Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fancy Seeing You Here

Soooooooooo I'm back.

I'm buying and selling antiques and vintage finds from estate sales and auctions and anywhere else I stumble into.

Off the Wall Greetings is up. Finally. I'm trying to add items regularly to it and my now vintage/antique-centered JillHannah shop.

I'm being crazy picky neurotic about my photos and I think it's paying off.
My more recent efforts:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Now if I can just keep juggling all 73 balls at once while losing a few random days a week to the migraine beast (a few days is so much better than when it was every day I have trouble complaining) I'll be a real human being in no time!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I found a chandelier! For $90!

I went to an estate sale on Tuesday with no expectations and there it was, hanging in the garage. They had a bunch of other chandeliers and light fixtures and insane quantities of other crap, but mine was just there, hanging, being exactly what I needed and $90.

It was filthy. I thought a little late of taking "before" and "after" photos while I cleaned it off with a wet paper towel, but here you can see the "before" and "after" with the clean one on the left:

Now I still need to fix it up. It's missing some of its hanging crystals, and they don't seem to be the standard "u drop" ones I'm finding on Ebay. Plus whatever aparatus is required to go from socket to bulb, be it fake candle or something else. I just have no idea about that part. Then getting it wired into my actual ceiling...but considering I've put all of $90 into it so far and had feared/expected to sink at least $400, I totally win. Now I can still afford to slipcover my big armchair (probably in this fabric)!

Also at the fabulous estate sale: art. Tons and tons of art. Framed portraits of John Wayne and oils of houses and trees and things "handpainted in Taiwan" and prints of birds and a million other individual things that made no sense with the rest of it. It would take a person a solid day to look through it all, and I wished I knew more about the values of things. I'm sure a knowledgeable person could make a killing in there; maybe not Antiques Roadshow, but signed? numbered? original? crap? I ended up with three black and white scapes of Roman-looking ruins that clearly went together but were different sizes. There was a group of women (family, perhaps?) digging through the art with me and one of them noticed the scattered set. I modified my mental picture of my dining room walls to include the trio and decided to take them home. Here they are with my $6 Salvation Army and $10 garage sale mirrors:

Things are coming together quite nicely, I think.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nice Package

Talking about stamping the outsides of packages led me to thinking about how people package their items in general, so I started a forum thread on Etsy. It took off to 84 posts and counting and sparked my brilliant new plan for how to package my non-snarky card orders (like businesses and such who want the wallpaper enveloped thank-yous and whatnot). Photos to come...

I want to keep the discussion going. When you buy something, does the packaging matter? What surrounds the immediate item? The actual container used for shipping? Should it be sturdy at a loss for pretty or pretty at a loss for ecology? Form over function? How about if you sell things, what do you do to make your package prettier? Does it match the style of what's inside the package and/or the rest of your shop? Branding, people.

Things to think about as I head to yet another neurologist for yet another possible approach to killing my migraines.

Mailing stickers by Donovan Beeson available for sale at

Sunday, May 24, 2009

AKA "Jill sent me" Discount/Love

Stacey (AKA AsspocketProductions AKA StampinNaughty AKA Amazing Arts) rules. Those two stamps (only with my full address...had to white out parts so my loyal blog followers wouldn't come to my house and kill me in my sleep or anything...this means you Interlochen Amy) should be heading my way once Memorial Day is over and done with. Yay!

And here's the real kicker: Stacey is offering you, my blog readers, 15% off her stamps (that means stamps, not books, cases, acrylic blocks and the like) if you say "Jill sent me" in a convo or when you check out.

Persoanlly, I've come to use stamps in place of my love of stickers for decorating packages and branding things. Like I said yesterday, you run out of stickers. Stickers have to be replenished and I always feel like I have to wait for a special package or occasion to use a special sticker. Not with a stamp. Using a stamp doesn't take away from using it again. It's like love. That's why when I send people things (both official Etsy orders and random mail to random friends and family) the envelopes tend to show up covered in stamps. It's like covering the package in love.

So if you're looking to buy some love, say "Jill sent me" and Stacey will discount said love 15%. And no, I'm not getting kickbacks or anything. Just spreading the love.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

lettering, stamping, branding, and oh my!

What? I have a blog? Oh, right.
Last few weeks have been completely insane with non-business-related things (local bff moving away forever, trips to surrounding "i" states, friends visiting, condo on the brain) but I'm trying to get myself back to work so I can have my rebranding done and my Off the Wall Greetings shop up and gorgeous by June.

You know that lovely banner Bean Sprout Studios designed for me? In the interest of branding and consistency and all that fun marketing crap that just makes "it looks and feels better" sound like deep psychological manipulation, I asked her what font she used. Turns out to be "Lettering Delights Letterpress" from For $3, I decided it was worth paying, even though I normally stick to the free fonts from I've been through DaFont over and over again and for $3 I can Lettering Delights Letterpress my brains out on everything and be done with it.

Thing already in the works with my new name and font: a stamp from Stacey of AsspocketProductions that says so I can stamp the insides of all my envelopes and the outsides of all my packages and your forehead. I really like her work and she's a fellow Illinoisian. I'm buying one of her fabulous custom Chicago Skyline address stamps, too, so I can stamp my new permanent condo address like a cool person all over everything. Way better than address labels, since I never know how many labels I'll use and at some point you either move with tons left over or you have to keep reordering them or using the weird ones from awkward charities like the Foreskin Foundation*. Stacey also has a whole fantastic shop of naughty stamps appropriately named Stampin Naughty, but I know I'd just get myself into trouble with those.

*I made that up.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Color Decision!

My internet is being fussy and flaking out on all sorts of things so I can't post the post I was going to post.


These are my colors. I'm making a decision. Time to get my stamp made and design myself some business cards and start filling the shop!

(other post was about moving and condo, AKA 99.9% of my brain space right now. Hopefully postable tomorrow.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jill's Condo Decoration Master Plan: A PowerPoint

***Finally got this to work/publish!***


All of my everything is out of the old apartment. There was more final grabbing of unorganized and unsorted garbage than I wanted, but that's when I could get help moving and carrying things.

And now? Unpacking and prettying up my new condo for the rest of my life! My birthday is in a week and everything I want is for the condo. I've been on Craigslist and Etsy compulsively, plus ApartmentTherapy and other various style guides to Guide my Vision.

Some people take notes, cut out photos from magazines, etc.
I make PowerPoint presentations.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Econ 202: International Business Super-Duper Simplified

I just answered an Etsy forum post (yes, the movers are coming in an hour) and realized it should be an Econ-for-Etsy blog entry. Also, I need to make all these Econ-for-Etsy things into a book and sell it. Oh, EtsyLabs! Storque! Where's my advance?

From the forum:
talkingbeads says: Message from U.K. seller
I have just listed a Handbag charm and have priced it at $6 including postage. Is this a good price. Too High or Too Low? Advice Please x

My response:
1) Find out the REAL cost of mailing your items to various locations. You can include handling, etc, though if it gets too high compared to the cost of your item itself you may want to shift and up the charm's cost some to absorb the shipping so people don't freak out when they go to the checkout. Convert to US$. US$ suck right now compared to the pound. Cringe a lot when you see this.

2) Ask "what's the most someone would be willing to pay for this charm?" Try to remove yourself and your attachment to it and just think like a buyer. Convert to US$. Cringe a lot again and realize you're best off selling to other UK people and buying off US sellers because, as previously mentioned, the pound is killing the dollar. So is the euro.

3) Market your brains out. Probably to others on your side of the Atlantic because your shipping will be cheaper and exchange rates won't make your prices seem high so you can actually charge more.

I'm only half joking. US tends not to sell much to Mexico, but the US gets flooded with Mexican goods because of exchange rates and the relative cost of labor, etc. You can make value judgments about free trade and such all you want, but for Etsy sellers, it is what it is and we'll do best if we can understand the market and deal with it accordingly.

For me, the cost of shipping to the EU/UK may or may not be worth it for buyers from those countries to purchase my products. It might be worth a promotional blitz, it might not. Offering cards in Spanish and making a major push for more American business south of the US is probably NOT worth it for me, since the shipping costs will be higher AND the exchange rates mean most people would be willing to pay less.

Isn't economics FUN???

No matter what country you are from, it's useful to keep in mind what other countries' goods are considered less expensive and where your currency has little value. People are more likely to buy from you if you are considered a "cheaper" country, but make sure shipping costs don't kill your prices. And if your currency is currently on top? Your fellow countrymen (and countrywomen) are more likely to pay top dollar for your products, so market locally and if somebody from elsewhere wants to pay for what you make, more power to them.

DISCLAIMER: This whole post is SUCH a generalization. There are perfectly fabulous ways to do business from any country, with any country. There are tons of complicating factors I'm not going into. But theses are some super-simplified basics to start. Feel free to yap about the various exceptions and other ideas in comments. Or ask questions. Or tell me I smell. I like comments.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Price of Starting Over

Moving the big stuff via actual movers tomorrow. Spent weekend in Madison. Head is so far up butt right now you wouldn't believe it.

NiftyKnits wrote a lovely little pricing/econ post this morning in her blog. For people who replace things in their shops when they sell (felted booger-makers), she poses a great way of looking at the lowest price you should charge:
A complete stranger asks you to create an item (something you currently sell in your shop). That's not all, they want you to photograph, list and promote this item as well.
Whew! "Is that all?", you ask.
No, they have one more request: package that item, print a shipping label and drop it off at the post office. Now imagine they want you to do all this for the price you currently have this item listed for in your Etsy shop.
Would you do it happily? Would you grumble? Would you deny this task altogether?
Now, keep in mind this mental exercise doesn't really apply if you make things when the moment hits and don't change your production (ie don't make more) based on what sells. But if you do, then sweet mother of monkeys! hurry up and ask yourself the "how much would you have to pay me to do it again from scratch?" question and use that as the lowest price you're willing to charge for your item! You can charge as much more as people are willing to pay.

Econ topic for another day: start your pricing by looking at the final product and judging what buyers would be willing to pay. (There's more to it than that, so don't jump down my throat just yet.)

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Twitter Stuff

Twitter and I get along fine but aren't BFFs. It's useful for sending out links to fabulous things and good entertainment when I'm looking for totally new random things to stimulate my brain, or that strange extremely limited yet personal contact without the immediacy of a chatroom or the length and intimacy of a blog.

I like people who know how to use Twitter. It's much like Blogland in you can frequently tell who's comfortable with the medium and who's just on there and confused because the universe is currently tweeting its brains out and they think they should be in on the action.
But thanks to the "should," all these major and minor news outlets are now publishing direct Twitter addresses, making a quick marketing message to the right person at the right place an extremely easy way to work towards some great free press. I need to get my act together fast and start sending stuff to appropriate people at RedEye and a number of other venues. Unlike the ol' press release which was a bigger pain to both produce and read, just tweeting my shop with a potential story hook-line (still "making it" in Chicago during the bad economy) is much more likely to be seen and responded to. Happy writers and editors, happy me.

There are a number places now that are trying to make directories of Twitterers by things like topic and zip code. I tend to sign up for them when they come floating around my Twittersphere and then forget that they exist. I don't know about anybody else.
Latest thing to float my way: the TweeterGetter pyramid scheme. I signed up for that one, too. Sign up and automatically follow the last five people through whom you signed up (ie me, my friend I got hooked by, her friend, etc.). Then the idea is it gets sent on and keeps multiplying, like those chain letters with the post cards or stickers or recipes that I never got more than one or two back when I was little but frequently sent on anyway. I ignore the email versions and things involving money or Bernie Madoff.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shiny Room Things

I now have the greatest dining room in the greatest condo ever. Except it's empty and I want a different light fixture.

The ceiling is now gold (though you can see all the paint strokes...I've been looking around online and this seems a common problem with the Benjamin Moore Studio Finishes Metallics line. Ridiculous at over $25 a quart. I wonder if a sponge or other decorative finish would make it look less strokey). The room is pure drama and I've been dreaming about crystal chandeliers from the start. The store that had my gold paint (they were very nice at JC Licht...I should go back and ask them about the streaks) was near Antique Resources.

If I ever slip into a semi-permanent vegetative state, just park me inside Antique Resources. Hundreds of absolutely gorgeous crystal and bronze hand-carved antique works of art line the ceiling in a gallery of sparkly heaven. $13,800 will get you this 1900s empire style Dore bronze and crystal amazingness that's bigger than I am. You can't quite tell in the photo, but those are lions heads carved in the bronze.
Smaller and less expensive chandeliers are there, too, dipping down into my "under $500 so maybe I can long-term think about it" range, but I really want to wander into an estate sale or find an ad on Craigslist with something completely perfect and dirt cheap.

I've been playing around in Photoshop, trying out various chandeliers in the room. Yes, this is the best use of my time when I still have to pack.

Here's my dining room with the current light fixture:

and with a $1900 empire bronze and beaded crystal chandelier from Antique Resources:

It's waaay over my budget and not even right for the room, but you get the idea.

Then I started on window treatments. I'll talk about this more later I'm sure (long enough post already) but those kind of need to get priority over changing my chandelier. What I wanted in my head turns out to be Austrian or London fabric shades. So some more half-assed Photoshopping with not-quite-the-right-thing and voila!

If you're feeling creative, feel free to decorate my dining room. I even changed to creative commons licensing on my Flickr photo to allow for derivative works, so derive and conquer! Make it beautiful! Find even better chandeliers and the perfect fabric for the shades and the magical ability for me to sew said shades!

Show off your interior decorating talents! I'll post them in a later blog entry, and if I actually steal your idea I'll give you a permanent ad on my blog! Yay incentive!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Searching for Gold

I close on my condo tomorrow. I had a wonderful time choosing my paint colors once I came to the conclusion that it was my condo and I could do what I wanted and I really do have a good sense of color so my choices wouldn't be psycho or anything so I should trust myself and go for it.

Apparently, it's all done. All, except for the gold paint on the barrel vaulted ceiling of the dining room. The store didn't have the paint. The seller's Realtor called me, knowing I work from home, and asked if there was any way I could pick up two gallons of the gold paint from another Benjamin Moore store. This is such an extra thing for me to do, but if I want to walk into my condo post-closing with my keys in hand and see my awesome gold ceiling, this is the way. And I want to. Holy damn I want to. So I search for gold.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Econ in Action: Barterer's Dilema, HSN Pricing

A few days ago I was cruising the Etsy forums (much like cruising for chicks, yeah baby) and came across the following:
BirdTrouble says: A customer is saying they cant afford my bag but they really love it. I have it included with a cosmetic pouch for the total of $38. She's asking if she can buy the bag without the pouch.
I barly even included the pouch in that cost of the pouch in the price. Gahhhh I dont know what to do, I don't want to lose out on a customer but I dont wan't to sell myself short. What would you do?
PERFECT econ example! BirdTrouble was kind enough to be my economic explanation guinea pig, so here goes!

BirdTrouble makes her bags when inspiration hits, not when they sell or to fill orders or repeats of identical bags. From the forum thread:
I make when I feel like making. Pouches are easy, bags are fun. It really comes to me when Im walking my stinky dog into the door from a walk and I'm like OH MAN that fabric would look awesome with this, WHERE IS THE PAPER!!!!
This is not a bad thing. It's an artist thing and it brings us happiness and I do it all the time with many creative and some non-creative aspects of my own life. I'm not putting it down in any way.

That being said, it puts her in the fish swimsuit maker category from my past economic example posts (don't worry if you haven't read them). She already made both the bag and the cosmetics pouch. She can never get back the time and materials she spent on them. They are sunk costs. Now, anything she gets for the bag and pouch is better than the bag and pouch just sitting there, and the goal is to get the most money possible in the least amount of time she's willing to wait.

She's priced the set at $38 for both pieces. Her customer is offering her a lower price (I don't know how much it was, let's say $25?) for just the bag. Now BirdTrouble has to ask herself if it's worth $25 now with the possibility of selling the pouch later, or if she'd rather take the risk of holding onto the set for the chance to sell them together for the full $38. It's a game show:
"BirdTrouble, you have already won $25 from the magic Etsy fishing pond. You can keep that $25, or throw it back for a chance to win $38!"

So what did she choose?

Neither. At the advice of some clever forum responders, BirdTrouble offered her customer a layaway plan to buy the set at the full $38 but over time.

In retail stores, layaway plans are usually a terrible idea for the customer. They involve fees and/or interest and customers always end up paying more in the end for the privilege of waiting to pay it. But in Etsyland, we have the power to make our plans more customer-friendly. In this situation, if BirdTrouble makes the full cost truly the $38 in four monthly installments of $9.50, then even though her customer gets to hold on to the extra money and the few cents it may accumulate in a savings account over that time, BirdTrouble is still way better off than she would have been at $25 or if it had taken more than a few weeks for another customer to buy the set at the full $38.

Thing we can all learn from the story and/or Home Shopping Network: TWELVE MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS OF $19.99! are much easier to swallow than $240, particularly in this lovely current economy of ours. Try offering a pricing plan on some of your more expensive items. But if you don't have a collections agency at your disposal, consider not sending the product until it's paid in full. Just a thought.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Color Thought

Color by COLOURlovers

Far from perfect, but I was reading How Color Choices in Stores Can Influence Your Shopping Decisions (again, found through and I'm thinking I want a combination of light and dark greens accented with something bright in the yellow/orange/red area for subliminal messaging purposes (placating and wealthy but fun and active!) except just those colors looked ugly so I played with them until I got this thing which I could live with.

Other potential favorite:
Color by COLOURlovers

If I go with the yellow "optimism" concept instead:
Color by COLOURlovers


Also, I have an econ post coming as soon as I write

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Color Perfect Me

I have crappy vision, but apparently perfect color vision. I just took the FM 100 Hue Test and got a perfect score. It asks you to put four rows of 20 colorful squares in "hue order," giving you the start and end color of each row and keeping each row of squares separate so you don't have to worry about all 80, just 20 at a time. I've always been "good at color" and pretty good at remembering colors, but I had a little trouble being sure with a few of the blue/greens. Apparently, I was right because I am perfect. Perfect perfect perfect. Somebody give me a cookie.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hey, baby, what's your color?

So obviously I've spent most of my not-in-bed-with-terrible-migraine time today on coming up with a palette to exactly match the colors in my rug, then stalking all the other color palettes and Pantone trends and whatnot for ideas.

In my COLOURlovers forum lurking, I discovered Colourism. It's like numerology but with color. You input your first and last names, birthday, and VOILA! It tells you what your unique color is! Here's mine:

I think it suits me quite well, actually. It's not my favorite color, but it's a good description of me, somehow.

And mycompanion color:

Color by COLOURlovers

Which I don't love, particularly with "my" color, but it is the sort of pink that, by itself, I can almost stand. The mauvey pink.

So what's your color?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

more awesome

BeanSproutStudio Amy is awesome. Awesome awesome awesome. I still have to pick my color scheme if it's going to be branding my universe. I like the orang a lot, but maybe something other than the light blue? I usually gravitate towards red and purple, but I'm flexible, especially since I'm really liking these colors but I might get sick of them together long-term.

Perhaps I'll spend a few hours on It's one of my favorite time sucks already. You can create/discover your own, rate, and comment on other people's colors, then use those colors to create palettes and use palettes to create patterns. Basically, it's a celebration of color and color in contrast with other color and using those colors as design elements.

From their about page:

COLOURlovers™ is a resource that monitors and influences color trends. COLOURlovers gives the people who use color - whether for ad campaigns, product design, or even in architectural specification - a place to check out a world of color, compare color palettes, submit news and comments, and read color related articles and interviews.
You get the idea. Anyway, I'll probably be using it already to choose paint colors for the condo I bought today, so why not?

Friday, March 27, 2009

In Love

This morning, I woke up to a convo from Amy (not the one I generally talk about, but apparently people named Amy are all awesome) of BeanSproutStudio that included two banners she'd put together having read my whining and freaking out. When I saw the first one, I couldn't believe it. It's the banner that I've been dreaming of from the start. The damask background, the font that looks stamped but is nice and blocky and legible but still askew and "off the wall"-ish...

I think more color would be good, but considering this was charity banner from a person who doesn't know me in real life, I think I have to marry her and have ten thousand of her babies and make her my new best friend. Because seriously, that is so close to what was in my mind but I couldn't do. You should go buy birth announcements and pretty-not-snarky cards from her. Lots of them.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Apparently, my banner is a "design disaster." There's a number of people who agree. I threw it up in my JillHannah Etsy shop just to get some quick feedback, and "design disaster" is the consensus. Pisswrinkles. Part of that is the fact that, for whatever reason, the text is coming out all pixely. I don't know why and I don't know how to fix it. But I'm also getting comments about the colors not meshing and "design disaster" isn't something people are saying cruelly or lightly.

So what the hell should my banner and shop redesign look like? I don't have money to spend on professionals who will also take the time to really research my particular market and product and what will best connect the two. Hell, I don't even know if there are any real marketing-psychology trained designers out there. There should be. But for my little tiny business purposes, I just want something that gives the feel of both the wallpaper business card envelopes and the snarky cards. Like the name does. The name is perfect. I want a look to match.

Brainstorms, people!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Spend enough time obsessing over your rebranding as a distraction from the fact you feel like total and complete crap and eventually, you get somewhere.
I've worked very hard on this. When my head is being particularly bad for more than just a day, I like to have high-concentration high-creativity but very positive and productive-feeling and low-real-stress projects to keep me distracted. Crafting and Etsy businessy stuff in general is great for it. Kakuro and sudoku and crossword and any other puzzles are good, too, unless my brain starts doing its weird misfire thing and then I get frustrated, but at that point in the migraine I get frustrated by most tasks and if I can't stand watching movies I just sleep.

But I discovered the "torn paper" filter on Adobe Photoshop. After fake tearing down my scanned wallpaper (which I already messed with levels-wise to make it pop better) with the lasso tool, I discovered I had to actually apply the torn paper filter (found under "sketch") to a white background surrounding my wallpaper edge. Then I just futzed with it until I liked how it looked.

After a number of solid colors and patterns behind the wallpaper, I realized it should look like it was torn away from something. Distract brain from pain by going through different ideas! Yes, sky would be lovely. So I found a public domain image of the sky, messed with it (i.e. stretched out one particular corner that had the exact amount of clouds I wanted and played with the hue and saturation) until I was happy, and VOILA!

Then, the hardest part. Font. Back to Back through all the script fonts and the stencil fonts and some of the fonts I already have and just like. Try them all on my new background banner. Make sure they're not too long horizontally or too illegible or too pixely or too stupid. Something that feels right. My favorite visually is still too hard to read. It's called "Fountain Pen Frenzy" and it's got the exact look and feel I want, but I'm afraid if you didn't know what it said, you wouldn't be able to decipher it and that kind of defeats the purpose. Observe:So that's clearly a no-go. There were a few fonts that have the fabulous real pen-and-ink letter writing look, but it seems they generally have a harder time translating onto anything but a solid white background in their original size without looking weird.

I also really like the FELL font family in general and kind of like this version, too:Plus on this one I played with barely hiding the letters behind the wallpaper. Same goes for the version with the highest ranked font from the old version of the banner. I can't decide if I still like it, though...
SO! Redesignmania is nearing its end. I still need to get my photographer friend over here and actually make a final decision on font (real comment input is wonderfully helpful...I'll stop tormenting you with polls for now, though I may set up a quick final one and beg the EtsyGreetings Team for votes). And if you read this whole blog post, mazel tov. You are awesome. You totally deserve 20% off your first purchase from Off the Wall Greetings once it exists, or any purchase from JillHannah in the meantime, but only if you give me feedback in my comments ;)

Yes, I just emoticonned.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I chose the name "Off the Wall Greetings" because I'm selling WALLpaper envelopes and snarky off-beat cards and I liked that the name covered both.

How do I make my banner and visual branding cover both? Something that won't put off my business card envelope clientele or my poop card purchasers?

Apparently, Wisconsin just paid $50,000 for a new logo and slogan, so I no longer feel too bad about my own troubles rebranding myself. (Thanks to Elizabethjewelry for posting the article to the Etsy forums.)
Branding and marketing and image are a whole huge businessy beast unto themselves, and while I like to think I'm pretty good at them, it's much harder and scarier to do for yourself. So, help! You can see my banners below and vote, but no one sounds too enthused and I'd love some suggestions, ideas, or HELP of any sort. Preferably costing less than $50,000.

PS- Here's two more banner attempts to add to the voting pile

Banner 4:
Banner 5:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Off the Wall Bannering

I've stopped making excuses and started making my new banner for Off the Wall Greetings. Basic concept from the start (which gave me problems until I realized today I could just scan wallpaper and it comes out beautifully) was to have a background that is very recognizable as wallpaper, preferably nice and a little shmancy, with a bold and slightly quirky font that looks a little like handwriting or stenciling but not beating you over the head with it. So here's a start, open for voting, comments and suggestions. You are my market research, so feedback is welcome and may be taken to heart or ultimately ignored.
Thanks in advance!

Banner 1:
Banner 2:
Banner 3:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hard Times: the economy and some quick suggestions

Yes, the economy is crap. We know. And while it's very cathartic to throw poop at the probable causes of our current meltdown, from a big picture pretend-you're-not-part-of-it-for-a-second standpoint, we were way overdue. "New economy" my ass. We were riding a huge bubble and it was awesome and then it burst and holy crap it hurts now that it burst, but while we try to eat our shoes for dinner, let's be realistic about our situation and make what we can out of what we have. That's what crafters and DIYers do, after all, no?


Luxury is out except in very small quantities. If you make $500,000 chandeliers, you might want to work on switching your product line. Think like your buyers: when times are tough, the first things you stop buying are the things that you least "need."

Suggestion of the day, which I am giving away, free of charge:
Be a need!

To be a need, it helps to start off as a more practical product. Soap, children's clothing, dog collars, and chairs are all fairly easy to justify purchasing even when times are hard. But a little creativity can go a long way for making all sorts of things seem necessary; just think of how many people can't live without their daily lattes or Blackberries or personal trainers. Art can be a need because you need to fill that spot on the wall that you just can't fill with anything you currently own and it's turned into a hole in your life that eats away at you every time you look at it. (85% of my apartment is a spot on the wall that needs art, but I'm buying a condo soon and then it'll be a nice lifelong process filling it up! But I know many many people have that nagging wall space.) And if you're flexible about what you're making, try looking for a version of what you do that is considered more "necessary." If you work in glass or ceramics, try more practical but artfully minded cups and bowls and dishes and things instead of huge ornamental vases. You get the idea.
I'm pushing the business card sized envelopes because it's more important than ever that your particular business card get noticed instead of lost in the shuffle! I just started handing them out to Realtors because Realtors need them because the envelopes are wallpaper and that goes along with the whole buying and selling houses thing. Anybody in the handmade/crafting/arts world needs them becaues they are recycled/handmade and give your business card a memorable, beautiful and artistic presentation that won't soon be lost. Need need need need need!

In cases where the economic downturn means people are more likely to buy from Wal-Mart because handmade is pricey, you've got to market the message hard that handmade lasts and is higher quality so it's actually a better value. If shoppers are on Etsy and cruising handmade universe they already kind of know it, so drive that home right into their shopping carts. You need my product and you need to buy handmade.

I have more things poking about my brain, but that's enough for today.

POST SCRIPT: I started a "Be a NEED: why is your product a NEED?" thread on the Etsy forums as a sort of marketing exercise and people are writing in all kinds of fabulous creative stuff. Feel free to join in the conversation there or post your response in the comments.

Friday, March 13, 2009

productivity, pricing, and why my cousin is the awesomest person ever

My best, most marketable product as of right now is probably my business card-sized wallpaper envelopes. I make my wallpaper envelopes by creating a template on heavy cardstock, tracing it onto the back of the wallpaper sample, and cutting each one out by hand with scissors.

Terribly time consuming.

I'd tried using my Xacto or matknife directly with the template, but always ended up destroying the template and making terrible ugly shredded pieces of crap instead of my near-perfect little envelopes. I tried cutting with the scissors around the templates, but I couldn't hold them still propperly. The fastest thing that yielded up-to-my-standards results seemed to be the "trace a bazillion and then cut a bazillion while watching a movie or listening to This American Life podcasts" method, which was particularly annoying for the envelope shapes that I then had to go back in with Mr. Mattknife and make slits for the top to fold in.
I do these in orders of 50 at a time.

Because my process was so slow, it was never worth it to me to sell them for less than $1 a piece. Anything below that and I was in "screw it. I'm not making them anymore" territory.

This is going back to my whole Econ 101 shtick. Once I've made the envelopes, my costs are sunk and any money I get for them is better than having them sit there forever. But because generally make them to order, I can refuse to make more for any less than my time is worth (in this case, $1 an envelope). In theory the best price for me to charge would be some number that maximizes profit where supply meets demand, blah blah blah, but!!!! having to charge over $1 a piece means that if that magic theoretically shiny perfect pricing number is under $1, I can never reach pricing utopia. Oh the horror! The theoretical econ horror! And, more practically, the getting priced out of ever doing wholesale horror!

Enter my cousin and metal artist/blacksmith extraordinaire, Joshua Gilbert. He's pretty awesome and insanely talented and rescues mangy one-eyed evil cats he thinks are sweet and actually makes a living as an artist/metalworkerperson. In exchange for a bunch of the business card sized envelopes with "thank you for your patronage" cards (that's what he wanted), he made me metal templates in two sizes, plus metal folding templates (something I never even imagined) that make folding the envelopes up into nice right angles much quicker.
Quick crappy photo of the templates and current work in progress on my floor. You get the idea.

Now, I can take my Xacto and whip out a complete envelope, folding slit and all, in the time it used to take me just to pencil trace. Oh, brave new world!

I wonder about all those template cutting tools now, like the Fiskars Shapecutter, if they'd be even faster and better than me and my Xacto, or if they even work on negative image templates...If you know, please comment! Please please please!

Back to the econ question: will I lower my prices? No. Because people don't gasp in horror when I say they're $1 each. $1 seems about right. But wholesale orders and bulk orders? Finally. We can do business. 100 doesn't have to still be $100 to be worth making. So how much would you pay for 100 of them? 1000? A gazillion? Life is exciting.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Economics of Trading: Why it's so important I sold cards for soap

In case you haven't already heard, "The Economy" is in the crapper. "The worst _____ since 19__" has become the daily Mad Lib of the financial news, opening up employment to sports-averse statisticians while the rest of the world loses jobs and savings and all that nice shiny prosperity to which we'd grown accustomed.
We're broke, and if we're not broke we're afraid of becoming broke, so whereas a year ago we might have spoiled ourselves with the new cute handmade handbag for spring, now we're thinking more about toilet paper. But as soon as we don't buy the handbag, the person making and selling handbags suddenly has no money to buy the earrings she wanted from another artist, who can't buy the skirt, who can't buy the journal, who can't buy the soap, and on and on. So now that soap is sitting in its maker's house, the journal, the skirt, the earrings, and the handbag all staring back at their creators who have nothing to do but wonder if perhaps garbage collection wouldn't have been a better life path.

Most of the time when we buy things, we use money. Credit, cash, whatever, it's all the promise of numbers that can get us stuff. Let's go back to my Etsy fish swimsuit seller from previous econ ramblings. When someone buys a fish swimsuit, the artist can do anything she wants with the money: put it in the bank, stuff it under her mattress, use it to buy food and toilet paper, or spend it on the felted boogers she's been eying from another Etsy shop. The trouble with our current economic situation is that we're all so short on actual money, when somebody finally buys a fish swimsuit, there's little choice but to spend said money on food and toilet paper. We can understand and want to support our fellow artists, but at the end of the day, felted boogers are murder on the digestive system.

So what can we possibly do? Especially if we still have tons of inventory collecting dust on our shelves while we fill our "favorites" and wishlists with things we'd love but just don't have the money to afford?


The felted booger maker might have an aquarium full of embarrassingly naked fish. She couldn't have justified sending precious rare dollars, but a two green mediums and a yellow extra-large she'd already made that they wouldn't accept as currency at the grocery store? Oh, happy day!

So how do you go about trading?
  1. If you want something you can't afford/justify in money, approach the seller about a trade. A very simple polite convo with "Hi, I love your ____ and wondered if you'd be interested in trading for anything in my shop. I also have several children of varying ages and genders and a time-share in Guam..." The worst that can happen is they say no and you're in the same position as you were before you started. Assuming no one reports you for the whole child slavery thing...
  2. Cruise the forums. Just searching for the word "trade" in the forums brings up a few gazillion threads from people looking to do just that. They'll often say what sorts of things they want, like clothing, gifts, bath products, stationery, sex toys, etc.
  3. Etsy Traders. It's a big long list of trade-friendly shops, run by the Trade-A-Holics team. Some say what they want, some say what they have, some just have a link. It can be a bit daunting, but it's also the most comprehensive list I know.
  4. The Etsian Trades message board doesn't get much activity, but it's another place to scope. Before stupid people squashed the soul of EtsyTools, they had started an amazing trade list with keywords so you could see what people had and wanted. I'm hoping someone will fill those shoes again, but it's a big job.
  5. If anybody reading this knows of any other fabulous sites, please please please leave in the comments.
  6. Chatrooms. Statistically, this is your worst bet since you're at the mercy of whatever random people happen to be online at the same time as you, but you never know. Just please don't go into a room blasting all caps "LOOKING FOR TRADE!!!!!" It's poor web etiquette. Sometimes people even set up specific trading rooms, but as long as you're polite, you can go into just about any room and ask, especially if you find a particular shop you like. "Would LOVE to trade for that ----->" while you put the coveted listing card up for the room to see is always a good way to go.
Somebody who isn't me really should set up a comprehensive trading site that could somehow allow for multi-party trades, so if the felted booger maker didn't want a fish swimsuit but did want plarn planters, and the plarn planter maker wanted fish swimsuits, the trade could still happen.
"That's why people use currency instead of just a trade-based economy," you say? True, but like I said earlier, we're all out of currency and all we have left are our many, many things that can't be used to pay bills but aren't making us happy, either. So let's get them moving around and making some happy again.

Now who wants to trade for something I can send to my almost 20-year-old brother at college and my friend who's totally reading this for her birthday?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

sweet, sweet trading

I'm trading 50 of my business card sized thank you notes with wallpaper envelopes for the motherload of bath and body products from Mirasol Farm: one rosemary mint lotion, one lavender lotion bar, one sweet eucalyptus soap, one orange clove soap, one kitchen soap, and one double mint soap. I'm very addicted to handmade soaps and like to try new shops all the time, so when she approached me about a trade and wanted up to 50 cards I was a kid in a candy shop. For those of you who've read my past soap-related posts, you know how much I love all things rosemary; Mirasol Farm's kitchen soap is rosemary orange, and since she uses all the natural ingredients instead of fragrancey crap, this strikes me as a completely brilliant innovation. We'll see how long this bar lasts in the kitchen or if it has to migrate into my shower and/or be permanently installed in my nostrils.


Because it's 50 cards and I asked my usual "do you have any preferences" question (i.e. love/hate plaids, florals, damask, the color pink, etc.) and she mentioned liking blue and orange, I decided to make a whole bunch of fresh envelopes yesterday in blues and oranges. And then I found I had some wallpapers with what look like sunflowers ("mirasol" is "sunflower" in Spanish) so I had to include a bunch of those...


now I'm stopping myself.
I've made enough.
No more.

Because these all have the "" stamp in them, and I'm trying to switch my universe to the Off The Wall Greetings branding, which can commence very soon (my clever business deal will likely be the subject of my next post).


Now I have to finish up this batch by folding them all, take my photos and make the listing for mirasolfarm, and ship whatever 50 I end up deciding make the most sense in blues and oranges and sunflowers but still get some others in for variety.

And then my sweet, sweet soaps and lotions can come to me and I will be delicious.

I need to do a post on the importance of trading in this economy. Maybe later.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Please pardon the lack of blog posting, lack of new shop development, lack of everything. I'm having all kinds of fun troubles with switching my medications and I'm in a bit of a life-rut (related, no question, but I'm never sure if things are causes or excuses). I've been updating my personal super-secret pen name blog with lots of whining, but I try to keep that more minimal in this ever-so-professional blog. Writing itself has been harder with all the crazy chemical crap bouncing through my body, too, but I seem to be doing better this morning so perhaps I'll follow this post up with something more Craftacular or businessy or useful.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dogs are Cuter than Cards

The hoodie seems to have made it to K'tantan in one piece. How effing cute is this dog? He has pretty cute parents, too. I've known his mom since our Oberlin College Kosher-Halal coop days (oy!) and we share an ex-boyfriend, but now she's about to get her masters degree in violin performance from Penn State and has probably the best classical musician website I've seen ever, designed by her boyfriend/K'tantan's daddy.
Look at her website. And if you need a violinist (and/or violin teacher...she was music education undergrad and she's good with kids), contact her and give her your money. She deserves it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Dog Hoodie

This one was a gift for a friend's boyfriend and their joint-custody dog. She's Jewish and he's Japanese, so she wanted a combination of the Israeli and Japanese flags. Obvious solution would be white background with the two blue horizontal Israeli flag stripes and the big red circle from Japan's flag where the Star of David normally goes on Israel's, but dogs and white sweaters are usually a bad idea (dog + white sweater + five minutes = no longer white sweater). SO! She said to switch the blue and the white and make it even more abstract than the hybrid flag already was going to be.

Again, forgive the awful photography. I was in a hurry, since I thought I'd already mailed it once. (Lesson learned: if friends are giving you business, treat them as part of your business. Otherwise they get lost in the shuffle and you become a big fat suckyhead.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

DaLove for DaFont

Whenever I tell people about I feel like I'm giving away some great trade secret. But that's a little like assuming that showing people the library means they're all going to write best-selling novels.

I am a font nerd. It probably happened long before I worked for American Greetings, but while there I had access to their entire collection of proprietary and non-proprietary fonts, and sweet mother of Garamond it was beautiful. A sentiment's feel can change entirely based on the look of the letters used.
Case in point:Same "three little words," but four very different sentiments.
Playful, romantic, plain (Times New Roman just for contrast, though it can be a useful font and has its own feel and indications, t00) and homicidal. You don't send the second one to your brother or the last to your mother (unless you're me and think it's funny).

This is all terribly important (well, not Darfur important) for my cards, especially the ones I do that are just text with no other art (i.e. the "don't spend it all in one place" and "thank you" cards I do with the wallpaper envelope things). It's been particularly on my brain because now I'm making "have your people call my people" cards to go with business cards as little somethings to give when/after you meet new networky types and want them to actually remember you and your business card instead of sticking it in their pocket/wallet and losing it forever or just not giving a flying fig. I spent quite some time on dafont rejecting font after font for being not friendly enough or too casual and on and on and once I'd narrowed it down to a few I tried them out on mock-up cards and found a winner: Labtop by Apostrophic Labs. We'll see if it stays the winner long-run, but for now, the first batch of "have your people call my people" cards are getting printed up that way and hopefully listed on Etsy this weekend.

And where do I get all my fonts? They are free. Yes, that's right, free. Font designers are wonderful creatively sharing people. Since I've started selling my stuff I try to only download the fully "free" fonts instead of the "free for personal use" ones so I don't do anything illegal/evil. I should try to contact the designers of some of my favorite fonts and interview them for my blog. That would be swell.

I need to eat something now.