Author Archive

The Board Chronicles: Boutique Fantastique 2019   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.

Home.

This is the heritage holiday boutique in Santa Clarita.

The PTSO takes over the gym (after the basketball team relinquishes ownership at 5pm Friday). The PTSO then spreads tarps over the entire floor, tapes out the spaces for 100+ vendor booths and tries to get home before midnight.

The next morning, the gates open for load in at 6:30am. As vendors drive up to the gym, they are met by hordes of students there to support the event that funds many scholarships. This is the biggest school event that we’ve encountered, and it’s a joy to be there.

Our 3 kids graduated from Saugus High … and this event raises over $10,000 each year for the SHS scholarship fund.

You bet we want to be support this event. What’s not to like?

This event has really never been a slam dunk success for us (2017, 2016, 2015), but it’s perfect in every non-financial way: we sleep in our own bed. The event is 3 miles from home. We see a LOT of familiar faces, have found a multitude of local, year-round supporters, and have fostered a great number of friendships at this event.

We’re in. No doubt.

New Ideas

  • Velda traveled to spend a week with her mother, returning on the night before this event. She anticipated she might be, uh, challenged to stay awake during the boutique, so she elected to do a (somewhat) smaller presentation, limited to her traditional wooden display on a 6′ table. Therefore, she “gave” me the other space in the booth so I could have more than just a 10×10.
  • Since this was a unique set up, I did a floorplan for how we could best use the 10×20 space. I identified the number of tables we would need: 10. Then, I only brought 9. I’ve never brought too few tables to an event before.
  • Making their debut at this event for me were Cheese Slicers, Garlic Dipping Boards, Carnivore Boards, Cribbage Boards, CNC Signs and the just-produced, aptly named Cracker Things. It appears I’ve been busy since our last appearance at Boutique Fantastique!

Observations

  • This event is a well-oiled machine right now. I arrived at the parking lot at 5:45a to line up for the gate to open. There are about 10 unloading slots (and only 2 for a trailer), so you have to wait to get in. Once you’re in, there are MANY students to carry your gear to your booth space while you go park your car. I was unloading at 6:30a, parked at 7a, and began set up with Mrs M.
  • It took all of 3 hours this morning. We had a unique set up, with mesh walls, the Trimline framework, 9 tables … and I stacked 9 containers to mimic my 10th table. Covered the containers with a table cloth, and it worked well. Hmmmmmmm.
  • Back story: Mrs M hates it when I put multiple copies of the same sign up for sale. I generally do this with 2 signs: “Why Limit HAPPY To An Hour?” and “The Answer is BEER. No One Cares What The Question Was.” I put up different colors of each sign; I make about 6 versions of each. HAPPY and BEER are always gold, but the other copy could be red, blue (2 shades), green (2 shades), black or purple.
  • Mrs M hates it when I post all of those copies on the walls. Today, with the ticking clock measuring our set up time, she was right to observe that putting up multiple copies would spend time I might not have to get the signs up before our opening at 10a.
  • I put up just 2 of each.
  • First question of the day: “Do you have more of these?
  • Second question of the day: “What other colors do you have?”
  • Yes, I did say I told you so. Who could blame me?
  • Well, we know who could, and who did.
  • Fabulous weather for this event: mid-80s both days. And I do know that Californians love to do their holiday shopping when it’s in the 80s.
  • This event blew up on Saturday; I had my best day ever at Boutique Fantastique. Was it because my display was bigger? Because we were absent last year? Because all of my swell new products (which were the top sellers)? No clue. I had a good day. A very good day. Most vendors reported strong sales.
  • Mrs M, on the other hand, had a slow weekend. Not a good combination with her jet lag.
  • Were her sales down because of the smaller display? Because she didn’t put price tags up on Saturday? Because our neighbor put a big furry waterfall of clothing outside of her booth, blocking the view to Mrs M’s display? There’s no way to know. But maybe next year….
  • Cracker Things were a hit. # 1 comment from multiple ladies in the booth: “Those are cute!”
  • I take that as a win.
  • I generally assume I’ll sell no cutting boards this weekend, which has been basically true in the past. This is probably because the students are selling their work by the front door, and every Mom/Cousin/Aunt has to buy the board that their student made. That’s all good. This year, though, I sold 4x cutting boards, all of which were bigger sizes than the students make.
  • I take that as a win.
  • Load out was smooth. Mrs M and I got the merchandise put away, then she went home to nap. Students showed up to help me do the rest, and the work moved quickly as other vendors left and I gained more help. When I went to go move the trailer to the loading zone, 100% of my gear was on the curb waiting when I drove up. 4 guys helped me load … and I was home 2 hours after the Boutique closed.
  • HUGE win. HUGE.

The Food

  • Best Meal: The youngest Mrs M, AKA MrsMowry, joined us for dinner with her beau, AKA the Engineer, on Saturday night. The Mrs M’s collaborated and stirred up a pasta surprise. The Mr M’s watched football and drank whiskey.
  • Honorable Mention: I forget how good Jersey Mike’s sandwiches are. They sell 4″ subs at the Boutique, and that was my lunch both days.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 24
  • Booth cost: $275
  • Food cost: $24
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $3,035
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 5a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: we had a good Saturday, but Sunday was slow. Too slow for jet-lagged Mrs M
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 2 other vendors were “soap adjacent”
  • # woodworking vendors: several vendors had wooden objects on display, but the only real “competitor” I had was the high school woodshop, which sells small student-made cutting boards to fund wood purchases for the program. I am a supporter.
  • Returning next year? Yup.

Boards sold: 34

  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Cracker Thing: 8
  • Cheese Slicers: 6
  • CNC Signs: 3
  • Lazy Susans: 3
  • Surfboard: 1
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 5
  • Trivets: 2
  • Special Order: 1
  • Heart: 1
  • Cheese Board: 1

Everyone Likes To Play With These   Leave a comment

I started making cheese slicers in January … and it’s very clear that people like to pretend they are slicing cheese when they see them in the booth.

They lift the handle. The lower the handle. They comment to their companions, “Look, a cheese slicer!”

It’s an interactive display. The slicers invite touch, which I love. When people touch the kitchen tools that I’m making, they tend to like them.

I know some vendors stand at the front of their booth and hand items to people as they pass by, to “make” them touch them. I don’t do that; I will not be an annoying huckster.

My sales may suffer, honestly, but I don’t care. I have to do what I do.

And what I do, is make things that are so delectable that people want to touch them. That’s me being me.

That catharsis out of the way … here are the latest slicers, hopefully available for touching at a holiday boutique near you!

All of these slicers are approximately 7″ wide x 11″ long. They have non-skid rubber feet. Cost is $45 for any of these slicers. A frequent question is about replacement wires, which I do offer for sale at my cost. Those wires are also available (at a higher cost, I would add) from CheeseSlicing.com.

Cutting Boards, Coasters & Lazy Susans   1 comment

I’ve been busy … but it always seems to be not quite enough.

I keep making stuff, I keep selling stuff … and I’ve never felt caught up in the 6 years that I’ve been doing this. I’m certainly not ahead, as I don’t have extra inventory to replace what I sell. So, when I have a good weekend where I sell 34 pieces (!), I have to get right back into the shop and make sure I have at least 34 more for the next event.

At least I have a goal! Maybe next year I can get ahead. Dreams are a wonderful thing….

New: Cracker Things   4 comments

You know I’m in search of the perfect serving piece for Cheese & Crackers … and I’ve got several variations in the booth at every event. All good.

The corollary to making cheese boards, of course, is what to do with the crackers. For most people, that’s either a pile of crackers on the board, or a small bowl or two.

That’s never really satisfied me. I’ve always thought there had to be a better way … and I’ve got one I’m excited about.

I’ve gotten some comments about the name, but I’m sticking with it.

The base of the Cracker Things is a multi-colored selection of exotic woods. Most have an assymetrical, “chaos” design. Others are symetrical, but are always very colorful. The cracker holders, currently, are made from Hard Maple, Cherry, Black Walnut and Sapele.

Each Cracker Thing is 11″ long, which happens to be the length of the cheese boards that I make. They are 4″ wide and 2-1/2″ high … not including the crackers.

I was very happy when lady after lady entered the booth this weekend, and the universal comment was, “Those are cute!”

They are great gifts; I’m introducing them at $35 each. After one event … I know I have to make more.

That’s a lovely problem to have.

Making My Assistant Work   Leave a comment

I need help.

Ask Mrs M. She’ll tell you that I need a lot of help.

It’s just me in the shop, of course … me and my CNC (computer numerically controlled router). I call it my assistant, and I get it to work by pushing a button (well, a lot of buttons, actually). Then, it stays busy while I’m doing something else.

Oh, it needs supervision from time to time – mainly when I’ve made a mistake. Some of those mistakes are simple programming fixes … some make more firewood. A few mistakes break things (mainly router bits). Luckily, those mistakes are not that common, and the results of my “collaboration” with my assistant have proven to be rather popular.

Thankfully! I would hate to have all of those electrons getting lazy in the shop.

Spice Up Your Presentation   Leave a comment

Serving pieces help turn an impressive array into a finished presentation.

I quickly learned that cutting boards are great … but many people need serving pieces to complete the process of getting great food to the table.

And, of course, if the food looks good when it’s served, that will help it taste fantastic as well.

We are a visual people. Food needs to look, smell, feel and, finally, taste good to maximize our eating experience. I may not be an expert … but I know good food when I have it!

Sometimes, a pair of serving pieces is required. In this case, it’s the flip side of a 5 Section Server, paired with the flip side of a Garlic Dipping Board.
A surfboard is the base for this presentation.
The first board I sold was a cheese board. It’s just a small cutting board, really … but it can be so much more when you have a presentation in mind!

There’s really no wrong answer here … my job is to provide a variety of options so your table can look wonderful. I’ve done some research into what makes a good presentation of cheese & crackers, or charcuterie, or whatever … the link is below. Enjoy!

More

How To Fill Your Cheese Board

Velda’s Bruschetta

Flipping A Dipping Board   Leave a comment

I started making Garlic Dipping Boards just a few months ago, and they’re a hit. If you missed the story of the Boards and their Great Garlic Graters, then please follow the link to read about the launch of the GDBs.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The “A” side, if you will, is perfect for sliced bread, oil, garlic and your favorite spices for dipping.

However, there are times that you need a presentation board … without the Great Garlic Grater.

Got’cha covered. These Boards are made to flip … unlike most of the cutting boards I make, these are made to use on both sides.

The “B” side is perfect for charcuterie, bread, or an appetizer like Velda’s Bruschetta. And, yes, they were delicious. I love photo shoots.

24 new boards just made it to the finish line in time for this weekend’s event, and they’re shown below. I have paired each board with one of the Great Garlic Graters (12 Boards have square Graters, and 12 have hexagonal Graters). But, you get to choose the set that you like when you make your selections. Some people like a matching/complementary Grater, and some people prefer a more, uh, colorful statement in their pairing.

You’re an adult, you get to choose.

If you see one you like, don’t delay: 3 are already spoken for!

More

Velda’s Bruschetta

New: Garlic Dipping Boards

Made To Be Of Use   Leave a comment

I love making big cutting boards.

I love it more when people actually use them. They are made to be of use, after all.

Here’s a wide variety of cutting boards that I have ready for this weekend’s event. Every person that does what I do has heard it, “Oh, these are too pretty to use!”

No, they’re not. And even if they are … I can ugly them up for you, if you like.

No one has ever took me up on that offer.

Surfboards: Mr M’s Epic Quiver   2 comments

I’ve stared at a surfboard display for 4 years.

We go, every year, to a party in Carpinteria … it’s the California Avocado Festival. It features the world’s largest vat of guacamole.

Vat. Guacamole.

But I digress.

Every year, our booth is opposite a shop that does surfboard rentals, and they display their quiver of boards in front of the shop.

That display has been working on me for 4 years.

I had been displaying my surfboard-shaped cutting boards … in a crate. This is one step up from a display where you just throw the boards out on a table & call it good.

I call that the vomit display. I hate those.

I knew I could do better, and I finally spent some time thinking about the surfboard display I’ve been staring at all of these years.

The California Avocado Festival is this weekend, and I’m excited to have a new display for my new surfboards. I’ve got 2 shapes in 3 sizes: in addition to the traditional (for me) flat bottomed board, I also now have fish-tail boards.

Hope to see you in Carpinteria!

The new display will have its debut this weekend!

The Board Chronicles: Claremont Village Venture 2018   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.

Yes, you know I’m behind … but you also know I’m catching up. This event always happens on the last Saturday in October, and it’s been a rare very good one day event in the past. From Claremont:

I really liked this event in 2016. I absolutely loved it in 2017, where it was my best solo event ever.

Until I upped my game in 2018, that is.

The event is a bit quirky. It has an odd name. The merchant association that produces the event only allows you to buy one space per seller’s permit … so Mrs M hasn’t done this event. That’s OK, it was very good for me last year. What’s not to like?

New Ideas

  • Same old, same old. I’ve had the same booth every year.

Observations

  • This is a rare event where the marching band leads the kid’s costume parade. What’s not to like?
  • A couple came into the booth … and they shall be known as the Bickersons. She came right up to me and said that she would buy a cutting board if he would shut up about it. He responded that her cutting board was awful. After a bit more back and forth, they settled on their selection. As they walked away, we were chatting about relationships, and I asked, “How long?” Her reply: “Long enough.”
  • The worst part about solo events is the boredom. I had 15x transactions spread over 8 hours … and not nearly enough quality conversations to cover the time. With Mrs M, we have many more transactions … more conversations, more action.
  • I hate the boredom.
  • Two couples entered into the booth within about 30 minutes of each other. Both saw my steak sign:

CNC Sign 18 – 29 Steak. Hard Maple. 9″ x 12″.

Both couples announced that they had an adult child that was a vegetarian. Both couples took a picture of my sign and sent it to their wayward child. I provide parenting assistance, no charge. Apparently. Not sure what the wayward children will think of their idiot parents. Well, maybe I do know.

  • Parenting experience does allow me to accurately predict what the kids will do, after all.
  • Sales were way, way down from the prior year.  In fact, they were just under HALF of what they were last year. No clue what happened … but I’m out.
  • Requests were for clipboards (no room in the Jeep!), 2x in-counter boards (send me the dimensions!) and 2x Magic Bottle Openers (I’m out!).

The Food

  • Best Meal: My booth is in front of a deli, so I have a bagel sandwich every year. Delish.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 122
  • Booth cost: $215
  • Food cost: $12
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $960
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • # transactions: 15
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 0
  • Returning next year? doubtful

Boards sold: 25

Cheese Boards: 6x

Trivets: 6x

Coasters: 5x

Hearts: 3x

CNC Signs: 2x

Large Serving Pieces: 2x

Bear: 1x

 

 

%d bloggers like this: