A Tale of Two Dolls

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Photo courtesy of Sili Recio

These dolls represent my best work to date. They took research. I had to make a connection to the essence of each being. I had to do them to the best of my ability.

See, I have this friend/soror/sister name Sili. She’s awesome. I’ve known her over 10 years. When I began to put my toe in the waters of entrepreneurship, she was my first customer when she purchased a key chain that I showed her while we were sitting next to each other at a meeting. Since then, she has been a regular supporter of my handmade business. Since this initial sale, I’d been making crocheted dolls for about a year or so, IMG_5259but at the end of 2018, I made a mermaid with a “story”. The story of a mermaid who lived off of the coast of Hilton Head Island (where my maternal family is from), and I named her Tinga, after my grandmother. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to make dolls that were more than just a toy, but representative of one’s journey. I listed “Tinga” in my Etsy Shop, and guess who snatched her up within minutes of the posting—The awesome Sili Recio, of SiliRecio.com. Very soon after receiving Tinga in the mail, Sili contacted me about creating two dolls to commemorate the journey she was on and once again, the opportunity presented itself for me to tell a story.

Sili is on a religious journey. She shares her story on her blog. Though I am a Christian, I acknowledge the fact that religion existed before Christianity. I felt the connection to her journey as she connects to the roots of her ancestors, because as a Gullah Descendant, I know there are religious beliefs and traditions that are still practiced in the Gullah Culture that is rooted in our African ancestry. The dolls represent the Orishas Oya and Oshun.

PNHY1797Oya was crafted intentionally to resemble Sili. When I asked Sili how she wanted to have her hair styled, the only instruction I was given is that “she has to have ‘Sili’ hair”—Alrighty then. The schythe and iruke, both also made by me, are inspired by the ones that belong to Sili. Oya is warrior, which I designed with flat feet. She is ground and “stays ready”. She is in customary skirt of 9 colors and has 9 copper bangles on her wrist.

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When crafting Oshun, I had to tap into my inner goddess. Oshun is often seen with her peacock fan and compact. I wanted to create Oshun so that she could fan herself and check her angles in her mirror. I tapped into my “kuumba” and created and fixture within the doll that would make her upper body posable. This was a first for me and I was pleased with the outcome. I opted for a “pointed” toe for her because of her level of femininity and a goddess braid adorned with cowrie shells.

These dolls are a physical representation of the orishas, and I encourage you to take a moment to learn about what they represent. They stories of strength will inspire you.

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Photo courtesy of Sili Recio
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#Issa Pop-Up Shop

Pop up

 

 

Are we still saying “issa”?  In case you are not  familiar with the term “issa”…It has gained popularity from a video of an interview with 21 Savage.  It’s a slang term for the  phrase “It’s a”.  So “issa” slang term–get it. Hopefully I can ride the #issa train a little while longer with my blog title.

So, what is a “pop-up shop”? In the most basic of terms, it is a short term retail space.  I like to think of it as a fancy version of a vendor fair;  but pop-up shops are typically small and more intimate, with very few (or only one) retailers.

For the handmade vendor, pop-up shops and vendor fairs are a major source of revenue for their business.  For the purposes of this blog,  I use the term “pop-up shop”, but many of the concepts apply to vendor fairs. I am still new at vending at pop-ups and selling my handmade products, so I wanted to share what I am learning along the way.  This blog is a part of a series of posts regarding vending tips.  The fall season is full of vending opportunities for the handmade artisan, and preparing for these opportunities can lead to a profitable 4th Quarter in business. Today’s blog is focuses on  budgeting when selecting vending opportunities.

Things to consider:

Vendor Fee:  Based on the price point of your product and your estimated sales (we’ll talk about this in a future blog), you should first consider if the fee is set at an amount that would be profitable for your business.  I vended at an event recently, and the audience was not my typical demographic.  I chose to vend at this event for market research versus making a huge profit.  The event is a monthly community event, with a surprisingly low vendor fee.  My monetary goal was to break even.  Happily, I did well in excess of the vendor fee that I paid.

As you become experienced in vending, you will be able to estimate your sales based on your set profit margin and your captive audience.  Eventually, you will find your “sweet spot” when it comes to your target vending fee.  The goal is always to be profitable, but in some instances, the exposure may be more valuable than a host of sales.

Tent:  It your event is in an outside event, a tent is a necessity as it distinguishes your space from other vendors and it protects you from the elements. Make sure when choosing a tent, to select a quality tent.  Also, invest in tent weights or have a solid and safe way to secure your tent from flying away or, even worse, striking some one. Please note if the venue has specifications in regards to the color of the tent—white is typically a safe option.  If you choose to brand your tent with logos and/or colors, you want to make sure that a solid white replacement tent cover is available for your tent model. Also, confirm the size of the tent space that the venue is providing. If the event is in the evening, you should also include a source of lighting and this should be included in your budget as well.

Table:  If your venue does not provide tables, you may have to provide your own. In my experience, most venues will allow for a 6 foot table. Pretty self explanatory.  Please makes sure that you have seating as well.

Display:   Invest is a quality table covering. Presentation is everything.  Inexpensive plastic table cloths could subliminally send a message to your customer that your products are not of high quality and value. Seasonal decor will attract customers to your area.  Please make sure that you have flyers, business cards, etc. for the customer to take with them.  Candy is a good idea as well–keep in mind, candy will result in “sticky little fingers” and if your items are in arms reach of small children, you may want to have some hand wipes available.

Insurance:  Liability insurance is always a good idea as you never know what can happen and that you may be liable for. At a recent vending event, the organizer required proof of insurance from any vendor whose products were to be consumed or used on the human body (i.e. food or body care produces).  If your product fits into one of these categories, definitely factor this cost into your budget.

Our next blog in this series will focus on preparing for the event.  Happy Vending!

Cutting the Fool and Pumping Under a Tree

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He is truly my pride and joy!

This year marks the 5th Year of Black Breastfeeding Week. I am a huge believer in breastfeeding.  Nursing my son was one of the most challenging and worthwhile experiences I have endured as a mom.  I wrote an article for MomsRising.Org last year  during their Black Breastfeeding Week campaign.  Here’s a synopsis of my experience. Enjoy!

https://www.momsrising.org/blog/es/cutting-the-fool-and-pumping-under-a-tree-blackbfjoy

I Suck!!! (Not Really)

My Monday has gotten off to a rough start.  Overslept.  Homework Unfinished. Mismatched groceries—meaning, nothing “matched” to make a complete meal.  The rectifying the aforementioned resulted in the little one being late for school.  Again, I felt like I was the ultimate failure as a mom and contributor to society.IMG_0534[1]

Instead of wallowing in my “I suck as a human being” valley, I took a second…took a breath…and reflected on the “why” the above happened. My family and I just came off of a weekend of doing some epic things. Among the fun of the weekend, my son shot his first commercial for one of the biggest companies out there (more to come) and he sang lead for the first time in choir in his choral debut.

So I decided to count my “failure” this morning as necessary in our familial journey to more greatness in our lives.  It serves as a reminder that failing to plan is a plan to fail.  With proper planning and time management, I am sure that all of the above would have been avoided.  Lessons learned and steps to avoid a repeat have been taken.

My experience today reminded me of this clip of Denzel Washington giving a commencement speech that I came across last week on Goalcast’s Facebook Page. This clip is full of so many nuggets that I am sure I will come back to it again at some point.  But I want to leave you with this quote by Denzel Washington:

Denzel Quote

Happy Monday!

I Have too many #WIPs

I have too many “WIPs” and not in a good Dominatrix kind of way.

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Not this kind of Whip

WIPs are what we in the craft world call “Work(s) in Progress.” On Wednesday, my “crew” and I like to share our WIPs.  I generally on share one WIP, maybe two.  But truth be told, the abundance of WIPs in my house are killing me softly, both mentally and financially. The mental impact is due to the fact that I cannot see the fruits of my labor, so I do not have any “wins” to celebrate. Financially, the impact stems from my multiple trips to and from hobby stores to but supplies, but I have nothing to show for the investment.  Here are some of my “WIPs”:

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In 2017, one of my top goals was to get my craft business up and running.  I wasn’t aiming to be a full-time crafter, but I wanted to use my creative outlet as a way to pay off a few bills and put some money away for a rainy day.

Over the past 6 months or so, I have met some wonderful sisters in the craft world who constantly inspire me.  I have taken some classes to further develop my crochet skills.  As a result of the influence of my new found friends and “education,” I now suffer for idea overload!

So, we are at the half-way point of 2017 and though I’ve made a few sales, the revenue would probable cover an off peak season electric bill.  I am taking now taking the opportunity to revisit the goals that I set at the beginning of the year and looking for ways to achieve the possible.  I have come up with a way to tame the WIPS and boost my business. My game plan is as follows:

  1. Take a look at my current WIPS and make the decision to either commit to the WIP or abandon it (in other words ‘pee, or get off the pot!”
  2. As new ideas/concepts come up, I will have dedicated pages in my journal to:
  • Write out of the details of the proposed project;
  • Write out the supplies needed for the project and note what supplies I have on hand;
  • Draw a sketch of the idea; and
  • Put the idea into rotation.

3. Set a realistic inventory goal that I want to carry; and

4. Set a production timeline for custom orders.

As I look at my current Crochet WIPs (note, I am serial crafter so there are all sorts of WIPS laying around), I’ve already decided on projects that I am going to toss.  I have decided that I will have no more than two WIPs going on at a time.  I decided on two because:

  1. If I only worked on one, I’d be bored; and
  2. I would be able to focus and finish more quickly.

So next week, I hope to have a more focused and detailed WIP Wednesday to share with you all.  If you have any tips on conquering WIPs, please share!

Blog Focus of the Week: Brand Development

Blog Focus of the Week_So, I am beginning my own “Blogging Bootcamp” utilizing all of the knowledge I have gained from BLOGHer. Now, I get it, it may not be the most direct and succinct way to polish my blog, but the way my monetization is set up (meaning, I am not monetizing one bit at this time) I am going to use the information I have to date to the fullest.  My ultimate goal is to shape the blog and then in the near- distant (is that an oxymoron) future hire one of my successful blogging friends to help tone up the “muscle”. Note—I said hire, as their knowledge and experience has value.

If you read my prior blog, The Afterglow of BlogHer17, you may recall that one of my major takeaways was “Know Thyself”.  This week, I am focusing on polishing up my brand. In doing so, I want to pin down:

  1. What is my message?
  2. What makes my blog unique?
  3. What are my values? and
  4. Who is my target audience?

Branding is the key factor in orchestrating how you want to show up in the world—both personally and professionally.  Branding should be authentic and not present a false picture. My goal in branding is to present who I am—fabulous flaws and all, while sharing my voice with the world.

The Afterglow of #BlogHer17

I am laying her in the afterglow of Blogher17.  I have been enlightened, made connections, and had the opportunity to breathe the same air as many of my sheroes.  Thanks to Dorethea Volpe, my new catch phrase is “Bacon is God’s way of saying “I love you”.   In addition to the above, here are my 4 biggest takeaways from the conference:

I am not a liberal as I thought I was. I really did not know exactly what to expect.  I honestly thought the conference would be non-stop blogger talk; however, tgiphy7here was an unexpected, but welcomed, political/activism aspect. Through this exchange, I learned that I am definitely left of moderate, but I am a bit closer to the middle than the far left, and I’m OK with that. Also, though I don’t necessarily agree with all the political views of Ana Navarro, seeing her in person at the conference made her a political rock star in my book.

I came as myself.  For the first time EVA I attended a conference as Chandra. I’ve been to numerous conferences, both personal and professional, and at each of these conference you got either “Chandra the Woman of God” or “Chandra the Community Servant” or “Chandra the Insurance Professional”.  But this conference allowed me to be “Chandra” who igiphy1s a mixture of the aforementioned versions and a lot more. My first tweet on Friday was about the anxiety I had about wearing leopard leggings.  When I arrived to the conference, I was relieved to see that everyone showed up the way they desired.  This was liberating and was definitely a confidence booster.

Know thy brand. This conference was the mother of all “Elevator Pitches”.   I’m used to  saying “ Hi! How are you? Where are you from?”.  Here, it was like “Who are you and what is your platform?”.  You definitely need to KNOW your brand and your target audience.

Engagement. I hate to admit, but I was not sold on the Twitter game. I only signed up for a twitter account to be nosy one time.  But I now know that if I want to make a space for me in this blogging universe, Twitter is one of the platforms that I need to utilize to build a presence and following.  I have tweeted more this past weekend than I have in my entire Twitter existence, and  I’ve gained some followers as a result.  Who knew that “if you tweet, they will come”?  I guess everyone did but me.

Needless to say, the conference was very fulfilling and I look forward to doing it again!

I’m going to BlogHer!!!

Hey!
I’m going to BlogHer. I couldn’t be more excited…Until now…I couldn’t be more intimidated…UGH!
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So….How did I get here?
Well, BlogHer is right here my backyard, so the stars aligned and I was able to get in. Thanks to that certain mover and shaker for making it possible (I’m not sure if that person wants to be known as the benevolent giver of the hook-up, but they know who they are). For this opportunity, I am eternally grateful.

Anywho…
So when I received the offer of a lifetime, I had HUGE plans on how I was going to show up and show out! I immediately went to the interwebs to my favorite online store to purchase my “brand” wardrobe for the event. I was ready to get a new hair color to “stand out”. I called a local photographer to make an appointment for head shots. I was online looking for a hotel room to live like a baller for this event! I was READY!!!! giphy1

The reality set in. My inner voice, let’s call her ‘Tammy”, was like, “Chile boo, you’re about to go broke to attend a conference to help you in your ‘blog life” and you ain’t even much made a dime of your blog—whatchu doin?”.
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That voice then went on to say, “You only know like one person at this conference, so like why are you trying to do the most?” And the last straw was when “Tammy” said “Girl, do you…be you…meet some friends..make some connections…learn and bloom!”

So here I am y’all!!! Anxiety is kicking in a little bit, but I know I am not alone in my anxiousness to make the most of this conference event.  So I have my “flowery”  big girl panties on, and I am ready to bloom!

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Let’s get it!

Emancipation

emancipationYesterday, many of us gathered in our places of worship to celebrate the new year.  But many do not recall that January 1st is actually Emancipation Day–a celebration of the day in 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted. This is not a history post, but I feel the need to share a different historical perspective of traditional new year’s celebrations based on my experience.

And while we’re on the subject of traditions, can we chat about Watch Night Service.  Watch Night Service has somewhat morphed into a New Year’s Eve Service. When I was coming up, Watch Night Service was more of a prayer service.  It lasted about an hour. No fancy clothes. No shiny things.  The congregation just gathered; worshiped; testified; and welcomed the new year on our knees.  After service, we would return home to eat our Hoppin’ John and collard greens.  Now, don’t get me wrong,  I think New Year’s Celebrations are awesome (and I can’t imagine a better place to bring in the New Year but in the house of the Lord), but a Watch Night Service is totally different.  On December 31st 1862, soon to be slaves gathered to await their freedom at Midnight.  Hence the name “Watch Night.” I personally think, that if you have been in a  “Watch Night” service the phrase “Watchman! Oh, Watchman! What is the hour?” was not uttered multiple times, then you have not been to a true Watch Night Service.  This traditional service is still practiced in the African-American churches that are nested in the Gullah-Geechee communities of the Low Country.

So, I wrote this looonnnng “quick” post just to say it’s a new year.  If there is anything that is keeping you in shackles,  I pray that you will take the necessary actions you need to break every chain that is keeping you back.  My chain is “fear”. Unfortunately,  I am a lifelong pessimist and my “fear” always forces me to choose the safe route in all aspects of my life.  My fear is often rooted in how others will react and in failure.  My grandmother always told me growing up “Nothing beats a failure but a try!” Though I listened to these wise words as a child, and I am going to take them to heart this year.  My word for 2017 is COURAGE.  I will do another blog post on my word later.

Sooooo….Back to the purpose of the post. After the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted, it took two and a half years for the last slave to find out that they’d been freed. TWO AND A HALF YEARS. This day was June 19, 1865.  We now refer to this day Juneteenth. I pray that in 2017 you choose freedom and not experience a “Juneteenth” in your life, i.e. wait two or more years to finally be free. What shackle will you break in 2017? Please share in the comments below.  Be Blessed!

 

Don’t Nobody Bring Me—Black Eyed Peas!

 

D7CE30B3-1284-4DFD-A6A2-8639DD2B9DBB One thing about growing up in the south, and specifically in the Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina, a couple of things we do not fall short of are traditions and superstitions.  Heck, we start the year off with our dos and don’ts of the New Year.  One of the absolute and non-negotiable “dos” of the New Year is that one MUST consume a hearty plate of Hoppin’ John.  This brings me to the title of my blog.

NOW HEAR THIS:  Hoppin’ John is made with field peas (sometimes referred to as cowpeas), NOT black –eyed peas.  Honestly, I did not know that people consumed black eyed peas for “luck” in the New Year until I moved to Florida.  I moved to Florida in the summer of 1999.  As the year 2000 approached, I began to gather my “luck in the New Year” goods.  I searched every nook and cranny of every chain and corner store in search of red field peas to make a nice pot of Hoppin’ John.  Not one field pea could be found.  I even went to the Caribbean grocery stores and was offered a selection of pigeon peas–though the pigeon pea may be a cousin of the field pea, a field pea it is not. Lesson learned!! So now I either stock up when I visit home, or have my mom ship me an emergency Hoppin John Kit!

In addition to preparing and consuming Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, there are a few other rules to prepare for the New Year:

  1. You must consume some collard greens if you want those “green backs” (i.e. money) in the New Year. I am not sure if that works, but it is good for your digestion
  2. Clean your house! In the words of my grandmother, “The way the New Year finds your home is the way it will be all year.” I always fail at this one as I never got my home in order and I lived in chaos.  This year, my home is “better” but I am fearful that I will not have a spotless home in 2016.  I think this is impossible with a 7 year old son…but I digress.
  3. Don’t wash clothes. This tradition/superstition freaks me out. The saying is that if you wash clothes on New Year’s Day, you will wash someone out of the family. In other words, you will be responsible for the untimely death of Aunt Mae, who happens to be 102.  I’m not overly superstitious, but I don’t take chances with this one.

Now, I have a friend (she’s from west Georgia, bless her heart), introduced me to a tradition about a man has to be the first to cross your threshold in the New Year. When she was single, she would go as far as to wake her neighbor’s grown behind son up to walk through her door at midnight. Hmmm….I think if a man walks across my threshold at midnight, he’s looking to bring more than luck (or a plate of Hoppin’ John)—I’m just saying.   My Peruvian BFF shared the tradition of eating 12 grapes in the New Year for luck–one grape for each month.  Not sure about this one, but I like grapes, so I’ll have a bowl.

But honestly, we are born with the blessings that God has in store for us. John 1.0: 9-10 (KJV) states:

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

To share John 10:9-10 from the Gullah Bible:

“A de gyate, Ebrybody wa go shru me fa go eenside, dey gwine be sabe.  Dey gwine be free fa go een an come out fa go find green grass fa nyam.  De tief jes come fa tief, fa kill an story.  Bot A come so dat dey kin hab true life, so dat dey kin lib a life ob joy wa heap op an ron oba.” (The New Testament in Gullah, Sea Island Creole, 1st ed. 2005, American Bible Society)

God has a life of abundance and joy for us. It is up to us to be open to receive what God has for us and use God as our guide to get us there.  In the New Year, indulge in your traditions and celebrations, but rely on God to bring you the blessings you desire in 2016.