Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Cards... Revealed!

Behold Nesting Robots Holiday Cards!

These are pics from the Christmas cards I made my family this year.

The drawings were inspired by the babushka dolls that many of us had in one form or another growing up. There is something really pleasurable in the repetitious pulling apart and replacing of each the little dolls, and I've watched my nephew do it over and over. Great, right? I wanted to recapture that quirky fun in the cards. I'll be tweaking and likely colouring them in at some point. They'll be up for sale in the fall, I imagine. Watch out.

The cards were to contain my thoughtful offering to my family. This year I wanted to nix the whole gift thing and go with a donation in their names. I chose the charity Kiva because it provides a little bit more interactivity in how the donation is used. And, as a newish small-small business person, I get why Kiva's microloans can be essential. In the spirit of things, I chipped in to support a Mongolian underwear merchant. Plug over.

Monday, December 27, 2010

To or Not To Etsy

Setting up my Esty account in 2007 was so straight forward and fast, that it won my heart. In fact, I would describe it's simplicity as winsome. I had Winged Beast Outfitters' web store up in about half an hour (discounting the time it took to do the first photos and the banner). I think this is probably the truth for most sellers and buyers on Etsy.

The site is growing. A recent NYtimes article on Etsy said that there are close to 400 000 sellers and that's quite a herd in which I must stand out. The quirky tshirt market is already pretty saturated and capturing market share is tricky. On the other hand, Etsy expects to do about $400 million in transactions this year. So, there is definite merit in maintaining a presence here. It's a big sea with a lot of sizes of fishies.

I've wonder if clearer pastures might not be a bad idea. I've casually investigated other selling options, such as Artfire (a clear Etsy knock off, but with a little more power when it comes to shop appearance). There's also Big Cartel, which focuses exclusively on clothing and has a fairly powerful set of tools of customizing the look of your shop.

As a design-first sort of person, the ability to control the look and feel of my shop is a big draw. Etsy has only a few options by comparison. There is a catch. If you look at the pricing for Big Cartel you see that it's scalable based on how much you want to build and expected volume of sales.
At the same time, you would need to maintain your monthly sales to pay for the site. Artfire has very similar price points. In both cases, the free site is a nice draw in, but the pay as you go attitude at Etsy seems to work for the amount I sell, right now.

It's not just look-and-feel or pricing, it's discovery. Etsy was more or less first to market for the craftster niche and has the benefit of recognizability and trust. Also, it's had longer to build up the meta-data(tags and catagories and user inputted 'like') on its site. This makes searching for something more fluid between items, shops, and lists, as well as giving power to Etsy searches.

Big Cartel for instance has no option that links between stores through common themes, materials etc. other than the search function. This mean people searching for Robot themed shirts will land on one site and not be easily linked to other shirts of the same theme! This is not great. Not if the goal is to be stumbled across(which is a big chunk of the new artist/businesses customers).

No site will be perfect. I accept this. I like Etsy and for my level of sales it seems to work well. Over the next months, I think I will start up a site of both Artfire and Big Cartel using their free accounts. And, I guess we'll see.

Business, like science, is a process of experimentation. So, if I'm gonna be in it for the quiche then I'd better get on that experiementin'.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Puces Popped

Got back from Montreal Sunday and I'm just getting to my Puces Pop post now. Phew, it was an exhausting weekend, followed by a late night's foggy winter drive, and then right back into the last work-week before x-mas.

Let me just say Puces Pop was a great success. I broke my all-time weekend sales record, and sold about 207 items (I love stats like this.. A customer said I was the only one she saw keeping such close score. I was surprised. I feel like I only have 1/5th the information I want to know... anyways...)
As you can see, I'm pretty excited about my table. This is early on Saturday. Over the weekend, I (with advice from friends) evolved the layout of my table. I don't have an "after" photo because by the end, I was working hard to put stuff in people's hands. The salient detail is that I had too much stuff out and surface space was being taken up by things that weren't selling well. So I packed up some things and made room to lay out a few of my shirts, so you didn't have to flip through the rack to see them. That worked well and resulted in a lot more attention.

I'm being thoughtful here, and I've a lot to think about. Looking at other people's stalls, I know that I need to make some display stands, particularly for the greeting cards. They sold well, but definitely could be displayed better. I sketched out some ideas based on what I saw around me (Christopher of Squid Wool on my left had some kickass ones that worked well for his merch) and will post something when I try to build my first attempts. Also, I need to work harder on overstocking items that are doing well. Also, pricing... well... that's another post.

Anyways, big thanks to my helpers (Ross and Teresa) and big thanks to everyone who dropped by. I hope to see Montreal again soon!

I'll post some more pics soon. I'm also happy to give Winged Beast Outfitters a short rest while I spin up another project I've been trying to get off a simmer.

Happy holidays everyone everywhere!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winged Beast lands in Montreal this Weekend!

Last weekend took me surprise. Old Man Winter zapped me with a debilitating cold. Which meant, I had to cancel my appearance at the Shang Craft Sale in Ottawa. It is really frustrating to disappoint fans and event organizers. That's how it goes sometimes ... anyways, I'm recovered now and looking forward to my last show of the 2010 season.

That's right. Puces POP in Montreal. I'm very stoked ... but also a little nervous. This is probably the most renowned and hippest (if you go by hipness) that I've ever done. I guess it's a lot like moving up a level in Final Fantasy or whatever. Bigged crowds, higher prices and talent. I've been to the show and everyone i saw was pretty darn talented. I'm happy to be included. It's a compliment I appreciate. I just, you know, want to make a good impression. So, I'm taking extra time this week to settle all the little details, so I can put my best foot forward.

Show details:
December 18-19th
at the St-Enfant Jesus church on St-Dominique at St-Joseph. Map.
It's run 11 am to 6 pm both days.

Puces Pop website.

I'll have some new things to sell.  Including boss new scarves!

And also greeting cards! Just in time for the holiday's final lap.

Long story short. If you're in Montreal this coming weekend, drop by, do your last minute holiday shopping, and don't forget to say hi to me!


Friday, December 3, 2010

The Things We Do For Love

In the Ottawa maker.crafter scene, I'm sure I haven't met anyone nicer than Emily Chen, the Mistress of Mchenwears. She's shown above in this wicked photo of her and Shad. A fount of experience and optimism, she's been a great and helpful competitor (friendly, of course) and is no slouch of an artist.

In June 2010, Emily and her sister launched the DAD(Drawing a Day) Project, a heartfelt and wonderful tribute to their father's battle with colon cancer (Mr. Chen passed away in October).  Together, they've created a regular stream of off-beat, often punny drawings. Every day or so they upload a new illustration that they sell via etsy to raise money to support of cancer research.

Other artists and I have donated works to help their cause. I donated a couple 8x10 prints that are only available through the DAD Project. You can get them here! It's something special to give what I can to such a profound expression of love. And, I hope maybe you all out there have something to offer or maybe want to make a purchase. Check out their site!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Finger Politics

I ran into Gabe at the Glebe Craft and Artisan Fair.  I am sometimes terrible with faces, and it turns out we've exchanged business cards at least twice before... anyways, Gabe is the mind and hands behind Fish on Fridays.

Besides some amazingly soft furry beasts, she also is a mad producer of amazing political finger puppets. Ripped from the headlines, and made to just scale right for your hands, are the likes of past Prime Ministers, Brian Mulrooney, Pierre Trudeau and John A. MacDonald and MPs Chuck Strahl, Megan Leslie, Ujjal Dosanjh and speaker of the house Peter Milliken. Totally worth checking this stuff out. 

Gabe's currently doing One of  a Kind in Toronto. I'm jealous, but  only theoretically jealous. I'm not actually anywhere prepared  or conceptually ready to do that kind of show... still the idea is germinating! It also rekindled my ideas of collectives and doing massive Ottawa events like Bluesfest. Sharing costs for an event with the potential for so much exposure intrigues me, not just as a mildly ambitious maker, but also as a sort Canadian expression of grass roots community driven capitalism... or something.