Craftpreneur Advice From the Pros

craftpreneur post it

Is craftpreneur even a word? I’m not really sure. But I’m going with it for the sake of this post because I think it fits. It fits the description of any crafter who works hard at turning his or her crafting pursuits into a successful business. It covers the “craft” (as in what you do) as well as the “preneur” (as in, well, entrepreneur). But let’s be honest. Most of us craftpreneurs are more comfortable with the crafting side of things, as opposed to the actual business side of things. That’s why we need the pros to guide us through those murky waters of sales, marketing and social media.

 

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My Go-to Online Business Advice Pros

Tweak Your Biz

One online pro source that I turn to for advice is Tweak Your Biz. As the name implies, Tweak Your Biz deals with all aspects of business including sales, marketing, finance, management and technology. It’s an online business publication as well as a community. They encourage you to share your opinions and ask questions of their contributing experts. I’ve found their blog posts to be pretty insightful as well as humorous. For example, one of my favorite posts is entitled, “Eat a Bowl of Dog Food, Improve Customer Service.” I’ll admit I was intrigued. And the post did not disappoint. I’ve found that Tweak Your Biz is an invaluable resource for craftpreneurs at any stage of their business.

Arts Business Institute

Another online resource that’s sure to jump-start a craftpreneur’s business side is Arts Business Institute. ABI keeps me up to date with timely business strategies, sales tips and marketing ideas for my handmade vintage jewelry business. Topics run the gamut from regularly featured artist profiles to how to start a wholesale production studio.

Launch Grow Joy

If you’re the type who prefers to receive your business advice with more of a personal vibe to it, I highly recommend Andrea Ayers of Launch Grow Joy. She’s both a savvy entrepreneur in the online business consulting industry as well as an actual craftpreneur who successfully launched her own handmade soap company from the ground up. You can find her honest hard-won business advice for craftpreneurs on her blog, Launch Grow Joy, as well as in her free instructional videos that cover topics such as growing your online sales and getting your products in stores.

Social Triggers

Now I can’t mention videos without mentioning my all-time favorite business guru Derick Halpern of Social Triggers. Social Triggers encompasses his blog, podcast and web tv-show. And don’t say that I didn’t warn you: Derick’s approach is pretty unorthodox. And that’s what makes watching his videos so much fun. He shares practical, in-your-face advice on topics such as building your email list and increasing online sales. He shares his fresh perspective in such a way that you can’t help but think to yourself, “Now how can I apply that to me and my business?” Which is pretty awesome when you think about it. Learn something and laugh while doing it. It’s a win-win.

Time to Get Productive

I hope my little list of references at least gets you moving in the right direction with regard to your “business” side, and that it gets you started on a productive phase in your crafting business. While focusing on the business side of life may not be most craftpreneurs’ idea of a good time, it can still be accomplished effectively with the help of my favorite go-to business advisers. And that leaves you with more time to devote to your creative pursuits, whatever they may be.

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Is there anyone you think is great when it comes to giving business advice? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear about it.

 

How T-Shirt Crafting Makes Me Money with No Website

In 2008, I had an idea. Since I was passionate about drawing and collecting graphic tees and hoodies, I decided it was penquinforpost2time to begin my side gig in apparel crafting. I had an extensive collection of t-shirts and hoodies and as time went on, I got really good at picking out unique designs that usually attracted a lot of attention when I went out.

I always found that the attention my t-shirts got sparked a burst of creativity and motivation in me. So I began to draw my own designs on tees and hoodies I had at home.

This became so much fun for me that I found myself buying many portfolio books to keep my sketches organized because my ideas were popping in my head too fast for me to keep up in producing them onto tees.

When I first started crafting, I used Heather Grey tees and hoodies. I figured the coverage with the markers I had in mind to use would be easier. Other colors would be too dark and I wasn’t a fan of white hoodies so I worked with what I liked and had at home.

I started using a Sharpie to draw the outline of my picture and paint markers such as Decofabric to fill in the drawing. This is a picture of one of my first designs.alien

I began wearing my designs.

Soon after, my friends and family members started to approach me about designing tees for them. Some people even asked me to teach them.

In time, I had a developed a following so I decided to make it a side business and registered my brand as Inner Monster.

Eventually I started changing things up because I realized the colors weren’t as vibrant as I wanted them to look. And every time I washed a shirt or hoodie, the colors would fade.

I started thinking about what I needed to do to get the fabric to feel like I was working on a white canvas. So I continued to use Sharpie markers for the outline and then started filling in the outline with white Palmers Fabric Paint.

Now that it felt like a piece of blank canvas I was able to add color over the white. I would use Palmer Fabric PaintMarvy the Fabric MarkerSetaskrib+Crayola Fabric Markers or Elmer’s Paint Markers.

I definitely preferred the brands of paint and markers I was using (Crayola, Marvy, Setaskrib+ and Elmer’s) because the tips were softer and others were too stiff. I found that the softer tip adhered to the fabric paint better. On the other hand, Sharpies were the best for outlining because the tips are stiff.

Once I was done with the design, I would let it settle for about 24hrs. Then I would take a piece of blank white paper and monsterplace it over the image. I would iron over the white paper covering the image on low heat just to set the colors.

After starting to use the white paint as a base, I could use any color tee or hoodie because I wasn’t painting directly onto the bare fabric.

Here’s a picture to the right after I made some adjustments in the materials I was using.pebbies

A couple of years after designing and producing my own apparel, I thought about exploring ways of transferring my drawings digitally. I began to research printing shops for mass production. The demand for my tees had increased for what I could supply – I simply couldn’t keep up because I was working a full-time job.

I eventually had some of my designs produced at a screen printer and others I would craft by hand as limited edition designs.

I sold my tees at flea markets, craft shows and car shows and managed to not only enjoy it, but also make extra money on the weekends.

Car shows were quite good and offered a better return on my investment. My Inner Monster theme went well with the muscle car perception of car enthusiasts.  As a car enthusiast myself, I was enjoying this aspect of my marketing.

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I also started uploading images unto Zazzle which I promote on Instagram and make some sales that way too. I’ve even graduated to making custom tees for children’s birthday parties.

I put up a website through Wix to showcase my designs but since I did it myself, and I’m not the least bit techy, I decided to take it down because I didn’t want it to represent my brand. For now, I send people to Zazzle to look at my designs but have plans to have a website made professionally.

So if your thinking about not knowing where to get started with making your crafting hobby a business, do like I did. I knew nothing except how to draw. The rest just flowed as it came to me.

I still work a full-time job but I also make a pretty decent side income in t-shirt crafting with no website. To be able to engage in my craft and get paid for it is a nice perk.

Ten Uniquely Original Halloween Costumes Offered By Etsy Crafters

cbhalloween400Halloween is a perfect DIY holiday.

There are so many ways to express your creativity – with decorations, costumes, food, and more.

In this post, I’ll give you the links to ten very unique and original costumes offered by Etsy sellers.

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#1. Do you have a new baby girl in your life? I think this Cabbage Patch Kid costume from HeadCandy1 is adorable!

#2. This cute gnome costume from The Wishing Elephant is perfect for a toddler boy.

#3.  An elementary school aged girl would look super cute in this sparkling witch costume from PoshPinksTutu.

#4.  An elementary school aged boy would love this superhero costume from SuperKidCapes.

#5. As an adult, you can channel your inner Mad Men character and find something vintage, like this dress, from GoGoVintage.

#6. If your husband / boyfriend has a classic suit, then he might just need a few accessories, like these glasses to match your 60s costume.

#7. If you never let go of your dream of becoming a Disney Princess, this Snow White costume from FruFruAndFeathers will bring a smile to your face.

We don’t want to forget the pets in your life.

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#8. If you grew up playing Mario Brothers on Nintendo, you’ll appreciate this Luigi costume for your dog (from YoungUrbanPuppy).

#9. I like this Thanksgiving Turkey costume (iheartneedlework) for a cat (but I know my cat would never let me put it on her).

#10.  My absolute favorite is this graduation costume from PetDogTrainer. I wish I had seen it back when I had a bulldog!

dog-grad

The Face Behind the Graphics Fairy

Graphics-Fairy-ButtonblacksmallIf you’re a crafter, odds are you’ve heard of The Graphics Fairy blog.  But how much do you really know about what goes on behind the scenes there?

The Graphics Fairy is a free, online resource for vintage, one-of-a-kind graphic images, as well as inspiration for an unending number of graphic transfer projects.  These projects run the gamut from ones you might create for yourself and for your home to projects you can create for resale.  Either way, the blog is an invaluable resource for crafters looking for just the right image to finish off their project.

Say Hello to Karen

graphics fairy bio pic karen watsonThe person behind The Graphics Fairy is none other than Karen Watson. 

A self-professed lover of all things vintage from a very young age, Karen has managed to turn her love of vintage images into a thriving online community where she shares two new vintage clipart selections daily, adding to her already bursting-at-the-seams library of 4,ooo-plus vintage images.  Her blog has become so popular as a go-to website for crafters and home décor DIY-er’s that she ultimately created a sister blog, The Graphics Fairy DIY Projects for the Home. The sister blog is a place where Karen can share more transfer ideas and feature her readers’ projects as well.  These candle wraps are a recent example of a reader-featured project using Karen’s vintage graphics.

graphicsfairy candles

In today’s world, Karen’s approach is truly a refreshing one. Her goal, simply stated, is to share what she loves doing with others.  According to Karen, “I want [the blogs] to be more of a community, where people can hang out, get ideas and inspiration from each other, and get their creative juices flowing!” 

She’s even gone so far as to institute “Brag Monday”, where once a week a different reader project is featured on the blog.  Over 150 readers’ projects have been featured thus far. They include painted furniture, pillows, and paper products such as this recently featured greeting card.   

graphicsfairypatrioticcard

The fact that she has over 33,000 Facebook fans and more than 40,000 Pinterest followers is a testament to Karen’s incredible contribution to the crafting world.  Karen’s friend and colleague, Donna, of the acclaimed Funky Junk Interiors, recently got to spend some one-on-one time with Karen.  According to Donna, all you have to do is look around Karen’s home to appreciate all her talents. “I loved studying her graphics studio, where I could see for myself the love and devotion she puts into her work.  From having a true blue knack for staging a home that is beautiful but also meant to be lived in, right down to how carefully she selects her vintage inspiration, getting behind the soul of the Graphics Fairy was a gift in itself!”  

Tutorials and Images Galore

GraphicsfairytransfermethodsAnother example of Karen’s generosity when it comes to how-to’s is her readily shared instructions for image transfer methods, of which there are many.  After you’ve downloaded your image, be sure to check out her post entitled “12 Easy Image Transfer Methods” before going any further.  Just click on the image to the right to take you there.  It’s a great resource for both first-timers and seasoned image transfer crafters. 

If you’re interested in finding a specific image for a project, you can search The Graphics Fairy by category (of which there are currently 94) ranging in scope from “Angels and Fairies” to ‘Vintage Numbers Clipart” to “Weddings.”   Some of the most popular images fall into the holiday category such as Easter, Valentine’s, Halloween and Christmas. Other favorites, some of which are shown below, include vintage labels, typography, French ephemera (my favorite) and sheet music. 

GraphicsFairy wine sign

 

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Graphicsfairybirdybag

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What’s Next?

Who knows what’s next for Karen a/k/a The Graphics Fairy?  As Karen states, “I’m finding that as a blogger, you never know where you might be heading next.  Things change constantly and you have to be prepared to keep up with all of it.  Also, surprising opportunities sometimes show up in your inbox, and that can take you in a whole different direction.”  I can’t wait to see what new and different opportunities present themselves to Karen in the future.  But for now, both The Graphics Fairy and The Graphics Fairy DIY Projects for the Home are chock-full of ideas and tutorials for unique vintage graphic image transfers.  And with Karen’s help, the possibilities truly are endless.

Pat Bravo: Heart and Soul of a Successful Designer

Passion.  That’s the word that best describes Pat Bravo. She is driven by her passion. Her heart overflows with generosity. With the help of her husband, she has drawn on these very things to build a successful fabric and textile manufacturing company, Art Gallery Fabrics, from the ground up.Pat Bravo bio pic

Early Years

Pat Bravo was born in Argentina. She began sewing at nine years old and attended sewing school when she turned thirteen. Following sewing school, she enrolled in law school but dropped out after three years and took painting classes. It was during this time that she met who, after 30 years, she still calls “the love of her life”, Walter Bravo.

Discovering Her Passion

Pat and Walter moved to the U.S. in 1989, where Walter worked in the clothing industry. Pat describes this time as very difficult for her, as she struggled to adjust to a new culture. When her husband gave her a sewing machine, that all changed.

She fell in love with quilting.  She started out learning the traditional techniques, but soon ventured into art quilts. Her creations progressed from landscape to the more abstract. As she searched for the right fabrics for her designs, she discovered that the available color palette in the batik fabrics she used were very limited and insufficient for her needs.

Filling A Need077-Red Oriental

Her landscape quilts required lots of shades to use for rocks, trees, etc. She found a book and taught herself to paint fabric.  Her results were stunning and when she shared the fabric at her local quilt guild, she sold every single piece. She began selling at quilt shows in her home city of Miami and other cities with great success.

In order to reach more customers, she made the decision to open an online store. It became impossible for her to meet the growing demand. According to Pat, “some days I was painting up to 80 pieces a day.” Wow! Can you imagine?

She decided to try selling fabric at the Quilt Festival in Houston. Her husband accompanied her on this trip. When he saw how large the demand for her fabric was within the quilting business, he encouraged her to make the leap into manufacturing commercially.

Going WholesaleAN-16 Belle Epoque

Walter had just sold his apparel company in New York and was looking to start a new company in Miami.  Art Gallery Fabrics was born in 2004.  Pat was still selling online, but soon stopped when the wholesale business took over.

Her first collection was called Oriental and was only one print in three colors.  Pat was apprehensive attending her first quilt market as a wholesaler.  With only her small collection, she feared ridicule from others in the industry. She created two more collections made from hand painted panels that were very successful.

Her next collection was made entirely on a computer and was called Belle Epoque. From then on, she has never hand painted again. Everything is done on a computer and hand drawn using Adobe Illustrator.

LB-1102-Flowerpop-Zesty-500px LillyBelleGrowing The Design Team

Bari J was the first outside designer brought on to Art Gallery Fabrics by Pat Bravo. This is what she had to say about Pat –

“I met Pat back in 2009 when my first line of fabric came out. I was with another company at the time but we both knew that if the stars aligned and we could, we’d want to work together. I was so thrilled when that happened. Pat is a huge creative talent in her own right, but she is also a gifted creative director. She and I seem to speak the same language when it comes to design, and she’s been able to pull my very best from me… even when I thought it wasn’t there. Pat is full of passion and heart both personally and professionally. It’s an absolute pleasure and honor to work with her.”

Success In Business

In a live chat, Pat told Pattern Review that she believes three things for success in business; good product, honesty  and a lot of sacrifice working long hours.  True Up says this about Pat, “she broke into the business in true DIY style.”

Lately Pat has begun aggressively marketing herself as just another designer for AGF.  Soulful Eyes is her personal design blog where she shares her inspiration and love of design.

Passion For DesignLogo Pat Bravo

Anais Crowley, Social Media Director for AG, says –

“Pat is a very passionate person. She really pours her soul into every line, every flower and every color choice. Coming from a background that has always been heavily influenced by an eclectic mix of color she has taken that into her collections. Pat is a person that strives to gain knowledge of various cultures and she transforms that knowledge into her collections. Her style is ever changing but with a familiarity and devotion to her true style.”

Inspiring OthersPat Bravo & CKC

What impresses me most about Pat is her desire to help those around her.  Her passion is contagious.  Despite everything that she may have going on, she is always accessible to her colleagues and customers.  She is generous with her time and talents.  I asked Shannon Donoghue of Create Kids Couture pattern company what it was like to work with Pat –

“Pat is one of the nicest and most helpful people in the industry! She mentored us through Quilt Market and if it wasn’t for her we would have been SO unprepared. She is so passionate about her work and when you speak to her it’s contagious. You can’t help but get excited about her fabrics when she talks about them. We’ve had the privilege of using her fabrics on our Fall 2012 line of paper patterns and they just made the patterns!”

What an inspiring example of what passion and hard work can accomplish. She is not only passionate about creating her own beauty, but in becoming the inspiration for others to do the same. It is clear that Pat Bravo truly gives her whole heart and soul to design.

Who inspires you?

Indie Crafters, Are You Crafting Irresistible Product Names & Descriptions?

In this age of online marketing, the ability to create product names and descriptions could be just as important as the craft itself.

Indie Crafters

Craft Clever Product Names

Create product names and descriptions using adjectives which appeal to the buyers senses.  This creates emotions that will sell more of your crafts. Your product descriptions also need to accurately represent the product and its contents, along with the intended use to the customer.

Craft Unique Descriptions

When writing descriptions, consider what the customer wants. Convey your message with passion using various methods like storytelling or testimonials. The goal here is to create a personal feeling between the customer and your product.

Descriptions should go beyond the standard list of features and ingredients. Highlight what makes your product unique. Tell the customer why your product is better.

Creating  a clever product name and description is only the beginning. Your creative writing skills will also create useful and purposeful content.

Craft Great Content

Think about what your customers are looking for and find out what they are buying. Your descriptions must match the product, yet be original. Avoid becoming just another duplicate listing by creating unique, descriptive content. Make sure your product descriptions are always accurate and make sense to the reader.

Improve your search engine optimization by including a variety of relevant tags and keywords in your product descriptions while still sounding natural. Useful product names will incorporate keywords to allow easy search results for your customers and improve traffic to your product.

Great Examples Of How To Do It Right

RaynasCreate Kids Couture is a clothing pattern company who makes good use of creative writing in their product naming. They give each pattern a girl’s name. This gives each pattern its own personality and creates a more personal relationship between the pattern and the customer. Nothing says fun more than Chloe’s Party Peasant DressRayna’s Retro Romper sounds just right for the upcoming summer months.

Several keywords are added to the pattern names which make it easy for the customer to identify the unique features of each pattern as well as creating improved search results.

Another company who writes beautiful product names is Urban Threads. They use brief but brilliant product descriptions to entice their customers.  With embroidery pattern Dolphin Doodlenames like Light And Shadow Swallows and Dolphin Doodle  they make it fun, yet keep it descriptive to the unique details of each design.

I love their simple yet impactful product descriptions.  With the Summer Bounty, you will “Craft a natural, vintage look with this abundant summer design”.

Crafters who can write as well as they craft are going to put their products at the top of the search results. Once you’ve gotten potential customer’s attention and wow them with the distinctive features, just watch as the sales come rolling in!