Monday, May 18, 2009

New Crochet Pattern: Rocket Ship!

It's been a little while since I've posted! I've been busy with my list of 14 new Junk Mail Gems product ideas, making prototypes! I just have too many ideas to pick from so in the near future I am hoping to put up some photos of these prototypes and have you all vote on your favorites, for a chance to win some free Junk Mail Gems product! Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I've been back on a crochet kick again, and I'm really excited about my latest original crochet pattern, now available at my design site. It is a rocket ship, which I made for my 1 and a half year old's new space themed bedroom! Check it out...

The flames are my favorite part! :-)

This rocket was made using all left-over yarns from previous projects. That's the fun part about amigurumi can easily have enough left-overs to make many fun toys!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Book Review: Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain

I recently signed on as a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson. Basically how it works is, if you have a blog, they will send you books for free in exchange for you later posting a review. It's a pretty cool deal that I found out from my sister-in-law, and I thought I'd give it a try! So, here is my first book review!

For my first book I chose "Collapse of Distinction: Stand out and move up while your competition fails," by Scott McKain. I chose this book because I am a small business owner (three of them, to be exact), and thought it may provide some new ideas to help grow my businesses. I figure we could all use a little boost to our businesses in this economy, and this is certainly one way to start! It took me a little while to get through, being a full time at-home Mommy and business owner, as I pretty much only read in the bath tub! But, this book was a very easy read and Scott kept my attention throughout.

One thing I liked about this book is that it contains advice and strategies that will apply to your business, whether you are the CEO of a major corporation, a low man on the totem pole, or a small business owner like myself. Scott uses great stories and business examples ranging from his own father's small town grocery store to large corporations like Starbucks and Apple.

Scott starts out by explaining the phenomenon of a sea of "sameness" that so many companies today are getting swallowed up in. He explains three things that destroy differentiation, and goes on to talk about what does NOT work to differentiate. I was surprised to find that the things that first came to my own mind for ways to differentiate from the competition were among his list of things that don't work!

There are three levels of differentiation according to Scott. Level one, sameness, is when you are indistinguishable from your competition. When a company reaches level two, "differentiation," they have traits that separate them from their competition. But, it is when a business reaches level three, "Distinction," when you become #1 in your field. Scott goes on to explain the four cornerstones of distinction, and how you can build these cornerstones for your own business.

Every chapter ends with an "executive summary," or outline of what you've just read, which not only makes it easy to retain the information, but super simple to go back and look something up afterward. He also ends each summary with a list of action steps, questions, and ideas, which help to apply his principles to your own business.

Overall I thought this was a great book. For me personally, it reinforced that I have been doing many things right all along, but helped me understand why those things are working. It also made me think about my business and my customers in a new way, which I feel will impact my business in a positive way!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Innocent Spam" by Janet Nelson

So, here's how this post came to be. Yesterday I posted on my Facebook status that I "just deleted over 1,600 junk emails from my inbox from only 6 days; this is getting ridiculous!" A friend commented with something about how if only I could turn junk EMAIL into something crafty (like I do with paper junk mail). In chimes another friend out in Ohio, saying that he has seen artwork made from spam emails. You see where I'm going here? Anyway, I just had to share the link he sent because it made me smile, and was in some weird way, related to Junk Mail Gems...if only in a distant-cousin-twice-removed sort of way.

We all have gotten those spam emails with dirty subject lines. Well, thank goodness for people out there like Janet Nelson, who finds the innocence within the icky with her fantastic "innocent spam" cartoons. Check it're sure to look at those nasty spam messages in a whole new light!

As I glance over at the now 244 messages in my junk email folder, I see a few that might be fun to illustrate...
"Women will stare at your member like at the museum."
"Never half-staying in bed."
"Ladies crave for bigger chest like the guys crave to be blessed."
"She won't hide her emotions when she sees your proportions."
"Just what your rod needs!"

These lines clearly are not written by people whose first language is English! Especially this one: "hoist your belove sexuality" and "Be sure in your hose." Huh? Well, I guess I can be glad that these forms of junk mail are electronic and not physically arriving in my mailbox, but they are no less annoying!! Thank you, Janet, for your creative and entertaining way to "repurpose" electronic junk mail!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Craftstravaganza 2009 Recap

Craftstravaganza '09 was a success! I will post some pics from my own booth and then show you some other great artists that were at this year's show!

If you read my post from last year, which was the first show I've ever sold Junk mail Gems at, you'll notice there was much improvement weather-wise this year! No freak snowstorms...I think moving it to May helped a lot! Here is the line-up of shoppers just outside the MN State Fairgrounds' Fine Arts building a few minutes before the show opened (the first 100 got a free swag bag of goodies):

Besides more new products, I added a little bit more to my booth this year, including a fabric backdrop, a hand painted banner, and some new fixtures...

This year I displayed the magnets on cookie sheets that I had purchased at my local thrift shops, propped up on some tabletop easels:

I displayed the beads in the basket/candlestick fixtures I blogged about a while back, and they worked great!

I used the same tree branch display from last year for necklaces and earrings, only this year I painted it silver:

I think it gave everything a more consistent feel having all of the display fixtures painted silver. There I go talking about fixture design...I'm mixing my professions here! This morning at the last minute, I decided to bring along a couple of my junk mail TV trays, just in case I needed a little extra display space. They ended up being a hit with shoppers, and I am hoping to offer some for sale next year, if not sooner via my website!

Here is my wonderful hubby, who is still coasting along on the brownie points he earned from last year's ordeal, and our baby boy:

They helped me set up on Friday night and then came up just for a little visit this afternoon which was a fun surprise!

Overall it was a good show! Although, it did not take much to beat last year! I always really enjoy seeing how people react to my products in person at these shows, since I never get to see people's reactions when they shop online. As usual, I left this year's show with a full page of notes on what to improve in my booth the next time around, and even more new product ideas to add to my list!

Since I was manning my booth by myself all day though, I unfortunately did not get a chance to shop around with the other vendors as I would have liked. But, I did get to see a few items while running back and fourth, and on the Craftstravaganza website, that I'd love to share. Be sure to check out these awesome, recycled goodies:

Repurposed vintage necktie accessories from A Boy Named Coy,
Recycled billboard bags by Drive-By Bags & Things,
A variety of fun recycled items from Emily Kircher, Recycling Artist,
Super cool belts made out of tires from Tired Ol' Belts,
...and many, many other creative and talented artists from this year's list of vendors here!

Thanks again, Andy & Jenna, for another fantastic job organizing the show!
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