Friday, October 30, 2009
Click here to get it.
I've been trying to use and re-use as much remnant fabric as I possibly can. I always save large cuts of fabric for later use, but it was starting to pile up. I had no choice: it was time to clear out my studio.
The fabric used to make this rockabilly rat rod tote bag is not your average scrap. Years ago, while antique shopping in South FL I found this bolt of mustard hot rod fabric that was left over from the early 60s. It was the coolest fabric I had ever seen, however, the color and hard texture made it very difficult to use as apparel fabric. I thought about making curtains, but never got around to it.
I did some poking around to see what I could find out about this golden fabric.
About four years ago I put a few yards up for auction and it went for about $50.00 PER YARD, WOW!!! People were writing, begging for more.
After selling some of it I tried to sit down and make those drapes, but couldn't think of how to make them work in my place. So I posted a couple more yards and I actually got hate mail from one of the people who bought the first cuts. She wrote, "WTF! why didn't you post this together? You didn't tell me you had more!!" - just one of the reasons I hate eBay.
I held on to a couple yards and that's what I found hidden in my stacks, and used to make these three bags.
I think I finally found what this fabric was made for. The size of the print, bright color, and tough texture are perfect for tote bags. I'm really proud of these and I think they could be the perfect accessory for the right person.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
How important are your item descriptions when listing on Etsy? A little bit of personal research shows that how much and what you say about your items isn't really that important.
I try to give my Etsy item descriptions a little bit of flair. Sometimes I say a little about the item, sometimes I just sort of ramble on. I like the stuff I post on Etsy, and I like to write about it. So for me 50 - 100 words is no big deal. Besides, Etsy says it's a good idea to write full descriptions.
The following quote is taken directly from a link on http://www.etsy.com/storque:
"Many people don't realize that, in addition to the facts, a brief story about your handmade object can create a dramatic impression on your viewer. Let the shopper know how you picture the item being used, or tell them a story of what inspired you to create the piece. Many people who appreciate handmade items also enjoy the story behind how it was made, who created it and where the idea came from.
Of course, it's also important to inform the buyer of all the facts. Color, size, dimensions, textures, materials used, washing and care instructions, fabrication process, and allergy alerts are essential. You may also want to consider if your item is for a certain age group or suggest it as the perfect gift for a special occasion."
I read this a while ago and it's pretty good advice. However, I know that lots of people are not good writers, or if you are a good writer, maybe you don't like to write or you don't have time to write tons of detailed descriptions.
I began looking at some of the more successful clothing sellers and found that many of them keep their descriptions under 20 words. They pretty much tell you the size and materials and that's it.
But I think this says a lot more about buyers than sellers. I think serious buyers are generally interested in pictures first, then want only to know the size and price. The rest is fluff to them that they just have to skim through - if they even bother.
To test this, about 18 months ago I listed one of my best selling tops (black & gray butterfly) in four different formats. First I listed it as a "Made To Order Custom Size." In this listing buyers had to read all of my flair PLUS they had to read the vital info PLUS they had to read how to request their size.
As a result I didn't sell a single one in four weeks.
I then posted three more black & gray butterfly tops. This time I listed a small, a medium, and a large. I used the same pictures and same tags. But I slimmed the description down to the bare essentials.
Guess what!!! I started selling them right away!!
Of course this wasn't very scientific so a year ago I tried another little test. I listed two black and gray butterfly tops in the same size with the same 65 word descriptions, EXCEPT I put the line "convo me with the word 'discount' and get fifty percent off of this item." I continued to renew the two identical tops each time they sold for one entire month. I sold the top with the discount line in it twice and neither buyer convo-ed me. So it was obvious that - at least those two - buyers didn't read my description.
To summarize: if people can't be bothered enough to read a 65 word description close enough to catch a 50% discount there's a good chance they don't care what color stockings you think that shirt will go with. I've decided to cut my descriptions short and put a little more time into making clothing, taking pics, and conducting silly experiments. If you're a good reader prove it by posting a comment on this blog.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I have a checking account, a savings account, and an account for my business; all with the same bank. I've been with this same bank since 2004 and have had no problems. Aside from an overdraft or two during the holidays I run a tight ship. On the 20th of each month I go through all of my bank statements to make sure everything is in order for all my finances.
This month when I went through everything I found nearly $50.00 in NEW maintenance fees on my accounts.
They slipped in $15.00 charges at the end of August and September on my business account and then hit me with $8.95 in fees for each month on my personal accounts. I somehow missed the charges last month, despite going over my statements.
That's $47.90 out the window. Well, actually it's $47.90 towards some big-wig corporate's multi-million dollar executive bonus. I just couldn't let this go.
I'm not saying you should do things like me, but here's how I handled it.
The first thing I did was call in my boyfriend to examine my statements to make sure I wasn't reading things wrong or that I didn't miss anything - two brains are better than one.
Once we both agreed that there were $47.90 in new maintenance fees on what I had always understood to be FREE accounts I pulled out the paperwork from when I opened the accounts. I don't expect everyone to have this sort of documentation on file (my two best friends are lawyers so I've learned to hold on to ALL contracts). I read through all of the paperwork to make sure I wasn't signed up for some kind of promotion that had expired, that I had to keep a minimum balance, or that I was required to wear green on every Thursday to avoid fees. Nope, I was clear.
I then printed out copies of my statements from the past year to show that A) I had never been charged before: and B) show that my account balance was still current.
IMPORTANT: I took the time to write notes on my statements. I highlighted the charges in question. I noted when I opened my account. I made note of questions to ask the bank rep. I did all of this because these things are hard to think of when you're face to face. And this sort of thing pays off when a cocky bank employee tells you, "oh, well, you got charged because you were signed up for a special promotion that expired." You can then reply with, "Really? I have documentation that says the account was free for life."
The next day I went to the bank. I had to keep telling myself that the person at the bank is not the one who took the money out of my account. It's hard to keep your cool in situations like this, but the minute you get loud or aggressive you've lost the argument.
I pulled out my statements and showed the bank rep the charges. I explained the situation in as few words as possible, keeping in mind that the guy was probably not even listening.
He argued by saying that I was signed up for a promotion that expired (see I told you to be ready). So I pulled out the papers from when I opened the account. He was stunned. He then said I got charged for not using my debit card. So I pulled out my statements with HUNDREDS of debit card purchases. He said nothing, just began clicking his mouse. A moment later he said, "Hm, I don't know why you were charged."
I was calm and polite, and said, "You mean 'charged REPEATEDLY' on FREE accounts. This bank just took $50.00 from me for no reason, I can't just let that go without some kind of explanation."
I know it wasn't very nice of me to put him on the spot, but it wasn't very nice of him to hit me with those two lame excuses for being charged.
"I really don't know why you were charged" he says.
"Can you refund those charges?" I ask
"Oh, sure, we'll definitely refund you for those." He says, with an edgy politeness.
THIS IS IMPORTANT!! "Can you go ahead and do that while I'm here so we don't run into this same problem next month." You always want to watch them refund your money, because if you don't make sure it gets done there's a good chance it won't get done ever.
So I kept my cool through the whole thing and got my money back. I wish I could have done more, but at least I got this story out of it. Keep an eye on your bank accounts. These people are ruthless criminals. They WILL rip you off - it's not a question of IF they'll do it, it's WHEN.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It says, "That which is essential is invisible to the eye." Turn off your iPod and dwell on that for a minute.
When I'm not making new clothing I have a side gig writing for Prick magazine (a regional tattoo 'zine). So I'm sure you can imagine I see lots of ink. I'm always surprised by how many people tattoo bands' names, boyfriends' names, scenes from trendy TV shows (like the numbers from Lost), and all kinds of other transient things on their bodies. However, I rarely see literary tattoos.
So when I see a really cool tattoo that pays homage to a book, I like to step back and admire it. A young lady recently sent me pictures of her ink depicting scenes from my favorite book, The Little Prince. It's the book you often see lurking in the background of my Etsy pics.
I wish more people were into books. Perhaps, if we weren't all suffering from self-induced A.D.D. and could pull our collective heads out of our asses long enough to read something cover to cover and understand it enough to make it meaningful enough to tattoo on our bodies, our country might not be this downward spiral.
The tattoo pictures came with an email, and within that email was something I just had to re-quote. The writer told me: "I'm amazed at how many people look at my arm and tell me it's terrible line work, they're crooked, they're not closed...etc...if they had read the book they would know that the line work is amazing!"
Why haven't more people read this book? It's about 100 pages with TONS of cute pictures and short words - after all, it is written for children. I've become a better person after reading this little book (about 200 times).
If you're interested in learning more about this wonderful book here's a link to the Wikipedia page.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Today I'm working on red dresses. They are made from warm 7oz cotton for fall. This corner of my sewing room is a good example of the work process. If you look to the left you'll see a roll of red fabric with a pattern piece laying on top of it. That's where it all begins. Notice the pattern piece is made of newsprint. I make all my own patterns and I found newsprint is the best paper for the job.
If you scan a little to the right you'll see a cut piece on the back of my chair. I usually make my pieces in batches of about 24 - sizes S-XL, six of each size.
Next I take the pieces to the sewing machines and assemble them. You can see the machines are all set up with red thread. On the floor you can see my recycle tub. Those piece of fabric are too big to throw away so I save them for later projects.
Lastly you can see a completed dress on the ironing board. I actually press the pieces as I go, but you get the idea.
I hope this glimpse into today's project inspires you to make something or to maybe organize your room in a way you like.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Yesterday this lizard kept getting in the way of my photo shoot. For most people (not from Florida) these little guys are very exotic. Down here they are everywhere. I'm not really a reptile person, but I do think they're cute with their little toes, mouths, and smiles.
I kept shooing him away, and he kept coming back. It turns out this guy just wanted some time on the runway. I turned on the flash and let him strike a pose. After he did his thing on the catwalk he took off to the after party and we didn't see him again. I guess all that attention went to his head.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The dresses pictured above are part of a new project I'm working on. I have been holding onto these bolts of fabric for years just waiting for inspiration to kick in. Realistically I probably wasn't going to do much with them. But that all changed the other night. Talking to friends who were very disappointed with their financial aid checks this semester, I found that everyone is kind of - if not totally - broke. I knew things were tight, but I've been broke forever. Seeing that everyone I know (even my 9 to 5 friends) are all in the poorhouse got me thinking about ways to bring my prices down. So I put those old bolts of fabric into action. I've turned the idle fabric into a new batch of lower priced dresses. Most of the black accents are made from scraps that were headed for the dumpster. By using these old fabrics I'm clearing out space, and using materials that weren't going to get used. It's almost like getting free fabric. So I carried the discount over.
The fabrics kind of have that 80's appeal so I shot the pics on my dress form and used Photoshop to white out the background. I then traced in the outline of the dress form to make it look like an 80's Contempo Casual storefront. This also keeps the cost down. Live photoshoots with real models get expensive and are time consuming. I was able to shoot everything in under an hour and keep working.
These pieces are up on my Etsy account right now, and even though I don't think they'll be the most popular things I've ever made, I do think they're worth the time it took to make them. By dropping the prices to lower than normal I'm hoping to bring in some new buyers, broke buyers. Don't get me wrong, a millionaire could rock any of these with ease, but they were designed with thriftiness in mind.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
THE ETSY PHOTO FACTOR. The following article only applies to my observations about my personal Etsy sales. I've written this to encourage you to think about the photos you take and the models you use. However, you should not change your style simply because of this article. Do your own research and see how you think buyers respond to your photos.
TWO QUICK DEFINITIONS:
I think it's important to define two words as they are used in this article to avoid confusion. Natural, refers to characteristics of your photos that appear to NOT have been achieved by the use of professional equipment or professional help. It doesn't mean the complete absence of these things, it just means it's not immediately apparent to the casual observer. Natural characteristics, at first glance, look candid.
Artificial, refers to photo characteristics that appear to be unnatural. For instance, perfect lighting, exaggerated model posing, and obscure or unusual angles. These are things that a casual observer would immediately question as to if they could be achieved candidly. Artificial is in no way a derogatory term as used in this article.
MY NORMAL PICTURES
I've been selling on Etsy for a couple years. I've been selling regularly for about six months. I, like most sellers, understand the importance of photos when selling items online. And, like most sellers, I've always tried to take the best pictures possible. I've always been happy with my pictures, and my pics have always sold my clothing. I've been featured in Etsy treasuries and gift guides repeatedly - as many as five times in one week. Take a look at the images above to see my handiwork. These examples were shot using a Kodak Z650 Easy Share. I usually use the manual setting. For the inside shots I used a Lowel three - point light set. For the outside shots I used nothing more than a piece of white reflective paper.
I don't really tell the models how to pose. I just tell them to "act natural". I like it when the girls appear to just be hanging out. I also try to shoot the pics from a natural angle. By that I mean I try to hold the camera at a level that is consistent with candid snapshots. I don't get really low down on the floor or climb on things. If the sun is in an awkward position I simply move to a new spot. As you can see with the guitar and red chair, I like to use props, but I don't like to go crazy with it.
THE PROFESSIONAL PICTURES
Take a minute and look at the pictures below, and compare them to the pics above. These were shot by Meg Schutz a local photographer with special lighting and a professional model. Under normal circumstances most people would generally agree that the professional pics are much better than mine. I would agree too. I'm not totally sure, but I think the photographer used a Canon camera. It was very large with several interchangeable lenses and other accessories. She also used a portable light that produced a clear even halo on the subject.
Notice the bright, clear, and consistent lighting; and how attractive all of the colors are. My pictures lack this cohesion. This high-budget, magazine quality look comes from the use of expensive equipment. Also note the over-sexualized poses the model is using. The photographer and model worked together to find these poses, and while they make for attractive pics, they are not comfortable or natural. All-in-all, I would say these pictures are perfect. But their perfection is artificial. Hardly ever do you walk into a room and have picture perfect light. As a woman I know that we don't normally stand with our arms over our heads and our chests poked out.
OTHER PHOTOS I'VE SEEN
I don't want to use other photographers' works without permission so I don't have examples, but there are a few things worth mentioning. I have seen many catalogs with very natural pictures (Anthropologie is the best one) that were achieved using very artificial tactics. Conversely, I've seen some pretty amazing shots, stuff you'd never believe, taken with a disposable camera and nothing else.
WHAT I NOTICED
The high quality pictures have been very successful on my site. This collection has sold better than anything else I've ever created. When I uploaded the images to my website http://evilneedles.com, my site rank jumped from 13 million to 1.8 million. I also picked up over a dozen boutiques. So the artificial photos are working great - people love them. However, on Etsy, the exact opposite has happened. Etsy sales for this new collection have been slow at best. None of these pictures have been featured in any treasuries that have made the Etsy homepage. And, in fact, it's happened repeatedly that when my clothing is picked for a treasury, it's the older items that I photographed. So, one has to ask, could it be that buyers just don't like the clothing, and maybe it has nothing to do with the photos? This is not likely as sales have been outstanding on my website and in boutiques.
AN OBSERVATION ON OTHER CLOTHING SELLERS
When I noticed that the professional pictures were not attracting buyers on Etsy I began to look closely at other clothing sellers and their photos. I watched new and veteran sellers. I watched high end and low end designers. I watched a wide array of sellers and saw, as a general rule, that sellers who had natural photos had more sales than those with artificial photos. I also observed that sellers who, like me, had a variety of natural and artificial photos had sold more items using natural photos. One seller I followed had a very good track record of one or more sales per day for four weeks. The seller then updated with some very nice artificial pictures taken at night. The clothing looked amazing. The model was beautiful. The colors were outstanding, and the photos were some of the best I'd seen. The seller used good tags and adequate descriptions, and all items were fairly priced. But when she began using these new photos she stopped selling.
A THEORY ON ETSY PHOTOS FOR CLOTHING
This is just a theory based on a limited number of observations. This is by no means a hard and fast rule, and I expect there are more exceptions to the rule than adherents. It is my theory that people looking to buy clothing on Etsy are searching for three things in a seller. The first is the complete do it yourself package. The second is a natural portrayal of the item they are buying. And the third is approachability.
The do it yourself package is perhaps the main thing Etsy buyers are searching for from clothing sellers. Why else would they be on a site that focuses on handmade goods? Buyers want to work with people who are proud of what they make and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They (buyers) feel good about supporting the local vendor who can't afford to mass produce or farm out work to ad agencies. For many Etsians the glitz and glam of the mall comes at the cost of conformity. This conformity is abolished when each piece is obviously handmade. High production photos, that mimic magazine ads diminish the essence of the handmade experience.
A natural portrayal of the product is so crucial to the buying experience that it almost goes without saying. We've all seen the hundreds of ads that populate the first half of the magazines we buy, and we know that the clothing in those million-dollar ads will not fit us like it does that million-dollar model. Photos that appear natural give buyers an idea of what to expect when they open that envelope.
Lastly, buyers are looking for approachability. Very few of us will ever be friends with a famous or glamorous model. We may know aspiring photographers, but very few of us hang out with professional shutterbugs. When buyers see girls in strange poses with one leg held high, hips thrust out, and head framed by hands, they think, "cold, posed, and paid". Etsy shoppers in the clothing category are on the lookout for the girl next door who looks like she might have had a walk on part in a background shot of an indie movie no one saw.
Professional photos have worked out great for me. My site rankings and website sales have skyrocketed since working with a pro photographer and model. However, my Etsy sales and placement in galleries and treasuries have declined. I've seen the same level of decline with other sellers who suddenly showcase bold new professional pictures. In the end I think it's important to portray your clothing accurately. If what you're doing now is working there's probably no need to change it. But, if your Etsy sales aren't where you'd like them to be, despite all of your wonderful pictures, maybe it's time to pull out that old camera phone, call your best friend over, and just have a fun afternoon of playing dress-up.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Way better than a doggie bag.
These classic peanut butter doggie bones are hand dipped in carob and yogurt and then finely sprinkled with peanuts. These are the perfect treat for any occasion! They’re free of food dye, artificial preservatives, and artificial coloring which can be toxic to pets. These treats have been lab tested for guaranteed analysis & nutrition, and can be ordered in wheat or gluten free recipes.
The six bones here can be ordered for $6.50 from Diva Dog Bakery. http://divadogbakery.etsy.com
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Early this morning I caught an HLN report that Michael Vick had just signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
Before discussing the complete details of this claim let's talk about Michael Vick. He is the guy who really made a name for himself by making dogs like the one pictured here fight to the death for sport. He also played professional football. I mention the dog fighting before his football career (as prolific as it might have been) because I, like many other people, had never heard of him before he was arrested for his involvement with the dog fighting ring. It is the brutal, cruel dog fighting that made him a household name. According to CNN.com Vick also failed a random drug test while on probation.
Now let's talk about Nike and Michael Vick. In 2007 when Vick was convicted for taking part in dog fighting matches, Nike was the last of the sponsors to drop Vick. Understandably so, seeing how they have released several $100+ shoes with Vick's name printed on them. Several reputable print publications (USA Today and the Philly Enquirer are just two) and television news channels (Headline News and CNN) have mentioned "an undisclosed deal" between Michael Vick and Nike.
A not so in-depth Google search turned up a handful of fresh articles claiming that the "undisclosed deal" is nothing more that Nike supplying Vick with shoes and equipment for practice - something they do for many players whom they do not officially endorse. Guess what, supplying someone with your gear is an endorsement. As a clothing designer who has been in the biz for five years I know what an endorsement is. I endorse models and photographers all the time. Would you like to guess how I do it? Yup, I send them free clothing, just like Nike. Nike is by no means known for taking the high road. Do a quick Google or Youtube search for "nike exploits sweatshop" and see what you get.
So what's the point? The point is that the very concept of Nike providing a dog fighting millionaire who failed a drug test while on probation with even a hat to keep the sun off his head is a sign that the door is open to bigger things. For those of you opposed to dog fighting the only way to keep Nike from extending a NEW multi-million dollar deal to Michael Vick is to speak up now against the idea. Send the message to Nike that you do not support dog fighting by passing the message along that Nike HAS endorsed Michael Vick. Please let Nike know that you will not support them if they continue to endorse a man who is famous for dog fighting.
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