Monday, September 26, 2016

My Mantra for Busy Artists

I bought this sign and promptly hung it up in my studio when we moved here five years ago.

Hearing the ETSY Cha Ching sound ring out from my iPhone is a glorious sound,  and I am so grateful for my customers. But when the business side of my work overtakes the creative side, and less time is spent creating, I just glance at the sign to the left and make a little time after the "day job" to do one thing creative that makes me oh-so-happy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Newest Funny Magnet and Where Do My Ideas Come From?


People often ask me where I get my ideas. Usually it's from observing people and circumstances around me or something I read in the media that sparked a funny idea.

 I grew up in a town where the focus was on status, those of us who didn't have much status to begin with spent our time in the background, observing as the more aggressive, status-enhanced kids held court on the playground.  It wasn't an easy time for a sensitive kid like me, who originated from a friendly California town only to be moved to a posh, star-studded community. On my first day in my new elementary school I asked to join in a game of tag and was turned down. WTF?

When status or money is valued more than promoting decent behavior, blatant rudeness  reigns, or rather, blatant bullying. It usually is delivered in the form of backhanded compliments, talking over someone, stinging comments, or acting bored when someone else thought they had the right to speak and lastly, flat out exclusion. Some say insecurity is at the core of all bullying. But I think rudeness in well-heeled communities becomes an acceptable dialect that kids of status-needy parents pick up.  The dialect then spreads like a virus and mimicked by others, and the target is always those sensitives shoved into their place of quiet observation.

But there is a silver lining for the bullied ones, the quiet observers usually grow up to be the artists, the musicians, poets, writers, comedians, well-loved friends, functional parents and well, people who know just how much kindness matters. And the quiet observers don't need to insult, or play passive-aggressive games to steal coveted attention from others; nor do we think we have to step on someone to get ahead. As far as money, we too like to own nice things, nothing wrong with that, but our enjoyment of items isn't about mere flaunting. Also our imaginative skills are highly developed due to all that observing time.

We all know bullying reigns in the workplace,  I feel it's on the rise due to overblown salaries in the top tier of workplaces when insecure and/or incompetent people with the right status-ties and ego gratification-needs go after the top tier job when it should've gone to someone more qualified and more willing to put in the work. Anything can be interpreted by these shaky souls as a threat to their status-oriented security. Thus they fervently work to protect a salary-(read:lifestyle) they haven't earned and this compels them to constantly put the "subordinates" in their place, as if there is a "place" subordinates need to be put in. Some are really good at this "Overlord" game. What these people don't realize is their toxic presence causes damage that is totally unnecessary. I wonder if they understand the impact of their behavior on another human being. But then, there's always karma some say.

So how do I get my ideas?  I was a quiet observer, though I didn't suffer horrible bullying on the playground, and did have my friends, and the community I grew up in offered me some noteworthy educational experiences; it was a struggle to not feel like a square peg in my tween and teen years. In latter years in some of my jobs I observed bullying of co-workers and at times for absolutely no reason, was the recipient of craftily-implemented bullying. Though we're all not perfect–I wish I could take back some of the things that have escaped my mouth over the years,  I still wonder about the toxic-career bullies who manage to secure a spot in the high-tier workplace, are they ever troubled by their behavior?

This magnet is for all ye quiet observers in the workplace and beyond: SmirkingGoddess shop on ETSY

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

For Makers on a Budget, Turn to your Local Library!

Two years ago, I opted to hire someone through ETSY to create cookie cutters from two illustrations of mine. The seller I commissioned did a terrific job, but I didn't. You see, the cookie cutters had design flaws and really didn't work out, especially when dough got stuck in tiny nooks and crannies of the design. My designs were also too big.

I shelved the cookie cutters-somewhere in my studio–can't find them despite my re-organization of the space until I had more time to mull over a better design solution. Also, I'm on a limited budget for product development, so I can't afford to order too many prototypes.

When I had time to revisit my cookie cutter project, our local library, in a small Connecticut town mind you, acquired a 3Dprinter, AND! I could have two of my designs printed for free! It took awhile for me to schedule a chance to take my designs over, at first it was on a volunteer basis, so help was hit or miss. But this December, the library had a staff member who had scheduled days to work with designers like me. My husband went with me to view the procedure, as he would like to have some products printed up for his museum (www.vintagehifi.org).

My two illustrations were handed over to Andrea, the staffer who scanned in designs and printed out the products for patrons. She did have a backlog of items to be printed, but this wait comes with something that is FREE.

My first cookie cutter design that I received from Andrea, still had some design flaws, and Andrea graciously waited for me to email her a re-worked illustration. Yesterday I picked up both designs and I'm pretty excited at the outcome. They look and feel sturdy, and exactly like my two illustrations!

What I plan to make from these will be for a later post, and  I do have to put them to the test tomorrow. But if you're a maker, designer, artist, do know that your local library most likely holds a miraculous manufacturing machine ready for all creative folk to test at a very affordable price, $FREE!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Newest Funny Cat Magnet by SmirkingGoddess on ETSY

As of November we have a calico kitty who adopted us. She's been a hoot, but recently at (her) meal time, I found myself saying the exact thing to the left, and then I made it in to a magnet. Cat owners will understand.

Those of you reading this post, I'm offering you 10% off to buy this funny cat magnet or another magnet in my smirkinggoddess ETSY shop. Just use the coupon:FunnyKitty, good until 2.15.2016! So Hurry!

Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Wish I Knew before I Opened My ETSY Shop, and Stuff…

I've been on ETSY since 2008. I opened my shop after quitting  my freelance illustration career in favor of a left-brained-day job so my husband (who's self-employed) and I could buy our first house together.

Leaving the illustration field was hard for me. Art and writing is a very deep part of who I am,  and considering all I've ever wanted was to work out of my studio full-time– like all the other creative lucky peeps I knew, I was bummed. Returning to a full-time day job and reducing my creative making schedule to part time seemed to be my lot in life.

But ETSY provided me creative relief and I joined back when they had Alchemy, Pounce and Treasuries were the front page. Business isn't my strong point, but my husband's been instrumental in driving home some basic rules to me. Even so this was my own adventure and after I realized I could write my own copy, use archival images in the public domain and put the work on magnets and pinbacks I shifted my shop to represent my written word and opened up a second shop for my illustration and art products.

When I finally left the day job after twelve years due to a move and resulting difficult commute, focusing full time, and working finally, full time in my studio I had the time to reflect on what I could've done differently, or wished I had done differently over the years when I was working part time on my creative business that included my two ETSY shops: SmirkingGoddess and SuzanneUrban

Herewith my List of Do's and Don'ts:

• Don't consign at Brick and Mortars.

Offer wholesale instead. Why? Because if the shop closes, you might not receive your work back, your work can get damaged from so much handling. I consigned at a shop where my magnets and pinbacks sold rapidly. Unfortunately the owner was too lazy to cut me a check and insisted I come in count up how many sold and then she would cut me a check. I pulled my work when I realized it wasn't my job to do her accounting. In another place I went to check on some prints of mine that sold well at another location, I couldn't find them so I asked and the gallery manager said: "They're too beachy for this season". So she stuck them in a drawer.  If you're consigning, your work shouldn't be put away and hidden. And lastly, one place they'd closed the gallery for several months and I didn't know, I was wondering why I hadn't received a regular check. Consigning doesn't work in my book. I went to pull my work only to have the new manager hand everything back to me. So I instead went to a gift shop in town and opened up a wholesale account with them. In fact they've ordered twice and just called me with a small job. The Universe encourages you to be successful in wise ways.

Be very careful about selecting vendors to assemble your products or manufacture them yourself.

I outsourced my magnet and pinback designs to be assembled by a company and sent back to me-this was expensive but I couldn't initially afford the Tecre machine and parts to manufacture my own. Unfortunately, the vendor used adhesive backed paper that create a chemical reaction with the metal backing. I now have a huge box full of magnets and pinbacks with rust marks on the face of the design. There's no telling how many customer's I've lost due to the manufacturer using cheap materials. He denied that he was at fault, he did reimburse me $30. but that in no way covers the loss. I did try an outfit on ETSY and received a magnet with image so dark it was hard to read. So I bit the bullet, bought the machinery sooner than I'd plan to.

Send a Cease and Desist letter to someone who lifted your unique concept.

Don't simply send a blunt email asking where  the got "their" funny idea from and copyright your more popular work hoping they'd take it down. An opportunistic plagiarist's laziness, lack of talent, naiveté or intrusive behavior to bank on your work can seriously impact your sales i.e. income. I also google my own ideas before implementing in product form to make sure it isn't already copyrighted or trademarked.

• Don't make too many products ahead, especially if it proves unpopular.

Just because you love it, doesn't mean others will. Sometimes there's no second guessing the consumer market, so don't make a huge batch until you've test driven a few to see how it's received by the public.

• Don't be quick to "go to Press".

Nothing good happens fast. I'm an impatient Gemini, but I've learned product development takes time. I love the laminated lapel pins made by other illustrator's on ETSY, so I decided to make some myself. This resulted in trying to find a strong adhesive to bond the pinback to the laminated piece. buying a laminating machine, as self-laminating sheets showed bubbles and trying to find a market for my illustrated pinbacks.

Keep working on the SEO on your ETSY shop.

Just when you think you've learned everything you can about SEO, there's more to learn, even if you're sick and tired of this term, you can't ignore it. I'm still finding ways to improve my tags, titles and descriptions. Google for webinars or look on Youtube for some great videos to improve your SEO

• If you join a team join a PROACTIVE team on ETSY, otherwise fuggedaboutit!

I am lucky that here in Connecticut we have a very proactive team  (NutmegCollective) with driven, talented leaders. They run a tight ship and do not put up with non-contributing members and aren't afraid to revoke membership from those who joined to "take" but not share. I've learned a lot from this team that has a blog, shares info on shows, is on social media and started a local Pop-Up Market in my own hometown. If you are lucky to find such a team, participate! if not, don't waste your time until one surfaces. And if you decide to start one, make sure you have a talent for managing people and that you hold their feet to the fire to respect ground rules, don't end up like I did years ago when I organized an online group by over-doing for too many non-compliant, non-participating members, it just got too frustrating and hard on me and the co-leaders and I ran out of time to run it, so do appreciate a solid group with fab leaders running it!

If someone tosses a bunch of their business cards at you, hand them a bunch of yours.

Years have gone by and there's always that person who will toss a bunch of their biz cards at me and never request some of mine in turn. What's with that? Or they will ask me to help them "do ETSY", I don't have time to volunteer all I know for free, so as a good friend of mine said, make a brochure of my ETSY tutoring course with price and hand it to them.

• Take time to check your ETSY shop for spelling errors, and other mistakes. 

Even if you've become a listing wiz, you might be amazed at some oversights in your lisitngs at a later date.

This is it for now,  I may sound a little harsh, but the lessons were harsh and so it's what I wish I knew. I will  probably re-visit this subject in the future! Stay tuned!


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Personalize a Smirking Goddess™ Magnet this Holiday Season!



©2015 Suzanne Urban
I've been approached via my ETSY shop from buyers who wanted to purchase one of my magnets for a friend. They were interested in one of my designs where a name was mentioned in the copy. They requested a name substitute, and so I added a 1.00 fee for set up, and so, for four dollars you too can select one of these magnet designs and have a name of your choice substituted, PLUS you can select whether you want a 2.25" MAGNET or PINBACK!

Now this is a great Stocking stuffer idea!

Here's a link to get you started:
SmirkingGoddess on ETSY


Friday, November 13, 2015

Proud Moment: My Husband's Vintage HI-Fi Museum on BetterCT



My husband's been in the business of repairing vintage tube sound equipment for years, antique radios, vintage hi-fi, vintage car radios, etc. He got in to this business by well, me. Early in our relationship, as we were trying to build a life together, he was downsized out of not one, but two jobs. Europe came in, purchased the companies and hardworking American employees were ditched.

This seems to be a trend that shouldn't be happening. But it's been going on for awhile. Mike had been selling off his sports collectibles and coin collection on eBay to make room for us to fit in the small literally, railroad flat that we rented on the Post Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.

When the second downsizing happened, Mike had a choice to join some of his employees and take another miserable unstable corporate job, or not. I didn't want him too, as my faith in the corporate landscape had soured. Gone were the days like my Dad's where you could enjoy a life-long secure career and be appreciated for your efforts.

One day as I listened to NPR while working on an illustration assignment I realized my husband could fix things, electronic things as he's a Penn State grad in electrical engineering. So I thought why not start a business repairing vintage TV's since he did that when they were new in his college days. Then I thought, no, I grew up in a household with too many TV's that I felt alienated family interaction. Then I realized, Antique Radios!

His business has grown and due to his collection, and that of a friend, he has started this and please visit the museum at 485 New Park Avenue in West Hartford CT:

http://www.wfsb.com/clip/11997237/we-are-going-back-in-music-time-with-vintage-hi-fi