Monday, 23 May 2011

A Newbie Sets up a Website

Yes. For years I've been traversing across the internet doing things that most of us have come to accept as normal everyday life. Communicating by email, searching for info on Google, watching the Canucks beat the Sharks 4-2 on Youtube and talking to the family many of thousand of miles away on Skype.

Everyday, I am learning more about this inetrnet creature and and how to navigate my way through it.
Last winter I asked for more trouble (or learning experiences, as Money & You grads would say) than I really needed when I thought
"Hey. Wouldn't it be a great idea to build a website for the Artists & Crafters of Salt Spring where everyone was in one place, thus making it easy for people to find us?" Silly me when I answered "Why yes, it would." I called it Salt Spring Craft, because Salt Spring Artisans just didn't sound right. That was the easy part.LinkLike so many of these great ideas, it took more time, more sweat and more tears than I had bargained for. Now, I'm not saying that I'm regretting having set up the site. In fact, it's blossoming slowly but blossoming just fine. I guess I'm saying that everytime I look at the website, I feel that I can do so much more and that I'd have to go on an intensive learning curve if I wanted to make it the way I see it in my head.

Because I have no web-building experience, I figured I'd build it on a Blogger platform as I'm already using it and have become accustomed to it's idiosyncrasies. This was great for organising posts into categories like weaving or ceramics to make it easier to find an artisan. All artisans can list for free. Click here for the form.

We now have over 40 listings and it is slowly growing. However, in the midst of all adding all the artisan pages to the website, it occurred to me that many Salt Spring artisans have no web presence. So how would people off-island see their work? Ergo, the Showcase Listing was added to give artisans up to 10 pictures for their page and stacks more options & room for describing their designs, work & process.
Then I tried to integrate the free google search box. Well, that didn't work. Apparently google's free search box is, err, not quite up to the standard of it's paid search feature. Thank goodness for blogger how-to & know-how pages. I found most of what I needed to customise the website from there.
Based on feedback from a great many helpful people, I've added a Salt Spring Events calendar which has dates and information on as many events, classes & workshops I could find trawling the pages & website of guilds, tours, b&b calendars and the indepensible Salt Spring Exchange.
Here's a place, if you're visiting or have freinds & family visiting, to go to to see what's happening on the island. And if you have a Art (this includes performing art) or craft event, workshop or class, click here to send me the info to list for free.

That was the other thing. I'm building this webiste for artisans and organisers to list for free and yet, even with a free blogging platform & free gadgets, there are costs. That's when I learnt how to use Ad Sense and that I needed to get some revenue to cover some of the marketing costs of getting Salt Spring Craft noticed by the world at large. So, ta-dah, down the right is a space for advertisers and a Donate Button. So please donate if you feel so inclined to help independent business in a workd of the mass produced.

And so was born a new little website that will, hopefully, grow up to be useful to all who come to it, inspirational to those who seek products and experiences that come from a slower pace of life and engaging to all who value that which is handmade, unique and speaks from the human spirit.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

How do you prune an apple tree?

When we bought the house last year, it came with two apple trees. I'd let them grow in their usual way all year so that I could see them as they were. And what they were was leafy, full of little branches that made it look like it was having a bad-hair day. But most frustratingly, in the autumn, when the tree was full of apples, the reddest and juiciest looking ones were at the end of the highest branches, and hopelessly out of reach.
This year is going to be different. I'd learnt some about gardening and most importantly had the expert help of friend Belinda, the super-duper master gardener. I had learnt that a shaggy tree full of skyward shooting branches was not the best thing for a tree; that where the bark was scarred and gueyly damp was where there was damage and infection and needed to amputated like a gangrenous limb; that a tree so laden with that multitude of apples had to work very, very hard to churn out the harvest, which also means that quality would be sacrificed for quantity. And if I'm brutally honest, last years apples was a bit lacking in, how can I put it? taste. This year, it's going to be different.
Armed with newly sharpened and freshly sanitised tools, plus two ladders, we were at it with vigor. Belinda giving me tips on which branch to cut (the ones that were too small to support the many spurs at its tip, where the apples would eventually form, any shoots growing downward or inward) and were was the best place to cut it. Three and a half frozen hours later, my initial hesitant nips at weedy shoots evolved into sawing off great chunk of branches and my previously afro-headed apple tree looked buzz-cut botak, and very sad.
Despite it's forlorn appearance, I know that it'll be healthier, will look better (in a couple of years I'm told), it'll bear better tasting fruit and most of all, I'll be able to reach the yummy apples.

But now that I think about it, so will the deer! Hurrumph!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Slipper Chair Project

This is something I've been wanting to do since I came to Canada. Having spent countless hours watching HGTV during my first few months in this new land, I was swept away by the slew of shows out in cable TVland that would help you DIY just about anything. Sarah Richardson and the Designer Guys found old furniture and in five TV-minutes, covered, nailed and stained and voila! furniture completely redone, revived and reborn into a gorgeous must-have.

A couple of months ago, I was out indulging in my favourite new passion: thrift-shopping and stumbled upon the perfect candidate for my first real re-upholstery job. It was an orange slipper chair stacked on top of a jumble of other chairs in the Lion's Club Thrift Store in Duncan. There wasn't a price on it so I asked. "It's $10" the lady said, "but if you like, we'll sell it for $8." I said that I liked. And she said, "in that case, we'll carry it out to your car (and in this case, my friend Emma-Louise's stationwagon) for you." A bargain, I'd say.
I finally got my act together last month, in Victoria, and forked out $45 for a whole meter of thick upholstery fabric from Chintz & Co, being too much of a skinflint to buy a half meter more.
And, I know you must have guessed by now, I was half a meter short. Sigh.But I soldiered on with my recovering and the pictures show the result.
The process was pretty easy, using the existing covers as templates for cutting the new fabric. The original piping was in pretty good nick, so that was reused and this project gave me a good excuse to buy and learn how to make fabric covered buttons.

I'm not too happy with the temporary brown fabric covering the back of the chair, but the next time I see the right half meter, I am so buying it.