Green your Giving: Ideas for Earth Conscious Wrapping

My sister-in-saw Nancy was a resourceful recycler long before being green was vogue. Raising four children in the 70‘s on a very limited income, she creatively reused and repurposed everything. When other kids were ferociously ripping wrapping paper and balling it up for the trash, Nancy’s’ gang carefully cut the scotch tape and folded the gift wrap for re-giving. Ribbons and bows were saved in a box for next year. The kids learned not to be disappointed if a box from Radio shack contained hand-crocheted slippers. (The box had probably once contained a remote-control airplane before.) It wasn’t unusual to open a Christmas card from Nancy that we’d sent her a previous year. She’d cut the fronts off all the cards she received and paste them to construction paper to create a new card. Coffee cans and jelly jars were saved all year, decoupaged and repurposed for cookie giving. She’d put a coat of glossy Modge podge on stale Christmas cookies and use them as tree ornaments. She wasn’t trying to save the environment. She was just using what she had to make the holidays special but we could all take lessons from Nancy in being green.
When I attend a holiday gathering that involves gift-giving, I’m often appalled at the heaps of gift wrap, cardboard boxes, ribbon and other disposable waste. Most people don’t realize that shiny gift wrap is not recyclable because it contains dyes that are difficult to process. Think of the pile on your own living room floor and imagine that multiplied by all of the homes in your neighborhood, let alone the world. I remember a statistic I read a few years ago that Americans generate 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s about 1 million extra tons of trash each year.
It seems that this is the one time of year when even many who are eco-conscious ignore the environmental impact of their gift giving in favor of festivity and flair.
There’s a lot of focus on purchasing gifts that are recycled or recyclable, but how can you present those gifts and decorate your home or business in a way that’s less wasteful?
I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you buy from crafters and local indie businesses, and you probably make a lot of your gifts by hand, right?
Here are some simple suggestions for lower-waste giving that’s still merry and bright:


  • Make your wrapping part of the present. Wrap a hand painted silk or knitted scarf around the gift. Tie a piece of scrap yarn around it instead of purchasing ribbon or make your bows out of something you would normally throw away like the shiny foil bags coffee comes in.
  • Out-of-date road atlas pages or used road maps make fun colorful wrapping as do pages from the past years calendars, particularly if they have images or quotes.
  • A lot of parents wrap every tiny stocking stuffer separately but that’s a lot of waste and the kids just want to get to the toy. Consider bundling all the gifts for one child together in a single wrap or if you want to make the opening last longer, make it game like an Easter Egg Hunt with clues.
  • Kids love cereal boxes. They make a fun container for books and games.
  • Use real popcorn to cushion your breakables for shipping.
  • You know those burlap or canvas wine bags that the grocery stores send home? Why not splash a little fabric paint on them to bring beverages to a party rather than purchase a paper wine bag?
  • Make or buy reusable cloth market bags out of cool fabric and wrap your gifts in them. If you are not in the habit of bringing your own bags to the grocer, paint or stamp the brown craft paper bags and use them for gift wrap. (Trader Joe’s makes this extra-easy by using festive holiday-themed brown bags.)
  • If you still get a physical newspaper delivered to your house, save the comic section. It makes fun gift wrap.
  • If you’re hosting a company or family gathering, make creative wrapping part of the fun. See who can be the most resourceful. If guests do use commercial wrapping, take a lesson from Nancy and save to reuse. It might even be fun to see who gets whose paper next year.

What other tips do you have about being a conscious giver? As always, you’re invited and encouraged to share your creative ideas in the comments below.

Can you really make money hanging out with your girlfriends and making crafts?

Yesterday my client and friend Maya told me she wants to spend more time making things and wants to spend time with women her age doing something other than talking about their kids. Because she recently left her job, she also needs to bring in some cash in the next couple of months. My job was to come up with a way for her to accomplish all three without her having to get another job. I suggested she gather her girlfriends and between now and Christmas have several “make and take” parties. Here’s the attraction: Most people have to come up with some holiday gift ideas. Even if their own families don’t celebrate with gift giving, they give tokens of appreciation to their child’s teacher, mailman, hairdresser or petsitter. Everyone appreciates a handcrafted gift more than a mass produced store-bought item. This is an opportunity to cross a few items off their shopping list while having a good time with friends.

Maya has a lot of simple craft project ideas that don’t require artistic skill. Not everyone knits or sews but who can’t handle sequins and a glue gun? She was concerned about the idea of making money from friends. This is a common concern for many newbie entrepreneurs and a topic for a whole other article but I reminded her that none of us think of it that way when we’re invited to a friend’s Pampered Chef party. I recommended she purchase the materials wholesale, add enough markup to price the supplies at retail and add an instructor fee. So for example, if the materials cost her $10., she would charge $25 for the class. To keep with the party atmosphere, she could either supply refreshments or ask everyone to bring either an appetizer or a bottle of wine. She could also offer pre-made kits so that attendees could purchase supplies to make more of these same crafts at home. When we got down to the nitty-gritty of how to structure the events, Read the rest of this entry »

Do you still believe in the myth of the starving artist?

Well, it’s time we shatter that age-old rumor wide open

In 2013, I  gathered a virtual circle of 14 creative entrepreneurs who are making a living doing things you’ve probably always heard referred to as “hobbies” but these people are putting food on the table and money in the bank doing things like:

  • doodling,
  • baking cupcakes
  • candle making
  • jewelry design
  • creating art
  • teaching creativity workshops
  • making organic chocolate
  • and traveling to foreign lands shopping and reselling folk art.

Recently I invited 15 brilliant, high earning creative entrepreneurs to be my guests on the 2014 Inspired Livelihood Inspired Entrepreneur panel to openly share the secrets of how they got started,  what they know now that would have saved them time and money if  they’d known in the beginning,  how they’ve turned their interests into significant income and what advise they’d give new artsy entrepreneurs just starting out.  They hold back no secrets about what it took to grow a successful business, the challenges they’ve faced and obstacles they’ve overcome. You’ll hear top Etsy sellers speak out about what they do to stand out, get noticed and make sales in a crowded market. You’ll learn where to look to get public art commissions and grant money to purchase materials and create your art.   For this series I deliberately chose entrepreneurs who are making a living, many of them a six figure income  doing things like: 

  • facilitating virtual creativity workshops
  • designing coloring books,
  • designing and knitting hats
  • selling patterns
  • designing and printing self-adhering wall decals for home decor
  • painting silk apparel
  • writing and speaking about financial planning in a language artists understand

I’m hoping their experiences will encourage you to continue moving in the direction of your dreams. As always, these audios are chock-full of valuable info and inspiring stories about people just like you who took an idea and created a livelihood doing what they love. You can access the whole series FREE  HERE RIGHT NOW or  Read the rest of this entry »

What all top Etsy sellers have in common.

Do you dream of starting a business and then spending your days hanging out in a hammock sipping tropical drinks while the money comes in?
Do you still believe in the get-rich quick-with-passive-income theory?

If so, you probably ought to stick with that day job. Yes, I really said that. I, Terri Belford, self-employment advocate, told you to chuck your entrepreneurial dreams and stay in that cubicle IF you don’t want to work like crazy, sometimes double duty in order to build a profitable business.
As I interviewed top Etsy seller who truly make a living selling their creative work, one thing they all had in common is that they treated it like a business. Even those who worked a day job while they built up their business put full-time effort into their own business. They worked mornings before work, evenings when they got home and on weekends. They wanted so desperately to succeed that they approached it like they meant business and it became a viable business.
Particular in the early stage, you’ve got to put in the hours. There is no other way to succeed. The people who have replaced and even surpassed their job-income work full-time at their business. Yes, they have the option of working where they want and when they want. If they have a portable craft, they may go to the coffee shop or the beach to create or to spend time online marketing. If they want to take time off during the day for a walk or to join their kids on a field trip, they put in time in the evenings.
They also all devote time regularly to marketing. Some have a partner and one is the creator, the other the marketer but they market their business like a business which is why it becomes a business.

I’m not saying you won’t ever make money in your sleep. You absolutely can and will if you put in the time and energy in the beginning. Once you’ve created products there are many ways to leverage, to make something once and sell it over and over.
Once you’ve done the hard work and your business is thriving, you can absolutely take time off and go hang out in that hammock.
First, though, you’ve got to work like you mean business to create a profitable business.

What Eco Conscious Gifts or Crafts are you giving for Mother’s Day?

I’d love to believe that this year I won’t wait until the eleventh hour to make or purchase a mother’s day gift. It’s not that I don’t think about it ahead of time.  It’s just that tomorrow is always here before I expect it. (that alone is a topic for a future post.) So, for those of you who haven’t yet crafted or purchased a gift for mom, or even if you have but haven’t wrapped or carded, let’s look at some ideas for giving mom a sustainable gift.

If you are efficient and have mom’s gift wrapped and shipped, these ideas work for  Read the rest of this entry »

Do you use Green and Recycled Materials in your Craft?

Being eco-conscious and crafty can be a challenge. Most of us have a love affair with paper, paint, glue and other single use products, some even highly toxic. I’m not preaching here. I adore paper. I’m actually guilty of purchasing vast quantities of art supplies that I have no specific plans for at all.  (For me, the medium dictates what it will become. ) I studied photography using  the wasteful, toxic products of film, chemicals and emulsion covered paper  but I’m coming around digital.  If I weren’t so sensitive to oils and turpentine, that would still be my choice of medium.  I’m struggling with this. I want to leave our world rich in resources for future generations.  I also have an obsession with real greeting cards and there are certain circumstances when an e-card seems inappropriate. I don’t mind reading the daily news online, and I might even eventually buy a Read the rest of this entry »

Why you should take note of the Green trend in Craft Fairs

We are getting nto the spring craft fair season and daily I learn about festivals that have an eco-conscious, earth friendly section. The 38th  annual Union Street Festival in San Francisco will have a whole section dedicated to crafts created with recycled and sustainable materials and eco-friendly exhibits.

The Eugene, Oregon Saturday market features recycled wares, but that’s no surprise in the “Greenest City”.

There’s the Crafty Feast Indi Fair in Columbia, SC featuring alternative and experimental  crafts made from re-purposed materials including handbags made form recycled inner tubes, scrap monsters made from recycled Read the rest of this entry »

How you can green your giving

On a recent family visit, my sister and I discovered a photo of the two of us at 2 and 5 under the Christmas tree surrounded by newly unwrapped toys. Each of us held a special treasure in the photo. I held a cardboard paper towel roll up to my eye like a telescope and she posed adorned in recycled ribbons and bows from the gifts. This was the fifties, long before recycling was cool. I’d like to claim that we were just natural trendsetters, but I confess that in the early eighties when my son was little, our home was filled with molded plastic houses, cars and slides. We gave little thought to how these eventually ended up in the landfills.

Somewhere between that magical Christmas morning of recycling and my desire to give my son plenty of opportunity for creative play, I’d forgotten all the rainy days my friends and I spent cutting windows and doors into cardboard refrigerator boxes and stacking television cartons to make apartments houses. Or the way we collected old thread spools, hammering nails around the top to make our own little knitting devices. I’d forgotten that imagination is most active when the raw materials are available without instructions for the finished product.

It’s exciting to see the hot trend in eco-friendly toys. I’ve found a few that are both environmentally and socially responsible. Sprig Toys in Colorado makes eco-friendly “Story Builders” that inspire creative play and strong values. Mary Meyer’ “Fuzz that Was” stuffed toy pets are made out of old recycled water bottles. The Green Toy Company, based in California makes toy cookware, gardening tools, sand toys and trucks (including a Recycling Truck) out of recycled milk bottles.

It’s way too early  to be thinking about the holidays unless you wholesale your craft  but you’ve probably got birthdays and Mother’s day gifts to make and if  you are going to give responsibly, you need time to plan ahead. The marketplace is abundant with products that have had another life in a different form. If, however, you are crafty, now’s the time to start looking around for what products you tend to throw away and how you can upcycle those into fabulous gifts.

Do you have ideas for eco-friendly gift projects you’ve made or plan to make that you’d like to share with us? If you have found an artist or product line that uses recycled materials please post your recommendation here-we’d love to spread the word and promote your projects or treasured finds.

Are you Doing One thing a Day To Market your Craft?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you hear you should be doing to market your craft, you aren’t alone. Most of us need a map before we start out on a journey we’ve never taken before.

So, take a deep breath and know that if you just start somewhere, take one simple step today, you’re on your way. Wait, don’t decide to start fresh Monday. I know that trick. I’ve done it.  I’ve never thought of my workweek as Monday through Friday because being self employed, I don’t follow anyone’s scheduled. I work when it’s best for me and my family. But, even if you take the weekend off, you’ll be able to relax knowing you’ve  taken that first step.

Today’s assignment: choose your very best piece. Something that hasn’t been out in the marketplace yet. Now, photograph it. OK. I know you might consider that two steps. If you’re really feeling ambitious, upload it to your photo program and save it. So, three easy steps. (if you really must be a stickler about the one step a day, choose the piece today, photograph it tomorrow and upload on Sunday. Those are very tiny steps.)

So, Monday morning you are ready to take a BIG baby step on your craft marketing plan.

I’m not calling this a BIG step because it’s difficult. It isn’t. It’s simple and just so obvious but is a big step because it will make a huge difference in getting your sales rolling again.

Send this digital image of your best piece to your list of past buyers or those who have visited your booth at shows, come to your home open studio or just expressed interest in your work. (You DO keep a list, don’t you?) If you don’t have a data base of past customers, send the image to all your friends and family. You aren’t selling anything. You are simply reminding them that you are a talented crafts person. If you have already made prints or reproductions of your work, mention it. If you are in an exhibition, mention it. If you haven’t ever taken your work out of your home studio-mention it. Be open and honest about your newness and people will want to support you. Ask them to share it with their friends. A great way to get people to notice your work and pass it on is to include a quote or some kind of meaningful sentiment or story. Nothing too long, just something to make them smile or stop and think. Something that makes them nod in agreement and want to pass on to friends.

So, by Monday you will have taken your four first steps. Simple steps that will get you rolling on the the next steps.

In any business, it is always easier to bring back existing customers than to attract new ones. Obviously, you want to do both but if you have an existing buyer/collector list, cherish them. They are your most valuable assets. Send them “love notes” of customer appreciation regularly. Your art is a piece of you. You aren’t selling hardware. This is a relationship and if your buyers feel you see them as friends, they’ll be loyal to you. They will show your art to their friends and your list of collectors will grow.

See how much you’ve accomplished even though you didn’t know where to start?

Assuming you’ve followed the baby steps so far, today you are going to make a vital move. If you don’t have a data base of your mailing list, or even have a mailing list, today you will start one. This is everyone you know. Everyone. Remember, you aren’t selling to your friends and family. You are sharing your art with them. (If your work is wearable or home decorative, see other blog entries for tips on getting your work seen and download the free tips in the upper right to give you more great ideas.) If you are like the rest of us, you probably have scraps of paper and business cards all over with names of people you’ve met. Most of us toss them because we have forgotten why we picked them up. But, each of those people might know someone who could become your best customer or the connection to many great collectors. Maybe someone’ sister has a gallery or uncle is a decorator to the very wealthy. You won’t be imposing by sending them a beautiful image with a brief greeting or sentiment online. Think of it as a gift. Because it is.

Even if your list has only twenty names right now, use a contact management program such as Constant Contact. You can start out with their free trial, it’s simple, user friendly and you will have your list automated to start.

This should be day six. Now you have a list, you have an image and you are going to order some postcards. Use a site like to order one thousand postcards of your favorite piece that you photographed on day one. You can have the same quote or sentiment that you used for your email printed on the postcards. These are very inexpensive marketing tools which you will use both as mailers and handouts.  Include a special offer or invitation to a home exhibit or trunk show. (more on this in other blog posts and tips at right.)  Also have your domain address (url) printed on them. YOU DON’T HAVE A DOMAIN NAME OR WEBSITE? NO PROBLEM. YOU WILL BY TOMORROW.  At least you’ll have a domain name and landing page.

Day seven, if you haven’t purchased your domain name, do that now. Go to a site like and buy your own name. Even if you have a business name and already have a web site, for ten dollars a year, buy your own name. If you already have a site under a different name, you needn’t change that, just re-direct the url with your own name to the site. This takes three minutes and is important because people are more likely to remember and search for you under your own name than a business name.

In the first week, with one small step a day, you have a great start on your art marketing program. 

See how much you’ve accomplished in one week with just baby steps? And to think you didn’t know where to begin.

Beyond Etsy

You’ve probably read books on how to start a business and even some on creating a business selling your art or handmade crafts. There are even some courses out there on starting a crafts business but most are from the perspective of someone who has sold their craft online OR at craft shows OR sold wholesale. None give you first hand advice and stories from artists and crafts people who have experienced ALL areas of the hand made world.

I keep hearing from readers that they want to make a living selling their handmade art and they’ve read books and even sought advise from SBA advisors but that they are more confused than ever because they don’t understand the MBA speak. Creative entrepreneurs think differently and need advise from someone who speaks and understands their language.

I’ve been listening to your questions and challenges, making notes from my decades of experience as an artist and gallery owner and interviewing artists and crafts people, makers and bakers.

Finally, it’s all in one place, a course that speaks a language that creatives like you understand.

I’m not going to waste your time or mine on the stuff you can find in a “how-to” business book. This is first hand advise on the stuff YOU need about how to make a living from your craft because the myth of the starving artist is a bunch of baloney.

I’ve taken a lifetime of wisdom and experience in the business of handmade art and put it all together in a comprehensive course. You’ll get worksheets and references and hear advice and real life examples of fine artists and crafts people who make a living creating and selling their paintings, calligraphy, textiles, candles, bath and body products, jewelry, graphics, photography  and just about every craft you can imagine. Some are even bringing in a six figure income from their art and they’ve offered up their wisdom, experiences and secrets to success on topics about all areas of the handmade art world, online and off. We share what we all learned from our mistakes and what we’d do differently if we knew in the beginning what we know now about starting and profiting from a creative business so that you can do it right the first time.

We’ll cover every aspect of making money selling your creations ONLINE AND OFF, at retail and wholesale to shops, at craft fairs, home parties, in galleries, even how to open your own craft gallery or co-op. We’ll talk about pricing, photographing and writing descriptions for your handmade.

I know we all have different learning styles so you’ll get a mix of PDFs, worksheets and Audio files which you can download and listen to at your own pace.

You can add an hour of personal one-to-one consulting with me for a total of $197. My usual single session consult fee is $189.

 Get the Full Course for $97.

OR The E-Course PLUS Consulting for $197

Choose One