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How To Make It

Maker Resources

5 Things No One Tells You about Starting a Business

May 17, 2016

*Editor’s note: Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your small business for a while now, you’re probably no stranger to the unexpected challenges that tend to pop up from time to time. Designer, entrepreneur, and author of the book How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line, Emilie Shapiro, shares her advice for working through a few of the trickier things about running a creative business.


Business is the Keyword in Jewelry Business

A business without a goal is just a hobby. Owning a jewelry business is much more than making pretty things. The biggest difference between running a business and engaging in a hobby is the goal; you’re running a business to make money. More and more people are pursuing the life of entrepreneurship and becoming their own bosses. Being a designer and a creator is an amazing gift, but when you decide to become a business owner, your main goal is to make money.

There are a lot of difficult decisions and many hats that you have to wear every day, especially if you are a one woman shop. Accounting, sales, customer service, production management, shipping & handling – all things that are part of running a small business. Running a business is not for everyone. It requires a lot of persistence and ambition. As a craft business owner, you are focusing on efficiency over creativity. Making jewelry is just one small part of running a jewelry business.

As an artist, there is a tendency to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. As a successful businessperson, it is necessary to make decisions based on rational calculation. I like to strike a happy medium between the two.

Continue Reading…


Maker Mentors Holiday: How to Make Your Holiday Season a Success!

September 14, 2015

Maker Mentors Holiday

Last spring we were super excited to team up with the folks at Maker Mentors to offer webinars with a few of the artists we work with here at UncommonGoods. We heard some great feedback about the online conference, so when we heard that the event is back for a one-day pre-holiday maker education extravaganza, we couldn’t wait to get on board.

Maker Mentors Holiday is September 19. The online conference will focus on helping makers make the 2015 holiday season a success and features 10 live-streamed sessions. (Including one with me, where I’ll talk about storytelling and content creation.)

Register now with the code UNCOMMONGOODS for $25 off, and don’t forget to sign up for the Maker Mentors newsletter for more from the Maker Mentors community.


Maker Mentors: Advice on How to Make It

May 1, 2015

Maker Mentors | Sponsored by UncommonGoods


Taking the leap from making for fun to making professionally is a big step. A few pieces of good advice, positive vibes, and knowledgeable role models can go along way. Even better is a lot of great advice, an atmosphere alive with positivity and encouragement, and an active community of mentors–but it can be tricky to step away from the workbench to seek out educational opportunities, especially when starting a new business. That’s why we’re so proud to sponsor an innovative new conference that takes place entirely online!

Maker Mentors is online and everywhere May 14-16, 2015, so you can attend without buying a plane ticket, dealing with hotel reservations, or even getting out of your PJs. You can even get a $50 of discount off registration by entering the code UNCOMMONGOODS at checkout when you sign up! And, at the risk of sounding a bit like an infomercial, we’ll go ahead and say, “but that’s not all!” Because we’re really, really excited about this next part…

As part of our work with Maker Mentors we’re presenting a series of free webinars featuring our artists throughout May and June! First up is the ever entertaining and informative jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro on May 4th at 5 p.m. PST. (8 EST.)

Sign up for Emilie’s free webinar here and register for the Maker Mentors newsletter  to stay in the know as we add additional artists to this series.




Maker Resources

How to Make It: 5 Product Photography Tips

August 16, 2014

So, you’ve just created an awesome new product and you really want to sell it. Presentation is everything, which makes the photography of your item very important. Because we all don’t have a fully equipped studio on our hands at all times, here are some easy tips that almost anyone can master!

Light It Up

The number one most important factor is lighting. You don’t need a lot of lights; all you really need is a great sunlit window and a white fill card. A fill card is simply anything you use to reflect light, which allows you to fill with light for darker, shadowy areas in a photograph.  Fill cards are traditionally white, made of foam core or poster board, but can also be silver or gold depending on the quality of light you want to reflect.

When picking which window to use, pick one that allows diffused, soft light to shine through. What you don’t want is really harsh sunlight. If the light is too hard, it can make one part of your image too bright in comparison to the rest. What you are looking for is nice, even light.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

Setting the Stage

The second step is creating your set. White poster board (or any large piece of white paper) and some tape is a cheap and easy way to get a clean backdrop. Find a small table and place the white background so that the window light comes from the right or the left. Allow the poster board to curve in the back, creating a sweep. Then place your fill card on one side.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

Camera Ready

Whether you’re using a high-end camera or a simple point and shoot, the most helpful hint I can suggest is to turn off the flash. If you can’t turn it off, cover it with tape. Then, set your camera’s white balance setting to daylight—or auto if that isn’t available. If your photo shows up with a strange colorcast, you’re probably using the wrong white balance.

White balance is the general hue of your photograph.  For example, you could have a warm balance, where everything looks orange, or a cold balance where everything looks blue.  Most cameras allow you to pick which white balance you want to use.  You do this by picking the white balance that matches your light source.  Extra tip: If you are using natural light, you should pick the icon on your camera that looks like a sun.  If you are using tungsten light, you should pick the icon that looks like a light bulb.

Taking Shots

At UncommonGoods, we crop most of our photos into a square, so when you are composing, make sure you leave enough space around your product to easily crop. You can use almost any basic photo program to do this. I personally like to use Photoshop.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

When composing your shot, keep into account that you may not get the whole thing in focus. Your main priority is to make sure the selling feature is in focus. For example, let’s say you are shooting jewelry. If the pendant or charm has interesting detailing, make sure that’s in focus and let the chain go out. Decide which aspect you would most like the potential buyer to see, and then hone in on that.

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

How to Make It: Product Photography Tips

While composing, use your fill card to fill in the shadows on your product. It’s usually nice to leave some shadow, as it will lend some shape, but you don’t want the shadows to go too dark.

Time to Edit

After you’ve shot the photo, use whatever photo-editing program you have (iPhoto, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) When you are done, save it as a high res (meaning 300 dpi) .jpg or .tiff.

In general, my editing advice is to be subtle in your treatment. Some amateur mistakes include using too much contrast, over saturating the colors or using too much sepia tones.  Subtly enhance your photos but don’t make them look unnatural, which is especially important in product photography because you don’t want to misrepresent what you are selling.

And you’re done! Have a good shoot!

Maker Resources

Videos from How To Make It: Pricing Your Designs

June 16, 2014

Videos from How To Make It: Pricing Your Designs for Retail | UncommonGoodsLast month we hosted another How To Make It design panel event at Brooklyn’s Union Hall where Seth Walter from our Purchasing Team and Jason Feinberg, the CEO & Creative Director of FCTRY, discussed the decisions you should make while pricing your designs for retail. We got a little off-topic as the guests in our audience had really great questions, but we think you might get some great advice from our answers. Check out clips from the event and the conversation it its entirety below!

How much should you pay yourself for a handmade design?

MAP (Minimum Advertised Price)

Should a wholesale price be fixed?

How to price a collection of designs.

Is scaling up always the best idea?

How does UncommonGoods find new artists?

Two common mistakes made in pricing handmade designs.


Maker Resources

How To Make It: Instagram and Your Creative Business Videos

April 9, 2014

On March 25 we invited Ronen Glimer of Artists & Fleas, Ronda J Smith of In the Seam, and local members of our design community to a panel discussion about using Instagram to market your designs and build a following. The event was hosted at Union Hall in Park Slope and guests stuck around afterwards to swap business cards, meet our marketing and buying teams, and make connections.

If you’re ever in the hood you should check out one of our events, but watching the highlights are always a great back-up plan.

Maker Resources

How to Write Your Artist Bio

February 10, 2014

How to Write Your Artist Bio | UncommonGoodsWhen I was first asked to write a blog post about writing about yourself, I got really excited because, like any 20 something year old girl who majored in writing, I’m pretty well versed in writing about myself/thinly veiling mortifying moments from my adolescence and calling it fiction.

Thankfully, the kind of bio-writing we’ll be discussing doesn’t require you to reveal that you wore braces to your senior prom. It has a lot more to do with selling yourself to potential vendors, sites that sell your goods, and customers who want to know all about you. Much less awkward for all of us.

You really are an extension of the product you’re asking people to buy or sell. When it comes to unique, handmade goods, people love being able to put a face with their new gift. People want to know:

  • where you’re from
  • what you do
  • how you got in to what you do
  • what inspires you to do that thing that you do
  • your plans for continuing to do these things in the future

In addition to being an excellent checklist, this is also a good order to put them in.

You don’t have to start with the fact that you were born in a barn on a balmy Tuesday morning under a double Pisces moon. However, the fact that you grew up in the country could say a lot about your influences. Can you remember any early inklings that you could become an artist? Who were your inspirations?

Now that we have the early stuff covered, how did you start your life as an artist? Did you start of with a 9-5 and then gradually turn your craft into a full time business? Did you start working with a local collective? How have you seen your style change throughout the years? What was a favorite project of yours?

If you want some extra personality, a short and sweet anecdote can complete your written image. When writing my own bios, the quirky facts that come to my mind are 1. I’m very scared of goats. And 2. I was the girl who wore braces to prom. These facts might not have anything to do with my craft, but it does give a little insight into the type of person I am–something a customer would be able to garner if they were able to talk to you at a craft fair or chat with you at the register.

Whatever you do decide to highlight, just remember to keep it relatively short–epic tales of heroism and metaphors on life are best suited for your memoirs (and preferably written from a small cabin in the woods, Thoreau-style.)

With these basic guidelines, you’ll be able to create a friendly, readable bio that will give your creations a more personal edge. Happy writing!

Here are some of our favorite artist bios:

Etta Kostick

Etta is compelled by glass in its many different forms and applications. She grew up in the woods and by the seashore in Massachusetts, in a family of glassblowers. After moving to Chicago in 2007 she started experimenting with stained glass, attracted to the many colors, textures, and its relationship to light.
Over the years Etta’s fascination with glass has grown and has lead her to pursue and experiment with different methods of manipulating glass. Torch fired enameling, fusing, and incorporating intricate solder work are some of the techniques that Etta uses. She loves the transformative properties that occur when integrating these materials and techniques into her glass work.

Etta’s love of jewelry was initially inspired by tribal jewelry and adornments she had collected from South Asia. Strong shapes and the feeling of empowerment they give to the wearer are elements that inspire her. Her jewelry incorporates bold designs as well as more delicate and organic elements that emulates things she sees in nature. Etta is constantly exploring and developing new visions for her work in glass and jewelry.

Dolan Geiman

Dolan Geiman is a nationally recognized mixed media artist known for his Contemporary Art with a Southern Accent. Born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Dolan Geiman’s formative years were defined by outdoor adventures in his bucolic surroundings. Twenty-plus years later, the flora and fauna, found curiosities, and fading Appalachian culture still define Geiman’s contemporary-folk creations. Trained in printmaking and sculpture, Geiman’s mediums span painting, collage, silk screen, drawing, and 3-D assemblage. An advocate for green design and sustainable business, Geiman and his wife Ali Marie currently work from a green warehouse in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.

Fred Conlon

Raised in Colorado, Fred Conlon lives now in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he makes garden sculptures out of recovered objects. For his helmet sculptures, he uses real recovered World War II helmets. “It is very satisfying to transform something once used in war into a peaceful garden decoration,” he says. His work has been featured in Niche Magazine, the Salt Lake Tribune and HGTV. What would he be if he weren’t an artist? “Happy…just kidding!” he answers. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Maker Resources

6 Videos That Will Help With Designing Your Website

October 11, 2013

the panel of How To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsWe had the pleasure of hosting our latest How To Make It event at the Wix Lounge in Manhattan with the help of staff. Since Wix is a website-building platform, we thought it would be very appropriate to dispense advice on setting up your company’s website with the help of jewelry designer Catilin McNamara, UncommonGoods Assoicate Art Director Rebecca Paull Marshall, and Wix Training and Support Manager Ariele Krantznow. To make the discussion even more specific, the panel critiqued the websites of three guests in attendance, sharing what they loved about the site and what areas needed more work.

Although we would love to get to meet you in person, we understand not everyone can make it out to our events so we thought we would share the key points from the panel discussion with you on the blog! Below are 6 clips that will help design your website.

How To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsPelzers Pretzels! | UncommonGoodsHow To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsHow To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoodsHow To Make It: Designing Your Website | UncommonGoods

When building a website, where should you start?

What are some ways to best tell your story on your website?

What should you expect from a hired graphic designer?

What are some tips for DIY product photography?

What are your best DIY smartphone photography tips?

What is a style guide?

Still want more? Watch the entire discussion below.

photos courtsey of Wix Lounge

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