Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Money Shot

Occasionally there are times when I feel absent from my own blog, and this has been one of them--sorry! It's such a relief, in light of this post, that now you know why I am so busy. In addition to launching my first line of outsourced shoes, I have been working on shooting images for the website. I've been through various venues, several different models, multiple wardrobe changes, and have yet to get the "money" shot. I've gotten lots of chewing {from the candy bribes}, crying, wardrobe malfunctioning, prop breaking, panty showing, and nose picking shots, but no money shot.

What's a money shot? It has nothing to do with dollars and cents. One of my friends told me that her husband had a cat named Money in college. "You know," she said, "It's slang for awesome, rad, cool, etc." Actually, I did not know, but found it funny he named his cat that. While I never integrated that slang into my own vocabulary, there is one exception: the money shot.

When I am taking photos, I'll be snapping away when suddenly I'll get that one perfect shot where everything--expression, lighting, color, angle, bokeh--is all perfectly aligned. As soon as I see it on the little LCD screen on my camera, I know: that's the money shot. Despite two photo shoots now, I have yet to get that winning image. I'm curious if any photographers reading have tips on how to secure that extraordinary shot. To me, it is just a combination of a good eye, correct exposure, and luck. I guess, with two little kiddos and needing to get the shot angled to see the shoes, the odds are stacked against me.

In the interim, the first photo and the ones below are some out takes.

Hoodie by Grace of Finley and Oliver.

I have to say, that while a money shot is something I usually know right when I take it, there are still times where I am able to finesse out a great image through editing, and I have one such example for you of my lovely and willing little model.

Here is the straight out of the camera shot:

I thought this image had potential because I am sort of a sucker for pensive child portraiture. However, there are a couple problems with it in my mind like the colors, the shadows on her face, and... um... boogies.

First thing, I ran Nicole Van's Color Pop Action and lighten it up.

Next, let's clear up the boogies and the shadows....

I didn't care for this color combo, plus, as much as there is a Twilight craze and all that, red in the catch lights of her eyes is not too becoming, so let's try it in black and white.

I think black and white photos look hazy without a lot of extra sharpening and adjusting the contrast, so fix that....

Add in a very muted sepia tone to soften everything...

Before.... After....

Once more.... She's adorable! You can view more posts on photo editing here.

Thanks, Katy, for lending your little miss to me! Also, my apologies for not listing much right now. I have about 2 dozen shoes that Jennifer has prepped for me, I am just behind in the sewing. Also, I'll have another $2 Giveaway in the not too distant future. One last thought, I will go in and update the comments, like tips for keeping my studio organized under this post. Thanks for your patience!
Monday, October 26, 2009

Rainy Day

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wish List

Many of you have sent me emails or etsy convo at various points asking for specific items for a photo shoot, birthday, or just because you have tried to purchase an item and been unable to snag one. Please do me a big favor and resend me those requests. Please resend them not through Etsy but to with the subject title "WISH LIST." I am going to forward these emails to Jennifer, and she is going to put them in a nice organized chart for me. Please be sure to include not just the style of item, but they size and color, too, when appropriate. I apologize that you have to go to the effort to resend it and that you may have sent me something in the past and not heard back from me. I am trying to get more organized about this and am very appreciative that I have Jennifer to help me!
Friday, October 23, 2009

Magnetic Message Board Tutorial

Eventually {and hopefully sooner rather than later} I will have pictures of my studio up for you. The room itself is small and nothing special really, but it is filled with treasured items, fav photographs, and artfully displayed supplies. I have to create in a pretty space, and I like even functional items to be attractive, too. So, it's in that vein that have another tutorial for you. This one takes a great deal more elbow grease than the last one, though.

I think I have mentioned that I have always been starting little entrepeneural projects, like a personal chef/catering business right out of college. I also spent a summer making hand painted signs, and the magnetic/dry erase board was one of the items that I sold. You know how you run to the store for milk and come back with all sorts of unplanned culinary goodies--and no milk? Well, I do that all the time when I shop for supplies. I'll run out for more needles {the very thing I left the house for}, forget to write it down, and come back with new damask fabric, pom pom trim, funky buttons--and no needles. So, this board is a great way to write down something you run out of right when you run out of it to avoid additional trips. It would also make a fun and inexpensive Christmas gift. Plus, it's magnetic, so it can display pretty things, too, like these beautiful German glitter cards that a sweet customer sent me.

Here are the supplies you need to get started:
2" unfinished pine in length and width desired
spray paint
black paint {latex or acrylic}
a 1" wide paint brush and a fine tip paint brush
tin snips
metal flashing
silver nails
graphite transfer paper {found at most craft stores}

I buy the unfinished pine at Lowe's {it's only a few bucks for a 12' piece} and cut it myself with a chop saw. If the idea of high powered whirling blades is a bit much for you, you can always have the guys at Lowe's cut it for you. If even that it too much work, you can cut the flashing and put it inside a pretty frame. Speaking of the metal flashing, that is also at Lowe's. It's made for dryer ducts and it's about $4/piece. One 12' board and one piece of flashing will make about 4 message boards.

So, let's assume you have the wood the size you need it. {Mine was 9" wide x 18" long.} First spray paint the face of the wood whatever color you want. I used light blue. After it dries, use a small paint brush to paint the sides black with either latex/house paint or acrylic paint. After that has tried, wearing gloves, cut the metal flashing with tin snips. Leave room at the top for words if desired, and then use four silver nails to tack the flashing in place. {Please note that the sides of the flashing are sharp, so I do not recommend using the message board with children unless you sand the sides or cover them with trim.}

All that's left now is adding the words. I chose "Shopping List," but you could personalize it for a gift, like "Robert's Honey-Do List" {he, he} or "Sheryl's Great Ideas"... you get the idea. So, rather than free-hand the words, which might look sloppy, I used graphite transfer paper. I select a font I like in the right size to fit the message board and print it on regular white computer paper. Then I position the words in the exact place that I want them on the board, and slide the tranfer paper underneath, like this. Trace over all the letters with a pen, and the graphite will leave the words behind, like this. {Sorry--it's not the same example... accidentally deleted those pictures. oops.} Then using a fine tip brush and the same paint you used on the sides, paint on the letters using the graphite transfer to guide you. Incidentally, this combo of words, transfer paper, and paint is great for all kinds of things. I used this menthod to paint several sayings in our house, like this quote in the playroom or "Le Bain" in the bathroom.

After your words have dried, pound two nails in the back, tie on a bit of twine, and your message board is ready to give and/or hang!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Time to Tell You

If you have read my blog over the past several months, you may have heard me refer to a "big business project." At long last, it is time to share it with you!

Before I jump right in, let me provide some context. Havelock Ellis wrote that “the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” This is the essence of how I stopped teaching college writing to be in the "bootie biz" full-time. I started selling shoes a little over a year and a half ago. This expedition began purely by accident. On a road trip, I handmade a small pair of baby shoes for Mia to pass the time. Several people told me I should sell them, which I found comical. After all, who really makes shoes for a living? Even so, one particularly insistent friend, Tasha {who took the picture above} told me about Etsy. "It's 20 cents!" she insisted, "You have nothing to lose!" Thus, I listed my little handmade shoes--for whimsy, for a laugh, for fun. It wasn't long before I had sold a fair number, including several wholesale orders to boutiques. I quickly realized that a hand made business was time-consuming indeed. Around two months into my tiny business venture, I was working into the wee hours of the night finishing an order. I wasn't charging enough for my items then, I had a colicky infant, and I felt tired, frustrated, and burned out. I thought and prayed and came to the conclusion that it was time to close shop. The next day a series of events happened that completely changed that course.

The celebrity boutique who bought my shoes called me the next day to ask if they could feature them in Instyle Magazine. Shortly after my conversation with them, I was contacted by a distributing company that wanted to purchase from me: quantities of 300-400 pairs every other month. If that wasn't enough, a sales rep emailed me about integrating my shoes into her portfolio and taking them to market. I was stunned, and I also realized God was trying to get my attention. That's when I laid down on my bed and listened. In those moments God poured a vision into me regarding my simple little shoes. I won't tell you all the intricate details, but the word I heard loud and clear was grow.

And that is when my journey with a manufacturer began. One year, thousands of emails, hundreds of phone calls, and dozens of shoes samples later, and I finally have product coming in! I have received many inquires about the fuzzy boots, Hansel and Gretel, and those will be my first outsourced items arriving in November. I found a wonderful company to make a boutique line of carefully hand-crafted shoes for me. It has been a long, frustrating, exhilarating, and interesting journey. I will have additional posts coming with details about the boots and pre-order discounts. I only have a few hundred coming. I know that might sound like a lot, but almost a third of the order is already sold.

So, friends, I thank you so much for your encouragement and support in this entrepreneurial journey, and I look forward to sharing new details of my business as its direction unfolds.

"Whatever you can do or dream,
you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, magic and power in it.
Begin it now." ~Goethe

Encouragement and blessings to you!
Saturday, October 17, 2009

Feeling Feather-y

Something I whipped together in a pinch this morning for our family photo shoot. My friends Tasha and Tristen came over awhile back to craft and discuss getting ready for the Mia Joie product photoshoot. {It was supposed to be this week, but was rescheduled due to weather.} Anyway, Tristan was saying how everything is better with feathers, as her lovely hand-crafted hair pieces show. So I cut up the peacock feather earrings I never wear, added in a few goodies from my shopping expedition... and *ta da*a little something for me, since I never seem to have time to create for myself. It's also a sneak peak at some of the materials I was hoping to use in some women's items... if I ever get to them!
Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'd Like You to Meet Someone

If you've received an email from me sometime in the past month, then you know that life has been busy.... too busy. In fact, I stayed up until 6 am the night before last working on the infamous "big business" project that I am almost ready to tell you about. The funny thing is I really don't like to be busy. Productive and never bored kind of busy--sure. Pull my hair out, heart palpitations busy--no! In fact, my junior year of college I took 19 credit hours and worked four different jobs. I think I slept 3-4 hours every night. One of those nights I was lying on the ratty dorm floor carpet wishing I could sleep there, when I had an epiphany: I chose to be this busy, and I could likewise choose to never be so again. So, I wonder to myself, after all that... how did I get here? But more so, how do I get out?

Thus, I introduce you to Jennifer. She is Mia Joie's first employee! Jennifer and I met in MOPS {we are both on leadership.} Jennifer is different from me: she's more reserved/quiet. {This may shock you, but I am not.} She excels at organization. {Hmmm... again, no for me. In my defense, Picasso said that, "That every act of creation is first an act of destruction."} She's very kind, patient, and careful with details. She is also a mom of two lovely little ones, an almost 8 month old boy and a 4 year old girl. She is going to do a little bit of everything, though not a great deal of sewing. Eventually, she will also help me with customer service and answering emails. She's been working for two weeks now, and it's going great! I really enjoy her company in the studio and to be able to "talk shop" with her. Another interesting tidbit about Jennifer is her husband travels to do sound engineering for the well-known Christian band, Philips, Craig, and Dean. If you listen to Christian radio, then you have probably heard their hit, Revelation Song. I hope that this position is a blessing not just for me, but for Jennifer and her family, too. I hope you will give her a warm welcome!

And.... you know me... I had to introduce her with pictures. Jennifer was a good sport about it, even though I made her stand in the bushes in the ninety degree weather in the front of our house while end-of-the-work-day traffic was going by and mosquitoes were devouring us. As you can see, she was still in good spirits.

Finally, I have a little giveaway for you. I made an extra brooch just like the one Jennifer is wearing. Unfortunately, it's very hard to get detailed pictures of white, but it is made from satin, chiffon, and vintage velvet, all in creamy white. Great to pin to a dress or scarf: for you or for the little gal in your life. I only have one, and it is $2 including the cost of shipping. For more info on my $2 Giveaway Series, click here. Have a lovely evening!

***White Satin and Vintage Velvet Brooch is gone!***

Oh, I almost forgot to say(!): special thanks to Jen for her accountant support and expertise! While I have had paid help in the past, they were independent contractors not on MJ payroll. Thanks, Jen, for demystifying filing employer tax and making all that a little less scary!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Boutique Glass Push Pin/Magnet Tutorial

"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality overcomes everything." ~George Lois

While I think Mr. Lois might be overstating a little, there is something to be said for the soothing balm of creativity. I have heard some psychiatrists refer to it as "creative therapy" because it frees the mind from whatever has it so encumbered to think about color, design, or something more pleasant. At least, that's how it works for me.

In that vein, I have a sweet little Boutique Glass Push Pin tutorial for you. It is not novel by any means, but it takes no skill, has inexpensive and easily accessible materials, and makes a nice last minute gift.

For the supplies, you will need:
glass beads {found at most dollar stores}
flat push pins/tacks
glue {glue gun, super glue or E600 all work well}
pretty paper, fabric, magazine scraps or printed words
galvanized tins {optional}
black or silver paint {optional}

1. Start by thinking about what sort of look you want for your collection: french theme, bright modern colors, words, or a combination of all of the above. Gather scrapbook paper or pretty fabric or print some of your favorite words. {I used Arial size 11 font.} Then cut out your designs in circles to fit the glass beads. When selecting your paper or fabric, make sure to do a test run that the glue you are using doesn't make the ink bleed or discolor.
2.) Place a dab of glue on the glass bead and apply the paper or fabric so it is centered on the bead.
Then place another dab of glue and apply your tack. {See images below} If you prefer, you can use magnets. However, the glass beads are heavy, so I would recommend
super strong neodymium magnets.

3.) You can use the tacks just as they are; however, if you look at the first image above, it looks a little unfinished to me. If you would like them to look a little more polished, wait until they are dry and paint the back with black or silver paint.

4.) To give them as a gift set, you can package them in inexpensive metal tins. Put the tins in a pretty cello bag filled with decorative tissue. Voila--practical, easy, inexpensive little gift! I would make several sets at once, and then keep extras on hand if you ever a last minute gift.

Additional ideas for making a push pin set:
*Personalize the tacks or magnets with the recipient's name or with images of his/her favorite things.
*Purchase larger tins and make a dozen with a theme, like months or days of the week.
*Give them with a cork board you made yourself. To make a cork board, buy an inexpensive and interesting picture frame of virtually any size. Remove the glass and discard carefully. Line the back of the frame with adhesive backed cork shelf liner and that's it! I think a thick black vintage-looking frame would look great with French-themed tacks.

And, you knew this was coming, right....

Since I haven't done a $2 Giveaway in awhile, I am giving away the set of tacks in the tin pictured above with a small 6" x 9" cork mounting tile. You have to be quick because they go fast! Happy Monday, my friends!

***Push Pin Sets are SOLD OUT***
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tuesdays are for Dreaming

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,
live the life you always imagined." ~Thoreau

This quote is used ubiquitously: on magnets, mouse pads, t-shirts, and coffee cups--and for good reason! It does, after all, suggest that we have the ability to possess the life of our dreams, to accomplish the aspirations of our private heart. The unfortunate truth is that we get knee deep in the humdrum, mundane details of life and can find ourselves unassumingly unsatisfied. But the beauty of Thoreau's quote is self-evident: we are not victims of circumstance, we have a choice!

As mentioned, I used to teach college writing. {This is the first semester I decided not to go back.} It might surprise you that the majority of the demographic I taught was first generation college students that came from very tragic home lives. In fact, if you're imagining a version of Dangerous Minds, you wouldn't be too far off the mark. {Oh, the stories I could tell!} The sad thing is that it is very difficult to get these students to think beyond their current set of circumstance. In response, a portion of my curriculum was devoted to exploring dreams and goals. After instructing this over and over, it occurred to me that I could be more pragmatic about this in my own life.

So.... {yes, after all that preamble I am finally getting to my point} the first Tuesday of every month I set aside an hour to devote to my goals and dreams. As a mom, it can be so easy to lose the me in my life. So, I share this with you not with any sense of authority, but because this has given me a deep sense of satisfaction and even freedom in my own life.

Thus, since all deep thinking is best done with some sort of caffeinated beverage, I venture to Starbucks. Soy Misto in hand, I first write down all the things that give me a sense of joy in my life. {I also thank God for those.} Then, I write down all the things that I find frustrating or wish I could change. From there, I dream about what an ideal life would look like for me one month, six months, and one year down the road. Then, I look these things over and make a to-do list. This is where I had my personal epiphany because whether it's our marriage, our work, our friends, or our parenting, we always possess the power within us to manifest positive change. From there, I write a one week, one month, and 6 month to-do list. This is a very spiritual process for me, and I also pray over the desires of my heart and ask God for vision. {Proverbs 29:18} Finally {and for me this part is very important} I set a time in my phone once a week to pray over my goals, and I also set a time for next month Tuesday.

Having done this process for about 6 months, I can tell you it's highly gratifying! I can look over my old goals and see them being accomplished. I find myself living the life I told myself I wanted to live. It's a wonderful feeling! So, whether you're feeling stuck with your house, your work, your marriage, your parenting--whatever it is that is important to you--I'll be praying that God meets you this week and guides you in the pursuit of your heart's desires! Love and blessings!
Monday, October 5, 2009

The Doing and the Un-doing

Last week, I ran upstairs to gather some items before I took Mia to school. As I came down the stairs, I heard Mia's little voice cooing from in our master bath, "Ooh, so pretty. You look nice, pretty girl." And discovered that, once again, Mia had scoured the house for my make-up bag and ransacked the goodies.... And I am feeling a mixture of emotions. First feeling: joy. She's so darn cute, I can't help but smile, especially with a smear of lipstick across her face and a whole heck of a lot of blush on only one cheek and eye shadow on her nose. {Thus, me being me, even though we are running late, I took her by the window for pictures.} Second feeling: aggravation, as she has opened every single item in my make-up bag. {Truly, her speed and dexterity is almost commendable.} Lip gloss has combined with powder to form a paste that is now all over all of my daily make-up. This is at least the third time I have had to replace everything because I got tired of applying lipstick that left remnant carpet fibers and blush that made my cheeks shinny. Third feeling: futility. This, of all feelings is the worst. Why futility? Because of all the rooms in the house, she chose the one, the only room in the house, that I had just deep cleaned. This was the room she chose to write in Colorstay lipstick on the floor and walls. And I hardly ever deep clean!

This got me thinking about having little kids and what I find hardest, and I think that is it: the futility, the doing and the undoing. I clean the bathroom: the bathroom gets messed up. I make lunch: the lunch gets dumped on the floor. I buy an orchid for the kitchen table: a small child snaps the stem. I fold a load of laundry: it gets emptied all over the dirty mat by the backdoor. This is the hardest thing for me: to make an effort to have it be speedily undone. I guess that's why, since I can't have a meticulous house and my own business, I have chosen to lower my standards for our home. While it does bother me, I chose this because I found myself getting frustrated with the children for just being children. So, instead, I try to focus my energy on things that won't be swiftly undone: like spending quality time with them and building a business from the ground up. Sure, I still make the bed {most days} only to sleep in it again at night, but the process of parenthood isn't easy. I'm trying to give myself a little grace in the journey.
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Alex Boots and What's Coming

I have a lot to do, but I said "boy items coming Friday," so boy items I will provide! This is a test run of several boots, all in this pattern. I actually had intented to have the blue fabric side out on top, but a customer said she really wanted something all brown--right, A? I also made a similar pair in a mod green print with suede toe. All these boots have super soft insoles. I'm still dilberating over it all, and {to be honest} am feeling super cranky because our A/C isn't working and it's 85 in here. I am only going to list a few pair of these boots in size 3 tomorrow, but I'd love it if you would let me know your size and color preferences, as I need to order some materials to make more. I hand dyed the laces, and I think these boots would be really cute with red laces or orange and coordinating mod fabric. I'm going to update Twitter now with what I will be listing tomorrow. I'm sorry to say that it's not that much. My production is at an all time low right now. I'll write more about why when I am in a better mood. Hope you in the Northern parts are enjoying a nice fall day!


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