My Cottage Industry(s)


In today’s economic downturn or whatever the experts call this abysmal state our country finds itself in, likely the idea of a small home based business holds wonderful possibilities for many.  Having a successful enterprise of my making is an ideal I’ve pursued with various degrees of disaster for several decades.  Now, I mostly just write about them.

Initially, after marrying my husband and moving to the farm, I wanted to be part of the country life here.  Especially as I was a ‘townie.’ But milking cows that might kick, particularly when one is nervous and jumpy in the not unrealistic expectation that they will, and feeding turkeys in the hot, dusty house, or calves that kept dying from some unknown cause, held scant appeal.  So I left most of the traditional farm stuff to the guys and made efforts to start my cottage industry(s).

The very name conjured up an inviting image…tapping into my creative talents in the coziness of my home.  It was simply a matter of casting about for a marketable enterprise.  Marketability, I was told by sage heads, is vital to success.  But this had no bearing on the choices I made, nor does it now, come to think of it.

In the beginning,  my eye fell onto the world of arts and crafts, and for some inexplicable reason, settled on découpage.  Not just any découpage though, I fancied eggs, big ones.  Ostriches being rather pricey, my hubby located two pairs of gray and white barnyard geese.  Unlike my cottage industries, they have prospered; their offspring are myriad and the geese I often refer to.  Actually, some of the originals may still be roaming the farm.  They live forever.

I remembered childhood encounters with nasty, honky-nosed Chinese geese that will chase you and pinch your skin between their bills hard.  Our new acquisitions were much milder in temperament but took offense at having their nests invaded, so it fell to my worthy spouse to steal the eggs.  I also felt he was better suited to empty the shells of their contents, a particularly undesirable task if left for any time.  After that I came into my own, transforming the muddy spheres into intricate works of art, as precious as rubies if time were a consideration.  It wasn’t.

Once created, these treasures were ready for marketing, the aforementioned skill in which I am woefully deficient.  However, a zealous grandmother is an oft-overlooked boon to business.  My late, much loved, grandmother drove me round to all her friends and refused to leave until a purchase was happily concluded.  This can only be done once, maybe twice a year though.  More might appear pushy.

Eggs aplenty in my trusty shoe box, I turned to the elegant gift shops.  Granted, my presentation might have benefited from more attention.  When the disdainful merchants declined to examine my wares, I whipped out a gleaming egg from under the cloth diaper used as a cover. “Look!  It’s really pretty, see?”

With the delicate Fabergé held before them, several store managers actually agreed to display my wares, but my head did not swim with visions of wealth.  They insisted on a hefty portion of the profit for this service.

The time had come, I decided, for the direct approach.  I huddled in the wind-driven rain at craft shows, my life’s work balanced precariously on a card table.  Enthusiastic passersby frequently stopped to exclaim over my eggs, but little money exchanged hands.  Then I landed on an inspiration, the egg show in Washington, DC. Well worth the admission price and hotel expenses, I assured my skeptical husband.  This was the big time, the utopia of eggdom.  And it was.  Only one element was missing––buyers.  Upon making inquiries, I learned that such mercenary consideration was beneath those of us assembled there to admire the craft of fellow eggers.

I was soon cured of such pettiness.  Greed for worldly gain fled along with us, after the hotel caught fire and a heavy storm flooded the exhibition area.  We traveled home in near hurricane conditions, me ill all night with food poisoning, counting ourselves fortunate to escape with our lives.

The remaining eggs made cherished Christmas gifts, as did the herbal wreaths and potpourri that followed in their wake.  And there were other less than successful enterprises.  Leftover seedlings from my plant sales have landscaped the yards of friends and families for years, not to mention the Yorkshire terriers I raised with profits eaten up by whopping vet bills.  Or the Siamese kitten venture.  Have you ever lived with a Siamese cat in heat, heard those hair-raising, guttural howls week after week?  I don’t recommend it.

One thing to be said for having your own cottage industry, it may not pay well, but its steady work.  AND there are still a lot of geese in my life.

*One of the eggs pictured above is real Fabergé.  Guess which one, and none of them are mine, most of which found homes long ago.   But I did découpage very like the one displayed.  I’d carefully wrap the image around the egg.

11 responses to “My Cottage Industry(s)

  1. Oh, Beth, you’re wares are beautiful. I too have had a few cottage industries. I paid for my son’s 1oth birthday present (a bike) making pumpkins out of dryer tubing. I still have two which gather comments each Halloween.

    Just think of the world’s lost of arts and crafts if cottage industries didn’t exist.

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  2. Thanks so much Barbara.

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  3. Your post was too cute for words. LOL I loved it!! Long live the Geese of all VA Romance Writers. We’ve all had them in one form or another.

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  4. Caroline Clemmons

    Beth, I laughed–not unkindly, but because I have been through some of those same ventures. I decoupaged, painted both in oils and watercolors, made crafts, had antique booths (the most fun of any of the aforementioned) and had the same luck. Now my cottage industry is writing. I had intended my books to actually make money, but with my latest royalty check sadly I have to call writing a hobby. Big, big sigh.

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  5. You are indeed multi-talented!

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  6. Beth, your eggs are beautiful. I collect eggs so I know.My favourite is a goose-egg (-gold,hinged and has satin lining and a gold leaf that hangs from the interior.)Wonderful trinket box. But I understand the frustration-esp in this economy. Don’t get me started on cats in heat–oh my, the whinning, the crying, the scratching at the door to be let out–and thats just me–pity the poor cat.(lol).Dory

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