Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Whole New Cat?

I thought you might like to know that I'm working on a little re-vamp for Scatterbox Originals. This blog doesn't often talk about that shop, I suppose. I felt it was time for a little change in the shop and a bit of a boost back into life (a re-mojo-ification, I like to call it) and since I've been thinking today about how my business has evolved, I thought I would share the story of my progress so far with you.

The Scatterbox Originals shop has been open on Etsy.com since 2006 (technically I started business selling handmade Christmas decorations on Ebay at the start of November 2005, so I have been going for 6 years this month!) and since then there have been many changes in what I sell.

I'm going to take a deep breath here and show you a photo of the first thing I sold on Etsy.

This is a small notebook which I cut, bound and stitched the cover for all by hand. It's a little cat design as you can see, which I drew and cut out of felt. It took me a pretty long time to make and I was quite proud of it, though I think my sewing skills have improved a fair bit since then! (I think my photography is a little better too maybe...) It sold to someone I know, someone who started out being my penpal in America when I was 15 or so, who I've stayed in touch with over the years. Thank you Sonia, for being my first Etsy customer! Most of my customers thereafter were total strangers, which is a strange feeling but kind of a nice one too.

After that I sold a couple of sets of clothes peg magnets (or clothespin if you use the American lingo) which I very painstakingly stamped with hand-cut star stamps made out of an eraser, and letter stamps put together with a kit, some tweezers, and more patience than I knew I had...

And then various bags and purses and iPod cozies with felt appliqué...I did all the stitching for the felt by hand, they took SO long to make... (It was a long while before I dared to try making appliqués with my sewing machine and discovered it went much better than I thought it would. I felt like using my machine was cheating, too, which was absurd, really!) 

In my 'Seedlings Beneath the Moon' bag, you can see the beginnings of my fondness for using big stitches to create pattern and texture, which later transferred into my Tree Stump Brooches for Treacle Toffee (the second Etsy shop) and then evolved into what I do for my JumpUp range.

And not forgetting The Attic Shelter For Troubled Felt Animals section, where I sold plush dolls made out of felt and cotton, all with a (heart wrenching!) back story. The Three Myopic Mice were a favourite.

I didn't feel I could compete on Etsy.com with all the other plush makers, so I moved away from making critters for a while (though anyone who follows JumpUp will know that there is a little selection of plush dolls in that shop now, of a different style)

There were other approaches I explored too, like the lino printing onto fabric:

The small number of items I made with the lino printing really were the products of blood, sweat and tears - literally, I cut myself a couple of times trying to cut the lino using the sharp tools, and shed a few tears when blocks I had spent over an hour trying to cut, went wrong at the last minute. I have so much respect for anyone who can accomplish lino printing with any degree of success - it is hard work and can be slow going. For the sake of my sanity, I had to give it up!

There have also been mobiles, writing sets and scarves:

I love those appliquéd kids scarves - perhaps one of my most favourite things I have made. I made them using brushed cotton flannelette (fabric used for pyjamas) so they were very soft and like being able to take a little bit of that cozy duvet day feeling out into the cold air. Sadly I realised that there are many laws governing selling things for children, with the new-ish law in America prohibiting the sale of things for under-13s (or things that could be construed as being for under-13s) that haven't been incredibly (and expensively) thoroughly tested for lead and phthalates, and then looking into the regulations here in Europe also, it all overwhelmed me. Doubt hit and I lost my motivation, my belief in my business and the things I was making. My trusty printer started to malfunction just enough to make it impossible to print any more writing sets without ink smudges. Suddenly, it all felt a bit impossible.

Even with excellent feedback under my belt and a pretty good number of people adding my shop to their favourites, I got into a slump. When I felt like creating again, I began experimenting with Gocco (the Japanese printing method that's sort of a hybrid of screenprinting and stamping) My character El Bandido got a good response and I sold several Gocco-ed notebooks with that cartoon on them.

So somehow I sort of came full circle - from one kind of cat notebook to another! El Bandido is quite different to that original fuzzy felt applique. He has been quite popular I think, judging by the 'hearts' on Etsy, the sales of various 'El B' notebooks, purses etc. So why have I stopped making El Bandido notebooks? Well, partly because I had to sell my Gocco printer (it sold to a lovely illustrator I happen to know named Emma) because I was struggling to get into a good groove with getting consistently good prints out of Gloria (um, yes, I named my Gocco. All inanimate tools and appliances tend to get a name here sooner or later, as Jan the Janome sewing machine would gladly tell you if she could speak) and also because I needed to free-up some funds so that I could afford to keep going with the business through the recession. (Cue Dickensian tale of woe featuring greedy bankers, clueless politicians, loss of consumer confidence etc, all beating down on the finances and spirit of this here artist, sitting in her cold little attic flat, eating Tesco Value Noodles and resting a hot water bottle against her stomach as she sews. She might even be wearing fingerless gloves and/or singing "Where Is Love?"...)

So what now? What's next for my little business? Well, I've had some new ideas. It's not a total change I don't think - hopefully there will be a logic to my progression and at least some of my lovely past customers will still be interested in the work that I'm making. While I am continuing with JumpUp (shop number 3) as well, I am planning on giving Scatterbox Originals another blast. You may have noticed the shop has a new banner...

Here is a little preview of what I'm working on - these are my images in progress on the way to becoming Things. Can you guess what they're going to be yet?

I will give you a small clue on what one of the images is for...my cameo pin badges have had a good response in the past...

The Artist smiles inscrutably and perhaps ever so slightly annoyingly...and skips away to refresh her hot water bottle, and then to do some work on both her Etsy shops...please stay tuned! :)

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