Friday, February 27, 2009

Women Work and Community "New Ventures" Class March 31 to June 16 in Bangor, Maine

If you have not heard of Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community (WWC), you are definitely missing out. This is an excellent program that helps people (men and women) improve the quality of their life by offering training, advocacy and assistance in four program areas: career building, business startup, money management and leadership development. The staff are wonderfully supportive and nurturing and the programs are free to participants.

WWC is offering the New Ventures Entrepreneurship Training at University College in Bangor, Maine. This is an in-depth coverage of topics such as: identifying your customer, competition (it helps to know their strengths and weaknesses and where you fit in to the whole scheme of things), marketing (how to identify your target market and where to focus your time and resources), record keeping (how to keep track of incomes and expenses so you know if you are making a profit in your business), taxes (what papers to file and some about how you do it), legal aspects of doing business (liability and insurance), financing (how to find the resources to grow your business), and operations (including short and long-term goal setting for your business).

It might sound intimidating (it did to me when I first signed up for the course), but the staff takes you through each aspect step-by-step. They not only help you identify what you need to do for your business, they show you how to lay the groundwork to make your business successful. An added bonus: you will have a working, written business plan by the end of the course! A lot of work, yes...but the pay off is a much clearer, focused direction for your business. (And remember, all this information and training is free!). Class size is limited to 15.

The training will be held Tuesdays March 31 through June 16 from 9:30am to 3:00pm. It is a sixty hour program. Applications for the program are due March 17 and the required orientation is March 24.

I can attest to the New Ventures program. I took it in 2005 and continuously look back on and use the materials I collected from the class. And, as an added bonus, I still keep in touch with some of the other business people from the class. We meet once a month and help each other work through challenges and celebrate successes.

I highly recommend the New Ventures program for people who have a viable business idea just starting out, as well as for people in existing businesses who have never written a business plan or want to look at their business with fresh eyes.

For an application or more information, call 207-262-7843, email Jane Searles (Regional Manager) at or visit the web site at


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Am Three Years Old Today!

Three years old on Etsy, that is!

I opened shop on 2/10/06--the weekend of one of Etsy's biggest crashes! They were a fledgling company, then, and still working out the bugs. This was before V2 and the changes and updates that have occurred over the past three years. So, why did I join? I was impressed by how responsive Etsy administration was to fixing the problem. It is easy to be professional and responsive when everything is going well. It is another to be responsive and gracious when things are going crappy.

I like to think I have grown over the past three years...not just in terms of business. I feel more comfortable in my role as business woman, artist, team member. There is a whole lot more to running one's own business--even a small one--than I knew. And I am still learning.

Actually, it is probably a good thing I did not know owning and operating a business is more complicated than working for someone else! Lots of things to learn about recordkeeping, marketing, pricing, marketing, photographing for the web, marketing, and making interesting, quality products. Oh, and did I mention marketing?

I feel like I am finally "getting it." Getting comfortable with being an artist. (I used to apologize for it). Getting comfortable with defining and sticking to an identity. (Too many choices, I did not know, at first what I wanted to make and how to implement my plan). Getting comfortable with being visible. (I am more introverted than not so being seen--both literally and figuratively--has always been a challenge for me). After doing shows, consignment, wholesale and sewing for someone else, I have, by process of elimination, decided I like working directly with my customers. I like the give-and-take that happens when small groups of people work closely together.

A "sojourn" is a "resting place along life's journey." The following (in no particular order) have been my "resting places" as I move through this life of art, cyberspace and business:

BF, Papillon, Friends and Family, Baxter State Park, Acadia National Park, The Atlantic, Thrift Stores, Women, Work and Community, Walks, Music, Art and Photography Books, Homemade Bread, Chocolate

I am grateful for all the successes and failures of the past three years--all of which have made me a better person. I look forward to unfolding whatever this new year holds in store!


Guidance on CPSIA for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities

I received this update from the CPSC providing guidance to small businesses concerning the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act. It is worth the read--especially if you are not sure this law applies to you! (It probably does).

Guidance on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters, and Charities

BTW, you will notice I have removed my lobsters from my shop. I still have not heard from the company who makes craftlace, which I use as my lobster antennae. It is a disappointment this company is not responsive to consumer emails and phone calls. There is no "stay" on banned phthalates. The law goes into effect today (2/10/09). I assume the plastic does contain phthalates and, until I know otherwise, the lobsters will not be available for sale. I am thinking it is "back to the drawing board" for me and my lobsters. While all this is, admittedly a challenge in the short term, I am sure it will result in better, more interesting artwork. I seem to respond well to creative and artistic "limits."

This is all shifting and changing, so, as always, I will keep you posted!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Quilts 'N Art Treasury

This is a treasury I curated on Etsy featuring the works of some of my favorite quilters and artists. Here are links to their shops:

Row 1: Rosy Sunrise by Kim's Crafty Apple, Pastel Flower Strip Quilt by Heavenly Pouches, Old Dump Truck by Gary Heller, Gecko Pillow by Anne Maundrell Designs;

Row 2: Ice and Fuel by Hal the Painter, Valentine Primitive Homespun Wall Quilt by Quilting Granny, Caffe Latte Hearts by Art Angel, Recycle by Carlie Ann;

Row 3: Shadows and Squares by Originals by Lauren, Sweet Vases Print by Lily Pang, You're Kind of Growing on Me by Julie B Creative, Little Blue Pot by Art 2 Art Colorado;

Row 4: Original Singular Beauty Gilded Tree by Kristen Stein Fine Art, Antique Serenity by Quilt Lover, Shades of Brown Cat Quilted Hanging by Melody's Unchained, Cobblestones Pastel Baby/Lap Quilt by Warm N Fuzzies.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

What the Latest CPSC Rulings Mean for My Products

As the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) slogs through the Children's Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), those of us who make handmade products for children wait to hear more about the guidelines and either adapt our products or make decisions to move away from children's products altogether.

Despite all the confusion, frustration and emotion around this issue, I am trying my best to keep an open mind and become educated on this issue. That is why my blog entries lately focus on this issue. At some point, I will be able and willing to post something other than news about CPSIA!

Having said that, the CPSC came out with new guidelines which I received yesterday (2/6/09). One news release concerns lead content and the other phthalate levels. I have posted both in earlier entries.

Here is how I believe these guidelines affect my products:

Lead Content

I have been writing to manufacturers of the materials I use in my products, requesting Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and/or certificates of compliance to the CPSIA. I have not heard from every company and will continue pursuing this information.

The following companies provided me with MSDS or posted such information on their websites: Amann Sewing Threads and Yarns (Mettler/Metrosene Thread), The Ribbon Factory, Strathmore Artists, and Synta Inc. (makers of the acrylic paints I am currently using in my ACEOs). Wrights (makers of soutache, binding, etc.) are working on a statement for their website. Although I have not yet heard from the Warm Company, the labeling on their Lite Steam-A-Seam indicates compliance with federal consumer product standards. I am comfortable that the products I use from these manufacturers meet or exceed the CPSIA.

According to the news release, the CPSC has provided an exemption for certain natural materials, such as "wood, cotton, wool, or certain metals and alloys which the Commission has recognized rarely, if ever, contain lead." This means the cotton batting I use also meets the new guidelines.

Likewise, the CPSC has made a ruling to exempt certain textiles: "dyed or undyed textiles (not including leather, vinyl or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children's apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets." So it appears the fabrics I use for my products are OK. Although the Amann group assured me that their metallic thread meets the guidelines, I will not be using metallic thread on any of the items I make that are marketable to children.

I believe I am in reasonably good shape in terms of meeting these guidelines, but I still have some work to do.

I am still trying to track down button, snap and bead manufacturers who can provide MSDS or certificates of compliance. I have also not heard from the company that makes poly fiberfill. Until further notice, I will not be using any of these items for children's items in my shop.

Phthalate Levels:

The plastic I use most in my products is craftlace (for lobster antennae). This is made from a company in the USA (Pepperell Crafts) and their labeling claims to be non-toxic. However, as of yet, I have not received any responses from the company. I will try to get this information. In the meantime, any product containing plastic craftlace in my shop and that is intended for children will be temporarily pulled from my shop until I receive assurance from the company that the phthalate levels in their product meet the guidelines or until I can find another manufacturer who can provide me with this information.

As frustrating and worrisome as this process is and has been, I am doing my best to embrace the new situation. I am dedicated to providing well-crafted, safe products to you, my valued customers. Thank you for your patience as I sort all this out!

As always, I will continue to update you as all this unfolds.


CPSC Ruling on Phthalate Requirements In New Child Safety Law

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Information and Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20207

February 6, 2009
Release #09-121

CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908

CPSC Issues Guidance For Complying With Phthalates Requirements In New Child Safety Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Starting on February 10, 2009, children's toys and child care articles cannot contain more that 0.1% of six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA) regardless of when they were manufactured. The CPSC will abide by a court decision (pdf) issued yesterday ruling that the prohibition on phthalates in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 applies to products in inventory. Phthalates are a group of chemicals (oily, colorless liquids) that are used among other things to make vinyl and other plastics soft and flexible.

A "children's toy" is defined in the statute as a product intended for a child 12 years of age or younger for use when playing. The Commission has previously stated that it will follow the definition of toy in the mandatory toy standard which exempts such things as bikes, playground equipment, musical instruments, and sporting goods (except for their toy counterparts).

The statute also prohibits phthalates over the limit in "child care articles," which include products that a child 3 and younger would use for sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething. By way of example, a pacifier/teether would be an item that would help a child with sucking or teething; a sippy cup would facilitate feeding; and a crib mattress would facilitate sleeping.

Companies must meet their reporting obligation under federal law and immediately tell the Commission if they learn of a children's toy or child care article that exceeds the new phthalates limits starting on February 10, 2009. Companies also should know that the CPSIA generally prohibits the export for sale of children's products that exceed the new phthalates limits.

The agency will be issuing further guidance information next week.

Friday, February 6, 2009

CPSC Enforcement Policy for New Lead Limits In Children's Products

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Information and Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20207

February 6, 2009
Release #09-120 CPSC

Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908

CPSC Spells Out Enforcement Policy For New Lead Limits In Children's Products Effective February 10

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Starting on February 10, 2009, consumer products intended for children 12 and under cannot have more than 600 parts per million of lead in any accessible part. This new safety requirement is a key component of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) aimed at further reducing children's exposure to lead.

In an effort to provide clear and reasonable guidance to those impacted by this important law, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing its enforcement policy on the lead limits established by the CPSIA.

Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers should also be aware that CPSC will:

*Not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing, or selling

**a children's product to the extent that it is made of certain natural materials, such as wood, cotton, wool, or certain metals and alloys which the Commission has recognized rarely, if ever, contain lead;

**an ordinary children's book printed after 1985; or

**dyed or undyed textiles (not including leather, vinyl or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children's apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets.

(The Commission generally will not prosecute someone for making, selling or distributing items in these categories even if it turns out that such an item actually contains more than 600 ppm lead.)

Sellers will not be immune from prosecution if CPSC's Office of Compliance finds that someone had actual knowledge that one of these children's products contained more than 600 ppm lead or continued to make, import, distribute or sell such a product after being put on notice. Agency staff will seek recalls of violative children's products or other corrective actions, where appropriate.

*Issue an interim final rule effective February 10, 2009, which establishes alternative lead limits for certain electronic devices, in order to prevent unnecessary removal of certain children's products from store shelves.

*Accept a manufacturer's determination that a lead-containing part on their product is inaccessible to a child and not subject to the new lead limits, if it is consistent with the Commission's proposed guidance or is based on a reasonable reading of the inaccessibility requirement. Paint and other coatings or electroplating are not considered barriers that make a component inaccessible.

This enforcement policy will remain in effect until superseded by action of the Commission.

CPSC still expects companies to meet their reporting obligation under federal law and immediately tell the Commission if they learn of a children's product that exceeds the new lead limits starting on February 10, 2009. Companies also should know that the CPSIA generally prohibits the export for sale of children's products that exceed the new lead limits.

As announced on January 30, 2009, the Commission approved a one year stay of enforcement for certain testing and certification requirements for manufacturers and importers. Significant to makers of children's products, the 'stay' provides limited relief from the testing and certification for total lead content limits, phthalates limits for certain products and mandatory toy standards. Manufacturers and importers - large and small - of children's products will not need to test or certify to these new requirements, but will still need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements. Certification based on testing by an accredited laboratory is still required for painted children's products and soon will be required for children's metal jewelry, as well as certain other products for non-lead issues.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Second Hand Clothing and CPSIA

Since I use a lot of thrift store clothing in my products, I wrote to a major company to see what their take is on CPSIA. Their response, I believe, would be echoed by other major clothing companies so I have chosen not to publicly identify my source. The emphasis is mine:

This company (a long-established and credible one) has "worked closely with its suppliers and third-parties (including testing laboratories) to ensure that its products comply with or exceed the requirements of all applicable products safety regulations, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (the "CPSIA") as regards lead and phthalates. Unfortunately, however, we cannot vouch for or make representations concerning second-hand garments that have been in circulation or use after sale. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

While it appears third-party testing for certified components is still under discussion with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (at least as I write this), I believe--and this is just my opinion and not at this point a fact--that second-hand materials will most certainly not be exempt from third party testing if they are to be used for children's products.

For me, anyway, hearing from this large corporation puts in doubt whether I will continue using thrift store and recycled materials in my children's products.

I will certainly keep an eye on this issue and keep you posted.


Monday, February 2, 2009

What Is In the Products I Make?

Okay, so I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I make stuff...and learning about how to make stuff...but, until the whole CPSIA thing, I did not give much thought to what actually goes into my products.

I have made a choice to use thrift store finds and recycled items when possible. I like the idea of giving back to my community by shopping in places that donate their proceeds to homeless shelters, cancer research and other socially conscious organizations. I like the idea of using natural products over synthetic. And, yet, it never occurred to me to check out the lead or phthalate levels in any of the products I use.

If you haven't read it already, here is a link to the Statement from the Honorable Thomas H. Moore on the Stay of Enforcement of Certain Testing and Certification Requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (dated 1/30/09). It is a very good read.

Statement About the Stay of Enforcement for CPSIA.

Until the stay last week, I spent most of the past two months trying to reconfigure how I can still offer the things I like and meet the requirements of the regulation. I still may want to after I have done some homework.

Now, my head is clearing a little, I decided it is a very good idea to find out as much as I can about the lead and phthalate levels in the products I use...And not solely because the law says I have to (though, admittedly, it is a great motivator). I care about the type of products I bring to the market place.

While I may not be able to track down every manufacturer of every piece of clothing I find at the thrift store (labels are often torn off), I will look at the research that, I hear, shows that fabric--even dyed fabric--has very little (if any) lead content. I am also writing to manufacturers of the products I do use and do know about and will let you know what I find out. This list is not meant to be a substitute for readers' own research into this issue.

I have statements from the following companies (in alphabetical order) about their products:

Cousin Corporation of America (A Touch of Glass Beads) sent me this:

"All of our product is tested in China, and then re-tested here to make certain they are under the min. law requirements. Anything that isn't doesn't go on the market and is cancelled. We are very careful and particular about all of our products." (I have asked for more information, preferably a General Certification for Conformity with the CPSIA or other data to back up this claim).

Mettler Thread (Amann Sewing Threads and Yarns) provided me with an "Agreement on Not Allowed Material (European Directive 2000/53/CE of Sep/2000." In it was the following statement:

"Amann sewing threads and yarns meet all the requirements of German and European law...detailed analysis in our dye house laboratory have shown that, to the best of our knowledge, the metals listed below are not used in the production of our sewing and embroidery threads: Chrome VI, Mercury, Lead or lead applications, Cadmium. For all heavy metals, we guarantee that we under-run the specific limits set in the Oeko Tex 100 standard."

Quilter's Dream LLC sent me this reply (the "information on the web" they sent was a notification of the stay):

"Thank you for using Quilters Dream Batting products. Since all of our products are made from either 100% cotton or other micro fibers we do not believe the new CPSIA is applicable to them. However, I found the following information on the web concerning a delay in the enforcement of the act until the CPSC fully understands what the new requirements actually are and how they should be implemented. I assure you that we will stay on top of the issues related to safety and if for some unforeseen reason cotton and the other micro fibers we use become applicable under the act, we will take appropriate action." (I wrote back to see if I could get MSDS on their products just in case. As far as I know, the original exemption for untreated cotton, wood and other materials was put on hold by the Obama administration. Consequently, the CPSC is still taking public comment on these materials and will make a ruling at some point in the future. I will keep you posted).

The Ribbon Factory has the following statement under "Product Safety" on their website:

"We have contacted our yarn suppliers as yarn is the raw material used in our ribbon and have received material safety data sheets on our yarn and dyes used. All our yarn is manufactured domestically within the United States and does not contain harmful materials and is lead free. The ink used on our polka dot ribbons does not contain harmful material and is free from lead. Our ribbon is free from di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)."

Strathmore Artists (artist papers, supplies) provides Certificate of Compliance documentation for each individual product. To access and print the individual Certificate of Compliance documents for HR4040 compliance register at this link:

Synta, Inc. (Anita's All Purpose and Metallic Paints) has a request for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) form on their website. You will want the product name of each of the items you are interested in. The form says "fax only", but I put NONE in the fax line and provided my phone number, address and email and received a quick response via email with PDFs for the products I was interested in.

The Warm Company has not responded to my emails (yet), but the Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 fusible web I sometimes use in my ornaments, lobsters and ACEOs has this on the back of the package:

"Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 poses no chronic or adverse health effects when used as intended and conforms to LHAMA (Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act) Regulations, ASTM D4236-94 (Standard Practice for Labeling Art Materials for Chronic Health Hazards). Testing is in accordance with guidelines specified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 16 CFR 1500.135.

Wrights (soutache, cording, binding, etc) sent me this statement:

"Because our product is sold as craft items we do not have the information available. I can assure you we are well within the limit of the lead content. We will be posting this on soon..." (I will keep an eye on this and let you know when this information is posted on their website).

I have written to, but have not yet heard from:

DCWV (Cardstock and paper supplies)
Dritz (snaps and other fasteners)
Fairfield (polyfill, batting, pillow forms)
Gutermann (cotton, polyester and metallic threads)
Lion Brand (yarn)
Rexlace/Pepperell Crafts (craftlace and other beading supplies)
The DMC Corporation (embroidery floss)

Final Note:

I feel most comfortable about making decisions to purchase--or not purchase--materials after hearing directly from the manufacturer. However, I have found some interesting links that might make a great start for your own "What Is In the Products I Make?" search:

Consumer Product Safety Act

The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI)

Health & Safety in the Arts: A Searchable Database of Health & Safety Information for Artists

Household Products Database (National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine Specialized Information Services)

Information Toxicology International, Inc.

As I find out more, I will update this post.