Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life Lessons Learned at Craft Shows

If you pay attention when you're out in public, especially when vending at craft shows, you can learn valuable lessons. Some apply to your craft business, some to just life in general. Lessons I've been learning that I'm trying to better implement are as follows:

1) Listen.
Hear your customers. Learn from them. If they like what you're making except for... listen and make adjustments for the next time or offer to do custom work. Look at each show as an opportunity to perform consumer research.

2) Smile.
This is especially important when your day isn't going well. People don't want to be around unhappy negative people. Don't keep potential customers away by complaining about your day or looking miserable. Sometimes others are having a bad day too and something as simple as a smile might make things just a little easier for them. Even if they don't buy something from you one day, you never know when you might see them again.

3) Pay attention.
Some items get attention from customers regardless of how you display them. Others may not get noticed at all. Pay attention to which items your customers are looking at and what they're saying as they do. Make notes of what works and what doesn't and continue fine tuning your display at each show.

4) Follow through.
We all get busy and only have a set number of hours in each day. Try to prioritize tasks in terms of follow through. If I owe someone an answer, I don't want to keep them waiting and yet sometimes I get busy and let things slide. When it happens to me I get truly frustrated, especially if having to wait for information from someone else holds me up so I'm trying to do a better job of following through myself. With customers especially, they're more likely to return for future purchases if you do well with this.

5) Be consistent.
This goes along with follow through as well. If you tell people something they will likely remember it even if you don't. People know other people. You never know who they'll talk to. Due to this, if you tell one person x but do y, you can be fairly certain it will come back to haunt you. You never want to find yourself in a situation where you told customer #1 something, then tell customer #2 the opposite and have them call you on it. While I haven't been guilty of this, I have been on the receiving end and can tell you it's not a good position to find yourself in.

6) Treat others the way you want them to treat you.
This lesson is simple and basic and one most of us should have learned as children. Some of us try to live our lives according to that lesson and some people appear to have forgotten it or never learned it. Try not to let them impact your actions. I feel it's still important to keep in mind as I navigate my way through life. Setting a good example just might rub off on others. If you're nice and friendly and offer to watch a neighbor's booth while they go to the restroom, chances are good they'll do the same for you.

7) You can't make everyone happy all the time.
The best you can do is make the majority of people happy. There will always be at least one person that you can't please no matter what you do. There are always things going on in other people's lives that impact their perspective that you have no control over. Try not to let them affect you negatively.

8) Have fun!
Life is too short not to find a way to enjoy yourself. If you're vending at a craft show, I'm guessing you're trying to find a way to make money doing something you enjoy. Even if it's an off day and you're not making money that day, find a way to have fun at the event. Enjoy interacting with your customers. Get to know your neighbors. If there's music at the event, enjoy the opportunity to hear a new performer. By looking at the positive side of things, you'll most likely have the best day possible given any situation you may find yourself in.

I realize there are many lessons I've missed but the above are themes that seem to come up frequently. These are items I'm trying to improve my implementation of. I am by no means trying to claim I'm an expert at them. I am human after all and therefore imperfect. Despite this, I'm trying to do what I can to improve. What lessons have you learned that are particularly useful? I'd love to hear about them. Let's learn from each other.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Frick Park Fashion- What's Hot and What's Not?

Fall Forest Fashion: In a Word? Leafy!

We're fresh from Frick Park Fashion Scene! What's new and fresh in woodland style? Plump berry and tall and twiggy are the season's most envied shapes. The hottest looks are trampled-grunge and earthy-crunchy, and a glimpse of nude branch is oh-so-sexy! Hats are all the rage in accessories as acorn caps make their debut. Brown is the new green- last season's greens look old and whithered next to the colors du jour, vibrant golds, oranges, and rusts. An occasional crimson or plum is daring and avant garde, and reveals itself to hushed oohs, ahs, chirps, and squeaks. A hint of what's to come? Perhaps...

Stay tuned for reviews of the latest in swamp-marshland couture!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Steel Town Etsy Members Join Roving Hordes of Zombies Invading Market Square

If some of you have been wondering if some of the Steel Town Etsy members are really crafty zombies, we now have photographic evidence that some of them are.

 On 10/10/10 the dead walked again as the It's Alive Show hosted Zombie Fest as a food drive for the Pittsburgh food bank and an attempt to break the official Guinness world record for the largest gathering of zombies.  Pittsburgh has held the record in the past but was beaten by Seattle last year.  The official count at the end of the day was 4,590 zombies which, for now, is enough to bring the record back to Pittsburgh where it belongs.  Among those zombies, were several members of Steel Town Etsy, some of whom were even vendors.

Market Square was the perfect setting for the event and it provided a wonderful backdrop for many great shots throughout the day.

It was wonderful to see so many creative people come together for a good cause, and good, clean, if not somewhat bloody, fun.   Local artists and a couple of small, local businesses sold their wares at the event, and the zombies in attendance showed that they had plenty of brains as they purchased many items from these vendors.  Lynne, who made the brains on chains seen below as well as the zombie sachets to chase away the scent of decay at the end of the day commented, "You know, even though some of the zombies look really scary, they're actually really nice."

Events like this help make Pittsburgh a fantastic city to live in and help promote the local art scene.  Thanks to all the zombies who supported the local arts and businesses at this event.  It was wonderful seeing so many like-minded people in one place.

The end to a fantastic day!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Buy Original Contemporary Art

This post comes from Paula Lewis of Scorched Eyebrow Studio, as shared by Nick from the Handmade in PA blog.

"Free Flight", by SilentLotus Creations. Watercolork, and gesso on birch panel.

Top Ten Reasons to Buy Original Contemporary Art

10. Bring yourself into your décor. Surround yourself with art that speaks to you and of you. You are unique, so why would you settle for the PierWhatever/BullseyeBox carbon copy stuff?

9. Assure your place in civilization by supporting the Arts. Bonus: By buying from local (and there are fabulously talented people in your community) artists, you stimulate the local economy directly.

8. Develop your own collection. Art is lots cooler to collect than stamps or coins and when you collect contemporary art, you can collect artists as friends- and we are a very cool group.

7. Make your neighbors jealous. All of them will wish they had your self-confidence and sense of style!

6. Connect with your deeper self. Buy original work that speaks to you emotionally, not because it matches the couch. (NOTE: It’s okay if it happens to match.)

5. Feel less like a cubicle-dweller and more human by surrounding yourself with art born of real live passion and creativity – art made because the artist was moved to do it, not paid by the brushstroke.

4. Tap into the mystery of the muse. There is something magical that happens within artists that often pushes them beyond their initial vision; share that wonder.

3. Learn something new. Exercising your mind is healthy and realizing you are developing your eye for quality, style, talent while you’re having fun looking at art is a real kick.

2. Honor your inner creative spirit. We all have the need to express ourselves. Twitter, Link’d In, board meetings, and lawyers are not sufficient. Express yourself visually by living with art you love. Get back in touch with your own creative self.

1. Delight in the presence of art that “you get” and realize that the art “gets you!”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Steel Town Etsy Member Feature: Alicia Kachmar

Alicia Kachmar, with her Etsy shop Eternal Sunshine, creates some of the most adorable and original crocheted creations you can imagine.  Her crocheted pierogi have quickly become a favorite item in the The Travelling Pittsburgh Craft-O-Tron Machine and her new book will soon become a favorite among crafters and Halloween fans in general.

 Instead of the usual member feature, this will focus on her new book: Witch Craft: Wicked Accessories, Creepy-Cute Toys, Magical Treats, and More!  First, Steel Town Etsy would like to extend a hearty congratulations to Alicia for having a book published!  She's co-editor of the book as well as a contributor of four of the projects featured within.  The projects are all adorable, original, and the well-written instructions make them all seem easy to replicate.

The book is available in Pittsburgh at Barnes and Noble (their display is pictured above) and Borders, as well as from Amazon.com.

Our favorite project?  Why, the ruby slippers on the cover, of course!  They're modeled quite fabulously by Alicia herself.  Other favorite projects are tiny, edible jack-o-lanterns created from tangerines and oranges, freaky finger food, and creepy crocheted bones. 

Cooler Fall temperatures bring out the desire to bake, create, and decorate.  While this book doesn't include Halloween decorating tips, it has plenty of ideas to indulge your desire to create, both in the kitchen and at your craft table.  Some of the projects would also make adorable additions to your Halloween decor.

If you're a fan of Halloween, as many of us on the team are, or just looking for inspiration for some unique projects, please take the time to check out Alicia's new book.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whaddaya Get When You Combine STE With Vintage Hot Rods?

Whaddaya Get When You Combine STE With Vintage Hot Rods & Motorcycles? You get two fabulous upcoming car and motorcycle rallies! Woohoo! Steel Town Etsy crafters will be teaming up with these two fabulous shows, vending our handmade wares along with hot rods, pin up girls, live music, prize givaways, old school good times, and the coolest of the cool around Pittsburgh! Two events you definitely won't want to miss!

Oh, and artisans, both shows are still accepting vendors!

1st Annual Steel City Rockers vs. Mods Vintage Motorcycle & Scooter Rally

Pittsburgh's first vintage motorcycle and scooter rally! Get out the gear, polish up the Nortons, Triumphs, and BMWs or Vespas, Lambrettas,and Allstates (depending on your allegiance) and commemorate this unique period in Motorcycle history with the First Annual Steel City Rockers vs. Mods! Join us for a one-of-a-kind rally featuring bands, DJs, a pin-up-girl contest, raffles, tattoos, entertainment, vendors, and of course, lots of bikes! Special guest judges will be on-site to distribute awards to both motorcycles and scooters. Come on out and help us make this event one to remember! A portion of our proceeds will benefit Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh's Hard Head Patrol.

Visit http://steelcityrockersvsmods.com for more info!

Steeltown Shakedown, hosted by The Drifters Car Club

On Saturday, September 11, The Drifters will be hosting the 5th annual Steeltown Shakedown at the Twin Hi Way Drive-In on Route 60 in Robinson Township. This all day car show is open to all pre-65 rat rods, hot rods, and custom cruisers. Shop the vendors and enjoy the various raffles, flamethrower contest, pin up contest, and live music. If that isn’t enough for, then prepare yourself for a one night only showing of a true vintage movie when the sun goes down. Bring your old ride and help us celebrate the 76th anniversary of the very first drive-in movie theater the only way we know how: ol’ skool.

Visit www.steeltownshakedown.com for more details.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Name Contest & Decorating: The NEW Pittsburgh 'Local Handmade' Vending Machine!

Announcing the yet-to-be-named Pittsburgh traveling craft vending machine!! It may look like any ordinary cigarette vending machine right now, but soon it will be embellished, jazzed up and filled with local handmade creations! AND WE NEED YOUR HELP TO NAME AND DECORATE IT!

Inspired by the Art-o-Mat machines that offer mini OOAK art, our machine will offer a sampling of what is being handmade in Pittsburgh. Instead of each piece being different, we are embracing our industrial heritage and offering items that are crafted clones of each other like our own Andy Warhol's repeated printings.

The goal of the machine project is to spread the word about the local craft scene by placing the machine in different locations throughout the city - bars, art centers, welcome centers, museums.etc. There will be an under-glass posting area on the machine to advertise local craft events and craft groups. The idea is to share not only access to the crafts themselves but where else they can be found in a store, online and at local markets. Each item will have the biz card of the crafter that made the item, along with the facebook page (to be unveiled once the machine is named!) for the machine so they can post happy customer pics and find out where the machine is going to be next. They even get a folded biz card for the machine with a mini button attached instead of a pack of matches!! The machine will even have its own Facebook page, where all of the current handmade goods in the machine will be displayed via photo.


WHAT: Decorate the Machine Open House
WHEN: Sunday, August 22nd, 2010, 4-6pm
WHERE: Wildcard in Lawrenceville, 4209 Butler Street (map)

Rebecca Morris has VERY graciously offered to let us decorate the machine in her wonderful store Wildcard in Lawrenceville. On Sunday August 22nd there will be a "Decorate the Machine" Open House from 4-6pm. Bring some E6000 (use a Michael's 40% off coupon) and some scrabble tiles, dominoes, glass globs, random fun stuff, steampunk or Pittsburgh-related items, etc., and we will artfully mosaic the machine into something eye-catching and snazzy.

*Note- Please make sure there are no sharp edges or anything that would catch anyone or their clothes.

The machine will stay at Wildcard after the Open House for a trial run to work out any kinks. It is so wonderful to have someone who supports and loves local crafts like Rebecca to do this.

So put together your colorful doodads and join in the decorating fun!

~~* The person who brings the most nifty item to decorate with will win a fabulous prize submitted by a talented local artisan(s). *~~ :)

Light refreshments will be served.


We are looking for your fabulous ideas for naming the vending machine! Submit names by commenting on the contest's Facebook Page through midnight EST on Saturday, August 21st. The winner will be announced at the machine-decorating open house at Wildcard on August 22nd (details above) and will get a tote bag full of awesome local handcrafted goodies!! If you would like to donate a handmade something to the winner prize bag, please bring it with you on the 22nd to the open house. We would love to see all entrants at our Open House, but those who cannot be present may pick up their prize bag at Wildcard after the event.


Interested in having your own crafty creations for sale in the machine? Please let us know!

Submission Guidelines:

*All types of art and crafts will be considered, and Pittsburgh-themed creations are especially welcome. In order to ensure that a diversity of items are available in the machine at any given time, not all artisans will be accepted to be vendors.

*Items must be smaller than a pack of cigarettes and priced at either $5.00 or $10.00 (the machine will have one row of $5.00 items and one row of $10.00 items). Boxes that fit the machine will be at the Open House (details above) for test-runs of your item size.

*Those who are accepted must submit 20 finished pieces to start.

*The fee to vend in the machine will be small, mostly to cover cost of boxes, printing and any rent charged. 100% OF VENDING MACHINE SALES GO BACK TO THE ARTIST!

*Email a clear picture of your items to Lynne of Charmed By Nature at slkrop@comcast.net for consideration.

Please offer any suggestions for the project including places you think might be interested in hosting the machine. Once the Facebook page is up, please suggest it to your friends!!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tonight! Steel Town Handmade Trunk Show -- Handcrafted wares from local artists at Unblurred

Join the Steel Town Etsy crew tonight at Schmutz Lodge (5405 Broad Street; Broad is parallel to Penn) and sample what the the Pittsburgh craft community has to offer! From beautiful to bizarre, cute to kitsch; at times recycled or re-purposed...the artists of Steel Town have something for everyone. As part of the Unblurred Art Gallery Crawl's schedule of events, we're in good company.

Meet two more of our presenting artists: Diane Wright Designs and Silent Lotus Creations.

Diane Wright uses beadweaving and metalsmithing techniques to create high quality handcrafted jewelry inspired by the world around her. You'll find a few of her striking pieces below, but definitely come see them in-person to gain a better appreciation of the color and texture of these lovelies. The woven pieces, in particular, are incredible to touch.

Kylie of Silent Lotus specializes in jewelry and art inspired by the designs of nature and the beauty of simplicity. Beautiful, indeed! Her newest items infuse favorite metals and gemstones with vintage materials and ephemera. Many use 100% reclaimed parts to reduce waste and add history and charm.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Countdown to STE's Handmade Trunk Show!

Steel Town Etsy's Steel Town Handmade Trunk Show happens in just a few days!! Join STE artisans at Penn Avenue's Unblurred Art Gallery Crawl on August 6th, 2010. From 5:30-10pm, we'll be vending our unique, sometimes offbeat, handcrafted wares at Schmutz Lodge, 5405 Broad Street (Broad is parallel to Penn, and the Lodge is two blocks behind The Sprout Fund) as part of Unblurred's fabulous schedule of events.

Here are just a couple of the STE crafters who will be there:

Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms

Tamara creates steampunk, altered art, vintage image, & upcycled items. According to her Etsy shop announcement, she is:
Trying to save the world, one craft at a time, by creating unique repurposed and upcycled handmade goods... A bit like a time-travelling Dr. Frankenfurter, I create steampunk, mixed media, and collage pieces with a unique twist that are reflective of my sometimes warped and twisted view of the world.

19 Moons

Niffer of 19 Moons decribes her handcrafted jewelry as "Jewelry Design that's out of its Time... Eco-Friendly Steampunk, Gothic, Neo-Victorian & Retro Future styles." According to her Etsy shop announcement, "every piece is a handcrafted, wearable work of art. Our wares are also eco-friendly, incorporating vintage and recycled materials for authentic, one of a kind designs."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

South Side Works Artists Exposed- Come See STE This Weekend!

Getting all prepped and juiced up for a three-day weekend of crafty vending coming up at the end of this week! Woot! :) Come and check out at least twelve Steel Town Etsy artisans and their unique handmade wares there, along with lots of other talented crafters. See a list of artisans on I Made It! Market's blog. Hope to see you- we love to meet local handmade lovers and supporters! :)

SouthSide Works Exposed is an outdoor bazaar and music festival celebrating summer and the arts in Pittsburgh. The setting for this event is in and around the Town Square of the SouthSide Works.

More than 70 local artists and craftspeople will be selling handmade wares including ceramics, photography, paintings, jewelry, clothing, nat...ural body products, woodworked games and more.

Each day features food from SouthSide Works restaurants, drinks, music and traveling entertainers – and a dedicated area for kids!

To learn about the excitement and to see a sample of the artisans, visit http://www.imadeitmarket.com/ or http://

Friday, July 9, 2010

STE Potluck Picnic!

The STE team recently converged on Schenley Plaza in Oakland for a team potluck picnic! In attendance were Tamara of Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms, Niffer of 19Moons, Lynne of Charmed By Nature, Malina of AtlantisAK, Alicia of Eternal Sunshine , Kathryn of Go Carr Go, Diane of Diane Wright Designs, Kylie of SilentLotus Creations, and a handful of partners and family members.

It was the perfect combination of good pals, lively conversation, happy weather, and yummy eats! :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Action-Packed Indie Crafts Weekend for STE Artisans!

Steel Town Etsy artisans have got a busy buzzy weekend of indie craft shows this weekend with I Made It! Market! Come and see our wares in person and say hello! :) Shop local, buy handmade! Hope to see you there!

WYEP Summer Music Festival- Friday, June 25th, 4-8:00 pm, Schenley Plaza in Oakland. Enjoy an evening of free live music and fun, including a kids area and a local crafter marketplace. I Made It! Market artisans will be outside on Schenley Drive between the Carnegie Museum and Library. For more information on this fantastic outdoor celebration of music and arts, visit WYEP's Website at:

Handmade in Marriage- Saturday, June 26th, 11-5 pm,
Wildcard in Lawrenceville. The first annual indie wedding showcase featuring 20 local vendors who can help make your day PERFECT! Meet local photographers, disc jockeys, designers specializing in: jewelry, clothing, invitations, flowers and more. This event is free to attend. Visit www.handmadeinmarriage.com for more information.

I Made It! Market Indie Craft Sale and Birthday Party, sponsored by
The Cotton Factory- Sunday, June 27th, 12-5 pm, Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Squirrel Hill. There will be cake, balloons, kids activities, a local indie artisan marketplace. See I Made It! Market's website for more details.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Steel Town Etsy Handmade Trunk Show Announced!

Steel Town Etsy artisans will host an indie craft trunk show on August 6th, 2010 at Schmutz Lodge from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm.

Happening as part of the artsy frolic, food, people, and buzz that is Penn Avenue’s Unblurred Art Gallery Crawl, the trunk show will bring together some of Pittsburgh’s most talented artisans and their unique, sometimes offbeat, handmade wares!

Join our celebration of local arts and culture for fun, mingling with the creatively cool, and the opportunity to meet the faces behind Steel Town Etsy! Awaiting you is one-of-a-kind and original art of all types of media; handcrafted and upcycled jewelry, clothing, and toys; and steampunk, zombie-inspired, and nature-influenced goods made with plenty o’ Steel Town love!

Here’s to crafty shopping, one of the country’s most vibrant arts and indie craft scenes, and supporting the handmade movement and local independent artisans!

We still have a few vendor spaces available for Steel Town Etsy members.  If you're interested in vending, please contact Tamara at barkerbellheirlooms(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Monday, June 21, 2010

STE Takes on Lawrenceville Little Flea

We went, we vended, we bought, we roasted. Tam of Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms, Kathryn of Go Carr Go, and I (SilentLotus Creations) headed to Lawrenceville this past Saturday to take part in the charming and eclectic Little Flea! The Lawrenceville Little Flea is a weekly neighborhood marketplace that happens every Saturday at 36th & Butler, with rotating local vendors of both typical flea market fare and handcrafted goods. From 8am - 3pm, the three of us peddled our handmade creations and vintage goods in the sweltering heat with 12 other vendors, using the temp and hot sun as an excuse to seek out thirst- and tummy-quenching treats from Butler Street's yummy coffee and bake shops (thanks for the iced coffee & chai and vegan cupcakes, Espresso A Mano and Dozen). :)

Tam indulges my picture-taking urges and oversees our tent. :)

Kathryn's fabulous paper-cutting work!

The other vendors were in good spirits, chatting and laughing with one another and with flea shoppers. It was great to meet the friendly bunch, who provided us with some handmade, vintage, and thrifted bargains when we needed a break from our tables. I found an old rocking chair and vintage pieces to use in my jewelry making. :) There were clothes, dishes, photographs, textiles, chairs, tools and hardware, and plenty of supplies for upcycled art and craft projects. Chris from Signworks managed to sell a ginormous disco ball- wish I had a picture of that guy rolling away his enormous (seriously, I betcha two people could curl up inside) purchase, the glass tiles flashing in the sun and blinding passersby. lol

Little Flea.

Customers were friendly, too, and curious, quick to ask questions, join in a conversation, and or express support of our wares. Sales were okay, but I'm told there has been a much better turnout in previous weeks. And, in any case, I witnessed plenty of folks carrying their finds happily away. Like any market, success ebbs and flows on any particular day. I'd definitely recommend giving Little Flea and the Lawrenceville area shops a visit as either a vendor or shopper. It was a great day, and the rotating vendors promise new treasures every week!

Tamara's unique steampunk creations made with upcycled materials.

My original art prints and magnets.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meet STE Member Rachel Rech of WreckinRachel on Etsy

Lightning bugs are zapping the air with the coming of Summer as creative juices are flowing at STE! Let us give a thunderous welcome to new team blood and creatrix extraordinaire, WreckinRachel

Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.

My name is Rachel Rech. I'm an aspiring Costume Designer going to Point Park University, and will graduate with a BFA in Costume Design next year. I live in the Swissvale section of Pittsburgh with my boyfriend Anton, at Trundle Manor, a museum/house of oddities Wunderkammer. We have a collection of creepy curiosities including dead things in jars, vintage taxidermy, disturbing old medical tools, coffins, steampunk sculptures and various artworks! We are open for tours by appointment only, and the website is www.thessoa.com. I'm also affiliated with The Drifters Car Club of Pittsburgh, of which Anton is President. We have a car show every year, The Steeltown Shakedown, which will be held on Sept. 11 this year at the Twin Hi-Way Drive in. There will be pre-65 hot rods, DIY and vintage vendors, live bands, a pin-up contest, in-person tattoo artist and pinstriper, and a vintage movie on the big screen at night! The website is www.SteeltownShakedown.com.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

Besides going to school for costume design, I love to give tours of the museum, watch old horror movies, bake, paint, cruise in our 31 Ford, and dress up like a glamorous villain from the movies! Oh, and when autumn comes, I also love to frighten children at Kennywood Fright Nights.

What first made you want to become an artist?

I've always been weird, and I've known since I was little that art in one form or another was what I was meant to do. I've been obsessed with designing costumes and clothing since I can remember.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.

As far as my aprons and things go, I have a stock of colorful fabric that is constantly giving me ideas. Most of what I have is scrap or found material, so most of what I make is one of a kind. I always have several projects going at once, although many of them are for myself!

Name your top five places to be in the Pittsburgh area, books/authors, movies/TV shows, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.

My biggest TV influences include The It's Alive! Show, The Addams Family, The Twilight Zone, Pee Wee's Playhouse. My biggest Movie influences: Ed Wood, Cry-Baby, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

How do you promote your work?

That's something I could improve on, actually. I try to put myself out there mainly through Etsy, Facebook and word of mouth. It's all in who you know!

What advice would you give to artists who are new to the Pittsburgh craft scene?

Be original and create what makes you happy. Don't jump on a trendy bandwagon or steal someone else's ideas! If you want recognition, you have to stand out!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Trip to Creative Reuse Pittsburgh- The Coolest Way to Make Eco-friendly Art!

Last Wednesday, I and three of my best crafty pals and fellow STE admins, headed to the awesomely eco-friendly Creative Reuse Pittburgh (Pgh), a local green organization that accepts unwanted materials for reuse and sells them uber cheap to the creative public! According to their website, Creative Reuse Pgh, which was founded in 2007 and became a project of the Pennsylvania Resources Council in February, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to "keep perfectly good stuff out of the landfill, provide opportunities for people to put it to good (re)use, help forward the movement toward a greener globe, and encourage folks to explore." Sound too idyllic? Maybe... except for that they actually make all of that happen!

A haven to those who can make something out of anything (or anything out of something), the organization's brick-and-mortar stash-shop is located within Construction Junction (who donated the space) on Meade Street in Point Breeze. Creatively cluttered, the two-level space is packed from floor to ceiling with everything you can imagine that could be re-used in making art and given new life. Exploring the nooks and crannies, boxes and piles is really an artsy flea market/thrift store shopper's dream, and during our trip revealed wooden dowels, vintage fabric and notions, office supplies, containers, vintage art, books filled with fabulous wallpaper and fabric samples, random hardware, rubber toys, paper of all types, glitter, hardware, old lab beakers, and so much more!

Their stock includes not only unusual things you may not find anywhere else, but items that sell at craft stores for 20 times the price! The fact that these wares are priced unbelievably dirt-cheap ("starving artist" anyone?) just adds to the already-high bliss factor, as does the fact that each item purchased keeps landfills from growing and leaves the earth a little cleaner and greener. :)

Tamara of
Barker's Herbs and Heirlooms, Lynne of Charmed By Nature, Niffer of 19 Moons, and I (Kylie of SilentLotus Creations) had a fabulous visit, all coming away with finds from there and Construction Junction downstairs. Some of us even left feeling a bit "lighter" after donating our own materials to Creative Reuse Pgh- Nif donated "nif"ty payphone and typewriter hardware and Lynne donated -uh- a big box of rubber poop (don't ask). All of us are big on repurposing vintage or discarded materials in unique ways, me just in the last year or so and mostly from their influence. :) Check out our shops linked to above to see what craftastic creations we each come up with!

Creative Reuse Pgh gets new donations regularly, making it a potential new treasure hunt each time you visit. But despite all of their current finds, they can always take more! Next time you have a box or stack of something ready to be discarded or taken to Goodwill, consider stopping by to see if what you have is something they can use. Donating your discards is easy, and much appreciated. And while there, browse for some new goodies. Need creative inspiration or some obscure piece of something that will make your art piece or craft just perfect? I highly recommend making a trip to Creative Reuse Pgh to purchase materials- what you are wishing for just may await you there. :)

Just keep in mind that shopping open to the public only on Wednesdays from 12-5. Other hours are available by appointment only, so if you can't get there on a Wednesday, make sure to give them a call at (412) 202-4036 or
email them to set up a different time to go.

A section of Creative Reuse's upper level.

Fabulous vintage prints.

A view of the first floor from above.

Lynne's poop was put right out on the floor (front and center)!

The view that greeted us when we arrived: fabric, notions, and so much more.

More upper level goodness.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meet STE Member Malina of AtlantisAK!

It's time to meet another Steel Town Etsian and find out more about them! Introducing Malina Bowen of AtlantisAK Jewelry on Etsy. So glad to have you on our team, Malina!

Tell us a bit about yourself, name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.
I’m Malina, aka Lee, and I make and design jewelry. I am hoping to expand to other projects shortly to further expand my creativity. I currently live in the McKeesport area East of Pittsburgh with my Fiancée, John. I grew up on a farm in Austin, Pennsylvania. The population in Austin is about 600 people maximum, so everyone knew everyone. My back yard was 10+ acres of land and forest and there was always something to do. This gave lots of room for creativity. I hold Austin dear to my heart and am hoping to move back some day. Coming to Pittsburgh to further my education has been a great experience and journey.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I keep to simple things, such as reading, watching movies, shopping and baking. My favorite genres of books are fantasy, such as Stephen King and Anne Rice. For movies, it’s gotta be action, adventure or an awesome horror. 3D makes it even better! I’ve also had a lifelong love for cooking and baking and use my grandmother’s old Betty Crocker cookbook for old home-made goodies. .

What first made you want to become an artist?
Well, most of my family has some sort of artistic talent, so you could say that it runs in my blood to be creative. My grandmother (father’s mother) paints, my grandfather (father’s dad) owns his own woodshop, my mom quilts and has done a lot of cross stitch. It’s a long list of what my relatives do, so I think they’ve all kind of inspired me to do something.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
Honestly I can say that there isn’t an organized ‘creative process’. I like to call it a ‘creative mess’ because when I start making something, it rarely looks like the original idea, if there even was an idea in the first place. Typically I’m more creative and energetic around 5pm through 3am…so this is when most of my work gets done. The materials that I use vary greatly, from sterling silver, to brass, to glass, gemstone and occasionally plastic or Lucite beads. I make sure to keep a variety of materials because not everyone has the same tastes. Re-using or up-cycling things tends to be the most interesting for me because it’s always great to make something new out of something old. There’s also that destructive process involved too, which it’s always fun to tear stuff apart.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
There are actually two hand-made items that I cherish the most. The first one is what my grandmother (my mom’s mom) had hand quilted for me. My grandmother passed in ’95 when I was 8 years old, so I didn’t get much of a chance to know her. The memories I had of her were always nice and happy. What she made for me was a baby quilt of simple squares and design that I’ve had since birth. It’s now an ugly ragged thing that’s been loved to death over 24 years and has always been close to me wherever I’ve gone. It’s one of the things I brought with me from my home town. The other item was made by Raven, a Native American Spiritualist who was a very close friend. She helped me out when I needed her the most and put me on the path coming to Pittsburgh. Raven passed about 3 years ago due to cancer, so I still miss her greatly. I didn’t get to say goodbye. What she made for me was a large table doily of my favorite colors...green, white and black. I also have this with me in Pittsburgh.If I lost either of these items, I don’t know what I’d do.

Name your top five places to be in the Pittsburgh area, books/authors, movies/TV shows, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
Places: Station Square, Point Park, Chop Sticks in Squirrel Hill, Michaels and Starbucks in the Waterfront.Books/Authors: Stephen King, Anne Rice, R.A. Salvatore, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey.Movies/TV Shows: Lost, Ice Age, Interview with the Vampire, House and medical shows.Songs/Musical groups: I can’t say that I have a set group of favorites here…I just love to listen to anything from Big Band, Rock, Pop, Metal…I’m not too much of a fan of Country or Rap though.Websites: Regretsy, Netflix, Craftgawker, Torrid, DeviantArt

What advice would you give to artists who are new to the Pittsburgh craft scene?I’d say:-Do what you love. Because, if you do what you love then it’ll be inspiring to continue for many years.-Make friends join a Team! Friends help out and are great for getting word out about your projects. Teams are great for meeting new people and getting information.-Be patient. It takes a lot of work, patience and time to become successful with crafting.-Don’t burn yourself out…if you feel yourself losing interest, take a break and start again later. I find myself going a few days without crafting only to have a sudden creative streak that lasts for days on end.

What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
One of the features I’m really wanting to see soon is managing multiple shops on one account. It’s incredibly hard to start a new store with no feedback, no friends, nothing. I’m hoping that when this feature comes around, that when you make your other shops, the feedback and hearts you have on the first one will be reflected on the others. It’s hard starting from square one again with no feedback or ‘trust’ in the community.

How do you promote your work?
I use Twitter, Facebook, CraftGawker, my Blog and word of mouth to promote myself. I paid once to get exposure but never made a sale and hardly any hearts…It didn’t seem worth it when, for free, at the right places I could get sales and many more hearts for no cost.In five years I'd like to be...Ideally, I hope to marry a dark, handsome prince and live in a fantasy land castle far, far away... But if that doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t mind to be able to either have my own brick and mortar store for my creations and/or supplies…or be able to support myself from home off of my Etsy sales and never have to travel to work a 9-5 job again.

Thanks Malina! Please check out Malina's beautiful creations in her etsy shop here:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

JetPackAgenda STE New Member Feature

Here's to another beautiful & happy Wednesday everyone! Lets give a warm, sunny welcome to Nick of JetPackAgenda. Steel Town Etsy is super excited for all the fresh new talent on the team! Please be sure to check out the blog interview below...

Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.
My name is Nick and I live in Pittsburgh with my fiancee Megan of That's What She Thread. We’re originally from Buffalo, NY. I am a self-taught Graphic Designer with a love for t shirts. I've got a number that are older than Megan is!

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Creating is basically what I do! Currently I work as a Graphic Designer at this great local Health Food Store in the Strip District. Other than that I like spending time at home cooking, hiking, watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Yes, I have every single episode ever recorded) and taking photographs.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
Many of my t shirt designs are actually a compilation of photographs I take personally. I generally take my camera with me when we go out for a walk and most of the time I will see something that will strike me as looking great on a shirt. For example: My "Don't Fear The Meter" design was taken in the South Side, "All Mixed Up" has some photos from a vacation to Florida, "And Sew On" and "That's What She Thread" is Megan's sewing machine, "Crossbone Boulevard" was taken out the car window of the overpass on Crosstown Boulevard, etc.

What advice would you give to artists who are new to the Pittsburgh craft scene?
If you have a creative idea, go for it! This is a great city for networking and there are so many supportive art-lovers. If you find something you love and feel passionate about, others will certainly recognize that. And it's great to get compliments on my stuff from people who appreciate my work as well.

How do you promote your work?
Megan and I wear the shirts as much as we can, but now that the summer is here I've been applying to vend at a bunch of the TONS of Pittsburgh's local art markets. I've also designed my own website (http://www.jetpackagenda.com/) and give away coupons at shows. My Facebook page is a great way to network as well; I try to occasionally advertise sales on there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet New STE Members Ruth and Sarah of BitsyKids

Join us in welcoming Ruth and Sarah of BitsyKids- a Mother-Daughter duo offering the cutest handcrafted children's clothing and accessories! Please read on in the interview below to learn more about these talented new members of STE...

Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.

BitsyKids is actually a mom-and-daughter operation. Ruth (the mom) is the artistic talent – making hats and quilts, coming up with more great stuff to sell. Sarah (the kid) is the one who runs the shop – managing the website and etsy shop, filling orders, that sort of thing. We've both lived in Squirrel Hill for 30 years (Ruth for a little longer!), except for a brief jaunt to San Francisco for a few years – we just moved back to town last year, and we're thrilled to be here – we love Pittsburgh!

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

Ruth is busy working part-time and volunteering for various arts organizations around town, but any free time she has is spent creating things. In addition to making the baby hats and quilts that we sell, she also knits, crochets and makes quilts for grown-ups, plus she's an excellent cook.

Sarah doesn't create anything that we sell in the shop, but she's currently teaching herself bookbinding and learning to do letterpress printing. She'll be starting her own letterpress business soon, printing cards and other stationery with designs by a few of her fabulously talented friends.

We both love to read too, and we live two blocks from Schenley Park, so we love to go walking when the weather is nice!

What first made you want to become an artist?

Neither of us really set out with the intention of being an artist. We both love the arts, and we've been involved in various art forms our whole lives. Sarah took art classes at the museum starting when she was 4, became involved in theater when she was 16, studied stage management at Carnegie Mellon, and went on to be a professional stage manager for several years.

Ruth learned needlecrafts from her grandmothers when she was a little girl, and as a teenager, her mom taught her to sew her own clothes. Finally, as an adult, she discovered quilting and put those sewing skills to a new use. She loves using fiber, pattern and color to create beautiful things.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.

Ruth is the creative mind behind BitsyKids, and her process mostly revolves around using brightly colored yarn in fun ways. When she's at a yarn shop, she'll browse the hat patterns for ideas, but for the most part, she just makes up her hats as she goes along. She'll change colors or add polka dots as the mood strikes her, and then when she gets close to the top, she decides what sort of pom pom will finish it off perfectly. No two hats are alike!

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

S: I have so many great Mom-made things, but I think my most cherished would have to be the baby quilt she made me. It's a checkerboard of red squares, with lots of other bright colors mixed in, and little red ribbons in the corners. It sits on the bed in my office (aka our guest room), so I see it every day.

R: I have a collection of crocheted doilies made by my grandmother. They’re huge, ruffled and take forever to starch and iron, but are wonderfully fanciful and remind me of her.

Name your top five places to be in the Pittsburgh area, books/authors, movies/TV shows, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.

S: the art and hisorty museums (especially the Hall of Architecture and Dinosaur Hall), Schenley Park, Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor
R: Phipps Conservatory, walking in Squirrel Hill, the Ballet

S: Madeleine L'Engle, Orson Scott Card, Robin McKinley
R: Ray Bradbury, Christopher Moore

S: The Princess Bride, Sneakers, Leverage
R: White Christmas

S: Simon & Garfunkel, Storyhill, U2
R: Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, 40’s big band sounds

What advice would you give to artists who are new to the Pittsburgh craft scene?

We haven't been in the Pittsburgh craft scene very long ourselves, but getting involved in the community would definitely be the best advice we could give. Joining Steel Town Etsy, going to Pittsburgh Craft Collective events, and checking out the local craft shows, have all helped us get to know other Pittsburgh crafters and get ideas and help in running our shop. Go out and meet people! That's our advice.

How do you promote your work?

We mostly promote through word-of-mouth. We've told all of our friends about our shop, and asked them to tell theirs, and to think of us when they need to buy baby gifts, and that seems to have worked. A lot of our sales come from people who heard about us from friends. Other than that, we've participated in a few Steel Town Etsy promos, and we're looking forward to doing even more!