Category Archives: Craft

All malled out

The ten-day Made in the Cape artisan market ended on Sunday. It was a big success on all levels, but exhausting — obviously to be expected, and this is not a complaint, but I hadn’t anticipated the draining effect that ten days (eleven hours each) in a busy shopping mall would have on me. You may or may not know this about me, but I am not a shopping-mall kind of gal. I will go to one of the smaller ones if necessary but far prefer to stick to my local shops down in Rondebosch village. The post office is also there, and the library, and a superb barista, and the bank. And there’s always parking.

Anyway, hard work never killed anyone and I’ve had three follow-up orders already, so there is also a good long-term effect of being on show, as it were. The patchwork cushions were especially popular.

thurs1thurs2

We also had some drama! A woman had had her cell phone taken out of her handbag as she was coming down the escalator closest to me. The thief ran past my table and slid the phone in between a pile of my cushions. This was captured on cctv so within seconds I had a swarm of security guards “helping” me go through all my stock. We searched in vain, which made no sense, so I suggested that she had probably had an accomplice who had retrieved the phone very quickly and made off with it in a different direction. Further cctv footage proved me right, and a ring of four women was eventually caught and arrested.

I was reminded of something in one of Ben Trovato‘s priceless blog posts about shopping malls and holiday crowds:

And remember that even though pickpocketing and purse-snatching is considered quaint and old school in this glamorous age of state capture, the pilferers and purloiners are still out there practising their ancient craft. Fleet of foot and nimble of finger, not for them the tedious complexities of tender rigging and money laundering. Handbags are their thing. This is why women should keep a small explosive device in their bag at all times. If the bag is stolen, they can detonate it with a remote control. This will not only teach the thief a valuable lesson but will also help thin out the crowds in the mall. 

So, be alert and keep your handbags zipped up tight !

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by the skin of my teeth

How I do things. Don’t seem to be able to change. This calendar on the wall to the left of my desk freaks me out every time I look at it and yet…I’m still nowhere close to reaching the production targets I’d set for myself. And as you can see, December is about to hit me like a wrecking ball. (If I looked like Miley Cyrus, I probably wouldn’t mind so much.)

calendar

Anyway, right now I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got – the last few weeks have brought some very unpleasant personal challenges, but the worst of them appears to be over so I can get focused again. Did you hear that, universe????? Good. Now please ignore me until the other side of December. Thank you in advance.

customers

For me, one of the best things about selling my wares directly at markets is that you can build up a nice relationship with customers, who sometimes come back more than once and/or tell their friends about you.

I received these photos via WhatsApp from two repeat customers this morning, both of whom collected their goodies yesterday at the Country Craft Market in Somerset West.

The round patchwork cushion joins a few other patchworky things made by me on Martina’s bed, but I think it looks cute on the chair, too. The gold butterflies were a special request, on king-size pillow cases, and I need to print more – Christine says she needs duplicates for when these two are in the wash!

It’s a slow slow Sunday here: the sun is shining and there’s a nice breeze, and I was going to get some sewing and some writing done – but I woke up with a bad headache and a sore throat, so decided to embrace the chance to rest up. I went back to bed with coffee and biscuits and my book (Josephine Tey, just to mix things up a bit!) and am shortly going to pop some ingredients into the slow cooker to make this recipe from a wonderful book sent to me by Kathryn:

recipe

Hope you’re all having an excellent Sunday :)

Doing a Tom

I was saddened to hear that Tom Petty had died recently, at the very early age of 66.  Linne’s last post on A Random Harvest included a clip of Tom Petty singing I won’t back down, and I ended up downloading the Freemake YouTube to MP3 boom app so I could convert the YouTube clip to an mp3 file, copy it onto a memory stick and listen to it in the car. There’s Bruce and Janis and Little Richard and BB King and Credence Clearwater Revival and loads of other stuff that Rob uploaded for me, but right now I’m letting Tom inspire me. He’s on constant replay.

What am I getting around to here? Well, you may recall that I have a problem with a customer who has been ducking and diving in order to get out of paying for a couch throw he commissioned me to make. The more I read your comments on that post, the more I realised that I do not wish to let this go. It doesn’t suit me financially or psychologically! I was talking about it to Karen last week, who suggested I try to get the matter sorted via the Small Claims Court. I don’t if you have anything like this wherever in the world you live, but in South Africa each of our nine provincial municipalities offers this service, free of charge. I should have thought of this myself, having used them twice before (once when a huge truck bashed into my little Mini Cooper and the owner refused to pay for damages, and once when a man I’d bought a property from reneged on certain things – both times I was successful and got my money back. Despite knowing I was in the right and fair is fair, it is still massively satisfying to win a case and have the defendant be instructed to cough up.)

There are a list of steps to follow. This is Step 1: Contact the other party: 
Contact the opposing party (the person against whom you are instituting legal proceedings) either in person, in writing or telephonically and request them to satisfy your claim.

So, I wrote a very polite but explicit letter and popped it into the postbox of the block of flats Mr No-Show lives in (about 3 kms from my house). I stopped on the way home to buy fresh ciabatta, and fifteen minutes later I was in the kitchen making a cup of coffee to go with my morning snack. My cell phone rang. Guess who? Yes, Mr NS, very apologetic that he hadn’t got back to me yet and offering to draw the cash instead of doing an eft!! We have arranged to meet tomorrow for the exchange.

Drinks are on me!

some you win, some you lose

Here’s a lose: a perfectly pleasant man commissioned me to make a throw for his couch, which he said was old and shabby but otherwise very comfortable, back in August. We talked about the colours in his lounge, including the curtains and the Persian carpet, and I assembled a collection of fabric for him to approve via email. Which he did. He also confirmed the size he wanted: 400 by 380cm. Not small at all!

Richard 2 I quoted him R2,580. This includes the backing fabric, top quality local and imported upholstery fabrics, and my labour. Considering it took me nearly a week to complete, this is a bargain. He accepted the price and asked me to go ahead. Here is the finished item:

Long story short – he ignores my emails and smses, and when he did once make the mistake of answering his phone, pretended to be out of the country. I tried again last week, and he informed me that he was terribly worried about his water bill, which was over R3,000, and he’d have to sort that out before anything else. At which point he put the phone down on me.

Hopefully someone else will love it and buy it, but it’s not an easy size to sell – it’s for a really really big 3-seater couch or an enormous bed. But my disappointment is great, partly because I have never been let down by a customer like this before (most of my customers are just the opposite!) and partly because I neglected to ask for a deposit before starting the job. Lesson learned :(

 

more round cushions

But plumper. Much plumper :)

I had the idea to make the cushion covers removable, so made a separate inner (see below, looking like an enormous knaidel* on the dining room table!) and put a zip in the side of one of the roundies.

round inner

It was only when I was stitching the buttons through the centre (luckily I found a carpet needle for this chore) that I realised the cover would not be removable for that very reason. Doh.  Since the fabric I’m using is mostly upholstery/curtain linen anyway, the covers will need to be dry-cleaned, so that is my work-around for this problem.

I have drawn up a schedule of production (sewing and screenprinting) for the rest of October and November, with December being the time I need to have lots of everything ready for sale. I’ve printed it out and stuck it up on the wall, but it does make me feel a little weak. There won’t be much time for movies and outings and wine tastings and gala events…you know, my usual hectic social round. Not. Time to put my nose to the grindstone…

* yiddish for dumpling :)

Sales. No sales.

It happens. You can be right out there with your fabulous product that usually sells pretty damn well at the same/and other markets you’ve been attending regularly, that attracts new customers via facebook and word-of-mouth, and that gets some customers coming back for more – and you can still have a trading day with NO SALES.

It happened to me on Sunday, the last of four days in a busy up-market shopping centre in Claremont, with a nice steady amount of foot traffic. My hair was straight, I had the make-up on, I did the market dance, and all the signs were good. But – whaddaya know, my palm remained uncrossed with silver.

sad

A few years ago, this would have been disheartening enough to make me rethink my purpose in life. Or at least to crack open a bottle of cheap wine and knock myself out for the night. Okay, no, not wine – chocolate. I would have crawled into bed with a slab of chocolate and felt pathetic. And then, after the chocolate, pathetic and sick.

A friend asked me how the day had gone. I told him, No sales. His reply: I’m so sorry, that must be horribly demotivating. And that comment annoyed the hell out of me. I know he meant well, and was caring enough to ask in the first place, but you know what? Sometimes a trading day isn’t about direct sales. It’s about networking with other traders, forging working relationships, meeting potential new customers, showcasing your products and ideas, listening to the kinds of things people say they are looking for so you can think about tweaking a few things if necessary. It’s invaluable time and energy spent on improving your business.

Over the four days, I actually had very good sales, five new orders, advice about how to improve a design for something I’ve been stuck with for months, and access to amazing hand-made food stalls! I didn’t feel demotivated at all. I’m not saying cash in hand isn’t very cool (everyone dreams of going home with a bag full of bucks), but if you’re in this for the long-term, you have to accept that it isn’t always going to happen that way. And look for the silver linings. And try and turn them into gold.