Making Progress: Breast Cancer Awareness Themed Items for 2014

Ahem Ahem!, Colors, Leveling Up

So far I haven’t created any products for specific campaigns or themes (apart from my usual business charitable giving). This year, I wanted to do a test batch and chose October and breast cancer awareness.

There are some gorgeous pinks and reds in my fabric stash. I selected a few to make a small quantity of lavender sachets and mini storage cubes. Some sachets are plain, some have a heart applique in the front and some were inspired by the Tardis; all are limited run and sold singly. A part of the sachets are in darker colors – burgundy red and purple – as a nod towards male breast cancer. I also sewed two unique sets of two mini cubes; the rest of the cubes are limited run and sold singly. Here is a group photo:

2014 PGH Breast Cancer Awareness

They are now available in my Etsy store; more photos can be seen on Flickr. Five percent of the proceeds go to Susan G. Komen. It will be interesting to see how a themed set like this performs compared to my usual selection. At the very least it has been educational to think in terms of a specific collection or purpose.

New Item Info Tags in Action

Before & After, Behind the Scenes, Design & Designers, Leveling Up

As a seller of textiles, I am obligated by the federal labeling requirements (the so-called Textile and Wool Acts) to include at minimum the following information with my products: fiber contents, country of origin (the “Made in” statement) and identity of the dealer / manufacturer (which is me). I also include dimensions, care instructions and return information in my info tags, and identify the recipient of my charitable donations.

One of my projects early in the year was re-doing the item info tags. For comparison, below is the old version:

Prisms Ready to Send

The info bands on the throw pillow covers are not so bad, really. However, the stickers I used to connect the band ends did not hold properly. The Textile & Wool Acts stipulate that info tags must be securely attached to the product until delivered to the consumer, so I needed a new solution.

Fortunately, the Acts also say that label(s) need to not be permanently attached. I decided therefore to use small cards instead of bands and use linen yarn to tie these “tags” onto the items. Below is the new design:

Item Info Tags

In addition to the tags, I created small booklets to tell my store story in a nutshell. One additional consideration convinced me to make the change: the new tags are easier to attach to oddly shaped products, like hanger covers:

New Info Tags on Hanger Covers

The new info tag design, with the tags tied on, unquestionably covers me under the Textile and Wool Acts. As a side benefit, it saves me paper. Goal reached!

This is how I ship purchases to customers:

New Info Tag Item Packaged

I tag, fold and sleeve items in plastic for protection from the elements. It’s a lot of work, but the results are worth every minute.

Making Progress: First Impressions on Changing Tack

Books & Mags, Geek out!, Leveling Up

What would be better for the last proper post of the year than reflection? Below I’ll share some of my thoughts on changing careers. But first a little sidenote to show off my last library project.

My previous job was at a (great!) high school library. Although the Doctor Who 50th anniversary took place after I left, I wanted to do something. I turned one of our blue bookcarts into a Tardis – so fitting, right? – and decorated it with snippets of Doctor Who history plus pictures of Who-fan projects found online. The librarians kindly rolled my display out at the proper time and posted these photos on their Flickr feed.

PeskyLibrary DrWho Front

Display: Eppu Jensen; photo: Carl A. Pescosolido Library.

PeskyLibrary DrWho Back

Display: Eppu Jensen; photo: Carl A. Pescosolido Library.

PeskyLibrary DrWho Side

Display: Eppu Jensen; photo: Carl A. Pescosolido Library.

All photos from the PeskyLibrary Flickr (Carl A. Pescosolido Library, Governor’s Academy).

I’ve been working for myself for 6 months now. The decision to make the change was very difficult. I felt I was trying to balance such an incongruent amount of wishes and wants that there was no good solution. In a way, that helped: knowing there was no way to accommodate *everything*, I had to focus on *something*. It forced me to decide what I wanted most out of a change, concentrate on achieving that and re-evaluate every other consideration as honestly as I could.

There are times when I miss the library, my colleagues and students, very much. I miss being an active part of the book world. I miss using my academic skills. And quite honestly, I miss a steady paycheck. However, I’ve gained what I most wanted out of the change: more family time and more control. Almost all of my library career involved evenings. I hardly got to see my husband, let alone share daylight with him. Now I have both. I’ve gotten to stretch myself and learn new skills. I’ve also gained new contacts. Although I got to be creative at the library, too, I now get to flex different creative muscles, ones I feared were in danger of atrophying.

Change is unsettling, even frightening, but change is also challenging and rewarding. Even in hindsight, given the same circumstances, I’d make the same decision again.

Making Progress: Ready for the World!

Behind the Scenes, DIY, Leveling Up

Getting your products out into the world involves quite a few tasks. Making and photographing your items – apart from the initial plan and design – are just the first steps in the process. Packaging is an important step that ties in with regulations, branding and customer service. It took me several days of research, thinking and experimenting to come up with a solution that I’m happy with.

As per the federal Textile and Wool acts, I had to include fiber content, manufacturer and country of origin information. I also wanted to include care information. I wanted something that both takes my branding (logo / font) into account and is pleasing to the eye. Finally, I absolutely wanted my textiles to be protected from the elements during shipping. And I wanted simple packaging. Quite a few requirements, don’t you think?

Here is my solution:

Prisms Ready to SendThe photo above shows the first batch of my Prism pillow covers, ready to be sent out into the world. I quite like how the 18x18 size folds so that you are able to see all three colors of the pillow front. I wish I could say that was premeditated, but it was, in fact, a very happy accident I’m shamelessly taking advantage of. 😉

Achievement Unlocked: 10 Followers

Behind the Scenes, Leveling Up, Thumbs Down

This blog already has 10 followers, to my surprise:

10 Followers on PGH

Exciting, right? Unfortunately, I seem to have been hit with “follower spam” already: most of these people are advertizing something. You could almost make their “pitches” into a pseudo-conversation:

“How to Make Money Blogging!”
“Join the Excitement by Following Our Fantabulous Reality TV Series That Has Absolutely Nothing to Do with Your Life or Interests!”
“Not Sure? Then Make Money Blogging about Our Fantabulous Reality TV Series!”
“No, Really, Join The Excitement Now. It’s really Exciting!”

It’s a little demoralizing – I am writing with an actual person in mind, not a sales drone who’s fishing for clicks or followers. We already have the Do Not Call list to block unsolicited sales calls and spam filters to block unsolicited marketing e-mails. I wonder when the blogging industry will catch up.

For the real people who follow: Thank you. I have no doubt you’ll get company in time.

Making Progress: First Product Photographs

DIY, Leveling Up

Whenever you start anything new, progress happens more slowly than you’d like. It happens slowly regardless of whether your professional or personal history has any relevance to your new enterprise. That’s been my experience, at least. I remember well the first horrible six weeks of grad school in the U.S. – I was so confused despite already having a master’s degree from the old country! Then something clicked in my brain, and I fell into a natural rhythm again.

My experience starting a business seems to follow exactly the same pattern. Each new step or aspect confuses the heck out of me at first. I try and try; I spend hours pouring over advice, or trying a technique, or editing text, or reading up on federal regulations. At the end of a day it seems I have made only minor progress. It can be disheartening.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that the initial confusion is a necessary step, repetition is good, and progress does happen. Case in point: here are two of my first product photos. Not professional quality, since I’m not a pro photographer and don’t own a fancy camera, but quite decent.

Prism001 Posed Shot

Prism010 Closeup

Now I also know how I want to present my pillow covers, what kinds of settings I am most comfortable with, what kinds of props I can produce, and when/where to take my photos – in other words, I have a photo routine. I’m happy. 🙂