Artists and thinkers coming together to promote fine crafts, innovation, and honest sustainability.

The best and brightest artists and thinkers coming together to promote fine crafts, original thought, and honest sustainability.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tutorial: Super easy outdoor rug!

In honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, and the throngs of BBQ's that come with it, I wanted to highlight a really awesome and easy way to spruce up your outdoor space for that lovely time when everyone arrives and oooohs and aaaaaahs at your lovely spread and domestic prowess, shortly before they find the beer fridge and later decide that it's a good idea to set off fire works into the neighbor's yard.

I really like this tutorial because you could really do it with any hearty fabric. If burlap isn't around, try artist's canvas (easily found at most art supply stores for pretty cheap), or even better, if you know of a local coffee roaster, ask them for a few old burlap bags, they can be lashed together with simple twine, will easily hold paint, and are way free and eco-friendly!

This tutorial comes courtesy of Katie Steuernagle and Carrie McBride of ohdeeoh.com. Please check out their full tutorial and WAY easy instructions here: http://www.ohdeedoh.com/ohdeedoh/how-to/easy-diy-outdoor-rughow-to-120562





Materials: 
• burlap
• acrylic paint
• painters tape or stencils
• clear acrylic caulk
Instructions:
Step 1: Spread out your burlap (fabric.com has an awesome selection of colors) and decide how you'd like to decorate it. You can use stencils, tape off stripes with painters tape, or freehand it. We laid out some paper squares to try to get the spacing right. More....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weekly Featured Artist & Giveaway!: Tracey / Raceytay Photography



Your Name: Tracey / Raceytay
Business Name: I brake for bokeh photography


Etsy shop: http://Raceytay.etsy.com/
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raceytay/
Blog: http://ibrakeforbokeh.wordpress.com/

The Basics:
Tracey is one amazing photographer, who, like many who spend their time behind the camera, is reluctant to share much about herself. Personally, I think it adds to the unmistakable charm that shines in her work. What I do know... Tracey has some lovely kitties that she loves, and Tracey likes to bake, like, a LOT, as seen here in her piece titled, "The Evil Undead Gingerbread Army". SO my kind of baking!      


1. What five words best describe you?
I asked for help from my best friend for this question and the next one.
Introvert. Perceptive. Independent. Geek. Intelligent

2. What five words best describe your work?
Striking. Illuminated. Beautiful. Umpossible. Perfect

3. What was the very first art form you fell in love with, and, do you still do it?
It would have to be the literary arts. I have been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. I always will be. I get utterly lost in a good book, and I go back and revisit them time and time again. I become morose sometimes when a book ends, especially if it has been a nice long one. But I can’t write. I had to write for a living once, I hated it. Which, I see, is the answer to the next question!

4. What was your very worst ‘real’ job?
Writing on demand. Technical writing for the government. I thought I would enjoy it, initially. But there was no room for creativity and a love of reading does not translate to a love of writing. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

5. Is artwork your full-time life? Or, if not, are you planning to make it that way? If so, what’s your favorite part about being a full-time creative?
No. I have a full-time job, and likely always will. I am far too practical to give it up. It does afford me the opportunity to travel, which allows me to photograph new and exciting places and things. It also means I can focus on the photographs I like, I don’t have to be ‘successful’ or ‘commercial’. I get to be me.

6. What do you think is the single most important thing you could tell an artist just starting out?
Do the things that make you happy. Don’t try to be someone else, or please someone else. Don’t follow trends. Do what makes you free. If you can lose yourself in what you’re doing, then you know you’re on the right track. Also? Take your camera with you everywhere!

7. What is your favorite way to distribute our work (craft shows, online, galleries, etc…), and why?
Galleries are fun, you can meet the people who see your work for the first time face to face. You can eavesdrop on their conversations, hear the wonder as they describe something or try to figure out how you achieved such and such. It gives you a new found appreciation for pieces you have lived with for a long time. I also like the anonymity of online and the surprise later when you find out where your work is going. I recently sold over fifteen photographs in various sizes intended for a popular celebrity’s new home and I find myself checking every morning to see if there have been any tours of the place yet!

8. What are your five favorite blogs and/or websites?
Etsy, Flickr, Google maps, the weather network, I can has cheeseburger.

9. Favorite artist?
I simply cannot choose a favourite.

10. Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. And travelling. Travelling with chocolate!

Thanks for a wonderful profile, and for giving us such great eye candy this week, Tracey!

~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~


Tracey has generously offered TWO of her beautiful prints (one each to two separate winners...that means TWO chances to win!). The prize is the winner's choice of either a 10" x 10" or a 10" x 13" print of your choice from Tracey's Etsy shop.
(Doesn't have to be the ones you see here,,,,they are just a couple of my favs!)


TO ENTER: 
- Go to Tracey's Etsy page. Find your very favorite item. 
After that, come on back and leave a comment below telling us what your favorite item was and why (the 'why' is the part we really look for when deciding on a winner... so be creative!).

You may enter only once. The contest is open until 4pm Pacific time on the Monday following the original feature (so it's open for about six days). Winners will be posted on Tuesday morning, along with the new featured artist's piece. If you have any questions, please contact me, not the artist. 

IMPORTANT: If you want to be contacted (if you are the winner), you need to leave your email address in your comment (I suggest spelling out the @(at) and the .(dot) to avoid spam from internet crawlers, or you may also leave your Etsy screen name, if applicable. If you don't leave either, you need to check back and contact me by the Friday following the contest ending to see of you won, and will need to email me (see Winner's Box in the upper right sidebar).

Bonus Entries- **You can earn an extra entry for each of the following: Follow my blog and/or follow me on Facebook. Both links are on the right-hand sidebar. Just make sure you note that you did these in your comment below!**

Please note: The winner is chosen by me and the featured artist based on your responses...so make 'em good! We make no claims that the selection is random:) It is between you and the featured artist to coordinate the getting of your loot. I make no personal guarantees about time-frame for delivery, value, or condition of the winning item.

~~~~~~~~~~ Last Week's Winner: Jingle! We hope your husband LOVES his gift! ~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, June 28, 2010

Think Big! Monday: Knit big, baby, knit big.

Seriously?!? Go BIG or GO HOME!!!! Right?!?! How awesome is this!?!?!

This is a project of Dutch design studio http://baukeknottnerus.nl/. Can I just say that these guys are doing a lot to help the Dutch get over that whole sparse-ness thing.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Biz Tip: Stay focused.... on anything and everything you want.

Since I was a little kid I have always gotten bored really easily. I like change. It has taken me my entire life to come to value this as a gift, and not just another excuse for my lack of follow-through. My mom used to say I had 'the grass is always greener' syndrome. Every time I would start to feel stagnant, I would find something new (and usually difficult) to focus on. Consequently, at thirty, I can realistically consider myself a florist, a barista, an MBA, a marketing pro, a dancer, a designer, an artist, an executive, a business owner, a writer, a lion tamer.... okay I made that last one up, but you get the idea.

It turns out, I don't lack focus, I lack the ability to do things that bore me. Our culture sells us on the idea that follow through is king, hard work will open the golden gates of the American Dream.  Right? Seriously? What a freakin' crock! Anyone watch the news lately? Time has come to spend our lives doing that we enjoy. Focus on that. Obviously, I don't mean to just spend your life in lala land following whatever interesting shiny object floats by. But find the things that light you up. Life is too damn short!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Subscribe via Email!

Ahhhh the magic of the Inter-web. I finally figured out how to add a lovely little box(see right column) that allows you to subscribe to my crafty genius via email.... instead of an RSS feed (yeah, I always mean to check my reader to, and forget MOST of the time) This way, you'll never miss a giveaway, because your magical inbox will tell you all about it!

Tutorial: Amazing Dahlia Brooch!

This brooch is amazing! Below are the photos of the basic step-by-step. For the full tutorial, please follow this link to Megan Reardon's amazing and easy tutorial: http://news.holidash.com/2010/04/23/mothers-day-corsage/












Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weekly Featured Artist & GIVEAWAY: Jef Spencer

I am very pleased to introduce a fab Etsy seller who is just getting off the ground. Jef is a super talented woodworker, and I thought his work would be a great contrast to the way femmeeee stuff we are all used to seeing in Etsy-land. He also happens to make AMAZING pens...and who isn't a sucker for a snazzy pen. Snazzy pens make me feel important.... I digeress.....
 
Name: Jef Spencer
Business Name: Refined Pallet

SNSpencer@yahoo.com 

http://www.etsy.com/shop/RefinedPallet  

http://lumberjocks.com/SNSpencer/projects
        The Basics:
        Jef is a woodworker and craftsman as a hobby and for enjoyment. He specializes in small boxes, usually with through dovetail joinery, incorporating various exotic figured woods. Jef believes that wood is beautiful in it's natural color so he rarely use stains or dyes on his projects. Instead, he prefers to just let the natural colors shine!

        Refined Pallet got it’s name from how Jef started out gathering supplies for his projects. In his “real life” job, he runs a warehouse where there is a constant supply of extra pallets. He noticed that from time to time there was some really great wood used in the construction of freight pallets. After a little effort to take them apart, Jef found a free source of materials for setting up a wood shop. Of course, the projects created are small to accommodate the limited supply of usable wood, but he was amazed at the quality of material that could be recovered. From there, Jef has expanded his recovery efforts into looking for materials in other places that can be recycled into something beautiful. Old furniture, cabinets, visits to antique and thrift shops and of course cutoffs from local cabinet shops now make up the majority of his supply sources. Jef amazes his family and friends with what he creates out of materials rescued from the landfill, and I'm sure he'll amaze you as well!


        1. What five words best describe you?

        Creative, Humorous, Thrifty, Approachable, Honest

        2. What five words best describe your work?

        Unique, Elegant, Useful, One-of-a-kinds, Recycled

        3. What was the very first art form you fell in love with, and, do you still do it?

        Ever since I played with the tools in my father’s garage I have been a wood worker through and through. I have dabbled a bit in other forms of art but I always come back to the joy of creating something beautiful out of fine woods.

        4. What was your very worst ‘real’ job?

        Not necessarily my “worst” job but I took a major pay cut!! The day that I was of legal age to be properly employed my parents made me pass my lawn mowing business to my brother so that I could get a “real” paycheck. I ended up as the butcher at the nearby Fuddrucker’s Restaurant.

        5. Is artwork your full-time life? Or, if not, are you planning to make it that way? If so, what’s your favorite part about being a full-time creative?

        Spending time in my shop is currently a passionate hobby. The items that I create and sell are done so to share my craft with the world and to keep my hobby a self supporting endeavor. Someday I would love to make it a full time obsession but until then, I turn out my mini pieces of artwork one at a time.


        6. What do you think is the single most important thing you could tell an artist just starting out?

        Do it for the love of the process. If you are in it for the money you are in the wrong business. The time spent in creating your pieces will bring you joy, any income is just gravy.


        7. What is your favorite way to distribute your work (craft shows, online, galleries, etc…), and why?

        I currently use Etsy and word of mouth to distribute my work. Facebook has turned out to be my best method of promoting when I have new or interesting items leaving my shop. Eventually I will start to entertain the realm craft show or galleries when the price is right.

        8. What are your five favorite blogs and/or websites?

        www.lumberjocks.com - My Online Woodworkers Community
        www.Geocaching.com – Website for my other obsession
        From there it’s mainly news sites and other local interests. I do browse for other art information but there is nothing that I have bookmarked for regular reference.

        9. Favorite artist?

        Leonardo da Vinci – A very well rounded contributor to society. Not only was he a great artist, but a thinker, scientist and inventor.

        10. Guilty pleasure?

        My other obsession – Geocaching. Short explanation is using Billions of dollars of government technology to find Tupperware in the woods. Check it out at www.geocaching.com


        ~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~
        Jef has generously offered a $25 gift certificate for use in his Etsy store to a lucky one of my readers. He says the winner is also welcome to use it towards the custom pen of their choice (fountain or rollerball). Like one of these:



        TO ENTER: 
        • Go to Jef's Etsy page. Find your very favorite item. 
        • After that, come on back and leave a comment below telling us what your favorite item was and why (the 'why' is the part we really look for when deciding on a winner... so be creative!).
        You may enter only once. The contest is open until 4pm Pacific time on the Monday following the original feature (so it's open for about six days). Winners will be posted on Tuesday morning, along with the new featured artist's piece. If you have any questions, please contact me, not the artist. 

        IMPORTANT: If you want to be contacted (if you are the winner), you need to leave your email address in your comment (I suggest spelling out the @(at) and the .(dot) to avoid spam from internet crawlers, or you may also leave your Etsy screen name, if applicable. If you don't leave either, you need to check back and contact me by the Friday following the contest ending to see of you won, and will need to email me (see Winner's Box in the upper right sidebar).
        Bonus Entries- **You can earn an extra entry for each of the following: Follow my blog and/or follow me on Facebook. Both links are on the right-hand sidebar. Just make sure you note that you did these in your comment below!**
        Please note: The winner is chosen by me and the featured artist based on your responses...so make 'em good! We make no claims that the selection is random:) It is between you and the featured artist to coordinate the getting of your loot. I make no personal guarantees about time-frame for delivery, value, or condition of the winning item.
        ~~~~~~~~~~ Last Week's Winner: Melissa (she wrote actual POETRY!!!) ~~~~~~~~~~

        Monday, June 21, 2010

        Ralph Hinkley made me do it.

        I just saw the A-Team. My boyfriend and I played hooky for the afternoon and played video games in the arcade while we waited an extra hour and a half just to see it on the BIGGER screen. Yup, there is totally a twelve-year-old boy inside me somewhere. I blame Greatest American Hero, Superman, and Voyagers. As a child of the 80's there were really not that many shows for girls that didn't suck. I mean who really wanted to be Smurfette. And I KNOW you you didn't want to be Jem...or any of her stupid Holograms. I wanted to strap on the tights and save the world... and Wonderwoman's outfit just seemed silly to me. So off I went to play in superhero-land with the boys.

        What's the point you ask? How is this related to craftyness you ponder? While my lovely readers.... wanting to be a superhero made me want to kick ass in whatever I do. I call it super-overachieving. Wait...that sounded like something I should get therapy for... back up.....

        I think about the heroes of the world a lot. Real and fantastic (I refuse to say imagin*ry). I think heroes are a pretty good thing to fixate on when everything seems hard and the whole world seems to be crashing in on you; think about it, they are uncompromising, driven, fearless. That definitely doesn't suck.

        And by the way, the A-Team was KICK ASS!

        Monday Inspiration: Remember how unique we all really are.

        Wanna waste about five minutes... and put a smile on your face? Check out this site: http://www.flurrious.com/. It's a nifty program that lets you create your very own snowflake! I made this one: http://www.flurrious.com/?snowflakeID=82893.

        It made me smile... hope it makes you smile too!

        Saturday, June 19, 2010

        My quest for 200 Fans!

        Hi all... and welcome to my shameless self-promotion of the week. I am on a quest to hit 200 fans on my Facebook page by the 4th of July (what's more patriotic than shameless promotion?!?). It's an ambitious goal (I'm at 105 right now), but I know I can do it with a little help! So, here's what's in it for you:


        Please suggest my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/zipandruth) to your friends that might like it (no spamming friends for discounts:). Then, come on back and leave a comment here, or on my Facebook page stating how many you suggested it to. For every one you do, I will give you $1 off in my Etsy shop. So, four recommendations = $4 bucks off in my shop!

        If I make it to 200, I will DOUBLE the discount for every person that recommended my page to friends!
        The fine print: I will give up to $20 off per person, or up to $40 off if I hit 200 Facebook fans by July 4th, 2010. One tiny catch, if you buy a something on in my shop with your credit, I'm not giving change, so if your total order adds up to less than the credit amount, you have officially tapped out your credit. Let me know if you have questions on that.

        Thanks for your support!!!

        Shop

        Thanks for checking out my shop! 
        Please note that the date you see on this page is inaccurate. This page updates itself constantly as I add new listings. Formatting it this way allows my blog to be as easy for you to navigate as possible.

        Thursday, June 17, 2010

        Biz Tip: Stick to your guns.

        This has been one jam-packed week, full of growth, giveaways and an awesome tutorial (if you haven't entered yet, scroll down to this week's giveaway...you could win an awesome leather handbag), so I will keep this week's biz tip brief.

        Today's lesson: Stick to your guns!
        Do things your way. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't learn new ways of doing things; by all means, learn EVERYTHING YOU CAN! But, at the end of the day, only you can decide what works for you and what doesn't. As artists and small business owners, we are constantly bombarded with 'helpful' suggestions from friends, loved ones, other artists, cab drivers, the guy at the coffee shop, etc... All telling us we should try this or do that, or go here, or sell there. We all nod and smile, and try to be polite, sometimes we even promise to do as they suggest.

        Well folks, this week I am here to tell you that after years of underlying self doubt...peppering its way into every decision, I finally decided that this time, I would do it my way. Uncompromising, decisive, confident, and open. As I venture out into the world of design, the one constant is that when I make decisions based solely on how I think it needs to be done, I have more days of success than failure.

        So.... go forth! Stick to your guns. As always, be real about yourself, your limitations, your strengths, and your gifts... but doing it your way is the only way to truly get where you want to be!

        Wednesday, June 16, 2010

        Tutorial: Recycled wine bottle torch

        These are the perfect summer addition to your backyard! This tutorial was created by Erik Anderson of Geradot & Co. This is a detailed step-by-step tutorial (not a video), so for the full instructions, follow this link: http://www.gerardotandco.com/blog/recycled-bottle-torch/.



        Tuesday, June 15, 2010

        Weekly Featured Artist & GIVEAWAY: Scabby Robot (aka Jill Harrell)

        Name: Jill Harrell
        Business name: Scabby Robot
        The Basics:
        Jill sews all of her work on a vintage 1958 Slant-o-matic. Together they create one-of-a-kind functional sewn items: handbags, wallets, soft accessories. Favorite materials are leather and heavy denim.

        In 2003 Jill earned her degree in industrial design from CCAC in San Francisco. In 2006, she wiped the boogers from her eyes to see that her true passion was for one-off and small run designs, thus Scabby Robot was born!

        (I quoted this directly in Jill's own words, because I thought it was so well put):
        "Each piece created is an exercise in sincere play.
        There is little premeditation in my work. I sit down at my machine, supplied with gorgeous materials, and connect them together with a lattice of freehand machine stitching. A curvy, zig-zagged, silly, sometimes backwards line of stitching travels across the surface of each piece.

        Often as I sew I play and ponder the metaphor of that meandering linear path across a soft surface. I compare it to a pen stroke on a page, to a line of music, to one’s path from waking to sleeping. Sometimes the stitch path reverses on itself over and over as if caught in a loop. Sometimes the path has many stops and starts. Sometimes the path is straight and direct. And sometimes the thread breaks. Drat!

        I know a piece is complete when I feel the balance of value, need, silliness, waste, durability, and function."


         
        1.  What five words best describe you? 
        straightforward, silly, shy, sharp, calm
        2.  What five words best describe your work? 
        touchable, luxurious, rustic, leather, architectural
        3.  What was the very first art form you fell in love with, and, do you still do it? 
        Woodcut printmaking. Gaw, I still love it, I miss it just thinking about it! The sound the tool makes on the wood is amazing. Don't worry printmaking, I'll be back.
        4.   What was your very worst ‘real’ job? 
        While I was in college, I temp'd at a real estate/mortgage bank one summer. I had to call realtors across the country to offer them properties in foreclosure. EVERYONE who worked there full time was a smoker. Depressing!!! 
        5.   Is artwork your full-time life? 
        Or, if not, are you planning to make it that way? If so, what’s your favorite part about being a full-time creative? Yes and yes. My handbags are full-time, though I have a part-time job to keep me rolling in health insurance (priceless). Hard to say when/if I'll go 100% handbags - I check in with myself every 6 months or so. I'm not convinced going 100% handbags will make me a happier person...
        6.   What do you think is the single most important thing you could tell an artist just starting out?
        I think the hardest thing is also the most rewarding thing. Challenge yourself to do the thing you (maybe secretly) LOVE. Even if you think you're crap at that thing, try it. Try it some more. You'll only know if you can do it, if you can get better at it, if you actually give it a try. It'll be fun!
        7.   What is your favorite way to distribute your work (craft shows, online, galleries, etc…), and why?  
        Right now, online is my favorite way as I can chat directly with my customers any time anywhere I have the internet. Wow, isn't the future amazing? 
        8.   What are your five favorite blogs and/or websites?
        Here are three of my favs:
        Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist
        Fluent Self
        Dave Hill Internet Explosion
        9.   Favorite artist?
        Alexander Calder - love his wire sculpture
        10.   Guilty pleasure?
        That first cut on a new hide.
        Last bite of mint chip ice cream - Strauss creamery mmmmmm.... my favorite

        !!!!!GIVEAWAY!!!!!
        Jill has generously offered a spectacular Wedge Tote to a lucky one of my readers (can I be a reader this week?). The winner will have their choice of colors from Jill's available stock. Seriously people...this is ONE KILLER GIVEAWAY!  Check out the details on the winner's loot HERE

        TO ENTER: 
        • Go to Jill's Etsy page. Find your very favorite item. 
        • After that, come on back and leave a comment below telling us what your favorite item was and why (the 'why' is the part we really look for when deciding on a winner... so be creative!).
        You may enter only once. The contest is open until 10pm Pacific time on the Monday following the original feature (so it's open for about six days). Winners will be posted on Tuesday morning, along with the new featured artist's piece. If you have any questions, please contact me, not the artist. 

        IMPORTANT: If you want to be contacted (if you are the winner), you need to leave your email address in your comment (I suggest spelling out the @(at) and the .(dot) to avoid spam from internet crawlers, or you may also leave your Etsy screen name, if applicable. If you don't leave either, you need to check back and contact me by the Friday following the contest ending to see of you won, and will need to email me (see Winner's Box in the upper right sidebar).
        Please note: The winner is chosen by me and the featured artist based on your responses...so make 'em good! We make no claims that the selection is random:) It is between you and the featured artist to coordinate the getting of your loot. I make no personal guarantees about time-frame for delivery, value, or condition of the winning item. 

        ~~~ Last Week's Winner: Lorin D. Please get in touch to claim your winnings! ~~~

        Monday, June 14, 2010

        Inspiration! The story of Baggu - Cool eco-company!

        I thought this little video was really inspiring, as we all plan for new products, it just seems like a great reminder to think about material use, limiting crafty-waste, etc... Enjoy!

        Thursday, June 10, 2010

        Biz Tip: Getting real.

        Art is extremely personal. We all know that what we create is often a little piece of our soul. Add to that the fact that beauty is utterly in the eye of the beholder (or consumer), and you have a recipe for emotional heartache and creative paralysis. That's why it is, without question, in your best interest to know if your stuff is crap or not (from a sale-ability perspective).

        First, ask yourself the following questions:
        1. Is my work useful, unique, marketable, or some combo of the three?
        (Much more on this below the questions)

        2. Do I see other people's work that looks a lot like mine on a pretty regular basis?
        If so, you are not ready to sell for success. Your work will not stand out enough to make a living. A few sales yes, but not a living.
        In crowded categories like Jewelry or Bath and Body, being interesting gets pretty tough. This is one I struggle with, which is why I'm working hard to expand into areas that allow me to stand out.

        3. Do I take time to learn everything I can about my area/medium (before I try to sell anything), or do I just do the basics? This means techniques, promotional possibilities, perfect photos, communication with more experienced sellers/artists in your field, etc....
        If you haven't, you are operating with a handicap, because your competitors are doing it all.

        Now think about this:
        - If your work is solely unique, you have a hard, long road ahead that will usually mean very few sales early on, but if you can weather the storm, you might find your niche eventually.
        - If your work is marketable (but perhaps only marginally unique or useful), you will usually enjoy quicker success, but will often have difficulty sustaining it, as marketability is very closely tied to trends, which change with startling frequency these days.
        - If your work is truly useful, but not unique or marketable, you have the toughest path, as useful doesn't necessarily mean that people will pay money for it.

        Real success comes when your work combines these elements in some way.

        - Unique & Useful: Solid combo, but you will have to work extra hard at having great branding, amazing photos, and every promotional outlet you can think of well covered. Most jewelry, knit goods, clothing, accessories, etc... are in this category.

        - Marketable & Useful: Congrats! If you are both, this means that your products are super cool, well-made, and fall into a category that lacks a lot of competition. Examples include items like snazzy laptop and gadget cases.

        - Unique & Marketable: Tough one. Usually means quick, trend-based success that's difficult to sustain, because it's hard to duplicate in new and inventive ways each time a trend passes.

        If you are talented (or lucky) enough to pull off all three, enjoy counting your piles of money... and please, tell me your secrets!

        Once you get real about what categories you fall into, and which ones you don't, now you know the areas you have to work on to be more successful.

        Here's the tough part. If you find that you are not really any of these, you may need to go back to the drawing board, if you really want to turn your artwork into a thriving business. Just remember, there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing what you love and giving it as gifts, and enjoying it for for the joy it brings you. Business is a whole different ballgame, and one that isn't always what we want it to be. So, if you think you're up for it, be tough, be real, and be great!

        Wednesday, June 9, 2010

        Make a snazzy messenger bag out of plastic bags!

        This neato project is like a two-for-one. It shows you both how simple it is to make 'fabric' out of old plastic bags, and also shows a nifty design for making those into a messenger bag. Everyone I know may be getting these for xmas. I'm just sayin'.

        Thanks to the creators...please check out their respective sites!


        Tuesday, June 8, 2010

        Weekly Featured Artist & GIVEAWAY: Dana Morton

        This post is very exciting for me, as it is the beginning of a brand new weekly series highlighting the best and the brightest artists, crafters, and designers out there.


        New posts will go up each Tuesday. Archives of past features can be found on their own page (see nav bar above).


        I am very excited that my first feature is an extremely talented artist from my tiny little hometown of Sonora, CA. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to feature:

        Dana Morton of
        Earthborne Art
        The Basics:

        Dana specializes in a line of ceramic art pottery called,"My Grandma's Linens". It all started when she needed favors for her wedding. She went through a box of old linens that her grandmothers had made, and created little dishes by taking impressions of them. They were a huge hit! She now scours flea markets, yard sales etc., in search of old textiles. Dana likes the idea of preserving them in clay while breathing new life into an old art form.





        1. What five words best describe you?

        Happy, innovative, curious, assertive and friendly.


        2. What five words best describe your work?


        Textural, colorful, geometrical, nature and whimsical.

        3. What was the very first art form you fell in love with, and, do you still do it?


        It all started with mud pies and play - do and evolved into ceramics. I will always have clay in my life.

        4.
        What was your very worst ‘real’ job?

        I worked in a candy factory and lasted about 2 weeks. The funny thing is my friends all call me Lucy for some of the adventures I’ve dragged them into. So it was a huge joke when I got the job there and yes I was in the candy - wrapping department. Well you get the picture.

        5. Is a
        rtwork your full-time life? Or, if not, are you planning to make it that way? If so, what’s your favorite part about being a full-time creative?

        I have worked at a variety of jobs. I’m currently counting noses for the Census. I also teach ceramics at Mt. Oak Charter School. I would love to be able to make a living teaching and selling ceramics someday. I love working for myself although it sometimes gets lonely.

        6. What do you think is the single most important thing you could tell an artist just starting out?


        Be true to yourself and follow your passion. Compliments are nice but criticism creates growth. Listen to your critics.

        7. What is your favorite way to distribute your work (craft shows, online, galleries, etc…), and why?


        I don’t really have a favorite. Selling online has been fun. I never expected to be shipping my work to all areas around the world.

        I've found the best market for my work is gift boutiques and interior decorating shops as opposed to art galleries.

        I enjoy getting out to the Farmer’s Markets and shows. I love the social aspect and getting peoples comments and feedback on my work.

        8.
        What are your five favorite blogs and/or websites?

        Well god knows I spend way too much time in the Etsy forums. Other than that I don’t spend a lot of time on my computer. Computers and clay don’t mix. I’d rather be in my studio.

        9.
        Favorite artist?

        I like the impressionists, Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh. I also admire the work of Georgia O’ Keefe.

        10. Guilty pleasure?


        When I’m not playing with clay, I’m outside whacking a little white ball around aka golfing. I love getting outside in the fresh air and the enormous challenge of the game.

        ~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~
        Dana has generously offered a beautiful piece of her work to a lucky one of my readers. She is offering a lovely tree pendant imprinted with her signature style. Check it out HERE.
        TO ENTER: Go to Dana's Etsy page. Find your very favorite item. After that, come on back and leave a comment below telling us what your favorite item was and why (the 'why' is the part we really look for when deciding on a winner... so be creative!).
        You may enter only once. The contest is open until 10pm Pacific time on the Monday following the original feature (so it's open for about six days). Winners will be posted on Tuesday morning, along with the new featured artist's piece. If you have any questions, please contact me, not the artist.
        Please note: The winner is chosen by me and the featured artist based on your responses...so make 'em good! We make no claims that the selection is random. If you are the winner, you need to check back to claim your prize, as it is not always possible to contact those who leave comments. It is between you and the featured artist to coordinate the getting of your loot. I make no guarantees about time-frame for delivery, value, or condition of the winning item.
        ~~~ The winner for this giveaway is Lorin D. If that's you, please get in touch! ~~~

        Monday, June 7, 2010

        Inspiration! BIG ART!!!

        I was raised by a muralist...so I may be a little biased, but I just tend to like most art better when it's humongous and painted on a building. This awesome work was done by an artist team by the names of Os Gemeos and Blu, and can be found on the snazzy streets of Lisbon. For more details, check out: http://www.unurth.com/431289/Os-G-meos-Blu-Lisbon.



        Friday, June 4, 2010

        SLAYED the sewing beast!

        I am happy to report that I have officially conquered the industrial monster. After several battles and negotiations to arrange a mutually agreed-upon peace, I can happily say I win! I have oiled, threaded and replaced the belt on my industrial sewing machine and after that, I made it my bitch by adjusting the stitch tension all by myself and actually sewing two pieces of leather together.

        I am woman! Hear me roar!

        http://www.etsy.com/shop/zipandruth

        Wednesday, June 2, 2010

        Top 10 Etsy marketing tips that I have learned so far.


        A quick note: This list is meant as an overview of basic marketing as it applies to Etsy’s Handmade Marketplace. I am still a fairly new seller (of handmade goods), but have ten years of experience in marketing consumer products and an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise. It is not my intention to put this forward as a ‘success kit’, since I am still working on creating Etsy success for myself, I feel that would be disingenuous. I know when I was just starting in the business world, I would have gotten a lot out of a concise outline of how marketing works. Many people helped me figure it out. I am just trying to pay it forward.
        I also want to note that most of this info came from my wonderful and enlightened teachers, associates, professional peers, and friends. This is not new info, hopefully just well-formatted and helpful to those who haven’t seen it before. I do ask that you not publish, copy, or forward this to anyone without checking with me first.
        1. List a lot.
        And by ‘a lot’, I mean both frequently and list a bunch of stuff. I have yet to see anyone making any money off of a shop that has one page of items. There’s just not enough choice, and if you don’t provide choices in your category, a sea of other sellers will, and your potential customer will go look at their shops.
        2. Be cohesive. Ask yourself these questions:
        a. Does my banner match my avatar?
        b. Do my avatar and my banner match the style, color, and tone of my shop? If you’re not sure, ask the owner of a ‘front page’ shop….or someone who was written up in ‘Quit Your Day Job’.
        c. Do my business cards (or other paper marketing pieces) match my banner and avatar?
        d. Does my gift wrap and packaging match my banner, avatar, and business cards?
        If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you gotta fix it ASAP! You
        r brand is everything! If you don’t have a clear understand of what ‘brand’ totally means, ask me…I’m happy to go over the basics. Always remember, just because you like it, doesn’t mean that it’s the best representation of your brand and your work. My first round of cards got tons of compliments, and was really cute, but I used a font that looked hand-written and casual, which didn’t match the more sophisticated and feminine style of my work. As soon as I changed it, the number of comments, hearts, and most importantly, SALES, went up. Brand is most important when cultivating repeat business. Cohesiveness helps people know that the next time they visit you, they will have similar style choices every time.
        3. Don’t skimp on the important stuff.
        None of us have the luxury of extra cash, but you can do A LOT these days with a little, you just have to know where to look. Here’s my list of what not to do yourself, unless you KNOW you have the skills:
        a. Never-never-never-never-never make business cards at home. If yours have perforated edges, are crooked, or you used a basic template on a site like Vistaprint, toss them. Why, you ask? Because they make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. What to do instead? Go to a site like Moo, Vistaprint, or Ovenightprints. When choosing a template to start from BASIC IS ALWAYS BETTER. Don’t choose a template that is very distinctive…no swirls or big graphics, I guarantee you will eventually trade cards with a massage therapist who has the exact same card. No bueno! Instead, use a simple outline and dress it up with color or with clear, close-up, hi-res photos of your work. Or, find a graphic designer that likes your goodies, and will trade with you for a logo design (best option).
        b. List-list-list-relist-relist. And I mean that, every day/week/month, you should average 60% new listings, 40% re-listings. A note on that… do them in groups of three-ish at a time, and space it out over the day. Remember, listing is like getting a marathon runner to stop and say hi while they run past you. If you got that jogger to pause for a second, would you offer them water, an orange slice, a towel, a big encouraging sign, a power bar, and an ipod? Of course not! What would you offer at mile two?
        c. Packaging. Make sure it represents your brand. It needs to be pretty! Paying a couple of extra bucks for satin ribbon instead of paper will not mean you don’t make rent, but it can mean the difference between a happy customer and a satisfied customer. Success on Etsy is all about the extra mile.
        4. Have good taste.
        I know this is a tough one, but if you look at your work and it doesn’t match the level of work we all see on the front page, ditch it and DO BETTER! You can do it! BE GREAT! Putting up sub-par work and/or sub-par photos will only hurt you.
        5. Don’t spam strangers or friends.
        If someone compliments an item you’ve made…listen to what they really are saying…. are they just being polite and making conversation? If so, just say thanks, if they ask more questions when you say you made it….then give them a business card. As for friends… don’t talk about what you made all the time. Treat it like a job, don’t make your friends feel like they have to buy from you, and they will be more willing to help promote you.
        That goes for social media too.
        Which brings me to…..
        6. Social media.
        I know it’s tedious sometimes. I know there’s a learning curve. I know you don’t know what to say. Figure it out! It’s free! The best place to start is looking at the pages of other sellers. Not sure where to look for those? Go to the Etsy Forums, and search for Facebook, Twitter, or Blogging. Start reading! Always remember that when it comes to social media, or really any form of Internet promotion, content is KING! Every post you put up can’t be about a new item or a new sale. Think about what other things your customers might be interested in and post info and links about those things. For example, if you sell handmade dolls for children, you might post an article related to early childhood education, or write a blog with anecdotes from friends and customers about your first childhood stuffed animal. This helps buyers understand who you are and why you make what you make. People come to Etsy for a ‘high-touch’ experience. If they wanted a generic stuffed bear, they would buy it at Walmart. Help them see that you love what you make, and they will love it too.
        7. Continuing the conversation.
        This is all the things you do after you have a sale, or that you prepare for before you have a sale, or when things are slow.
        a. Newsletters. This is extremely key. There are several programs out there that provide free or very cheap systems to help you format a basic newsletter and create different mailing lists, etc…. My favorite is Mailchimp. Newsletters help you stay ‘top-of-mind’ for your customers. That means that when they need a gift or a pair of earrings, or whatever you sell, they think of you first. Again, as will all other promotion… Good Content + No spam = Happy customers. Don’t ever break those rules. If you don’t have anything to say one month, spotlight a friend’s shop who sells something you don’t. Always have people opt-in. It’s ok to send your first one or two newsletters to everyone you know, but make sure you put a line in big, bold letters that they need to respond to you if they want to continue to receive the newsletter. Don’t assume that everyone on your contact list cares about your handmade goodies.
        b. Thank you. Never underestimate this. You can never do it too much. Send a thank you when someone buys, send another when they pay (unless they do both at the same time), send another when you ship, and wait a week and send an email making sure they received it, and are happy with it (this is the perfect spot to tactfully ask for feedback…and make sure you always include a clickable link back to your shop in each communication.). I even send a paper thank you card as well if someone buys more than one item, or something expensive.
        8. Pricing and discounts.
        a. Pricing: Price fairly. That means you make a fair profit and your customer pays what the item is worth. For some, this is VERY hard, as we often spend WAY more time on things than we could ever charge for. If this is the case for you, than Etsy will always be a hobby. I once made a necklace that took me three days of solid work. To make a decent living, I need to be paid about $20/hr. That means that my time cost $480, plus the materials. This piece could absolutely not sell for more than $150. See the problem? So, I stopped making that style and looked for ways to streamline production. If you aren’t sure what to sell for, ask the people you would like to sell to, or people that sell in your category….NOT your friends or family. They mean well, but they lie…… period. They want to make you feel good, not help you build a business.
        b. Discounts. Stop offering discounts. Stop offering sale sections. Stop offering publicized freebees. All of these things make you look desperate and devalue your work. If you don’t stand by the value and price of your work, how will your customers see a value in what you create? Instead, offer only seasonal and very rare sale offers, and only to people on your newsletter mailing list. An occasional small coupon here is ok too….but no more than six total discount programs per year….and this is on the high end.
        9. Give Back.
        Find a way to give. Even when you could use help yourself. It will align your brand with a sense of community-mindedness, and will allow you to network and promote like crazy without looking like a self-promoting capitalist. For example, for the month of May, I connected with a local domestic violence charity to give $5.00 from every transaction to them, in Honor of Mother’s Day. They, in turn, promoted my shop to their mailing list….making us both look good, and all it cost me was a little slice of profit on sales I might never have made otherwise. My Facebook fan list doubled in two days.
        10. Be real about who you are.
        This is another hard one. If you really don’t have time to take perfect photos, make lots of stuff, promote like mad, list like crazy, blog every other day, tweet your socks off, and constantly reinvent yourself…. Etsy is a lot closer to a hobby for you. This is totally ok, you just have to be real about your expectations. If you are in the hobby category, you have to understand that everything will happen slower. Marketing is like a three-legged table. The three legs are Product (what you make, what you sell, and who you are), Placement (where you sell, AND how people think about you [where you are ‘placed’ in their brain]), Promotion (how you get the word out, and how you represent your brand). If you are falling a little short in any of those three areas, your table will wobble or fall. A successful business requires equal strength in all three areas.

        Tuesday, June 1, 2010

        About

        Hi! My name is Illana. I am the fingers and brains behind Zip & Ruth. When I’m not dissecting old costume jewelry or putting it back together as new (hopefully not quite so costume-y) jewelry, I spend a lot of time combing the planet for anything and everything lovely and old. 


        My Background…


        Before diving head-first into the never-boring world of being a professional artist, I did all kinds of nifty stuff…. from working as a florist, to being a fancy executive, I travelled a strange road to get to where I am. Because of this varied background, I find myself inspired by the strangest things…. a perfect swirl on the top of my cappuccino caused me to make a felt hat once…. the sound of dripping rain inspired the dangly earring collection that have become my signature.


        Please let me know if you have questions, custom requests, or if you just want to chat. To quote another Etsy seller… If you connect with me, I’ll connect with you!


        -illana
        info@zipandruth.com