Etsy for Sellers: a Tool, Not a Service

An exasperating question tends to reappear in Etsy Forums: “Opened shop a week ago – zero sales. What’s wrong?!” This bias betrays a culture looking for instant results; one that willfully does not care to understand the slow incremental achievement required to transform Vision into Realization.

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Yeah, it would be sweet if all you needed to do to sell your crafts was make them and publish product listings. But Etsy is NOT a marketing engine. Its goal is NOT to drive traffic to your particular shop. Etsy is a marketplace. It seeks the buyer, and it serves the buyer.

For the seller, Etsy is a set of tools and resources: a web presence; an online cart; a community of fellow crafters. The rest – branding, marketing, making yourself available to your ideal clients – remains on the seller’s shoulders. So let’s use Etsy for what it is: an aid, not a shortcut.

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Moonstone and Labradorite

Moonstone and labradorite are two common and very popular types of the feldspar mineral group, beloved for the optical phenomenon of “schiller”: a colorful glow originating just below the surface of the stone. Often, these stones are polished into flat cabochons to be set into bezeled rings and pendants. Quality material is difficult to find in bead form, partially due to the fragility of the stones: despite being a 6 on the Mohs hardness scale, feldspar has perfect cleavage and will chip and break easily under misapplied pressure. When using feldspar in jewelry, I stick to earrings and necklaces.

Rainbow Moonstone

When I’m looking for an white tone with intriguing elegance, I choose moonstone.

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Highest quality moonstone is nearly transparent, and exhibits vivid iridescence  from many angles.

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Labradorite

Most available labradorites exhibit a greenish-yellow schiller. I prefer specimens that glow with the more rare blues, oranges or reds.

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Visiting Liz Hall of Lizards Jewelry

Last Saturday I visited Liz Hall of Lizards Jewelry at her and her husband’s home studio during the Loudoun County Artists’ Studio Tour. I follow Liz’ work on Facebook, and the colors are eye candy – in her photos as well as in person.

I was going to bug Liz about her creative process, history as an artist, and any fabrication challenges that her materials of choice (polymer clay and metal clay) present, but once at the studio I totally chickened out. Liz was OK with me taking some photos though.

Studio & Workbench

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Pieces for Sale

I especially dig the pieces incorporating metal clay. To me, the juxtaposition of squiggles and geometric color layouts evokes funky sea creatures, fuzzy and odd and fun (inspires me to explore creating textures in metalworking).

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Although real life octopi eek me out, I love the organic feel the tentacles add to this pendant.

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Regular blog posts on Hiatus

Dear everyone – I’m declaring my regular Wed/Fri blog post schedule a casualty of my late pregnancy state, and placing it on hiatus. For the past couple of weeks my mood has dipped into a sort of numbing apathy I can only classify as prenatal depression. Holding myself to the smallest commitments depletes my will power; it is very upsetting to me, but disciplined writing has shifted from an empowering challenge to a suffocating obligation. I’ve decided that, in order to endure the next month without self-imposed guilt trips and fits of crying over not being able to do everything that I think I should, I’m going to hold myself accountable to the bare minimum: sufficient sleep, daily walks, regular food intake.  I will focus the rest of my energy on staying calm and stable.

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Looking forward to brighter moods

I actually anticipate that that I will continue working, and that you will still hear from me. I’m drawn to explore a number of projects/topics:

  • doing a photo a day, with gem materials as objects, in order to improve product photography;
  • doing a sketch a day of some local flora elements (leaves, sticks, flowers), in order to develop design skills and generate ideas for metalsmithing projects;
  • remaking the majority of the beaded pieces I made for myself in 2011;
  • working out a version of the pieces I have in the store with a lower price point;
  • coming up with 2-3 economical designs integrating metal-worked components and gemstones;
  • experimenting with fabricating headpins and ear-wires myself;
  • educating myself about the wholesale process and reaching out to retailers (boutiques, galleries);
  • trying out Pinterest and Instagram as alternative social marketing platforms to Facebook;
  • documenting the design challenges various types of gemstones present;
  • writing fiction;
  • writing a couple of personal essays, including one on my experience with this pregnancy;

Many of these happen to require regular practice in order to yield any kind of results. But since I feel unable to commit to any new practice routines, I’m keeping these activities as a wish-list (instead of a plan, or promises to myself).

You may point out that, “Olga, just last week, you had grand intentions of combatting procrastination. How does that integrate with your new plan to, well, plan nothing?” A very fair question! I think, I’m still going to try to apply some of the techniques I mentioned to any activities I’m undertaking (even ones like dishwashing):

  • remind myself that I do not need to complete the task in one go;
  • set 30 minute alarms to create conscious openings for myself to switch tasks;
  • before jumping into any creative activity,  take 5 minutes to break it down into small basic steps;
  • consider completing a single step of an activity as a solid accomplishment;
  • aim to try, aim to practice, see everything as a learning opportunity, rather than a thing that must be done to perfection.
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Passion is NOT a requirement for beginners

Have you noticed that conventional advice for “becoming an artist” tries to scare off the amateurs? For instance, Demian of CopyBlogger writes:

“[If you … could live a life without writing then don’t pursue a writing career.] …You simply don’t have what it takes to endure the downs of the writing life.”

Guys, I call bullshit.

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Have you ever heard “Mark, unless you breathe accounting, do not even try”? Nope! Yet when Mark commits to a career path in accounting, he is not guaranteed to “make it”.

Say Mark loooves the accounting process. The spectrum of available jobs will still range from mind-numbing to fulfilling. Mark could thrive, or dissolve into the average, or discover that accounting drains his soul. He cannot predict the outcome without trying.

Yeah, the market for creative crafts is more uncertain and risky. Yet, is it your calling? You gotta enter it to tell.

 

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Digging into Procrastination

In college, the last hours before a large assignment deadline always gave me a huge creativity boost; my head would flood with inspiration, and I’d suddenly be up for anything – to tackle becoming Michelangelo! – anything but homework. Over the years I’ve improved in time management; but my apartment is still the cleanest whenever some daunting task taunts from the horizon.

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What is your biggest roadblock to systemic productivity? I’m convinced that mine is the fear of starting – aka, procrastination. As impending parenthood nears and my energy levels steadily decline, many of the things I used to see as enjoyable, manageable commitments have become arduous. I anticipate their discomfort, so I put them off. But they remain on my list of “shoulds” and “needs to do”. As a result, I stress more but do less.

To be fair, partly I’m just struggling with lagging expectations. I’m 36 weeks pregnant today, but still stubbornly resisting the full effects of my state. Some changes in my activity level come naturally and are easier to accept. For instance, sitting in a Starbucks wood chair for an hour exhausts my back, so I’ve made close friends with the Pillowsac in our living room. Yet home is full of distractions; there are chores, there is cooking. Focusing on work requires additional structure, which requires a predictable energy supply, which I don’t have. Whoops! I’m greedy – I still want to do it all. I’m sad that for now, I can’t.

Mostly though, I catch myself fearing, delaying and avoiding. I’ve made such good progress over the past year in becoming self-driven, in constructing my environment to encourage focus and creativity, in making the most of my days – that relapsing into habitual procrastination would just. suck. So. My goal for the next month is to dissect my penchant for procrastination until I surmount it!

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As a start: I tend toward a self-reinforcing cycle of “all or nothing”. I don’t know how this tendency developed (or why it was ever useful for me), but at this point in my life I’m actively working to neutralize it. I suppose it boils down to:

  • I do not trust myself to finish challenging projects. Once I start a task, I push to complete it in a single go, afraid that I will abandon it if I take a break. With tasks that are long and hard, this means working relentlessly into a mindless exhaustion.
  • Mindless exhaustion is not a pleasant experience. It leads to burn out, and typically results in poor decision-making and more errors in the final product. All around, it’s not something I’d consciously want to put myself through.
    • To top it off, scope creep: typically, in the process of working on a project, I become aware of additional ways to make the result more comprehensive, better. But I do not notice that my internal measure for the success of the project automatically rises to encompass this new vision. Reaching merely the original goal becomes falling short. Moreover, I forget to grant myself additional time to strive for the new goal – I try to squeeze it into the original time frame.
  • Consequently, I often run over my estimates for time and effort needed per project. Anxious to complete it, I rush. Rushing, I stress. My memory from the resulting experience focuses on fatigue, and performing worse than I wanted, and a sense of failure.
  • Feeling like I failed regardless of the actual project outcome is not a great motivator to try on more projects. It makes me really reluctant to start anything that might take more than a couple of hours. So I delay, and avoid. And the more I delay, the bigger the fear grows. The harder it becomes to start.

My plan of tackling procrastination involves some techniques that have worked for me in the past, and some that I’ve yet to try:

  • For every new project, especially the bigger ones – outline it in great detail to get the best concept of scope possible.
  • Break the outline into a myriad of small components, the more basic the better. Aim for a duration of 30-90 minutes for each.
  • Think of the very first step (for example: with a blog post, this would be creating a file for the copy, or gathering sources) – and just do the first 5 minutes of it. There – that was the start.
  • Give yourself a specific time every day to work on the project – trust that you will always have that time set aside to make progress.
  • Set timers. Give yourself 45 minutes of focus, then force yourself to get up and recharge or switch tasks. That way, you cannot overwork yourself. After several iterations, you will trust that you can pause midway and come back to the task successfully.
  • Set your definition of “success” at the bare bones of the project. Work towards getting the minimum done. Feel good about your work. Then, if there is time and you are still inspired, let yourself increase the scope – and remind yourself that you have gone above and beyond.
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“Pure Art” vs “Craft”

I recently came across an opinion that art intended for sale is less pure than noncommercial art:

“I think, because [Van Gogh] never sold a painting during his lifetime, it’s pure art. Artists, when they sell their first piece, start to see their art through the customer’s or dealer’s eyes. It changes the work, and IMHO, diminishes its purity. The art starts to have a purpose; making money. If it has a purpose, then it’s a craft.

I disagree. Elevating one piece of art over another based on the notion of “purpose” overlooks two defining elements shared by all artworks: a) intent of the author; b) interpretation of the audience.

Irving Stone's %22Lust for Life%22, old Russian publication

Most artists create work with a goal in mind. Even when the intent is as high-level as “to inspire” or “to educate”, that purpose results in functionality. Additionally, most art serves as a mode of communication, and thus seeks an audience – the more the better. Does recognition in the form of critical acclaim really make a piece more worthy than would monetary compensation?

Besides, we experience the world through the lens of our histories; looking at the same piece, you see something different than I. So to me, the audience’s interpretation is more critical a factor than the original intent for the work.

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