Brand New Booth For Buyer’s Market

I’m pleased to share photos of my new wholesale booth, which was unveiled at Buyer’s Market of American Craft (BMAC) in Philadelphia this January.  This is a total overhaul from my previous booth, including a refreshed logo, with new earthier colors, new tables and new earring trees.  I may be totally biased, but I thought the booth looked awesome.  The great feedback from buyers and other artists reinforced that notion.  Here’s a glimpse into the setup process, which took more than 10 hours to complete.

Many thanks to my partners in crime.  Evelyn Pelati Dombkowski worked side by side with me during the entire setup.  She seems to think it was worth it to learn about doing wholesale shows, but I’m quite sure I get the better end of that deal.  Kim Paige got roped into helping me in the final hours before the show opened.  She just stopped by to say hello, and she had no idea what she was walking into!  Vickie Hallmark, my “show buddy” was instrumental in making the foam core walls happen.  She inspired me to adopt the clean and open style that really helped the jewelry take center stage.  Sarah Sampson could have been resting, but instead she stuck with us and helped us get the walls installed.  During the show, my neighbors on aisle 700 were so friendly, kind and supportive.  We cheered for each other when we wrote orders, and entertained each other when the aisles were empty.  The people made the show a great experience.

empty boothWhen you arrive at the show, you find an empty space with gray drapes and a concrete floor.  In the shot above, we had started putting down the foam floor tiles.

Walls going upThose clean white walls are actually 4′ x 8′ sheets of foam core.  Here, Vickie and I are wrangling one of them into place.  They were attached to the pipe structure with cable ties then the seams sealed with white artist tape.  Once we worked through the first couple of panels, we got into a rhythm, with each of us taking on a different step in the process.  Vickie, by the way, is masterful with a roll of tape!

Below, you can see things finally starting to come together.  This was about 5 hours before the Jewelry Preview opened to the buyers and I was starting to worry.  We had the walls  and lights up, and the Abstracta tables were almost put together, but we still had signage and displays to go.

Light up

Studio_McManus_BMAC2014And here is the finished booth.  It looks huge in this photo!  I love the clean lines and I adore the new earring trees.  I did not like how the jewelry displayed on the walls.  There are things I could do to make the wall displays work better.  One of the biggest issues is that it’s difficult to get the pieces lit up well when they hang flat against the walls.  I really like the Abstracta tables, so I’m  adding a couple more of these for the next show.  I’m also making improvements to the display fixtures that are on the tables.  You’ll have to check back after ACC in February to see the next iteration.

Many of you have asked how the show was, and I have to tell you that I don’t have an answer just yet.  I’ve got lots of follow up to do, and I won’t know until later in the year if this show was a winner for me or not.  For now, I’m a busy bee, gearing up for the American Craft Council (ACC) wholesale show in Baltimore, February 19-20.  Looking at my booth shot from BMAC gives me a boost of confidence that I’ll be ready for ACC in two weeks.  Yikes!  Two weeks!!!


January 31, 2014

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Mount Dora, Here I Come!

I hope you’ll come and see me at the Mount Dora Craft Fair on October 26th and 27th.  With the “holidays” starting earlier and earlier, you could consider this your kick-off to the holiday shopping season.  Get a jump start and buy handcrafted jewelry for the people you love.  Trust me, you won’t find anything like this in the mall!

This will be my first outdoor tent show EVER.  Most handcrafted sellers progress from selling online and at shows to selling through galleries.  I sort of skipped over those earlier stages and jumped straight into the wholesale/gallery world.  As a result, I’m a bit nervous about this show.  It will be really interesting to see how people respond to the work in person.  I plan to be like a sponge and soak up every bit of feedback, knowledge and understanding I can glean from this experience.  Won’t you come out so I can see a friendly face amidst the sea of strangers?

Studio McManus at Mt Dora Craft Fair

October 4, 2013

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Need A Bit Of Color In Your World?

I know I do!  Adding color to my copper and bronze pieces is truly a labor of love.  Early in the process, I’m like a kid slopping color around in pursuit of creating her masterpiece.  By the time I get to the final steps, with my back aching and sweat dripping from my brow, I wonder if this pile of metal will ever end.  Here’s a glimpse into how the magic happens.

Patina.collageIt all starts with my very own copper and bronze components, tumbled to a shiny finish and ready for color.  After that, I heat up the metal and layer on the dye oxide patinas.  These colorants meld into the pores and becomes one with the metal.  I like to start with a base color and then splatter in touches of a contrasting dye for a more interesting finish.  Next, I sand back each piece by hand to show off the raw metal in the high points and bring out the intricate textures.  Several coats of lacquer and a layer of museum-quality preservation wax lock the colors in place.  A final power buff melds all those layers together and give each element a deep, rich luster.  Truth be told, I skipped several of the more boring steps involved in a process that’s lengthy and laborious, but oh so worth it. Take a look at some of the finished designs that will come out of these components.

Nature Walk Mixed.collage


September 23, 2013

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Magical Maine

Portland HeadWe’ve recently returned from a much-needed vacation.  This time around our choice was coastal Maine, and it did not disappoint.  Maine served us seven days of extreme weather, from a heat wave to foggy mist to cold driving rains.  We made the best of each day, and along the way, we began to feel at home with the rugged coast that’s so very foreign to a couple of Floridian flat-landers.

We started with an afternoon in Ogunquit, which is a sweet little seaside village.  The masses of tourists flocked to the shops and restaurants, or toasted themselves on the beach, but we were here for The Marginal Way.  This oddly named walking path hugs the rocky shoreline and delights the senses with beautiful wild roses that smell like heaven mixed with the ocean air.  After a satisfying stroll, we gorged on our first lobster of the trip before heading on up the road.

Maine Trip 1.collage

We spent two days exploring the Portland are, including  a climb up the Portland Observatory.  This 86 foot tower was built on Portland’s Munjoy Hill in 1807, and was used as a signal towner to communicate with incoming vessels and observe the weather patterns.  Today, you can walk up the 103 steps to the observation deck, learning more about the history of Portland and the tower along the way.  We were lucky to come on a clear day, so the views were fantastic from the top.  Portland is a great walking city, and we trekked through one distinct area after another, discovering funky shops, local eateries, public art, war memorials and a seaside park along the way.  We took the Downeast Duck, a quirky tour which covers the city’s highlights by both land and water in a custom-built amphibious vehicle.  It was a hoot, or should I say, a “quack”! Nearby, we checked out the Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, an iconic and much-photographed landmark.  Portland was lovely, but we could have done without the 90 degree temperatures each day.  It was painful to check the weather and see that it was actually cooler in Orlando.  We slathered on the sunscreen and soldiered on in spite of the blazing sun.

Maine Trip 2.collage

Along the mid-coast of Maine is a series of peninsulas and inlets dotted with charming little towns and villages.  It was here that we experienced the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, one of my personal highlights of the trip.  The main part of this attraction closest to the visitors center is all that a great botanical garden should be, with plants, water features, stone work and sculptures expertly arranged in a way that invites you to find a bench (in the shade) and take it all in.  In the five senses garden, visitors are encouraged to experience the sight, smell, feel, sound and taste of various planting areas.  While we didn’t actually get to taste, the kitchen garden section of this garden was really intriguing with creative approaches to growing food in small spaces.  Beyond the manicured plantings we discovered an extensive wooded trail system that seemed to be made just for us, and provided a shaded and private connector to the farther reaching sections of the gardens.

Maine Trip 3.collage

Our final destination was Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Forest.  I was nearly quivering with excitement as we approached the Hulls Cove Visitors Center to gather information, purchase a trail guide and get our bearings for the days ahead.   The weather was cold and misty, but armed with our rain gear, we were still able to get in a good bit of hiking on our only full day in the park.  We checked out the Ocean trail, where the pink granite cliffs and rock-strewn coast meet the crashing waves of the Atlantic.  The Jordon Pond Shore trail took us around the enchanting “pond”, which certainly looked like a sizeable lake to me. From here, the views of the Jordon Cliffs and the North and South Bubbles, two iconic mounded hills were perfect.  The next morning, we took the Bar Island trail, which is only accessible for about 3 hours at low tide.  It seemed like half the town turned out for the surreal experience of walking across a sandbar to Bar Island.  The receding waters reveal barnacle crusted rocks and provide a feast of mussels, crabs and snails for the resident seagulls.  A walk up to the summit of Bar Island provides a unique overlook of Bar Harbor, or at least it does if the fog and mist do not obscure the view.

Maine Trip 5.collage

On our second, and sadly final day in Bar Harbor, shortly after our Bar Island hike, the skies opened up and the rain started in earnest.  Our exploration of downtown was cut short when the rain actually soaked through our “waterproof” jackets and we found ourselves wet and chilled to the bone.  After a quick change to dry clothes we decided to take this opportunity to explore the less-traveled western half of Mount Desert Island by car.  This allowed a pilgrimage to Thurston’s Lobster Pound near Southeast Harbor.  This out-of-the-way destination was one of the culinary highlights of our vacation.  We chose our live lobsters from the tank right at the counter and saw them dropped into mesh bags destined for the giant steamer on the back deck.  OMG, this was the most tender, delicious lobster I’ve ever tasted, and by far the cheapest!  We devoured our lunch on an enclosed deck overlooking huge stacks of lobster traps right at the edge of the harbor.  No wonder that lobster tasted so fresh!

Maine Trip 4.collage

So now we’ve come back to reality.  If I had it to do over again, I would allow at least one more day in Bar Harbor.  I feel like the very best version of myself when I’m out on a wooded trail scrambling over rocks and tree roots, making my way to another amazing view.  We got in loads of walking every day, but I would have liked more time in the woods of Acadia National Park.  That corner of the world has a special kind of magic for me where I can feel my stress slip away and a sense of calm settle into my soul.  I suggest you start making plans now to visit coastal Maine.  You won’t be disappointed!

July 22, 2013

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What Was Handed Down

My dad, Tony Abbing, and his sister, Elisabeth Ricke.

At the gathering after my dad’s funeral, my Aunt Elisabeth shared a little insight about him that just blew my mind.  Apparently, when Dad was a young man and it was time for him to choose a trade, he was encouraged to take up the family business and become a tailor.  But what did he really want to do?  He wanted to learn to be a goldsmith and make jewelry.  My heart nearly stopped beating when she spoke those words.

This revelation both thrills me and makes me incredibly sad.  It certainly helps explain why he was so fascinated by my jewelry work and so supportive of me following my dream.  I wish he would have told me himself.  I’m sure we could have had some interesting conversations on the topic.  It seemed that he never wanted to open a conversation about the past.  Maybe he knew we would ask so many questions, and he wasn’t interested in sharing the answers.  I’ll never know why he didn’t share this connection with me.  I’m happy to learn about it now, and I’ll remember it each time I sit down at my workbench.

May 30, 2013

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