A Social Media Day in the Life of a Microbusiness Owner

Behind the Scenes

This summer, Playfully Grownup Home turned five years old. Yay! To celebrate my level 5 business owner status, here’s a writeup of my workday two Sundays ago. It’s a fairly typical exemplar of what it’s like to work for myself and by myself.

Hooray Cross Stitch

A note on my schedule: before starting the business, I knew from stories and research that owners don’t get to enjoy terribly regular hours. However, after a few years, I had to make regular off-hours a priority following a surgery and recovery afterwards. I still work slightly off-kilter, though, following my ex-library job schedule: typically Sunday through Thursday, unless there are orders to ship on Friday and Saturday.

Tumblr Chibird Take Care Today Future You Appreciates

Jackie a.k.a. Chibird on Tumblr.

Sundays are my dedicated social media writing and planning days. Typically they vary a lot: some are chock-full, others very light, and sometimes – annoyingly – the latter turn into the former by the force of PEBCAC. That was this particular Sunday.

Morning (7:30-)

I woke up to Husband banging his toe on some clutter on the floor that I hadn’t yet stored away (sorry!) and decided to get up and get going.

During breakfast, I checked email, social media and Etsy shop status (no new orders overnight) plus read my morning news.

Before finishing my second mug of tea, I dove right into the day’s tasks with the hope that if I got everything done fast, I could play some WoW in the afternoon because the latest expansion is still new and exciting. Alas, that didn’t happen.

I first scheduled three pre-drafted posts to wrap up Playfully Grownup Tumblr for August and made a template for September 2018 tumbling. I like to draft well ahead of my posting schedule in case of emergencies. Right now I’m completely out of pre-drafted material, though; soon I’ll have to spend time finding photos and writing captions for two or three weeks’ worth.

Then I checked a previously written and scheduled blog post for mistakes (=final, final proofread) and drafted another one. I needed a few photos before I could finish scheduling the post, however.

I remembered there was a a potential post photo I’d taken, possibly on a smart phone, but I also needed to take at least one new one. Since the latter usually goes fast, I pulled out my camera. I snapped the shot I needed plus another one for fun, then edited and uploaded them with metadata. Once that’s done, it’s easy and fast to add photos to a blog post from a Flickr URL.

In contrast, finding the already-taken photo I was thinking about dragged on because I got a new phone just the previous week and hadn’t yet backed up all of the photos from the old one. Once all appropriate batteries had been charged and files transferred, I found the photo. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work for the post. (Ohwell; at least I got all of my assorted phone photos backed up.)

I then spent some time digging in my photo folders looking for a replacement. That done, I pulled a WoW screencap to finalize the post with. A round of proofreading and the post was ready to schedule. Wham bang – that’s the posts for August!

Moving on. While laying out the basic structure for September’s blog posts, I lost a bunch of notes in a copy&paste mishap. Argh!

Fortunately, I had a backup copy with at least partial if not full notes on an external drive. Setting up the drive and retrieving the file took maybe an extra 15-20 minutes (because I wasn’t working in my office at the time); not a lot, to be sure, but annoying because had I not gotten distracted for the crucial 5 seconds, I wouldn’t have been in this jam to begin with. (And it certainly highlighted the importance of backing up my data!) To alleviate the frustration, I made another pot of tea. Because tea is good.

Brewing Lunch Tea

Lunch (12:10-ish)

Over lunch, I caught up on the blogs I follow and read more news, including various San Jose Worldcon (Worldcon 76) reports. I also briefly popped in and out of social media.

Afternoon (13:00-)

Winding down lunch and getting back to work, I first double-checked that my hobby blog post for the coming week was scheduled correctly. It was. (Sometimes I suffer from an ID10T attack and they’re not.) Then I started to draft this post – the first for September – and dug up photos and links to add.

To clear my head a bit, I switched both tasks and my physical location (accounting and receipts tracking in my office) for an hour or so, then got back on the computer downstairs.

I’m not going to lie; sometimes blogging and social media in general feel like an insurmountably large amount of work for seemingly little return.

Snow Work in Progress

However, if there’s something I’ve learned in 5 years in business, it’s that persistence is vital. Even a genius cannot sustain any efforts without sticking to it. It also helps to create and keep to routines, especially for tasks that aren’t my strongest suit. That way I’ll have more time for my favorite tasks later. Also, hydration’s the boss. 🙂

If I’ve been on the computer all morning I can feel myself slowing down by three o’clock; so it was also this sample Sunday. Having lost time in the copy&paste mishap and backup retrieval, I was reluctant to call it quits yet, so I finished this post and created two more drafts. That makes three of September’s seven blog posts.

I’ll still have to proofread them and finish selecting photos, but otherwise they’re done. Also, at about five pages (including images), this post clocks more than I usually write per post, so I ended quite happy with the day’s accomplishments.

Evening (17:00-)

Between four and five, I typically check my Etsy and email for any new orders so I can start processing them. Around five, I wrapped up work. Sunday is also our sauna day; after Husband and I were nice and warm and sauna clean, dinner over an episode of Miss Fisher followed. Finally, we played some WoW together before bed (and books) around ten.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Bits in Spaaace!, Geek out!

We happened to have excellent conditions for the 2015 supermoon lunar eclipse: clear skies, warm weather, and a dark backyard for early night viewing. The best shot I got is from the beginning of the eclipse (with a little computer enhancement).

Very neat. And, although celestial photography won’t become a part of my skills in a hurry, it was nice to try.

Discoveries: World-Class Costume Embroidery by Michele Carragher

Arts & Crafts, Movies & TV

Costume hand embroiderer, illustrator and artist Michele Carragher has produced work for several historical or historically inspired tv series and movies, including the Elizabeth I miniseries, Stardust, Prince of Persia and Game of Thrones.

Carragher uses her experience in textile conservation and traditional embellishment techniques to combine various materials and styles from around the world into breathtaking garments. The workmanship is exceptional!

Michele Carragher Peaky Blinders Graces Evening Dress

Grace’s evening dress, ca. 1921; Peaky Blinders. Via Michele Carragher.

Michele Carragher Sansa Wedding Dress Detail9

Detail from Sansa’s wedding dress to Tyrion Lannister; Game of Thrones / HBO. Via Michele Carragher.

Michele Carragher Dragonscale Detail HowTo

Detail from Daenerys’s dragonscale dress; Game of Thrones / HBO. Via Michele Carragher.

Check her website for the image galleries – gorgeous, detailed, layered work in such a range of materials and techniques! Carragher has also included a short how-to for Daenerys’s dragonscale dress embellishments (picture above) that might be of interest for Game of Thrones cosplayers out there.

Highly recommended for costume enthusiasts!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Wool on Wool with Medieval Motif

Arts & Crafts, Leveling Up

While pawing through my fabric bins in search of wool for another project, I came across an old embroidery that I’d forgotten about. I originally had a purpose for it, but my plans changed, and so the finished embroidery sat around for years.

The pattern is from 9th century metalwork, with an animal – dog, if I’d had to guess – framed by a triangle. I got it from Eva Wilson’s book Early Medieval Designs (in the British Museum Pattern Books series). I used blue wool yarn on mustard-y orange wool blend.

This embroidery project was a textile history nerdery win for me, because it was my first attempt at a historical design without a counted pattern (such as cross-stitch) or a pattern drawn on the fabric. I did measure and mark the corners for the triangular frame but eyeballed the rest.

In the spirit of celebrating your successes, I decided to frame the embroidery to hang somewhere in the house rather than keep it hidden.

I don’t remember why I chose complementary colors for the work; I guess that’s what I had available at the time. The effect is a little jarring, though, which is why I chose a neutral, naturally light-colored wood frame. The two-layered mat has a narrow navy accent on the inside, which goes with the blue yarn very well.

Looking good. 🙂 I still need to decide where exactly I want it.

Creativity Is: Recreating an Ancient Story in a 21st Century Form

Arts & Crafts, Fabrics & Materials, Geek out!, Thumbs Up

There are many definitions of creativity. Despite the differences, most include originality or novelty and imagination, and the creation of something new. Sometimes you take something really old and give it a completely new form, as is the case with this massive Odyssey LEGO build by VirtuaLUG.

 

Millie McKenzie VirtuaLUG's Odyssey

VirtuaLUG’s Odyssey display, Brickworld 2014; image by Millie McKenzie.

A group of LEGO enthusiasts took Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey and recreated a number of scenes. Wow! Browsing through the photo set on The Brothers Brick site, I was struck by Millie McKenzie‘s version of Circe’s Island in particular.

 

Millie McKenzie Circes Island

Circe’s Island by Millie McKenzie.

The reliefs and exterior moldings on the building are fantastic. I also took a look at McKenzie’s Flickr photos and found even more of her projects. She created more environments from Circe’s Island than shown in the collected Odyssey build, including the scene where Circe turned Odysseus’ men into pigs:

 

Millie McKenzie Oysseus Men Are Pigs

Men Are Pigs! by Millie McKenzie.

There are more of the skillfully made moldings in this build, and pillars and alcoves, but I’m especially impressed by the rounded roof tiles with the color variations. Very clever and evocative. And I just love the floor mosaics!

Homer isn’t the only topic for McKenzie, though. This version of musician Max Rebo from Return of the Jedi is the best!

Millie McKenzie Max Rebo

Max Rebo by Millie McKenzie.

McKenzie also has an intricate version of the Munchkinland / yellow brick road and many, many others. I definitely recommend visiting her Flickr stream!

 

Colors: The Story of the PGH Logo

Behind the Scenes, Colors, Design & Designers

I was asked what the Playfully Grownup logo is and where it comes from. I’ll give you two answers: a short and a long one.

Short answer:

I created it on the basis of a piece of historical embroidery from Finland. It’s meant to evoke a window or a house and to appear in multiples with a rainbow-like effect rippling through the squares. The different colors refer to inclusiveness and human diversity, both physically, mentally and culturally.

Long answer:

I created the logo on the basis of a piece of historical embroidery from Finland. When I was brainstorming the logo, I looked at everything I could think of. For a while, I was working on a pattern I got from photographing a print fabric, cropping a section and re-coloring it in various ways. In the end I wasn’t very taken with it, so out it went. Not to mention the potential copyright issues – this fabric was still in production a year or two ago, and even if my usage might be considered de minimis *and* transformational, it was a can of worms I didn’t want to open.

I was also inspired to look at my old textile history files. I got into textile history originally through the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) and live action role-play (LARPing), but I also chose topics related to textile history in my formal studies. One of my minors at the university was Finnish and comparative ethnology. In addition to barn type distributions, oven types vis-a-vis food traditions, wooing customs, informant interview techniques and whatnot, I read on Finnish folk costumes and traditional Finnish hand sewing techniques and materials. (Come to think of it, so much of my textile history reading was outside school. I really should have been smarter and found a way to get credit for it!)

There was a pattern book I was particularly interested in and used a lot. I *think* it’s Theodor Schvindt’s book Ompelu- ja nauhakoristeita (publ. Helsinki SKS, 1992). Unfortunately, my notes and the copies I made from the book got separated, so I can’t be sure anymore. In any case, I copied a few of the patterns into .bmp files. (Quaint, eh? 🙂 ) Here’s one of the images I painstakingly created:

Kuvio2 w Arrow

Some Finnish folk embroidery patterns. The red arrow points to the section I used as the basis for my business logo.

The image has several snippets of embroidery patterns. I believe most came from apron hems or hand towel endblocks or similar flat textiles. I mostly copied just enough to see how the pattern elements repeat; the full patterns / textiles were quite magnificent. In this image, the pattern on upper left caught my eye, especially the center of the rightmost motif. (I’ve blown it up and circled the motif center in the image.) I grabbed that section only…

SquarePNG…and started playing around with it. Here’s a collage of just some of the intermediate stages in the development process:

Logo Development Collage

1. Turning the original design 45 degrees and multiplying a small section. 2. Copying the original design as a tile. 3. Making a panel with two rows of the original design and experimenting with different colors.

Turning the original design 45 degrees and multiplying a small section didn’t pan out – see (1) in the image above. Copying the original design as a tile (2) looked more promising. Nothing really grabbed me, however, until I made a panel with two rows of the original design (3). That created a whole new focal point, the “window”, and I decided to use that as the basic building block for my logo. Then it was just a matter of experimenting with different colors and repeats. At one point I even played around with adding a “roof”, but that idea didn’t live long.

For my business card, I made a few rows of blocks for the top and bottom:

Business Cards 1st BatchI initially had the same design on this website, but I found it visually too heavy. Only one row of blocks looks much better.

The logo block is also less effective singly than as a panel. I think it still works just fine because two colors are more interesting than one. Below is the banner for my Etsy store’s front page:

PGH Etsy Banner 100x760

I picked the blue block as the default stand-alone doohickey, since greyish blue is my favorite color. I’ve also started to use the stand-alone block for reserving my Etsy items when I get a request:

Reserved Listing Purple

The logo is really meant to appear in multiples, however, with a rainbow effect rippling through the squares:

Thin Banner 1102x350I chose the rainbow-like effect because I like having color around. For me, colors are an aspect of happiness, and increasing my happiness was one reason for starting this business. I was also thinking of inclusiveness. It’s staggering how diverse both physically, mentally and culturally humans are. While I’m not interested in everything we humans do, I find such variety amazing. Finally, it’s also a subtle nod towards the gay pride rainbow flag. (I am not gay, but I am an ally. As a geek who has received her fair share of prejudice and dismissal for my “weird” interests, I will not intentionally inflict the same kind of pain on others.)

I also quite like how the different colors change from one block to another roughly through the color spectrum with the possibility of endless repeat. No individual block is monotone, just like people are rarely reducible into one stereotype.

The “window” logo fit my business idea (home textiles) particularly well, I thought. However, I was a little concerned over potential Microsoft Windows logo infringement accusations. (If you look at my initial color experiments in the development image, the resemblance is stronger.) It was definitely a consideration in creating the final form of the logo and why in the end I chose two-colored logo blocks for single appearances and the rainbow-like effect for multiples.

Many of the choices I’ve made are highly personal preferences. I’m under no delusion that my creation holds universal appeal. The logo works hand-in-hand with my business idea and visual taste, however, and that is quite enough for the moment. Also, it’s the first time I’ve designed a logo. It was a fascinating process, and almost as satisfying as creating something tangible. 🙂

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. 🙂