Monday, March 19, 2012

Handmade Family Past, Present and Future Part II

2011, a year in review.
Hi all! Mr Handmade here, with part two of the Handmade Family past, present and future. I think by all accounts, 2011 was a very good year for us. We're both really excited about how far we've come, and all the super supportive people we've met, and are looking forward to what's next...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Our year started off with the decision to combine our etsy shops, "Abigail Olivia" and "Red Herring Illustration" to start Handmade Family. Our work is not the same but the sensibilities behind it are so they go together just like we do. We felt that this would also give us each a push as individuals to apply to be a single vendor at Fusion together. This was a huge step for us, and we set about defining our handmade branding including a logo, banners, business cards, promo packet and Facebook page...and of course starting this blog. Finally, we invested some of our tax return dollars into fixtures that we felt matched our internal branding for our shop displays and some new tools. Investing in your future can be difficult, because there's no guaranteed return. It's scary, but I'm so glad we did it!

Building up inventory can be daunting, to say the least. Amy spent the next couple of months making new product as I worked on our web presence and some new illustrations. Part of being a part of a co-op is that artists are always joining or leaving to do something new. We love meeting all the new artists and being happy for our friends when they make the next step towards their dreams. Late in the spring, one of our new friends, Jessi, left the shop to start her own store, I Am What I Am On Main Street. It's super cute, and in a great location in downtown Saint Charles by Picasso's coffee shop. Just as we were getting a comfortable amount of stock into Fusion, Jessi asked us to be a featured artist in her shop. What awesome exposure that would be, and it would be a great chance to work with one of our friends again! So it was set that we would be the featured artists for the month of August...and we were scrambling to get enough product to cover our stock at Fusion, our Etsy shop, and I Am What I Am. Whew! Amy did such an awesome job making sure there were plenty of capes and blankets and beanbags, and I managed to get 6 new watercolor paintings. At the end of the month, we'd gotten such a positive response from shoppers (and not bothered Jessi too much) that she asked us to stay on as consigners. YAY!

A lot happened in the fall. Ha-ha-ha! buoyed by our success in shops, we figured it was time to start doing shows...But where to start? Well, I've been going to Archon, a local Science Fiction and Gaming convention, for about 10 years and participated in the art show twice, so this year I got a table in Artists Alley and sold some drawings, postcards and commissioned sketches. It was a lot of fun, and always great talking to people. Meanwhile our friends Melissa and Andrea of Villa Design and Zenbot Baby, decided to kidnap Amy to participate in the Tower Groves Farmers Market. From there we went on to do Artropy, and a couple of vendor fairs at United Services, the preschool where Amy works. Shows are tiring, but so much fun and so worth doing, and I'm glad we made it through the first few in our first year, because now we can build on that experience.

I'd expected things to quiet down after Christmas for a little while (I think everybody did) but here we go, full tilt into the new year. Freelancing has kept me busy, so I haven't had much time to develop new products, but I have managed to squeak a couple of things in. Besides that, I've been writing weekly posts on the Fusion Blog, which is part of why I've been so inconsistent here lately (sorry about that, it's not that I haven't been thinking of you all). I've also been working on our new website, which has an integrated blog, shop and image galleries. We're really excited about it, and looking forward to it being actually finished!

I know I'm forgetting some things, but it has been a great and exciting first year! Thank you all for sharing it with us, and for supporting us! Next week I'll talk a little bit about our plans for the coming year in the final segment of Handmade Family Past, Present, and Future. Until then, take care and be good!
Your friend,

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