Monday, March 31, 2008

Shaynamaidel's plumping lip balm

Look at what the mailman brought me today! While lurking the forums, I can across Rachel from Shaynamaidel pimping her new high heat cinnamon plumping lip balm and I immediately went to her store and picked myself up a stick. Now, I have used Lip Venom by DuWop and this balm performed just as well for me. It gave me a nice tingly sensation and after a few minutes my lips were obviously pinker and full. The smell is an amazing blend of cloves and cinnamon.

If you have a tolerance for the spice, I highly recommend this as a great bargain, plus the balm is smooth and creamy.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Countdown to 1000

After nearly 2 years, over 200 sales and countless hours playing in forums, I can actually visualize 1000 hearts in my little etsy store. For those of you not familiar with these hearts of which I speak, it is the system in which an etsy shopper can mark their favorite items or sellers. I've got about 60 left to get before this amazing milestone. Seriously, right now 942 people like my little shop enough to put me in their favorites list. I don't even know 100 people.

To commemorate the next month or so that it takes to get to that milestone number, I wanted to look back at my first customers, the items I used to make to see how far I've come. To make it all a little more fun, I'd like you, gentle reader, to join me. If you currently make stuff and sell at etsy, show me one of the first items you listed or sold and one of your most recent creations in the comments. I'll post the most amazing transformations here during the next few days or weeks, depending on how many takers I get.

The very first person to heart me was Crochetgirl on April 24th, 2006, followed by VerukaDollsLand that very same day. It felt so great to get attention so quickly and I began hearting all these wonderful sellers too. I want to thank them for their visit their stores if you get a chance!

This is the first item I sold on etsy. It's a simple flower bracelet I made with thread I got on clearance. I sold it for a whopping $5. Even though I had little idea of what I was doing, it sold the very first day.

Here is one of more recent pieces. The Portrait of an Elegant Lady is one of my absolute favorites. I think the difference in the sheer difficulty of these pieces is staggering. I would never thought when I picked up my first tatting needle that I would ever create something like this.

Well I guess that's all for todays before and after, make sure to share yours!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Have You Ever Seen A Scarf Like That?

What will three days, a half a ball of hand dyed yarn, a really big tatting needle and a crazy idea get you? Well, in my case, it got me a really interesting scarf.

How did this scarf come about, you ask? Okay, I'm pretty sure no one asked, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. It all started with a ball of merino yarn that I got in a trade. It was beautiful, but I don't really feel like busting out the knitting needles yet, so I turn to my giant tatting needles.

I started with my Grand Daisy pattern and chained 18 of them together. The rest I made up as I went and I feel like it turned out very well.

Then I spent what seemed like hours searching for something remotely similar to base a price on. I even checked my very first sold items from 2 years ago. I came away from that search without any idea of what to charge, but confident that my creations sure have come a long way since then. I'll be listing the scarf soon and I hope people will take to it.

Here's a question for you...If I said that I would make this scarf for you with the hand dyed yarn of your choice from another etsy seller for no additional charge, would that make this a more appealing design? Would you wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive? And of course the most telling question: How much would be too much to charge for this?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

William Dohman

Whilst lurking the forums, I ran across a lonely post asking for "blog love". Being curious by nature I clicked through to his etsy page and I fell in love with the many colorful images in the photos there. So I decided immediately to give a little exposure to this brand new etsy photographer on my little street corner.

William Dohman
creates prints from his travel photos from India, Japan, Holland, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, ect. Though he makes his living as an architect, he loves to share his travel photos with others and I'm glad he does.
Coming from the Midwest, he was shocked by the amount of street life and culture in other parts of the world. He could not sketch quick enough to capture it all so he was lured to photography. "Too many Americans are quick to assume that the United States is the best county, many of whom have not even left their respective state boarders. I show these photos to encourage others to travel the world and become aware of dissimilar cultures."

When he is not making things he is finding new things to create. "If I am not doing photography or architecture I am either painting or drawing. I have also taken up road bicycling. I find it's a great way to sort my ideas and thoughts while getting a great workout and exploring the city I live in."

Here's one of his beautiful photos along with William's description:

In Japan, tradition states that if you fold 1000 origami cranes, it will bring you good health and good luck. When someone is suffering from a severe sickness or injury, spouses, parents, children and other family members and friends would fold 1000 cranes to wish for the person's recovery. The paper crane has become an international symbol of piece through the work of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki and her battle with leukemia.

"I would love for everyone to list the ten places they want to visit before they die and actually try and plan them. It is a lot easier and cheaper than a lot of people think!"

Obligatory biography:

William Dohman fell in love with photography while traveling around the world, studying architecture. India, Japan, and the Netherlands were so unlike his West St. Paul roots, he felt compelled to document everything he saw, from kite strings to street life, broken playgrounds to the Taj Mahal. India was the first time he used a manual camera, and he was hooked—through trips to the Netherlands (where he studied at TU Delft) and surrounding countries, as well as a post-grad study of Japanese architecture. His obsessive snapping prompted his fellow travelers to remark that they didn't really know what he looked like, given his face was constantly behind the camera.
William finds his most striking images are ones of everyday life, objects, and hidden details—not the classically beautiful ones perpetuated by the media, but rather the ones most people tend to overlook. He frames them with his lens for examination, most often finding that the everyday people, places, and remnants are what truly express the life within a culture.

So go and visit Williams store, heck go visit mine too. I could always use a little more love!

A Craftsman, an Artisan and an Artist walk into a bar...

...and find themselves just surrounded by wannabes. This is the one of those oft argued topics amongst the forums at etsy and I imagine anywhere that handcrafted goods are sold. I thought that I'd add my opinion on this subject to public record. First, I'd like to state that I believe these three thing are equals. Neither is any better or worse than the other, simply different.

The Craftsman:
The craftsman has a skill and uses that skill to create something usually based on traditional patterns or set steps. The craftsman generally creates something basic and functionally and if he/she is very skilled at their craft, they can charge a great deal and make good money doing it. This category contains many knitters, weavers, potters, woodwork, soap makers and jewelry makers.

The Artisan:
The artisan has a skill as well, but tends to deviate from the patterns and uses their creativity to expand on the traditional craft. Their designs tend to be slightly less functional than the craftsman's pieces and often need to find a niche market in order to make money from their work. This category contains the same kinds of crafts as the Craftsman category. The differences are that Artisan creates more of their own patterns and designs, uses unconventional components and is generally more artistic.

The Artist
The Artist doesn't need a skill, they have creative talent. Now they may have a learned skill that makes their chosen medium better, but that doesn't make the artist, the talent does. The artist does not tend to create functional pieces. Even when they are creating clothing, they go for form over function. Like the artisan, they need to find a niche in order to make money with their pieces.

Now, it is my opinion that most people know where they fit here. Some of us fit in all three. When I knit a scarf, I'm a Craftsman. When I turn a vintage collar pattern into a gorgeous tatted necklace, I'm an artisan and when I sit down with a pencil and paper and draw, I'm an artist. I think we need to stop arguing this point and look at what I think is the real distinction here.

That is, the bar full of wannabes. Every online market place is chock full of them. They are the ones constantly whining about not making sales and then when you check out their shop, it appears to be full of things that could have been made from kits. Generic designs that aren't put together very well. In days gone by, they would have been apprentices, working under someone until their craft was honed. Today however, we have the internet, 2000 craft stores and hundreds of magazines and talk show hosts making people feel like they can make everything without learning a skill first.

To paraphrase Ratatouille, just because anyone can cook, doesn't mean they should cook. Please, find something you love to do and are good at doing. Don't make jewelry because everyone is doing it and it can't be that hard. Don't try to sell your garter knit scarves, just because your mother likes the one you made for her. Support people who make things better than you could, keep learning and find your own niche!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Tatted Scarf

Like many other crafters and artisans, I have a virtual list of projects dancing around in my brain. This list is long and filled with highly improbable ideas. Occasionally I actually get around to something on this invisible list. Case in point, this tatted scarf. I've tatted simple scarves before, but I've never fell in love with one.

This design uses my "grand daisy" pattern. It's one of those designs that I'm pretty sure no one likes nearly as much as I do, but that's okay. I just started it yesterday & I still don't have the whole pattern worked out yet. I think I'll add a simple edging around the daises for the sake of good structure. The best part is, I've got enough of this lovely yarn from NoTwoSnowflakes to make one to sell and one to keep. Now for pricing....

In other news, I Finally sold my Goth Wedding choker. It was the first fancy piece I ever made. I used silk thread and crystal drop beads for the first time. It made it to the cover of Belle Armoire Jewelry and I feared it would never find a home. Now it's safely nestled in it's bubble envelope on it way across the country!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shopping Habits

I've noticed a generally trend in etsy blogging in particular to feature a random seller for the benefit of both parties. This is a fabulous idea & I have been lucky enough to garner a few features here & there. However it strikes me as a little odd that most of these features have come about as the result of me replying in a forum to a general call for artists. I'm not complaining, mind you, but I think that if I were to "feature" artists, they would be ones that I personally have either purchased from or at least wished that I could.

So, to that end, I will now begin trotting out all my etsy purchases & personally lauding each one that deserves praise. I mention that last caveat about deserving praise because of another trend I have recently begun to hate. Hollow compliments strewn about the etsy forums with wild abandon. I have never & would never tell someone that I liked something that I did not like. I won't toss in a "hey, cute owl", if I did not actually think that. Obviously that means I can be pretty quiet at times, but I digress.

Here are the pretties that the mailman brought me yesterday...I took the pictures myself so as to avoid any property issues that may arise.

First is a beautiful pair of earrings purchased from Danielle at bowerofbliss. They are so light & hang perfectly next to the pair of threader earrings that I never take out. She's a really wonderful seller that put up with my mail paranoia well.Next we have a lovely skein of hand dyed merino from Nicole at NoTwoSnowflakes. It contains just the prettiest shades of purple and I can hardly wait to tat up a scarf with it for the fall. So far I've had the best luck with my purchases.

I may trot out whatever I make with this for a later post...of course I have to add it to the already too long project list.


When I started this blog, I meant it to be a creative outlet, but on a completely unrelated topic, this is what my 3 year old daughter chose to do with her easter morning. This is the image of a toy wheelbarrow full to the edge with snails found in the bushes of our backyard.

Meanwhile, I stayed inside with the baby and finished up this lovely piece that will be listed later today...I'm calling it "Summer Breeze". I got a huge bag of vintage cotton crochet thread in this ecru shade from one of my mother's co-workers. Since I usually tat in black, it's kind of a struggle for me to make compelling designs in this color. I think I'm gonna use a lot of it on a super secret project that I swear I will start one day. It's gonna be one of those "I'll never actually finish this" kind of things.

I'll leave you with another easter image of me & my girls, just to show you that I do actually leave the house!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter Morning & A Belated Equinox

I awoke this morning to a nice little treasury with one of my newest designs in it. It's been a little while since I've seen myself in one & the best part was the item listed has already been sold.

So my question to all the etsy sellers out there is: In your experience, has either creating or being picked for treasuries that don't make the front page helped your sales?

It's been a mixed bag for me, I don't really enjoy making treasuries, partly because of the stress involved in getting a list in the first place. I used to sell tickets at a ticketmaster outlet & I remember the physical & emotional drain of being the fastest seller around. Though the love from my customers was nice.

Speaking of treasuries...I'd like to take this opportunity to express my confusion over the enormous number of Buy and Replace treasuries. Seriously, what is the deal? You're not really getting ahead and making real sales, because you're spending money too! With the possible exception of finding something you intended to buy anyway listed in one, you're just trading. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with trading, I do it a lot, it just seems do defeat the stated purpose of "wanna make a sale". Rant over!

Have a happy spring holiday!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ars Gratia Artis

So, I've been around Etsy long enough to see all the "big" questions brought up, argued ad nauseam and fade away completely unresolved only to be revisited again & again & again. Etsy was the very first forum I ever participated in, so this was an entirely new experience for me. Nearly two years later with the return of the Alchemy feature, a new round has begun.

Rather that join in the fray there, I've decided to express my opinions here. The first subject I'd like to wax poetic about is: Artistic integrity or art for arts sake vs. creating for customers. When I first began tatting, I was only making simple objects like bookmarks and small doilies. As I got better I began making things I'd like to wear and when I started selling my work, that was what I was making. Some very well meaning sellers suggested that I start making things in colors because "people on etsy like color", so I did & I sold some things, but I wasn't really happy with a lot the pieces. Eventually I gave up trying to please people and now I only make pieces that I would wear, if I didn't have a 1 year old pulling at my jewelry that is.

Why do I bring all this up? Well it got me thinking about how we decide what we're gonna make next. I used to run to the forums and ask for advice, hoping that people would just tell what to make & then proceed to purchase whatever they had asked for. I imagine that is why people like alchemy so much. Why make things that may never sell, when you can make something with a ready made customer. I'll tell you why, it's kind of boring & doesn't give you the chance to really grow as an artist or artisan. I'm not saying that alchemy is bad, in fact I quite enjoy it, but when people spend all their time trolling the listings, they're just stressing themselves out when they could be making something they love to make.

Sorry if I started rambling on, it's my way. The bottom line here is, who really makes what they love & who spends a little too much time worrying about what people will like & buy?

I think you've got to find a happy medium or your days crafting for cash are fraught with frustration and are likely to end sooner rather than later. I'm really happy for those sellers that have found a niche that allows them to make lots o' money making things they love, but that's not the path for everyone. Maybe your craft should just stay your hobby & isn't a small business after all. I don't really believe that I can make a living with my tatting, but it keeps me sane and happy. That's why I only make what I like to make, do you?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Victoria - Tatted Hat

Well after some great advice...I have listed the hat at etsy as a custom order. I really appreciate all the great feedback on this project. My next project is a little crazy & I almost can't wait to tell you about it, but I will. Here's the link to the hat if you'd like to check out the listing: The Victoria - Tatted Hat

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Prototype Complete!

After nearly a week of work, my tatted hat prototype is finished & shock of all shocks, it actually LOOKS like a hat!

I found a vintage tatting pattern for a baby bonnet, modified it until it looks almost nothing like the source material and tatting for almost a week straight. Although I think it looks great, I think I might get some ribbon & thread it through the holes in the center of the round motifs. I was also thinking of adding a tatted flower there as well.

I'm wondering if I should list this on etsy as a custom hat available in many colors, or if I should actually make one up in black or another color. This is one of those projects that takes so long to do that I might cry if I made one up & it never sold. Not to mention the final cost has me scratching my head. If I'm being honest the cost would probably be upwards of $200, but I kind of doubt that it would sell at that price.

Any and all opinions on any of these matters are very gratefully accepted!

Monday, March 17, 2008

D.I.Y. vs. Consumer Crafting

I admit it, I do a lot of stuff myself, often things that are better left to someone else. I fix household things that should be replaced, sew up clothes that should be retired and I refuse to buy things that I could make, even if I'm not likely to ever get around to doing so. D.I.Y. seems to be an ever increasing trend that has spawned a plethora of "sell your own crafts" sites. I know I threw a little party when I discovered and began my own retail experiment.

The whole thing has me wondering though, if an ever increasing amount of people are "doing it themselves" and trying to make a living at it, won't the whole system implode? If everyone who liked the look of knit cuffs, learned how to make knit cuffs, who would be left to buy them?

Everyone seems to agree what we need are customers that understand that hand craftsmanship takes time and skill and are willing to pay a premium for that. Unfortunately, it seems more like a lot of poor crafters are buying each others goods in an effort to keep consumer crafting alive.

What do you think?


When I first thought about blogging many moons ago, my husband lamented that blogging was like standing on a street corner yelling your inner thoughts to complete strangers. I realize that just like that crazy guy yelling on a street corner, most bloggers are likely to be ignored by those passing by, but a few will find like minded folk and thus an audience. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find those people. For now, I imagine that I will be talking to myself.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting about my etsy shop and other shops I have found & love. I will also be waxing poetic about my tatting and life in general. This may or may not interest the masses of internet going folks, but I hope someone will be amused by my thoughts.