Thursday 8 December 2016

Pingame ★

Hello darlings, this is my first blog post in 6 months!!! So yes, it's true I really am the worst blogger ever. But this year has flown by so fast and I've been so incredibly busy that I have simply neglected this blog in favour of other pursuits. Namely, running my online business and general daily life. But today is special and it warrants a return to the blogosphere because you see, on this day last year I launched my first ever enamel pin!

So let's call it my Piniversary.

Why is that special you may ask, well I recently brought out my 30th pin design so, you know... it's been a pretty good year.

all of the pins I currently have in stock.

You might be wondering 'what's the big deal?' what makes pins so special? While I can't give you a precise reason why they've become so popular in the last few years, I personally like collecting pins because they remind me of my childhood when it was 'normal' to collect dozens if not hundreds of the same kind of item like pokemon cards, pogs, pound puppies, polly pockets, tazos to name but a few. I think pins give people a sense of nostalgia, especially if they feature 90's toys and candy, like a lot of mine do.

I'm also well aware that pins aren't a new fad and that they've been around for ages and that this isn't the first time they've seen a resurgence in popularity (I know, I had a betty boop pin on my denim jacket in the late 90's). But as cliché as it sounds, pins are SO hot right now!

90's themed pins to remind me of my childhood

If you spend any time on instagram then you might be aware of this already. If you don't collect them yourself then you've probably spotted people showing off their pin collections and purchases under the hashtag #pingame. Pins have blown up this year and now everyone and their granny is selling pins online and at craft fairs. The market is becoming a little over-saturated right now so the big question is, what's next? What will the next 'must have' accessory be? I don't think pins are done just yet, but it's starting to get difficult to come up with original or pop culture inspired designs that haven't already been turned into pins.

This time last year I had just begun collecting pins (I had a grand total of 6) and after launching a woven patch design I decided that I needed to get into the pingame myself, sooner rather than later. I didn't really know much about what would and would not sell but I picked a design that I'd sold well on patches and stickers.

my first ever pin!

As I'd already bought 6 pins from other makers, I realised there was a certain way to package the pins for buyers, but it took me a while to figure out the best way to actually post the ruddy things. I started with envelopes but I use PIP mailer boxes now as they ensure that the pins arrive undamaged. I send my pins to customers all over the world (i've posted to every continent but Antarctica) so they need to travel a long way and stay intact and neat, hence the boxes.

When I brought out my first pin last December I really had no idea what I was getting into. I remember the first day I added them to the shop I sold 5 in 12 hours and I thought that was brilliant! Last month I restocked 150 of a popular pin design and it had sold out completely within 3 hours. What a difference a year makes.

my most popular pins to date, a set of 3 Polly Pins.
Pins are definitely my favourite products to design. I've launched new pins every month since last December and I still have a dozen designs that I haven't even had made yet. So it looks like next year will be a busy one as well (hopefully). It's incredibly time consuming to unbox, unbag and card hundreds of pins, that's part of why i've neglected the blog so much. When you have 700 pins to card and bag ready to be posted the next day, you don't really have time for blogging, or even netflix.

It's worth it though, I feel so proud to look down at a bag stuffed with boxes ready to go to the post office, or whenever customers send me photos where they're showing off their new Candy Doll Club pins. There's just something so fun about pins, maybe it's the fact that most people wear them on their jackets and bags, I love the thought of people walking around wearing something I've designed. Personally I keep my pin collection on a set of corkboards, but only because I'm scared to lose any of them! Not to mention the fact that they're not cheap to buy, I keep mine on display next to my desk.

my current Pin Collection
It has been a steep learning curve having to deal with larger numbers of outgoing orders and incoming restocks and deliveries. I've never dealt with things of this scale before, and i'm still small fry compared to many pin makers. I've gone from ordering my boxes in 10's to needing 1500 every few months and I've been taught so much about international postage by the lovely staff at my local post office. I now have an at home supply of customs labels, 'safe to fly' and airmail stickers along with a book of 'proof of postage' certificates and an entire box of post office receipts. I think they groan when I walk in with 2 bags crammed with orders. I'm lucky they're all so friendly and patient.

Selling pins is great but it's really not all fun and games. An average pin launch involves days of prep beforehand: getting the pins carded and bagged and assembling and labeling hundreds of boxes (luckily my lovely mum helps me with this part, otherwise i'm not sure how i'd get it all done in time). Once the pins are delivered and go live in the shop it's a race to get the address labels printed and get the orders boxed up ready to go. I visit the post office a few times a week and I know all of the staff by name. They must be sick of me by now!

my other most popular design this year, Magic Pony Pins.
 I've learned a lot more about my customers as well this year. I've been selling my work for about 8 years now, but never at these levels and not to people that come back again and again to buy each new pin I release. It's amazing to think that people like my designs so much they want to buy them and wear them! It's hard work keeping this all running smoothly, and it's definitely a full time job now.

Long gone are the days when I'd have 5 orders a week and spend the rest of my time reading or painting or watching netflix. Now I don't finish working most evenings until after 11pm if i'm lucky. Of course, working for yourself means that you can also take a whole day off to sit in bed and eat chocolate but I don't get to do that as often as I'd like to. I do still do it sometimes though, of course.

my Bubble Tape pin

 Like I said, it's been a learning curve, but a fun one nonetheless. To begin with each pin funded the next one until I learned how to pick my designs better and work out what my customers would want to buy. I've gotten better at judging which pins will sell fast and which ones won't, I don't mind slower selling pins but obviously it's nicer to get ones that fly out. If i'm honest, a lot it has been trial and error (and there have been more than a few errors!) but I also owe a lot of my successes over the past year to the Girl Pin Gang, the international all female pin makers collective I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of.

a few of the super babe Girl Pin Gang members.

My first three pins came and went before I was invited to join the Girl Pin Gang. I was one of the first members and at the time there were only about 20 of us, but today we have almost 60 members all over the world and people message us every day asking to join (we only open admissions a few times a year on a nomination basis via existing members). The majority of the members are in America so sadly i've not been able to go to any of the GPG meet ups or flair markets yet. But we all talk online and I think it's safe to say that together we're a pretty influential bunch of ladies.

It's exciting to be part of something like this and it's great being in a community with like-minded individuals going through similar problems in life and business. We often help each other out with design ideas, share discount codes for printers and talk about life in general. When you buy from a small online business I think a lot of people can forget that there's a real person at the other end packing up your order and working on new designs. In the age of amazon it's easy to think that you'll get what you've ordered instantly and that nothing will go wrong. But orders still go missing in transit or get stolen, and sometimes customers can be very difficult to deal with, so it's nice having people to talk to about these pitfalls, as we've all gone through them at some point and we can help support one-another.

just a few Girl Pin Gang pins.
I love how diverse all of our pins are as well! Everyone in the group has their own unique style of design. I think that when you sell pins, people can sometimes get confused about how it all works. I've had people look at me bewildered when I try to explain that I design all of my pins myself. Yes I sat down with a pencil and sketched out an idea, then i put it on my computer and added colour, then I sent it to a manufacturer and now I have pins with my design on them. See, not that confusing.

I've also had a few people look down on my work as though it's not 'real art'. I'm totally fine with this. I never used to be but now as far as i'm concerned, i'm no less of a 'real artist' just because I sell 1000 of something i've designed. Contrary to what some people seem to think, this does not make my work any less valid. My art has always been about commercial viability, and that isn't going to change anytime soon.

a handful of my pins
We live in a world filled with mass produced items, and sure, pins can be mass produced as well, but most pin makers (myself included) often do small runs of pins, limited to just 100 or 150. This isn't that different to purchasing a signed limited edition print from an artist, we still designed it and it's still limited edition, you can just put this on your coat instead of your wall. Besides which, I've always said that i'd rather sell a thousand prints or pins of a design than one single painting. And I do.

Reading this, I make it sound like all I do is design pins, but obviously I still sell other items as well, including patches, stickers and colouring books. But the majority of my design time is spent working on new pins and the matching backing cards to go with them. It's time consuming coming up with a card for each pin but it helps showcase the design and my customers always comment on how nice the cards look.

a few of the backing cards I designed this year
This means that unfortunately this year I haven't had chance to work on many Candy Doll pieces. I miss creating the Candy Dolls but they were always more for my own enjoyment than anyone elses, so at least now I get to produce things that other people actually want to buy!

So I guess that this year I've spent more time thinking about my business than my art. I've always created but now I create for a reason, not just for fun. Each new pin is a gamble, will it sell, will I be stuck with it? Only time will tell. But you know what, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do for a living right now than this! Even when i'm awake at 3am to edit proofs from my manufacturers, or sitting in all day waiting for DHL to deliver the next box of pins, or even when my fingers are shredded with paper cuts from making boxes, it's all worth it.

1 of every single pin i've designed since December 2015
and on that note i'll bring this to a close.

If you've seen a pin in this post that you just HAVE TO HAVE then get your butt over to my Shop asap and treat yo self! I'm not biased or anything but my pins make great stocking stuffers and secret santa gifts, so you should definitely get one. or two. or all of them!

I also send out a free girl gang sticker + sherbet sticks with every pin order, so you know... you'll get pins AND sweets!

I'm also giving away a £10 credit for my shop tonight over on my instagram, you can enter the giveaway HERE

And I promise to try a bit harder and make time to blog more in 2017.

I'll be posting my annual Xmas Wish List blog next week (probably), so keep an eye out for that.

and until then, thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed looking at the pins!