Sunday, May 30, 2010

Etsy Shop Critique - NeatBeading

Critique of Neatbeading's Etsy Shop:

Well, from your avatar and even with a cursory glance of your store, I didn’t realize that your items were bracelets. Maybe your hand displays will make it more evident that that is what your shop has to offer once you get all of your item images updated.

I didn’t think it was possible, but your seed beads look elegant. I never liked seed beads, and I really can’t fathom that they would be worth the effort it takes to put something so intricate together. However, I have to say that your bracelets are quite lovely. I think that someone would need to have an eye for how they would look to really appreciate them fully because your pictures don’t really capture the way they hang and look on a wrist. Even the items you’ve updated with the model hands aren’t giving a clear representation of how your bracelets would look live. You should photograph them either on live models or on a mannequin wearing an evening gown. They need to be viewed in action to see how they would be worn.

You get one WTF point for having as your sole prop what appears to be a Chinese take-out box. While it does make for some great photos, I started to get a little curious about it after seeing it with all of your items. Take-out doesn’t really go with the theme of your bracelets so much. Perhaps some half-filled champagne glasses with a lipstick print on them?

If you really want to start making sales, you’re going to have to add a lot more products to your page. [ see my philosophy about the law of odds and averages by clicking here. I’m not saying you should be discouraged and feel like you need to set up a beading sweat-shop in your house to be successful, but don’t expect sales to happen until you have more time invested and more products to display. Your bracelets would be great holiday gifts, so start thinking of ways to promote your items as great Christmas/holiday purchases for bridal parties, wives, girlfriends, fiancés, etc. on various blogs, treasuries, shopping sites, social networking sites, and any other media you can fathom.

One thing I don’t normally comment on is item tags. You have to think of what shoppers are typing when they are searching for a bracelet. After being frustrated at the millions of shitty items on Etsy, they will undoubtedly refine their search to include adjectives which describe the items. I doubt many people will search for “blocks bracelet,” but they would be more likely to search for “formal bracelet,” or “elegant bracelet.” In that vein, I believe to optimize your search engine friendliness, you should change your tag line to be something very specific about what you sell (elegant bracelets for sophisticated women).

Your item descriptions are great. I couldn’t do them better myself.

Your profile is well-done, too. The conversational style of writing often makes people look a bit crazy (in the bad way), but you’ve pulled it off and managed to tell a “neat” little story with your profile. The main recommendation I have for your profile is that you change this line: “Wide cuffs that looked great and made me feel so cool.” << the word “cool” just is too vague and non-descript, and it conjures an image that doesn’t match your jewelry. Your designs are mature, sophisticated, and elegant. Describing the bracelets as designs which “behave like a fabric” was brilliant and created a clear picture of your items. I would suggest refining your profile or adding a few extra lines to include what makes your items so unique. I like the word “slinky” myself. ;-)

Overall, I would say that you are off to a marvelous start. Your products reflect serious creativity and patience, your descriptions are well-written, and your photos are aestetically pleasing. Just focus on photographing them in action.

Oh, and I would recommend removing the line about treating the clasps with care. It detracts a little from the integrity of your items. If any of your customers are stupid enough to submerge their items for a prolonged period of time in liquid, they deserve to have them tarnished. Maybe put a line in your shop policies about that.

And WTF is up with your shipping options? If it costs 3.50 no matter where you send it, just have one damn option instead of listing individual countries. You get another WTF point for that, ha ha.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Etsy Buyer: Vocexseta -- Etsy's Greatest Buyer

I've been wanting to make this post for a long time, but the universe wasn't ready to let me until after the finale of Lost. [ R.I.P. Sayid ] So now, the planets have aligned, and I can introduce to you one of the coolest buyers on Etsy. Having a profile like the one I have on Etsy often gets me some "unique" correspondence, but none as unique as this customized artwork I received as a reaction to my profile page. This was a very thoughtful gift from Etsy's self-proclaimed greatest buyer, Vocexseta. Her epic profile made her a shoe-in candidate for the WTF empire's hall of fame:

An 18 year old with money to spend and an addiction to Etsy. D=

(Nope there is no store here! Just the greatest buyer you will ever come across! *GLORY* =D......../ego)

Uses Paypal only and pays immediately unless details need to be sorted out with seller. I'll do my best to review my purchase fairly and thoroughly. I understand how important it is to your shop and how important it can be to potential buyers. You may even get an appreciation picture! =O (I don't know why others don't play with that more often.) Although, I am a bit busy and do order a lot so if my review seems a little late I apologize. I will always leave something! If I've bought from you then I thank you for making awesome unique stuff. (Also, I will undoubtedly stalk your store from now on.)

Oh and if there is a delay in transaction for any reason just let me know so I don't have to be paranoid that my Paypal account has finally said EFF THIS and walked off. D=

I cannot believe how much better it is to buy from individuals who love their craft than stores and corporations. I support you all as much as I can! :D

Much appreciation to the artists who make such wonderful things. =D Your creations overflow in my room. Really. >.>

Yes, I do use smileys too much. Oh well.

=O I just realized my User I.D. has 1337 in the middle!

Below is the inevitable interview:

ME: What makes you the greatest buyer on Etsy?

Vocexseta: The greatest buyer, you say? Well, seeing as I am behind on reviews (I have like 8 pages left to do! x_x) and have yet to come near finishing all of my appreciation photos I'll have to temporarily step down from such an honorable title. -_- But I'm not too modest to say I have been a good buyer on Etsy. To quickly and simply sum up why, I'd have to say because I want to make the seller happy as well.

ME: You're 18 and an e-stalker with lots of personality. What do you buy and what do you do with it?

Vocexseta: Geez, make it sound like I'm watching sellers with my e-binoculars in some e-bushes. xD I buy all sorts of things and parade around in them of course! Jewelry, paintings, amigurumi, facial products, soap, hair extensions, switch plate covers, crochet patterns, hair accessories, etc. Lately, it's been mostly jewelry supplies since I'll hopefully have my own shop soon. ^.^ I'm having a hard time deciding a name though...

ME: What the hell does LURVE mean?

Vocexseta: How does no one ever know? It's an obnoxiously sweet way of pronouncing LOVE. It's one of my favorite materials! ^.^

ME: Who are some of your favorite sellers on Etsy that you like to e-stalk?

Vocexseta: Good Lord, I'm not sure if you have the space for it. heh. Well, first off anyone I've ever bought from has a stalk stamp on them. I present this list in no particular order:

PixiEGlamouR and Pegasusmaiden- feather accessories
voraciousbrain- crazy awesome cross stitching
aikoslove and shawnaerback- paintings
Vivka and puppycatmeow- hair extensions
Nevertoomuchglitter- nail art
TheEverydayDivaCo- the BEST bath and body care
Believe me, I cut this list way down.

ME: Why do you shop on Etsy as opposed to going to a store? Is it the thrill of getting mail that drives you, or do you have a more lofty reason?

Vocexseta: Have you ever heard the Blues Clues mail time song? It well sums up how I feel about getting mail. It's like Christmas all of the time! I buy from Etsy mainly for two reasons: unique items and more personal interaction. I mean where else can I get SNES controller shaped soap or a cross stitch diagram of the clap? Also, because most sellers care greatly about each individual buyer the customer service is usually far better than corporation service. Often times, the product is better made as well. I have the opportunity to support the original creators and since I have this innate desire to encourage others as much as I can I thoroughly enjoy Etsy as a shameless venue for that. ^.^

ME: What does your username 'vocexseta' mean?

Vocexseta: It is the two Italian words "voce" and "seta" with the x serving as a space. It stems from a nickname I have with some friends from Italy meaning voice of silk. When first meeting me, I am a bit shy and soft spoken and they would tease me about it referring to me as voce di seta. They call me Seta now frequently, but I decided to use the whole phrase without di.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Etsy Shop Critiques - Sydney Alfano

Etsy shop critique for Sydney Alfano:

You have a pretty big range of items on your page. It's like a little haven for ADHD people like myself. While it may be overstimulating to some people, the constant change of pace, variety, out-of-the-world descriptions, and busy backgrounds kept me clicking around your shop so much that I actually added a few items to my cart. For your creative chaos, you get one WTF point.

You should rearrange your items to have the front page of your shop be a little more representative of what all you have to offer.

Your seed-beaded flowers are cute, but I don't know if they are worth the effort. I haven't ever seen adults wearing seed beads, and I don't know that they are worth the time and effort that goes into them. If you're selling them, though... don't listen to me.

Your descriptions are definitely WTF worthy. Here are some noteworthy quotes from your item descriptions:
~Orchids are icons of beauty, and of love. Attract your soul mate without even trying.
~Finished in the center with an Amethyst round, known to bring peace to whomever wears it.
~Colorful like a late summer field.
~Calla Lilies have proved to last with the changing of times and trends, and symbolize majestic beauty and purity.
~Oh the memories of walking into a Candy Shop, fascinated by all the sweet smells and mouth watering colors and shapes..

And then reality strikes, and no, I don't need that sweet, I'm on a diet, sugar keeps me up at night, whatever I need to tell myself to think of something else..

Satisfy your sweet tooth and your conscience with this adorable necklace, featuring fruity lampwork glass beads shaped just like our beloved memories.
A rainbow of glass sweets, these mouthwatering lampwork beauties will bring a smile to whoever wears it, and for all who admire it.

You are personifying and even anthropomorphizing your jewelry, which is cool in my book. According to Greek mythology, even Zeus couldn't override the power of the Fates, but your orchid can! I like your profile and descriptions. You have a relationship with nature and your craft, which is evident in your nomenclature. The poem in your profile is nifty. I give you two WTF points for assigning human characteristics and supernatural properties to your items.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Etsy Shop Critique - NorthToAlaskaDesigns

NorthtoAlaskaDesigns and SillyLittleGifts:
Okay, first impression is that you’ve got a great profile and shop announcement in both shops. You’re light-hearted, which complements the respective motifs of your shops. You also do a great job in explaining the intricacy of your craft without sounding arrogant.
The major issue, which is big enough for 2 WTF points, is that neither of your shops have enough items in them. You shouldn’t think about opening a second shop unless you have two totally separate genres of items and have at least 75ish of each. You need to consolidate your shops and just make a “miscellaneous” or “potpourri” section. Just put a little explanation that you are sometimes inspired by non-Alaskan stimuli. Just because it comes from you it still has an Alaskan panache.
I’ve never been a fan of seed beads, but I do like the clam and flower and butterfly appliqués. I just think I can’t justify the amount of time it would take to make something like that for the small amount of money it would yield. I’m not too big on the purses you have them on, either. Maybe you could attach them to like an iron-on backing or a pin so people could put them on the product of their choice.
I see you have a disclaimer about your photo quality in your shop, but your pictures aren’t that bad. It’s your backgrounds which detract from the appeal of your items.. Wood – especially a light grain of wood—or anything brown or khaki usually doesn’t look good as a background. Also, there is a lot you can do with your cheap-ass camera and lack of equipment to make your pictures a lot better. I know sunshine is a commodity up there, but you have to take advantage of it. You can change the angles, background props, and lighting to improve your pics. Also, a little photo-editing will really neaten up your images. For instance, I literally timed myself and it took 12 seconds to make this change on your Alaskan Forget Me Not Bookmark in peyote beadweaving stitch item.

Before & After:

The after version isn't perfect, but it was such an easy change. And, NEVER USE FLASH!

Although... looking at your second page, it looks like your photography in reference to lighting, angles, and props/backgrounds has greatly progressed. You have some really good photos.

You certainly get a WTF point for the banner on your SillyLittleGifts store. The baby taking a nose-dive into a tub. I like your avatar on the Alaska shop, but the banner needs some work. The font is nice. I have that font... but the way it's integrated into the image doesn't meld into the design very well. Why the hell did you go with navy blue? Furthermore, when you have a busy banner, it's best to have some kind of border so that it isn't such a big, slapdash rectangle against the white page.

I have been dying to use the word "perfunctory," but the opportunity hasn't yet presented itself; therefore, I am using it in this declarative statement to purge the urge.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Etsy Shop Critique - Firingitup

Shop Critique for FiringItUp:

You're off to a good start, but there are a lot of aspects of having a shop upon which you can build and improve. Don't get overwhelmed by the suggestions. These are just ideas.

First, your photos are indicative of your status as a n00b. Unfortunately, to make it on Etsy you can't just be great at your craft. You have to also be good at image-editing software and photography. Instead of taking your photos at an approximately 60 degree angle from above to below, try some different and interesting angles. Your photos are much better in your other shop. I have some photo tips for fellow broke and unprofessional photographers here.

Also, your banner earns you a WTF point. You don't have to be good at making banners to get a good banner on Etsy. I see people offering free help on the forums all the time, but you can get lots of starving artists to design you a beautiful banner for under ten bucks.

Your profile needs a little upping. You can do some witty wordplay with the high temperatures and glass. Handmade glass pendants are very cool, and most people don't have access to a kiln and wouldn't have a clue about how to cut glass. You should advertise yourself a little more. I like the fact that you added the personal bit about the 80s music. While a ghastly era for fashion, music, and pop culture, I still conjured the image of you with a sideways ponytail singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and choosing your color pallet from inspiration gleaned from a hair band's album cover. That gave you another WTF point. I still haven't written my "about me" for my blog, so I understand why you haven't gotten to the profile yet. << I would totally wear this pendant. It rocks.

Total WTF rating: 2

Etsy Shop Critique - ToilandTrouble

Critique of ToilandTrouble's Etsy:

First, let me say that your model (don't know if that's you) is very pretty. Your photos are brilliant, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your profile. You gained some cool points with the martial arts instructor bit, and even more for your humble admission of not being ready to put your art "out there" yet. I thought you gave just enough of yourself in your profile to make you someone with whom I would like to do business because I identified with you and respected you. Congrats on the feature in the Boston Herald and thanks for offering vegan-friendly options.

I don't really have any suggestions for improvement other than you might want to change your line-up a little for the summer. I can't imagine that scarves and cowls get a lot of hits in the hot seasons, but the flower pin, bracelet, and other accessories would be much more marketable for June and July. I dig the flower pin. :-)

You had me at Shakespeare. One of my degrees is in literature.

You also receive a WTF Rating of 1 as you have taken no neurotic or pathological risks on your site.

Etsy Shop Critique - CrimsonPetalCouture

Critique of CrimsonPetalCouture's Etsy:

Because you have such an eclectic and panoptic repertoire of cultural influence, your shop should reflect that. Your profile and shop description sound more like the suburban girl with a subscription to Cosmopolitan than someone who is widely traveled and has first-hand experience with authentic cultural experiences.

You should capitalize on your background and use more esoteric language to describe your shop and items. Words like "perfect" and "lovely" could describe anything, but you can use more culturally-rich vocabulary with authenticity. When I saw that you were in Turkey, my opinion of your shop automatically went up. My Americanized need to experience something a little more genuine than Claire's or American Eagle automatically gravitates to international sellers.

Your item descriptions are great! Very thorough and detailed, with the esoteric vernacular I think would enrich your shop announcement and profile. This is an exemplarof what makes your item descriptions ideal:

"Tambour embroidery is a french style embroidery used by Haute Couture fashion designers. It is a slowly dieng art, and only 2 Universities in the world are working on keeping this artform alive."

Your items are beautiful and look expertly crafted. Your photos are exquisite and give a clear picture of your items from various angles.

Your banner could be updated. Generally, centered text on a banner doesn't look professional. Also, photos are hard to incorporate into banners, especially if you use more than one.

Your shop rates as a 1 on the WTF scale, which is probably good news to you. Nothing in your shop suggests any brand of mania or neuroticism.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Etsy Seller: McGino, A Hottie's Perspective

I'm new to this whole blog thing, but it sure is fun. I get to overshare with the public and make virtual friendships with people who are far too cool to live in a sodding culture-vacuum like where I live. One very cool seller I've come across is Colleen, who has offered to provide the prize for our next contest. She has two Etsy shops, McGino, her primary shop, and Just Harry, an homage site to all things Harry Potter. While I'm too fascinated with the mysteries of the human psyche to be interested in fantasy fiction, but I do love everything in both of her shops.

Okay, I'll shut up now and just let you read the interview. Without further adieu,

ME: First of all, you have some of the most disturbingly amazing props and backgrounds for your images. It's like you borrowed them from Marylin Manson. What's up with that?

McGino: What a compliment! I have a big case in the Socorro County Arts gallery/gift store to display my jewelry and other wares, so I like to make it stand out with props and decorations. I lean toward the creepy/spooky/scary stuff, so I’m sorry that Halloween comes only once a year.

ME: You are a physics and astronomy professor, and quite frankly... you're hot. Do you have a pair of librarian glasses? Have you ever reenacted a scene from the movie Secretary while wearing those glasses?

McGino: Yes, I teach online and love it. As for being hot, I’m just really good at Photoshop. I could make Betty White look hot. If those cheapie magnifying glasses you get in the pharmacy section of Walmart can be considered librarian glasses, then yes, I do have some. I’m not familiar with the movie “Secretary”, but I do plan to reenact the ‘put the f----ing lotion in the basket’ scene from “Silence of the Lambs” with my robots soon, does that count?

ME: What about you qualifies you for the lofty label of being a "badass," one of the most illustrious titles ever bestowed upon someone here in the WTF world?

McGino: Actually, I think it is my age that qualifies me. Things change as you get older. Well, my age and my physical inactivity; sitting in front of a computer most of the day. I’m really hoping that my new exercise regime of an hour on the stationary bicycle and stair stepper each day will help turn things around. Oh wait, you said ‘badass’, not ‘fatass’….

ME: Not only are you the first person to ever send me a gift in gratitude for an order, but you also sent me one of the coolest vintage necklaces I have ever seen. Where do you find such cool items? Where do you get your ideas?

McGino: Well, I had never had received so many extra goodies in my order from anyone; I’m glad you like it! I was just lucky finding that necklace. You see, I live rurally in a very small town, so there’s not much around here in the way of places to find cool vintage things, and I am far too lazy to drive the hour to go to Albuquerque where the shops are. So I get most of my vintage stuff on ebay, buying bit lots from folks that go to estate sales (which is generally much cheaper than buying vintage stuff on Etsy, sorry to say). Then my sisters who live in ‘real’ cities send me interesting stuff they find at garage sales or thrift stores, and my mom has given me some amazing stuff from her own jewelry collection (much of which I can’t part with). The necklace in question came from an estate sale I went to when I was visiting with my sisters in northern California. There was a whole house filled with jewelry, bins and bins of it, it was paradise! Now that I’ve finally seen an estate sale, I think that is the best way to go. So I might have to drive that hour up to the big city next time I need to stock up on vintage jewelry.

ME: What are some highlights from your Etsy experiences (think about some cool people you've met, some hilarious things you've seen, some really nice compliments you've gotten, something/s awesome you bought, items you regularly buy, etc)

McGino: Let’s see….cool, you...hilarious, you...compliments, from you….awesome supplies, from you…hmm, are we detecting a theme here? But seriously, your bio in WTFsupplies is the funniest thing I’ve seen on Etsy, which prompted me to write you a note praising you for your cleverness. The nicest compliment I received was when a woman who has her own
Etsy store of cool jewelry made from vintage components bought one of my expensive necklaces rather than just making a knockoff of it herself – that’s a huge compliment! A very cool thing happened just last week. After I told one of my wonderful customers that I love the Harry Potter series she suggested I get the books of German writer and cartoonist Walter Moers, so I did. I just finished the first book The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear which I loved, and have three more of his books on the way. I sense another line of jewelry inspired by fantasy literature on the horizon…. I only buy supplies on Etsy, I have a handful of favorite suppliers (including you) that I regularly buy from. I do get tons of inspiration from the amazing artistry I see on Etsy. The only things I’ve bought on Etsy that I kept for myself are two watches from you, the robot and skull/crossbones, and a robot charm from another supply store.

Being featured in the WTF Etsy blog is a highlight! I've had a few other sellers who contacted me to be featured in their blogs with the caveat that I include a giveaway. I agreed, and then never heard from them again. Pfff. I'm impressed that you are actually following through with your offer, and you never even asked for a freebie. Very professional! So since you didn't ask I had to offer a giveaway to your readers :-)

ME: Okay, did you vote on the WTF polls? Who'd you pick for hottest TV badass?

McGino: Yes. House. He is annoying, condescending, sarcastic, self-aggrandizing, humorous and brilliant, all qualities I admire and aspire to.

ME: Your shops are so immensely cool. I have to say that your robot scene is far beyond my creative capacity and artistic verve. What did you have to do to set that scene up? Also, since you have a variety of media on your stores (jewelry, cards, vintage, fine art, Potteresque accessories, etc), what sells the most? What would you imagine would sell more but just hasn't?

McGino: First, thanks! I really love my robots, I have about 30 or so. Setting up the scenes can be very time consuming. I have a ton of miniature props – food, beverages, sporting goods, electronics, vehicles, furniture, clothing, accessories – and I’m always buying more. Sometimes a miniature item I find will give me an idea for a scene, sometimes a movie scene or song will spark an idea (most of my miniature cat scenes started this way), and sometimes it is the robots themselves that tell me how they want to be depicted. The astronomer scene was a custom order for a fellow physicist who accepted my Alchemy bid.
I sold her on the idea of a robot in a spacecraft looking through a telescope, then got input from her about what else she wanted in the scene (her boyfriend with beer, physics books, low lighting, etc.).
Then it was a matter of finding things I had on hand and creating the scene. The walls are disposable roasting pans and cupcake pans, then I added the actual cupcake liners with little astronomy images on them to add color and cut down the glare from the tin pans. The light sculpture is made from plastic straws with little lights on the bottom and the base is a toilet paper tube wrapped in aluminum foil. The lighted coffee table is a little light covered in a cupcake wrapper and plastic lid from a jar of instant coffee. The most time consuming bit were the books and magazines; I printed out tiny pictures of real books then folded them up to look like tiny books. The whole process of getting the images, printing them and folding them took about six hours! But I’m sure I’ll be able to use them again.
My stores are only 5 months and 1 month old, so I don’t see real specific sales trends yet. But I suppose the thing that I’ve sold most of have been necklaces. Maybe it is just because those are the things I relist the most often? I guess I expected more sales on my “10 bucks and under” items. Again, maybe it is because I don’t relist them often?
As for Alchemy, the only two bids that have been accepted were for custom robot scenes. After scouring the requests daily for the past several months I’m finding that in most cases I’m not interested in bidding on jewelry requests, since it seems that most folks want to pay pennies on the dollar for custom items. I’m sick of seeing the “I want something unique and amazing and don’t want to spend more than $5 including shipping, show me what you got!” crap. What’s worse is that these listings usually have a ton of bids. Come on, Etsy artisans, don’t sell yourself so cheap! Okay, rant over.

ME: Have you ever personally met anyone from Etsy? (if you haven't, just skip this. if you have, tell me a story about it)

McGino: Actually, one of the jewelry artists in my local group, Socorro County Arts, just told me she has an Etsy shop but I haven’t seen it yet. And with that new feature, shop locally, I was surprised to see a half dozen sellers based in my little town. So maybe I’ll meet up with one of them someday!

ME: You are a bastion of success. A published artist, a professor, a photographer, a jewelry maker. Why are you such an over-achiever? What else do you do? What are some ideas you have for new things you'd like to do? Want to tell us about some of your accolades?

McGino: And here I thought I wasn’t doing enough…I used to sing with my sisters when I was a kid. We were on American Bandstand twice and some other old shows. Neither fame nor fortune followed, unfortunately. I used to have a home recording studio. I wrote the scripts for and recorded planetarium shows, did some background music for cable TV and commercials, tried writing pop and kid songs. Neither fame nor fortune came from any of that either. When I was the director of the Dudley Observatory in NY a while back I used to give a lot of public lectures and do a lot of interviews on TV, radio and newspapers to talk about current astronomical events and such, that was fun. A little fame, no fortune. My boyfriend and I built the small house we live in with our own two, uh, four hands from the ground up, and will be starting on the large house soon. Saving a fortune, no fame. As for new things, I’m learning to take care of plants for the first time in my life. I have flowers and even a small vegetable garden. Hopefully I won’t kill them off…I’m learning how to shoot and will start participating in local action pistol competitions (no shooting critters, just targets). I would like to get a kiln and start working with precious metal clay. I wish I could draw. I wish I could think of something clever to make (other than purses that nobody in their right mind would use) with the 100 (and counting) large cat food bags I refuse to throw away.

ME: How much would you be willing to bet, as our next contest comes up, that your crafting space is messier than mine? Also, you are offering the prize for the next contest. Can you give us a preview of what the contest will be?

So, in response to this question, McGino sent me this image of her craft space. Although I am stimulated by the space, it is utterly pristine and in order compared to mine. Too bad she wouldn't bet me on messiest! BUT, McGino isn't entering the contest, she's offering the prize. She just wanted to inspire the WTF readers with her own version of chaos. What we're doing is offering a chance for our readers to send a picture of their craft space. The craziest, most neurotic space will win: so, whether you're messy, anal retentive, obsessive compulsive, a hoarder, an alphabetizer, or if you have several rooms of your house that look like a boutique, we want to see whose spot is the surest embodiment of our WTF!? Etsy tradition.

(See picture below for the prize)

ME: Lastly, tell me three things that all shoppers should know, would never had guessed, or that they would love about McGino:

1. I rescue stray cats, get them fixed, inoculated, get them all medical care they need, and find them a home – mine (this helps to explain the 100 and counting large cat food bags).
2. I work from home so I often have a movie playing in the background. The movies I put on at least once a week are Zoolander, Silence of the Lambs, and Harry Potter movies.
3. I listen to audio books when I sleep, either murder mysterious or fantasy stuff like Rowling or Walter Moers. Now that I think of it, this may partially explain the bizarre dreams I have…

A Toilet Humor Guide to Taking Beautiful Pictures when You're Broke

Studio lighting. Umbrellas. Photo boxes. 1,000+ Digital SLR cameras with lenses. It's the same story every time I have asked someone how they get such great photos. But, on my budget and with my prices being often lower than the cost of materials, I can't really justify spending that much.

But, I found a solution.

What you need:
1 - digital point-and-shoot camera, preferable 10+ Megapixels
1 - bathroom with white walls and windows
1 - sheet of poster board or scrapbook paper
1 - commode

Friends, if you don't have those items... well, there's nothing I can do for you.

Here's what I've been doing. I put a sheet of 12 x 12 scrapbook paper upside-down on my toilet so that the bright white side is showing. Not the seat, but the cover over the back tank. If you don't have white walls, improvise. Put up a couple sheets of poster board. Any white-walled, closed in room with lots of natural light will focus like a giant lightbox. In other rooms in my house, where the walls are different colors and the floors are hardwood, the lighting has that ugly brownish-yellow hue that makes your pictures look so n00b.

[ Disclaimer: I feel I have established my competence with regards to my propensity to utilize appropriate vocabulary; therefore, I am claiming poetic license to use words like n00b. ]

Take your pictures when a lot of sunlight is pouring in through your windows. If I take pictures in my bedroom, the best time for me to take pictures is in the early morning; however, I am very rarely up in time for that. If I'm taking pictures in the afternoon or early evening, I use the bathroom. Hell, I even put the lid down on the toilet and have a seat while I'm taking pictures. The more white you put around your items, the more light bounces off of it and the more accurate your photos colors will be. Your eyes aren't seeing what your camera sees, so use the viewfinder to see how your pictures are looking.

Make sure that when you're taking your pictures that you use the correct "white balance" function. Most point-and-shoot cameras costing under $200 have four white-balance settings: sunlight, incandescent, flourescent, and tungsten. In your camera's menu, you can change the white balance setting between the two very quickly. If your pictures have a yellowish hue, then set the white balance to "tungsten." If your pictures have a bluish hue, try incandescent. If the light is bright enough, your "auto" white balance setting should be sufficient.

The most important setting on your camera is the close-up mode. Usually, the setting on your camera (either accessed by the digital menu or by turning the settings wheel on the top of your camera) is a picture of a flower. If you want those striking, detailed close-up pictures for your small items, then you're going to need to use your micro mode.

Lastly, if you're in the market for a reasonably-priced digital camera, I just went through a trial-and-error period in which I purchased (and returned) the following brands: Olympus, Kodak, Sanyo, Nikon, and Sony. The worst of the worst was the Olympus. When I held the camera, I could just feel the cheapness radiating from it. It was a 14MP camera, but I've seen tracphones take better pictures. The Kodak ran a close second to the Olympus for shittiest quality. It was slow to focus, slow to boot up, and I ended up trashing about as many pictures as I used. The Nikon, and surprisingly the Sanyo, took fantastic pictures and seemed to be great cameras; however, they just weren't performing at the rate I was hoping in relation to close-ups and ease of use. If you take a lot of pictures in a short period of time, constantly transitioning between "auto" mode and close-ups, then speed and practicality matter. The fifth and last camera I tried was the 14MP Sony Cybershot SteadyShot DSC-W330. I was amazed immediately, especially with the close-ups. I don't have to switch between picture modes, lighting settings, white balance, or any other setting.

This camera is about $159 and can be purchased at most major retailers (Wal-mart, Best Buy, Target, etc.) or online.

If you have any room with lots of natural light, then you might not have to use the back of the toilet. I wish you the best of luck with your photographs, and I hope this has been helpful for those of you out there with a limited budget. Let me know if you try any of these tips and they work for you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Retired Contest: Celebrating Etsy's Wild Side

The voting is complete, and the winner is Mr. C's Woody Hoody. That means Mr. C, you now have $25 to stock up on supplies in preparation for opening your own Etsy store!

Linda says this snazzy little didgerido:

Wow. Check out this recommendation from vocexseta:

Robin. found this vintage boat lamp. I think this is outrageous in the good way. :-):

Estylo isn't a fan of toilet humor.

Weird Bug Lady. found this paradox of a gem :

and this, too, from the same seller

The lovely Richelle. had me crackin' up with this mysterious little treasure. Just now, like 3.4 seconds ago, Saturday became my favorite day of the week. :

Miss Monica from Brink of Beauty. found this haunting decor. How immature am I that I want to say "Your mom" when I see this? :

Julie says this is humorous but equally disturbing. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. :

Mr. C, a blogger who will join Etsy if he wins, found this thoughtfully knitted item, photographed against such a thoughtfully conceived background:
I would be remiss if I didn't include the seller's description:
Wrap your favorite toy in warmth. This pink swirled Cock Coozy measures 7 inches long and stretches to fit width (within reason). It's the perfect size for the standard vibrator and works best with plastic, glass, and wooden toys. It's a bit tougher to glide onto rubber toys.

*Hand wash cold with mild soap. Lay flat to dry.

Put a hoodie on your woody!

Robin comes through with a second puzzling entry. Why waste time stubbing out your smoke when you can just squirt water on it instead. The soap? I still haven't been able to figure out that component, nor how this ashtray/soapdish multi-function item can "SAVE SMOKE." The case of the spitting pig:

And, one that I had to add to my faves from Monica:

OSGDesigns found this Ovulating Fertile Uteris:

$25 can be spent at WTF Supplies or Lemon Paisley or any combination of the two stores.

*$25 in USD will function as a gift certificate and must be spent in one visit. Custom orders welcome. Items can be from anything available at or

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Esty Seller: Beaded Tortoise - A Photographer's Perspective

Color is my strong suit. I am more of an arranger-of-color than I am an artist. To me, the most important component of your online business is the quality of aesthetics on your shop. No matter how great your products may be, I will personally pass up your store if it's not visually appealing. First impressions mean a lot, and even if people aren't aware of it, they will infer that you are not serious about your work if your shop looks sloppy (unless it's really cheap-- then it takes on that thrift-store, treasure-hunt motif).

Christina is relatively new to Etsy, but you wouldn't know it from looking at her shop, BeadedTortoise. As a professional photographer, she has an edge that many of us don't. I was elated when she gladly accepted my request to interview her and share some of her tips and tricks with us. Check our interview below:

Me: Christina, you are a photographer by profession, which explains why your pictures are so vivid and the color is so beautiful. Can you explain to Etsy sellers the process you follow to get such great images of your products?

Christina: Well, thanks for the compliment on my photos! I can say that jewelry is really one of the hardest things to photograph. I've been at it for a little while now and while I've learned alot by trial and error, but I think there is still plenty of room for improvement.
I have studio lighting (flashes, umbrellas, softboxes etc) that I have used, but I do not think they are required to get great photos. Most of my best results have come from using natural light, whether direct sunlight or soft window light or a combination of the two. I like to shoot my pieces in different ways so that people can really get a better idea of what that piece of jewelry really looks like.
I use a digital SLR camera, mostly because I have one, but don't think it is necessary. You do get more control and better optics with a DSLR than your average point and shoot, but I have always believed that fancy gadgets aren't what make great photos - a good eye, some experience and creativity are what gets results.
I have a large (24x30 in.) piece of Museum white matt board which I use to lay my jewelry on and I set up by a large window inside for most shots. With gemstones, I like to take that setup out into the sun too to get that flash and sparkle that only a very strong directional light can give. I like a clean look to my product shots so keep the staging to a minimum, but sometimes a prop or two can really give the photo more character and appeal.
I process my digital files in Photoshop, but there are other good (and often free) editing programs out there. The basic tools you want are the ability to crop, and control brightness, contrast, color balance and sharpening. But if you work to make sure you have a proper exposure and white balance to start with, then the editing is just tweaking for best effect. Every type of lighting has it's own "color temperature" and matching "white balance". Almost every camera has the ability to select this white balance, and it really is one of the most important aspects to consider. Without a proper white balance, you won't get true colors and will struggle with your images. For jewelry in particular, this is SO important.
Other than that, just experiment and see what works for you and what you want to "say" about your jewelry and yourself as a designer. Have fun with it!

ME: You've been selling jewelry for nearly five years now. Do you see Etsy as being just another tool for you to advertise your designs, or do you hope to one day be an all-online seller?

Christina: I guess, a little of both really. I don't see Etsy as an advertising venue. I do see it as one of many ways I can reach my customers and offer my designs for sale. The great thing about Etsy, and selling online in general, is the reach it gives to an artist. Your work can be seen (and purchased) by anyone anywhere in the world. This is something that just wasn't possible all that long ago.
That having been said, I don't see it as the only place to sell. I do sell pieces in boutiques, craft shows, private trunk shows, etc. But on Etsy, I have the ability to perhaps take more risks and offer some more unique pieces that a B&M shop just might not take a risk in carrying. It allows me to be more flexible that way. Plus, the community is amazing, too!

ME: WTF Etsy wants to help people out there who frankly suck at listing items. What are the three biggest mistakes you see in regards to photography when it comes to Etsy sellers?

1. poor lighting (if I could use this for all 3, I would - it's the biggest problem I see)
2. lack of post-processing/and or proper exposure and white balance
3. busy or distracting backgrounds

ME: You're about to start a new job. Will it be something that will take away from your creative time, or is it one of those jobs about which you can be really passionate?

Christina: No... I took this job because I have to. It may put a dent in the time I can put into my own work, but hopefully not too big a dent. It is a temporary job though and will only go for about 2 months. My own work is important, and so is momentum. I think in order to be successful as an artist or designer, you have to make it a priority and treat it in many ways just as any other job. It takes time and effort given in a consistent manner.

ME: What are some highlights from your Etsy experiences?

Christina: I started on Etsy as a buyer. Man, did I buy. I have some GREAT stuff by some amazing artists that I love - most recently I bought a BEAUTIFUL ring that I drooled over for about a year from a seller named TammysTreasureChest! I'm a bit of a jewelry freak - that's why I started making my own stuff. I didn't marry a millionaire or win the lottery and so can't afford to feed my need! It's really cool to start something and see it develop over time - evolve, really.
I wear all my own stuff, and one of the things I love about selling my work now is seeing that happiness in those who buy and wear my designs. I'll never get tired of that - it is really inspiring.
Now, I get alot of my supplies from Etsy sellers. I like to keep it in the community, and really like the small business aspect of Etsy. I'm careful about where I get my materials from and like to support independent small sellers and responsible practices.
I love the Etsy community too.. such variety and talent in one place - it's amazing! One of the funniest things I saw, just the other day as a matter of fact, was a vintage box of Kotex maxi pads being offered by a seller. There's something you don't see every day!

ME: Who's hotter: Sayid from Lost, House from House, Angelina Jolie, Booth from Bones, or Ryan (Morris Chestnut) from V?

Christina: House. Hands down.

ME: I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one, although House's maladaptive banter is quite sexy. Sayid from Lost is the epic TV badass, though. What's up with the Tortoise?

Christina: People ask me that often. It's pretty simple really. Tortoise wins the race. They may move slowly and be at times awkward and weird, but they've been around a long time, live longer than almost any animal, and as the old story goes they blow away the hares! It was the name I gave my portrait studio many years ago, and the jewelry business name grew out of that.

ME: Lastly, tell me three things that all shoppers should know, would never had guessed, or that they would love about Christina:

Christina: wow, tough question... hmmmm. let me think.
1. I'm addicted to "sparkly" things. Gets me every time...always has.
2. I'm an active volunteer and advocate for cancer-related non profits (a cause close to my heart)
3. I am absolutely clueless when it comes to "fashion". My niece reminds me of this on occasion.