Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday was supposed to be my day off...

I suppose I can wish all my readers a happy Wednesday.

Today was supposed to be my day off! I had plans to go to La Ronde (an amusement park with roller coasters), here in Montreal, but the passes my friend had weren't free entry until August 1st, so it got postponed for 2 weeks. I'd be going next week, except that I have a friend coming by to help me with production all day, in preparation for the craziness this fall/winter.

I'm also blogging today to test out my new feed settings. Not only do a lot of you read the blog through a reader, but my website now has a blog page, and right now it's only showing snippets (like feed burner), so I've decided to change it to full. Hopefully this blog post will be shown with images and everything! <fingers crossed>

This morning/afternoon I found that even though it was nice outside, not too hot or too cold, I found that I had to go out and find my slippers. Who knew that one would need slippers in July?

In my defence, it was quite cool in my apt, and my feet were cold. :)

On my way back from dropping off an order to Connecticut (Geoffrey the Yeti with blue horns), I found this very broken, but gorgeous purple umbrella.

I'm in the process right now of sewing it into a tote bag. I'm adding a purple lining, that way it will be a lot stronger than just the umbrella itself. The seams aren't very strong. If you're interested in making your own tote bag from a broken umbrella, you can go here (Beba's blog in Slovenia!). It's super simple (thank you Beba for the great tutorial!). For the straps, instead of making a tube and turning them right side out, I took the fabric I cut off, and folded it over and over until I had the desired width, then sewed the whole thing, then folded the edges over and finished it off. It's a lot stronger! :)

I'll post a photo of it as soon as I'm done. I'm currently unsure if I want to add an embroidered umbrella, or do some sort of appliqué monster. :) Although, I have a feeling this bag is going to be pretty awesome! I'm thinking the black and white striped cotton fabric would be pretty cool on purple. I can do an appliqué of Burton!

Well tomorrow it's back to the grind, and hard core. I plan on taking another entire weekend off. It's so rare to take whole weekends off when you work for yourself. But I have big plans! Yelp is hosting a free drinks and food event on Saturday, and then on Sunday, I may go swimming, or biking. I'm not too sure.

Lastly, I have a great artist for next week's Funky Friday Favorites, except that I'm waiting for him to write me back and give me permission to post his photos. So far, I've waited 2 days. I won't post it without his permission, because I read online that some blogger 'innocently' used photos she found on Google, and then got sued by the photographer who owned those photos. Unfortunately, she had to pay. I don't want that kind of hassle. Best to get permission. :) If I get no response, well... I'll blog about his art, but I'll direct you to links.

Have a great rest of the week!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Going behind the scenes: July 22nd

Littleone (right) and Squeak (left) doing a little cuddle.

I've decided I'd like to have more to blog about than the artists I showcase on Fridays. So every few weeks I'm going to take you behind the scenes, and show you what I'm working on, why I'm doing it and the nitty gritty of working at home.

Today is July 22nd, and it's been a gruelling month. We've had a very hot month of July, with very little respite from the heat. I've recently bought an air conditioner, because quite frankly, I broke! :) My studio work space is technically my dining room, and on a hot day, the inside temperature can climb as high as 30ºC (or 86ºF), plus humidity! My poor kitties were suffering most, so this was a good investment. Plus, I can deduct it as a business expense!

However, because I spent half the month barely working from all the heat, my production levels have suffered greatly. I haven't had a chance to add to my own personal inventory since I got all those new stores. That was 2 1/2 months ago! I've been currently working on new stock for some local shops. Some want new monsters, others refreshed stock from the spring.

I've had a new helper friend coming on Sundays, which is great. He's been doing a lot of fabric cutting for me. He's been adding to my body count! LOL  Sounds so gangster! I have these pretty pine boxes I bought at IKEA when I got my new shelf with all the furs. They're great for keeping my monster bodies. I've taped an inventory list, so I can keep track of how many are cut.

Here's a few photos of what's going to stores here in Montreal! :) Perfide, Tah-Dah, and Galerie Zone Orange are getting more monsters!

Also, Perfide & Tah-Dah! are going to be getting key chain monsters, and cell phone sleeves (no photo, sorry) very soon as well! Yay!

Someday soon I'm going to have to get cracking on my wooden magnets. I really want to have them ready by August 18th, for the NDG Art Rage craft fair, and especially for Comiccon in September!

I'm also offering a new product in my online shop right now. It's your favourite monster appliquéd on a canvas tote bag! I'd love to do some right now, except that I never know what people will like, and I've learned that it's not good business to put all your money into inventory, especially if it's a brand new product. I've learned this lesson with previous plush toys I've made. I've also received some comments that one girl in the UK is doing a similar project with her own monsters, and she says they sell well in craft fairs, but not so well online. That's why my listing is to create your own. You choose your favourite monster, and I will add it to a bag. That way there's no loss of business money, and I won't be stuck with a product no one wants. :)

Speaking of my store, have you all checked it out lately? I've redesigned it! Big Cartel implemented a new theme 3 months ago, and although I loved it, I was scared to make it my own. Well, a few days ago I decided this is nicer and cleaner than what I had before. 

And lastly, this is the newest add to my home. This is a very lovely plant, it's an aroid. I once saw this plant in an office building, and thought it was plastic. When I was at IKEA, I saw it, and I knew I just had to have it! It's even growing new shoots so quickly. Littleone got curious when I put it within his reach. You can see his cute face peeking between the leaves. :)

I hope that I can entertain my readers! Let me know what you think of this new series. If you like the idea of behind the scenes, then I'll make it a point of doing it at least twice a month. I've just been so busy with all the production I've had to do, I feel I've been neglecting my blog. Do you have any other suggestions for posts you'd like to read about?

PS: If you're a blogger or artist, and would like to be featured on my Funky Friday Favorites, let me know by sending me an email! :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Funky Friday Favorites: Lilly's Papillon

This week's featured artist is Marilou Prokopiou of Lilly's Papillon. She makes these beautiful butterflies you can wear as a brooch. So grab a coffee, and let's learn more about Lilly's Papillon! :)

• • • •

My name is Marilou and my very close friends call me Lilly! I do love anything with butterflies, bows and with polka dot on! I am a full time graphic designer in the morning and at nights I do create jewellery.

Visit her:   Blog  Facebook ♥ Twitter 

Q & A

Tell us more about what you make!

I create lovely and very colourful brooches in the shape of butterflies, moths, dragonflies, bees, and lately I am trying to experiment with other insects as well. Each piece is created by me in a smoke free, loving environment. They are all out of metal, most of the time out of copper. I cut it, give the shape I want, file it and then add a safety pin at the back. I sand and polish very well each one and then the magic of painting begins. Each piece is very carefully painted. The process for each piece can take sometimes a bit longer than I thought, as each dot should have the right size and shape. If not, I have to start all over again. I use acrylic colors and only fine and very thin brushes to get the right shape of a dot. All patterns are made out of dots. I try to make each one of the brooches unique and each one to have its own pattern. No brooch is the same as with any other. I love the idea of a customer having a unique piece. Most brooches have my signature at the back so the customer will know it is an original.

How did your crafty business come about? What made you want to start it?

Few years ago, I was thinking of taking a jewellery course, I loved the idea of making statement necklaces for myself. So I intended a class and then another and then another and completed two years of courses. In the meantime I was experimenting with all kind of materials till I was introduced in the world of metal; it was love at first sight! I did play with different shapes, up to one day that I thought why don’t I combine my love of butterflies, colour and polka dot! I started making brooches for my family and some friends and without realising, there were some custom orders coming in. This summer I did exhibit twice and it all went really well. More exhibitions are coming this autumn and hopefully I will have lots done by then.

What inspires you to create? What supplies do you use?

I do get inspired by anything I see! I mainly use copper and it fascinates me how you can change the shape of it. From a sheet of metal you can just make anything, in my case butterflies. My work is a combination of using and working with metals and acrylics.

What is your favorite project or most memorable thing you’ve created?

I think it would be the first butterfly I created. Everytime I see it I remember how anxious I was to show my family what I made and my concept and idea at the time which is what I am doing now.

Aside from crafting, what do you do for fun?

Well, if there is any time, which is quite rare lately, I like reading, see my friends but most I love travelling!!!

What are your favorite blogs or websites that everyone should check out?

I have spent hours and hours reading the posts on the site, watching the videos or listening the podcasts.  
I absolutely love her photography! So inspiring!!!
I always check out the new artists on the site. Sometimes when you work alone from home you can get lost in your own ideas and is good to finding out what other creatives do.
And of course…
Even though I haven’t been on lately as much as I would like, its heaven. I see it as a big sketchbook; when I was at uni (MANY MANY years ago) I had to cut and paste images from mags on my sketchbook. Well is similar, instead of cutting and pasting you just click on the image you like! Love it!!!!

I have to ask a totally random question, so here goes. If you won millions of dollars tomorrow, would you do with your little business?

I think I would go 'full time' freelancing and try to dedicate all my time to my little craft business and I would try to explore new materials and new techniques.

Visit her:   Blog  Facebook ♥ Twitter

• • • •

Thanks so much for this interview Marilou! I wish you all the luck in your future endeavours!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

6 Important things you should know before becoming self-employed

Think of this email as an after thought to my previous email of "25 things you didn't know about my business." I was washing the floors today, and was thinking of additional (or new) things to tell my readers about starting your own business.

1. You won't be rich!

You're probably wondering about this one. This is something everyone who wants to work for themselves should remember. Yes, you'll make money, but you'll never be like Facebook's founder  Mark Zuckerberg. I'm not saying this to discourage you, I'm saying this to put you in the face of reality. If you once were making $60K, when you becoming self-employed, there is a very good chance you might not be making more than $15K for the first or 2nd years. This is the reality. Unless you happen to start a construction job, then perhaps that situation doesn't pertain to you. But if you're reading this blog, you're a crafty and/or artistic person like myself, and you want to work on your craft for a living.

The things I've learned since I've written my business plan, and taken various business courses is this. It takes at least 2 years minimum before you establish a good client base. You might not be making any money in those two years. 

Take me for example. I said in my previous post that I've quadrupled my income recently. But that was only for 2 months. Now I'm back to July and the uncertainty that I will make the same as last month. There are ups and downs, and for most, seasonal times when business soars and drops to non-existence. Don't let the downs get you down. I try to tell myself this every time I'm in a financial slump. There are many reasons why business is slow. Maybe it's right after Christmas, or the month during income taxes are due, or it's right smack in the middle of everyone's summer vacation! I know these times of the year are hard for me, and I have to learn to use those downs to work really hard for when it will be busy again (and it will!).

To finish this point, if you would like to make lots of money, you will have to put in long days, long nights, and possibly weekends. Work hard, don't give up, and the cash should follow ... in a few years.

2. If you think "I don't think I'd have the discipline to force myself to work all day" then maybe being self-employed isn't the right path.

Maybe that's true. If you're already thinking it, maybe working for yourself isn't the right path. If you need someone to push you, to scold you if you're late or you didn't do your work on time, then maybe you should stick with your current job. Having the discipline to be your own boss is really hard. It took me months before I started to really hunker down to work. The first few months of my unemployment I enjoyed it. It was like a vacation. But after 3-4 months, you know you have to do something!

I was also really lonely working alone all the time, but I've come to enjoy it. My time going out to clients or the store are appreciated more, and I take these times to chat. I've never been one to like working with the same people 5 days a week. They drive me nuts! :) I've also scheduled some off time, where I go out and hang out with my friends. Those times are fun.

3. You will have to become a really great sales person!

Yup! One cannot have a successful online business. You must get out there and attend social events like craft fairs, art expos etc. to get noticed, recognition, and exposure of your products (or services).
Here's a quote from a blog called  Escaping the 9 to 5:
This is the absolute hardest thing about being an entrepreneur, for me at least. Learning how to sell, how to market and how to become an amazing ‘pitchman’ is a feat that I doubt 95% of business owners ever really master. But if you do you will never want for anything for the rest of your life. If you can sell, I mean really sell, you can do anything and go anywhere.
I've been to several craft fairs with people who are new to selling their product. They don't smile, they don't talk to the customer, or engage them in what they're looking at, and worst of all they are sitting! This is why I stated in my previous blog post that I stand. Standing shows you're serious about your product, and that you're ready to answer any questions the customer might have. I like to smile and say hi to them, ask them how they're doing, and if they're shopping for a gift. 3 out of 5 times it's a yes! This gives me an opening to ask more questions about who they're shopping for, etc. But if you're just sitting at your table, and you don't talk to the customer, do you really think they're going to buy from you? Probably not. In some cases they will, but personally I wouldn't.

If you're not so good a sales person, taking a course on selling is worth it. Learning this will help you in your future endeavours as a self-employed person.

4. Starting a business takes a lot of time and energy, and that leaves less time for a social life.

I can't begin to tell you how true this is. Like I previously stated, there have been weeks were I would work for 2 weeks straight, up to 80 hours a week. I never had time to go out often. But it's been going on for so long like this, that I now have to force myself at least 1 full day of doing nothing but fun stuff, so that I don't go insane and end up curled on the couch, totally burned out (has happened often).

5. Don't let anything stop you, ever.

Here's another quote I picked up from the blog Escaping the 9 to 5 which explains this point better than I could:
"Your life as an entrepreneur is much like the movie Speed. The premise of the movie was if the bus slowed down they’d explode and it pretty much correlates exactly with the life of a start up founder. Stop moving and you will blow up. Get comfortable and you will fail. Stop caring and it’s over.
Regardless if 10 terrible things happen to you within a week’s time, you can’t let it get to you. You have to suppress the human instinct to give up and instead use hardship as fuel for your fire. Every time someone tells me I can’t do something, or I fall on my face, I get back up (usually after a bit of pity partying) and resolve, with more vigor than before, to not only do what I set out to do, but to do it even better.
So when one door closes, look for a window, or a doggy door or  a battery ram you can use to break the door down. Pivot constantly (never think your idea can’t be improved on) and quit a project if you don’t think it’s right, but never, ever stop moving towards your goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur & launching a business that will change the world."
This quote is true. LOTS of negative things have happened to me since I started, but I try my best to never let them get in the way of my successes. I file that and I move on.

6.  Just do it!

If you're the kind of person who says "I'm going to start my business when I have XX amount of money.." or "... I'll start my own business when I don't have this job.." you may never. What do I say to this? JUST DO IT! If you really want to work for yourself, you have to start somewhere. If you're too scared to quit your job, then start the business on the side and see where it takes you. If you become so busy that you can't do both, you know it's time to quit that job and jump into your business with both feet! Don't be scared of the lack of pay checks, or being alone, or not knowing what you're doing. We've all been there. There are tons of free resources out there, and maybe none that are free, but there are resources out there to help you.  If you know someone who's self-employed, ask them! I'm sure they'd be more than happy to direct you to those resources.

Well I hope this was helpful! You can also Google 5 things you should know before starting a business and you'll see all the things you should expect. Don't let it scare you! :)

One last thing... for all you serious people wanting to do this full time, I highly recommend you write up a business plan. There are plenty of resources out there that are free that will help and guid you through the process.

Good luck!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

25 things you didn't know about my business...

I thought today I'd post something a little random, but still about my business. Instead of learning facts about the artist (I did this a few months ago), you're going to learn stuff about my business I may not have mentioned before.

1. I have no roommates, bf, or husband, which means I have no financial support other than the government stipend I receive each month (which happens to be not enough).

1.a. This is my full time job. I don't work somewhere else and make monsters on the side. I have been making monsters every single day for 1 year.

2. I have one unofficial 'employee' that helps me on Sundays.

3. My business started in a very random way. I actually wanted to work from home as a self-employed graphic designer or illustrator, but that didn't work out the way I wanted it to.

4. Unlike someone who works for a big company, and has a regular schedule, I don't. I don't have that kind of luxury, and I find most days I work 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week.

5. I often work 2 weeks straight before I get days off. This is probably the hardest part about being self-employed.

6. I keep a sketchbook of all my monster ideas, and more than 3/4 of them never get used.

7. I very rarely do one-offs (or one of a kind) monsters. Why? I am trying to make this business as viable as possible in the shortest period of time, and one does not make money by doing a one of a kind toy every once in a while. If I do do a one-off, it's because I had some vintage fabric or a small scrap was given to me that's no longer available.

8. I tend to work the same way a factory does, doing my monsters the assembly line way. :) I make 5-15 monsters in a row. 5 furry guys I can do in one day, but 15 stretches out over 3 days. I never make one from start to finish, but do all the cutting first, then sewing, then embroidering, then more sewing, stuffing, and closing.

9. Fur is the hardest fabric to work with, and turns out it's the most popular fabric in all my products that I've ever made. Go figure. ;)

10. I love to make the customer feel like they're number 1, so sometimes I surprise them with a hand drawn card with their purchase! Makes for a great surprise.

11. Somedays I feel like one of Santa's elves in his North Pole workshop! But think more slave, less happy. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. It just gets tiring working 72 hour weeks sometimes. :) In the case of the cartoon below, the only time I worry about my 'quota' is if I have a store expecting an order, or there's a fair coming up, and I'm not done yet!


12. It's really hard to be "ON" all the time. When I say that, I mean work all the time. My work day starts when I sit in front of my computer with my coffee. I check my emails, respond to comments on Facebook or Twitter. I do my production in the late morning to late evening, and then go to bed 30 minutes after work. Doing that every day for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week is the toughest part of working for yourself. Success doesn't come from a few hours work.

13. If I'm really disciplined, I can actually get my work done early enough, and enjoy the rest of my night. I managed for 3 days to do that in May. I was so proud of myself. This is a daily goal I try to work on. :)

14. I opened my business bank account in June, and an account with Moneris, so if I need it, I will have a the ability to take visa or debit at my next event! In case you're reading this, and you have a registered business (which is necessary in order to be considered a business), if your business name is NOT under your full name, you MUST open and operate using a business bank account. It is illegal to run your business from your personal checking account. Too many legal issues there.

15. When I'm at a public event like a fair or expo, I stand if there are customers nearby, and I am always smiling. I try to make sure to ask a lot of open questions, sometimes it even works in closing a deal!

16. I started with 3 stores selling my products in October 2011, and in 7 months grew that number to 10 stores. I now sell in 3 provinces in Canada. I've also sold my monsters to direct customers on 4 different continents!

17. With all the new stores, I've quadrupled my income in the past 2 months.

18. I live in a 700 square foot apartment all by myself, and I feel like I need more space for my studio. Furs and stuffing sure to take up a lot of space, especially when I buy everything directly from the supplier, and it comes in large quantities.

My modest fur collection. There are 17 rolls!

19. I love how life gives you these twists, and they are the things you expect the least. Like how I started making monsters as a design mail out to art directors, and then when I started selling them 2 years later, I had no idea it'd turn into a full blown business. But everything about this business came about so easily, that it just made sense to pursue it. Also, I was unemployed at the time, so I had absolutely nothing to lose.

20. I am a super friendly, and approachable entrepreneur, and if you ever need any questions answered, or would like some advice finding stuffing suppliers, please feel free to email me. Unlike some of my competitors, I don't mind telling you who my stuffing supplier is. The sales rep is the sweetest man, and instead of turning me away for someone with cash, he has taken me in as his small time client because he said "maybe some day you're going to be the next big monster maker."  Now that's a supplier I'm going to recommend to others!

21. I got a lot of help when I first started with my business. I visited YES Montreal, I would see a business coach, I still see an artist coach, and I attended every conference and business seminar I could get my paws on. That's how I learned to photograph my work professionally, I met a lot of contacts to widen my artistic circle, and how I found out about craft fairs.

22. To make money, you need to spend money. This is very true!

23. Writing a business plan helped me put some aspects of my business into perspective. In the entrepreneur program with SAJE I've had to fill out a 4 month diagnostic and action plan, and compare my predicted sales/expenses to reality, and I noticed how way off I was in some months, but in other aspects I've achieved some goals! Mostly monetary. A true business (one that's serious) will take the time to write up their business plan. Don't make excuses that you don't have time. I wrote mine in the middle of the Christmas rush, whilst making monsters, and going to class twice a week!

24. My business name came from a bunch of random business word searches back in April, 2011. I saw the word "Little Bird", and then "Curious" and put the two together. It works really well! The bird is my logo, but I'm not sure how many out there associate that bird with me. Although the font is my trademark!
25. I do everything in my business... I make my own fabric labels, I designed my own business cards (and have them printed with which by the way has excellent quality for the price). I designed my own shop on Big Cartel, I do the accounting, the bookkeeping, the marketing, the production, the customer service, the sales rep, everything! It's a very big job!

Well I hope this was a fun and informative blog post for some of you.  :)  If you've learned something, I'd love to hear about what it was!

Friday, July 13, 2012

A peek in my sketchbook...

Good morning!

It's Friday, and I don't have a blog, artist, or feature today. I've been a little lazy, and quite frankly I don't have the time to search the web. So today I'm going to take you for a little tour of some of my favourite sketches in my largest sketchbook. :)

I hope you have a great Friday!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

New Skull Monster!

Happy Saturday!

I'm so excited to introduce a new monster to the Curious Little Bird family! Let me introduce you to boy and girl Skully.

Boy Skully

Girl Skully adorned with a hot pink bow

Skully is a skull faced monster that has come to earth from the depths of Skullia, the skull city beneath Earth's crust. Skully has run away from Skullia because he's different. He was born with fur, whilst everyone else has regular skin. As an outcast, Skully came to the surface of Earth, in hopes to find a nice home where he may be happy, and perhaps even learn to laugh!

Happy Skully family!

Don't you just love the blue/black fur and skull face? I do! They're monsters from the beyond. Made with the softest fur, these guys are a limited edition monster as the fur is not purchasable once I run out. Also, these lovely monsters are available to purchase on my website, and will also be available at the upcoming Montreal Comiccon!

Have a great weekend!

PS: If you blog about my monsters, please email me a link so that I may link back to your site! Oh, and don't forget to add the credit please! :)