The workaholic artisian

So I find myself having a hard time taking time off. After more than a week of long days filled with mentally taxing things to take care of, I was facing another 7 days before I could take a day to rest...unless I took today.

It was something I really wrestled with before being talked into finally just chilling for a day. It is easy for the self-employed to become a workaholic. Maybe it is the other way around and more workaholics are likely to become self-employed.

So I took a work addiction risk test and landed directly in the highly workaholic category. Not only did I answer almost all questions as often or always true, I have no concept as to why anyone would answer anything else!

I can't be the only one who over commits themselves, or feels guilty when not working. Yes I get angry when people do not meet my standards of perfection, especially when it comes to the business. And of course I put myself under pressure from self-imposed deadlines, but without that I would never get anything done, it isn't like I have a boss to tell me what to do.

But I do recognize that it is now the time of year that I need to schedule some time off. With my dearest traveling for work during the week, I tend to work hard thinking that will free me up on the weekends to spend time with him. But now craft shows have stared, so then I have to work the weekends too. This easily becomes an endless cycle where I work for weeks on end until I ultimately burn out and become a raging lunatic to everyone around me.

So a goal for this year is to try and break this cycle. There will be times of the year it is inevitable, due to long shows, and muti-weekend shows, but I started by taking today off. Well, except for writing this blog. Baby steps.


The artisan and the global economy

This time was primarily filled up by the Lehigh Valley Flower, Garden, and Pool show. A few really long days but I was amongst friends and so it was fun. Last year was the first time I had tried the event and I was very happy with my sales, this year I did  just a little better than last year. That is good because the show was just a little more expensive than last year too. so I covered that cost increase.

I think it is difficult any time you mix in artisans with things that are bought wholesale and resold at a profit. Typically retailers will mark up a product by 100-150% so they have a lot of wiggle room in their prices. For example, if I sold a bar of my soap to a shop for $3, they would charge at least $6 or more for that same bar of soap and they did nothing other than buy it ans stick it on a shelf. I understand that they do tie up their money when they make a purchase (and have rent etc...) and that there should be some profit, but sometimes things get a little excessive and the artisan can't compete with the prices, or the selection that a retailer can provide.

This is especially true when the difference between handcrafted and not is not differentiated in people's minds. I find it most at events like this where there is a handcrafter or artisan right next to a booth full of things imported for pennies and sold for a high mark up, but still less expensive than what they could be made for here in the US. Many people don't understand there is a difference, or if there is, why there is a difference. It is actually perceived that that artisan is being greedy because the prices are higher. The prices are higher actually because we can't even buy our component parts for as inexpensive as a completed product from overseas!

So why do we do it? Why do we even try and compete with the global economy? Why don't we all just sit back and work for the big box retailers and let the cheap goods fly right out the door? Because we are what me make. What every artisan does is such a part of our DNA that we cannot imagine ourselves not doing what we do. Through all the trials and tribulations, through all the heartache and sorrow, the stress and the strain of it all is so much a part of us, we wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. I am passionate about what I do and how I do it. I want to change the world one bar of soap at a time. I want my story to be heard and I want people to know that a little bit of mu soul is in every bar I make. The idea of letting all that is wrong with the world (excessive consumerism, the misuse of technology, and the prevalence of chemical laden things in our lives) makes me ill. Making soap the way I do, the way I believe in, is my small way of rebelling against a system that I think is flawed. It is my way of hoping that I can help the world and my community.

Idealistic? Yes. Would I change? No. I don't have an idea of who I would be without this.

Hope to see you at the Egg and Art Show in a few weeks!


March 1-March 6, 2013

I have to say that once in a wile an event happens and it really changes my life. This weekend was just such an event. I gave a soapmaking demonstration at Old Poole Forge in Lancaster County. It was amazing that all the time I spend exploring down that way, I had never found this place and it was literally just three miles from places that I go all the time. There are always such hidden gems that are lost amongst the clutter of the marketing the big places can afford.

The event itself was fun, it was a two hour demo on soap making. We made a simple olive oil soap and it was meant for the participants to be able to learn the basic method, using easily obtained ingredients, and to take some of the scary out of the process being able to see someone else do it first hand. The whole thing was pretty typical for what I do and wasn't that part that changed my life. What it was was the participants.

 I did not grow up in Pennsylvania and when I moved here the plain folk (primarily Amish and Mennonite) were like aliens from another planet. I had no idea why they believed what they did, and why they shunned technology and other modern ways. As I lived here I learned and researched all I could, and really just learned the basics, but never got the chance to really have an interaction on a meaningful level. Well here I was giving this demonstration and I had four Mennonite ladies, how exciting! I have to admit I loved the fact that all of my self inflicted stereotypes were shattered! I expected quiet, shy, and well versed in soapmaking. I was amazed how right off the bat we were all more alike than different, and how just like me, they have had things lost through the generations and are trying to regain them and hold onto what they have. Just like I am gaining back canning and preserving, they wanted to regain soapmaking. And I am just like them, trying to live a simple, meaningful life while concentrating on my family and community. After two hours I wished I could have spent days with these ladies.I made friends, it was awesome.

The rest of the weekend was just trying to catch up on so many things. I labeled the remainder of the lip balms, and scheduled the rest of the week. Monday started out a little harsh and I just could not get anything of of my to do list. I really was just stuck in the mud and things were taking much longer than I had expected.

Tuesday my head was in a fog, fighting some sinus something. Not sure yet if it is a cold or the onset of allergy season. But whatever I did it seemed wrong. I missed little things and had to start again or redo it all. It was a frustrating day. That night I had an event at The Knitter's Edge in Bethlehem where I got to give a talk on my products and me and showcase the new fragrances of 2013. It was very exiting and kind stressful. There were so many new faces there and so many I have known for a while. It its funny, having people I know there is more stressful than knowing no one. I think if I don't know anyone, if I make a mistake or leave something out, only I will know, but if I know people and make a mistake, they will know it too!

So that leaves me to today. I wish Spring would just get here! I hope the snow doesn't accumulate much or stay for long. I want to get into the garden next week and get back to running and stop being so cold all the time. But for now we are finishing up getting inventory stocked up, making some new displays, doing some smaller arts and crafts events, and finishing up the web site for the year. I think the next two weeks will be the last of the long, long days and then we can settle into a routine and a balance, I can only hope!

See you soon!