The crafted object : Moshikoart {jewellery}

I must say I was a bit stumped for words when I first spotted the silver and resin jewellery of Moshiko Boshe (aka MoshikoArt). “Bright” and “colourful” didn’t quite do it justice.

 

moshiko - bunny necklace

moshiko – bunny necklace

 

Based in Tel Aviv, Moshiko’s work is kind of a wild hybrid between organic and hi-tech, ancient and futuristic. He sits archaic symbols from long-forgotten cultures alongside modern interpretations of Henri Matisse and Keith Haring, and includes references to jellyfish, strawberries and the X-files equally, without batting an eyelid.

 

moshiko - matisse ring

moshiko – matisse ring

 

moshiko - celestial lagoon bracelet

moshiko – celestial lagoon bracelet

He first came to work with metals about 25 years ago, after a visit to Nepal. There he was fortunate enough to visit the workshop of the royal jewellers and was captivated, watching them heating and fusing metal just with lung power and a simple oil burner. He returned to Israel, teaching himself the skills before ending up working in high-end jewellery workshops as in-house designer and prototype maker for several years. During this time he also studied glass blowing with master glass blower Rika, and trained in traditional North African jewellery crafting.

 

moshiko - raindrops earrings

moshiko – raindrops earrings

 

moshiko - omega bracelet

moshiko – omega bracelet

 

He loves working with resin too, relishing its organic and fluid possibilities. He says of the process, “Working with resin is like riding a dragon.” Using a variety of techniques to suit each piece, some surfaces are handpainted, others are embedded with photographs or gold leaf.

 

moshiko - talking heads ring

moshiko – talking heads ring

 

moshiko - spherical maze ring

moshiko – spherical maze ring

 

Moshiko has participated in numerous exhibitions, his work has appeared in several publications by Lark Books., and he runs his own gallery featuring jewellery and sculpture in Tel Aviv.

You can find more of his work in his Etsy shop MoshikoArt, and on his own website www.moshikoart.com.

 

Small Biz how-to : Monday Mini Makeovers!
closed for renovations - michael sweeney

closed for renovations – michael sweeney {click image for source}

 

WELCOME to my brand new segment, Monday Mini Makeovers. Here, I will be showcasing a bunch of online creative micro-bizzes just like yours – and giving them a makeover!

The idea is that not only do these good folk benefit from having a fresh set of eyes over their online presence, but that YOU my fab reader, also get tips on how you can charge up your own online presence.

I reckon that’s a WIN-WIN.

 

Just a quick disclaimer – these are simply my initial impressions when I land on people’s sites. It’s not an in-depth analysis, and it’s not intended to be taken as any kind of definitive professional advice.

I’m concentrating on my initial impressions because it’s what your potential customers do. If your site doesn’t look interesting enough, if it’s hard to navigate, or it doesn’t clearly convey who you are and what you offer, another store is  just a click away.

Of course you’d like them to stick around and have a bit of an explore – so, these are my suggestions on how these sites could be improved for easier customer access, for visual cohesion and branding.

I play things as I see them, so you can expect honesty, but I PROMISE I will be kind :)  So here goes!

 

Bec Gullo and Bluebird Candles

Bluebird Candles

Bluebird Candles

Bec sells lush-sounding fragrant soy candles in recycled and recyclable glass, and she asked for some suggestions on her Facebook page.

From having a quick look through her FB photos, I can see she enjoys a bit of retro styling in her images – kind of 60s, but warm and homey, with some tropical lushness thrown in (she’s based in Innisfail, Queensland). This is a lovely aesthetic to work with, and I think she could concentrate on it to help her with her whole branding efforts.

With images and branding, the idea is to pick out what suits your product and the mood you’re trying to convey and then reinterpret that with your own styling. It’s often helpful to stick to a limited palette (say of 5-10 colours) and 2-3 fonts that you use for everything.

With regard to Bec’s FB page, it’s important to note that you are a bit limited on what you can do on Facebook – a lot of the screen is taken up with Facebook’s own colours and layout. Image-wise, you can really only change your ‘Cover Picture’ (i.e. the big one) and your ‘Profile Picture’ (the little square).

Bec’s cover photo does nothing much to convey anything about her business – it just looks like a blue jar in the garden.  I think both cover and profile pics could benefit from some lush styling, something fragrant and pretty (perhaps tropical – e.g Pina Colada? Tangerine anyone?) from one of her best sellers. Or for instance, lit candles in a lush garden would be much more inviting and descriptive as a cover photo. Concentrate on how those scents make you FEEL – conjure up a relaxing scene!

Just underneath the cover photo, there are four frames. You can’t change the ‘Photos’ and the ‘Likes’, but you can add in more frames and use them for apps – that way you can link to your shop, special events, notes, and a whole lot more – just click on the little drop-down arrow on the right.

When you use them to add in specific events, make sure they’re kept up to date. Nobody likes clicking on a link only to find something that finished 2 months ago – yuk! Bec has used them well, adding in a link to a giveaway she is running at the moment, and to a market that she will be doing soon.

Generally, she has very good engagement on Facebook, with frequent posting about new products, events, and other special things that have happened (like the glorious sunset she saw). Engaging with your customers on facebook is also an excellent way to do a bit of customer research if you keep your eyes and ears open – what sorts of things do they respond to the most? The more you engage with them the easier it is to build up a picture of your customer.

 

Deborah Davey and Domum Vindemia

Domum Vindemia

Domum Vindemia

Deb sells upcycled vintage crockery (turning them into sweet cake stands) and linen, as well as bunting and other decorative items in her Etsy shop, DomumVindemia, and I would describe her style as a sweet and ditsy style of shabby chic, with lots of florals in pale and pretty colours.

Firstly, Deb’s shop header needs a bit of a tweak. The images chosen are fine, but the text looks chunky and pixelated. I probably would chose a softer colour too – the black looks a bit harsh.

Looking through her first page of products, my initial suggestion is that she should try and keep the viewpoints in each of her photos at a more consistent angle (at the moment when I browse her shop, the multiple angles remind me of a ship rocking in the ocean). Composition wise, the cake stands are too large in the picture frame – give them more space to breathe. In Etsy, for each product you have 5 images to use, so use some of them for macro details of the patterns. Take a straight, level, side-on view to show off their stands.

Style your bookmarks with books so that it is obvious what they are and how they look in use. Some of the plainer items look good against the sheet music, but if your items have lots of pattern then beware of making your photos too busy – it can detract from the item. A plain background is easy to make with a large piece of white cardboard – I use a bulldog clip to hold it onto the back of a kitchen chair, or onto a large hardcover book that I have standing up and propped open (Yes, I’ve got a tutorial with some photography tips in the works and it will be published soon, I promise!). Cardboard doesn’t crease like paper or fabric, and it’s easy enough to remove spots in Photoshop or Picmonkey by using the rubber stamp tool.

Lighter items like the bunting can be styled against a darker background. However, keep the backgrounds more consistent – using various spots around the garden would be fine, but perhaps not against the brick wall as it doesn’t fit with the rest of the vintage shabby feel of the product in Domum Vindemia.

Overall, I think it comes down to consistency. In Deb’s shop, there are lots of competing angles, widely varying backgrounds; and some but not all of the photo frames have a soft fadeout edge. At the moment it all looks a bit busy and I feel like I need to walk into the shop and tidy the shelves.

If you have all of your similar items styled in a similar manner, at the same size and orientation, your shop will look and feel neat.

 

Louise Radge and Radge Design

Radge Design

Radge Design

Louise is a graphic designer and makes wire-wrapped jewellery in her Hand-Made shop, RadgeDesign.

Like many other platforms that allow you to set up your own shop, the vast majority of the screen space is given over their house-styling, leaving you with only your shop banner to grab potential customer’s attention. Louise has got a distinctive logo of a purple flower, which she has developed out of one of her artworks. The logo is interesting, but there is nothing much else so it all looks a bit too white and empty. The grey stripe along the bottom looks a bit flat and thick, because it’s very different to the hand drawn elements. The “R” and the purple flower obviously come from hand drawn elements, so perhaps instead she could try using a hand drawn line like on the flower to do a simple frame (or even a fancy one, if it suits) to define the whole banner and give it more personality.

Arial is a very common font, and I’m sure it doesn’t do justice to Louise’s talents as a graphic designer. To advertise her talents, I think she would be much better off choosing something more stylish. I also would not mix up capitals halfway through the tagline. Easiest way around that is to use all caps or all lower case.

The word “funky” could be used with a shop that specialises in bright, colourful, 60s/70s-inspired kitsch, but really I think it’s a word best left to describing James Brown (WOO!).  Spend some time with a thesaurus, write down a list of words that you might like to use in your tagline and then choose the best, or just leave it out entirely and concentrate on the practical words that describe what you do.

Now to the product lisitngs. The size of the products in each photo is good, however all the photos are a bit dark, and this is especially noticeable against the graphic design items which are very white. Brightening your images is quite easy with Photoshop, Picmonkey or any other photo-editing program. If your images look a bit washed out when you up the brightness, then all you need to do is up the contrast as well, and this should fix it.

 

 Phew! Got all that? 

 

Now it’s over to you! Can you think how the suggestions I’ve made today could be applied to your biz? What would you change? What would you keep the same?

Have I still not solved your problem for your biz? If you’ve got a specific question let me know in the comments below!

AND, if you would like a Mini Monday Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is subscribe here, and follow the instructions.

See you then!
Julie X

Surface design : Mag-O {Angela Stevens}

Angela Stevens lives in Las Vegas. It sounds wild, but she explains, “It’s a notorious vacation spot yet a quite peaceful place to call home.”

 

mag-o - beyond black and white

mag-o – beyond black and white

 

Perhaps the constant busyness does have  some effect – Angela’s patterns fill their space with energy, despite their subdued palette. It’s what I like about them; they are eclectic and happy and full of life.

Angela comes across as a busy and eclectic person too. “My creative space is anywhere. I can design at a desk, the kitchen table, my bed, outside, and frequently in a car! There are always ideas swirling around in my head, so my creative space has to be where I am at the moment.”

 

mag-o - anchors a-weigh

mag-o – anchors a-weigh

 

She started on Spoonflower as Mag-O about three years ago. She had always enjoyed sewing and drawing, and wanted to make a dress out of fabric that she had designed herself. “Eventually I found the designing more interesting than the sewing.” She has spent the last three years expanding her textile design skills, undertaking art and computer design classes.

 

mag-o - sailing in circles

mag-o – sailing in circles

 

She is relishing the opportunity. Although she worked briefly in the construction industry as an estimator, Angela told me that she spent most of her working life raising her three children.

Her own childhood was filled with wonderful fabrics. “My mother was ALWAYS sewing something – draperies, quilts, clothes, and numerous wedding gowns – always as a favor, never for profit. I inherited her love of creating beautiful things just for the sake of creating.”

 

mag-o - sand dollar and starfish

mag-o – sand dollar and starfish

 

“My business name “Mag-O” comes from one of my favorite books, “Magnificent Obsession” by Lloyd Douglas. A 1929 cliche romance, the books infers that one will expand their own awareness, and success with their endeavors by selflessly helping other people.”

 

mag-o - the smoking gun

mag-o – the smoking gun

 

mag-o - unfortunato

mag-o – unfortunato

 

Her favourite piece of advice?

 

“If things aren’t right in the end, then you are not at the end.”

 

You can find more of Angela’s work in her Spoonflower shop, Mag-O.

 

Competition! Digital Fabrics ‘Botanical Extracts’

Calling ALL Australian surface designers – especially those of you who love florals as much as I do!!

Digital Fabrics is a print-on-demand business based in Sydney, which offers digital fabric printing onto a huge variety of fabrics in a range of sizes up to 1.5m wide. They  work with fashion and swimwear labels, TV and staging, the interior design industry including drapery and upholstery fabrics and a whole lot more.

 

digital fabrics - botanical extracts comp image

They have some exciting news! They’ve just launched their latest competition, (open to Australian residents only, sorry lovely overseas peeps :) ), which involves designing a botanical print for fashion and interiors. It’s not limited to people already involved in the industry; it’s wide open to any member of the public. If you’ve got the skills, they want to hear from you.

There are some FABULOUS prizes up for grabs.

  • First prize is $500 of credit for printing, and 2 weeks paid internship! You also get 5 m of fabric with your design printed on the fabric of your choice, your winning design will be featured in the Digital Fabrics’ Prints Collection, and you get industry exposure through Digital Fabrics.
  • The runner-up gets $200 of credit for printing, and like the winner, you also get 5 m of fabric with your design printed on the fabric of your choice, your winning design will be featured in the Digital Fabrics’ Prints Collection, and you get industry exposure through Digital Fabrics.
  • Not only that, EVERY participant will receive 15% discount off printing. How good is that?

 

digital fabrics - scarf prints

Digital Fabrics – scarf prints

 

japanese chrysanthemum -barysiuk_viktoryia flickr

{japanese chrysthemum by barysiuk_viktoryia, from here}

The only real design requirements are that it has to be botanical, contain hand drawn or painted elements, and stick to the palette they provide. There are no other stylistic limits – so the whole world is your inspiration!

 

eucomis comosa - dr steven murray on flickr

 {eucomis comosa, from Dr. Steven Murray, here}

 

seed pod - chrisjohnbeckett via flickr

  {seed pods, from Chris John Beckett, here}

To participate, you MUST have a Pinterest account or be willing to join, as they have created a special Pinterest board that you need to upload your design onto for voting. The voting starts on 30th April, SO GET ONTO IT NOW.

Last year’s competition produced some fabulous designs. Their brief was to design a 1m square scarf with with the theme “Local Produce”, and they were given three colours they had to incorporate.  If you’d like to see what some of the entries for last year looked like, you can check them out here.

 

digital fabrics - zebra blue primula - webrarian flickr

  {Blue Zebra primula by Webrarian, here}

So get started now. The deadline is not that far away – and you might just win those fantastic prizes.

Full details and requirements can be viewed when you register and download the PDF from Digital Fabrics here.

 

digital fabrics - mood board

Digital Fabrics – mood board

 

Best of luck everyone!

Julie X

*

{Disclaimer: this post was supported by Digital Fabrics. But rest assured I will only EVER promote things I truly believe in, and that I think are genuinely useful for you.}

The crafted object : Cardboard Safari

When Chris Jessee first interviewed Luis Rodrigalvarez to come on board his fledgling laser-cutting business building model kits for model train enthusiasts, Spanish-born Luis could barely speak English. Chris was dubious.

But then Luis showed Chris his portfolio, which was enormous and full of amazing things. Luis and Chris have been working together ever since.

 

cardboard safari - bucky

cardboard safari – bucky

 

Chris was always a drawer and maker from a young age, and credits his brother with urging him to draw and pushing him to work at making his drawings better and better. He continued drawing, making models and handmade gifts for friends and family, and before he’d even hit the teenage years, knew that he wanted to make a living by building things.

He studied architecture and spent several years working for architecture firms. It was while working as an architect that he realised the power of CAD and added a degree in computing to his repertoire. Then in 2003 he pulled it all together and took the big leap to starting his own business making the model kits.

 

carboard safari - bucky jr - modern art print

carboard safari – bucky jr – modern art print

 

It was  few years later later that an architect approached him to make a topography model, and so Chris in turn went to his cousin who worked for a cardboard manufacturer. The cousin was a keen deer hunter, and so the conversation pretty quickly turned to trophies… and Cardboard Safari was born.

‘Bucky’ was the first of the product line in 2006, and Cardboard Safari started on Etsy on 2009. Since then, they have developed a whole menagerie – moose, deer, lion, unicorn… ”Safari is equal parts adventure and animal observation.”

 

carboard safari - juliette

carboard safari – juliette

 

ardboard safari - eyan jr - pop art

ardboard safari – eyan jr – pop art

 

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they now have stockists around the world from London to Sydney. Getting Cardboard Safari to this point has been a big journey, and Chris is immensely grateful to Amy Gardner of Scarpa in Charlottesville. “She was the first retail shop to carry our products in 2007 and urged me to exhibit at gift shows, which greatly expanded our presence in retail stores such as Urban Outfitters.”

 

cardboard safari - jack

cardboard safari – jack

 

carboard safari - micro vince

carboard safari – micro vince

 

Each new design takes months of process. “We brainstorm about new ideas and listen to customer feedback about what new products they would like to see.  Our ideas and customer suggestions become a list and we sort and reshuffle, weighing the merits of each product to determine what we do next. Then we research through web searches of photographs and then build the model in the computer. Lastly there are many cycles or iterations to refine the design so it is visually pleasing and easy to assemble.”

Visually pleasing they are! Most designs are available in various sizes, and now they’ve added the extra option of having them cut from printed card – Pop, Mondrian-style, or pixelated camouflage – the variations are almost endless. Pink with that? Sure!

 

cardboard safari - rocket table

cardboard safari – rocket table

 

After all these years and hundreds of new designs, does Chris have a favourite? Yes; he is pretty definite on this – Bucky always holds a special place for him as the genesis of his product line.

 

cardboard safari - merlin jr - stars and snowflakes unicorn

cardboard safari – merlin jr – stars and snowflakes unicorn

 

His best piece of advice? “Life is a thinking man’s game.”

You can find more of Cardboard Safari in their Etsy shop CardboardSafari, and on their own website, www.cardboardsafari.com {which also includes links to their stockists around the world).