Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

SoapyBlessings has a buy 2 and get 1 free offer on her store items. She has some really well crafted items that every soap lover should try to get their hands on. Here’s some of her pricing advice to new sellers in the market:

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty of Soapy Finances

On the days that I make soap, I admit that I get very excited in anticipation of the day. Because I work full time at a secular job, I don’t devote my time entirely to soaping, but have to set aside a time in the week for it. The time I set aside is a real treat for me and I look forward to that day that I have set aside immensely.

So, at this point at least, making soap is not my method of making ends meet, not even close. It IS a desire of mine to make that a goal, however. With that thought in mind, I chose to review what my costs are to make my soap, and how much I am making as profit on my soap…or am I making a profit?

As with most new little start up businesses, and this is a business for me, they don’t always make money initially. In the first few years of opening my little soap business, I showed a loss because of buying equipment and getting enough supply to make it viable. Then, it was drawing customers to my soaps and building a customer base. It all takes time. Now, I am at a point where I am breaking even (whoo hooo!) I am learning to make the most of my soaping methods. Still, I would certainly like to do much better than “break even”.

It was time for me to review how much it is costing me to make my soap. Am I charging enough for this amazing stuff? Am I counting in all my cost factors? So, I began to break it all down…the results were just a bit eye-opening for me. I already know basically how much soap I will make this year based on customer purchases and trends from the previous year, so base my cost per estimated bars I will make.

Here is how I broke it down:
I added up the cost of the supplies I use most often in my soap per batch, such as oils, sodium hydroxide; the basic stuff.
I added up the cost of the “extra” supplies that I most often use per batch, accessory stuff like, calendula blossoms, rose petals, fragrance or essential oils, oxides, micas and other fun little additions to the basic soap formula.
I added my basic cost of packaging each bar of soap.
I averaged the yearly cost of supplies that I use regularly, such as soap molds, wax paper, bowls, scales etc and broke it down per bar.
I added basic prep and production time per bar of soap (like paying myself wages for making them)…about 1/2 the amount per hour that I make on my “usual” secular job.
I added Paypal fees, listing fees, fees when the soap is sold, and average per year craft showing fees per bar of soap.

I did not add cost of electricity, sewer, water, phone, internet access, although I should if I were to be more accurate.

The end result?

At my current charges per bar of soap, I only make about $1.62 per average size (4 to 4.5 oz) bar! That is paying myself wages. So, this little extra money would be the stuff I would put in the my savings for my next vacation?

At that rate, it will be years before I get a vacation!

Could I cut more corners and make more $$$? Absolutely! It would take some additional sacrifices of freshness of the oils I purchase and quality of my product to do it though. If I bought more bulk product, it would certainly be much less expensive. The down side is that I don’t make enough product right now to ensure freshness of my oils if I bought bulk, so resort to making smaller batches at this time. There are a lot of other small ways I could cut costs and I am still in the process of streamlining and revamping some of the things I do.

Doing this was a great reality check for me even though I already kind of knew it based on keeping decent records that I wasn’t making the thousands that I always envision.

BUT…It won’t keep me from continuing to make soap. This is wayy too much fun!

An additional thought:

Selling products effectively is not only about listing them online – it also about how you reach out to prospective buyers. Reaching out to online communities who love handmade stuff, networking with the cottage soap-making industry for being a part of their supply chain, forming affiliations with complementary products (like bathroom towels), promoting your store on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites, supplying limited quotas per month to retail outlets (via partnerships).

Soon enough the money will start coming in, and it will become more than just a passion and hobby.

Best of luck to SoapyBlessings and all other store owners on Silkfair!


byhand-logo-largeByHand is an ideal resource for those who buy,  sell and support handmade.  We were so impressed with the efforts of its founders that we thought our users might want to know more.   Silkfair interviewed Rebecca Dillon for an introduction to the site.  The interview was both personally insightful and informative.  The handmade revolution continues, read on.

Tell us about the story of and how it came to fruition. was conceived and created by my husband, Adam. Frustrated with handmade venues that seemed to advertise only to sellers and not to buyers as well as social networking sites that seemed steeped in nothing but seller spam, he wanted to create an environment where artists could showcase their work and at the same time really get seen. We feel ByHand reflects an answer to these issues. Front page blog posts are carefully monitored for content and we also actively advertise to buyers as the bulk of advertising.

Who are the folks behind the scenes at and what are their backgrounds?

M. Adam Kendall is the creator, designer and programmer for ByHand. He currently works full time as a programmer for an independent company in Arlington, VA. However, his background growing up was very different from this and another reason that ByHand was created. Adam actually came from a lower income family with three other brothers and a sister. His dad lost his job at one point so he is very familiar with what it is like to struggle through a hardship. He also, unfortunately, remembers what government cheese and powdered milk taste like. Adam’s mom was a seamstress who worked at her craft to pull in extra money to help support the family. It’s because of her that Adam gained an appreciation for arts and crafts and the reason he knows how to sew. He also learned woodworking from his dad and metalworking from his grandfather. You can read Adam’s whole story on ByHand under Our Story.,com_content/Itemid,272/id,1342/view,article/

Myself, Rebecca D. Dillon, I’m from a pretty average American family. I grew up as part of the struggling middle class in the 80s with a mother who was always trying to give my brother and I whatever we wanted and therefore living a bit beyond our means. My mom was always doing arts and crafts with me and taught me how to bake. I attended college locally at Roanoke College where I studied a bit of everything including photography, screen printing, graphic design, pottery, 3-D design, drawing, painting, art history, poetry and even writing. It took me seven years, but I eventually managed a BA in fine arts. I do a lot of the basic customer support for ByHand members, the advertising and marketing. I also work up the artist features and interviews.

Together, husband and wife make a pretty good team.

Why handmade? Why do you think supporting handmade is important?

Handmade is the backbone of America. Pretty much everyone who immigrated to America came here to work for themselves doing whatever it was they knew how to do. Handmade is [also a piece of] women’s history, [including] baking, cooking, sewing, and crafting – all those things women did before they were allowed to do anything else.  Before we could work and actually make a living at it and before we could vote, it was a woman’s skill at these things that helped us through the wars and clothed a lot of families through the ’50s. So, handmade is really important. It’s part of America’s culture. We should be supporting artists here at home and abroad who work for themselves, not a factory that mass produces items at the expense of their workers.

Additionally, the artists who produce handmade typically care about what they are making. They are going to be more stringent about the quality of their products than someone who is working on a line everyday for
someone else.

How many members do you have on

We are right at a month old since publicly launching and we currently have 2, 071 registered users.

How do you choose your artisan item of the day and your featured artisans?

I personally choose the artisan item of the day at this time. I select from two different pools. One is members who are active on ByHand. The other is just random members listed in our Artisan Directory. I basically go through and look for items that I feel are good products and have good pictures from these two pools. I try to include items from every category and every price range.

The Featured Artisan is pretty straight forward. Anyone who makes handmade items can apply by visiting the pinned topic on applying in our Links and Opportunities forum. Basically I just ask you have a decent number of items in your shop and good photographs. You then only need to submit a photograph of yourself – because we want to make this personal – along with several paragraphs about who you are and about your craft.

Let’s say that I am an artisan and I am brand new to What is the best way to navigate the site and use it to its fullest?

To use all of the features on ByHand you need to be a member. So signing up is number one. Registration is simple and free. You can then find everything you need by visiting the main tabs at the top of every page.

Community includes the forums and clubhouses – both places that offer a way to share ideas with others and get any help you might need. You’ll also find Site Help there which gives you a basic run down of all ByHand’s features and how to use them.

Shopping is primarily for buyers, but many artisans love this section as well. This is where you go to get to our Handmade Search, member created Spotlights, to enter our handmade contests, find members in the Artisan
Directory, and most importantly Wishlists. Wishlists are perfect for buyers as they allow members to add an item to their their list on ByHand from any of eight handmade venues without ever leaving the site they’re on. Wishlisting is as simple as one click from your toolbar and that’s it. ByHand users can then go to their Wishlists and create individual lists from their items as well as email their list to friends and family. The lists are a great tool for artists because every list that gets sent links back to the list on ByHand. This brings more buyers to ByHand and gives all of our artists a better chance of getting additional exposure. Of course it’s even better if they’re on someone’s list!

Our Story is where you can read the background behind ByHand, find buttons for your website and our invite feature.

My Stuff is the big deal though if you are an artist. This is where you can find and fill out your profile, create Spotlights of your work to be seen in Window Shopping throughout the site, write blog entries for the community blog, and manage your Wishlists!

ByHand also provides a run down of all the features available at the top of the homepage under Benefits for co-op artisans.

What does one have to do to become a member? Do you only restrict users to handmade artisans?

To become a member on ByHand all you have to do is register. It’s as easy as that.

There are no restrictions on joining ByHand. Everyone is welcome. You can be an artist, a venue, a reseller, or just buyer. We welcome everyone to become a member and celebrate handmade. The only restriction we have set forth is that only handmade artisans can list their shops in the Artisan Directory.

With the current downturn in retail spending and the economy in a recession, what have you noticed in trends for handmade products and online selling sites? Is handmade suffering or thriving?

Online sales for handmade seem to be up. I’m not sure if this is because more people are turning to the internet to supplement their income in poor economy or if it’s because it’s easier to find and buy handmade with all of the options that are rapidly becoming available. I know that for me locally my soap sales dropped 50% the last quarter of 2008. However, my online sales for soap made up for that 50% that I didn’t make.

That being said, I think it’s easier to sell handmade items that are $20 and under. I also believe that more luxury oriented items, such as fine art, are currently suffering in this economy with sales that way down overall. So, in my opinion I think it all balances out. If you try to appeal to all price ranges in your market you can succeed at selling online even in this economy. It does take a lot of work, though.

Tell us your favorite part about managing and being a part of

Definitely getting to meet new artists and finding so many wonderful handmade items I never knew existed! My own personal wishlist just keeps growing!

What is a typical day for Rebecca Dillon and

Well, I  sleep in too late, stay up WAY too late, and neglect my soap business. I don’t do things in any particular order really. I am constantly doing a little bit of everything. I’m catching up on email, writing up an artist interview, changing the featured artisan, looking for new places to advertise, networking, writing out interview proposals for online venues and shopping based blogs, searching out new ways to market ByHand, participating in the forums, helping out with any problems members may have, writing content for the front page, monitoring front page blog articles – basically whatever is needed during any point in time. I am currently devoting 8 – 10 hours a day to ByHand. Adam, on the other hand, is constantly programming behind scenes from the time he gets off work ’til the wee hours into the next morning. Sometimes he provides support or fixes a bug during his lunch, as well.

What inspires you as an artisan and as a handmade supporter?

As an artist, just the fact that I’m able to do something creative. I think it’s in my genes. As a supporter, knowing that I’m able to give back and that I’m helping out someone else who is just like me, is able
to do what they love to do.

Describe some of the unique features such as the window shopping feature and the clubhouses.

Window Shopping is a fun way to browse. Basically, Window Shopping is set up like a Spotlight with nine items but with all of the items being random as they are chosen by the computer from all of the member created
Spotlights. You are shown a set of items. Want to see more? You just click ANOTHER and you’re given a whole new set of items. Click ANOTHER again and you get another new se, and on and on. We also have an improvised version of Window Shopping at the top of every page on ByHand. There’s not a button to click to change the items, but they change every time a user changes the page or refreshes his /her browser. Additionally, anyone can add the Window Shopping code to their own website or blog in the same way they can Spotlights and then they have their own little Window Shopping feature.

Clubhouses are like groups or teams, but since we wanted to create a more personal site, I got to name them Clubhouses since clubhouses are, well, where friends play! Any member can create a Clubhouse on any topic. It can be venue specific, artisan specific, location specific, or just because! Clubhouses can be set to allow anyone to join or moderate. Additionally, every Clubhouse has its own forum where members can discuss anything they like.

How do you foresee the growth of Where do you think it will be in five years?

I don’t think either of has really thought that far ahead. I’d love for ByHand to continue growing as it has in its first month. That would just be fantastic. After all, our goal is to help artists and if we continue to grow and members continue to come back to use ByHand we have to be doing something right. It’d be great to be at a place in five years, though, where we’re able to put ads for ByHand in major print publications and our buyers are outnumbering our sellers!

Any other comments or features of which new users should be made aware?

There are always new features. Adam is constantly programming member suggestions for features or improving on existing ones. Just this past week he added a new venue to the spotlight, wishlist, and handmade
search features that’s dedicated to handmade edibles.

He also made it possible for members to blog on ByHand then automatically be able to import their blog entry right to their blogger/blogspot or wordpress blog. Additionally, members can now upload a banner for their ByHand blogs and he’s also working on a way to allow users to customize their blog sidebar as well.

I’d also like to point to out that a new directory was just added for Supplies and Services – this is for commercial suppliers, services, venues, etc. It’s not free like the Artisan Directory. It does cost $5 month for a listing, however, all funds from this directory go back into advertising for ByHand. We are and will remain non-profit for as long as it’s possibly feasible. We had been paying for many of our ads out of pocket, but we are hoping this new directory will help to reduce that burden. Additionally, we also offer advertising for anyone through Project Wonderful ads. These ads can be found throughout all of ByHand except the forums. All funds from PW ads go back into advertising through PW.

Currently we are not recouping any expenses despite several upgrades – a new server, increased bandwidth, and buyer targeted advertising – on our end as that is our gift to the community. We hope to get it back someday
in karma.

Found this great blog post by a new member of

“What a breeze it was to import listings from etsy today!  It only took  minutes to configure my setup… WHOO HOO!!  Once I overcome my disbelief, I’ll get back to work.  There must be a catch.  This venue can’t be EVERYTHING that it promises right? LOL”

Thanks Anna. Check out her store – she has some pretty amazing jewelry items… some of them are below.

Akoya Pearl Bracelet – $44

Bridal Elegance – $47


Copper Age Dangle Earrings = $15

Golden Natural Handmade Gold Fill Necklace – $28

SilverFrogJewelry just recently won the 2009 Bride’s Choice Award hosted by WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company.

In its inaugural year, the Bride’s Choice Awards recognizes and honors vendors from the WeddingWire Network that demonstrate excellent quality of service, responsiveness, professionalism, value of cost and flexibility. This year’s recipients represent the top three percent of WeddingWire’s vendor community, which includes over 100,000 wedding vendors from across the US. That means SilverFrogJewelry is one of the very best jewelers.

Unlike other awards in which winners are selected by the company, the Bride’s Choice Awards are determined exclusively by recent newlyweds through surveys and reviews.

“We are excited to launch this annual award program to honor high-performing vendors based solely on the experiences of our WeddingWire community,” according to Timothy Chi, WeddingWire’s Chief Executive Officer. “This year’s recipients have set the bar high, exhibiting excellent service and expertise in the wedding industry.”

SilverFrogStudio would like to thank our past clients for speaking on our behalf and helping us win the 2009 Bride’s Choice Award!

Clean lines, curvy silhouettes, bold colors or vintage chic. Whatever styles appeals to your eye or entices your senses – one thing is for certain – the designing artist was truly inspired.  We are always impressed by our sellers’ amazing designs, most of which are crafted by hand and completely original.

Just like writers sometimes have writer’s block, artists need to find inspiration around them as well. We sought the opinions of some very talented designers to learn where they look when seeking inspiration.  In the instance that you have one of those, horribly dull, uninspiring days, perhaps this list will pull you out of the doldrums and help you re-discover your creative side.

1. Nature Natural backdrops, climatic conditions or even the tiniest of creatures provide inspiration for crafting and designing.  Designers admit to finding inspiration in the free and unrestricted forms found naturally.  Nature isn’t contained; it’s boundless and offers limitless possibilities for inspiration.  Designs that are inspired by nature have more flow and are mostly without pointed edges or sharp shapes.  There is certainly no shortage of natural materials or natural backdrops.  As explained by designer Far’ha artists are “visual and sensual,” therefore natural settings provide so many of the visceral reactions leading to inspired art. One trip down Far’ha’s Silk Road and it is easy to see how the colors and shapes of nature inspire her silk flower designs.

2. History It may be an historic event or historically famous fashion trends that inspire some artists to look into the past for creative ideas.  Lazybreeze particularly appreciates ancient Grecian and Egyptian history as displayed in her Amethyst chandelier earning design.  The enrichment from historical references or styles often results in trendy, yet timeless designs.

Trendy, because the designs are a new, stylish take on something old; and, timeless, because they are fashioned after designs that transcend generations.

3. Other Designs or Designers Being inspired by other famous designs or designers can influence how artists or crafters approach their own designs.  Some crafters are influenced by designs of other similar crafters.  For example, a crafter may use handmade materials fashioned by other fellow crafters.

The design of those particular handmade materials may inspire the design of the entire piece.  When at a loss for inspiration, look to the creativity of other designers and designs for guidance.

4. Personal Experience or Memories All of us have a wealth of personal experiences upon which to draw for inspiration.  When seeking sources of inspiration, some designers go no further than their own personal experiences or fond memories.  Using the memories closest to you can result in some of the most inspired designs that take on their own personality.  Some crafters even share the “stories” behind their pieces, which makes the creation so much more inspiring.  Even when these experiences are linked to trauma or gloom, the resulting designs are inspired indeed.

5. Close Friends and Family At times, crafters do not look any further than their own friends and family for inspiration. As Hookyarninker so beautifully puts it, “my daughters and their friends inspire me to try different things and then my imagination goes to work. My daughters, all 3, are different personalities [with] different fashion types, and so they inspire me to be random and to think outside the box.”

Crafters are often inspired by the deep connection that they have with those closest to them.  The lovely crochet design depicted is a perfect example of modern hip style inspiring a very delicate handmade crocheted design.

6. Filling a NeedNecessity is the mother of invention.  Perhaps your dog needs a new, stylish, yet durable collar and matching leash.  Maybe you need a unique business card holder or a purse that not only looks appealing, but has compartments for everything you own.  How about new slippers that express your child’s personality on “wear your slippers to school day,” just as Baby Toes did with the adorable crocheted tigers pictured to the right.

Some of the greatest crafting and handmade designs are derived from filling a very important need.  The designs are not just pleasing to the eye, but also very practical.

7. Shapes, Colors and TexturesThe five senses inspire some of the most intricate and beautiful designs.  For some, the mere sight of something is awe-inspiring, while some crafters are far more tactile and respond to textures and the feel of materials.  Notuboc describes inspiration as being “especially drawn to paper. I like textures. I like odd shapes, [and] I especially like things that aren’t supposed to [be] made into books, like Michael Jackson’s Thriller jacket or candy boxes.”

Well said Notuboc, we agree.  You are truly inspired by a variety of textures and we love the results.

8. Events or holidaysSome designers specialize in creating designs with a particular theme.  Most often those themes are inspired by holidays or events.  Décor and note cards are two of the most often crafted designs that focus on popular holidays.

The owner of Cat’s Paw Artifacts tends to look forward to upcoming events on her calendar for inspiration of new designs.  This silver Celtic charm was inspired by the luck of the Irish.   Happy St. Patrick’s Day, it’s lovely.

9. Making a Statement Whether political or fashionable, designers are inspired by making a statement.  Some statements can be evident; some a bit more subtle, but the inspiration behind the design drives the creation.  Green statements are very important so some crafters whether that includes recycling various objects to use in creating the piece or designing a complete piece around a particular statement.

Buffalo Beads, when approaching crafting often asks “how can I make that differently, better, less expensive, greener, etc. How can I make this my own? My husband and my sons have been my inspiration to be more green. It just seems very practical. Why throw away something that’s perfectly reusable? Why use more of something, when less is just as acceptable?” She is even green down to the packaging and shipping of her pieces, using the least amount of recycled and recyclable packing material possible.

Jellybug Artworks makes her own unique statement by recycling wine and water bottles, heating them and pressing them to create décor and even appetizer serving trays. The greenest of designers make some of the most beautiful pieces of art.  The final creation is the statement.

10. Fantasy or Imagination When creating new and intricate pieces designers tend to explore the furthest reaches of their imagination.   Some of the most original designs are inspired by creative expressions of worlds, either real or imagined.  Often crafters look to imaginary worlds depicted in novels and then bring those worlds to life in their craft.  Be they elves, fairies or extra terrestrials, they all inspire the creation of some very unique designs. (Image on the right is by Steam Punk Jewelry)

That being said, we thought we would also share a bit about what inspires us here at Silkfair.  Our inspiration when we first began was to provide the tools to enable sellers to take control of their online selling experience while building relationships – forming a close community along the way.  The inspiration remains.  When we see all of the accomplishments that our sellers continue to achieve on a daily basis, we are inspired to do more, to be more and to give more.  In the end, all of you inspire us to be the best that we can be so that you can do what you do best – CREATE. recently reported on a new trend they’ve been seeing: Bold and statement necklaces that were all over runways are now being seen among handmade jewelry sellers for much more affordable prices. Check out the great items they’ve highlighted on their blog.

We’re starting to see these necklaces in our relatively younger community-base of buyers and sellers as well. Check out some of the items from our sellers below.

Vintage Opaline Pendant by Cathleen Mclain

Antique Tibetan Coral Necklace by SilverFrogJewelry

Galaxy Necklace by SoaringDesigns

valentines wish

valentines wish

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We love our community because of how close-knit and respectful it is of each other - and this blog is our way of highlighting them and their successes as a way of sharing in the joy. Join us!

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