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April 30, 2009


To top off an exhausting day after my craft show, I had a new visitor outside my living room window this evening.

At least he was OUTside my window, but with a dog door that's always open and a vacant studio apartment in total disrepair attached to mine, that won't be for long.

Anyone have any suggestions on discouraging mice without harming the neighborhood cats and squirrels, or my own dogs? Please leave comments with your tips!

Craft Show Follow-Up

I've been preparing for a private craft show at my friend's workplace since mid-February. Her building serves about 200 people, and this show was scheduled over the lunch hour, so it was only open for two hours (not including set-up or take-down). Today was the day. All in all, I sold only $44.00. That's a gross, not including expenses.

On the positive side, because this was a private affair, there was no booth fee. That allowed me to test several ideas at low risk. And, on balance, I still have my unsold merchandise to sell elsewhere. Still, I spent between $300-400 on supplies this spring.

I had four jars of kumquat-grapefruit chutney, which I had pressure canned by myself. I priced these high because the supply is so limited. It's really great poured over a block of cream cheese. I didn't offer any samples of this. Sold none, though several people did make positive comments.

On the lower-priced end, I had about 30 matchbooks covered in 4th of July print fabrics for parents to use to set off fireworks, or for jar candles--pretty enough to leave out near the jar! Priced them at a buck per box of 30. Again a couple people commented positively, but I sold none, and they were only a dollar.

I also had about two dozen vintage button pins that I'd blogged about earlier. I stuck them into a pillow from my home, and draped over that a scarf that I'm knitting, placing several on the scarf as an example. Pointed out to people that having them pinned rather than sewn on allowed for them to be removed for laundering. Priced these at four bucks apiece, could have been talked into selling two for six bucks. Sold none. And the table next to me was knitters & crocheters who could have used my product!

I'd done a lot with canning jars, and had specifically decorated 8oz and 16oz jars with cat and dog fabric prints as treat jars. I put one treat in the bottom of each jar as an example, and offered them for three and four dollars, respectively. Sold none.

(this pic taken from the backside of the table)

I had some interest in my Nut Spice Mix, which is from an old restaurant recipe. Because a little bit of this goes a long way, I packaged it in small jelly jars, some with spring fabrics, but half decorated with travel motifs intended as Father's Day Gifts. I'd already made a custom logo and direction labels several years ago, so this was an easy project. But I bought three pounds of almonds at a cost of ten dollars that I made as samples. I was really surprised at how many people took handfuls of samples with no intention of purchasing. I priced them at $5. I've not priced out all the spices that go into it, since I conceived this project several years ago, so I'm not sure if that covers my cost. I did sell a couple jars.

My main item was the pie-in-a-jar that I'd conceived of last Christmas. It's from my grandma's depression era recipe, and I thought it was a great twist on the usual cookie-in-a-jar. I made a cute label using free clip art, and packaged them in full pie and half pie sizes, decorated with lots of florals for Mother's Day or 4th of July prints. I sold the half size for eight dollars, and the full size for ten. I made about three full pies as samples, serving from my vintage Pyrex to go with the cutesy/crafty/homey theme. Serving kept me busy throughout the event. As I served, I really talked up my product, mentioning: the depression era theme, add only common household ingredents, easy to make, great for kids, great gift, give mom present then make her breakfast for added treat. I also made up a little present basket sitting on the table as an example, which pretty much contained one of everything I was selling. And I donated one of the half pies to the event's raffle giveaway. I did get a few people who wouldn't eat coconut, but all who tried it really liked it, and I sold one large and three half pies. I thought that wasn't bad, considering the first table I saw when I came in at setup time was of course someone selling cookies in a jar. They were at the other end of the event, so I wasn't able to see how well they sold, but I didn't see anyone walking around with their jars.

My friend who works at this building set up her computer to offer her services making custom calendars and picture CDs. She had a couple sample calendars and some business cards. She filled only a quarter of the table but needed the limited shade. She put out no money in supplies, helped me handing out my samples through most of the event, and sold as much as I did.

What do you think I could have done differently? Do you have any marketing ideas? If you have any suggestions for me, please leave me a comment below!

Yes, You Could....But Will You?

Here's the sign I made to have near my table at the craft fair I'm doing this week. Everything I'm making is pretty simple but time intensive, and most people don't have the time to put that much attention into their home. I'm hoping this makes the point and increases my sales without offending anyone.

What's your opinion? Let me know in a comment.

April 29, 2009

The Magic Castle!

The Coup de Gras of my folks' visit was getting to go to the Magic Castle, thanks to a friend of mine who is a member. The Castle is a private club for members who are magicians; it's where magicians go to practice their acts in front of other magicians. To maintain the exclusivity, no photography is allowed beyond the lobby.

To emphasize the exclusivity, there is a dress code at the Castle. Men must wear jackets and ties, and ladies must be in cocktail attire. As I don't dress up often, we made a point to get photographic evidence!

This is the actual portal from the lobby into the grand salon of the Castle. The owl on the shelf between mom and I controls the door, and won't open until you say the "magic words."

The Castle Entrance has a beautiful memorial fountain.

Gargoyles at the front door, and the stained glass transoms alongside the door.

I was so disappointed that I couldn't photograph all the stained glass inside the building! There's a ton of it, brought in from all over LA as historic buildings are torn down. It really inspired me with different color combinations that I wouldn't have chosen myself.

I don't think I'd prepped my folks well for their experience. The castle is a great maze, with several different performing venues. Most of your evening is spent waiting in line for a performance, then moving on to the next venue, which can involve a lot of walking. Luckily the friend that hosted me loves to introduce people to the Castle, is quite knowledgable about the institution and the building, and has a lot of stories to tell. He kept us entertained in all the waiting. We were able to catch three different shows in about four hours at the Castle.

The Close-up Gallery presents masters of the art of close-up magic, in the smallest of the Castle theaters (seating only 22 guests). Helder Guimaraes is a gentleman who won the international award for close up magic at the last magician's "Olympics." He did mostly card tricks, but they were impeccable. My mom was pulled up as his helper for the show, and he let her keep some cards at the end of the show, which he autographed for her.

The Parlour of Prestidigitation recreates the Victorian experience of the "parlour" (living room) magician. George Tovar is a very polished performer, who acts on television regularly. Yet he was able to retain a feeling of spontanaiety. He did his own versions of classic tricks, including the rope trick.

The W.C. Fields Bar was more of an open show, with audience coming and going at will. It was very personal, with only two rows of benches, so the magician did a lot of interactive discussion with several audience members close to him. Brian Ochab did some funny voices in his act, and did a bit with the balls hiding in cups.

We also got to see the seance room, a private room in the dining area where your party of a dozen or so is served a multiple course room and a private magician holds a seance just for your group. The room had a bunch of artifacts that once belonged to Harry Houdini.

Apart from all the magical happenings inside, the building itself is a treasure. From their website:
The Magic Castle began its life as a private home built in 1909 by banker and real estate magnate Rollin B. Lane. Mr. Lane owned much of what is now Hollywood, dreaming of turning his land into orange groves, farms and ranches.

But a severe drought brought an end to his dreams and orange blossoms never filled the valley.

After the Lane family moved away in the 1940s, the mansion was divided into a multi-family home, then became a home for the elderly, and was finally transformed into a maze of small apartments. By 1960, the fate of the Mansion was uncertain. Then Milt Larsen met the owner, Thomas O. Glover.

Milt was a writer on the NBC TV show "Truth or Consequences." His office was on the ninth floor of a Hollywood office building that overlooked the Lane mansion. Milt's late father, William W. Larsen, Sr., was a renowned magician and had long dreamed of building an elegant private club for magicians.

The Lane mansion would become that club. In September of 1961, Milt and a crew of eternally generous friends and volunteers began the extraordinary task of returning this run-down apartment building to its glorious past. After months of scraping and sanding, the rich Victorian elegance began to resurface.

The Magic Castle opened its doors at 5 p.m. on January 2, 1963. Today more than four decades later, the Castle has become the world-famous "home" to the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc.and their invited guests.
While waiting for my friend to arrive I had a chance to walk around the outside of the building and take some pictures.

The Magic Castle sits high in the Hollywood Hills, and there are beautiful views of the city all around.

When we finally left, the building looked so different at night!

If you're going:
The Magic Castle / Academy of Magical Arts
7001 Franklin Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028-8600
Phone: 323-851-3313 Fax: 323-851-4899

Have you ever been to the Magic Castle? Are you an amatuer magician yourself? Tell me your experiences with magic in a comment below.

April 28, 2009

Victorian Silhouettes

Recognize these dogs? I'm practicing making silhouettes so I can do this with my best friend's kids when I visit them in Texas next month. Cathy has three kids under five years old. This will be a fun way to thank her for her hospitality.

I read a blogger's post that mentioned she made it a family tradition to make new silhouettes of each kid every year on April first. That sounds like a great way to memorialize kids' growth, and one I'd like to incorporate if I ever have my own kids. Growing up, my family had generic silhouettes on plaques with each kid's birthdate that always hung in my parents room, but they weren't of our specific profiles.

Here's a google search that offers tutorials, both of the traditional way of printing a picture and cutting it out, and the digital way using a computer program to create the image.

Have you ever made silhouettes? Did you have a special spot in the house to note your growth as you grew up? Tell me about it in a comment below.

Disney's California Adventure Theme Park

My mom and I had a great day at Disney's California Adventure last week. We wanted to see all the new changes to the park since my family had lived in Orange County in the late eighties. Boy, have there been a lot of them! This whole park was new to us, so we chose it over the regular Disneyland.

One of my favorites was the animation room, where they have exhibits on old rotoscopes, how to do voice over, and the above, which takes a picture of you and inserts it in a book, asks questions about your personality, then magically melts to show you which Disney character you would be. The game told mom she would be the Queen of Hearts!

My other favorite feature was the Blue Sky Cellar, which documents all the plans and upcoming changes to the park. I have to admit, I'm biased, as I have a friend & neighbor who works for Disney in Ride Engineering, the folks who design and build the park.

Ride-wise, we enjoyed old familiars like the swings, and new ones like the shooting gallery that featured the characters from Toy Story.

mom as Nemo, a pic to send to her sister who loves hats

the flyer that tells about kennel services

Did you know that Disneyland even has a kennel for your furry friends? It's located just to the right of the main Disneyland entrance. The kennel's staffed by regular park employees (not vet staff) so they're not allowed to touch the animals--you have to come back to give your pet potty breaks. But they have shady, climate controlled crates that your pet can relax in while you wander the park. Multiple-pet households can even house the pets together in one crate. The staff allowed me in for a tour of the space, and I was impressed. It wasn't loud with stressful barking, like a shelter is when all the animals are housed right next to each other. It was orderly and quiet, a place to take a nap. You can click on the flyer above to enlarge it for more details. I'll remember it if I ever take Chance and Claire with me.

What's your best Disneyland memory? What do you feel is the ideal age to take a child? Let me know in a comment below.

April 26, 2009

Stained Glass at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

I've gotten a lot of inspiration for stained glass projects lately, both at the Magic Castle and at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This post shows the stained glass at Hollywood Forever.

These beautiful peacocks are right at the entrance to the cemetery, near the building with the flower shop & tours. They were my favorite that I saw that day, for their coloring in beautiful earthy browns, creams, golds, and light green. I also love the way the ivy on the building frames the window.

Over in Section 2, near the old original gate, is a small building with lots of windows. The rest of these pictures were taken of that one structure. Each window was more beautiful than the last. Most of them seem to be done by the same artist, but each pattern is subtly different. They have great movement and imagination. You can almost feel the wind sweeping through the landscapes.

This painted glass is my favorite window in this building. Notice any theme in my color choices?

Where is the prettiest stained glass you've ever seen? Any favorites in the ones above? Let me know your thoughts in a comment.
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