Friday, May 21, 2010

Never A Minute of Boredom

Mom to 11 earthly kids & 2 heavenly kids (1/26/84 & 4/8/08)
and expecting our first daughter in law June 12, 2010
"While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about."
~Angela Schwindt

I have often made the mistake of thinking that I just do not have enough time. However, upon looking over the life of today's featured artist, I realize that I just do not know how to budget my time wisely, and that I fail to appreciate some of the smaller things in life. 
Marlene Grahn is a virtual super hero, as she juggles 11 children, numerous goats and various other animals, plants and grows her own garden and cans some of her food, and also makes her own wine! Oh, did I mention that she also home schools her children? On top of all of that, Marlene finds the time to run an Etsy shop Country Soaps by Marlen . In my book, this is super hero material!
Marlene has granted me an interview, and I would love for you to get to know her!
Who are you?
My name is Marlene, proud mama to 11 amazing kids…on the side I make goats milk soaps.  

What do you create, and possibly a few words to describe your art?  

I make cold process goats milk soaps.  While waiting for them to cure I enjoy making lotions, shower gels, lip balms, solid perfumes, bath bombs and teas.  What does cold process mean?  It means that I keep the temperature of the oils and lye solution below 100 degrees.  You might now wonder how it is possible using lye.  Anyone that has tried to unplug a drain knows the hiss that comes from the drain cleaner.  I can’t use drain cleaner because of the aluminum they have added due to the increase of meth labs around the country.  I use pure lye.  The goats milk has to be frozen before the lye can be added to protect the delicate proteins found in goats milk.  That’s how I keep the temperatures low.  Goats milk soap naturally moisturizes and exfoliates the skin leaving it naturally soft.  It’s great to use on young and old, body and face.                

What inspires you, or turns on that creative light inside of you?  

Sometimes I read an article or someone on my facebook fan page will suggest something or maybe just the name of the fragrance will help me determine what I will do. 

Tell us about your style?  

My soaps have a rough rustic country look to them.  Many of my relatives before me made soap and they used it just the way it was cut.  I don’t bevel my edges or polish my soaps.  They are cut, cured and boxed.

How did you get started? Is everyone in your family artistic? 

I actually got started years ago while watching my oldest daughter make melt and pour soaps.  Then she drifted away from the art and our daughters next in line got some nanny goats.  We made cheese, ice cream, yogurt and then soap…it was about the last thing on our list and it stuck. 
Our kids are artistic in the way of music.  I come from a long line of musicians so the piano comes natural to them along with the guitar.  Blooming Tulips Goats Milk Soap

What is unique about your products?  

My soaps are 100% goats milk…no added water.  Some people start off making soap using distilled water then add some goats milk right at the end.  I use all goats milk.  There are a few bars that don’t have goats milk in them and I’ll do that to experiment. 
What is your real world job?  

Like I said earlier, I’m mom to 11 great kids.  We have home schooled them for the past 13 years.  My husband and I live on a dairy farm in southern Wisconsin.       Almond Cocoa Butter Lotion

What is your educational background, as it relates to your work?  

I’ve been making soap for the past 7 years.  It’s been a lot of trial and error.  The errors end up into laundry soap.  The first few batches were horrible and then I stopped for a few months, did more reading on the internet and books.  Then I gave it a try again and I actually had some soap!!!  So, I guess you could say, I’m self taught with the help of lots of great soapers on the internet. 
What has been your biggest challenge in developing your business?  

Trying to sell scented items over the internet.  Some people have suggested a scratch and sniff screen but I don’t think that’s in our immediate future.  J  
                                                               Bubble Gum Goats Milk Soap

Where do you see your work going in the next year?  

I’ve developed a wool wash bar for washing handmade wool items. (This doesn’t have goats milk)  I want to expand that line.  I’ve been asked about doing fundraisers, so I’m looking at that possibility.  

The next 5 years? 
As the kids get older, I would like to expand into some local shops.  My dream would to actually have my own dot com business.  New Born Baby Goats Milk Shower Gel

What is your one tip for being successful at your work?  

Don’t give up…I’ve heard that it takes at least 2 years to get off the ground selling on line…I’m just celebrating 2 years.  I admit to mistakes and put them in my specials. 

What is your one marketing tip for Etsy?  

Don’t be afraid of chatting in the forums…they are your direct link to possible customers.  Use twitter…excellent tool to add for your business.  Use the fan pages on facebook and link your shop(s).  Selling on line is a lot harder work than I ever imagined but don’t be afraid or give up. 
                                                                                                       White Cherry Blossom Goats Milk Soap
What are some other sites to find out more about you and your art? 
What other interests do you have? 
I do lots of canning from our garden.  I also love to sew, crochet and knit.  Sometimes you might find these items mixed in with my soaps.  We remodeled our kitchen 5 years ago and I’m so in love with it…so you’ll usually find me working on something in there. 

Who are some of your favorite artists? 
I don’t want to personally name people because I’ve met so many great people/artists online and in real life.  I’m easily intrigued by quilters and woodworkers.  Probably because I like to dabble with that too! 

Is there anything that you would like our readers to know about you, or that you would like to brag about? 

I make soap for my family and yours.  I’ll do lots of reading on ingredients before I proceed.  If you have any special needs regarding your soap please contact me and I’ll do my best to help.  

What was you worst crafting disaster?  

When I added lye to coffee to make my coffee soap…it was like a volcano!!!  I didn’t let the coffee cool enough before adding the lye
Where would you go if you had a time machine and why? 

I would go back to the late 1800’s.  I would love to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder…actually I think her mom and I could be great friends. 

What makes you laugh?  

My kids…there is never a dull moment in our house. 

I will just bet that there isn't a dull moment in her house!  

And if you aren't totally in awe of Marlene, or you can't find something that you just love in her shop, then I have nothing else to give you! Keep up the great work Marlene!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unique Household Items, Made with Reclaimed Wood

With all the trash going into landfills and being incinerated, it's refreshing to find an artist that appreciates using reclaimed wood to make useful items for around the home.

James Martinez is known as frommarz on Etsy.

 His repertoire includes more 'unique' items like recliners to hold your mp3 players and cell phones, ACEO displays and business card holders, yarn ball holders, planters, and cd/dvd cases.

He also makes awesome shadow boxes, night lights, photo frames, storage boxes, candle/sconce holders, and mirrors.

I would like to thank James for doing his part in helping save the planet, and going green!

Check out his other half, Kay Martinez, aka VerveInteriors for  floor cloths, ACEOs, and other beautiful art, inspired by traditional Indian-wedding henna art known as mehndi or mehendi.  Plus, 10% of your purchase price will go to  Team EFA Artists Helping Animals' Charity of the Month !