Friday, August 15, 2014

Process: Making shrink plastic magnets

 One of the things that I try to do when I sell stuff at my convention tables and online store is have a wide variety of items at different price points, so anyone who wants a piece of my artwork can walk away with something. Shoot, even if you're broke you can still walk away with a killer postcard with my website on it- for future reference when you're *not* broke.  ::nudge:: ;) I also make it a point to put my art on not only prints and pieces of frame-able art, but also on products which become part of the customer's life that they can take with them on their day. 

A magnetic front door is a great place to take inventory on finished packs as I make them.
 A staple of my merchandise selection for the past few years has been my magnet sets. I usually package them in 2 character sets for $10 each and they are cut, cooked and assembled by me in my 'free time'. I've been messing around with shrink plastic since I was a kid playing with Shrinky-Dinks in the 80s. My mom, a retired seamstress- even helped me as a small child sell my first Shrinky-Dink jewelry (under the eponymous banner of 'Paige's Cute Things') when she would go to sewing shows. I distinctly remember my mom handing me over my earnings afterward and getting a jolt of greedy excitement. It was just a few bucks but that satisfying feeling of receiving money for something I enjoyed doing was something I would chase for the better part of my life.

 I rediscovered the awesomeness of shrink plastic a few years ago after I started selling my work at conventions. Looking for new ways to present myself, I came across printable blank sheets of shrink plastic paper and went to town creating jewelry such as necklaces and brooches. One of my first pieces of jewelry, my roller derby girl necklace, landed me my first interview and product review on a roller derby blog. I even sent a giant shipment to the gift lounge of the Oscars back in 2009 to be touched by and given away to real, live *famous people*. It was pretty neat. Aside from jewelry, I also sold them as magnets- but it being the early days of conventions I didn't know what I was doing. Instead of packaging the magnets as sets I would have them all loose on a giant magnet board I clumsily propped up on my table, which would get knocked into and pushed off the table as customers would grab the magnets they wanted. It was a bit of a mess. Especially in-between shows when I had to put them away stacked in tupperware containers where unprotected they could chip and break. But still they sold well, even better than the shrink jewelry- I think because they are something EVERYONE can use and appreciate. Shoot I even know people with kids who like to play with them on the fridge while sitting on their kitchen floor.

 I've had some concern from well-meaning but misguided people in my life who don't understand why I would want to tell my 'secrets' of how I make my products. Honestly, there's a few reasons for this. Making these magnets and other shrink plastic accessories is one of my more labor-intensive processes of creating merch. If anyone else is crazy and determined enough to get themselves elbow-deep into doing all the things I have to do to make these then by all means- go for it. I just ask that you are as generous with your processes as I have been with mine and perhaps we can all learn from each other. Also I am not threatened by other people having similar merch as me- since I believe people are buying my magnets and merch because it's features my artwork, not simply because it is a magnet or a bracelet, etc. I mean really, if you're that hard up for magnets just to have magnets- there are plenty of places you can get some for way cheaper. I also wanted to share my processes so that people can see exactly how much work goes into making them- this is one of my products which is almost 100% assembled by me, all I buy are the blank sheets, magnets and packaging materials. Some products like my stickers (Stickermule), prints (Overnight Prints) and artbooks (lulu) I pay to be produced by an outside company who then sends me the product that I sell. Though if I *did* have a print shop of my own I'd be a very happy girl, haha. Really though it's just nice to be appreciated for the hard work I do making the products I sell and hopefully this will educate people on my processes, whether they are simply curious as to how I make all this stuff or want to try their hand at making their own shrink plastic creations.

My process:

Step 1: print
Step 2: cut

Step 3: cook
Bonus video:

Step 4: spray

Step 5: glue

Step 6: attach
Step 7: wrap

Step 8: admire
If you want to get some of my magnets for your own, check out my convention schedule to see if I'm coming to your town! If I'm not, or you're a hermit like me- be sure to check out my etsy store!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Aftermath: Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival 2014

My art on the lanyards! Pretty neat!
 Last weekend (7/25-27) was the 2014 Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival in Asbury Park, NJ! This was my second year attending the show and I definitely had some mixed feelings this year. Like last year, I did all of the art and branding and in return got hooked up with vending space at the show. I invited my best friend Fenny of Little Asian Sweatshop to come out with me and was hoping for a repeat of the insane success I had at last year's show. Which is kind of the thing about conventions and vending, you really have no idea year-to-year how it's going to pan out. The spot I had last year next to the entrance had been bought out, so I was given a more Artist Alley-style set up of a long row of tables (3 6' tables- an 18' super table!) in the corner by the stage. From my perspective on the floor it definitely didn't seem as busy this year as last year- the weather wasn't as nice and the upper deck was unaccessible to the show due to construction, so the main floor was crowded with artists and vendors. Fenny and I also busted out our new Victorian swimsuits for the affair, with ridiculous poof-ball hats to boot. They were a hit and we will be absolutely be wearing these to more shows in the future. We're already planning a spooky rendition to wear to Monster Mania this fall, which will include skull makeup, 'RMS Titanic' labels on our hat bands and ribcage corsets. I am super excited.

Photo courtesy
Our 18' SUPER TABLE! So much stuff!
 Much like at Baltimore Tattoo Convention earlier this year, the attendees also seemed to be more interested in looking and hanging out rather than buying stuff. There was an overall attitude to the crowd this year that kind of rubbed me the wrong way- like 60% of the people attending had no interests in anything. Guys that were 'too cool' to get excited about stuff. Indignant boyfriends who got annoyed if their girlfriends stopped to look at our table. Lots of teenagers who obviously spent their whole 'allowance' getting to the show so they have a place to hang out with their friends all day unsupervised. People were also being, for lack of a better word- cheap. Like agonizing over purchases that were less than $5. And people trying to haggle over single item purchases right as they came to the table. And believe me, I'm all about value and deals at my table- if you engage me in healthy conversation and build a rapport with me and then end up buying a few items- I will most likely throw an extra few buttons or a sticker or other goodies in your bag. But to just roll up and demand an item clearly marked as $18 be $15? I'm sorry, but no. Also with my attempting to make vending at conventions a viable portion of my career, I need to take a serious look at the numbers and economics of this endeavor. I keep records of how much I sell and break that down into what I would consider an hourly rate. Shows with especially long hours like tattoo shows eat into that rate as there are longer lulls in sales and an overall lack of urgency when compared to shows with shorter hours.  If at the end of the day I don't reach a certain monetary goal with my table, I may as well pack it in. There comes a point where if I do not make back my expenses such as travel, hotel and table costs then I am hemorrhaging money and would actually be making more money staying at home. Which is actually what ended up happening on Sunday at Visionary, plus Fenny and I were going to drive all the way back to Maryland and wanted to beat beach traffic.
Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy
 I got a lot of the reseller assumptions as well- where people literally do not realize that I drew and made all the merch I sell until I tell them. And for every person I tell, I'm sure there's another 3 people at least that I don't explain myself to who just assume I just get all my merch from somewhere and flip it. Which can be frustrating, especially when I've already invested a lot of myself into maintaining a table and all the merch upon it. While most people are out getting blasted on Friday/Saturday nights- I'm at home drawing and cutting and making in preparation for shows like this. Maybe it's that I'm used to working comic shows for so long- when the attendees are all nerds who by nature are obsessive they tend to come in to a show with an understanding of how conventions work (like artist alley is where artists are...) and with a clear set agenda that includes making purchases. Even the most jaded fan is still a fan of *something*.

 With all of that however I will say there were some very nice people that I met at the show as well as people from last year who were kind enough to swing by and say hello. I discussed portrait commissions with some potential clients and hopefully will see that come into fruition in the coming months. I also greatly appreciate all of you who came by and bought stuff or made my day go by a little easier with some engaging conversation. Also I liked the hotel we stayed at- The Empress and the area around it on the boardwalk that I had the chance to visit- especially the crepe and Korean taco stands. My only gripe about the hotel was the price (hella pricey for what it was...) and there was no little store in the hotel (only a vending machine- which sold snacks, soda, Alka-seltzer and condoms. No water. WTF?). But the balcony was delightful- GREAT people watching. Especially on a Saturday night- we must have seen at least 3 separate people get busted and hauled off in cop cars, it was great. My husband and I plan on taking an actual trip FOR FUN down to Asbury soon so I can actually enjoy everything there without thinking about work. 

 So with this in mind I may have to rethink my venture into tattoo shows- I gave it a shot and it has it's ups and downs but for as expensive a venture as it is to do these, it may not be entirely worth the risk. It seems my true home as it always was is among the nerds. Also those 12+ hour days kinda destroy me.

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