Saturday, June 30, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
But this show as a bit different. I shared a tent with my friend Monica Jones who makes fabulous ceramic art and functional wares. There was great music in the background the whole time. The customers were wonderful - not a single rude or negative comment the whole time. And....
I won an Honorable Mention Award! I was shocked - my first festival and I didn't know what I was doing. And that meant a nice monetary prize as well. How wonderful!
It was very exhausting though. 23 hours in two days of 97 degree Georgia heat. I had never been so happy to take a shower and be in air conditioning!!
I made some great new friends. Check out these fabulous artists:
Cathy Dailey - wonderful and colorful animal inspired art
Jillian Guarco - "photography and messes"
Lynn Louise Larson - Lylou Design bags/purses
All in all, very rewarding and pleasantly surprising. So I just might do another one some day!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I thought this would be easy and go pretty quickly, but now that I am actually sitting down and thinking about it, it seems quite like. I only have a few moments, so I might just have to add more later.
I am glad I:
quit my job
signed up on Etsy
followed my heart
listen to my intuition
didn't get jobs I applied for
give myself days to pout
pick myself back up again and work harder
don't pay attention to others who think I should have a "real" job
do yoga - it keeps me healthy, sane, and focused
have a laptop!
participate in EtsyMetal and have made great friends
try to think positive about everything!
help teach a continuing education class
have good customer service skills - (many years of customer service jobs)
can help to inspire others
I know there is so much more I could add, but I feel for now these are the important ones. I'll come back to it for sure. There is so much that I am thankful for!
Thursday, June 7, 2007
I'm always hesitant to say I ever have any regrets. I am where I am today because of how I did things in the past. I'm happy where I am, so I don't know that I would necessarily say I should have done things differently. Looking back though, if I could do it all over again, knowing how its been there are things I would do.
1. I would have taken more advantage of my student loans. I was very concerned with trying to keep my student loans very low and work as much as I could so as to not just "take out lots of free money". After I got out of school and was looking in to getting a business loan, I started wishing I had taken some of my student loan money out to help build my studio. I basically had no credit, not bad credit, NO credit history. People aren't exactly lining up to give a 24 year old a small business loan at a great interest rate!
Now, I am in no way advocating using your student loans for purposes they aren't meant for. But when I had all of my jewelry and metalworking classes, I would have gotten more tools, spent more money on silver, maybe gotten a fancy camera to photograph my work, mostly the tools though. These are all things that I've struggled to collect over the past couple of years, much of which is debt with a higher interest rate! The tools I've collected, a great camera, a laptop (which has changed my life), are all things I could have conceivable "forseen" needing after school that would have benefited me while in school. I don't think tapping yourself out financially is a good idea. But if I had spent just a couple of thousand, it would have made a huge difference in starting my business.
2. I would have looked at galleries sooner. This is another "while I was in school" bit of advice. Some of the work I did years ago is better than a lot of what I am able to do now. I was given the freedom and the resources to create really complex, large and expensive time consuming pieces. Once I was out of school, creating those type of pieces is much more difficult. When faced with "making something easier that I know will sell" vs. "spend several days working on a piece I might not sell for months or even years" well, the first one of course. When you have bills to pay you have to make sure that what you are making will sell. Which is why I wish I had gotten in with galleries sooner, when I was working on the higher end pieces. I feel it would have kept me a bit more in that world in which I am struggling a bit to get back in to.
3. I would have saved a bit more money before I quit my job. By the time I quit, I was just done. I didn't want to think about "Oh I'm leaving in 6 months, I need to start saving money." I just wanted out. I didn't even have enough money to pay one month's worth of bills. Needless to say, the beginning was quite a struggle. More so than it needed to be if I had done a bit of planning. Ahh, I do so love to crawl before I walk though! Some months it was more like crawling uphill through thick mud while being pulled back by some invisible rope tied to your ankle! Other months were more like walking easily on a flat surface. Slowly, the bad months got better, and the good months got better. So now, my bad months were like my good months a year ago.
4. I would have tried to focus a bit more on creating a "line" of jewelry. I'm pretty all over the place mentally. I am inspired by so many things, many times I feel like my work has no consistent feel. You know how you might love a painter and know their work well, and then you see a painting and instantly know who painted it. Well, I felt like my work was nothing like that. I'm still a bit all over the place, but I've learned to focus a bit more. I feel like I have several lines of jewelry, that kind of look like they are by the same artist. But now each piece with in the line looks like it goes with the others. This is something really recent. I was so resistant to doing the same thing over and over again (I still am) that I didn't let myself come up with a line of jewelry that could all be the same style, but still have every piece be a little different.
And last, but not least:
5. I would have paid attention to Etsy a bit sooner. It took me awhile to get in to it. And then once I signed on - it took me awhile to pay attention to what works and what doesn't work. I know there is no recipe for success on Etsy. But certain things do work. Making sure your photos are eye-catching, listing frequently, and telling everyone you know about Etsy. All things it took me a good 5-6 months to really start doing. I see people in the forums now saying "I haven't sold anything, whats wrong!?" and they've only been there for 2 weeks. I didn't even know the forums existed before I'd been there a month, much less that I should be selling my earrings like hotcakes!
So that about wraps up that section... and now I've decided I should do a part 4 too! - Things that I did (or am currently doing )that I realize are really important. Since this one came out early, I might be able to get that posted tomorrow.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Emily of the Etsy Goddess and owner of The Black Apple (http://theblackapple.etsy.com) had told me multiple times about Etsy and I finally signed up! Of course, it took me a while to actually list anything. A bit more than a month went by and then I finally listed a few items. And that was kind of it. I hadn't looked in to the site very much or read any of the tips on getting started until I started wondering why I wasn't selling anything! I then started looking around at others shops and reading some of the forums. And learning things I could do that would help. My original photos were very boring. Since most of what i do is entirely metal, there were no color and I had used gray backgrounds b/c coming from an art school background, your backgrounds shouldn't be anything of interest. I started adding some little plants or flowers and noticed that my view shot way up. This was the first very encouraging sign. Simply by changing my photos, not the product, a lot more people were looking.
The next thing that happened was a sleepless night where I was thinking about all sorts of things. One of which was I need to make note cards. I've been working one day a week at a friend of mine's store. Some days would be really busy, and other days there would be lots of down time. And I thought "I need to be doing something that is earning me money outside of this job, while I am here" And for some reason, making note cards is what appealed to me. So I started doing a variety of different ones. and the first thing I sold was a set of notecards! Granted, I think the customer found me the same day I had my first item on the front page! And why did I have something on the front page...? Well it started by emailing sweet Angela of Angela Lui Designs (http://sanfranciscocrafts.etsy.com). I fell in love with her stuff and just had to tell her how much I loved her bags. Which then prompted her to ask if I could make a bracelet for you, so I made several bracelets and listed them for her and one of those made the front page! I was so excited. This was about a month after I started listing. I was so excited to have something on the front page I emailed everyone I knew! So that prompted a few friends and family members to buy things from me - which was very sweet. Friends and family really kept me out of a "normal" job when I was starting out. After that things were kind of slow. I wasn't all that great about listing, definitely not every day. I was selling some, but not a whole lot.
Etsy wasn't my main focus. Actually, nothing really was! I had decided to have another show which was quite successful, not as much as the first one, but still, pretty fabulous. I like being on my own and being self-sufficient. But I also didn't feel like I really had a direction. I wasn't sure what I really wanted to do.
I had this great idea to send out promo packets to boutiques I thought might be interested in carrying my stuff. Total disaster. But I'm glad none of that panned out b/c I've decided I don't want to sell wholesale, and I'm not really all that big on consignment either! I really like being in charge of my own stuff and dealing directly with customers. After working customer service jobs for 8 years or so, I realize it really is something I enjoy. I like knowing who my jewelry goes to and I like for people to know where their jewelry is coming from! Good customer service makes people want to come back to you. I've been very fortunate and have not had any bad customer issues.
Christmas was pretty good, though I had wished it was a bit better. January was okay, February was good, March was terrible! and then April was the best month I have ever had. Ever - since I got my first job in high school. Not just on Etsy but I got a couple of large commissions that were a very nice addition. By this time I had learned to live on very little. I also learned a lot from doing my own taxes and had quite a mental shift after that. I started figuring out bills I could either totally do away with or at least decrease. I also starting believing that I wasn't poor. I don't think money is everything, obviously, I decided to make a living as an artist! But I'd been fighting that mentality of being a "starving" artist. Something I never called myself and never believed I would be. A lot of what went on during that time was really all about feeling and is kind of hard to describe in words. In short I started feeling/believing there would not only be "just enough" money to pay my bills, but that I would have more than enough. Which is exactly what started happening. After April was so spectacular, I wanted to hold on to that belief that I would continue w/ the same success I had the previous month. And may turned out to be even better on Etsy that it had been in April. I didn't get quite as many outside commissions, but overall, still an amazing month. Now that it is June, I am holding on that feeling of prosperity.
Yesterday I set up my new Etsy shop - http://BethCyrYogaStudio Once again, based on a strong feeling I had. Similar to when I started doing the note cards, I decided I wanted to start screen printing the yoga poses on T-shirts. I wanted to get my shop set up separate so when I start doing all the shirts, my store will be ready. I'll be listing more of the note cards - hand painted ones, and ones made from the postcard/prints I had done and my Om Jewelry. I like having the two things split. It feels like it gives them each more room to grow.
Well that is it for this installment! Part 3 will be, things I might have done differently.