makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Sarah, Creator of Smelly Faces – Oil Diffusing Soft Toys for Children

I’m so excited to introduce my amazing readers to Sarah Bodnar, creator of Smelly Faces! Smelly Faces are essential oil diffusing soft toys for children. Their huggable shape and oil infused brains that you put essential oils on for aromatherapy can be amazing tools to help children battling anxiety. A few drops of calming blends of oil and a huge hug from their soft friend can help children relax!

Hi, Sarah! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello!!! My name is Sarah and I live in upstate New York with my husband and two small kiddos. I married my husband 6 years ago right after he got home from Afghanistan at 21 years old. Since then we have lived in six different places, hoping we stay put for a while now though!

Processed with VSCO with a1 preset
Can you tell me a bit about how Smelly Faces work?
Smelly Faces are stuffed animal essential oil diffusers! All you have to do is place 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool “brain” and plop it back in the pocket located at the top of the head. Snuggle and Sniff!
image5
How did you come up with the idea for Smelly Faces? 

After college I frankly was quite lost. Moving from place to place and therefore hopping from job to job I found myself struggling very deeply with anxiety and depression. One day after helping my aunt with photography for her book, I felt that creative spark again for a for a flickering instant. That night the name “Smelly Faces” popped in my head along with the idea for the potato shaped creatures. I had decided to take this randomness for what it was and move forward with it, setting all fears/emotions aside. The next morning, after messing around on a sewing machine, the original Smelly Face was born!

image2
Do you illustrate all of your designs & branding yourself?
I do!! This is honestly one of my favorite parts. I have a background in digital media arts: animation so being able to draw, design, and brand everything myself gets me so pumped! I remember it took me a while to convince myself I was “fancy” enough to actually be a company. Branding and logos helped me a lot in this. It was a silly way to trick myself and feel “legit” but it worked! Cause if I have a mug with my company logo on it then it’s the real deal right?
image3
You were into essential oils before it was trendy – tell me how you discovered them and decided you wanted to share your love of holistic health with others through Smelly Faces.
My mom got me into them! Five years ago, were they trendy then?  I think that aromatherapy can be so great for everyone. Just like a smell can bring you back to a favorite childhood memory, more vivid than you thought possible, I think the smell of essential oils can help provide a similar affect.
 

unnamed1image3(1)

Which of your Smelly Faces is your top seller?
Probably the Unicorn!!!
il_fullxfull.923119307_hj0w
You recently published a children’s book that is super cute! That is such a different creative process from sewing – tell us what inspired you to write & illustrate a book
Oh dang, writing and illustrating children’s books is my passion. I love everything about it. Creating a new world, exploring characters and building a story line makes me geek out hardcore. I could write a whole essay answering this question, but I shall refrain. If anyone is interested in the importance and impact that stories have on us read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Jospeh Campbell. It dives deep into how stories are routed in all of us as humans. This topic sparks all sorts of passion in me.
image4
How do you balance your busy shop with motherhood?
I value efficiency pretty highly. So when I do get time in my office I won’t spend too much time on any one thing. If there are too many hiccups I usually will just take that for what it is and move along. My husband works second shift so he usually plays with the kiddos for a couple hours in the early afternoon before leaving for work. This gives me time to sew. When I’m hanging with my babies I’ll often plot and plan in a notebook. I’ll also often get them involved in the process! Meaning, as I stuff a Smelly Face, they throw fluff at each other and draw on the cardboard box. Then after I put the kids down at night, I’m right back working again.
image6
 
What are your favorite ways to unwind from the handmade hustle?
My favorite way to unwind is to watch an incredibly ridiculous movie that I’ve seen about 3,847,284 times. Dumb and Dumber & Billy Madison are both some of my classic go-tos but there are many on the list. Also, cranking Led Zepplin or Michael Bolton (the cheesier the better) usually does the trick.
37586312_2168719406489676_7738528162463612928_n
What is your top advice for moms who want to begin to use essential oils for aromatherapy with their children?
That it is awesome! I’d say to do lots of research and pick which oils you personally as a parent feel comfortable with. Find a community of people you feel happy with to help you get educated on the subject!

Be sure to check out Smelly Faces online, and say hi on Facebook or Instagram!

life, Parenting

Ending Food Poverty – The Lu & Ed Lunch Program

$1 from every Monster sold through luanded.com will go to end food poverty in American schools.

Lunch shaming is an embarrassing epidemic for children in America. When children have insufficient funds on their lunch accounts, most schools have policies where the child’s hot lunch is taken away and substituted with a brown bag lunch consisting of a cold sandwich and piece of fruit – or in some cases, they are forced to watch staff discard their tray of food into the trash, and are left with nothing at all to eat for lunch, a cruel form of punishment for a problem that they can’t control. You can read more about the sad epidemic of food poverty in American schools here.

I am passionate about creating change with this little monster making business of mine. I already make a monumental environmental impact by using only textile discards, which diverts tens of thousands of pounds of textiles from landfills annually, but I want to use Lu & Ed to directly create positive change in children’s lives as well. I’ve been working out the kinks for the Lu & Ed Lunch Program since January, and I’m so excited to launch it!

All through September, $1 from every monster adopted through my shop will be donated to pay outstanding lunch debts & load funds onto lunch accounts at *Riverbend Elementary in Clyde, NC, a school in a region with an incredibly high level of food poverty.

*My original choice to donate to received a grant and is able to offer free lunches to students for the 18-19 school year, yay! With the help of the staff, I selected Riverbend Elementary, a school where over 50% of students are on food assistance.

Beginning in September, I will take also be taking submissions for the next school to donate to in my Facebook group

1903-copy

Members can submit their child(ren)’s school or a school in their community through the 7th of each month, then I’ll create a poll for members to vote for the next school to receive donations. Members can add family or friends to the group to use their voices to vote for their local school.

The same school won’t be chosen twice in one academic year, allowing for a total of twelve schools that will receive donations from the Lu & Ed Lunch Program to pay off student lunch debt & load funds onto low income students lunch accounts, and to help fund summer lunch programs for communities where children face hunger at alarming rates.

How you can help:

Spread the word about the Lu & Ed Lunch Program – share this blog post with your friends

Join my VIP group & nominate your local school

Add your friends and family to the VIP group to increase the impact we can make together

Donate directly to your local public schools

Business, marketing

Community over Competition – Low Cost, Effective Marketing for Makers – Lu & Ed Swag Bags

If you are interested in applying to be a part of Lu & Ed Swag Bags, hop over here and fill out this short form! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cody@luanded.com.

As an owner of handmade business, I am always looking for creative ways to reward my customers for supporting my dream and allowing me to stay home with my young children. As an advocate for the handmade community, I’m always looking for ways to introduce people to shops I love. So, several years ago, the Lu & Ed Swag Bag program was born! If you have ordered from my shop in the last 6 years or so, you probably received a sweet little swag bag with your order, full of coupons & samples from other small shops, like the ones shown below.

Pinterest - Cost Effective Marketing B

I’m always looking for new shops to collaborate with, and so I wanted to talk about the program’s benefits, effectiveness & perks of sponsoring the Lu & Ed Swag Bag program.

If you’re just discovering Lu & Ed and aren’t sure about my reputation – hi! My business has been featured in Parents Magazine, on Buzzfeed, in top parenting blogs around the world including Hello Wonderful, Mindful Mavericks, Destination Nursery, Punky Moms  and more! I’ve been making monsters for almost 9 years and have a highly engaged audience that frequently makes purchases from the swag bags!

It sounds a little strange, right? Send me your products to send to my customers? I was worried it might, but I know for a fact putting products right into the hands of your target audience works. Here are a few real life examples:

  • I won a giveaway The Gnarly Whale Shop had 6 years ago, and after trying their lip balm from that giveaway, I became a loyal customer. I exclusively used their vegan lip balms and shampoos for years, thanks to that one sample lip balm!
  • I recently got a swag bag from Mommy Con, which had a sample of a face wash & lotion in it. We now use that brand exclusively for my son, because it is the only face wash that helps with his break outs!
  • I was recently drawn to test a product for Mandelin Naturals. Long story short, I just spent $40 in her shop & my mom now exclusively uses their soap, rollers and lip balms as well.

For further testimony directly regarding working with Lu & Ed, I have heard from people who won prizes in my multi-vendor giveaways I’ve held on my blog over the years who have emailed me to tell me that they purchased from the vendors many times after receiving a prize from them.

A lot of Lu & Ed Swag Bag participants receive multiple sales from the bags + some makers have gotten up to $1000 total combined first wholesale orders with repeat orders from participating in the bags over the years! Most makers participate in 2-5 rounds of the swag bags because the ROI is so high. Yay!

In addition to purchases through the bags, a lot of buyers show off their swag on social media, tagging the sponsors, which in turn offers even more exposure from the bags!

Participating in the swag bags is low cost, direct, effective marketing that isn’t costly and uncertain, like online ads, and has a much higher ROI (return on investment).

How are they so effective? Being a maker with a tiny budget for marketing services myself, I knew from the start that I wanted to make this program truly beneficial to swag bag sponsors as possible, and in doing so, I only accept swag sponsors that I know my customers would adore so that everyone will benefit greatly from it. Our target audiences need to be similar in order for the samples to convert into purchases. I have spent almost a decade getting to know my amazing customers & what they like, so I only accept swag for kids,  parents & women that fall in line with sustainable, alternative brand.

29983016_10213023023468461_962392526967915008_o.jpg

For my first initial bags, I received items from hair clips made with upcycled fabrics, eco-friendly greeting cards and bookmarks to coupons for 30% off for over ten brands for the trial bags. As the first few swag bags went out, I remember that I was a so nervous – I really wanted my customers to enjoy this extra reward and I hoped that each artist involved would benefit immensely from it. As the first bags arrived to my customers, I received instant feedback – people loved them and adored the products from the sponsors! Armed with newly inflated confidence, I set about collecting applications for round two of the swag bags – and I have now sent out swag bags with samples and coupons from over 250 different makers!

I *wish* I could do the service for free but the bags add about a half pound to every order, which greatly increases shipping costs, so I charge $5 per 25 items (or $5 per 50 art prints, as they are much lighter) though I do not make money & still lose quite a bit of profit in shipping fees, assembling the bags & in time spent communicating with sponsors, promoting the makers on social media, etc. but it is a labor of love and I adore using my established small business to help other makers grow their business!

As I have developed and refined this program, I have learned a lot about the handmade community and it’s unique needs – especially that it can be really difficult for niche shops to find effective ways to get their products in front of new consumers, and I want to bridge that gap. I want to help make it easier for like-minded businesses to be discovered and loved the way they should be for their unique offerings! I am excited to see where this swag bag program goes and how people benefit from it!

If you are interested in applying to be a part of Lu & Ed Swag Bags, hop over here and fill out this short form! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cody@luanded.com.

Business

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

IMG_3534

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.

IMG_3537

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!

IMG_3540

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.

IMG_3542

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.

IMG_3551

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

IMG_3544

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.

IMG_3552

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!

Monsters

What Mon-stors are Made From: Stop! It’s Snuggie Time!

snuggie copy.PNG

Am I alone in thinking that Snuggies are absolutely fabulous, if quite impractical if you aren’t 6’5″? I think part of the reason I adore them so much is because I frequently get these in donations & find them at salvage centers and I can make sooooo many Mon-stor toy storage bags & stuffed monster toys from them! Today, I’m showing off a few from a recent upcycle of this beautiful blue Snuggie!

To make Mon-stors, I also use things like curtains, sheets, pajama pants, dresses or skirts for the lining. Here, I used this curtain that had a some stains from bleach splashing it.

IMG_1296 copy

I combined those two, to make this huge Mon-stor toy storage bag! (He’s still available in my shop, too!) My big toy storage bags fit a LOT of toys – 9 Build-a-Bear sized stuffed toys, almost an entire load of laundry, 11 pairs of jeans, or a butt load of MegaBlocks, haha! They are ideal toy storage for play rooms or kid’s rooms, or make great hampers for pre-teens! Smaller children especially love “feeding” their Mon-stor toys – it makes cleaning up fun!

IMG_1303 copy

Now, like I mentioned above, I can usually make a LOT from an adult sized Snuggie – here are two other Mon-stors I made! This one is lined with vintage fabric that was donated to me – it was going to get thrown into a box on the curb for the garbage man, and a friend scooped that box up & brought it to me instead!

IMG_1639 copy

This one is also lined with some vintage material – a table cloth another person’s grandmother was going to throw out, but they rescued and put in my hands! This small Mon-stor toy bag is also available in my shop!

IMG_1646 copy

I also made a few stuffed monster toys from this awesome, vibrant blue, but unfortunately it was right before The Big Crafty event I did in July in Asheville, so I sold a  lot of them before I snapped photos because of the pre-show chaos! I did snap this photo on the 4th of July, which has two of the four or five I made in it! I can’t remember exactly how many I was able to squish out of that Snuggie.

IMG_1435 copy.JPG

If I were pressed to say, I may say that Snuggies are my favorite textile discard to work with. Unfortunately, they were a “trend” item and a TON of people bought them during the hype… to later throw them into donation bins or worse, just into the trash bin. But due their popularity, I do receive them in donations or find them at salvage centers frequently, often in mostly usable condition. If they are stained or worn out in places, I just cut around the stains and use those bits for dicing into stuffing.

Saving the world – one monster at a time!

 

Giveaway

St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Happy March, mamas and maker friends! I’m so excited to bring you this HUGE collaboration giveaway this month – I hope you are feeling lucky! There’s over a dozen prizes – and over a dozen chances to win! Below, you can view the prize line up, then dive right into earning your entries!

Some of the options are new and can be done daily – like sharing an item to social media to earn FIVE extra entries (a total of of 60 extra entries a day!). To complete this entry, all you have to is select an item from the shop on that entry, copy the product URL or use one of the share buttons on the product, and post it to social media – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your blog, etc. Then copy the URL of YOUR post into the box on the giveaway widget – easy peasy! You can also now “heart” items from Etsy shops for an additional 8 entries per day, too!

Rules & other info: Giveaway opens at  12am 3/6 & runs until 12am 3/12 (Eastern Standard Times).  Giveaway is open to all eligible US citizens over 18, and international entries are accepted where allowed but postage must be paid by winner. There will be one winner per prize, drawn randomly using the Rafflecopter widget (YAY! Lots of chances to win!). Each item is mailed directly to the winner from the sponsor, who will be contacting winners individually to collect shipping info so please keep an eye on the email you use to enter giveaways powered by Rafflecopter with!

 

Prizes:

  1. Rainbow MEGA Monster by Lu & Ed
  2. Lucky Leprechaun Bow (your choice headband or clip!) by Elle Bee Accessories
  3. Green baby shoes by By Mindy
  4. Rainbow Child size Clouche Hat by Knits for Love
  5. 4 Pack Rainbow Cards & Rainbow Be Awesome Mug by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes
  6. Rainbow Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters
  7. Personalized Rainbow Family Name’s Heart by Selena Ashley Designs
  8. Rainbow & Leprechaun Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes
  9. Adult Size Rainbow Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works
  10. Rainbow Unicorn Mask (winner picks size!) by Deboop Shop
  11. Majestic Unicorn Mug by Rainy Day Geekery
  12. Furry Green Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush
  13. Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

 Click here to open the giveaway widget and start earning entries!

makers

Handmade finds from around the web

Today, I’m bringing you a random assortment of cute handmade finds from around the web that I’m loving this week! These finds were just too fun to not share with the world!

Crochet Starfish by The Craft Penguin

Starfish.jpg

Dream Art Tree by True Image Jewelry

TrueImage_20Expressions_20Wire_20Sculpture-dream_original (1).png

Cascading Rainbow Heart Mobile by Baby Jives

baby_jives_co_-23_1024x1024

Angel Aura Crystal Pendant by Almond Eye Creations

img_20161218_125727_original

Time Flies Clock by Clay By Laura

For+Sale25.jpg

What is your latest favorite handmade goodies on the web? Share them with me in the comments!