Written On My Heart

As many of you know, June of this year marked the beginning of something that had been the humblest of thoughts in my heart since my daughter died. From 2008 until this year, 2012, it slowly evolved until, in one day, the final light bulb moment came and my little dream was birthed into reality.

I’m referring to my Christmas ornament donation program at Skye Blue.

One of the first, only, and most cherished gifts I got in memory of Skye came at the perfect time. The funeral was over, she was buried, the mourning visitors had gone home, my husband (and I, for a short time) went back to work, life began as the New Normal. I was anything but normal though. Nobody talked about my little girl anymore, no more cards came mentioning her name. My memories had been stolen from me before I had a chance to make them with her, and winter descended like a vulture on my soul. There was nothing to look forward to, no bouncing baby girl, no milestones, even the Holidays promised pain and tears without my little bundle to show off, to cuddle, to open presents with, and mostly just to hold and love.

And then, in November, I got a little parcel in the mail. It was from the organization Hearts and Hands. We had been connected with them soon after Skye was sent up to Kosair. At first I didn’t understand who they were and why I was being pushed to meet with yet another set of people when I could be spending time with my daughter. In fact, I don’t think I understood who they were and why we were being introduced the whole 17 days I was there. It was only in the months following Skye’s death that they became the most invaluable comfort to me. You see, they are a group of people who deal with families who have babies that have a huge chance of passing away soon after birth. I guess this is why I didn’t make the fateful connection. It never sank in that I probably wouldn’t bring my little girl home. Nobody thought they should “burden” me with the gravity of her situation.

In the blur that night, when my daughter passed away, it was the sweet ladies from Hearts and Hands as well as one of Skye’s regular nurses that lovingly prepared her body, unwrapping it, dressing it in real clothes for the first time, putting baby lotion on her damaged skin so she would smell like a baby and not a hospital when we held her for the first time without her wrappings. They made the little molds of her hand and feet, they photographed her and us holding her. And they told us that they would be in contact with us over the next few months, we didn’t have to answer back at all, but they would send us some things in the mail. I barely heard this and remembered it at that time, I was too shattered and numb.

I believe the first thing I got was that package in November. I had pretty much forgotten that they had said they would be sending anything, so when I opened it I was a little puzzled and wondered what it was. As I pulled the little tissue paper parcel out of the mailer and unwrapped it, I burst into tears. There was a little pink and white candy cane ornament and it had Skye written on it. Not Elizabeth, her first name and the name so many people used because they didn’t know her, but the name I had chosen so long ago and given to my precious baby while she was still a tiny hope.

We didn’t even put up a tree that year, but that ornament was so precious, because somebody cared. A virtual stranger cared enough to send something with my girl’s name and a hand written card telling me how sorry they were that I’d be spending the Holidays without her at a time when everybody had stopped talking about her for fear of “ruining the season by reminding me”. As If I could have forgotten her!

To this day, that ornament and the others we have accumulated each year are among my most precious earthly possessions. Pulling them out and hanging them on the tree with my family is a cherished moment each year, remembering, and making new memories with my children here on earth, telling them about their sister they have never met and why they are even more special to us because of how special she is.

That is the story behind my donated ornaments. They are a labor of love, not to families that are monetarily needy, but to those who are in need emotionally of someone, anyone, remembering their children. I want you to know, those of you who have requested an ornament for your child or children who have passed, I am touched and humbled as I sit at my table and shape the clay with my fingers. I contemplate your child who was and is and will always be. I say their name, I marvel at the beauty of their names, I think about the dates you have chosen to record, whether birthdays, conception days, due dates, their date of passing. I think of the colors that you choose to represent your child, I think of the short stories some of you send with your email request and I grieve with you, I truly do. Sometimes, when the house is very quiet I even shed a tear as think of these beautiful little lives and the people left behind to mourn them for the rest of their lives. I consider it a great honor to have my finger prints mingled in the same clay that bears your child’s name.

I felt like all this needed to be said, and now it still seems inadequate to convey what I feel, but I will post any way. God bless you all, thank you for letting me be a part of your remembering.

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For information about my program and how to request an ornament, please visit this link on my Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3

 

Capture Your Grief Day 5: Memorial

There are several memorials scattered around middle and western Kentucky, Skye’s head stone on her grave, a memory brick in the Bi-Centennial Garden in Salem Kentucky, the place of her Daddy’s family roots and the tiny town where she is buried, and of course the hearts of her family, especially the few people who got to meet her while she lived.

Josh and I have moved so much to pursue career opportunities for him that we have yet to settle down and really feel like we’ve found a home and put down roots, so I’m very glad Skye was able to be buried in Salem in the little cemetery shared by family. It is a place we will always make at least an annual pilgrimage to no matter where we move or live because that is where we celebrate the Holidays with his side of the family.

However, I believe the greatest and farthest reaching memorial I have is one that travels with me no matter where I am and that is Skye Blue, my online store and community on Facebook that has supported my art. Everything I make at Skye Blue is inspired by my daughter, even the name is inspired by her. I make a lot of grief and child loss related items and custom memorial items for grieving parents as well as every day home decor and non-grief related art. Even the regular items are inspired by her though, she taught me many things, but one of the biggest things I carried away from losing Skye was that you can’t wait for a convenient moment in life to do anything, if it is important to you, seize the day and do what you love.

Making art, working from home, and being an everyday part of my kids lives as a stay at home mom – those are all dreams I had long before my daughter lived and died, but she was the one who helped me realize that things that important to me couldn’t wait, I had to jump in and make it happen, the details would work themselves out.

Every day as I sit at my table creating, or pack up an order, or post pictures to Facebook, or even just take Faith to the park or lay and feeling Gavin kicking in my belly, those are moments I think of Skye. I’m thankful for the things she taught me. I’m glad that I’m young with lots of time ahead of me, but if my life were to be shortened unexpectedly, (nobody is guaranteed one day or hour) I would go with peace knowing I lived every day being alive, not just going through the motions, and I tried to remember what was truly important. That is a grand memorial, her legacy, and it touches many people every day. I am humbled by the messages from people who have been touched in some way by Skye Blue. It comforts me to be reminded that Skye is more alive right now than she could ever be in her mortal body and that gives me hope for my future also. This life is just the beginning friends.

This “Beauty From A Broken Heart” sculpture is just like the ones I make at Skye Blue, this one bears her name and birth date etched into it. The base is a broken heart and the peace lilies grow from the broken cracked middle.

The Pitfalls of Surprise Etsy Packages

I think everyone will agree, there is just nothing better than a good old-fashioned snail mail parcel. Wrapped up in that manilla envelope or cardboard box is more than just the object of your anticipation, especially if the goody is a gift from someone who knows you well. Contained in those amazing little parcels are thought, love, care, – the things we crave as human beings from the day we take our first breath. They say, “I’m thinking of you” in the very best way. As joyous as it is to receive a parcel from somebody you love, it is even more thrilling to get a surprise parcel, one that shows up in your mailbox to brighten your day and you had no clue that is was coming.

I am an Etsy seller and several members of my family are Etsy sellers. There is a little activity on Etsy that has become fairly popular, the “Buy and stay” and “Buy and Replace” sales. These neat little promotional tools work thusly: A curator collects an item from several different shops to feature in a “treasury list”. She then invites her Etsy friends and associates as well as the featured shops to come look at the items, chat in the comment section, and see if there is anything they are interested in buying. The featured shops do the same with their friends and contacts and those friends and contacts can even invite their friends, etc. The incentive to buy for an Etsyan is you get to replace the shop you buy from with an item from your own shop, plus you support small business, PLUS there is some really neat stuff on Etsy that you just can’t find at Wally World.

This turns a lot of eyes onto the featured shops from people who might not normally come into contact with them, it helps a buyer sort through the mass of unknown Etsy shops to find a seller who they can chat with and ask questions in real-time, and it is just plain fun. It is much like the modern version of a Tupperware party.

 

So, now that my readers are more familiar with how these sales work, let me resume the purpose of this post: Avoiding the pitfalls of surprise Etsy packages.

French vanilla coffee soap by http://www.sweetturquoise.etsy.com smells absolutely heavenly, like a softly cinnamon coffee latte with undertones of vanilla. Yum!

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the world of hand-made knows that homemade soap is about as delectable as it gets. On Etsy you can find droves of soap makers, each with their own specialty, style, etc. There are vegan soaps, natural soaps, highly scented soaps, non scented soaps, colorful swirled soaps, soaps with names like cinnamon bun and chocolate toffee. There are soaps that look, smell, and sound good enough to eat. There are even soaps made to look exactly like different edibles.

Also by SweetTurqoise, cupcake soaps.

I was chatting with an Etsy friend the other day, during one of these BNS sales, who talked about getting a surprise goody in one of the packages she had ordered, a lovely hand towel from Mouse0403.

I love this coffee themed towel by http://www.Mouse0403.etsy.com

This seller and Mouse are pretty good Etsy friends and run in each others’ BNR/BNS circles a lot. They have ordered from each other multiple times and so when there was a little yummy surprise in with the towel Mouse sent, my friend did not think much other than, “Awww, so sweet!” It was labeled Chocolate Patchouli and looked to be a small sample of hand-made chocolate bar, wrapped up nice and cute with a hand written note from Mouse, “Enjoy this surprise sample!”

Now again, if you are at all familiar with Etsy, you know there are all kinds of creative chocolatiers and candy makers and bakeries on Etsy vending their wares, and it is not at all uncommon to see Chocolate Lavender truffles or Peppermint caramel, or other weird flavor combinations you would not have thought would taste good. So my friend thought nothing as she took a bite of her Chocolate Patchouli and was horrified to find out it was actually soap.

“Gosh! How silly she must be! ” I know that’s what you are thinking, but that isn’t all. As I laughed with her and everyone else, I knew I was going to have to share something that had happened to me that very morning.

I had gone to check my mailbox that morning. I had been participating in the BNS world all week and had several packages I was expecting. As I said before, I have some family members that are heavily involved with those type sales too and I had already received a wonderful box with hand crocheted face scrubbies, beautiful jewelry, some little boonie hats for Faith, and some other little goodies earlier that month. So, I was surprised when I found a little manilla envelope from CakeOrDeath5 that I wasn’t expecting. In retrospect I am vaguely recalling my Aunt Shannon of JunqueyardRoyalty ( www.junqueyardroyalty.etsy.com ) messaging me for my mailing address, but I spaced that out on this particular morning.

I didn’t even wait till I got in the house, I started ripping it open excitedly as I walked up my drive way. Out tumbled a small package of clearish, brownish, coffee cup-shaped unidentifiable little objects that seemed bite sized. They were obviously coffee flavored from the smell, and I am an absolute fool for anything coffee (as you will see).

I was intrigued, yet wary. After all, I knew that Etsy has all kinds of treasures and just because it looks, smells, and seems edible does not mean that it is. I wondered if this delectable little bit was a candle tart, soap, gummy candy, hard candy, or just something else altogether. I was somewhat thrown off by the shop name, CakeOrDeath5, and I just couldn’t recall what it was that Cake sold. I looked for a note, but all she had in the package was a business card and a little hand written “Enjoy!” written on a little tag. I’m sure she assumed that Shannon had told me about my coming  package.

Well, those little coffee flavored something-or-others were so good-looking and smelling, and they most resembled a candy, what with being bite sized and clearish, and my mind flashed to a conversation not long ago about a fellow Etsyan’s coffee flavored taffy, so rather than wait to inquire or search Cake’s Etsy shop for what the item was, I decided to lick one of the little buggers.

Tell me these don't at least resemble candy.

Yes, I licked it, not knowing what it was. It was, in fact, kind of sweet, but I easily and quickly determined that is was not edible. It was soap, little individual soaps. This did not disappoint me, I love soap, and I loved that they were coffee flavored and shaped into little coffee cups. I just wish I had not been sucked in by their wonderful aroma and appearance to actually lick one.

So, the lesson of the day is: If you order from Etsy and send a surprise gift to someone, be sure to tell them not to taste the soap even if it looks edible. 😀

Individual coffee soaps by http://www.CakeOrDeath5.etsy.com perfect for guest soaps. 🙂

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some other awesome and unique Etsy finds:

"A Break In The Lining" necklace by http://www.JunqueyardRoyalty.etsy.com

Chocolate sea shells by www.AndiesSpecialtySweets.etsy.com , do they not look totally real??
Fairy portal by www.ClayByKim.etsy.com

And I could post so many more! The best thing is for you to browse and discover Etsy for yourself. www.etsy.com

Talent in the Bluegrass

I have been busy for the month of April, as most of you know, moving from one house to another and it has been a while since I posted. I am taking time now to say we are moved and loving our new rural farm-house. I want to write more and post pictures soon.

This post will be short, but I wanted to call attention to my fabulous Etsy team, Team Bluegrass! This is a group of wonderful artists and craftsmen that specialize in everything from soap, to pottery, to jewelry, to garden decor, and everything in between. There are currently 139 members throughout the state. Everything we make is crafted by hand. (With a smattering of vintage items here and there.)

Making a purchase on Etsy is as simple as any other online site for one of the megastores, except when you purchase from someone on Etsy, you are purchasing from a small business, and if they are a Team Bluegrass member, your dollars go right back into our local Kentucky economy! There is something for everyone and many items are surprisingly affordable. Why not stay at home and have an original, made-with-love item delivered to you instead of going through the hoopla of Wally World only to feel like just another number running your stuff through the self check line and wondering if the quality is really there? Think about it.

For those of you who have not yet discovered Etsy: www.etsy.com

You can browse without a profile, and if you find something you love (and I’m sure you will) the site will walk you through a very simple, free sign up so you can purchase items through PayPal with your credit card, or some vendors (such as myself) have a pay with money order option.

In the Etsy search bar, you can type in any search word to find exactly what you’re looking for, but type in teambluegrass (all one word, our team search tag) and you can browse literally hundreds of items made here in Kentucky. Birthdays, holidays, just because days, a treat for yourself, or just something you have been needing, they are all covered!

Team Bluegrass is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/kentuckyhandmade

We recently decided to create a team coupon code good in many of the Team Bluegrass shops on Etsy. Using this code at checkout will take 10% off your purchase order. You just type BLUEGRASS10 into the coupon code box upon checkout and your order is automatically adjusted. This is our first team code and is expected to run quarterly. This particular code will be available to anyone on every order until July 1, 2011. Below is a list of the shops currently offering this code in their shop, but we expect this list to change and grow as our team grows and as we get feedback on the popularity of this endeavor.

Skyeblue85, Glasgow KY – that would be me! Original works of art that “regular” people can afford. I specialize in wall decor, original paintings, home decor items, ect.
The Loop Designs, Frankfort KY – Quilts, bags, pillows, and fabric goods for your home.
Whimsy Beading, Lexington KY – Whimsy in beadweaving jewelry.
SeeSpace, Frankfort KY – Jewelry, stencil goods, appliques.
Bluebirdheaven, Louisville KY – The original printer drawer jewelry displays.
Lexigirlcreations, Lexington KY – Eclectic, unusual, steam punk, and everyday jewelry creations.
CreativeEyeStudio, Louisville KY – Handcrafted, unique beaded jewelry and greeting cards.
Earth Aria, Florence KY – Unique custom gem, pearl, and bridal jewelry.
Sweet Pea Murals, Florence KY – Custom painted wall murals, decorative borders, and room decor for kids.
Jorgensenstudio, Louisville KY – Stacking and promise rings, engagement and wedding jewelry.
Stephaniemakesall, Bowling Green Ky – Crochet and knit items, journals, soap savers, boot anklets, a variety.
Glory Be Herbals, Lexington KY – Natural bath and beauty products, essential oils, soap, lip balm, lotions.
Charlotart, Louisville KY – Exciting home decor and mixed media art form repurposed items.
Cafecharlot (Jackie Charlot) – Charlotart’s sister shop consisting of vintage items.
Jdbeaner1, Louisville Ky – Baubles by Jill, unique jewelry creations.
Hotoffthelathe, Louisville KY – Beautiful word working, pepper mills, duck calls, deer grunt calls.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/hotoffthelathe?ref=pr_shop
JASaromatics, Lexington KY – essential oils, soap, perfumes, bath and body items.
 
As most of my readers know, I’m a firm believer in supporting small and local businesses. I think the megastores have taken away some of our American heritage. Our country was founded on free enterprise. Mom and Pop stores used to be the beating heart of the American economy. Great products at fair prices, yes, but also relationships and outstanding customer service. You’ll find that by exploring the different Etsy shop profiles, each owner has a unique story and drive behind their online store. Most are very committed to making every purchase feel like a personal experience. You would think an online purchase would be about as impersonal as it gets, but I have found through personal experience that my Etsy purchases are much better experiences than every purchase experience I’ve ever had at the megastores or other online stores. There are message options right on Etsy where you can communicate directly with the seller and almost everybody is awesome about answering questions about their products and working with you to customize your order.
 
I think I’ve said as much as I can say, I’d rather you just check out these awesome shops for yourself! 🙂

Plans (Note: don’t mind my bumbling in the dark.:D)

As many of you know, I have been marketing and selling my art work for about a year now. I have been amazed, excited, and humbled by how well I’ve done, all things considered. It started as a hobby and now I am seriously researching the development of my business. How hard can that be? You put product up where it will be seen and you put a price on it, right?

Wrong.

Since I started with a hobby in mind, I did not really research all the points I should have that regard marketing and the business side. This isn’t so bad, I find that many things in my life seem to start out backwards and they almost always turn themselves around the right way before it’s over. However, I’m at a point where I need to really start getting serious if I want to see serious results. This is good, this does not intimidate me, it exhilarates me because I finally know, at almost 26 years old,  just what I want to do in the way of job and income long-term.

I really want to accomplish so much more than just creating and selling art, though. I want to be that business where when you purchase something from me, you feel like you got a superior product for an amazing price. I want to connect with my customers and be more than just “an artists I bought a piece of art from”, I want to build relationships. I don’t want to be that annoying online business that sends out emails every other day and posts on their Facebook wall about their product until when you see their avatar you just automatically scan over them or worse, delete them.

That being said, I am trying really hard to find new and interesting ways to connect and market and promote. Since setting up shop on Etsy I have learned so much from other small businesses and online shoppers. I really admire all the unique and handmade items I’ve seen and I’m striving to be just as unique in my own field.

I will be taking some time out all this next month of April, mainly to move my household once more,( this time at least we’re getting a bigger house with more room to create and be productive) but also to work on my new business and give it some TLC. I want to be a little more organized, a little less all over the place, figure out my short-term and long-term goals, work out my exact costs to price tag ratio, and work on new items and new kinds of items. I’ll have my Etsy shop on vacation mode for all of April, but I’ll be back at the beginning of May, hopefully with a clearer vision and consistent direction.

Feel free to keep up with me on Facebook and leave any suggestions about what you’d like to see me do. I love feed back!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Skye-Blue-by-Natasia-Champion/362725131270

"In Spite of the Pain" (SOLD)