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It’s Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

temp-post-imageHandpainted Christmas Donkey

I used to get annoyed by premature Christmas displays in stores. You know what I’m talking about: the lighted trees and robotic Santas that appear in July, before I’ve even thought about school supply shopping. Such an annoying trend!

But now I say, “Oh, glad you could make it – I’ve been doing Christmas since LAST Christmas.” Snort.

For me, I think about Christmas all year long. All _ year_ long. Christmas is becoming the won’t-go-home guest that has way overstayed its welcome. But this is just how it has to be.

The whole sales calendar is slid to November and December for Christmas shopping, so I slide right along with it. Shoppers start serious Christmas shopping in October, and that’s great for them, but I’m the girl who has to have cool things for them to buy. So if I’m on my game, I’ve got my etsy shop Christmas-ready by September. I want it tidy and well-stocked with lots of earrings and necklaces and scarves that’ll grab handmade buyers.

So I prepare. And work like an elf.

I start knitting scarves in January, because it’s easier to work on a cozy-heavy scarf when the weather’s cold (not stifling and sticky outside – blech). Then I move into pieces that take some design enthusiasm. New bracelets and earrings that involve a new technique or some new element. My batting average on these pieces is lower than on my tried-and-true designs, so it’s nice to fail and try again when there’s no Holiday Rush pressure heating up. And while I really enjoy working on new lines, I find that I tire of them, too, so it’s a good idea for me to get a head start – I can always come back to them later.

Come summer, I shift into Mass-Produce Mode and slowly start to beef up stock with my classic designs. This year I sold my 100th Vaticano Necklace, so it makes sense to make-ahead when possible. And it’s a huge time-saver, too. Before making each piece of jewelry, I go through a small preparation process: I inventory supplies, get all necessary supplies and tools, and reference any design notes that I’ve made in the past. It’s not a lot of work, but it’s tedious, and I’ve found it’s much more time-efficient to make 10 of a bracelet, and do all those prep steps just once.

In theory, my shop is ready to go by early fall. And then the rush: this is the time of year when everyone starts calling. Holiday Bazaars, and Holiday Shops, and Consignment Shops and Galleries are all looking for artists and merchandise in preparation for their Christmas Rush. Working for these venues are real bright spots in my business calendar: new customers, fun design challenges (this gallery wants high-end and simple, while this urban shop wants my grungier and one-of-a kind pieces) and a different mode completely. But it takes a lot of time and paperwork and postage. And elfwork.

So when Christmas finally rears its head, I’m quite tired of it. Old before it even got here. Ho ho hum.

But there is a very nice side to this Christmas Rush calendar: I get to chill and enjoy Christmas proper. My etsy sales drop off a bit when shipping times run too late for Christmas delivery, so come mid-to-late December, I’m back to normal speed. So when the kids want to bake cookies, I actually bake cookies with them. We make our list and check it twice. We watch It’s a Wonderful Life. (I cry more at that movie every year. I think I’m getting old.) We cook all that rich holiday food that you only make once a year. Merry Christmas to all!

And I can participate in real Christmas, the one that really happens. I can paint donkeys and starry skies for the school Christmas program (see above, see below). This is such a magical time of year, and for a few weeks I can really enjoy it.

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Handpainted Starry Sky Backdrop

And then, January comes. And it’s time to start thinking about next Christmas again.