The 'Original' Creative Crafting Magazine written by Crafters, for Crafters

Creative Crafting magazine began in August/September 2009, when a group of crafting friends on the Creative Connections network decided that it would be a good idea to raise awareness of the crafting community. From this point they started work and the first issue of Creative Crafting was published in October 2009 and are still publishing today.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Year in Sante Fe Part 3

A Year in Sante Fe Part 3
Written by Jim from Kath Guitars
Published in the February 2012 Edition


For those of you who haven’t been following this article, the goal here was to chronicle our first year in Santa Fe, NM.  Santa Fe is the place in the United States to go for art, hand-made jewelry, custom-made southwest furniture and to meet some of the wackiest people in the country.  As I’ve said before, this is where old hippies and burnt out ex-professionals go to weave baskets and live out the rest of their lives.

By the time you read this, it will be February, but as I’ve written this and taken the photos, it has occurred during the Christmas holiday season.  It’s been a very crazy month; a month of things breaking.  But, fortunately, our spirits are not among that list.

I’d like to show some pictures of some of the people at the Artisan’s Market where we spend our Sundays.  We’ve all gotten pretty close; not close like “yeah, I’ll help you move into your new house”, but more like people who live under a bridge would get close.  It’s funny that we newcomers are all full of spit and vinegar and the ones that have been there for years look like someone has beaten them with the ugly stick.  Yet downtrodden and nearly broken, they drag themselves there every Sunday.  I have to laugh when they complain about spending the weekends there because they don’t do anything during the week.  They’ve forgotten what it’s like to do the 9 to 5 grind and now this has become their own little version of suffering.

So, before getting into the cast of characters, I want to do some shameless plugging if I may.  December was a productive month for me.  I finished three full guitar builds and was able to ship them off to their new owners (those pics are below).  One of them, of course the one that took three months to build and cost ten-thousand dollars, was broken by United Parcel Service; I still haven’t finished vomiting over it.  Luckily it can be repaired and the customer in Louisiana is actually being very nice about it, so he shipped it back for me to fix it.  We also had a car window break when I accidentally backed into a dumpster on Christmas Eve and one of our house windows exploded all on its own.  The glass man said it happens here a lot with double-pane windows because it goes from hot to cold to hot cold so quickly.  



So here are my guitar photos, there’s one flattop acoustic and two archtop jazz guitars.  The reddish one is the one that was broken by UPS.  The ironic thing about it also is that I have to re-lacquer the entire top, because they dented and gouged it.  I ordered the lacquer so I can do the job and UPS lost the box with the lacquer in it.   At least they’re consistent.

My wife, Maritza, has been doing very well selling her jewelry both at the Artisan’s Market and online.  She stopped selling on eBay because the fees were horrendous.  Online she now only sells on Etsy.com (LaLuna Ranchwear) and is doing very well.  She’s so funny because she loves to make necklaces, but she keeps selling a bunch of earrings.  So she’ll make ten bracelets and three pairs of earrings and sell all the earrings and one necklace.  I told her that the universe is telling her to stick with earrings but she’s still fighting it.  I always say that the business you start is never the one you end up in (excuse the preposition at the end, I’m from the States after all).  By the way, for those of you that don’t know it, Maritza and I got married in the U.K.  It was at Rowton Castle in Shropshire.  Man, are the streets there narrow.  But that’s another story, and a really funny one.  Lets just say my rental car was returned with no side-view mirrors and I’m no longer permitted to drive on the main street in Clun.  We rented a cottage in Clun for two weeks in order to be permitted to get a marriage license.  We ate at the Sun Inn pub almost every night:  Lovely people, lovely place and great food.  But very narrow streets.

So, enough yammering, here are a couple of our friends from the market.

Well, she’s not only a friend but my wife too!  Here’s Maritza at her booth not paying attention to me.




This is Joy, also known as the Yak Lady!!  No, it’s not because of her hairy back, it’s because she domestically raises yak for food, clothing and just recently the bones and horns have found their way onto my guitars (I make the nuts and saddles and some of the inlay from Yak parts).  Joy is originally from Australia but she’s been here long enough to be one of us, poor thing.  She’s an amazing woman.  She lives in a town called Taos (pronounced towse) which is a big ski area.  She drives an hour and a half each way

This fine gentleman is Bob Hazeltine.  We call Bob “The Glass Guy” (So now we have me, The Guitar Guy, Joy, The Yak Lady and Bob, The Glass Guy.  You keepin’ up?).

Bob is one of the nicest and most talented people I know.  And yes, for you glass-blowers out there, Bob makes a living from his art and nothing else.  His work is magnificent.  Last year there was an art show outside and a very large gust of wind took Bob’s tent and all his merchandise up into the air and slammed it back onto the ground.  He lost almost an entire year’s worth of work.  Bob prefers to sell indoors; that’s why he’s smiling.

Next up is Gabriela, or Gabby as we call her.  She sells jewelry and has been at the show the longest.  I wish I had a picture of them (but they didn’t come out) but she makes jewelry from tiny miniature roses and wraps them in a delicate cage of gold and silver.  They are spectacular!  She has even been written up in the New York Times (for her jewelry, not anything sinister).  Gabby is a single mom and her six-year old son, Mario, comes with her to the show every week.  She’s the one on the right doing the hard sell to a customer.  You go Gabby!!  Actually her work easily sells itself.

If you like dead things, and really, who doesn’t, Jon is your man.  His work is so incredibly original that I’ve never seen anyone else do what he does.  Jon is retired; he used to teach woodshop in the school for the deaf here in Santa Fe.  Jon makes figures out of bones that he finds out in the desert.  I bought one for Maritza for Christmas because she fell in love with it (I normally don’t buy my wife dead stuff, but…)  The heads of the figures are skulls from raccoons and possum, the wings on these boney angels are from cougar and deer; the bodies come from Joy’s Yaks; they’re leg bones.  If you’re a fan of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, then you have to have one of these figures.  They are really quite sweet and lovely.  And Jon is a wonderful man with great stories.  (I have no idea who the girl in the blue t-shirt in the next booth is, but she’s so skinny she should be careful Jon doesn’t use her in one of his projects.)

This gentleman is Randy (I know because it says so on his sign).  Randy makes hand-cast silver jewelry.  His work is stunning; I bought my mother’s Christmas present from him.  Actually, we bartered for it.  Since we’re all broke artists we trade our wares with each other.  Randy had a guitar that needed a lot of repair work, so, my mother got silver jewelry for Christmas.  Aside from being an excellent jeweler, Randy plays and sings the blues like nobody’s business and his teenage son, Ben, plays in a local rock band.

Last, but not least, is Heather (she’s not the one with the glasses).  Heather is the young lady that runs the Artisan’s Market and keeps us all from fighting over the door being open or being closed (I told you, we’re like people living under a bridge fighting over who owns the bridge).  She makes great coffee too and puts up with all of us; which is no easy task.



There are about twenty vendors at the Railyard Artisan’s Market, but I only have space for a few.  I thought it would be fun for you to see actual, real people across the pond who are doing the same thing that you’re doing.  We get a lot and I mean a LOT of visitors from the U.K. so I hope one of you reading this has met us at the market.  

If you’re interested in anyone’s work that you’ve seen here in this article, just drop me an email and I’ll hook you up!

May God Bless you all and we wish you much peace, love and happiness in this New Year!!

Jim and Maritza

A Year in Sante Fe Part 2

A Year in Sante Fe Part 2
Written by Jim from Kath Guitars
Published in the December 2011 Edition



Well, it’s now been close to three months that we’ve been in Santa Fe; some things have moved forward and some haven’t.  But the good news is that we’re still here and still as determined as ever to make a go of it.

For those who are inexplicably worried about our swamp cooler situation, you’ll be relieved to know that it is now cold enough here to turn off the noisy beasts for good.  However, now we have to deal with the weird “built into the concrete floor” heating.  I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.  But to summarize: warm feet, cold head.  Need I say more?  Also, the builder in his infinite wisdom decided that a Kiva was needed in the bedroom, so we have that to at least take the chill out of the air (Kiva is the Native American word for fireplace, it’s not a city in Russia).

The coyote situation here deserves constant vigilance.  As the weather gets colder and all the rabbits are hunkering down (or have already been eaten), the coyotes are starting to search for new dinner items.  One evening Maritza and I took our yorkie, Sable, to the nearby park (okay, it’s really just the desert, but she thinks it’s the park).  I was standing with my back to the desert and talking with Maritza about fifty yards away from me, A few feet away from me Sable was sniffing and peeing, sniffing and peeing, peeing and sniffing.  Suddenly Maritza’s eyes went huge and she yelled “James, watch out!!” (She calls me James, makes me feel important).  I spun around and could barely see a coyote about ten feet from me eyeing up Sable like a Christmas turkey.  I quickly picked up Sable and fled to safety (I don’t normally flea, this was a unique situation).   The coyotes blend into the grass so perfectly that it’s nearly impossible to see them.  Many neighbors have lost cats, dogs, teean-agers, okay I made that up, to these voracious hunters. (See picture).

The site of the Coyote debacle
Sable resting after the coyote scare!
Coyote with squirrel
 
Before moving on to the subject of art, let me say one more thing about the wildlife.  Birds!!  Not angry birds like the stupid mobile-phone game everyone in the US is currently obsessed with, but pigeons.  LOTS of pigeons.  We feel like we’re in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  I guess they like the roof of our house because it’s flat and probably warm during the day.  I think they’ve nested next to the swamp cooler because I can hear them through the ceiling.  The roof is too high to climb up there, but they’re making me crazy.  It’s sounds like I have gremlins walking on the roof all day and cooing at each other, as gremlins are known to do. (Note to self, catch a coyote and put it on the roof, two problems solved).  We also have decided that we have a ghost in the house.  The lady that lived here before passed away here.  So, we sometimes don’t know if it’s the birds we’re hearing or the previous tenant.  She moves things in my workshop, makes me forget to do my husbandly chores, drinks all the milk and puts the container back empty; she insidious!!

They have a word they use to describe the attitude of workers here in Santa Fe: Mañana, which in Spanish means “tomorrow”.  It’s like a sign I saw in a bar once “Free Beer Tomorrow”.  No matter what you need, everybody here says “Sure, I’ll have it for you tomorrow” and of course tomorrow never comes. Mañana.
We had a guy come to fix our fridge the day we moved in and we’re still waiting for the part.  It’s been three months and every week he says “I’ll be there by Friday”.  Fortunately it’s not an important part, just a filter, so we still have a working fridge, just no water or ice. Mañana.

This is our Kiva


On the art front, business has been picking up!  We’re at the Santa Fe Railyard Artisan’s fair every Sunday and the “Neiman Marcus” crowd is starting to arrive.  For those not familiar, Neiman Marcus (also known as Needless Markup), is a high-end store that sells a lot of the same stuff as everybody else except they charge triple.  It’s better stuff cause you pay more.

Neiman Marcus headquarters is in Texas, so it’s used as a term to refer to all the wealthy folks from Texas who come up to Santa Fe to vacation and buy stuff they don’t need.  God Bless them all!!  The tourism increase is great for Maritza’s business since she sells very unique jewelry that can only be found here in Santa Fe, her work is truly beautiful (www.lalunaranchwear.com).  My business is totally different though, I have what they call a long-tail as far as sales are concerned.  Most people aren’t going to do an impulse buy for a six-thousand dollar hand-made guitar, so my target audience is the local Santa Fe musician crowd.  I’ve been doing advertising in a local paper and one of the papers actually did an article on me which resulted in a lot of guitar repair work.  That’s how you sell custom guitars, you do repair work so that customers get comfortable with you, then eventually they’ll buy a guitar, the long-tail.  But it’s going really well.  I’m currently backed up about three weeks with repairs!!!
Marketing is everything.  As I said last month, “Publish Or Perish”.  You gotta sell.  It doesn’t matter how great your product is, if you don’t sell, it won’t survive.  Two years ago I worked for a web development firm (I’m a computer programmer of thirty years) and I learned a lot about how shameless self-promotion works.  You have to remember that nobody and I mean NOBODY is thinking about you unless you slap them in the face and say “Hey, I’m here!!!”, metaphorically speaking.  We’re all so self-absorbed that most of the time we’re just thinking about ourselves.  If you don’t believe me, then stop right now and pay attention to what you’re thinking about.  It’s not your friend Mary’s hand-made oven mits, is it?  So you have to remind people who you are.
The thing I learned from this web-development/marketing company is that you should never wait around to be noticed by the media or passersby.  Call the newspaper yourself and tell them “Hey, I’m a really interesting person, do an article on me”.  It works.  I was scared to death to try it because, mostly, I hate myself and don’t think there’s anything interesting about me.  But I need to eat and pay the bills.  I went to the website of a local paper and found the music editor and sent him an email.  The next day he was here doing a story on me.  Remember, they have deadlines and quotas to meet and are always scrambling for new stories.  You’re actually doing them a favor.

When I started working for the web firm, I was impressed with the multitude of trophies they had displayed in their lobby.  First-place awards for best web design, most creative graphics; all from prestigious organizations.  What I soon learned was that you apply for those things, then pay about four-hundred dollars for the actual trophy!!!  That’s more than I can afford, and I hate trophies in my house, but the point is that the owner didn’t sit waiting to get noticed, he called the people and paid money in order to be honored.  It’s a pretty messed up system if you ask me, but that’s how it works.

Remember, if you don’t promote yourself then who will?  Nobody, that’s who.  Nobody, outside of your house, has your best interest at heart, they’re all thinking about their own lives, problems, dreams etc.  You can do it in a way that doesn’t sound conceited.  Like with my guitars, people always complement on how beautiful the wood is.  I tell them, “I can’t take credit for that, God made the wood, I just glue it together.”  When in fact I had to sand for a week, apply twelve coats of lacquer over three days, wait two weeks, buff it, buff it, buff it, then hand polish for two hours.  It took a lot of work to make the wood jump out like that, but if I bragged about it I’d look like an idiot.  And anyway, God did do all of the work, he’s the one that gave me the skills and the patience to hone them, I can’t take credit for anything.

Bloom where you’re planted.  No excuses.  Excuses are just a way of saying “I really don’t want this bad enough”.  If there’s no market for your product where you live, then move.  If you can’t move, then create the market.  Use Etsy, use eBay, get your product into a catalog, put a stand in front of your house, have a craft party with free food (people will put up with anything for the chance at free food, and if you invite me, there better be bacon) and tell your crafty friends to bring their stuff to sell too.  But don’t just rely on one thing and put all your eggs in that basket.  Sell your stuff everywhere you can.  Coca-Cola didn’t become big by sitting in a basement somewhere hoping somebody knocked on the front door and asked for a drink.  They are everywhere!  And they never stop advertising everywhere.  No matter where you go, there are coke signs.  It’s really annoying.  But they built an empire on sugar and carbonated water.  Surely your product is better than that!!!

Guitar for a customer

Guitars in the works

The Guitars are piling up

A Year in Sante Fe Part 1




A Year in Sante Fe Part 1
Written by Jim from Kath Guitars
Published in the October 2011 Edition

Literally across the street from our house!
My wife, Maritza, and I have had for the past thirteen years the goal of moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  For those unfamiliar with this strange and quirky place, go hit Google and check it out.  It’s a place like no other location in the United States and runs the gamut from filthy rich to dirt poor, from English as the primary language to Spanish as the primary language, from highly scientific (Los Alamos Nuclear Labs is close by) to being the biggest artist community in the country; a place where an artist who makes clay pots for a living is sitting in a swanky restaurant next to a nuclear physicist, both eating the same wonderful, Native American dish.  Not to mention, since this is really their home, not ours, the multitude of Indian Nations found in the region.

Most of New Mexico, long ago, used to belong to Mexico.  But like most great places in this country we took it for ourselves (actually, my family wasn’t a part of that theft, we came here from Denmark in 1901 and Maritza’s family came here from Colombia in 1956).  The part that didn’t belong to Mexico belonged to the Native American Indians, but we took that too.  We really, really, wanted it.  And like many other places in this country, we put the word “New” in front of Mexico letting the world know that we’ve improved it and everyone should now know it is ours (New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, New Hampshire, New Providence… you get the idea).

We’re located in the middle of the desert.  It’s not the thousand miles of sand kind of desert, but the kind you see in all the old westerns: tumble weed, coyotes, rattle snakes, big spiders, Jerusalem Crickets and people in cowboy boots, only now they ride in large SUVs instead of on horses.  But there are plenty of horses too.  All of the houses are adobe style, which we absolutely adore, and our lawns are not grass, but rocks, which thankfully don’t need to be trimmed once a week.  The moths here are the size of airplanes.  We have a five-pound Yorkshire terrier named Sable and we must constantly stand guard as many locals have lost dogs and cats to the coyotes, owls and other large predators.

So, the reason for this article is to chronicle our first year in this foreign land (yes, I stole the idea from Peter Mayle’s “A Year In Province”, but we Americans are good at taking other peoples’ stuff and making it our own, see the above paragraph regarding the word “New”).  It so many times happens that what we experience is vastly different from what we expected.  We’ve only been here a month and already it has started.  I won’t go into all of the history of Santa Fe as there are literally hundreds of books on the subject and I don’t have enough space here to do it, so I’ll stick to our experiences and hopefully you can fill in what’s missing with outside material.

Our goal was to begin living the work lives we have always wanted; making and selling our artist works.  Maritza is a jeweler specializing in southwest jewelry and I’m a guitar-maker specialized in covering the house with dust and wood chips.  Because everyone reading this has this same dream (to live off of their art), I thought it would be interesting to chronicle just what it takes to make it happen (if it in fact ends up happening).
This year I’m turning fifty and Maritza is… (I’m not allowed to divulge this closely held secret).  I thought it was time in my life to give up the corporate world for the art world.  But as the wing-walkers used to say “Never let go of what you have until you’ve got hold of something else”.  So, I’m continuing to work in the computer world except that I’m telecommuting from my house.  I still work all day at my computer job, but at least I don’t waste time bathing and driving to work (sometimes I still bathe though, when Maritza complains).

So, to start at the beginning of our trip,  we packed up our rental house in Denver, Colorado. Unfortunately the truck I rented did not accommodate all of our personal belongings plus all the woodworking tools from my shop.  We had to rent a second truck that Maritza would drive and I would tow one of our cars behind my truck for the 7-hour trip.  Our other car we left with a previous neighbor then paid someone to drive here for us.  So, with the extra truck, extra gas and paying the guy to drive my other car, that cost us easily another thousand dollars.  Oh well, bad planning.

Front of our house
Our house was waiting for us when we got here and I was anxious to setup my shop in the two-car garage, which I did, until I started getting nasty looks from the neighbor across the street, so I closed the door to setup in private.  Glitch number two: the realtor forgot to mention that it is forbidden to do anything in the garage except park the car.  No pastimes, hobbies, businesses or monkey-business of any kind.  Hmmmm, that was NOT what I wanted.  So, I’m continuing to work in the garage clandestine style.  I sound-proofed it as best I could and figured I’d just do my thing until somebody complained.  So far, so good.

Making stuff is what we’re all good at.  Selling stuff is a completely different matter though.  Publish or perish.  We searched for a good place to sell our work on the weekends.  First we paid to be in a place that’s called “The Artist Tent” that operates on the weekends at a horse race track nearby.  We paid the three hundred dollars for the month.  Then we learned that everybody’s stuff keeps getting broken from the wind as well as being constantly covered in dust.  When it rains, the Artist Tent (imagine a big circus tent) becomes a raging river.  Worse than all of that, nobody was selling anything.  It seemed the tourists didn’t want to go out to the racetrack even though there was a free shuttle service.  We decided to write off the money we’d spent and find another place.

The Rail Yard
We found a location called the RailYard because it’s, well, a rail yard.  On Saturdays it’s a huge farmer’s market and on Sundays it’s an artists’ market.  We got a table for each of us and it was only $35, much better than the Artist Tent/River/Dustbowl/Wind tunnel and it’s indoors!!!  Yeah.  With air conditioning and heating and a bathroom.  Yeah.  Oh, speaking of air conditioning, the house we rented proudly boasted that it was equipped with air conditioning.  It’s not.  And we arrived in August, the hottest month of the year in New Mexico.  It has a swamp cooler which is more like a swamp and less like a cooler.  A very noisy swamp at that.  It’s basically a huge unit that dribbles water onto a filter and then has a fan behind it.  It doesn’t work.  It sounds like a tractor idling in the living-room.  But I digress.



Our first week of selling, Maritza did really well, like about seven hundred dollars.  The second and third weeks, not so much and the fourth week was about two hundred dollars.  But, little did we know, September starts the big tourist season for the year, so we’re optimistic things will improve.  Since my guitars sell for around five to six thousand dollars, I’m not expecting a lot of sales at the RailYard; for me it’s mostly exposure (the legal kind) and to let the local musicians know that I’m in town and what I do.  I’ve already gotten a couple hundred dollars worth of repair jobs.  There are a LOT of guitar players in Santa Fe.  So… fingers are crossed.


Maritza setting up at the RailYard

Jim at a show (we shared a tent.  that didn't work out 
so well :-) )

In addition to the RailYard, Maritza has also had several galleries express interest in her work.  That’s the best of all scenarios because then her work will sell and she doesn’t have to be there.  Of course the galleries take a giant commission, so we’re debating that approach at the moment.

So, that’s it for our first month.  A lot of activity and a little bit of sales; all in all not a bad start.

Jim with his assistant in the new guitar shop