jump to navigation

I Met Someone This Morning October 31, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Last night was not a great night.

Well, it was a good night. The Red Sox won the World Series, and while I’m not a baseball fan at all, I do have a soft spot for the Sox. And it was way cool to see them win a pennant at home.

No, last night, I had started to unravel the problem with the SEO in my shop.

For the uninitiated, SEO is what makes your web page show up in searches. So if you type in something like “Snow White Baby Booties”, if my SEO is done right and well, this should come up:

Don't bother trying it...you won't find it. Just click this pic to find the listing, if you're interested.

Don’t bother trying it…you won’t find it. Just click this pic to find the listing, if you’re interested.

Anyway, mine hasn’t been touched because I really don’t know quite how it works, exactly. I’ve read up on it, but it’s kind of like taking a course that you missed the intro class too. You know you don’t know enough to take the class, but you’re not sure what information you’re missing, just that you’re missing…something.

Dealing with some computer stuff reminds me of being back in math class. I loathe math, and it’s because I’ve never really understood how that works, either. I remember doing my homework, reading the book and working out the problems, but not getting what the book was saying. So I struggled. And then I’d get to class and show the teacher and be told it’s wrong. Okay, why is it wrong? And he’d repeat what the book said. And that didn’t help, really, so I’d get frustrated and ask for a different explanation. And I’d try to work out the problem the way the teacher said, only at some point, it just clicked and I knew that there was some important part, some crucial bit of math I must have missed, only I have no idea what so I can’t even ask to have it explained.

That’s how I felt last night. I was overwhelmed and upset by something that should be really easy, but for me is dreadfully hard. Like math.

I went to bed, upset, and knew that I was going for a run this morning.

I started running again. I tried Couch to 5K some months ago, but realized after the first week that I was carrying too much weight still for my knees to handle. I really don’t want to blow out a joint and have to sit it out for weeks while I heal from surgery and get fatter, so I’ve been very careful with not pushing too hard, just hard enough.

But I really want to run. I don’t know why. I never have before. Hell, I’ve faked asthma to get out of running in gym class. (Sorry, Mrs. Nims.) I think it’s because it’s something I’ve never been able to do, and I feel the need to conquer it.

I don’t really like running, to be honest. Not really. It kind of hurts. I don’t really like exercise. If they create a pill that gives the same effect as working out without the sweat and breathing hard, I’m all over that shit like white on rice. In the meantime, I look at it as a challenge of sorts. I’m in a race with myself every day.

A day or two ago, it occurred to me that I look forward to doing my C25K routine. I’m kind of excited to lace on my running shoes and actually, you know, run. Then I get there and wonder for the whole 35 minutes if I’ve lost my fucking mind. It hurts. Hip is pinchy. I’m sweaty and red and trying to focus on keeping a good gait and relaxed shoulders, and pay attention to my breathing… it’s a lot to think about, really. Plus I’m trying to Keep Up With the Kardashians on E! while I’m running, and that’s distracting as hell.

But when I get done, I don’t know if I get that endorphin rush or runner’s high or what the fuck it is, but man, I feel like I can do any damn thing in the world. I might not be fast. I might be unbelievable to look at plodding along in my running tights. But I run.

1392615_603980829664354_1867805992_nSo, I went to bed last night knowing that this morning is my C25K day and while the run might not be fun, the post-run high will make it so much easier for me to tackle the SEO bullshit. Because I feel strong and powerful and hell, if I can run, I can do any damn thing.

And then it happened. I met someone in the gym today. And she’s TERRIFYING.

Usually when I run, I’m pleased that I can outrun Mean Jen. She just can’t keep up with my awesome and she knows it. So with this C25K program, you run for a bit, then walk for a bit, and eventually in stages, you work up to where the running bits are longer than the walking bits and at the end you’re running with no walking at all. I’m on week 2. I repeated week 1 figuring I’m not in a hurry and didn’t want to push it too hard, but felt after the repeat that I was ready to move on. And I’m doing very well. But I don’t like that it’s a 30 minute workout with only 20 minutes of actual interval training. I want to do more, so when I’m supposed to be cooling down, I keep running for that last bit, usually getting in a couple of extra bits of running.

Well, that little bit at the end is when I got Lady Gaga and Xtina singing in my ears. Those bitches are trying to kill me, I swear to God. Especially that little Aguilera girl. Man, oh man. She’s singing “YOU CAN’T STOP ME” and I’m all “RAAWWWRRRR!” and I boost that speed up and I flat out sprint. I’m not jogging or taking it easy. I’m running like something is chasing me, flat out, full speed. My chest is burning, my legs hurt, and I’m dripping sweat, but I can’t stop. And today I heard a voice in my head, right when I started to think I should slow down before my heart explodes, and she yelled at me, “KICK IT. YOU CAN DO THIS! PUSH THROUGH IT TO THE END! DON’T STOP NOW, MAKE THIS 90 SECONDS YOUR FUCKING BITCH, WOMAN!” And I ran. Shit, I was kind of scared not to.

When I slowed down to do my real cooldown, I think I might have looked around. I was panting, gasping for breath and my lungs were searing. And I smiled to myself as I wiped the sweat out of my eyes.

I think I just met Coach Jen. And there’s a chance she’s scarier than Mean Jen.

Mean Jen makes me want to build a blanket fort where I can eat Cheese Doodles and cry about not being able to do SEO, or because I still can’t buy pants in a regular store.

Coach Jen is ready to punch me in the face if I try to tell her I can’t do something.

I’m still sitting here an hour and a half after I got back from the gym, because I’m under mental orders to first write this blog post down so I don’t forget this shit later, and bookmark a site I found this morning that explains SEO for dummies and school myself properly in how to make this fucking website work, because, goddamn it, I need to be bringing in some cash to pay for my 5K entry fees and to keep me in top-of-the-line running shoes.

Coach Jen is scaring the crap out of me, y’all. I’d say more, but she says I’ve already wasted enough time with the navel gazing and I have fucking work to do.

And she also says I should go shower because I kinda stink.

She’s lovely.

 

Advertisements

Life After Etsy October 18, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius, Sticks and String.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

I believe in handmade things.

I believe in the artisan movement.

I believe that things that are made with skill and care and attention to detail have more inherent value than anything made by a machine or on an assembly line.

I believe in art for art’s sake, even if I don’t understand it sometimes.

I believe there is a market for handmade artisan goods.

I believe I am not alone.

I’ve been on Etsy since it was just about to celebrate its first birthday, and in recent years I’ve found cause to rant about its policies as far as what handmade is, how they enforce it on their own site, and I’ve seen a tide creeping in slowly but steadily during that time.

When I opened my first shop, I was as new to internet sales as Etsy was. We were both still feeling our way along. As my knitting skills improved with much time and practice, I began to understand more and more what the artisan handmade movement was really about. I stopped looking at the things that came off my needles as mere objects that were utilitarian, no different than what you could buy in a retail outlet somewhere, and began to see each thing as an individual work of art.

Every stitch is made by my hands. I am an artist, and I work in fiber.

And as that realization grew in me and took hold, I grew as an artist. I embraced what I am.

Etsy did the same thing, seeing what it is and where it wanted to go. It embraced what it was becoming, only we grew apart. Etsy saw that their biggest selling vendors (and biggest source of income) were hitting a ceiling. Some of their policies meant that when a seller felt that they couldn’t grow any more on Etsy, they’d close up shop and leave to where they could have parts of their products manufactured. They could use drop-shipping to fill orders. They could hire help to produce product and fill orders.

That kind of growth is what makes this country great, don’t get me wrong. I believe in growing your business as far as you can.

But at some point, you have ceased to be handmade.

That’s a conundrum for Etsy. How do we claim to be a handmade site, yet keep these very lucrative sellers with us bringing in all their money?

We redefine what “handmade” means.

I don’t think hobby crafters will mind so much. Etsy is a terrific platform for folks who make things and want a great looking place to sell them. Etsy has a name now, and a reputation (or at least it did), and if you understand that you need to drive your own traffic to your own shop and don’t expect Etsy to promote you in any way, it’s great. Easy to use, very affordable, and you can look professional with very little effort.

Business crafters will be in heaven. The ceiling is gone. If you need to hire other hands to make your handmade items, if you want to have your creations mass produced in a factory, you can. Oh, there will be new rules and new caveats, but you are no longer hampered by having to run a one-person show.

It leaves artisans in the lurch. When you create art, whether it’s a painting, a fine aged cheddar, or an embroidered pair of baby booties, it is essentially a solitary process. It’s as much about the process of bringing an idea to life as it is about seeing the idea realized. It’s putting yourself into what you make, and it’s why paintings by fine artists sell for way more money than prints or reproductions of the same picture. The original is where the artist has left himself, in every brush stroke and line and shadow. It’s why you eat an artisan cheese slowly, tasting every bite, pairing it carefully with the right complementary flavors, as opposed to slapping a square of Cracker Barrel on a Triscuit and munching away while you watch football. And it’s why that pair of hand-embroidered booties gets packed away carefully in a cedar chest until the baby that outgrew them announces that they are expecting a child of their own, unlike the $10 pair that came from the Gap and went into the bag being donated to the Goodwill.

I believe that when you say something is handmade, that should mean something.

Etsy and I disagree on what that something is, and it’s why it’s time for us to part ways.

I’m in the process of opening my own online shop. Etsy has always served as my own personal craft fair and art gallery. I make whatever comes into my head, and Etsy gives me a place to show it off and maybe exchange it for a little cash. But I’d like to be more than a hobby knitter, and I think I have the skills to see that happen.

When I went to Seattle over the summer, my main reason for going was to check out the Urban Craft Uprising show and find out why I didn’t get in. It was eye-opening, for sure. It was a large hall, and it was full of artists and craftsmen. And my art was easily up to (and in some cases far beyond) anything I saw there. It was gratifying to see that if nothing else, I have the skills to compete at that level.

But I needed to see what the vendors that got in were doing that is so different from what I was. And about halfway through the show, it was starting to become clear. It was at the booth of a crafter who made all felted things. I was interested because I do a fair amount of felting myself. She had a very small line of items: vases, coasters, bowls, and some wall art. She used a limited palette of colors, and very simple designs. And I remarked at the time (out of earshot of the artist) that I didn’t think I could be that sort of crafter. I’d be bored to tears reproducing the same simple designs and colors all the time, and not being able to give my creativity free rein.

It was a common theme, too. Soap makers produced a small line of really good soap. A woman selling leather bags and cases had a limited number of sizes, and a very unified design theme. Jewelry makers created to a theme or a medium, like the one seller who embraced the 8-bit geekery of old video games, and another who worked in laser-cut wood. And every booth was like that. They made one thing, and they made it very well.

By the time we left, I knew that if I’m going to be an artist at that level, I need to focus. If I want to “quit my day job” and compete in that lucrative marketplace of artisan handmade, I need to figure out what I do well and concentrate on it. I don’t need to leave myself room to grow…I need to figure out how to keep myself in check!

I thought about it a lot, and there was a lot of discussion about what my focus should be. I can knit anything. It’s kind of a point of pride with me.

But looking at it from a business standpoint, my biggest seller and most popular item that I make, by far, are the knit booties with hand-embroidered soles. Without boring you with the numbers, focusing on booties is kind of a no-brainer from a business standpoint.

Creatively speaking, I could make them all day long. And lately, I do. Because every pair is different, and the only limit to what I stitch on them is my own imagination, when I say the possibilities are endless, I mean it. Even though they’re all the same, they’re all very different. It’s hard to get bored with them.

Using booties as the centerpiece, I added baby sweaters and hats under the same umbrella. I chose a palette of colors and a limited selection of styles that I’d produce. So rather than just booties, a customer could get a set, or individual pieces, and can always have something made and personalized just for them.

I’ve also found that less-traditional baby designs are wildly popular. Sure, the monkeys sell, and flowers and such. But a Killer Bunny with Big Teeth? Sold the minute I list it. Skulls? Can’t keep them in stock. Dragons? Sold. When I think of the expression, “This is not your grandma’s knitting,” it strikes me that many people my age *are* grandparents, and we’re defining what “grandma’s knitting” actually is.

So the new shop is called Sprogtoggery, and my focus is on baby things. I have a Facebook page started and ready to go, and the shop is just about ready to launch. I had a vendor supply issue getting buttons (because I insist on using artisan handmade buttons and not just any old thing you can get at Joanns) so I’m a bit behind getting sweaters finished. I hope to be open by November 1, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

My logo is simple, and when the graphic designer showed it to me, she had added the words “100% artisan handmade” under it, and that pulled it all together for me. That’s the focus, and the emphasis, and the whole reason I do what I do. I know that the artisan movement is alive and well, and it is because there are buyers out there who know that when you buy something handmade, you’re not just getting a “thing”. You are getting something special, something beautiful, and something worth preserving.

Now I have to get back to work. These ends aren’t going to weave themselves in, and there are no Chinese kids in my basement gonna do it for me…