Shalom's Cottage Home Blog

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Rock Island, IL, United States
Hi, I'm Shalom. Artist, crafter, gardener, flea market enthusiast, bargain hunter, and lover of flavor. Welcome to my journey!

Visit my Etsy Shop!

Friday, March 27, 2009

FRIDAY FINDS: Easter Treats

There's still time to order some pastel cheerfulness for friends & family (or yourself). Here are some delectable delights from Etsy to whet your appetite.

Plush Bunny and Squirrel by - $35 each.
Made by hand from wool blend felt and stuffed with bamboo fiberfill, one of these adorable creatures is sure to produce smiles for generations.

Set of 3 Mini Terrariums by - $25.
It can be green all year round with these lovely indoor gardens that are super-easy to maintain. The plant inside is a gorgeously wispy citron green Scottish moss.

Set of 12 Large Chocolate Dipped Pretzels by - $10.99.
Each hand-dipped pretzel is 3"x4" which makes this gift set an incredible deal. Pretty too!

Orangy Olive Pea Pod Felt Brooch by - $10.
At just over 4" long, this darling brooch with pearl beads is the perfect Spring accessory for your jacket or handbag.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Your Best Idea Generators - Your CUSTOMERS!

Black and white prints by Shalom Schultz.

When I first got into this business, I wrongly assumed that it was up to me to think of all the great products to bring customers flocking in. Of course, I had to start somewhere and much of what I initially created for sale wasn't exactly flying off the shelves. Luckily a few key pieces did do well and so I took a hint and started creating more and more products for the lines that people did find appealing.

But what has surprised me most of all, along the way, is that many of my greatest "ideas" were actually born out of my customers' special requests. Someone would ask me if I could recreate a piece in different colors...or if I could add lines to their notebook's pages...or would suggest that I create a party package because if they'd found my items 2 weeks ago they would have been perfect...or wished to have their name imprinted on something, rather than the wording I had placed there.

What has happened is that I've been given an incredible gift - knowing what people want! And anyone that has been in business long enough will tell you that is an ongoing challenge. I've since expanded my shop to include many items I didn't think of originally, but that continue to sell well and I've also learned how to give people choices without confusing them in the process.

Sometimes I look back and I think, Wow, I can't believe I never thought of THAT before. An interesting trend I've been noticing lately is that many customers are requesting my art prints in all black. Being a color-lover myself, it's not necessarily something I would personally pick to decorate my home, but after doing a couple I realized that it gives them a whole new look. An air of sophistication. So, my latest business "move" was to offer versions of all my designs in black and white and, just like in times past, listening to my customers' desires has proved to be satisfying both artistically and financially.

I'm looking forward to the next great revelation.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Love March

"Passing By A Rainy Day" by

"When one has faith that the Spring thaw will arrive, the Winter winds seem to lose some of their punch". -Robert L. Veninga-

I live in the Midwest, so if you live close to a beach, consider yourself blessed that you have no idea what I'm talking about. If you still have snow on the ground...well you're next in line anyway.

1. You can paint your toenails again.
2. A light jacket is good enough - cuter too!
3. It RAINS a lot (instead of snowing).
4. Your car doesn't look so dirty anymore.
5. It doesn't get dark until around 7pm.
6. You may get to fire up the grill once or twice
7. If you peek under the clumps of dead leaves you just may see green shoots coming up.
8. Stores start stocking up on fun new summer-wear.
9. Your favorite shows start to get REALLY interesting.
10. Pretty, multi-colored Easter candy everywhere you go.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Selling In More Than One Venue...Is It Worth It?

"Revolver" by

It is quite a challenge to set up a successful online business. But once you have, you may want to consider expanding into multiple "locations". Or not. Extending your influence across the net would seem to be a natural progression if you are doing well, but if you aren't super organized or your time is already stretched to the breaking point, you may want to reconsider. Then again, the potential to earn A LOT more money and exposure certainly cannot be denied.

The author of Modish Biz Tips (she specializes in featuring indie shops and offering business advice) has posed a series of questions to help you decide if expansion is right for you.


Monday, March 23, 2009

What are YOU waiting for?

photo "Twinkie" by

What is that ONE thing you want to do or be in life that trumps all other goals? Are you visualizing it now? Doesn't it seem like it would be the ultimate culmination of your life's dreams? But how to get there?

I've been in this place many times for many different things and I may obsess over a particular goal for a few days, spending hours online looking up information and making plans and lists on paper. By the time I'm done plotting all the ins and outs, I'm exhausted and I realize that I don't think I have the energy to cover the necessary distance after all. I also start to second-guess myself and wonder if my plan will actually work or not. I'm the type of person that likes to think long and hard about something before taking the plunge and if I don't have all the answers...I may get scared and back away. Move on to safer ground.

But then, if I don't take at least one step forward, what did I accomplish? I've just wasted several days of my life turning over every available stone looking for answers, only to find myself frozen to the ground. It would almost have been better if I hadn't bothered doing the research at all. Then I could have used that time doing something more productive.

Now, sometimes, when faced with a big challenge or decision, we HAVE to do our research and what we find may lead us in another direction. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is SMART to thoroughly research anything that could drastically change our lives (for better or worse). But if the only thing holding us back is fear of the unknown, that's another story.

It's one thing to look at a road map to see where you want to go. It's quite another to actually drive down those roads. The map is only meant to be a guide. It's not going to show you every sign, rock and restaurant...or pothole or detour along the way. But, if you really, really want to get to your destination, are you going to let the "unknowns" stop you?

It's the same way in life, when it comes to reaching our biggest goals. If you woke up one day and decided to walk across America, would you expect to do it all in one day? No. You would do it a few miles at a time. How do you walk a mile? One STEP at a time. I know it may sound cliché, but it really is the most important thing to remember when you're trying to get somewhere and it seems so far away. If you're halfway through and getting tired, look back at how far you've come. If you haven't started yet...what are you waiting for?


Friday, March 20, 2009

FRIDAY FINDS: First Day of Spring!!!

Some fresh finds that I plucked from the ripe fields of If you've never heard of it, you should DEFINITELY check it out - all handmade wonders from individual artisians around the world (including yours truly). Here are my faves to welcome this blessed 1st day of Spring:

"Orange to Red Buds" by, $15.
The gorgeous colors in this print will brighten even the cloudiest, rainy day (which we have plenty to look forward to). But it also remind us of the wonderful blessings of nature to come.

Leather Flower Keychain by, $9.99.
I just love flowers and will take them any way I can get them. Here's a little joy that you can take with you everywhere and it's blooms will never fade.

Set of 6 Matching Gift Tags, by, $4.50.
Everything starts to happen in Spring...Mother's Day, birthdays, weddings, you name it. One of these beauties will make your gift just that much more special.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is Life Just One Big Masquerade?

photo, "Too Shy No. 3" by

I was thinking about this yesterday when a friend had some good news to share and I was anything BUT in a congratulatory mood. Still, if the tables were turned and I was in her shoes, I would certainly want (and expect) people to congratulate me. So I tucked in my frayed emotions and put on my "happy face" and offered up my most sincere-sounding congratulations.

Does that make me a fake, mask-wearing fraud? I don't think so. As much as we are coached these days to just "be ourselves", I think it's also important to know where to draw the line between TOTAL HONESTY and TACT. While we all need to make sure that we have a safe outlet (a good friend, a diary) for our emotions, there is no reason why we must constantly be an open book. It's OK to keep some things to ourselves, especially when wearing them out in the open might darken someone else's day.

But beyond just knowing how much of ourselves is appropriate to show the world, there is a certain truth to the phrase, "If you tell yourself something often enough, you will start to believe it". This can certainly go both ways; but I think it can be a positive thing, if you find yourself constantly bogged down by negative thoughts and decide to "combat" them by forcing yourself to be happy on the "outside". Eventually, after hearing yourself often enough, you may start to feel like things aren't so bad after all.

This takes us back to the original question though...we, of course, want to be genuine in the way we interact with others and so I have found it helpful to learn to separate my "dark side" from my "light side", if that makes sense. The mind is an incredible thing and has an immeasurable capacity for storing all sorts of thought and emotions. Just because you don't "feel" happy, doesn't mean that happy thoughts aren't there and that you aren't being sincere when you express them to others. But if you have been preoccupied lately with unhappy thoughts, it may just take a little digging before you are able to locate the positive/optimistic part of your brain.

I am no scientist or psychologist. I only know what I have experienced and recorded from my life experiences in my personal journals. Sometimes a mask is a good thing. Just don't keep it on too long.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why it's a Good Thing to Fail

photo: "Geraniums" by

(These are some thoughts I wanted to share, after a recent discussion with some business colleagues)

"Failure will either kill you or make you stronger."

I think it's good to fail, to feel the pain and loneliness of having your dreams dashed and your hard work turned to dust...and then look around you and realize that no one can build you up again, except yourself and you can either sit in your ruins and cry forever or you can make something of yourself. Something different. Something better. You won't make the same mistakes you did before and although you may fail again, it won't be to such great degree as it was before. With each failure, you come back 10x stronger. But you have to be willing to cut off the dying parts, if you want something better to grow there (think gardening - plants pour a lot of regrowth energy into newly trimmed/pruned parts and the whole plant gets healthier over time - every time I pull a dead leaf off my geranium, a new bud grows in it's place).

They say that the the definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

How this relates to business: the key to getting sales is really simple - having products people WANT at a price they are willing to PAY and creating paths for these people to FIND YOU. If you aren't selling, it's because one of these 3 key ingredients is missing. It may be painful to admit that to yourself, especially if you have been working hard, but nothing's going to change until you accept that fact and move on.

Having failed many times at various different things, I speak from experience. I haven't "arrived" yet, but I'm a lot farther along than when I first started out in this business (4 years ago) and I've learned to separate my "artistic emotions" from my business instincts. It really has made all the difference in the world.