Reviews and Feedback

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First of all – we are so, so grateful for each and every review. It really makes one’s day to know that the person who received an item was happy with it. But, I’m also as grateful to anyone who has made a purchase and has not left a review. Because reviews are a bonus – both, fur us and for the person writing it. I absolutely don’t expect everyone to bother. If it makes you feel good to leave a review – it totally makes us jump up and down from glee, but if it feels like a tedious task, then simply enjoying your item as much as you can is the best thing – even if we won’t know it! 🙂

There was tiny review related discussion at one of the teams Facebook page we are part of. I’ve always thought that as a customer I personally would not like to have an extra reminder about leaving reviews after I’ve made the purchase. But as it turns out – some people actually do like if they are contacted later on and asked about how they liked their product, because that makes them feel important and gives them a feeling that their opinion is important and matters.

This one is obviously a very good point! Plus – any suggestions and feedback on what people liked, what they didn’t and why and what would they improve, sounds more valuable than gold.

Still, the problem for me is, how to obtain it without bothering people too much? Maybe it’d be a good idea for Etsy to work out some sort of separate, private suggestions and feedback system? Because eventually – receiving critique can be extremely valuable, but it does not always necessarily go well with the review/stars system. You can receive a perfect item – exactly what you saw on pictures, and be totally happy with it and still have some suggestions for improvement or critique. It would be good to have a tiny fill in box for private feedback, for further thoughts and suggestions.

I think I’ll try to make it a standard line in a shipping notification to point out how welcome and appreciated any suggestions and critique would be. Although, I suspect it would be definitely a bad idea if it came out like “please try and find flaws with the thing you just bought and look for reasons why you hate it”. This kind of message would no t do good for anyone. I know, that I am prone to post-purchase regrets as a customer myself. So, after a purchase I am more in the need of hearing and focusing on why the thing I just paid money for is actually a good one, not being encouraged to think of more reasons why it might have been a grave mistake instead.

Oh, and and at some point just recently we had a moment when we could congratulate each other for the 100th sale of our shop. Congratulations, ISE Paper And Craft for the first 100 sales!

– Maarja

PS: If you are about to throw into recycling the small paper box your acorn earrings or necklace came in you might also want to take a peek at the bottom and rescue the tiny pebble used as weight first! (Natural habitat above)

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Sending out mail, candy and Thank you cards,

I really love shipping out things.
I love putting things into their tiny pretty boxes. I love hand-decorating said boxes. I love adding tiny extras like dried flowers or leaves or candy. And then I like to add some extra drawing on the outer box as well. Sometimes I’ve made a quick drawing of a squirrel, when it’s acorn related stuff. Sometimes I just add some whimsical flowers. Once I drew a tiny (disproportionate) map of New Zealand.

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I also love to make and write thank you cards. Every thank you card design I use I’ve whipped up real quickly right before shipping something out. I’ve been packaging an item and then when it’s time to add a card I realize that I don’t really have one at hand that would feel appropriate. So, I begin drafting a new card to fit the theme. It’s fun to make a new card for a specific occasion and person.

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The unfortunate downside is the time-cost, obviously.
Couldn’t really do it that way exactly, if I was an actual business sending out tens of packages each day. But then, of course, I could put to use that packaging station tip and save time by having everything at hand all the time. And I would probably design appropriate thank you cards in advance, whenever a new type of product gets listed. And I would have an actual stock of candy for the sole purpose of trying to put at least a tiny bit of extra smile on the person’s face who’s opening the package. Right now I usually have to go out and buy a new pack each time, because an open pack of candy tends to diminish and disappear (only candy wraps remain) by the time I have a need to send out next shipment. Of course, with candy, there’s also the possibility of the receiver having allergies, avoiding sugar, not even liking sweet things. But I hope it’s still better to receive one than not to receive one. I mean, you can always give it to someone who can it it? Right? Although, if I were sending out tens of shipments daily, I would probably find one brand to stick to and print additional ingredient labels, if this brand would not have these listed on every individual piece (sometimes they have ingredients only on the outer package).

Here’s a collage shot of some thank you cards I had at hand one moment and a shot of some candy:

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I try to be reasonably eco-friendly too, with all the packaging. I recycle newspapers, whenever possible. And if I have any leftover (gift) wrap at home, it gets used. Sometimes I opt for using new clean paper too, because sometimes newspaper seems just a little too much. And I don’t always have them at hand anyway as I usually read them electronically.

-Maarja

Catnips, Satisfaction and Product Photography

DSCN9654xI finally got around to trying out an idea that I had been thinking of for a while. I had been looking for a method of applying white on coloured paper and I think I  found something that seemed to work, sort of. I started out only testing the idea, but I thought it worked well enough to make an actual card out of it. Since I had used paper with a failed drawing on the back side I had to cut it off and glue on a new back to the card, if I wanted to actually use my test project. But as it turns out – olive green made me love this card even more, and now it’s up at the shop too, with a hand-drawn envelope and all.

It’s not that you could really call this a great accomplishment on objective levels, I have several issues going on in my life I really need to work on, and compared to that making one little art card seems kind of like a waste of time. But it was totally worth every minute of it, I tell you. These colours and the contrasting white and how delicate and fluffy and warm looking it all came out just made my heart jump from joy, because I just had made something very pleasing to my eyes all by myself. Making things is great. I guess I should mention, though, that I choose to ignore here all these times I get really really frustrated when I fail to get anywhere in my attempts to create something.

catnipsMeanwhile, though, my sister has been out to collect real willow catnips (or pussy willows, if you will) and made some gorgeous Spring / Easter themed dried bouquets with them. Willow catnips start budding already in the Fall and even in the harshest winters you can find some that are already or still open in February. But with the weather we have been having in the past years there is really no lack of pussy willows even if the real Spring is still months away.

Whenever I look at my sister’s gorgeous product photographs I’m always reminded of my own rather shabby looking pictures I keep posting. To put her obviously good eye for taking lovely pictures aside, the fact is that I still keep making do with my almost 10 years old Nikon Coolpix 7900, which has managed to dry out after a dive into the salty waters of Baltic sea, among other things. And it’s not rare for me to even post photos off my couple of generations old iPhone, which I inherited from a relative some years back. When I started out this used to really frustrate me and I felt really bad about my photos, but worry way less these days. Sure, good quality product photography is important, but what’s most important is actually getting things done. The first thing a product photo needs to accomplish is to exist. And then, of course, let everyone looking at it get a reasonably good idea what the item might actually look like. I intend to improve and I will be very exited once the time comes I can buy an new decent camera. But in the mean while I’ll make do with what I have, because it definitely is better than nothing. I’ve begun slowly to learn that not having things perfect for the vast majority of time is more like a general rule in life, and it is way past time to get that famous “lemonade” metaphor. I’ve even become so wise as to realise that it is also not very prudent to spend much time editing my product photographs because at this stage it is just not worth it. The best kind of product photography for me right now, is the kind which is done in about five minutes and then uploaded straight from the memory card. I will make beautiful catalogue quality photos once I I can achieve that goal as quick and easy as that or when I’m selling thousands of the same product with one set of photos.

-Maarja

Elves at work

Earlier this month I had a blessing of a order for a larger number of cards. I was so excited to set up a card making shop for a couple of days. And I suddenly felt such a weight of responsibility too – there was a real live person who had just entrusted our little shop (read:me) with the task of preparing the medium to carry her Holiday wishes this year!

DSCN9620The card making process at my little desktop card shop is really very basic and simple, as you can see below. No paper cutters or creasers here – just a metal ruler, pencil, eraser and a really sharp knife. Some sort of paper cutting/creasing tools are on my wishlist, but I don’t feel like getting them is really justified before our card business picks up a little first.

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Meanwhile I’m becoming a real millimetre nerd. And a paper nerd (although, let it be noted here that I’m not really all that knowledgeable about paper in general, but I’m learning new things all the time and this is fun). It frustrates me to no end when the store-cut paper sheets are off by a millimetre on one side, or when the cut edges are too fuzzy, or when a sheet of white paper is ruined by a tiny brown spot in the grain. I bought some recycled cardboard pre-creased post-card bases some time ago, and it really frustrated be that the were made so that the edges were not cut from outside to inside, so that the paper’s edge would ever so slightly curve to the inside, but it was the opposite.

It was a wonderful chaos halfway through – like the postcards had just snowed down from the heavens.

DSCN9616These 60 cards turned out beautifully. In the original listing the year number was drawn with pink glitter gel pen, but since the customer preferred another colour I was happy to hunt for a red gel pen (which surprisingly was more difficult than I had thought – no glitter gel pens in pretty colours, only gold and silver ones. Eventually I found one that was a bit more Christmasy shade of red, no glitter though).

DSCN9611The original listing was for one page (non folded cards too), but again – not a big effort to turn it into a folded version. I realized, that I love customizing orders. Of course, it is a little bit more time consuming, but for a larger number of items it just makes perfect sense to try and make things as perfect as possible – after all, that is part of the beauty of having things made by hand vs factory made mass production.
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We do not offer delivery/shipping upgrades at our shop by default, but that doesn’t mean that you can not ask for one if you need things delivered ultra fast! This time I was the one to offer researching fast delivery options myself, as it seemed like it might end up being a really tight call with regular mail, especially in the pre-holiday season rush. So I had my own first-time experience with DHL too. I learned that one two things are needed for certain – the addressees phone number and a filled out shipping invoice with detailed description of contents. I also put a small “thank-you” chocolate into the packet originally, but that resulted in me having to fill out a really scary detailed piece of shipping invoice for food stuffs, and since the DHL personnel seemed to kind of see this chocolate as a potential customs hold-up risk, I had them remove it to make everything as simple as possible. Didn’t want to risk the delivery being late just because of a small sweet thank you. The customer service at DHL was great though – always accessible via the help-line and the delivery man was behind my door literally a minute after I had filled out a delivery form at their website.

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-Maarja

Exciting news!

We are to participate in our first Etsy pop-up event! It’s taking place in Helsinki, Finland – there is a small exhibition space called Akkuna in the Lasipalatsi (Glass Palace). How great is that? So, now we are busy building up some stock to sell there – Golden Chestnut Ornaments, Golden Chestnut Necklaces, Silver Acorn Ornaments, Acorn necklaces and earrings plus a selection of cards, especially some Christmas cards. I’m thinking of this and a cat version of it, which is not up at the shop yet (there have been just zero sunshine recently and I don’t have a very good alternative for lighting to take product photographs…) and this card as well. I hope my sister will draw up some brand new cute cat themed cards and maybe I’ll send a couple of the flowerpot series as well.

So, there’s been that, and some regular everyday life business. In short – I’m trying to apologise for the longer-than-usual silence in this blog here.

I’d also like to introduce this year’s collection of silver (and some golden) acorn ornaments. They were already linked and mentioned above, but this here is the picture time:

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-Maarja

The first year on Etsy

Today exactly a year has passed from the moment my sister made the final clicks with her mouse to open our shop on Etsy. ISE Paper And Craft. These are some of the first products to have been listed and sold last season. The designs are still every bit as lovely and gorgeous as they were a year ago, and they are up again, for their second season at the shop with many many new things.
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It has been a fun year and we have learned many things. But I still feel like a total beginner. Funny that.

I remember the time when having a one page full of listings was a goal that seemed to come by so hard and slow. Now we have filled 3 pages without barely noticing when THAT happened. A year ago I would have thought that we’d be kind of more settled in by now. Knowing exactly what we do and having developed a clientèle of sorts. But I must admit that we are still experimenting, growing, searching ourselves. And we are still looking for the right people too – I once naively believed that all it takes to just open up a shop and curious people will flock to the page to check it out. I know better now! Nevertheless – we are so very grateful to everyone who has made a purchase from our shop this first year. There have been 31 sales, 11 feedback ratings (all full stars !!!) and 22 people who have made that part happen (Thank you all, once more!). It is also worth noting, that since starting up with Etsy there have been some family and friends stepping in and making an order or two straight from the maker, and we are every bit as grateful to them!

Opening up an Etsy shop (or some other form of on-line business) is a common second or third step (as I understand) for many artisans and crafters. First you make things because you enjoy it, then you make some for friends and family, then you might find a craft shop willing to sell your work or attend some fairs. Then you’ll get more serious and build up an online presence as well. With us, it kind of all begun with Etsy. Of course there was the making of beautiful nature/flower photographs (my sisters hand-made photo card series) for years and years before. The habit of picking up little trinkets: acorns, chestnuts, twigs, moss, pebbles – you name it, has been with me as long as I can remember. I just never had a real purpose for it all. Making gift-wrappings, flower bouquets and postcards for our own purposes has been a pretty common concept as well. But never before had we thought of trying to sell any of it. The we stumbled upon Etsy. My sister got creative and I was infected. Soon there were postcards, acorns and pine cones up at the shop and we’ve been exploring new ways to channel things that come to us naturally in a way that becomes meaningful to other people.

saak  (Last post was about my sore throat and whether I should go acorn picking or not. The picture above is half of the answer to that question. The other half is the fact that my throat is STILL sore. Worth it? Yes? No? Who knows.)

Our shop got first sales during and after the Christmas season. Then there were comatose months of springs when nothing happened. At some point I decided to try out some ‘destash’ listings of my acorn and acorn cap supplies, as it seems that I wouldn’t be making any more acorn ornaments this year. That’s how I found out that there is actually a demand of sorts for acorn caps. I would have never thought of it a year ago. So I guess it was worth it to pick the acorns and caps pictured above after all – there’s part of me that is really delighted to collect this adorable plant material and ship it to people who know how to appreciate them and make use of them. (Stay tuned for new fresh 2014 listings).

This year has taught me how to appreciate entrepreneurs – especially the small ones. Not that we can really call ourselves that – ISE Paper and Craft is a tiny hobby venue and creative outlet, but it has offered us real business lessons and challenges. It has helped us to get better in touch with our creative and artistic sides. And it has totally broadened our horizons on the scope of human creativity, because thanks to having a shop we have seen so many unique and creative things from really talented artists and crafters on Etsy.

What will the next year bring? More lessons, I hope. And I definitely wouldn’t mind more sales either. 😉
Happy Birthday ISE Paper And Craft!
-Maarja

PS: There’s some special birthday love available to all of you – “birthday10” is the very coupon code you can use on checkout at Etsy to make use of our special 10% birthday discount. Can be used freely to purchase anything and as many times as you like. The code is valid until October 17th!

Winds, falling leaves and sore throats – it’s Autumn alright.

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Did you ever fake illness as a kid? Maybe held your thermometer against something hot to fake a fever or complained of aches you didn’t have? All that just to get some extra bit of attention and pampering, and to get away from obligations like school or chores. Being ill, although not without it’s unpleasant side, always used to have that fun holiday feel to it too. Just stay at home/ in bed, read books, watch TV, get treats and snacks and attention. I know I’ve done it, and I’ve found it kind of cool to be able to lay in bed all day and not HAVE TO do anything (except take medication and stay indoors). As a grown-up things have somewhat changed – you are the one who has to do the pampering and faking it usually doesn’t work.

I got down with a sore throat just recently and that made me realize how much my attitudes towards an occasional cold have changed. For one – there is just SO much to do, it felt such a total waste to sit indoors, drink tea, feel miserable and do nothing. I had already kept on going as normal with a sore throat for seve ral days, however, including much time spent in the windy outdoors on Saturday (it was all very fun, and I can’t be honest and say that I really regret my recklessness), before I ended up feeling really ill on Sunday with a throat even more sore. So I took some days off of everything. The hardest part was switching my mind towards focusing on simply enjoying myself in a leisurely way. I felt so bad whole Monday, not just because I was ill, but because I kept feeling that I should DO something useful, and that a whole day is going to waste. I was a bit better about it the next day, or it just might have been the fact that I actually did run some chores that day and didn’t feel entirely as useless. By the third day, though, I was beginning to really get into it. I watched movies for the best part of the day and enjoyed it greatly. A feeling of loss and regret came over me when I thought that I’m already feeling a little better and I should start doing things again tomorrow. I would have held my thermometer against a radiator, then, but unfortunately I hadn’t had a fever to begin with, I doubt I could have managed to deceive my conciousness that way, and the central heating won’t be turned on until tomorrow.

I shouldn’t even feel the need to fake a fever. My throat is still pretty sore and I’m feeling only a little better. If I were my own kid right now, there’d definitely be no kindergarten or playing outdoors for me yet, and warm socks would be firmly kept on my little toes at all times. I’m very good with the latter myself, I’m even diligently wrapped in a scarf, but things get more complicated with the giving myself rest part. I even thought of going acorn picking today, because the weather is great and acorns won’t wait (that rhymed, in case you didn’t notice). But I really shouldn’t, should I?