Top Picks for 2018

I go through a ton of content when I’m in the studio. I’m rarely just sitting there working in silence (although on occasion it can be nice). I have absolutely no idea how many hours of audible books, podcasts, movies, or music I’ve consumed over the last year, but I do know what I keep coming back to. Here’s a look at my top picks for 2018.


Albums:

White Noise by Noah Gundersen

A Black Mile to the Surface by Manchester Orchestra

Nothing But Thieves by Nothing But Thieves

Sparrow by Jump Little Children

Loma Vista by Family of the Year


Movies:

A Quiet Place

Captain Fantastic

Bohemian Rhapsody

Leave No Trace

Wish I Was Here

Books:

A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Get Well Soon: A History of Plagues and the Heroes who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright


Podcasts:

How I Built This with Guy Raz

Etsy Success Podcast

From the Front Porch

Creature Feature

The End of the World with Josh Clark

TV:

The Nineties Miniseries

Handmaid’s Tale

Queer Eye

Downton Abbey

Dark Tourist


10,000 Etsy Sales

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It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a decade.

I opened my Etsy shop on January 8th, 2009. Back then, this Once Again Sam thing was just a hobby and any money I made felt like easy money because I was doing something I enjoyed. I probably spent whatever I earned on shoes and yarn. I didn’t save it, I didn’t invest it back into my business. The whole point was creative fulfillment and a little extra spending money, both of which I received.

Things really started getting interesting in year four. By then, I was earning more on Etsy than in my full time interior design career. That was the year I realized this was way more than a side gig and I started getting serious about running a small handmade business. I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do until I was in the middle of doing it. I may have been a Maker long before Etsy came along, but I certainly wasn’t a small business owner. Thanks to Etsy, its easy-to-use interface, community full of support, and readily available self-paced education, I became an entrepreneur in my mid 20’s, something I never had the guts to daydream about prior to that.

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As you can see in my sales bar graph, some years my Etsy sales plateaued, other years were so good they made the rest look bad (looking at you, 2016), but overall it’s been a slow and steady climb to this big milestone. I’m celebrating 10 years on Etsy soon, and today marks 10,000 sales with the platform that made Once Again Sam possible in the first place.

The reason I wanted to share my true story is because I think a lot of people have unrealistic expectations about how quickly they should be successful on Etsy (or other avenues). I’m sure it happens on occasion, but I have yet to personally meet a maker who’s had that elusive “overnight success.” What I HAVE seen over and over is makers, including myself, work their butts off for years and years, and slowly but surely see success, but at the same time see their definition of success change.

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I hope my ordinary story, as undramatic as it may be, inspires someone out there to start something, pick back up, or keep at something. Decide for yourself what success means to you and go for it (and it’s okay if that changes in the process).

Every year I’ve been in business I’ve thought “I can’t believe how well this is going, there’s no way it can get any better than this” and every year I’m wrong.

Photo from 2013 when I was part of the Etsy section at the One of a Kind Show in Chicago, IL.

Photo from 2013 when I was part of the Etsy section at the One of a Kind Show in Chicago, IL.

Alpacas & Art

Yes, you've seen other Alpaca-related blog posts here if you've been a reader for awhile. Here's another one! I'm a little obsessed with these sweet-faced creatures, but it's not just because they're so stinking adorable. They're also part of my art. Literally. 

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Recently, I visited my dad and his wife at their new home in Brandon, VT (it's actually a very old home - built in 1880 - but it's new to them). They recently retired there, and I can see why. It's such a beautiful place! Just down the country road from their horse farm was an unexpected surprise. Maple Creek Farms is home to a few dozen alpacas, which is already enough to get me excited, but then I learned they actually process all of the fiber onsite and have a mini-factory for making roving, batting, and even yarn. All the things I'm interested in! 

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I've been a knitter and felt fiber artist for almost 10 years now, so I know my materials and I work with a variety of tools every single day, but I have never actually seen how fleece is processed before I get my hands on it. I always buy roving and yarn that's completely ready for use - I don't do any cleaning or dying myself, so seeing how the fiber gets from the alpaca's back to a ball of colorful roving in my living room was quite the treat. 

Needless to say, I took about 100 pictures of the baby alpacas, some of which were just a few weeks old, and I stuffed my suitcase full of colorful roving for my return trip. I love seeing how things are made, and truly understanding the process by seeing it for myself, so this whole pit stop was right up my alley. Now I have an even deeper appreciation for the material I use every day. 

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TOWN Magazine Feature

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Greenville SC people probably already saw this, but for everyone else, I wanted to share this article in a local magazine about my time as Artist-in-Residence at Poinsett State Park back in May. The full article can be found on TOWN's website. It's such an honor to be featured in the July issue! I enjoyed recounting my experience and sharing how all of my expectations were blown away. 

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Flip through the entire issue if you like...and stop on pages 49 & 50 ;-) 

Photography by  Eli Warren   Thank you all for being so patient while I listed all of the wool landscapes from The Poinsett Collection. Everything is now available on my new website:  www.onceagainasam.com   Several of the pieces sold during my 3-day Art in the Wild Exhibition a few weeks ago, but everything else (plus a few more) are listed online. If you've had your eye on any of the work I've been sharing post-residency, incluing the piece I'm holding in the photo above, now's your chance!    

Photography by Eli Warren

Thank you all for being so patient while I listed all of the wool landscapes from The Poinsett Collection. Everything is now available on my new website: www.onceagainasam.com

Several of the pieces sold during my 3-day Art in the Wild Exhibition a few weeks ago, but everything else (plus a few more) are listed online. If you've had your eye on any of the work I've been sharing post-residency, incluing the piece I'm holding in the photo above, now's your chance! 

 

Artist in Residence: Poinsett State Park

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Earlier this month, I was honored to have the chance to be the Artist in Residence at Poinsett State Park. I spent a week in the woods, soaking up inspiration and creating art inspired by it. This was my first time doing anything like this and it was such a good experience.

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I stayed in Cabin #2, which was built in 1937 and had been updated with modern conveniences, but still felt rustic. Each morning I’d wake up to the sound of birds, eat breakfast on the sun porch, and hit the trails for a few hours.

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There’s miles and miles of trails in the park, and my favorite ones were the Cowasee, Scout Loop, and of course the trail alongside Mill Pond, which is just about as scenic as it gets. I'm not originally from the south so the sight of Spanish moss is still a bit surreal to me. It looks like a movie set!

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After a few hours in the woods, I’d come back to the cabin and spend the hottest hours of the day painting, needle felting, and sketching. There was no shortage of inspiration in the park. Ideas would come to me while sitting by the fire pit after sunset or canoeing through the lily pads listening to choir of frogs on the shore.

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I definitely lost track of time, and had no idea what day it was for most of the week. I can’t tell you the last time I disconnected like that, and really focused on my work without any interruption. It was so good for my soul!

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I created nearly 20 pieces during my residency and have another 20 in the works that will be ready for my upcoming exhibit “Art in the Wild” which runs June 14-16th at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville, SC.

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A big thank you to the South Carolina Parks Department for this amazing opportunity! If you’re interested in applying for next year, check the SC Parks website in the fall for more info: https://southcarolinaparks.com/

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Check out this short video documentary that shows my week as Artist in Residence in a nutshell. Hard to believe 6 nights, several miles of hiking, hours of working, and a lot of fun in between, can be condensed into 3 1/2 minutes, but here it is!