Saturday, October 30, 2010

GIVEAWAY - Of The Fountain Hand Stamped Leather Necklace! CLOSED


AND THE WINNER IS: Janil!

True Random Number Generator (random.org)

Min: 1
Max: 197
Result:
22

Of the Fountain is the ingenius little leather shop of Mandy in Boston.

After graduating from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2009, Mandy moved from her hometown of Atlanta (Acworth), GA to the-foreign-country-that-is-Boston.

Mandy loves to be able to make things for others and know that these things have a home waiting for them and says YAY to non-accumulation!!

(don't we love that!)

From her best selling luggage tags to her amazing leather jewelry, her shop has some wonderful personalized gifts for the holidays!


We are so lucky to have a wonderful Of The Fountain piece for this week's giveaway.
WHAT YOU GET:

One lucky winner will receive this beautiful LOVE stamped leather necklace!



HOW TO WIN:

Visit Of The Fountain and check out her amazing work - then come back here and leave a comment letting Mandy know which piece 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:
Enter by midnight, Sunday, November 7th! Good Luck! CLOSED

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween Everyone - be afraid ... be very, very afraid

pic from the scariest shop in Brooklyn (yes, the shop of the stairway rabbit - have you seen that one - very nightmare worthy - frankenkitty)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

secrets of halloween past or where have all the scary kids gone ....

This picture from the Artisan Collective team blog has me thinking that Halloween used to be alot more scary

(and I mean really scary, like Paranormal Activity 2 promos, Miley Cyrus wrapped around a stripper pole, my fondness for reality television and stirrup pants all rolled together scary)

and actually picturing these things all rolled together is kind of grossing me out, but kind of also making me hungry for the leftover spaghetti in my fridge which I will be devouring when I am finished with this post.

(yum yum)

Anyhoo - just look at these kids - would you open your door for these kids?

(yes, even that Little Rascally one in the front who is probably holding a hatchet or a sickel or something equally deadly, but all sweet-little-farmboylike just out of frame)

I don't know where Jen got this picture, but I never see anything this scary on my front steps on Halloween ....

although truthfully I don't see much of anything on my front steps on Halloween anymore.

Last year I gave up on the invisible trick or treaters

and this has nothing to do with my natural inclination to lock myself in the house, peek out from behind closed blinds and ignore the doorbell.

(I don't know what has happened to them, but we get less and less every year - I think because we have a driveway that is longer than 10 feet and the kids are just way too tired to walk all the way to my front door having been driven everywhere in a comfy-cushy Landrover since the day they were born or they've heard that hubby likes to give bags of pretzels, sorry kiddies, I know pretzels suck, but I can't convince him of this
)

I put a bowl on my front porch and went to bed- I counted the bags of pretzels first and there were 20 bags. In the morning there were 17 bags. So we probably had 3 kids who each took 1 bag .... sigh ...

In my day we would have dumped that entire bowl in our pillow case, ran like hell and then come back later to check for refills.

The only thing we didn't like was when people gave us taffy, not sure if this was just a Jersey thing, people would have boxes of saltwater taffy from the boardwalk and give out individual pieces like tootsie roll size for Halloween - yuck - and pennies - we really hated pennies.

Anyhow, am hoping for some really scary costumed invaders this year and I'm thinking its time Olive wore something scary, too and not her usual cutie patootie stuff, and it looks like I have exactly 96 hours to figure it out ...

... stay tuned

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kick Starter - Project Olive Tree with MatchStickGirl

I have been doing Kiva donations for a long time as part of my creative tithing commitment and recently the amazing Estella from StaroftheEast made me aware of a great site called Kickstarter which helps launch creative projects

and a creative project hoping to be launched and looking for funding from the incredible photographer Frances J. Melhop of Matchstickgirl.

You have likely seen and been inspired by her amazing photos on Etsy:
well, Frances has a dream and her dream needs a kickstart:

Frances lives in New Zealand making her amazing photographs and has been dreaming for 10 years of flying to Italy and using the oldest and original photographic techniques and equipment

(a pinhole camera, Kodak box brownie and monorail - head under the darkcloth - she will shoot black and white 5x4 inch sheet film and 120mm roll film)

to photograph the amazing 1000 year old Olive trees of southern Italy.

(they are protected and very fairytale - so gnarled and twisted they appear to have human bodies and faces interwoven inside the trunks)


Her project is looking for Kickstarter funding and Kickstarter is a place where for as little as $1.00 we can make donations to other creatives

and it is another great use for our creative tithing dollars - helping the dreams of other creative professionals come true definitely puts a fire and energy to our own!

Frances has 9 days to reach her dream (Kickstarter projects must get full funding or they are cancelled). Here is a link to Matchstickgirl's dream if you can send a little of that Olive tree fairy magic her way!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Finds - a little weekend inspiration

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1. camera lens cap mug 2. duel savings bank 3. subway cushion 4. vases at room and board 5. woof necklace by La Bottega di Zanzu 6. ruffled laundry bag 8. Southern Bell musical beer bottle packaging
9. news recycler made from left over tennis court materials 10. wearable money by Tine DeRuysser

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Problem With Selling Just One Thing or when the Wednesday Whines post gets deleted somehow

Now, you know I like to whine on Wednesdays even though it has long been my goal to have a positive attitude at least 99% of the time and to be the kind of person who sees the glass as half full, makes lemonade out of lemons, doesn't cry over spilled milk, yadda, yadda, yadda ...

- although this will probably never happen in case you are holding your breath, waiting for this newer, better version of me to appear.

(you're not though, right? please don't - I don't know CPR and Olive is napping)

but this week's post seems to have vanished, so here's something I wrote a while back and for some reason never posted, can't quite remember why.

"If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse." Henry Ford

Back in the days when Henry Ford was "the man" he learned of a process for turning wood scraps, which he was loaded with from the production of his Model T's, into charcoal briquets.

He built a charcoal plant and Ford Charcoal, later renamed Kingsford Charcoal, was born. Today, Kingsford is the leading manufacturer of charcoal,

not sure how the Ford automobile is doing these days,

but you can see that selling something that the company wasn't originally intending to sell worked out pretty well for them.

(now charcoal has a big carbon footprint and not one any of us want to be stepping into, but the example of repurposing scraps and diversification is a good one)

Both my Etsy shops started out looking like jewelry shops - in that I mean that they were stocked with jewelry.

But in my mind they were never jewelry shops- they were a cork shop and a magnet shop,

so it was easy for me to diversify them a bit into housewears (stuff your house wears). I do not sell alot of housewears and I do not list alot of housewears, but it is a great benefit on Etsy where categories and labels are crucial to getting your work noticed that you diversify into other categories.

When someone buys a locket from me, it could have been that little magnetboard or something totally different that drew them into my shop.

This is also why I list alot of items even though I have certain items that are bestsellers and some things that never sell - because it may be that little item that never sells that drew that customer into my shop in the first place.

(note this "lots of stuff strategy" is an Etsy strategy and not necessarily a good business strategy in general)

They may buy the owl necklace (yes, owls are still hot - sorry), but there are 6486 (yes, I checked) owl necklaces on Etsy.

It may have been the gnome necklace (127) that caught their attention in the first place.


I have heard alot of advice given to new sellers about having no more than 2 pages of items for sale - that customers never get past that point in your Etsy shop and I would agree that most of my sales come from the first 2 pages - but it could be something else entirely that drew that customer in there.

(not that you need to be putting dozens and dozes of items into your shop, but maybe a couple things in another category can help, even a sub-category like earrings when your normally sell necklaces)

The other great example from the Henry Ford story is the idea of using your by-products to diversify. If you are making something you are usually also making something else (the by-product of your making) and what can you do with that?

And even the non tangible things that you have collected in the process of creating your business could have a value to someone else. The knowledge and systems that you have developed may have a value that someone else is willing to pay for.

Making cars and making charcoal seems like a strange fit - there may be some "strange fit" stuff in our creative businesses that we have overlooked.

And speaking of by-products I should add that Olive AKA the pampered pooch is on a new diet - food not made from the usual "not for human consumption" by-products, but one that is producing a new kind of by-product.

Blue Buffalo enhances their dry food with dark brown pellets they call Life Source bits, a scary name that makes me think that Olive is actually eating the souls of other dogs and Olive must think this, too, because she has been eating around these little pellets and depositing little trails of them all over the floor.

She has never been a fussy eater, but more of a canine garbage disposal, so I am wondering just what it is that they actually put in these little bits- other than the "precise blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants" that they advertise.

Olive is pretty smart- if she is leaving these bits as a by-product there must be a reason- I have been throwing them out for the squirrels.

(probably another reason for my super-squirrel backyard population explosion)

I did try grinding them up to get some of the "precise blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants" into her system that way - but am wondering - can a dog's eating habits really be changed (thinking about letting her go back to the little Caesars- she really loves them) or is it built into her DNA - like the way she likes to roll around in dead things and attempt to impregnate the beach towels ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Trends - Butterflies and Snakes, oh my

Now these 2011 trends look like they will be very fun and interesting to work with and maybe something we can integrate into our work before Spring.

(spring sounds very far away to me, but I'm ready to listen)



Butterflies - think movement and color and wings and ruffles and Snakes - think scales and geometrics and texture and snakey colors.

(and yes, snakey is totally a word and not to be mistaken for sneaky because sneaky colors, especially after Labor Day, are a big no-no)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Giveaway - The Girl Who Put the T In Etsy - XENOTEES - Fortune Cookie SCARF! CLOSED

AND THE WINNER IS Chosen by random. org
True Random Number Generator Min:1 Max:610 Result: 140 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Shooting Stars Mag!

Xenotees is the amazing Etsy shop of the incredible Noelle Burke of Philadelphia!

Xenotees are completely original designs created from her drawings, objects she's scanned, or maybe even a photo she has altered.

Her work is professionally screen printed by Noelle, on a manual 6 color /6 station press, in her studio.

Noelle doesn't believe in using any products made in sweat-shop conditions. Her materials are from ethically run work environments! and you know we love that!


We are so lucky to have an amazing creation of Noelle's for this week's giveaway!

WHAT YOU GET:

One lucky winner will receive this amazing fortune scarf (in a fun take out container) by Xenotees!



HOW TO WIN:

Visit Xenotees and check out her amazing work - then come back here and leave a comment letting her know which piece 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:

Enter by midnight, Sunday, October 31st! Good Luck! CLOSED

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming ... or storquegate investigated

Now, I know I blogged the return of the giveaway this week and I promise it will be up at LUNCH TIME, but in case you are like me and usually out of the loop

(and not like the amazing Katie of BlackStar and Sherry Truitt who stay on top of these things)

- there was a bit of controversy stirred up over the last few days over at Etsy. And since many of my blog readers are Etsy sellers I thought it important enough to report on.

(stuffs pencil behind ear and types furiously while swigging back can of Bud and stuffing down a pastrami on rye)

It started with Blog Action Day which is an annual event asking bloggers to spend one day a year (Oct. 15th) blogging about the same important issue.

This year's issue was drinking water (team Ecoetsy had a great post by Lorigami on the correct topic actually) and Etsy's blog The Storque decided to join in on the action with a Blog Action Day post.

Now, there were problems with this post from the very beginning because the post supporting Blog Action Day, the point of which is every concerned blogger blogging about the same thing on the same day, was not about drinking water at all. It was about coral.

So, OK, I guess that was a mistake that was easy to make because ... well, coral lives in the water ... and uh, I guess because you might have to, I don't know, read what something is about before you sign on or google blog action day or something like that ...

(or maybe there is some kind of connection between coral jewelry and clean drinking water for the billions of people that don't have it that I am missing somehow - I am not really a scientist after all, I just play one on the internet)


Now the 2nd mistake was that this blog post was not written by an Etsy staffer or even an Etsy shop owner, but a designer of jewelry for mass markets like Target and Nordstorms, and every market in between,

jewelry made with diamonds and silver and gemstones (none of which are without controversy) and possibly in places this designer would not likely admit to, who may have had intentions beyond self promotion (although a nice link to her off-Etsy business is quite prominent) this we will never know - but whose very presence on the Etsy blog which represents Etsy's incredible community that includes thousands of "handmade"

(as in made with their own two hands and not hundreds of other people's hands)

jewelry designer/makers, was enough to incite a near riot ....

(now Etsy sellers are way too scattered to actually take to the streets and picket the Etsy Brooklyn headquarters, but many took to their keyboards for a kind of cyber riot, the kind that unfortunately doesn't last long in the forums before things get shut down - picture cyber police with night sticks and cans of mace or just an Etsy staffer with a "close thread" button)

Truly, I am not so concerned for the Etsy sellers who sell coral jewelry (this post was about the important issue of the impact of live coral harvesting on the ocean's eco system) because I think people who buy coral jewelry will continue to do so.

The truth of the matter about coral is that coral is not a gemstone, but a living organism that the World Wildlife Fund has on its top ten list of endangered species (according to Treehugger)

and jewelry makers should be aware of this and know that they are working with suppliers of dead coral - I don't have any idea how they are supposed to "know" this, so would just avoid it myself, but I'm sure there are conscientious sellers out there who know what they are getting, I hope.

How this will be spun (or ignored) by Etsy is anybody's guess - but it kind of felt like I was working for Ford and the execs brought over somebody from Chevy to blast me about the problems with my wing nuts

(do cars use wing nuts? for some reason Etsy and wing nuts just seem to go together in my head today)

and I knew Chevy had problems with their bolts, screws and seat cushions ... and they were Chevy for pete's sake ....

I know this isn't the best analogy, but you get the idea and I know Etsy is not my boyfriend caught making out with the head cheerleader behind my back (the cheerleader he had always proclaimed not his type) but why does it feel like I've been cheated on somehow .... and need an apology and a box of really good chocolate and an explanation of Etsy's TOU.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blogs and Regularity (wow- that sounds really gross)

So, it seems like only yesterday I had a very regularly blogged blog with a Monday giveaway, a Tuesday something or other, a Wednesday Whine, a Thursday something or other

(t's are hard, dammit)

and a Friday Finds.

I was even going to start a new blog with a great online friend until we both burned out at exactly the same moment

because enthusiasm is a fickle bastard ...

(he will love you and leave you and then demand palimony - he will probably even take the toaster and the cool glasses your mom gave you)

And, of course since I am a maker with a making business that I need to make money with

(to buy new glasses)

I always have to be ready to put my blog aside to make things and focus on the people who pay me.

So where this all leaves my blog, I just do not know. I think I need to get back to the reasons I started this blog in the first place; my intention for this thing to talk about myself - to connect with people.

For now I am going to bring back the giveaways (a nice one starting Monday with my girl Xenotees) - hopefully run some upcycled tutorial gifts for the holidays - finish my work smarter series - I have a wholesale series coming up at some point that is mostly written - and keep everyone updated on this pup's activities.

For example we are headed out to Home Depot today to get a new light switch that I broke with the vacuum cleaner handle the other day.

(and yes, I feel a little braggie mentioning this because I realize it not only shows the awesome strength that I put into my housework, but also that I actually vacuumed this week ... and the floor wasn't even crunchy yet)

So, anyhoo, hopefully I will get Mr. Enthusiasm back and keep this baby going and of course for the regularity thing there is always Mr. Metamucil.

(and please forgive me if I don't actually follow through on any of these things - just assume if I'm not here that I am busy making gazillions of dollars making things or maybe I am just lying on the couch watching the Food Network)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Finds - Upcycled / Diverse Use Inspiration!

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Have a wonderful weekend everyone - get those pumpkins picked!

1. customizable table set by 5-5 designers
2. reclaimed wooden watches by wewood
3. stuart haygarth salvaged frame stairs
4. cleverscene's recycled turncoat bag
5. shubladen upcycled drawer furniture
6. junk bonanza memo center
7. electric mavis luminaries
8. altered books by rachael ashe

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Work Smarter Not Harder - Part I - Strategies for Makers - the reality of the 24 hour day

So, like many self employed people I set up my business as a one woman show. This was not a conscious decision- I never said, or even thought,

"I am just going to do everything!"

I just did one thing- I made something. And then I did another thing- I marketed it. And then I did another thing- I sold it. And then I did another thing- I shipped it. And then I made another thing and then I had to market that thing and then I sold it. And then I shipped it. You get the picture.

It sounds easy, but it's not.

This whole thing kind of snowballs -

(if we are lucky enough to have created the kind of snowball that turns into a snowman's ass or maybe his head or midsection ... well things can really snowball, but even if we have created the kind of snowball that melts or maybe sits in the freezer all summer, well we may not be doing the shipping step, but all the other steps take alot of time, too and we are suddenly working way too hard and way too much)

and I believe that whether we are working way too hard and making money or working way too hard and not making money - something has to change - the things that have to change are just a little different.

One part of all of this that needs to be figured out is time management - a very boring and unsexy topic, but without dealing with this we will just be running around putting out fires all the time.

(no fun unless you are one of those pyromaniac people, but I don't think you are)

Strategy 1 - Time Management and Focus

What time of day are we most alert, focused and ready to go? How long does it last?

I am a morning person and get most of my work done before noon. What I realized though is that this was exactly the time of day I was doing routine things, such as packing up orders, etc and not doing the things that required the most focus.

This was creating a situation where by the time I was finished with answering morning emails, making and packing up orders, printing shipping labels, etc - I was entering my brain-dead afternoon period and none of the big picture stuff was ever getting done.

Also I took a day and actually looked at how often while I am working I am not fully focused on what I am doing. It was shocking.

(although it shouldn't be with my ever dwindling attention span - I blame reality tv - damn you Project Runway)

I was often side-tracked and what appeared to be multi-tasking was actually procrastination and lack of discipline.

Interruptions are the arch enemy of productivity - think Batgirl and the Joker here, it's that serious

(you have to figure out a way to limit the interruptions without locking your kids in the closet ... well, at least for longer than you can reasonably calculate your closet's air supply to hold out - my closets are small, but if you have one of those walk-ins, well ...)

Cyber interruptions do not have to happen. Emails do not have to be responded to immediately. Checking your email 2-3 times a day is enough.

The great thing about the Etsy convo system is that you can read the convo in your email and see if it is from a customer (top priority) or from another maker (lower priority).

(I recently had a seller tell me she had convo'd another seller about a team thing and hadn't heard back and it had been two days and she was mad and I totally understand that feeling of not being heard, but ...

let's all just keep in mind that everyone is so, so busy and give each other a break. When I don't hear back from someone about something not purchase related - I assume they are busy and I will hear back as soon as they have the time to reply and I always do ... or I remind them ... I just picture them chasing a toddler with a diaper in one hand and a paypal postage label in the other and I feel a little better ... because I'm glad I'm not them)


Remember that old commercial where the guy says how he always returns calls the same day (I loved that commercial) and that if you don't hear back from him, he must be dead - well, that commercial was at a time when we might have five or six calls to return at the end of the day, not 46 emails in our 24 hour a day worldwide inbox ... so, if you don't hear back from me, I'm probably not dead (I hope) but just dead tired.

You can't get meaningful things done when you are constantly stopping.

Stop, start, stop, start = not good. You need to get in some alone time - long stretches of time alone is when most people are most productive.

When your mind doesn't have to shift back and forth between different things, you can get a boatload of stuff done.





WARNING - as your business grows this boatload of stuff will need to be accomplished alot more often





1. Make a big picture weekly to-do list - know what your priorities are and break them up over the days ahead (this is where having an intention for your business becomes crucial and makes it easier to prioritize what is most important)
2. Make a daily to-do list the night before (not a long list of things you will never get to)- know what is most important and get to that stuff first

(yes, even when it is the pain in the ass stuff, maybe especially when it is the pain in the ass stuff - sorry not sure where this obsession with the word 'ass' is coming from)

3. Set up a schedule to check email and stick to it
4. Know your peak energy times and use these high focus periods for high focus work
5. You need alone time - make this happen somehow
6. You build momentum by getting things done and then moving on to the next thing.

Finishing breeds more finishing, so get some small things out of the way and off your list - I realize this might go against tip #2 a bit, but you have to be flexible, no system is perfect

7. Stay off the computer (yes, I know you have an internet business, but that box in front of you sucks the hours out of your day - avoid it)
8. Decide how and when you want to do custom work and stick to it.

(I used to spend alot of time hunting for images for custom orders and often the customer would decide not to follow through anyway. If custom work is a big part of your business then obviously you should put the time into it. But, I found for me, it is not a big enough part of my sales for the time commitment it takes. I still make personalized items when the customer provides the images, but hunting down images for a one off piece at my price point this time of year does not work for me.)

Strategy 2 - Time Management and that Pesky 24 Hour Day

Now, of course all this focus stuff is only going to be so much help when the workload is just impossible - and I think if this is our problem we need to take a very real look at how we are spending our time.

Remember the old 80/20 rule of just about everything - 20% of the people do 80% of the work, 80% of the profits come from 20% of the work - yadda, yadda.

Well, when you are a one woman/man show - you have to figure out your 80/20's and you have to do it fast.

(and you totally do not have to be a one woman show, at least forever, hopefully, more on this when we talk about delegation next week)

you can't let 80% of your work have no results, you just don't have that kind of time, so you need to figure out your 20% NOW, so you can focus on that.

Now, I know that sometimes it is hard to figure out what is working and what is not working (some tools to help us with this in part II, next week) and sometimes you have to just put the energy into things even when you can't see how this thing will all fit together and I like to be diverse and do alot of things sometimes and see what will stick, but just be advised that doing these kind of things will take alot of time, so you really need to figure out your 80/20's at some point and know what needs to stay and what needs to go.

So to recap - GET EFFICIENT - Record and analyze what you spend your time doing for a week.

GET EFFECTIVE - Remember that getting efficient and doing things well doesn't necessarily mean you are doing the right things.


Next Week Strategy 3 - The Right Tools (now, some people use equipment as a crutch - you know that person who doesn't want to put in the hours on the slopes so plops down a ton of money in the ski shop - they are looking for a shortcut and so are we, but we are smart enough to realize that a Fender Esquire will not make us play like Bruce Springsteen)

The right tools can make a huge difference though and there are alot of them out there for us - more on this next week as well as Strategy 4 - Delegation - my favorite challenge of the moment (frowns at Olive)!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - upcycled cork clocks - time around the world

I have a bit of a clock and time obsession and have always wanted a string of clocks on my wall to tell me the time in different places around the world.

A few years ago I bought some black plastic clocks from the end cap sale bins at Target, but the loud tick-tocks drove me bonkers and I eventually gave them away.

The clock kits you can buy at craft stores are alot quieter and the cork helps muffles the sound. I've had these cork plant trivet/coasters that have been itching for another use - so time to make some clocks!

For this little project you will need:

a drill
3 cork plant trivets (Ikea)
3 metal house numbers
thumb tacks
3 sets of clock hardware

1. Measure for the middle of your cork circles and mark your holes
2. Drill holes
3. Add clock hardware (easy peasy, but this stuff is very delicate so be gentle)
4. Thumbtack on your numbers and names




Or you can buy something really cool on Etsy like one of these amazing clocks by:

1. andfurthermore 2. decoylab 3. tecoart 4. imotime 5. oryxandcrakedesign 6. giftedpapers