Thursday, January 13, 2011

Celebrating with the Handmade Movement

I try, as often as possible, to purchase handmade items. Being a handcrafter myself with Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs, I understand the reasons for buying handmade and the quality and love that goes into creating handmade items. Handmade items are usually born of a love and enjoyment for actually making the items. Selling them is a secondary outcome. I know in my case, I started amassing all this jewelry I was making. I mean, I couldn't wear it all.  You feel that love when you buy handmade. Yes, times are hard and I'm sure we could all find things "cheaper" made in a third world sweatshop. Which brings me to another point. When I am in a commercial store, browsing at jewelry, I am saddened at the low prices, not for my fear of competition, but because I know the time and work that goes into making that jewelry. 99% of jewelry cannot be machine made. So someone had to put it together.
Buying handmade also promotes the "little guy" and the struggling Artist. There are so many talented Artisans. We want folks to enjoy our talents and crafts. I have a shop on Artfire. I chose it for it's committment to handmade and the true sense of community. You can purchase just about anything handmade there. From jewelry to home decor to fine art. From clothing to stationary to candy to bath. The items are endless.

Here's a collection of party items, all handmade. No need to shop at a commercial party supply store. You can get handcrafted customized party supplies on Artfire. Click on the View This Collection button to see more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Product Packaging Does Matter

I buy alot of handmade items online. I have to admit that I have made some observations about how I percieve the product and it's crafter from the moment I open the wrapper. I have opened things that were wrapped in a piece of newspaper and thought wow, haphazard with not much care or attention to the product. Then I have opened packages with cute and cohesive packaging. Little boxes or organza bags decorated with a ribbon,  handmade labels, thank you notes and business cards, invoices, etc. When I recieve the latter, it leaves me with the impression that the seller takes great time and care while processing their orders. I can infer from this that they do the same while crafting their product.
This got me to thinking about what first impression my items give the buyer when they recieve it.

Currently, I include:

*The product, usually in an organza bag or plain jewelry box
*the invoice (I usually include a handwritten thank you)
*a couple of business cards
*a postcard with a discount code for the next purchase
*a beaded jewelry care sheet

All of the above is wrapped in tissue then bubble wrap and either sent in a bubblewrap envelope or flat rate box, depending on what the customer chooses.

My goals for future orders are to make stickers to attach to the boxes, tags to hang from the organza bags and small notecards for the personal thank yous. I think I may add pillow boxes for my packaging.
I'm going to try to apply my brand to all of them.

How do you package and ship your items? What do you include?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Versatile Peyote Stitch

One of the most versatile off-loom beadweaving stitches is the Peyote Stitch or Gourd Stitch.
Many cultures around the world have used peyote stitch in their beadwork. Examples of peyote stitch have been found in artifacts from Ancient Egypt, and the stitch has also been used in historic and contemporary Native American beadwork.
The name "peyote stitch" derives from the use of this stitch to decorate objects used in peyote ceremonies by members of the Native American Church. The name "gourd stitch" similarly derives from the use of the stitch in decorating gourd containers. There are many applications for using this off-loom weaving technique. You can see by the following photos how peyote stitch can be applied with very different results.

Tubular Peyote can be used to make bracelets and necklaces. In this "tube" of beads, I used 16 gauge wire as its base to give it a bangle shape.


Flat Peyote Stitch -Almost any image can be adapted using this variation you can print peyote stitch graph paper here

Peyote Stitch is geometrically friendly. This stitch can be used to make just about any shape. From circles to octogon and even three dimensional pieces like the ones below.

Peyote Stitch can also be used to create a "beaded bezel" for cabachons like this one that I did around a redline marble cabachon.

Some Peyote projects are very structured like this bottle. This is traditionally what peyote stictch was used for, to cover objects.

And lastly, this is my favorite form of peyote stitch. It is freeform peyote. Usually done with different color and size beads, there is no pattern, no structure. You just start beading and let your imagination run.

So, just how do you do the Peyote Stitch? Well here is a basic illustration for flat peyote

You can find many tutorials on YouTube regarding tubular peyote techniques.
Here is one to start you out. Peyote Stitch Tutorial for Beginners.

Happy Beading

Friday, January 7, 2011

10 Steps to Getting Started in Social Media Marketing

 When it comes to using social media marketing to build your business, the worst action is no action, and your biggest problem is being invisible, not being talked about negatively. As long as you're part of the conversation on the social Web, you can hear what's being said about you and massage negative perceptions about your business. But if no one is talking about you, you have no chance for growth. That means you need to get involved on the social Web as soon as possible, not only to capitalize on the opportunities that it presents to your business, but also to develop and protect your reputation.
It's a good idea to start with a plan that has goals and an organizing framework to keep you on track. If you start down a path on the social Web and hate what you're doing, you can change things around. Just as you change networking and conversational approaches in person, you can do so on the social Web. The only differences are that on the social Web, you're talking through your keyboard, and your potential audience is much, much larger.
Here are 10 steps to get you started.
1. Determine your goals.
What do you want to get out of your social Web participation? Why are you doing it? Are you trying to generate direct sales? Are you trying to offer a form of customer service? Do you want to build relationships with customers and boost loyalty? Your answers to these questions greatly affect the type of content you publish and the activities you participate in on the social Web.
2. Evaluate your resources.
Who is going to create your content? Who is going to maintain your social media accounts? Who is going to respond to questions and be the face of your business online? Do you have the technical ability in-house to join the online conversation? If not, are you willing to learn? Can you or someone who works with you write well? You need to be sure you have the necessary people in place to execute a social media marketing plan before you start.
3. Know your audience.
Where does your target audience spend time online? What kind of content and conversations do the audience members get most vocal about? What kind of information do they want from you? What do they dislike? Remember, you're not just pub¬lishing marketing messages on the social Web. You need to find out what your audience wants and needs, so you can provide the kind of content they find useful and interesting. However, you also need to be personable, so they actually want to interact with you.
4. Create amazing content.
Once you know where your audience spends time and what kind of content audience members want, take the time to give them more of that kind of content. Don't give up. You need to continually offer your audience amazing content, which also comes in the form of conversations, in order to build a loyal fol¬lowing of people who trust you as a source that can meet their needs and expectations.
5. Integrate your marketing efforts.
All of your efforts at social media marketing should feed off each other. Cross-promote your efforts both online and offline, and make sure your social media and traditional marketing efforts work together seamlessly.
6. Create a schedule.
Allocate specific times during your day to devote to social media marketing. For example, spend five minutes on Twitter before you check your e-mail each day and another five minutes before you leave work each day. When you create a schedule, it's easier to stick to it and make sure you don't skip your social media marketingactivities each day.
7. Adopt an 80-20 rule.
Always spend at least 80 percent of your time on social media activities that are not self-promotional and no more than 20 percent of your time on self-promotional activities.
8. Focus on quality, not quantity.
It can be easy to get caught up in the numbers, but don't become a slave to followers and subscribers. It's better to have 1,000 highly engaged, loyal followers than 10,000 followers who sign up to follow you but then never acknowledge you again.
9. Give up control.
You must let your audience take control of the online conversation and make it their own so they develop an emotional attachment to you, your brand, and your business.. Remember, on the social Web, apathy or invisibility is a bigger problem than negativity.
10. Keep learning.
You can never stop listening and learning. For success in social media marketing, you need to be flexible and accept that change is good.
This article is an edited excerpt from 30-Minute Social Media Marketing by Susan Gunelius (McGraw-Hill, 2010).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making Your New Years Resolutions Stick

It's January 1st. We all make resolutions regarding health, relationships, work, family business. Often times we overwhelm ourseves from the get go. Below are some tips gleened from an article written by Leonard Holmes, former Guide.

Therefore, if you are going to make New Year's resolutions this year, be sure you are ready for the challenge. Here are some tips to maximize your success:
1. Examine your motivation for change. Are you just feeling full and bloated at this moment? Do you have a hangover from last night? Did your last cigarette give you have a hacking cough? Or is there a more enduring reason for your desire to change? If you can't think of a better reason than the fact that you're uncomfortable at this moment, then you're better off not making promises to yourself that you probably won't keep. However, if you are realistic and accept the responsibility of discipline required for change, your motivation will be sustained long after the discomfort from over-indulgence has passed.
2. Set realistic goals. Habits and behaviors that are changed gradually have a greater chance of success.
3. Focus on the behavioral change more than on the goal. For example, if you decide to control your eating, your goal for the day is not to lose a specific number of pounds, but to stick to your program. Such focus on your behavior will help you feel in control of your life. You will gain satisfaction from making sensible choices several times throughout the day.
4. Learn to redefine physical sensations of discomfort. Whenever we restrict ourselves, we have both physical and mental reactions. For example, a smoker feels bodily sensations when his nicotine level drops. However, he has a choice as to how he interprets these symptoms. He can define them as extremely unpleasant, or alternatively he can interpret them as his body cleansing itself of the drug. Someone who is restricting food intake will also feel physical discomfort. However, the successful dieter tells himself that his growling stomach is a sign that his body must go to the fat reserves for energy.
5. Make tasks non-negotiable. People who are most successful at implementing such changes are those who make their tasks non-negotiable. For example, if you debate with yourself at 5:30 a.m. whether you feel like getting up to exercise, you will probably opt for staying in bed for another half hour. But if getting up for exercise is no more negotiable than getting up for work, then you'll do it regardless of how you feel about it. The same goes for organizing your closet or taking charge of your finances. One can almost always find an excuse not to do these things. However, if you make a non-negotiable decision that's based on a sound logical reason rather than on how you feel at the moment, you will be successful.
6. Allow for imperfection. No one is exactly on target all the time. In fact you should expect to falter every now and then. If you give in to temptation, do not use this as an excuse to abandon the whole program. Learn from your mistake and move on.
7. Do it now. If you're waiting for a more convenient time to begin behavioral change, it won't happen. It's almost never convenient to change ingrained habits. Now is just as convenient as any time. And if you begin now rather than later, you'll have a jump on a more satisfying future.
Good Luck!