Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Interview with Me... Penny Cheng of Jewelry by Saniki Creations

Taking a break from featuring my fellow artists, I thought I would do something a little different today and interview myself so you can get to know me a little better.

So today I would like you to meet Me... Penny Cheng of Jewelry by Saniki Creations, a Member of The Artisan Group, Artists in the Boro and Self Representing Artist-Jewelry Designer.
How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
As far as I remember, I've always loved arts and crafts. I loved being creative but I was never able to put what I had in my head out into a medium for others to see.  I tend to get bored fairly quickly so my little runs with writing, painting, drawing, knitting never lasted for very long let alone nice enough to show off to others.
"Midnight Flight"
I started making jewelry by chance. My first intentions was only to fix the jewelry my daughters had purchased from those mall outlet stores where you can buy ten earrings for $5.00.  Really cheap quality  worthy of dollar store junk jewelry.  After a fixing a few earrings, necklaces and bracelets, I started to put my own spin on them, adding extra charms or beads or deconstructing it entirely to make something new. I found it rather fun and relaxing so I started taking apart any jewelry items I can find and remade them.  Then one day I wandered into a craft store and saw the jewelry making aisle and I was in heaven.

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
I made a few pieces for myself and my daughters in the past, but I would say the first piece I made would have been for my Nana (from my Hubby's side).  It was a beaded necklace with different Swarovski Crystals representing her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Back then I thought it was the most beautiful thing I've ever made.. but now that I think about it.. I could have done a lot better.  I actually got a picture of it, my photo taking skills were just as amateur back then too as you can see from the picture below.

Nana's Necklace, Christmas 2008
I have since made Nana another necklace, a Chainmaille one made with Jeweler's Brass and Amethyst Swarovski Crystals.  She still wears this at all the family functions.

Nana's Necklace, Christmas 2010
Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
I've heard about how other artists have a creative process.  I honestly don't really have a set plan/process.  Most of my ideas come to me when I'm lying down before I fall asleep.  About 75% of the time I can remember what my idea was in the morning so I work on it right away and it seems to be fine that way.  I'm terrible about writing ideas out, though I have a notebook and pen on my nightstand, I've never used it for ideas.

When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
I officially started my business on January 2009 doing beaded jewelry (strung pieces, wirewrapped pieces) made with Czech glass, Swarovski crystals, and semiprecious stones.

I started doing Chainmaille jewelry back in the beginning of 2010 as I needed something different to what everyone else in my area was doing.  Once I learned a few chainmaille weaves, I haven't stopped.  Now all I ever do is chainmaille and sometimes I would do a beaded piece on commission basis.  Why Chainmaille as a specialty.. I think it's my personality type. That's what I tell people. I love how metal rings put together can form such strong, intricate yet feminine pieces.  Chainmailling is addictive and soothing for me.
Papillon I
What inspires you creatively?
I think just life in general inspires me.  There's so much going on in the world that it's easy to pick something to get inspired by, if that made sense at all.  I suppose there's really no set thing that does it for me, it could be a sunny day where I'm in a good mood or lousy mood, or daydreaming about winning the lottery and planning my mega work studio.  I'm rather odd that way.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
I think that would be finding my own niche.  Creating my own design that others haven't really thought of.  To be referred to as an Artist.
"Caught"
Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
There are so many great Artists out there.  It's hard for me to pinpoint specific people.  I've been lucky enough to get to know others and seeing their work. Out of everyone I've ever met in person or online, I always have a favorite in something they have done.

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
Besides winning the lottery?  I would say being able to get more of my work out into the world.  Possibly have my creations in boutiques would be awesome.
"Shield1" Wall Art
What do you do in your spare time?
Wow.. what is spare time?  So far it's housework. If I'm lucky, I watch a couple of television shows that's not consisting of cartoons or puppets.  Napping is always a plus for me too.

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
I do sell at craft fairs every once in a while or at home parties that friends have set up.

Through my membership with Artists in the Boro, I have had my creations on display during the BC Cultural Crawl, Queensborough Days and at the Queensborough Community Centre.  Last Christmas I was selling my Creations at the Treasure Room located at the Arts Council of New Westminster.

In June of this year I am participating at the MTV Movie Awards Gift Lounge presented by GBK Productions through my membership with The Artisan Group.  I will have a display piece at the event with other artists in the group, plus 100 Chainmaille Creations will be distributed out into swag bags for the celebrities that attend the Gift Lounge.

And of course I have my Website that's been with me since the beginning. I have an open door policy, so if someone wants to come over to my place to see my creations, just give me a call and I'll have a pot of coffee ready.
Commissioned Piece
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
I wish I could spend more time on the creative side.  Unfortunately since I'm not in any retail places, I need to spend more time promoting my site.  Ideally I would love to spend 75% creating and 25% dealing with the business stuff.

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
Plan it out and do it.  Be open minded, learn as much as possible and network like crazy.  Get to know other people in the same business as you.  They can be your best allies in the end.  There's a lot of hard work involved and at times you would feel like you want to quit, that you are not good enough... those feelings are normal and keeps us humble.  You'll never know unless you try.

*****
Well that's my interview to myself.  Hope you all enjoyed learning more about me.  Be sure to visit my Website, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook Page.

*****SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT*****
Before I say goodbye:  Through my membership with The Artisan Group.  I will be giving a special Chainmaille Gift to actor Tom Cruise and his family (his wife, Katie Holmes and daughter, Suri Cruise)!  This gift will be sent to Mr. Cruise in a special gift bag containing other great handmade goodies from my fellow members.  More details to follow. Stay tuned!


*****
Penny Cheng

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meet Rachel Leathers of Hearts of Stone Jewelry - Featured Artist

When I was in my late teens, early 20's, my dad became a lover of stones and rocks.  Not the type you find in a gravel pit or driveway, but semiprecious stones, like Agate, Carnelians, Amethysts and a large variety of Quartz.  He tried to teach me all about it, how to tell what was what, all the different names for all the different stones he accumulated, he even believed in the healing qualities each stone contained.    However, being just a kid, I basically ignored him and never did learn what he wanted to teach me.  Fast forward twenty years into the future, my dad is now "up in the clouds" but I am finding myself becoming my dad, a lover of stones, wanting to learn as much as possible about each one and seeing the beauty it brings to a piece of jewelry.

With that said,  I had a wonderful time getting to know more about Rachel Leathers, a Jewelry Designer extraordinaire, Rachel specializes in Semiprecious Stones and her talents can be found in her company, Hearts of Stone Jewelry.  Rachel is also a fellow member of The Artisan Group and I am delighted to feature her work today.


How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I have always been involved with sewing and needlecrafts, but I wanted to do something else and starting playing around with making jewelry. I didn't know anything about it and just dove in and taught myself! I have always loved rocks, so gemstones were a perfect medium for me.

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
I do remember my first piece, and wouldn't want to show it to anyone! Yeesch, my first pieces are not good. But, they were the first stepping stones (no pun intended), and when I look at them, it shows me just how far I've come and how much more I know about my craft. They act as validation and encouragement now!
"Whole of My Heart"
Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
My process starts with the stones; when I find a heart that makes me tingle, the process has begun! I then start to pair it with other stones and beads and just ride the wave. Any stone can do that to me, and I build from the initial feeling.

When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
When I began, I was using all shapes and sizes of gemstones. The hearts became more visually appealing to me, and I kept saying I have hearts of stone! So then the name stuck with me, and I've built everything around that. It was such a natural progression; so literal yet so tongue in cheek!
"Blue Moon"
What inspires you creatively?
The stones inspire me creatively. This is the most satisfying thing I've ever done creatively speaking, and all stones resonate with me. It is just such a perfect fit. My other inspiration is George, my honey. He has been a self-employed businessman for over 25 years, and he has the encouragement and insight that keeps me going; his attitude helps to keep mine in check, and now I see what I would have previously thought of as a failure as just another lesson learned and not at all a negative.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
I am so thrilled to have been accepted into The Artisan Group. Doing the gifting to the celebrities and charities gives me instant cache, and being shoulder to shoulder with other artists that wow me has been validating. Being featured on blogs and in an online magazine are also successes to me! To still be doing this 2 1/2 years after beginning it is also an achievement.
"The Lucky Buddha"
Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
I love any crafter/artist who truly does their work. By that I mean someone who works with metal, metal clay, or can shape stones, or knit or crochet or sew. I get so riled with people who claim to be handmade artists when all they do is put a charm on a chain and call it a handmade necklace. My line of chokers is basically that, but those exist as a complement and price point to everything else I make. I'd love to rewrite the definition of 'handmade' and compare it to 'hand-assembled'. I love any artist who's work makes me say "Wow!" and then makes me wonder just how the hell they made it!

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
My goal is to find the secret to making more sales. Which sounds trite, but it is oh so true. I do have another dream outside of the jewelry, and that is to have a shop that is half costume shop, half garment construction. I would of course have a private room for jewelry-making!
"Sweet and Simple 110"
What do you do in your spare time?
My spare time is devoted to spending quality time with George. He works so much, and our time is limited together, so I spend as much of it with him as possible. Other times, I might just spend the day in front of the TV and try to decompress. I am a one-woman operation and that gets overwhelming and tiring. Althoguh I did manage a mani/pedi with a girlfriend I haven't seen in awhile the other day!

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
As of right now, I sell online on Etsy and in a brick and mortar in Pasadena, CA. I do want to expand that and will try to get into more retail outlets this year.
"Simple Lapis Lazuli Choker"
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
My biggest challenge is finding a balance to time spent at the worktable and the computer! Some days I have a plan, other days I wing it. I've found that having a loose plan like that helps my sanity. Too rigid a plan would frustrate me and kill the desire to accomplish anything.

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
If you want to create and sell something, just jump in and give it a go. You'll never know until you try. Have fun with it, take seriously the business side of it, and be honest with it. Whatever 'it' is, be passionate about it and it will love you back. And take good pictures...
*****
Thank you Rachel!  Be sure to check out Rachel's beautiful jewelry creations at these sites:

"Oscar's Copper Dreams - 2012 Academy Awards Luxury Gift Lounge"
*****

Penny Cheng

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meet Britt Baker of Ideology Handcrafted Jewelry - Featured Artist

Necklaces, Charms, Earrings and Bracelets, oh my!  Today we get to know more about Britt Baker of Ideology Handcrafted Jewelry, Britt is a fellow member of The Artisan Group and her unique style of jewelry is perfect for everyday wear!

Britt Baker, Jewelry Designer


How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I first started my jewelry shop - ideology - in October of 2011, after pondering the idea of creating jewelry for quite some time. After several months of trying out beading, I noticed I developed more of an affinity toward charm jewelry. So, as I began to work with charms and combining various elements together, I discovered that I really loved creating jewelry in that style, and I've been looking for new ways to create in my style, as well as try out other styles of jewelry making, ever since!

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
As a child, I remember making various jewelry pieces, such as friendship bracelets, but I can't recall which my very first one was.
Owl Necklace with Tree Agate Gemstone
Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
I try to think of symbols, elements, and other items that I really like. I also like to include items that my loved ones really enjoy. For example, my Mom is a huge owl lover - she's always had owl figurines, pictures, and so forth all about her home - so I like to include lots of owls in my work.

When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
I first started out beading, but now I have grown to love charm jewelry, using various metals, and the including gemstones and other items into my pieces.
Brass Lion Earrings
What inspires you creatively?
Nature is one of my biggest inspirations, as you will see many elements of nature in my work, whether they are metals, gemstones, or animal charms.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
I have wanted my jewelry to become my job, not just a hobby, which it did in less than a years time!

Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
Some of my favorite artists and crafters are many of those I have found through Etsy. I love how they have found a way to grow their business, to learn from one another, and to follow their passion to be able to make their handmade success happen.
Silver Snowflake Bracelet
Any goals for the future you would like to share?
I would love to continue to grow my business, learn more jewelry making techniques, start up my own website for ideology jewelry, open up a supply shop, and work on other creative endeavors.

What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my loved ones and animal companions, exploring local shops, enjoying nature, painting, knitting, writing, and going to see live music.

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
I sell my jewelry online in my Etsy shop: http://www.ideology.etsy.com

I also have my jewelry on display for sale at Artsy Diva Boutique in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Artsy-Diva-Boutique/201540039875918
Phoenix Necklace Locket
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
I work on my jewelry business at least 40 hours a week, with about half of it going to the creative side and half to the business side, currently.

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
I would tell them to go for it! Make sure you stay organized, price your items well, do everything you can to promote, and keep learning whenever possible, as there are many wonderful people out there to help you with the ins and outs of starting your own crafty business!
*****
Thank you so much Britt!  To find more of Britt's beautiful jewelry creations, be sure to check out her sites below:
*****
Penny Cheng

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Meet Anna Farath of Galaxy Eyes Photography - Featured Artist

We start of this week getting to know more about Anna Farath of Galaxy Eyes Photography.  Anna, who is also a fellow member of The Artisan Group, takes us to a world of simple enchantments with her beautiful and breathtaking images.



How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I've always had a passion for photography. Throughout my life I enjoyed taking pictures, but it was when I got into college that I said “hey, this is my thing…this is what I want to do!” - I majored in Journalism and I've only had a few photography classes so it's not a skill that I actually developed in university. I’m pretty much self-taught and I still have a lot to learn!

I started in 2007 but I only opened a print shop in 2011.

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
It's hard to define my first piece, considering that photography has always been in my life. But the first piece I ever sold was this photo, called FALL.
"Fall"
Every artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
I'm moved by emotions. I'm an introspective person, so the way I found to express myself and my emotions was through photography. If I remember, read, listen to something, I process this feeling and create a new piece. There are times that I only capture a moment on the streets, which is something that comes more naturally (and it’s also a matter of good timing).

In still life, my inspiration usually comes from songs and memories. Sometimes I just have an idea or a word in my head, like "childhood". Then I find a way to translate that. In this case, this is how I translated childhood memories...through a series of minimalistic portraits.
"Childhood"
When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
I can assure that my work has changed a lot. First because I try to constantly learn and improve my skills. But I used to have doubts about my own style (I still do)...I find it hard to define my own style as I to experiment many things. I used to focus on landscapes, cityscapes and now I’m finding myself in still life, abstract images. Now I can also say that I’m looking at things differently, working with minimalistic photos, negative spaces...

What inspires you creatively?
I'm very inspired by music.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
I’m still new at this but good things have already happened. My work has been selected to be sold on Urban Outfitters, I’ve been featured on Cool Hunting and some great blogs. Also, a few pieces that I worked in collaboration with hitRECord (a collaborative production company) were screened at SXSW Festival.
"Lucky"
Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
There are so many amazing photographers out there! I absolutely love the style of Jamie Beck. From fashion, to lifestyle to architecture; everything is outstanding. I also like Agnes Samour, especially because she only uses film and doesn’t rely on super fancy equipment; it’s just a girl and her camera – producing brilliant compositions.

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
My idea is to start working with wholesale, which is something that I haven’t experimented yet, and to take my online shop to a next level, getting my name out there. I’ll hopefully take an interior photography course, so I can get into this field too. And I’d love to expand my home office!
"Summertime"
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to cook (even though my kitchen skills are very limited) and I watch many tv shows. And of course, I like to read, listen to music and hang out with friends!

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
My work is available on Society6 (art prints, framed prints, stretched canvases and iPhone cases & skins), Etsy and Urban Outfitters.
"Rustic II"
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
I spend much more time in the creative side, as I try to release new images at least 3 times a week...can't say exactly how many hours. It depends. I don't neglect the business side though. I spend at least 4 hours a day promoting the shop, answering e-mails, comments, listing items, getting in touch with fellow artists and planning new projects.

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
Be very patient, be persistent and never undervalue your work.
*****
Thank you Anna, be sure to check out all of Anna's links and her shop to purchase her wonderful prints:

Shop (Etsy)http://www.etsy.com/shop/galaxyeyes
Shop (Society6) - http://society6.com/galaxyeyes 
Blog - http://galaxies.tumblr.com
Twitter - http://twitter.com/galaxyeyesphoto
Facebook - http://facebook.com/galaxyeyesphotography
Flickr -http://www.flickr.com/photos/galaxyeyes
Portfolio - http://cargocollective.com/annafarath
*****


Penny Cheng

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Meet Jessica Taylor of Shaka Soaps - Featured Artist

Today's featured Artist is Jessica Taylor.  A fellow member of The Artisan Group, Jessica is lucky to live in beautiful Hawaii with the sun, surf, and beaches plus doing something she loves, creating wonderful handmade bath products at her own company called Shaka Soap


How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art? 
I have been a stay at home mom for over three years and was beginning to feel like I was in a "creative rut." I dabbled in many different things like cake decorating, scrapbooking, and crocheting, but nothing really sparked a passion. I have always been facinated with soap making and the labor that goes into creating handmade bath products, so last year in August, I made my first batch of cold process soap. It was so exciting and intimidating, and it has now become my passion.

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
The first soap I ever made was a plain, unscented batch that I poured into PVC pipe to set up. I really shouldn't have used that as my first mold, it was so hard to get the soap out of there! ;)
Year of the Dragon Soap
Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
It depends on what I am going to make. If it is soap, which it usually is, I tend to be inspired by colors and textured found in clothing and artwork. I get an idea into my head and try to fabricate what I have envisioned. Many times it turns out completely different than I had originally pictured, which is the exciting part!

When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
When I first started, I was only making cold-process soap. I really wanted to dabble into other areas of bath and body products. I then moved on to glycerin soap, lotions, lip balm, bath salts, sugar scrubs, salves, and, most recently, clay masks. I am having a blast!
Awa Puhi Lotion
What inspires you creatively?
I am so blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Hawaii. The culture, the scenery, the wildlife, and the amazing feeling of aloha are just what I need to get my creativity inspired.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
Most of the goals have been to make something new (like a new product) and have my customers love it. The biggest compliment to me it to have a product that I make that people love.
Soothing Hawaiian Salve
Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
I am a member of an awesome group called The Artisan Group. It consists of amazing artists who all create different things, from jewelry to sock monkeys! They are all very talented and I love all of the work I have seen so far.

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
My next hurdle is to tackle liquid soap. I have been requested to make dog shampoo and I would love to tap into the pet market a little bit. I would also like to be able to make my daughter's bubble bath and shampoo and know what ingredients she is using on here little body.
Coconut Hawaiian Lip Butter
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? What is that? =) Ususally I am playing with my 1 and 3 year old when I can, reading soap making books (I'm kind of a bookworm and research nut), and I love to bake!

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
I currently sell in four stores: B. Lavish Day Spa and LaTreases's Sassy Scissors in California. Essentially Yours and Starlight here on the Big Island. I do craft fairs every chance I get because I love meeting different people and hearing what they like and what they don't. I have a craft fair this weekend in Waimea and another next weekend in Hilo.
Tahitian Vanilla Hawaiin Sugar Scrub
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
I try to spend more on the creative side, but the reality is the the business side just takes a lot of my time. I want to do the business side right so that I can eventually spend more time creating!

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
If you love it, do it! Do your research and find others who are interested in the same art you are. There is nothing more fun for me than to talk 'soap' with another soaper.

*****
Thank you Jessica, be sure to indulge yourself in the tropics with Shaka Soap products!


*****

Penny Cheng

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meet Donna Wilson of Brapples - Featured Artist

When I was in grade 11 (back in the 80's.. oops, just dated myself again), one of my Social Studies project was to invent something new.  I had two ideas.  The first was an automatic toothpaste dispenser that you put the paste in the toothbrush handle, press a button, and voila, the toothpaste comes out from the bristles..  I used that idea and got an A for it.  Decades later, someone made a toothbrush that basically does what I thought of... Dang.. I could of been a millionaire.

My second idea for the project..... well, let's just say that idea has now been done by fellow The Artisan Group member Donna Wilson of Brapples.  Interchangeable bra straps that is both functional and decorative.




How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I remember always being crafty. I was the type of child that would make all needlepoint presents for Christmas one year, and jigsaw figurines the next. And on top of that, I am always trying to improve upon things, make things function more, make them more stylish and appealing. For 11 years now I have designed and created custom curtains so a challenge, style, and creativity has always been a part of what I do and who I am.

So one day when getting dressed I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a bra with a strap that would somewhat match the tank top I was intending on wearing that day. I noticed my cabinet open that had all my necklaces hanging on it and I thought how cool it would be to wear something stylish like that I my shoulders instead of some ugly bra strap. Or even if it was a solid strap, that I could just grab a strap off the cabinet door and place it on my nude color bra without the everyday struggle of finding something suitable. The seed was planted, and over the next few days I began to experiment with the concept. A few months later, Brapples Sassy Bra Straps became reality.



Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
Yes, I took a plain strap and added a really cute ribbon trim to it. I wore it out to a Derby party and had so many people responding they liked it that I thought well maybe this shoulder jewelry can become a new accessory item. Soon after came the beaded the options.

Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
Well, many people aren’t aware that my shop is on the 3rd floor of a church attic space. It is serene and quiet, and really allows my mind to creatively think out of the box. So always having a great space to work in should be the first start to any creative process. Anything I create will have a unique purpose in mind. I want to take everyday accessories and make them more functional and stylish. Take for example my faux fur neck wraps:
http://www.brapples.com/furry-neck-wrap.html
I added a hidden magnet so that you can easily put it on over your head. And because of the shape it can also be worn on your head. I like things to have multiple purposes when possible. There is patent pending on my design so I am excited about that.


When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
Honestly, my work is always changing. I add new ideas and tweak old ones. My unique accessories line is always evolving, changing, and growing. Coming soon is fabric belts with really cool belt buckles. I can’t wait. I think it, make it, and launch it. I then hope that people love it as much as I do. I make things that I would want to buy, that I love, and hope that my style of taste will resonate with others.

What inspires you creatively?
Everything inspires me. I look at necklaces for ideas for my bra straps. I look at color trends in the boutiques. I look at what doesn’t work right with certain accessories like scarves, and I make it work with more function, more warmth, and more style than before. And adding a little bling to anything is always a good thing.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
Well my biggest goal was just taking the chance on what I thought was a good idea. Anyone who has launched such a venture knows that having an idea is one thing, but having the determination to follow it through is a whole other thing. Despite the monetary investment, the learning curve, the missed out family events, and the stress of deadlines and multiple rejections, I am really happy that I jumped. I don’t want to look back on my life and think that I had what I thought was a really good idea (which like all of us, we have a few in our lifetime) and not have the courage to see it through. I have learned a lot, met a lot of fascinating people, and love what I do.

What are some of your favorite artists and crafters and why?
My favorite artists/crafters would be both of my Grandmothers. One was a painter and one taught me to sew. Without their encouragement in the early years of my life, and taking an interest in doing crafty things with me, I wonder if I would be so crafty now. Probably, but knowing it early helps.

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
I would love to see my Brapples products in thousands of boutiques and stores across the country.

What do What do you do in your spare time?
I am a mom of two very active boys who loves going to their baseball and football games. I also love to do woodworking projects for my home and meet up with my girlfriends for lunch.

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
You can find Brapples’ products in boutigues in Chicago, Fort Meyer’s and Jacksonville Florida, and have I reps in Ontario Canada and Minnesota just getting started.

If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
Lately, I spend many nights looking at trade show information and lamenting on which ones I want to invest in this year. This will be the first year I do them. At this point it is probably 65% creative, 35% business. Although that percentage changes and fluctuates depending on the season and what is going on.

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
I would say start out slow. Utilize as many free resources as you can. When I started out I used the local college in my town and was amazed at the support and networking that I received. I even joined a entrepreneur network that was just being formed. I used weebly.com for creating my free website on my own and really spent a lot of time figuring out search engine optimizations, and such. With the beauty of Google you can learn everything you need to start a company. Sure you can pay someone a lot of money to do all this for you but I really encourage people to know how to do it first. As your cash flow starts to increase then you can allocate some of these things out but I prefer to be the administrator on certain things. It is never good in business to have to wait in line for someone to help you with your business “to do list”. Keep your craft a hobby until you are ready to go to trade shows and at which point you can create you corporation. And you can do that on-line also. And the best thing always is to just ask people who have gone before you. I asked lots of questions and people are always eager to assist you. Even now, I go to boutiques and ask them where they do their buying, if they think my products would do well in that market, what kind of booth attracts them when they are at market—and why? The owners/buyers are my market and why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to engage them on what they know and like.


If there is anything else you want to add, please feel free to do so.
I am always eager to help others because I feel that as artisans really need to look out for each other. When I go to sell at a boutique I also try to sell them on my fellow artisan’s stuff also. We become each other’s reps. It is a great way to help out your community and I have noticed that boutiques are much more inclined to give us a chance because their customers are more encouraged than ever to buy local. Boutiques are about the unique, and they know that their customers are willing to pay more money for something that has a story tied to it. Networking for each other really helps us get our products out there.

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Thank you Donna!  To find out more about Brapples, be sure to visit:
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Penny Cheng

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meet Betty Miller of Magic Senses - Featured Artist

Today, let me introduce to you Betty Miller of Magic Senses.  A fellow member of The Artisan Group, Betty's handmade designer vegetable glycerin soaps leaves you feeling soft, fresh, and of course clean.
Betty Miller, Magic Senses



How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I was at a craft fair in the summer of 2005 (newlywed and recently moved to California) and saw the most beautiful soap I had ever seen; I fell in love with it. I found out it was made with glycerin and I bought three bars. I had never seen or tried handmade soap before! Only store bought. This soap smelt so good, I wanted to buy it all! I had one of the bars on my desk for almost 3 months and it made me smile every day. After using the bars, I noticed the impact it had on me and my skin – it was a product that brightened my day, every day! So I decided to give it a try and loved making it!

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
Yes! It was a pink butterfly soap fragranced with Plumeria oil. I still have it. J
Plumeria
Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
At Magic Senses, the creative process is a little different with every design but, mainly, this is how it goes:

  • we fall madly in love with a fragrance;
  • decide what kind of soap we want to make (signature collection, square, novelty, etc);
  • brainstorm fun, unique ideas for design and choose color combinations; put them on the drawing board;
  • narrow down to 2 or 3 designs that best represent the fragrance and make a test batch for each design;
  • ask for honest feedback from customers;
  • depending on the feedback, we choose a final design and improve on it, if necessary, till we think it’s perfect.

When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
That may be true but, in our case, we loved the glycerin soap from the beginning and, to this day, it remains our main product. Along the years, we tried making other bath and body products but we did not excel at them (maybe we didn’t try hard enough), so we stopped making them and focused on the soap. However, there is one exception: our Shea Body Butter. We love making this one!
Two to Tango
What inspires you creatively?
Most of the times, we are inspired by fragrances. There are times, however, when a concept or idea inspires us. For example, our “Believe in You” butterfly soap was initially made to support women in business; it was supposed to be a “limited edition” but was so successful that we made it one of our signature soaps. The idea behind this creation was that being confident will give you wings and sky is the limit!

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
Our main goal was (and still is) to create an excellent product everyone can use and enjoy… a product that would make people happy and life more fun while taking care of the skin. We improve on our products every year but we think we mainly achieved that.

Another goal was to help charities close to our heart by either donating soap or a percentage of the proceeds from certain soap collections. So far, we’ve helped Dizzy feet Foundation, Casting for Recovery, Women’s Center in Stockton, California and a few others. This is an ongoing goal!
Watermelon
Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
In the last six years, we met so many creative artisans (too many to list!) that just blew our minds! However, I’d like to mention our friend Beth Reiman from BPRdesigns. She is very talented and I love her handmade fused glass d├ęcor items and jewelry!

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
This year’s goal is to take Magic Senses soap to Hollywood! We are working on this right now and I am excited to announce that Magic Senses will be represented by The Artisan Group at the GBK Academy Awards (Oscars) Gift Lounge in February! Our soap will be gifted to 100 celebrities and attending guests! Now that is “raising the bar”! The soap designs to be famous are: Watermelon, Lemon Lavender, Cherry Vanilla, Two to Tango, Seaside, Soft Rain, Cool Rhythm and the Believe in You Butterfly.
Mountain Rain
What do you do in your spare time?
I don’t have any spare time to speak of… but when I do, I take care of my other business, Simo Media, which is a network of niche blogs. I also like to go for some shopping therapy with my husband. J

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
All our soap Collections are available online at www.MagicSenses.com. The Dance Soap Collection we exclusively made for “Dizzy Feet Foundation” can be found on their website, also. Our favorite reseller is Pine Tree Road Soap Shop in San Diego.
Feng Shui Wood
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
Well, it depends on the season… and I’m not sure I’d measure it in hours though… let’s put it this way: we have a full time job working ON the business and another full time job working IN the business. During the Holiday season (September – December), we breathe soap! We work till 4 am processing orders and making more soap! At the end of the day, we are happy knowing that all the beautiful soap we made will go to a wonderful home or will be a surprise gift to a soap lover. And that makes it all worth it!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
You must absolutely be passionate about your craft and have your mind set on success! Otherwise, it will be just a hobby with a business license. J And another thing: don’t be afraid of healthy competition!

Believe in You
If there is anything else you want to add, please feel free to do so.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for the interview! Second of all, I’d like to encourage your readers who want to break up with their boring soap to visit www.MagicSenses.com and join us on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/MagicSenses) or Twitter (@magicsenses). Thank you so much!
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Thank you Betty!  Be sure to look for Betty's Magic Senses soaps online at


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Penny Cheng