Friday, 30 April 2010

Blog Interview: Paperspirit

If our people map is not failing me, I have today the pleasure to introduce you to our only team mate from India. Radha Pandey lives in New Delhi, and you know her - maybe under her Etsy-name paperspirit - because she already wrote a post on this blog about an amazing book object she found. You can also find her at and
Hi, Radha, nice to meet you and to have a chance to learn more about you! Let's get right into the matter: How did crafting and bookmaking come to your life?
My family, including my grandparents, were and are into art and craft in some form or the other. I grew up in an environment that fostered the appreciation for all things hand crafted. Book-binding in particular came into my life not too long ago - and is a long story.

Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by paper. I remember when my mother came back from a trip to Japan she brought back with her the most exquisite paper and boxes I had ever seen and touched. That same fascination has stayed with me all these years, and I try to incorporate paper, texture, and craft into all my work as much as I can.

I was offered a fellowship to Haystack mountain school of craft in 2005 when I was still a student. I took the Japanese Paper making course there and met and worked with an amazing group of people. One of them was a book-binder. (Patricia Johnson). I was inspired by her work and her attention to detail. In my final year of college, I apprenticed in the Auroville Paper Press in Auroville, Pondicherry in South India. There I worked with paper, paper products of all kinds and even made some of my first books. That sparked my interest and inspired me to contact Patricia.
I worked hard and saved for over a year, and then decided to apprentice with her for 6 six weeks in Vermont. That was two years ago.
I've been making books and conducting workshops ever since.

Auroville, amazing! For how long have you lived there? Any intention of going back, or settling there finally?
For my internship I was there for 7 months, in and out, since it is so close to Bangalore. Now that I'm in Delhi I make it a point to visit at least twice a year, sometimes for work, sometimes to visit old friends. I would love to settle there, but its not an easy process, I am told!
Do you have a day job different from being an Etsy seller? What is it?
I am a graphic designer by day. I was trained in Visual Communication Design for 5 years in a design school in Bangalore, S. India.
My final thesis project ended up being a stop motion animation film I made using wire frames embedded in handmade banana and cotton papers.

I now have my own company (Studio Chalk) with two other friends, and we take on all kinds of work, from graphic design, film, animation, to t-shirt design. We're leaning more towards creating funky products these days. You can check out our website at :

Do you like about splitting your worklife between Studio Chalk and Etsy, or what do you like about it?
Well, its a bit of a juggle - but I make sure I find time to do what I really love doing - working with my hands. The best part of it is, saving enough money to make more books, and travel to places I haven't been before to learn something new. I recently went to the Philippines for a course on Pineapple fiber and natural dyes.

Ah, you travel! Do you have a favorite place somewhere in the world?
I love to travel! It's my main incentive for work! Every place has its own unique smell, flavour, experience. I can't say which is my favourite. But if I had to choose, I would say, Auroville, Paris, Zanskar valley, Mussoorie to name a few.

What is there a place you still would like to explore?
I would love to go to Turkey, Greece, Moscow and Berlin. And if I can combine Bookbinding or papermaking in any way in these places - I don't think I would ever leave!

Tell us a little more about your shop: What do you make and sell?
The market in India is still at a nascent stage, and its very hard to sell handmade books/products here. In fact, I have to create a market. And that's basically what led me to trying out Etsy.
My shop is fairly new. I started only 4 months ago. I haven't had any sales, and I am partly to blame as I don't find the time to maintain and update my shop as often as I would like. I have made a few custom-made books though, which I really enjoyed.

I love making Coptic bound journals and accordions with decorative covers and handmade papers. I just love finding the perfect ribbon, paper, thread and wood blocks for printing. A book can take me very long to make, because I like to wait until I find just the perfect ingredients.

Where is the source of your inspiration? Do you have a special way or place to get ideas?
The world around me, beautiful paper, cloth, an interesting piece of ribbon or button that I find on the road. Usually it's the materials that inspire the final book.
When I was in Vermont, the beautiful trees inspired me to make a journal to document them. For it, I made paper out of Gampi fiber and put it together in an accordion form. I made the covers from Banana paper from the Auroville press and found the perfect twigs for the closure.

What's the most challenging part of your crafting?
I would say the most challenging part of bookbinding in India is having to explain to everyone what that actually means. I mean we have hand-bound books here - but it isn't considered a craft, let alone art. No one understands how much time and effort something like this takes. As a result there is no market, no interest, and no understanding or knowledge. It's extremely frustrating and also lonely.
There are no special tools or thread or good quality board that is locally available. I have to get my tools custom made, ask someone coming from abroad to get me good waxed linen... Its hard.

Do you have special plans for your crafting and your shop for the future? New skills you would like to acquire, new techniques to learn, new materials to use, new ways for marketing and promotion to go?
Well, this summer I'm going to be traveling to the US, back to Haystack to do a course in Paper by Beatrice Coron thanks to the work-study scholarship I applied for. I am also planning to intern at Cave Paper in Minneapolis.
I would definitely like to expand my binding skills. While I am there, I hope to find people interested in taking on interns in their binderies.
As for the shop, I plan to add boxes, and precious stacks of deckle edge handmade paper from all the fiber I've been sourcing.

Thank you, Radha for taking your time talking with me.
Thank you for this amazing opportunity!

If you want to see more of her books, click here to be brought directly to her Etsy-Shop.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Selling Your Handmade Books: Selling by the Golden Rule

Since my first post on deciding what level of a seller you want to be, we have ventured into pricing, keeping record of finances, taxes and making all the small print decisions.

We are now taking a step from behind the scenes to the viewable you. For this post, I'm going to start by taking you shopping. 

We're going to take a stroll through my local grocery store. There are certain things that I expect when I go grocery shopping.

1- I expect a clean store. I don't want to see muddy footprints all over in the produce section or dust all over the jars of peanut butter. I want to know things are fresh, new and clean. 

2- I expect the store to be well organized. I want to know that when I go down the aisle marked "Baking Goods" I can expect to find the flour and sugar that I'm looking for. 

3- I expect visually pleasing displays. I don't want to be distracted by ugly neon sticker flags all the way down the aisle. But an occasional little poster to show a new item is often received well. 

4- I expect well marked sale items with no tricks involved and no hassle (like mail in rebates...ick!)

5- The store must be well lit so that I can see the food that I am purchasing. I want to know whether the food is good or if it's gone moldy.

6- I expect the boxes/bags of food to have good descriptions of the contents. I expect them to be in a language I can read and I like it when they make the item sound like it's the perfect food even if it's just a box of graham crackers, however, they must remain honest in their advertising of it. I also expect all the ingredients to be on the box so I know what I'm getting.

7- I expect a friendly atmosphere. I want someone there to answer my questions when I need them answered or help me with getting stuff down from the top shelf (which happens often as I'm only 5'2")

8- I like my grocery store to have a variety of items but hate it if the store is just too big and I don't like it if it takes 5 minutes just to get the milk from the back of the store. 

9- I expect things to be in the right place. It's annoying to me when I go to get a canister of oats, to find that there isn't any. And then while browsing the juice aisle I happen upon a lost canister of oats that has been misplaced. I like to know I can find what I need in the place it should be.

10- I expect fair prices and honest people to run the store.

11- I expect a simple, hassle free check out.

12- I expect the bagger to bag my groceries well so that the eggs will not be broken and the jar of pickles doesn't end up on top of the grapes. I want my food to be packaged nicely to arrive safely home.

Your expectations of a good shopping experience might be different than mine. However, I am now going to illustrate how my shopping experience has affected the way I run my own Etsy Shop. This is called Selling by the Golden Rule. The golden rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Do you provide your own ideal shopping experience for your customers? 

1- Is my store clean? Well, no one is tracking mud in, but when a customer comes across my store, they get to see my banner, shop announcement, and titles of my items. I like things in my grocery store to be clean, so this is the feel my banner has. I keep my shop announcement short to allow for a nice flow right into the items of my shop. I also try to keep my titles to the point and I don't clutter the titles with too many adjectives. 

2- I expect my store to be well organized and I do this by using the "sections" option. I keep my sections to the point and well organized. I also make sure that if I'm using the sections, I put everything in a section so all the items have a place or "shelf" in my shop.

3- I expect visually pleasing displays. Eye candy, that's what my items should be to my customer. My sale announcements should be as well. Think about how you like to be notified of new items or promotions. Keep this in mind when creating your own announcements in your Etsy Shop or for advertising elsewhere.

4- If I offer something on sale, I shouldn't make the customer go through a lengthy process of paying and refunding and then putting up a custom listing and then making them pay again etc. If I offer a deal, it should be hassle free on the customer's part. 

5- I can't exactly change everyone's brightness on their monitor screens, but when it comes to lighting, having good lighting on the items in my shop can really help the item to sell. Just as I don't want to have to squint at items on the back of a shelf in the dark, my customers expect to see the item in detail up close and in the light. 

6- Since I expect good descriptions of food, that's what I should give my customers. Nice clear descriptions in a language they can understand (without too much jargon and fluff) and I should make the item sound appealing while being honest about it. I should also let my customers know what the item was made with.

7- Since I expect help when I want it, I should also give that to my customers. I should respond promptly to conversations about my products and answer any questions I can. 

8- Since I don't like huge mile-long stores, I shouldn't make mine too long to wade through. Keeping the number of items in a reasonable range is best so that my customers can easily find the item they are looking for without a long wait of trudging through page after page. However, I should offer more than just a few books and really give my customers a variety to choose from. 

9- To keep things in the right place, I need to use the right tags. If someone does a search in my shop for a blue book, I hope they can find it, as it's been properly tagged. I also hope they don't have to stroll down the red aisle to find that a blue book was misplaced. 

10- Since I expect fair prices and honest people...well...that's just a given from me right?

11- I expect a simple hassle free checkout and hope my customers have that same experience. This also goes with #4- a simple checkout in my opinion requires very little of the customer. 

12- Since I expect all my groceries to arrive home safely, I should package all my own handmade goods in such a way so that they can arrive safely to their destinations as well. 

Have I reached my ideals in all these areas? Probably not, but I work toward them, and try to improve when I begin to see where I need to. 

We'll talk more in depth about some of these aspects of our Etsy shops in future Tuesday posts but for this week, I urge you to take a moment to list your own expectations from the places you shop and how you can reflect those expectations in your own Etsy Shop. 

Please share your own expectations of an ideal shopping experience!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Blog Interview ConduitPress

Welcome back to this week's edition of the BEST blog interview, today I am in... Oh, wait, I think this could be her...

Hey, you there, who are you?! Are you the one I am supposed to meet here?

My name is Talia Halliday, and my business is Conduit Press. You can find me in my Etsy shop , on my blog, at facebook and at twitter. I also have a Flickr account, but perhaps those are enough links to get us through the day;)
I live in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana; the home of the Hoosiers and the Crossroads of America. Really, it's a beautiful little college town that surprises me every day.

Ah, so it is you :-) Is there a story behind your Etsy-Name? When I was a senior in college I took my first book-binding class. It was called 'creating the artists' book' and it was an amazing class that challenged me more than I'd ever been challenged before. There, we were to create a 'press' name and I really wanted 'ampersand press' because, well, I really like ampersands and I loved the way ampersand just rolled off your tongue. But another girl had grabbed the name first, and I wasn't about to create a doppelganger. I went home that night and thought and thought about other cool words- so sad that 'ampersand' was gone, and I looked over at my video collection (VHS at the time) and noticed an episode named "The Conduit" and that was it. I was Conduit Press after that. I really like the connotation of what 'conduit' stands for, and I kind of figure I'm a conduit for whatever creativity it flowing out their in the universe. Or something like that. The episode, of course, was from the X-Files. I don't generally freely admit that;)

How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life? Crafting has been a part of my life ever since I was a kid sitting around some giant 'spool' table with my Grandma painting ceramics and hot gluing raffia onto country crafts. Once in college my mom bought me my first scrapbook which I filled with obnoxious collages and photos. The natural next step was to start creating those very books on my own. And it came about my senior year in college with the class I spoke of earlier: "Creating the Artists' Book". From there I just never stopped. For every gift almost everyone I knew could expect a book of some kind. Whether it be bound with shoe string and using the Japanese stab technique or with real book binder's thread using a coptic stitch. When I had friends do favors for me (like watching our house while gone, or feeding our cats) I would leave little books for them as thank-you's. Only recently have I begun really getting into selling my wares, instead of just giving them as gifts. Which is funny, since I now have a baby on my hip and less time than I've ever had in my life to do so. Oh, karma.

Do you have a crafting hero or role models?
Tracy Bunkers is my journalling role model. I LOVE her journal pages. She gives me an inspiration for creativity that I feel I wouldn't otherwise have. She uses things around her house/studio (buttons, string, bricks, etc) as stamps and ephemera in her journaling and I like to think that I learned to use reclaimed materials a lot because of her.

Do you have another day job different from being an Etsy seller?
I'm a mom. I have my undergrad in English and am still working on my Master's in Education. I have my certification to teach High School English whenever I get off my lazy bum and do so, but instead of looking for a teaching job when I finished my certification I decided to try and have a baby. And it worked! I have a beautiful 8 month old little boy, and I get to stay home with him every day. I wouldn't give that up for the world. Some day, when he's older, in school perhaps, I might think about being a teacher again.

Walk us through your typical day
The babe tends to wake between 8:00-8:30 so we wake up, eat breakfast and get dressed. We play for a little bit, and after a little while I'll check my email to see if I've sold anything overnight. I then package those items up to take to the post office later on. Then it's baby's naptime so I take him up and lay him down and that's when I get to get some work done: Generally I check Twitter and Facebook and update a bit there, then figure out what I need to get done.
Then there's lunch, more playtime with the babe and a walk. Then naptime again and I get to finish whatever I started at first naptime. By the time he wakes up for the last time the rest of the family is home, so we deal with homework and school drama and the husband and I catch up. Dinner. Another walk. And then while daddy and the older kidlets play with the babe I try to finish up whatever work I've started for the day.

I work like an assembly line most of the time; creating 'sets' of similar books so I can get more done. So I might only work on covers one day, or tearing pages, or binding. And that breaks it up so when I'm finished (maybe about a week) I have 4 books to show for it instead of just one. :)

Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?
I make handmade and vintage books, albums, journals and cards. I make quite a few different kinds of books: leather bound that are from reclaimed leather and recycled paper, vintage notebooks that are created out of vintage (often library) books filled with 'no new trees' paper, and most recently I've begun creating hollowed books out of vintage books- these came out of a need to save the spine of the vintage book because it was the most beautiful part of the book.

I'm the only one who makes things in the shop though my husband ships everything and helps me with the paperwork. He's definitely a godsend at times when I'm ready to throw my hands up. The kids sometimes help me make buttons. Oh yes, buttons. I also have cards, photography, a few knits, and buttons up in the shop.

I like to use mostly reclaimed and recycled materials (hence the reclaimed leather and library books) simply because there are so many books out there (and other items) that can give new life to new books, so why not use them? Techniques? I love the long-stitch binding. There's something about that long exposed thread that makes it strong and gentle both at the same time.

What do you call yourself: Book Artist, Book Maker, Book Binder - or something else? I am a book maker and book binder. I do make books and though I wouldn't call spiral binding (my vintage notebooks) it is something a book binder does, the other kinds of binding that I do are: coptic, long stitch, japanese stab.
I am a book artist, too, but I don't sell my shop Artist's books in my shop. I have made quite a few, but they aren't something the general public is usually interested in - and honestly, they take a LOT more time and thought than I am able to give right now with an 8 month old screaming 'mamama' in my ear;)

Do you have special plans for your crafting and your shop for the future? New skills you would like to acquire, new techniques to learn, new materials to use, new ways for marketing and promotion to go? I would definitely like to learn a little more about how to make photo albums. The ones that I've made in the past have all been single sheets bound generally in the Japanese stab way or some variation and I would like to learn another technique that works for albums. I would also love to learn how to better market and promote my business, but I think that's something that comes with time, and well, there's never enough time.

An especially warm thank you, then, for spending some time to let us in to the secret live backstage of Conduit Press!
Thanks so much for this opportunity, it is is a pleasure to be a part of the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team and great experience getting to be interviewed in such a venue.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Binding on a Budget- Scraps!

Good news! Budget bookbinding and Green bookbinding go hand in hand, so in honor of Earth Day tomorrow I want to talk a bit about a Green bookbinding supply we all have on hand that's in danger of going into the trash- scraps! Every project generates a fresh new supply of scraps, little bits too small to use alone for another project but too pretty and potentially useful to just toss out. So what do you do with all of these little bits and pieces? Many of the crafty members of BEST have tackled this issue in a variety of creative ways, including:

Scrappy Looks
Rhonda of MyHandboundBooks stitches leather scraps together to make amazing covers for her Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle leather journals. A similar effect can be made with paper scraps; either stitch scraps together or glue them down into a pattern on a thin yet strong paper substrate (like mulberry tissue) to create a "quilted" paper ready for covering a cover board.

It's the Little Things
Little books in the form of earrings, key chains and necklace charms are just a few of the cute little things you can make from small bits of paper, board and thread that would otherwise go to waste. Kiley of KupoKiley makes beautiful and fully functional book earrings entirely from her scraps left from larger projects. For more inspiration be sure to search Etsy for "bookbindingteam" and "earring" or "necklace" there's a lot of lovely work being done out there!

Say Thank You
Buying handmade directly from the artist is a very personal thing, and very few things are more personal and special than a hand written thank you note. A simple "thank you" stamp can transform solid paper scraps to special notes of thanks for your customers. Pretty papers can also be glued to strips of scrap card stock to make special, bonus bookmark for your customers- another way to add that extra something and let your customers know you care!

If you're short on time and don't think you'll ever get around to using all those scraps there's still a few homes better than the trash! Consider putting together a "de-stash" packet of paper goodies for sale on Etsy. Collage artists, origami enthusiasts, and many more would be delighted to get their hands on beautiful paper scraps we bookbinders generate. Also consider donation- check with your child's teacher, your church, or community center and see if they'd be interested in scraps for use in art projects. And be sure to check around your area for local organizations like ArtStart in St. Paul, MN who have programs already in place for taking scraps and using them for art education. And as always, share your tips in the comments below!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Selling Your Handmade Books: Selling Policies

Before your buyers come asking questions, it's very helpful to have answers! Whether you sell online, out of your home, at a craft fair, boutique or gallery, creating a set of policies can help you determine who you are, not as a book artist but, as a business person. Most of the answers to these questions can be written down and reviewed occasionally.

Policies for your shop on Etsy
Most of the answers to the questions below should be available to your customers in your shop policies. 
  • What forms of payment do you accept? (Any advice on using that form of payment if they are not familiar with it?)
  • Do you accept any other forms of payment not listed?
  • Will you sell your items internationally? What countries will you/ can you not send your items to? (For example, Italy will not allow photo albums or leather goods to be shipped there from the U.S.)
  • Will you ever offer a refund? Under what circumstances will you offer a refund? Will you offer partial refund, full refund, refund on shipping, return shipping?
  • How do you/will you ship the purchased item? 
  • Do you use recycled packaging or new packaging?
  • Do you include an invoice?
  • What shipping service do you use?
  • What is the typical method of shipping?
  • How long does it usually take before you ship an item?
  • How long does it usually take for the item to arrive in your own country? Internationally?
  • Would you be willing to use a different shipping service?
  • What address will you use when shipping the item? The one on the etsy invoice or the paypal invoice (sometimes they are different).
  • Feedback: when will you leave it and would you prefer they contact you with concerns before leaving feedback?
  • Allergy issues: Will the item come from a smoke free/pet free studio or do you have a happy feline that occasionally curls up on your lap while you work?
  • Custom orders: Will you take custom orders? Do you charge an extra fee for custom orders/ how much? How long might a custom order take? 
Policies for selling at craft shows
  • If someone breaks/tears a page in a book while looking at will you react? 
  • Do you require them to pay for the item or hide it under the table to be fixed later or discount the book if the person refuses to pay for it? 
  • Will you have the same reaction if it were a child with chocolate fingers that touched one of your books while mom wasn't looking?
  • Do you have insurance for your items?
  • Do you have a sign for your policies or just let them know about your policy when something occurs?
  • If someone is a dollar short but really wants to buy one of your books will you still give it to him/her? What if they are 5 dollars short? 10 dollars short?
  • Do you offer refunds at the craft show? Under a certain time limit? or not at all? 
  • Someone wants to bargain with you to get a lower price. Will you lower your price? If so, how much?
Policies for selling at boutiques or art galleries

We'll cover more of this in about a month, but for now, art galleries and boutiques usually have their own policies as an establishment, therefore, when you create your policies for selling at Brick and Mortar stores/Galleries, always compare before agreeing to anything. You might have to budge on some things, but hopefully, having a set ideal will give you firm ground if any negotiations have to be made.
  • If the B&M wants to give a discount, will it come out of their portion of the commission or yours? 
  • If a customer loves your work and would purchase if the price were only slightly lower, would you be willing to go down 10%? If so, make sure you let the B &M or art gallery manager know this as it might gain you faster sales (less money but faster sales). They'll always try and sell it at the original price, but this might give them a buffer zone to negotiate with the customer.
  • Who is responsible for loss/theft/damage to your books? 
  • Does the store own insurance? 
  • Do you have insurance for your items? 
  • If the venue is not located near you, who pays for the shipping costs of the items? To give you an idea, most B&M's that are on commission expect you to pay for shipping costs. Some will pay for the return shipping if items aren't sold within an X amount of time. Most art galleries expect you to pay for shipping and return shipping. If they offer return shipping, get it in writing. Especially if it's a large quantity of items which would be costly on your part to pay. If the store is not on commission but is purchasing wholesale, then the customer usually pays for shipping just like any other purchase (unless you offer free shipping).
The last list of policies to have are for sales from your home/studio
  • Can anyone stop by your home to purchase one of your handmade things? Do they need to make an appointment? 
  • If they're friends/family will you offer them a discount? If so, how much?
  • What if they're short by $1, $5 or $10? What if they're short by $25?
  • What if they only have $50 and want to buy a $35 book and you don't happen to have $15 in change for them? 
  • What if they want a custom order? Do they go in the custom order queu or are they bumped up to the top because they're family/friends?
Knowing beforehand how to handle something is of great help in any situation. If a problem arrives, or a potential customer has questions, you can refer them to your shop policies. 

I've really enjoyed all the feedback I've received about Tuesday Posts on Selling your Handmade Books. It's encouraging, so please keep it up. Also, please leave comments and suggestions for others about your own policies. I'm sure there are some questions I haven't even thought about! 

Friday, 16 April 2010

Blog Interview: redpumpkinstudio

Today we drive far up north to meet Jennifer Bass in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is the crafter who made the Harlequin Boxes for your carnival challenge earlier this year.
If you would rather meet her from the comfortness behind your computer screen than to drive there yourself, go to where she is blogging about her everyday works including the exciting bits of work (that means the part where you struggle to turn a terrifying mistake into an even better object.) I am glad that I have the opportunity to ask her some questions.

Hi Jennifer! Thanks for taking your time to talk with me. Tell us, how and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?

Crafting is an off-shoot of my artistic practice. I’m a trained oil painter, but I also enjoy calligraphy and literature. In my first year of art school I had a project to make an artist book based anything in the book of essays we’d been set as a text. It was pretty terrible, but I enjoyed making it and it was always in the back of my mind. Then for my Senior Studio project I did a huge project , an illuminated Gospel of John. And later still, on vacation, I was looking for something to keep me occupied and thought back to all of that, and decided to make some books.
I saw on your blog that you are in the middle of a big project at the moment...
I’m currently working on a big project based on Poe’s short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’ I’m doing the entire text in book form, right from cutting shapes in the paper, painting a background, inventing a font, copying it by hand, and finally binding it together.

How did you choose your text, and why did you finally choose The Tell-Tale Heart?
I was looking at a whole bunch of older texts that are public domain, but so many 'short' stories are still very long, and when you're writing it out by hand it's even longer. I choose Poe because of the rich imagery and Gothic feel, which is easy to illustrate and I like very much. I choose the Tell-Tale Heart because it's short.

Can you describe some of the design process? How did you choose your font for example? It seems hard to read – is this just me or intentional?
It’s kind of supposed to be: the words are in funny spots and whatnot. After all, the guy is supposed to be crazy.
The font is sort of half-Victorian, half-Gothic, and a little bit me. It’s supposed to look a little crazy and haunted. The design process was mostly reading the text, finding images, reading the wikipedia article for more theme and imagery ideas, then looking them all up on google.
That went into a sketchbook and I played around until I found the look I wanted.

Do you seek a specific connection between the cut-outs and the text on a page?
No, the story mentions beetles and ticking watches, so I just ran with that. The page that mentions those things have a little bit more illustration, but that's about it.

Do you already have plans for the binding of the finished book?
Yes, I was working on it this weekend because we were travelling and I could do it in the car. It is going to be bound in leather with 'The Tell-Tale Heart’ embroidered on it, matching the inside cover. Parts will be open so the binding is visible. There will be more beetles and watch gears cut outs fastened under the leather on the front and back covers. This will show through the leather as embossed images.

Apparently you will be finished soon. Any chance you are going to make another one, with a different text, maybe?
This is the second time I’ve turned a piece of literature into a book, after the Gospel of John. I like making these, and I may start making smaller ones based on poems I like, but in fancier styles of books. This one is still a pretty straightforward, one page after another, book, despite the amount of art on the pages.

Do you have a day job in addition to being an artist and Etsy seller?
I have a couple of jobs. I work at a swanky but boring jewellery store, and at a clothing store. And I spend a good deal of time renovating and decorating my house. Selling things on Etsy is nice, but doesn’t contribute much to getting my bills paid.

I have a B.A. in Art, concentrating in painting. I try to keep that up as much as possible, and work on my sketchbook fairly regularly to hone my skills. I constantly say I’m going to take some time to apply for shows, but so far haven’t managed many. I have traded paintings for eye glasses, though, so its not completely useless. I have a goal to one day travel across Canada, stopping to sketch along the way and putting the entire journey into a big coffee table style book.

Do you still paint or only make book nowadays? And what kind of books do you make?
I paint very regularly, although don’t sell them very often. All the books I make are unique, and I try to come up with very different ideas for each one. Most of them have a theme, or a special technique I want to try out. Not many of them are straightforward, plain books. I usually use leather, silk, and some of the large collection of fancy papers I have. I also like making decorative paper by layering calligraphy on watercolour paper until the words become indistinct, simply forming a pattern.

Do you have other plans for your crafting and your shop for the future?
I’m developing an artist portfolio for travelling. I’m trying to work in a pocket for loose pages, a surface to be an easel, a way to display the finished paintings, and someplace to carry supplies. I think I’ve got about half of it worked out, now I just need to figure out how put it together in a single book.

That sounds interesting. I am especially curious to see how you fit in the easel! Thanks for your time!
And if you are now curious to see more, visit redpumkin studio on Etsy and visit her blog!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Selling Your Handmade Books: The Legalities

When it comes to starting up a business, sometimes legalities can be a daunting task. I can't give you a step by step, however, I can give you resources and a little knowledge.

For us in the United States, we're at the end of tax time. I'll be honest, I did my taxes last night. Yes, they are due on Thursday. I'm a procrastinator. The reason being, for 2009 I was not very organized. So it took me several hours of calculating receipts and gathering information that should have been in my spreadsheet. I'm taking my own advice from last week's post, though, and I've set up a spreadsheet for 2010. This way, I can sit down once a month, or even every few months and do a bit of financing to know where I'm at in my business, as well as prepare everything for tax time. Instead of "having" to do finances, I should be excited to look over my finances and see my income grow.

Even if you have everything on hand for taxes, you might need a bit of help. We decided to do our own taxes this year, which took us about 5 hours and a couple of phone calls to my dad who is a self-employed business owner himself. Always use your life lines! You can always pay someone to do your taxes, which we did last year. We had a few businesses going and I didn't want to do all those forms for each business. I think it was worth my time to pay someone to do it last year, but I'm glad we took the time to do it this year as it helped us understand the process a bit more. It's actually kind of fun if you don't stress it, and make it a puzzle to solve. Once you know the forms you need, the instructions direct you through it all. It can be a bit of a maze, going from this form, to that, filling out this worksheet, and that worksheet. If it makes your head swim, pair up with someone and work it out, or if the game isn't fun anymore, hand it over to a professional. My dad also gave me a tip on the Making Work Pay Tax Credit.  We filed a schedule M and earned a bit of tax money from that (thanks dad).

Three questions and three brief answers (these are my own thoughts, but I'm not a lawyer or an accountant):

I don't know anything about taxes for small businesses. Where do I start?
For information on being self employed and paying taxes, you can visit the IRS information page. And this is a great thread from the etsy forums about taxes, written by Jason of JJMFinance. Also, you can always speak to someone local to you who is self employed.

Do I need a business license? 
It depends. Check with your local city or county business bureau. My first business license was $20 for a year when I lived in Idaho. Having a business license had it's advantages. I was able to buy wholesale from certain companies that required me to have a business license and I got a cool certificate for my memory book. I spoke with the city about the need for one and they suggested that if I was going to have a lot of traffic to my residential home (clients or UPS deliveries) then it would be best to apply for a business license. That way, if neighbors complained, they'd need to complain to the city. If you're just on a hobby level you might not even need to worry about it.

Do I need to pay Sales Tax?
I'm not sure about the rest of the world but I do know that if I sell something here in Utah to another Utahn, I have to pay a state sales tax. If I sell online to someone in another state, then no, I don't need to pay a sales tax. When I do craft shows, sales tax is due to the state 10 days after the event, and sales taxes from other (non-event) sales are due quarterly. If you have questions about sales tax, you can always visit your local sales tax office. For those in other countries, please leave a comment if you know of any info or great links to share for those in your area of the world.

Using a Spread for Bookkeeping If you're still figuring out how you want to set up your spreadsheet to track your profits, here's an example (click to see large):

For now, my spreadsheets are set up in Google docs. It's nice for accessing from any computer with an internet connection, anywhere I may be. This is a screen shot (just an example) of an expenses worksheet. If you want, you can refer to a Schedule C and break down your expenses the way it does to get more detailed, instead of just listing "supplies." It's also great to break down where your costs are going to, so you can narrow down where your biggest expenditures are and find ways of being more efficient with costs. "Did I really spend $1200 on paper in December?!"

I have a spreadsheet for my Expenses, one for my Gross Income, and another for my Net Income. This helps me keep things separate and organized.

Net Income = Gross Income - Expenses

For hobby level or side income level this might be all that you need in order to determine your expenses, profit, and how well your business is going. Rr for the hobbyist, to know just how much that hobby costs, and whether or not it is paying for itself. Making these spreadsheets will be of great help when doing taxes.

Using for Bookkeeping
If you want something more robust (and free) I suggest using You can even download your Etsy transactions as a CSV file, allowing you to do your bookkeeping and tax preparation, and you can even sort your data into graphs and visuals (hooray!) When tax time rolls around, regular use of should enable you to manage taxes with less fuss. I just found, and need to evaluate it further to see if I'll want to be using it for my own business. In the meantime, does anyone with experience using it have any input?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Journal Keeping: Making Your Own Maps

What had started out (with good intentions) as a weekly post on keeping journals, somehow managed to turn into . . . well, no posts about journal keeping. I blame this on spending too much time making journals, and not enough time doing much else. SO, in an effort to continue doing this fun series, but at a pace that won't start to overwhelm me, I've decided to switch to posting the second Monday of every month. That's the plan!

To start things off (or pick things back up), this month's post will be on making your own maps. Don't worry, this doesn't require any special skills or math equations, it's about sketching out little maps of your own personal spaces.

I was first inspired to try this after reading a profile on Japanese engineer Masayoshi Nakano in a book I love, Drawing From Life, The Journal as Art by Jennifer New. After retiring, Nakano would walk around his town and pay attention to what he saw. He would then go home and draw out intricate maps noting where things were, often accompanied by small, black and white photos. His maps are made with an engineer's precision and were intended to help him better understand his roots in his old age.
I have no where near his precision or skill, but I do have a love of maps, and I was drawn to the idea of how making a map yourself can be used to remember certain details about a place.

Here are a few examples of how I tried to use this technique. This first one was made in a museum on my recent trip to Ecuador. The gallery space was so unique, I couldn't think of any other way to describe it, so I drew a map. It's a pretty crude sketch, but it does bring me right back there.
Another attempt was done of the yard of the apartment where I lived at the time, a sort of aerial view. I think this would be a great idea for a gardener, noting what is where, what is blooming when and how it changes through the year.
The last one was another sort of aerial view, this one of an area around a lake we often visit. I know it seems full of unimportant information, but reading it now brings me right back to that place. By labeling all these little things, the supplies we brought, books we were reading, I feel like this little moment in time was saved, and captured in a way I never could with just a camera.
Don't think you have to be a geographer or cartographer to make a map, making your own can get your creative juices flowing, and can help capture a moment and feeling in a unique way.

More to come on May 10, I promise! Happy Journaling!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Our First Paper Swap

Last month, Jen of RedPumpkinStudio, coordinated the first BEST paper swap. She says it was based on the idea that, like her, everyone has plenty of supplies floating around and always wants more anyway! Participants picked out the papers they were willing to part with sent them in. Jen mixed up the whole bunch and (reluctantly) shipped them back out. Some people sent in homemade paper: Kristi of Olive Art sent paste papers, Rhonda of MyHandboundBooks sent some marbled papers, and Jen made layered calligraphy papers for the swap. All in all, six people participated, from three different countries, swapping a grand total of 84 pages. It was a terrific way to get new supplies without the expense, and as Jen says, it is often the unexpected surprises that encourage creativity. Jen says, "I hope everyone enjoys their new paper and we do this again soon!"

Friday, 9 April 2010

Blog Interview: BookGirlsStudio

Welcome back to this week's edition of the BEST blog interview. Follow me to Austin in Texas, to meet Iliana Perez-Zeyda of Bookgirl’s Studio, maker of beaded journals and scrapbooking supplies made out of paper.

Hi Iliana, nice to meet you! Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?
Currently the majority of books I make are small journals with decorative beads on the spine. I love shopping for paper, as there always seem to be new papers and which means new color combinations to use. I love the look of Coptic bound journals and try to offer those as well. I’m only offering books now but have plans to add some other paper products.

But you are already offering scrapbooking supplies?
Well, I do offer more than books. But I guess as it is just a couple of items I didn't think about mentioning but you are right. How about if we turn back time and change it to say:
Currently I offer blank journals and some scrapbooking/collage supplies but in the future I hope to offer other paper goods.

Where is the source of your inspiration? Do you have a special way or place to get ideas?
Going to the bookstore is the biggest source of inspiration for me. My husband and I go at least once a week and hang out reading magazines and books. I’ll look through a wide variety of magazines, not just on crafting, but anything that will make me think of a new color combination, a new way to do a binding or a new technique I’d like to incorporate in my craft. I think reading about different arts and crafts is a great way to jumpstart your creativity.

Is there a story behind your Etsy-Name?
My Etsy name came because of my blog. I started a book blog in 2004, Bookgirl’s Nightstand, where I talked about my love of reading. I talk about books I’ve read, books I wanted to read and so on. When I created my Etsy shop I realized I already had an online presence and so it just seemed natural to work in my love of bookbinding with my love of reading.

How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?
Several years ago I was in Hildesheim, Germany and I attended a university exhibition from the students in the design school and I saw some artists books. I had never really thought of different bindings and structures before but that evening my love for books took on a new dimension I guess you could say. When I came back to the States I thought about how I could make my own book and luckily I was able to find a local craft guild and took classes there. I’ve been making books for six years now.

That's funny, because in my reception (I am German) the playful implementation of different binding styles in modern bookmaking seems to be an American! Do you remember what kind of exhibition this was?
Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the exhibit, or what exactly was on display - it was about 10 years ago! I didn't see that many unusual bindings, I guess, but I did see some artists' books and I guess I had never thought about books like that so it really was a new discovery for me.

So you found you love for bookbinding while you were abroad. Do you travel a lot?
My husband and I love to travel. Every year we go to northern Germany to visit my husband’s family and if we have enough vacation time we’ll try to go to another place in Europe. I love taking pictures, going to museums and flea markets, and of course visiting bookstores.

Do you have special plans for your crafting and your shop for the future?
This year I would like to start adding books with different bindings and materials to my shop. For example, I like giving old books a new life so repurposing old books to make new journals would be one of the items I'd like to start adding to my inventory. My husband is a wonderful calligrapher and I hope that one day we can collaborate on one-of-a-kind books. I also dream about taking a letterpress class, learning silkscreen printing, sewing and lately I’ve added knitting to my list.

That sounds like some fun projects! I wish you good luck with giving them life. Thank you for talking with me, and letting us in behind the scenes of bookgirlsstudio!

If you want to see more of Iliana's work, visit her shop at bookgirlsstudio.etsy, or her blog at

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Binding on a Budget- Found Tools

In a perfect world I would bind books full time. I would make lavishly beautiful books for the most discerning customers, archival cases and re-bindings for museums and archives. I would dedicate myself to the science of bookbinding, pouring a fair amount of my ample income back into high-end supplies and tools. In a perfect world I'd be showing you a picture of my fancy standing press rather than the stack of art history books I use as an actual "book press."

In a perfect word, but also a more boring world. In truth most of us are making books for a little bit of income, and a lot of creative release. And even if it is your full time gig, saving a few bucks or finding inspiration from outside the norm is always a good thing. When making books my credo is- I may not have a lot of money to spare, but I can still have a lot of fun. That’s what I want to talk about on my new Wednesday blogging stint here- what I call budget bookginding, or hackbooking. “Hacking” tools & supplies from other aisles of the craft store, or things already around the house, or even things saved from the trash to create new and interesting structures and save a buck.

So let’s get started! There are a lot of beautiful tools out there, but sometimes you have to make do with what you've got on hand. Below are some of my favorite easy substitutions- bookbinding "tools" you probably already have laying around the house.

Glue papers: Free newspapers, catalogs and magazines. Every Thursday our local free paper comes out, so every Wednesday night I take a few left from the stack outside my office and use them to protect my table from glue when working on my covers. Just open the paper to the front page and start gluing, and when the page is all gluey turn the page for a fresh surface. Do be careful when using lightweight or light colored paper as the ink from the pages can transfer with the glue- in those cases it's best to use the blank backside of a printed page from your recycle bin or a spare scrap of wax paper as your glue paper.

Cutting/ scoring mat: Cardboard from the back of sketchpads. I use sketchpad paper for a fair number of books, and instead of recycling the backs right away I've found that the thick backing makes an excellent "pad" to protect my table when scoring pages with a bone folder. In a pinch they also work as a quick cutting mat. Bonus- you can write down your measurements on the board for quick reference.

Punching Cradle: Telephone book. I started using the phone book in a pinch when my cradle bit the dust and I needed a quick replacement in the middle of a project. You do need to be extra careful that the signatures don't slide once you've squared them up, but otherwise this works great- just tap your signature on the table to square up the pages, open your book to near the center, and place your signature in the valley to punch. And don't forget to put your slip of sketchpad cardboard underneath to protect your table from awl holes. One warning- I've yet to run into a problem, but you may want to "test" the ink in your phone book first by rubbing a piece of scrap paper against the page you plan to set your signature on- if the ink rubs off place a clean sheet of paper between your phone book and signature for extra protection before punching.

Bookpress: Stack of books. The classic book press (no pun intended). Just sandwich up your glued boards (wrapped in wax paper) between heavy books large enough to cover the board surface for a good, even pressing. Our Time Life art history books get lots of love this way.

Hinge spacers: Skewers. At just over 1/8" wide wooden skewers have become my favorite way to get even, easy hinge spacing in my books. Just place down a skewer on either side of your spine, snug up the cove beside it and lift the skewer away. Voila! Perfect, even hinge spaces- from a cheap and reusable little tool. The pointy end is also good for poking ribbon ends down into hole to finish off a stab-binding.

So what am I missing? I'm sure there's a ton of great "household material tool hacks" out there, please share your favorites in the comments below!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Selling Your Handmade Books: The Next Two Big Decisions

Tuesday is here again! For Big Decision #1- Check out Last Week's Post

Big Decision #2- How will you track your handmade books and sales?

If you're on hobby level and never picture yourself doing anything more than that, you might just want a little photo album in which you keep photographs or even just written descriptions of your books. This might seem silly or a little over-sentimental but any good artist knows that it is important to keep a portfolio. Even if it's just to give you a reminder of all the things you've made and how far you've come. This can also come in handy when you have someone unexpectedly drop by and ask to see your work. If you only have a few books half way finished, you'll find this photo album extremely useful. Make sure to keep the detailed information such as measurements of text block, cover, material used, the amount you sold it for, maybe who it went to and how long it took you to make it.

If you're on a side income or full time income level, make sure you're keeping track of your sales in a more formal matter. Spreadsheets are one way to keep track of your sales. We'll discuss this more in depth next week as we venture into the legalities of your business. For now, if you haven't already, you may want to start keeping track of some of these things:
  • Book Description (including materials used and dimensions)
  • Hours it took to create
  • Material costs
  • Price sold at
  • Date put on the market
  • Date sold
  • Profit
  • Unexpected Costs (discounts/sales, extra shipping charge)
  • Fees (Paypal, Etsy)
You might also want to keep track of other things such as 
  • Marketing Costs
  • Correspondence time with a customer
  • Research time finding a certain material for a book
  • Time packaging a book and going to the post office
Need a good spreadsheet to start out with? You can check out Etsy's Blog Post about Inventory Worksheets. While they don't cover everything, they're at least a start. 

Another great thing to keep track of is where your books go. I find that I sell a lot of my books to Oregon and Kansas and supplies end up heading to Ontario and Texas. This information might be great to use in marketing. If those places are where I sell best, I might want to list my books/supplies according to when people might be on Etsy in those time zones. 

Next week, I'll provide more resources for you to keep track of your business. For now, you need to decide what's important to keep track of. How much information do you want about each sale and each book that leaves your hands? 

Big Decision #3 - How much you'd like to profit from selling your books

This is partly based on your first big decision (what level you'd like to sell your books at), as well as your skill and/or experience level. It's also influenced by where you'd like to sell your books. We'll talk more about locations and such in the next few months, but for today we'll just focus on selling through Etsy.

Whether you are selling your books online, in art galleries or the local farmer's market, it is very important to price your books accurately. 

Last year, after finishing a custom order, I had tallied up my hours spent on a certain book and after taking out the cost of materials, fees from etsy, paypal and shipping costs, I realized I had made a measly $2 per hour on the book. Even if you are at hobby level, you'll likely want to be making more than $2 per hour on a book. Even if you LOVE making the book (as I did). I know some of you are thinking "But I'd be willing to make my books and even give them away." I understand this, but if you want an Etsy Shop, prices that don't adequately cover time put into the book puts a pinch on those selling to make a living. So, while not necessary to do so, pricing as if you were earning a living is a courtesy to them, and, even at hobby level, you want to make back enough money to continue to feed your creative ventures. Pricing as if you were making a living, or at least pricing so as to earn minimum wage on your time, will go a long way in allowing you to do more with your hobby.

When you price your books, you have to take many things into account. 
  • Material costs
  • Paypal fees
  • Etsy fees
  • Marketing fees
  • Time in correspondence with customer
  • Time researching materials for a certain book
  • Time creating the book
  • Time packaging the book and going to the post office
If you spend 5 hours making a book and sell it for $20, you are losing money, even at hobby level. I can't stress how important it is to keep track of the hours it takes you to create an item. Don't estimate either. Not unless you have occasionally kept track of the time by writing down your hours and you feel confident that you can "guess" at the time you've spent. I'm not able to guess. What I think will take me 15 minutes, will often take 50. 

No matter where you're selling your books, online or off, make sure you take into account what others are pricing their work at. When selling on Etsy, since there are constantly new people selling and everyone is at different levels, prices seem to be everywhere. When I first started on Etsy, I found a few shops that did fairly well selling their handmade books. I looked at the materials used, the styles being made and I looked at the average price for a particular sized book. This, in addition to considering my material cost, time, and fees, etc., helped me determine how much to sell my books at. I still continue to check on this every few months to make sure that I'm still selling my books at a competitive price. This way, I'm not cheating myself. Perhaps I can sell it lower, but if I see others are selling just as well at a higher price, that's even better. More money to feed a hobby, or my family, whichever my goal. If I can't see how a seller can possibly be selling at prices that seems low to me (and the seller is either a side income or full time bookmaker), it tells me I may need to evaluate my process (to get faster) or consider new suppliers (for lower material costs).

Keep in mind the extra expenses of selling: Etsy fees and Paypal fees, and if you do free shipping, make sure you take that into account as well (it's an expense you have to account for somehow).

A good resource for determining how much you're making on Etsy is the Etsy Fee Calculator created by Ryan Olbe. I use it all the time.

For larger books, or styles requiring more skill, I charge a little more per hour to compensate for the difficulty of creating the book.

If pricing seems overwhelming to you, try what I did and do. Pick a handful of successful Etsy shops that sell similar books (in style, material and size) and compare the prices. This will help give you a range of where you might want to price your books.

I'd love to hear how you keep track (or are planning on keeping track) of your handmade book sales. 

~Karleigh Jae