Small biz how-to : Monday Mini Makeovers {part 5}
Monday Mini Makeovers {part 5}transformations - this way - photo - lulus thai noodle shop - RedHedgePhotos etsy

{image – Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop by RedHedgePhotos.etsy.com}

 

Welcome to Part 5 of Monday Mini Makeovers! I hope you’re enjoying this series, but more importantly, I hope you’re learning some great stuff too! I know I am – the more I figure out what works and what doesn’t work for others, the more I learn about how I can improve my own biz. AND I get to meet some wonderful people and see some great products too!

So, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock or something and wondering what this is all about, this segment is aimed at showcasing the websites of creative micro-businesses just like yours, and giving them the once-over. For each biz I feature, I will give my honest opinion about my initial impressions of their site, with the idea that not only do these lovely people benefit from having a fresh set of eyes over their online presence, but that everyone who reads this can also get tips on how to charge up their own websites and shopfronts.

Would you like one for your biz too? You can! Monday Mini Makeovers are open to the public, so if you’ve got any sort of creative small biz and you’d like me to take a look at your online shop or website, read more about what to do here.}

OK, let’s meet this week’s lovely folk!

 

Belinda from Bell Designs

belldesigns.etsy.com

belldesigns.etsy.com

 

Hi to Belinda from BellDesigns.

Belinda has a beautifully crafted range of jewellery that she makes in her home studio on a rural property just outside Adelaide. She’s got some lovely work, and her shop is doing OK so far (excellent reviews with a 5 star rating is definitely admirable). I think just a few little tweaks will help her shop to really ‘pop’!

Most of Belinda’s work is in silver, and she has styled her product shots with various backgrounds to present a generally monochromatic theme to her whole shop – a range of white, grey or black stones, with the occasional hint of wood. This is fine, but it’s important to make sure that lots of greys don’t make it all too dark.

Starting with her shop banner, I would lighten and brighten the image; I would probably also turn up the colour saturation a little to show off the gold and make it seem a bit ‘warmer’. In the same way, several of her product images would also benefit from being brightened up a little – some of them are a bit dark, and/or need a bit more contrast to show them off.  I would probably also limit the backgrounds to two or three types – consistency makes for a neater looking shop.

‘Bell Designs’ is a lovely name, evocative of bell-like sounds and everything lyrical and beautiful. It would be great if the shop banner reflected this a bit more – think of the flowing curves of many of the jewellery designs. Inspiration might come from the flowing lines of nature, using plants like lilies and ferns as a starting point.

With regard to her Policies page, the Welcome message could be improved. Don’t send your customers elsewhere for information – it doesn’t hurt at all to repeat your happy welcome and brief intro. Customers like to see friendly and happy! There are also a few typos and grammatical errors that should be fixed. If you’re stuck for what sorts of things to include or change, go to some of your favourite Etsy shops and have a read through their policies; after reading half a dozen or more, you are bound to get a better idea of what does and doesn’t work!

I love Belinda’s photo of the country on her About page! And it’s good to include general shots of the workshop and jewellery display. Cute puppies are also always a winner in my books – but I’d suggest getting them out and about in the countryside being happy – grab a great photo of them there, to re-emphasise the rural/handmade setting and convey a sense of how much you enjoy where you are.

It’s great that you give information about caring for your jewellery in your Shop announcement, but perhaps this info could also be included elsewhere? e.g on your policies page somewhere, and most certainly in a little info sheet when you post their order.

Now to the DESCRIPTIONS of items. I’m glad you give the definition of what gold-filled jewellery actually is, and how thick the gold is. Lots of customers still have no idea and might think that it’s actually filled with gold!!

Two other things would be helpful in each product’s description.

  1. Your first paragraph is the most important one – give them a beautiful reason to want this item! If they like it, they will want to read more about it. For instance, your intro could read, “This is my most popular bracelet – called the ‘jingle-jangle’ because it makes such a wonderful sound when it’s worn!”

  2. While you give the actual measurements of each item (and note, it would be helpful to list these in both cm AND inches), we all know that bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and so a link to proper measurement guides would be very helpful. Direct them to size charts somewhere, either on the web, or offer them as a printable PDF so they can figure it out for themselves. I have also seen useful pictures that show you how low different length chains hang around your neck .

 

Phew! I know that might sound like a lot, but really, each one is a general tweak. It’s the little details that add so much to the overall finish and professional presentation – for your items AND your shop.

 

Justine from Yarn for Baby

yarnforbaby.etsy.com

yarnforbaby.etsy.com

 

Hello and welcome to Justine from YarnForBaby.

Justine makes a very cute range of clothing and accessories for babies and small kids – I encourage you to check out her Giraffe set, or the Elephant suit!

Generally speaking, this is a very lovely, fresh looking shop. The product photos are good – clean white backgrounds, and colourful, bright clear images. One thing I’ve noticed though is that there are very few images of babies wearing the items. I know it’s not practical to have photos of your items being worn for EVERY product, but think about doing it for some – especially those items that are reproducible, and are made specifically for photo shoots. It could be a good investment in your business to collaborate with a photographer and get some great shots of a few different sets being worn (perhaps set on a pale background so they fit in with the rest of your photos). Do you have friends with small children you can borrow? Previous local customers that you can contact? Having the occasional picture of a worn set interspersing the ‘standard’ images will make your shop look more interesting and add some reality/depth to what you do.

Your shop banner would benefit from a little more consideration of your shop’s style. Certainly, it’s good to see some sets being worn here, but the images should be better than just snapshots – the lighting and styling is inconsistent. Think about what the feeling is that you want to convey. A professional looking banner will have consistent styling and colouring, and will convey a mood and say something about your shop – the logo and product images for a discount store are very different to that of a boutique. Spend some time looking around other online stores in your niche, and take notes of what you do and don’t like.

Justine’s About page gives an excellent description of who and what she is, and how much crochet means to her. If she could add the same enthusiasm and passion to her Policies’ “Welcome” section, that would be awesome! It doesn’t have to be more than 1 or 2 sentences, but it would really lift it.

Getting yourself noticed is not just about having a good-looking shop either (although it’s certainly part of it). When you use Social Media, really USE it! Share things from around the internet that interest you; ask questions (not just about your products) – get your customers to talk about themselves, and get a sense of community happening. There are lots of other ways to connect with customers online too – I talk about a few here and here.

fabric dot

Now it’s over to you readers again!

How did YOU go with all of that?

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? Maybe the previous Monday Mini Makeovers  might help. And as always, if you’ve got a specific question let me know in the comments below. – I’m more than happy to help anytime!

AND, if you would like a Mini Monday Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is pop me a line at info@tractorgirl.com.au, with a link to your shop. If you want more information about how the MMMs work, you can read about them here.

See you then!
Julie X

Photography + Craft : Clemens Wirth

Clemens Wirth swears he’s not a wizard despite his red hair. But I have my doubts when I look at his miniature moving dioramas and  think about what has actually gone into making them. I think they’re incredible.

 

clemens wirth - gravity

clemens wirth – gravity

 

An Austrian filmmaker and artist living in Innsbruck, he first got himself a DSLR camera during his multimedia studies at university, and started to experiment in macro photography through investigating both nature and everyday objects. The details of the world have fascinated him ever since.

Despite graduating only three years ago, he’s already worked with an impressive list of clients including BBC1, Working Title Films UK, and Red Bull Media House, and was nominated for the 2012 SXSW Excellence in Title Design Award. In fact, it was his final year project, the title sequence for a film about World War I called Herbst, that got him the SXSW nomination.

 

clemens wirth - figures for herbst

figures for herbst

 

Working with a variety of model railway figures, he created images of the loss surrounding war, detached from reality but perhaps even more poignant for their likening war to a game played with toys.

 

 

His most recent work is a series of still photographs called New Adventures, and he describes it as “the end result of my previously learned experiences in miniature and diorama. I love to work on a small scale, to handcraft, to tinker, to make, to tell little stories and finally pack it all together in a picture where there is room for your own interpretation.”

 

clemens wirth - above the clouds

clemens wirth – above the clouds

 

clemens wirth - fly me to the moon

clemens wirth – fly me to the moon

 

clemens wirth - heavy rain

clemens wirth – heavy rain

 

clemens wirth - fireflies

clemens wirth – fireflies

 

 

clemens wirth - herbst

clemens wirth – herbst

 

You can find out more about him on his own site, www.clemenswirth.com, and purchase prints from his Etsy shop, ClemensWirth.

 

clemens in the studio

in the studio

 

The crafted object : Su Blackwell {papercut}

Su Blackwell : papercuts

In secret forests small creatures lie low and trees whisper their stories to each other through their leaves and branches. Light plays games of hide and seek with shadows as solitary wanderers search out their destinations. Birds sing quiet songs of loneliness, despite the company they keep.

 

su blackwell - the woodcutters hut

su blackwell – the woodcutters hut

 

The storybook papercuts of Su Blackwell are evocative; imbued with a sense of melancholy and longing, of magic, mystery and intrepid adventuring on a childhood scale.

 

“As a child, I spent a lot of time playing in the woods near to my home, in my own make-believe world. I gave the trees names and believed they would protect me. I made dens, with curtains and carpets that I scavenged from home.”

 

su blackwell - the raven (photo by jaron james)

su blackwell – the raven (photo by jaron james)

 

After school, Su drifted into textiles at the local college in Sheffield, and discovered she loved it so much she continued, eventually receiving her MA in Textiles from the Royal College of Art in London in 2003. Now living and working in West London, she has designed large-scale theatre sets, she contributes to regular columns in Intelligent Life magazine and Harpers Bazaar UK,  and her clients have included Disney-Hyperion, Penguin books, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, British Airways and Vogue Deutsch, and has exhibited extensively.

 

su blackwell - treasure island

su blackwell – treasure island

 

Her foray into dioramas started after a trip to Thailand, when she found a beautiful second-hand book on the Kao San Road. “My father had passed away while I was studying at the RCA, and I was thinking about life, death, and the in-between. I created my first book-sculpture, ‘The Quiet American’, cutting moths from the book with a craft-knife. The piece was inspired by a Chinese legend, about two lovers whose souls re-emerge from burnt ashes in the shape of two moths. I began working with paper, because of its connection to spiritual rituals that I encountered in South East Asia, and this in turn led me to work with books, and fairy tales.”

She says although she always starts with an idea, it’s the materials that lead the work. And while textiles are still important to her, she says that paper is her medium of choice for several reasons. “Paper is more malleable to the hand, it has a visible memory. I am not tired of working with paper, in fact the more I work with it, the more fascinating it becomes. Fabric is less forgiving than paper.”

“Paper has been used for communication since its invention; either between humans or in an attempt to communicate with the spirit world. I employ this delicate, accessible medium and use irreversible, destructive processes to reflect on the precariousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our life, dreams and ambitions.”

 

su blackwell - nature in britain

su blackwell – nature in britain

 

Her influences are many, including Ann Hamilton, Joseph Cornell and Jonathan Callan. She says it was particularly Jonathan Callan’s show ‘Interference’ at The New Art Gallery in Walsall that had the most profound influence on her, for his ability to push the boundaries of materials.

 

su blackwell - the baron in the trees

su blackwell – the baron in the trees

 

su blackwell - the baron in the trees (detail)

su blackwell – the baron in the trees (detail)

 

There is always respect for the book. “I always read the book first, at least once or twice, and then I begin to create the work, cutting out, adding details. The detail is what brings it all together, the magic element. It is a tediously slow process.”

You can find more of Su’s work on her own website, www.sublackwell.co.uk.

 

Surface design : Brie Harrison

Brie Harrison is obsessed with her garden. So it’s no wonder that her patterns are filled with bright, happy, colourful flowers. Oodles of them, in clear, scandi and folk-inspired shapes.

 

brie harrison - autumn garden

brie harrison – autumn garden

 

She is also obsessed with pattern. She received a degree in Printed Textile design for Fashion and worked in this industry for a number of years. Feeling the need to break out a bit, she took the plunge and started on her own work with a style that was a bit more illustrative. Shortly after, her friend, the indomitable illustrator Mike Perry asked her to put some work forward for his book about hand drawn patterns, called ‘Over & Over’. The book was beautiful, and Brie says it was a big boost for her confidence and encouraged her to do more.

Another serious boost came when she saw her Art Angels wrapping paper for sale in  Liberty London. “It made me feel very happy.” Now, she also produces work for BlueQ, Radley London, Galison stationers, and Rugs USA.

 

brie harrison - daffodil field

brie harrison – daffodil field

 

Brie spends hours working from nature – taking photos, drawing in her sketchbooks. Flowers, berries and seedpods are especially important to her.

When she does get into her workspace, it’s a happy, orderly clutter, with a turquoise chest of drawers,  piles of postcards, photos, books and papers. She says she always has the radio playing, and many cups of tea help to fuel her day.

 

brie harrison - spring buds

brie harrison – spring buds

 

Even as a child, Brie told me she was always busy creating. “I was always at my miniature wooden table that my Dad made, drawing and colouring and from a very young age.  There are a few special projects that come to mind: there was a giant drawing of Rupert the bear I did for my Dad’s 39th birthday; there were lots of fimo cat magnets, and one time I painted a life size sunflower in my bedroom on the wall when I was about 12 (gold sponging included. Hmmm).”

 

brie harrison - vintage rose

brie harrison – vintage rose

 

I asked her what she would do if I gave her a cardboard box, a marker pen and a sharp knife.  “I would make a play-oven for my friend’s little 3 year-old, Iris, so she could bake me a pretend carrot cake. She’s so cool!”

Her best piece of advice?

“Accept that we are all different.”

 

brie harrison - wallflowers

brie harrison – wallflowers

 

You can find more of Brie’s delectable flowers on her website, briedee.com.

 

Hot or Not? Wire Wrapped

Opinion :

Wire wrapped jewellery has to be one of the most abused methods of construction known to metal craft. The plethora of ugly, misshapen abominations I endured while searching for good examples to show you meant that I searched through FIFTY PAGES on Etsy before I came up with these few examples (that’s around 2,400 products if you’re wondering).

These are the best I’ve found. While they’re not all exactly my cup of tea, these examples do display admirable skill, attention to detail, precision and a sense of form and composition.

 

red landscape earrings - KUKLAstudio.etsy.com

{red landscape earrings – KUKLAstudio.etsy.com}

 

dirigible plum earrings - yoola.etsy.com

{Luna Lovegood dirigible plum earrings – yoola.etsy.com}

 

green bastard pendant - NoeticEffect.etsy.com

{green bastard pendant – NoeticEffect.etsy.com}

 

spaceship pendant - INMIUM.etsy.com

{spaceship pendant – IMNIUM.etsy.com}

 

 

Why is there so much bad? I really believe it’s because of that gigantic monster of a double-edged sword that is the DIY movement. I love the DIY movement because it has encouraged people to create and do and believe in handmade.

Sadly, it has also meant that anyone and everyone with a pair of pliers and a hank of wire has decided to call themselves a ‘jeweller’. Crikey. It’s like me changing the washer in a tap and calling myself a plumber.

No.

It’s a question of quality. Like any material, with any method, there are utterly stunning examples. They all have three crucial ingredients -

 

imagination + design knowledge + skill

 

Try these from the grand dame of wire jewellery, Arline Fisch.  She is a US jeweller who has been translating textile techniques through wire for most of her working career – more than 50 years.

 

Arline Fisch - Lace Hub Necklace

Arline Fisch – Lace Hub Necklace

 

Arline Fisch - medallion halo necklace

Arline Fisch – medallion halo necklace

 

And watch out when she chooses to introduce coloured wire into her work.

 

Arline Fisch - coral wreath necklace

Arline Fisch – coral wreath necklace

 

Arline Fisch - corals - photo William Gullette

Arline Fisch – corals – photo William Gullette

 

Craft needs more skill.

The world needs more beautiful and less ugly.