green janie
Insomnia doesn’t hit me very often but when it does I clean and do laundry – like a maniac. Some might say it is the only time I clean but hey, I need something to do on insomnia night. One of  thoes nights hit me recently and had me thinking of homemade cleaners I should share on the blog. 
There are many great “green” cleaners out there these days and some that aren’t as green as they say. I’ve bought many over the years. Now, keeping Health, Earth and Budget in mind guides my shopping decision for the most part.  I can’t always get all three, but that is the goal.  Most of my favorite cleaners hit the healthy and earth friendly categories but blew the budget. Even those that satisfy all three come with packaging I can't always recycle or reuse.  I started looking in ernest for cleaners I could make, that really work. Some are throwbacks to things our grandparents used. I love the idea of keeping it simple and using what you already have as much as possible. I  have included some of my tried and true favorites.

I use baking soda and vinegar for a lot of things - and borax, if something is really tough. Though most would agree that borax is a natural substance, there is a lot of controversy about its safety as a cleaner. That is for you to decide. I have done some research and feel comfortable using it in my home.  I wouldn’t eat it, but I wouldn’t eat straight baking soda or orange peels either. I included a link to a great blog called Crunch Betty. She has done her homework and lays out the facts quite nicely. I also found some good information here:  If it is safe enough for contact solution – I think my laundry can take it.
Speaking of laundry – there are several homemade versions of  detergent around the web, but her is my personal favorite:

1Cup baking soda / 1Cup Borax / 1 bar Castile soap (grated with a cheese grater) Mix together and you have an inexpensive laundry soap that is easy on the environment. No nasty chemicals, no plastic jugs or boxes to deal with.  I keep mine in a jar with a little scoop (about 1 Tablespoon) and use 1-2 scoops per load. I sometimes mix in lavender or one of the citrus therapeutic grade essential oils – Health, Earth Budget = clean clothes..
 I also add a drop or two of the oils and a dash of dish soap to a vinegar/ water mix for an all purpose cleaner. Tea tree, grapefruit, lavender are my favorites for this.  I use a bottle from my recycling bin that fits a standard spray nozzle and away I go.

A friend found an idea on Pinterest for a vinegar citrus cleaner. Here is the original source:

Put orange (or any citrus) peel into a quart of vinegar and wait two weeks (that part is killing me).  You mix it at a ratio of 1:1 with water. Put in a spray bottle or a little bucket. I made mine on insomnia night so I have a week to go.  In the meantime it looks pretty in my kitchen window.

I hope this inspires you to find healthy, earth friendly, budget friendly cleaners. I would love to hear your ideas too. Happy green cleaning!

green janie

Looks like a jar of sunshine. I can't wait to use it!
tree mosaics on discontinued pattern glass sample tiles
The “Shop Local” and “American Made” movements are drawing new customers to handmade items this holiday season. Many of the people who attended the Opener Art Festival were looking for locally made gifts and especially appreciated the many vendors using up-cycled materials. That was fun to see. It is a wonderful trend, though it may require a bit of reeducation of the shopping public. While they might desire unique handmade items, many are used to big box retailers and used to that price point. Hand-made could evoke both culture shock and sticker shock. 

Most artists I know struggle with pricing. You can price according to time and materials but how do you price appropriately for things like creativity and beauty? Some projects require so much time they could elicit a small fortune if you paid yourself by the hour.
An artist I admire recently gave me this advice, “if you love something and don’t mind keeping it then price it accordingly. Get what its worth to you.  If you really want to sell it, do your homework and price it to sell.”
a great location. Lots of natural light
Doing my homework includes: knowing the market, the venue, consulting with other artists, friends and gallery/shop owners.  I often go to Etsy or Artfire and search similar products. Even with all of this, guessing comes in  pretty handy too. It is important to know the real costs you have into your work. Consider things like, insurance, marketing pieces, show fees, commissions, and packaging as well.  
While all artists struggle with this, repurposing artists also have to overcome the perception that working with discarded items means you have no costs to consider.
Some people really get the cool factor and are willing to pay for it. They want beautiful handmade wool mittens that were once a sweater.  They feel good about a purchase that keeps trash out of the landfill.  Other people like the idea but feel that your materials are free – therefore your work should be cheap. 

Consider the work it takes to reclaim/salvage “trash” into useable material.  I can’t just scoop broken glass up off the floor, hand it to you and call it art or a functional product.  If you consider time and supplies needed to convert trash into a usable medium you could have more money into that than any ready-made material. 

This year I made 6 beautiful, sparkly, glass ornaments for the Art festival. I love them.   They were a lot of work but the result was worth it. I heard a few times that my ornaments were priced too high.  I did my homework, considered my costs and landed on a fair price. They were admired by many and bought by no one. I considered keeping them for myself but overall sales were a little slow this year, so I ultimately lowered my price.  I sold 3 but still heard “too expensive for an ornament” by a few a customers (as they whispered the name of a big box store where you could get half a dozen ornaments for the price of one of mine).

 I could have explained that they can definitely stretch their ornament dollars by going to the big box and buying the same ornaments that everyone else has – mass produced in china and now available in unbreakable shinny plastic (blech). I have no interest in competing with that. That isn’t what I sell.
I sell one-of-a-kind, handmade, glass-on-glass mosaic ornaments made from reclaimed tempered glass pieces. I painstakingly pieced hundreds of glass bits together taking hours and hours for each ornament. The process I use makes the ornament far less breakable than the traditional glass ornament. Each one has a back story. The green ones, for instance, were made from glass I salvaged when my own car window was broken.   The real story is the message: what was once broken and thought useless can reemerge as something beautiful. But hey, that’s not what they were looking for. Or was it? I guess I will never know because I didn’t take the time to properly tell the story.

The lesson:  If part of what you are selling is the story – tell the story.  The tags explained a little but an art fair setting is not conducive to leisurely reading. We talked a little about the materials and process but missed the magic.
I need to rethink my presentation. I wasn’t thinking someone would outfit an entire tree with these orbs. I hoped to sell them alone or in pairs as a special gift.  What if I had told them the right story? Perhaps someone on their list has felt broken and is trying to rebuild their life.  This ornament would have been a perfect sentiment for that. 

Overall, the day was great. I noticed people looking for gifts versus buying for themselves.  Let’s hope many people find a special handmade gift under the tree this year.

green janie

Update:  Before I even had a chance to post this I received an order for 12 of the ornaments from someone who just really loved them!!