Blog In for CPSIA Action

Things could change dramatically for crafters, small business owners, independent children's clothing and toy makers, if the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) goes into effect on February 10th, 2009. This act came about as a result of the atrocious lack of safety standards in the production of children's toys and clothing from large over-seas manufacturers- think of all those recalls of goods produced in China last year. What it requires is that all makers of products intended for children under 12 be required to submit these products to third party testing. This means every product for children under 12- clothing, toys, diapers and even books. While I am all for stricter product testing for items that are coming from overseas where they seem to have serious lack of concern for what goes into their goods- this act will have a tremendous impact on many, many small business that are already creating safe products. The testing fees will be so high they will literally put small operations out of business. For example, my fellow BEST member Sweet Pepita makes gorgeous baby tees and dresses from recycled t-shirts. So far there is confusion over if the act will cover one of a kind items such as Sweet Pepita t's. If it does, Sweet Pepita will be out of business. How can she afford to have each and every t-shirt she makes tested for safety standards??? Not to mention that the tests cost thousands of dollars, so even having one prototype tested is cost prohibitive for a small business. AND the testing sites are all over seas. HMMMM, aren't we already concerned about China's lackadaisical concern with product safety, and we are now going to trust their testing facilities?? This quote is from the site Boing Boing-
"In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China."

Congress finally woke up to the fact that the Consumer Product Safety Commission lacked the staffing and regulation to prevent the importation of dangerous toys from overseas. In August 2008 they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) to deal with this issue. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. Sounds good right??? It maybe easy for large toy and children's product manufacturers to comply, they make items in batches of thousands and will only have to pay for one prototype of each product to be tested- this cost will be incremental to their businesses. But for those like Sweet Pepita, makers of safe, high quality, small batch or one of a kind children's items, made in the USA, the outlook is bleak. There has to be some sort of compromise here.

You may be wondering to yourself, "why do you care so much, you make jewelry for adults- your business won't be affected." Well here is why- remember back near the first of the year when I said that there were some big surprises ahead for 2009??? Well that surprise is that Mr. Dandelion and I are expecting a "sprout" come July! As I prepare and delve deep into the world of children's products, a place I have really not visited before, I find myself drawn to handmade items even more. I don't want to fill up my house with cheap, plastic, loud, Disney character laden toys and goods that will end up in the landfill for decades after my child has lost interest. I want the availability to choose items that are handmade, sustainable, or from recycled materials, over mass produced junk from China. I want to support small businesses, artists and stay at home parents who are making a living off creating children's goods with care and quality. I have to say mega-stores like "Babies R' Us" and "Buy, Buy, Baby" scare the hell out of me- stacks and stacks of plastic, garish, bleeping and blaring, flashing and vibrating STUFF, the industry is trying to convince me that sprout needs- it's enough to cause a seizure with all that madness. If the CPSIA is passed as it stands, we will loose a lot of choice in products for our children. Gone will be heirloom quality handmade baby quilts, one of kind clothing, small batch wooden toys. Children's consignment shops will have to prove that each of the products in their stores meet the stringent standards. I have already given Sweet Pepita several of mine and my husband's old t-shirts that we've kept out of sentimentality, to be made into clothing for the sprout. These are items we will keep forever, along with any baby sweaters this chickadee cares to knit for us (hint, hint). If this passes our kids will all be wearing the same damn thing from Walmart, and playing with the same obnoxious plastic toys. We'll be hauling our kids around in the same exact carriers, with the same diaper bags, singing the same ridiculous Disney tune from the latest must have DVD. Hell, we might as well all just put on our Mickey ears now! This my friends is a sad, sad future.

What can you do??? For starters go here and download your CPSIA Action kit.

Pick of the Week!

LinkThis weeks sale pick is this lovely Queen Anne's Lace pendant. Enamel on copper with a sterling silver bale, and your choice of steel cable wire or black silk cord. Can be found here!


Thanks Again Baltimore Magazine!!!

Wow! We made the "society pages" for Baltimore Magazine this month! When the Made in Baltimore Issue dropped in December, we had a release party and the magazine came and took some pics. The best part is if you missed the original issue, there is info on how to get your copy. B.E.S.T. is so on a roll! That's me to the right of Jen M. (our fearless leader) holding the blow up of the cover. Annnnd in the top picture, that's a lovely shot of my scalp- thank goodness I washed my hair that day!


The Business of Craft

Our B.E.S.T sponsored day of workshops, "The Business of Craft" at the Creative Alliance, went of without a hitch. Many thanks to our fearless leader, organizer and presenter, Jen Menkhaus! The turnout was great and each of the 4 workshops were well presented and educational. I took tons of notes during the marketing section, because well, my marketing plan is simply lacking. Also helpful was the info on trademarking, copyrighting and business structure. The tax presentation, although scary and tedious, convinced me I need to keep better records. So off to Staples it was this morning for file folders, new labels and other supplies. I left feeling both inspired to get it together and thinking that I need to invest in a calendar, get up earlier, and stop wasting so much time on the internet!


The Business of Craft Speaker Bios

Business of Craft Workshop - Speaker Bios

Cynthia Blake Sanders is an experienced intellectual property and media lawyer with a practice spanning copyright, trademark, fair use, licensing, advertising, and technology transfer issues. She represents publishers, advertisers, advertising agencies, filmmakers, record labels, producers, performing artists, visual artists, songwriters, authors, graphic designers, health care companies, colleges and universities, trade associations, and software developers. A textile artist and graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Cynthia is an active member of Baltimore’s arts community. She is a volunteer attorney and serves on the board of Maryland Lawyers for the Arts. She also serves on the boards of the Advertising Association of Baltimore (AAB), and the Black Cherry Puppet Theater, and serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland, School of Law where she teaches Entertainment and Sports Law. Cynthia is a member of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Intellectual Property and Entertainment and Sports Law Sections. She earned her B.F.A from MICA in 1985 and her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1999. Cynthia lives in the Roland Park community of Baltimore with her husband, artist D.S. Bakker and children Anna and John. Cynthia enjoys running, yoga and gardening.

Thomas Wynn was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where at the age of 15 he received his first camera as a gift. Thus a new outlet of artist expression was born and a new direction in life was started. While attending college and working as a photographers assistant Thomas entered into the Medical Photography training program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. This is also the time he realized the importance of computers were to be in the future of photography. He went out and purchased his first Macintosh and self taught himself Photoshop. After leaving Hopkins he went to work for the University of Maryland at Baltimore and now currently manages the Photography and Arts Section for two divisions of the National Institutes of Health. He currently teaches workshops around the country based of alternative processes for photography. Thomas Wynn’s works are shown in galleries on the east coast and he has been published in various books, medical journals and Rolling Stone magazine.

Nita Gale was introduced to the World Wide Web while working for Winterland Productions, then the marketing division for MCA Music / Universal Pictures. She was immediately inspired and began to see its practical applications. After receiving a Presidential Appointment to civil service, she had the opportunity to make her ideas a reality. Using materials garnered from the many off site training classes at the Department of Defense's Leadership Development College she began to write her first bit of code. Working at night, her plan was to make classes no longer dependent on budget or time constraints but to offer every employee the opportunity of education " at your own pace - in your own space." Upon completion of her project, she presented it and a supporting paper "Workforce 2000" to key members of the DoD. Her initiative was hugely successful quickly becoming the DoD standard practice. After completion of her federal commitment, Nita entered the private sector. She worked at Solomon Smith Barney (Citigroup) as the lead java developer and her project was mentioned in Bill Gates' Business @ The Speed of Thought. She then became lead developer or special projects team leader for other companies in their initial on line ventures, including but not limited to Sotheby's and Sotheby's Amazon joint venture, IBM, Datek, iCopious, and Town Sports International. She also contributed to special projects and kiosk displays for BMW International and the NFL.

Amelia Ariella Levin is the founder and President of Baltimore’s Best Bookkeeper, Inc., a growing accounting and business support company serving a wide variety of local enterprises for eight years. A seasoned entrepreneur, Ms. Levin founded and participated in a real estate firm that operates in Baltimore, as well as closely participating in family enterprises including investment, engineering and manufacturing activities. Ms. Levin is a 1980 graduate of Goucher College with a B.A. in Theater. Her participation in the arts ranges from acting to nurturing her own crafts and art creations enterprise, Sun Fire Galleries. Ms. Levin is a member of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and a Quick Books Pro Advisor with 25 years of bookkeeping & accounting experience.

Jen Menkhaus has close to 10 years experience in retail merchandising and buying. She spent several years working for Anthropologie, one of the most respected lifestyle merchandising companies, and there developed a mastery of the relationship between sales and display. She later worked as a decorator, buyer, and sales analyst for a local interiors store, where she learned about the day-to-day of managing an independent business. Jen applied this knowledge as the Exhibitor Services Director for the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, where she advised craft artists on booth display, product line development, pricing, marketing, and building relationships with buyers. Jen currently runs her craft business, The Littlest Bean, does consulting and marketing for craft artists, gives talks on product line development and gallery relationships for craft artists, occasionally teaches at MICA's Creative Entrepreuneurship Program, and helps run the Baltimore Etsy Street Team, all while chasing around her 3 year old daughter.

Hope to see you there! Happy Friday everyone!


Don't forget!!

Get Back to School!

Do you have questions about wholesale? Taxes? Copyright? What about getting great images of your work? Or effectively promoting yourself on the web?

Maintaining a successful business is hard work and can feel overwhelming when you are the person responsible for everything from design to production, accounting, marketing, shipping and sales. It's time to step out of the studio and arm yourself with information. You know how they say 'knowledge is power'? In the business world it's also time, money, success and probably sanity, too.

image by mare.bowe

Register for BEST's first business meet-up at the Creative Alliance this Sunday, January 25th. The meet-up will feature roundtable discussions led by Cynthia Blake Sanders, MD Lawyers for the Arts; Rebecca Cason, former director of the Buyer's Market of American Craft; Jen Menkhaus, working crafter and one of the founders of the Baltimore Street Team; Nita Gale, web designer; Ariella Levin of Baltimore's Best Bookkeeper; and Thomas Wynn, professional photographer.

Practical discussions will include legal and accounting basics; marketing, wholesale and pricing; and looking your best– on the web and in promo photos. Lunch will be provided (mouth-watering white bean hummus sandwiches!), a great time to get connected with other local artists and crafters to make new friends, show off your work, and share ideas. Come join us!

Sun Jan 25. 10am-2:30pm.
Adv reg $25, $20 CA & BEST mbrs. Walk-in $30, $25 CA & BEST mbrs. Includes lunch.

Register here.

originally posted by sweetpepita on Baltimorecraft.com


Cherry Blossom Treasury

I was so happy this morning to wake up to this lovely little treasury that my new Cherry Blossom pendant is included in! You can see the whole treasury here, and click away, there are some really beautiful items. Also I decided to make the Cherry Blossom pendant my Pick of the Week!


I'm so proud of my little bird!

Check out the feature that the Daily Candy, Washington D.C. wrote about my partner in craft, this chickadee!
Annnnd, check out her brand new etsy shop! Yay!

Oh, Happy Day!!!

by caverjules from Obama Craft Flickr pool

Happy Inauguration day everyone!!!! Here's to hope, change and a more perfect union! Peace.


One more dog post...

I promise this will be it for awhile, but here is what The Washington Post was suggesting for the new White House dog!

Given all factors considered, though, we're going for something else. We're going with something fitted to your size, physique and the temperament of your chief of staff. Yes, we're talking about what the AKC calls "the well-conditioned middleweight athlete of dogdom," the boxer!

Even better, the agency's Web site says, "The breed is known for standing up on its hind legs and batting at its opponent, appearing to box with its front paws." Perfect for dealing with Congress!

Not that we've forgotten about the kids. The AKC: "One of the breed's most notable characteristics is its desire for human affection, especially from children. They are patient and spirited with children, but also protective, making them a popular choice for families."

It's just a thought, sir. But given the nature of your new job, we think you might need a good friend who doesn't think much of newspapers, never reads popularity polls and always reminds you to keep your left up.

Now, let's just hope the Obama's consider adoption! Maybe people would give it a second thought if the "First Dog" was a rescue. Happy weekend everyone!


It's a dogs life

This isn't a post about jewelry, craft or dandelion blu, this is a post about me and my dogs. Last night I sobbed my way through "Marley & Me." I know, I know, I'm not a huge fan of Jennifer Aniston, and it was pretty sappy at parts, but it was also a thoughtful and funny dedication to a dogs life. Plenty of people have said "oh, another dog movie," but what made "Marley and Me," different for me from "Lassie," "Benji," and your other typical disney-fied dog hero movies, was that Marley was definitely not a hero.

He was your typical over excited, under exercised, undisciplined, rowdy, rude, replacement or "practice baby," averagely intelligent American dog. What most of us have. And to the Grogan's (the book and movie owners) he was family. I find myself offended when people make the remark "it's ONLY a dog," inferring that these sensitive creatures don't deserve much more thought and care then this years newest tech toy. And being involved with rescue, that is an all too familiar opinion I find myself faced with.
For some reason, people think that it's ok to get a puppy, love it, indulge it, never train it, treat it like their child, and then give it away when it gets too big for their apt, chews up their couch, they have a real baby, or the dog just doesn't suit their busy lives anymore. At one point in "Marley and Me," I thought that this tragic ending was going to come true for Marley. But it didn't, even at her most frustrated and exhausted with babies and an unruly dog, Jen Grogran recognized the commitment they had made to Marley and all his faults when they had brought him home, and that he was part of the family.
Yes, the movie was a bit drippy with saccharine, and it had a an inevitably sad ending, but it really got me thinking about the relationship people have with their dogs. Dogs enjoy a simple relationship with their humans- they love you no matter what. Even when I am so surly I am not really deserving of any one's or any thing's love, let alone respect, my dogs will always be happy to see me. They make me happy, laugh, get my butt off the couch for exercise, they are my alarm clock, have led me to meet new people, comfort me, protect me, and are happy to just be with me. How many people can you say that about?
The only downfall of sharing your life with dogs is that they live relatively short lives compared to ours, something every dog lover must face one day. I think they have amazing lessons to teach us in their short time here- about companionship, love, loyalty and forgiveness. So forgive me if I bristle when people say "it's only a dog" when I am rushing home to let them out, or a looking for dog friendly vacations. I want to give them the best life I can and enjoy our time together, because to us it may be just a walk in the park, but to them it's everything.


Wishful Thinking

My nifty indoor/outdoor thermometer says it's 64 degrees inside and 23 degrees outside here in Charm City, and it's only going to get colder. Nowhere near the extreme of 38 degrees BELOW 0 that Minneapolis is experiencing, but it's still pretty frigid. It's too cold for me to work in my basement studio today, too cold to take pictures outside- what's a girl to do? So I dug up this little gem that I photographed earlier in the year but never posted. I know, it's a peony, one of my favorite springtime flowers, but it's making me think of the warmer days to come, working in my garden and enjoying the outdoors without risk of frost bite. This is the first peony pendant in this size, the others are large on sterling. Enamel on copper, 1.5" in diameter, perfect for spring time- even though we are still months away... :) Posted in the shop today!


Graffiti Rounds

So I am trying to get all my stock photographed and uploaded to my shop, after a sort of slooooowwww holiday show season, I have a ton of stock. Why not indulge in some matching earrings for my Pick of the Week item, the Bird Nest Choker? These earrings are part of my Graffiti RoundsLink series. Enamel on copper with hand formed and hammered sterling silver ear wires. They are appx. the size of quarters and dangle nicely from the ear. They can be found in the shop today!


Pick of the Week is Back!!!

Sorry to be so slow with posting lately, I'm really trying to get back into the groove of things after my holiday hangover. So I figured I'd re-start my "Pick of the Week" sale in the shop to hopefully jump start my 2009 sales. So here she is, looking towards spring! A lovely little birds nest choker. Enamel on copper with sterling silver chain and findings. If the winter blahhs have got you down, what better way to cheer yourself up a bit?
This choker can be found here. Have a good day everybody!


New Year Resolutions

Now, I've given up on New Year resolutions- I find myself with the best intentions and then just not able to live up to them. So I call them New Year "Anticipated Improvements." So one of my "anticipated improvements" this year is to work on the branding, and business aspects of Dandelion Blu. The first of which is to create a professional looking line sheet or whole sale catalog. But if you are like me getting started is the biggest hurdle. So why not get some help?? And help is on the way! BEST is hosting a business meetup on Jan. 25th to get your new year and crafty business started off with a bang! Here are the details:

If one of your resolutions is to start up or refresh your craft business, we have a workshop for you! BEST will be hosting its first business meetup at the Creative Alliance on Sunday, January 25th. The meetup will feature roundtable discussions led by Cynthia Blake Sanders, MD Lawyers for the Arts; Rebecca Cason, former director of the Buyer's Market of American Craft; Jen Menkhaus, working crafter and one of the founders of the Baltimore Street Team; Nita Gale, web designer; Ariella Levin of Baltimore's Best Bookkeeper; and Thomas Wynn, professional photographer. Practical discussions will include legal and accounting basics; marketing, wholesale and pricing; and looking your best– on the web and in promo photos. Lunch will be provided, a great time to get connected with other local artists and crafters to make new friends, show off your work, and share ideas. Come join us!

Sun Jan 25. 10am-2:30pm.
Adv reg $25, $20 CA & BEST mbrs. Walk-in $30, $25 CA & BEST mbrs. Includes lunch.

Register here.

Hope to see you there!