Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thank You Birthday Buddy!

Years ago on the All About Beads forum we started exchanging birthday gifts with each other.  This past year, Wendy (who took over the task of keeping this organized for me a few years back), also brought the offer to Facebook.  I’m not sure how many peeps ended up signing up, but I am hoping more of you have been able to enjoy this wonderful event. 

The idea is that you get a little bit of information about your Birthday Buddy and then you find something (or things) you think they might like and secretly send it to them by their birthday.  It is always so wonderful to get a gift from someone you may or may not really know but you do know they put some thought into picking something out to gift to you.

I know I love sending my Birthday Buddy a gift just as much as I love receiving mine!

Anywho, my B4B gift arrived and it is amazing!

  • I got a beautiful box filled with all kinds of wonderfulness!
  • Godiva Truffles
  • A piece of gorgeous slinky, silky fabric
  • A beautiful  embroidered and sequined zippered bag with some lovely deep purply-blue pearls in it.
  • A piece of beeswax.
  • Dragonfly stickers and rub-ons
  • An Almond Meltaway bar called Seroogy's (a hint?)
  • A little purple felted and beaded star from an Alpaca Ranch in Wisconsin (another hint?)
    It came on a card with a picture of cute little Alpaca that says:
    Fiber Donor: Timateo
    A loner, gentle and mellow.  Can often be found grazing at the far side of the pasture.   
  • A purple satin bag with a lovely tassel and a dragonfly button inside.
  • Two kinds of loose leaf tea…one of them smells a little chocolately!
  • A little purple unicorn (sooo cute!).  I think I'm going to put him in my car so I can see him every day!
  • A gorgeous mermaid hanging ornament that is going on my wall today!
  • A glass tile with a dragonfly on it.  Putting this one in my kitchen by the sink.
  • Some Tila beads (my poor buddy said in the card that he/she struggled with what to buy for a bead store owner.  But please know, I love any bead whether I already own them or not!)
  • A plastic compartment box with some blown and lampwork beads in it. They are so beautiful...maybe they'll go in a charm bracelet!
  • A pretty little bottle filled with sparkly crystals.  What beader doesn't love a bottle filled with crystals!
  • Two sweet little boxes that are going in one of the cubbies in my desk that has more little wee boxes. (what is it about tiny boxes that makes me so happy?)
  • And a beautiful card wishing me a Happy Birthday!

Well, birthday buddy…let me tell you, you have most certainly made my day extra special!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your attention and your generosity with this gift.  I can feel the love!
And I cannot wait to find out who you are!  In the meantime, huge virtual hugs from me!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Testing out PayPal

We're asked often if we accept PayPal as a form of payment for orders.  The answer has always been YES!  But our shopping cart didn't offer a good feature for using it.  Because we have a retail store as well as do shows often it is near impossible to keep the stock on the website accurately updated.
If we applied the "Pay with PayPal" feature that our cart did offer it would link people directly to PayPal as soon as they finalized their orders.  Not good if something was out of stock!

We've decided to give it a try our way.  Our customers can now select PayPal from the drop-down menu of payment options and then after we've filled their order and adjusted the invoice we'll send them a message with a link to PayPal.  Hoping it works out well for everyone who has been wanting to use this payment option!

And as a bonus, we've decided to draw names, one per week over the next three weeks, for anyone who uses this payment option and gift them with a $50 gift certificate!!

Good luck to those of you who participate!  Please visit our website to participate!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where’d you come up with that name?

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question over the past 26 years of being in business.  And sometimes I wish I had a reply that started with. “After much thought….”  LOL

We opened our store with Shawn’s Mom, Lynn, in 1986.  She had always wanted to own a gift boutique, but didn’t have much experience with retail sales on that level.  I had tons.  So she offered to loan me $1200 and I could rent some space in the shop to sell beads.  We found a cute little house in downtown Cotati that was perfect for our needs!  It was just ½ a block off the main street, had a working kitchen, a fenced in backyard and a large back room so I could keep my kids with me during the day instead of putting them into daycare.  The front had a large room when you walked in.  This is where Lynn set up her shop, and then a small room off to the side where I set up my bead store!

Here is an image of the old shop.  It's a frame shop now.

But before we got to that point we had to come up with a business name.  Talk about a near impossible task!  We of course wanted something catchy and fun but nothing that would be too specific (although, now it would be nice to have the word beads in my official business name).  We read every album title we both owned, Lynn really wanted to name the store “Feelin’ Groovy” after the song made famous by Simon & Garfunkel.  While I loved the song, I thought the name might deter a few people from coming in to see what we were about.  The night before the final date that our business license needed to be submitted so we could open on schedule we all stayed up late tossing about names in the hopes that something would stick.  I was exhausted and had gotten to that silly place where you just giggle over nothing.  As Lynn said words, Shawn would look them up in a Thesaurus to see if anything sounded good.  Lynn said “Fanciful” and one of the words was “Whimsical”.  I tried to talk like Elmer Fudd (remember I was exhausted!  LOL) and said, “Out On A Whim”  playing off the title of Shirley MacLaine’s book titled Out On A Limb.  After days and days of us tossing about words, phrases, names we all got silent for a moment and Lynn proclaimed, “THAT’S IT!  OUT ON A WHIM!”  And so the business name was born.  We were both going into business on a whim, so it seemed a perfect fit!

Sadly, just 1 ½ years into it Lynn passed away suddenly.  I am happy she got to experience her dream of owning her own eclectic gift shop.  I just wish it had been for much longer!

I kept the bead store open and grew to take over both of the rooms in the front of the little house and then eventually when my kids all started school we moved across the street to the retail location we’ve been in now for 18+ years. 

Here's an image of the shop when we first moved across the street to the location we're still in now.

When it came time to start our website, I searched for Out On A Whim as a URL but it had already been taken by a novelty shop from Alabama.  So we added beads to the name and was born!

We’ve spent a lot of time trying to brand the URL because it is not easy having two business names, but for the most part folks are able to find us!
So, that’s the story of how we got our business name!  And I love that walk down memory lane remembering Lynn and how she helped us get started! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Design Collision

My friend Marcia DeCoster recently posted an image of a beautiful necklace she recently designed named Vienna.  Along with her and several other beaders we’ve been playing around with design ideas for CRAW, Cubic Right Angle Weave.  The stitch really lends itself well to formal as well as fanciful geometric shapes with a soft feminine feel.  These shapes are something I feel beads work really well with and as such the finished beadwork has such an appealing look to so many. 

While I was working on Arya, a simple necklace where I changed the size of the beads as well as a slight change in the direction the beads take, I got several additional ideas on how that curved shape could be used. 

This is one of the ideas I jotted down in my sketch book. 

Now take a look at Marcia’s Vienna.

 As Marcia calls it, we had an Independent co-design.  Or a design collision!  LOL

Along with Marcia, I am seeing that while this stitch is being “played” with, several of us will most likely bump into each other design-wise during this process.  Hopefully we can all appreciate that and do it with respect for one another.

I have to admit I had mixed emotions when I first saw the post of Vienna.  My very first reaction was...Oh, look!  How beautiful is that.  Then a few seconds later I thought...Hey, wait a minute!  I flipped through my journal and found my sketch.  Then my next thought was....How cool!  I'm proud of me for even having a trace of Marcia's design sensibilities.  Then I got a little bummed because it is such a great balanced design with a lovely art deco feel.  Then I just laughed and sent Marcia a picture of the page.  I pretty much knew, knowing her now for several years, that she would not only see the similarities in design, but appreciate how it can happen, and probably does happen much more frequently than any of us realize. 
Then she so sweetly encouraged me to consider putting it into beads.  I’ve declined for a few reasons.  One is that now that I have seen Vienna I don’t want my minds-eye to morph my original thought to have any more similarities.  The other reason is that this sketch was actually buried pretty deep under a good 20 or more pages of additional designs that I can choose from to transfer into beads. 

Now I just need to find the time to get some of that beading done!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Life Lesson

Eighteen months ago while rushing around doing a few last minute errands before we climbed in the truck to head to Tucson I injured my ankle pretty badly.  When I walked out of a drugstore heading towards my car I saw the backside of a woman leaning way into her car and a very young little boy standing towards the front of the car.  As I got closer the little boy darted off between our cars.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a car moving a little too quickly for a parking lot.  In a matter of seconds my brain put the scene together in a very scary way.  That little boy was about to run between the cars out in to the parking lot and the moving car was going to hit him!!

My instincts kicked in and I bolted forward.  As my sandal hit the edge of the curb and twisted I was also able to just reach the back of the little boys’ hoodie and I pulled him down to the ground with me.  Instantly I felt intense searing pain shooting up my leg and nausea overcame me.  The first sign that something was very wrong. 
I managed to drag myself up off the ground using one of the tires on my car.  The little boy was crying and what appeared to be his grandmother came running around from the other side of her car in shock.  My pain level and the adrenaline surging through my body turned me into a harpy and I immediately began yelling at her.  I don’t recall my exact words, but I know I cussed and I know I told her how stupid it was for her to take her eyes off such a young child in a parking lot. 
The little boy continued to cry, I imagine being pulled backwards on to his bottom like that scared him pretty badly.  The grandmother was at a loss for words.  I am sure having me scream at her like that was a bit disconcerting.  I used the remainder of that adrenaline to get myself into my car and drive home.
The truck was packed (we were actually about 4 hours late leaving) and my mind was racing.  We don’t have time to go to the ER.  It is probably just a sprain.  Why won’t the nausea stop?  I had to honk the horn and yell for Shawn from the driveway.  I still had not “looked” at my ankle.  I was too afraid what I was going to see but when Shawn looked down the expression on his face was all I needed to know I had injured it badly.  It was already discoloring a lot and swelling quickly.

Somehow I managed to get into the house and Shawn packed it in ice, elevated it and got me some pain killers and anti-inflammatory.  Now the discussion of my staying home started.  I panicked!  How could I do that?  It would then be only Shawn and Nikki to do that entire show.  I couldn’t do that to them.  So, I went into that place in my head, close to the place you go during childbirth where you don’t allow yourself to feel the full extent of your pain, you just cope.  Shawn argued with me for two hours but I finally got my way and he set up some blankets and pillows in the center of the cab to elevate my leg, stopped back by the drugstore to get some instant ice packs and we were on our way to Tucson.
We ended up needing to rent one of those electronic scooters for me to get around.  Both Nikki and Shawn were awesome helping me out and I did my best to help them with the show.  I think it ended up working out ok for us all.  However, my ankle continued to swell, discolor and the pain increased daily.  I knew at that point that I had probably done something pretty bad to it.

Fast forward almost a year.  After several doctor visits and x-rays a specialist said I had probably torn ligaments and tendons.  It would have been better if I would have broken it instead.  But at this late date surgery might not prove as helpful as if I would have done it right after the injury.  =o/
Not the first or the last bad decisions I’ll make, I am sure. 
My ankle (we actually refer to it as my cankle because it is closer in size to my calf) has continued to be much larger than normal, the swelling has never totally subsided and the doctors don’t think it ever fully will.  After a trip grocery shopping it will throb and get even larger.  The slightest bit of exertion will cause it to be very painful.  Something I now need to learn to live with.  It was my own poor decisions that got me here, right?

Fast forward again to yesterday.  While out running some errands I spotted a little boy who looked very familiar to me outside of the pet store.  I had no clue where I could know him from and I didn’t want to scare him or his parents so I just let it go.  I stopped by a few more stores and then ended up at the drugstore for a final purchase before heading home.
As I walked out of the store that same little boy and what appeared to be his grandmother were walking towards the store.  She stopped me and said, “It’s you!”  I was caught off guard.  Was she angry?  Do I know her?  What did I do now?  She grabbed the little boys hand and said, “Justin, this is the woman that Grandma has told you about.  This is the lady that saved you from being hit by that car”. 

Wow!  I just stood there staring.  How bizarre that we would run into each other here at the same drugstore.  And this was the little boy I saw outside the pet store earlier today! 
His Grandmother told him to thank me.  He got shy and hid a bit behind her hip.  I said, “Its ok he doesn’t need to say anything, I don’t want to scare him”.  Then he let go of her hand, walked over to me and took my hand and said, “Thank you.  My Grandma tells me all the time what happened.  You could have saved my life.”  Instantly I started to cry.  How sweet was this little boy?  How kind and polite and touching.

Then he asked if I would give my phone number to his Grandma in case he ever wanted to see me again.  Of course I would. 
I also apologized to his Grandmother for my behavior.  She told me to not give it another thought.  She enquired about how badly I was hurt.  I told her it was nothing, just a sprain.  I am more concerned about the little boy.  He is fine.  He starts kindergarten this fall, they are all very excited.

We said our goodbyes.  I climbed into my car and had another good cry.  What an amazing experience. 
My ankle will always give me problems and be painful.  And I would gladly do it again and again.

I think we all learned some awesome things from that incident.  The Grandmother said she never again put things into the car before she had him settled in the car first.  I am sure he never again darted out between cars.  And for me…I have learned just how awesome people can really be.  He is a beautiful little boy in every way and I hope he grows up to be the same kind and polite young man.  I am pretty sure he will.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bead Dreams 2012

Another wonderful year at the Bead&Button Show!  And more amazing entries into the Bead Dreams competition!  As always, the artwork is behind glass so sometimes there will be a glare on the image that cannot be avoided.  Shawn did his best to take nice photos so those who could not attend would still have the chance to see all the amazing beadwork!  Enjoy!

Up first is the piece that won Best of Show!
Predator by Guzel Bakeeva from Russia.  Entered in to the Crystal Jewelry Category!

More of the entries.  We tried to get photos of them all during breaks.  If we missed someone, we're very sorry!

Ta Da!
Congrats to all the entrants!

If I'm able to find time in the next few days Shawn also got some photos of the Japanese bead exhibits.