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What To Do When You Hit A Creativity Drought

All of us are artists in some way or other (even those of us who don’t have the faintest idea of what to do with crayons and a blank sheet of paper), and we have a natural ability to create things on a daily basis.

But sometimes we do hit speed bumps in our attempts to be ‘creative’, whether it be with regards to artwork, our crafts, or even solving a problem (you need to be creative to do that too). We have all hit dry spells in our creativity and it can be infuriating! Here are some suggestions as to what you can try to do to get those creative juices flowing freely again.

Breathe Deeply.

These days when we are so caught up with the busy-ness of our lives, we tend to take shallow, rapid breaths. Just take a moment to observe your breath to see if this is the case. Shallow breathing shortchanges our body’s demand for oxygen which, amongst other things, most definitely affects our ability to think clearly.

So to counter this, make a conscious effort to take deep, calm breaths during the day. Imagine your lungs comfortably filling up to their maximum capacity with life-giving oxygen, and release your breath gently until they’re empty. Repeat this as often as you can. You may choose to set aside a specific time to do this as an exercise, or better yet, decide for yourself several intervals during the day at which you tell yourself you’ll step back from whatever it is that you’re doing, and to take x-number of deep breaths, before continuing whatever it was that needed your attention.

Take a walk or do some form of exercise.

This is also another way to circulate oxygen around your body and to your brain. Plus it’s always a good idea to get yourself out of an enclosed building to let your eyes feast on your surroundings. Who knows – you might find inspiration in a relatively unfamiliar environment.

Write or do everyday tasks with your other hand.

If you are right-handed, try to consciously do stuff with your left hand instead – like opening doors, drawing, or brushing your teeth. Doing new things, or performing familiar tasks in a different manner is said to be an easy way to give your brain a nice workout. Besides, seeing the results of your switching hands for such tasks could possibly let you see things in a slightly different light.

Limit your options

Sometimes having too many options available to you gets you stuck in the I-can’t-decide-which-one-to-use rut. So let’s just say you have an assignment to create a piece of jewelry. That’s pretty broad, right? I’d imagine that there are countless materials to choose from, and ways to get started on that! If you’re stumped by how to start, how about telling yourself that you’ll only use… bottlecaps? This is what happened when two teenage sisters did just that:

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Like it or not, there will be things in life that will blow up in your face at the worst possible times and it’s easy to get caught in the gravity of the situation. I think you’ll agree with me if I were to suggest that these mind-ruts are possibly your worst enemy because they are potentially soul-draining, life-sucking thoughts that can literally stall you from moving forward with anything, let alone being creative.

You always have choices available to you. So it might be a good idea for you to choose to look at the lighter side of things. You’ll make mistakes and muck-ups once in a while–that’s perfectly okay. Just promise yourself that you’ll learn to do better next time, and move on.

So those are my 2 sen worth of ideas on how to get creatively un-stuck. What do YOU do when you need to breathe new life into your creativity? Please share your thoughts with us! :)

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Choosing The Right Bazaar

Since I am on the editorial board for Bazaar & Market and Business Resources, I should share some tips on choosing the right bazaar/market to participate as vendor.

Nowadays, I see that there is a lot of new organizers trying to host bazaars and some with the tagline of handmade craft market. Are they really promoting the handmade scene or simply just earning the money from the small indie business owner? Even if they are experienced organizer, could they bring the ‘right’ crowd?

Here are some of the rule of thumbs that I applied when comes to selecting the bazaar to join (some expensive experience learnt from past events) :

  • Location Location and Location
    Sounds like property investment but yes, location is important. This is the first thing that I consider because I paid an expensive lesson to learn this. I joined my first bazaar that was held at a small quiet mall in Ampang. Two huge mistakes here. First, the mall was so quiet, it looked more like an abandon building and second, driving to Ampang from PJ took me 1 hour++. I only manage to sell one hairpin. My friend didn’t make any sales. No, we didn’t get any refund because the organizer was not even there!
    Recently I joined the bazaar in Subang Parade (Subang Jaya). Superb location! But I’d chosen the wrong spot, a very hidden spot in the corner. But that didn’t matter a lot, because the main location (the mall) was good enough. A lot of my blog and fanspage followers turned up, we chatted, they bought some stuff, look and feel my fabrics and some purposely came for COD. Some couldn’t find my hidden spot, so they have to call me up. Because of the location, I have participate in the Subang Parade bazaar several times. So, hot spot IS VERY important.
  • Organizer’s Website
    I’ve seen some of the new bazaar organizers that emerge with really lousy blog layout. No introduction about who’s in the group, no follower, no fanspage, no nothing but a poster of the coming event asking vendor to sign up.  If they are so lazy upon setting up for their own blog, I doubt that they will be any good in promoting and marketing the event.
    To bring crowds to the bazaar, the organizer must have really strong network, with thousands of followers in their fanspage (or the Google Friend Connect thing), lots of interaction going on in the blog chat box, or fanspage, and most importantly they do reply to email and sms.
  • Organizer’s Past Event
    Most of the experienced organizers will share the pictures of past events in their gallery, fanspage, Facebook, or in the blog itself. Checking out the pictures will give you an idea what sort of crowds they could bring you.
    I’m always sceptical in joining newbie organizer’s event unless the rental is cheaper than the usual rate (see the point below).
  • Rental Guideline
    Rental Limit in KL is around RM50 to RM90.
    Hot spot shopping mall like Tropicana Mall and Subang Jaya is charging RM75/booth.
    Handmade-themed market are usually charging RM50/booth.
    Popular vintage market organizer are charging RM70-90. More expensive because vintage market likes to held the event at odd places (like clubs, hall, gallery) and they need to spend a lot on marketing.
    I do not have the rental for weekly bazaars (bazaar that needs you to join every week, a package fee) but I have a feeling that they are very or the most expensive because they are usually at hot spot mall and by reputable organizers (usually the mall management itself).

Think of joining the bazaar as a marketing tool to advertise your business. The effort might not translate to sales straight away on the bazaar day itself but the potential customers might check out your online shop and purchase from you when the time is right. Even if the day itself the sales is not so good, but make sure you did give out all your name cards. Online business depends a lot on (the right)TRAFFIC, that’s why my rule of thumb 1 to 3 is all about traffic. :)

Get Yourself Ready for the Holiday Rush!

So it’s year end and the holiday season is coming – are you ready for the holiday rush? Here’s a little reminder on things that you’ll want to have in hand to help you sail through this holiday season smoother.

1) Tracking labels – If you are sending your package via tracking services, eg: PosLaju, Registered Mail, try to have at least several of the forms in hand so you can fill up the information at home before you hit the post office. Saves you lots of time from queuing up!

2) Mailing labels – One sheet of mailing label sticker costs about 20 cents. Depending on the size, there are 4-8 (or more) stickers on one sheet. I personally prefer to print out the mailing labels (shipping address, ship back address) to avoid having to write with hand. It’s not only faster, it avoids mistakes. It would help if you have a template ready in hand where you can just fill in the info using your computer and print out.

3) Custom declaration form – For international package, custom declaration form is a must. Try requesting a few more from the post office so you can fill it up at home and attach to the package before hitting the post office.

4) Air Mail stickers – Similarly, if you send via Air Mail, you can also ask for this sticker from your post office. Some post office no longer use this, some do. Check with the officer to confirm.

5) Packaging and packing materials – This includes envelopes (various sizes, depending on the item you sell), bubble wraps, shredded papers, gift papers, ribbons, boxes, or any other thing that you need to use when packaging and packing your items. If you foresee yourself to sell a lot this holiday season (well, who doesn’t want to!), buying these in bulk will normally help you to save.

If you have tips that will help other members in a way or another, share in the comments below!

Right on the Target.

Note: This post is merely to share my thought lately on this subject. I’m personally not business-trained (but luckily was lightly trained in PR!) and this is something that I’ve been thinking a lot lately.

I noticed that when I talk to others on business and stuff lately, I tend to stress the importance of identifying target market. During a recent conversation with my boyfriend a.k.a business partner, I had the opportunity to analyse my thought in a more detailed manner. We’ve always heard people saying how important it is to identify your target market. But how exactly it is?

I remember at the very beginning of starting our business, I had the dream of ‘I WANT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD TO BUY AND LOVE MY CREATIONS‘. Of course, I’ve put a lot of time, effort, and thought into creating and making my products, so what is there not to love about – in fact, I truly believed that there is every reason for people to love my work! But the truth is, it’s impossible to cater to every single person in the world, because everyone is different – needs, styles, interests, lifestyles, backgrounds, occupations, gender, etc. All these are factors that will affect and mold a person into who he/she is, and what he/she is attracted to.

When I asked this question on the Team’s Yahoo group, Michelle of kindersoaps responded with very detailed experiences of hers, including her initial ventures and the ups and downs. I won’t be repeating it here, but will take out a few points that I personally feel very true. After 1.5 years into her business, she finds that being able to define and identify her target market helps her to know what kind of soap to create, in terms of ingredients and product positioning. It also influences the content of her blog, which in turn helps directing traffic to her way.

Clarity Soap by kindersoaps.

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Slower Time.

Several weeks ago I posted a little poll on the team’s Yahoo group asking what members do when things (or sales) are slow, particularly on Etsy? I was particularly interested to know because it was quite slow for us during this time of the year, and a friend of mine who worked with a giant retail store was also telling me the same thing. This type of slowness in sales everywhere is probably due to the fact that not many are shopping at this time of the year, and/or people are saving up for the holiday seasons – and of course, it could just be the economy. A few members shared some valuable advices on what they have been doing to counter or walk through this ‘slowness’, which I thought would be nice to share with everyone.

Jia Wen of inkypots spent her time practicing and trying new and more challenging projects during slower time. She also read up, watch video online, and attend workshop or random classes with her teacher, while thinking of ways to expand and sustain sales. “Right now I’m considering coming up with a line of pieces which I would be able to spend more time marketing. Just have to hit on the right piece to produce.” said Jia Wen.

Anba of mapleshoppers and Belinda of phings both utilised the slower time to explore ways to improve their shops. “The weeks that I don’t get much sales, I spend time thinking about how I can have varities of products and spend my nights browsing for ideas… I visit sites with similar flavors for new inspiration… I try to read couple of interesting blogs to learn about people’s needs and interest.” said Anba. Belinda, on the other hand, use the time to think of new design ideas to implement.

Pek Mun of JainaBee and Pauline of zeropumpkin offer discounts or have sales in their shop during slower time. Pek Mun also participates in Etsy forums and local craft fairs for more exposure.

For a longer term of planning, Flora of borneorocks and Seng Imm of BagNCraft have both ventured into consigning their work at local resorts and shops. Kelly of Kiiss has ventured into selling supplies such as fabric, as to her, this is normally a more sell-able items. She also suggests offering items like tutorials, download-able PDFs, and even advertising spaces on blog for more income.

While reading through the experiences from the above members in Yahoo group, I was also struggling to look at our own shop from a different perspective. I went back to the basic and finally decided to retake some of the photos, because I think they need (and deserve) a fresh new look. Me and my boyfriend have also taken advantage on the slower time to work on a few new products, and sent pitch letters (or rather, emails) to a few design or style blogs that we think suit our style. Our first experience was superb! Not only it generated tons of traffic, we were also ‘discovered’ by many other blog owners with similar taste and style.

So to those who didn’t share in the team’s Yahoo group, what’s your experience in walking through slower time? Are you prepared or are you like me, learn while walking through?

Arts and Crafts Market Essential: Part Three.

This is the final part of Arts and Crafts Market Essential, and we are happy to have minifanfan to share her experiences with us. She has been participating in various bazaars, markets, and fairs for 2-3 years now!

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I’d like to share my experiences on pre-bazaar preparation, which will also be applicable for online selling.

1. Quality

Participating in bazaar will not bring us tons of money, but it’s very important to showcase the best product quality to all potential customers. Customers ‘know’ you and your brand through the quality of your products. Selling low quality products will not only leave a bad impression, it will also cause customers to think low of local art bazaars. Always remember that customers will only come back for good quality.

Pinky The Funny Bob Girl Head No.2 by minifanfan.

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Arts and Crafts Market Essential: Part Two.

For the second part of Arts and Crafts Market Essential, we have Jun of BeaniPet sharing her experiences with us. Jun has joined both Art for Grabs and Pipit Wonderful Market. She has thoughtfully divided her thoughts into ‘Objective’, ‘Preparation’, and ‘The Big Day’, making it easier for an even better planning!

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Objective

Firstly it’s good to know what you want before joining a bazaar. What is your objective? Do you want people to know you and your products? Do you want to meet other handmade artists and make new friends? Or you just want to try out a bazaar and see what’s the public reaction towards your handmade? 

Whatever the reasons are, always remember one thing: “Stay true to yourself”, because no matter what the reasons are, knowing who you are as an artist is more important than what can you get out of a bazaar.

Spring Bunnies Pillow by BeaniPet.

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