Monday, April 29, 2013


I'm wrapping up things from the Online Needlework Show that finished last week. Stitchers and shops visiting the show pages seemed to be fewer in number each successive show, but overall things went well. Lots of charts headed to shops and distributors and directly to a handful of lucky winners. I recognize a certain reality of cross stitch being less prevalent among crafts than in past decades, but vow to continue to do my part in offering up a unique slice.

Congratulations to these folks who won a prize in a "Share the Love" drawing. Rather than just reward the entrant, I asked stitchers to give me a name of someone they thought deserved a prize.  It was very fun to see stitchers unknowingly nominate each other or more complicated  pointing loops.  I also had a number of folks include a statement as to why the nominee should be rewarded.  These comments ranged from the person being their inspiration, their stitching buddy, the person they are trying to inculcate (don't you love that word!) to more curious tales...because he just passed a mondo kidney stone, she just lost her job, she's on bedrest for a month, two kids in college. Happy stories, sad stories. I wish I could give them all a prize, but that would sadly defeat the economic attempts to run a viable business.

Here are the ten that did get the goods.

  • Kim Berger and her friend Kathy Coleman
  • Gillian Murray and her friend Cheryl Isaak
  • Debbie Wolfe and her friend Paula Shelgren
  • Melissa Frazell and her sister Lindsay Kudera
  • Christine Forber and her sister Beth Charette
Meanwhile, I'm not one for living in the past. Always - on to the NEXT chart.  I'm working on this new piece. I'm stitching the 6th turtle in a stack of infinitely many. Fortunately they get smaller as they go down.  If you don't know the reference, you can peek at wikipedia at "turtles all the way down"

Turtles all the way down

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Location, Location, Location

A post in which I attempt to provide a little context for my Bad Neighborhood chart series.
The First Three
There is a part in each of us that secretly (or not-so-secretly) enjoys it when we learn that something we thought was perfect really isn't.  The way it plays out can be anything from malicious to mundane.  The TMZ paparazzi are ready to cash in on your enjoyment when that supermodel makes a duck face, or that movie star stumbles drunkenly on the curb.  Martha Stewart's souffle was NOT supposed to fall, the worlds greatest fishing guide was NOT supposed to shut his truck's tailgate on his $1200 fly rod, the skunk was NOT supposed to spray the cameraman at the outdoor wedding.  Giggling at the blooper reel does not mean we don't appreciate a beautiful souffle or an intact fly rod. We're just celebrating the fact that nothing is perfect.

Enter then, a second level of anti-perfection, where instead of honest attempts at perfection that go awry like those examples above, we have deliberate posed scenarios. Mockeries of perfection, parodies of the successful, juxtaposition of elements to deliberately generate humor. It's this side of the coin that gives us "Don't Care Bears" and "Garbage Pail Kids" and "My Drunk Kitchen" videos and everything that Leslie Nielsen ever starred in.  Photoshop folks had a world of this type of fun with Thomas Kinkade's paintings over at the site Something Awful.

Back to my story. I probably have 20 charts in my stash of wonderful houses. I have stitched many of them, and continue to buy and stitch more.  Primitive saltbox houses, pine lodge cabins, vine covered cottages, stately brick historic houses, farm houses, dog houses.  And they are all perfect. They are all lovely.
The Bad Neighborhood series started with a Halloween ornament I did for Just CrossStitch. I wanted to start with a cute little house, then do something to it to make it scary. My arachnophobic daughter confirmed that the house was no longer "sweet."

I enjoyed the project and felt a certain need to expand on it.  I wanted to provide a counter-note to those charts of perfect houses out there.   So, this is a series of little vignettes where things look pleasant but something is off. So far, we have:

  • a lakeside house in a beautiful flowering meadow, with a tentacle reaching out of the pond to grab a quick snack
  • an adobe villa fenced with ocotillo and cacti blooming in the yard, that happened to be built on an ancient Indian burial ground
  • a friendly little city where the river seems to have been contaminated with green slime
I'm planning on three more in the series, and I'm doing a version with all six on the same cloth.

I have an odd sense of humor, I am told, and I know that certainly not everyone shares in the same pleasures I do. I also know that of my many fans, every one of them can point to Ink Circles projects in my catalog and say "I really don't care for that one" or "it's interesting, but I would never stitch it" or "WTF?"  I'm also totally okay with a stitcher converting my scene back to a more desired location by omitting the offending detail - I wouldn't think it would be a difficult modification. If you haven't discovered, I do what moves me and it does run a fairly wide spectrum.  I'm not expecting every chart to be a bestseller  or there would be 50 Cirques and little else. I just want to connect with the stitchers who at that moment are with me.  If what I've done moves you too, then jump on board, otherwise just wait a little while for the wavelength to change.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What I hadn't thought about

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to my email list you've probably heard me mentioning this thing called the Online Needlework Show. You've made some assumptions and I've made some assumptions. It's become clear this week that we've all got a different take on this show. I'd like to share how I view the show, and analyze a little what is/isn't working.

This post is long. I apologize, but say that if you do read it you will understand me better.
TL;DR = Too long; didn't read.  But please do.

I started participating in the Online Show several years ago, back before I could even imagine the logistics and financing of going to a "real" trade show, before I was distributed by Hoffman and Norden and such.  The only way people could buy my charts was to stumble across my website.  Maybe somebody mentioned me in a Yahoo group or showed a picture in a blog and you took the time to Google me. The Online Show was a framework that let shops know I existed. I did really well in those early shows. Really well.  It played a key role in getting to where I am today.

True, only registered shops can order directly through the show, but the public has always been invited to peruse the booths, with the thought that stitchers would see all of the new things and pester their shops to  buy what they liked.  The Online Show seems to always represent a large number of foreign designers and "little fish" that stitchers might not otherwise see. If shops got enough interest from their customers during the sale week, they could afford to order from companies that they couldn't during the rest of the year.  It meant that stitchers had access to things they couldn't normally get. At least it was supposed to mean that.  It was also enough of an event, many designers planned their calendars to time new releases for the show.

So, how to get stitchers to look at the Show?  The door prize gimmick was a built in show option, with the thought that more stitchers would visit to see if they might win something.  Seriously, you could win anything from a chart to a FULL SET of silk floss.  I've given away dozens of charts in these games, thinking that this would be a good way to get noticed, get talked about, build a fan-base one happy winner at a time. This go around, I tried a different approach where you could win for a friend. Maybe introduce someone to Ink Circles, or say thank you to someone you love, or cheer up someone who's had a bad run lately.  (I've had some great nomination emails that make me wish I could send charts to everyone!) It never even dawned on me that folks might interpret this as "selling their friends info" to my evil giant marketing scheme. I'm glad a few of you mentioned it, or I'd still be in the dark.

I do have a mailing list. If you are on it, it is because you signed up for it directly, my friend. I have never added a single person. If you enter my drawing, or email me with a question, or send me your friend's name, or even place an order with me, I DO NOT ASSUME anything about you wanting further contact from me. I consider this just basic respect.  It was an oversight not to explicitly state that with the entry rules, but some of you wouldn't believe it anyway.  In retrospect, I recognize not all people would respect your privacy.

At the point of writing this (five days into the show,) I have had 218 people enter the door prize drawing. I didn't do a door prize last year, because of some other stuff going on, but the previous year I had over 200 entries ON EACH DAY. It begs the question, what has changed and what needs to change. I really do appreciate the entries, and if nothing more it means that those of you who entered stand a rocking chance to get a free chart for you and a bud. I truly appreciate those of you that chimed in with some feedback when I asked on Facebook why things were quiet.

As for new stuff at the show, we are given 30 product slots twice a year.  With that math, yes - most of the stuff in any designer's booth is not brand new.  I do have a few companies that order only once a year via this show and get all the "newish" stuff.  A show debut still means brand new, but for each shop and each stitcher, new is relative. You show up at a physical trade show with more in tow than the few new releases. Why the show has a "new releases" page baffles me, too. It doesn't reflect the new releases at the show. I think you had to pay extra to be featured here. The page does look sloppy and out of date, too, when they talk about "when the April show opens." Duh. It is open.

I paid $425 to participate. The booth price has risen over the years, presumably to improve the show infrastructures and drive out the non-serious designers. In the past there were a lot more people who got a copy of charting software and were suddenly "designers."  There have been some improvements on the show website each incarnation, but there are still a lot of basic obvious flaws.  Go to the main page and try to figure out when the show ends, for instance. Or use the search feature - new, but declared as "buggy" on the show's own homepage. How about the advertising that they are doing for us?  What once was a two-page spread with participating companies' logos in the Needlework Retailer had been shrunk to a half page with a blur of a list of websites.  Other advertising? Well, as a stitcher in the online community - what did you see? How did you hear about it? The number of companies participating has been dropping steadily these past years, which sounds like a downwardly spiraling aspect. Am I getting my money's worth? Unless something miraculous happens orderwise in the next day, I won't even be making cost. I'll be in the October show - it's already a sunk cost. Do I care that this show isn't the same exposure and sales for me as it was five years ago? Sure, but I'm not going to become distraught. It's like the party that you realize you should have left from a few hours earlier, the book you bought but know you just aren't going to finish. But I know a little better who I am, and where you all are.

I read a comment from Sue Hillis on a board explaining why she wasn't in the show. It wasn't where her customers were finding her.  I think I'm in that same realm.  Now I do have distributors, do attend physical trade shows, and do have an active social media presence (as active as I can manage :-).  If you're looking for Ink Circles, you know where to find me.

My best,

PS. Did you like the Teal Dear that I designed for my friend Wren?  Rather fitting for this post; I expect most of you will skim through. It was just some stuff I needed to get out of my brain so I can move on to other things.

PPS. The number of door prize entrants is likely higher now, as I hadn't counted any that came in during the three hours I've been gnashing at this post.