Artist-in-Residence: Edisto Beach State Park

I recently had the incredible opportunity to be the artist-in-residence for a week at a South Carolina State Park and was thrilled to be assigned to Edisto Beach State Park. This is my second state park residency, but a new location, and although I expected beautiful things I was truly blown away by what I found when I arrived at the coast.

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My time on Edisto was a combination of exploring the town, the surrounding natural areas, learning the history, and finding inspiration for my current body of art which happens to be needle felted wool landscape paintings featuring scenes from the state of SC. In addition to my work in wool, which was my primary medium during my stay, I also painted, sketched, and designed some new jewelry pieces for my handmade collection at Once Again Sam.

I was given a cabin at Edisto Beach State Park to use during my stay, and this became my base camp and studio away from home. I worked outside as much as possible, enjoying the screened-in porch with a breath-taking view of Scott Creek. Each day, I hiked several miles in the park, biked around the island, tried a new restaurant in search of the best seafood in town, watched the sun set, and created art inspired by what I saw all around me. I took time to notice the wildlife, the plants & trees, and appreciate how different the water looks depending on the hour.

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Throughout the day, I’d come back to the cabin and work on a felted piece, then I’d go back out the next day and photograph the finished piece in the same location that inspired it to begin with. I quickly learned the time of day for returning to the same spot mattered because the tides made the beach and marsh look completely different!

I completed 12 wool landscapes during my 6 days in the park. Some pieces featured the beach, others the marsh, and several were inspired by Botany Bay Beach and it’s fascinating ever-changing driftwood sculpture garden. I returned to this beach several times – it’s so unlike any other beach I’ve seen before. I loved how visitors left the shells they found propped up on the downed trees or hung like Christmas ornaments from the upturned roots.

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This being my first visit to Edisto, I asked around for recommendations beforehand, and so many people told me they’d been coming to the island for 20+ years. Now I can understand why! It’s remote enough to have a quiet charm where you can’t help but relax, but there’s enough to do that you can break up the day with various activities like boat tours, bike rentals, hikes, and shopping if you so choose.

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Some of my favorite things from my time at Edisto:

Favorite meal: Fish tacos, street corn, and margarita from E & O Tacos

Favorite sunset spot: Beach access #31

Favorite hiking trail: Spanish Mouth Trail + Scott Creek Trail

Favorite place to bike: Jungle Shores Drive

Favorite excursion: Botany Bay Beach

Favorite place to watch pelicans: The marina

Favorite place to shop: With These Hands Gallery

Favorite Moment: Taking in all the details of low tide in the marsh. If you linger on the boardwalk on the Scott Creek Trail during low tide, you’ll smell the salty air, you’ll see the tiny snails clinging to the colorful grass and the shadows of the silent pelicans flying overhead, you’ll marvel at the appearance of hundreds of oysters that weren’t visible just a few hours ago, but what I enjoyed the most was the sounds. There’s a lot of life hidden in the tall grass and buried in those muddy banks, but you might not notice unless you stopped to listen for a moment. If you hear past the sound of the grass blowing you’ll also hear tiny clicking sounds from crabs scurrying around, and delicate little burps and popping sounds coming from under the mud.

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My time on Edisto was the perfect balance of exploring, relaxing, and creating. I couldn’t have asked for better place to seek inspiration for my art. Although I’m back in Greenville, SC now and within view of the Blueridge Mountains, my future work will continue to showcase the coast, and I look forward to exhibiting my collection of 100 landscapes from all over the state, including the Edisto series, this summer at Greenville Center for Creative Arts.

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All new video sharing a glimpse of the scenery, my process, and why I would go back in a heartbeat. Be sure to checkout my video from last year’s residency as well!

Clearly Abstract: Belle Armoire Feature

I’ve been dabbling and developing abstract painted jewelry for about 2 years now, and my latest version of this simple concept is combining paint, gold leaf, clear acrylic and walnut wood. As with previous versions of the abstract painted line, I’m still making a larger abstract painting (this time on clear acrylic) and cutting it up into unique pieces for the setting, but now I’m adding in gold leaf and making my own settings with laser engraved wood. I’m so thrilled with the direction this collection is taking!

Read all about my process and how this whole series got started in this month’s issue of Belle Armoire Magazine. All items pictured are available at www.onceagainsam.com in the splatter painted jewelry section.

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100 Craft Shows

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Craft shows & art festivals are important to my business and I meticulously track them. My very first show was Indie Craft Parade in 2011. Doing that show changed everything for me. It's hard to believe I just did my 100th event, but the spreadsheet doesn’t lie.

My craft show spreadsheet turned out to be a great evaluation tool. I track everything - expenses, sales, and the ever so important column “Would I come back?” There were shows when I made a grand total of $80, there were shows when I made a whopping $14,000. Some of these events I only did once (for good reason), but the others I’ve been doing for years and look forward to every time. There were years when shows accounted for nearly half of my total income, which felt awesome at the time, but now that I look back, I realize that may have been a foolish business model.

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The purpose of this post is not to share tips and tricks for successful craft shows (but here’s an older post if you’re interested - scroll to the bottom of the post for 10 tips). Today I want to look at the big picture and share 3 reasons why craft shows have been amazing for my business growth, and issue 3 warnings about relying on them too heavily (because I’m 100% guilty of that).

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3 reasons you should do as many shows as you can (at least in the beginning)

1. You will undoubtedly find your target customer.

Pay attention to who’s buying and if they’re purchasing for themselves or as gifts. Study them, not in a creepy way, but notice how they dress, their life stage, and what else they’ve purchased. This info isn’t always available when you do the majority of your sales online, but it’s literally right there in front of you at a craft show.

2. This is a major marketing opportunity.

Yes, you’ll sell a lot at in-person events, but you’ll also give out tons of business cards. You’ll never hear from most of these people again, but a surprising number will pop back into your life at the holidays or when they’re ready to move forward with that commission they were asking about. Marketing in person can double or triple your craft show sales if you’re patient.

3. Real life feedback.

If you sell online, you don’t know what customers are thinking when they’re browsing. However, in person, you’ll likely hear verbal comments about your prices, sizes, and styles, and you may also notice people asking the same questions, so even though the answers may seem obvious to you, there’s a good chance it’s unclear to your customers. Find a way to communicate these things better and take that knowledge and apply it to your website or adjust your product if necessary.

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3 warnings about leaning too heavily on craft shows (if you want a sustainable business)

1. Shows come and go.

One year, the show is huge and everyone is making a killing. The next year, there’s no sign of the event. And that’s fine. Nobody owes you a craft show. Real people are behind these events, they take an incredible amount of time & money to produce, so sometimes the plug gets pulled. Established shows usually stick around, but even good shows can change their model, dates, or location, and that can make or break the whole event. Don’t count on them always being there or being the same as previous years.

2. Bad things can and will happen.

You could get a terrible booth location, a blizzard or hurricane may blow in, or you could get sick the night before. A few shows require you to apply for multiple categories if you work in different mediums, and they may only accept you for one and not the other, dictating what you can and can’t bring. The show may have an astronomical entry fee for shoppers and hardly anyone attends because of it. Do you really want to tie the vast majority of your livelihood to these things that are completely out of your control?

3. The burnout is real.

If you travel out of state for shows all year long, the exhaustion will eventually catch up with you (unless you’re young or super energetic, in which case - ignore all this). Depending on the type of work you do, all that time on the road away from the studio may mean you fall behind on other orders. As soon as you catch up, you’re back on the road again. It’s a tough cycle if you work alone, and the physical & mental exhaustion can affect other areas of your life. Having experienced this burnout year after year, I’ve gotten extremely picky about how far I’m willing to travel now, and how many shows I’m prepared to do in a season.

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You know what they say about putting all your eggs in one basket…don’t do it!

If you’re considering trying craft shows, just jump in, even if you’re not 100% ready. You’ll get a lot out of them even if it’s only for a few seasons. In 2013, I decided to sign up for every craft show that came my way. There were some really bad ones, but there were some gems in there too - ones that didn’t sound all that good on paper, or were not yet established, but turned out to be fantastic events that I still enthusiastically participate in years later.

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If you’ve been doing shows awhile and notice you’re planning your year around them and relying on them to make your numbers each quarter (that’s me, up until last year!) please be careful. Consider having some other income streams like online sales, commissions, or wholesale. These may be more steady in the end, which is important when you’re earning a living. If you do this Maker thing long enough, you’ll probably have an off year eventually, and if you put all your eggs in one basket, whether that’s the craft show basket or something else, that might be enough to put you out of business. However, if you’ve diversified your income streams well, a bad year will just be a little dip on your sales bar graph and nothing more.

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The Mountains in Autumn

It’s the first week of October, and sadly everything is still green here in Greenville, SC. However, I’m daydreaming about the mountains in fall, and it’s showing through in both my jewelry and fiber art. Burnt reds, golds, deep orange tones, shades of sienna, olive greens … they’re coming soon to my backyard, but until then, they’re alive and well in my studio.

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A small collection of needle felted wool landscapes showcasing my favorite season are now available on my website. These small to medium pieces are framed and ready to hang. If you’re after something specific or have a special scene in mind, please get your commissions in at least 3 weeks in advance!

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My all new painted landscape pendant series titled “The Mountains in Autumn” are also available online as of today. Checkout this new Maker’s Eye View process video showing how I create these one-of-a-kind pieces from start to finish.

And lastly, a new colorway for my popular splatter painted series called “Autumn Leaves,” which features all those vibrant seasonal colors I crave, is also live on the website. I painted this series in tandem with the autumn landscape shown above, so the colors are identical between the two collections. I personally love the way the splatter painted earrings look when paired with the landscape pendant. They’re the same colors but it’s not overly matchy.

TIP: An easy way to filter down all of these new autumn launches on my site is to type “Autumn” in the search bar. It makes things really simple!

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Art in the Wild Exhibition

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

I’m still bursting at the seams with inspiration, thanks to my time as Artist in Residence at Poinsett State Park. In case you missed it, I spent a week in a cabin in the woods, creating a collection of work related to my beautiful surroundings. Next week, that collection of work will be exhibited at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville, SC.

40 wool paintings are included in my “Art in the Wild” show, and they range from landscapes to birds, to other nature studies. The show runs June 14-16 and if you’re not in Greenville, the gallery will be happy to ship. Once the show is over, the work will be available on my website.

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Here’s an exclusive peek at the collection. Which is your favorite piece? Please comment!

Now that’ you’ve seen these, are you interested in learning to needle felt? It’s so much fun! I’m teaching a class this Saturday (June 9th) and another one June 30th at GCCA in Greenville.

Signup here for workshops: https://www.artcentergreenville.org/summer-workshop-descriptions

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren

During my residency at Poinsett, I also created a new landscape pendant series called “Mill Pond” and I’m doing a double giveaway on Instagram this week. Check it out and win a pendant for yourself and a friend.

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