Update on that Art Yarn Scarf

So, Last week I made a video showing you how to use a hairpin lace loom to make an art yarn scarf. If you missed that check it out here. Once the camera was off and as the video loaded, I started to mull over ideas for finishing this scarf. And of course...
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Crocheting with Art Yarn

Today fiberista, I am giving a shout out to all the right brained Crocheters. I know it can seem as if they are the red headed step children when it comes to cool crochet resources that aren't this:   Ok I exaggerate because there are awesome patterns...
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A Frugal Knitter’s Guide to Stash Revamp

I know I am not alone here... It doesn't matter how awesome your stash is, there comes a time when you fall completely out of love which what you have and the urge to buy more yarn is a strong, strong siren song. Am I right? Now granted I am certainly not...
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Gift Knitting Like A Boss

HoHoHo! Fiberistas, Break out the stash, It is that time of year again. Time to make your list, check it, and the stash, twice. We are officially just shy of 6 months from Christmas. If you are like me, you are gonna want to do what you can to offset any of the normal...
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5 Powerful Keys to Making Your Competition Irrelevant

Jealousy. We have all been there. It does not matter if it is amongst stay at home moms, corporate executives and yes, even artists. There is a time in EVERYONE's life when you are green with envy over what someone else has. And while I think jealousy is just a fact...
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Your Art is Not Your Technique

Let me clear something up, your art is not your technique. Technique involve process of habit, muscle memory, physical skills of precision. Art involves right brain creative genius being brought into form through your technique. Techniques are just a way to express your art. Your art is your visual language. Technique is craft, visual language is art.


Craft vs Art

A quick google search will show you just how common the argument of craft versus art is. And it is true the line between art and craft can get awfully muddy. Some people will argue that art is strictly aesthetic and without function, craft being anything functional. But spend any time in a fine craft community (Like Asheville) and you will see the line is so very muddy. But dive deeper into the stories and ideas behind any fine craft piece and you will see a right brain expressing ideas. Suddenly even the fact a piece of weaving or ceramics, normally considered craft and you are even looking closer to see the art…indeed becomes a part of the visual language in and of itself. Fine craft is that line where craft crosses the line into art. It is art, despite being rooted in mastered craft skills.


Copying the Masters

When you master a craft skill that as an artist you find room to focus on where you can add creative genius. A popular exercise for a student learning how to paint is to copy master works of art. It is an exercise designed to learn the literal strokes of paint that will yield a specific visual effect. But of course the student can not call it quits once they copy a painting. They go on to learn how to apply the painting skill to their own ideas.

And there is nothing wrong with just being content to master a craft skill. In fact not all knitters want to go further into fiber art. I can’t blame them, knitting on a master level is crazy hard and an accomplishment itself. But if you find yourself filled with new creative directions as you work, then you are crossing over into fiber artist.


Sharing Your Techniques Helps You Stand Out

I have been guilty of this myself. There was a time when I did not want to share my craft process thinking that I would be giving my work away. But honestly, I had to learn my process from someone else as well. And I have even modified that process to accommodate a different look for my work. So like the student painter copying the masters, by doing a process over and over again, with the small tweaks and creative curiosity I moved that technique into expressing my own visual language.

When you share your techniques, you are inviting others to step into a community. It is in community that one can get feedback and challenges to stretch you own creative genius. It is actually in community sharing techniques that you can actually STRENGTHEN your own visual language as you see how it contrasts with others doing similar work. I find in community a drive to explore my own ideas deeper for new directions.

So master your techniques. Be in your craft and observe. You will find your visual voice while you work. Share your ideas, and you will find strength in your voice and inspiration for more ideas.

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When You Just Show Up

Procrastination. I have to admit, I am so freaking guilty of procrastinating in a big way when it comes to making art. Seriously? I love art. WTH am I doing? Why do chose to do laundry over getting into the studio I love, sitting with an obscene amount of great yarn and make stuff? Just freaking do it already. This is nuts.

Here’s the thing. No matter what you are making, when you are using your right brain you are awfully close to your subconscious, emotions, your vulnerable side. And you may never show your work to anyone, but sometimes the act of facing your own feels no matter what they are is just not what you want to do. Facing self judgement, doubt. Jeez! Art is suppose to be fun not pressure.

It is a simple theory really. Sometimes to break through a creative block, you just need to show up. Get into the studio, straighten up, read a magazine. Sometimes just showing up will get the ball rolling.

Having confidence. Whatever you make is fine. Even if it is bad, mistakes lead to better work. No one has to see the ugly stuff. Make bad art on purpose, then the pressure will really be off of you. Who knows you just might stumble onto something brilliant.

Just being lazy? Fine, be lazy. Do it in the studio.

Entice yourself with good snacks and music. Or movies. Whatever gets you to want to hang out in the studio and maybe do some work

Just schedule it. It does not have to be a lot of time. An hour a week might be plenty of time. Or at least a good start. If you need time to set up space (like the dining room table) then schedule time for that too.

In a nutshell, art won’t make itself. The first step to inviting inspiration for that art is showing up.

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Pricing Your Work Part 2: Getting Paid

Alright Fiberista’s so, last week I shared with you the basic formula for finding the number that will support your work. And I spent a lot of time making the case for why you should charge according to that number even if you do not think you need the money or are uncomfortable with that number.

Today, I am am going to push your self value/money issue buttons. I have already gotten a couple of emails from some of you who think I am nuts for asking you to charge for your time because “I just can’t charge that much”. I have no doubt I will get more emails like this today. It is okay. I get it, I have been in your shoes, thought this myself and had to shift my mindset and the way I did business. This is the culmination of 12 years of pricing struggles, bad mistakes and thousands of dollars I have spent on classes about marketing artisan crafts. Today I am going to share with you why you should be using last weeks’s formula, who the hell will buy at that price, and how that is going to make you a better business person AND artist.

Here we go:

Why you do not want to let others set your prices
I am guilty of this too. We have all done this… look at what competitors are charging for similar products when deciding what to charge for our work. Here’s the thing. How are you sure your costs and overhead are exactly the same as your competitor’s? And for that matter, do you know how they came up with their prices? Maybe they are in a long line of people deciding to undercut the last person in hopes of grabbing a sale? This would mean the original sustainably configured price could be way higher than the downward evolution of that price your are considering undercutting even further. Please do not hang the fate and decisions of your business on someone else’s information. You have no idea where they got that price. You have the tools to come up with a number that is sustainable for you. What you really need is a better sense of self value.

That being said, stop trying to compete with manufactured goods.
You are hand making an item. What sets it apart from a manufactured item is the TIME and creativity you bring into it’s production. The “imperfections” lend to the handmade quality…emphasis on quality. If people want to buy a thing  for as cheap as possible and do not care about the handmade aspects then it is a losing battle trying to market your hard work to those people. Let them buy the cheaper item. You want customers who will love the fact that your work is hand made, they want to feel good about buying your genius. I will often go a step further and refer the bargain hunters to my favorite discount resources. I get it. I have done my share of bargain hunting myself. I save my energy for people how love handmade, because they love and value what I have to offer.

Cheaper does not alway mean better sales.
If you are at a fish market will you automatically go for the cheapest price? Price does not alway equal quality. People will always be fine with paying more for what they feel is of better value.

You can charge whatever you want for anything.
Here’s the thing. There is no real law about what you need to charge for your work. What are the differences between a Mercedes SUV and a Ford SUV? Why does the Mercedes cost more? For the most part the cost of the materials are the same. Both are manufactured in similar communities. The difference is how each company caters to their clientele. Think about the typical clientele of each company. Each are at different stages in their lives and have different needs. Each company uses their marketing to advertise their SUV as a solutions to needs of completely different customer bases.

If you think you can not charge your customer a suitable price, you are marketing to the wrong customer.
Yep. When thinking of your ideal customer, the first thing you need to consider is marketing to someone who can afford your work. Period. Do you think Mercedes wastes time marketing to middle class families? no…they historically market to a slightly older, upper middle class professionals with a larger income. How can you raise the VALUE of your work to match the cost of the production plus margins for business growth? Think of that ideal customer(who can afford your price) Why would they buy from you? What will they love about your work? I probably could not afford to buy my own work. That is okay, I am not my ideal customer.

Running a business requires the exchange of money to be sustainable. And for handmade items labor costs are are almost alway more expensive because you do not have equipment or manpower to produce sustainably at a cheaper price. But ideally your customer will LOVE handmade, love the subtle differences in your work. Find the people who will shout “take my money!!” not the people who are grinding you down on your price.

Here’s a hint: Look for art enthusiasts
Straight up, aligning what you make as art will help you raise the value. Yes this can even be done with handspun yarn… Here’s how I did it. My customers for hand spun yarn are older professional women who love art and love to knit, and are right-brained knitters who love the textures and colors over techniques and process. I marketed my yarn as being luxurious enough to feel like they are making art just by knitting with my work. Working with my hand spun yarn would be like making a collaborative piece with me. I encourage them to use the yarn sparingly for accents(looks better in small amounts, besides being cheaper), and provided excellent customer service and knitting resources with invites to brainstorm ideas for their work. Feel free to steal this marketing tactic.

They are not buying the what, they are buying your why
When you are an artist, people love to hear about inspirations, back stories, your passions, your studio. When people are paying more for your work they are buying into your dreams and creative genius. When you share your why’s (and how’s), people want to support those dreams. Buying your work is giving them a piece of that dream. With social media today, artist can so easily market these visions, dreams and stories through instagram, blogging and videos. I know you probably are already doing some social media, just share more art and I promise people with be asking you to take their money.

Maybe selling your work is a just bad business decision
Have you ever noticed there are rarely hand made socks for sale? The time making them is LONG. The numbers just never crunch out enough to be productive or sustainable. Not all art is worth selling. In Lauren Venell’s Bookkeeping for Crafter’s class, Venell shares behind the scenes numbers that helped her decide to move her hand made meat plushies to being mass produced. Sometimes you just can not shave any more time off your own production time, or source the materials cheaper. Sometimes the idea of selling what you make dies in the number crunching. Even in big business, ideas often die when the numbers prove unsustainable. It is okay. There are other ideas to find that WILL be sustainable, save your time and energy with those ideas that work.

What is not okay is doing ignoring the numbers, rethinking your marketing and just charging a bad cheapo price anyway. That is not smart marketing and you are only hurting your fellow fiberistas with your own insecurities about the value of your work. You may or may not be serious about your handmade side business, but there are some people out there who need the numbers to work. I spend a lot of time helping other fiberista’s see their work as art with blog posts, forums, and support groups for this very reason. I want you guys to understand that what you do is not just of monetary value that is worthy of sustaining you financially. Your visual language is worth putting out there and finding customers who VALUE that voice. I promise, they are out there and waiting to help you with your vision and dreams of selling your fiber art.


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Pricing Your Work Part 1: the nitty gritty of running the numbers

It is a question I get asked a lot: How do I price my work?

I get it it is so very hard to know how to place value on art work in general. But as far as pricing hand knits and crochet, hand made yarns and fibers it can seem so much more confusing. I mean heck, you can find yarn at Michael’s for less than $10 a skein and sweaters at Target for $29. It totally breaks my heart to see one devalue their work trying to compete with a corporation that is able to produce in mass, gets corporate tax breaks, and large advertising budgets. Plus there are so many other reasons for you to price your work for sustainability as opposed to quick sales, but I am going to climb on that soapbox next week. Today, Fiberista, I am giving you the first of a two part post on how to price your work.  And it is all about how to run the numbers.

So, the formula for calculating your price is quite simple.

(Cost of Goods {I include packaging} + labor{time spend producing x hourly rate}) x 2 = wholesale price

wholesale price x 1.5 to 2.5 = retail price

Labor is what you pay yourself for making your product. The rest of the profit is what you use to pay overhead for your business and invest back into growing that business.

You calculate labor based on what you need to live, divided by the number of income producing hours you will work. Here’s the important part… If you are running a small business, YOU WILL NOT BE WORKING 40 INCOME PRODUCING HOURS. You will have to account for the time you will spend on marketing, accounting, new product research and other admin tasks. It is not uncommon for you to only spend 25-30 hours a week making stuff when you own a handmade business. Here in the US the minimum wage is $7/hour. It is not a sustainable wage. Even if you are supported by a spouse and do not think you need the money, do your fellow fiberistas a solid and do not set your hourly wage so freaking low. There are single moms out there who have dreams of just being able to feed their kids with their cottage industry yarn business as opposed to paying enormous daycare fees to go to a desk job in a cubicle. Your  skills and knowledge are worth more that $7/hr. Besides, a lower price does not alway lead to more sales…I will cover the bizarre theories behind that next week. Just know you can ask any price for anything, keep that price sustainable for the full time business fiberistas.

So, looking at that retail price is pretty scary, huh? Especially if you are pricing something hand knit, because holy smokes knitting takes a long time. So many fiberista’s will shave off their labor costs to make the price more attractive (hey, I have been down that path myself and learned a very hard lesson). Here’s the thing. If you are serious about growing a business, or even just support the idea that fiber artists should be able to pursue the dream of growing business, you will need to factor in the labor costs. When growing a business you will eventually need to hire help. Building in labor cost into your prices provides the path to being able to hire help.

So back to the numbers, If any of these numbers are making you a bit uncomfortable then you are in the right place. Because the follow through with pricing your work based on this formula, and the marketing skills needed to actually get that price involves some serious mental gymnastics. And that I will cover next week.

In the mean time I have a couple of super awesome resources that I have personally used to figure out my pricing.

Especially if you have an ETSY, Shopify or other online shop, go sign up for this right now. Designed with makers in mind, Craftybase.com is a super awesome way to keep track of inventory, sales and…my favorite and most used thing…a pricing calculator. Sign up here and get 10% off your subscription(this is an affiliate link)

These two Creative Live classes
Bookkeeping for ETSY Sellers and Bookkeeping for Crafters Both by Lauren Venell. Lauren is a season crafter who grew her business to a thriving popular product. She has so many insights on how to set up your business to make sure growth will happen sustainably. Be sure to check the schedule, you can catch the upcoming rebroadcasts for free. But I would consider buying the class on Demand to refer back to.

As I mentioned there will be a part two next week, where I will help you have the courage to ask for the price you need for your fiber art work, and how to find the customers who will very happily pay those prices.


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Creative Ways for Working with Handmade Yarn

Working with hand dyed and handspun yarn can be a pain in the ass. I get it! When I was selling handed yarn it was the one question I was asked the most often…What can I make with this.

It is one thing to fall in love with an interesting yarn, an another thing altogether trying to find a patter that will work with it. And if the yarn is handmade chances are there is only a small amount of it. Maybe even not enough for much of a project.

For the last 10 years I have been studying ways to work with the handmade yarns that I love so much. It was a way to provide resources to my yarn customers. But it also is a way for right brain knitters/crocheters to find creative expression painting with yarn. I have written what I call anti-patterns that were created with handmade yarns in mind. So here are my best anti patterns, knitting theories and creative techniques to help you use your handpainted and handspun yarn into fiber art.

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