Category Archives: Business

Charmed, I’m Sure

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Like most people these days, I frequently find myself pressed for time when it comes to things I want to do (like creating art) versus things I have to do (like working). More and more, though, I find that if I put a project on my brain’s back burner and let it simmer awhile, the actual time it takes to create the piece is drastically reduced.

Case in point: Today I created a piece from start to finish (except for framing) in about six hours including breaks for food, pets, and drying time. This is highly unusual for me, but I’ve been thinking about the work since I popped awake at 3 a.m. about 10 days ago and made a quick sketch just to get the idea down so I could sleep. So, even though I had organizational chores that took up my time for awhile, by brain just kept plugging away at what I was going to do. Then, when I stepped into the studio this morning ready to begin, I also finished. Perhaps the organizational tasks helped, too, since I re-sorted all of my backgrounds, pictures, and embellishments in the process of refining a system I implemented a year-and-a-half ago. As I sorted, I thought, “Oh, I should use that!” when I came across a piece of lace or some beads I had forgotten about.

Here’s today’s work: “She’s a Charmer.”

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I started by spray mounting heavyweight pink construction paper to a 30″ by 20″ foam core board to create a solid colored base layer.

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Next, I swirled glue on top of the construction paper and added a layer of dress maker patterned tissue. The swirls of glue (which show since the tissue is so thin), provide added interest.

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Next, Stanzilicious PouffyPants helped me choose some flowers to cut out of printed and sequined felt. These felt pieces are remnants of calendars that my mother-in-law makes for me every year. When the year is up, I cut away the calendar portion and keep the decorated motifs for other uses.

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Once cut, I glued on the sequined felt pieces and added some paper rickrack to finish the border.

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I tend to use whatever I have handy to weight items down while the glue dries. Here I used a couple of heavy books and a pair of pliers. The items added to the piece include a plastic recorder that I painted to look like brass along with half a thrift store hat and a glove with some wire and batting. I sketched my lady’s face, scanned it in, and printed it on manila paper. Her lipstick, eyebrows, and hair are alcohol marker, while her eye shadow and blush are oil pastel. A green zipper “snake” is responding to the lady’s tune.

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Poor Licorice needed a little help to join me on the studio table today. He had surgery last Tuesday and tore out his stitches last night, so the boy has to wear an inflatable collar and a bandage until we can take him back to the vet. This, however, did not stop him from wanting to take Stanzi’s spot this afternoon. It also garnered him quite a bit of extra attention and treats.

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Next, I added a little more jewelry to my lovely lady. I had already placed an old (broken) ring on her gloved had before gluing down the fingers, so I an amber colored earring and a charm bracelet I picked up a couple of months ago at a swap meet seemed appropos. I also added some jewels to the zipper “snake” for some extra shine.

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The final touches include beaded fringe for hair plus one more flower for good measure. I used a drawing of an angel wing that I had previously completed for her collar and outlined it in gold glitter. (After all, a girl can never have too much sparkle!)

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Finally, I added the lettering that ties together all of the imagery. The word “charm” can be used in multiple ways: as a reference to beauty and grace (my lovely lady), as a means to mesmerize (a snake charmer), as a piece of jewelry (a charm bracelet), and as a means of good luck and protection (under an angel’s wing).

After spending so many days contemplating this piece, I am happy to see it finished, and I’m excited about the next idea rolling around in my brain. (No spoilers, but I will say that it involves a recently acquired broken cello.) I’ hoping to capitalize on some think time for a few days.

 

 

 

 

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On Your Mark, Get Set …

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Lochinvar and I are gearing up for the Fountain Festival next weekend (yikes!), so we’ve been in sprint mode since Monday. I have finished up the last of the pieces for the show and Lochinvar photographed them and listed them on the website. Today I am writing artist statements, printing price tags, hemming tablecloths, and gathering paperwork while Lochinvar assembles the booth in the garage for a trial run. (Occasionally, of course, I have to go out and kibitz about where to hang specific pieces and give my creations a critical once over in the bright light of day.)

One of the items I am writing today is a process page that shows how pieces are created. I think people often don’t consider all the small steps necessary to create a piece of art. They say, “Oh, it’s a decorated bottle,” as if someone waved her hands, did a dance, and magically transformed a dusty dumpster dive piece of trash into an artful treasure by sheer will power.  People don’t seem to realize that bottle took elbow grease, inspiration, a myriad of materials, a good deal of time, and a host of steps to make. Other artists that I have seen at shows combat this mentality with an explanation of their process and materials, so I thought I would give it a shot, too. Here goes:

Hi, I’m Jenny and I rescue things: discarded bottles, old candy boxes, beat up toys, hand-me-down trays … all of these items (and many more) live in my studio stash waiting to be reimagined into something new. (To be honest, my work space sometimes looks like the Island of Misfit Toys with odd pieces of stuff scattered about in various states of becoming.)

While some of my art is completed on conventional mediums like canvas and card stock, I’m much more interested in the trash-to-treasure process, so here’s what it looks like for something as simple as a discarded bottle.

 

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Most of my bottles come from the trash, though sometimes people give them to me. Other items come from yard sales and thrift stores. (Half price day at Goodwill is always a treat!) “Junking” for hidden treasure is one of my favorite pastimes.

Of course the first step for any item is a thorough cleaning. Labels are removed and grime is scrubbed off.

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Next, everything gets two coats of gesso to create a paintable surface and block any colors or blemishes that did not come off with cleaning.

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The bottles (or boxes or toys, etc.) get two to three coats of paint. I am partial to indoor acrylic paint (the kind that goes on walls) for this step because it is durable and sample sizes come in lots of cool colors. I also use plaster of Paris to create my own chalk paint for this step.

Some items get acrylic craft paint, which usually requires extra coats. The type of paint is dictated by the material it is going on.

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After the base coats are dry, every motif that’s going on the item has to be created on paper, card stock, wallpaper, sheet music, book pages, etc. using a variety of inks, paint, pencils, and pastels.

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Once the elements are done, they get a coat of fixative  to seal the work and add a subtle sheen.

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Next, the elements are applied to the item with a variety of adhesives (depending on the materials) and craft or fabric paint and glitter are added to the edges.

23316727_1500196130016923_7630399991227667318_nThe final step is attaching embellishments like beads, rhinestones, and costume jewelry. It can be tricky to get the embellishments to stay put while the glue dries.

 Once everything is glued in place, the final product is ready to be signed and photographed for the website.

 

 

It’s all a Matter of Perspective

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When 2017 began, I purchased a goal-setting journal and spent a good deal of time mapping out my big picture for the year. My goals included mundane things like eat better (which I have done), lose 30 pounds and keep it off (which I have failed to do), and learn to let go of what I cannot change (which I’m still working on). My goal list also included making time to create and moving my business forward with an over arching theme: The year I become an artist.

At the time, it seemed like I was dreaming big with the idea of becoming an artist, as if some magical event would transpire in the wee hours of the morning, and I would wake up to birds chirping, the sun shining, and a bright “Artist” badge waiting in my jewelry box. Instead, over the last nine months I have struggled every day to call myself an artist.

One day when I was staring at myself in the mirror trying to decide if I looked like an artist (as if there is some specific way I should appear) and (of course) finding the image woefully lacking, my Lochinvar worked to reassure me by taping some affirmations inside the medicine cabinet door. Now, every morning I read (yes, out loud) four small messages that remind me to be keep trying. (Once more into the breach!)

I try to replay those messages in my head when confronted with frustrations and failures from snarky comments like, “Huh, I could draw that,” to my inability to create a website with a functional shopping cart. And, overall, I think I’m making progress thanks to some recent successes.

A few weeks ago I was juried into the Fountain Festival, a large arts fair in Fountain Hills (AZ) scheduled for Veteran’s Weekend (Nov. 10-12). The organizers required me to submit multiple photos of my pieces and explain my materials, process, etc. When I received the e-mail accepting my work in the drawing category, I felt a sense of vindication. Funny how one email that referred to me as an “artist” and had information about displaying my “work” can make such a difference.  I’m still waiting for similar messages from organizers of a couple more large art fairs, but acceptance at the first one certainly gives me hope.

In addition, Lochinvar has worked diligently to straighten out the website situation. He has our site up and running (HOORAY!), so someone besides friends and family can actually see what I’ve been doing in my studio. (Check it out here.)

Finally, last week I was accepted as a full member of the San Tan Artist’s Guild (S.T.A.G.) which is made up of about 60 artists in a wide variety of mediums. As part of the application process I was asked to bring a few pieces of work to show members of the guild at the September meeting, which was pretty nerve wracking. However, by the end of the night, I left feeling like the people I met took it for granted that I was an artist. They talked to me as if I were an artist; they looked at my pieces as if they were art. (I guess that badge was lying around somewhere after all.)

Because of these recent events, I am starting to see myself as an artist, but I’m not sure that I will succeed by the end of the year. After all, the voice in my head is perpetually critical, and my seeming inability to defend myself against naysayers is troublesome for the warrior woman I think I should be.  Fall is upon us, and I can feel the days growing weary after the scorching heat of summer. With only a few months left to accomplish my goal, I keep reminding myself that it’s all a matter of perspective. That moving forward, moving the needle, just moving is sometimes enough.

 

The Devil’s in the Details

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Popular advice on living and working goes two ways: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” or “Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves.”

No wonder I’m always so confused! The paradoxical nature of these philosophies can create problems in life management. (At least it has for me lately.) As we move closer to launching our new product line (Colarting – where coloring becomes art) and our new website, the details seem to be ganging up on me and holding me down.

Two nights ago I spent three hours looking at embellishments online – weighing the pros and cons of rhinestone size, shape, and color; checking a ruler for relative size of charms; figuring out per piece prices on packaging; comparing the merits of glitter cord versus metallic cord … you get the picture. After dangling my toes in the wholesale supply market I presented my list to Lochinvar like a cat dropping a goldfish at her owner’s feet (and with about the same result). Needless to say he really just didn’t know what to do with this detailed list of shiny bits meant for our kits. (This is a good example of how to not sweat the small stuff – get someone else to do it for you. Of course, the down side to that is you are stuck with someone else’s decisions.) On the other hand, the right assortment of embellishments will add value to our pieces and (hopefully) make people want to buy them. Ultimately, Lochinvar did what all good partners do – he said, “This looks great!” and smiled encouragingly, even though he wasn’t really sure what I had done.

So, every time I spend hours doing something that looks insignificant I find myself contemplating whether or not I’m overthinking it or spinning my wheels for too long. After all, I have a deadline to meet. Which, of course, is another double-edged sword. While some people balk at deadlines, I tend to thrive under them. My ability to work under tight deadlines helped me land (and keep) my first writing job at The Mountain Press (my hometown newspaper), and it’s a skill that has served me well over my 23-year teaching career (especially when it comes to getting essays graded). However, deadlines are also stressful. They impose a sense of urgency that keeps me awake at night and demands time away from relaxing activities like enjoying a dirty martini and a James Bond movie with a cat in my lap.

I guess, in the end, the trick is choosing which details to give time to. If I sweat the right details (but not all the details) perhaps that will be enough.

 

 

The Crooked Path

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It’s time for a revelation. Are you ready? Starting a business while holding down a full time job is stressful. (Who would have thought it, right?) Some days – like today – I just feel stuck. So, this blog entry is my attempt to push through it.

My personal Catch-22 goes like this: I’m tired and stressed from work, so I want to play a stupid video game and sit in front of the idiot box instead of building the website, researching marketing information, or creating a product line. However, if I don’t spend time building the website, researching marketing information, or creating a product line, I’m further behind than I was before, and I feel like a waste of space at the end of the evening. Can anyone else relate?

I knew that committing to making the business work would mean long days, and it’s not really the hours that trouble me. It’s more about the “business” part of the business. When people think about selling their beautiful artwork and creations as a business, we envision ourselves spending our precious coins of time immersed in color and pattern and paint and ribbon and glitter and a thousand other bits and pieces of decorative minutia.

Unfortunately, the reality is that my hours have been spent in front of a screen trying to figure out where a computer engineer put the tools I need to resize a particular picture and link it to a successive page of the website. Since I’m not really the engineer type, this is often a bigger struggle than it might seem.

In addition, life seems to just get in the way. Have a 30-minute stress-relieving bike ride penciled in this afternoon? Guess again – a student who has been absent for a week needs to stay late and catch up.

Think you’ll be able to knock that blog entry out during lunch today? Wrong – you have to spend the time comforting a colleague who is having a tough day and just wants to quit.

Think you have a solid two-hour block of time to figure out the difference between copyright and trademark AND how to apply for either and/or both? Nope – a family member needs some love and support instead.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I will choose helping another human being – loved one, friend, student, etc. – over working on the computer every time. I don’t begrudge anyone I care about the time I give them. Still, prioritizing people sometimes comes at the expense of what I think I should be doing. I have extremely high expectations of myself and my ability to “do it all.”

Perhaps what I really need to learn is that I don’t have to do it all now. Maybe my take away is that it’s good to schedule my time, but it’s better to be flexible with it, and best to be kind to myself when things go awry. After all, I am here writing a blog instead of retreating into a game. I am doing my best to stay on track and follow the road wherever it goes – through the twists and turns that create a crooked path to success. I need to remember that the goal hasn’t moved, and I’m still making progress. Baby steps forward are still progress.

 

 

A Real Who’s Who

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Well, I have done it. I have taken the plunge and am in the process of building a website. (I just keep remembering the man who ate an elephant – one bite at a time!) It is a little intimidating but interesting. I’m learning about all kinds of tools, and layout, and content needed for thecockeyedcolorist.com . However, as a creative endeavor it is also fun. I enjoy the process, and I’m having a good time writing some of the descriptors. (Although the artist statement still eludes me, and that will be the topic of a future post.) In the meantime, I’d like to give you a sneak peak of one of our pages by including the About Us content describing our staff.

toasting-our-friends-5-2Jenny Medlock (aka The Cockeyed Colorist) is the (not so) evil genius behind a diabolical plot to save the world through crafting by making people smile whether they want to or not.

 

toasting-our-friends-6-2Jeffrey Medlock (aka Lochinvar) is the organization’s Yes Man, as in “Yes, I know you can do it!” and “Yes, I’m here to help!” His jack-of-all-trades role keeps the machinery moving forward.

 

stanzi-1-2Stanzilicious Poufy Pants is the Efficiency Expert. She calls the staff to the basement to work every day and provides periodic petting breaks to her servants – I mean workers.

 

banditBanditulyumptious is the Cat Encouragement Officer (CEO) who brings incentive toys to the workers and makes sure everyone knows when it’s time to quit for dinner.

 

smudge-2Smudgicles (aka Old Blue Eyes) is Chaircat of the Board who oversees the whole production. From her seat of power she supervises the CEO and doles out responsibilities to the minions.

 

licorice-2Licorice is the Chief Fool and Art Critic (CFAC) who sees himself as a feline Jackson Pollock working in cat spit instead of gloss enamel.

 

georgie3Georgie Porgy is the Chief of Annoying Technology (CAT) who is never around when you need her. She specializes in hiding until problems are solved, unless someone shakes the treat jar.

And there you have it – the creative team behind our new website and our new product line (Coming Soon!) We hope your life is as colorful as ours!

 

A Fresh Start

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As a January baby it has always made sense to me that a new year means a fresh start. Once we reach the day after Christmas, my wheels start turning and I contemplate what I need to begin anew. This year’s answer is my art. I want to move from the realm of part-time crafter to real-time artist. That means a new commitment to learn, grow, and practice art on a daily basis. Shockingly, this requires actual scheduling on my calendar. To that end, I purchased a goal-setting planner and spent several hours evaluating what I really want out of my time on earth and how to get it. (To be fair, I have most of it already – my sweet Lochinvar, my talented kiddo, supportive family members, and space to dream.) With these intangibles under my belt, it’s time to pursue some concrete goals, and the best way I know to begin a journey is with a clean slate, so I spent three days (yup!) cleaning out and reorganizing my craft room into an art studio.

I started by taking EVERYTHING out and changing the organizational structure. Previously, I had items sorted by “topic.” For example, all flower-related pictures/cut outs were in a box. Other boxes held bugs and butterflies, cats, watches and keys, words, etc. There were boxes of ribbon, boxes of lace, boxes of buttons and jewels, boxes of broken costume jewelry. Everything had its place. Having lived with this system for a couple of Januaries, I thought it best. However, upon really contemplating how I create, I realized that I didn’t open most of the boxes on a regular basis. I had one or two motifs that I used over and over, and then I dug through the box looking for a specific color. I didn’t always remember that other motifs might have that color. (For example, when I’m looking for blue, I don’t automatically think “cat.”), and thus I began to feel stuck. So… everything had to be resorted by color (and everything I hadn’t touched in a year or two had to go to Goodwill).

This, my friends, was quite the task. I honestly did not realize how many pieces of paper I had in my space. (Let’s just say I might be a candidate for a t.v. show about craft hoarders.) I even broke down and cried once when I hit the point that my basement was a huge mess, I had spent hours working, and I was only halfway done. (You know that feeling? The one in the pit of your stomach when you know you’re screwed because it will take just as long to clean it all up and go back to the way it was as it will to move forward and finish the job?) Ugh. However, I persevered, and I learned some things along the way.

First, I was inspired by many of the images that had been hidden away in boxes for a couple of years. All the ocean scenes, green leaves, seashells, cherubs, gilded edgings, and pictures of beautiful women made me want to stop in the middle to create something. Second, I realized I had been even more stuck than I thought. I had fallen into going to the “expected” image instead of the interesting one. Third, I found that some disarray made me happy. Now, usually I’m all about tidiness, but something in the profusion of color and motifs is inviting. A little (organized) chaos is good.

Take a look:

dscn2435This is the completely reorganized studio. (I realized after I had ripped a good bit of it apart that I should have taken a “before” shot. Sigh.) This configuration leaves some wall space to hang art and a project board.

dscn2436All of my “stuff” is resorted into baskets by color. This storage system from IKEA is inexpensive and ultra handy (I’ve had it in different parts of my house for several years). The color bins include white/beige, tan/brown, yellow/orange, purple, black, pink, red, blue, green, metallic, multicolored (for things that didn’t really fit anywhere else), and people. I left the “people” motif because that is the one element I always know I want. Other baskets have cardboard, original drawings, sketch books, etc.

dscn2437This is a close up of the side wall. All of the solid color paper and card stock of various sizes are sorted by color, too. They are stacked in open cubbies where they’re easy to see and grab as needed. The bottom shelf has books for cutting up. Some of them are quite old reference books with beautiful antiqued pages, while some are much more recent books with interesting pictures to use as clip art. Most of them were free from a library that was downsizing. The few I paid for came from thrift shops for only a couple of dollars. (Actually, I have a rule about not spending more than $2.00 on elements I plan to cut up and paste together.)

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Now the back wall items for craft shows including canopy parts, display pieces, inventory, office supplies, etc. This shelving unit and its contents used to be in the main area of our basement, but swapped places with my computer desk to clearly separate the areas and create a more open feel.

Though the space looks a little spartan at first glance, the lack of clutter is soothing and the real treat is pulling a basket for ideas.

The pink basket looks pretty unassuming by itself, but once you start unpacking all kinds of goodies appear.

Previously, if I needed something pink I would have gone for flowers, but now I see there are so many other options: cats, dragon flies, butterflies, bunnies, shells, and even crosses. This arrangement encourages diverse thinking and is just more fun.

As 2017 gets underway, I hope you find yourself moving forward. It’s your world; color it!

 

 

 

Buying Local Helps Us All

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This week my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students practiced writing a timed essay that required them to synthesize six short sources dealing with the locavore movement. (Locavores are people who get the majority of their foods from local sources.) As I read their essays debating the merits  of purchasing locally-grown foods, I thought about how the buying local idea applies to all products and services. While I realize that it is not always possible to buy something made locally, when we do it helps our communities in many unseen ways.

For example, this weekend a nearby neighborhood is holding a craft fair on its greenbelt. The vendor fee is low – making it attractive to small businesses like mine – and half of the fee (along with funds from a raffle) goes to help a veteran with medical bills. So, the small amount of money I pay helps someone who has honorably served our country; helps the small business that is organizing the event, who will pay local employees and buy goods at local stores; helps the local economy through sales tax revenues generated by purchases; and helps the small business vendors who use the money gleaned to grow their businesses and pay for local goods and services.

The revenue is not the only impact local business have on our community. Studies have shown that small, independently owned operations contribute to social capital and civic engagement. Think about the craft festival again. It is a fundraising event to help someone within our community. Participating makes me feel good because it allows me to help a neighbor. It makes me feel like I am part of a larger community that cares about others. It doesn’t matter that I don’t personally know this man. His service is important to me, and this is one way I can show my appreciation. As a matter of fact, service (in general) is important within communities, and I don’t mean the kind that high school kids do just so they can get a seal on their diploma or put down hours on a college application. I mean the kind of service that requires a real commitment: service to your family, to your faith, to your students and schools, to your neighbors, to your country, etc. This kind of service comes from being an active community member. Small businesses are at the heart of that community contributing (according to some studies) as much as 250% more to non-profits than large businesses.

In addition, small businesses provide an interesting array of goods, frequently upcycling someone’s discards into something useful and artistic. When you purchase from an artist or a crafter, you are purchasing something unique and interesting – something you won’t see on every shelf in every big box store this season. This also adds to a sense of community because it draws attention to the diverse talents that our neighbors possess and (sometimes) pushes us to find our own latent aptitudes while maintaining a one-of-a-kind vibe in an increasingly homogenized world.

So next time the opportunity arises, take a look at that local shop on the corner, eat at the little mom and pop place down the street, or browse through a farmer’s market and craft fair for the ingredients to a great meal or for a great gift. You’ll be helping your corner of the world in a myriad of ways.

If you’d like to read more about the impact small businesses have on communities throughout North America, take a look at the summaries of studies put together by the Institute of Local Self-Reliance.

Decisions, Decisions

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If I have to stare at the computer screen for another hour this week, I might scream. (Oh wait, here I am in front of a computer screen – sigh.) Our digital world has presented many pros and cons lately. As I move through ordering materials for our new venture I find myself making decisions about canopies, display pieces, retail shopping bags, logo stickers, packaging, and at least a dozen other items that have currently slipped my mind. (It’s a good thing I keep a notebook!) On one hand, I am grateful to have so many online stores providing so many choices that I can (after so many hours of searching) get exactly what I want at a price I can afford. On the other hand, the dizzying array of choices seem to make the decisions harder than they have to be.

I’ve discovered I do that frequently – make decisions harder than they have to be. My mind has a difficult time settling on something (anything) until I’ve scoped out all (and I do mean ALL) of my options. While this usually means I’m happy with my final choice, it also means that I spend a lot of time agonizing over details that may seem inconsequential to others. For example, I spent several hours on four separate days looking at retail merchandise bags to use following a sale. What’s so hard about choosing a bag, you ask? Aside from the fact that there are about 300 kinds that I never realized existed and that online sellers have widely varying prices, minimum quantities, and shipping costs, I’m concerned about getting just the right feel for my customers. I want to be sure to choose an environmentally friendly bag. I want to be sure to give my customers an “artsy” feel at the end of the purchase. I want my customers to feel they have acquired a gift, whether it is for themselves or someone else. I want to be sure it is a reflection of our business idea that life should be seriously colorful. Ultimately, I think I found a bag that ticked off all of those boxes, but it was not easy, and (I can assure you) I lost sleep at night contemplating the pros and cons of paper versus plastic.

While this may seem like overkill, I’m discovering that the devil’s in the details. My parents owned businesses for many years, and I did a great deal of research and reading before starting this (very) small business. I think I’m going in with my eyes open, but I’m still surprised by the number of seemingly easy decisions that have a large impact on a daily basis. I never imagined buying things like envelopes and zip ties could hold so much significance that I would comparison shop at least 10 sellers before ordering. Nor did I imagine how excited I would be when the UPS truck stops in front of my house. Tomorrow Lochinvar and I are going to put the whole display together for the first time. (I’ll probably lie awake tonight imagining how wonderful it will be!) As each decision is actually made and each order is fulfilled, we feel ourselves moving closer to the moment of truth and the anticipation is tangible. So, while the decisions are frustrating and tiresome, they’re also paving the way for us to really get started on this adventure. And we’ve learned from experience that no matter what happens, at least it will be interesting.