Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Whining on Wednesday or to bee or not to bee, that is really the question

I am a semi-retired almost-spelling champion.

well, I got 2nd place in our school spelling bee in the 4th grade and maybe that doesn't exactly spell c-h-a-m-p-i-o-n, but I really was just one letter away from the title ... (c-h-a-m-p-i-o ?)

and yes (I can hear my sister snickering right now) I am going to tell that story .... again

now I am not just randomly mentioning this fact (and I will get to my 4th grade devastation in a moment) but several things have happened to me in the last 48 hours that have brought all these sordid memories back to me to deal with ... again

(and maybe finally get some closure ... maybe)

#1 - I collect Trixie Beldon books.

(it's kind of a sickness)

Trixie was my childhood heroine. She was sort of a younger, spunkier Nancy Drew. My aunt gave me an old collection of Trixie books when I was eight or so and I fell in love with her.

She was a horse rider and mystery solver and I was a bike rider and mystery solver.

(well, my sister and I did once figure out that my brother was allergic to plums by secretly stuffing him with a huge amount while my mother wasn't looking ... it wasn't pretty, but we solved the mystery of his itchy rashes once and for all)

Anyhoo, flash ahead to Ebay and I started bidding on and collecting a particular series of Trixie books (in the style that I used to own) - I had collected maybe 18 of the 30 or so volumes. I bid on one every month or so and picked up a few at flea markets, so my little collection has been slowly and steadily making its way across my bookshelf.

Then, yesterday morning I accidentally typo'd Trixie Belden instead of Trixie Beldon (e for o) when doing my monthly Ebay search for my missing treasures and ...

there were hundreds of them! Like 1600 and something instead of the 20 or so I usually spot.

My heart started racing and I thought I might need medical attention, so I started motioning for Olive and she jumped in my lap ready to perform whatever kind of medical maneuver this situation required

(I've said before how smart she is. Please take this seriously)

All the books I could ever want to own were right there waiting for me, but wait a minute how could all these people be spelling Trixie's name wrong ...

(I am a bit slow on the uptake sometimes)

After dropping Olive and racing to my little Trixie collection to confirm, I realized that I had been misspelling my beloved Trixie's last name ... for 2 years! for 24 Ebay searches! for an almost spelling champion like me this was a devastating blow!

Of course, now knowing I can get any book (almost) at any time if I am just willing to spend enough money, has taken the fun out of my collecting - so I have decided to just keep searching among the mis-spellers- they are my peeps after all and ignore all those know it alls who think they can spell everything ....

(yes, like you Carole Bober who may have beat me by spelling "disappointed" correctly - can you imagine the humiliation of blowing such a simple, just sound it out for pete's sake, word - ugh! - ok, family I am really over it this time- although I do have to add there was a bit of trickery involved on Carole's part, but I am not going to go there in case she googles herself one day and this post appears - my sister is right now burying her head in her hands)

So anyhoo again- the other strange thing about this incident (and the subsequent spelling bee memory which I have not thought about for years- well except for the annually televised National Spelling Bee finals which I watch and am forced to remember that I was CHEATED OUT OF THAT TROPHY -yes another trophy rant, sorry)

is that the past 48 hours have been filled with synchronicities for me having to do with BEES ....

Let me explain - 1. (or is this 2?) Last night I was going to make a banner for a new Etsy team called the Artisans Collective and I am thinking banner, banner, banner - you get it - my head was pretty much empty, then I remembered my own rant post about how you need an identity before you have a banner, duh, what was I thinking, so I start thinking identity, collective, collection, herd, flock of birds, school of fish

(well, actually some of these things were thought by my daughter before she said them out loud and then they were thought by me and since she might read this, I better throw her in here for copyright protection)

then I thought bees, hive, collective, women, community, working together, the ability to play with the words bee and be- perfect fit. I start to get excited. Then I think maybe a quote will help with a branding statement and I have a quote book somewhere and it's not really much of a quote book (maybe 20 quotes in it, more of a picture book), but I look for it and it is right next to me

(and believe me nothing I need is ever right next to me)

and the paper cover has been long lost and the hardback cover has just one word pressed into the cover ... and the word is ....

be

(this was not the name of the book)

and I open the book to a random page and it says ...

"there can never be good for the bee, which is bad for the hive" ... emerson

(this is not a book of bee quotes, I promise you)

and again my heart starts racing and I motion for Olive and she just looks at me this time, like not this again and I motion like, no, I am really serious this time, and she is like ok and jumps in my lap

so, I make the logo and am so flipping happy with it (plus I got to buy a new font and I love a reason to buy a new font)

and I sign on to Etsy to send my "just meant to bee" little banner to Cindy (marysgranddaughter on Etsy) and there is a convo

from a seller I do not know named Lianne and she wants to trade something in my shop for something in hers and the name of her shop is (I am totally serious here) Lizzie's Bees! and she wants to trade me for a dog collar and I just look down at Olive and Olive is all like - don't you even think of saying no to this one, Cat!

And I then realize the movie on the tv in my bedroom at that moment is called The Secret Life of Bees.

So, what does this all mean, you may be asking yourself, well, of course I have absolutely no idea except that something is clearly "meant to bee" about all this (I just can't stop saying that- sorry)

I am just hoping I am not about to be attacked by a swarm of angry bees or repeatedly stabbed in a freak quilting bee incident and linger in some kind of bee coma before I pass away because of bee-lated medical attention (note to self- get that collar and keep Olive happy), but you know, it would almost be worth it because that would wrap this all up so nicely.

well, not so nicely for me, I guess ...
1. Toddler Honey Bee T by CritterJitters
2. Bumble Bee Pincushion by SeaPinks
3. Dilkabear Magnetic Recycled Locket by Polarity
4. Honeybee Earrings by UnJardinDeHilo
5. Bees In Love Card by YellowCakeCrafts
6. BumbleBee Charmer by LindsayArt

SPECIAL THRU 4/15 - FREE PAIR OF EARRINGS WITH ANY NECKLACE PURCHASE IN EITHER OF MY SHOPS Uncorked or Polarity - JUST NOTE 'the bees knees' or some such something in the comments to seller section of your order!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take Ten Tuesday - some info and stuff you bloggers will not want to miss

If part of the village you are creating for yourself includes your own blog (or you are thinking about starting one) here are some sites, posts and tidbits that you might find helpful.


1. Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod has 2 great ebooks about blogging; Making a Great Blog and Creating a Blog Audience.

8. Craft Blog Etiquette from Whip Up

3. The Mark Twain Guide to Better Blogging at Copyblogger

4. 9 First Step Goals for a New Blog by Problogger

5. How to Make a Blog Tutorial from Mitsy at ArtMind

6. Artful Blogging magazine at your local bookstore

7. Chris Brogan's best advice about blogging. Great stuff here.

8. Advertising 101 for Bloggers at Design Sponge

9. Problogger's 8 Tips for Building Community with Your Blog

10. And of course, something from Seth- How to Get Traffic for Your Blog

Monday, March 29, 2010

GIVEAWAY - Etsy Shop SPOONERZ Amazing Herb Markers to Rock Your Garden CLOSED

AND THE WINNER IS ECODOG!
True Random Number Generator

Min: 1
Max: 487
Result:
482

Since seeing what the amazing Rachelle Fallon is doing with silverware in her beautiful and original Etsy shop Spoonerz - I have not been able to look at my utensils the same way!

(glares at the spoons just lazing around in my silverware drawer - why aren't you guys out making me money- why didn't you guys think of this!)

Rachelle is a totally talented and crafty metalsmith mom of four who hails from Planet Zilverware (she is very clever, too, although I note some kind of letter z obsession we will have to look into). She has taken those spoon rings we had in high school out of this stratosphere and into a whole new level of amazingness!

We are so lucky to have one of Spoonerz totally unique creations for our giveaway!


WHAT YOU GET:

One lucky winner will receive this stunning set of FIVE GARDEN MARKERS made from recycled spoons. These will turn your spring herb garden into the talk of the neighborhood folks!




HOW TO WIN:

Check out Spoonerz shop and leave a comment below letting Rachelle know which item is your favorite!

For additional entries:

(5) Twitter this post
(5) Blog about this contest; linking to this post
(5) Follow my blog

Let me know if you have done these things so I can give you additional entries. This contest is open to everyone.

DRAWING:

MIDNIGHT on Sunday, April 11th! Good luck!! CLOSED

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Standing out on Etsy 101 Part 3. Look Good Naked

Now, this isn't one of those posts where I throw in a naked woman to get your attention

(really...)

I will tie this in, if you are still with me at the end of this, I promise.

In the meantime, let's talk visuals because you can't stand out on Etsy if you don't look good.

(just maybe not in a naked in the supermarket, with that horrible lighting, kind of way)

Your product needs to look good (and be good, really good actually), your photos need to look good, your banner needs to look good, your layout needs to look good.

Now again, this is a process. There are some people who open their Etsy shop and have it all together right away and that is a good, inspiring thing. But it is also a good thing to grow organically within the community, so there is no fear that you have to do everything right (because none of us ever do).

The Visuals

The "B" Word - Some people hate the word branding because it conjures up images of large corporations and things that may not feel like they have any connection to us as people and as artists and crafters, but taking a few minutes to define your work

(I know, you can't be defined and put in a box, but your shop is kind of a box, so trust me for a minute)

can help you create a more consistent visual for your Etsy shop. If you were opening a B&M right now with your work how would you explain it to people - what would it look like?

1. Define the best thing you offer

Take some time and think about defining the single best thing you do. This could be what comes to mind when people think of your work. Or what makes you unique could be the reason you create your art or the life experiences you’ve had which have shaped you as an artist. There is no right or wrong answer.

2. Create a key phrase built around this best thing that you offer

Work towards something that is very short and concise.

3. Create imagery to reinforce the message visually

Having a symbol or visual identity to go along with your branding statement is very effective.

Opening an Etsy shop and then thinking, now I need a banner, is not what you should be thinking if you want to stand out. You don't need a banner- you need an identity.

An identity which will lead to a branding statement which will lead to the creative imagery that represents you which will lead to your banner (and business cards and hang tags,etc).

So, what is it you are trying to say?


This takes us back to the finding your voice thing from Tuesday and if this isn't clear in your mind and heart, you will be changing your marketing materials as you get a better sense of direction. And this is ok - it will just be less expensive if you get a grip on this stuff first.

1. Your banner and avatar - Your banner is your storefront sign (picture that sign over the front door of your little brick and mortar) so it needs to represent you and your brand very well.

A. A professional business should look professional - your banner and logo are a very important part of your brand and worth your time, attention and money.

Someone creating a logo or banner for you should be asking you for pictures of your work. They should be asking you alot of questions. This is going to take a good deal of their time and you are going to have to be willing to pay them for it.

You probably can't go wrong with pictures of your products or your process.

B. Avoid stock images because anyone can buy them and this is about you.

C. Avoid trendy fonts that are hard to read. This may be the hottest font, but I have no idea what this says.

D. Don't rely solely on color. Let choosing your colors become your last decision. I think you should be able to change your colors without changing your branding (and sooner or later you will be printing your logo out for something in black and white). If your logo is really just a trendy swoosh, glow or bevel, then maybe you don't really have one.

E. Make sure your font works with your design and not against it and limit the fonts in your logo to two of different weights.

F. Your avatar should be either a photo of your work or a photo of yourself. No other options.

(Your kids are probably cute, but I don't really need to see them when I am shopping)

I think if you are going to be posting in the forums alot - use your work, otherwise use your kisser.

(I like to see who I am buying from and I think alot of other people do, too)

The biggest problems with banners on Etsy is those that do not represent the work for sale in the shop, include boring stock imagery or use pictures that have been poorly stretched into banner size.

2. Your Item Photos - Now there a gazillion articles out there on taking amazing product photos and I will post some great links next week.

I'm not going to get into the technical stuff except to say that this is something you will have to learn or you will have to send your items out to a professonal for photographing.

There is no way you can stand out on Etsy with poor photos.

Exercise -Do an Etsy search for your item- does it stand out on the page with other, similar items? If your photos are not the ones that jump out at you, take a closer look at the ones that do.

What is the difference between your item photos and the ones that you notice first? Are your backgrounds busier, your items further from the camera, your photos more static and flat?

Now, an important point when you are comparing your photos to other similar items is that you are your own artist with your own brand. You don't want to copy what you see, but you can bring certain aspects that you like into your own photos.

Phydeaux is the knitter who photographs those amazing "scarves coming at you like rattlesnakes" (if we copy specific elements like this with our photos, we are copying someone else's brand and not creating our own).

You can bring the feeling of elements like this into your own photos in your own way.

This will take time and work and no one can really tell you how to do this except you will need to work at your photos just as you do your craft. If it was easy everyone would do it. This stuff is hard.

Often, when I mentor people about standing out and ask them to do this exercise, they tell me that their items stand out to them. And they are not standing out to me.

Sometimes I think we put so much love and energy into our work (good things) that we can't really see it anymore- at least not in the way that a new customer would. So, sometimes another set of eyes may be needed - ask a few people to point out the items that stand out and see if there is anything you can learn from those photos.

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Your photos must be consistent throughout your shop. This can be done with your unique voice and an understanding of your brand.

If you are having trouble getting your shop to have a consistent feel -

I would suggest taking the following photos of each item- 2 photos from interesting angles (both close up and it goes without saying, I hope, that the photos must be clear and bright)- no matter how great the weather and how expensive my camera- it's not super expensive, but it wasn't cheap- I always need to lighten my photos in Photoshop.

1 photo with your product packaging

1 photo of your entire item,

1 photo of your item being used - if you sell clothing or jewelry- you need a live model- well, maybe you don't need one, but if you want to stand out I would highly recommend it - models add movement and life to your shop.

My model pics get many more views than my other items. I always keep a couple on my first 2 pages (where 80% of my views and sales come in).

If you sell prints or photos you need to show a picture of your item hanging in a room or framed on a table - check the vinyl wall art people- they do this very well - don't come up with excuses about why you can't do this - Etsy isn't your portfolio - it is your store - just figure it out and do it.

If you sell a usable item such as a potholder this is where you photograph your checkered potholder lying near a pan on a stovetop with a set of wineglasses in the background.

If you sell a decorative item such as a piece of pottery this is where you photograph the item as someone whould display it in their home.

If you have 5 somewhat consistent pictures for each item, it will be easy to give the first 2 pages of your shop a cohesive but eclectic and interesting visual by varying which picture you use as your first picture.

Take advantage of the fact that you can easily rearrange your items by keeping those first 2 pages looking great- check them daily- if you had a B&M store you would surely walk it everyday and you need to walk your Etsy shop, too.

Your featured items should be changed at least weekly. The first 3 items in your shop (the last 3 you have listed) are the items that show up next to your avatar in people's hearts so you want to keep them varied and representing your entire line.

Other tips:

1. Keep your backgrounds simple. Hanging a pocketbook in a tree is always a bad idea. I use distressed scrapbook paper to add texture to my item photos.

2. If your photos are not square make sure you check the effect thumbnail cropping has on them. When the head is cut off the model purposefully- our eye moves to her dress, but if the dress is cut off, too, due to the cropping, our eye loses its focus.

3. Use negative space wisely. Too little or too much and your subject can be lost.

4. Use props and backgrounds that have some relevance to each other and to your item (again, this is why the hanging of a pocketbook in a tree doesn't work- would you ever hang your pocketbook in a tree? Of course, if this was a really interesting dichotomy, something the customer couldn't miss as a purposeful play on your subject this could work- like a pocketbook in the fridge, or something)

5. When grouping multiple items use odd numbers (even numbers lose their focal point) because you want to control where the customer's eyes end up

Sometimes, very talented craftspeople, the detail oriented thinkers among us who create very fine and intricate work and crave symmetry may need a second set of eyes to create photographs that are balanced but still visually interesting.

Visual merchandising is both an art and a science. Approach it with an open mind. If something doesn't work, try something else. There is no right or wrong and there is no end zone. This is something that will be constantly evolving.


Now, what does all this have to do with looking good naked?

Well, I think that putting your work out there for the world to see (and judge- ugh!) is quite like getting naked in front of everyone.

(not something I am likely to do anytime soon, unless my fire alarm is going off in the middle of my shower and I am running for my life ... and even then I might just wait it out in the shower- those things are kind of fireproof, right?)

We put so much of ourselves into this stuff, the best parts of ourselves; our heart and soul- truly, truly. And we want to do everything we can to make things work the way we want them to. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

My items have sold well on Etsy, but I have done craft shows where all the jewelry sellers around me were selling like hotcakes and I was sitting there trying to smile and pretending that I wasn't getting my feelings hurt.

(I think maybe if you can sit at a craft show with your art and not feel like you are naked, you probably need to put a little more of yourself in it)

There is no surefire thing here.

But if you can work the process (forget the end zone because they will keep moving it on you) I am totally certain that so much good will come into your life (and yes, sales along with the good!) that you will be truly happy that you got naked.

In fact it will become impossible for people to keep clothes on you and your family and friends will be running around behind you with blankets and embarrased faces at all the commotion you will be causing because damn ... you look good.

xo


Next week I will post some great links to expand on all the themes I have touched on this week.

Standing Out on Etsy Will Return Tomorrow


We had some unexpected (you know who you are) company last night and I didn't quite get this post wrapped up.

Look Good Naked (part 3 of Standing Out on Etsy 101) will post tomorrow!

(in the meantime, maybe do some sit ups, lay off the salt, dim the lights and get ready)



xo

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Standing out on Etsy 101 - Part 2. It Takes a Village

When I found Etsy, I joined as a seller, knew one person (who was related to me) and was immediately lost in the crowd.

By the time I opened my second shop, a few months later, I had created a bit of a community for myself and the going was alot easier.

If I was starting out on Etsy today, I would begin as a buyer. I would start a blog before I opened my shop. I would reach out to other people first. Just like our crafty forefathers setting up shop in a small village- I would look for a need to be filled.

1. Be generous with your hearts - If you are a seller, your hearts are more than a wish list. Hearts are a very real way to support other artists, whose work you value.

When I have sellers asking me for advice about "how to stand out" and I look at their shop and they have hearted no one or almost no one, it is very telling about their real problem.

If you want people to give you their money and energy, but do not want to extend any of your own resources outward, there is likely going to be a block of flow. If you want hearts, give hearts. If you want to sell handmade, buy handmade. This is the give and take of the village.

From my first sale on Etsy, I tithed 10% of my profits back to Etsy, I didn't do any exact tabulation, but I would take a look, first monthly and then weekly as things got busier, at what I was making and give a little bit back.

I bought things from the shops I wanted to support (not because they were the hottest thing on the front page, not because they were new and not because they had no sales) - I bought from the shops that inspired me.

Today my tithes also support Kiva artists and the blogs that support handmade.

(I think it is very important to support the blogs that support handmade - if we don't pay them, they don't get paid and they are a part of the community that we would sorely miss if they all left us because they had to get 'real jobs')

Sometimes the money goes into giveaway items for my own blog (which I am sometimes given, sometimes trade for and sometimes yes, I actually buy them).

I have had other blogger's express dismay that I would actually buy something to give away on my blog. But I strongly believe that we need to pay each other - if we don't respect the monetary value of other artists' and community members' work and time, who will value ours?

2. The treasury system - take a look at the front page curation because it's not a bad place to be.

But if you get there and your shop doesn't look amazing, it will not mean anything, trust me on this.

(more on looking amazing tomorrow).

I had given no thought to treasuries or to the front page when my Uncorked shop (which had been open for a couple months) got on the front page for the first time.

The stars were totally aligned for me- it was a Thursday night at 8pm and I was in the center spot in the top row. Primetime on Etsy (and I have been on the front page often enough since then to be certain of this) - I had 8 sales and 150 hearts in the hour or so it was up there. The treasury was made by a seller with a shop called Moxiedoll and she changed my Etsy life.

I started making treasuries and I loved it. Alot of them ended up on the front page. I started commenting on treasuries that I liked. I started commenting on treasuries that got to the front page.

More people started putting me in their treasuries. I got to the front page more often. But the most important thing is that I built a community with some other sellers who loved making treasuries as much as I did.

I loved knowing that as I sat there with my finger on the mouse waiting for that box to open, that hundreds of other people around the world were doing the same thing!

Eventually my treasuries stopped getting to the front page and I decided to move the energy I was putting into them toward a blog. But I still love the idea of seller curated front pages and hope Etsy continues with them.

1. Comment on treasuries that you like and comment on front page treasuries
2. Make treasuries- you can put a couple of your friends in there, of course, but mostly look for things that inspire you.

I know people who keep lists of who has put them in a treasury, so that they can reciprocate and maybe some people expect that, but I think it is best to pass that energy on - like a random act of kindness - you don't expect to be paid back - you just want it to be passed on.

(making treasuries is also a great way to see what others on Etsy are doing, how your work fits in and what stands out - it is also a good way to spot a niche that is not being filled)

3. Join a team. I know, I know- you're not a joiner and I'm not either.

(I'm still more of a "sit arms folded outside the group and snicker" kind of person, but I'm trying)

Some teams require more from you than other teams. There are local teams and if you are planning to do craft shows- that would be a must. There are charity teams. There are medium specific teams. There are niche market teams. There are lifestyle teams. There really is something for everyone. Decide on what you want from a team and what you can contribute and join one or two. Again, you are building your village.

4. The Forums - can be a great place to create even more relationships. Just stay positive and save the drama for your mama, as they say.

(I can whine and moan with the best of them, as you've probably noticed, but it would take something pretty major for me to go into the forums and be negative - I save all the negative stuff for my family and friends)

I am not a forum expert, since I don't go in there much, but you can definitely develop friendships and supportive relationships in there. You don't have to be a big rah-rah, but trust me, snarkiness in a professional setting is always a no-no.

5. Blogs/Twitter/Facebook/Flickr - Now this building your village thing is starting to sound like alot of work (it is) and it can take up alot of your time and energy and it is up to you to decide what to invest your time and energy in.

Many of these work in similarly, mutually beneficial ways. You put energy out there and the energy comes back to you.

(or maybe it just gets passed on like the random act of kindness energy and that is ok, too)

Twitter is the easiest. You follow people. Some will follow you back. If you tweet things people are interested in, they will be more likely to stay with you.

You can't tweet shop listings or sales at people all day long anymore than you can talk to your family and friends about your business all day long.

If you remember that Twitter is a conversation that you are having with other people within your village this will be easier.

Take time to comment on other people's tweets and respond to the people who have responded to yours. Then when you tweet a shop listing or two, people will be interested.

Your blog works the same way. A blog can be a great way to introduce yourself and your life to people- to form connections within your village. You get to decide what you want to blog about based on the goals for your blog, but whatever your goals are you will likely need to blog regularly - at least twice a week, offer your readers interesting information, comment on other people's blogs- that extending yourself thing again- and most of all have fun with it.

Blogging about your work, your upcoming show, your shop, your work, etc- over and over again is fine (maybe), but it will narrow your audience, probably down to people who know you.

So, how does all this help you to stand out?

Well, let's go back to our original village scenario and pretend that my little Etsy shop called Polarity is a totally adorable little village store

(and I think it would be painted turquoise and plum and Olive's little kisser would be proudly displayed on the front awning)

It is 9am on a warm and sunny Wednesday and I pull into town on my bicycle; first stop is my little village's bakery -

not just for a coffee, but I will buy one, in my home brought cup, of course and maybe a donut, because what the hell, I did ride my bike, right?

but also to chat up the other shop owners and villagers about the local news and happenings and the upcoming town festival.

Then maybe as I am walking over to my little Polarity store, keys in hand, I will stop and help Hal, the local hardware store guy who is setting up his ladder display and we will chat for a few minutes about some shelving he is going to be making me for my new locket cabinets.

And then I will spot Noelle, the village screenprinter who will tell me that some girls who saw my lockets on the t-shirts in her window display will be stopping by my store today to buy some.

By the time I am open for business I am feeling relaxed and upbeat and have a big smile on my face for every customer who walks in my door.

(not one of those big creepy smiles where you see gums and everything though)

The customers have heard about my shop and my little, friendly village and they just keep coming.

Now, let's look at my morning another way.

I drive into town because I am in a hurry and I think about that coffee shop, but I really need to save that dollar because times are hard, right, and I sort of see that guy Hal (although I never bothered to learn his name) fumbling with his ladders, but I'm in a hurry so I quickly glance away before he sees me and I just keep moving.

Then Noelle (who is just the pretty girl with the brown hair to me now) approaches me with some hare-brained scheme to put my lockets in her window display (like I am going to just give her my lockets- they will probably get ruined!), so I just tell her I am running late and rush into my shop.

People! I scowl as I settle in behind my counter.

Now, the truth is that we can all totally have the modern equivalent of that little village store and we can have it right now.

We can exchange ideas with each other, convo shops that you love and tell them, have sales and events together, cross-promote our items and shops, put each other's items in our photos, send out other shop's business info with our orders as well as our own, buy advertising space together for a month and trade off weeks, buy from each other's shops and on and on and on.

If you are on Etsy, you already have a village - it is just up to you to make use of it.

(and now that I think of it, I have my awning, too, except it is called my banner and why the heck isn't it plum and turquoise if that is my dream- got to get working on that)

TOMORROW- Standing Out on Etsy 101 - Part III. Looking Good Naked

Now Go Get a Cup of Tea - or super long posts require caffeine

(thank you ladies at kindovermatter for finding this)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Standing Out on Etsy 101 - 1. Finding Your Voice

The number one question I get asked about from Etsy sellers and wannabe Etsy sellers is, "How do I stand out?"

(probably because my Polarity shop is listed as an 'expert' on how to stand out for the Etsy mentor group TeamSassy because I picked that category for myself and because I sometimes wear stirrup pants with red converse, but only on Fridays)

so I am devoting this first week of spring to a 3 day Standing Out on Etsy Lollapalooza (but without Vampire Weekend and Jane's Addiction) and a 1 day wrap up with all kinds of wonderful links you will want to check out if you are interested in expanding on these themes.

FINDING YOUR VOICE

1. Don't try to be all things to all people. The soprano doesn't try to be a baritone.

(I am feeling the need to work with musical references, it must be my new Vampire Weekend CD, I hope you don't mind)

You don't have to worry about the millions of people out there who will not like/want/need your craft, you just have to focus on reaching the people who will love you.

Example- Your neighborhood five and dime (if you are still lucky enough to have one) sells something for everyone- from fishing lures to underwear, they have it all, but they only stay in business (when they do) if they are the only game in town - on Etsy you will not be the only game in town. Etsy is a niche marketplace- trust me, you need a niche.

2. Your voice must be unique. You could be the best seamstress on the planet, but if you are going to try and sell Amy Butler coin purses on Etsy- well good luck to you. I haven't checked, but I'd bet there are lots of sellers already doing this.

Now you could take those purses to a local craft show and maybe clean up, but you are going to have to sew some pretty unique purses to stand out on Etsy.

3. Your voice must be consistent. It is hard to connect with the right buyer if you fill your shop with very different things.

(dancingmooney does this very well- most sellers trying to combine jewelry and soap and picture frames would certainly muck it up- I would- she doesn't- but you might- so be careful).

Example - I am searching for some bright yellow hair ribbons for my little girl and I pop into your shop where you happen to sell some very nice yellow hair ribbons for $8.00 and I also see in your shop some wonderfully turned, reclaimed, exotic wood wine stoppers for $75.00, well- somehow (in my mind) seeing those wine stoppers will muddy up the yellow hair ribbons for me and on the flipside if I am searching for a wonderfully turned, reclaimed, exotic wood wine stopper and pop into your shop - those $8.00 hair ribbons will somehow de-value those stoppers.

Even more subtle things can cause a shop to just look "off", feel unbalanced and chase away the people you are trying to connect with.

Now, if you are thinking that maybe I would buy some yellow hair ribbons for my daughter, and maybe while I am in your shop, a wonderfully turned wine stopper for my hubby- I can promise you that I wouldn't.

(because #1. my hubby doesn't drink wine anymore, because he claims I steal the corks and stop up the bottles with marshmallows which I only did once during an emergency back order situation that he has never been able to get over and #2. I would have already left your shop)

If I see a shop like my crafty woman above selling hair ribbons and wine stoppers- I would think that this is a creative woman who just hasn't found her voice yet.

Because the kind of woman who's passion would be about pastel hair ribbons (and sugar and spice and everything nice) would most likely be a totally different woman than the one who's passion would be about exotic wood wine stoppers (snakes and snails and puppydog tails).

(unless maybe she wears her leopard print kaftan with her yellow hair ribbons and of course, we may have seen women like this- we just don't want to be seen with them)

So how do you find your voice? Well, your voice is your passion (your voice is what makes you unique) and some artists are born with a strong passion and have an internal pressure to make what they need to make.

If that sounds like you, then your challenge is going to be to find the people who want to buy what you need to make.

Other artists are just born knowing they need to sing (switching back to music again - please keep up), but are not sure what to sing. If this is you- then your challenge is going to be to discover what you want/need to sing.

We are crafty, creative people- we need to make things- the problem may be that we need to make all kinds of things. And I am certainly not saying that you shouldn't make all kinds of things because you definitely should. I make all kinds of things, too- I just don't try to sell all of them.

1. Think about what you love. This can be hard if you have been shut down or busy with so many responsibilities that you have lost sight of yourself.

Look around you- what have you surrounded yourself with? What can't you live without.

Make a vision board and fill it with pictures of the things, colors and styles that you love.

2. Carry a journal and a camera. Jot down your thoughts and feelings, draw pictures, doodle, take pictures of things that capture your attention.

3. Make time for new work. Set aside time to be in your studio (and yes, you need studio space and you need it to be organized because a mess will just give you another excuse to not get going) - this commitment is crucial.

4. Look at art, fashion, industrial design. Lots and lots of it. Particularly work that is outside your medium- all sorts of inspiration is just a click away. Don't be afraid that this will lead you to copy other artists (which is often illegal and always uncool) - it won't, you're not that kind of artist, but it will inspire you.

5. Remember there is no right or wrong. What you make today will be different from what you make tomorrow. First efforts are usually not very good - things evolve.

If you check the early sales of your favorite Etsy shops - you may be surprised at how their lines have evolved. I always think I should refund all my early Uncorked customers because they got something so different from what I sell today!

6. Practice. The more that you work in your chosen medium, the more you will find those ideas that make your work unique. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Our culture is very fast paced and we want things to happen quickly. But, this just isn't one of those things- there is no secret or fast formula to finding your voice.

Inspiration can come in a flash, but only if you are open and ready for it.

As you grow into yourself - (try new things, discover what you do well, what you need to do, what is important to you) and really allow yourself to be who you authentically are (I also find that as I become more authentic in other areas of my life, my work becomes more authentic also) I am very certain you will find your voice.

And it will be strong and powerful (and maybe off-key sometimes, because you are probably not Streisand).

And people will hear your voice (see your work and your shop) and recognize that it is your voice (your work and your shop) and the people who are drawn to your voice will find you. And they will shop.

Do I hear a Hallelujah?!


TOMORROW- Standing Out on Etsy 101- Part 2. It Takes a Village

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Uncorked Pieces or recycled wine corks to the rescue

I haven't posted about any new work in a long time and I have quite a few things that I have been working on for both shops.

Here are a few new Uncorked pieces that I will be adding over the next few days and I will post some new Polarity work next week.

Also Tuesday starts my spring has sprung How To Stand Out on Etsy lollapalooza (sorry Jane's Addiction will not be performing) - so check back in.











How To Make a Magnetic Test Tube Terrarium or moss on your fridge is way cooler than mold


I have been slowly adding some test tube terrariums to my Etsy shop- they are for charity and quite different from these, but I thought I would give you a little look into how the terrarium part is made.

To make one of these you will need:

1. a test tube with cork stopper
2. pen and paper (don't worry you won't have to actually draw anything)
3. a neodymium magnet - I never work with these things because they are way too strong for my usual work (and scare me)
4. rocks
5. charcoal (think fishtank)
6. moss (or some small terrarium plant) and dirt
7. some kind of long skinny plastic thingie
8. super glue


1. Put some super glue on your magnet and gently but firmly place your test tube on to the glue

(try not to glue your fingers together, break the test tube, cut yourself with the broken glass or screw this up in some other way - at this point you are probably thinking that it might be easier to just buy one of these from me and that is exactly what I want you to be thinking)

Hold it in place for a bit and then let it set- prop up the other end with another magnet- over night.

2. Roll your paper around your pen to form a tube (the paper should be longer than your test tube) and place the paper in the test tube

3. Add some rocks, followed by some charcoal followed by some nice rich dirt

4. Remove your paper and tap down with your plastic thingie

(if you try to use a metal thingie, it will mess with your magnet and you will be sorry, but again it may get you thinking you should just buy one from me, so maybe go ahead and stick a screwdriver in there)

5. Carefully drop in your moss (or plant), tap it down gently with your thingie, mist with a few drops of rain water (or tap water, but collect some rain for future waterings- I say give the moss what it would naturally get)



6. Cork that baby up and hang it up somewhere you will get to see it. By the way there are over 12,000 species of moss- I recommend Jersey moss because it is very hardy having grown up listening to all those awful Jersey jokes- which are untrue ... mostly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Finds - Spring Means CAMPING because campers have smore fun!

Photobucket

1. eden sunglasses by kaenon
2. patagonia lithia dress
3. gregory backpack
4. fadeout eyelet top
5. north face dome tent
6. orly genger by jaclyn meyer rope necklace
7. perception tribe kayak
8. cheerful welly print by sloeginfizz
9. collective names of animals t by xenotees

This month's Friday Finds are brought to you by the amazing wedding photographer Kella MacPhee. Thank you Kella!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday - oh yes, you can


J ust about everything worth doing is worth doing because it's important and because the odds are against you.

If they weren't, then anyone could do it, so don't bother.

Conversation by Seth Goden, Photograph by Adi Levy (of his mom)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NO Whining on Wednesday - feelin' lucky for St. Paddy's Day

I've been thinking alot about Whining Wednesdays lately and realize that (since I am the law of attraction in action girl, in case you missed that)

I really do need to be more positive.

I mean, it's kind of like walking around with an ungratitude journal and I don't want to be that kind of person

(or mess with Oprah)

so I think we need to add a NO to our Whining Wednesday routine and we can focus on all the ways we are lucky.

For instance, I was half watching You've Got Mail (no, not another Meg Ryan post, I promise) and seeing Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (I really won't mention her again) communicate back and forth with each other via email in complete sentences that I don't think anyone with less than seven hands could possibly type that quickly and accurately

and it made me realize that I am very lucky (#1) to have found Mr. Right before texting and email and instant messaging

because after watching me write something on screen, erase it, rewrite it and still not make any sense, my potential suitor would be convinced that it wasn't a real person he was talking to, but a small dog walking across the keyboard

and because I called him 'my potential suitor' - he'd probably think I was a total loser who wears polka dot ribbons, collects Speed Racer memorabilia and knows the lyrics to all Pat Benatar songs.

But he'd be wrong. Because I freakin' hate ribbons.

Unless they're blue and have my name on them, but I don't think I've ever had one of those.

Wait ... lucky #2, I did have a blue ribbon for the 5th grade standing broad jump and now that I think of it, where the hell is it? I had a few trophies that year, too and if I had them now I could set up one of those little showrooms for myself like those 4 year old pageant girls have and I have always wanted




I mean I admit this kid is cute, but is it really fair that she has all these trophies and I have none? ----->


and when people come over to visit me I could slowly maneuver them into my showroom and I could spend a few minutes reminding them about how awesome I am

actually scratch all that stuff because now that I'm thinking about it, I would rather be the kind of person who after receiving a Lifetime Achievement in Awesomeness award from the academy would just absent mindedly leave it in the restroom. I wouldn't miss it.

Wait, again ... now that I'm dreaming let's go back to my Academy Award because I can see myself whipping off a pair of oversized Gucci sunglasses and tucking them into an equally oversized hairdo that has the same texture as fiberglass insulation and thanking the academy and my daughter and hubby (and Olive, of course) and all the little people everywhere ...

and then I would tuck my award into my Michael Kors handbag that would actually be large enough to hold Michael Kors- before heading into the restroom where I would absent mindedly leave it behind and never think of it again ...

(that sounds better- with grateful thinking it is very important to take the high road)

And the #3 reason I am lucky is that this photo just magically appeared on my desktop and I am thinking that either I have the smartest dog on the planet or have been sleep- surfing the internet

(again)

I can't really decide if this product is awful or awesome ... but I am thinking maybe awesome and I love how they market the box directly to the pup with "Keep Yourself Warm and Your Paws Free" which I suppose is what caught Olive's attention since she likes to sleep all bundled up near the heater with her paws sticking out of the covers

so, now I am wasting a lot of time tiptoeing into the bedroom every few hours to try to catch Olive on the computer and I can't spend my entire day doing this since I am such a busy girl

(and there are so many other, more productive ways to procrastinate)

although if I discover that Olive can actually type faster and more accurately than I do

(or better than the average 7 year old which is about the same thing)

this would free up alot of time for me. Time that could be better spent involved in some trophy winning activities to get started on my show(off)room

(I have seen enough episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras to be fairly certain I could take those little brats)

and it would be kind of a relief to know that if my Man of Mystery (ie the husband who has threatened a marital lawsuit if I continue to blog about him on Wednesdays)

runs away to find a new girl

(maybe a girl with a permanently adhered paw covered snuggi and no internet service)

at least I can count on Olive to impress any potential suitors.


1. Wishbone necklace by Marolsha
2. Lucky stone button set by LockandSpoon
3. Do Not Freeze print by LuckyBunnyWorldwide
4. Lucky spirit quartz necklace by PiperTree
5. Lucky Locket Set By Polarity

SPECIAL at both my Etsy shops- a free pair of matching earrings with any necklace or locket purchase in either of my shops Uncorked or Polarity - just write Yup, I Feel Lucky (or some such something) in the comments to seller section of your order. Offer good thru 3/31!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Take 10 Tuesday - some stuff you might not want to miss

1. CHECK OUT What Truly 'Wealthy' People Think About Money over at The Artist Farm.

2. READ Designing Sticky Products by the amazing Megan at Crafting an MBA

3. READ Brenda's (Phydeaux) great series on To Hire or Not to Hire over at PaperNStitch.

4. WATCH Planet Green's 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear

5. SEE OK Go's BRILLIANT This Too Shall Pass video on Ngan's (eNVeJewelry) wonderful blog.

6. TO DO NOW Starting Seeds Indoors is a wonderful post on Design Sponge.

7. LISTEN TO Naomi interview Michael Bungay Stanier who wrote Do More Great Work - loved his idea of separate space for your good vs. great work- I've always naturally done this, if you're not, maybe it is something to try

8. I LOVE Christine Kane and she is offering a free download of her 2 part series How to Turn a Set-back into a Comeback

9. MY OWN slightly boring post for Artisan's Collective on Repetitive Stress Injuries and how not to turn your body into a machine (because it will break)

10. CHECK OUT - some amazing new work over at LilFishStudios that will inspire you!

Monday, March 15, 2010

GIVEAWAY - Gorgeous Kristina Marie Recycled Paper GARLAND As Seen in Martha Stewart Weddings CLOSED

AND THE WINNER IS:
True Random Number Generator

Min: 1
Max: 462
Result:
444

Carzoo Critters! Congrats Breanna and thank you to everyone who entered!

KristinaMarie is the amazing Etsy shop where the most beautiful recycled paper garlands are created!

Kristine Osborne's gorgeous work was recently featured in Martha Stewart Weddings Spring 2010 issue as a stunning example of an amazingly unexpected way to decorate ceremony chairs.



You will find so many uses for her beautiful paper work! We are so lucky to have one of Kristina Marie's amazing garlands for our giveaway.


WHAT YOU GET:

One lucky winner will receive this Gorgeous Recycled Hymnal Paper Garland Strand in Color - 10 feet / as seen in Martha Stewart Weddings Spring 2010!


HOW TO WIN:

Check out KristinaMarie's shop and leave a comment below with your contact info!

For additional entries:

(5) Twitter this post
(5) Blog about this contest; linking to this post
(5) Follow my blog

Let me know if you have done these things so I can give you additional entries. This contest is open to everyone.

DRAWING:

MIDNIGHT on Sunday, March 28th! Good luck!! CLOSED

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Whining Wednesday or it's time to live the dream, folks

Now I know it's Wednesday, which is usually a good excuse for me to whine about a few things, but lately I've been feeling much too positive about my future and

(maybe due to this never-ending cold that keeps me from thinking straight)

I find my dreams really reaching for the sky ...

for instance, Dream 1 - I sent my media kit

(yes, I have a media kit- it does contain a picture of Meg Ryan- but I don't think anyone will notice, since you don't really see her around much anymore and no one remembers her real face anyway)

to some magazines and am hoping for a product mention, but what I really want is to be described in print somewhere as being incredibly fit and attractive.

(I mean, other than in something I've written about myself.)

(oh, and maybe if the word 'annoying' wasn't used, that would be cool, too.)

So, the magazine could show a picture of my cork jewelry and say something like, Uncorked's incredibly fit and attractive designer Catherine Ivins ... yadda yadda yadda - there must be some way a clever copywriter can work this in for me.

Dream 2 - The other thing I really want is to be driving at some ridiculously high rate of speed and have to perform some challenging yet delicate maneuver - like swerving to stop a burning, runaway school bus full of orphans or avoid a little parade of baby ducks

(or maybe just once I won't hit the curb when I pull out of the bank drive-thru)

my passenger - perhaps Ben Stiller - he seems like a good sidekick - will be screaming obscenities, partly out of relief and partly out of total awe for my amazing driving skills, but I won't even notice.

Then, I'll park the car, doing one of those amazing swerve into a parking space backwards thing, and we'll get out to go to the station - because we're undercover FBI agents too, I forgot that part - and he'll have to jog to keep up with me

and then he'll kind of slap me on the back and say, "Hey, nice driving back there partner."

And I'll just shrug and say something like, "Yeah, well ... I do what I can."

And then he'll tell me that I look incredibly fit and attractive.

The days when you can extinguish an orphan and help a baby duck back to the pond ... well, those are the days when you're really living the dream, folks.

and I know these dreams are big and bold, but that's just the kind of girl I am ...


1. Searching for Fairy Tales print by This Years Girl
2. Larimeloom's dreamy silk camisole
3. Dreaming print by Corid
4. AKACinders Dreamy Cotton Candy Eco Felt Necklace
5. RoughMagicCreations A Robin's Pearls has me dreaming of spring