Saturday, December 22, 2012

Belated Fabulous Friday Finds: Downloadable Items for the Chronically Delayed Holiday Shopper

Sorry guys, we got a little bit delayed with our Fabulous Friday Finds post due to the snafu of arguing tooth and nail with a local business owner (see the previous post for what sparked it.)

This week's theme is "Downloadable items for the chronically delayed holiday shopper", as suggested by Vyctoria, owner of Phantoms Siren Art and Design.  This week we'll feature some things you can download and print or download and read at home to give as gifts or just keep all to yourself.

"Isaac" by P.H.Dillard - $1.99 from RisherStore on

First up, we have a downloadable ebook for those who just don't want to brave holiday shopping. Great for those in your life who love the supernatural, etsy seller and author P.H. Dillard brings you this edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller that fans of all things demons, vampires and angels will go crazy for. "Isaac" is tagged by reviewers as a fast-paced read - the perfect downloadable gift to keep your inner surly teen busy while doing holiday visits. As an author myself, and one who has navigated the self-publishing waters, I can tell you that this is an absolute steal at $1.99.

Holiday Green Holly Personalized Printable Recipe Cards - $6.00 from SonShineGraphics on Etsy 
Next, we've got something that's a little more traditional on the giftiness scale: Printable recipe cards.Whether you want to give cousin Judy your favorite holiday cookie recipe or get aunt Agnes' classic fruitcake recipe, these customizable, printable recipe cards are great for last minute gifting. Thoughtfully designed by graphic designer Dina Gerner in her Brandon, Florida studio, these cards are a steal at $6.00. You get two different designs in a high quality JPEG or PDF format, customizable with up to six names for no extra charge. You can print as many as you want as long as they're for personal use. Package them with a mix-in-a-jar recipe and you've got a quick and easy holiday gift that recipients can enjoy with no stress or frustration on your part.

Christmas Gift Tags Printables - $2.50 at CheriesArtsNCrafts on

To wrap up (see what I did there?) our Fabulous Friday Finds feature, we've got printable gift tags made from artisan Cherie, of CheriesArtsnCrafts from Union City, Michigan. For the super low price of $2.50, you get 18 gift tags that you can print and use as-is or embellish and add a personal touch to. The files are delivered as a PNG or PDF file and you can print as many as you need for your holiday gift-giving extravaganza.

Thanks for taking a look at our Fabulous Friday Finds, even if it is a day late and thank you for supporting the arts and artisans by buying handmade this holiday season!

Do you have an idea for next week's Fabulous Friday Finds feature? Let us know in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you. Got a seller you'd love to see featured? Drop us a line! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Capitalizing on a Tragedy to Promote Your Business: Why It's Not Okay

I think you pretty much have to be hiding under a rock to have missed what happened this past week in Newtown, CT. It sparked a lot of conversation and thoughts on the very large and (depending on your point of view, very relevant) matters of social responsibility, responsible gun ownership, the state of mental health care, parenting and more. I will not be sharing my opinions on these things here. This is not the venue for that, and I do not feel that espousing my opinions on these matters in this manner will help - if I feel strongly about something, I get out and advocate and help with those matters.

What I'm going to speak about today is a little more relevant, since this is a business blog: using tragedy to capitalize for your own gain. Between the "Tragicrafting" purse featured on Regretsy and what I witnessed today on a local Facebook group for buying/selling/trading in my local area, I feel the need to speak up. Does this make me a hypocrite since this is mostly a business blog? I don't feel so. I'm not trying to sell you anything today. I'm not trying to bolster my brand or promote myself. I saw something wrong and I felt the need to speak out.

Today, I saw this:

Even though it's horrific, I felt the need to blot out identifying information to protect the entrepreneur's identity. 

And I was instantly sick of my stomach. And I'm not going to hide or sugar-coat my feelings on things like "tragicrafting" or "tragvertising". I'm not speaking of well-meaning individuals who are using their time, talent and money to make a donation to the victims of the Newtown, CT shooting or to any causes relevant to, or pertaining to, the prevention of this kind of thing in the future. I think we could all stand to show a little more generosity toward those who need our help - be it using your time, skills, wallet or even providing a listening ear to someone in crisis.

I'm talking about people like the business owner above who are using this as a poorly-worded, ill-timed excuse to hawk their goods and services. I find it appalling. For one thing, you're ruining your image. I certainly would not do business with someone who is so shamelessly using the ruination of others for their own gain. Then again, within minutes of that post going up on my local buy/sell/trade community, people were already asking the business owner's rates. And that makes me feel even sicker.

27 people lost their lives in Newtown Connecticut. 27 people are dead. That, in my book, qualifies as a Big Deal. By using this as an opportunity to try and further your brand or business, you're trivializing the loss of 27 lives. I can't help but think that if you can so easily incorporate that into your business tactics, you really don't understand the value of a life, let alone the void left behind when even one life is loss...multiplied by 27.

As if those two points weren't enough to pluck the strings of your conscience, the wording of the "ad" (I'm sorry, I have to put it in quotation marks. I just can't stomach it otherwise) is meant to guilt the reader into buying this person's product or services. It's not a case of "I feel so sorry for those that lost their lives and it made me think about my own life and children and how I capture their lives and memories and would like to take a minute to offer my services because this tragedy affected me and I would like to share my skills or talents." That's not the pathos this seller is utilizing.

The logos of this image is essentially "buy my stuff or you'll regret it if and when your kids die, too." And the rhetorical image of a small child asking Santa Clause if he brought "mommy" a gift card for this person's goods or services? Totally destroys the ethical credibility of this person for me and for many others. It's guilt, plain and simple. And while we're confronted by guilt in advertising every day, this brings it to a whole different level. It's low, it's dirty and it's sickening.

I don't know what else I can say about this without going into politics or frothing at the mouth. So I'll keep it short and (bitter)sweet.

If you're a business owner, I'm asking you today to please, for the kindness of others, refrain from using things like this to try and enhance your brand or company. If you're a buyer, client or consumer, I'm asking you to please not support businesses that do this. There are many things you can do to help during times of tragedy, and one is to act with social responsibility: Call out the sellers and business owners that do this. Refuse to buy into their thoughtless, careless and heartless attempt to put money in their own pockets by using a tragedy as an excuse to sell goods or services. Make it known that you are NOT okay with the commercialization of wholesale slaughter of innocent lives. 

Update: When called out on it, this local businessperson did not respond in a way anywhere close to apologetic, remorseful. He/she does not seem to even recognize that he/she did anything wrong. Seriously folks, take a little responsibility. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Ugly Blanket Collection

The Pipsqueak lounging on one of our Ugly Blankets. 
 A discussion came up recently on about the awful and sad items that end up in thrift stores or charity shops. The gist of it was that it's horrible when someone puts all their time and effort into hand-stitching (be it knit, crochet, cross stitch or needle point) a garment or blanket and it ends up in a thrift store, sold for mere pennies on the dollar. These items are cast-offs, they get no love and are not valued for nearly what they're worth in terms of the time and love put into them. It's ever needleworker's worst nightmare.

Well, I have a confession to make: I buy up these items from thrift stores and give them a new home. It all started with the intention of unraveling them for their yarn. There's an abundance of yarn to be had in so-called "ugly blankets" if only you know how to find seams and pick them apart. It's cheaper than buying new yarn and it's an eco-friendly way to create new products without placing an additional burden on resources - especially if you happen to like cotton (which, even organic cotton takes a LOT of resources to process into usable yarn) or acrylic (which is a petroleum byproduct. And as cheap and long-lasting as it is, can be re-used over and over again to no ill effect on the fiber.)

My grandmother was a knitter - she taught me to knit. Each of us children got a hand-knit blanket (heck, the adults did too!). Most of them were made from acrylic or a comparable fiber, though you'd never know or care based upon the intricate patterns and the sheer amount of work she put into them to make them lovely, warm and cozy. She taught me the value of a knit, but more importantly, the value of using what you had on hand to make something beautiful for someone else.

So when I started buying sweaters and blankets in hopes of liberating the yarn, I never in a million years expected my husband to show his softer side.

Turns out his great grandmother was a crocheter and made all sorts of granny square blankets from colors not-found-in-nature and should-never-be-put-together. Blankets in the very same style of the ones I was hoarding to harvest for their yarn. And he objected.

I figured that if those blankets gave him even just a little bit of joy, they were well worth the couple dollars spent on each one. They're every bit as warm, cozy and comfortable as the one my grandmother knit for me, and they have every bit as much love and time and effort put into them.

I grumbled and groaned about losing part of my stash yarn to the man, but what could I do? In time, I came to realize the virtue of The Ugly Blankets. Because they were charity store finds, I didn't feel bad about packing them up to take to the beach, or on picnics or to keep in the car for those emergency breakdowns that always seem to happen in bad weather.

The memories created by using these blankets in such varied settings has come to supersede their lack of visual appeal. There's the blanket that we took with Pipsqueak for her first time swimming at the lake (pictured above), there's the one that kept me warm on a 500 mile trip in a car with minimal heat. There's the afghan that saw me through the hot and cold flashes of the flu. There's the afghan I used to bundle up a dying cat on an emergency early morning day-after-Christmas trip to the only vet around who was open.

Both residents and guests alike have come to adore the Ugly Blanket collection. Some people have their favorites. Others just can't wait to see what they get next. And there's always enough to go around between the blankets I make and the ones I liberate from op shops. We could blanket a small developing country with the number of handknit and hand crocheted blankets in this house.

So next time you see an absolutely hideous blanket strewn about in some dark, dank corner of a thrift store, give it a second look. See past the ugliness to the possibilities and give someone's hard work and love a second chance to flourish.

Do you have a great handmade thrift store find that you'd like to share? Do you "liberate" yarn from op shop  items to make new objects? Are you a member of the Ugly Blanket Lovers Club? Let us know in the comments below.

Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Ways to Incorporate Wire Wrapped Jewelry Into Your Wardrobe

Brown Tonal Spirals Copper Wrapped Ring - $10 from PointySnoutOddities

I'll let you in on a secret - I shied away from wire wrapped jewelry for a long time. I thought it was too discordant, too organic and too out of touch with my style to wear. But I changed my mind. It's possible to incorporate wire-wrapped jewelry into almost any outfit and not have it overtake your personal sense of style.

1. Go Plain. 
Let the jewelry be the focal point of your outfit. Don't put on too many other accessories with the piece. Similarly, don't let the details of your outfit - wild prints, outrageous buttons or ostentatious cuts and lines - overtake the simple elegance of the piece. For example, were I to wear the ring shown above, I'd keep the sleeves of my shirt simple - no lace, no fancy edgings, no bell sleeves (okay, I might wear bell sleeves with this one to make me feel like a princess of yore!). I'd keep away from bracelets and maybe only wear one or two other rings on the hand that isn't sporting this piece. Too much visual jumble going on at once is a design disaster. Let the ring take center stage. 

2. Don't Wait for an Excuse - Make One.
One of the reasons I stayed away from wire wrapped jewelry is that I feared I'd never have an occasion to wear it. I'm not the sort to frequent hippie music festivals and I've got an active everyday life that involves work, taking care of my daughter and dealing with a whole zoo of animals. Who dresses up for that? Well, sometimes adding a little sparkle to your outfit even when you aren't doing anything can make your entire day feel special. Wear those shoulder-grazing earrings with pride! You've earned a little luxury and beauty in your everyday life.

3. Dress it up!
Another reason I shied away from wire wrapped jewelry at first is because I thought it was all too casual for a proper outing or business-like setting (the only places I really go.) But this simply isn't the case. Choose a subdued wrap to go with your outfit. Pick out small earrings that have a wire-wrapped bail for small stones in a color that coordinates with your outfit. Augment a business suit with a small rosette style ring made entirely of wire. With wire available in so many colors and hues these days, it's possible to find something wrapped in navy blue to match your best business suit or any of the tried and true neutral metals (gold, silver, copper, bronze) to complement a wide range of outfits. 

4. Pick a Piece to Match YOUR style. 
I'm a tried and true goth girl. I've got  purple, pink and black hair. 99% of my clothing is black. I prefer spikes and studs to jewels and glitz. That's why I've created wraps to appeal to different demographics. My "Vampire Bite" wrapped ring is certainly more gothy than most wire wrap creations found on Etsy, or anywhere else for that matter. My other creations are equally as varied. Look for something that suits your style instead of compromising your style to suit the ring. Can't find anything? Drop us a line and let us know what you've got in mind and we can create something to suit YOUR ideas.

5. Wear Your Jewelry in Unconventional Ways.
Rings aren't just for ring fingers. Stick a wire wrapped ring onto your thumb or pinky to instantly change the feel of the piece. Placing it on the thumb can make it feel more casual, while sticking it on your pinky can make you feel like you're going to a special cocktail or tea party. Love the wire-wrapped necklace but think it's a little too much for around your neck? Coil the chain up behind a large pin back and use it as a brooch. Earrings weren't flattering for your face shape or complexion? Coil your hair up into a fancy updo and use them as hair ornaments to hide bobby pins. When wire wrapped jewelry can pull double duty, you'll feel like your money was more than well spent and that you've got a versatile piece.

What are some of your favorite ways to wear wire wrapped jewelry? Do you have a favorite piece that pulls double duty with multiple outfits? Or perhaps a beloved wrap that never leaves your body? Let us know in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So What's a "Pointy Snout" Anyway?

A girl's best friend!

We got our name from one of our dogs - Sprocket. Sprocket is, as far as we and the vet can tell, a whippet and collie mix (also known as a lurcher, a cross between a working dog and a sighthound). He's also one of the sweetest, most caring and generous dogs I know. Now I know some of you are saying "wait, wait, wait. She's ascribing anthropomorphic characteristics to her dog!" or "Oh no! Not another dog nut!" But bear with me, here.

Sprocket was an unwanted dog. He was brought in to a local shelter and was due for euthanasia after he was spotted by the lovely Ms. Sandra Stealey of CanineWorks Rescue in Coolville, OH. She was in to rescue another dog from a similar fate and she found him and just couldn't leave him there, but as anyone who works shelter rescue knows, the costs build up fast and she didn't have the funds on hand.

She ended up going back, armed with money raised in a bake sale by a group of school children. She got Sprocket (then called Liam). She took him into her rescue and started working with him and trying to find him a good home.

I was at a very lonely point in my life. My husband was working through an injury we thought would leave him disabled for life. We weren't exactly getting along the greatest with the hardship his injury caused us. Besides providing me with some emotional outlet for all the love I had, we thought it would be good for him to get up and moving and a dog would provide just such an opportunity. I also suffer from severe depression and anxiety - I thought having a dog with me would encourage me to get up and about and moving, even on the days I didn't want to. And so I looked around on and searched for a dog who was both similar to what we wanted (we were looking for a Corgi or Corgi mix!) and someone whose temperament and personality was good for us. And I found Sprocket.

A couple months later he came to live with me. I had no clue what I was doing - I'd never owned a dog before in my life. Thankfully, Sprocket's demeanor proved true. He's a nurturer by nature - he is keenly aware of and in-tune to the emotions and feelings and comfort of those around him. I'm told it's a lurcher thing.

He's so in-tune and caring that when I started doing animal rescue and fostering of my own (cats, due in part to our other dog, Marty, who is not too keen on dogs he doesn't know within his territory. But Marty's story is for another time), Sprocket was right there with me. Kittens come in and they're cold and hungry? Sprocket cuddles up to them for warmth. Cat feeling under the weather? He grooms them until they feel better. Is a spat between the resident felines and the fosters breaking out? Sprocket is right there, putting his pointy snout right in the middle to break things up and make sure both parties are OK. He'll bring me items to assist, or if an animal is in danger and I don't recognize it, he'll bring it to me or draw me to it. He does the same thing for our human baby - he acts as a mother hen.

So I decided to include my boy Sprocket as part of my business name. I hope to embody the same characteristics he has - he's goofy-looking, fun-loving, absolutely caring and dedicated and provides love to and brings beauty into the lives of  anyone who needs it. Some say he's an oddity himself, but I just call him my best friend.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Longing for Spring

"Spring Has Sprung" Wood And Copper Wrapped Ring - $9.00 from Pointy Snout Oddities on Etsy

Today is a gray, dreary day in Southeastern Ohio and I hardly want to get out of bed to do anything. It's hard to even get in the spirit of the holidays. Our tree isn't up, the lights haven't been hung, the stockings are still packed in storage and it's a balmy 50 degrees outside.

50 degrees! In the middle of December! The weather has me longing for spring, even though the winter Solstice hasn't even gotten here yet. I've chosen today to showcase my "Spring has Sprung" wire-wrapped ring just because I'm feeling exceptionally out of season.

The piece was created out of pink-colored copper wire and a green wooden bead. The wire was my own, but the bead came from my Almost-Sister-in-Law's stash while I was visiting them a few weeks ago. The combination of pink and green always reminds me of spring - pink flowers, green grass and the freshness of the colors just screams "the world is waking up!" to me.

Today's agenda includes cleaning up my work space a little, getting some more holiday crafting done and focusing on new products and ideas for the Pointy Snout Oddities store. I'm thinking it's time to start working on red, pink and white designs for Valentine's Day.

What do you like to work on when the weather is horrible but warm? What about when you're longing for spring in the depths of winter?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fabulous Friday Finds: Pamper Yourself!

Today is the first edition of Fabulous Friday Finds, where we'll showcase some wonderful products that can be found on Etsy.  This Friday we're focusing on pampering yourself. You've likely had a rough month between wrapping up the end of the year bills, taking care of holiday shopping, braving nasty crowds and even nastier weather. Take some time for yourself this holiday season and just relax. These items also make great Christmas gifts for those bath and body product junkies in your life. 

12 Bar Sampler Pack from TheGreenBath. $25 on Etsy. 

First up is the 12 bar soap sampler from The Green Bath.  I will say that I'm totally biased when I give a review of these soaps. I bought a sampler pack a couple years ago and I'm still working my way through it. Artisan Eric Wood creates these soaps by hand at his location in Portland, Oregon.

The soaps he creates are all natural with no added dyes or artificial fragrances. I'm not sure how he does it, but the soap is so lush and rich that, in my house, it's reserved for those special moments where I need a little pampering.

At $25, it can seem like a steep buy for something you're just going to wash down the drain, but it is totally worth it. Think about it - if you were to use up one bar a month, you'd be stocked up for the whole year. And the visual appeal of having these colorful beauties stacked on your shelf just waiting to be used can't be beaten when you want to class up your bathroom a little bit.

Eric allows you to choose your own scents from his shop. My favorite happens to be the orange clove while my husband loved the Downtown scent - a mix of  cloves, coffee and musky, dark oils.

Organic Cotton Wash Cloths, Set of 3. $15 from HandemadebyAnnabelle. 
If you're looking for something to use with this soap, snag yourself some organic cotton washcloths handmade by Annabelle of HandmadeByAnnabelle. Annabelle is a Columbus, OH crafter and I can't help but give a shout out to those who are working hard in my state.

These washcloths are made from certified organic yarn and hand crocheted by Annabelle herself. And it's a great value for  your dollars - three 8 inch by 8 inch wash cloths for $15. Think about how much you'd pay at a department store or luxury bath store for organic wash cloths and factor in the thought that these are hand made, beautifully colored and textured and eco-friendly and you're getting them for the steal of $5 a wash cloth!

So you've washed yourself squeaky clean with all natural soap using an organic wash cloth. Finish up your earth-friendly pampering with some Organic, all natural Whipped Body Butter from AuthentiCommonScents. 

Shop owner Janelle Carlson offers this product in two delightful, invigorating scents - Mandarin Bergamot and Lavender Lemongrass. The ingredients she uses are all natural, eco-friendly and made with certified organic ingredients.

Organic Whipped Body Butter in Mandarin Bergamot. $12 from AuthentiCommonScents. 
As per her shop, there are no additives, chemicals or preservatives. Because of the lack of preservatives, you'll have to use it up fast (which shouldn't be a problem. It looks delicious enough to eat.)

The shelf life of a tin of this body butter is about 2 to 3 weeks, but as per the artist, it can last up to 3 months if refrigerated. Nobody wants cold lotion after a hot bath, though. I would advise taking a little bit out of the tin at a time and warming it up before you start your bath, that way its ready to go when you're getting up and ready to face the world again.

These lotions are both energizing and delightful to smell and are created by hand in Janelle's St. Paul, Minnesota workshop. At $12 a tin, it's a great deal for 6 ounces of something totally natural and organic that also smells wonderful and will leave your skin silky smooth.

Have you tried any of these products? Let us know in the comments below. Do you have a favorite item or shop you'd like to see featured on our Fabulous Friday Finds? Drop us a line! We'd be glad to show them off to the world.