Thursday, December 23, 2010

New items

I've been wanting to do a flower tutorial, but I broke my husband's good camera and we had to order a new one.  So we had to wait about a week for it to come in, and now he's still figuring it all out.  Soooo the flower tutorial will most likely be after Christmas.  I'm also planning to break it into two parts, because there's two basic techniques I use on my flowers.  And I FINALLY found the best way to do the second technique (for me, anyway).

So my husband snapped  a few pictures of some of the pieces I'll be listing over the next week, and I decided to just talk about them.

This first one is a fascinator.  It has alligator clips on the other side to slide it into your hair.  This was the first time I did my flowers like this, and found out I like this style the best.  They look vintage, and that's what I'm aiming for.  The shape of the fascinator is my own design, I tried to go by the shape of the face.  You can also wear it on the other side and it looks just as good.  The feathers are hand dyed- also my first time attempting that.  The only problem I had with the dye is that the "purple" just looks like a dark pink.

So after I did the pink one, I wanted to do one in blue.  But I also had been wanting to do headbands for a while and seized the opportunity.  The headband version is a bit smaller so as not to be overwhelming, but still the same design and technique, leaving holes at the bottom and top to slide the headband through.  I like that it's a piece, and not just flowers with a felt backing (although I think that is pretty too.)  The headband blends into the hair so much it really just looks like a smaller fascinator.  And it's easier to put in.

The next one is the evolved version of this:

It has more detail and more layers, and I like it much better.  Like I said, I think I finally perfected my style of flowers, so I'm probably going to discontinue the old style (after I sell the ones I have left) and do the new style and the lace ones. 
Joe (the hubby) said I should just make all styles, but I don't want to constantly be making flowers, plus I like that now I have flowers with a distinct look, instead of the circle ones that I see everywhere. 

I've also made a new fur collar in chocolate brown, and I love it!  But no pics yet.  I hate that I've been making so many accessories and so little clothes lately, but I haven't been able to afford the fabric to make clothes that might not sell for months, and the accessories have a much better turnover rate.  However, I did manage to buy a few yards to make a new skirt, so look for that in the coming weeks.  I also should be getting a new sewing machine for Christmas, which should urge me to sew more!

I also made this steampunk inspired fascinator as a Christmas gift for my good friend Laura. (btw, she has a steampunk shop on Etsy, Ancient Albatross.  Go check it out!)

Next time, a flower tutorial for sure - now that you've seen all these flowers, you wanna know how they're made, right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So you want to start doing craft shows

At some point, you might think "hey, I bet I could sell more if people could only see my items in person...if I could only talk to them about what I do...if I could only get more exposure."  Well, it's time to get out there and start doing craft shows!  They are a ton of fun, you get to hear a lot of feedback on your work, and you get to network with a bunch of other great artists.  What's not to like? 

I'll be honest:  it's not for everyone.  There's booth fees, startup costs, setting up and tearing down is a pain, not to mention standing around all day in the blistering heat, freezing cold, or rain.  Maybe that's what scares some people off.  Maybe some people don't like hearing "I could make that/could find it cheaper at Wal-Mart" over and over (because some people, believe it or not, are rude.)  But I think the good points far outweigh the bad.

Chatty Crafty in TN
My husband and I have been going to shows for over a year now, and we've learned a lot!  We always try to help people just starting out (even though compared to a lot of crafters, we're new ourselves) because we threw ourselves in without a whole lot of assistance.  So here are our tips to those wanting to start, but not sure where to begin.

1.  Start small, start local.  You don't want to break the bank or travel for hours not knowing whether a show will be worth it.  Plus, when you go to your first "big" show, you really want to look professional.  I spent a lot of time googling "craft shows in SC" when we first started out.  You should also check out Festival Network Online for a pretty solid listing of shows.  I would stay away from the flea market.  It may be tempting to rent a table there to see how it goes, but the people who shop the flea market are looking for deals, not necessarily quality products.  Also be wary of 1st year shows, they're generally run poorly with low attendance, so they are bad examples of how well you could do.   

2. Decide what type of shows you want to do.  We quickly found out that traditional craft shows weren't suitable for our jellykoe stuff, so we stick to indie shows and folk festivals.  I use to stay up to date with new shows.  See what market your work fits well into and try out those shows.  We took a chance on a folk festival, and it turned out to be one of our best venues.  Talk to people in those circuits and see if they think your stuff would be a good fit.  A lot of craft show websites show previous artists, and it's a good way to get a feel for the show.  You also are going to have to decide if you want to stay local or travel to shows.  For us, traveling is the way to go for bigger shows and more exposure, but for some it's just not feasible.

3.  Gather a list of everything you'll need for a show.  There's a super helpful checklist at the Joyful Abode blog.  Everyone needs different things, and what you'll need will vary from show to show.  I print out a checklist before each show and go through it several times to make sure I don't miss something.  There's nothing worse than being unprepared or missing some vital part of your setup (like chairs to sit on).

4. Decide on and test your booth set up before the show. It takes time and money to get the perfect booth setup.  We've changed ours several times through the course of our travels, and it's still not where we want it.  Some crafters need specialized displays, such as jewelry mannequins or gridwalls, which have to be ordered way in advance.  We also have different setups for different shows, so be aware of how much space you'll get.  A helpful hint is to have items at varying heights, so that more things are up near eye level.  Try to think of what would catch your eye as you walk by your table.

5. Look professional.  Act professional.  Know your product inside and out so you can answer any questions.  Keep a happy face on through the day and greet everyone who stops by your table.  Don't chat away on a cell phone or keep your nose in a book, but don't hover over people either.  And definitely don't badmouth other vendors, especially to or within earshot of customers.  It will only reflect poorly on you. 

6. Talk to as many other vendors as you can.  They are a great resource for finding new shows.  Plus, they can help you to better your booth setup or even improve your crafting technique.  Besides, it's always nice to make new friends. 

Have anything to add?  Let me know in the comments.
 Next time: Fabric flowers- techniques and tips

Monday, December 6, 2010

Getting your designs into stores

Our WonkyDolls in Pack Rats in Columbia
The goal of most, if not all designers, is to eventually see the work they've done make it into brick and mortar shops.  It gives you a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of "wow, other people think my stuff is good enough."  Not to say that anyone who isn't in a store isn't good, far from it.  But to me personally, it makes what I do seem more legitimate when I can say "oh yes, you might have seen my work in [store]"  ESPECIALLY for those who think crafting isn't a "real job."

Getting things into shops is easier than you might think.  Here's how I did it, both for our WonkyDolls (pictured left) and my hair accessories. 

First, you need to decide whether you want to do consignment or wholesale, or if you want to try both.  I would definitely choose wholesale over consignment if I had the option.  For our dolls, we went with consignment because we were getting a decent percentage from the shop and we really just wanted a place for our dolls to be seen locally.  For my hair accessories, I knew up front that I would only do wholesale.  But this isn't a consignment vs. wholesale argument; you'll have to decide what is best for your product.

If you're doing consignment,  they will have a contract for you to fill out with a listing of each item you're placing in the store.  A lot of consignment shops my husband and I looked into do a 50/50 split, which we think is crap.  Try to get at least 70/30.  Make sure you stay in touch with the shop each month, I've heard of a lot of people having bad experience with not getting paid in a timely fashion when they sold an item. 

If you want to try to get a wholesale order, you need to have a linesheet and an order form when you go into a place.  A linesheet lists all your products with pictures and prices, so they can see what they want.  Then you have the order form with all your contact information and they can list how many they want of each item. 

shops on Devine St. in Columbia, SC
In either case, bring your items with you when you go to places.  When they want to see what you've got, it's easier to grab them out of the car than it is to try to make an appointment to come back and show your stuff.  Every place I've approached has asked to see the items immediately, so it's better to come prepared.  Also, make sure you have a business card with you, in case they don't order on the spot, they need to have easy access to your information.

It was easier than I anticipated to get my hair accessories into a store.  I scoped out the area, looking for little gift shops or places that advertised handmade items.  There was a boutique about a block from my house that I decided to try first.  I had my items ready to be presented on backcards, my information and my order forms.  I went in and asked to speak to the owner.  I introduced myself and told her that I created hair accessories and wondered would she be interested in carrying them.  She told me to bring them in for her to look through, and she ordered on the spot. 
The key is to be prepared for them to order.  Make sure you have everything you need to have before you step foot in the store.  Don't be discouraged if they decide not to order, just give them a business card and tell them to keep you in mind for the future.  Know the store, make sure you think your designs would be a good fit.  Hit as many stores as you can.  I know it's exciting to get things in a store, but don't undersell yourself either.  If you're doing wholesale, have a minimum order, either # of pieces or amount.  Don't settle for 50% consignment if you don't feel comfortable with it.

It's scary, I know.  Every time I go into a store, I get so nervous I feel like a bumbling fool.  But you just have to get out there and hit the streets, and don't expect people to come find you.  Good luck!

P.S. you can find my hair accessories at Flowers Forever & Etc. in Columbia, SC

Next time: So you want to start doing craft shows?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Am I trying to do too much?

"Am I trying to do too much?"  is something we've all said before.  Maybe you've got a jewelry line out but recently found out how much you like papercutting.  Or you have a shop full of cutesy items and decided you want to make stuff "for him."  This is a question I ask myself all the time.  I've always tried to fit a ton onto my plate, and I oftentimes worry that the quality of my work will suffer.  Of course, right now I'm not working, so it's manageable to keep up with everything.  But I am running two businesses, one with my husband and this one.  And within those businesses we have a lot going on. 

I'm going to focus on YesterEra for the sake of this post.  When I started, I envisioned a women's clothing line and nothing more.  Well, it hasn't quite turned out that way.  I've added Cordelia's Adornments (my hair accessories) and Estelle's Trousseau (my wedding line).  So is that too much? 

I try to keep the vintage look in what I do as much as possible.  It really comes down to being cohesive.   My husband and I do a lot of craft shows, and what we've noticed is this:  most people do more than one type of craft.  We see people do t-shirts and art prints, plushies and papercraft, clothes and coffee warmers, jewelry and knitting, and the list can go on and on.  It's good to be diverse.  It gives people more options, and reaches out to a wider audience.  Plus, a smart businessperson knows to have several price brackets.  Don't worry about having vastly different items, either, because you have your own style that should show through all your work.

I started the hair accessories for several reasons:  A lot of scrap fabric and vintage buttons, a love of hair decorations, and the knowledge that they would be quicker to make and easier to sell.  Not everyone can afford custom made clothes, not everyone is into my style, and a lot of people are nervous to buy clothes on line.  I realized all this, and so decided I needed more in my shop. 

The wedding line came about by accident.  I had a friend getting married who knew that I had made my veil and asked me to make hers.   From there, more people inquired about it and I realized that not only did I really enjoy making them, the market needs more people selling good quality veils at reasonable prices.  I toyed with the idea of having a shop only for wedding veils, but thought it would be too much to keep up with, so I try to use vintage and antique lace when I can, and create different styles of hairpieces. Again, keeping things under the umbrella of "vintage style".

So the answer to the big question is no, I don't think I'm trying to do too much.  It partially depends on how much time you have to put into your business, but I would advise most other crafters and designers to have more than one line and more than one price bracket.  Think of who your target market is and expand out from there.  Just be smart about it; don't overwhelm yourself and don't compromise the quality of your work. 

Next time:  Getting your designs into stores

Friday, December 3, 2010

First post!

Well, here it is, my brand new blog/website for YesterEra.  I've blogged before, and know I'm terrible about keeping up with it.  I decided to give it another go because sometimes I want to write a lot about a project, and I like sharing how I make things.  I'll occasionally delve into the business side of things, too.  I also want to feature other independent designers, and not just talk about myself all the time. 

I started up this venture in August of 2010, after being laid off from my job as a teacher.  It began as a sort of hybrid of costuming and everyday fashion.  I've been a cosplayer since 2004, but I've mostly lost interest in anime, so I turned my attention to other types of costumes, including historical.  I love fashions of the past, but so many aren't accessible, won't fit certain body types, or simply wouldn't fit into everyday wardrobe.  I wanted to create different fashions from the past, but not just to wear as costumes, and not as historically accurate replicas. 
HelenaTears on DeviantArt

I'm inspired by the imagination of the steampunk and neo-Victorian movements, but aim for something a bit more low-key and practical.  Some designs are created using vintage patterns that I collect, and some are my own design, often based on pictures of the time period.  Sadly, I have more time and imagination than I do money to continue buying fabric, so my collection of clothing pieces is not as prolific as I would like it to be.  I try to even it out by adding accessories and a bridal collection.

Next time:  Am I trying to do too much?