Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Crossroad, of sorts.

In 2009 I joined a new and exciting online selling platform. ArtFire was in its infancy, all shiny and new with bugs hiding in every corner. Those of us that joined in the first year of ArtFire (which began in 2008) were clearly told there would be issues, and strife, and that actually selling anything would be a bonus. The Charter Artisans spent a lot of time promoting ArtFire, driving traffic and bringing in new sellers, as well as assisting ArtFire staff with 'bug catching'.

Many of us built up quite a rapport with ArtFire John (aka John Jacobs) and Tony Ford (the marketing face of AF). We felt we were listened to, and that our opinions, thoughts, experiences and feelings actually made a difference, that we were part of a growing community. Ideas were brought up, thrashed out, disposed or implemented and rarely was anyone made to feel unwelcome, stupid or annoying.

As an 'International' I felt welcomed, included and valued.

Then something changed.

Instead of a differing opinion being sort, listened to and considered, it was rejected as 'troublemaking', 'whining' or 'bitching'. International sellers felt themselves being pushed further into the shadows, and being told 'you are a minority, deal with it'. When you had an issue you were told it wasn't a bug of the site, but user error. If your buyers couldn't check out it was an issue with the buyer, not ArtFire and too bad.

Decisions made by ArtFire admin no longer went via the community, but instead were made behind closed door then paraded in the forums as 'just an idea', when in reality they had already decided and begun implementing them.

Decisions and changes were made, which is to be expected, but not changes that moved ArtFire further and further away from its original mission. They made a big noise when they started that they would not be like other online selling venues, that they would always listen and value the sellers. Their stated goal was to help handmade sellers reach their audience and sell to it. The goal now seems to be to make ArtFire a big name on the backs of those sellers, and to make money doing so.

I understand it is a business, really I do. And I will forever be grateful for the education I have received, and the amazing artisans I have had the pleasure to get to know and count amongst my friends. But I am a business too, and my business ethos no longer runs parallel to that of the new ArtFire.

I have been loyal to ArtFire since the day I joined, often defending it to those who would cut it down, promoting its sellers across my network, regularly buying there as well. I have given a lot to ArtFire, and in some ways it feels like a member of the family. But as with some relatives there comes a time when you need to step back from them.

There is no one thing that has lead me to this decision, but many small things that have built up over time and culminated with many of my dearest friends being told by Tony to 'deal with it or leave'. These weren't new sellers, these are people who have invested a lot of time and money in ArtFire since the beginning. They were demeaned, hounded and ridiculed by ArtFire members and called a 'whining mob' and 'troublemakers'. The same people who helped ArtFire in its infancy, who worked their arses off for the site were suddenly considered nothing but a nuisance.

So, we come to my crossroad. Do I throw away all that I have invested? Or do I hang in there and hope things improve? Well, actually I will do both. I have 4 stores on ArtFire, and two have already been downgraded to 'buyer' accounts which will become effective in the new year (Haffina's Hoard and Haffina's Minis.) BeadsByHaffina will close at the end of January. HaffinaCreations will remain, but will be smaller.. all the current stock will be gone. And then I will see.

I love the people I have met because of ArtFire, and the things I have learnt, especially from Tony, Kyle, Vanessa, John and other staff members. But I am not sure I can ever truly forgive the discarding of long term valued members and their opinions.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are we getting it wrong?

Many years ago, when I was a fair bit younger, both in age and outlook, I started writing these pages on different topics. My intent was to make it into a book at some point. Looking back on many of them I get a good laugh at how much I've changed in some areas, and how little in others.
One of these 'articles' drew my attention whilst shuffling through papers the other day, and I thought I would share it, and the thoughts it evoked.

Who'd want to be an adult if they really knew what it entailed. Working, budgeting, debt, worry. I mean, if you take a pessimistic look at adulthood there's not much going for it. Divorce, difficult children, major illness, death.
But as with all things there is a bright side, no matter how small it might appear to be. Marriage, babies, fulfillment, retirement, death.
Now some may wonder how death made both lists. Well, whilst some hate the idea of dying, for some it comes as a blessed relief.
But really, being an adult isn't as great as kids and teens think. And let's face it, for most people it is the longest phase of our lives. For instance, the average life span is what, 85 years?. And if legally you become an adult at 18, you're an adult for around 67 years. Now that is nearly 6 times as long as childhood (12 years) and by our previous aging, you're only a teen for 5 years (13 - 18).

Not my greatest literary effort, but it does raise a good point.
We are children for such a sort phase of our lives, and you can't ever go back. So why are we pushing kids so hard to 'grow up'? Why are we putting so much pressure on them so early in their lives? There is plenty of time for them to be adults when they are adults. Why not just let them enjoy those few precious years without stress and pressure, without expectations? Maybe the world would be a better place if we didn't try to make our kids into adults before they really are.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chocolate and Orange .. yum

In recent times I returned to Etsy, but instead of my usual jewellery items, I have opened up a miniatures store instead. So Haffina's Minis is now on Etsy as well as ArtFire. To celebrate my return to Etsy I decided to do up a little Treasury with one of my favourite themes.. Chocolate and Orange! Need a tissue to wipe away the drool!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A post..

My blog, and myself, have been very quiet of late. This is not because I have nothing to blog about.. there is always something interesting happening in the handmade world. This is because of the black cloud that creeps up on me and makes a mockery of my normally optimistic and bubbly personality.
I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it goes into a state of remission, with only the memory of the misery lurking on the periphery. Other times it invades my mind, my soul, removing the colour and life from every moment.
For many years I denied there was a problem. And then one day I wanted to kill myself. Not the same feeling that led to several vague attempts at overdosing previously.. this was different.... this was scary. Some deep seated kernel of survival kicked and I finally admitted I needed help.
It didn't end though.. that event was 17 years ago.. almost to the day.
Over the intervening years I have had various counselling sessions, some more successful than others. And every time they would come to an end with something like 'well you seem fine now'. And I would feel fine. For a while. But not once would I let them medicate me. I guess it was still a form of denial. Taking pills would really mark me as a loony case.
Even when my 'normal' depression was exacerbated by Post Natal Depression I refused to do anything but talk to a counsellor. I firmly believed that one should deal with the cause, not hide it.
A couple of years ago I fell in a hole... a big black hole. I was struggling to cope with everything happening in my life. I had forgotten how to say 'No', and ended up piling one thing on top of another.
I started to think about suicide again.
My mind set had changed though. I had 5 kids, one of them only a couple of years old. I also had a fledgling business. I needed to be able to function.
I went to my doctor, I burst into tears before I even sat down. I fell apart in her office. When she suggested antidepressants I said ok. I realised that I needed more than just talking. Don't get me wrong, I still sorted out therapy too. A year later my counselling ran out (free counselling is limited.) I felt ok, things weren't less stressful, but I felt better able to cope.
Then my best friend died. My son's friend committed suicide. A crafty friend was murdered. A long time family friend died of cancer. One of my former doctor's committed suicide. One of our dogs had to be put down. All in a really short space of time.
No amount of drugs or therapy is going to make that go away. I have spent the best part of 12 months walking around in a fog. At the centre was the death of my best friend.
Just as I was clearing the fog my best online friend lost her sister and another crafty friend died in tragic circumstances. My old self just tried to block the pain, pretend it wasn't happening. I plowed on.. I even had new counselling set up, was still medicated.
About three weeks ago.. maybe a month... I just wanted out. I very nearly closed my business, almost deleted all my online accounts, seriously considered just 'vanishing'. Instead I 'disconnected'. I stopped being so active, was a lot less social. I hid and licked my wounds.
I'm not back yet. I'm working on it. The last two years have been the most emotionally exhausting, gut wrenching and difficult years I can remember... and that is coming from a child abuse survivor.
I doubt I will ever be back to the me of early 2010.. and I still don't quite know what the 'new' me will be. All I can do is take each day as it comes and see where it leads me.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Handcrafted Everyone

The handmade artisan from the Handmade Artists' Forum that I am going to feature today I have featured in the past, TRusk4U.
I always enjoy revisiting past featured artisans, it is interesting to see how things have progressed for them, what new creations they have.
Since I last visited Teresa she has introduced some new lines to her online stores. Not only does she have her outstanding jewellery creations, she now has hand turned pens, keyrings and shaving sets in her HAF shop.

You will see some great new pieces on her Etsy as well.

Teresa also has a great blog, and you can 'like' her on her Facebook fanpage as well!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ambience and Aroma

This week I am revisiting an online vendor I have shared with a couple of times in the past. Because I have shared them before I thought I would focus on just one area for this post.
The handmade vendor I am referring to is Reef Botanicals, which is the baby of Larissa and Eric. Larissa is very active on the Handmade Artists' Forum, as well as being very active offline as well in her job as a lawyer.
Reef Botanicals brings you wonderful handmade bath and beauty products, such as soaps and scrubs. In this post though I am going to be looking at one of their newer lines.. candles.
There is something about candles, with their soft flickering light, that lends a lovely ambience to any room. When you add to this an amazing fragrance you create an inviting and enjoyable environment. Reef Botanicals create candles with sensational fragrances designed to create specific moods.

Home for the Holidays - evokes memories of pine trees, cookies and candy canes with their amazing fragrance and their rustic red and green colour.

Autumn Harvest - Apples, pears, plums, nuts and cinnamon... the wonderful scents of an abundant harvest come together in these gorgeous mottled red candles.

Chocolate Decadence - The mouthwatering scent of chocolate fudge, with a hint of vanilla and hazelnut, evocative of warm brownies... only you can't eat it!

This is just a small sample of the wonderful candles available at Reef Botanicals. I'd show you more, but then you'd have less reason to wander around their online stores yourself ;)

You can find Reef Botanicals on the Handmade Artists' Shop, as well as their own website. Larissa also maintains a great blog.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hope for the Future

I am back to introduce you all to a wonderful handmade artisan, Lisa, the creativity behind Speranza Jewelry. Speranza means hope in Italian, and Lisa feels that jewellery gives us hope for the future.
When she is not creating she is immersed in the hurdy gurdy that is Washington, D.C, with its constant political rhetoric. She works for a Television News agency, so you can imagine the pressure she faces. So to relax and recharge she communes with wire and gems to produce beautiful jewellery creations.
In this post I am going to focus on her earrings, I have a thing for earrings.

Something for everyone and any occasion!
So where can you find Speranza Jewelry? Well, she has shops on ArtFire and Etsy, as well as a fabulous blog. Take a look yourself and be impressed!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Promoting the Promoter

In this blog post I get to talk about one of my favourite Handmade people. I get to talk about a lady who gives a lot of her time and energy to the promotion of Handmade, as well as being an incredible artist herself.
Kimberley Kitchen, sometimes known as Makin' The Best of It, is one half of the incredible duo behind the Handmade Artists' Forum and Shop. This is a lady with an immense amount of talent. Not only does she handpaint glasses and framed wedding invititations, she also makes chainmaille. That's right, those wonderful intricate weavings of little rings of metal in to wearable pieces of art.
The focus of this blog post is Chainmaille by MBOI (Makin' the Best Of It - see). Let's be clear, there is a duo here, Kimberley and Andrew, but let's focus on Kimberley (Andrew doesn't need anything to swell his head more :P) This lovely lady makes some amazing pieces of chainmaille jewellery, and if she likes a weave but doesn't know how to make it she will learn it. And one of the things I love the most is that in most of her pieces she let's the chainmaille do the talking, instead of overwhelming it with lots of beads or focals. Whilst there is nothing wrong with adding beads, it is also great to see someone focus on the beauty of chainmaille by itself.
I'm going to stop talking now, and let you see more of her work (and Andrew's :D) Oh and you need to click this link to ChainmaillebyMBOI ... because that's where the good stuff is!

I want to take this opportunity to thank Kimberley and Andrew for all their support in the time we have known each other. I am honoured to count you amongst my friends.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feature Artisan - Alchemy Atelier

The Handmade Artists' Forum has started a new blogring and once again I have stepped into the breach. So hang on to your seats whilst I take you for a whirlwind journey through the studios of various handmade artisans.

This week we are going to meet Alchemy Atelier. The creative goddess behind Alchemy Atelier is Shannamarie, who confesses to being a crafting addict since childhood. At that time her focus was more on sewing, including Barbie clothes (Barbie fan over here).

These days her attention has shifted towards jewellery, and she has a preference for earrings (hey me too!). A little trip into her Artfire studio will also show you she makes very nice rings. Let me show you a few things...

But what does a jewellery maker do when they are not feeling in a jewellery state of mind? Well this particular artisan pulls out fibre or yarn and makes needle felted poppets or amigurumi toys.

I always enjoy meeting new artisans who suffer from Craft ADHD like I do!
So, lovely readers, drop by Alchemy Atelier on ArtFire and check out the goodies Shannamarie has been making! And take a peek at her blog as well for some interesting and illuminating posts.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Im in a new collection!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Great American Backyard Campout

June 25th is the Great American Backyard Campout!