Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eyes Alive

I apologize for the lack of recent posts. As some of you have already heard, I recently (and thankfully) landed a full-time job in my other profession (re: as a lawyer). Other than the fact that parts of my brain, dormant for the past nine months, are a little sore from being called to active duty, things are going just peachy at the new gig and I couldn't be more happy with how things are working out.

But as some of you also know, I don't blog about my day job, which leaves me nothing of late to blog about. Except for maybe...

My new Kat Von D eye primer. I know, I know, I'm not a product blogger, but bear with me for this one. I realize that some people like Kat Von D and some people really dislike her. It seems that most of the people who fall into the latter category base said dislike on the fact that Ms. Von D has stars on her face, while the general population has no stars upon thars. To those people, I will recommend Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches and leave it at that. But whether you like Kat Von D or dislike her or are indifferent or don't even know who she is, you have to admit that the woman takes her eye makeup very seriously.

Such was the logic running through my reignited brain when I recently wandered into my local Sephora (which is not too hard to do since it's one elevator ride and 34 steps from my front door). You see, I've been having a bit of a problem with my eye makeup starting out on my eyes but ending up on the rest of my face within a few hours. Friends and family have recommended various primers and so I went to Sephora to do a little comparison shopping. And that's when I ran into Kat--or, more specifically, a cardboard cutout of her likeness hawking her new makeup line for Sephora.

I couldn't help but notice that Cardboard Kat was wearing a LOT of eye makeup--artfully applied makeup, mind you (I mean, she's a famed tattoo artist after all, so I'm sure it follows that she's pretty handy with a liquid liner brush)--but just gobs of it. I'll bet Kat is making weekly trips to the MAC counter to trade in her empty eye shadow containers under their recycling program. If anyone ever needed an effective eye primer, it is Kat Von D. And so Cardboard Kat convinced me to purchase her product (namely, High Voltage Eye Primer in Skin; the one pictured above is in Smoky) instead of all the ones recommended to me by real, non-cardboard people that I know and trust.

And do you know what? Cardboard Kat was right. I tried it out today and it was uh-MAZ-ing. First, it made my eye makeup so much more vibrant than normal. In fact, my makeup was so vibrant and yet my job was still so new that I grabbed a cotton ball and tried to wipe off a bit. Guess what? It didn't budge. It's going to take some industrial paint thinner to get this eye makeup off before bed, but it's still worth it. Do you know why? Because it's almost bedtime and yet my too-vibrant eye makeup is still, for the most part, intact. It sure beats greasy raccoon eyes.

And so, I know I'm not a product blogger, but this was seriously one of those "How did I ever survive without this?" consumer moments.

And, admittedly, I had nothing else to report...

Friday, August 20, 2010

INTERVIEW: Megan Eckman of Studio MME

By far the smartest thing I did when moving to the Bay Area earlier this year was to join the SF Etsy Street Team immediately upon arrival. I've met a ton of local artists through various SF Etsy events and feel like I know even more through the team's happening email listserv. Our fearless yet friendly leader, Jen of Mama's Magic Studio, deserves serious props for all the time and energy she puts into the team.

A week or so ago, team member Katherine had the brilliant idea of organizing a blog interview exchange where, as you probably guessed, team members pair up and interview each other on their respective blogs. I was fortunate to be paired up with Megan Eckman of Studio MME, whom I had met at Renegade just a few weeks prior. As you will read, Megan's a real pro, and I feel so lucky to be able to spiff up my blog with some of her lovely work.

(Megan talks about painting this little Scottie on her own blog, and she uses it on
Etsy to illustrate a listing for a custom portrait of your pet.
I, however, would like a custom pet created from this portrait.
Is that possible?)

RN: Tell me a little about your background as an artist. MME: I grew up with an artsy father and a not-so-artsy mother who enrolled me in every art class our North Dakota city had to offer. I continued taking art classes all the way through college when I graduated with dual BA degrees in creative writing and drawing.

RN: What is your favorite medium? Have you tried any new techniques lately that you've just fallen in love with? MME: I've been in love with pen and ink for the last 3 years but am now being drawn over to the Wacom tablet and Photoshop side (no!!!). I hope to be able to merge the two to allow me to work more diversely for freelance work.

RN: What are your thoughts on the business-side of being an artist? MME: I truly believe that it's AS essential as the artist part. My mother is a business major and she made me a deal that she would fully support me getting two artsy degrees if I opened a business before I graduated. It was the best deal I ever made! The best thing about being a professional artist is sharing my work with other people and seeing it hung up either on their walls or the walls of an art gallery. The worst thing is the constant hair-pulling that comes from trying to think of new ways to get your work in front of the public. I'm just lucky I have fast-growing hair or else I'd be bald.

RN: Do you have any tips for people just getting started on an arts or craft business--things you wish you had done or known from the get-go? MME: I certainly wish I'd known about SEO and keywords when I started. I took all the time to build my own website and then had to write all the content over again because it wasn't being found by google search bots. So, spend a few weeks researching and writing BEFORE you jump into anything. Believe me, you'll save so much time later. [As someone with a copy of SEO for Dummies on her nightstand, I couldn't agree more.--RN]

RN: I saw on your blog that you recently moved to the Bay Area (me too!). Where did you come from and what brought you here? MME: I moved all the way from North Dakota with my boyfriend, who will be attending San Jose State University for their photography graduate program this fall. I think, in my heart, I will always be a Midwest girl, but I'm certainly already in love with the Bay Area.

RN: What's your opinion on this chilly summer weather? MME: Haha, what cold summer? It was sweltering for me! I've never had to wear so much sunscreen and giant hats. I think you all need to go up to North Dakota and experience our -40 F winter days. You'll think anything's sweltering after six months of that.

RN: And just for fun, what's your prediction for the next "it" animal on Etsy (i.e., in the grand tradition of owls, deer, octopi and foxes)? MME: Ooh, good question. I heard rumor it was going to be a sloth but I hope it's a giraffe. I think that animal could use some attention again.

As a reminder, you can learn more about Megan on her blog and through her website; her work is available at her Etsy shop:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So, at the risk of boring people to tears with another Etsy-themed post, I think it's about time I talked about Treasuries. Do you know what an Etsy Treasury is? If not, Etsy's answer is that the "Treasury is Etsy's ever-changing, member-curated shopping gallery." Note that they diplomatically left out the part about it being the Etsy equivalent of crack.

All you need is an Etsy account (not a shop) to make a Treasury. You start by window-shopping through the entire Etsy site until you have collected the Listing Numbers (basically, Ety's version of a SKU) for sixteen items that work well together in color or theme--or, if you are a Treasury expert, in color AND theme. In doing so, bear in mind that the number one rule of Treasuries is that you never feature your own stuff in your own Treasury. The distant-second number two rule is that you should only feature one item from any given seller. The third rule is that you should have a variety of items (i.e., a mix of jewelry, fashion, bags, artwork and paper goods) unless the type of item is your theme. Once you've culled your Listings, you plug them into the proper blanks on the Treasury page, you move them around until everything is where you want it, you give it a clever name and, if you're a polite curator, you convo the sellers with the link to let them know they've been featured. In the event you're having a hard time visualizing this, here is a simple rainbow-themed Treasury I put together with a link so you can see it on Etsy:

Does this sound silly to you? Does it sound like a blatant marketing ploy by the powers that be at Etsy to get its own users to generate mini-promotional campaigns for other users and Etsy itself? You're probably right.

But have you tried it?

There are two things that make the Treasury a downright brilliant idea and they are two things that also contribute to the larger success of Etsy as a whole: (1) creativity, and (2) competition. As to the first item, there's no denying that people who lurk around Etsy are a crafty folk. Curating Treasuries gives them a break from working on their own projects and lets them create art from the art of others and obtain instant feedback via the comments section. It's also a lot cheaper than a regular craft project in that it is free.

As for the competitive aspect, Etsy is a capitalist marketplace at the end of the day, despite the feel-good communal vibes it is always generating. The Treasury used to be a lot more competitive and complicated than it is now. I will not go into all the old rules of waiting into the middle of the night for the Treasury to "open" and life spans and whatnot, but suffice it to say that Etsy got rid of them. And when they did, die-hard Treasury curators got MAD. Back in May, I went to a meet and greet for San Francisco sellers with Etsy Administrators right around the time that the Treasury rules changed. There was a Q&A session that I thought would be dominated by questions about SEO and marketing co-ops; instead, it was a bunch of angry crafters whining about the Treasury being less competitive. They apparently derived a high from the race aspect of it and were experiencing serious withdrawal. I hope the Administrators had the sense to use the buddy system in returning to their cars after the event lest they got shanked by a rug-latching hook in the parking lot.

However, two competitive elements remain. First, the Treasuries are ranked according to how "hot" or popular they are. Second, and more importantly, the best of the best Treasuries are rewarded by being placed on Etsy's famed Front Page for twenty minutes or so. It is the goal of most curators to have their Treasury make it to the elusive Front Page--which is a pretty awesome, feel-good communal goal given that they cannot include their own items.

So making Treasuries is fun and addictive, but being featured in Treasuries is also a great perk of selling on Etsy. I don't make Treasuries that often and I've never had one make the front page, but I have had three or four items of mine featured on the Front Page by virtue of being included in someone else's beautiful Treasury. I can attest that the Front Page's rewards, in terms of increased shop traffic, hearts and sales, are everything they're rumored to be. But more importantly, it just feels great everytime someone (usually someone I've never met from another part of the world) contacts me to let me know they liked my work enough to include it in their Treasury.

If you want to see some of the Treasuries featuring my work (well, at least since Etsy changed the Treasury rules and made them searchable), look here:


(Be sure not to miss the Royal Tenenbaums-themed Treasury. As a film geek, it's one of my favorites.)

And this is a Treasury I recently put together as a virtual Thank You note. It features the work of sellers who had recently included my stuff in a Treasury. It was a challenge to find notes of common ground in such a diverse collection of shops, but that's part of the fun of making Treasuries.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I FINALLY got all the new stuff I made before Renegade up and listed at my Etsy shop. I can't believe I thought this was going to be a minor "wrap it up" post-fair event. It took three days, during which I snapped over 400 photographs, retouched about 300 of them, and listed over 60 new items. That's right, I more than doubled the size of my Etsy shop. I nearly tripled it. Okay, I like 2.79-ed it.

Did I mention I made multiples of each item listed? I knew I had made a lot of stuff, but in the thick of it I didn't appreciate the numbers because I was so focused on all the things that time constraints forced me to cross off my list of things to make. In retrospect, it's no wonder I was so exhausted in July.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record...

New goal: Set fewer goals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


One of the few places Wing and I managed to visit while she was here last weekend was The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in the Temescal District of Oakland. I had always wanted to go there but was afraid to do so solo. It had been touted to me as "half art store, half thrift store." I think those numbers would be more accurately stated as 15% and 85%, respectively, but the idea is a good one. Despite my fear of using an already overused word, I guess you could call it a "curated" thrift store, one which stocks thrifty stuff (sometimes known as "trash") that is especially suited for repurposing in art projects. All of it is fascinating, but only some of it in a good way. However, after talking to a few people about it, I am realizing it is an acquired taste and have no doubt I'll find myself back there in the future.

One of the more brilliant things they sell are hundreds of tangible, processed photographs (remember those?) from random people who do not appear to be professional photographers. They even have a whole drawerful of negatives if that's your repurposing preference (and it would probably be mine as I once repurposed my own developed negatives into a cover for a report on women in film and now I'm sad I don't have those negatives anymore). Someone has also taken the time to sort some of the photos by subject, as pictured below.

Any takers?

*I just mentioned thread cats in the title to freak Kate out again.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm suffering a serious craft fair hangover (stiff muscles, bruises in strange places, zombie stance, mental drafting of random checklists) as I write this, but I just wanted to let you all know that I survived Renegade this weekend. To everyone who stopped by or sent electronic well-wishes, THANK YOU!

I'm trying to talk my booth-helper Wing into guest blogging a thorough recap of the event that highlights some of the other great artists we met there, just like I tried to talk her into going without any sleep, hauling around leaden coat hangers and living on a diet of smoked almonds, fruit snacks and gum for two days straight. So far she's fallen for everything, so I've got a feeling a great blog post is in our collective future. Did I mention she flew out from New York City after work on Thursday night just to help me with this shebang and returned last night on the red-eye so she could be back to work on Monday morning? I think if she asked me to clean out her rain gutters with my tongue, I would be compelled to agree under the International Treaty on Owed Favors.

This is our booth, before the fair started and before the people behind us even arrived. The table arrangement evolved throughout the fair as Wing and I conducted and adapted to the results of our amateurish, guerilla marketing analysis. Because I was trying to keep the cost of the display down, and because I have limited room for display storage in my apartment, ours was one of the simpler ones, but it worked just fine. Still, we finished our setup 1.5 hours before the fair opened. Lesson learned, I guess...

Here is a view of the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason from our booth, also during setup time (the only time I had to take pictures, apparently). This view represents about 25% of the space used in the Pavilion. It was huge and packed. One woman dropped by our booth when the fair opened on Sunday, saw something she liked and said she'd return after visiting all the booths to buy it. When she finally made her way back, I commented that she had been gone a long time and must have been having fun. She said, "I finally made my way through all the booths. How long did it take me?" I checked my watch. "Two hours!"