The Semi-Annual Report

We’re sort of working on branding a company, which includes annual reports, in Capstone right now, and it’s really interesting to compare my ‘imaginary’ company and my ‘real’ company.

Hi. My name is Kat, and I run a business out of my bedroom.

When I started this whole thing, it was just an excuse to try and make money back for the exposure unit I desperately wanted (remember that?)

Kat's Exposure Unit

basement pictures, yay!

Basically, I wanted to be able to print t-shirts for myself, and I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’- so I opened a store.

I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that it was a considerably more successful venture than I had originally intended. The end of summer came and went, and it sort of kept going.

At the end of last semester, I’d sold all but 7 of the original bags, and desperately needed more. So, over Christmas break this year, I cut, dyed, and printed approximately 200 more:

This is what a pile of approximately 200 not-yet-sewn-up project bags looks like. They take up considerably less space this way...

This is what a pile of approximately 200 not-yet-sewn-up project bags looks like. They take up considerably less space this way…

I reprinted some of the old designs (the post apocalyptic life skill print always sells quite nicely), and I also designed and printed two new ones. Here’s the first:

(also in pink and purple!)

(also in pink and purple!)

I shall save the second to show you for when they’re actually sewn together, because they’re prettier that way. I’m particularly fond of how this turned out, especially since those silly balls of yarn took way longer than they should have. I’m not exactly in a good line of work to be complaining about drawing balls of yarn, but seriously- one color vector illustrations of balls of yarn is really hard. If you’d care to stop by my little shop and see the other colors, you can do that here.

I spent a good part of Friday and Saturday sewing bags together, with some interesting consequences:

The only thing that could make this better is if I was buried in there somewhere...

The only thing that could make this better is if I was buried in there somewhere…

This, apparently, is what happens when you run a business out of your bedroom. All those bags seem like they don’t take up too much space until you actually lay them out. They grow, I tell you. They expand to fit the space they are given. There’s probably a new law of physics waiting to come out of the way these things behave. “The Law of Whether or Not Katherine is Taking Her Life In Her Hands As She Walks Across Her Bedroom”… I don’t even know what it’s going to be like once they’re all sewn together.

The most colorful of closet doors

The most colorful of closet doors

So that the drawstrings won’t tangle, I’ve draped them over my closet door according to color. It’s nice because it allows me to see how much I have done, but it’s not nice because it forces me to stare at how much is left to do. Also, I can’t close my closet door until I’ve sewn them all together. Incentive?

I find it helps to ward off the boredom of performing the same 5 steps over and over if one has a movie playing in the background, so after much deliberation I bought myself a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and proceeded to wail along with the songs and make all of Magenta’s crazy faces along with her whilst I was sewing:

It's just a jump to the left!

It’s just a jump to the left!

Tim Curry, guys. That man is brilliant. The first time I watched it, I was pretty on board until the ending happened (I shan’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it), after which I didn’t like it at all in the very least, and it took me a long time to watch it again after that. Then again, I also didn’t like Monty Python the first time I watched that, so clearly my opinions cannot be trusted.

Another thing that’s new with the shop is most certainly something I should have done a long time ago…

TAGS!

TAGS!

I don’t know how my shop survived six months before I made tags! I’m a vis comm major after all, the fact that I waited so long to do this is nothing short of disgraceful. Etsy doesn’t give you a lot of personalization space to work with, all I have is a little 75x700px header that I can put an image into, so my shop can’t really have that much branding. However, my hope is that the tags add a bit of a professional vibe, and also that they encourage return customers. There’s a coupon code on the back ‘for your next purchase’, along with care instructions (which are also printed on fabric tags inside the bags but who’s counting). There’s also space back there so that I can write the number and color name of the bag that the tag is attached to.

Action Shots! These were the first two bags to get shipped with tags attached!

Action Shots! These were the first two bags to get shipped with tags attached!

I wonder how many people will notice that there’s a little sheep in the damask pattern. It’s like a little secret in plain sight that I can share with the more observant masses πŸ™‚ Did you notice him there?

There are a lot of little alterations, much like the addition of the tags, that are important to make as one realizes that the shift from ‘This sounds like a cool summer project!’ to ‘Holy cow guys I have an actual business and there’s a demand for my stuff!’ happens. For example, when I started all this in June, my screen washouts occurred outside, which is just a terribly not-good idea when your store still requires restocking in January. With the help of a very friendly powwow of home depot employees, however, I discovered a way to attach the pressure washer to the shower in my parent’s bathroom. Thus, indoor screen washouts could occur!

Along with the cold, wintertime is just generally a bad time to take glamor shots of bags to be listed- although I love everything about winter from a personal standpoint, it is generally ugly through the lens of a camera. Everything just looks dead. Everything is dead. Or hibernating. I solved that problem with $30 and a trip, once again, to my friendly neighborhood home depot:

The college student's lighting studio

The college student’s lighting studio

I have two shop lights, from Home Depot and a cheap (ugh! polyester!) sheet from wal mart, and now I can take really nicely lit photos of the new bags without risking frostbite for something that’s just going to have a drab background anyways. I still much prefer natural lighting, and the pretty backdrop of some vibrant green foliage is hard to beat, but as far as alternatives go, I’m pretty pleased with this solution. The light that my lamps give off is only slightly cooler than sunlight, and I can control the shadows much more effectively. When I grow up, I’d like to have a pair of actual photography strobes, but $30 for a pair is a lot more reasonable than $400 for one, at this stage in my life. For the next few months, I have access to the photo studio in the art building, which I may take advantage of at some point, but the whole point of this store is that I don’t need to depend on anyone else’s stuff to make it happen.

Also, as a side note, don’t be giving me crap about how wrinkly my sheet is- I took this picture of the setup when I was still testing to see if everything would actually work. I ironed the stupid polyester sheet for the actual shoot.

I was talking to Rusty yesterday about the things that I’ve learned here at Truman, and aside from the idea that I think I’ve learned more of the ‘how to deal with this situation in life’ variety than I have ‘what this button in Photoshop does’, we both agreed upon the importance of interdisciplinary learning to a visual communications student. It’s one of my favorite things about Truman, that I can take so many different classes and yet they all relate right back to what I’m doing in vis comm.

Now, most people, in the summer before their senior year, do an internship, but I opened this store instead- and I’m still of the firm opinion that I’ve learned so much more doing this than I could have under any other circumstances. I use skills I learned in fibers, printmaking, andΒ  vis comm, and it has taught me about advertising, business, and marketing, along with some fun facts about SQLs (those things that control what happens when you type a thing into a search bar… COOLEST EVER! I could do a whole post just on how cool that stuff is, but I won’t subject you poor people to it…). What I’m trying to say is, I know a lot of art people in general look at etsy with some degree of disdain, because they think it somehow emphasizes on a different aspect of the creative life than universities do, but it really doesn’t. There are better things to do than to kick at the line between ‘art’ and ‘craft’- everything is both, and everything is neither. The fact is that this store has provided an interdisciplinary outlet for all the foundations I’ve learned at Truman, and has provided me with the time and capacity to think about and question what I want to happen with my life after school, and there’s just no substitute for that.

Sorry, that got deep really quickly. I can go from tidal pool to rift-in-the-ocean-floor in about two seconds, though, so I don’t think anyone is surprised. Here’s a picture of some more bags:

Purple. Purple is the best.

Purple. Purple is the best.

So, a summary: I started the store as a summer project, and it’s taken off in a direction I could never have seen coming. I’m besties with the ladies at the post office, and I ship these things all over the world! I’m a bit proud of myself. Time will only tell what the next six months will bring!

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