A One Handed Update

I want to preface this update by telling you that it is being written with one hand. Do not worry! It’s nothing permanent. My hand has not been hacked off and fed to a crocodile. I do not have a shiny silver hook at the end of my arm. I do however have a tight wrist brace wrapped around my left hand that makes typing a bit difficult. I ask that you please ignore any typos you might find. The English major that I am makes me fix as many as I can, but I warn you, there might be a few.

As to the story behind the brace, sadly it is nothing exciting or glamorous. I wish I could say it happened during a sword fight with a dashing rapscalion, but alas, no such luck. After a week or two of occasional pain, it just gave out on me and now I have a brace to help keep it from moving around and causing more pain.

Now without further ado, the update…

700 Fan Milestone!

On March 25th, my Facebook Page reached the 700 Fan Milestone! I decided to celebrate in a manner similar to the 500 Fan Milestone I reached nearly two months ago… I decided to host a giveaway!

My 700 Fans Thank You Giveaway began last week and continues for the next five days. The winner will receive 70% off his or her ENTIRE* purchase of merchandise from SMARTdesigns!!

You can enter in a number of different ways daily for the remainder of the giveaway.

Enter Here: Giveaway

I am very anxious and excited to choose a winner for this giveaway and I really hope you all take a moment to enter! I really enjoy giveaways because I believe it is an excellent way to give back to the fans who have supported me along the way and have helped me get to where I am today! Plus, it’s fun!!

*Excludes custom business artwork (logos, banners, business cards etc.)

50 States Challenge!

In the excitement of reaching my next milestone, I decided to play a fun game on my Facebook Page. The game is called the 50 States Challenge and its goal is to see where my 700+ fans are located.

I started this game on March 27th with this image:

USA Fan MapWithin only an hour, I had filled 16 states! Now, a couple days later, I have 33 states accounted for!!

USA Fan Map 33

I have enjoyed this game so much that I plan to continue it with regional and world maps when I complete the 50 States Challenge! I will upload maps to my Facebook page for each region when I complete one, however, if you are anxious to participate, please comment on this blog post and tell me where you’re reading from!

Alright, that’s it for me today. When you only type a couple words a minute, a blog entry could end up taking all day! I’ll write more when I get my other hand back!

 

Getting Back on Track: New Artwork!

Let me just start by saying, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Gee, it’s been awhile since Stacey updated her blog… what’s that about?!”

And you’re exactly right. To fill you in on everything crazy that has kept me away from my blog for nearly a month would take hours, so I’ll just sum things up for you:

I got a new day job, I left my old job, and I’ve been attempting a plethora of spring cleaning tasks. I’ve also started a new “diet” for lack of a better word and have been trying to eat healthier and exercise (in all my free time).

Things have been pretty hectic, but I am finally starting to settle into a new routine that allows me to spend most mornings drinking coffee and working on new artwork. So, without further ado, here’s a look at my newest pieces:

Three Red Flowers:

A few weeks ago, I sat down at my computer to attempt floral artwork for the first time.

Two summers ago, I had the chance to backpack across Western Europe and one of my many souvenirs is a painting that I purchased from a street artist in Florence. I decided that I would attempt to mimic this painting as a way of teaching myself the technique of “painting” flowers. I propped this piece against my pencil holder beside my laptop and started studying the lines of each petal.

I did not end up copying this painting. What happened instead is something that I never expected: I saw something new in the shape of a petal and went with it. Instead of copying the painting, I created a new piece in my own style. By the time I finished, the only similarity between the two pieces is that both were pictures of red flowers.

This is what I came up with:

3 Red Flowers Pic w frame cropped

I love the way this piece turned out! The minimalism of it just feels so fresh to me! What do you think about this piece?

This piece is available for purchase on Etsy, or directly through me via PayPal: $10.00

Artwork for Your Kitchen or Bar:

After I created “Three Red Flowers,” I got caught up in everything and wasn’t able to work on anything new for a couple weeks, but yesterday, I started a new line of artwork!

I have been receiving a lot of suggestions from many of you on Facebook about creating artwork for coffee lovers and wine lovers. As I am both, I couldn’t refuse the request! I started a new line of art for kitchens and home bars, and this is what I came up with so far:

We Drink Wine:

We Drink Wine Pic (cropped)

I created this piece in minimalist style to add a sleek and polished look that would really pop. The simple style of minimalism is modern and fresh! The rich purples will bring out the natural color of wine and add something special to any decor!

This piece is available for purchase on Etsy, or directly through me via PayPal: $6.00

I Need Glasses:

After I created the first piece and got rave reviews, I decided I needed to create a couple more to match it! I created this next piece in the same shade of purple used for the text of the first piece:

Glasses Pic (cropped)

This piece is designed to be funny, yet the design itself is anything but! Like the first piece, I used simple lines to create a polished look for this piece. It is fun and fresh but also has a very classy feel to it.

Glasses Pic (multi) (cropped)

In case you’re looking for something a little more funky, I created “I Need Glasses” again as a multicolored piece. This one is brighter, but still conveys the minimalist style of the other two pieces.

Both versions of this piece are available for purchase on Etsy, or directly through me via PayPal: $8.00

What’s Next?

In the coming days and weeks, I plan to make several new pieces for kitchens and bars. I have a whole mental list of ideas (though I should probably transfer it to paper) that I am anxious to create and share with you!

That said, I always welcome ideas and suggestions from you! Is there something you’re looking for that I haven’t thought of yet? Leave me a comment on this post with your ideas! I’m anxious to hear them!

Who doesn’t love a GIVEAWAY?

Last night The All Handmade By ME Team reached a special milestone… only four and a half months since the birth of The All Handmade By ME Team, we have reached… drumroll please… 1500 Facebook Fans!!

1500 Fans Image

As this milestone grew closer, I started talking with a couple of the team leaders about how excited we were. We decided that we wanted to do something special to celebrate. That was when Stephanie had the idea to host a giveaway for the team. Several of the team leaders have hosted our own giveaways in the past and it seemed like a good idea. The difference here was that The All Handmade By ME Team itself does not have a specific product for us to giveaway. So we settled on a gift card and a few of us got together and pulled our own meager savings to purchase an Etsy gift card to give away to the winner of the contest.

Even though we are all short on cash, we thought that this giveaway would be an invaluable asset for the team. Giveaways boost traffic to a page in a way that little else does. They create an influx of new fans and stir up interest in the goings on of the page hosting the giveaway. So we decided it was worth it to us.

I really hope that you will all participate in this giveaway. As you all know, the All Handmade By ME Team is very near and dear to my heart. It is my baby and I want it to grow up and succeed. I want all of my team members to succeed. I want handmade to not only survive, but thrive!

Here’s how it works:

Go to the All Handmade By ME Facebook Page. If you are not already a fan, click LIKE. Liking our page is required in order to enter our contest. Then click on the blue GIVEAWAY tab beneath our cover photo. Then simply follow the instructions on how to enter. There are many different ways to enter and you will be able to enter daily for the duration of the giveaway. You can also CLICK HERE to go directly to our giveaway!

Why you should enter:

First and foremost, if you win, you will get a $25 Etsy gift card to spend on wonderful handmade treasures! But why else should you enter? Because this giveaway will promote this wonderful team. Entering will show us that you support handmade, that you want us to succeed and that you want to help us spread the word. Every entry will help boost our internet reach and spread our message further. Every time you like, comment, or share something from our Facebook page, more people learn about our team.

To sum it all up:

Enter now and enter often! Support handmade!

ENTER HERE: 1500 Fans Giveaway! 

A whole year already?!

Even as I sit down to write this post, I cannot believe what I am writing. SMARTdesigns is one-year-old today. Wow.

1st Anniversary

I’ve thought a lot about what I would write about in this anniversary edition of my blog. Should I talk about the journey that I have traveled? Should I talk about the people who have gotten me to where I am today? Should I update you on the progress I have made? In the end, I decided to focus on the future.

If you would like to read more about the journey SMARTdesigns has had this past year, read my Year in Review blog post. 

Year Number 1:

Before moving on to Year Number 2, I thought I would write a little summary of what I have accomplished with SMARTdesigns since this day last year. Just a little preface to talking about the future if you will. The English Major side of me refuses to jump right in without at least a short introduction to set the stage

As I write this, my Facebook Page has nearly 600 fans. 581 to be exact. I have met some absolutely incredible people through Facebook and Etsy who I have come to call friends. I have close to 200 Twitter followers, nearly 400 Etsy admirers, and… drumroll please… I have sold over 125 pieces of my artwork.

I have included these numbers, not for a display of vanity, but rather as a way of trying to quantify what I can only refer to with sheer bewilderment as success. And for all of this I have but one thing to say: Thank you.

Moving Forward:

I have already accomplished so much. At least ten times what I believed I was capable of accomplishing, not in one year, but in several. So now what? Where do I go from here? How do I top myself?

My biggest goal for SMARTdesigns is to start becoming more successful with the artwork I have for sale. I have had a lot of success with my custom designs for businesses, but to be completely honest, I’ve been a little discouraged by the low number of sales I have made for my artwork. Please don’t misunderstand! I absolutely love doing custom work! I enjoy the challenge that each piece brings and I love working closely with my customers to create something special just for them. That said, my real passion is in the pieces I make just for me, just because I feel inspired to do so. Pieces like A Life for All Seasons. In the coming year, I would like to create more artwork and try to market these pieces to the right audience.

I have recently started working on a whole new line of artwork for children. I wrote a couple days ago about my new line of Fairy Tale Artwork and have since started creating artwork with trains. I am anxious to continue making pieces like these for a couple reasons. First, they’re a lot of fun. I really truly enjoy making them. And second, there’s just something special about creating things that will brighten a child’s bedroom. These pieces combine two of my greatest loves: graphic design and children.

To see the complete line of artwork for girls, click here! To see what I have created for boys, click here! 

Another goal I have is to move the majority of my sales off of Etsy. While I love Etsy and owe them a great percentage of my success, I hope that one day I will outgrow them and their fees. I am already working with my talented cousin to improve this website and set up my own little e-commerce shop here so that future customers will be able to purchase artwork directly from me.

With that in mind, I have absolutely no intention of leaving the All Handmade By ME Team! I plan to continue on Etsy in my capacity as Team Captain for many years to come. I have applied and been accepted into Etsy’s Team Fellowship program where I will be working with the Etsy Admin to test new features available for the promotion of teams. I’m very excited about the program and can’t wait to tell you all what I’m working on for our team! It’s not ready yet, so no spoilers here, but I promise it’ll be worth the wait!

On the subject of the All Handmade By ME Team, another big goal I have is to really get this team out there in the general public! I want people to know who we are and what we stand for so that our handmade items can hope to stand a chance against the cheaper mass produced competition. But, with that said, this isn’t a goal that I can accomplish alone. I need your help. I need you to tell your friends and family about the benefits of buying handmade. I need you to share the All Handmade By ME Team on social media and help us advertise. I need you to talk about, post about, tweet about and blog about our team. You have all been wonderful so far so we just need to make sure we don’t lose momentum!

While my goals for the future are not monetary, I would be lying if I did not include this last one. My overall goal for the future is to one day be able to support myself on my artwork. I know that many (most actually) would say that this is a naive dream, one without the eye of reason, but I don’t care. When I look at everything I have accomplished in just one short year, I am optimistic for the future.

And here’s how I know that this is possible: One year ago, my father told me I was insane. He told me the same thing eleven months ago, and ten, and probably as recently as four months ago. But, in the past couple months, my father, the business man he is, told me that I have accomplished more than he ever imagined. He admitted to me that he was wrong. So dad, I say this to you now and I will say it again on the day I buy my first house with the money I have made as a graphic artist: I told you I could do it.

And now, I turn to the future. I am excited for the road ahead and I can’t wait to travel it with you. Here’s to Year Number 2!

Support LIVING Artists

I have seen an image circulating through Facebook that proclaims:

“Support living artists, the dead ones don’t need it.”

I found this statement really resonated with me but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was about it that stuck in my mind. Maybe it’s the dry humor or maybe it’s the obvious nature of the statement, but I found that I kept coming back to it.

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I apologize for the lack of attribution, but I have seen this image from so many of my fellow artists that I wasn’t quite sure where it originated.

I have been thinking a lot about ways to help my fellow artists and All Handmade By ME Team members (and of course myself) get the message out there to the general public that there is a value to be gained from supporting artists and handmade sellers. What feels so obvious to the artistic community is often lost on the rest of the world. The sad truth is that we live in a world of commercialism and greed where the bottom line is often the only line people care to focus on.

I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to this cultural mindset. I’ll admit it… I’m cheap! Or rather, I have to be extremely money conscious to survive. I’m working several part time jobs just to make ends meet and I still don’t have a place of my own. I am the very definition of a starving artist. And I’m sure many of you are starving artists too.

So what can I do? What can any of us do?

I like to think that I do my part to help the handmade community through ways other than financially. I might not buy everything handmade, but I try to advertise for my friends and teammates so that hopefully others might. It doesn’t put money directly in their pockets, but it helps it find its way there over time.

SMARTdesigns is finally starting to get the kind of traffic that I believe will help me really begin to be successful as a graphic artist. You may ask, to what do I credit this change of events? I truly believe that I owe my growing customer base to the All Handmade By ME Team. When I spend time supporting their businesses, advertising their sales, sharing their items, I find that my items get shared much more frequently than when I focus only on my own business. I cannot stress enough how important I believe it is for artists to support each other.

And of course, when I can afford it, I buy from Etsians nine times out of ten.

Another thing I like to keep in mind is how to help the sellers I buy from avoid fees wherever possible. Did you know that you can wire money through PayPal with only a couple clicks? And yes, PayPal takes a small transaction fee, but it is nothing compared to the fees that Etsy takes out of every sale.

So when I can, I try to buy directly through the person selling the item I want. I don’t save any money by doing so, but it cuts out fees for that person and helps them collect what they really deserve. Just something to keep in mind when you’re shopping in the future!

If you are ever interested in purchasing something from me directly, just contact me! I always appreciate the chance to avoid Etsy fees!

So what then is the point of the quote I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well to me, it means that we need to be conscious of the fact that “starving artist” is a stereotype for a reason… it’s all too often very true. Why should these talented people struggle to make ends meet? I really don’t know the answer to that. All I do know is that I want to do my part to change things so that one day they won’t have to struggle.

_________________________________________________________________________

Unrelated Announcement:

There is still time to enter my 500 Fans Thank You Giveaway! I hadn’t planned to host another giveaway right on the tail of the last one, but I reached 500 Facebook fans much faster than I anticipated!

You can enter daily for the next three days… CLICK HERE!

The prize is $10 off any* item currently in stock in my Etsy shop!

*excluding custom banners and business logos because of the amount of time required to create custom designs.

HIJACKED! (Friday Favorites #12)

Hello all, this is Nichole Archer from the Lilac Lobster. I’ve commandeered Stacey’s blog today as part of her birthday present from me. Everyone deserves to at least have their birthday off. So, without further ado: my Friday favorite: SMARTdesigns by Stacey.

Sorry, there’s some ado..

You all know about some of the amazing things Stacey has accomplished in the past year, she’s posted some details here and most of you know her from Etsy or Facebook. She’s come to know many fellow Etsians as friends, and it warms my heart to know that she’s found such great people that share her interests and passions. But some of you may not know how truly incredible Stacey is. She’s my best friend (so I’m a bit biased, sue me). We’ve had some great times. We bonded over Friends and Lisa Frank (and basically anything from the 90s) and cheered on the Tigers. When my husband and I eloped, she insisted that I have a bouquet, gave me a fondue party, supplied my something borrowed, and was next to me every step of the way. It hasn’t been all rainbows and glitter, though. Over the course of our friendship, we’ve both had our hearts broken, we’ve lost friends that we thought would be around forever, I’ve become a boring and responsible army wife, and now there’s 700 miles between us and we’ve spent way too much time apart. But in spite of all that, all the things that have ended other friendships, we’ve become closer. We’ve taught each other that nothing can replace true friends and that loving yourself and following your dreams is what’s important in life.

P1080587_2
So, who is Stacey to me? Apart from my best friend, my lobster, and the cheese to my wine? She’s a leader, an inspiration, and a motivator. A creative soul that is passionate about what she believes in.

You can see it in her shop. It’s absolutely full of unique digital art that you won’t find anywhere else. She finds inspiration in everything and hearing how excited she is about her next piece always makes me smile. One of my favorite pieces, A Life For All Seasons, was her first piece. It’s the first time she considered herself an artist and it was so nice to see she finally had some of the confidence that I had in her all along.

A Life for All Seasons

A Life for All Seasons — I have this piece proudly hanging in my dining room!

One of Stacey’s favorite pieces is Live, Laugh, Love: “It’s purple and it looks like glitter, you know me.”

Live Laugh Love

Live Laugh Love

You can see it in her custom work. My husband and I eloped, we haven’t had a wedding yet, but we will. A superhero themed wedding. Because we’re awesome, that’s why. And Stacey has done so much to make our graphics special and unique  and exactly what we wanted, because she’s awesome, too. She transformed my drawings and ideas into beautiful pieces that still fit my and my husband’s personalities, and she had some incredible ideas of her own!

“I had the most fun working on your wedding because it was for my best friend and I had someone to work really closely with. And now I’m becoming quite knowledgable about comic books.” I’m really proud of her for that last bit, too.

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You can see it in her efforts with the All Handmade By Me Team, which she founded  only a few short months ago (October 2, to be exact) and now has over 1,500 members. A team specially created with both the buyer and seller in mind. It’s a community of marvelously creative minds making one of a kind handmade artwork and forming lasting friendships.

Jill Brandt of Aksel Arts had this to say: “After the creation of the All Handmade by Me team, I got to know Stacey on a personal level and I can say that she is a wonderful and talented artist and I am so grateful that I get to call her a friend.” There’s not another team like it.

“My goal for the team is that we get people not on Etsy to know about it. I want the rest of the world to know about our team. At that point, the sky’s the limit.” For more information, visit the team page.

You can see it in my shop. Okay, maybe YOU can’t see it, but I sure can. She convinced me to open a shop on Etsy, made all the digital art for my shop and my Facebook page, and she’s always giving me tips and ideas and pointers. She also made my mascot, Lobby the Lobster. “I’m rather partial to Lobby. He’s one of my proudest creations and he gave me the confidence to try new things with SMARTdesigns.” To see all the incredible work Stacey has done for my page, visit my Facbook page and my Etsy shop (a bit of shameless self-promotion is ok, right?).

Stacey started all this because she loves it (and because a little birdy told her it was a brilliant idea; she’s seen my ‘I told ya so’ dance). She loves her customers, she loves her art, and she loves all the new friends she’s made along the way. She motivates me to create something new every day and is an inspiration to me, and I’m sure to everyone on the All Handmade By Me team.

Visit SMARTdesigns on Etsy, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Optimism as a Business Strategy: Friday Favorites #11

Today’s Friday Favorite is a shop owner that I have come to call one of my friends. She is also one of the hardest working, most optimistic people I have ever met. This week, I am featuring Nadia’s Knits!

Picture 91

“I got started knitting when I lived overseas with my grandma and aunt. I always watched them in intrigue at how much patience and focus it took. At the age of 12 they decided to teach me the craft and I learned quickly. When I returned to the states, I focused on my education and later on my career in Social Services. Many years later a friend of mine was telling me about Etsy and she motivated me to open a shop. I started with only one item which I just sold for the holidays. Ideally what I would love to do is to continue to focus on what I enjoy, making one of a kind knits that people love. Granted I may never become a millionaire doing what I love but I am eternally optimistic.” –Nadia

Nadia’s optimism is contagious. I have known her for several months now through the All Handmade By ME Team. She runs our team Facebook Page and is constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to keep people engaged with the team. It hasn’t been easy. Since I founded the team back in October, there have been a lot of ups and downs. There have been a lot of issues that come up and problems that we have had to tackle. But through it all, Nadia stayed optimistic and driven towards promoting our cause.

When I look at Nadia’s work, I too am optimistic for her future. She is incredibly talented! And I say that knowing nothing whatsoever about knitting. But I do know what I like and I love Nadia’s scarves!

il_570xN.533290664_7p4y


Look at the detail work!

I love the detail in her work. The careful time and dedication that clearly goes into each row. It’s stunning.

“My favorite part of the knitting process is the casting on the first row. When I look at the knitting needle, I see the potential of what it could become.” –Nadia

I know exactly what Nadia means! When I’m working on a new piece, it’s so exciting to think about what the end result will look like. I love watching my artwork come together and evolve before my eyes!

Nadia’s Favorite?

I asked Nadia what piece in her shop was her favorite and she told me that they are all her favorites. I can certainly relate to that! But she said that if she had to choose just one, it would be this scarf:

il_570xN.493326387_g2i2

This scarf is one of my favorites as well! I love the bright warm colors! And I love that this scarf would look beautiful with almost any outfit!

A Passion for Handmade:

As I mentioned earlier, Nadia is a team leader in the All Handmade By ME Team. But it is her total passion for handmade and handmade sellers that really compelled me to feature her this week.

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This image is only the most recent that Nadia has made to help promote the team. Every time I turn around she is working to add something special to our team’s Facebook Page to help spread the word about buying handmade.

“I love my banner with the Handmade Badge. I know I have told many members that the Handmade By Me Team is the first team that I have taken an active part in. I think it’s because it speaks to my belief of the importance of handmade creativity and originality.” –Nadia

 All Scarves at Nadia's Knits will be 10% off!

“The All Handmade By ME Team means Handmade Creativity and Originality. This is so forgotten nowadays. Handmade artisans and craftspeople are struggling to MAKE IT doing what they love and that to me is heartbreaking. The team motivates people like me to continue on doing what we love no matter what. It’s a wonderful group of leaders and members looking to spread the word about HANDMADE!” –Nadia

And I couldn’t agree more!

Want to Know More?

Want to learn more about Nadia and Nadia’s Knits? Be sure to check out the following links! Like Nadia said, it is important for us to support handmade sellers and help them live their dream. Let’s send a little love in Nadia’s direction and thank her for all the behind the scenes work she has done for handmade sellers across the world!

Etsy

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Instagram

Looking Back: 2013

With 2013 coming to a close I thought it was appropriate to take some time and look back on the milestones and accomplishments of the year.

Without a doubt, 2013 has been the hardest year of my life thus far. I got my heart broken, I graduated college, and I left a life and people I loved when I moved back to St. Louis after five years in Columbia. And that was just the first half of 2013.

There’s no denying it; 2013 was the hardest year of my life. BUT, it has also been the most rewarding year of my nearly 24 years of existence. In the past eleven months (that’s right, eleven, not twelve) I have accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could. I decided it was high time to ignore my modest inclinations and do a little bragging. So here it goes!

The Beginning:

On February 6, 2013 I launched SMARTdesigns on Facebook. At this point, I hadn’t fully decided what I wanted SMARTdesigns to become, but I knew that I enjoyed graphic design and I really wanted to see what I could make of myself as a designer. I did a few projects for friends and did a lot of experimentation with different programs and techniques.

Logo 400x400 Purple

Things didn’t take off overnight, but the fan page on Facebook started to grow. On February 9, I already had Facebook fans on three continents and by February 15, SMARTdesigns had 60 fans.

In March I started working on artwork for Nichole’s Superhero Themed Wedding. This is when I really think the wheels started churning in my mind. I had so much fun with the artwork for the wedding that I was determined to find a way to make money as a designer.

 Superhero Wedding Save The Date


Superhero Wedding Save The Date

On April 17, 2013, I finished my first big art piece, “A Life For All Seasons.” This is when I realized for the first time that I might actually be a real artist. Up until this point, I had never considered selling artwork. I had thought maybe I was talented enough to sell business logos and fliers, but it wasn’t until people started to call me an artist that I thought I could do more.

A Life for All Seasons (10x24)


A Life for All Seasons — my first art piece

Also in April I received my very first publication as a creative writer! My poem “The Beautiful Octopus” was published in EPIC Literary Magazine.

In May I continued working on new artwork when I wasn’t busy finishing my Creative Writing Thesis and graduating from college. On May 5, 2013 SMARTdesigns reached the 100 fan milestone on Facebook!

 Graduation


Graduation

On May 18, 2013, I graduated from the University of Missouri, Magna Cum Laude with University and Departmental Honors.

And Then I joined Etsy:

On August 27, 2013, I joined Etsy. To be completely honest, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Luckily for me, I met some really wonderful Etsians who helped me get my shop off the ground. In September I continued to make new artwork, but my shop still hadn’t really taken off. I was starting to get a little discouraged when October rolled around and I still had not made my first Etsy sale, but little did I know things were about to get crazy…

The All Handmade By ME Team:

On October 2, 2013, I founded the All Handmade By ME Team. I won’t go into a lot of detail on the origin of the team because I have already blogged about it several times. (If you want to read more about everything exciting that happened in October and early November, click here!)

Things really took off from there! Before I knew it, I was the captain of an amazing team of over 1,000 members, my shop had over 50 sales, and for the first time in my life, people really cared and listened to what I had to say. Me! A 23 year old Etsy newbie!

And Now…

Since my last UPDATE blog entry, a lot of exciting things have happened. My shop has over 100 sales (115 to be exact) and I have received 74 FIVE STAR Reviews for my customer service and the products and services I offer. My Etsy shop has 342 Admirers. SMARTdesigns has 432 Facebook Fans and 175 Twitter Followers. The All Handmade By ME Team has 1,560 active members and is growing every day.

Okay, those are the numbers, but what does it all really mean? It means that I did it. When I opened my Etsy shop in August, I did so to try to prove something to my family and friends. And, I have since realized, to prove something to myself. I needed to see that I could make my own success, not in some office cubicle or in a classroom, but in my own way. That I could be successful without getting a “real job.”

Now, am I making enough money to support myself? No. Not even close. But when I look at everything I have accomplished in the last few months, I am hopeful and optimistic that someday soon, maybe I will be able to do so. Maybe.

In terms of money, no, I really haven’t “succeeded” yet. But I look at everything that has happened and I feel successful. For the first time in my life, I have a real sense of pride. I am proud of my contribution to the handmade community. I am proud of the small chunk of change I have earned for my artwork. I am proud to say that in 2013, I have made a difference. For myself and, I believe, for my peers.

It seems Etsy thinks so too! The other day I received a gift in the mail from the people at Etsy:

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This gift from Etsy just further reminded me that the things I do really do matter to people. And I cannot begin to explain how much that realization has meant to me.

Is my life exactly where I wanted it to be on this day last year? Nope. Is it even close to what I expected my life to look like today? Not in the slightest. I hit a lot of bumps and obstacles over the past year and my life veered way off the course I had planned. But when I think about everything I have done and everything that has happened because of it, I could not be more thankful for those obstacles.

Because guess what? I did all of this myself. It turns out, I don’t need a man to make me happy. Okay, so I don’t have anyone to kiss at midnight, but you know what? It turns out, I don’t need one.

Support Handmade Sale Banner 2

I would like to take a moment to thank the people who have helped me this year. First and foremost, thank you Nichole. Without you, I probably never would have thought to pursue this dream in the first place. Thank you to my grandparents who have followed every step of this journey with me. Your excitement keeps me excited! Thank you Jill for helping me with technical stuff and for being a good friend along the way. Thank you to the leaders of the All Handmade By ME Team. Without you, this team would not be where it is today. And last but not least, thank you to the All Handmade By ME Team! You are the most supportive group of people I have ever met!

“Because you’re there for me too…” Friday Favorites #9

Today’s Friday Feature is a shop that is very special to me. This talented artist inspired me (and convinced me) to pursue my graphic design in the first place. Without her, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to start SMARTdesigns at all. So, it is only natural that once my business became successful, I started bugging her about starting her own shop. A bit of karmic payback if you will.

I am proud to announce that my very best friend, Nichole Archer, has taken the plunge! Her shop, The Lilac Lobster is now open!

LilacLobster


This is a look at Nichole’s Etsy shop! It’s brand new, so her inventory isn’t huge yet, but her list of ideas is several pages long!

How it all started:

Almost a year ago (February, 2013) Nichole came to me about creating fliers for the bar she managed. She knew that I liked to create things on the computer and thought I should go into business for myself. To be honest, I thought she was a little crazy… But then, that’s Nichole for you! Nichole is my biggest supporter and she believes in me more than I believe in myself most days. So she prodded and cajoled and I caved. I created my Facebook page for SMARTdesigns!

I never dreamed that I’d be successful and I never even considered opening a shop on Etsy at this point. But Nichole kept giving me projects. I created two fliers and a new logo for the bar and had no sooner finished that than Nichole had a new project… She decided to have a superhero themed wedding and wanted me to make all the artwork! I’ll definitely have to do an entire blog about this wedding one of these days.

Every time I finished a new piece, and often even before the piece was finished, I would send Nichole pictures. She has been my extra set of eyes since the beginning.

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This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us! We’re tailgating for a Mizzou Tigers Football Game!

Then what?

This summer, Nichole moved to Texas with her husband. It was difficult at first, having my extra set of eyes so far away. But naturally, Nichole made it work. We started sending elaborate care packages…

FRIENDS


Nichole made two of these, one for herself and one for me! This bracelet is inspired by our favorite TV show, F*R*I*E*N*D*S and came with a letter explaining what each charm represents in our friendship.

When Nichole sent me this charm bracelet, I got to see just how artistic she really is! I had always known she loved crafts, but between work and school, we never had much time to do them before now.

At this point, I had been on Etsy long enough to know that there were people with much less talent than my best friend making a living selling similar creations. I started pleading with her to open a shop. (And not just because I wanted the referral benefits!)

FINALLY:

It took a few months, but I finally wore her down and convinced Nichole to pursue her talents further. She caved!

The next step was to help her come up with a name for her shop. Because of our love for F*R*I*E*N*D*S, Nichole and I have an affinity towards lobsters. There’s a scene in F*R*I*E*N*D*S where Phoebe explains that lobsters mate for life and walk around the tank holding claws and therefore, your true soulmate is your lobster. Nichole and I talk all the time about how she may be married to the man she loves, but I’m her lobster.

So, when we started brainstorming names, I immediately suggested something with lobster in the title. As fate would have it, we both came up with the name “The Lilac Lobster” at the exact same moment. And thus, The Lilac Lobster was born!

Lobby the Lobster:

The obvious next step was to create a lobster to be the mascot for Nichole’s shop. I got to work immediately!

Because Nichole is my extra set of eyes, I took pictures of every step of the process and sent them to her while I worked! This is a slideshow showing how Lobby the Lobster came together:

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And here is the final product:

Lobby the Lobster


Lobby the Lobster

A Custom Banner to Match:

Next I made a custom banner for Nichole’s Etsy shop. This one is by far, my favorite custom banner yet!

The Lilac Lobster Banner

Fun fact: The font I used for this banner is actually called Lobster.

Alright, enough about me! Let’s take a closer look at my talented best friend!

The Lilac Lobster:

Now that you’ve read the origin story of The Lilac Lobster, you probably want to know more about what Nichole creates! Nichole has multiple talents so her shop is not limited to one specific medium. She sells both polymer clay charms and crochet creations!

I am especially partial to her charms. I am fascinated by the intricate detail work she is able to do with such tiny pieces! And really, could these BE any cuter?

charms 1


Set of 3 charms! Available in her Etsy shop! (Click this image for details and pricing)

This S’mores Set is my favorite item in Nichole’s shop thus far. But, I’ve seen her list of ideas for future charms and I expect that her charms will only get cuter as she progresses!

Nichole’s crochet is absolutely beautiful as well!

 This newborn take home kit isn't listed in her shop right now, but just look at how adorable it is!!


This newborn take home kit isn’t listed in her shop right now, but just look at how adorable it is!!

What’s Next?

As I said earlier, Nichole’s business is very new. In fact, her Etsy shop only opened its doors this week. That said, I am 100% confident that she will flourish and prosper! I have seen her list of ideas and I know that she adds to it constantly. There is no doubt in my mind that Nichole will continue to outdo herself for many years to come.

So what should you do? You should LIKE her Facebook Page The Lilac Lobster to make sure you get all the updates! If you’re on Etsy, you should FAVORITE her Shop LilacLobster so you are always notified of her new listings! Let’s show her a little love and help her get her new business off the ground!

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Good Luck Nichole! I love you!

6 Weeks of Excitement!

Hello everyone! I would like to apologize for not blogging recently! I have been very preoccupied with a lot of exciting things that have been happening and I think it is high time that I filled you in!

I should probably go all the way back to the beginning–no, not the beginning of time, just the beginning of October. I have alluded to many of the things that have happened, assuming that  most of you probably follow me on Facebook and have therefore heard my news several times a day… Well, you know what they say about assumptions… so I apologize!

October 1, 2013:

On October 1, 2013, Etsy made an announcement that shocked and angered the majority of its sellers: Etsy, the self-proclaimed “handmade marketplace” would open its doors to sellers who wished to use manufacturers. I won’t rehash all the details because this story has been covered on hundreds of blogs already, not to mention many major news outlets, but I will say that this announcement was a giant slap in the face to the handmade sellers who have made Etsy successful and have given Etsy its name recognition. The worst part is that Etsy is still going to claim to be a “handmade marketplace.” They’re just going to change the definition of the word “handmade” to suit their new needs. I must have missed something in my five years as an English major, but I’m pretty sure you can’t just repurpose a word to suit you…

October 2, 2013:

On October 2, 2013, something crazy happened. I had an idea–no, that’s not the crazy part–the crazy part is that people liked my idea! I thought: Hey, why not start a group of the real handmade sellers on Etsy? And what if there was some kind of badge I could give them to show buyers that their shop was truly handmade?

Etsy allows members to create groups called “teams” that can be for any purpose the team captain chooses. There are teams for sellers from Missouri, teams specifically for quilters and jewelry makers, teams for sellers who cater to certain markets and so on. The idea behind a team is that it is as involved as the team leaders choose. There is a discussion board for each team and there is an option to see all of the shops run by team members. It’s essentially like an online artist’s guild within Etsy.

So I said to myself, this might be the way to fight back against the new Etsy guidelines! This might be the way to do something about it! So I did.

Handmade Facebook Cover Photo

The All Handmade By ME Team was born:

I set up my new team so that new members would have to apply for membership so that I would be able to guarantee that every member of my team was a handmade seller–that of course, meaning the real, dictionary defintion of “handmade.” I only anticipated that somewhere around 20 or 30 people would want to join this team, so I figured, no big deal, I can handle those applications! Boy was I wrong! Within the first 24 hours, the team had over 100 members.

I was absolutely shocked! This was new territory for me! I’ve been coming up with wild and crazy ideas my entire life, it’s just who I am. But this was the first time anyone really took me seriously! Me! Some 23 year-old kid with no real leadership experience whatsoever! All of a sudden, everyone wanted to be a part of something that I created! Me!

To apply to the All Handmade By Me Team, or for more information, click here: www.etsy.com/teams/19087/all-handmade-by-me

October 6, 2013:

I had my very first Etsy sale! I sold my favorite piece, “A Life for All Seasons” to a fellow All Handmade By Me team member! I can’t really explain the excitement of the first Etsy sale, but if you are a fellow Etsy seller, you know what I’m talking about. It was like a validation of sorts. Like, all of a sudden I knew that I was a real artist for the first time. It’s a truly incredible feeling!

All Handmade By ME Week 1:

During the very first week of the All Handmade By Me Team, the team leaders and I accomplished A LOT! Whereas I had expected only a couple dozen members, there were a couple hundred who wanted to join! I knew I couldn’t handle the whole team by myself anymore, so I decided to bring in help right from the beginning. I invited a couple active team members to be team leaders and things took off from there with a running start! Within the first week, we had a Facebook Page for our team, a team Twitter account, a group board on Pinterest and a blog on Tumblr.

On the one week anniversary of the team, I wrote our first Tumblr post to kick things off:

handmadebymeteam.tumblr.com/post/63598240044/hello-everyone-and-welcome-to-our-new-all-handmade

All Handmade By ME Weeks 2 & 3:

After the initial rush of new members and the task of setting up everything for the team on social media, things started to slow down a little bit. And by “slow down” I really just mean that things were manageable for the 10 leaders who were running things. The team was still growing and we were coming up with exciting new ideas every day. We had several things to keep our members actively promoting handmade!

I created this image and it circulated on Facebook with a lot of interest!

Buy Handmade WEB

I had created my own “handmade badge of honor” when I created the group. This badge was (and is) available to all team members to put in their shops so that buyers can recognize them as handmade sellers and members of the All Handmade By Me Team. The badge itself was originally only created in gold, but several members began to express concerns that the artwork did not match their shop branding. I agreed. I didn’t want to impose on anyone’s creativity or style, so I decided to offer the badge in several basic colors. When I did so, I noticed that it started appearing on more and more shop banners!
The standard colors available for the All Handmade By Me team badge

The standard colors available for the All Handmade By Me team badge

October 23, 2013:

Several members of the team had told me that they were having difficulty adding the badge to their shop banners. For me, something like this is rather simple because I am a graphic designer and work with computers, but I understood that for many, this was not a simple task. So, as a solution, I offered a listing in my Etsy shop for the small fee of $2.99 to add the badge to a team member’s banner for them.

This service was extremely popular and I was swamped with requests! To date, I have added my badge to so many banners that I have lost track of the number!

To purchase my banner assistance, click here: www.etsy.com/listing/166761162/all-handmade-by-me-team-banner

October 28, 2013:

The colored badges had been so popular that I decided to offer specialty badges as well! These would not be free to all members because they are an “upgrade” to the standard badge. I also started offering custom badges for members who wanted something that would match the exact shades of certain colors in their shop banners, for a slightly higher price.

These were also extremely popular!

Specialty badges: $3.99 for your choice of one of the badges pictured here

Specialty badges: $3.99 for your choice of one of the badges pictured here

To date, these are all the banners on which I have personally added my handmade badge:
All Handmade By Me Team Banners with Badges UPDATED 3

October 29, 2013:

This is when the most exciting things began to happen. I was contacted by a journalist from Yahoo Shine! She was working on a story about the seller reaction to Etsy’s new guidelines and she had seen something I posted on the main Etsy forum. I had written about how I had taken the negative changes and turned them into something positive (the team) and she was intrigued! She contacted me and we set up a phone interview for later that day.

I was so nervous! I sat down and wrote out two pages worth of notes in preparation for that interview. I wanted to make sure I portrayed everything in a positive light, rather than airing my countless frustrations with Etsy.

By the time I hung up the phone, I was beyond excited! The reporter hadn’t heard about the All Handmade By Me team and was thrilled to hear about my “handmade revolution.” She told me the team would be the new focus of her article that would come out later that same day.

When the actual article came out, I was a little disappointed. The reporter had spelled my name wrong in a couple places and she had several typos. I almost decided not to share the article with anyone because I wasn’t thrilled with the quotes she had chosen to focus on.

But then something happened. The All Handmade By Me team had over 650 members at this point. When the article was posted, about 40 new applications appeared in a couple hours.

This is the link to the Yahoo! article:

shine.yahoo.com/work-money/is-etsy-still-etsy–members-respond-to-policy-change-over-what-is-handmade-220156294.html

October 30, 2013:

October 30, 2013 was the biggest, most exciting, COMPLETELY UNBELIEVABLE day, probably of my entire life. At the very least, it was the most exciting day I can remember. At this point, the All Handmade By Me team had 689 members. My shop was just over two months old and in that time had had a total of 8,737 views…

 …Then the Yahoo! article was posted on the Yahoo! front page…

Featured on the YAHOO! Front Page!

Featured on the YAHOO! Front Page!

…In one day, we–the team leadership and I–responded to hundreds of applications to join the team. I personally accepted our 1,000th member that day.

The response to this article was absolutely phenomenal. I received dozens of messages from people who read about me on Yahoo! and wanted information about joining the team. I also received many messages from people looking to find team members’ shops so that they could buy only truly handmade items this holiday season!

I don’t think I have ever been more proud of anything in my entire life. I am still shocked every single time a team member thanks me for what I have created. I am so humbled by everything that has happened. I wake up every morning expecting that this whole thing has just been a really great dream. It hasn’t. It’s real.

On October 30, 2013, my Etsy shop had well over 2,000 views. In one day. Wow.

October 31, 2013:

For a couple days after the Yahoo! article went viral, the team leaders and I were still swamped with applications to join the All Handmade By Me team. The exposure was wonderful for our cause!

In the excitement of the publicity, a childhood friend of mine, Sydney, approached me about her idea to start a blog to feature team members. I was thrilled! Sydney is not an Etsy seller, so her decision to write a blog about our team was even more impressive!

I was honored when Sydney featured my shop as the first feature on the new blog! To read her kind words and to follow the All Handmade By Me Team Blog, click here:

allhandmadebymeteam.wordpress.com/tag/smart-designs/

Also on this day, I surpassed the 50 sale milestone in my Etsy shop! The majority of those sales were for banner assistance, but regardless, I still get excited when my phone gets an Etsy  notification and goes: CHA CHING!! 

November 2, 2013:

November 2, 2013 marked the one month anniversary of the All Handmade By Me Team. Only one moth old and the team was at nearly 1,200 members! I cannot believe how much we have accomplished in only one month! It is completely unheard of! Nearly 1,200 handmade sellers from around the globe have teamed up to promote and sell truly handmade treasures! Wow.

November 4, 2013:

On November 4, 2013, the All Handmade By Me Team leadership launched a new team forum separate from Etsy for our team members. We did this for several reasons:

First, managing an effective forum on Etsy had gotten impossible. Etsy does not allow teams to have much freedom, so we couldn’t delete threads, edit threads, or organize things in any way. With over 1,200 members, it was getting difficult to keep things organized and we were getting messages several times a day from members asking where to find this or that. The Etsy forum had become a headache both for team members and for team leaders.

Second, moving our team discussion off of Etsy allowed us more freedom to speak openly about Etsy and their changes without fear. Etsy has been notorious among sellers for censorship and for banning members and closing shops that do not agree with them. By moving off site, we don’t have to worry as much about Big Brother looking over our shoulders.

Third, this new forum is just more fun! Plain and simple. We can sort threads into folders now so we can have more threads without having to deal with clutter. We can add videos and pictures to our posts and we have the freedom to use different colors! For an artsy crowd like this team, the freedom is so rewarding!

November 5, 2013:

Trish from Bathe Happy wrote a wonderful blog post about the team! To read it, click here: bathehappy.net/2013/11/05/all-handmade-by-me-an-epic-movement/

November 6, 2013:

I had sold art to several team members at this point, but it wasn’t until November 6, 2013 that I sold my first piece of art to a random stranger! My very first sale to someone with only a buyer’s account on Etsy was very exciting and means that my artwork is actually being seen by the general public!

The piece I sold was my “Big Orange Couch” Print:

www.etsy.com/listing/160892601/big-orange-couch-artwork

 

November 8, 2013:

As of November 8, 2013, I had received 30 FIVE STAR REVIEWS on my Etsy shop. Any Etsy seller will tell you that reviews are essential to success. They make your shop look credible to complete strangers who may not know anything about your business other than what is said in your reviews. I am so honored and blessed that people think so highly of my business!

To read my reviews, click here:

www.etsy.com/your/shops/SMARTdesignsbyStacey/reviews?ref=shop_info

Yesterday (November 11, 2013):

Yesterday, I was thrilled to be featured in a wonderful blog by Cathey Ihms! She featured my shop and went into a lot of detail about my items! It was a fabulous post and I hope you all read it! I also hope you’ll take a moment to check out her Etsy shop! Her items are beautifully painted!

To read Cathey’s blog post, click here:

www.catheywithane.com/2013/11/etsy-shop-of-week-smart-designs-by.html?spref=fb

Also yesterday, I worked on a new custom shop banner for Stephanie. She liked my work so much that she decided to write a blog post about her new banner and the importance of shop branding!

To read Stephanie’s blog post, click here:

theastralcharm.blogspot.com/2013/11/branding.html

Today (November 12, 2013):

Today I was featured in another wonderful blog! Maisie is starting a sequence called “12 Shops For Christmas” and she featured SMARTdesigns as her first shop! It is another great blog with really kind words about myself and my shop!

To read Maisie’s blog post, click here:

maatsilkblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/12-shops-for-christmas-shop-1/

Now What?

In the past few days and weeks I have created a lot of new artwork. I now have over fifty items for sale in my Etsy shop and I have many more to come! I have a lot of exciting ideas up my sleeves!

I am anxious to hear your thoughts on the excitement from the last six weeks. I thank you all for reading this ridiculously long blog post! Thanks for bearing with me! I know it was a lot of information and I promise to update you much more frequently in the future so I don’t have to post another novel like this one. Please comment below to let me know what you think!

Visit my Etsy shop to see what’s new!

www.etsy.com/shop/smartdesignsbystacey

 

Comments on the original post:

UNREAL…It has been wonderful to be along with you and the team. This is fun and exciting to read! Thank you goes out to the team leaders and all of your work and the time you have put into everything. –Holly

 

I really like that you have put everything in a sequential order about what has happened and what you have done about it, as always I love the images you provided and the links too. Thanks for keeping us informed and I’m Proud to be a member of you team! :) –Kristi

 

It’s an amazing ride that I am lucky to be a part of! –Nadia

 

Your blog was a great read, so full of pertinent info. You and your leaders have done a great job getting this team off the ground. I appreciate all you’ve done. Now if I could jus become computer savvy and learn how to follow everyone meaning all the handmade shops, it would be a start for me. Congratulations. –Jeannine

 

Great blog Stacey, and yes it has certainly been a big roller coaster of a month and a half. I feel like we haven’t stopped for breath yet! –Teresa

 

It has been quite the ride! I?m thankful so many amazing and talented individuals have been brought together, many of which I would never have crossed paths with if it weren?t for the team! I?m glad to be here with you all?and a huge thank you to Stacey and the rest of the leaders! –Suzanne

 

Great post – I am proud to be a member of this great team. Keep up the good work – I really appreciate it. –Nancy