This lovely month of May

The wonder of buds opening and fresh new leaves shooting out is still an absolute wonder each year. Always, ALWAYS, it seems like it’s eventually happening just too fast and I end up feeling like I’ve somehow missed something. For days and weeks the spring hangs in the air and and the buds seem to be swelling just a little with a speed agonizingly slow. And then, the next minute you know it’s fresh new greenery everywhere and the leaves seem to be getting bigger by the minute and lawn mowers are out and only moments later you realise that the thing that just hit your nostrils, tugging on some pleasant memories and creating odd sensations, was the smell of freshly cut grass – first time this spring.

The spring, is also about (splitting) and piling firewood to dry over the summer for the next winter:

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And occasionally it may happen that your friends have really great ideas for birthday celebration. I absolutely love sunday birthday parties that begin early, take place somewhere in the wilderness and include pancakes baked on a tiny portable gas stove, fresh coffee brewed in a proper coffee press and a real bonfire – among other things. Here’s one with my teacup waiting on the bench.

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The forest was littered with millions of flowers – hepatica nobilis or liverleaf:

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and beautiful Pulsatilla Patens or Eastern pasqueflower to name a few:

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The views were glorious as was our hike as we had packed with the plan of camping straight next to the car. In reality, as it appeared, the camping/fire building sites were some 3 kilometres from the parking lot. So we went, carrying pots and kettles, a full litre of milk to lighten some coffees, selection of 3-4 different kinds of jams in case people had different preferences for their pancakes, a small portable grill, etc. Reminded me of the time when in the TV series “The Persuaders!”, where Lord Sinclaire’s idea of camping included a pavilion, proper china, table and chairs, etc. while Danny had nothing but a sleeping bag. Of course, there is also an entire tradition of clamping, with a special new word coined for it and all. Not sure if we really qualified for that, though – after all, we had forgotten to bring the honey, 3 litre bottle of apple juice and there were no blankets and pillows available…

-Maarja

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.

Christmas is over now (or not :))

That’s how time seems to pass if you peek into the business end of the thing. Holidays are so close now, that I’ve been dreaming of hearts in various shapes and sizes and trying to come up with clever birthday card ideas, because Christmas and holiday related things are so … yesterday. Of course the non-online shops should be increasingly busy and then there are still the post-holiday discounts coming up. But our little on-line craft store can only sit back and relax and wait for sales reports from The Little Christmas Market pop-up Etsy shop in Helsinki (I snagged the header from the event FB page).

10419429_10152555466052794_925711097645092513_nMy sister has not been sitting idle (and dreaming up some silly Valentine’s hearts), she has been busy keeping up the work on her simple, elegant and natural beach pebble jewelry series instead. Here are some examples:
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1) A pair of lovely (nickel free) silver tone post earrings with beach pebbles. (It should be red brick pieces worked smooth and round by the sea).
2) And a matching red brick sea pebble brooch.

Aren’t they great?
I love beach pebbles!

In other news – it’s December, if you haven’t noticed. And we live in the northern part of the northern hemisphere and we see very little of the sun this time of the year. I think I might have mentioned it couple of times already on this blog, but it’s still growing darker each day and it’s kind of hard to avoid the topic. Especially while the urge to just cave in and spend the days mostly sleeping and eating until the days are of a more decent length, is just getting stronger. Bears, badgers, hedgehogs and other wise animals, who either hibernate or almost hibernate during winter months, have worked it out so nicely …
Of course, there are plenty of people living way more to the north than I am. In case you are one of them – please just ignore my complaints about the lack of the light. I know we have like a daylight feast down here every day – I even actually saw the sun yesterday, and it’s kind of unclear why I have put my swimming wear away. We don’t even have snow at our beaches yet …

In any case – happy wait for the holidays to arrive and may you find double chocolates in your advent calendars!

-Maarja

A birthday

To be quite honest I had one too – exactly 11 days ago. Funny, it feels for some reason like months have passed already – maybe it’s the dark time of the year speaking. When days are so short with grey overcast skies and the Sun – on the rare occasions it manages to shine upon us – is always at some awkwardly low angles, the time seems to stretch out like cheese on hot pizza.

So I’m a year (and 11 days) older now – happy birthday me! Over 30 years later I’m living in the same city I was born in and not so far from the place I lived first years of my life. Some people end up on the other side of the globe, some people live whole lives in the same place, some people move about, but find themselves close to where they started.

Anyway, I decided to celebrate my birthday by inviting some people I like to take a walk in a bog with me.

DSCN9765When the coloured leaf fest of October ends, it kind of feels like everything has turned brown and grey and all the colour is lost, but when your eyes accustom to the relative monochrome a bit, you realize that there are gazillion tones of brown and grey, and that the evergreen is as bright as the leaves were.

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The bog smelled great too. Of peat and brown water mostly. If you’ve got to name it. First thing one notices is the lack of smells. No exhaust fumes from traffic, no ever so subtle smells of garbage cans, people smoking, smoke from chimneys and thousand other things always present in densely populated areas. Most pronounced smell were the slightly intoxicating fumes of Marsh Labrador / Wild rosemary or Ledum palustre, if you will, at the beginning of the track.

I had been very well prepared and brought my rubber boots with me. As it turned out, the second half of the track was indeed under water. Although, for some reason I had neglected to put on said boots and begun the walk in light canvas shoes instead. The downside of this was not getting to walk to the end of the track. The upside was getting to peel off all footwear and stick my bare feet into the brown waters of the bog, known to preserve dead bodies for centuries (Tollund man), although it’s also true that said bodies are rarely ever to be found again from the depths of the bog. I’m pretty sure there was a fair share of dead people and animals mummified and resting in the brown depths in that very bog we walked upon as well. There was a lake in the middle. I wonder if it’s good for a swim in the warmer time of the year?

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The weather was warm for November. About 7 C / 44 F, I think. The cold bit me back into the socks fairly soon, but my feet were nonetheless grateful for the experience. It’s good to get the real feel of outside temperatures, it’s good to have wood planks, grass, moss and bog water under your toes from time to time.

And as I’m writing this, only 11 days later, it’s snowing for the first time this year. I was already beginning to wonder, whether the snow intends to pile up as accumulating layers of frost instead the conventional way, for we’ve been living in a frost enchanted world for several days now, in anticipation of winter.

-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

A short one on good advice

Have you ever asked for an honest opinion while actually wanting to hear only positive feedback, because you really don’t want to work any more with the thing you’ve already spent so much time with and you want someone to tell you that it is okay as it is, despite you yourself knowing that it still could use a lot of more work?

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I know I have. I’m just lazy as that.
And that’s one aspect where putting things I make up for the whole word to see in the hopes of another person actually spending their hard earned money on acquiring said item, has taught me a real good lesson about persistence, hard work and not refusing to see the obvious if the obvious does not suit you.
Attempting to draw things while not being good at it at all, is a good way to learn about persistence and taking advice too.
A friend or a family member who is willing to take a good critical look at what you do and give their honest opinion is an incredibly valuable asset. Have you got anyone like that in your life? Please, ask their advice about things that are important, listen to it gratefully and then meticulously work on taking the aforementioned advice.

The funny thing with good advice is, that quite often it is not so hard to get it. The hard part is to hear it and to take it.
I have noticed that quite often, if I don’t have anyone to advise me, I can give some pretty spectacular advice myself too. I just have to pretend that I’m a friend of mine and then describe my situation and problems to myself and then I can give some pretty good suggestions. Sometimes I have written monologues with self. (It’s called journalling. I think I’m one of those persons who think with fingers on keyboard. I’m pretty useless with a pen or a mouth). Now all I need to do is to actually listen to what I just said and things will get moving. You should try it, if you haven’t already.

Btw, the paragraph above is a nice example of good advice being readily available everywhere. This technique of removing oneself from a situation and looking at it from a more objective angle is definitely not something I just came up with to change the world. The notion has been everywhere for ages. But how often people do that, really? How often it is that I remember to advise myself? It’s more often that I feel sorry for myself, confused or disheartened. It’s like writing down things you should not forget – no use, if you forget to check the list in the first place.

So, this year has helped me to develop a new fresh approach to life – pick up good advice and use it! It will take a lifetime, but what else is there to do? 😉 At least the Zen-cat seems to have life worked out pretty nicely!

-Maarja

The summer Fell

The Autumn has officially begun, and it shows. It’s 5 degrees Celsius outside in this part of the world. This is the time of the year I envy people with log-burners. Central heating certainly has it’s perks of not having to tend fires and carry firewood each day, and we have it nice and warm even through the worst colds in the Winter. But early Autumn and late Spring mean woollen socks, long hot showers and baths, and lots of oven baked dishes, because it warms up at least the kitchen. Central heating is not yet on, but it’s already cold out there and my fingers get numb if I type sitting in one place for too long. Haven’t been drinking that much warm beverages in a long time.

Today I passed the time with creating some forest-themed cards. I would really love to show them off, but it has been raining on and off and with cloudy skies the lighting has been just terrible. I’ll do proper photo-shoots when the sun is out again (unless I’m too busy picking acorn caps, acorns and chestnuts then).

In the weekend we had most lovely trip to the Sea. We gathered piles of driftwood and some extra lovely pebbles and pink sand. A tiny tiny bonfire was made. It was a lovely evening, and here’s a minute extra for all of you:

I wanted to make it five, but unfortunately it is very hard to find some quiet time to sit still on a beach with a happy toddler on it 🙂 I hope you enjoyed it though! And how did your Fall/Autumn begin? Do you even have four seasons where you live?

-Maarja