Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Episode Three: There's No Business Like Show Business

Hello Scribblers!  The new show season is underway and I'm excited, flustered, anxious, and very, very busy!  As I've said many times to many people:  I work twice as hard in my creative business as I did in any of the "jobs" I've held; I make half the salary (for now); but I receive 10 times the enjoyment!

This isn't meant to discourage anyone.  Like many of you, I'm still in the "do what you love and the money will follow" stage.  We're doing what we love, but the money is still lagging behind.  But the good news is that money is highly attracted to hard (and smart) work and it's gaining on us!

During the past couple of years I've succeeded in building the Scribble Stix brand by placing products into a few shops and galleries and by constantly working on improving the website.  But my biggest "paycheck" comes primarily from participating in craft shows and festivals.

One of the first shops I targeted to consign my product was The Rancocas Woods Craft Co-Op in the quaint town of Rancocas Woods, NJ.  Everything in the shop is handcrafted by aspiring artists and craftspeople just like me who were experiencing or had experienced what I was just setting out to do.

There I met Kerri.  She and her husband Bill own and operate the gallery with the help of Kerri's father Ed.
In addition to running the co-op, Kerri creates wonderful seasonal gifts using gourds.  She was gracious enough to encourage me and to share all the craft shows that were successful for her.  That was the first time I discovered how tightly knit our community is.

Creative types can be as fiercely competitive as any other business owner when necessary, but in my experience we are also very willing to share our good shows and experiences with others in our circle.  Kerri and Bill have since become my friends and I enjoy seeing them on the circuit along with the many other artisan/ friends I've made over the years.

My first public sales attempt was at one of the monthly shows that are held on the Co-Op's grounds.  Armed with as much information as I could retain from the people who were willing to suffer my many questions, I rushed out to the local Wal-Mart and picked up a 10 foot by 10 foot canopy tent, some table cloths, and a couple of tables.  I cut some logs for a rustic display.  I even had a banner printed up.  I got up at the crack of dawn, packed everything in my PT Cruiser like a jigsaw puzzle, and lugged everything to my pre-determined "booth space" on the day of the show.

Fortunately, my wife Donna attended art college and has wonderful artistic sensibilities.  Between the two of us we put together a descent display and were ready to face the hoards of people that would fight to buy from us once they discovered that such an awesome product exists!

UN-fortunately, the sun that bathed us in its warmth all the way to the show ducked like a skittish rabbit behind a wall of rain clouds almost as soon as we got set up.

A few die-hard shoppers turned out and we managed to make a small profit since, thankfully, the booth fee was low.

Speaking of booth fees ...  Most craft show customers are unaware that we are charged for the privilege of selling to them.  I've paid fees ranging from as low as $25 to as high as $400 and more.  Most of my products are priced between $10 and $20, so a lot of time and effort is expended before a profit can be made.  On top of that, most of the shows I participate in also charge a jury fee, which basically is just additional money charged so that a show committee can review the photos you send them and decide whether or not your work is a good fit for their show.  Despite all this, we've managed to turn a profit at every show we've attended.  Hallelujah!

Well, it's been about three years now.  The PT Cruiser was traded in for a van (which I call the Whittle Wagon) and the cheap canopy was replaced by a much more professional caravan tent.  (Click here to read a great post about why you should choose a caravan canopy tent for your craft booth).

The product line has grown from two items to a dozen and growing, and the displays are more and more appealing.  But I still experience the same thrill I got when I first discovered that someone willingly parted with their hard-earned money for something that I created!

I highly recommend that you engage your fellow artists at the shows you attend.  The effort will be rewarded 100-fold.

Below are the websites and pages of a few of the wonderful people I meet in my travels.  Their art is as awe-inspiring as they themselves are awesome!  Check them out!!!

Bonnie Shanas - Wire mesh sculptures and claywork
website , facebook

Barb Thompson - Repurposed silverware art and jewelry
etsy shop , website , facebook

Selena Newlin Braunstein - Vintage button jewelry
etsy shop , facebook

Aimee Eckert - Unique Assemblage Jewelry
etsy shop

Karla Clark - Natural handmade soap
website , website

Amy Hope Grynberg - Wine themed crafts
website , facebook

Maria Cartwright - Torch Fired Copper Enameled Jewelry

etsy shop , facebook

Bruce Palese (of course!) - Gifts handcrafted from sticks and branches that have fallen from local trees

etsy shop , website , facebook

Thanks all for now.  Until next time, keep on creating !!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Episode Two: Arbor Day

Hello again Scribblers!  I have wonderful memories of when I was a boy, toting a sack full of lunch my mother packed for me and setting off on a great adventure through the local "forest".

That "forest", while enormous at the time was really just a copse of trees lining a drainage ditch.  At the time, though, I was exploring a raging river through an enchanted wood.

I have never lost my love for trees nor the sense of awe they inspire in me.  Over the years I've built houses in their branches, read in their shade, and photographed their beauty, so it seems natural that I now earn my living from the twigs and branches that they drop to the ground as gracious offerings.

Below is a photo of the lake my wife and I are blessed to live near.  This was the first of my "warehouses" where the raw material for my work is found.

I strive to maintain Scribble Stix as an eco-friendly business and never cut a live tree.  But there always seems to be an abundant supply lying at my feet.

I love working with my hands, creating and re-purposing what nature has discarded.  This is the happiest I have ever been at any job or career.

I would love to hear what motivates you to create.  The materials you use, your inspirations, and your "origin" story - why you do what you do.  Please share your comments below.

Until next time, keep on creating !!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Episode One: Palese States ...

Hello!  Welcome to Scribbles and Sticks, the blog to accompany my art/craft business, Scribble Stix.  But, more importantly, I hope it provides a community base for all of us who strive (and sometimes stumble) to earn our living, express our creativity, and bring enjoyment through our various artistic methods.

The image above is from the back of my business card, a kind of "artist's bio" that many shops and galleries  like to include with the work we consign or sell wholesale to them.  As it says, my name is Bruce Palese.  It sounds like "police", which is ironic because my father retired recently after many years as Chief of Police in my home town.

The "bio" also hints at the reasons I started my business and how the idea came about.  But it doesn't tell the whole story.  Like how anxious I was at losing my job at the tender age of 50 and the struggle I had finding work during The Great Recession we're now just starting to climb out of.  Or how a few sticks (along with God's grace and my wife's love and support) saved my sanity and helped me keep my self-respect.

I'll tell you more about myself and my journey in future posts.  I'll share what I've learned along the way and I'll reach out to some of the great people I've met and ask them to relate some of their stories.

It's my hope that we meet here often and offer tips, short cuts, must-do shows and shops, and shows and shops to avoid.  To share stories and camaraderie.  To commiserate and/or celebrate with like-minded creative types who "get" why we do what we do!

Please let me know what you think of the blog and offer helpful criticism and comments.  Please don't hesitate to participate - it's your blog too! 

Until next time, stay creative !!