Monday, August 22, 2016

Do You Even #HASHTAG, Bro...?

Gimmie a #Pound...

Wow! Trying to reach out to people is tougher than rhino skin stew when you're broke and trying to run a business on your own. Everywhere you look there are posts, listings, advertisements, and hooks for people trying to teach you the best ways to work the system, make more sales, increase conversions, etc. Most of it is filled with vague jargon about things you've already tried that didn't work or stuff that tries to get you to spend more money on one promise or another. Charlatans. The lot of them. Maybe.

One thing that people have told me should work like a charm is hashtags. A word or phrase preceded
by a hash or pound sign (#) is used to identify messages on a specific topic. #These #little #things #are #supposed #to #get #attention. Really? I've never been any good at remembering to use them. I'm not even sure if they actually work. But anything is worth a try. Right? What else can I do?

Everybody wants you to pay for everything. Air costs money. You better not get a flat tire without your credit card in your pocket. You'll be S.O.L., my friend. It's gonna cost you five bucks to say your own name at some point in the future. Someone might put a Trademark on it. Bobby™. If you just read this, you owe me $5. I'll let it go. This time.

What does it take? 

Having a good product is not enough. Hell. Having the best product is not enough. As if making your product wasn't hard enough, trying to get the tiniest bit of notice becomes a full time job in and of itself. What are you supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? 

SEO Speedwagon.

Facebook wants you to pay for people to see your posts. We're talking about people that already like your page. People that have already signed up to see what you're up to. And... Paying is no guarantee whatsoever that these people will actually see it. WHAT?!?!

Twitter is supposed to be a big deal. What if you have more to say than space allotted? NOPE! You ran out of characters. 

Email campaigns will cost you money, now. They're going to start filtering out messages that don't come from a business address. won't cut it. You'll have to pay for a vanity address in order to avoid being trashed before you've even made the inbox. But how long will that work.

All of these things translate into charging your customers higher prices. It's the only way to afford to stay in business. The rate at which these things change is so staggering that it makes your head spin. How do you keep up? You don't. Or you pay someone to do it for you. That means charging your customers more money so you can stay in business. Vicious cycle, anyone?

It's a lot of work. It's even more work to make it worthwhile. Remember that the next time you encounter handmade goods and/or the artists responsible.

This time I'm being a bit selfish.

I normally use this section to showcase other artists that inspire me. This time, I have something I need to share for myself.

I wear kilts. So do a good number of the people with whom I work. No matter if it's in the Ren Faire circuit, or the Steampunk conventions, many kilt wearers in these circles have found it difficult to obtain kilt pins geeky enough to suit their personalities. I know. I've asked. Why stop at kilt pins? Earrings, tie tacks, cravat pins, etc. I want to make them for the con folk in need. I want to make them Geeky. I know how. You can help.

Take a look at the video. Then check out the link below.

See the Campaign here

See you on the Dark Side,

Friday, April 8, 2016

Made To Fail

Ever here of Planned Obsolescence?

It's a very bitter subject for me as an artisan. But many people don't have a clue of the existence of such a concept. 

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time. The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases.

Producers that pursue this strategy believe that the additional sales revenue it creates more than offsets the additional costs of research and development and opportunity costs of existing product line cannibalization. In a competitive industry, this is a risky strategy because when consumers catch on to this, they may decide to buy from competitors instead.

The problem with this theory is that ordinary, everyday consumers have become complacent. Many choose brand over all else. I doubt they can take all the blame for it. These brands have more money behind them than they know what to do with. Endless money is put into advertising and packaging. But the construction of the product is always contracted to the "LOWEST BIDDER".

That means that the cheapest possible materials are often the ones used. The workforce may not be quite as skilled as they need to be. And you'll be spending more money on replacements because you wanted that deal than you would if you had just gone for quality in the first place. It may not always be the case. But think on it. Let it sink in.

As Artisans...

Me Making an Heraldic Crest
We put so much of ourselves in what we make. I talk about bleeding a bit with every piece I make. It's just about true. There aren't too many days I walk out of my workshop without shedding a little blood in the name of my craft. I'm also a bit of a clutz. That could be part of it.

But it means something to me when I know that people have put their love into making something. I would hope it means as much to the buyer as it does to the maker and vise versa. 

There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from making something well, of such superior quality that you know it is going to stand the test of time. It makes the hard work and the obsessing over each and every detail worth all the effort. That’s our reward. Being able to provide for our families couldn't hurt.

That being said...

...I'll see you on the Dark Side.

And now for something completely different... 

Some artists simply boggle the mind. That's the case with my friend Bev. I can tell you one thing.
This will blow your mind.

Here's a snippet from her own website:

Bev is one of those annoying creative types who is into everything. Once upon a time, that was called being a 'Renaissance Man' (or Woman, as the case may be), but these days she's just accused of having a short attention span, or alternatively, having ADD. Frankly, Bev has never met another artist who doesn't have ADD - too much creativity and too little time will do that to a brain. And when we say she's into everything, we pretty much mean it. Over the course of time, including grade school (hey, it counts!), she has done: painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic), drawing (crayon, pencil, colored pencil, ink, chalks, pastels, charcoal, etc.), sewing, costuming, beading, quilting, millinery, needlework (embroidery, cross-stitch, punch-needle, goldwork), leather work, metal work, wood work, faux-finishing, upholstery, gardening, herbology, floral arranging, cake decorating...the list goes on and on.
Amazing Pinup From Longfellows Designs

My favorite weapon in Bev's arsonal is her amazing talent for constructing miniatures. Her pinups are fantastic. Her pirates are amazing. What's not to like? She's brilliant. So is her work. It's the type of excellence that will last a lifetime.

Bev got into sculpting quite by accident, or maybe it was Fate, we're not sure. The only time she had tried sculpting before (not counting Play-Doh and the obligatory pinch-pot in third grade art class) was in art school. When the beginning level sculpting class began with subtractive method sculpting on a piece of
Dollhouse Mantle From Longfellows Designs
marble (basically, students were told 'go pick out a rock and start sculpting, and oh, don't forget to pay for your rock'), Bev, along with many others, dropped the class like the proverbial hot rock. She hadn't given a thought to sculpting since. Fast forward to October 2006, when she took a doll-making class and discovered Art Dolls, polymer clay, and a hidden talent. Although Bev had re-entered the world of cloth dolls in 2001, and was fairly happy in that world, the Art Doll world offered something extra, and she's been hooked ever since.

Wanna see what Bev's been up to? Me too. Go check it out.

Watches from DSC

You can never have too much time on your hands. Check out these watches from DSC's new Secret Stash. Tempus Fugit.
Why Wear Anything Else?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Inflation. Thy Name Is 'Merica.

The Time I've Been Dreading Has Come...

What I wouldn't give for an angel investor. Wings of gold that drop feathers everywhere. A leaky halo of cash couldn't hurt. It's not easy trying to build a business on your own when you've started with practically nothing. Dark Side Customs was started with $100 and the hope that I could build something beautiful. It's become a lot more complicated than that. 

I've been keeping my prices as low as I can because I remember what it feels like to see something I absolutely love and not being close to able to afford it. It's heartbreaking. Have you ever felt that? Then you are my people.

What does it take?

Some say looking successful is half the battle. Well... in an economy like ours, that battle will take quite a few more weapons to win. As a (mostly) one man operation, I'm designing product, manufacturing product, photographing product, editing photographs, writing copy, posting listings, marketing product, practically begging to be noticed, and feeling the sting when no one is buying.

Some say it takes money to make money. But what you you have no money? Not too many people think about the money spent by the artists when looking at the final product. In America, it's all about getting the bargain. I'm not going to go into actual numbers. But let's look at what I have to do on my end.

  1. I have to buy my tools.
  2. I have to buy my metals
  3. I have to buy my gemstones.
  4. I have to buy gas and oxygen for my torch on a regular basis.
  5. I have to buy my leather.
  6. I have to buy leather dye.
  7. I have to buy packaging materials like envelopes, bubble wrap, boxes, bags, etc.
  8. I have to pay for miscellaneous materials like bead wire, acrylic, chemicals, etc.
  9. I have to pay for each and every listing.
  10. I have to pay to renew the listings when items don't sell after a time.
  11. I have to buy displays for events.
  12. I have to pay to vend at events.
  13. I have to pay for electricity to run my lights and tools.
  14. I have to pay for the place in which I work. 
  15. I have to pay myself a wage for my work. (Something I've been neglecting for a long time.)
  16. I have to pay for childcare so I can actually have time to work.
  17. I have to pay for phone and internet in order to do business.
  18. I have to pay for gas, tolls, and insurance on the vehicle that gets me to vending events.
  19. I have to pay for marketing and advertising. 
  20. I have to pay for web hosting.
  21. I have to pay taxes. (That's a big pain in the... nevermind.)
  22. I have to pay for casting and other services I don't yet have the tools for.
  23. I have to pay for sales help. (That's every once in a while.)
  24. I have to pay for lodging at events away from home.
  25. I have to pay for photography equipment in order to photograph my product.
  26. I have to pay a portion of each online sale to Etsy even after paying for the listing.
  27. I have to pay a portion of every credit card sale to Square for in person purchases.
  28. I have to pay for postage/shipping on all online sales. (Much more than a simple stamp.)
  29. I have to take time out to write these blogs. (Time is Money. I never realized how true that was until I started trying to run a business.)
There's more. I just won't get too crazy with this list. The costs for all of these things goes up all the time. But you can see that there is a lot more going on in the background than most people ever think about when they say insulting things like: 
  • How much will you give me off if I buy two?
  • I can get this online for less.
  • You can cut me a break, right?
  • Will you take... (enter amount far less than the price of the item here)?
  • I could have made this.

Here's something I found just moments before I finished typing this post. It explains a lot. I think everyone should watch. I'm trying to figure out just how to apply it to my work.

(You Should Totally Subscribe To David Picciuto's YouTube)

So what's next?

No beating around the bush. Prices are going to have to rise. I've put it off for so long. So many people have told me that I need to raise my prices. They tell me I need to charge more because my work is worth more. I've just been so worried about people not being able to afford my work that I've been making the big mistake of making it so that I can barely afford to stay in business.

A few of my friends - people more successful in business than I - have gone out of business after the disaster that was 2015. They were fellow event vendors. Part of the issue was that they weren't charging enough for they're work. Not charging enough actually had the opposite effect of what you might think. Charging too little actually stopped people from buying. Couple that with the fact that attendance was at an all time low for a great many of the shows we did throughout the year... DISASTER.

I guess it's time to light a fire under my backside. I'll see you on the Dark Side.

Speaking of FIRE

It's time to focus on another of those inspirational people I've encountered along my journey.

Michelle Greenwood is an amazing artist, first rate pyrographer, a true inspiration, and a friend.

What is a pyrographer? Let's take a look at this. “Pyro” = fire; “Graphy” = writing. Pyrography means, literally, “fire-writing.” Pyrography, also called woodburning, is done with a tool similar to a soldering iron. (I kinda stole that from her sight. She said it a bit more eloquently than I would have.) One look at her work will leave you breathless. It's all done by hand. It's all imbued with the spirit of love.

Whenever I catch a glimpse of her works in progress, I feel an overwhelming urge to hone my own craft. Then I see the finished pieces. It's Pyromantic Genius from the hands of a Fire Goddess. Don't take my word for it. See for yourself.

“Tales of Beedle the Bard” Faux Book Box - From

A little from the artist:

I hold degrees in Japanese and Creative Writing, but art always has been, and probably always will be, my passion. I also dabble in costuming, pen and ink, and embroidery, but I like pyrography the best.

I enjoy pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally considered “pyrographic art,” using the medium to render themes that are unusual for the art form, and constantly testing and improving my skills and techniques.

Also, fire.

Most of my pieces are of a Pagan or Earth-centered theme. However, I love both history and re-imagined histories (like steampunk), and frequently work with those themes as well.

While I find the raw materials in many different places, all of the work you see has been hand-drawn and hand-burned by me. I don’t use any routers, engravers, or laser-etching machines.

What does this mean to you? This means that your piece, even if it is a pattern that I have burned a hundred times before, is going to be unique. No one will ever have exactly the same piece you have.

Every piece is a one of a kind work of art.

Check her out.

You can find more of Michelle's masterpieces by clicking one of the links below:

Friday, January 15, 2016

DSC Valentine 2016

Remember that video I was talking about in the last blog? This is it.

Why settle for Overpriced Roses that die or Cliche Chocolate? Use Coupon Code TRUELOVE to save 20% on the most unique Valentine's Day Gifts until Feb 8th. Click here: 
Please share this video with your friends and family.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hi, Controversy. How Have You Been?

'Bout To Get All Valentine Up In Here...

Hello, Beautiful People.

I'm sure we all know it's about time To think about Valentine's Day gift shopping. Greeting card companies really make a killing by celebrating a true "Lady Killer". Seriously. The guy murdered women. People eat it up. Go figure.

For some, it's just another day. Shouldn't we be showing our love to our partners every day? I think so. But some folks need a special day. For many, it's all they've got. Think about it. How many of us need to work hard to schedule a special "Date Night" just to be able to spend some true quality time with the ones we love? No matter how bad you think you have it... some have it worse. If not for special days like this, they would probably never get that special time together.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the day. We celebrate so many things. Why not take a day to celebrate love? So many holidays have love as an underlying theme. Love of family. Love of country. Love of those on the other side. Many of these holidays are centered around giving gifts. This one is no different.

Here's The Kicker

I started working with some of my friends to make a video for my jewelry business. It's a video for Valentine's Day. Sure it centers around LOVE. I decided to do something a bit different. We always see your typical couples doing typical gift exchanges. It's all over the TV, billboards, posters, magazines, etc. I figured it was time to take a broader view of Love. It takes many forms. Why not show some?

So I gathered some of my friends to create something... well... whole. While I wasn't able to touch on every type of love, (let's face it... the video would be months long) I did try to touch on something that should be addressed. I know I'm going to lose a number of followers with this but it has to be done. 

Let me just say this. "LOVE IS LOVE!!!" There is no one with the right to tell anyone who they should and should not love. It's simple truth. Judge not lest ye be judged. Get it?

Over here, on the Dark Side, we don't judge. This video is my simple way of showing how beautiful love is in all its forms. Not just the ones that were safe to air on primetime television in 1973.

The gift of love should be shared. So... This Valentine's Day, remember these words:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

On Another Note...

One of my "Jewelry Making Heros" is RockLove Jewelry. The owner/designer, Allison is a genius. Everytime I see her work I ask myself one simple question. "Why am I not studying under her?" I mean... LOOK! 

The piece pictured is Handcrafted in New York City by RockLove in official collaboration with Stargate. I mean... seriously. I would love to be doing stuff like this. I have quite a bit more to learn before I try anything like officially licensed works. But One day...

Here's a little bit from her site:

Find out for yourself.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Going For The Gold

So... Here's a first for me & DSC. Don't laugh. I know it's a little goofy. But it was my first time. Be gentle.

Please share with your friends.

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