My Own Personal Sweat Shop

Hand Sewing Crocheted Squares Together For a Headband

Hand Sewing Crocheted Squares Together For a Headband

Being a craftsperson in the USA can be a real financial challenge which continues to worsen as the costs of raw materials, food and housing rise. To make matters worse, few of us have seen even a measly cost-of-living raise at our “day jobs” in years.

Sites like Etsy claim to support the small business artisan but after modifying their definition of “handmade” at the end of last year, mass produced items are springing up like weeds on the site that calls itself a “handmade marketplace”.  I’ve argued with artists who refuse to compete with inexpensive versions of what they create by hand, saying it’s a useless endeavor.

As of yet, I’ve been unable to reconcile my time and material costs with my prices.  I scour sale flyers and websites to get my materials at the lowest prices possible but where I usually hit a brick wall is with my hourly rate for labor.  If it takes me an hour to crochet one of my headbands, with costs subtracted out, I’d do better working as a…well…almost anything else.  Yet, I tread on, believing I will someday find the magic equation and actually be able to support myself doing what I love.  Is it really asking too much?  It’s actually asking a lot.

Putting it very simply, the average American can’t afford to buy goods that are manufactured or created in the United States.  This is nothing new globally as the same has been true of workers in China, India and other countries for hundreds of years but is unnerving in one of the most highly developed countries in the world.  The far majority of Americans buy clothing that’s made in another country.  The few who still work in the manufacturing industry probably can’t afford to buy the things they help manufacture.  I receive catalogs from “Fair Trade” companies who glossily advertise beautiful items that I couldn’t afford in my wildest dreams.  I want to buy fair trade, organic, natural, ecofriendly and items made in the USA but I just can’t afford to most of the time and have tried not to feel guilty about purchasing things that wear the dreaded “made in China” label.

When I was a child, my family went through some rough patches where money was pretty tight.  My stay-at-home mom made some of our clothing to save money.  Now, it’s hard to even find a fabric store.  After buying a pattern, fabric and notions for a garment you wish to sew, you could have bought three at Wal-Mart or Target, already made, for the same price.  There’s no reason to waste the time it takes to sew something by hand if it isn’t cost effective (for most of us anyway).

The global economy has been undergoing complex changes of which I understand at only the most rudimentary level, if at all.  I think most of us can see how these changes are affecting our daily lives as basic food prices rise while the containers in which they are sold shrink.  It’s really important that we are able to do what we love at some point during our lives even if it’s only for a couple hours a week and for those of us who are artists this may just have to be enough.

But still, I work towards my goal, even after my two other jobs and four year old, absorb most of my time.  After all, if you work hard enough and have faith in your dream, you can accomplish anything  – right?  A nice sentiment but not very realistic.

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Spring Cleaning

I just ordered a ton of new jewelry making supplies in anticipation of summer here on Catalina Island and our Catalina Festival of Art in September.  As a result I figured I should mark down some items in my shop to make way for the new.

Hand Made Crochet Choker Necklace in Ivory with Teal Beads

Hand Made Crochet Choker Necklace in Ivory with Teal Beads

Spring Cleaning Sale at Catalina Inspired on Etsy

I’ll be adding more sale items in the upcoming days and after that, some of the new stuff I’m working on including some Catalina themed jewelry in gold and silver.

Silk Marbled Yarn in Purple, Brown and Aquamarine

Silk Yarn in Purple, Brown and Aqua

Silk Yarn in Purple, Brown and Aqua

When my two-year old emptied my knitting basket, (What a Tangled Mess) I found three small balls of marbled silk yarn (fingering weight) in purple, brown and aquamarine. I remembered buying them to make headbands a few years ago. When I started crocheting with them I realized that they wouldn’t really work because the color changed too drastically and too quickly which tended to obscure the design. So, like so many other things, they got thrown in the yarn basket. When my daughter resurrected them, I decided to find a use for them.

I found that by using more than one marbled color, or in combination with other solid yarns, the design was much more  clear.

Aqua and brown silk marbled yarn design for crochet headband

Aqua and brown silk marbled yarn design for crochet headband

Since the yarn is only fingering weight I ended up having to crochet two extra layers around the outside to get the same width as with the yarn I usually use.

Today I finished a choker using the aqua yarn and nineteen fresh water pearls.  I still have a good amount left so I guess I’ll have to get creative again.

Finished Headband in Brown and Aqua and Silk Yarn

Finished Headband in Brown and Aqua and Silk Yarn

Crochet Choker, Fresh Water Pearls and Aqua Silk Yarn

Crochet Choker, Fresh Water Pearls and Aqua Silk Yarn

Back to Sticks

New Pile of Sticks Ready to Become the Next Tea Light Holder

New Pile of Sticks Ready to Become the Next Tea Light Holder

Late yesterday afternoon, after much pestering, my daughter finally convinced me to pry myself from the computer in exchange for some fresh air.  

She has her own little, pale blue, dust pan and whisk broom and loves to follow me around the garden and sweep up any stray clippings or dead leaves that get missed.  I give her lots of “big helper” encouragement since she does such a good job cleaning up after me. 

Whenever I’m out in the garden, I undoubtedly end up at one of the many over-grown shrubs, with shears and lopper in hand.  This isn’t really a project that should be started when dusk is just around the corner, but that never stops me.  Yesterday afternoon/ evening was no different.  When I was finally at a stopping place (nowhere near finished), it was completely dark and must, I thought,  have been near my daughter’s bedtime.  I couldn’t go inside though until the patio was swept and all my tools put away, after all, this is a hotel. 

Of course, I had to go through all the branches to make sure I wasn’t throwing any “good ones” away.  Finally, twenty minutes later, my daughter and I were heading in.  

Tuesday’s are my favorite day of the week since I have the day almost entirely to myself.  My husband works during the day (he usually works afternoons & evenings) and my daughter is at pre-school.  So, whatever I had originally planned for the day was overshadowed by this beautiful new pile of sticks – go figure.  I had to break the promise to myself regarding the unfinished crochet projects.  “I’ve been so good, I deserve a change of pace” I reasoned.  I can always find a good reason to do something I would rather be doing.

Tea Light Holder #2 Made Using Recycled Glass, Tree Branches and Hemp Cord

Tea Light Holder #2 Made Using Recycled Glass, Tree Branches and Hemp Cord

 I jumped right into creating my second tea light holder, utilizing the lessons I’d learned from the first one, which took far longer to make than it should have.  This time I used white glue to hold the hemp cord to the branches as I tied each one.  The first time, I tied them all first, then ended up having to tie many of them a second time when I glued them.  This one still took longer than it probably should have, but next time I should have the process down pat (ha ha).  I also used a different sized jar which I think I like better than the first.  This jar was the same height but the mouth of the jar was one inch less in diameter, two inches, which is the perfect diameter for a tea light.  Here’s how it finally came out.