Phew! I Made It!

Alas, readers, another Christmas has gone by. And I made it. All of the shopping, the baking, the planning, the gift wrapping, the get-togethering, and the stressing is nearly over. Honestly, I don't know why I get so busy at this time of the year, it's not like I don't know how to plan for it! However, this one was a bit different, and the reason was my Etsy shop.

Let me just tell you, as mentioned in my previous post, I definitely wasn't prepared for the holiday rush. I really didn't think I'd be a part of it, being a fairly new seller and all! It was exciting though, and it kept me very busy. Luckily, I did have nearly all of my shopping done at the beginning of December, which helped quite a bit. I'll also have you know that at least 60% of my gifts came from Etsy, or were handmade by me. I also received some handmade goodies--a birdhouse, some coasters and some hot pads, and a painting--as well as items that PROMOTE doing handmade activities (a gift certificate from Fire Mountain Gems and a kit to make my own incense!).

In '08 I'm going to be a busy, busy girl. Today I did a bit of shopping for my belated birthday (December 19), and it included some metalsmithing tools--a jeweler's saw, a torch and some solder, a ring clamp, some new tweezers and needle files, and of course some new beads and wire. In late Jan, or perhaps March or April, I'm going to be attending a private session with a metalsmith in State College, PA to learn some additional skills. Most of what I've been doing is self-taught, but from what I've read it seems that once you get into soldering and the like, it helps to do some one-one-one instruction. I can't wait!

Over Christmas I took a little break from the shop, but I still got some orders. I'll be working over the next few days to fill them, as well as try to come up with a few new designs for earrings. I'm also waiting on materials to continue developing my Beneath the Moon necklace and earrings (smoky quartz smooth teardrops are becoming hard to come by these days!). I'm also working on variations of this design...changing up the stones and whatnot. For instance, my up-and-coming "Beneath the Blood Moon" necklace will feature garnet teardrops and freshwater pearls in place of smoky quartz and peach moonstone. I'm hoping for a nice outcome on that one! The garnets I purchased are big and gorgeous and perfect for someone to show off. I'm also going to be doing a made-to-order piece called the Jonelle necklace, made after the person I made it for this Christmas. :oD I haven't talked to her yet, so I hope she liked it! I'll be putting pics of it on my Flickr page soon.

Well, I'm off for now, gotta get to work in the studio. Have a nice breather before New Year's!


Time for an Update

Dearest readers, sorry for the delays in posting; it's been a crazy week and this week is only going to get crazier.

The holiday rush hit me much more than expected. I figured that since I didn't open until late October, I wouldn't be so busy around the holidays, but WOW WAS I WRONG. If I was any more buried, I'd be in serious trouble! Stay tuned for lessons learned from this holiday after the season ends. In case you want to get a jump start on things, check out littleputbooks's article in the Storque. I wish I had it much, much earlier!

In other news, I finished a few of my custom items. I posted some pics here for ya; click on them to get to my Flickr page. Note that one of them inspired my Back to Earth necklace, currently available in my Etsy store. I have two other items to finish before the holiday--a necklace, bracelet, and earring set, and a pendant for a trade.

Finally, I'm letting my stock run down until after the 19th, basically because most of my items are made to order. To accommodate my customers during the holiday, I built up my stock, but now they have dwindled down to almost nothing, and I have to finish my custom work first! So, after the 19th I'll have a near-full storefront again, and production will resume.

Also--just a note--I am probably going to close the store on December 24-26 in order to spend time with my family, get last minute things ready for Christmas, etc. In 2008, I have many ideas for many new items, so stay tuned!


Red & Gold

Greetings, readers. Alas, here is yet another entry for the Etsy Bloggers Street Team Blog Carnival. The theme? Holiday Traditions & Musings.

I thought plenty about what I wanted to write...I don't have a large family; therefore, there's not many traditions that we follow. Honestly, Thanksgiving is the bigger holiday for us, so that's usually where many of our "traditions" are established or have been established. I did, however, remember one tradition that I follow, and that's decorating in red and gold for Christmas.

The tradition of using red and gold decor was started by my grandmother. I don't know if anyone used this color scheme before her, but what I remember most is the way her and my grandfather used to decorate their house for Christmas. White lights were a no-no. "White lights aren't warm, Chelsea," she would say, expressing her disgust for the white light trend that seemed to keep growing and spreading from house to house each year. "You need red to make your house look warm and you need red so it shows up better in the snow."

Every year, my grandfather would drag out those red, fat, monster-sized lights (can you even buy those anymore?) and cover their bushes in the front yard with them. I will say, against the snow, my grandmother was right--the lights looked beautiful. On their front porch was a life-sized wooden Santa Claus, which was bathed in a spotlight powered by a contraption that I think my grandfather built himself (he was quite the gadget maker, I must say).

Inside their house, taking up the entire width of their large front window, stood their Christmas tree. Adorned with red lights and red velvet ornaments accented with gold, it was truly a sight to see. The red lights on the tree created beautiful reflections against the ornaments, and the star on top--a multi-pointed 3-D star--was also embellished with red lights (you should know that I think the star originally came with white lights, and knowing my grandmother, she had my grandfather replace them all with red). To finish it off, each front window was dressed with a decorative arrangement comprised of red plastic bells, pine needles, and gold accents. The bells had twinkle lights inside, and when they flickered, they would light up the windows with that lovely, warm, red glow.

My grandparents aren't here anymore, so over the past few years I decided to take over the red and gold tradition at Christmas. Much of my decor is red and gold, but I have to say that my tree is what I'm the most proud of. I pile on tons and tons and tons of red lights, as well as red and gold bulbs (see some of 'em here...along with a little reflection of me with my camera in them!). I have a few other ornaments sprinkled here and there, of course, but the red and gold is what catches your eye first.

My tree will be here next weekend, and I will spend my Saturday afternoon decorating it (as well as--ahem--working on my custom orders!). Once it's finished, for a brief period of time, it will take me back to a place where Christmas was a magical event, full of wonder and surprise and visits from that jolly Santa Claus fellow. It will remind me of the warmth of my grandparents' living room, and the way the front of their house used to glow under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.

Yes, during the holiday season my colors will be red and gold, dear readers. White lights aren't warm, and I know this because my grandmother said so.


What Did YOU Do to Promote Today?

Here, readers, is a question for you: What did YOU do to promote today? Do you have one or many answers? Are you doing things inside and outside of Etsy to promote yourself? Well, if you're searching for ways to take action, I'm going to provide you with my personal checklist below. I'm showing you my list for two reasons:

  1. I need to make this list for myself anyway, to ensure that I do all of these activities.
  2. If you're not promoting yet, it will serve as a great starting point for you to set you on your merry way!
Here we go, my fine friends:
  • Give your blog some love. Don't have a topic? Write about what you posted today and describe how you made it and/or what inspired you to make it.
  • Add a photo to your Flickr photostream and add the same photo to your groups.
  • Go to your Indiepublic page and your Skwiggle Kreationz page and add that photo to your profile, too.
  • Update your Indiepublic and Skwiggle Kreationz blogs, and leave some comments for your friends.
  • Get your Street Team stuff done, including making comments on blogs for the Blog Carnival (what, you're not part of a Street Team? You can go to the Etsy Teams page to find one that fits your needs, or come on over to the Etsy Bloggers Street Team--we keep growing and we'd love to have you!)
  • Update my Etsy Mini categories (are you on it? If not, get on there now--it's free promotion!)
  • Return bookmarks and acknowledgments on Talent Database
  • Visit the blogs on your blog roll and leave comments

That should do it, for now. If you have any other activities that you perform, please leave a comment...I'd love to make this list all-inclusive!


The Business of Being in Business: Listen to Your Customers

In the past two weeks, I've received a fair amount of orders, which have kept me busy and quite pleased. I've dealt with numerous customers, but two of them have offered input that I found extremely helpful.

The first customer had a question about one of my photos for my Pinkleberry Drops earrings. One of the cranberry pearls had a funny looking reflection on it, and when I checked the photo and then the earrings, it seemed there was a small defect on the bead (I thought it was just showing up in the photo).

What did this teach me? Check and double-check my product as I assemble it.

We all have to deal with this...especially when you get to the point where you make multiple quantities of an item. We can easily fall into "the groove" where we start putting things together and become very efficient at it. Sometimes, we forget to continuously examine and evalute our product, making sure that it is 100% "customer ready." I can tell you, it won't happen here again!

I was thankful that my customer pointed this out for me. Luckily, since the item is made to order, I didn't send her the earrings that were in the photo (that bead, actually, is now in the trash).

The second example happened this week. I had a customer who bought a pair of my Santa Fe Teardrops earrings. If you see the photo, you'll notice that I hammer out the ear wires so they're flat. My customer e-mailed me and asked if she could return the earrings because the wires didn't fit her piercings. I was really bummed about this, and offered to make her a new pair of ear wires with a thinner gauge of wire, without the "hammered" look (no charge, of course!). She was more than pleased and left me very positive feedback! I was also very happy that I could accommodate her.

What did this teach me? Provide my customers with options.

From now on I'll be adding a note to my earring descriptions, informing customers who have smaller ear openings that I can provide them with a different set of ear wires if they choose. Had this person not spoken up, I may have turned away some potential customers and lost some sales!

So, your lesson for today is to listen to your customers. Check your feedback, check your convos, check your e-mail, and see if any of the information you received could be turned into a positive change regarding the way you do business. We are here to serve our customers. As sellers, we need to be attuned to their needs and ready to accommodate them as necessary. Without their input and their shopping savvy, we wouldn't be here in the first place.