Friday, May 30, 2008

A Lost Art

So awhile back I made some ridiculous goals with the intent of keeping myself forever moving forward. One of those unreachable goals was to make tatting the next big crafting craze. Then something weird happened, I thought I might actually give it a go, well not exactly that, but a modified version. I what to expose tatting to a wider audience so that it is no longer referred to as a lost art. How, you ask. Well, I'm still working out all the details and I'm gonna need a little help from as many people as I can get.

I submit to you, Tatting is not a lost art: the challenge. I've done a beading challenge a few times and I thought, why not do something like that to get more people to not only see tatting, but use it in their own pieces. What I was thinking of doing is offering a tatted medallion in one or two colors at maybe $5 or $6 to anyone that wants to participate. The challenge would be to use that medallion in your own work, be it jewelry, multimedia art, clothing, whatever. Then you would list the creation for sale on etsy using something like TotusMelchallenge as a tag or upload it to a flickr group I would create if you aren't a seller or simply don't want to sell the piece. All of this would be done within a set time limit. I would recruit a small panel of judges and the winner(s) would receive something from my shop or another prize to be determined.

My ultimate goal here, is to get tatting a lot of exposure and hopefully by association get myself a little exposure even if it means eventually there will be more tatters to compete with. What I need from all of you out there is input. I need to know if you think this is a good idea. Would you participate? How good would the prize have to be to get you to play? Should I offer the medallion in just one color(ecru) or perhaps two (ecru & black)? How long should the time limit be? I'm thinking that I need a least a dozen people to make this worth the effort, so I'm going on a forum recruiting spree soon. If you'd like to be kept in the loop, just shoot me an email using the Contact Totusmel link on the bottom of the right column or convo me on etsy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Comic Timing

I thought I'd take a break today and do a little review. I love comic books, no really, I do. I've been an avid collector for more than a decade now. Every Saturday the whole family heads to the comic book store and we all leave with a little something to read. I have a hard time getting around to reading my books though, the baby likes to tear and that makes her an extreme comic liability. When I found Jim8ball on etsy selling cute little mini comics, I thought those I can read.

The first batch I purchased included the first three issues of the "Tale of Samurai Cat" and and cute little story called "Little Frank". Just last month I picked up the 4th installment of Samurai as well as "Robert the Robot Conquers the World" and "Giant Robot Attack". So I thought I'd take a minute to tell you what I think about about Jim Coon's little comic empire.

First off the art is adorable and consistently good. The colors are vivid and the lettering clear and fun to read. The stories run the gamut from sweet in "Little Frank" to hilarious and a little twisted in the robot books. The Samurai story is an adventurous epic with just a touch of dark comedy. While each story hits a sour note from time to time, they are generally well written and consistently entertaining. I can easily see "Little Frank" as a timeless children's book and the Samurai story lines seems tailor made for an Japanese animated style movie. The robot books are probably best left to the midnight hours on Comedy Central, but man did I laugh.

The best part of these mini comics, besides the fact that they are the perfect length to read before the 1 year old can waddle over to destroy them, is the price. They are just a dollar each. At that price you can snatch up a whole bunch at once and give yourself an entertaining break in the day. I highly recommend these great little comics, Jim has written a story for just about everyone.

Check them out at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Working Without A Net

I'm one of those people who read too many books. So when I was pregnant with my first child, I read everything about parenting I could get my hands on. While I'm certain a great portion of the information I digested was uniformed opinions, there were a few universal truths revealed in many different places. One of those truths was the claim that children not only need structure, but crave it as well.

I submit to you, that we never stop craving that structure. I've decided that beneath all those requests in the critiques forum of etsy, besides the obvious cries for attention, are really requests for people to be told exactly what to do. They ask when they should list, what pictures they should use, how much to charge, how many items they should have and dozens of other things. Underneath all of those questions is one single request, "tell me what to do". We may claim that we want creative freedom, but we really want the safety net of a strictly scheduled life.

I remember getting out of high school and feeling that sweet, sweet freedom of no one telling me what to do. Then I went to college and even though I had more freedom, the recipe for success was still clearly spelled out. Go to class, study, get good grades, everything is fairly clearcut. Next, I got my first real job and I was told exactly what I needed to do to get paid and eventually get raises or promotions. I moved out on my own and even then I was told when the bills needed to paid.

There are a lot more areas of our lives that are purely unstructured and no one else can tell you what needs to be done to make you feel like you've succeeded. Etsy is one of those places. It is different for everyone and no matter how many times you plead for someone to tell you exactly what to do, you will still end up having to make your own decisions because there are very few right or wrong answers here in the real world. What works for me, may not work for anyone else. There is no magic formula, no parent or teacher to tell you what to do and give you an grade on your store.

I'm afraid that you are now working without a net, schedule or scapegoat. Sure people can help with a little advice now and again. We all have more to learn, but if you really need someone to tell you exactly what to do, you never will be truly happy or a real success.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Try?

I have a confession, I possess a general lack of confidence in my own abilities as they are presented to strangers. In other words, I'm a big old chicken and I can be painfully shy in unfamiliar situations. This character flaw, if you will, has stopped me from doing a lot of things over the years that may have led me into an entirely different life. At one point, I was set to attend a performing arts school and I chickened out. Then I was going to go to University in southern California and pursue an acting career and I chickened out. It hasn't just been big events that I've run scared from, it's all sorts of little things as well.

I was that girl at the party hanging out in the corner that only talked to people I knew. You thought I was aloof or stuck up. I was just terrified of unfamiliar situations. I am outgoing and loud and friendly when I'm on my own turf, but take me out of my comfort zone and I'm just a little scaredy cat. I know my own strengths and skills among my friends and family, but I have a horrible time selling myself to new people.

I find that if I don't try, I can't fail. Yeah, I know, the only real failure is to not try, but I'm sticking with my philosophy on this one even if it patently wrong and counterproductive. I know that a lot of people believe that they need to get their pieces into retail outlets in order to really succeed. This would require that I actually go into a store and ask them to like my stuff and I'm just not ready to get into a situation where there is such a high possibility of failure. Its times like this that I wish I wasn't a grown up. Seriously, wouldn't it be wonderful if I still had a Mommy take care of things like this for me. I guess that's what assistants are for, but I can't afford one of those and I think my Mother would just laugh at me if I suggested she become my sales rep.

I really admire those who are able to market themselves in person, I don't even feel comfortable handing my business card to one of my husband's coworkers. What's funny, is I actually have gotten much better at this sort of thing since I had kids. I watch them attempt things they don't how to do without fear and that gives me a little courage to try. Maybe when they are a little older, they can help me get my jewelry into boutiques and bridal shops. Ah, my toddlers, my favorite new excuse for not trying anything new. What will I do when they are older?

I guess I will just keep trying to get up some courage and hopefully one day I'll be able to do all those things people suggest I should do for my own success. Until then, I'll hide comfortably behind my keyboard where I feel safe.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Global Marketplace

I had this whole diatribe planned out on the global economy and how it affects our little craft businesses, but then I took far too long getting it down and it's flown out the window. So, I think I will just try to wing it.

If you're reading this from inside the States, you are probably aware that our economy is in a bit more than a downturn, but what you may be less aware of, is that we are not in fact the only large, stable, industrialized nation on the planet. We are simply one of a great many countries that stand on their own just fine, and right now, many of those other countries are not only doing better than us, some of them are growing at astounding rates. If you are reading this from one of those other countries, you are probably aware of this as well. In my limited experience our international friends tend to be more informed on global matters than we are. Look, I'm not trying to diss the America, I love it here, I just don't buy into the "we're #1" mentality. This is not a worldwide competition for King of the Planet, our economies are merging and if we don't start playing together well, we are doomed.

So what's the point I'm trying to make here? Well, unless you are only selling domestically in the states, the national economy is not the only one you should be concerned with. We need to embrace the interconnectedness of our world and use that to our advantage. If you aren't making sales and you don't ship internationally, perhaps you should start. If you sell knit scarves and you are dreading the slow summer months, perhaps you should start listing during prime Australian hours. Look at the geolocator on etsy, you may be surprised at the large number of international sellers and I imagine that there are just as many worldwide buyers out there.

While I haven't done the proper leg work to claim this as fact, I think there are still a lot of people that live and die in the same town that they were born in. In the past this would have meant that they would probably not be at all concerned with the world around them. Today, the Internet has changed all that. You can never leave your house and still be a part of a world with very few borders. Embrace this brave new world and make it work for you. Our economy will get better and others will get worse as part of this new global climate, the trick is to see the bigger picture. If you can do that, perhaps you can ride the waves with a little less stress.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Zairah!

It's my daughter's 4th birthday that's all I'm doing this weekend. Here's a heads up though, I will be listing the Black Victorian Lace Cuffs on Monday morning for $48. As a special treat for any blog readers paying attention. Mention "Zairah" in the notes to seller if you purchase these cuffs and you'll get them for $10 off. This is a one day only offer, so if you really want them, get them first.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It'll Be Great... If It Works

Over the last week, I've tried a few new things to increase my exposure. I can be quite a lazy person and I have two extremely demanding kids, so I was looking for things that would require little effort on my part. First, I signed up on Timothy Adams' newest endeavor, Buried Treasury. All I had to do was look around, make a few comments and then sign up for a few bucks. Now I have my own little section where my etsy mini lives for more folk to find. It's a neat little site and Tim promises to send out site statistics so we can see how many visitors the site gets.

Then, when hanging out in the forums, I saw a post about Celebrate with Style, a new website that has a boutique section that artists and designers can sign up for. The boutique offers a place to post photos of your pieces along with a link to your own online store. The hitch was, it is by invitation only. So, throwing myself to the wolves yet again I signed up to be reviewed for an invitation. I've done this sort of thing before, I tried Trunkt, Nifty, Indieshopping and quite a few others, all to no avail. Apparently I don't "fit" in a lot of places, but this time I was pleasantly surprised to receive not only the invitation, but quite a flattering email describing my tatting as "distinctive" and "unusually creative and fashionable".

I have now signed up with them as well and my page is up here. I have no idea whether either of these endeavors with result in any additional attention, but neither required too much effort and they need almost no upkeep, so they meet my strict requirements. I guess we'll see if they helped over the next few months. I guess I just felt I needed to do something outside the forums and since I'm seriously burnt out on networking, these seem like good ideas.

Here's hoping!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Steam Team Style

It's all about the steam. Or is it? The evolution of my tatting style has found me within quite a few genres over the last couple of years. It has been described as Gothic, Ne0-Victorian, Steam Punk, Shabby Chic, Classic Victorian and even Rockabilly.

Every single time someone suggested that my pieces would fit in a genre, I found myself trying my hardest to make more pieces in that style. I suppose I was just trying to make sure that I deserved a place in their clique. Here's the thing though, I am not good with cliques, never have been. So eventually I always give up trying to fit in and go back to making whatever pleases me.

A couple of months ago whilst googling myself as I'm wont to do on occasion, I found someone on a steam punk board talking about my jewelry. I have always liked the steam punk movement, particularly as it is depicted in many anime movies, though I hadn't actually intended my jewelry to be steam punk fashion. After reading the comment, I got all excited and almost immediately began a search for gears and watch bits to add to my pieces to make them even more steam punk. Then I came to my senses again.

Look, I love that people who like my pieces come from all kinds of different style bases, but I am so finished with trying to fit in with any one of them. Sure, I'll make a piece with an obvious vibe every once in a while, but the truth is, I like too many genres myself to ever pick just one to fit into. When I was in my first street team, it had a Gothic focus and I would actually feel weird about about making a piece that wasn't in black. If I had continued to feel that way, I would have never made my scarves, and you know how I feel about my scarves. I'm glad to have joined the Steam Team, because they are wonderful people and I'm glad to have new folks who like my pieces to work with and offer support.

In the end, my style is my style. It is not defined by anyone else and though it's likely to change as I grow as an artisan, it will no doubt still feel the same to me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We're All Winners, Right?

Well I've got a couple of pieces of news today. First I have the results of the Spring Beading Challenge. As I predicted, I did not win, but I was surprised to get a special mention in the judges, Linda Chandler's write-up:

"First, I want to thank you all for letting me judge this beading contest. With so many wonderful and outstanding pieces it was very hard to make a decision.

Some of the things I look for in a piece of jewelry are uniqueness and choices of color and components. Another thing I like to see is the use of creative, and sometimes even mismatched, elements that are combined. Persuading disparate elements to come together and unify into a completed piece with unity and balance can elevate a jewelry piece to a work of art.

Above all, the jewelry should be comfortable to wear and be constructed to withstand prolonged wear. The attention to detail and workmanship are very important to making an heirloom piece of jewelry that can be handed down from generation to generation.

Now, to the jewelry! Totusmel's tatted collar deserves special mention. Anyone who has tried tatting knows how difficult it is to master and how much work is involved! This is a lovely collar that hearkens back to more romantic, Victorian times. Made in black or perhaps ecru, and the addition of Swarovsky pearls would make this collar a truly spectacular piece!

An Honorable Mention goes to tanqukarnitz! This necklace shows a lovely balance between beads and chain. The hard work and attention to perfect detail, especially in the silver chain and bail, truly make this a piece to be cherished and admired for its uniqueness.

Another Honorable Mention goes to morwynskya. This beaded cuff is beautifully made and shows a flair for color and design. It's eye-catching and evokes a joyful feeling of Spring and renewal.

Finally, I chose as the winner of the 2008 beading contest. This collar is like nothing I've ever seen before. Wearing it must feel almost like wearing a cape. The execution is lovely and original. There's a sense of fun balanced with a sense of drama. The variety of colors would go with just about anything. This necklace is obviously well thought-out and executed. Congratulations to on your win!

To everyone who entered this contest, well done! All the entries were great and that's what made judging so difficult. I would encourage each of your to keep entering contests and challenging yourselves in different ways. I hope you will all keep creating wonderful jewelry. You are all winners!"

You can check out all of the entries and winners at the flickr site for the challenge. I really feel flattered to have been mentioned at all.

I also want to thank everyone for the support I got after Monday's post. I never had any real intention of quitting, even though I was feeling a bit discouraged. When I started this thread at etsy, I was surprised by the many people who lamented my potential departure. There are often threads in the forums where people are asked who their etsy buddies, mentors, idols, etc. and I have never been mentioned. I know because I'm constantly searching for mention of my name. The reaction I got made me feel very special and I want to thank everyone who posted something in support.

On a related subject, I actually made a couple of sales Monday and one was a really good one that included my Portrait of an Elegant Lady choker. So WooHoo for me! Maybe I should make idle threats of quitting more often. Who am I kidding, I couldn't do it even if I wanted to, I am a horrible liar and I mock those who make theses kinds of threats to get attention. I think it's gonna be a good week...unless my husband makes me try to buy the limited edition Metal Gear Solid PlayStation 3 bundle again tomorrow, 'cause after today, I'll kill something, I swear.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why, What Lovely Wrists You Have

Here they are, the Victorian Lace Cuffs, tatted in black cotton thread. I'm still waiting for my hook and eye closures to come in so I can finish and list them for sale at etsy, but I promised a look, so here you go! I hope you like them.While I'm at it, here are three other brand new designs I came up with that will soon be on their way to a photo shoot. From left to right, we have the Daisy Cuff inspired by my Grand Daisy Choker, The Quadra Cuff, based on my Quadra Tatted Bracelet and the Bib Cuff using a modified version of the Gothic Bib Choker.

I haven't decided whether I'll be listing these as custom pieces in my store since I don't know when they'll be coming home. I think it might be easier to list them as custom pieces so I can offer them in all the thread colors I have available. Let me know what you think!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Should I Quit

You may have noticed that I have a bit of a big mouth. When something bugs me I tend to lay it all out there and I like to use a lot of big words while doing it. So after I made a big deal out of folks complaining about a lack of sales in their etsy stores( see here), I felt like I just have to suck it up now that my sales are in the toilet. I had all the familiar thoughts, it's the economy, my newest items aren't any good, nobody likes me, maybe I should just throw in the towel.

Then I came to my senses. Look, my sales are nonexistent right now and while I could very well blame the economy and I wouldn't be entirely wrong doing so, the truth is, I know exactly why I'm not selling. I figure there are two options at this point. I can quit or I can go into extreme business mode. I know what I need to do, but I'm simply not willing to put out the effort needed to make the sales happen. Why? Well, I have more important things to do with my time, than spend hours networking and advertising. Many people have spent their free time outlining their successful strategies and I thank them for their time and expertise, but I just can't get that invested.

So, do I think I should throw in the towel? No, I think I'm going to opt for secret option three, continue doing what I'm doing and not stressing out about it. I was making things long before I found etsy and I don't plan on stopping any time soon. The only real difference is now, my pieces aren't gathering dust or being given to unresponsive relatives for Christmas and birthdays. I was always spending money on my crafts, only now I occasionally make my money back. The worst case scenario is I never make another sale, all my listings expire and I'm stuck with all my unsold inventory, which I will give to relatives.

I'll keep on tatting new designs as long as there are people who at least like to look at them. I've used my store as an excuse to try things I never would have attempted otherwise because I just couldn't justify making all this stuff if I didn't have a potential outlet for its dispersal. I imagine that I would go into creative hibernation without my store, sales or not. So for now, I'm gonna stop stressing about sales and enjoy creating, because when all is said and done I think that's the real reason artists, artisans and crafters create. Ars Gratis Artis!

On a completely different subject, I finished my black cuffs and I will be posting pictures tomorrow, so don't forget to come back for them.

Friday, May 16, 2008

On The Ebb

I can feel it sliding away, the obsession phase if finally ebbing. I find that my relationship with etsy is quite cyclical. I go from completely obsessed to barely caring about anything outside my shop. When my baby was born, I had to quit cold turkey and within just the last couple of months I've been in a furious state of activity. Making pieces for the store, starting this blog, networking online and spending far too much time in the forums.

Every morning for the last week I've felt a smaller and smaller pull to go hang out online. Instead Ive been working on these tatted cuffs and I've already come up with two more designs since I finished the first pair and I'll be working on a forth, in black, today. I actually feel productive and in a cruel twist my sales are literally nonexistent. The last piece I mailed off was a Saturday Night Special Secret, which means it was free. My last sale real sale was on the 7th. The lack of sales had me down for awhile, but I figure the dry spell can't last forever and maybe I'll be able to come up with some more new designs while I wait.

Thanks also to everyone here and over at etsy for all the feedback on the lace cuffs yesterday. When I finish the black pair of cuffs that everyone seems to want, I'll be sure to post them here first.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Victorian Lace Cuffs

A few days ago I received an email suggesting that I try making some tatted lace cuffs. Now, I've tried this before and had little luck coming up with a workable design that I liked.

Since my last attempt I have managed to come up with a hat and a couple of scarves designs that I'm really pleased with, so I figured I'd give it another go. The design formed quite quickly and turned out much better than anticipated. I'm already starting on the my next idea for another pair. I'd appreciate any feedback anyone has on color options, sizes or prices before I even think about selling them.

I think they'll look fabulous peeking out of a jacket sleeve and could work on so many levels from steam punk and neo-victorian to everyday work wear. I hope you like them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Walking The Tightrope

Balance, an eternal struggle for all of us. Each of us has lives full of many diverse elements, every piece competing for time and attention. All of us must pick and chose which segments get priority over the others. These decisions are perhaps the most important ones we will ever make in regards to being truly happy and satisfied with our lives and no one can make them for you.

I've been alive for 31 years, crafting and creating for at least 20, married for almost 10 years, a stay at home mom for just 4 years and an etsy addict for a little over 2 years. Not a single one of these elements defines me completely. I enjoy being a mother and a wife, but without my tatting, I don't think I would be very happy. I know that I need to give attention to every part of myself in order to keep myself sane. Sometimes I lose sight of myself as an individual in favor of keeping my kids and my husband happy. I haven't read a book without pictures since I had my last baby. I used to have time for video games and movies and stacks of comic books. I could do all that and knit a sweater, keep the house clean...well relatively clean and spend hours online. Honestly, the last thing I have left just for me is this blog and my etsy store.

Part of my solution is to combine activities to make the best use of my time, but I know that this is only moderately successful at best. I tat while watching morning cartoons with my kids, I play dance party while taking and uploading pictures for my listings. I write my blog posts while my husband plays wii with my oldest daughter and the 1 year old watches. I strive to put my family first, but I'm so easily distracted by the chime of my email and when I spend too much time cleaning and keeping the kids from killing each other, I get frustrated with the lack of "me" time.

The problem of balance is certainly not unique to etsians, but for some reason, I have more difficulty walking the line since I started my store. Perhaps it's harder to separate my life from etsy because , unlike a job outside the home, it's only ever a click away. Perhaps it's the constant advice from others about how to succeed, including endless amounts of forum posting, networking, blogging, listing, etc. not to mention actually designing and making pieces to sell.

I'm sorry, I don't have answers for you on how to balance your life and etsy, but I do have some unsolicited advice. Whether you are trying to balance school or etsy or a full time job with your family or just yourself, it all comes down to choices. You must make the effort to actually choose what is most important at this point in your life. My kids are so young that they need me most of the time, but they won't always be that way. When they are older, I can spend more time on me, my husband, my craft and perhaps I can actually find some friends in the physical world. If you need your full time job to pay your bills then that is clearly more important than your hobby, but that doesn't mean you can't slowly grow your hobby until it can replace the job. The key, I think, is patience.

You don't need to do it all right now, have a little patience in your lives and try not to bite off more than you can chew. Most of the opportunities you come across now are not the once in a lifetime kind and while I agree that you should seize the day, you should be sure that you are seizing the right days for you. Sorry if that metaphor got messy, but I think you understand my meaning...right? You may have to resort to scheduling your time, but if that allows you to do a little of everything that makes you happy then it's worth the effort. My mother-in-law shared a bit of advice with me about paying yourself first. Even though that is about saving your money, but making sure to give yourself a small share now, it applies to your time too. Make sure you give the individual inside the mom/wife, dad/husband, student or employee a few moments everyday before you give the rest of your time away.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Art Deco Scarf

Here she is, the Art Deco scarf. It's a bit longer and a bit wider than the Grand Daisy scarf and much more intricate. One of the hardest parts of tatting scarf is waiting to see the final result. While I'm tatting the rings and chains are so warped I really have no idea if the design is even going to work. I spent a good fifteen minutes pressing the design and I was so happy to see that the completed design works!

I would be glad to share these scarf patterns with anyone who askes. You can contact me through the link on the bottom right of the page.

I've also got a couple of steam punk treasuries to share with you this morning. Both are courtesy of the new etsy steam team and both feature one of my dramtic choker designs. So thanks guys!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I'm at that point in motherhood where my children have very little idea of what it is that I actually do for them. This means that any gift I receive for this holiday is really from my husband, so it's kind of hard for me to really see the holiday as mine yet.

It is however a holiday for my Mom and my Mother-in-law. I spent the last couple of weeks constructing their Mother's day gifts. I really haven't decided whether I will be making more of these for sale, but I wanted to show them off.
This first one here was made with yarn from fearlessfibers. It's a superwash merino hand dyed in a brick house colorway. My mom's favorite color is red, but I didn't want something too bright and this worked perfectly.

The second one was a merino wool nylon blend in an amazing green called Margarita from Jenhintz. This was her first hand dyed sale and since my Mother-in-law has a love of extreme greens, it was the obvious choice for her scarf. Both yarn sellers were great to work with. It's always a bit scary for me to buy hand dyed yarn. I 'm always afraid that my monitor has misrepresented the colors somehow, but these were exactly as described.

I'm still not quite finished with my new scarf design. I hope to knock it out today, so I'll have something to show off for tomorrow.

All this mother's day stuff has also got me thinking a bit about this tightrope I walk between being Mom/Wife and being and individual. I know a lot of people wonder about keeping the balance between etsy and family, but for me it's the balance between me and my family because my tatting and etsy are truly the only things I do during the day that are only for me. I'm certain I've got a whole post worth of things to say on this subject, so I'll save it for another day.

For now, let me just say, I hope all you Mommies had a great day yesterday!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pretty Pictures For the Weekend

I just joined a new team at etsy,'s too soon to see if I'll stick it out for the long haul. The people are nice so far and I do really enjoy the steam punk. You can search for steamteam at etsy to find their wares.

For one of their first official acts, the team leader, SteampunkBB has put together this steamy treasury over on the right including my heart pendant.

I also found a bright red beauty of a treasury featuring my crimson bloom necklace right in the middle. I hope these pretty pictures will hold you all over until Monday!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Coincidence, I Think Not

First, I'd like to thank all the folks that visited and commented over the last couple of days. Whenever I express one of my opinions here, I brace for an onslaught of detractors. I have been pleasantly surprised each time to be agreed with more often than not. I also appreciate that those who do disagree with me have been, for the most part, thoughtful and mature in their argument. Honestly I'm just feeling so grateful that I have this space to express my opinions for a few folks to read. Although I think you'd be amazed at how many people actually popped by for Wednesday's post.

Now on to today's observation. Etsy released a preview of their new "DOs and DON'Ts" yesterday. While, they will probably go through some wording tweaks before they go live, they seem pretty darn good to me. The timing of the release, just a couple of days after the "report this post" feature seems a little more than coincidental to me. I think it was the hammer thrown into the water to break the water tension before the construction worker falls in. If that metaphor doesn't work for you, then you probably don't watch Mythbusters. What I'm trying to say is, I think that they released the first feature, that they knew would cause a little drama so that when they released the new guidelines, they would seem tame by comparison.

Etsy's Admin are, it seems, evil geniuses. The new guidelines have been met with a mostly positive response so far. In fact, I dare say, most people are happy with them. Look, I was around when Etsy was in beta, so I've seen a lot of changes and the drama of the last two days is really nothing compared to some of the other things this site has gone through. With every new speed bump, it has emerged stronger and has yet to lose sight of it's primary goals as a handmade marketplace where people can, with the right amount of effort, make money doing what they love.

If you haven't seen it yet, Please check out this Storque article for the full story:

I also just found this chocolate covered treasury featuring my newest design. I just adore finding my stuff in treasuries!

Have a great weekend and I'll be back Monday with pictures the mother's day presents I made as well as my newest scarf.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Just Breath...

Yesterday certainly took a lot out of me. I knew when I wrote yesterday's post up that it would cause a little drama, but I really didn't think it would get quite that crazy and heated. There was some heated discourse that I thought came to a nice calm conclusion, but it kept coming back. I'm afraid it became the thread that would not die over in the forums. At least I met some lovely people and got some of that attention I clearly crave.

Then the mail man brought me my photo purchase from gracedesignsphoto. You may know her better as TimothyAdamsDesigns wife, but she is certainly in possession of her own great talent. This photo not only calmed me down a bit after a few forum jabs landed, but it also so very inspiring. I managed to be her first sale and she tells me that she will be adding many new photos soon, so I do suggest you take a look. The colors are amazing and bright. She is also appears to be quite a lovely person.

So take a look. Take a break. Relax, put on the song "Breath" by telepopmusik and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Use Your Grown Up Words Please

I am no angel. I am bluntly honest and not very politically correct. My appearance does offend some people and I am stared at when I go out shopping. I am also polite, intelligent, open minded, not easily offended and I believe in proper behavior in all public areas physical or virtual. In other words, I believe that there is a time and a place for all language and behaviors.

I have been increasingly annoyed by the forum behavior at Etsy, mostly in the Etc. section. Look, I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech, but I really don't get why people feel it necessary to pepper their speech with all manner of profanities in a public space. I also do not get how people can be so comfortable discussing, lets say, sensitive topics where anyone could run across it. My daughters can't read yet, but when they can, I don't want to have to block Etsy because I don't know if the forums folks will behave.

Yesterday, Etsy instituted a "report this post" link in the forums as a way for people to more easily help keep the forums clean, organized and free from spam and other undesirable content. Immediately, the posts ran amok with dissent and "catch me if you can" behavior. They felt challenged by this and therefore resorted to the worst possible behavior. Here's the weird thing though, I couldn't bring myself to post a dissenting opinion. I was actually afraid of being called a Narc or something just because I don't want to see the F-bomb dropped in a forum title. When I saw the new feature, I thought, great, now it will be easy to catch the occasional spammer and people won't always be posting that "this is in the wrong section" and asking where admin is, they will just report the post, easy peasy, right? Apparently all some people see is a nefarious Big Brother plot.

What I don't think these people get, is that their language and behavior not only reflects on their stores, etsy and internet society in general, it reflects on themselves. Sure we all like to act raucous at times. There are few of us who haven't regretted something we said or did, but man, do they not realize that the typed word is permanent. It doesn't go away and you can't take it back. With every word you type, you are defining yourself to a public that has no other source of information about you. You are what you type. I've also noted that many of the most colorful personalities hardly ever make sales. I can't imagine that this is a mere coincidence.

This is not the first time people have hijacked this handmade community for conversations incongruous with the focus of the site and I'm sure it won't be the last time either. I've seen heated religious and political debates, as well as threads full of way too much personal information. Etsy was my very first forum experience and my lack of non-family friends in the real world has led me into many off-topic conversations, much the same way it did when I worked in retail. I guess the biggest difference is that, at a store, I see the customer and I know that they can hear me so we would adjust the conversation to be appropriate. Folks on the forums need to do the same thing, there are customers lurking everywhere and they are making purchases based on what they see.

While I'm known to let out a choice word or two on occasion, I never forget that profanity is the last resort of the unintelligent. I actually saw one person comment that we were adults and did not need babysitting and then proceed to type out a very offensive string of expletives much like a ten year old would when told not to curse. We are adults and I know that I would appreciate it if we all would act like adults.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Who Will Beat Me?

Yesterday, LavaJewelry posted a striking treasury of some of the competition for the Spring Beading Challenge. This is the third challenge I have participated in, and even though I have little chance of ever winning, I'm sure it is not the last one either. I am not a bead artist, but I like to try my hand at it every now and again. This one was particularly difficult for me for some reason. I don't know whether it was the colors or my choice of patterns, but it's over now. I'll post the winners when they are decided.

It seems I just got one of those flood moment when it comes to treasuries. I hadn't been in one for a while and now three in a row. I'm hoping that this good juju will spill over into the sales department.

I also promised a quick look at my new tatted scarf design. This one is based on my Art Deco pendant pattern that was originally the center of a vintage place mat pattern. I'm starting out by simply stringing the motifs together. I'm using the same purple wool yarn from NoTwoSnowflakes that I used to design my first tatted scarf. I have no idea how it will turn out as I have a nasty habit of doing the design work while I'm tatting. I really don't know why I'm on a tatted scarf kick just as the weather turns warmer, maybe I'm hoping I get really popular with the Australia crowd.

Monday, May 5, 2008

That's What I Get For Sleeping

So Apparently this lovely treasury was on the front page at etsy over night. I of course did not get to see it, I was sleeping. I know, rookie mistake. My little hat got a bunch of views, it is at 689 views this morning and I earned myself quite a few hearts, 1201 now! No sales from the adventure though.(quick update: 1 sale acheived!!!!)

I have started to work on a new tatted scarf design that I will preview for you in the next couple of days. I have also finished the first piece in my new simple bridal line that will be posted later today. I think I might be too late for this years wedding season, but I like the design so I'll make a few more complimentary pieces in the next week or so. The mother's day gifts are finished and now I just need to finish my how-to article for Belle Armoire. I think I might be catching up with all my projects.

I've also got a nice place in another treasury today too. I really like the look of this one too. In fact I figured this was the reason I got the hearts this morning, until I discovered the treasury west one had made it to the front page.

On another subject, the pendant in this treasury is up for grabs on This Old Hen House blog for just one more day, so get over there and comment to win.

Anyway, thanks for the treasury features, the views and the buy my stuff!

Friday, May 2, 2008

You Want How Much For That?

The Art of Pricing: It's Capitalism Baby!

One of the biggest controversies in the handmade community is, Pricing. There are many reasons this issue is a sticking point for people. We want to make sales, so we want the price to be affordable to our target audience, but we also don't want to under price ourselves for fear of looking cheap. Then there's the most annoying factor, other sellers opinions!

Look, you have every right to price your goods any way you want. This is capitalism, supply and demand, a free market system that allows the consumer to regulate the pricing of goods. I know that as handmade artisans, we feel a sense of community, but that does not mean we need to resort to price fixing just to suit other sellers pricing needs. I know that this is contrary to many other peoples opinions on the subject so feel free to ignore my opinion if you so choose.

When I first started selling tatted jewelry it was woefully under priced. I had no base for comparison as I was the only tatter on Etsy at the time. Eventually I came up with price points that I could live with. I certainly can't wholesale at my prices, but I don't intend to wholesale, so that's a moot point. I used to worry about new folks selling tatted pieces at really low prices, but I realize that the average consumer is not a idiot. They can see the difference in quality, even online and the cheap goods are not really competition for me. The consumer who prefers a $3 tatted doily is never going to buy a $75 tatted scarf and the person who buys my scarf probably thinks that the $3 doily is poor of quality not a great deal.

Here's an example. Widget makers, company A and company B make a comparable product in both function and quality. If A lower their price, B must either lower their price or increase the quality of their product to compete. However, company Z who makes a similar product much cheaper in quality and price is not competition to A or B, because they do not actually share a consumer base. Company Z's customer will never spend the extra money to get a better product, only price determines their purchases. A and B don't pay attention to what Z does because they can't compete with that and continue to make a high quality product, nor should they. They must market themselves to a different demographic and continue making a product high enough in quality to warrant the price they charge.

So if you make high quality baby bibs for $16 a pop, you are not going to get a Dollar store customer to buy them. You do not share a customer base with the Dollar store, so don't complain about their product pricing. Perhaps you should worry more about marketing to your consumer base and less time trying to undermine other peoples business strategies or lack thereof. Etsy is not a co op and although we love to help each other out, we are individuals in a free market system. Not too long ago, I read someones post suggesting that we put a basement price on goods. I was actually shocked, I mean how would we feel if all industries adopted these kinds of strategies. Milk can't cost less than $3, a car can't cost less that $10,000, a pair of earrings can't cost less than $7. Ridiculous. If you can't sell your bibs at $16, the problem does not lie with the Dollar store, it lies with you. Either the price is higher than the market can support or you are simply not advertising to right demographic.

Here's a pricing strategy for you, take your costs, fees, materials, etc., add to that minimum hourly wage or give yourself a bit of a raise, then add $1 and that's your price. If you never plan to wholesale that's all you need to charge. Everything else is optional. My material costs are extremely minimal so my costs are basically labor, so it comes does to how much I feel my time is worth. I would never charge less than it cost to make something and neither should anyone else, but if you make just $1 on your item, you don't have to answer to anyone else. You are not hurting everyone else with your prices. Conversely if you want to make $20 on that same item, you can't complain about the $1 person, you need to make your product worth the extra $20 and market to the audience that pays for quality.

I know that this issue is not going away any time soon, but I think that people need to get some perspective. This is capitalism whether you like it or not!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I Actually Finished!

Despite all my efforts to the contrary, I actually completed yesterday's task. My entry for the Spring Beading Challenge has been photographed and listed in all the appropriate places. I'm calling it "The Lady Loves Absinthe". So far, it has no love, but it is much more of an 'art' piece than I usually create.

I also finished one of two Mother's Day presents, which I will show off just as soon as they've been gifted. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise on the off chance either of them stumbled upon my blog.

I still need to finish writing my article for the magazine and taking step-out photos for it, which is my least favorite part of the process, by a mile. I swear, I will be making some new pieces for my store soon, maybe today, unless I get sidetracked which of course I will.