Keeping it real – holidays at home :)

I thought quite a bit whether I should post this. I mean, I really want to show you our Christmas ornaments on a tree. And what I especially want to show off are the ornaments from last year – as good as fresh! But there is this thing of it being the darkest time of the year. I mean, one should not post such real looking pictures of things they want to sell, should they? But then again – I’m not an international corporation. And this is not a tree from some catalogue, it’s our home Christmas tree which had a broken branch and was dropping needles since the first day, but we love it anyway because my 4 year old chose it himself and had a real blast hanging every last ornament I had at hand! 🙂 I think one of our mottoes with ISEPaperAndCraft, although we have never precisely discussed it or spelled it out, is keeping it real. We are not making and selling things for customers, we are sending them to other people. And we are people too. So, here it goes, our* Christmas tree this year:

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This is the second year we’ve been decorating our tree solely with ISEPaperAndCraft decorations. I’ve been wanting to do a carefully designed and well balanced Christmas tree decorations design with our products, but this will have to wait until it’s Summer, because real family Christmas trees are meant to be simply enjoyed. In my opinion – it is not possible to have an ugly family Christmas tree, especially if the decorations are put on the tree by all family members and are self-made or special and love in some other way or for some other reason. This year I just took out the box with what I had prepared for our tree the last year and almost everything also on sale at the shop – could not miss a chance to test them on an actual tree! My 4 year old son had a blast decorating, and I we love our tree to bits. (Note the red yarn and the star shaped bowl – our tree-vase turned out to be leaking and this was our solution to avoid removing the tree and taking everything off of it)

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The different sets of acorn/chestnut/ pine cone ornaments go together surprisingly well and the tree feels just so right, natural materials are just so … natural on a real tree. Artificial ornaments are of course brighter in colour and shinier, but not something I really want to bring into my own home. What I love about acorns/ chestnuts / and pine cones, is how rich in detail and texture they are – they invite you to look more closely. They are eventually made of tiny cells, like we are, there is richness in texture and colour, even if more subdued. Our cosy little tree feels like yarn coloured with natural colours, it’s like a field of (northern) wild-flowers. And if you want to light up that kind tree you should either use real candles or choose some more exquisite brand of Christmas lights which would look more like fireflies on a jute cord not like a random electric cord with plastic on it and some more plastic.
Of course there is a limit to the natural. Some ornaments are made with a drop of quick dry glue, acrylic paste spikes on chestnuts are not what the soil is made of and satin ribbon is very much artificial in origin. But, well, that’s where the balance stands right now 🙂

Here are some chestnut rose ornaments. Can you tell the difference between the ones made for last Christmas and the ones made this Fall?

DSCN9695 DSCN9700 DSCN9702 DSCN9704   First and last are picked in 2013, the middle two are 2014 crop. The only difference I could spot was in style. And if you are curios, what kind of filter is used for the photos, I must disappoint you. It’s just the lack of light 🙂

Here’s my best shot of one of the silver cones:

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And here’s the crochet cap acorn set I originally made for Easter 2013 – it turned out to liven up our tree really well. It’s such a hassle to brand things. I know they look equally convincing on twigs with willow pussies, but I admit that the concept of eastern acorns is rather … unique. Even though it is definitely cute and original and nature friendly 🙂 As for the acorns being also from the last year – I don’t even feel like it’s noteworthy, red oak acorns are so sturdy and durable that I suspect that it will be a really long wait of decades to see one wither up and fall to pieces …

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As for the white oak acorn ornaments from last year – they will have to wait until summer for me to get proper close-ups of them 🙂 Some ore visible on whole-tree shots though! But here’s one of my experimental tree-decorations. I once covered this oak leaf with golden paint, with no particular purpose in mind. A future Christmas tree with acorns and oak leaves? Why not!

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PS: Some ornament sets are on a 20% post-holiday sale now at our shop.
PPS: I am actually aware that the year number is changed and it is customary to send out new year wishes and such on that occasion. But I also feel that the internet and every other place is so full of new year wishes on this day of all the days, that I will put mine/ours up at some later date.

-maarja
*this means our little family of tree. My sister had some wonderful Christmas decorations up at her house too – I don’t know if she took any pictures though.

Busy crafting for the pop-up shop

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Most of this glory will be available in Helsinki. Everything is also theoretically available at the Etsy shop, but since the hanging cord has changed slightly into a thinner version, I haven’t re-listed sold out items yet. Was kind of hoping to make some new up-to-date photographs, but the days have been so busy (and incredibly dark and short) that I just haven’t had a proper chance yet.

So, if you like something that’s sold out, feel free to ask for it anyway! I even have some fresh acorns left to replenish the supplies some more 🙂

-Maarja

Exciting news!

We are to participate in our first Etsy pop-up event! It’s taking place in Helsinki, Finland – there is a small exhibition space called Akkuna in the Lasipalatsi (Glass Palace). How great is that? So, now we are busy building up some stock to sell there – Golden Chestnut Ornaments, Golden Chestnut Necklaces, Silver Acorn Ornaments, Acorn necklaces and earrings plus a selection of cards, especially some Christmas cards. I’m thinking of this and a cat version of it, which is not up at the shop yet (there have been just zero sunshine recently and I don’t have a very good alternative for lighting to take product photographs…) and this card as well. I hope my sister will draw up some brand new cute cat themed cards and maybe I’ll send a couple of the flowerpot series as well.

So, there’s been that, and some regular everyday life business. In short – I’m trying to apologise for the longer-than-usual silence in this blog here.

I’d also like to introduce this year’s collection of silver (and some golden) acorn ornaments. They were already linked and mentioned above, but this here is the picture time:

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-Maarja

Ice on the puddles

Today was the day I picked black oak acorn caps. I have no pictures of that event, because it’s all but winter here and my fingers were so frozen eventually, that I took great care as not to accidentally break them and shatter them by dropping them to the pavement. Seriously! Later, passing under some horse chestnut trees, on my way to a nearby shop to warm myself up, I had to wade through layers of huge chestnut leaves, because with a cold coming in all the chestnuts had dropped most of their foliage at once. Big, beautiful, fresh leaves. What a luxury to walk through it all. Last year they threw all of their glory down on fresh snow and it was a wondrous sight to have piles of golden leaves on white. This year the leaves are mostly green or brown, though.

So, now I have small boxes of black oak acorn caps at home, carefully washed with water and soapy water, placed to dry on radiators (thankfully hot now, as it’s cold outside). I’ll list some at the shop too, in the near future. Although, there seems to be no shortage of black oak acorn caps supplied on Etsy … I’ve still got no pictures to show you – it’s dark and most of my family is asleep already. Not a good time for photo-sessions in our tiny apartment!

I wonder where has all the time gone. The day seeps away like rain into the desert (or maybe into the sea would make a better metaphor?). This Autumn has flown by like on the wings of geese, they should be in Africa by now (if that is where their wintertime summer-cottages are). There were so many things to craft before the Holiday season. There were several Halloween ideas even, but no making of these now. I feel old. Planning is now the counting of years, and the years are … numbered.  It’s easier to count days, it’s so much better to live in a world were days are THE thing. Counting years sucks. But it can’t be helped either, because I know that the Halloween will come round again soon enough and I might as well draw a few cards and come up with a spooky ornament or two. Maybe it would be a good time to start posting Easter items, before it is too late. The nature seems to agree with me on this one too – I have pair of willow pussies on my desk. They broke off of a tiny twig I brought home from the woods today. (Still no pictures).

I wonder if anyone guessed, that I was going to write about customer relations in this post. How being on the other side of the counter (even if in a really small way) has brought a completely new dimension into the way I perceive customer relations. I know there are some people with “the customer is king” attitude, criticizing, demanding and non-forgiving. I myself have never really believed in the customer-is-the-king concept anyway – it’s not like we really get anything for free anywhere. I really like the mutual partnership way of looking at things so much better. Of course, it gets more complicated with anything big. How to be “partners” with a multi billion dollar company? It’s more straightforward with small and tiny businesses. If you like it and can afford it – make an effort to support it, communicate your needs and concerns, provide feedback. This is a winning recipe for a customer.

Then again, communicating the needs is often part of the service or product. Because it’s so hard to figure out what we need. It’s even complicated to voice what we want, and we so often want random things we don’t even need. Successful businesses (successful as in making loads of money) quite often either figure out what people need or want, or present themselves as something very desirable, hence creating the ‘need’. There is soooo much of what we buy out there that is not really any good. And we all know it. However, we don’t know what exactly is bad and what is good and why, so it’s really very hard to make informed decisions about anything.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around that “buying ideas” thing. What I mean by that is buying packaging, images created with ads, buying things we have seen other people have/wear/consume in certain situations, etc. I know I sometimes (quite often, actually) make myself a cup of coffee I absolutely don’t need, but I like the IDEA of drinking coffee just right now. And quite often I look at ad-s or beautiful packaging and have to consciously remind myself that I know what’s inside and I didn’t really like it, so there’s no point in buying it. Not that that ideas thing is all bad. It’s a little bit like reading a book, only 3D. You buy a new sleek smart-phone with super functions you never use and feel like a spy with hi-tec gadgets in pockets. Life’s so exciting if you feel like you’re a first class spy, no?

Going back to customer relations (never got too far with the subject, did I) – What I most wanted to say is that every interaction with anyone ordering our things from Etsy has been a total pleasure so far! My sister got the kindest appreciative note with her last order (about how beautiful her things are and how creative she is and how much this is appreciated). She beamed after that for days (at least over the internet, we haven’t actually met, in the mean time). And every positive feedback we’ve got has made the day SO much brighter. On our end, we do our best to pay it forward (or keep up the mutual appreciation, if it’s a return customer). Whenever I make, list and send out something I always want it to be a POSITIVE surprise. I don’t just want to sell an item, I want to be able to pack some joy and true enjoyment with it. So the first and most important step is to portray it as truthfully as possible on pictures. I’d never want an actual not to live up to expectations. When I make things I always picture myself using them or giving as presents, face to face with someone who’s opinion I really care about. If the item does not pass that mental test – needs more work. And then there’s packing – there will be another post with pictures about that. In a nutshell – I tend to pack as if sending a present, because what’s inside is precious, to me because I made it and to that other person because they want it. And precious things should be handled with care.

Now, here’s the picture of this post. If you read this far you have definitely deserved one! The Winter may be coming (no literary reference intended(probably)), but the Spring is not that far either.

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-Maarja

The first year on Etsy

Today exactly a year has passed from the moment my sister made the final clicks with her mouse to open our shop on Etsy. ISE Paper And Craft. These are some of the first products to have been listed and sold last season. The designs are still every bit as lovely and gorgeous as they were a year ago, and they are up again, for their second season at the shop with many many new things.
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It has been a fun year and we have learned many things. But I still feel like a total beginner. Funny that.

I remember the time when having a one page full of listings was a goal that seemed to come by so hard and slow. Now we have filled 3 pages without barely noticing when THAT happened. A year ago I would have thought that we’d be kind of more settled in by now. Knowing exactly what we do and having developed a clientèle of sorts. But I must admit that we are still experimenting, growing, searching ourselves. And we are still looking for the right people too – I once naively believed that all it takes to just open up a shop and curious people will flock to the page to check it out. I know better now! Nevertheless – we are so very grateful to everyone who has made a purchase from our shop this first year. There have been 31 sales, 11 feedback ratings (all full stars !!!) and 22 people who have made that part happen (Thank you all, once more!). It is also worth noting, that since starting up with Etsy there have been some family and friends stepping in and making an order or two straight from the maker, and we are every bit as grateful to them!

Opening up an Etsy shop (or some other form of on-line business) is a common second or third step (as I understand) for many artisans and crafters. First you make things because you enjoy it, then you make some for friends and family, then you might find a craft shop willing to sell your work or attend some fairs. Then you’ll get more serious and build up an online presence as well. With us, it kind of all begun with Etsy. Of course there was the making of beautiful nature/flower photographs (my sisters hand-made photo card series) for years and years before. The habit of picking up little trinkets: acorns, chestnuts, twigs, moss, pebbles – you name it, has been with me as long as I can remember. I just never had a real purpose for it all. Making gift-wrappings, flower bouquets and postcards for our own purposes has been a pretty common concept as well. But never before had we thought of trying to sell any of it. The we stumbled upon Etsy. My sister got creative and I was infected. Soon there were postcards, acorns and pine cones up at the shop and we’ve been exploring new ways to channel things that come to us naturally in a way that becomes meaningful to other people.

saak  (Last post was about my sore throat and whether I should go acorn picking or not. The picture above is half of the answer to that question. The other half is the fact that my throat is STILL sore. Worth it? Yes? No? Who knows.)

Our shop got first sales during and after the Christmas season. Then there were comatose months of springs when nothing happened. At some point I decided to try out some ‘destash’ listings of my acorn and acorn cap supplies, as it seems that I wouldn’t be making any more acorn ornaments this year. That’s how I found out that there is actually a demand of sorts for acorn caps. I would have never thought of it a year ago. So I guess it was worth it to pick the acorns and caps pictured above after all – there’s part of me that is really delighted to collect this adorable plant material and ship it to people who know how to appreciate them and make use of them. (Stay tuned for new fresh 2014 listings).

This year has taught me how to appreciate entrepreneurs – especially the small ones. Not that we can really call ourselves that – ISE Paper and Craft is a tiny hobby venue and creative outlet, but it has offered us real business lessons and challenges. It has helped us to get better in touch with our creative and artistic sides. And it has totally broadened our horizons on the scope of human creativity, because thanks to having a shop we have seen so many unique and creative things from really talented artists and crafters on Etsy.

What will the next year bring? More lessons, I hope. And I definitely wouldn’t mind more sales either. 😉
Happy Birthday ISE Paper And Craft!
-Maarja

PS: There’s some special birthday love available to all of you – “birthday10” is the very coupon code you can use on checkout at Etsy to make use of our special 10% birthday discount. Can be used freely to purchase anything and as many times as you like. The code is valid until October 17th!

Winds, falling leaves and sore throats – it’s Autumn alright.

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Did you ever fake illness as a kid? Maybe held your thermometer against something hot to fake a fever or complained of aches you didn’t have? All that just to get some extra bit of attention and pampering, and to get away from obligations like school or chores. Being ill, although not without it’s unpleasant side, always used to have that fun holiday feel to it too. Just stay at home/ in bed, read books, watch TV, get treats and snacks and attention. I know I’ve done it, and I’ve found it kind of cool to be able to lay in bed all day and not HAVE TO do anything (except take medication and stay indoors). As a grown-up things have somewhat changed – you are the one who has to do the pampering and faking it usually doesn’t work.

I got down with a sore throat just recently and that made me realize how much my attitudes towards an occasional cold have changed. For one – there is just SO much to do, it felt such a total waste to sit indoors, drink tea, feel miserable and do nothing. I had already kept on going as normal with a sore throat for seve ral days, however, including much time spent in the windy outdoors on Saturday (it was all very fun, and I can’t be honest and say that I really regret my recklessness), before I ended up feeling really ill on Sunday with a throat even more sore. So I took some days off of everything. The hardest part was switching my mind towards focusing on simply enjoying myself in a leisurely way. I felt so bad whole Monday, not just because I was ill, but because I kept feeling that I should DO something useful, and that a whole day is going to waste. I was a bit better about it the next day, or it just might have been the fact that I actually did run some chores that day and didn’t feel entirely as useless. By the third day, though, I was beginning to really get into it. I watched movies for the best part of the day and enjoyed it greatly. A feeling of loss and regret came over me when I thought that I’m already feeling a little better and I should start doing things again tomorrow. I would have held my thermometer against a radiator, then, but unfortunately I hadn’t had a fever to begin with, I doubt I could have managed to deceive my conciousness that way, and the central heating won’t be turned on until tomorrow.

I shouldn’t even feel the need to fake a fever. My throat is still pretty sore and I’m feeling only a little better. If I were my own kid right now, there’d definitely be no kindergarten or playing outdoors for me yet, and warm socks would be firmly kept on my little toes at all times. I’m very good with the latter myself, I’m even diligently wrapped in a scarf, but things get more complicated with the giving myself rest part. I even thought of going acorn picking today, because the weather is great and acorns won’t wait (that rhymed, in case you didn’t notice). But I really shouldn’t, should I?

The busy inactivity

You might have visited this blog and failed to find any new posts, or maybe wondered why no new update is popping up on your Facebook or reader feeds. Oh, ok, who am I kidding here – you probably did none of those things, but let me entertain myself with a mental image of thousands of disappointed readers impatiently refreshing their browsers again and again and again …

The thing is – we haven’t been lazy. We have been busy instead.

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Some of these items can by found at A.G.A.N.. I’m very exited to have made our first acorn jewelry sales in local neighbourhood as well! There are also some new acorn earring/pendant listings up at Etsy:
1) Black Oak Bronze Hooks;
2) Black Oak Brass Nickel Free Hooks;
3) White Oak Brass Nickel Free Hooks;
4) Black Oak Bronze Chain Pendant.

My sister has been very busy and productive as well. A while back there was a post featuring one of her drawings, and I delighted to announce that it’s finally available as the most adorable post card ever. (You also can’t help but wonder, will it get hit by a falling apple or not!? Which is precisely why I love this drawing so much). She has also replaced one of her gorgeous dried flower arrangements, which got to travel all the way across the ocean to America, with an equally gorgeous fluffy heather bouquet:

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Among other things – the acorn/chestnut season is just around the corner. First (light) brown chestnuts are already popping on the ground and I’ve seen first acorns on the side-walks as well. Meanwhile, I’m happy to send out what’s left of our last year’s crop. The prime pine cone season is more or less over, though. There is a lot of rain and moisture now – the best time to pick cones was probably in the spring and during the month-long drought we had this summer …

I’m going to the post office now, to send some acorn caps across the ocean.
If you got this far there’s only one thing I’ve left to tell you – thank you for reading and have a great day!

-Maarja