harbor seals + more

IMG_1529I just can’t get enough of these little baby things, lately.  This harbor seal doodle is an original creation, and we’ve been screen printing onesies in any size for the last year or so, and orders really seem to be picking up.  I decided to add some greeting cards (center) to the repertoire and am just fantasizing what else I can print it on!

Additionally, if our little harbor seal was to have a friend who would it be?  I’m so partial to our native animals.  Another seaside creature or should I venture in to the woods?  Puffins, starfish, sea urchins, sand pipers, terns, humpback whales would all be a pleasure to doodle.  But bobcats, black bears, deer and snowy owls are nothing to shake a stick at either!

favorite find: week of 2/16

usabox11It was Valentine’s Day last Friday, and we are certainly not the romantic types.  If there was a type we had to assign ourselves to, I’d say J.R. and I are more the sarcastic type.  I reserve most of my fawning-over for kittens, little babies with curly hair and messy mouths and (last, but not least) things I find in my favorite color combinations.

Red, white and blue are one of these – patriotism aside (so many flags to adore in these colors!) I just really, really love the way they work together.  So short of painting our living room like Ol’ Glory it’s nice to know that I can just throw in some accent pieces like this amazing, 1950s-era roller skate box that I found at the Pride’s Corner flea market!  It’s listed in our Etsy shop, so you can experience the thrill of the find, too!

Where are your feathers coming from? A few reasons you might want to consider skipping the extension trend…

Roosters, actually. Thousands of euthanized, uneaten roosters from Colorado. Photo copyright Audrey Hotchkiss of Little Eye.

I’ve had something stuck in my craw for a few months now, and perusing Etsy’s tips from the Merchandising Desk (September edition) I decided it was finally time to resolve some unanswered questions and feelings I have about feather extensions.

About halfway down the page in the “Trending Topics” category they state:  “Feather earrings:  still going strong.”

Yes…so it seems.  Ok, crazy Audrey, why is that a problem?

Well — if you run a search for “feather earrings” on Etsy you get over 30,000 results.

When you run a search for “feather earrings humane you get exactly 72.

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Whoa!!  I was expecting there to be a discrepancy but that is just f-ing ridiculous.  The real kicker is that now, about a century and some thirty years after feather fever swept America in hat-form, no one actually seems to be aware that millions (yep.  millions.) of birds are being plucked/bludgeoned/slaughtered in the way of that“Ooh, that would look so pretty attached to my scalp!” mentality.  The Audubon Society took great pains at the end of the 19th century to inspire legislation against the hunting and killing of birds like great blue heron and egrets that were otherwise destined to rest, sometimes in full-on taxidermied form, on the macabre coiffures of the gentle lady-folk.

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Let’s back up a little, here.  I am not, by any means, discounting that there are people out there who are responsibly collecting and crafting feathers in to earrings, or whatever.  I’m not saying that those 30,000 feather earrings are created by monsters.  I eat meat.  Sometimes I even eat meat from 7-11.  I wear leather.  Sometimes when I wake up in the morning and my cats are scurrying around my feet I kick them (nicely…?) out of the way in my sleepy stupor.  So I’m not riding around on this high horse saying it should stop – I’m just saying we all need a little awareness that feathers have always and will always come from being attached to the skin of a bird.  What you want to do with that information is up to you.

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If you just gotta jump on this trend, though, I suggest perusing the selections (and doing your reading) from the ‘humane’ search and see what you can find.  Here are some lovely ones from LoveLifeWear:

No bird died in the making of these earrings... but strangely, 3 people did. Freak feather-wrapping accident! Joke. Click to View Listing from LoveLifeWear.

And, for a little extra reading on the topic I’ve found these informative articles about feather fever:

-Stylist Kristin Jackson explains why she’ll never offer feather hair extensions in her salon

-Ke$ha and Steven Tyler are totally stealing food out of the mouths of fishermen.  Way to go, crappy ‘musicians’!

Packaging “How-To” for Little Businesses

the face of Little Eye. Awww.

I thank my lucky stars every day that Little Eye is still little.  However, what was once a tiny idea unfolding in my notebooks, attic studio and collections is now a little business, experiencing somewhat of an adolescence.  If you can remember (I blocked out most of my teens, too!) this is a time of life fraught with difficulties:  finding your identity, fitting in with others, learning to play by the rules.  After two years of being ‘open for business’ (but not actually, since L.E. only started actually making money this year!) it’s become clear to me something that was missing for a long time:  branding.

There are lots of pieces to branding, but tonight I wanted to write a quick piece about packaging, how to do it, and why it’s so important.

1.  What did you need to start packaging your items?

Hey Audrey, glad you asked!  In order to design packaging you either need a graphic designer and a good chunk of change or, the following:  a logo, a ‘color scheme,’ a font (just one, two TOPS), and a theme.  You’ll also need a working knowledge of some kind of design program – because I’m a photographer, I use Adobe Photoshop but I should totally learn InDesign because that would be way better.  It might also be nice to have a printer with some black ink – color ink, optional, in my most humble of opinions.

Little Eye's general logo

2.  Where did you start?

This fake interview is really silly.  But I’ll answer my question, anyways.  I started off by designing a logo based off the bottle cap shape.  I love the colors red, baby blue and white together so this is my ‘color scheme’ when it’s applicable.  But I hate buying color ink because it’s so expensive and it never looks right, so the color logo (above) is really only used online.  The font in the logo is one that I decided long ago (after flipping through all 500 on my computer) was ‘just right’ for the mood and the mission at Little Eye.  Some rudimentary line drawing and a layer of text and the ‘logo’ was complete.  It should be noted at this point that I’m not 100% happy with it (I would like to change the text around a bit) but if you are futzing with things until you’re 100% happy you might as well start off the whole branding process by turning in an application to the nearest temp agency because you’re not going to get anywhere!  Trust me, I futzed for two years.

3.  Ok, so then what?

I realized that customers were having a hard time picking up/focusing in on my products because it was usually presented in a bin full of bottle cap pins or magnets, which is really fun to root around in for some people but a complete nightmare for others.  I wanted to be able to curate small collections for people, came up with the idea of selling a set of 3 for $5 ($1 off the normal price for 3!) and wanted a nifty way to package it and have some control over what people were seeing.  Enter:  the set of 3 design:

I am proud of this like I think I'll be proud of my firstborn one day

Here’s where we can get down to the composition of the packaging and the elements I definitely wanted (and maybe you’d want?) on a product that people will be taking home and/or giving as a gift.  (A sidenote here:  I’m getting déja vu because I remember reading so many times about how ‘great presentation’ made all the difference when I used to read the Etsy blog.  And I was like ‘Ha ha, whatever, my stuff is so awesome it’ll sell itself,’ …sorry, Etsy, you were right… This time!!)

4.  Awesome!  How’d you put that bad boy together??

First things first.  I sized a new document in Adobe to be slightly smaller than a cellophane bag that I pre-ordered (oodles of!) that would fit the purpose.  Cellophane bags are WICKED important, because it makes customers feel like they can pick things up and look at them instead of admire them from about 3 feet away.  That’s no good for the bottle caps OR my bank account…

The header at the top is a revamped version of the logo – because I have my business information below I can use the ‘bottle cap’ corona to frame the product.  That way when someone picks it up and says “Hey, cool, bottle caps with pictures in them!” they’ll also be able to read that they are pins, as well.  You don’t know it yet, but you can’t actually tell they’re pins from the packaging.  Because I am sneaky… you’ll see.

Underneath the corona you’ll see three shaded lines – these are my guidelines for cutting slices in the paper once the packaging is printed so that the pin backs will fit snugly through the paper.  They don’t show up in the final product.

Beneath I felt like I wanted to have a little more information than my business name and web address (you should always have these on your packaging!!)  Because I’ve been pushing custom orders lately I included a little note about how to get in touch if someone is interested.  I get a lot of inquiries about custom work at craft shows, but never have cards to hand out.  This solves both of those problems!

I surrounded the whole thing in a black border, which is part of my ‘look’ that I hope signals people to recognize my products wherever they are shopping.

5.  Tell me more.

Demanding!  Ok, the last bit I’ll jump ahead to – I ran in to the issue of the pin backs showing through and created a companion piece to go on the back of the packaging for a finished look.  It is kind of fluffy, doesn’t have a lot of ‘selling’ info, but I think it is a nice finish for a customer who appreciates details.

Now, here are some nice pictures to show you:

Printed and Cut Fronts and Backs for Set of 3 Pin Packaging

Fastened Pins

Here’s a picture of how the pins poke through the back of the front card.  I make a barbell-shaped slit with an exacto knife for each slit and push the pins through, then fasten them with scotch tape to make sure that the pins don’t get unsettled when I lug them around to shops/craft fairs.  But it’s kinda yucky looking, so I finished the back off like this:

Message on Back, Complete in Cellophane Bag

Each set of 3 has a slightly different color combination of the paper used for the front piece and the paper used for the insert on the back.  This insert is wide enough to cover the pins but narrow enough so you get a nice contrast of colors on the back!  Little Eye is kind of a playful line, so I love that I can print on whatever color paper I have available and then put them together and see what kind of chromatic magic happens.

Here are some sets that I’ve put together in the last couple of days.  I’m really loving picking and choosing the pins for people who may not have the time to sort through bins of pins.  Hoping to have packaging for magnets, and ‘six packs’ (get it?  bottle caps? huh? huh?) ready for the holiday season along with some hand knit accessories and maybe some screen printed kid’s clothes, as well.  Busy busy busy.  Enjoy:

Summer Months Set

Lyrics and Clefs

Photography Love!

 If you are without Photoshop knowledge, a printer, time, ink, or any of the above it’s probably definitely worth your while to make a list of your products that need packaging and sit down with a graphic designer.  They can make something really snazzy for you that you can potentially order on your own once the designs are completed.  It’s a lot of work and I have yet to see how these do ‘on the field’ but I just know they make my product look ten times better than it already is.

Consequently!  If you are looking to conceptualize packaging, need someone to bounce ideas off of, or would like someone to take the reins and do it for you – there’s nothing I know how to do that can’t be bought or sold.  So if you just read all this and are like “Yeah, like I’m going to do that!” (like I used to say!) but really would “like to do that” then let me know – maybe we can work something out!  I’ve been working on packaging and labels for my pins, barrettes, earrings, vintage and more this week – it’s actually a lot of fun, in a totally dorky sort of way.

OK – midnight and I’ve got about two more hours of work ahead of me… Audrey, out!

Serious Dress Habit #2 – Skirting the Issue

Hmm, I seem to have found myself, yet again, with more vintage dresses and skirts that I need to clean out of the attic.  I swear that closet is the doorway to Narnia… here are some new dresses and skirts – click on the image to be taken to the Etsy or Ebay listing!

Gosh darn it, I wish this one would fit me. So gorgeous, but more for a size 4 than a size Audrey!

This is a double-lined stretchy number from Banana Republic – weird how my Ebay items always end up being BR!  Stylish, but often too small for yours truly.  Hope someone out there with less of a penchant for pad thai and ice cream will love it as much as I do!  Click here for the listing.

Olive Green Wool Blend skirt by Banana Republic.

This one’s actually been in my personal collection for over 10 years now — I bought it back in high school when I worked a Christmas season at BR (p.s. worst November ever, don’t recommend doing that!) in the stock room in the basement.  In any case, I was a size 2 in high school, then a 4 in college, then a 6 the years following and still squeezing my woman-y body in to it until this last year when it’s basically an invitation for acid reflux if I squeeze my torso in to this skirt!  I’m so sad to see it go, but again, I’d be more sad to stop eating ice cream and pad thai and am totally. fine. with the few extra pounds I have to carry as a result.  🙂

Vintage Ultramarine Pencil Skirt, 100% wool from Jones of New York.

I found this one yesterday and thought the high quality, U.S.A. construction and 100% wool skirt was too much to pass up.  Currently listed in my Etsy shop, this one’s a size 10 for some more realistic expectations.  I kinda hope no one buys it so I can wear it around!

Vintage 1980s L.L. Bean Maxi Skirt in Farquharson(ish) Plaid

Awesome!  I love it when I find plaid things with old L.L. Bean tags.  This’ll be a dream to wear around while I wait for someone to pick it up out of my Etsy shop.

Don't Even Think About It

Okay, at first I was going to make this an Ebay listing.  But on second thought I’m going to add this one to my permanent collection.  Pretty white pin prick polka dots on a flowy black skirt??  I just can’t resist.

While You Were Sleeping…

One of my New Year’s goals for Little Eye was to get myself on the front page of Etsy.  I feverishly curated treasuries all month in hopes of the favor being returned, and although I did ‘get it’ once (a friend in a different time zone told me) it was at 4:00 in the morning on a weekday.  C’mon!  Well!  Tonight I was noodling around Etsy and found an easier way to find out if you’ve been in any treasuries that made it to the FP that your friends just didn’t see!

Step 1:  Select the ‘treasuries’ button from the front page to do a treasury search in the field at the top of the screen.

Step 2:  Search your shop name (in my case, littleeyedesigns) just as it appears on your account.

Step 3:  Click on all results with 100 or more comments.  If any of those comments say:  “Congrats on the FP!” well then, kiddo, you were on the FP.

Phew!  So for all that feverish worry and work it turns out that I’ve been gracing the front page of Etsy since I really started taking my shop seriously in October of 2010.  Although it’s the exception and not the rule, sometimes things are easier than they seem!

Finding My Visual Language

Any handmade, small business adventurer will tell you the hardest thing about start up is choosing a name and choosing a brand.  Although I found my name almost two years ago and am still quite pleased, it’s been a process finding the visual language that is appropriate for the product, appropriate for me, and can be used in multiple ways to accentuate not just one product, but many.

There are more than a few Etsy shops that have a visual language that they stick with that truly works for them.  Two of my favorites (and Etsy superstars who also happen to be part of the “MaineTeam“) are Rocky Top Soap Shop and Long Winter Farm.  Just visit those links and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So when I was preparing displays for a craft show last week a big, fancy light bulb went on above me and all of a sudden I knew it!  It had been right there all along.  The finish on the back of my bottle caps is a dappled paint in a variety of colors meant to complement the image on the front.  If photography and that pattern exist side by side in my product why wouldn’t I feature it in my background?  Yes!  So I spray painted some tins from the holidays and set them up to sell last weekend with considerable success, since it was a super nice day and not a lot of indoor craft shoppers were milling around.

Then, this weekend when I sat down to shoot some more product to put in my Etsy shop I was pleased to discover the tins work just as well as a background!  Observe:

Milwaukee's Finest Set of 2 Barrettes - $10 at Little Eye Designs on Etsy

Beasts of Burden - Set of 2 Barrettes, $10 at Little Eye on Etsy

The Good Samaritan - Set of 2 Barrettes from Little Eye on Etsy $10

 So, see?  I think it works.  The cool thing is I can spray paint new backgrounds to change with the season and the items themselves as needed.  Really looking forward to playing more with this, but I finally feel like I’m on the right track with my shop ‘look’ and branding.

I would love to know what you think!

What’s the Deal With Treasuries, Anyways?

On the Maine Team forum today, someone asked a very good question about what ‘the secret’ of Etsy treasuries are.  I got to thinkin’ (and typin’) and thought it might be nice to have this information here for anyone who might want to read it.

As a disclaimer, I’ll admit I’ve only been on the front page (or ‘FP’) once before.  And it was at 4am.  So my ‘expertise’ in this area only comes from making treasury after treasury for a spell of about two months in hopes that I would reach the holy grail of Etsydom:  front page for an hour.  OK!  So maybe only people in Europe who were up early got to see it!  But I didn’t make a little headway, no?

Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know (or everything I can offer!) about treasuries on Etsy:

1.  Hits-o-mundo. Have you ever clicked on someone’s treasury only to find that there is an INSANE # of views and clicks and comments?  It’s my theory that there are a network of sellers who really get off on the networking aspect of Etsy.  That’s cool for them, but I have a hunch that their super views are due to a high-level-operation of Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds and ‘Treasury Teams’ which is a group of Etsians who make treasuries regularly (daily!) and religiously click through each others collections.  This is nice and all, but belonging to Etsy wasn’t in efforts to become a treasury factory, in my case.  Plus I only have about an hour a day to waste looking at awesome stuff – while presumably these people have more.

If you want to up your treasury views then be sure to leave thoughtful comments in ‘treasury threads’ (where people only list treasuries) about at least the person before you before posting your own.  Share on Facebook.  Maybe even on Twitter.  But don’t lose your life in search of the elusive FP!

2.  What the heck is a BNR?

A BNR is an acronym for “Buy ‘n Replace” which is a treasury that’s curated by a ‘moderator’ (anyone can be a moderator) in efforts to generate sales for those in the treasury.  These often have high numbers of views, clicks and comments because the treasury acts like a chat forum as different viewers announce who they want to buy (per the rules of the BNR).  Once a viewer buys from a shop in the treasury they have an item from their own shop (they can choose or the moderator can choose) listed in the spot where they had bought their purchase from.

If you want to see what it’s all about click on the ‘Treasury’ link on Etsy and search for “open BNR” for any active BNRs.  Some will come up as ‘closed’ which means the moderator has gone back to the real world after hours of chatting on Etsy.  Fun!

3.  How to get on the front page (FP). So weird — there really is no ‘how.’  I have a lot to say on this subject and let’s see if I can keep it concise.  🙂  The front page on Etsy refreshes every hour with a new treasury selected by an Etsy Admin.  The Etsy Admin will generally choose treasuries based on selections of quality items with good photography that fit the ‘merchandising plan’ for that particular month.  Etsy lists their “From the Etsy Merchandising Desk” newsletter every month a month in advance so you can plan accordingly.  By creating treasuries that fit the themes for the season the Etsy Admin is more likely to search for treasuries fitting the description yours follows.

TAGS!  The Etsy Admin can’t find your hard work if you don’t label it properly.  Use all 18 tags when creating a treasury and be sure to message its participants for maximum sharing possibilities.  Make sure your tags match the key words outlined in the merchandising newsletter!

You can also view what other tags are trending if you click on the ‘Treasury’ link on the front page and look on the right-hand column.  It will list the most popular tags of the day and you can design a treasury based on that if you are concerned with views.

There is also this ‘club’ of sellers that, due to their hard work AND having been on the FP before, are on it all the time.  This makes sense:  they get more exposure, more people want to use them in their treasuries, therefore there is a higher likelihood of them getting on the FP again.  So it’s up to you if you want to include those people in your treasury – do you want to find new talent and hope for the best or use existing superstars and network with them in hopes of getting a little exposure that way?  Choice is yours — all I know is that daily there are many ‘repeats’ and less opportunity for all the other excellent sellers to have their 15 minutes of fame.  Of course, all the ‘repeats’ are freaking excellent artists with great product so it’s fun in the sun either way.

4.  Where do I start when making a treasury? Your treasury needs to be cohesive if you’re planning on making your FP debut any time soon.  Pick two colors or, better yet, pick an ‘inspiration’ item that you can base all your other selections off of.  You want the grouping to look unified, not herky-jerky.  Don’t get impatient if you can’t find the perfect shade of pink to go with what you already have – instead try and find complimentary colors if you really can’t find the one shade you need.  Or find something mostly white!

Treasuries are great for networking – do a treasury featuring mainly members of an Etsy team you belong to (even if it’s not a ‘treasury team’) or a theme of all artists from a particular state or city.  Include a little personal note and copy and paste it in hopes of getting more than just a ‘thank you’ in response.  I once networked with the Vermont Street Team this way – and ended up winning a giveaway on their site later as a result of our connection!

Include a wide variety of items in your treasury.  Don’t do all jewelry, all clothing, or all photography unless that’s the point.  Mixing it up will ensure that you’ve got the variety the Admin is looking for when selecting that next superstar treasury!

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I think that’s all for now – I totally forgot I’m super tired and have to get up early.  Happy curating, everyone!