Monday, 29 March 2010

Tog Love Frome

Wasn't it a lovely day on Saturday? Well, it was down here. And it was all the lovelier because we went to a great vintage fair. It was the Rook Lane Vintage Fair in Frome. I got some wonderful trinkets from Leonore (a.k.a International Quality Kitsch). I also went a bit wild with the buttons and ricrac, but I have creative plans for those!

There were some great stalls to browse and enjoy, including Lizzie's. I found out about this fair from her blog, which I thoroughly recommend, especially if you want to know about fab vintage events in the South West.

Do you see that blue floral chopping board in the picture above? I was rather drawn to that, but I wasn't sure I could justify buying it, just because I liked the pattern. But the gods of vintage shopping were smiling on me, because I went to charity shop later in the afternoon and guess what I found? A cute little pot in the same design! Well, you can't argue with Fate!

Mr Kitsch really enjoyed himself too, even to the extent of writing about the things he bought in his own blog. (This blogging lark is very addictive.) He got so far into the spirit of the thing, he dressed in vintage clothes, so he got into the fair free. No this photo isn't Mr Kitsch...

And why is this post called something about Tog? Well, several years ago, I made Mr Kitsch a funny animal toy as a present. It was meant to be wonky and odd, so when I embroidered a message on the back, I made that wonky too. It said " To G Love from E". (He's Gary, I'm Elaine.) Unfortunately, when Mr Kitsch saw it, he read it as "TOG LOVE FROME". So the toy was known as Tog, and he loves to go Frome. So he came with us on Saturday too!

After I took the photos of Tog, he got hold of the camera and started messing about, taking photos of himself. Naughty Tog!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Knit a Neuron

A second very quick post today, with a scientific twist to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day - a day for bloggers to celebrate women in science.

My contribution is to highlight the Knit a Neuron project being organised by two scientists in Bristol. They say:
"In an attempt to combine our love of science and yarn we came up with Knit a Neuron project. We hope that by garnering the support of hundreds of knitters and crocheters we can create a beautiful artwork which illustrates what happens to the brain when it is injured by a stroke."

If you'd like to take part, you can find patterns on their blog. There have also been some events locally (I missed them, unfortunately!), and I think they are planning more. I will be crocheting my neuron soon...

Delightful Designs

Mostly pictures today, to show you my latest collecting obsession - vintage greeting cards. I've been collecting odd cards here and there for quite a while. At first I concentrated on the kitschy 1960s cards, but then I got some older ones and was just charmed by their sweet illustrations.

I've now bought a few large bundles of cards. The cards I'm showing you today come from the first bundle I bought, many of which are addressed to a little boy called Ian. A lot of them date from the early 1930s. I noticed that some, like the postcard of bunnies above, came to Ian from 'Diana', and a few had pictures of dogs. Then I saw the inside of this card, where a thoughtful relative had labelled the children 'Ian' and 'Diana', and the dog 'Timmy'. So now I have a picture of the brother and sister and their pet dog.

Some of the cards are just ridiculously cute...

Others are just very sweet. The crinoline ladies and cottage gardens appear very regularly in these old cards. I don't know why they were such a popular motif in the 1930s and 1940s, but you see them in embroideries and on biscuit tins as well. Mr Kitsch said they always make him think of the film 'Singin' in the Rain', where Jean Hagen, in powdered wig and huge dress, gratingly screeches "...and I cain't staind 'im!".

Well, now that's all I can think of too!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Collage and Collections

I have been itching to do some more embroidery, and have also been inspired by a lot of vintage graphics lately. I have lots of ideas mashing up in my brain, but I thought I'd show you my first attempt - an embroidered collage (well, that's what I'm calling it). By a happy coincidence, I managed to find some embroidery hoops and frames in charity shop a couple of weeks ago, which gave me a nice little format to work in.

This frame is actually a kind of flexible plastic, rather than wood, but I think I'll use the favourite Etsy term, "faux bois" to describe it. Yep, that's it - 'an embroidered collage in a faux bois frame'. I'm looking forward to making more.

Luckily, I found some more hoops and frames at a flea market this weekend. The lovely sewing lady there also had big bags of vintage buttons for 50p each. I bought four, and I told her I'd have fun going through them. I did!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Mishaps, Mistakes and Misapprehension

I haven't had the best week in my Etsy shop (located, of course, in the luxurious Kitsch & Curious Plaza). Plenty of orders, yes, but I managed to foul up half of them.

A customer asked about several items, mostly dolls, and wanted to know the combined shipping price. It was over the previous weekend, and I couldn't get to weigh them until Tuesday. Unfortunately, by that time, three of the items had been sold to someone else. I felt really bad that she'd missed out, so I found some similar dolls from my stock and took some quick photos to let her choose which ones she liked. I felt I was doing quite well on the customer service front. She chose some, but that was when I started to realise that English was not her first language, as her emails became increasingly cryptic.
Unfortunately, I then discovered that in my hurry, I hadn't noticed that one of the dolls she chose had a missing leg. (In my defence, she had a very long skirt!) I cursed my stupidity and set about sending her another email to explain, and to apologise. I offered it to her for free, as I'd messed her about so much. Then, still trying to please, I found another similar doll, in mint condition, for her to buy if she wanted.

This is when it got a bit complicated.

I'll spare you any more long explanations. Several emails went to and fro. We both did our best, but confused each other. In the end, I think I sent her what she wanted. I hope she's pleased when it arrives...
In the middle of all this, I received another order and payment for a previously reserved item, and I rushed to post it promptly. Then last night I got an email from the customer asking why the item she'd reserved had been sold. My heart sank. In my haste and stupidity, I'd just assumed the buyer was the same person who'd reserved it. It wasn't. I hadn't checked, and it turned out to be someone completely different. There were a couple of things that helped in that assumption, but in the end, it was just my big fat mistake.

(If you're not familiar with Etsy, the only way to reserve items is just to write "Reserved for X" on the listing. You then have to hope that everyone else pays attention and obeys. I've now learnt the hard way that doesn't always happen.)
As if all that wasn't enough to make me doubt my aptitude as an online shopkeeper, I then got very frustrated by having to answer a series of questions from a customer who'd managed to forget that she'd asked me the same questions about the same item two weeks previously!

OK. Deep breath. At times like this, I try to console myself with the thought, 'The person who never made a mistake, never made anything.' Back in the days when I had a 'proper job' and was a manager, I said this to one of my team, to make her feel better about something she'd done. She'd never heard it before, and it was a huge revelation to her. It made me realise it's a powerful thought, and I try to keep it in mind when I drop these enormous clangers.
I don't like making mistakes, but I can admit to them. It's harder though, to accept that they can be beneficial. You can't always learn to get things right, until you've got things wrong a few times. So I try not to mind when I have to undo ten rows of crochet, or unpick a badly-sewn seam, or apologise profusely for my own stupidity. It's all learning.

Hmm... I do try to think like that, but not without a lot of swearing first. And I try to accept other people's mistakes too. But yes, that can also involve swearing.

And, I'm still a little cloudy about what I've been learning from the cock-ups this week. More haste, less speed? Check everything properly? Stop using Etsy? Become a lighthouse keeper?
Oh well.

Finally, I wanted to thank you all for the brilliant comments you left on my last post. Really interesting stuff. I feel reassured about concentrating on safe packaging, and not worrying over much about free gifts and bows. However, given my performance this week, the phrase "rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic" springs to mind...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Niceness and Networking

In my blogospheric wanderings, I have come across a couple of articles lately about the importance of niceness. Well, they didn't actually say that's what they were about, but I think they were.

One blogger wrote about recommending an online shop to a friend and feeling bad because the package arrived with no extras, no note. No 'niceness', in fact. It struck me as odd to complain about just getting what you ordered. But I must admit, I've felt the same when buying on Etsy. There is a culture of sending little extras, and when I placed a multiple order with a vintage seller, I felt a bit let down when I opened the parcel and just got my order. I wouldn't expect it with single items, but if I'm placing a large order, it's a nice 'thank you' gesture. (I always include a little extra with my Etsy orders - a badge or sweets or some pretty ribbon, whatever I think is appropriate.)

Pretty packaging is another expectation, I've found. (The disappointing package I received from Etsy was tied up prettily with thread. But I have to say I just found that mildly irritating. I'd rather have a free gift! Or a cool business card, at least.) I struggle with packaging. Sometimes literally, but mainly just with the appearance of what I'm sending out. Even if I try hard, I can never get my packages to look neat. I always try to keep postage costs down for my customers, so I use the lightest packaging possible - usually bubble wrap. It's practical rather than pretty.

For myself, I'm very uncertain about the value of a lot of pretty packaging. So long as what I buy is safely wrapped, I'm not sure I care. Certain packaging will appeal to me, but it's not a deal-breaker. However, I know a lot of people find it hugely important, so I'm trying to improve the look of my packaging for my new shop. Apologies to those of you who have received my lumpy parcels in the past - they were packaged with love and care, if not with beauty...

The other aspect of niceness I've been considering is about how to network. A blogger wrote an article about Twitter which advised how to tweet. Her advice is not to send too many tweets (makes sense), and not make them all about yourself, with links to your site. As an example of how-not-to, she gave an example of an Etsy seller who didn't respond to questions. However, she also said this person had over 30 000 followers. Apart from the logistics (how many questions might this person get in a day?). this number of followers seems to indicate that a lot of people were quite happy just to get updates about this seller's products, and weren't bothered whether they responded or not.

I'm in two minds about this one. I'm not a natural networker. I don't use Twitter (yet?). I'm addicted to Flickr and I enjoy reading blogs, but I don't always feel the need to comment. Sometimes I only comment, because I think it's about time I did! I can think of blogs and Flickr photostreams that I follow with interest to see what work someone has produced, but I have no need or desire to interact with that person. And I think that's okay.

On the other hand, I know that I like receiving comments, and I know that the blogosphere can only work through links and networking. This last fact has been preying on my mind for a while, because I never got round to having a list of blog links on my page. For one thing, I couldn't decide how to do it, what to include, etc. Shops I like? Other kinds of sites? The other thing was that I thought people could just look at my profile to see what blogs I follow. And the final thing was that I'm just rubbish at networking, like I said.

Anyway, I'm in the process of giving the site a bit of a facelift, and I finally got round to adding a list. It's fairly arbitary, but I've focussed on vintage/textile/craft blogs. I might look at other subjects later. How do you find blogs? Is it usually from other bloggers' lists? Or from blog posts about a particular person and their work? I want to do more on this, and I plan to start more regular posts about other people's work. However, for the time being, I seem to have just talked about myself again. Oops.