Monday, February 11, 2013

From Concept to Listing; the Journey of a Coaster

As I sit here waiting for my photo editing site to load (I swear, the thing is loading so slowly it is actually running in reverse!) it comes to me to share the story of getting a product from an idea in my head to being listed in my Etsy store or landing on a craft show table.

Ok, and I might have already caught up on Facebook and Pinterest and therefore heard my blog sobbing in the corner...

This weekend's project has been to dig out of their plastic totes all of the coasters that I made up at the last minute in December for my last craft show. I needn't have bothered as that show was, hands down, the worst show of the season. Ugh. Anyhoo, the coasters are adorable and I was so time starved that I didn't get to have a proper photo shoot for them so that I could list them later. Instead I blearily assembled them until 2am, then woke back up at 6am to package them up and go. So now, two months later, they're seeing the light of day again for their moment in the spotlight. I was lured outside by the siren call of the sun beating down on my porch, aka the best spot in the house for taking natural light photos. That was Saturday; I almost have feeling back in my fingers!

How it usually goes is this: I find paper that I absolutely, positively MUST HAVE as it is adorable/cool/funky and will make awesome coasters. I bring it and all of it's closest friends home with me and get to work. (Have I mentioned I collect paper the way some people collect purses or Pokemon? Yup, gotta have them all!) The paper is cut into squares and brought back downstairs to either my dining room table in the winter or one of my show tables set up outside on the porch in the spring/summer. I make new coaster designs in batches, as it rarely makes sense to pull everything out for only one set*.

With minimal interruptions, i.e. my boys are otherwise occupied, I can fill a 6' table with stage 1 coasters in about 1.5 hours. After that coat dries, the other three are applied over the course of another 3-4 hours. Once the last coat is cured, their little cork feet can be applied and they're ready for a good home. So at the end of a day's worth of work, I can have about 12 sets of coasters complete.

Coasters drying in the sun last October
 Now we move to step two: photos! Since each piece of paper yields two sets of coasters, there's always at least two of every design. That means plenty for shows and Etsy, depending on the season. But in order for them to be listed, there need to be good photos of them. For the coasters, I always take the same four shots; stacked at an offset, one lone coaster focusing on pattern, all four laid out for pattern variation, and one of them all tied up with ribbon, ready for gifting. (Etsy allows five photos, so the fifth is always of the cork feet. Thankfully, that's a photo you take once and use again and again!)

That said, do the math; 4 photos per set of coasters x 12 sets of coasters = 48 photos to take. Don't forget tying them up with ribbon 2/3rds of the way through so you can get all the photos in one sitting. Basically it's a good 2-3 hours of setting up, taking the shots, tying the ribbon, and finishing up the shots. Phew. But hey, then I'm done, right?

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, no.

Now begins the journey of editing all of those photos. They're downloaded to my laptop, brought into Adobe Photoshop Elements and edited so that all of the colors and details are as true to life as I can get them on a computer. After that, I upload them to FotoFuze for, well, background bleaching is the best way I can explain it. If I upload my images after only editing them in Photoshop, they wind up with a gray wash over the top of them, making them look dingy.
Photo after being run through only Photoshop; see the dinginess? Yuck!
 So I then run them through FotoFuze to remove that wash. Then, and only then, are they ready to be listed. Time for all of that editing: about another 8 hours. When I'm finally done, I swear I'm never going to do that many pictures at once again and go make things for the next week...which means I suddenly have a pile of goodies to take photos of. Curse you, you evil circle of crafty creation!

Completely edited photo, making these coasters ready to be listed. Oh look, they are...
 So there you have it, the creation cycle of a set of coasters from store to table. Now you understand why I give people death glares when they suggest that they could do this themselves or that I charge too much. If I truly added up my time, I probably don't charge enough. But then, that's a blog post for another day.

*You were wondering what the asterisk was there for, right? I break that rule when someone orders a set of coasters I have listed as made-to-order. And now you know. ;)

Happy Crafting,