Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Busy Week @ the Shop

Wow, while I not quite the power seller (at all), I have managed to have a few sales in the past few days which makes a total of four sales since September 19th.

My second handbag sale, the Wood Handle Handbag in Garden Maze Brown, sold yesterday.

The first handbag to sell online, the
The Pleated Handbag in Clematis Gray, sold on Sunday.

And, another pair of the Brass Disk Earrings sold the previous Saturday.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

100 Hearts

It happened on Saturday, I had been holding at the 99 Hearts mark for what seemed like forever (actually 4 days) and then, there is was, 100 hearts.

However, hearts do not always equal sales. I wish you were allowed to send notices or sales information to these 100 fans, but in the World of Etsy this is considered spamming.

Oh well, off to work on my next 100 hearts, which hopefully will not take another 1 1/2 to accomplish.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And now a word from one of my distractions

I recently wrote about missing the change of seasons and dreaming of houses in VT in my Living in a L.L. Bean Catalog post. I think that part of that yearning to see the leaves change and smell Autumn stems from the 6 months wait for Hockey to begin again. Normally the start of Hockey would coincides with the crispiness of Fall, however, Hockey in South Florida is a bit different, the weather is still quite warm, especially as you walk from the parking lot up to the arena dressed in your long sleeves, jeans and jersey. Wednesday night marked the first home pre-season game at that the Bank Atlantic Center and although the temperatures were in the 90s, and not cool as I have been yearning, it was nice to see old friends, including that rink down below...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today's Experiment - Part 2

Yesterday, I experimented with a new background in my attempt to improve my photos and was wishing I had a piece of slate or something else in my background. Today I remembered that I have been using a rock to keep the guest bedroom door open for the last 11 years. It came from Lake Ontario in Oswego, NY. I went to school up there a million years ago...

So this was yesterday's experiment, with the gray background. I liked the way the brass is a light yellow, which is a close match to the actual earrings, but I was bored with the background.

And this is today's experiment using the same gray background but using the lake rock as a prop. I can't decide if the gray from the rock makes the photo too dark, but the color of the brass is definitely darker or maybe richer?

Well, while I decide on what I will do next, I decided to make this photo the primary photo for my Brass Earrings in my shop.

Today's Experiment

I sold a pair of Brass Earrings this past Saturday via Etsy. It's my first sale on the site since May, a very long time. Granted I just dusted off the shop's cobwebs in August and recently started out on my Marketing Quest, but somehow one sale is a bit of a let down. However it's a sale and perhaps the dawn of a new day.

A lesson I learned while at the SummerFest in Sayville this summer was that in person, my items sell. The other lesson that I have always know but has come to the forefront again (damn those declined submissions) is that my photography skills have to improve. Since I decided I was going to relist the earrings, I figured it was time for another photo shoot.

First, let me show you the other two photos I am presently using on Etsy...

In this photo, I was attempting to show off the earrings by hanging the item, however the earrings which are brass and therefore have a yellowish tint, appear copper in this photo.

In this photo, I was trying to get away from the white background since playing with the levels feature in Photoshop made the earrings look harsh with the lighting. I think the rocks were to either prop up the earrings or add a different background. I don't know, but now it appears to busy. I know that I have never been thrilled with this backdrop, but now under a different eye, this is really a terrible photo.

Today's experiment consisted of using one of the backgrounds that came with my light box. I actually have a few color layouts that came with the box that I think I will try out, but today I started with the gray. While I am not thrilled with this photo, I am surprised by how closely the color in this photo resembles the earrings. I do need to play around with the camera's white balance because the photos came out a bit too dark and I may have washed out appearance by playing around with the bright/contrast. The overall appearance is also a bit flat, I would love to find a large river rock or a piece of slate to use in the background. I think that would be a nice contrast...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Facebook Fan Page

Okay, so as I continue on my ongoing Marketing Quest, my latest step was to create a Fan Page on Face Book.

After adding some basic information about HMMills, I created four photo albums and uploaded a bunch of photos for each album:
  • Handbags
  • Necklaces
  • Earrings
  • Bracelets

(...probably should have create one for my lampwork beads, but I really don't have any to display) . After publishing the photos and the page I then invited my friends to become fans. I believe the goal is that their friends will see it and become fans as well, but I'm not sure how to see my friends' fan technically challenged...

I also know that I need to submit updates and do some chattering, but what does one say so that it doesn't appear to be spam and then they either Hide or UnFan

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Shop

As I continue my quest to explore new marketing avenues, I stumbled upon a new site called Shop Handmade. Although I had completed the shop set up about two weeks ago, this morning I finally got around to adding some Inventory to the shop: HMMills

Below is some information about Shop Handmade

About Us

At ShopHandmade we're here for two reasons:

We enjoy handmade crafts and we want to help people enjoy crafting and enjoy giving handmade items. Handmade items are personal, special, and unique in this world.

We love the environment and want to demonstrate good stewardship. We want to demonstrate how to make a difference. We want to demonstrate through our own action how small things can make a difference. It's remarkably easy to make a meaningful difference.

We think that handmade crafts and the environment both go together hand-in-hand. Both are about a quality living environment.

How we got started:
We started as a spin-off from the best internet craft retailer in the whole wide world. (No bias here:) Seriously, they have a million items in their warehouse. And they have great service. (see our sponsors although we're quick to point out we would love to have any company help with sponsorship.)

Our customers would often ask:

How can I sell the things I make? We tried contacting companies such as eBay, etc. etc. et.c to see if we could partner with them in some way. But they were after their millions and profits and didn't have time to work with us.

How can I sell my used craft supplies? People have left-over supplies that they would just love to not throw in the trash. (Maybe used rubber stamps or half a sheet of stickers, for example.) It pained us to think that we were contributing to environmental waste without doing something about it.

With a bolt of lightening (not literally) we realized: We could and we should do it. So we did.

We already had a world-class eCommerce system, a data center, and brilliant people who knew and loved crafts. Like many a midnight project that you are probably well aware of, we built ShopHandmade in a couple of nights and weekends out of stuff we already had. (It's not like this stuff is hard anymore.)

In an pleasantly ironic way: ShopHandmade is itself made from recycled software and computers...literally.

We then showed ShopHandmade to our sponsors and they got excited! This was a great thing! So they agreed to sponsor our operating costs as a public service so we could get started for real.

Today we are a forum for artists to sell their handmade craft items and for crafters to recycle their craft supplies. And it is good. Welcome!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Item

Added a new item to the shop today...

Pleated Shoulder Bag - Dark Gray with White and Black Drawn Flowers

A great everyday bag, large enough to carry more than your essentials. A heavy weight cotton canvas fabric in dark gray, the design by Linda Svensson has white and black drawn flowers and leaves; this single pleated shoulder bag is fully lined with a coordinating black cotton fabric. The color palette consists of gray, black, olive, white and orange. The interior has a large split deep pocket, a great place to keep your blackberry, cellphone, keys or other important items and is finished with a magnetic snap to keep your items safe. Constructed with a fleece and stiff interfacing to help maintain its shape.

Approximate bag measurements:
Top opening: 10 3/4"
Bottom length: 14 1/2"
Body height: 15" Overall height: 25"
Strap: 21 1/2"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Living in a L.L. Bean Catalog

Supposedly, early to mid September is the pinnacle of Hurricane Season which is marked on our calendars starting June 1 - November 30. In my 19 years here in South Florida, my Hurricane history consists of the Andrew who arrived in August; Katrina (who luckily was only a 1 when she passed by) was in August as well; and Wilma (that b****) was in late October. And while it's been quiet so far, the weather during this time of year is steaming, humid and wet, while in the NE (my origins) the weather is starting to cool.

Last week I went to watch the rookies at the Panther's Rookie Training Camp. Because it would be at the new ice rink training facility I dressed warmly, even wore a light jacket with a lining, yet I was still freezing. However, dressing in layers and the fact that Hockey is just a few short days away, it started me thinking about the crispness of the air, the smell of the leaves, the fall foliage and how I miss the Fall season. Please note, I am thrilled when the rest of the country is buried in Snow during January and I am enjoying 70 degree weather in Florida, but....apparently I must be going through my love/hate cycle of hating S FL, hating my house and my gypsy blood is screaming it's time to move on.

The other day the L.L. Bean Catalog arrived, somehow I got on their mailing list 10 years ago when I purchased a weekend bag from them. Their most recently catalog has a warm pullover fleece with leaves adorning the cover. It makes me want to buy it, but I think about all the pullovers I have in my closet that never get worn, because it's just too warm down here. Some of the models are posing on porches covered in leaves and pumpkins and country craft type things and it makes me want to go out and buy a house in VT.

So all morning long, I have been looking at real estate listings in VT around the Burlington area. This one is my favorite...Wonderful country property in a peaceful setting with babbling brook and fantastic views of Mt. Mansfield. Great open floor plan. Living room with new woodstove, formal dining room, master suite with balcony enjoying fantastic views of the mt. Peace & tranquility surround you. Sauna hut, perennial gardens and deck add to the outdoor space.

Just look at their view from the back of the house... To see more click here

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Shopping Connection

I received an email from My Shopping Connection today.

It appears that my Gold Hoops Earrings - Burgundy Crystals have been featured on their Feature Find.

I am very excited that not all of my items have been rejected and all those hours of working on submissions were not completely unproductive. I have continued with the "Photography Experiment" as well as trying out different backgrounds, so I will post pics soon as I do appreciate the feedback.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Photos uuuggghhhhhh.....

Outside of marketing, taking great quality shots of my products are a constant hurdle for me. Since a customer cannot touch and feel the product, the photo has to be able to sell the item...common sense, yes, but how?

Everyday as I scan through the thousand of photos online, it always amazes me how some folks can take such great photos and my photos always look so bad. For example I recently had three of my submission rejected by craftgawker.

The first one was the Beach Bag - Green with Flip Flops, it was rejected due to "Lighting issues - dull/unsharp." Now that I am looking at the photo here, it appears blurring. (Why didn't I notice that before?)

My second rejected item was the Wristlet White with Black Flowers, it was rejected due to "Lighting issues," which I can see that yellow glare on the right top corner and that strange bluish tint on the bottom left.

The most recent one, came as a surprise to me. It was my Even Monkeys Fall from Trees Charm Necklace, due to "Harsh lighting and/or overexposed." This photo was taken with the camera's macro setting on, in a light box...will I ever win?

So after a few days of self pity, instead of making product or posting items, or submitting items, I spent several hours looking at my photos, trying to touch up my photos and then just retaking photos. For some reason, when I look at other seller's photos with white backgrounds, those appear the cleanest, but my photos with a white backgrounds are harsh or too dull. The other thing that I do find interesting are photos with a stone or slate or distressed wood background, I notice some very pretty shots of jewelry draped upon a piece of slate. I also noticed other interesting backdrops, as in one handbag seller, she sets the item upon a distress stool in front of a painted white brick wall.

So after a few hundred or so photos later and several different backgrounds, I settled (perhaps I was frustrated and tired) on this background.

So now I wonder if this darker background is better or is it too dark? I played around with the level settings as well as the brightness and contrast, I think this still is too harsh. If you look at my tag on the bottom right it appears washed-out. And is this sharp, or dull?

Labor Day Cooking

While we were in Washington a few weeks ago we were watching the CBS Early Show and one of the Chef contributors was making grill pizza. I was thinking about it yesterday morning so I made some pizza dough and while that was rising, I marinated some shrimp and scallops and then off to the market for toppings.

Pizza dough is easy, especially if you have a Kitchen Aid, 1 pk yeast, 1 cup water (120-130F) 2 tbsp oil, 2 3/4 - 3 1/2 cup flour, pinch of salt, I also use about two tbsp brown sugar. Mix all ingredients (but just 1 cup of the flour) together and then slowly add the rest of the flour until you have a stiff dough. While the dough is mixing I warmed up my oven on low for a few minutes and then turned it off. When your dough is done, place in a lightly oiled bowl, flip to coat, cover with a dish towel and place in the oven to rise for about an hour.

When your dough is ready, take about a tennis ball size and roll out (it doesn't have to be round, (I think the irregular shape adds to the presentation). To grill the dough, just lay each crust directly onto the grill (yes make sure your grill is clean) for about a minute or two on low heat for a thin crust maybe a minute more for a thicker crust. You will see the dough start to form bubble pockets and will know it's ready when it no longer sticks to the grill.

Since I knew that we were going to make individual pizzas, I couldn't decide on toppings, so in the end, I probably came back from the market with too much for two:

Fresh Basil leaves
Sun-dried tomatoes
Soy Cheese (for me)
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Goat Cheese
Yellow & Orange Bell Peppers
Garlic Cloves

Since I already had pine nuts and brought too many packages of basil leaves, I made a pesto sauce for the shrimp and scallops. I was going to make a cilantro pesto, but I stopped myself, after there are only two of us.

To create your pizza, brush on some olive oil and just add your toppings, cook on med - high heat covered for about 5 minutes. One suggestion for any raw toppings (i.e. my scallops and shrimp) these should be cooked beforehand as your crust may burn during that second grilling if you were to wait for those raw toppings to cook.

Pictured here is DH's pizza, shrimp, scallops, pesto, sliced garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, which he then covered in all three cheeses. My pizza, pictured above was a simple soy Mozzarella, tomato, basil leaves, sliced garlic and scallions.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Carried Away: The Etsy Bag Makers Team

I have been busy working on the Marketing of HMMills these past few weeks. Aside from joining and submitting my items to various craft sites, I have been reading through the Etsy forums about other promotional avenues. One piece of advice that was repeated often was to join an Etsy Team, so I submitted request to join the following:

Etsy Jewelry Artist Guild (eJAG)
Florida Etsy Street Team
Carried Away: The Etsy Bag Makers Team

I heard back from the Florida Etsy Street Team and the Carried Away Team about applying via their sites for membership review, therefore I have been waiting.

Today I was pleasantly surprised this morning with an email from the Carried Away: The Etsy Bag Makers Team, introducing four of their newest members and there on the top of the email was my Bamboo Handbag in Loopy Daisy. I clicked on the link taking me to their website and there was my bag again. Very exciting...

If you have never visited this site, take time to browse it as it's a great place if you love to sew handbags (there are tutorials), or if you just love shopping for handbags: Carried Away: The Etsy Bag Makers Team