Peace Signs

Monday, October 12, 2015

Promo Blast! and a LOT of Chatter

This week it's all about custom orders or made-to-order items. That means I get to share the newest adventure here for EarthMotherMosaics. Handmade at Amazon's freshly launched site.

Before I get too much further I have to mention here there has been a lot of mixed reviews about H@A. Some is misinformation due to people making assumptions without any real proof other than "I heard ...". That's gossip. Please do some research on the site itself. They are available to you by email and phone if you need them through Sellers Support. Use it and ask questions before making any decisions on what you've heard.

There is a help section for sellers where you can search for things to see what their policies are or what's the best way to set up shop. One of my favorite blurbs from the help section: "You're joining millions of successful sellers on Amazon.com who have used our platform to reach hundreds of millions of Amazon customers worldwide. We know customers will be thrilled with your selection of handcrafted products, and we're looking forward to helping you grow your business."

I understand the concern. There are pros and cons to every online site we as artisans decide to sell our art with. I am, at this point, happy to be associated with this site just as much as I am with the others I share my work on.

I've been reading through the group posts on Facebook for H@A and the same theme repeats again and again: did everyone know that their fees are higher than any other platform available at 12% plus 50 cents per sale?! Yes, I did. Amazon is well known, I would expect them to charge more for their services if I'm using them to sell my art. If I recall, Etsy's added up to close to 8%. H@A has a fee preview when you list an item. You can see what cut they'll get. There are no hidden fees. Despite what some think, you can charge whatever you feel your work is worth on this site and it does not have to be the same on all the sites you sell on. They don't care about the other sites. They just care about this one.

Another that keeps creeping up across Facebook from fellow artisans thinking about joining the H@A family: Do you know that Amazon have exclusive rights to reproduce what you make? Again, yes, I did. I read the info and it didn't concern me. I would assume reproducing anything through the handmade site itself, a slightly different entity than Amazon but all part of the same company, goes against the very nature of the site itself. But that's just my thought on it. I believe that blurb might have come from the long standing Amazon Sellers site which is different than Handmade at Amazon's site. You can find my shop on Amazon's "splash" page and it will take you to the items I have for sale in that way. If you click on one of the items and then click on my photo, it will take you to the H@A section. Amazon may, as the months progress, decide to amend that info for H@A or decide it should remain universal throughout their policies no matter what area you sell on. But if they don't, it is what could happen when big business works with small business. They are in business for a long time and have made a name known by many. It is important to remember they don't really need your product to make money. It COULD happen, but it's not likely to because they value handmade artisans and their items. I get the concern from those who are worried and dig it. But I dig Amazon too.

The very definition of handmade on Merriam-Webster's website is: "made with the hands or by using hand tools." My own definition is making something creative from start to finish by artisans hands. Handmade at Amazon says: "All products available in your Handmade at Amazon store must be made entirely by hand, hand-altered, or hand assembled (not from a kit). Products must be handmade by you (the artisan), by one of your employees (if your company has 20 or fewer employees), or a member of your collective with less than 100 people. Mass-produced products or products handmade by a different artisan are not eligible to sell in Handmade."* See more below for further information.

Here's some info directly from their Help section. This may help you see what they expect and what they want from us as Handmade Artisans. Questions can be asked through them directly. Use them, ask away. Become informed.

*Category Requirements
All artisans must accurately represent themselves, the products they make, and their respective businesses on Amazon.com. All items listed as handmade must adhere to the following listing policy:
A: Who makes it: Products must be handmade by yourself, one of no more than 20 employees (including sub-contractors that have less than 20 employees), or a member of your collective or cooperative with less than 100 people. Selling mass-produced products or reselling products handmade by a different artisan is not permitted in the handmade category.
Note: If your product is not handmade, you can still add a product to your inventory in other categories.
B: How it's made: We define Handmade as products that are: 
  1. Made entirely by hand (for example, knitted blanket, hand carved wooden bowl, hand shaped pottery)
  2. Hand altered (for example, hand screen-printed tea towels, hand painted ornaments)
  3. Hand assembled not from a kit (for example, shelves built by hand from reclaimed wood, beaded jewelry)
  4. Individual items hand-produced in volume by a village, cooperative, or collective with less than 100 people (for example, villagers in Uganda making necklaces by hand where each necklace has a slight variation)
Handmade products can be pre-made or made to order, and the use of light machinery that is not automated is permitted (for example, a sewing machine, electric sander, welder). However, the products should not be: 
  1. Mass-produced (for example, thousands of the same item produced in a large factory-like setting, even if handmade)
  2. Assembled from a kit (for example, pre-made bookshelf kit that you assemble to sell)
  3. Produced or assembled entirely by a machine (for example, 3D printed, injection molded)
  4. Supplies or raw materials (for example, loose gemstones, beads) to produce handmade products
  5. Products for which the entire printing process is outsourced for production, unless it is photography or artwork that is too large to print in-house
  6. Non-altered vintage products

I believe that the site that is requesting all handmade items probably won't mass produce the very same items you're required to make by hand to sell on that site. I'm thinking they might offer the chance to have your item mass produced as part of the Sellers group if you so choose. It just possible that handmade items on a handmade site, might be safe from that happening.

I am focusing on the good parts of all the sites I use to sell my art otherwise I wouldn't put my items for sale on these sites. I give a big standing ovation to Amazon for deciding to offer the artisans who have been overlooked on Etsy especially a chance to possibly shine once more using a name known worldwide. Even if we only shine for a minute or two, I'm happy to be part of it. This is a historic moment for those who make anything handmade. It shouldn't be scary. It should be celebrated!

I honestly believe H@A are welcome to all of what I shared on the site. I have nothing on there that is "exclusive". If they did decide to take something I do and copy it exactly and I couldn't do it again, I'm not sure I'd be upset for more than a minute. I can still mosaic. Everything I look at has the possibility of becoming a mosaic from our teapot to an old television that no longer works. My life won't be over. Not my personal life or my business life. I'll still wake up each morning, stretch, breathe, meditate, create art, listen to music, watch my grandchildren and animals play, enjoy the food I eat, enjoy the wine I drink. And oh how grateful am I for that first cup of coffee in the morning!! I will always share my art. Always and forever, on some forum or social media site for as long as the internet exists.

Of course no two mosaics I make are exactly the same and the designs I like to use are pretty basic. I use scraps and broken things to make my mosaics. Often I'll order tiles and cut them smaller, but mostly I use what I have. I also hand draw most of the designs I use which are never the same. Each sun and moon are basically the same but different because they are drawn at the time I'm creating the mosaic. It's what makes my work so much fun to do. Every day my art is a little different than the day before.

I've been making mosaics for ten years now. I still receive great joy from making them. This is the longest relationship I've had with any craft throughout my life so far or human, not counting my children, of course. My grandson is only 8 but I'm pretty sure I'll have a good, long relationship with him as well. I still love mosaics as much as I did ten years ago. They will always be part of my life.

Anyone can do what I do. And I think if they have the passion I have for mosaics, they certainly should! Anyone who wants to learn how to mosaic a peace sign or put a moon on a vase for example can ask me for free advice on how to do it. I don't mind questions and I love to help those who are interested in trying mosaics for themselves. I'll even share my favorite online sites for supplies and materials and suggest they let the shop owners know I sent them which is always nice to do. The shop owners like to know where new business comes from. They and anyone at all have my blessings to anything I do.

As a side note, to let you know I'm not just pretending to be fine with this news that my work might be reproduced at some point, I've recently taken to responding to those who pin my items on Pinterest now under a board they might call "crafts to try" or "DIY" and let them know I'm honored they picked one of my mosaics to use as inspiration to try on their own. And then I let them know if they have never done a mosaic before and have any questions on how to do it, let me know. I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone might have. Some respond and thank me. Some don't respond at all. But it's out there for them to use as inspiration. All of it. Any of it. That goes for anyone who sees what I do. Use it to help spark an idea. I'm honored to help you be inspired to create mosaic art!

I truly doubt Amazon will take any of my mosaics to reproduce, in truth. You can read all about how I make my mosaics in the info section on the shop's site. They have what they need to reproduce it right there as does anyone else who sees what I do through Amazon or any site and think, "hmm, I could do that!". Putting your art online to share with the "world wide web" is risky. But it's a risk I have always been willing to take. And because I have, I've made friends, customers and a small group of followers who love what I do. And what a blessing it all is. That's awesome!

I'm not concerned and won't lose any sleep at all about what they might or might not do, charge for my use of their site and in turn their name or what they might take or might not take. I will handle it all when it is here and only then if it is worth the time and effort to handle it at all.

I am fairly sure Amazon hasn't turned anyone down yet who has applied for a shop. I don't see that as a bad thing. If you need a place to sell your handmade items and the other well known site is no longer giving you the support you need, you might want to try something new that is being talked about every day. Pros and Cons aside, it might just be the best thing you do. Join and see for yourself if it's the right fit for you. If it isn't, move on.

This new opportunity to sell your handmade items through Amazon might not be right for you if you have one-of-a-kind art that you don't want anyone else to duplicate. If you want to use your brand that is exclusively yours, either in name or product, head on over to Storenvy who will gladly share your items for free with a fee of 10% only should the customer find you on their marketplace store and make a purchase from it. If a customer purchases an item on your custom storefront, they don't take anything from you. That is more than fair and a good way to get your branded items seen and shared with new customers.

I have close to a year to decide if H@A is for me. The monthly $39.99 has been waived until August 2016. If I don't make a sale by then, I will decide if I want to close my shop. I've closed many shops and opened many more and never looked back. It is what I will continue to do for as long as I can because it's the only way I have to sell my work. It is also a way to learn and grow as an artist and a business.

I have to say I have a favorite new shop and it's not H@A at all! I'm falling in love with Aftcra and am sad I didn't find it when I closed my Etsy shop. I'm not sure how I missed it. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be a seller on Storenvy and will keep that store open for a long time, I'm positive. But no offensive, Storenvy ... I love Aftcra more! Gosh, I hope they stay up and running forever!!! It has such a welcoming feel to it, simple and easy to learn how to use. Their homey, small town atmosphere makes it similar to a few sites I've used in the past. It also reminds me of that favorite sweater I've just pulled out of storage to wear when the weather cools. Warm, familiar and welcoming. I am settling in and adding new items as often as I can. I certainly have many and I'm still making mosaics, so I'll certainly have more!

My biggest goal is not how many sales I can make from any one site. It is to find some humans who love what they do as much as I do and chat about it. To share the love, the enthusiasm and the joy we have when we create something that we love. To connect with likeminded people and share that joy with each other and our family and friends. Let's face it, that is the hippie way of life after all!

No matter. My opinions are mine alone. Take them for what they are. Not one negative thought comes to my head about any of the sites I sell my mosaics and art on at this moment in time. I've always felt it is great to say yes to any opportunity if it involves meeting talented craftspeople and introduce my mosaics to new people. I'm a positive person about most things in life, I suppose, and I used that same approach when I set up shop with Handmade at Amazon. It's gonna be a fun ride!!

Otherwise, I'm fine, thanks. Hahaha. And I am still excited for the opportunity. Thanks again, Handmade at Amazon for accepting me into the fold.

Alright, I'm finished!! Whew! That was exhausting!!

Now that the chatter is over (finally, right?!) ... here is what is available so far on H@A. I'm adding 2 more made-to-order items (vases and candle holders) and maybe the mosaic portraits my family think are the "bees knees" and should be shared but I'm not yet sure. We'll see. I'll make sure to share them when I've got them up and ready to view.

And please remember if you see anything you'd like to order or think of something you'd like to see set-up for custom orders anywhere on any of the sites, contact me any time. Those who read the blog on a regular basis do not need to go to Amazon or any of the shops to order a made-to-order mosaic unless you want to. We can work one-on-one. There has got to be some perks to following me along my artistic journey, after all!!

6 inch Mosaic Gazing Ball - Made to Order

Crescent Half Moon Stained Glass Mosaic Wall Art - Custom Order - 10 inches

3 Inch Round Mosaic Ornament - Custom Made To Order Item - Initial on one side Dancing Star or Holiday Tree on the other. Your choice in colors.

Mosaic Stained Glass Trivet or Candle Holder - 6 inches - Made to Order

Mosaic Peace Sign - Custom Made To Order
Support Independent Artisans, Designers and Crafters for your gift-giving needs all throughout the year. Thank you!

Cindy