There are so many individuals and families that are trying to lessen their impact on our natural environment. In our own culture we use the terms "living a heathen life", "honor the old ways", "return to natural living", "sustainable living" and so on. The questions remain; how do we do that? How can we transform our dwellings into sanctuaries and how can we live closer to nature while even dwelling in a city? I have decided to create a resource that will help all of us to accomplish these goals.
I am fortunate in that I have lived through this kind of revolution before. There was a push to live with nature, use natural products, wear natural fabrics and to live off the land way back in the 1970's. While I was a young teen at the time, this movement and the fact that I was raised around hard working farmers and craftsmen set the stage for my own natural way of life. I run two businesses from my home so you will also find information and stories about running a business, craftsmanship and a few philosophies thrown in. I hope you will join me in this endeavor and share it with your friends. Yes I make and sell natural products but my purpose here is to provide information to that you can learn to do these things for yourself. Here we go!
Have you ever looked at a piece of furniture and wondered how the craftsman become so skilled as to create something so unique? Have you ever looked at a business or person and wondered how they became so successful? I can not pretend to have all the answers but there are a few basic things that are required if you are going to build a lasting and successful business.
First you have to decide that you want to be the best, that your name or your company name means something. When I finish a product, when I send out a purchase I sign my name to it...literally. If I am putting my name on it then I want it to be the best product, the best service and a memorable experience for my clients.
Communicate with your clients. Sounds like a no brainer but I can tell you from experience that most companies are not diligent about following up on initial inquiries and therefore lose the opportunity for business at the get go. Acknowledge a purchase, notify clients through the process, verify and track shipping, follow up after they have received their purchase to be sure they are satisfied.
The next one is most important and most companies fail at this one: Make and keep deadlines. I have experienced failure of this one basic tenant of business so many times over the past two years that I have lost count. Your clients make plans based on the product or service they are purchasing from you. The commitment you make to provide a product or service by a certain time is vitally important to the future of your business. As entrepreneurs building a business can be a balancing act between home, kids, maybe a part time job and a myriad of other commitments. If you are to build a strong business that will grow and prosper, your word is invaluable. If your client finds you unreliable, unable to make deadlines and full of excuses, they will not return. Even worse, they will tell their friends or, the very worst, they will give your company a bad review.
I have always had one motto: Exceed their expectations. When someone purchases a product or service they anticipate to get what they paid for and they leave satisfied. If you add special touches, maintain excellent communication, come in ahead of deadlines, then they leave with a wow! That customer? They will be back and they will tell all their friends.
The secrets to a solid business are really no secret just good solid business practices done everyday.
I am sure that all of you are on the patio having a beverage on this beautiful day and you are trying hard to put the work week out of your mind. However, I want to plant a seed in your head for Monday morning.
I have spent the past month and a half dealing with other service businesses or trying to find a business to perform a service for me. My roof was in desperate need of replacement following some pretty big early spring storms. We interviewed a few companies that were quick to return our calls and give us estimates on the roof repair and from that selected a very reputable company. That was the end of the open communication. The company did not let us know the day the project would begin, the workers just showed up one day and began working. When the project was completed no company representative came to inspect the work and give us a final bill. When the roof failed inspection we had to contact them. When we were waiting for the repairs to be completed no one called to let us know of the time line or the fixes they proposed. We had to contact them and it took several phone calls to make a connection. They failed to communicate.
My sister in-law and I have been working to settle the estate of my in-laws. We have been taking all the heirloom items and distributing them and clearing out all the trash. We were left with a house FULL of stuff that we needed to sell, get the house empty and then sell the house. First we tried some of my auction house friends and they were at least professional enough to say that they were very busy and wouldn't be able to get to us for a couple of months. We decided to try Estate Sales companies and I began to research them. I made a couple of calls and finally got a company to return my call and meet with us. They promised to let us know if they would be able to schedule us in within one day. Three days and three unreturned phone calls later I moved on. The next company returned my call and has agreed to meet us...we will see where this goes.
All this to drive home a point. We may have our businesses on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google but we are forgetting to communicate with our clients. The basics of any business is building a clientele. We do that by providing a good or service that our client is willing to pay for and if they are satisfied with their purchase they will return again to our door. The only way to do this is to establish and maintain communication even after the sale is complete. There is never an acceptable reason for not returning a call in a timely manner. It takes longer to take a picture and upload it on Facebook than it does to call a client. When I worked in the corporate world I was successful because I was quick and efficient in providing information and services to my clients. Twenty-four hours, every call returned and every email answered within 24 hours.
When someone asks me about three of the estate sale companies I called and one that I met with, I can honestly say that I don't have a recommendation because they never returned my calls. That alone will not build business but ruin it. No matter how hard you work.
This is also true for our personal lives. We tweet, post, snap and google but when was the last time you called someone and talked to them...a real conversation? How many times do we say, "I have been meaning to call them but I just don't have time."? Those tweets, posts and pics do not tell you what is going on in their lives, it does not connect you, it does not replace the human need to share and connect. So pick up the phone, drive to their house, meet for coffee, but communicate.
I love color. Soft color, vibrant color, blended colors and colors with depth. I stated before that a white wall is a blank canvas to me, not an end choice but the beginning of a creative endeavor.
I love color and diversity. I don't use color in traditional combinations and most times I get stuck on a certain color palette for a season and then something will spark my interest and it will all change. I am influenced by culture, architecture, historical periods and everything in between.
Now imagine that all of that disappeared. Imagine traveling anywhere in the world and everything looked the same. Imagine a world with no diversity, no individual character, no surprises and everything the same color.
I love all colors whether red, yellow, brown, black, white or any other color. I love the vibrant large circle skirts of Mexico, the bold charismatic dancing and the loud celebrations. I love the hand printed fabrics of India, the soft wraps of the fabrics with long flowing skirts. I love the intricacy of the carvings, prints and design in Japanese wood, clothing and gifts and the absolutely simple lines of their homes. I love the intense design that goes into the architecture of Russia and the simple flow of Scandinavian design. All these designs, color pallets and means of expression are distinctive characteristics of the culture these artist come from. We can't lose that.
It seems to me that one of the reasons we are so depressed as a people, so angry, so frustrated and so anxious is that someone, somewhere has decided we should all be the same. "They" have decided how we should look, act, live and structure our lives and we don't like it. We have lost ourselves, our sense of culture and our sense of belonging.
I am Nordic and Scottish, we are a loud, pushy, clannish bunch but you will never find one more loyal or hard working. We are proud of who we are and where we come from and we don't want to loose our traditions, our culture or our heritage. I think everyone feels the same.
Even beyond that....we want to be individual, meaning that we want to choose our color pallet, we want to choose our work, our family, our community and how we live in those choices. We have so many restrictions and expectations placed on us but even more so on our children. We lay out an agenda and pathway that we expect everyone to follow because we have been told that is the only path to success, living well and being a "good" citizen. We tell everyone NOT to listen to the inner song, ignore the inner color and beauty and just follow the crowd.....and we slowly fade until there is nothing left of us.
There is a song, a creative expression, a love of color, a dance, a joyful existence in each of us but it has been whitewashed and silenced. Until we embrace color and diversity and choice and creativity and FUN, we will continue to be angry, anxious, frustrated and depressed.
I cannot imagine a world without tribal drums, Mariachi bands, bagpipes, big swirling skirts, vibrant color, huge headdresses, and diverse culture. Can you? We as individuals from diverse cultures make up this world. We cannot let globalization destroy our individual cultures, our heritage and our ancestral history....no matter what country or region we are from.
I check in everyday with Collective Evolution and they posted a thought provoking, award winning video that gives vision to this. Thank you for what you do CE and if you get a chance follow their site and support their work.
So you are sitting in your favorite spot scrolling through Pinterest, checking out what your friends are creating or what some mom just created out of toilet paper rolls and you think to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?".
You look around your house and you have done a good job decorating and things look "nice". But something inside is stirring, rolling around.
Many people ask me how or why I started doing what I do. The answer is simple. I couldn't do what I WAS doing one more day.
I tried all kinds of things to provide an income other than punching a clock. Now by punching a clock I mean working for a paycheck. I made good money, don't get me wrong and the work wasn't bad but I had done it for a long time and it no longer fed my soul. So I went on a search and tried all kinds of things but deep inside of me I have always needed to create something, to balance colors and light, to work with textures and fabric. I like creating environments and finding beauty in natural materials. When I got there, when I got to the thing that brought joy to my soul? I wasn't working anymore. As a matter of fact I don't really focus on the "business" portion of what I do, meaning I don't get up in the morning wondering if I will sell something......
I wake up in the morning thinking about what I want to create.
Now that's a good day.
Last summer began an adventure that I had no idea was coming. It is always curious the timing of events in your life. I was getting into a good rhythm in the shop, had strong momentum going with sales and I was looking forward to a good strong year.
I spent 8 months caring for terminally ill and aging in-laws. A few critical events made it impossible for them to care for themselves any longer and they needed help, right away. In the process of finding care, nursing, doctors and getting through the Medicaid process I found a treasure. I was very fortunate to be able to spend the last months with an interesting character, although he would have told you that I was the interesting one! I heard stories, looked at photographs, learned about the treasures stored in the home and shared a glass of wine.
I also heard the pain and fear of someone who is dying and not quite ready to leave this world. I also learned what dementia looks like and how heartbreaking this disease is for the family and for the person who is slowly losing touch with reality. It is sad to watch a person lose their independence and their ability to care for themselves.
These events taught me a very important lesson. A lesson that we hear often but you will never pay attention to until you watch someone's breath leave them.
We may not have tomorrow and if we do, we may not be able to function in it.
Do not let this day pass without RUNNING headlong towards your dreams. Look fear right in the eyes and move anyway....go forward anyway. Don't waste precious time doing what you think others approve of, do exactly what you are meant to do. BELIEVE that you will not be successful, truly successful until you are doing what you love. LOVE and LOVE again. Reach out a hand to someone in need. DANCE and SING with everything you have in your soul. CREATE something lasting, something unique, something mind blowing....you have it in you!
You may not get another chance!
Yesterday I received a treasure from a very good friend. It was a picture of all the letters I had written and this person had kept every one of them. My response was that I had kept all the letters I had received as well and the truth is I keep all letters. The reason? Because handwritten letters are a piece of the soul and they should never be discarded.
One of the lost arts of this age is letter writing. The ability to tell a story, to describe events so that the reader is pulled into the story is the beauty of a letter. My grandmother and I used to write letters to each other and I looked forward to receiving them. She was a wonderful storyteller both in writing and in conversation but in her generation that was an important and well developed skill. They didn't always have telephones and family may be spread over a few states. They wrote letters full of the stories of the day and the events that impacted their lives. I have spent many hours going through old letters and finding bits of history, events and a story of life.
Today we have tweets, texts and emoticons. None of these things convey a story or tell of history, they only give a "sound bite" of the current moment.
There is something very inspiring about picking up a pen and paper and writing. It causes the creative side of the brain to activate and color and imagination to thrive. Sadly it is a lost art which is going the way of cursive writing. I wonder if this is not the reason we are so depressed, lonely and lost. We have lost the art of communication, of connecting and of creating a timeless legacy for others to read.
If we are to continue to partner with the universe in creating, in beauty, in communication and in human connection perhaps we should return to pen and paper and share a piece of ourselves with someone else.
Thank You, Chilli, for treasuring my soul.
The pieces I am working on now have great form, solid foundations and the design is timeless. They were created to last, to go through the years and continue to serve as useful pieces in a home. As I was removing the faded, dingy and banged up finishes, I uncovered a story of color changes, use changes and finally the pieces were discarded to the back of the shed.
We begin with a good foundation (at least most of us) and we have good form, strong bones and we are built to endure the test of time. We have our own style, unique and beautiful and completely individual. Then someone comes along our path, takes a look at us and decides we would look better, be more successful or more desirable if we accented with this color, changed our hair or maybe a complete makeover. So we do it, we change our appearance, our mannerisms, our relationships in response to someone else's opinion of who or what we should be. When that doesn't work out for us then we listen to the next great idea and so on and so on.
One day we wake up, look in the mirror and we do not recognize the person gazing back at us. We have lost ourselves, what made us special, an individual that stands out among the crowd. When this happens we lose touch with our soul. The very essence of our individuality.
I make it a point to take time during this season of transition between summer and fall to evaluate myself, my work, my family and my goals. I look at what didn't work and I get rid of it. I look at what seems to be working and I strengthen it and then I set new goals. I look in my soul and take a hard look at who I am and if I am being true to myself. Is the work I am doing, the health and strength of my family, my relationships and my contributions to the community making this world better? Am I creating or just glossing over things with a new color?
Then I get to work, I grind off the old stuff, smooth the rough edges, reinforce the design and style that is unique; making sure that the beauty that was intended from the beginning is all that shines through with a light that can help change the world.
We have all heard the story or seen the sound bites of those who are heralded as overnight successes. These are terms created by the media to bring attention to something they have only just discovered. The truth is that individual, that small business or that corporation has been tirelessly working toward that landmark success for years.
In order to achieve something first you have to see it, dream it and have believe for it. Then comes action, the decided choice to implement a plan to bring the vision into reality. This is a process, a "one foot in front of the other" process. This is where many falter, lose hope and even quit. The vision may become blurry, the step by step process may turn into a winding road and the dream dies. The "overnight successes" encounter these same periods of doubt and confusion. The difference? They never let go of the dream. They never let the dream die. They never let obstacles stop them but instead use those obstacles as a means to improve the vision and process. They also accept the fact that the dream will take on a life of it's own and the vision will grow, change shape and evolve...and if we let it....become something greater than we envisioned in the first place.
No matter what it looks like today, no matter how long it takes, things change. New jobs, new dwelling places, new relationships, new circumstances all come into our lives....and we wake up one day and realize that it happened overnight. IF we don't stop, we keep working, we keep trying and we keep the dream alive.
These chairs had been well loved and used by the previous owners. The process of restoring them, tightening them up and even fixing broken places took time. It was sometimes tedious to address all the details that needed attention in order to make them beautiful again. When everything came together, the repair, the stain, the fabric, all of a sudden the chairs were gorgeous! Don't you agree? Never give up!