July 11, 2011

The last time I talked about taking better photos, I was using a point-and-shoot camera with a homemade cardboard light box. I really liked that set-up, and it worked well for me for a long time. But when it came time to write and photograph my book, I realized I needed to upgrade. In the process, I learned a lot of things (mostly by doing them wrong!), and I wanted to share some of those lessons here.

Photo Setup, Then

Photo Setup, Now

1. Buying a Light Box: Bigger isn't (Necessarily) Better

Continue reading "Taking Better Photos (Updated)" »

October 6, 2009

Photo by WordRidden

Hubby and I knew we wanted to instill a love of reading in our little one. After the second or third time we'd read Sam all the books on his bookshelf, though, we decided it was time to visit the children's section in our local library. But where to start? I realized pretty quickly that I didn't know much about children's book authors. Sure, there was Dr. Seuss. But how did one discover other good books and authors?

I decided to do it the old-fashioned way... alphabetically. I picked a row in the library (the S's, oddly enough) and started checking out one book from each author. I did a similar thing back when I was a teenager. If I remember correctly, I started with the A's and didn't make it past B or C (of course, those were much longer books). Anyway, if Sam and I like the book, I make a note of it and get more books by that author. I don't know how realistic it is to imagine we'll make it all the way through the alphabet, especially once Sam is old enough to have his own book preferences. But I'm enjoying the variety. The best part about it is feeling that I'm discovering authors. It's pretty clear (and a little sad) that some of these books have never been opened before, much less checked out.

I tell you all this because yesterday's book was a real gem.

Continue reading "Setting Limits: Lessons from a Children's Book " »

April 19, 2009

I'm always trying to improve my blog, so I keep an eye on sites like ProBlogger. There are lots of good suggestions there. But it's like many other blogging tips sites in that much of what it says works best for technology or newsy blogs. Craft blogs have some special challenges that you don't see addressed very often.

A few months back, "Sister" Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod mentioned that she taught a class on craft blogging. I shot off an email asking if her class was available online... but alas, it was only a Portland thing. While that's an area of the country I'd love to visit sometime, it seemed like a bit too much of a commute just to take a class.

So I was very excited Friday when Sister Diane announced she had written an ebook on that very topic. "Making a Great Blog: A Guide for Creative People" is available on her site for $12.50, and it's specifically geared towards arts & craft bloggers. The 49-page ebook covers the why and how of starting a blog, tips for making it pretty, and a primer on blogging etiquette.

While the ebook is geared towards the beginner blogger, I did find it useful. I especially liked the section on photography, which included a few tips on props I'd never considered before. I like that she encouraged folks to first figure out why they want a blog and what their goals are. Having a goal in mind always helps focus a new project. I'm glad she talks about getting permission when using others' photos. And I liked her worksheets. I plan to go through some of the exercises just to make sure my blog is still moving me towards my goals.

I'm generally not crazy about ebooks, but this one was well-formatted and easy to read. It seemed a little expensive to me... but then again, it's much cheaper than buying a flight to Portland to attend her class in person! So I guess I can't complain much.

If you're just getting started (or just thinking about it) in blogging and need some guidance, I would highly recommend Sister Diane's ebook (buy it here). You may also want to keep an eye out for parts 2 and 3, "How to Promote Your Creative Blog" and "Creative Blogging 102," due out this summer.

If you've been blogging for a while and are already an expert, you might be more interested in ProBlogger's free 31 Days to Build a Better Blog program. The nice thing about ProBlogger's Darren Rowse is that he focuses on blogging as a way to bring value to the reader. Good content is most important, not search engine hacks or other tricks. I recently started the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog program, and I feel like it's helping me improve my blog.

Finally, if you don't need any help with your blog, you might be more interested in tips for better microblogging (aka Twitter). This list of 9 Twitter Tips for Artists has a few things I don't agree with (like retweeting everything you think is funny). But it makes up for that by its suggestion to limit your self-promotion (a common mistake for new artists on Twitter). Overall it's a good read if you're considering Twitter-ing.

November 18, 2008

hello my name is, by medialoog (Creative Commons)As some of you may know, I work from home, splitting my time between blogging, crafting, and freelance web development. As part of the latter, I recently had the pleasure of attending an "un-conference" called Open Beta here in Oklahoma City.

Open Beta was set up as an opportunity for local web professionals with different specialties to connect with each other. See, while there are several groups in this area for tech professionals, they all have their specific niches: web designers, Ruby on Rails developers, Java developers, etc. There's never been one event for these people with different specialties to meet up and exchange ideas... until now. Open Beta gave people a chance to share what they were doing and see what others in the community were doing. It gave us a chance to meet folks we might not have otherwise. And it allowed everyone to get excited and inspired by the ideas of others.

I love being surrounded by creative people sharing their creative ideas. The excitement and energy is so contagious! And so I came away from Open Beta, not only having made connections with other local professionals that I may be able to work with in the future, but also totally inspired to hit the ground running with my own ideas.

Wondering why I'm talking about this on a crafting blog? Here's the reason:

Continue reading "Creative Un-Conferencing" »

August 18, 2008

I'm the type who cringes when I see Halloween and Christmas goodies out during the summer. I've got an August birthday, and somehow I feel personally slighted when retailers rush past the end of summer to the next big holiday. Still, if you're a crafter and plan to sell fall- and winter-holiday items, it does pay to think ahead.

If you fit into that category, see Wendy's post at Polymer Clay Craft Gossip for a great way to start advertising your holiday wares. The gals at Polymer Clay Productions are working on a handmade holiday gift guide featuring polymer clay artists. They need all the entries in the next month to have time to put everything together. So act soon if you want your crafty business listed.

Just do me a favor and don't forget it's August. Some of us have birthdays coming up. :-)

July 7, 2008

Faux Wood PincushionPam sent me a nice email the other day. She's thinking about starting an Etsy shop and asked the following question:

"I'm wanting to photograph my work but have no idea whatsoever how to showcase the color, texture, etc. Obviously, just sitting a piece on a countertop and taking a picture doesn't work ~ so, what do I need to get started (cheaply) to take some really nice, crisp photos?"

I'm no photo expert. In fact, I used to really hate taking photos. Until a couple of years ago, I tried to get away with scanning everything — cards, jewelry, even 3-D items. But I finally decided to work on photography, and it's made a huge difference. So here are 5 tips that helped me improve my photos:

Continue reading "How to Take Better Photos of Your Work" »

April 5, 2008

Just wanted to share links to a few things going on in the polymer clay community:

  • If you've checked out my Bottles of Hope tutorials & are ready to create some bottles of your own, you'll be interested in what the gals at Polymer Clay Productions are up to. They're starting a regular Bottles of Hope challenge, with a new theme each week (the first theme is "Spring"). It sounds like a fun way to practice creativity while building up lots of bottles to donate. Check out their post here. Right now they're looking for a name for it -- and they're giving away Make It Mine magazines for the top 3 suggestions.
  • I was pleased to read the National Polymer Clay Guild's take on the ownership debate. Specifically, I liked that:
    • They state up-front that they're not trying to police the community.
    • Their "Rules to Live By" seem thoughtful and considerate. To me, it's a welcome clarification of & expansion to their previous, more vague-seeming ethics statement.
  • I hated to see Jeanne Rhea's post about leaving polymer clay, as she's one of those people whose interesting directions appeal to & inspire me. Jeanne is selling off her polymer clay work on her Etsy site, so check that out. But also be sure to read her "moving on" post. It includes a wise quote from columnist Ellen Goodman that I think all of us need to be reminded of from time to time: that moving on (whether it's in art or life) doesn't negate the importance of your past experience. A beautiful message!

I hope you're having a wonderfully creative weekend!

March 21, 2008

 17th January 2008 / Day 17 by Mrs Magic (Creative Commons)Being a "conscientious clayer" (or blogger or artist) often entails keeping track of what inspired you. If someone blogs a tutorial or technique you plan to try, it's important that you have a way to find it again -- not only so you can double-check the instructions as you're doing it, but also so you can share the source of your inspiration with others.

But with all the information available online, it can be tricky to remember where you saw something. If you don't have a good system in place, the best intentions in the world (& sometimes all the searching in the world!) won't help. So here's a few online tools that have helped me keep track of polymer clay art that's inspired me:

Continue reading "How to Keep Track of What Inspires You" »

March 20, 2008

Bama's Favorite Toy Ever by angel_shark (Creative Commons)I usually try to avoid conflict, so I've been tempted to let the latest version of this whole ownership debate pass by without comment. But since I keep pestering my husband with discussions about it & composing blog post drafts in my head, I figured I might as well say what I'm thinking. If you're already sick of the whole thing, you have my permission to skip this post and come back tomorrow for something a little less heavy.

I'm talking generally about the ideas, not specifically about the latest issue -- but if you don't know which debate I'm talking about, you can get the gist of it from these posts:
  • Lisa started the conversation. Though the ensuing comments get a little negative at times, there are some interesting points -- I especially liked Jeanne Rhea's comments about utility patents (which protect truly unique techniques) and about her policy for others' teaching her techniques.
  • Kim Cavender shares her perspective as a teacher. Lotsa comments on this one, too. I especially enjoyed Maureen Carlson's (towards the bottom).
  • Lisa updated the discussion with links to several other online opinions.

Exclusive Rights to Subject Matters

Continue reading "The Great Ownership Debate" »

November 10, 2007

Christy at Sky Grazer Designs recently posted the following question on her blog:

So what is the correct etiquette with blogs and images anyway? It seems like alot of blogs just copy images from other sites when they’re posting... Technically, isn’t using someone else image on your blog copyright infringement? Or does blogging fall under a sort of “understood fair use”?

It's a great question, & I thought I'd use it to explain what Creative Commons licensing is & how it helps with this problem.

Continue reading "Why I Use Creative Commons for My Flickr Photos" »

February 2, 2007

The Craft & Hobby Association held their Winter Convention this past weekend. While I wasn't able to attend, I did sit at home watching eagerly for news from the lucky ones who did. Here's a few reports worth passing on:

I have to say, I'm a little surprised that I didn't see more updates posted during the show. Maybe I just missed them. Or maybe I was expecting more Consumer Electronics Show-style buzz -- big news stories, press releases, etc...

Hopefully I can go next year. If so, I'll be sure to post a few times during the show, in honor of all the folks sitting at home...

December 21, 2006

I'm almost done with my Christmas crafting -- I've done most of what's going to get done, and I've officially given up on the rest. (Maybe everybody'll get handmade Christmas cards next year!)

After the busy-ness of the Christmas season, I always enjoy New Year's. It's a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next one. So I was especially interested when Darren Rowse announced his latest group writing topic was year-end "Reviews and Previews." Since this past year was a real growing time for me -- largely because of Julia Cameron's excellent The Artist's Way, I welcome the opportunity to share some of the lessons I've learned this year:

Continue reading "Finding My Way: Lessons I've Learned in Crafting This Year" »

December 2, 2006

If you're thinking about next year's goals for your craft business, you'll want to check out the CraftMarketer newsletter's advice on writing a marketing plan [PDF]. Though my own plan ended up being a little longer than the 7 sentences James Dillehay mentions, it only took me about 30-45 minutes to write a plan based on his suggestions. It's a great way to get focused on what you want to do and how you intend to do it.

The CraftMarketer newsletter is a free monthly newsletter with advice for making your craft business successful. His archives include various gems, like this one from "How to Get Your Crafts to Stand Out" [PDF]:

"Give prospects something for free that has your arts or crafts pictured along with your contact info on it and make sure you get their contact information in return."

November 28, 2006

Boss Lady writes about the business of craft fairs, highlighting questions crafters should ask themselves about product pricing and the time and energy involved in selling at a fair.

I did a couple of very small craft fairs in my early days. I might have a different experience now -- or if I tried a different fair. But to me, they just didn't seem worthwhile -- especially compared to online sales. When you sell made-to-order crafts online, you don't have to worry about creating stockpiles of items that may or may not sell at a fair. And craft fairs can be very time consuming -- not only do you spend all day selling, but you also have set-up time, tear-down time, and possibly lengthy travel times.

Still, I know other crafters that enjoy fairs and have had great success with them. And the marketing exposure seems hard to beat. What do you think? What are the pros and cons of selling at craft fairs?

My favorite part of Blog Lady's post, though, was towards the end, where she mentions buying earrings from one of her friends:

"For me, anyway, owning beautiful things created by people I know and love is the highest form of shopping — it elevates it to an exchange of treasures."

What a wonderful way to look at it! Can we crafters take this a little further? Wouldn't it be wonderful if our customers felt like each transaction was an exchange of treasures?

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CraftyGoat's Notes is all about sharing polymer clay tips & tricks that have worked for me. (And even a few that haven't!)

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