Ollie’s World: Teaching Sustainability to Children

I just wanted to share a fabulous site I came across that’s great for kids and teachers and even other grown ups to learn about sustainability.  If you know a kid (or a kid at heart) and want to help them learn about and change the world they live in check out Ollie’s World. This fabulous site has tons of information, games, activites and resources related to recycling, reusing, reducing waste and more.

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Valerie Tyler Designs Retro Shop Grand Opening and Giveaway

I’m now officially celebrating the grand opening of my Retro Collection shop.  I’ve stocked the store with all sorts of vintage style goodness, including some classic black and white pieces in my Classic Noir Collection, Art Deco and Retro Mod style jewelry, jewelry with a touch of yesteryear and victorian flair, and pieces with a nostalgic look. Here’s a few examples of what you can discover:

From the Classic Noir Collection:

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Black Tie Soiree’ Necklace, $23.50

From the Art Deco /Retro Mod Collection

scarlett2Scarlett Earrings, $10.00

One more example from the Nouveau Nature Collectionemerald“The Emerald Necklace”

To celebrate the opening of this shop I’m also giving visitors to this blog the chance to win my Gothic Pearl Necklace.  See my giveaway post for details and rules.

WIN my Gothic Pearl Necklace

To celebrate the GRAND OPENING of my new store:  Valerie Tyler Designs Retro Collection I’m giving one lucky person the opportunity to win my new Gothic Pearl Necklace.

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If you’d like to win this beauty here’s the rules:

1.  Visit my new Retro Collections Shop at http://www.valerieoutlet.etsy.com

2.  Decide which item in the shop you love the most.  (Other than my Gothic Pearl Necklace)

3.  Leave a comment on my blog with this post with the name of the item you loved, as well as your e-mail or etsy username before  6am E.S.T. February 8, 2009

4.  You MUST provide a way for me to contact you or you will not be able to receive your prize.

Once the deadline is here a name will be randomly chosen and I’ll notify the winner and post the results.  Good luck!

I Need a Vacation!

Sorry I’ve been missing!  Here’s my list of excuses:

I’m currently researching and brainstorming ideas for some new articles.

Today I judged a science fair.  Which was fun, exciting, and made me realize my vocabulary is going down the tubes. I need to read more frequently again.

It’s the end of the grading quarter and I had to enter report cards.

I’m in the process of filling out around 11 art show applications.

I’m making inventory trying to stock the retro collection shop.

I’ve actually been running 30 minutes a day.

I’m evaluating ways I can change the world and searching for my purpose.

Do those work? 🙂

Basically a vacation would be nice. Maybe to here:imgp0998

A Nice Operation That’s Not to be Missed.

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How many people do you know say they don’t read the paper or watch the news because they say so much is negative?  Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself.  Time to find something to get rid of some of your helpless or disillusion feelings and visit a site that’s a bit more  enriching and incredibly positive.  I’d like to introduce you to fabulous website  called Operation Nice .  It’s a blog type site which emphasizes how being just a bit nice can go a long way.  Operation Nice is an empowering and uplifting site.  You can read stories about how people’s lives were changed with just a little kindness, be introduced to some amazing organizations and people and find some inspiration to do some good yourself!

So click the lovely link above and……have a nice day!

Even the Poor Gargoyle is Cold from the ‘Arctic’ weather.

Poor Gargoyle…I don’t think he’s too happy about the weather.

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I don’t mind though—it’s nice to stay inside and get some things done.

Geek Speak for Artists (and other businesses!): Successfully Using Technology to Promote your Art

A savvy artist knows that in order to become successful they have to do a lot more than just create great art.  They need to become known, respected and perhaps even establish a fan base.

In the past many artists often relied on visibility at art shows, gallery representation, newspaper coverage, and handing out thousands of business cards as well as word of mouth to establish their name and identity.  Today however, artists with a little tech know-how can use the internet to build a fruitful business.  The following represent only a mere fraction of the tools available that can be used to build up a reputation, market products and create a customer base.

Social Networking

One of the first best ways to build up clientele and get the word out is to take advantage of one (or all) of the many free social networking tools on the internet.

Myspace.com which has been around since 2003 allows users to keep in touch with “friends” and make new ones. You join a group with similar interests or create your own, post photos, music and create a profile.  For artists it’s pretty simple to create a page to profile your business, add pictures of your work and even contact information.  You can also send bulletins to all your “friends” with updates about what you’re doing. Check out Cleveland handmade’s profile on myspace.com  for an example of how this collective of artists uses myspace as part of their marekting efforts.

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Facebook is one of my current personal favorites.  It was originally founded to connect college students, but today users can connect and find others based on city, school or workplace.  A variety of applications allow users to maintian event calendars, post videos, photos, links, create groups and more.  Once someone is a facebook user they can also create an additional business page.  Facebook users can become fans of business pages to keep track of news feeds and updates from those businesses. For an example of a business page, her my business page:

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Other social networking sites worth checking out include DeviantArt(specifically for artists), linkedin (for businesses), and tribe (a great place to find people with similar interests)

Social Messaging

This is very similar to social networking, though quite a bit simpler and quicker. Twitter is an example of one social networking site (otherwise known as micro blogging) in which users can send and receive short messages.  Many artists on Etsy for example are using Twitter to send followers short updates on new product listings, links to photos, and short notes about events.  Other social messaging sites include Jaiku and  Plurk.

I personally follow several artists on twitter and enjoy checking out their updates on anything from what has inspired them to learning about new creations.  I also use it to keep my own followers in the loop as far in regards to special news.  Here’s an example of a short twitter I received from Etsy that let me check out the most recent “Get The Look” feature:

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Etsy Etsy Finds: Getting Jill Bliss’ Look – Home Decor Edition: This weekend’s Get the Look: Decor is inspired by.. http://tinyurl.com/94acra

Bookmarking Sites

Another excellent way to get your art out to the public is to submit it to social bookmarking sites.  These are sites in which users save the links of web-sites and products they want to share with others.  These can be as simple as wish lists, or more indepth sites that run contests, allow voting, creation of styleboards, and have expert panelists.   You can add your products as well as others you like to bookmarking sites, and use networking to suggest  items to others.

Known for “connecting stylish people”  Stylehive promotes their site as a way for you to become or follow “shopping divas” to see what’s hot.  It’s an excellent place to add jewelry, clothing, accessories and home decor.  You can share items with friends or the entire community as well as win contests and more.

Kaboodle is another shopping community where users can  recommend items and check out the suggestions of others. On Kaboodle users can also create styleboards like the one below with items they have bookmarked to share with the community. In styleboards the images link back to the site where the items can be purchased.

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Delicious is perhaps the largest of all the social networking sites.  Users can tag and save their favorite sites, login to delicious and still get to their bookmarks from anywhere. Use it to check out which tags are the most popular and discover the delicious links of others.

If you’d like a bookmarking tool that helps you search or “stumble” across sites that would be of most interest to you consider StumbleUpon.  Members of StumbleUpon can add sites, share, rate and rank the sites and use it to find similar sites or sites that fit their interests.

There are literally dozens and dozens more, so search the internet and see what else you can find that suits you.

Blogging

Once you begin to establish a customer base keep your customers up-to-date through your very own blog. Artists can use their blogs to share their artistic processes, their inspiration for their work, news, and more.  For best results make frequent posts to your blogs, include pictures to make things interesting, and build links.  If you want people to visit your blog, your posts should be relevant and interesting.  Submit your blog and rss feed to directories such as yahoo to get more traffic.  Three of the biggest free blog publishing tools are WordPress, LiveJournal and Blogger.  There are pros and cons to each so it’s worth thinking about what kind of control and ease you are looking for in a blog.  This blog is an example of what you can do with a blog on wordpress.  To see an example of how a wonderful artist uses Blogger check out one of my favorite artists, SToNZ:

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Databases and Directories

Some internet sites have databases or directories where users can browse through a collection of links to shops and businesses.  They key here is to add your site to databases most likely used by your target audiences.  Artists may wish to consider adding their sites or shops to databases such as Talent Database, Bust Magazine’s Girls Wide Web, FashionMission and Indie Collective.

Photosharing

At the slight risk of having your photos used or “stolen” you can expose audiences to your work by sharing photos of your work with others. Flickr is perhaps the most well known of these sites.  Flickr allows you to upload and store photos and choose how you want to organize and sahre those photos.  If you make your photos public others can view and discover your work.  Keep in mind however that Flickr’s dos ans don’ts  state that the site isnot to be sued for commercial purposes.  If you link your photos to a selling site or include too much “business” information your account may be terminated.  Other photo sharing communities include webshots and fotolog.

Whew—tired yet? In short, there are so many ways to promote and market your art that are even FREE to be found on the internet.  Keep in mind some of these resources bring more attention to your business than others, you just need to research and find out which ones are the best for your business and determine how m uch time to invest in them.  The larger a presence you can make however, the more well known you will become as an artist.

A Fabulous Organic Beauty Find

I typically like to only feature products made by local or independent artists, but I came across a beauty find I had to share. I’m typically a fresh-face type of person and lately have taken to only playing with make-up on special occasions or weekends. However, I tend to never walk out of the door without mascara.

Finding an organic mascara has not been the easiest thing to do, but finally I found one that might do the trick. Physicians Formula has created a 100% natural line of cosmetics, and part of that line is an all-natural, hypoallergenic mascara. Even better though, the pacakging it comes in is entirely recyclable. When it comes to my eyes, I like the idea of being able to finally use a product without harsh chemicals or synthetic gunk.

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Treasury Find: Riveting Necklace

It’s always a pleasant surprise to go persuing through treasuries on Etsy and then finding one of my items in it.  I don’t always manage to snag a screen shot of them, but every now and then there’s one so striking I have to stop eveything to nab it.  The lovely 3FUN (a fabulous felt artist!) curated this treasury “Peach Tree” and included my Riveting Necklace with copper and sterling silver.  I’d never have pictured it in with a bunch of peach items but it worked perfectly.

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Organizing and Managing The ‘business’ part of an Art Business

It would probably be truly amazing to art buyers, and even some artists themselves as to how much organization and ‘business’ stuff goes into an art business beyond making art. I thought I’d share a little insight into how I organize and run my business for those who are curious and offer up some tips how to set up a business for aspiring artists.

1.  Either use your own name or register for a DBA name (doing business as)  this protects from having another business take your name, especially after you may have put years into building it up.  Personally I’ve used my own name, as I figured I’d never want to change it.  Registering for a DBA is often done through the county, or in some cases the state.

2.  Apply for a vendor’s license.  This typically is done on a county level.  Look online or call the county up to obtain the necessary paperwork.  Fill it out, pay the fee, send it in and you’re all set.

3.  Get a system of financial organization set up.  Some people use Quicken, some people use Money, some people even make their own spreadsheets. I actually purchased a profit and sales tax manager from Simple Solutions on Etsy, which was nice and easy to use, as well as easy to customize.  I found a lot of other programs were far too expensive and had way more bells and whistles then I needed. Then keep track of all purchases and expenses so they can be inputted into your spreadsheet or program to give you an accurate financial picture of your business.

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4.  As mentioned above, keep track of ALL purchases and expenses no matter how little they may seem.  I found it was helpful to check out how expenses and purchases are to be reported on tax forms and group and categorize them accordingly right off the bat.  It saves a lot of time versus sorting through a huge stack of receipts at the end of the year.  I actually created my own little spreadsheet to do so, print it out monthly and actually even handwrite my expenses down then tack the receipts onto the monthly spreadsheet.  At the end of the month, I tally everything up and put into into my main simple solutions excel spreadsheet.  I can then check the running total of my sales, my expenses and the cost of my goods sold.

This is my simple, yet hand little homemade spreadsheet:

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5.  Organize your files! A file bin is tremendously useful.  I’m really particular and have mine color coded according to shipping items (labels, delivery confirmation receipts, and other shipping records), sales, expenses (including individual files for different types of fee receipts such as etsy fees, and credit card transaction fees), supply orders, inventory records, and show information. Every year I clean it out though, collect the old records and file them away unless the tax man ever cometh and want to see my records.

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Yes, I’m a bit persnickety about organization. Nice and cleaned out and ready for the New Year though here.

6.  Keep track of all your sales.  It’s also important to keep a record of all the sales tax you collect and pay that on time.  Depending on the size of your business taxes, you may have to pay them anywhere from monthly to semi-annually.   I print out spreadsheets of all my online sales, and keep two-part record books at shows.  One record goes to the customer as a receipt, the other is for my records.  I label each book with the date and show, and then tally my sales amounts in the front of the book. I even break down sales according to type of product sold so I can track market trends year to year.

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Now most of the financial information is organized and ready to go for the year.  The key once you get the organizational system set up is to use it!  Don’t forget to file those receipts instead of crumpling them up and accidentally throwing them in the wash.  Try to add up figures periodically to see how things are going.  You might be surprised to find out you can order more supplies!  (Or realize you might need to out yourself on a spending freeze)

Once you’ve got all the money “stuff” organized you can concentrate more on simply making art.

……wait….hold up….not quite!

You’ve got to market yourself too and find venues for your work.

1.  Take a good look at your logo, your packaging, and your “image”  and if you haven’t even created one–do so!  It’s always a good idea at least once a year to take a look and make sure that the image your are marketing work under truly fits you and is a marketable image.  This may mean doing some self-reflections, taking an in-depth look at what you are creating, and also trying to get feedback from customers, potential customers and anyone who will offer it as to how they see your work.  If you’ve put a lot of effort into building a solid image, you’ll find that it will stand the test of time  and you’ll rarely have to tweak it much.

2.  Put time and thought into photographing your work.  The better the photography, the more alluring your product becomes.  This is essential for both getting into excellent art shows, and for attracting customers.

3.  Make  a marketing plan. Create a list of media contacts to send samples of your work to (even if it’s just an e-mailed photo or a link to your shop.) Create  checklist of goals and try to meet them.  Creating and ordering business cards, promo postcards, buttons, banners or any other creative means to get your art and name out there falls under this as well.

packagingPart of how I “market” my image

4.  If you want to do the art show circuit be sure to allow time to order photographs or slides as necessary and fill out applications before show deadlines.

appApplications, always more time-consuming then they look.

There’s so much more, but in the interest of not making this blog post a mile long I think it’s time to sum things up…artists have a lot of extra work to do to make art in addition to their art, and on that note…I’d like to go actually make something now!   Off to the studio!