TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holy Days from Rayela Art!



This is my Christmas letter for 2010.  If you would like to receive occasional updates by email from Rayela Art, please sign up in the box on the sidebar on the far right. (Get Rayela Art News by email)  I have signed up with mailchimp and will send out updates every month or so in 2011.

Well, another year is almost at an end.  I remember as a teenager thinking that I was going to be ancient by the year 2000, and 10 years have gone by since then!  Still chugging away although sometimes with less steam.  As a Christian, this time of the year is always a special one for me, where the Child Christ is brought back to the center of how life should be lived out.  As a world citizen, I enjoy celebrating life in all of its fullness and hope that each of you has peace, love and good cheer around you, whatever you faith or path may be.  As a retailer, the season has been traditionally (or, at least for the last 22 years) been stressful as there is always the rush to join the madness in trying to get in on the money bandwagon, hoping for a piece of the pie...  All in all, it is a good time to look back, reflect on the past year, set new goals, and forge ahead.


2010 has been a yin-yang year for me.  I started out newly divorced and pretty broken, trying to figure out how to make it on my own financially.  These are tough economic times and my business, like many, many others out there, has suffered tremendously from the recession (that is supposedly over).  I looked at my skills and interests and tried to evaluate what I could do that would both bring in income and make use of what I have learned over the years.  I had found myself increasingly helping peers with social media and other online business tools.  I saw that there was a niche to be filled there and launched TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List in February.  My mission?  To help TAFA's members find larger audiences for their work.  Have you seen it yet?

The strategy was to set up a website where each member has a profile.  Their businesses have a short mission or artist's statement, there are links to their web sites, and some images of their product.  We have a community on facebook, Etsy, and flickr.  Stuff gets twittered.  The first members were mostly connections that I had online through social networking sites I had been active on and new ones came along as TAFA started to take shape and have a presence.  I cannot express how wonderful this experience has been!  We now have 218 members and a majority of them are active in one way or another with each other through TAFA.  Most of the members are savvy women.  I have felt my life enriched by their insight, generosity, and astounding talent.  

About half of the members have shops on Etsy, so we formed a "Team" and have a blog where members can post their interests and thoughts.  Several pages on the blog serve as our Catalog of Shops.  We are a diverse, international and eclectic group.  Explore the pages to see wonderful shops!  The TAFA Team Blog

 All things fiber from  

As time went on, I also realized that I really had stumbled on a need that many do have in trying to navigate the web in a way that is efficient and sensible.  Most of us feel overwhelmed by the time each thing demands and many feel completely lost in basic knowledge of how to build a presence on the web and still attend to the other demands of making art or developing a product line.  When we decide to sell online, we have to become photographers, we have to tell stories, network, keep records, attend to customer inquiries, and on and on.  And, then there is life to live out!  Houses to clean, children to love, spouses to share with, health issues, yada, yada...   These past ten months have had a learning curve for me as the organizer in listening, guiding, learning.  Now we have come to a place where we can look at what effective programming TAFA can provide that will help members with some of these issues and with using our combined resources to make headway with our goals.  Ten of the members are coming together in a focus group in January where we will explore different options and set a course for ourselves for the next year.  Doors opening...  It's all very exciting for me, as well as challenging.

Online shops
Most of you know that I sell online on Etsy.  I closed my eBay store in the Fall of 2009 and do not plan on re-opening it in the near future.  Although I have my critiques of Etsy, I endorse their community building and their influence in helping spur the handmade movement we are currently experiencing worldwide.  My shop focuses on cultural textiles, both finished pieces that can be used to decorate the home and supplies for the fiber artist.  I also sell things that I make.  

This year, I opened up two other shops that I also manage: Afghan Tribal Arts and Oshiwa.  Afghan Tribal Arts belongs to my friend, Abdul, who imports from Afghanistan and the region.  His Etsy shop focuses on beads made of semi-precious stones, vintage jewelry and small textiles.  Oshiwa is a small fair trade carving group from Namibia. They make carved wooden textile stamps which can be used on fabric and paper as well as impressed into clay, wax or soap.  I became the North American distributor for them in April.

Our shops:



Their websites are www.afghantribalarts.com and www.oshiwa.com if you would like to learn more about them.  All of the inventory is at my house in Kentucky and can be shipped together although they have separate check out systems.  Most of our things fit easily into flat rate envelopes which can save a lot on shipping fees.  

This year has been the hardest one I have ever experienced in retail.  I have always loved and sold the ethnic crafts and it has always been a tough market.  It's a small niche, but people who like it are passionate about it.  Costs have gone up in importing over the years which has made the product more expensive and this economic crunch has really affected my buyers.  Normally, I have had a steady 30% of my customers from Europe or Australia and this year they were almost completely gone.  Yet, through my experience with TAFA and Etsy, I see people who are doing business as usual, so I have hopes that things will improve financially in the next year.

Other places:
I continue to write here on my blog on a fairly regular basis.  I've also been pretty active on facebook, or, I was until a couple of months ago when I started really focusing on getting the shops stocked for the holidays.  I've found that it is a great tool to keep in touch, to get some giggles and to share quick links.  Rayela Art, Afghan Tribal Art and Sturee Tribal Village (Afghan Tribal Art's gallery in South Carolina) all have business pages there.  You can also have this blog delivered to your news stream through networked blogs.  Widgets are on the side bar for Rayela Art and the blog.  

Another place has also become important which was rather unexpected, LinkedIn.  I was invited to join a group of creative entrepreneurs who help each other understand social media and who critique each other's projects.  Every two weeks, one of us goes up for the "slaughter" and the information and insight is amazing, almost overwhelming.  A core of the group are an ex-pat community in Turkey, all are women, all bright and wonderful.  I went through the process a few weeks ago and it was excellent.  

So, in looking back at 2010, I must say that there have been two major forces that constantly exerted themselves on me: the need to make enough money to pay bills and the riches of these online communities.  Yin and yang.  I barely scraped by financially but have come through with increased knowledge and a community base that is absolutely wonderful.  One of the fears that I had in working with an artist group (we also have importers and non-artists, but most are making their own product) is that we can be a pretty nutty and vicious bunch at times.  I haven't experienced any of that and am extremely grateful for the professionalism, kindness, gentleness, and downright goodness that I have found.  I do have another project in mind that will hopefully address some of my financial stress, but it is too early to know if that will go forward.  Doors open and close and so far, I am looking at some beautiful vistas!


 Thanks to TAFA members and the rest of my 
online community! 
We are, after all, REAL people who 
just happen to travel in cyber space...

Life
On the personal side of this update, as life is, there have also been ups and downs.  The most traumatic for me was losing two of my dogs in a short time period.  A utility man came into my yard in April, unannounced and unexpected.  I heard the gate open and I yelled that he should not come into the yard.  My dogs charged him and he took off running down the street, leaving the gate open, with the dogs after him.  One of them bit him pretty badly and I had to put her down.  It also meant going to court and a lot of other stress.  Then, Mitchie, my long time buddy, came down with cancer and he had to go, too.  I have a hole in my heart for both of them.  But, I do have to admit that life with the remaining two is much easier.  Sheba, the one who bit the guy (and then bit the dust), had almost killed two other dogs and did kill a cat and was always licking her chops when watching the squirrels in the yard.  Mitchie was the eternal cop.  Always on the alert, checking things out, and causing the others to stress out with him.  

Two friends passed away this year, Sarah Roush, a local Paducah artist, and Claudia Elliott, a former customer from my Chicago shops.  Both brilliant women.  I wrote about both in this blog (follow the links if you want to learn about them).  Several friends face serious illnesses, including Abdul who had an unexpected triple bi-pass surgery last month.  He is recovering well, but it was a scary time for me as he is a key person in my life.  The truth is that we are aging and are parts are starting to wear out.  


 My Christmas card for 2004 when Abdul and I 
still had our gallery in Chicago 
and my dogs were all happy and alive.

A highlight was celebrating my parents' 50th anniversary in Wisconsin.  I saw many aunts, uncles and cousins whom I hadn't seen in years.  My parents have been blessed and they have had a huge impact on my life and on those surrounding them.  They are well loved and the celebration reflected that.  My sister sang and my brother put together a huge slide show of our years in Brazil and the years since, a treasure.  Old people remembering, kids running around...
My second attempt at a vegetable garden produced decent results until we got hit with a heat wave like I have never experienced.  We were in the upper 90's for weeks and it was the awful, muggy, humid, disgusting heat known to the South.  Stink bugs attacked at full force and took over all of the squash.  There were thousands of them!  I got so mad at them that I took my vacuum cleaner out there and was trying to suck them up that way.  Grrrr......  My determination to grow my own food without poison continues and hopefully someday I will know enough of the tricks to keep most of the pests at bay.  

Life is full, interesting, challenging, and full of growth.  I pray for peace on this earth, for visionary leadership, for stewardship, and for community.  I am thankful for the part that each of you plays in all of this and hope that your days are good ones.  To be holy means to be sacred, to be set apart for the work of God.  Perhaps we may not share that same language or belief system, yet we are connected on some level.  Within that, holiness is present.  Happy Holy Days.

With affection,
Rachel








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1 comment:

  1. Rayela, you have expressed the most beautiful thoughts so well and in turn I have experienced an opening in my own heart after sitting down to the computer in a foggy insomnia...thank you and praying for continued strength, courage and vision for you.

    ReplyDelete

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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