Brexit Effect – craft supplies diminished.

 

lace hand painted alpaca silk - all colours

I am still shocked that Britain has decided to leave the European Union. I personally voted to remain. I thought the good outweighed the bad and prefer to be on the inside trying to bring about change rather than being impotent on the outside. The Union has overseen 60 years of peace in Europe after tumultuous times for the first half of the 20th Century. Talking and working together is so much better.

I expected some change after Brexit was announced. I didn’t expect it to impact the sector I work in so quickly. My favourite yarn supplier has gone into receivership. That may sound like a small thing, but the speciality yarn they imported from Peru helped support their economy. I can see the same happening to many small businesses as the pound buys much less now.

I hope things settle quickly and that we remain close to our European neighbours. I guess I will find out first hand how the people of France feel about it all when I go over there next month. Shame I hadn’t bought some Euros already, will get less currency than I hoped – c’est la vie!

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂

Life Happens – 3 day catch up needed :-)

 

 

Durdle Door,Watercolour painting by Jan Gill
Durdle Door, Watercolour painting by Jan Gill

It wouldn’t matter what month I tried the ultimate blog challenge, I would always be away for a few days or have other commitments. This month is no exception and 3 of the five weekends are filled up. This weekend my youngest daughter visited, next weekend I travel to Wales to visit my son and the following weekend I have a show.

The best thing to do would be to write some posts in advance which will be the plan for next weekend. Keeping my goals in mind, I will not stress too much if I get a little behind with the challenge – more important for me is to be ready for the show.

One picture that won’t be going to the show is this one of Durdle Door, a natural rock arch on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Rather romantically, it is going to a couple who became engaged at this spot. I hope they spend many more happy years together.

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂

 

How to make a Cheap as Chips Light box.

Pristine Snow, Watercolour.
Pristine Snow, Watercolour.

Cheap as Chips Light box.

This is a post I wrote some years ago with some additions.
I was reading a forum today where someone asked about making a cheap lightbox for photographing small items in. Funnily enough I have just made one 🙂 I needed to stop reflections on my glass tile jewellery and this worked amazingly well. I will now be going back to some of my glassware listings and putting up better photos!
In  this picture the top is the third tissue covered window – the light in the room made it look brown
Here is how it’s done. Take a cardboard box roughly cube shaped. Mine is about 18″ on all sides. Cut out a square window in 3 of the sides, not the bottom of the box. Cover these in white tracing or tissue paper. Cover the inside bottom of the box in white card. Also cover the third side and that  will be the base. You can add whatever color you want to stand your item on each time you set up. You can also create an infinity back drop by taking a piece of unfolded card, taping it to the top of the back panel and to the front of the base panel, bending the card but not folding.

Mine looks very crude but does the job 🙂
You can now set up lamps pointing into the box through the tissue windows. Daylight bulbs are best if you have them.
When using your camera, turn off the flash – this is what causes the really harsh reflections and unflattering shadows. I usually over expose by one stop to make the light areas nearer to white. You can check your histogram on your camera to make sure the big peak is close to the right hand side. If it isn’t,  you need to increase the exposure. It is worth taking some time over this as the less you have to adjust on your computer the better. If you have no control over your exposure, take a few pictures on different settings and see which gives you the brightest result.
If you are photographing something much larger, such as paintings, you can create something similar. I hang a white bed sheet (any white fabric will do) from my mantelpiece as the backdrop and use four panels made from very large boxes and lightweight white voile. They are hinged together with duct tape so they fold flat and store away. Set your painting up against the backdrop and place your “light box” in front. Use strong lamps to light from the sides and above.
If you have a conservatory this is one of the best places to photograph. You can set up the same system in there or if you have translucent blinds, use those instead.
One important thing to remember with photographing paintings is to make sure your camera is level with the centre and both painting and camera are vertically upright.
If you have some cash to spend there are some good light tents on the market. I have one that pops up then folds back into a small bag. It’s a bit like this one.
Have you got an idea for a make your own light box? Leave a comment if you’d like to share.
Happy Creating,
Janice 🙂

Let there Be Light.

 

Daisies in my garden

Daisies in my garden

One of the most important things to address when selling online is the photography of your products. One of the easiest improvements you can make is to take your pictures in the light. Lots of it. The better lit your product is, the more chance of getting a photograph that captures your product exactly.

Of course, there is a wrong and a right kind of light. Direct sunlight is much too harsh and causes unwanted reflections. A diffuse light is much better, such as outside on a lightly cloudy day.

Another good option is to use a light box. Commercial ones are made of a translucent white fabric. You put your product inside then place lamps above and to the sides to give a lovely bright diffuse light inside. It is especially good for tricky objects like glass jewellery.

Keeping with my tight budget theme though, it is very easy to make your own with a large cardboard box and tissue paper. In true Blue Peter Style, I’ll let you know how to do it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m off to paint some more mini paintings for my show at the end of the month.

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂

GOAL!!! Set yours now.

 

 

Purple Mini Abstracts, Acrylic on Canvas
Purple Mini Abstracts, Acrylic on Canvas

It can be very easy sometimes to be distracted from your goals and when that happens you are much less likely to reach them. It is also easy to drift along if you haven’t vocalised to yourself what your goal is.

My own reason for blogging is to leverage search engines so that I get more visitors to my shop. The blogging is not the goal, selling my artwork is. I am something of a reluctant blogger, not after affiliate monetisation or thousands of readers waiting for my next installment. What I do want is dedicated customers who will enjoy finding out a bit more about my products and my methods. I want to connect, form a relationship.

I also want to give something to other artists who want to find their selling niche by letting them see what results I’ve got and how I’ve got them. It is all too easy to hold successful methods close to your chest and not share them because that knowledge was hard won.

Your goal is probably something completely different. Perhaps you have experiences you want to share, services you can provide or maybe you want to create a community of like minded people. Whatever you are doing needs to support that goal so ask yourself the question. Does what I am doing move me forwards?

The important thing is to keep your goals in mind and make everything you do count towards it. Don’t get distracted, but do enjoy the journey.

Today’s pictures are tiny abstracts that are ideal for gift giving. I am making a few of them for my craft stall at the end of the month. They are aimed at those people who would like to have some of my art but can’t afford the larger pieces. Those customers may be future collectors when circumstances are different.

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂

Free E-Commerce for Creatives

 

On Reflection Abstract Watercolour Painting
On Reflection Abstract Watercolour Painting in shades of Blue and Emerald

Before I start on this follow up to yesterday’s post and before you start building a site in the following way, there are 2 really important differences you need to think about before taking this route.

Firstly, this is not as elegant a solution as WordPress with WooCommerce. It doesn’t have the automatic checkout – your customers will have to contact you directly. There is a contact form to do that though and you can have full instructions in a side bar widget that will follow your customers round the site.

Secondly, the WordPress terms and conditions state that you can only sell things you have made yourself. As an artist/designer that suits me down to the ground as everything I sell I have created myself. There is no point going under the radar and trying to sell other items as you will get spotted, your site removed and all that time and effort gone to waste.

So here goes –

  1. Your first step is to pop along to wordpress.com. If you click on the your site icon in the corner it will say you don’t have one and ask if you want to create one. Follow the link and you can choose what style you want for your site. Don’t worry too much about which to choose as you can always change it later.
  2. You will now be asked to choose a name for your site. Type in your chosen name followed by .com and wordpress will show the free option plus several others. The free one will look like yourtitle.wordpress.com
  3. Click on the free one and a variety of styles will be shown. Choose one that you like and click on it. A couple of minutes later and your site is there. There are pre-prepared pages to get you started – just click the edit icon to alter their contents. There are often instructions in the box on what to do and ideas for content.

Replace the photos with your own and off you go. As there is not a free option to add an e-commerce facility, you will have to tell your customers how to buy from you. This could be as simple as getting them to send you an e-mail detailing the items they want and sending an invoice out to them.

And there you have it. The totally free option.

And if everything takes off you have options to upgrade to paid business solutions.

At the moment I am in the process of building a free site to see how it works for my photography. I only started it today – it’s at jangillphotos.wordpress.com – why not pay a visit over the next few weeks to watch how it progresses?

Have you tried selling this way? How did you find it?

I would love to hear from anyone who has found a great online selling solution. Maybe you could guest on this blog and share it with us?

2 Very Easy Steps to Selling Your Art on WordPress

Scottish Coast Island View
Scottish Coast Island View

Would you like to take complete control of selling your own work online? Are you an Etsy seller and have to keep relisting your products to get them seen? Or do you spend hours favouriting and sharing with other sellers so you get on the top pages of trending? Is your work lost in the hundreds of thousands of works on Artfinder so most of your views are from people you drive to the site yourself. All the hard work is yours and you have to pay commission.

Are you ready for something different?

I am. And I’m going to share with you what I have done and the results this brings.

Just a few days ago I set up my own shop using WordPress. I have never worked with wordpress before and I am a self confessed technophobe. I didn’t expect to get so far so fast but it really is very straightforward.

There are 2 options. The first option costs a small amount, the second is completely free. I chose the first as it gives me more flexibility but the second option works well too and you can upgrade if you wish.

Today I will talk about the option I have chosen, the next post will be about the free option.

Step One Choose your name and buy your domain.

Choose your shop name carefully. For the purposes of getting people to your site, I recommend the title includes what you are selling eg Art, Craft, Photography etc. I include my name because it is short. Try and make it easy to remember. Now go to a Domain name checking site and see if it is available. If it isn’t the site will often show alternatives that you might like to choose.

Once you have chosen your name, register it with a webhost such as Blue Host. Make sure it can support WordPress – pop along to WordPress.org for a list of their recomended hosts. I registered with Blacknight simply because I already had an account with them. My domain cost me less than £10 for the year. You will also want the site to be hosted so that you can build your shop. This can cost as little as $1 per month. In comparison, that amount of money would get me just 15 items listed on Etsy for 3 months and commission would be taken on any sales.

Once you have your Hosted Domain, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2 Add wordpress and a commerce plugin.

Go back to WordPress.org and download wordpress. The wizard will take you through the 5 minute process. once that is completed you will have a dashboard and some ideas of what to do next.

To get the shop part, go to plugins on the dashboard and search for e-commerce. I chose woocommerce because it had a good rating, lots of users and it was free :-). Woo Commerce now appears as an option in the dashboard along with a product icon. Click on it to add new products and away you go. You get a number of options for payment, I chose to allow only Paypal which takes a small transaction fee and payment by BACS straight into my own bank account.

There you have it, the bare bones of your new shop. You can now take as much time as you like to get it looking beautiful knowing that everything will work.

Let me know if you have a go and share your site with us.

Happy Creating,

Janice

PS thanks to Paul for the terminology correction 🙂

Great Surprise Extra Value

I knew that joining the Ultimate Blog Challenge would bring traffic to my fledgling blog. I hoped I would also find useful tips on making the most of the site bringing visitors and ultimately making sales in the shop.

The lovely surprise on day one was that advice was proffered immediately – I didn’t have to ask for it or hunt for it. Bonus 🙂

It was pointed out that my tweet of yesterday’s post could have been improved by including a better written link. The link is generated from the permalink of the post which I had left at a default setting. This ended with an uninspiring number. The advice – change it to something that might attract a reader.

As there is an edit button on the permalink I had a look at what

On a Misty Morning, watercolour painting
Early morning mist with trees, watercolour painting I loved the light coming through the mist and the natural bridge created by the low branch over the path.

I could do. One option was to include the post title, which is how the links are now set up. Not sure why that wouldn’t be the default, but I’m sure someone can tell me.

I think this month may be a very steep learning for this novice 🙂

Today’s picture from the shop is titled On a Misty Morning. It’s a watercolour painting of the trees at the bottom of the garden.

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂

31 Days of Blog Boost

This is Day 1 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

My aim for taking part in this challenge is to get my new blog off to a flying start and bring visitors to the art shop attached to it.

 

Spring Blossom, watercolour.
Spring Blossom, watercolour.

For new readers, the reason for creating this blog is to detail my journey into selling Art online. I have used sites such as Etsy and Artfinder, but I wanted to see if it was possible for a complete technophobe to set up their own website and create sales through it with the eventual aim to ditch the day job.

So far, I have set a shop using WordPress with WooCommerce as a plug-in. It is an entirely free option – no fees, no commission and if you opt for payment of goods by BACS, no bank charges either. If you are on a shoestring like I am, it’s a no-brainer option.

Over the next 31 days, I will be showing you how easy it is to set up, sharing results and showing some of my work.

Good luck to all my fellow Ultimate Blog Challengers – I look forward to reading some interesting tales. Feel free to comment with your details 🙂

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂

 

Sorting the Shop Niggles

One of the niggles I have found with my new shop is that all the items are added in title alphabetical order. I can look at them in different ways such as highest priced first, but I would really like the default order to look harmonious. This means renaming my products so they are displayed in the order I want them to be. Obviously I can’t change the painting title as that is already given to the painting.

Magenta Sunrise, Watercolour.
Magenta Sunrise, Watercolour.

The solution I came up with is to preface each title with a code. At first I thought of just numbering each one but a little thought made me realise I may want to insert other paintings between those already displayed. I don’t want to have to change all the numbers after a new addition so I need some ease, some unused numbers to allow extra products to be placed between the one’s I have already included. I have decided to start with 3 figure numbers. As I want my paintings to sit in rows of four I will number them 111, 112,113,114 then 151,152,153,154 then 211,212,213,214 etc. This gives me lots of room between number sets to add extra sets of 4 products. It also means if I want to make any changes I only have to work with 4 products at a time. This works for me as I won’t be adding a huge inventory. Or at least I hope it works 🙂

The proof of the pudding will be if the first page looks how I intended.

I’ll let you know…

In the meantime,

Happy Creating,

Janice 🙂