TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Digital Christmas

 



Wonderful!

A Merry Christmas to all,
be it digital or in "real" life!



Share/Bookmark

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








Share/Bookmark

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The TAFA Team's Catalog of Shops: Eclectic Mix

Intricate embroideries by InsideOutsideArt


TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was launched in February, 2010.  As it has grown, now to over 200 members, so have the members who have Etsy shops.  About half of us use Etsy as our retail platform.  We decided to organize as an Etsy Team (a program Etsy has for sellers to organize under themes or locations) and set up a blog where we can talk about what is important to us and where we can show off our shops.  The blog has eight pages of shops, divided into themes and serves as our Team Shops Catalog.  Although many of us sell things that do not fit neatly into those categories, most of us do have a focus.  I am introducing each of those categories here, hoping that this will encourage you to go over there and shop, shop, shop, until you drop!  These eight pages have over 100 shops, filled with wonderful eye candy that will surely delight anyone who appreciates all the many techniques and traditions that are found in the needle and textile arts. 

Today's focus:  Eclectic Mix

Blogger recently allowed its users to add pages, with 10 page limit.  Our Team Blog uses this platform and is limited to these pages, although we could use several more.  So, we are using Eclectic Mix for categories that didn't fit neatly into the other larger ones.  Of these, we have two sub-categories, Embroidery and Paper, each with beautiful shops that also include other items, so do explore them.  Manitoba Gifts, for example, focuses on embroidery on wool, but the shop is shared with beautiful hand tooled leather items.  Nejiribana's shop owner, Jane Smith, has a passion for Japanese embroidery.  These pieces take a long time to complete, so she also carries patterns and vintage Japanese fabric.  Jump in and enjoy!


Embroidery


 Embroidery and mixed media by Leisa Rich



Emboidered pincushions by Manitoba Gifts



 Japanese embroidery by Nejiribana


Paper


 Beautiful art journals by Sue Bleiweiss





 Handmade paper by The Greene Fairy



Click here to visit our Eclectic Mix section in our TAFA Team Catalog of Shops.

And, while you are there, click on the other tabs to see our other Team member shops.  We aim to be the best in textiles and fiber art on Etsy!

Happy Holidays
 
from the TAFA Team!
 
 


Share/Bookmark

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The TAFA Team's Catalog of Shops: Supplies and Patterns

Natural dyes, ribbon and other supplies on tangledlair.



TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was launched in February, 2010.  As it has grown, now to over 200 members, so have the members who have Etsy shops.  About half of us use Etsy as our retail platform.  We decided to organize as an Etsy Team (a program Etsy has for sellers to organize under themes or locations) and set up a blog where we can talk about what is important to us and where we can show off our shops.  The blog has eight pages of shops, divided into themes and serves as our Team Shops Catalog.  Although many of us sell things that do not fit neatly into those categories, most of us do have a focus.  I am introducing each of those categories here, hoping that this will encourage you to go over there and shop, shop, shop, until you drop!  These eight pages have over 100 shops, filled with wonderful eye candy that will surely delight anyone who appreciates all the many techniques and traditions that are found in the needle and textile arts. 

Today's focus:  Supplies and Patterns 


Wool and cotton crochet flowers by fuzzystitches.


Etsy tries very hard to tout itself as a marketplace that primarily showcases handmade art and crafts.  And, yet, if you look at the top 50 sellers on Etsy, most of them sell supplies like beads, fabric, and other sundries, and most of those are reselling commercial products made of plastic, glass or metal coming in from China  (top fabric sellers are also commercially manufactured).  Definitely NOT handmade.  There is definitely a place and a need for these products, but it is rather frustrating that instead of embracing this reality, both Etsy staff and sellers on the forum constantly downgrade these suppliers, even when a great deal of revenue comes from them.  To make matters worse, a couple of years ago, Etsy changed its search to default to handmade, making it harder to find commercially made supplies and vintage items.  This does not affect producers of handmade supplies, but it does make it difficult for the rest of us.  My shop is all handmade, but most of it is supplies or vintage, things that I buy from small importers with repurposing in mind.

When I launched TAFA, I knew that I wanted to include providers of supplies, both the makers and other resellers like myself.  Quite a few of us are on Etsy, but many sell directly through their own websites.  Take some time to explore all TAFA members who sell supplies by following this link.  You will find a wonderful range of hand-spun and dyed yarns, hand-dyed fabric, textile remnants, patterns for quilts and other crafts, textile stamps, and much more.

Our supplies and patterns category on our TAFA Team Blog is made up of the members who have this as their focus, but others also have supplies in their shops.  You have to jump around and do some exploring!  But, start here and check out these great shops.  There is still time to do some shopping for the holidays and if you have a textile person on your shopping list, you cannot go wrong here.

Textile stamps:

 Oshiwa Designs


Stamping is a great way to manipulate fabric, personalize it and make it unique.  Many of these stamps can also be used on paper or impressed into clay or soap.  Oshiwa is a fair trade group working with a small workshop of carvers in Namibia.  Cindy Wills designs rubber stamps.  Two Angels in Paris has a huge selection of letterpress blocks and other letters as well as a treasure trove of vintage bits and pieces.


Rubber stamps by WillsArt on Etsy




Letterpress blocks by TwoAngelsinParis



Fabric:

A friend of mine in Paducah moved here with a truck load of commercial fabric that she had accumulated over the years.  Then she started dyeing her own.  There was no turning back.  Once she started working with her own dyes, she could not bear to use commercial fabric anymore, so slowly her stash has been sold at the quilt show here every year.  There is just no comparison between handmade or dyed fabrics and by what is machine made.  We have many TAFA members who are dyers and weavers, producing their own fabric lines. 



Hand dyed fat quarters by Vicki Welsh
Marbled fabrics by Marbled T Designs



Handwoven silks by TAMMACHAT Designs, a fair trade group 
working with weavers in South East Asia.


Then, we have Laura Foster Nicholson who designs her own ribbons and Castilleja Cotton who makes quilts and also provides patterns for them (see Penguin quilt at the bottom of this post).  Jane Porter of TangledLair (shown above with the natural dyes) also has a huge selection of vintage and specialty ribbons.


 
Suzani Design by LFN Ribbons


What a wonderful, creative time we live in!  We have the gift of sharing our skills and of bringing the world together through our creations, incorporating bits and pieces from time gone by, from living artists and from traditions from around the world!  For fiber artists, we revel in this...





Click here to visit our Supplies and Patterns section in our TAFA Team Catalog of Shops.

And, while you are there, click on the other tabs to see our other Team member shops.  We aim to be the best in textiles and fiber art on Etsy!

Happy Holidays
from the TAFA Team!

The TAFA Team:


Share/Bookmark

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Claudia Elliott

Claudia Elliott


There is a fundamental connection when you sell products that is essential in business: your customer base.  When you sell online, you do get to "meet" some of those customers and every now and then a bond forms and a relationship develops that becomes a real friendship, even if you never meet in the physical realm.  When you have a shop on a busy Chicago street, people come in and out and you get the full impact of their physical presence.  Claudia Elliott was one of those customers who filled all the space around her with a powerful light.  Ironic, as she was confined to a broken body that slowly deteriorated over the years, causing her tremendous pain and physical hardship.  

She and her husband, John, came into my life through my Chicago shop.  We did not see each other often, but every meeting was full of stories, wisdom, laughter and the desire, at least on my part for more, much more.  Claudia had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil in the 1960's, at about the same time when my parents went down as missionaries.  So, there were many stories about that and both of us had a chance to practice our rusty Portuguese.  My friend, Donna of Razzle Dazzle, did Claudia's hair (and mine for 15 years!) so there was always news flowing through her, too.

I moved to Kentucky.  She and John moved back to New Harmony, Indiana, where she was originally from.  Laura Foster Nicholson was another connection as she joined TAFA and we got to know each other online and through a meeting at the Paducah Quilt Show.  All of those circles that connect us through both business and common ground.  Claudia passed away, or rather, was released, earlier this year and Laura just sent me a beautiful, poignant video that captures the end of this cycle of her life.  Claudia had a distinctive manner in how she spoke and held herself.  I am so glad to have a record of her voice!  Those of you who did not know her will appreciate the strength and dignity this woman had, a role model for any of us who wish to live life fully and honestly!





I am honored to carry Claudia's light.  May I also shine as she did!







Share/Bookmark

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stocking Stuffers from Rayela Art, Oshiwa, and Afghan Tribal Arts!

Vintage Stereo Card from Rayela Art

Those of you who are familiar with my shop know that I focus on cultural textiles from around the world, fabric, and things that I make.  But, I also have lots of small, odd items that are perfect stocking stuffers for that special person who has off-the-beaten track tastes.  Visit my shop and you will find vintage African brass pendants, small textiles that can be folded or rolled to make them small, some stereo cards like the one above, textile stamps and much more.  You will have to hop over there and look around.  Click on any item in the Etsy mini below and that will take you to my shop:





I also manage two other Etsy shops, Oshiwa and Afghan Tribal Arts.  All of the items are here at my house in Kentucky and they can be shipped together to save on postage.  You do have to check out and pay separately as we each have our own accounts, but I will extra shipping costs once the items are consolidated.  

Oshiwa is a small fair trade carving workshop in Namibia.  They specialize in carving stamps that can be used on fabric or paper and they can also be used to imprint into clay or soap.  How cool is that?  Perfect stocking stuffer!





Afghan Tribal Arts has gorgeous textiles, beads and vintage jewelry from Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Small boxes can hold some precious beauties!






Visit all three shops and make your orders!  You will be supporting me and many others with these purchases.  Make your shopping count and support handmade and small businesses.

 

Share/Bookmark

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails