Blue Cloud Gift Gallery, Ball Square, Somerville USA

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By Melissa Glick of Hacker Creations

Between the Powderhouse rotary and McGrath Highway in Somerville MA is an eclectic  strip of stores and restaurants frequented by Tufts students and neighbors.  Ball Square is a round peg in a square hole. It’s a locale you probably wouldn’t go to unless you had the insider scoop….. brunch at Sound Bites or cakes from Lyndell’s. 

I’ve spent a bit of time in Ball Square because my best friend lives there, the Nave Gallery is nearby and it’s where Blue Cloud Gallery is located, at 713 Broadway, on a busy thoroughfare next to a coffee shop and across from 2 excellent eateries. It is run by one of the sweetest most supportive people you will ever meet.

The first time I hung out with Betsy Lenora was at the Trash Bash in Union Square where I was displaying my Hacker Creations. Betsy was set up next to me selling “Memory Stick Men”, little figures made from old computer RAM and pipe cleaners. Having the recycled technology in common, I struck up a conversation only to learn it was the work of an artist she features in her gallery. That is the kind of dedication and generosity Betsy is known for.

Betsy gives emerging artists a break and often says things like “You are under valuing your work! You should charge more!” Last Spring, Betsy hosted a wine tasting event to encourage business during the post holiday slump. She invited 6 of us to demonstrate our craft in the already packed to the gills shop.

Interview with Betsy Lenora of Blue Cloud Gift Gallery

How did you come to be running Blue Cloud Gallery? A long, long time ago…I met and made friends with BCG’s original owner, Patricia Wellenkamp. I was working at the time at Cambridge Artists’ Cooperative, the award-winning craft gallery in Harvard SQ on Church St. I worked there for a total of 15 years, 7 of which were as manager. In the economic downturn, I was laid off. Patricia helped me out by hiring me to work one day a week, a situation that lasted about a year. She then informed me she was closing Blue Cloud Gallery and offered to sell it to me. In April of 2011, I became the proud new owner just in time as my unemployment was running out! It has been a dream come true as I love supporting the artists and helping customers. I have always thought of myself as a facilitator.

How do you find, choose, the work you sell? At last count, there is work by 140 artists in the gallery. Most of them are local (meaning the Metro-Boston area). A handful are either from New England or states further away. When I first started, I asked many of the artists I knew from the Cambridge Artists’ Cooperative since I had a relationship with them. I then put out a Call for Artwork via the Somerville Arts Council and got quite a few that way. Since then, I get the majority of new work from being contacted directly by artists. I choose the work based on 3 criteria: uniqueness, quality of workmanship and do I think it will be a good match for my store – for my customers.

What sells the best?  Jewelry – specifically earrings – and pottery – specifically mugs. And cards! I have the largest selection of locally made cards than anywhere else that I know of. Half the people who come in my store come to buy cards.

Who shops at Blue Cloud Gallery? I am supported primarily by the neighborhood that’s around my store, which is made up of young professionals, families, some students (from Tufts) and older women who appreciate creativity.

Will you share a story that occurred at the gallery? There are several heart-touching stories involving children in my store. Yesterday, a little girl I’d guess around 5 years old came back in with her father and went directly to a little fabric mouse living in a fabric ‘can of pumpkin’ and holding a tiny broom; she had her heart set on giving this to her mother, her dad said. (They had been in the store briefly the day before.) While dad starts to pay, little girl pipes up loud and clear that her birthday was April 12th (3 days hence). Hmmmm. She was so cute – wearing a long, white multi-ruffled layered dress that she opened her coat to show me. I have another customer with a young daughter who’s been coming in since she was 3; every time they buy a finger puppet for mom who must have 20 or more by now!

Anything else you would like to add? The world of art and craft is not an easy one to survive in. As an artist, one needs to be talented and skilled at their craft AND be skilled at marketing their craft. It is my mission to support artists in what they do by presenting their work the best I can, marketing my store the best I can. Customers, artists and sellers are in this together; I believe we can support each other in making local, selling local and buying local!

Blue Cloud Gallery recently started selling on line at:  www.shoptiques.com

For complete article with photos, go to: http://bostonartmakers.org/2015/07/10/blue-cloud-gift-gallery-ball-square-somerville-usa/

Thanks for writing such a good article, Melissa! It’s not a bad thing to toot one’s horn once in awhile.

Fondly yours, Betsy

FACTS AFTER THE FACT

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Hello All My Wonderful Readers!

You missed it. You missed another fabulous Event held at Blue Cloud Gallery. And I missed you which makes me feel sad. It was a lot of fun as usual. It was successful which can’t be predicted as easily. But because you missed it, I am going to share the facts which are also my memories. I hope by sharing the news of an Event that’s already over, it will entice you enough to attend the next one I have.

BCG Betsy and Wine

That’s me! The Event was a Wine Tasting / Craft Demonstration held on Sunday March 29, 2015 . A selection of 3 different wines were recommended to me by Kate from across the street at Ball Square Fine Wines (free tastings every Friday!) and were a delicious, fruity yet dry white Bordeaux Sauvignon-Semillion that was the crowd’s favorite, a yummy Pinot Noir from an inland vineyard east of Monterrey, CA called “Route 152”, and a deep red juicy Carneiros from Chile. See what you missed?!

1-BCG MG and Dan

Artist Melissa Glick of Cambridge, MA answers Dan’s questions about her talent and technique for making artwork out of old computer parts. Blue Cloud Gallery sells her sculptural wall-hangings, clocks and jewelry.

1-Naomi P

Naomi Ellenberg-Dukas of Belmont, MA is demonstrating how she makes bracelets out of guitar string wire. She made and sold an especially beautiful one decorated with multi-colored beads to a young woman. I was deeply envious.

3-BCG Todd Demo

Here’s Todd Easton of Somerville, MA pounding designs into leather to make keychains and barrettes. I love his dyed laser-cut bracelet cuffs which I also sell in my store.

1-Todd P

He’s scoring the leather now while his daughter and a friend look on.

2-Todd P

Melissa and Dan P

Outside, Melissa King of Somerville, MA has her easel set up. She paints illustrations, mostly of dogs and cats. I wish I’d shown more of her painting and less of Dan!

Jan P

Jan Willett of Monkeyshine Studios!!! She showed us how she gets started, proceeds and finishes making a Sock Monkey from scratch. I found it a little disconcerting seeing the disembodied arms, legs and tails but she wove her special magic into them over the 2 hour period and soon we had lively monkeys jumping around the store again.

BCG craft demo monkeys and MG

Lyn Brown P

Lyn Brown, another artist from Somerville brought some handmade books which she demonstrated binding. You will notice a stack of baskets in the foreground – those are made of paper and are collapsible. A pretty neat trick! I sell Lyn’s beautiful, one-of-a-kind paper lampshades and light switch plate covers.

BCG Lyn and Raj

Lyn chats with Rajiv Ramaiah, another of my artists from Somerville. Raj is a graphic design artist; I sell his fictitious subway map posters and cards. You should see them!

4-BCG Todd craft demo

I added this because of the poster in the back; can you see what it says? “Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something”.

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Melissa Glick and her ‘junk’.

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Awesome junk!

4-BCG MG Demo

Working it…

2-Naomi P

Naomi Ellenberg-Dukas answers a question. Besides guitar wire bracelets, she makes a variety of jewelry. I sell her beautiful trellis yarn necklaces.

3-Naomi P

Making a guitar wire bracelet…

BCG Betsy Demo

And finally, back to me! For a small space, we managed to fit in quite a few guests. The sunny weather was much appreciated.

A good time was had by all, and that’s a Fact!

Next time you’re invited to an Event at Blue Cloud Gallery, mark it on your calendar and don’t miss it. I want to see YOU in one of these pictures with a glass of wine in your hand!

Thank you.

Betsy Lenora

photo credits: Betsy Lenora and Michelle Driscoll

Shopping Online with Blue Cloud Gallery

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Hello All My Wonderful Customers!

I have big news for my store – soon I will have a way for anyone, anywhere to shop online for some of my hand-crafted gifts. I have teamed up with an exciting online shopping organization called Shoptiques.com or http://www.shoptiques.com/

Shoptiques.com is a one-of-a-kind online destination for discovering and exploring local boutiques across the world. And now I am included in that category! Imagine that.

It all started with a pair of shoes in Paris…” This company was started by a young woman named Olga who had the foresight to bring together many unique boutique stores from all over the country and the world on one online shopping site. Olga moved to America from Russia when she was 17. She attended Wellesley College. It was while attending Harvard Business School that she wrote her business plan for Shoptiques.com which she began executing upon graduation.

We have a launch date of March 15th, so look for further news of the event. Many people have suggested that I make the items in my store available to sell online but it’s a lot of work for one person to set up and manage. Shoptiques.com is a highly reputable company and is taking most of the work out of doing it for me.

I invite you to go to their site, http://www.shoptiques.com/ and check it out. Soon, you can find MY store listed under the “BOUTIQUES” tab and when you find it, please click on the upper right corner to indicate that you “LIKE” it. It gives me Brownie points!

In other news, my store WILL be open March 3rd thru March 8th while I am away on Sanibel Island in FL. (Nyaah nyaah nyaah!) My kind, generous, and funny partner Marshall will be holding down the fort. Please visit him while I’m away and bring him a treat. He’ll deserve it!

Ocean feet  Herring Cove

Above is a preview of my feet in the ocean. On Sanibel Island, all those stones will be shells!

Warmest Wishes – Betsy

Special Moments

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Hello All You Special People!

Really special things can and do happen at Blue Cloud Gallery. Like when artists and customers come together and create something that was not there before. What am I talking about? I’m talking about SPECIAL ORDERS.

Below, Tamara Major (painter) of Medford hands off a beautiful watercolor house portrait to Macy Coffey (home owner) of Somerville.

Tamara and Macy-1

For $325, Tamara will make a custom-painted 9×12 image in a 12×16 mat of your house. I wish you could really see what a fantastic job she did on Macy’s house painting!

Let me know if you have an interest in having a custom portrait made of YOUR house.

I put another customer in touch with one of my potters, Jon Baring-Gould of Newton for a SPECIAL ORDER of 12 creamy white 9″ bowls and 2 LARGE creamy white bowls that were made for a caterer. Everyone was delighted with the results.

The beauty of SPECIAL ORDERS is that an artist can make something unique and Special just for YOU. And don’t we all deserve that?

Especially Yours, Betsy

Hosting a Successful Craft Store Event

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GREETINGS ALL YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE!

Last Sunday Sept. 28th, my store hosted a FREE Craft
Demonstration plus Wine Tasting Event.
I wanted to share with you that it was a SUCCESS! It was a SUCCESS! It was SUCCESSFUL! 
Five artists: Elizabeth Arnold – chainmail jewelry, Karen Chmielewski – needle felting, Kim McCullough – tile painting, Janis Thomas – quilling, and Sarah Beardslee – bead weaving demonstrated their techniques inside the store while I greeted, poured wine and rang up sales. Yes, SALES! In 2 hours, I made my whole days’ figures!
Most of the guests had never been in my store before. I can guarantee you that they WILL be back.
eventPaint
When one is in business for ones’ self, victories are important. Choosing the project, situation or event that will give you one is never a guarantee. I added the wine tasting as an incentive though I may not have needed it. Sending out emails to social media, and again the day before as a reminder, choosing a day when parking was free and a time of day that was most conducive to peoples’ schedules was crucial.
 My small shop is chock-full of local crafts to discover so there was much to explore once people arrived, besides being intrigued by the different craft demonstrations. The logistics are very important. But I have a feeling that the success came because once here, everyone had a good time – the artists, the guests and me, the host. The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly, informative. Okay, so maybe the wine DID help!
I wish you successful ideas and visions!
Your Blog Friend,
Betsy Lenora
owner, Blue Cloud Gallery

BEAUTY – CRAFT – MISSION

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Hello All You Beautiful People!

“Beauty is as beauty does.” What does THAT mean? It means that when you do beautiful things, it reflects on you. Think about that when you’re hanging out with your friends, or with your family and especially when surrounded by strangers. It’s all part of committing random acts of kindness. This world needs all the positive energy it can get. Every time we do something nice for someone else, we are contributing positive energy for the good of the whole world.

The mission for my store, Blue Cloud Gallery, is to help artists continue their craft by making my store a wonderful and interesting place so that when people visit, they will discover all the unique handcrafted gifts made by my artists. When they do, they give the gifts they’ve purchased to friends and family and pass on happiness, creativity and beauty which expresses their thoughtfulness perfectly.

And as much as I want to support artists and help customers, I also offer myself – who I am – in the service of both artists and customers and in my community. I have spent my entire adult life searching for my place in the sun with many battles in the darkness. Over 3 years ago I became the owner of Blue Cloud Gallery, first started 13 years ago by Patricia Wellenkamp. It is an amazing, almost unbelievable story how that happened and if any of you want to hear it, let me know. (Hint: you could say it all started at an Al Anon meeting 27 years ago.)

More than 3 years later, still struggling to make ends meet, I am the happiest I have ever been. Who would have thought that “my place in the sun” was inside a Blue Cloud?!! I am living my values with no one to squash me. I love my store, I love my artists, I love my customers…and I love all of you who may or may not become customers in the future.

Pass it on!

Peace, Betsy

                Betsy at Boston Pops paint

A Fun Event!

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A shout-out to all you creative, whimsical people!

Sunday June 22 – TOMORROW!  I am participating in the event posted below, representing my artist, Biagio Occhino from Burlington, who makes Memory Stick Men out of computer parts and other assorted junk/stuff.  I will be creating/supplying a cardboard box housing environment for the little guys.  I participated in the first Trash Bash last year and had a blast!  If you have no plans, I highly recommend that you come.  It’s only $5!  And there’s free live music, too.  In Union SQ, Somerville.

Trash Bash 2014
Sunday, June 22
12 Noon – 6 PM
Uniun Warehouse, 11 Sanborn Court in Union Square, Somerville

Sponsored by www.3gracesproductions.com

“Don’t miss Trash Bash 2014 – the trashiest event in town this week-end! Come, view and vote for your favorite works of art fashioned out of trash on Sunday, June 22 from 12 N – 6 PM at the Uniun Warehouse, 11 Sanborn Court in Union Square.

We have over 40 adult and youth artists exhibiting their work including creations from last year’s Trash Bash winner, William Turville. Additional artists include Melissa Glick, Susan Berstler (SAC’s Artist of the Month), Milan Klic, Nason Heywood, Kevin Clancy and more!

A complete list of artists will be available on 3 Graces Productions website at http://www.3gracesproductions.com.

Tom Champion is our emcee. Music will be provided by the Soulful Souls and 3D and the Greaseballs. Workshops and information tables by Somerville Local First, Next Step Living and Somerville Skillshare will be on hand.

Don’t miss our interactive sculpture building activity facilitated by Robert Smith (Smitty) of Minimum Wage Art and fellow artists Nick Wyneken, Brian Morisson, and Kristopher Rout. Harley the Homeless Bison and a new creature will also be making an appearance!

Suggestion donation is $5.00.

This is an ArtsUnion event is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Somerville Arts Council and our amazing Kickstarter supporters.”

I hope to see you there!

Betsy