Monday, April 12, 2010

Scented Times at Iron Dog

Another incense update:

I talked with Rob about the whole incense thing. I wanted to know if it would drive him crazy. He said he wouldn't mind. He didn't give me the instant go-for-it attitude I was hoping for, but just because you hope for something doesn't mean you expect it.
Another thing that will hopefully ease him into it is the fact that he's working now. So, on my short days and days off, I can play with my stinkies while he's at work and not worry about annoying him.

I must admit I'm having a very tiny reservation of my own. One of the things that makes me laugh about Etsy is how often people complain about low sales. Well, my jewelry shop doesn't get many sales at all. But for the most part, that's fine with me. I don't have time for that many sales! I've got a life and a full time job that come first.
So call me optimistic, but I do worry that the incense might sell TOO well and I'll get bogged down with packaging orders. I don't think it'll be enough to drive me crazy. And then there's also the nature of the beast that will make it easier. Incense is relatively easy to make. Kind of a set-it-and-forget-it thing while it soaks and dries.

Which brings me to another question I need to address:
Do I offer only Made-To-Order incense where I do not begin making the incense until the order is received, or do I make a little bit of everything and wait for it to sell?
Made-To-Order obviously is ideal to ensure the freshest possible product. This might be the way I go until I get established. At first, I don't know what scents people will like or when it will be ordered. So I can just start taking it as it comes.
But then if I get lots of orders, and/or if I see a favorite developing, I can try having more pre-made, knowing it will sell soon enough.

I placed a $100 order of fragrance oils yesterday. I'm very excited. Lots of interesting scents that I can't wait to try out. Some are going to be mysteries to me, as far as how good the FO is and how well it translates to incense. But others I know (based on reviews and personal experience) will make good incense.

This order comes on the revelation I had about the best way to soak the incense. I read on a forum that some people use empty water bottles. They store the FO in the bottle, and when it comes time to soak incense, they just shove the unscented sticks in the bottle, close 'er up and lay it on it's side to soak. Just needs a rotation here and there to make sure all sticks get equal attention.
Well, I couldn't figure out what sort of water bottle they were using. But then I found my own. These bottles are tall, skinny, with straight sides and a flat bottom. No nooks and crannies to trap the FO and keep it away from the sticks. And they're slender enough not to take up too much room. I can stand them up in a box when I'm not soaking incense and they'll be out of the way.
The only adjustment I'll have to make is to cut about an inch off the non-burning end of the sticks so they'll fit in the bottle. Not a big deal, there's still plenty of stick left to handle and it will make packaging them for shipping easier.

Gotta run!

Friday, February 19, 2010


I know, I'm supposed to be working on that whole incense thing. I am... just... very slowly.

Anyway, in other news...
I finally acted upon a desire I've had for a while now.
I've seen some amazing lampwork bead sets on Etsy and I've always thought it would be fun to incorporate them into my jewelry. It would certainly give my stuff a splash of color! And, since I don't have the space or location to do the lampworking myself (*looks wistfully and apologetically at her torch and glass collecting dust*) then I thought I'd hook up with one or more of these amazing artists and get some beads from them.

So I contacted one today and told her how much I loved her beads and what my intentions were if I purchased her beads.
I know people that make these bead sets expect the buyer to use the beads in jewelry or something. But I don't know how many of those buyers plan to sell the finished pieces like I do. So I thought I'd do the right thing and ask. Couldn't hurt, right? And at the very least, I'm complimenting someone.

I think this will give me a little kick in the pants that I need to get passionate about my jewelry again. It ebbs and flows, that passion.
Or maybe, it will just make me pine for my own torch and make me angry that I don't have a place to melt glass myself. Maybe it will give me a kick in the pants in THAT aspect of my life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Secret's Out

Well, I suppose I'm not keeping anyone in suspense with the whole "Branching Out" thing. Does anyone really read this blog anyway? Well, regardless, it's a good place for me to write down my thoughts, plans, ideas, hopes, whatever. So here goes.

I'm hoping to open a new Etsy shop that sells only Incense.
I know. Incense is so different from jewelry that they don't even connect at all. I know that. I do plan on keeping the Iron Dog name, though... more on that later.
I'm still not 100% sure of my reasons for doing this.
One reason is that I believe that incense will sell better than jewelry will. There are still quite a few incense makers on Etsy, but not nearly as many jewelry makers.
Another reason: Incense is something I enjoy myself. I love scents and fragrances. I've even purchased incense from a couple sellers on Etsy.
Also, I feel that any sales will help get money rolling in and motivate me to work harder at both my incense shop and my jewelry. Besides, who would turn down more money?
I also feel that, unlike my jewelry shop, I can easily brand myself to stand out from other incense sellers (more on that later, too).
I feel like there was at least another reason, but it has slipped my mind for now.

So, first things first... naming the new shop.
Right now, I've got logo, banner, and product labels all designed up already with the name Iron Dog Fragrance. I recently thought about changing it to Iron Dog Incense... kinda rolls off the tongue better, but as I will probably only be selling the incense online, it doesn't need to sound good, but look good.
For one, keeping it as Iron Dog Fragrance allows me to be able to branch out in the future to... I don't know... soaps, lotions, whatever. Though for now, I don't plan on doing that at all (more on that later).
Visually speaking, Iron Dog Fragrance looks better. Why? Well, for the banner, etc. I chose a flowy, scripty font that I thought worked well with the idea of incense and scents. It just so happens that the lower case g in "Dog" and the upper case F in "Fragrance" kind of flowed into each other to create this neat swirly smoke-like curl. I thought that was quite appropriate and if I were more spiritual, I'd consider it a sign that the name should definitely be Iron Dog Fragrance.

I've done lots of "research" into selling incense on Etsy. I've done daily searches for incense to see what comes up and who are the main sellers.
Most of them don't sell JUST incense. Some do soaps, lotions, or make-up. Some are more spiritual and sell them as spiritual tools for religious rituals or self-improvement.
I plan to stay away from all that and just sell incense. Sticks. Not cones (for now). The only other thing I hope to sell from this shop is hand made ceramic and glass incense burners.
I will not claim any spiritual characteristics. I will not claim my incense is blessed or has magical properties.
I will not sell colored incense sticks as incense is meant to be smelled, not seen.
I will not buy 500 different kinda of fragrances, dip my incense in them and label them with the same name that the fragrance oil has. I plan to be a little more creative and selective. I will test fragrances before releasing them to the public. I will make an effort to make my own blends rather than just going with a one-stop bottle that I bought off the shelf.
I will write my own descriptions, rather than cut and paste the ones the fragrance oil manufacturer gave to the fragrance oil.
I will ask for my customers opinion. This will not be a done-deal once the sale is made. I want feedback about the scent. I will compensate my customers for their opinions with discounts on future purchases. I want to make sure I'm not the only one who has a say in whether or not the fragrance works. Just because I like it, does not mean everyone else will.
I will offer sampler packs.
I will include free incense with the purchase of a burner.
I will offer reasonable package counts. Who needs 50 incense sticks of the same scent? I suppose if you really like the scent, but that's where the custom orders come in. Some sellers ONLY offered packs of 50. I plan on 20.

Heh, turned into a bit of a list of Incense Commandments. But that is how I plan to separate myself from other incense sellers. There are a few others that just sell incense and don't claim it to have any spiritual or magickal properties. But there's always been something about them that just makes it feel a little hokey. Some quirky backstory or claim that just sounded a little too forced, regardless of the reality. I plan to be a no bullshit seller. In fact, I briefly considered making that the shop name... No Bullshit Incense.

So I've ordered 12 or so scents already. I got them from a place that I thought had reasonable prices. They also have a discount system which is nice. I have found another place that is much cheaper. I plan to order a few samples from the second place to see how their fragrances compare.
Some of the scents I have tested are not going to work out at all. I got a Green Apple FO that, when burnt in incense smells more like apricots than apples of any kind. But I still wouldn't dare trying to label it as apricot scent.
A few other scents are definitely keepers.
And others are passable, but I wonder if there isn't something better.

I don't plan on doing cones. Mostly because the drying time (I've read) is much longer than sticks and it's going to be hard enough for me to keep up with the soaking and drying schedules of the sticks.
Besides, with cones, I'd have to get different bags to pack them in. They also use more fragrance oil than sticks so pricing would be tricky. I would love to poll my customers to ask them if they would prefer cones.
I suppose that could be another way to brand myself. I could be as customer-centered as possible. Letting them decide what they want. Do they like the 20 count packs or do they wish the packs would have more? ...or less? Would they want the option of cones?
Giving the customer options is good, but I think too many options would just make things too difficult for me to be worth it. I guess I'll just have to see how well things sell at first. Maybe I'll have a good enough response without options!

As far as specific scents go...
These are the keepers: Frangipani, Rain, Cinnamon Bun, Vanilla, Firewood.

Scents that I'll offer for now, but will look for better versions: Patchouli, Nag Champa, Lavender, Sage & Citrus.

Scents that have, but definitely need to find better versions: Sandalwood, Hazelnut Coffee.

Scents that are right out: Green Apple.

The only scent from my initial order that I haven't tried yet is Strawberry Daquiri. The sticks are dry, I just need to burn it. I have a feeling it'll be more strawberry and less daquiri. But I've learned that incense is a funny animal. It can smell one way in the bottle, another way on the dry stick and then a completely different way when burned (ie Green Apple).

Another big thing I need to consider and discuss, is the support from Rob. When we first started dating, he loved the incense I'd burn. I even gave him some as a gift which he seemed to like.
But now that he's living with me, he seems to get annoyed when I burn incense. Enough so that I feel the need to ask if he would mind if I burned some. I don't think he minds the scent so much as the smoke itself. It seems to float right into his face. I've moved the incense to a different location and that helps. He doesn't complain then. But, when I'm testing, I need to be able to really smell it so I can decide if it's good or not, so I need to close to me. Which almost always means it's close to him, too.
I'll have to talk with him about this. I don't want to embark on this venture if it's just going to annoy the shit out of him. He means more to me than $2.20 a pack.

I had a romantic idea of opening the shop on my birthday. But that is only a week away and I still don't have shipping supplies yet. I don't think the incense packs will fit in the mailers that I use for jewelry, so I'll need to get others. Probably going to go with ULINE.

So I guess that's a good summary of all the stuff up until now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iron Dog Featured!

Hey everyone! Iron Dog was featured in a fellow Etsian's blog! Check it out!

Many thanks to The Ash Grove.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Craft show success!

Well, the largest craft show I participate in was this past weekend. Despite unexpected snow, there was a great turnout and I did fantastic! This has been my best show ever. Ever! I've done this specific show for 4 years now and this one was by far the best.

First, I want to thank Rob. He was a saint. He helped tremendously. Even when I didn't expect him to help. If I was busy with a customer and another customer wanted to make a purchase, he stepped up and helped them. He even made a few pieces right there in the booth during slower moments.

I had several return customers, which is always wonderful. I usually don't get to see my pieces again once I sell them. So when a return customer appears and they're wearing what they had previously bought, it makes it that much more special.

I even got another visit from "The Harmonica Guy". He had visited my booth last year. He's an eccentric guy who plays the harmonica. He told me he takes great joy in going to these craft shows and speaking with artisans and commissioning them to make him a harmonica holder using their specific craft. He's always wearing several of them on his person when I see him.
Last year he didn't commission one from me because he had just recently purchased one in chainmail.
But this year, we struck a deal! We discussed design details and color and size and all the good stuff and decided upon a price. He even gave me a harmonica to use while I'm making it, so I know if it is the correct size or not. I didn't get a deposit from him up front, and I know I should have. If he backs out of this, it's not like I can easily sell a personalized harmonica holder to someone else. But, I figure I have his harmonica! So, unless it's one that he doesn't care about, I'm pretty sure he'll keep up his end of the deal.
Right now, I'm waiting for my supplier to begin production on the rings I want to use for it. We had agreed upon aluminum rings and black anodized aluminum rings. But when I got home from the show that day, I noticed that my supplier had started making black anodized niobium rings. I would much rather use those than the anodized aluminum because in my experience the color layer flakes off very easily with the aluminum. The niobium will be much more durable.
Once my supplier starts making it in the ring size I need, I will contact the Harmonica Guy and suggest the new material.

I was also ambushed into joining a local guild. The Northern Virginia Handcrafters Guild is something I had thought of joining years ago. But I didn't because, at the time, they seemed to have requirements (as far as booth set up) that I couldn't afford to comply with. My mother is a member of this guild (and also the vendor in the booth next to me at this show). She's been trying to get me to join forever.
I would love to join because this guild runs several shows a year, all of which are very successful. It is very very difficult to get into one of those shows without being a member.
The vendor in the booth across from me at this show is the current president of the guild. My mother recruited her to come over to my booth and coerce me into joining the guild. They say that even though most shows are saturated with jewelry vendors, my stuff is very very unique. They said I would be a shoe-in to be juried into the guild as well as getting into most of the shows.
So I caved and agreed to join. I just need to find time to sit down and look through the website to see what I need to do.
It also means I'll probably be buying a booth display... i.e. pipe and drape walls. They assured me that I didn't need to do that right away, but I probably will anyway, especially since I did so well at this show.

So, there it is. My last show of the year and it was a huge success, complete with a commission as well as recruitment. A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A new venture?

Okay, so that new craft I was going to attempt... mentioned it in my last blog post... remember?
Well, I bit the bullet and ordered a smattering of supplies. Smattering. What a word. It doesn't sound very pleasant. Kind of like a combination of "smelly" and "splattering". Like diarrhea. "Wow, after I ate that kung pao chicken, I experienced the worst smattering in recent times."

Okay, that's gross. I'm done digressing and I apologize for it.

Anyway, my supplies are on their way and I'm wicked excited about it! They're actually on a FedEx truck right now en route to my apartment. Any moment now, it will be delivered. Thank goodness today is a short day at work. I fully plan to go home and check out all my goodies. Maybe even make something!

It's really pathetic how eager I am for it to arrive, even though I'm not there yet to open it. Seriously, it's lunch break at work and I'm sitting here playing on the web and I've got a browser tab open to the tracking page on the FedEx site. I keep refreshing the page every now and then hoping that the status will change from "In Transit" to "Delivered". Gotta love package tracking.

So yeah, keep an eye out for another update after I've had a chance to play with everything. I really think I'm going to go ahead and do this. I've already created a banner for my future new Etsy shop. I actually think I like it more than the banner for my current Etsy shop!
But like a good business woman, I'm going to take my time researching, experimenting and perfecting before I offer anything to the public. Patience, my dearies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


So, I've come to crossroads with my business. Actually, it's more of a self-imposed fork... or even a branch.
It could be because I don't have time to list items and promote as much as I should, but I'm not seeing as much attention/sales in my Etsy shop as I would like to. So I've been trying to think of ways to bring more customers in.

Alright, I should explain the REAL reason. Got time?

I am at a point in my "real" job/career where I think I'm burnt out. I need a change. Long story short, I thought about buying a bakery franchise and having fun with that. And I think I would. But my boyfriend pointed out that I would have to be there EVERY DAY, even on weekends, and would I enjoy it enough to do that? So, without intending to, he basically talked me out of it.
Instead, I would like to go back to my original dream of quitting my job and just focusing on my own business. The problem is, selling jewelry doesn't get you many return customers. Don't get me wrong, I DO have repeat customers and I love them dearly and appreciate their business. But I just don't get as many as, say, a candle shop, or a seller of baked goods. My product is not "consumable". People don't buy come back for more because the first one is used up.
So I've been thinking of things that I am good at (or would be good at) making. Things I enjoy myself. Consumable things.
I am still trying to think of something jewelry related, but until I am hit with that stroke of genius, I'm considering some non-jewelry related items.
Of course, then the question becomes: Do I create a new Etsy shop for the new items or just try to sell them along with my jewelry? Because I am not looking to replace my jewelry (though, if the new stuff sells well enough, maybe I will!) and the point of it is to get customers in the shop more frequently, so perhaps I will just add the new stuff to the jewelry and if it really takes off, I can set up another store.

I'm probably going to keep the details and specifics to myself for the time being. I don't want to make it public and then end up not doing it. I'd feel like a royal ass. I guess I'm just thinking out loud here, and wondering if anyone has come across a similar situation. I'm sure there has.

Then there's another part of me that thinks I just need to list more jewelry. Add more things that I've got waiting in the wings. I just wish I had the time for that.
Of course, you could say, "Well, if you don't have time for that, then how on earth are you going to have time for this new, special, secret stuff?"
Well, so far, this new, special, secret stuff is something that can be made easily. Photographs are not key, so I don't have to wait for a day off with good lighting. So that's another positive of the new, special, secret stuff: it doesn't require as much time as my jewelry does.

Anyway, I do have plans to purchase a small quantity of supplies and materials for the creation of the new, special, secret stuff, to give it a try. So eventually there will/might/should be a blog post about the experimentation. Stay tuned!