Cleaning the storefront

Last Friday, I had a chance to consult with the talented artist Vann Godfrey about Kickin’ Wiccan, my jewelry shop on Shapeways. I’ve spent the past few days putting his advice into practice.

Vann’s advice was similar to that of Shapeways’ advice to its shop owners. Here’s what I’ve figured out, both from Vann and from my own investigations:

No more plastic (part one)

I don’t need to make test prints in plastic anymore. At this point, I know how to translate between one of my 3D designs and what will actually come out of Shapeways’ 3D printers.

No more plastic (part two)

Plastic models, no matter well I photograph them, will never look as good as pictures of metal jewelry. Plastic models look cheap. They detract from the look of the shop. A single plastic photo will drag down all the other pictures, no matter good those other photos are.

This has two corollaries:

– I’ve had to pull items from my shop because the only pictures I have of them are of my plastic test prints.

– I can also create rendered scenes from the same 3D graphics program I use to design the rings. I’ve reached the point where my scenes are slightly better than the photographs of plastic, but they still look artificial. They’re not good enough to put on my storefront. Even if I did, Shapeways frowns on rendered scenes; if I used them, Shapeways would not consider my store for promotional purposes.

So some of my designs will have to wait until I get metal prints and take pictures of them. That may be a while. Right now I’ve got $140 of sample prints (in raw bronze) sitting in my Shapeways shopping cart. Those prints will have to wait until my financial situation stabilizes.

This also means that I should stop designing new items. I can’t add a new design to the shop until I can print it, or arrange for someone else to print and photograph it for me.

This can happen: As a half-joke, I designed a heptagram ring for Sabrina Mari’s friends in Blue Star. It took me about 20 minutes. To my surprise, the response was so positive that I was encouraged to make it available for purchase even though all I had was a rendered image. I’ve asked the buyers to send me photos.

This is nice reinforcement. It tells me that maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m doing.

No more plastic (part three)

I’ve stopped selling plastic versions of my designs. For one thing, it helps the shoppers if they have fewer options to choose from. For another, I have to value my time in creating the jewelry.

Most of my designs are rings. When the shopper buys a ring, they have to specify the ring size. I customize the design for that particular size. This takes time. It’s barely worth doing for the stainless-steel versions of the rings; it’s not worth doing for cheap plastic versions.

In general, there many good reasons to work in plastic. Jewelry is not one of them.

Non-plastic ruminations

A couple of folks have encouraged me to investigate Etsy and eBay as additional storefronts. The logic is that those sites are far better known, receive more visitors, and are the target of more searches than Shapeways.

The more I think about it, the more reluctant I am to move in that direction. Here’s why:

– It takes weeks for Shapeways to fulfill an order. I’d have to add that time to the time it would take for me ship the Shapeways order to someone else. The Etsy/eBay buyer would have to pay sales tax twice, postage twice, and face a longer wait.

– I’d have to add a big markup to my items to make it worth my time. As good a designer as I may be, there are folks on eBay and Etsy with far better items, ready for faster shipping. It’s hard for me to believe that my items would be worth the additional time and money for the buyers. Any presence on Etsy or eBay would be a thinly-masked attempt to get the shoppers to go to my Shapeways page.

– If there’s a problem with a Shapeways order, Shapeways handles it. If there were a problem with an order relayed through Etsy or eBay, I’d have to handle it.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve completely written out eBay or Etsy as potential venues. Vann gave me an interesting idea: Use Shapeways to print designs with settings for cabachons. I might be able to offer enough “value added” to justify the higher price.

That’s for the future. For now, I have to rely on Shapeways’ efforts to promote their site (they want to become the Amazon of the 3D printing world), and my own efforts to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

And, of course, word of mouth. Know anyone who’s looking for Wiccan/pagan jewelry?

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