Category: Chasing the Creative Impulse Series

Why I Quit my Job at Etsy and Moved to Missouri

1 inch buttons on Etsy

Late last September, I swept the floors of my empty 700 sq. ft Brooklyn apartment, packed my toothbrush into a backpack, and headed out for my last day at the Etsy headquarters. I had called NYC home for over 12 years and Etsy my day job for four. That afternoon, after a barrage of goodbyes, I flew to St. Louis to start a new life.

My husband and I had decided to invest fully in our small business, GoodAfternoonan, and with our newfound physical and mental space, we embraced taking it full-time. We reorganized – shuffling fabric, shipping supplies, and equipment into the spare bedroom of our new 108 year old house. We began daily routines – brainstorming over morning coffee on the back porch, creating new designs during afternoon hours.

Now after nearly 9 months, I finally sense the impact of our move. We’ve started a transformation for GoodAfternoonan, one that will only continue as we settle further into the new reality of waking up to printing our daily shipping labels and spending afternoons crafting our newsletter. Each day brings us closer to the vision of GoodAfternoonan that propelled me to quit my job and move across country:

Adding Better Items

In Brooklyn, our studio space was simply a dining table in our one room living space. We hid button supplies behind bookshelves and stacks of my drawings in drawers, desperate to contain the clutter of a creative business. Those limits, though, are no more and with extra studio space came new equipment…and new drawings! I’ve designed pomeranians and bloodhounds. I’ve also drawn so many more cats: persians, siamese, british shorthairs.

Etsy cat buttons

Designing for the Future

I had always wanted to turn my sketches into repeat patterns for fabric. How much better are cats when paired with flowers or pugs surrounded by hearts? Finally with the extra time, I’ve made it happen. So far, I have three fabric designs: my fat sitting cat, my pug fabric, and my siamese cat fabric. We’ll release a new fabric goods line with these three designs and a few more in the Etsy shop in the near future. So far these designs have graced pillows and zipper pouches, and I can’t wait to release a full line of products for you! I’ve also had time to design my first line of greeting cards with many more to come. 

Etsy Pug Fabric Design

Working to Raise Awareness

A most exciting change is a new focus for our business. We’ve had time to consider how we can make our shop, our products and our relationship with you more meaningful. As we grow GoodAfternoonan, we’ll be looking to raise awareness for shelters and other organizations that support the humane treatment of animals. We’re committed to incorporating that into our day to day!

Do you have a dog you’d like me to draw? How about a rescue story to share? Hearing from our fans inspires us along the way. Let me know a tidbit about your pet in the comments!

Fur Baby Quilt

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Last week, Kim published these adorable photographs of her baby boy sitting on my January quilt, so I thought it was high time for me to show off her creation in its new home. Introducing the fur babies on top of Kim’s quilt. It’s definitely getting a lot of love and it fits right into with the color of our bed. I love it, and Yanni and Oddy do too.

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Follow along with our #quiltAmonth as we each make 12 quilts in 2015.
Kim’s Instagram
Katie’s Instagram

Quilting: My First Quilt

QUILT A MONTH: January 2015

As an adult, a busy adult, it’s so rare for me to find time to experiment, get lost in a process, and truly challenge myself to learn a new creative skill. In January, I read a quilt tutorial over on A Quilt is Nice, and thought it looked possible. I’ve never quilted, and I actually never thought I could sew well enough to make a whole quilt, but when I read that article what I can only describe as creative fever run through my head.

I immediately thought of my good friend Kim. Kim had moved away from NYC last October, and I missed her thoughtful creativity. The characteristics of quilting, not to mention quilting itself, is something that I relate to Kim and her shop, Tiny Hearts. Quilting is mindfulness, deliberate and meaningful creation with the imprint of the human spirit. I sent her a quick email asking for a quilt exchange. She agreed, and then she suggested something even more exciting – a year of quilts. And so that’s what we’ll do. Here is my first one, which I happily made with Kim in mind and sent her way.

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quiltback

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I received Kim’s quilt last week, and it is so absolutely wonderful. She hand-stitched it and used fabric from her stash and from a project we both worked on at Etsy, so it means a great deal to me. Check out her progress on a #quiltAmonth over on her blog, Simple. Warm. Cozy. I’ll be posting my progress on here and on instagram!

 

 

3 must haves for craft fairs

craft fair list

I’ve been thinking about craft fairs and how I said I’m still committed to doing them in the new year. I’ve realized there are must-have items for every fair. With the items on this checklist, I can take advantage of the three non-monetary reasons I go to a craft fair. I want to make sure to bring the essentials in order to:

  1. get my name out to enough passersby,
  2. have an opportunity to get feedback, and
  3. showcase my items, in all their forms, to make sure I capture my niche among the crowds

I believe these items will help me do this even as the crowds rush past my table.

Freebies

People who don’t buy will often pick up a well designed business card or postcard. I handed out over 100 cards this year. In the past, I’ve also used these items to feature my custom pet portraits, which are my most popular item, but which I can’t sell at craft fairs.

This year, at BUST I told lot of people about #LogaCat and realized what an opportunity I had missed. In the future I will bring cards explaining any of my interesting social media activities. People who are interested in these but who don’t buy at the fair may not be my future customers; however, they might be fans who later recommend me. The more fans I have online, the more feedback I get on my items in the long term.

Additionally I’ve included coupons on this list. I’ve included coupons on my business cards before, but I want to try offering them in new ways. I’ve seen sellers offer a freebie button with a tag on it featuring a coupon code and shop URL. This is worth a try, and I want to remember it next year.

Feedback Items

Because I only sell online, holiday fairs are a big chance to get immediate feedback. If I have put an item up online and haven’t gotten any bites, it could be because no one wants the item, BUT it could be because I haven’t marketed the item well. Interest shown to these items in person lets me know which is the case.

I often don’t want to invest in making a large batch of ready-to-ship items since most of my sales come from custom requests. Craft fairs are the place for me to find out if the investment is worth it. Each year, I’m plan to bring one or two new designs. This year I brought buttons and my new magnet designs. Next year, I will add only a few of each new item to my table. If they sell out or receive a lot of interest, I will invest in a small batch for the shop.

Cheapies

Cheapies are similar to freebies. They are items that cost less than five dollars. These are good because, like freebies, they get your name out there in the packaging. Cheapies, such as buttons and stickers, could actually even be freebies, but sell them for up to $5.00. They make great items for people who aren’t looking to spend a lot of money as well as add-on items to a purchases. When someone buys something for $15 they might add something else for an even $20. Cheapies can be stickers, buttons, magnets, keychains or other small easily made items.

Next year, when I start preparing for BUST, I’ll make sure I have everything on this list. I hope to get the prep done far ahead of time by using the whole year to make sure I am ready. Bit by bit I can prep so that the rush doesn’t come at the last minute again. I’d love to hear what you think about craft fairs. What do you make sure to bring along when you sell in person?

Creative Impulse Series

This post is part of my Chasing the Creative Impulse Series, which explores techniques for sustaining creativity in a busy life. I believe that the habit of creativity comes from practice and not just from a compulsive feeling to create. This series outlines ways that I’ve maintained a creative life.

Custom orders and motivation

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While I was working in Berlin a few months ago, I received a pretty exciting custom order. It came through in the middle of the night and I awoke to the request. When I read it, I was so excited, for a few reasons. It was my first order to Japan. Plus, the request wasn’t for the usual pet dog or cat, but instead for a pet rabbit. And finally the background was to include hearts, a stretch from my normal geometric patterns.

After getting over the giddiness of realizing that one of my pet portraits would hang in a hallway or bedroom across the world in Japan, I started brainstorming about the heart background. It’s very important for me to keep GoodAfternoonan’s items cohesive. I work to refine my drawings to fit a particular look. I knew that keeping that look and including hearts in a background was going to be difficult. I also knew there was a way so I got to work, sketching out ideas. Custom requests always keep me motivated by stretching me.

This rabbit is not only one of my favorite compositions, but I absolutely love the heart-patterned background. I’m so incredibly thankful for my customers’ ideas and requests. They always reawaken my love of drawing.

Creative Impulse Series

This post is part of my Chasing the Creative Impulse Series, which explores techniques for sustaining creativity in a busy life. I believe that the habit of creativity comes from practice and not just from a compulsive feeling to create. This series outlines ways that I’ve maintained a creative life.

Why Craft Fairs are Important

newdesignsbust

As you know this last Saturday I participated in BUST Craftacular. If you don’t live in New York, you may not know that we also got a long, wet snow all day on Saturday. This made for a less than ideal audience for the fair, and it put a bit of a damper on my sales.

You might be surprised to hear, though, that I don’t participate in craft fairs for the profit. I participate in one or two a year. And I will continue to do one or two fairs a year even if I only break even. Here’s why:

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Exposure

Extra exposure is the most obvious benefit to sitting through a long day at a fair. At fairs, you are able to reach hundreds of passersby. If you have an enticing display, many people will pick up a business card or postcard, and if you’re lucky one or two will find you online afterwards and become customers. Last year, I met one of my best repeat customers at BUST. She didn’t purchase at the fair but contacted me later to make her something custom.

This year BUST became my catalyst for starting a newsletter. I put out a clipboard and collected five email addresses. Those are five people that may become customers in the new year. Almost 100 people walked away with my postcard coupons for discounts on pet portrait purchases from my shop.

Feedback

Fairs are a great place to test new products. You can actually listen to what people say as they browse your items. A lot of people liked my dog magnet, “The Anticat.” I initially thought little of that one, but it made everyone laugh. My Boston Terrier magnet was also the most popular item. Not only is that getting added to the shop, but so are my button and sticker packs.

Niches

On that note, not everyone that walks will stop or even glance at your stuff. This can feel kind of tough. Craft fairs are reminders that if you have a specific item, you cater to a specific audience. You are not making your item for everyone. This will also remind you that you should market your item to that specific audience. Craft fairs can be a good wake up call to refine your marketing strategies to reach the customers that want your items. You may not get as many eyes on your items online if you narrow your marketing strategy, but you will be getting attention from the people like those who stop at your booth. Why waste time trying to get someone into your shop who doesn’t even want to glance at your items. Spend time catering to your niche.

I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a bit disappointed with my sales this weekend, but I did break even and happily learned a whole lot about my items and my customers. BUST marks the first of my two promised fairs for 101 in 1001 and despite my very small profit, I’ll still go on to do another holiday fair next year.

Creative Impulse Series

This post is part of my Chasing the Creative Impulse Series, which explores techniques for sustaining creativity in a busy life. I believe that the habit of creativity comes from practice and not just from a compulsive feeling to create. This series outlines ways that I’ve maintained a creative life.

101 in 1001

to do list

I recently became a reader of Cait’s blog Pretty and Fun, and I am totally inspired by her her list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.

My normal recommendation for getting things done is baby steps, which for me are often accompanied by many to-do lists, such as the above, strewn around the house. I also contend that it’s highly motivating to celebrate small successes. And, indeed, crossing a task off a to-do list can feel like a small celebration.

Creating a 101 things to-do list then may not seem like baby steps; however, when I had to create my 101 things to do, I was forced to break many things into smaller, manageable tasks. The goal of any to-do list is to get things done, and I want to set myself up for success on this list. Whenever I make goals, I primarily aim to succeed at completing them.

So, without further rambling, let’s start this!

Start Date: November 27, 2013
End Date: August 24, 2016

And, here is my list of 101 things that I want to accomplish in the next 1001 days.

  1. Think of and publish 101 things
  2. Inspire another person to create their own list
  3. Run 5 giveaways on my blogs throughout the next year
  4. Develop a Christmas line for shop in 2014
  5. Rewrite my shop policies
  6. Re-examine shipping costs for my shop and update my shipping profiles
  7. Get a business credit card
  8. Develop simple branded packaging for my shop
  9. Run a fundraising campaign for KittyKind
  10. Send along 10 freebies for random orders from my shop
  11. Double the GMS made in Etsy Shop from date of this published list
  12. Sell at 2 holiday craft fairs
  13. Create a stop motion video or GIF of drawing process
  14. Create an organized shipping area in my apartment for my shop
  15. Create a look book for my shop
  16. Write a wholesale linesheet for my shop
  17. Get one wholesale order
  18. Finally stock kitchen with cooking staples (beans, rice, oils, vinegar)
  19. Replace my pots and pans
  20. Repot all of my cacti
  21. Make hot toddys and spiked punch over the holidays
  22. Regularly cook 3 meals without having to look at recipes
  23. Regularly eat breakfast at home for at least 1 month (including weekends)
  24. Cook 10 recipes from cookbooks
  25. Organize files & important documents
  26. Give up Netflix for a month
  27. Start a new tradition
  28. Spend a whole weekend unplugged
  29. Go a month without purchasing takeout
  30. Consistently post 3 blog posts a week for two months
  31. Spend time learning how to properly style photographs for my blog
  32. Get 5 site sponsors
  33. Host a giveaway for a fellow Etsy seller
  34. Launch a collaborative series
  35. Guest post on another blog
  36. Get 10 times my current monthly traffic
  37. Attend a blogging conference or workshop
  38. Launch at least one new blog series
  39. Make 5 DIYs and blog about them
  40. Make a blog media kit
  41. Take an improv class
  42. Refurbish a piece of furniture
  43. Make a weaving on a cardboard loom
  44. Take a screen printing class
  45. Sew one project with my sewing machine
  46. Do a kickstarter project
  47. Finish #LogaCat
  48. Collect Nanny’s recipes into a book for the family
  49. Be my niece’s pen pal for 1 year
  50. Start a vintage Etsy shop with my mom
  51. Take a trip with my mom
  52. Do something special for an immediate family member
  53. Find 10 new albums/bands to listen to
  54. See stand up comedy
  55. Go to an auction in Maine
  56. Go thrift shopping in Long Island
  57. Wear lipstick for a whole day
  58. Go to Montreal
  59. Be a tourist in my own city for a day
  60. Convince the man to go with me to see the Madison Ave. Christmas windows
  61. Send a message in a bottle
  62. Take the man to Dead Horses Bay
  63. Watch fireworks
  64. Attend 5 Celebrate Brooklyn concerts or movies
  65. Get a facial
  66. See the Grand Canyon
  67. Go to the Brooklyn Zoo
  68. Go on 5 free downloadable walking tours of New York neighborhoods
  69. Go to one new restaurant
  70. Visit the Wharton Esherick House
  71. Read 20 novels
  72. Write a letter to myself to be opened on my 40th birthday
  73. Go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  74. Go on an Alaskan cruise
  75. Go apple picking
  76. Get a massage
  77. Read 5 biographies
  78. Go on a hike
  79. Get my bike fixed
  80. Visit a new museum
  81. Take a cooking class
  82. See a movie at a drive-in theater
  83. Go to 3 movies in the theater
  84. Go to 3 concerts
  85. Pay off credit card debt in full
  86. Schedule regular annual doctor and dentist appointments
  87. Put $10 in savings for every goal completed
  88. Floss every single night for a month
  89. Start a vitamin regimen
  90. Take a yoga class
  91. Drink 8 glasses of water each day for at least a week
  92. Mail out Christmas cards
  93. Contribute to the man’s blog
  94. Make 3 Christmas gifts
  95. Call a friend I’ve lost touch with
  96. Purchase coffee for a stranger
  97. Leave a 100% tip
  98. Give 5 “just because” gifts
  99. Mail someone a surprise package
  100. Send someone flowers unexpectedly
  101. Send 25 hand written notes

Some of these I will post about and some I won’t, as they wouldn’t be very interesting; however, I will review this list monthly on it’s own page and cross off what has been accomplished.

Creative Impulse Series

This post is part of my Chasing the Creative Impulse Series, which explores techniques for sustaining creativity in a busy life. I believe that the habit of creativity comes from practice and not just from a compulsive feeling to create. This series outlines ways that I’ve maintained a creative life.