2013 was my first year out of school, and a real scary-looking horizon for me. I’ve always defined myself by the environment I put myself into. I really thrive in a scholastic environment, and not being in school almost felt like having a new body (or maybe a new brain). Everything was new and unusual, strange, and slightly painful.
Looking back I know that I worked pretty hard, especially in the last 6 months of the year, but somehow I still feel “behind” some undefined goal I had in my head. I think that I thought that by the end of the year I would be able to afford to pay rent with my business. Or at least that I would be able to afford having a car again (oh, if only!).
Those things… just haven’t happened (just yet).
BUT all in all I am quite pleased with what I accomplished:
I chose to begin down a path that is self-guided. Where no one will be to blame if I fail but myself.Trusting yourself not to screw up is the hardest part, oftentimes. Courage was one of the principles we talked a lot about when I was a kid training for my blackbelt. Often, since those days, I feel less and less like a martial artist (sadly). But, looking back, I think I am still a fighter when it comes down to it. I feel a little more like I can trust myself in so many ways, and I am proud of that.
This year has been painful, full of fear and crippling self-doubt. But it has also been exciting, awesome, and extremely empowering.
Here’s knowing 2014 is going to be a hell of a year.
With brand new skin,
Jeez, time passes so quickly- especially at this time of year! I’m freaking out thinking about all the things I want to make for the holiday season.
It was about a month ago, now, that I participated in my first real outdoor craft fair!
Urban Air Market is a San Francisco-based craft fair that used to be called “Capsule.” They organize a few fairs around the city every year (as yet no Holiday show, sadly), and this is the first time I have done a fair like this. It was exciting! Previously, the only outdoor fair I had ever done was the bi-annual fair at the California College of the Arts.
This was quite different from those fairs, and it was an incredible learning experience! I feel like every fair I do teaches me 100% more about organizing my thoughts, products, and goals. I highly recommend looking into your local craft fairs if you are a maker, even if you don’t think you would like selling in person!
This is a janky website, but it has quite a lot of listings for fairs all over the U.S.—-> http://craftmasternews.com/ <—- they want you to sign up to get more information, but I always just google the name of the fair to find out how to apply and the deadlines, and so forth.
If you are on the fence about whether you should do fairs like this one (which was $200 for a 10×10 space for one day), consider these benefits you gain from a larger, more organized event (as opposed to say, a church fair, or small “art walk” fair)
You get access to the following that fair has built up over the years (if it’s a juried show, these people are primed to your particular brand aesthetic- BONUS). I can’t say exactly how many people showed up that day, but a good street fair can draw 5-10,000 people easily.
A great aspect of a fair like Urban Air is that they post up “makers” pages as a kind of teaser for people who might catch wind of the events online. In the days leading to the even, I got a massive increase in my website traffic. And, occasionally someone will be at your booth and say that they came specifically to see your work- which is always nice! Also, this particular fair has this link page to my work up all year! Bonus!
People tend not to buy from you before a fair (for obvious reasons- saving on shipping, actually getting to hold/try on the work &etc), but it’s free promotion, and who knows- maybe they bookmarked your site for later.
It is so important to be able to tell people what you and your work are all about! Talking to people can be intimidating (and, for me, hard to do before 11a.m.), but don’t you want to be able to have a really great-and unrehearsed- answer to the question “So, what do you do?” or “What’s your story?”
And, although most people aren’t as direct as to ask “What makes your [insert here] so special, anyways?” it is a question you should also be able to answer in your address to the first question.
Try to have something prepared that captures the essence of your brand in one or two sentences, and that sounds right when you say it aloud. For example:
“You know, I’m really inspired by the history of jewelry, and I try to make pieces that are modern, and minimal, but have a little of that history in them.”
“My work is an amalgam of ancient craft and modern design.”
While I use the second phrase online and on my post cards, if you say it so formally in-person you sound cheesy (haha, okay, maybe it sounds a little cheesy in print, too, but I don’t care because I like the word “amalgam” because it references alchemy).
Sometimes I hate talking about the things as I make in such corporate terms, but whatever. Lessons from corporate enterprise tend to scale down well and help keep ME organized (an off-topic example- thanks, Barnes & Noble for teaching me how to organize 300 books in less than 10 minutes!).
“Brand Identity” sounds horrible and corporate, but actually just refers to how you visually represent the work you make. Ideally, someone passing by should be able to see your work and your display and make a quick judgement of Love it/Hate it—–> AND YOU WANT THIS.
Brands that have confusing visuals (say, tie-dye scarves being displayed on stainless steel ikea shelves) can confuse customers, and the last thing you want is for one part of your display to turn away people that might otherwise be drawn into your work.
For me, I feel like with every new fair experience I have, I learn what works and doesn’t work for me. If you will recall my first fair I had no idea what to expect from the experience, and looking back now I hate my display and am shocked I sold anything at all.
For this fair, I had some specifics I have been wanting to build into my displays:
1. Grey “weathered” wood paired with blackened iron.
2. A vertical display for necklaces/ earrings.
3. Something that fit on top of a standard table (most of the fairs I have done have provided me with a 5 foot table)
With those in mind, and with an accidental discovery of turned table legs from Home Depot, I made this display. I built it out of found wood, and a wooden Ikea bookshelf from my studio. I liked the detail of the turned legs, to give it a little roundness and a touch of the ornate.
I really enjoyed this display! I can stand behind the necklaces and still clearly view and talk to customers. And people seemed to respond to it well, too! I got a few compliments in he vein of “Your displays works well for your work.” which is, of course, the goal.
I ended up destroying the top portion of this display because it was all screwed together. An important thing for me is going to be having a display that disassembles to be packed flat. I don’t have much space to store a big display, so this is paramount. I will be working on a peg-in-hole design that involves no screws or nails to hold together securely.
My next fair is at the end of this month, so we will see if that gets done in time!
I have faith in myself.
It’s easy to get stuck in your own little world, and you can meet a lot of cool people, get good advice, and glean tips on visual merchandising from other sellers like you!
And, while you may have the misfortune of being stick next to cheap factory-made items, or next to a stinky port-a-potty, you might also be next to a funky-cool incredibly harmonious band like I was!
Overall, the whole experience of Urban Air was AMAZING. I felt so invigorated the entire day, and left soaring with ideas about where I want my business to go from here. I will definitely be doing more fairs in the future!
I don’t know much, but I do know that nothing ever ever goes how you plan. I had unfortunately run out of money.
Forgive my bad manners for bringing up my financial peril, but really it’s the only thing on my mind lately.
As horribly and nauseatingly frustrating as it is- this kind of stuff just happens- at least, it happens to me. I do not have the good fortune to come from any type of means, and I don’t have anyone investing in my business except for me, so I’ve been here many times before. And though it wrecks with my scheduling, I just have to wait it out until … well, until I have more money.
The worst part of hitting a roadblock is the feeling of despair that goes with it. I always feel like the rug was pulled from under me. It takes a while to readjust.
Even if you try and make it seem like “market research” or inspiration or whatever. At the end of the day you will only feel bad because you didn’t create anything or work toward anything that is actually useful to your own work.
Figure out what you CAN work on- things that might have been in your periphery or seemed less important
-paperwork (Yeah, yeah, I know)
In my case, this involves the irksome task of figuring out how to create my website without paying gobs of money for someone else to design and implement it. WordPress.org is supposed to be so easy to use but I am having a hard time. I know a little bit about using Adobe Dreamweaver… but I have a suspicion that might be even harder than using a template-based service like WordPress, Squarespace, or Weebly.
I am also:
-figuring out wardrobe for my photoshoot
-catching up on PAPERWORK (it fills an Ikea bag)
-visiting boutiques to suss out where I should take my sample boards first (when I finally have them)
-sketching/finalizing sketches for my design book
-creating the “how-to” pages for my design book for each piece with the specs on assembling the finished pieces.
-figuring out what I am going to use for packaging, and where I can buy it when I have the money
There are a lot of things you can do for your business when you hit a roadblock like a lack of money. The fact is that they are probably not the exciting things that you want to be doing… but they will have to be done, and what better time than when you have nothing else you can do?
Personally, I am taking the time to clean my workspace ( It would be nice to actually work in it), and sifting through a whole Ikea bag of paperwork. And the only way I can keep my brain from getting the grumpies is by listening to informative material.
I have had a hard time finding pertinent podcasts, but this one is petty good (if you can get over it being a few years old and sounding like she recorded it over the phone).
She has a lot of really good advice on what you should keep in mind while building a website and promoting your own work. She covers web design in wordpress, pricing, setting up a newsletter, and a whole plethora of other topics that are hard to find good solid advice on. A lot of it you have probably heard before- but it doesn’t hurt to hear some things over and over again.
She also runs a website called http://craftedwebmaster.com/ if you are interested.
This podcast is also pretty good, I think, because she hosts a variety of different business owners so you get info and tips all across the board from jewelers, to clothing designers, to store owners, and etc. I think she is based on the east coast, and most of the guests I have heard are from her general area. So it might be a little skewed in terms of marketing advice, but generally it is interesting to hear from people who have done what I am trying to do and are willing to share HOW.
On a non-business thread, I also listen to
Science fiction, obviously. My very favorite episode right now is a reading of the novella “Silently, and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente. She is my favorite favorite author and the story is told in fragmented narrative from the point of view of a “smart house” program that spontaneously developed artificial intelligence. It is a wonderful story of the strange personality and desires of a house and its relationship to the family that lived inside of it. podcast is three one hour parts that I will like here:
So that has pretty much been the last two weeks for me (with a little too much Netflix in the mix, I admit). Hopefully I will have good news in my next post.
In celebration of my recent under-employement, I have been preoccupying myself with thought about my upcoming photo shoot! It has been quite a while since I had fresh images of my work- far too long, truly.
From now onward I am operating under the philosophy of new photographs every season.
I think there is no other sort of marketing tool that can do what photographs can do for a brand. I have listened to so many artists say this over and over again, and have experienced the repercussions for NOT having good images myself. I was contacted about a press release for my first wholesale account with the Museum of Craft and Design in SF, and missed a promotional opportunity to be in the SF CHRONICLE because I did not have good, high-resolution images ready to share.
Even after YEARS of everyone telling me to always ALWAYS have good images at the ready!
Save yourself a face-palm, and make sure you have your bases covered from the get-go.There is no telling when someone may contact you for images of your work- or what kind of images they will ask for. I have seen this working for a number of different creative business owners.
An online retailer might ask for the pieces just cold- against a plain background, no context. Or they might really want to see the jewelry (in my case) on the body to give it scale. Or in a highly-styled outfit or arrangement.
I have been doing this for my etsy shop since the beginning. It seems that a lot of online retailers and sites like Etsy and Pinterest cater towards a “fresh” white background to draw the eye to the piece without distraction. I find the easiest way to make these shots is to put the pieces on a high-resolution scanner. I have been using the ones at the old alma mater, scanning at at least 300 dpi to get a nice, large image. As long as I can get the color balance right, it creates a clean, bright image.
This type of image highlights the specifications of the piece- it’s size, where it rests on the body, how it looks next to actual skin and clothing, etc. Keeping the face of the model out of it (in my opinion) makes it easier to imagine yourself as the buyer wearing the piece. Obviously, take special care in selecting neutral clothing, as a shot like this needs to be simple and not draw the eye away from the jewelry.
These kinds of shots are the hardest for me to do, personally. I am not the best product stylist, though photographing still shots like this is AMAZING (you have all the time you could possibly want to make the lighting absolutely PERFECT- something that can be hard to do with a living, breathing model).
You can use this type of shot to show the pieces in relation to each other, and to imagine them as a part of a beautiful little art collection that someone could see and say “wow, I wish I had that lying around my house!”
I don’t think images like this are really as important for a jeweler as a good body-shot, but it is a nice thing to add to your wholesale catalogue to give it a little visual richness. Good eye candy never hurt, and a nice, yummy shot full of interesting textures and colors is a good thing in my book.
Speaking of books, this is a great one about displaying “collections” that has a lot of good ideas about arranging things, that could be helpful if you are like me and not naturally-inclined toward fine styling. I also find looking in a catalogue you admire for ideas (I like the Roost catalogue, personally).
Take a few steps back from the close-up. Show a larger portion of the body, show the clothing. Don’t be afraid of creating a “look” or two. In this case, you are showing the style-ability of your pieces. How they can be incorporated into someone’s personal style. Don’t be afraid to add flair, to let your model have expression on their face!
I think a lot of people are afraid of “lifestyle” shots because they don’t want to pigeonhole their designs into one category of person like “sexy chic” or “urban hipster” or “romantic girl” but in marketing, appealing to your niche is important- and there are more people in it than you realize! It’s good to remember that trying to appeal to everyone only makes you brand blend into the background and seem ordinary. You want people to connect with the image and think “I want to look like that” on some level.
If you want, you can think of these images as “print ads.” These are the kind of “lifestyle” shots we are used to seeing in magazines. You know, the kind where people are just casually wearing fabulous, amazing things.
Creating drama and interest is good for these types of pictures- and they can be the most fun! Think about what you want your brand identity to be. Think about the types of people you would like to see wearing your work and then imagine where they hang out, what kind of clothing they wear, how they do their hair and make-up. And don’t be afraid to PHOTOGRAPH IN THE REAL WORLD! If you think your customers are the type that shop at farmers markets, pick wildflowers by the side of the road, and feed ducks at the pond, then take your camera and get your model “acting” this out. Use environment to your advantage!
A friend of mine makes a living making and selling punk clothing. I have photographed for her brand Deranged Designs a number of times now, and she picks environments she can see her clothing in- cemeteries, punk warehouses, lots full of cement and graffiti, and broken down trains, to name a few.
People WILL notice you taking pictures in public most of the time (especially if you have lights set up or are using a flash) but they usually aren’t intrusive, if you just ignore them. Just keep talking to your model so she doesn’t get shy and awkward about people staring.
These are the images that you could use as the splash page on your website, and are EXCELLENT for Pinterest and other social media.
The photos for the jewelry line Takara are a good example of this.
She has these really cool location/fashion shots, and then really stark products shots
I think these are good supplemental shots for online listings on Etsy or an e-commerce site. I am a firm believer in “The more images, the better” and having seasonal photoshoots are a good way to keep up with style trends and show that your work is versatile and still current. Also, you can change the look of your whole store and your listings with the seasons- no beachside shots around the holidays and no snow or heavy coats in June. I just think it’s another layer of selling psychology.
Also, having seasonal photoshoots will give your blog and social media followers something tasty to look at, like, and share, on a regular basis. It also shows that you are reinventing yourself and redefining your brand constantly.
My advice is to keep an inspiration board. Whenever you see an image and think ” I could see my product there!” or ” I love the light” and etc, save the image for reference later.
If you want to see how I do it, take a look at my Pinterest board “Photo Inspiration” where I pin clothes, images, lighting tips, and make-up/hair ideas.
I look forward to sharing the results of my upcoming photoshoot with you guys to show how I plan to put this into action! It should be within the next month and I am so excited!