Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Inadvertent Infringement

I would guess that a good percentage of sellers on Etsy end up being accused of copying another person's work or of some sort of rights infringement at some point. My first brush with this came over the last year when someone sent me a message saying that a design on one of our stone necklaces was a copy of their friend's design. My response to her pointed out that the design was based on a very common Native American symbol and that my husband had altered the design to fit on the stone and incorporated some design elements that matched his interests.

Sometimes the problem with seemingly identical designs can happen by accident. More than one person could come up with a particular idea. In the tatting community I have seen this happen and I think that it happens as people try to figure out a way to make a specific design since they use common patterns and stitches. Designs may look the same but were not actually copied.

My latest experience came this last week with a message from a company about my use of their name in my product description. Even though the buttons they objected to were made from photos of the blankets and shawls made my that company, I don't know how much standing I actually have in using their name in the description. I've heard of some crafters getting into trouble for making jewelry or other items from Lego building blocks, both because of using the Lego name and for selling items made from the blocks. The second part of the objection to my buttons was that they pictured blanket designs trademarked by that company. I hadn't really thought of any of this being a problem, especially since you can't properly describe the items without using those names. (It reminds me of all the ads currently running that reference "The Big Game" since using the actual name of the NFL's championship game gets you in trouble.)

Has anyone else run into similar problems? I'm curious to know what crafters can do with these trademarked names and copyrighted designs. Would a photo of someone holding one of these items be illegal to sell? After hearing the horror stories of people losing their Etsy shops over accusations like this I wasn't willing to take that risk. I removed the questionable items from my shop. What would you do?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Etsy to Provide Phone Support

Providing phone support for a major website may seem like something that would happen automatically, but that hasn't been the case for Etsy. One of the biggest frustrations for shop owners who have had their shops suspended by Etsy is that they couldn't call and talk to a real live person. Sorting out that kind of situation via email isn't the best way to handle it and took more time.

Etsy has announced that they will be launching phone support for shop suspensions and problems with Direct Checkout. You still won't be able to call Etsy for help. Instead, there will be a way to indicate that you want someone to call you and tell a little about the situation. The Etsy support person will then research the situation and call you. At first I didn't like that setup, but it made more sense as I had a chance to let it sink in. Allowing the support person to do some research before you talk to them will save time in the long run. If you had called in directly, you'd probably be spending a lot of time on hold as they checked into your concerns.

Here's to long awaited progress!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Etsy overhauls its feedback system

Over the last week, Etsy rolled out a new system for providing feedback on purchases. The old system
allowed the buyer to rate the seller and the seller to rate the buyer. It was created back when more sellers were accepting checks and money orders as payment and needed to know if they could trust the buyer. With most purchases being made with credit cards and through PayPal, rating the buyer is more of a bother, especially if you make a lot of sales.

"Feedback" is now gone and has been replaced by "Shop Reviews," which can be found in the "Your Shop" menu dropdown. Shops can receive ratings in a 1-5 star system as well as comments about their purchase. Etsy has incorporated processing and shipping estimates into the system, so be aware that buyers may not be able to review their purchases immediately if Etsy believes that they won't receive the items for several days.

The details for Shop Reviews are up as well as an FAQ area. I believe this is a good change, but only time will tell. Some shop owners are nervous about not being able to respond to negative reviews. Because the reviewer's profile is attached to the review, I'm hoping this will discourage those who are abusive with negative reviews. Etsy is also supposed to have a way to report abusive reviews as well. I think the new format is much more attractive and usable for prospective customers.

Have you looked at your shop's reviews? What do you think?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Etsy Gives Us a Dashboard

While playing around in my Etsy shop this last week, I noticed there was a new feature. Etsy has given sellers a dashboard to put all your shop information in one convenient place. I love it! You can see some quick stats and it compares them to the previous month and the previous year. I like seeing the tally of how many sold orders are not paid or not shipped and how many orders will expire in the next week, how many are expired, and how many are sold out.

At the top are links to the more detailed information for your shop and at the bottom is a showing of recent shop activity.  Read more about the dashboard on Etsy's blog.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Who Controls Your Etsy Shop?

Is your Etsy shop really yours? You may own your merchandise and may even have trademarked your business name, but that Etsy shop doesn't belong to you. I was reminded of this recently as I read about shop owners whose shops were shut down temporarily or permanently and Etsy had ultimate control over the situation.

"That will never happen to me," you say? You agreed to a pretty long list of terms and conditions when you joined Etsy and started selling. Etsy makes the final call on whether you exist on their site or not. I suggest you read about some of these experiences and see what they've gone through.

One of my sons has a friend who was able to quit her day job when her Etsy shop became successful. Things were going amazingly well for years and then, one day, she received an email from Etsy telling her that her shop had been closed because an item she was selling violated somebody else's copyright. Even though she tried taking the item out of her shop, explained that she wasn't aware that someone had a copyright on the word she was using on that item, and promised to be more careful, the shop stayed permanently closed. Etsy deleted it and she was suddenly out of business. No chance to alert customers and let them know where to find her. No access to product photos and descriptions so she could set up on another handmade site. Out of curiosity I Googled the word/phrase she had used and although it was part of the title of a book (where the complaint originated), it was used so commonly across the webiverse that I don't think they had a case for establishing a "copyright." She still had no right to even confront her accuser.

I recently had someone contact me about an item in my shop, asking me to remove it because it was a copy of someone else's work. After I got over being furious...and that took some time...I replied to them and explained the process behind that particular design, the inspiration, and how it ended up the way it did. I also explained that it's not uncommon for more than one person to come up with an idea, especially when working with cultural symbols. The complainer never responded to my explanation, but I was still a little anxious since just an accusation can get a shop shut down.

I'm not saying that you should leave or avoid Etsy. It's still the best platform for me as a seller and I plan to stick with it. Other similar online sites have the same risks. What I am saying is to be prepared. We bought our own custom domain (www.nativeandpilgrim.com) early on, keeping our customers connected to us if we move our shop (plus it looks better than the Etsy shop address). My goal is to eventually have our domain point to a site that combines this blog and showcase and link to our shop rather than sending it directly to Etsy. I've also realized I need to preserve my product photos and descriptions somewhere, just in case.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Listing New Items is Time Consuming

I'm taking a few days off from my regular job to relax and maybe catch up with some things around the
house. One of the things I needed to catch up on was getting new items listed in our Etsy shop. It seems like it should be an easy thing to do. For those who make the same items over and over, they can update the quantity or copy the listing and be done.

For people like us, who get bored after each project and try something new every time, listing a new item in the shop takes considerable time. First, I have to take some decent pictures. I used to take more time with this but I've resorted to some quick photos and quick cropping and resizing as the only edits. Then you need to fill in all the important stuff on the Etsy listing. I've always been good about measuring things and putting them in both inches and centimeters so people can make an informed purchase.

Deciding on a price for each new item is almost torture since we never really get back what we put into it as far as our time, but we don't want to price things so high that nobody will buy them. Plus, my dear husband doesn't help a lot with pricing. I ask him what he wants to charge for a necklace he just finished and he answers, "one thousand dollars." So helpful! Now I just try to get him to tell me which items took more or less time than the others and which ones used more expensive materials.

A few hours later and I now have three beaded necklaces, a tatted baby bracelet, tatted lanyard, and a woven leather bracelet added to Etsy and ready to sell.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who's Making Money Out There?

One of my favorite sources of Etsy information is Handmadeology.com. They have more time and ability to check into stuff than I do. With my current job having such a long commute every day, I just don't have time to pursue all this stuff and to write about it like I used to. Their latest article tells the top Etsy sellers (in the handmade category) for 2013. Sometimes its nice to see who is actually succeeding at this.

We started the summer by setting up at the farmers market again. People seem to be interested in our creations, but purchasing is a whole different story. I still enjoy getting to talk to people and explaining what tatting is. Too often, however, I was going home having paid for the privilege of sitting in the park for 6 hours. We weren't selling enough to cover the cost of the booth most of the time. Even when we covered the booth costs ($20), it felt like we were giving away all our hard work with nothing to show for it.

What is working against us?
  • Living in an area with lots of handicrafters ("I can make that myself" mentality). We see a lot of people who stop by to figure out how to replicate our work and that mentality leads to a lack of value for the time and expertise put into creating each item.
  • Pricing - should we be charging more or keep trying to make it affordable?
  • Time - we don't have a lot of time to spend making, promoting, and selling our items. When you're selling online, spending time on promotion is crucial.
  • Too much variety - one of the things I've noticed with successful sellers is that they sell the same set of items. This leads to people knowing they can rely on finding the items there and it cuts down on some of the work of photographing and listing items. We just keep making very different things according to how we feel at the time.
I'd love to hear from any of you who are finding success with your online sales.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Telling Your Shop's Story

One of the things I like when we're selling our creations in person is being able to tell people about what we do and why we do it. How did we end up starting an arts and crafts business? Why did we do in the direction we have with our creations?  I enjoy telling people a little more about us and it seems to make customers more enthusiastic about purchasing from us.

When I was adding new products to our shop this weekend, I noticed a little spot to "Edit about page" and I wondered how long it had been there. Clicking it opened up to a wonderful new page that could be edited to tell our story, tell about each of us who create things for the shop, and add pictures.

Etsy has given it a bit of a scrapbooky feel by cropping the people pictures to a circle shape. The big picture at the top rotates and has a caption at the bottom. You're encouraged to use these picture slots to show your workshop and the creative process.

Want to know more?  Etsy has a blog post on it. I guess it's been available since last summer, but sometimes I don't notice the new stuff unless it slaps me in the face.  I wonder what else I've missed...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Etsy Variations and Apps Don't Get Along

I've been enjoying seeing increased sales of our Native American button sets on Etsy. When I first listed them, I was reluctant to make a separate listing for each set. Instead, I grouped several sets together on each listing and used Etsy's variations feature to allow customers to choose which set they were buying.  Until today, this was working pretty decently.

As I was working on our Easter dinner, I heard the "cha-ching" sound from my iPhone, letting me know I had an Etsy order. I just love that sound! When I logged onto Etsy to check on the details of the order, there was a notation saying that the customer hadn't chosen a variation because the purchase was made using Etsy's iPhone app. How could this be?! Etsy recommended that I contact the customer to determine which variation they wanted.

After thinking about this problem for a bit, I decided that it was time to list each of the button sets separately. As I spent some time copying and editing the listings, I remembered how difficult that would have been when I first joined Etsy. Back then, there was no "copy" feature available. I would have one item open in a tab on my browser and then would have another tab opened to the new item listing and would copy and paste, clicking back and forth between tabs.  So happy Etsy has progressed!

This all worked fine for the way I had used the variations feature.  If I had been using variations to let people choose the color or size of an item, I would have been much more upset about having to list them all separately.  Even though that's the way it used to be on Etsy not all that long ago, I hate to start going backwards.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Etsy Upgrades Activity Feed

Two years ago, Etsy added Circles and gave us access to an activity feed showing what people in your circle were doing as well as interactions with your shop.  I've been impressed with how the traffic to my shop improved as people clicked on what they saw in their activity feed. Each of us looking around on Etsy end up doing a little cross promoting and that helps everyone in the end.

Etsy has now upgraded that activity feed, giving it a prettier look and giving you a more logical way to see activity specific to your shop. The look will be appealing to those who love hanging out on Pinterest. Let's hope it's just as addicting as Pinterest!

This looks like another great change that well help promote Etsy's online shopping experience. Keep the activity feed in mind as you take product photos since you want them all to look in this virtual catalog environment.

Friday, February 15, 2013

What's Hot in 2013?


Emerald Green

For those who have gotten to know our style at Native and Pilgrim, you know that we don't worry much about what's in. It's not that we don't care. It's just that we made a conscious decision to pursue our own style, regardless of trends. We've seen a lot of people jump on the latest trend, only to get stuck with supplies and unable to sell when the trend fades away.

Even though we don't want to be slaves to what's "in" at the moment, it still helps to pay attention. We're able to adapt to some color and style preferences without sacrificing our own sense of design. According to an article by Examiner.com, serpents (Chinese year of the snake), angular looks, agates, and druzy stone are the top trends in jewelry for 2013. Jewelry Making Daily reminds us that emerald is the Pantone color of the year for 2013 and shows some great examples of gemstones using the trendiest of colors.

Leather & Lace
Etsy's blog had a story about trends for this spring. They mention trends that hit opposite ends of the spectrum - black and white as well as pastels, leather and lace. It doesn't match the other industry trends I've heard so It makes me wonder if they're trying to create some trends of their own. I know they choose treasuries to feature on the front page based on the trends they've announced. One cool feature that seems to have disappeared was the one where you could see what items recently sold. It always helps to see what people are actually buying. There is a "trending items" section, but I don't know exactly how they decide what's trending.

What trends are you seeing for 2013?


Friday, February 8, 2013

USPS Changes

The news here in the United States has focused on the U.S. Postal Service a few times recently. First there was the postage increase. Nothing dramatic, but it can add up after awhile and it's good to keep on top of the rates so you don't lose money on shipping your products to customers.  The bigger news was the announcement that USPS was changing their delivery schedule.

News reports on the delivery schedule change were overly simplified. Everyone was reporting that there would be no more Saturday mail delivery beginning August 5, 2013. Regular mail delivery is being trimmed back to Monday through Friday, but package delivery will continue to happen on Saturdays. That's an important thing to know. The USPS saw a 14% increase in package volume since 2010, most likely due to online shopping. I'm happy to know my customers will continue to receive their packages on Saturdays.

If you're selling online, you depend on these shipping services. Don't let the media lead you astray. It's important to find out the details so you know how to adjust for them.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Our Twist on Interchangeable Necklaces

Making jewelry more versatile has been a trend for a few years now. Remember those watches with the beaded bands on stretchy cord? The bands clipped onto the watch face and you could change the watchband to match your wardrobe choices.  It was a great idea, but people jumped on the bandwagon as the fad swept through. There were people who made some awesome pieces with very artistic arrangements of beads and stones. They took the time to find unique and better quality materials for their pieces.  Then there were the sellers who came late to the party and rushed to make watchbands from beads we've all seen at Michaels, Jo-Ann's, and Hobby Lobby. Every craft fair or boutique seemed to have at least 10% of the booths selling these watches and bands.

Why don't crafters take the time to put their own twist on an idea? They need to think like artisans instead of just trying to copy what they've seen.  What can I do with this idea that will be different from what others are doing? Style, uniqueness, and quality of materials can make all the difference.

The latest interchangeable jewelry item is necklaces that have a magnet on the pendant. These have been played with for awhile and now they are taking off using pinback buttons as the removable design element. I hadn't seen people wearing buttons much since my jr. high school years, but now they're making a comeback. JC Penney did a promotion during the Christmas shopping season where they gave out 1-inch buttons with a code on the back. Some of the codes were linked to prizes. People were wearing clusters of buttons now on their shirts and jackets.

We purchased a machine to make the one-inch buttons. This is no cheap investment! You also have to research the options since a machine with plastic parts will break sooner and some machines have parts that are slightly different from the more common sizes, leading to difficulties purchasing new supplies. You can get a variety of different backs for these buttons - zipper pulls, pins, tie tacks, earrings, magnets, and flat backs.

Our twist on these versatile necklaces is to keep with the theme of our Etsy shop. We have buttons done in some cool Native American designs. I also made some with tatted motifs. That was a challenge since I had to use the smallest threads. It's cool to see the tatting under the Mylar cover of the button. That's one way to keep your tatting clean! We created a new section for the shop where people can buy the necklace base and different sets of buttons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Trying Something New

I guess I'm one of those people who can't just sit back and do the same old thing. Boredom sets in quickly and I start trying new things. Fortunately, I married someone who is equally restless. We really like to change things up every now and then.

To begin the year, I invested in a button machine for making 1-inch pinback buttons. These are the popular little buttons that you'll find people wearing now. JC Penney used the 1-inch buttons as part of their Christmas promotion. Holiday designs were on the front and promotional codes were on the back. One of my promotional codes got me a $5 gift card at Starbucks!

What are we going to do with our new piece of equipment? There are a lot of people on Etsy right now making buttons - some with cute or snarky sayings and others with images of popular movie characters or symbols.

If you've been following me for any length of time, you know that I'm not going to go in a "normal" direction.  The first thing I did was to tat some small motifs and make them into buttons. I quickly learned that I have to use very small thread and to be careful to use thin paper as the background. The effect of having the tatting encased under the mylar cover is pretty cool. It's hard to capture it in a photo.

The next step will be to do some unique Native American designs for our shop. I think we could do designs similar to the ones my hubby has etched on stone and cut out of vinyl. We're talking about some other options for when we sell at the powwows.

Yes, we might have more sales by doing something from the latest movie or TV show. Our son has a friend who has made a great business off the popularity of Harry Potter. That's great for her, but I don't want to follow the fads or use other people's work. We may not have enough sales to quit our day jobs, but we are proud of our work and what we have to offer the world.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Apron Winner!


I had so much fun reading your comments on my post about the Grandway apron giveaway. There were great comments on my other blog, too. In addition to all the great family cooking memories, I loved reading about kitchen and cooking disasters. I guess it helps me to know that I'm not alone. Not every woman is perfect in the kitchen, even if her mom or grandma was a great cook. At least with an apron like this, you can look good while serving something burnt, deflated, or somehow slightly off from the recipe.

With so many great entries, I turned to a random number generator to pick the winner. Holly S. is the winner of the apron. She mentioned that her mom was an insanely great cook, so I'm not sure if she is keeping the apron for herself or giving it to her mom. I will contact her and give her 48 hours to respond with a shipping address.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Inspiration at the Home Show

I guess everyone has their own resources for inspiration. The hubby and I love to go to all the different shows that come to the South Towne Expo Center.  These shows are the closest thing we have to a date night and we find inspiration there.  It's one of the first places most people will see the latest trends for home design and landscaping. We like discovering new products there as well.
Today I was treated to a bit of a sneak preview of the Salt Lake Home Show which is opening tomorrow.

Opal Design Group talked to our little group about home design. They are giving free design consultations at their booth at the home show this weekend. Some of the tips they shared today go beyond just how to decorate your home. Knowing the latest design trends helps those of us who are selling products we hope someone else will use to decorate their home. Trends/fads come and go. If something seems to get crazy popular, you know it will die out at some point. Decorators look for both the trendy elements as well as the classic ones so the look doesn't get "old" too fast.

When asked about current popular trends, some of the home design bloggers mentioned polka dots, vintage inspired, industrial, reclaimed woods, and airy/light bright colors.  The designer mentioned that they noticed color trends changing in some of the design markets they've attended. Heavy, saturated colors are coming in (like turquoise) and warm gray has become the hot new neutral color. With the way we're all connecting online, a more global influence is being seen in decorating. I know I've already seen the Asian look in a lot of design elements. One trend that is getting popular for smaller spaces is transparent furniture.  Knowing these things will help me as I plan to create new products for our Etsy shop. I may not be able to make transparent furniture, but I like using saturated colors of thread for tatting and it's nice to see that repurposing and upcycling of materials is still "in."

One of the more exciting parts of my day was seeing how they put it all together. I'm very much a "behind the scenes" type of person. The heavy equipment was out building those mounds of dirt and rocks where potted plants and trees will be placed and the vendor will have people dreaming of amazing landscapes.

If you're in Utah and want to attend the Salt Lake Home Show, tickets can be purchased online. Use the Promotion Code SCRIBNIA for $3 off your ticket. Ty Pennington from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be there on Saturday. Click on over to their website to see the schedule and the list of other celebrities.
Friday is Hero Day!
Military, Fire, & Police admitted free. 
To receive a complimentary admission pass simply show your valid ID at the information desk at the entrance to the show.
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