27 July 2010

The Roving Reporter - A New Member of the SF Etsy Blog Team

Self-portrait of an artist hard at work. Apparently, Diet Grapefruit Soda is essential.

"It isn't easy being Cheesey!" once said a very famous Cheetah. And now that I have been given a similarly monumental task, I understand all too well.

A few weeks ago, I ended up going to an SF Etsy Team Blog meeting chat at 9 PM on a Thursday. I thought it was mandatory for all SF Etsy members and was looking forward to meeting some new people on the team, as I'd only recently joined. However, when I found that it was just me, Jen of Mama's Magic Studio, Ros of Scottish Lily Jewelry and Eko from Eko Jewelry Design, I found it a pleasant surprise to see that I was actually at a meeting to talk about blog ideas.

I guess it helps when you don't read the fine print; you get some of the greatest opportunities of your life that way.

Having already vowed to myself that I would be better about working diligently to make my own blog a gigantic success (still pending), I'd read up on different ways to work on productivity & ideas beforehand. Going into a chat with these ideas in mind, you wouldn't believe the different kinds of discussions you can have when a whole team is on the same brainstormin' page!

By the end of the chat, I was feeling all geared up after tossing out idea after idea with such fantastic feedback coming at me. And then I did something I never would have done a year ago: I volunteered to write for the Blog.

Keep in mind, I've been against all social media for as long as I can remember (I didn't join MySpace til it was on its way out and I still abhor Twitter with a passion), so even starting THIS blog was a bit out of my comfort zone.

However, when I said,
"Well I have a camera and I love taking photos for my blog. I could go around to craft shows & the like to make the blog more visual..?"
I didn't know that it was going to translate to
"Oh, so you could go to shows, take pictures & do write-ups about them to report 'em back to the blog! That's GREAT!"
... Um... yeah? :D

Thus, one of the newest members of the SF Etsy Team was dreamed up: The Roving Reporter!

While very exciting, it's also very scary to think that my blog posts will be read by anymore than 29 people at a time. :)

On the other hand, it's going to force to step up my game and actually rock out a little harder than usual.

Jenn Meyer (left) & Christina Richards (right) share a laugh in front of the Blue Macaw
as I failed yet again to capture a shot of Jenn doin' the Running Man at Market- SF.

Having already taken on assignments for upcoming/on-going shows in San Francisco, my first post is going to be covering Market-SF - its beginnings, what it stands for and where it's heading. Jenn Meyer of RomeyDesigns & Christina Richards of Finch Design have been more than generous with their time & efforts, so I'll be letting you all get a more in-depth view of the story behind one of the newest on-going artist showcases in the City. Look forward to that post at the SF Etsy Team Blog in the next few days!

My second & third assignments are kind of grouped together in one (except in involves 3 days of reporting and photography!) as I aim to capture the spirit of handmade at the Etsy Meet Up at MOCFA this Friday AND the 3rd Annual Renegade Craft Fair this Saturday and Sunday (11 AM til 7 PM).

I've already sent out a call-out invitation for both SF Etsy members that will be at the Meet-Up and at Renegade to let me know when they'll be available to chat and take pics. Hopefully this leads to some very exciting times for the blog.

Now, if I could only get myself to figure out how to make myself write stuff without the monumental amount of pressure I put on myself to make these Roving Reporter posts the best pieces I've ever written...

How have you overcome challenges that may have prevented you from succeeding in something you REALLY wanted to do well at?
What helped you along? What didn't help so much?

09 July 2010

A Few Great Posts on How to Get Your Photos Front-Page-Worthy

Once upon a time, I asked my sister to take pictures of EVERYTHING for me because I believed I had missed out on inheriting my father's photography-savvy gene (as he did it for money, at one point). My sister, Sarah Cortés, currently freelances in photography & graphic design for a few clients & aspires to be one of the Visual Merchandising Elite for Whole Foods Market in Downtown Salt Lake City someday. She's a gifted artist and has always had an eye for some-kind-of-amazing in subjects, along with a sense of style.

A picture of Sarah Cortés at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, CA
Photo taken by Steph Cortés January 2009

But this post is remarkably not about her. ;D

When faced with opening an online shop in a VAST virtual marketplace, one can quite literally be overwhelmed with the remarkable amount of things that are suddenly (and quite automatically) put onto your "To Do!" list. I mean, if my plate was any fuller, my table might topple over!

But no matter how many things we have shoved onto our proverbial platter of responsibilities, the most discussed topic in getting customers (and hopefully -sales!) into our online shops is... PHOTOGRAPHY!

We may all be creative & craftastic, but not all of us were born photographers! An unexpected task such as taking media-quality pictures with a minimum of 300 DPI is quite a daunting task!

And what the heck is DPI, for that matter?

I've never been a great photographer, but I'm a lot better than I used to be. This was a long process of taking time to research, read & practise what I had learned.

Before & After
Pictures of Weak Sauces that I'd made, taken with lamp light in the middle of the night versus a picture of Gilbert the Grape Weak Sauce taken with chicks at a picnic using 2 PM natural sunlight, props & macro mode.

Seeing as how I've never been a patient person, I was doubtful that taking time to research cameras and photo tips would be helpful. After all, most of the people I knew just took pictures & filtered their items in Photoshop. But since I didn't know how to do a dang thing in any photo editor but Microsoft Paint (*sigh*), I resigned myself to learn the basics.

I've learned that playing with your camera's settings and a few tutorials might help things along a bit. They sure did for me. :D A few tutorials that I've recently found relatively motivating were found in the Etsy Success emails! Here are some quick links to a few posts, along with some descriptions of what they contain so that you can zone in on what you might be needing the most!

A bit by bit feature on what little settings in your cameras do to your pictures. Helpful with lighting & experimenting with different modes.

As mentioned before, photo editing programs can end up tweaking a "good" picture to a "I'll have what SHE'S having!" picture. ;D Read about a few specific moves you can use with a variety of photo editing programs to give you just the right edge!

  • A 2-Part Featured Blog Series by a Photographer in the UK: Part 1 & Part 2
UK Photographer, heidiadnum, shares tips on how to make your camera & your environment work for you with details & sample examples! I highly recommend this series if you're a learner that absorbs best if you read & THEN see what it is you just read about.
Highlights in Part 1: Know Your Camera, Colour, Light, Reflection and Translucence

Highlights in Part 2: In Depth on Backgrounds, Props, Composition, Scale & "..Possibly Upgrading"

I took a long time putting this list together so that we'd know that there were some REALLY awesome quality tips that can help us get our item's pictures Front Page-worthy. :) I can personally attest to the fact that researching, reading & practising what these professionals preach is totally worthy our time!

I'd love to know how these articles have affected how you take pictures for your shops or if you have anymore amazing finds that might help the less-than-savvy photographer rock that lens!

06 July 2010

4 Simple Ways to Love Someone for a Long Time

People have known me to be "over" someone rather quickly after getting together with them. It's usually a period of 3 to 6 months, and then I can't stand my significant other.

So since this has been a pattern for all of my adult life, my friends have been approaching me, asking if I was "over" Roger yet.

"Nope," I smiled my reply.

They ask me why. It had already been more than a year. That's kind of ridiculous for me.

I shrugged and said, "I guess it's the way we treat each other."

I was recently talking with my boyfriend about how we show each other that we love each other. I asked if there was a "secret" to our success. We didn't think so.

But Roger had heard somewhere that married couples that kissed for at least 30 seconds non-stop a day stayed together vs. couples that didn't.

Well, we had that one down.


Something else that I found helped out in this relationship was that I'd been a lot more communicative with my partner. If something bugged me, I told him. I didn't yell at him as much because I didn't let things fester inside of me. Likewise, he listened to what I had to say and tried to apply it to his behaviour. And vice versa. It's rare for Roger to criticize me, but if he feels the need, he knows I'll listen. We both listen, so long as it's not said in spite.

We also attempt to spend time together. We have a lot of shared interests and some not so shared interests. But our routines of "our time" never really get left out. It's as simple as making breakfast together. I'll make eggs or whatever & he'll have to make coffee. We'll watch a show on the Wii and then go our separate ways. Usually he doesn't get home until late night (because of his job & his commute) but we take time to spend 30 minutes yapping in the evening as well. It may seem kind of stupid, but small check in like this often let me know he cares.

And lastly, we try to help each other reach our goals. It might be something small like wanting to finish stitching up a toy, but he'll stay up with me until I'm done (or at least stay in the room, asleep on the couch with the cat) or something as big as starting up his business and giving him the money he needs to get his fictitious business name and business license.

Right now, Roger's working on finishing a comic (he doesn't know if he has what it takes to finish a simple comic or make it into a 16 page zine) and I'm trying to get ready for another craft fair next week. But we're talking it out by brainstorming ways to comic a "sexy librarian" comic based on how I looked going to church last week and also how to get the sewing machine to be my friend so that I can finish these stupid feet for Kirbys (6 of them) in less than 36 hours. :)

There are lots of ways not to get sick of someone, but showing affection, communicating, spending time together and helping each other really go a long way. I've learned that nagging someone, withholding affection, resenting & feeling lonely don't have to be the only way to feel in relationships. Just being happy with each other and valuing one another have made me dig someone for more than 3 - 6 months, tops.

What are some of the ways that you keep your relationship alive? How do you show you care?

04 July 2010

We've got some catching up to do - Updates

It's been a while since I posted about local craft shows & what I've been doing to get ready for them. I even was working on a big custom job for my awesome customer, Carlee in Winnipeg. So it's silly that I haven't kept anyone updated on what happened with these various projects.

1) Custom Orders
I've recently been getting more custom orders (which is AWEsome!), but has made it difficult to stay on top of everything. However, I've always thought custom orders were the jobs that helped me push my own limits to do things I never thought I would be able to do. :) The most recently custom order that I'm very proud of is a Cuddly Pyro from "Team Fortress 2" made for Carlee.

Pyro ended up being close to 14" tall and 8 inches "wide". I use soft acrylic yarns for his body, a combination on wool & eco felt for his accessories and little muslin bags filled with polybeads to weigh down his feet. I never thought I'd be able to get him to stand on his own, but he does if his feet are massaged into positioning themselves the right way. Isn't that just like a guy!? *laughs* He's not available for sale just yet, as this one was made especially for Carlee, but if there's interest, he should be available in the late Fall 2010.

2) Craft Shows!

My first craft show was Saturday the 26th of June with Market SF, held at The Blue Macaw in the lovely Mission in San Francisco. I did my very best to prepare for this show and learned a lot in the process. I'm hoping to do a blog post just based on "How To Prepare For a Craft Show" so I don't want to give the whole thing away here, but I will share a few things that happened to me:

- One of the first transactions was $100 bill. I didn't listen to books that said bring $50 in change. I brought $200 (since I've been working retail for a while, I know that's the minimum amount I would be comfortable with) and I'm glad I did!

- I got absolutely NO sleep before the show. I was making runs to the 24 HR Walgreens in Westlake to buy posterboard (to paint my show banners on at 6 AM), trail mix (for a quick snack that keeps on giving during the show) and Lo Carb Monster energy drinks (cos there was now way I was gonna pull an all-nighter without my blue lil friends). I would recommend.

- Having a variety of checklists is what saved me from forgetting something crucial to the presentation of the show. I had lists in my Idea book and lists from my favourite craft business books. You can NEVER have too many lists. If you miss one this somewhere, someone else's list may have it covered

- I had an effin' GREAT time! Jenn, Jon & Christina from Market SF were all AMAZING, to say the least. If anyone in San Francisco wanted to do an artists' market, THIS was the place to do it. Great artists, great food & fun times all around. I overheard one customer comment to another as they were shopping, "This show is great! You would think that out of a roomful of artists there would be a few duds, but every single one of these pieces is amazing!" Cheers to Jenn from Romey Designs and Christina from Finch Design SF for putting this show together; a roomful of talent, indeed!

- Traffic on Gay Pride weekend may have been slower than one would have hoped for, but everyone still worked their butts off to make it a successful event. We still had lots of cool individuals come on down (a few of my invites showed up, too!) and show their support. It was more ideal for me since it was my first show. :) My next show will be on Saturday 10th July from noon til 6 PM! Sunshine, $5 mimosas, DJs & radtastic crafts will be abound. So if you didn't get a chance to swing by last time, check out all the new artists that'll be featured THIS week HERE!

- Making friends & trading "Best Practises" tips was something else that was awesome. I learned from Andrew at APlushPlush that I ought to value my time a little more & work on adjusting my prices to reflect the amount of time & effort that goes into my art. He's got an AMAZING shop with fantastic original designs for plush toys. If you're interested in bright colours & squishy objects like I am, check him out!

3)New Stuff!

It doesn't always go the way you think it would when you try to make new items for your shop. I know that I've come up with concepts and names, but when it came to designing prototypes, I was dismayed with the results. Whether it was something the planning stages that went wrong or simply not enough inspiration, there seemed to be something stopping me from making new items.

It's coming to that point again in my career with nerdJERK. I recently applied to be part of the Etsy Plush team and was rejected because I hadn't developed my original work enough yet. They urged me to continue with what I was doing and reapply with my own designs when I was ready.

Well, I like to cater to the geek crowd. I like coming up with designs based on a picture that someone gives me. But it's hard to just do one, two or even three things when I've got a LOT of things I want to do.

So we'll see if those cute Moleskine notebooks start popping up on my virtual shelves or the silly Mr. Sourpuss makes an appearance. I've gotten feedback that people would buy my things no matter what (cos not all peeps are into video games) but I don't even know what I'd create yet.

Any ideas as to what kind of cool amigurumi toys you'd like to see? Are there certain things that aren't video game based that you would still be into geeking out about?

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