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Flourish: how I’m letting one little word shape my year

Flourish: verb, to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

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Each year, I pick a word to set the tone for the entire year. Last year’s word was Achieve, and I really feel like that word carried me well through the year. I hit & exceeded all of my production goals, sales goals & smaller goals for my business, like getting some wholesale accounts & attending big shows in the area. I laid a lot of groundwork in 2017 to because I knew that I needed 2018 to be a year of growth and personal development – as a business owner, mother, and human.

I set some really lofty goals for 2018, and by acting upon my word for the year, I am already seeing things begin to Flourish! I knew that part of growing this year, I wanted to attend a lot of large events in order for Lu & Ed to grow & thrive. I started applying for shows all over the East Coast & Midwest, including some huge shows I have always dreamed of doing but never thought I would get accepted into. And it paid off! Most events are still taking applications so it will be a bit before I find out my entire show schedule for the Spring/Summer, but a week ago I reached out to – and was invited to! – Mommy Con, the biggest parenting convention in America! I will be at their Charlotte event May 5th! I am so flipping excited – this is an event I have always DREAMED of doing with Lu & Ed, and now that it is on the books, I feel like I could fly!

In addition to booking several large shows alongside smaller markets to build my local audience, I set other goals for my business to facilitate my word of the year manifesting – I set a production goal of 1000 monsters in 2018! I am already just over 5% of the way to that goal! In 2017 I was able to make 514 monsters, with a new baby, homeschooling my son & life in general, so I am feeling really confident that while it will be difficult, I can hit that goal! By doubling my production, I will be able to take on more bulk/wholesale orders as well, which turned out to be great for Lu & Ed last year, so I am excited to expand on that more this year!

As a mama, I am working on patience, and creating an environment in which my children can Flourish as well. Which means less clutter, less screen time, more family time, more conversation and more time spent connecting with humans! I recently launched a local Asheville chapter of Punky Moms, a group for alternative mothers, and am building connections & fostering community through that group as well as through our tween homeschool group & the local artist community. For Gauge, we also recently applied to a local charter school – it has all the features of a public school (sports, band, swim team, etc) but  it has a high focus on college preparation, advanced curriculum, and a much lower rate of bullying & social issues with higher diversity than the local public schools offer here.

And for myself, I am focusing on the word Flourish to help me regain my health. I used to eat an all raw/organic diet, and worked out every day, did yoga, walked at least a mile a day, and all that. I’ve strayed so far from that healthful lifestyle since I moved to WNC, but this is the year I restore that lifestyle and mental attitude! I want to gain at least 10 pounds by the end of the year, as I have always struggled with weight gain and one year postpartum, I am only weighing 98lbs. So my goal is to gain weight, get healthy, and exercise regularly so I can Flourish and keep up with my intentions for my business & family!

Do you pick a word for the year? If you do, share below what your word is! I would love to know!

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5 Must-Have Halloween Products Moms Will Want to Use All Year!

I love Halloween. It is tied for Christmas for my favorite holiday! So I wanted to put together a fun little line up of my favorite Halloween goodies that make great gifts + can be used year round, because spooky is always in style.

Of course a monster maker would say that, but I’m serious, this line up is perfection!

Spooky Gnome Homes: These will look adorable in your potted plants or garden year round!

 From Just Tawny, $20

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Strange and Unusual Children’s (and mom sizes!) Tee: Because kids are weird year round.

From Punky Moms, $21.50

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Monster Tote Bag: Use it for Trick-or-Treating, then as a library bag, over night bag or even a reusable grocery bag during the rest of the year!

From my shop, Lu & Ed, $18 & up

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Felt Play Masks – Great for kids who don’t want to wear a weird rubbery mask on Halloween, and perfect for year round pretend play!

From Opposite of Far, $20 & up

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Dinosaur or Dragon Hoodie – Easy peasy costume, then essential cool weather wear.

From Wolfe + Scamp, $34 & up

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Which is your favorite from this line up?

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Life lately: a photo dump

Things have been quite quiet here lately, on the blog – and for good reason! Zoey’s birthday was this past Thursday, Friday was her party, Saturday was the pumpkin patch then dinner with friends, and Sunday I was at a market slinging monsters all day! Whew, quite a week!

Starting next week, I will be getting back into my regular blogging schedule. For now, I wanted to share some of my favorite photos from the past week. ♥ 

Zoey’s birthday & party: 

Saturday’s trip to the pumpkin patch! 

Sunday’s Walkable Wall Street Fair in downtown Asheville!

And that is life lately, in pictures! I want to do more photo dumps like this, maybe once a week or bi-weekly, to encourage me to take more photos of day to day life & our weekend adventures. ♥ Is there any interest in seeing more not-craft-or-business-related posts? 

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The Power of Polyvore – Why Makers Should be Collaborating with One Another + Other Tips

For today’s tip post, Beth of Wilde Designs is sharing how important collaboration with other makers & brands is, and how simple it is to increase your range & traffic to your shop by using Polyvore!

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We all love pretty things. Shiny things. We like to imagine that whatever we make will be part of a stunning collection of goods in a magazine someday. alongside larger known brands. 

The beauty of the internet is that we don’t have to wait and wonder what these beautiful collections might look like! There are so many ways to do gorgeous product collages, also known as “flatlays”, on the internet on our own, and so many ways to collaborate with other makers, designers & brands to make these collections go viral!

Why create a product collage? Not only do they allow our audience to see what our products might look like as part of a cute outfit or in a trendy room, it also lets us put ourselves alongside other larger known brands & makers that compliment our own products. Want your bohemian necklaces to be associated with Anthropolgie styles? Pair them with products from Anthro, headbands from your favorite hair accessory maker, a succulent planter from your favorite sculptor, and so on. Make sense? 

Why collaborate with other small shops? Small shops need each other. We can work together to get extra social reach, to find new customers, and to build each other’s brands and communities! Most importantly, the more brands you collaborate with, the greater possibility of your products going viral! Product collages are a fantastic way to encourage this! Not only do you build up other small shops, when you select items from big companies, you get extra exposure by tagging them in your posts and helping their audience find you & associate your products with that brand as well.

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My favorite avenue for creating quick, attractive product collages is Polyvore. Setting up an account is free, and you can add your products quickly and easily by installing the Polyvore Clipper button onto your browser. Navigate to the page of the item you want to add, click the button, and input the details.

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While you’re at it, add items from some of your favorite shops. You can even create a team of shops to create & share products from one another in various product collages, saving you a lot of work! For instance, if you sell necklaces, maybe you know someone who makes fantastic handbags or designs shirts that compliment your jewelry. Find a way to involve other sellers, and you both end up benefiting from the collection. When you’re building your product collage, you can search the items you’ve added or search all of Polyvore to find new things that match your brand’s style.

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Once you have selected your shops you want to work with & big brands you want people to associate your goods with, start building your collection and making it lovely. Polyvore lets you add text, borders, and other flourishes to spice things up. Even better? It works fabulously on desktop or mobile. Once you’ve created a flatlay, you can publish the set. You get the option to share it simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, and a lot of other platforms. Instant reach with minimal effort!

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Do yourself – and your brand – a favor and go play. You’ll never look back once you see how easily you can boost the visibility of your productss and collaborate with both the small and big box shops you’ve always wanted to work with!

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Meet the Maker: Dani of Big Hugs, Little Envelopes – a maker every maker should know!

You guys, this Monday, you can thank me for starting off your week introducing you to a maker who creates supplies that makes running your business so much more fun & colorful, and soon, SO much easier! Get to know Dani & all the services & products she offers makers below, and be sure to visit her shop Big Hugs, Little Envelopes to view the full range of products as well – she is offering 20% off with code SAVE20 to all Lu & Ed readers through December 31st, 2017! Thanks, Dani!
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Heeeey Dani! Welcome to my blog! Let’s get started – why don’t you tell the readers all about yourself?

Hey, guys! I’m Dani, a life-long Colorado girl, mama of two rad boys, and wife to one totally amazing dude! I am a teacher by trade and actually taught elementary school for 12 years before deciding to take a break and stay home with my kiddos! I have taught every grade K-5 and loved them all, but 5th grade will always have a very special place in my heart! My schooling has all been centered around teaching, of course! I am certified to teach K-6 and, am endorsed in gifted education. With my Masters in literacy, I am also endorsed to teach reading K-12 (though I haven’t yet ventured into the land of middle or high school!). I also have a minor in French, but I tell ya what… that is definitely a “use it or lose it” skill. I’m bummed that I don’t get to use my French more often, and I fear I am forgetting it quickly! In my free time (wait… what’s that???), I love movies with my family, dance parties in the kitchen, scrapbooking, writing, reading, running (slow as a turtle!), and enjoying the gorgeous outdoors of Colorful Colorado. I couldn’t ask to live in a more beautiful place!!! I almost never watch live TV, but I love to pop on a show while I work, and my current Netflix/Hulu/HBO streaming addictions include America’s Got Talent, Shark Tank, Grey’s Anatomy, Big Little Lies, and This is Us!
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Have you always been such a wildly creative person?

Well, that is certainly a lovely compliment – THANK YOU! Yes, I have always thrived on creativity. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been making and writing and doing… It’s in my blood, as I think is the case for all creatives! I can remember making little dresses for my dolls when I was very young out of random things like toilet paper and yarn. Over the years, I have experimented with MANY creative outlets, including drawing, painting, clay work, sewing, cake decorating, jewelry making, embroidery, crochet… You name it! If it involves the creative process, I’ve probably tried it!
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How did you get started in digital design & print services?

It’s a funny story, really! Let me back up a bit… I’m super big on the idea of Happy Mail. It’s always been very important to me to send thank you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, etc. As a kid, I even had several pen pals around the world. I just truly believe that a simple card in the mail with a handwritten heartfelt note has so much power to make someone smile. So often, the mailbox is filled with bills and ads and other junk. Personally, I love getting a note in the mail, and I know other people do, too! It’s such a sweet way to brighten someone’s day, and the ripple effect of kindness is fascinating to me. I LOVE the idea that I can literally send a smile through the mail, which has the power to turn someone’s day around, and in turn, they could smile at someone else who needs it, and on and on… You just never know how far it’ll reach!
Fast forward to about 3 years ago. With the pause in my teaching career, I had more time to embrace some of my hobbies again. I’ve been obsessed with scrapbooking and paper crafts since before my first son was born 10 years ago, and with my newly found freedom, I picked up card making, which quickly became another obsession! I bought up a TON of stamps, inks, card stock, patterned paper… Oooooh boy! You already know how I feel about mail, so I found myself making cards for anyone and everyone! Eventually, people started telling me I should sell my cards. I thought they were CRAZY! Who in their right mind would pay actual money for them??? But, with some AMAZING cheerleaders behind me, I decided I had nothing to lose! I started up my Etsy shop, Big Hugs Little Envelopes, keeping in line with the idea that, although it may be a small envelope, it contains a big dose of love and kindness! Sure enough, my biggest cheerleaders became my first customers, and my little shop was up and running! Before long, people were asking me if I could make signs and shirts and other items. I’ve never been one to turn down a creative challenge, so I embraced all of the requests! One thing led to another, and before I knew it, most everything I was doing was digital. I now have a whole crew of machines here in my crafty space that help me do what I do! If you had told me three years ago that I’d be where I am today, I would have called you crazy! I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be running a successful business doing digital and print work, but I wouldn’t change a single thing!
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What is your favorite products to design?

Oooooh…. That’s a toughie. I am completely fascinated by the sublimation process, so one of the most satisfying things for me to create is mugs. It’s so wild to me that I can design something on my computer, print it out using special ink and paper, and then permanently transfer it to a mug that then is dishwasher and microwave safe! Even though I’ve done it hundreds of times now, it still feels like magic to me every time I take the mug out of the press! On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself saying aloud, “That is so stinkin’ COOL!!!”
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Making for makers must be so inspiring – how many different shops do you work with in a month, usually?

Ohmygosh, it REALLY is! When I started this gig, I had NO idea there was such an amazing maker community out there, but I am so incredibly honored to have found it and become part of it! At this point, over half of what I do is for other makers! I would say in any given month, I work with 20-30 shops, which blows my mind! It gives me so much satisfaction knowing that my small business is, in turn, helping their small businesses! My philosophy is that we are all in this together, and that there is plenty of love to go around. It’s that whole “Community Over Competition” idea, and I embrace that wholeheartedly. I seriously love promoting other makers, as you’ll easily see on my social media platforms! My wish is for all of us to be successful, and if what I do can have a hand in that, I’m thrilled! I’ve also become amazing friends with so many other makers throughout the process, and have gotten to know some super sweet, highly talented people (like YOU!!!)! Sometimes I even get to meet them in person, and that is AWESOME! (This summer, I got to meet the lovely Sue from Glass and Stone – my heart was SO happy!!!)
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You are one of my favorite people to follow on social media – you are so positive! What sort of daily routines do you have in place to keep the happy flowing?

Oh wow, thank you! That is so kind! It involves a lot of coffee! Haha! But truly, I really just try to live in the moment. I have come to realize that life is so short and so precious and that we are all on this planet together. I personally have felt the effects of kindness and love, and I know first hand how powerful that can be, so I just want to do my part every single day to pass that along to others. I genuinely believe in the magic of a kind word, a hug, a smile… My home is filled with inspiring quotes, which I look at daily, to remind me of how lucky we are to be part of this amazing thing called humanity.
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You specialize in custom branded goodies for makers, so I have to ask. What are three MUST HAVES for makers when it comes to branding materials?

For me, my business is all about the human connection. So, while a true marketing professional might disagree, my must haves involve things that help people connect on a personal level. I love, love, love creating stickers for makers to use on their packaging as a fun way to say thank you to their customers.
I also believe in a handwritten thank you note with each order, so custom logo cards with a space to write are always a favorite of mine!
And of course, I think a key aspect of any business is the ability to be easily recognized, so anything that includes an identifiable logo is huge! I love creating logo stickers, notecards, mugs… you name it! 🙂 If people see your logo and immediately associate it with your high-quality products, I think you’re doing something right! 🙂
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Tea, cocoa or coffee?

Oh girl, why do you have to give me the hard questions??? Is “Yes, please!” an acceptable response? 🙂
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What is your favorite color?

Again with the hard questions!!! I love all things rainbow, and any color that is bright and happy is good with me! Current faves are any and all shades of teal/turquoise/mint/pool, pinks, purples, and sunshiny colors like yellows and oranges. I’m gearing up for fall, though, so I’m sure I’ll soon be surrounding myself with warm, calming browns, deep oranges, and dark greens.

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Is your home as colorful as your products & social media feed?!

Haha! Yes. Yes it is! Like I said, color makes me so happy, and I love surrounding myself with it. It really does have an effect on my mood! When I want to be calm and peaceful, I find myself retreating to my bedroom, which is done in pale blues, gentle browns, and soft greys. When I’m feeling energetic and productive, I’m most often found in my maker space, which is full of all things bright and cheery and motivating! A good bit of my decor in there is actually handmade goodies from other makers! My kitchen and family room are warm and inviting, with the reds and yellows and browns that make me feel comforted and safe at home. It’s all about color around here! And of course a good bouquet of colorful flowers in any room makes me smile, too!
It was so fun getting to interview Dani & introduce you all to her amazing shop. She has something very, very exciting in the works and you NEED to follow her on Facebook & Instagram so you don’t miss out when this project launches!
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5 Fantastic First Birthday Gifts Crunchy Parents Will Love

With Zoey’s 1st birthday just 3 weeks away, and my niece’s first birthday TOMORROW (what?! how?!) I had this great idea to compile a few lists of great gift ideas for 1st birthday celebrations that won’t inundate parents with noisy toys. Today’s list is compiled of sustainably made gift options for those crunchy type mamas like me!

Pretend Wooden Camera or Smart Phone with Non-Toxic Earth Friendly Paints

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Clicking mamas everywhere will adore these handmade toy cameras that inspire imaginitive play! Made from naturally cured lumber, all natural water based non-tosic paints and vegan sealants. Handcrafted in NC. Available from Outside Everywhere, $16.00.

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Tiny hands will love having their very own “smart phone” to play with – that won’t break when they fling it across the room! Also from Outside Everywhere, $12.

Handmade Quilt, Printed with Earth Friendly Inks

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These gorgeous quilts are handmade in NY with fabrics that are printed & made in America using Earth friendly, biodegradable inks. They are designed to last through several children & be passed down as heirlooms. Available from Create Custom Critters, $110.

Small Mon-stor for Car Clutter Control, Made from Discarded Textiles

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From my own shop, these Small Mon-stors make excellent first birthday gifts. Babies are just getting to that age when they will love learning to clean up by “feeding” the Mon-stor over and over in the house, and moms will love being able to tame car clutter by hanging one by the car seat so toys, snacks, diapers, wipes & a change of clothes for babe is always on hand. Made in NC from textile discards, in a closed loop textile recycling process. Available at Lu & Ed, $29

Eco-friendly Dining Set

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As babies turn a year old and starting eating more “adult” foods, a set of dishes just for them is a great first birthday gift! These amazing toddler dishes are made from bamboo and melamine – no plastic! They are dishwasher safe, come in a variety of colors and last for decades. Available from Ekobo, $25

Essential Oil Plushie Diffuser & Board Book Set

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Crunchy mamas love EOs, so they are sure to love Smelly Faces – adorable plush toys made from cotton & infused with your favorite Essential Oil blend! This set includes a diffuser & fun board book to read with their sweet little one year old monsters! Available from Smelly Faces, $35

And that concludes my gift list for crunchy mamas! What was the best gift you ever received for your child(ren)’s first birthday?

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How to take excellent product photos using only 12 square inches of space

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I constantly get emails & messages on social media from fellow online sellers asking for tips, advice on their listings, or shop critiques. One of the main things that many sellers struggle with is photography, and often the response is “I don’t have anywhere to shoot” or “I don’t have a ton of natural light”. So, I wanted to put together a quick tutorial on how to shoot excellent products like the one above in no more than 12 square inches of space!

All I used in this shoot is one piece of paper & two photography lamps. They have adjustment legs, so you just need about 12″ of floor space on either side of your surface to stand the lamps up, so space isn’t an issue. As far as cost goes, my set of lamps are about $80 on Amazon. I did find this set for under $50 at Wal-Mart and this set for $40 on Amazon, and I’m sure with a little more digging, you could find a set for basically any budget.

I cannot stress enough how important of an investment professional lighting is for a maker so you can have consistent, even lighting in every single set of images. There’s “hack” videos out there for turning household lamps into photography lights, and I’ve tried almost every one of them. They do no compare to the real deal, but can tide you over until you can score some of these beauts.

To really demonstrate what a huge difference they make, here is an image of my work space for these images with the overhead light off.

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Same exact space with the photography lamps on. See the enormous difference? Minimal natural light here, so for all those people with a day job doing this as a side hustle, or mamas who don’t get time to get their goods out for shoots until evenings – photography lamps! Order them, stat!

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Zoomed out shot of my work space for these images – please don’t judge my messy studio, I was just wrapping up a day of monster making! As you can see (I brightened this image a lot just so you can see), I have one West facing window, and you can see the shadow my house throws in the evening on the grass. We have an enormous maple tree that completely shades almost our entire house, so my studio gets very dim at about 3pm, and this was taken at almost 5.

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To make sure I didn’t use more than 12″ of space, I used a ruler & washi tape to roughly mark out lines on the table and wall, effectively creating a 12″ cube of shooting space.

For affordable backgrounds, scrapbook paper. This entire file is 8″x12″ paper. As you can see, TONS of possibilities for backgrounds, and this size of paper is usually 15 cents at craft stores.

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I chose a white embossed style paper (averages about 30 cents, I think, at most craft stores in the scrap book department).

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These were my subjects – Random Sh!t jewelry dish by Clay by Laura, a piece of rose quartz from my son’s insanely extensive stone & gem collection, and a necklace from Almond Eye Creations.

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I put the dish & rock on the paper on this beat up dark-ish table, and snapped these  raw images with my Canon Powershot point and shoot (not my DSLR).

I used some free photo editing software on the internet to crop, rotate images to straighten them out, brighten, and slightly increase saturation in the images to really show off the amethyst.

And that is how you create excellent images for small products in just 12 square inches of space! It all comes down to professional lighting, creative use of space & supplies, and good angles.

Sidenotes: If you don’t have white walls or a ton of space, substitute by taping white posterboard ($1 at the Dollar Tree) up when you need to shoot images, and store them upright behind book cases or the couch.

Have other photography questions? Post them in the comments & I will create posts to help with all of your photography needs!