Weekly Roundup: Artists You Should Be Following

It’s the weekend, which means it’s time to highlight a few of the great handmade artisans we’ve shared on the Instagram feed this week. I’m excited to report that we are currently just over 3100 followers on Instagram, at about four weeks since we began. I’m so thrilled to have such a great and lively community taking shape!

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This week’s featured artists

Without further ado, here are some of the highlights of this past week.

Top row: Water painting by @ellebrowning, handpainted pallet sign by @hyva_creative, painted makeup bag by @jeanmarieetcharlotte
Middle row: tassel necklace by @thelovelyanthology, coffee mug by @bookwormboutique, old books scented candle by @frostbeardmpls
Bottom row: pottery in the kiln by @black_star_ceramics, gemstone jewelry by @happyfoxstudio

Is that everything?

Why no.These aren’t all the wonderful pieces we’ve highlighted this week – head on over to the @happierhandmade feed to take a look at all of them. Whether you’re shopping for a gift, looking for inspiration, or just want to feast your eyes on some pretty things, I know you’ll see something you like.

Another reason to check us out

We have fun community features on Wednesdays and Friday, including work in progress highlights on Wednesdays and introduction threads on Friday, and we focus on themes on Tuesday. This week it was book-related crafts all day on Tuesday.

Want to get featured?

If you’re a crafter or artisan who would like to be featured, tag your pictures on instagram with the hashtag #happierhandmade, and I will find you! Features are currently free and offer exposure not only on Instagram but also here and on pinterest!

Come on by and take a look!

 

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Artisan Interview: Green Stripe Designs

Welcome to our first artisan interview! Today we are chatting with Thomas of Green Stripe Designs, maker of faux taxidermy for home and nursery decor. I love his work and was excited to get a chance to talk with him!

Want to know more? You can find him on Facebook, and on Instagram, as well as on Etsy.

Q: How did you get started as a crafter?
My name is Thomas, I am a costume designer based in Greenville, SC. I’m married to my wonderful wife Meredith who supports my craftiness and everything that comes along with it! Green Stripe Designs started as a business adventure and has grown quicker than we planned. I started the faux taxidermy as gifts for a friend and then started to create more and different designs. We also added baby toys and tethers that will be reintroduced to the shop soon.

I started crafting as a kid with my mom, from paper crafts, clay, pipe cleaners, candy wrappers, etc. As I got older the craft projects became larger and when I learned to sew at college I was introduced to a whole new world.

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They may look scary, but they’re very gentle. Greenstripe Designs

Q: What do the products you make say about you as a person? What parts of yourself do you see in them?
The products say a lot about me, my attention to detail and design. I never want an animal to look off or odd. I’m inspired by photos of the animal I’m working on and want to keep it as accurate as possible, while also keeping it kid friendly and fun. The first heads I made were based off a pattern and when people seemed interested I started to make the designs my own and create more. The design process for each animal can be tedious but they are so much fun to do and fun to see what they look like when I stuff them for the first time.

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A selection of finished taxidermy stuffies, GreenStripeDesigns

Q: Where do you work? C’mon, tell us about the giant pile of felt and stuffing that is on your dining room table. It’s okay. We understand.
I am fortunate enough to to have an office space to work in. My main job is a costume designer and many days I bring work home to do and have to have a place to do it! I have worked out of my bedroom in college, and then had  a sewing room in a large oversized closet.

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Photographing a narwhal – GreenStripeDesigns

Q: What’s the hardest part about being a handcrafted artisan?
The hardest part about it is finding the right people to buy your product. Whether at a craft fair or etsy you never know if the right person will come by or look on your website.

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GreenStripeDesigns at a recent craft fair

Q: What plans or goals do you have for your shop and your work in the next six months?
In the next six months I would like to double etsy sales and get into more local stores. Creating more heads that will reach out to more people.

A last look at a few of the creations from GreenStripe Designs.

Thank you again to Thomas for the interview! I hope you find his work as inspiring as I do. Also, just a reminder – if you missed it at the top of the article, you can see more of Thomas and his work on Facebook, and on Instagram, as well as on Etsy.

 

3 Resources to Up Your Product Photography Game

One thing is true about selling hand made crafts online. It all comes down to the quality of your photographs. You need crisp, clear, compelling product photography to draw your potential customers in when they are searching for a gift on Etsy, to catch their interest when they browse your feed on Instagram, and to encourage them to click through when they see you on Pinterest.

When you’re a new shop, this can be overwhelming.

Rest assured, it takes all of us a while to get good at this photography thing. But luckily, there are a lot of good resources to help you get going. I’ve pulled three of the best below.

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Video Workshop: The Etsy Success Blog

This video workshop from the Etsy blog is a great place to start. The Etsy blog also has a whole list of photography resources to help you master the art of product photography.

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Article: Essential Product Photography Tips

What I love about this post from Crafter Coach is that it covers the basics very, very well. As a beginner at product photography, it all comes down to achieving good lighting, simple backgrounds, appropriate detail, and consistency in your pics. Just getting the hang of good lighting in my pictures took me at least six months of experimenting. Even now, I sometimes get it wrong! Read through this, implement some of their suggestions, and as the article says, practice, practice, practice.

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Article: 10 Questions Your Etsy Photographs Must Answer

This article from DIY Craft Photography is stone-cold brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you. I wish I had read this eight years ago when I was just starting out. It’s so good it would have changed my thinking from day one. It’s not enough simply to take five shots of your product that are essentially the same shot from slightly different angles. Your pictures communicate a ton of information about your product, and this article lays out all of the essential info your product pics need to convey.

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There are tons more resources out there – I recommend a Pinterest search on Etsy Photo Tips, which will bring you all kinds of great information. Happy photography!

 

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8 Handmade Artists You Should Be Following

The @happierhandmade instagram feed is growing like wildfire! We are at over 2500 subscribers in just over two and a half weeks, with a growing and vibrant community. I’m so excited to see the growing community!

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Here are some of the great artists we’ve been featuring this week.

Top row: linen napkin from @lovely_crafts_home, Indigo pillow from @thehighlandsfoundry, floral frame from @paperamesshop
Middle row: cactus magnets from @lunabeehive, coil necklace from @sugarplumgallery, ceramic planters from @lunabirdie
Bottom row: wish bracelet from @wish_wear_believe, crochet coasters from @claritymakes

These aren’t all the wonderful pieces we’ve highlighted this week – head on over to the @happierhandmade feed to take a look at all of them. Whether you’re shopping for a gift, looking for inspiration, or just want to feast your eyes on some pretty things, I know you’ll see something you like.

If you’re a crafter or artisan who would like to be featured, tag your pictures on instagram with the hashtag #happierhandmade, and I will find you! Features are currently free and offer exposure not only on Instagram but also here and on pinterest!

 

Goals Check – Happier Handmade as a Community

One of my goals for the @happierhandmade instagram feed (and for this website) is not just to be another curator site that does nothing but post product pics from online storefronts to an audience of other online store owners. Because for one, there are a whole lot of those sites. Believe me, I’ve done the research and have a nice little spreadsheet full of stats about a whole bunch of them. But for another thing, that’s not especially helpful for anyone.

I mean sure, it’s nice to get featured on a curator site. I’ve been unexpectedly featured on a few, and paid to get featured on others. It brings in traffic, which is always a good thing. But the problem with these sites is audience.

Because honestly, a whole bunch of other shop owners are not your target audience if you’re trying to make sales, right?

Building Community on HappierHandmade

So what I want to do with @happierhandmade is a couple of things.

First, I want to build up an audience that includes both creative shop owners and other people who might be more of a target audience for people who are hoping to sell their creations. So I’m actively going out there and looking for bloggers and fashion lovers and moms who show an interest in handmade and trying to get them to follow the feed. So far that’s going really well!

Second, I want to build in more community interaction, so it’s not just promos all the time. I’m experimenting with different ways to do this. Things like:

  • Recurring discussion and intro threads, to help you form a tribe of other artists and handmade fans to support you.
  • Links to more in depth articles on the blog that will be of use to handmade artisans. and which go beyond just promo features. That’s one of the two main reasons I launched the blog – to have a way to provide more value to the artisans and crafters I want to not just celebrate the work of, but support in their work.
  • A new feature I launched today called “Work In Progress Wednesday.” Because when I stop and think about it, one of the things I love about instagram is not just seeing the final, polished product you are selling, but the behind the scenes stuff. I like seeing supplies laid out, new fabrics and materials being tested, and man oh man do I love seeing people’s crafting rooms and workrooms. So I thought I would devote a day to these pictures.

I am sure I will come up with some more ideas over time, but these are my starting points!

Week One of Work In Progress Wednesday

Here are a couple of the pics I highlighted in today’s first WIP Wednesday. They seemed to get a good amount of follows and I’m hoping it will become a popular recurring feature on the feed over time.

Top row: stag paper cut from @amberstextiles
Bottom row: Rainbow chakra bracelet from @yummedesigns, Blue dahlia from @sarah_nick_nicks, Chunk grey knit from @littlecolleydesign

What are some features that would make you feel like you’re part of a community? I’d love to hear from you!

Chasing Inspiration

Ever feel completely burned out on your creative endeavors? Most days I’m full of ideas and ready to jump into the process of making the bags I sell in my Etsy shop, sharing my ideas on social media, and helping to celebrate the work of other handmade artists. But some days, the ideas just seem to dry up.

Is it realistic to think that you can be creatively inspired and productive 24-7-365?

The answer, my friends, is a big, resounding no. Of course not. No one is that inspired all of the time. No one’s mojo flows unimpeded all of the time.

In fact, each of our wells run dry from time to time.

So how do we, as creative business owners, go about getting some inspiration back on the days when we just aren’t feeling the love? Here are some of my best approaches gleaned after 8 years of online crafting.

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Six Tips To Feel More Inspired (Even When You Just Aren’t)

    1. Take a break. Honestly, it’s damn hard sometimes running a creative business. We push ourselves incredibly hard, buying hook, line, and sinker into the idea that we need to be hustling all the time to be the ultimate girl boss and to prove to everyone that we are actually making something out of this idea we’ve had to share our creativity with the world. No wonder we burn out just a little from time to time! Feeling completely uninspired and tired? Take a day off, or part of a day off. Even an hour. Go outside, leave your lists and your phone and your shipping scales at home, and just give your brain a breather.
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    3. Can’t do that? Well give your brain something new to look at. I try to have a lot of sources for my brain to draw creative ideas from. Sometimes I browse fabric stores, sometimes I sketch new product ideas, sometimes I get hugely inspired by seeing someone else’s amazing works on Pinterest or Instagram. Whatever your normal source for inspiration is, your assignment for today is to try a different source. Are you an obsessive instagrammer? Stop scrolling through the feeds and go flip through design magazines at the store. Crack open a book if you’re an entirely digital person. Go to the library and dig through art books, quilting books, travel books, whatever appeals to you. Just make sure it’s something different than what you normally do.
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    5. Goals feeling overwhelming? Try the salami approach. I can’t remember where I first heard about the salami approach, but I use it constantly in many aspects of my life. The basic gist is this: if someone were to plunk a whole salami on a plate in front of you and tell you to eat it, it would look unmanageable and pretty unappetizing. But if you cut that salami up into little bite sized pieces, it suddenly looks way more appealing.Get it? My friends, this applies to your business goals too. Trying to reach a certain number of sales in the next six months? Trying to achieve a particular level of income or overhaul your marketing strategy? Big goals can be overwhelming and lead to paralysis. Instead, take one of your broader goals and try to break it down into a series of smaller steps and then just tackle those one by one. What are three steps you can do today to start meeting your goals?
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    7. Go back and look at your own work from the past, but with a fresh eye. I know, I know – those of us with online handmade empires kind of hate to look at our earliest products. The photography isn’t very good. The copy writing might be bad. Maybe those early things didn’t sell and we inactivated them in shame. However, you may be missing an opportunity here.Been at this for a while? Go back and look at your earliest work, with the fresh eye of the creative business person you are now. What was good about your earliest works? What was bad? What would you do differently now? You might be struck by a fresh new approach you never thought of before, see an old product or project that never achieved its potential but still might, or apply what you’ve learned about your art and your customer base in a whole new way.
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    9. Network. Many of us focus all of our online time and efforts on marketing, marketing, marketing. And marketing is important, for sure. But it also pays to spend some of your time networking, whether in person or online, with other creative types just for support. There are a variety of Facebook groups, instagram communities, and pinterest boards focused on providing advice and support to the makers and creatives of the world. If you’re on Etsy, consider joining a team. Find a local crafter’s group where you can talk, share your work, and learn new techniques.
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    11. Try something you haven’t tried before. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, even if your creative business is very successful. If you’ve got a lot of sales, it’s natural to start to focus more and more on your best selling items. If you’re just starting out, you probably spend a good deal of your time focusing on perfecting just a couple of key techniques.Both of these are good and reasonable business strategies. But I’m here to tell you – on those stuck, uninspired, blah kind of days, one of your best defenses is to try something new! Work with a color you haven’t used in ages. Sew something you haven’t made before, or try a new technique you’ve been meaning to try. Take your supplies and go outside, if you always work in your studio, or go to a coffee shop if your craft is portable. Put the items you typically sell aside for the day and write a poem, try some hand lettering, or make a potholder. Anything to break your brain out of the pattern that it’s been in for a while will ultimately lead to fresh ideas.

    What else do you find helps when you aren’t feeling so creative? Please drop a note in the comments below – I’d love to hear about it!

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This week’s best of handmade

blogweek1roundup.pngMost of you know that I host a daily instagram feed sharing the best handcrafted items I can find around the web. I love looking through the various handmade tags to see who’s posting gorgeous pics of their work and then investigating their shops.

Without further ado, here are some of the items I’ve featured on @happierhandmade this week:

Top row: gold dot cups from lotsodotsmn, initial decor with felt succulents from flohrashop
Middle row: Painted wood sign from ofjoyandwhimsy, wallhanging from sunwoven, and bird earrings from reyesrobledof
Bottom row: air planters from artbyjenf, cactus growth chart from shopmejmej, birch print ring from thelittlehomebird.

These aren’t all the wonderful pieces we’ve highlighted this week – head on over to the @happierhandmade feed to take a look at all of them. Whether you’re shopping for a gift, looking for inspiration, or just want to feast your eyes on some pretty things, I know you’ll see something you like.

If you’re a crafter or artisan who would like to be featured, tag your pictures on instagram with the hashtag #happierhandmade, and I will find you! Features are currently free and offer exposure not only on Instagram but also here and on pinterest!

Happy crafting everyone!

Crafting is Good For You!

blogpost_mentalhealth.pngDid you see the recent article about how handcrafting is good for your mental health? According to researcher Betsan Corkhill, activities such as knitting can have an effect on the brain similar to meditation, offering “significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to well-being and quality of life.”

Being creative, whether via sewing, knitting, gardening, cooking, or other activities, can increase dopamine levels in the brain, leading to an increased sense of well-being. Another recent study cited by CNN shared that crafting can help relieve the suffering of those facing depression, chronic pain, and anxiety.

I’ll be honest: although I sew and create for many reasons, one of them is that it helps me tremendously to deal with a tendency towards anxiety. My husband struggles from similar issues and we’ve recently been talking about whether he could try knitting as a way to just quiet his brain and focus on being more present in the moment. I know when I am sewing the binding on a quilt, planning a new makeup bag, or creating a beautiful grouping of plants in the garden I feel calmer, quieter, and more focused. My monkey brain, as the saying go, shuts up for a while and gives me some peace. I suspect many people feel this way!

Want to learn more? Here are some great articles around the web you can take a look at:

Happiness is Handmade

Hello! Welcome to Happier Handmade. I chose the title of this blog because it sums up my whole philosophy of being here – I find crafting and DIY to be a highly calming, soothing, happiness-enhancing activity in a modern world that often seems completely out of control. There’s something about working with your hands to make something –whether it’s a quilt, a garden, a wood-burned sign, a scarf, what have you — to be almost meditative, a way of centering and remembering what matters in life.

Not a crafter yourself? I also find that owning and using goods that are handcrafted by an artisan to just feel good. I love knowing that someone made the item I’m holding, that they held it and lovingly worked on each detail and then sent it out into the world. Of course no one’s home goods are completely handmade in this day and age, but having a tea towel here, a hand-poured candle there, and a few pieces of great accessories made by a small business owner can make your home feel just a little more … well, homey.

I plan to use this blog to focus on all aspects of crafting. I will share highlights of the finds I publish on my Instagram account (which you can see here at @happierhandmade), and I’ll also share thoughts and collections of info from around the Web about making crafts, marketing your crafts, using social media, and experimenting with DIY projects. I hope you’ll join me in this world of exploration.