Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giving Thanks by helping others

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (here in the US) Nicole's Visions, Breath of the Dragon & Uber Dreamer Concepts were among the volunteers helping out with the huge Thanksgiving foodbank at the Women's Resource Center in Wenatchee. Nicole's Visions has been helping every week for well over a year now & on occasion before that. Both Breath of the Dragon & Uber Dreamer Concepts have been helping out for a better part of the spring & summer. It is such a rewarding experience for us all. And we are all grateful that we can give back to the community in this way.


These 2 tents provide a bit of shelter while people wait their turn. We had a crappy day weather wise. Tho the rain did stop a few times & it even got a teeny bit brighter on occasion!

Looking down the driveway, we set up tables so we could offer a bunch of different choices for everyone. I was looking to see how much space we had left to add more things.
 On our trusty picnic table we stacked boxes filled with ingredients for families to make a Thanksgiving meal. All these boxes (& more were inside) were filled by volunteers, assembly line style. It takes a lot to pull this off!
 Including turkeys!














Things really filled in quick as we worked to get all the food out! I'm off there on the far left again... trying to figure out if we have everything ready & together.





 We had all kinds of breads & lots of misc foods too. And by the time we were done ... all this was gone.


We even had potatoes, pears, oranges & frozen turkey & gravy. You can see Sunfire from Breath of the Dragon off on the far left there!








And back here ... was a bunch of extra stock ... more pasta, more plums, more oatmeal, more tomato sauce ....



My friend Joe took these pictures so I dont have all the shots I wanted, but he did a great job getting these for me & it gives you all a good idea of what we do for the holidays for all these families. We fed over 200 families that day.

This week was another crazy week. Even tho we had such a huge line & gave out SO much food last week, we had another 100+ people in line this week. Less than 7 days after Thanksgiving. Not sure where all the food went since you would think maybe people would have some left overs at least... And we had a lot of new faces this week. This seems ot be a trend we're noticing. Longer lines each week than we expect & more new faces.

I am thankful that I am able to help out by giving my time. I would like to see if some of us small business people here in town could get together & have our own food drive with the proceeds going directly to the Women's Resource Center. When other places do their food drives in town, we are forgotten. We often dont get any portion of the collected money or food. It makes it harder for us to serve our community.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Marketing Material progress


Last month a fellow business person on Zibbet & I got together to make a new image for me. I have mentioned this before & you can see the beautiful results not only in the banner on this blog, but in my shop banner on Zibbet, my business cards, my avatars, web ads & last but not least product tags.
product tag designed by Judy
I wanted a nifty tag to use for adding prices to my things. Since not everything is flat photos anymore, I thought something new would be in order.



base image used for biz cards & banner, shot in my yard.
Judy was so patient with me. I gave her some images I shot in the yard to use as backgrounds for all the stuff & she worked her magic on the design front. I really had no concrete idea for the tags so I was beyond pleased when we worked out the details to get the result we got. 




Today I went in search of a hole punch & some kind of string. I knew for the smaller tags I would need a smaller than typical hole & hoped I could find something to fit. I did! Fiskars makes not only the typical ¼ inch hole punch but also a 1/8 inch one. And … it was on sale! 

Next was the search for string, or twine, or hemp, or yarn. Something fairly thin to use to connect the tag to the products. I saw some hemp in a nice brown at Wal-Mart. Not sure it was a good deal, I passed & headed to Craft Warehouse (where I found the hole punch) hoping to find more variety or something there. I found (in the jewelry dept of all places) something called colored cord. It’s thin, & brown. Wasn’t hemp like I had kinda hoped, but with the 40% off coupon I had, it was priced right.

           Product tags printed in various sizes & cut           
Now that I finally have my trivets ready to sell, I am looking forward to adding the price tags so they are ready for the local show I’ll be doing on November 12th.

Small steps, constantly, eventually bring about great things!

Oh & I should mention too that the tags got printed best on nice 65lb cardstock on a laser printer. I tried at home on my inkjet & the color difference was amazing between that & the big printer at my local Office Depot. Well worth the cost.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oops....


I totally missed updating today (this is backdated) as planned for the NaBloWriMo thing. I was sick & had to do the food bank on top of that. New entry coming for the 28th.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Playing tour guide

For the past several entries I’ve focused on providing some info to help with photography. 

This weekend, I’ve spent time taking actual scenic pictures with my camera instead of just product shots. Tho, I did do some of those too, earlier this week.

So often I just forget how much fun it is to go out & take some pictures.

This weekend my husband’s dad & step mom have been here visiting from FL. We’ve been playing tour guide to show them some of our beautiful country up here. I found someone who enjoys taking pictures of everything like I do! My mother in law! It has been fun. I’ll work on uploading & editing some pictures this week.  

Know I cant put these off forever like a lot of the other ones I still have to share because she’ll bug me every now & then until I share them all! 

So before I head to bed, I better make sure my batteries are charged for one more day of sightseeing & hiking tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Backgrounds

What I would like to touch on today, is backgrounds for product photos. 

I think its awesome when folks get creative with their backgrounds in pictures. 

But I also firmly believe it is super important to have at least 1 image where there is nothing to distract you from the product. 

Nothing. 

Unless your item needs a prop to be properly photographed.

Some of the beautiful handcrafted items we all make go great on plain white. Some, not so much. 

Same goes for black. 
Some look stunning that way. Some, not. 


So what are you to do then? 

My suggestion would be to find a neutral simple color that goes with most or all of the things you make. 

For some people this means using the grass outdoors.
For others it may mean a colored piece of material.
 

Or maybe a mannequin.
    It all depends on what you create.

If you sell mainly one type of product in your shop/website, try to keep the background the same color in all your main photo, shots. 

This gives your shop/website a nice cohesive feeling. 

When people then click to see more, this is where you can get more creative. 

Play with the angles, props, & whatnots.

It’s simple enough. When you are trying to sell something, less can be so much more.

I’m going to leave this simple. 

I wish I had room to show you so many more shop items. I'll work on that!

As always, comments, questions & inquiries are welcome!
To see out how I do my shots, check out my shop. I'm always working to change them, too.




Shops in order of photo appearance:
All About the Buttons
BreitWerk
Grandmother's House
Portable Graffiti
Raige Creations
Handmade Fuzzy

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Angles in product photography

So we hit ever so lightly on lighting the other day. 

Today I’d like to hit on angles. 

Specifically, in product photography. 

While it can play a huge role in nature & portrait work, it also plays a huge role in how you photograph your product.

For those of us who sell our creations & works of art online, it is tough to get across just how great our work is, with just words.
 
We need pictures. Images. Something to help cement that feeling our words tried to convey. 

Having a square head on shot of your item is by all means important. But please, don’t stop there. We (on Zibbet) are offered up to 5 images with a basic account & 8 for premium. 

Find a way to fill them! 

Granted, for some things it may be impossible without being overly redundant. But of others, its easy to take picture after picture. So take advantage of this & play with the angles from which you take them.

Get down to almost eye level to help convey how thick, tall, thin or short, your item is. 

Find the perfect angle so the buyer can see the texture of your creation. The shine, the yarn, the grain, everything. 

The only caution I have here is to not get too close if your item has natural flaws. 

When we create by hand, we have flaws, or they would not be handmade. 

So get close enough to show, but not so
close that EVERYTHING shows … ya know?

That beautiful head on shot is great. Take it from overhead if you can.

Now stand in front of your item. 

How would it look if you saw it in a store, or on display? 

Take a picture from that angle. 

If your item is functional, play with the angles,
with the item in use. 
 
If your item is worn, play with the angles, on a model.

You get the idea. Get creative. 

Combine these creative angle ideas with the lighting ideas I mentioned too.

Sure, that one great basic shot is important.

But so is the creativity you can convey with the other images allowed in your listings!


While I don’t have the perfect images to show you everything I mean, I know the creative mind in you can see these new creative angles, creative perspectives.

If you ever desire any help, I’m always here. Stuck on what other angles to try? Not sure if something works? I’m happy to help! You can see how I use angles in my product shots both in my Zibbet shop & my daughters ...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It’s all about the lighting


Well, at least in product photography it is.

I’ve often been told, when people look at my photography, that I have a natural eye for it. At first, I had to ask what exactly they meant by that. I seem to have a very appealing & creative way to compose my images. Wow, how cool is that? 

I take a lot of my pictures, with something in mind. Sometimes, I take them knowing I want to be able to put words on them somewhere. So, I make sure to leave space for that when I compose the image before I click that shutter. Other times it may be just a nice composed shot, no cropping or words needed. Or, I may want to make some shape out of the image later; whether that is a panoramic shot, or maybe a square shot.
Tiffani

At any rate, composition is a big deal in photography. But, so is lighting. Lighting can play a huge part in landscape shots, in close up shots of anything, & in people shots. But I want to talk about product shots today.

I have found over the years that I have been doing product shots, that for me, natural light works best & is the easiest to use. I know there are many ways to take pictures with artificial lighting. I never was great at doing any of that. I love how natural light gives things such a nice clean, clear & color correct look. And I didn’t need to buy any special equipment for working with natural light. All I need is a place to set up, near good light.

My Studio in the living room
Using natural can present challenges. There are a couple factors that need to come together to take good natural light pictures.
A bright or sunny day
Time to take pictures while the light is right
Seems simple enough. But what if you don’t live in an area that gets tons of sunshine? Or you work all day & need to wait until the weekend & the weekend is rainy? Or any other off the wall or real world reason.

Taken w/above setup
I am able to be home during the day, almost every day. So I can see when the light will hit my photo area best. And this changes as the suns path across the sky changes with the seasons. I want the bright light, but not the direct streaming sunlight. The direct light for most things I photograph, is too harsh & bright. The bright light before the sun streams in & onto the products is best.

Taken w/ above setup
Try working with this bright light next time you need to take product shots. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at your results.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Making it easier to help

So on Friday I talked about my efforts to help raise some money for the hungry by supporting our local food bank. While my effort is two-fold, I can understand not everyone can spend right now.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hunger Awareness

It’s Friday! The weekend is here! For many this is a time to be off work & spend it with family. One of the simple joys of family time often revolves around food. Whether its snacking on popcorn while watching the game or a movie … or gathering around the family table for a nice home cooked meal, many take for granted the fact that there is always food available.

What if there wasn’t? What if you didn’t have the luxury of a snack anytime you wanted? What if you had to wonder where your next meal was going to come from? Sadly, this is on the minds of countless families, everyday.

Out in our corner of the country, October is also Hunger Awareness month. I say also, because there are other causes this month that overshadow this one. Did you even know there was a Hunger Awareness month?  I as made aware of this one day while chatting with the amazing woman in charge of The Women’s Resource Center food bank.

I volunteer there each Tuesday to help things go smoothly at each food bank. We never really know how many people will be waiting in line. It varies not just with the time of the month, but with the seasons as well. We have many seasonal fruit related jobs here in the valley, so when its time to pick, sort & package, jobs are there. But during the off times, jobs are much more scarce. So, our lines grow during these times. But jobs or not, we have elderly & disabled people in line, all year long, needing help.

Did you know, that right here in our country, many older and/or disabled people are forced to choose between buying food or buying their medication? Yes, its true. Another reason we are here to help.

Our center is part of a network of local food banks but not all receive the same amounts of food. Food comes from various sources for each place. I see firsthand how oftentimes we get less. I’ve learned how politics play a part in how much (or little) we get.

But mostly, I see the people. I see their faces. I listen to them talk to each other & to me. I help those who come in wheelchairs, or with canes, get their choices put into bags, a cart or a box. I can feel the appreciation they have for what we do. The occasional thank you, or bless you warms my heart. I always leave, wanting to do more.

This is my point. Doing more. For the month of October, I will be helping the center with each item I sell from my Zibbet shop. It doesn’t matter if its on sale, or not. Big or small. I am taking $2 from every item sold & using that to buy food for the center. I hope you can help me, help others by making a purchase this month. You’ll enjoy an added bonus of 50% off your shipping as well. On all orders, worldwide!

Thank you for reading. And helping if you are able. I will update at the end of the month on the wonderful total we had!

I’ll be back with another post on Monday! May you all have a bountiful  harvest on your tables this glorious Autumn weekend!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle!

One of the big things that has driven me is a love for recycling. For re-using things that have lived their life & been tossed aside, or worse, tossed into the trash/landfill. No, I’m not going to go fish them out! I’m looking to find things before they get that far.

One of the things I’ve saved from being tossed is some California Redwood. I know I’ve written a few posts about this wood & the connected projects already.

 I’ve also saved clothes & even material from ending up who knows where. Ah, my pile of clothes & material. Once I have more of this wood stuff finished I will be digging into some of that.

More recently (like the other day) I was surfing around online & came across a few more fun up-cycling ideas. I’m in awe of the people who think of these things. Making a rake head into a wine glass rack … using the old style 10 speed bike handlebars for a wall mounted bike rack ... making bottle openers from bike forks. I mean come on… how cool is that? Why couldn’t I think of that? Can I do that? 

Yup, all those questions & so many more have run thru my head lately. There are so many ideas out there for so many fun things. I have to wonder how many are original & how many have just been duplicated by several different people. Not that copies are a bad thing. Well, I don’t think they are anyway. And I would imagine (or hope) that each person would put their own spin on their version too. Yes? I know I would.

When someone takes the time to copy your idea, it’s got to be good. Right? As long as they don’t say its their original idea, there should be plenty of room for all of us to sell our fun & creative creations. Am I wrong? Granted, if an idea or product is copyrighted, that’s another story.

I’ll leave you all with that & I’ll be back with another post on the 7th.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Launch to begin, a new image & blog writing challenge


Wow, here we are on the first day of October already. How did that happen so fast? I’ve been keeping pretty busy around here.  Along with working on getting the Redwood Collection ready to launch, we’ve had some personal issues to contend with & I’ve been working with a fellow Zibbet shop owner to revamp my whole image, as far as marketing material is concerned.

The launch of the Redwood Collection will begin soon. Just not today. With a few bumps in the road, things are taking a little longer than expected. I promise, one item at a time, you will begin to see them listed in my shop this month.

My new image has been fun to create. You can see the huge difference in the banner up there & the avatar on the side, to begin with. The emphasis has been taken off of just photography. It now includes that, along with everything in my new directions as well. I have a new shop (& blog) banner, a new avatar, new online advertising banners, new business cards & even product tags! To say I’m a bit excited is an understatement!

I’ve also decided to take on another challenge. I must be crazy! Many people have heard of NaNoRiMo which is a national novel writing challenge. This one, is geared to bloggers & called NoBloWriMo. To make my challenge more fun, I’ve decided to include 3 of the blogs I have. Since I find myself liking to keep different aspects of me separated, I thought this would be fun & also exercise my brain a bit more. So, once every 3rd day after this, you should see a post from me here!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trials, pitfalls & learning curves


These redwood projects have been a challenge for both myself & my wonderful helping husband. While we both have a very creative mind, we may not always have enough knowledge to equal the creativity.

The Visions I have for these trivets & soap dishes are so clear in my mind. I can clearly see the finished products in all their beauty. As we go along in this creative process, we are both learning that alterations may be needed. Plans may need to be changed. Visions may be altered. Finished products may look different than those first Visions.

We are both working on these with tools we already have & our own muscle. We first sliced wood at a friend’s house (because we really had no way of doing that here), but to avoid having to go back there for each step, we have been working with what is here, at home. And the knowledge we have here, at home.

You would think this would not present much of an issue. And at first it did not. But somewhere along the line, something happened. It’s funny actually, to think about it. Somehow, lines were just a bit off, angles were just a bit off & there was no fixing them.

So, we’ll have some imperfections. We’ll have some ‘creative’ lines perhaps… but the shimmering beauty of these pieces & the mesmerizing knot work will still shine thru! That is part of the beauty of handcrafted right? The uniqueness & imperfections of each piece? There is no doubt that these did not come off some assembly line in China.

Oh, we're excited too, to have found feet for the trivets. They will be made from slices of recycle wine corks! I played with slicing them this morning & it will work great!