Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My various endeavors

I couldn't think of anything to blog about this week that wouldn't just be more of the same, so instead, here's a list of my various online stores and projects and what they are.

My main store on Zazzle. Over 5,000 projects and growing, all of them customizable, most of them easy-to-use templates, and special requests are always welcome.

A Zazzle store started and maintained by me to raise money for a local animal shelter.

Shopping for Baby
One of my side stores on Zazzle, Shopping for Baby focuses on kid-friendly themes, baby shower invitations, and so on.

Event Shoppe
Another Zazzle store, Event Shoppe is an ongoing project featuring designs for special occasions. Birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, and more.

A Zazzle store featuring my artwork and photography on quality poster prints.

PrairieGhost Creations on Etsy
My Etsy store, featuring a variety of crafts and handcrafted items of my own creation.

PrairieGhost on DeviantArt
Though I haven't been updating it much lately, my Deviant Art Gallery has a variety of art and photography from over the years.

I hope that's enough to keep you entertained for a while!

Until next time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What makes a bad day bad?

Thursday was a heck of a day for me. To start things off right, my car was broken, unwilling to start for reasons unknown. In addition, Dad had an interview all morning, so it was necessary for me to handle the harvesting and preparation for market, then I had to head to market and set up by myself without Dad's help because he had an afterschool program to supervise. Market went reasonably well, but upon returning home, I had to break into my own house because I'd gone and misplaced my keys. As if that wasn't enough excitement, a computer error caused my debit card to be charged for a transaction it shouldn't have been charged for, resulting in an overdraft fee and putting me more than $70 in the red. On top of it all, I survived the day on only a few hours of sleep, which in and of itself can make a day tough to bear. Yet, despite it all, I ended the day in a marvelous mood, something that I would have found quite impossible when I was employed at Wal-Mart.

It's amazing what a difference it makes when you know, even if just on a subconscious level, that your needs are met. Your errands are done, your bills are paid, and you don't have to get up early in the morning to go someplace you really, really don't want to be. It's not about the gadgets, the gizmos, the luxuries in life--it's about meeting our needs, our real needs. To know that we have food and shelter, love and family, means so much more than owning the latest iDevice or bells-and-whistles cell phone. As a society, we get so caught up in finding things to spend our money on so that we can be entertained for a while that we forget how to be content with the things we really need. Food, shelter, and people we love can make the difference between a good day and a bad day, at least, that's how I feel about it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hello, my name is Lydia, and I'm a beadaholic...

I've gone and done it again. I had a little money to spare this month and where did it go? Right back into my hopeless addiction to art and craft supplies! Wish me luck this Thursday at Farmer's Market, because the only way I'm gonna make it until my next check is if I make a killing selling plastic bracelets and sculpey beads. To make matters worse, my car won't start now. At first we thought it was the battery, but the battery's good, so I'm gonna need the money I spent on those silly alphabet beads and elastic cords to get it fixed, or I'm going to be depending on the hubby taxi service for a while until I get my new car.

Farmer's Market last week was mostly a bust. Because of the weather, not many customers showed up, and so many vendors packed up and left when it started to sprinkle that the manager decided to just go ahead and shut the market down for the day. That being said, for as brief as we were there, there was a LOT of interest in my bracelets! I sold a handful of bracelets and my owl pendant in about half an hour, so if this week fairs better in regards to weather and traffic, I see no reason why I couldn't make some decent money this week.

As if I wasn't keeping busy enough, I have volunteered/been drafted to be the publicist for my little town's event committee. So, in addition to Zazzle, Etsy, special commissions, helping my dad with the garden, and keeping the house together, I will be designing fliers, newspaper and radio ads, and helping find other ways to get the word out about our events. I'm not sure how this happened--I don't even really like this town!

As you may recall, last week my hackles were up about the local attitude towards dog ownership. Just a few hours after I posted that blog entry, I had another...incident. My neighbor's dog, Star, is a menace. She's known to chase people down the street, nip at children on bicycles, act like she's going to attack people in their own yards, and harass cats, and her owners have been warned repeatedly to keep her confined to their property, which they have done only half-heartedly (or assedly, as the case may be.) She was in my yard again Monday night, and when I went out to chase her off, a puppy ran up to me, frantic as though she'd been looking for me for days and looking starved. Star ran away, and the puppy stayed, so I took her in, gave her some food, and tried to take her to the shelter the next day only to learn that they are full to capacity. Now "Penny" is staying at my parents' house until the shelter has room for her, and I'm trying to work with her to get her calmed down enough to be adoptable and fed up enough to not look like a bag of furry bones. Meanwhile Star keeps getting out at night. Four nights in a row, I've had to chase her out of my yard, and she was loose again this afternoon until the local animal control officer rounded her up and put her back in her yard where she belongs. I am an animal lover and all, but my patience is wearing thin. Her owners best hope I never catch their dog while she's in my yard, because they will not get her back. To make things even more entertaining, guess who I've heard "Penny" belongs to? Yup, my favorite neighbors!

I'm a very easy person to get along with, especially as far as neighbors go. I keep to myself and don't pester people to live by my rules, but when someone's irresponsible behavior leads to the suffering of animals and people, that's where I get cross. I don't care if my neighbors have dogs, or if they get loose once in a while. Things happen and I understand that, but the frequency of the "escapes" is ridiculous, and their dog is too hazardous to be allowed to just run loose like this. She believes the whole neighborhood is her territory, and will come up to people in their own yards and act like she's going to attack them. To make matters worse, Penny is clearly neglected, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out Star and their other dog are in poor health as well. Why do people get more dogs when they can't even take care of the ones they've got? *sigh*

Well, I must get back to work. I have fliers to design and beads to craft. Until next time, avid readers!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Update of the Plastic Beads

Well, it's Monday, and as promised, here is my first official Monday update!

The past couple of weeks I've been taking my beads, pendants, and figurines to Farmer's Market, mostly to help fill the void on our table caused by the rough summer weather and dwindling garden. I noticed that there's a lot of kids at market desperately looking for something to buy, but their handfuls of quarters weren't enough to afford anything I made. So, that in mind, I stopped by the store on the way home from market and picked up some plastic beads, elastic cord, and a new pair of scissors. (The other two pairs of scissors I'd been using had been in my family since 1995 and were not snipping the way they used to.) Since Thursday night, I've been having a blast with--of all things--plastic beads! I haven't counted for a couple of days, but I probably have close to 100 children's bracelets constructed by now, and I even made a nifty displace box for them using an old beerflat and some colorful cardstock. Will I make my money back from this endeavor? Probably not at our local farmer's market, but to my surprise, I've gotten some interest in what I've been doing online, and I may start offering packets of children's jewelry on Etsy soon.
The bracelets in their customp-made display box.

A selection of some of my finished bracelets

On a non-arts-and-crafts-note, I have to vent.

The other night, while the hubby and I were watching a movie, we heard barking outside our front door. Normally that means my neighbors have turned their menace of a dog loose and she has one of the cats cornered on the front porch, but when I went outside, I found a dog I'd never seen before tangled up in our rose bushes.

The poor dog was on one of those heavy-duty tie-outs, and had apparently gotten loose from whatever the tie-out had been clipped to. The clip on the tie-out had gotten wedged between the bricks of our rosebed and in his efforts to get free from it, he'd wrapped the rope several times around the rosebush. Here's where I get mad. The rope was not clipped to the collar. It was TIED. For those of you familiar with those heavy-duty tie-out ropes, you know how hard it would be to tie one of those things in a knot, let alone untie it. This means the dog was chained up outside 24/7, probably with little if any human contact.

Now, I am not the kind of person to tell another person what kind of pets they should or should not have, but it grates my cheese so bad when I see these people who buy dogs and then NEVER interact with them. Dogs are not lawn ornaments. They are not decoration. They are living, breathing, SOCIAL animals, and they need social interaction as much as we do. I cannot understand the mentality of taking on the financial burden of a pet if you're not going to use it as a companion or working animal. What is the point of buying a dog, chaining it up, and feeding and watering it until it runs away or dies? Beyond just the cruelty of depriving a social animal of social contact, where is the logic in this? And WHY is this behavior so prevalent out here? Is it a status symbol to have as many yapping dogs in your front yard as possible? Does it make you the top of the Redneck heap if you have four neglected dogs tied to your trees instead of two?

Well, I freed the beautiful dog that was trapped in my rosebush, and he made a beeline for home. I suppose dogs are nothing if not loyal. The next morning I unwrapped the rope (cord? chain?) from the rosebush and got a closer look at it, and my irritation just got worse. This thing had been broken several times and tied back together. Seriously? Are this dog's owners so poorly off that they can't get a new chain? I'm a starving artist and I still found the money to get my dog a decent chain! If they can't afford a new tie out when the old one breaks (four times), they shouldn't have a dog, because clearly the responsibility and financial burden is too much for them.

Anyways, I just had to get that out of my system. Until next time, avid readers!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mid-Week Update

Hello again, avid readers! I realize it's not Monday yet, but I have a lot to say this week!

First of all, I added new items to my Etsy store! I added two pony figurines (1 & 2), an owl pendant, and a massive set of hand-made autumn beads. Of the four of them, the greatest headache of all was the autumn bead set. It wasn't a challenge to figure out how to make tiny gourds and acorns and leaves, but the act of repeating the same steps fifty times to finish the gourds about burned me out. Fortunately, they're done, and now I can get started on my next project--Christmas beads! Oye...

But that's not all I've been up to! Oh, no! I've been hard at work making get-well-soon cards for a former coworker and making cute frogs for a fellow Etsier. I've been toying with the idea of adding some new merch to my store--right now I'm considering the possibility of hand-made greeting cards or custom painted t-shirts, but we'll see. I have my hands full as it is.

I got my Dick Blick art materials catalog today! The Blick materials catalog, for those of you who don't already know, is...hefty. 650 pages of artsy fartsy bliss, and as an added bonus, I can use the catalog as extra seating when company comes over.

Among the items in my new catalog that I'm busy drooling over is this stuff called silicone putty. It's basically like the oven bake clay I've been using except that it cures into a flexible, food-grade mold. I. Want. It's about $30 a pound, though, so it will have to wait until there's more money coming in, but in the meantime I have fanciful notions of custom candy molds lining the shelves of my Etsy shop! The possibilities are endless, and I can't wait to start offering my customers the option of commissioning me to make them custom molds for candy, crafts, or ice cubes!

This catalog is going to get me into trouble yet. For someone like me, a trip to an art supply store is a rare treat, and by the time I get there, I don't have any money left to buy anything. This catalog is like a massive art supply store in my hands, saving me the 100 mile trip I'd otherwise have to make and bombarding me with mouthwatering possibilities ranging from yarn to clay to papyrus to fabric markers, and so on.

Among the things I'd like to start offering in my shop, now that I have a more accessible source for materials:
Crocheted items such as hats, scarfs, and mittens
Hand-painted shirts & tote bags
Original artwork and paintings
Custom molds
Handcrafted jewelry (perhaps using my handcrafted beads!)
Placemats? Hellz yeah, the catalog has blank canvas placemats!
Candles...someday...when I have money
Decorative trinket boxes
Clocks could be fun...
they also have the stuff for learning to do lampwork, but considering how hazardous I am to myself, molten glass is probably a bad idea...
Wood & stone carvings...

The list goes on.

Keep dreaming, avid readers!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Update Schedule, New Merch

I've given it some thought and decided that a regular weekly update would be a good idea, so from now on you can expect fresh, pipin' hot posts every Monday, as well as the occasional extra post as the mood strikes me. I never have a shortage of things to say, so sticking to a schedule should help me avoid neglecting my blog again.

On the subject of my Etsy store, I have been shifting my focus from beads to figurines. Over the next few weeks, expect to see some new arrivals populating the digital shelves, particularly of the cutesy pony variety. I'll still be making beads, of course--in the works now is a massive autumn set, with almost 100 pieces, and it may yet be 100 by the time I'm done. Once they're finished, I'll need to start work on Christmas items--beads, ornaments, and figurines--and I'm toying with the idea of putting together some hand-made greeting cards as well. We'll see how well they turn out before I make any commitments in that direction.

On the subject of my Zazzle stores, Event Shoppe is at the top of my priority list. I purchased a couple of pictorial archives with some excellent copyright-free graphics in them, but to use any of them, I'm going to have to literally cut the books apart to get a clear scan. The idea of this doesn't thrill me, but I don't see any other options. At least I have experience on my side, as I've already gone through this process with another pictorial archive book I own. The trick is to not get in a hurry, a strategy that is difficult for me to stick to.

Sunday was my dad's birthday! I made him a little green bear sculpture, modeled after the bear in his gardening business logo. It turned out really cute, and I'll take pictures once the batteries for my camera are charged again. I killed them trying to take a decent shot of my two pony figurines for my Etsy store, but to no avail. My batteries are dead, and I still don't have decent pictures. *shakes fist at the heavens.* Perhaps tomorrow I'll have better luck.

As for you, my avid readers, I pose a question! What is your favorite animal? While I have no trouble coming up with ideas for my figurines, it would be interesting to see what you all would be interested in. Post your responses in the comment section, and you may see a figurine that was inspired by your input added to my shop in the near future.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Farmer's Market & Dilemas

Well, the weather favored us this week and we were able to take a meager offering of produce to the Farmer's Market, where me met a similarly meager offering of customers. I managed to sell two of my bead packets there, for a whopping total of five dollars, which should be enough money to buy my daily fountain drink until I get my Zazzle check. Living on nickels and dimes is an...interesting experience, but it helps that I don't have any overdue bills hanging over my head.

I got a special request today for three figurines to be Christmas gifts, for a price tag of $50, so I'm excited about that. I have to finish my autumn bead set before I can begin work on anything else, though, including my Zazzle stores. I have a lofty goal--1,000 products in my Zazzle store Event Shoppe. My real goal is to earn enough money from Zazzle to buy myself an art studio that looks an awful lot like a small barn, but don't be fooled! Great things will happen within its barny walls!

In other news, I created something that is too cute for me to sell. I took a break from Autumn beads to make something just for fun, and since I love unicorns, I figured it'd be fun to make a cutesy, cuddly unicorn figurine. The problem is, it's perfect. I can't help but smile when I look at it! So now I face the dilema... Do I offer it for sale and make a few bucks on it but lose it forever, or do I take a loss and keep it all for myself?


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Giving Etsy Another Go

A couple of years ago, before I had the bright idea to open Customizables, I discovered Etsy and gave it a shot with less than spectacular results. I eventually decided it would be best if I focused on getting my Zazzle shops off the ground first, then I would be free to give Etsy another try while Zazzle was earning me money in the background. Well, as my avid readers (all five of you) already know, I've been making a living on Zazzle for a while now, and I finally decided to give Etsy another go. I enter this endeavor with no intentions of making my fortune as I had before, but rather as a fun way to occupy myself. If I can play with sculpey and earn enough money from the results to pay for my materials, I consider that a success. I'm not in a position where I have to depend on this as a lucrative source of income--Zazzle is doing a fine job of covering me there, thanks--so I can afford to just have fun with Etsy, as I'd hoped I'd be able to do someday when I put it on the back burner in 2008.

So far I've had two sales, and they have not earned me enough to pay for my materials yet, but I have been having so much fun making my items and finding neat ways to display them that the financial loss doesn't have much of a sting. I've made sushi beads, a hippo figurine, a cricket pendant, and a slew of other items. On my desk now are the makings of an Autumn Harvest bead set, and with any luck I'll have them done and posted before Friday. The rain in the forecast, however, will make it difficult to give them the glossy coat I prefer for finishing my items. I could always just spray them indoors, but I'm not a big fan of running into walls because I've gotten high from art fumes.

To my readers, few though you may be, I present this offer. If you have someone on your gift list this year who is difficult to shop for, you may want to consider enlisting my services. As you can see from my Etsy store, I am capable of a wide variety of beads, charms, pendants, and figurines, and I do so at affordable prices. In addition, I can assemble the beads into jewelry, keyrings, and so on if desired. I also, of course, have my various Zazzle stores, and would be more than happy to design custom coffee mugs, t-shirts, three-ring binders, etc. if that's what you need this holiday season.

That's all this time around. Until next time!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No, Zazzle is Not a Scam

It doesn't come up very often, but when it does, I am always left scratching my head a little bit. Someone will come into the forums either asking if Zazzle is a scam, or insisting that it is. Just today, a gentleman (I use the term loosely) was looking for a "financial backer" to help him sue Zazzle and Google. Mind you, the Zazzle forums aren't really the best place to find support for something like that, seeing as how they're populated by avid Zazzle shopkeepers, many of which make their living there. All the same, we checked out his complaints, and what did we find? This "gentleman" believed Zazzle and Google were stealing his images and selling them without his permission, because 1.) when customers clicked his links in google they were taken to a simple list of products on Zazzle instead of his storefront and 2.) when he visited one of the international domains like the Canadian or Australian versions of Zazzle, his products were different prices.

OK, number 2 is obvious, or at least it should be. Different countries have different currencies and different exchange rates, so yeah, the same product is going to show up as a different price in another nation's currency. As for number 1...well... This fella should have made a trip to the New To Zazzle forum and asked for help on this one, rather than embarrassing himself to such a degree. The fool has his shop set to "Private", so, yeah, customers aren't going to see his storefront! Instead, they're taken to a list of his products in the Zazzle marketplace. He can still make sales (Though, I can't imagine anyone shelling out over $1,000 for a pair of his shoes like he wants), but customers won't see his storefront.

If anyone has doubts about Zazzle or thinks it might be a scam, let me set the records straight. I've been on Zazzle since 2005. I've watched them go through many changes in that time, and they just keep getting better. They are by far the most versatile, easy to use, trustworthy, and profitable POD (Print on Demand service) I have ever used, and their customer service has been above and beyond expectations every time I've had an issue with an order.

It's because of Zazzle that I am able to make a living doing what I love. It's because of Zazzle that I've been able to leave the abusive employment situations I was in and focus on taking care of my health and my home. Zazzle lets me decide what my work is worth, and when I make sales, that's exactly what I get. Zazzle takes care of its designers and shopkeepers, and they treat their customers right.

There are plenty of real scams out in the world today (I know, I get about a dozen of them a day in my inbox), but Zazzle is not one of them. If you're an artist, photographer, or designer looking to get your work out into the world, there's really no better way to go than a site that asks nothing of you but your time and talent.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Unintentional Inspiration

Back in November, I informed my fellows on the Zazzle forums that I was finally able to quit my day job and become a full time "Zazzler". I received many wonderful responses, including a shoutout from the Zazzle staff themselves in the Zazzle blog. After a while, folks stopped posting on the thread and it slipped into the oblivion of inactivity, as all threads do in time.

Then one day a short while ago, I checked the forums and found that someone had dug up my old "I am now a full-time Zazzler!" thread and responded to it, commenting that they wished for my success as well. I thought, "isn't that odd that someone would resurrect such a long-dead thread?" thinking for sure it would quickly slip back into the abyss of hundreds of pages of inactive threads.

But that's not what happened. More and more people responded to the thread, commenting on how inspiring it was to know that you CAN make a living on Zazzle, telling me that I'd motivated them, inspired them to give their shops a renewed effort. Before I knew what was happening, Zazzle stickied the thread at the top of the forum, ensuring that it would never again slip away into nothingness...

It may seem like I'm being overly poetic about this whole thing, but there is something you have to understand about the world I come from. I live in a part of the country where people don't buy art. If it weren't for a site like Zazzle, I never would have been able to make a living doing what I love. With the internet, it's now possible for just about anyone, with just about any hobbies or passions to make a living doing what makes them happiest, and for years, I've been encouraging the people around me to explore those possibilities. I've encouraged coworkers at Wal-Mart to sell their crafts through etsy, I've coaxed friends into taking up blogging to discuss their passions, and I've been toiling with my dad to make his dream of a profitable produce stand a reality. Why? Because I believe that people shouldn't have to feel like they're stuck doing something they hate just so they can pay the bills. I believe that within every coherent human being there is the ability to step off the beaten path and forge your own way. Whatever it is you love, whether it's art, writing, gardening, cooking, or whatever else, if you have the imagination, you have a way to do great things with your passion.

So when I log onto the Zazzle forums and I see people telling me that I'm an inspiration, it makes me rather warm and fuzzy inside. I'm still rather baffled that of all the successful Zazzle designers and shopkeepers out there, I'm the one inspiring people. I'm hardly the most organized person. I don't have the greatest designs out there, and I'm certainly not as successful as many Zazzlers I could name, but maybe that's part of it? If a 20-something from the sticks that barely graduated high school can be a successful shopkeeper and designer, then surely, anyone can be, right? That's what I believe, anyway.

So for those of you out there that still have doubts, know this--if you have the desire and if you have the imagination, there is nothing stopping you from making a living doing what YOU love. I'm rootin' for you!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's to be expected

I knew this was coming, but it's still frustrating as hell to have to deal with it. March is proving to be a slow month...a very, very slow month. At this rate, I may have to take on some odd jobs to make up the difference :P

Don't have much to say. Just frustrated and grumbly. Putting in a lot of work in Customizables and Shopping for Baby and not seeing a lot of returns right now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Be Aware: Phishing Scams

Lately, I've been receiving a lot of lovely little scam e-mails in my inbox, pretending to be everyone from a Nigerian prince to a foreign lottery to Paypal.

Most of us are able to identify obvious scams. When someone claims they can give you something for nothing, it's usually a red flag. When a person claims to represent a lottery you never entered or a country you've never been to and wants you to pay them to receive a huge sum of money in return, you are wise to send that e-mail straight to the recycle bin.

But sometimes, it's not as obvious. If you get an e-mail asking for personal information like your credit card number and social security number, take the time to figure out where your e-mail really came from. It may look like a legitimate Paypal e-mail, but Paypal wouldn't ask you for that information through an e-mail. Trickier phishing scams will ask you to click a link in order to verify your Paypal account. When you do, you're taken to a website that looks exactly like paypal, asking you to log in, but if you check the location bar you will find the address doesn't match up. If you don't pay attention and just plug in your login information thinking you're logging in to paypal, you've just handed over access to your finances to whoever REALLY sent the e-mail.

In the fake Paypal e-mail I received today, I was asked to include the following information to verify my account:
My e-mail address
My Paypal password
My full name
My bank's name
My card type, number, expiration date AND verification number
My street, city, state, country, and zipcode
My mother's maiden name
My phone number
My social security number
AND my date of birth.

Needless to say, if I'd fallen for this phishing scam, I would have handed over not only access to my finances, but my entire identity. Be aware! If an e-mail is asking you to verify your account with a company or is asking you for personal information, be extremely careful. Odds are the e-mail is bogus and you are in danger of handing over precious information to some very unscrupulous individuals.

Until next time.