Tag Archives: moose

Priority Mail

Expedited Shipping, More Bitcoin Options, and an Alaska Gift Shop Map!

What Christmas celebration would be complete without moose poop artwork? Since Christmas is only nine days away, The Winking Moose has decided to offer an expedited shipping option. Our products can now be shipped from orders made on our website or eBay account via USPS Priority Mail to beat the busy holiday shipping rush!

Priority Mail

Over the past few months, The Winking Moose has been exploring options to make our products available for purchase with Bitcoin. The “Currency of the Internet” is sometimes difficult to actually spend compared to US dollars when it comes to holiday shopping. To offer Bitcoiners more holiday variety, The Winking Moose has now listed many of our products on “The Etsy of Bitcoin” website Bitdazzle.

Bitdazzle Symbol
Our Bitdazzle Store
The Alaska Moosquito Christmas Ornament
The Alaska Moosquito Christmas Ornament
The Alaska Mooseltoe Christmas Ornament
The Alaska Mooseltoe Christmas Ornament

Our artwork is now in five stores in Alaska and the list continues to grow. I mentioned four of these stores in last week’s article and last weekend during the North Pole Plaza Craft Bazaar the Alaska Moosquito and Mooseltoe Magnet both found their way into Way Up In Alaska in North Pole. Burnt Paw Cabins Gift Shop & Cabins is the next store looking to sell our products so we decided to make a map of Moose Poop in Alaska Gifts Shops. Pinterest’s new map board provided a slick interactive map option:

That’s it for this week. The Winking Moose is still hard at work filling the holiday demand for moose nugget gifts and we will be at the Winter Solstice Celebration in Downtown Fairbanks this weekend at Arctic Traveler’s Gift Shop from 4-8 pm on the shortest day of the year!

Display in Space For Movement Dance Studio

Beginning to Breakthrough: Moose Poop Artwork Now in Alaska Stores

In the past week, The Winking Moose’s artwork has made its way into three stores in Fairbanks, Alaska. Online orders continue as Christmas nears and sales at holiday bazaars have been profitable.

Moose Poop Display in Space For Movement Dance Studio

Originally, I speculated that the best venue for moose nugget artwork would be in Alaska-themed gift shops throughout the state. The online selling potential of my website, Etsy, eBay, and the Square Market opened up immediate opportunities to start marketing The Winking Moose’s products, however. I was able to get the company up and moving this way before I was ready to start selling to gift shops.

Holiday bazaars were also not part of my original plan. One day I saw a flyer for a holiday bazaar on a bulletin board in the grocery store. I thought that maybe Fairbanksans would be interested in my Alaskan moose poop products as gifts for their relatives. Although the first bazaar I participated in wasn’t the biggest sales event, I learned some things that were very important and the next one was a great success. Meeting fellow crafters and hearing their stories and advice has also been extremely helpful and fun.

Refining my products and hearing customer feedback at bazaars along with fine-tuning my online sales routine (writing descriptions, taking pictures, html, and dealing with shipping) has helped prepare The Winking Moose to cross into the realm of marketing to gift shops: the original plan.

A few weeks ago I described my first experience working to sell my products in a local gift shop. The owner of Alaska Raw Fur Company decided to put several of my products in her store after I showed her a selection of moose poop products in an old gun case. Earlier that day, however, I brought the same bunch of moose poop gifts into another local shop and before I even opened the case, the owner of The Ornamentry informed me that in over 20 years she had never sold ‘excrement’ in her store (she was helpful and suggested I make some of my products using something other than poop and took several of my business cards for customers who might be looking for moose poop gifts). You win some, you lose some!

Gun case full of Alaska moose poop artwork

Last week I was finally able to showcase my refined moose poop creations to the owner of Arctic Traveler’s Gift Shop. This is a very popular tourist stop for those looking to find Alaskan gifts during their visit to Fairbanks. Its downtown location is excellent and it has an extensive selection of gifts. After working hard to convince the owner to take a look at my wares, it was only a matter of opening the case before she instantly wanted the products in her store. She has created an entire display for The Winking Moose and has also been very helpful by giving me ideas to create professional looking tags for the products she purchased.

I had the opportunity last Friday to showcase my artwork at Jade Resale Boutique, another shop located in downtown Fairbanks near the tourist hubs. The First Friday event was really fun, an excellent opportunity to discuss business, and the owner decided to purchase some Alaska Moosquitoes for her store.

First Friday Jade Resale Boutique moose poop table

On Saturday, I participated in the Ryan Middle School Holiday Bazaar and had a blast. The owners of Burnt Paw & Cabins Outback in Tok, Alaska stopped by my table and left a business card to arrange a purchase of some moose poop artwork for their gift shop by the end of the month. After the bazaar, the owner of Space For Movement Studio (another downtown Fairbanks location) allowed me to create an entire display case full of my products in her store.

I am very thankful that each of these business owners decided to give The Winking Moose the opportunity to make progress towards my original plan of marketing my Alaska moose nugget artwork in gift shops in Alaska. I look forward to following up with each store owner to see how products are selling and I am very excited for the future since tourist season is much busier in the summer. Not only has The Winking Moose benefited from these opportunities, but I believe the businesses will also benefit as well.

Online versus Offline Sales

Online Versus Offline Sales: Initial Thoughts

As Christmas quickly approaches, both online and offline sales have been on the rise for The Winking Moose. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and holiday bazaars have given me a good chance to compare selling moose poop gifts in these two sales venues.

Pioneer Park Holiday Bazaar Table

Last weekend, I participated in The Winking Moose’s fourth holiday bazaar of the 2013 season at the Pioneer Park Holiday Celebration. Since moose poop is an interesting subject here in Alaska, shoppers often have a lot of questions. In person I have the opportunity to answer these questions and tell interesting stories related to my business. It’s hard to say if my stories actually help make sales, but the customers seem to find them interesting and I believe this communication is positive. Communication online is left to my written descriptions and pictures. Sometimes I receive questions via email or Facebook and Etsy messages, but often a sale is made online without any communication from the customer.

I learn different information about my customers in person than I do online. Most of the customers I have had in person are buying gifts for relatives and typically sending their moose poop artwork to the Lower 48. I have the opportunity to ask questions and hear their stories as well, often learning useful ideas for future projects and new directions to take my work. Online, I often have no idea what the customer plans to do with the moose nugget artwork he or she purchases. Is the customer ordering 5 items planning to deck out their house in a holiday moose poop display or obtaining gifts for 5 different people?

Another interesting bit of information I receive from an online order is the destination of the package. Perhaps it is being sent to a friend as a gift or maybe it will be mailed to another location upon arrival. One thing that has been evident, however, is that the most common destinations for The Winking Moose’s products have been California, Texas, and New York. Maine and Washington are also popular destinations.

Online versus Offline Sales

Two products have risen to the top in both online and offline sales. The Alaska Moosquito (either as a figure or as an ornament) has been the top seller in person and a close second online. The Alaska Mooseltoe Christmas Ornament has been the most popular online product and has also sold well in person. Mooseltoe Magnets and Moose Nugget Necklaces have also been very popular. Christmas bazaars have given The Winking Moose a good opportunity to test the sales potential of new products before releasing them online.

The Alaska Moosquito Christmas Ornament
The Alaska Moosquito Christmas Ornament

The Alaska Mooseltoe Christmas Ornament
The Alaska Mooseltoe Christmas Ornament

The Winking Moose has products in a local gift shop here in Fairbanks and soon they should be in several other stores as well. I have yet to follow up with the owner of Alaska Raw Fur Company to find out how sales have gone and I am excited to hear her observations.

That about wraps up my initial thoughts regarding online versus offline moose poop artwork sales. I am excited for more in person events like First Friday coming up on December 6 at Jade Resale Boutique here in Fairbanks, sales in gift shops, and the final holiday bazaars of this season. Online sales are also very exciting and The Winking Moose even received an order as I was writing this article! Whether products are selling rapidly or not at all, there is always something to learn and adjustments to make which makes selling moose nugget artwork quite fascinating.

New Bazaar Table Display

Fairbanks Holiday Bazaar Delivers Some Unexpected Results

Last weekend I participated in the Quota International of Fairbanks Holiday Bazaar. I had a lot of fun, learned some new things, and experienced several interesting developments for The Winking Moose that were unexpected.

New Bazaar Table Display

I arrived at this bazaar with a large inventory, a few new products, and a beautiful slice of wood (pictured above) that had been given to me to help take my display to the next level. Being well-prepared and having gained a little experience in the world of bazaars gave me the opportunity to relax and have fun interacting with the people visiting my table. I think this bazaar was the most enjoyable event of the season thus far for The Winking Moose.

The first unexpected situation that occurred began when I realized my price tag displays were left at home. I upgraded most of my signs for this bazaar and I was so focused on the new signs that I forgot to bring the old pricing signs. This “mistake” may have led to more customer engagement because people had to ask me about prices. While the quiet type or introverted person may have disliked the lack of displayed prices, it didn’t seem to phase most people who visited my booth and may have led to more moose nugget artwork conversations, which I enjoyed.

Alaska Moose Nugget Christmas Pin

At my first bazaar, a woman admiring the Alaska Mooseltoe Magnet informed me that she was interested, but would prefer the moose poop product as a pin that she could wear. I took her suggestion and designed a pin lacking the glittery mistletoe (which I assumed would end up all over a person’s clothing). The Alaska Moose Nugget Christmas Pin debuted at the last bazaar and its sales increased during this most recent event. Her suggestion was a good one which led me to include the Alaska Moose Nugget Christmas Pin in my online artwork collection.

Recently, I have become very interested in the Chaga Mushroom which grows on birch trees in many parts of Alaska. I remember noticing this black bulge growing on trees as a kid thinking that maybe it was from a fire that had passed through my parent’s property before I was born. After learning about its potential healing properties and discovering society’s growing interest in Chaga, I decided to process some to put on my table at the bazaar.

Alaska Chaga Chunks

Customers were more interested in the Alaska Chaga Mushroom than I expected and several people purchased some of the packaged portions from my table. The Winking Moose now offers the Wild Alaska Chaga Mushroom online and I plan to bring it to future bazaars this season.

Alaska Ground Chaga

The final unexpected opportunity arose when a fellow artist approached my table. She introduced herself and mentioned that she operates Jade Resale Boutique, a local clothing store here in Fairbanks. She was very nice and invited The Winking Moose to participate in her store’s First Friday event on December 6, 2013. I am excited to be part of a Fairbanks First Friday Event as an artist since I have always enjoyed these local art shows.

Well that about wraps it up. Thanks to the Quota International of Fairbanks for holding such a great holiday bazaar. I especially enjoyed it when they delivered free coffee to my table. Happy crafting and I look forward to the next holiday bazaar this Saturday November, 30 at Pioneer Park!

Walking Moose Poop

Obstacles and Solutions for a Moose Poop Craft Business

When I decided to embark on the moose poop project that eventually became The Winking Moose I knew the future would hold some obstacles. Today I would like to discuss a few of these challenges and the solutions I have found to deal with them.

The first difficulty that was evident from the beginning has to do with resource collection. At the beginning this only meant finding quality moose nuggets, which could be a bit tricky. Many deposits were of too low quality for artwork production and I discuss some of the other moose poop-related challenges in last week’s article. Spending more time collecting and processing nuggets was the obvious solution to this problem. What was unforeseen was the difficulty gathering many of the other materials necessary to complete production of my line of moose poop artwork.

Walking Moose Poop

Craft stores were overwhelming at first and there are a number of stores in Fairbanks, Alaska. Large chain stores to small family run businesses. Now add the vast selection of stores online and the choices seem limitless. When I have bought out a particular resource (like colored wire) at a local store, I have had to wait for more to arrive or order my own online. In one fortunate instance, the owner of Alaska Raw Fur Company offered to order the specific wire I was looking for which was very helpful.

I have been able to utilize a number of recycled materials during production. In fact, without many of the recycled resources this project probably would never have been possible. My graphic design computer, printer, glue, moose antler wire, mini wreaths, and many paper products are all examples of items I acquired as gifts or through scavenging. Without these and many other products, the costs to start The Winking Moose would have been much higher. Many people have also volunteered their help and there is no way this project would have been possible without it.

Another uncontrollable element that has had an interesting effect on craft production is the weather. Fairbanks had a very long fall with warm weather extending through most of October. This abnormality allowed me to continue processing moose nuggets outside for most of the month. Now that there is snow and temperatures below 0 degrees F, processing moose poop has to be done inside, decreasing the output and increasing the inconvenience.

Moose Poop Craft Inventory

Keeping my craft room organized has also been a challenge. After preparations for my first craft bazaar it looked like a complete disaster. Learning to keep things clean and organized has been essential to sustain consistent production almost like working in a laboratory.

Overall, I am very happy with both the speed and direction at which this project has continued to move. Learning how to deal with the smaller problems has been trying at times, but is necessary to complete my larger goals while providing an excellent opportunity for acquiring new knowledge.

moose nuggets

From Nugget to Art: the Process of Utilizing Moose Poop

Today I want to talk crap, literally. There are several interesting aspects of moose poop collection and processing that I want to discuss while also dispelling any ideas that a processed moose nugget is “gross”.

Moose Nuggets

The Algonquian Indian word “mons” or “moz” translates to “twig-eater” and is the origin of the English word moose that is used today. So just how many twigs do these creatures consume? According to Interior and Northern Alaska: A Natural History, “Food intake in moose is truly prodigious; up to 20 kg (44 pounds) of food may be consumed each day.” That’s a hefty amount of willow, aspen, poplar, and birch and more importantly for The Winking Moose, that’s a lot of moose nuggets!

The first step in collection is to think like a hungry moose. Areas with many willows, especially those which show signs of recent browsing, are hot spots for poop collection. Wandering through the woods hunting for my target is very peaceful and rewarding. While moose nuggets are plentiful in Fairbanks, Alaska that doesn’t mean that each one is useful to make into a piece of artwork. Many of the nuggets I bring back from a collection are not actually usable due to imperfections; it is poop after all!

winter browsing moose

Some people find moose droppings to be disgusting. I may be a little out there, but after dealing with thousands of nuggets I have never ACTUALLY found moose poop to be gross. I have never sensed any repulsive odors and it actually feels more like I am dealing with twigs rather than fecal matter.

The next step in the process is to sort through the droppings to carefully dry the quality nuggets. I have tried accelerating this process with heat, but the best method seems to involve patiently waiting for the dry interior Alaska air to do the job. Each nugget must be fully dried to ensure no mold or other organisms can survive.

Staining or coating the moose poop is the final step in processing before the artistic fun can begin. Since I don’t want to waste polyurethane, each dried moose nugget receives a final inspection before applying the first coat. Many nuggets crack during drying so again I lose a good amount of potential products in between the drying and staining processes.

My staining procedure is the result of many experiments and has been tweaked and refined. When all is said and done each individual nugget receives two coats of polyurethane sealing the nugget and providing strength so The Winking Moose’s products will not break. In fact, I have worn the moose nugget necklace and accidentally squashed it with all my weight with no significant damage detected.

Fairbanks Winter

By the time I finally get to work with the processed moose nuggets, it’s easy to forget I am holding a piece of actual poop. As my reserves begin to dwindle I am excited for winter moose nugget collection. Fairbanks is now covered with a nice blanket of snow so cross-country skiing should provide an excellent method for hunting future batches of moose nuggets. I must say though, if you find a nice deposit in your back yard don’t hesitate to let me know!

Alaska Moosquito Christmas Ornament

Winking Moose Nugget Necklace

The Popularity of Moose Poop at My Second Holiday Craft Bazaar

Last weekend I had the opportunity to sell my moose nugget artwork at my second Christmas craft bazaar of the 2013 holiday season. The location was Fairbanks Lutheran Church and the customer response was quite a bit different than what I observed at my first holiday bazaar, in a very positive way.

Moosquito Swarm and Me

While I learned a lot and had fun at the bazaar the previous weekend, this time I actually sold a significant amount of my moose nugget artwork. My supply of Alaska Moosquitos has been severely depleted and they were easily my most popular product. There were also more people at this bazaar, but more importantly there was a higher concentration of customers interested in moose nugget products. Even joking around with the non-buyers was more fun. The lesson I learned is that my products fill a buyer-niche that depends on the attitudes of the customer, something I must be very mindful of if I want to make more sales.

In college I learned a bit about nuclear physics and an interesting purchasing pattern I observed reminded me of a nuclear chain reaction. It seemed like customers would appear out of nowhere looking to buy multiple products before they had even seen my table or talked to me. The chain reaction I am talking about can best be explained by one customer proudly showing their moose poop artwork to other craft bazaar patrons who see it and must purchase some of their own. This “buzz” pattern accounted for a significant percent of the purchases at this bazaar.

Winking Moose Nugget Necklace

Often times after I talked to a customer and answered some of their questions, they became interested in making a purchase especially as a gift for a relative or friend. The majority of moose dropping art that was purchased was probably as a gift for an out-of-state relative. Although I originally wore my Moose Nugget Necklace as an advertisement, I found it quite enjoyable to wear and I think some customers were also purchasing items for their own personal use.

I use Square to run credit and debit cards with my iPhone. I figured this might come in handy from time to time, but I was again surprised at how useful it really was. Around half of my sales were actually made using the Square reader and people buying larger numbers of products wanted to use a credit card most of the time.

Craft Tree Table

Now it’s time to talk some real poop. I spend a lot of time working by myself with moose nuggets. Sometimes I find myself caught up in the moment where I am psyched to work with the medium that is a moose dropping. Other times, as I drill into these moose deposits, I find myself thinking “what in the world am I doing?” Either way, working with moose poop can be both thrilling and weird.

I found a family several tables down from mine who had worked with moose nuggets in the past. We began sharing stories and I finally found people who understood the real trials and tribulations of a moose poop artist. The jokes, the details, and the friendly family made for a great experience that I was not expecting. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one out there who finds working with moose droppings to be both strange and enjoyable.

Since I am new to the crafting scene I often learn a lot from veteran crafters at these events. I must send out a thank you to my craft table neighbor Denise who operates Goldstream Valley Arts. She was very friendly and gave me some great advice and ideas for future craft production.

Craft Table Experiment

Finally, I used to joke a lot with my friends about different experiments or funny things we could do. Now, in reality I get the chance to try some of these silly experiments and that’s exactly what I had the grateful opportunity to do at this bazaar. My early attempts to coat moose nuggets left me with some poop that wasn’t high-quality enough to use for the final products. I put some of these subpar nuggets in a bowl next to my business cards. On the other side of the business cards I put out another bowl filled with candy whoppers (pictured above). Watching people’s reactions to this setup was hilarious. Most were great and lead to some really funny interactions that I won’t forget. even the upsetting reactions were something I couldn’t help but laugh at.

I would like to thank Fairbanks Lutheran Church for putting on such a fun event and all the people who stopped by The Winking Moose’s table. I plan to participate in several more holiday craft bazaars before Christmas and after this past weekend I am even more than excited to do so. Choosing the right ones with the demographics interested in moose poop gifts will be an enjoyable challenge and now that I have the basics down, I am really looking forward to selling more moose nugget artwork and having a lot more fun!

Holiday Craft Bazaar Display

Reflecting on My First Holiday Craft Bazaar

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the Holiday Craft Bazaar at Fairhill Christian School in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was a great opportunity to sell some of my products to the local community and provided with many interesting learning experiences.

Holiday Craft Bazaar Display

The Alaska Moosquito was definitely the most popular item I had for sale. Customers, especially children were interested in an insect made from moose poop. When it came to earrings and necklaces, I found that the customers frequenting this bazaar were a little hesitant to have moose nuggets so close to their face (even though they are dipped in polyurethane twice!). Christmas-related products were also a favorite for a number of bazaar-goers especially the Alaska Moose Nugget Christmas Ornament.

Moose Nugget earrings and Moosquitos

One of the most interesting things I learned was that The Winking Moose’s art was of interest to people who were trying to find Alaska-related gifts for their relatives in the lower 48. What better Christmas gift is there for that hard-to-gift friend or relative than a trinket made from an Alaska moose nugget?

Moose Poop Necklaces

A number of customers gave me some excellent ideas to modify some of my moose poop gifts. Making The Alaska Moosquito into a Christmas ornament and turning the Mooseltoe Magnet into a pin or broach were two of my favorite suggestions.

Having fun with holiday bazaar customers

The staff was very nice and accommodating and it was fun showcasing my items to people in real life instead of only on the internet. Interacting with customers and answering their questions was quite enjoyable. While it was nice making some sales, the learning experiences were invaluable and I look forward to participating in the holiday bazaar next weekend at Fairbanks Lutheran Church on Saturday, November 2.

Special thanks to my amazing girlfriend for her help and support with the bazaar!

Alaska Mooseltoe Magnet

How I Made The Alaska Mooseltoe Magnet

I decided to make an Alaska Mooseltoe product some time ago, but I was unsure exactly where to begin. This wouldn’t be the first time someone made a moose-related mistletoe product so I knew mine had to be unique. Since Christmas is a time where families and friends gather to eat and cook, I decided it might be fun to encourage mistletoe interactions in the heart of festive food preparations: the kitchen.

A magnet became the logical choice for the mooseltoe product, but it could also be made into a very nice Mooseltoe Christmas Ornament for the tree. Incorporating moose nuggets from the largest droppings of any moose on earth is one thing, but then making a mooseltoe product for either the kitchen or Christmas tree makes this product both comical and versatile.

Each Mooseltoe Magnet is made by attaching a magnet and synthetic mistletoe to a tiny wreath. Next, I place the sealed moose poop in the middle of the wreath after attaching the hand bent wire antlers, googly, eyes, and red nose. Tada!

Alaska Mooseltoe Magnet

Moose majestically roam the untouched wild of Alaska grazing on twigs which they eventually deposit, leading to enriched soil: an important part of the biological nutrient cycle. Each moose nugget collected by The Winking Moose is literally a beautiful part of Alaska neatly fashioned by nature into something you and your family can treasure for many seasons to come.
Each Alaska Mooseltoe Magnet, or any of our other products are great ways to enjoy something that only comes from Fairbanks, Alaska!

Thanks for dropping by,
The Winking Moose

the winking moose featured image

The Making of The Alaska Moosquito

I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and had the idea for The Alaska Moosquito several years ago. Why not make a mosquito out of a moose nugget and see if people want to buy it? Well, it’s actually a bit more complicated than I figured.

The main reason I decided to make The Alaska Moosquito has to do with my experiences during summer 2013 working as a fishing and rafting guide. I have lived in Fairbanks most of my life and I have become a little desensitized to some of the rarities of nature in The Land of the Midnight Sun. As I was driving one group of middle-aged women out for a day of fishing, we encountered a cow moose feeding in shallow water about 50 feet from the road and the women went crazy! Their breathing rate increased, squealing and involuntary movements were contagious, and all of the sudden I stopped the van to comply with their demands; I was afraid.

Alaska Moosquito

A fairly standard moose sighting probably just made these people’s trip to Alaska the memory of a lifetime. I was much more amazed watching the emotions displayed from the women than the moose itself, reminding me just how magical these moose really are.

There were many more moose sightings to follow, but there were also sightings of another notable Alaska animal: the mosquito. Most of the trips I guided last summer began in prime mosquito territory. I found that most of the out of state clients were not ready for the barrage that hit them as soon as they got out of the van at this put-in spot. Clients would ask, “Are the mosquitoes bad?” and I would try to make it sound like it would be okay, but for many people it wasn’t. No one ever asked to go back to their hotel, but I think a few people were close.

These two intense Alaska animal experiences reminded me of why Alaska Moosquito artwork was such an interesting concept. Intense emotion, good or bad, creates strong memories and what better way to remember an Alaskan experience than a handcrafted Alaska Moosequito? Plus, the moose droppings found in Fairbanks, Alaska come from the largest subspecies of moose in the world (Alces alces gigas) and by that logic are probably the largest moose nuggets in the world!

I make every Alaska Moosequito by hand using carefully selected moose poop of the highest quality and largest size available. After sealing each nugget for safety and preservation, I attach the rest of the mosquito parts including 3D-printed wings, hand-bent wire legs, a porcupine quill proboscis, and googly eyes. Each Alaska Moosequito is one of a kind and is also available as an ornament for the Christmas tree, or for wherever else you want to hang it.

Thanks for dropping by,
The Winking Moose