Friday, November 23, 2012

Anniversary Time (and a Reason to Read to the End)

Cyber Monday -- the anniversary of the opening of my Etsy store -- fast approacheth, so this past week has been all about taking images, writing copy, and listing some new Mayfaire products in my virtual shop in preparation for the Big Day. It befuddles me that doing this is easily the most painstakingly slow and torturesome process EVER. But I have a sneaky feeling that I make it harder than it is....

Last year at this time I was just getting to know my digital camera. I have some practice under my belt now, but not enough to streamline things. And since every window in my house is full of glassware, plants, and birdcages, I'm hardpressed to find one that lets in enough natural light for me to illuminate a product or two. I have to get close to it, for one thing. And then I have to have a horizontal surface near enough (and clear enough!) to it to pose a product. Gah!...

And heaven knows there's no shortage of props around here. Anywhere you look there's a cool book or little easel to help support a product or stage a photo. It's choosing one that's the hard part! I'm defined by my stuff and I like to share it in teeny tiny bits so that if you're ever at my house you'll have been prepared for the assault on the senses that is Tumbledown. But then because there are so many ways around here to show a product off I end up taking about a million shots, of course.... (Note to self: In future, just lay the poor thing on a piece of barn board and have done with it.)

After all the picturetaking comes the tweaking. Is the photo too dark? Is the image too blurry? Did I remember to photograph the creation from every angle? Did I remember to add the Mayfaire logo? Choose, save, upload, etc. Wash, rinse, repeat. Whew!

And if it was just about the photos, I'd be happy. But then there's the copy. I love reading sellers' copy! Creative copy makes me fall in love with a seller sometimes. It makes me want to buy their product just to have something made by such a special person!

But by the time I get to writing my own copy I'm tapped out. I can't see straight, I can't think straight. All I know is, the gajillion pics I just combed through make me sick to tears of the product I now have to gush about. Oops!

And this year it doesn't help that at this particular point in time I'm kind of an emotional slug, so it's hard to be all "!" when every cell in my body is feeling "...." I want to be gushy about my work (because no one wants to buy from an Eeyore), but the dishonesty of the 'fake it 'til you make it' rule kind of gives me hives....

This week, during all the tedious nit-pickiness of it all, I've wondered more than once whether or not what I'm doing is worth it. So much of my time has been spent on only a handful of products! (How do sellers with a million items DO this, anyway??) And in the year it's been open, my Etsy store has gotten few views and had few sales. I know I don't have to be a micro-managing perfectionist, agonizing over every product photo and every copy blurb. And I know there are more things that I can do as its proprietor to augment the numbers and statistics, as it's not just about uploading a photo and hoping for the best.

But without some tangible feedback I can't ignore the occasional feeling that perhaps my photos are holding me back, or my copy is lame, or my prices are too high or too low or too something. Or perhaps it's simply just me. (It's always a rollercoaster ride here in my head!)

And then a sale occurs and you'd think I'd won the moon or something, LOL! :)

So it goes....

Happily, I seem to have a smidgen more of a handle on this virtual store thing now than I had at the beginning. And because a virtual store interests the bejaysus out of me, I'm hoping to somehow maintain this interest and energy.

So here's to Cyber Monday and Mayfaire's 1-year anniversary. And here's to some new product listings all ready and waiting for you to check them out! And in the event that you like something you see there, please know that a 20% discount off your purchase (from now through the end of November, or until I remember to deactivate it) awaits you for being my beloved reader. Just use the coupon code CYBER2012 during the checkout process.

Thank you. And happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Musings

It's Thanksgiving Eve. 

The holiday is just moments away, and I haven't cleaned house or made pies or thawed a turkey. I won't be doing the cooking. In all my years I've only hosted the day's get-together once that I can remember. And it was epic. There was premature labor involved.

Instead, this year I'll be traveling north to my parents' house as usual, where my family and I will pass the potatoes and the green bean hotdish and get our fart jokes in a row. (I have brothers. It's what we do.)

Last year's drive to Mom and Dad's was full of memories. I can recall the rows of corn still standing out in the fields and the deer navigating between them, the November world smelling of sleep and snow, and my head full of the recollections of childhood.

Thanksgiving begins the Nostalgia Season for me. I consider the years that have passed and the years I have left. This year will be no different.  

I'll look around the table at my brothers and their loved ones. I'll think of my Girlz busy with celebrations of their own, and the children that they're making fond memories for. I'll see my aged parents together and happy. And my heart will hurt with gratefulness for all that I have and all that surrounds me. Still surrounds me. And I'll say a silent prayer for more years together. Please.

Then just before my heart shatters completely, someone at the table will make the first fart reference and we'll be off in shrieks of laughter so loud that my nephew will cover his ears. 

Fart jokes to the rescue. I'm thankful for them, too. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Already Counting the Days Until Next Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en here at Tumbledown is sometimes all about the pumpkins.

If you don't know this yet about me, Hallowe'en is my fave holiday of the year. It's gotten more so as I've aged, and each time it nears I'm reminded of every Ray Bradbury story I've ever read and my head spins with his images.

To me it's all about the atmosphere.

Now it's usually more about the 'creepy' than the 'cute.'
In past years my holiday decor consisted of pumpkins, gourds, jack-o-lanterns, scarf-draped lamps and tarot cards, flickering candles and mulled cider and Ouija boards. But since James moved in with me all that has changed.

James is an old-school, 'slasher film' kinda Hallowe'en guy. And a Young Frankenstein kinda Hallowe'en guy. There's humor in his holiday, and a healthy pinch of gore. He's not above the pop-up-and-scare-you stuff (at which I draw the line). And a trip to a seasonal Hallowe'en outlet with him is 'interesting.'

Left on our own, I will go directly to the atmospheric stuff (The candelabra! The fringed black tablerunners!), but James wants the crawling zombie animatronic. He wants the clacking and sparking lab device, the knife switches, the bubbling beakers with their contents of fake bloody body parts. He wants the quaking tombstones and the screaming wraiths....

So I've taken to divvying up the house: I get the inside, he gets the outside. And then I tweak all that he does because I'm a Hallowe'en control freak.

Mr. Bones relaxes by the fire.
This year, one of our first holiday purchases was a full-size skeleton. I've always wanted one, and I've held out over the years until I could find something that looked 'just right.' (There are a lot of skellies out there, but the bulk of them just look cheesy....)

Before we even got him home I'd already named him Mr. Bones. Not original, I know, but when I first saw him in the store I couldn't help but say, "Ahhhh, we meet again, Meestah Bohnz!" (Admit it; not even you can say his name without sounding like a Bond villain.) And not surprisingly, the name stuck. What can I say?....

This looks equally nice as a mantel scarf!
In the same picture (above) you can kind of see the lamp on my fireplace mantel. You may or may not be able to see that it's a real working electric meter, but that's not the part I want to show you. This year I spookified my mantel lamp with a fringy black valance from a curtain set that I'd bought at a Hallowe'en store once upon a time. (I wasn't sure then what I was going to do with it or if I'd ever use it, but it's better to be safe than sorry, right?). I ran a shoelace through the spaces in the top of the valance where a curtain rod would go, and then I tied the ends of the shoelace together before draping the whole thing over the lampshade. When it was in place, I finger-pleated the curtain. Voila! :)
I love the result, don't you?

While I was playing around indoors, James was busy in the front garden, stomping my sedum and artemesia into fragrant dust while negotiating the logistics of the fog machine. And then there were tombstones to hook up to it, obelisks to arrange, and battery-operated Angels of Death to suspend from my garden hooks -- all before the trick-or-treaters were due to arrive.

This season we discovered a creation at the Goodwill that we refer to now as 'Cocoon Man.' It's a vaguely body-shaped lump wrapped in fake spiderweb. The thing I love about it is that even though it's battery-operated to do stuff, it's still pretty low key for an animatronic. No deafening sound effects. No stupid cackling voice shrieking things like, "Get me out of here!" (I could never figure out why it's not enough for Hallowe'en decorations to just look cool....)

The photo doesn't do him justice, but you get the idea.
At first we were going to simply suspend Cocoon Man by his feet from a tree branch. But I couldn't help thinking how much better he'd look hanging vertical inside the lighted archway that I normally keep inside my house by the front door. (Yes, it's a Hallowe'en prop, too, but I didn't have the heart to pack it away; it's just too cool. And leaving it outside year 'round was out of the question, and not because I care at all what the neighbor's think. I just didn't want it to fall prey to the Minne-snow-tah elements.)

After combining Cocoon Man with the archway, I again couldn't help thinking how much better he'd look with some more of my tweaking. I entwined the arch with a swag of black plastic maple leaves, then wrapped Cocoon Man in more spiderweb before sprinkling him with a few plastic spiders. Then I affixed a large furry spider (it has a funny face, so I'm guessing it was originally meant as a table decoration) to his throat to make it look as though Big Mama spider had chosen him as dinner for her spiderlings. Mwa-ha-haaaaa. I had no idea that the whole effect would look so awesome come nighttime....

Cheap top hat + valance + eyeliner = costume
Since I was knee-deep in the doldrums at the time, I had little interest in doing more for the holiday than we already had. However, five minutes before our first trick-or-treater was due, I found the interest and energy to cook up a quick costume. One floppy top hat (again from the Goodwill; this one had the word 'Bridegroom' across the front of it, but I blacked the letters out with marker), one additional black lace curtain valance, some liquid eyeliner and I was good to go.

Three dozen trick-or-treaters and a handful of Addams Family TV-series reruns later and Cocoon Man and the rest of his graveyard friends were back inside, awaiting their return to the basement again until next year.

Sadly, our trick-or-treater count was down from seasons past. James thinks that our usual Goth teens have grown up and moved on, and he hopes that we're somehow inspiring Hallowe'en-lovin' little ones to return in future. At least a couple ventured forth with their parents this year and whispered shyly to James that they 'love our house,' so it was nice to know that all James's work was noticed....

And I say 'James's work' because he really did do the bulk of it. I felt bad that because of my mood this year I was unable to do much of the stuff I usually do for Hallowe'en. No pinky-grey Jell-O molded to look like a human brain. No paper lunchbags inkstamped with witchy images and filled full for the trick-or-treaters. No Body Bag Tacos or cauldron brimming with green margaritas. No haunted house sounds moaning from the stereo speakers.... I'm blaming it all on a bout of Post-Fest doldrums followed by a month that was all about obligation when it should've been about recovery...

But I have high hopes for next year.


Lest you think I've forgotten, today's additions to the Thankfulness List are:

1.) A birthday that's in the month of October.
2.) Leftover Hallowe'en candy.
3.) Ray Bradbury and how he gets into my head more than ever each autumn.
4.) Actress Carolyn Jones' oh-so-curvy Morticia Addams.
5.) A guy in my life who doesn't mind putting away the Hallowe'en flotsam. (Thank you, James!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

It's 1 a.m. on Election Day and I'm almost too excited to sleep....

Moments ago I stood outside under the overcast sky. I sensed the ghosts of suffragettes. And I prayed for the best possible outcome for the American people.

The entire neighborhood was asleep so I spoke my words aloud, and the wind freshened before my prayer was even ended. The air chilled. I felt the occasionally droplet on my skin. And now as I type I can hear gusts blowing rain against the windows. Whatever. If it snows tomorrow, I'll still be standing in line at the little brick elementary school down the street, waiting my turn....

So today it's no surprise that I'm especially thankful for the brave women throughout history who fought so hard and risked so much so that I may vote.

Ladies, you are in my thoughts today.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Whoops! Woe! Work! Whew!

The weekend had a lot of blah in it, and it's all my own fault....

I was in the process yesterday of finishing an art piece that I've worked on periodically since before Fest was even over for the season, and -- wouldn't you know it! -- as my mind wandered and my hand worked, I watched my own self make an error that I couldn't correct.

No electric eraser was gonna come to my rescue as this was a big old ink error. I cursed creatively. I beat myself up. I appealed to the art gods. I weighed my options. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate my mistake. And I couldn't bear to take an X-Acto knife to it and mortise in a solution. So I shut the door on it all and walked away.

But inside I knew what I had to do; I just didn't want to do it. And there was no time to think creatively, as the piece would be my gift to my grandson, whose first birthday party was scheduled for today. 
Within minutes of realizing my error, I phoned my daughter and explained the situation, and she completely understood if I was unable to finish the gift on time.... But I was less understanding. I couldn't cut myself the slack! Maybe I could have somehow if what had happened to it was an accident. But this was an error of 'seeing.' I'd literally drawn something incorrectly and then inked in my mistake, and I couldn't forgive myself. I knew better.
I would have to start all over again.
So all night long I worked -- retracing what I could salvage and redrawing what I couldn't, then blocking out my color choices, inking in my pencil work, and rendering the color. And drinking coffee, too. And watching hoaky late-night television.... 
I couldn't leave anything until morning. PartyTime was noon, and I was afraid that if I went to bed at all I'd oversleep. The piece was eventually framed at 5:00 a.m. and I debated even bothering going to bed at that hour. But then I realized that it was Daylight Saving Time -- sleep was mine after all! Yes, it was just an hour, but it was a dipped-in-GOLD hour. 
Now the party's over. The gift's been given and received. And seeing the finished piece satisfies me. That being said, today I'm thankful for:
  • The big clunky x-ray viewer that I use for a lightbox. (Beats heck out of the pane of window glass and the desk-lamp-on-the-floor-at-my-feet that I used to use.)
  • Autumn Daylight Saving Time!
  • Waking up not feeling hungover-ish from sleep deprivation.
  • A corner slice of birthday cake. (Three times the frosting!)
  • A grandson so handsome that I could just kiss his face off.
See? Most beautiful boy EVER.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thankfulness

This looks Christmassy to me....
Just last week I was standing at the counter in a local McDonalds and noticed that Christmas-inspired McFlurries were now being offered and advertised, and I had a mini fit.

I get that the Christmas buck is the biggest, but please can't we take the year one holiday at a time? I thought to myself, "Hey! There's a Hallowe'en to enjoy first, and don't forget Thanksgiving."

Poor Thanksgiving....

Because of that moment at McDonalds I've since decided that Thanksgiving needs its due. And to honor it proper I've made the commitment to create a daily list of things I'm thankful for. Every day from now through the month of November.

(And before you begin thinking that this might suck for you as a Not-So-Daily Maily reader, please know that I've got so much on my plate right now that posting here every day will be difficult, so I will be keeping the bulk of my list to myself. However, I urge you to make one with me, and I would love it if you shared your daily entries!)

So here it is -- November Oneth. And today I'm feeling thankful for:
  • Leftover Hallowe'en candy.
  • Hot water and a deep bathtub.
  • Squash soup for supper.
  • A mood that can almost see a pinpoint of light at the end of its dark tunnel.
  • YOU.