Thursday, October 28, 2010

My First Treasury

So, I've been in a lot of other people's Etsy Treasuries, but I never made one myself.

I've started to, but it takes forever to find 16 "just right" items; requiring hours of searching in some cases.....

So finally today I broke down and did it; just to say I have. It did take forever to find just the right things and copy and paste all those dang URLs and notify all the shop owners...... ugh.

And I didn't even include one of my own items; as most people do.

So here it is. I don't think this is front page material; but that wasn't my goal. Let me know what you think - here or on Etsy. :)

Old Country Store Theme Treasury

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Table

The vast majority of my china is blue and white, red and white, violet, and Homer Lauglin pinky, rosy florals; pink depression glass, anything turquoise; etc. etc.

However I have a few pieces that I drag out this time of year for their autumn theme; along with other elements of "rustic-y-ness" for setting a lovely seasonal table.

Like this very old creamer. I love old, stained pieces; plain white, with good lines, and lots of "crazing". (Crazing is all those little spider web like cracks on old china.)


I bought this, thought it matches nothing else I have, because of it's unusual shape, color, and the cornucopia design. I just love it. I wish there was a whole set.....


My mom got this - it, too is unusual, with it's orange and purple poppy motif. Purple is one of my favorite autumn colors.

These Homer Laughlin pieces date to the early 1930s.


I love mismatched old silver. I use it all the time. It's so "shabby chic". I love to use the pieces with grapes and berries in the fall.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mad Men

So I've been hearing all kinds of buzz about the show "Mad Men" from vintage sellers/buyers; "Mad Men" is a regular tag and title used on etsy for 60's items; etc.
But I had never seen the show; so I got season One from Netflix.



And - sorry, "Mad Men" fans - I was most certainly unimpressed.

Yes, the costumes are fantastic. I appreciate that aspect - 1960s fashion is very misunderstood and under appreciated by some who associate the 1960s only with "hippie" and "mod"; and don't take into consideration the classics like the "wiggle" dress, sheath dresses, etc. The 60's had a LOT of timeless styles to offer the fashion world. And these are showcased in Mad Men.

But I could not get past the charaters; or the plot. Especially the leading male role, Don Draper, who comes across as a good looking, alcoholic, chain smoking, womanizing, aloof person who is habitually unfaithful to his perfectly lovely wife. Ik.

And the fact that the leading female office role seems to be intent on completely undermining a new office girl's purity and scruples. Gag.

The men are all rude and disrespectful of the women in the office, and everywhere else; and I simply cannot detect a solid plot beyond the routine rudeness to women, and talking about advertisements.

Ok, by the third episode, some of the screwed-up home life of these people started to emerge as well. Yay.

All while looking amazing in spot-on 60's costume; I'll give it that.

Maybe it's just my wholesome, country, church going, "respect ladies and treat them like princesses" upbringing getting the better of me.

But Season One Dick One was enough Mad Men for me.

Can anyone tell me if it gets better? If it improves, maybe I'll try watching some more.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I just have a few hats......


This was what the guest room bed looked like as I sorted through my hats before moving into my new shop location. This does not include a couple that were packed away still....

And I bought more since this photo was taken. Several more. Okay, eight more.

Anyway.... this is what my shop spot looked like after everything was cleaned, and the clothes racks painted and moved in, and all the other "prop" stuff, and some of the shabby cottage style furnishings....


And -


Yesterday was move in day and I didn't take photos of the final shop look..... this week I will post some.

Come and see me sometime if you find yourself in North Carolina/Virginia.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I recently listed this girl's cute lavender prairie dress and sold it.


How thrilled I was to receive this photo soon after! The little girl wore it for a field trip. How sweet!

Posted by Picasa

I love seeing old things loved once more. It makes me smile. Thanks to my customer for this great photo!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coming SOON!!

So the saga of my "shop of my own" dream continues...

The first try at getting a room, or a booth, in one of the local shops fell through, for mostly financial reasons - my little business cannot support a whole building, even if it is growing little by little. And because their whole vast antique business is closing, and I'd be the only one in the place, with no one to share rent with, all the bills would be my responsibility.

But there is more than one shop in my little historic home town in rural North Carolina.

So I took my dream and went to my friend who owns the other shop in town... a huge, 2-story brick building built in 1837.


The whole building is painted pink.

Anyway, the owner and I have a long history together; I manage her horse farm, I used to help her clean her monster of a house that sits right next door to the store:


I look after the house and her cats when she is out of town; which is almost 3/4 of the year.

When her donkeys escape from her horse farm I fetch them back .... grrrrrr.

I still occasionally work part time in her antique shop, which is inside the pink building. And I have occasionally consigned some pieces with her and sold them; including a few vintage dresses and hats a few years ago, before I got married.

So we were discussing the closing antique shop down the street one day, and I told her how I had inquired about renting a spot/booth/room/whatever
and how I simply could not do it, at present.

"Well.... I wish you would have said something to me," she says.

Long story short: after several discussions with her, and discussions with my husband, of course - I have agreed to re-vamp her entire store, and work free of charge for a certain amount of hours a week, in exchange for one room sized spot in the upstairs loft of her store, in which to set up my own shop.

While I am extremely excited about this, I am also completely overwhelmed...... there is so much stuff, so much cleaning and re-arranging to be done, and every time I go in there to work, my brain is all scrambled and I don't know where to begin.

Here is what my loft shop area looked like before I began:




Ugh! Look at all the stuff!! Much of it is out-of-style gothic Victorian stuff that she simply cannot sell. And Christmas mess.

So I worked for a whole afternoon and this was the final result on MY side of the loft:


The floor is nasty under the old rug I removed; that is for sure. A good mopping or two.... or three..... even four..... will reveal the varnished floor boards.

The lattice will be covered up with plain white fabric sheet "drapes" courtesy of my Mom.

The dresser and vanity you see will remain and be used as prop pieces; as well as the white iron scrolled room screen, the white wicker rocker, and the wrought iron Victorian "ice cream" set.

My husband is building me several heavy duty dress racks, and "cubby" shelves for display.

For starters.

So I have been working like MAD to finish my projects stashed in the barn (my footstools), and digging out all of my stash I have stashed over the years for future selling purposes.

Sewing, painting, fixing, drilling, packing, polishing, gluing, cleaning, dusting, buying........ whew.

I didn't know there would be so much to DO. I haven't even gotten around to creating my inventory control/tagging system yet.

Let alone planning the Christmas Gala/Open House/Trunk Show/Grand Opening I am planning for Early December.

And buying a sign with my shop name; and advertising, and fliers, etc. etc......

It's going to be really cool. I am hoping that this works and that I can expand in a year. Maybe use the other half of the loft as well.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cottage Footstools

The following are a few transformation projects I have been up to in the past few days.




The first one was a 1950s maple end table with a magazine rack that I found in one of our barns when I cleaned it out:

The yellow one was a crusty thing that was in the house when my husband moved in here 6 months before we got married. It had a yukky brown vinyl cushion on the top, and was full of upholstery tack holes.


I always start by painting the bottom and legs of a piece.


Finally, the little white one - my mom bought it an an auction years ago; it had a cane bottom. The bottom fell apart, and it got stashed in my parent's barn; where I plucked it up this weekend, and painted it white. Then I picked out three coordinating scraps of fabric from the tubs of fabrics I inherited from my Grandmother; cut them into 2-inch strips, and wove the "shabby", scrappy bottom you see here. I also distressed the frame with sandpaper and a rag.

I LOVE the result. It would be so perfect in a baby's room.


The yellow one is the only one I plan on keeping; the other two will be for sale in my new vintage shop; when I get it open. :)

I love re-furbishing stuff!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

In Conclusion

Well since I covered product and product presentation in yesterday's post, as well as customer service, I'll wrap up my Etsy-versary week topics with a few more quick things:

- You can't just "list and leave" - even after I list, I still change photos, description, tags, etc. Until I feel like it is the best I can do. Once, I added a flower to a vintage hat, re-took photos, re-listed the item, and sold it that very evening.

- Speaking of tags, try to use all of them.

- Your listing title is what shows up in Google searches - so don't make it something odd that only 2 people in the whole universe will be looking for on Google. If it is a pair of 1930's t-strap shoes, call it 1930s t-strap shoes, not Flapper Footware or something like that. Always think in terms of search engines and the Internet when listing.

-If you have 2 items in your shop you're going to get buried. After items are listed, other items listed after that pile up ahead of your item, and you might end up being on page 34,568. If you get buried, and you don't have new stuff to list, re-list your items and you go back to the front of the line for a while.

I try to list several new items a week; sometimes a few per day, depending on how sales are going and what new items I have. Or, I re-tag and re-list.

- Offer international shipping. My first sales were international. It is not hard to ship international at all. There is one little form to fill out; that's all.

- Make friends with your post person. Also make friends with the USPS website. I use it all the time for making shipping estimations both domestic and international.

- Stay away from personal topics on the Forums, especially religion and politics.

- Fill out your policies. This is really really important. I usually won't buy from a seller without policies; you don't know if they accept returns, when they ship, etc. etc.

- Pick a clickable avatar. Some Jewelry sellers use their product photo in hopes shoppers will see their cute item in an avi in the forums or wherever and click their shop.

- Create a cute banner.

- Fill out your profile. I love reading sellers profiles. It makes the on-line shopping experience more personal.

- But from other sellers! I do almost as much buying on Etsy as I do selling.

- Be visible. Use the Etsy supports. Use the forums. Have a Facebook fanpage. Tweet, if that is your thing. Make a blog. Talk about your Etsy shop.

It doesn't happen by itself. YOU have to make it happen.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Etsy Tips: Product

Let me say again: I am NOT an expert and I am still learning about small business/Etsy/selling on line. These posts are about what I have learned in my first year and the "formula" I came up with for myself personally; and am posting it here in hopes it helps other Etsyans.


There are only 2 kinds of things to discuss here. Things you make yourself, and vintage things over 20 years old.

I do not sell many things I make myself; I have a few, but for the most part if I made it, I keep it or give it away.
So I guess what I have to say about product applies mostly to vintage sellers.

Please - make sure what you're selling is actually vintage. Vintage on Etsy = 20 years old. If it was sold at Wal-Mart last year and looks vintage, that's not vintage.
I cannot stress this enough. Some sellers sell items from the 90's, and legally that is vintage. But for myself personally, I stop at selling things from the 80's. A lot of 80s fashions are trending again, and hot items in vintage markets. While I may not personally wear it, I will sell it.

Secondly: only sell things in good condition. I refuse to buy anything if it is worn out looking, stretched, stained, torn, altered too much, falling apart, etc. Unless it is, say, very old linens with embroidery on them, and then they can be sold as "cutter" pieces for re-fashioners and crafters.
When shopping for inventory, I carefully look over every item for any flaws. Some flaws may be fixed; like a popped seam on a vintage dress. I have used JB Weld to fix several handbag clasps. So some flawed items, I will buy. But not if it's super messed-up.
Dry clean or wash everything. Store things so they don't get sun fading, iky smells, cat hair, etc.
When I list items, I list every single possible thing on it that could remotely be considered a "flaw". If there is a frayed seam, list it. If there is a tiny hole on the sleeve, list it. If there is a discoloration in the lace trim, list it. If the fabric is nubby on the underarm, list it. Take photos of the most visible flaws and include them in the listing.
Yeah, it might cause some people to move on to the next item, but it is way better to loose one or two possible customers than to have someone buy it and then call you dishonest because you didn't disclose all the flaws on the item.

Presentation is everything, I believe. When photographing items, do your best possible job in how things are displayed, hung up, worn, etc.
Try to use natural lighting and show the item in the way it will actually appear.
Take photos of every possible angle. For china, show the bottom. For clothing, show the tag. Show linings of garments. Show the inside of the vase. Everything.

In your description, list every possible helpful measurement. I used to take all garment measurements lying flat; recently I started measuring all around and not expecting the customer guess at the size.

Know something about what you're selling! Know for sure that is it a 1960s wool blend coat with a real mink collar. One of the worst things to do is say it's from one era when a collector with a good eye can tell quite plainly that it is not, in fact. It is as simple as going on line and spending a little while doing some research. Eventually, you'll be able to tell at first glance what era an item is from. Style, fabric, tags, zippers - there are many ways to age an item within at least a decade.
I usually give my items a good 10 year window of possibility unless I can confidently say this if from this particular year. What was made in 1949 is 1940's, but can also be considered to be early 1950s as well. Know what you're talking about.

The deal is not complete till your customer gets their item in the mail and likes what they see.
So when someone orders your vintage dress, wrap it carefully and beautifully. Many seller add a small card of thanks. I add a business card with a message on the back now.
Use as nice packaging as you possibly can. For a long time I used packing materials I recycled from me and my mom both. When I ran out of those materials, I started having to buy new ones. Package items neatly and in the case of china, use over and above what you might initially expect. (I learned about shipping china the hard way.)
When I ship hats I use a big enough box to pack plenty of paper around the hat so it is not crushed.
Your customer is going to be disappointed if they ordered a beautiful hat, beautifully photographed and presented, and they receive it mashed in to a too-small box carelessly taped together and crushed in transit.
I also order cute return address labels for my packages; for the personal touch.

There is so much more on the topics of identifying good vintage; repair, cleaning, storing, etc. There is a book full to say about it, in fact. The best thing to do, if you're a vintage seller or want to get into vintage selling, is buy one of the many books out there on these topics.
I plan on delving into some of it myself in the coming months.

Again - feel free to ask questions and discuss in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Etsy Tips - Personal Attitude and Outlook

Continuing in the spirit of my "Etsy-Versary" this week, I thought I'd share a few things.

Not like I am one of those super-successful Etsyans who have thousands of sales and have employees; and are always on the front page like it's no big deal; and get to be featured sellers and whose crafts end up in magazines like Country Living and Better Homes and Gardens and stuff.

I'm just a measly little vintage seller.

However; I have had some amount of "success" in just one year; and I thought I'd make a little list of all the things I did to get those sales.

If you're not an Etsy person, you may be bored to death by this post and I'm sorry. To you Etsy lurkers, this may help you. I hope so.

I look at my Etsy success past, and future - in these categories:

1. My personal attitude and outlook
2. My product
3. My product presentation
4. Customer service and satisfaction

I am going to do this one part at a time, as it would be a super long post if I did all four points at once. Today I'll discuss topic one:

My Personal Attitude and Outlook
I'm sure everyone has heard that cliche about "success comes from within"; and I really believe that is true. Even the Bible says (and I am paraphrasing) "As a woman thinks in her heart, so is she."
So even though my Etsy shop began as a n experiment to "see what would happen", soon after my first sales, I changed my attitude and began to look at my Esty "experiment" as a business. No, I didn't file for a business licence or register my business with the county or whatever; I decided to do that once I outgrew my house and moved to a location - which is in the cards as we speak.
I thought of what I did as business, not a hobby. When I bought things to add to my inventory - it was a business expense. When I took photos, I thought of it as a "photo shoot". I created an office space in my home, with my desk, computer, reference materials, receipt books, pens, shipping materials, etc.
Every morning for a couple of hours I work on my shop, respond to convos, pack orders, edit photos, list new items, write descriptions, and participate in the forums. And occasionally (more than occasionally, actually) I shop on Etsy and buy from other sellers. It may sound fruity, an dorky, but it's all about how you think.
And if having an "office" in you home helps you think of yourself as a business person and not a yard seller, than make an office space and respect it. Make everyone else in your household respect it also!

If you think to yourself: "I just need to get rid of my junk and my mother's junk" than your shop will seem like an on-line yard sale.

Success comes from within. So, start within. Start by thinking "I am going to make this a success, or I'm not going to do it."

Make goals for yourself. When I was a full time professional horseback riding instructor, I required my students to state their goals when they began riding. They wrote their goals down, and as they progressed, their confidence was boosted as they achieved their goals one by one and even added new goals. So decide what your goals are, write them down, and work at it! If you want to make the front page, study the front page and whose shops get there, and keep tweaking your items and photos to look like what gets chosen for the front page. I'm not saying "be like everyone else", but if the front page is your goal, you have to have a product and a photo that is popular for front page selections.

Don't be afraid to be proud of your achievements and successes. By "proud" I don't mean "puffed up"..... just be excited about what your accomplishments! Let the feeling of accomplishment feed your drive to succeed and achieve your goals. (But don't be puffed up.)

Get inspired.
Especially if you're a crafting person! I have no idea what it's like to be a crafter on Etsy; and vintage is a whole different thing. As a vintage seller, I do not have to create my pieces; I just have to find them and buy them. I know from reading the forums that crafters can get "crafter's block" and not know what to create next. I can imagine how frustrating this may be, as you're trying to create items folks will want to buy, but you've run out of cool ideas. ARG!

Even as a vintage seller, sometimes I lack inspiration. I lack inspiration for photos; I lack inspiration for writing descriptions, I lack inspiration for Facebook Fan Page posts, I lack inspiration for blog posts....

So when I am feeling all un-inspired, I usually break out my Victoria magazines, my Country Home magazines; my Victorian Trading Co. Catalogs, or I look at beautiful blogs on line. Beauty inspires me; beautiful things inspire me.
So even though I am not creating my actual product, I try to present my product with beautiful inspiration! That, and it helps me feel better.
I also watch movies - like all the various Jane Austen films, and of course, old black and white movies with all the clothing styles in them that I now seek out and sell.

Be confident.

I know it's one thing to say "I am confident" and it's a totally different matter to actually feel confident.
Sometimes, you're just not going to feel it.
After I got my first negative feedback (from a non-paying buyer that was just being nasty to me because I refused to ship her item before she paid)I was mortified. There is no way to ever erase that negative feedback. Ever. I was so down about it. Was she right? I started questioning myself. "Was I "unfriendly"? (As she said I was.) I looked back at the email and convos I sent her.... no, they weren't unfriendly. One was to the point - "I cannot ship until I am paid for the item" kind of thing. Business like - not unfriendly. Nevertheless, I started to feel myself question everything. "My customers aren't happy", "My shop looks awful", "I don't have good vintage in my shop", "No one is going to buy from me now that I have a negative", etc. etc.
Finally after about a day, I changed my tune and decided to ignore the nasty feedback and go on. I purchased some things from other sellers, the positive feedback started rolling in, along with more sales - despite the negative blot on my feedback list.
Give yourself a pep talk every day if you have to. Don't let negative words about your business ever cross your lips!

Don't Think You Can't
I don't know if this is a problem for anyone else, but I have an issue with it. I would have started my Etsy shop sooner than I did except I thought I couldn't take photos of my things by myself. I didn't even try; I just assumed I couldn't take photos. I wanted someone else to take my photos for me.
That, and I am generally intimidated by computers and the internet. Or, I was. I have gotten over much of that now; though occasionally I have to ask dumb questions about simple stuff. Like re-arranging the number of pixels in my photos so they wouldn't be blurry on the Etsy thumbnails. That kind of thing.
Once I forced myself to get over my intimidation in the computer/internet department, I was good to go. Then I just buckled down one day, got out the manual for my camera, and learned to use the features on it - like the timer. That's how I get all my photos of myself. I love the timer feature. :)
I could have said "I can't do this because all I have is my little point and shoot that is 2 years old", and I wouldn't be writing about my first year on Etsy today!
Just DO it.

This kind of thing works well for every day life also, come to think of it.

Well, that's all I got on this topic. Feel free to ask questions and discuss with your comments.

Happy Etsying!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My 1 Year "Etsy-versary"!!

Wow, this crept up on me.

One year ago I was trying to take a decent photo of the few things in my inventory, and figuring it would never go anywhere and just be a fun experiment.

I listed my first three or four items that evening, and within 5 minutes, two sold.
Hats. To an international buyer!

The sales - and the cash - rolled in, and I found myself having to go on inventory buying trips. My husband encouraged these trips. He is 100% supportive and even helps me pack orders. :)

The cash rolled in, and then promptly rolled back out, as my husband was unemployed; and thankfully, I was able to use the money made to pay bills, more often than not!
And now that he is employed once more, I bought a new, better computer to run the business, using money I made in my shop; and and now am saving for a newer, nicer camera. (Since I cannot, for the life of me, win on on the Pioneer Woman's website when she is giving them away like lollipops.)

This summer I hit 100 sales....

I made the Etsy front page with one of my handbags....

I've been in I don't know how many treasuries, because I stopped counting....

I got my first negative feedback from a very nasty buyer that had not paid me - and left the neg. feedback after I politely stated to her that I did not ship until I was paid..... grrrrr

I went from "fun experiment", to being in the final stages of talks with a local shop owner about having my own shop in an area of her antiques business.

YES!! The pieces are not yet all in place.... there is much to do and plan and build and move and an "inventory control" system put in place; but........ it looks like "Carolina Roses" will have a brick and mortar location by the end of the year.


(I need to thank my friend Elisa Forshey who gave me the Etsy idea in the first place. If not for her pressing me, I may have never attempted it.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hat Accessories

There were so many photos of the hats I bought in the last "vintage buy" post that I didn't want to bore everyone with the hat pins.

Along with the hats, I bought hat pins.

And if you have hat pins, you must have hat pin holders.

Right? Of course, right. As a hat collector, I have decided to branch out and start collecting hat accessories - hat stands, hat pins, hat pin holders, head forms.... you know.

So, I bought this tall hat pin holder a couple of weeks ago from an Etsy seller.


I keep my great (great?) Grandmother's hat pins in it - two very ornate metal tipped ones and a milk glass tipped one.


And I bought this trio of adorable, "shabby chic", cottage-style short hat pin holder from another Etsy seller last week. I cannot get over how cute these are.


You can see here how small they are - only a couple of inches tall. I think they're actually really old salt shakers; 1920's or 30s perhaps. I think. But people started using them as hat pin holders, and they are sold all the time as hat pin holders. There are little holes in the bottom for corks; so that's what makes me think they're salt shakers with a second life as hat pin holders.


The pins they hold are only three-four inches long.

I am currently eyeballing more hat pins on Etsy. But I have to decide between handbags at the antique store this weekend or the hat pins; as I do try to keep my spending in check.

I'll let you know what I decide on and which vintage piece gets adopted.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all! I plan on sleeping in as long as the puppy lets me, having ice cream for breakfast, and cleaning the house in my pjs; then cuddling up to watch movies - as it's going to be chilly all weekend!

I love autumn.