creative

Etsy Featured Artist: Jennifer Steen Booher

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!
Jennifer Steen Booher is a Bar Harbor resident who focuses on fine art photography. Her Beachcombing Series offers a unique perspective on the shores of MDI and “the overlapping forces and life forms that depend on the shoreline” (from “About the Beachcombing Series). Here’s what she has to say about Etsy (BEC questions in bold).
What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?

I joined Etsy on May 1, 2008, so I just had my 9th anniversary! Etsy was a lot smaller back then, and the community aspect pulled me in. It still works as a community, just a much bigger one. There are forum discussions about every aspect of doing business on Etsy, with more experienced sellers helping out the new people, and I spent a lot of time there when I first started. It was a great way to get into online sales, and it felt like a whole lot of people really wanted me to succeed.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

I have a website, jenniferbooher.com. I’m on a couple of other sites that do their own printing, like Fine Art America and Artfully Walls, and I work with Alamy for licensing my landscape and travel photography. I tend to keep my fine art stuff on my own website and Etsy. My website and Etsy are my biggest source of online print sales.

Seashell Snowflake Notecards- available on Etsy

How do you stand out in this marketplace?

I have a pretty distinctive niche – there are not that many people doing this kind of modern, minimalist, natural-history-and-ocean-themed art.  It appeals to people both on a nostalgic level (it reminds them of things they picked up on their own vacations) and on an artistic level (people who want to furnish their beach houses with something more thought-provoking than lighthouses and starfish). My work is very crisp and clean, so it works with a lot of different decor styles. I give the same artistic weight to trash as I do to shells and beach stones, which sometimes confuses people, but more often it inspires them to look at the shoreline in a different way. It’s easy to ignore trash, but these photos suggest that it’s worth examining.  I’ve shipped my work to at least 15 countries and 30 states.

“Beachcombing No. 50,” available on Etsy.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy?

Read all of Etsy’s guidelines for newcomers about things like tagging and getting your work found. Spend some quality time in the Forums reading questions (to get an idea of what problems Etsy sellers run into) and the discussions (to see how other sellers solve those problems.) The Forums are an amazing resource! Depending on what you are selling, joining a team can be helpful, especially if you do craft fairs and can find a geographically-based team. The Etsy Maine Team is very active and in additions to their online discussions they also organize pop-ups and participate in fairs. I don’t do craft fairs anymore (my work doesn’t sell there) so I haven’t been very active with the team, but I think they’d be a great resource for a newcomer.

Woodland Series No. 2, available on Etsy

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

My very first photography sale was to a guy who wanted to glue my photos of sea urchins and crab shells onto a surfboard as a display. He wanted to know if the photo paper would warp under the wet polyurethane. I thought it very probable they would, but he bought them anyway.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

An original drawing from Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf series!Wait, no, a set of Arte et Manufacture’s coffee mugs.

Oh no, hang on, crazy vintage eyeglasses from Collectable Spectacle.

My ‘favorites’ list is 13 pages long – clearly this could go on for a while…

Thanks again to Jennifer for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

5 Ideas for Instagram Marketing

Instagram, like any good social media platform, has in the past 6 months-year added a few new features, which most businesses approach with caution at first. As businesses/people have gotten more comfortable with marketing on Instagram, I’ve noticed a few interesting ways that people are using Instagram to connect with followers and current/prospective customers.

Here are the five different things I’ve seen on Instagram lately:

  1. The Instagram Takeover. A “takeover” is giving someone else control of the business’s Instagram account, usually for a day but it can also be a weekend. An Instagram takeover usually happens with someone who is sort of related to your business/industry. For instance, Wyman’s Blueberry allowed a food blogger to take over their Instagram page for a whole week. What I noticed in this takeover was that @holly_tasteandsee stuck to on-brand recipes (meaning she integrated Wyman’s products into her takeover posts). It gave Wymans followers something new to look at, and it gave both @holly_tasteandsee’s and Wymans exposure to new audiences.

If you want to try a takeover for your business, find someone who is relevant to what you do (i.e. food company and food blogger, business letting an employee takeover posts, etc), and create parameters with that person if necessary (this could be called common sense, but may still be a helpful conversation to have).

2) Featuring another person. In March (Women’s History Month), Rustic Arrow Maine had “Women Wednesdays” where they featured a local female entrepreneur on their Instagram. It featured a photo of the woman, a caption that included her Instagram handle, and a brief description of her work/business. This type of feature gives you more control than a Takeover, while including other people in your post. This gets attention for their business, too, while creating something new and fun for your Instagram page. Following general rules of social media etiquette, remember to ask a person before you feature them on your Instagram page.

3) Multiple picture post. This Instagram update is great news for those who want to create larger updates like new products/meals etc, but don’t want to overwhelm followers with several different posts. The catch is that all must be in square shape and will receive the same filter. People will be able to see that there are multiple photos in a post, so you don’t have to worry about them “missing out” on the other images in your post.

Garnier and many other Instagram sponsored ads will use this technique as it gives you more bang for your advertising buck. This product image was actually the last in the post- the preceding images were all happy looking women with different hair colors/textures.

4) Use of a specific hashtag to promote a contest (and sharing participant’s photos that came out well). Downeast Magazine is well known (at least, to me) for doing this sort of thing. They request that users tag them and use a specific hashtag, and share some of the content on their own page (after asking permission and using correct attribution). This is a tool called “User Generated Content,” which has become a buzzword in marketing over the past couple years. The idea is to encourage users to share something- in this case, a photo that represents #Mainelife.

Downeast Magazine has quite a few contests/user engagement ideas if you go to their Instagram page. Right now, they are in the process of sharing 40 items from “The Great Maine Scavenger Hunt,” featured in the print magazine. Another thing that is worth pointing out- in the caption for the post below, they say “See our website for more info about entering the hunt,” so if increasing website traffic in an organic, natural matter is something you’re trying to do, promoting content on Instagram is a clever way to do that.

 

5) Unique use of Bookmarks. Seabags Maine, a company that makes bags out of recycled sails. They recently used the new bookmark feature in Instagram (similar to Facebook’s ‘save for later’) to create a contest. They created a “puzzle” and posted one piece at a time (out of order, of course) and gave specific instructions about how to enter the contest. They also accepted the first 5 to respond as winners, which could have encouraged more participation (people may see this and think “I have a shot!” vs. “there’s no way I’ll be the first person to respond so why bother”).

Have you seen any interesting things go by on Instagram that could be useful for businesses (or is just cool in general)? Let us know! 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Etsy Featured Seller: Amanda Zehner (Living Threads Co)

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

We love businesses who love to help others, and that’s exactly what Living Threads Co. is all about. Founded by Amanda Zehner in 2014, Living Threads Co. features handmade textiles from around the world, in an effort to join these communities with the American market. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy as a way to increase online exposure/awareness to products (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?   

Access to an already established customer base through a marketplace that attracts a similar demographic as Living Threads Co. is targeting. Access to resources and a network of other similar businesses.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

 Yes, a majority of our business is done outside of Etsy. We primarily use Etsy as a supplemental platform and another way to get our name out, help new customers and businesses find us and then direct them to our e-commerce website. We also sell in seasonal pop-ups and through wholesale B2B relationships to expand our impact on small scale artisans.

LTCo. Nicaragua Family Impact 2015.08.11 from Living Threads Company on Vimeo.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?  

We view success on Etsy as relationship building and brand exposure but do not have a great deal of success in sales.  Creation of a shop on Etsy does not mean sales and business. You have to prioritize marketing and driving people to your Etsy shop.  That is not our priority as we choose to focus on driving customers to your own commerce site. However, the cost of maintaining inventory on  Etsy is so minimal that it is worth it to us to maintain it.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?  

We are a higher price point product then a majority of products on Etsy and as mentioned above, we strategically focus our energy on driving traffic to our own e-commerce site. However, I do think that our higher end quality product on Etsy helps us to stand out.

From the Living Threads Co. website. One way Living Threads Co. stands out (in our opinion) is their unique story and the fact that their products are not only high quality but have a direct impact on the lives of others.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy? 

Make sure that you have a strategy for driving traffic to your shop and standing out, high quality product images and a marketing plan with a focused effort to drive people to your site and convert that to sales.  Whether that is a blog, Instagram, Pinterest, or all of the above.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

Have had great experiences purchasing from other vendors and greatly appreciate the ‘small business’  feel. Also being able to interact directly with the owner, have custom work done and have questions answered very quickly.  We have had people reach out about larger orders but have been on completely different pages cost-wise (there seems to be a lack of understanding of the value of hand made artisan products, which is why on our own site we try to tell that story really clearly).

One of our personal favorite items from Living Threads Co is this finger puppets set! There are also sets for other famous children’s books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight, Moon.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

We would buy more custom handmade cotton tags for out handwoven blankets. I love being a part of the design process of each part of our final product and creating a final product that is hand made from fiber to tagging and supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives from Guatemala to Maine or Colorado.  So much fun!

Thanks again to Amanda for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website! 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Etsy Featured Artist: Dory Smith Graham (Worthy Goods)

 

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

Dory Smith Graham, owner of Worthy Goods, has been using Etsy since 2008 to sell her products. She creates bowties, wool felt jewelry, scarves, and much more from organic, sustainable sources. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?

Etsy was fairly new back in 2008 when I started out, a handmade selling platform that was just beginning to take off. It had a very low barrier-to-entry, and that was perfect for me. I had a wicked slim product line at that point, four reversible baby slings and very little extra time with a 6 month old, a sewing hobby and working part time as a goldsmith. I was able to get the shop up and online in just a day.

One of Dory’s products, a gum ball felt and velvet choker

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

You bet! At SevenArts in Ellsworth, year round, you can find much of worthygoods full lineup of hats, bow ties, linen smock aprons, and more. Other shops that carry worthygoods are Island Artisans in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor; Salon Naturelles, Bar Harbor; Quench, Belfast; Archipelago, Rockland and Center for Maine Craft at the Gardiner exit. Online there are three venues: my main website, worthy-goods.com with a full product line and I have two Etsy shops as well, worthygoods, and the other is worthygoodstextile where I sell organic cotton fabrics and vintage wooden spools & bobbins from shuttered textile mills. I vend at a handful of vibrant summer and holiday fairs locally on and around MDI as well as in southern Maine. My very favorite events to show at are the IAA Labor Day Fair on the Village Green in Bar Harbor and PICNIC Holiday in Portland.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?

For the first couple years I received a lot of support as a member of the Etsy Maine Team. Then as a more senior member, I offered support to new members. Etsy also offers webinars and email/pdf type ‘schools’ that help with solid advice in parcels that are usually easy to work through to improve targeted areas like developing voice, branding, Etsy SEO as well as planning for the holiday season.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?

Since worthygoods is dedicated to gear steeped in Maine style, I stand out with my product line and my branding. Both highlight and reflect my love of Maine from The County to the coast. My branding uses a vintage Maine lobster license plate, something that still resonates with me and my customers, especially. I find that the more I accentuate the things that ring true to me as reflecting Maine heritage, the more my customers see worthygoods as authentic Maine gear.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy?

If you are just starting out on Etsy, I would suggest you take a long, hard look at your pricing structure. Since Etsy has become a publicly traded company, they have really increased their transactional fees, added a fee-based payment processing platform, incorporated two paid layers of search-based advertising, in addition to the shipping platform. It’s easy to under-price yourself and hard to bump it up later on once you’ve established yourself a bit.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

My favorite sale on Etsy for worthygoods was relatively uneventful, but Farrah Fawcett had an employee of hers custom-order and purchase a hat for a relative. I was on cloud 9 thinking that one of my Little Trapper hats was having a brush with fame in California. An interior design service, Homepolish reached out to me via worthygoods textile on Etsy for a variety of vintage wooden spools and bobbins. They purchased a bunch and used them for a pop-up men’s shop, J Hilburn in NYC. Esquire did a feature article on it and there was a decent bit of local press and write-ups on it, too. I still use their styling as inspiration for my own shop photos and decor.

If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

Ooh, fun! I would buy myself a bag (or put it towards one, at least!) from roughandtumblebags.Etsy.com. I was in Portland recently and was thrilled to find a second-hand one at a cool consignment shop there. They are hand-made in Portland Maine and have a great lived-in look and casual feel about them.
Thanks again to Dory for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website
Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

How Do You Get Inspired?

Ever sit down to write/draw/paint/anything creative and just…sat there? These creativity blocks are pretty frustrating (and, as we’ll explore further in a bit, that can actually make matters worse). You want to combat this…but how? We have some ideas.

Find Your Happy Place.

A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Some people have a physical place, like an office or spot in the library, while other people focus more on cultivating a certain internal atmosphere. Think about when you’re at your peak creativity (something you’ll have to explore on your own), and try to recreate that experience as you get in the creative zone. Personally, I do well with quiet and physical activity- usually running. Although, I have found that complete quiet is actually unnerving, and some background noise is actually preferable (like people having a conversation in another room level of quiet). Pay attention and figure out what works best for you- and keep doing that!

10 Ideas.

The purpose of this exercise is to dedicate some time to being creative. So, you sit down and generate as many ideas as you can without judgement. It isn’t meant to cause anxiety about reaching a certain number or wondering why your ideas are lame/weird/useless/what-have-you. All you’re supposed to do is sit down and let the ideas flow. You know how kids are uninhibited when they play? That’s more or less the goal with this exercise. Here’s the link/explanation behind the “10 Ideas a Day” exercise.

If you look online, there are TONS of creativity boosting exercises/tips. My advice- take all of these ideas with a grain of salt. Some of the exercises might look fun- try them out! But not everything is going to be your jam, and if you ask me, it’s okay to skim over those.

Do Interesting Things…

Being stagnant in real life can sometimes lead to a creativity drought. If you’re stumped, this might be a perfect time to visit your bucket list…not to be dark, but to get inspired. These don’t have to be the sweeping, cliff-jumping/spelunking/flying an airplane type of ‘bucket list’ items- maybe you’ve always wanted to knit a sweater, finish a Crossword puzzle, or go to that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. Afterwards, you’ll have a new experience that might be worth sharing creatively, but if not, just the act of doing something different can pull your brain out of routine-mode for a bit and help you out of the creative drought. Typically, I try to do at least one small, off the routine adventure every week (usually a hike I haven’t done yet).

…But Not Because Someone Else Thinks They’re Cool.

For instance, if you go skydiving just because it’s something other people will find interesting, you might just end up stressing yourself out. In other words, don’t succumb to peer pressure for the sake of creativity 🙂

Consume.

Read, go exploring, take a class, watch a movie- one of the best ways to get your brain working is to take in information. The trick is to do this simply to consume- not approaching it from a “What ideas can I get from this?” Tricky, right?

If you already do a lot of reading, switch it up every now and then. Personally, I love fiction and poetry, but every now and then I’ll force myself into a bit of non-fiction on a topic I find interesting or want to learn more about. The result: confronted with this subject matter, I often go to the “What if this had happened instead” or “Why did [whatever person] do [whatever thing]?” (This also used to happen in school and made concentrating on problem sets in physics difficult- so many roller coasters).

Happy October-and creativity month!

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

What We Can Learn From Horror Remixes

This month’s theme is creativity and that got us thinking about something that doesn’t seem very creative at all: remakes, reboots and sequels (by the way, it’s not your imagination, the number of sequels and remakes is on the rise).

Scary movies (’tis the season of Halloween) are notorious for this trick:

Nightmare on Elm Street: 9 Movies; Halloween (franchise): 10 Movies; Final Destination: 5 Movies; Check out this list from AMC that lists a lot more, half of which are Halloween-related. 

You might not think that sequels would be a source for creativity but if anything, sequels force their writers to be creative. After all, you have to get movie goers to come back for something fresh while keeping enough of what they liked about the first movies. It’s a creative art.

So what are some ways movie sequels force creativity?

Tone it Up, Tone it Down

Filmmakers wills often play with the tone of their source work. Take a look at the original Evil Dead franchise of the ’80s and ’90s, where filmmaker Sam Raimi combined splatter, camp and a healthy dollop of Three Stooges-type humor.

Fast forward to Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake, which toned down the humor and ramped up the gore, appealing to a new generation of horror fans that cut their teeth on shock-films such as the Saw franchise.

Fans of the original, meanwhile, were given an added bonus last year with the debut of the Starz series “Ash vs Evil Dead,” with the return of Bruce Campbell in the roll of Ash, and a couple of younger sidekicks. So there’s something for everyone.

Remix The Character

Some villains leave a lasting mark on the pop culture conscience. In terms of horror, look no further than Dracula, who has been remixed, rebooted and reimagined countless times since Bram Stoker unleashed the vampire on the world nearly 120 years ago.

As originally written, ol’ Drac was not all that attractive, with a unibrow and prominent “aquiline” nose. Yet, he still possessed a certain old, old, old world charm.

In 1922, Dracula was reimagined as the rat-like Count Orlock in F. W. Murnau’s unauthorized silent film masterpiece, “Nosferatu,” swapping out the character’s pose for a more demonic presence.

The Dracula best remembered is from the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi, which shows the blood sucker as a sophisticated, urbane lady’s man.

“Dracula” film remakes went on and on in the decades to come, with actors such as Christopher Lee to Gary Oldman each leaving a unique mark on the character with significant tonal differences.

Dracula, by the way, is himself a fictional remix of a re-world monster, Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, a 13th-century Wallachian prince best known for — you guessed it — impaling his enemies.

Remix The Location

Taking the same cast but changing location is another way to change things up. It’s no secret that if you took, say, your office and cranked the temperature 30 degrees (or lowered it 30 degrees) the same people would act very differently.

Again, look at Dracula, or rather, works inspired by “Dracula.” “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “‘Salem’s Lot” take the same basic premise as “Dracula,” but tweak the characters and moves the action from London to New York and rural Maine, respectively.

This plot device isn’t limited to vampires. Check out both “An American Werewolf in London” and “An American Werewolf in France.”

Remix Everything

One thing most people can agree on is that a good remake can stand on its own. Sometimes the best way to do that is to completely rebuild the source material, as Stanley Kubrick did with “The Shining.” Kubrick’s film retains much of the original plot structure from the original source — Stephen King’s novel — but characters and tone differ wildly.

The conflict in King’s work involves not only the supernatural, but alcoholism, inescapable personal demons and the destruction of the family unit. The character Jack Torrence is nuanced enough so that when he finally succumbs to both the personal and supernatural demons, it’s as heartbreaking as it is frightening.

Kubrick’s vision, meanwhile, is as cold as the snow enveloping the Overlook Hotel, and Jack Nicholson portrays Torrence as a ticking time bomb. It’s not a question of if Torrence will go completely psycho on his family, but when. As a result, Kubrick’s rachets up the suspense to an almost unbearable degree.

(Spoiler alert: Ever wonder what happened to Danny Torrence, after his unfortunate state at the Overlook? King revisited him decades later in his 2013 novel, “Doctor Sleep.”)

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