Feeding the Ducks

Soon after I opened my Etsy shop, I got an order for duck cake toppers.  A very sweet customer in New York was excited to get custom ducks made for her wedding cake, as she and her fiance love to feed the ducks on the lake near their home.  So the ducks were a special part of their relationship they wanted to tie in to their wedding day, and the ducks also make a lovely keepsake that the happy couple can keep forever.

Her wedding colors are bright green and orange, perfect for their early Spring wedding this April.

Where the Wild Things Are

Back in January, my penguin cake toppers were featured in an Etsy treasury called Wild Thing, I Think I Love You!  The treasury was created by Laurie of Laurie’s Northwest Crafts, who creates beautiful handpainted glassware.  The collection, which includes handmade items showing elephants, giraffes, and owls (oh my!), was inspired by a zebra print wine glass Laurie painted.  There are some really unique items with gorgeous animal prints – it is definitely worth checking out!

Laurie – thank you for including my little penguins on your treasury!

Kris at BellaDaze featured this treasury, along with a few others, on her blog.  BellaDaze’s Etsy shop features amazing nature-inspired art, and their blog covers a lot of interesting stuff.

Michaels vs. Hobby Lobby





For those of you who are crafters, chances are when you need supplies, you hit up either Michaels or Hobby Lobby.  Being familiar with both, I thought I’d put a little more thought into how they stack up against each other.

I used to be a strictly Michaels girl – for years and years, I was a loyal customer, not interested in shopping elsewhere very often (aside from going to Joann Fabrics for fabric projects and sometimes Archiver’s for scrapbooking).  I cringe to think of how much money I’ve spent at Michaels over the years!  For some reason I wasn’t keen on Hobby Lobby – I had gone a couple times and it had left me feeling pretty ‘meh.’  But this past summer, we moved, and while there is a Michaels a few miles away, there’s a Hobby Lobby literally around the corner.  So, I decided to give them another try…and I have to say I’m a little bit in love.  

So here is how the two stores compare in the categories of selection/layout, price, and customer service, based on my experiences over the years.

 

Selection & Store Layout

I find that Michaels is easier to navigate, probably because the stores are typically smaller than Hobby Lobby stores.  The aisles at Michaels are well organized and well stocked, and I’m rarely unable to find something I need.  Hobby Lobby is a much larger store, and while it is also well organized, it can be a little bit overwhelming.  Due to its size, the selection is greater at Hobby Lobby.  They also have departments that Michaels doesn’t, such as more home goods.  (On the other hand, Michaels has lots of candy near the checkouts that is great for those impulse buys.)  For what I usually shop for – clay, jewelry making stuff and scrapbooking – either store will do, so it comes down to price and customer service.

    

Price

In terms of price, I’ve found that Hobby Lobby is cheaper overall.  If I’m just popping in for a pack of clay or some artificial flowers, I’m not going to end up spending too much either way, so either store will do.  But if I’m planning to stock up on supplies, it’s worth it for me to shop at Hobby Lobby and save a little bit of money.  However, both stores have coupons on a regular basis, as well as pretty decent frequent sales.

   

Customer Service

I don’t usually have the best of luck with customer service at Michaels.  Despite a couple of employees that stick out in my mind as being especially helpful, most of my experiences there have included high school students who avoid eye contact in a desperate attempt to not help you find something, and elderly women who seem bewildered by the modern technology of a cash register.  Now, the first time I went back to Hobby Lobby, people actually smiled at me, and asked if I needed help.  Most employees there seem knowledgeable about where to find things despite the vastness of the store.  (Though a little off topic, I have to say that the employees at Archiver’s are by far the friendliest I’ve come across, in craft stores and maybe even retail stores in general.)

So while I love Michaels, I’ve quickly come around on Hobby Lobby.  They come out ahead in selection, price, and customer service.  I’m still more familiar and comfortable in Michaels stores, but I think that will continue to change as I continue to shop at Hobby Lobby more often.

Where do you do your craft shopping?

Duck Cake Toppers

Last summer my best friend got married.  When she got engaged, I offered to make the cake toppers for her wedding cake.  Her husband (who happens to be my husband’s best friend – our successful attempt at match-making!) loves ducks, so it seemed like the perfect choice.  The only cake toppers I’d made before were our penguins, but I figured ducks weren’t that far of a stretch – like penguins, they are round little birdies with cute little feet and are overall adorable.

I tried to make them somewhat realistic to the coloring of male and female ducks, but with that sort of whimsical, cartoonish quality.  Of course, the flowers, bow tie and accessories matched their wedding colors, and I also included a tiny little silver trumpet under the male duck’s arm, since the groom is a trumpet player. 

Thanks for letting me make your ducks, friends! 🙂

The ducks on their big day

 

Beautiful bride - happy couple!

What’s In A Name?

Once I decided I wanted to start an Etsy shop, I had trouble thinking of a name that felt right.  I wanted it to incorporate something that was meaningful to me.  I toyed around with names relating to my two cats, or my favorite flower (red tulips), but nothing sounded good.  I didn’t want it to be something super corny or too obvious, like “Christina’s Crafts” – bleh.  I finally settled on Earl’s Courts Designs.
   
When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad in London for a semester.  I can say with certainty, that (at least so far), it was the happiest time in my life.  I got to explore beautiful cities and countries with incredible histories, meet amazing people that are still dear friends, learn invaluable lessons about life, and cliché as it sounds, found myself, despite being thousands of miles away from home.  Our flat in London (which I shared with 5 other girls, and 1 bathroom) was in the Earl’s Court neighborhood.  Earl’s Court was the tube station we hopped into whenever we were going out to eat, were all dolled up for a night on the town, going to do some posh shopping, or heading to Heathrow for a quick trip to another part of Europe. 
   
So, while its not related to the things I make or sell, its just a little nod to that faraway place that feels like another home to me.
   
A few pictures from my time across the pond…
   
Our street
   
Big Ben of course
    
Coumeenole Beach in Ireland
   
Tower Bridge
    
Paris
     
Colosseum
    

*sorry they’re blurry – they are from a long time ago before I had a nice camera…

Penguin Cake Toppers

My husband loves penguins.  He thinks they’re cute, funny, interesting – and since we’ve been together, I’ve come to adopt penguins as sort of “our” thing.  So when I was absent-mindedly listing off the five billion wedding details we still had to tackle as we were planning our October 2009 wedding, and the subject of cake toppers came up, he had an idea right away.  Of course, I was not expecting him to give a fig about what we put on top of our wedding cake, it didn’t strike me as something most fiancés would care about, and to be honest, it wasn’t at the top of my priority list either.  I’d just assumed I would order one of those fancy letters that stood for our new shared last name from one of those cheesy wedding catalogs.  But, bless his heart, my now-husband suddenly had a much better idea.  “Penguins!” – he excitedly suggested.  Since I found it difficult at times to get a twenty-something guy to show interest in things like napkins colors, flower arrangements, etc…I wasn’t about to shoot down any suggestions he had about something I had assumed would be a somewhat boring detail in his eyes (which isn’t to say that he wasn’t helpful, he, like many of my friends’ fiancés, preferred to give input on more fun things like food and music).  So I quickly embraced the idea of having adorable little bride and groom penguin toppers.  It was unique, not your typical cake topper.  And it was a cute way to show our fun side, and most importantly, feature a little piece of my husband’s personality, which I loved so much.  So I set out to find penguin cake toppers online.  I Googled it, trying a few different key words, much to no avail.  Then I went to Etsy – I had gotten gifts for friends and fun things for myself there before, so it seemed like the perfect place to find adorable’ out of the ordinary handmade items like what I was looking for.  Sadly, I couldn’t seem to find exactly what I’d had in mind.  That’s when I decided, hey, there is no reason I can’t just make them myself!  No harm in trying, right?

After a “rough draft” penguin, I seemed to have it down, and created our bride and groom penguins over a couple evenings out of polymer clay.  I was very happy with the way they turned out, and so was my husband.  They were a great addition to our wedding – perfectly matching our wedding colors of black and red.

When it came time to cut the cake at our wedding reception months later, I got loads of compliments on our wedding penguins.

Here they are after I made them:

And here they are in action on our big day:

Which brings us to this past October, about a year after our wedding.  I’d been toying with the idea of trying to make and sell penguin cake toppers on Etsy since our wedding, since I really enjoyed making ours.  After much hemming and hawing, and encouragement from my husband, I finally made myself an Etsy shop.  I’ve gotten a handful of orders for cake toppers so far, and I hope to make many more!

The shop is called Earl’s Court Designs – I will tell you about the name next time 🙂

Take a look!  http://www.etsy.com/shop/EarlsCourtDesigns