Monday, August 24, 2009

Rock Your Customer Service!

I recently made several online purchases through a couple handcrafted sites and there was such a vast difference in the levels of customer service that I got to thinking about what buyers expect, and really like about purchasing online, especially in this tough economy.
So I did a little digging and found that the Research Institute of America had conducted a survey for the Office of Consumer Affairs and their findings were:

* Only 4% of unhappy customers bother to complain and for every complaint that was lodged, 24 others went uncommunicated to the company - but not to other potential customers. Ahhh, the power of word of mouth.

* 90% who are dissatisfied with the service they receive will not come back or buy again. To make matters worse, each of those unhappy customers will tell their story to at least 9 other people. Again, the power of word of mouth.

* Of the customers who do register a complaint, between 54%-70% will do business again with the company if they feel their complaint was resolved and that figure goes up to a whopping 95% if the customer felt the complaint was resolved quickly.

* 68% of customers who stop doing business with a company do so because of indifference. The study further indicates that it takes 12 positive incidents to make up for 1 negative one.

I asked a few friends what makes excellent customer service (a couple are both sellers and buyers online and a couple are buyers only).

From Jen, "Excellent customer service to me is availability if I need to call, promptness of returning my calls or e-mails and just keeping me informed regarding the entire order process from start to finish. I hate not knowing something until after the fact or not being notified of delay or availability, especially when I've already paid for it. I hate when refunds aren't prompt, especially when I make it a point to pay the moment I buy something. No acknowledgement is a big no-no too. Packaging is important too, especially if the items are of a delicate nature."

From Carol, "Excellent customer service means I will remember your store (just like I will if I get bad service). Once I buy something I can't wait to get it, so getting that special something in the mail right away is a biggie for me. I abhore shops that charge tons for mailing too".

Heather has had "some bad experiences ordering online and I think it usually starts with slow responses. I like to get a confirmation email right away and then notice of when my order is processed and shipped. I get nervous when I have to contact them because it never ends up good. I think my best online ordering experiences have been with places that provide the info before I even think about it. It makes it a little more "personal" and I feel like I am dealing with an actual person, not just a computer/website."

And for Lawatha, "Excellent customer service when I purchase something online, is the feeling of being appreciated when somebody takes the time to email me and thank me for my purchase and lets her know when my item will be/has been shipped. I appreciate them getting it out in the mail for me right away, and I always notice when they've obviously taken time to ensure it arrives safely by packing it well. As an online buyer and seller, I value positive feedback, and am always happy to let others know not only about the wonderful item I purchased, but about the wonderful customer service that came with it as well."

I've had many excellent transactions on artisan marketplaces and some unfortunate ones. For me, the sellers who don't acknowledge my purchases, don't include at least a "thank you" in my package, casually toss items in envelopes with no packaging or bubble wrap and without any regard to protection, and don't leave feedback are sure turnoffs for me and will guarantee I won't return to a shop. The key to good customer service is appreciating customers and keeping them in the loop throughout the transaction process, including afterward. Value your customers and they will not only return to shop again, but there's the all-powerful word of mouth! The bottom line is no customer services equals no customers!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Small Pleasures or Sometimes You Just Need Orange Sandals

Simple pleasures. Just the phrase brings a smile to my face and I asked some friends to share what their simple indulgences were, especially during these warm Summer months. How does this fit into the Guild and Teams section? Well, I like to think of my friends as my own team, whether they be local or around the country!

My daughter Jen's favorite indulgence is a pedicure or manicure, particularly now that she's 5 months pregnant with her second little boy. She loves being able to sit back and relax while having someone else pamper her in a small way, especially since she soon won't be able to see her toes! Her friend Heather's pick for an indulgence would be a massage, even just a 20 minute one in the middle of the workday. Heather is also about to be a new mom, so many of us can relate to her choice! Their good friend Michelle, mom of 2 little ones, loves ordering Chinese food and renting a movie with her husband and having a glass of wine too. Simple pleasures.

My friend Carol who is a glass artist loves indulging in glass but for smaller pleasures, adores buying handmade soap and body lotion online, mainly because it's much better quality than the big box stores offer. There are so many awesome soap sellers both on Etsy and Artfire that I confess to treating myself and my family often to their wares. My friend Lawatha (also a glass artist, are you surprised?) confesses that her simple pleasure which doesn't happen very often, (not nearly often enough,lol!) is a delicious treat from Coldstone Creamery and I'm with her on that! Can't you just taste the Cake Batter ice cream?

Browse around the categories on the artisan marketplaces and you'll find one-of-a-kind cards for every occasion, beautiful handcrafted jewelry that's unique and affordable, wonderful artwork for your children's rooms (I just purchased some pirate wood signs and mermaid prints for my grandchildren's room in my home), and just about anything you can imagine. Find some simple pleasures of your own and put them in your Favorites for future purchases!

My own recent personal small indulgence? An absolutely wonderful pair of butter soft orange Aerosole sandals that are so comfortable and like walking on air - ahhhhh! So, two different generations and their simple pleasures and indulgences. What's yours?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sprucing up your Online Shop - Part 4

In previous columns in this series, we looked at avatars and banners, location, sections, profiles, currency of shop updates, featured items, titles and descriptions, and photography. In this final installment of Sprucing up your Online Shop, we'll wrap up with some thoughts on random concerns that have come up in team chats, as well as, on site forums.

Does the quality of the work in your shop appear to be professional? Are your photos clear and crisp with at least one closeup of the piece? Are both sides shown so you can see that the craftsmanship on the back equals that on the front? Objectively, can you get a sense that you as a seller love your work and take pride in the finished product? If you feel that you need some help with a critique of your shop, ask in the forums and if you're a member of a team or guild, don't be shy in asking for feedback on your shop! People love to give it!

Regarding feedback - what does the person's feedback say? Are there glowing reviews and not just positive marks (plus signs)? Do you get a sense that the artist or craftsperson does a stellar job, has a passion for and takes pride in their work from the comments left for them? Feedback is your reputation online, so make sure you provide excellent customer service as well as a great product.A lot of concern comes from newbies to selling online when they have no feedback. Remember that we all started with 0 feedback at one time and don't stress too much about it!

There have been many suggestions for starting to build feedback by making a few small purchases from other sellers just to get you going. In real life while shopping you have the advantage of seeing merchandise first-hand and being able to pick it up and feel it. Do your best to give potential customers that same confidence and remember that your online shop is open 24/7 and there's always someone shopping, so why not from you? Put a lot of effort into making your shop the best it can be and promote, promote, promote and your feedback from buyers will come!

Are your shop's policies clearly defined as far as shipping, payments, returns and other information? Try and keep your tone upbeat and positive in writing this dry stuff, but also be clear and thorough. If you're shipping internationally (and I strongly suggest that you do) make sure your mailing costs are realistic and accurate. Don't expect your buyer to pay additional funds if you've made the mistake of adding too little for mailing costs. On the other hand, if the cost of mailing is significantly less than your buyer has paid, it's very wise to refund the difference to that buyer as good customer service and they will be more likely to purchase from you again. Good customer service is a cornerstone of your business!

Selling online can be nerve-wracking, exciting, financially rewarding and give you a tremendous sense of pride in your work. The most important point I can leave you with in this series is that you must promote your shop and bring buyers to it. Work each day at honing your craft and making your online shop visually appealing. If you're newer to this vast e-commerce marketplace, consider joining a team or guild for both support, encouragement and camaradie from veteran members. Good luck and if you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sprucing Up Your Online Shop - Part 3

284554603_bba2084a93_m.jpgIn today's edition of Sprucing up your Online Shop, we're going to take a look at the all-important topic of photography. While I'm by no means an expert on this, I have learned a lot about the necessity of having clear, crisp, and well lit pictures in my online shops, so I hope these elementary tips will help!

Good pictures are the greatest asset in a successful shop, so make sure your photos are clear and focused. Use a photo program such as Picasa to get rid of the greyness in your backgrounds. Use a macro lens to get sharp closeup pictures (especially when your work is a piece of jewelry or other small items).

Use most, if not all, of the photo options available to you. Show your item from different angles, different backgrounds, and in different lighting. Think outside the box and take photos from items that aren't only flat surfaces. If you look in my Etsy shop, you'll see pictures I have taken on slate, rocks, grass, seashells, against a clear blue sky, on a glass bottle and more. Challenge yourself and take a few items you have listed whose pictures you're not thrilled with. Once during a team challenge, we asked each other why particular items we thought would sell quickly didn't. With a few simple changes, we saw the difference some new photos made. The world is your canvas, so use it in unique pictorial ways!

The last installment of this 4 part series will be posted mid-week, so I hope you'll look for that! Teams and guilds are all about learning, sharing, and helping each other become the best we can while marketing in a highly competitive marketplace. If you have comments or suggestions on more ways to improve your photos, I'd love to hear them!

Photo courtesy of aussiegall

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sprucing up your Online Shop - Part 2

In my last column, we looked at ways to spruce up your online shop and covered avatars, banners, location, sections and profile. In this segment we'll take a look at some other areas that should be easy fixes which will both get more people into your shop and also add to a professional, cohesive look.

Is your shop current with new listings and info in your Shop Announcement area? One sure way to get me to click away from a shop is when it has a stale announcement up (such as a Valentine's Day sale in June) or if the last listing was 2 months ago. Try to keep relisting at a minimum (we all do it at times) and offer your potential customers fresh, new work as much as you can. There have been numerous threads in the forums on how many items is "too much" and my honest opinion is that if you don't list it, there's no way you're going to sell it, so keep on creating and listing!

Are you using your featured items options? Try changing your 3 (or however many each site gives you) featured items at least once a week to garner interest. Switch it up and include older and midway items in your shop since your newer items will be up on your first page anyway. One suggestion is to have a trio of complementary colors or items that tie together somehow. Whichever pieces you choose, make sure they have the wow factor!

Do your products have good titles and descriptions? Do your titles convey clearly what the item is that is for sale? Titles should both concisely say what the item is with a bit of detail, while enticing the buyer to click on your item description for more info. Descriptions should cover all the main characteristics of your item, such as what the item is, color/s, measurements, your work process, and a touch of humor doesn't hurt as long as it's not offensive. If your piece is one-of-a-kind and has a story, tell it! Some of the most charming descriptions in shops make me return again and again. While I might not purchase at the time, it's almost probable that I will put that shop into my favorites and return again in the future.

And that wraps up Part 2 of this series on Sprucing up your Online Shop! In future columns we'll look at feedback, shop policies, cohesiveness and the all important photography and lighting. And again, until then, keep on creating and I'll keep a warm kiln! If you have feedback on this series, I'd love to hear it, and if you have suggestions for future columns, send them my way.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sprucing up your Online Shop - Part 1

From Handmade News

During my almost 3-1/2 years of selling on Etsy and also as a founding member of one of the original street teams, there have been many questions on the forums (or is it fora?) on how to make shops better and increase sales. In this series of columns, we'll take a look at some of these concerns and some possible solutions!

Your shop banner and avatar are the entryway into your shop and you have a few mere seconds to either catch someone's interest or have them click away, so make them professional looking and unique. Your avatar and banner are your personal calling card so make them pop and draw those buyers in! Think of some successful boutiques and shops and their entryways and facades to get an idea. In this highly competitive online marketplace, you need to toot your own horn. There are many talented graphic designers on both Etsy and Artfire who can help you design an avatar and banner if you need help.

Make sure you have your geographic location filled in. If you're worried about disclosing too much information, at least put a state and possibly a city close to you (if you're International, put your country). Many, many buyers will click away from your shop if your location is blank. People have different reasons for wanting to see a seller's location, such as to either support local artists or to judge how long an item might take to reach them after it's been shipped.

Are your sections options being used and are they clear? Personally, I usually have about 350 items in my shop and if I didn't use my sections, it would be a lot to wade through! Make it easy for your customers to zone in and target items they would have a high level of interest in. Maybe they'll click on your other categories if they're well worded.

Is your profile filled in to give potential buyers an idea of who you are as an artist and person? I'm usually disappointed when I click on profile and find it blank. While you don't have to write a novel, some info on who you are and also showing some humor can help. I love knowing who I'm buying from and their passion for their art! Keep it upbeat and proofread and proofread again so there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

Next time we'll look at some more tips for sprucing up your shop. Until then, keep creating and I'll keep a warm kiln!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Indie Artists Join Together!

As a columnist on I've been thinking a lot about the various guilds and teams on both Etsy and Artfire.
Here's a reprint of one of my columns

Etsy and Artfire are two of the many online marketplaces to buy and sell things handmade. One way they set themselves apart from other venues is by encouraging sellers to join together within guilds or teams to better compete in the increasingly competitive online marketplace. Etsy has a few hundred street teams and Artfire, a newer venue, already has several dozen teams or guilds.

Teams and guilds have proven themselves to be valuable marketing tools, both for their team members and the venue where they come together. Teams assist sellers in increasing their individual visibility as well as the team's. They allow artisans to pool their marketing and advertising resources, skills and customer bases. Instead of competing against each other, artisans join together and nurture each other. One's success becomes the team's success and it can be a wonderful environment to thrive in. Veteran artists can mentor and teach newer members about the craft they share an interest in and newer artisans can frequently give motivation and a fresh view to those who have been at their craft for years.

There are a number of ways to help spread the team concept, such as holding monthly challenges for members to step up and meet a certain criteria for designing a piece. Some teams have held contests to design a team business card or to design a logo and some hold cooperative sales for their customers on a regular basis. Most teams use "tags" which are special search terms to enable customer's to find items more easily and blogs for their members to post what's new in their individual studios and also team happenings. Teams and guilds offer as much in return as you are willing to put into them.

With so many reasons to join a team or guild and so many to choose from, sometimes the hardest part is choosing the one that most closely reflects what you're looking for!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Drilling Beach and Fused Glass

The following was published on Handmade News

Now that Summer is quickly approaching, visions of beautiful sea glass are on many people's minds, both jewelry designers and their buyers too!
On the Etsy and Artfire forums, there have been a number of questions on the best way to drill sea glass. Teams and Guilds are wonderful in the value they have as a brainstorming tool. Whether you're looking for advice on a new technique or just a better way to do something, they're a great resource for bouncing ideas around. Here's one of the questions I was asked as a glass team member:

Question: I have a collection of sea glass and I wanted to make a bracelet using the glass. My first question would be, what do I use to drill the tiny hole in the glass? And my second question is, would fishing line be fine to string these sea glass beads onto or would metal wire be better? Please keep in mind that I have no experience with glass or beads or any type of jewelry making.
Answer: I love beach glass, all shapes and colors and textures! I use a cordless Dremel drill with a diamond bit to get the hole you're looking for. You would need to drill underwater (hence the cordless drill, because combining water and electricity = yikes!). You'd be drilling underwater both to reduce stress on the glass and to keep the drill bit cool. Use either a piece of styrofoam or a piece of modeling clay on the bottom of a water-filled container to keep your glass steady. The water should cover your glass and the styrofoam will give you some grip and stability while you're drilling. You should be able to feel when you have hit the styrofoam or clay when your hole is completely drilled through.

Start the drill at a low speed which you can increase once you get started. Just go slow and easy and do some practice pieces first, with glass you don't absolutely love, just to get the hang of it. Try to drill on a slight angle at first to get the hole started; it will then be easier to continue from that point and your drill won't "skitch" as much. Take your time and with practice it will become easier to drill both fused glass or sea glass.

As far as stringing material, I'd keep away from fishing line because it is too brittle. You could use Tiger Tail, Acculon, or a similar type of beading cord instead, so your beautiful jewelry will hold up to wear. Most important, have fun with your new beading hobby and when you're ready to take your hobby to the next level, I'd encourage you to join one of the teams or guilds on Artfire or Etsy!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Safety and Protection While Drilling Glass

The following was published on Handmade News

In a previous column on Handmade News, I shared tips on how to drill beach and sea glass. In part 2, we'll look at a question asked in the Etsy forum about how to protect yourself while drilling glass. One of the best things about posting in forums is there is always someone (or a dozen someones!) willing to help out, especially members of teams or guilds who can offer many viewpoints. Along with my advice is some terrific input from Mary of who is an accomplished enamelist.

Question: Since I am relatively new to fusing, I have a question on how to protect yourself from silica dust. I am at the grinder every day shaping my glass and noticed a lot of dust covering everything in my studio. So it's probably safe to assume that some of this is getting into my lungs, not good. I have read articles stating the little paper masks are not enough to protect your lungs from this sort of dust, so what do you do?

Answer: Good ventilation is necessary in your studio and work area, but sometimes ventilation alone isn't adequate protection. It's a good idea to wear a respirator or mask with a filter any time you're around airborne particles of glass (silica). It's the silica that can cause damage to your lungs and eyes. I use a respirator mask for grinding (even though everything gets soaking wet), for scraping kiln wash off shelves, for using powdered frits, if I'm vacuuming out the kilns or studio, etc. It's also a good idea to keep a bowl of water by your workspace to frequently dip your glass pieces in, both to keep the dust down and to cool off the glass. And remember not to bring food or drink into the studio!

Mary adds that ventilation and a good respirator is the way to go. Exposure to silica dust can cause very bad lung problems. As an enamelist, I'm working with powdered glass all the time, so I have to be extra careful. I would also recommend good cleaning habits in the studio. Areas where the dust builds up should be wet-mopped or wiped down with wet cloths. Never sweep glass dust as that will cause it to become airborne again.

So that's the glass pros advice on how to protect yourself while at the grinder. I know that whenever I have a question about pmc or art clay, I'll find the answer from a knowledgeable team member. Some wonderful collaborations have come from different teams joining together. So go ahead, ask those questions of teams and guilds!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Dichroic Glass article is in Etsy's Storque!

See my article on dichroic glass in the Storque!

Here's a step-by-step pictorial on how I make my dichroic glass creations
Photo 1: Dichroic glass in its raw form
Photo 2: Me cutting the glass
Photo 3: Glass stacked in the kiln and ready for firing
Photo 4: Pieces after firing
Photo 5: Finished product ready for jewelry findings

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Handmade News

I'm excited to announce that I've joined the Guilds & Teams Dept. of

My first column published today ~ on Drilling Sea Glass & Fused Glass and you can read it here

Handmade News is all you'll need for news about the handmade world and the crafts in it. Check it out each day. My columns will publish on Sunday and Wednesday in the Guilds and Teams section!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Irises from the Garden

Perfection is when you wake up to new blooming treasures from your garden. My gardens are relatively new (we've been in our house less than 3 years) and we've been taking our time getting the gardens just right. In the last month or so, we've been making a Sunday trip to one of the local nurseries and just picking out two or three things at a time.

One of my favorite flowers is the beautiful iris and these are glorious orange (many of you know this is my favorite color!) and black with just a hint with very deep purple. These are in the front of the house in front of the lattice on the dorch (in Willow World, dorch = deck + porch, hahahaha!) I also chose a Monarda and something called Goat's Beard (hahaha) and I'll post pictures of those when they come up.

What's blooming in your garden today?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Inspiration for today


"Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness."


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Glass 101: What is Dichroic Glass?

What is Dichroic Glass?

What is Dichroic Glass?

Fusing glass - getting it so hot it melts together and thus fuses - is an art with a long tradition. In my studio, I use art glass specifically designed for kiln fusing. Many of the "special effects" are created through the use of dichroic glass. It's visually beautiful, mesmerizing, and depending upon the angle you look at it, you see a different color.

But what on Earth is it?

Dichroic glass is the result of placing a multi-layered coating on glass using a highly technical vacuum deposition process. Quartz crystal and metal oxides are vaporized (zap!) with an electron beam gun in an airless vacuum chamber. The substance then floats upward and first attaches and then settles on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure. The glass has many layers of these materials, yet the thickness of the total coating is very, very thin. The coating that is created is very similar to some gemstones, and careful control of the thickness creates different colors.

While originally created for the aerospace industry, dichroic glass is available to the artist community through several specialty manufacturers. Dichroic glass is specifically designed to be hotworked, but it is just as beautiful in its original form.

The main characteristic of dichroic glass is that it has a transmitted color and a completely different reflective color (di=two, chroic = colors, dichroic = two colors!). Light passing through dichroic glass transmits one color, while light bouncing off dichroic reflects another color. And to make it even more amazing, these two colors shift depending upon the angle they're viewed at.

One special way to work with dichroic glass is by etching a design onto it before firing. A special acid is used to burn away part of the colored dichroic glass (leaving it as a black base). When it's clear capped with a thin layer of clear art glass, the design really pops!

When you combine the play of light with the vibrant colors of dichroic glass, the visual beauty will delight you! Pictured are exposed dichroic earrings, an acid etched pin and also a pendant with a fully fused topcoat of clear. I'm sure you'll agree that all ways are beautiful!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Who's got some Monkey Bread???

So, I've been missing from blogging for the last couple months, but I'm back and ready to write! A few of you in the Etsy forum were asking about my Monkey Bread recipe (get ready for some serious Oh My God Yumminess), so here it is! Quick and easy and you'll have a new addiction!


3 (12 ounces each) packages of refrigerated biscuit dough (I'd suggest getting a name brand)
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

(walnuts and raisins are optional, but hey they add another texture of yumminess)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)and spray one 9" or 10" tube or Bundt® pan with Pam .
Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the cinnamon sugar mix and arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using walnuts and raisins, mix them in and among the biscuit pieces as you're going merrily along. (I'm sure pecans would be equally delicious).
In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 35 minutes. Let the Monkey Bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. You don't need to slice or cut it as the bread just pulls apart.

So are you ready? Go make some Monkey Bread of your own!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Motivation 2/23/2009

Monday Motivation

My 5 year old granddaughter spent the last 8 days with us while she was on school break, so needless to say, not much work got done in the studio! A lot of what we did involved boa feathers, paint, and dress up, so little glasswork got done :)

So - today is Monday, new start to a new week, and I'm totally psyched to be spending the day (and week) in the studio. I have many, many new sheets of glass and my brain is on overload with new possibilities. I'm ready to restock both my shops at and

What's your motivation for today? First I need some fresh brewed iced tea and then I'm headed down to the studio. Have a splendid motivated Monday!

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's a New Day

Good Morning. Isn't this a glorious sunrise? The picture was taken from my front porch.
I've had a rough few weeks. I made a tough decision to leave a group after a few years that I had nurtured and grown from its infancy. It was the right decision, but it's been a painful journey and quite enlightening. Right now I'm feeling very alone which is odd because by nature, I'm a hermit-like person and enjoy being with myself. I enjoy my creative time in my studio and don't view it as "being alone", but rather enjoy the solitude and freedom that I'm grateful to have. The past few weeks I've taken a beating though .
So this morning I pulled up this picture from my files and I'm ready to let go. I deserve it.
Have a peaceful and blessed day today.