Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Handmade Guide to Buying Yarn

You've picked a pattern and have an image of a beautiful knit piece in your mind. Your needles are ready, and you can't wait for the kids to go to bed so that you can start. The only thing missing to start your new project is the perfect yarn.

When I asked our lovely yarn spinners here at FTEC what makes handmade yarn great, good, or horrendous - I got a surprising answer. Nobody had a hard and fast rule about how to buy yarn online.

In fact, buying yarn, I was told, is an intensely personal experience. What makes one person love a type of yarn might make another hate it. Plus, the type of project will very much dictate the type of yarn. You certainly wouldn't want a scratchy blend that might be perfect for an afghan wrapped around your neck, now would you? On the other hand, some of the super soft artistic blends would bankrupt you if you made them into a full fledged afghan.

Bobbi, from Kittygrrlz hand spun yarn also had a few suggestions. She said that "the cost of handspun isn't really conducive to large projects - I think of it as a luxury for small projects or to be an added accent to a larger piece, but I've also had people use it for large projects."

So then, how do you buy it online? Well, like anything else you would buy online, look for a reputable seller with positive feedback. Looking over a seller's previous feedback is perhaps one of the best ways to get a feel for how past customers appreciated the yarn. Look for yarn that has been professionally dyed (not with some alternative dyes as they can run), and sellers that use only the best suppliers for their fiber. And finally, if you want to know about the yarn, simply ask the spinner! If it really is hand spun by that seller, they will be able to answer all of your questions.

- Photo courtesy of Kittygrrlz Hand Spun Yarn. You can visit her store www.etsy.com/shop/kittygrrlz

- Article by BS Art Studio

Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Review - Deliverying Happiness

As a business owner, I am always looking for new inspirations for my business. When our FTEC member Eleen recommended the book "Delivering Happiness", I was intrigued by its title. We all want to be happy, but what exactly does Tony Hsieh mean by "Delivering Happiness?"

Delivery Happiness started as an informal autobiography, with stories of Tony Hsieh's multiple failed business attempts as a child as a result of big dreams, great concepts, and lack of experience and research. Hsieh's desire to make big money by owning a business was not deterred by his failed attempts, and eventually one of his business ideas (custom buttons) actually succeeded and generated good income for the teenager. From there Hsieh continued to have different businesses. He became a milti-millioanaire after selling LinkExchange (which he co-founded), got involved with Zappos as an adviser and investor, and then eventually became CEO. Within 10 years, Zappos grew from almost no sales to $1 billion in gross merchandise sales, and was eventually acquired by Amazon in 2009 in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion on the day of closing.

Just like many other great success stories, Hsieh's success almost seems too glamorous and too easy -- that is, if you don't read the book Delivering Happiness, in which Hsieh candidly shares his roller coaster ride with the readers. There were ups and downs over the course of 10 years, and it took a lot of courage, passion and wisdom to create an empire. 

Half way through the book, just when I was about to start wondering, "ok, so this book is about the background of Hsieh's success story. And what does it have anything to with 'Delivering Happiness'?" the direction of the book suddenly changed.

The book was divided into three sections...

Section I - Profits

Section II - Profits and Passion

Section III - Profits, Passion, and Purpose

These three sections symbolically represent different periods of Hsieh's life. Before his business succeeded, all Hsieh wanted was profits -- "I just wanted a job that paid well and didn't seem like too much work."(p.29) Then, after his success with LinkExchange, the young millionaire realized that money alone couldn't bring him happiness -- "I didn't know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew what I wasn't going to do....I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion."(p.54) 

A turning point of Zappos was when Hsieh and Mossler(Fred) decided to make the Zappos brand about the best customer service --  “…in the long run, little things that keep the customer in mind will end up paying huge dividends.”(p.128)This is where “Delivering Happiness” came in --“As we rolled out these additional services, we slowly realized that we were becoming part of a bigger movement. It was no longer just about Zappos. We were helping change the world.”(p.208) Hsieh talked about how Zappos delivers happiness through their unique culture/core values. Not only does Zappos try to make customers happy, it also strives to make the employees and vendors happy.

I had started reading “Delivering Happiness” hoping to learn to make profits, and it was nothing like what I expected -- It was much, much more.


If you are interested in learning more about "Delivering Happiness", check out their website, twitter or facebook page! (I especially love Tony's twitter page among the three)


mollie (aka muyinmolly)


Disclosure: I have received the book free of charge . I am honestly reviewing the products and have not been paid for my endorsement as it pertains to the products received.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reproductions vs. Originals

I've been writing for another blog about the benefits of buying handmade. Tara over at Scoutiegirl had a wonderful blog post about why she buys handmade:

"... but I feel pretty good when I walk out of the house wearing something that no one else in my county has in their closet. No amount of Louis Vuittons or Chanel suits or t-shirts plastered with chain store logos make up for the sameness that the rest of the world lives in." - Tara from Scoutiegirl

Well said! Do you like to be 100% original? I get tired of seeing the same things everywhere. I hate walking into someone's home and seeing the exact same print that was available at Pier One, or Pottery Barn, or Ikea, or, or, or. Trust your instincts, be yourself, have an opinion and be original!

So what is the difference in between a print and an original painting? Well, a print is a reproduction of a painting. Virtually all of the artwork that you see available in chain stores are prints. This means that at least one other person, if not hundreds of other people, have the exact same thing hanging on their walls. On the positive side, if you absolutely love a very popular artist and their artwork is super expensive, prints are an affordable way to have something of theirs hanging on your wall.

An original painting is exactly what it says that it is - original. You can smell the paint, feel the texture, see the brilliant colors and brush strokes in a way that is impossible to capture with a print. You can feel the hard work and energy that went into creating the painting. Sometimes you can even see the process that the artist had in creating the painting when you look at the original. Many of the Great Masters even have brush bristles that got caught in the painting. Can you imagine having a brush bristle from Monet?!?! (But then again, I can't quite imagine owning a multi-million dollar painting by Monet either).

Perhaps the best part of owning an original is the feeling that nobody else has the same thing that you have. You, and only you, have that one piece of artwork, and you don't have to share. Others may like that artist as well, but no two will be exactly the same.

Photo Courtesy of Shelby from BS Art Studio. You can visit her website @ www.bsartstudio.com or her Etsy site: www.bsartstudio.etsy.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Handmade Guide to Glass

As the first article about buying handmade, I would like to introduce Annie Howes of Annie Howes Keepsakes.  She posted this on her blog, and it has some wonderful information about buying handmade vs. manufactured glass pendants for jewelrymaking:

If you’re purchasing clear glass pieces for your creative projects, the two basic types of glass you would encounter are float glass and rolled glass. Most of the economically priced glass available is made overseas in China by large manufacturing companies that produce thousands of glass tiles each day and is made from float glass. Float glass is made by floating molten glass onto molten tin, hence the name. It's a process that imparts some of the metal properties into the glass sheets which can discolor or dull the glass. And while that glass may be hand cut and kiln fired, it’s 99.9% likely the glass isn’t hand cut and kiln fired by the seller. Just because the seller claims the glass is handmade, and I’m sure it is handmade by someone somewhere, that doesn’t mean it’s handmade by them. 

Similarly, glass that is stated as “designed” by the seller doesn’t mean the seller made the glass. It just means they placed an order with a manufacturer in China who makes glass tiles to order. It’s a rather deceitful way of not being straightforward about who makes their glass because they want the customer to assume they made the glass themselves. For example, if you place a custom order with me for glass and I cut and fired your glass, would you claim you made the glass? Probably not. You gave me dimensions of the size you wanted and I cut and kiln fired the glass for you. The glass, however, is still handmade. Did you design the glass? If instructing glass to be cut to a 1” square is called “designing” then I suppose you did.

Why should you be concerned with any of this? Because there are obvious visible differences in the glass you’ll most likely receive if you purchase glass not handmade (ie. not hand cut and kiln fired) by the seller (float glass) vs. glass handmade by the seller (rolled glass). If you are spending your time and talents on creating beautiful jewelry or other pieces of art, wouldn't you want to use the most beautiful glass available?

What is the difference between the glass types? There are basically two different glass types available for glass pendants: float glass, and fusible glass. Float glass is typically used for tiling your kitchen or bath and architectural installations. Thin float glass is also used in soldered charms, and the glass you put your photos behind in a picture frame is also float glass. The float glass sold for use in glass pendant making is a low-iron glass. Low iron means the amount of green (iron) in the glass is reduced or removed. I, too, offer this economical glass as an alternative when high quality glass isn't important. While the glass is clear and colorless, it lacks the spectrum of light that you would see in crystals. It’s dull and flat and lifeless. And cheap. 

The alternative to dull and lifeless glass is called rolled art glass, which is the type of glass used primarily in glass fusing. This is the good stuff, and not just because I said so. Rolled glass for fusing has such high clarity that it’s very much like crystal in its appearance. It shines, it sparkles and is alive with all spectrum of light. It’s breathtaking by comparison. Each piece is a work of art. Rolled glass is the same type of raw glass used in large fused glass platters, and glass vases, and such. It's art glass and is specifically created for use in fine art pieces.

How can you tell the glass you’re buying is quality art glass handmade by the seller? First, you can ask. I believe most sellers of glass tiles for jewelry and crafting are decent honest people and will give you an honest answer if asked outright about the glass they’re selling. Ask what type of glass it is, if it’s rolled glass (high clarity, used for fusing) or float glass (low clarity, lusterless used for architectural installations). Ask if it’s imported glass, or if they cut and fired the glass themselves on site. I don’t think anyone would be offended by these questions and most glass artists are more than happy to discuss their craft.

If you still suspect the glass is not handmade by the seller, ask if the artist can custom fire glass to meet your specifications. If they don’t make custom cut glass and only offer specific sizes, they probably are importing their glass and you should continue your search for quality handmade glass elsewhere.

If you have purchased glass and are concerned that it's not the quality of glass it was advertised to be, check to see if the glass is smooth on both sides of the piece. If so, the glass is float glass and was most likely not handmade by the seller.

Support true handmade supplies made by the artist who created the products you're purchasing. Your finished pieces will radiate with life!

Thank you, and next week is Handmade Guide to Art: Prints vs. Originals

- Shelby of BS Art Studio

Friday, May 14, 2010

Three Tips on "How to Make Money on Etsy" by Muyinmolly

Last week I had a phone interview with Inc.com for a post on "How to Make Money on Etsy".The reporter Lindsey Silberman talked to a few Etsy sellers for this article and included a few pointers from me on running a successful Etsy business. Overall I think she did a very good job quoting me, but I would like to add a few words not mentioned in the article.

If you are interested in starting a part time or full time business on Etsy, be sure to check out Etsy seller tips on Full Time Etsy Crafters Team blog as well as my blog. One of my favorite posts is the post written by Susansheehan.

Back in 2007, after selling on Etsy for 6 month, I wrote a blog post on "Three Pointers about Starting on Etsy". A new Etsy seller SalvageNation told me that her shop took off after she followed my tips religiously. However, now that my Etsy shop is almost three years old, I feel the need to revise the tips I wrote two and half years ago.

If I am asked again to give you three quick tips on running a successful Etsy shop in the order of their importance, this is what I will tell you now..

1. You must have a niche, a special product

No matter what you sell, you need to do it well enough to stand out from the crowd. There needs to be something special about your product. This "something special" can be your design (e.g. a special color combination, or a special size), can be the material you use (e.g., a special fabric for purses), or can be a different skill (e.g. if you are extremely good at something that others cannot do as well as you), but it should not be being able to price your items lower than others.If you are able to give customers a very reasonable price for your products, that is always a bonus, but it should not be your goal to price your items as low as possible.

[cricketscreations] -- gorgeous color combinations

[jpatpurses] - her fabric selection will blow you away!

[BSArtstudio] -- "mixers" original art paintings.What a concept!

[nicholasandfelice] -- hard to find shawl pins with amazing wirework

2. You must have excellent, clear photos, and if they are stylish and show your personality, that is even better

In the Inc.com interview, I mentioned "Etsy-style photos". What does that mean? You may notice a lot of successful sellers shoot their photos from a different, interesting angle, with a special background, on a mannequin or display..etc. You will notice while every seller does them differently, successful sellers always have great and consistent photos that show their personality. On Etsy, the photos of your products are part of your products.This is important for all online venues, but on Etsy it is even more important.

We all know that since online shoppers cannot see and touch, or smell (if that applies) the products before buying them, you need to help them see, touch, and smell your products with your photos. Give them a sense of the colors, measurements, sizes, styles, fragrances, and functions of your products with your photos.

[pinkquartzminerals] -- help customers feel the texture of your products

[daisycakessoap] -- help customers smell your products

[muyinmolly] - life size mannequin helps customers gauge the sizes

People buying handmade like to feel a connection with the artists.Treat your Etsy shop as a big, 24/7 online craft show, and your photos are your booth. What would you do with your booth when you go to a real craft show? You do not just set up a tent, lay out your products on your tables, right? You dress up your booth.You arrange your products nicely on your tables. Or maybe you have some special displays on your table. People going to in-person craft shows like pretty booths. People going to online craft shows like pretty photos. Some sellers (including me) include photos of themselves either working at a studio, or wearing/using their products.This also helps customers to connect with the artist behind the lovely products.

[papercutsbyjoe] -- Joe holding his own papercut

[ileaiye] -- Cherylline modelling her hand knit

You do not need a fancy DSLR camera to take great photos.The styles and clarity of your photos are more important than the model of your camera. Practice with a decent digital camera and study the manual (they are all pretty good nowadays). Understanding your own camera is the first step to great shots.

3. Clear and SEO friendly titles, descriptions, tags and the whole shop set up

Now that you have the products and great photos, the next step to help shoppers find you by providing them the right search keywords in your titles, descriptions, and tags. If you are still wonder what SEO means, I would urge you to do a little research in the Etsy forum or Storque. I am not personally an SEO expert, but just "happened to be doing a few things right" from the beginning.

Even if you have great products and great photos, if shoppers cannot find your listings when they type in a keyword search, they are not given a chance to click your photos, not to mention making a purchase.

While listing consistently is a way to keep your items at the top of the search, you need great titles, descriptions and tags to keep your products on the RIGHT search pages. Other than product titles, descriptions and tags, your shop title, shop announcement and section names are also very important for SEO.

If you do these right, you should start to receive decent traffic from search engines, and, hopefully, sales. Do not blame Etsy for not making your shop SEO friendly -- YOU are the person who needs to make your shop SEO friendly, and you can.

[sudlow] - high search ranking on both Etsy and search engines lead to a continuous sales flow

[anniehowes] - high search ranking on both Etsy and search engines lead to a continuous sales flow

It took me more than two years to realize everything I wrote in this post, and I hope you find them helpful. Remember -- selling on Etsy is hard work. Everything I mentioned was easier said than done. I am always doing research on my category and developing new products. Most of my photos have been re-shot multiple times. I am always working on my SEO. In sum: I am always working.

Every once a while I would receive a convo from artists telling me they just lost their job and would like to try to make it full time on Etsy.While I always wish them good luck, I know how difficult this can be and how lucky I have been. In my interview with Inc.com, my story may sound like a fairy tale to many of you because I "made profit after selling on etsy for one month", but please do remember...

1. I had a year of online selling experience on Ebay prior to opening my Etsy shop, which gave me a small customer base plus a lot of chances to practice my photography.

2. I did not quit my day job until 10 months after I opened my Etsy shop, which means I saved enough money to float me through slow times. I did not start selling on etsy full time until my business was fully established and making consistent sales. If you are just starting, be prepared it will take you a while before you can make this a full time job.

Shortly after I became a full time Etsy artist, I started the Full Time Etsy Crafters Team. While our team is meant to be a support group for established full time Etsy artists, I often receive membership requests from brand new Etsy sellers wanting to join the team to learn how to become as successful as us. Now, I believe I have just shared my success secrets with you within this one single post. However, you will NOT become successful just by reading this post. You need to work on these tips I gave you.You need to work on them, work on them more, and then work on them even more.

If you are "trying to make Etsy full time" and have not read this "Ten Things I Learned the Hard Way" post by Piddix, you really should. Corinna shows you what it takes to succeed.

best wishes to you all,

Mollie, aka muyinmolly

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Buyer's Guide to Handmade

When we were 7 we were getting in trouble for doodling in the margins during class. Our feet were tapping, dreaming about getting home and opening up the craft closet to make friendship bracelets, crocheting, collaging - just creating - anything. Some of us took a detour through the corporate world, others figured it out earlier - but we all have learned to make a living doing what we love. It isn't easy, a thread running around our email chain is currently talking about how one of our members works from 12am-12am. Last time I checked, that was 24 hours. Another member counts it a lucky day when she gets 1-2 hours sleep. Me? I'm starting all over again, so the challenge is getting my store back up and running. Almost from scratch.

We do this full-time because we love it. We would have it no other way. If we were back in the cubicle, we'd be getting in trouble for doodling in the margins again. Daydreaming about creating when we should be filing a TPS report.

Handmade. It is what drives us.

So what makes handmade stand out from mass-produced items? It has to do with the individual vision of the maker. The care that goes into the entire process, from design through crafting, the hard work that we put in to ensure our product is made with the utmost care and quality. We don't ship our idea off to someone else to complete. You won't see our items in Target or Ikea or in every other person's house. That is a totally different market.

And yes, there are some casualties of things being handmade. But there are casualties of things manufactured everywhere. (Chinese drywall anyone?) Over the next few months I'm going to be working with the FTEC team to help educate everyone on how to be a smarter buyer - how to tell the good from the bad, the original from the mass produced.

But in the meantime, I'd love to know - why do you buy handmade? What is the value you see in it?

By the way, the image above is one of my teammates whose work I am currently drooling over - JPatPurses

- Shelby from BS Art Studio

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Great reads for indie business owners

In addition to and in support of my own fulltime indie business, I'm continually reading about business, marketing, strategic planning, financial management, and the list goes on. Although I possess years of experience (and education) in the management of financial and administrative resources, my business education is never ending!

I'll be sharing with you all great business reads that I find online (blogs, articles, etc.) at least weekly. If you haven't already done so, developing the habit of continual learning and improvement via reading and practice of new ideas can only help you with your own business.

So without further ado, here are a few great midweek reads:

From Design*Sponge Biz Ladies: Biz parents - balance and time management (anyone can benefit from this post - I'm not a parent and I loved it)

From Crafting an MBA: Copyright, trademarks and patents

From Craft Venture on papernstitch: to hire or not to hire (okay, full disclosure, I write the Craft Venture column!)

From Ittie Biz: Michael / box of crayons (be sure to watch the video - good stuff in there!)

Enjoy - I'd love to hear what you think - and please feel free to share additional great reads in the comments! Image credit: Amazing anatomical brain tea towels from Girls Can Tell

Brenda - Phydeaux Designs

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Getting Married? Plan a Handmade Wedding with FTEC!

Written by papercutsbyjoe

Well everyone, it's that time of the year again. Mud season! Okay, seriously though, it's late winter, which means wedding season is around the corner and things are really kicking into high gear. I was there myself three years ago, and I REALLY wish I had known about Etsy as it would have made our wedding planning so much easier. As a proud member of the Full Time Etsy Crafters (FTEC) team, I am happy to present these gift ideas from our members for your enjoyment. As full-timers we take our work VERY seriously and I can assure you a happy experience from these folk. It's nice to work with real people when you're about five seconds from loosing your mind. I hope these gift ideas can take away some of the stress and help check off some of your to-buy list. Because of the broadness of our team's offerings, I have divided this post into several sections in order of when the event occurs: Before the wedding, Wedding Shower Gifts, Bridal Party and Groomsmen Gifts, and THE BIG DAY items.

Before the Wedding You're going to need invitations to the various parties and the main event, so head over to Earmark Gathering for some great shower and wedding invitations.

Wedding Shower Several months before the Big Day, all your friends and family will gather. Here's some great ideas for party favors and gifts for the Married-to-be:

The Prettiest Ring: Diagram Towels by Girlscantell $20

Fringed Throw Blanket by CricketsCreations $195

50 Custom-labeled Guest Soaps by dennisanderson $100

Glycerin Wedding Cake Soap by Daisycakessoap $3

Fork Picture Frame Holder by Monkeysalwayslook $10

Custom Hand-cut Paper Silhouettes from PapercutsByJoe $40

Custom Sterling Silver Map Cufflinks by dlkdesigns $50
THE BIG DAY- Bride What to wear on the day of your wedding:

Elegant Pearl Drop Earrings by UnkamenWeddings $58

Pearl Jewelry by MuYinMolly $10-$92

Pearl and Crystal Bobby Pins by MarlaJDesigns $25

Veils by MarlaJDesigns $20-$60

Vegan Mineral Makeup by PinkQuartzMinerals $3-$14

Classic Pearl Earrings by South Paw Studios $10

Vintage styled Bridal Earrings by Realisationscreations $21

and here are a few ideas for your Something BLUE...

(in order of appearance) Blue Power pearl & Sterling Silver earrings by MuYinMolly $18 Chevrelle Knit Lace Neck Cuff by Phydeaux Finished $80 PDF pattern $5 Stearling Silver Cabochon Earrings in Blue by ElizabethJewelry $13.95 Light Blue crystal drop earrings by southpawstudios $24

THE BIG DAY- Groom Some great items to bring some character to the groom's attire

Create your own cufflinks kit by AnnieHowes $8.50

Vintage Map Sterling Silver Square Cufflinks by dlkdesigns $50

Thanks everyone, I hope this was helpful, and good luck with all your planning!
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