Catherine Bussiere: dining on the wild side

nestled in a small village on the Bay of Fundy
between Cape d’Or and park Chignecto
the Wild Caraway restaurant propose some of the best dish this province has to offer
the secret is a blend of passion, curiosity, enthusiasm
mixed with the best, fresh, local ingredients available
you can’t go wrong with that
yet it is hard to find

every single time I go to the Wild Caraway I am intrigued
there is always a fine taste that hits me and makes me wonder

me: how do you get that smoky taste in the dressing?
Andrew: you smoke the sour cream
me: oh! … smoke the sour cream … of course

Andrew and his partner Sarah have been running this delightful business for a few years now and the fact that they are far far away in this isolated place that is Advocate harbor does not seem to deter anyone from making the trek.
It is that good.

This week Eric and I treated ourselves to their once a year foraging dinner.
I have been interested lately about wild edibles so I couldn’t let that dinner go by.
Several courses were presented to us featuring such things as squid ink rice cracker with smoked mackerel mousse (one of my highlight), pickles of fiddleheads, spruce tips, knotweed and dandelion capers, rose hip gel, grilled cattails, flounder goujonettes (isn’t that a cute word; goujonette), sea lettuce and oyster leaf, sea rocket and goose tongue greens, smoked halibut cheeks and flash fried squid …

One after the other, dishes were brought to us. All beautifully presented, all using land and sea to feed body and enlighten the spirit.

The final touch before sending us off was a selection of sorbets and ice creams. Violet sorbet, dandelion sorbet, sweet cicely flower ice cream, black currant leaf ice cream.
I never knew dandelion could taste so good.
A spruce tips shortbread happily dissolved in my mouth as I was sipping my tea.
Who would think of such delight. Really.

The sad news is, you most likely missed this foraging dinner. The good news is that their ever changing menu always involves something from the wild side.
Go for a drive and check them out. You will be both delighted by the scenery and your taste bud will beg for more.
www.wildcaraway.com

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Catherine Bussiere: Taroudant, another carpet ride

After a memorable stay in the desert (I missed last week’s blog for lack of internet but you will find a post on that experience here if you like) we are now in Taroudant, a town that the locals call “the small Marrakech”. We got off the bus two days ago after a long ride through more Atlas where stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, dry river beds, oasis, herds of sheep, dusty road stands with colorful potteries kept us entertained. The landscapes in these parts are rugged and beautiful.

As we got off the bus I started looking for a taxi when Thami, upon asking me where we were staying, offered us directions then took upon himself to lead us there and carry some of our luggage. When I offered Thami a tip for his service he promptly refused, welcoming us to his town and offering us to take a horse drawn carriage ride with him for a tour of the city the next morning at a very reasonable price. Why not. We’ve never done that.

If there is something I have to learn about morocco it’s to be open to whatever the day will give (or lead to). The ride with Thami didn’t last an hour as I had expected, it took most of the day. Not only did he show us the city rampart where here and there we hopped off to climb, get a good view and take photos (he knew of all the good spots for pictures) but he made us visit the souk and of course some shops. Now the nice thing about visiting shops with a tour guide is that you are made to feel that there is no obligation or pressure to buy anything. Have a look, ask questions, take pictures.

We visited a women cooperative where several products are made from the argan nut. I already had bought argan oil in Fes so there was no need for more. We visited a jewelry shop and there, since this region is famous for this art, and because we had not indulged yet, Charlotte and I splurged. We went into an ancient synagogue transformed into a art shop where I saw the biggest carpet show room I had seen yet on this trip along with several rooms filled with ancient and new art from Morocco and other African country.We might as well have stepped into Ali Baba’s cavern. I knew nothing there was within my budget but oh my, what a feast for the eyes.

We saw mountain of spices at the market, and several other small artisan shop. But what took the main part of our tour was yet another carpet shop owned by one of Thami’s relative. Soon after we got in and as a gentleman was about to show us some carpets (tea already on it’s way) we did let them know that we had already bought carpets and blanket earlier on the trip. In fact, that was the heavy piece of luggage that Thami helped us carry the night before. No problem my friends, just have a look, no need to buy.

Of course you know what is next. Next comes an array of beautiful thin blankets made of camel hair and cactus fiber. They are light and roll up to almost nothing. When will I ever have a chance to acquire such beauty. We ponder, we do not have enough cash, I plead that we must go back to the hostel and get a credit card if we are to make a purchase. I think that really we should finish our tour first. The gentleman doesn’t settle for that. It is Friday, couscous day, why don’t you join us for couscous. Finish the tour then come eat with us. Hum, homemade couscous is an invite no one should refuse. We agree, we finish the tour, we come back. I know already that we will get those blankets. After couscous and more tea we not only get three but four blankets.

Maybe because we are not good at bartering, maybe because we spend time, maybe because tourism is low at the moment, who knows, not only our gentleman lowers the price a little but he trows in a few cushion covers to go with the blankets and give Eric a Fatima hand for his mom. Hands are shaken, shukran (thank you) exchanged, we are all happy with our day. Moroccans depends on tourism and will do their best to give you a good time. I have seen here some of the most beautiful craft / art there is. Generation of men and women have passed down their skills from fathers to sons, mothers to daughters, and most of what you see has been made by hard working hands.

Thanks to Thami and extended family for a great day yesterday.

Here are some photos for you textile and art lover!

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ps. one more thing, we visited Amoon, a collaborative of Berber women in Taroudant today, there was one rug that was hooked!

Here is their website: anmoon.com

If you ever visit Taroudant do visit their shop.

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Catherine Bussiere: Textures

it’s been an interesting week
moving deeper into Morocco
new sights and smells
more interaction
with locals
with other travelers
with a new host

we’re by the ocean near Casablanca
Dar Bouazza it’s called
there is a little port where fishermen bring their catch
there’s a few fruit and vegetable vendors
the beach in front of us is sand with the regular pounding of waves
nothing too big
gentle and steady
further along there are very interesting rock formations
their design make me come back for a photo shoot

it is busy this week end
the weather is nice and several cars are parked in rudimentary parking lots along the ocean front
you wouldn’t think much of it
unpaved dirt lot overlooking the ocean
but in the shade with a glass of tea
an attendant keeps watch
over the nice looking cars

I was looking to buy chicken the other day
on the main drag there are several small shops where you can find all the basics
but meat
for that there are meat stalls
I see a big side of beef hanging and a nice array of cuts in one of them
I’m looking for chicken though
I ask the man if he has any
I ask in French
turns out French is the unofficial third language in this country and is definitively not spoken by all
in the north more people speak Spanish as a third language
the two first ones you ask: Arabic and Berber
in Tangier for example, the first boy we met spoke Spanish, French and English aside from Arabic and maybe Berber
I’m thinking of my kids back home
the ones I used to help with french at school
who struggle with one extra tongue
back to my chicken; I am stubborn and ask again, in french, if he has any other type of meat
maybe mentioning lamb (but not pork) will help
the man graciously points to a nice piece of beef
he obviously thinks I want a particular cut
I understand that we will not understand each other if I keep on like this
so, I resort to a universal language and mime a chicken while clucking
that works, the man has a good laugh and points up the alley to another stall

I have been using this method daily with Mina the maid who works here
she too only speaks Arabic
on the first day after many “merci” for this or that
I muster the courage to try it out in Arabic
“shukran”
I can tell she is pleased
later she uses a few words in french
here we go, between gestures, a little of this and that we may understand each other

the photos were taken yesterday
fascinated I was by the various textures on my path

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Catherine Bussiere: Back

I am back from a trip to Québec (again)
my mom was giving me her old car (not that old)
I have been without wheels all summer (that was fine)
but the freedom of a car (even an old one that isn’t that old)
is thrilling

it’s an overcast day in Beckwith this morning
we started the day with some of the most amazing almond chocolate croissants I’ve ever had
I picked them up in Trois-Rivières just before I left yesterday in a traditional french bakery
One must love art and tradition
that bakery is the embodiment of that
I must let everyone know in Trois-Rivières
such places must thrive
it’s called “Les Gâteries D’Oli”
Look it up if you’re ever there

I went out for my Sunday morning photo shoot
it’s the end of summer with some things in full maturity and some fading already
I go around my property so often
sometimes I don’t see things anymore
it takes a little walking around to get into it and find a few images that I like
sometimes you must work harder to be content

my Charlie cat follows me around
I have two cats
Buster and Charlie
they couldn’t be more different
in appearance and in temperament
Charlie is the embodiment of the independent cat
yet, pretending he is not, he is following me around
we just happen to go in the same direction (says he)

it is drizzling now as I am typing away
there’s always a little melancholia that follows my return from Quebec
leaving family, culture, language, … new found best croissant ever…

I’ll make tomato sauce later today
time to harvest!

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A Woman’s Guide to Small Town Business

Every once in a while someone asks me about starting a business…theses are the things I know

 

A Woman’s Guide to Small Town Business

Fill a need in your community.

Foolish optimism is necessary.

Pay attention to your passion, it should be nurtured.

Invest in yourself.

When you follow your passion , you love to work

You do not have to be good at everything.

Find people who are good at the things you are not and work with them.

Work with people who love what they are doing because their passion will inspire you.

Life shouldn’t be boring. If you are bored you are on the wrong path.

Discover your own community there is gold to mined there.

Money is a great tool for creativity but not the only one.

Ideas are for playing with.Turn them inside out and upside down and watch them morph and a change.

A new project is a beautiful thing, run with it.

Don’t network, care about others and they’ll care about you.

Gossip gets you nowhere, it’s mean spirited.

Be a blessing whenever you can.

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New Poppies and News

Dear Diary,

First of all I wanted to show you my new Poppies Rug. I framed them both and hung them in my office.  I just like to look at them.

Christmas has always given me time to pause. I am fortunate that way. When I was a student there was a break.  As an artist for years I took December off to be around the house with the kids. Now with the studio downtown, December is not our busy month . We are steady and for that I am grateful.

Advent, the preparation for Christmas has always been a time for me to get ready. I buy or make gifts for about twenty people. Mostly all my shopping is done locally or from independent shops or crafts people.  It is always a pleasure. Now that the kids are big I never seem to have to go to the mall. I love the shopping, often buying things because they are beautiful and then sometimes finding the right person for them.

I don’t bake much, just as we need it and eat it. I cook lots, but truthfully I cook a lot all the time. We like good food.

My house gets messy. Yesterday I tried twice to make sweet and salty popcorn. Both times were a failure. On the third attempt I went to Sobey’s and bought a bag. There are bits of everything everywhere. I give it a lick and a prayer, but honestly I am a terrible housekeeper. I cannot even make a bed nicely. This morning I poured my rice crisps and needed a broom afterward to sweep the floor.  Tonight I’ll empty all the garbage cans, wipe down a couple of tables, wash the bathroom sink and then tell myself I cleaned the house.

This year has slowed everyone down some because of the storms last week. We had three storms this week so many of us stayed in and cooked and wrapped. We had reason to stay  home. The roads were bad.

I always get a day or so where I feel a little frantic, and that is the day I usually finish everything up. Wrap. Go to Canadian Tire. Wrap. Ready regardless. That day was last Thursday.

We get a fresh turkey locally. My sisters will bring the vegetables. My sister in, law the dessert. I’ll cook the turkey. We’ll scramble all fifteen of us together at a table somehow and it will be grand. I have homemade cranberry sauce from the  church and this year I’ll make the stuffing and gravy. I plan to cheat on my gravy by buying a mix. When I am at my friends and I say “good gravy”, they tell me they use a packet. I am going to join them. My gravy is always thin, light and runny.

So far this post, you learned two of my weaknesses, messy house keeper, thin gravy. There are more. It is a post of it’s own.

and the news….

Christmas next year might be different though because my husband and I are opening a women’s wear store across the street from his men’s wear store. We plan to have a beautiful store with nice quality, moderately priced women’s wear, similar to his men’s wear store. We believe our downtown needs a store like that so we decided this fall that this spring we would start on it .  I will tell you more about it later. But there’s the news our downtown will be growing .

 

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Elizabeth, wonder, just watch her….

Elizabeth, what can I say.  There was  an old beat up restaurant. She bought it.  I called and said I’d help her for the afternoon. Maybe we could tear up the floor. She was happy .

So I showed up and there she was in this building that had been closed up for three years. It’s big. On the counter was her fancy purse.

And beside it was a  bottle of Aveda Chakra Scent.

On the table was an Aveda Candle. Lit.

I just shook my head. Hope.

Just cause she was there the place was full of faith and hope.

That is the spirit she brings with her.

The candle and the chakra spray were beside the point. I laughed at them, but there were kinda of symbols.

There she was all alone, happy as a lark. Hopeful as a robin with her little candle and a bottle of perfume and a big old musty building.

If it was anyone else I’d wonder, but because it is Elizabeth, I’ll just watch her.

She’s a wonder.

She has the Aveda Spa , Damaris, across the street from my studio , and she knows how to transform things.

In this new building she is going to move her business , Simply for Life, and The Art of Eating Deli will relocate there with her.

She is also going to start Monasa, a health and local food store there.

We tore up most of the floor that afternoon.

We looked over the architectural drawings. We aired the place out a bit.

We moved things around and talked as we did.

Elizabeth is taking  something that was on the edge, and is starting to return it to the community.

We need women like her. They make us all a little more hopeful.

Light a candle and celebrate her.

She’d probably like it if it was an Aveda candle, but anyone will do.

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Catherine Bussiere: Beckwith Bash

another stunning morning
can August be 90 days
90 days of August followed by 90 days of September
that would suit me very well
do I love those two months

today and all this coming week I will be busy
with all sorts of things to prepare and organize
this coming Saturday is our annual festival
a day filled with music, food and fun
we call it the Beckwith Bash
this year is it’s fifth anniversary

year after year this little event has grown
to something enjoyed by people of all ages
my highlight last year was a comment from a four year old asking if we could do this again cause it was so much fun
I like that
of course we will
you just keep on coming

this year we have several acts: blues, folk, rock and world music
something for all

the day starts with a drum circle followed by a yoga and a hula hoop workshop
that’s on my to do list of this week: finish those large hula hoops
fun
I like that on a list

a big part of the list is food
Gumbo is the star
I’d like to say that we make the best gumbo north of Louisiana
it is such a big claim I won’t say it
but it’s pretty good that’s for sure
then there’s treats like baklavas, brownies, oatcakes, butter squares
homemade ice tea
and for the next morning
fresh baked cinnamon rolls
those I prepare ahead of time, freeze them before the dough rise
get them out of the freezer at around midnight so by morning they are thawed and have risen just enough to put in the oven
it’s a nice treat for those who are helping with the clean up the next morning

if you are around next Saturday and don’t have much planned
do join us in Beckwith
good time, good food, good people

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo credits this week goes to the beautiful Haley MacPhee who gracefully took pictures of the event last year

the poster is from my wonderful son Isaac

the video is mine with music from Fresia

it’s a family affair

Catherine Bussiere: Grow a Farmer

 

Over the past few years
slowly but surely
there has been a movement
of young men and women
that have educated themselves
by school, trade or self
about the essence of who we are
our very core, implanted in us
to grow and gather our own food

a forgotten art

Taken care of by something so big that it has lost sight
and so have we
of natural beauty and perfection
in a need to control and profit
our health and our environment has been jeopardized

But it is so easy and we are so busy
to support such endeavor
I can go to one place
the world is there for me
from China to Argentina, Israel, Costa Rica
Fruits and vegetables, perfect, shined, preserved, waxed
flown express from unknown fields to impersonal mega stores

in the meantime the air is polluted
the water is polluted
those vegetables have lost their original traits
and we are made to believe that we should at all time eat
one cup of this and two cups of that

what to do, what to do
I’m so small and I’m just me

Well…

over the past few years
slowly but surely
there’s has been a movement
of young men and women
that have educated themselves
these men and women are working hard and are not hard to find

Go to your farmers market
join a CSA program (community supported agriculture)
buy locally grown produce
meet this new generation of growers
embracing the battle of health and well being
bring your neighbor
tell your coworker

It is an easy thing to do
it is a pleasant thing to do
it’s the right thing to do

A couple links for you
now that you are all excited about such a nice and easy way to promote beauty!

CSA in Amherst:  http://www.wysmykalfarm.ca

A great link for more csa and farmers market around Nova Scotia:
http://adventuresinlocalfood.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/2012-csa-list

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 rooms

by Catherine Bussiere

there is a distant buzz, a chatter, laughter
walking through the first two rooms
wools of all colors
on shelves, hanging, posing
woman, looking, feeling, pondering
busy hands cutting, arranging, tying
I walk in another room
the dying kitchen invites me to dream
long skein of wool hanging
pots, dye, washing machine, filled with promises
the chatter is louder
I enter the last room
it is everywhere
in all forms and shapes
busy hooks
backing of all kinds
piles of wool cuttings
a sense of community, of joy, of ease
and the best
the infinite variation of design
from the hands holding the hook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needle work from away

My dad has a knack for finding treasures.
He is an artist, was an art teacher and has a good eye for things.
The last time I visited him I found two beautiful needle work framed on his wall.
When I asked where they came from (obviously from away, I’d never seen anything like it) he replied that he had bought the two pieces at a second hand store for $2 each framed and that he wasn’t sure where they were from but that it was probably from Central or South America.

The pieces really caught my eye and I had to admire the fine needle work that was done to create them. How by layering the different fabrics and neatly sewing them a design was created. It made me think of some beautiful quilt I had admired during the Fibre Festival here in Amherst recently. I love to see how one can be so creative with so little. A needle, some fabric, time.

After a little research I did find similar work on the web.
The pieces are called Mola and are created by the Kuna women from Panama.
To find more about their art and culture you can follow this link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mola_%28art_form%29

For more images click on the artwork below and enjoy several examples of these beautiful Molas. Maybe they will inspire you!

Catherine

Summer so pink

Dear Diary, Somethings are just so gorgeous they take your breath away. Yesterday it was a jar of peonies across the street at the Damaris Spa.

Beauty.Summer. Pink.

I love it when a small business puts a little love into their place. It is the little things that make me want to go back to a place. I was just picking up a mascara and the peonies made me feel like I was doing something grand.

 

 

 

 

 

backroads and business

Dear Diary, I like to go out on the road for a drive to nowhere. Back roading, some call it, but really for me it is just a drive. A few weeks ago I took a ride to Truro the back way, avoiding the highway and I found this beautiful old general store. Sadly it was closed but still I had to stop to take a picture. Times  are changing and stores like this barely exist anymore in Nova Scotia. Small business is changing, most of us have special niches that allow us to make a living. You cannot doing selling chips and chocolate bards anymore. I struggle between lament and acceptance of this. You cannot be sad because times change, because different opportunities arise for people. For example, our little local drugstore, Pugsley’s sold out to Lawtons last week. It made me sad, but it also made me happy to see Beth decide to do this on her own terms. She took off this weekend for a little trip, free from work and happy. That is a good thing for Beth. I will miss her but she will still be around doing all kinds of interesting things. People are not their businesses. A small business is often about passion. It is often about community. It is often about the person running it.

I never think of it as the big boxes running small business out of town. It is more the will of a community that makes the difference. People choose what they want, what they want to support. It is not always possible to support smaller businesses, but it often is. Personally, I try to when ever I can. Not willy nilly, just because they are small, but I support them because they are small and doing a good job. I support them because they offer me something great, that I can only get from them. Small businesses are not charity cases,they are independent people working to create a life for themselves. I support them when they are good at what they do.

I too wish things could stay the same. I know that not all change is progress. I also know that change happens because people change and communities change. It is not always about dollars and cents.

I watch my own business change because I change, or my family changes and grows. A small business is a bit of a practice. It always has been. We go at it everyday because it is what we know. We go at it everyday because it is what we love. We do it because we need to. We do it because we have to. We also do it because we love to.

 

 

 

 

great coffee at flow….the flow coffee/tea bar

Dear Diary, Stephanie keeps me in jeans, yoga jeans…they are the kind of jeans she carries there at her boutique, Flow, in downtown Amherst. They are soft and stretchy, feel like yoga pants but look like jeans cause they are jeans. I have never had jeans as comfortable as these. Honest. They are the kind of jeans that you can be full and still comfy. Now that I like.

and she sells beautiful soaps, and Susan Black’s great prints and cards, and yoga clothes, pottery, and all kinds of interesting things.

Part of her mission is sustainability and being eco friendly, and she considers this in everything she offers at her shop.

And now miss stephanie of flow lifestyle boutique in downtown amherst has extended her offerings to coffee and tea…lots of great interesting varieties. Today I had a chocolate chai which is a combination of cinnamon, cloves, coffee and hot chocolate and it was tasty. And there were two comfy chairs to curl up in, there were books to read, and a baby fell asleep on the floor…yes there was a baby who fell asleep on the floor…cause that’s flow, nice and easy , and now a place to go where you can rest a bit and have a treat.

Stephanie is a young entrepreneur who has been in business in downtown Amherst for three years. She is determined to make it work, to make it beautiful, to create and energize her community. She is a great model of our studio motto…create beauty everyday

If you can please like this post on Facebook, or tweet about it because we want people to know about Stephanie and the great coffee/tea bar at flow lifestyle boutique in downtown Amherst on Victoria Street. We want people to know about Stephanie and her adventure. She is excited. Tell everybody about her so she can be all that she can be…

She is just a great  soul…

 

 Making great fair trade organic coffee using the best ingredients she can find and creating a sustainable small business in her community.Now what’s better than this.

 Susan Black’s prints and cards look gorgeous at Flow cause they are gorgeous I guess

 

 Flow is a place so restful that you can fall asleep on the floor…if you like

Her husband Andrew arrives and see the baby asleep on the floor…

 She carries Jen’s pottery. You will soon be able to have your coffee in Jen’s handmade pottery mugs and hang out while Stephanie knits, or makes you some fancy coffee. She is promising whipped cream. I am saying that here because I really want it on my chocolate chai next time….in a pottery mug. Yes!

 She carries Alicia  Steeve’s hooked posy pins

charles and jessie and the farm

Dear Diary, Brenda and Katherine were doing it so I had to start doing it to. I am a copy cat, stick out your tongue at me if you want to. Every week they were yakking about the beautiful delicious vegetables they were getting and eating and I was getting jealouser and jealouser. I know that’s not the right spelling but I like the sound of it…it sounds green with envy. ?I was so I got into the greens myself and joined the CSA….it has nothing to do with CSI or the CIA.

I pick up my vegetables on Wednesday from Charlie and Jessie whose Wysmykal Farm is a CSA…(Community Suppported Agriculture). So every Wednesday, I pick up a half order of fresh vegetables in the parking lot behind Christ Church. It made me simply happy to go last Wednesday and pick up a beautiful bag of salad greens with nasturtiums, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, egg plant, potatoes and beans.

It also commits you to eating more healthy and filling your diet with freshness. You buy a share in the farm’s harvest and each week, depending on what’s in season you reap the fruits of that share. It is a beautiful idea whose time has come….once again. One time everything we ate was local, and more and more that is becoming our way again. I have to say I like it.

You can contact them at http://wysmykalfarm.ca/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

small business….Jennifer Manuell’s tips for starting a rug hooking business

Jennifer Manuell is the author of Fish Eye Rugs, a great rug hooking blog, where she shows you all her creative projects. I asked her what she thought  is important if you wanted to start a rug hooking business.

Jennifer Manuell’s  tips for people who would like to start a small business in rug hooking

  1. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time – time that you will no longer have to spend on the other things you want to do, including hooking for your own pleasure and development…..so you need to be prepared for that and/or feel like you have a lot of time on your hands…
  2. Make sure that everything you sell is something that you would want to buy and use – not only because it’s a good strategy, but also because it may not sell and you will be left to use it up.
  3. If you want to earn a living, there are a lot of other ways that involve less work, less time and more money.  A rug hooking business can provide some supplemental income or help to support your hobby….but it is very difficult to turn it into the sole source of your livelihood.
  4. Look to fill a hole that is missing – supplies that are not readily available in your area, new and unique products, special services.  Don’t be a same-old, same-old supplier – be different.
  5. Asking other vendors (competitors) where they buy their supplies is a little gauche.  Do your own research – it’s not hard…..and you may even find something better!
  6. The area I always struggle with is pricing – and putting an appropriate value on the products I create.  Compare prices with others, ask your hooking friends for their opinions on what is fair and reasonable, and pay attention to how much time it really takes to make a pattern (including measuring and cutting the backing, serging the edges, centering the frame, tracing the motifs, labeling, folding).  An extra 15 minutes work turns into an extra 5 hours if you are making 20.  Adjust your prices as necessary.

 

 

wendell, wendell, please kick in the door

Dear Diary, Last Monday, these two good looking guys, walked in my front door carrying a door, my new back door. I got all excited thinking, oh the door to the new workshop studio will be open today.Wendell and Lenny got to cutting a hole in the wall.  Well, lets say I was a little crazy. When they stated hammered they discovered a brick wall. Then guess what they found after that. They found another brick wall. Two brick walls. So now  , there is almost, a passageway between my new studio, and my old studio….which will soon be the new workshop space. Here’s the proof…

 

 

I am always happy to see Wendell and Lenny

 

an abundance of brick walls

 

 

the pile of bricks from the opening

 

 

So we are getting to the other side, one brick at a time….. watch as we go along

small business #4 Becky McCray answers ten lovely questions

One of the joyful things about having this blog is that when I come across someone doing something interesting I can ask them if they want to be interviewed. That way I get a chance to learn more about them, and share that with you. Regular readers here know that I am passionate about small town life, creativity and business. Reading Becky McCray’s Blog told me that she too was passionate about these things. I found  she married those things nicely and I was interested in what she had to say. Here she generously answers  ten lovely questions about small town life and business.

Who is Becky McCray and what makes you happy?

I’m a small town girl with big projects. My husband and I own a liquor store and a cattle ranch, and I write Small Biz Survival to support small town businesses. Together with Sheila Scarborough in Tourism Currents, I provide training for tourism professionals to learn social media marketing.  What makes me happy is traveling the world, helping other small business people, and coming home to my small town.

Would you tell me what you know about the power of being small?

Small is powerful. Past a certain point around 150 people in a group, personal connections are lost. Big companies like W.L. Gore and Associates get that, and limit their work groups to 150 or less. Being small is almost an unfair advantage, because today customers are more interested in supporting small businesses and small craftspeople.

Do you think there is a trend away from rural life or is it strengthening?

I think there is a trend back to rural life. USDA research is showing more Baby Boomers wanting to retire in small towns than any previous generation. As our society has shifted back to valuing small and local, rural life has renewed relevance. In contrast, people are more generations removed from farming, so they need to learn some of the survival skills that some of us take for granted. At the same time, we have young people who want more walk-able neighborhoods, so our small downtowns are growing in importance, too.

Who have you learned a lot from as you have grown your business?

I learned a lot from my parents who were both entrepreneurs. I learn from my customers all the time. I’ve also learned from a whole range of people on different topics.

How do you think creativity and small town life are linked ?

Living in a small town means living with more limited resources, with a more limited market. Things like that make you more creative! I also think small towns tend to accept people for their creativity. Lots of small towns have thriving arts projects, even if we don’t have a national museum of art or a Broadway theater.

What are your favorite books?

I’m always fascinated by the book I’m on. I just finished a biography of John Adams that was an amazing view of colonial life. What an eye-opener! Now I’m reading Tim Sanders’ latest, Today We Are Rich. It’s about his small town upbringing and the values he learned. Life long, I’ve probably re-read my Tolkein Lord of the Rings set more times than any other books I own. I also have a treasured copy of Poe’s complete works, handed down from my great-grandmother. An eclectic mix!

What inspires you to keep at it?

The DM I got today telling me how my story gave hope to a small town business owner in Wisconsin, because a friend shared it. That and I love doing it.

What about twitter and facebook and small town life…do they really jive?

Of course I think so! Small town people are all about community and talking to each other. Facebook is so much like the back fence conversation, or the small town newspaper column of who is visiting and who had guests. Besides, there is no better way to broaden our horizons from small towns than to get to know people from all over.

 

Tell me about the place where you live?

My hometown is Alva, Oklahoma, population about 5000 in Western Oklahoma. We’re balancing out a declining population with having engaged people who put on all sorts of cool projects, especially around the arts. Come by and see our murals, or join us for our summer photography workshop. I actually live 10 miles outside of town in a tiny place called Hopeton, with about 30 people. It’s cowboy country, oil and gas country, and wheat country. We have more geographic diversity just in our county than most states have!

Tell me what do you want to create for your community?

I want to create a body of work in small business that helps more people succeed and prosper. I want to create prosperity for more members of my online community, so they can help their offline community prosper. And it’s not really for my community, but I want to create a bunch of beautiful photos to leave behind.

Becky McCray of Alva owns a cattle ranch, liquor store, and consulting firm with a small town business blog. Nov. 12, 2008, at her ranch in Alva, Okla.

 

small business #3: the art of the dunes

Dear Diary, the beauty of little old Amherst, is that it is so central. On Friday, a few friends and I took a road trip to PEI for a little inspiration. We headed to the Dunes Studio Gallery and Cafe, north of Charlottetown where we wandered for hours. Peter, the owner was quietly working on his pottery, and as I stood watching, he said, “you look like a potter.” I said, “No, an artist though.” We had a little conversation. I wanted to ply him with questions about the development and growth of this beautiful space he created here but I resisted. We had a little conversation about a rug hooker we both knew, Mary Jones, and he told me her co-operative gallery was just down the road. So we headed there later (note the pretty red shutters and window box below…that’s Mary’s place.

Visiting the Dunes was an inspiring experience because though Peter, remained a potter, he had created a beautiful business around it in an artful way. The first thing you see when you walk into the place is the pottery. Yet there is so much beyond that. You could feel his life in the place. He spends half the year in Bali, so he has an enormous selection of housewares, furniture, ornaments, jewelry and clothes imported from there. There is a tower above his studio that you can walk up to sit and rest awhile. This side of the place is serene and calm. Surprisingly, just to the side of it is a bustling cafe, with excellent food. When you are upstairs in the tower, you feel as if you have the place to yourself. Moments later, there you are in the midst of noise, excitement and chatter.

The Dunes also represents forty Canadian Artists, painters, glass artists, jewelry makers, a variety. Many of them have been represented there for years, which from an artists point of view is always a good sign in a gallery. It was a place that pulled you in all kinds of directions, until it pulled you into the gardens, and then you rested. Once again, you left the hub bub, and the buzz and emerged into a field of buddhas, and driftwood chaises. You were left to wonder.  The gardens themselves are works of art, filled with sculpture,  wild and natural plantings.

When I asked Peter how this all happened, he said that though he had vowed not to be endlessly hardworking like his immigrant parents, he essentially was.  He worked away at it.

That I think is the simple truth in business , as it is in creativity and art. If you just show up everyday and do the work the work will get done. The business will grow organically. You take some chances. You’ll make some mistakes, but you’ll make the best of them once they are done. Showing up, committing yourself to the practice of business or art will make things happen. The art will happen. Inspiration does not strike like lightening for the person who has not been showing up at their post.

Building an art, or building a business is a practice , a commitment, and it is hard work, day in day out. You just slog away at it because you can’t help yourself.

Once we see something in completion, we forget about the process. So often an artist is asked,”How long did it take to make that?”. The answer only appears simple. It takes all the previous ideas, one built upon another, all the mistakes you learned from, put together with the amount of actual time you spent on it. There is history that cannot be accounted for. When I went to the cafe for lunch I read that the owner’s mother was a potter, that is part of the history of this place. To me the Dunes was a great example of approaching a business artfully. It was clear that a life was built around this beautiful place, and that the place itself was building a life.

I was glad I went.

 

small business…the basics for beginning #2

Dear Diary,

These are the things I know about starting a small business from a personal interest or a hobby…whether it’s a coffee shop, or an accounting office in your back business some of these things apply. None of it is true for everyone…but hopefully some of it is true for someone besides me!

  • Be passionate about your interest. You must love it, want to do it all the time. When you are away from it you must think about it.
  • Find out the business rules and regulations for your state and province and follow them.
  • Your records need to be organized. You need to have a filing system setup, keep every receipt, record it. If you are not organized in this way , you need to hire help for this.
  • You need to research what is already available in your field of interest, and really look closely to see if more is needed. Google the interest….google all the words around it…google all the names you have for your business. Then take a little bow to google and thank their lovely staff. Isn’t is amazing that knowledge and information is at our fingertips.  You can get the research done in a few days, that once took weeks and weeks.
  • Research is more important that you think. Don’t just rely on google, visit the businesses that interest you, or are related. Make contact with potential suppliers.
  • Don’t ask similar businesses for a list of their suppliers . It does not work that way. Businesses keep their suppliers close their chest, and those requests are seen as brash. Business owners have worked hard to create a list of suppliers. Sometimes I have spend years finding the right supplier for something I need. You have to do the research yourself, source out your own contacts, carve out your own niche.
  • You need to think of all the ways that your interest could generate income for a small business. List them, brainstorm them with friends. You do not have to do them all, but it is important to know them, and think about their potential.
  • Find a mentor, someone you can look to for ideas and support. This is likely someone you already know a little. Don’t look to someone in the same business area as you, because they might be in competition with you, but in a related area. When I started I looked to two local potters, Ghita Levin, and Rachel Mourouney, because they understood the craft world. I learned a lot from both of them.
  • If you are lucky enough to find a mentor, be sure that it is not a one way street, with you learning and them giving. Support your mentor. I have beautiful collections of both Rachel’s and Ghita’s pottery that I purchased over the years, and I still send people to their studios whenever I can. Support the people that support you. It is  not only caring and kind , it is common sense.
  • Your family needs to be supportive of your venture. Small businesses rely on this. Both my husband and I have our own businesses. If he is not home for supper I understand that he is late with a customer. No questions, it is just understood that supper will be in the oven. For years I ran a studio out of my home. My children were used to it, and we all worked around it. It is a family affair.
  • It is fine to put up boundaries and guidelines for yourself about your time and family. People understand and respect this. We close on Sunday, both of us. Occasionally we’ll go in for a special request but generally we close Sunday and holidays. A good customer  will never expect you to leave your child’s birthday party. Boundaries are sensible.
  • Compromise is essential as you build a business. You do compromise time with family and friends, but all works requires this at times. Just be sure that the compromises you make don’t compromise your “self”. You’ll know it once it happens. We all make that mistake. I know when I felt that went over my line…made myself too tired, missed something I wanted to do and I did not like the feeling. Where I grew up people used to say, “Once is a mistake, twice is a habit”. Be careful of the habits you create.
  • Think about your potential market. Who would be interested in your  products or service? Where are they? How will they find out about you?
  • Get yourself a notebook and record all your thoughts and ideas, all the phone numbers you need.

 

 

 

small business…is an art in itself #1

Dear Diary, As an artist, and a writer, I have also become a small business person. I live in a small town, and run a small business, Deanne Fitzpatrick Rug Hooking Studio. I identify primarily as an artist and writer as those are two things I love. On the other hand I love the creativity and challenge involved in running a small business.

The needs and desires of a small business interest me. I love how when I put out a pot of flowers on the street it effects the way the street looks. I have found that with a small business I can effect change, small change maybe but change none the less. Over the last few months I have written about a lot of the other small businesses in my community and beyond, under the section “small town life” on this blog. I believe small is interesting and important. It is less about “systems”  that are required to run a large business with many outlets. Running a small business is an art form in itself. It takes huge powers of creativity, determination, energy and focus. All small businesses are like family farms in a way. You are committed to it, and you do it because you believe in it, you belong to it, more than it belongs to you.

I have always shied away from talking about business because somehow I felt it diminished my art. As I have grown into myself, and care less about being judged, and more about what really matters I have learned that my creation of my business has been a long term art project. Everyday I approach my business like a sculpture, I add a little something, chip away a little something, give it some form. The sculpture is never finished. For me, who is so task oriented in my mats, this is a different kind of art. It is like the art of being a person, you remained unfinished no matter how much work you do.

Over the years I have been asked alot about my rugs, and books, but rarely am I asked about the process of it. I have learned that only artists are interested in the process. The process of small business seems to much more interesting to people.  I am often asked about the process of business, how to make things happen in a small business. It is one of the most frequently asked questions over the years. People want to know about creating a business for themselves, what to do, how to do it. Truth is , I am not able to sit with people individually for hours about this. I just don’t have the patience..ask my friend Lily.  I am either hard at it, making a rug, running my business, writing, walking, mothering, or laying on a day bed with Henning Mankell( that part is not so hard).

So over the years to all of you who have called, or asked I am responding here on the blog, talking about business and creativity by starting a little series. I am doing it because your questions are important, and valid, and because I believe small business is the lifeblood of small communities. We are creators, and artists in our own right, making things happen in our communities. I think small is vital, and I want small to be mighty. So this is the first ….

These pictures were taken by Lenn Wagg, who writes for the Halifax Herald and works for communications Nova Scotia. They were part of the NS Export Acheivement Awards …

wrapped in a big rug, that is what I feel like most days when I come to work.

 

blooms….some things bloom in february

glory....glory

Dear Diary, Nearly eighteen years ago I met a woman at a craft fair in Sackville. Her name was Haidee Robertson. Over the years she has come workshops, hooked some rugs, had a son, and practiced nursing. She is a busy woman with a full life. Over the years whenever I would see Haidee I would ask what she was making because it seemed to me she was always making something. She explored things with her hands, and her mind and she was always coming up with something.

A few years ago I saw her at the Sackville Farmer’s Market behind a big display of mason jars filled with Sunflowers. She just looked like she belonged there. After all that exploring of craft, it looked to me like she had found a place to park.

Just a few months ago I saw her at the new flower shop in Sackville, which Alisha, a rug hooker who comes to my studio manages and I said, “Isn’t this a lovely place.” and  Haidee said, “It’s mine. “. I was surprised, and happy for her. She and another woman partnered starting it together. In the summer they plan to see their own local flowers, in the winter she is bring them in.

I wanted to buy one of these terrariums but I am bad with plants and did not want to kill it. I just now thought of someone who would love one so the next time I am there I will pick one up as a gift for my green thumbed friend.

I liked the selection, the emphasis on single blooms, the choice of colours. I asked if I could take some pictures and post them because the freshness and colour felt so good in the deep of winter.

I felt like I stepped into spring when I stepped into Haidee’s shop. It had a good feeling. I think part of that good feeling was seeing someone step out, and do what they dream of doing.

The place had feeling because feeling was driving the place

people were blooming in that place, not just buds

watching people bloom is so inspiring

these I took home..flowering Kale