Friday, December 4, 2020

Hoodies

     I made 4 hoodie dolls for my Black Friday sale. It was not enough. They were incredibly popular and were snapped up immediately. When the sale was over I got orders for 6 more of them. I definitely think they are fun. I worked on hairing the heads before school, took a half day on Wednesday and got a HUGE amount of work done, and I managed to finish up 3 of the dolls I was working on.
      I was getting really frustrated with the hoodies for a bit because the sewing is challenging, to say the least. Sewing a curved narrow stitch, into a stretch fabric is very challenging. The machine(s) kept eating the fabric and I was getting super annoyed. So I finally decided it was not worth the stress and I used fabric glue to put them together. I know there are people who feel that glue is a dirty word when it comes to doll making, but I am a firm believer in using the best tool for the job. The hoods that are put together with glue are SO nice! The don't have a weird puckered stitch and they are incredibly strong. I also started gluing the hoods onto the shirts instead of hand stitching. It actually comes out neater than the hand stitching. 
        Something occurred to me while I was working on the batch of hoodie dolls. I will skip details if they are never going to show on a doll. I know that a lot of people love to know the little details are there, even if they don't show, and I agree, those little realistic details are super cool. But all the extra details also take extra time and materials. People don't want to pay more for their dolls and I don't want to have to charge more for details that are not seen. All the hoodie dolls lack belts. Or even belt loops. Skipping that detail also makes things sit nicer on the doll. I think it is worth skipping some things that don't show to keep costs down. 
      School has been challenging this week. One of the students was killed in a car accident. We don't have our usual way of dealing with the loss as a community. We have lost students before and usually the students will gather, sometimes many times, which is of course quite healthy to grieve together. But we can't do that now. We can't see a student struggling and take them for a walk to talk or just let them have a break. It's another new, weird, vaguely awful situation. Some of the teachers have mentioned the tragedy, reminded the kids that we have councilors ready to talk if they need it, and would post resources. Yesterday we spent all 90 minutes of one of our classes talking about grief, the stages of grief, more resources. That class really needed it. One of my co-teachers put together a really nice presentation. And then I told them some stories about me. I told them that I do understand some of what they might be feeling. I had a classmate when I was 16 who was killed in a drive-by shooting. I didn't know him well, but it was weird. I lost 3 friends my age when I was between 17 and 18. I explained that there really is no timeline for grief and you can't just "get past it". You have to go through it and feel all the feelings. And then even over 20 years later you might have a day when you are sad for a bit thinking about the people you lost, even if most of the time they don't even cross your mind anymore. The other teachers told some of their own stories as well. Then one of the students thanked us for sharing our stories and being vulnerable with them. I think it is easy for the kids to forget that we are human too. Even though a lot of the kids have run into me outside of school (I do live in town) I think it is still weird for them to think of us as having the same things happen to us that happens to them. 
     Anyway, like I told the kids, sometimes life is very random and we can't know what to expect. We need to look out for each other and not take our loved ones for granted. Call your family. Maybe send out a text to your people you haven't talked to in a while. 
     Tomorrow is my livestream of the results and door prize drawings for the Field of Dolls Online show. I am hoping it won't be super long, but it turns out I have A LOT of prizes that need awarding!
 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Fun Hair and Tiny Things

        At some point this year, not that I remember exactly when, I noticed that my usual doll hair supplier was now stocking fun colors of viscose. This made me super happy. Anyone who has seen me knows that I do love fun hair colors! My supplier of choice always has the nicest viscose hair. Some places you get sort of frizzy, short hair, that you end up wasting a whole bunch of while rooting the heads. But OOAK Artist Emporium has beautiful hair. But no pink. That is super sad. 
       I have a head I need to work on that needs to have partially pink hair. I figured I would have to paint it or something to get the right color. But then I decided to hunt around and see if I could find other suppliers that have fun colors of viscose. Feltrite on etsy , had exactly what I was looking for. And not just pink, but a nice purple, blue, "mermaid" blue, a sort of lime green color, a nice blond and navy. I have not used it yet but the colors are nice. And the shipping was super fast. I am excited to have new fun hair color options available!
     Since I have been working in batches I got a bunch more heads haired, just in basic brown. I found a way to do a hatless head where the hair still stays in scale, at least most of the time. Viscose is still a very delicate doll hair and will not hold up forever if hats go on and off, but it has a very realistic look for a long time, if taken care of properly.
     I also got my November Micro from Maggie Bennett in the mail the other day. I completely forgot to actually look at the card so I have no idea what this horse's name is. But I like it and I think this one will stay. I am pretty sure the fighting horses, from September and October, are not going to stay. I just have to get around to listing them. I have shipped so much stuff recently, and with the show results coming out tomorrow I will have even more to ship next week, so I am not in a hurry. Though if someone made a good offer on the pair I would pack them up and let them go. 
     Speaking of the Field of Dolls Online show. The live stream for the results and prize drawings will be tomorrow, Saturday December 5th at 3:00 EST on the show page on Facebook. I will announce champs and reserves and draw for several door prizes. Full printed results will be emailed to all entrants sometime after the live. 

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Heads

     I'm back into doing things in batches. Sometimes it's just an efficient way to work. I have a bunch of new orders from my Black Friday sale, so I am starting to work on the heads. I have this cool teal one done. I also ordered some more fun colors that should be here on Friday I think. 
     I got this redhead done. I also got part of a brunette done. I have a whole bunch to go, but it's a nice start. I think I have several more brunettes and I don't remember what else. 
        I have also been picking away at these heads for a separate project. I don't love nylon hair, or full roots, but these came out pretty well. I am really pleased with their faces at least. 
      The hair is a low heat type nylon so I either run them under hot tap water, or very gently heated in the microwave (the water, not the heads!). These heads have all been treated and now I am hoping to "train" the hair to lay flat. Once they are dry they will be finished and ready to head out. And I am excited, I can get another project knocked off my list. 
     Sometimes working in batches is very boring, but hairing a bunch of heads all in the same day was not too bad. I took breaks when it started to bug me too much and I got a decent amount done. I still have plenty to go, but I don't need to rush it. I think perhaps the next thing I do will be to start on a ton of hoodie dolls. 
 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Gail’s Gift

     I have fairly poor lighting in my house. I am used to it for the most part, but sometimes it can cause issues. Like during my last live sale for one. During the miniatures sale in August my phone battery nearly died (I use the phone for the lives). My extra battery/charger was also dead. So I had to get my plug which was not long enough to reach the outlet from where the camera was. I moved everything and the lighting was so bad I had to turn off the overhead light and work in very dim light (it was daytime anyway). This past Friday's live I think I must have had the camera in a slightly different spot than I usually do, the lighting was atrocious. I have been considering getting a ring light for months. They are supposed to be excellent for videos. I hemmed and hawed for too long and my sale day arrived. I had no ring light and it was bad. So again I considered buying one. 
     And then I didn't have to. 
     Monday I arrived home from school and there was a large Amazon box in the middle of my kitchen. Nothing I recently ordered from Amazon was due to arrive, so I was puzzled, but at that moment (really, it was right then) I got a message from Gail Berg asking if her gift had arrived. Hmm...
     Gail had sent me a ring light! How cool is that? I had to set it up and try it out, but I didn't want to do a live right away. But the lights are supposed to be great for selfies too. OK, that's a way to go. 
        I didn't have time for the experiment until it was already dark out. But it went really well! My selfie was not dim in any way. In fact I was incredibly well lit. Now for a small item experiment...
    Yup, we can see the doll head clearly! This was excellent news! Now people will be able to see what they are thinking about buying. I am very excited for this. The hardest thing about the ring light is having THAT much light in your face is sort of blinding. I can change the light levels, but I don't know that I can turn it down enough to be perfect for my eyes and still make it possible to see the products. But I can definitely experiment and figure it out. I am THRILLED that people will be able to see things now!
      Thank you Gail for such an incredibly generous gift! It was definitely an awesome bright spot in my week! (lol, see what I did there?)
 

Monday, November 30, 2020

More Live Sale Follow Up

     Sending everyone a detailed invoice from my live sales is definitely a good way to do things. That way everyone can check to make sure that the items they are pretty sure they claimed are on it and they can also see if something extra got in. That does happen, especially when I am dealing with 46 bags (like I was during this sale) and miniatures. It really is extra tricky to sell the miniatures during a live sale. I may have to consider not doing it, or maybe offering it as an add-on that people can claim when they send me their email addresses. I am not sure. Anyway, the detailed invoices help everyone, even though I don't put so much detail as color of things. But invoicing takes a long time. I pack the items for shipping while I am working on the invoices. Though I don't seal anything until the invoice is paid, in case I need to change something in the order. 
     Saturday I worked on invoicing and packing for 7 hours. Then I decided that it needed to be enough for now and I stopped. The bag on the left is all of the finished orders, postage attached, just waiting to go to the post office. The smaller bag on the right (which looks the same size because it is packed strangely) are the packages waiting for payment. When I took this photo I had a couple more that I needed to seal and put in the other bag. I also have one more bag in the closet that is open boxes waiting for dolls I need to make. Those will of course get packed and shipped as I finish the dolls for them. 
     I know a lot of people think I should take more time with packing and shipping of items. Surely most people don't really expect their Black Friday purchases (for example) to show up in the first week of December? And while I am sure most people are entirely reasonable and willing to wait at least a few weeks, if not longer, I don't actually do the quick shipping for my customers. At least not mainly. Yes, I do like to get things to people as soon as humanly possible, but as I have mentioned many times in the past, we have a serious lack of space here. The bags of packages to be shipped are blocking the front closet, if I need anything out of there they need to be moved so I can get in. It is also entirely likely they will be an obstacle to go around or trip on. I want my tiny amounts of walking space back, so I get them out quickly. 
     Even with months of work without pay (when you are making things and putting them away instead of selling, you are not getting paid) and the days of work that go into the sales themselves, I have found that the live sale format is still the one that works the best for me. People tell me they are fun to watch and after I get over my initial nerves they are fun for me too. I love being able to give prizes and I love looking for new ways to add something new and different to the sales. So even though they are a ton of work I think they are here to stay. 
 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Setting Up a Live Sale

     There is definitely a lot that goes into holding a live sale. If you, like me, make the majority of the things you sell, you will spends months making and accumulating items so you have a good variety to offer. I do my lives with my phone, and everything shows up backwards when you flip the camera. So I print out everything backwards if it is something I show for people to read at home. I have a very small space available for my sales, but I am pretty creative with my use of space. The tripod and all of the items end up spaced out on my bed. This year I had a new pink unicorn tapestry (it can also be a table cloth for when we have live shows again) from my friend, Lynn Isenbarger
    The dolls are stored wrapped in paper towels so I make sure they are all unwrapped and laid out nicely. I make walls with pillows so things don't fall off the far side of the bed. I have everything I need to run the sale right in front of the tripod. This is my list of sales rules (also doubles as my script for the beginning of the sale when I am still freaking out), a clipboard so I have a hard surface for writing, a sharpie and a pen, and my printed name tags for the bags. For the miniatures sale I held in August I started doing the printed up name tags. Anyone who expresses interest in attending the sale and anyone who has purchased from my sales in the past gets a printed tag. This makes the beginning of the sale, when I am starting to set up the claim bags, run more smoothly. 
     I was tired at the end of the sale and I forgot to take photos until I had already started to clean up. I did have a bit of a mess, but it was not too horrible. Oh, another good thing I remembered this time around was to have my on-the-go extra phone battery ready. I know from experience that even when my phone is fully charged at the beginning of a sale, the amount of battery power the videos use will drain the battery and give me a low power notification before the end. My extra battery was not charged during the miniatures sale and I had to plug into the wall. It was not good. So I was prepared this time and only had to take a few second to plug in. I definitely need to get a ring light though. My room lighting seemed even worse than normal during the last sale. It is hard for me to show my sales items in bad lighting. 
      I have always put my claim bags at the foot of my bed until this sale. This time I made a pillow wall at the head of the bed and lined them up there. This worked so much better! I paid close attention to keeping them in alphabetical order and took a bit longer doing that than I usually do. I feel it was worth it. I spent less time stressed that I could not find someone's bag. No one ended up with a duplicate bag because I could not find theirs (this MAY have happened one time at a previous sale, but I am not positive) and nothing fell over. I think this will be the placement from now on. At least until I can safely have helpers with me. Then I will probably see about having Elecktra keep the bags in order. And maybe put the miniatures in the bags. I have not figured out the best way to have her help me. It's now been over a year I have been running the live sales by myself. The first one, Black Friday 2019, was because I had no idea. The rest were because of quarantine. But eventually I know I will be able to have her come and help me. 
     The setup and immediate aftermath of the sales is not too bad. I am usually very organized, can make excellent use of space, and I have enough practice doing the sales that even though every single one of them has scared me I think I have gotten pretty good at them. The only work I did on Friday, other than the sale itself, was to make a list of people who had claimed items. There was a lot more work to come. 
 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Procrastination



    Wednesday in government (class) we had 19 minutes because it was a half day. We watched the above 14 minute video on procrastination. It is absolutely worth the watch. Plus, the rest of this post will make sense if you watch the video. 
      I don't really possess an instant-gratification monkey. I have said several times before that I am bad at free time. It's true. I have goals and while I do procrastinate a bit here and there, having goals and deadlines makes me productive. Lots of things count as deadlines for me. Having a custom order is like a deadline for me. I don't like to make anyone wait longer than a week or two for their dolls. If the order is complex, or if I am extra busy, it might take me a bit longer to get the doll finished. At that time my panic-monster will wake up. I definitely have a panic monster. He's loud and insistent and is often telling me that I am slacking off. My panic-monster is mean. 
     I have had a lot of people ask me, or just wonder, how I get so much done. Some of it is deadlines. And goals. A lot of my deadlines and goals are completely arbitrary. There is really no real reason I HAVE to get a doll done within a week or two. I have just decided that is how it should be. I don't like to make people wait. I love getting orders, but having them in my book is stressful. I want to get them out of there as quickly as possible. I don't HAVE to get a ton of items made for my live sales. But I figure if I am going to go through the effort of putting together a sale, which is a ton of work, I might as well make it worth my while and worth the while of everyone who attends my sale. I like to have a big variety and at least a handful of each type of item. So when I decide on the date of the next live sale I figure out how much time I have before the sale. I then decide how many dolls I want to have available. I break it down by how many I HAVE to make per week. And then I start to work. I don't really procrastinate, I am more likely to try to get everything done NOW. When I am judging a photo show I will often get it done in a day. I figure, if I can judge a live show in a day there is not a lot of reason I can't get a photo show done in the same amount of time. Or maybe 2-3 days. The problem, for me, comes when I clearly cannot get everything I want to have for a sale done right NOW. 
    The panic-monster wakes up. 
    He's not too loud, or too mean, right away. He just whispers at me. He tells me I am behind. I don't have enough stuff made. I don't have it planned out well, I will never make it. My panic monster comes at the beginning of a project, not at the end. It upsets the whole system and I have to work ALL THE TIME. I have to see if I can get 6 dolls finished in a week (the answer is yes, I can). I have to also work on the small stuff at the same time, I can't focus on just dolls. The result of that is several months before a sale, I am super busy and freaking out part of the time. It's rough. 
     I don't have a solution to this. But I am working on it. Over the quarantine I was working on doll things, helping Ethan with the house, but I also made sure to take all the opportunities to hang out with my guys. For this live sale that just passed I did not reach my doll goal, I was 2 short. And I was OK with it. It was important to stop. I told the panic-monster to zip it and that it was fine. I had enough stock, I had planned enough, and done enough. And I stopped. I watched Criminal Minds with Ethan and didn't do (much of) anything while I was doing it. I did end up answering sale questions in emails and messages, but not too many. I spent time with Travis. We went and did errands, went and got a music stand from my mom. Just spent some time not working on dolls. I worked on judging the Field of Dolls Online show. I have still not seen all of the photos since I am only currently looking at the divisions I am judging. But damn, I wish I could give prizes to everyone (oh wait, I can!). The amount of creativity in the show is amazing. And seeing the photos has been a nice break. And technically I guess I am still working, but it is different work. 
    Anyway, this was just a long-winded ramble with some hints into how my brain works. I believe in goal setting and doing my absolute best to meet my goals, as soon as possible. I am also bad at slowing down some of the time. I do spend large portions of the year doing much less, but I do work a lot. Sometimes. I have another couple of weeks of frenetic activity, but then I can chill a bit. I have already started. This week I need to work on shipping the stuff from the Black Friday sale and working on some math for the show. Saturday is the live stream of some of the results. Then the week after will be shipping show prizes. But then maybe a break. I am definitely still working on being better at free time.