Friday, June 26, 2015

You're Making What? by Helen

I have recently been engaged in an online course called Creative Badass Challenge, and today's challenge is to share something personal in a blog post or social media platform. It should be authentic, revealing your soft underbelly, suggests the course's author, Dave Conrey. Vulnerability. Problems, maybe. Discomfort. Well, I've got plenty of all those things, but the thing I'm choosing to write about is that around here where I live, NOBODY WEARS WHAT I'M MAKING. And I feel weird about it. And that's all. Let me explain.

In February of 2014, a guy in New York asked me to make him some kanzashi lapel flowers for men. I had previously been making only women's hair accessories, brooches, necklaces and bracelets. I had never before seen the application that this guy was talking about (BTW, what became of you, Don, and what have you done with my flowers?). I still haven't seen one on an actual human being, except for a few guys around here who wear mine, intending to sell some of them. Fast forward to now, June of 2015, I have seen lapel flowers only in fashion photographs, and in some guys' personal photos on Instagram. Every once in a while, a friend tells me of a sighting of such a thing on TV. I can only conclude that what I'm making is a nascent fashion trend that has not yet established itself in the Midwest. I do sell these things, and I sometimes mail orders to Midwest addresses, but they are an uncommon observance in my life.

So, why am I making them? More importantly, why am I changing the focus of my entire Etsy shop and Instagram feed to men's accessories? Four really good reasons!

1. I can use any colors I want. I don't have to worry if the colors or fabric I choose are going to go with some gal's dress. This is liberating! The flower can blend with a jacket or contrast with it; I feel like I have so much freedom.
2. They sell way faster than women's stuff. I got proof. When I look at the numbers, I have sold about twice as much stuff since I sold my first lapel flower, as in the previous year, and that's just counting the men's accessories (including lapel buttons, lapel bow tie pins and button cuff links).
3. I can charge twice as much. For example, a pair of kanzashi flower hair clips goes for $25; take one of the flowers, put it on a tie tack, and that alone sells for $25. What can be bad, as my mother used to say?
4. I get at least three times the attention on Instagram for the men's items, as for the women's things. Who wouldn't be drawn towards making more men's accessories?

Clearly, I'm going to have to be patient. I hope to see more of what I make become more commonplace, even around here, in the next few years, so that people understand what the hell I'm doing. I'm using a lot of energy, here! And I'm soon going to change the name of my Etsy shop, as well as other things. So far, follow me on Instagram @exquisitelapel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Alvin's Wedding

A while ago, a guy contacted Helen about kanzashi boutonnieres that he wanted for his wedding in September. Helen and Alvin emailed each other quite a bit, discussing the merits of various fabrics, shapes, colors, etc. Alvin eventually settled on a particular design, and Helen made 8 lapel flowers for him. Here are some of the photos she took of her process.

First, cutting fabrics with a rotary cutter and a cutting board. We used a lavender kimono silk that came from Helen's Kanzashi Fairy Godmother in Japan (it was in the box I'm sitting on, in the above photo!) and a silver grey dupioni silk that Helen got from Patrice . Helen used 2.25 inch squares for the lavender, and 1.5 inch squares for the grey.

Helen decided to sew these petals, because she would be adding pearl beads later, and it's way easier to sew beads into the center of a flower that doesn't have rice glue on the petal edges. Here are all the petals ready to go.....

Next, petals glued into 4-petal flowers....

Pearls sewn into centers with nylon beading cord......

.......leaves added, and flowers mounted on tie tack findings.

So, that was fun, and Helen is hoping to find more grooms and groomsmen! Meanwhile, Helen started participating in a thing called the Creative Badass Challenge . It is one month full of difficult things to do and think about, aimed at helping creative business owners to work better. One of the challenges was was about getting messy, throwing caution to the winds, making something that we are not intending to sell. Helen decided to try making a flower that has a different fabric for every petal. She was worried that the different textures would be a problem, but a chrysanthemum-shaped flower seems to be able to handle that OK. Here's what she came up with....

This flower is all silk....chirimen, charmeuse, habutai, different vintage kimono silks, and a couple things we don't know what to call. A chartreuse jade bead is in the center, and the flower is mounted on a tie tack finding. Buy it here.