On Making and Selling

Well hello, friends! It’s been a little while. Here are some thoughts I jotted down about being an artist and making money at it.

While there are some questionable “arts” out there, generally speaking, I think it’s safe to say that most people who create can be termed an artist of some kind. Not everyone earns money or an actual living from their art, which is fine. There is nothing wrong with art for art’s sake. (Take this blog, for example! I write because I like it.) But it is a heavily sought after dream.

Artists who create with fabric or yarn know that it’s not only popular because it’s fun, challenging, relaxing, and rewarding, but as with any creative endeavor, making any kind of money from this passion is not an easy feat.

Essentially, anyone who knows how to make something out of fabric, yarn, or thread can sell it. That’s the beauty of having an Etsy shop, really. (Or Facebook, for that matter.) I’m no exception to that. I’ve sold a few crocheted things from the shop and I’ve made a few dozen custom orders from people who have seen my finished works on Facebook. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you’ll earn some pocket money from your craft in addition to having fun making the end products. Win-win. Silly baby whales

While there are certainly people out there who have mastered selling finished works and make a pretty penny off of it, it is my observation from both the photography world and the crochet world that the real money is in selling to the artists. I have mixed feelings on that. On the one hand, it makes sense, and bravo to those who have figured it out. On the other, I wish it appeared to be more prevalent that the artists themselves had more success than the teachers, marketers, and “gurus.”

When I was immersed in All Things Photography for the first couple of years, it became overwhelming to muck through all the businesses out there who marketed to photographers who were just trying to earn some money taking portraits. My email was dinging every few seconds with promotional email after promotional email. I even worked with a “photography business consultant” for a little while, until I realized that she had never had a successful photography business herself. (Seriously.) Eventually, when I realized that it was not going to be the business I thought it would, it was a tedious chore to unsubscribe from most of the companies that had my email address. Now I enjoy photography on a much more leisurely basis (see: The Bsns), and I’ve realized that, at least for this period of my life, it’s what works best.

When I jumped into crochet in 2013, the same thing happened where I realized that the gurus exist who are quite successful, and most of them have marketed patterns, classes, or how-to videos on YouTube. (Don’t get me wrong–YouTube is a fabulous tool for learning a craft like crochet for free!) Fortunately, I had learned from my mistakes with photography, and I did not sign up for too many groups, emails, classes, etc, though crochet is a completely different beast than photography.

Aside: I won’t deny that I may have a slight yarn addiction but I think most crocheters and knitters have one. Becoming a yarn snob is something I’ll save for another post down the road.

Before a couple of years ago, I had not browsed Etsy for much of anything. Now that I have my own shop, I have made a point to buy unique gifts for friends and family from others who share their beautiful artistry with the world. Pretty much anything you can think of–and a lot of what you can’t–can be found there. (Here are things I’ve favorited, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

Again, just because one has a shop, it does not mean that people will buy. Standing out from the herd of millions proves to be a frustration for many, myself included. Crochet and photography shops are a dime a dozen and, once again, those craft shops who stand out seem to be doing something truly unique OR they’re marketing to people like me, who are passionate creators but are not necessarily blazing a trail in the design world.

Perhaps designing is in my future; it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But for now, I am a happy little maker of things. Speaking of which….I know it’s a shameless plug, but it ties in so nicely with my topic here, so I hope you won’t mind too much.

I started this post a while back and by the time I’ve gotten around to publishing it, I happen to be having a canvas sale in the Photography section of my shop this week. And if I’m being honest, which I am, it’s a good one.

I’ll just leave this here and if you or someone you know needs some wall art in your life, well then…..yay!

And now I slip quietly back to my creative dungeon…until next time.

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Showcase of Recent Projects

I promised about a month ago to begin doing more show ‘n tell posts on projects I am working on or have completed.

Here I am to fulfill that promise….slightly out of breath and a little worn, truth be told.

Between working full-time and wedding planning, working on my side interests is all about making time for them. However, since I also have a shop where people can request handmade gifts, the customer comes first if an order comes in.

Before I was graced with two back-to-back orders totaling ten amigurumi, I had just finished up the following:

Baby Pastel Crochet Washcloths

Cotton crochet baby washcloths, currently in the shop

Folded Pastel Baby Blanket 2

25″ baby blanket, currently available in the shop

I was SO proud when I finished that blanket because it was the first one I had ever done in the corner-to-corner design that is quite popular right now. I added a border and voilà! 

And prior to that, I had just finished this little miracle:

Shell Baby Sundress - Front

That, my friends, is a newborn baby sundress. It’s pretty much the “I die” of baby outfits.

I had just started on a second baby blanket (no photos yet!) when I got two orders within a week for ten amigurumi animals. I just shipped them out on Saturday morning. Here they are in all their adorable glory:

Amigurumi Order

I’m still doing my photography, of course, and have put up a few pieces for sale in the shop, like this one:  

Though we’re under five months until the wedding (eep!), I have heard from a multitude of friends and family that they are expecting a child around the same time, so I have all these ideas for care boxes of baby things I want to make and send to people, but there simply are not enough hours in the day to carry out all of my pho-chet dreams. I’ll simply have to go into overdrive when all of my party planning days are behind me!

This concludes the first installment of Pho-chet Showcase with yours truly. If you are a fellow crafter and/or are curious about anything you see here, please leave some love in the comments!

Spring Fling and Easter Critters

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Is it too early to celebrate? No? Happy Spring!!!

I sincerely hope the weather is springlike where you are. I think we can all agree winter was frigid, to say the least, and I know more than a few states in the good old U.S. of A were walloped with weather they almost never have to worry about. Illinois has allllll the seasons, and while I prefer it that way, Old Man Winter was extra cranky this year, resulting in getting more than our fair share of snow, ice, wind, and crazy sub-zero temperatures.

As some of you may have seen already, I have been diligently working on my side hobbies quite ardently in the last few months–namely crocheting cute little things and posting them in my relatively new Etsy shop.

Soooo to celebrate the arrival of what is hopefully better weather and warmer temperatures, in addition to Easter coming up, oh and just ’cause you guys are awesome, I am offering my readers a “Zoe Says” discount in the Etsy shop. Just enter the coupon code SPRINGFLING14 at checkout, and you automatically shave off 10% from your order. There is no minimum purchase required (really!) and I have items for sale for a variety of budgets, big or small.

For those who haven’t visited the shop yet, I sell both crocheted items (little amigurumi creatures and a few wearables) plus photographic prints and canvasses.

And! Pretty much everything is customizable, so if you see something you like but want a different color, just send me a message.

If you want a print but don’t see the size you want, hit me up.

If you are buying an “in stock” item and want more than one, we can do that.

If you have something specific in mind and don’t see it listed, just ask if it’s possible for me to make it. The possibilities are endless and the discount will still apply!

Etsy makes it easy to contact me; just click one of the links on the sidebar in the area that looks like this:

Custom Order

I have had several custom requests from friends and acquaintances and it’s always fun to try something new and give someone exactly what they want. This Spring Fling/Easter sale/Zoe Says “thanks!” coupon code doesn’t expire until April 20, 2014 but order early if you want something in time for Easter, since I like, have to make it and ship it.

To sum up:

It’s Spring. We’re overjoyed.

Easter is a month away and we love pastels and eggs and chocolate and cute little critters.

I’m grateful for you, my readers.

I’m offering a special thank you code through Easter, which is April 20. SPRINGFLING14 gets you 10% off any order, big or small! Just hit up the shop.

Here are some cuteness overload photos, in case you’re still on the fence. Every single thing in these photos is available for sale! Thanks so much, everyone, and enjoy this first month of spring!

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Evolution of a Crochet Cupcake

In case anyone was wondering, cupcakes have still not lost their hypnotic appeal, and are as popular as ever. Even arts and crafts have become dedicated to whipping out these tasty-looking treats.

When I began (furiously) crocheting again, I came across several too cute patterns for cupcakes and had to replicate them immediately. However, crocheting amigurumi is a practice of patience and making things over and over again. In time, once you’ve mastered a few thousand stitches in different variations across different yarns, hook sizes, and stitches, you begin to understand which patterns will suit your crochet style in particular. The beauty of crochet is there appears to be endless ways to be creative with it.

One of the most crucial lessons I learned about myself with making something new, even if I’m really excited about it and am comfortable with all the types of stitches a pattern entails, is that I will typically need to do a practice run first.

Sometimes you get patterns that turn out to be easy peasy and your first attempt comes out perfectly–such is the case with the chocolate Easter bunny I just made.

But perfecting the crochet cupcake turned out to be something I had to make at least five times over before I executed it to my standards.

Here is how my first cupcake looked. It’s okay to giggle. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

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It looks like a cinnamon muffin wearing a pink sombrero.

In this instance, I was quite glad I used leftover beige yarn to practice with, instead of going for the good stuff.

My next attempts looked like this. The frosting is slowly getting better but the cupcakes are leaning to one side and still kinda look like muffins.

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After a few of these, I grew frustrated and tried a different cupcake pattern altogether, just to see if I was a crappy crocheter or what. I made this little guy and added some frosting berries on top:

Cupcake diptych-zoesays

Reassured, I tackled the cupcakes again and whatever “it” was finally clicked into place. I added some heavier filler to get it to stand up straight, didn’t overstuff it so it wouldn’t look like a muffin, and got the frosting to look good, as well. Lastly, I tried my hand at sewing on some beads for “sprinkles.” Voilà!

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After finally mastering this deceptively difficult pattern, my goal is to offer some of these for sale in the shop, so stay tuned! The best part about cupcakes is that you can mix and match all different “flavors” and colors, too, so I’m excited to see what I’ll end up with when I get a half dozen or so complete.

Just for emphasis, here’s a side-by-side shot of all the cupcakes from start to finish. It’s not easy to keep trying at something but when you finally succeed, it’s totally worth it.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

On a summer visit last year to the city of Rochester, NY, I visited the City Hall building, as I had heard it was renowned for its architecture.

I was not disappointed.

The atrium is open to several floors, where all of the offices and even Council Chambers are situated. Though I was limited in how and where I could take photos, I worked to get several different perspectives of the gorgeous layered marble arches which make up the center of the structure.

Thus, I invite you to view below my submission for the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme of “Threes.”

Arched View

From the Second Floor

Municipal Atrium

Me and the Sea

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I have a strange dichotomy with the sea. Seas = beaches. Beaches are hard to find when you grow up in landlocked states like Missouri. If you want some sea, you have to go and find it.

When I have found it, I have stared and contemplated for long periods of time (what felt like little eternities), soaking it all in.

No matter the weather, these bodies of water mesmerize me.

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I become very aware that I am in an otherworldly place, someplace else that is not my day-to-day. Perhaps the sea is my “somewhere over the rainbow.” The rhythmic sounds of the waves, sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh, lull me into a state of inner peace where I am much more easily able to put away my cares. My favorite nature sound is listening to the ocean to help me get to sleep when I’m feeling anxious or experiencing insomnia.

Despite my love for the beauty and tranquility of the water (this is where the dichotomy comes in), I don’t feel the need to live near one.

Some people require being in close proximity to bodies of water. My mother is one of those people. She takes her pleasure from the lake(s) she lives close to; I truly think it grounds her.

But for me, I prefer to keep the specialness of the sea apart from my daily life. In addition to seas and oceans making me feel as if I’m on vacation, which I enjoy preserving, I also do not possess skin genes that allow for high doses of sun on a regular basis. In another life, perhaps I’ll have gorgeous skin that browns like a turkey at Thanksgiving. But in this life, I have pale, incendiary skin, suited for shade, air conditioning, and computer work.

When forced to be outdoors for any length of time, sea or no sea, I swath my skin in high doses of SPF sunblock, the better with which to help me be an outdoors(wo)man for a few hours.

Me and the sea are tight. I can’t wait until the next time I’m near one, so I may dip my toes into the frothy water and drink in the salty air.

Until such time, I’ll remember the sea fondly with previous memories and look through others’ eyes who have captured it in places I will probably never go.

The Lonely but Beautiful Path

This post was in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea.

The Virtues of Cleaning Makeup Brushes

Like exercise or flossing, cleaning one’s makeup brushes is something makeup bloggers and aestheticians strongly recommend doing if you regularly beat your mug with all kinds of pretty products, as I am wont to do.

Like exercise or flossing, I need to do it way more often than I actually do.

I think the pros do this multiple times a week. Bravo to them. I don’t make the time to do it, though I know it’s much more hygienic to do it that often.

Gross consequences of never washing your brushes are things like big old clogged pores and eye infections. Conversely, if you buy super cheapy brushes that don’t last longer than a few months, you can always just keep buying new ones every so often.

However, if you are serious about makeup, you know the importance of investing in at least one or two key brushes. I’ve been given several sets over the years and have plunked down more money than I care to say on a couple of really solid brushes that have lasted me a long time.

Cleaning one’s brushes also increases their longevity, so it’s a good payback system.

There are dozens of suggestions out there for how to clean your brushes and with what. I find that a few drops of tea tree oil and a little gentle shampoo (or even something like Dawn) works really well. Tea tree oil kills the germs and the Dawn or the shampoo sudses out the oils and dirt. (Not sure if “sudses” is a verb but I’m going with it.)

I took the liberty of taking some photos of my process today. You can see that I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay overdue with cleaning mine. They all needed to soak for quite a bit and be rinsed out really thoroughly before they were clean. I went through at least three bowls of pink, dirty makeup water.

So don’t be like me and literally let dust build up on the tips of your brushes. Soak those suckers as often as you can make time for it. Your face will thank you for it!

Assemble your soaking bowl, cleansing soap or shampoo, and your tea tree oil.

Assemble your soaking bowl, cleansing soap or shampoo, and your tea tree oil.

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Get those babies in there, letting the tea tree oil disinfect.

Second set of brushes...

Second set of brushes…

Rinse THOROUGHLY, gently squeeze out the excess water, and lay on paper towels.

Rinse THOROUGHLY, gently squeeze out the excess water, reshape, and lay on paper towels.

Pretty maids all in a row...

Pretty maids all in a row…

Be sure not to put them back in their containers right away, since you want any excess water to drip onto the paper towels. If too much water sits at the base, it’ll get mildewy and disgusting. Nobody wants that.

Lastly, you can help the drying process along by gently blowdrying them when they’ve air dried for a while. Then you’ve got nice, clean, fluffy brushes to help you look your best again.

Paying Homage to Pretty

So even though I usually keep the photo posts over on my photo blog, I wanted to share a little bit over here because that’s how much I love staring at pretty, sparkly, lit up Christmas trees.

I think the pagans were right on the mark with this whole tree idea.

Even at this very moment, my tree is sitting lit behind me and I keep turning around to look at its pretty lights and the reflections on the ornaments. Having a beautifully decorated Christmas tree helps to make up for not having a fireplace or mantel, something I grew up with and adored. (Someday….!)

Below are one picture I slated for Zoe Says and another from Flickr that I’m linking here because I couldn’t decide which look I loved most. Ah, the magic of editing software.

However, if you want to see more, because obviously I took lots of different shots from different angles and processed them differently, go here or here.

What are your favorite holiday decorations? (We have stockings up, too, but they pale in comparison to the tree.)

Tree Triptych