Small biz how-to : Should I have a blog for my business?

keyboard - kathleenstephens on society6

{keyboard – kathleenstephens on society6}


OK, so you have an online business on Etsy. You’re in the forums regularly, asking questions and commenting to learn and also to be seen; you’re spending hours keeping up on Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram/whatever, posting new work to spread your visibility around the web; you’re checking out other people’s blogs to see what’s happening trend-wise and cramming in as much business advice as you can …. that leaves only a tiny bit of time to actually make stuff and list it…. (not to mention you’ve got to organise the kids, walk the dog, cook the dinner, clean the house, wash the clothes, repeat…)  phew! And all the business advice columns you see are saying, “You really should start a blog!”


o.   m.   g.

Do I really HAVE TO? I’m exhausted from everything else.
I have no time. And besides, I have no tech skills.”


OF COURSE it is entirely up to you, and it is something you need to weigh up as to how valuable it might be to your business in terms of the time you will have to put into it. But there are substantial advantages to having a blog.

{First, you should put aside your tech fears. Blogger is THE easiest platform ever to set up; it’s as easy as click on what you want. It comes with a bunch of free templates to choose from so you can alter colours, fonts and backgrounds to suit yourself;  Wordpress is not much harder. Un-tech folk rejoice!  Don’t worry, I will post some more info on setting up a new blog soon -both on Blogger and on WordPress.}

OK, so I really think a blog is a great idea, but I know not everyone thinks so. Let’s look at some pluses and minuses to help you decide whether it’s right for you.




If you’re regularly posting new work, useful information and/or other related interesting things, your visitors are much more likely to visit your site again and again. And it gives long term results – people DO come back to read old content for many reasons, especially if it’s useful! The more your site is visited, the higher you rate in the search engine rankings.



Especially in the creative industries, your customers LOVE seeing what’s on your worktable, and seeing your tools and methods! It can help build your brand through creating stories about what you do and why.



When you post useful information about things in your niche (e.g. trends or how-to), you demonstrate your expertise, which helps to build trust with your potential customers. It also demonstrates your willingness to help your customers, and people always respond in a positive manner to that.



Because you’ll be writing about ideas/products/how-tos in your niche, naturally you will be repeating lots of keywords, and this can also improve your rankings in search engines.



When you are consistently producing original, quality content, your fans will share that content across social media. Word of mouth is way more effective than paid advertising.



Your articles can be shared in your newsletters, either by a brief description with a link, or by a pared-down version of the original article. (What?? You don’t have an email list????   O.o   HORROR! A list is essential for business – I’ll tell you why in another post soon).   Your customers will thank you for providing that useful information. You can also post links to the article in your own social media too, providing further opportunities for it to be shared.



By writing about your customers’ problems, you encourage people to interact with you – your customers, your potential customers and your industry peers. And then you learn from their comments and questions how you can better help them, so that’s a wonderful two-way street.




You really have to evaluate this one for yourself. You should always aim for quality, and quality takes time. If you’re confident in your writing abilities, it’s a definite advantage; but if you’re better with images, that can also work for you. Make image-heavy posts with fewer words and let the pics do the talking for you. (Note though, that search engine always look for words, so make sure your images are labelled with useful, straight-forward labels.)

It depends a bit on your particular industry, but don’t feel like you have to post every day. Once a week or less is fine, but I would suggest that no less than twice per month – this should be enough to keep things active and ticking over.



If you’re not, you’ll soon find your posting becomes more and more sporadic, and your blog will eventually languish in the dark depths of the distant past. This actually looks pretty bad when visitors come to see that there’s been nothing new for a loooong time. It looks like you’ve lost interest – which is kind of the case, isn’t it? Think about it from their point of view.

If you feel like the blog isn’t working for you, be upfront about it and make a final post to let your readers know what’s happening – for instance, let them know you want to put your time into designing new work or you have other projects you’d like to get started on. In the post you can direct them to where they might find more information about up to date works (e.g. your About page, your Facebook page, or ask them to join your email list for updates…)

When you have a clear plan and direction for your blog, you’re much more likely to keep it up. Plan for how much time you intend to devote to it each week, and stick to it.


Blogs CAN be a wonderful addition to your whole internet presence, as long as you understand what they are, how they work and you are prepared to commit to it.

Do you have a question about blogging? Do you feel like you’ll run out of things to talk about? Do you still think your tech skills aren’t enough to get it happening?

I love my blog, but I know blogging is not everyone’s cup of tea! I’d love to know your thoughts if you’re hesitant to start one,  so tell me in the comments below. And if you DO have a blog, what problems have you encountered in setting it up/writing/editing/finding images or ANYTHING.


I’ll be back in the near future with a post on all the basics of how to actually set up a blog on your website. Have you got specific questions about your particular setup? Let me know! 

Julie x

Etsy : Is it on the slippery slope from handmade to manufacture? - textile ring – textile ring

 {all images are linked to their respective shops}

There has been been a debate raging ever since Etsy decided to change its policies on what constituted ‘handmade’ late last year. Those policies now allow designers and makers to outsource a substantial amount of what they do to manufacturers.

On the surface, that means that Etsy sellers who are struggling to keep up with demand can use outside help in order to grow their businesses beyond the kitchen table and the spare room. It means they can pass on the time-consuming and fiddly bits of what they do, leaving them with more time to put their efforts into the areas they’re good at and doing what they love doing, giving them the space to breathe and move forward. On the surface, it means designers and makers now have unlimited potential for success.

Those who agree with the change suggest that it’s unfair for Etsy to remain fixed in their outlook and therefore curtail the growth of these businesses. As Julie suggests in this Facebook discussion; “As a small business owner, I try to figure out the best ways to adapt to growth and I think Etsy is just doing the same. Are they really expected to start turning away sellers once they reach a certain level of “success”? “ - embroidered owl – embroidered owl


On the flipside is the argument by some that Etsy, who has championed the handmade movement around the world since its inception in 2005 and has grown its own business by focusing on that key fact, is no longer that champion, but instead has become just another part of the capitalist machine – a dollar-hungry wolf dressed up in hand-spun sheep’s clothing. Many sellers are bitter about the changes, and say that it opens the floodgates for cheap, factory-made goods; they say that Etsy is turning itself into a second eBay.

The problems raised are several; not only is there the potential for Etsy to mislead or misrepresent who and what they are, there is also the problem of visibility for smaller sellers – their product gets swamped in a sea of factory-made. Buyers confronted with too much choice might either not consider the method of production, or if they do, simply get frustrated and click away.

Some sellers consider that Etsy’s change of policy ends up pitting successful sellers against factories. Helen, commenting on this article on says “I don’t buy it. Instead of solving a problem Etsy has had since the beginning – keeping factory made items off their site – they seem to be embracing it under the guise of solving another problem – helping people who have “outgrown” them.” - 3 crochet bottles – 3 crochet bottles


Which brings up yet another issue that Etsy has had from pretty much the get-go – sneaky factories and resellers posing as handmade businesses. This has ALWAYS been an issue, and one that always will be, as long as there are unscrupulous people in the world out for a quick buck. Is the change of policy going to alter that in any way?

I think we need to get a bit up close and personal with the new Etsy Guidelines to find the answers.


Everything on Etsy must be Handmade, Vintage, or a Craft Supply.

Handmade items are designed and created by the shops that sell them. Because transparency matters on Etsy, we ask sellers to list shop members and share information about manufacturers involved in creating their items. Reselling an item you were not involved in creating is not allowed in our handmade category. “

They also expect that you will –

Maintain a Transparent Shop.

People come to Etsy to buy unique goods directly from artists, artisans, and curators. Make sure that your items are allowed to be sold on Etsy and that you are representing yourself, your business, and your items accurately.”

Among the conditions of selling, they expect that sellers will –

  • “Only list items in your shop that are for sale and fall into one of our three categories (handmade, vintage, or craft supplies). 
  • Items must be accurately represented in listings and listing photos. 
  • Respect the intellectual property of others. If you feel someone has violated your copyright, you can report it to Etsy.
  • For sellers of Handmade items:
    • Do not resell items in our Handmade category.
    • Describe every person involved in the making of an item in your shop. 
    • If you work with an outside manufacturer to make items that you have designed, we ask that you share additional information with Etsy and share information about the manufacturers you work with on your shop and listings. We also expect that you choose ethical manufacturing partners.”

That last condition will most obviously exclude goods that might be handmade, but is produced by cheap, foreign and possibly even child-labour.


All of that seems pretty clear to me.


If all the sellers in the Etsy marketplace were ethical and honest, Etsy wouldn’t have a problem. Would they?


Now while we’re about it, I also take issue on the quality of what many of those same, complaining, small-time sellers pass off as “handmade”. Like all the folk with a pair of pliers and a box of beads who call themselves “jewellers”. Did they make those beads? Nuh-uh. Did they make the clasp? No sir-eee. Could they identify the working properties of different metals, and shape, solder and polish them? Hmmmmm….
(more of my thoughts on quality and skill here).

That aside, there have also been issues surrounding those who manufacture items with the new technologies – 3D printing is the obvious example. High quality prints are not available to the home-based designer; they have to outsource to companies like Shapeways. The new guidelines recognise and incorporate those technologies. - mira handmade shoes with violin keys – mira handmade shoes with violin keys


There have been some enlightening comments in these discussions. Are all the complaints coming from the small-fry of the Etsy world?

From Dennisse in the Facebook discussion: “I also feel that most people that sell their stuff on Etsy don’t have a business mindset and that means that they limit themselves. They’re creators and designers but for the most part, clueless about the entrepreneur world.”

And this from Dana in the same discussion : “I look at Etsy as a starting place- as you grow and build your brand, it’s time to put on your big girl pants and get your own website. Don’t just hang around forever and overstay your welcome. It’s not that hard to establish your own website, store, and customer base. Why would anyone want to hang around where they have to share the customers that they work so hard to get anyhow?”

But I think Allison hit the nail on the head with this comment : “It’s not a question of should. Etsy is a business, not a service. Though many of us may have once thought we were in some kind of visionary partnership, we were much mistaken. Etsy has consistently changed its terms and its product after it has been purchased by the users. A seller opens a shop, lists items, and expects the payment for listings to provide a consistent shopfront from day to day but this isn’t the reality. Etsy does what it wants, when it wants, for as long as it wants, for whom it wants. Any conversation about what Etsy should do, as if Etsy were a democracy, an online platform of, by, and for the community, is wasted breath.”


No, Etsy is not a democracy, it is a business.
They evolve and change as they grow, just like any business.


Etsy sellers need to take that on board. If they’re not open to change, then maybe they should get out. And perhaps Etsy simply has a marketing problem here. Or an administration problem.

If, as Chad Dickerson (Etsy CEO) says, ” The one-person shop is still the heart of Etsy” (1), then maybe they need to put more resources into monitoring what’s happening under their banner, to ensure that their promise of “handmade” rings true. - marguerite ear studs – marguerite ear studs


Whatever its current problems, it’s still a strong and thriving place. It’s a fabulous intro and business training ground to so many creative people with big ideas and few resources. I for one have learnt massive amounts from the experiences I’ve had and friendships I’ve made (and still have!) over the past five years.


There’s no straight forward answer, but I will stand up and say, I still believe in Etsy. Do you?

Or do you think I’m just being a Pollyanna?

Julie X


The crafted object : Quality ~ it’s in the details

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said “God is in the details.”

Quality is being purposeful and attentive to all those little things that many of us rush over, and is the reward for those of us who choose to heed we see.


Rebecca Hannon - 'cobblestone' brooch - front and back {via}

Rebecca Hannon – ‘cobblestone’ brooch – front and back


 It’s in the interiors and undersides of objects.



yumiko higuchi {via}

yumiko higuchi


 It’s present in immense skill and precision.



thyme tealight - {}

thyme tealight – {}


 It’s in the understanding of materials, and how they look when the light catches them.



Molly Hatch  cups {via}

Molly Hatch cups



yumi okita -

yumi okita – cross’s wave moth



And NONE of it is made by casual fiddlers or doodlers.


Build your vision, build your skills by years of long, hard work; 

and one day quality will appear, as if by magic. 



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 -

{red landscape earrings –}


dirigible plum earrings -

{Luna Lovegood dirigible plum earrings –}


green bastard pendant -

{green bastard pendant –}


spaceship pendant -

{spaceship pendant –}



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.


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.

Opinion : 3D printing and craft

Just how do 3D printing and craft fit together? Is it just a matter of using a virtual image or scanning in what you want and shoving a copy of that thing out of the printer? Or as many copies as you want out of the printer?

And how is that craft?


3D printing and craft : Igor Knezevic - 3D printed lampshade

Igor Knezevic – 3D printed lampshade –

 {click image for link}


Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are several different types of 3D printing. Early versions used to shoot precise laser beams through a plastic soup, and where the beam struck, the soup hardened. Most commonly now, there is Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) which works kind of like an ordinary inkjet printer, spitting out a string of plastic (or metal etc), building the image up in layers (these are the type of machines made by Makerbot and Filabot). A newer type is Selective Laser Melting (SLM), and builds on original ideas, using a high-powered laser beam to fuse together finely powdered metal.


The very biggest advantage of any of these types of printing is that as long as you can put the design on screen, you can print it out. Infinite flexibility. (Almost.)



3d photobooth portraits from

3d photobooth portraits –

{omote 3D was a pop-up event last year in Japan that involved scanning members of the public in a special booth and printing them out in full colour. There were even family portraits.}


There are, however, some serious drawbacks to 3d printing.


1. you can steal designs. Would you like your own Eames chair rip-off? How about some new Lego? And … how about that cute new iphone cover you just saw on Etsy? Breach of copyright is not only dishonest, for small businesses it can be downright devastating. (More of my thoughts on copyright in the digital age here.)

2. technology grows old quickly. Just like the increasing number of old phones and old computers, there will be an increasing number of obsolete printers, discarded in favour of cleaner, faster, more flexible machines. What do we do with old tech? We already have an uneasy relationship with our growing mountain of tech waste. Out of sight out of mind is no solution at all.

3. more waste. You can’t recycle your unwanted creations easily. What do you do with all those ugly bits of plastic experiment and bad prints that you can’t use/don’t want? Filabot do make a machine to reclaim some plastics – but that’s an extra piece of equipment with extra maintenance and extra expense, which is also subject to becoming outdated in the future.


But of course, when the technology is used properly, there are excellent advantages.


1. less waste. Despite the production of unwanted objects that may be difficult to recycle, overall there is less waste during the manufacturing process – think of all the scrap material discarded when cutting, drilling, filing and sanding in more traditional making processes. With additive printing, you only really use as much material as you need.

2. you don’t have to make new moulds for every new product that you try. You use no moulds at all.

3. you get exactly what you want. Especially useful when you can’t find what you want in the shops. Can’t find that rare spare part for your dooverlacky? Print it out. Got a great idea for a new aerodynamic handbag so you can glide through the shops? Print it out. You can design your product and see it on screen, tweak it and put it through 100s of iterations before deciding to manufacture, instead of building possibly hundreds of test pieces to discard before the final design. In many instances, the physical properties could also be tested virtually, before discovering  problems during the manufacturing process.


So, back to the question of craft. Does 3D manufacturing replace, shift or enhance traditional methods?

Perhaps, because most of us have not had personal experience with this technology,  we might be forgiven for thinking that a maker working in a virtual environment has perfect control over their material. However, consider the growing number of different materials that can be used – this requires a working knowledge of each material’s particular behavioural properties. Then there’s post-processing which is totally hands-on – there are many finishing processes used, such as removing supports, smoothing and sanding,  painting, dyeing, polishing, joining and more.


3D printing and craft : 'landscape04' ring by – ring – landscape04


Renowned  portraitist Chuck Close  utilised digital technology to create a series of loomed tapestry self portraits. They took Close around a year to set up before printing – selecting palettes, running test strips, calibrating. He considers that there is an enormous amount of labour still involved – but that it shifts in focus from the end to the beginning of the project.

In a post on the Facebook Group Critical Craft Forum, the question of 3D printing and craft came up. In the discussion, Kevin Murray reminded us of the furore that photography caused in painting circles when it first became popular in the 1800s. But photography did not replace painting despite the fact that they both produced images. Instead, the new technology helped to push painting in new and exciting directions. He continued; “To say that tool developments are interconnected is not to deprive the artist of any freedoms, but to offer the possibility that new creative practices are opened up in the wake of technological ‘advances’.”(1)

New things! A space for possibilities.

Experimentation is part of the conversation. Take this very cute bear – it’s a traditional stop frame animation, using 50 small 3D printed bears, made by creative agency DBLG, based in London. And it’s beautiful.



In the same discussion on Critical Craft Forum, another group member Rachel said “It is interesting to see how many people have negative feelings towards 3D processes. Implying that when using those processes, you are not using your brain only shows a lack of understanding about the tools and media available. All craft, 3D printed objects included, require creativity, intelligence, I hope originality, and most certainly skill.”

“I think the problem is the mainstream idea that makers using 3D processes are simply scanning objects and shoving them out to the printer. This is just wrong. What you’re seeing are examples of how “cool” the new technology is on the surface, not what it can do when a skilled maker is behind the tools.”


“Junk can be made with traditional processes and junk can be made with new processes.”


“Just as photography did not replace painting, 3D processes do not replace traditional processes. All are valid mediums of making. Objects created are deemed successful or unsuccessful due to the skill, efforts, and creativity of the maker, not the tools or medium. Rejecting a medium or set of tools because it is not what you would prefer to use, or you don’t understand them, doesn’t move anyone or any field forward.”



At the intersection of digital and handmade, artists are exploring ways of how to include the human touch using digital tools.

One has constructed an environment where a gluegun-type pen is wielded freehand, but where it intersects with the projected virtual computer model, the holder of the pen experiences resistance so that they know where the model should be made; however they still have the freedom to express their craft knowledge as well as be inclusive of the natural imperfections of the handmade object.

Design collaborative Unfold have produced technology that scans your moving hands, and so allows you to shape your form in the air while you see it on screen, becoming like a virtual potter’s wheel.

Architectural and film concept designer Igor Knezevic gets me thinking on a whole different level. ” I am waiting for the day to come when we can do 3D printing on a micro and nano scale so then you go and create not only a form, but also the material properties and how it behaves … imagine foamy, spongy, gnarly materials… and somehow get graphene into the mix. This is going to get crazy.”(2)

There are endless possibilities to be explored; both digital and traditional will grow, mix, change and move into their own paths.

Susan Taing, director of 3D printing company  says “It’s like the food industry. For years people bought cheap chicken and beef and didn’t care where it came from. Then they got interested in locally grown food, and that started a movement. The same thing will happen with products—we’ll go back to a more artisanal market, with a lot of smaller local hubs, enabled by technology.”(3)


3D printing and craft : 3D rice cereal 2013 by  Janne Kyttanen

3d rice cereal 2013 by Janne Kyttanen

{food itself is another frontier. rice cereal was printed in the shapes of Janne Kyttanen’s signature pieces – heads, light fixtures, shoes, iphone covers, and his signature .}


So how will 3D printers fit into our lives in the future? There are several scenarios.  Small 3D printers for the home are becoming more commonplace;  although they are limited in their capabilities and the quality of their output, still, you can use your own software and create your own things.  Or, you can contribute to sites such as Thingiverse (an offshoot company of Makerbot), which is like an opensource community – upload and share your designs.

At the other end of the spectrum are high end specialist printers that are capable of printing in various types of materials, where designers can send their files to be printed professionally.  Companies like Shapeways work with architects, designers and more.

Certainly 3D printing is gaining in momentum. Will it extend to the point where there is a ‘copyshop’ in every suburb, so that locals can go and get anything they need? Car parts, new chairs, specialty tools for other DIY projects. Who knows?

While you’re about it, check out the 159 PAGES worth of 3D printed goods on Etsy – some are good, some are very, very bad, and some are, well, just meh. Just like any other craft.


How do YOU see 3D printing fitting into what you do – is there any possibility? Specialist tools for your traditional craft? Decorated accessories for your existing tools? New design ideas for jewellery?  Or even a new coffee cup to drink from while you work? I would LOVE to hear from you especially if you already incorporate these technologies in your work.

Cheers! Julie X

Hot or not? Ombre

Do you think that the trend for ombre is on its way out? That’s how it seems to me ~ no longer is my Pinterest feed filled with toned tights and layered cakes like it used to be.


5 plates -

{designlump – 5 plates}


sef - sine wave

{sef – sine wave}


But I must confess that even though I’m not one for dip-dyed hair or cardigans, I still have a secret hankering for all things gradated. From when I was small and I first discovered drawing, I loved seeing how I could change the pressure on my pencil and make light gradually become dark. I loved arranging my big collection of coloured pencils into rainbows, and sorting my dolls by size. I loved being visually sucked down the train lines to where the tracks converge; looking from the horizon to the sky and seeing the soft shift in tone and the halo surrounding the sun.

It was what I found so seductive about the desert. Those sand dunes? Smooth.


nel linsen - necklace

{nel linsen – paper necklace}



hiroshi sugimoto - seascape at cape breton

{hiroshi sugimoto – seascape at cape breton}



Rosa Frei - Sahara desert of Morocco

{Rosa Frei – Sahara desert of Morocco}


Like all design elements, I think gradation will never go out of fashion. It just has to be used well.

So what do you think? Do you have some embarrassing ombre in your wardrobe or home? Think carefully about why you no longer like it – perhaps it’s not the effect itself, maybe it just wasn’t used well in the first place.