Wednesday, June 21, 2017

3 Lessons I Learned From My First Community Craft Fair

I finally did it. I took part in physically selling my Zazzle products at an event.

I participated in our local historic General Store's community fair, yard, and bake sale. The historic store is located along historic Route 66 and I had one particular design of the store that I thought would be good to put out there. My assumption was it would be visited by locals from the community more so than travelers along the Route 66 segment. Either way, I thought this would appeal to some folks.

It has been quite enjoyable selling my photography and digital art in my Zazzle store online since the summer of 2009. I've purchased many products for gifts, donations, and just to write a review. As an introvert, I'd never considered setting up at a public event with my products. This was going to be a a first and a big deal.

When I arrived early that morning, there were tables with yard sale tables and flatbed trailers, several tables with crafts like goat milk soap and me staking out a spot along the road.

I was offering a few other select Zazzle products that I thought would be of interest to our little community along with my headliner watercolor of the General Store. The watercolor was a digitally altered photograph of the historic General Store which you can see in the frames on the table in the photograph below. 
My minimal set-up along Route 66 with yard sale tables and trailers behind me.
I began ordering a variety of Zazzle products featuring that particular design and a few other custom historic Route 66 products such as magnets and key chains right after I signed up to participate in the event. Having a stockpile of products for the event was a way to keep me from backing out. When it was all over that day, I learned at least these three lessons. 

Outdoor Events Can Quickly Be Affected By Weather

My first lesson was with our weather surprises. We set up my table and a camp chair to display the products I brought. I framed and matted several prints and set those up in plate holders like in the photo below. I had also framed a greeting card and postcard with the same image to show how they looked framed. I used the camp chair to display products including magnets, totes and luggage tags.

Historic General Store Framed & matted print
I had several leather bags and purses with straps draped over the back and arms of the chair to show off a variety of lightweight acrylic luggage tags affixed to them like the acrylic tag shown in the photograph below. I also had locally related greeting cards, postcards, stickers, key chains, magnets, bumper stickers and the laptop sleeve (seen below) among the offerings.

Historic Route 66 General Store Neoprene Laptop Sleeve
Initially the wind was calm.  Within a short time, we had sporadic gusts and I had to lay flat all the framed prints down on the table. It sure didn't look as nice with all those flat on the table. I also had to chase a few of the lightweight paper products that blew off the table during unexpected wind gusts. Rain wasn't in the forecast but I wasn't prepared for that either.

Expect the Unexpected

Lesson number two was differentiating what was for sale and what was for displaying those products. The identification tags looked great displayed on the purses and bags draped over the camp chair but several people asked if I was selling the bags. I had to assume that since there were a lot of yard sale items all around me, the bags looked like sale items too. If I had put price stickers on the products that would have been better so people knew exactly what was for sale. I assumed people would want to talk about the items so I could tell them prices at that time. In hindsight, I can see how the bags looked like they might be for sale. 

Aspen Leaves in Fall Colors Acrylic Luggage Tag

Everything Is A Learning Experience

I've always known that designs or photographs I might like aren't necessarily something others might like. So with that in mind it's not so easy to decide what I'd take to another public event.   As an introvert, talking to folks doesn't get any easier if I don't get out and get social more often especially when I'm talking about my Zazzle products. 

As I was tearing down my table, I stopped in to talk with the store owner about the consignment of some of the products I still had out there. I'm still working on gathering some of the specialty local designs and plan to see how the consignment works out. 

I didn't sell a lot of what I'd expected but I learned these three and a few more lessons related to publicly selling my products and small community living. 

What have been your experiences either as a seller or buyer at a craft fair style event? I'd love to read your experiences and learn from them.

Leave me a comment. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Why Finding Forgotten Photographs Can Excite Creativity

Do you remember as a kid trying to put shapes into their designated slots or even watching children in your life do that now? 

How about the pleasure of popping into place that difficult to find a piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle?

That's what it's like for me when I find a photograph long forgotten in an online folder. It's the same when I find a piece of work that was used on older Zazzle products and now can be used on some newly offered products. 

Since we'll soon be seeing Jerusalem Artichoke and giant sunflowers blooming in our area I've been looking at my older photographs. Some of the sunflower photographs I've used on products in earlier days and some are just out of older folders of the flowers. 

Zazzle has a number of new products and there are products the I've never added my work. I decided to share a few of the different sunflower photographs on the different products. 

Jerusalem artichokes are also identified by a variety of names including sunroot. This species of sunflower is native to a variety of locations throughout the United States. According to several sources, the plant tuber is widely cultivated as a root vegetable. The photographs of the tuber root look like a ginger root.

This mouse pad below is a photograph of Jerusalem artichoke sunflowers. The original photograph was digitally altered and I added texture to it. You'll find an entire category of products in a sunflower category that features this image.  

I separated several Jerusalem artichoke sunflowers from the background where they were shot and edited them to place three together. This arrangement is seen on the Zazzle HEART apron below. You can find this flower arrangement on a variety of products in the sunflower category.

Triple Sunflower Photograph Zazzle HEART Apron

Giant sunflowers take some time to grow and are usually still trying to bloom as our growing season ends. I've photographed these sunflowers in different stages of growth. The photograph on the acrylic wall clock below shows off the hair-like features of the bud touched by morning dew and nested in leaves. The number template can be removed on this clock. You'll find several products featuring this dew sprinkled sunflower bud in the same sunflower category as the Jerusalem artichoke sunflowers

Wet Sunflower Bud Close Up Photograph Square Wall Clock

These flowers are a great way to get photographs of bees. I remember seeing bees dead on the seedhead. I wasn't sure if they froze during the evening or if bees can overdose on pollen. The pillow below is one of my photographs with a bee enjoying time on the giant sunflower. You'll also find a variety of products featuring this photograph in the store category of sunflowers.

Bee On Sunflower Close Up Photograph Throw Pillow

by Exit178

Some of my most recent additions to the store sunflower category include this image of giant sunflowers clustered together. The indoor floor mat below is a way to bring nature right into your kitchen, laundry or other interior room. 

Clustered Sunflowers Close-Up Photograph Floor Mat

Clustered Sunflowers Close-Up Photograph Floor Mat

by Exit178

Are you a sunflower fan? If you would like to see one of these photographs on a product that isn't currently available, please let me know. I'm happy to add it for you to view. 

I'd love to know your thoughts on the products I've chosen to share in the post featuring several species of sunflowers and in different stages of growth.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Easy Way To Share A Warm Welcome Right At Your Door

Does your main residence entryway share a welcoming message?

Do you have a seasonal ornament hanging from the door?

Do you have an interesting doormat at your main entry?

Well, I can't help you with the seasonal ornament hanging from your door but I can offer you some ideas for a welcoming message at an entryway for your home or business.

You might even consider some of my doormat designs as gifts for a new home, renovation or Christmas.

You know I love adding my photography and digital artwork to Zazzle products with the option for customers to personalize the product with text or their own photo. I recently started adding my work to doormats.

These mats feature 1/8" smooth fleece with a white edge binding. They have a sturdy latex backing that offers a non-slip grip. You have the option of 24" x 36" and 18" x 24" sizes to best match your entryway. These mats are approved for indoor and covered outdoor use. As a matter of fact, I'm awaiting the arrival of an order for one of these mats.

The doormats are printed with high-quality sublimation printing which allows for full rich color that won't fade. Sublimation printing uses heat sensitive inks that turn into gas which combines with the printed surface. This type printing doesn't fade or crack.

I am currently adding more designs to grow the collection including scenery photographs. The doormat below features a snowy rural barn scene that is also found on a variety of other products. The photograph was also featured in my 10+ Years of Local Travel Still Offers Interesting Finds
Snowy Rural Barn Scene Photograph Doormat

I've also added a few of my specialty photographs to the doormat like the two designs below for coffee lovers and pet lovers. 

Serpentine Purple Leash & Heart Chain Doormat

The pet design may be quite appealing at the entry of an animal related or animal-friendly business. You can even add the business name to the design in the template field or change typeface style, size, and color in the customize option. If you have any questions on how to do that don't hesitate to contact me because I'm happy to help.

Colorful Espresso Cup and Saucer Photograph Doormat

I'm a coffee lover so this design was a must in my store. It can look great at a cafe, coffee related business, or at the home of a coffee lover like me. As with the pet related doormat, you can add a business name in the template field on the product page or use the customize element which offers other options in typeface style, size, and color.

What's at your main entryway?

Would you consider purchasing a custom designed doormat for yourself or as a gift?

Let me know your thoughts on the custom doormat idea.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

To Work From Home or Not to Work From Home?

Have you ever wondered about working from/at home? Do you or do you know someone who works at home? Wonder what that type work environment is like?

Recently I saw a conversation on the Zazzle, Inc. Print on Demand forum about designers who decided to try co-working. Designers left their home offices or home workspaces to see what it would be like to work in public spaces. That forum discussion and a social media post that recommended sharing something about who I am prompted me to write this particular post. I'm sharing my thoughts on working at home and you learn a bit about me.

I travel for work when there is some, which is totally unrelated to photography or digital artwork. That leaves me ample home time to prepare my Zazzle store products in my cubby/home office. The room was a bedroom until we did a minor bit of renovation and now it serves as my space. I rearrange office elements when I feel the need which is generally with the summer and winter seasons. I have a habit of reorganizing the layout throughout the house though so it's nothing special for the office. 

Rearranging gives me a sense of renewal. I don't purchase new elements for the room, I simply rearrange. I may add something from another room like a houseplant or a small chair but generally not something large. Everything I need is right there. I may also remove an item as I have done with the tall standing computer desk on the far left in the photograph below. That computer desk now looks great with a variety of houseplants on all the levels in our sunroom. I also have a few of my photographs framed and on the wall. Both sides of the pocket doors have built in book shelves that give it a library feel when you walk in. 

Fisheye view of my home office.
I've spent time working in open and separate room office designs in my early years. In both scenarios, I often found it easy to be distracted by just about everything. People talking and movements would keep me from getting much done. Recently I've had to leave the home office with my laptop for public wifi due to an inadequate internet connection. It was nice getting out but I never got a lot done.

My office cubby is spacious and pet-friendly. We replaced a wall with glass pocket doors so the room has been a great way to acclimate new furbabies. New furbabies can be in with me and see out while the current fur babies outside the room can see in. That has worked quite well. Two huge windows on different walls illuminate the room with natural light. The windows also give me a glimpse of nature when I look out.

Currently, there is a corner with a feather-bed turned pet bed that the dogs and cats come to visit while I'm in there. The blue rocking chair visible in the right corner of the office photo above has a small quilt that one or two of the cats sleep on when I'm in there. I'm never alone and can talk to them all day. They are great listeners. I have musical accompaniment in the background and I'm good to go. 

Gavin is hard asleep in the feather bed.
I noticed two concerns when I started using this as an office. I found it distracting knowing that I can go do things around the house and initially I was working well beyond the normal hours one would spend in an office away from home.

Over time I've learned a few tricks. Walking away on short breaks that would be taken in an away office environment are necessary. During those times I might get minor tasks done in the house then return to the room. I've also spent late nights into early mornings working on specific designs or products. I learned that isn't always the best practice and I don't do it much anymore.

I have no problem not working around other people because I'm an introvert. I think some people can make a home office work and others will still need that companion atmosphere.

What are your thoughts about working at home compared to an office/group environment?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

10+ Years of Local Travel Still Offers Interesting Finds

It's been just over 10 years for us in northern Arizona and we still find new roads, new adventures, and interesting scenes. I remember so many of our adventures in the first year of life in northern Arizona. We spent time exploring well traveled and not so well-traveled dirt roads. The scenery was beautiful and there were constant surprises along the roads. I was also getting back into photography while learning how to use a digital camera so that was another reason to roam the countryside. 

This old barn and stockyard is one location we pass all year now. We love sitting along that road on summer evenings to see tens of elk gather in the field across the road. I have photographs of this barn area during our rainy "monsoon as we call it" season with beautiful cloud formations and lush green grass. I've even passed there to see other photographers out along the road. 

I was lucky enough to get out there for this photograph below after we had several feet of snow one winter. The storm weather hadn't moved out of the area as visible by the gray sky but the snow had stopped falling for the time being. I loved the color contrast of snow to structure during that light. 

 A recent weekend at Zazzle had several surprise sales for me. One of the sales included this print of a rural winter scene. It reminded me that Zazzle no longer offers framing options for prints/posters so I wasn't sure how that would affect print sales. 

I realize no frames won't bother some customers but for those who want a ready to mount on the wall product, it might. I also realize that folks who purchase a product as a gift might want a print that is immediately ready to mount on the wall.
Since Zazzle now offers acrylic HD and metal prints, I decided to add this photograph (and others) to one of the new options like this HD Acrylic print below. 

Snowy Rural Barn Scene Photograph Acrylic Print

You can add a visit by Mother Nature to any wall with this 20" x 16" HD Acrylic print of a rural winter scene of an old barn and stockyard.

This .025" thick high definition Grade-A acrylic style print can give any wall a contemporary look. According to Zazzle, they are art gallery quality. HD Acrylic prints are available in eight sizes. The print is fitted with french cleat backing for easy and secure hanging (shown below). All the work is done for Zazzle by Acrylic Idea Factory in Tucson, Arizona. 

Snowy Rural Barn Scene Photograph Acrylic Print

French cleat backing for easy and secure hanging.
You can find this Snowy Rural Barn Scene Photograph as a print, Acrylic Print or Metal Print at this page in TheAspenStand.

I would love to hear your thoughts on placing a frameless HD Acrylic print on your wall
so leave me a comment about the photograph and/or HD Acrylic print style.