Daily Archives: June 15, 2008

Travel Safely

As professional crafters, many of us spend time traveling for business. Personal safety should always be on the traveler’s mind. It’s important to listen to your inner instincts. We all want to be polite and helpful, but when in an unfamiliar place, it may not be practical to be overly friendly with strangers. Don’t forget to pack your common sense when getting ready to hit the road. Here are some tips from Travel and Leisure Magazine and the American Automobile Association.


  • Leave a complete itinerary with a family member or trusted friend. Include when you leave, how to reach you in an emergency, and when you’ll be home.
  • Get a good night sleep the day before your travel starts. Avoid caffeine, junk food, and alcohol when traveling. Drink plenty of water. Pack any regular medications. Take extra care with yourself to stay healthy and alert.
  • Pack only items you absolutely need. If you travel frequently have a toiletries bag that can stay packed and in your suitcase. Coordinate clothes so that only one jacket, skirt, or pants are needed for short trips. Select clothing colors that don’t need special shoes or accessories.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to arrive, settle in, and get ready for business. If possible, ship large or heavy items to your destination.
  • Bring along a magazine, book, portable craft, cassettes, puzzles, and other materials to keep you occupied during travel if you get bored easily.
  • Know as much as you can about your destination. Get maps, ask for directions, and ask blunt questions, “Is this area safe?” Pay attention to your surroundings, you can turn a corner in a city and be in the wrong place.
  • Observe the people around you. If you notice someone who looks out of place or seems to be watching you, stay alert.
  • If attending a convention, trade show, or other event that requires a nametag or badge, remove the badge when outside the activities. Nametags tell the world you’re from out of town and can make you a target of crime.
  • The same can be said of walking around with a map or tourist brochures.
  • Never leave belongings unattended. This is the easiest target for thieves. Keep your luggage, brief case, laptop computer, and purse close at hand.

By Car

  • Keep your car maintenance up-to-date. Check tires, belts, and oil before a long trip. Have jumper cables, emergency equipment and a first aid kit in the trunk.
  • Always lock car doors whether you ‘re inside or outside your car. When in unknown areas keep windows rolled up. Car-jackers and thefts can easily reach into an open window at stoplights, stop signs, or busy streets where traffic is slow.
  • Keep luggage, valuables, boxes, and other items that might be stolen in the truck.
  • Avoid isolated gas stations in unfamiliar neighborhoods. At night use stations that are well light. Never wait until the tank is almost empty to get gas.
  • If you travel frequently join AAA or another organization to get assistance on the road. It might be a good investment to lease or purchase a cellar or portable phone.

By Plane

  • Get tickets in advance to take advantage of discounts and to avoid an all booked flight. Try to book a seat over the wing or in front of the plane for a quieter flight. Sign up for frequent flyer programs. Arrive at the airport at least 1 hour early.
  • Pack carry-on luggage to avoid delays in picking up checked luggage or lost luggage. However, do not over pack a carry on.
  • If possible on long flights get out of your seat and walk the aisle.
  • Never give out personal information like your destination on a plane; you don’t know who might over hear the information.

At the Hotel

  • When checking in to a hotel/motel your room number should never be repeated out loud, if it is ask for a new room. Your room number should be written down by the hotel clerk and handed to you. Don’t display the key in public (by the pool or on a restaurant table) because it is easy for a thief to grab it.
  • Don’t leave your hotel door propped open even for a short period of time like to run down the hall to get ice. Always deadbolt and chain the door when inside. Don’t open the door to strangers even if they claim they are from hotel maintenance or housekeeping, call the front desk first. Avoid inviting anyone into your hotel room, isn’t not the place for businesses and meet new business contacts in a public area.
  • Don’t assume your hotel door is closing and locking behind you as you enter or exit the room. Make sure it is shut and locked.
  • Don’t leave the clean room sign on your door, call housekeeping for room cleaning. The sign is advertising your absence. Leave the TV or radio on low volume when out to make it seem like the room is occupied.
  • Park in a well light and fenced parking lot. If leaving at night feel free to ask the hotel for an escort to your car. Use valet parking if accessible. Always ask the hotel for an escort to your room if you feel uncomfortable or don’t want to walk to your room or car alone.
  • Take valuables to the front desk for safe keeping in a safety box. Keep suitcases locked in your room. Don’t leave money, jewelry, or other valuables out in the open in your room.

Especially for Women Traveling Alone

  • Women make up about 40% of the business traveling population. Women tend to use more hotel services like room service, pay for view movies, and the gift shop because they tend not to go out as much as men at night for safety reasons. Women should always feel free to ask for security when traveling, you’re not asking for “special” services.
  • Many hotels have floors designed for women traveling alone; ask when you make your reservation. When you’re making the reservations ask what measures the hotel takes for security.
  • Avoid staying on a ground floor or in a room that is exposed to general traffic. If possible ask for a room close to the elevator so you don’t have a long walk to your room.
  • It is usually more secure at a smaller hotel than larger ones. A simple rubber doorstop will add security to a hotel door. Pack one and use it from the inside of your room.
  • Never hesitate to ask the hotel staff for an escort to your room or parking lot. Ask the staff for directions to destinations rather than asking strangers on the street.
  • Avoid flashy jewelry even if it is costume jewelry. Pack shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk or run in. Act like you know where you are going, if you look confused or unsure you are a perfect target for a thief.

On the Home Front

  • Have someone who will pick-up your mail, newspapers, and deliveries instead of canceling through the post office or newspaper office. No need to let strangers know you’re out of town. For longer trips consider having a friend house or apartment sit for you.
  • Invest in timers for lights within your home. Set them at odd intervals during the evening and night. Leave your heater or air conditioning unit running. Burglars feel the windows to see if the home is too hot or cold for the weather to see if a home is unoccupied.
  • If using an answering machine never give your personal name or mention the fact that you are unavailable or out of town until such and such a date. Instead, use a message that indicates you are on another line and will return the call as soon as possible. Let the phone ring as long as possible (2-4 rings) before the machine picks up. Don’t leave the machine is plain view of windows.
  • On long trips away from home have a friend move your vehicle occasionally, take out the trash, open a drape or curtain slightly in a front window, or any other activity that would indicate that the home is occupied.

Top Tips For Work Safety

  • You may feel silly wearing protective wear, but your eyes, skin, and lungs will thank you. When using any supplies that states use in a well-ventilated area–wear a dust and filter mask that covers your nose and mouth. Also wear when sanding and cutting with power saws. The fine dust particles are bad for your lungs. Wear goggles when working at close contact with spray paints and power tools. Also don’t forget the rubber gloves when working with chemicals, dyes, and other products that can irritate skin.
  • Work in a circle: Have items you use all the time including your tools like scissors in the front part of the circle within easy reach. Other items can fill in the circle. This set-up is less stressful and not as exhausting as having to hunt down the items you need.
  • Storage of supplies is always a problem– store up, down, here and there, but NEVER on the floor. It’s an accident waiting to happen and very frustrating.
  • Always get up every hour (when sitting for a long time) and stretch–your legs, neck, back, and arms.
  • Lighting is very important–even if you have to make an investment in new fixtures and bulbs. Avoid eyestrain and mistakes (especially when matching colors) with good lighting. Mother Nature is best so if possible set-up near a sunny window.
  • Never completely relax when using power tools or anything that uses electricity. Mistakes and accidents happen when we take these tools for granted.
  • If it smells…it’s probably not good for your respiratory system. Buy non-toxic glues, paints, and sprays. Unscrew the lid of a liquid and smell for fumes. No room is ventilated well enough for some of these products.
  • Rotary scissors are wonderful to relieve hand and wrist stress, but buy one with a retractable blade. Always replace the cover of sharp, pointed tools to avoid accidents.

Top Tips For Displaying Your Crafts

Displaying your craft items is an important part of your selling plan. When you walk into your favorite gift shop do you find the items for sale just laying on tabletops and placed here and there on shelves? More than likely, your gift shop spends time creating interesting displays that will catch your eye and hopefully open your pocketbook. You need to do the same for your customers!

  1. Create a theme in your display and you will create a mood for your buyers. If you sew or quilt use an old sewing machine as a prop and scatter a few buttons around your work. Seasonal displays catch the buyers’ eye and remind them there are gifts to buy. If you sell ornaments, then decorate a tree.
  2. Never assume the potential buyer understands how to use your product. Use signs to explain your product or show examples of how the product is used. A sign should be simple and easy to read. If you sell plant sticks or pokes, display them in a pot of real flowers. If you sell eyeglass cases show several of the cases with glasses sticking out.
  3. Use color with flair. Coordinate or contrast color within a display. Don’t let your items blend into the background or get lost in the display. And at the same time don’t let a color overwhelm the display. The eye is attracted to yellow and red, which mean to most of us that we should be paying attention.
  4. Change you display frequently. Move items around and changes props. Regular customers get “bored” if they see the same display each time they shop. You don’t have to make drastic changes, but move items around to create a new look.
  5. Step back from your display and look at it from the customer’s point of view. Does the display catch your eye and invite you in to buy? What catches your eye first? Are there any items you didn’t notice at all? Ask a few friends to give you feedback on your displays and then use that knowledge to better your display.Displaying your crafts at a home party, outdoor craft show or in a craft mall doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but it is one that should get some of your creativity. Think of a craft display as your way of creating your own little shop for your craft items. Make it a shop that customers want to return to often!

Top 5 Reasons Why A Craft Sells!

  1. The value of handmade items is universal. Make sure your potential customers know that the product is crafted by hand.
  2. Uniqueness. Customers don’t want to buy or give items that are available by the gross.
  3. There is a practical reason for the item. A potential customer needs a watch and you are selling watches.
  4. Just plain “gotta have”. Also referred to as the ‘to die for’ item. It strikes the fancy of the buyer who just can’t walk away without owning it.
  5. Quality workmanship. The potential customer knows that the item will work properly and last.

Tools of the Trade

Make your crafting easier with the right tools. If you craft for a living remember to take care with your health with ergonomic (making the tools fit, safer, and comfortable) correct tools of the trade. Damage done to joints, tendons, and muscles may seem unimportant, but years from now you’ll be in less pain if you find the correct tools. The right tool can make a job or task easier and in the long run save you time and effort. There may be a small upfront investment for a quality tool, but if properly taken care of that tool can last a lifetime.

The Basic Tools of the Professional Crafter

The chair. Don’t laugh, many of us spend hours sitting and unfortunately slumped over in our work area. Make sure your seating allows your feet to comfortable rest on the floor. Get up at least every hour and stretch or walk around. Avoid hunching over or bending your bend down for long hours at a time. Invest in a chair you can sit back in and still work.

Scissors. A major culprit in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Fiskars has a great line of Softouch scissors that are spring feed to take all pressure off the hand and wrist. They come in shears, micro-tip, and clippers– a style for every type of cutting you need. Priced from 15.99-7.99 they are a great investment in your health. If you use conventional scissors avoid cutting through too thick of fabric (I know it’s easier to cut two or three layers at a time, but be careful) and stop cutting immediately if you hand becomes numb or feels painful.

Hot Glue. Most of us have at least one or two scars from this important tool. The new low-temp glues can do everything the hot glues can do and more…plastics, mylars, fabric, wood, and metals. Switching does mean investing in a new glue gun. The difference between hot glue, which heats at 350 degrees and low-temp that heats at 250 degrees means that low-temp glue will burn in the hot glue gun. Also keep a container of ice water on your worktable. If you are tempted to touch the hot glue, first soak you fingers in the cold water then touch the glue.

Toothpicks and Paper Clips. Excellent and inexpensive tools. They can get into cracks and crevices to place glue, paint, or glitter. They can make very small holes in clay and paper. They can add detailing to friendly plastic (will in the melted stage) and the polymer clays. Small beads and wood balls can be held in place and painted with out mess to your fingers. I’m sure you an come up with even more uses. My favorite is small snowman noses made from the toothpicks.

Tweezers. Great to hold and place miniatures. Tweezers can get into places my fat old fingers can’t. Tweezers came in a wide variety at the craft stores, but the ones from your local drug store work just fine. Just check quality of the tips if this is important to your crafts.

Fans. If you paint, glue, or craft with an item that takes alot of drying time. Set up a fan and let it cut your drying time by 1/3 to 1/2. Fans are also important if using supplies that need a well ventilated area to work in. Set up the fan so the fumes are blowing away from your nose and lungs!

Protective Wear. You may think you look silly wearing work gloves, rubber gloves, dust or filter face mask, and protective goggles if they are needed. Woodworkers, Metalworkers, and Painters work with many supplies that can cause damage to the lungs. Dust, Fine wood shavings, and paint/glue fumes should not be ignored. When working with saws, sanders, and other power tools don’t ever get too relaxed or forget the eye protection.

Lighting. Your mom was right…turn on the lights. There are lots of great lighting set-ups and bulbs to give you plenty of brightness to work at your best. Accidents happen when you can’t see clearly. Good lighting helps coordinate colors and prevents eye strain. Light seems a simple tool but with the new light bulbs available your lighting can match natures for pennies.

Tool Maintenance

The biggest expense faced by Professional Crafters in the investment in tools of the trade and repairs for tools not maintained or abused. Check out my A B C’s of tool care!

  1. Always put up your tools
  2. Brushes bristle tip up after cleaning to store
  3. Clean your tools after using them
  4. Dull tools cause accidents, keep them sharp a
  5. Extension cords should be used one at a time, don’t overload
  6. Fire-proof work areas and tools when possible
  7. Grips of tools should be comfortable and sized to your hand
  8. Have a place for everything and everything in it’s place
  9. Ice cubes in a bowl of water when using “hot” tools
  10. Joking and horse play aren’t part of working with tools, apply ice immediately if burned
  11. Keep safety devices like dust mask, face protectors, rubber gloves close to tools
  12. List all tools in inventory, when maintenance was given, and if maintenance need to be done
  13. Measure twice, cut once
  14. No rubbing eyes when working with chemicals, adhesives, or particles
  15. Open your eyes, pay attention, and don’t work when tired or in bad lighting
  16. Phone numbers of all emergency and doctors should be in plain sight by phone
  17. Quiet tools are best and ear plugs can save your hearing
  18. Rest while working and take stand up breaks every 30-60 minutes to stretch
  19. Spring loaded tools for hand comfort
  20. Test all new tools in the retail environment and learn how to use correctly from professionals
  21. Unplug all appliances and tools when no in use
  22. Ventilation….always keep the air moving and circulating
  23. Fill out all warranty cards and mail asap, wipe up all spills
  24. Extra care with sharp, pointed, and electrical tools
  25. Yield to your body, if it hurts, makes numb, or stresses muscles: Stop
  26. Zap hazards, mishaps, risky procedures, and dangerous situations in the bud: Think!

General Maintenance and Care

  • 1. Place tools in a container or special place. Jamming all the tools in a draw is a disaster waiting to happen. That special little clamp or brush is going to get crushed by that big hammer at some point in its now limited life. AS a rule of thumb put like tool in like containers or receptacle, brushes with brushes, scissors with scissors, et. You can even group similar brush type together if you have sufficient space.
  • 2. Oil or lubricate your metal tools often. The worst problem with tools is rust. I light coat of oil or wax will protect the metal from moisture.
  • 3. Protect the edges on sharp tools. There is nothing worse can a nicked blade or a broken saw tooth. They cause the piece being cut out to have tattered edges in stead of nice clean cuts. Make sure the edges on cutting tools are sharp and free of nicks. When nicked replace the blade or get it sharpened.
  • 4. Always clean your tools after using them. A gunky tool after use is much harder to clean the next day instead of right after using. Ever try to get paint out of a brush the day after, remove hot glue from the glue gun and accessories. Always leave a little time at the end of the day for cleaning; work area and tools.
  • 5. For large tools, saws, sanders, et. protect them from unwanted dust. After using your machines clean the saw dust of them by brushing or blowing air over them. Dust buildup can ruin bearings, cause motors to over heat, effect the cutting performance, and create potential fire hazards. Regularly covering your tools will prevent dust from other machines. Remember a dust free shop is a happy shop.
  • 6. Don’t over tighten your special clamps. A common cause of breakage in small clapping devices is over tightening the locking mechanism. A good rule of thumb is to tighten until snug. That means at the first sign of resistance stop tightening the locking mechanism. It is OK if the clamp moves slightly as long as the pieces being glue are in contact with each other.
  • 7. Last and most important is to read the manufactures directions that come with your tools. They are written to insure long tool life and unnecessary wear and tear. Believe it or not the manufacture really wants the tool to last. He has very high labor costs associated with tool returns and customer complaints. It is in everyone’s best interest to read the directions, no matter how simple they may be.

Time is Money – Great Production Tips

A key to getting top dollar and bigger profits is time. The less time you spend in actual production the better your labor rate should be. For example: If you pay yourself $10.00 per hour and you can produce 10 items verses 5 items your earning more for your effort. Many PC’s prefer to pay themselves per piece (referred to as piece mill) so if you can produce 10 items per day versus 5 items per day you again have a higher profit for your labor.

How do you get to the point where your product flows smoothly, efficiently without sacrificing quality of workmanship? First you have to allow for some time to really think about your production habits. When we first start at any craft or technique, we follow the instructions to the letter, but after we are comfortable with the techniques we learn or even create our own short cuts. Second, learn about the production process. You don’t make one item at a time starting from scratch on the item. If making a doll you would make all the dresses, all the body parts, and then assemble. If you sew you would sew all the pieces needed then go on to the next step. If you make painted jewelry you would basecoat many pieces, then add the detail strokes, then finish by gluing the findings to the jewelry.

At Nerius House, we call this approach working in batches. At any given time, part or pieces needed to complete any design item is in some stage of production. This method also helps stop the boredom of doing the “same old, same old” by allowing you to work on different tasks during a workday. Finally, you ask and listen to your peers. Finding a mentor really helps the novice PC learn quickly and avoid some pitfalls. We’ve rounded up some helpful production tips for a variety of mediums. Never sacrifice quality for quickness. These suggestions may or may not be for you, but give them a try.

Production Tips

Cutting: Several fabric pattern pieces can be can be cut out at the same time if fabric is layered. Cut several wood pieces out at the same time by nailing boards together, tracing the patterns and then cut the wood.

Staining: The easiest, fastest way is to dip item into a bowl/bucket of stain rather than brush on stain. Small wood pieces can be placed in a zip lock bag, shake stain, pour stain into bag, seal and shake bag, cut a small tip off one corner of bag and pour excess stain back into its original container. Also consider investing in an airbrush.

Painting: Small pieces are easier to paint if you use double-sided tape on a heavy piece of cardboard. Place small items onto the tape and paint. Invest in an airbrush if you do a lot of basecoating or use aerosol sprays–time saved is worth the extra cost of paint. Paint one color at a time. Invest in artist quality brushes for detail strokes.

Dolls: If possible rip hem edges instead of sewing a hemline…country/antiqued look are in. Consider using pre-sewn bodies that you dress and detail. If possible make all hair at the same time, then glue or sew on. Paint faces instead of sewing. Pre-made wings may be worth the time saved.

Gluing: There are several new low-temp specialty glues on the market. Now you can use low-temp glue for fabric, metal, wood, and outdoor items. If using bottled glues leave bottle on its side to save time. Use designer tacky or jewel glue instead of just tacky glue to save setting time. Keep a container of ice water near your low-temp or hot glue gun (it’s great for those occasional finger burns) and dip your fingers into the ice water because if you need a quick set-up your chilled fingers will quickly cool down the glue. Always take extra care when using a glue gun of any type.

Drying: Set-up a fan or two to place drying items near to cut your waiting time by a 1/3 or 1/2. Paint with several thin coats instead of one thick coat. Place items in the sun. Oven set on warm is great for terra cotta paper molds. Place stained or painted items on inexpensive cookie or cooling racks so both sides can dry evenly. Use aerosol sealers instead of brush on. If doing laundry at the same time you craft place drying items on top of dryer.

General: Give yourself plenty of space to work and move. Remember Mom’s advice, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Valuable time is wasted hunting down items you need. Spend an hour every other day just straightening up and you’ll be surprised at the time you really do save yourself. Work in a circle with the items or tool you use the most within arms reach. Invest in the best quality tool you can afford. The perfect brush will do half the work for you. Sharp, precise scissors make cutting easier. Take breaks to avoid fatigue.

Teaching and Demonstrating for Cash

Extra income can be earned by teaching others a craft you know well. You can also be hired to demonstrate crafting techniques by stores and manufacturers. This area of crafting has great potential for the Professional Crafter. There is less labor than production work and if you can build a following of students you can bring in a steady income to your business. Keep in mind that you will be working directly with the public and that demands you enjoy interacting with others.

Where Can You Teach A Class?

  • Art Supply Stores
  • Adult Education Programs
  • Book Stores
  • Churches
  • Children After School Care
  • City Parks
  • Civic Club Lunches or Meetings
  • Craft Shows
  • Craft Retail Stores
  • Community Colleges
  • Community Festivals
  • City Recreational Centers
  • Cultural Associations
  • Day Care
  • Elementary Schools
  • Family Gatherings/Reunions
  • High Schools
  • Hardware/Do It Yourself Shops
  • Home Show or Home Party
  • Libraries
  • Local Chapters of Associations
  • Middle Schools
  • Museums
  • Nursing Homes
  • Senior Centers
  • Scouting Groups
  • Trade Schools
  • Trade Shows
  • Universities
  • Zoos

Getting Started

  1. Select a craft or technique and select a project allows a beginner to complete the project as well as a student who may know a little something about the craft. It is best to select a design that uses supplies readily available to all students.
  2. Have a class outline for yourself and a class handout for your students. The class handout should include (if needed): a brief bio of your experience in this craft, a glossary of terms, patterns, instructions, hints/tips, and materials needed. Be prepared. Know what you are going to teach. Practice several times and be prepared for questions. Never assume your students with get new techniques with one try.
  3. Bring your patience to class. You are almost guaranteed to have at least one of the following in your class: The Bewildered- doesn’t listen and can’t figure out why he/she is not understanding what is going on in class. The Know It All- doesn’t need you help, but can’t complete the project. The Untalented- believes they have no creativity or skill, but signed up for the class anyway to annoy the rest of the class, also referred to as The Whiner. Absent Minded Crafter- forgot all the supplies needed and wants to borrow from fellow class members. The Perfectionist- his/her project must look exactly like yours or they have a fit.
  4. Bring extra supplies but have a price set for them. Do not give away your supplies. In some cases it may be practical to sell a kit for the class. Figure out how much the supplies cost and add at least 20% for your time.
  5. Get to the classroom early to make sure there is enough room and setting for all the students. Give yourself and the class plenty of time to complete the project in the classroom. This is where practicing will come in handy. Extra time can be used to answer questions. Go an extra step for your students. Bring a plate of cookies or bowl of candy. Bring paper towels, water containers, glues, or scissors.
  6. Pricing your class might be difficult for you, but if you do not make money for your time you might as well just volunteer. Usually, classes are priced by the hour, so how much do you want to earn per hour? A separate price may be set for kits or supplies. Look around and see how much other teachers are charging and consider what your local economy can afford. Always have your next class in mind. Have a sign-up sheet at any class you teach.
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