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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sponsor Spotlight on Crystorama Lighting

On the eve of the Southern Bloggers Conference, we wanted to introduce you to another of our generous donors: Crystorama Lighting.

Crystorama is a family-owned design house and manufacturer with a 53-year-legacy of creating beautiful, fashion-forward lighting. Offering the service of a boutique design firm but with national distribution, Crystorama is a dominant producer of crystal, brass and wrought iron chandeliers in North America with an unsurpassed reputation for design, craftsmanship and value. 

The company was founded in 1958 by Abraham Kleinberg, and his children remain the principals, overseeing the entire design process, from pen-to-paper to CAD drawings to prototype to final product.

Brad Kleinberg, the company's president and creative director, finds inspiration everywhere for the company's gorgeous lighting designs.

In a gleaming Fifth Avenue shop window.

In the galleries of the Modern Museum of Art.

On the fashion runways.

In the hidden treasures found at antique stores and flea markets.

Lighting is jewelry for the home. It's often the finishing touch that makes a room. 

Crystorama gets that.

And as DIY, design and home decor bloggers, we get that. None of us would be caught dead with with builder-grade lighting fixtures in their home. 

Crystorama has lighting designs to fit ever design style. Traditional. Contemporary. Transitional. Youth. Ultra modern.

And Crystorama loves bloggers. They've partnered with bloggers many times on design projects and giveaways.

When you get your swag bag tomorrow, you'll find a gift from Crystorama, plus contact info for their PR agency.

(Sorry, our swag bags are great, but we couldn't fit a chandelier in each one!)

But one lucky blogger is going to win a chandelier from Crystorama, this beautiful Maria Theresa style chandelier draped in hand-cut crystals, a $450 value.

Go show Crystorama some love on Facebook and Twitter, and maybe you'll get some good karma points and win this chandelier Saturday at the Southern Bloggers Conference.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Join us for a Twitter Party

Just one week left until the Southern Bloggers Conference. We are getting very, very excited.

How about you?

We're kicking the conference fun off with a little Twitter pre-party at 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8.

Heather and Vanessa of At the Picket Fence have all the details about our party at their blog. 

Make sure you follow all the party hosts on Twitter:

Heather & Vanessa of At the Picket Fence

We'll also have some of our sponsors at the party, and you'll want to follow them, too. Watch our Twitter feed and Facebook page this week for the full follow list.

We'll be tweeting using the hashtag #SoBC2012.

We also recommend that you use a tool like Tweet Chat or Tweet Grid to follow along with the party. Check out this Twitter party tutorial for more info.

Can't wait to Tweet/meet you all! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meet more of our amazing sponsors and donors...

Being a part of the Southern Bloggers Conference organizing team has really boosted my confidence.

I used to be afraid of rejection, so afraid of hearing "no" for an answer. But lately, all I've been hearing is, "Yes." 

As in, "Yes, our company would love to be involved with the Southern Bloggers' Conference."

Our team has recruited some amazing sponsors and donors, some of which you've already read about here and on our SBC team member blogs: 

Today, I'm going to introduce you to a few more of our swag bag and giveaway donor-sponsors.

Perhaps you've heard of some of them...

Like Vera Bradley, a company that has been infusing color into women's lives for more than 30 years. 

Friends Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller founded the company in 1982. They were wives and moms, just like many of us bloggers are, and they pored their hearts into building their dream business.

While on vacation, Barb and Pat were waiting for a flight in Atlanta when they noticed all the luggage was boring and black. There weren't any pretty or feminine bags in the terminal that day. The friends had it in their minds to change that. 

They each borrowed $250 from their husbands (really!) to buy fabric to make colorful handbags and luggage. Within a year, they'd turned their husbands' $500 investment into a $10,000 profit.

Today, Vera Bradley is one of the most recognizable brands of handbags, luggage, accessories and gifts. The publicly traded company has annual sales of $461 million through its 52 retail stores, online store, eight outlets and more than 3,400 specialty retailers. Through the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, established in 1993, the company has raised more than $15 million and pledged an additional $5 million to breast cancer research. 

We are proud to have them Vera Bradley as a supporter of the Southern Bloggers conference. I won't give away all the surprises, but everyone who attends the conference will be getting special gifts from Vera Bradley! I will say that one of the patterns is very appropriate for North Carolina.

Like Vera Bradley, many of our sponsor companies are led by exceptional women entrepreneurs.

That's how Forbes magazine described Alison Prince, the founder and president of Pick Your Plum.

The company offers one amazing craft deal every day in limited quantities. And when I say, amazing, I mean amazing prices, amazing products, amazing customer service.

I've ordered lots from Pick Your Plum -- washi tape, baker's twine, wooden cutouts, personalized ribbon, a return address stamp, ribbon, trim....and the list goes on. That reminds me, I need to check today's Pick Your Plum deal!

And when you get your swag bag at the conference, be sure to check it for a special gift from Pick Your Plum.

When I was choosing companies to approach about potential sponsorship of the Southern Bloggers Conference, I reached out to those whose products I love and use. Like the Popcorn Fanatic.

When I first heard about Popcorn Fanatic, I sent my husband on a special trip to buy a selection of their gourmet flavored popcorn. 

I happen to live near their retail store in Winston-Salem, N.C., but Popcorn Fanatic also sells online. So, no matter where you live, you can get your fix of delicious gourmet popcorn.

Popcorn Fanatic sells sweet, savory and candy flavor popcorn. I'm a big fan of the Chicago mix and the white chocolate peanut butter, and I'm also dying to try their pimiento cheese and sweet butter. 

The Popcorn Fanatic has agreed to make up a special flavor just for our swag bags. You can vote in the poll on the Southern Bloggers Conference Facebook page.

Will it be pimiento cheese, sweet potato, sweet butter or N.C. BBQ in our swag bags?

And speaking of North Carolina barbecue, you definitely need to try some while you're here for the conference.

Our sponsor, the NC BBQ Company, will make that easy.

They'll have a booth at the conference on Friday night, and they'll also be providing a gift box of authentic North Carolina BBQ for a lucky door prize winner. The company is also very eager to work with bloggers, so make sure you stop by their booth to talk to them.

And don't worry about how you're going to get that barbecue home if you win. The nifty thing about the NC BBQ Company is that they ship barbecue gift boxes all over the country. So, you can have authentic N.C.-style pork barbecue no matter where you live.

And while we're on the subject of N.C. BBQ, let me school you a bit. 

Ours is pork barbecue, and there are two regional styles served here, depending on what part of the state you're in. There's Eastern style and Western Ssyle, also sometimes called Piedmont or Lexington style BBQ. We take our barbecue seriously here in North Carolina; debates about 'cue can get more contentious than those about politics.

I was raised on Eastern style, and it's definitely my favorite of the two, though my husband swears by Western style. We obviously need to try a BBQ battle box.

The NC BBQ Company's Eastern style barbecue is made from pork shoulders and hams slow cooked and smoked with hickory or oak coals. The pork is pulled, mixed and chopped and combined with a light vinegar sauce. It is served with a mayonnaise based coleslaw.

The NC BBQ Company's Western style BBQ is made from pork shoulders slow cooked and smoked over Hickory coals. It is served chopped without sauce added during the preparation. Sauce is served on the side. It is also served with a vinegar-based red slaw.

Have we made you hungry for a ticket to the Southern Bloggers Conference? We still have a few conference tickets left, but if you don't want to miss out on the great swag, giveaways and speakers, you need to buy yours soon. These tickets will sell out -- maybe as soon as this week.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Behind the scenes tour at Spoonflower

Are you a budding textile designer? 

Then you are going to be very excited to learn that Spoonflower is a swag bag and giveaway donor at the Southern Bloggers Conference! 

Spoonflower is a print-on-demand fabric company. The 4-year-old Internet startup, which is based in Durham, N.C., allows individuals to design, print and sell their own fabric designs. The company was founded by two self-professed Internet geeks with crafty wives.

It all started when Stephen Fraser's wife, Kim, couldn't find the curtains she wanted for their living room -- something I can certainly relate to!

After hunting unsuccessfully for the perfect yellow polka dot fabric, Kim Fraser told her husband that she ought to be able to print her own fabric for curtains. (Since he was working for a print-on-demand book company at the time, he thought it was a pretty good idea.) 

Spoonflower was born. And it turns out there are a lot of other artsy-crafty types like Kim Fraser.

Spoonflower prints and ships out between 1,000 and 1,500 yards of fabric every day for its customers.  The Spoonflower community now numbers more than half a million individuals who use their own fabric to make curtains, quilts, clothes, bags, furniture, dolls, pillows, framed artwork, costumes, banners and much, much more. The Spoonflower marketplace offers the largest collection of independent fabric designers in the world.

Recently, Kristen of Sophia's Decor and I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Spoonflower manufacturing facility in Durham. 

CEO Stephen Fraser, who says he didn't know the difference between linen and cotton before starting Spoonflower, led our tour and answered all our questions.

North Carolina has a rich textile history, but Spoonflower's is like no other textile plant you've seen before. 

"We're not a textile company," Fraser said. "We brought this perspective of running a web business to the textile world."

The company prints its fabric -- or rather it's customers' fabric designs -- on large-scale ink jet printers that have been modified (or "hacked, as Fraser describes it) to handle bolts of cotton, linen, twill, canvas and silk. 

The printers use eight different colors of eco-friendly ink.

 And the designs you can create and print through Spoonflower are only limited by your imagination.

We saw geometric patterns

Whimsical children's patterns

Holiday fabrics

And lots of swatches.

That's one of the coolest things about Spoonflower. You can order a swatch or a fat quarter or hundreds of yards of fabric that you design! There's no minimum order.

The Spoonflower blog has lots of great tutorials for projects you can make, starting at about $10.

Once Spoonflower prints your custom-designed fabric, it is heated to 330 degrees Farenheit to set the ink.

After the fabric is heat set, it goes to the cutting tables...

...where Spoonflower employees inspect and cut it to fulfill customers' orders. (If any fabric doesn't meet Spoonflower's rigid quality standards, it is recycled. The company can't use the scraps or sell them because it doesn't own any of the designs. Ownership of the intellectual property remains with the person who created and uploaded the fabric design to Spoonflower.)

Next the fabric is stacked on shelves...

..and sorted before it's packed and shipped to buyers, along with a thank you note.

Spoonflower's business has grown tremendously in the past four years. The company started out in a small warehouse in Mebane, N.C., and moved two years ago to its current digs near the Research Triangle Park. Next month, the company will move to a manufacturing plant that is double its current size. Fraser also projected that the company will add 10 more employees before the end of the year -- putting its total workforce at 50 people.

Fraser credits bloggers and crafters for much of the company's growth. Not only are these people customers of Spoonflower's but they've also shared their fabric designs and projects with others. And that has helped the company grow, mainly by word of mouth.

"The urge to express yourself -- that same impulse has been part of ...Spoonflower's growth," Fraser said. 

Visiting Spoonflower gave us a glimpse of creativity in action. Kristen and I saw so many beautiful and fresh fabric designs as we toured the plant. The company's offices are decorated with many of its customers'  and its employees' designs. 

We saw fabric umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, fabric canvases covering the walls, fabric origami cranes, and all manner of upholstery, pillows, quilts and blankets.

We even saw Cornelius, a giant stuffed unicorn. (You can make your own by buying the pattern-printed fabric at Spoonflower. A fat quarter will make an 8-inch unicorn, or you can make the 4.5-foot-tall version with 5 yards of fabric. Directions for how Fraser and his colleagues made the original Cornelius are on the company's blog.)

One thing that Fraser made very clear to us during our tour is that you don't have to be a designer or a skilled graphic artist to create your own fabric designs with Spoonflower. In other words, no Photoshop sills are required!

"The spirit of Spoonflower has always been geared toward amateurs just trying it," he said. "That's true of our original customer, my wife, Kim."

We at the Southern Bloggers Conference just placed our first Spoonflower order for fabric banners for the conference. And I know that both Kristen and I are itching to create our own designs. 

We've both also enjoyed browsing through the Spoonflower marketplace and the amazing designs submitted by the company's customers. Many have chosen to allow their designs to be purchased by others. So, if you're looking for the perfect purple chevron, or black-and-white typewriter fabric, you just might find it in the Spoonflower marketplace. And when you buy, the designer will receive a commission.

Now, defying all rules of journalism, we've saved the big news of this post for last. 

Spoonflower is getting ready to launch two new products: custom printed wallpaper that is prepasted and also easily removable -- we couldn't believe it either -- and large-scale wall decals that you could use to cover a refrigerator or other equally big canvas. (Oh, the possibilities.)

And guess what? We're going to be giving away some Spoonflower gift certificates at the Southern Bloggers Conference, Oct. 12-13, in Raleigh. Everyone who attends the conference will get a Spoonflower swatch book that will help you when you order your custom printed fabric.

Kristen and I will be sharing more about our impressions of Spoonflower and projects we're planning on our blogs. So, be sure to visit Sophia's Decor and Atta Girl Says to find out what we're making with the help of Spoonflower.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A New Giveaway Donor - Sandy Hall Creations

One of the many wonderfully, awesome things about being a part of the team organizing the Southern Bloggers Conference is experiencing the generosity of our many giveaway and SWAG donors.

Sandy founded Liberty Street Baggage, located in Asheville, NC, in 1989 from a vision to create unique, American made baggage of peerless quality and inspired design.

Sandy Hall Creations brings gorgeous, durable, kid-friendly bags, totes and luggage to the mix of hand-crafted, elegant luggage that Liberty Street has been creating for decades.

There is something for everyone!

 Beautiful totes and handbags


Yoga/Exercise mat bags

Lunch bags

Laptop bags

Luggage sets

There are even bags for special needs such as walkers and wheelchairs.

One lucky attendee will win their best seller BFF bag - a $150 value!
(I'm only showing you a side view so as not to totally spoil the reveal!) 

"This bag is fun and functional for ladies on the go.  The clever design makes is super versatile, with zippered openings at the top and through the back.  A quick zip of the strap and - voila! - the shoulder bag becomes a backpack.  Pockets galore give you a place for everything.  Two side pockets with Velcro closures and an open pocket behind the flap.  Structured and stylish, the front pocket flap closure features a magnetic snap as well as a decorative button and gemstone.  It is lined with coordinating fabric"
Sandy Hall Designs

Like Sandy Hall Creations on Facebook to keep up with all of their new offerings and exciting announcements!