swings and roundabouts

By robynjay On April 24th, 2015

We all love to get a bargain but when it comes to handcrafted goods it pays to stop and think.

I’ve been running with Society6, Red Bubble and Spoonflower to date for finished products and materials. For each item sold I make about 10%.
Sounds awfully low doesn’t it. Why would I do it?

A typical design takes 3 hours to complete. I try to use the design in a few ways and on all sites.
So at $20/hr labour (yes that’s right), that’s about $60 per design.

Once the design has been uploaded there’s no more to outlay. So my costs are covered (just) once I’ve sold 20 bags or equivalent. This of course does not take materials (pens etc) into account.

The other option is to purchase fabric from Spoonflower with my own designs, make items, and sell them via Etsy or at a market.
The type of canvas used by Society6 works out at around $40/yard thanks to the crummy exchange rate. So a 45cm tote with straps and lining the materials alone would cost me around $20 and about half an hour to make.
Let’s say that my outlay including time and $2 towards the design adds up to a total of $32. On top of this Etsy charges 3.5%

Until now I’ve been convinced that Society6 etc are the go. A simple tote bag costs (when postage is free) about $28.50 AUD and I can’t make them for that.
Society6 also allows me time to design but the product quality and style is out of my control. Bags are also branded Society6 not Bunyip Designs.
The Spoonflower + Etsy option requires hours at my sewing machine but the peace of mind that the style/quality of the build is as I would like.

It’ll be a hard slog to make any gains but I’ve decided to give Etsy a go as well as leaving designs on the other sites. Instead of replicating the product I’ll try creating something a bit more unique. On Etsy I can also make and sell items not included on the other sites – table runners, placemats, pillow cases etc. Labels are ordered and prototypes under way.

I may well be mad!

The old Singer

CC FlickR image by Georg Holderied

Society6 workflow

By robynjay On March 5th, 2015

Each product line on Society6 requires a different file size and in some cases, type. Until you establish an effective workflow the process of constructing and uploading these files can be time consuming and frustrating.

Here’s my workflow that I find saves time and effort. I use Lightroom to edit and organise, and then export to Photoshop. For art works in Lightroom I always brighten whites, darken blacks, adjust saturation and vibrancy, and I usually increase the vibrancy setting for noise reduction. The latter helps reduce the effect of hand drawn sketchiness. For photos, adjust as you would for any photographic work.

For non-repeat designs

1. Art prints, totes, cushion covers, clocks, shower curtains, doona covers
I generally keep the file used for art prints the same as for these other products given that print sales are not my primary goal.
The file for these products must be a square. For doonas and shower curtains the file must be at least 6000 x 6000 px. I work on 6500 px to allow some leeway.
These are BIG files so you need either very high res scans or photos. If you can’t accommodate this you can stick to 3500 x 3500 px and accept that you will not offer doona covers and shower curtains.

I tidy up my image and save as a JPG (max quality) into a designated directory with the final product name as file name. You could use a Directory for each design with the product in the filename, or a Directory for each product type and clearly named files.

2. Laptop skins (exactly 4600 x 3000 px)
I resize my file to 4600 px, create a new canvas the correct size (I use 300 dpi) and paste my resized image on to the new canvas. Given the shape you’ll need to move it around until you are happy with the crop. If your original photo/art work was rectangular and you actually cropped it into a square for step 1 above, return to your original rectangular image and size correctly. I do this for landscapes in particular.

Save as a JPG.

3. Mobile skins (exactly 1300 x 2000 px)
Resize your laptop file to a height of 2000 px. Create a new canvas the correct size and paste the laptop file in. Move and adjust. Save a JPG as above.

4. Clothing (exactly 3300 px wide x 5100 px high)
You can upload a PNG file for dark fabric and any white in the artwork will print. In JPG files the white in the artwork will become transparent and only lighter colored fabric is available.
Not all designs look good on clothing! I discovered the hard way and while I’ve left some rectangular blocks of design up online I’m not 100% happy with the result.
If only the print was all over the clothes!

Normally I use the PNG option and typically now just an element of the design if I think it would be suitable.
I create a transparent file, paste in a clean object using a marquee/selection tool to select it from its (normally white) background.
Move the object up to about 1/3 from the top and save as PNG.

Once uploaded you can select what fabric colours you would like to offer. This depends on the design.

Normally that’s about the extent of what’s possible with one off designs that are non-repeatable.

For repeat designs

1. Art prints, totes, cushion covers, clocks, shower curtains, doona covers

I create my repeat patterns on a square canvas 6667 x 6667 px square and 300 dpi.
(Notes:  a 6500 px square is fine too but you’ll need 4 joined layers for the rug, and for Spoonflower and Woven Monkey I resize the final square to 3200 px to remain under their file size limit)

Once the repeat pattern has been achieved (using Filter – offset process), I save the design as a JPG as above. Keep this file open.

2. Rugs (exactly 10,000 px wide x 6667 px high)

Copy your design file created above, and paste twice onto a new canvas of rug size. Move to join the two layers and save as a JPG.
I have found that sometimes the file is too large for upload and I need to cut the quality of the JPG file down to 10/high but test this. Save and close.

3. Laptop skins (exactly 4600 x 3000 px)

Resize your rug file down to 4600 px wide and paste onto a new canvas. Save as a JPG and close.

4. Wall hangings (exactly 6500 x 5525 px)

Return to your original square and resize to 6500 px. Copy the file and paste onto a new canvas hanging size. Move if you wish and save as a JPG.

5. Mugs (exactly 4600 x 2000 px)

Resize your file again, this time to 2300 px (note this is half your mug width). Copy the file and paste twice onto a new canvas mug size. Join and save as a JPG.

6. Clothing (exactly 3300 px wide x 5100 px high)

The only time I upload a file for clothing with a repeat pattern is if there is an element of the design that I can use on its own or in a group. If this is the case I select these elements and paste them onto a transparent canvas as above.

That’s it! Now head into Society6, click on POST and SELL. Firstly you will upload your art print file, add some descriptors and publish. ONce published you can select which products you would like and upload the relevant files from your carefully organised Directories :)

Screenshot 2015-03-05 17.06.52

How Society6 works

By robynjay On February 23rd, 2015

It became apparent this week that people are unclear how Society6 and its pricing system works so this post will clarify things I hope.
All you need to use Society6 as an artist is an account and a verified PayPal account (this is so you can be paid); there are no other upfront costs or charges.
To post a new design you simply upload a high resolution file of the design. This file is used for your prints (unframed, framed, canvas) and is the basis for your store. You are offered an opportunity to determine your profit margin on these. All the work and the cost of the ink, and sometimes the postage is covered by Society6 and its partners.

Once you have uploaded this file, given it a description and at least one category it is published and available to the public.

Soc6At this point, or at any point in the future, you can add products. There is a defined range of products on offer and artists can select which they would like to offer. The products come in clusters based on the file size/dimensions that are required. So if you select tote bags for example, and upload the appropriate file, you automatically also have cushion covers for sale, and if that file was high enough resolution shower curtains and doona covers also are available. I’ll go into the files and file sizes in detail in a future post.
The price for each of these products is set by Society6. I typically receive around 10% of each sale which seems low but keep in mind that there is no risk (so long as the quality of the design is ok), and all costs and labour is covered their end.
When a sale occurs the 10% becomes available to me as credit after the end of the month.
Within Society6 there is a community of users; this goes for both artists and shoppers. You can follow an artist, favourite designs, and comment on a design. It’s time consuming but I try to find some time each week to look around and give others feedback. Designs with lots of attention get pushed to the front for Society6 promos, website homepage etc (or at least I THINK) that’s how they are selected.
So, it helps artists if, as a buyer, you log in and click that little heart if you like a design. It tells them what’s working and helps them grow!

being repetitive

By robynjay On February 13th, 2015

Getting into this design work is a steep learning curve …. in many ways.

One of things I’ve learned in past weeks is how to create a seamless repetitive design, particularly for Spoonflower fabric.
While my first doodle designs did not lend themselves to any but mirror image repeats due to their non-contained/random nature, I’m slowly working on more individual design objects that can be arranged and repeated.
It may not be the official (or even best) way but here’s my process using Photoshop and my recent poppy design …

1. Paste in and arrange your objects on a square canvas keeping within the border. By resizing objects I try to squeeze in as much as I can at this stage. Transform items to add interest (flip and rotate).

Screenshot 2015-02-10 18.10.52    Screenshot 2015-02-10 18.27.12

This will become your bottom layer so keep in mind that while you can move things with the marquee tool everything after this point will be on top. SAVE as PSD.

2. Flatten the layers. Save as a separate file.

3. Go to Filter – Other – Offset. Set the horizontal to half your file’s pixel width leaving the vertical setting at 0. Ensure the Wrap Around box is checked. Click OK.

Screenshot 2015-02-10 18.32.47









4. Fill the spaces with your design objects. You’ll probably need to start resizing down even more at this point to fit things. When you’re happy, flatten and save.

5. Repeat the Filter process, this time making the H setting 0, and the V setting half your pixel width.

6. Continue filling the canvas. I tend to switch around the Filter views a few times to make sure I’m happy. Save.

Screenshot 2015-02-11 08.13.30








7. Check your pattern by either copy/paste onto larger canvas or by creating a Defined Pattern (Edit – Define Pattern) and using this to fill a larger canvas.

Hope that’s useful! Enjoy your designing :)

a return to the fold

By robynjay On February 12th, 2015

OK, so it has been a long time since I blogged in here. It’s been 3 years in fact since I posted I am enough, and a lot has happened in that time.
I was back in a full-time employment role when my sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Without hesitation I resigned to spend the little time we had left close by her, and to offer whatever support I could to her and her family.
It sucked losing my parents and then her in the space of 3 years.
I spoke to her about our dream to travel to the Kimberleys, and she confided that it was somewhere she had always wanted to visit but now never would.

So we did. In 2014 after months of preparation and saving, we hit the road. You can follow our adventures on the blog and in FlickR. Traveling in this way is life changing, there’s no denying it.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been home now for as long as we were away.

We returned to a VET system in disarray. To be honest it had been heading that way for some time. In a recent podcast we pondered this and the loss of trust, flexibility, innovation, social justice and the right to life long education.
Insufficient funding, overly complex bureaucratic systems, competition, incompetence and a lack of focus on the needs of individuals has led to a sector that has lost its soul and functionality.

Regardless I ploughed back on in to Seek etc. What I discovered was earth shattering, but perhaps my saviour. There’s nothing much there for me.
With public education in crisis most contracts and work are currently in the corporate space and it appears that (predominantly) coming from the public sphere pretty much labels you an outcast. Now this is an interesting discussion in itself …. why an experienced educator with a wide range of experience and skills would not be competent to fill a L&D type of role in business, but apparently that’s the perception [and a warning note here to all the wonderful educators finding themselves out of work].

The more I looked, the more I decided I didn’t want to be there anyway!

So with that as impetus I’ve retreated back to my first love – design. At school I studied art, and textiles and design. It was made pretty clear to me however that this was not a wise career choice, and so I detoured into education.
With a total change of direction it’s taking time to find my feet and my niche. Thankfully I have the resources to take this time. I’ve been trying out Spoonflower for fabric and paper design, Society6 for readimade textile and homeware products, and I’m investigating Etsy.
I’m weighing up adopting readimade goods or making my own – there’s not a lot of difference in potential income when it comes down to it and the former allows more time for actual design rather than construction.
The drop in the Australian dollar has come at a bad time for those of us importing goods from the US however!

So I’m starting a new category in here for Bunyip Designs and we’ll see how we go.
Thanks for sharing the journey!

and after the rain comes new life

Common threads

By robynjay On May 24th, 2012

I’m not sure that I can remember the last time I conversed solidly for 2 days about things that matter. Not work things, life things.
It was a gathering of intelligent minds, varied lives and experiences with common threads: social justice, a desire for change, care for our environment and humanity, equity.

It grew from an increasing awareness that good people were butting heads with systems, values, leaderless bureaucracies, complacency etc. I’ve watched inspired innovators lose their ‘fire’ and burn out. I’ve watched the results of what I call the ‘shit floats’ syndrome: uninspired, conservative thinkers, rising to management ranks recruited by higher level bureaucrats who don’t want their own thinking questioned.

It struck me that we fight this within our own sectors and industries and areas of life but there is little opportunity to move beyond this and to look at the underlying issues, and the common threads that link us regardless of circumstance.

So we gathered, 8 of us, around a table with sustenance, heaters, blankets, and despite not knowing everyone well, a strong unspoken sense of trust and respect. The conversation pretty much flowed freely around areas of concern: the media, education, politics, environment/sustainability, change. The organisers among us brought us back to ground from time to time for refocus and direction, and I attempted to capture the essence of discussions with sketchbook and pens.

Many of us were self-described introverts so the size of the group and the ability to drop in and out was important.

A few of us began the weekend with 2 sessions at the Sydney Writers Festival – one on ‘D.I.Y.’ and one on Resistance -and the ideas raised were remarkably relevant for the weekend as a whole. Day 1 ended with a long walk and a chance to connect 1:1

We didn’t save the world but we did leave with a sense of connection and support that will continue. Michael summed it up well in a post-gathering message:
“The moment I left our little gathering on Sunday I had the feeling that we had just done something amazing. A group of people had spent the best part of 2 days just talking about what concerns us – without time constraints or a goal in mind. An aberration in this speedy world.”

It’s all about engagement: facilitating e-learning

By robynjay On May 3rd, 2012

I’ve enrolled in the new TAE50211 Diploma of Training Design and Development, and once again am busy gathering evidence for RPL. Its a good opportunity to look back over a career and reflect on what I’ve done and the changes I’ve made both in direction and thinking. A key part of RPL, I think, is reflection so I plan to use the blog to do this in a more public way so I can gain further input from readers.

It’s very difficult to tackle something that is your life, an integrated whole, in a segmented way i.e. unit by unit but I’ll see how I go.

I guess my first point of reflection about the unit ‘Facilitate E-learning’ is the unit authors view of what ‘learning’ is. Most of my work over the past 15 years has been in a range of staff development roles, and by this I don’t ONLY mean formalised training.

As educators we learn every day. We learn by reading, we learn by talking and debating, we learn by watching, and we learn through personal critical reflection. All of this can occur online and as a facilitator of learning for educators, my job has been to design spaces and guide processes to make that enjoyable, accessible, challenging and self sustaining. The goals have not changed over time. What HAS changed is the range of online spaces that allow individuals to create and drive their own connections with others.

Having lived and worked online for many years now, my first point of call was the web. If you Google your name what do you find? So, focusing on the online facilitation work I’ve done here’s a list of the most significant:

1. In what must have been the mid 90s I obtained funding to establish a space for the Far Nth Coast adult literacy network. While the site now makes me cringe it was quite ground breaking. Facilitation in those days meant talking to people, gathering ideas/content/needs via email/phone and uploading it. I can remember a lot of discussion about the audience and ongoing review about the effectiveness of the content. We’ve come a long way :) We went on to trial MOOs and MUDs for learning and networking but the platforms were simply too complex for most teachers.

2. From 1998 – 2004 I worked in a few roles on the North Coast supporting the Community Colleges and in particular the ELLN staff and programs. For general management communication and collaboration we used Sharepoint. ITs primary use was sharing of files and conversation around key issues in between regional face to face meetings. I set up and co-facilitated the space. Clunky but reasonably effective.

3. Around this time some virtual meeting rooms started to appear. For the Community Colleges most were over-priced, but one iVocalize proved accessible and was used for a number of years and varied projects. In 2005 I was on the executive of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy and acquired funding for the Literacy Live project. WE used the platform to connect adult literacy practitioners around Australia. It was used for meetings and guest presentations which I facilitated. I was also involved in running awareness raising sessions at conferences and training sessions for State ELLN bodies including QCAL

4. An then into my role as LearnScope manager etc for the then Australian Flexible Learning Framework. While our roles were largely management ones we also provided a range of e-learning awareness sessions and online resource information. Sessions were facilitated in Elluminate and ADobe Connect, a blog was published covering news, events, info and help, and we started a wiki as an information hub. The Framework then used a range of discussion forums and there were some rather interesting challenges faced by the national team around flaming and aggressive posts and how to deal with these.

5. In the past few years I have designed and facilitated a range of blended staff development programs. Typically these included a Moodle hub for content and ongoing asynchronous conversation forums, with face to face workshops and follow up conversation via Moodle and email if required. The material used for these outside Moodle is all freely available online via my Slideshare account and my wiki

6. Most recently I’ve developed the Designing for Flexibility blended workforce development program for Sydney Institute. We have used a mix of F2F, wiki, Facebook group and online Adobe Connect sessions. I facilitated the 2011 trial which has since been reviewed, updated and mapped against TP units, and we’re about to roll it out once again.

Each example has involved an ongoing process of review, evaluation and continuous improvement. In most cases this has involved a mix of informal feedback, team critical reflection, and the use of feedback surveys. In review the focus and emphasis will vary according to audience and purpose but typically will cover:

  • fit for purpose – applicability of content
  • accessibility – level of pitch and suitability of content for the level of skills
  • opportunities for engagement, feedback and ongoing networking and professional connections enabled
  • timing and access
  • suitability and effectiveness of the chosen platform or blend of strategies
  • follow up opportunities

Thankfully as technologies have progressed, and there has been a shift toward spaces that are increasingly easy to access and master, the interactive, collaborative element of learning and connecting online are becoming easier. It remains the case, however, that it is very very easy to teach (as opposed to facilitate) very very badly online. Whatever the platform, maximising engagement and focusing on business and learning needs is the imperative.

[CC FlickR image by Will Lion with acknowledgment also to Tapscott & Williams Wikinomics and Thomas Hawk]


getting unstuck

By robynjay On January 20th, 2012

The energy for creating new opportunities comes from the tension we feel between an inspired vision for the future and our current reality. When we feel stuck or unclear about our careers, often it’s because we are either compromising our vision or denying reality–sometimes it’s a little of both.

Michele Martin

This week in our Career Clarity Camp we’re exploring what we need to help us thrive.

We’re considering some 30 day trials, side projects, stretch assignments, courses, volunteering options etc. After a long week of ‘slog’ to overcome my procrastination I’m finally free to give this some attention.

As usual we’re inspired by some practical thinking (rituals in our lives) and great posts from Michele ( dreams ).

Interestingly (and perhaps thankfully) I had already begun down the enrichment/ visioning/ project path but I’m also inspired to trial a couple of other things that have been lingering in the back of my mind for some time. So here are my ideas for projects and experiments:

  • I’m already finding time each day to draw. This has become an evening ritual to relax after a busy day. Uploading to FlickR (something each day) is a driver but not an onerous one – if I don’t make it, I don’t!
  • I’ve applied for a small community-based contract – I if I get it, I know I’ll love working outside the regimes of formal education. I can see opportunities for REAL outcomes and opportunities for creativity within it.
  • I’m instigating a blog for creative kids activities – I’ll need input to make it sustainable
  • I’m going to have a go at creating a multimodal e-book publication and will use the next month to research production options. The new Apple releases are very timely, and
  • I’m going to test the water  to host a monthly conversational gathering for people I know think and/or work on the boundaries of or outside the mainstream. I see it as an opportunity to affirm non-conventional thinking, generate and share new ideas etc. Now for a name ….

“Before we can undo a knot we must loosen it to understand its structure;
pulling on it only makes it tighter.”

CC FlickR image & Tracy Luff cited in Kate’s Photo Diary

i am enough

By robynjay On January 16th, 2012

Despite all good intentions I’m dawdling with this weeks activities for our Career Clarity Camp. I HAVE been reflecting but I wanted to also write. So a bit of a catchup here…

We’re meeting online for 90 minutes each week. It’s an interesting mix of people from around the world and I enjoyed the diversity very much. We’re using a visualisation tool called The Image Centre – a service by VisualsSpeak . As a visual person I loved the platform but would have liked to be able to text chat to the group as they described their ideas. It provides a canvas on which participants can select and display images to describe their response to different trigger questions. Our last task was to select images in response to the question – If success was completely guaranteed, who could I become? We had about 50 images to choose from and about 3 minutes to complete the task. Here’s my response:

Then to the analysis.
I see myself as the fish in the top left (happily) swimming against the flow. My thoughts were around creativity, pathways, resilience, tenacity and choice.
We’ve been asked to seek input from others who know us well so I’d love to hear your comments.

I’ve revisited my post from a year ago untapped & unrecognised and realised that if self-employed, management of my skills and talents is entirely up to me! I AM able to combine them into the directions I take as well as drawing on the strengths of others to complement. The challenge is to think laterally about what’s possible and perhaps to create new possibilities, and to market those as worthwhile without falling into the trap Michele describes in her Dreams for sale post – making career decisions based only on what the market will bear. The questions posed in Michele’s post (from Peter Block & Michele) to help us step back from an ‘economic monoculture’ view of ourselves are useful I think –
* What does it mean when we lose contact or faith in our ideals, or our dreams and desires?
* Why would we give up the pursuit of our desires, of what matters to us, if the right offer doesn’t come along?
* Why have we placed our desires up for auction?
* When did we decide that we could live without what was important to us or postpone our desires until we have implemented an exit strategy?
* What would my career look like if I wasn’t worried about selling to the highest bidder?
* What really matters to me, regardles of how much someone else is willing to pay for it?

I’ve also taken time to think about Michele’s post Courage, Vulnerability and Being Wholehearted at Work and really enjoyed the TEdTalk from Brene Brown which I’ll share again below.


A few points that resonated:

  • is there something about me that if other people see it will make me unworthy of connection? 
  • whole-hearted people have the courage to be imperfect and the compassion for themselves in their imperfection and
  • they had authenticity–the courage to give up their image of who they thought they SHOULD be, in order to be who they actually are
  • in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen

I’m taking the last point forward into the next session.

what are universities for?

By robynjay On January 6th, 2012

In the past month two women I know employed by different universities in Sydney and who I know are passionate about students, learning and quality teaching practice have resigned.

I’ve blogged about the death of universities as centres of learning and teaching before but it seems to me rather than being addressed, the situation continues to worsen. It’s now two and a half years since Gerry Nolan’s post in the Australian; does no-one listen?

If universities are no longer places of learning then let’s be upfront about it. Give course funding to those who care, or (heaven forbid) the learners, and allow them to do it well. Use universities as research centres instead, pure and simple. If we’re serious about being a knowledge nation it’s time we focused on supporting REALLY good learning and teaching, and insisting that those paid to facilitate this are fully trained, equipped, supported and acknowledged for doing so.

[CC FlickR image by Daniel Morris]