Year in Review: 2015

I know I say this every year, (and I hope I’ll be lucky enough to get to say it again next year): this has been an incredible twelve months. Once again, records have been broken, goals have been achieved (though promptly replaced by new goals for next year), and an awful lot of fun has been had. I've learned SO much this year, and there are some big big things coming up in the near future. As always, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to make a living this way, with my own two hands as a creative entrepreneur, and I'm so thankful for every minute of this journey as a Maker.

Once Again Sam turns 7 years old on January 8th, and as I have done in past years, I always like to stop and reflect, think through what I’ve learned, where I’ve been, and the countless things I have to be grateful for.  

Just a reminder of why I share my stats - this is not intended for bragging purposes.

  • This is to show that a little side hobby can become a serious business over time, through trial and error, self education, and a whole lot of hard work.

  • This is to encourage others to start something of their own, or keep at it, whatever stage they're in. If you have idea for a business, go for it! I had no plan when I started out, so if you have that much, you're way ahead of me. 

  • This is because a record breaking year is only possible thanks to God’s provision, and support from everyone out there who has been a part of my business in some way.

Thank you all for your support this year!

2015 Graphic.jpg

It was a darn good year, in more ways that numbers can ever prove. Here’s ten of my favorite highlights from 2015, in no particular order. This is what memory lane looks like as a small business owner.

  1. Workshop renovations: Thanks to my husband and all his hard work renovating our basement this year, I now I have a workspace where I’m happy and incredibly productive. Also, it’s a total luxury to be able to run equipment, filter the air, AND have the lights on all at once without blowing a circuit!

  2. The Makers Summit: as always, this conference for creatives lit a fire under me to take on some big big goals this year, and I’m proud to say I have checked off almost everything on this year’s list (or very close to it). However, I already have a to-do list for 2016, and the next conference is still 2 months away!

  3. Artisphere: Getting accepted to the festival and winning the People’s Choice Award was a huge honor, and even though I didn’t make the cut for 2016, that gigantic purple prize ribbon will always hang proudly in my studio.

  4. New laser cutter: I upgraded to a huge 90 watt machine this year, and it was worth every penny. I only wish I had done it sooner and never wasted my time on a cheaper hobby model when I needed the professional model from the start. I’ll never forget how relieved I was when we finally got this thing in place (it weighs over 500 pounds and nearly didn’t fit through the doorway)!

  5. Learning new things (woodturning,  metal working, shibori dying): In February I took a woodturning class with my husband, and after an afternoon of instruction, we’ve been hooked ever since. I also attended the John C. Campbell Folk School for a week this summer to learn metal smithing, which was an incredible learning experience. Recently, I tried my hand at shibori dying, just for fun, and really enjoyed the process. I now realize for the first time how important learning new things is for my creative health, so that’ll definitely be a priority for next year.

  6. American Made Finalist: I have applied to this national contest for years, and was excited to make it to the final round for the first time. I got some nice media exposure because of it, even though I didn’t win.  

  7. My first catalog: It took over 6 months of tedious, frustrating, never-ending work, but we did it! Oh my gosh, never again. But yay, it’s finally done!

  8. Indie Craft Parade: I look forward to this craft show all year long for so many reasons, and it never ever disappoints. Is it weird I’m already thinking about my application photos for June?

  9. The Bunny Project: The idea for this series began about this time last year, and once every quarter, I took a break from orders and production work to make something just for fun. In my world, making bunnies is fun. Making bunnies doing or wearing ridiculous things, is about as much fun as a person can have. 95% of the pieces from this quirky needle felted collection sold, so that was an unexpected bonus. I guess I’m not the only one who LOVES bunnies!

  10. Starting the #MakersEyeView series: I got the GoPro camera for Christmas last year, and have really enjoyed producing these short videos for my YouTube channel that share my process (from my perspective, mostly as time-lapse). I didn’t have any video background prior to this, and still have an awful lot of technical stuff to learn, but I have discovered I really enjoy sharing what goes on behind the scenes in the studio, and I have been overjoyed by the positive response so far.   

Indie Craft Parade 2015

The 6th annual Indie Craft Parade was this past weekend, and as always, it didn't disappoint. Far from it! This highly competitive, well-organized regional craft fair showcases 80 artists and brings out 6-7,000 attendees in Greenville every September. I was pleased to participate once again this year, and just as in years past, it was one of my best shows ever. How does that keep happening? This particular craft show is just THAT good!

My Indie Craft Parade 2015 booth setup

I saw so many familiar faces, people who have been coming to my booth year after year. I always enjoy seeing "vintage" Once Again Sam jewelry in the crowd, pieces I made several years ago, still being enjoyed. That's probably the coolest part of the weekend - having happy customers come back again and again.

This is a big weekend for my business, so I spend a good chunk of the summer preparing for it. I'm proud to say, this was the first Indie Craft Parade when I didn't run out of bags or dollar bills. In previous years, I vastly underestimated how many shoppers would come through, so I'd double up on supplies the following year, and of course the number of customer would double up too, so I still had the same problem. Not this year! I took $150 in singles, and over 500  paper bags (which I hand stamped one by one) and it seems I finally have a feel for just how to prepare for this show. It only took me 5 years to get it right! 

Here's the rundown of my weekend in numbers, just as I shared last year, plus a peek inside my shopping bag at my fabulous finds. I always enjoy supporting other artists, and at a show like this one, you truly have to restrain yourself! There is so much talent, so many gift ideas, so many splurges to consider. In the end, I brought home items from 12 other artists. 

My 2015 Indie Craft Parade purchases will full artist list below:

1. Origami flowers by Paperform

2. Mixed media block art by Heather Murphy

3. Ceramic bowl by Daniel Bare

4. Paper wall art by Paperform

5. Lip balm by Hello Soap

6. Weaving on woodblock by Twenty Two West

7. Mixed media assemblage by Jon Andrews

8. Wood block paintings by Sunny Mullarkey Studio

9. Brass stud earrings & ring by Melting Sun Apparel

10. Print by Elizabeth Foster

11. Painted wood sign by Olive + Grey

12. Handbag by Hawks & Doves

Best French Fries in Greenville

Attention health nuts: read no further!

A French fry is a glorious thing. These salty wonders made from something as unassuming as a potato are amazing enough to be their own food group. No matter how you slice, season, or dip them, there is no greater sidekick to your entree.

I’m a lifelong fan of pommes frites, and I can still remember my parents bugging me to eat the rest of my meal, because all I really wanted was the fries. Although I do make an effort in moderation these days, I enjoy those little sticks of Heaven whenever I can. Since I’m very serious about my fries, I recently embarked on a research mission here in Greenville, SC, to determine which restaurant was responsible for producing the valedictorian of local French fries. Let me just say that I’m not a licensed fry expert, I have no food critic creds here, just an intense love of fries, and I simply wanted an excuse to try them all (in the name of science, of course!!).

Let’s start with the runner’s up, a group of extremely tasty and respectable fries that almost took first place in my book.

Truffle Fries: The Lazy Goat

Sweet Potato Fries: Nose Dive

Shoe String Fries: Tupelo Honey Cafe

Crinkle Fries: Culver’s

Tater Tots: Southern Culture

Waffle Fries: Firebirds

Curly Fries: Como's Pete’s #4

Fast Food Fries: Freddy’s

There was a clear first place winner for me, and that was The Green Room. This Main Street favorite has won the triple crown of best French fries in Greenville, in my humble opinion. Try their truffle fries, sweet potato fries, and classic shoe string fries (notice I said “and” and not “or”). The texture is perfection, the flavor exquisite, the size, shape and texture are exactly what a French fry should be. You won’t find a better fry in all of the upstate.