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.

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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!

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!