little needles

IMG_1496How completely and utterly satisfying is that?  Finishing a sock in one knitting-sitting.  Sock #2 is on its way tonight, and because I didn’t have size 1 dpns (what?!  how can you even see that small??) these 0-3 months sized booties are more like a 9-12 months, which is fine, because that little incubating biscuit will be able to wear them next winter.

Loving the yarn, too, a sock blend with colors that switch the perfect amount for nice, thick stripes on infant/child-sized socks.

You want to make little booties, too?  Judy Kaethler’s “Cozy Little Toes” is free on Ravelry.

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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!

I’m feeling Moth-y. Also: Audrey went couponing, again.

Moths are attracted to light.  So are photographers – so it stands to reason that sometimes I just feel more moth-y than other times.  When I left Shaw’s today (after a raucous bout of couponing) the sky was all heavy from a recent downpour, but the clouds were thin enough that you could see the sunset.  It was bright magenta and royal purple.  I could stand in light like that in a parking lot all day, if I could.  I think about other planets and suns and how different their light must be.  Maybe, to them, bright, high-noon sunlight is their ‘magic hour’ and they wish they could live on a planet like ours.

Two things:  I’ve been watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” obsessively again.  I really like outer space.  Also, I just hung a show at India St.’s Coffee By Design today, I hope to take pictures soon, and put them up on this blog.  The show is called “Holiday” and it features photographs from Daytona Beach, Kennedy Space Center, and the 4th of July fireworks in Portland a couple weeks ago.  Don’t worry — they don’t ‘look like’ fireworks, although you’d have to be an idiot to not know they’re fire works.  The show was directly inspired by how in love with Carl Sagan I am.

Now on to more important, money-grubbing things.  I went to Shaw’s again tonight, on the last night of their weekly sale, to ‘get mine.’  I grew up in a Hannaford family, mind you, with a cumulative 17 years worked for the company among multiple family members, and I go to Hannaford for my regular shop.  I’m also newly in love with Trader Joe’s, mostly because they help me eat samosas.  Anyways — but SHAW’S seems to psychotically want to give people thing for free, or nearly free, on a weekly basis.  Every week they want me to get something new for free.  Here’s what I got this week:

SPARKLY WATER KICKS PLAIN WATER'S ASS ALL DAY

Click on that picture to get the big version, …if you like looking at pictures of groceries, that is.  Otherwise, here’s the rundown:

The total of this hoarder’s paradise was $30.61.  After $11.09 in Shaw’s savings (their sales) coupled with my coupons ($5.26) I only paid $13.52 after tax and deposits on my plethora of sparkling waters.

The method:

Don’t cut (or buy) coupons for things you don’t normally love, or wouldn’t like to try.  Let’s start with the obvious:  the Polar seltzers.  I bought some $1 off/4 liters coupons from www.thecouponclippers.com for about 5 cents or something each.  What’s that you say?  PAY for coupons?  Silly!  Not actually silly considering this happened:  Shaw’s was offering “Buy One, Get One Free” on Polar Liters this week (they are f—ing nuts, what is this, Payless Shoes??) and I had the $1 off/4.  So if I BOGO’d twice (they cost $1.29 at Shaw’s) then I was at $2.60 (ish) for the 4 liters.  $1 off of that (with the coupon) and it was $1.60 for four liters.  And then I did that three times so now my fridge is full of refreshing things to take to the beach.

Couponing for sauces is always a good idea.  I love sauces.  Plus, they’re usually pretty cheap and if you can get ’em on sale then you’re looking at most likely free sauce.  Free Sauce!!  That Frank’s Red Hot was $2.49 with $.80 off on sale.  Plus I had a $.75 off/1 coupon for it (which Shaw’s doubles — they double anything under $1… again, crazy) so that was $1.50 so that big ol’ jar of fiery deliciousness was only $.19.  If they taught us stuff like this in math class in high school maybe I wouldn’t have failed miserably and ended up only taking art and English my senior year.

My bill would’ve been about $2 less had I not needed toilet paper and a box of pasta to get me through the weekend… (I’m low maintenance).  Then I got some salad dressing although that was kind of dumb, since people should just make their own salad dressing.  I normally do — but we’re out of olive oil.  Talk about treating the symptom and not the disease!

So, savings just over 44% on groceries that I’ll definitely use is not a bad thing.  Since I don’t qualify for EBT (stupid salary and health benefits!) but am still, somehow, a poor lady in her late 20s, this kind of thing makes me leave the grocery store with an ear to ear smile on my face.

…One day, I will talk more about art.  Sorry to bore you with my groceries stories tonight!

Strength in Numbers: A 4th of July Collaboration with Mollie Ann from Rough Magic Creations

Eureka!  This week has the important distinction of being the week I finished a collaboration with another talented crafter, Mollie Ann, of Rough Magic Creations.  It all began when the Etsy Maine Team came up with a 4th of July Team Challenge, to create (by yourself or with a partner) a holiday-themed piece for Independence Day.  Being the enormous fan of red, white and blue that I am (my photo background has been only that, lately!) I was super psyched.

I got in touch with Mollie, knowing that she was way more talented with metal than me.  I’ve been thinking for a long time about branching out of the bottle cap bezel world, and this was a great first opportunity.  Mollie and I put our heads together to make a star-shaped earring and pendant with a circular bezel hammered right in the center.  Here is our initial sketch:

And by 'sketch,' I mean image of a star I copied and drew elements on!

From there, we agreed that sheet aluminum would have the right color we were looking for (Mollie usually uses copper, but the silver color and price point of aluminum worked well with our design) so she ordered it and I waited with much anticipation to receive my new bezels in the mail!

Empty Bezels, Waiting for their stars + stripes

Finally (okay, I say ‘finally’ but it was so fast, like a day later!  I was just like an excited kid on Christmas morning) I received the lovely pieces (pictured above) in the mail, ripe for the epoxy-ing!  After cutting some custom size circles, gluing and mixing epoxy Mollie and I were the proud parents of the pieces you see below:

Stars and Stripes Earrings, $26 on Etsy

Stars and Stripes Pendant (You pick stars or stripes) $24 on Etsy

Stars and Stripes Earrings and Pendant Set, $48 on Etsy

Mollie and I are so pleased at how these turned out!  The photo prototypes are our ‘rough drafts’ so we’ve made some changes, including making the bezels deeper so that the epoxy doesn’t bleed around the edges of the circle … which you can kind of see in the picture but won’t be an issue on any further runs of the sets.  If you’re interested in ordering a pair of earrings, a necklace, or a set of earrings and a necklace please know you can specify what combination of stars and stripes you’d like!  Order from either Mollie or I in our Etsy shops (you can click on the images to link to the listings) and let us know what you’d like!  We can also do the stars with totally different images, not just stars and stripes.  🙂  The stars and stripe sets are made of lightweight charms with a nickel ball chain for the necklaces and sterling silver ear wires for those of us with sensitive ears!

All orders received by June 22nd should be shipped to you in time for the 4th of July.

Racy Photo Shoot and Storm Watch Skies

Hi, hi.

Let’s start off with the really fun bits first.  I’ve always been an advocate of self-portraiture.  Photography, painting, drawing, songwriting, what the hell, whatever — internal introspection can sometimes lead to growth and development but actually having a physical image, product, sound as a result of the process is really motivating.

This month I’m going to restart shooting myself which has gone undone for wayyyyy too long.  Sure, there have been a plethora of PhotoBooth captures but those aren’t much work at all, are they?

3/4 Portrait

A good place to start is photographing just your face.  I like to see all the angles of what I look like and I like to see what the expressions I make look like to others and not just how they feel showing up on my mug!

Go adventuring to outside locations and set up a tripod, focus on the ground near where you think you’d like to stand, and set the timer on the camera to 10 seconds or so, however long it takes you to get over there.  Be sure to turn auto-focus off if you have a DSLR.  What locations move you?  What places reflect your personality?

Photograph yourself in your home doing something normal, but style it like you see yourself in your imagination.  Are you doing the dishes?  No one says you can’t do ’em in high heels and a cocktail dress.  This is your fantasy.

Now comes my favorite… which I can’t actually share any images of because I have a strict no-showing-my-ta-tas-on-the-internet rule.  But really — photograph yourself completely naked.  The advent of digital photography makes it so that you can shoot and print your very own boudoir photos without involving the creepy guy with the ratstache at the Photo Center in Walgreens.  You don’t have to show them to anyone, and they might be COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS but why live this life without trying every ding dong thing there is to do in this world?  Trust me, it’s fun.

~~~

Now on to the skies…

Yesterday the sunset cast a gorgeous hue on East Bayside.  It’s doing it again now, too.  I’m very afraid of tornadoes, but the one thing I live for in this world is gorgeous light.  Why can’t the skies be like sunset all the time?  It’d get old, you say?  No, no it wouldn’t.

Here are a few captures:

Looking up Oxford St (Up Munjoy Hill)

Out the Attic Window towards Bayside

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!