Treasuries Are Lovely

I’m sleepy tonight, but I thought I’d just post a couple lovely Etsy Treasuries that my online shop, Magic Carpet Dance Arts, was included in recently.  Click on the photos to go enjoy a few minutes of browsing in Etsy loveliness.

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Learning About Advertising My Etsy Site

I’ve been wondering what works.   I suppose I’m not the only one. For all my fellow artists, artisans, and craftspeople out there, I want to share my experience over the past few days. As creative types, most of us probably don’t like the selling/vending/promoting part. But we gotta do it. We GOTTA!

I make stuff.  Great stuff, actually.  And I make it for a specific niche market:  tribal and tribal fusion belly dancers and other women who have a streak of gypsy or faerie in them.  I make chunky silver jewelry and costume items with henna motifs. I sell it online at Magic Carpet Dance Arts. My belly dancing friends give me lots of compliments. But it’s been a steep learning curve to figure out how to make good use of both the paid online advertising options and all the free internet social networking stuff.

I just recently bought an awesome guide for $17.00 from an Etsy seller.  His shop is called CraftingSuccess.  I was skeptical at first.  But he said that everything he suggests is free, so what did I have to lose, except $17.00.

The first book in the series of four is about setting up your Etsy shop.  As I read it, I was disappointed, feeling like I’d wasted my money because I had already done pretty much everything he suggested.  But then I started in on the second book, Crafting Success, and I was hooked.  (For my fellow Etsy sellers who are reading this, do everything he says starting with building your audience within Etsy itself.  For my artist friends who aren’t selling on Etsy, start reading where he talks about selling outside of Etsy.)

I spent quite a few hours yesterday going step by step through all the things he suggests, setting up Twitter and StumbleUpon accounts, getting my URL registered with Bing and Yahoo and DMOZ, and lots of other stuff.  Yes, it was a LOT of work, but it’s already paying off.  Within a 24-hour period, I have had 6 times more traffic to my site, Magic Carpet Dance Arts, than I ever did before in that amount of time.

I’ll keep you posted about the burst of sales I should be having soon.  🙂  And now I’ve gotta go tweet this post.

Submission to a Literary Agent – Can I Handle the Agony?

Yesterday morning, I emailed off my query letter, my synopsis, and the first five pages of my novel to a literary agent.  So I’m back in the agent-search game.  But may I vent a little right now, and say that I hate this game?

First, an aspiring author (me, for example) spends countless hours over several years writing a book.  She alternates between loving her creation and being in despair over it.  It’s her child, the child of her deepest inner self.

Then, it comes time to find a literary agent to represent her.  She carefully proofreads her submission, and with a trembling finger on the left-click, she hits Send.

Then she waits.  A day or two?  Oh, no.  Try FOUR WEEKS.  Or maybe six to EIGHT weeks.  Okay, so to be fair, literary agents are swamped with submissions, and they have to wade through a lot of caca.  But don’t they know we’re out here suffering debilitating separation anxiety while our baby is away????  Don’t they care??????

The agent-search game feels like a magnified version of selling my creations on Magic Carpet Dance Arts, my Etsy shop for tribal fusion belly dance accessories.  I craft a piece of jewelry or clothing, take the best photos of it that I know how, write text about it, and list it on my shop.  Then I haunt my site, checking all day long to see if I’ve gotten any new hearts (Etsy’s version of favorites).  I listen for the ping of my computer saying I’ve received an email, and rush to see if it’s a sale.

I wish that so much of ME wasn’t wrapped up in each thing I make.  I wish I could separate my sense of self-worth from the reception my creations receive. But if I didn’t have so much of ME invested, would my work be as authentic?  It’s a tough balance.

Speaking of balance, I think I shall be balanced and go to bed.  After I check my Etsy site once more.

A Quick Musing on Getting Started

Getting started is always the hardest part for me.

I was just telling my husband how I’d almost finished a dreaded work project yesterday.  This project is supposed to be done quarterly, but it ends up more like twice a year.  For months, it looms before me, feeling overwhelming.  I procrastinate.  The deadline arrives and passes.  I’m filled with guilt.  I get paralyzed.  Then I finally force myself to make an appointment with the person who works with me on this project.  We sit together, figure a few things out, and suddenly I’m off and running.

It’s the same right now with my query letter and synopsis for my novel.  They’re written.  A writer friend critiqued them for me.  I need to make an hour or two of edits, and then I’m ready to send them off to an agent.  I have my first agent in my submission process all picked out already.  But I’m overwhelmed.  Paralyzed.  Not sure I can do it.

I just need to get started.  NOW.  I’m telling you this so that I will actually do it.  Like I said:  NOW.

It’s All About Textures, Materials, Colors, Tools, and Playing

Yesterday, as I sat down to work on items for my Etsy shop, Magic Carpet Dance Arts, I thought of the most recent Voca Femina live performance evening, and of a woman named Cindy.  Cindy is an artist, and she shared several new mixed media pieces she’d created, and told us a story about learning how to let her art be play.  She remembered being in grade school, and feeling excitement and joy at seeing the art teacher (“always an odd little person,” she said) wheel her cart of art supplies into the classroom.  All those art supplies.  All those materials.  All those textures and colors.  It didn’t matter what the project would be; Cindy just wanted to get her hands on all that art stuff and PLAY.  But somewhere along the way in her artwork, the playing went away.

At our Voca Femina evening, Cindy shared her process of returning to play.  Her new pieces were medleys of color and texture and out-of-the-box creativity.  And she told us she made them more quickly than her usual speed, and without as much thinking.  And they were gorgeous.

Back to yesterday.  I still need to get more belly dance costume items made for my Etsy shop.  I read on one of Etsy’s tutorials or forums that it seems to be ideal to have about 60 items in your shop.  Less, and you don’t appear to be a consistent, productive artist and a reliable source of a quality product.  More, and shoppers get overwhelmed.  So when I opened Magic Carpet Dance Arts in February, I set 60 items as my goal.  Right now, I have 22.  And when I sat down to work, I felt the pressure to produce.

But for some reason, I thought about Cindy the little girl, so excited about her art teacher and the cart full of art supplies coming into the classroom and bringing with her a sense of expectancy for the magic that could happen next.  And instead of stressing about making some of my more difficult pieces that I ‘should’ be making, I resolved to just play for a few hours.

One of the things I sell are modified Banjara belts.  Banjara belts are handmade wedding accessories of a group of people in Rajasthan, India, and much loved by belly dancers because of their shiny mirrors and embroidery.  But they are made for young brides to wear around their waists, not for belly dancers with hips.  I’ve figured out a way to re-sew them and turn them into something usable for us.

I have a bunch of them that I hadn’t modified yet, so I spread them all out on my table, and picked the two that appealed to me the most at the moment.

And I played.

And I finished them both.

And I had fun.

Now, HOW am I going to remember this the next time I feel that pressure to produce art?

The Tale of the Leggie-Legs (or How the Goodie-Good Turned Baddie-Bad)

So…I wrote on my Facebook fan page a little while ago that I had been asked by a return customer if I could make her a pair of “leggie-legs”.  I had no idea what leggie-legs were, so asked her to send me some links or photos.  She sent me a link to IlanioWear.com, and here’s what I saw.

And I fell in love with them.  Funky.  Sassy and saucy.  Playful.  Sensual.  Daring.

I’ve come so far, grown so much.  This daring, playful, sensual woman is no longer trapped by the constraints of a religious sub-culture that tried to make her into a goodie-good.  I know who I am now.  And I knew as soon as I saw the photos that I would LOVE to make a pair for my customer.

IlanioWear.com has gone out of business, but they’ve posted their patterns online and say that you can use them as you want.  So I downloaded the pattern and got to work.  Here’s the first pair, the prototype. My customer said she wanted earth tones to go with another item I’d sold her, so I told her I’d make an experimental pair with material I had around, and if she liked them, she could buy them, or she could tell me what colors she wanted.

Well, my customer loved them, but wanted different colors.  (I’m not sure quite where her request for ‘earth tones’ went.)  Anyway, here they are:

Wild, shiny, quilted turquoise, trimmed with bright, bright red and crazy faux fur.  They rank among the most fun costume pieces I’ve ever made.

Hmmm…maybe I need to make myself a pair.

Thoughts from My First Vending Experience

  • Vending is hard work.  Stinkin’ hard work.  On your feet for hours.  Lots of talking.  Talking loudly to be heard in a noisy room.  Did I mention that it’s hard work?
  • Strangers touch your artwork.  They pick up your beautiful creations.  They don’t handle them gently, with love and tenderness, like you do.  They dump them back on your table in disarray.
  • Somebody out there might steal one of your babies.  You have to watch everyone, all the time.  Your heart pounds when you think one of your pieces is missing, only to discover it under a pile of other stuff.
  • It’s really hard to make a display that looks nice.  It’s even harder to keep your display looking nice when everyone keeps coming by and moving things and messing it up.
  • People glance at your beloveds and walk away, and you know they hate your work.  Probably, they hate you too.
  • You get some compliments on your work.
  • Some people ask for your business card.
  • People say things that give you ideas about new things you could make.  “Oh, you should make bags like these!”  “Do you ever make armbands?”
  • Your friends help you at your booth, and you feel surrounded by love and support.  You also have someone to talk to when there’s a lull.
  • You sell some items to complete strangers, and it feels better than Christmas when you were a child.

I can’t imagine vending very often, even though I made some money.  Yesterday’s event gave me a whole new appreciation for people who do the art/craft fair circuit.  Yes, I’ll sign up for a table at our Christmas craft fair at work, but mostly right now, I’m just saying thank God for online shoppers and my Etsy site.

A funky photo of a funky choker

More Treasuries!!

Just a quick post to this morning to say that my Magic Carpet Dance Arts items got included in yet two more Etsy Treasuries!!!

Let’s Dance Together

Gypsy Wanderlust

So WHAT am I doing wrong that I’m not having sales galore????  Obviously people like what I’m making.  And I’m getting lots of consistent traffic to my site.  Maybe it’s time to lower all my prices?????  Lisa Sonora Beam, in The Creative Entrepreneur, warns against artists making their prices so low that they’re not making any profit.  The desire to sell can be TOO strong.  So I’ve been keeping track of how long it takes me to make each piece, and doing some simple math:  the cost of the materials plus a rate per hour.  But what am I worth per hour???????

Odd Inspiration – South Main, Buena Vista, Colorado

In Buena Vista, Colorado, they’re building an old-fashioned town called South Main.  Every house is different, and the styles range from 1920’s Craftsman bungalows to New England mansions with turrets.  There are wraparound porches and wide streets.  Nostalgia abounds.  Fake old, with all the convenience of new.  I can’t decide if I like it or not…

But that’s not my point right now.  My point is the odd inspiration I draw from the wacky outdoor living room that sits right at the edge of the Arkansas River.  Public art for South Main.

Concrete and metal and tiles form a sofa, a high-backed chair, an ottoman, a coffee table with chess board, and an oriental rug.  The lamp really lights up at night.

There’s no plaque to tell who the artist is.  But whoever you are, bravo!  We were in Buena Vista last September, and I saw this work for the first time but didn’t think to take a photo.  However, the complete unlikeliness and creativity of an outdoor living room, the incongruousness of soft made from hard,  the pure fun of it, stayed in my mind for months.

I have no idea what the artist thinks their work means, but it really doesn’t matter right now, because tonight I remind myself that creativity is play, and my inner artist is a child.