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Friday, April 10, 2009

Interview with Heather of Bluhm Studios

A longtime artist and swapper, Heather has some great stories and fantastic advice for us! Visit her at her blog and see her creations in her shop. Read on!

SwapDex: Tell us a bit about you.

Heather: My name is Heather Simpson-Bluhm. I live in Central CA with my husband, 5 year old daughter, 1 dog, 2 cats and 2 guinea pigs. I just turned 40 and feel pretty good. I am a work at home Mom doing free lance graphic design and I also teach art in my daughters kindergarten.

SD: How long have you been swapping?

H: Hmm, I have probably been swapping close to 10 years.

SD: How did you learn about swapping, and what made you decide to do your first one? Do you remember your first one?

H: I began doing swaps in my online bead group and as I got more into mixed media I started swapping through Nervousness.org. As I made more contacts and doing more mixed media I got to know other people and groups and began swapping in various groups, etc.

SD: Do you swap with any groups? (Swap-bot, yahoo groups, flickr groups, etc.)

H: Because of my schedule, most of my swaps these days are by invitation or I sign up through blogs of those I am interested in. I have swapped A LOT through Yahoo groups and even Flickr in the past.

SD: What's your favorite type of swap or favorite swap you've ever been in or hosted?

H: I used to be obsessed with FatBook swaps but got burnt out by the assembly lines of making 30 + pages. Lately I have been more into book arts so I am enjoying round robins. The new publication “Somerset in Love” is about the last big round robin I did. Its on stands now. Other than that, I am really enjoying one on one swaps with friends or artists I admire.

SD: Do you have a signature style for your swaps? Do you decorate your envelopes/packages? Send a card with a personal note?

H: Sometimes I try to make custom mailing labels for my swaps but more often its just about getting the stuff out thew door in a timely manner even though I always “dream” or sending pretty envelopes. I try to recycle packaging whenever possible. I often include a little gift of postcards or notecards of my artwork and a business card and usually a note or letter thanking people for swapping.

SD: What's you favorite type of package to get in the mail?

H: The unexpected one. I recently received an expected package from a friend Martha, because we had decided to do a private swap but she completely surprised me by sending me 12 days of Christmas goodies for not only me but my daughter too! We had so much fun getting up each morning and opening a treat, most of which were made by Martha.

In addition, I really enjoy getting swap items where someone has done their homework and made it my favorite colors/ theme or personalized in some way. It make it a lot more special that way.

SD: Do you have a good story about hosting or participating in a swap?

H: I think my best story has to be when I hosted an all originals Fat Book to benefit A Place to Bark which is Bernie Berlin’s animal rescue. We made two books, one for Bernie and one to auction. Claudine Hellmuth and Cloth Paper Scissors got wind of it and ended up letting me write an article (issue #5) on it which really helped our auction efforts. I remember being SO nervous about what it would fetch when it went on the block. We posted it on eBay and it started going like crazy but eBay pulled it with one day to go because we had made a mistake about listing it as for a charity. We were devastated. We relisted it and spread the word as best as possible and watched with baited breath as the bidding went one. In the end one little (awesome) Fat Book went for over $1300!! Needless to say, Bernie was blown away because we had done this all in secret.

My most ambitious swap was last year when I did the Hippity Hop Easter swap. It was 12 gifts for 12 days with 6 groups! I wasn’t really thinking when I let that many people sign up. All of a sudden I realized I had to collate, pack and mail out over 800 items! Fortunately a couple of friends stepped in to help and handled two groups and another friend helped with my groups so we *only* had to pack 48 boxes… LOL

SD: What do you think is the most challenging part of hosting a swap?

H: Flakes!! Seriously, if you flake out right before the deadline or late in the swap you can seriosuly cause problems for the host. I really encourage participants to consider if they can FOLLOW THROUGH and be on time before they sign up.

SD: Any advice for someone who is thinking about hosting a swap?

H: Be organized and committed. Communicate!! I hate swaps where I get the guidelines and no more communication until I get my final package back ( IF I get it). I think by communicating you are keeping people on track and so they are aware that you are keeping tabs on them. I am much more successful after adopting the regular communication thing. In the east swap I did not have ONE single drop!
I also let people know what I expect up front. I am not a softie and I stick pretty closely to my deadlines, so if you are late you may be out of luck.

SD: Any plans for the near future? Swaps, projects, new products?

H: I just completed an Easter Swap with fun goodies and am trying to figure out what collaborative project I want to tackle next. Most of my recent projects have been in the publishing vein and I am working on a cookbook with my Mom. We'll see what fits in with that!

Awesome, thanks so much for chatting! What great stories we collect through years are creating and swapping with others!

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