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5 Must-Have Halloween Products You’ll 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!

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Meet the Maker – Beth of Wilde Designs: geeky greatness & fandom fun!

I am excited to kick off the week showcasing one of my favorite geeky girls & fandom makers, Beth of Wilde Designs! On top of creating a huge variety of goodies for all sorts of fandoms, Beth also have a really cool blog that geeks of all genres will enjoy, from cosplay galleries to fandom facts, her blog is one of my favorites to read!

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First up, tell readers all about yourself! Hobbies, location, interests, any degrees or job history that may help them relate to you if you want.

I’m a graphic designer both by education (I have a BFA from Texas Woman’s University) and by profession since that’s my day job. It also figures heavily into the things I make in my shop since I love to have a healthy dose of shirts and posters and other hand-designed goods along with the handmade. It’s all visual art to me, and it’s all fun in different ways.

I’m also a through and through Texan. I’ve lived her all my life except for a couple of years in Ohio. It’s a strange dichotomy in some ways because I’m pretty liberal, but I still really love my home state. I’m glad that I grew up here and that I’m getting to raise my son Pike (he’s six now!) here as well. We live in Denton, so we’ve got great local businesses and a lot of people interested in moving the community forward. It’s a beautiful thing.

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dragon scale earrings for GoT fans

When did you first begin creating jewelry and art?

I was too young when I started drawing and stringing beads onto whatever I could get my hands on to be entirely sure. I’ve always had a bit of the entrepreneurial bug. When I was around nine, I started calling my “company” Liz (short for my full name, Elizabeth) and selling super random items to my family. By high school I had refined things a little, and I sold stretchy bracelets in our team colors – under the table, of course, since we weren’t allowed to do that in school. I even made jewelry and buttons for Los Bastardos, the Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast my husband was on when we met. Eventually I realized that  not only was making and selling things something I could do but that I had already been doing it. That took some of the terror out of starting Wilde Designs.

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What initiated your interest in fandoms?

Part nature, part nurture. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. When my best friend and I played, we pretended. Basically, I’ve always been an imaginative geek who loves enthusing about her geeky stuff with others. The advent of the internet in our household (we got our first taste of that as I was starting high school) opened up whole new worlds for me.

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You make a wide range of geeky goods – when did you first begin to combine your love of fandoms and your creativity?

I always have in art. If you look at my sketches and projects from high school, Xena pops up quite a few times. Then I started writing fan fiction, and it was officially part of my writing. I realized eventually that I could do the same thing with the jewelry I made. It seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but the idea of sharing my passions in that way didn’t strike me for years. I never really stopped to consider how many other people were just as excited about all my dorky passions as me.

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What is your favorite fandom/video game?

While I love gaming, I’m not a hardcore gamer girl. My sister probably takes the cake for gaming in our family. That said? When I have the time, I love to play World of Warcraft, Sims, and my friends recently talked me into purchasing Dream Daddy. Yes, I know, but it really is adorable. As for fandoms in general, I remain forever loyal to Star Wars and Xena, plus I’m adding new things all the time like Doctor Who (I didn’t start watching until “new” Who, though I’ve since watched a lot of the classics), Marvel (especially the cinematic universe, and especially Avengers and X-Men), and horror of many flavors and types, plus a healthy dose of fantasy and scifi in general.

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What are your thoughts on the new female Doctor?

I’ve put some real thought into it. Part of me is a purist and wonders if it’s being done arbitrarily just to do it. Most of me hopes that it really has been done because they cast for the very best person in the world for the job (which is how I think EVERYTHING should be hired for) and she’s it. I honestly won’t know how I feel about it or her until I see her on screen. I judge the Doctors as I get to know them not by their age or gender, so time will tell. Hearing all the hate that is based not on her ability or performance and only on her gender makes me really, really want her to be amazing.

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There is a huge community around geeky goodness – as a maker, how do you tap into that & build connections? (maybe use this as an opportunity to plug the geek girl pen pals or comic cons?)

Conventions are my absolute favorite way to grow my connections – admittedly, not just as a seller, but as a person. I love cons. I attended my first one for X-Files when I was around 11, and I’ve been going as often as I’m able ever since. Now when I go, I’m often selling, which is a whole new world. Talking to customers in person has been, even for an introvert like me, a really great experience overall. We chat, we geek out over things, and sometimes they buy something. I also get the chance to meet new sellers who are into the same things. Getting advice from other people in the con circuit has been an invaluable help to me not just for convention selling but for my business in general. I have a truly fantastic network of people behind me – and a lot of them are total geeks! Through one of my oldest geeky friends, Halo, I even ended up being on the planning committee for the Women of Wonder Con, which has been challenging and rewarding and a totally new thing for me.

​Do you make all your own cosplay costumes?​

No. I’m a gatherer. I thrive on finding the pieces I need on Amazon or in thrift shops or finding a great deal on a pre-made piece that will work perfectly. I often create the accessories from scratch, however. I have a particular fondness for making things out of foam and duct tape.

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​What/who has been your favorite thing to cosplay as? ​

Black Widow was my first “big” cosplay. I had done Dr. Horrible before, but I didn’t sweat the details quite as much as I did for Black Widow. I went all out for that one, and I even lost weight to feel more comfortable in the costume. Even though I’ve put together some fabulous new cosplays since then, I think she’ll always have the biggest place in my heart both because it was such a big undertaking for me to get the confidence to portray her and because the reception I got was overall so positive.

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Do you have any advice or tips for makers who want to begin selling at cons?

While we all want to hide behind our booths and not look up sometimes, it’s important to connect with people. Say hi, chat with them, and make a connection. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale immediately, it might long-term, and it will definitely make you and the customer happier. The second thing that’s key is making use of the people around you. Talk to other sellers, look at their goods. If you love their display, say so. Ask questions and exchange cards. When you need a quick break to go to the bathroom later in the day and you’ve already been talking comics with the person next to you, it’s a lot easier to ask them to keep an eye on your goods.

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​Your entire family is in on the geeky-love – what is your son’s favorite video games/TV shows?

My son can’t get enough Overwatch and World of Warcraft right now. He’s also a big Minecraft fan. Our whole family watches Steven Universe and Adventure Time together – we even cosplayed as Rose Quartz, Greg Universe, and Stevonnie earlier this year. I’m so glad he’s got the geek bug too so we can all have fun with it together!

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​And a serious question to wrap up this interview – Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both. Star Trek (the original series) came first for me, but in the end I probably have a deeper obsession with Star Wars.

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Isn’t Beth & her geeky gang so fun?! You can visit Beth’s shop here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook because she is constantly posting fun geeky games, conversation starters and of course peeks at new products!