burning bridges: baker? check!

Remember this series? No? That's okay. I've only written one post about past jobs so far and it was awhile ago. But I've been thinking about this idea a lot lately, since I worry some days that I might be kinda "burning bridges" with the, uh, forum that makes my current "job" possible. (A little constructive criticism never killed anyone! And anyway, like they care. Or notice.)

Anywho, where were we? Ah, yes, high school graduation! So my first "real" job outside babysitting and those sort of practice jobs you get while you're a student was in the bakery of the Northwest grocery chain Fred Meyer (no relation to Russ, as far as I can tell). I can't remember now why I applied there, or where else I applied, other than as a delivery driver for a new pizza joint. Minimum wage was pretty, well, minimal at the time and the pizza joint was offering a little more per hour but the bakery offered a few schedule options that worked really well with my community college course load at the time, the gals who worked there were really nice (I regularly hiked Black Butte with the lady who decorated the cakes), and, duh, baked goods.

The funny thing is the only product we actually baked there was fresh bread; everything else was delivered at the crack of dawn by trucks coming from the store's central bakery in, I don't know, Portland? In other words, I didn't really learn anything about baking. I was criticized for using too much icing on the cinnamon rolls, and that all-white uniform was doing me no favors, but otherwise I really enjoyed that job, my first "real" job.

And I was able to put that year of professional experience to use after relocating to Berkeley the following summer, but we'll save that one for another post.


Self, addressed: Kikkoman

I realized recently that I've spent much of the past decade or so in a weird sort of feedback loop. Like most people, I have a smart phone and post pretty regularly to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (links to the right, if you're into that kinda thing). And it's hard not to start checking for feedback - hearts, favorites, likes, comments - almost immediately. It's maddening. But this insatiable need for feedback actually started during the graduate school application process that I initiated (the first round, that is) over a decade ago. A few weeks after I submitted that first completed application package, I started eagerly anticipating the arrival of the mail. It was crazy. I'd never been so excited to check the mail before! And even after I was accepted to a couple of schools during the second round (and devastated by the receipt of so many more rejection letters) I continued to look forward to checking the mail, increasingly disappointing though it was. Insert stale joke here about how all I get in the mail now is bills and junk mail, blah, blah, blah. I mean, I did work for one of the oldest stationery companies in the country and I make wedding invitations for a (meager) living. So, yeah, I like getting stuff in the mail and, though usually a month or two late, always send thank you notes. Shoot, I even taught a class about mail art.

So when I happened to notice one night eating potstickers with my family that our Kikkoman soy sauce had this thing on the back of the label suggesting I send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for more recipes, I thought it would be the perfect little project to use up a few of the envelopes in my under-utilized inventory while indirectly sending myself a little something in the mail!

This project seems simple enough but brings up so many questions for me. What size envelope should I send? If I send a bigger envelope, will I receive more things in the mail? Who will my SASE go to over at Kikkoman? Is the SASE person busy? How long will it take to receive something? Should I color coordinate my envelopes with the product's label? (Answer: Sure, why not?!)

The only problem is, now that I've started this project, I'm not finding a whole lot of SASE requests on the backs of products! I'll keep searching, though, and if any of you readers have a hot tip, do let me know in the comments, won't you?


a crafty generalist's dilemma in the time of the Single Item Niche

It's been just about seven months since I "went back to work" after an extended "maternity leave" with baby #2. All those quotation marks are due to the fact that I haven't had a real job in about five years, since my post-grad teaching fellowship wrapped up and baby #1 was quickly morphing into a toddler. Economy was tanking and any hope of landing a studio art position in academia was quickly fading. Even so, I applied to a second round of teaching gigs while performing the duties of default stay-at-home-mom. In the little nooks of any time leftover (hard to believe now with two young kids, two old cats, and a house that seems like a living person at times that there was any time leftover but I suppose there always is) I launched my micro-business. And I was pretty lucky. After about six months sales picked up primarily through word of mouth, enough that I only wondered a month or two over the next couple of years if I should really have kid #1 in part-time daycare. By the time baby #2 came along, kid #1 was in four days of preschool most weeks and my micro-business had turned into a more-or-less full-time job. I assumed I'd be able to take a year off to chill with baby #2, get kid #1 settled into Kindergarten, and then pick up where I left off.


Between part-time daycare costs and material expenses, I don't think I broke even one of the seven months baby #2 was in someone else's care for part of the week, giving me some dedicated work time. So about halfway through this summer I decided to draw a line in the sand and am now officially a mostly SAHM, with a touch of WAHM ("work at home mom", that is, not the dreamy English musical duo of the 1980s) between the afternoon naptime hours of 12:30 and 2:30, give or take. SAHM plus, if you will.

Earlier this year, I decided to merge my two Etsy shops and re-brand under one business name, one shop, one blog, etc. I wrote about it here. It seems like the trend lately (in the food industry, too, it seems) is to streamline, simplify, and perfect that one thing, that one preferably handmade product that you make so well you can eventually mass-produce and pitch to the folks at Etsy Wholesale (handmade items mass-produced for wholesale mark-up ... wait, what?). And I guess that was kind of where I was going with the whole rebranding thing. But at the end of the day, I'm a crafty generalist at heart, a bar & grill, if you will, of the handmade world, and it's hard for me to do just one thing really well.

Anyway, the fact that my creative tendencies go against the current trend of this, how shall we coin it, "Single Item Niche", is not to say that is necessarily the cause of my shop's struggles this year. Who knows? But I do feel like I need to take a "break" (you know, the kind of "break" you might enjoy while taking care of a 19 month old toddler full-time, your 15-hour days book-ended by the before and after school shenanigans of a 1st-grader). I mean, if I think about it, that's kinda why I decided to pursue art & stuff in the first place. I just couldn't decide what I wanted to be when I grew up and art seemed like a place where I could explore and do lots of stuff. The same goes for hanging out with my kids, daunting and all-consuming as that task can be at times. Theoretically I can do a lot with a toddler and/or grade-schooler in tow, right? Theoretically.

All that said, I took advantage of those final weeks of daycare to add several new designs to the shop, as well as a couple of new ready-to-send stationery products. For fans of True Blood, there's this wedding invite:

If you're into something a little ... lighter, there's confetti in pinks, purples, and navy blue!

Maybe you're planning a Wizard of Oz themed birthday party or, heck, wedding! Yep, I have a design for that, too!

And finally, some more cheerleaders to cheer you up:

Cheers, indeed - here's to yet another chapter in this ever-evolving adventure of work meets kids with a dash of art & stuff!