Saturday, March 27, 2010

Business Questions

I need feedback! I am developing a line of textile items to sell on Lisbeth's Etsy shop, using her cut paper designs. After reading an Etsy Better Business Guide, my head is spinning. I am not a business woman. I have a difficult time narrowing things down, and sticking with them. I'm more of the idea person. But I have to adopt some of these good business strategies if I'm going to make this thing work! One thing I read is to keep the shop simple - don't have too many different items in one shop. Hmmm. I already have tee shirts, stationary, framed mandalas, and now I'm going to add textiles. It is suggested that one open another shop for additional items...argh, I'm not ready to do that. But as far as the textiles go, I want to start with table linens - napkins, table runners and tablecloths. Pictured here are some napkins I made yesterday with the fabric I designed on Spoonflower. One thing I know is that I need a new sewing machine. I have a 50's Singer that does not even have a zigzag stitch. Just a straight stitch. It's a great machine and I've sewed a thousand and one dolls on it, and clothes for me, my husband, and my kids - even my wedding dress. But if I am going to be sewing these napkins and tablecloths, I need a serger. Otherwise, I will be painstakingly measuring, turning, ironing, and straight stitching all the edges, which takes a loong time, and even then, it's never perfect. Not that it has to be perfect, but hell, if I can get a machine that just zips around those edges, that's the way to go. (Besides, my sister is engaged to a guy who collects and repairs sewing machines - I am certain he can find me a good deal! It's about time I stepped out of the dark ages...)

Another thing that the guide suggests is that I put my ideas out and ask for feedback. So here goes!!! Please visit Brainstorm Studio and let me know what you think of the shop so far - the banner, the intro, the profile, the items, photos, etc. Tell me what you think works, and what could use work. I am ordering a bunch of new shirts for summer this coming week - tank tops and tees with colored mandalas, and some of the mandalas will be smaller than the ones you see printed on the current shirts. And I know I have to offer a wider range of sizes.

Also, what do you think of the new fabric pictured here? And what about the napkins? I want to sell an assortment of six different colors and designs, because my favorite color is rainbow, but I think that I should offer sets of 4-6 napkins of the same fabric for people who are more matchy and may not like as much crazy color as me...

The white on blue piece is going to be a tablecloth. I'm getting to keep this piece because it had some irregularities and Spoonflower is re-printing it for no fee! They are terrific!

Eventually I would like to open a separate shop to just sell yardage of the fabric. These are only my first tries at designing. I have so many more ideas for new fabrics using Lisbeth's mandalas!

And so many ideas of what to make with that fabric - pillows, curtains, shower curtains, bags, clothing, quilts, etc. But I do not want to be sewing for a living. If this takes off, I can hire people to sew.

Well, thanks for letting me air this all here. And thanks in advance for any constructive criticism and feedback!!! Happy Weekend, All!


KaHolly said...

Hi, Martha, just off the top of my head I'm going to say, keep everything in one shop. Just index it well. If everything is made from her cut paper designs, then one shop is fine. Don't make it any more difficult than it already is!! Right? Keep it simple to start. If things take off, then deal with it then. The fabric is beautiful. Have you considered offering the fabric fo sale by the yard? Good luck with all this. Wish I was closer so I could help! ~karen

Brad Gailey said...

I've been doing freelance design work, drafting specifically, and what I've learned in that time is that I am the world's worst businessman. The unfortunate thing is that being an artist you are forced to be a businessman or businesswoman, good, bad, or indifferent, regardless. I do subscribe to ArtCalendar which is a magazine devoted to the business of art and recommend it as it has articles ranging from copyright law to digital imaging. You're seem to be doing a great job. I think Lisbeth's products are wonderful. Don't let it overwhelm you. And, make sure you stay on track with your work.


Dean Grey said...


Rules are meant to be broken sometimes, even in the business world.

I personally don't think you need a separate Etsy shop for the fabric items. As long as all of your wares contain the mandala theme it all works and matches in my humble opinion!

The pictures look great! Each listing has several pics from different angles and close-ups shots.

And I adore the new tees with the smaller mandalas near the chest! These look much more proportioned compared with the larger mandalas, again, in my opinion!


Tracey Miller said...

Hi Martha,

The fabric looks great!

I always have thoughts on this stuff, but here are just a few for now... :)

1) As others have said, you definitely do not need a separate shop for additional items. Everything in this shop utilizes Lisbeth's mandalas in some way, and that is enough to make it work. If you sold fabric by the yard, I'd include that here as well.

2) It might make sense to have a website that could serve as a portal to the etsy shop and the blog. With or without a website, I'd recommend maintaining a uniform look (the same or similar header, at least) on etsy and the blog so that it's all visually consistent.

3) In the shop profile, I might clarify that Lisbeth does the paper cutting and you are the one who then creates these items from the resulting work. Friends of mine who have seen the site have been confused about that point at first glance.

4) I'd echo Brad's comment about keeping your own work on track. :)


Susan Beauchemin said...

Beautiful!! The sewing machine is a good idea. I agree with KaHolly and Dean about sticking to one store--the cut out designs tie the whole thing together. I know as a buyer, that I'd be interested in yardage---Wow! that fabric is beautiful--is it 100% cotton? How thick is it? Would it be suitable for sewing clothes?
You've heard the idea my daughter came up with about special ordering--to choose the mandala to be put on the shirt size of their choice. This is a good idea, but could be tough to put into effect. I think it could be done with a limited amount of mandalas to choose from--the mandala could be large, small, white, a color... on their choice of shirt??? Just a thought. You know best!

martha miller said...

Hi Karen!

Thanks for your feedback! Yes, I do want to seel the fabric by the yard! This is my first batch - I wanted to be certain that I like the fabric, and I do! So i will be doing that soon! You are way north in Maine, right? Do you ever attend the Etsy Maineteam meetings?

martha miller said...


martha miller said...

Hi Brad!

I will check out ArtCalendar, thanks for the tip! Thankyou for your vote of confidence, and your advice to stay on track with my work. (word verification: deraw) Yes, I will keep derawing! :*)

martha miller said...

Hi Dean!

Thankyou! Yes. I will keep everything in one shop! And thankyou for your suggestion to make the mandalas more proportionate to the figure!! My summer pieces will be very cool!

martha miller said...

Hi there, Tracey!

Thanks for dropping in with your ideas! A website sounds great - are you taking new commissions?? Do you think that I should coordinate the banners of Not Bad Thing and Brainstorm Studio? I've been wanting to add some of Lisbeth's mandalas to the header of the blog (floating around the portrait of Lis and me...) and I've been wanting to change the Etsy banner colors a bit - make it more multicolored rather than just pink white and blue...
Do you think that I should do away with the photo in the blog banner and just have identicle banners for blog and etsy shop?? How about the avatar (Milkweed Angel). Does that work? Or sould I have a mandala??
Oh! And I will clarify that Lisbeth does the cutting! Thankyou! I jad no idea that that was confusing!

talk soon!! xox

martha miller said...

sould = should
jad = had

i need a typist...

martha miller said...

Sue the WOO!

Deb is talking to Geoff about finding me a deal on a more up to date sewing machine! Fun.
Yes, the fabric is 100 percent cotton. It's quilting cotton - appropriate for clothing, napkins, quilts, etc. The big piece of blue and white is a linen/cotton canvas. Heavier. Perfect for tote bags, tablecloths, cushions, pillows, drapes, etc. Isn't it COOL??? I will be selling yardage! I have to see which ones are the most appealing. Which ones do you like??
I like the idea of choose your own shirts. I could maybe offer that along with a ready made inventory...
So many good ideas! One at a time, one at a time...breathe, breathe...

martha miller said...

THANKYOU KINDLY, EVERYONE!!! It truly does help to air this stuff out and get your valuable take on things! XOX

Elizabeth Seaver said...

The fabric is fabulous, colorful and fun. I love all your pictured fabrics. I think keeping it manageable is important. What about starting with your original idea of table linens in same colors and assorted then see how the demand works out. When you have a workable routine about producing those things, look at expanding. You've got the ideas to be ready for that, but you don't have to do them all at once. Set out a plan of stages.

A new machine that saves you time and frustration sounds like a must. I think this is very exciting!

Oh, one more idea: There is a site called (I think) that friends of mine have used. You provide the images to them, and people can order t-shirts of any kind they want (color, style, size) with the image on it. That might be something to check out for Lisbeth's mandala designs on clothing.

Kara said...

I would stick to one Esty shop but keep it organized well- fabrics under this link, paintings under this one, etc. I think you'll get more bang for your buck (hate that expression but it fits) if you keep everything together- someone window shopping for dining room embellishments may be turned onto your paintings which they didn't know they were looking for & vice versa.

Fabric question- love those napkins! Will you be making placemats or table runners to coordinate? Also, might I suggest white fabric w/ some bright solid colors in the future? I have all Fiesta dishes in my kitchen & would love to mix & match w/ something like that.

Oh, yes- love your art but that goes w/o saying. :)

martha miller said...

Thanks, Kara! Great feedback! yes, I will be making placemats and tablerunners and tablecloths! And I will for sure make some colors on white!


It really helps to hear everyone's ideas!!! THANKYOU AGAIN!