I’ve been quite neglectful of things lately. Not just the blog, but the garden and pretty much any other craft project I may have wanted to start (or finish). The process of growing a business has changed tremendously since the last time I set out to sell my wares. I spend my days not only designing and sewing, but emailing, Instagraming, Facebooking and photographing. Its still fun, learning as I go, and learn I do. I am “hashtaging” and “liking” and wondering all the time what I am doing right and where I can learn to do better. Sometimes though, I long for the simplicity of the good old days.
Way back when, I made hundreds and hundreds of teddy bears. I designed bears with moveable joints and I sold them in many shops throughout the country. I had the help of lots of friends, family and everyone was helpful, supportive and pointed me in all different directions to ensure my success. I laugh when I think of my mother and I loading up my van with baskets full of teddy bears and driving up and down the coast stopping in at shops and boutiques. We’d walk in with a basket loaded up with bears and the owner of the shop was always there and would oohhh and ahhhh and buy whatever we showed her. At each stop we’d try to squeeze a few more bears into our armloads to ensure greater success.
Prior to that I did woven wall hangings. I sold them at art shows and shops in town and even scored a gallery showing of my work. Similar to the teddy bears, all of my marketing was done by meeting shopkeepers and gallery owners in person. I’d head out to my favorite shops and meet with the people who would buy them from me to hang and sell in their shop. Each shopkeeper would simply write me a check and I’d be on my way, happy, confident and $$$ in my pocket.
My, how times have changed. These days I use social media in its various forms to introduce myself, show photos of my work and continually attempt to have my product seen by all the right people. I make contact not with the shop owners but with the marketing managers and assistant managers to the buyers. I send emails with jpeg photos attached and hope I’m reaching out to the right person and wait to hear back from them. I get purchase orders and send invoices. Meetings are done via phone and email and often there’s no reason to meet in person. More often than not, after attempting to show them my pillows, I never hear from them. People are busy and my email gets lost in their inbox and slips away. Like I said, times have changed!
Because of the internet we have the world at our fingertips and we are able to be the webmaster, photographer, marketer, besides being the actual maker. There are parts of it that I love, like the design and the photography, but other aspects are more grueling; I can’t be good at everything. It might seem that with all of the options of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more, the variety of ways to be seen by all of the right people would be vastly improved. I’m not sure, but there are certainly more ways for us creative types to share our work. I assume anyone in a buying position is inundated with hundreds of photos and line sheets every time they open their email. For me…I still miss driving with my mom with that van full of teddy bears. I loved that person-to–person contact and the enthusiasm of the shopkeepers. They offered insight, ideas, suggestions and most importantly of all, they bolstered my confidence that I was definitely on the right tract. I’ll keep at it, but still I occasionally long for the good old days!
Recently a friend was asking if I’d heard of Zen doodling. I hadn’t, but wanted to know more about it. She said it was used as a form of relaxation and that the simple doodles that we do on the back of an envelope while talking on the phone are kind of the base idea. Simple circles, loops, dots and curlicues, one upon another. I realized that the more she explained it to me, the more it sounded like a design I’ve been working on.
I came home and looked up Zen doodling. From a book by Carolyn Scarce on Amazon it’s explained: The simple repetitive nature of drawing patterns is spiritually rewarding and can boost creative confidence. Zen doodling doesn’t require any artistic training, and there’s no need for special tools or equipment, just a pen and a scrap of paper.
My design has been growing over the last few weeks. My first attempt was less fully formed but it inspired me to try it again. I admit it’s addictive and fun to keep adding little details like dots and circles. Simple dots can act as shadows and shading to parts of the design and repeating details adds to the flow of the larger doodle.
I find it so appealing because such simple little doodles become quite grand when they all come together. I keep the pad of paper nearby and get lost in lines and circles as my design grows. Sometimes I sketch the basics with pencil but all the embellishments are free form. I hope soon to add one to my pillow designs. I am imagining having it printed in red on white fabric for Christmas or maybe indigo. I love blue and white.
Give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised at what you didn’t know you could do.
What a fun idea…to spread a bit of sunshine. That’s what two women decided to do a few years ago: to scour the world for the best in fashion, design, and décor then, one by one, give it all away. Before they knew it, things began to look bright again. Pretty soon they were helping people remember that life is beautiful and there is goodness in the world.
This is where I come in. They asked me questions, I answered. I also donated a pillow to the Bright Side Project. Check out the rules, see what they have to say and enter to win; as easy as that! This pillow is the wonderful story of the perfectly simple day at the beach. From jumping the waves, walking on the beach, finding the perfect rock…it’s all there.
Happiness, sunshine, looking on the bright side…what a simply wonderful idea! click here: The Bright Side Project
My dad, from an old fashioned time when fathers didn’t spend time getting to know their daughters. He wasn’t the one who taught me to drive or throw a ball. He wasn’t there for school plays or sports events. Most of the things I learned from him were how he lived his life . The integrity I always knew was a deep absolute part of him, how being honest with him was most important, no matter the consequences, and that family always came first. It was all of those little day to day acts. Those were the things he taught his children and those are the parts of him in us that live long after he is gone.
~Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes~
I’ve always believed in synchronicity, serendipity or divine intervention. Too many things happen unexpectedly at just the right time and I love the philosophy that if you’re doing what you should be doing and on the right track, the answers are there if you’re paying attention. It’s not just luck, it’s being open-minded and staying aware.
Yesterday it happened again. I was sitting with friends at our favorite coffee shop and we were talking about my pillow business and the next steps I’ll be taking. I had a list of questions I needed to answer and I wanted their perspective. When our food came, the man at the next table playfully leaned in to see what we were having. We good-naturedly shooed him away and went on talking pillows and business.
When the rest of his group left he stopped at our table to give his regards and we were just at a question that asked what strangers must think so we thought ‘hey, let’s ask this guy’. He sat down and looked over the question and as it turns out he the founder of a program for unleashing potential in teams and individuals. What are the odds that we’d be sitting at adjoining tables??
We chatted for about half an hour. He gave me lots of ideas and things to think about as I continue to launch my little business. We asked him for his business card and of course as soon as I got home I found his site and was impressed. His name is Greg Bell and he’s a nationally known speaker, inspiring thousands through seminars, books and talks. He’s given me a new mantra for my business: Patience, persistence and discipline. Obvious maybe, but great words to keep me on track.
Pay attention to what’s going on around you, notice those funny little serendipitous moments and listen to the messages that float your way. You may very well be surprised to see what happens. If you’d enjoy hearing his Ted Talk, click Here for the link.
A few months ago when I was working with the designer for my website she asked a series of questions. Two columns of words that somewhat related to one another. Words like peace or inspiration, challenge or harmony and outdoors or indoors. It wasn’t too challenging to pick my preferences and I enjoyed taking a moment to make my decision and was curious as to how she would pull it together to bring my website to life.
Out of all of the choices, the two that interested me the most were: round or square. I immediately chose square, no question. My son says of course I chose square, pillows are square. But I say it was deeper than that. In fact, months later, those are the two word combinations I think back to and am still wondering why my choice was without hesitation. There’s nothing wrong with round, but the choice felt soft, fluffy and without definition. Pillows are soft and fluffy, I say to myself, so really, pillows have nothing to do with it. Square seems more absolute, linear and certain.
I recently looked at my selection of pictures I’ve saved on Pinterest. I guess I really do love square things because there they were, all over my boards. Just for fun I thought I’d share some of my favorites square pictures, all from Pinterest.
Love those big steel French doors
The intriguing border is as wonderful as the map from Redstone Studios
Love the yellow and gray floor pillows and the top stitching, defining all the edges
Reminds me of a tree house. When you leave you quite literally close it up.
Awesome stone and open staircase
Love the concrete and that big open window. Some showers are so dark
Like it grew right out of the rocky earth. Love it!
I love the look of these barn doors. Sturdy and very purposeful
Just plain sweet. I’ll bet you have to give it a haircut frequently.
I want to make one of these. Much like my succulent wreath…only square
Love everything about this sturdy storage piece.
Enjoy a wonderful, sunny, safe, meaningful holiday weekend!
Don't forget, if you're interested in picking up one of my wine country pillows they are only available from Joss and Main through today. Of course if you need one at any time you know where to find me.
Sometimes the universe is there to give us a little slap upside the head when we need it. This happened to me the other day; coincidently on my birthday, which was a big one that I had spent way too much time fussing over.
This is me at my 4th birthday and it’s pretty much how I felt this year.
We decided to spend the day at the beach to “celebrate”. The weather was nice and we walked and walked, took pictures and enjoyed the fresh cool breeze. As we climbed the steps up from the beach I asked my husband to pose with the dog for a quick picture with the ocean behind them.
Just as I was focusing, a woman behind me said “let me take your picture, then you can take ours”. She was super enthusiastic and already reaching out for the camera. Ok, I thought, great! So we posed, she snapped, then we traded cameras and I took pictures of her, her husband and their sweet baby girl. As I handed the camera back to her, she handed me her phone and asked if I would mind taking a couple more quick shots. “Sure” I said, “easier to send photos, right?” She then said she had to make sure everyone knew she was okay because she’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Shocked, I looked at her and sputtered out my condolences and told her she looked great. She said she’d had a mastectomy last week and still had drainage tubes and all but she wanted everyone to see that she was happy, doing well and was spending a wonderful day at the beach with her husband and baby.
I mumbled something about how foolish and vain I now felt in feeling bad about my big birthday and she claimed she couldn’t believe I was that old. Never mind me and my whining's; she had instantly and completely changed my attitude. How could I complain when I had just met someone who would give anything to know she was going to make it to 60 and watch her baby girl grow up? There, I said it…60! So there you have it. Occasionally the universe hands you a little something to think about, which might just make a difference…if you’re paying attention.
Thanks for the photo nice sweet lady. I’m thinking of you and sending healthy good wishes for your long long life!
We Oregonians never take a beautiful day for granted. When the sun comes out in April and sticks around for a few days we are all happy! Everyone is outside, walking with kids, walking with dogs, mowing, running, but mostly smiling. I took these pictures on my daily walk. Simple iPhone shots to share the wonderfulness with everyone no matter what your weather is like. Definitely a pink theme; in fact the whole neighborhood seems awash in all shades of pink and purple!
Have a glorious weekend! (I think glorious is such a beautiful word!)
I was inspired by Heather Taylor’s recent L. A. in Bloom post on how to make a wooden spoon. It sounds like a wonderful project and I can’t wait to find a class and give it a try. In the workshop, their spoons were treated with an oil mixture that sounded good enough to eat. At the very least I wanted to fill my house with the scent of rosemary, beeswax and coconut oil. I also knew it would be nourishing for my big wooden bowl and aging favorite wooden spoons.
I did a bit of research and found several recipes and suggestions. I decided to add lemon juice from my Meyer Lemon because…why not. It seems like the perfect addition to the wonderful mixture. I found the beeswax at the art store. Look in the section for fabric dyeing (think batik). The coconut oil was located in the natural food section at the grocery store. The lemon and rosemary were in the yard so I had everything I needed.
I filled a sturdy pan with enough water to come half-way up the canning jar I was using. I added about 4 ounces each of beeswax and coconut oil, a couple of fresh end cuts of the rosemary and the juice of one lemon. While it was warming I also added the lemon peelings but removed them before cooling everything.
It took a long time for the beeswax to melt. Keep a close watch and don’t let the water boil hard; keeping it just below the boiling point. You can use a wooden spoon to stir it carefully and break up the chunks.
I decided to take out the worn out looking rosemary once everything had melted and I was finished with the heating. I cut and added fresh sprigs as everything cooled.
Once cooled I used a soft cloth to rub the oil into my big bowl and onto my spoons. It took some work but in the end everything looks well nourished and even though the spoons are beat up and burned here and there I think they look better and will last quite a while longer.
This jar should last a long time in the fridge. You can use it cold or warm it to dip your spoons, but always heat it carefully as I’m certain it’s quite flammable. I think little jars filled with spoon oil would make a sweet addition to a gift of a bowl, spoon or cutting board. It’s always nice to add something handmade when giving a present. Try it!
I’ve had a couple of people ask me how to find my blog so I thought I’d run through the steps. If you want to subscribe to Janet’s House Blog, which simply means you will get it by email, go over to the place on the right side under the Etsy sign where it says “subscribe to janet’s house.” Click and it will take you to a new page. Once you’re there you’ll find a box that looks like the one below. Ignore everything else and follow my simple directions that I’ve written in green and you’ll soon see Janet’s House in your inbox.
This ends up being such a simple way to keep up with the occasional blog. Don’t worry, I too think it’s a confusing process. It looks like there are too many options. Please forgive my somewhat blurry screen shots. Kind of a boring post don’t you think. Oh well, tomorrow is another day. As always, thanks for reading.
Gray has been on my mind a lot lately, mostly in paint and fabric swatches, but also in the dreary rain here in the northwest. As with the moodiness of the weather, the gray can affect moods and temperaments in people. I decided to take a drive and capture some beauty in the gray so I could come back feeling refreshed and ready to work.
I drove up in the hills to get a good look at the homes and areas that can literally stay in the clouds all day long. I like how you can see the layers of gray and green tones in all the trees as they fade away in the fog.
A muddy lane becomes intriguing in the wet, cool afternoon. I must admit, everything is also very green.
I do love the color gray, even if I find it difficult to embrace the weather. I find I’m wearing more gray than black and I love the way it works with other colors. Even today, I looked down and I had layered my two favorite coats for my journey.
On New Years Day I could be found painting my living room, gray, of course. I was worried that it would end up looking like a stormy day, but on the contrary, I think it looks fresh and wonderful. I love it with the white accents and wood tones.
I’m remembering this beautiful, easy to knit gray cowl I made a couple of years ago. Click here for the link to that post.
I’m cutting squares of this wonderful gray canvas for a new line of pillows. A reflection of our love for wine. Just for fun. It’s off to the screen printers tomorrow, then I’ll stitch them up and share the finished product in about three weeks.
So there it is, todays reflections on gray…or grey?? Either way they say, but I’ll stay with ‘gray’. I just like the way it looks.
My son is returning to college this weekend so yesterday we enjoyed one last movie together. We’ve taken in a lot of films over the last couple of months, during this break and over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Going to movies is something we both enjoy and it gives us something to talk about afterwards and plan for the next.
We’ve talked so much about each of the movies we saw so I asked him if he’d join me in writing a few simple reviews. So here are our collaborative reviews on our favorites and our not so favorite movies we’ve seen recently. Some of these reviews were written by both of us and reflect our common thoughts, other ones were written by one or the other of us independently. We didn’t necessarily agree on everything but we enjoyed our discussions and debates.
Silver Linings Playbook- Somehow this movie reflects humor, love and family in a story revolving around mental and emotional breakdowns. The only issue that we felt with this movie was that the characters (and their actors) seemed better than the movie itself. Jennifer Lawrence, in particular, was amazing as a young widow who recruits Bradley Cooper’s character into a dance competition. At some points, this movie felt overly long, but then the actors brought you right back into the story. Robert DeNiro plays the same old role that he always plays, but with an OCD twist. Every character in this movie is damaged goods, and perhaps that is why it feels so real. We give it a thumbs up.
Argo: This is one of those stories that if you had read it in a book, you wouldn’t believe it. The true story of six Americans trapped in Iran and the CIA agent who helped them return home seems more like the plot of a spy film. So thirty years later, after being declassified, what does it become? A good old-fashioned caper movie, and a really good one at that. Director, Ben Affleck chose his cast well, made up of such notable names as Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryan Cranston . The movie successfully pulls off the pulse-pounding fear that each hostage faces, knowing full well that their guise of a science-fiction movie might not hold up. The airport security scene near the end of the movie is more white-knuckled, edge of your seat experience than any airport scene in recent memory and is great in my book. Thumbs way up.
Zero Dark Thirty-We enjoyed watching Jessica Chastain in a completely different roll than her Celia Foote in The Help. Her portrayal of a driven CIA agent was intense and felt so different than most female action heroines. The climax of the film, featuring the infamous raid, was exceptionally well done. The movie successfully avoids the obvious pitfalls and clichés of most action movies; the main character isn’t in the battle scene and it’s heroes (the Navy SEAL Team) aren’t shouting one-liners every time they take out a target. The characterizations seems to reflect the true story of the incredible manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Thumbs up.
Lincoln: We felt like we were watching our 16th president rather than watching a movie about him. The insight into his life and the details of what really happened were better than any history textbook. Daniel Day-Lewis was incredible as Abraham Lincoln, showing his most intimate, private moments. Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Fields both excel in their supporting roles, and the rest of the A-List cast is great as well. Lincoln’s final lines in the movie, delivered right before going to the theater are “It's time for me to go, but I would rather stay.” A fitting end to the tale of our President’s darkest hour. Thumbs up.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: A confusing story saved by new comer Quvenzhané Wallis. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. The movie, however, meandered about, with no real plot coming into focus. Neither of us particularly liked this movie nor would we probably ever watch it again. Although the visual imagery was breathtaking, it was not breathtakingly beautiful. It was stunning in it’s all-too-accurate depiction of the poorest-of-the-poor. The movie ended with an odd scene that was reminiscent of the book Where the Wild Things Are, which did not fit with the rest of the film. Sorry,Quvenzhané , two thumbs down.
The Hobbit: A long but fairly entertaining journey of the hobbits in the first part of a new trilogy leading into the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In 3-D I felt like I was watching a play! Ian McKellen is once again perfect as Gandalf, and Martin Freeman, whom I love in the BBC show Sherlock, was a great Bilbo Baggins. Andy Serkis, as Gollum, once again stole the show, with special effects that are almost too real. One thumbs up, but for me, I’d give it a neutral thumb.
Skyfall: This was the James Bond film that finally realizes the full-potential of what a 007 movie can be. Daniel Craig, in his third time donning the iconic tux, is awesome as an old and battered Bond. Forced out of retirement, Bond must face an enemy from M’s (Judi Dench) past. The villain, played expertly by Javier Bardem, is chilling, almost a mix of the Joker and Hannibal Lecter. The hauntingly beautiful theme song, sung by Adele, sums up the entire movie . As the movie ends, everything slides back in time, setting Bond up like he was in the 60’s proving, as the movie says many times, that the old ways are usually the best. Thumbs up.
Life of Pi: This movie is hard for me to describe. It was very well made and the effects were spectacular. There is one scene in this movie with a real tiger, I dare you to try and find it! Overall though, the story of this movie suffers from the end. The majority of this movie is monotonous, with a boy spending many days adrift at sea, his only companion a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. In the end, he offers up a different version of his shipwreck that goes against everything else in the movie. Unlike most “twist” movies, this film does not leave you with a definite answer of what is real and what is not. While that is not a problem, the twist comes out of nowhere and the question that remains at the end feels forced, rather than earned. Despite this, the movie is still worth seeing. Only Sam saw this and he gives it a sideways thumb.
The movies we didn’t see were Les Misérables, because after all, my theater companion is an 18 year old boy and no way could I drag him to a film full of singing. We haven’t seen Django Unchained yet but probably will. I find that I need to be in the right mood to see a Quentin Tarentino movie.
So there you have it. Thanks to my guest writer and movie date. So now, off to school you go!
I’ve decided to pick a word for the year. It will be my word, the one that I hope will inspire me, the one that represents what I want to do and where I want to go. My own personal theme, perhaps. Amy Duncan at Four Corners Design wrote about this the other day and shared her word choice. Check out her lovely thoughts right here.
Of course I fussed and obsessed over choosing the right word. I thought about it for several days, looked at my lovely list of alliterative words, rolled different words around in my head and finally made my decision. Forward. It’s a rather plain word but has a variety of connotations, all of which I think will keep me on track for the coming year.
Strongly inclined- Yes!
Relating to, or getting ready for the future- Always
Brash/Precocious- Hmmm, don’t think I’ve ever been accused of that.
Forward thinking is always a good idea. I hope I always keep that part of my personality.
Being forward is not always seen as a positive trait but in my new roll as a pillow designer, I must be forward and brave, to promote, market and peddle my wares.
Moving forward in mind, body and spirit, my word for 2013 quite literally gives me direction. Choosing this word for the year is fun, but also motivating because I’m going to hold myself to it. I don’t know why I’ve never done it before, but now I’ll look “forward” to this activity every new year. Give it a try and be sure and let me know what word you choose.
I gathered up 10 good things that made a difference for me in 2012. Some are simple changes in how I did something, others are less than an epiphany, but more than just an idea. Hopefully they will continue to make a difference in my way of life. Maybe there’ll be something here that might make a difference for you. Here they are:
Breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends- This is no longer a frivolous activity, it is an absolute necessity. Working from home is very isolating and although I love being holed up in my studio on a creative binge, I understand the importance of getting out and being social around other human beings. Book clubs and lunches; it’s just plain good for the soul. Besides, we laugh…a lot, and everything about laughter is good.
Yoga tooth brushing. I read about this last fall. It works best with an electric tooth brush because you have exactly 2 minutes and a little beep divides it up into 30 second intervals. While brushing my bottom teeth I stand on one leg, lifting up out of my torso, keeping straight and balanced. I change to the other foot when I get to my upper teeth. It’s a nice little bit of yoga that’s only 2 minutes, twice a day. If I feel pretty steady I try closing my eyes and realize I have a long way to go to become perfectly balanced. I swear my back feels better as a result. (Disclaimer: That’s my daughter in the photo).
Sunscreen. I know it’s on every list but at my age I slather it on. When we were in Hawaii, I repeatedly applied it to my face and wore a hat most of the time. It’s the tried and true way to keep age spots and lines away. I don’t worry too much about the rest of me, but as for my face, I’m being quite strict.
Putting a box of zip lock baggies with our luggage. I was so proud of myself when I thought of this one. I’ve occasionally remembered to leave a zip lock bag in a particular suitcase, which isn’t a bad idea but this is even better. House guests, kids home from school; you just never know when somebody is going to need that quart size bag for their liquid carry-ons and it’s always the night before an early flight. A nice big box of 30 will solve those last minute, on your way to the airport, already stressful times.
Starting Janet Brown Studios- I’m so glad I finally decided to follow my dream and open my little shop. The creative side has always been easy for me but the business, marketing, sales and everything else is challenging. That’s why it keeps me busy and has filled the void when the kids moved out. So far I’m just on Etsy, but the website is nearly finished.
San Ramon, California Missoula, Montana
Empty nesting- I’m quite proud of us. Since both kids moved out within a week of one another we were thrown a double whammy of emptiness but I’m happy to report we are handling it nicely. Dinners for two are simple and easy to prepare and clean up and it’s fun to talk about our future plans. Thank goodness for phones on the family plan, texting and Skype for keeping in touch. Sundays are now the day to catch up with the kids. I loved having them show us around their new space by walking the computer around their apartment/dorm room when we were Skyping. Besides now we have new fun places to visit them.
Having a bunch of one dollar bills available to put in the Salvation Army bucket- This just felt nice. I remembered to get a bunch of one dollar bills and had them easily accessible when I’d enter or leave a store during the holiday season. No more dredging the bottom of my purse for random change or that guilty feeling for leaving nothing.
I Voted!- Voting makes me feel proud, patriotic and just plain good about myself. I love participating in trying to make our country work better. I always feel that I have a right to complain, demand changes and open my mouth as long as long as I have taken the time to learn about the candidates, measures and amendments that I voted on. I’ve never missed an election and I never will.
I lost 15 pounds- Although I hesitate to get on any scales until well after the holidays, I worked hard to lose 15 pounds before we went on our trip to Hawaii. I know the eating season, I mean the holidays, have caused me to put a few back on, but now I know I can do it. My doctor was pleased and so was I. It’s January 2nd and I’m back on the game!
Being proud- I’m proud of my children who are growing up and making good choices. Raising children is something that takes a long time to see if you’ve done it right, but as I watch my kids turn into wonderful adults who are happy, well rounded and full of enthusiasm for life, I know we have accomplished more than we could wish for, everything we hoped for and yet we are not surprised for a minute at how wonderful they are. We knew it all the time.
Happy New Year!!
Whatever you do, wherever you go, whoever you spend the day with…Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
In celebration of Small Business Saturday, watch this space for a special discount coupon code to use at my little pillow shop. Friday morning I’ll post the code so you can save 20% on my pillows. In the meantime, click here to check things out. Stay tuned; I’ve got lots of fun ideas like a give-away, free shipping and more discounts to carry us through the holidays. If you read the blog or ‘like’ my Facebook page, you’ll be in the know. Happy Happy!