Monday, June 18, 2018

Rock Hunting Surprise: Early American Revolutionary-Era Slag Glass

I collect rocks. I also love to look for arrowheads, and anything else old and cool and interesting. I love history, especially American history, so these items fascinate me. 

I recently turned my oldest daughter into a rock and arrowhead-hunting addict—she's been bitten by the bug too so we search together, which is so much fun. 

Walking along a riverbed recently we came across a unique find - a few chunks of slag glass scattered and semi-buried along a riverbank. Bright to deep blue, green, and turquoise, this glass is a by-product of an American Revolutionary-era forge from a ways up river. Washed down the river and buried over a span of about 250 years, it found its way to my feet. 

I love the history, the look and feel of the imperfect chunks of glass, and knowing their age and origin makes them even cooler. 

Finding a piece of slag glass that is close to 250 years old. I wondered if this could be made into a piece of unique and beautiful jewelry.... hmmm

Here are just a few pieces that I found during one walk. It's neat to see the different colors, the different shades of blue and green, as well as how the different pieces are in different stages of form - you can see how some are kind of frozen in their once-molten stage, full of bubbles, air pockets, with traces of metal or minerals present, and how other pieces are in clear, more smooth vitreous, glassy form. 

The bottom left piece is butterscotch jasper, and I suspect it is a piece of an ancient arrowhead or Native American Indian tool, as there was no other jasper visible in the area and it's shape and form fit that of an arrowhead common to our region. 

Stay tuned for some unique jewelry creations made from some of this very cool glass, which has a history as unique as it's look and range of colors and textures!

What do you think?

Have a great week!

Article, images, and designs copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018
all rights reserved

Sunday, June 17, 2018

New Broken China Jewelry Dishfunctional Designs

Here's a quick look at some of the new pieces of broken china jewelry that I finished this week and just listed in my Etsy shop. Broken china necklaces, pendants, hearts, lots of new pretty pieces and some with patterns that I haven't used in a while. 

I have more in the works so be sure to check back again for the first look at my new pieces. I have been trying to go through some of my inventory of plates and dishes and pull out some patterns that I haven't worked with in a while...I hope to get some new pieces made with some of those patterns over the summer.

What do you think?

Have a great week!

Article, images, and designs copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018
all rights reserved

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Etsy Increasing Transaction Fees From 3.5% to 5%

I have to say I was pretty shocked when I opened up my email this morning and read a message from Etsy notifying me—and every other seller on Etsy—that they are increasing their transaction fees from 3.5% all the way up to 5%. And not only that, but the fees will now also be applied to the cost of shipping. Wow.

Just wow.

Aside from being shocked, I also felt a little disgusted as well, and had that creeping feeling of dread. This is the beginning of the end? Or the end the end? Either way, it’s not a good thing.

Of course, they also state that, “We are planning to invest even more in bringing buyers to Etsy, building seller tools, and improving your seller experience.“

I honestly wonder how they are going to do that. Shouldn’t they have been doing that all along? I’m wondering what they could possibly do with all that money that’s going to improve “seller experience.“

It seems that they focus so much on “tools,” But I really wonder what the point of it all is. Selling handcrafted items is pretty straightforward. Like I wrote in my recent blog post, there’s certain things that are kind of common sense that you need. These include; a good written description, great photos, and ample inventory, to name a few. I really think their “tools“ are weak excuse for the greed of wanting more seller fees.

A few blog posts back and probably more than once, I mentioned the possibility of once again selling my jewelry and artwork from my own website, and/or I think that time is going to come sooner rather than later!

I used to sell my jewelry on but then stopped and instead sold exclusively on Etsy just because it got kind of confusing listing some items here and some items there. Looks like I’m going to have to revisit the idea of migrating more of my inventory back to my website to sell there instead of on Etsy. Time will tell and I will be sure to post updates here on the blog.

But it’s disappointing. I mean, how much is cost of running Etsy really costing Etsy? We are the ones making our items, taking the photos, writing the descriptions, packaging and mailing the items, basically doing everything. They just want more. It would be different if they were the ones packaging and shipping my items. They are not. I’m doing all the work. Every seller on Etsy takes care of all those things on their own.
I’m doing all the work.

They don’t run commercials or magazine advertising. At least not that I’ve seen. I see plenty of commercials and ads for other online retailers such as Amazon to name just one. So there’s no money being spent there.

It really seems to me that Etsy is just finding new ways to charge sellers to sell their own items. The email also states, “We're also introducing new optional feature packages designed around the needs of sellers…“ Just what I need, more “tools“ that I have to pay for to sell my own items. I don’t need that. My items sell themselves!

In a nutshell, I don’t think Etsy is doing enough for me to substantiate them increasing my fees. I think it’s a big mistake on Etsy’s part. Now they want us to pay monthly subscription fees for “new plans“ to “ help businesses grow and express their unique brand” - and that’s just the basic package called Etsy Plus. They also are going to have Etsy Premium which will have “more advanced tools for larger-scale businesses.“ I really don’t think any of these services are needed to be a successful seller on Etsy. Unless they decide to change the Etsy search feature algorithm again so that only folks who subscribe to their special packages get seen in search results. Judging from the way things have been going I wouldn’t be surprised.

Did you know that if a seller has a problem on etsy (or a buyer) that they cannot speak to a living person to get help? Instead, we have to choose an option from a few listed to "send a message" to Etsy for help - sometimes not even knowing if the message was ever seen. How about improving that important feature?

I’d really love to hear some opinions from other folks who sell on Etsy. 

What do you think of all this? 

Do you agree with the rating increase? 

Disagree with it? 

Do you really think that there is a need for more “seller tools?”

In your opinion, what do you think Etsy could possibly offer with these packages that would make things better for sellers on Etsy? 

What say you?

Have a great week,

Article, images, and designs copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018
all rights reserved

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Broken China Jewelry: New In My Shop This Week

Here's a quick look at some of the new pieces of broken china jewelry that I finished this week and just listed in my Etsy shop. Broken china necklaces, pendants, hearts, lots of new pretty pieces and some with patterns that I haven't used in a while. 

I have more in the works so be sure to check back again for the first look at my new pieces. I have been trying to go through some of my inventory of plates and dishes and pull out some patterns that I haven't worked with in a while...I hope to get some new pieces made with some of those patterns over the summer.

What do you think?

Have a great week!

Article, images, and designs copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018
all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Why Are My Etsy Sales Down?

Etsy is an online marketplace where you can open up a virtual shop and sell your handcrafted goods or vintage items. Lots of people have built full-time careers from their Etsy shops. At one time, Etsy even had a motto that said something like, “quit your day job.“

I don’t recommend that you quit your day job. But I do recommend Etsy as a fun and profitable way to sell your crafts, handcrafted items, or vintage and antique items.

If you visit the forums on Etsy you will sometimes find shop owners complaining that their sales are down, that they aren’t making as much money as they did last year, or the year before, or maybe they say that they aren’t making any sales at all.

This has been a common occurrence within the past couple of years since Etsy completely changed their algorithm which displays how item results from search navigation are shown to shoppers. It used to be structured in a way that when someone listed a new item on Etsy, that item would be at the top of the search in front of similar items because it was a newly listed item. And not only that, but when you listed a new item on Etsy it actually showed up on the front page of Etsy, even if for just a brief moment! I think that was a pretty fair way to do things. It makes sense, right?

Dormant shops that didn’t list new items over a period of time would kind of fall to the back over time, while more active shops that continually listed new inventory would be in the forefront. I think this format encouraged shops to keep producing and kept what was shown in the forefront fresh and new. I liked it this way and so did most everyone else, at least that seems to be the general consensus in the Etsy forums.

Anyway, a few years ago someone at Etsy had a big idea and decided to change the algorithm and lots of peoples’ sales have dropped because of it. It’s been a huge point of contention throughout the Etsy forums.

And when you are reading topics in the Etsy forum, It’s like reading the same post over and over again: Why are my sales down? I’m not getting any sales. Why isn’t anyone buying anything from my shop? Can you take a look at my shop and tell me what’s wrong with it? What am I doing wrong? How do I get sales? How do I get people to visit my shop? These are all common questions that you will find in the Etsy forums.

The answer to some of these questions is surely due to the changed algorithm, but first and foremost there are many other things to look at in someone’s Etsy shop to determine why they are not getting sales.

Now personally, I sell jewelry, so I naturally gravitate towards jewelry related types of posts in the Q & A forum. If I see a post where someone asks other sellers to take a look at their shop, I will sometimes take a peek and if I have any good advice to give, I will give it.

On Etsy… And I’m speaking specifically about jewelry sellers on Etsy right now… On Etsy there are so many different types of jewelry sellers, each making different types of jewelry in all different styles, so you can just imagine all the different possibilities and variables from shop to shop. That means there are a huge amount of things that can be impacting any particular shops sales at any time. Lets go over a few of them.

Starting off, the first thing you want to look at are the very basics. At a glance, does the shop look good? Does it have a common theme, does it have a vibe?

Now here’s a big one: does it have inventory? I can’t believe the number of times where someone has said, “Please take a look at my shop because I don’t know why am not getting any sales.“ and then when I go to their shop they only have a few items listed for sale! Wait, what!? You need to have a decent amount of inventory to make your shop look robust and credible. Starting with maybe 25 pieces of inventory is a reasonable goal for a new shop, and probably the minimum amount of inventory that I would open a shop with.

Next, are all the blanks filled in? Is there a shop description? Photo of the owner? A pretty/stylish/unique cover photo of something that at least vibes with what they are selling? Do they have their shop policies posted? Things that answer buyers questions such as what are their shipping and return policies? It doesn’t matter whether you accept returns or not, but it does matter that you have it clearly posted somewhere in your shop. Fill in those blanks! Lots of info folks, lots of info! 

Etsy’s format for setting up your shop and adding your shop information is basically “fill in the blank.” Etsy makes it relatively easy for sellers to include all of their pertinent information in their shops. All you have to do is choose an option or type in a sentence or two. They really do make it easy for you. So there’s no reason not to have all of those things filled in.

Another thing that is very important is that you have amazing photos. Not just good photos, amazing photos. They should be bright and clear and sharp and show your item from different angles. Take a look at your photos and replace any that aren't good enough. Also, be sure to use all of those photo slots that Etsy gives you per listing. Use lots of photos! 

So we’ve made sure your shop has all the information a buyer needs to know about you, your shop policies, and your items, and you have your shop adequately stocked with inventory, so what do we look at next?

Once your shop itself looks good and is complete, the next thing I look at is your items. Do you have quality items? Are they unique? What about them sets them apart from all the other shops and makes them special? I think this is where a lot of people mess up. They either include sub-par craftsmanship in their stores, or they are selling unoriginal items that are copies of other people’s work.

To have an Etsy shop that sells like crazy, your craftsmanship has to be as near perfect as it can be. You need to be your own worst critic and have super high standards for your own work. Trust me on this one.

You need to be your own worst critic and have super high standards for your own work.

If a customer visits your shop and sees messy work they will probably leave and never come back. If you have items that you’ve made that don’t quite meet up to your own standards, then don’t put them in your shop. Remember, you will be known for what you sell in your shop. The way your shop looks and what you sell in it is your calling card for your entire business, is how you are advertising and representing yourself! You wouldn’t want to buy someone else’s seconds or imperfect items, so why should they buy yours?

Be original. This is what will make you stand out from everyone else and will get you the most sales by far. I’d say that most customers shop around and they know what’s out there. When you’re buying from the comfort of your own home on your own leisure time, you have time to look around, browse, mark items as favorites or add them to your wish list, etc. Etsy is not like walking into Macy’s, finding a dress, loving it, and then buying it. If Macy’s was like Etsy, you would walk in, see 10 to 20 dresses that are similar, with some clearly made better than others, and with some clearly more unique than others. Which would you choose? That’s what Etsy is like. You have to be the best. You have to have excellent craftsmanship but even more importantly, you have to have your own unique style.

Another thing that I would look for in a shop is that there is some variety. Customers want to have different things to choose from, so give them different options by offering items in different colors and styles. Everything should still tie together so that your shop looks cohesive, but don’t make everything exactly the same. Similar, but different. Get it?

The next thing that’s important for your shop is customer service. I can tell you I get tons of emails asking for custom work which I often don’t have time for, but if someone asks a specific question about an item that is in my shop, I will make their email a priority and answer them immediately. So be sure to check your messages every day or two and keep up with your customer service.

The final, and probably biggest thing that impacts sales on Etsy, especially in the jewelry categories, is the sheer number of people who are making jewelry and selling jewelry on Etsy. The market is just flooded with sellers. And I don’t even consider this “competition” within the jewelry categories. It’s just too many people, too many shops. It’s getting too hard to get found amid the masses of sellers.

I noticed a few people making videos on YouTube that claim to offer tips and secrets for how to increase Etsy sales and offer advice about how to navigate the search algorithm, etc., but after watching handful of them, I found that they all fell short of offering any real, solid information and I suspect these videos were made for the sole purpose of just having a video to put up on YouTube!

The speaker in one YouTube video actually pulled a “stat” saying that Etsy had released revenue numbers from 2017 which said that Etsy’s revenue was higher than ever... but remember, that’s Etsy’s revenue! That’s the money that Etsy is bringing in from all of the fees that they are collecting from sellers listing items and selling items. That’s a big difference from the income that a shop earns.

All the hype one year ago was Etsy’s last venture, Etsy Studio, which was supposed to be a marketplace for sellers to sell supplies, hoping to rival the big box craft supply stores Michaels, AC Moore, and Hobby Lobby. Etsy Studio flopped. And in all reality, I could’ve told you that was going to happen.

As much as people love the convenience of shopping for unique handcrafted items from the comfort of their own home, people also love the experience of going out in person to a craft store to purchase supplies for their next project. It’s fun. And though it may be convenient to purchase certain supplies online—basic things such as adhesives, or wire—people still want to go out and see what’s out there in person and be inspired by what else is on the shelves, even if it’s something that they didn’t go there looking for. It's the whole experience of going there in person—that's what makes those big box craft supply stores all that $44 billion revenue. How many times have you been with family or a friend and said "let's go to the craft store!" —not for any one particular item, but just for the fun experience of it. Etsy, you just can't stuff that into a website, no matter how hard you try. Some experiences just have to be, well, experienced! In real life!

You can’t do that with an online supply shop. You can try to do that. You can choose images of certain items and put them across the front of your website hoping to entice a shopper into being inspired by what you’re showing them, but that’s not creativity. It’s not giving people enough freedom to discover their own creativity. 

A website that sells supplies for crafts may show you a few photos of things that are current trends, such as the currently popular cacti trend. By doing this, the website is telling the shopper, “Here, look at this cacti. This is what’s popular now. You should make cacti crafts too!” That very well might inspire some people to make cacti crafts. 

But where do those trends begin? They begin with a clean, blank slate. They begin with someone physically walking into an art store or a craft store and seeing colors, and textures, and in their own minds, combining those things to create something completely new. That is the inspiration that walking into a craft supply store affords. Just as creative inspiration that comes from walking into and experiencing the outdoors and nature, or love, or any other real, tactile experience that might inspire something creative. The greatest creative ideas aren't born from looking at computer screens, I guarantee you that. They are born from the human experience of interaction. 

The greatest creative ideas aren't born from looking at computer screens, I guarantee you that. They are born from the human experience of interaction. 

And this is why, in my opinion, that when business men or women make these decisions instead of artists and craftspeople with business knowledge, those decisions fail. Art and creativity aren't about money.

OK, now that I’ve gotten totally off track… LOL. Yes, I could cut this blog post into two or maybe even three separate posts but I’m not going to. I’m going to put this all up just the way it is for you to take in and digest and maybe you’ll have an opinion or thought or idea about it and leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole spiel, or on any part of it that you would like to comment on or discuss.

I’ll wrap things up by saying this, competition is stiff, the market is overcrowded, but you can still do it. You can still have sales and be successful. Follow the suggestions that I wrote above, work hard, and above all be creative and unique, and you will find success.

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I hope you enjoyed this post.
Please leave me a comment below! 

Have a great week!

Article copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018
all rights reserved

Monday, June 11, 2018

Best Ever Homemade Banana Muffins

Every so often I come across a recipe that I land up making over and over again—a recipe that is too good not to share. This is one of them! A while back I was looking for a recipe to use my overripe bananas in, and after finding a bunch of different recipes on the web and carefully reading through them, I fashioned this one myself by combining what I thought were the very best ingredients. 

Tried, and then tried again another day, and then another, I tweaked the recipe here and there until I was thrilled with the final version, which I am going to share with you today.

But before I start, there are a few secrets that are important to know, and that will make a huge difference in the final outcome of your muffins. 

First off, use three bananas and not two. I've done it both ways and using two bananas for this recipe just doesn't cut it, unless you cut down the rest of the ingredients—which you would have to figure out for yourself caus I just don't have the time or capacity for all that math! 

If you use two bananas instead of three bananas you will have dry muffins. 

If you over-bake them you will have dry muffins. 

If you over-mix them you will have rubbery muffins. 

If you add chocolate chips you will have delectable muffins. 

As you can see in the photos, I added a few walnuts and a few pinches of coconut (which you probably cannot see) to a few of the muffins before I baked them, and the rest I baked with only chocolate chips added. I like walnuts. It's a personal choice. If you want to add some to the recipe, that option is in the recipe as well. 

To bake these, I use standard paper or aluminum baking cups inside of a muffin tin, and after filling the tin with the papers, I lightly spray the cups in the muffin tin with non-stick baking spray. Then I use a one cup measuring cup to fill the cups evenly until all the batter is used up. This recipe makes 12 delicious standard size banana muffins. 

Oh, and before I forget—probably the most important hint from above that will make your muffins perfect is this: do NOT over mix when you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients! Just a few stirs until the dry and wet ingredients are completely combined is all you need. Over-mixing will ruin your muffins! Okay, enough talk, here you go:

Best Ever Homemade Banana Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 F
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers and then spray with cooking spray.

In a bowl mix dry ingredients:
1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Set aside dry ingredients

In electric mixer mix wet ingredients:
1 egg
3 ripe or over-ripe bananas, peeled
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted butter (not hot!)

- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. 
- Mix wet ingredients with electric mixer on medium for a minute until all wet ingredients are well combined. *Note: do not use very hot melted butter. Warm the solid butter in your microwave just until it starts to melt, do not overcook or make too hot. You do not want the hot butter to cook the eggs when you add it to the wet ingredients!
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer and mix just until the two are combined. Do not over-mix!
- Add 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter and gently fold in with a spatula.
- Optional: add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
- Use a measuring cup to fill the prepared muffin cups with batter.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until muffins are light golden brown and the edges are a bit darker golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. Makes 12 muffins. Store in an air-tight container for up to three days.

I hope you enjoyed this post.
Please leave me a comment below! 

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Have a great week!

Article copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2018
all rights reserved