Monday, October 3, 2011

Winter Trend: Glitter

Walk through any craft store right now and you'll see one embellishment factoring into 90% of winter decorations: glitter. Yes, glitter. The material that never comes off your floor and clings to your skin like a parasite is even bigger this year than it was last year.

What does that mean for your shop? Go shiny or go home. Include metallic thread into your winter crochet. Add some iridescent glitter to snow in your craft scenes or ceramics. Choose those beastly fabrics with the shiny flecks woven throughout for accents in your sewing projects. Add glittery accents to your screen-printed clothing and accessories. If you can feasibly add shine, do it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

RJGOriginals Updates

Just a few quick updates to get you through the rest of the Halloween pre-season with our shop RJGOriginals.

  1. International shipping (not US/Canada) on all tombstones ends tomorrow. I will pull those options from all listings by Wednesday.
  2. All tombstone listings come down 1 October. Order by 30 September now to avoid being shut out till 2012.
  3. All Halloween-specific merchandise will lose international (not US/Canada) shipping on 1 October.
  4. All Halloween-specific merchandise comes down 10 October. Anything that could fit in a more horror vein year round gets re-categorized. Everything else is gone till 2012.
  5. That also means that the coupon code "SAVEHALLOWEEN," which gets you 15% off of your order, expires 10 October. It's good on everything in the shop.
  6. We will be adding crocheted hats to the shop by the end of the month. We are waiting on our local beauty supplier to get another shipment of foam wig heads in so we can photograph them in a professional manner. They're awesome. I want to steal them all for myself.
That is all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Planning for the Rest of the Year

Do you have your Halloween merchandise up in your Etsy store yet? No? Might as well forget about it now. By the time you make it, photograph it, and list it, people will be afraid of not getting their merchandise in time for the happiest time of the year. If you can be real quick about it, get the stuff up by Friday. Then you have a fighting chance at some sales.

What you should be looking at is Thanksgiving (if you do seasonal decor). What homey, earthy, turkey-minded things can you list in your store? Can you do place mats, napkin rings, centerpieces, dinnerware, or small decor for the holiday? Good. Get that done and list it by October to get a jump on the other Etsy sellers.

Everyone should be thinking about the holiday gift giving season. If you do Christmas decorations, get them up by the end of October. Make sure you categorize them as Christmas for the occasion option. Same with decorations for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa if you design for those.

More importantly, you need to take a good look at your shop. What items are you selling or about to sell that could be sold as gifts? Are they for men, women, children? Who is the target audience? Go through your listings and start to change out the Recipient category for the appropriate target. Onesies for boys are intended for baby boys; silk ties are intended for adult males; handmade teddy bears are perfect for all children; handmade diaries are great for teenage girls. You just need to look at what you have and think about who would want it.

The point of this is to optimize your search results. Much like tagging for relevancy, you want to optimize for the intended recipient for gift giving seasons. You don't have to do it for all of your listings. Chances are, if the person likes your line of pens for unisex adults, they'll click on your shop and see what else you have. You want to do everything you can to make sure that your items are the first things a potential buyer sees. Think about where you see your finished product or vintage item going and target it appropriately.

Then, by the end of the year, you better be listing your Valentine's Day merchandise and planning any year end/year beginning sales events.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sensitivity and Etsy

If you ask the typical Etsy seller if they are sensitive to the needs of others, you'll probably hear a resounding chorus of "yes." Yes, we care. Yes, we want to do good. Yes, we really are upset if someone says they're upset.

But if you ask the typical Etsy forum user whether or not its appropriate to exploit a natural disaster, national tragedy, or celebrity death for profit and you get a very different response. Instead of "maybe we shouldn't tag items 'hurricane irene' just to turn a profit," you hear "anyone who is against tagging non-related items 'hurricane irene' is for censorship." You'll see people sling around a bunch of big words that they don't know the actual definition of or question your use of a word like exploitation. We've been through this looking glass before and it's not pretty on the other side.

I could link you to a bunch of discussions on similar topics that have upset me in the past. I won't. I'll point you to the main one recently for context and get on with the point.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opportunity: Kickstart the New Regretsy Book

Read all about it here.

Helen Killer, aka April Winchell, has written 10 original folktales about Finland that are most likely not even close to true. She hired Regretsy/April's Army illustrators to draw pretty pictures. The goal is to raise money to convert it into a full-color ebook, pay all the artists, and tour Finland.

In case you didn't know, Finland loves Regretsy.

This video explains it better than I can.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Treasury: It's Alive

I wanted to do another April's Army-driven treasury about Halloween. I figured I'd try to hit as many Etsy frontpage mainstays as I could without coming across as a parody. I think I managed it quite nicely.

For those keeping score at home, the Etsy mainstays are: 
  • objects photographed on books
  • objects photographed on library shelves
  • framed objects photographed on library shelves
  • stark white backgrounds
  • babies modeling hats
  • artists camping it up while modeling costumes
  • barnwood
  • things photographed on neutral backgrounds with a perspective line
This is not a commentary on these artists. I genuinely like all these objects. I was just trying to open up my mind to how to best appeal to a wider Etsy demographic with my more offbeat treasuries. It's working quite nicely so far. 

Don't be afraid of choosing items that fit the look of the frontpage. It might not guarantee a feature, but it could draw in some extra clicks, which could work their way back to your shop.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finding Trends: In Store Edition

One of my favorite to do with design is to go shopping. I don't have to buy anything to get the most out of the experience. I'm just looking for ideas.

Big box stores--like Michaels, Home Goods, or Target--anticipate the upcoming season. They keep track of what the next big trend is supposed to be and fill their stores months in advance with the hot colors, patterns, and styles for the next season. Right now, if you walk into one of these stores, you'll see merchandise on the shelves to keep you busy until Thanksgiving. If you do an art or craft (or have access to a wide variety of on trend vintage items), you can capitalize on these window shopping trips.

Walk through the aisles of the store that are easily changed out. Does the store have a U-shape display area? Pods filled with merchandise in the middle of the aisle? Constantly redecorated end-caps? That's where you need to focus your efforts for anticipatory planning. Look at the colors, shapes, patterns, images, sizes, even finish--matte, glossy, satin, rough, smooth, dull, eggshell--to see what you can incorporate into your craft.

Halloween this year, for example, is going to feature a lot of black, purple, and red. Do you have items that fit that kind of tone--spooky but not violent--that feature those colors? Can you make items in purple, black, and red to fit that market? Do you have vintage items that fit those color schemes? Then get to making, photographing, and listing, because you can fall into the type of merchandise the shoppers will be looking for online.

They might not realize it, but they will be drawn to the colors they see in the store. Go ahead. Go to Michaels, Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, even K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and larger grocery stores and you will see fall and Halloween decor covered in red, black, and purple. Orange and green are still there, but they aren't the focus. You can't avoid these colors if you walk into any mainstream shop. Your potential customers will, subconsciously, be influenced by these in-store trends. This is why the products go out months in advance; the stores are telling the customers what they have to buy. Even if they don't shop for Halloween until a few days before the holiday, they'll want these red, black, and purple items. They'll want the glitter and they'll want the black silhouettes. They'll even be drawn to witches and zombies, two growing trends in 2011.

And you can hit that market just by thinking about what you can incorporate from the trends you see in the store down the street. If you're in line with the trends and offer a unique product, you might just snag a few extra sales than if you stick with what was in even a year ago. It's about researching and working with the manufactured trends. All it takes is a trip to the local store to get that edge.

Monday, August 15, 2011

So You're In a Treasury...Now What?

You log into your Etsy account and see that you have something going on in that off-kilter concentric circle button called Activity. You click on it and see someone chose your item to be featured in a treasury. You're excited that someone likes your listing but don't know what to do or how to capitalize on it.

It's easy. You do a lot of the same things you would do if you were marketing your own treasury.

First, you need to click on that treasury. That gives it another view, which helps with its hotness. What's hotness? It's Etsy's nebulous and poorly defined way of organizing what treasuries appear on the top of the list at any given moment. It's essentially a popularity contest driven by people like you.

Second, you need to comment on the treasury. This creates another link to your shop (item is one, your comment is two). Try to say something relevant to the theme of the treasury. If you can't think of anything, compliment on the creator's treasury making skills and/or thank them for including your listing. I'm more likely to click on an interesting comment than another bland bit of fan service.

Third, you need to click on the individual listings. The easy way to do it is to right-click on each item and open it in a new tab. You do this because hotness is also measured by clicks on the items. By opening each item in a new tab, you are giving the treasury 16 more clicks in under a minute.

Fourth, you need to promote your appearance on the treasury. Post it on your Facebook wall, tweet it to your followers, or even post it on your own blog. Whatever you can do to get more people to click, comment, and share the treasury only helps more people see your item representing your shop.

If a treasury becomes popular enough and is on theme for Etsy's Merchandising Desk, it might be put in the daily Etsy Finds e-mails or, better yet, on the front page. That gives you a lot more exposure for your shop for very little work on your own part. It's worth it to try these steps every time you're featured in a treasury.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Relevancy and Etsy

Etsy has finally put on their big boy pants and decided that making customers happy trumps rewarding people who needlessly renew 40+ items a day. While I sympathize for sellers who have made a profitable business out of this quirk, I'm thrilled beyond belief that relevancy rules Etsy now.

What this means is simple. Instead of listing the most recent items that have search terms as tags, Etsy has set relevancy--looking at how related a listing is to a search--as the default option for all searches on the website. It's easier than you would believe to capitalize on. Read on to see how easy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Setbacks and Moving On

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm big on Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. I do it up big for my family's houses, too. Until this year, I ran three yard haunts.

Cue yesterday:
I just got dumped from Halloween.
It's true. It's sad. I'm heartbroken.
I've done my family's house up for at least the past 6 years for Halloween. You can see the results on my haunt site. I was just told that they don't want to deal with the trick or treaters anymore and I have until the end of the month to get all my big props out of there.
Where I'm living now doesn't get a lot of Trick or Treater action. It's a busy street filled with nasty old Catholics who offer criticism on appearance and manners to visitors on Halloween. I can try like hell to hype up the haunt in its new location but it's not going to be the same.
The only plus side is that this new yard is gigantic. It's twice as big. I'm just really far behind to fill that much space with quality props.
This could have been something far more serious. Not that I don't consider this last minute (under 90 days to Halloween IS last minute for a home haunter who does everything from scratch) mandate serious, but think this way: it could have been my business (writing or crafting). That's where we're going today.

Friday, August 5, 2011

When Good Crafts Good Bad: Cupcake Edition

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a good craft goes bad. You can do everything right every step of the way and it turns out wrong.

Such is the case with my cupcake plates.

I designed a really cute pattern of sprinkles and candies for the top of three cupcake plates. One was vanilla with a blue wrapper; one was strawberry with a green wrapper; one was chocolate with a yellow wrapper.

The deal with ceramic glaze is that you just don't know what it's going to look like until it fires. The color out of the bottle is rarely ever the color it fires to in the kiln. Shoot, I have to paint my pieces solid blue or solid green to get a gloss finish on them. So designing plates with this much color is problematic at best. Even if you've used the glaze before, it's unpredictable.

The vanilla cupcake turned out better than I expected. It's shiny, it's evenly colored, and it looks delicious.

But then I saw the Strawberry plate. It's...bizarre. It bubbled, it got rough, it under-fired in the center of the plate (normally happens on the edges if it happens at all), and shot off a few spots completely in the back.

Am I mad? A little bit. These were a pain to put together. I'm too embarrassed to show the chocolate plate that came out a mix of purple, under-fired, and delicious dark chocolate. I soldier on. I'll be able to fix the other two plates. It's just a minor setback I figured I could have avoided. No such luck.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

High Society Blues: On Theme, Taste Level, and Controversy

So...this happened. A recently married couple was interviewed by Etsy about their Depression Era Hobo Chic wedding. Women wore burlap dresses with the logos facing out; men wore overalls and shoddy shoes. Food was served from trash cans and antique quilts were torn apart as table runners. A good time was had by all.

Except for how the couple didn't realize that not everyone would approve of people with $15000 to blow on a wedding playing poor for a day just for laughs and to stand out. They claimed to have researched the theme, but simple searches in any library would disprove their claim that hobo is short for homeward bound. I found the entire post disgusting and was shocked that no one was questioning this period class tourism.

Enter Regretsy. Thank you, April Winchell, for articulating what I couldn't quite wrap my brain around with a sense of humor.

But wait, there's more. Search on down the Regretsy comments and you'll see peple quoting the groom's Twitter feed. Ladies and gentleman, we had a full grown man crying like a little baby that people were trying to ruin his life by criticizing his insensitive wedding theme. He and his wife both quit corporate jobs to become full-time artists and claim to be poor themselves. They think their definition of poor (only have $15,000 for a wedding) makes them immune from criticism related to taste. It's the same argument as "but I have a black friend so I can't be racist." Neither case is immune from criticism.

Now that I've properly set the picture, let's get a little music to carry us to the meat of the post.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Etsy Merchandising Desk Highlights: August 2011

Every month, the Etsy blog features a gigantic post detailing what themes are going to be pushed in the next month. It's long-winded and dry as dirt. It's great information if you can sift through and process the recurring themes in their laundry list of words. You use these to tag your items and create treasuries that can go to the front page. Go ahead and spend your time on your dream treasury based on the episode of The Twilight Zone where it turns out the six strangers in the bottom of the well are actually toys in a Salvation Army Christmas present drive; it's probably not going to get to the front page in August.

Here are the highlights from the Etsy Merchandising Desk themes for August 2011.

Halloween and Fall are In

Forget what you were told last month about listing Halloween merchandise early. The Etsy Merchandising Desk post for August mentions Halloween 4 times. Autumn is mentioned an additional 4 times and Fall is mentioned 5 times.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Promotion: 3 Day Halloween Pre-Season Sale Starts Friday

On Friday, July 29, every item in my Halloween section will be marked down 15%. Why? Because I don't do post-season sales, that's why. This weekend is your one and only chance to score a discount on my handmade Halloween merchandise. 

Here's how it works. I used an Etsy tool to schedule the sale. It runs from 12AM EST on July 29 to 12AM EST on August 1. The price is automatically knocked down 15% on every item in that section. If you dig around Regretsy or HalloweenForum, you'll find a coupon code that can be stacked on top of this to bring Halloween merchandise down by 23.5%. If you don't buy it this weekend, you pay full retail.

If you want to read the TL:DR version of why I'm really doing this sale, jump down below.

Monday, July 25, 2011

About April's Army

April's Army is a group of crafters, artists, vintage sellers, and shoppers on Etsy. We work together to raise money for artists in need through a big charity sale each month. We have all banded together because of a mutual love for the website Regretsy and a desire to help others. We are now one of the largest teams on Etsy and have raised over $7000 in the past few months for individual Etsy sellers. The amazing part about that: we're only open one week every month. 7 days to buy crazy crafts inspired by the whimsicle* Regretsy.

This month's proceeds go to help April's Army team leader Mary (who makes amazing soaps that you should buy right now). Unfortunately, I had a migraine earlier today when I meant to post this link to the April's Army store. They've practically sold out. There are only two pages of listings left and that's nothing compared to the roughly 300 items that were available when the shop opened at 12PM EST today.

Order now from the April's Army Shop. Share the link with your friends, family, and followers. Consider joining the army and submitting items for charity. Every sale counts and every little bit helps.

I would encourage you to focus your efforts on this listing. It's my photograph inspired by the shop's theme "Nature" for July. It's a 4x6 print for $5 where all the money goes to charity. It's also adorable.

*intentional misspelling. It's a Regretsy meme. Yes, we're big enough to have memes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Treasury: The Myth of Jack of the Lantern: A Treasury Horror Story

So did you know there's a reason why we carve pumpkins around Halloween? Oh yes. A very real reason. A dark and looming threat that no one but the devil can explain.
One night, Jack decided to go out drinking. He ran into a man who wanted to speak to him. He offered Jack a pint of spiced ale and walked him behind the bar. The man turned out to be the devil, ready to collect Jack's soul for a lifetime of lies.
Jack was not ready to die. He bet the devil that he could beat him in a drinking contest. If Jack won, he would gain 10 more years of life. Being a sporting man, the devil agreed.
Jack, however, decided to cheat. He trapped the devil within a coin made of pure silver and held him hostage against a cross in his pocket. Jack would not let the devil go until he granted him eternal life. The devil agreed.
The devil led Jack into the woods behind the bar. He started a fire and began to chant. Jack was freezing. His body locked up and a strange light began to pulse inside him. The light burst out of his eyes, blinding him. Jack could only feel the light of his soul placed inside a large lantern made of a pumpkin.
The devil had granted Jack's wish for eternal life. Jack could never die until the devil forgave him for the trick. Only when Jack received his key to the afterlife could he know the sweet bliss of death.
He wanders still to this day, searching for an end to his accursed fate, longing for the warm smell of a spiced ale and the rattling of the keys to life. The only way to ward him off from searching for his next pint in your home is to scare his soul off with your own jack'o'lantern. Happy dreams.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Playing a Number Game: The Logic Behind Numbers in Pricing

You ever wander into a store and wonder why merchandise is priced the way it is? Why this item is $X.99 and the item right next to it is $X.97? Wisebread published a great article on the psychology of pricing back in April. I believe there are applications for this information in the context of selling on Etsy.

For me, I can't ever see myself pricing a hand-made craft at $9.99 when I could just round up to $10. This comes from my experience selling at fairs and conventions. I am not walking around with coins in the cashbox and handing back pennies if I can avoid it. But it might be worth looking into if you want to pull in a certain kind of online audience.

It's almost like you have to play a game with pricing until you get it just right.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why I Craft: RJGOriginals Edition

I hope to start rolling out interviews with some really cool crafters and artists next week. I'll start by writing just a little bit about my own experience with crafting.

I was born into a crafting family. My mother has run a ceramic business longer than I've been alive. When I was an infant, my mother would hold me on her lap while she ran classes in the basement. By the age of 5, I was pouring molds, cleaning greenware, painting bisque, and teaching other children at birthday parties. I actually made my first sale at the age of 4 when my mother sold a glittery dinosaur I had just finished painting to a family at a craft fair. I was hooked.

I wound up splitting my interests very far throughout my public education. I did music, writing, acting, and a slew of sports that never clicked. By high school, I only had time for music, writing, and acting. Crafting fell by the wayside unless I was hard up on cash. Then I'd whip out the paint brushes and get to work on gifts and crafts to sell out of my locker.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What Hustle & Flow Teaches Us About Treasuries

For the past week, I have been experimenting with treasuries on Etsy. I'm trying to break down what actually makes a hit treasury a hit treasury and how trends actually work on Etsy.

Yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany: it's all about the pimping.

Think about it for a second. You only get 16 slots in a treasury. Etsy wants you to not include yourself (boo hiss) and not to repeat sellers. It's a rare day that I see all 16 featured sellers even comment on a treasury while there's a chance of it hitting the top of the hotness charts. Rarer still that a treasury with no promotion beyond creation goes anywhere.

So what does this have with the seminal Academy Award winning film about pimping, drug trafficking, and rapping? Everything.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What's Happening This Week?

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Robert and I run the arts and crafts business RJGOriginals for my family. I also work as a freelance/ghost writer with a main business hub at the media blog Sketchy Details. But this isn't about me.

This is about you, your interest in arts and crafts, and your web-based business.

This week, a really exciting project managed to get funded in just under 3 days through The April's Army Tarot Project is an international effort to design and print a full (78 card) size tarot deck inspired by the website Regretsy.

Despite what you may have heard, Regretsy is actually a strong arts and crafts community filled with artists, crafters, shoppers, and humor enthusiasts who agree that not every hand-crafted item is automatically worthy of praise. There's a place for a swift dose of reality in the art world and Regretsy is not afraid to deliver it. Simply put: if you believe your work is above criticism, you shouldn't try to sell it because you will never win over everyone with anything you produce. Lighten up and remember that art is not life or death; it's just art.

However, beyond the snarky exterior, Regretsy has turned into a tight community of similarly-minded people.