This week, after a quite stressful start from loosing a little guinea fowl, to finding French postage is way more than UK postage, I felt I needed to go into print.
I have successfully printed all my mugs, toiling with the foibles of sublimation heat and time settings, ink ICC colour management codes and a tonne of work directly on my illustrations tweaking contrast, line work, tones and brightness. With trepidation last night I peeled away the paper on my traditional enamel and thermal mugs and slowly opened my closed eyes. It might seem childish to shut ones eyes when you do a stressful thing, but it’s been a huge learning curve this month and I am anxious about everything!
Well they were successful. Breath. In fact I am over the moon. The enamel mug especially picked up the bright colours and detail well. I had increased my ceramic temperature by 10 degrees and it had proved a correct decision. But best of all it meant I could finally put them online.
I had always wanted to design for ceramic and I do enjoy the technical side that’s often involved after the initial illustrative part. Now I understand this mediums limitations, I can have some fun designing. The market is full of vector, solid coloured shaped graphics, but illustrative far less. That’s because, as in fabric design too, the huge variations in shade cause identification of a colour difficult. A printer with a gamet of just 12 colours will miss your range of 30 colours. My recent test sample from Vistaprint and Prodigy came back wrong…they were unreliable. But that’s to be expected. Spoonflower is the same and they supply their ink colour codes for you to insert into designs to ensure you print the true colour. Your screen colour us backlit and bright but also the screen colour matrix isnt the same as your print on demand suppliers matrix. Its tricky.
So with all these variations, I decided that all my print work had to be in-house so I had total control. Plus I can at little cost, reprint as and when I want. I can play with temperatures and timing and adapt as I progress.
I put out enquiries to a few print companies who could help initially with canvas for needlepoint and cross stitch. Happy with the final product I will use these for a year only until that too can be brought in-house. One UK printer has been hit by the covid- effect, being not less but more work. Everyone is trying to sell and make a living online, so any print companies are red hot right now with work load.
So I have my mugs ready, my fabrics almost resolved with just a few more samples to test, and the needlepoint completed, but then we get to postage and shipping! Well that really hit hard my good intentions re pricing and fairness. The Royal Mail as always, is very flexible with deliver charges. The site is good and for example, a 1kg package can go to USA in 5 days for just under £7.00. From France it’s an eye watering €28.00! What! Over 5kg and they charge almost €70.00.
I got a migraine trying to work out how to deal with this. Tony got fed up with my outbursts about shareholder greed and I poured over Etsy to see what the market said. It is apparent that most sellers include postage in their product costs as consumers are sensitive to shipping. Thats why everything seems pricey. It is the first products that get hit. Hard to get round as the postage is high. Once you can sell 4 or more products, then the profit margins are high enough to offer free shipping. Or they pass the extra costs of say USA shipping onto the European customers. Or some wont even sell to the USA. It’s sad that in this time of covid, small businesses trying to survive or even resurrect our once dying local craft industries, theses distribution companies muscle in again and make work for us trying to manoeuvre round a very restrictive pricing game.
I also know that crafting and making in-house adds value and there is a huge amount if skill in getting to a final product. For example my Pipi pintades take a week to illustrate to a suitable level for fabrics or other materials. There is a tonne of adjusting tones, shades, layout to fit the mug and as the mug dimensions alter, so to must the designs. There are then printing setups and finally the sublimation work. With experience now I have this very controllable but for every new design, there will be at least a week of trials and failures to wade through. When the final printbus successful, it’s a great moment of justification for the hours taken and honestly, I am very proud of my Pipi designs.
So where do we stand re shipping. Well I know my product value but I can only cover 50% of the shipping myself for 1 or 2 mugs. If I sent from UK I could cover almost 80%. I dont really like my customers to be hit by this but it’s a numbers game and no way to resolve. However once orders reach 3 or more, then I can offer Free Shipping. I am even considering a discount offer too. I was a cost accountant, so I know my happy levels to work at, but I also love to see my customers having choices re buying and enjoying my products. Over time I will be extending my designs, making many variations and the shipping costs will be absorbed far easier. For needlepoint and cross stitch it will be Free Shipping from day one.
My fabrics are currently printed in Germany and some may go onto a print to order site to enable USA /Australian/rest of world customers to buy with lower postage. Long term once I print my own fabrics, my initial production cost will drop and that will absorb the shipping. I worked in industry for over thirty years, so this aspect of business I enjoy. I worked in construction, steel, power control, distribution, warehousing, food and engineering. Funny how a little enamel mug could cause me so much heartache. But then this is my creation and I want it perfect and it’s been my dream to run a craft studio.
So shortly my site will be up and running. I am using a ecommerce platform called Ecwid that connects to all social media sites. I will be using Etsy but wanted some independence from that site too. I like plan Bs and the ability to use other sites to sell from.
Pipi Pintade, Naughty Goose and other Thistle Cottage and Judi Castille Designs will be available shortly to view at http://www.thistlecottageshop.com
Via Facebook and WordPress and Instagram too.
Any questions or comments please add below or if it’s about orders or reservations, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org