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On The Wing   1 comment

Your Move   Leave a comment

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with chess since SJ kicked my butt in the 6th grade. I’ve never been a student of the game, but I have learned enough to make tournament-quality chess boards.

Good thing, since it’s my # 1 most requested item. To my chagrin.

However, I’ve battled my demons, worked though my shop chaos, and have now brought these boards to the finish line.

Each of these 5 boards has the playing surface mounted proud of the frame.

Because that’s how a chess board should be, I believe. Proud.

Each of the 5 are different, of course, because too much repetition doesn’t make for a good game.

One is a commissioned piece, but when the buyer saw this collection, he bought 2 more. The remaining 2 will be at this weekend’s KHTS Home & Garden Show at Central Park in Santa Clarita. We’ll be in the front of the “KHTS Marketplace; their section for vendors with handmade goods. It’s right by the free tree giveaway in honor of Arbor Day, sponsored by the city of Santa Clarita. This event is our only Spring Fling in Santa Clarita – for updated event listings, just click on the menu link for “Mr & Mrs M’s Upcoming Events.” Hope to see you at one of these events.

It’s your move.

The Board Chronicles: California Poppy Festival 2017   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

We had a good event two years ago when we did the California Poppy Festival 2015 … it was actually our first-ever event where we did a double booth.

It was our 30th event all-time … and set a record as our Best. Event. Ever.

That record held for 4 months. Today, 2 years later, those sales from 2015 were below our average event in 2016. Still, though, we had very good sales at this event in 2015. But oh, my, that wind. After a weekend “out in it,” it felt like we had been camping. We were covered in grime – just like the product was. There was a definite downside to doing this event, no matter what the sales were.

But there’s a big upside as well: we stay with the Granddaughters when we go a-vendoring in the Antelope Valley.

Given our history & the side benefits, who wouldn’t want to go to the California Poppy Festival?

New Ideas

  • At long last, the new Lip Balm dispenser premiered at this event. It’s only a year late.
  • At long last, the ZooSoapia display premiered at this event. It’s only 5 months late.

Observations

  • Our 3rd Spring Fling has begun: 7 (hopefully) big events in 7 consecutive weeks. This is event # 1.
  • This event always gives me fits with their requirement for a certificate of insurance. In 2015, they had very specific language that they required, and then changed. They rejected my COIs, and I redid them after receiving conflicting instructions. Very frustrating. This year they had a clear clause in the contract with instructions for the COI to name as additionally insured:

“City of Lancaster, its elected officials, officers, employees and volunteers are included as additional covered parties, but only insofar as the operations under this contract are concerned”. The name and date(s) of the event must also be included on the certificate.

I did precisely that … and got a call that my COI was unacceptable. I asked for specific instructions, as I had followed the contract, and they sent me the same instructions. I decided to play their game. I submitted the same COI to them a 2nd time.

  • It was approved.
  • Friday set-up, and they handed me a manila envelope with my receipt, 4 vendor name tags, and one parking pass at check-in. When I commented that I needed 2 parking passes for my double booth, the reply was, “Did you put that on your application?” I did not remember, of course … and after the event, I found there was no place to put such a comment on the application (since I wasn’t applying for overnight parking). Luckily, our good friend Jan had an extra, so it all worked out.
  • This is a big city-sponsored event in a big city park. There are 210 “arts & crafts” booth spaces & probably more “commercial” booths for area businesses, charities & such. There’s a carnival. Farmer’s market. Kid attractions. Performances by local dance groups. A car show. Lots of fair food. A beer garden (which must have made a lot of money, given the number of beer cups I saw walking by the booth). The city website boasts 55 acres of activities; there’s a lot going on here.
  • First question of the day: as I was walking back from parking my car, a vendor stopped in their truck and asked me, “where is the vendor parking?” I told her, “Just drive 50 feet forward to where that sign says ‘Parking,’ and you are there.” 50′. Jeez.
  • One of my pet peeves at big events is a vendor selling the wooden boxes, ships, tanks & military logos that are imported from China. The work is not that good, but the prices are really cheap. It’s woodworking, but not anything that I enjoy seeing. There were 2 vendors with these products, and one of them was our backdoor neighbor. (sigh)
  • Across the aisle from us was a quadruple booth for LuLaRoe. That must be a thing. And, of course, the Mrs M’s went shopping.
  • Saturday was hot, but not as hot as projected. With a gentle breeze, it was a great day in the park. Except for the buyers staying home. Some vendors had good days, some didn’t. We didn’t.
  • For some reason, the city didn’t put trash containers out anywhere but near the food booths & bathrooms. If you were walking through the vendor area and finished your food or drink … there was nowhere to put your trash. And that doesn’t end well for the vendor area, let me assure you.
  • I got to go walk about Sunday morning before the crowd arrived, and was disappointed to see that handmade goods were such a small part of this event. The vast majority of booths were for cheap imports. There were some of the normal buy & sell vendors, but even they were not well represented, I felt. Perhaps 25% of the booths were for handmade goods (and I’m probably being kind with that estimate). Given our poor Saturday, I was not in a wonderful mood … but this event seemed to be more swap meet than craft fair. The city of Lancaster, though, bills the vendor area as the “arts & crafts section.”
  • Some gentlemen from another culture visited the booth, and they enthusiastically commented that my boards were tight. They were dope. I believe they liked them, but it was hard to tell. They didn’t buy anything.
  • Huge attendance at this event, though I’m told Saturday was down 9,000 from prior year. I don’t know the actual attendance number, but it’s very big. I can’t complain about the attendance, I just wish there were more buyers in the crowd. But that’s me; I know other vendors were happy.
  • Sunday, we remembered why this event was so hard 2 years ago.
  • Wind. Blows.
  • There is nothing good about a constant wind with 25 MPH gusts that rocks the portable, pop-up shade structure that is our booth. I’ve got about 150 pounds of weight holding down our shade structure, so it’s really not going to go anywhere … but under the canopy, almost everything can blow over if the wind catches it wrong.
  • Big wind is pretty normal in Lancaster, but it is not fun as a vendor. Packing the booth was a real challenge – everything wanted to blow away while being packed. Containers, lids, packing materials … and don’t get me started on taking down the canopies while keeping them from blowing away. The load-out was over 2 hours because of the wind.
  • Requests were for gun grips, a cribbage board, clipboards (which, sadly, I left at home), a board to cut beef jerky with – a first!, a backgammon board and the # 1 request of the weekend … I just can’t type the words.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Saturday Lunch: Velda’s cheese & cracker plate was a tasty alternative to fair food.

Saturday Snack: A soft serve ice cream that really put the soft into soft serve.

Saturday Dinner: BLTs with Christopher & the girls. Excellent.

Sunday Breakfast: A burrito from Primo Burgers. Excellent … though it would have been nice had their parking lot been large enough for the trailer. Or even had a way to escape that didn’t involve backing up.

Sunday Lunch: Cheese & crackers, of course!

Sunday Snack: Nope.

Sunday Dinner: In ‘N Out. It’s what eating at 9:30pm on a Sunday is all about.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 257
  • Booth cost: $350
  • Food cost: $46
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $1,722
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,306
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer:
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative:
  • Saturday alarm: 5:30a
  • Sunday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: 78
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were at least 5 soapers other than Mrs M. None had as complete a skin care line, but that’s a lot of handmade soap in one place, I believe.
  • # woodworking vendors: There were a few. A toy maker, a carver & small box maker that I spoke with. There was a professional redwood sign maker with a trailer custom rigged for him to route your sign on the spot. And me.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 9:4
  • Returning next year? I hope not.

Boards sold: 13

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Cheese Boards: 3

Cutting Board: 3

Small Boards: 2

Small Surfboard: 1

Mrs M’s New Booth # 4 (part 2)   Leave a comment

It’s been a long wait for me to complete Mrs M’s 4th booth.

But then, I ought to know that it’s never easy getting to the finish line.

Mrs M was promised these display pieces last year. Foolishly, I got busy making new product that was selling, and didn’t make time have a chance to finish these pieces until someone was beyond frustrated with my prioritization of products that sell over one-off projects that just sit on the table.

Hmmm. Maybe my priorities were off. Ya think?

With these 2 pieces to hold Mrs M’s Lip Balm as well as the spectacle that is ZooSoapia, Mrs M’s booth is now complete with her purpose-built display.

Except for the rolling cart for the testing station.

And except for the rolling cart for the wrap station.

Those shall wait for another day, another season, and a time when I don’t have too many things that must be done looming over my head. Those frustrations, however, are for another time. Today, we celebrate the new stuff!

More

Mrs M’s New Booth: # 4

Mrs M’s Handmade: The Booth, 10×24 (# 3)

Mrs M’s Handmade: The Booth, 10×12 (# 3)

Mrs M’s New Booth (# 2)

Things I Learned At The Street Fair (# 1)

Wanted: Attractive Refrigerators   Leave a comment

It’s wit.

In my opinion.

Magic Bottle Openers stick to your attractive refrigerator. If your refrigerator isn’t attractive, then the MBO will still wall mount. And it doesn’t care how attractive your wall is, because it’s pre-drilled and I’ll give you the mounting hardware.

MBOs continue to be my # 1 seller. I now use 6 different colors & styles of bottle openers mounted on the seemingly infinite combinations of wood possible when you work with 20 different hardwood species.

Mrs M is even helping me make them now, as its best if I have help when we’re gluing the magic into the MBOs. Double Magic MBOs have 7 pieces of magic, and it gets pretty exciting when those pieces start, uh, attracting each other, and flipping into places where I don’t want them.

Magic has to be contained, you see. If it’s allowed to run rampant, then unforeseen things could happen, and that’s just not what I’m about.

Here’s the latest from the garage woodshop!

One Size Does Not Fit All   Leave a comment

One of my key discoveries since I started down the path of becoming a serious woodworker hobbyist is that people like a lot of different things.

I started using 7 woods, and thought I had a nice variety.

I was wrong.

Now I use over 20, and still get requests for woods I don’t use (and if you can find olive wood for me, I’ll be happy to use it!).

The size of cutting boards is another thing that has surprised me. Some people want a sandwich-sized cutting board, and that’s all they need. For some, that’s because it’s in their small kitchen in an RV (who knew?). For others, they simply don’t want a board bigger or heavier than my smallest cheese boards.

That’s why I make sure every board in the shop is made to be a good cutting board. I may think a board is a cheese board … but I may be wrong. If it’s intended use is to be cutting, then that has to be OK.

Here are the latest cheese boards, small boards and cutting boards to make it across the finish line. That’s what I call them, anyway. You get to call them what you want!

Ugly Enough To Use   Leave a comment

One of my favorite stories from making cutting boards happened 2 years ago at the California Poppy Festival. This weekend, you’ll find me there, again, along with Mrs M.

But back to the story.

I call them Sous Chef boards: small handled cutting boards, made to be mobile. Give one to you assistant, and have them chop an onion, or whatever, and then bring the chopping to you so you can add to whatever you’re doing. I make 2 sizes, and they were on prominent display at our first Poppy Festival.

A guy came into the booth, liked them, and bought one as a present for his wife. All good. I love being a part of a happy home.

The guy came back in the afternoon, saying he’d been sent back to buy another sous chef board. His wife loved the first one … but it was too pretty to use, and it was going to be hung on the wall. He’d been sent back to buy a second board that was ugly enough to use.

Whether you think these are too pretty or just ugly enough, here’s the latest from the garage woodshop.

 

Round = Spinning   Leave a comment

I sit right by the Lazy Susans in the booth layout I’m using these days, and I’ve gotten used to the look in the eyes of customers on the prowl as they stalk them.

They’ll walk into the booth, soak in the mise en scène, and spy the Susans.

“Are those Lazy Susans?” they ask.

I don’t say a word. I just give the top one a spin. Words are not necessary.

One thing I’ve learned is that any round board is assumed to be a Lazy Susan. I did round cutting boards for a time, but I got tired of explaining that my 1-1/2″ thick round, slope-sided cutting board was not a Lazy Susan.

So, I stopped making them. If having a round board that does not spin is confusing, then I won’t have them.

Confusion is not my goal. The marketplace has spoken, and I listened.

Since I started making Lazy Susans – at the request of a client! – they have been one of my more consistent sellers. I like to make them in batches, but I had let my inventory dwindle so this latest batch is overdue. As always, I celebrated with some very unique color and grain patterns. Please, enjoy!

Natural Beauty   Leave a comment

Utah’s Arches National Park. Photo by Manish Mamtani. Tweeted by the US Department of the Interior, 3/23/17.

More

Arches National Park

Framing

Park Avenue

The Glory Of The Milky Way

Posted April 20, 2017 by henrymowry in National Parks

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Birds   Leave a comment

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