Ever have the feeling that you needed to change direction in your life to follow your passion? I think many of us have woken up one morning to realize we’ve walked far down a path that isn’t what we intended to do. For Mandy from […]
Meet Nikki: She is awesome!
Nikki, a one time teacher and now professional Mom to two kids and crafter has an unbelievable talent for making just about anything. For years she would encourage friends to get crafty, saying “You could SO make that” when they would see trendy items in stores or catalogs. Today Nikki spends time teaching people how to make things with her fantastic tutorials and simple craft kits. We talked with Nikki recently to find out about her life, her crafty loves, and what keeps her going when the going gets tough.
You might have noticed last week that Meylah, a site I write for and often post about on Craft Ideas Weekly, launched a brand new arts and crafts selling platform. I sat down with Courtney Dirks, one of the founding team members of Meylah, to learn more about how Meylah got started and how they plan to revolutionize the way artists and crafters sell their work online.
Hi Courtney, Meylah is pretty cool…what inspired you to start it?
I never in a million years thought I’d be standing where I am today! For the past few years, I struggled to turn my handmade jewelry business (Courtney Rian Designs) into a well-oiled online machine. During this same time, my husband Jason and his friend Ram were having similar experiences (Jason with his photography and Ram with his son, Chirag’s paintings). We absolutely love so many of the existing online handmade venues (marketplaces) to sell, but we felt there was an opportunity to make selling online more effective and easy. So, we teamed up with some great individuals and decided to embark on an adventure to create the perfect solution based on our own personal experiences.
It sounds like the experience you had selling your own work online helped you develop a clear vision on what was missing from existing craft selling sites. So many of us use several sites to blog/sell/develop communities…it really makes sense to combine those efforts and make it more manageable.
Can you give our readers an idea of what is different about the new Meylah platform and how artists can use it?
To put it briefly, Meylah is a blog platform for creative entrepreneurs (artists, photographers, crafters, musicians, authors, etc. – you name it) with an integrated store so they can sell their products. We have also created an innovative solution called Byte-Syze Learning where you can create your own tutorials (with video and images) to sell in your store or give them away for free to build your brand. You can also use your personalized Meylah site to connect with your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and more.
All of us who own businesses know finding funding can be tough, even when you have a great idea. How did you fund your venture…was it difficult?
Funding in my opinion is DEFINITELY the hardest aspect of launching a startup. This is where I run for the hills and thankfully, this is where Ram and Jason feel more comfortable. So far we’ve funded Meylah through our friends, family, and professional networks. We are continually raising money to improve and develop Meylah’s solution as we have many ideas to make it more effective and valuable for creative entrepreneurs.
What is the thing you like best about the work you are doing with Meylah?
It may sound cliché, but my favorite aspect of the work I’m doing at Meylah is connecting with the community. I love conducting interviews, buying products (when I can afford it!), reading and commenting on blogs, managing our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and managing my own Meylah site. Working in an online space is perfect for me because I absolutely love to write and to exchange in dialogue with the creative community online.
Are you crafty? What types of arts or crafts do you do in your spare time? (feel free to link to any tutorials you have created or that you love)
I consider myself to be fairly crafty, but I pale in comparison to the likes of folks like Cathe Holden or Dionne Christiansen. My passion is making wire jewelry. To learn a really basic wire jewelry technique and to see me demo Meylah’s Byte-Syze Learning tool, click here! If you aren’t familiar with Byte-Syze Learning, it’s a tool within Meylah that you can use to create tutorials through video, text, and images. Once you create a Byte-Syze Learning, you are able to sell or offer your tutorials for free. I love coming across online tutorials (like this recipe tutorial by Ree Drummond) that demonstrate the lesson in a step-by-step approach. I can hardly wait to see what people are going to teach through Byte-Syze Learning!
Right now I’m also working on creating some eco-friendly jewelry, which I hope to start selling soon on my new Meylah site, Courtney Rian Designs, but I’m still testing the quality and durability before I make it available to the public.
Fortunately I’m blessed to be surrounded by amazing family and friends that encourage me creatively and even let me drag them to The Paper Zone, to our local bead stores, and even to the world’s largest gem show in Tucson once for the weekend of my dreams.
Who is the most inspiring artist, creative, or business person you know and why?
Ooohhh, tough question. I don’t think I can narrow this down to one, so I won’t even try. Here’s an answer for each category:
Artist: My mom raised me to have a great appreciation for Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter from the mid 20th century who was married to the famous painter, Diego Rivera. If you don’t recognize Frida’s name, you would probably still recognize her work. Much of it is very dark and gloomy, but I find her to be absolutely fascinating and the obstacles and tragedies she overcame in life are beyond believable.
Creative: Even though I mentioned her earlier, right now I draw a lot of inspiration from Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman and “accidental country girl”). She has a fabulous blog, she’s hilarious and her life really seems well-balanced, even as she juggles all her success.
Business: Over the last year I’ve fallen in love with the features offered at the photo editing site Picnik, which has led me to research and want to know more about the original founders as well as their CEO, Jonathan Sposato. When I read this interview Jonathan did with Techflash, it was an affirmation that the original flutter in my heart for Picnik was for a good reason (his profile even mentions that his favorite website is Etsy, so I knew he must be a good guy). I’ve never met anyone from the Picnik team personally, but from every experience I’ve had so far with their services, I’ve been delighted and I hope Meylah can adopt a similar company culture that Picnik exhibits. Recently, I listened to Jonathan give the keynote speech at the Seattle 2.0 awards, and after I heard him speak, I respected him even more. In his speech, Jonathan credited all his success to his team, even quoting that “90% of success is in the casting.” I truly believe that great success is dependent on the people and teams you surround yourself with.
We first found Taryn on Dreamers Into Doers, the Martha Stewart Community and decided we love any girl that wears a big, bright flower in her hair! We also love the cute, funky, and easy tutorials she puts together on her blog, Poppy Chic. We wanted to learn more!
Here is our interview with Taryn. ( Don’t miss the Flower Hair Pin Tutorial she shared with us – so adorable and easy to make!
So you have a great idea, beautiful products, and are super excited to get started selling your crafts. You are about ready to welcome your “baby” to the world and might be starting to ask…hey, what are we going name this thing? Here are a […]
I have been really fortunate over the years to be able to work professionally building eCommerce websites for wonderful brands. My career has allowed the best possible on-the-job training at everything from web marketing to web design and even product photography. Most companies (even big brands) are still pretty scrappy about the way they get things done on the web and there are a few important tricks they use that will help make any product you sell online look like a million bucks. I am so excited to be able this experience with our loyal and talented Craft Ideas Weekly fans! Hope it is helpful…
It is easy to see that few things are as important online as good, high-quality, detailed pictures of your work. Whether you are selling your art or crafts on sites like Etsy, Ebay, or Amazon or just showcasing your work for friends on Facebook, there are some secret tricks of the trade you can use to make photographs of your crafts look really professional.
Gear That Will Let You Photograph Like a Professional:
Not all of this is essential, but this is the typical set up used for product photography on a professional eCommerce website:
(optional but nice: Photoshop or other photo editing software to correct color, etc. )
The Most Important Things To Know:
Controlling the light in your pictures is the number one thing that will make your products look clear and detailed. The goal is to minimize shadows on your product and maximize white light. Many companies do this by simply shooting photos in a “tent” with photo-ready lighting made specially for shooting small objects. Here is the one I (and actually some well-known web sites you probably shop on) use:
If you don’t have access to a tent and don’t want to purchase one, you can improve the quality of your photos by simply taking the object you are photographing outside or near a bright window. It might not look like it came from a photo studio but it will certainly create a warm inviting photo that showcases the details of your work.
Shoot all of your images at the same angle. Many of the companies I have worked for shoot products straight on (not angled up or down) and straight on at a 45 degree angle for their primary product shots. Play with angles to see which ones you like best and take several…better to show many good photos of your work than too few.
Use a Tripod (or steady surface)
Pictures of objects come out much better when the camera is very steady. I have found that a tripod is a necessity but in a pinch a heavy box on a sturdy table will work to hold your camera still too.
Too Much Zoom = Less Detail
You will have to spend some time practicing with your camera to learn about what works for you. Luckily with digital cameras, you can take a bunch of photos and see what they will look like on screen almost immediately. Try getting your camera close to your object and see if your pictures remain clear. You may have to play with the settings on your camera to get the photos to come out. Once you figure out your formula, you can pretty easily repeat it for photographing all the items you create (especially if they are the same size and shape.)
Sets and Accent Accessories – Keep It Simple
Most sites keep the background of the product photos very simple to put the focus on the product. As you get more comfortable with your equipment and style, you can play with adding complimentary fabrics, backdrops, even marble surfaces underneath your objects to make your photos a work of art.