Monday, December 29, 2008

Approaching Storm

I love mountain storms...We had about 6 inches of snow overnight and wind blown drifts today. There is such beauty when the snow is fresh and pristine. Pines with snow covered branches, snow piled up on the roof of the bird feeder and the fence rails, and the wind blowing hard enough to form white dunes in the pastures. This is a picture of the approaching storm, blowing in from the west over St. Mary's Peak in the Bitterrot Mountains of western Montana.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Montana Farmwife


The day begins with boots and jeans
The cow gets milked and weve got cream

Kids off to school with books in hand
I get on the tractor to work the land

To see the sunrise is beyond any words
The antelope running to gather their herd

There's a newborn baby flying right by me
With eagle abound, what a site to see!

We plant our crop with Lord at hand
Hoping for grain to bless our land

No time for play just time for living
I give my kids the gift of giving

Summer is gone winter is near
No where else I'd rather be... than here.

-Linda in Montana

Our thoughts are with our Etsy teammate Linda and her family as they pack up over 100 years of family memories. Their move off the family farm into the 'city' will be a big adjustment for everyone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From California, With Love

One of our goals as an Etsy Team with a blog is to showcase other Etsy stores. We put up the challenge for our team members to find one of their favorite stores on Etsy and interview them. Here is the first installment, with Alix of Treehouse28, a very successful custom clothing store for women out of California. Alix was interviewed by Allison of Allison Kallaway Designs.

Alix, What sort of training do you have in fashion design?
I don't. But I have to say my life experiences have helped. My Mother was a fashion model and I grew up having this innate sense for style. I used to take clothes and alter them by cutting them up and remaking them at a very young age. I drove my family uts, as everything anyone bought for me never remained in its original state. Later on, I worked on sets for fashion still shoots as a body art illustrator (fake tattoos, body paints, (etc). It was great exposure to the inside workings of the fashion industry. I have always been creative, and this all came very naturally to me. My designs are very simple, which may bespeak of my lack of training in fashion design, but I believe it actually helps me. I get to push the envelope with what I am able to do. It keeps the simplicity, but adds to the edginess and uniqueness.

When did you start making clothing? When I was old enough to operate a sewing machine. For anyone other than myself? About three years ago.

Where are you from? Connecticut.

What did you do before? I was a photographer, body art illustrator, scenic designer, and painter. I have always worked for myself.

Other than Etsy, where do you sell your clothing? I have a new website that sells ready to wear clothing. I have occasional trunk sales. I have a few scattered wholesale accounts. Primarily though, I stay very busy with Etsy and the custom clothes. That is my baby.

Do you have people helping you make your clothing? For the new website and wholesale orders, yes, I do. I essentially have two different companies under one name. I have a commercial space that is a facility for anything that is not Etsy-related. All my set pattern items are produced and managed there. For Etsy and the custom clothing, it is all me, myself and I at my home studio.

What is your most successful marketing technique? It is not something I have done personally; it is what others do for me! The blogs and articles, features, etc. are really great at driving up sales volume. I am really not a strong business person, but rather more the creative quirky type.

There are a lot of us who are new to Etsy and on-line selling, do you have any advice for those of us starting up? Believe in what you do, know your product. Use it, wear it, and test it out personally before introducing it to the public. Consistency is vital. Customers will keep coming back if they know that every time they buy a product that it is solid. Good customer service is essential. Stay on top of all questions whether by email or voicemail. Learn to lose a bit. If something goes wrong, make it right, no matter what, even if you are out the cost of the item. Great imagery is very important. You can have a fantastic product, but it won't sell unless you invest the time and energy into the way it is shown. For every pic you see in my shop, I have gone though and edited out 50 others to get to the one that works.

The next few questions about the art/inspiration side of your work:

What inspires you to make clothing? The designing of new pieces, and the day to day cutting and sewing is such a creative process. The custom cutting is a real finesse thing. I enjoy tailoring each design to fit the particular customer’s needs. My customers are what inspire me. I have made clothes for so many different types of people from all around the world. Not only are they different in body type, but also in lifestyles, age and ethnicity. I have mother / daughter customers. The fact that my clothing can resonate with different generations is so rewarding. I have had women who ride Harleys and like to pack my clothing in their side bags. There are roller derby teams, professors, artists, teenagers, moms, and grandmothers.

How often do you create new designs? What sort of process do you go through before you put out a new style. It is random, depending on my schedule and how loaded it is. I have two children that keep me busy in addition to running a full time business. I feel lucky that I don't have deadlines. I would sink.

Do you do any other art or craft?
Photography is a serious passion of mine. I absolutely love creating the imagery. I shoot all my pieces on self timer, with me behind the camera as well. It really is a one man operation. Complete control. Complete creative freedom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Montana Booty Queen!

And, no, she's not the queen of the Pirate Treasure, Carolyn of lilbabythangs creates adorable booties and patterns for even the beginning sewer. And she's a true Montana Momma!

Camping on a mountain-top for 5 months with 6 boys, ages 2 to 19, and keeping your sanity would definitely rank as a ‘most memorable experience’ . . . and it certainly is one of Carolyn's. As she says, it is all worth it, as long as she is home in Montana.

Carolyn calls much of western Montana home and says, “I need green, the woods, the sound of the breeze through the trees, the streams babbling, the animal and bird sounds to soothe my soul, my nerves and allow me to hear myself think.”

Carolyn has lived around the United States, including Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Pennsylvania - she finds her best inspiration in Montana. And she must be very inspired! Carolyn makes the sweetest baby booties and wonderful patterns. Carolyn has even had several patterns put in the Clotilde catalog! Congratulations to Carolyn on her amazing work.

Carolyn puts a great amount of effort and joy into crafting her patterns. She says, “I enjoy the pattern drafting and getting it perfected on the computer so it will print up nice, the most, [of her creative process].”

Lilbabythangs are created by Carolyn when she has peace and quiet, order and no interruptions! She says, “I have things in order, so I clean up and clean off - I just don’t put away well, till I have to. And I really hate interruptions.”

I think the lack of interruptions are paying off, even though Carolyn has recently moved - don't worry, she's still in Montana :-), lilbabythangs recently made a new high-flying bootie pattern called Soft Landings, complete with wings to glide in on!

Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing your creativity and yourself with BSMET and Etsy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yummy Cranberry Deliciousness

OHHH ... . . I am sitting here imagining this cooking up to its yummy potential in my kitchen and even though I just had lunch, my tummy is all a grumble! Wow, LaVonne of SerenitySheepWoolens shared this fabulous-sounding recipe with the group and it just cannot stay there!!
A fantastic recipe to make for any winter holiday and even to gift - as long as you can keep it refrigerated.


Killer Cranberry Relish

2 small bags cranberries, cleaned and sorted.
Put in a large kettle with water to cover the berries.
To this add:
3 heaping TBS orange juice concentrate
2 cups brown sugar
1 orange, sliced and diced. Peel and all.
1 grapefruit, just the flesh
3 med cinnamon stix
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
pinch of cloves
Cook on low until berries pop and sauce begins to thicken.
Remove from heat and add 1 green apple ( with skin ).
Stir and put the lid back on to cool. ( I didn't want mushy apples ).
Refrigerate after cooled.
While it's cooling, put 3 TBS butter in a cast iron skillet. Add 1 1/2 cups
chopped pecans. Then add 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp grated fresh ginger. Keep
stirring until mixture browns nicely and roasts the pecans. Put on foil to
cool. Break into pieces if needed. Put in a ziplock and HIDE until just
before serving the relish. Mix in just prior to serving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grizzlies and Lambs

From time to time, we will showcase one of our members, and how living in Montana has influenced his/her art. Today is the story of judyelizabethsflock, and how making a living as a rancher just miles from the Canadian border has been an inspiration for her cute little lambs. (We hope you enjoy this one. It's a real nail biter! - Studio206, editor)

Crafting is not new to me. I have been sewing for a long time. It wasn’t until I recently heard about Etsy on the Martha Stewart show, signed on, and was welcomed into the wonderful Big Sky Montana Etsy team. The rest, as they say, is h-i-s-t-o-r-y!

My history is one that mirrors the history of just about everyone else here in Northern Montana. But just like every other artist, my art reflects my surroundings, and my little sheep on Etsy have a long story behind them.

I designed my first sheep pattern in 1984 and obtained a design patent, copy rights, etc. Some of my first items were sold through the Montana and National Woolgrowers Associations. In fact, I helped raise money for the National Wool Growers by loaning them my "Where's Ewe" design for clothing. I later designed a 100% wool ewe for the Montana Wool Growers which appeared in the State Capitol promoting sheep and wool. My work was featured in an article in the National Wool Growers magazine in, maybe, 1987. I subsequently went to their conventions in Reno and San Diego to sell my little lambs, as well as to Billings for the Montana Wool Growers conventions. I had a lot of fun in those years – no matter what!

I started with sheep because I raised some here on our ranch in Northern Montana. However, I’ve had to give them up because the grizzly bears are too much of a nuisance and like to snack on my babies. I miss them, though. It broke my heart to give away the last of my ewes when I finally gave up on raising sheep. The last attack on my sheep was a grizzly attack that killed my "Jena the Gentle Ewe" (see below) and her daughter out in the garden area one night. So, I gave what was left of my sheep to a really sweet little girl over by Cut Bank for her 4-H projects. The grizzly was caught and relocated. But that's like catching a tick on a ewe and relocating it. We have so many bears that a single bear relocation does not dent the population all that much. It never used to be this way. I used to be able to walk to the river right out back of our home and corrals, but now I am very careful because there are so many bears right out my back door. Having the guard dogs certainly helps, but is no real security. In fact, I was charged by a grizzly and her cub on Mother's Day this year.

Jena the Gentle Ewe

What had happened was the guys (my husband and son) had decided to bring a dead cow home from up north because there were 13 grizzlies up there prowling around looking for a meal. We calve up north and they wanted to keep the bears away from the calving grounds. Ho! So, despite my objections, they brought the dead cow home. When Mother’s Day came around, it was raining and the ground was muddy. One of my old Anatolian Shepherds was barking and really upset about something out by the farming machinery, which is close to our home. I thought, “For goodness sakes, what is the matter now?” I Slipped on my shoes and jacket and went out to see. As I got close to the machinery, up popped this grizzly bear. After we started at each other for a moment, she started charging at me! I was slippin' and slidin' in the mud trying to run like crazy. I had to open a darn gate, and run to the house. I made it to the house, grabbed my .357, and ran back out to shoot some warning shots to see if that would chase the bears away. At that point, I was very concerned about my old guard dogs. The shot in the air did not scare the bear, but it sure made my guard dogs head for home! I phoned the game wardens and they came and removed the dead cow. The bear and her cub came back about three times and before finally going on their merry way.

I’ll tell one more. One year we were raising a bum heifer (female) calf and she was so sweet and friendly. She was fed in the barn and grazed in the corrals by the creek outside our backdoor. One night as I was "night walking", I heard this horrible wailing and screaming, (my hair stands up as I recall this). I yelled for my husband and son to get a gun and to go see what was happening in the corral. It was like a horrible human scream and wailing. Turns out a grizzly bear had come into the area where the sweet bum heifer was, grabbed her and was attempting to eat her alive from the heart/stomach area. The guys scared off the bear, and fortunately the calf was still alive, but had a huge tear in her underside.

But here’s the miracle! The bear had torn into her and also pulled her hide from the fat (there were air bubbles when you ran your hand over her hide), but my daughter-in-law was able to put her back together. She lived and grew up to be fine.

That’s just a couple of my encounters with bears. It’s wild up here, but I love it. I have lived here in Babb for 38 years. I came from Northern Illinois (Lake Zurich) which was “country,” but not a farm...just somewhere in the middle. I worked in Chicago in advertising and public relations. I was known as the "country gal". I did a little modeling, and worked in and around the Lake Zurich area.

But the mountains were always calling me, so in 1970 I packed my sewing machine and headed west. I had been to Babb in 1968, so that’s where I headed. I met my husband in Babb. Babb was very wild back then, a very tiny area with no law to speak of. Both of our sons were born in Alberta, Canada since it was the closest hospital. My husband and his dad had raised sheep (and cattle) in the Livingston, Montana area before they moved to Babb from Nebraska.

It has been a "real adventure" living here, a very hard life at times. The weather is totally unpredictable. The winters were horrible throughout the 70's. We lived in an old homestead house built with the remnants of two little log cabins that had been extended to accommodate a kitchen and a bathroom. I had never been to or seen a house this "rustic" in my whole life. By the time we got it, it had been abandoned for years, and since we live in a flood zone, the flood of ‘64 had redone the floors.

We have had winds upwards to 115 mph. I remember the first winter when the real winds came in November and slammed into the little stucco- sided house with cotton batting for insulation. The windows were clacking and rattling so badly that I got physically sick. It was like the roaring freight train sound of the tornado I had been in back in Illinois. I was home alone and went and found some duct tape and taped the windows just like for a tornado.

However, as I have said, I love it here. My saving grace is that I am an optimist and always look for the good and the lesson learned. One of the good things to come out of this ranching life is my little flock of lambs that I know won’t ever be attacked by a grizzly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The attack of the Craft Show!

As we move into the Holiday season many crafters and artists look into the idea of doing a craft/ art or two (or more). Whether you are new to the show arena or old-hat it's always good to update your ideas and try to think of new ways to handle the experience.
The Big Sky Montana Etsy Team has several wonderful members who have done many craft shows. While they still admit they get nervous the night before, they all have such wonderful advice to those of us just starting or looking at different options, that it seemed silly not to share.

So, starting today and for the next few Wednesdays, we will be giving tips, advice, ideas and general don'ts for craft and art shows. Please feel free to leave comments adding things you do or better yet, questions you might have and we can add those to our posts. Be sure to visit each week for new installments and look out for our featured artists and crafters on Mondays and Fridays.

For our first installment : THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE THE CRAFT SHOW

So, you have been dilegently working to increase your inventory for your upcoming show ... your brain is on over-load ... do I have the right colors, do I have the right look for my items, do I have my theme together, do I have, do I have, do I have .... AHHHH

Make your life so much easier by coming up with a simple list of things to bring. Start the list about a week or so before your show (more if possible)

Your list should include things like:
Business cards
Change box or apron & plently of change - think at least $100, if not $200
Pencils & Pens
Price tags
(for writing down special orders, notes on ideas for new items based on comments)
Papertowels (you never know when you might need those)
Cleaner (all purpose & glass cleaner)
Duct tape (very handy - its a Montana must)
Display/ table items (we will talk more about this next week)
Tools and equipment to make more items while you are there (some show attendees may just stop by to see what you are doing and then start looking)

And do not forget
water, caffinated beverages (if you drink them) and food or food money
**if you do not have someone with you, it is best that you bring non-messy, non-smelly food to eat so that you do not have to leave your table except to use the restroom

So, start your list early (as you can see, it is pretty long). It is well worth being prepared and feeling confident about what you are doing the morning of set-up rather then feeling lost and like something is missing.

Displays play a very important role in your craft and art show, so stay tuned for the next installment of our Craft Show Series where we will get into the Display Dilema. And agian, we would appreciate and being more than willing to try and answer any questions you might have about Craft Shows.

Thank you to Matt from Studio206, Uyen from Asianexpressions and Celeste from CricketsCreations for input on this article!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Plushie wonder!

If you have witnessed any small children when they first get to give a new plushie a squeeze you know that the soft, squishie wonder of a new plushie is one of the marvels of childhood. Or, when you see them run for a well-loved and worn down ball of stuff a huge squeeze - you know its love!

Who can really resist a soft, cozy, cuddlable marvel such as a plushie? Looking at Gush4Plush’s collection of adorable plush monsters makes a person really wonder who could. Ask Becky of, a member of BSMET.

Becky says, “My older sister (my best friend in the entire world), has six children (yes you read right), and the youngest three are in love with Gush4Plush's Plushie animals and monsters. With their kooky eyes and funny dispositions, my nieces can't get enough of them. They're super fleecey soft and make excellent out of the ordinary stuffed animal gifts.”

Becky also adds the environmentally friendly aspect of the plushies is a big bonus, “Plus they're filled with Ecofill. Go environment!”

Customer service is also one of Gush4Plush’s strong points, concludes Becky; “Shannon, owner and designer, from Gush4Plush, has been super in terms of customer service. She's quick with shipments and excellent with communication.”

So, with that wonderful recommendation how could BSMET not feature Shannon of Gush4Plush as our first Friday night feature? Shannon graciously answered a few questions for BSMET.

She tells us that she was inspired to start making plushies by “some scraps of grey and black fleece I had that were so soft I felt I had to make something from them. I ended up making a robot plushie for my son. When I made the robot I felt so happy and content”

For Shannon, getting “feedback or even a photo of a smiling child just happily squeezing one of my plushies, it is the greatest feeling.”

What a wonderful thing to be able to do, don’t you think? Making soft, super cute creations and seeing the joy and wonder on a child’s face when they are holding their super new toy!

And finally, since those of in BSMET are so completely in awe of the wonder of nature and the beautiful state of Montana, I thought it would be fun to see what people think of where they live. Shannon sure makes me want to visit Alberta.

“I was born in beautiful British Columbia and at an early age my family moved to Alberta. Alberta to me is a province full of possibilities and growth. The city of Edmonton, where I live, seems to have everything you can possibly imagine. The weather here can be very unpredictable, but my favourites are the snowy Christmas-time winters and the cozy indoors.”

Wow Shannon and thank you so much for sharing your handmade story!

Monday, November 10, 2008

From Georgia's house to yours!

You might want to call Georgia of BestDoilies the Kitchen Creator! She crochets net scrubbies, table runners, decorative table doilies and butterfly magnets. She also sews aprons for adults and children. However, Georgia just cannot stop herself at the kitchen, she also sews checkbook covers, magnetic wallets, snuggle blankets and lace earrings and ornaments, to name a few.

Georgia loves finding the perfect material and creating something that someone else will love as much as she loved creating it. She says, “When others love your work that is a feeling that is hard to describe and I love the whole process.”

Many of Georgia’s works are inspired by her surroundings. She has lived in Montana all her life and is “happiest as long as I am anywhere in Montana. I love the lakes, mountains and the great open lands.”

Georgia is very grateful for what she has and where she is. Being in Montana and being able to share her crafts with those who truly enjoy them.

Thank you, Georgia, for sharing your BestDoilies with us and on Etsy!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Sillies

Some funny and crazy comments from BSMET members on being in the Montana Team

You know you're in the Montana team when...

... there's discussion of skinning rattlesnakes
... it seems perfectly natural to share what we bagged this hunting season
... it's unusual to NOT have pets/livestock
... snow is possible any time of year
... we think nothing of driving hours to work a craft show together
... when our snow tires do not come off until July
... we travel in emergency travel only roads to get to a show
... we bring beer in our coolers to a show
... you bring "fermented grape juice" to your craft show
... you move to Ohio and cannot bring yourself to change your Driver's License after 10 months (or longer)
... you move out-of-state and when the grocery store clerk asks "paper or plastic" you ask why boxes aren't an option
... you no longer live in Montana, so you refer to yourself as a tumbleweed
... you cannot understand what is wrong with pronouncing creek "crick"
... you think it would be cute to use an actual tumbleweed as a Christmas decoration (or you have done that)
... you prefer traveling on gravel roads in the winter, since they are smoother when they are covered in ice
... when you milk a cow and the cream freezes before it hits the bucket
... when the power goes out and you melt snow to brush your teeth
... when your sitting on top a wooden fence between two boars
... when you lasso a calf and it takes off over the ice - and you sit down and enjoy the ride
...when you are climbing a fence and the pig bites your toe and you end up hanging over the fence on your stomach

Or .. if those things haven't happened to you, they've happened to someone you know.

Comments made by:
CricketsCreations MontanaKntrygal carvinmom Asianexpressions

Hope you enjoyed the sillies today and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Meet Judy Liz

The Big Sky Montana Etsy Team would like to introduce Judy Liz of JudyElizabeth'sFlock.

Judy has a wonderful shop full of sweet lambs, ewes and cozy shirts and flowing skirts!

Judy Elizabeth tells us she takes her inspiration from all the beautiful things around her. She creates sweet sculptured sheep, after having raised sheep on her ranch for several years, it is just the natural thing for her to do.

Judy is an avid sewer and says that her favorite part of her creations process “is the hand sewing – I love to do the hand sewing details -- quilting, trapunto, and the finishing of a garment or soft sculpture – having the item come to life! That is my great joy!”

Just as a shepherd sees each little difference in his flock, Judy sees the each unique aspect of her soft sculpture sheep and cherishes each one, hoping that the child or adult who receives one of her creations enjoys it just as much as she does.

Judy lives on a ranch surrounded by the beauty Montana has to offer - she can see Glacier National Park and the glory of the Rocky Mountains from her home which is close to rivers and even has a fishing creek. There are ‘the winters, the winds, the summers, the droughts, birth of children, good and bad years on the ranch, floods, fires, beautiful rainbows, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, wide open spaces, moose, elk, cougars, bear, and deer.’ All she has to do is take a look out the window to find inspiration and to remember what makes her stay.

Montana is definitely home to Judy and where she gives birth to her flock and creates many unique clothing items, along with quilting, stenciling, and even drawing cartoons! She loves everything about Montana (except maybe the summer traffic) and even ventured to say, “Where else would I want to be?”

Thank you, Judy, for sharing you sweet creations that show so much love with us and on Etsy!