I've made seven posts for #DifferenceMakesUs, talking about my creative process which keeps my shop stocked and orders going out. It's been good fun to reflect on it all, because I've never given it much thought and I've certainly not shared any of it with anyone before. But now it's all finished and we've descended into December, I've realised a few things...
I discovered I'm still proud of everything I make.
And everyone should take pride in their work, even if it's work they've done a few hundred times. I may not enjoy the entire process - some parts are fiddly, others are uncertain, and some are just annoying - but if I can smile and look with satisfaction upon my 250th fox jar, then that bodes well. I won't post out what I'm not satisfied with. If it's not quite right, I put it aside and either soak it all out to salvage components and throw out others, or, if it's more of a technical detail like a slight slant or miss-sizing, I'll list it as a discounted and imperfect piece in the hope that the small issue can be overlooked - and I'm always very clear about the imperfection. Tags, titles and relevancy don't matter on listings like that, it's all about getting across the problem and ensuring any potential buyer is aware.
I have high standards as both a buyer and a seller.
I am proud of my shop and I'm proud of my work. My skill has improved over the five and a half years since my Etsy shop opened, and I have personal standards that I expect my pieces to rise to. I take care over every piece and I always try to leave an impression with my packages - not for the sake of return customers, because my pieces aren't really likely to encourage return buyers; they're not consumable and they're not cheap. Rather, it's because I don't like buying from Etsy and being sent a plain package containing what I purchased and nothing else. No tissue paper or packaging, no note - it doesn't strike me that the seller I bought from, on Etsy of all places, takes any pride in their work. I expect plain packaging from Ebay or from general online stores, so when a company like Aduna wraps everything in orange tissue paper and includes a hand-written note, upstaging 8 out of 10 Etsy sellers I've bought from, I know that I'm doing it right. It makes me feel like I'm buying from passionate people, and that makes the product more valuable and my purchase feel more appreciated.
And I enjoy the packaging process, too, though during Christmas it becomes quite a challenge.
I am surprisingly dedicated.
After all, I do all of this myself. I do wish at this time of year that I had some help, and both Seeg and Lucy have offered their help if I need it, but the truth is it's the crafting I really want help with and that's not something they or anyone else can help me with. The packaging they could, but that's the bit I like! I like writing the notes, wrapping up the tissue paper, choosing and pairing up the washi tape for the envelopes. It's fun, it's colourful and it's happy. Plus that step means that the orders are complete and that in turn means there's less work to do!
I do still enjoy it, even if I think I don't.
I love making my animals - once they're finished. And I do love custom orders, too; I love being asked to make certain animals for someone's sister because she went to Africa to work on conservation, or because someone's grandfather was a vet, or their best friend was born under the year of the whatsit. I also love being asked to do people's pets - it's a scary request, of course, and the price reflects the stress and terror, though I always question my skill in those cases even as I accept the commission. After all, I can look at someone's dog and see something different to them; markings and identity are more obvious to the owner than to a stranger, and even though I'm very particular about the pictures I request (front, side, top, behind of the animal), I know that I could still miss something, a small yet immensely significant detail that separates that dog, rat or bird from any other. But I love that work, too. And in those cases, because I only make one animal rather than a batch, I can put more time and attention into making it just right.
So there you have it. My crafting process and my personal position on this funny little business of mine. I hope you've enjoyed it - I rather liked reflecting on it all! And it's also helped me to rediscover my love for it. After all, 'going to work' for me can mean sitting in the living room in my dressing gown, fiddling with a small piece of clay, a hot chocolate whenever I want it, full access to TV and music, and a squirrel almost always on the other side of the window.
And after more than one thousand sales from people who are genuinely fond of my work, I'm not sure I have the option to doubt whether or not my time has been well-spent.
Previously: Product Packaging
And don't forget about my final Christmas order dates for domestic and international purchases!