Smothered in hats. I mean love.

27 Jul

This post is not meant to be sad, but it is a result of my aunt recently passing away. She struggled with cancer for a couple of years, and was very brave in the face of the odds. I was away during much of this time, and all I could do was support her via email. And knit her things. I made her a purple lace shawl, and several hats. In fact, I did not realize how many hats I had sent her until I was up at her house this past month and came across them all. If you can represent caring and love through knitting, I loved her this much, and more.

Carrboro Craft Market – my first public appearance!

23 Jul

On July 14th, I participated in my first craft market ever – it was fun to run around getting ready, visiting local thrift shops for display ideas and items. I picked up a wooden sliding door with slats from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and some metal cubes from PTA Thrift, and I was on my way.

Thanks to Pinterest, I received a lot of comments on my business card display, which was fanning my MOO photo cards around a slinky. Great idea, whoever was responsible for that one!

The craft market took place this month at Open Eye Cafe, where it will also be on August 11th. We had some decent foot traffic considering it was a VERY hot day, and thanks to my friends that stopped by to support me! I had a few friend sales and a couple of stranger sales. Hopefully next month will be even better, with more vendors and more of the community out and about!

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(Mel makes a guest appearance… checking out my African print cover journals!)

I also met Meli and Gina, fellow local Etsians, for the first time – Meli had a blog post up the day after!

African fabric collecting

27 Jun

More and more I feel excited to come home after being away. Traveling can be exhilarating, even to a place I already know, like Kinshasa. At the end of the day, though, I like my creature comforts, my routine, my home.

One of my goals while in Kinshasa these past few weeks was to collect some more African print fabric. This time, I visited three main places. One is a narrow alleyway near the Beach, which is the spot where all of the boats from Brazzaville (across the river), barges from up river, and vessels from Matadi (the main ocean port) land when they get to Kinshasa. The women selling the fabric in the alleyway must have first pick from vendors off the boats. My favorite find there was this lovely lavender and gold design.

Another pricier spot is Woodin, which has similar quality cloth but a sleeker and more coordinated selection of designs. They have a storefront a few blocks off of Kinshasa’s main boulevard, 30 Juin. Next door is Vlisco, which makes amazing fashion primarily from African print cottons, but is generally way out of the price range! This is a print I brought home from Woodin, in a similar color scheme as above.

We also drove down to the crazy and action-packed Avenue du Commerce, which you can imagine is the downtown center of commercial activity. After “honing in on it” for a while (my expression when I don’t know the exact location of the destination…), we finally located the Utex factory store, called Lambada. I love the strong, bright colors of many of their selections, such as this abstract floral.

But I will admit that some of my favorites are those you wouldn’t imagine wearing on a shirt or dress, such as chickens and spark plugs! (Not together…) The chickens will make a super shirt for my friend Ezra, who has grown out of the first one I brought him.

Ideas to Action

3 Jun

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More and more I find myself discussing with friends online ways in which we can interact and structure our time around supporting each other’s creative and business endeavors. 

When I am not under undue stress from work and life responsibilities, my mind is a fount of ideas. The challenge I face is how to bring those ideas to fruition, how to lay out a plan and organize the work. I am constantly saying, one day I’m going to make a film, write a novel, build an installation project. The ideas are there, but the structure and accountability is not. 

Several methods we’ve identified recently that I think will motivate and give the proper push from idea to action include:

  1. Establishing a weekly meeting time to work on individual business activities with a like-minded friend. 
  2. Scheduling a weekly virtual writing group to alternatively write at the same time for 1-2 hours, checking in on FB/Gmail/Skype, or to vet our work with the group when we’re ready for critique. 
  3. Starting an Action Cafe like the one Claire Mulvaney describes. I love the notion of a semi-formal but mostly informal space for sharing ideas and challenges, and soliciting potential solutions from a group of relaxed creative thinkers. This approach can involve some gentle structure, such as brainstorming on giant paper with bright markers, giving the beneficiary something concrete to take home and work from. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that I’ll be able to join the Action Cafes taking place in Ireland any time soon, but perhaps I will work to evolve one in my neighborhood!

What ideas do you have to evolve from ideas to action? 

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Integration of global and local

27 May

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Yesterday, I met a friend of a friend that is visiting Kinshasa – a somewhat rare happening that Kinshasa is visited by a bona fide tourist! However, this post is not about who visits Kinshasa and who doesn’t.

Rather, it is about shifting priorities.

Meeting him in this environment, I’m surrounded by people that have foreign service careers, which is truly admirable, because to be an FSO, one gains a lot but also sacrifices a lot in terms of maintaining a relationship with one community long term. Instead, it can be very disrupting to hop around every two to five years, make new friends, and get reinstalled.

This person is only visiting, taking a jaunt to South Africa and Congo before returning to his life in the greater Chicago area. In Chicago, he has worked with a company that delivered fresh produce to local consumers. Now he is working part time with a small farmer to market some very specific goods, such as giardiniera.

The reason his story was interesting to me – in addition to receiving a very brief introduction to anaerobic composting to efficiently break down and produce methane gas that can be fed into rudimentary greenhouses to extend the growing season, to which I said, That must be like Compost +1, a term he didn’t realize I made up – is that he seemed to be in transition, shifting from previous priorities to a more local connection.

This need for connections is a notion I touched on in my last post on community, because I feel it acutely. Growing up in the first generation that began communicating via email, leading to numerous amazing means of staying linked in online, I’ve developed the skills to network internationally, find products I need and have them shipped from anywhere on the planet, work in other languages and cultures to mobilize public health resources to save lives, and keep myself employed.

But I miss certain experiences, like handwritten letters. I want that feeling of stepping into a new store in town because I noticed the changing facade of the block, or because my colleague or neighbor knows the owner. I want it to be personal, not sanitized or forced by Facebook.

This is not news, that many of us have decided to grow ourselves or buy as much of our food goods as possible from people that live down the road. I’m simply underlining its importance, the importance of knowing whether or not the process lived up to organic standards and being able to talk to the farmer about it, the importance of sometimes meeting the chicken that produced the eggs, seeing the hives that yielded the honey.

Yesterday, we also talked about community-supported agriculture (CSA) delivery companies. I discovered that in 2009, just such a company (and probably now more than one) was established in the Triangle area, the perfect solution to my inability to participate in CSAs when I only had a bicycle and couldn’t always make it to the pickup point and negotiate veggie transport.

So now the question is how does that process happen? What does the path look like transitioning from a life of global virtual networking to bringing it back to the local, and what does the integration of these two worlds look like?

Thoughts on community

26 May

Lately, I have been thinking about community, versus the nature of my current lifestyle in our generation.

In my life, I live far away from my family members. I don’t yet have a family of my own. After so many years, most of us generally choose not to live with roommates. Sometimes I travel for work, leaving even my network of friends behind. We’ve finished with school. We may or may not attend church, book group, supper club. Hanging out in the cafe doesn’t count as having community.

During the past three years, I’ve spent almost 30 months living overseas, away from friends and family. There were manufactured communities to tap into, including the US embassy community or the NGO community, but it’s not the same. In this type of environment, sometimes it’s great to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise befriend. You will have a social life, places to go on the weekends. But sometimes it can feel like a suit that doesn’t fit, attempting to forge connections when maybe there aren’t many.

I made specific decisions – to move back to a place I loved, to concentrate on my friendships, and to become more involved with community. The latter one I’m still working on.

Involvement is one thing, but what I really need is to be accountable to a group of people, to know that we have mutual ongoing regular expectations of each other.

As well, in the process of promoting my burgeoning businesses, I have to think about the concept of community. What are the expectations? What do I get out of it? In the case of Etsy, I can join “teams,” and if used correctly, this experience should provide advice, moral support, and traffic to my store. I’m also being pulled into Twitter, Facebook, and others, and still sorting out the roles vs. the time commitment.

What I’m looking forward to most, though, is meeting more Etsy and doula contacts locally. I loved my doula training weekend, learning with a group of 14 amazing women, and attending a doula informational session (aimed at pregnant moms, but I took a lot from observing the group model). That in-person sharing of experiences is so essential.

I’m also seeking opportunities to market my handmade items locally, which will give me a chance to get to know my fellow residents, clients, service providers, neighbors. It’s nice to make a sale online, but it is that much more fulfilling to discuss face to face, hear about why the person wants it and to whom it’s going if it’s a gift – to hear the story and share a bit of mine, too.

“Click to Tweet it!!” Um. No.

26 Apr

I’ve asked these linked questions a number of times: how do you manage your social media? how do you use it to your advantage and prevent it from getting in the way of doing what you do?

Lately, as I’ve been populating my Etsy shop and cross-posting on Flickr, I have found that many people think the key to sales is clicking. This activity is couched as adding other Etsyians to your “Circle,” “favoriting” shops or items, and participating in Teams. Some Teams are active, but others have hundreds of members and no responses to threads in the forums. It’s easy to click the day away and think you are participating in groups or teams or pools, but does it lead to anything?

I’ve also been reading some blog entries about starting a business from the perspective of offering yourself and your personal genius to the world – yes, sort of self-helpy, but hey. So I want to take them seriously and internalize the messages and attempt to use them to my advantage.

But it isn’t easy to do this when a sentence that could have been full of meaning is followed immediately by a hyperlink to “Click to Tweet it!!” Um. No. I’m not here to click and Tweet. I do Tweet, and I enjoy it, and I think Twitter is a good networking tool along with other platforms, but to simply consume and spit out again is not furthering my business. In fact, that approach, to me, is the antithesis of what the new business builders and coaches of today claim they are promoting.

At this stage, I’m in it for me, and I know there is a certain level of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” that goes along with this type of endeavor. I suppose I’m resisting just being someone else’s pawn, though. I’m not feeling my back being scratched so much.

So once again – how do you manage your social media? how do you use it to your advantage, and prevent it from getting in the way of doing what you do?

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