there this Saturday for a very special market. Americans for the Arts, which "is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in" the country. They are turning the big 5-0 this year and hosting a Mid Century Summit in Baltimore this coming weekend. It includes talks for nationally known figures such as Robert Redford, seminars on how to start a local crafts day, dinners to rub elbows and of course, a marketplace of local and region craftspeople for some retail therapy.

Given the importance of the occasion, I was honored to be selected to represent the area to this national audience. Although we are set up next to where the convention is being held, this a completely free event, open to all. Artists will be on hand to talk about their craft, demonstrate some of the work that goes into it and sell the finished wares.

What: Americans For The Arts, Artists Marketplace

Where: Promenade in Harbor East, Baltimore, MD
Near the Baltimore Public Works Museum and the Marriott

Use 751 Eastern Avenue for GPS/ map directions

When: Saturday, June 26, 12-8pm


Personally, I can't wait to see some of the soapmaking, wood working and other textile artists... and here's a peek at what I'm working on in the studio:

Sun hats waiting to be ironed.

Sun hats ironed, sandwiched together and waiting to be sewn, lunch waiting to be eaten.

Working to refine my sun hat design. I'm getting feedback that the brim was too wide, so I have scaled it back. Looks pretty good, no?

The hats are reversible, so this is the other side.

And, boring.. More purses...OH, wait, these are actually kinda fun and nice. Same old shape, that's not new...But fun fabrics and great summer hues. I personally really like the peachy ones...

This are just a few of my most recent things... and more to come soon!~Jen

Remember, you can friend Jen-A-Fusion on Facebook. One stop lurking when it comes to finding out what is up to date in the studio.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Day in the Life of Jen-A-Fusion

So... I have been thinking lately about other people... and other people's lives... and what they do and who they see and what happens next...

And, thus, I thought I would chronicle A Day in the Life of Jen-A-Fusion. (Hm, do I smell another artist series here? A Day in the Life of Fill in the Blank Here...) This begs the questions, who cares what a day in my life is? Really? Who cares? Well, I do.. I thought it might give me a sense of what is getting done. What I need to do. Insight and reflection. An active meditation, if you will.

It is about 12:45. I just sat down to start writing this entry. At 12:30 was looking around for camera. Found camera. Looking around for memory card. (I took my camera to Texas with me, yahoo!, without the memory card inside, blah!) Found memory card. Tried to turn on camera. Batteries dead. All other batteries in car, in a fan that I was using at market yesterday.... ok, charging batteries. Will commence photo journaling later.

Sat down at computer. Got distracted by Facebook. Decided to change profile picture. Am back at writing this entry.

This morning was a somewhat typical Monday morning in the life of a market vendor. I think I can generally say that many market people take at least part of Monday to relax a little, re-group and get ready for the week. This is what other people do on Sundays.

(Bathroom break)

This morning, I slept way way way in. Again, what people usually do over the weekend. However, I had a Sunday festival in Maryland, about 45 minutes from my place. Got up at 6am to pack car, make lunch, get on road with enough time to get lost and still make it there on time. HOT HOT HOT out yesterday. Good people and good vibes, but long day. Heat makes me tired and hungry and tired.

Pack up, drive to studio. Unload car some, not enough energy to unpack all the way. Drive home to apartment, where boyfriend has dinner waiting at 9pm. Have dinner with boyfriend and our friend. Cool shower and to bed... zzzzz

Oh, I guess that was a day in the life yesterday.... oh, well... Did I mention I got an allergic reaction/ heat rash thing on my neck? Still trying not to scratch it, as when I do, looks like two big hickies. yuck.

Back to today. Slept in majorly. So majorly that I won't say what time, as 'regular' folks might get mad I slept that late on a Monday. However, it was no later than others sleep in, on a weekend morning. Did some chores around the apartment. Ran a few errands on the way to my studio, including a stop at Macy's to pay my bill and do some 'market research'. Aka, look at the mainstream purses to see what other people are designing, making and buying...

Get to studio, unpack weights, tent walls and tablecloths from my car, left in there yesterday because I didn't have the energy. Inside, put in a load of laundry. Then, make some brunch... look for camera... look for batteries (see above scenario)

(Break to let my old laptop cool off. It wasn't keeping up with my typing. While I wait, I unpack the suitcase from my Texas trip that I got back from almost a week ago, clean up the kitchen a little, take dry clothes off the drying rack.)

Well. Hm. What *needs* to be done today?

~Run charges from yesterday.

~Complete and mail an application for a show, due July 1st, show is in September.
Application has been filled out, CD will images has been burnt, check is ready. All sitting there, waiting for me to finish it up and send it out.

~Clean up common areas of studio. Studio roommate having visitor later this week. Time to clean kitchen?

~Finish up laundry.

~Work on Etsy shops, which are in shambles. Update, delete and add things in?

~Try not to throw computer out the window when it is old and slow and just trying to survive.

~Re-new audio books from library. I listen to books on CD while working on in my studio. Much more interesting than music. I've listened to about 40ish this year so far!

OK, should get to it, right?!

Well, just as any human will tell you, the road to hell, good intentions, blah blah...

Computer just totally froze up as I was trying to update Etsy shops. It got completely overheated and I tried to shut it down and cool it off. It won't really shut down. It actually just made some weird noises and I think, the Mac 'blue screen of death'.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up around the studio's common areas, finished laundry and then went to sew a little, to let the computer chill out for a while. Kept coming back to check on it, computer seems dead.

I try to get everything else on the list done, try to clean up my work space. Took some pictures to post. BUT, of course, I am now at my apartment, where I do not have my camera and thus can not post those pictures.

I get caught up with my studio roommate and leave for my apartment about 6:30pm, which is about the time a heavy rainstorm hits Alexandria. The highway is crawling, gutters overflow. I have a vague sense of what folks around the country have been going through.

I decide to take surface street instead of the highway... and am at sitting at a red light when I look over and see, one of the biggest rainbows ever in my life. It goes from one horizon to the other. FULL rainbow. I snap a pic on my cell and try to navigate without being caught in a pothole.

Head home where the boyfriend and I make dinner together (Bayou beans and rice, farm fresh sausage, fresh salad that includes lettuce from a friend's garden). Try not to think about my possible dead laptop.

After dinner, fold and put away some laundry. Now, back online, about to post this blog and make some plans for tomorrow. See, work never ends! :)

In all, a fairly good day. It didn't go completely as planned, my laptop might be dead and I didn't finish my whole to do list. However, a truly typical day in the life of Jen-A-Fusion, a few bumps, a few successes. This is actually a typical day in the life of many small business owners, designers and vendors. And, it all ended in a rainbow....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June Artist of the Month~ 3 Ring Necklace

June is the month for Gemini, The Twins. Geminis are often known for their basic versatility and intelligent, yet airy, nature. Right brain, left brain. Thinkers, doers. Dreamers, realists.

Beth Athanas, who happens to be my sister, is the June Artist of the Month. The Gemini duality helps describe Beth, who will be celebrating a big birthday this week! Being the twin personified, Beth excels in many areas. She's smart and physical. Talented in the arts, the books and the muscle. While skydiving is her love, she is also a talented painter, award winning baker and jewelry maker. Her area of concentration, kinesiology, has lead her to a career as a Performance Enhancement Specialist. And, also lead her to design and create her signature jewelry, the 3-Ring Necklace.

While I'm not a skydiver myself, I truly appreciate the intricate detail of the 3-Ring Necklaces. The different colors, designs and textures the necklaces embraced are endearing in their uniqueness. The design is vaguely Celtic, vaguely modern, vaguely weird, vaguely familiar, and at the same time, all inviting.

Read on to find out why and how Beth decided to push her jumping passion toward a more creative outlet.

Q~ How did you get started?

A~ I started skydiving in 1999. One day I saw that I had three keychain rings of differing sizes. I decided to make them into a necklace that resembled the 3 ring release system on skydiving rigs. I was wearing the necklace in the packing room when a girl mentioned that she liked it, and asked if I sold them. I said no, but she planted a seed in my brain that didn’t sprout until years later.

When I was in graduate school and suffering financially, I decided to start making the necklaces to make some money. After I graduated, I continued out of pleasure.

Q~ Why do you continue?

A~ Skydiving is a sport for non-conformists. The closing pin necklace is very popular in skydiving, but it seems to me that people who are wearing them are conforming!

I take pride in being different and unique. When people ask me if I make closing pin necklaces, I tell them, “No- these are better.” NO ONE else makes this necklace! :)

Q~ What is a great success story?

A~I was thrilled when some top skydiving gear companies placed some orders to sell in their gear shops. It is always wonderful when I come across someone and they are wearing the 3 Ring Necklace!

Q~ What is one of your greatest failures?

A~ When I first started making the necklaces, I need a wholesale ring supplier. I found a crafting company in Canada and placed some orders with them. Unfortunately, their poor shipping standards and horrible customer service forced me to find another supplier. My current supplier is awesome; I just hope they stay in business!

Q~ Where do you get your inspiration?

A~ I get my inspiration from the incredible experience of jumping out of airplanes. Skydiving is source of empowerment, something that a lot of people need in their lives. I would not be the same person today if I was not a skydiver.

Q~ Why do you make/create what you do?

A~ I make what I do because I believe in my product. I think it truly is a beautiful necklace that represents something wonderful. I love sharing that with other people.

Q~ Where is your favorite place to sell? Or favorite show?

A~ I do most of my selling online. I love vending in person because I get to meet people and they get to design their own necklace. They create ownership of the necklace and they are more likely to wear it if they like it. It bugs me when people buy the necklace but don’t wear it.

Q~ What is one thing you love about your business?

A~I love meeting new people and making connections.

Q~ What is one thing you loathe?

A~I dislike when people make excuses why they don’t like the necklace. They say things such as, “It is too bulky,” (I make a mini three ring necklace as well) or “I don’t wear jewelry.” Not everyone is into the necklace because they are bigger than the closing pin necklaces.

Q~ What is your dream about your art?

A~ My goal is to be sold by every skydiving gear supplier. I want the necklaces to be just as popular as closing pin necklaces. Also, I want to be able to sponsor a skydiving team, but I don’t make that much money!

Q~ Where are you based?

A~ I live in Killeen, Texas because I work at Fort Hood for my full time job.

Q~ Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

A~I would live somewhere warm where I could skydive all year round, make good money, be close to my family, and be close to my boyfriend. That place has yet to exist!!!

Q~ What is next?

A~ Future plans for 3 Ring Necklace include more advertising in skydiving publications. I also want to make stickers and patches, which are very popular in the skydiving world, and a great way to advertise. I’m just working on making business cards. :)

Q~ What is your favorite question to ask people?

A~ Where do you jump?

Q~ What is your answer to that question?

A~ Right now I’m not jumping because of my injury, but I’m working manifest until I heal up.

Q~ What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

A~ What do you mean? And African or a European swallow?
“I don’t know that- AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!”

How do you know so much about swallows?
“You have to know these things when you’re king.”

3 Ring Necklaces can be custom ordered at Chooses from all different colors, sizes, types of leather cording and length. Get a completely unique necklace, from a completely unique type of artist. Also, you can friend 3 Ring on Facebook and keep up to date about new retail locations and styles.