Sunday, January 31, 2010

Etsy Thoughts: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I love love love selling my creations on Etsy. I really enjoy it 99% of the time. But right now, I'm not feeling the love. When I began selling my little flowers on Etsy, there wasn't really anything quite like it out there. But even a cursory look through the "recycled wool flower pins" available on Etsy today, and I'm seeing rather a lot of "striking similarities" between some other offerings and my own. And so I write to clear my mind and possibly offer moral support for future victims of idea theft :)

Now, it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm not feeling very flattered. There was one shop in particular that took a little more than inspiration from my shop... she began using some of my very own wording, titles and descriptions to sell her very similar items. About a year after she asked me how I made mine! I, of course, did not give away any information at that time, but when I bumped into her products recently, I immediately had an uneasy feeling about the presentation. The photography was clearly attempting to mimic mine, and, with the identical title, I had legitimate concerns about buyer confusion.

While options are incredibly limited in these situations, I did contact the offending shop to politely ask that she (a) not use my wording and (b) make her items more distinct, for both of our sakes. She wouldn't want potential buyers to accidentally buy from my shop when they were intending to buy from hers, would she? Our interaction ended without incident, thankfully, and she has since changed her titles ever-so-slightly, is no longer blatantly plagiarizing me and has seemingly taken some of her pins in a little different direction. I'm grateful for that, at least, but it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth and a hint of paranoia anytime I see knockoffs of my own items.

In many ways, the world of Etsy is a wellspring of inspiration, but it also breeds copycats. Etsy itself cannot police copyright or intellectual property disputes for obvious legal reasons, and most people who copy do not realize they are in the wrong. They feel inspired and want to see if they can duplicate something. And, no suprise, many crafty people can recreate things they like. Once they rationalize that they've figured it all out for themselves, they decide they might as well sell it too. And so it goes. If a burned seller goes to the Etsy forums to ask advice or just vent, there is much electronic rolling of eyes and very little sympathy for such a common and over-discussed problem.

The best advice I've read about these situations is to just get over it and move on. You can't make it go away, but you can make your own offerings better, present them better, and treat your customers better. I'm completely sure I'll always have more ideas than time to explore them, so I'm ready to stop whining about this. Starting... now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Feature Friday: slinkymalinkicat

Today, I would like to highlight an Etsy shop that I love, and for more reasons than just its fascinating contents. This week's featured shop is slinkymalinkicat, dedicated to giving new life to unloved antique and vintage prints from disbound books. This paper ephemera paradise is populated with illustrations of game fish, animals, exotic birds, botanical specimens, historical fashion and anatomy.

Since I do not know slinky aside from her good works and from the Etsy community in general, here is an excerpt from her Etsy shop profile: "My name is Kim. I am a friendly soul. I love all things old. I love the history of things. I share my home with three cats, my two young children and last (but by no means least!) my husband. Spiders fascinate me. The love I feel for my children delights and scares me. I am English. I have lived in Latvia since 1998. Living in a very remote area of Latvia I often find myself missing friends and family back in England. Etsy keeps me occupied and helps me feel less isolated."

I completely agree with Kim that being a part of the Etsy community is very important to the whole process of selling there. Like joining a new school or taking a new job, it takes some time to find your footing and actually get to know the other people there. But it is enriching in a completely "icing on the cake", non-financial way, one of the hidden perks of sticking to it and finding your place. In the past year, Kim has really stepped up to the plate when fellow Etsian Laura Slocum (also mentioned in this previous post about ThePeachTree) began her cancer treatment. She led the organization behind starting a new Etsy team, Etsy Project Embrace, to raise awarenes and funds for cancer research through the American Cancer Society. Her continued promotion of the team (items donating to this cause can be found by searching Etsy item tags for "TeamEPE") through forum posts, treasuries and her blog have made her a beloved member of the Etsy community. And she deserves to be :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TheJuneBride News: Blue House Ann Arbor

I'm pretty excited about this! Check it out: Blue House Ann Arbor.

The owner of this unique handmade haven, Siobhan, is a visionary and very good recruiter. And very nice and quite crafty herself! Her plan for BHAA is "...a handmade studio. We are crazy about crafty art, local artisans & LOVE handmade. This is our own little makers spot here in A2 - a place to create, gather, share, learn a new discipline or further your creative talents. Think of us as your creative friend." She found me by looking local on Etsy, and I have since been out to the location and met with her. It sounds like a really special place... I hope everyone shares my excitement!

In addition to consigning the work of various Michigan artists in the small front retail area, Siobhan wants to utilize the rest of the open-floor plan house to offer "hands on learning opportunities ripe with creative exploration...for all ages. We seek to provide a place for you to learn all types of crafts. Surely one, if not all, will spark your creative soul." She's renovating the lovely old house to be a comfy and welcoming spot to bring a craft and get some work done, or gather with friends for a "crafternoon" of fun. I love that she wants it to be accessible to everyone, affordable and educational. If I had this opportunity, I think I'd want to do it the same way...

So now I'm getting ready to stock some consignment items there (I know, I know... I said I wasn't going to do consignment anymore but... well, I just have to be involved!) and I'm planning to rent a table at the grand opening event - Handmade @ Blue House on Saturday, March 20, 11AM-5PM. If you're local, check out the website for potential future classes and other fun, family-friendly events!

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Life in a Nutshell: Hockey

As you may know, we live in the frigid North. Deciduous trees, snow plows, and Red Wings hockey. Oh hockey. My darling husband has always played hockey as did his father and brothers, and even his ballet-trained sister was the captain of the women's hockey team at MIT at one point in her collegiate years. All the men in my family also play, and regularly enough we get to see most everyone on the ice together, a sight that delights my 2.5 year old son to no end.

My two girls are mainly enthralled by the zamboni (though my husband did get the 5 year old out on the ice this year in full gear), but as you might expect, the little guy is an all around hockey fanatic. He insists on wearing socks so he can "skate" better on our tiled kitchen floor, and we have a preponderance of round objects lodged beneath our fridge. Anything small and round is fair game. A letter "O", a pretend workbench nut or a toy kitchen onion ring. All stuck under kitchen appliances.

Recently I made him a smaller but proportional puck out layers of some self-adhesive black foam from our local Scrap Box, but he promptly declared it "too big" and went searching under our couch for "a nice puck" to go with the diminutive plastic golf club that he uses for a stick. I've caught him playing hockey on the fridge using a magnetic "i" and "j" to hit an "o", or insisting that Grandma be the goalie and cheer for him. He'll make an imaginary goal and celebrate loudly with an "I did it!" or "Score!", arms and golf club raised triumphantly.

He also has a history of making other sports with household objects. He went through a phase of tossing inflatable balls into our basement utility tub, then playing baseball with an empty wrapping paper tube. Who needs expensive toys?

Since I don't think he's going to grow out of this, I'm planning to invest in an under-appliance brush to keep everyone happy. After all, if you can't beat 'em... better join 'em!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feature Friday: Cyberoptix TieLab

Ties That Don't Suck. That's what they make, that's what they sell. Etsy-fabulous silk screening company Cyberoptix TieLab opened up in 2006 "after noticing a void in creative yet sophisticated neckwear". Ties for little guys and groomsman packages are also offered, as well as screenprinted silk scarves.

Founded by the multi-talented Bethany Shorb (aka Toybreaker), East Coast native and creative champion, Cyberoptix is about so much more than ties. Bethany's art can be seen in exhibitions in Detroit and New York, and she describes her recent photography series Crash , based on the 1973 James Ballard novel of the same name, as "a hyper-saturated amalgamation exploring the interstitial space between the alluring and repulsive; hedonism and restraint...". Sometimes her fine art photography shows up in Etsy listings as she does the styling and props for all of her shots, and Cyberoptix is a main wardrobe contributor. She also comprises one-half of the Detroit-based dark techno dj performance project called Dethlab, in conjunction with fellow talent Michael Doyle. According to the April 2007 Metrotimes article by Walter Wasacz, "Dethlab is all about sonic and visual art. It has formal roots in design and sculpture — Doyle is an industrial graphic designer and Shorb is a sculptor with an MFA from Cranbrook — but the vibe created is pure pop culture mayhem and the duo's academic seams are hardly visible." A very interesting person to meet, I'd venture...

Bethany has reputation for style, variety, excellent customer service and sustainable business practices that have made her right at home in her well-feathered niche on Etsy. In addition to clear online success, she gets out of her downtown Detroit studio often enough to make regular appearances in paper and digital publications like New York Times Style Magazine, Bust, Adorn, indiefixx, and The Consumerist, as well as appearances on the likes of Martha Stewart.

Since Cyberoptix is practically in my own backyard, I knew I was going to be doing a little shopping there this past Christmas. One of my brothers was the lucky recipient of a Topographical Error TieLab tie. It's probably not the preferred tie, amongst so many more appropriate options, for the "to hell in a handbasket" type individual who may frequent Dethlab performances, but it might just add some eclectic style to a medical school wardrobe on a medical school budget.

While our styles are worlds apart on so many levels, I find Cyberoptix very inspiring and I'm sure the intriguing personality of Bethany Shorb will continue to evolve and grow as will all of her enterprising projects. Read more about her in the May 2008 Etsy Featured Seller interview here. Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Through the Looking Glass: Winter Walk

Sometimes I get too caught up in the details of living that I forget to notice all that there is to enjoy about it. I actually got out the other day and had a chance to indulge my childish fascination with every little thing that caught my eye. It was nice... humanizing. I took a few pictures and they make me happy. I think I'm going through my "neutral period", if that's something one can go through, since all my favorite photos seem to have the same color scheme. Oh well... I'll deal with that later :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Off the Shelf: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Really? Home baked bread in only 5 minutes a day? Well, not exactly.

Artisan Bread in 5 Mintues a Day: The Discovery The Revolutionizes Home Baking, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, has recently been all over foodie blogs and cooking news, including an appearance on Martha Stewart. The idea was too intriguing and, after smashing success with Paperhill's similarly-made bread, I asked for this book for Christmas. I have only begun to delve into the method outlined in this book, but its principles make practical sense to me and I find the concept of daily fresh bread very appealing.

The premise of the book is that you'll make a large batch of wet dough, store it in the fridge, and use portions of it over the course of a week, simply shaping and baking with a mere 5 minutes of active involvement per day. Fair enough... I'm sure with practice this process could be streamlined, and "Artisan Bread in Forty-Five Minutes a Day" isn't quite as catchy.

So it's not yet as quick as purported in practical application, but that doesn't make this book less worthy a read. They offer many basic recipes that can be used for multiple variations. The basic bagel recipe can also be used for pretzels; the challah dough can alternatively be used for cinnamon rolls or a raisin-studded turban loaf. The dough was easy to work with when I made both the braided challah and the soft american-style white, and the finished loaves were tasty and beautiful. My next adventure in artisan bread will have to be the master recipe as a free-form boule loaf (which I should not have skipped), and then some bagels, pita and pain d'epi. Despite personal preferences, I don't go for breads that require fussy, uncommon or very crunchy grains since, if my small kids and/or husband don't find them appealing, I will have to eat them myself. And that's just not good for a girl's figure, you know. This book has bread recipes of all kinds and for all occasions, and I'm looking forward to trying them as I get the chance.

Many of the recipes in this book call for a pizza stone and flour-dusted wooden peel, as well as a water-filled broiler pan for getting a crustier bread with a moist crumb. I luckily happened to have registered for a pizza set at our wedding (though later regretted having to store and move it), and now it turns out to have been rather fortuitous. The downside to using a stone and peel, aside from storing in the off season, is that it can make your oven messy and cause a smoky kitchen. As a person who has lived with a very humbling smoke alarm for some time, I'd also recommend earplugs and a sense of humor.

The grade? So far I'd have to give it a solid A for content, an A+ for originality, and I'll forgive the title's false advertising because no person, with the notable exception of Jesus Christ, has ever made bread in less than 5 minutes a day. A good read.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Feature Friday: FiveForty

FiveForty is another shop I love to browse. You know by now that I love wool, and FiveForty is full of recycled wooly goodness and some lovely personal adornments as well. I am including this excerpt from her CosaVerde bio:

"Hello, my name is Pegg Campbell, and I live on the north shore of Lake Superior! I create and sell one of a kind handwoven rag rugs. They are not your usual rag rug, mine are woven with recycled used textile for both warp and weft making them 100% recycled. Soft and cushy felted wool, t-shirts, sturdy denim or corduroy."

Her rugs look as wonderful and inviting to the toes as I'm sure they truly are, but she enhances them with her clever photography. She generally includes a pair or two of adorable shoes in the main photo of each listing... her photographic calling card. I feel that this really distinguishes her work from other rug weavers, and I think it was a very intentional and business savvy move on her part. She's a sharp one, that Pegg...

Her jewelry always has a earthy vibe to it, in my opinion, and I think that flows from her love of nature and appreciation for the little things, like home-cooked food and time spent with family and friends.

Pegg will always have a special place in my heart as she was responsible for curating the first treasury in which I was featured that made it to the Front Page of Etsy. That was a big day for me, and I am grateful to Pegg for thinking enough of my work to give me that boost into brighter lights and greater visibility. She has repeated that act of goodness by featuring me in Front Page treasuries several times since then as well... thank you, dearie :)

In addition to selling on Etsy, being featured in magazines and all over the internet, Pegg also has a fun blog with food, photos and her own thoughts on life and living along a the delightful Canadian coast of Lake Superior. She's an honest to goodness Renaissance woman, and I find her very inspiring and true asset to mankind in general. Rock on, Pegg!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

TheJuneBride News: A Big Day

Among other big things today, I realized I had made my 2009 goal just 5 days late. Not too shabby :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Life in a Nutshell: Happy New Year!

Today was a great start to another year... I was lucky enough to get a private tour around a stunning bit of property in the area and snapped a few winter shots for all of our enjoyment. So enjoy!