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 COLOURlovers.com 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 COLOURlovers.com. 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 and...sky! 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 dafont.com. 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 "jillhannah.etsy.com" 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.