One Year of Self-Employment

Samantha Hartman Wood Pallet Wonders

Today is my one year anniversary of being self-employed. One year ago I walked out of my comfy desk job to take the plunge into running my own business. After two years of working at my first ‘real’ job as a graphic designer, I just knew that wasn’t for me. I still enjoy design, but for myself. I was unfulfilled and unsatisfied and I had to make a change. It was a scary decision and I didn’t tell anyone for a few months (sorry, fam) in case it failed and I totally made the wrong decision. I live in a small town and there isn’t much in the design field so I would really be in a bind if it didn’t work out. However, I saved up enough to cover my bills for a few months just in case, and waited until I was to the point where I was working all day at my desk job and then nights and weekends for Infinite Abyss – that’s when I knew it was time.

The past year has been such a whirlwind of ups and downs. It isn’t easy running your own business but at the end of the day I know I am in control of the work I do and it is such a satisfying feeling. One of my biggest accomplishments has been the release of my book, Wood Pallet Wonders. Seeing that on the shelf of a store like Barnes & Noble is priceless – there are just no words to describe that. I told Karl I hope someone I went to school with or met years ago thought, ‘Hey I remember so and so, she had a book published,’ because I totally do that myself. It was a huge project, which you can read about here, but an amazing one at that. A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Realtor.com and the article was published earlier this month – I am so glad so many people are loving my book!

I am not really one to brag about myself; I post the occasional update on social media when something good happens but it is few and far between. However, I have worked hard to get where I am so I think I deserve a post of bragging. Sometimes I think back to a few instances from my past, such as being pushed away for not immersing myself in design in college, or being told I wasn’t successful because I worked in a restaurant – isn’t it funny how some of those insignificant remarks can stay with a person long after the fact? Those little things have kept me going. I have been consistently busy with orders in the past year and last December I had my biggest month to date with almost hitting the 5 digit mark financially – what an amazing surprise. My list of stockists has grown to almost forty and they are always keeping me busy. I would rather have too much to do than too little, but I have a list of backup projects for when it is slow. I would love to focus more on social media and really diving into growing my Facebook page. I learned so much at Craftcation and I am really looking forward to implementing those techniques to reach a bigger audience.

Outside of work, I have had the freedom to travel and I took much advantage of that. Last month I finally attended a craft conference in California called Craftcation, which has been on my list for years. It was so worth every penny and I am so glad I went (I will have a post about it coming soon). Karl and I took a roadtrip back afterwards through Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and Arizona. I will also be writing a post about that trip – it was too good not to share! In the past year I have also been to Jamaica, back home to Pittsburgh, camping in tons of amazing spots, up to Yellowstone and the Tetons a few times with friends and family, and all over the surrounding states, to name a few places. I got to see the eclipse in its totality and finally got to camp in a yurt for my birthday.

Samantha Hartman Joshua Tree National Park Samantha Hartman Seven Magic Mountains

Yellowstone National Park   Camping at Vedavoo in Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park

Since my schedule is a bit more flexible, I have been able to try new activities. I joined a local gym and ran my first Spartan obstacle course race in March – okay, I ran two in one weekend which was exhausting but so, so fun. I also joined the orchestra. I still have a clarinet that I played in middle school and although it has been a little hard to get back into (how do I read music again?), it is a new creative outlet and that is very important to me. I don’t want to get burnt out on making everyday so one of my goals this year is to try a new medium or activity that is different from my daily tasks. It is very easy to get lost in work when there is no set end time, and I am guilty of checking my email or posting on Instagram late at night. I have tried a few weaving pieces and took a lot of classes at Craftcation that I can do at home, such as block printing and hand crocheting. I am dying to get back into ceramics but there aren’t many options here. Karl and I made our Halloween costumes out of Paper Mache and they turned out SO good. We were the characters from Beetlejuice and ended up winning four contests at the local bars. Last summer we got into backpacking and it has been one of my favorite activities so far. We have been able to camp in some pretty amazing places just by hiking and taking everything we need with us. Our first trip was to some natural hot springs, which are one of my favorite things about living out west, and since then we have been on quite a few trips. This winter we were also able to take advantage of the winter sports here and try snowshoeing and cross country skiing. We have a list of places to visit this summer, when it finally gets here. I would love to explore more slot canyons and go back to Moab.

Hiking Bald Mountain in Utah   Camping in the Uinta Mountains

  Handmade Beetlejuice Halloween Costumes

Let’s be honest though, being your own boss does have its downsides. It is lonely. I share a shop with a talented and awesome guy named Larry and it is nice to take my dog to work with me everyday, but the creativity in my community overall is lacking. In Pittsburgh it was easy to meet those creatives for coffee to bounce ideas off of, but here is it not so easy. Going to Craftcation was like a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by those talented women for a few days and I came back full of so many ideas and feeling refueled. I am hoping to slowly bring some craftiness into Evanston but that is on my list of future plans. Back in November I taught my first craft class here, which was really fun but a great learning experience about myself and others. It is not as easy as it looks!

Teaching a craft class

It is also hard to not have a set income. After a few years of being in business I have a general idea of the slow periods and when my shops will reorder so I can stay on top of that. I try my best at keeping up on having my supplies in stock and planning to get hauls of reclaimed wood before the snow starts to fall. I have had to pay more attention to budgeting and spending; I don’t spend much on shopping or things, per say, but I do love to travel and that is where most of my extra money goes. I also have to keep track of what I spend for my business and save every receipt for taxes. Last year I did pretty well but I have to remember to set aside some time each month to update my books so I am better off in the long run.

Not having a set schedule took me a few months to get used to. I am a night person 100% and there seems to be no changing that over the years. I have my days pretty routine now but it took a bit to figure out how much time it would take me to do certain things, such as packing up orders, responding to emails, or updating listings. Some days it takes hours to pack up large orders and then I don’t have much time for anything else. Although I am not physically building the products that day, I am still working, but it doesn’t really feel that way if I don’t go to the shop. I bought a Create 365 Happy Planner this year to keep track of my tasks and it is literally the only planner that I have kept up with after the first month. Every Sunday I set aside an hour or so to plan the week and decorate it – I can finally use up all the scrapbooking stuff I have that I never use and having an attractive spread makes me want to get things done. I also subscribed to a few subscription boxes. It is easy to wake up, throw on sweatpants, and get to work, so I tried a few months of Birchbox to keep up with the self-care aspect of my life. When I was reading reviews on the different beauty boxes, some people didn’t like that Birchbox only gave sample sizes instead of large bottles. However, I liked that most. I put them all in a makeup bag so I can try them as needed or take them when I’m traveling. I am not really a makeup person anymore so it was nice to have a ‘try before I buy’ type thing, and know which products I’d like to purchase in the future in the regular size. One other monthly box I get is Sparkle Hustle Grow. It is geared towards female entrepreneurs and I have really enjoyed it so far. Their Facebook group is a great resource for staying connected with other creatives and I have received some useful tools and trainings each month. I posted an unboxing video on my Facebook, which I have linked below.

Birchbox Sparkle Hustle Grow box

Overall, I am 100% sure that I made the right decision one year ago. I do not regret it and have so many things great things coming up in the rest of 2018. To those looking to do what I did, I say go for it. You will never know unless you try and it will be a scary leap, trust me. More importantly, trust in your business and your drive to succeed. When I really think about what I wanted to do with my life, it was to be successful on my own accord, and I think I am well on my way there.

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Wood Pallet Wonders

Wood Pallet Wonders - a DIY book of 20 storage and home decor projects made from wood pallets

I am so excited to announce that my latest project, Wood Pallet Wonders: 20 Stunning DIY Storage & Decor Designs Made from Reclaimed Pallets, is officially finished! It has been a little over a year in the making and long hours of hard work, but such an amazing experience and a great feeling to see it all come together.

In my new book, I will show you how to make twenty projects from wood pallets with step-by-step instructions and images. Each piece is based around storage and home decor, while some are a combination of both. I also incorporated some reclaimed and uncommon materials so there are a few surprises in there as well! I wanted to make sure I did not limit the reader to creating just what is in the book – there are tons of other pieces you can make by simply using my directions as a guideline and adding a customized touch.

Wood Pallet Wonders - a DIY book of 20 storage and home decor projects made from wood pallets
Looking past the long nights of photo editing, trying to remember how to write a professional piece, and coming up with original ideas in a Pinterest-filled world, I really had an amazing time writing this book. It was a true test of my creativity and really pushed my skills to the test – truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

For being a first time author, my publishing company was so easy to work with and really made the process run smooth. They offered loads of photography advice and were very patient in the beginning with my emails full of photos that just wouldn’t work. The woodshop I use is an old warehouse, so trying to get the lighting right in there literally proved impossible. I had to set up a makeshift photo booth with foam core board in the old ‘office’ area since it was the only part with a ceiling low enough to bounce light off of, and the only room with a window. That being said, I could only photograph the steps of each project on the weekends to use the natural light because by the time I got home from work in the winter months it was already dark. That alone was the single most frustrating part of the project – I had holiday travel plans and weekend activities already committed before I knew about the project so the tight deadlines meant spending every free minute in the shop. I had about four months to get all twenty projects built, photographed, edited, written up, styled, photographed again, and sent over. I thought that would be more than enough time but it went by SO fast! I was relieved that my writing did not need much editing. It was a bit harder than I had expected to write out the steps of a project. In my head I knew how to build the piece but getting it out on paper was a whole different story. However, the editor said I had a good ‘voice’ and there was not much to change aside from small things here and there.

Wood Pallet Wonders - a DIY book of 20 storage and home decor projects made from wood pallets Wood Pallet Wonders - a DIY book of 20 storage and home decor projects made from wood pallets Wood Pallet Wonders - a DIY book of 20 storage and home decor projects made from wood pallets

Although I am bummed the book is finished, seeing it all come together is the most rewarding feeling in the world. I am an author with a book at stores such as Barnes and Noble and Target! Not many people can say that. I owe a million shoutouts to those who have already preordered the book and who have supported me along the way – what a great feeling. xo

You can check out Wood Pallet Wonders on Amazon and be sure to check out #woodpalletwonders on Instagram for more sneak peeks!

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Etsy Open Call 2016

Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, number crunching, and brainstorming lately for my business and where I want to go from here. One of the things I am most thankful for and one of the best opportunities I have had to date was attending Etsy Open Call in NYC last year. Not only was it an amazing and inspiring experience, but my sales have quadrupled in the months since I got back. I walked away from it with new connections, new friends, so much knowledge, and great new stockists that are excited to carry my products. What is Etsy Open Call, you may ask? Let me tell you.

Available only to Etsy Wholesale sellers, Etsy Open Call is an annual event that choses a select number of makers to go to the Etsy Headquarters in NYC to pitch their lines to retailers. Last August was the second year for the event and the five main retailers included Macy’s, Paper Source, Whole Foods, Giggle, and the Smithsonian Museum. They also had a new segment after the main event that brought in hundreds of small shops from across the country to shop and choose new products for their stores. Personally, I liked that part of the event better, as it was more relaxed and I love to support the brick and mortar shops.

I kept getting emails from Etsy about the event last summer and really did not think twice about it. Never in a million years did I think someone like me would get chosen for something like that. I did not have a huge social media following, I did not have thousands of sales on Etsy, and I had just joined Etsy Wholesale at the beginning of last year and had literally two orders on there (which, nonetheless, I was still ecstatic about. Some people waited months before getting their first wholesale order). After reading through the criteria, I decided to give it a shot – I met all the qualifications, it was free to apply, and I did not have to fill out pages of information, which seemed alright to me! Days later, I received an email from Etsy with the subject, ‘URGENT Open Call Information.’ I was in the car with my sister, who was visiting from Pittsburgh, and almost had a heart attack when I opened it. I could NOT believe I had gotten chosen! There were thousands of applicants from all over the world and I was chosen among thirty-five others. Once I was over my initial excitement and disbelief, I realized the amount of work I had in front of me and the short time frame I had to do it. The event was at the end of August, and at this point it was the beginning of July. I already had a trip planned to go back home for two weddings, and I had maybe a month to book all the travel info to NYC, take time off work, finish up the open orders I had, prepare my pitch, figure out how to ship products AND a display across the country, and a million other little things to go along with it. Somehow I managed to get it all done, and I am not going to lie to you, it was a very stressful month. My boyfriend went on the trip with me and although I am sure he wanted to kill me by the time we got there, it all paid off in the end.

We took a few extra days and drove up to Rhode Island and back down through New York. It is SO beautiful up there; I wish I could live in a little farmhouse on the water.

Samantha Hartman - Newport, Rhode Island    Samantha Hartman - Newport, Rhode Island
 The weather in NYC was gloomy when we arrived but through Etsy we were able to go to NY Now, which was amazing. It was so inspirational to walk around and see all of the beautiful housewares and products. I would love to do that trade show… maybe someday. I also got to tour the Etsy Headquarters, which is just a great space overall. They have a living plant wall and a perfect city view from the rooftop. I would love to work at a place like that.

Samantha Hartman - NY Now 2016    Samantha Hartman - New York City, NY
Samantha Hartman - New York City, NY    Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016
The day of the event was both fun and stressful. On the first day in the Etsy HQ we were given a few lessons on how to pitch our lines and how to talk to the retailers. It was important to know which stores our products would be a good fit for and target those. After hearing that, I was even more stressed out. What was I supposed to say to the woman from Giggle, who had a store full of baby products? I tried to convince her that my products would be good for a nursery or a stylish mom, but after twenty seconds of rambling we both just blankly looked at each other. At the time I was a bit embarrassed and definitely frustrated, but she did give me some good pointers that I took away from speaking with her.

Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016

Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016

Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016

One of the things I struggled with most was getting my products and display to NYC. I wanted it to look clean and highlight the products, but I did not want it to be too simple. I decided on sheets of wood with dowel rods to hold them up, that was they could be disassembled and everything could fit perfectly in a carry on. At first I was unsure about it, but once I saw it all set up at the event, I think it turned out really well.

Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016

Samantha Hartman Infinite Abyss Etsy Open Call 2016

Although the event was most of the day, I met up with Karl after to sightsee. I had been to NYC once before but we went to Coney Island and walked around the city to see some new sights. We went to dinner with some friends I met at the event and spent some time relaxing in the hotel before we had to head back to Wyoming.

Samantha Hartman - Coney Island, NY   Samantha Hartman - Coney Island, NY
I did not end up getting the coveted Golden Purchase Order from any of the five major retailers, but to some extent I am kind of relieved. At that point in time I do not think I would have been able to mass produce hundreds of items to meet the holiday deadlines, but I did get a few orders at the show from smaller shops. Once I was back home, I got quite a few more and my sales since then have really increased. Overall, it was an experience that I would not trade for anything. It was refreshing and inspirational to be around so many other talented individuals and hear their stories. I feel more comfortable reaching out to stores and retailers to pitch my lines, and working with my existing stockists on wholesale orders. I am excited to see what new changes Etsy will bring for the event this year, and I encourage anyone to apply.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Infinite Abyss Reclaimed Wood Serving Trays

I have never really been a fan of Valentine’s Day. It was one of the most unorganized days to work when I was a waitress and I just never understood waiting for two hours to eat in an overly crowded restaurant. My birthday is three days after that dreadful holiday and I always looked forward to that instead. However, I love the idea of pampering someone you care about, whether it be on that day, the weekend after, or everyday of the year.

I put together a small roundup of gifts I really like, based around my handmade serving trays. They are perfect for serving up breakfast in bed and then can be used to hold trinkets and treasures for a cozy display. The items in the gift guide are simple and beautiful, and are sure to be appreciated by girlfriends, sisters, friends, or mothers this Valentine’s Day.

 

2017 Valentine's Day Gift Guide by Samantha Hartman of Infinite Abyss

1. White and Black Aztec Serving Tray by Infinite Abyss
2. Striated Crystal Ring Holder by Modern Mud
3. Desert Poppy Pillow Cover by San Junipero
4. Postcard: Love by Sideshow Press
5. Sweet Wilderness Candle by Falling Into Place

 

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Free Motivational Quote Printable

FREE Motivational Quote Printable on Entrepreneurship and Starting Your Own Business

For years I have had the same routine: go to work to pay the bills and then head home to work on orders for Infinite Abyss. I was fine with that. I was okay with creating products in my spare time because that is what I enjoy and it is a hobby. However, in the past few months my mind has completely changed. My orders increased, my wholesale stockist list completely transformed, amazing opportunities arose, and I am starting to think more of this ‘hobby’ I started years ago.

Feeling lost in what to do and afraid of change, I got an email last week that included this:

“Entrepreneurship is an “itch” you can’t shake. It can make you twitch, lose sleep, and crave something greater. It’s one of those things that just grows undeniably stronger with each passing day. To honor the entrepreneurial spirit in us all, here are four inspiring quotes from business thought leaders that will make you want to stop thinking, stop talking, and start doing…”

Although I am sure it was just an automated email from Shopify that followed after the launch of my new shop, how did they know it hit the nail right on the head? I have a feeling that this year will bring new changes and big risks, but if I do not try, I will never know.

Since I know there are others out there who feel the same way, I have created a series of free printables from those quotes. Click on each to enlarge it and then print on the paper of your choice. They are 5″x7″ cards:

Motivational Quote Printable Motivational Quote Printable Motivational Quote Printable Motivational Quote Printable

Which one can you relate to most? My personal favorite is, “There has never been a better time, in the history of time, than right now to start a business.” It is so true! With technology and social media how it is today, there are so many resources and tools to chase those dreams. I’d love to see how you use your quotes where they will inspire you most. Hang them up and tag me on Instagram – @infiniteabysshandmade.

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6 Flavored Salt Recipes

DIY Flavored Salts and Handmade Barnwood Box Set

Back in August I flew home to Pittsburgh to attend weddings for two of my dearest friends. I wanted to create a special wedding gift for each of them that was unique and something they would actually use. One just moved into a new home, and one married a guy that loves cooking, so I made them each a set of flavored salts in a handmade barnwood box.

Flavored salts

After searching all over, I ordered this set of DecoBros 12 Spice Bottles and was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked out. Each glass jar holds about three ounces and they have the plastic tops to sprinkle salt out. I made two sets so the twelve jars was perfect – six for each.

The ideas for the salts came from She Knows and Mommypotamus, but I tweaked them a little to see what worked best for the different flavors. You are free to use any type of salt you like, but I found that Himalayan Sea salt or course sea salt worked best. The Himalayan Sea salt also added a nice pink hue to some of the jars. Each recipe makes a ½ cup of salt, although with some ingredients there was a little left over, but I just saved them for my own use.

While I was planning out ideas for the box, my boyfriend Karl set to work on the salts. He loves to cook and is really good at it so this was perfect for him. Preheat your oven to 350F but once it gets up to temperature, turn it off. Start each recipe by putting all of the ingredients in the Magic Bullet. Pulse it a few times to mix everything but do not overdue it or it will turn into a really fine powder. If there are wet ingredients in the recipe, put the salt in a fine layer on a wax paper lined baking sheet and place it in the oven for 3-4 hours or until it is dried out. Some of the salt may be stuck together after that, but that is fine. Simply place the pieces back in the Magic Bullet to break them up.

Flavored salts

 

Here are the recipes for the six salts:

Sriracha Salt

  • ¼ cup course sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha

Rosemary & Lemon Salt

  • ½ cup Himalayan Sea salt
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1½ teaspoons dried rosemary

Buffalo Ranch Salt

  • ½ cup course sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons buffalo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix powder

Bacon Parmesan Salt

  • ½ cup course sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan

Mushroom Salt

  • ½ cup course sea salt
  • 4 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms

Saffron Fennel Salt

  • ½ cup Himalayan Sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

 

The set of jars I ordered came with round, white labels which worked out perfectly. Once the salts are dried out and well mixed, pour them into each jar and put a label on each. I wrote mine out by hand but you can also make them on the computer or out of special paper if you wish.

I built a box from old reclaimed barnwood that was around 4″ by 12″ so the jars fit nice and snug. I wanted to be able to see the beautiful textures and colors of the salt, yet I did not want them to fall out, so I had the box come up just over halfway on the jars.

I really love how it all turned out. My friends each love the set and it was great to see how just appreciated a thoughtful gift really is.

 
Flavored salts

Flavored salts

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New in the Infinite Abyss Shop – Hexagon Shelves

Infinite Abyss Hexagon Shelf

New in the shop today are pallet wood hexagon shelves. I’ve been building a lot of projects out of pallets lately for a few upcoming events and have come to find that I really like them. They are readily available, can be sanded smooth and painted any color, and have such beautiful natural tones that they can be left unfinished and still look great. My hexagon shelves are only $24 each, come unfinished and sanded smooth, and are 12″ at the widest part and around 4″ deep.

Infinite Abyss Hexagon Shelf Infinite Abyss Hexagon Shelf

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Printable Calendar Flash Sale

Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar

A few months ago I was contacted by Jane.com, a flash sale website, about putting some of my serving trays on there. I was a little nervous at first but the first sale went so well that I had another one a few weeks later. I’ve decided to try it again with some printable calendars that I created for my Hartman Design Co Etsy shop. Normally $8, they’re on sale for $3.99 each and you can print them right at home. The deal goes live Saturday and will last throughout the weekend.

View the deal

Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar Hartman Design Co Jane.com Printable Calendar

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