3.27.2014

I design, you print!

Just a quick post at the end of my official work week to mention here that after updating most of my temporarily DIY-only listings to include printing services, I've added back in separate listings for the designs I'll continue to offer as digital, printable files. I design, you print!


This is, of course, a great option for the budget-minded couple or event planner. I have 17 designs in there so far and this section ought to grow a bit as I slowly but surely add in about 20 brand new designs over the next month or so. Stay tuned and enjoy the end of March!

chalkboard paint rules

Since work is so slow, I'm using some of my daycare time to catch up on the never-ending list of projects around the house. It's a two steps forward, one step back feeling, with two projects popping  up for every one that you successfully cross off the list. But ever since baby #2 was born, it's been simply two steps back, and two more steps back, and so on. You get the idea. So it's nice to have some time, if not the money, to tackle some of these projects.

I've written here before about making over my son's room when he transitioned from a crib to a "big boy bed." Less than three years later, we've tweaked things again, adding an IKEA Expedit bookshelf on one wall for books and toys and a dresser on the other, using his closet now primarily for overflow toy storage.


When we decided to get him a desk for all of his art supplies that were previously in a corner of the living room, I thought it might be fun, if a bit dusty at times, to add a few half-wall areas of chalkboard paint. And it turns out you can get any color of Benjamin Moore paint as chalkboard paint! Awesome!


I asked my son what color he wanted. Initially he said red but I steered him toward a color already in his room's "palette", thinking red against the green might be a bit too ... festive (not to mention intense!). We settled on Ol' Blue Eyes (not to be confused with Old Blue Jeans which is the color the guy at the paint store initially ordered), a shade remarkably close to the blue on the side panel of the loft bed we have in his room (also from IKEA).



I spent a little time each week over the past three weeks doing the actual painting, giving it three coats to sufficiently block out the bright green underneath. After that, it's advised that you let it "cure" for three days, then apply chalk to the entire surface and wipe that down before using it. Wiping with a wet cloth is recommended over a traditional chalkboard eraser and I have to agree, it works really well. It wipes very clean and there is little dust.


In addition to the chalkboard paint, I added some old-school wooden rulers as a decorative trim between the chalkboard paint and the original green wall. I'm pretty pleased with how that turned out. One is tucked behind the bed a bit for now but otherwise I didn't have to do any trimming or cutting. I used brown furniture nails I picked up at my local Ace Hardware store to match the other bits of brown in his room (my least favorite color in his room but I find I keep tying it in to match the brown of his curtains, always trying to use or incorporate what we already have).


I did a fair amount of touch-up of the green color, you know, while I was at it (a kid can be rough on a wall in 2 1/2 years!). To avoid random push pin holes here and there I added three cork board tiles to his closet door (and another one went into little sister's room, previously known as my studio), for random and temporary things he might want on display.


To decorate a bit more, I used a couple of his art projects from this year so far and from preschool, finally installing the flying hamburger we made together a few months ago and using this crazy long snake he made during his last few months of preschool last spring/summer.


When I first unfolded it (I've been keeping a bag of possible art projects to use as decoration - things that wouldn't fit into his box of saved projects or binders of drawings), I thought it would wrap around his wall like a border.


In the end, the snake twists and turns a bit more than I originally anticipated but I made it work and I rather like the way it winds underneath that set of three drawings by Neal, don't you? Hey, man, I paid big bucks for my MFA; it oughtta be good for something, right?


As with most things like this, I think this probably turned out better than a more straight-forward border-like presentation would have been, winding instead under artwork, below his bed, underground and behind his dresser (not really, but that's the look I'm going for here), and winding back out above his bed.


The snake should make for some sweet dreamin', don't you think??

3.26.2014

Etsy makers in the middle: MegExpressions

Following up on my "middle child syndrome" post this time last week, I thought it might be interesting to try and shine some light on similar Etsy sellers feeling a little stuck in the middle: no longer a fresh shop, but not quite top seller status. Wednesday seems like a fitting day to give a little online love to one of Etsy's fellow middle children, wouldn't you say? Thus I present to you Meghan Corbin from MegExpressions.


Meghan sews together all sorts of accessories from recycled fabric and materials - "recycled fashion" she calls it which I think is a perfect description. I have a sewing machine but I haven't used it in over 20 years (sewing and knitting are two tools I'd love to add to my crafty toolkit but have yet to master) so imagining her products coming together is like watching a magic show! Her shop recently surpassed the impressive 1000 sales milestone (congrats, Meg!) after an indirect path to a creative career and a slow start:
"About 10 years ago I decided/realized that I was an artist and needed to commit myself to pursuing 'art' as a career goal; this was right after I graduated from college (with a business degree!). At the time I didn't have a specific medium in mind; I liked to sew, draw, paint, etc. I had made a quilt when I was about 19 that I really enjoyed, and I think that this love for color and patchwork slowly developed into this 'MegExpressions' line that I have for sale on Etsy."

I would imagine that business degree comes in handy with all of the organizational tasks involved in maintaining an Etsy shop! Meghan works part-time as a nanny now and spends the rest of her time developing her product line and tweaking her shop.
"I started my Etsy store in 2008. After doing a few craft shows selling quilts and small purses in Seattle, and talking with people, I learned about Etsy; it was relatively new at the time. However, it took about 3 1/2 years for things to really click for me with Etsy; I probably had less than 20 sales in the first three years. It took a LONG time to learn to take good photos (and there's still room for improvement), plus understanding things like titles, and tags (improving the SEO) took some time, as well as writing good descriptions. Also, the products themselves took a long time to develop; as I become more skilled as a seamstress the items become more marketable."

One aspect of her process that I find really intriguing is this idea of "purse watching", like people watching! "Whenever I'm out and about, and especially when I'm traveling, I tend to notice people's purses and wallets; there are thousands of purse and wallet styles out there, and I'll often be inspired by something that I see on a bus, or in a coffee shop"


While Meghan has dabbled in blogging and other forms of social media to promote her shop, like me the way most buyers find her items are from searches within Etsy. This is why improving item photos, descriptions, and tags has become so important to the success of her shop, not to mention the satisfaction of her customers. Communicating all the details of a product online can be tricky and there is definitely the double-edged sword of customers wanting perfectly executed but handmade, unique products along with what they've come to expect from online shopping - products that are relatively inexpensive, and fast!


I really enjoy Meghan's process and products - the colorful, patchwork items that come together as a result of sourcing recycled materials. She's got a winning formula there and I think she's got a few products in particular that she could really run with, like the toddler and little girl purses. I mean, c'mon, how cute are those?!

Good luck, Meg - I know I've added the shop to my favorites and look forward to watching her shop continue to grow. Also, I have a daughter now so I'm pretty sure I'll be buying some of those toddler purses!

All images courtesy of Meghan Corbin/MegExpressions.

3.19.2014

an Etsy seller stuck in the middle

Baby #2 has been in part-time daycare for about a month and a half now (give or take; between a gradual transition and about four full days out for illness, I've had about 10 days to work over the past six or seven weeks). And I ain't gonna lie - business has been slow. February has always been my slowest month, even during my steadiest stretch since officially starting my business in 2010. But with just two clients at the moment and my other shop all but flat-lining, I've been wondering if Etsy is the right venue for a sole proprietor somewhere between "fresh shops" and "featured seller."

Right before I closed my shop in anticipation of baby #2's arrival and the start of my year-long hiatus, there was a fair amount of online chatter about how Etsy as a forum for sellers was changing, with some resell operations abusing its policies, sellers unsatisfied, to say the least, with the company's official response, and others who'd made the leap from mom & pop shop (or just mom, as is often the case) to a level of success that includes things like wholesale accounts, hiring employees, and seeking out manufacturers to produce what are essentially handmade prototypes. You could say they'd outgrown Etsy. In response, I'm sure, Etsy seems to have fully embraced such sellers, establishing Etsy Wholesale, featuring more and more shops that have already enjoyed a fair amount of buzz and exposure, small business owners who've brought on one or more employees, makers who work with manufacturers to fabricate what are essentially handmade prototypes, etc.

And I get it. From a business perspective it makes sense that Etsy would evolve in response to the first wave of sellers who came online in its infancy in 2005-07, let's say, having outgrown the original parameters of the online marketplace. To balance things out, perhaps, Etsy still features "fresh shops" from time to time, has increased posts in its Seller Handbook, even introducing a pitch form for sellers to pitch ideas (or themselves, as it were) for blog consideration. And that's great buzz if you can get it, but what about the sort of mid-level sellers who are using Etsy circa 2007-08 - accidental entrepreneurs, "work at home" moms, and other "micro" business owners who haven't yet made the leap to featured seller status?

Granted, I have a lot of work to do in my main shop to get it back up to speed (I have 40 designs and product listings at the moment, compared to around 100 at the time of baby #2's arrival a little over a year ago). But I can't help but feel a little like Etsy's middle child and I'm honestly not sure what my next move should be. I can't help but wonder if there are other Etsy sellers out there who feel the same way? Stay tuned to follow my journey and perhaps the stories of other "middle child" Etsy sellers!

new products, new friends

I started a long post on my other, more crafty blog recently wondering if Etsy is abandoning it's "middle class," with features on shops that have already enjoyed a certain level of success and buzz, hired employees, use manufacturers to make their products, etc., and, on the other hand, so-called "fresh shops." What if you're in the middle? Anyway, I'm not done with it yet but needless to say, business has been slow over the past six weeks since baby #2 started part-time daycare. But, I'm trying not to get bogged down in fretting over sales and using the dedicated child-free work time instead to continue to get my shop up to speed (as well as catch up on some projects around the house, I won't lie!). On that note, this week I've added a sample pack to the shop as well as a brand new product, custom iPhone cases with my artwork and your initials!


The first iPhone case in the shop is based on one of the screenprints from this set of prints, which use imagery from Sofia Coppola's film 'Marie Antoinette' - the original project merged imagery from the film, printed in the CMYK 4-color separation print process on wallpaper, with text in the style of the film's poster, using all three women's names: Marie (Antoinette), Sofia (Coppola), and Kirsten (Dunst). A little product inspiration from my art school days! Along those lines, I have a design idea for at least one more custom iPhone case so stay tuned for more product updates in the next few weeks.

image courtesy of Susannah Eloyse Prinz
In other news, my friend Susannah (Susannah Eloyse Prinz, in case you're looking for her cards anywhere Papyrus cards are sold!), whose daughter is in my son's kindergarten class, recently shared a couple of my products on her blog and I wanted to share the love here. It's been so interesting to meet another parent whose background is so parallel to mine - Susannah got her MFA from SFAI (around the same time I was pursuing my degree at SMFA in Boston) and now does freelance design work for Papyrus, in addition to her own paintings, which look amazing online; I can't wait to take her up on her offer for a studio visit (plus, she has her own chickens - I have this weird fantasy of having a chicken coop in my back yard with 5 or 6 chickens one day. Imagine, fresh eggs every morning!). She's been posting sneak peeks of her card designs on Instagram - check her out for some really gorgeous greeting cards. And check back here for more updates in the coming weeks!