Sunday, July 31, 2011

Loved and Found
Come Autumn Come
day 72

The rule is never want something to come too quickly, before its time, before it's rightfully due. But I want it so badly, I can taste it. I can smell it. Autumn, autumn, autumn.... Sweater weather. Muted toasty colors. Cool nights. Leaves floating above my head in chartreuse, burnt orange and gold. (links for these pretty little things are found below...)

Chocolate Orange Fudge
Two Cat Print
Tolkien Leather Tag
Gray and Flower Pillow
Tangerine Orange Dream Earrings
Black and Brown Panama Hat
Orange and Blue Batik Pillow
Black and White Moonlight
Blue Pottery Bowl
Golden Citrine Earrings

Good Night Friends,

Wanda ;-)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Business Lessons 101, A Continuing Series for New Artisans
day 71

#12 Etsy Pitfalls & Perils
River Girls Wry Mood Cow Card at ETSY
As one reader so gently pointed out to me, "Arrgh ETSY is not all sweetness and roses." Agreed. It's not the fluff and nutter sandwich of your childhood dreams either.

In last Saturday's post, I outlined some lessons I have learned since listing products in the River Girls Studio shop at ETSY. Most of these were positive, reflecting the overall experience of the past 16 weeks. There are however real pitfalls, two which I will explore today:

Excuse me is that your hand reaching for my wallet, or are you just happy to see me? There are two things you pay for when you join the ETSY community: listing your items and a 3.5% proceeds fee for items sold. Twenty cents a listing seems like small change, but it can balloon rapidly if you're not monitoring your expenses. Add in the sales fee and you've got a recurring shop bill that must be paid monthly. The awful truth is some shop owners sell very little or nothing, especially in the early weeks and months. Are you willing to pay those fees if you're one of those owners? For how long?

Ahem. Honestly It's Gonna Be More than 20 cents...
Next. Most successful shop owners discover that they need to renew their items well before their expiration date of four months, lest they risk not being seen or found among the other 318,000 stores in the ETSY constellation.  Some sellers renew at least one or two of their shop's items daily in the hopes of improving viewership. I have found that when I renew, I receive twice to three times as many "hearts" and views than when I do not. This does not always lead to sales, but face it. You cannot get sales without views! 

Some sellers are now suggesting that rather than renew old items, one should list new items entirely, lots of them. Guess what? Bottom line is the same: additional true expense which must be considered. (To pare this cost down, consider listing a single item and offering its varieties in the same listing. For example, an identical item in three different colors can be photographed in a single exposure. Direct your buyer to select one and place the color choice in the message box upon checking out.)

Frenzy Misplaced?
As someone who  after 4.7 months of listing is in almost 200 circles, has appeared in over 200 Treasuries and has been shop favored by 142 person, it's easy to get swept up by what I call the awesome and utter joy of my Etsy shop, but whoa, slow down.  Always ask yourself, where is that love coming from? Is it translating into sales?

Utilizing Google Analytics and sites such as Craft Cult will help you realistically assess what your true traffic is --- where it's coming from, through what key words and how long it parks. Of supreme importance is making certain that you are not inadvertently counting your own footprints and that you are getting traffic not only from other sellers but from actual buyers

Consider your shop like a house up for sale and you're having a Sunday open house. Other sellers who rarely buy are like the nosy neighbors who want to finally see whether it's marble or Formica gracing your kitchen counters: lots of ogling not much buying. Likewise, accidentally counting your own traffic is detrimental for it could be quite heavy when you're working on your shop and therefore misleading. I learned this the hard way when I went on vacation for a week and barely touched my store! Make certain to exclude your own visits. This blog will show you how and this site as well. That's it for now!

Good night friends,


Friday, July 29, 2011

Listen. Read. Learn.
day 70

If you want to know what a bad economy looks like and why education is vital, take note: 

LISTEN  to the compellng NPR series on
high school dropouts. This interview with
 44 year old Kenny Buchanan. Click Here.
This summer, our 18 year old son Phillip, a rising sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, has worked piecemeal at four separate jobs for four separate companies. Originally, he was scheduled to return to a position as a paid summer intern at Children's National Medical Center. Yet, after a wave of federal cuts, the hospital was forced to suspend the program.  For several weeks thereafter, Phillip scrambled for paid work and a semblance of a medical experience that would now assuredly be unpaid.

In the end, the National Institutes of Health offered him an exciting weekly opportunity to sit in on Dr. House style reviews of difficult medical cases. In addition, after visiting 12  businesses he was offered his former camp counselor position --though only part time in May and then not again until August. Hunting down an income filler, he found work scooping ice cream at Giffords, one of our oldest area parlors.

What began as a patchwork scenario, however, has  ended that way --in an insane flurry of truncated hours. We learned that the ice cream parlor manager was working most shifts, leaving Phillip and the other youth with only one to two shifts per week or approximately 40 post tax dollars. Then suddenly, the parlor closed after a dispute with PEPCO over a $21,000 unpaid electric bill. In the midst of 100 degree days and the peak of ice cream sales, with two days' notice, that job had evaporated. 

Since then, Phillip has picked up several days as a jumper for National News, a job which entails "jumping" out of a truck and running into hotels, Capitol Hill offices and apartment complexes to deliver newspapers to places missed earlier that morning.

This information travels a long Sunday drive to make a short brusque point:

An uneducated person living in 21st century America stands little chance of surviving economically. The most valuable experience of Phillip's summer has been not the medical case studies but in working the other positions. In these, he has stood side by side by with adults who in many cases dropped out of high school. What he has witnessed is what limited education means in black and white. 

It means at any moment, you can lose your job which only pays seven or eight dollars and hour--not enough to purchase a home or rent an apartment. It means your "job" is often not full time because if the establishment is not making money, you are not on the schedule. It means no health insurance and no vacation. It means if you don't have your education, you are a journeyman in the murky swamp of low pay work.

Education is not just about income and being able to rest better at night. It's about options; it's about not getting locked in because you can't go anywhere else, or do anything else. It means you may have a chance to do the work you want to do, rather than the work you must do. And yes, it means this: One day you might lose your job. But when businesses rebound and seek to hire, you are likely to be in the front of the line because you are educated, rather than the back because you are not.

Working in the 100 degree heat this summer, Phillip got to know a young man in his mid-20s. Chatty, affable and energetic, the man shared that many years ago he had dropped out of high school to work. Though doing so full time for years now, he is still living in his mother's basement. His wages are the same as they always have been: barrel-low, barely sustaining.

Stay in school.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Family Matters
The Kids are All Right
day 69

Tonight the triplets were in town from Maine, and we went to see Captain America. Looking at the children, mine and my sister-in law's, makes me think that it all goes by very fast--faster than the merry-go-round speed where everything begins to blur. Four in high school now, one studying premed in college. Everyone in 3-D glasses--then not. These kids are all right. They truly, truly are. 
Good night friends,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pigskin Pleasure
day 68

Things Worth Living for

Real Chocolate Cake with Thick Gooey Frosting
Halloween Night...still even Now
The House to Yourself 
A Really Really good Book
A Double Feature at an Old Art House Cinema
Love Letters
Walking the Beach before the Crowds Arrive
And the Return of the NFL...

To say I love football is like saying a fat boy loves cake. Please do not ask me to explain. I cannot  invite you to a chair, pour coca cola with ice, and regale you with childhood stories. 
The author headed to a game
they won against Denver 2009

Suffice it to say I have three brothers and a Dad. They taught me everything I know about football, and now my head is a veritable vault of pigskin overtimes and memorabilia  Oddly enough, I also attended an all girls high school run by cloister nuns. Their Sunday past time after Mass was watching the Redskins, and praying for them and watching them some more.

Washington v. Denver.
We put the Crush on Orange Crush
This year my team  is expected to be the worst in the NFL, not their division, but the entire League. Yet I don't care. I'm marking the days on my calendar. I am giddy with hope. Despite the odds, I have convinced myself, as I so insanely do each year that my team has a shot! It's going to be all Cinderella, all the time.  The princess meets the pigskin, and they live happily ever after.

Go Skins ;-) x 100
Good night,
Wanda Eve ;-) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Amazing Face
day 67

Today was Amazing Face day! The mother of a long time customer fell in love with the River Girls cream when her daughter gave it to her as a Hanukkah gift. Now, she was calling for several jars. 

The recipe was launched nine years ago when a Washington DC firefighter, the husband of a loyal customer, called.  He wanted to know what I could make for his face: aging, dry and in the forefront of battling fires.

Months later, Tah Dah! River Girls Amazing Face was born. It's a lavender essential oil cream rich with cooling rose hydrosol, and moisturizing shea butter, and apricot and almond oils. I whip it to a peaked meringue and pour into two ounce jars.  This product is 98% natural, capable of helping you fight your own daily fires, and so gentle you'll exclaim, "Oooooooooohhhh good."
Good Night Guys and Dolls :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Death in Oslo
day 66

On an ordinary summer day in Norway, a man detonated a bomb in downtown Oslo. The target was a government building which housed the office of the Prime Minister. Afterward, the perpetrator traveled the island of Utoya, where a summer camp was being conducted by the youth division of the Labour Party. Dressed as a police officer, he lured and systematically gunned down more than 70 people, most of them youth. He chased others who sought to escape by water. By Saturday morning, the Telegraph was showing bodies littered on the embankment. Stomachs exposed, shirts bloodied, limbs askew. Death.

The minute the first confetti piece of black soot settled to the Oslo pavement, speculation began: a terrorist for certain; Muslim most likely; propagandist, definitely. That was the script, but soon, all that was proven inaccurate. The perpetrator is Anders Behring Breivik, a blond blue-eyed Norwegian, a farmer who is now being revealed as someone who led an ordinary life as he meticulously plotted the massacre.  That life included gun club membership and legal ownership of firearms.

I would like to pretend that I understand gun lovers. Yet, I confess, I do not. People who fancy themselves as weapons aficionados, hardcore gun rights activists, and avid hunters who don camouflage and crouch in woods to kill deer eating grass, I do not get them.  And it’s not from any pacifist leanings. Other than Dad, gladiators, Captain Kirk and cowboys were the first men I ever loved-- but mostly cowboys, mostly James Arness as Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke and Clint Eastwood staring squarely into the sun with squinty eyes and a stunningly protective facade.  That, however, was the movies. In real life when I hear the glee with which some take in hunting, weapons purchases, and killing animals, I cringe.

 I once asked my Dad what he thought about guns. He is the proverbial Everyman. Once a boy with a dog and a hunting rifle on a country farm, he later came to the big city. Calm and kind with a steel temperament, his answer goes like this—“Growing up poor in the winters in Virginia you learned to hunt so you could eat . You were grateful when your father was able to bag an animal whose skins would be sent to NY and provide money for food. But now, other than one gun to protect a house, why would anyone need an automatic rifle? Why would anyone need anything automatic that could kill?”

The truth is guns mainly exist for two reasons: to maim and to kill.  And for those intent on neither, to snatch a glimmer of security, a bravado that says I am bigger and badder than the random circumstances that so often befall human beings.

When Breiviek slaughtered the children, he did so with a Glock and an automatic, and he left behind a 1500 page manifesto which among other things teased coyly about his pivotal gun application:

“In any case; I would rather have preferred a Ruger Mini 30, but I already own a 7.62 bolt rifle and it is likely that the police wouldn’t grant me a similar caliber. On the application form I stated: “hunting deer”. It would have been tempting to just write the truth; “executing category A and B cultural Marxists/multiculturalist traitors” just to see their reaction  :P”

I do not wish to live in a society where the only persons packing a weapon are the police, but the truth is living in one where firearms are easy to purchase and execute upon others is madness. 

If only the gun application had a box to check that said “I m a vicious bigot full of murderous rage and long to kill innocent children, or a box that said “I am pure evil; so stop me now before I stop you.” But it does not.

The challenge for all free and open societies is to accept that when the doggedly focused deranged meet guns, it's a powder keg. Finding more effective ways to screen out the nutcases is complex, but consider it vital because when you take crazy and whip in virulent hatred -- be it cultural, racial or religious-- you get carnage. You get hand wringing. You get, “Oh Dear God what the hell just happened here?”


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Loved and Found
Etsy Artisan Sunday Montage
day 65

Delivered in Sunshine
Funny how even when it's relentlessly steamy outside, you still want a light blanket to curl up with inside. You still relish the sensation of melting into a warm hug. Let everything come in a swath of sunshine. (links follow below)

Visit the artists and artisans behind these fine items at Etsy:
1. sparkling earrings
2. flower girl dress
3."hello there" note cards
4. mustard yellow bowls
5. sunburst amber necklace
7.nursery rhyme baby quilt
8. marigold girl print
9. yellow leather notebook

Want to be featured? Each artisan is carefully considered. A few are selected each week. I attempt to include at least one who is looking for his or first sales! ;-)  Follow River Girls Studio 365 and drop me a comment! 

Have a Good Evening Friends,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Business Lessons 101, A Continuing Series for New Artisans
day 64

#11 ---  Diving into Etsy..the first 150 Days
In January 2011, I bit the bullet. I decided to open an Etsy shop. On February 15, the day after Valentine's Day, properly sated and hung over from chocolate, I listed my first items: River Girls most popular hand poured soaps as well as its handmade cards and painted and stamped marble coasters. 

The decision--- part cavalier seat-of-the-pants and part tortured contemplation-- is a one I do not regret. After five months, I have posted 50 revolving items and have closed 41 sales, serving buyers from Los Angeles, California to Sydney, Australia. Nonetheless, there are things I wished I had known fresh out the gate. For example:

1. Be realistic. 
Stop, take a deep breath. View ETSY, at least initially, as the paper route and baby sitting job of your dreams, not the Martha Stewart empire. Even if you eventually get there--it's going to be a while. While there are a handful of businesses making thousands and thousands of sales and dollars, the vast majority are NOT. For some, the income  will arrive in a steady thin stream, others trickles, and for some, barely at all.  

2. Consider your competition. Recognize that the number of ETSY artisans with open stocked stores is well over 290,000 (but about 318,000 on record).  

What is your niche? Some ETSY areas are more flooded with sellers than others. Jewelry for example is notorious for attracting new crafters and disreputable overseas factories who land daily on ETSY with severely discounted trinkets.  Each niche will have its own challenges. Soap sellers for example are fewer in numbers than jewelers, but they are  also faced with the task of hard selling an item whose scent cannot be be sniffed. 

3. Be prepared to promote your shop--alot! The biggest mistake one can make with an ETSY shop is to set up, fill up and then sit and wait. This is a surefire way of garnering zero customers. The first six weeks on ETSY, I worked 6-10 hours a day writing copy, listing new items, joining teams and making treasuries (see below). ETSY does provide exposure and an easy way to process customers and collect your revenue, but it will not bring droves of customers to you. 

The best way to attract sales is through constant marketing of your store. Bring your past customers by announcing your new shop and informing them of where to find you! For several years, River Girls has had a web site (, but it was not gaining enough looks and was becoming a colorful catalog just for loyal repeat customers. Interestingly enough, sales went up with veteran customers when some began shopping at the ETSY store which runs more seasonal specials and launches new and custom lines.

Next, point potential customers in your direction. Have a website, a facebook page, and/or a blog.  All of these ensure that you are creating a super highway to you! Keep business cards handy, listing the ETSY shop, and pass them out everywhere. Sign all correspondence, including to your mom, with your new ETSY web address.

4. Help Others. Finally, one of the biggest secrets to success on ETSY is what I coin "helping others". First rule of thumb: Whatever customers you do get, always treat impeccably, from shipping what you promised, to answering questions, to being timely and saying "thank you!" This reflects decency but also ensures positive feedback and repeat business. It creates nothing short of a domino effect.  

Equally important, never underestimate the power of the curated TREASURY. When I first began listing at ETSY,  I would make TREASURIES exclusively featuring sellers looking for their first sales. I now make those as well as ones featuring team members. After making  70 treasuries and being featured in 200, I have actually been able to pinpoint rises in my sales. Consider that at a minimum, they increase visibility, and the truth is, the more buyers who see your items, the more likely you are to close a sale.


Good Night & Good Luck Novices!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sizzle, Sizzle
day 63

It was 101 degrees today in Washington DC, and after a mad dash Friday,  I am a limp kitty. But of course, tomorrow is another day! Expect tiger roars. ;-)

Good Night,

Wanda Eve

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can We Afford to Be This Cheap?
day 62

Wry Print by the Doom Girls. Buy Here at Etsy!
Recently, I went shopping for gift sweaters for my son and my father.  After visiting Lord and Taylor, and not finding the correct combinations of colors and sizes, I headed over to Filenes Basement. There, neon colored sale signs led me to discounted merchandise. They served like a steady path of  cookies crumbs left by Hansel and Gretel. 

As I stood  at the end of my destination, an aisle packed with mountainous piles of sweaters, I began to notice something. At first it was Calvin Klein. I picked up a stunning slate blue pullover. I shook it out to check for size and refolded it. It was then, upon looking at the care label, that I saw it: Made in China, Soon I was bee-hiving up and down the aisle, pulling out tucked tags from the sweaters of Ralph Lauren to LaCoste. Every single one was made  in China, Pakistan or Thailand. My slashed price sweater was coming to me courtesy of overseas, 40 cent per hour sweat shop labor.

In the midst of trying economic times, discounts do rule, but if you can afford to pay the extra few dollars to purchase a well made American item, shouldn't you? Moody's Analytics recently reported that if consumers just spent an extra 1% on U.S. goods, it would create 200,000 jobs. 

Button by the Carbon Crusader. 
Buy Here at Etsy!
But that begs mindfulness. The task most Herculean, however, is to  diminish the giddy rush to stores in search of the cheapest imported item on the shelf, followed by club warehouse outings to stockpile enough beef jerky and mayonnaise to feed a prison mess hall for a year.

Can we actually curb a mentality that says the lowest priced product is always the one to purchase? That the more food---literal and figurative --you pile on my plate for fewer dollars, the more I should smash my face in and gorge?

An escalating appetite for all things deeply discounted and lots and lots of it is problematic, be it for all you can eat waffles, bacon strips and free refills on the juice, or buy one, get one free dress shoes.  For what does  it portend for small American businesses, which typically produce over 60% of our nation's new jobs? Danger is all. A mom and pop diner will never be able to sustain "all you can eat," a shoemaker in California  will not be able to offer monthly two for one freebies, and those companies large enough to do so will continue to flee our shores for cheap labor.

As a writer, artisan and business owner  of more than a decade and a consumer of considerably greater time, something is becoming increasingly clear to me. Our citizens seem willing to give up everything for the lure of products nearly free.  In such a climate, the winners will always be those who mass produce and poorly pay their workers. That's not really a bargain, is it?

Good night,

Copyright Wanda Fleming, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

True Confessions, Part IV
day 61

The Perfect Bowl for Ice Cream by OC Pottery. Buy on Etsy 
where Handmade Artists Rule! 
14.)   If I could get away with eating ice cream every day, I would. Cones, sundaes, milkshakes, you name it, I'd do it. And not that hideous slow churn ice cream we now consume in my household, not that I'm Getting Older and Dragging the Metabolism of a Chia Pet Around Ice Cream. Nope. I'm thinking vintage Haagen Daz Swiss Vanilla Chocolate Almond and Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia. Ice cream that uses 22 egg yolks and five pound bags of sugar. Heart attack ice cream, that kind of ice cream.

15.) I love my cat, but rabid animal people make me nuts. When a person looks me dead in the face, pulls out a photo and says, "Ohhh now that you showed me your babies, let me show you mine," and hands over a photo of a snarling Rotweiler named Killer. I want to say, "Look lady. (because, it's never a man) You own a dog. Okay? It's not going to croon a tune, write a mortgage check, or drive to the 7 -11 in the middle of the night for emergency Slurpees and tampons. It can't operate a John Deere lawn mower, make you a martini, or stroll through the halls of NIH wearing a lab coat while doing research for a cancer cure. It's a dog. And for god's sake, stick that photo back in your purse!"

16.) I have never seen Gone with the Wind. I have seen snippets, and heard people reenacting the more notorious lines. Somehow, that has always been enough for me.

17.) I wish I lived in a 200 year old house with secret passages and a bespectacled butler named Alfred. His birth name would be Alfred, but I would call him Jeeves. He would constantly be bringing around the car just because I'd like saying, "Jeeves bring the car around."


Copyright Wanda Fleming, 2011

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