fire breathing dragon cat binder

"Dominus Inferni" binder from TaraFly's Zazzle shop

I created this binder on Zazzle the other night, using my infamous fire-breathing dragon cat… he turned out so awesome, I’ve got one sitting in my shopping cart right now. Which is unusual, because I rarely purchase my own work. It’s nothing against Zazzle; I love their quality! I did initially purchase a coffee mug with Monsieur Inferni on it, a couple T-shirts with my logo, and some gorgeous greeting cards…but I typically buy products that serve a function, and there are only so many binders, magnets, key chains, sheets of stationary, and shoes that a person absolutely needs.
Rather counter-productive thinking for someone in the selling industry, huh? 😉

People purchase artwork mainly because a certain piece strikes a chord with them, and unless they are collecting the works of a particular artist, most people don’t hoard hundreds of prints. A few special pieces will hang on their walls, and perhaps they’ll pick up a coffee mug or T-shirt featuring their favorite work. At least, that is my approach to art.
I admire the work of hundreds of talented artists, but it has to speak to me personally before I’ll buy it, and make room for it in my home. Not surprisingly, two major themes are found in my collection: cats (in all genres) and regency-inspired pieces. An odd pairing, to be sure, and perhaps subconsciously my regency cat paintings were an attempt to establish order.

“Creating order from chaos” is actually the theme of my year, and the motivation behind writing this particular blog… which I know is shockingly pre-mature, as I usually limit myself to one blog each week. 😉 *giggle*

My unknowing mentor, Jessica Doyle, wrote a blog explaining why she closed her Etsy shop, and although I have no intention of doing the same, her post struck a nerve with me.
I’ve been feeling the stress of being spread too thin… being in too many places at once… in my attempt to be noticed in the vastness of net space. I have a website of my own, which currently serves as a hub: providing followers and potential customers with a list of my selling venues and social haunts. I promote my dotcom, and once they arrive, they are re-directed elsewhere… “follow me on Twitter”, “read my blog on WordPress”, “buy my art here, here, and HERE”. Tossed to the wind, in a matter of speaking.
I watch my web-stats like a hawk, using StatCounter.com, and the turn-over is incredible and disheartening. I’ve tried to place myself in my visitors’ shoes, and found my site lacking consistency and direction, but I was unsure what steps to take.

Watching Jessica struggle with making important hosting and e-commerce decisions for her business, it dawned in my sluggish brain what I needed to do. The light just switched on yesterday, burning dimly at first, and then flared feverishly last night… keeping me tossing and turning well past 2:00AM.

Instead of maintaining this feeble pit-stop website of mine, I need to create a “Go To” Place for shopping, sharing, and socializing with my customers and friends. Instead of pointing customers in different directions, I need to re-direct all my online efforts BACK into my website.
Sites like Zazzle and WordPress have excellent options available for integration. WordPress’ advanced features allow mapping to any domain of my choice, allowing me to bring my blog back home.
Zazzle offers an awesome tool, called Store Builder, that allows me to host my Zazzle shop directly on my own website, and customize it’s CSS layout to blend in seamlessly. 🙂
So why am I not taking advantage of these great features right now?? Good question.

As my business has grown, so has my dissatisfaction with my current host – although to Trevor’s credit, many of the limitations were known to me from the beginning. For a mere $40 per year, it provided a fledgling artist like myself a nice Flash gallery to display my work, and space enough for an artist bio, and a couple additional text-based pages. Initially, I wasn’t looking for a host large enough to handle PHP script files or a fully functional e-commerce program; I was unsure what direction my work would take and my expectations were low. My current host provided me with a cheap, attractive web presence. Although I did experience some frustrating server down-time during the holiday season…

Now that my requirements have outgrown the nest, and my current hosting expires in March, I’m looking into options that will allow me to use e-commerce tools, like Zen-Cart, to sell my prints, originals, and miscellaneous merchandise directly from www.taraflyphotos.com, as well as host my Zazzle products, my blog, and perhaps a small discussion forum for announcements and social interaction. 🙂
Zen-Cart is especially intriguing, as it offers the ability to track inventory, take coupons, create special accounts for repeat customers and/or fans, accept multiple forms of payment, and much more.

I will, however, leave my Etsy shop up and running. Aside from the friendships I’ve made there, I realize that Etsy’s traffic can’t be overlooked, and some new customers might feel safer purchasing my products from a “reputable” site with feedback and an administrative system.
I’ll also make originals available occasionally on eBay, as I’ve done previously. I simply won’t flush money down Etsy’s drain anymore, trying to keep my listings on top of internal searches, or get involved in forum politics. If I’m going to spend a large chunk of my time and money promoting my work, I want to reap the rewards on my own site.

In the end, though, I’m hoping that this transition… which will happen slowly over the next few months… will transform my small corner of the web-world into thriving little community, composed of friends and fans who can sit and chat about personal stuff, buy a print or three, and read about my latest projects. It will be the virtual home I’ve always envisioned owning. I might even build myself an eat-in kitchen, with a confectioner’s oven and a refrigerator stocked with cheddar and provolone cheese… and of course, every fridge needs to be plastered with magnets!

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