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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurship’

Front Page of Etsy!

Yesterday a friend sent me a message that one of my pincushions was on the front page of Etsy. Then I discovered her second message, saying that oops, not exactly, just in her “items you may like” section, which pulls items from shops you’ve favorited. Ah well, it was a nice rush for a minute.

front page of etsy

I woke up this morning to discover 41 new hearts in my activity feed and immediately rushed to Craft Cult to sleuth out what had generated all this attention. Aha! Last night my “Very Manly Coffee Sleeves” had truly made it to the front page!

very manly coffee sleeves

The funniest part of all is that when I told Mr. Apparently, he said, “You know, I was on Etsy last night, and I saw your sleeves there, but I thought it was the same thing that had happened earlier.”

Thanks to ThatOldBlueHouse2 for including me in a treasury that made it to the front page!

A Friend in Need…

One way in which the Internet is truly incredible is the ability of a random group of strangers to help someone in need. The Juniper Moon Farm blog recently made me aware of the disaster that befell Pete’s Greens, an organic farm and CSA in Vermont that recently suffered a devastating fire. The barn and all of the processing equipment were destroyed, along with a quarter of a million dollars in crops and meats, and a partially-built addition to the barn.

Susie of Juniper Moon had never heard of Pete’s Greens until a subscriber told her about the fire, but she knows that her readers are a kind lot who can be called upon every so often. So she set up a fundraiser where people can donate to Pete’s Greens via Amazon payments. And she may have offered a few incentives, including her own yarn stash, to encourage people to donate.

In the past several days, not only has over $5,000 been raised, but over 50 people have offered additional prizes, ranging from yarn and handknits to paintings and photographs.

So, if the spirit moves you, read the farm’s story and send a few dollars their way. You might even win this infant-sized tomato hat, handknit by me!

tomato hat

A Friend in Need… UPDATED with lots more Prizes! : Juniper Moon Farm.

Renegade Craft Fair: Final Words

2008 Craft Fair

first craft fair booth, 2008

This fifth and final post on the Renegade Craft Fair is two years in the making, and I’ve been letting it simmer while on vacation. (If you haven’t read parts 1-4, scroll down!) My overall summary as a fair-goer is simple this year: yay Renegade Craft Fair, go crafters, good stuff, lots of fun.  That’s the experience I’ve had two of the three times I’ve been there, and I probably would have enjoyed the second year considerably more if I weren’t a crafter myself. I was in search of unique handmade goods that showed talent and originality, and what I found in 2008 was booth after booth of silkscreening.

As an artisan/crafter/maker/sewist, however, the experience and the question it leaves me with is multifaceted: what works at a craft fair (and in the larger world of selling handmade goods), and is that how I want to spend the time I devote to making stuff?

Few would argue that if the goal is to make money, the answer must be “sell goods that are quick and easy to produce at an affordable price point.”

More pieces of the puzzle:

  1. From the buyer’s perspective, items should be charming, clever, pretty and/or useful. In a craft fair situation, a reasonable price encourages impulse purchases. (In a shop, price may be less important…but I suspect that the same person willing to buy a $600 handmade wedding dress on Etsy isn’t going to pick one up at the craft fair.)
  2. From the maker’s perspective, goods should be fast and relatively easy to produce.

And where do we net out on this for maximum profit?* Multiples. Not sewing, not knitting, not woodworking or needle felting or any of the many crafts that require a good deal of precision and time. But yes, our old friend silkscreening. Because once you’ve created your art and burned your screen, you can print shirts and totes until your squeegee hand falls off. People love t-shirts and onesies. They’re not expensive, and one can actually cover one’s labor as well as the material costs. And this is my theory as to why last year’s RCF was Silkscreen Central: people had figured this out.

See also: Many paper crafts. Digital collage sheets. …printing…multiples.

*Let’s leave out of the discussion for the moment that profit may not be the crafter’s primary motive. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s agree that while many, if not most, makers do so for the sheer love of creating, in a craft fair situation the goal is to sell as many goods as possible.

My particular situation: I love to sew and knit. I create more stuff than my family and I can possibly use/wear/gift. It’s delightful when people enjoy your stuff enough to purchase it, and the cash pays for more materials. My little Etsy shop putters along nicely and my local community has been generous with custom orders. I’m pretty happy with my level of involvement; what I put in and what I get out (both tangible and not) feel balanced.

But once a year I participate in a local craft fair, and then the rules seem to change. The goal shifts to “what can I make quickly and sell at a price where people will buy, so that the weeks spent preparing feel ultimately worthwhile?”

And unless I can find some love for silkscreening or some other printable, I’ve yet to find my answer.

Renegade Craft Fair (pt.3): Must Haves

When the fair was in the pool

One of the interesting quirks of the fair having moved to McCarren Park is that the booths are now arranged in one enormous circle around the perimeter of a track and field. A handful of booths have been relegated to a small park across the street; I felt a bit badly for these vendors until I recognized several of them in exact same corner spots from last year, so perhaps they didn’t mind. But what this layout does is to make it nearly impossible to see an item one might purchase and say with any honesty, “I’ll think about it and come back to this booth.” Taking someone’s card might remind you of the seller, but between the distance and the heat (obviously a variable), the odds of actually making another loop around the track to hunt down that booth are slim. And you can’t take a short cut across the field, because there’s a soccer game in progress.

In the past there’s been a little booklet of all the vendors and their locations so you could make notes, but I didn’t see one this year.

All of this is to say: if you see something that you like, even if it’s made in multiples, your best bet is to make a quick decision. This isn’t optimal for me; I prefer to look at everything and then go back to make my purchases. (This is also how I approach the farmers’ market.) I also tend not to buy from the first few booths, because what if I spend my whole budget and then see something I must have? But between the circular layout, the noonday sun and a desire to keep my very pregnant companion comfortable,* I tried to be more impulsive than usual.

*She actually did far better in the heat than I did.

Exactly What I Wanted

Purple Vines Shirt by Umsteigen

I made three purchases at this year’s fair, each of which represents a slightly different experience. Only a few booths from where we started I discovered Umsteigen, which you might think I would steer clear from as it’s a silkscreened clothing purveyor. But their designs were beautiful, they print on a bamboo/cotton blend, and this one shade of purple attracted me in a way I am rarely drawn to clothes. Done. I wish buying clothes was always this easy.

Won Over by Kindness (and Price)

Not until we were halfway around the track did I make my second purchase, from the one-woman sewing operation run by the talented Christine Haynes. Most of her offerings were dresses and reversible cotton skirts, but I was drawn to a beautiful green floral circle skirt with a complicated fastening system of ties and snaps. I wish I could show you a photo, but Christine said it was one of a kind. The shockingly low price suggested it may have been a prototype or an “oops,” but the craftsmanship was sound and it fit perfectly. Add to that how lovely Christine was in helping me try it on, plus she won me over with her Peter Pan collar and by pointing out that we have the exact same taste in handbags. Sold! And my purchase came in a simple silkscreened reusable tote bag. You can visit Christine’s blog for photos of her work. And she teaches sewing classes in L.A., too.

Little Bear

imagine this spiral-bound

Nostalgia Sells

My last purchase was an impulse buy from Overdue Industries, which recycles old books into new journals, jewelry and other charming whatnot. While I was taken with the wire-and-book-cover necklaces featuring images from vintage knitting books, I couldn’t resist a journal made from an old hardbound copy of Little Bear, one of my favorite childhood stories and one which I read often to Apparently Jr. I love that the journal even has a few stray pen marks, and some of the original pages are mixed in with the plain sheets. (How clever is it to create a product where something like stray pen marks add to its charm?)

I was quite pleased with my purchases, but I should also note that my budget for the day was less than what I spent. I was hoping to buy some gifts for Father’s Day and upcoming birthdays, but it can be tricky to buy handmade goods as gifts for others.

I should also note that the two food vendors, Urban Rustic and Lefty’s Silver Cart were quite busy, and the farmers’ market nearby only added to the overall delightful feel of an afternoon spent among those who sell their own wares.

Next: Sponsorship Done Right

Renegade Craft Fair (pt.2): Made Me Look

Part Two: Those Who Made Me Look Twice

When browsing a craft fair, booths can be divided into three, or possibly four, categories: those which don’t even catch your eye or which you scan but skip right past, those which draw you in but you realize quickly that there’s nothing there for you and leave, and those where you stay and browse, perhaps (and hopefully!) even making a purchase. This post features a few vendors in that last category: those who caught my eye and deserve some attention.

Aya Rosen's Octopus Glass

A Different Octopus by Aya Rosen

LoucheLab offered a sweet little freebie: Aya Rosen’s Little Coloring Book of Interesting Things. Her octopus promotional postcards were also compelling and I must confess, perhaps suitable for framing. One may go on Apparently Jr.’s wall of oceanic art, nearly all of which was purchased at the RCF in 2008. I also loved that she had a table on her booth where you could paint on glass. As I was browsing, a friendly woman (Aya herself?) approached me to say that while all the seats were currently full, one would open up shortly. While I wasn’t planning to stay, I certainly appreciated the invitation.

I couldn’t figure out why the dotted baby dress at Enfant Terrible‘s shop was so appealing; I learned later that Salt Chunk Mary‘s daughter has one, so perhaps I have seen it in action at some point.

Jar of Wonder offered the only felt food that I saw at the fair. As a felt food aficionado and craftsperson, I was compelled to look, but I’m afraid they weren’t quite ready for prime time. And I’m not sure why they removed the entire play kitchen from their already sparse booth (unless someone purchased it, in which case, you go, Jar of Wonder!). I do applaud them for their effort and good packaging. People were definitely taking their packaging up a notch this year, which I found appealing from a buyer’s perspective.

I spent some time pondering a purchase of bgreendesign‘s silkscreened trees. Perhaps a little more attention from the people manning the booth might have sold me on it. I know it’s not always easy to chat with potential customers all day, but you do have to interact with the people who visit your booth. And seriously, people: either put prices on your items or display a price list. You lose dozens of sales every day to introverts…or people who just don’t like asking for prices. I am one of those.

My favorite topiary by life {with tigers}

(Also, when someone does ask for a price, please don’t say “I could let it go for $x.” It’s a craft fair, not a yard sale.)

My favorite item that I didn’t purchase, and the winner of my imaginary “most unique” award, goes to a charming, oddly named shop called life {with tigers}, which makes (among other things), the most darling little fabric topiaries. On an equal-but-opposite note, they also make catnip toys that look like severed legs.

A late addition to this post: the pretty fabric-flower hairpins at WREN Handmade. All of her items were so prettily arranged and packaged. I didn’t pick up her card but I thought of her items a few days after the fair, so they must have made an impression!

Up Next: What I Purchased, A Word on Their Sponsors, and One Strategist’s Analysis (or, How to Succeed In Crafty Commerce And Retain Your Sanity).

I Drink Only Decaf Anyway

My friends seem to be in cahoots and think I should open a coffeehouse. Now, it’s true that my neighborhood is devoid of a decent place to get a good cup of coffee, and not one but three coffee spots have closed in the nabe within the past year (two within the past two months).

And it’s true that I have some strong opinions about how a coffeehouse should be run.

But someone’s going to have to give me a very strong argument for why I should hire someone else to raise my child so that I can pull espresso and manage baristas twelve hours a day before I will seriously consider this sort of entrepreneurial career route. Even if – especially if – there is a knitting shop element to this plan. As we say to our son, persuade me. Or, get back to me in five years.

(The state of coffee in NYC is greatly improved of late. Bald and Effective sent me this article from the New York Times that lists 30 places to get a great cup in the city. Not one is in Sunnyside, but one is in Long Island City, a leisurely 25-minute walk away.)

Go ahead, convince me. I’ve suggested to more than one of you that the first step is to find out the rent on the Daco Romano space and/or any of the other empty storefronts in the neighborhood, and no one has presented me with any numbers. If you’re serious, dangle some useful information. Who knows…I might just take the bait.

On the other hand, it took me many, many years to understand that just because you think you can do something better doesn’t mean that you should.

felt coffee cup by me, actually. it’s a prototype. more to come.