Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Were You Front Page Material? Find it in the Vault

A couple weeks ago, I posted a number of sites that had cool Etsy tools. One of the sites, Craft Cult, had a very cool tool that lets you view which of your items have hearts. There is another tool on that site that I finally got to looking at, and wanted to spread the word.

Getting featured on the front page of Etsy is a big deal for many people. Craft Cult has a database of those special front page treasuries, available for your view in the Vault. You can browse the front pages, if you want to see what type of items are usually featured. You can also search by an Etsy username, or by a specific date. This way, when someone tells you that they saw you on the Etsy front page, you don't need to feel bad that you missed seeing it! You can just go on Craft Cult and look that baby up! You can also share the listing from the Vault with others quite easily.

Right now, the database only goes back to March 2009, as that was when the tool was introduced. Even so, it is still a really cool way to keep an eye on what is catching the eye of Etsy curators.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What is the Cost of Your Art?

Discussion on pricing art abound all over the Internet. But what about the actual costs incurred by your art of choice? In this day when we are used to seeing some many cheap imports available, people have no true idea of what it really costs an independent artisan to create their goods.

Since I love to do lampwork, and have to deal with people who are used to buying cheap imports at Wal-Mart on a regular basis, I will use that as an example. I will only mention the tools and supplies you absolutely *must* have in order to create a quality lampwork bead (notice that you can't really put a cost on practice and expertise here!).

There is a beginner torch out there called a Hot Head. This torch runs on a single fuel, and is made to run on the small canisters of MAPP gas or propane you can find at hardware stores. You of course need glass rods, and stainless steel mandrels with bead release to form the bead around. And no matter what people might want you to believe, you need a kiln to anneal your beads (fiber blankets and vermiculite do *not* do the job).

So before you have even lit the torch and made a bead, you will have to spend:

  1. Hot Head Torch: $40.00
  2. Mandrels (12): $6.00
  3. Bead Release: $10.00
  4. Glass Rod Asst: $20.00
  5. Kiln: $550.00
  6. Can of Fuel: $3.00

If you chose to upgrade your torch to one that burns hotter, you will need to buy a dual fuel torch, the least expensive of which runs about $225.00. Plus, when you do this, you need to add in either bottled oxygen on a regular basis, or an oxygen concentrator which starts at $550.00 for a refurbished one.

Of the above supplies, the bead release, rods and fuel are consumed by the craft and need to be replenished regularly. Even if you decide to try to catch anneal your beads in someone else's kiln, you still need to spend nearly $80.00 before you make a bead. Now it makes a little more sense as to why those little glass treasures cost a bit more, doesn't it?

I would love to hear from artists in other fields as to what the costs associated with their area end up being. Please email me at handmadechicblog@gmail.com if you would be willing to write up a short entry outlining the costs you face, so we can continue to educate our customers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Fun Finds 4.24.09

One of the ways I always know Spring is knocking at the door is by the birds singing. But I have a confession to make; I don't really like birds all that much--I blame it on Alfred Hitchcock.

But one feathered friend I do love are owls. I had the privilege to be able to hold a beautiful white owl at my local county fair, and have attended barn owl releases by Hawk Creek, a great wildlife rehabilitation center in my area. So I dedicate these beautiful, handmade owls to them!

I love when people recycle unexpected materials to create something new. Debby Arem Designs on Etsy has taken a recycled circuit board and scrap metals to create this adorable owl brooch. The fact that this beauty is eco-friendly is an added bonus!

Sora Designs, also on Etsy, has for us another beautiful owl piece of jewelry. This beautiful Wise as an Owl Ring has a carved redwood owl face as its "gem", and is adjustable to fit nearly any finger. Another beautiful piece with a natural touch!

Animal totems are thought to contain special powers, and this Wise Owl Lampwork Bead would make a perfect totem for peace and wisdom. Handmade by Nicole Valentine, this little guy is just waiting for you to turn him into a piece of art for your neck. This bead is available in Nicole's ArtFire shop.

Finally, we have a pair of earrings that are total show-stoppers. These abstracted owls are made from handcut copper by The Sparrow's Nest on Artfire. Perched upon handwrapped copper branches, these earrings would be sure to garner compliment after compliment!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What about eBay?

There are probably very few people left who haven't heard of eBay. eBay has revolutionized selling on the internet with its auction and Buy it Now formats. But, is the most well known site for selling really the best option for selling handmade?

My opinion is no. Not anymore. I used to sell on eBay a few years ago. I absolutely loved it, and I used to be able to get very good prices for my work. However, eBay continued to grow, and not always in ways that benefit the self-representing artist.

For someone starting out on eBay right now, it is a very hard place to get noticed, unless you want to fork out nearly $25 to advertise your item in the featured section. For some artists, this may make sense. But for many, it doesn't add up cost wise. And believe me, nearly every category that has handmade items, also has been flooded with mass-produced items. This means you are competing with cheap goods. It is the same principal as if you were trying to sell your first quality art in a Wal-Mart.

eBay has also become more and more expensive to use. Yes, if you want to chance that you may only get $.99 for your item, you can list for $.15. However, if you want to get a more realistic price for your work, you will pay more. For example, let's say you have a handmade purse that you really hope to get $50 for. You decide to start out the auction at slightly half of that, $24.99. Your insertion fee for the auction is $.55. Not bad when you look at it, but this double what Etsy charges, and if you are doing an auction, only good for 7 days. Let's stay positive and say, without adding any listing upgrades, people find your purse and it sells for $40. You now will have to pay eBay a Final Value fee of $4.03, which is added to your $.55 insertion fee, bringing the total up to $4.58 in fees. This is over 10% of the price of the item. The same purse listed on Etsy would cost you $1.60 in fees when it sold.

This isn't to say that there are not some artisans who still do well on eBay. However, most of these people already have a loyal customer base built up, and buyers know to look for their items. Even with this, some of the handmade items I see with bids on eBay are selling at ridiculously low prices that are an insult.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Have you made the Handmade Pledge yet?

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.org

As a blog devoted to all things handmade, I would be re-miss to fail to point out that you can show your support by taking the Handmade Pledge at Buyhandmade.org . There you can "take the pledge", and publicly show your support for handmade. As of this writing, 40, 425 other artisans and supporters have done so.

You can also then place a badge on your site that lets everyone know where you stand. They also have a great blog that has all sorts of interesting info on Buying Handmade, Conscientious Consumption and more. Be prepared to spend some time reading through the articles that are sure to inform even the most active handmade artisan.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Made By Hand. By Me

Of the new social networking sites for handmade artisans, Made By Hand. By Me, is by far my favorite for one very cool reason. Besides being truly devoted to the spirit of handmade (read their story), they have made available a very cool, clickable, gallery tool to showcase your work, or the works of others.

See the little gallery I have off to the right there? ----->

I created this virtual themed gallery with the Spotlight feature available on Made By Hand. By Me. What's great about these Spotlights is that you can include items from many different handmade venues in one gallery. They support the big guys like Etsy & Artfire, but they also will let you use items from 1000 Markets, Made it Myself, and Zibbet, plus more.

If you are like many artisans, and you have multiple shops, you can easily create a gallery of your work for your blog or website that pulls items from all the venues. It's similar to an Etsy mini, only better, in my opinion, because you aren't limited to one venue. Registration is free, and you can set up your own profile for their Artisan Directory as well.

To see the spotlights that others have created, you can click on the Shopping tab on their website and either select Window Shopping, to view a random spotlight, or choose Artisan Spotlights to see a sortable list of active spotlights. Be warned, though, time can get away from you as you drool over all the beautiful handmade goods!

These spotlights are only one of the many cool things about Made By Hand. By Me. To be honest, every time I visit it seems like I am finding out something else cool they have created for the online artisan. This is one site I would wholeheartedly recommend you check out!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hot for ArtFire!

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

Last week I talked about how Etsy made selling handmade cool. Now, I have to admit, I have found something I think is even cooler.

There are a number of new sites aiming to refine the handmade online experience. ArtFire is one of those sites, and in my humble opinion, they are going to give Etsy a run for their not-so-proverbial money.

I signed up for ArtFire a few months ago. At first, I was dissapointed in their layout, especially once you got into the categories. It seemed like it would be pure chance that anyone would ever find my beads, and I became hesitant to invest to much in my ArtFire shop.

However, members of my online groups kept praising how great the ArtFire team is at responding to feedback. A few days ago, I went back for a real look-see at the site. It is amazing!

First off, each category has a section up top for random items to be featured at the top of the item page. These are random, not paid for by the artists, like the seldom noticed Etsy features that run at the top of item pages (never noticed those? I hardly do either!). Next, they have created an interface where you can sort items by price, time listed, and number of views. If you are one of those people who get a rush "discovering" a new artist, ArtFire gives you countless ways to get your fix.

Second is the fact that every item listed gets on the front page, and it is in a nice large format, not that tiny little filmstrip Etsy has running. They also have a great search feature that lets you decide if you want to include supplies and vintage in your quest. You can then narrow down your items further by price, or excluding certain terms. They have made finding items very easy for you.

Finally, we have to talk about price. While Etsy is affordable, I found that I was regularly having bills of over $20 when I would list regularly. The listing fees were on .20 but they would add up quickly with the 3.5% commission. ArtFire does it different, very different. If you only want to have 10 items in your shop at one time, you can have an ArtFire shop for free. Yes, FREE! If you usually keep more items stocked, you pay a flat monthly fee. Right now (and for the next week), you can sign up and only pay $12 a month for everything. No matter how much you list or how much you sell, you will only have to pay ArtFire $12 each month.

I know that this might not be the best choice for everyone, but if you want to budget exactly what your expenses will be for selling online, this may be for you. I personally love it.

This really is not to say that I don't like Etsy anymore. I still do, and will keep my shop there are well. But, if what I have seen so far is any indication, ArtFire will force Etsy to step up to the plate and become more responsive to its sellers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

TGIM: Networked or Burned Out?

A colleague, on one of the many social net groups I take part in, mentioned how exhausting it is keeping up with all of the social networking self-representing artists find themselves participating in on the web. If you Google 'social networking sites" you get over 45 million hits. Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, Forums, blogs: seriously, when is a person supposed to find time for it all, and still create?

This is a question I have been turning over in my head for a while now. It seems like most people fall into two camps; one groups feels the best results will come from having representation in every avenue, the other feels that energy should be focused on one or two priorities. I find myself bouncing back and forth on a continual basis, so who am I to offer advice to anyone, right?

One thing I have realized, is social networking will not benefit your business if you find that it is interfering with your ability to create new product! Lately, I have had a number of initiatives starting up, and found myself without any time to be creative, much less add new work to my existing sites. It was then that I realized I needed to see through the projects I had started on, and then decide one or two sites that I would try to utilize the best way possible.

However, most self-representing artists do not have a big advertising budget, and social networking can be a great way to sell yourself to a targeted audience. To satisfy that part of me that is worried I will be missing out on the next great "thing", I will continue to try out the new sites that I come across...and then I will have to make the decision whether to continue that route or let it go.

Social networking can be a blessing for the artist who does not have a group of like-minded folks in their neck of the words. Just make sure it doesn't turn into a time vampire, and deprive you of the precious minutes you spend in your studio creating new treasures for the rest of us!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Fun Finds 4.10.09

Without a doubt, my favorite color is purple. I am always drawn to it, whether it be clothes, jewelry, paper, or pens even! So, of course, I just had to do a Friday Fun Finds with Purple as its theme! All of the following come from shops on 1000 Markets.

First is a painting that totally captured my attention, and still hasn't let go. A beautiful ocean theme interpreted through purples and violets is the creations of zenbreeze. Santa Cruz Rhapsody is only one of her beautiful works you will find in her shop.

Next is this sweet handmade greeting card by Totally Tyra. A purple daisy adorns this card that comes with, of course, a matching envelope. You can find this card, named "I've Been Thinking About You" in her shop.

I love purses almost as much as I love shoes. And this handknit and felted Purple Rain Mini Sling Bag would make a great addition to my collection! Created by Suzy B Knits, you can visit her shop for more awesome bags in bold, beautiful colors.

To go with your beautiful purse, you need a top that is equally gorgeous. This hand-dyed Woodgrain Shibori Top is absolutely stunning. This is just one of the many amazing hand-dyed pieces by dye diana dye.

Last but not least, is a beautiful accessory to complete your purple look. Featuring a handmade lampwork bead, Floral Fantasy is a elegant pendant suspended from a silver chain. Wirewrapped by Alaiyna B. Designs, this stunning pendant is just one of the many beautiful pieces in her shop.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Etsy Tools 101

I have to admit that I obsess a little bit over checking out my views in my Etsy shop. So it should come as no surprise that I love the new tools people have created to help you keep track of all things Etsy. Here is a collection of tools that help you get more out of your Etsy experience. Have fun!

A super easy tool that lets you enter your shop ID, and then tells you if you are in any treasuries at that moment. I used to wade through all 20+ pages of Etsy treasuries looking for the elusive yellow star. Now I can see within seconds if I am featured in a treasury. They also have atab that lets you know if you are in any gift guides. Very cool.

Another one of my all-time favorites. It has the Heart-o-matic, which lets you see not only your shop hearts (which you can check out in Etsy anyways), but how many hearts each specific item has! You can see at a glance which items are popular among Etsy browsers. It also has a tab, called "the Vault" that lets you see if you are in gift guides, of if you have been featured in the Storque recently.

Etsy Fee Calculator
This one can be a real eye-opener. You can state what amount you want to receive for your item, and then the fee calculator adds in the Etsy & Paypal fees, showing how much you will have to charge. Too often, people forget to figure in these fees when pricing their work!

Etsy Wiki
First off, this site has a wealth of information if you are trying to figure out Etsy. But what I love is their Top Seller function. You can easily find which shops sell the most on Etsy as a whole, or within your specific craft. This can be helpful so you can see what successful shops are doing.

The name may be a bit scary, but don't let that put you off. The developer of this site has created these tools, partly to help his wife, who has an Etsy shop. Under the Tools, there are two that are cool. First is the "Where Am I?" which lets you plug in your information to see if any of your items would show up within the first 25 pages of a search (you enter a tag & your user name). The second, is "Inventory Worth?" which does what it says; it tallies up the prices of your Etsy items and lets you know how much total inventory you have.

Let's Ets
This site allows you to easily add you Etsy items to the Google Base, which puts your items into Google searches. This is another great tool to help you with exposure of your Etsy items.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Featured Artist: Marilyn Peraza

This week's featured artist is Marilyn Peraza, the woman behind Peraza Beads & Jewelry. Marilyn personifies what Handmade Chic seeks in a featured artist; someone who not only makes handmade goods, but who seeks to help others in their own quest for making handmade a focus, whether artist or customer!

Marilyn is a lampwork bead artist, who is very well known for her sculptural rose beads and her newest rose interpretation, the rose murrini. She has published tutorials for both, showing a willingness to help other artists learn and grow. Her jewelry is absolutely exquisite, showing a talent for design.

What does it mean to you to "buy handmade"?
Buying handmade is very special to me. It means that not only is there the material components of the handmade item, which are visible to the naked eye, but the heart and soul, love and passion of the artist who created it.

How long have you been active in your craft? I have been making jewelry since a very young girl. I started making my own glass beads about 10 years ago. In 2006 I released the first issue of The Annealer Magazine, a magazine dedicated to lampwork artists and lampwork jewelry designers, and its companion website at http://www.theannealermagazine.com/.
What inspires your work?
Oh my goodness, what doesn't inspire me should be the question. I can see something inspiring in just about everything I look at.

Where do you sell your creations?
My website is: http://www.perazabeads.com/, where you can purchase items directly from me by viewing the online catalog, or, you can visit my public shops on Etsy, 1000 Markets, Artfire, and even on GlassBeads.org. You can find links to all of these shops, on my main website, under "current auctions."

Have you earned any special accolades in your field you are exceptionally proud of?
I have had some recognition by winning various contests, features, etc., but I'll tell you what means more to me than anything is when a customer contacts me (by email, phone, or simply in the feedback portion of the sites I sell on) to tell me how much they love the bead or piece of jewelry they purchased. To me, the appreciation of my art and/or jewelry designs, from the person on the receiving end of my finished work is most special.

Monday, April 6, 2009

TGIM: Summer Inspiration

Where I live, we are under a winter storm watch for tonight. I have about had my fill of the snow & cold and find myself dreaming often of the blazing heat of summer. While mother nature has other plans in mind, I am making it summer now in my studio, and have found some beautiful pictures to help inspire you.

All of these photos come from Best of Wallpapers, a great site for nature photos. I challenge each of you to create your interpretation of these summer themes. If you like, you can send me a photo of the finished product and I will feature some on Handmade Chic in the near future!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Fun Finds 4.03.09

Who doesn't love shoes?

Today's Friday Fun Finds spotlights handmade items in one of my favorite indulgences; shoes! I know I am not alone out there, so enjoy these fun handmade items that reflect a love for that which adorns our feet!

Even your baby deserves to have footwear to be proud of! I fell in love with these adorable, hand-knit, fuzzy booties! Created by Never Felt Better, you can find these Hazelnut Nuzzlers in their Etsy shop.

Talk about a cool use for those old dutch wooden shoes you have laying around! A hand-painted wooden shoe is transformed into a functional pin-cushion for your favorite seamstress or needle artist. You can find this Wooden Shoe Pin Cushion in Run Amok's Etsy shop.

I've always admired origami. When I imagine trying to work to the small scale of these origami pumps, I am amazed at the skill of this artist! Origami Spirit on Etsy has a number of very cool origami shoes for your perusal. These Red Polka Dot pair just happen to be my favorite!

Finally, this gorgeous pin features hand-set Swarovski crystals. This Vintage Style Shoe Pin was created as a beautiful tribute to a friend. Found in von Walhof Jewelry's Etsy shop, you can see more of their gorgeous pins in a variety of themes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tips for Having a Successful Show

Most artisans sell their creations at shows. Even though more and more are joining the Internet community, successful sellers realize that their potential customers want to see and touch the creations in person; after all the subtle nuances of a piece are often what attracts a buyer, and many times these can only be appreciated in person.

If you are used to mainly selling over the Internet, the idea of doing a show IRL (in real life) can be very intimidating. There is a certain safety towards your ego when selling over the Internet–you can’t see any negative reactions to your work…but you can’t experience the joy of someone falling in love with one of your creations either.

If you have decided it’s time to branch out into shows, or even if you have a few under your belt, here are some suggestions to help make your experience a successful one, both financial and mentally.

Make certain you visit the show before you agree to sell there!
Unless you have sworn testimonials from many trusted friends, you need to actually attend a show to see if your items will be well received. A local church craft bazaar or small summer craft fair may not be the right market for your creations. If a local craft show has an open vendor policy, that means anyone can set up a table and sell pretty much anything. If you make beautiful, handcrafted, wire-wrapped jewelry, why would you want to sell along side of grandma’s foam cut-out Christmas trees (no offense to grandma)! You wouldn’t expect to sell your jewelry at Wal-mart, you would look for higher-end shops that appreciate your work, mainly because customers that will appreciate (and buy!) your work will seek out those shops.

Also by visiting the show, you can see the conditions for yourself in regards to the lighting and spacing. You can determine if the organizer is on the ball and has arranged the artists for optimal traffic flow. You can also observe the type of people who are already attending this event; is it a nice mix of customers, people mainly looking for a bargain, or art conisseurs looking for a one-of-a-kind piece?

Set up your display ahead of time as a dry run.
You will already be running on adrenaline before your show starts, even if you are an old pro! You definitely don’t want to be stressing out because you didn’t think ahead as to how you wanted to set up your display. Also, when you set your display up at home you can immediately pack up everything as you pull your practice display down, reducing the likelihood that you will forget something important! In addition, this planning ahead will force you to think of everything you might need. Since I mainly sell my jewelry at shows, I know I need to include:
  • hand-held mirrors;

  • clipboard with newsletter sign-up info;

  • business cards;

  • extra pens;

  • extra price tags; and

  • scissors to cut the price tags in case the buyer wants to wear their purchase immediately.
Make arrangements to accept credit cards!
Considering there are so many affordable merchant services available now, there is no excuse for the serious artist not to accept credit cards. I currently use a service that many people recommended, Propay. I personally find this service very easy to use, and sell more higher-priced items as a result. There are others out there as well, I just don’t have the personal experience with them to recommend them to others.

If you do accept credit cards, make a folder for your credit card receipts. Make a “cheat sheet” with the instructions and information needed to process a credit card and tape it to the inside of the folder. This will also come in handy if you have a booth helper; they won’t have to interrupt you to take the card info, since they will have the directions in front of them. Once the show is over, you will already have your credit receipts in a folder making it easy to keep organized for bookkeeping purposes.

Be friendly!!!
This is probably the most important advice, and also the one thing you can absolutely control. You can have a million things go wrong, but the customer doesn’t need to know that. You would be amazed at how many shows I have been to, both as a vendor and as a buyer, where Sally Sourpuss is just sitting along at her table, ignoring nearly everyone who walks by (she may occasionally make eye contact with someone she thinks may have money to burn). There is no way you will have a good show if you don’t smile and acknowledge the people who are taking the time to look at your work, however briefly. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing, and don’t get discouraged if they don’t buy something right away. They are more likely to remember you for being nice, and return to you for a purchase at a future show.

And if you feel you are having a horrible show, and inside feel anything but happy, I have two words of advice: Fake it! Being nice never hurt sales, but being unfriendly definitely will.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of advice that is out there for having a show. However, it should be enough to get you going and have a great time while meeting your customers face-to-face. Believe me, there is nothing that beats having a perfect stranger come up to your creations and re-affirm that your work is, indeed, beautiful.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where to Sell? Spotlight on Etsy

Taken from the Etsy website:

"Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.

Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.
Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:

Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade."

When Etsy first came on the scene in 2005, it was truly visionary...a website, devoted to the sale of handmade goods? And they expected to make money with this?

Their timing couldn't have been better. With ebay becoming flooded by cheap, mass-produced items, it was quickly turning into a flea market, not a true venue for a serious artisan. And many artists were still not willing to invest on a website for their business that would allow for shopping carts. Etsy offered a solution to both of these problems.

So how is Etsy as a selling venue in 2009? While it sometimes seems like everyone I know is on Etsy, I realize there are still many people out there wondering if they should take the Etsy plunge. In my opinion, it is still quite easy to use, and the cost is less than listing an item on ebay (if it sells). You can list an item in your shop for 20 cents, which is good for 4 months. If your item sells, you pay 3.5% of the selling price as a transaction fee. If it doesn't sell, you can either renew the item for another 20 cents, or let it drop out of your shop when it expires.

The bone of contention I have with Etsy is the fact that they allow supplies and vintage items to be sold on Etsy as well. They claim that their tagging policies are supposed to ensure that commercially made (i.e. mass produced) supplies will not be mixed in with the handmade supplies, but anyone who has sold on Etsy for a while will tell you this isn't true. I have seen a number of threads in the Etsy forums where someone is lamenting another seller listing mass-produced items in the handmade section. While Etsy is more responsive than other sites when such issues are brought to their attention, I feel they could end this problem entirely if they would just live by their stated motto, and be only handmade.

Success on Etsy can also depend on what you are selling. The jewelry category is completely overloaded, making it difficult to find unique artisan pieces that are also affordable (the easiest way to find the coolest jewelry is to sort the items most-least expensive, but you still have to go through many pages of jewelry that may be way out of your budget until you find something you can afford). If you are selling a handmade good that can be used as a supply or to create other items, such as lampwork beads, paper or fibers, you will inevitably have to fight with the sellers of commercial supplies, which are always priced way cheaper due to the fact they are almost always imported from overseas.

However, Etsy is a great place to start off if you are just beginning to sell your work online, and you don't want to invest in a website just yet. Etsy is very popular, and the site gets a lot of traffic. Plan to do your own marketing on top of that which Etsy already does to help drive people to your shop, and you could find yourself reaching customers on all corners of the globe.