Whew! I packed a lot in today and promised many of you I’d blog about the time I spent at the first-ever Creative Connection Event in Minneapolis. So, here you go (warning: it’s long!). It was great to be surrounded by hundreds of women from 46 states and Canada – all creative dynamos looking to learn something new, be inspired and grow their businesses.

I started the morning at a great panel about blogging. From left to right were jewelry designer Lisa Leonard  (sweet as can be, just like her blog!), Flea Market Style senior editor Heather Bullard, internet expert Susan Mernit, PBS host and author Brett Bara, and funny, long-winded Loralee Choate (again, just like her blog!). It’s always fascinating to see and hear from other women who sacrifice sleep and sanity to stay connected with friends we’ve never met in blogland. Loralee talked about the dark days after her four-month-old died of SIDS, when the only human interaction she had was with her “friends in the box on my desk.” Meanwhile, Lisa picked up blogging after leaving a life of teaching to stay at home with her kids and make jewelry. Her husband said she needed to earn $200 a month to afford staying home. Her blog not only allowed her to connect with other women around the world, but is the main reason for her store’s success, she says. Nowadays, she easily earns 200 bucks with the sale of just two or three Lisa Leonard necklaces!

Following that panel, I got to hang out in the Handmade Market – a convention hall filled with over 100 female artisans and crafters selling their wares. Oh, people. I’m like a kid in a candy store at these kinds of events. I so, so, so love seeing all the ways women create something out of nothing . My first “find” was Chicago artist Debbie Egizio of The Beat of My Art. Her mixed media art is stunning. I was especially taken with her flower-filled shadow boxes…and her sweet demeanor.

I stopped by friend Cheri Meyer’s booth; she’s the creative force behind From Out of the Cracks. She works with lots of beautiful earth tones like this “fern” peyote stitched bracelet (swoon!). She’s getting to be a pro at these kinds of shows and I have a lot to learn from her. She encouraged me to try selling my art at an upcoming arts & craft show; eeek – sounds scary! But I’ll add it to the maybe list. 🙂 By the way…stay tuned for a Happy HeART Giveaway from Cheri on Choosing Beauty later this fall!

As I walked through the market, I was smitten with all the colors, whimsy and love. I met Rebecca Sower, an accomplished artisan and incredible woman who created Haiti By Hand. She travels to Haiti several times a year, teaching and empowering women in arts & crafts and then selling their wares here in the U.S.. She brought lots of their beautiful work to the Creative Connection, with 100% of the proceeds going directly back to the women (many whom are pictured above, left). What an amazing mission – she has already raised over $13,000! I bought several items and will likely order more from the Haiti By Hand etsy site for the holidays. Meanwhile, I also fell in love with these handmade dolls from the adorable mamas at Oh Sweet Sadie. And I thought Molly Bernier of Whimsy House was so clever to hang her necklaces around spools of thread that were attached to an old, worn shelf. Cute!
I also caught up with painter Jennifer Maroney (you may remember her recent hand-painted journal giveaway here!). This was her first show – how brave! She and her mom managed the booth and I thought it looked great! That big painting she’s standing by says “Hope gives our dreams WINGS.” Don’t you just love it!!??
I had to step into Irene Gates’ booth when I saw the countless little paintings hung from the fabric walls – wow! Luckily, this Michigan artist has a very patient and handy husband who makes her frames and hangs them for her. Score! Sadly, I can’t find a web site for her Sparrow Reed Folk Art, so I guess you’ll have to be on the lookout for her at midwest art shows. Her work is awesome!
Oh! I also got a stuffed owl from April Foss of I Sew Lucky. Sooooo adorable. After my time in the Handmade Market, I zipped over to a luncheon panel featuring crafty female entrepreneurs.  
The panel was moderated by Creative Connection founder Nancy Soriano, who was on my radio show last week (you can listen to the podcast here about spreading your creative wings). The panelists were (from left to right):  super-cute hair accessory and textile maven Heather Bailey, Russel+Hazel founder Christine Plantan, the “Crafty Chica” Kathy Cano-Murillo, renaissance crafty girl and TV host Cathie Filian, and HGTV host/author Vickie Howell. Sorry – not the best pic, but I was real busy eating my veggie wrap!
I thought the most interesting thing about their discussion was this common thread: how serendipity and sweet surprises led them all to success. Don’t get me wrong – they all have worked very hard, too. But they talked a lot about how they now see that every “no” or rejection they’ve received along the way was just a detour that led to new opportunities.
Kathy of CraftyChica.com started her business in 1991 (no web, no etsy, no clue on what to do!). She and her creative hubby started making Mexican-inspired art and selling it to boutiques in Arizona. One day, they went boutique hopping with their wares, hoping to sell $100 worth of items in order to pay their electric bill. A sales rep for a variety of retailers “happened” to be at one of those stores, asked Kathy to send her samples, and within a couple of months her art was being sold at over 300 retailers! It was so overwhelming that, when they received an order for 10,000 items, Kathy and her husband quit cold turkey and got “real” jobs. But the art world kept pulling Kathy back in and eventually she embraced the creative life and has made quite a name for herself!
Heather had a similar story of serendipity and the gift of naivety. She invented a hair accessory called Trash Ties and brought it to a friend who worked at Fred Segal in Beverly Hills (not knowing who Fred Segal was!). The retailer bought it, Heather filed for a patent and it’s now a multi-million-dollar success story. I wonder if she had known who Fred Segal was, if she had known how hard it is for most inventors to launch a product…would she have accomplished what she has? I truly think that in so many cases ignorance is bliss. Heather keeps re-inventing herself, too – currently setting the textile world on fire. That was another big message from the panel: never stop refreshing your interests, your brand and your passions.
I’ve got lots of things to think about after the past couple of days – a whirlwind of creativity and inspiration! I’m so grateful for the opportunities.
By the way, one of the things I was inspired to do was to add several of my one-of-a-kind doodle notecards to my etsy site. Sweet, original ways to celebrate special people in your life!