Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Craft Show Confidential: Hang Tags Follow-up

Last week I talked about some of the ways you could include product information with your books by using hang tags or something similar.

Elina (a.k.a. veterok on Etsy) told me about her tags.
I have been using small typewritten tags that I put between the pages of the books. They're nothing special really but I still like them, I make them out of old brown envelopes and kraft paper bits. The tags usually have the name of the book, the price & some information about the materials used (page material, cover materials).

I love the typewritten tags - they remind me of the cards that libraries use for checking out books. In addition, the tags can double as bookmarks. Her choice of tag material is also in line with her use of recycled materials in her work.
My book necklaces are presented a bit differently, I hang them from a willow branch which is stood up in a vase. For the vase I have this one big tag that shows the price and informs people that the books are made out of recycled and repurposed materials.
Elina's solution for providing information about her book necklaces is clever combination of a hang tag and a sign. By doing this, she doesn't have to worry about the size of individual hang tags interfering with the visual impact of her work.

I'd love to see more pictures of your hang taggy items! Send me an Email with photos and I'll include them in a follow-up post next week. Be sure to include your name and a link to your Etsy shop.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Blog Interview: Sea Lemon

Welcome to today's BEST blog interview with Jennifer Bates. She is located in Phoenix, Arizona where she makes her journals and artwork that she sells under the label Sea Lemon on Etsy.

Hi Jennifer, nice to meet you. "Sea Lemon" is a funny shop name, what was the reason for choosing it?
It started with the realization that I hoard too many paper materials, and wanted to turn them into something useful instead of tossing them into the recycle bin. I take paper materials that were once useless (considered a reject or "lemon" among a "sea" of stuff) and give them a new purpose.

And in case you are wondering, a sea lemon actually does exist. It's an ocean creature that looks like a lemon textured slug.

How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?
I've always enjoyed making things with my hands. Bookmaking entered my life during college — it was a requirement in my design class. After college, I became a full-time graphic designer and found myself missing the craft of bookmaking. So in 2008, I joined Etsy and dove back into bookmaking as a creative outlet.

So you have a full day-job beside caring for your Etsy-Shop. When do you find time for bookmaking and how do you work?
I find time at night and on weekends to make books. I do have a large desk to work at, but I don't exactly make it my designated bookmaking area. I like to rotate between different spots in my home, for some weird reason. Sometimes I bind and sort paper on the coffee table while watching TV, other times I'll take over the dining table to cut board, and if I'm at my desk, I'll bookbind in front of my computer.

Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What do you make and sell?
I make handmade books and original artwork. When I became a seller on Etsy, I only sold handmade books. Recently, I've been slowly integrating my artwork, such as originals, prints and painting on the books themselves. I like to use recycled or repurposed materials when I can. My favorite techniques are Coptic stitch and case binding.
My shop is a mix of cute, quirky and modern tastes. My books usually attract customers with those aesthetics, and I am happy I can appeal to that audience. On occasion, I will receive custom orders, which I enjoy making because they usually include something special but quirky on the book, such as a green elephant, or numbers of specific dates.
I like to use colored paper for the pages. I like bright, bold colors and think they are fun to use in books. Often I pair colored paper with less vibrant covers, adding a nice pop of color to the book. I feel colored paper makes my books more unique and different than the traditional all white pages you would expect.

Do you have a favorite book about books that you would recommend?
I have one book about bookbinding, "Bookbinding: Techniques and Projects" by Josep Cambras. It's a good book for a general overview of bookmaking, tools and materials. At this point, I'd really like to find books with more advanced bookbinding techniques and make time to experiment with different types of binding that are similar to Coptic stitching — I would love any book suggestions! I also sometimes check out bookbinding tutorials on YouTube, for more reference.

Is there one piece of your work you are especially proud of?
I'd have to say my favorite piece is that particular custom journal order that you can see in the photo above. The customer mailed me a large marine chart which she and her husband used while attending maritime school together. The chart had special meaning to her and she requested to have it recycled into a blank journal. She was thrilled with the final book and used it to write/sketch in while sailing with her husband. This was a special piece to me because I was able to turn such sentimental material into a new book, which will become even more sentimental as she records memories in it. As an additional bonus, I was able to keep the left over chart material (in exchange for a couple free books) and I continue use this special paper on books for sale in my shop.

Do you have a crafting hero or role model?
Since joining the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team, I have a wealth of personal bookmaking heroes. The talent and craft from the people in this team is incredible, and looking at their beautiful work always motivates me.

Thank you for your time, Jennifer.

If you want to follow up on her recent works, go have a stroll past the shelves in her Etsy Shop. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Craft Show Confidential: Hang Tags

I’m so sorry for missing my blog post last week – my computer was hit with a virus and I had to reinstall everything. Notsofun.

That said, I’ll dive right into this week’s topic...hang tags.

Please note that when I use the term “hang tags”, I’m referring to anything attached to your work that contains information about it – this could include tags with string loops, bookmarks, cover wraps, etc.

The visual impact of your work not only comes from the work itself, but also from the professional image you project – your packaging can be used to enhance this image.

Let’s start with the basics – why would you want to have hang tags? Here are a few reasons:
  • At times, they can act on your behalf – not everyone is a talker and you don’t want to force unwanted conversation on them. Consider the hang tag as your silent salesman.
  • You can put a price sticker on a hang tag instead of directly on your work, which helps you avoid damage.
  • The customer in your booth may not be buying a book for themselves. If you include product information on a hang tag, it makes it easier for your customer to educate the gift recipient.
What information might you include on a hang tag?
  • Your logo, business name, etc. – anything that helps to reinforce your brand image.
  • Contact information
  • Size
  • Price
  • Materials and/or techniques used
  • Care instructions
  • Creative inspiration
  • Symbolic meanings
For the book artist, what information would be particularly useful to include on a hang tag?
  • Is it acid-free/archival? This is really important for photo albums.
  • Number of pages
  • Page size
  • Are any of your materials recycled and/or do they contain post-consumer content?
  • How does the page paper handle ink?
  • Is the paper handmade?
  • Did you make the paper?
Think of it this way – what information have you included in your Etsy shop listings or on your website? All of this information is useful to a customer deciding whether or not to buy something from you.

A few things to consider when designing your hang tags:
  • Make sure that your hang tags fit in with the style of your work.
  • Keep the size of your work in mind when you choose the size of your tags.
  • Make sure that the font size is big enough to read.
  • Don’t try to cram too much in – it will be hard to read.
  • Make sure that they’re durable – you don’t want to have to replace them after every show.
  • Hang tags don’t have to be square or rectangular – alternative shapes may help your work stand out.
  • Folded tags give you twice as much space.
  • If you make your hang tag functional, it is less likely that it will be thrown away (and it will keep promoting you). A natural choice would be to use a bookmark for product information.
Do you use hang tags on your books? Do you have another creative option? I'd love to hear about it! Send me an Email with photos and I'll try to include them in a follow-up post next week. Be sure to include your name and a link to your Etsy shop.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Blog Interview: kjerstenhayes

Hello! Meet with me the paper artist Kjersten Anna Hayes in Kuala Lumpur today. She makes colorful journals and books for which she makes and dyes much of the paper herself that she uses in her cover designs.

Hi, Kjersten. I mentioned in the announcement you are in Kuala Lumpur, however, in your shop it says you are located in the United States. Please explain: Where do you work and live?
I have a dreamy studio with a sink, a tub, and blue ceilings in my home in Bellingham, Washington where I usually live and make art. But! For the last year I’ve been living and making art in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while my husband carries out a two-year assignment here for his job (my sister has been baby-sitting my Etsy shop and shipping orders for me while I’m gone). We hauled my most important supplies over the ocean, and managed to arrange for a condo with an extra bedroom, so I can still make paper and art here. The picture shows my current studio in Malaysia.

How exciting! Have you made contact with local artists there? And do you think the change of location has an influence on your style?
I have visited various craft studios, including some paper artists. For example I recently visited a traditional Malaysian kite maker in the North who cuts and layers intricate patterns on his kites using paper. I’ve visited other handicraft studios, puppet-makers, weavers and others, but only as a tourist. I plan on taking an extended Batik class at some point, maybe I’ll at last make more personal connections with other crafty people there.

I do think living here has had an influence on my art but it’s hard to pin-prick exactly how. So far it’s clear that it has inspired me mostly with new subject matter for the illustrations I make. Some of the things I’ve found inspiring to me here are the Islamic patterned decorations on many buildings, the tropical flora and fauna, and the bright colors of batik dresses.

How and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?
I have been an avid journaler my entire life. I stapled papers together to make books (usually storybooks I’d write and illustrate) when I was as young as 7 years old.

I also had a wonderful and creative teacher in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade who created every year’s entire curriculum around a pretend trip, either to a foreign land or back in time. In her class we made oodles of books and journals – writing journals, science journals, sketch books and my favorite – the big thick handmade scrap book that we glued all of our best school work in to keep as a chronicle of our pretend adventures. That same teacher gave me a real travel journal when I was 10, for a trip I was going to take with my family to Europe. That got me going with filling my own personal journals, and then when another teacher introduced me to book binding in Jr. High School, I was hooked.

How does your bookmaking for your Etsy Shop fit in with the rest of your work- and private life? Is it complementary or in competition with other endeavors?
I consider myself a paper artist, and that has encompassed many facets, including making and selling handmade books. I used to do many, many big craft shows, and I truly loved the process of hand-selling my art and connecting with people one-on-one in that way. But four years ago I took a leap and decided to take an extended break from craft shows while my son was young (he was a newborn then) to focus on another aspect of my paper art that I’d also been working on for as long as I’d been selling handmade books – writing and illustrating for children.

On the surface it sounds like a separate pursuit, but for me, they are definitely heavily related. For example, I make a lot of the papers I use in collages on the covers of the journals and photo albums that I sell and I use those same papers in the collage illustrations I make my children’s book work. Also, each handmade book I’ve made over the years has been like a color or texture study, helping my collage medium become intuitive. Like any regular practice or studied discipline will do, making so many handmade books has settled skills into my bones, veins and heart that influence my color palette and my use of paper in my illustrations.

Would you like to present one special piece of your work? Is there for example a book that you made and especially like?
I’ve filled suitcases full of my own personal journals – full of stories and narratives that I’ve written or made visual (related to both book making and writing and illustrating). The narrative book form enchants me. I can’t help but fill journals. And of all the journals I’ve made and filled, my favorites are my travel journals. Some I’ve made as I’ve taken the trip. Others have been like giant collage pieces I’ve put together after-the-fact.
I also made what I call a book dragon once. It was a journal chronicling the making of one of my collage illustrations. I had a lot of fun with the piece and even made a video about it!

Tell us a little more about your shop and your crafting: What exactly do you make and sell?
I like to focus on the inside of my handmade journals nearly as much as I focus on the cover and the binding, and I think that’s what set my books apart at craft shows in the past. I like filling journals that feel like playgrounds – inside and out – not just with the cover and binding, but also with the pages. This is why I use lots of colorful paper inside my journals, and work on the pages being a part of the overall design.

I also use a lot of my own handmade papers in the cover designs of my books, so paper-making is a huge aspect of all of the art that I do.

Do you have special plans for your crafting and your shop for the future?
I’m planning on adding prints of my art illustrations to my etsy shop by September of this coming year, which is something that has been in the works for quite some time and I’m very excited about making it happen.

Good luck with that, adding your prints and illustations sounds interesting! Will we see some of your children's books in your shop then?
I’m currently mostly marketing my illustrations and a couple of my picture book dummies to traditional publishing houses, in a traditional sort of way, despite the crazy flux that the children’s book industry has been in for the last few years (changes in technology, changes in traditional retail outlets, weak economy). But partially out of fatigue with the whole glacial process, and partially because of my own crafty-lady spirit, I’m also considering a few indie moves of my own, whether or not I get a traditional book deal. I love the indie spirit of craft shows, especially amongst the new wave of etsy-like artists, and I’ve been contemplating how I can combine my love of hand-selling at craft shows with my love of creating children’s books. So I’m considering options like creating a zine-like series of mini-books I could sell right alongside my journals or making some limited edition art books. I’m also seriously contemplating developing one of my stories into an I-pad app as a side project; one of my stories is an especially good fit for that platform. So we’ll see. Most likely, by the time I return to craft shows (after moving back home and settling in again), I’ll have some sort of indie-like move up my sleeve, weather or not I get a book deal because I would like to return to marketing my work via craft shows

Thank you, Kjersten, for taking your time for this interview!
Thank you for your interest! In honor and gratitude for this interview, yesterday I started a series on my blog that might be of interest to readers here. The series is entitled “SELL OUT!” and it will include weekly tips for the next 6-8 weeks on being a better and more dynamic salesperson at craft shows, without loosing your soul or compromising your integrity. I’m basing the series on what I’ve learned from years working shows myself, as well as what I learned working as a salesperson at a small and highly successful handcrafted pottery retail store for many years. I hope you’ll join me for the series.

If you are curious now, go and visit Kjersten's Etsy Shop to browse her shelves. You can also learn more about her on her website, and of course you shouldn't miss a look at her blog.