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