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!