Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back to photography

Since I've finished a batch of new items and have them display-ready, time has arrived to once again dig out my faithful camera and turn into a photographer.

Not much changed since the last time - I still hate taking pictures.

But in order to do what I do, I have to grab myself by the throat, push the camera into my unwilling hands and try to do the best I can. I noticed two things in the process:

1. All the usable pictures that I've snapped so far take up 50 mb of my disc space. All the crappy, hopeless, not-so-perfect, boring, (...), uninteresting pictures take up more than 1 gb. This example clearly illustrates that the professional photographers don't lie when they say that you have to take plenty of shots to get a single good one.

2. It got much easier than when I was doing it for the first time. There, that's optimistic news!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


As promised, I'm proud to present the outcome of my 'insect' inspiration from another post.
It was a bit tricky to transfer a honeycomb pattern onto canvas using only squares (that always takes some thinking when creating cross stitching designs) but I feel I managed ok.
So here's my gift to all the bee-lovers out there.
I will put it up on Etsy some time in September.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Behold the outcome of a month or so of my work.
It's a middle stage, they still need some finishing before they are turned into actual jewellery, but the main, most time consuming part is done.
I feel bloody proud.
I thought some maths would be interesting here.
Every pendant is made of 361 cross stitches and approx. 152 edging stitches. That together makes 513 stitches, each and every single one hand sewn.
With earrings the figures are 242, 176 and 418 accordingly (per pair).
Pictured above are 16 future pendants and 14 pairs of future earrings.
So what you're actually looking at consists of 14,060 stitches and is equal to hours (HOURS!!) of my work.
All together it wouldn't fill a jam jar.
I guess this proves that the size doesn't matter after all :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Turning cross stitching funky

Hey, I guess I've found my mission :).

I came across couple of posts here and there saying "nah, cross stitching is not groovy and no fun" or something along these lines and it caused a big wave of rebellion rising inside my head. Might be just my stubborn nature, but I tend to resist being put into any kind of sorting drawer, be it with regards to my life or my work.

So the big thing I want to say is - cross stitching is only a medium. It's a way by which we can express ideas, just as writing or sculpting or painting. You are given a way of transferring images onto canvas and then it's up to you. You can dream of the wildest images, you can change shape of the canvas, you can mix it with any other materials you want - sky (and your imagination) is the limit.

Once you get past the "stitch by pattern cross by cross" phase, you can create your own patterns as you go. I can, anyway. The longer I work with this medium, the more ideas come my way, and the fresher, the more innovative they tend to get. I don't have enough words to express how big an adventure this can become. There are few limits if you are brave enough to follow your own vision and this is made tangible in the items created.

You think cross stitching can be only employed in making nice and boring wall hangings? I'm here to prove you wrong. Have a look at pictures of my pieces somewhere in this blog, or make a quick detour to my shop to see for yourself. I invite you also to try for yourself, to play with your canvas, with your colours, with your ideas.

And do come back to have a look at my new ideas as they grow.
They are happy to be seen.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Ok, let's make one thing clear: trying to sell anything online is a never-ending hunt for exposure. It's nice and soothing to think of the web as a marketplace with six billions potential customers browsing around. But big part of this group has no access to the Internet at all, or does not know how to use it. Some more are out because they just don't have a habit of buying online. Even more can't be taken into consideration because ..(insert any reason you can think of and multiply by whatever you want).

Now, how many websites are there? Around 200 million, according to a quick Google search. Of those, big number will try to do exactly what I'm doing - which is to sell, often items from more or less the same shelf. As I'm actively against aggesive (and bullshit-dripping) sales techniques - and I'm a minority here! - I need to cut my potential customer group even further.

As mentioned milion times before, I'm not going to get views by 'I follow you, you follow me' strategy, because I simply don't respect it. I can't afford paid advertising. I'm not going to leave meaningless comments on every forum I stumble upon, and there's only a limited number of subjects that interest me enough to leave a thoughtful one. So, what can I do?

Well, one of the ways I found out is to subject myself to somebody else's judgement... I dug out somewhere in Etsy forums and started to use it just to see what happens. The idea is simple - you submit your creations to the website and others may judge it. Three items a day, for two weeks, for free. Nice and easy.

The highest rating I got so far was something around 9 (out of 20). The lowest - 3.5... Hmm, how should I say it - it bloody stung! How come, my little beloved things, on which I spend HOURS and because of which I get continuous rides between elation and blackest depression roughly three hundred times a day, and somebody gives them three out of twenty??? ^%&*%&*#%!!! For few days I felt deeply offended and didn't even check Plaincraft website again.

But then I thought again. There's a saying: opinion is like ass - everybody has one. True enough. So I was rated by those guys, who simply hated my items, or were not impressed at all. Somewhere out there must exist (and the very statistics prove my point here) a group of people who will instantly fall in love with my creations, even if this group is (substantially??) smaller than the other one. That's the crowd I'm trying to reach. To find them, I need to put my name out there, just to make it possible for THEM to find ME. And if it means having to survive criticism of the other group? Well, to hell with it, after all I can't blame anyone for having ass...

So I promptly listed three new items on Plaincraft and intend to keep on doing so. And that brings me this one tiny step closer towards my goal.

Oh, if you were interested - I didn't notice any particular rush in the shop since I did that. But you never know.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stitching as a remedy

I mentioned few times how stitching puts me into a trance-like state, when the big world outside seems to be somehow less important and the slow, colourful, patterned thoughts sailing through my head get the steering wheel for a while. Man, how pleasant is that!

Now I'm discovering a new facet to this diamond - stitching can be a rescue remedy.

When something seems to fall apart, really worries or scares the shit out of me - hell, how do I stitch then! Like insane, I can tell you that. I don't think it can solve any actual problem (well, if the Etsy shop eventually moves off the ground it may solve at least one.. the cashy one..) but it helps to ground you when you're freaking out. Panic attacks have no chance of surviving slow, regular stitch-stitch-stitching :).

It soothes, it reaches some deep, calm place inside and allows me to hide there in times of anguish.

And I will have something tangible I've made myself to account for all the time lost in thoughts.

So, my shop will soon be blooming with new products. Watch this, it only gets better :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I got a bad case of insectomania.

Ladybirds have featured in my work for quite a while now, but now it's time for wasps and bees as well. Wasps are really just a warm-up - the pattern is easy to make, the colours bright and vivid. Bees are my main target at the moment.

I've always been attracted to those buzzing creatures, maybe one beautiful day I'll get to be a beekeper (I hope so!!)? There must be some old magic hidden in the hives. Not mentioning pure beauty and magnificence of a single bee on a flower...

I've seen a display in Bristol zoo once upon a time, where a hive was put in between two glass sheets, so that every detail of its structure was visible. Wouldn't mind to see it again, and the idea - ha, tasty! Bee lore is something I've only briefly touched, but one of my plans is to dig deeper. Once a beekeper told me that bees are more likely to sting you if you wear perfume. Apparently they don't like if someone tricks them and pretends to be a flower! Another tasty story I've picked up is more folklorish. A good beekeeper has to bring his bees up to date with all the gossip from the household, otherwise they don't keep well. Plants grow better if you talk to them, well, why not bees?

If you are a beekeeper and think it's complete bullshit - argue with Terry Pratchett, not me :) I got the last bit of folklore from his Lord and Ladies - a bit of read as sweet as honey and as sharp as sting!

Insect-inspired jewelry will arrive into my shop as soon as I finish it, so keep watching.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the art of pricing

I travel around Etsy and Etsy forums and stumble across the subject quite often.

There appear to be quite a few formulas to use to calculate that perfect price. Apparently, having one is supposed to make you a successful businessman (or woman :).

What do you think your product is worth?
If you, being after all quite intimately acquainted with your product, think it is not worth much, how do you expect strangers to value it higher?

Saying I really like to repeat - cheap is not great value, cheap is just cheap.

As a customer, I feel offended by most of marketing tricks used to try and get me to buy. When I see a 9.99 price I feel someone is trying to play games with my brain and immediately steer away. When I see free shipping, I'm aware that price of the actual product went up by those few bucks to cover this missing shipping cost.

The very basic thing marketing trends are trying to make us forget is - sellers are not beneficients of humanity, they are out there to earn money.
If something appears to be free, it means that you are going to pay for it some other way.
If something appears to be extra cheap, it means that supplies were extra cheap and labour was extra cheap. Usually that compromises quality VERY much.
If something appears to be a miracle and have all of the above not applicable, but still being extra cheap, it means that there's something you do not know.

These are the rules I'm reminding myself of when shopping. When selling my own stuff, I assume that my customers are at least a bit like me and I don't offend them by treating them like brainless dummies and promising free miracles.

Skillfully and time-consumingly crafted items cost. It's worth it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Handmade business cards

I wrote some time ago about my plan of hand-making my business cards.

I seemed to have been a little jinxed on that, because whatever only could go wrong, went wrong. I won't go into details, after all being deadly boring is not my ambition here. Today's announcement though is - I've made it!
I did not manage to do one single thing, which, as you can see, is - MAKE MY MIND UP :)
Then again - do I have to? I didn't very much like the idea of making x copies of exactly the same design, I would probably snore off halfway through. But what if I focus on colours/font (fancy way of saying 'my handwrite') as branding and leave a bit more space for imagination with the flower bit?
Truth 1: When put together, they look fairly consistent.
Truth 2: I enjoy diversity very much.
Conclusion: They pass.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just a thought...

Just a little thought I had today.

Every single day we do thousands of completely 'unimportant' things. Like dressing up, piece by piece. Like washing dishes, combing hair, buying groceries. Small, ordinary, everyday activities that everyone can do.

But can they?

When we were little children, there must have been a day when we combed our hair on our own for the very first time, when we finally didn't need help when putting a jumper on (giving our carer a reason to celebrate), when we were allowed to embark alone on this adventurous journey of buying some bread in a shop across the road. And how bloody proud we were when we did it.

I feel that reminding myself of those obvious facts may have huge philosophical implications for me. :)

Because when you think about it for a second - 'adult' life is the same process, only brought to a higher level. There's some new things around us that we may choose to try, to do for the first time, and then feel just as proud as when doing up our laces without a help.
Or we may decide not to, because we fear failure.
As children we were somehow braver.

It made me think of all the things I have already learned, but because now they seem so easy, I completely forgot the pride bit.
Like (I guess) everyone else, I need to feel proud of my achievements to be happy. Now, I didn't happen to discover rocket science, so to feel this contentment I need to notice and appreciate small things around me.
This powers me to do more. And who knows, maybe one day there will be enough power to make this trip to the Moon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sea Inspirations

Things are speeding up.
I opened the new section today - new project, new chapter in my creative development, new lessons to learn...
I'm excited and a bit anxious how will it go down, but here only patience is the cure.
Why with every new solution you also get a bunch of new problems?
Two appeared straight after I launched today:
1. I will probably need to find some other way to take pics for this line - as much as I love the background of natural coral, it's a bit dark. Well, before I give the idea up for good I'll try to find some win-win solution, but something clearly needs to be done about it. Maybe some advice? How to keep the coral as background but make the pic brighter? I'd appreciate it very much!
2. Better description/search words. Or better category? I've listed this item as jewelry (well, that's what it is...) but new items in jewelry section stay new for about 10 seconds... Bit to short to be seen. I'm all against fighting competition, I'd rather stick to my own niche. Having a category all to myself is quite unlikely, but again - brainstorming waves go this direction and hopefully a solution will present itself.
They usually do, you know?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ocean Wave

Here's the final pair of my earrings collection, proudly listed in the shop this morning under the name of Ocean Wave.
You may notice that the geranium petals are little frayed.
This is a serious danger accompanying stealing from public flowerbeds after dark :).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New projects

I'm nearing the end of my earrings line. All the pairs are stitched, photographed, described and (all but one) put up in my Etsy shop.

What next?

It looks like I'll be working on two projects simultaneously. First is my seaside inspiration jewellery (I'm always torn between American and British spelling of this word..) - I already have a bunch of necklaces ready to go, tons of beach debris to work on and mountains of ideas.

The second project will be a sequel to my cross stitch earrings story. Someone suggested one day that I should expand the range to include necklaces/pendants. I like the idea, so already started to work on some items.

Soon I'll divide the shop into sections and will update as I go.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I hate taking pictures!

There, I've said it.

You may remember me starting a photography experiment some while ago, and I think it's time to announce some results.

I'm still cautious enough to add 'at this stage of my life' somewhere in this sentence, but the outcome is this - I hate taking pictures, it's a chore, it does not give me any pleasure, it's never brimming with inspiration and my pics are at best mediocre, at worst - well, hopeless. I like spotting things to snap, but when it's time to touch the actual machinery, my energies go all flop. Hate the bloody thing.

But why am I bringing this up? Because after a lot of inner wrestling I decided to be kind to myself and to stick with a minimum-photographic-input formula on this blog.

I'm aware that blogs are much about images and that it may turn some people away from mine. On the other hand - I'm a writer, not a photographer. Forcing myself to take mediocre pictures to show up here consumes loads of my time and happiness, and compromises quality of writing (well, pissed off, depressed writers do have their moments of fame, but I'm not planning career in this direction just at the moment). Besides, I know that I enjoy blogs that you can actually read much more than the ones that are only pics with titles. So maybe, maybe (!) I'm not alone out there.

I'm not going to ban pics completely, of course. If a photo opportunity presents itself and if it's a pleasure to take it, or if a subject simply shouts for being illustrated, I'll be happy to go ahead with it.

I'm just not going to feel guilty anymore about posting without pics three days in a row.

As Alice (in Wonderland) in recent movie said - 'This is my dream. I make the path!'

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to deal with silence

Privately, I love silence. I love silence when there's no radio playing, no cars roaring, no meaningless words spoken for noise's sake. Did you notice how scare of silence people are today?

But never mind that, it's business silence I'm going to try to tackle today.
So you do have your shop set up, you are listing something every day, you try to be visible on the net but... nothing much comes out of it. No sales, views are slow to come, no spark, no movement.

It's tempting to give up.

Well, I'm not giving up, that's for sure.

A big observation I made right after I started doing my online business. Don't know how about you, but I need to resist the feeling of urgency. Like - I need to get sales NOW, I need to be seen by millions (hehe) NOW, I need to have a hundred different projects going all the time, to be constantly busy and buzzing around.

Well, no. What I really need is to sit back and take time to recharge my batteries. What I really need is to focus on the idea I have at any given moment, play with it, turn it around in my imagination, give it time and energy and allow it to become really special. And if no project seems attractive right now, I need to stop forcing myself to do anything, just to keep my conscience clear - 'after all I AM working on my shop, aren't I?' type bullshit doesn't do much good, just makes me feel rotten inside.

I believe that quality is much more important than quantity. I believe that my work will gain much more from me stepping back and reading a good book (or whatever else I do to feel better) so that when I'm really ready to do some work, it's exceptional and looked forward to.

Not even mentioning how tortured I feel when I'm trying to force myself to do anything, as opposed to creating out of real joy.

I can see the difference. Can you?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

How to fix a burn hole

Do you know those? If you happen to be a smoker, I bet you do. Even if you stay away from cigarettes, you cannot underestimate viciousness of campfires or sparklers.

I am a politically incorrect fan of cigarrettes and those little burn-outs ruin my clothing quite often. Now, I got this striped top from my sister not too long ago, and I managed to kill it straight away (if she reads this blog, she's probably going to kill ME). Besides, that's the only thing in pink that, to my surprise, I can tolerate, because it actually makes me look very good. A solution was called for.

I have whole lot of multi-coloured felt bits from my other crafting projects. The other things you would need are some hemming tape and hot iron. Step one: you think of a pattern you want to use to cover your hole. Step two: you cut it out in both felt ((or whatever fabric you have on hand) and hem tape. Step three: you arrange it on your burnt item and iron it on. As easy as that.

And the final effect?
I think the pics speak louder than any words.

A sigh of relief as now I may not get killed by my big Sis.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My first time...

My first time as a featured seller has arrived :).

Natalie from CrescentMoonPapers invited me to be a guest appearance on her blog some time ago and - tah dah! - here I am, with couple of pictures and a little interview (now when I'm thinking of it, it's my first time being interviewed as well. What a bounty of new experiences!). See for yourself (here) if you don't believe me ;).

It feels weird as I'm only slowly getting accustomed to being out there and being SEEN. Usually I prefer to shy away from any attention but I'm gradually realising that in order to be independent, I have to be seen. How else are people to know about my existence? I'm happy to stay out of social focus in my private life, but in business - either go out there and tell people that your product is good or die ;).

It's a hard work, juggling between authenticity and marketing when in plain public view. I'm commited to staying away from bullshit marketing ('uniquecutefantastic x, crafted by the DaVinci/Picasso/y himself, in pure gold studded with million carat diamonds, and all for unbelievable $9.99!). On the other hand, I still want to sell my product (otherwise why would I bother with setting up an online shop?) and when thinking of what I do, I still err on the side of judging myself far below my capabilities. So it takes a bit of inner work to say - hey, I'm out there, and my product is good. Not bullshit good, but good to make you happy with.

Anyway, the first ice is broken and I'm the star of the day on Natalie's blog. Big thank you for having me up there, Natalie!

Friday, July 2, 2010

I don't do Facebook!

I don't do Twitter either, or any other of those social networking sites.

I recognise that it's probably killing my business, with all the missed advertising etc., but hell - there's only so many things I'm willing to sell for money.

I think it stinks - pretending to be everyone's friend only to get more exposure on a website, or to get that warmish feeling 'how popular I am'. I guess some people use Facebook and the likes in order not to feel lonely, but it doesn't seem to work for me - having loads of internet 'friends' to tell me how 'awesome' I am does not make me feel less lonely. And my ego does not need a boost.

Just along the same lines, I have a problem with social networking 'etiquette'. I came across a post on Etsy forum, where a seller said something along the lines of: if someone hearts you, heart them back - it's common courtesy.

I thought I'm supposed to like someone's shop (blog, project, website, fill in what you want) because I like their WORK? Because I consider what they do valuable and extraordinary? Not because someone told me they liked mine?

It seems pretty cheap way of getting recognision. Who cares if your work is any good or not, it's enough to shower someone with praise, and due to 'etiquette' they will mark your product as favourite, not because they think it's any special, but out of sense of social obligation.

What's the point in having 'favourites' then? Why not call it - people that like ME and I'm paying back?

I say screw it. If it makes me impolite, rude, anti-social - let it be. I'll end up with much less appreciation, but at least I will respect those opinions.

And I will feel real gratefulness.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Flower hunt

You may have noticed how I'm using flowers (or generally plants) as props in my photo sessions for presenting my cross stitched earrings. I tried it at the very beginning as a random idea and I was swept off my feet by the beauty, so I kept on going in that direction.

I take my pics one at a time. One day, one flower, one picture.

Now, I bet that's not the most efficient way of getting the pics and if I was doing that in any employment, I would've been fired for procrastination ages ago.

But then each single picture has a story to tell. It may not be important to anyone but me - but hell, it IS important to me, full stop.

At the beginning I was happy with a humble daisy straight from a green patch in front of my apartment. I've kept those pics online because a) there is nothing wrong with a humble daisy, just the opposite b) it illustrates earlier step on my journey.

Then I became a bit more ambitious (and after all there's only so many flowers growing on a streetside lawn) and desired to go for something flashier. First of all, more colour - I've noticed that bright flowers help to bring attention to my product and gather more views. Also, I wanted to have a different flower accompanying each pair - I put a lot, lot, lot care into crafting each one, so I wanted to take an individual approach here (as opposed to assembly line treatment).

Yet, the flowers don't fall from heavens (well, if they do, they never decided to materialise themselves in this area :) and I'm bloody broke so I can't simply go to a florist's and make my pick. Another task was added to my list - flower hunt. Hedges and flowerbeds in my area were my first source, but I'd drained it pretty quick - after all landscapers don't have poor crafters in mind when doing their job - so I had to re-adjust my observation skills to include mental notes on what flowers grow where (and when!).

Jasmine on the picture above is my loot from exactly this type of a hunt. I noticed the bush more than a year ago, when desperately clinging to any scraps of nature and beauty on the way to the office I worked for at the time. Jasmine is pretty special to me, so it stayed in my memory and the time of its blooming coincided with me opening the shop this year. Synchronicity? :)

I nearly missed it, even so. I knew the flowers are up there, but couldn't get myself to actually moved my ass and go pick them. I thought I'd miss it due to good old laziness... but then one day I actually did go for a walk in the jasmine area and here they were - late bloomers!

Here it is, my flower-hunt loot, and here's me, crowing with pride :).
Or joy, more like it.