Thursday, August 25, 2016

t h e   s t u d i o

I am actually sitting in my studio blogging! I got my desk all set up in here yesterday. The wifi isn't great since my studio is pretty far from my home, so I might actually have my provider put in a second line out here just for me since it is strictly for business. I have to slow myself down with the studio revamp and look back to see how much I accomplished this month with it. I also have to ask myself what do I want from it?
We moved into this house 8 years ago. It took us 18 months to sell our suburban home. I knew I wanted to move to North Tacoma. I loved the old homes and charm of the northend. It was, and still is somewhat, a secret to a lot of north westerners. When our house sold and we moved here, we rented. The market then was in a spiral so we decided to rent until the market stabilized. We rented a house two doors down from us now. I was at work, sitting at my desk one day, browsing CL ads for rentals. Because I am crazy and we just moved, who does that? But I love old homes and real estate. I found that the house on the corner with all the windows was for rent. I just about died. It was my favorite home in the area but it wasn't taken care of. I asked Saint what he thought if we moved again and he said yes, let's go for it. If we are moving again let's move two doors down.
I was so excited to move into my house. I got up before everyone else that day, in the dark and took loads of stuff on a big platform mover I borrowed. Click clack down the street at dawn with my furniture, by myself. We moved in all in one day and haven't left since! About two years after we lived here, we were ready to buy again. We started looking and our landlords asked us if we wanted to buy this house. Absolutely! I didn't think they were going to sell it. We knew everything wrong and right with it. I also wanted to fix it up. We lived here 2 1/2 years before we bought it in a private sale.
The house has a very detached 1910 garage. It looks more like a carriage house though. It is long and narrow, sort of shotgun style. But oh, so cute. Once side opens to my yard. It has a charming 12 paned window and small antique door. The front opens up to a private driveway completely separate from my house. I have moved 1000s of pieces into and out of this space in the last 8 years. I painted for myself and friends here years before I created MCC. I have struggled to keep it clean. It was so uninspiring for most of those 8 years. I never really cared because I always had to focus more on churning out the furniture and bringing it to my shop(s).
About a year ago I finally got a storage unit. I have no idea why I didn't do this years earlier. It has kept my sanity this year. I go to my storage once a week and pull out what I am going to work on. You see, I am the type of person, if I have 30 pieces in front of me, I think in my mind I must get them all done immediately. I know it is neurotic but I am a bit type A that way. So now I just take home what I know I can get finished in a week.
When I decided two months ago to close my shop, I knew immediately I needed to revamp my studio. I am not sure why, but I just knew. It has actually given me something to focus on other than closing that shop. I also did not want to spend any money. Especially after closing my shop. I had a fairly good steady amount coming in a month for years and now that was gone(ish). Well, slowed down to 1/3 of what it was. I have to rebuild the income with custom, design, co-running Clementine Home, and staging. I am completely restructuring my business.

 Thank goodness my friend Michelle can build. I am surprised she offered but she did and she built my carriage doors in one day here while I puttered around. We had 80s music on and I eventually went and got beer and wine for us. Because that is what you do when you build stuff in my studio. You drink beer and listen to 80s :) and you get dirty and move big stuff around. This is my life. All the while wearing flip flops and paint clothes (some days it is PJs).
Slowly I started demoing crazy walls in the space that were installed over the pretty siding and took 2 loads of junk to the landfill that were stored on my rafters. This is while watching my kids so I would sneak out here when they were occupied. I might mention here that the guys at the landfill know me. In the big city of Tacoma, they know me. They don't even give me the rundown of questions anymore. It is weird since I keep so much furniture out of the landfill that I would be going there. But I get so many boxes a month and I deconstruct a lot of pieces and rebuild them way more that you know. I am pretty handy with rebuilding antiques now. So I go to the landfill at least 3 times a month. Weird, I know. I kind of like it though, I am an antihoarder. I like getting rid of stuff. This job is SO not glamorous.

I bought a sprayer for $150 that turned out to be crap, but I had a really funny day with my mom covered in white paint and we got the space painted while Saint was home to watch the kids. The crappy sprayer is worthless and guess what?! It is in the landfill pile :) But my studio is all white!

So what is this studio to me? I don't know yet. I really feel like I am back where I was 6 years ago with MCC. I have days I am SO excited and days I let the fear sneak in big time. I am starting over and it is up to me. What if I mess it up? This week I have been all over the place. I am so excited for how cute my studio is, then I have a lot of moments when I tear up, what am I doing? I have to help support my family. Why don't I go back to work full time, and why I am fixing up my studio? I am completely giving it up to God. I feel so excited by where I am at but not in control. So I am going to take it day by day. I am craving stability and it is up to me to create it. I can do it. And it the process I get to recreate neglected pieces and bring them back to life. I am hoping to do the same within myself. Something about last year broke me, and I need to get me back.

So that is what my studio is to me. It is hope. It is mine. It is rustic, old and rebuilt by me.

Friday, July 29, 2016

k i n d r e d
I don't have this blog post planned out. I am winging it, but come along for the ride!
I was thinking about this just a few minutes ago after I got off a text business meeting with Amanda. We literally planned out a mini collection and what we were going to paint for Clementine Home next week within 5 texts and we both were on the same page before we even texted back. Last night we had an on sight meeting for our next stage, we will do next week, and the same thing. We went back to the store and mapped out the stage together in 20 minutes tops.
This is kindred business.
  1. 1.
    similar in kind; related.
    "books on kindred subjects"

    synonyms:related, allied, connected, comparable, similar, like, parallel, associated, analogous
    "industrial relations and kindred subjects"

Let me say, this is rare, doesn't happen often. Kind of like meeting your perfect mate but in this case we are shop mates, painter friends, staging buddies, mom therapists.
I wanted to write this because I often get emails asking about how I do things, who I choose to work with, how my business is structured. And I have done it all different ways trying to figure out what is best for me. I have been on my own and I have worked with 3 other co-owners of a shop.
I will say ( and this is a big FOR ME, not for everyone). I will only work by myself or with a kindred.
And to know if someone is a kindred you need to work with them for a long time. It is like dating. Amanda and I worked for 2 1/2 years together on projects and in stores before opening Clementine Home together. And we have both worked and owned shops before so it wasn't new to either of us. When it isn't new- a lot of the fear, posturing, and shop politics go out the window. Each person can hold their own and this kind of  kindredness is wonderful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

t h e    s u m m e r     n e w s
I thought I would write a quick blog to answer some questions and let you know what I am up to!
This week I am focusing on organizing the shop for the last weekend of sales. I have mixed feelings about it but I moved up my closing date to July 17th for several reasons.
Frist I really need two weekends to move out before the new tenant moves in. I have my kids full time during the week so it will have to be done on the weekends when my husband is home to watch them. Summer is always a juggle balancing working at home/shop and the kids. Even with this being my 5th summer doing it, I always wing it. I don't have childcare so I am often "making" one or both of my kids come with me to pick up and drop of furniture. They don't love it, maybe the first year or two they did but not so much anymore. I am still buying and I usually spend a day or two a week just picking pieces up. At least I am not having to paint several pieces a week then bring them to the shop this summer. I am storing stuff and taking my time with pieces. I am enjoying taking my time.
This week I was at the shop every night after my husband got home, to sort and clean out the shop. This is a big job!
The second reason I am closing mid July is probably selfish but I don't love being at the shop when it doesn't look like my shop anymore. I haven't bought smalls for the last 6 weeks and I haven't kept up the painting pace I normally do, so 1/3 of the shop is sold and it is hard for me to be there. And some people have been really supportive about me leaving and some have taken me closing personally. Even though I have tried to announce I am closing pretty close to every other day in store or on various social media outlets. I have had several mad voicemails this month about me not being open during the week. This is hard for me, so I moved things up. I think I am ready to move on.
I am excited to pull back on being a shop owner. Co-owning Clementine Home with Amanda is perfect for me. I get to still paint and buy for a shop but the duties of a shop owner are split between us. And we have had a wonderful working relationship the last 3 years.
During this process I have talked to so many of my shop owner friends. I came to the conclusion a few months ago that being THE only owner of a shop doesn't fit my personality. I can do the work. I know how to hustle to buy, paint, merchandise and run the store. I might have a hard time pulling back on this part. But I am not meant to sit in a store day after day. I am not good at being "the boss", I always want to be "the friend". I have a hard time separating the two and this gets me into trouble when I have to make business decisions. And truth be told I couldn't afford to hire someone to fully run the shop for me. I am way to sensitive of a person and by the end of the week I was wiped out emotionally. People in the service industry would understand that feeling. It is even harder when you are the owner and make 80% of your inventory. It would sting when daily criticism would come at me. I am much more inclined to be behind the scenes, head down and doing my thing.
I have met SOO many wonderful customers though the last 5 years, and SOO many of you have emailed me or come into the shop the last few weeks to show support for my decision. I am excited to work more one on one with these customers doing custom and design work. My August is almost already booked up with design and staging jobs. I love it!
I wanted to give you guys a few other details about this last weekend at the shop. All sales are final, no returns or exchanges. If you have a gift certificate at MCC, you can use it at Clementine Home on my merchandise. There are only a few of you out there. I have only sold one in the last 4 months. I slowly stopped selling them after the holidays because I only had a few on hand. If you come this weekend, it might be busy so I might not get to say hi to everyone. But I want to say thank you for the last 5 years. And here's to many more at Clementine Home!
I can't wait to have more balance. I can't wait to blog more!
And next month my big thing is to get my studio space ready for appointments and special events. I will definitely post before and after pictures.
Love you guys-  Alison

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

n e w    r o a d s   
Sometimes new roads lead you back to old roads. I have had this in the back of mind and in my heart for the past 9 months. Something about my path wasn't right. I knew it in my gut, I pushed it down and tried every different angle to figure out what wasn't sitting right with me. I have figured it out. It wasn't the answer I wanted but I have so much relief about the new road, even joy.
About two months ago I sat on the couch with Saint (husband) and had a long cry. When I do this it kind of freaks him out and I don't do it often, so I knew it was a release of things I had bottled up. I told him I thought I needed to close The Modern Cottage Company Shop.  I was mad and sad about it but I also couldn't keep up the pace of the demanding store and my family life.
Here is where I should back up and talk about why I started The Modern Cottage Company in the first place. It is so simple. I wanted to paint furniture, and I wanted to make money at it so I could drop my kids off at school and pick them up. I left a comfortable advertising agency job in Seattle to do this. I had a water view out my window of my office and an assistant. But I missed the first day of my daughter's kindergarten and that killed me. I have always painted antiques, almost my whole life. I thought I could give it a shot and life circumstances took a hard left and it allowed me to pursue my dream. I painted and blogged and it lead me to a storefront after a few years. That turned into working with other artists and eventually my own store again The Modern Cottage Company store in Old Town, Tacoma. I have been able to paint, pick up my kids and I was very optimistic about it when I moved it. Then something wonderful happened. The store did really well. Beyond my expectations well. So well I am not able to balance my family-work life at all. I tried not working at the store but letting it run itself. But let's be honest. If you own a store, even if you are not there, you work 7 days a week.
I have worked weekends off and on (mostly on) for the past 5 years for my business. Saint has been wonderful with our kids but I have missed out on lazy afternoons with them while I was running a store. Those of you who know me well, know my son has high functioning autism. My kids need extra love and attention. I want to be there on a Saturday with Cooper and my husband when they go  watch trains every weekend. Or take Camden out for a girl's day. A business that started with my priority being my kids has actually in the last year taken up way more time than my good paying desk job.
I started praying about it. I cried a lot. I even went through some pretty bad anxiety about it because I knew my answer deep down. I was really meant for a different road. When you are really meant for a different road then life will smack you in the head with it over and over until you actually acknowledge it. I even started getting defensive about it. My hours are always a big complaint, really every single day I get several emails about it. I wake up, check my emails and write back why I am not open that day. More often than not while I am in the store it is the first thing people say to me. Some nice about it, often not. I understand where they are coming from but the store couldn't function any other way. I even thought of completely changing what the store is about to please everyone else. But the store is my painted furniture. It has my name on the door and I didn't want to change it.
Let's go way back now. When I was a kid, my family took road trips almost every weekend. I would sit in the back of the car, with a pillow tower between my sister and me, and draw. What I would draw is random. I would draw housing developments. I would design houses and then I would design the furniture in them. It was a weird thing for a 10 year old to do. Now let's fast forward to today. I have been given the opportunity to help design remodels, stage them, and even help clients love their own spaces again. I am getting a lot work right now with design. This is where I need to be with my business. It is already happening and fast. And I love it.
It is my new road for The Modern Cottage Company.
I get to work from home and have the weekends off for the first time in years. I get to paint still and run another shop with one of my dearest friends at Clementine Home. CH by the way is going to be really amazing this next year, we have wonderful plans for this shop. I get to be creative but I get balance, I can be picker about what I am painting. I get to be bolder with what I paint. I get to be choosier about what products I want to carry.
So today I notified my landlord of my intent to close The Modern Cottage Company shop. Sometime late summer, things are still being worked out. I won't have a sale. I have a staging business and another storefront to fill. I am not selling my business just reinventing it a bit. Taking it back to it's roots and where it is really supposed to be. I know the customers I have told have been really sad. You can still shop at Clementine Home (those of you with gift certificates, they can be used there!). My family and friends have been supportive and really over the moon for me with this decision. I have been lighter in my step. I learned so much from running a shop the last 5 years. I am proud of myself. I have made some mistakes but I grew a lot. I go into this next chapter very prepared and very happy.
And I get to still take my kids to school and pick them up.
Thank you all for your support!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

t h a n k f u l

I have taken the last week to relax. It was a forced relaxing because of a back injury due to over working myself. It was my idea to have the studio event two days before a major house renovation but it knocked me on my back.

So I have been slowly putting my house back together, getting some things done at home that have been much over due. 

And I turned 40. Which doesn't really freak me out. I am looking it as a new start. I have been on such a fast ride with the new shop this last year that I have really put myself on the back burner. I understand that with the new shop, it is like starting over even after years in the business. But it has tested me on what I can handle. I haven't figured out the balance yet. It took the toll on me physically and mentally. And not because the shop isn't doing well, it has succeeded my expectations by 100 percent. I tried not working at the shop but only doing the behind the scenes stuff which I think is when my energy changed and my stress doubled.  Which was kind of the opposite of what I wanted. It is probably because I am home all the time. And my house wasn't organized the way I wanted or even clean, because I was focused on MCC during the day and my family at night. And like every season a parent has, this has been by far the most challenging year with my family. The Summer was really hard. I have to remember that the biggest reason I have the shop is to work but be available for my kids. I haven't figured out the balance yet. 

I had a ton of sleepless nights last month. I saw how successful the shop was, yet I wasn't writing myself checks {how is that for honesty, and I have been doing this for 5 years}. How could this be?And I was working 7 days a week. I was feeling wonderful about my work but not great about myself. My family needs me to make money so I need to figure it out, and I am.

So I am looking at 40 with a grateful heart. I have a plan of action to take back momentum so I can sustain the store for years to come. I am going to be there a lot more. Which I love. Retail for my personality can be hard. Especially when I am in charge of producing the pieces for the shop and all the buying. It is not always easy for me to hear the fairly constant criticism about my hours or pricing or when someone is having a bad day and takes it out on the person behind the counter. But I have also missed the feedback from the people who love the shop, which is the majority. I am not there so I don't hear it. I think it would help me to hear it.

Last Saturday the girls at the shop threw me a surprise 40th with the help of my husband. I don't know if they know how much that meant to me. I haven't had a party or celebration for my birthday since I was 13. On the drive home I was telling my husband how much it means to me to have this group of friends. There is no posturing, or wondering what someone thinks of you, or what they want from you. We all are 100 percent ourselves around each other and support each other's dreams unconditionally. It is amazing. I am so thankful for it.

And I am thankful for this year's challenges. It means I can take opportunity to learn from the challenges. It means I will be working even harder. You will be seeing me a lot more running the shop. And I have another huge endeavor almost signed off on that I am so giddy about. Just wait, it is going to be good. I want to tell you about it~ but I can't just yet!

 I hope to get a little of my happy back. I hope to write myself some checks. I hope to live in less chaos and more joyfulness. But it is really up to me. And that is a challenge I can take.

Thank you to you who have followed me on this ride! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

m y   s t o r e   a t e   m y    b l o g
For some reason lately I have had to give the rundown of how I got to where I am.
And I always say it started with the blog.
Which it did.
And then the blog kind of died for me.
I remember 4 years ago being worried I didn't post on my blog every week. Now I post every three months or so.
It isn't that I don't want to. It is that I am pulled in so many directions that the blog gets put on the back burner.
And Instagram took over both my Facebook and blog. And who knows what will take it over next.
But the blog taught me a ton. I know that everyone only looks at the pictures {hence Instagram taking over}. I would get comments at the end of posts and I knew no one was actually reading my posts.
Or the blog turns into teaching everyone else what took me years of trial and error to figure out. And something in me clicked that I don't really want to do tutorials. Really good work happens when others figure it out for themselves. And the fun happens when you figure it out yourself instead of "googling" it. And the longevity of an artist happens when they do it on their own.
Social media is hard balance for a small business. It is a necessary thing to build your brand, network. And it is usually free! It just takes time and figuring out what your brand is. And it is FUN.
But it has it's downfalls.
 I can work 10 hours on a piece. I am so proud of it. I found it, rebuilt it, painted it, staged it, marketed it, then hauled it by myself to the shop. Then I remerch the entire shop to make the new piece work in the store. I work 12 hours total on it and I will probably not make any money on it after all my expenses. So I will have to paint 15 of those pieces a month to make a profit.
I have learned to have a thick skin. I can post it for sale and I can get a mean comment about it.
I get it, it isn't their cup of tea. Every person has different taste.
And everyone might not like me. And that is ok. And to be honest. I am not really the person I put out on social media. I have a somewhat messy house, I always have a bun in my hair, paint on my clothes and car full of furniture junk and mess.

I think I am funnier in "real life" and goofier, and I fret about dumb stuff. Then I forget about it.
But all my painter friends live this way.
I would never post on someone else's wall something rude about their post. It always baffles me that people do this. Why follow a store if you don't like their taste? But it doesn't bug me anymore.
The internet makes people entitled to think they can get a hold of me 24 hours a day. I kind of fight this a bit. If someone posts a comment on a picture at 9pm but I don't respond until the next day, I don't think that warrants 5 emails asking why I hadn't responded back to a comment. I was asleep.
And I have had to get over people who copy. I try not to even think about it. Truth is, if someone has to copy, then they will have trouble when the business changes. And it will. Probably next week.
I have learned to build all kinds of structure around me. I have my hours at the shop that work for my family. This is what I get complaints about the most. I have to say that I can't work at the store more myself. I am knee deep in paint and dust everyday. This is what keeps the store open. This is how I make my money. And I can't afford to add more staff to be open for the sake of being open. The truth is when I went from being open six days a week to four my sales tripled and stayed that way.  But it is the first thing someone says to me when they come to the store. I tried to visit but you weren't open. I just smile. The second thing they ask right after that is if I paint the pieces in the store myself. Yes, why I am only open 4 days a week.
After going on 4 years of painting and selling, I have it down a bit, but it is a hustle of a job. Not for the meek.
I am a completely different business person than I was even a year ago.
I have a team at the store that understand working together makes everything work.
And hard work.
If you want to do this line of work- work REALLY hard seriously. Be careful who you work with. Always evolve. Try things yourself. Make mistakes. Understand that not everyone is going to like you. Understand you can't please every customer. You will have months you blow it out of the water and months you are treading water.
It is hard work.
But it is amazing.
And I love you guys, and I wouldn't be here without your. Seriously!!!!
And darn I should really blog more........

Friday, May 8, 2015

m y    w e e k 

I thought I might try this. My week in this business and a little of home life documented. 

It is a FUN, crazy business, sometimes dirty-messy-dusty. I log a ton of hours in my car every week. I think that might be surprising to people. I probably spend 2-3 hours everyday in my car. I have built up a really fun network of places I visit to pick up pieces, I consider them friends. I go to the hardware store, craft stores, recycling center, my pillow supplier, visiting my friends shops and of course my shop. 

I wrote in my last post how I was going to be working less shifts at the shop. The reason is I want to be out in the field way more. Creating and finding amazing pieces for the store. 

I am there everyday no matter what though. I bring in new pieces almost everyday the store is open. I am super hands on with knowing what sold and to whom. I LOVE merchandising and making sure it looks fresh. 
I like to sit and chat with whoever is working. I love having a super tight team. I have no idea what they think of me, lol! They probably think I am super goofy. Who knows, I try to keep things professional but what I really want is for everyone to feel appreciated. I also want everyone to know how we should appreciate how lucky we are to do what we do. Super big life lessons I have learned this year. I am going to be 40 in November, I guess this is the time to recognize! 

So this week I had some amazing pieces already in my studio ready for me to work on. Normally I don't have a ton of backstock. I buy it, I paint it {hence why I am in the car picking everyday}. I think it is wasted money sitting in my studio waiting for paint. I buy a piece and immediately plan a design for it in my head and start on it immediately. 

This week I knew I wanted to do some colors I hadn't done in a while. 

This petite armoire is so flipping cute I wish I had a place for it. It will be such an amazing statement piece for someone. 

I painted it in Grassy Fields by Benjamin Moore. It is a color I have used a lot. 
{picture in my house, front entry}

My absolute go to paints are General Finishes and Benjamin Moore. If you want a clean look, minimal or no distressing, both paints are amazing.  

I got this paint mixed in an eggshell finish in the Aura {primer already in paint} formula. 
It took three coats and I did minimal distressing with a sanding block. 

I didn't wax or put a top coat on the piece. 

I looked at it and figured it looked lovely in eggshell and if I waxed and buffed it, it would be too shiny with the green.

I also painted a petite buffet in General Finishes Lamp Black, distressed, added Java Gel Stain with a rag and wiped it way back. It just made the black a bit richer with more dimension. I then sealed with General Finishes Liquid Wax. One of the best products I have ever ever ever used. It is like magic.
{picture in my paint studio}

I also painted a sweet empire with mirror.

I then had a blast the next day styling it with Karla in the shop. I can't tell you how much it means to me to leave the shop in Karla's hands when I am not there. She is a rock star. Plus we keep in touch all day long through phone calls and texts. I always know what is going on at the shop.

 Molly and I are the same way on Sundays {Molly works now on Sundays}. Molly is my dear friend and when we are good, we walk several times a week in our neighborhood. I try not to talk too much shop with her, because we are friends for years but it does creep in. I appreciate her so much. 

I spent yesterday evening with my dear friend Amanda of Ferpie and Fray as she dropped off this gorgeous piece.
{seen below}

I swear when I tell Saint {my dear husband} that I am meeting Amanda, he knows not to expect me home for a few. We sit and talk about everything. I adore her. We are totally in sync with how we feel about the business and how we do business. Plus we are just crazy and funny together. We even have funny painter names for each other Rita and Maxine.

Friday I brought in more furniture, went over the new barcode system that Karla and I are working on,  merched in a ton more pillows, redid the front of the store, and then I headed out to go junking with Michelle of Blue Roof Cabin. 

She brought in this gorg headboard!

I was on the hunt for cool carriage doors for the front entry. We struck out, but had a really fun lunch together. I am mad about hanging with Michelle of Blue Roof Cabin. She has a really great sense of humor and a way about her that makes you feel like you can just be yourself. I feel lucky to have her as a friend.

I am now home getting ready to make 200 paper flowers for the shop after I make dinner for my family. 
Tomorrow I work, and in the evening we will hold our first paint class. Amanda is running the show and I am there to help. It will be a 12 hour day.

Sunday I deliver a buffet 30 miles away, then hop on a ferry to my parents for Mother's Day with my family.

I think this will be a fun thing to do every Friday, I might just do it again next week!